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As sea level rises, Everglades’ freshwater plants perish by PressRelease
November 30, 2013
University of Miami researchers use satellite images to confirm the long-term impact of salt water intrusion in the Everglades
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.


Florida’s natural springs under attack
Daytona Beach News Journal - by Cindy Swirko, Halifax Media Services
November 30, 2013
On U.S. 27 in Lafayette County between Branford and Mayo, numerous signs point the way and the distance to Troy and Convict springs, two bubbling holes where the chilled water provides adventure for scuba divers and a refreshing dip for everyone.
That stretch of U.S. 27 is also dairy alley — Lafayette County is one of Florida’s biggest milk producers. People making their way to the cavernous blue springs can see — and smell — brown goop shooting out of large, powerful sprinklers.
Scientists with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Suwannee River Water Management District, the University of Florida and other agencies have blamed cow manure, the nutrient-rich waste, as a primary culprit, along with fertilizer overuse, in the degradation of the region’s springs.
Springs and the aquifer from which their water boils up are under severe stress, and water experts say the consequences could be considerable to the economy, the cost of water and the health of springs that have been drawing humans to the natural fountains for eons.
“I think we are trying to do the right thing, but it is a complicated problem,” said groundwater hydrologist Wendy Graham, director of the University of Florida Water Institute. “Engineering fixes aren’t going to be enough. We’ll have to get farmers to change, homeowners to change. Everybody will have to change their practices.”
Scientists say it is not too late, that the aquifer can be replenished and that the nutrients from agriculture fertilizer, sewage, manure, sprayfields and lush green lawns can be cut.
But the potential solutions are costly and politically difficult — a tax on fertilizer, stricter regulations on fertilizer use, mandated reduction of water usage, alternative sources of water, limits on the amount of water that utilities can draw from the aquifer, engineered projects to channel stormwater to sinkholes for direct infusion of the aquifer.
Among the skeptics is Jim Stevenson, who is the former chief biologist for the Florida Park Service and former chairman of the Florida Springs Task Force.
“The political will has not been there,” Stevenson said. “Like in so many other issues, the bottom line is money. The farmer, the businessman — they don’t want to pay more money to correct their own waste. If each business, if each agency, just took care of their own waste, the problem would be solved.”
At a very basic level, the two main threats to the springs are excess pumping of groundwater and excess nutrients from the land that flush into the aquifer or directly into the springs.
Depleting groundwater
Water heavy in sulfur that used to bubble up from White Springs and flow into the Suwannee River not far downstream from its origin in Georgia made the spring and its namesake town in Hamilton County one of Florida’s first tourist attractions.
The springhouse is now within the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. An estimated 47 million gallons of water a day used to flow from it, but the spring itself is now all but dry — and many residents along with some water scientists have said Jacksonville is to blame.
Utilities along the coast have sucked more and more water out of the aquifer to quench development. Data show declining groundwater levels in a plume from Jacksonville southwest.
A reeport of future water use in a report by the St. Johns River Water Management District predicts that by 2030, growth in the Jacksonville area will cause a drop in groundwater in parts of Alachua, Bradford, Putnam and other counties.
Water consumption from utilities in St. Johns County is projected to increase 600 percent from 1995 to 2030. In 2011, the county used an estimated 60.47 million gallons of freshwater a day. Clay is projected to increase 233 percent. In 2011, it used an estimated 24.89 million gallons of freshwater a day.
Al Canepa, assistant director of the St. Johns district’s Division of Water Resources, is heading the district’s effort with the Suwannee district to develop a joint regional water supply plan aimed at ensuring enough water exists to maintain ecosystems such as springs by setting the minimum water flows and levels needed by the rivers and springs.
The regional groundwater model should be done in mid-2014, he said.
At some point, it’s likely that alternative sources of water — desalination of salt water, for instance — will have to be developed for human use even with increased water conservation and greater recharge through engineering.
“The fundamental purpose of the water supply plan is to look at your supply, your current use, projected use and can that be met sustainably without any significant environmental impact to groundwater. If the answer is no, part of the plan is to identify other sources of water,” Canepa said. “There is a sustainable limit, and it is going to be different from place to place. There is a point where, if you withdraw more water, you are going to cause impacts that you don’t want to have.”
Agricultural uses
It’s not just utilities that are tapping the groundwater. Agriculture is already a major user, and more water is sought.
In Marion County, a permit application to use an average of 5.3 million gallons a day by the Adena Springs Ranch — a grass-fed cattle operation — has been debated for several years.
Environmentalists have said taking that much water out of the aquifer will deplete not only groundwater but also nearby Silver Springs. The St. Johns district has requested more information about the project before deciding on the permit.
Meanwhile, nitrate levels in many springs are rising. Fertilizer and waste from people and animals are the cause.
When farmers use more fertilizer than crops can absorb, the excess can make its way into groundwater. Manure from dairies and chicken farms can seep down. Dairies and chicken operations generally try to contain and then dispose of manure through sprayfields or other measures.
But the quest for green lawns also plays a role, as does human waste from faulty septic systems and from sprayfields of utilities.
So why are nitrates bad ? In levels 10 milligrams per liter, they can cause health problems in people — infants below the age of 6 months can die. In levels of .35 milligrams per liter, they can cause health problems in springs.
Too much algae grows, killing off the eel grass and tape grass that are the habitat from which life springs in the springs. If the grass goes, the fish go. So do turtles, otters and other life in and along the water. The algae can cause skin rashes to swimmers.
Scientists including Graham and Stevenson say nitrates can be reduced through better treatment of waste and through the use of less fertilizer.
“The average cow, I’m told, produces 128 pounds of waste per day. That waste has to go somewhere, and it’s soaking down into the ground to the aquifer and then flowing to the springs,” Stevenson said. “Dealing with human waste is one of the top priorities, and that includes septic tanks. Fertilizer is a huge problem.”
The nitrate volume of .35 milligrams per liter is the standard needed for springs to be a class-3 water under the state’s water classification system. Class 3 is water safe for swimming, boating and fishing.
Graham said few springs meet that classification. She said changes in agriculture, residential and other practices could reduce nutrients, but she questions whether .35 milligrams is attainable.
If it is to be attainable, she said, the way of life for north Central Floridians will have to change substantially.
“I really think our desires for cheap food, clean water, green lawns and low taxes are not going together very well. We have to think as a society about how do we balance our needs and our wants and our pocketbooks,” Graham said. “I do think the public is concerned. Whether they know what it takes to get where they want to go, I’m not sure about that.”


On environment, shortsightedness costs Florida big
Orlando Sentinel – by Scott Maxwell
November 30, 2013
Let's say you're looking for a dental plan, and I offer you two choices.
You can either pay $25 a month for preventive care.
Or you can visit just once a year — and pay $1,000 to have the dentist fix everything in your mouth that went wrong.
Unless you're a shortsighted sucker, you're going to take the first deal, right ?
Basic math shows you save a boatload of money. Plus, you avoid problems in the first place.
Unfortunately, you live in Florida — where shortsightedness rules. Especially when it comes to the environment.
In recent years, Gov. Rick Scott and his buddies in the Legislature have gutted the state's conservation and environmental programs.
First they decimated the growth-management office. Now they are laying waste to the state's land-preservation program.
A conservation program that thrived under Govs. Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist — with spending of as much as $300 million a year — has been cut by more than 90 percent. Down to around $25 million this year.
This, my friends, is the sucker's way: the Florida way.
Just look at the Everglades. Florida let that ecosystem get spoiled. As a result, we are now in the midst of a restoration effort estimated at $9.5 billion.
Think about that number for a moment. It's staggering — enough money to run the entire city of Orlando for a decade.
Everyone now agrees it would've been cheaper to do things right in the first place: to protect this vital water source and home to more than 60 endangered or threatened species.
Instead, we chose the sucker's route — and are now paying a nearly 11-figure price for doing so.
And we're getting ready to do it all again, this time by cutting a statewide land-preservation program that impacts every corner, crevice and tributary of the state.
Perhaps you can now better understand why environmental supporters are mounting a campaign to amend the state's constitution.
The goal is to lock in about 1 percent of the state's budget for the environment.
That's right: a whopping 1 percent. It's hardly radical. In fact, it's about the same amount Florida spent on the environment when Bush was governor.
Is your drinking water worth 1 percent? Is protecting South Florida from flooding?
I still want to see the fine details of this proposal analyzed and debated. And the petition still needs more signatures before it gets on next year's ballot. But I already endorse this concept in principle.
Because I am tired of wasting tax dollars and fouling up our natural resources.
So why the waste ?
Well, in large part, because Big Business in this state has been incredibly successful at demonizing all things green.
Do you want to crack down on pollution? Well, then Big Business says you are a "job killer."
Do you want to make rules about what can be built on environmentally sensitive land? Then you're opposed to private-property rights.
Do you care about water quality, mercury levels or runaway growth? Then you are a radical, tree-hugging, anti-capitalist traitor.
It's a campaign of propaganda crafted from a toxic mix of ignorance, indifference and greed.
Ignorance about the long-term damage to the environment. Indifference to the costs taxpayers will later bear. And the greed behind turning the quick buck — and cashing in on the cleanups.
You see, one of the dirty little secrets is that restoration is far more profitable than conservation. Restoration, after all, means big, fat contracts.
Big Business in Florida has been playing you for fools and sticking you with the bill.
And I'm sick of it. Sick of watching lawmakers raid already meager environmental coffers. And sick of reading stories about fouled springs, fish kills and flooding dangers — when these things could have been prevented for dimes on the dollar.
Ideally, Scott and legislators would show concern for taxpayers — and future generations — by getting funding back to their previously modest levels.
But if they continue to demonstrate shortsightedness — and take orders from those who profit off environmental degradation — then citizens are right to force them to change their ways.


Deadline questions arise about water district-Florida Crystals land swap
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
November 29, 2013
A year after environmental groups and state agencies declared a truce in a 25-year-old Everglades restoration lawsuit, the legal ink-slinging has resumed with environmental groups claiming that the South Florida Water Management District has missed a deadline for a key restoration project and the state agency charged with enforcement won’t punish the district.
According to environmental groups, the district failed a close on a land deal by Sept. 30 — a deadline set in court documents and in permits that require the district to acquire 4,535 acres owned by Florida Crystals and Gladeview Holdings for a restoration project. The district blamed environmentalists, saying it missed the deadline because the Florida Wildlife Federation filed a legal challenge to a proposed land swap that the district was negotiating with Florida Crystals and Gladeview.
This story continues on our new premium website for subscribers, Continue reading/get access here »


Water district’s Everglades expert retires, hopes for job with ag group
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
November 28, 2013
When Ernie Barnett announced at the South Florida Water Management District’s board meeting this month that he would retire in January 2014, one governing board member wondered if the district’s technology staff could “figure out a way to suck all the knowledge out of Ernie’s head.”
Although the suggestion got a laugh, the loss of Barnett’s expertise on the Everglades — acquired over 30 years as a scientist, lobbyist, policy-maker and nature lover devoted to restoring the River of Grass — will be felt.
This story continues on our new premium website for subscribers, Continue reading/get access here »


Florida agriculture a blessing
Miami Herald - by John Hoblick, President of Florida Farm Bureau
November 27, 2013
Like generations of our ancestors, most people in our society will enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with their families. They will also find a moment to reflect upon the many blessings we are privileged to receive.
There are many to count. Our families, our homes, our quality of life and our civil freedoms are all obvious blessings for which we can be thankful.
One feature of our lives is often overlooked because it is so obvious. An abundance of nutritious food has made our society an exception on the world’s stage. The productivity and efficiency of our farm families in our state and across the nation make such a cornucopia possible. Consumers can plan confidently that the nearby retail store will be stocked with an amazing range of health-sustaining items. The experience has become a routine errand for most households.
Success on the farm has allowed a steadily larger portion of our people to pursue callings outside of agriculture during the past century. Less than one-and-a-half percent of our total population now farms for a living.
But their contributions far exceed their numbers. Efficient production gives farmers and ranchers the ability to remain in business, regardless of weather, pest and disease infestations, market conditions or energy prices.
The scope of this achievement is apparent in a basic comparison. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s data, the price of a traditional Thanksgiving meal has increased by approximately 35 percent since 2003. During the same period the price of a gallon of gasoline has increased by more than 107 percent.
Farmers are price takers. They cannot pass along the increased costs of production to the consumer. They must absorb higher energy prices to continue with their daily calling.
Through innovation and adaptive strategies, Florida’s farm families stay in operation, providing food for us and for the world.
Agricultural producers also implement state-of-the-art systems to conserve natural resources. According to field reports by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, farmers save 11 billion gallons of water each year. Officials at the South Florida Water Management District have reported that farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area reduced the phosphorous content in water leaving their properties by 70 percent in 2012.
At least 9 million acres, or almost half of all farmland in the state, are being managed under advanced natural resource conservation systems.
Farms and ranches also create a stable base for Florida’s economy. Despite a severe national economic recession and uncertain markets, agriculture has maintained its role as a foundation of dependability.
According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, agriculture and related enterprises support nearly 2 million jobs in our state. Their overall economic impact is more than $110 billion each year.
I am convinced that every Floridian is the beneficiary of these accomplishments. They are truly outstanding triumphs.
Does every farm owner serve as a model of innovative entrepreneurship? Of course not.
But the fact that the vast majority of them do so is a tribute to their character and their work ethic as well as their love of the land around them.
Our nation’s first president once offered an observation that applies to our own era. In addition to his career as a public leader, George Washington was one of our nation’s farm pioneers. His willingness to experiment with innovative approaches to production is a trait apparent among Florida’s farmers today.
Shortly before he was elected president, Washington wrote that “our welfare and our prosperity depend upon the cultivation of our lands and turning the produce of them to the best advantage.”
I believe that his perception is as accurate in 2013 as it was when it was written. And I hope that you will agree that Florida agriculture deserves a place of remembrance as part of the good life for all of us.
May you and your family receive the blessings of peace and comfort this Thanksgiving.
John Hoblick, a Volusia County fern grower, is president of Florida Farm Bureau.


Good news for birds as Everglades wind farm scrapped
Huffington Post – blog by Jane Graham, Audubon FL
And now, a Thanksgivukkah miracle for the birds:
This week, Wind Capital Group announced that it will not move forward with the Sugarland Wind Farm, a project that would have placed 124 Statue of Liberty-sized wind turbines in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
A consultant for Wind Capital Group cited to "market issues" and the lack of economic incentives for renewable energy in Florida as the reason. In a way, this is a shame. Renewable energy is the future and we want to see it flourish in our state. As Florida faces the specter of sea level rise and saltwater intrusion from climate change, reducing reliance on fossil fuels that increase greenhouse gases is an absolute must.
Now I am going to level with you. From the day we heard about this project, Audubon Florida had serious concerns about its location, which posed unreasonable risks to Everglades birds. It is a relief the project is no longer moving forward.
As an environmentalist, weighing in on the "wind farm in the Everglades" issue had been pretty awkward from the start. People love to brandish the fact that environmentalists promote green energy in theory but then oppose specific proposals, and thus are impossible to please. In fact, this very proposal gained fame on the Daily Show, which mocked United Waterfowlers of Florida Executive Director Newton Cook's concerns of its impact to birds and wildlife. If you are looking for a quick laugh and a superficial story, it is pretty entertaining.
But in reality, successfully implementing clean energy is a bit more nuanced. Renewable energy is absolutely necessary and it has to be the right kind in the right place.
Sugarland Wind Farm's location could not have been more wrong. The project would have spanned a landscape of over 10,000 acres sandwiched between Lake Okeechobee, the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, and the Stormwater Treatment Areas- areas world renowned for their diversity and abundance of birds and wildlife. Did I mention it would have been in the vicinity of multi-billion dollar future Everglades restoration projects and in a heavy traffic area for migratory birds on the Southern Atlantic Flyway?
The Sugarland Wind Project would have posed an unreasonable risk to the birds. Audubon Florida scientists evaluated the project's risk and came to the conclusion that the danger to birds was really grave. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service also had serious questions and concerns about the project, especially in regards to impacts to federally listed endangered species such as the Everglade Snail Kite and Wood Stork. There were species of birds with very low population numbers documented in the area, where even one death could potentially lead to considerable harm on the species' long term survival.
Okay, what if you prefer your bird stuffed rather than soaring? Even then, bird "takes" under federal law do not come cheap. Only last week, Duke Energy pleaded guilty to killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at two Wyoming wind farms, and will pay a fine of $1 million.
So where do we go from here ?
First, there needs to be a better process for balancing the development of wind projects in Florida with their risk to birds and other wildlife. The scary thing is that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection actually approved the Sugarland Wind Farm permit a few weeks ago. It was done without notifying the public beforehand, despite a variety of environmental and public interest groups, including Audubon Florida, opposing the proposal from the outset.
There needs to be better collaboration between the state and the federal agencies in evaluating these proposals. In 2012, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service developed a set of "Land Based Wind Energy Guidelines", which should be followed in a collaborative approach to find the best location for wind projects.
And, Florida should develop better incentives for renewable energy in general. Just because this proposal turned out to be a turkey does not mean that other green energy projects should suffer. Legislators need to look at new ways to promote development of these projects in the future.
Finally, coping with climate change in Florida not only requires reductions in the amount of greenhouse gases through clean energy, but also demands innovative ways to adapt to changes that we know are likely to occur, such as Everglades restoration.


What’s next for the St. Lucie River ?
Palm Beach Post - by Sally Swartz, a former member of The Post Editorial Board
November 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.


Delicate balance in the Everglades
Miami Herald - Editorial
November 26, 2013
OUR OPINION: Rainy-season water diversion leaves vital water system parched
If only it were this easy.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously last week to push state and federal agencies to adopt a high-water emergency policy to protect plants and animals in the central Everglades.
It’s a commendable stance, but difficult to put into action because, at the present time, the entire Everglades system, stretching from Orlando to Florida Bay, is one giant restoration project in various stages of construction — from stuck in neutral to half-completed.
The FWC acknowledged this, agreeing to cooperate with other state and federal agencies on restoration even as it pushes to protect the central Everglades. The tract that concerns the FWC is a vast conservation area lying between I-75 and the Tamiami Trail that’s home to the endangered Florida panther and other creatures that must crowd together on tree islands and levees when the water level is high during the summer rainy season. Ideally, the water in the central Everglades would have an average depth of 2 feet during the wet season to almost ground level during the dry season. This is what the FWC is advocating.
But the central Glades is under pressure from other forces located north and south of the area. When summer rains swell Lake Okeechobee to the north, the U.S. Corps of Engineers must release water to keep the lake from overflowing the creaky earthen Herbert Hoover Dike, and sending that water south threatens to further inundate the central Glades. The water is also contaminated by urban and agricultural runoff from the north.
Ideally, the water would be shunted to storage areas to be cleansed before being sent anywhere. But there aren’t yet enough completed reservoirs with the capacity to contain all the lake’s spillover. So instead, much of the water is diverted east and west, wreaking havoc on coastal estuaries on both sides of the state and leaving Everglades National Park on the parched side.
Sending more water south of the Tamiami Trail to prevent flooding in the central Glades and simultaneously relieve the thirsty park and Florida Bay poses flooding threats to urban areas and contamination of the drinking-water supply. A series of construction projects aimed at restoring the historic sheet flow from the water conservation areas south into the national park will reduce flood threats in the central Everglades eventually, but they won’t be completed before 2014 and yet another rainy summer.
Sound complicated? Yes, everything about fixing what man has wrought over the past 75 years in the vast River of Grass is intricate, expensive and often controversial. But this summer saw some forward movement. Spurred by public outrage over the lake’s spillover contaminating the St. Lucie Basin on the east coast, the state committed $40 million to a restoration project to help clean water in the basin. And another $90 million of state money is being allocated over three years to help raise the Tamiami Trail to allow more water to flow into the park. The U.S. Corps is continuing to shore up the dike.
Federal and state officials are also working on the Central Everglades Planning Project, a $1.8-billion plan to store and clean more water to protect the ecosystem in the conservation area. Still, more must be done to store and clean water north of Lake Okeechobee to control the rainy season’s disastrous chain reaction that pollutes precious estuaries every year and leaves Everglades National Park parched while so much needed water is diverted elsewhere.


Fixing what's wrong with Florida's environmental movement
EyeOnMiami – blog by Larry Fink, former Chief Scientist of the South Florida Water Management District
November 26, 2013
 (Republished from the Sierra Club Everglades Listserve)
Commerce is always trying to socialize more risk to privatize more profit, while our inalienable right to life becomes increasingly conditional on a game of toxic substances Russian Roulette. There is no margin of safety left in our natural systems for another four decades of environmental incrementalism.
In the vernacular, they have already come for our fleece, and now they are coming back for the mutton. In Darwinian terms, its not personal, its just business, but our saving the Everglades, the state, the nation, and the planet is a more serious business and has more evolutionary value than commerce saving its profits. There will be a reckoning for the unregulated free market's gross mismanagement of the natural economy and its reckless disregard for the public health, safety, and welfare and the natural systems held in public trust, both in this world and the next.
In the spirit of game-changing plays, start by agitating for a permanent breach of the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) with a spillway/flow-way and supporting infrastructure to distribute and stack the emergency releases on private property where they will do the least private harm and the most public good and routine overflows that will rehydrate the Everglades the old fashioned way.
This will relieve the pressure on the rapidly failing HHD, stack water on the EAA instead of blowing out the estuaries, stop peat oxidation and claim carbon sequestration credits, and allow us to lease-back the land acquired via eminent domain for routine uses that are more compatible with stacked-water conditions, e.g., rice, aquaculture, algae biofuels production, and that produce wastewater, leachate, and runoff that can be captured and treated by the STAs down to all applicable Everglades Water Quality Standards at the end-of-pipe and is, therefore, a water supply appropriate for rehydrating the Everglades, which wastewater, runoff, and leachate from oxidizing EAA peat soil is not.
If taking God's name in vain is blasphemy, how much greater is the sin when one takes God's great natural works in vain ?


Phosphorus reductions improve Everglades water quality
November 26, 2013
For the 18th consecutive year, water flowing from farmlands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) achieved phosphorus reductions that exceeded those required by law.
Implementation of improved farming techniques, known as Best Management Practices (BMPs), produced a 41-percent phosphorus reduction in the 470,000-acre EAA farming region south of Lake Okeechobee for the Water Year 2013 monitoring period (May 1, 2012 - April 30, 2013). Just west of the EAA, the 170,000-acre C-139 Basin also met its goal of reducing phosphorus discharges to historical levels.
"Reducing phosphorus through the technology of Best Management Practices consistently proves to be an effective strategy for improving Everglades water quality," said Daniel O'Keefe, Chairman of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board. "These BMPs, working in concert with existing treatment wetlands and the state's Restoration Strategies initiative, are moving us toward the goal of achieving water quality standards for the River of Grass."
The most commonly used BMPs are more precise fertilizer application methods, refined stormwater management practices and erosion controls to reduce the amount of phosphorus transported in stormwater runoff to the Everglades and connected water bodies.
Monitoring Documents Nutrient Reductions
The BMP program continues to perform extremely well. Farmers in the EAA achieved phosphorus reductions well beyond their target despite challenges including the impact of heavy rainfall in the region from Tropical Storm Isaac.
To meet the requirements of Florida's Everglades Forever Act, the amount of phosphorus leaving the EAA must be 25 percent less than the amount before phosphorus reduction efforts started. The overall average annual reduction from the implementation of BMPs over the program's 18-year history is 55 percent, more than twice the amount required by law. A science-based model is used to compute the reductions and make adjustments to account for the influences of rainfall.
When measured in actual mass, 109 metric tons of phosphorus were prevented from leaving the EAA and entering the regional canal system, which sends water into the Everglades, during the Water Year 2013 monitoring period. Over the past 18 years, the BMP program has prevented 2,673 metric tons of phosphorus from leaving the EAA.
In the C-139 Basin, a BMP program has been in place for the past 10 years. In November 2010, the program requirements were enhanced to better control nutrient runoff. For the Water Year 2013 monitoring period, the target load was 22 metric tons. Data show the actual mass of phosphorus discharged from the basin during that time was 10 metric tons, less than half the target load.
Stormwater Treatment Areas Provide Additional Improvements
Water leaving the EAA and C-139 Basin receives additional treatment in one of several Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) before entering the Everglades. These constructed wetlands are filled with native vegetation and use "green" technology to further reduce phosphorus levels.
Since 1994, the network of five STAs south of Lake Okeechobee - currently with 57,000 acres of effective treatment area - have treated 13.4 million acre-feet of water and retained more than 1,707 metric tons of phosphorus that would have otherwise entered the Everglades. Last year, the STAs treated approximately 1.16 million acre-feet of water, retaining 84 percent of phosphorus from water flowing through the treatment cells.
Through the end of April 2013, more than 4,390 metric tons of phosphorus have been prevented from entering the Everglades through treatment wetlands and the BMP program combined. Overall, Florida has invested more than $1.8 billion to improve Everglades water quality since 1994.
Water Quality Improvement Projects
Last year, the District completed several water quality improvement projects to further enhance its water-cleaning efforts:
Construction was completed on STA-2 to nearly double its size in western Palm Beach County to 15,500 acres. Known as Compartment B, the 6,817-acre expansion will help the STA achieve optimal performance.
A 4,656-acre expansion of treatment wetlands in southeast Hendry County, known as Compartment C, was completed. Compartment C will further improve water quality flowing into the Everglades. This $47.5 million investment connects two existing Stormwater Treatment Areas (STA-5 and STA-6) in the EAA and more than doubles water treatment capability at the site.
In addition, work has begun under an agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expand water quality treatment infrastructure that will lead to achievement of the ambient water quality standard for the Everglades. Key features include:
Design and construction of 110,000 acre-feet of additional storage adjacent to existing Everglades STAs, better controlling water flow into the treatment wetlands and thereby improving their performance. These storage areas, known as Flow Equalization Basins (FEBs), will be designed to assist all five Everglades STAs.
Design and construction of the Stormwater Treatment Area 1 West expansion, increasing by 50 percent the treatment capacity of water quality facilities currently discharging into the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
Additional sub-regional source controls in areas of the eastern EAA where phosphorus levels in runoff have been historically higher, building on the District's existing BMP Regulatory Program.
For more information: Improving Water Quality, Restoration Strategies for Clean Water for the Everglades, BMPs and Source Controls


American Farmer to feature Pathway Biologic in upcoming episode
November 25, 2013
Plant City, FL (PRWEB):  DMG Productions explores leading-edge advancements in microbial product technologies.
Pathway Biologic announced today that they will be featured in an upcoming episode of American Farmer, slated to air on RFD-TV, as well as other networks across the US and the world.
In this episode, viewers will learn about Pathway Biologic, and how they are working with farmers and fertilizer suppliers to the food production industry in order to improve soil and plant health, and enhance crop performance in the U.S. and globally. American Farmer will explore Pathway Biologic and their belief that their advanced microbial product technology, and their revolutionary, patented flagship product, MERGETM – merging microbes with fertilizer into a single product – are poised for widespread commercial deployment into mainstream agriculture.
“Advancements in microbial product technologies are proving to be an extremely valuable contribution to sustainable agriculture," said Charles Cowan, producer for American Farmer. "I’m proud to introduce our audience to Pathway Biologic. Spectators will be amazed to see how this company is helping create a fundamental structural shift to better agricultural practices worldwide."
Pathway Biologic works with fertilizer manufacturers and distributors on the deployment of bio-fertility products and solutions to growers. Pathway’s flagship microbial bio-fertility product, MERGETM, is formulated to enhance dry or liquid primary and secondary nutrient inputs. Enhancing fertilizer with MERGETM creates a homogeneous bio-charged fertility input that maximizes the efficiency and efficacy of nutrient uptake and utilization, the keystone scientific merit of microbes for agronomy, and offers the ideal convenience and cost savings of a 1-step application process with the microbes riding with the fertilizer.
Stephen Gans, Managing Partner & Pathway Co-Founder comments, “The three pivotal deliverables that have remained at the forefront of our years of product development have been consistent efficacy, ease of deployment and affordability, and we’re thrilled to see the Agriculture market embracing our microbial technology.”
“Pathway is honored to have American Farmer showcase the promise of our technology’s impact to growers looking for crop yield increases, improved crop marketability, increased plant health and stress tolerance, and improved fertilizer efficiency … all translating into a higher return on investment on farmers’ nutrition management programs,” says Mark Warren, Pathway Managing Partner. “We certainly attribute our momentum in the market to the consistency of our technology’s performance … season after season, where we are changing outcomes for the American Farmer.”
About Pathway BioLogic:
Pathway Biologic, based in Plant City, Florida, is an applied microbial science company and an emerging leader in the rapidly growing field of microbial products that boost soil value, optimize plant growth and health, increase crop performance and nutrition, and improve the efficiency of fertilizer and water in the growing process. The company’s technologies and the convergence of advanced pure culture microbial formulations with commodity fertilizer offer the ideal carrier and deployment strategy to improve soil health and plant fertility on a global scale. Pathway is technology independent, whose products are formulated and manufactured in their molecular and production laboratories, and marketed through fertilizer distributors.
Related:           American Farmer to Feature Pathway Biologic in Upcoming Episode          Newsday
For more information, call Pathway at (813) 719-7284
About American Farmer:
American Farmer is a breakthrough program on a mission to showcase the latest advancements in agriculture and farming. From seed to harvest, livestock and more, our producers have traveled the country covering the people, places and issues impacting all areas of farm country.
For more information visit: or call (866) 496-4065
Media Contact:  Charlie Cowan, Producer, American Farmer:
(866) 496-4065 x 875             email:charlie(at)AmericanFarmerTV(dot)com


Florida's neglected priorities
Tampa Bay Times - Editorial
November 25, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott's budget priorities for next year don't add up — and it's not just his numbers that don't make sense. With the economic picture brightening, Florida should be reinvesting after years of devastating spending cuts that hurt higher education, social services and law enforcement. Yet the governor wants to keep starving government and hand a half-billion dollars in tax breaks to special interests.
Scott issued a position paper this fall calling for $500 million in unspecified tax cuts and $100 million more in state spending cuts for 2014-15. Never mind that Florida cut $9 billion in spending in recent years because of the recession and home mortgage crisis that caused dramatic drops in tax revenue. Never mind the state still spends less per public school student than it did before the economic collapse, or that the portion of higher education costs covered by the state has been declining while college tuition has been rising. Never mind there is little or no money to meet the demand for new roads, to fix and repair schools, or to buy environmentally sensitive land.
While Scott jets around Florida in his private plane to brag about promised jobs in return for business tax breaks, the state faces more than one expensive crisis. Two examples: At least 20 children known to the Department of Children and Families have died since April, primarily from abuse or neglect, and the child-protection system needs an overhaul. And the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Lucie River and its estuary are being polluted by an algae slime caused in part by polluted water released from Lake Okeechobee. Legislators are looking at spending a few hundred million dollars to help clean up that environmental mess.
It's common for state agencies to request more money for new programs than the governor will recommend or the Legislature will approve. This year is no exception. But the requests reported by Steve Bousquet of the Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau are not for bells and whistles. The Department of Corrections wants millions to reopen prisons to accommodate a rising inmate population. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement wants money to handle the workload for background checks on gun buyers. The Florida Parole Commission needs money to tackle the backlog of ex-felons seeking to have their civil rights restored, and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles wants to start replacing the trooper positions eliminated during the recession.
There are ways to save money so it could be redirected to pressing needs. Scott and the Legislature could accept $52 billion in Medi­caid expansion money over the next decade, which would save the state millions. They could overhaul sentencing guidelines so nonviolent drug offenders would receive treatment instead of more expensive prison time. But neither the governor nor many legislators are pushing those issues.
Scott and state lawmakers are not focused on Florida's long-term future. They are all about their re-election prospects next year. To them, that means cutting taxes, finding more money for public schools and letting other pressing needs slide even as the economy improves. It's a short-term strategy when the state needs long-term investment in its infrastructure, its institutions and its people.


Everglades restoration now has a primer
Florida Today
November 24, 2013
FWC's position paper keys habitats, wildlife
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission presented a position paper designed to help guide Everglades restoration during its meeting last week.
The position paper provides guidance on how to resolve habitat and wildlife issues as the FWC and partners work together on Everglades-restoration efforts. This document is an important tool for managing the habitats and species in this complex ecosystem.
In the position paper, FWC biologists provide science-based information regarding the timing, distribution and flow of water throughout the Everglades ecosystem. It also provides data collected during the past 60 years demonstrating how fluctuating water levels impact the wildlife and habitats in this ecosystem.
“It’s all about the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of water,” FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron said in a press release. “Our approach is adaptive and based on six decades of in-the-field science.”
Extreme high and low water events negatively impact the ecosystem’s native wildlife and habitats. For example, extreme high water levels are detrimental for terrestrial species such as panthers, deer, bobcats and raccoons. High water conditions reduce the amount of available food sources and indirectly may lead to the spread of disease. Extremely low water levels also can have negative impacts such as peat fires that can cause long-lasting damage to tree islands and other plant communities. Returning the water flow back to a more natural state will have positive impacts for native plants and animals.
“We need flexibility in dealing with extreme high or low water events because either means sudden death for the Everglades ecosystem,” Bergeron said. “We need to have the tools and policies to manage emergency water events so that we can keep the Everglades alive during the largest restoration effort in the world.”
FWC staff will continue to protect fish and wildlife resources by participating in planning meetings and providing comments, review and input into future decisions about Everglades restoration.


Spring dive

Florida's springs are suffering from neglect and abuse - by Ron Cunningham for The Gainesville Sun
November 24, 2013
Old Welaka Road is one of those lost-in-time country lanes that cyclists lust after.
I was riding sweep on a week-long tour, taking my time meandering through the piney woods of Putnam County so as to keep the other riders well ahead of me. There was a cool morning's drizzle that was due to turn into a steady rain by noon, and our cyclists were mostly in a hurry to get to Palatka.
So I was surprised to see one of our riders heading back in my direction. It was Michael Skinner, a businessman from Chicago.
"I wanted to see Mud Springs, but I went the wrong way," he explained. "I'm going back."
Mud Springs is a little natural gem tucked away in the middle of nowhere. The 4th-magnitude spring pumps nearly 14,000 gallons of decidedly un-muddy water into the St. John's River every hour. On our stopover in Welaka, the night before, we told riders about the spring and recommended they check it out. But Mud Springs was now several miles back and the weather was getting worse. So I urged Michael to stay with the group.
"I don't mind riding in the rain," Sinner persisted.
Eventually, I talked him out of it. But it surprised me not at all that a guy from Chicago would be intrigued by the phenomena of cold, clear water boiling up out of the ground seemingly of its own volition.
I only tell this story because we Floridians (and by "we Floridians" I mean you, Gov. Scott, and you, Florida legislators) have a distressing tendency to take our springs for granted. Which is why we've been pumping and polluting the life out of them.
Michael Skinner paid a lot of money to come to Florida and enjoy its natural beauty. And he's hardly alone,
Travel Technology News ranks Ginnie Springs as No. 5 on its list of "10 Most Beautiful Natural Swimming Pools in The World." And Phil Keoghan, host of the reality TV show "The Amazing Race," reckons Ginnie deserves the No. 4 spot on his list of "23 Destinations You Have to See Before You Die."
Seriously, is this any way to treat a bankable asset?
"The springs are Florida's blue water calling card to the world," says Leslie Gamble, co-founder of the Springs Eternal Project ( She and Gainesville nature photographer John Moran have been collaborating on a campaign to wake Floridians up to the fact that our springs are in trouble, suffering from neglect, abuse and, worse, indifference.
"People need to understand that the springs are a finite resource, they are really not eternal," Gamble said.
If you haven't seen Moran's Springs Eternal exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History, better hurry over there; it closes on Jan. 5th. Moran's breathtaking and thought-provoking photographs capture both the natural beauty of our springs and the terrible stress we have been subjecting them to.
"I used to be content with taking pretty pictures of nature, but that's not enough," Moran says. "The truth is we are living in a state of denial about our springs."
And if you haven't noticed Gamble's rolling "Urban Springs" project, you haven't been paying attention. Already, two RTS buses have been wrapped with stunning graphics depicting the majesty of Florida's springs, and a third springs-themed bus is soon to hit the streets.
"I've had so many people come up to me and say ‘I love it when I see that bus come around the corner,'?" says Gamble, who managed to raise $15,000 per wrapped bus on year-long leases.
As the project's name implies, the Springs Eternal Project will have a life beyond the exhibit's run at UF's museum and the expiration of the bus leases. Moran is working on plans to take the exhibit to Tallahassee for display in the Capitol during the Legislative session. And working with partners like Alachua Conservation Trust and the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, he and Gamble are trying to raise money to publish handsome, oversized Springs Eternal portfolios that they intend to put into the hands of every legislator and key decision maker in Florida.
If the politicians won't come to the springs, they're going to take the springs to the politicians.
But, really, why should our hard-nosed "jobs, jobs, jobs" pols even care?
"One of the ways to frame this is that Florida is a physical place but also a brand based on our natural environment and natural resources," Gamble said, "the springs are already a brand that is internationally recognized."
Save the brand, lawmakers. Save the springs.
Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun and executive director of Bike Florida.


Muck: The arch-enemy lurks deep in Indian River Lagoon
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
November 24, 2013
Muck problem expensive to solve
At the Indian River Isles subdivision south of Rockledge, so much muck coats the canal bottom that homeowners who pay a premium for lagoon access often run amok with frustration when they try to launch their boats.
“Most of the year, none of them get out of here,” said Doug Murphy, president of one of the subdivision’s property owners associations.
His community is among many countywide with old canals clogged by black, viscous gunk. An estimated 5 million to 7 million cubic yards of muck blankets the lagoon bottom in Brevard County alone, the legacy of more than a half-century of runoff and erosion. The muck is mostly soil from construction sites, farms and homes along the lagoon’s tributaries. But grass clippings, algae and other plants also contribute, as do past decades of fertilizer and sewage entering the lagoon. Those nutrients feed too much plant growth, and when the excess algae and other plants die, they settle out along the lagoon bottom as noxious muck.
The muck also carries metalsfrom cars, power plants, paints and electronics into the estuary. Those cling to clays from sod and construction sites, flow into stormwater, then ooze into the estuary.
And the problem goes well beyond just a navigational hazard. Brevard’s 160 miles of finger canals and other channels along the lagoon are the estuary’s last line of defense before seagrass-smothering muck reaches the lagoon at large. So homeowners in Indian River Isles and elsewhere say local and state government ought to help dredge their private canals and the lagoon tributaries that flow by their back yards.
“We just want them to pay for what they dump into it,” Murphy said. He and his neighbors blame the state and county for not properly maintaining nearby stormwater ditches and pipes, which carry dirt, rotting plants and polluted runoff into their canal.
Muck suspends easily in the water, clouding it up and limiting the growth of seagrass, the staple food of manatees and the most important habitat for fish and other lagoon life. It also contributes to bacterial decay, which consumes oxygen from the bottom sediment and water, potentially causing fish kills.
Canals first became popular here during the housing boom in the early days of the Space Age as developers used dredge-and-fill techniques to essentially create additional waterfront property on which to build homes.
Now, more than a half century of muck has built up in the lagoon and its tributaries, more than 10 feet thick in some places. In some spots, like the Eau Gallie River, the dirt, sand and mud foil even pontoon boats, which draw only inches of water.
Biologists say the muck must go. But dredging up enough of the stuff to benefit lagoon water quality would be expensive, and funding is elusive.
Officials from six lagoon-side counties recently asked the state for a combined $120 million for muck dredging and other lagoon restoration projects, but it’s uncertain which will get funded. Much of the recent political drive surrounding the lagoon has focused on funding large-scale projects to lessen the fertilizer-laden water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
Brevard and the cities within the county must maintain 160 miles of canals and channels, not including the more than 70 miles of the Intracoastal Waterway, the main channel that cuts through the center of the lagoon.
Maintaining the ICW falls to the Florida Inland Navigation District, which focuses on projects that benefit boating.
“Our mission is to keep the navigability,” said Mark Crosley, FIND’s executive director.
“At this point, we’re not looking to do dredging for environmental reasons,” Crosley added. “The water quality benefits are a secondary benefit to us.”
The ICW serves as a muck sump of sorts — the lowest point where fine material winds up.
But with scant federal funds to help, dredging more of the ICW through Brevard anytime soon would be a pipe dream, officials say. “We don’t have a dredging project right now in the five-year window for Brevard County,” Crosley said.
FIND estimates maintenance dredging of the ICW will cost $12 million to $16 million annually during the next 50 years, with half of the costs expected to be borne by property owners within the district.
Sod is a source
Much of the muck originates from yards.
“Sod is a significant source, especially from the barrier island side,” said John Trefry, a Florida Tech geochemist who’s studied the lagoon’s muck deposits.
In the 1990s, he estimated muck covered about 10 percent of the lagoon bottom. But after three hurricanes in 2004, the muck coverage may have doubled as storms stirred up muck that had gathered in canals.
“That really changed the dynamic. Now, it’s been spread around so much, it’s really like a malignancy, if you will,” Trefry said.
He says dredging the close-to-shore muck hot spots in areas where past harmful algae blooms have ruined seagrass might yield more environmental benefit than dredging the ICW.
Lacking local funds, Brevard and other lagoon counties are looking to the state.
Local officials hope to make an environmental case for removing muck and want state regulators to count muck dredging toward Brevard’s required nitrogen and phosphorus reductions.
One strategy is to keep muck out of the lagoon in the first place. In October, county commissioners decided to pursue almost $900,000 in state money to study and reduce lagoon muck. More than $457,000 of that would be used to remove weeds that rot to form muck in ponds, which, ultimately, empty into the lagoon. It also would pay to map how thick and toxic the muck is in specific locations, especially near seagrass.
If the state ponies up muck-dredging money, a likely candidate would be the Eau Gallie River.
Expensive work
Recently, a $150,000 study by a Jacksonville consultant found that dredging 625,000 cubic yards of muck from the Eau Gallie River and Elbow Creek would cost $17.9 million to $24.7 million. And that’s just one of dozens of projects that might be needed to help the lagoon.
Brevard officials estimate it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fully implement a local muck-dredging program.
County officials want a change in state law so Brevard could have the option of implementing a local sales tax to pay for muck dredging, oyster restoration and other projects to improve lagoon water quality.
Any such tax would have to be approved by county voters.
Cocoa Beach had its own dredge and crew to maintain the city’s 37 residential canals — which total nine miles — and 17 miles of channels. But the city mothballed the dredge in 2008. A new dredge would have cost $850,000, said Wayne Carragino, the city’s dredging coordinator.
Now, the city plans to farm out the work. Cocoa Beach received a $175,443 grant from FIND to rebuild a spoil island, so the city can pump 23,000 cubic yards of material from its 200 Channel onto the island. The city expects to begin work next year on the $800,000 dredging project.
Meanwhile, Indian River Isles residents worry about their boats clogging up with muck from their canal. Tropical Storm Fay’s record deluge in 2008 overwhelmed the canal’s drainage pipe, causing surrounding land to erode into the canal.
The county repaired the pipe and dredged out a small area nearby. But residents say the county drainage system continues to send dirty water and debris from U.S. 1 ditches into their canal.
Homeowners proposed paying half the estimated $115,000 tab to dredge the shallowest stretch of the canal, but the county and state refuse to chip in, they say.
For the lagoon at large, Trefry sees solutions beyond just dredging: better soil control, more dams and ponds, and keeping stormwater baffle boxes clean.
One solution is free: minding our grass clippings.
“That’s really something that we the people could do a better job of: Not washing lawn cuttings and yard trimmings into the streets and storm drains,” Trefry said.


Officials fear future water shortages – by Livi Stanford, Staff Writer
November 24, 201
W ater experts and county officials sounded the alarm Thursday, stating an alternative water source to groundwater use must be found in the next five years to avoid a direct effect on lake levels and the quality of life in South Lake.
“We shouldn’t be afraid of planning,” Commissioner Sean Parks said. “If we don’t plan for water, it could get expensive for you and for all of us. If we lose our water resources, you are losing a lot of sales tax and tourist development dollars. These things fund infrastructure, roads and schools.”
A panel of experts from the Lake County Water Authority and the St. Johns River Water Management District weighed in on the problem of dwindling reserves in the Floridan Aquifer at the first annual South Lake Water Summit.
The three-hour summit held at Clermont City Hall drew a large crowd, including public officials and state representatives.
New growth and development have resulted in more water being withdrawn from the Floridan Aquifer, they said especially with the increase in demand only expected to rise.
But finding alternative water sources is an expensive proposition, especially considering the high demand for reclaimed water and astronomical costs for other sources such as surface bodies of water.
Parks said the issue weighed heavily on him after a conversation he had a few years ago with Fred Sommer, who organized the first triathlon event in Clermont.
‘If you lose the lakes and water resources, you will lose my business and many other businesses, and the quality of life,’” Parks said of Sommer’s cautionary words.
Parks stressed there is an action plan to address the issue.
“We will follow up with action,” he said. “You can in a sense hold us accountable to that.”
Between now and 2025 the population is expected to increase 56 percent, according to county officials.
While the lack of rainfall is a major factor affecting low lake levels, groundwater withdrawals, and human impacts, such as surface water diversions and irrigation, are also contributors, the panelists said.
“There is a demand of 300 million gallons of water by 2035 and we only have 50 million gallons that can be met by our traditional source,” said Alan Oyler, consultant for St. Johns River Water Management District, who is assisting the South Lake Regional Water Initiative. “All of the utilities are going to have to find 250 million gallons of water. For us to meet project demands, we are going to have to import water from someplace else.”
Groveland Mayor Tim Loucks, who founded the South Lake Regional Water Initiative with Parks, said there is not one specific cause of the declining lake levels.
“Rainfall does affect the lake levels and does affect the Floridan Aquifer,” he said. “Once the aquifer goes down, the lakes begin to seep.”
Officials said the most feasible and cost effective alternative water source is reclaimed water from Water Conserv II, the largest world reuse project in Orange County, which “combines agricultural irrigation with aquifer recharge via rapid infiltration basins,” according to information from Conserv II.
But, there are challenges to overcome in this area, as Conserv II officials previously said the demand for reclaimed water is only growing; and they must also meet their own regional needs.
Otherwise, Oyler said the only alternative sources are Yankee Lake, Taylor Creek, Water Co-op, and OUC/Orlando, with the closest alternative resource nine miles away.
Officials said residents would pay $1.62 per 1,000 gallons to withdraw the water from Conserv II compared with $11.22 per 1,000 gallons to acquire it from Yankee Lake.
“That is why planning is important, and I don’t want to be on the hook for being responsible for doing a project like that,” Parks said referring to the alternatives to Conserv II.
Mike Perry, executive director of the Lake County Water Authority, said the cumulative rainfall deficit since 2004 is 62.35 inches, equivalent to 5.2 feet.
“We are 10 inches below the annual average just for this year,” he said.
The panelists gave presentations on low lake levels, the Central Florida Water Initiative, and the South Lake Regional Water Initiative.
The South Lake Regional Water Initiative, consisting of the South Lake Chamber of Commerce, the county and the municipalities of Clermont, Groveland, Minneola , Mascotte and Montverde, have come together to address “regional solutions in the critical areas of reclaimed water distribution, minimum flows and levels of the region’s lakes and rivers, and alternative water supplies and conservation”
They are working parallel to the Central Florida Water Initiative, to find a cost effective and alternative water source.
For more than an hour, residents addressed to the members of the panel questions and concerns. Numerous residents expressed frustration about Niagara Bottling LLC withdrawing 484,000 gallons per day from the aquifer, with a pending permit to withdraw more water.
Meanwhile, others said sand mines, water diversions and irrigation are affecting lake levels.
Ginger D’Amico, angrily spoke out against Niagara’s use of the aquifer.
“I don’t understand the St. Johns River Water Management District in allowing a company as big as Niagara to withdraw 484,000 gallons a day out of the aquifer while we have to potentially pay $11.22 per 1,000 gallons,” she said.
In response, Tom Bartol, water supply bureau chief for the St. Johns River Water Management District, said: “There is this notion that bottled water is an important part of water from the aquifer. It amounts to less than half a percent.”
Even so, Darrell Reeves was still not convinced, expressing his worries about continued withdrawals by the company.
“All you people say our lakes are going down and saying we should conserve,” he said. “We can’t turn around and let a private for profit company suck the water out. I don’t want to tell my kids they can’t go on the lake because some profit company is taking our water and shipping it out.”
Parks said he agreed that the company should contribute if they are going to commercially benefit from it.
But, he said, in order to prevent such a company from receiving a permit, the state statute must change.
Peter Brown said he lives in the heart of the aquifer and said “there is a massive amount of water being destroyed by the sand mines of Lake County.”
While mentioning that he could not speak on a pending case before the county commission concerning a proposed sand mine in the heart of the Wellness Way Sector Plan, Parks said “there are absolutely serious issues (with sand mines) on water resources and traffic, which also affect adjacent lands.”
In an interview Friday, Oyler said it is hard to judge what impact sand mines might have on lake levels.
“It will depend on how the sand mine is using water or diverting (it) for their use,” he said.
One resident questioned the sector plan and whether it would simply bring 44,000 additional people, amounting to urban sprawl.
The sector plan would transform 16,000 acres in the southeast corner of the county into a hub for high-tech health care jobs and other industries. It is expected to attract people who like to bike, walk and enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle.
“Despite whether the sector plan was in the place, 48,000 people could live in that area,” Parks said. “If we did nothing the population growth would occur in piecemeal growth fashion, along with the same issues. Unless we plan.”
There are plans for future summits to address the issues.


Dry season could bring water limits for South Florida
Sun Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
November 23, 2013
WASHINGTON — Residents, farmers urged to curtail wasteful habits
Watering lawns and golf courses, washing cars and irrigating fields soon may become limited luxuries in South Florida.
Scientists and water managers warn that conservation may become necessary in coming weeks or months as lands around the Everglades lurch from flooding to drought.
The fall dry season — just months after heavy rains drenched the state — already is parching areas north of Everglades National Park and depleting the Biscayne Aquifer that supplies 90 percent of the water supply for residents of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The yo-yo effect of wet-to-dry seasons creates competition for fresh water among farms and cities while threatening endangered wading birds and other wildlife. It also complicates attempts to supply 5.5 million people along Florida's southeast coast.
Everglades proponents say the sudden turnabout reinforces the need for restoration projects designed to store and release water as needed. And it raises questions about whether farmers and residents should find more ways to avoid wasting water throughout the year.
A scientist for Audubon Florida, after consulting with state and federal scientists, predicted that the region will have to resort to conservation measures this winter.
"In the cities, irrigating lawns is fun, but it's a wasteful way to use water — a luxury way. It's not the best use of our water supply," said Paul Gray, the organization's science coordinator.
"When it rains, we throw all our water into natural systems and make them harmfully deep. And then we dump it into the ocean and create problems there. And as soon as the rain stops, everybody needs water, and they pump it back out of the natural systems. It's really harming us, because the natural systems can't keep up with all of our demands.
"That's why we are in a 'drought' right after our flood."
State water managers say levels are adequate but that conservation may be needed if the dryness continues.
"It's just time to start managing the water more," said Ernie Barnett, assistant executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. "We've made it through the wet season. The flood impacts have all subsided, and we can begin working on being smart managers to get through the dry season."
Many Florida counties have year-round restrictions, and lawn watering is limited to once or twice a week in much of the state, including Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and portions of Lake, Levy and Lee counties.
Using floodgates and canals, engineers gradually are releasing water from Lake Okeechobee and conservation areas to nourish farms and the Everglades. The increased flow will feed the Biscayne Aquifer, a vast underground reservoir formed by limestone, which supplies the southeast coast.
They must take care to prevent the aquifer from dropping too low, which would allow saltwater from the sea to surge in and ruin the freshwater supply.


A no confidence vote for Corps of Engineers - by Ron Littlepage
November 22, 2013
Col. Alan M. Dodd is Jacksonville district commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
You would expect him to defend the work the corps is doing on the deep dredge project proposed for the St. Johns River shipping channel, so his “Point of View” column published last week in the Times-Union was not a surprise.
Of particular note was this statement by Dodd:
“We present the facts, analyze effects and make a recommendation that’s in the best interest of our nation’s economic development while protecting the environment.”
Here’s an answer to that: the Everglades.
The corps’ track record there of analyzing the “effects” and “protecting the environment” isn’t so hot. It’s costing $8 billion to partially reverse the mistakes made in the Everglades.
The corps has a pretty good gig going. It gets paid to screw things up and then gets paid again to fix them.
Another example of the corps’ handiwork is Mile Point, a major deterrent to shipping in the St. Johns. That fix carries a $40 million price tag.
Here’s what the Florida Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin had to say about the corps in a draft report issued on Oct. 31:
“The corps has been criticized over the past decade for under-performing or failed civil works projects and for its disregard for the environmental damage some water resource projects have caused.”
The report continues with examples that “shed light on pervasive and persistent problems that have plagued the corps’ decision-making.”
It’s understandable why Dodd’s assurances in his column doesn’t exactly instill confidence.
A report done by the corps in the 1950s included a history of the corps’ work on the St. Johns. It used terms like “conquer” and “conquest.”
Man seldom beats Mother Nature.
With the river’s jetties came a disruption of the natural movement of ocean sand that resulted in clogged inlets and diminished beaches.
And with the corps dredging the channel ever deeper came erosion and changes in the river’s ecosystem.
In his column, Dodd says the corps is confident that deepening the channel to 47 feet from the current 40 feet will have “minimal impacts to the river.”
The same was probably said about the Everglades and the Indian River Lagoon system.
The fact that the corps is setting aside $30 million of the $1 billion project “for monitoring and mitigating after construction,” means little.
There’s some damage that can’t be mitigated.
When the magnificent cypress trees die because of increased salinity in the river, they will be gone forever.
Why roll the dice when the corps so often comes up with snake eyes?
In the meantime, something called the Central Florida Water Initiative is on the fast track to come up with alternative water resources so the Orlando area can keep growing.
It’s a safe bet that they will be coming after millions of gallons of water from the St. Johns River just as they did before the recession slowed development.
That will only add to the environmental impact of the deep dredge.


Conservation amendment effort nears goal
Herald-Tribune - by Lloyd Dunkelberger
November 22, 2013
TALLAHASSEE - -  As the state’s efforts to sell surplus property to generate cash for conservation projects is falling short of its goal, environmental groups say they are closing in on a more permanent solution.
Eric Draper of Audubon of Florida said the groups are nearing their goal of collecting some 910,000 voter signatures by the end of this month as part of a process to put a constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot to dedicate a portion of state funding toward conservation efforts.
Draper said the Florida’s Water and Land Legacy coalition should have something in the neighborhood of 850,000 signatures when the latest numbers are tallied early next week.
“We’re confident we’re going to make our goal,” he said.
The group has set a goal of nearly 1 million signatures in order to end up with 683,149 validated signatures by February — the required number and deadline for placing a citizens’ initiative on the ballot. Collecting the extra signatures gives the group “a buffer,” Draper said, since typically not all signatures can be verified.
As of Friday, the state Division of Elections reported the constitutional amendment campaign had 304,942 signatures validated by the local supervisors of elections.
If adopted by 60 percent of the voters next November, the amendment would take effect in January 2015 and dedicate one-third of the state’s existing tax on real estate transactions to conservation efforts for the next 20 years, including the purchase of environmentally critical land, Everglades restoration, water projects and other conservation programs. The amendment could generate some $10 billion over that time, the conservation coalition says.
The environmental groups are pushing the amendment because the state’s financial commitment to conservation efforts has decreased dramatically in recent years. For a time, the state was setting side roughly $300 million a year for land purchases, Everglades restoration and other projects. But the funding was largely cut off during and after the Great Recession.
This year, lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott backed $20 million for conservation projects in the annual state budget, while also authorizing a plan to sell “surplus” property to generate another $50 million. But the Department of Environmental Protection said this week that the surplus lands list, which is still being refined, has been dropped from 169 potential parcels to 77 and is not likely generate anything close to $50 million.
Draper said the environmental groups will continue to push for more state funding in the 2014 session, but he is not optimistic that lawmakers “will get real generous to the environment” in the spring.
If funding remains low, Draper said that will give more momentum for the conservation amendment on the 2014 ballot.
“We’re hoping we won’t have any opposition,” Draper said. “I don’t know why anybody would oppose it. But we will have a campaign to educate people and to get people out to vote.”
WINNER OF THE WEEK: Jobs. Florida’s jobless rate dropped to its lowest level in five years, reaching 6.7 percent in October. It is well below the national rate of 7.3 percent. Gov. Rick Scott noted it was the eighth month that Florida was below the national average and that the state has added 67,000 private sector jobs over the last two months.
LOSER OF THE WEEK: U.S. Rep. Trey Radel. It was revealed that the first-term Republican congressman from Fort Myers was arrested for the possession of 3.5 grams of cocaine in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29. Radel admitted to the crime, which would have been a felony in Florida but was a misdemeanor in Washington. Despite calls for his resignation, Radel announced he would remain in office but seek treatment for his drug and alcohol use.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The survivor will be the candidate voters dislike least on Election Day,” Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown said about a new poll showing a tightening race between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Related:           Amendment is Common-Sense Approach to Conservation   FWLL
What spending counts as conservation spending ? Analysts wrestle with proposed constitutional amendment Florida Current



Crist says way to clean waterways is to 'restore natural flow'
TCPalm - by Jonathan Mattise
November 22, 2013
WEST PALM BEACH — Former Gov. Charlie Crist said if he gets his old job back, he’ll renew a push to shield the St. Lucie estuary from dirty Lake Okeechobee releases by buying U.S. Sugar land for a flow-way south.
The 2014 Democratic candidate for governor — formerly a Republican governor and failed independent U.S. Senate candidate — told reporters Friday he would “absolutely” advocate for buying sugar fields below Lake O. As governor, Crist touted the proposal as restoring a natural pathway from the lake to the Everglades.
“Hopefully, within less than a year of the election, we can get on it,” Crist said Friday.
It’s a concept that Republican lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott didn’t endorse, as the lake discharges took center stage politically during a pollution-plagued summer for area waterways. Crist said the proposal will resurface as he eyes Scott’s job.
“I think it’s a great idea, and I do think (Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature) are doing the people a disservice,” Crist said. “They’re doing God’s creation a disservice. It’s clear to me that the way to clean up what’s happening coming out of Lake Okeechobee and those rivers is to restore the natural flow.”
Crist first proposed a $1.7 billion deal to buy 187,000 acres of sugar land in 2008. Environmentalists lauded the idea.
After the economy tanked, in 2010 the South Florida Water Management District bought only 26,800 acres for $197.4 million.
This year, the state didn’t act on an Oct. 12 deadline to buy 153,200 acres of U.S. Sugar land at a $1.1 billion price tag. Another scaled-down option with U.S. Sugar would have offered 46,800 acres. All or part of those lands, however, are still available at market price for six years.
Stuart Republican Sen. Joe Negron, who headed a committee dedicated to the Indian River Lagoon, has called the land purchase unaffordable for the state. He wants the federal government to cover 80 to 90 percent of the tab before considering a larger flow-way south. U.S. Sugar also has cooled on the idea of selling its land.
Negron said Friday that Scott and state lawmakers are doing “everything (they) can as a state to make sure that water flows south, rather than east and west.”
Many Martin County environmentalists contend the only fix to the discharges is the flow-way, which would let Lake O water move south into the Everglades, instead of east into the St. Lucie and west into the Caloosahatchee River via canals. Mark Perry, executive director of Stuart-based Florida Oceanographic Society, has said that requires buying a patchwork of sugar and agricultural fields below the lake.
The St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee endured a battering of polluted lake water this summer, as the Army Corps of Engineers tried to lower lake levels and reduce stress on the lake’s aging dike. The dirty freshwater proved harmful to marine wildlife and vegetation, and spurred algae blooms that made the water unsafe to touch.
The environmental devastation seized the attention of state and federal policymakers.
In August, Republican Gov. Scott pledged $133 million in various projects to help store, move and clean polluted water before it hits the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee. Florida senators likewise assembled a $220 million wish list to protect the estuary and Indian River Lagoon. Most of the projects need legislative approval during the March-through-May lawmaking session.
Scott has sidestepped questions about whether the state should reconsider buying sugar fields. And Negron’s committee didn’t give a resounding endorsement to the flow-way idea.
The Senate panel’s final report says Plan 6, the concept of reconnecting the lake with the Everglades through land buys, has been rejected three times.
In general terms, the report suggests studying more ways to send water south, “especially when a financial commitment from the federal government becomes more probable or new technology becomes available.” Both Negron and Scott bash the federal government for not keeping up its cost share in projects with the state.
It’s not the first time the U.S. Sugar land discussion has become ensnared in election season drama.
Facing Crist for a Senate seat, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio decried the deal in 2010. He called the ultimate U.S. Sugar purchase a “taxpayer-funded bailout for a top Charlie Crist campaign donor and a profitable bonanza for Crist’s inner circle.”
Scott, running in a Republican primary against U.S. Sugar-backed Bill McCollum, likewise bashed the final land buy.
In the 2014 race, Republicans have quickly jumped on Crist as he targets Scott’s job. They have pegged the former member of their party as an opportunist, saying he makes promises just to get elected and has flipped on most of his major political views.
Former Florida Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, is Crist’s primary foe. But her fundraising and name recognition have been lacking.


Rate of coastal wetlands loss has sped up, U.S. study says - by Bill Chappell
November 22, 2013
The U.S. lost an average of 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands from 2004 to 2009, according to the latest data published by federal agencies. More than 70 percent of the estimated loss came in the Gulf of Mexico; nationwide, most of the loss was blamed on development that incurred on freshwater wetlands.
"The losses of these vital wetlands were 25 percent greater than during the previous six years," NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports for our Newscast unit. She also notes that the loss equals "about seven football fields every hour."
The figures come from a recent report titled Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States. For their study, researchers examined 2,614 plots that were chosen at random, with each plot representing 4 square miles.
U.S. coastal wetlands are concentrated in four areas — the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast, the Great Lakes, and the Pacific coast. Here's how the study estimates they fared from 2004-2009:
● Gulf of Mexico: Net loss of 257,150 acres
● Atlantic Coast: Net loss of 111,960 acres
● Pacific Coast: Net loss of 5,220 acres
● Great Lakes: Net gain of 13,610 acres
The report also notes that some coastal wetland gains were seen in the coastal watersheds of South Carolina, Georgia and parts of central Florida.
The causes for the wetlands losses range from tree farming to rural and urban development to powerful storms like those that have obliterated wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico, turning them into open water.
In the U.S., most of the coastal wetlands are freshwater — about 34.6 million acres, according to the report, compared to 6.4 million acres of saltwater wetlands.
Wetlands are a vital part of coastal ecology, supporting fish and other wildlife. They improve water quality by filtering runoff; wetlands are also crucial to protecting coastal regions from erosion and flooding, particularly during strong storms. Wetlands are also an economic engine for the seafood and tourism industries.
If you're a little rusty on what constitutes a wetland in the U.S., here's how the Environmental Protection Agency defines them:
"Wetland types found in coastal watersheds include salt marshes, bottomland hardwood swamps, fresh marshes, mangrove swamps, and shrubby depressions known in the southeast United States as 'pocosins.' Coastal wetlands cover about 40 million acres and make up 38 percent of the total wetland acreage in the conterminous United States. Eighty-one percent of coastal wetlands in the conterminous United States are located in the Southeast."


Red tide reported in Lee, Collier counties – by Jackie Winchester
November 22, 2013
Red tide is being reported along some areas of Lee and Collier counties.
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission said today that low amounts of the algae have been found along Boca Grande Pass, Captiva Pass and Captiva Island, with low to medium amounts along Sanibel and Bowman’s Beach.
Bonita Beach Park in Collier is seeing the highest concentrate southwest of Barefoot Beach, which has low to high amounts.
Naples Beach is experiencing very low amounts.
Red tide is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the single-cell alga Karenia brevis undergoes a population explosion, or bloom.
Karenia produces a powerful neurotoxin called brevetoxin, and during a bloom, increased levels of brevetoxin can render filter-feeding molluscs poisonous to humans and kill fish, sea turtles, marine mammals and birds.
At least 168 manatees have died this year from red tide.
Scientists said Southwest Florida could see high levels of red tide due to the heavy summer that carried large nutrient loads from the Kissimmee River watershed, Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River and delivered them to the coast. The mixture of ocean water, micro-organisms and pollution could provide the ideal breeding grounds for a toxic red tide bloom in the next few months.
Humans can be affected by red tide, too. Symptoms from breathing the toxins usually include coughing, sneezing and teary eyes. For most people, symptoms are temporary when red tide toxins are in the air. Wearing a particle filter mask may lessen the effects, and research shows that using over-the-counter antihistamines may decrease symptoms. Check the marine forecast. Fewer toxins are in the air when the wind is blowing offshore.



FL Agriculture

Adam Putnam continues push for statewide water policy
Sunshine State News - by: Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
November 21, 2013
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam continues to push for lawmakers to remember that South Florida isn't the only part of the state where water quality and quantity have become dire issues.
"There is an extraordinary bias to the south at the expense of the springs and Apalachicola Bay," Putnam told reporters in the Capitol this week.
As the Florida Legislature is being asked to consider a $220 million package to redirect water and reduce pollutants flowing from Lake Okeechobee, Putnam wants lawmakers to consider other issues. That includes the challenges of pollutants entering the state's springs, the St. Johns River and Tampa Bay, reducing pollution entering Lake Okeechobee from the north and the declining conditions of Apalachicola Bay in the Panhandle.
Florida has filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia about a shortage of fresh water flowing into Apalachicola Bay. Florida argues that heavy water consumption in the metro Atlanta area has reduced downstream flows into the bay, endangering Apalachicola's oyster industry.
“If the Everglades were suffering from inadequate freshwater flows coming from Georgia, the whole state would have a level of interest, and a level of decibels, much higher than what they seem to have for Franklin County, and that’s not right,” Putnam said.
Putnam addressed his concerns about the need for a statewide water-management plan in October to members of the House and Senate.
The appearances before House and Senate committees came before the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin proposed a $220 million package that stems from pollutants being discharged from the lake into waterways such as the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
The Senate's package includes a wide range of projects, such as $90 million that would be spread over three years to bridge a 2.6-mile section of the Tamiami Trail west of Miami. Groups such as the Everglades Foundation have called the highway "one of the most prominent dams" blocking the natural flow of the River of Grass from the lake to the southern Everglades.
Putnam said he would increase focus on the northern Everglades and areas north of Lake Okeechobee. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discharges water from the lake to ease pressure on a dike that surrounds the massive water body.
“If you can slow the water down from getting into the lake, or treat it before it gets into the lake, then you’re having an impact on what the potential harm is to the dike and what the storage capacity of the lake is," Putnam said.
The department's budget proposal for the 2013 session includes $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.
The Department of Environmental Protection has included in its budget proposals $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.
The proposals are being considered by Scott, who will offer a budget plan before the 2014 legislative session.


English class organizes environmental awareness event focusing on the Everglades – by Cristina Garcia, Contributing Writer
November 21, 2013
When you think about environmental activism on-campus, you may expect to hear from the University Organic Farmers Market or the FIU Garden Club. Now the English Department is adding its voice to the cause.
Patricia Warman-Cano, English professor and instructor of Writing as Social Action, a class that started a project to save the Everglades, has organized the event “6 ft. Under” on Nov. 22 — in conjunction with the FIU Nature Preserve — to raise awareness about rising sea levels, the loss of the Everglades and their effect on South Florida.
Amelia Caceres, a senior English major in the class, said she was among those students that asked “so what?” when approached by environmentalists, but the class agrees there is a reason to care.
“The reason I learned to be compassionate was because [the environment] makes the economy work,” Caceres said. “And we need a working economy.”
The Everglades houses 34 percent of Florida’s endangered animals, provides the state with a third of its clean water, a filtration system, a buffer against natural disasters.
“It also supports outdoor recreation, agriculture and tourism industries in Florida — all billion dollar industries,” Yemilen Bravo, a senior English major in the class, said.
The class project started out as a project to save the Everglades, yet as their research deepened, the class realized that ultimately the Everglades would vanish.
According to Bravo, as salt water intrudes into the Everglades, it starts to die.
“Every plant, except mangroves, will die; crocodiles and alligators can live in it, but other animals like manatees need to drink freshwater. We can’t save the Everglades no matter what we do,” Bravo said.
What does that mean for Floridians?
A University case study highlighted South Florida’s population as one of the fastest growing human populations in the United States –  approximately 900 new tenants enter Florida daily and about 39 million vacationers annually.
The average person uses approximately 124 gallons of water per day. A publication by the University of Florida said that while the state is “rich in water resources,” intensive use of water places it under a lot of stress.
“At this rate, we’re going to have to invest in desalination. Orlando and Tampa have had to invest in it already. This will lead to a need to raise water taxes,” Bravo said. “But it is prohibitively expensive”
According to Bravo, the rising sea levels are a product of global warming, a naturally occurring phenomenon. The only unnatural thing about global warming is the accelerated rate at which it is happening — a product of humans’ ecological footprints.
“There are two sides on the issue. One side says we should protect [the environment] for children and freshwater,” Bravo said. “The other side says we need to find alternatives to fund to help us be more sustainable, to lower emissions and for more time to prepare.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council describes global warming as “the single biggest environmental and humanitarian crisis of our time.” According to the Council, global warming refers to the increasing temperatures of Earth’s atmosphere stemming from an atmosphere full of “heat-trapping carbon dioxide;” which lead to a wide-scale impact on climate.
As depicted by the Council’s “Extreme Weather Map 2012,” Florida did not pass last year unscathed, as evidenced by record-breaking heat, rain and a total of 62 large wildfires. Nationally, the United States saw “the worst drought in 50 years,” Hurricane Sandy and wildfires that burned approximately 9 million acres across the U.S.
“In the next 100 years, the most optimistic predictions say the sea levels will rise 6 feet. Six feet and Miami is underwater — exponentially worse than when a hurricane happens,” Bravo said.
The aforementioned case study explains that the warming of the planet causes ocean surface water to expand, in addition to melting glaciers and ice sheets. Currently, South Florida’s sea level has risen over 10 inches since the 1840s and is still rising. Today, scientists have measured the rate at which the sea level rises to be about 8-16 inches every 100 years, a rate 6-10 times faster than the average rate for the past 3,000 years.
“We keep looking for solutions that create more problems,” Caceres said. “We keep spending a ton of money that we could use to create a sustainable city that could survive the century.”
The student-organized event taking place at Parkview Plaza, near the entrance of the Nature Preserve, is intended to educate viewers on the class’ findings and their proposals for steps to be taken for a more sustainable city.
The event, starting at 2 p.m. and lasting until 4:30 p.m., will provide students with a chance to participate in a scavenger hunt, with clues stemming from their research and tips.
Unlike other doomsayers, Warman-Cano’s class has taken a proactive approach by educating the community and getting them involved.
“This event is centered on awareness, but we will definitely be talking about how we can become better consumers and work for a more sustainable and better society,” Caceres said


Florida agency agrees high water in Everglades needs to be managed
Miami Herald - by Susan Cocking
November 21, 2013
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously Wednesday in Weston to push state and federal agencies to adopt a high-water emergency policy to protect plants and animals in the central Everglades.
The panel backed the plan developed by commissioner Ron Bergeron — its Everglades point man — calling for time and depth limits on water levels in the vast state conservation area that lies between I-75 and Tamiami Trail and a “tool box” for sending excess water south to Everglades National Park. Bergeron said prolonged high water levels spell disaster for the endangered Florida panther and other animals squeezed together on tree islands and levees to compete for shrinking food and habitat.
Bergeron said wildlife can not survive completion of various Everglades restoration projects over the next 30 years unless water levels are regulated in the interim.
“What I’m looking for is an emergency policy to protect the environment while we accomplish the largest environmental restoration in the history of the world,” Bergeron said.
Following Bergeron’s lead, the FWC recommended water levels in the central Everglades have an average maximum depth of two feet during the wet season to near ground level during the dry season; maintain a gradual rate of water level increase and decrease, and limiting higher-than-average water levels to no more than 60 days. The commission also pledged to meet with representatives of other state and federal agencies involved in Everglades restoration to develop a “tool box” for sending excess water south through Everglades National Park to Florida Bay during high-water emergencies.
The proposal drew enthusiastic support from members of outdoors recreation groups at the meeting, but state and federal water managers balked.
Ernie Barnett, assistant executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, and Col. Tom Greco, deputy district commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, both said they must consider downstream impacts, such as flooding of homes and businesses, and water quality, before pushing water south of the Trail into the park. Barnett said construction projects to re-establish historic sheet flow from the water conservation areas south to the park will provide the most immediate relief, but he acknowledged they won’t be complete in time for the 2014 wet season.
“This is a huge issue and we are not getting the response we want,” commission chairman Richard Corbett said. “Push this up on top. It’s an emergency.”
With the commission’s support, Bergeron said he wants to go to Washington to meet with top officials of the Army Corps and Department of Interior to hammer out a high-water policy for the central Everglades.
Said Bergeron: “When you have a state of emergency in urban areas, you can deviate so people can get back to their lives. We’ve got to have an emergency policy for our environment to keep it alive.”
Florida wildlife officials seek to avoid flooding Everglades animals            Sun-Sentinel-Nov. 20, 2013
Wildlife commissioners wrangle with water managers over ...           The Florida Current


Hendry County residents seek support from legislators – by Patty Brant
Hendry County’s state legislators, District 80 Representative Matt Hudson and District 39 Senator Dwight Bullard, were in LaBelle for the annual Legislative Delegation meeting Monday to hear first-hand where local residents feel they should put their efforts in the upcoming Legislative Session. Rep. Hudson chaired the meeting.
County Administrator Charles Chapman was first up, describing the ongoing problems with the Medicaid adjustments.
Economic incentive funding for infrastructure were high on the county’s request list as were quality of life concerns including water issues, parks conservation easements to preserve Hendry County’s natural appeal and to work with the federal government to clean up water flow through Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River.
Mr. Chapman referred to specific projects in the county’s request. Rep. Hudson cautioned that considerable documentation will be required for these projects and that it should be presented as early as possible.
Funds to renovate the aging courthouse are again in the request with updated figures.
On behalf of the City of LaBelle, Director of Finance Ron Zimmerly presented requests to enhance Barron Park and the new Regional Sports Park as well as drainage and the continuation of the city’s wharf project. Also important to the city: rehab for the historic Captain Hendry House and construction of Helms Road Extension.
Edison State College, LaBelle Center Director Jeff Gibbs noted the upswing in enrollment at this campus and in the number of credit hours students are taking. He said ESC is working with Airglades Airport’s inland port plans. The campus is in dire need of building and roof refurbishments, he told the legislators, with two roofs already having been completed.
Mr. Gibbs also noted the coming name change for the school, to Florida Southwestern State College. A conflict with another college out of state is causing the change, which will also help to regionalize the college, he said.
Continuing the education speakers, Superintendent of Schools Paul Puletti first offered appreciation for the Legislature’s assistance with a recycling program, saying we have been “well served” by our Legislative Delegates. He went on to explain that schools need some flexibility in how they can use state funding and that a fair and transparent system of school grading is needed. He is also seeking a better mental health delivery plan for students in need.
Both legislators agreed more needs to be done in the area of student mental health for kids in the “highest degree of crisis.”
Florida Gulf Coast University’s presentation focused on the funding it received last year for student advisors and technical infrastructure. The university also works with small development business centers. Both legislators lauded the programs at FGCU.
Two LaBelle High School students did a presentation for the Tobacco Free Partnership/Students Against Tobacco decrying the availability of candy flavored tobacco products targeted toward kids.
Pat Dobbins represented the Department of Health, saying Hendry-Glades has some of the worst health statistics in the state, particularly for obesity, heart disease and hypertension. She pointed out that small counties like Hendry have uniquely rural issues.
These 33 Florida counties need a position to facilitate discussion among them to address their shared problems. She echoed the superintendent of schools, saying the health department also needs flexibility in its funding to address unique situations.
Ms. Dobbins also did the presentation for Healthy Start which focused on ensuring “above average outcomes for high risk patients.”
Arlene Betancourt spoke for Healthy Families, explaining the successes of that program in reaching high risk clients, “saving kids and tax money.” She asked that funding be maintained, explaining that it costs the state $72,000 per year to serve each abused child and just $1,200 per year per child in services to prevent the abuse.
Lee Memorial Health System’s presentation centered on care for the uninsured.
Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council’s presentation asked the legislators to support the federal water policy for Lake Okeechobee releases and Everglades flood insurance.
Angela Hill asked for funding for the Central County Water Control District, to construct the final 2.5 miles of a levee. This project ties in with water quality issues for all of South Florida.
Under public comment, area agriculturalists spoke about the University of Florida’s plan to degrade the Immokalee IFAS research center to a demonstration facility. Gulf Coast Citrus Association’s Ron Hamil began by thanking the legislators for critical funding to combat deadly crop diseases like citrus greening, but explained that funding for the center is critical for area agriculture to survive.
Former Ag Agent and long time agriculturalist Dallas Townsend noted the damage done by severe funding cuts.
Clewiston Mayor Phillip Roland pleaded for work to clean up north of Lake Okeechobee, the source of contaminated water that flows into the lake and the Caloosahatchee River, eventually causing environmental problems on both the East and West Coast estuaries.
Water needs to be stored and cleaned north of the lake as well as south of it, he maintained.
Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden was seeking funding for a new jail. After 20 years, he said the jail has reached its life span. A new facility is critical, he told the legislators, which would cost under $25 million.
Senator Bullard said he would help get the funding and suggested that sheriff’s personnel concentrate on the amount of data supporting the project.


cows cooling

Where's the beef ?  Florida cattle industry slated for growth
News Herald – by Anthony Clark, Gainesville Sun
November 21, 201.
GAINESVILLE — The Florida cattle industry is poised to grow to help offset a nationwide shortage of cows due to drought and as land for other uses becomes less in demand, according to Jim Handley, executive vice president of the Florida Cattlemen's Association.
Handley was keynote speaker at the Farm-City Week luncheon Wednesday at the Paramount Plaza Hotel sponsored by two local Kiwanis clubs, the Alachua County Cattlemen's Association, the Alachua County Farm Bureau and the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Recent droughts in the West and Midwest have led to a 61-year low in cattle population, and economists predict record profits over the next three to five years, Handley said.
"We're enjoying the benefits of a tight supply. Our export demand is skyrocketing, and our domestic demand is quite strong," he said. "It's getting to the point that it's crucial to see herd rebuilding."
The state's brood-cow population dropped to 910,000 from a high of 965,000 as ranch land was developed, but has stabilized in recent years with the land boom over and some citrus land converted to pasture as a result of citrus disease, he said.
An affiliate of the Mormon church that recently bought 383,000 acres from the St. Joe Paper Co. in the Florida Panhandle will convert some of the timberland to cattle pasture, he said. The church already owns the largest cow-calf operation in the nation with 44,000 head at Deseret Ranches in Central Florida.
Demand for local and grass-fed beef is leading to expanded operations for finished cattle, a small but growing sector of the Florida cattle industry, Handley said.
That includes plans to expand Adena Springs Ranch in Marion County, as well as cattle farms in Suwannee and Sumter counties.
Most Florida calves are shipped to the Midwest for growing and finishing.
Handley credited IFAS' work in animals, plants, soil and biology for having an impact on cattle and all other agricultural operations in the state.
"The research and development arm of Florida farming and ranching truly is the University of Florida and Florida A&M," he said.
Handley said the Cattlemen's Association has self-imposed rules for managing nutrient runoff to improve water quality, and that it works with state agencies to manage properties responsibly.
"We're guilty of enjoying our ranches and not talking to people out of the ranching community enough that we embrace science."
Farm-City Week is designed to bridge the gap between "food and fiber" producers and consumers.
Gaineseville Commissioner Susan Bottcher read a proclamation designating Nov. 20-27 as Farm-City Week and emphasizing the need for cooperation and understanding between farmers and consumers.
Beef cattle is a $670 million industry in Florida with 1.6 million cattle, including 115,000 dairy cows and 910,000 brood cows. Alachua County has 45,000 cattle, 11th most in the state, and ranks seventh with 26,000 brood cows.


Sea rise

Giz Explains: How living infrastructure will save our cities from nature's wrath – by Andrew Tarantola
November 20, 2013
Super-typhoon Haiya, the single most powerful storm ever recorded, is an unsettling harbinger of troubles to come. Weather systems across the globe have gained terrifying intensity and destructive force over the past few years thanks to our rapidly warming planet. New defences are needed to protect our metropolitan centres, most of which are located within a stone’s throw of the ocean. The solution: fight nature with nature.
The Way Things Are Now
Mankind has always tried to exert dominance over the forces of nature, and since the start of the industrial revolution, we’ve been doing a pretty darn good job of it. Modern construction technologies and engineering methods allow us to modify land and waterways to suit our needs. From building up new neighbourhoods in the depths of San Francisco Bay to dictating the course of the mighty Mississippi to holding back the ocean itself in St Petersburg and the Netherlands, we employ hard infrastructure — sea walls, roads, bridges, and other man-made constructs — to bend nature to our will and mitigate the impact of weather hazards.
But in many instances, these massive public works projects, can actually make matters worse, economically, environmentally and socially. San Francisco’s landfill-based Marina district, for example, suffered significantly more damage than the rest of the city during the 1989 quake thanks to the garbagey-soil’s propensity for liquefaction, and lining the Mississippi River with concrete mats has transformed it into the world’s largest slip-n-slide, preventing the natural sediment buildup necessary for the river’s health. And not only that, but these measures aren’t failure-proof either, as the numerous, disastrous, levee failures during 2005′s Hurricane Katrina illustrated all too clearly.
What’s more, these projects are built to confront the hazard rather than negate it, creating an immovable object to oppose an unstoppable force. But why spend billions to clean up after major storms like Sandy and Katrina when we could utilise nature’s own natural defences to minimise damage in the first place ? As Dune’s Paul Atreides once said, we must “bend like a reed in the wind”, and to do so we’ll need to stop thinking in terms of steel and concrete monoliths and start thinking in terms of nature conservancy and “living infrastructure”.
It’s the Environment, Stupid
According to the Architect’s Resource Office (ARO), continued polar icecap melting will raise sea levels by as much as 1.8m by the end of the century. More than 180 US coastal cities could lose an average of 9 per cent of their land if that happens, including New York City, which would lose more than 20 per cent of Lower Manhattan. And with a Katrina-class hurricane pushing storm surges 7m above that, more than 60 per cent of Lower Manhattan, everything below 10th St, could be SOL on a bad day.
Rising sea levels, combined with the destruction of natural coastal habitats such as the Everglades, combine for a devastating one-two punch to our cities. Heck, even just removing these environments, which act as natural storm buffers, can result in devastation. For example, when 2004′s Hurricane Jeanne hit the island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the Haitian side — which was largely clear-cut of its forests — suffered far worse damage and thousands more deaths than its neighbour. Without forests and protective ground-cover to keep top soil in place, the Caribbean nation faced landslides and flooding during the storm, while the conservation-minded Dominican Republic did not thanks to its trees holding everything together.
The same is true for places like New York City’s Jamaica Bay and New Orleans. “It was this huge survey from 1903,” landscape architect Kate Orff said during the 2010 NYC MoMA exhibit, Rising Currents, which examined potential solutions to the threat of climate change-induced coastal flooding, “where they wanted to transform Jamaica Bay into the world’s largest shipping port, which if you know how shallow that bay is, makes no sense at all, other than, ‘Hey, it’s America and it’s 1900, and we can do anything!’”
“Jamaica Bay’s original ecosystem” she told the New Yorker, “is precisely what you’d now design to protect inland settlement: a 20,000-acre salt marsh plus barrier islands.”
Similarly, extensive marshlands that used to span the Gulf Coast have been dug up or buried to make way for man-made flood protections such as the network of levees around New Orleans. Unfortunately, levees cannot provide the same level of defence against hurricanes as hundreds of thousands of acres of vegetation do. In fact, as Dr Jeffrey Masters, chief meteorologist of Weather Underground points out, for every 4.3km of marsh between the land and the ocean reduces storm surges by a full foot. Plus, natural fortifications like marshland provide invaluable other societal benefits as well: they provide refuge for wildlife, support tourism and commercial fisheries, and sequester massive amounts of atmospheric carbon. And the more carbon we take out of the atmosphere, the slower the planet warms, and the less frequently we’ll suffer through super-storms. It’s just that simple.
How We Can Fix It
Rebuilding New York’s coastline back to its pre-industrial revolution state would be no small feat but could provide the greatest level of protection for the rest of the city in another Sandy. “We imagine that [NYC] will and should get wet,” added Eric Bunge, whose firm, nArchitects also participated in the Rising Currents exhibit, “and that designing for a dry city is maybe madness. As a city, we choose not to run for the hills. If you index population growth to sea-level rise in New York, you have something like two hundred thousand more people for every inch of rising water between now and about 2030. The question is, where do you put all these people? It can’t be just the familiar post-industrial approach to the waterfront, with parks and leisure programs.”
Instead, city planners could leverage the abundant islands and marshes throughout Jamaica Bay as natural storm buffers. “In lieu of a literal wall around lower Manhattan, which would cost millions of dollars but would only perform in a flood, we proposed an ecological infrastructure that would allow water in and out of lower Manhattan,” architect Adam Yarinsky told the New Yorker. “We’re thinking about a continuum of land and water.” And, in fact, the City of New York has already begun doing so. In 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the formation of the Jamaican Bay Unit, a 9000-acre urban wildlife refuge — and the largest bird sanctuary in the northeastern United States — recognised by the National Park Service.
“It’s not about preventing flooding, anyway,” he continued. “It’s about mitigating the impact of flooding on the city, and living with the fact that there are times when the city would flood. But you can manage public spaces, improve the building stock, and relocate infrastructure so it won’t be damaged.”
And it’s not just a matter of going out and planting acres of reeds and marsh grass, simply providing a suitable substrate could be enough to create living infrastructures. Orff suggests that Oystertecture — wherein mats of woven rope are laid down in the coastal shallows and act as artificial reefs for communities of oysters — could help protect Chesapeak Bay in Massachusetts. As the oysters grow and mature, the form a wave-breaking barrier that protects the land behind it from storm surges.
Of course, neither hard nor living infrastructures can offer complete protection all of the time. Just as monumental projects like the Netherland’s Oosterscheldekering, carry unintended consequences — “It was built over such a long time that by the time they finished it [in 1986] they finally realised it would have been an ecological disaster if they had completely sealed off the sea,” Bunge told the New Yorker — so too does living infrastructure.
As Dr. Masters explains:
“If a marshland is subject to strong winds for long enough, the wetlands will completely flood, and there will be no reduction of storm surge at all — and an increase in storm surge is even possible, according to the mathematical equations governing the surge (Resio and Westerink, 2008). This has occurred in Louisiana during a number of storms — Hurricanes Rita, Katrina, Gustav, Ike, and Hurricane Betsy of 1965, along the eastern side of the protruding delta of the Mississippi River.
Resio and Westerlink (2008) found that during Hurricane Rita of 2005, strong winds blew along the east side of the Mississippi for almost a full day, completely flooding the 25 miles of wetlands fronting the Mississippi River levee at English Turn. In fact, the model results show that the surge probably increased in height, by 1 foot per 8.7 miles of inland penetration in the Hurricane Rita simulation, since the day-long period of strong winds allowed the surge to pile up against the levee.
Thus, while the wetlands were able to slow down the speed with which the surge reached the levee, the wetlands had no impact on the surge height in that location. A similar effect was seen during Hurricane Carla in 1961, a ferocious Category 4 hurricane that brought the highest storm surge ever observed to the Texas coast — a massive 22.7 feet at Port Lavaca. Carla moved so slowly — just 8 mph — that the surge had plenty of time to inundate marshes, and along one inland bluff fronted by wetlands, the surge was higher than at the coast.”
In the end, supplementing civil engineering projects with ecological defences is only part of the overall solution to dealing with our rapidly changing environment. Early warning systems, effective evacuation strategies, education, and better building codes must be integrated into the larger scheme of of sustainable city development and planning if we plan on living anywhere near our growing oceans.



President of the Board
Friends of the Everglades

Investing to protect Florida's environment: David versus Goliath
EyeOnMiami – Blog by Alan Farago
November 20, 2013
Let's say you have a charitable foundation and want to invest to protect Florida's environment. You are willing to spend a million dollars a year, over a ten year period, for that purpose. What do you do ? How do you spend the money ?
For starters, if you have ten million dollars of money tucked away, it is likely in a foundation restricted in its giving. To benefit from tax credits, the foundation can't participate in political campaigns. Second, you are not likely to do it yourself.
If you have gotten this far, you already have a board of directors. They are busy people (and presumably, smart in a business-like way) and not necessary attuned to the most important prerequisite of progress on the environment: political change.
So from the outset -- if you haven't already -- you ought to reconsider the benefits of IRS qualified donations against the results one can reasonably expect based on past performance.
So you hire hire your own staff to administer grants and ensure, one hopes, accountability. Staff for charitable environmental organizations are rarely cultivated from the political ranks of change-makers. When they are politically experienced, however, they come from the mainstream. In other words, finely tuned to lessons of compromise that consigned the environment to lower rungs of political concern in the first place.
Now, you have a line of charitable organizations that come with their plans for how your money will be well-spent through good works, according to guidelines you established and their respective missions.
On a deeper level, however, your opposition has already lined up to exploit the loopholes in state and federal campaign laws. Instead of a spigot, they have multiple pipelines of dark money flowing to oppose environmental causes and actions.
So while you veer from prohibited activities because the opposition (builders, developers, rock miners, sugar barons) are all waiting for you to trip on your bows and arrows, the opposition is armed and loaded with howitzers and smart bombs. All is not lost, yet.
So you want to save the panther. You invest in an educational campaign: why the panther. (Or manatee or wood stork). You invest in a campaign to put more land in public trust, to save the panther habitat. You find an organization that gets people together around a particular stretch of land or marsh. Save the panther. You sue an agency. Save the panther.
As the donor, you ask your staff to report back on the success (or not) of the yearly investment. The grantee dresses up a report, has a meeting, and applies for more money to cover programs, staff salaries, and expenses.
But then you find you might have done a good job on the east side in county X, but there's been an explosion of suburban sprawl in county Y, exactly where panthers need to roam. Or, the highway that your charitable organization friends fought in county W (and lost) proves to be the one that causes road kill of panthers like a flame hitting moths.
Sure, there are state-wide environmental groups. Their staff is stretched tighter than a first violin's bow. You find at the end of the day, the best way to save panthers is in cages to be shown at children's' birthday parties in Sweetwater.
If you can't do politics, politics does you.
Every environmental rule or regulation is based on politics. So why are Florida environmentalists so bad at politics?
This is a big question. The short answer is that outcomes are heavily, heavily weighed on the side of polluters and those who have everything to gain from gaming water management or other rules and regulations. I call it "The Growth Machine", with all the gears -- from the big ones in Washington -- right down to the lobbyist corps at the local county commission.
There are many longer answers, but the one I want to focus on is this: that donors to environmental groups entrust the political work -- to the extent it exists -- to the same organizations enmeshed in compromises for conservation.
For example, in Florida the Audubon Society is the best funded of conservation organizations, with affiliates in many counties throughout the state. Its leadership on conservation policies is well-established.
From outcomes, Audubon can't be pleased by what is transpiring or expiring in the Everglades. Incremental progress is overwhelmed by insider domination of processes. Yet in Florida Audubon is the charitable organization regularly invited inside the Big Closed Tent in the state capitol where all things to do with Everglades are fluffed for public consumption. That's the Big Closed Tent that is zealously guarded (redistricting) by the GOP.
In Audubon's defense, the organization and its leaders are engaged in the art of the possible. And if you were to listen in on staff meetings, you might often hear about the perfect being the enemy of the good. If compromise is the mother's milk of politics, that is where we belong -- or words to that effect.
But once again -- look at the results and judge accordingly.
On Lake Okeechobee, the smartest and most qualified environmentalists are Audubon staffers. They know what they are talking about. And what they are talking about when it comes to the causes of polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee -- mainly benefiting the growing of sugar cane south of the Lake -- we knew about thirty years ago. The wreckage stretches to the horizon.
So if you are a donor to environmental causes in Florida, you have to ask some hard questions. Your IRS qualified grantees are very worthy. How much of what we are investing, is kicking the can down the road? Maybe part of our investment should be kicking the can down the road, but maybe these should only be part of our investment. The people keeping the ball in play shouldn't be the leaders recruited to weaponize environmental issues in Florida.
The bigger part of the donor investment shouldn't be in conservation at all. It should be persuading donors to make political contributions to go for the jugular. That is how the other side does it.
Name one political enemy that the environmental movement in Florida has succeeded in ousting. (I'm waiting …)
Here is the point. With your charitable organization, you've designed a square peg to fit a round hole.
When you decide to fight Goliath, you can't put the slingshot in the hands of those whose persuasion skills have been learned in Palm Beach agency meetings or hotel conference rooms. In the perception of agency bureaucrats who oversee environmental rules and regulations, these emissaries are either lambs or easy marks to use for dragging moral issues into the deep marsh of "complexity" where they are drowned.
So how do you weaponize environmental issues that pollsters will say are a lower order of priority for voters?
It is not easy sorting out the alliances that Florida environmentalists need to develop in order to be politically effective. They are not, however, insurmountable.
Take the sugar issue, for example. Environmentalists have made token headway against Big Sugar despite serial victories in federal courts that ought to aim politics in the direction of cutting every single constituent of pollution and development in wetlands, eliminating subsidies and reinforcing the economic benefits of restoring the Everglades.
Why haven't Florida environmentalists forged alliances and campaigns with those aimed to close the trillion dollar hole in our health care crisis: the over-consumption of sugar? No one from the Florida's charitable environmental community has even tried in the most likely direction to energize a broad swath of the voting public.
The bottom line for my hypothetical ten million dollar donor: spend to save the panther but invest in politics for the environment. When you do, you can't put lobbying or political money with the same groups or leaders that do conservation as the art of compromise.
You have to make clear: enemies will be punished and friends, protected. Audubon couldn't protect Ray Judah, the county commissioner from Lee County who stood up for the Everglades alone among cohorts, but the group could give an award to Ken Pruitt, the former well driller and president of the Florida Senate who did the bidding of the Great Destroyers and is now hauling down a multiple six figure income in a public job for which he doesn't have requisite qualifications while lobbying for Big Sugar. Old Guard Democrats ? Don't get me started.
With sea level rise on the horizon, the time for a muscular environmental movement in Florida is now. It is not about wind mills and solar panels, or punishing friends and rewarding enemies. It is about a focused political strategy that begins by knocking just a few holes in the seamless, high walls built by polluters around Tallahassee and Washington, DC.



President of the Board
Friends of the Everglades

De-Bunking the myths of Florida environmentalism: The failure of public/private partnerships
EyeOnMiami - Blog by Alan Farago
November 19, 2013
Judging by results, the Florida environmental movement has been a failure. The example of the Everglades and Florida Bay predicts a future of immoveable and tragic costs of climate change.
Last week, during a week of climate change related reporting by WLRN -- that local Miami public radio station that has avoided reporting local consequences of sea level rise for many years -- reformed Keys journalist Nancy Klingener offered "Sea-Level Rise Taking the Pines Out of Big Pine Key". Her report returned me to exactly the place that made me fall in love with the Everglades: the backcountry of Florida Bay.
Nancy was a young journalist when we first met in the late 1980's in Key West, earnestly working to meet the demands of editors to "balance" environmental stories. Those days, the way to "balance", in newspaper-ese, was to portray environmentalists as enthusiasts and amateurs (or Chicken Littles) while polluters were sober-minded, civic leaders trying hard to create jobs. The distortion placated advertisers from the home builders, cars, and extractive industries, the same effect of pouring oil on roiling seas. It also fundamentally eroded efforts by environmentalists to energize the public.
In the 1970's I had incredible days fishing on the Gulf side of Big Pine and its neighbor, Little Torch Key. I had the great fortune to make frequent visits to the Florida Keys backcountry and witness the last of a grand ecosystem firing on all cylinders. On some days, through a skein of two feet of water for as far as the eye could see, life was popping: rays, sharks, bonefish, birds -- turtles and dolphin. It was as though a museum diorama -- tens of square miles to the edge of sight -- had come to life. By the late 1980's, what existed was only a dream; the dream of restoration.
The pace of sea level rise and its effects on Big Pine and its surroundings reinforce the notion that the Florida Keys are a laboratory for the effects on the environment of over-population. The Keys have also been an extraordinarily reliable test tube for the interaction of inefficient and bad politics with fragile habitats.
I had moved to the Florida Keys in the late 1980's. Thanks to earlier work in business -- manufacturing wire and cable materials -- I had time and freedom to apply skills I hoped would contribute to changing policies and politics related to protecting land and water resources in Florida.
By the time I became a resident of the Keys, the mismanagement of water resources by the State of Florida and the lazy eye of federal agencies had already profoundly changed the fragile balance of water quality necessary to support the diverse creatures that made Florida Bay splendid.
It seemed that Floridians needed to be much more muscular in combatting the special interests -- like Big Sugar -- that controlled legislatures. But, how to do it vexed us even then. From the top, political leaders like former governor, then US Senator Bob Graham, Governor Lawton Chiles and President Bill Clinton -- all Democrats -- courted sugar money. Sugar money and influence courted them, back.
With the Reagan-era Sagebrush Rebellion and anti-environmental, pro-property rights wingnuts barking from the edge of the yard, the last thing Democrats were inclined to do was to stand tough for enforcement of environmental laws protecting the Everglades.
In the Keys, the Nature Conservancy was the environmental organization with the most funding, power, and status. Its leadership at the national level decided that its local focus ought to be on "private/ public partnerships", a model of involvement that tapped the resources and donor base while preserving the environmental causes for change.
There was an alternative: to engage the public at the level of political involvement. But that is hard work, requires funding, and a purpose that is restricted by IRS rules for charities.
The Nature Conservancy has done magnificent work around the nation, and the world, in protecting habitat. Buying land and allowing private property to return to natural functions is a vital and extraordinarily important goal.
"Public/ private partnerships" ought to be a tactic in an overarching strategy whose primary purpose is to weaponize environmental issues. But these partnerships take energy, money, and the recruitment of adversaries has the unintended consequence of diluting energy of the environmental movement instead of concentrating it.
It is not that both partnerships and grass-roots engagement are mutually exclusive. The problem ties back to money. Where there is funding, it tends to aggregate to "feel good" tactics that confuse, in the end, with strategy. If the goal is political change, then at the grass roots level, the Nature Conservancy's focus on partnerships in the Keys was a failure measured against public involvement to change regulatory inaction.
Think of the environmental movement as an unpressurized airplane dodging bad weather and icing by flying into thin air. There are more passengers on the plane than oxygen tanks. In the Keys, the private/ public partnerships got the oxygen -- by reason of status, comfort and wealth -- and the necessary objectives of political engagement withered on the vine.
The most common disease of "public/private" partnerships is the green-washing of polluters; that is to say, providing forums for wealthy, powerful special interests to launder private profit through extraction industries into the goodwill of environmental causes.
Thirty years ago, this outcome seemed obvious to some observers and activists in the Keys. If you invite a pride of lions into the tent, don't be surprised at the outcome.
Humanity can't get out of its own way, and the support by environmentalists of "public/private" partnerships added to layers and reasons why Florida's environmentalists chase options to maintain programs and staff.
It is a formula that helps the causes of disinformation -- as though the polluters need any help -- and misleads the public to believing that with all the contributions to the pandas, to the bears, and the panthers, that change is around the corner.


DEP secretary tours Northeast Florida facilities working to improve St. Johns
November 19, 2013 5:00 am
Atlantic Beach facility among those visited.
JACKSONVILLE – Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. conducted a tour of four Northeast Florida facilities – including the Atlantic Beach Wastewater Treatment Facility – recently for updates on continued progress in helping restore the St. Johns River. These projects and investments are part of the ongoing commitments made by these facilities and other state and local governments to improve the health of the river by reducing the amount of nutrients entering the river.
"Northeast Florida is fortunate to have such an important water resource in the St. Johns River. I have seen first-hand that these facilities have made major strides towards improvement," said Vinyard. "However, we must continue to monitor progress to ensure that the goal of restoration is achieved. We are fully committed to enforcing the adopted restoration plan until the health of the river is restored."
Vinyard, DEP Northeast District and Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration staff visited Clay County Utility Authority's Fleming Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the JEA Buckman Facility and the Atlantic Beach Wastewater Treatment Facility to witness projects that have been implemented or are under construction to improve wastewater treatment, reduce wastewater discharges and reduce groundwater consumption.
• Due to significant upgrades, the Clay County Utility Authority's Fleming Island Wastewater Treatment Plant now provides advanced wastewater treatment. The Miller Street wastewater treatment plant also has undergone upgrades to improve its system. In addition, the implementation of an extensive water reuse system, allows discharge from these facilities to be used for irrigation. Clay County Utility Authority has achieved more than 100 percent of reduction requirements with these improvements
• Naval Air Station Jacksonville recently completed a reuse project that beneficially uses treated wastewater to irrigate its golf course rather than being discharged into the river. The new system also has the benefit of reducing ground water consumption by providing irrigation for the NAS-Jax golf course and ball fields. With the completion of the project and other wastewater improvements, 54 percent of the reductions are complete for the two naval facilities in the basin – Naval Air Station Jax and Naval Station Mayport. Construction on another NAS Jax project will begin in 2014 that will reduce total nitrogen by an additional 9 percent by building a two-mile pipeline and a zero-discharge spray field in the South Antenna Farm area. This project will provide more than 660,000 gallons per day of reuse water and will result in zero discharge of all treated wastewater from NAS Jax to the St. Johns River.
• Since 1999, JEA has invested $246 million on three main nutrient removal techniques: upgrading larger regional wastewater treatment plants to advanced nutrient removal technology, phasing out smaller older technology plants and building and expanding the community's reuse system. JEA is completing the final major capital project in that nutrient initiative now: nutrient removal upgrades at the Buckman Wastewater Treatment Plant. When this $22 million construction project is complete this fall, JEA will have reduced the discharge of nitrogen to the river by more than 50 percent from all of its facilities, an achievement of  more than 100 percent of the required reductions.
• The Atlantic Beach Wastewater Treatment Facility has completed construction of the city's main wastewater treatment plant that included wastewater treatment upgrades along with sludge and odor control improvements. The construction of this facility allowed the flow from the aged Buccaneer Wastewater Treatment plant to be transferred to this new facility with better treatment capabilities. These combined efforts have achieved more than 100 percent of the city's total nitrogen reductions for its wastewater facilities and also assisted with meeting 45 percent of its stormwater reductions. In addition, this week the City Commission approved a project to extend reuse from the Main Wastewater Treatment Plant to a nearby private golf course, which will reduce the amount of water discharged to the Lower St. Johns River and require a permanent green space easement that will prevent additional development being built on the golf course property.
The department adopted reduction goals for the main stem of the Lower St. Johns River Basin in June of 2008 from Buffalo Bluff just south of Palatka to the mouth of the river. The restoration goals established  total phosphorus and total nitrogen reductions in the freshwater reach  needed to achieve chlorophyll-a levels in this portion of the river. These were the basis for restoration plan to achieve these target reductions, which was adopted in October 2008.
"Restoring the St Johns River is a top priority for the Department and a complex challenge involving a diverse group of stakeholders working together, said DEP Northeast District Director Greg Strong. "Today's visit helps us to recognize some of the considerable progress that's already happening to achieve our water quality goals, and to re-focus on the important work that lies ahead."
Overall in the freshwater reach, 93 percent of the reductions needed to meet the reduction goals for total phosphorus and 90 percent of the reductions needed to meet the reduction goals for total nitrogen have been achieved. In addition to the nutrient reductions achieved in the freshwater section, the projects completed in the marine section have reduced total nitrogen by 1,751,630 pounds per year, equaling 74 percent of the reductions needed.
About the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state's principal environmental agency, created to protect, conserve and manage Florida's environment and natural resources. The Department enforces federal and state environmental laws, protects Florida's air and water quality, cleans up pollution, regulates solid waste management, promotes pollution prevention and acquires environmentally-sensitive lands for preservation. The agency also maintains a statewide system of parks, trails and aquatic preserves. To view the Department's website log on to


'Glades water levels a priority for FWC
Sun Sentinel - by Steve Waters
November 19, 2013
The agency wants to limit how high the water can get to protect the habitat and wildlife north of Everglades National Park
Saving the habitat and wildlife of the freshwater Everglades is a priority when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets Wednesday in Weston.
Unlike this summer, when water levels in the water conservation areas north of Everglades National Park got too high for wading birds to stand and deer had virtually no high ground to live on, FWC commissioner Ron Bergeron wants a limit on how high the water can get.
The meeting, which will consider marine issues such as the Biscayne National Park management plans and swordfish and blue runner regulations on Thursday, starts at 8:30 a.m. both days at the Bonaventure Resort and Spa in Weston. Visit and click on "FWC Commission Meetings."


Murphy outlines recent efforts to address problems in lagoon
November 19, 2013
Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Rep. Patrick E. Murphy, D-Jupiter, remains dedicated to working with local, state, and federal officials to find real solutions to the issues that have plagued Treasure Coast waterways for too long.
To that end, he recently met with Sally Ericcson, associate director for Natural Resources, Energy and Science for the Administration's Office of Management and Budget. This office oversees the federal funding process for Everglades restoration projects, including the ongoing C-44 Indian River Lagoon project.
Additionally, the House of Representatives voted last week to appoint House conferees on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. This allows the House and Senate to work out differences between their two versions of this bill, that were both passed with broad bipartisan support, so that a final bill can move forward and be signed into law by the president.
The bill will authorize new Everglades projects that will benefit the entire system and our Treasure Coast waterways. Of the 28 House conferees named for WRRDA, eight attended the Oct. 3 Congressional briefing hosted by Murphy on the state of our local waterways and three of the members are from Florida.
"To address the crisis taking place in our local waterways, we must continue to work together across all levels of government on both short-term and long-term solutions.
"Last week I met with Sally Ericcson, a top administration official in the president's budget office to follow up on the bipartisan letter I recently sent with several of my colleagues requesting full funding for the second phase of the C-44 Indian River Lagoon project.
"We discussed the pressing need to move forward more efficiently and expeditiously on Everglades projects such as this, as well as the importance of repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike, to provide relief from toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. I will continue to push the administration to make funding for these vital projects a priority.
"I am also pleased to see the House take an important step forward towards final passage of WRRDA. It is great to see so many members of the conference who are already informed of the pressing need to provide relief to our local waterways due to attending our October 3rd Congressional briefing.
"I hope to see a final bill as soon as possible that can be passed by both chambers and signed into law by the President so that these important Everglades projects can move forward, improving the health of local waterways."


Commissioner Putnam calls water policies top priority of 2014 session - by Joe Saunders
November 18, 2013
A comprehensive policy to deal with Florida’s perennial water problems should be a top priority of lawmakers for the 2014 session, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Monday.
At a news conference at his office in the Capitol, Putnam said, fresh water management, development regulations and pollution are statewide problems that require a statewide response, particularly in the development permitting process.
 “There are a host of water issues facing Florida,” Putnam said.
Most attention to water issues is focused in the southern part of the state in Everglades, Putnam said. But Florida’s streams statewide, areas of Central Florida north of Lake Okeechobee and the Apalachicola Bay in the northwest part of the state also need help, Putnam said.
“If the Everglades were suffering from inadequate water flow” because of development in Georgia, there would be statewide outcry, he said.
Putnam did not detail any “comprehensive” approach, but said the state resources devoted to water issues should be spread more evenly, to include the oyster industry as well as areas that are development targets.
The state’s environmental programs, such as Florida Forever, have in the past been focused almost exclusively on buying land for preservation, Putnam said. That focus needs to broaden, he said.
From Apalachicola Bay in the north to the Caloosahatchee River in the west, the St. Lucie Estuary in the east or the Everglades to the south, “every corner of Florida is facing some degree of water conflict,” Putnam said.
FIRE SEASON: Putnam warned that the wet weather experienced statewide over the summer could be a sign of a dangerous fire season to come. Conditions this year, he said, have led some forestry officials and meteorologists to warn of a coming dry spell similar to 1998 and “the worst fire season in anyone’s memory.”
“This is exactly what happened in 1998,” he said.
GREENING: Putnam reported little progress in the state’s efforts to fight citrus greening, despite international cooperation. The citrus forecast now is for the smallest crop in 20 years, he said. And that’s even before the first fruit starts dropping because of greening.
“It continues to be the greatest threat the state’s citrus industry has ever faced,” Putnam said.
POLITICS: Putnam, a star figure in the state’s Republican Party who is up for election in 2014 against underdog Democrat Thaddeus Hamilton, said the challenges of the office won’t change. “Even if it’s a great year for water this session, there will be plenty to do after that.”
With Gov. Rick Scott also up for re-election and former Gov. Charlie Crist running for the Democratic nomination to challenge him, Putnam said he will “work with whoever the voters send there.”
“I believe Rick Scott will be elected,” he said.


Consultants report on growth causing concern
WWSB ABC 7 - by Josh Taylor
November 18, 2013
SARASOTA COUNTY, FL - A $90,000 consultant's report on how growth should be handled in Sarasota County is causing concern. The initial draft of the report suggests the county should do away urban service boundaries and zoning restrictions all together.
The initial draft of the report by the Tennessee based Laffer Associates suggests the changes in order to make it easier and quicker for development east of I-75 and everywhere else in the county.
At a press conference Monday those with the Sarasota County Council of Neighborhoods or CONA for short like Bill Zoller calling it laughable. "To just do away with and have no rules or regulations. Lets just open everything up and just do what you want makes it a foolish report. No credibility whatsoever."
Representatives of the environmental group Sierra Club like Gerry Swormstedt also expressing concern. "Green ways are important for habitat. For connectivity of habitat. For water recharge and for our quality of life."
Zoller says it appears to be apart of a push to slowly break down the county's decade plus old 2050 plan which regulates urban sprawl. Mostly east of the interstate. It calls for fiscal neutrality. Basically making development pay for itself. fees for things like roads and water and sewer lines. "If developers don't have to pay for infrastructure guess who does? Somebody. Taxpayers."
The report says Florida already has planning requirements which lead to higher prices, slower population and slower employment growth. That the 2050 plan makes it even tougher for our area. Saying doing away with it would help the county move "away from smart growth and toward actual growth". Zoller says there is no way commissioners can find the report useful."It's so silly and such a foolish report I don't think they can possibly use it. The citizens would revolt."
Commissioners are expected to discuss the initial draft of the report Tuesday at the County administration building. Those who did the report are expected to come before commissioners sometime in December.



President of the Board
Friends of the Everglades

Silence of the Lambs: Florida environmentalism
EyeOnMiami – Blog by Alan Farago
November 18, 2013
Because revenue is not a factor in what we express on this blog, Eye On Miami takes points of view that advertiser-driven media won't touch. There are exceptions, of course. Some of the stories we have broken -- G.O.D. on absentee ballot fraud and, lately, the Lynda Bell (county commission District 8) scandals have been taken up by newspapers, radio, and television. We are part of the grand experiment in internet-based news. Still, there are distinct limits to civic journalism.
Opinions are another matter. Both my co-blogger, G.O.D., and I have spent many years as a civic activists in Miami-Dade, advocating for sensible growth or against corruption in government and the revolving door with agencies and private industry; places where very few citizens dare to tread because of the high barriers and walls thrown up by powerful special interests. We write from experience.
In the intersection of Florida environmentalism and politics, I've worked as board volunteer (I'm now president of the board of Friends of the Everglades, founded by Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 1969), and as a campaign organizer on controversial environmental issues with complicated strategy, tactics, and investment. As an opinion writer, I started in the late 1980's trying to engage through both mainstream print journalism and public broadcasting.
In 2006, pressure from the Governor's Office forced me off a regular position on the editorial page of the Orlando Sentinel. (Although I live in Miami, The Miami Herald was not similarly amenable to publishing my views.) The Bush administration's complaint? I had charged in an editorial that polluted water directed by the South Florida Water Management District was destroying downstream estuaries in order to benefit Big Sugar. Bush and his lieutenants insisted to the newspaper's publisher and editors: prove it. That sent me on a wild-goose chase through the water management district's Alice-In-Wonderland databases; where information is cordoned off from critical assessment (notwithstanding MILLIONS of dollars investment in marketing and propaganda, otherwise).
Shortly afterwards -- once it became clear the controversy cost the Sentinel more than it was worth, especially at a time the parent newspaper, the Herald Tribune, was under severe financial pressure -- I began writing daily here, at Eye On Miami and the national website, Counterpunch.
So I have a point of view and it has been relentless in attacking the Great Destroyers of Florida; the polluters and development interests who turned the chief assets of the state -- our lakes, bays, estuaries and natural lands like the Everglades -- into personal profit.
I've decided to change focus.
To do that involves breaking one of the first rules of the community to which I've given decades of my life and energy. One of the first rules of environmentalism is never attack your own.
I'm going to break that rule in a way that is going to put me in solitary company in Florida. The failures of environmentalism in Florida and nationally, too, need to be aired even if it means breaking the code of silence. Why I am breaking my silence, now, is complicated. It is also a matter of timing.
Last week, a long-time friend US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was interviewed in the Washington Post about his quixotic, regular speeches from the floor of the Senate on climate change.
"With little hope of (such) climate legislation moving anytime soon, and few lawmakers paying attention to his weekly floor speeches, I asked Whitehouse whether his addresses were really aimed at his own descendants -- at leaving a record of how he fought against denialists and cowards who refused to protect the one and only planet we have. "I very much want my grandchildren to know that I fought the good fight," he replied. "But much more than that, I want to turn this around."
I also want to "turn this around". Over the years I've migrated from direct action -- for example, as a founder of the effort the stop movement of the Urban Development Boundary and, earlier, as the activist leader who halted the scheme to redevelop the Homestead Air Force Base for the benefit of powerful campaign contributors assembled from the ranks of former board members of the Latin Builders Association.
We are pretending, when we assert we have made substantive progress on environmental issues, despite some victories and despite billions -- literally billions -- invested in the Everglades.
Where we have made progress, through interventions in federal court, these halting steps are obstructed at every turn by the Great Destroyers. In 2013, nearly a decade after the Orlando Sentinel decided it could not afford a guest editorial opinion on the ravages created by water management district policies shoveling polluted water to the estuaries, exactly that problem -- heightened by a very wet rainy season -- wreaked havoc in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
This year, citizens outraged by the destructive practices of water management, ruining quality of life, property values, and the environment -- assembled in Florida in numbers we have never seen before. Where, I would ask, are the environmental groups, hobbled in many cases by charitable organization restrictions, or their leaders in making the politicians "pay" for their outrageous past behavior ? Why are Florida's environmental groups politically weak to the point of being neutered? That's what I want to write about.
I am not a reader of crystal balls. There are many others more qualified in the science who understand the connections I've been making. But the special interests have dragged our issues and priorities into the high weeds of complexity, sowing doubt and disinformation with professional skill.
In my view, "turning this around" depends on setting the conditions for a younger generation to become engaged in our politics. My generation still has time to lead by example, like Senator Whitehouse is doing, but more importantly: it is time for a younger generation of activists and political leaders to emerge in Florida.
There are lots of mechanics involved in creating opportunities for new candidates for public office to emerge.
The small place where I want to fit in, has to do with telling the truth how environmental leadership failed in Florida to begin the reconstruction of a movement that began, here, in more innocent times with the first awakening of federal laws and state initiatives to protect the environment. That happened four decades ago. In contrast, consider what happened only two years ago on the other side of the Everglades from Miami. In Lee County, Big Sugar and a PAC operating in the shadows eliminated a twenty year career civil servant from the county commission with a late night investment of nearly one million dollars. Ray Judah, a Republican, had served on the county commission with distinction. His political assassination was carried out by forces -- Big Sugar -- that had never so blatantly drilled down to electoral politics at the county level.
Which environmental groups raced to Judah's defense? None. Name the environmental groups who even knew or were poised to respond? Judah's offense is that he had supported the massive purchases by the state of lands used in sugar production south of Lake Okeechobee. He had supported then Governor Charlie Crist's purchase of US Sugar lands with more than one billion dollars of state funds. For the offense of stating the obvious, Ray Judah was lifted off the political page in Florida.
As environmentalists, we are way off course and it is time to say, how it happened. That's what I'm going to be thinking and writing about. The only way to evaluate the state of Florida's environmental movement is to judge by the results; the results on the ground and in the waters. Those results are dismal. Tampa Bay Times writer Craig Pittman, this past weekend, wrote about one of those results, "Dolphins dying in droves and scientists can't stop it." It will be liberating to write about the failures of Florida's environmental movement, even if there are many who are not going to like what I have to say.



Sea level rise in South
Predictions range from
3 - 7 inches by 2030
and 9 - 24 inches
by 2060.

Tallahassee silent on sea-level rise - by Gina Jordan
November 18, 2013
If the state uses projections from the Army Corps of Engineers, policy leaders should be planning for a possible two-foot sea-level rise by 2060.
But so far, it’s largely been up to local governments to figure out how to handle higher water.
“Sea-level rise is something that will impact millions of people throughout the state,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. “It’s preposterous to think we wouldn’t think about that, but in reality, we’re not doing a damn thing.”
Pafford thinks the state could create jobs and grow the economy by spearheading efforts to battle saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion. He doesn’t see much on the agenda during the upcoming session. But he hopes to have a workshop among a bipartisan committee of House members, even if no legislative proposals are likely.
“If the Army Corps is presenting numbers that indicate that we’re going to have that amount of water present in a very short amount of time, to me that would signal that the legislature needs to engage on the subject,” Pafford said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to cost money, and it’s not the local governments that are going to be able to handle this. It’s going to be the state that needs to belly up to the bar and begin having a realistic discussion about sea level rise.”
Pafford thinks legislative leaders won’t be convinced to deal with the problem until it’s widely picked up by the media and until they see actual numbers. The waters off Key West, for example, have risen nine inches over the last century. And millions of dollars are being spent now to shore up drainage systems, gates and other structures in Miami-Dade County.
One hindrance facing lawmakers may be their inability to plan beyond a single budget year.
“It limits our ability to pay attention to an Army Corps of Engineers report that says we’re going to have nine inches of higher salt water sea level in our backyards … destroying the economy that has made Florida what it is,” Pafford said.
But how much responsibility does the state bear?
Maybe not so much, according to Thomas Ruppert, a lawyer and coastal planning specialist for Florida Sea Grant. Ruppert operates the website Florida Sea Grant and does extensive research into the effects of sea-level rise and climate change on coastal communities.
WLRN: Based on your research, what do you think can be done from a state-policy perspective?
RUPPERT: I’m not sure primary responsibility is even going to be with the state. A lot of this does have to occur at the local level.
One of the things that I think would be very good at the state level is ... it’s going to get very expensive to continue to deal with this. We’re going to hit a point at which we simply don’t have enough money to do all the armoring, nourishment, drainage and elevating that’s going to keep everybody happy. We’re going to have to make some very hard decisions.
WLRN: What have you learned in your research that you think is most imperative for state leaders to know?
RUPPERT: We need to have some political courage to really act on some lessons that I think we can learn from our own past. Some good examples of that present themselves in our coastal permitting. We have issued an awful lot of permits for construction in places that end up very soon subject to erosion and surge and a lot of other coastal hazards. We just don’t seem to want to realize that it’s not only about how we build, it’s also about where we build.
WLRN: Do you think Florida still has time to properly deal with this or will we always be playing catch-up?
RUPPERT: There’s certainly no time to be as proactive as we could have been. If we would have been doing better coastal management for the past 30 or 40 years, we would have less of a problem than we already do. With the way we have developed in Florida, we have put so many people in such hazardous areas that, that makes it even worse.
Sea level rise … it’s just another way of making even worse all the hazards that we already know – flooding, storm surge, hurricanes. It just exacerbates all of those things.
WLRN: If we’re looking at the Keys, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, knowing what the models show as far as water rising, what do you think state lawmakers can do to minimize the negative consequences?
RUPPERT: One of the ways we could do that at the state level is by integrating sea level rise into our capital spending. We could be using a methodology like the United State Army Corps of Engineers uses. They have a specific methodology that they use to incorporate sea level rise into their civil works projects.
The corps’ thinking is, "We’re spending the United States government’s tax dollars on these infrastructure projects and we are going to make sure that we are not building them in a way that they are going to be subject to failure during their lifetime due to sea-level rise." That’s something that could be done at both the state and local government levels.
WLRN: Rep. Pafford thinks the inability of lawmakers to plan for more than one budget year is holding the state back from taking steps on this issue. Do you have thoughts about that?
RUPPERT: It’s really hard to see a lot of great political leadership on this for a number of reasons. It’s due to the short turnaround in cycles for politicians. They want to point to some great result they achieved in a short timeframe. A lot of the best things we could be doing – they’re very long term and very farsighted. Politicians are not very well rewarded anymore for being far sighted.
WLRN: Do you believe the Army Corps' projections of possible two-feet or more of sea-level rise by 2060?
RUPPERT: They have three different scenarios, so it’s not just one single number. One of the best ways to think about this is: How important is the infrastructure to you and how long should it last? If you’re talking about a 75-year lifespan, multi-million dollar water treatment plant for a region, you should probably use scenarios that are pretty darn close to worst case because you cannot lose that infrastructure. That’s such a major investment.
We still don’t know exactly when these impacts are going to occur. We know that sea level has been rising; we know it is rising, and it’s going to continue to, but we don’t know how fast. So that’s a real challenge.


Economics vs. the Environment
Associated Press - by Dina Cappiello
November 17, 2013
CORYDON, Iowa — The hills of southern Iowa bear the scars of America's push for green energy: the brown gashes where rain has washed away the soil, the polluted streams that dump fertilizer into the water supply.
Even the cemetery that disappeared like an apparition into a cornfield.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country "stronger, cleaner and more secure."
But the ethanol era has proved far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.
As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama's watch.
Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.
Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.
The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.
Farmers planted 15 million more acres of corn last year than before the ethanol boom, and the effects are visible in places such as south-central Iowa.
The hilly, once-grassy landscape is made up of fragile soil that, unlike the earth in the rest of the state, is poorly suited for corn. Nevertheless, it has yielded to America's demand for it.
"They're raping the land," said Bill Alley, a member of the Board of Supervisors in Wayne County, which now bears little resemblance to the rolling cow pastures shown in postcards sold at a Corydon pharmacy.
All energy comes at a cost. The environmental consequences of drilling for oil and natural gas are well-documented and severe. But in the president's push to reduce greenhouse gases and curtail global warming, his administration has allowed so-called green energy to do not-so-green things.
In some cases, such as its decision to allow wind farms to kill eagles, the administration accepts environmental costs because they pale in comparison to the havoc it believes global warming could ultimately cause.
Ethanol is different.
The government's predictions of the benefits have proved so inaccurate that independent scientists question whether it will ever achieve its central environmental goal: reducing greenhouse gases. That makes the hidden costs even more significant.
"This is an ecological disaster," said Craig Cox with the Environmental Working Group, a natural ally of the president that, like others, now finds itself at odds with the White House.
But it's a cost the administration is willing to accept. It believes supporting corn ethanol is the best way to encourage the development of biofuels that will someday be cleaner and greener than today's. Pulling the plug on corn ethanol, officials fear, might mean killing any hope of these next-generation fuels.
"That is what you give up if you don't recognize that renewable fuels have some place here," EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in a recent interview with AP. "All renewable fuels are not corn ethanol."
Still, corn supplies the overwhelming majority of ethanol in the United States, and the administration is loath to discuss the environmental consequences.
"It just caught us completely off guard," said Doug Davenport, a Department of Agriculture official who encourages southern Iowa farmers to use conservation practices on their land. Despite those efforts, Davenport said he was surprised at how much fragile, erodible land was turned into corn fields.
Shortly after Davenport spoke to The Associated Press, he got an email ordering him to stop talking.
"We just want to have a consistent message on the topic," an Agriculture Department spokesman in Iowa said.
That consistent message was laid out by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who spoke to ethanol lobbyists on Capitol Hill recently and said ethanol was good for business.
"We are committed to this industry because we understand its benefits," he said. "We understand it's about farm income. It's about stabilizing and maintaining farm income, which is at record levels."
The numbers behind the ethanol mandate have become so unworkable that, for the first time, the EPA is soon expected to reduce the amount of ethanol required to be added to the gasoline supply. An unusual coalition of big oil companies, environmental groups and food companies is pushing the government to go even further and reconsider the entire ethanol program.
The ethanol industry is fighting hard against that effort. Industry spokesman Brooke Coleman dismissed this story as "propaganda on a page." An industry blog in Minnesota said the AP had succumbed "to Big Oil's deep pockets and powerful influence."
To understand how America got to an environmental policy with such harmful environmental consequences, it's helpful to start in a field in Iowa.
Leroy Perkins, a white-haired, 66-year-old farmer in denim overalls, stands surrounded by waist-high grass and clover. He owns 91 acres like this, all hilly and erodible, that he set aside for conservation years ago.
Soon, he will have a decision to make: keep the land as it is or, like many of his neighbors, plow it down and plant corn or soybeans, the major sources of biofuel in the United States.
"I'd like to keep it in," he said. "This is what southern Iowa's for: raising grass."
For decades, the government's Conservation Reserve Program has paid farmers to stop farming environmentally sensitive land. Grassy fields naturally convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, which helps combat global warming. Plus, their deep root systems prevent topsoil from washing away.
For Perkins and his farmer neighbors in Wayne County, keeping farmland in conservation wasn't just good stewardship. It made financial sense.
A decade ago, Washington paid them about $70 an acre each year to leave their farmland idle. With corn selling for about $2 per bushel (56 pounds) back then, farming the hilly, inferior soil was bad business.
Many opted into the conservation program. Others kept their grasslands for cow pastures.
Lately, though, the math has changed.
"I'm coming to the point where, financially, it's not feasible," Perkins said.
The change began in 2007, when Congress passed a law requiring oil companies to blend billions of gallons of ethanol into gasoline.
Oil prices were high. Oil imports were rising quickly. The legislation had the strong backing of the presidential candidate who was the junior senator from neighboring Illinois, the nation's second-largest corn producer.
"If we're going to get serious about investing in our energy future, we must give our family farmers and local ethanol producers a fair shot at success," Obama said then.
The Democratic primary field was crowded, and if he didn't win the Iowa caucuses, the road to the nomination would be difficult. His support for ethanol set him apart.
"Anytime we could talk about support for ethanol, we did," said Mitch Stewart, the battleground states director for Obama's 2008 campaign. "It's how we would lead a lot of discussions."
President Bush signed the bill that December.
It would fall on the next president to figure out how to make it work.
President Obama's team at the EPA was sour on the ethanol mandate from the start.
As a way to reduce global warming, they knew corn ethanol was a dubious proposition. Corn demands fertilizer, which is made using natural gas. What's worse, ethanol factories typically burn coal or gas, both of which release carbon dioxide.
Then there was the land conversion, the most controversial and difficult-to-predict outcome.
Digging up grassland releases greenhouse gases, so environmentalists are skeptical of any program that encourages planting more corn.
"I don't remember anybody having great passion for this," said Bob Sussman, who served on Obama's transition team and recently retired as the EPA's senior policy counsel. "I don't have a lot of personal enthusiasm for the program."
At the White House and the Department of Agriculture, though, there was plenty of enthusiasm.
One of Obama's senior advisers, Pete Rouse, had worked on ethanol issues as chief of staff to Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, a major ethanol booster and now chair of the DuPont Advisory Committee on Agriculture Innovation and Productivity.
Another Obama adviser at the time, Heather Zichal, grew up in northeast Iowa — as a child, she was crowned "Sweet Corn Princess" — and was one of the Obama campaign's leading voices on ethanol in her home state.
The administration had no greater corn ethanol advocate than Vilsack, the former Iowa governor.
"Tom understands that the solution to our energy crisis will be found not in oil fields abroad but in our farm fields here at home," Obama said in 2008. "That is the kind of leader I want in my Cabinet."
Writing the regulations to implement the ethanol mandate was among the administration's first major environmental undertakings. Industry and environmental groups watched closely.
The EPA's experts determined that the mandate would increase demand for corn and encourage farmers to plow more land. Considering those factors, they said, corn ethanol was only slightly better than gasoline when it came to carbon dioxide emissions.
Sixteen percent better, to be exact. And not in the short term. Only by 2022.
By law, though, biofuels were supposed to be at least 20 percent greener than gasoline.
From a legal standpoint, the results didn't matter. Congress exempted existing coal- and gas-burning ethanol plants from meeting this standard.
But as a policy and public relations issue, it was a real problem. The biofuel-friendly Obama administration was undermining the industry's major selling point: that it was much greener than gasoline.
So the ethanol industry was livid. Lobbyists flooded the EPA with criticism, challenging the government's methods and conclusions.
The EPA's conclusion was based on a model. Plug in some assumed figures — the price of corn, the number of acres planted, how much corn would grow per acre — and the model would spit out a number.
To get past 20 percent, the EPA needed to change its assumptions.
The most important of those assumptions was called the yield, a measure of how much corn could be produced on an acre of land. The higher the yield, the easier it would be for farmers to meet the growing demand without plowing new farmland, which counted against ethanol in the greenhouse gas equation.
Corn yields have inched steadily upward over the years as farms have become more efficient. The government's first ethanol model assumed that trend would continue, rising from 150 bushels per acre to about 180 by the year 2022.
Agriculture companies such as Monsanto Co. and DuPont Pioneer, which stood to make millions off an ethanol boom, told the government those numbers were too low.
They predicted that genetically modified seeds — which they produce — would send yields skyrocketing. With higher yields, farmers could produce more corn on less land, reducing the environmental effects.
Documents show the White House budget office also suggested the EPA raise its yield assumptions.
When the final rule came out, the EPA and Agriculture officials added a new "high- yield case scenario" that assumed 230 bushels per acre.
The flaw in those assumptions, independent scientists knew, was that a big increase in corn prices would encourage people to farm in less hospitable areas such as Wayne County, which could never produce such large yields.
But the EPA's model assumed only a tiny increase in corn prices.
"You adjust a few numbers to get it where you want it, and then you call it good," said Adam Liska, assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska. He supports ethanol, even with its environmental trade-offs.
When the Obama administration finalized its first major green-energy policy, corn ethanol barely crossed the key threshold. The final score: 21 percent.
"If you corrected any of a number of things, it would be on the other side of 20 percent," said Richard Plevin of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. "Is it a coincidence this is what happened? It certainly makes me wonder."
It didn't take long for reality to prove the Obama administration's predictions wrong.
The regulations took effect in July 2010. The next month, corn prices already had surpassed the EPA's long-term estimate of $3.22 a bushel. That September, corn passed $4, on its way to about $7, where it has been most of this year.
Yields, meanwhile, have held fairly steady.
But the ethanol boom was underway.
It's impossible to precisely calculate how much ethanol is responsible for the spike in corn prices and how much those prices led to the land changes in the Midwest.
Supporters of corn ethanol say extreme weather — dry one year, very wet the next — hurt farmers and raised prices.
But diminishing supply wasn't the only factor. More corn than ever was being distilled into ethanol.
Historically, the overwhelmingly majority of corn in the United States has been turned into livestock feed. But in 2010, for the first time, fuel was the No. 1 use for corn in America. That was also true in 2011 and 2012. Newly released Department of Agriculture data show that, this year, 43 percent of corn went to fuel, and 45 percent went to livestock feed.
The more corn that goes to ethanol, the more that needs to be planted to meet other demands.
Scientists predicted a major ethanol push would raise prices and, in turn, encourage farmers like Leroy Perkins to plow into conservation land. But the government insisted otherwise.
In 2008, the journal Science published a study with a dire conclusion: Plowing over conservation land releases so much greenhouse gas that it takes 48 years before new plants can break even and start reducing carbon dioxide.
For an ethanol policy to work, the study said, farmers could not plow into conservation land.
The EPA, in a report to Congress on the environmental effects of ethanol, said it was "uncertain" whether farmers would plant on farmland that had been set aside for conservation.
The Department of Energy was more certain. Most conservation land, the government said in its response to the study, "is unsuitable for use for annual row crop production."
America could meet its ethanol demand without losing a single acre of conservation land, Energy officials said.
They would soon be proved wrong.
Before the government ethanol mandate, the Conservation Reserve Program grew every year for nearly a decade. Almost overnight, farmers began leaving the program, which simultaneously fell victim to budget cuts that reduced the amount of farmland that could be set aside for conservation.
In the first year after the ethanol mandate, more than 2 million acres disappeared.
Since Obama took office, 5 million more acres have vanished.
Agriculture officials acknowledged conservation land has been lost, but they said the trend is reversing. When the 2013 data come out, they said it will show that as corn prices stabilized, farmers once again began setting aside land for conservation.
When Congress passed the ethanol mandate, it required the EPA to thoroughly study the effects on water and air pollution. In his recent speech to ethanol lobbyists, Vilsack was unequivocal about those effects:
"There is no question air quality, water quality is benefiting from this industry," he said.
But the administration never actually conducted the required air and water studies to determine whether that's true.
In an interview with the AP after his speech, Vilsack said he didn't mean that ethanol production was good for the air and water. He simply meant that gasoline mixed with ethanol is cleaner than gasoline alone.
In the Midwest, meanwhile, scientists and conservationists are sounding alarms.
Nitrogen fertilizer, when it seeps into the water, is toxic. Children are especially susceptible to nitrate poisoning, which causes "blue baby" syndrome and can be deadly.
Between 2005 and 2010, corn farmers increased their use of nitrogen fertilizer by more than 1 billion pounds. More recent data aren't available from the Agriculture Department, but because of the huge increase in corn planting, even conservative projections by the AP suggest another billion-pound fertilizer increase on corn farms since then.
Agriculture officials noted the amount of fertilizer used for all crops has remained steady for a decade, suggesting the ethanol mandate hasn't caused a fertilizer boom across the board.
But in the Midwest, corn is the dominant crop, and officials said the increase in fertilizer use — driven by the increase in corn planting — is having an effect.
The Des Moines Water Works, for instance, has faced high nitrate levels for many years in the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers, which supply drinking water to 500,000 people. Typically, when pollution is too high in one river, workers draw from the other.
"This year, unfortunately, the nitrate levels in both rivers were so high that it created an impossibility for us," said Bill Stowe, the water service's general manager.
For three months this summer, workers kept huge machines running around the clock to clean the water. Officials asked customers to use less water so the utility had a chance to keep up.
Part of the problem was last year's dry weather meant fertilizer sat atop the soil. This spring's rains flushed that nitrogen into the water, along with the remnants of the fertilizer from the most recent crop.
At the same time the ethanol mandate has encouraged farmers to plant more corn, Stowe said, the government hasn't done enough to limit fertilizer use or regulate the industrial drainage systems that flush nitrates and water into rivers and streams.
With Water Works on the brink of capacity, Stowe said he is considering suing the government to demand a solution.
The nitrates travel down rivers and into the Gulf of Mexico, where they boost the growth of enormous algae fields. When the algae dies, the decomposition consumes oxygen, leaving behind a zone where aquatic life cannot survive.
This year, the dead zone covered 5,800 square miles of sea floor, about the size of Connecticut.
Larry McKinney, the executive director of the Harte Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said the ethanol mandate worsened the dead zone.
"On the one hand, the government is mandating ethanol use," he said, "and it is unfortunately coming at the expense of the Gulf of Mexico."
The dead zone is one example among many of a peculiar ethanol side effect: As one government program encourages farmers to plant more corn, other programs pay millions to clean up the mess.
Obama administration officials know the ethanol mandate hasn't lived up to its billing.
The next-generation biofuels that were supposed to wean the country off corn haven't yet materialized. Every year, the EPA predicts millions of gallons of clean fuel will be made from agricultural waste. Every year, the government is wrong.
Every day without those cleaner-burning fuels, the ethanol industry stays reliant on corn, and the environmental effects mount.
Congress and the administration could change the ethanol mandate, tweak its goals or demand more safeguards. Going to Congress and rewriting the law would mean picking a fight with agricultural lobbyists, a fight that would put the administration on the side of big oil companies, which despise the ethanol requirement.
So the ethanol policy cruises on autopilot.
Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol lobbying group, said there's no reason to change the standards. Ethanol still looks good compared to the oil industry, which increasingly relies on environmentally risky tactics such as hydraulic fracturing or pulls from carbon-heavy tar sands.
Perkins, the farmer agonizing about what to do with his 91 acres, said he likes ethanol as a product and an industry. But he knows it fuels the corn prices that are transforming his county.
"If they do change the fuel standard, you'll see the price of corn come down overnight," he said. "I like to see a good price for corn. But when it's too high, it hurts everybody."
Investors from as far away as Maryland and Pennsylvania have bought thousands of acres in Wayne County, sending prices skyrocketing from $350 per acre a decade ago to $5,000 today.
One in every 4 acres of in the county is now owned by an out-of-towner.
Those who still own land often rent it to farming companies offering $300 or more per acre. Perkins could make perhaps $27,000 a year if he let somebody plant corn on his land. That's nothing to dismiss in a county where typical household income is $36,000.
But he knows what that means. He sees the black streaks in his neighbor's cornfields, knowing the topsoil washes away with every rain. He doesn't want that for his family's land.
"You have to decide, do you want to be the one to ..."
He doesn't finish his sentence.
"We all have to look at our pocketbooks."
Related:           US green energy plan killing prairies  The Japan Times
The secret cost of the green power push         The Herald Bulletin



a former director of the
St. Johns River Water
Management District

Former manager of 2 water districts urges more protections
Orlando Sentinel
November 17, 2013
Emilio "Sonny" Vergara, 71, is a former director of the St. Johns River Water Management District, which takes in Orlando, and the district covering Tampa Bay. A Marine helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, Vergara regularly takes aim in his blog,, at state officials for weakening environmental protections. He recently spoke with Orlando Sentinel writer Kevin Spear.
CFB: Gov. Rick Scott's administration slashed budgets of water districts and narrowed their focus. What's that about ?
It was a mistake the governor is now in the process of trying to repair in order to get re-elected. Ignorant of the impact of his actions and pandering to right-wing sympathies and special interests, he has gloated over his reducing government and taxes. But he badly underestimated the complexities and cost of effectively managing the state's natural environment to protect and sustain what's left of it. He is now tossing state and federal dollars at problems he first discounted, like the Everglades-Lake Okeechobee fiasco, the polluting of the state's iconic springs and the growing fear that there is not enough cheap groundwater to support growth.
CFB: How have environmental protections been weakened ?
Tallahassee has directed hundreds of talented resource-management scientists to be summarily fired. Critical institutional knowledge has been lost. The districts can no longer raise enough funds to do what's needed because the governor and legislature placed unreasonable limits on their constitutional-based authority to levy an ad valorem tax. In addition to cutting the state's environmental muscle, it has weakened its tools. The state's entire body of environmental rules is being reviewed to accommodate special interests.
CFB: Who are the winners and what have they gained ?
Special interests, lobbyists and the politicians who serve them are the winners. They have gained a free hold on the future of the state all in the interest of greater profits at the public's expense. Any concern for public interest has become nearly equated to socialist thinking. Private interests such as big agriculture, mining companies, power companies, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other powerful Tallahassee entities have been elevated above the interests of the public.
CFB: Critics have said the water districts grew arrogant.
This tired complaint is used universally by regulated interests to gain political and popular control of regulators. Regulators are only human and face some of the most powerful interests and legal firepower in the business world. Regulators have to be smart and tough if they are to be effective in their jobs protecting the interests of the public. It is difficult not to be defensive at times, often interpreted as arrogance and uncaring, in the face of the aggressiveness of certain powerful private applicants and their well–paid lawyers. The largest majority of the regulators go out of their way to be courteous.
CFB: If you were governor for a day, what changes would you make ?
The biggest resource problem facing Florida today and into the future is obtaining enough sustainable and affordable water to meet the state's growth demands and still maintain healthy natural ecosystems. The water districts were founded through the wisdom and shrewdness of governors and legislators of both parties over the last 50 years to address these problems on a regional basis. I would take every measure to return the districts to their original mission along with the authority and resources to do the job. Then I'd ask for another day to do more.
CFB: Is it possible to protect the environment of a state with the fourth-largest population ?
It'll be an increasingly complex and expensive job, but the state's economic future is at risk. People will not want to visit polluted beaches, fish and swim in slimy lakes and rivers or drink from tainted aquifers. Is it possible to protect and sustain Florida's unique ecology in light of its expected growth ? The answer must be yes.


Is this storm the difference ?
Chronicle Journal (NW)
November 17, 2013
AS the Philippines digs out from under the lashing of typhoon Haiyan and the world rushes in to help, it is dawning on many that this storm was different. In fact, it probably represents the latest in a succession of increasingly dramatic signs that a warming planet is a dangerous place.
No large country in the world is more exposed to tropical cyclones than the Philippines. At least six and as many as nine of them make landfall annually. They always result in a lot of wind damage while flooding is caused by the torrential rainfall.
In this case, many more people have died than in any previous storm because an unexpected storm surge submerged coastal areas to the height of a two-storey building. The pressure pushing down on Earth was reduced to such an extent that a six-metre swell of water rose inside the eye of the storm and travelled with it over low-lying Philippine islands and coastal areas.
Scientists have been alerted to global warming associated with climate change since the late 18th century and by the 1950s were warning of rising sea levels from melting ice in polar regions where the effects of heat trapped in the atmosphere are greatest.
The latest of many such concerns was uttered by Lucille Sering, vice-chair of the Philippines’ Climate Commission. “This is your early warning system,” she said as her country’s official death toll rose above 3,000. “We will all eventually be victims of this phenomenon.”
This brings to mind the events of October 2010 when the strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwestern United States roared through Minnesota, Wisconsin and edged up the Lake Superior coast perilously close to Thunder Bay. The storm, with its eerie green sky, resulted in the lowest barometric readings ever recorded in the continental U.S. and adjacent Canadian regions, except for Atlantic seaboard hurricanes, and caused immense flooding in Duluth. It was the second U.S. superstorm of 2010 but extraordinary weather events are being recorded around the world and in places like the U.K. and western Europe that just aren’t used to them.
Getting aid to Philippine storm victims is greatly hampered by the debris clogging travel routes and there will be questions about the slow response by Philippine authorities. But without warning of an unprecedented storm like this, it seems unlikely that aid could have been mustered much faster.
A more fundamental inquiry has already begun in the scientific community into the link between the nature of the typhoon and the changing state of Earth’s climate and whether this really is an early warning of a new model of storms so big and powerful that they force change in where and how we live.
So far, at least, scientists can never tie one weather event to climate change with certainty. But decades of intensifying concern based upon increasingly reliable weather observations of a growing number of more violent storms worldwide appear to all but confirm the worst fears — climate change is here and we are not ready.
Here in Northwestern Ontario our weather concerns so far are with somewhat more intense summer storms and more wind events. But along the path of tropical storms, from the Philippines and Japan to Bangladesh, the Windward Islands and Florida, things are already much worse and it may not be much longer before there are mass migrations away from dangerous coastal areas.
Meanwhile, more climate conferences will hear growing evidence of man-made climate change endangering more of the planet. Governments will retire to consider and mostly ignore the facts, hoping that maybe it’s just a phase that will pass. It seems pretty clear that this approach is taking chances with the lives of millions of people.


Our connected – and perilous – world
Concord Monitor - by Katy Burns, Monitor columnist
November 17, 2013 
Even as we prepare for Thanksgiving, celebrating the bounty of the season, we are haunted by the images of small children in ragged clothes desperately drinking water from dirty ditches and old ladies sitting, weeping, among the wreckage of all they owned.
The juxtaposition of images of abundance here and stark deprivation there is startling, jarring. But increasingly familiar.
Once again we’re witnessing, from the comfort of our warm homes, another natural disaster in some far away land. This time, the sheer power of nature to destroy is on full display in the Philippine archipelago. Typhoon Haiyan – believed to be the most powerful and destructive tropical cyclone (a category that includes hurricanes) ever to make landfall in recorded history – has almost totally flattened a vast swath of the island country.
Thousands are dead, more thousands may be missing and never accounted for, as a wall of water swept and scoured the low-lying land.
The rush of news, including graphic pictures and impassioned pleas for help, was immediate, overwhelming and heart-rending. The physical devastation alone was staggering, and the effect on people was incalculable. Because access to the stricken areas was nearly nonexistent, the immediate plight of the survivors was even more dire.
Aid is starting to flow
Other countries – the United States in a prominent role, as is often the case – rallied their own resources and headed for the area, as did the nonprofit organizations – Doctors Without Borders, the International Rescue Committee, Catholic Relief Services and others – that are in the forefront of such efforts. And by week’s end, aid is starting to flow to the most seriously affected places and people.
But as hard as tending to the immediate needs of the victims is, help will get there. The infrastructural damage will be infinitely harder to repair. Just restoring electricity, water systems and passable roads will be a gargantuan undertaking, especially for a government that is not unduly wealthy.
And as the people of the Philippines try to rebuild their lives, we will revisit and watch the progress. It’s the way things happen today.
For most of recorded history, news of bad, even calamitous natural disasters traveled slowly, if at all. A volcanic eruption in Asia could kill many thousands, yet be unheard of in most of the world. Devastating plagues could make their way from region to region almost stealthily. Even as recently a century ago, news was flashed around the world by telegraph – a miracle for the time, primitive today.
Now we are surrounded by global electronic networks and communications satellites that can almost instantly transport sound and vivid pictures to the furthest corners of the globe. Cell phones and cameras are ubiquitous, in all but the most primitive outposts. We are all, increasingly, witnesses to history, some of it grim.
So we will see more tropical cyclones. More earthquakes. More tsunamis. More floods. And thanks to an ever-warming planet, we may see more destructive ones as well.
Increasingly unstable
While the exact connection between any given storm and climate change isn’t known and perhaps can’t be, there has been widespread agreement by climate scientists that, overall, our increasingly unstable weather is likely to increase the power of individual disturbances, particularly in coastal areas as the oceans continue to rise. And they will, inexorably.
Places like the Philippines, so much of it barely above sea level, are in particular peril. Think of the small Pacific Island nations where people are even now making plans for eventual evacuations. Think of Bangladesh and other countries, many of them utterly impoverished, living at the mercy of the sea that surrounds them.
But it’s not only faraway places that are at risk. We in the United States are in the eye of coming storms and ocean rise as well. Some 39 percent of Americans in the contiguous 48 states live on a seacoast, frequently in areas not much above sea level. This includes such great cities as Boston and New York City, both extraordinarily vulnerable to ocean rise. Look at the damage done by Hurricane Sandy a year ago.
A recent report by a coalition of scientists said that much of south Florida, including the interior Everglades, will likely be under 5 feet of water within a century. Yet in Florida, as in much of our country, ocean rise is getting only fitful attention, at best.
In poor places like the Philippines, Bangladesh and the tiny Pacific island nations, they’re aware of the perils poised by our changing climate. They just don’t have the resources to do anything about it. In the United States, we have the resources. We just don’t want to think about it.
But as we gather with friends and family to enjoy the holiday, we should give a thought to what we’ve witnessed in the Philippines. And give a little more thought to the disaster that could be awaiting us. Some disasters, like that, are sudden. But others creep up on us.
As Ben Strauss, the director of the Florida study, told the New York Times, “The sea is marching inland, and it’s not going to stop.”


Sea level rise in Florida
New York Times – Letter by Tabitha Cale, Miami, FL
November 17, 2013
South Florida Faces Ominous Prospects From Rising Waters” (news article, Nov. 11) highlights the difficult realities facing the region. But suggesting that the Everglades “could one day be useless” misses the point that Everglades restoration is critical to mitigating the effects of climate change in South Florida.
The article notes that the Everglades give the region its fresh water. Coastal communities, including Miami, rely on the system for drinking water, but the Everglades ecosystem provides more benefits than drinking water alone.
Continued, accelerated restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem will slow the intrusion of saltwater into aquifers, delay the effects of sea level rise along the coasts, and improve flood control.
It also has the added benefits of improving the health and resilience of South Florida’s coral reefs, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, and other habitats for birds and wildlife that are the backbone of Florida’s tourism-based economy.
Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to change, and restoring the Everglades will be vital to defending South Florida from the future effects of rising waters.


State funding plan puts Glades Reservoir in bulls-eye - by Sarah Mueller
November 17, 2013
Alabama, Florida dispute viability of Hall reservoir project
In the war over water in the Chattahoochee River, Georgia is staking out the high ground.
Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration recently announced it would directly invest up to $40 million in three reservoir projects critical to securing the state’s future water supply as the population grows.
One of those is the planned Glades Reservoir in Hall County, an 850-acre reservoir that would sit on Upper Chattahoochee River Basin in North Hall, above Lake Lanier.
Georgia officials say the Glades Reservoir could increase water flow to downstream communities in Alabama and Florida if operated properly, but that’s an argument the other states aren’t buying.
Deal ordered the Environmental Finance Authority to create the Governor’s Water Supply Program in 2011, but how the state funds water projects changed earlier this year. Previously, the state would lend money to local governments to build reservoirs for local needs. The program will continue to make loans, but the state now wants access to the water in exchange for its cash.
“Instead of being driven to hold water upstream and away from Lanier or away from other communities, the idea would be to fill Glades when it’s wet and use it to support flows downstream, which first go into Lake Lanier then go on down the river,” said Jud Turner, director of the Environmental Protection Division.
A report by the Georgia Water Coalition, a group of more than 200 organizations the mission of which is to protect and care for the state’s waterways, chastises the Deal administration for “spending millions on reservoir schemes to circumvent federal control of the river systems.”
Turner disputes that claim, saying the state isn’t trying to take any authority from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages Lake Lanier. The corps is currently evaluating the state’s request to withdraw 705 million gallons of water a day by 2040.
Georgia has told the corps the state has the authority to issue withdrawal permits from the river and “we’re going to make sure (the reservoir) gets operated the way I’m telling you,” Turner said.
For 20 years, Georgia, Florida and Alabama have locked horns in legal disputes over water usage in the Apalachicola-Chatthoochee-Flint river basin. The dispute hinges largely over withdrawals from Lanier, a federal reservoir created by the Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee that provides water to Gainesville and metro Atlanta.
Alabama is keeping tabs on the Glades project and has raised serious questions about the proposed reservoir, said Jeremy King, director of communications for Alabama’s governor.
“While Gov. (Robert) 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,” King said.
“Under the current circumstances, Alabama believes that construction of the Glades Reservoir will result in even less water flowing to downstream communities in Alabama, Georgia and Florida.”
Florida is suing Georgia, saying the state’s overconsumption of water led to the 2012 failure of the oyster industry in the Sunshine State. The Chattahoochee and Flint rivers merge to form the Apalachicola River on the border of Georgia and Florida, which then flows to the Gulf of Mexico.
“Florida is moving forward in its fight for the future of Apalachicola Bay and its families after 20 years of failed negotiations with Georgia,” said Patrick Gillespie, press secretary for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Gillespie added that upstream water withdrawals and low water levels damaged the bay’s water quality, causing oysters to die.
Turner disagrees, pointing to Atlanta’s water conservation efforts and reduced usage rates. A large portion of water used by the metropolitan area is returned to the river below the dam, Turner said in congressional testimony earlier this year.
“Again, it depends on how the project is operated,” he said. “A project could, if operated in certain ways, could impact downstream flows negatively or it could affect downstream flows positively.”
Georgia will make sure downstream communities benefit, Turner said. The state is trying to show it can regulate water flow thoughtfully during dry and rainy weather to provide local and regional water supplies and send water downstream to protect wildlife and water quality.
“They may not believe that yet, but this is what those criteria say,” Turner said.
Glades is expected to cost about $130 million to build. The amount of state funding Hall County will receive will be negotiated by state and county officials. Some of the expense could fall on county taxpayers.
The original April application included a capacity fee and rate increases for ratepayers, many of whom get their water from the city of Gainesville. An amended version takes those out and adds a $70 annual fee to each of the 75,000 taxed parcels of land in the county. Hall officials have said, and the application states, that is one financing method being considered.
Besides Glades, the state is expected to also fund Indian Creek Reservoir in Carroll County and Richland Creek Reservoir in Paulding County. Another $5 million is earmarked for a project testing water desalination in coastal Georgia.


Water supply tapping out – by Livi Stanford, Staff Writer
November 17, 2013
P eople rely on it every day to wash their clothes, shower and quench their thirst. The demand for water has increased substantially in the South Lake region as the population continues to grow.
The population is expected to increase by 56 percent by 2025, according to county officials.
  South Lake, FL
New growth and development has resulted in more water being withdrawn from the Floridan Aquifer, with dwindling reserves left. Experts said there are as little as seven years left to find an alternative water source to groundwater use, otherwise lake levels will be affected.
“We can only extract another 50 m illion gallons from the aquifer, before we start determinately impacting the surface lakes, wetlands and springs,” said Alan Oyler, consultant for St. Johns River Water Management District, who is assisting the South Lake Regional Water Initiative. “By 2035 if everything grows the way it is projected to grow and people continue to use water the way they have been, we will have an increase in demand of 310 million gallons per day.”
Drawing from the aquifer directly affects the levels of the lakes, he said.
The municipalities and the county are working together to address this issue.
The South Lake Regional Water Initiative, driven by the South Lake Chamber of Commerce, the county, and the municipalities of Clermont, Groveland, Minneola, Mascotte and Montverde, have come together to address “regional solutions in the critical areas of reclaimed water distribution, minimum flows and levels of the region’s lakes and rivers, and alternative water supplies and conservation.”
Working parallel t o the Central Florida Water Initiative, the group’s goal is to find a cost effective and alternative water source.
The municipalities and the county are planning to go to their respective councils and the commission to seek approval to move forward with funding a $300,000 study that would explore whether using reclaimed water from Water Conserv II in Orange County on the highest “recharge area” would benefit the entire region. The study would also explore other alternative water supply options.
However, both city and county offi cials said t here are challenges to finding an alternative water sources when the demand is high for reclaimed water and the costs are astronomical for other alternative sources such as surface water. Many municipalities are also grappling with tight budgets. A recharge area is la nd where water is absorbed.
There is hope that an alternative water source would be funded by utilities and the state, but those factors have yet to be determined.
Commissioner Sean Parks and Groveland Vice Mayor Tim Loucks founded the water initiative two years ago after the two expressed concern about the critical need to find an alternative water source.
“Water is essential to life and our businesses,” Parks said. “If we don’t plan for water supply now, water could get extremely expensive in the future.”
Loucks said a u nified approach by all the cities is critical to its success.
“Not one of the cities is able to approach it and solve it by themselves,” he said. “The key is to bring reclaimed water back into the aquifer in the proper location. South Lake has the highest recharge value in that area.”
Clermont City Manager Darren Gray agreed the cities are in this together.
“It is important to the city of Clermont as a unified approach for all South Lake cities and citizens to work through a common task force to solve our regional water supply needs.”
Oyler said 50 percent of groundwater is used for irrigation.
“We need to suppleme nt our potable water supply with reclaimed water for irrigation,” he said.
The situation is dire, Loucks said.
“Without a sustainable source of affordable water, all future growth in South Lake County will be severely impeded,” he said. “This would spell economic disaster for the area. We need to solve the problem before it becomes more critical. There will come a time when the district severely limits all groundwater withdrawals.”
Oyler also warned of the consequences if something is not done.
“People whose job relies on growth, industry, construction, retail, they are going to be hurting,” he said. “If water supplies are not available, economic development ceases in that location.”
Mascotte Mayor Tony Rosado and Gray said the initiative is a great way to save on costs and to meet the needs of the region.
“It is a lot less burden on the city of Mascotte,” Rosado said of the sharing of the costs. “My biggest concern is coming up with a proactive plan as opposed to not doing anything and waiting until we have depleted our aquifer.”
Gray said there are certainly challenges including “creating a consolidated solution to address the needs of all of South Lake County and (mitigating) impacts on natural resources.”
Funding is the chief concern among officials.
At a recent meeting of the initiative, municipal leaders expressed many concern s from finding that alternative water source to the cost of funding the supply.
Minneola City Councilman Joseph Saunders expressed his concerns that an alternative water source won’t be found.
“Water is becoming a precious commodity,” he said. “If we want Orange County’s water, it seems to me that they would want it before we would want it.”
Oyler said, “there is water available. The problem is none of it is cheap .”
Officials said the most feasible and cost effective alternative water source is using reclaimed water from Water Conserv II, the largest world reuse project in Orange County which “combines agricultural irrigation with aquifer recharge via rapid infiltration basins,” according to information from Conserv II.
While Larry Tunnell, acting water reclamation division manager, said Conserv II would like to help Lake County, there are challenges.
“Our main concern is we can’t make any long-term commitments,” he said. “Our excess capacity will dim inish over the next several decades. There is a cost for water and as the population grows the amount of water we can take from the aquifer is going to be limited by regulatory agencies.”
As a result, he said, the demand for reclaimed water will grow.
“If that demand grows, we have less capacity to sell to other entities.”
“We have to stop thinking within jurisdictional boundaries and start thinking sub-regionally and regionally on this,” Parks said.
Vic Godlewski, wastewater division manager for the city of Orlando, said supplying water to Lake County all depends on whether an alternative method can be met to provide reclaimed water to the Apoka region.
“That could potentially make water available for South Lake.”
But Loucks said the project would benefit both counties.
“It’s the belief if we recharge the upper Floridian Aquifer in the areas that have the highest recharge rate in Central Florida, it will benefit Lake and Orange County equally because Orange County is at a lower elevation and is not as conducive to recharge as South Lake County.”
Oyler said withdrawals from the aquifer in Orange County are impacting lakes in Lake County.
But if the recharge of the aquifer is used in the areas that have the highest recharge rate, “the water utilities in Orange County can mitigate their impact.”
If this alternative water source does not work, Oyler said the other resources are much more costly.
“Yankee Lake is 30 miles away. Just to get it from here to there could cost between $60 and 70 million.”
South Lake Chamber of Commerce President Ray San Fratello said the ini tiative will go a long way to addressing the issue, and now is the time to discuss water.
“Because we are at a high point, at the apex of the water table if it happens here it is only a matter of time where it is going to happen elsewhere. It behooves all of us to be aware of that and do what we can to mitigate our water issues here.”
After municipalities receive approval from their respective councils, it is expected an interlocal agreement will be finalized to move forward with the study.

Farmers to reform practices for springs
Hernando Today- by Matt Reinig
November 16, 2013
WEEKI WACHEE - Seems like only six or seven years ago James Harris saw things more clearly.
The fact that the Weeki Wachee River has clouded that rapidly makes it even more apparent to him that more needs to be done to restore it.
"In the summer you can't see the water 4 feet out there," the self-described lover of water said. "It's depressing."
Hernando County's swift development during the last 30 years has been accompanied by more nitrate pollution from lawn fertilizer, animal and human waste, and septic tanks leaching into the river and spring.
Nitrate concentrations have increased 13-fold during the past three decades, according to a 2009 Florida Department of Environmental Protection report, and at the expense of the water's clarity and quality.
A bill passed by the Florida Legislature in December 2012 mandated septic evaluations for 19 counties and three cities in the state with "first magnitude" springs - including Hernando County and Weeki Wachee - but it included an opt-out option that effectively removed whatever teeth the law had.
A month after Gov. Rick Scott signed it, Hernando County commissioners unanimously decided - as did leaders of all the other effected counties and cities - not to enforce septic evaluations, saying unaffected taxpayers shouldn't have to pay thousands of dollars for inspections and repairs of other people's septic tanks.
A better approach would be to pass local ordinances containing specific measures, they said, and a resounding vote last week established those measures to be: required training and certification of fertilizer applicators and regulation of fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus, two nutrients needed for plant life to grow.
That includes Lyngbya wollei algae, which a 2006 survey of 29 Florida springs showed grew thickest in Weeki Wachee Spring and upper segments of the spring's namesake river.
Consistently elevated nitrate concentrations causing excessive algae growth, particularly during summer months, is what put Weeki Wachee on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of "impaired" surface waters.
The water quality failed federal standards and in 2009 was labeled a "medium" priority project for Florida's Department of Environmental Protection.
The federal Clean Water Act, in combination with a 2009 state study, helped establish a "total maximum daily load for each pollutant.
Primarily that pollutant is nitrogen, according to the report, which at even slightly increased levels combines with naturally occurring and abundant phosphorus to create the algae overgrowth slowly destroying the spring.
The new county ordinance passed Tuesday focuses on both these pollutants, and while it only targets one facet of the problem, it's an economical first step to reduce nitrate pollution, said DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller.
"It is far easier and much less expensive to minimize the amount of nutrients that get into our waters than it is to treat storm water and other ... sources of pollution to remove nutrients," she wrote in an email.
The county isn't alone in the clean-up effort. In September, Gov. Rick Scott announced 10 water quality and spring improvement projects, leveraged from multimillion-dollar investments from the Florida Families First Budget, DEP funding and local partners for a total of nearly $37 million.
One of these projects was for the Rainbow, Kings Bay, Homosassa, Chassahowitzka and Weeki Wachee springs group, referred to collectively as "The Springs Coast."
The estimated $875,000 water quality improvement and water quantity project will receive $375,000 in state funding and is a cost-share initiative with local fruit, field, livestock, poultry and equine farms.
The project is intended to improve management practices in the region and reduce the amount of groundwater used and nutrients added to the springs systems.
"This wide range of agricultural activities presents the opportunity for a variety of technologies that can be used to reduce groundwater use, such as weather stations, soil moisture sensors, automatic timers and pumps, tailwater recovery ponds and irrigation retrofits using more efficient low-volume systems," Miller said.
Lyngbya, the cyanobacteria growing most thickly in Weeki Wachee Spring, also might pose health hazards beyond the spring's ecosystem.
Lyngbya naturally produces saxitoxin, a prominent neurotoxin in rare illnesses such as paralytic shellfish poisoning.
According to a 2004 report by the state's Florida Coastal Management Program, paralytic shellfish poisoning occurs globally in humans who consume tainted shellfish, which retain saxitoxins in their muscle while filter-feeding. The poison can remain in their bodies for as long as two years.
Toxic shellfish consumed from non-regulated areas are potentially lethal, the report states.
"Throughout many areas of the world, however, particularly in the United States, the prevention of (paralytic shellfish poisoning) is well managed by state and federal agencies," the report states.
A 30-year review of the Florida Department of Health's database of reported illnesses shows that was the case until 2004, when a case was reported in Seminole County north of the Indian River.
That remained the only reported case until the numbers tripled last year: one case in Indian River, another in St. Lucie County near the Indian River Lagoon - near where the first paralytic shellfish poisoning case was reported - and the other in Hillsborough County.
"The sudden appearance of saxitoxins at potentially lethal concentrations in an area previously unknown to have such toxins, signals a new and unprecedented public health and natural resource problem for Florida," the state DEP report shows



Casinos, sugar, remain biggest spenders on lobbying
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
November 15, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's telecommunication, gaming, and sugar industries continued to lead the way in spending on lobbyists in Tallahassee over the summer, new reports show.
U.S. Sugar Corp., the South Florida agricultural giant, poured approximately $245,000 into lobbying the Florida Legislature between July and September -- and spent another $195,000 on executive branch lobbying. The company helped push last session a sweeping Everglades cleanup bill and devoted $70 million to the effort. Lawmakers also cemented Cabinet-approved 30-year leases on 14,000 acres of sugar cane and ag land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to stave off potential legal challenges from environmental groups over sugar-growers' land-lease terms.
U.S. Sugar led the way in executive branch spending, and came in second in legislative lobbying expenses to AT&T, which spent around $340,000 to lobby lawmakers and another $190,000 to lobby Gov. Rick Scott's office and state agencies. AT&T is pushing to eliminate a communications services tax.
Then there are the casinos.
The Top-25 companies paying lobbyists to bend the ears of policymakers are littered with gambling interests, including: the Seminole Tribe of Florida (with $182,000 spent on legislative lobbying); Las Vegas Sands Casinos ($100,000); Isle of Capri Casinos ($75,000); Hartman & Tyner ($70,000); and Resorts World Miami, the downtown Miami branch of Genting ($65,000).
Sands and Genting are trying to get lawmakers to expand "destination casinos" into Florida, a fight expected to be intense next session. Other gaming interests like the Seminole Tribe are trying to fight the new competition.
All told, lobbyists reported being paid a total of approximately$30.2 million for legislative branch lobbying for the quarter and $23.7 million for the executive branch.
That puts the total for the year at $174.3 million through three-fourths of the year.
Those huge numbers are causing some lobbyists to complain that rival firms are inflating their numbers. Lawmakers plan to start conducting random audits of lobbyist pay in 2015.


Corps to increase flows from Lake O to assist Caloosahatchee River
US-ACE Relase #13-092
November 15, 2013
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has announced it will increase the amount of water flowing from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River next week under authority in its water control plan to release water it held back a few weeks ago.
Beginning Monday (Nov. 18), the Corps will adjust the target flow from the lake to the Caloosahatchee Estuary upward to a 10-day average of 730 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at W.P. Franklin Lock (S-79) near Fort Myers.  Local runoff outside the lake into the Caloosahatchee River could cause flows to exceed this target.  No releases from the lake are planned to the St. Lucie Estuary, although runoff from the St Lucie Canal will be allowed to pass through the St. Lucie Lock should conditions make it necessary. 
The lake stage today is 14.85 feet.  The lake is currently in the Operational Low sub-band as defined by the Corps' water control plan, the 2008 Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS).  The Corps is increasing flows based on a provision in LORS allowing for make-up releases.  Make-up releases are authorized when maximum allowable discharges were prevented due to downstream conditions such as basin runoff or tidal cycles.  This is the first time since LORS was adopted that the Cops has used this particular feature of the plan.
"We made a conscious decision to hold back water when we reduced releases on October 21 due to the impacts experienced this summer by the estuaries, even though the water management plan authorized much larger releases at the time," said Col. Alan Dodd, Jacksonville District Commander.  "With the onset of dry weather, it is appropriate to release some of the water we held back at a flow that is beneficial to the Caloosahatchee while balancing the multiple project purposes for Lake Okeechobee."
One benefit of the increased flows will be to help with salinity levels in the Caloosahatchee Estuary. During dry times, freshwater flows from the lake are required to maintain viable salinity conditions in the estuary. Scientists have reported that the amount of salt water in the estuary has been increasing with the onset of dry weather.  The additional flows are expected to help keep the saltwater-freshwater mix in an appropriate balance for plant and marine life in the estuary.  The Corps will closely monitor conditions and adjust flows as necessary to balance the competing needs and purposes of Lake Okeechobee. 
"Water supply won't be threatened by this action," said Dodd, "the amount of water we're discussing represents less than an inch of the lake's water level."
For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps' water management page at the Jacksonville District website:


Frankel gains clout on Everglades, port legislation
Sun Sentinel – by William E. Gibson
November 15, 2013
South Florida Congresswoman Lois Frankel will get a chance to sway the final results of a major nationwide water-projects bill that includes funding for Everglades restoration and, potentially, expansion of Port Everglades.
 Frankel, a freshman Democrat from West Palm Beach, was named to a conference committee of House and Senate members who will thrash out a compromise bill that reconciles different versions passed by each chamber.
 That gives her a chance to fight for provisions she and fellow Florida members injected in the House version to authorize spending on four Everglades projects, including construction of a water conservation area in western Broward County.
 Frankel also persuaded House leaders to include language in the bill that would allow Broward County to be reimbursed for initial spending on a project to expand Port Everglades once it is cleared for construction by the Army Corps of Engineers. The port is eager to deepen its waterways to 50 feet to accommodate the giant ships that will pass through a widened Panama Canal.
The final compromise bill must be approved by the House and Senate.
All these projects are expected to generate thousands of jobs.
“This bill is about jobs for South Florida,” Frankel said, “and I am honored to serve on the conference committee to promote our ports and restore our most precious wetlands, the Everglades.”



Top water lobbyist, Ernie Barnett, resigns from SFWMD
Sunshine State News
November 15, 2013
The South Florida Water Management District’s top lobbyist announced his retirement at the agency’s governing board meeting Thursday.
Ernie Barnett, the SFWMD’s assistant executive director and head of its mammoth Everglades and water resources initiatives, has been with the district since 2005. He was instrumental in Tallahassee this year helping legislators understand Gov. Rick Scott’s Everglades Restoration Strategies and its implications for settling challenges by the federal government.
Barnett also led previous efforts for the state’s passage of the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act, according to the SFWMD. Beyond Tallahassee, he has aided state Everglades efforts in D.C. by lobbying for adoption of the federal water bill -- Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) 2000 --  that authorized the first major Everglades blueprint, called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
Recently, after the resignation of Executive Director Melissa Meeker, Barnett stepped in as interim director and helped transition the agency to its new full-time Executive Director Blake Guillory.
Barnett is expected to enter the private sector and alluded to the fact he would still have a presence in Tallahassee next year.
He will stay with the district until Jan. 1


What's the real economic impact for the treasure coast after the toxic water scare
CBS 12 News - by Jana Eschbach
November 15, 2013
STUART, Fla. -- Health advisories are now lifted near the Stuart Sandbar so swimmers on the Treasure Coast can go back in the once-toxic water but no one has a dollar figure of just how hard businesses were hit.
We already know 99.9% of oyster reefs are dead in the St. Lucie River.  100% of the river to the ocean was toxic and turned a dark brown and fluorescent green with the months of releases from Lake Okeechobee.
But the numbers we don't know are the financial impacts on the businesses here during the summer of 2013.
"Your tackle places, your paddle-boat companies. A company down the street with kayaks--they just totally shut down," said Irene Gomes, listing the impacts around her motel.
Her family has run the Driftwood Motel on Indian River Drive for generations.
"The impact with the water has been the worst I have ever seen it and we've been here many many years. The customers are asking questions and less fishermen are coming."
That's a problem if your number one customers are fishermen. 
"Business is is down about 60% I would say. Its a lot."
How do you recover from a 60% loss?  The truth is many businesses may not.
The United Way of Martin County is now using a survey to measure the direct and indirect impacts of the toxic waterways.
This is the first community-wide survey to look at losses suffered by all businesses in the region from real estate to recreation.
So far the only study done on Florida's West Coast shows 70% of business were negatively impacted by the pollution.
"The best thing is to be honest with your customers," Irene said.  "I tell them we are fighting here. We went to DC to push for change and we are not ignoring the problem.  We have a Congressman pushing for action and I think we will have a healthy lagoon again."
Still customers are reluctant to come back to the fish camp.  Irene knows the numbers collected from the losses suffered by businesses locally will be big.
If you or someone you know has suffered financial losses, take the survey below, and be counted.'s the real economic impact for the treasure coast after the toxic water scare


19,000 acre water storage project north of Lake Okeechobee
SW-Florida Online – by Don Browne
November 14, 2013
Restoration site will store and treat stormwater runoff before it enters the big lake
The South Florida Water Management District today approved an investment to advance a restoration project in Highlands County that will store water and reduce nutrients and storm water runoff before it enters Lake Okeechobee.
Strategically located in a 19,000-acre watershed northwest of the lake, near U.S.27 and State Road 70, the project comprises three shallow above-ground impoundments. Together totaling approximately 1,200 acres, the impoundments will hold stormwater that would otherwise flow directly into canals leading to Lake Okeechobee.
The $2 million investment approved today — along with funding by project partners that include the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Istokpoga Marsh Watershed Improvement District, Highlands County and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services — advances the project to the next step, which is final design and construction of the first impoundment.
"This is a continuation of efforts by the Department and the South Florida Water Management District to restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades with the support of Governor Scott," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "Additional water storage and cleaner water are critical to the restoration of Lake Okeechobee."
At 308 acres filled 3.5 feet deep, the first impoundment will hold approximately 900 acre-feet of water. This is equivalent to about 450 Olympic-size swimming pools or about 100 American football fields, without end zones, covered with 9 feet of water.
Scientific study and computer modeling have shown the project, combined with the use of best management practices on local farms, could reduce 70 percent of the phosphorus and 60 percent of the local stormwater runoff flowing into the Harney Pond Canal, which flows into Lake Okeechobee and ultimately the Everglades.
By storing and treating water bound for the lake, the project helps meet key objectives of the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program. The program is designed to improve the quality, quantity, timing and distribution of water into Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie watersheds by building on and consolidating numerous restoration efforts into a broader approach focused on restoring the entire Northern Everglades system.


Typhoon eye

A typhoon and the elephant in the room
Bradenton Times – Opinion by Dennis Maley
November 14, 2013 12:10 am
Each time a super-storm occurs - which, in case you haven't noticed, is much more often these days - we seem to focus our collective attention, if for just a moment, on climate change and the fact that we're doing very little to address what may prove to be the great challenge of this century. Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines this weekend, again has most of the world reluctantly looking at the great, big, giant elephant in the room. Let's just hope that from its devastation, we can find the will to actually do something.
Climate-change deniers will quickly point out that even scientists will acknowledge that it's near impossible to trace the cause of any one particular storm to global warming, and will then likely proceed to argue with the 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientists who believe climate change has been caused predominantly by mankind. However, years of intensifying severe weather events have made it increasingly difficult to keep a straight face while doing so, especially if you are not receiving funding from an industry with a vested interest in such denials.
However, as the planet undeniably continues to warm, the difference between sea and air temperatures increases, acting as a sort of turbo charger to cylconic storms. As ice caps melt and sea levels undeniably continue to rise, the potential devastation of storm surges at the coastlines obviously rises right along with it. 
If there can be such a thing as fortuitous timing in such a horrific tradgedy, it might be the fact that it occurred while world leaders were gathering in Warsaw, Poland to try and create a more effective treaty on global warming during UN climate talks. 
There is also a 29-page summary of the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's upcoming report on climate change scheduled for release in March that was just leaked to the public . The doomsday description of food, water, disease, miltary and displacement problems that top scientists predict in the near future as a result of climate change will give Warsaw attendees even more to chew on. 
Given the fact that it was leaked right around the same time that the strongest recorded tropical cyclone to make landfall (with wind speeds up to 195 mph) killed somewhere around 10,000 human beings, while displacing 800,000 more and causing almost a billion dollars in damage, one would hope that world leaders could find the will and courage to finally begin making meaningful efforts to adapt to our quickly-changing global human habitat.
Of course the first problem with making serious adjustments is that it threatens greater changes in the way of life for those most responsible for increasing the greenhouse gasses that compound climate change. Meanwhile, the price for a planet ravaged by severe weather is disproportionately bore by those who have had the smallest carbon footprint, namely the poor, small, second and third world countries who are also least capable of adjusting to the changes in agriculture, water supply, fishing and disease fluctuation that come with our changing climate. 
It is already estimated that rising sea-levels alone will displace millions of people and render many of the tropical coastal habitats (such as much of Miami) all but uninhabitable. Harvests for crops like wheat, rice and corn are projected to decrease by as much as 2 percent every decade, while population and food demand continue to rise. Potable water supplies continue to shrink as demand grows, though the only major attempts to do anything have been on Wall Street, where they are busily buying up public water rights and real estate near giant aquifers, predicting that it could be the next boom commodity.
If there are any historians left to chronicle our demise, they will likely be particularly critical of the here and now, a time when despite every warning sign smacking us in the face time and again, our "leaders" spent infinitely more time arguing over spending levels that amount to little more than a rounding error in our gargantuan budget, than they did on ways we might address such an infinitely more pressing issue. Like I said, I hope the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan serves as a wake-up call, but I'd be lying were I to claim to be optimistic.
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Clean Water Act
The Ledger – Letter by Jennifer Rubiello
November 14, 2013
Regarding the issue of red tide, we need to continue using science to move forward in protecting our waterways. Whether we're kayaking along the Hillsborough River, fishing in Tampa Bay or just drinking the water that comes out of our tap, all Floridians have a stake in clean water. But Supreme Court cases brought on by big polluters over the past decade opened dangerous loopholes in the Clean Water Act. These loopholes leave nearly 30 percent of Florida's streams and the drinking water for close to 2 million Floridians vulnerable to increased pollution, including streams and smaller waterways that feed into the Hillsborough River.
Thankfully, this fall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took initial steps to get Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River the protection it needs by releasing a scientific report laying the groundwork to begin closing the loopholes.
This is a great step, and I urge President Barack Obama to continue moving forward to restore Clean Water Act protections to all Florida's streams and wetlands


Driest October in 74 years challenges Florida water flow managers
Palm Beach Post - by Jennifer Sorentrue, Staff Writer
November 14, 2013
Just months after one of the wettest summers on record, eastern Palm Beach County experienced its driest October in 74 years, a shift that sent water levels in Lake Okeechobee plummeting, South Florida water managers said Thursday.
Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 5, the lake level receded at its fasted rate in 30 years, said Tommy Strowd, assistant executive director of operations, maintenance and construction for the South Florida Water Management District. The lake dropped by 0.8 feet during that time frame, he said.
Warm temperatures and clear skies have caused lake water to evaporate. Meanwhile, local farmers are drawing more irrigation water from the lake because of the dry conditions, Strowd said.
Water levels in Lake Okeechobee typically don’t recede until February or March, when temperatures warm, Strowd said. But on Thursday, the lake stood at 14.87 feet, down from 16 feet above sea level in August.
“What we are seeing is a very unusual early onset of dry conditions,” Strowd told members of the district’s governing board.
The news was a stark contrast to the rainy conditions this summer. The period between May and August was the 11th wettest in the last 74 years, according to the district.
The heavy summer rainfall sent Lake Okeechobee edging upward relentlessly, forcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fully open locks along the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River. Officials have said the releases of fertilizer-contaminated lake water were necessary to reduce pressure on the lake’s deteriorated dike that protects rural communities and farmland south of the lake.
In August, the army corps said it was monitoring two sites along the aging Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The news came after inspectors discovered water seeping under pressure from the high water as the lake’s level teetered near 16 feet.
The corps is required to conduct daily inspections of the 143-mile dike if water levels hit 16.5 feet.
But opponents argued that the release of lake water, combined with polluted agricultural and urban runoff, caused the growth of toxic algae, killed oysters, sea grass and manatees and made some areas unsafe for swimming.
Water managers said Thursday that salinity levels in the St. Lucie Estuary show signs of improvement since the corps stopped releasing water from the lake last month.
Terrie Bates, director of the district’s Water Resources Division, said that although conditions in the estuary have returned to a “good range” for oyster habitat, it will take time for the system to recover.
“It could be a multi-year recovery,” Bates said.
Meanwhile, the National Climate Prediction Center has said, there is an increased chance for below-average rainfall through January.
Last week, weather and water experts said the metro areas of South Florida have already fallen into the first phase of a drought.
It has also been dry on the Treasure Coast, officials said. Martin and St. Lucie counties experienced their third-driest October since 1915, Strowd said.
Strowd said water in the district’s treatment areas is currently being used to refill local canals and recharge area well fields.
But the dramatic shifts in weather patterns can be challenging for water managers, who decide whether to store water or send it to tide, based on rainfall, he said.
“This situation just points to the need for more storage,” Strowd said.



For a future glimpse of sea-level rise, check out the King Tide – by Christine Dimattei
November 14, 2013
Want to see the effects of sea-level rise?  Don’t want to wait 50 years?  Just walk to virtually any coastal area during the natural phenomenon called “King Tide.”
There are plenty of charts, graphs and artist renderings hinting at what South Florida will look like once sea-level rise gets a foothold.  But experts say it’s probably Mother Nature who offers the most vivid preview of things to come.
King Tide occurs several times a year when the moon and sun enter into a special alignment with the Earth.  Such tides last for several days and are anywhere between a few inches and several feet above normal.
Although the tides aren’t caused by climate change, scientists, urban planners and activists say they offer a snapshot of what rising sea levels could do to South Florida’s coastal areas in just a few decades.
“It does give us a glimpse of that one-foot scenario that we know we'll have in our future,” says Nancy Gassman, Broward County Natural Resource Administrator.  “But it's the one-foot scenario overlaid on today's infrastructure, in today's community. And it gives us an idea of the areas we really need to start addressing."
During a recent King Tide in mid-October, many of South Florida's coastal communities were swamped. Miami Beach pedestrians were forced to wade through nearly knee-deep sea water in some sections.  In Fort Lauderdale, water crept up to the very steps of the Stranahan House along the New River.
In the Delray Beach Marina Historic District along the Intracoastal Waterway, ocean water sloshing over the dock or gushing up through storm drains made some streets nearly impassable.
But a group of concerned citizens there decided to use King Tide and its attendant flooding as a perfect illustration of what lies in stores for their neighborhood.
“Visuals are everything,” says Charles Dortch, Vice President of the Historic District’s Homeowners Association.  “The water will actually help us to tell our story."
The homeowners association organized a walking tour of the Historic District with the help of South Florida Climate Action Partners, a non-profit that educates the public about the threat of sea-level rise and municipal response to it.  Residents stood in front of their quaint bungalows and stately colonial revivals and recounted for the tour group the havoc that periodic flooding is wreaking on their properties.
C.J. Johnson says flooding forced him and his wife to move virtually all of their first-floor furniture to the floor above. 
“We’ve lost washers and dryers.  I’ve had to clean out the gas hot-water heater every year because the water floods in,” he says.  “We deal with it. We prepare for it twice a year -- April and this time of year.”
Delray Beach-based urban planning consultant Anna Puszkin-Chevlin says King Tide flooding serves as a wake-up call for coastal communities.
"We saw the waters come up and cover the streets and flood the lawns,” says Puszkin-Chevlin.  “And this only happened for an hour or two during the high tide.  But eventually, this will become a norm."
In recent years, state lawmakers have taken steps to help local governments plan and pay for the impacts of sea-level rise.  In 2011, the Florida Legislature passed a law allowing counties to identify "adaptation action areas": vulnerable places that would get first priority for funding.
But for now, the homeowners in Delray's Marina Historic District are pretty much on their own when it comes to upgrading and adapting their properties to withstand the onslaught of rising waters.  Charles Dortch says he hopes his neighbors can get some help with that.
"Mother Nature is not going to stop just because we say 'Stop, you cannot pass',”he says.


San Francisco Bay: Feds release 50-year, $1.2 billion plan to restore wetlands and wildlife - by Paul Rogers
November 14, 2013
Noting that the ongoing effort to restore thousands of acres of marshes and wildlife around San Francisco Bay is the largest wetlands renaissance in the United States other than the restoration of the Florida Everglades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Thursday unveiled a 50-year blueprint to finish the job.
The 414-page document was released amid fanfare at a midmorning news conference. But in many ways the plan is more symbolism than substance.
It estimates the cost to recover key endangered species around the bay and finish wetlands restoration at $1.2 billion between now and 2063. Yet the plan contains no new money or regulations. In fact, the blueprint's proposals for what lands to buy, which scientific projects to complete and what kinds of tactics should be used to restore the bay to conditions not seen since the 1800s are all voluntary.
Still, federal officials and environmentalists who rolled the plan out said it performs two key roles. First, it offers a clear overview for to politicians to help raise the money that will be needed in the decades ahead to turn old salt evaporation ponds in the South Bay, hay fields in the North Bay and other bay front lands from Richmond to Redwood City back into wetlands for fish, birds and wildlife. And second, it's a hymnal of sorts from which the dozens of groups working on bay projects can all sing in the years to come.
"This is a road map for the future of bay recovery," said Cay Goude, assistant field supervisor in the Sacramento field office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It provides guidance and information so you can best use your money. It helps coordinate so that people aren't duplicating efforts and are working in a more cohesive way -- everyone, government agencies, nonprofits, scientists."
Technically, the plan aims to bring six endangered species that live around San Francisco Bay back to health. They are the California clapper rail, a diminutive bird, the salt marsh harvest mouse and four rare plants: Suisun thistle, soft bird's beak, California sea-blite and the northern population of salt marsh bird's beak.
In restoring wetlands to help those species, however, it also will assist hundreds of other types of wildlife that use marshes and wetlands, from ducks to herons to salmon.
"It's about fairness," said Florence LaRiviere, a retired Palo Alto schoolteacher who has worked for nearly 50 years to restore wetlands around the bay.
"If we're here and multiplying, I don't feel that the creatures with whom we share the Earth should be allowed to go extinct," she said. "The bay is what makes this area. It gives it the attraction it has."
Since the Gold Rush of 1849, San Francisco Bay has shrunk by a third, as people diked, dredged and filled its waters to create hay fields, housing subdivisions like Foster City, even airport runways. From 1800 to 1988, the bay lost 79 percent of its tidal wetlands, going from 190,000 acres to about 40,000 acres.
The rampant filling largely stopped in the 1970s, with the advent of modern environmental laws such as the federal Clean Water Act.
Over the past 25 years, environmental groups and government agencies have been restoring wetlands around the bay, slowly pushing it back into its historic footprint. During that time, they have either restored, or are planning restoration, of 35,000 acres, the most high profile of which has been the former Cargill salt ponds from Hayward to Alviso to Redwood City. Their goal: Finish those and do another 25,000.
"This document reinforces the great work that a lot of agencies around the bay are implementing already," said John Bourgeois, project manager of the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration. "In the past decade, we've restored over 3,000 acres of South Bay salt ponds alone. This is a good road map to help us achieve the overall goal."
Related:           Feds unveil 50-year plan for wetlands restoration      San Mateo Daily Journal
50-year, $1.2 billion plan to restore wetlands and wildlife around ...                        French Tribune


Sinkhole destroys two Florida homes, forces evacuations
Reuters, Toronto Sun
November 14, 2013
A sinkhole swallowed parts of two houses on Florida's west coast on Thursday and seven nearby homes were evacuated as it continued to expand more than six hours after being discovered, a local official said.
The hole in Dunedin, Florida, near Tampa, was about 60 feet wide and 50 feet deep by midday, after it pulled down a 14-foot boat and a pool, said Jeff Parks, chief of the city's fire department.
Parks said the hole measured about 25 feet wide when firefighters received an initial call at around 5:40 a.m. EST.
One of the affected homeowners "originally thought someone was breaking in his house," Parks said.
Florida is prone to sinkholes because of its porous limestone foundation and the cavities that are the result are a common feature of the state's landscape - such as springs, lakes and portions of rivers.
Sinkholes mostly occur as naturally acidic underground water flows through and dissolves the underlying limestone. North and central Florida, particularly in the Tampa area, generally are more vulnerable than south Florida.
The sinkhole affecting residents in Dunedin on Thursday was located about 40 miles from one that opened in February under a house and swallowed a man who was sleeping in his bedroom. His body was never recovered.


The Everglades were dusty
ABC-7 – by John Scalzi
November 14, 2013
African dust kills hurricanes but nourishes Everglades flora.
In a previous blog I talked about the African dust or S.A.L. that has been one of the factors that limited the number of hurricanes this tropical season. But killing hurricane growth is not the only effect of this sand and dust transported from the Sahara and across the Atlantic to our shores.
Research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by University of Minnesota scientist Paul Glaser shows that at one time the dust from the Sahara nourished plant life in the Everglades.  This occurred in the distance past, some 4,600 years ago, when global winds were favorable for transport of the dust. The research adds a new dimension to traditional thought that only man had influence on increasing nutrients into the ecosystem of the Everglades by way of runoff.
The study was conducted by use of examination of core samples taken form various locations in the Everglades.
The samples showed grains of sand consistent with African dust mixed with the pollen of aquatic plants. Dating of the sample showed the age to be about 4,600 years old. However, other samples taken from a time when the climate was drier and winds had shifted did not show either the dust or the pollen.
Glasers thinking is that the colocation of the  nutrient  rich dust and pollen suggests a fertile Everglades created by the African dust.
Around 2800 years ago climate change likely produced a shift in the location of the Bermuda High and changed the trans Atlantic wind pattern, making it more difficult for the dust to make the ocean journey.


Water Management District's Everglades Protection Plan wins 2013 Growing Blue Award
November 14, 2013
TREASURE COAST — For its widely-lauded plan to better distribute water throughout Southern Florida, including the Everglades, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has won the 2013 Growing Blue Award, presented during an awards ceremony at the American Water Summit in Washington, D.C.
The Growing Blue Award recognizes organizations and individuals who are advancing an understanding of how water is as essential to economic and social growth as it is to sustaining the environment.
SFWMD won the award through a competitive, live vote of its peers at the American Water Summit, an annual meeting that brings together leaders in the water industry from the business, government and nonprofit sectors.
During the ceremony, SFWMD presented an overview of its “ALT4R” plan, developed in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Central Everglades Planning Program.



One way to save Florida waterways: Turn water into a cash crop
WMFE - by Amy Green
November 13, 2013
At the Rafter T Ranch in Sebring cows cluster lazily in the shade of palm trees, while a 150-acre retention pond is a scene reminescent of the days before Florida was drained. It's a marshy paradise for wildlife attracting roseate spoonbills and freshwater pelicans.
Jimmy Wohl says he's never seen birds like that before on his ranch. 
"The cypress trees in that pond, if you come back here this evening it'll be white with the white ibis that roost in there."
Wohl has spent nearly all of his life here. It's the same 5,200-acre ranch his father bought in 1962.
He got into farming water about five years ago after three hurricanes soaked Lake Okeechobee, forcing the lake's polluted water to coastal estuaries. He's let ditches fill with sediment to create the 150-acre retention pond. He's also planted water-tolerant grasses where cows can graze during the winter dry season.

Audubon Florida VIDEO: "Ranches and Water in the Everglades Headwaters"
He's undoing much of his father's work to drain the land.
"When my dad bought the property he immediately built a dike along the creek so that he could protect his property from excess water, keep it pumped out and maximize his ability to grow forages. And that was the mindset in those days."
Wohl is one of nearly two-dozen Florida ranchers and citrus growers who are farming water.
Two dozen more are lined up for funding. But it's not there.
For nearly a decade the South Florida Water Management District has paid landowners north of Lake Okeechobee to cleanse and store water.
The idea is to turn water into a cash crop. Landowners are paid by the amount they store. The price also is based on the value of the cattle or crop they otherwise would raise on the land.
Charles Lee of Audubon of Florida says farming water is the latest in an evolution of water management in this state of frequent rain and hurricanes.
"There are literally tens of thousands of miles of canals and ditches that have been built in the Kissimmee watershed beginning back in the early 20th century, many of them with no permits, no engineering, no water control structures."
Floridians drained much of the Kissimmee watershed and nearly all of South Florida for housing and agriculture. But soon they discovered draining too much left them vulnerable to drought during the winter dry season. In recent years attention has turned toward storing water.
Lee says letting ranchers and citrus growers do that works better economically than building large expensive reservoirs.
"You're keeping the ranches in business. You're storing the water. You're actually helping wildlife rather than smothering wildlife."
Storing water north of Lake Okeechobee relieves pressure on the lake's dike. It was built more than a half-century ago to hold back flooding but today is in poor condition. Heavy rain this summer forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release water from the lake into coastal estuaries, filling them with pollution and turning them toxic.  
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the state can help.
"Every gallon of water we can hold back from entering the lake means you're going to have much less pressure on the fragile dike system and that much less opportunity for the corps to release it and cause harm to our coastal communities."
Putnam says dysfunction in Congress makes funding to repair the dike unlikely anytime soon. That's why he wants to direct state resources toward the northern Everglades. 
A Senate select committee has recommended an additional $3 million for farming water projects. 
That's good news to Jimmy Wohl. He applied for funding earlier this year but was turned down. He wants to expand his farming water project using the dike his father built.
"The ironic thing is he built it to keep water out of the ranch, and now we're using it to keep water in the ranch."
The Legislature is expected to consider more funding for farming water projects during its spring session.


Outdated Miami canals too weak for sea-level rise
WLRN – by Patricia Sagastume
November 13, 2013
It’s been more than half a century since flood-control structures such as dams and canals were constructed throughout Florida. Now, with the impact of sea-level rise on the horizon, many of these structures are becoming fragile barriers to keep floodwaters and tidal surge safely away.
Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera is in charge of assessing short- and long-term responses regarding sea-level rise for the South Florida Water Management District. He examines the canal system in Miami's Little River neighborhood, which separates the river from the ocean.
“We have one of the highest high tides," he says. "Actually the ocean side is higher than the canal side. It’s about a foot higher. So I think we have some reasonable range to work with but you have to remember: For South Florida, even inches matter."
There are about 30 decades-old canals in South Florida. When they were designed, it was that thought the difference between storm-water levels on the freshwater side and a tidal surge on the ocean side was about six inches. But during our summer rainy season, when a high tide coincides with a tropical storm, those antiquated canals are in trouble.
“In fact it is happening already that these structures may not function the way they were designed,” said Obeysekera.
A big part of the reason lies thousands of miles away, in Greenland, and the polar ice caps where glacial ice melts and breaks apart. It’s called calving.
In late September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released reports that for the first time considered glacial-ice melt in its calculations about worldwide sea-level rise.
"So it’s a complex situation that we need to consider uncertainty projections and the amount of money we have to spend,“ Obeysekera says.
But canals, levees, dams and pumps only keep floodwater and seawater from mixing on the surface. There’s another problem below the ground.
On the edges of the Everglades, saltwater seeping underground is absorbed by the plant life. Professor Douglas Fuller from the University of Miami uses satellite technology to monitor that environmental change.
“The beauty of using the Everglades as kind of a natural laboratory for observation is that there is not a lot of coastal engineering structures that are impeding water flows," he says.
He looked at images collected during a continuous 10-year period. His data showed how mangroves, which thrive in a salt water, are displacing freshwater plants nearly three miles from the shore.
“So what that means, essentially, is that the biomass in those communities is generally going down fairly quickly," Fuller says. "So we’re probably going to be seeing more of this problem in the future. It’s basically a bad sign, a negative harbinger."
Related Recent :           More Heat Waves, Drought, Sea Level Rise In Store For Southeast ... (blog-2013/11/14)
UF researcher: Southeast must prepare for wild weather from ...            Phys.Org (2013/11/14)
Fort Lauderdale Ahead Of The State When It Comes To Sea-Level ...        WJCT NEWS (2013/11/14)


Strong winds help balance out salinity levels in Treasure Coast estuaries
WPTV - by Meghan McRoberts
November 13, 2013
FORT PIERCE, Fla. -- Windy conditions are expected to continue this week along the Treasure Coast.
That brings some concern over beach erosion and beach safety, as escarpments become taller and steeper as wind gusts become stronger.
But some local ocean experts say there are some benefits to be noted that can at times outweigh the risks.
Mark Perry, Executive Director for the Florida Oceanographic Society, says the wind is a good thing for the local estuaries.
High tides and ocean swells push salt water into the inlets and estuaries, boosting salinity that's needed for healthy sea grass and oyster beds.
"In essence, this is pretty devastating for the coast on erosion conditions, but beneficial to the estuary," Perry said.
The St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon were flooded with freshwater from Lake Okeechobee releases over the summer. This extra push of salt water helps boost salinity closer to where it needs to be for a healthy estuary.
Kite-boarder Rick Larson, enjoys the benefits of the gusty winds.
"We can't wait until it gets windy. We look forward to it, " said Rick. He also knows the swells will make the river more ideal in the future for his kite board.
"Days when the wind is out of the west, your only option is to kite in the river," Larson said.
Sightseer Don Degroat, also supports anything that makes his local waterways appear cleaner. "Every little bit counts," Degroat said.
Perry says the salt water would typically make the estuaries look cleaner. But, he says the wind also stirs up some of the extra sediment left from the releases over the summer.
Therefore, the water may be cleaner, but still look polluted.
Related:           Front brings windy, choppy weather to Treasure Coast         TCPalm


Water issues plague Southwest Florida waters
November 13, 2013
SANIBEL, Fla.- Traces of red tide are once again showing up off the Southwest Florida coastline. Florida Fish and Wildlife say low levels were found from Charlotte Harbor to Pine Island Sound. And we're learning tonight, this could be the effect of an abundance of nutrients that flowed down stream with the fresh water from Lake Okeechobee.
To the naked eye, the Gulf of Mexico is starting to look more like we're used too seeing it, but what you can't see, is underneath the surface, a red algae drift is blooming. 
"It's bad for the se grass beds because it can prevent light from reaching the sea grasses," said SCCF Research Scientist, Richard Bartleson
The ecosystem was hit hard when the fresh water from Lake Okeechobee was released..
"When you do have a high flow year, that's what usually causes red drift algae to accumulate and drift up."
A large amount of nutrients moved down river and mixed with the gulfs salt water allowing the red drift algae to feed and grow. WINK got exclusive video of a scientist collecting under water samples to study the algae.
"We've started taking samples off shore and started looking at samples in shore where we are seeing the higher levels of macro algae."
And yet another water quality issue, according to FWC, low levels of red tide is looming in our waters.
"Red tide poisoning can be a very impactful, very deadly disease," said CROW Hospital Director, Dr. Heather Barron.
And this bird is believed to be have ingested the toxin, it has been under the watchful eye of crow.
"Some animals have neurologic signs, they can be down, depressed, weezing, acting like their drunk, unable to get balance and unable to fly."
The red tide poison lingers in the animals system for at least 7 days... ..
"we make sure they are able to fly, able to perch and back to their normal behaviors."
CROW tells us that bird you saw being treated, is part of a larger study with Mote Marine. They have teamed up to help come up with a drug that will help treat the red tide toxin. As far as the algae goes, scientist will continue to sample and study. The public is not in any danger.



chair of the Southwest
Florida Watershed
Water on the mind in first Civic meeting
Pine Island Eagle - by Ed Franks
November 13, 2013
The Greater Pine Island Civic Association held its first meeting of the season last Tuesday night. The topic of discussion was the deteriorating condition of the waters surrounding Pine Island, Little Pine Island and Matlacha.
In the announcement of the meeting, GPICA Vice President Kathy Malone said, "The Greater Pine Island Civic Association represents issues affecting Pine Island, Little Pine Island and Matlacha. Three islands that are surrounded by water. The value of our homes, the success of our businesses, our fishing and tourism industries, our quality of life and health depends on the quality of the waters that surround us."
That was the purpose of the meeting - to educate islanders and express concerns about water quality loudly and together with one vote ... That is why the GPICA will highlight water issues this season.
Roger Wood, director of the GPICA, opened the meeting with the pledge of allegiance.
"In our by-laws, it says part of the GPICA is to promote and preserve the unique character of our rural and agricultural island community," Wood said. "Our island is surrounded by navigable waters - people sail, kayak and fish in those waters. That water is under attack and degrading very badly."
About 2530 people sat quietly as Wood expressed his concerns about the water quality issues affecting Pine Island, Little Pine Island and Matlacha.
"Personally, I've been out on the water and in the last month I've seen the terrible conditions out there," Wood said. "Three weeks ago I went out kayaking off Tropic Point and there was a frothy foam about six inches thick on the beach. I had a friend that went out fishing on Wednesday a few weeks ago and he got a finger stick. He rinsed his hand off and on Friday they removed his thumb. There are problems with the waters surrounding us and tonight's speaker will talk about them."
The featured speaker was John Cassani, chair of the Southwest Florida Watershed Council. The Watershed Council is a grassroots, multi-county coalition of individuals, organizations, agencies and businesses that have come together to address the issues affecting the Caloosahatchee River and Big Cypress watersheds.
"I grew up in suburban Detroit in the late '60s and early '70s," Cassani said. "And while going away to college for a couple of years and returning to Detroit, I've seen what urban sprawl can do. So, tonight I'm going to talk about growth and what it can do to water quality issues.
"I'm talking about the paradox of growth," he continued. "Growth is something local government wants. But the paradox of growth is it changes the demographics of a community, sometimes changes the quality of life, and affects people in a lot of ways. Here in Southwest Florida big growth occurred in the 1980s and 1990s.
"So when someone asks, 'Why do we have algae problems?'" Cassani said. "It's because central Cape is almost completely built out.
"Water is one of the primary drivers of our economy here Southwest Florida," Cassani said. "People move here to live on the water or be around the water, and these resources are very important to many, many people. We have something like $2.6 billion annually in tourism and it's the waters that draw people here - recreational and commercial fishing, boating, sailing and the beaches."
He went on to say, "Water quality in Southwest Florida has deteriorated to a point where even those who would lobby for less regulated growth have changed their positions. Water quality has gotten so bad in some areas that they are lobbying for stricter water quality regulations.
"And lately the tourism groups are getting involved. Just this summer the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey. They reported that 90 percent of the hotels surveyed said they had cancellations because of the water quality issue. And of those, 70 percent said they would not come back. So these problems are affecting us economically and the real impact is yet to come."
Among the solutions suggested by Cassani were: Improving the storm water management system with 1. Meaningful regulations for new development; 2. Creating a storm water utility for unincorporated Lee County; 3. Better source controls for non-point nutrient pollution; 4. Innovative market based solutions (e.g. water quality trading credits, TDR type land planning); 5. Community plans that address the above; and, 6. Policy reform.
"One of the big problems we're having is trying to hold the line, and when I say 'we,' I mean the public interest. Much of Florida water law, ordinances and statutes have a degree of interpretation associated with their implementation, so what that means is, if there isn't the political will to implement that regulation, that statute, that ordinance, it's probably not going to happen," Cassani said. "We see that with the Caloosahatchee minimum flow rule it's sitting on a dusty shelf. If there isn't the political will with the electorate, it just isn't going to happen. We need good groups like you to contact your representatives, to go to meetings and public hearings. I know this is technical stuff but sometimes it just comes down to filling the room if anything is going to change and like Kathy said, you have to stay informed."
Kathy Malone wrapped up the meeting.
"It's bad, it's getting worse, we have the wrong people in office and we have the wrong people running for office, she said. "But then again, it's all up to us to find the right people and encourage them to run for office. And then is becomes our job to get them elected."


FL House Speaker

Will Weatherford: Too early to commit on Lake O cleanup fund
Sunshine State News - by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
November 13, 2013
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, got a quick lesson about the ecological and economic crisis that Treasure Coast residents faced this summer as polluted waters were released daily from Lake Okeechobee.
But after an aerial tour of the region and the lake Monday, Weatherford said it's too early to estimate how much of a $220 million Senate plan to reduce future pollutants from the lake will land in the state budget for the next fiscal year.
The package, intended to improve water quality in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, was supported by the Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin last week, but still has to get full legislative support and the backing of Gov. Rick Scott, who has a couple of big-ticket items in the plan.
Weatherford, who was invited to tour the region by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the author of the Senate package, said funding will depend on a revenue outlook that will be updated in March, as lawmakers begin the 60-day regular session.
"We're aware of the problem, we know the problem doesn't get solved without some resources, so we know that's going to be needed," Weatherford said after the helicopter tour. "But as far as how much we're going to have to spend, the revenue picture can change over months."
State economists in September released a report projecting a surplus of $845.7 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year, setting off a flurry of budget requests.
Negron, who hosted Weatherford's tour with the South Florida Water Management District, has said each funding request in the package will require an offset in the budget. Meanwhile, Scott has requested a $500 million cut in taxes and fees for next year.
Weatherford's tour included a brief "round-table" in the Lyric's Flagler Center along the St. Lucie River in downtown Stuart. The round-table was made up of local officials and residents advocating for state assistance in cleaning the water and offering their vision for the majority of the flow from the lake being directed south into the Everglades.
"I wish you could have been here a few months earlier to see how incredibly awful it was and what we had to put up with for five months," said Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a real estate agent who also serves on the Sewall's Point Town Commission.
Sewall's Point is a peninsula that divides the St. Lucie River and the St. Lucie Estuary.
The nutrient-rich water sent from the lake has reportedly killed oysters and sea grass, along with causing a toxic algae outbreak that during the summer forced Martin County health officials to warn residents against coming into contact with the water.
Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, said the decline in water quality has been an economic disaster for the region.
"It's not just the fishermen, but the tourism, the hotels, the restaurants that weren't seeing people, the real estate that wasn't selling," Magar told Weatherford.
Magar attended the round-table with Treasure Coast Reps. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie, Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, and Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart. Each said they will push the House to support the Senate package.
Among the governor's recommendations for the water cleanup is $90 million that would be spread over three years to bridge a 2.6-mile section of the Tamiami Trail west of Miami.
Other provisions of the Senate package include; $40 million to speed construction of the state's portion of a C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area for the Indian River Lagoon-South Restoration Project; $32 million for projects tied to ensuring that all surface water discharges into the Everglades Protection Area meet water quality standards; and a request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to give the Department of Environmental Protection authority to regulate releases when the risk of failure of the dike around Lake Okeechobee is less than 10 percent.
Weatherford, following Negron's repeated examples, offered support to the request for more state control.
"I was frankly astonished to see that the federal government starts basically turning the spigot on, I think, a little bit prematurely," Weatherford said. "When I realized how little control we have as a state and as a community in regard to that discharge, it is something we need to work with our federal partners on."
The Army Corps tries to maintain the water level of the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet to lessen stress on the Herbert Hoover Dike. The Army Corps, which has declined to comment on the recommendations, estimates that when the lake is slightly above 18.5 feet, the risk of failure is considered at 45 percent.
When the water level is low, the Army Corps generally defers on water release decisions to the South Florida Water Management District.
The Senate package also recommends increasing the funding for the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs that link the lake with the estuaries; cleaning water that comes into the lake from the Kissimmee River; evaluating means to reduce nutrients from septic tanks; raising the allowed water levels in canals by a few inches; and a general call to support projects that would eventually shift releases of water to the south through the Everglades.
The proposal to move water through the Everglades, estimated at more than $1 billion and requiring a massive federal partnership, has been rejected three times, in 1994, 1999 and 2009. The South Florida Water Management District concluded in 2009 the proposal was not the most cost-effective or viable way to increase flows south due to the changing landscape of South Florida, which would require an extensive network of pumps to recreate the historic sheet flow.


DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard outlines Lake Okeechobee goals; state plan to clean water fails to treat south Florida problems at the source -  by Eric Kopp
November 12, 2013
OKEECHOBEE — The head of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was in Okeechobee last week to not only discuss Lake Okeechobee, but what’s being done to help it now and how that goal is going to be achieved.
DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard addressed a modest crowd of about 44 people Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the Williamson Convention Center on the Okeechobee Campus of Indian River State College. That crowd was made up of members of the Economic Council of Okeechobee and the Agri-Civic Council.
The meeting was not open to the public or the media. When the Okeechobee News asked to cover Mr. Vinyard’s presentation, economic council executive director Tara Minton Rowley stated, “Economic Council meetings are reserved for members of the organization and are not open to the public.”
When asked later why the newspaper was denied access, she said it “... was at the pleasure of the board (of directors).”
She went on to explain that monthly meetings of the economic council are not normally open to the media, even though the group’s mission statement describes that body as “... a catalyst between the public and private sectors to foster dialogue, planning and action.”
Mr. Vinyard was contacted by phone and said his speech detailed DEP’s priorities, and focused on water along with having the appropriate amount of quality water.
“If we don’t have sufficient clean water for the environment, people and agriculture, then we’re not going to have a state we enjoy living in,” he said.
When asked what’s being done to help clean water before it enters Lake Okeechobee, Mr. Vinyard alluded to the unfinished Kissimmee River Restoration Project that’s helping to remove contaminants by putting the river “... back the way God created it.”
He explained plants help by taking up nutrients from the water column which is the way the natural system was designed to operate.
“That’s one federal and state project that needs to be completed to help the health of Lake Okeechobee,” he said.
While restoring the river could benefit the lake, a bill signed into action in May by Governor Rick Scott puts into action projects that will benefit both Florida coasts but does nothing to treat the problem at the source.
House Bill 7065 calls for six projects that will create over 6,500 acres of new storm water treatment areas (STAs) and 110,000 acre-feet of additional water storage through the construction of flow equalization basins (FEBs). These projects have been divided into three flow paths — eastern, central and western. There is no mention of any projects north of Lake Okeechobee.
The bill amends the Everglades Forever Act and how an agriculture privilege tax on agricultural property will help pay for the enhancement, operation and maintenance of the Everglades Construction Project.
According to the legislation, the implementation of the technical plan is estimated to cost $880 million. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is proposing to use $220 million in cash reserves to fund the plan, along with $300 million in anticipated ad valorem tax revenues and a state appropriation of $32 million in each year of the 12-year implementation period.
Mr. Vinyard went on to point out that a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) “... is our road map to improve impaired water bodies throughout the state,” but it wasn’t put into action to help the lake until recently. However, he’s since got that plan — which is a collaborative effort between the DEP and the SFWMD — under way.
He said a number of things have led to the contamination of Florida waters, as well as Lake Okeechobee.
“We can’t point our finger at one thing — it’s all of us. Humans have replumbed South Florida,” he said. “It’s septic tanks, urban runoff, agriculture, pet wastes — it’s a lot of things.”
Besides the restoration project, Mr. Vinyard said dispersed storage areas north of the big lake can be of help in removing contaminants from water before it reaches the lake. These areas are privately-owned property where rain water is held for a period of time and then released.
Water managers pay area farmers up to $150 per acre to use their property for dispersed storage — whether they are storing water or not. When there is no water on the property, livestock is allowed to live and graze on the land.
“I do think we need to keep available as many tools in the toolbox as we can, and dispersed water storage is one of those tools,” explained Mr. Vinyard.
As for the bad rap Lake Okeechobee has been receiving lately from residents on both coasts about lake discharges causing algae blooms and “toxic water,” Mr. Vinyard indicated “basin runoff” from properties along the estuaries on both coasts coupled with lake discharges are at the root of the problem.
“Even though locks are closed, there’s still basin runoff due to the extraordinary amounts of rainfall. It’s not a result of any single source,” he said.
The DEP head went on to say it’s not only important to use every tool given his agency and the SFWMD by state legislators, but to have a clear and definitive road map on how to get to the desired end — clean water.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there,” Mr. Vinyard added.


Florida House leader has look at Lake O, vicinity
November 12, 2013
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, got a quick lesson about the ecological and economic crisis that Treasure Coast residents faced this summer as polluted waters were released daily from Lake Okeechobee.
But after an aerial tour of the region and the lake Monday, Weatherford said it's too early to estimate how much of a $220 million Senate plan to reduce future pollutants from the lake will land in the state budget for the next fiscal year.
The package, intended to improve water quality in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, was supported by the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin last week, but still has to get full legislative support and the backing of Gov. Rick Scott, who has a couple of big-ticket items in the plan.
Weatherford, who was invited to tour the region by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the author of the Senate package, said funding will depend on a revenue outlook that will be updated in March, as lawmakers begin the 60-day regular session.
Negron, who hosted Weatherford's tour with the South Florida Water Management District, has said each funding request in the package will require an offset in the budget. Meanwhile, Scott has requested a $500 million cut in taxes and fees for next year.
Among the governor's recommendations for the water cleanup is $90 million that would be spread over three years to bridge a 2.6-mile section of the Tamiami Trail west of Miami.
Other provisions of the Senate package include $40 million to speed construction of the state's portion of a C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area for the Indian River Lagoon-South Restoration Project; and $32 million for projects tied to ensuring that all surface water discharges into the Everglades Protection Area meet water quality standards.
The Senate package also recommends increasing the funding for the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs that link the lake with the estuaries; cleaning water that comes into the lake from the Kissimmee River; evaluating means to reduce nutrients from septic tanks; raising the allowed water levels in canals by a few inches; and a general call to support projects that would eventually shift releases of water to the south through the Everglades.
The proposal to move water through the Everglades, estimated at more than $1 billion and requiring a federal partnership, has been rejected three times, in 1994, 1999 and 2009. The South Florida Water Management District concluded in 2009 the proposal was not the most cost-effective or viable way to increase flows south due to the changing landscape of South Florida, which would require an extensive network of pumps to recreate the historic sheet flow.


Everglades Protection Plan wins 2013 Growing Blue Award
PR Newswire
Nov. 11, 2013
WASHINGTON - South Florida Water Management District's Plan Recognized with Water Award
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For its widely-lauded plan to better distribute water throughout Southern Fla., including the Everglades, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has won the 2013 Growing Blue Award, presented during an awards ceremony at the American Water Summit in Washington, D.C.
The Growing Blue Award recognizes organizations and individuals who are advancing an understanding of how water is as essential to economic and social growth as it is to sustaining the environment. SFWMD won the award through a competitive, live vote of its peers at the American Water Summit, an annual meeting that brings together leaders in the water industry from the business, government and nonprofit sectors.
"The project will capture water that is currently discharged to the ocean in a damaging way," said Walter Wilcox, Lead-Engineer, Hydrologic & Environmental Systems Modeling, SFWMD. "And it will provide an additional volume of water to the American Everglades, which are a natural resource that everyone can enjoy."
During the ceremony, SFWMD presented an overview of its "ALT4R" plan, developed in partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers as part of the Central Everglades Planning Program. The plan supports the delivery of 200,000 acre-feet per year of additional fresh water to the Everglades, reducing the severity of harmful, high-volume discharges and improving salinity in surrounding estuaries.
In the development of its plan, the District gathered a team of natural resource modelers to develop a complex set of numerical simulation programs to identify better ways to distribute water through south Florida's massive water management system. The District's work will have long-lasting benefits to the south Florida community and natural environment, including the Everglades National Park, and has received widespread accolades from urban water users and the environmental community.
"Growing Blue was developed to increase awareness of our global water challenges, and to highlight the solutions," said Terry Mah, president and CEO of Veolia Environnement North America, who spoke on behalf of Growing Blue members. "Through its sound water management policies, the South Florida Water Management District is greatly improving the link between the natural and social communities of southern Florida. This contribution to our environment is absolutely in line with the principles of Growing Blue."
SFWMD won out of a competitive field of finalists, all of whom are making significant contributions to America's water future. The three finalists are (in alphabetical order):
Blue Legacy – Founded in 2008 by Alexandra Cousteau, working to shape society's dialogue to include water as one of the defining issues of the 21st century.
Maryland Department of the Environment/Department of Agriculture – Pioneering the use of a market-based trading system to address nitrogen and phosphorous build-ups in the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States.
MolsonCoors – Leading a collaborative movement to improve social and environmental integrity in Colorado's Clear Creek Watershed.
Short interviews with Walter Wilcox, representing the SFWMD, can be found at this link.
About Growing Blue™
Growing Blue is a collaboration of non-governmental organizations, water companies, industry groups and international organizations working together to build awareness of water issues and water solutions through the use of water management tools, hosting educational events and sharing data. Growing Blue was created by Veolia Water in consultation with The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Water Alliance, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the UN Global Compact CEO Water Mandate, the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Global Water Intelligence and Cardno ENTRIX. IBM, Xylem, GE Intelligent Platforms, the World Resources Institute, the International City/County Management Association and the International Desalination Association have all joined Growing Blue. For updates and additional information, follow us on Twitter @GrowingBlue or visit
About the South Florida Water Management District
The South Florida Water Management District is a regional governmental agency that oversees the water resources in the southern half of Florida, covering 16 counties from Orlando to the Florida Keys and serving a population of 7.9 million residents. Read more at or on Twitter @sfwmd


Florida legislators touring Stuart, St. Lucie Lock today
TCPalm - by Jonathan Mattise
November 11, 2013
STUART – Sen. Joe Negron will escort Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford around Stuart on Monday, as Negron tries to convince the top House lawmaker that the Indian River Lagoon warrants his attention next legislative session.
Weatherford, the 33-year old Republican speaker from Wesley Chapel, is taking a helicopter tour, visiting downtown Stuart, talking to local stakeholders and checking out the St. Lucie Lock and Dam. Weatherford’s tour starts at 2:30 p.m. in the Stuart City Hall parking lot, where Weatherford will stroll the Riverwalk to the Flagler Center for media availability. Then the speaker will arrive at the locks around 3 p.m.
Negron, a Stuart Republican and chairman of a Senate committee on the lagoon, is urging the House to consider $220 million worth of projects to help the lagoon, St. Lucie River estuary and Caloosahatchee River.
Most of the policy and budget suggestions Negron’s committee has requested require sign-off from the House, Senate and Gov. Rick Scott. Scott has already made the issue a priority by pledging more than $130 million for initiatives aimed at easing the impact of polluted Lake Okeechobee freshwater releases.
The releases from the lake battered the east and west coast estuaries this rainy summer, harming marine wildlife and vegetation and making the water unhealthy to touch.
Local House representatives who are serving as liaisons to the Senate committee also will attend Weatherford’s tour, including Reps. Larry Lee Jr., D-Port St. Lucie; Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart; Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach; and MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta.
The Legislature has been in Tallahassee for committee meetings every few weeks since late September, but state spending and policy items are finalized during the March-through-May legislative session.



Major Wetland Restorations in the World Earn Fall Semester 2013 Mid-Term Grades - Press Release
November 11, 2013
In an editorial published today in the scientific journal Ecological Engineering, wetlands expert and Ecological Engineering editor-in-chief Dr. William J. Mitsch gave academic “midterm” grades to six of the longest-term, largest -scale wetland restoration projects in the world. The grades ranged from good to poor on the six projects.
Mitsch used the following criteria in assigning the grades:
1) the project had to show progress,
2) the project had to provide measurable markers of improvement,
3) the basic principles of ecological engineering had to be applied, and
4) the restoration had to demonstrate sustainability.
Mitsch has observed these six wetland restorations for a decade or more as they have developed, and summarized them in this editorial entitled “When will ecologists learn engineering and engineers learn ecology ?
Two wetland projects, the Mesopotamian Marshland wetland restoration in southern Iraq and the Delaware Bay salt marsh restoration in New Jersey, USA, received good grades (A’s in the American grading system) because of their lack of “over-engineered” solutions and because of their reliance on selfdesign concepts that will make these restoration projects ultimately sustainable.
The restoration of mangrove wetlands around the , started in the aftermath of the late December 2004 massive and horrific tsunami caused by an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, received a midterm grade of C.  Over 230,000 people were killed during that disaster that created great interest in restoring mangrove and other coastal ecosystems to “provide coastal protection in the event of future tsunamis or other tidal surges.” Several studies had suggested that human impacts were lower in regions where mangroves had been protected. But the initial enthusiasm for mangrove restoration around the entire Indian Ocean has been replaced with a lot of “business as usual” in replacing mangroves with fishponds and other human developments.
Mitsch gave two projects in southern USA grades indicating poor progress (D’s).  
The Florida Everglades restoration, considered the world’s largest wetland restoration effort, earned a D+ grade. Mitsch said that the vast Everglades undertaking avoided a failing (F) grade by virtue of some successes—the creation of stormwater treatment wetlands that have significantly reduced the levels of phosphorus in water entering the Everglades and efforts to raise a highway from Naples to Miami that serves as a dam over parts of the Everglades flow path. “But,” Mitsch says, “they are still sending water east and west to the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. In essence the project failed its midterm exam during this wet year.” The Everglades
refurbishment has been complicated by the project’s scale, local politics, inconsistent funding and complex hydrologic and landscape issues, Mitsch says.
The Mississippi River Delta and coastline in Louisiana in south-central USA are disappearing into the sea at rates of coastal wetland loss of between 6,600 and 10,000 ha per year.  This represents a loss of 2% per decade for this vast wetland.  The Mississippi River Delta restoration to offset this land loss, a multidecadal vision proposed by some in Louisiana, has been debated and discussed extensively while being distracted by other disasters in the New Orleans and Gulf of Mexico over the past decade.  At one time, projects, if undertaken, would have competed with the Florida Everglades restoration as the world’s largest ecological engineering project. The latest plan for restoring this delta region— Louisiana’s 2012 Coastal Master Plan—provides some progress, but “we have been here before, several times,” says Mitsch, who assigned this long-time plan a D- midterm grade because “it really has not shown much progress for 20 years.”
A sixth project, the restoration of the Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri (MOM) River Basin in central USA, primarily to reduce excessive hypoxic pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, received a grade of incomplete (I), a grade not even given in many universities in the world.  This grade is reserved for students who do not regularly show up for class and have not completed their assignments. The restoration has not progressed in the last decade, “despite the fact that an interagency task force recommended that the Gulf of Mexico hypoxia needs to be reduced to 5,000 km2, one-third of its current average size of 15,000 km2. The scale of the watershed restoration that is needed is known and there have been several publically funded projects in the MOM basin that have had Gulf of Mexico hypoxia reduction as their raison d’être. But nobody is keeping score on the areas restored to wetlands. The only record we do have is the area of hypoxia, which continues to be the same size as it was a decade before.” Mitsch’s observations over 10 to 20 years of these six projects evaluated in the editorial suggest that there is more to restoration than simply returning a system to what it was before. “It is appropriate to give a midterm grade to these projects in the hopes that the grade will encourage improvement and better attention to the course, just as we expect from students in giving them midterm grades,” Mitsch says.
Mitsch is editor-in-chief of the journal Ecological Engineering, holds the Juliet C. Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration and Management at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), and oversees research at FGCU’s Everglades Wetland Research Park in Naples, Florida. The co-winner of the 2004 Stockholm Water Prize for lifetime achievements in the management and conservation of lakes and wetlands, he is also professor emeritus of The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA.
For more information, contact Mitsch at + 1 614 946-6715 or at
Mitsch, W.J., When will ecologists learn engineering and engineers learn ecology ?  
Ecol. Eng. (2013),


South Florida faces ominous prospects from rising waters – by Nick Madigan
November 11, 2013
MIAMI BEACH — In the most dire predictions, South Florida’s delicate barrier islands, coastal communities and captivating subtropical beaches will be lost to the rising waters in as few as 100 years.
Further inland, the Everglades, the river of grass that gives the region its fresh water, could one day be useless, some scientists fear, contaminated by the inexorable advance of the salt-filled ocean. The Florida Keys, the pearl-like strand of islands that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico, would be mostly submerged alongside their exotic crown jewel, Key West.
“I don’t think people realize how vulnerable Florida is,” Harold R. Wanless, the chairman of the geological sciences department at the University of Miami, said in an interview last week. “We’re going to get four or five or six feet of water, or more, by the end of the century. You have to wake up to the reality of what’s coming.”
Concern about rising seas is stirring not only in the halls of academia but also in local governments along the state’s southeastern coast.
The four counties there — Broward, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach, with a combined population of 5.6 million — have formed an alliance to figure out solutions.
Long battered by hurricanes and prone to flooding from intense thunderstorms, Florida is the most vulnerable state in the country to the rise in sea levels.
Even predictions more modest than Professor Wanless’s foresee most of low-lying coastal Florida subject to increasingly frequent floods as the polar ice caps melt more quickly and the oceans surge and gain ground.
Much of Florida’s 1,197-mile coastline is only a few feet above the current sea level, and billions of dollars’ worth of buildings, roads and other infrastructure lies on highly porous limestone that leaches water like a sponge.
But while officials here and in other coastal cities, many of whom attended a two-day conference on climate change last week in Fort Lauderdale, have begun to address the problem, the issue has gotten little traction among state legislators in Tallahassee.
The issue appears to be similarly opaque to segments of the community — business, real estate, tourism — that have a vested interest in protecting South Florida’s bustling economy.
“The business community for the most part is not engaged,” said Wayne Pathman, a Miami land-use lawyer and Chamber of Commerce board member who attended the Fort Lauderdale conference. “They’re not affected yet. They really haven’t grasped the possibilities.”
It will take a truly magnificent effort, Mr. Pathman said, to find answers to the critical issues confronting the area. Ultimately, he said, the most salient indicator of the crisis will be the insurance industry’s refusal to handle risk in coastal areas here and around the country that are deemed too exposed to rising seas.
“People tend to underestimate the gravity here, I think, because it sounds far off,” said Ben Strauss, the director of the Program on Sea Level Rise at Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists. “People are starting to tune in, but it’s not front and center. Miami is a boom town now, but in the future that I’m very confident will come, it will be obvious to everyone that the sea is marching inland and it’s not going to stop.”
The effects on real estate value alone could be devastating, Mr. Strauss said. His research shows that there is about $156 billion worth of property, and 300,000 homes, on 2,120 square miles of land that is less than three feet above the high tide line in Florida.
At that same level, Mr. Strauss said, Florida has 2,555 miles of road, 35 public schools, one power plant and 966 sites listed by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as hazardous waste dumps and sewage plants.
The amount of real estate value, and the number of properties potentially affected, rises incrementally with each inch of sea-level rise, he said.
Professor Wanless insists that no amount of engineering proposals will stop the onslaught of the seas. “At two to three feet, we start to lose everything,” he said.
The only answer, he said, is to consider drastic measures like establishing a moratorium on development along coastal areas and to compel residents whose homes are threatened to move inland.
Local officials say they are doing what they can. Jason King, a consultant for the Seven50 Southeast Florida Prosperity Plan, an economic blueprint for seven southeastern counties over the next half-century, said it proposed further replenishing of beaches and mangrove forests, raising roads, and building flood-control gates, backflow preventers and higher sea walls.
Here on Miami Beach, a densely populated 7.5-square-mile barrier island that already becomes flooded in some areas each time there is a new moon or a heavy rain, city officials have approved a $200 million project to retrofit its overwhelmed storm-water system, which now pumps floodwaters onto the island when it should be draining them off, and make other adjustments.
“The sky is not falling, but the water is rising,” said Charles Tear, the Miami Beach emergency management coordinator, who stood at an intersection at the edge of Maurice Gibb Park, just two feet above sea level, that floods regularly.
Mr. Tear said he and other city officials were focused on the more conservative prediction that the seas will rise by five to 15 inches over the next 50 years.
“We can’t look at 100 years,” he said. “We have to look at the realistic side.”
James F. Murley, the executive director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council, was similarly unmoved by the more calamitous predictions.
“We’re not comfortable looking at 2100,” he said, noting that for planning purposes he adhered to a projection that foresaw two feet of sea-level rise by 2060.
Whatever the specifics of the predictions, the Miami Beach city manager, Jimmy L. Morales, said he and his staff had to consider whether “we should adopt more aggressive assumptions” about the effects of climate change.
Officials here are seeking advice from the Netherlands, famous for its highly effective levees and dikes, but the very different topography of Miami Beach and its sister coastal cities does not lend itself to the fixes engineered by the Dutch.
“Ultimately, you can’t beat nature, but you can learn to live with it,” Mr. Morales said. “Human ingenuity is incredible, but do we have the political will ?  Holland sets aside $1 billion a year for flood mitigation, and we have a lot more coastline than they do.”
Florida Faces Ominous Prospects from Rising Waters           InsideClimate News



Florida’s estuaries are drowning -  by Glenn Hayes 
November 10, 2013
Water is the life-blood of Florida. The state is surrounded by pristine coastal waters and boasts magnificent estuaries that are teeming with fish and wildlife. Its delicate and spectacular springs, aquifers and many lakes are a draw for visitors. But the complex and fragile waters of Florida have been engineered and altered to a state of dysfunction.
Florida has many issues with polluted run-off water contaminating its bays, estuaries, rivers and coasts but two estuaries that are showing themselves to be in particular jeopardy this summer are the St. Lucie River Estuary on the East Coast and the Caloosahatchee River Estuary on the West Coast. Fish and wildlife are disappearing and the tourists are certain to follow. Freshwater discharge is to blame.
Both these estuaries lie on either side of Lake Okeechobee, a large lake in the center of the state that receives its contents from a chain of lakes and the Kissimmee watershed to the north. Water that flows into Lake Okeechobee is being pumped out in huge volumes to maintain mandated safe levels. The high level of water that is being pumped into these estuaries is smothering them with polluted fresh water. There has been so much fresh water that wildlife has disappeared, and natural vegetation such as the sea grass beds and oyster bars are dying off. Salinity levels have plummeted, and as a result, once-clear and pristine waters have turned to mucky brown algae-laden pools. Areas that were once teeming with life are now deserted and barren, with algae blooms being the only visible growth.
The natural flow of water from north to south has been drastically altered over time by engineering and human intervention. After two devastating hurricanes in the ’20’s that flooded lake Okeechobee and caused widespread local flooding, a levy was constructed to surround the lake. Two cut-off canals were modified and run from the lake to the East and West Coast estuaries. Prior to any modifications, the water would meander from the Kissimmee River Estuary over 100 miles to Lake Okeechobee. Water would then flow south through the Everglades and out into Florida Bay. The Kissimmee River’s natural flow was altered when the river was straightened in the ’50’s by the Army Corps of Engineers, only later to be modified to bring in an attempt to restore a more natural flow into the lake. Still today water rushes south into the lake only to have to be pumped out into the two estuaries. This flow has proven particularly harmful when large amounts of rain cause a rush of water and high levels in the lake. According to South Florida Water Management statistics, water is entering the lake up to six times faster than it can be pumped out.
With heavy rainfall that started in May of this year, Lake Okeechobee reached almost record high levels and, as mandated by federal regulation, had to be lowered. It was determined post-Hurricane Katrina that the levee surrounding the lake was in a state of disrepair and could be compromised with high water levels. The result of this discovery was new mandated maximum levels, forcing the need to pump more water out into the estuaries. Federal funding was allocated for repairs on the dyke and work on one of the worst sections has been completed. However, progress is slow and a secure dyke will not be assured for many years. Work has now shifted from securing the earthen dyke to working on its many culverts. Federal funds are even tighter at present so the future direction of repairs is unclear.
Many, including environmentalists such as Mark Perry of the Florida Oceanographic Society, say that water should be pumped south along its more natural course, thus alleviating pressure on the two estuaries. By sending water into the areas to the south of Lake Okeechobee known as the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) pressure on the estuaries to the east and west could be alleviated. One issue with doing so, however, is that 500,000 acres of the approximately 700,000 acres determined as natural filtration for the southward flowing water are now primarily filled with sugar crops. The area to the south of the lake has now been engineered to protect the crops and urbanization farther south from flooding. Most of the water that does flow south is diverted around these areas and has entered the Everglades without the natural filtration it once had. Attempts at remediation of the polluted water flowing into the Everglades has legislative backing but has had only limited success partly due to numerous lawsuits by various groups. Such pollution and runoff is another water management dilemma that is a work in progress.
Florida Governor Rick Scott recently saw the destruction occurring in the St. Lucie Estuary during a tour of the area and proposed plans to reduce the flow into this and the Caloosahatchee Estuary. “Every drop of water that we can send south and keep out of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries is a win for Florida families,” Scott said.
One project involves building another long bridge on Tamiami Trail (similar to one already completed) that will help in the natural flow of waters into the Everglades that have been blocked by this roadway for many decades. The other proposal is to treat floodwater before it reaches the estuary. Treatment area plans are in the works for both coasts but are just proposals with no funding as of yet and are years away from completion at best.
The South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers are the agencies responsible for controlling the water flow into the estuaries but they are doing so claiming they are under-funded and struggling against a complex and dysfunctional drainage system. They are aware the levels of water they are pumping are harmful but have no other options. Pollution run-off from sugar growers and urban areas adds to the fray, and environmentalists argue that politicians are not doing enough and are siding with sugar growers. Politics and finger pointing aside, as more rain falls the estuaries come closer to being decimated. All agree that something needs to be done to fix the broken flow of Florida’s waters and save the estuaries.
The question now is can it be done before irrevocable damage is done? Will the public outcry be loud enough to be heard?


Interior's mitigation decision means better conservation
Orlando Sentinel - by Shelly Lakly, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy, Florida Chapter.
November 10, 2013
Speaking to the National Press Club in Washington recently, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell made an important first step toward more effective and efficient conservation of the natural resources we all share.
Jewell announced a secretarial order adopting policies and procedures that apply landscape-scale mitigation to the Interior's responsibilities to manage public resources and lands.
This order is important for natural resources and the people who depend on them across Florida and the country.
In short, it means that whenever development impacts federal public lands or resources, the government will also consider how it can mitigate those impacts through strategic conservation and restoration efforts. In the context of resource management, mitigation means taking reasonable steps to avoid harm to natural resources, reducing harm that can't be avoided and compensating for any harm that does occur.
When done right, especially across landscapes, mitigation is the most practical and effective way to balance conservation of resources with economic development.
That is why The Nature Conservancy in Florida strongly supports landscape-scale mitigation and congratulates Jewell for her leadership in this area. Firsthand experience has taught us that mitigation at the landscape scale works.
For example, more than 20 years ago, The Nature Conservancy, in partnership with The Walt Disney Company, which was planning the construction of the Animal Kingdom theme park and a new residential community nearby, collaborated with federal and state permitting agencies and convened a process with Disney that created a single unified permitting procedure among all the agencies with jurisdiction.
In exchange for a mitigation plan submitted by Disney, the agencies approved what was, in effect, a 20-year development envelope for Disney that avoided many on-site impacts and allowed the certain and predictable issuance of permits as long as Disney stayed within the permitting framework that had been agreed upon.
After a review of the larger Everglades headwaters watershed, where the Disney projects were located, a degraded 8,500-acre former cattle ranch was identified as a strategic site for conservation and habitat restoration. Disney provided funds to buy the ranch, which was then given to The Nature Conservancy to restore and manage.
Today, the Disney Wilderness Preserve is a model for wetlands mitigation on a landscape scale, provides tremendous habitat for several of Florida's imperiled species including the scrub-jay and red-cockaded woodpecker, and provides a respite for nature lovers to enjoy.
As we witnessed with the Disney preserve process, landscape-scale mitigation is a useful tool for conservation, and offers opportunities for cooperation among conservation groups, state and local governments, and companies. Businesses are increasingly embracing mitigation as a strategy to lower costs, reduce uncertainty, cut down on regulatory delays and limit the risk of litigation.
Mitigation can be an especially successful strategy for companies when it is applied at the landscape scale, is focused on avoiding impacts and is considered in a collaborative way early in the development process.
As the population and economy in Florida and the U.S. continue to grow, we will need to expand development intelligently and efficiently to support that growth. At the same time, we must protect nature and precious natural resources for our children and future generations.
As Jewell put it, "We know it doesn't have to be an either-or." We can meet both needs at once, but we will need to work together.
Jewell's announcement was a step toward achieving those goals and provides clear leadership for the effort. In keeping with that leadership, we encourage the secretary to call on the agencies under her management to use their existing authorities to ensure robust mitigation outcomes and lasting conservation results within ongoing and future resource-planning efforts.
With her mitigation announcement, Jewell acknowledged that it is possible to manage needed economic development while conserving nature and natural resources that sustain us all. More important, she helped set America on the path to doing just that.
The Florida Chapter of the Nature Conservancy will continue to work with all partners to ensure a vibrant, robust economy and a protected paradise for all Floridians and for future generations.


It’s just the illusion of environmental stewardship - by Terry Brant, a legislative chairman of the Santa Fe Lake Dweller’s Association in Melrose in northeast Alachua County
November 10, 2013
There is ample evidence showing the consequences of large water withdrawals on the aquifer, springs and lakes across North Florida. Many iconic natural springs are dying, victims of pollution and over-permitting groundwater withdrawals. Examples include Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs in Marion County, Keystone Heights-area lakes, the Suwannee River spring basin and Santa Fe River springs. White Springs stopped flowing years ago, and the Ichetucknee has suffered from lowered flows.
Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, water management districts and our Legislature have not always been good stewards of the environment. Our lakes, springs and rivers are being drained and poisoned by toxic pollutants, bacteria and excess nutrients. In Duval County alone, more than 50 streams are listed as “impaired” due to elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria. In the past few days, algae blooms in the St. Johns River showed toxin levels up to 100 times higher than the World Health Organization considers safe.
In the midst of Florida’s expanding water crises, Gov. Rick Scott has filed a suit against Georgia for its unmitigated overconsumption, which is causing adverse effects and environmental damage. We wish he would do something to halt the same problems in Florida.
Incredibly, after years of being endangered and below minimum flow levels (MFLs) without protection, the St. Johns River Water Management District plans to significantly lower the minimum flow levels on nearby Keystone Heights lakes, setting rules so that the lakes will experience more frequent and longer dry periods and shorter wet periods. These lower MFLs will allow even more permits and increased pumping, as well as allowing the Jacksonville Electric Authority, the district’s largest water user, to wiggle off the hook of a recovery provision for the lakes in their water permit. Claims of district “protection,” while lakes and springs are dying before our eyes, is not something residents will ever forgive or forget.
The St. Johns district has created the illusion of environmental protection, legal compliance and public participation, while refusing to implement strict and effective conservation measures or limit withdrawals to mitigate the known adverse effects these excessive water withdrawals are having on our lakes, springs and aquifer.
Florida’s waters are our lifeblood. They fuel our economy, provide our quality of life and may still provide a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren. They literally shape and define our state. We are hopeful that it is not too late. We have asked Gov. Scott and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard to do the right thing — neither has shown any leadership or personal interest.
Just like always, it has not been the laws on the books that have created this poor environmental policy, often neither protective nor sustainable. It is politics, and a change in the way we protect and value our water is badly needed.


South Florida already abnormally dry
Sun Sentinel – by Robert Duyos
November 10, 2013
Despite a soggy summer, all of South Florida's metro areas have been classified as being "abnormally dry," a notch away from drought conditions, the National Weather Service said. That means the risk of wildfire has increased and water supplies could become strained.
The dry conditions are largely the result of a parched October. Since Oct. 1, rainfall has been 4.2 inches below normal in Fort Lauderdale, 5.2 inches below normal in West Palm Beach and .38 inches below normal in Miami.
The South Florida Water Management District said water supplies are in good shape for now because the rainy season was abnormally wet.
"But water managers remain cautious because this is the time of year when water levels can fall rapidly from prolonged below-average rainfall," said Susan Sylvester, the district's chief of water control operations.
Although no major wildfires have broken out recently, the lack of rain and recent winds have the Florida Forest Service on alert, said spokesman Scott Peterich.
"The vegetation is considerably drier than it was a month ago," he said.


Red tide a growing concern for Southwest Florida - by Laura Roberts, Reporter
November 9, 2013
After a summer of freshwater releases, the Southwest Florida shoreline is looking much better.
"I think it's improved," said 20 year Sanibel resident Bob Stulks.
However, scientists say we're not totally in the clear.
Nutrients from fresh water releases dumped into the Gulf from Lake Okeechobee have created an ideal breeding ground for red tide.
Dr. Bruce Neill, Executive Director at the Sanibel Sea School, said, "We're absolutely set to have a banner red tide season, which is not a good thing."
It's especially not good for businesses that were looking forward to a busy season after a rough summer.
It's part of the reason why the Bait Box on Sanibel hosted the Cracker Fest on Friday night. The event raised money for the Sanibel-Captiva chapter of START (Solutions to Avoid Red Tide).
"[Red tide] is bad for business any way you slice it. It's a bad thing in the respect that the tourists might not come," said Ralph Woodring, owner of the Bait Box.
FWC does weekly tests, and this week they did find low levels of the red tide organism in Lee County.
As for predicting what's to come in future weeks, scientists say that's hard to do.
"We know very little about red tide. We're learning more about it. It's very difficult to understand red tide," said Dr. Neill.
What we do know for sure is that it's dangerous.
The Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) has already seen animals suffering from its effects this season.
"We've already seen three birds this week with red tide poisoning," said Heather Barron, Hospital Director at CROW.
As scientists continue to research, with help from funds raised at the Cracker Fest, they're bracing themselves for what could likely be an active season for red tide and a bad one for all of us.


High seas

Rising sea levels, falling real estate values
Miami Herald - by John Dorschner
November 9, 2013
While most residents in South Florida still have no worries that global warming could dramatically lower housing prices, land-use attorney Sam Poole has already developed a plan to sell his house in a low-lying Fort Lauderdale neighborhood.
Poole has heard some scientists predict that the first financial effects are probably two decades away, and he wants to sell in about 10 years, well before panic sets in, assuming governments do nothing quickly to combat climate change.
“I don’t want to wait too long,” he says.
In fact, some leading South Florida scientists project the first effects are one decade away, not two, but Poole’s concern about sea level remains a rarity among homeowners in South Florida, where property values continue to boom in waterfront neighborhoods.
There are hints, however, that the real estate industry is preparing for change.
Len Berry, director of Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies, reports developers have quietly contacted the university to check out projections of how much sea level will rise in the coming decades as they look for future safe investments.
William Hardin, a professor of real estate at Florida International University, says he’s telling students, “If you truly believe in global warming, you’re going to have an issue being in real estate in South Florida.”
Jason King, with the Dover, Kohl urban planning group in Coral Gables, says the firm’s planners are now factoring in changing sea level in work with developers.
King reports mortgage lenders “are following the discussions very closely” on sea level rise, as are many others in real estate. “I can tell you they’re aware,” says King, “but I can’t tell you anything’s changed yet.”
The financial stakes are high. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, a joint effort of four county governments, calculates the area could lose as much as $4 billion in taxable real estate with a one-foot rise in sea level.
At three feet, the loss could be $31 billion — escalating from there, perhaps at an accelerating pace unless governments and/or the private sector act to reduce carbon and other gases warming the water and atmosphere that in turn melts the ice caps and causes sea levels to rise.
How much longer?
For many, the key question is when. “Give me a time,” asks Jill Hertzberg, a leading Miami Beach real estate agent. She reads a lot about climate change and has no doubt that it causes rising seas. but “I don’t know what the direct effect is” on Miami Beach.
She says clients don’t mention climate change when they put down millions for waterfront properties. “Waterfront is very desirable.”
But for how much longer?
The most widely used projection is the Army Corps of Engineers’, which sees a three- to seven-inch rise in South Florida by 2030, and from nine to 24 inches by 2060. Those numbers are accepted by the four-county Southeast Florida Compact.
Harold Wanless, a University of Miami geology professor who’s long studied climate change, envisions much worse — a rise of as much as two feet by 2048, three feet by 2063 and 4.1 to 6.6 feet by 2100.
At three feet, much of South Florida — including major parts of far south Miami-Dade, Miami Beach, Dania and stretches of the western suburbs — is under water.
“But a lot of land is lost at six inches,” says Nicole Hernandez Hammer, program manager of the Climate Change Initiative at FAU. South Dade particularly losses major acreage with a six-inch increase.
Hernandez Hammer is amazed developers don’t appear to worry about rising seas. “Look at Sunny Isles, with those giant cranes, building these lavish structures that are essentially at sea level.”
Two major Sunny Isles developers — as well as a half-dozen other developers and real estate brokers — did not respond for requests for comment.
Tipping point
Scientists and real estate experts debate what might spark buyers to start devaluing waterfront property.
Some believe it could be a gradual decline — as people become fed up with increased neighborhood flooding. Others, including many leading scientists, believe that a huge hurricane could send the area reeling — or perhaps it could be a crisis in insurance markets.
FAU’s Berry says “10 years is a good marker” for seeing changes in real estate, but it could be “a decade or two.” The exact timing, he says, depends on when the region is hit by a catastrophic storm that causes leaders and the real estate industry to make tough choices on what areas should be rebuilt.
“A lot of people in Broward think they’re safe,” says Wanless, imagining a bad storm. “But three-quarters of Broward doesn’t have a ridge, so that’s worse off than the ridge areas of Dade.”
The future looks even worse in Monroe County. A Southeast Florida Compact report estimates the low-lying Keys could lose $2.8 billion in property with a one-foot rise, far more than the projected maximum of $828 million for the much larger Broward County.
Poole, the land-use attorney, thinks property values might sink when residents decide ever-increasing flooding is too much of a pain.
A former head of the South Florida Water Management District, Poole has studied flood zone maps. “My property is in no danger of floating away,” even with a once-in-a-century flood. But much of his Rio Vista neighborhood, east of U.S. 1 and south of downtown Fort Lauderdale, is lower and could be devastated by frequent flooding.
That’s why Poole might sell in a decade, “unless the government starts doing something to combat the warming trends.” That’s not seeming likely for the near future.
King, the town planner, says flooding can be fixed. He points to the $200 million Miami Beach is spending to stop flooding on South Beach for the next 20 years, but many wonder how much more the city can afford as water levels rise.
Architect and planner Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk envisions slowly rising water levels draining city resources — “much like happened in the Rust Belt,” where bankrupt cities like Detroit cannot deal with massive problems.
Insurance crunch
Many experts suggest problems with insurance could start a decline in waterfront values much more quickly. Congressional legislation last year required major increases in flood insurance premiums, which for decades have been subsidized. That means that ground-level homes in the Keys could see their premiums increased from $2,500 to $30,000, reports the Florida Keynoter — costs that could quickly drop real estate prices.
Hardin, the FIU real estate expert, says it may be unfair to homeowners to be hit with such a rapid rate increases, but in the long run it might make sense for insurance to gradually reflect the real costs of building in areas likely to be frequently flooded as sea levels rise.
As it is now, so many are complaining about rising premiums that Congress is thinking of rolling back the increases. If that happens, says Poole, it would be another example of the government subsidizing waterfront properties when it should be discouraging them.
Where to move
Looking forward, some developers seek answers from FAU’s environmentalists. “They’re looking for the most desirable land,” Berry says — perhaps for development 15 years from now.
Berry says the highest land is often around Interstate 95 and the railway lines. But if a house is high and dry, Hammer says, it could still be devalued if nearby roads and stores are prone to flooding.
FIU’s Hardin says that in the long run, developing the highest ground in South Florida might not matter if tourism evaporates along a deteriorating oceanfront and the economy goes into severe decline. “In that case, people will be looking to Orlando or somewhere, where the jobs are.”
Meanwhile, Plantation attorney Mitchell Chester warns that property sellers could eventually be sued if they don’t warn prospective buyers — “starting now” — that the property is endangered by rising sea level.
“That’s interesting,” says Hertzberg, the Miami Beach broker, “but exactly what should I be telling clients?”
Chester says the Legislature should come up with a standard warning clause, similar to ones now for lead paint, but he acknowledges that state lawmakers have yet to show any interest in climate change.
A warning might scare away some buyers — but not all. Peter Harlem, an FIU researcher, points out that Miami boomed in the 1920s when developers sold swamp land to buyers who hadn’t seen it. Perhaps, Harlem suggests, that could happen again.
“You know, about a third of America ... doesn’t believe [in] climate change. That’s a sure market to sell to.”


Florida lawmakers to tour Lake Okeechobee - by Gary from News Service of Florida:
November 8, 2013
House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, will take a tour of the St. Lucie Estuary and the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee on Monday, as a $220 million plan to reduce pollutants from the lake is now flowing through the Senate. Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican and the author of the river cleanup plan that was backed Tuesday by his Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, has invited Weatherford for the afternoon helicopter tour. The House State Affairs Committee and House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee were given an overview of the fiscal package on Wednesday. The plan takes aim at improving the quality of the water that is released into canals on both the east and west sides of the lake. The plan also offers general support for future efforts that would eventually redirect the water flow south through the Everglades. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers tries to maintain the water level of the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet to lessen stress on the Herbert Hoover Dike. The Army Corps estimates that when the lake is slightly above 18.5 feet, the risk of failure is considered at 45 percent. The proposed Senate fiscal package and other recommendations must still get support from the Legislature during the 2014 session as well as from Gov. Rick Scott. The governor has a couple of items among the recommendations, including $90 million that would be spread over three years to bridge a 2.6-mile section of the Tamiami Trail west of Miami.


Homebuilder pockets drilling rights beneath thousands of Tampa Bay homes
Tampa Bay Times – by Drew Harwell
November 8, 2013
BRANDON — When Mallory and Zach Sinclair were looking for their first home, they swooned over a new townhouse in the Brandon subdivision of Whispering Oaks. With well-manicured lawns, it looked fresh and untouched, with streets bearing pastoral names like Spring Flowers and Summer Clouds.
But in January, when the young parents cracked open their closing papers, they noticed an alarming clause. Their home builder had quietly signed away the rights to the land beneath their home to its own energy company. It now had free reign deep below the surface to drill, mine or explore.
Selling underground mineral rights has long been big business in the oil- and gas-rich boomtowns of Texas, North Dakota and beyond.
But homeowners here might be surprised to learn that they, too, could be part of the prospecting. A Tampa Bay Times analysis found that D.R. Horton, the nation's largest homebuilder, has pocketed the rights beneath more than 2,500 Tampa Bay homesites, whether the homeowner realizes it or not.
It's unclear what homebuilders expect to find deep beneath Tampa Bay's suburbs. Homes here sit on swiss-cheese blocks of water and limestone, known more for sinkholes than fuel or treasures.
But with recent advances in drilling technologies — including hydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking" — tapping into once-untouchable natural gas and oil reserves, experts say builders see the deeds as lottery tickets: potential jackpots buried beneath homes they can still sell at full price.
"With the possibility of fracking, as stupid as it seems to do that in Florida," Tampa land-use attorney Pamela Jo Hatley said about builders, "no one's taking any chances."
D.R. Horton representatives did not respond to calls or emails. But the builder's own words fill stacks of deeds filed since 2007 reserving the rights below homesites, including more than 400 this year.
The mineral-rights claims lie mostly below cookie-cutter homes and townhouses sprinkled across the Tampa suburbs, but affected homesites can also be found in every county across Tampa Bay, and in cities from St. Petersburg to Spring Hill.
Signed over from the builder to its Texas-based subsidiary, DRH Energy, the deeds hand eternal rights to practically anything of value that it finds buried underground, including gold, groundwater and gemstones.
They also give the energy firm the right to explore, study, mine, drill, pump or install well sites to access any and all goodies starting, depending on the deed, either 30 feet or 500 feet below ground.
Homeowners are protected from oil derricks or any other equipment in their front yard by a one-page "surface waiver," though nothing prohibits a company from horizontally drilling from afar.
Not all homeowners are pleased to learn they've settled the biggest purchase of their lives on a potential drilling zone. Some worry underground meddling could lead to contamination, industrial noise or home-destroying sinkholes. Others just want to earn a cut of any drilling profits themselves.
But some homebuyers said they don't even remember hearing of the underground deal. Mark McDonald, who bought a $150,000 townhome this year in FishHawk Ranch in eastern Hillsborough, said he remembers a thick stack of paperwork at closing but nothing about the mineral-rights deed. "I'm surprised," he said, when a Times reporter told him about the deed. "I didn't expect that at all."
A home buyer who learns the land is encumbered might decide to look somewhere else. And a homeowner who agrees to the deal could have problems selling to someone else. Banks, lenders and insurers have balked at giving mortgages or insurance coverage to homes where the underground rights belong to someone else or drilling is underway.
"It could screw up a deal if that were brought to the forefront," said James Ruffolo, a Realtor with Charles Rutenberg Realty. "Buyers want the best deal possible, they want to own the home outright, and that could really rub people the wrong way."
Florida law doesn't demand builders alert home buyers that they own the rights beneath their feet. Attorneys rarely attend closings. And though title-insurance policies and public county records can cast light on the deeds, Realtors say it's all too easy to miss the fine print.
Buyers sometimes sign away their rights knowingly, too. They learn of the mineral-rights deed at closing time, after they've arranged a mortgage, prepared to move and daydreamed about their new kitchen. The deal is set up, some buyers said, in a way that makes it nearly impossible to say no.
Zach Sinclair, the Whispering Oaks homeowner, said he first saw the mineral-rights clause after signing nearly 70 pages of closing forms. A former property manager in Chicago, he said he knows well the strategy of slipping in bad news near the end of the stack.
When he asked a builder representative about it, he said, he was told it was "no big deal" but the form had to be signed.
"If I didn't sign all those papers, the deal was off, and I had a waiting kid and a pregnant wife who wanted to kill me. I just had to do what I had to do and assume nothing bad was going to happen," Sinclair said. "It was kind of weird, and unprofessional. ... But a lot of people probably went through on robot mode and just signed it."
At a typical closing, a home buyer can expect the land is theirs down to the core. Most property law works off a Latin doctrine, "For whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to heaven and down to hell."
But everything has a price, and since the mining booms of more than a century ago, prospectors and "land men" have doled out big money for subsurface rights, a tactic dramatized in the movie There Will Be Blood. (This works in the other direction, too: In places like Manhattan, millions of dollars are spent on "air rights" for high-rises, radio towers and other skyward growth.)
Florida may not seem like an obvious choice for energy conglomerates looking to boost their supplies. But more than 150 oil wells are active statewide, with massive oil fields on both ends of the state filling more than 2 million barrels of crude last year. As oil prices have climbed, incentives to drill have strengthened. In five years, environmental officials have approved 40 statewide oil drilling permits (and denied zero).
More refined technologies have also led drillers to expand their horizons. Horizontal drilling, where long pipes can branch off sideways from a vertical well, has opened up long-hidden pools of fuel beneath residential neighborhoods. Hydrologists have pinpointed hot spots for natural-gas fracking in Southwest Florida and the Panhandle that could prove to be gold mines: Energy companies paid more than $20 billion last year in natural-gas royalties alone.
Though drilling in Florida is nothing new, the issue of energy prospectors' invasions upon the suburbs has recently heated up. In August, protesters in Naples marched outside Gov. Rick Scott's home and set up a model oil rig to criticize plans to drill about 1,000 feet from the nearest home, on the edge of a Florida panther refuge.
Critics have warned that fracking's forceful bursts of water, sand and chemicals, which are used to free deeply embedded gas and oil, could poison or pollute soil, air and groundwater supplies. Florida lawmakers this year attempted to demand well operators tell the state which chemicals they use in their fracking fluids; the bill later failed.
Debates over fracking's explosive growth led homeowners in at least one state to fight back against mineral-rights snatching. Last year, after an outcry from homeowners and letters from the North Carolina Department of Justice, D.R. Horton told state officials it would stop stripping the drilling rights from property deeds and offered to give the rights back to homeowners.
But some say builders would rather chance a potential backlash than trade away a future payday.
"It's a gamble," said Mark Stewart, a professor at University of South Florida's School of Geosciences. "It's something you can reserve for yourself that might have some future value, and it costs you nothing."


Florida DEP approves Everglades water project
November 7, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has approved a 15 billion gallon water treatment project that will deliver clean water to the Everglades, according to an article by Sunshine State News.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) was granted a permit by the DEP to build the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin south of Lake Okeechobee, the article reported.
According to the article, the 53-foot-deep reservoir will allow water managers to hold 45,000 acre-feet of stormwater for treatment and shipment to the Everglades, instead of releasing it to tide.
Large amounts of stormwater in Florida this year caused flooding of conservation areas near the Everglades which drowned wildlife and caused problems at estuaries, the article noted.
"The department and the South Florida Water Management District continue to move forward with Everglades restoration projects with the support of Gov. [Rick] Scott," said DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard. "This project will allow for additional water storage and cleaner water moving south, which will ensure the proper nourishment of the River of Grass."
Construction is set to begin this month, continued the article, and be completed in April 2015.
Read the full article here.


Lake Okeechobee needs a champion
Huffington Post – by Jane Graham, Everglades Policy Associate, Audubon Florida
November 7, 2013
Imagine a great expanse of clear water with a soft sandy bottom, teeming with native birds and wildlife. This is what Lake Okeechobee used to be. But now, after years of pollution, Florida's great lake is hurting.
Legislators, commissioners, policymakers, and concerned citizens: If you want to be a champion for Florida, become a Lake Okeechobee champion.
Earlier this week, Florida's newly-formed Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin held their final meeting and issued a set of recommendations to alleviate the ecological crisis in our southern coastal estuaries. The Committee's recommendations are commendable, as they advance important restoration projects and projects forward.
While the Committee's report mentioned the problem of Lake Okeechobee's water quality, very little was advanced to reduce the continued influx of pollution from human-induced sources into the Lake.
Lake Okeechobee is the liquid heart of the Everglades. But sadly, over the last few months, Lake Okeechobee has been villainized and portrayed as a reservoir of dirty water.
As rain fell throughout the region this summer, the Army Corps of Engineers had to release large amounts of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries to protect the surrounding levee from breaching. To do otherwise would risk the safety of nearby towns from flooding.
Unfortunately, the large releases of polluted water from the Lake led to devastating effects on the coastal communities of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee. As the Lake's water mingled with the estuary waters, there were algae blooms, dead birds and marine life, health problems for humans, and corresponding economic impacts that are still being felt today. Some of the runoff flowing into these estuaries was from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee watersheds, but a large portion was from the Lake. Data show that improving the water quality of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries depends on improving Lake Okeechobee's water quality.
But experiencing the magic of Lake Okeechobee's marsh first-hand gives a different perspective. I remember the first time I visited Lake Okeechobee. My colleague Dr. Paul Gray and I were exploring Audubon's Lake Okeechobee Northwest Coast Sanctuary by airboat.
The ecosystem was bursting with life. We were enveloped in a watery field of birds, alligators, turtles, and butterflies - more than I'd ever seen in Everglades National Park. It was a symphony of chirping, splashing, humming, and whistling in surround sound.
Lake Okeechobee is the second largest freshwater lake in the southeastern United States, an Eden for endangered species like the Everglades Snail Kite , and a stronghold for tourism. Also, the Lake has some of the most productive bass fisheries in the country.
But here's where the trouble starts. Despite the abundant wildlife in its marsh, the Lake has a major pollution problem. There is a lot of phosphorus already in the Lake and the Okeechobee watershed from decades of pollution from human sources. On top of that, every year, thousands of tons of phosphorus enter the watershed.
Where is this pollution coming from? Fertilizers, animal and human waste spread on pastures, stormwater, and wastewater. Click here and see page 55 for more info on where it is coming from and how much.
Phosphorus is a pollutant ? After calcium, phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in your body. However, for the ecosystem, too much phosphorus can contribute to a host of problems: algae blooms, cloudy water, and the increased growth of unwanted vegetation that crowds out habitat.
In 2001, the state of Florida devised a plan to meet phosphorus water quality goals for Lake Okeechobee by January 1, 2015. But recent reports show phosphorus levels are over 300% as much as the goal. The bottom line is the plan is not working.
During the Select Committee hearing I mentioned earlier, Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) made the statement "Prevention is the best way to ensure nutrients aren't getting into the Lake." He is right. Programs that partner with agriculture and urban users, known as best management practices (BMPs), to reduce the amount of phosphorus from entering the watershed are key. The Select Committee report even stated that "BMPs are the most effective methods to limit the release of nutrient pollution."
But the Committee report recommended the same anemic amount of funding for the program as previous years. And, there was no discussion on how to improve the effectiveness of the program.
But wait. Right now, state agencies are working on a plan to update a plan to make a planthat might reduce phosphorus, in maybe the next couple decades. And that should fix Lake Okeechobee's problem?
Dear plan makers: Stop planning and take action. Now.
There needs to be measurable reductions of pollution in the watershed. To accomplish this, some state laws and rules need to be changed, and pollution prevention programs will require additional funding. While these changes might not be as sexy as starting big treatment projects, they are equally important and can reduce costs in the long-term. These new laws and rules can and should be implemented in a way that is helpful, not hurtful, to all of those affected.
Audubon Florida recommends the following:
1. Update the BMP program for agriculture in the Northern Everglades to significantly reduce the amount of phosphorus from fertilizer and other sources added to the watershed. Trust, but verify. Fully fund agency representatives to get their "boots on the ground" and visit farmers to help track what actions work and what does not work, and update as needed. 
2. Limit the amount of phosphorus coming off of new developments in urban areas in the watershed. 
3. Close the loophole that allows dried-out residuals from human waste to be used as fertilizer. Yuck.
To those Lake Okeechobee Champions who love and respect Florida's great lake, we need your voices. Call or write your decisionmakers today. Let them know that fixing Lake Okeechobee's water quality is a priority, and that it needs their full attention in the upcoming legislative session.



Prof. Brian SODEN

University of Miami


Meet the Miami man spearheading climate-change research
WLRN – by Kelley Mitchell
November 7, 2013
Growing up in landlocked Iowa may be precisely the reason that the lure of the ocean was so strong for Brian Soden.
It pulled him from the cornfields to the waters around the University of Miami with designs on perhaps being the next Jacques Cousteau.
Except for one pesky problem. He didn't care all that much for biology. No fish fetish here.
What did emerge was a curiosity about how the oceans got to be the way they are, how the atmosphere factors into that and how water vapor, clouds and rainfall play a role in the planetary picture.
Soden then shifted from ocean explorer to earth archeologist. What secrets to the past do the ocean floors hold within their sedimentary shifts?
Spurred on by renowned paleo climatologist Cesare Emiliani - Soden did his graduate work at the same place as his inspiration -- the University of Chicago.
Then it was back to South Florida. As a professor at the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Soden specializes in interpreting meteorology and the implications of all those satellite images.
One day, the phone rang -- Soden thinks it was in 2003. He was asked to participate in the 4th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, coordinated by the United Nations. It was four long years of work before the findings were released in 2007.
"It was pretty flattering. You have to be recommended and selected," he said.
It’s more than just flattery. Soden was tapped once again for the most recent climate study -- the 5th -- and those findings should be released near the end of 2013.
He's one of 100 lead authors from around the globe, who gather in places like Morocco and China and Tanzania to compare notes about the health of Climate Earth.
"They make sure it's not a place where it's fun so that you focus on the work. Wherever you go is always at least a two-flight connection to get where you need to be," said Soden.
It's a lot of intense effort shepherding where your planet may end up, Soden said. Four years to produce each report every six years.
Soden admits this IPCC study may be his last -- or at least for awhile.
"It's exhausting, so I'm ready for a break."
But he never considers taking a break in his quest to find out who we are and where we are going.
That work continues in Miami. At a place considered to be one of the more vulnerable: South Florida. Or "Elevation Zero."


Palm Beach County enters first phase of drought
Palm Beach Post - by Alexandra Seltzer, Staff Writer
November 7, 2013
Just 27 days into the seven-month long dry season, weather and water experts said Thursday the metro areas of South Florida have already fallen into the first phase of a drought.
Areas to the north including Martin and St. Lucie counties had been in the first phase, or D0 as it is referred to on the U.S. Drought Monitor, for the past week.
While South Florida was in a D0 drought in January, the last time South Florida was in the first phase of the drought so early in the dry season was November 2010. The 2010-11 dry season was also the first time South Florida saw a D4 level drought, the highest drought level, which means “exceptionally dry” conditions.
“Is that a trend of what we could see? We don’t know,” Barry Baxter, a drought expert with the National Weather Service in Miami, said Thursday. “We just have to monitor it.”
This year’s dry season, which started early on Oct. 11 and usually ends in May, comes with neither El Nino or La Nina conditions; El Nino meaning cool and wet winters and La Nina meaning drier winters. But some models are showing the next few months to be drier than normal. The summer months provided enough rain for South Florida in the short term which is keeping the drought level down for now, Baxter said.
“The main tank of gas is running low but your reservoir tank is really good,” Baxter explained.
What to do now? Authorities say it is time to begin conserving water.
“Short term dryness… could turn into long term if we don’t get the rainfall that we need,” Baxter warned.
Since Oct. 1, Palm Beach International Airport has recorded 1.14 inches of rainfall compared to the 6.16 normal amount. Lake Okeechobee was above one foot above normal in the beginning of October and now, mostly because of evaporation the lake, is just .03 above normal.
Still, the lake is about one foot higher this year than it was this time last year, said Randy Smith, South Florida Water Management District spokesman.
“Water conservation is going to be very important,” he said.
It’s too early to talk about water restrictions and those are assigned on a case-by-case basis, he added.
In addition to the lake level and lack of rain, the fire danger index has been about 500 out of 800, which is on the higher side.
The high index caused Palm Beach County Fire Rescue crews to implement their dry brush response, which means instead of just one truck, a fire engine and a brush truck are dispatched to all brush fires.
“Everything has been drier than anticipated,” Capt. Albert Borroto, fire rescue spokesman said. “It’s not at a critical level but it’s enough to institute our dry brush response.”
Baxter said part of the reason we’re in the first phase of the drought is because of a lack of a real rain event in the past 90 days. Forecasters say this weekend may bring some rain in areas of Palm Beach County. There’s a 30 percent chance of showers Saturday and a 40 percent chance Sunday.
But it may not be enough.
“Even with these showers we’re going to see they’re not going to accumulate,” Baxter said. “We could be worse than what we are but it was a very wet first half of the summer. That’s helping us right now.”


Permit issued for stormwater storage structure to cleanse water headed for Everglades
November 7, 2013
Florida Department of Environmental Protection news release
PALM BEACH COUNTY — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit Wednesday to the South Florida Water Management District to construct the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin, a structure designed to store 15 billion gallons of water so that it can be treated and moved south to the Everglades.
It is one of three storage components of Governor Rick Scott's Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan.
When construction is complete, stormwater - which at peak flow times is released to the ocean - will be safely held in a deep reservoir and later cleaned and redirected to the Everglades. It will allow water managers the flexibility to store stormwater that under certain peak flow scenarios may have been diverted to the ocean or water conservation areas -- and direct flows for treatment prior to entering the Everglades.
"The Department and the South Florida Water Management District continue to move forward with Everglades restoration projects with the support of Governor Scott," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "This project will allow for additional water storage and cleaner water moving south, which will ensure the proper nourishment of the River of Grass."
The L-8 flow equalization basin will use a 53-foot-deep reservoir capable of storing approximately 45,000 acre-feet of water, or the equivalent of 22,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water. The seven interconnected underground cells will be utilized to effectively manage basin stormwater. During storm events and other peak flow events, the reservoir will act as a storage feature. During dry periods, the reservoir will deliver flows for optimized treatment prior to those flows entering the Everglades.
The below-ground reservoir was a former rock mine site located in central Palm Beach County. The location’s unique geology allows for deep, below-ground storage, reduces water loss through seepage and minimizes levee safety concerns. Construction of embankment protection features is currently underway. The permit authorizes construction of a permanent discharge pump station and inflow feature. Construction of the pump station and inflow spillway is scheduled for November 2013 through April 2015.
"Moving forward with construction of the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin reflects yet another milestone in improving the quality of water flowing south into the Everglades,” said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Blake Guillory. “The District is committed to delivering this project on schedule in order to realize as soon as possible the important environmental benefits it will provide.”
The project is a result of Governor Scott’s direction to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to develop a plan to address water quality concerns associated with existing flows to the Everglades Protection Area. The plan was presented to United States Environmental Protection Agency in late 2011. After coordination with EPA, the final plan was finalized by the Department in September of 2012.
The Governor’s landmark water quality plan includes:
• 6,500 acres of additional stormwater treatment areas, which are man-made managed wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water prior to the water being discharged into the Everglades.
• 110,000 acre-feet of water storage capabilities in flow equalization basins, or reservoirs that work with the proposed and existing stormwater treatment areas to regulate flows and optimize treatment efficiency.
• Other components of the plan include engineering projects in existing treatment areas and the modification of conveyance features necessary to move the water through the South Florida Water Management District’s massive flood control and water delivery features.


1st piece of Rick Scott's Everglades Plan cleared for construction
Sunshine State News
November 6, 2013
Gov. Rick Scott's Everglades Restoration Strategies plan is set to get on its way.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday granted a permit to the South Florida Water Management District for the construction of a 15 billion-gallon storage structure that is designed to ultimately deliver clean water to the Everglades.
The water agency, which is responsible for Everglades restoration, was given the go-ahead to build the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin, located in Palm Beach County. The project will act as a reservoir and will be able to store stormwater instead of releasing it to tide, according to DEP. The 53 foot-deep reservoir that can hold 15 billion gallons of water -- equal to 22,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools -- will also give water managers an option to hold water before treating it and sending it to the Everglades.
After years of restoration gridlock in the courts and political sphere, Everglades Restoration Strategies, led by Scott, was part of a landmark bill that resulted in a settlement between the state and the Obama administration.  It was approved by the Florida Legislature this year, sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby.
Announcing the approval, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard, said, "The department and the South Florida Water Management District continue to move forward with Everglades restoration projects with the support of Governor Scott. This project will allow for additional water storage and cleaner water moving south, which will ensure the proper nourishment of the River of Grass."
Read the full story.


DEP issues Everglades permit for stormwater storage and flow
FDEP Press Release
November 6, 2013
Permit to South Florida Water Management District continues work on Everglades restoration
Recently, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit to the South Florida Water Management District to construct the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin, a structure designed to store 15 billion gallons of water so that it can be treated and moved south to the Everglades. It is one of three storage components of Governor Rick Scott's Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan.
When construction is complete, stormwater - which at peak flow times is released to the ocean - will be safely held in a deep reservoir and later cleaned and redirected to the Everglades. It will allow water managers the flexibility to store stormwater that under certain peak flow scenarios may have been diverted to the ocean or water conservation areas -- and direct flows for treatment prior to entering the Everglades.
"The Department and the South Florida Water Management District continue to move forward with Everglades restoration projects with the support of Governor Scott," said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "This project will allow for additional water storage and cleaner water moving south, which will ensure the proper nourishment of the River of Grass."
The L-8 flow equalization basin will use a 53-foot-deep reservoir capable of storing approximately 45,000 acre-feet of water, or the equivalent of 22,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water. The seven interconnected underground cells will be utilized to effectively manage basin stormwater. During storm events and other peak flow events, the reservoir will act as a storage feature. During dry periods, the reservoir will deliver flows for optimized treatment prior to those flows entering the Everglades.
The below-ground reservoir was a former rock mine site located in central Palm Beach County. The location’s unique geology allows for deep, below-ground storage, reduces water loss through seepage and minimizes levee safety concerns. Construction of embankment protection features is currently underway. The permit authorizes construction of a permanent discharge pump station and inflow feature. Construction of the pump station and inflow spillway is scheduled for November 2013 through April 2015.
"Moving forward with construction of the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin reflects yet another milestone in improving the quality of water flowing south into the Everglades,” said South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Blake Guillory. “The District is committed to delivering this project on schedule in order to realize as soon as possible the important environmental benefits it will provide.”
The project is a result of Governor Scott’s direction to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to develop a plan to address water quality concerns associated with existing flows to the Everglades Protection Area. The plan was presented to United States Environmental Protection Agency in late 2011. After coordination with EPA, the final plan was finalized by the Department in September of 2012.
The Governor’s landmark water quality plan includes:
6,500 acres of additional stormwater treatment areas, which are man-made managed wetlands that naturally remove phosphorus from water prior to the water being discharged into the Everglades.
110,000 acre-feet of water storage capabilities in flow equalization basins, or reservoirs that work with the proposed and existing stormwater treatment areas to regulate flows and optimize treatment efficiency.
Other components of the plan include engineering projects in existing treatment areas and the modification of conveyance features necessary to move the water through the South Florida Water Management District’s massive flood control and water delivery features.
About The Florida Department of Environmental Protection
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s principal environmental agency, created to protect, conserve and manage Florida’s environment and natural resources. The Department enforces federal and state environmental laws, protects Florida’s air and water quality, cleans up pollution, regulates solid waste management, promotes pollution prevention and acquires environmentally-sensitive lands for preservation. The agency also maintains a statewide system of parks, trails and aquatic preserves. For more information, visit
SOURCE: Florida Department of Environmental Protection


Endangered bird comeback: Invasive food source has snail kite population soaring
November 6, 2013
Fort Myers, Florida (News-Press) -- One of Florida's most endangered birds is making a comeback in the most exotic of ways, feeding off an invasive critter that feeds mostly off an invasive plant.
Snail kite numbers have jumped statewide from 650 in 2007 to about 1,200 today. While that's only a fraction of the 3,400 birds found here in 1999, the rebound rate has shocked the science world. The next breeding season starts in January, and scientists aren't sure what to expect.
"We have a bird that was in dire straits that is now taking advantage of this proliferation of an exotic species that exploded," said Wiley Kitchens, a biologist and bird expert who conducts research for the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Florida.
"We were looking at almost an eminent extinction," Wiley continued. "That's where we were about four years ago - really, really concerned."
The subspecies found here exists only in South Florida and Cuba, although Kitchens and others believe the two populations do not interbreed. Snail kites in Florida are not only endangered, but the birds are also one of three indicator species used to gauge Everglades recovery and restoration. The species may lose that status, however, because the adaptation to the invasive snail means the snail kite may no longer be reflective of South Florida's ecology.
The invasive island apple snail thrives on hydrilla, an invasive plant that's capable of choking small freshwater systems and retention ponds. But as hydrilla and the invasive island apple snail has thrived and expanded their range, so has the snail kite. Hydrilla is an aquatic plant that was introduced to Florida in the 1950s through the aquarium industry. Twenty years later the plant, known for killing off other water plants and even altering water flow and possibly killing fish, had spread throughout the state and is now found as far north as Connecticut and west to California.
Island apple snails in Florida exploded in population after the active 2005 hurricane season, Kitchens said.
"The number of birds began to increase, and it turns out that snail is popping up all over Florida," Kitchens said. "Wherever we see a breakout, the birds flock in. It's a monumental turn-around ecologically. For the first time in a decade, we've seen the nesting back up to the levels when the population was around 3,400 birds."
Zach Welch, snail kite coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said hydrilla and the island apple snails are found mostly in altered systems such as Harns Marsh, a 578-acre man-made filter system designed to retain and clean storm-water runoff.
"They do well in altered areas," Welch said of the invasive apple snail, which is much larger than native species. "But it's not good news for our snails. We haven't fixed the problems."
Snail kites have evolved in Florida along with native snails, which are in decline due to drainage projects and polluted water sources.
While some invasive species can displace, even eat native animals, the island apple snail, which is particularly hardy, hasn't done a lot of damage, yet.
"So far we don't see any negative impacts ... It's good because if we did have to eliminate them, we'd have no idea how to do it," Welch said.
Kitchens said scientists aren't sure how the invasive snail and the endangered kite will fare.
"There's a lot of uncertainty there," Kitchens said of the future of the snail kite and its relatively new food source. "And that uncertainty in compounded because the last thing ecologists want to promote is the expansion of an exotic species."


Florida Senate Panel capproves $160 million plan to fix water woes
WGCU – by Ashley Lopez
November 6, 2013
A Senate panel tasked with fixing some of Florida’s long-term water quality problems passed its first draft of recommendations on Tuesday.
The Florida Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and the Lake Okeechobee Basin’s plan for the upcoming legislative session sets aside $160 million for restoration and construction projects that would divert less water east and west of the lake.
Among the recommendations is a request to take the management of water releases away from the Army Corps of Engineers.
State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Palm City, is the chair of the panel. He said the Corps released too much water during this past rainy season, which devastated area waterways.
“In my view their stewardship of Lake Okeechobee and those discharges over the past decades, is an abject failure,” he said.
However, Army Corps officials have said too much pressure on the aging Herbert Hoover dike has been their biggest concern because it poses a public safety issue.
The Senate panel’s recommendations also include funding for reservoirs to store water from the lake.  State Sen. Lisbeth Benaquisto, R- Fort Myers, recommended the state allocate $15 million for a reservoir along the Caloosahatchee, now that Congress is close to setting aside its part of the money for it.
The plan also provides $90 million for the second phase of the Tamiami Trail bridging project, which should allow more water to flow south into the Everglades.
Florida Senate's Lake Okeechobee plan tops $220 million    WPTV


Is there a way to stop Floridan Aquifer depletion ? – by Kathryn Allaben
November 6, 2013
As Florida’s No. 1 source of water continues to be depleted because of overuse, recently proposed legislation may offer permanent solutions to Florida’s water needs.
The Floridan Aquifer System Sustainability Act of 2013, which was proposed by White Springs Mayor Helen B. Miller and 27 other North Florida representatives, would build on past efforts to address water sources on a system-wide basis, and bring permanent solutions to Florida’s water sustainability needs.
The Santa Fe River, for example, used to have higher water levels.
“That’s influenced by the aquifer,” said Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, president of Our Santa Fe River, a nonprofit organization working to protect the river and the aquifer that feeds it.
The Floridan aquifer, a water system beneath the southern coastal regions of the U.S., is one of the world’s most productive, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
“It’s limestone, and then on top of it, we have some sands, silts and clays,” said Elizabeth Screaton, a geology professor at the University of Florida.
But because of growing consumption, the aquifer level is declining.
About 103 gallons of water are consumed daily by Florida residents, and more than 60 percent of this water is taken directly from aquifers, according to the Florida’s Springs website.
The Floridan aquifer is the biggest source of water that we use for most counties in Central and North Florida, Screaton said.
Water consumption from every sector has grown from 300 million gallons of water a day in 1960, to 800 million gallons of water a day in 2010.  Tentative information shows this region is at or near capacity to tap the aquifer, according to Mark Hammond, director of the Southwest Florida Water Management Division.
Annmarie Brennan, a resident of Gilchrist County who lives on the Santa Fe River, said rain has a great impact on the river’s water level.
“We’ve been in seasons where it doesn’t rain for a few months and the water gets very low and clear,” Brennan said.
Aquifer depletion is also caused by increased pumping for cities and towns.
The biggest consumer of water is landscape irrigation, Malwitz-Jipson said.
An estimated 900 million gallons of water are withdrawn from the aquifer daily for the sole purpose of watering residential lawns, according to the Florida’s Springs website.
“If you were just using water for your personal use to shower and to do your dishes, we wouldn’t be seeing this problem,” Malwitz-Jipson said.
Monitor wells have been placed across Florida to watch the aquifer’s level.  One of the older and most efficient wells is in Gainesville – in the basement of UF’s Turlington Hall, the main administrative offices for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
“We’re really watching that one closely,” Malwitz-Jipson said.
Places like Poe Springs in Alachua County are no longer efficient.
“Poe Springs used to flow a lot better,” Malwitz-Jipson said. “The locals say that the depleted aquifer is why it’s this way.”
Brennan is concerned about the future of Florida’s water.
“I do worry about it,” Brennan said. “My husband and I worry about the well going dry.”


Rick Scott’s Everglades Plan ready to roll
Sunshine State News - by: Nancy Smith
November 6, 2013
A 15-billion-gallon water-treatment project designed to deliver clean water to the Everglades won approval from the state Wednesday.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection granted a permit to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) that allows the agency, which is responsible for Everglades restoration, to build the L-8 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB) south of Lake Okeechobee.
According to DEP, the project will act as a reservoir able to hold stormwater instead of releasing it to tide. Florida experienced one of the wettest years ever this year, causing a multitude of problems for the coastal St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries as well as flooding the water conservation areas near Everglades National Park, which drowned wildlife.
The 53-foot-deep reservoir, located in Palm Beach County, will offer water managers a place to hold 45,000 acre-feet of water -- 22,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools -- before treating it and sending it south to the Everglades.
The L-8 structure is part of Gov. Rick Scott’s settlement with the Obama administration that became the Everglades Restoration Strategies plan passed by the Florida Legislature in March. Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, and Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, sponsored the landmark bill. Caldwell called the bill "the last act" to finish restoring the Everglades and successfully shepherded the legislation to unanimous approval in the House. The $880 million plan -- funded by a legislative state appropriation, a tax on SFWMD residents and a tax on Everglades Agricultural Area farmers – is an extension and update of the initial 1994 Everglades Forever Act. 
Announcing the step forward in restoration, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard said, "The department and the South Florida Water Management District continue to move forward with Everglades restoration projects with the support of Gov. Scott. This project will allow for additional water storage and cleaner water moving south, which will ensure the proper nourishment of the River of Grass."
Construction of the L-8’s features are set to begin this month and to be completed in April 2015. The water agency’s new top executive, Blake Guillory, called construction of the L-8 a “milestone” in improving water to the Everglades. 
The construction permit broke through a stagnant Everglades restoration process mired in political and legal wrangling for years. 
“The district is committed to delivering this project on schedule in order to realize as soon as possible the important environmental benefits it will provide,” Guillory assured.
The Restoration Strategies plan will expand the capacity of stormwater treatment areas (STAs), which are man-made filter marshes that remove phosphorus from the water, adding 6,500 acres of treatment to the current 57,000 acres.  
It will also increase the water storage capabilities south of Lake Okeechobee by 110,000 acre-feet.  As part of the storage features, Scott’s plan will breathe new life into a stalled reservoir that was under construction, then put on the shelf by former Gov. Charlie Crist, wasting roughly $300 million in bills already paid and in penalties for breaking the construction contract.
Construction of the entire Restoration Strategies plan is estimated to run to 2024.


Short-term estuary restoration projects win Senate committee's OK
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
November 6, 2013
$65 million. That’s the price tag for short-term fixes for Florida’s coastal estuaries unanimously approved by a Senate select committee Tuesday.
The Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin approved a final report of near-term and long-term suggested actions worth $220 million during the final of three hearings, which began Aug. 22 in Stuart, the home of both the St. Lucie Estuary and Chairman Joe Negron
“These recommendations are going to be our guiding force behind our legislative efforts going forward,” the Stuart Republican told the committee.
The short-term recommendations varied in terms of geography and function, including:
• $5 million for the 44-mile Kissimmee River restoration project. 
• $5 million for the C-111 spreader canal project. 
• $4 million for water monitoring.
• $3 million for water storage on public and private lands. 
• $3 million for FDACS' agricultural Best Management Practices north of Lake Okeechobee.
• Support of $2.7 million in funding authority to aid water movement from the water conservation areas to Everglades National Park.
• $2 million to the Picayune Strand project. 
• $1 million for pilot programs to restore oyster populations and seagrass.
• Evaluating holding more water in Lake Kissimmee and Lake Okeechobee for longer periods.
• Establishing an advisory group to evaluate technology to reduce nutrients and increase salinity when needed.
• Analysis of how to reduce urban pollution from septic systems. 
Three additional short-term suggestions were added to the 12 initial ideas, including $15 million for construction of a C-43 reservoir in the Caloosahatchee basin on the west side of Lake Okeechobee, championed by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers; more than $2 million for Lake Worth Lagoon restoration; and $20 million to remove muck from the northern and central Indian River Lagoon.
The proponent of the last amendment, Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, told the committee, “Three inches of muck can do as much damage as 3 feet of muck.”
Captain Don Voss, who had traveled from Fort Pierce to Washington, D.C., to advocate for the St. Lucie over the summer, urged lawmakers in Tallahassee Tuesday to find ways to fix water problems at their origin, north of Lake Okeechobee. “We’re looking for more storage north because fixing the faucet is better than fixing the drain.”
The Nature Conservancy’s Janet Bowman echoed his appeal, saying, “We’re very pleased that you’ve addressed storage north of the lake and opened the door to addressing that issue.” Bowman also called for using some of the money to create permanent conservation easements north of the lake for long-term storage.
Ernie Barnett, the South Florida Water Management District’s assistant executive director of Everglades and water resources, said the main solution to reduce nutrients flowing from the northern basin into Lake Okeechobee is finishing the Kissimmee River restoration.
Negron tried to resuscitate Charlie Crist’s flowway idea south of the lake that would take agricultural land out of production for water conveyance, even though that plan (known as Plan 6) had been summarily dismissed in the committee's draft report as a thrice-studied and rejected idea.
The Stuart Republican offered amendments to the final report that called for more studies and funding from the federal government. Other committee members, including Sen. Alan Hayes, R-Umatilla, worried about creating unintended consequences by flowing more water south to Florida Bay. In response, Barnett warned lawmakers they cannot move additional water south into the Everglades until the state achieves federal court-mandated water-quality nutrient levels and said they must meet a regulatory requirement in order not to harm Florida Bay. But, the Everglades Restoration Strategies plan approved by the Legislature earlier this year will provide the projects needed south of the lake.
The feds were also in the committee’s crosshairs in terms of the disparity in dollars contributed to the 50-50 cost share between the state and federal governments. The committee contended the feds are more than $1.5 billion behind the state’s Everglades funding.  
Since the state is left footing an ever-increasing bill for restoration, senators were cognizant that they must protect the environment while also safeguarding taxpayers.
Sen. Maria Sachs, a South Florida Democrat, said of the final recommendations, “We are stewards of the taxpayers’ money but equally as important we are stewards of our resources in this great state."
After the meeting, Negron told Sunshine State News he is utterly committed to two highlights in the committee report: redirecting lake discharges and getting control of release decisions out of Washington and back to Florida.


Urban sprawl is on the way for south Lake
Orlando Sentinel - Commentary by Lauren Ritchie
November 8, 2013
Developers who want to make their fortune by plopping a city twice the size of Leesburg onto 16,200 acres in south Lake were going through the motions of "planning" at this time last year, just to make it look like everybody is behind this marvelous idea.
Led by Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, the group sold its plan in a clever way. This was to be an "employment center" whose purpose was to attract industry and jobs focused on fitness, health and wellness. Of course, a few houses have to be included because we don't want people who live in Clermont to have to drive 10 minutes to get to work.
The true motive was revealed when the plan went to commissioners recently: It's just another way to build homes for 44,000 new residents while getting the people who live here today to pay the cost.
There's an innovative economic strategy that worked so well for Lake during this last decade, didn't it? Thank heavens Parks and his friends are determined to repeat history.
Now comes the sting.
While Parks is playing the do-boy for developers and huge landowners, he's also helping to sponsor a "water summit" because he's supposedly concerned about the dwindling supply and finding alternative sources.
Is it possible that the commissioner thinks his constituents are such dimwits that they can't see he's working at cross purposes ? It's hard to say because Parks didn't answer a request to explain his contradictory efforts.
The summit — a waste of time just like all the others before it — is set for Nov. 21 at the Clermont Community Center. It's sponsored by the South Lake Chamber of Commerce and is billed as a chance for the average citizen to understand why lakes are so low in the south part of the county and to learn about the complex hydrology of the area.
Honestly, this is pretty simple: the more development in Florida, the less water. Less to drink. Less in the lakes and wetlands. Less to buffer dry times.
If you're really concerned about having enough water for people who live here today, you don't — you can't — support massive development without looking like a hypocrite. You certainly can't expect residents to watch with straight faces.
But Parks and south Lake's big landowners have warned that Lake must plan or be overwhelmed by massive growth from Horizon West, which backs up to the Lake border. (It, too, was supposed to be an "employment center" with 40,000 homes when its development was heralded 16 years ago. Today, it's the definition of urban sprawl with commuters from 5,500 homes stranded far from work or play.)
While warning that planning is critical, Parks also has tried to soften the effect a document like the Wellness Way Sector Plan might have by pointing out that it would be 30 years in the build-out — nobody has to worry about overwhelming development today.
"Right. That's why their $500-an-hour attorney is at these meetings," scoffed Peggy Cox, a member of the Lake County Water Authority and co-president of the Alliance to Protect Water Resources. "They're worried about growth 30 years from now."
Cox is right to be skeptical — a new wave of sprawl is in the making right now.
Here's your first clue:
In July, some unknown number of investors formed a company called the Orange/Lake Parkway Partners, LLC. None of the principles were listed with the state Secretary of State's office, but the company's address is shared with Boyd Development Company on Sand Lake Road in Orlando. Owner and President Scott Boyd didn't return a telephone call.
Boyd has 640 acres in the Horizon West project where it's trying to sell homes by telling buyers that the community "undulates along a 1¾-mile stretch of the Western Beltway." Yeah, that's where I want to live — cozied up to a stinking, noisy highway. Time for a new marketing firm.
Last month, the Parkway Partners applied for $26.5 million from the state Department of Transportation to build a $39 million road in Lake to be called Wellness Way. The proposed road, an east-west corridor about four miles long, is key to opening south Lake to the urban sprawl so carefully laid out for rural property by the Wellness Way Sector Plan. The state has just begun considering the request.
Here's the scary part — the Parkway Partners have gone rogue. They didn't bother even to check with county government about whether Lake wants this new four-lane toll road, let alone get approval. The plan to build Wellness Way didn't go through the Lake-Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization either, which helps determine what roads are needed in the community.
Nope, this just a bunch of guys who ruined their own county now want a new place to destroy. It's just grab-and-go. That's what it's come to.
Worst of all, a county commissioner charged with representing the people who live here right now is oh-so-anxious to help these out-of-town developers parachute into Lake, build their road and dump their sprawl on south Lake before leaving town. This is completely out of line. Parks needs to back off or else resign his public office to go work for those to whom his allegiance now is so clear.


Florida Senate’s Lake O Plan Tops $220 Million - by Randall
November 5, 2013
From The News Service of Florida:
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, November 5, 2013 A $220 million package to reduce pollutants out of Lake Okeechobee, while also offering general support for the eventual redirection of water to flow south through the Everglades, was backed by=20 a Senate select committee on Tuesday.
The Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin added $30 million worth of projects on Tuesday to its initial short and long-term recommendations released last week. The committee was created because of the impact of polluted water being released from the lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers on the east and west coasts of the state.
The additions Tuesday increased the price tag of the C-43 reservoir project along the Caloosahatchee River basin from $5 million to $15 million, and designated $20 million for “scientifically-based” environmental muck removal in central and northern regions of the Indian River Lagoon in the Treasure and Space coasts.
“This is very, very important, but I want us to be cognizant that expenditures are going on solid science,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.
The total for the next budget year from the plan is $160 million.
“We’re stewards of the taxpayers’ money, but equally as important we are stewards of our resources of this great state,” said Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach.
The fiscal package and other recommendations must still get support from the Legislature during the 2014 session as well as from Gov. Rick Scott, who has a couple of items among the recommendations, including $90 million that would be spread over three years to bridge a 2.6-mile section of the Tamiami Trail west of Miami.
Other provisions include; $40 million to speed construction of the state’s portion of a C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area for the Indian River Lagoon-South Restoration Project; $32 million for projects tied to ensuring that all surface water discharges into the Everglades Protection Area meet water quality standards; and a request for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to give the Department of Environmental Protection authority to regulate releases when the risk of dike failure is less than 10 percent.
Committee Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, has long criticized the Army Corps management of the dike system around Lake Okeechobee, particularly the releases.
The Army Corps tries to maintain the water level of the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet to lessen stress on the Herbert Hoover Dike. The Army Corps, which has declined to comment on the recommendations, estimates that when the lake is slightly above 18.5 feet, the risk of failure is considered at 45 percent.
The report notes that when the water level is low, the Army Corps generally defers on water release decisions to the South Florida Water Management District.
Negron, who also chairs the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee that oversees the budget, said each funding request will require an offset in the budget.
“I would expect that in order to fund these new initiatives, including lots of other initiatives that legislators will have, that we’ll have to go into the base of the budget and make reductions,” said Negron, who called the package his top priority for the 2014 session.
Where those cuts come from, Negron said, has yet to be determined.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida, complimented Negron for being able to quickly cobble together the fiscal package.
Janet Bowman of The Nature Conservancy supported the recommendations for expanding storage of water north of the lake and addressing the use of agricultural and public lands in the northern Everglades area for storage.
“In all my years in working, lobbying and working for the Legislature this is one of the most thoughtful processes I’ve seen,” Bowman added.
The report recommends increasing the funding for the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs that link the lake with the estuaries; cleaning water that comes into the lake from the Kissimmee River; evaluating means to reduce nutrients from septic tanks; and raising the allowed water levels in canals by a few inches.
Among the additions on Tuesday was a general call to support projects that would eventually shift releases of water to the south through the Everglades.
The proposal to move water through the Everglades, estimated at more than $1 billion and requiring a massive federal partnership, has been rejected three times, in 1994, 1999 and 2009. In 2009, the South Florida Water Management District concluded the proposal was not the most cost-effective or viable way to increase flows south due to the changing landscape of South Florida that would require an extensive network of pumps to recreate the historic sheet flow.
“The report makes clear we support moving water going south, support any plan, project or technology that will move water south,” Negron said.
In September, the committee approved $2.77 million to improve pump stations, reducing the flow of polluted waters that have negatively affected the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The money will also go to a build a channel to aid the flow of water from the Florida Everglades across the barrier of the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County.


Killing invasive lionfish isn't the solution - by Kathryn Taubert
November 4, 2013
Let's just throw out all incumbents and start over, say those who think merely replacing currently elected officials will fix our dysfunctional Congress.
Any "systems" expert will tell you it won't work. Until you fix the overall system that encourages the problem (term limits, political action committee and campaign finance reforms, lack of voter participation, etc.), nothing will change long-term.
Systems theory underlies the principles of organization for biology, political science, physics, technology, sociology, management, economics, global ecosystems and more.
Simplistically, it means the head bone is connected to the neck bone (and vice versa). In physiology, heart problems affect the kidneys. In business, marketing affects production. In ecology, environmental changes affect plant and animal health, and so on.
Mother Nature had millions of years to evolve the balanced systems required to allow us and other species to evolve and thrive.
Examples of Man's "messing with Mother Nature" are legion. Introducing a different animal to control another one results in the former running rampant due to lack of local predators. Humans have devastated countless local ecological systems and economies through ignorance, accident or short-term thinking.
A few Indo-Pacific lionfish released into American waters, probably by an aquarist, resulted in what scientists now say could become the most disastrous ecological event in history, devastating coral reef ecosystems throughout the Americas.
NOAA researchers say that lionfish reach sexual maturity within two years and produce up to 30,000 eggs every 3 or 4 days, probably year-round. They've been found as deep as 800 feet, live anywhere with a surface against which they can trap prey, have poisonous spines which can cause severe allergic reactions, and eat just about anything they can put in their mouths.
Experts agree that lionfish populations are now established here and throughout the Caribbean, and cannot be eliminated using conventional methods. As they continue to spread, they have a devastating effect on coral reefs already stressed by pollution, disease, climate change, overfishing, and other stressors.
Coral reefs make up less than 1% of the world's surface, but their commercial value to U.S. fisheries is over $100 million. Local economies get billions of dollars from visitors through SCUBA tours, fishing trips, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems.
More than 4 million tourists contributed $1.2 billion annually in the '90's to tourism in the Florida Keys alone, the number one dive destination in the world.
In January 2010 the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) attempted to develop a strategy for the prevention, control, and management of lionfish. Participants agreed that it is unlikely that the lionfish invasion can be reversed. "Due to their extensive geographical range and diversity of habitats and depths they occupy, any major attempts to eradicate existing lionfish populations would be impractical and doomed to failure."
It's no wonder there is panic and desperation within the SCUBA diving and tourism industry over the lionfish invasion throughout the USA and Caribbean.
The person who released those lionfish into American waters certainly didn't anticipate the disastrous results. But continued ignorance is no excuse.
While everyone agrees the invasion is a disaster, there is no consensus about how to manage it. Recommendations include helping predators of lionfish recover from depleted numbers due to overfishing; killing easily spotted lionfish, encouraging people to eat them, and implementing biological control measures.
One ICRI participant feels eradication is not a workable solution and thinks it best to anticipate the future of Caribbean reefs with established populations of lionfishes.
Another was skeptical that manual removal of lionfishes will accomplish anything other than a highly localized effect at few sites.
In Palau, where lionfish are native, locations with high numbers of large and medium-sized groupers had low numbers of lionfish. Large groupers, sharks and others prey on lionfish eggs, larvae and juveniles. However, US and Caribbean commercial operators seem to be doing little to actively promote these species recovery. More than 25 percent of grouper species are being fished to extinction, yet they're still on the menu.
Many SCUBA operations spear lionfish to feed to groupers and sharks to "teach" them to eat. There is, however, no evidence of native predators learning to eat fish by being "taught" by divers. (Judging by what's already been found in their stomachs, it's obvious that after 450 million years of evolution, sharks don't need to be taught to eat anything.)
Spearing and feeding lionfish to these predators is dangerous and counterproductive, encouraging aggressive behavior towards humans.
I saw evidence of this on dive trips where spearing lionfish is routine. Sharks "followed" divers. On one occasion, sharks repeatedly approached several divers in what resembled the precursor to feeding behavior. Another "bumped" a novice diver as her back was turned to the divemaster who was feeding lionfish to sharks. A less confident diver might have shot to the surface out of fear in an uncontrolled and potential deadly ascent.
Killing lionfishes that are easily spotted may result in short-term relief to reefs in highly localized areas. Lionfish "Derbies" are springing up here and there with rewards for the most lionfish killed. Some local reefs are showing improvement but researchers agree it is a short-term solution. No one believes killing lionfish is solving the overall problem.
With lionfish numbers estimated at 1,000 per acre and spawning 2 million eggs per year or so per female, large-scale removal efforts are not feasible with current technology.
Local efforts to kill lionfish resemble those with invasive pythons in the Everglades. Of the tens of thousands of pythons now estimated, only 68 were killed by the 1600 participants in the 2013 Florida Fish and Wildlife "Python Challenge." With female pythons producing up to 400 eggs a year, humans won't eradicate them as was naively hoped.
At best, spearing lionfish is a highly localized, short-term solution designed to help people feel as though they are being proactive, "building partnerships" and "enhancing public perceptions of management efforts," according to one participant in the ICRI conference.
Culling requires sustained effort with results noted by observers counting the number of lionfish present after such efforts, an imprecise method at best. While some localized successes have been recorded (as predicted), the lionfish aren't gone, they're just not present at the moment. They'll be back.
One study reported in the Journal of Biological Invasions suggests that 27% of the adult lionfish would have to be removed every month for abundance to decrease.
Florida's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park covers more than 75 nautical square miles, or more than 63 thousand acres.With estimates of 1000 lionfish per acre, removing 27% each year would require killing more than 17 million lionfish per month to make even a short-term impact in that one park alone. (Those numbers blew even me away. I verified them with others just to be sure.)
Individual SCUBA divers with spear guns aren't going to cut it.
Encouraging human consumption of lionfish isn't a good idea either. The Food and Drug Administration now frowns on the "Eat Lionfish" campaign after tests of nearly 200 lionfish show that more than a quarter exceed federal levels for a toxin that can cause ciguatera, a potentially dangerous fish food poisoning that affects 50,000 people a year (with estimates as much as 100 times that).
The FDA's lead ciguatera researcher, Alison Robertson, said "It certainly wouldn't be our recommendation (to eat them) at this time."
Statements that ciguatera in lionfish is baseless are refuted by the FDA analysis reported in the Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Red Lionfish and Ciguatoxin," Volume 60, Issue 1, July, 2012).
Biological control methods won't work because there aren't any (yet)!
Frankly, there isn't much with current technology can do. Nature will eventually find a solution, but her timetable is far different than ours. It's unlikely to happen tomorrow, next month, decade or perhaps for many, many generations. We simply don't know.
I've been criticized for refusing to get on any dive boat where lionfish (or anything else for that matter) are purposely speared while I'm SCUBA diving. I don't want to be in the water with anybody and a "gun," especially when they're untrained and unlicensed to capture lionfish as many areas now require before hunting them.
I do not enjoy watching things being killed anyway, especially when I know it's satisfying merely a short-term lust for action without corresponding long-term efforts toward real solutions.
I will continue to stick to my own figurative guns because, quite frankly, spearing lionfish in the presence of recreational divers is not only pointless, but potentially dangerous.
"Lion hunters" need to focus more on encouraging the restocking and maintenance of natural predators of lionfish, encouraging good environmental practices and learning safe methods of capture and humane removal to be done outside the presence of recreational divers, swimmers and snorkelers.
Killing lionfish is only part of the "system." It will not work by itself any more than merely firing current Congressional incumbents will fix what's wrong with our government.
It might make people feel better, but it's not solving the issues of pollution, disease, overfishing, climate change and others that helped create the problem, including the 60,000 lionfish still being imported to the USA every year by the aquarium trade.
And as one Caribbean Islander said, "every time someone flushes a toilet here it does more damage than a lionfish."
Killing lionfish without addressing these issues is just another example of Man's short-term focus wreaking long-term havoc.
Optimistically, humans won't destroy the planet. But we seem to be working very hard to destroy our ability to live on it.
If there's a common denominator in ecological disasters, it's us.
What are we doing to fix that ?

What America will look like in 2050—human flood (Part 1)
KGABam650 –by Dave Chaffin
November 4, 2013
Does anyone in the United States understand or comprehend what America will look like in 2050 “IF” we continue endless immigration into our country?
tug-of-war -enough!
Does any leader possess an inkling of the ramifications of adding the projected 100 million immigrants, their kids and chain-migrated relatives?
That’s correct, at the current rate of immigration legalized by the 1986 Reagan amnesty, we continue on course to add 100 million immigrants from all over the world.  They arrive legally at 1.0 million annually.  They birth 900,000 babies among their numbers annually. (Source: Dr. Steven Camorata,  With chain migration, that means each “new” American may invite 10 of his or her relatives to join them with “family-reunification.” If the current S744 amnesty bill passes, your US Congress jumped that 1.0 million to 2.0 million legal immigrants annually.
Do the math!  Any way you cut it, that means America will experience an avalanche, a human tsunami, or simply the biggest wave of humanity ever to hit our country or any country, ever.  We will grow from our current 316 million to well over 438 million people within 37 years.  The extra 38 million will come from our own “population momentum.”  These figures stem from our country reaching 300 million in October of 2007.  We grow by 3.1 million annually.
What’s it going to look like?  Answer: it will become ugly on multiple levels—environmentally, sociologically, linguistically, culturally, quality of life and downgraded standard of living—for starters. Parts 1 through 5 will cover what we face.
First of all, 100 million immigrants will equal our adding 20 of our most populated cities.  Think of it: we will add another New York City, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and eight other American cities.
We face watering 100 million more people, housing them, transporting them, warming them, feeding them and finding jobs for them.
Today in 2013, seven states face shortages: Georgia, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.  But Georgia will grow from 8.2 million to 16.4 million.  Florida expects to grow from 18 million to 36 million.  For the whopper fact of all, California expects to jump from 38 million to 58 million.
Our cities face resembling present-day Mumbai, India; or Tokyo, Japan; or Paris, France; or Shanghai, China—bursting at the seams with 50 to100 mile traffic jams, people smooched into 200 square foot apartments rising out of the ground like mindless stalagmites.
Our rivers will run with endless chemicals from industrial, farm, human and acid rain pollution.  Our National Parks will become so crowded that you will be forced to draw a lottery number in order to visit them.
Every last bit of arable land and wilderness will be destroyed by what scientists call “ecological footprint.”  In Ethiopia, it takes .4 (4/10ths) of an acre of land to feed, water and house a person. In the USA, it takes 25.4 acres of land to support one person.  (
With those 100 million immigrants, we must destroy 2.54 BILLION acres of land.  That, in turn, guarantees accelerating our current 250 species suffering extinction annually in the lower 48 to double that number to 500 annually which will mean 5,000 species a decade suffering extinction at the hands of our encroachment on the natural world.  (Source: Department of Interior, U.S.)
As those enormous human numbers impact the carbon footprint and impact the “water footprint”, we face water predicaments that will become unsolvable and irreversible.  We face water wars, water confrontations, water irrigation problems heretofore never imagined.
Our giant aquifers like the Ogallala will dry up leaving us with no irrigation of our corn, wheat and hay fields.
We incorporate a Faustian Bargain in 2013 to reap a Hobson’s Choice in 2050—a scant 37 years from now.
Our quality of life cannot help but degrade into severe limitations as to hunting, fishing, wildlife extermination, energy exhaustion and resource depletion.
Let’s talk about energy:  we hit Peak Oil in 2011. We face the last 50 percent of all oil remaining on the planet.  It takes more energy units to pump it and less energy units out of the ground.  Finally, at some point, we will be left with little oil at staggering prices—but a 438 million population to feed.  Of sobering note, the world will have added 3.1 billion humans to feed, to this nightmare extends beyond our borders.
How about the environment?  Anybody want to guess how much damage our carbon footprint will wreak havoc on our oceans with acidification and warming of the waters?  My guess: we face annual Hurricane Sandy’s and Katrina’s.  More tornadoes will mow humans down at an accelerating rate.
Additionally: I’ve only covered the tip of the iceberg of what we bequeath to our children.
As I sit here with the scientific facts, my own world travels having seen the 12 largest cities on the planet and my own scientific experiences in Antarctica—I am appalled that the American people and our leaders gallop into this added 100 million more immigrants without so much as a shout, whimper or cry.
Our kids will curse our stupidity, arrogance and outright disregard for their futures.  My own two U.S. Senators understand what we face because I spent 45 minutes explaining the facts to their staffs, but they voted to add 2.0 million legal immigrants annually to make our fate arrive even faster than 37 years.
My guess: our leaders resemble intellectual lunatics.  Our people resemble the dumbest sheep on the planet.
Finally, why am I one of the few Americans who “sees” this so clearly?  Why aren’t there tens of millions of Americans who “see” and take it to “60 Minutes” ; “Charlie Rose” ; “Today Show” ; “DateLine” ; “Good Morning America” ;  Scott Pelley, Diane Sawyer, Brian Williams, Wolf Blitzer, Kelly Mygen, Shepard Smith and every other media leader?  Why don’t we demand a national discussion?
If we refuse to act, remain too apathetic to act, or don’t act—the S744 Amnesty Bill will pass and add that 100 million immigrants to this country in a blink of time.  God help our children when they inherit our legacy of 100 million immigrants.
By Frosty Wooldridge~~
Part 2: Cultural disintegration, linguistic chaos

If you would like to make a difference, please join these organizations for the most effective collective action you can take: ; ; ;
Join me, Frosty Wooldridge, with Dave Chaffin, host of the Morning Zone at 650 AM,, Cheyenne, Wyoming every Monday 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., as we discuss my latest commentaries on  about issues facing America. You may stream the show on your computer. You may call in at: 1-888-503-6500
In a five minute astoundingly simple yet brilliant video, “Immigration, Poverty, and Gum Balls”, Roy Beck, director of www.numbersusa.ORG, graphically illustrates the impact of overpopulation.  Take five minutes to see for yourself:
 “Immigration by the numbers—off the chart” by Roy Beck
This 10 minute demonstration shows Americans the results of unending mass immigration on the quality of life and sustainability for future generations: in a few words, “Mind boggling!”
Dave Gardner, President, Citizen-Powered Media ; Producing the Documentary, GROWTH BUSTERS; presents Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity, Join the cause at ; Trailer to his latest movie on overpopulation:

Companies formed to build canal across state - by David Cook, Columnist (History)
November 3, 2013
Talk of constructing a ship canal across Marion County to connect the Gulf of Mexico with the Atlantic Ocean in early 1932 was like exciting music to so many people who were struggling to cope with the worst economic depression of their lives.
R.N. Dosh, editor of the Ocala Evening Star, became even more enthusiastic about the economic benefits of a canal carrying important ships through a shortcut across Florida, making use of the Withlacoochee, Ocklawaha and St Johns rivers. He would emerge as a leader in a continuing fight against impossible odds.
The all-powerful railroads were almost unanimously against this scheme, and they fought the canal idea with everything they had. In the end, their selfish objections fell before the backlash of a deepening depression and a new president intent on putting people back to work by creating jobs.
FL cross canal
US-ACE 1930: Canal map
It is important to remember there was no such thing as an environmental movement in those days. The issue of water would finally dawn on opponents and would become an important element in stopping the forward movement in the mid-1930s, even though their main argument was based on erroneous science.
South Floridians were convinced the underground water supply flowed south in Florida when they were told a deep water ship canal would cut off their water supply. Ignored was the fact the St. Johns River and the Ocklawaha flowed north.
However, it was a potent argument to use on people who had never heard of the aquifer or which way it might flow. Lies can be very potent with ignorant citizens.
Not a new idea
The idea of digging a canal across Florida dated back to Spanish days and was revived from time to time. The Spanish were losing ships to piracy and storms and the treacherous seas around the Keys, but the cost of a canal was beyond them. Later wars brought the canal back to the forefront, like World War I, for example, when German subs were a threat to shipping.
During the 1920s, the canal scheme began gathering steam. The Great Depression actually hit Florida ahead of the national disaster that came in 1929 with the Stock Market crash. So, once again, a Gulf-Atlantic ship canal was on the agenda to help revive the economy.
A National Gulf-Atlantic Ship Canal Commission was formed, with Gen. Charles P. Summerall, former chief of staff of the U.S. Army, as chairman. He later would head up construction of the canal work, with his headquarters at Camp Roosevelt south of Ocala off U.S. 441, where it is joined by Lake Weir Avenue. But all that was yet to come.
Neighbors join the effort
Adjacent counties soon became strong canal advocates. Sumter L. Lowery Jr. of Leesburg wrote articles on the benefits of a canal to Floridians.
“The immediate building of this canal is practicable,” he said.
He took note of an economic survey that showed “the canal is justified in every way.”
The route of the canal was in the hands of the Army Corps of Engineers, he said. The Engineers would select a route beneficial to the users and the public, he argued.
Meanwhile, efforts were underway in 1932 to form a company in Leesburg to acquire right of way and construct a canal complete with terminals, docks and warehousing for merchandise transported on the canal. The new outfit was called the Florida Cross-State Canal Corp.
A prime mover and investor was A.F. Knotts of Yankeetown, a tiny community with visions of becoming a major port. Knott was elected president of the corporation.
Other major investors were J.R. High, Bunnell; H.A. Smith, Center Hill; A.F. Pickard, Lakeland; H.C. Brown, Clermont; C.T. Bickford, Orlando; and Frank D. Bristley, New Smyrna. It is interesting that nobody from Marion County was directly involved at that time.
Actually, the Leesburg group was the second company to be formed. Earlier in 1932, a corporation was organized in Jacksonville with the same purposes as the Leesburg organization. It already had applied for a federal loan of $160 million to get the project started. Obviously, momentum for a canal was growing.
It wouldn't be long before counties would be asked to raise money through property taxes to buy right of way land once the actual route of the canal was designated.
Groups bid for government funds
Initial discussions of a canal involved a ship canal only. That approach was abandoned when the railroads put up such a loud protest the idea was dropped. It would resurface years later when the ship canal approach had to be abandoned.
The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey in 1932. Press reports suggested the survey showed those responding felt a ship canal would more than justify the investment of private money or government money in constructing and operating a canal.
Apparently the results of this survey led to the organization of the Jacksonville corporation and its unusual request, during that particular period, for millions of dollars from the federal government. Knotts and his group did not want to be left out and quickly organized to counter the Jacksonville bid for federal dollars to benefit private business.
There would be a great deal of argument in the halls of government. There was a new president to impress with the urgency to build a canal, as well as some opponents who did not believe the government had a role in overcoming the Depression. Major political battles lay ahead.

Conserving water
Gainesville Sun - Editorial
November 3, 2013
Gainesville Regional Utilities is seeking a 20-year groundwater permit to pump an average of 30 million gallons per day.
Coincidentally, the lower Santa Fe River requires the restoration of about 30 million gallons per day in flow, primarily from springs feeding the waterway, to prevent significant environmental harm. That's at least what the the Suwannee River Water Management District determined; others such as Robert Knight of the Florida Springs Institute believe the situation is more dire.
GRU's water withdrawals are not solely responsible for the decline in flow from those springs. But it's hard to accept the utility's assertion that its pumping has no adverse effect on the springs and river, so it shouldn't be required to help restore them.
Of course, GRU is doing all the pumping so that area residents have water to drink, clean and water their lawns. We're all responsible for the wasteful water use that chokes springs that are the jewels of this region.
GRU's permit application, submitted last month, increases the amount actually used by the utility but holds the line on permitted withdrawals despite population growth. The utility should get credit for a decline in residential per-capita water usage from 101 gallons per day in 2001 to 90 in 2009 to a projected 76 in the permit.
Some of the decline is linked to an increase in apartments and condominiums, but GRU has also done public education efforts and implemented a water price structure that encourage conservation. As Gainesville grows, even more must be done.
Outdoor water use typically accounts for as much as half of water used by Florida households. New development should be required to plant native species and other landscaping that doesn't need frequent watering.
GRU has increased the use of reclaimed water for new development, but not existing homes. If the area is going to reduce its total water use, programs must be expanded to retrofit toilets, install soil moisture sensors and take other steps to help current residents conserve.
First, the public must recognize such efforts are worth the cost. It's going to be a tougher sell in the wake of electric rate increases related to the biomass power plant, but local residents have shown that they put a premium on protecting area springs.
There's evidence that the problem has reached a critical point. Two Santa Fe springs, Poe and Hornsby, had little to no flow last year during dry weather.
One issue is that those springs lie in the Suwannee River Water Management District, while GRU is seeking its groundwater permit from the neighboring St. Johns district. GRU should still respect the Suwannee district's regulatory efforts to protect those springs.
GRU takes a lot of criticism, some of it justified. But at the end of the day, the publicly owned utility's direction is determined by city commissioners elected by residents.
If the public really is interested in protecting area springs, it should push for more to be done to conserve water than GRU has outlined it its permit application.
It's a matter of choosing whether it's more important to protect green lawns that can be found anywhere or the crystal-clear springs that help make this region special.


Manatees provide warning about poisonous environment - by Ron Cunningham, Special to The Sun
November 3, 2013
They've been mistaken for mermaids, but, really, they are canaries.
The ancient mariners who thought manatees the half-fish, half-women creatures of legend were possessed of prodigious imaginations and, apparently, poor eyesight.
But it doesn't take much imagination or 20-20 vision to liken the clumsy sea cows to the tiny avians once deployed as early warning systems to detect lethal gas buildup in coal mines. Indeed, the evidence of that kinship is right before our eyes.
In his book "Manatee Insanity: Inside the war over Florida's most famous endangered species," Craig Pittman notes that the aquatic mammals tend to be a durable species, perhaps because they "have no natural enemies but man."
But that may be one natural enemy too many.
"Although they are vulnerable they are remarkably tough enemies able to absorb exceptional pain and injury and still keep going," Pittman wrote. "But there are limits to how much punishment they can absorb ..."
At one time, the biggest threat to manatees were the propeller blades of speeding pleasure boats. And even today it is the rare sea cow that doesn't bear the scars of an whirling encounter of the cutting sort.
But these days, the more insidious threat is the very water that surrounds them.
At least encounters with boats are a hit-and-miss affair. Nitrogen and phosphate-fed algae blooms and red tides are increasingly creating an all-encompassing poisonous environment that manatees simply cannot escape.
"Sadly, 2013 will mark a new mortality record for the Florida manatee," Dr. Katie Tripp, director of the Save the Manatee Club, said in a recently posted video.
Indeed, the year isn't even over yet, and already a record 769 dead manatee have been tallied ... nearly twice as many deaths as were recorded last year.
"That constitutes Florida's largest annual manatee die-off since record-keeping began, with two more months left to go," USA Today reported this week.
What's killing so many manatees ? You might as well ask what killed those canaries.
A "toxic red-tide bloom" in the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area is known to have killed 276 manatees, USA Today reported. And a "still-unexplained Indian River Lagoon die-off" accounted for another 100 manatee deaths that "appear to be triggered by ‘an acute intestinal event' caused by feeding changes, bacteria or virus."
Put simply, we are poisoning the manatees' very life support system. And there's nothing unexplained about it: Agricultural wastes, lawn fertilizer and pesticide runoff, septic tank leakage, sewage discharges and storm-water runoff laced with all manner of toxics are contaminating Florida's springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries.
And chronic over-pumping of the Floridan aquifer is killing our springs and shutting off a source of fresh water that might otherwise help dilute the toxic effect of urban and agricultural runoff.
And while Florida's politicians successfully fought off federal efforts to impose more stringent water quality standards ­— deeming them bad for business — precious little is being done at the state level to stem this noxious tide.
Certainly nothing that would inconvenience homeowners on a quest for the perfectly green lawn, or oblige farmers to be a little more conservative in their use of water, pesticide and fertilizer.
Whether manatees can continue to exist in an increasingly alien aquatic environment almost begs the larger question: What, or who, can ?
It is the height of naivety to assume that the same pollutants that are killing manatees are not also having an adverse impact on public health ... not to mention on a fragile state economy that banks on its water resources to support a multi-billion dollar tourism industry.
"What we put into our water, how much we pump from our aquifer and draw from our springs and rivers ... all has an impact on our own lives and the lives of every aquatic species," warns the Save The Manatee Club. "We must demand better stewardship of our waters and waterways or suffer even more severe impacts going forward."
Will manatees eventually fade into legend, like mermaids? That depends on whether we recognize them as the canaries in a coal mine they are and act accordingly.


Senate panel to review $190M in projects for anti-pollution projects
Naples Daily News - by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
November 3, 2013
TALLAHASSEE — A Senate committee will be asked Tuesday to support $190 million for projects intended to help reduce pollution going into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries from Lake Okeechobee.
A 23-page draft report, which is slated to go before the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, adds six long-term fixes to a list of short-term fixes first recommended in August by Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
“This draft report represents a significant first step toward improving water management across the entire South Florida region,” Negron wrote in a letter to committee members that accompanied the report.
The report recommends support for the state Department of Environmental Protection to receive some authority over the water releases from Lake Okeechobee, proposes increasing the funding for the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs that link the lake with the estuaries, and proposes backing the $90 million that Gov. Rick Scott has sought to bridge a 2.6 mile section of the Tamiami Trail.
The Tamiami Trail bridge money would be spread over three years from the budget of the state Department of Transportation.
The recommendations follow a list of short-term proposals released in August that came at a time when residents on both coasts fought against then-ongoing releases of water from Lake Okeechobee into the estuaries by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Among the short-term proposals: cleaning water that comes into the lake from the Kissimmee River; reducing nutrients from septic tanks; and raising the allowed water levels in canals by a few inches.
In September, the committee approved $2.77 million to improve pump stations, reducing the flow of polluted waters that have negatively affected the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The money will also go to a build a channel to aid the flow of water from the Florida Everglades across the barrier of the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County.
Groups such as the Everglades Foundation have called the Tamiami Trail “one of the most prominent dams” blocking the natural flow of the River of Grass from the lake to the southern Everglades.
The committee’s latest recommendations drew praise from Judy Sanchez, the director of corporate communications for U.S. Sugar Corp., as offering a “thorough and timely analysis.”
The report also outlines the history of efforts since 1882 to control and redirect South Florida’s inland waters and repeats the state’s criticism of the management of the Herbert Hoover Dike System by the Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District.
John Campbell, public-affairs specialist for the Army Corps Jacksonville Division, said in an email Friday that it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on a draft the agency had received earlier in the day.
However, he added that the Army Corps remains committed to completing repairs to the dike around Lake Okeechobee. The work includes replacing or removing 32 water control structures around the lake.
“These structures or ‘culverts’ are currently seen as the greatest risk for dike failure due to the loss of material into and around them,” Campbell noted. “Additionally, while we do this work, we are identifying and evaluating the remaining features needed to reduce risk on the remainder of the dike, to ensure we appropriately prioritize our rehabilitation efforts. We will continue to execute our responsibilities as directed by the President and authorized by Congress.”
In all, the report includes about $190 million in short-term and long-term projects, including the Tamiami Trail work. Among the recommendations:
$40 million to speed construction of the state’s portion of a C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area for the Indian River Lagoon-South Restoration Project.
$5 million to support construction of the C-43 basin project to provide water storage in the Caloosahatchee basin. The committee also asked to add the reservoir — of which Florida’s eventual share is estimated at $289 million — into the state’s Long-Range Financial Outlook.
$32 million for projects tied to ensuring that all surface water discharges into the Everglades Protection Area meet water quality standards.
Giving the DEP authority to regulate releases when the risk of dike failure is less than 10 percent.
“The committee concludes that the Corps has not adequately considered the widespread damage done to the estuaries when it releases large amounts of water from Lake Okeechobee,” the report states.
The Army Corps tries to maintain the water level of the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet to lessen stress on the Herbert Hoover Dike. The Army Corps estimates that when the lake is slightly above 18.5 feet, the risk of failure is considered at 45 percent.
The report notes that when the water level is toward the lower end the Army Corps generally defers on water release decisions to the South Florida Water Management District.



Moon jellyfish are invading South Florida waters
TCPalm - by James Wieland, WPTV
November 2, 2013
JUNO BEACH — Moon jellyfish are invading our waters.
Thousands have been reported up and down our area, from inside the Intracoastal Waterway to along our ocean reefs.
The persistent onshore winds are to blame.
They've gotten so bad, ocean lifeguards in training, like Thomas Infante, had to stop their activities this week. "There's been a few days where we've been doing a lot of training in the water that we had to stop because we were just getting stung way too many times and we just had to get out and do something else."
The number of jellyfish can vary each day so check with lifeguards if you're heading into the water.
The sting usually doesn't last long and can be treated with vinegar or hot water.
Moon jellies come to our waters this time of year. Once the wind turns and water gets cooler in the upcoming weeks, they become less numerous.


Project goal is keeping bay clean
News Herald - by Zack McDonald
November 2, 2013
Water district will reimburse city $978,502
PANAMA CITY— Several pollutant separators will be going into the city’s lakes and bayous to introduce cleaner runoff into St. Andrew Bay.
City commissioners pledged $1.087 million forthe development of multisite stormwater facilities in Lakes Caroline, Claire and Poston and Johnson, Massalina and Watson bayous during their most recent meeting.
The project comes as an agreement with the Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) in Florida’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) project to protect and restore water quality and watershed resources throughout St. Andrew Bay. The water management district will reimburse the city up to $978,502.
The 14 pollutant separators to be installed in the waterscollect sediment before discharge into St. Andrew Bay — a couple also capable of controlling the amount of nutrients — performing the same function as stormwater retention ponds but in a smaller, more efficient area.
“We want to make sure we have the right amount of nutrients in the bay and that’s the big concern with doing this,” said Lauren Engel, NWFWMD communications director. “Little amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous are good for it to be healthy, but you don’t want too much, which is why it is good to capture and remove some of those before it is discharged.”
Twelve dual-vortex circular structures will separate sand and sediment from the waters. The vortexes are cylindrical and attach onto wastewater lines, drawing water and sediment in on one side, the sediment settling to the bottom while water alone is pumped out the other side.
The vortexes overall will cut down on the expense of dredging projects, according to city officials.
“The city spends about a million dollars annually on dredging projects caused by sediment washing off roads and settling in bay,” said Mike Kazunas, city engineer. “These dredging projects are typically caused by the sediment that washes off the roads … .”
Without dredging projects or some method to keep it from entering St. Andrew Bay, sediment begins to pool, killing vegetation and causing mud flats as land attempts to reclaim the bay.
To attain the grant, a 10 percent matching fee of $20,000 has been budgeted from the Millville Community Redevelopment Agency.
Two vault separators equipped with nutrient filters will be going into Millville’s Watson Bayou, accounting for about half the project’s funds. The city will be monitoring the nitrogen and phosphorous levels before, during and after installation of the vaults to determine their impact on homeostasis and unwanted nutrients in the bayou.
“It’s a pilot study,” Kaszunas said. “And we’re going to be monitoring the discharge and the cost to maintain those.”


CHALLENGING NUTRIENTS: Transformative Strategies for Reducing Excess Nutrients in Waterways – Press Release
November 1, 2013
AWARD:  $15,000 USD  |  Deadline: 12/01/13  |  Active Solvers: 34  |  POSTED: 11/01/13
Nutrient pollution is one of America’s most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems; finding a solution to this problem is critical to preserving aquatic ecosystems and ensuring drinking water quality. Accordingly, the Seekers are requesting inputs to identify bold and innovative, next-generation ideas leading to a fundamental change in the way we manage or recover nutrients – nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P).  These solutions need not be completely developed.  The Seeker welcomes novel proposals, descriptions of exploratory research, or small-scale pilot projects with great potential for broader impact. A key consideration for this Challenge is to address barriers to implementation of the proposed solutions.
In addition to the guaranteed Awards for this Challenge, top submissions to this Challenge will contribute to important discussions in this field. These discussions are being convened by a partnership of US Federal Agencies and other stakeholders.
TAGS:  Public Good, Environment, Life Sciences, Engineering/Design, Physical Sciences, Chemistry, Clean Tech, Food/Agriculture, Ideation
Source:  InnoCentive              Challenge ID:9933112
These discussions are being convened by a partnership of US Federal Agencies and other stakeholders:
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
U.S. Department of Agriculture
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
U.S. Geological Survey
Tulane University
Everglades Foundation
White House Nutrient Challenge Prize Aimed at Reducing Nutrient Pollution


South Florida
Dry Season
• November – May
• About 18 inches of rain is the average
• May and October are important transition months
• March, April and May are the driest months because water evaporation is highest

October marks dry start to the dry season
SFWMD Press release
November 1, 2013
West Palm Beach, FL — As forecast by meteorologists in recent weeks, the 7.9 million residents in the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) experienced below-average October rainfall to start the annual dry season.
District-wide, 1.39 inches of rain fell across 16 counties from Orlando to the Florida Keys in October, representing 37 percent of average, or a deficit of 2.39 inches. All counties experienced below-average rainfall, making the month the ninth-driest October since 1932 and the fifth-driest since 1983.
“We are still benefiting from the increased water levels following an above-average wet season,” said Susan Sylvester, SFWMD Chief of the Water Control Operations Bureau. “But water managers remain cautious because this is the time of year when water levels can fall rapidly from prolonged below-average rainfall.”
Martin, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties experienced the driest conditions in South Florida:
• It was the third-driest October since 1915 for Martin/St. Lucie.
• It was the driest October since 1939 for eastern Palm Beach.
• Deficits reached up to 4.75 inches.
Other areas of the District ranged from 2.38 inches below average on the Southwest Coast to 2.13 inches below average in Miami-Dade County.
Dry Season Forecast
Highlights of the 2013-2014 South Florida dry season forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center include:
• Below-normal precipitation
• A possibility of near to slightly above-normal temperatures
• Precipitation in an average dry season: 12 to 15 inches in the interior/west to 15 to 21 inches in the east
Overall, water levels across South Florida are at or starting to fall below their targets for this time of year, with regulation schedules designed to reflect that the hurricane season does not officially end until Nov. 30.
Water storage Strategies: SFWMD Taking Action to Store Water Headed to Lake Okeechobee, Coastal Estuaries


Pasco set to begin building massive reclaimed water reservoir
Tampa bay Times – by Rich Shopes
November 1, 2013
WESLEY CHAPEL — It's not exactly a marketer's dream and likely won't show up on a billboard welcoming travelers, but Pasco County will soon lay claim to a landmark all its own: the largest reclaimed water reservoir in the nation.
After years of debate, engineering studies and cost estimates, the county is a couple of weeks from launching a massive excavation project at a former mine east of Interstate 75 at Boyette and Overpass roads.
The 500 million-gallon reservoir was recommended by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, a partner in the project, to help control reclaimed water levels through the region's wet and dry spells and enable the system to take on new customers from the county's east and south ends.
Since mid July, workers have been busy draining two ponds and building berms and roads in preparation for the reservoir. To gauge its immensity, imagine a lake of reclaimed water — basically, treated sewage — roughly the size of 60 football fields.
Pam Wright, Pasco's reclaimed water program coordinator, said it's understandable if some folks are put off by the thought, but reclaimed water has come far since its debut 30 years ago in Pinellas County.
"There's still a lot of education that needs to be done," she said. "The misconception is that it smells like rotten eggs. The truth is there's almost no odor. If anything, there's a faint chlorine smell."
At 80 acres and 28 feet deep, the reservoir should be equipped to handle Florida's wet summers while ensuring a steady supply to homes, golf courses and citrus growers during the winter, officials said. About 12,000 homes in two dozen Pasco subdivisions irrigate with reclaimed water. The county produces about 20 million gallons of reclaimed water a day.
Officials have pushed for the reservoir for years. Using reclaimed water reduces stress on the aquifer from groundwater pumping, a trigger for sinkholes. Pinellas, the region's largest consumer, installed the first system in the early 1980s in St. Petersburg. Now, about 10 percent of water consumed across Swiftmud's 16 counties comes from reclaimed water.
Pasco's project is expected to be finished in February 2015. It hasn't come without a hitch, though. Pegged five years ago at $18 million, the project ballooned to $31 million and then $36 million because of higher construction costs and initial estimates that failed to include a much-needed underground wall, or cutoff, to capture seepage.
"That was a huge change," utilities director Bruce Kennedy said. "The original project estimate did not have that in it."
The reservoir itself will be covered by a synthetic liner. A fence and a 14-foot landscaped berm will encircle the site.
Swiftmud has committed to reimburse $9 million to offset the county's costs. In January, the district's board will vote to increase that reimbursement to $18 million in total. Kennedy said the balance of the funding, another $18 million, will come from loans paid by Pasco ratepayers.
Officials are optimistic they'll avoid problems, including sinkholes, that plagued a 20-acre reclaimed water reservoir in Land O'Lakes a few years ago. For one, they say, they've performed more geological tests and determined soil conditions at Boyette are better than at the Land O'Lakes site.
"We've learned a lot since then," Wright said. "When this is done, this will be the largest of its kind in the country."


FL Capitol

Senate committee seeks help for south Florida waters – by Jim Turner
November 1, 2013
TALLAHASSEE -- A Senate committee will be asked Tuesday to support $190 million for projects intended to help reduce pollution going into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries from Lake Okeechobee.
A 23-page draft report, which is slated to go before the Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, adds six long-term fixes to a list of short-term fixes first recommended in August by Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
"This draft report represents a significant first step toward improving water management across the entire South Florida region," Negron wrote in a letter to committee members that accompanied the report.
The report recommends support for the state Department of Environmental Protection to receive some authority over the water releases from Lake Okeechobee, proposes increasing the funding for the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs that link the lake with the estuaries, and proposes backing the $90 million that Gov. Rick Scott has sought to bridge a 2.6 mile section of the Tamiami Trail.
The Tamiami Trail bridge money would be spread over three years from the budget of the state Department of Transportation.
The recommendations follow a list of short-term proposals released in August that came at a time when residents on both coasts fought against then-ongoing releases of water from Lake Okeechobee into the estuaries by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Among the short-term proposals: cleaning water that comes into the lake from the Kissimmee River; reducing nutrients from septic tanks; and raising the allowed water levels in canals by a few inches.
In September, the committee approved $2.77 million to improve pump stations, reducing the flow of polluted waters that have negatively affected the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The money will also go to a build a channel to aid the flow of water from the Florida Everglades across the barrier of the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County.
Groups such as the Everglades Foundation have called the Tamiami Trail "one of the most prominent dams" blocking the natural flow of the River of Grass from the lake to the southern Everglades.
The committee's latest recommendations drew praise from Judy Sanchez, the director of corporate communications for U.S. Sugar Corp., as offering a "thorough and timely analysis."
The report also outlines the history of efforts since 1882 to control and redirect South Florida's inland waters and repeats the state's criticism of the management of the Herbert Hoover Dike System by the Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District.
John Campbell, public-affairs specialist for the Army Corps Jacksonville Division, said in an email Friday that it wouldn't be appropriate to comment on a draft the agency had received earlier in the day.
However, he added that the Army Corps remains committed to completing repairs to the dike around Lake Okeechobee. The work includes replacing or removing 32 water control structures around the lake.
"These structures or 'culverts' are currently seen as the greatest risk for dike failure due to the loss of material into and around them," Campbell noted. "Additionally, while we do this work, we are identifying and evaluating the remaining features needed to reduce risk on the remainder of the dike, to ensure we appropriately prioritize our rehabilitation efforts. We will continue to execute our responsibilities as directed by the President and authorized by Congress."
In all, the report includes about $190 million in short-term and long-term projects, including the Tamiami Trail work. Among the recommendations:
- $40 million to speed construction of the state's portion of a C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area for the Indian River Lagoon-South Restoration Project.
- $5 million to support construction of the C-43 basin project to provide water storage in the Caloosahatchee basin. The committee also asked to add the reservoir --- of which Florida's eventual share is estimated at $289 million --- into the state's Long-Range Financial Outlook.
- $32 million for projects tied to ensuring that all surface water discharges into the Everglades Protection Area meet water quality standards.
- Giving the DEP authority to regulate releases when the risk of dike failure is less than 10 percent.
"The committee concludes that the Corps has not adequately considered the widespread damage done to the estuaries when it releases large amounts of water from Lake Okeechobee," the report states.
The Army Corps tries to maintain the water level of the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet to lessen stress on the Herbert Hoover Dike. The Army Corps estimates that when the lake is slightly above 18.5 feet, the risk of failure is considered at 45 percent.
The report notes that when the water level is toward the lower end the Army Corps generally defers on water release decisions to the South Florida Water Management District.



Notable this
wet season :


LO water release

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.

The original ABC-7 video with Chad Oliver disappeared from the web - it is replaced here by this 25-WBPF report
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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