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Environment offers fodder for gubernatorial race
Herald-Tribune - by Lloyd Dunkelberger
January 31, 2014
TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s environment is rapidly shaping up to be one of the defining issues in the anticipated showdown between Gov. Rick Scott and his predecessor, Charlie Crist, the leading Democratic challenger.
Crist made that clear this week when he all but accused Scott of masterminding the pollution of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers this summer after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers discharged nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee into those water bodies.
The discharges were part of an effort to lower the lake’s level and relieve pressure on an aging dike system threatened by record rainfall.
The rivers “are now a mess,” Crist said, deeming it one of the environmental failures of the Scott administration. Crist said he faced similar decisions as governor but had opposed massive discharges into the rivers.
Crist also noted that Florida witnessed a record number of manatee deaths last year, although he didn’t explain that many of the deaths were linked to the outbreak of red tide.
“Here’s the good news: We can fix it all,” Crist told editors and reporters at The Associated Press’ annual pre-session meeting.
“All we have to do is have an election and make a change.”
Scott’s campaign aides called Crist’s attacks unfounded and desperate, and emphasized their boss’ environmental efforts.
“Charlie Crist’s ridiculous statements attacking Governor Scott over discharges into Lake Okeechobee show that he will truly say anything to get elected,” said Matt Moon, Scott’s campaign spokesman.
“Governor Scott has been a leader in funding water restoration projects in the area, especially when the federal government has continually failed to live up to their commitments,” Moon added. “It’s appalling to see this level of willful ignorance and desperation from a former sitting governor of Florida.”
But Scott has had a mixed record as governor when it comes to the environment.
Coming into office as a fiscal conservative who wanted to limit the role of government, he was skeptical about some of the state’s major environmental initiatives.
In his first budget proposal in 2011, Scott sought to cut Everglades restoration funding to $17 million from $50 million.
But this year — heading toward a re-election bid in November — Scott called for a record $130 million in Everglades funding.
The money will fund projects that are generally aimed at reducing pollution and restoring a more natural flow to the vast South Florida wetlands system. It is part of a long-term $880 million restoration plan that Scott and lawmakers endorsed last year.
Scott has made other major commitments to the environment, including asking for $55 million for the restoration of Florida’s threatened springs. It is a $45 million increase from the current year.
In defense of Scott’s record, Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials noted that the governor has “directed more funding to springs protection than any administration in Florida’s history to protect and restore these natural treasures.”
Scott’s budget also includes $1 million for a program that rescues and rehabilitates manatees, the most endangered marine mammal in the United States.
Yet Scott’s record has raised doubts among many environmentalists.
The most significant issue may be his lukewarm support for the Florida Forever land-buying program. The program once provided some $300 million each year to acquire environmentally significant properties.
It has fallen well below an average of $15 million per year under Scott, with the program receiving no new funding in his first year in office.
Crist’s record also is far from pristine on the issue.
During his third year in office, as the state struggled with the Great Recession, Florida Forever received no new funding and in Crist’s final year, it only received a paltry amount.
Scott’s resistance to the program is linked directly to his effort to reduce state debt, which he has managed to cut by $3.6 billion over the last three years.
In the past, the Florida Forever program received $300 million a year through bonding, a process Scott has opposed.
Instead, Scott has advanced a $70 million Florida Forever plan this year, which is based on $30 million in cash and $40 million that would come from the sale of non-conservation state land.
Scott and lawmakers backed a similar plan in this year’s budget, but the state has had difficulty in identifying enough surplus land to support the effort.
A coalition of environmental groups that support Florida Forever are lobbying for $100 million for the program this year, along with $25 million for program to buy easements on large agricultural tracts, which Scott’s budget plan did not fund.
“Now that the economy is recovering and growth is putting pressure on lands proposed for conservation, the state should move urgently to restart Florida Forever,” the coalition said in a statement.
“Funds from the sale of nonconservation lands are an appropriate but uncertain source for Florida Forever. Florida’s identified conservation needs are much greater than the governor’s proposal.”
For a longer-term solution, environmental groups are supporting a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would dedicate a consistent amount of funding each year to Florida Forever, the Everglades as well as other environmental projects.
If approved by 60 percent of the voters, the amendment, beginning in July 2015, will require the state to set aside one-third of the revenue collected each year through the state tax on land sales.
It would amount to an estimated $10 billion commitment in environmental funding over the next 20 years.
Florida gets positive ruling in nutrient case
WaterOnline.com - by Sara Jerome
January 31, 2014
Florida received good news recently in a lengthy legal battle about who gets to regulate its waters.
As the January court ruling put it: "This is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute over nutrient criteria for Florida waters." The law firm Arnold & Porter explained the court decision marks an "important, if not decisive, milestone in the long Florida nutrient regulation controversy."
The backdrop, per a Water Online report in December: "The EPA was on the verge of setting numerical limits for Florida’s freshwater lakes and estuaries in lieu of the state coming up with their own, but withdrew the prospective rule once Florida's Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) came forth with a plan of action. Implementation of the FDEP standards is still on hold, however, pending the outcome of a court challenge issued in Florida’s Northern District."
In January, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled "in support of the EPA's motion to modify the consent decree regarding numeric nutrient criteria for Florida’s waters," according to Sunshine State News.
Fleshing out more of the backdrop, the law firm Vinson & Elkins noted that in this lengthy fight, environmentalists had "argued that the criteria were too lax to satisfy EPA’s 2009 determination that numeric nutrient limits were necessary to protect water quality in Florida."
So what does the ruling mean ?
"What it means is that federal rulemaking for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Florida's waterways is discontinued and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection can now implement what the FDEP calls 'the most comprehensive numeric nutrient criteria in the nation,'" according to the News.
Florida officials praised the decision. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called the ruling "a testament to Florida’s proven ability to manage its own water resource protection and restoration programs," according to the news report.
Putnam continued in the News report: “Judge Hinkle’s ruling opens the door for EPA to fulfill its commitment to the Legislature and withdraw all of its final and pending rules, paving the way for Florida to reassume the lead role in managing this vital natural resource.”
Some advocacy groups, including the Fertilizer Institute, issued statements of support for the ruling.
What now ?
An explanation from Arnold & Porter: "The only step now remaining for Florida’s nutrient water quality criteria (NNC) to become effective is for EPA to issue a notice — subject to public comment — withdrawing both the already finalized federal NNC for lakes and its pending proposed federal NNC for streams, estuaries and coastal waters."
The ramifications of this ruling could extend beyond Florida. "It may have significant implications for all stakeholders potentially interested in EPA regulation of nutrient discharges throughout the country," the law firm said.
Lagoon cleanup won't work until pollution ends
Florida Today – Letter by David Botto, Indian Harbor Beach, FL
January 31, 2014
Public Interest Editor Matt Reed’s excellent interview with Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, shed some important light on how to fix our dying Indian River Lagoon.
Two points Mr. Posey made need to be at the top of the list of any and all recovery plans and planners:
Removing the pollution already in the lagoon, such as muck, will take years and cost upwards of $100 million.
We must first act to stop putting the pollutants in the waters or the removal spending will never end.
We see this in our local attempts. Replanting sea grass and reseeding shell fish will not succeed until we correct the conditions in the water that killed them in the first place.
Summer sea levels rising along Florida coast
January 31, 2014
Summer high tides are getting higher in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, boosting the destructive power of hurricanes, a new study finds.
The trend is strongest in Florida, such as in Key West, where tidal flooding regularly inundates low-lying city streets.
Summer sea levels are now 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) higher than before 1993, and that's on top of the contribution from global sea level rise, according to the study, published Jan. 3 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. On the flip side, winter tides are now lower, the study finds.
Put more simply, in the past two decades, summer sea level has increased on Florida's Gulf Coast by a total of 4 inches (10 cm).
"Sea level is rising because of global warming, but on top of this, the seasonal cycle is also changing," said Thomas Wahl, lead study author and a coastal engineer at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg.
"We don't know whether this is climate change or part of a natural cycle, but this increase over the last 20 years is not found elsewhere in the world."All coastlines undergo seasonal cycles in their tides.
Summer tides are higher than winter tides because of several factors, such as the difference between summer and winter water temperatures; rainfall and seasonal changes in air temperature; and wind. (For example, cold water takes up less volume than warm water, so the tides in winter are lower.)
Wahl and his colleagues discovered the dramatic change by analyzing tide records collected since 1900 from 13 Gulf Coast cities, from the tip of Florida to the Texas coast.
In the past century, many coastal Florida cities have undergone significant sea level rise faster than the global trend. For instance, sea level rose 9 inches (22 cm) in Key West during the last 100 years. But until now, no one had closely looked at seasonal tidal cycles in the Gulf.
Watch out, Florida
Not all Gulf Coast cities saw the same extreme changes as Florida, the study reports. No significant results were found in the western Gulf of Mexico, including tide gauges in Texas and Louisiana. Only coastal cities east of Alabama showed a significant change in summer and winter sea level cycles since the 1990s.
Wahl and his co-authors think the summer tides are getting higher and winter tides are getting lower because summers and winters in the Gulf of Mexico are also becoming warmer and colder, respectively.
"We found similar cycles in the air temperature and air pressure in the eastern part of the Gulf," Wahl said.
Though the tidal changes are small just a few inches the effect does increase the risk of storm-surge flooding from hurricanes and tropical storms, Wahl said.
"If a hurricane hits the coastline and the base water level is already 5 to 10 centimeters [2 to 4 inches] higher than it was 20 years ago, this leads to a higher storm-surge water level," Wahl told Live Science.
The U.S. Geological Survey released a hurricane-induced coastal erosion map for the Gulf Coast and East Coast on Jan. 7, and predicts that 27 percent of Gulf beaches are at risk of flooding in a Category 1 hurricane.
"Hurricanes are not required for significant coastal change in the Gulf region," the report concluded. "Waves and storm surge associated with tropical storms and winter cold fronts provide sufficient energy to put low-elevation beaches and dunes at risk due to erosion."
Fining polluters won't solve lagoon woes
Florida Today – Letter by William Fabian Yarosh Micco
January 30, 2014
Recent letter writers have made a passionate plea for cleanup of the Indian River Lagoon. They demand the federal and state governments stop the heavy polluter, Big Sugar, from dumping its pollution in the water it uses to irrigates its fields, into Lake Okeechobee.
This pollution is then discharged into the St. Lucie River, and ends up in the Indian River Lagoon, with devastating results for our wildlife. Unfortunately, government officials rarely focus on the actual cost and harm of pollution, but believe the solution is assessing fines on the polluter.
When government focuses on fines, and not the actual cleanup of pollution, little gets done. The fines usually are no more than several thousand dollars a day during the actual offense, a pittance to any big industry. It can take years of adjudication in the courts before the fines are assessed. In the meantime, the pollution continues.
Adding insult to injury, the fines usually go into the general fund and not to clean up the pollution. By using fines, the government is giving industry a price to pollute.
However, all is not lost. You do have a great power feared by government, and that is the power of the vote.
The Republicans have worked very hard in the last 30 years to entrench themselves in Florida government, but that could change with this issue. Your vote at the polls for pro-lagoon legislation could force government to focus on the obligation of Big Sugar taking action to clean up the Indian River Lagoon.
South Florida water managers report modest gains in wading bird nesting; 48,291 nests in 2013
January 30, 2014
MIAMI — South Florida's water managers are reporting some modest gains in wading bird nesting.
The South Florida Water Management District has released its annual report on wading bird nesting efforts. Officials say 2013 was a relatively average year with 48,291 nests.
According to the report, wood stork, white ibis and great egret nesting significantly improved last year. The number of roseate spoonbill nests in Florida Bay also increased for the second consecutive year.
However, other wading bird species that have shown steep declines in nesting in recent years did not show any improvement last year. Snowy egrets and tricolored and blue herons had significant declines, in particular.
A primary goal of Everglades restoration efforts is improving natural water flows to sustain healthy wading bird populations.
State funds trickle down
KeysNews.com – by Timothy O’Hara, Citizen Staff
$50M designated for wastewater projects in Keys
The Florida Keys is on track to receive another $50 million in state funding for wastewater projects.
On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott released his proposed state budget for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year, which included the $50 million for the Keys' sewer projects. The budget, which Scott dubbed "It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget," still has to be approved by the state Legislature.
"We are looking a lot better this year than we were last year," County Administrator Roman Gastesi said.
Last year, Scott told the Keys that he would not include $50 million for wastewater because a bulk of the money was going to Key Largo and Marathon to pay down existing debt. Scott had made job creation one of his top priorities.
The prior year, Scott allocated $50 million to the Keys, with the bulk of that money going to Monroe County and Islamorada for new sewer projects.
In 2007, the state Legislature appropriated $200 million in wastewater and stormwater funding to the Keys, but the Keys did not receive the first $50 million until two years ago.
This year's funding plan calls for Marathon and Key Largo to receive roughly $17 million each. The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority and the county would split $5 million. Islamorada would receive $7 million. Key West would receive about $3 million, and Key Colony Beach would receive $1 million.
Each year, the cities and county agree to a plan that switches the amounts, with some cities receiving more some years and less in other years.
The Key Largo Wastewater District plans to use the money for the installation of roughly 140 grinder-pump sewage collection systems, and to build a sludge-hauling system, district General Manager Margaret Blank has said.
Marathon city officials have said that the city has new projects well in excess of what the municipality would receive as part of the funding plan.
A contingent of Keys officials are planning to go to Tallahassee in February to meet with various elected officials about the importance of keeping the $50 million in the budget. The meeting is being coordinated by Florida Keys State Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo.
"I want us to go up there and speak with one unified voice," Raschein said.
"There has been a recent shift in focus to water (quality) projects," Raschein added about the Legislature's priorities. "We have a prime water (quality) project here. This shows a dedication to environmental projects."
Scott also included $130 million for Everglades restoration projects and $19 million for state parks.
The funding of the Keys and Everglades projects was praised by the leaders of state environmental groups.
"With the funding for the Keys wastewater system, the governor has followed through on his commitment to protect Florida's coral reefs and marine ecosystems, a priority of The Nature Conservancy and important to protecting the economy and quality of life of the Florida Keys, said Shelly Lakly, director of the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
Statewide rallies to focus on water quality
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer
January 30, 2014
Communities across Florida have scheduled simultaneous water rallies on Feb. 1 to raise awareness about the work that remains to be done to protect local waterways.
A Clean Water Action Event in Lee County is scheduled for Feb. 1 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Lee County Alliance of the Arts in Fort Myers.
Ray Judah, former Lee County Commissioner and current coordinator of the Florida Coastal & Ocean Coalition, said Floridians have a right to clean water. The weekend rallies, as well as a statewide event on Feb. 18 in Tallahassee, are meant to refocus the spotlight on the issue of water.
Releases from Lake Okeechobee garnered much attention over the summer when above average rainfall drove excesses into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, releases with higher concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous.
But, as conditions dried up over the winter, water quality no longer was the priority it had been.
Judah said Southwest Florida is still feeling the effects of the releases.
"The problem we are having with red drift algae on our coastal beaches and the discoloration of the water are the remnants or legacy of the nutrients washed down the Caloosahatchee to our estuary," said Judah. "Not to mention we had the highest record of manatee deaths to red tide in 2013."
Judah and a number of guest speakers including State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Lee County; Representative Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers; Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki; and nature photographer Clyde Butcher, will address the issue.
And Florida, which boasts a $65 billion a year tourism industry, can't afford to have brown water and dead marine life on its beaches.
The state is working to alleviate water flow issues, including the construction of an additional 2.6-miles of bridging along Tamiami Trail in the Everglades National Park, but Judah said its not enough to deal with the amount of water coming from Lake Okeechobee, and the state should consider purchasing portions of the Everglades Agricultural Area, used by U.S. Sugar Lands and Florida Crystals, for storage, treatment, and conveyance.
He said the bridging would only convey 68 billion gallons to the Everglades, but in an average year 455 billion gallons of water - 812 billion gallons in a wet year like 2013 - from Lake Okeechobee are released to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie.
"When you look at these projects, while it may seem they might address the need for storage and treatment and conveyance to the south, the numbers don't add up in terms of providing adequate storage," said Judah.
Governor Rick Scott announced a $130 million investment in the Everglades and state waterways on Jan. 22. It appropriates $40 million for the completion of the C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area in St. Lucie County, $30 million for a three-year installment of the Tamiami Trail project, $32 million for the Governor's Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan, and funds to complete the restoration of the Kissimmee River.
Fact Box - To Go:
What: Clean Water Action Event
When: Saturday, Feb. 1, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Where: Lee County Alliance for the Arts, 10091 McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers.
Details: Visit flcoastalandocean.org
David GUEST, Attorney
To heal Fla. springs, hold polluters accountable
Orlando Sentinel – by David Guest of Tallahassee, managing attorney for the Florida office of Earthjustice, a national public-interest law firm.
January 30, 2014
To anyone who has spent much time in Florida, the decline of our freshwater springs is heartbreaking.
Clear pools are now choked with algae. The algae gets so thick it shuts down glass-bottom-boat rides because the water's no longer clear enough to see anything. Swimming beaches at the springs are suddenly roped off with health-department signs, warning people of the health threats from polluted water.
When faced with something this sad and overwhelming, there's a tendency to shrug our shoulders and say it is the inevitable result of progress. After all, New York City once had bubbling streams and oyster beds. But, in our case, that is the wrong way to think.
The truth is that springs pollution is both preventable and reversible. We can change this. What we need is political will a scarce Florida resource but one that each of us can cultivate. It is already starting to happen. People have been rallying throughout the state to protest the decline of our water resources. Recently, people turned out in force to demand clean water at public events in Boynton Beach, Bradenton, Fort Myers, Fort Pierce, Gainesville, Interlachen, Jacksonville, Key West, Palm Bay, Naples, Ocala, Stuart, Tallahassee</a>, Tampa, Vero Beach and Orlando.
They unveiled a new Floridians' Clean Water Declaration, which lists six rights that should be guaranteed to the people of Florida and four responsibilities of our state government, water managers and natural-resource users. The campaign's goal is to get as many individuals, organizations, businesses, and elected and appointed officials as possible to sign the Clean Water Declaration and commit to work together to achieve its principles.
And politicians are responding.
State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and state Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, were front and center at the Orlando gathering, and both signed the clean-water declaration.
Even more important, Simmons and Stewart are spearheading important legislation in the statehouse this year to protect springs, and they deserve our support. It is encouraging, too, to see that Gov. Rick Scott earmarked $55 million in his proposed state budget this year for springs protection.
Using public money to protect our shared public resource water makes sense. We're way overdue on fixing our outdated public infrastructure.
But let's not lose sight of the main thing we need to do: Demand that our leaders hold polluters accountable. Every day, factory farms send fertilizer and manure into our public waters, when they could be controlling this pollution on-site. These corporations must be required to meet specific pollution limits, and they should face consequences if they exceed those limits and pollute our water.
Instead, we are giving them a free pass, and then the public pays for their mess. Scott and the Legislature have been selling out to polluters like never before. Polluter lobbyists drafted the state's rules on sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution; Scott's administration adopted the weak language; and then the Legislature approved it.
Last year, some lawmakers proposed a common-sense amendment for the state to collect reports of skin rashes and health effects from this pollution, but the Legislature overwhelmingly and unbelievably voted it down.
Scott's administration also fired staffers who dared to enforce environmental laws, replacing them with people who come from polluting industries. Environmental enforcement cases have plummeted. State regulators now get bonuses if they pump out permits faster.
Certain categories of major polluters are allowed to operate on the honor system. A big polluter like an industrial plant would be fined if it spilled toxic materials into a river. But that's not true for Florida agricultural operations. Florida allows them to use voluntary goals called "best management practices." All the corporation has to do is say it is implementing a plan to control pollution, and it is exempt from monitoring. It's as if you were allowed to speed on the freeway so long as you gave the highway patrol a speed-limit compliance plan.
It's great for politicians to tell us they want to protect the environment. But we should all make it clear that we want them to set real, enforceable pollution limits. That's the only way we'll reverse this mess and heal our springs.
Wading birds making progress in Everglades habitat, report says
Miami Herald - by Cammy Clark
January 30, 2014
The annual count for wading birds in the Everglades shot up in 2013 with with White Ibis, Wood Storks and Great Egrets leading the way.
After three relatively poor years for nesting wading birds in the greater Everglades ecosystem, the numbers were up more than 50 percent in 2013 and Audubon Florida couldn’t be happier.
A big reason is improved habitat from water-restoration projects, said the Audubon’s Tabitha Cale.
“Where we have restoration projects put in place, that’s where we are seeing signs of hope,” said Cale, an Everglades policy associate with the non-profit organization. “This really shows restoration works.”
The data come from the South Florida Water Management District, which released its annual wading-bird report Thursday. The information comes from collaboration among a diverse group of ecologists, who reported a combined 48,291 wading-bird nests across South Florida, with white ibis, wood storks, and great egrets showing the largest increases.
After three years where the average number of nests had fallen to around 30,000, this was a bright sign. However, it was still only about half the number of nests recorded in 2009 — the best South Florida nesting year on record since the 1940s.
“More nests mean more chicks being produced, more baby birds for the future,” Cale said. “That’s good for the population numbers going up.”
Last year was an especially good year for the roseate spoonbill, whose nesting in Florida Bay had been in steep decline from 2005-2011. It began to rebound in 2012 and last year there were an “encouraging” 880 nests recorded.
Cale said one reason is the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project that began operation last year. Audubon scientists have found the restoration work has led to regrowth of submerged aquatic vegetation and more favorable salinity levels.
“Once the vegetation improves, the fish come back,” Cale said. “And when the fish move back in, the habitat that the spoonbill depends on is healthier.”
Another area in which nesting has rebounded is in Lake Okeechobee. In 2008, there were only 39 nests recorded. Last year, there were 8,461, with an abundance of great egret, white ibis, and snowy egret. It was the fourth-largest number tallied on the lake since 1954.
The high-water level of the lake during the summer of 2012 “gave fish populations a chance to rebound,” said Dr. Paul Gray, manager of Audubon’s Lake Okeechobee Sanctuaries.
During the annual dry season, tiny fish were forced to congregate in shallower water.
“This made it easier for the birds to catch fish to feed themselves and their chicks,” Cale said.
But the report also states that nesting in some historically strong nesting habitat continues to be down. Wood storks once again did not nest in the western Everglades area where there has been an abundance of wetland habitat lost to development.
Jerry Lorenz, state director of research for Audubon Florida, said in a statement: “I’m hopeful that as new restoration projects come on line we will see wading birds returning in larger numbers to their historic nesting grounds in the Everglades.”
Initiative backers announced last week that nearly 686,000 signatures were collected in support of the proposed state constitutional amendment. The measure is expected to be certified early next month to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Conservation Amendment: Floridians value water
January 29, 2014
Florida's Water and Land Legacy initiative is headed for the November ballot as Amendment 1. It is worth noting that the two counties that gave the land-conservation measure its greatest support are from opposite ends of the state; but they share something in common.
Leon and Martin counties — the first in the Panhandle, the last in southeast Florida led Florida's 67 counties in the percentage of population that signed petitions to get it on the ballot with 10.97 percent each.
It's no coincidence that the collection effort was a success following a terrible year for water. Springs in North Central Florida are being destroyed by nutrient pollution. The water supply in many parts of the state including Central Florida, where Polk County is located; is threatened by overpumping of groundwater.
Martin County has seen record numbers of dolphin and manatee deaths because of toxic algae in the Indian River Lagoon. Leon County has seen water withdrawals from Georgia reduce freshwater flowing into the nearby Apalachicola Bay, killing off oysters.
This is all to say that water resources are facing threats throughout Florida. This is not a North Florida problem. This is not a South Florida problem. This is not a aquifer problem; this is not a spring problem nor a coastal-estuary problem. This is a water problem that is affecting the state in increasingly worrisome ways, and the people of Florida recognize something has to give.
The Water and Land Legacy amendment would not solve all the water woes, but it would ensure money is spent on conservation efforts, on setting aside sensitive lands for water recharge critically important in a state that water managers say is running out of traditional sources of freshwater.
The amendment would not create any new taxes. It would set aside one-third of the documentary tax fees paid on real estate sales for the next 20 years about $10 billion at current rates. That money would go to acquire, manage and restore conservation lands important to protecting water quantity and quality.
Lawmakers who say that spending choices should be left in their hands fail to acknowledge their failure to protect Florida's environment. The Florida Forever program had funded conservation purchases, but the Legislature has slashed its funding more than 97 percent since 2009.
Now that voters from across the state have helped put the Water and Land Legacy initiative on the ballot, the next effort will be to obtain the 60 percent support needed for passage. Given Florida's dismal recent track record for protecting water resources and our sensitive lands, it should be an effort that resonates with all Floridians.
Conservationists hold clean-water event in Orlando
Orlando Weekly - by Shannon Scheidell
January 29, 2014
Groups urge politicians to sign onto Clean Water Declaration Campaign.
Conservationists say the glass is half empty …
On Jan. 22, surrounded by swans and against the backdrop of Lake Eola in downtown Orlando, a group of 30 or so conservationists gathered to listen to state Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Florida Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, discuss their third draft of the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, a bill they plan to introduce during the 2014 legislative session in Tallahassee. The goal of the bill, which has been opposed by municipal water managers in the past because they say it could interfere with protections already in place for the state’s springs, is to restore the state’s waterways and protect them from pollution and overuse.
The event was part of the Clean Water Declaration Campaign, an initiative to gather 100,000 signatures – including those of legislators and the governor – on a petition in support of water conservation. Kickoff events to introduce the petition were held in 16 cities around the state, including in Orlando.
The average Floridian uses about 124 gallons per day, and unrestrained pumping of water from the Floridan Aquifer – the main source of water for Orlando and other Central Florida municipalities – has greatly reduced our supply. There is a limited amount of water available for pumping in the aquifer now, and Orlando’s demand is set to exceed the aquifer’s supply this year.
Technically, this is a quiet year for voters in Florida, but the Florida Water and Land Legacy Amendment will appear as Amendment 1 on the ballot. The measure would allocate 1 percent of the state’s budget to protect land and water and to ensure that there’s enough clean water for Floridians to drink. Chuck O’Neal, the natural resources committee chair of the League of Women Voters of Florida, says it would cost $378 million a year over the next 10 years to upgrade the state’s water infrastructure and water treatment plants.
former FL Gov.
Crist raps Scott on Lake Okeechobee water releases, hints 'pay to play' involved
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 29, 2014
Former Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday blamed Gov. Rick Scott for not stopping discharges of nutrient rich waters from Lake Okeechobee last summer.
Crist was one of several speakers, including Scott, during the annual Associated Press Legislative Planning Session at the Capitol. Scott also released his 2014-15 budget request during the event, which included $130 million for Everglades restoration and projects, some of which would manage Lake Okeechobee discharges.
Few environmental issues were raised during presentations by Republican speakers. But Democrats Crist and Sen. Bill Montford, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, did raise those issues and Crist said it would be a focus of his campaign.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last summer discharged water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers -- smothering the river estuaries and the Indian River Lagoon -- after record rainfalls threatened the dike around the lake.
Crist, now seeking the Democratic nomination for governor to face Scott, recalled efforts he made during his 2008 honeymoon to get the South Florida Water Management District to stop water releases while also suggesting that political contributions could have been a factor.
"I was very proud of that (stopping the releases), very pleased with that," Crist said. "And then Rick Scott gets elected. And guess what happened? Somebody said, 'Open it up again.' And he probably got a contribution as a result."
Challenged by a reporter as to how Scott could have done anything differently, Crist said, "They talked about the dike when I was governor too. And I made a decision. And the decision was I'm going to protect those rivers."
A spokesman for Scott's re-election campaign said Crist's "ridiculous" statements show he will say anything to get elected.
"Governor Scott has been a leader in funding water restoration projects in the area, especially when the federal government has continually failed to live up to their commitments," said Matt Moon, the campaign's communications director. "It’s appalling to see this level of willful ignorance and desperation from a former sitting governor of Florida.”
Scott last week highlighted his budget requests of $55 million for springs protection and $130 million for Everglades restoration and cleanup. On Wednesday he returned to his themes of education and the economy while his budget request disappointed some environmentalists because it fell short for them on conservation land buying.
Former Sen. Nan Rich of Weston, who is running against Crist for the Democratic nomination, said no attention is being paid in Florida to sea level rise, which she called a "devastating" issue. She also said she had spent two days learning about pollution threats to springs in North Florida.
"You can't just restore the damage that is being done," she said. "You have to look at preventing."
Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford announced their 2014 legislative work plan with the only mention of the environment being funding for buffers around military bases. In response to a question from reporters, they criticized a constitutional amendment proposed by environmental groups that would designate nearly $19 billion over 20 years for land buying and environmental restoration.
"We also believe very strongly that the state has a role in protecting our vulnerable lands and ecosystem," said Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. "But putting the amendments on the ballot and trying to dictate how much money the Legislature is going to spend money is what people in California do. And it hasn't worked very well there. I don't think it will work very well here."
Montford said there is a need for the Legislature to address water issues statewide, which he said will be done through a draft bill supported by him and four other Senate committee chairmen. Draft legislation focused mainly on providing wastewater improvements to protect springs.
"It's going to be very controversial," Montford said. "But I also believe the option that we do not have is to do nothing."
Montford replaced Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, who was scheduled to speak as Senate Democratic leader but could not attend because of weather affecting air travel.
* Jan. 29, 2014 Crist statements about Lake Okeechobee releases
* Jan. 29, 2014 Response to Crist from Scott re-election campaign
Florida – Gov. Scott’s budget recommends $1.4 billion to protect and preserve Florida’s environment
Coastal News Today
January 29, 2014
TALLAHASSEE – Today, Governor Rick Scott highlighted his commitment to protect, preserve and improve Florida’s environment. The Governor’s “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget” will include support for restoration projects in the Everglades, springs protection improvements, and the purchase of conservation lands. The FY2014/2015 budget places a priority on protecting the health of Florida’s natural resources.
“By proposing more than a billion dollars, Governor Scott recognizes the Department’s commitment to preserving the environment through sound science,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “This significant funding will ensure the Department’s ability to continue to safeguard and protect the state’s natural resources.”
Proposed budget items include:
$180 million investment to restore the Everglades and Florida Keys. Governor Scott has been laser-focused on Everglades restoration. This continues funding for the Governor’s landmark $880 million Everglades water quality plan. The $180 million also includes $40 million to speed up completion of the C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area for Martin and St. Lucie counties, and provide the first $30 million – in a three year installment – for the Tamiami Trail project, providing needed water to Everglades National Park. In addition, the investment of these funds will allow for the completion of the Kissimmee River restoration project, which will improve the environmental health of the area north and south of Lake Okeechobee, the Lake itself, and Lee, Charlotte, Martin and St. Lucie counties. Lastly, $50 million will support improvements to the Florida Keys wastewater system, helping to protect the coral reefs and water quality of the Keys.
$286 million for restoring waterways and water supply. This funding represents a continued commitment to assisting Florida’s communities with “getting the water right.” More than $276 million is provided for wastewater/stormwater facility construction, drinking water facility construction and water quality planning. Additionally $9.4 million is provided to continue setting nutrient limits and developing restoration plans for Florida’s waters at a record pace. Under Governor Scott’s leadership, the Department has implemented the most comprehensive numeric nutrient criteria in the nation.
$55 million for springs restoration. The “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget” commits $55 million for springs restoration, protection and preservation, with $50 million invested in springs protection projects and to address significant groundwater issues in and around springs. Since 2011, Governor Scott has specifically directed more funding to springs protection than any Administration in Florida’s history to protect and restore these natural treasures.
$70 million for Florida Forever. The Governor’s budget recommends $30 million in cash and an additional $40 million in budget authority from the proceeds of the sale of surplus non-conservation lands owned by the state. This investment to purchase conservation lands needed for springs protection, military buffering or water resource protection will allow Floridians to enjoy our natural treasures.
$125 million for Petroleum Tank Cleanup. This funding will support a more efficient and effective petroleum tanks restoration program. DEP will competitively procure contracts providing a better value for the Florida taxpayer.
$25 million for beach erosion control. The Governor’s budget will manage and nourish Florida’s beautiful beaches. The local government partners responsible for the state’s most valuable and recognizable natural resource will benefit from state assistance for beach and dune restoration, beach nourishment, inlet sand bypassing and regional sediment management.
$19 million for state park improvements. The funding for state park repairs, renovations and development will keep Florida State Parks on the map. This includes $4 million in ADA access improvements. Florida is the only state to be awarded three National Gold Medals for Excellence by the National Recreation and Parks Association.
In addition, Governor Scott’s “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget” provides $1 million to protect Florida’s manatees. The Oceanaria Reimbursement Assistance Program, which is managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, works to rescue, rehabilitate and release manatees to support their adult population, which is key to the survival of the species.
Representative Holly Raschein said, “Governor Scott’s investment to fund key priorities to improve the infrastructure here in South Florida – with Everglades restoration and enhancements to the Keys wastewater system – illustrates his commitment to Florida’s environment.”
Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon Florida said, “Everglades, Florida Forever and springs restoration are critical priorities for Florida. Governor Scott’s budget increases funding for these priorities and also renews funding for Florida Keys wastewater to help protect our reefs.”
Shelly Lakly, Director of the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy said, “We support the significant investments in water quality that are illustrated in the proposed budget through increased funding for Everglades restoration and springs protection projects to prevent further degradation of our estuaries and springs. With the funding for the Keys wastewater system, the Governor has followed through on his commitment to protect Florida’s coral reefs and marine ecosystems, a priority of The Nature Conservancy and important to protecting the economy and quality of life of the Florida Keys.
Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation said, “Governor Scott’s budget recognizes that we must protect the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and estuaries, and sharpen our focus on rapidly restoring and protecting America’s Everglades.”
Sally Hess, Secretary of the Friends of Florida State Parks said, “The continued support by Governor Scott in his budget will help protect, sustain and improve accessibility to Florida’s award winning state parks.”
Greg Chelius with the Trust for Public Land said, “With this funding, Governor Scott’s investment will allow for significant opportunities to protect the state’s natural resources.”
Patrick Rose, Executive Director of the Save the Manatee Club said, “We applaud Governor Scott for championing this critical investment in the protection of our endangered manatees. His strong support will better ensure that manatees will receive the care they urgently need today and in the future.”
Governor recommends $30 million for land-buying; environmentalists want more
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 29, 2014
Gov. Rick Scott is requesting $30 million in new revenue for conservation land buying in fiscal year 2014-15 along with $40 million from the sale of nonconservation lands.
The Florida Forever land-buying program is a top priority for many environmental groups. The program received at least $300 million annually from 1990 through 2008, but has received an average of less than 5 percent of that annually since then.
Environmentalists said Wednesday they appreciate the governor's requests announced last week of $55 million to protect springs and $130 million for Everglades restoration and cleanup.
The Florida Forever Coalition still is seeking $100 million for the program from the Legislature and governor, coalition representative Laurie Macdonald said. She called the $40 million from the sale of state land "phantom" funding.
"While that is a fine source of funding, it's uncertain," said Macdonald, who is Florida director of Defenders of Wildlife. "We don't even know that that (funding) would be available for use."
This year's budget includes $20 million for land-buying plus $50 million from the sale of conservation lands. The Department of Environmental Protection effort this year to identify conservation land for possible sale has drawn widespread criticism.
Asked whether he thinks the state owns too much land, Scott said Wednesday, "I think we ought to continue to make strategic investments. Florida Forever is a good strategic investment."
The governor also is requesting $50 million for sewage treatment improvements in the Florida Keys, $25 million for beach restoration, $125 million for petroleum tank cleanups and $6 million for removing contamination from dry cleaner sites.
The governor's request also includes $12 million for fighting citrus diseases including black spot, canker and greening. The request includes $5.6 million for surveying citrus groves for pests and diseases and $4 million for short-term research projects to benefit growers.
Scott's budget request does not pick up on Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam's proposed $250 million tax cut on energy paid for by businesses. Putnam announced the proposal in October and said he will urge legislators to approve the tax cut.
The governor's budget request also does not address the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which received more than $11 million in this year's budget to pay agricultural landowners to conserve lands. Scott recommended some spending for some of the nearly $26 million requested by Putnam for agricultural water programs but details on the request were not immediately available.
Related Research: Jan. 29, 2014 Florida DEP press release on Gov. Rick Scott's 2014-15 budget request
Meeting held to stop toxic runoff
WFLX.com - by Rachel Leigh, Content Manager
Jan 29, 2014
JENSEN BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The Army Corps of Engineers will look for public input Wednesday about the runoff of toxic water into the Treasure Coast.
The public hearing will run from 9 a.m. to noon at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach.
It's estimated 136.1 billion gallons of runoff water from Lake Okeechobee went into the St. Lucie Estuary last year.
The fresh water picked up pesticides and toxins along the way that damaged the environment. The local oysters and seagrass were damaged.
The St. Lucie River Estuary includes the Indian River Lagoon.
The Army Corps of Engineers is working to divert the water runoff south away from the Treasure Coast.
A report is expected later in 2014 laying out that plan.
Water idea poverty
Watery Foundation – by Tom Swihart
January 29, 2014
Milton Friedman, Economics Nobelist, said that crises can lead to change but that “the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.” The clearest water example for Florida is how the Water Resources Act of 1972 tracks very closely a Model Water Code available in draft form just as the Legislature was ready to take action.
What about generating new water ideas today? Not so much appreciated. For example, the state discontinued three decades of Annual Conferences on Water Management after 2006. The 2011 Legislature closed down the Century Commission for a Sustainable Future (organizer of the 2009 Water Congress) which tried to promote new thinking. In 2013, the Collins Center for Public Policy (which addressed many resource management issues) ran out of money. Governing board members for all five water management districts no longer gather together occasionally to discuss common issues and consider new solutions to water problems.
There are still some entities out there generating water ideas, such as the University of Florida Water Institute. However, the conversation about how to fix water problems has become poorer. There are fewer ideas being generated and “lying around” available for that day when they are needed and finally become acceptable.
January 29, 2014
Almost three decades ago, I sat in the Sunvalley Mall in Concord, Calif., collecting signatures to defeat a ballot initiative to send water from Northern California to Southern California. The Peripheral Canal proposal was defeated.
In reading a recent Ledger editorial ["Speak Up For Clean Water," Jan. 22], as well as comments from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, I was reminded how important water and water quality is to Florida. A clean and plentiful water supply is essential, from an environmental as well as economic viewpoint, and I support all efforts to ensure that is a priority.
As usual, The Ledger editorial was right on in bringing this issue to our attention.
LLOYD WINBURN, Lakeland, FL.
We, the people, must rise above the politicians
News-Press - Editorial
January 29, 2014
It was clear during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and the subsequent response from the Republicans by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, of Washington, on Tuesday that the gaps between what each party wants to accomplish and what can be accomplished may be too large to overcome.
Whether it is the Affordable Care Act, our troops leaving Afghanistan this year and ending a 13-year war, creating jobs, or improving our educational system through a critical-thinking curriculum, the two parties are never going to agree on the correct course of action. We all know that.
They can roll out their plans and criticize them, but in the end, its partisanship that usually wins and we lose. The answer to closing these gaps at least when it comes to workforce and education opportunities falls on our shoulders — yours and mine.
It starts at the state and local levels. Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a budget Wednesday that seizes some of those opportunities. Yes, you can call it a $74 billion way to enhance his political status during an election year, but if creating $500 million in tax cuts for residents and more than $120 million for businesses, gives more money for education, transportation and environmental restoration efforts and pays down debt, who really cares what the reasons are. These are efforts to help the people of Florida.
The state’s 2014-15 budget, which must be approved by the Legislature, is called “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget.” It is a budget that reduces the state debt by $170 million but also increases spending for critical projects. There is $180 million going toward Everglades restoration efforts and improving local estuaries.
In Southwest Florida, there are strong and meaningful signs of taking control, especially in the area of jobs and education. Valuable local projects, such as Workforce Now and the Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance, are building strong partnerships between businesses and the education community. We need graduates capable of filling the demands of our workforce and these projects are setting the foundation to eliminating those gaps. The Horizon Council, FGCU, Edison State College, as well as our high school academies and tech school programs, are in position to champion this cause.
Obama wants Republicans to move on from ACA. It is in place, 2 million Americans have enrolled, and it is off and running. The Republicans say it is not working. We are caught in the middle, facing our own higher costs through private plans and finding doctors after our primary physicians were removed from plans. For the state, it remains on the outside of Medicaid expansion and the loss of $51 billion in federal funding over 10 years for 1.1 million uninsured Floridians. New bills have been filed and the debate must move forward. We must find a resolution to this critical problem.
Scott talked of a replenishing workforce. When he took office, Florida had lost more than 800,000 jobs and the unemployment rate was 11.1 percent. Scott claims his policies have helped create more than 462,000 private-sector jobs and unemployment has dropped below the national average of 6.2 percent. These are good signs, but we can’t rest on those accomplishments, nor can we count on the federal government or any hope of a bipartisanship awakening to continue that trend.
The federal government must still be held accountable for finding relief for rising flood insurance premiums and funding of water quality and restoration efforts — the lifeline to environmental recovery in this state.
Obama’s speech included these words: “Opportunity is who we are. And the defining project of our generation is to restore that promise.”
McMorris Rodgers said in her speech … “that with the guidance of God, we may prove ourselves worthy of His blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For when we embrace these gifts, we are each doing our part to form a more perfect union.”
They are wonderful words that require action from all of us.
'Earth needs new laws,' 300 told at Silver Springs forum
Gainesville.com - by Fred Hiers, Staff writer
January 28, 2014
The protection of Silver Springs will require vigilance, money and a willingness to create laws that sometimes call for personal sacrifice in order to leave the water resource in a better state for future generations.
That was the collective sentiment of eight speakers who took part in the Silver Springs Alliance forum Tuesday at the College of Central Florida to discuss the progress and shortcomings of Marion County and Florida lawmakers in protecting the first-magnitude spring east of Ocala. More than 300 people attended the forum.
The keynote speaker was Patricia Siemen, a Dominican sister from Adrian, Mich., and an attorney. She currently serves as the director of the Center for Earth Jurisprudence at the Barry University School of Law in Orlando.
While Silver Springs is a local issue, Siemen said it was also important to have a broad environmental overview and realign how people think about the earth and resources.
People need to ask "What needs to shift in order to have a sustainable future?" Siemen said.
The answer is new laws that no longer are solely based on what people need, but rather also what the earth needs, she said.
"My premise is that the earth has rights too," she said. "The earth needs new laws."
Her advice was to "work with elected leaders to lead on ecological health, or elect new ones."
Silver Springs feeds the 4.5-mile-long Silver River, which empties into the Ocklawaha River.
Silver Springs was the largest first-magnitude spring in Florida. Its flow has recently been surpassed by Rainbow Springs.
During the past few decades, Silver Springs' flow has fallen by more than a third and polluting nitrate levels have risen manyfold.
Another speaker was Florida Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness.
Dean is one of a handful of Florida senators crafting legislation for the 2014 session meant to address water-quality problems among Florida's lakes, springs and aquifers.
Some of the legislation includes tougher regulation of wastewater-treatment plants and farm fertilizer application, replacing thousands of leaking septic tanks and devoting as much as $400 million a year to water cleanup efforts using real estate taxes.
Part of the motivation for the proposed legislation came about when Dean and other lawmakers met to discuss what they wanted their political legacy to be, Dean said.
"The answer was very simple — water," he told the audience Tuesday evening.
Marion County Commissioner Stan McClain told those attending that Marion County has already done much to protect Silver Springs, citing its springs protection ordinance and $30 million to improve its wastewater system.
McCain said improving the quality of the spring would draw more tourists and financially invigorate the area.
Sally Lieb, the manager of Silver Springs State Park, updated the audience on the changes made to Silver Springs State Park since the state took it over from California-based amusement park operator Palace Entertainment late last year.
Many of the improvements already made or planned are structural, such as improvements to the glass-bottom boats or demolishing unneeded building and removing non-native, invasive plants, Lieb said.
"There's been a lot of behind-the-scenes work," she said.
Environmental lobbyist Ryan Smart, with the Florida Conservation Coalition, said that for the past several years he has had to fight legislation that would have harmed Florida's waters.
But now the Springs Protection Act, which would raise $400 annually from real estate taxes, has made him for the first time optimistic. The proposed legislation is a major policy shift, he said.
Smart encouraged people to contact their elected officials and to encourage their support for the legislation.
"If we don't tell them this is what we want, we're not going to get it," he said.
Smart also encouraged people to support the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment that will be on the November ballot.
The amendment sets aside a third of all real estate taxes to fund conservation, such as acquiring conservation and recreation lands; manage existing lands; protect lands critical for water supply; and restore degraded natural systems.
Speaker Robert Knight, director of the nonprofit Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute and president of Wetland Solutions Inc. in Gainesville, warned that while some Floridians are trying to protect Silver Springs, the water resource continues to get worse.
While it was originally thought that the spring's flow had diminished by a third during the past several decades, the latest study shows it has fallen 42 percent.
Many state water district officials say the decline is due to reduced rainfall, but Knight said the main culprit is over-pumping.
He said the spring's flow was mostly the same between 1880 and 1960, but declined during recent decades.
"That's not due to rainfall," he said.
Florida pumps about 2.5 billion gallons from the aquifer daily, and that can double during droughts, Knight said. That represents about half the water that would otherwise go to springs.
Knight said the solution is to use less water for irrigation, less for agriculture and to conserve.
"Pumping less is the solution for this," he said. "We all need to take action."
Additional speakers included Scott Mitchell of the Silver Springs Museum and environmentalist Karen Alhers, who spoke about Adena Springs Ranch's application in Marion County to pump 5.3 million gallons daily for its proposed cattle operation.
University of Tennessee Florida Everglades research to help climate change mitigation
January 28, 2014
The Florida Everglades are a region of tropical wetlands, home to many rare and endangered plants and a 15,000-year human history. Unfortunately, these species and artifacts are at risk of extinction and erosion due to changing water levels caused by climate change and industrialization.
Archaeologists from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's Archaeological Research Laboratory are investigating the effect that changes in the Everglades' water levels have had on people, plants, and archaeological and ecological resources in the past and present in order to predict the future.
The research has implications for mitigating the effects of climate change by investigating future impacts of changing water levels.
UT has received more than $175,000 from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the work to be conducted by archaeologists Howard Cyr and Kandi Hollenbach. The research is part of a multidisciplinary project contracted through the private firm Brockington and Associates Inc. in order to assess the environmental impact of the Everglades Restoration Transition Plan, a multibillion-dollar project authorized by Congress and aimed at revitalizing the wetlands.
"An important part of being able to notice if our environment is changing is to know what it was like in the past," Cyr said. "Our research will allow us to gain a better picture of changes in historic and prehistoric water levels and their effects on prehistoric human populations and how they mitigated environmental changes. It also allows us to assess the effect water level changes have had on the ecology and habitability of the area."
The researchers say this knowledge will be especially important for population centers along the Atlantic seaboard, where a minor rise in sea level can have a dramatic effect on local flooding, storm intensity and habitability.
"We've all seen in recent media coverage that studying the effects of past and present global climate change is of great importance if we are to understand, predict, and mitigate future changes," Cyr said.
Through the analysis of sediment cores and material collected from archaeological test units on tree islands—slight elevations in the grassy waters—the archaeologists will investigate the development of these islands. They also will look at the relationship between the prehistoric landscape and the people living on the island at the time, and the effect of environmental change on archaeological sites and their artifacts. The artifacts chronicle approximately 6,000 years of human experience and include ceramic pottery, worked shell and bone objects, and various wooden artifacts originating with Native Americans as well as shipwrecks, pioneer homesteads and even a Cold War era Nike missile site.
"Climate change effects such as sea level rise and increased salinity can harm fragile archaeological sites around the Everglades, washing away pieces of human history," Cyr said.
Provided by University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Related: University of Tennessee Florida Everglades Research to Help Climate Change Mitigation - NewsWise.com
What's eating Florida ? These six voracious species
January 28, 2014
Just in case Florida didn't have enough going against it already (looking at you Florida Man), the state that everybody loves to hate is currently being invaded. No, not by Cuba—by a variety of non-native plants and animals that are wreaking environmental havoc and causing billions of dollars in damage. These are six of the most destructive.
Giant African Land Snails
Giant African Land Snails, or G.A.L.S (technically, Lissachatina fulica) live up to their name. Native to Kenya and Tanzania, these monopods are obscenely huge and, the problem is, they've got sex drives and appetites to match.
GALS were initially imported to Florida in 1966 from Hawaii, and have since experienced a population explosion—thanks to their ability to digest over 500 species of local plants and their ability to lay upwards of 200 eggs a year (they're also hermaphroditic). Adults can measure over a foot long and tip the scales at more than a pound, making them an enticing prize for exotic pet owners. But in the wild, they're a dangerous pest, out-competing native species for resources and destroying property. GALS have developed a taste for calcium-rich stucco siding, which the snails use to produce their massive shells, and have been known to puncture car tires with their probosces in search of a meal.
Thanks to a concerted effort by the Florida Agricultural Commission—employing specially trained sniffer dogs, bait traps, and community involvement—the snail's days appear numbered.
Monk Parakeets, introduced to the US in the 1960s as pets, are unusual among the parrot family. Not only are they one of the few species to eat fruit, they are also the only species to build nests out of sticks rather than grasses. What's more, these nests are communal, condo-like structures that can grow to the size of a small car. And the birds just love building them on top of power poles and electrical substations—where they cause regular power outages, fires, and cost millions a year in repairs.
But even with more than 100,000 individual birds in Florida alone, the Monk Parakeet is not often targeted as an invasive pest. Likely because it's so much cuter and more charismatic than the other species on this list.
Despite the fact that they're strictly vegetarian, or rather because of that fact, Green Iguanas are among Florida's most destructive invasive species. While they don't compete with native lizard species for food, as invasive Nile Monitors do, the iguana's ravenous appetite can decimate lawns and gardens.
Per the Green Iguana Society:
Green Iguanas in Florida eat shrubs, trees, landscape plants, orchids, and fruits such as figs, mangos, berries and tomatoes. Ornamental vegetation can be decimated by one large iguana taking up residence in a yard. In addition to destroying landscaping efforts, iguanas also cause problems by digging nesting burrows that can undermine sidewalks, sea wells and foundations. Iguana feces are odiferous, unsightly, and may harbor Salmonella bacteria. Because iguanas often prefer to defecate in or around water, it is not uncommon for an iguana to use a private pool as a defecation area. Large adults may be aggressive towards people and pets if they feel threatened.
They also grow to over six feet long and come equipped with big burrowing claws, sharp teeth, and whip-like tails. Generally not something you want to tangle with while drunk.
Like the Monk Parakeet, mass eradication efforts of the Green Iguana are not common—some folks even welcome them as a new addition to the local ecosystem. However, the University of Florida recommends people help control the spread of the species by making their yards less iguana-friendly and treating them like the wild animals they are.
Cane Toads aren't just a threat to the local ecosystem—these large amphibians use their stout stature to out-compete, or outright eat, smaller native species. What's more, the toads are far more toxic than native Southern and Oak Toads. They even pack a poison that can kill or seriously sicken pets.
In addition to building silt fencing to exclude the animals from yards and water features, the University of Florida recommends that if you find a toad longer than three inches in your yard, first positively identify it as a Cane Toad, then kill it dead using the following method:
Purchase a small tube of benzocaine ointment, which is used as a pain-killer for toothaches. There are several well-advertised brands as well as much less expensive store brands (generic brands). Simply take a strip of ointment about 1 inch long (more for very large frogs/toads) and spread it down the spine of the frog/toad from the neck to the tailbone. In 5-10 minutes the animal will be groggy; in 15-20 minutes it should be unconscious, and in about 30-40 minutes the frog/toad will die or be near death. Now put the frog/toad in a plastic container and place it in your freezer for 3 days. This is a humane way to kill amphibians because their bodies go into a state of torpor (metabolism slows way down) — just as they do in cold weather outside.
The freezer bit is to make sure the toad is good and dead, lest you accidentally bury the animal alive.
Alligators used to be the apex predator of the Everglades. That is, until the Burmese Python came along. Introduced in the late 20th century after escaping from, or being released by, exotic pet owners, there are now an estimated 180,000 pythons loose in the Everglades. Their near omnivorous diet of smaller animals (everything from field mice to deer) and their large size—topping 18 feet and 200 pounds—make Burmese Pythons (and related exotic constrictors) one of the top threats to Florida's ecosystem.
In response, the State of Florida has not only required annual licensing for exotic snake owners and made microchipping the snakes mandatory, but officials routinely hold Nonnative Amnesty Days where owners can give up snakes they can no longer care for rather than dumping them in the swamps.
And for the nearly 200,000 snakes already established in the Everglades, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission holds an annual month-long, state-sanctioned hunting competition, dubbed the "Python Challenge" in every January. Though, last year, the competitors only managed to net 68 snakes in total. Ironically, these snakes are endangered in their native Southeast Asian habitats because of over-hunting for their skins—which are made in to handbags, boots and such—and now they're being hunted in the Everglades for the exact same reason.
We all know what happens when you give a mouse a cookie, but when you give a catfish the ability to survive out of water for days at a time, you're just begging for trouble. Walking Catfish are native to Southeast Asia, Thailand specifically, and usually make their homes in stagnant pools and rice paddies. The ability to wriggle over dry land (so long as it stays moist) allows these fish to move to other, better feeding grounds when the current pool dries up.
These fish are voracious eaters, consuming smaller native fishes, crustaceans, and their eggs during times of plenty—and they'll eat just about anything during lean times. They've even been recorded walking into aquaculture tanks and eating every living thing inside.
There is unfortunately not much that can be done to stop the Walking Catfish that hasn't already been tried. The Federal government has already blacklisted all members of the family Clariidae as injurious wildlife, making them illegal to possess without a federal permit. And while their spread north has been halted by the freezing temperatures present outside of Florida, their ability to survive months without food in hypoxic water make the Walking Catfish a formidable foe.
drops of up to 50 men, Humvees with blacked-out headlights and foraging soldiers made to subsist off the land.
Conflict in Tate's Hell: Military, environmentalists at odds
Florida Today – by Jennifer Portman, Tallahassee Democrat
January 27, 2014
Tate’s Hell State Forest on Florida’s gulf coast, best known for its swamp, seclusion and wildlife, may become the site of weekly helicopter
How Tate’s Hell got its name
According to local legend, in the late 1800s a farmer named Cebe Tate set off into the swamp with hunting dogs and a shotgun in pursuit of a panther that was killing his livestock. There are several versions of the story, but the Florida Forest Service says in the most common telling, Tate got lost in the swamp for a week, staved off his thirst by drinking the dark water and was bitten by a venomous snake. He finally stumbled out into a clearing near Carrabelle, and before dying is said to have muttered these last words: “My name’s Tate, and I’ve just been through hell!”
The name stuck.
Those are just some of the activities the U.S. Air Force envisions asking the Florida Forest Service later this year to allow in the 202,000-area Franklin County forest to meet non-hazardous training needs for special operations troops stationed at Eglin Air Force Base.
Forest Service and Air Force officials insist such plans are a long way from being realized — and may never be allowed.
“We support the military in every way, but at the same time, those lands are here for a reason, and people enjoy them for a reason, and we aren’t going to mess that up,” said Florida Forest Service Director Jim Karels. “Nothing is a done deal.”
A draft environmental impact statement is being written by officials with the Gulf Regional Airspace Strategic Initiative that will outline potential activities in both Tate’s Hell and Blackwater River State Forest. A final version is expected in June. A request by the military to the Forest Service to use the public lands is not anticipated until the fall.
Forest users skeptical
At a town hall meeting in Apalachicola last month, GRASI project director John Mathers told the 60 people who turned out that if the military’s proposed activities can’t “reach a low- to no-impact scenario, then it’s likely we will not be able to do them.”
But current forest users — from paddlers to hunters — are skeptical. Since first learning of the military’s plans in August, they have come out in staunch opposition, turning out at public meetings to express their many concerns. The list is long. They say the training exercises would be noisy and intrusive, would damage the ecosystem, reverse decades of conservation work, restrict public access, hurt a burgeoning eco-tourism industry and undermine people’s wilderness experience.
“There is a real need for people to get out in places that are safely remote, but it ruins it completely when a helicopter goes overhead. It will break the spell,” said Robin Rickel Vroegop, a Florida Master Naturalist. “As a taxpayer, there is nothing in it for us. It can only hurt our tourism industry.”
While many members of the public were blindsided when the military unveiled its initial plans last year, the idea has been years in the making. The Gulf Regional Airspace Strategic Initiative began eight years ago to identify locations for additional non-hazardous training operations and new emitter sites to transmit radio signals to track aircraft or simulate enemy threats. The need for expanded training locations was precipitated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission report, which created an expanded military mission at Eglin, including training for the 7th Special Forces Group.
In Oct. 2012, the Air Force entered into an agreement with the Forest Service to work together to create an “annual operations plan” to identify training sites and determine which activities could be conducted on forest lands. At the time of its signing, a press release from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the agreement “will allow limited military missions on portions of Blackwater River State Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest.”
'Leave no footprints'
Air Force officials, however, say their goal is to have as little impact on the forest as possible.
“We want to be just another user of the forest. We don’t want to block anyone from doing anything other than they are doing now,” said Eglin Environmental Public Affairs Officer Mike Spaits.
No live-fire operations are envisioned, and only single engine airplanes and CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor planes would be used to insert and extract troops.
He stressed that any military activity would have to be approved by the Forest Service.
“The Forest Service will tell us what we can and cannot do,” Spaits said. “We are trying to be as good a neighbor out there as possible.”
Florida amendment to secure conservation funds makes it to 2014 ballot
Captiva Current - by McKenzie Cassidy, Island Reporter
January 27, 2014
Voters will decide this fall whether a 20-year-old conservation trust fund should be closed to the Legislature's prying hands.
Florida's Water and Land Legacy was the state non-profit organization that collected 696,294 valid signatures as of Jan. 23 to put the amendment on the November 2014 ballot.
Proceeds from the state's documentary stamp tax, charged in real estate transactions, have been used for the last two decades to protect the state's unique ecosystem, but since 2009 the Florida Legislature has been transferring it into the state's General Revenue Fund and using it for other projects.
"Since 2009, funding for land conservation in Florida has been slashed by 97 percent," said Will Abberger, director of the Trust for Public Land's Conservation Finance service. "Florida needs a dedicated, sustainable source of funding to protect our drinking water quality and water quality of our lakes, rivers, and streams, and wildlife habitat."
Abberger said that as far back as the 1990's the Legislature regularly appropriated $300 million a year for land conservation alone, but those funds have been cut to nearly zero in the last four years.
Projections from Florida's Water and Land Legacy indicate that the amendment would secure $5 billion for conservation over the next 10 years.
Although the amendment doesn't increase taxes or create a new program, it does insulate the current trust fund from being accessed by the Florida Legislature for other purposes that don't protect the environment. In fact, specific language in the amendment states, "the fund shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state."
"They will have to use the money for land and water conservation purposes only," said Abberger.
Rae Ann Wessel, director of Natural Resource Policy at the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, said the amendment is important to ensure that funding is available for preservation and management across the state and on the island.
"Florida is the only state in the nation that for three years has been recognized for its park system," said Wessel. "I think what is important about this is there are no other places like the parks and wild spaces we have left in Florida."
Southwest Florida's ecosystem and economy are interconnected, she said. And that was demonstrated over the summer when increased levels of pollutants in the Caloosahatchee River kept some visitors away.
"If you're supporting the natural system that works, you're supporting the economy," said Wessel.
Tourists come to Southwest Florida and Sanibel Island to enjoy the beaches, outdoor activities, and the unique ecosystems, and those visitors might decide to go someplace else if those natural resources aren't protected.
"These are the things that make projects like preservation, conservation, and restoration pay for themselves, not in an obvious way sometimes, but it feeds the economy of Florida which is predominately underwritten by tourism," said Wessel.
The Water and Land Conservation Amendment would need 60 percent of the votes statewide to pass, and if approved, would go into effect on July 1, 2015.
Florida’s disaster of a land deal
January 27, 2014
Pinellas state Sen. Jack Latvala perfectly describes the Legislature’s efforts to raise money for conservation by selling surplus land as a “disaster.”
The Legislature’s idea was half-baked from the start, and the Department of Environmental Protection completely botched the effort, which lawmakers should abandon this year.
Instead, the Legislature should begin adequately funding Florida Forever, the program that buys and preserves important natural tracts. It is traditionally funded by a portion of the documentary stamp revenue from real-estate transactions — an appropriate revenue source for a program made necessary by the state’s rapid development.
But lawmakers virtually abandoned Florida Forever during the recession and now refuse to restore its funding even as the economy rebounds and the state’s population growth soars, making the purchase of conservation lands even more pressing.
Last year lawmakers made a flimsy attempt to support Florida Forever, directing the DEP to sell unneeded tracts and use that revenue — as much as $50 million — for land acquisition.
There is nothing wrong with DEP getting rid of parcels that have little environmental value. Sometimes landowners require such outlying properties to be included when the state is purchasing a large conservation tract.
But this never should have never been considered a major funding source for Florida Forever.
The DEP ended up proposing a number of important refuges for potential sale. Even after citizens’ outrage caused the agency to drop many sites, critical resources remained on the for-sale list, including more than 2,000 acres in the Green Swamp, an essential regional water resource that is the source of four rivers, including the Hillsborough.
DEP also included barrier islands and land along the Wekiwa Springs State Park that serves as a corridor for black bears.
Latvala, a conservative Republican who understands the importance of stewardship, rightly scolded DEP officials at a recent state Senate subcommittee meeting when they told him the policy had generated no money and the for-sale list was still being prepared.
As the News Service of Florida reported, Latvala said, “This is just a charade that we’re going to sell land and we’re going to use it to buy land and replace a program put in place by Gov. [Bob] Martinez in 1990 and kept going by Gov. [Jeb] Bush.”
DEP officials say the final for-sale list should be ready by next month, but it’s impossible to have confidence in a process that has been so haphazard.
Like Latvala, lawmakers should recognize their Florida Forever shortcut has been a disaster and resolve to support a scandal-free program that is saving the best of Florida for future generations.
And citizens can take matters into their own hands by backing the Water and Land Conservation Amendment to the state constitution, which would ensure Florida Forever received adequate funding and was free of such ill-considered legislative ploys.
Quarries threaten Florida wildlife
Tampa Bay Times – Column by Jaclyn Lopez, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity
January 27, 2014
If you dig a quarry in Southwest Florida, the housing developers will come.
With our coasts choked by decades of overbuilding, shrewd developers are always looking for clever ways to shoehorn new subdivisions into the fragile inland wetland areas that help clean our water and provide habitat for our most imperiled plants and animals.
Against that backdrop, the trend of quarries morphing into residential developments prompts questions about how well regulators are balancing development with Florida's wildlife and ecosystems.
Permits granted without adequate consideration that these sites may eventually be transformed into sprawling lakefront residential developments fail to consider a broad set of long-term impacts on aquifers, drinking water supplies and wildlife.
Take, for instance, the Army Corps of Engineers' approval of a 967-acre sand and limerock quarry in Collier County wetlands — which also happen to be prime Florida panther habitat. There's an abundance of evidence to suggest that by approving the Hogan Island Quarry, the Corps neglected its duty to fully consider impacts on vulnerable species and their habitats, including endangered panthers.
Once common across the Southeastern United States, Florida panthers are now fighting for their lives in the few remaining stretches of habitat remaining to them, including in Collier County. With unchecked suburban development pressures squeezing from all sides, every inch of habitat newly lost commits these panthers to a future dependent on federal and state management and intervention. Every panther lost is critical, including the dozens that have been killed by vehicles in recent years on roads that now crisscross their habitat.
For panthers, the quarry approval was a double-edged sword: Not only will they be further endangered by the loss and degradation of habitat, heavy equipment operation and the more than 1,000 additional daily vehicle trips on local roads, once the mining operation is closed down, the quarry pits may be transformed into virtually lifeless, oxygen-deprived lakes rimmed by residential development.
The Corps has failed not only to adequately weigh the project's long-term impacts on species like panthers, wood storks, crested caracaras and eastern indigo snakes, but also to investigate impacts on nearby wetland preserves. It failed to consider the cumulative effects of other projects in panther habitat on the panther, other wildlife and the water resources we all depend on.
The mine is but one of several mine and residential developments in Southwest Florida, including several in the same watersheds, within a 10-mile radius of the Hogan Island Quarry site. In all, more than 13,000 acres of proposed mining projects in proximity to the Hogan Island Quarry have received authorization from the state and/or the local county municipality, or are currently being pursued.
Among the raft of plans for intensive land uses left unacknowledged in the agency's review are proposals for 45,000 acres of residential and commercial development, as well as transportation infrastructure and other impacts in Florida panther habitat.
That's why several conservation groups, including the one I work for, filed a lawsuit seeking a more thorough review of the project. It has become increasingly clear that questions about the future environmental impacts of these developments far outnumber the answers.
And in a state where the battered Everglades serve as a constant reminder of the cost of failing to adequately balance short-term economic benefits with our best long-term economic and environmental interests, we must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure we make the best decisions for Florida's natural heritage.
Otherwise we can be sure there will be no balance at all.
FL Capitol will soon be abuzz with legislators
back in session in
Encouraging signs for Florida’s environment
TBO.com - Editorial
January 26, 2014
The run-up to this year’s legislative session in Tallahassee has been filled with promising signs for Florida’s environment, a surprising and encouraging development considering the virtual antipathy of recent Legislatures toward conservation.
In separate announcements last week, Gov. Rick Scott said he’ll seek $55 million to restore and maintain the state’s natural springs, and that he wants the state to double its spending on Everglades restoration, bumping it up to $130 million.
In the Senate, a $380-million plan to help the state’s natural water bodies is being drafted. And in the House, members are also working on a springs restoration package.
Whatever the motivation — be it political or not — the results will benefit the environment, the economy, and the reputation of Florida as a place of abundant natural beauty. The governor and state lawmakers should be applauded and encouraged to do even more.
The contrast could hardly be more stark compared with Scott’s first years in office, when he gutted environmental protections and cut funding for a program that purchased pristine lands. State lawmakers were no less a threat to Florida’s natural wonders, targeting growth management laws that guarded against haphazard development.
The state’s clumsy attempt last year to sell some of its previously purchased conservation lands has been a dismal failure.
The measures being pitched in advance of this legislative session will go a long way toward restoring and protecting some of the state’s freshwater sources. Nutrient-rich stormwater runoff, along with leaky septic tanks, pose a hazard to Florida’s 700 springs. About half the money Scott is proposing would go toward reducing runoff, and about half would go toward restoring damaged springs.
As proposed, money for the Everglades will help restore the natural flow of water into the southern end of the Everglades. It will also be used for water treatment projects important to the overall health of the Everglades.
In addition to the spending, we hope lawmakers will reconsider a measure passed in 2010 but later repealed that required septic systems be inspected every five years, with the goal of reducing the number of faulty systems. Septic tank owners complained about the costs, but now that the economy has improved lawmakers should do what they can to mitigate that hazard to freshwater sources.
The state’s economic future depends on protecting its fragile freshwater systems, which nourish our plants and animals and provide drinking water for our growing population. Millions of people visit the Sunshine State each year to enjoy its beaches, its open water, and its state and federal parks. Thousands of people decide to move here each year, drawn by its climate and its natural beauty.
The tough budget years during the great recession made for some tough choices. But cutting programs that protect our freshwater sources was shortsighted.
The talk in Tallahassee these days is reminiscent of the enlightened environmental leadership under a string of previous governors, both Democrat and Republican, who understood the relationship between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.
Let’s hope that the promise of this legislative session signals a return to those days.
'Getting water right' requires us all to change
Ocala.com - by Patricia Harden, former chair of the St. Johns Water Management District Governing Board. She lives in Sanford, FL
January 26, 2014
I am a second-generation Floridian and have spent almost 60 years involved in Florida ecological/water issues. What has been/is happening to our water resources causes me great concern and sorrow. In Pogo's words, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
We over-allocate, and yet, now grant permits for 30 years. Industries lose large amounts of water each year in undocumented "leaks." We abuse by discharging poorly or untreated storm and agricultural waters into ground and surface waters, we over-irrigate and over-fertilize our landscape and continue to plant water-hungry types of lawns and landscapes.
We plant crops on poor soils that require increased fertilization and irrigation. We fight eliminating septic tanks in areas of high springs and surface water impacts. The consumptive use and nutrients from all of this and more end up impacting our aquifer and surface waters, which includes springs, causing many problems, current and future.
We allow our lawmakers to dismantle and emasculate the water management districts, likely with the astute guidance of well-paid special interest lobbyists.
The government is definitely not "getting water right." In a better world, the Legislature would demand good science and truth and ensure that effective water protection measures were implemented by the districts.
It is patently obvious we all need clean water for personal health, food production, industry, etc. How we, individually and collectively, choose to use and conserve the resource will greatly impact the economy and our quality of life. We all need to be more efficient and careful with this incredible and irreplaceable finite resource
The St. Johns River Water Management District stated years ago that in order to meet not-too-distant future needs, alternative water sources would need to be found. Alternative sources means withdrawing from our rivers, lakes and streams. Desalinization is likely the last choice because it is even more expensive.
To help protect the resource, we need to make better choices on the type of lawns/landscapes we plant, our personal water use, better agricultural practices, more efficiency in industrial use, and so on. Are we willing to do this? Do we care enough? Can we ask the tough questions and take the hard actions? Should those who make large profits using our water resources continue to pay only the cost of consumptive-use permits?
Are we, as individuals, prepared to make even one sacrifice or pay an extra dollar designated for water resource restoration and protection? Are we willing to write or call our legislators and tell him/her to shun the high-paid lobbyists and base their decisions on real, not special interest-driven, science?
There is a misguided and seemingly, at times, cavalier attitude by Tallahassee toward using/abusing our natural resources based on the false mantra of "helping the economy." I would venture to say that clean water is the base of our economy.
Florida citizens and our economy will pay the price for this flagrant disregard of our precious water resources as we continue to over-allocate, overuse and abuse them. We are seeing this now in the sad decline of our fragile springs, so well documented in the Star-Banner's excellent series, "Fragile Springs," and in other places such as the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Johns River.
We need to care, do our part and, let our voices be heard loud and clear. The Legislature is addressing springs protection in this session. Urge your legislator to listen to valid science, not special interests, and to pass strong, meaningful springs and aquifer protection legislation.
If we don't take a stand, we will all pay the price.
Re-election brings out politician in Scott
News-Press.com – by Bob Rathgeber
January 26, 2014
Many of his proposals include spending money on environment, education.
For a guy who said he would govern like the outsider business executive he was, Rick Scott appears to have learned the wily ways of the seasoned politician quickly and efficiently.
The Florida governor is saying and doing all the things people want to hear. He has proposed as much as $500 million in tax cuts. He wants the Legislature to give him more money to protect children and more cash for schools. He’s proposing a record-long tax holiday. Just this past week he announced the state will spend an additional $130 million to help clean up the Everglades and asked the Legislature for $30 million for workforce training.
He’s even asked President Barack Obama for a personal sit-down to discuss health care.
What in the world has come over this tea party Republican, the darling of the conservative right, the man who had never before held an elected office? You can sum it up in one word … re-election.
“It’s sort of like the old adage,” said FGCU political science professor Peter Bergerson, “you don’t know whether to play ‘Hail to the Chief’ or ‘Here Comes Santa Claus.’ ”
Bergerson, who has analyzed and studied political campaigns for more than 40 years, said Scott is simply a “political opportunist.”
“He is narrowing the window between him and Charlie Crist. He has made a significant transformation from a Jeffersonian point of view, he’s moved from the tea party and smaller government to some areas that have been rock-solid Democratic issues,” Bergerson said.
How this will work out, Bergerson said, will take shape over the next few months. “Will he be able to walk the tightrope of the issues vs. his principles. Sincerity … is he really committed to these promises, does he really believe in these? You could say he has crossed the Rubicon here.”
Terry Miller, head of the Republican Party of Lee County, said even though Scott is requesting money for a range of programs often associated with Democrats, he doesn’t believe Scott has strayed from his conservative ideals.
“Our economy is coming back, and our revenues are increasing,” Miller said. “Some of the things that went unfunded or had to get by with less money … the governor is catching up with some of them.”
The Legislature and Scott had a $3.8 billion shortfall when he took office in 2011. This year, he will have $1 billion more to spend then last year.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, agrees with Miller’s assessment of Scott.
“His business background shapes everything that he does,” Caldwell said. “There is an extra billion dollars available. There is money to spend.”
Caldwell said Scott’s requests are legitimate, especially for the economic situation. “This is a different time than before when we had to cut the budget. I feel what he is asking for is consistent with the commitment that he made when he was running for office.”
Take environmental issues, Caldwell said. “When we had to cut, the environment department had to dial back, as did many agencies. He’s seeking money for Florida’s springs. He has always been a strong advocate for clean water.”
Kathy Jones, chairwoman of the Lee County Patriots and one of the most active tea party members in Southwest Florida, figures Scott is making some of these financial announcements to help his re-election bid.
“It’s probably politically motivated,” Jones said. “That’s a politician for you.”
Jones said Scott might not have been a “politician” when he first took office, but “he is now.”
Nevertheless, she said the tea party has not lost faith in him “He’d be our choice if the primary was today.”
Calls to Scott’s communications office in Tallahassee seeking information about his reelection campaign were routed to the Republican Party of Florida headquarters.
RPOF spokeswoman Susan Hepworth said she had not heard grumblings about Scott's fiscal requests, and agreed with Miller and Caldwell he was simply catching up from several tight years of budgeting.
Crist has yet to open a campaign headquarters or appoint a campaign manager.
Politicians are famous for failing to give specific answers to questions. Scott is no exception. In fact, he makes a good study on how to be evasive. Scott learned that drill when he was CEO of the nation’s largest private-for-profit hospital chain, Columbia/HCA. He was the artful dodger when it came to talking about Medicare fraud issues leveled against the company. He fine-tuned those techniques on his way to the statehouse.
When he was on the campaign trail in 2009, neither reporters’ questions nor queries from those in the audience could get him off topic, which was always jobs, jobs, jobs.
A running joke went like this:
Reporter’s question — Nice day, isn’t it Rick ?
Scott’s answer — 7-7-7. I have a seven-point plan to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.
To this day the governor continues to sidestep questions that don’t fall within the scope of his message.
Scott officially became a second-term candidate on Dec. 10 when he filed paperwork with election officials. But it’s been nearly a foregone conclusion he would run again since he took office in January, 2010.
He financed his first-term run with his own money, spending about $78 million. This time, his political committee, “Let’s Get to Work”, is doing the heavy lifting. So far, it has raised nearly $30 million, and the money continues to pour in at the rate of about $90,000 a day.
Big donors include some of the wealthiest individuals in Florida — former Dophins and Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shadid Khan, current Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Donald Trump. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, U.S. Sugar Corp., the Seminole Indians and FPL are among the largest corporate donors.
Even golfing great Jack Nicklaus is participating. He held a fundraiser at his Palm Beach County home earlier this month, where the suggested donation for meeting the governor — and presumably Nicklaus — was $10,000. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigned for Scott at a couple of stops in the Orlando area last week.
Scott’s likely opponent in the November general election will be Democrat Charlie Crist, who was Florida’s governor as a Republican for four years prior to Scott taking office. But first he must beat former legislator Nan Rich in the August primary.
In the latest Public Policy Polling survey, Scott and Crist are in a statistical dead heat, and the governor has made up 10 percentage points since the previous poll in October.
“These are different times, for sure,” said Bergerson of FGCU. “Scott is dealing in political realities in 2014. You have to run for re-election on something.”
Of course, things are much different now and for one to make history they simply have to have enough money - evidenced by a 5,770 acre tract of land in eastern North Port to be auctioned off Feb. 13 to the highest bidder.
Southwest Florida's last land grab
Bradenton Times – by Merab-Michal Favorite
January 26, 2014
NORTH PORT - Florida has long been the promised land for speculators, as developers and real estate magnates have helped to shape the state in both good and bad ways over the years. The urge by state leaders to populate Florida goes back even further: the Armed Occupation Act of of 1842 was responsible for populating southwest Florida, promising 160 acres for any man willing to bear arms for the state and defend their new homestead with their lives against attack from Native Americans.
The land, once eyed for a sprawling, high end subdivision called Isles of Athena, was supposed to feature thousands of homes, pools, golf courses and other amenities.
Instead, it has led a quiet, if not ideal, existence following the economic downturn, when the housing market collapsed and ruined thousands, if not millions of lives. The land looks much like it has for thousands of years; deer, wild turkey and hogs freely roam the property, which is dotted with streams, bass-stocked ponds and strands of oak hammocks.
According to William Bone, president of Gadsden, Alabama-based National Auction Group, the seven square mile property dubbed McCall Ranch is a rarity, a veritable "Last of the Mohicans" type of opportunity that exists nowhere else in South Florida.
It's the largest piece of privately owned land left in the southern half of a state still grappling with unchecked urban sprawl, and in some cases, communities like North Port who are still grappling with their identity.
While other properties of this size still exist in South Florida as parks and preserves, they too may not be safe from development. The Manatee County Planning and Zoning Board set a recent precedent when they voted in favor of rezoning a 6.9 acre-property on the eastern side of Terra Ceia Island. With one vote, the land, which is owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), went from a conservation zone to a mixed use property. The parcel is adjacent to a preserve and considered a flood zone.
Bone's company will be overseeing the February auction, which he describes as having the potential to be "quite an event," one that could draw as many varied interests such as developers, private investors or environmentalists.
It costs $200,000 just to register for the auction, Bone said, and the property has been listed for sale with various real estate agencies over the years. Most recently it was listed at $36 million, although appraisal information was unavailable.
According to Bone, a property that size simply does not exist anymore, unless it's in the hands of federal or state agencies.
While it's doubtful that the land would be preserved by local legislators, Bone did say that it's possible an environmental group could snatch the land up in order to keep it in its pristine, natural condition.
But the land will likely become what so many others across the state have turned into, like the sprawling and epic Lakewood Ranch community in Manatee County, that spreads over nearly 31,000 acres and boasts 11,000 residents in 5,000 homes.
Lakewood Ranch was so successful, developers decided to create another sprawling residential development in northern Manatee County, dubbed "Lakewood Ranch Jr." by the Bradenton Herald editorial board.
The success rate of these types of developments is spotty at best, especially in a post-housing collapse world.
Just to the south of McCall Ranch, a 17,000 acre property called Babcock Ranch spans two counties and was envisioned by developer and former professional football player Syd Kitson as a green, futuristic community that was powered entirely with solar energy.
The development has started and stalled over the years, and even been infused with $40 million worth of public dollars. It was supposed to serve as both preserve and city, with free wireless internet that spanned the entire property, dozens of schools, light industry, manufacturing, shopping, dining, business parks and more than 8,000 homes.
If a developer with deep pockets and a renewed sense of ambition thinks McCall Ranch is going to be the next great community in Southwest Florida, then it's got some competition to both the north and the south; that is, if Kitson ever breaks ground on Babcock, which is now scheduled for 2016.
The developer would also have to contend with the glut of vacant and foreclosed homes that pepper not only North Port but all of southern Sarasota County; so in addition to deep pockets, they would have a deep well of patience.
Lakewood Ranch took nearly 20 years to grow to 11,000 residents. So if McCall Ranch does one day become yet another planned community, it would likely take decades for it to flourish. Of course, as those years roll by, an entire generation of young Floridians will not have access to the land, not unless they want to buy it, and the chance to preserve these kinds of opportunities will lessen.
Is there a balance that can be found ? Of course. But one way or the other history will be made on Feb. 13, as a final piece of Florida's heritage will be handed to the highest bidder.
Spring into action
Gainesville.com - Editorial
January 26, 2014
Florida's springs and other water resources are finally getting deserved attention.
But it's going to take public pressure on elected officials to ensure that talk translates to measures that truly protect water quality and quantity.
Last week was filled with promising signs. Rallies were held around the state promoting the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration.
The declaration, which can be signed at wewantcleanwater.com, says in part that the state has the responsibility to provide clean water for future generations.
Even Gov. Rick Scott showed he's paying attention to the issue, calling on the Legislature to spend $55 million in the upcoming budget for springs protection.
It was a welcome acknowledgement that protecting water is essential for the state and its economy. But a closer look at Scott's proposal and other developments raises cause for concern.
While Scott's pledge seems like a lot of money, it comes at a time when fiscal analysts are projecting a $1.2 billion surplus. Local nature photographer John Moran pointed out that the pledge amounts to the cost of a cheeseburger for each Floridian.
State senators are talking about appropriating seven times as much for springs protection — but face resistance from the House.
While spending on water projects is a needed investment, it won't solve the state's water woes. That will require the regulation of septic tanks, fertilizer applications and other pollution sources along with water managers actually turning off the spigot on endless groundwater withdrawals.
Last week's hearings in Gainesville on minimum flows and levels, or MFLs, illustrate the difficulty of that effort. The long-delayed standards establish the point at which withdrawals from water bodies and groundwater harm the environment.
As MFLs are being finalized for the Ichetucknee and Lower Santa Fe rivers, Gainesville Regional Utilities is seeking a 20-year permit to pump up to 30 million gallons a day of groundwater. Regulators are considering limiting permits to five years.
GRU officials rightly note the absurdity of Jacksonville's utility, JEA, already getting a 20-year permit, despite evidence that its withdrawals are causing problems through the region.
GRU deserves credit for implementing more conservation and water reuse measures than a number of other utilities. But GRU officials shouldn't push for a 20-year permit if they think there isn't enough accurate information right now on the impact of groundwater pumping, as Alachua County Environmental Protection Director Chris Bird noted.
GRU does have a responsibility to prevent water rates from skyrocketing. Yet while more conservation and recharge projects would be expensive, the investment would be far less than later building pipelines from rivers or desalination plants because there's not enough groundwater.
Last week made it clear: The message that our springs are in trouble has reached everyone from the governor to the public. The months ahead will show whether it's all a lot of talk or we're finally ready to accept the tough and costly measures needed to protect our water resources for future generations.
Water wars: Dig deeper, please
StAugustine.com - Letter by Richard Burroughs St. Augustine, FL
January 26, 2014
Editor: I would like to congratulate The Record for publishing the article “Clean water guardians rise up” Jan. 23. It was a nice wrap-up of an important issue with tentacles across the state. The article would have been much improved, however, if a St. Johns County angle were included, added or appended as a supporting article. Our Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, is quoted as stating; “If you don’t know that you are going to have a sustainable high-quality source of water to support all environmental and economic initiatives, then Florida ceases to exist as we know it.”
But this begs the question, what are our local leaders doing on this issue? St. Johns County’s western border is our namesake river and a most important water resource for the whole state. It is under threat from Central Florida interests who want to dry it up to feed the insatiable “house of the mouse” and surrounding environs. Surely our county commission, city commissioners, and Soil and Water Conservation District leaders have an opinion, a policy and are fighting for the interests of St. Johns County. What are they doing on this ? Please keep us informed. We need you.
US Congressman (D)
Congressman Murphy: Political gridlock ‘even worse’ than it appears
PalmBeachDailyNews.com – by William Kelly, Staff Writer
January 25, 2014
But freshman representative tells Civic Association he’s working to bridge partisan divide.
Shortly after he arrived in Washington, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy extended his hand in greeting to a fellow congressman with whom he was sharing an elevator in the Capitol.
The veteran Republican turned his back to Murphy, a freshman Democrat, and walked out.
Much has been written and spoken in the media about the bitter partisanship that has the federal government in its grip.
“The truth is, it’s probably even worse than what you’re seeing” in the media, Murphy told a Palm Beach Civic Association audience Friday at The Colony. More than 60 people attended the association’s directors’ breakfast for new and corporate members.
Murphy represents Florida’s District 18, a swing district that takes in Martin, St. Lucie and northern Palm Beach counties. He was relatively unknown before defeating Tea Party icon Allen West by less than 1 percent of the vote in November 2012.
Murphy was sworn into office at age 29, making him the youngest member of the 113th Congress.
From the outset, the self-described pro-business Democrat said, he has sought to help bridge the partisan divide. He and Robert Pittenger, a North Carolina Republican, had coffee together and found they had much to agree on about fiscal reform in Washington, Murphy said.
The two led a bipartisan group of 36 freshmen who signed a joint statement of principles that called for strengthening Medicare and Social Security by reforming its long-term obligations; promoting economic growth to generate revenue; cutting government spending; and aggressively pursuing and prosecuting Medicaid fraud.
In two weeks, the group was able to jointly identify $230 billion in wasteful spending, and progress has been made toward eliminating some of that waste, he said.
“The idea of ‘my way or the highway’ doesn’t work in your family or your business, and it certainly doesn’t work in government,” Murphy said.
Why the gridlock?
He blamed gerrymandering of congressional districts for much of the gridlock. Four-fifths of the districts are now locked in as Democratic or Republican, prompting their representatives to play to their respective political bases — instead of moving toward the political center, he said.
Murphy opposes the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, in which it held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations, associations and labor unions.
“I think we need (donation) limits and disclosure,” he said.
Murphy also blames the federal government for the lackluster economic recovery. The economy needs stability and predictability in Washington. Instead, though, there has been a government shutdown, as well as continuing uncertainty about federal regulation of the financial industry, he said.
Turning to environmental issues, Murphy said he supports coastal protection, Everglades restoration, repairing the dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, and constructing natural filters to cleanse the lake’s water supply. He opposes drilling for oil in Florida’s coastal waters.
Beach renourishments are critical to South Florida, but their importance is misunderstood in Washington, he said.
“It’s preventive,” Murphy said. “For every couple of dollars spent on beach renourishment, it will save 10 times that amount in repairs.”
Former Town Councilman Denis Coleman said he thought Murphy came across well: “I liked his message of bipartisanship. But I’m not optimistic.”
Draft outlines district's water plan
St. Augustine Record - by Peter.Guinta
January 25, 2014
PALATKA — By 2035, Northeast Florida’s 18-county St. Johns Water Management District will need 200 million gallons per day more water than it does now because its population is expected to grow from 5.5 million to 6.5 million.
But groundwater supplies are already reaching capacity and pressure is on the district to find more water.
District engineers this week said their plan to fill that gap is to withdraw 155 million gallons per day from the St. Johns River.
Jim Gross, of the district’s Regulatory Engineering and Environmental Services, said district staff will accept public comments and suggestions about the plan until Feb. 20.
District engineers have studied the river for four years and evaluated what withdrawal levels can be sustainable, he said.
“We wanted to know: Can we meet the demand without harming the water resources? If we can’t, we have to do something else.”
Harmful effects would include lake, springs and well levels dropping as well as lowered water quality.
He said conservation and better management techniques could save 60 to 80 million gallons per day. And increasing the use of reclaimed water and alternative supplies could also reduce demand on clean water sources.
Some more expensive options are storing water, using stormwater and desalinating sea water.
As for desalination, Gross said, “That’s a distant source in the future. Half its cost is in energy at the moment. It’s quite reliable, but the cost is not as favorable as other options.”
Environmentalists oppose nearly every plan to take St. Johns River water for public consumption, fearing that setting that precedent could cause saltwater intrusion, encourage more frequent algae blooms, change wildlife habitat and cause other destructive effects.
Gross said the river has been the source of drinking water for the city of Melbourne since the 1960s and has been used in Seminole County for power generation for decades. Since 2009, Seminole County had permission to take 5.5 million gallons per day from the river to “augment its reclaimed water and potable groundwater supply systems,” a district official said.
Gross said the district’s 155 million gallons per day “can be withdrawn with no more than negligible or minor effect,” because the river discharges 5 billion gallons per day to the ocean.
“The National Academy of Sciences has given this a lot of high-level scrutiny,” he said. “There is a margin of safety here that says the withdrawals can be done and can be done in a safe manner. This is a resource highly valued by the public.”
Few members of the public spoke at the district hearing Thursday.
One who did, Karl Hankin, said the district was using old population forecasts, giving a 30 million gallon-per-day difference in the calculations.
“The forecast is foundational to the district’s water supply plan. It’s important to get it correct,” he said.
Another speaker warned that a 155 million gallon-per-day withdrawal on a continual basis would be detrimental to the river in a draught, “when both the river and groundwater will be low.”
District technicians said the district’s water supply plan is very different from the Central Florida Water Supply Plan presented last week.
“The 155 million gallon per day taken in the district’s plan will include the Central Florida water,” one said.
Keys among South Florida counties being proactive, tackling climate change and more
January 25, 2014
In the next 50 years some 3 million people will move to Southeast Florida, joining the 6 million already here. So what will the region look like in 2060?
Will coastal cities see a big decline in tourism because their beaches disappeared under water from the rising sea level? Will one of the region's economic drivers -- agriculture -- shrink as open land is converted to more suburbs to accommodate population growth?
Not if a forward-thinking consortium of public officials, urban planners and civic and business leaders called Seven/50 has anything to say about it. The consortium started asking the relevant questions three years ago to determine how best to guide the region's growth through 2060.
Seven/50 stands for seven counties -- Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, Indian River and St. Lucie -- making up a super region.
Guided by the South Florida and Treasure Coast regional planning councils and with a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the group developed an intriguing blueprint to shape the region's future, moving it toward economic prosperity while maintaining residents' quality of life.
The blueprint (at www.seven50report.org) pushes for coordination among leaders in the seven counties to build more mass-transit corridors, redevelop livable in-fill communities around urban transit hubs that encourage walking and cycling and improving high-tech infrastructure networks to lure growth of healthcare, biomedical and other industries.
And the blueprint tackles the threat of rising sea levels from climate change head-on, calling for more-specific mapping of potential inundation of coastal cities to help them prepare by expanding beaches, building higher seawalls, developing up instead of out and designing engineering projects to keep seawater out of sewage systems and drinking-water supplies.
The blueprint is big on regional cooperation instead of competition between counties.
This cooperation would include creating a regional business coalition to promote the region, much like the Beacon Council now promotes Miami-Dade, and expand the regional economy beyond its three powerhouses: Tourism, real-estate development and agriculture. Such a coalition could bring new lobbying clout in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.
With that in mind, it's a shame that the Indian River and St. Lucie county commissions opted out of the Seven/50 plan at the noisy behest of tea-party activists who think it is a federal conspiracy to take over local control.
Fortunately, cities and school boards in the two counties are still on board with the Seven/50 blueprint, which offers a great vision for the region's future. Now comes the hard part, of course, making the vision a reality.
Scott’s drop in the bucket
Ocala.com - Editorial by Brad Rogers
January 25, 2014
So, Gov. Rick Scott is suddenly an advocate of saving and restoring Florida’s ailing springs. Scott put our money where his mouth is this week when he announced he will ask for $55 million in next year’s state budget to help stop pollution and clean up these deteriorating natural wonders that so many of us love.
“These springs are important not only to animal and plant life, but also add to Florida’s ever-expanding tourism industry,” Scott said in a press release.
Talk about your epiphanies. For the first three years Scott’s been in office, he has been anything but a friend of our springs. Let’s see. He single-handedly led the charge to slash water management revenues by $495 million since 2011. He has been a vociferous proponent of removing as many restrictions as possible to issuing new water withdrawal permits. He has presided over some of the most atrocious water pollution events in Florida history, including the sliming of the Fort Myer’s Caloosahatchee River, the toxic pollution of the Indian River Lagoon that has killed hundred of dolphins and manatees, the increasing salt-water intrusion of water supplies in such places as Cedar Key and Hastings, and, of course, the rapid and visible degradation of Florida’s 700 springs. Who knew the greening of Florida would come to mean algae covering our rivers and estuaries and choking our springs ?
Harsh maybe, but what is killing our springs and other waterways is nothing new and nothing we — or the guv — can’t identify. Clean water advocates have been consistent and unyielding in pointing out that what Florida needs is an overhaul of the state’s water policies, starting with a serious statewide water conservation mandate, tougher water permitting requirements, real fertilizer restrictions and identification of and intervention at the sources of pollution.
Let’s hear Gov. Scott call for those steps, and maybe cynics like yours truly won’t think the $55 million drop in the bucket — the state budget is $74 billion this year, folks — is just an election-year gimmick to give Scott an environmental talking point.
Just for the record, Scott’s own hand-picked water managers said last year that it would take an additional $120 million to “make a dent” in the springs problem. So he offers up half that, and half of that — $25 million — would be earmarked for developing “alternative water supplies,” that is, pumping our lakes and rivers so Scott and the rest of the big-business-first-and-always crowd can continue issuing permits for cheap water.
If Gov. Scott truly believes our springs “are important not only to animal and plant life, but also add to Florida’s ever-expanding tourism industry,” it will take more than throwing $55 million, or even 10 times that, at the problem. It will require making serious, difficult and inconvenient policy choices that will slow the overpumping of our aquifer, stop the steady pollution of our water supply and put meaningful penalties in place for those who find it cheaper to pay Florida’s laughably low fines for polluting our waters.
Try that for a campaign talking point, Governor
Palm Beach County considers climate-change measures
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 24, 2014
Palm Beach County could soon add some action to its climate change talk.
For the first time, climate change considerations would be added to development guidelines, under a proposal going before the County Commission on Thursday.
And within the next few months, the Commission is expected to weigh in on a climate change "action plan." That would include specific steps the county plans to take in the coming years to deal with potential climate change risks such as sea-level rise, strengthening hurricanes and threats to drinking-water supplies.
"We have never really faced anything like this before," said County Commissioner Shelley Vana, who has pushed for more action on climate-change preparations. "It's real. This will be part our long-range planning."
Yet, concerns remain about just how far the county should go.
Uncertainty about the extent of the risk as well as the daunting costs that new building regulations and infrastructure improvements could bring have prompted backlash across the country to governments considering climate-change measures.
So far, Palm Beach County has opted to team with neighboring counties and take a better-safe-than sorry approach to the risks posed by climate change.
In 2010, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties created the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, aimed at coordinating responses to rising seas and other threats.
Now, with the proposed change to development guidelines and upcoming action plan decision, Palm Beach County is considering stepping up its own climate-change response.
"What's more expensive, having some regulations in place … or replacing everything that you built because you didn't pay attention?" asked Joanne Davis, of the growth watchdog group 1000 Friends of Florida. "It's important."
The building industry could be significantly affected by new regulations that spring from the county's proposed emphasis on climate change.
Building industry representatives need to be included in the county's decisions to come, said Carol Bowen of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc.
"We would want them to be sensible," Bower said about the county. "Take small steps, a common-sense approach to this."
The concern driving this effort is that manmade pollution amplifies the effects of the earth's usual climate fluctuations. Pollution from burning fossil fuels produces more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that capture the sun's heat.
Sea levels are expected to rise at an inflated rate as increased temperatures melt ice sheets, adding to the volume of the seas, and because oceans swell when water temperatures get warmer.
South Florida sea levels are projected to rise 3 to 7 inches by 2030 and up to 2 feet by 2060, according to scientific projections compiled by the four-county group.
That raises the risk of increased erosion in South Florida as well as portions of coastal areas ending up underwater and saltwater seeping in and fouling underground drinking water supplies.
Thursday's proposal calls for adding climate change to the factors considered under the future land use guidelines in the county's "comprehensive plan" — which serves as the local blueprint for growth.
The idea is to make climate change risks a consideration in issues such as where to allow development and how to improve infrastructure, county Planning Director Lorenzo Aghemo said.
Thursday's measure lays the groundwork for future specific climate-change regulations and actions, he said. If approved next week, it then undergoes several more months of review before a final vote in April.
"It's basically just baby steps toward the issue of climate change," Aghemo said
Future county steps are expected to include ongoing participation in regional climate change planning, through the four-county group.
The action plan expected to go before the Commission later this year springs from the Regional Climate Change Compact.
In 2012, representatives for the four counties produced about 100 recommendations — not requirements — for local governments to implement to help deal with climate change.
The recommendations include: raising low-lying roads at risk of flooding, restricting development in areas vulnerable to flooding, relocating drinking water wellfields further inland, and promoting public transportation to reduce the number of cars producing greenhouse gases.
County officials don't dispute that the future costs of climate-change measures could be steep.
But Vana, a former science teacher, said it would be "irresponsible" not to prepare for climate change.
"Either I'm going to believe in magic or I'm going to believe in science," Vana said. "That's the only rational way to go."
They’re pressuring politicians to sign a recently-drafted “declaration” of water rights that was the subject of statewide rallies this week. But, since the declaration is neither petition, nor legislation, some wonder: to what end?
What the Water 'Declaration' actually does
WFSU.org - by Ryan Benk
January 24, 2014
Water issues are taking center stage in the run up to Florida’s 2014 legislative session, and this week environmental activists joined together to declare that every Floridian has the right to clean water.
Members of 100 different environmental groups held simultaneous rallies in 16 different Florida cities this week to highlight the multitude of water issues facing the Sunshine State. In Tampa, the Sierra Club’s Pat Kemp rattled off a few of those issues to a small, yet enthusiastic crowd.
“We’re all at risk with water pollution: toxic algae fueled by fertilizer, sewage and animal manure and unrestrained over consumption of water resources. We’re gathering from around the state in 16 different communities to make a stand here today for clean water in Florida,” Kemp said.
Florida’s waterways and aquifers seem to be under attack from all sides. With overconsumption leading to the collapse of the Apalachicola oyster industry in the North to toxic algae blooms killing sea life in the central and southern parts of the state. Speaking at Orlando’s clean water event, Altamonte Springs Republican Senator David Simmons praised Governor Rick Scott for his recent $55-million pledge to restore the state’s natural springs. But he said that’s only the beginning.
“And it’s the day after the governor has announced his 55-million dollar commitment to the restoration and preservation of our springs. You know, I look at that and say it’s a good start,” Simmons told a activists and reporters in Orlando.
Simmons is leading a bipartisan group of senators in crafting an expansive measure to regulate and restore Florida’s waterways, lakes and aquifers. But, his House colleagues like Tallahassee Democratic Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, haven’t put anything in writing yet. Rehwinkel Vasilinda reassured reporters at the capital city’s clean water rally that the House still has plenty of time to submit a bill.
“The legislature has been meeting on these issues. I don’t have any specific legislation as of yet, but we have until March to file all of our bills. So, we’ll see what comes about then,” Rehwinkle Vasilinda said.
The tone and participants of Wednesday’s clean water events varied but, they all had one thing in common – a call for citizens and politicians alike to sign the environmental coalition’s “declaration of water rights.” Activists hope to gather 100-thousand signatures, including that of the governor himself. Earthjustice attorney David Guest, whose group is part of the so-called “environmental 100,” said the governor has a responsibility to sign the digital document.
“We have a crisis all over the state with contaminated water, threatening people’s drinking water, threatening our children. This is simply a declaration of rights saying that Floridians have a right to clean water and government and industry have a responsibility to work together,” Guest argued.
Scott’s already announced his intention to further fund water restoration projects, but Florida State University sociologist Deana Rohlinger said putting all of Florida’s water issues in a single declaration may help bolster public awareness.
“We might think about Florida is battling surrounding states over water, we might think about algae blooms, or we might think about pollution but, we rarely think of – oh wow these issues are all really connected,” Rohlinger pointed out.
Rohlinger said having diverse groups collaborate on a single document and stage simultaneous events can help activists capitalize on the conversation taking place right now in the Legislature. She also believes there are benefits to asking the governor to sign their declaration, even if he never signs on.
“It allows him an opportunity to throw them some additional support, even if he decides not to ultimately sign the declaration. In the long term, if the group or the coalition gets angry at the governor, they can use this as leverage. Yes, we repeatedly asked him to sign this declaration which he refused to do so. So it has short-term and long-term benefits,” Rohlinger continued.
Ultimately, Rohlinger said, standing behind clean water is politically advantageous for politicians in both parties. No word yet on whether the governor intends to sign the declaration. The declaration currently has more than 1600 signatures.
Army Corps transfers first completed CERP project to SFWMD
January 23, 2014
The Corps completed construction of the Melaleuca Eradication and Other Exotic Plants Research Annex Aug. 30, 2013, and after completing required documentation, the letter of official transfer was submitted to the SFWMD, who will be responsible for the operations and maintenance of the fully-completed facility. The Corps received the signed transfer letter Jan. 10, marking the successful completion and transfer of the project.
“The successful transfer of this project demonstrates the Corps of Engineers’ commitment to getting projects not only constructed, but also officially turned over to our local sponsors after completion,” said Jacksonville District Commander Col. Alan Dodd. “We have a lot of projects in the works, and we will continue to push forward in our project execution and completion goals.”
The Melaleuca Eradication and Other Exotic Plants Research Annex, located in Davie, Fla., will serve as a new facility to raise insects that will be used as a biocontrol measure to manage invasive plants. Construction began on the facility in July 2011, with federal funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
While the Melaleuca project was the first CERP project to be officially completed and transferred, the Corps also recently transferred another CERP component to the SFWMD, the Lake Okeechobee Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Pilot Project and facility, located adjacent to the Kissimmee River in Okeechobee County. The facility, which includes pumps, structures, buildings, wells, and treatment system, was transferred to the SFWMD Dec. 18, 2013, for operations and maintenance upon completion of the pilot study.
The pilot project tested ASR performance for future facility expansions. In coordination with the SFWMD, the Corps is leading efforts to finalize a Technical Data Report documenting the findings and recommendations of the aquifer storage and recovery system.
Clean water rally held along the St. Johns River
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Communities came together across Florida today to fight for clean rivers. One of them was held along the St. Johns River this morning.
The rallies were held to launch the Floridian's Clean Water Declaration Campaign. About 40 people gathered along the river to show their support.
It involves a petition drive seeking signatures from Floridians to urge lawmakers to commit to clean water.
"Here's to clean water, here's to clean water! Here's to the St. Johns! Here's to the St. Johns!" they chanted.
Citizens and local environmental organizations are urging Floridians to join them in the fight for clean water. They want to make sure there is a strong water ethic in the state. And when decisions are made by lawmakers, they want those decisions made to help, not hurt water resources.
The St. Johns Riverkeeper and other organizations will be getting petitions signed and you can go to wewantcleanwater.com to sign up online.
Their goal is to get more than 100,000 signatures. Rallies like this were held in 15 other communities around Florida today and a rally is planned in Tallahassee on February 18 to present a unified voice for clean water.
Related: Rally for a new water ethic precedes state workshop Gainesville Sun
Environmentalists in Tampa issue clean water declaration Creative Loafing Tampa
Pushing for action in cleaning up Florida's waters WPEC
Statewide clean water campaign kicks off as state leaders discuss ... Sunshine State News
Environmental Activists Rally for Clean Water WUSF News
Rally for clean water draws activists, residents to downtown Stuart ... TCPalm
Environmental groups call for clean water pledge
Tallahassee.com - Jennifer Portman, Democrat senior writer
January 23, 2014
The need to better protect Florida’s freshwater took center stage again Wednesday as environmental leaders called on Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers to sign a “clean water declaration” and resolve to work together to stop pollution and ensure clean water for future generations.
“Florida’s nature-based economy, our fish and wildlife resources, our public health depend on clean water,” the Florida Wildlife Federation’s Manley Fuller said at a news conference outside the Capitol, surrounded by posters of toxic algae blooms. “We want our leaders to pledge to do what they need to do to clean up our waters.”
Sierra Club Florida’s Craig Diamond said: “This is a non-partisan issue, this is a future-of-Florida issue.”
The declaration, which has been signed by more than 50 organizations around the state, says Floridians are entitled to clean and abundant water for drinking, fishing and recreation and that government and industry have the responsibility to protect state waters and the natural environment.
“We don’t see those as demands, we see those as inalienable rights,” said Charles Pattison, president of 1000 Friends of Florida. “This is a citizens’ water bill of rights.”
The news conference — one of 16 held in cities around the state — coincided with an announcement by Scott that he intends to ask the Legislature to earmark $130 million for Everglades restoration. On Tuesday, Scott also called for $55 million to be set aside in next year’s budget to help protect and restore the state’s imperiled freshwater springs.
“Even the governor has finally gotten religion on protecting our waterways,” said Rep. Alan Williams, who along with fellow Democrat from Tallahassee Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, were the only two lawmakers to attend the event.
Rehwinkel Vasilinda called improving and protecting water quality “a fundamental, first-priority issue and we’ve got to get to it.”
Williams expressed cautious optimism that Scott’s recommendations and improved water regulations will be accepted by the Republican-led Legislature.
“We’ll see. He was on the right side of Medicaid expansion and that didn’t happen,” Williams said. “But we are hopeful his leadership will pay off along with a lot of hard work on both sides of the issue. It’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue, it’s what’s right for Florida.”
Pattison called Scott’s budget requests “a good start,” but stressed the need for significant water-policy reform. The Legislature is expected to take up bills this session aimed at improving water quality and quantity. A draft bill being fashioned by a bi-partisan group of state senators would allocate $380 million for the improvement and removal of septic tanks, known to be a primary cause of water pollution.
“We are going to need some comprehensive changes that tighten up the standards for waste-water treatment in particular,” Pattison said.
With momentum building around water issues, Earthjustice’s David Guest said action this year by lawmakers to address what he calls a “crisis” is possible.
“The visible effects of our failure to regulate are becoming clearer and clearer,” Guest said. “There is a groundswell. Whether the Legislature reacts to that reasonably remains to be seen.”
Land is needed to preserve clean flow from Lake O
News-Press.com – by Ray Judah, former Lee County commissioner
January 23, 2014
The dark discoloration of water in our estuaries and massive clumps of red drift algae along our beaches is a vivid reminder of the harmful discharge of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee during the summer of 2013.
In the 2014 legislative session, a Senate Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin will present a report with recommendations to address short and long-term solutions to reduce or eliminate excessive releases from Lake Okeechobee.
The report states that “providing a path southward for water in Lake Okeechobee is a key component to fully managing discharges east and west from the lake.”
However, it dismisses a proposed flow-way in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee as a viable solution to store, treat and convey water south from the lake to Everglades National Park. In 2008, in a comprehensive and detailed report for the Rivers Coalition, George Cavros demonstrated that a flow-way south of the lake to be the most practical and cost effective solution to alleviating the massive releases of water from Lake Okeechobee that is causing adverse harm to coastal estuaries.
The Senate Committee’s report further states that “there are a number of water projects, both proposed and underway that, once completed, will significantly increase the water storage capacity in south Florida.” Unfortunately, the numbers pertaining to the water storage capacity of the referenced projects do not add up to adequately address the devastating discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
The Central Everglades Planning Project, including the additional 2.6 miles of bridging along the Tamiami Trail proposed under the partnership between the state of Florida and the U.S. Department of Interior, is important to enhancing flow under the Tamiami Trail. However, it will only convey 210,000-acre feet of water from Lake Okeechobee south to Everglades National Park. The balance of the drainage flowing south is from the Everglades Agricultural Area.
The C-44 Reservoir, with a 6,000-acre filtration wetland, that is under construction on the east coast will store approximately 50,000-acre feet of water from surrounding agricultural drainage with no relief for Lake Okeechobee water release.
The C-43 Reservoir to be constructed with funding from the Water Resource Development and Reform Act is designed to only store 170,000 acre feet of water (55 billion gallons or less than 5 inches off Lake Okeechobee) and with no water quality component.
In an average year, approximately 1.4 million acre feet of water from Lake Okeechobee is released to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee.
In wet years, such as 2005 and 2013, approximately 2.5 million acre feet of water was released from Lake Okeechobee to tide.
The proposed flow-way in the EAA south of Lake Okeechobee requires state acquisition of approximately 20,000 acres of U.S. Sugar lands and approximately 30,000 acres of Florida Crystals lands to provide sufficient storage, treatment and conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee south to the Everglades. The combined acreage of 50,000 acres is only 7 percent of agricultural lands in the EAA and 15 percent of sugar cane fields thereby assuring a sustainable agricultural industry and restoration of Lake Okeechobee and Everglades and protection of coastal estuaries.
A Clean Water Action event is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Feb. 1, at the Lee County Alliance of the Arts
'Clean Water Declaration' seeks to fight water pollution
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 22, 2014
Life, liberty and the pursuit of ... clean water.
A new "Clean Water Declaration" targeting Florida residents and lawmakers calls for making anti-pollution efforts a greater priority in the state's pursuit of happiness.
A coalition of elected officials, environmentalists and other anti-pollution advocates on Wednesday gathered in Boynton Beach and 15 other Florida cities — from Tallahassee to Key West — to kick off a campaign aimed at building support for water pollution prevention and cleanups.
Whether flowing out of a faucet, bubbling up in a spring or washing over a coral reef, clean water is vital to Florida's residents, tourism-based economy and environmental health, according to backers of the declaration.
"We the residents of Florida are fed up with pollution in our waters," Sarah de Flesco, of the environmental group Clean Water Action, said Wednesday in Boynton Beach. "We need help from our elected officials."
The Clean Water Declaration contends that Florida residents have an "inalienable right" to clean drinking water, safe waters for fishing and swimming, and protection from pollution.
Declaration backers want those who sign on to support stopping the sources of pollution, guarding against overconsumption and privatization of Florida's water, protecting the environment and providing clean water for future generations.
They are hoping to get at least 100,000 signers. The declaration can be found online at wewantcleanwater.com.
State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, signed the Clean Water Declaration at the campaign kickoff in Boynton Beach.
"It's good for business and it's good for the environment," Berman said.
The idea behind the declaration is to build support for anti-pollution measures such as potentially outlawing the use of fertilizers on lawns during the summer, when rains are more likely to wash pollutants into waterways. Palm Beach County in 2012 balked at approving that type of restriction.
Another idea could be more pollution control requirements for South Florida farms, where stormwater runoff can carry pollutants into the Everglades. Sugar cane growers have opposed adding more of those requirements, arguing that they are already meeting pollution reduction standards.
Declaration supporters also want more public funding for Everglades restoration as well as cleanup efforts for other Florida waterways.
Pollution problems worsening last summer with the flood-control-prompted dumping of Lake Okeechobee's rising waters into coastal waterways was an example of water quality threats that hurt the environment and the economy.
Dumping hundreds of billions of gallons of Lake Okeechobee water out to sea eased the strain on the lake's troubled dike, but it also wasted water that could have helped boost South Florida's drinking water supply. In addition, the polluting discharges harmed coastal fishing grounds and led to toxic algae blooms in some areas that made water unsafe for swimming.
"When do we way, 'Enough is enough?'" asked Martha Musgrove, of the Florida Wildlife Federation, which supports the declaration. "We want clean water in Florida."
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday emphasized his support for water quality improvements by highlighting his effort to include $130 million in the state's next budget to support ongoing Everglades restoration and other projects to help South Florida's ecosystem.
That proposed spending, which requires the Legislature's approval, would include $40 million to hasten construction of a delayed reservoir in Martin County, intended to help lessen stormwater discharges polluting coastal waters.
The spending would also include $30 million as part of an ongoing effort to raise the Tamiami Trail to get more water flowing south to the Everglades. Another $32 million would go toward completing the Kissimmee River restoration, which helps clean up water flowing into Lake Okeechobee.
This comes as Florida continues to implement the governor's $880 million plan to build more water storage and treatment areas to clean up water flowing into the Everglades.
Last week, state officials gathered in southwestern Palm Beach County to celebrate the $60 million restart of a project to finish an Everglades restoration reservoir that had been shelved for five years as restoration plans changed. The 16,000-acre project has already cost taxpayers nearly $280 million.
"The end result [will be] billions and billions of cleaner water flowing into the Everglades," Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. said last week.
While praising ongoing water quality spending and commitments, more is needed to protect Florida's waters, declaration backers said.
"We need to act now," said Drew Martin of the Palm Beach County branch of the Sierra Club. "We need strong standards for water quality."
Environmental Coalition drafts 'Declaration' of Water Rights, asks for Governor's signature
WFSU.org - by Ryan Benk
January 22, 2014
The same day Governor Rick Scott announced he’d be asking for $130 million in Everglades restoration funding for the coming year, members of more than 100 environmental groups held rallies in 16 Florida cities to raise awareness of Florida’s water issues. Tallahassee’s conservationists are demanding Scott do more than just “throw money” at the problem.
Members of an environmental coalition that includes the groups Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, and Florida Conservation Commission are happy with Governor Scott’s $55 million springs and $130 million Everglades restoration funding proposals, but say they’re still skeptical about his commitment to environmental protection. The statewide coalition wants the governor to sign what they’re calling a “declaration of water rights.” Earthjustice lawyer David Guest thinks Scott’s signature would show he’s serious about solving the problem.
“We have a crisis all over the state with contaminated water, threatening people’s drinking water, threatening our children. This is simply a declaration of rights saying that Floridians have a right to clean water and government and industry have a responsibility to work together,” Guest said Wednesday.
The Sunshine State has been plagued with water woes ranging from toxic algae blooms in the central and southern parts of the state to decreased freshwater flows to the Apalachicola River in the North. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working on a comprehensive bill to restore and regulate Florida’s springs, lakes and aquifers.
Related: Environmental group files lawsuit over South Florida river contamination
Mapping the future
Miami Herald - Editorial
January 22, 2014
OUR OPINION: Region’s leaders ignore path to a sustainable South Florida at our peril
In the next 50 years some 3 million people will move to Southeast Florida, joining the 6 million already here. So what will the region look like in 2060?
Will there be a 24/7 traffic jam on I-95? Will coastal cities see a big decline in tourism because their beaches disappeared under water from the rising sea level? Will one of the region’s economic drivers — agriculture — shrink as open land is converted to more suburbs to accommodate population growth ?
Not if a forward-thinking consortium of public officials, urban planners and civic and business leaders called Seven/50 has anything to say about it. The consortium started asking the relevant questions three years ago to determine how best to guide the region’s growth through 2060.
Seven/50 stands for seven counties — Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, Indian River and St. Lucie — making up a super region. Guided by the South Florida and Treasure Coast regional planning councils and with a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the group developed an intriguing blueprint to shape the region’s future, moving it toward economic prosperity while maintaining residents’ quality of life.
The blueprint (at www.seven50report.org) pushes for coordination among leaders in the seven counties to build more mass-transit corridors, redevelop livable in-fill communities around urban transit hubs that encourage walking and cycling and improving high-tech infrastructure networks to lure growth of healthcare, biomedical and other industries. And the blueprint tackles the threat of rising sea levels from climate change head-on, calling for more-specific mapping of potential inundation of coastal cities to help them prepare by expanding beaches, building higher seawalls, developing up instead of out and designing engineering projects to keep seawater out of sewage systems and drinking-water supplies.
The blueprint is big on regional cooperation instead of competition between counties.
Using Tri-Rail as an example, the plan would use the FEC rail line to create a commuter service along the coast. There is also an agreement with Florida East Coast Industries, which owns the FEC tracks between Miami and Jacksonville, to explore installing an upgrade of the region’s fiber-optic network along the rail right-of-way to attract those high-tech businesses.
This cooperation would include creating a regional business coalition to promote the region, much like the Beacon Council now promotes Miami-Dade, and expand the regional economy beyond its three powerhouses: tourism, real-estate development and agriculture. Such a coalition could bring new lobbying clout in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., for this region. Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach formed just such a network last year — there is more strength in numbers, after all. The three counties represent some 5 million voters. Imagine the increased lobbying power if the whole region joined forces.
With that in mind, it’s a shame that the Indian River and St. Lucie county commissions opted out of the Seven/50 plan at the noisy behest of tea-party activists who think it is a federal conspiracy to take over local control. Fortunately, cities and school boards in the two counties are still on board with the Seven/50 blueprint, which offers a great vision for the region’s future. Now comes the hard part, of course, making the vision a reality.
Gov. Rick SCOTT
Scott pledges $130M to Everglades restoration
Miami Herald, Associated Press - by Mike Schneider
January 22, 2014
KISSIMMEE -- Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday pledged $130 million to Everglades restoration in the upcoming budget.
Scott said during a meeting of the Florida Cabinet that the 2014 budget request would be used to help restore the Kissimmee River north of the Everglades. It also will assist in the reconstruction of a section of the Tamiani Trail so it allows water to flow south into the Everglades and speed up construction of a storm water treatment plant for Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Referring to the Everglades, Scott called it “a key to a vibrant economy, coast to coast.”
The budget request for the Everglades was a $60 million increase over last year.
“If you’re a fan of the Everglades, the governor’s announcement today should blow your socks off,” said Herschel Vinyard, the governor-appointed Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Scott’s announcement comes nine months after the Florida Legislature approved an $880 million plan for funding Everglades restoration projects. Scott negotiated the plan with the federal government.
Efforts to protect water quality for the Everglades has “turned a corner,” said Stan Meiburg, acting regional administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s for the southeast region. But Meiburg said, “It’s going to take time and it’s going to be expensive.”
The members of the Florida Cabinet are Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session have a host of other water issues to consider besides the Everglades. Scott on Tuesday announced he would ask for $55 million to restore and protect Florida’s springs and central Florida lawmakers have pledged to fund efforts to clean up the Indian River Lagoon.
“Water funding is going to be a big, emerging issue,” said Janet Bowman, director of legislative policy for The Nature Conservancy in Tallahassee.
At the first Cabinet meeting of the year, Scott and the Cabinet members handed out awards to business leaders and educators, and pledged their support for Kissimmee’s efforts to land the National Finals Rodeo.
Related: Scott to seek Everglades funding Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Scott pledges $130M to Everglades Florida Today (Jan. 23)
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Smart ways to spend Florida's money
Sun Sentinel – by
January 22, 2014
Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday called for state lawmakers to spend another $130 million this year to continue fixing the damage we've done to the Everglades. Though not as much money as some had sought, it is a significant sum, and the governor deserves credit for continuing to show strong support for one of the world's natural wonders and a key water source for our region.
The money includes $40 million to speed up completion of the C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area in Martin and St. Lucie counties, an area devastated when fresh water released from Lake Okeechobee this summer caused toxic algae blooms and wildlife deaths in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary. It also includes $30 million for the Tamiami Trail project, which will lift the roadbed and allow water to resume a more natural flow. And it includes $32 million to complete the Kissimmee River restoration project, which will help store and clean the water that flows into Lake O.
Water is emerging as a big issue this year, as lawmakers increasingly focus on water quality and quantity. To that end, the governor also is proposing $55 million to restore Florida's pollution-plagued natural springs.
If you haven't been to Silver Springs, Wekiva Springs or Wakulla Springs recently, it would break your heart to see how degraded these natural wonder have become, their underwater geysers clouded with nutrients from fertilizers and groundwater runoff, their flows diverted because water is needed elsewhere. Besides money, tighter controls over pollution and pumping are needed to save the springs. And Scott's proposal is a paddle in the right direction.
With his eye on re-election, the governor is well positioned to make up for past cuts in environmental protections. He and lawmakers are working with a surplus projected to top $1 billion in next year's budget. And while he is expected to formally release his budget next Wednesday, some elements already are emerging.
Here are some priorities we would encourage:
Scott has proposed a significant increase in funding for the public-private agency that markets Florida to visitors. Tourism is the state's No. 1 industry, employing more than a million Floridians and generating nearly a quarter of the state sales tax. More public money would help attract more visitors, which would mean more customers for Florida businesses and higher tax revenue. Imagine if during the recent "polar vortex," we'd had a Times Square billboard livestreaming the folks who were frolicking on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Think we would have attracted more visitors?
Keeping higher education accessible
Last year Scott persuaded public universities to end a string of double-digit tuition hikes, but state spending on higher education has been drastically reduced over the past decade. Universities need more funding to grow in stature, attract and keep quality faculty, and avoid big tuition hikes.
Upgrading Florida's transportation networks
Scott has called for investing $8.8 billion in roads, bridges, ports and other transportation infrastructure. The governor's proposal for ports — $138.9 million — is especially worthy. Florida is well positioned to add jobs and investment from more trade as the Panama Canal expands.
Expanding health care coverage
Last year lawmakers rejected Scott's call to accept $51 billion in federal funds over the next decade to provide health coverage to a million uninsured Floridians. The feds have promised to cover the full cost through 2016, and at least 90 percent thereafter. More coverage would mean more healthy Floridians, more jobs and less cost for uncompensated care shifted to the state's businesses. Lawmakers should find a way to take the money and help our neighbors.
Scott has proposed another $31 million for the state Department of Children & Families to hire more child protective investigators, and $8 million for sheriff's departments that share that responsibility. This should be a no-brainer; last year Florida witnessed the deaths from abuse and neglect of dozens of children under DCF supervision.
Improving public schools
Scott and lawmakers have replenished state funds they cut from education in 2011, but recent test results show Florida schools are struggling compared to the competition in other states and other countries. Additional funding, if coupled with a commitment to additional reforms and higher standards, would be a smart investment in Florida's future
Audubon officials encouraged by early Everglades restoration results
Miami Herald - by Sue Cocking
January 21, 2014
Audubon Florida director of research Jerry Lorenz was hopeful when federal and state officials broke ground in 2011 on the first major Everglades restoration infrastructure project aimed at delivering more fresh water to the parched Glades and Florida Bay.
The C-111 Spreader Canal Western Component — a network of pumps, levees, canals, and wetlands constructed near the Homestead entrance to Everglades National Park — was designed to reverse the damage done by the C-111 canal, dug in the 1960s to transport rockets from the Aero-Jet plant in South Miami-Dade to Biscayne Bay and north to Cape Canaveral. The canal diverted fresh water that once flowed into Taylor Slough and then to Florida Bay, and instead sent it east to Barnes Sound. The result was the Glades was too dry and Florida Bay too salty, creating ripples of damage to fish, birds, and other wildlife.
But in its first year of operation, the new project is exceeding Lorenz’s expectations. He says underwater plants, which provide food and shelter for creatures in Florida Bay, now cover five times the area they covered in 2008. And freshwater flows into Taylor Slough — the lifeblood of Florida Bay — are twice what they were five years ago.
“I really expected very little for the first year,” Lorenz said. “We’re not going to call it a victory just yet. But this project is really, really promising. I didn’t expect it this soon.”
Lorenz and Audubon colleague Tabitha Cale say they hope the positive progress continues and will keep collecting data from study sites in the region.
The biggest benchmark of restoration success for the Audubon scientists would be a boost in populations of roseate spoonbills in the Everglades. Considered by Lorenz “the canary in the coal mine,” the pink birds that scoop up minnows and crabs with their utensil-like bills are sensitive indicators of the region’s ecological health.
“They tell us something about the entire ecosystem,” Lorenz said. “They tell us how snook, trout, redfish, and crocodiles are doing in Florida Bay.”
In the late ’70s, Audubon scientists counted 1,200 nesting pairs of spoonbills in Florida Bay. Three years ago, there were fewer than 200. The most-recent count shows between 350 and 400. As bay waters become fresher, populations of prey are expected to increase and so should the numbers of the birds that eat them.
Lorenz says he hopes the South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will keep the positive momentum going by building the eastern phase of the C-111 spreader project, which would enhance the delivery of fresh water under the new, one-mile Tamiami Trail bridge. Audubon and other Everglades advocates also are pushing for construction of an additional 5½ miles of bridging, along with several other projects.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott calls for $55 million for springs; Senate would spend more
January 21, 2014
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott called on the Legislature Tuesday to spend $55 million in next year's budget for the restoration and protection of springs in Florida. He made the announcement in Tallahassee at an event honoring the work of 125 employees in the Department of Environmental Protection.
"We need to continue to protect our springs. They're part of our state parks. They're part of our heritage," Scott told reporters afterward.
That $55 million may sound like a lot of money, but the Senate is talking about appropriating nearly $380 million for springs protection -- seven times as much as Scott's proposal. (The current budget that Scott signed into law last May included $10 million for springs protection).
The Florida Current has reported that a preliminary Senate bill would earmark 20 percent of the annual proceeds from documentary stamp taxes on real estate taxes for the program, which includes sewage hookups and improvements to septic tank systems.
Asked about the Senate strategy, Scott said: "I always look forward to what the Senate's going to propose, or the House." He waved off a reporter's suggestion that he's trying to recast his image as pro-environment in an election year, citing the settlement of long-running Everglades lawsuit.
"I'm proud of what we've done for our environment. There's always more to do," Scott said.
Scott has been traveling the state, highlighting various parts of what he calls his "It's Your Money Tax Cut Budget." He plans to announce his complete 2014-2015 budget recommendations on Jan. 29 at the annual Associated Press planning session for reporters and editors in Tallahassee.
The governor's springs proposal dedicates $25 million in funding for water quantity and quality protection and restoration projects. He said the projects will reduce and eliminate nutrient impacts and ensure the proper flow to springs. Much of the springs pollution is caused by urban stormwater runoff, septic tanks, wastewater treatment plants and excessive use of fertilizer.
DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard said no list of springs projects exists. He said the state will rely on the expert advice of scientists who will suggest the best way to spend the money.
"Our focus is to look to the springs that are most in need," Vinyard said.
Lawmakers: We must protect springs and lakes
DailyComercial.com – by Livi Stanford, Staff Writer
January 21, 2014
As the agenda for the 2014 Florida Legislative Session begins to take shape, the protection of water resources, including springs and lakes, is a major issue taking center stage, according to state senators and representatives.
There already are discussions about filing legislation to protect the springs, such as Alexander Springs near Altoona, and several state senators have united to make the issue a priority this year, according to legislators.
State Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said protection of water resources is “perhaps one of the most complex if not the most complex issue facing the Legislature in the next four to five years.”
Hays said it is critical that nutrients currently found in the springs and lakes be removed before they get into the water bodies.
“We are trying to find ways to remove the nutrients from the stormwater runoff before it gets into the aquifer,” he said.
Hays said the health of some of the lakes and rivers is another concern.
“One of the things we have to consider is the current state of degradation of the Indian River Lagoon has not occurred overnight and it is not going to be restored overnight,” he said. “These systems take a significant amount of time to regain their ecological balance. We are going to be called upon to fund part of the restoration of that lagoon. I think it is our obligation to make sure we don’t spend money for the exercise of spending.”
Finding alternative water supplies to groundwater is another issue affecting the community, particularly in South Lake.
Water experts and county officials recently sounded the alarm that the community must find an alternative to diminishing groundwater supplies in the next five years to avoid a direct impact to lake levels and the quality of life in south Lake.
“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.”
At the first annual South Lake Water Summit in November 2013, 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.
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.
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 — is trying 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 us to take millions of gallons of water out of the aquifer that is potable water, and use that to water plants or agricultural projects, is not always the most wise use of drinking water,” Hays pointed out. “If we can find ways to purify the wastewater and stormwater runoff, and use that recycled water for those purposes that are acceptable, it is going to be a much better utilization of our resources.”
While desalination of water is an alternative water source option, Hays said it is his last resort.
“It is too expensive,” he said. “I think the biggest concern is finding the proper balance of utilizing water and making sure it fits our budget.”
Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, chair of the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, said “it is essential we have not only water quality but water quantity. The water quantity is directly related to storage or better management systems. It is important to divert surface water back into the natural environment.”
Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, agreed.
“I think these two issues truly go hand and hand,” he said. “Reclamation is one strategy that may work, but we have to look at all options and make sure we are using sound science when making decisions affecting our waterways.”
Hays, Crisafulli and Dean were in agreement that protection of water resources is one of the top priorities this year.
“It goes without saying that water is the most critical and precious resource we have,” Crisafulli said. “It’s what we depend on to live, it sustains our rich agricultural history, and it is what makes Florida such an attractive tourist destination.”
Dean echoed similar sentiments.
“Our most precious natural resource is water,” he said.”That drives everything from tourism, economic development and agriculture. Anything you can imagine is at risk.”
In developing a statewide approach to protecting Florida’s ecosystems, Crisafulli said the plan is achieved by “working with stakeholders from across the state, identifying issues and finding solutions to address them.”
“In 2013, for example, the Legislature took historic action with regards to Everglades restoration,” he said. ”There’s been great attention drawn to the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee in Central and South Florida, and then there are our springs and the Apalachicola River, among many other important water bodies.”
Also in 2013, the Florida Legislature “earmarked $10 million from general revenue for protection and restoration of springs,” according to Clean Water Action’s 2013 State Legislative Report.
The long-term commitment begins, Crisafulli said, with using existing “revenues to fund projects that will clean up our waterways or address critical water quantity issues.”
“In the short term, we need to identify trouble areas and work to fund projects that will address those issues,” he added. “As we do that, we can’t focus on only one area — whether it’s the springs or other specific bodies of water — but rather, we need to take actions across the state.”
Asked if major legislation would pass this year on the issue, Dean adamantly said the issue will be addressed.
“We contacted every water management district,” he said. “We don’t need anymore studies. We need to start making thing happen regardless of how small or insignificant.
Putnam Says Florida needs statewide water policy
TheLedger.com – by Bill Rufty
January 21, 2014
Safe water supply necessary for state to survive, he says.
LAKELAND | Florida's economy on several fronts is improving faster than in other states, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told an audience at a Community Leader Forum today sponsored by the GrayRobinson law firm.
But lack of a statewide water policy and the threat of the greening disease to citrus could hamper that.
“The state bird, the construction crane, is back on the Miami skyline,” he said.
Real estate sales are up, he said, and all this comes following “The End of Florida” predictions of five years ago during the economic crises and the construction downturn.
“Today people are back, the state of Florida has balanced its budget every year and is now projected to have a billion surplus for this budget cycle,” Putnam said.
“That's leadership, Putnam said, noting the state “is back,” because of a team effort by its government and business leaders.
“New York can't say what I just said about the progress in their state. Ohio can't say what I just said about the progress of their state. Illinois can't say what I just said about the progress of their state. And Lord knows California can't. So there is a difference in leadership,” Putnam said.
Among the issues that Putnam's office will ask of the governor and the Legislature during this session, which begins March 4, is for a statewide, but flexible water policy, he said.
“From day one (when he first ran for the Legislature in 1996) I have talked about water policy. If you don't know you are going to have a safe and sustainable water source to support all your environmental and business needs, you won't survive,” he said.
“Water is the biggest long-term issue facing Florida. It is inseparable from the three pillars of the state's economy. It is inseparable from agriculture, inseparable from tourism and it is inseparable from construction,” he said.
“If you don't know that you are going to have a sustainable high quality source of water to support all environmental and economic initiatives, then Florida ceases to exist as we know it,” Putnam said. “Water binds us together and so we have put forward what I believe is a strong proposal for a state water policy.”
Putnam said such a water policy for the various needs and various geographic areas of the state must be long term. It won't be solved in a single session of the Legislature,
In addition to his proposed water policy, Putnam said two other major issues this year will be nutrition, following on moving the school meal programs to the Department of Agriculture and improving the quality and a strong, more dependable energy policy.
During a question and answer period, Putnam noted that greening is the most serious disease ever to affect Florida citrus and that the state has about two years to find a way to fight it before small and medium groves could be out of business.
Florida needs partners to solve demand for water
Orlando Sentinel - by Roger Sims, Guest columnist
January 20, 2014
A federal judge recently ruled that Florida can set its own science-based standards for water quality instead of accepting Environmental Protection Agency standards that stakeholders throughout Florida had said would be nearly impossible to meet.
This ruling was an important step in the state continuing to take responsibility for the quality of its most important resource.
The other side of the coin from water quality is water quantity, and now is the time for the Florida Legislature to take action to secure sufficient water quantity. Increasing the supply of water for Florida's growing population is not going to be cheap, but with thoughtful action now, it need not be as expensive as it will be later.
In a state that is nearly surrounded by water, and in which torrential rains are frequent, it may be hard to appreciate the increasing scarcity of drinking water. But, as anyone who has lived in the state more than a few years knows, droughts and water restrictions are commonplace.
Although Florida's tremendous population growth slowed somewhat during the recession, the pace is again growing, and Florida is on-track to pass New York, becoming the nation's third-largest state this year. Having a plentiful supply of drinking water will be essential to Florida's future.
In Orlando, conventional water supplies (groundwater) are reaching their limits. In fact, the Central Florida Water Initiative's draft regional water-supply plan flatly states that demand on the area's groundwater supply "is either rapidly approaching, or has surpassed the maximum rate that can be sustained without causing harm or adverse impacts to the water resources and related natural systems."
The same is true in many other parts of the state, including Miami, which is facing a severe shortage.
Much of Central Florida has restrictions that allow lawn watering twice weekly during daylight-saving time and once weekly the rest of the year. In the Tampa Bay region, once-a-week watering restrictions were reinstated just last month and are in effect until March 1.
Tampa Bay Water's desalination plant can be an important drought-proof source of drinking water. Currently, the plant is operating at a low level, and it has the capacity to produce much more. But there is a catch: A high-tech solution like desalination is expensive, and as the share of water supplied by desalination increases, the total cost of water for everyone rises.
To help contain the rising cost of clean water, we need to take an "all of the above" approach to developing more sources of water that are less expensive. The Legislature can help this by integrating more partners into the water-supply and water-quality protection programs of the state.
Here are two ideas that the Legislature could act on this spring.
First, the state could encourage public-private partnerships that develop large-scale water-supply projects without placing the entire burden on taxpayers. Agriculture and mining are two industries that involve significant land holdings that have the capacity for storing water. The Legislature can encourage partnerships with these types of industries, creating incentives for them to collect and store large quantities of water beyond their own needs. This would have the potential of significantly expanding groundwater supplies.
Second, the Legislature can address some of the bureaucratic and inter-governmental issues that interfere with efficient water management. In particular, it can endorse a concept for all municipalities that the city of Tampa recently raised. The city controls large volumes of reclaimed water, and has taken the position that this water is subject to the city's exclusive control until released back into the natural systems.
The local water-management district, however, raised concerns that only the districts can, under current law, decide how reclaimed water is allocated. A change to the law allowing operators to make that decision could encourage more capital investment in distribution systems and reuse of water.
Taking both of these steps now can help keep high-quality drinking water for everyone in Florida more affordable.
Roger W. Sims is a partner with Holland & Knight in Orlando. He chairs the firm's Water Resources Team and has practiced in the areas of water resources, environmental and land-use law for more than 30 years
Ocean thermal offers great returns for Florida
Jacksonville.com – Letter by Mark Swann, Jacksonville Beach, FL
January 20, 2014
Florida is sitting near an untapped energy gold mine in the form of the 80-degree water delivered to us just 25 miles off Miami by the Gulf Stream.
Tap it, and Florida could generate enough electricity to fill its own needs and export surplus to the country.
We would be accessing ocean thermal energy conversion, the largest usable energy resource on the planet.
It harnesses, with low temperature heat engines, the thermal difference between solar heated surface waters of the tropical and subtropical oceans and deep frigid water below.
What makes ocean thermal energy so special as an alternative is its awesome availability — all hours.
In contrast, wind and direct solar are intermittent with availability ranging from 30 percent to 40 percent.
Ocean thermal’s byproducts are also intriguing — fish food brought up from the nutrient-rich depths and fresh water distilled from seawater, plus the possibility of cooling the ocean’s surface when needed to weaken the most threatening hurricanes.
The first ocean thermal plant was operated off Cuba in the 1920s.
Ongoing innovations in refrigeration technology and deep water drilling rigs make it ready to go with minimal challenges for robust off-shore energy platforms.
No breakthroughs are needed. The technology has been made in America. Keeping it here would provide enormous industrial and economic opportunities.
But Lockheed Martin, having failed to gain support in the U.S., recently signed a contract with a Chinese group to build a 10 megawatt ocean thermal plant off China. Larger plants will follow. China’s goal, of course, is to eventually power the developing world.
Florida’s resource is vastly superior to China’s and is the only site with inexpensive access to the continental U.S. power distribution grid.
The world needs this resource.
Ocean thermal, like electric cars, is an old technology whose time has come.
Ocean thermal is ready.
Is Florida ?
Pilot whales stranded near Naples
Fox4now.com - by Kelli Stegeman
January 19, 2014
NAPLES, Fla. - A case of deja vu after several Pilot whales were found stranded in shallow water near Naples Sunday.
This comes just one month after more than 50 pilot whales were stranded in the Everglades.
FWC officials say 2 dozen pilot whales tried to beach themselves this time in Gordon Pass.
Three whales successfully beached themselves temporarily but were able to swim away with the tides along with the other whales.
While the whales were in shallow water, rescue crews marked them to follow their progress and make sure these aren't the same group as last month.
Of the 50 stranded last month, seven died on their own and four had to be euthanized.
Related: Stranded pilot whales off Naples headed back to sea WPTV
Whales creating dangerous situation in Naples waters The News-Press
Biologists monitor group of pilot whales in southwest Florida WFTV Orlando
Sea Tow comes out to help pod of pilot whales stranded in the water ... WPEC
Pilot Whales Strand Themselves Off Naples CBS Local
Biologists Monitoring Pilot Whales in Shallow Water Off Southwest ... NBC 6 South Florida
Two dozen pilot whales in danger of beaching on shore Wink News
Lost whales herded back into Gulf Live 5 News
The project falls under the multibillion-dollar Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which was approved by Congress in 2000. Little progress has been made, however, because projects have been routinely delayed by funding shortfalls, political infighting and legal challenges.
Advocates say canal project improving Florida Bay
January 18, 2014
FLORIDA CITY, Fla. (AP) — Environmental advocates say a major Everglades restoration project is exceeding expectations after its first year of operations.
The so-called C-111 Spreader Canal opened in January 2013. It was designed to plug an existing canal and keep millions gallons of water from seeping out of Everglades National Park.
Audubon Florida officials say the project has redirected water into a slough that leads through the park into Florida Bay, helping to rehydrate wetlands that have lost too much water to a flood control system and other development in Miami-Dade County.
"The C-111 project appears to be performing beyond even the best expectations at this point. The health and quality of habitat is improving — habitat that wading birds like roseate spoonbills, game fish, and crocodiles depend on. These encouraging changes will continue to have a positive impact on the Everglades ecosystem," said Jerry Lorenz, the group's state director of research.
Salinity levels also are dropping in Florida Bay and as a result, underwater plant communities are thriving, officials said. Fish that breed in underwater vegetation are a primary food source for wading birds such as the roseate spoonbill.
The long-awaited project is one of dozens that aim to restore the natural flow of freshwater through the Everglades into the ailing Florida Bay. High salinity levels in the bay threaten South Florida's fishing industry and experts have been concerned about a complete ecosystem collapse in the shallow waters.
Florida's wetlands have been damaged for decades by farming, development, pollution and urban runoff. Dikes, dams and canals have effectively drained much of the swamp, and correcting the water flow is seen as the key to Everglades' survival.
This week, the South Florida Water Management District, which leads Everglades restoration efforts for the state, broke ground on a water quality project to clean water flowing into the Everglades. Audubon Florida's Executive Director Eric Draper called it a "good example of the type of water cleansing project needed to protect our beautiful River of Grass."
Realted: Advocates say canal project improving Florida Bay San Francisco Chronicle
Democratic politician blames Republican Gov. Rick Scott for manatee deaths
Sun Sentinel - by Anthony Man
January 18, 2014
When Democrats turned out Saturday for a news conference to denounce Gov. Rick Scott (and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie), they delivered an extensive indictment of Florida’s chief executive.
Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs, who’s running against Steve Perman for the Democratic nomination for an open seat in the state House of Representatives, was one of those who delivered a bill of particulars.
Jacobs holds Scott responsible for, among other things, manatee deaths.
(Best description ever of manatees was in a New York Times article, which referred to them as “the languid, plant-munching, over-upholstered mammals known as sea cows.”)
Anyway here’s part of what Jacobs said Saturday:
“When you look at Governor Scott’s policies on the environment, we see dumping into our rivers, we see massive manatees dying off.
“We see an 85 percent collapse of, in our waterways of the oyster harvest. We have pollution here in Broward County that comes continually for the lack of funding for the Everglades. We continue to ask our governor when do we get our turn? When do we have the kind of attention that we know this county needs?
"When we look at the things that this governor has sent away, we look at things like rail, and the amount of money that was not spent here but in fact given back, our high speed rail dollars, gone away. There are many ways in which the state of Florida should be moving forward. The state of Florida should be leading this nation in alternative energy. We are after all the Sunshine State. Look at this glorious day. But yet we lag sorely behind many other communities around the country.
“When I look out and see what the next couple of years hold, I see teachers not being respected, not being paid the dollars that they are due. I see our educational system falling apart rather than being nurtured.
“I look forward to November when a new governor is running this state and Governor Scott has been sent packing. It is time for Floridians across this state to raise their voice. They have the opportunity in this next election We know that Governor Scott is not going to find harbor again in this state. We are going to make sure that he gets the boot."
H/T to Shark Tank blogger Javier Manjarres for carefully listening to his recording, prompting me to listen again to my audio. It was impossible to hear much of what the politicians said at their outdoor news conference, at a Tri-Rail station, because of train traffic and the proximity of Interstate 95.
Two ballot issues in the home stretch
Daytona Beach News Journal - by Mark Lane
January 18, 2014
Maybe it’s me, but it just doesn’t feel like a Florida election without a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Or two. Or, as was the case last election year, 11.
Technically, there are 20 active campaigns for constitutional amendments this year, but as far as people actually walking sidewalks with clipboards, there are only two: the medical marijuana proposal and a proposal to create a dedicated funding source, one that the Legislature wouldn’t be able to mess with, for buying conservation land. Neither one was on anyone’s radar last election year.
The Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment seems a sure bet for this year’s ballot.
An amendment needs 683,149 signatures to go to voters, and as of Friday, this one had 690,802 signatures verified by elections offices. (The Florida Supreme Court already ruled last September that it met the minimum legal requirements to go before voters.)
A petition drive also needs signatures totaling more than eight percent of voters (as measured by the most recent presidential election) in half of the state’s congressional districts (rounded up to the next whole number) and as of Friday, the campaign had enough signatures in 16 of the state’s 27 districts.
Locally, it has 20,238 signatures verified so far in Volusia County and 2,225 in Flagler with more being counted. A lot of environmentally minded voters.
Which is why Republican leaders are not exactly jumping for joy at the prospect of this being on the ballot along with the governor’s race. It would be a green-voter magnet. A voter group that is not thrilled with Gov. Rick Scott.
Getting on the ballot will be a far closer thing for the medical marijuana initiative.
As of Friday, it had 530,697 validated signatures but needs 683,149 by Feb 1. It met the 8 percent threshold in only five Congressional districts.
(The Supreme Court has not ruled on whether it meets minimum legal requirements to get on the ballot.)
Still, supporters are optimistic and announced last week they had more than enough signatures to qualify.
As of the last counts posted, 21,015 signatures were validated in Volusia County and 4,946 in Flagler, with more being counted. Even more green voters than the other kind of green voters.
This amendment also makes Republicans uneasy because it could draw younger voters to the polls, voters who trend more Democratic. A Quinnipiac University poll released in November showed 90 percent of people under 30 support the proposal. Eighty-two percent of voters overall support it.
And it’s lost on nobody that the biggest donor and supporter of the measure is as-seen-on-TV plaintiffs’ attorney John Morgan, the employer and a major supporter of newly minted Democrat Charlie Crist.
If both these measures get on the ballot will legislators feel the need to respond with new amendments appealing to Republican voters ? We’ll know come springtime.
Paddle, pole or troll your way to world-class flats fishing.
The redfish were shallow, very shallow. Waving tails reflected the morning’s low light as the fish rooted in the lush seagrass, feeding on small crustaceans. There was only 10 inches of water in the back of a bay on the east side of Mosquito Lagoon and it was not enough to fully cover their bronze backs.
Pete Elkins and I had launched a pair of kayaks just before sunrise. Now, within casting distance of tailing fish, Pete stepped out of his kayak to finish rigging his fly, a No. 2 Borski slider. Ahead, we could see several more tails above the water. The fish were unaware that we had quietly moved in on their shallow-water breakfast buffet. Pete’s first cast landed behind the red, but the fish turned and grabbed his fly. After releasing his fish, he moved around me while I fought mine. Then he was soon hooked up again.
It was a picture-perfect start to a day on the Lagoon, and a reminder that stealth and success go hand-in-hand when approaching shallow-water fish. Had we rumbled on to that flat under power, no doubt those fish would’ve fled the scene. Poling a skiff would’ve been the next best bet. Too often these days, though, it seems Mosquito Lagoon anglers are in a hurry, unaware of how their fishing practices may limit the action—not only for themselves, but for other fishermen in the area.
Mosquito Lagoon is located in East Central Florida at the north end of the Indian River Lagoon system. That system, consisting of the Indian River, the Banana River and Mosquito Lagoon, is often referred to as the nation’s most diverse estuary and Mosquito Lagoon, in my opinion, is the brightest of the three gems in this magnificent setting. The Lagoon is a special place with arguably the finest fishery for redfish and gator-size seatrout anywhere in the country, high praise for a relatively small body of water (20 nautical miles north-to-south, about 2 miles east-west). Clean, shallow water and vibrant seagrass beds offer perfect habitat for these inshore gamefish, a sight-fisherman’s dream come true. Prosperity, however, can be a fleeting thing and the Lagoon’s long-term status is by no means certain.
Because of Mosquito Lagoon’s proximity to Orlando and easy access from Interstate 95, the number of anglers on its waters has significantly increased as word of the fabulous flats fishery has spread. In addition, numerous inshore fishing tournaments are now being held there and boat ramps are usually full by 8 a.m. on most weekends. Some anglers are starting to wonder if the lagoon can maintain its quality fishery in the face of ever-increasing usage.
Kayaks and canoes have proven their merits, and a lot of anglers—many of whom also own larger boats—have become fans of paddle power here, especially for sneaking into the real skinny stuff. Many powerboats simply cannot get back into the depths favored by reds and trout on the Lagoon. Anglers unfamiliar with the area may inadvertently leave telltale propeller scars, damaging grassbeds. Even if your skiff can run the shallows on a plane, getting out after shutting down may be an entirely different proposition.
||“There are more fish than in recent years,” noted Capt. Scott Tripp, who’s been fishing here for 15 years, “but the pressure has definitely increased. There are more anglers and boats and this is making the fish very spooky—they have a harder time getting settled so that they will readily feed.”
Captain Brian Clancy, a 40-year veteran of these waters, agrees. “At times, the fish can be quite skittish—comparable to bonefish—because of the pressure.”
I consider Mosquito Lagoon to be my home waters and want to see it flourish forever. In talking with “regulars” like Tripp and Clancy, and thinking back on my own days on the water, I’m convinced we need to take a lighter approach if we want to continue enjoying the Lagoon’s bounty of accessible flats and accessible fish.
When I’m not strictly paddling, I do a lot of fishing out of a square-back canoe, with an 8-hp motor on the stern. That’s a nice compromise: roomier and more stable than a pure paddle boat. On a recent trip—again with my friend Pete Elkins—we covered ground by motoring along the Intracoastal Waterway channel, on the western side of the Lagoon. This is the only marked channel in the area, and it runs from the north end of the Lagoon to Haulover Canal at about the Lagoon’s midpoint. (It’s marked well on Florida Sportsman Fishing Chart No. 04, and others.) If you’re a boater unfamiliar with the adjacent shallows, it’s best to stick to this channel until you’re near the area you want to fish. At that point, you can follow someone with local knowledge of the depths or proceed slowly with caution so as not to damage the seagrass beds.
Once we reached our destination, Tiger Shoals, we raised our little motor and began to paddle eastward. As we moved across the wide grassflat, we startled a couple of seatrout. The water eventually became too shallow to effectively paddle, so I used a makeshift pushpole and moved slowly so as to not create a wake. It’s amazing how even the slightest ripple on the water can alert fish on the flats here. Soon we saw what we were there for: Tailing redfish, bunched up in the back of a bay where no one was fishing.
As we neared casting distance, I took a seat to cast a lower profile and exchanged the pushpole for a paddle. Slowly, I turned the canoe broadside to the fish so we could both make a presentation. I softly set the blade of the paddle on a life jacket, muffling any sound, and picked up my spinning rod, rigged with a 5-inch soft jerkbait on an offset worm hook.
“Don’t rock the boat when you cast,” I cautioned, opening the bail on the reel. My partner had been ready for some time but had waited until I was ready.
Simultaneously, we made our casts, his to the edge of the school nearest the bow of the canoe and mine to the edge nearest the stern. In a matter of seconds, we both had hooked fish. His fish zigged while mine zagged and the canoe turned like a blender with a rock in the pitcher, not sure which way or how fast it was supposed to spin.
Contrast an approach like this with the guy who buzzes the flats looking to “bump up” some fish that he will then pursue. That’s a technique that—thankfully—is fast falling out of favor. More than a few not-so-friendly conversations have been had between an angler who had been quietly fishing a flat and the boater who ran well onto that flat before stopping, spooking fish he had been stalking in the process. I’ve seen a few instances of “water rage” that makes what happens between motorists on Interstate 4 seem subdued. There’s harmony when fishermen come and go quietly and slowly, and more anglers can effectively fish a given area at the same time.
On a larger boat, a trolling motor works well when the water is deep enough, but often the water just gets too shallow. Keep in mind that electrics also broadcast sound and vibrations that can alarm fish. A pushpole is better by far, at least if you’re stalking fish in tailing depths. In deeper water, drifting and fan-casting can be an effective strategy.
The lighter approach has other advantages. Parking is seldom an issue if you’re hauling a little boat on top of or inside your vehicle. In fact, you can drive close to where you will be fishing and launch from the shoreline, not needing to bother with a paved ramp. At first, you might find paddling to be slow and tedious, but you’ll soon realize the benefits of fishing quietly and thoroughly.
Re-examining our approach to Mosquito Lagoon has implications that stretch beyond the prospects for a productive, stress-free day of fishing. State and federal authorities are currently studying Mosquito Lagoon, documenting seagrass beds, oyster reefs and other ecological features—and running numbers related to recreational usage. It’s entirely possible that at some point in the near future, we’ll see plans laid to close certain parts of the Lagoon, not only to skiffs and paddle craft, but to all fishing.
That would be a shame.
Self-regulation by conscientious anglers—something we’re seeing already these days—would largely preclude the need for that kind of bureaucratic tampering.
“The fishery is much better than it was before the net ban ,” points out Capt. Mike Hakala, who has 25 years of experience on Mosquito Lagoon. “With good fisheries management—protecting the grasses, limits on fish kept—things might stay the same. If not, the Lagoon has seen its best days.”
A complicated mesh of state and federal authorities calls the shots for Mosquito Lagoon, but if you like to fish here, it pays to know who’s in charge of what—and what kinds of decisions they may face in the near future.
The federal government, through the Department of Interior and in turn, the National Park Service, has authority to make rules pertaining to the use of land and water at Canaveral National Seashore, which includes the north end of Mosquito Lagoon. A new 20-year General Management Plan (GMP) for the Seashore was due to be finalized in 2004, but the superintendent retired and the plan was all but scrapped. Look for the GMP to be a top priority when a new superintendent is selected in 2005. The plan will again involve public comment—and may include restrictions on access to the Lagoon. We’ll watch this one closely.
The Merritt Island National Wildlife (MINWR) Refuge is an overlay of Kennedy Space Center and the surrounding lands and was created as a buffer for space center activities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the lands and waters of the refuge, including much of Mosquito Lagoon. The Service prepares a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) every 15 years and a new CCP for MINWR is nearing completion.
The use of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the southern portion of Mosquito Lagoon are subject to NASA activities. Much of this southern portion of the lagoon is closed when a shuttle is on Pad B; call (321) 861-4636 for information.
Both federal and state environmental protection agencies monitor water quality on Mosquito Lagoon, as well as endangered and threatened species, including manatees.
As mentioned, Mosquito Lagoon is part of the Indian River Lagoon system. Not to be outdone by other federal and state agencies, an Indian River Lagoon Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Plan was developed by staff from the St. Johns River and the South Florida water management districts, in conjunction with the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (NEP) staff. The plan notes that seagrass is the measuring stick for the health of the Lagoon and notes that physical disturbance (boat propellers and anchors) is a factor affecting seagrass growth and health.
Paddlers’ Access to Mosquito Lagoon
There are three sites on the east side of Mosquito Lagoon and two on the west side from which to launch a canoe or kayak. From the east side of the lagoon, JB’s Fish Camp is located about a mile north of the Canaveral National Seashore entrance. The fish camp has a good ramp and offers the last chance to buy live bait or get a bite to eat.
Continuing south on A1A, there is a gravel ramp to the right of parking lot No. 5, six miles after you enter Canaveral National Seashore. The open lagoon is to your south and marsh is to your north. George’s Bar separates the two and is directly in front of the launch site.
Lastly, Eddy Creek Boat Ramp can be reached by going east on SR 406/402 out of Titusville to the seashore and then north along Playlinda Beach. The dirt boat ramp is across from parking lot No. 12.From the west side of the lagoon, canoeists and kayakers can get to the Lagoon from Old Beacon 42 Camp Boat Ramp. The dirt ramp is about a mile and a half north of Haulover Canal off SR 3 on Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. About two miles south of Haulover Canal, there is another dirt ramp off SR 3. Turn at the sign for the NASA Atmospheric Sciences Research Station and follow the dike road running down the southwest shoreline.
Plan to pump water from St. Johns River could cost taxpayers
ActionNewsJAX.com - by: Alyana Gomez
January 17, 2013
PALATKA, Fla. -- The Central Florida Water Initiative wants to pump 150 million gallons of water, a day, from the St. Johns River. They're admitting, for the first time, that Central Florida is running out of drinking water. "Once you overdraw the aquifer you never get it back. It's gone forever," said concerned citizen, Bill Hamilton. Representatives from Northeast Florida were fired up at Thursday's public meeting in Palatka. Lisa Rinaman, with the St. Johns Riverkeeper, told Action News siphoning the river would cause more harm to our already suffering septic system and could cost Jacksonville taxpayers a lot of money in restoration in the future. "It is going to be more costly to get the pollution out because it's going to stick around longer and pull more in," she said. Rinaman also said pulling surface water creates more pollution, which then produces more of the green slime that has polluted local waterways for the past eight months. On Thursday night, the Jacksonville city leaders introduced a resolution to oppose any pumping of the St. Johns that would adversely effect the river. Still, others we spoke with said the water supply has to come from somewhere. "So there has to be some component to come from surface water, whether it's 150 or 100 or 80. It's just a matter of what can be withdrawn," said environmental consultant Bill Kerr. There were several other options being considered. The cheapest one is water conservation. We're told the most expensive is desalination, which is changing saltwater into fresh water. No plans are set in stone yet. More public meetings are expected soon. The public comment period ends Jan. 31. The water management team will issue a response to those comments some time in March.
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Environmental land-buying amendment headed to the ballot
Herald-Tribune – by Lloyd Dunkelberger
January 16, 2014
TALLAHASSEE - - Environmental groups announced today that they have obtained enough validated voter signatures to place a land-buying constitutional amendment on the November general election ballot.
If approved by 60 percent of the voters, the amendment would require the state to dedicate one-third of real estate transaction taxes collected each year to environmental land-buying programs, like Florida Forever, and other initiatives such as the restoration of the Everglades and the protection of springs and drinking water sources. It would amount to about $10 billion over 20 years.
Here is the release from the group:
Florida’s Water and Land Legacy announced today that the Water and Land Conservation constitutional amendment has surpassed the statewide signature requirement to be placed on the November 2014 ballot. To date, 685,971 signatures from Florida voters supporting the amendment have been validated by Supervisors of Elections throughout the state. In addition, the constitutional amendment has been qualified in 15 of Florida’s 27 congressional districts, clearing its final hurdles to placement on the November ballot.
“Thanks to our dedicated supporters and hardworking volunteers, we exceeded the signature requirement and had the amendment qualified in more than enough congressional districts to place this important measure on the ballot. The unifying support this campaign has received is proof that Floridians care deeply about our state’s water and wildlife and want to safeguard it for future generations,” said Will Abberger, the campaign’s chair and director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land. “This means that next November, Florida voters will have the opportunity to dedicate state funding to ensure we have clean water and protect our precious natural resources.”
The Water and Land Conservation amendment would dedicate funding for conservation, management, and restoration of Florida’s water and land resources for 20 years. The amendment, which if approved by the voters would take effect July 1, 2015, sets aside one-third of the existing documentary stamp tax (paid when real estate is sold) to restore the Everglades, protect drinking water sources, and revive the state’s historic commitment to protecting natural lands and wildlife habitat through the Florida Forever program.
The amendment will provide more than $10 billion for water and land conservation in Florida without any tax increase.
“Nearly one million petitions signed and delivered to local supervisors of elections sends a message loud and clear that Floridians want to see our water sources and natural areas protected. When given the chance to vote on the amendment in November, we are confident that the answer will be a resounding “Yes!” said Pegeen Hanrahan, the Legacy coalition’s campaign’s manager.
Related: Land conservation amendment headed toward ballot Daytona Beach News-Journal
Conservation amendment earns a ballot slot The Florida Current
Fla. conservation amendment headed to ballot MiamiHerald.com
Conservation amendment supporters say they have the signatures ... Sunshine State News
Fla. Enviro Group Puts Land-Buying Amendment On Ballot Law360 (subscription)
First land acquisitions expected soon, 2 years after Everglades Headwaters Refuge announced
WGCU.org – by Amy Green
January 16, 2013
In the next few weeks environmentalists and federal leaders expect to announce the first land acquisitions for the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Plans for the refuge were unveiled two years ago, but so far all that exists is a 10-acre donation from The Nature Conservancy.
Plans call for a multi-million dollar refuge spanning 150,000 acres between Orlando and Lake Okeechobee.
Elizabeth Souheaver of the US Fish and Wildlife Service says less than $5 million have been appropriated, but the refuge always was envisioned as a long-term project.
"Within that specific region we have many conservation issues and needs with certain wildlife species like the Florida grasshopper sparrow and the Florida panther", Souheaver said.
It's also hoped the refuge will improve the quality of water flowing into the Everglades. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visited the area last week. She says the US Fish and Wildlife Service will start buying land and conservation easements later this month. Jenny Conner Nelms of The Nature Conservancy says securing funding and working with landowners has taken time.
"They were really hoping to be able to announce something last week, and they just couldn't get it done in time", Conner Nelms said. "And the reason why is because there's a lot of little details that need to be worked out with the landowners and the conservation easements."
It will be Florida's first refuge constructed primarily of conservation easements. Landowners will retain ownership of their lands but the easements will protect them from future development. The first acquisitions are expected to be ranch lands in the Okeechobee area.
Ichetucknee Springshed Water Quality Improvement project reaches a milestone
January 16, 2014
Live Oak — The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) is partnering with the City of Lake City and Columbia County to improve water quality by reducing Lake City’s wastewater nutrient loadings to the Ichetucknee River by an estimated 85 percent.
Referred to as the Ichetucknee Springshed Water Quality Improvement project, the project involves converting Lake City’s wastewater effluent disposal sprayfields into constructed treatment wetlands to reduce nitrogen loading. The project will also provide beneficial recharge to the Upper Floridan aquifer.
The project will assist with implementation of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Basin Management Action Plan to reduce nutrients in the Santa Fe River Basin.
The DEP is providing $3.9 million toward the $4.6 million project. The District has committed $400,000 toward the project. The City of Lake City is providing $200,000 toward the project, the land needed to build the project, and operation and maintenance. Columbia County is providing $100,000 toward the project.
“The District and our local partners are focused on completing this project to benefit the health of the river and springs,” said District Executive Director Ann Shortelle. “This project is only possible because of landmark springs funding provided by the Governor and Legislature to DEP and the District for protecting and restoring springs in Florida.”
“Both reductions in nutrient loading and restoration of flows are necessary to achieve the health of the Santa Fe Basin,” said Tom Frick, Director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. "This project will be another significant step to achieving required nutrient reductions set for this spring system by the Department in 2012 as part of the restoration plan for the Santa Fe River and its associated springs."
The District’s Governing Board on Jan. 14 entered into an interlocal agreement with Lake City and Columbia County to implement the project. The Governing Board also authorized the District to enter into a contract with the project contractor to begin execution of the project. The contractor will initiate the data collection phase of the project, followed by design of the project. Construction on the project is scheduled to begin early next year.
Work resumed on A-1
reservoir below LO.
will become a shallow
Work resumes on stalled Everglades reservoir
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
January 16, 2014
An unfinished reservoir (A-1), which became a nearly $280 million, taxpayer-funded monument to Everglades restoration delays, is getting new life.
Work has resumed on a revamped, scaled-down version of the reservoir in southwestern Palm Beach County. The idea is to use 16,000 acres of former farmland to create a water storage and treatment area aimed at restoring flows to the struggling Everglades
Finishing the new version of the reservoir — to be capable of holding 20 billion gallons of water — is expected to take another $60 million and be completed in 2016. The reservoir could hold enough water to cover 45,000 football fields 1 foot deep.
"It's time to start building things," said Blake Guillory, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, which leads Everglades restoration for the state. "The South Florida Water Management District is focused on completing projects and getting them operational."
Back in 2008, district officials initially blamed a lingering legal fight with environmentalists for the state stopping construction on the city-sized reservoir planned along U.S. 27.
But ultimately the unfinished reservoir was shelved as state and district officials pursued a controversial land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp. that led to reconfiguring Everglades restoration plans. That changed in December when work started again, this time on the new plan for a smaller reservoir.
On Thursday, state and federal officials gathered beside the sprawling worksite deep in sugar cane country to celebrate the return of construction crews and the new plans for the land.
"It's a great step forward to [help] get the central part of the Everglades restored," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. "This is one of the critical features to get that done."
The old reservoir plans called for building 30-foot-tall embankments capable of holding 62 billion gallons of water about 12 feet deep. It was supposed to be finished in 2010.
Before work was stopped in 2008, construction crews spent nearly two years scraping away muck and blasting through limestone to create a foundation for the original reservoir. They also built a neighboring canal. The work cost South Florida taxpayers nearly $280 million.
Now, the new reservoir plans call for building 10-foot-tall embankments that can corral a pool of water expected to be about 4 feet deep. About 21 miles of levees are to be built along with at least a dozen water-control structures to move water in and out of the reservoir.
Creating a shallower structure enables growing cattails and other pollution-absorbing vegetation within the reservoir, expected to provide extra filtration before water flows into neighboring treatment areas for additional cleaning.
The district estimates that it could have cost about $400 million to finish the larger reservoir, instead of the about $60 million projected cost of the new plan.
While the reservoir delays added to the frustrations of slow-moving Everglades restoration efforts, state officials contend the added filtration of the revamped version will be better for Everglades water quality. They say the work that was previously done wasn't wasted because it would have been needed for the new design anyway.
The Everglades Foundation joined Audubon Florida in endorsing the new reservoir design.
Environmentalists had raised concerns that too much of the water to be held in the larger reservoir would have ended up getting tapped to irrigate sugar cane fields, instead of replenishing the Everglades.
The smaller reservoir — called a "flow equalization basin" (FEB) — can still provide storage and slowly deliver water as needed, enabling the neighboring stormwater treatment areas to operate more effectively, said Tom Van Lent, a scientist with the Everglades Foundation.
"It's definitely a better approach," Van Lent said. "This is the right plan."
The new reservoir is one of the featured projects in Gov. Rick Scott's $880 million plan to clean up Everglades water pollution and settle federal lawsuits over the state's failure to meet water quality standards.
"We had almost a quarter of a century of litigation," Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. said Thursday. "Now we are focused on getting the job done. We are taking the steps necessary."
(R-Port St. Lucie)
Gayle Harrell unveils Memorial to light a fire under Congress for Everglades restoration
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
January 15, 2014
Flanked by toxic-water weary Treasure Coast officials and other constituents, Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Port St. Lucie, unveiled a Memorial this morning she vows to shepherd through the House and all the way to Washington, D.C.
Her Memorial, House Memorial 607, is a nonbinding, declarative message to Congress urging the completion of a large chunk of Everglades restoration as a priority.
Doing something about that "chunk" would go a long way toward discharging lake water into the Everglades instead of into the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River estuaries, Harrell said.
"House Memorial 607 is simply a message from Florida to the president and to Congress," she explained. "It is the voice of the people of Florida as expressed through the Legislature -- a plea for Congress before it adjourns to enact a Water Resources Development Act authorizing and then appropriating funds for the next phase of Everglades restoration."
Harrell said of the Memorial, "This is going to be a very useful tool to lobby Congress with. This is an election year, Florida is an important state. If ever our issues are going to be important, they're going to be important now."
She vowed to walk the Memorial through the offices of Congress herself -- "get up in a few faces" -- once the Legislature passes 607.
It was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-mandated freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee last spring that promoted algae blooms and accelerated toxins in the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie waterways.
The Memorial says it all: "A Water Resources Development Act is the legislative vehicle to allow federal agencies to implement the historic Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) partnership between the State of Florida and the Federal Government."
All CERP projects authorized in previous acts are under construction, the Memorial reads. That includes restoration of Picayune Strand and the Indian River Lagoon South.
Specifically named in Harrell's document as needing congressional authorization are "five key components" of the next phase of restoration:
-- the Broward County Water Preserve Area,
-- the C-111 Spreader Canal
-- the Caloosahatchee River C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir
-- Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands, and
-- the Central Everglades Planning Project.
The storage areas, Harrell pointed out, are vital to holding water and allowing it to flow south to the Everglades National Park. While the park is parched, starved for water, massive freshwater discharges are destroying life in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.
"The state of Florida is doing its share," she said. "The Senate side is putting $80 million in the budget for restoration projects. The governor has pledged another $180 million. And we've already spent $2.5 billion on land acquisition. It's time for the federal government to step up.
"Everglades restoration is a 50-50 partnership."
In 2013, the Corps began releasing water from the lake in May after a record-setting start to the rainy season saw lake levels rise past 16 feet above sea level. As the lake rises so does the Corps’ concern for the aging dike around the lake and the safety of communities on the lake’s shore.
Construction on the 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike around the lake began in the 1930s after hurricanes killed more than 2,000 people and swamped much of the lower part of the state. It is now in such poor condition that it is ranked among the most likely to fail in the United States. Higher water levels put more pressure on the dike and because water can flow into the lake six times faster than it leaves the lake, the Corps tries to keep the lake level between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet during the rainy season.
Much of the time this past spring and early summer the lake level was at 15.67 feet.
In May the Corps began releasing water from the lake into the estuary and river in an attempt to control the rising waters. But as the rains increased and the lake rose, so did the releases. Billions of gallons of fresh water were flushed into the estuary, where brackish water with higher salinity levels support a delicate ecosystem. The fresh water lowered the salinity levels and oysters, sea grasses and other wildlife began dying.
A toxic algae blossomed in the St. Lucie estuary and water conditions were so poor that at one point during August, the Martin County Health Department posted signs warning people to stay out of the water.
Harrell said an important part of the Memorial is its conclusion: "Be it further resolved that Congress increase annual appropriations for rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike to accelerate project completion ..."
She also said the Memorial will have a sponsor in the Senate before long.
(JC): I would like for you to keep the Feds out of our state as much as possible. We have forgotten that the Federal Government role is limited:
The Constitution’s articles, and the subsequent Amendments, specify the prerogatives of the Feds. They are listed in Article I, Sec. 8; Articles II-V; Amendments XIII-XVI, XIX-XX, XXIII-XXVI. These prerogatives belong to one of the following categories:
1) Defense, war prosecution, peace, foreign relations, foreign commerce, and interstate commerce;
2) The protection of citizens’ constitutional rights (e.g the right to vote) and ensuring that slavery remains illegal;
3) Establishing federal courts inferior to the SCOTUS;
4) Copyright protection;
5) Coining money;
6) Establishing post offices and post roads;
7) Establishing a national set of universal weights and measures;
8 ) Taxation needed to raise revenue to perform these essential functions.
Those are the only prerogatives of the Feds. The Tenth Amendment states that all prerogatives not explicitly given to the Federal Government, nor prohibited of the states, are reserved to the states or to the people (i.e. individual Americans). So the Feds are not allowed to handle any issues not explicitly listed in the Constitution; their prerogatives are limited to what the Constitution explicitly states.
(Frank – reply):
Naïve . . . . and just who do you think is going to pick up the estimated $11 billion in costs if the feds don't pick up their 1/2 . . . . and who do you think will pick up the billions for the interstates and federal highways like U.S. 1 costs (or are all roads postal roads in your mind, consistent with horse passable, dirt road "original intent") . . . . the State? . . . in your naïve dreams . . . not to mention other areas like airports, FBI, Medicare, Medicaid, National Parks and the like . . . are they "explicitly stated" . . . or is the Constitution a living document, subject to Supreme Court interpretations . . . . . your 1800's truthiness and partisan naivety is just unbelievably . . . .
Pathetic . . . .
Hard work and integrity bring in the green
Highlands Today - by Christy Swift
January 15, 2014
When Will Nugent came to work at Bethel Farms in Arcadia in 1982, it was a cattle ranch and poultry farm that was just starting into the sod business.
His father-in-law, company founder Walter H. Bethel, hired him to start learning the business from the ground up, but when Bethel and his wife died suddenly in 1990 and 1992, respectively, Nugent and his wife Kim eventually found themselves in charge of the family business.
"They both died at a young age, 48 and 50," Nugent remarked. He and his wife were "thrown into it" early, at about 30 years of age.
It was a decent-sized company then, according to Nugent, but looking at it today, "the company has grown probably 10 times," he said.
At first, Kim's three siblings were involved with Bethel Farms, but eventually the business came totally under the Nugents' control. Now, the poultry and cattle business that was dabbling in sod owns over 2,000 acres of turf farm in Florida, employs 150 workers, and is the only sod supplier in Home Depot and Lowes across the entire nation. They also sell about a million grass plugs a year.
Bethel Farms has its own transportation company, has branded the name Harmony Sod, and contracts with turf growers across the U.S. to supply the big box behemoths. They even have their own sawmill onsite for making pallets.
What's the secret ?
"I just love working," Nugent said. He said early on the business was willing to do things that others weren't - such as making smaller deliveries and taking on the challenges of large clients like Home Depot and Lowes.
It didn't happen all at once. Nugent said when the big stores wanted them to expand into different areas or do more, the company took it one step at a time. "We didn't have a plan to sell sod in 48 states," he explained. They just didn't back down from the challenge.
He also credits a company culture of integrity. "The biggest thing is we do what we say we are going to do," Nugent said. "We like to try to do what's hard, what nobody wants to do."
Bethel Farms has incorporated many technological innovations to keep it competitive, including a drain tile system for irrigation. Plastic pipes placed underground replace the need for ditches. It keeps water from evaporating, frees up more land for growing sod and doesn't encourage weed growth the way ditches can. "You use a lot less water," Nugent added, making it an eco-friendly move as well.
The farms in Florida also have a telemetry system that alerts farmers via mobile device whether humidity readings, rainfall and/or temperature might put the crop at risk of a freeze or fungus. The technology allows the growers to "stay ahead of the game," as Nugent put it.
They are also using a piece of technology that is popular up north, but not so much in Florida - a machine that cuts sod in a big roll instead of the typical rectangles Floridians are used to seeing. The appeal for the businessman is that one man can run the machine instead of several. The appeal to the installer is fewer seams in the lawn for a better aesthetic and easier install.
After 30 years on the job, this Arcadia native who studied business for three and a half years, then worked with Florida Power & Light in Bradenton before joining the Bethel clan is still loving growing grass - "the legal kind," he joked.
Besides the Harmony line of turfgrasses being sold in Lowes and Home Depot, this year Bethel Farms is also expanding a lawn maintenance pilot project it has been running out of Palmetto for the past three years.
"We're the sod farmer, so we believe we can do it better than other," said Nugent about the lawn care company, Harmony Care, which will be franchising this year.
In addition to Nugent and Kim, who is mostly retired now, the couple's three children also work in the family business. Jason Nugent works in sales. His twin sister Ashley Utter is manager of the transportation leg of the business. Tyler Nugent, the youngest, is the Arcadia production manager at the age of 23.
The Nugents also enjoy being grandparents to Balin Utter, 6, and Jocelyn Utter, 4.
Plans for 2014 ? They have a few. But most of all it's to keep on being a company who does what they say they are going to do.
"I think that's why we've succeeded," explained Nugent, "You don't need to tell people you have integrity - it's just shown."
Limit agenda of Legislature; avoid meddling
TheLedger.com - by Paula Dockery, Syndicated Columnist
January 15, 2014
The less the Legislature does, the more it can do well with careful attention to detail.
In a typical Florida legislative session, some 2,000 bills are floating somewhere in the process.
The 120 representatives and 40 senators introduce a thousand or so member bills. Add to that the appropriations bills, implementing bills, budget conforming bills, claims bills and committee bills, and pretty soon you have 160 legislators chasing their tails to move thousands of bills in a 60-day session.
While the legislative session officially starts in early March, legislators have been making the trek to Tallahassee since September in preparation. These committee weeks are held to allow legislators the opportunity to start moving their legislation through committees and to allow the public to comment on these proposed changes to Florida law.
So, while many politicians extol the virtues of less government, there is no shortage of policy initiatives each year.
The one and only order of business required of the Legislature during the session is to pass a balanced budget.
I humbly suggest the Florida Legislature should focus on a limited agenda, and resist the temptation to micromanage, meddle and mandate. The less it does, the more it can do well with careful attention to detail.
With increasing revenue and a significant anticipated surplus, the Legislature has the opportunity to increase spending in underfunded areas, save funds for future needs, or return dollars in the form of tax relief or fee cuts. A balanced approach would incorporate all three options.
Increases in all levels of education would result in greater learning gains, better recruitment of teachers, more competitive colleges and universities, less pressure on higher-education tuition increases, and a greater economic-development tool than costly and risky tax incentives.
Increases in child-protection funding will begin to address the chronic problems at the Department of Children and Families. The additional funds should be used for in-depth training, recruitment and reducing caseloads to a manageable level to better protect our most vulnerable children.
In light of all the recent tragedies involving those who have mental illness, legislators should invest in mental health treatment for the growing need in our communities.
Increases in water-resource and environmental projects such as land acquisition, water restoration, water-supply development and land management would not only benefit our nature-based tourism but would also help our farmers and ranchers, our seafood producers, and, most importantly, our quality of life and sustainability. Significant Florida Forever funding should resume after a several-year hiatus, and funding should be provided to begin the Indian River Lagoon restoration.
Increases in funding for transportation and other infrastructure would act as a stimulus to create jobs, attract industry and improve our quality of life.
Investment in our deepwater seaports could pay huge dividends because ports function as economic engines for international trade, manufacturing and investment.
After wisely investing tax dollars, some portion of the revenue should be added to the state's reserves to address any number of unforeseen events, natural or manmade.
The Legislature should then look at giving back. Driver's license and license plate fees should be reduced, as originally intended. The increases occurred during the recessionary years.
Legislators should move quickly to expand Medicaid for the nearly 1 million Floridians who would be eligible and who are trying to gain access to affordable health care.
It's well past time to rewrite the criminal code and sentencing laws to better reflect today's realities. Decriminalize those nonviolent offenses that do not pose a threat to our citizens. Focus on rehabilitation and reintegration into society after the debt is paid to reduce recidivism.
An agenda that focuses on fiscal responsibility, job creation, public safety and quality of life would show a real commitment to limited and smart government.
South Florida still faces a need to diversify its economy
Sun Sentinel - by Juan D. Morales
January 15, 2014
South Florida has prospered and suffered. Its economy has boomed and busted due to a reliance on real estate.
The recent problems in the real estate sector served as a wake-up call, encouraging corporate leaders and politicians to develop a more diverse economy, one that will weather the turbulence associated with development. This process involves efforts to focus on real estate and realizing that other sectors are equally important.
A recent survey by Stanton Chase, a global executive search firm, raised some interesting issues, some that are relevant for the area. The global survey canvassed more than 500 C-level industrial sector executives on a wide range of topics. They pointed out several key trends:
•A shift away from growth by acquisition, and towards organic growth driven by investments in core business, new products, new markets.
•High priority Investments in technology which appear to be driven by goals in core competency development, customer experience, and quality/efficiency.
•The beginnings of a trend to re-shoring – moving some manufacturing back to home country locations.
South Florida is somewhat unique in that it remains geographically isolated from other parts of the country despite having three major airports and ports. Once seen as an advantage, today it is regarded as a challenge and one that hopefully can propel the area back to economic prominence on many platforms.
The first challenge for South Florida is that there is a significant "leadership shortage," a trend we see nationally. It's clear South Florida will successfully compete with other regions for talent. One issue to overcome is that South Florida has lost its luster due to rising taxes and insurance premiums, and the perception that the educational system is sub-par.
We see a resurgence in interest among middle to senior-level executives to move here due to improvement of our public and private school systems. The emergence of local universities, which continue to improve their business curriculums, has also been important. Hopefully, the end result will be that these graduates will stay in the area.
Florida Atlantic University continues to have one of the highest first-time "pass" rates for the CPA exam, and its business school is improving. Medical schools at FAU and the University of Miami will also be help a growing healthcare sector.
Lynn UniversityBachelor's, master's & online degrees, Nova Southeastern University, Northwood Institute, Barry College, Palm Beach State, and Broward College also provide curriculums that both attract executives to the area and mold future Florida executives.
Nationally, executives are wary of moving due to a still shaky domestic economy. This can certainly be overcome with the promotion of the area's educational, entertainment, and cultural opportunities.
South Florida runs somewhat contrary to some of the other survey trends, most notably in regard to manufacturing "re-shoring." With the possible exception of manufacturing medical devices and technology, it doesn't appear that South Florida will surge in this area.
This trend in other parts of the country bodes well for South Florida because the three major ports will see an influx of materials to support this growth in other parts of the country.
Faltering economies in Europe and Asia-Pacific will also increase port traffic, and the Port of Palm Beach, Port Everglades, and the Port of Miami continue to be the gateway to Latin America. These hubs are also the inbound/outbound destinations for petroleum products, agricultural products, commodities, vehicles, and industrial equipment.
The key factor in the continuing growth of these ports is the ability to move cargo quickly and efficiently to other parts of the country.
The new year brings optimism to South Florida, but it can only become a reality by implementing strategies that diversify the economy.
Juan D. Morales is the Managing Director of the Boca Raton office of Stanton Chase Executive Search, a global retained executive search firm, and the Americas Practice Leader for the firm's Logistics & Transportation Practice Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More freshwater should be top priority in Everglades restoration
Miami Herald – by Neal Mcaliley
January 14, 2014
There is a growing consensus that much of the Everglades is suffering irreversible damage from a lack of freshwater. While Everglades advocates seek approval of a new $1.7-billion restoration project, which will take decades to implement, the reality is that we could substantially increase freshwater flows now with existing facilities.
What it would require is for people to rethink outdated restoration choices made 20 years ago.
A healthy Everglades needs more freshwater, and needs that water to be cleaned of excessive phosphorus. Without enough freshwater, the upstream Everglades loses the characteristics of a river, and the downstream Everglades turns into mangrove forests. With too much phosphorus in the water, marsh areas exposed to the phosphorus can turn into a forest of cattails. Ideally, restoring the Everglades requires both more water and cleaner water.
It is hard to both increase freshwater deliveries and reduce phosphorus levels at the same time. To meet strict phosphorus standards, water managers divert water that otherwise could flow to the Everglades. This means that water managers have to choose which is more important: reducing phosphorus levels to the absolute minimum or increasing freshwater deliveries.
For decades, government policy has been to reduce phosphorus levels first, at the expense of delivering enough freshwater to the Everglades. That made sense 20 years ago, when average phosphorus levels entering the central Everglades were in the range of 180-205 parts per billion (ppb), far above the 13 ppb level for inflows that most scientists believe is fully protective of the Everglades aquatic ecosystem.
Moreover, most scientists agreed that phosphorus damage was essentially irreversible in the areas of the Everglades that received the high phosphorus water, but that the damage caused by low water levels could be quickly reversed once new water (with low phosphorus levels) is delivered.
Restoration officials need to rethink that choice today. Since the early 1990s, substantial progress has been made toward reducing phosphorus: Today, average phosphorus levels in water entering the central Everglades are 18 ppb, which means that water managers have achieved more than 90 percent of the cleanup target.
While phosphorus levels over the 13-ppb target can cause adverse effects, the harm is minor compared to when phosphorus levels were 10 times higher in the 1990s. Waiting for the final few percentage points of cleanup — which is projected to take another 15 years, at a cost of $900 million — is causing its own environmental harm.
In 2012, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the Everglades faces irreversible damage if additional water is not sent soon. In October 2013, a study by the University of Miami showed that the reduction in freshwater flows, combined with sea level rise, is causing Everglades marshes to turn into mangrove forests at the southern end of the system. And this past year, billions of gallons of excess water from Lake Okeechobee were dumped into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, causing severe harm there.
All of this harm is happening, at least in part, because water managers cannot send additional freshwater to the Everglades. And the insistence on perfection with phosphorus levels stands in the way of implementation of important restoration projects, including the project to modify water deliveries to Everglades National Park.
No government agency has taken a clear-eyed look at this tradeoff in 20 years. When phosphorus levels were averaging 180-205 ppb, there was a broad scientific consensus that phosphorus reductions were the first priority. But since that time, government agencies have been locked into that choice, and have not re-examined the tradeoff, even as phosphorus levels have been dramatically reduced and scientific evidence mounts that the Everglades is dying of thirst.
It is time for a frank debate about whether it is more important to keep the last few ppb of phosphorus out of the Everglades, or whether to deliver more freshwater. The reality is that we cannot have it all when it comes to restoration, at least for the foreseeable future.
The good news is that we can actually increase freshwater deliveries with the water management system we already have, and building on the phosphorus cleanup that already has taken place. But restoration officials need to rethink their old assumptions.
Neal McAliley is an attorney with the law firm White & Case in Miami, who has represented governmental and nongovernmental clients in environmental matters. He currently is chair of the South Florida National Parks Trust.
Reader shares three steps to improve lagoon
Florida Today – Letter by Bill Bacon, Rockledge, FL
January 14, 2014
I guess the reason is because it’s a cheap fix. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will solve the problem. To solve any problem correctly, the definitive causes need to be identified and addressed. We have not done that yet with the lagoon, and we are passing ordinances based on assumptions.
Once we complete a scientific study, there are three steps that will drastically improve the lagoon. Unfortunately, it will cost money.
The question is, how much is the lagoon worth to you ?
Fix one: Phase out septic tanks along the river. In a 1995 report by Brevard’s Natural Resources Management Division, septic tanks were identified as a problem. “The result of high-leachate percolation rates is that a strong possibility exists that elevated nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) are reaching Brevard’s surface waters from those OSDS (on-site sewage disposal systems) located in these areas. These nutrients are contributing to the continuing decline in lagoon water quality.”
Septic tanks are economical, but they may be a big part of the problem.
Fix two: Open the Canaveral locks for extended periods of time. The Barge Canal is a built-in pipeline that can give our lagoon badly needed natural flushing.
Fix three: Continue with the reduction of fertilizers.
A healthy river enormously benefits us economically and recreationally. I hope we actually fix the problem instead of taking the easy way out.
We can't expect a reliable energy future without talking water
Envir. Defense Fund – by Kate Zerrenner
January 14, 2014
It’s no secret that electricity generation requires substantial amounts of water, and different energy sources require varying amounts of water. Nor is it a surprise that Texas and other areas in the West and Southwest are in the midst of a persistent drought. Given these realities, it is surprising that water scarcity is largely absent from the debate over which energy sources are going to be the most reliable in our energy future.
Recent media coverage has been quick to pin the challenge of reliability as one that only applies to renewables. The logic goes something like this: if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, we won’t have electricity, making these energy sources unreliable. But if we don’t have reliable access to abundant water resources to produce, move and manage energy that comes from water-intensive energy resources like fossil fuels, this argument against the intermittency of renewables becomes moot.
Moving forward into an uncertain energy future, the water intensity of a particular electricity source should be taken into consideration as a matter of course.
We know that solar PV and wind are virtually water-free fuel sources, and yet we continue to adopt policies that create roadblocks to their integration in favor of highly-water intensive coal and natural gas. Bringing more renewable energy onto the grid is not technologically impossible, but there are significant political and policy barriers in the way. We need to rethink how we plan for energy needs and put water in the equation from the beginning.
Water is scarce, but so too is data
While a utility generally includes water use in its permitting process to build a new power plant, actual water usage data is not consistent or current. Additionally, when analyzing water availability for power, planners should look at the situation across sectors. If they’re not considering, for example, the water needs of the agricultural sector, electric planners could have inaccurate estimates of what will be available in the future, especially in light of a changing climate. The electric sector should also be doing regular assessments of water use and needs as conditions change—heat waves, multi-year droughts, damaged infrastructure from storms and other weather events could impact water quality and quantity.
Water scarcity isn’t just for the West
Water scarcity has become a national issue. In the past few years, we’ve seen power implications of water shortages in areas not normally associated with water stress. During the 2008 Southeastern drought as well as the 2012 drought that pummeled the Midwest, we saw shutdowns and near shutdowns of nuclear power plants in states like Alabama, North Carolina and Illinois. And let’s not forget the ongoing fight of the Tri-State Water Wars between Alabama, Georgia and Florida over distribution of increasingly scarce water for many uses, including power.
Furthermore, in its annual Winter Outlook, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a drier and warmer winter for the Southeast (and of course continuing dry conditions in much of the West, including portions of Texas that will likely see a “redevelopment” of drought this winter).
Water Scarcity Makes Renewable Energy a Viable Option, Despite Intermittency
The intermittency of renewable energy is a red herring which can be addressed through better research, development and deployment of available technologies such as energy storage, and better policies to help integrate them into the grid. But the fact that the water usage of most renewable energy is negligible means that it is the ideal power source for our water-stressed energy future.
The discussion needs to shift. We should be talking about water intensity at the front end of our power planning because if we don’t plan with water in mind, we are planning for a dark future.
A clean water campaign begins
Gainesville.com - by Lucinda Faulkner Merritt, a member of the planning committee for Floridians' Clean Water Declaration, Fort White, FL
January 13, 2014
Something happened in Orlando last November that had never happened before in Florida: Close to 250 people from more than 100 water and environmental advocacy groups from throughout the state gathered at a Citizens' Clean Water Summit to discuss our water pollution problems and what we can do about them.
Representatives came from north to south and east to west — springs country to the Everglades, the St. Johns River and the Indian River Lagoon to the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico.
One outcome of the summit was a document, the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration, which was written to gather as many signatures as possible in a campaign to demonstrate to our elected officials and water managers the extent of public support for clean water. The campaign is just getting started.
The declaration recognizes that clean water is essential for healthy people and a healthy economy, that water quality and quantity are interdependent, and that Florida's waters are held in public trust by the state of Florida for the benefit of all of its people and natural ecosystems.
The declaration lists Floridians' rights to clean water and the responsibilities to provide clean water that rest with citizens, state government and the industries that benefit from Florida's natural resources. Included in the responsibilities section is the goal of stopping pollution at it source rather than allowing it to enter our waters.
The declaration is not a scientific document. It is not a legal document. It is not a statement by any political party. It is not a public policy document, because clearly public policy is permitting the current situation that has resulted in widespread pollution. The declaration is, instead, a guideline or a vision for a different Florida water ethic, one that values long-term health for the many over short-term profits for the few.
This new vision and new water ethic will be developed only when we can agree to stop pointing fingers and begin to work together to solve our water problems. Elected officials, water managers, agriculturalists, power suppliers, business and industry leaders, homeowners and homeowners' associations, engineers, builders, inventors and innovators, artists and other creative people all have parts to play. The declaration includes a pledge for its signers to work together in good faith to solve our water problems.
The declaration's effectiveness will depend upon the number of Floridians who sign it. Right now, the stated goal is 100,000 signatures; imagine the power of even more. Could we reach 1 million signatures?
It takes only a few minutes to read and sign the declaration online at wewantcleanwater.com (or Google "Floridians' Clean Water Declaration").
You can also visit the campaign's Facebook page to find out about activities planned locally for Jan. 22 and for Tallahassee on Feb. 18.
If we can send men to the moon, we can clean up our waters.
The number of signatures on the Floridians' Clean Water Declaration will send a clear message about what we want not only for ourselves, but also for our children.
Algae blooms litter Lee County beaches, stink
January 13, 2014
A combination of natural and man-made events has brought piles of macroalgae back to Lee County beaches.
Fort Myers Beach has experienced the worst algal outbreak.
“It’s terrible,” part-time resident Elaine Lussier said Monday. “I’ve been here 40 years, and I’ve never seen it like this. People are saying they’re never coming back. This is bad for our tourism. It’s horrible. It stinks, too.”
Macroalgae (algae that are visible to the naked eye) are a natural part of the marine environment, but excess nutrients in the system can cause massive algal blooms.
A trigger for algal blooms in Lee County is often rain and water management.
During extremely rainy periods, Lake Okeechobee fills with water, so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases water down the Caloosahatchee River.
Nutrients in the releases and from runoff entering the river between the lake and the Gulf of Mexico feed the algae.
“I’ve been getting a lot of reports from local fishermen and scientists about a lot of macroalgae in San Carlos Bay and offshore,” said Keith Laakkonen, environmental sciences coordinator at Fort Myers Beach. “I can tell you I’ve been very concerned about this for a while, especially with releases down the river this summer.”
Record rainfall during the summer of 2013 kept lake levels high, which forced the Army Corps to release as much as 190 million gallons of water an hour down the Caloosahatchee.
“Last year we had almost a record for nutrient loads,” said Rick Bartleson, a resource scientist at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Laboratory. “We had 350 metric tons of phosphorus — the most was 500 in 2005. Phosphorus stays in the system for a while and ends up in the sediments.”
With nutrients in the sediments, algae continue to grow.
Another factor is that fresh water from the releases and natural runoff forced alga-eating organisms such as sea hares, urchins and various fish species out of the estuary.
“It blasted them out, or they moved to where salinities were more to their liking,” Bartleson said. “Fewer grazers and extra nutrients mean extra algae.”
The final piece to the puzzle was 30-knot winds that blew through Southwest Florida last week.
Algae attach to hard surfaces and are torn lose by wave action kicked up by powerful winds.
“When you get a large wave event like last week, and you get long-period waves from the west, a lot of algae is detached and comes to shore,” Laakkonen said.
Related: Red drift algae washing up on Lee County beaches Wink News
Corps discusses restoration progress and Lake Okeechobee management at annual Everglades Coalition Conference
January 13, 2014
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Collaboration, innovation and long-term solutions were key discussion points at the 29th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference, where federal and state officials, environmental organizations and members of the public and academia came together to celebrate what’s been accomplished so far, and discuss what needs to be done to continue making progress in Everglades restoration.
Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy, State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander Col. Alan Dodd were among the 300 people in attendance at the conference held Jan. 9-11 in Naples, Fla.
"Since I've been in my position, I'm honored to say that the Obama Administration has been committed to Everglades restoration," said Darcy, who also praised the efforts of the Everglades Coalition. "I want to congratulate the coalition for recognizing that the future is the only thing we should be looking to."
The theme of this year’s conference was “Everglades Restoration: Protecting Coastal Communities,” and topics of discussion ranged from climate change, nutrient pollution, restoration progress, sea level rise and water quality.
Jacksonville District commander Col. Alan Dodd spoke on a panel entitled “Where is all the Water Coming From ? A Coastal Perspective on Solutions for Water Management in the Northern Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.”
He provided an overview of the water management decisions the Corps has made this past wet season the importance of considering public safety in the decision-making process.
“We can’t get lake water out as quickly as it comes in - it comes in six times faster than we can get it out,” said Dodd. “When we make decisions today, we base it on where we think the lake will be 30-60 days out.”
During the panel discussion, Dodd was asked for his position on the Senate Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin’s recommendation to give the state of Florida authority over Lake Okeechobee regulatory releases when the risk of dike failure is less than 10 percent and to temporarily release authority to the federal government when the risk of failure exceeds this threshold.
“When we talk about getting up to 10 percent risk, water levels are getting higher than we can manage,” said Dodd. “Responsibilities should not be handed over during a crisis.”
Dodd was also asked about the committee’s recommendation for Congressional assistance in legislation or rulemaking to revise the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, also known as LORS.
“It’s the best system we have right now to balance all the various needs,” said Dodd, who also made note that additional rehab work on the Herbert Hoover Dike needs to be completed prior to considering revising LORS. He also said the Corps is currently in the process of completing an assessment, known as the Dam Safety Modification Study, which is scheduled to be completed in 2015. The results of that study will be used to guide future rehabilitation efforts on the dike.
Also in attendance at the conference were members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District team. The Jacksonville District has the largest environmental restoration program within the Corps, and manages the Corps’ Everglades restoration program.
At the “Caloosahatchee River: Getting the Water Right” panel discussion Jan. 11, Jacksonville District Planning and Policy Division Chief Eric Bush, discussed the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule and the public process involved in developing the regulation schedule.
“This is your Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, not the Corps,” said Bush. “You adopted it.”
Bush also stressed the importance of planning for climate change as part of restoration efforts. “If we don’t consider climate extremes and climate vulnerabilities, by the time we complete these projects, we are going to have the same problems.”
Restoration progress was discussed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Ecosystem Branch Chief Howard Gonzales, Jr. at the Jan. 11 breakout session entitled, “From Restoration Visions to Ribbon cutting.”
“As we’re looking at the big picture across the nation, other projects propose restoration success, what we have [with the Everglades restoration program] is realized success,” said Gonzales, who also walked conference attendees through the Corps’ planning process and the importance of public participation. “When you hear that a document is available for public review, that is your opportunity to get involved.
There are no comments that go unanswered. We take this process very seriously.”
The Everglades Coalition Conference aimed to showcase the connection all coastal communities have with the Everglades and how Everglades restoration is central to Florida’s future. A steady theme throughout the conference was the need for everyone to do their part to help restore this irreplaceable ecosystem and that not one single agency or individual can accomplish this feat alone.
DEP's land sales termed a 'disaster'
TheLedger.com - by Jim Turner, The News service of Florida
January 13, 2014
Sen. Jack Latvala grills staffer in subcommittee meeting.
TALLAHASSEE | A legislatively approved initiative to sell surplus park lands to raise money to buy more environmentally sensitive sites has been a "disaster," according to Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
The Department of Environmental Protection effort was created with the intent of generating $50 million, but so far no money has been raised and what has become a shortened list continues to draw criticism for sites remaining under consideration.
"That's been a disaster the way it's been handled," Latvala said during a General Government Appropriations Subcommittee meeting last week.
"This is just a charade that we're going to sell land and we're going to use it to buy land and replace a program that was a very popular program (Florida Forever and its predeces-sor) put in place by Gov. (Bob) Martinez in 1990 and kept going by Gov. (Jeb) Bush."
Latvala lashed out after Department of Environmental Protection Chief of Staff Leonard "Lennie" Zeiler said the land-sale effort, approved during the 2013 legislative session, has yet to generate any money.
Zeiler was responding to questions from Latvala after having noted that the DEP was seeking to keep the land-sale initiative alive next year through the sale of nonconservation lands, such as A.G. Holley State Hospital, which Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers decided to close in 2012.
When the DEP initiative was created, the legislators set aside $20 million that would be added to any money raised from the land sales.
DEP spokesman Patrick Gillespie said in an email Friday that the agency continues to review the remaining properties under consideration and that the final list of sellable properties should be public by early February.
The DEP list is down to 77 parcels that total 3,405 acres from what had been 169 sites that combined for roughly 5,300 acres from state parks and watersheds.
Before the first parcel is offered to the public, the DEP must make the sites available to other state agencies and universities and then to local governments.
Any money raised would be used to purchase other conservation lands that protect springs, water quality and water quantity or that serve as buffers for military bases.
Most of the remaining parcels are less than 10 acres.
On Dec. 3, the Polk County Commission asked for the largest parcels still on the list, within the Hilochee Wildlife Management Area, known as the Green Swamp area, to be removed from consideration. The land — broken into five potentially sellable parcels — totals 2,628.3 acres and contains the headwaters of four Florida rivers, including the Hillsborough and Withlacoochee.
design, and the plant was abandoned in the late 1960s.But a long, deep canal constructed to barge the giant engines to Cape Canaveral remained, becoming a permanent wound in the side of Everglades National Park, sucking out water and ruining wildlife habitat all the way down to Florida Bay.
Everglades project produces quick success
Sun Sentinel – by David Fleshler
January 12, 2013
More fresh water coming to National Park, Florida Bay. The blasts lit up the sky over the southern Everglades, with the glow visible from Miami. The testing of potential Apollo rocket engines by Aerojet Corp. never led to a winning
The need to address the damage done by the C-111 Canal has been one of the early priorities of the Everglades restoration, and a series of pumps, waterways and reservoirs completed one year ago to stop the leakage is already being hailed as a success.
"After only one year, we're really encouraged," said Caroline McLaughlin, program analyst for the National Parks Conservation Association. "We're seeing the hydration of wetlands that will ultimately support the health and vitality of native wildlife."
Underwater plants, which form the base of Florida Bay's food chain, now cover five times the area they covered in 2008, said Jerry Lorenz, Audubon of Florida's state director of research.
"Ultimately, in a few years it will translate into more fish productivity and more wading birds," he said. "Along with wading birds will be game fish, alligators and crocodiles. We expect the whole ecosystem to respond."
Tests so far show that Florida Bay is less salty. Taylor Slough has more water, allowing it to maintain the peat soil that's a critical foundation of the Everglades.
"It was probably wet three months out of the year before," said Kevin Kotun, the park's chief of physical resources, who said the most recent project is one of a series that have helped the slough. "Now it's wet 10 months out of the year. That means the water is staying in the marsh and not going down the drain."
Before the project went in, Taylor Slough and Florida Bay were suffering. The peat soil at Taylor Slough was drying out and occasionally catching fire, Kotun said.
Florida Bay, which depended on Taylor Slough for fresh water, became saltier. Submerged plants disappeared, fish became scarcer and along with them went the wading birds, the flocks of roseate spoonbills, wood storks, anhingas, tricolored herons and the rest.
Researchers in 1978 counted 1,250 nesting pairs of roseate spoonbills; by 2005, there were less than 100.
The plan to reduce the damage from the canal is one component of the Everglades restoration, a series of projects intended to conserve water, remove canals and levees, clean water and restore the health of the Everglades that remains.
A series of earth moving projects began in early 2010, intended to create a nine-mile ridge of water between the park and the canal, forming a barrier to the loss of water from the park. Two pumping stations were built to send water west, with berms and canals put in to route the water. A 590-acre above-ground reservoir went in to the north, forming part of the barrier to leakage from the park.
All of this was much less than environmentalists wanted, many having pushed for the simply filling in the C-111, a plan that could have flooded the area's farms.
"I thought that this was going to be a debacle," Lorenz said. "My big objection is that it wouldn't keep enough water in the slough to have a big enough impact, to make an ecological impact. But there's great preliminary evidence that it's working."
He is cautious about declaring victory, saying the results reflect only a year of data.
"It's all very preliminary," Lorenz said. "But hopeful."
Related: Everglades Restoration Project Produces Quick Success Huffington Post
Farm group head blasts EPA for over regulation of farms
DesMoinesRegister.com - by Christopher Doering
January 12, 2014
The Environmental Protection Agency is moving too aggressively to expand its reach through a rule that would give it “regulatory control of virtually all farm and ranch land,” the head of the country’s farm group said Sunday.
Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, used much of his speech in front of an estimated 6,000 attendees at its annual convention in San Antonio to call out the EPA for moving to infringe on the rights of American farmers, largely through new regulations tied to water pollution.
Among the most egregious, Stallman said, was a move late in 2013 by the EPA to begin to expand its regulatory reach under the Clean Water Act that would give it control of nearly every water body in the United States, including ditches that are dry most of the time. He warned the oversight would increase costs for farmers and ranchers to get federal permits and in some cases result in the EPA dictating the farming practices that can be used.
“I’m sure the folks at the EPA are experts in a lot of things, but they are not experts in how to run your farms and ranches,” Stallman told the Farm Bureau convention.
During his remarks, Stallman also highlighted three areas where Congress is “falling down on the job” of addressing the needs of the nation’s agricultural producers: the farm bill, reliable water transportation through an upgrade the nation’s aging infrastructure and agricultural labor reform.
Organizations representing the agriculture industry have said a failure to reform the labor policy would threaten to drive more production outside of the country, leave more fruits and vegetables vulnerable to rotting in fields, and put at risk the abundant and safe food supply found in the United States. The White House and congressional lawmakers are hoping to make another run this year at the most comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws in three decades.
The biggest beneficiaries of the new immigration bill in agriculture would be dairy, cattle and swine farmers in states such as Iowa, as well as in California, Florida and other areas where undocumented workers are heavily used to harvest fruits and vegetables. Row crops such as corn and soybeans are harvested mechanically, reducing the need for human labor.
Still, in California, for example, 71 percent of tree fruit growers and nearly 80 percent of raisin and berry growers have said they are unable to find enough employees to prune trees and pick crops, according to the Farm Bureau. Similar worker shortages have been highlighted across the United States.
“We have Farm Bureau members telling us they are losing millions of dollars in farm income from crops that they cannot harvest because of the shortage of farm workers. Some have called it quits, because it does make sense to plant crops that won’t get picked,” Stallman said.
“When you have that many farmers unable to get the workers they need, you have a crisis in farm country. And you have a crisis for Americans who want their food grown in the United States … and want it to meet their definition of affordable to boot.”
The three-day American Farm Bureau Conference in San Antonio ends Tuesday.
Low-profile coalition promotes science and the environment
Herald-Tribune – by Eric Ernst
January 12, 2014
Although its efforts have enriched the education of tens of thousands of students, as a trade association, it lacks the name recognition of its peers.
Real estate agents can join the Sarasota Association of Realtors, contractors have the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, artists comprise the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. Those organizations have high profiles.
By comparison, the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida operates in obscurity, even though it has been around since 2001 and its members are a who's who of environmental attractions, resource managers, research and academia in this area.
Mote Marine, Selby Gardens, New College, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Myakka River State Park, the governments of Sarasota and Manatee counties; the list goes on, featuring 28 organizations, all with ties to the natural world and the sciences that explore and explain it.
The job of the council is to promote and advocate science and environmental issues through “education, public outreach, demonstration, information gathering and analysis and special projects." that is the mission statement.
“The core mission is to foster collaboration. If we do that, all the other things fall in place," says Kumar Mahadevan, president emeritus at Mote Marine and a founder of the coalition. “The general public doesn't recognize that something you put on land gets in the water. We want to show the connectivity. It's a wonderful way to be able to do that."
Wonderful, maybe, but connecting that many dots is not as easy as it might seem. "It's like herding cats, getting that many CEOs together," Mahadevan admits.
The latest cat-herding falls to Jennifer and David Shafer, the coalition's co-executive directors. David graduated from Wabash College in Indiana with a full scholarship as a cartoonist. His parents insisted he find a “real" career. So he became a scientist through the University of Hawaii, where he met Jennifer. Both have doctorate degrees in marine biology.
They moved to Sarasota in 2004 to take over the Richardson Kleiber Walter real estate business from Jennifer's father, Bob Richardson. Jennifer teaches a course in intensive GIS at New College. The couple also opened Shafer (environmental) Consulting, to cover their bases when the real estate market went south.
The Shafers probably caught the attention of the environmental community in 2012 when they organized a highly regarded Sarasota Bay Watershed Symposium at New College. They were hired to administer the coalition soon afterward.
For the not-so-princely sum of $13,000, financed by dues of $100 to $1,000, the Shafers handle most of the coordination, website design, Facebook entries and other outreach campaigns that the coalition undertakes.
If the coalition has a signature project, it would be EdExplore SRQ.
Launched in August 2011, EdExplore comprises 160 lessons, or explorations, that involve field trips and visits by scientists and artists to elementary, middle school and high school classrooms. The field trips and guest lectures are far more than diversions from the day-to-day routine.
The school district has provided specific parameters for what it needs in the way of instruction, and the member organizations of the science and environment coalition and the arts council have tailored 160 or so presentations to satisfy those benchmarks.
For instance, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and Around the Bend Nature Tours (both coalition members) arrange tidal wading trips in which students in grades 3-5 learn about non-point pollution, sea grasses, the plants and animals in an estuary and how humans interact with that part of nature.
Teachers can go to edexploresrq.com to choose lessons that fit their curriculum not only in content but timing.
These types of programs - especially if they entail bus trips do not come cheaply, but the credibility of the science coalition and the arts council has encouraged donations from the Patterson Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.
Patterson has pledged $3 million to match the community foundation's $500,000 and a two-for-one match for subsequent donations. In the first two years, more than 14,000 students benefited from EdExplore.
Gary Leatherman, schools communication director, calls the program unique in Florida, if not the country. This year, the district honored every qualified teacher request, he says.
Looking forward, the Science and Environment Coalition has several action plans.
It intends to continue its "Be Floridian" campaign, which emphasizes what individuals can do to preserve natural resources.
It expects to develop a Rising Seas Initiative, which would bring together experts to inform local governments about how rising seas could affect Southwest Florida and what might be done to deal with it.
And, the coalition hopes to start a series of ecotours in which its members would offer behind-the-scene access to their properties. That will require a business plan and the juggling of plenty of details. The potential is enticing, though. David Shafer says the tours could complement the Benderson Park rowing competitions, which bring thousands of rowers and their entourages to town.
"Not everyone wins and advances," he says. "Wouldn't it be great to put them out on the Myakka?"
"Wild-rowing," Jennifer adds.
What to do with state's surplus funds ?
Sun Sentinel – by Kingsley Guy, Columnist
January 12, 2014
Happy days may not quite be here again, but for Florida, the fiscal picture is looking a lot brighter than a few years ago.
The Sunshine State, a national leader in unemployment during the Great Recession, has been leading the nation in the jobs recovery. Florida's unemployment rate stands at 6.4 percent, well below the national average of 7 percent, and more than 2 percentage points below the unemployment rates in California and Illinois, both bastions of so-called "progressivism."
All the economic activity, including an increase in tourism, has resulted in a major uptick in tax revenue, giving the state a projected $1.2 billion budget surplus. Here are a few thoughts on how to spend it:
Lawmakers tend to have short memories. When the money flows in, they are inclined to spend, spend, spend, forgetting that booms invariably are followed by busts. A sizable portion of the budget surplus should be earmarked for reserves, in anticipation of the day when the well once again dries up.
House Speaker Will Weatherford has renewed his call for pension reform, which passed the House last year but died in the Senate. For new hires, he wants to switch from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution 401(k)-style plan. Both houses of the Legislature should get behind him this year and OK such a change. Just about all private employers switched to defined contribution plans years ago, and it's time for Florida to do the same. Union workers at Boeing, among the last holdouts, approved the switch last week.
Opponents of reform argue Florida's pension system is well-funded and that it doesn't need reform. It may be well-funded now, but Illinois' defined contribution pension system was well-funded at one time also. Today, the Illinois system is so underfunded it threatens the fiscal stability of the state. There's no guarantee that in the future, Floridians won't elect politicians as irresponsible as those in Illinois. State employees deserve wages and benefits equal to those of well-run private corporations, but not more.
Gov. Rick Scott supports an increase in education funding, which would include raises for teachers. Education took a big hit during the Great Recession, and it's time to play catch-up. In doing so, however, the Legislature and the governor must not forget the state's charter schools, which receive substantially less government funding than traditional public schools. A Florida Department of Eduction data analysis last year found Florida's charter schools outperforming traditional public schools in most categories. It's time for all legislators to buck the teachers' unions and get solidly behind charter schools.
The governor and many legislators want to return a portion of the tax windfall to Floridians through tax cuts. Various proposals have been broached, including cutting the vehicle registration fee, which was upped in 2009 to help close a budget deficit. Be circumspect before cutting this tax. More people are driving fuel-efficient vehicles these days, limiting the revenue that can be raised through the gasoline tax. Transportation-related sources of revenue other than the gas tax must be found if the state is to adequately fund its transportation needs.
Florida declined to join the expanded Medicaid program that is a part of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare. Gov. Scott wanted the state to take part, but the Legislature said "no," fearing Florida would be saddled with unsustainable costs down the line. Florida should steer clear of the ACA for the moment, given that it is turning into an unmitigated disaster. A portion of the budget surplus, however, must be spent on increasing funding and enhancing enrollment under the existing Medicaid program.
The revenue shortfall during the Great Recession resulted in massive cutbacks in the state's water management workforce and land-acquisition programs. Nothing is more important to the state's prosperity than a healthy fresh-water system. Plenty of fat was cut in the water management districts and environmental agencies, but funding reductions cut bone and muscle as well. The Legislature must make enhancing Florida's environmental resources one of its highest priorities. A healthy ecosystem is vital to sustaining not only populations of birds, fish and four-legged mammals, but human beings as well
Wildlands Association would like your assistance
News-Press.com – Guest Opinion by Matthew Schwartz, executive director, South Florida Wildlands Association, Fort Lauderdale
January 12, 2013
The South Florida Wildlands Association thanks you for your continued support – and wishes you and your families a very happy new year.
SFWA was founded in March of 2010 as a nonprofit environmental organization with a mission of protecting wildlife and wilderness in the Greater Everglades.
Our young organization has remained extremely busy and has rapidly become a major force in wildlife protection here in South Florida.
Here are some highlights from our work in 2013:
• SFWA and our environmental allies continue two ongoing federal lawsuits to rein in damaging off-road vehicle use in the Big Cypress National Preserve, habitat for the highly endangered Florida panther and 30 other animal species listed as endangered, threatened, or species of special concern.
• Biscayne National Park is the most heavily used marine park in our nation and home to dozens of threatened and endangered marine and terrestrial species. The new superintendent has eliminated a proposed 10,000-acre marine reserve (“no take” zone) which would allow heavily depleted fish populations and damaged coral reefs to recover. He has also significantly reduced “no combustion motor zones” originally proposed to protect sensitive shorelines. SFWA is opposed to the new proposals and will be sending out an action alert soon regarding the public comment period which ends in late February.
• Everglades National Park is in the process of a complete revision of its General Management Plan. In 2013, SFWA spearheaded a coalition of 10 local and national environmental organizations and submitted substantial comments designed to protect wildlife, the sawgrass plains of the East Everglades, the Shark River Slough, and the important estuaries of Florida Bay, the Gulf Coast and Ten Thousand Islands.
• We were recently appointed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to the Management Advisory Group for the Webb-Babcock WMA, a large piece of state land which could become an important “expansion area” for the Florida panther if connectivity to existing panther habitat further south can be established.
• SFWA is working against a huge expansion of the Turkey Point Nuclear Plant adjacent to Biscayne National Park on the shores of Biscayne Bay. We are also heavily opposed to a possible National Park Service plan which would allow FP&L to run three massive power lines inside the current border of Everglades National Park. A decision from the U.S. National Park Service is coming soon.
• Last year, record rains swelled Lake Okeechobee and led to the release of many billions of gallons of water loaded with agricultural runoff into the estuaries of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. SFWA has teamed up with the “Rivers Coalition: Save Our River, Stop The Discharges” and their call for a natural flow-way of restored wetlands south of Lake Okeechobee and enhanced water protection north of the Lake to allow the natural and historic flow of clean water through the Everglades and south to Florida Bay to return.
• SFWA continues to fight against the unceasing attempts by developers to turn vacant lots (often a synonym for wildlife habitat) in south Florida into “productive” shopping malls and new residential communities.
SFWA wants to move our mission forward this year. Some of the issues we tackle are not easy and are heavily contested by different interest groups, possibly the reason SFWA sometimes has to go it alone. But though we greatly prefer consensus on issues, we do not shy away from controversy.
If you are a lover of the Everglades and its incomparable wildlife, please consider a tax-deductible year-end contribution to South Florida Wildlands Association. Contributions large or small are greatly appreciated and assist us in accomplishing our shared goals.
Don’t live in South Florida? Consider that nearly 90 million people from throughout the U.S. and the world visit the Sunshine State annually, one of the largest tourist destinations on the planet. For many, a big part of those visits is the chance to see the natural landscapes, vegetation, and wildlife that South Florida is famous for.
South Florida’s varied ecosystems are a part of our shared natural heritage: The Everglades belong to all of us.
Prof. Dean GABRIEL
Will Florida's citrus be saved from scourge?
Gainesville.com - by Jeff Schweers, Staff writer
January 12, 2014
Since it first appeared in Florida eight years ago, the bacterium that causes the disease decimating Florida's $9 billion citrus industry has proven elusive to scientists and growers — costing the industry as many as 8,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in crop damage since 2006.
But University of Florida plant pathologist Dean Gabriel may have cracked the genetic code that may help find a way to slow down or even stop the citrus greening contagion that's infected as much as 75 percent of the state's citrus crop.
He and his colleagues helped sequence the DNA of the Candidatus liberibacter asiaticus believed to cause citrus greening, and more recently sequenced the DNA of a similar strain of the disease discovered in Brazil.
That second discovery greatly improved their chances of nailing down which part of the bacterium causes the disease in the citrus trees.
“You can compare the two genomes that cause citrus greening, the one from Florida and the one from Brazil,” Gabriel said.
By comparing those two against other bacterial strains from other plants like potatoes, spinach and papayas, and playing a game of “one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others,” Gabriel and his pathologists hope to deduce and isolate the part of the bacterium that attacks citrus.
Once they know which gene out of 3,000 genes on the bacterium's strand interacts with the gene in the citrus plants that causes the disease, that discovery will hopefully lead them closer to a cure.
Gabriel and his team are among the groups of scientists and researchers who have spent close to a decade trying to unlock the mystery of the citrus greening bacterium.
“We are trying to figure out why this thing is able to attack citrus, and why did it suddenly emerge,” Gabriel said.
Grove owners around the world have been battling citrus greening — or huanglongbing — for close to 100 years. It was first spotted among citrus crops in China in 1911 and spread quickly throughout Asia, Africa, the subcontinent of India and the Arabian Peninsula.
It found its way to Brazil in 2004, and made its first appearance in South Florida orange groves in Homestead and Florida City in 2005. It has since spread to all 32 counties that have commercial citrus groves.
The spread of the disease is caused by a gnat-sized flying insect called the Asian Citrus Psyllid that arrived in Florida around 1998 or 1999, Gabriel said. The bug carries the bacterium from plant to plant, injecting it into the tubes that carry water and nutrients throughout the trees, choking the life out of healthy trees.
The tell-tale signs are yellow veins, splotchy leaves, withered branches, premature fruit drop, and stunted and malformed fruit that doesn't color properly and tastes musty or salty-sour.
“It's really a horrible disease,” Gabriel said.
Worse, there is no cure, said Jacqueline Burns, who runs the UF Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred in Polk County, the heart of the state's citrus belt.
It has completely changed crop management, she said. Growers must maintain a constant vigilance against the disease, inspecting their groves at least four times a year, plucking diseased trees out whenever possible, spraying for the pesky psyllids whenever federal regulations allow, and pumping nutrients and water into the trees.
“This is really a tough disease to find a solution for to try to tackle,” Burns said.
The industry has weathered frost, blight, black spot and more recently canker, Burns said, but nothing like this in recorded history.
The state, federal government and growers have given the UF Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences $60 million to find a cure.
It's already infected 65-75 percent of all citrus trees in the state, Burns said, and in a few years will have infected all the trees unless a way to stop it is found.
“This particular bacterium is slowly killing the industry because we cannot control or manage it in the field,” she said.
Educational outreach goes not only to the commercial growers, but residential tree owners, too, she said. They need to know that one infected tree can wipe out an entire grove.
“If this disease kills every (citrus) tree, then there will be a huge impact on our residents. They won't be able to have (citrus) trees in their yard,” Burns said.
One good thing that has come out of the battle against this pathogen: “If anything has happened at all it is that all of these agencies and faculty are working together to find a solution,” Burns said. “It is unprecedented.”
The elusive nature of the bacterium has made it impossible for scientists to grow it in a petri dish, which greatly slows the ability to create treatments and test them repeatedly in a controlled setting. “A lot of things are missing in the research portfolio that would allow us to control the disease,” Burns said.
The disease hides in the root stock of the tree, sometimes for years, before it shows up in the tree canopy. By that time, it's too late.
Finally, the psyllid itself has proven to be a highly efficient transporter of the disease and has adapted very well to Florida's climate. It found the perfect host in the ornamental orange jasmine trees that are so popular among homeowners. Psyllids hopping on jasmine shrubs headed for nurseries and home improvement stores quickened their spread throughout the state.
And you can't very well ask homeowners to destroy all their jasmine, Burns said.
Brazil has been very successful in reducing the infection rate by destroying trees as soon as they are infected, Burns said. But Florida's citrus industry couldn't withstand that kind of drastic measure. Nobody has pockets deep enough to withstand the destruction of 75 percent of their crops, she said.
Having the genomic sequence of the Florida strain by itself has not helped that much, Burns said.
“It doesn't give us significant clues as to why the bacteria would resist being cultured,” she said. “It's a good thing, but the challenge is translating that into usable information.”
That is why Gabriel's sequencing of the Brazilian strain is so significant. Having both the Florida strain and the Brazilian strain of the disease sequenced means he doesn't need to produce the bacteria in a culture, he said. But it wasn't easy to find.
The bacterium is tiny, found only in the living phloem of plants, the plumbing system that carries the sugars produced by photosynthesis to the rest of the plant. That makes it harder to culture in a petri dish.
The bacterium also is not formed uniformly throughout a tree. “We have no idea where it is in an infected tree,” Gabriel said. “We don't know where to sample for it. When you find a hot tree, you can extract DNA, but how much of it is bacterial?”
Lab assistants process samples in the lab, dicing up the veins and leaf tissues to eke out minuscule amounts of the bacterial DNA. Using a thermocycler, they conduct a molecular amplification to pinpoint the gene they think looks most likely to pass on the disease to the citrus plant.
“We wound up isolating the DNA from the infected citrus vein, diced it up and chose the ones that were heavily infected, then used molecular amplification techniques to amplify the DNA of those bacterial parts,” Gabriel said.
The genome gives researchers everything that organism has in its tool kit, and what it doesn't have, he said. “We are able to look at the genome and tell what it has no defenses against,” Gabriel said.
That guides their research into potential treatments, without culturing the bacterium. “It would be nice if you had it … you could do experiments in a petri dish to test various chemicals to see what kills it the best,” he said.
But without that capability, Gabriel and his team must resort to inoculating trees with psyllids in a contained, secure greenhouse, sometimes into plants that have been genetically modified to give resistance or immunity to the disease.
Using psyllids is cumbersome, laborsome and time consuming, he said.
And the Florida growers are running out of time.
“I would predict it would take us now in the neighborhood of five years,” Gabriel said. “I wouldn't think it would take longer than that, but it's impossible to tell.”
One intriguing development in the last two years was the discovery that the bacterium contains a virus in its DNA, a sort of kill switch or suicide bomb within its genetic structure. If they could figure out how to activate that switch, the virus would eat the bacterium, Gabriel said.
Barbara Carlton, executive director of the Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association, has been in the industry for 20 years and this citrus greening is a difficult subject to discuss. “We are still in the throes of trying to figure out what is going on,” Carlton said.
There is always something plaguing the industry, she said, and she is confident that it will survive and even figure out a way to manage this disease.
“We've had other diseases that have had a hard impact on the industry,” Carlton said. “This one seems to be a little bit more widespread and certainly is giving us a run for our money as far as figuring out how to deal with it. We certainly are approaching this with an all-hands-on-deck mindset.”
Smaller growers have already bailed out, she said, saying that it is too expensive to spend an extra couple thousand dollars an acre just in caretaking to aggressively manage the groves.
Carlton isn't banking on any kind of silver bullet to the problem, but said she believes it will take an array of practices and treatments that will help the industry survive and change the way groves are managed.
“Typically we learn how to live with things,” she said. “It is not that it goes away, and we don't have to deal with it. It's still present but in the background because we've learned how to deal with it.”
Officials confer on Everglades
January 11, 2014 at 12:27 a.m.
State and federal officials are meeting with environmental advocates to discuss Everglades restoration.
The annual Everglades Coalition Conference continues through Sunday in Naples. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was scheduled to deliver the keynote address Friday night after touring restoration projects in the headwaters of the Everglades north of Lake Okeechobee.
This year's conference is focused on the connections between Everglades restoration and the health of Florida's coastal environments.
Gov. Rick Scott announced in August that Florida would allocate $90 million over three years to raise a 2.6-mile stretch of the Tamiami Trail in western Miami-Dade County. The bridge restores a natural flow of water through the Everglades under the cross-state highway.
Scripps' Indian River Lagoon team covers 2nd day of Everglades Coalition
TCPalm - by staff
January 11, 2014
A host of federal and state policymakers whose decisions affect the Indian River Lagoon will be gathered today at the 29th annual Everglades Coalition conference in Naples, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Most notable among them is Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Jo-Ellen Darcy, who as assistant secretary of the Army in charge of civil works leads the Army Corps of Engineers.
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart will speak from 2:15 to 3:30 p.m. and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy and Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and senator, will speak from 6:30 to 9 p.m. See the full conference schedule. http://www.evergladescoalition.org/PDF/EVCO%20Program_small.pdf
Our Indian River Lagoon team — lead reporter Tyler Treadway, columnist Eve Samples and photographer Sam Wolfe —will be there to cover it live for you. Follow them on Twitter @tcpalmtreadway, @EveSamples and @TCPalmSamWolfe, or see their tweets below.
And watch for their analyses on Sunday.
If you have story ideas or questions you’d like us to ask officials, email email@example.com.
Read our previous stories on the conference.
Army Corps of Engineers head not convinced state officials could operate Lake Okeechobee better
Army Corps of Engineers chief, Congressman Murphy to tour St. Lucie River, Lake O by helicopter Saturday
Naples hosting annual Everglades Coalition restoration conference
Eve Samples: As heavy-hitters gather in Naples this weekend, Indian River Lagoon takes center stage
The killer politics of Big Sugar
Counterpunch.org - by Alan Farago, President of Friends of the Everglades
January 11, 2013
It is what it is !
A recent report by the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) underscores the health care crisis in the world’s most exceptional democracy. The U.S. spends two and a half times per capita more on health care than any other developed country. How does this happen? Take a look at a key player in the paradox: sugar growers. In Florida it is called, Big Sugar. In other states it is beets, maple syrup and most ubiquitous of all: high-fructose corn syrup extracted from an unlimited corn crop heavily subsidized by taxpayers.
“30%-40% of healthcare expenditures in the USA go to help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar.” (Credit Suisse Report: “Sugar: Consumption At A Crossroads”, Sept. 2013) In Forbes Magazine, contributor Dan Monroe summarized, “Basically, the U.S. healthcare system spends about $1 trillion per year (and possibly more) fighting the effects of excess sugar consumption.”
“Higher health spending per capita tends to be associated with lower mortality rates and higher life expectancy, but this is not the case for the United States.” (“OECD: Switzerland tops 34 nations for life expectancy at 82.8″, UPI, Jan. 7, 2014) American politics are organized to protect corporate interests that make voters and taxpayers sick, and there is no better example: in a candy bar or a bowl of healthy granola, sugar is the big stake in the heart of American health.
According to a recent United Health Foundation study, “Nine of the 10 least healthy states in the nation had among the 10 worst obesity rates in the country.” The United Health Foundation was established by UnitedHealth Group in 1999 as a not-for-profit, private foundation dedicated to improving health and health care. Its ”America’s Health Rankings” rates the most healthy and least health states by evaluating factors such as healthy behaviors, quality of health care, health policy, the presence of diseases and deaths from illnesses.
The study is a good gateway to explore the politics of sugar. Nutrition advocates and environmentalists who have every reason to despair at the corrupting political influence of sugar have never connected the dots for the American public: sugar is not just another crop that receives federal benefits. It is a crop whose profits deform democracy and public health, no matter whose political party is in charge or at what level of government.
70 percent of governors in the study’s “most healthy states” are Democrat. In these states, Democrats are 80 percent of the number of senators. That is not, however, the end of the story.
The website 247 Wall Street parses the difference as an economic matter, divorced from politics:
Money (also) clearly plays a role in determining health. The healthiest states are often among the nation’s wealthiest, and each had a median household income well-above the national median. At the other end, nearly all of the nation’s least healthy states had among the lowest incomes. The three least healthy states — Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana — were also the nation’s three poorest by median income. Residents’ ability to pay for health care, as well as the ability to afford a good education, which can affect good health decisions, are possible reasons for this relationship.
(Behavior plays a major role in determining whether people stay healthy. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St.,) Dr. Reed Tuckson, external clinical advisor to United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings, explained that the relationship between wealth and health could also be the result of lack of optimism poorer people may have. “When you do not have great hope for the future, when you’re living a life that is not as optimistic, people are generally not as inclined to take charge of their overall health. ‘What’s the point,’ people will say. ‘If my life is miserable anyway, why would I do something to make myself live longer?’
A clearer picture emerges through 2013 voting patterns when the US Senate took up an amendment to the Farm Bill to reduce sugar subsidies. By reducing its guarantees, Congress would have stripped the certainty through which the sugar industry spends on lobbyists and politicians. On May 22nd, the Senate rejected reforms proposed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen from NH, one of the most healthy states, 54-44.
Support for reform was mostly a Republican venture. Leading up to the vote, wealthy foundations and conservative think tanks like the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Americans for Tax Reform all weighed in. For the Club For Growth, Andrew Roth wrote: “The federal sugar program is a prime example of the federal government wrongly picking winners and losers in the private sector. It dislocates jobs, increases prices for consumers and businesses, and includes a protectionist quota that stifles freer trade.”
George Will, in the Washington Post, echoed: “Sugar protectionism is government planning. It is industrial policy — government picking winners and losers — applied to agriculture. It is politics supplanting the market in allocating wealth and opportunity. And it is perfectly all right with 20 of the 45 Republican senators.” Will lambasted Florida Senator Marco Rubio for ducking (voting against the reform) while Texas senator Ted Cruz, who also has sugar production in his state, stuck with his principles. Will failed to note Rubio’s political dependence on money from Big Sugar.
In the final tally, Democrats opposed sugar reform by 55 percent to 40 percent (NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg did not vote.). US senators from states identified as “healthy” but with sugar constituencies — Minnesota (D), Vermont (D, I), Colorado (D), North Dakota (D, R) and Hawaii (D) — all voted against reform. The website, Opensecrets.org, points out that the second highest recipient of campaign cash from sugar interests was progressive champion, Al Franken (D-Minnesota). Franken in 2013 received $27,999. ”Sugar is the only industry in the entire agribusiness sector that has consistently supported Democrats during the past two decades.” (Sugar Cane and Sugar Beets: Background, Opensecrets)
Of the states ranked least healthy states by the United Health Foundation and with sugar interests — Louisiana and Mississippi — all four senators, all Republican, voted against reform. In contrast, the Republican senators from Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia who had no sugar constituencies voted their principles.
When sugar money is at stake, Democrats in Congress abandon their principles with the same vigor as Republicans. But there is actually a more nuanced point: the sugar industry plays politics to keep at every single level of government, while public health and other civic activists stay in separate silos, consumers are shuffled off into supermarkets where sugar-containing products are the cheapest and easiest to reach, and taxpayers simply bear the ever increasing costs of subsidizing sugar in American diets.
Whether by choice or financial necessity, one’s diet is personal and — in the thinking of most Americans — entirely separate from politics.
In the United States, the right wing calls the phenomenon, freedom of the market place even though the marketplace for foods supported by corporate welfare is 100 percent, entirely political.
The GOP ideal is that self-interested corporations and their shareholders and managers, guided through the forces of supply and demand unfettered by government regulation, is the best guarantor of the public interest — so the thinking goes. Yet sugar subsidies are among the most corrupting practices of corporate welfare in the United States, and they are supported by both political parties.
American citizens are free to choose their destinies, corporations are free to exercise their rights as people, and there is a statistical probability of dying earlier in the United States than in Slovenia or Chile.
How much does it cost sugar industries to persuade Congress to support its welfare program that inflicts a considerable portion of the $1 trillion health care costs cited above? Not much at all.
“In 2009, (sugar) crop producers spent more than $20.5 million on federal lobbying.” (“How Big Sugar Gets Its Way”, The Florida Independent, Sept. 11, 2011) That is the tip of the iceberg. Sugar producers and related industries cumulatively spend billions through dark money channels in political campaigns and “independent” expenditure committees supporting their candidates at all levels of government: from the smallest fry in Florida counties, to the state capitols wherever sugar can be grown. (“Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012″, Washington Post, 1/7/2014) Sugar money in American politics disappears through the figments of campaign finance law and filaments of law enforcement. The United States is that special snow flake fallen on a pile of white sugar, melted golden by corporations more powerful than people.
Living free from disease caused by excess consumption of sugar should not be a partisan issue. Reforming the sugar subsidy in the farm bill and passing other measures inhibiting sugar consumption to protect the public health should not be a partisan issue, either. Democrats may follow the money trail — former president Bill Clinton has famously close ties to Florida’s sugar billionaires, the Fanjuls — but Republicans are in violation of their own principles by allowing the tsunami of sugar-related campaign cash; opposing campaign finance reform like stubborn cattle until some gun goes off. If Republicans are the party of business, it should only take the back of an envelope to do the calculation: want to live longer? reduce sugar’s influence on America’s bloated body politic.
The costs are in public health. Manufacturers of sugar products who oppose the corporate welfare program in the farm bill, complain about the loss of manufacturing jobs and about $1 billion in annual, excess profits that accrue to sugar growers, thanks to price supports and other guarantees. Don’t forget collateral damage. American taxpayers are paying tens of billions of dollars because Big Sugar in Florida will not clean up the pollution it causes on its own farmland in the historic Everglades. Despite generations of strong bipartisan support for Everglades restoration in Congress and the White House — Big Sugar holds Florida politics in a steel grip. The challengers — Florida’s Everglades advocates are segregated in silos instead of reaching out on the single point of contact with American voters: sugar makes people ill and shortens life expectancy at rates that invite amazement.
Name one Republican or Democratic member of Congress, name one local town selectman or one county commissioner who wants to die before their time because the well of life is poisoned by sugar.
Scripps' Indian River Lagoon team covers first day of Everglades Coalition conference
TCPalm - by staff
January 10, 2014
A host of federal and state policymakers who affect the Indian River Lagoon will be gathered today at the 29th annual Everglades Coalition conference in Naples, from 7:45 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Most notable among them is Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who will speak from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Jo-Ellen Darcy, who as assistant secretary of the Army in charge of civil works leads the Army Corps of Engineers, will speak from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. See the full conference schedule.
Our Indian River Lagoon team — lead reporter Tyler Treadway, columnist Eve Samples and photographer Sam Wolfe — will be there to cover it live for you. Follow them on Twitter @tcpalmtreadway, @EveSamples and @TCPalmSamWolfe, or see their tweets below.
If you have story ideas or questions you’d like us to ask officials, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read our previous stories on the conference.
Related: Army Corps of Engineers chief, Congressman Murphy to tour St. Lucie River, Lake O by helicopter Saturday
Naples hosting annual Everglades Coalition restoration conference
Eve Samples: As heavy-hitters gather in Naples this weekend, Indian River Lagoon takes center stage
The time has to be right for desal and 'volt wagons'
UTsanDiego.com – by Logan Jenkins
January 10, 2013
As San Diegans with long teeth recall, the $1 billion desalination plant in Carlsbad is not the region’s first large-scale experience with a life-source science that dates back centuries.
In 1960, the Interior Department’s 8-year-old “Office of Saline Water” broke ground on a flash evaporation plant near the tip of Point Loma.
Two years later, a crowd of 2,500 gathered for a dedication headlined by Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, Gov. Pat Brown and Congressman Bob Wilson.
One of the unofficial heroes of the day was Dr. Charles Graves, a dentist who in 1952 had proposed a nuclear seawater conversion plant in San Diego.
Active in politics, Graves served as campaign manager for Wilson, a powerful Washington figure who got an earful from Graves about the wave of the future.
The demonstration plant pumped 1 million or more gallons of converted ocean water into San Diego’s municipal supply.
In early 1964, the U.S. Coast Guard arrested Cuban fishermen off Florida. Castro retaliated by shutting off the water to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo.
Rejecting military action, as hawks like Sen. Barry Goldwater urged, President Johnson’s ordered tankers to deliver water to Gitmo until San Diego’s plant could be dismantled, ferried to Guantanamo and rebuilt. By July, the Navy erected a sign above the empty pipeline: “GITMO WATER LIBERATED FROM CUBA AT THIS POINT.”
Having sacrificed its plant for national defense, San Diego believed the future was bright — and wet.
In a 1964 San Diego Union article, the writer predicted San Diego could have a plant producing 50 million gallons a day, the amount Carlsbad’s plant will eventually produce.
“One thousand cities will be getting all or part of their supply from salt water or brackish water by 1980.”
Ultimately, however, SoCal’s thirst was slaked by a vast statewide distribution system based on cheap imported water. Desal faded away. Too costly. Too spacey.
Oil-rich Arab countries, however, bathed in San Diego-tested technology.
Now a sweet footnote:
In 1958, Graves partnered with the Stinson Aircraft Tool & Engineering Co. to produce the “Charles Townabout” — small, light electric cars dubbed “volts wagons.”
Fifteen of the zero-emission concept cars, which could cruise at 55 mph, were built. There were no American takers, though Japanese companies expressed interest.
Sadly, none of the Townabouts exists today, according to Terry Graves, the inventive dentist’s son who is developing his own electric car in Lemon Grove.
Dr. Graves died in 1990 at age 72. It’s a shame he didn’t live long enough to witness the second coming of desal and, as icing on his 96th birthday cake, Teslas and Leafs making silent waves on city streets.
Conservation amendment backers raise another $163k, near the ballot
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte,Tallahassee Bureau Chief
January 9, 2014
TALLAHASSEE -- The environmental groups attempting to place a land conservation constitutional amendment before voters this year grossed another $162,700 last month, bringing their total spent on the effort to nearly $2.7 million.
The group, called Florida's Water and Land Legacy, Inc., has collected 630,862 of the 683,149 valid voter signatures required to place the amendment before voters statewide in November, according to the Division of Elections. It has until Feb. 1 to hit that target, and supporters say they'll get there.
The amendment would devote 33 percent of revenues collected from documentary-stamp taxes on real estate transactions – a tax that generated $1.7 billion this year -- to a range of conservation efforts. State economists estimate it would raise $648 million in 2015, nearly $8 billion in its first decade and, by 2034, $1.27 billion a year.
That money would be earmarked for two decades, starting in 2015, to "acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands," including the Everglades, along with protecting Florida's rivers, lakes and streams.
Opponents say the amendment would undercut other programs funded by the same tax source. And even supporters worry that lawmakers could re-direct dollars raised by the amendment to pay for existing programs, resulting on little or no extra spending on conservation.
And the biggest supporters have been environmental groups themselves, but also some agricultural operations, according to the monthly campaign-finance report filed Thursday.
The biggest givers last month were: the Land Trust Alliance ($10,000); League of Conservation Voters ($20,000); Florida Wildlife Federation ($50,000); Plum Creek Timber ($20,000); Sierra Club ($10,000); and 1000 Friends of Florida ($20,000).
Everglades refuge 'will get done,' U.S. interior secretary vows
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear,
January 9, 2014
YEEHAW JUNCTION — It rained endlessly on the U.S. interior secretary's helicopter, boat and swamp buggy tour Thursday of a vast mosaic of ranch land south of Orlando.
The gloomiest part of the visit, however, was that Sally Jewell didn't have news that her agency was ready yet to buy land as part of a planned 150,000-acre Everglades National Wildlife Refuge that will stretch between Orlando and Lake Okeechobee.
But Jewell, less than a year in her Cabinet position, promised "this will get done."
The refuge was established two years ago as a project to acquire ranch lands actively used for cattle grazing but still largely healthy with wildlife.
Federal officials plan to buy 50,000 acres outright and to make partial purchases of an additional 100,000 acres, allowing ranchers to stay on their land and continue producing cattle.
No specifics were provided, but Jewell said purchases would begin later this month.
Though big in ambition, the refuge today is but a spit of property, a 10-acre parcel donated by an environmental group.
It was Jewell's second trip to the Everglades region. Her helicopter flight crossed pastures, cypress swamps, marshy ponds, palmetto prairies, pine forests and, here and there, individual homes and dirt roads.
Critical to the refuge are other conservation lands already established, including Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park and Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area.
She landed at Durando Ranch just south of Yeehaw Junction, a property the Interior Department and its U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would like to make part of the refuge.
Among longtime ranchers meeting Jewell was David "Lefty" Durando, who explained that the economic future of ranching in the region is in jeopardy, leaving him to fear that his children won't be able to stay on the family property.
According to the Interior Department, more than 40 landowners have said they are interested in selling their property. Durando said he would "be a fool" not to listen to the agency's interest in buying part ownership of his ranch.
"We would stay on the land, we could continue to run cattle on the land and we would protect wildlife," Durando said. "Most of all, we could protect water."
The bonus of the refuge concept is the hope that conserving ranches would help ensure a cleaner and more natural flow of creeks and rivers that thread south toward the Everglades.
A 100-mile span of Florida interior south of Orlando includes the Kissimmee River and the Tohopekaliga lakes in Osceola County, which airline passengers sometimes can catch a glimpse of just before landing at Orlando International Airport.
Much of the rain that runs off places such as the Mall at Millenia's parking lots and MetroWest's neighborhood lawns can flow through the "Toho" lakes to the Kissimmee River and into Lake Okeechobee, which used to spill into the Everglades.
Decades-old ditches, levees and canals have disrupted much of that flow.
"The Corps of Engineers was all about flood protection, and we were very successful," said Col. Alan Dodd, the senior corps official in Florida who accompanied Jewell for a short trip on the Kissimmee River.
But the corps has been part of Florida's "awakening," as Dodd described it, that the Everglades is more than a park in South Florida and depends on water flowing from as far away as Orlando and from ranches along the way.
"You're at the headwaters of the Everglades," Jewell told the group assembled under the tent. "Doing this right takes time, but it will get done."
Related: Interior secretary tours Kissimmee Impressed with river restoration ... Highlands Today
Interior Sec. Sally Jewell set to address Everglades conference in ... Naples Daily News
Interior Secretary Jewell Highlights Everglades Restoration as Part ... eNews Park Forest
Pictures: Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell visits Everglades Orlando Sentinel
Federal, State officials gather for Everglades Coalition Conference this weekend
WGCU.org - by Ashley Lopez
The 29th annual Everglades Coalition Conference kicks off in Naples Friday.
Federal officials, members of Congress and state lawmakers will attend this year’s conference hosting 57 environmental groups working on Everglades restoration.
The theme for this year’s event is how restoration efforts benefit coastal communities.
Jennifer Hecker, a policy director with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, which is hosting the conference, said her group will recommend increased spending on projects aimed at improving water quality in the River of Grass.
“We need to pick up the pace with these restoration efforts, she said. “We are seeing diminished water quality and water supply all throughout South Florida—and without Everglades restoration we are not going to be able to reverse that trend.”
Keynote speakers include Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell and Everglades Caucus Co-Founder Rep. Mario Diaz Balart. Gov. Rick Scott is not scheduled to attend.
The conference runs from Friday, January 9th through Sunday at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club.
Interior Secretary Jewell Highlights Everglades Restoration as Part of Administration’s Commitment to Landscape-Level Conservation
DOI Press Release – eNewsPF.com
January 9, 2014
OKEECHOBEE, FL--(ENEWSPF)--January 9, 2014. As part of the Obama Administration’s sustained commitment to restoring and protecting the Everglades, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today met with ranchers and private landowners in the Kissimmee River Valley to discuss next steps for the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. During the visit, Jewell highlighted the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to the landscape-level conservation effort, which will protect key Florida habitat and the region’s rural way of life
Following a tour of a 12,000-acre cattle ranch owned by David “Lefty” Durando, Jewell announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, working hand in hand with local ranchers and other partners, will begin implementation later this month of land acquisitions and the purchase of conservation easements from willing sellers for the refuge and conservation area. The announcement came during Jewell’s second official visit to the Everglades since being sworn in as Secretary less than one year ago.
“For the past two years, we have worked with more than a dozen partners, including ranchers and other private landowners, to develop a refuge that will conserve one of America’s last grassland and longleaf pine savannah landscapes while preserving the traditional way of life cherished by those who live in this area,” said Jewell. “Thanks to the support shown in Congress and funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, we are on the cusp of making the first offers for land acquisitions that will not only provide valuable habitat for wildlife but also protect the headwaters of the Everglades.”
The Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area was established in January 2012 with a 10-acre donation from The Nature Conservancy and support from local partners, including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and The Conservation Fund.
Based on a landscape-scale approach, the new refuge and conservation area will conserve habitat needed for the survival of more than 200 imperiled fish, wildlife and plants, including the Florida panther, Florida scrub-jay and Florida grasshopper sparrow. The Everglades, which receives water from the Kissimmee River Valley, will benefit from the conservation and restoration of its headwaters with enhanced water quality, quantity and storage.
Following the tour of Durando’s cattle ranch, Jewell echoed her praise of Durando’s partnership in establishing the refuge, which she highlighted in an October speech at the National Press Clubspelling out her vision to conserve working landscapes.
“Lefty is a leader among more than 40 landowners who have expressed interest in conservation easements, and we are ready to move forward. What is happening here in Florida is a perfect example of the local community coming together to preserve this working landscape to benefit the environment and the economy,” Jewell said. “Our goal is not to set aside a monolithic block of land, but to create a patchwork that will stitch together a network of existing conservation lands within the Kissimmee River Basin.”
The funding for easements and land acquisitions for the refuge will come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which Congress established in 1964 to use revenues from offshore oil and gas developments to enhance parks and open spaces throughout the country.
Jewell noted that only once in the past 50 years has the Congress fully allocated these revenues for the intended purpose and called on lawmakers to approve President Obama’s proposal to do so in the department’s FY 2015 budget.
“The extraordinary conservation partnership we are seeing in the Everglades is a prime example of how LWCF funds can improve the quality of life for all Americans,” she said.
When fully completed, the refuge and conservation area will span 150,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee. Two-thirds of the acreage, or 100,000 acres, will be protected through conservation easements. Under easements, private landowners retain ownership of their land, as well as the right to work the land to raise cattle or crops. The easements would ensure the land could not be developed.
While in Florida, Jewell is also meeting with the Seminole Tribe and the Miccosukee Tribe. She will deliver keynote remarks at the 29th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference in Naples, Fla. on Friday evening.
Related: Interior Secretary tells Naples conference Obama supports restoring ... Naples Daily News
Key senators unite on springs bill with nearly $380M to treat wastewater
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 9, 2013
A key group of Senate committee chairmen meeting among themselves on Thursday agreed to support filing a bill that would provide nearly $380 million a year to remove or improve septic tanks to protect springs and groundwater.
Florida has more than 700 springs including 33 "first-magnitude" springs that discharge more than 64 million gallons daily.
Scientists say many springs are becoming choked with algae because of too much nitrogen is seeping into groundwater from a variety of sources, including septic tanks and fertilizer. Environmentalists criticize the state for moving too slowly to meet a requirement in state law since 1972 for setting minimum springs flows to prevent over-pumping.
The draft legislation, which deals with a wide range of activities affecting springs, would earmark 20 percent of the net documentary stamp tax revenue, or about $378 million per year, for sewage hookups and septic tank improvements in springs areas, according to Senate staff.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, met with Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, and Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee. All four are committee chairman, and all four agreed to support at least filing the bill.
"I feel very positive about it," Simmons said. "I think we are heading in the right direction."
An earlier version of the draft legislation generated questions and concerns from the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Rural Water Association about the cost of sewer hookups.
On Thursday, Hays, R-Umatilla, raised concerns about the potential cost to homeowners if they have to hook up or improve their septic systems.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, said,
"As I said earlier, I'm totally supportive of what we are trying to do here," he said. "It's the devilish details where we're likely to get tripped up."
Simpson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Community Affairs, responded to Hays that the bill represented only a "starting point" and would be reworked as the public responds.
Montford, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said the bill would allow the state to at least make a dent in the costs involved.
The draft bill would require the Department of Environmental Protection to establish "protection and management zones" for the 33 first-magnitude springs and five others: DeLeon, Peacock, Rock, Wekiwa and Gemini.
By July 1, 2017, DEP would be required to develop basin management action plans for those watersheds that are impaired for nitrogen and phosphorus.
All homes within those zones on lots with more than one bedroom per acre would be required to connect to a central sewer system, if it is available, at no cost to the property owner.
Advanced septic treatment would be required if central sewer is not available -- again, at no cost to the property owner.
"We're making it darned sure you will be able to stand in front of your constituents and say, 'You pay for none of this,'" Simmons told Hays.
In 2010, SB 550, dubbed a springs protection measure, passed the Legislature. But the main requirement of statewide septic tank inspections was repealed two years later after a backlash from rural homeowners and tea party groups.
After the meeting on Thursday, Simmons said the legislation would boost property values, which he said will decline if water quality continues to worsen.
"Our water quality is an essential ingredient of the future of our state," he said. "Unless we go ahead and protect those water resources right now you are going to see that our economy is significantly adversely affected."
The bill also would prohibit water management districts from issuing water-use permits for areas around those springs where minimum flows have not been set unless the districts can show that no harm would be caused if the permits were issued. And the draft legislation would repeal restrictions on local septic tank inspection programs that were passed in 2012.
HB 49 and SB 76, both introduced by Democrats and dubbed the "Springs Revival Act," have been introduced for the 2014 session. But similar bills were not heard in committees last year.
* Jan. 9, 2014 Draft Senate springs legislation
* Oct. 23, 2013 Wakulla Springs Alliance comments on draft springs legislation
Latvala calls state land-selling effort a 'charade'
Florida Current – by Bruce Ritchie
January 9, 2013
Sen. Jack Latvala on Thursday criticized the state for trying to sell conservation land, calling it a "charade" and countering a Senate appropriations subcommittee chairman's earlier praise for the effort.
The 2013-14 state budget for the Department of Environmental Protection includes $50 million for buying new land from the sale of land existing conservation land that is no longer needed.
An initial list last summer of 5,330 acres that could be sold drew objections from environmental groups along with some counties and residents living near those proposed surplus lands. DEP, which trimmed the list to 3,405 acres in October, says it hasn't placed a value on the lands that could be sold but it is likely far less than $50 million.
Latvala, R-Clearwater, criticized the process on Thursday during a meeting of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government. In November, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla and subcommittee chairman, praised the DEP effort and said criticism of the department was unfair.
DEP's 2014-15 budget request includes $20 million additional from the sale of conservation lands. Latvala said the state is trying to sell portions of parks and watersheds that he said were purchased for a reason.
"That's been a disaster, the way that's been handled has been a disaster," Latvala said. "Now that we have revenue enhanced, this is just a charade that we are going to sell land and use it to buy land."
Hays asked Latvala how much land the state needed.
"I want us to be able to buy endangered lands that might be developed that we can keep in pristine condition," Latvala responded.
"We're not even managing the land we have now properly," Hays said.
"Then spend the money to manage it," Latvala responded.
Also Thursday, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced in Florida that the purchase of conservation easements would begin later this month at Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge.
The planned refuge and conservation area will cover 150,000 acres north of Lake Okeechobee. Two-thirds of the acreage, or 100,000 acres, will be protected through conservation easements that prevent development, according to the Department of Interior.
Jewell, who will deliver the keynote remarks on Friday at the 29th annual Everglades Coalition Conference in Naples, toured a 12,000-acre cattle ranch near Okeechobee on Thursday. She highlighted the importance of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will be used to make the Everglades Headwaters purchases.
“For the past two years, we have worked with more than a dozen partners, including ranchers and other private landowners, to develop a refuge that will conserve one of America’s last grassland and longleaf pine savannah landscapes while preserving the traditional way of life cherished by those who live in this area,” Jewell said.
* Nov. 6, 2013 "Key Senator defends DEP process for identifying surplus land to be sold," by The Florida Current
* Nov. 6, 2013 DEP presentation to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government
Report: Record number of manatees died in 2013 in Florida
January 9, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Excluding December, 829 manatees died in Florida waters during 2013, more than double the previous year's loss of 392, a conservation group said Thursday.
A key factor driving the rise in manatee deaths is red tide, which accounted for a third of all the deaths, far more than in any year on record, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said in a release.
The organization said December's statistics from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission haven't been tabulated.
The 2013 death toll eliminated nearly 17 percent of the manatee population, including 126 calves, PEER said.
Manatees are an endangered species under federal and Florida laws.
A key factor driving the rise in manatee deaths was toxic red tide events caused by algal blooms, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said. There were 276 red tide-related manatee deaths in 2013, nearly as many as for the previous eight years combined.
"This hike in manatee mortality seems to be the product of systemic environmental irresponsibility," stated Florida PEER Director Jerry Phillips, a former water quality enforcement attorney for the state Department of Environmental Protection. "Basic permit regulation for wastewater discharges and enforcement against water pollution violations have completely broken down in the state of Florida."
PEER said at least 115 manatees died in 2013 from an as-yet undiagnosed illness in Indian River Lagoon, a major manatee spot, while the number of boating-related manatee deaths fell to 72 from 82 in 2012.
Related: It's Florida Manatee Time: How to See the Gentle Giants Huffington Post
Manatees seeking warmth pack Tampa Bay-area waters Charleston Post Courier
It's Florida Manatee Time: How to See the Gentle Giants Huffington Post
South Florida Water Management District unanimously approves land swap for Everglades restoration project
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
January 9, 2014
With very little discussion, the South Florida Water Management District governing board on Thursday agreed to overlook two of its own policies regarding real estate deals and unanimously approved a three-way land swap needed for an Everglades restoration project.
“I don’t like this deal but we’re obligated to do it and we have to do it,” said board member Jim Moran, referring to a federal judge’s court order for the district to build a storm-water treatment area.
Approving the swap required the board to exempt its actions from one policy requiring leases on district-owned land to be put out for public bid and another rule requiring appraisals used in real estate transactions to be no more than four months old at the time the deal is closed. By the time the current deal closes in April or May the appraisal will be at least nine months old.
The deal also means the district is giving up land worth as much as $24.7 million more than it is getting. In addition, the district will have to pay an estimated $7.5 million to $23.2 million to clean contaminated soil on the land it is getting from Florida Crystals and Gladeview, the two private companies involved in the deal.
District officials said Thursday the land is contaminated with copper and the insecticide toxaphene, which was banned in 1990 because of health risks it posed to humans and animals. Clean-up involves removing and deep-tilling soil.
“It’s not a perfect deal,” said district Executive Director Blake Guillory, who came to the district in September, a year after negotiations began with Florida Crystals and Gladeview. Neither company needed to sell their land, Guillory said. And the district did not want to take it by costly eminent domain litigation.
“We’re dealing with entities that do not have to do the deal,” Guillory said. “It was the best deal we could get with the problems and constraints we had.”
The deal gives the district the 4,604 acres it needs to expand a storm-water treatment area, a man-made wetland that cleans nutrients from water headed to the Everglades.
In exchange for that land, Florida Crystals will get 8,700 acres that the district purchased from U.S. Sugar in 2010 and Gladeview will get 2,865 acres from Florida Crystals and a $5.9 million cash payment from the district. Crystals also received no-bid extensions to its leases of state- and district-owned land where it grows sugarcane.
Thursday’s vote came three months after the district missed the deadline set by a federal judge and in permits to acquire the land. The district risked the wrath of the federal judge, more litigation with environmental groups and a $1,000-a-day fine if the deal was not approved on Thursday
It is estimated that inundation of real estate and infrastructure from sea level rise may have an impact of $3.5 trillion dollars in damages in Miami alone by 2070.
What you need to know about sea level rise in Florida
CleanEnergy.org – by Chris Carnevale
January 9, 2014
Sea level rise is a critical issue for Florida residents to pay attention to. The magnitude of its impacts on the state seem overwhelming if considered all at once, however, with a proper understanding of the issue and the ability to proactively plan, there is a great deal we can do to mitigate worst-case scenarios. We recently ran a blog series on sea level rise, which presented lots of helpful information, so I want to take the opportunity to distill some of the key concepts into a quick guide to sea level rise in Florida.
Let’s start with a few facts to illustrate why it is so important to take this issue seriously:
With just 9 inches of sea level rise, which is likely to happen by 2050, Southeast Florida could lose up to 70% of its gravity-powered stormwater drainage capacity. That means when it rains, communities will flood, even many miles away from the coast.
According to estimates by city and county officials, with just 3 feet of sea level rise, 19 schools, 10 hospitals, 9 airports, 8 power plants, 2 ports, 8 water treatment plants, 4 landfills, and 6 emergency shelters would be inundated in just the four southeastern-most Florida counties.
The issue of sea level rise has inspired artists to visually and dramatically illustrate what the impacts of rising seas will mean for coastal communities – particularly in vulnerable cities like Miami and New York City.
In addition to flooded real estate and other infrastructure, sea level rise poses risks of coastal erosion and loss of beaches, salinifying water wells used for drinking and irrigation, loss of property value, increased insurance premiums or inability to insure property, increased exposure to waterborne pathogens, and more.
Just how high sea levels will rise is tough to know exactly, but local experts in South Florida have analyzed this question, and concluded that Florida will likely experience:
3 – 7 inches by 2030
7 – 17.5 inches by 2050
9 – 24 inches by 2060
19.5 – 57 inches by 2100
Given that 77% of Florida’s population lives in coastal counties and 77% of the state’s economic activity is generated in coastal counties, these numbers are very concerning.
While the challenge ahead to confront sea level rise is great, Florida has excellent solutions available and some Florida communities are emerging as global leaders in preparing for sea level rise. Adaptive solutions that help alleviate negative impacts of sea level rise are being built into the fabric of local and regional planning by efforts such as those by the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, and the Regional Community Institute of Northeast Florida.
These efforts must be supported in their implementation and replicated throughout the state. Mitigative solutions that help slow sea level rise at its source–which is globalwarming due to carbon pollution–are being deployed slowly but have immense upward potential. Most of our carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuel for energy, which means that effective mitigation means transitioning off of heavily polluting energy sources, such as coal, and using cleaner fuels such as solar and wind power. It only makes sense for the Sunshine State to generate more and more of its power from the sun.
2014 could be a big year for promoting Florida’s prosperity in the face of sea level rise. With the gubernatorial election ahead, we must push to ensure Florida’s next governor has a concrete plan to address sea level rise for the millions of Florida’s coastal citizens. In the upcoming year, we also have the ability to open the free market for clean energy solutions by eliminating burdensome taxes for solar power and encouraging energy democracy by lowering barriers for citizens to become renewable energy producers, rather than passive consumers.
Worrisome future with Florida winning right to use state water quality standards
Bradenton Herald - Editorial
January 9, 2014
Florida won the latest skirmish in the more than 15-year-old war over water quality standards in the state. With environmentalists vowing to mount a counterattack, Florida's invaluable waterways could remain subjected to excessive contamination and toxic algae blooms -- to the detriment of tourism, recreation and fishing. Fertilizer, manure and sewage contamination brings toxic slime outbreaks that kill manatees, dolphins, fish and birds around the state.
A federal judge agreed Tuesday that Florida and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can proceed with a 2013 agreement that allows the state to set limits on nutrient contamination.
The federal agency had entered into an agreement with environmental groups in 2009 to settle a lawsuit over Florida's years-long failure to adhere to Clean Water Act standards.
But the EPA's proposed strict limits on the allowable content of nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways brought howls of protest from industry organizations and legislative leaders, which cited excessive costs and burdensome regulations.
With the court decision, the state Department of Environmental Protection's new numeric nutrient criteria on nitrogen and phosphorus will apparently be implemented. The EPA abandoned its stricter standards in agreeing that the state's approach meets Clean Water Act requirements.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle wrote: "Now, as then, the Clean Water Act depends in part on honest administrative enforcement of duly adopted standards. At least as shown by this record, FDEP's new standards have been duly adopted."
Adopted, yes. The jury's out on future enforcement as the standards go into effect -- should that even occur given the environmentalists' objection to the ruling. The state has a track record of dragging its feet on Clean Water Act requirements for more than a decade.
In dismantling the state Department of Community Affairs several years ago, the state ended vigorous scrutiny of development proposals -- to the consternation of environmental and civic activists.
The Legislature also repealed some environmental protection laws, including septic-tank-inspection requirements adopted only three years ago.
Legislative attempts to ban local regulations limiting fertilizer use have failed over the past few years, another strike against its environmental record.
Manatee County is one local government that restricts the use of nitrogen or phosphorus products on residential urban landscapes during the rainy season, protecting waterways from contaminated stormwater runoff.
The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility issued a report last summer that tabulated the Scott administration's record on enforcement of existing environmental regulations. The number of new cases, penalties assessed and fine collected dropped sharply from 2011 to 2012 -- by well more than half.
Can the state be trusted to strictly enforce its own new water quality standards ? History shows that the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott's administration favor business over the environment, so we rate the odds very low that the answer to that is yes.
Should Florida fail to adhere to Judge Hinkle's call for "honest administrative enforcement of duly adopted standards," though, we expect a strong court response.
Related: Fla. Can Set Its Own Water Pollution Limits, Judge Says Law360
TFI statement of support for Florida judge's NNC ruling Agprofessional.com
Judge clears way for DEP to set state water standards
JAXdailyRecord.com (from The News Service of Florida)
January 8, 2014
A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can lift remaining federal hurdles to allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to set new water standards within the state.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle on Tuesday supported the EPA’s modifications to a 2009 consent decree that had required the EPA to adopt numeric nutrient criteria for Florida’s waters unless the state did so first.
Environmental groups, including the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and the St. Johns Riverkeeper, opposed the modification and had sought to have the decree enforced.
The groups were party to the consent decree. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said in a prepared statement that the ruling backed “Florida’s proven ability to manage its own water resource protection and restoration programs.”
The EPA and DEP reached agreements in November 2012 and March 2013 allowing the state agency to establish the new numeric nutrient criteria for 98.9 percent of the bodies of water in Florida.
In September, the Environmental Protection Agency gave the state approval to include the estuaries across the Panhandle, Big Bend and Springs Coast to the list of previously permitted bodies for the state to set its own nutrient standards.
The Legislature approved a measure (HB 1808) — signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on May 30 — that allows the state to set the new nitrogen and phosphorus levels.
The bill was a priority of the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida and a requirement of the EPA and DEP agreements.
Related: Judge Grants FL Right to Regulate Nutrient Levels in State Waterways GTN News
Environmental Groups Consider Appeal After Judge OKs Florida ... WFSU
Feds Out: Florida 'Thrilled' Over Judge's Nutrient Criteria Order Sunshine State News
Judge sides with feds against environmentalists on pollution limits The Florida Current
Federal judge signs off on water pollution limits St. Augustine Record
Statement by Commissioner Adam Putnam on U.S. District Court’s ruling regarding Numeric Nutrient Criteria for Florida’s waters
SEagNet - by Julie
January 8th, 2014
Tallahassee, FL – Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam issued the following statement in response to the U.S. District Court’s ruling in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) motion to modify the consent decree regarding numeric nutrient criteria for Florida’s waters.
“Judge Hinkle’s ruling is a testament to Florida’s proven ability to manage its own water resource protection and restoration programs.
“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection employed a science-based approach to develop nutrient criteria for Florida waters that have been fully approved by the U.S. EPA and will have a measurable positive impact on water bodies statewide.
“Judge Hinkle’s ruling opens the door for EPA to fulfill its commitment to the Legislature and withdraw all of its final and pending rules, paving the way for Florida to reassume the lead role in managing this vital natural resource.”
Actually, this cold weather can be linked to global warming
Salon.com – Andrew Freedman, Climate Central
January 7, 2014
This week's brutal "polar vortex" resembles other instances of bizarre winter climate patterns, experts say
While the ongoing cold snap is breaking records from Minnesota to Florida, it will not go down in history as the most significant Arctic outbreak in U.S. history, not even by a longshot. Scientists said the deep freeze gripping the U.S. does not indicate a halt or reversal in global warming trends, either. In fact, it may be a counterintuitive example of global warming in action.
Researchers told Climate Central that the weather pattern driving the extreme cold into the U.S. — with a weaker polar vortex moving around the Arctic like a slowing spinning top, eventually falling over and blowing open the door to the Arctic freezer — fits with other recently observed instances of unusual fall and wintertime jet stream configurations.
Such weather patterns, which can feature relatively mild conditions in the Arctic at the same time dangerously cold conditions exist in vast parts of the lower 48, may be tied to the rapid warming and loss of sea ice in the Arctic due, in part, to manmade climate change.
Arctic warming is altering the heat balance between the North Pole and the equator, which is what drives the strong current of upper level winds in the northern hemisphere commonly known as the jet stream. Some studies show that if that balance is altered then some types of extreme weather events become more likely to occur.
During the past week, while much of North America has seen frigid temperatures, weather maps show a strip of orange and red hues, indicating above-average temperatures, across parts of the Arctic, Scandinavia, Europe and Asia.
The forecast high temperature in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Monday was in the 20s Fahrenheit — warmer than many locations in Georgia and Alabama. That fits in with the so-called “Arctic Paradox” or “Warm Arctic, Cold Continents” pattern that researchers first identified several years ago. Such patterns bring comparatively mild conditions to the Arctic while places far to the south are thrown into a deep freeze.
“I do think that what has happened in the North America, including the U.S. this winter, so far fits under the paradigm of ‘warm Arctic cold continents,’ ” Judah Cohen, a climate forecaster at Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Massachussetts, said in an email.
The warmth in the Arctic made headlines in early December when the temperature hit 39°F in Prudhoe Bay, north of the Arctic Circle. That was the highest December temperature on record there since at least 1968, according to the National Weather Service.
An INCREDIBLE 140F degree Apparent Temperature difference across the U.S. today !! #coldoutbreak #flwx pic.twitter.com/NjkTKxfiZn
— NWS Miami (@NWSMiami) January 5, 2014
Cohen published a study in September that found this Arctic paradox pattern has become common in years with low fall sea ice cover and rapidly advancing fall snow cover across parts of Asia, and that there is a likely link between the trends. The paper found the pattern was observed during the winter of 2012-2013, following the lowest fall sea ice extent on record in September 2012.
The Arctic has had a mild winter so far, in part because of an area of high pressure in the North Pacific Ocean that has blocked the flow of weather systems like a stop sign at an intersection, forcing the jet stream northward over western Canada, and then back down to the southeast across the U.S. That favors episodic outbreaks of cold air in the East, Cohen said, but not extended cold.
Jennifer Francis, a researcher at Rutgers University and the most prominent proponent of the hypothesis that Arctic warming is altering the jet stream around the Northern Hemisphere, told Climate Central that while the cold snap is brief in duration, it fits with patterns observed this year and in other recent years.
“The persistence of the pattern seems consistent with an amplified jet stream configuration that we expect to see occur more frequently as the Arctic continues to warm disproportionately,” Francis said in an email.
However, much of the evidence put forward thus far has shown correlations between sea ice loss and particular weather patterns, but has not revealed the direct physical connections and causation between the two, leading many mainstream climate scientists to be skeptical of the work so far.
The state of the science on the links between Arctic warming and weather extremes in the midlatitudes can be likened to a court case. Scientists have gathered reams of mainly circumstantial evidence to prove a suspect’s guilt, or in this case, the existence of an Arctic warming link. But such evidence, which comes in the form of published studies in peer reviewed scientific journals, may not be enough to convince a jury quite yet.
Regardless of the strength of the Arctic connection, global average temperature trends tell a clear and compelling story of a warming planet, which one short-lived cold streak is not going to alter.
Since 1970, winters have been warming rapidly in the majority of the lower 48 states. The five most rapidly warming states, with winter average temperatures increasing by more than 4°F, were Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin, according to a 2013 Climate Central analysis. Many of those same states are bearing the brunt of the ongoing cold outbreak, but had the climate not warmed so much during the past few decades, it’s possible that this event would be even colder in those areas.
November, the most recent month for which global data is available, was the warmest such month on record, all but guaranteeing that 2013 will go down on record as one of the top 10 warmest years, if not in the top 5. In Australia, 2013 was the continent’s hottest year on record.
Russia had its warmest November since records began there in 1891, with some parts of the country, including Siberia and the Arctic islands in the Kara Sea, seeing temperatures that were more than 14°F above the typical monthly average. In contrast, not a single region of the world was record cold for the month.
November also brought the string of consecutive above-average months on the planet to 345, with it being the 37th straight November with above-average temperatures compared to the 20th century average. That means that anyone younger than 28 has never experienced a colder-than-average month, globally speaking. The last below-average November global temperature was in November 1976, and the last below-average global temperature for any month was February 1985, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
As unusual as the current cold is for the U.S., the global picture shows that January is not on course to break that 28-year warm streak, either. Even the U.S. may end up having a warmer-than-average month, if the latest outlooks prove correct.
While Most of U.S. Froze, Parts of Alaska Set Record Highs
2013 on Track to be Seventh Warmest Year Since 1850
In Australia, 2013 Was a Scorcher for the Record Books
Study Adds to Arctic Warming, Extreme Weather Debate
Arctic Outbreak: When the North Pole Came to Ohio
Coldest Air in Decades Clearing Customs, Entering U.S.
Capital Report: 01-07-2014
January 7, 2014
Before Disney World, Sea World and Busch Gardens, visitors flocked to Florida for a different kind of tourist experience, But Regan McCarthy reports as the stat’s springs face pollution and over pumping, that legacy is fading along with the local economies that depend on it.
Central Florida planners are grappling with a challenge: There’s not enough water for the people expected to live in the area 20 years from now. As Jessica Palombo reports, that realization has prompted unprecedented collaboration between local governments, private utilities and state agencies as they search for more water.
Finding out the source of a mysterious animal die off in the Indian River Lagoon is the goal of many researchers and scientists across the state. As Sascha Cordner reports, they’re searching for clues into the massive amount of unusual deaths of manatees, dolphins, and pelicans in what’s known as one of the nation’s most biologically diverse estuaries.
Too much water can be as harmful as too little water. What happens when it rains for more than a month? In Central Florida back in July, it meant an overflowing Lake Okeechobee and the dumping of millions of gallons of polluted runoff into the region’s rivers and estuaries. As Lynn Hatter reports, the rain also sparked the growth of toxic algae blooms that have some asking state lawmakers to fund a two-hundred million dollar water conservation and clean-up plan.
WFSU.org - by Lynn Hatter
January 7, 2013
What happens when it rains nearly every day for more than a month during the hot, summer months ?
Last July in Central Florida it meant an overflowing Lake Okeechobee and the dumping of millions of gallons of polluted freshwater into the region’s rivers and estuaries. The rain also helped spark toxic algae blooms that have some calling for a $220 million water conservation and clean-up plan Florida lawmakers could take up next session.
From North To South, Toxic Algae Hits Everywhere
“It’s a little bit different flavor for every estuary and every system in South Florida, including the Everglades.” --Steven Davis, Everglades Foundation
Everglades Foundation scientist Steven Davis' Miami office sits in the former headquarters of Burger King, overlooking the clear, sparkling blue waters of Biscayne Bay. But last summer those pristine waters looked more like a green cesspool, and smelled equally as bad. The Florida Department of health put up advisory notices telling people to stay away. The cause of the algae bloom that enveloped the bay, described as one of the worst the waterway has seen, is still unknown, but Davis says the answer could lie with Central Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.
“We’re discharging large volumes of water down the Caloosahachee and St. Lucie [Rivers] and that water is polluted, said Davis. " It creates two problems. It’s too much freshwater for those estuaries, but it’s also too much polluted water as well that leads to algae blooms."
Adding to the water runoff problems, are Central and South Florida's plumbing systems-- the network of canals and dams running throughout the regions in order to make the areas habitable for humans. Lake Okechobee feeds the Kissimmee River, which carries water downstream to the Everglades. But there, a series of canals and dams have also caused problems.
"In the Everglades, it’s a lack of freshwater, and what freshwater it does receive is polluted," Davis said. The diversion of water in the Kissimmee has taken away a natural water filtration system for the Everglades.
What Happens In 'Lake-O' Doesn't Stay In 'Lake-O'
Many of the water bodies that saw the worst algae blooms this summer originate at a single source: Lake Okeechobee. The Caloosahachee and St. Lucie Rivers run to the East and West of the Lake. Both saw algae blooms. And the St. Johns River, which flows north from Lake O to Jacksonville also experienced a bloom so toxic the Florida Department of Health issued advisories.
Even today, there are signs of algae spotting the St. Johns River. While touring the river with St. Johns River Keeper Lisa Rinaman, a man walk off his dock and dumps something into the water. Rinaman says humans, or more importantly, human waste, are a big part of what is ailing the St. Johns. That waste comes from some 16,000 septic tanks, many which are failing:
“That’s been a major issue that we’re not happy with the city of Jacksonville right now," she says, "because they’re diverting millions and millions of dollars from phasing out septic tanks on our waterways, to buying water quality trading credits.”
"The water had been deemed toxic by the health department for five months. What brings us to the areas, it was toxic. Do not come in contact with this water".
Much of the pollution-reduction work in Duval County has fallen to the county’s waste management program, called JEA. The utility has met and surpassed its reduction goals, allowing it to sell credits to other groups trying to do the same. The City of Jacksonville has purchased some of those credits to count toward its goals. It’s also trying to get rid of those failing septic tanks along the river. But decreasing the amount of pollution in the St. Johns, says City of Jacksonville Director of Public Works Jim Robinson isn’t just a matter of cleaning up the nearby water:
“Over 60 percent of the nitrogen loading in Jacksonville comes upstream [ the river flows north from Lake Okeechobee]. We start with 60 percent bad when it gets here. It’s more than a local issue. It’s a state issue.”
The St. Johns River got lucky this year. Although “luck” in this case is relative: unlike previous years, there were no massive animal die-offs from the algae. That’s not the case for Central Florida’s Indian River Lagoon, an offshoot of the St. Lucie River.
The Lost Summer
“One hundred percent of them died. All of them died," says Florida Oceanographic Society Scientist Vincent Encomio describing the fate of the St. Lucie River oysters.
The Indian River Lagoon is East of Lake Okeechobee, cushioned between the city of Stuart and the Atlantic Ocean. Resort hotels and coastal homes line Hutchinson Island, where tourism is the local economy. It’s also where the Florida Oceanographic Society is located. This summer’s algae blooms were a big problem.
“In Stuart, we’re considering this the lost summer," said Society Spokeswoman Meghan Roberts. "The water had been deemed toxic by the health department for five months. What brings us to the areas, it was toxic. Do not come in contact with this water. People were experiencing rashes and sicknesses like flu and lung infections—all from the breakdown of the algae.”
Florida Oceanographic Society researchers are now trying to rebuild the decimated oyster beds by collecting shells from nearby seafood restaurants.
On the pathway down to the river, there are three massive piles of empty shells, and they smell like the rotting seafood they are. Encomio explains there are more than 140 acres of habitat to replant, and the piles of empty oyster shells are just a drop in the river.
"It’s still going to be less than an acre, but we’re getting into several hundred square feet of reef for sure," he says about the piles of shells the group has gathered.
State Lawmakers Take Interest
The causes of excess phosphorous and nitrogen in the water bodies vary, but the summer of 2014 was bad enough to catch lawmakers’ attention. Among them, Republican Senator Joe Negron, whose home district is in Stuart.
“I like to vote for/against people who can raise my taxes or lower my taxes, who can make decisions that affect my life, and who can decide when to flood my community with water," Negron said during a November committee hearing on the region's water woes.
Throughout the summer, Negron and other state lawmakers held a series of meetings to address Florida’s water quality problems—many which stem from the polluted Lake Okeechobee discharges. In November, the senator unveiled a $220 million list of projects, including asking the federal government to give Florida control of the Lake Okeechobee discharges, and restoring natural water flow routes throughout Central and South Florida.
“My message to the Treasure Coast and Southwest Florida is that more help is on the way," he said.
But that plan will have to compete with others for funding. By the March start of the 2014 legislative session, Florida’s 2013 summer water woes will be nearly a year old and may not be top-of-mind for the lawmakers Negron hopes will wake up and smell the oysters.
Federal judge signs off on water pollution limits
Miami Herald – by Gary Fineout, The Associated Press
January 7, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A federal judge is signing off on Florida's water pollution rules, but environmentalists are blasting the decision and say they may appeal it.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled Tuesday that state and federal authorities can move ahead with an agreement that lets the state set rules designed to head off contamination that leads to toxic algae blooms.
It's the latest chapter in a long-running battle over the regulation of the state's lakes, rivers and estuaries and whether the rules should be developed by state environmental officials or by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state environmental officials hailed the latest decision.
"Judge Hinkle's ruling is a testament to Florida's proven ability to manage its own water resource protection and restoration programs," Putnam said in a written statement.
But environmentalists contend the ruling means that stricter federal Clean Water Act protections will not apply to two-thirds of Florida waters.
David Guest, an attorney with the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, said the state's rules aren't preventing pollution.
"Florida's clean water regulations just aren't working, and we need EPA to step in and do the job," said Guest. "We have so much sewage, fertilizer, and manure contamination that we have toxic slime outbreaks happening all over the state. Hundreds of dead manatees, dolphins, fish and birds have been washing up on shores in South Florida. The Clean Water Act is supposed to prevent things like this."
When fertilizer and animal manure from farms and ranches run into waterways, they bring nitrogen and phosphorus. Those act as nutrients to algae.
The algae essentially have a feeding frenzy, resulting in the blooms that cause red tides and other slimy, smelly outbreaks
Several environmental groups took the EPA to court when it failed to enforce its own regulation requiring states to establish numeric standards for such nutrients. A 2009 agreement called on the federal government to draw up the standards, but it came under fire from industry groups and state officials as too expensive and burdensome.
Last year state and federal authorities reached an agreement to have the state take the lead in writing and enforcing water pollution rules.
Hinkle's ruling changes the 2009 agreement to allow this new arrangement to go forward. The Department of Environmental Protection in a written statement said the ruling is a "necessary catalyst to move beyond litigation and end needless delays that prevented us from applying these additional protections."
But environmental groups contend the state rules have loopholes that will continue to allow problems in major water bodies such as the St. Johns River and the Indian River Lagoon.
"This ruling, if not challenged, will reinforce the status quo of allowing too much pollution into our waterways, damaging our tourism- based economy and expecting taxpayers to pick of the tab for massively expensive cleanup projects," said Jennifer Hecker, director of Natural Resource Policy of Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Related: Feds Out: Florida 'Thrilled' Over Judge's Nutrient Criteria Order Sunshine State News
Miami Herald – Editorial, Our Opinion
’Glades restoration is moving forward
South Florida’s economy is intrinsically linked to the region’s environment. Our tourist-luring beaches, two national parks — Biscayne and Everglades — divers’ much-loved coral reefs, scenic rivers — the Oleta in Miami-Dade County, the Loxahatchee in Palm Beach County, for instance — are economic as well ecological assets that we must protect and preserve. They not only draw visitors by the millions but in some instances they also provide our drinking water, a commodity that’s getting more precious in an increasingly parched world.
Our stewardship of these assets, which are always under threat from continuing development and various sources of pollution, is complicated further by the reality of rising seas caused by climate change. No state is more vulnerable than Florida to the rising sea level.
Some local governments in South Florida have begun addressing rising seas through regional efforts to seek practical ways to protect vulnerable coastal communities and drinking-water sources.
While the local leadership’s recognition of global warming’s threat is encouraging, our optimism is tempered by the lack of state leadership on this very serious issue. Tallahassee needs to join the 21st century in recognizing global warming for the genuine peril that it is to Florida’s populous coasts.
Inland, advancement of CERP, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a joint state-federal project to restore the vast swamp’s original water flow southward from Orlando to Florida Bay, remains a top goal in 2014. This ambitious, expensive plan has had its ups and downs over the years. Federal lawsuits by various stakeholders challenging parts of the plan and funding miscues — mostly from the feds courtesy of a balky Congress — have taken their toll on what was originally a 20-year restoration plan.
But recent actions by both state and federal governments bode well for CERP’s future. State and federal officials are firming up a $1.8-billion plan to store and clean more water in the vast Everglades conservation area between I-75 and the Tamiami Trail, which will ultimately deliver more clean water to thirsty Everglades National Park. The state has committed $40 million to clean up water in the St. Lucie River Basin, which, along with the Caloosahatchee River on the west coast, suffers grievous damage annually from polluted water diverted from Lake Okeechobee to prevent flooding each summer.
The state also will spend $90 million over three years to raise more of the Tamiami Trail to increase water flow through the park and into Florida Bay. One mile has already been raised, a success story for long-time advocates of elevation to eradicate the barrier the Trail has long been to the “River of Grass” flowing southward unimpeded.
Another potential environmental threat is population growth. Florida will soon surpass New York as the third-most populous state. More people equals more development, especially along our coasts. Rather than easing growth-development rules, as the Republican leadership in Tallahassee has been doing in recent years, the state should prepare for more residents with smart-growth plans that discourage sprawl on undeveloped land and direct redevelopment in established urban areas, concentrating demand for expanding roads and schools and increasing other public services. We must grow wisely, without endangering our precious natural resources.
New hybrid wetland technology could help clean Martin County waterways
WPTV.com - by: Meghan McRoberts
January 7, 2014
PALM CITY, Fla -- The waterways along the Treasure Coast are no longer polluted with toxic water and green algae blooms.
But now, Martin County is working to keep the water quality from becoming a larger problem during the next rainy season.
Martin County Commissioners voted Tuesday to allow the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to lease land on the Bessey Creek Property, a Storm water Treatment Area, in Palm City.
The FDACS plans to implement a new technology for Martin County in addition to the current Storm water treatment systems in place.
Hybrid Wetland/Chemical Treatment Technology combines chemical treatment with conventional wetlands treatment, pulling water through a pump station and treating it with a chemical to eliminate as much phosphorous as possible from water. The water is then further polished through floating and submerged vegetation ponds.
The treatment targets fertilizer runoff and urban runoff that carries phosphorous to the St. Lucie River.
That Phosphorous can be blamed for algae blooms and some toxic conditions.
Six areas north of Lake Okeechobee have used the technology and found that it filtered out 65%-95% more phosphorous than the older storm water treatment systems.
“It’s really about looking at our own local water sheds and our local water bodies and cleaning those things up where we can affect that influence,” said Martin County Ecosystems Manager, Deborah Drum.
She says it doesn’t tackle the problems related to Lake Okeechobee releases, but it is an important local effort to gain some control.
For fishermen like Tom Salter, this means the clear water he’s enjoying now could stick around in years to come.
He used to fish at Sandsprit Park in Stuart regularly before the water took a turn for the worse.
“I hope the water’s nice this summer,” Salter said.
The Bessey Creek project is not expected to be complete for one more year.
The FDACS would also like to implement the technology at the Danforth Creek location in the future.
The Everglades: A 30-year work in progress
WUSFnews.com - by Lynn Hatter
January 7, 2013
More than 100 years ago, Florida’s Everglades covered the southern tip of the state, starting at Lake Okeechobee. Today, most of the system has been carved away to make room for growth in the Orlando and Miami markets. One of the biggest plugs in the system is the Tamiami Trail, a road that acts as a dam, and cuts diagonally across the Everglades from Tampa to Miami. Efforts are now underway to make part of the trail a series of bridges, a project South Florida Water Management Assistant Director Ernie Barnett says would, in his words, “pull the plug in the bathtub”.
"They strategically lined the bridging up with historical flow paths," Barnett said during a November hearing before the Florida Senate, "so the 2.6 miles of bridge and the one mile existing bridge will allow about 4,000 acre-feet of flow per day and remove the damming effect that Tamiami Trail has.”
Pulling The Plug
Tamiami, along with South Florida’s network of canals, has contributed to starving the Everglades of much-needed freshwater. It has helped divert the natural flow of the South Florida watershed elsewhere, to make the region habitable for humans.
The Everglades itself acts as a water filtration system: water comes in, it trickles down into the earth and recharges the state’s underground aquifer—which provides drinking water to nearly all Florida residents. But when the water flow is cut—the aquifer can’t recharge.
“Maybe people wringing their hands over this should say we’re in a water management crisis," said Erik Stabenau, an oceanographer with Everglades National Park.
For about 30 years, promises to restore the Everglades have been made – and then broken. To date, only two projects have been completed, but more are on the way.
Everglades Restoration A Key To Florida's Water Future
During the past several years Florida has dealt with polluted rivers, toxic algae blooms, saltwater intrusion and even drought—leaving questions about the future of water in the state unclear, but the answer to those problems could largely come by trying to restore the Everglades. Stabenau says many of the problems the state has seen this year—overflows from Lake Okeechobee, a lack of freshwater storage, and saltwater intrusion in South Florida, can be traced back to the destruction of the Everglades system:
“It used to be that the Everglades was our storage. Lake-O would flow South, Everglades would fill up several feet deeper than they are today," he said. "That water would then percolate down, refilling the aquifer...the water would flow slowly to the South out to the coast, lower the salinity in the coastal system...and that system doesn’t work that way anymore.”
Those estuaries would act as a buffer against the saltwater in the ocean that’s contaminating south Florida drinking water wells. The state is also throwing away freshwater, when it steers overflows from Lake Okeechobee out into the ocean, as it did this summer.
On the way into Everglades National Park, cities give way to towns, and towns, yield to acres and acres of farmland. Late-model cars sit along the highway, their owners bent down deep in the fields tending to the crops. Those crops are nurtured by fertilizers. And with no natural buffer between the park and the farmland, when it rains, that fertilizer-filled water flows, adding to the Everglades’ many problems.
Inside the park tourists walk the pathways alongside birds standing in shallow ponds. There is even an alligator relaxing by the side of the narrow road that leads into the park. At the visitor’s center, there’s a display chronicling the history of the Everglades, and the clashes between farmers, developers, environmentalists and governments: all with different visions for what the Everglades should be.
Florida lawmakers will consider a $220 million proposal for addressing Florida’s water issues during the upcoming legislative session. Among the plans are some that would directly impact the Everglades.
DEP Survey takes aim at protections, environmentalists say
WMFE.org - by Amy Green
January 6, 2014
WMFE - Environmentalists are protesting a state Department of Environmental Protection survey. It asks businesses, municipalities and government agencies how much environmental regulations are costing them. It looks at permitting.
The survey asks what agency issued each permit, what kind of permit it is and what costs were incurred obtaining it. The inquiry also asks for a cost estimate, up to $10,000.
Charles Lee of Audubon of Florida says the survey doesn't appear aimed at improving the permitting process.
"When you read through the questions you see it's sort of a platform for creating reasons to roll back environmental regulations, and that purpose alone."
The Department of Environmental Protection began sending out the survey in August. Spokesman Patrick Gillespie says about 70 responses have come back.
He says state law requires government agencies to calculate a cost estimate with any proposed rule change.
"So what the purpose of the survey was, to just generate some research. They were polling the industry that we regulate to find out how much past rule changes may have cost them so they can use that information for the future."
Gillespie says no rule changes currently are under consideration.
Most responses came from businesses or non-profits and were about DEP permits, especially water-related permits. Most said they spent more than $10,000 on the permits.
Florida Commissioner’s spotlight: Water is top issue
SEagNet - by Julie
January 6th, 2014
On this first Commissioner’s Spotlight of the new year, Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam talks about what he considers to be the most significant long-term challenge facing the state of Florida: water. We’re using water faster than Mother Nature can replenish it.
To learn more about the challenges to the state’s water quality and availability, download the most recent issue of the Office of Agricultural Water Policy newsletter by clicking on -
Florida Ag Water News:
Why should I implement BMPs ?
How do I enroll in BMPs ?
Cost-share funding to help implement BMPs.
BMP implementation team statewide contacts.
Florida's congressional delegation has long to-do list for new year
Orlando Sentinel - by Mark K. Matthews and William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
January 5, 2014
WASHINGTON — After a year in which Congress accomplished little, Florida's delegation returns to Capitol Hill this week with a lengthy to-do list for 2014.
Although lawmakers ended the year on a high note by passing a budget deal that reduces the chance of another government shutdown, several issues critical to Florida remain unresolved. Here's a rundown:
Help for the unemployed
Unemployment benefits for an estimated 1.3 million Americans, including 73,000 Floridians, were unceremoniously dropped at the end of 2013 because Congress did not reauthorize the federal program that funds the checks.
Calling the cancellation an emergency, worker-rights groups want the benefit renewed quickly. Created in 2008, the safety-net program was designed to help out-of-work Americans who had exhausted their state unemployment benefits but still hadn't found a job.
The check amount wasn't much — about $269 a week, on average, for a maximum of 47 weeks — but it was enough to help keep families out of poverty, supporters said.
"Congress should act now … to do what's right for workers, their families and the struggling Florida economy," said Maurice Emsellem, of the National Employment Law Project, which advocates for workers' rights.
If Congress does nothing by June, then an additional 1.9 million Americans, who would have qualified for the federal aid once their state benefits ran out, won't get it.
The Senate could take up the issue as soon as today, but it's uncertain when, or if, the House will act.
Desperate for reform, some Florida immigrants and their supporters resorted to unapproved street marches, angry demonstrations, sit-ins and other civil disobedience last year to pressure the U.S. House to overhaul immigration law.
Look for more of the same in 2014, especially in the next month or two, before the congressional election campaign begins in earnest and chokes off consideration of controversial legislation.
Reformers are pressing the House to approve something similar to a Senate-passed bill, sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and seven others, that would beef up enforcement while giving a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants, including 825,000 in Florida.
House Republican leaders refuse to consider the Senate bill, forcing proponents to seek reform a piece at a time.
"The House has no appetite for one huge, burdensome bill that nobody can understand or read," said U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, who has been drafting a bipartisan reform bill. "We have to get the majority of the majority [Republicans] on board to get a bill that moves forward."
Both parties want to show they are at least trying to shore up the broken immigration system. Groping for a compromise, the House may consider more limited legislation to bolster enforcement, expand foreign guest-worker programs and prevent the deportation of some illegal immigrants or their children.
Because of an all-out push by Florida lawmakers, the state is in line to get more than $50 million for port projects in Jacksonville and on the Space Coast, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars for Everglades restoration.
The funding is part of a waterway construction bill now before Congress. Versions of the legislation have passed both the House and Senate, and the measure — if negotiators can reach a deal in 2014 — would benefit ports up and down the Florida coastline.
Port Canaveral is estimated to receive about $28.6 million so that the cruise hub can widen and deepen its waterways. Less straightforward, but just as important, are tweaks to government rules that would allow the state to take the lead on projects that have been delayed on the federal level, including Jacksonville Harbor, Port Everglades, Lake Worth Inlet and the Central Everglades Planning Project.
One member of the negotiating team, U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Garden, said he was optimistic about passage.
"We're going to finish" the water bill, he said.
The same water bill that deals with port dredging authorizes spending $1.8 billion for four Everglades restoration projects.
It also includes language that would clear a path for a broader plan to move water south in wide sheets from Lake Okeechobee rather than channel it out to sea.
Fed up with polluted discharges from the lake, about 200 residents from South Florida came to Capitol Hill in October to lobby for passage of the water bill.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, plans to fight for these provisions while serving on a conference committee of House and Senate members who will reconcile different versions of the bill. The results must be approved by each chamber.
The water bill sets the stage. The next step is to get appropriations for the projects, which could be a struggle.
Look to the Sunshine State
January 5, 2014
In 2014 Florida will pass New York to become the third-most-populous state. With smart planning, it can continue to fulfill the dreams of its residents and visitors.
New York City won't lose its status as a world center of commerce and the arts anytime soon. But New York State as a whole is about to slip behind a Southern sister in an important way.
Sometime in 2014 Florida (19.5 million residents as of Jan. 1) is expected to pass New York (19.6 million) as the nation's third-most-populous state, behind California (38.3 million) and Texas (26.5 million). Though New York's population continues to grow modestly, Florida's is expanding much faster.
With that shift the three largest US states will all be in the nation's Sun Belt. That continues a decades-long trend that has seen population stagnate in the Northeast and Midwest and explode in the South and West.
The demographic shift will help Florida gain influence in two ways: Most simply, the state will gain members of Congress and electoral votes following the 2020 census. That will increase it's already significant clout in Washington. And, unlike California, which leans left, and Texas, which steers right, Florida is a swing state that could fall to either party, making it a coveted prize.
Florida will also become even more of a harbinger of what problems may confront the rest of the United States. Continued growth will mean the state must make smart decisions about the environment, making sure that the natural beauty that brought so many migrants to the state is preserved. Opportunities to preserve natural areas will have to be pursued quickly, or be lost. The teeming life of the Everglades and the state's crystal clear springs are among the national treasures found there.
Already, water scarcity has become a significant challenge: Other states will look to Florida for ideas on how to manage supplies better. With about 1,200 miles of coastline, and its highest elevation only 345 feet, Florida increasingly will also have to contend with the issue of sea-level rise this century.
With much of its population growth fueled by immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries, Florida also provides a laboratory for sorting out national policies on immigration and ethnic diversity.
Though severely challenged, the state's economy still seems fundamentally sound. Tourism should continue to provide a strong base for jobs, and south Florida continues to grow in importance as a trade link between the US and Latin America. The housing industry has rebounded considerably from the depths it reached during the Great Recession and should continue to recover.
People have long headed to Florida to to start their lives over in a land of sunshine, sand, and palms.
With smart planning, Florida can continue to fulfill its migrants' dreams.
Saving a fragile lagoon will take commitment
Dayt.BeachNewsJ. – by Clay Henderson
January 5, 2014
Long before the first President Bush declared it an “estuary of national significance” or biologists proclaimed it the most diverse estuary in North America, the Indian River Lagoon was my first true love. For most of my life it has been my front yard; a place to fish, swim, paddle, sail, and walk along its shores at night, to marvel at moonlight dancing on the waters. It is truly one of Florida's crown jewels.
The slow-motion collapse of the lagoon has been like watching a loved one taken off life support. The unprecedented body count in this unfolding environmental crisis was meticulously chronicled in your series, “Troubled Water: The Indian River Lagoon in Peril”: 76 dolphins, 250 manatees, 250 pelicans, and 47,000 acres of a vast underwater rainforest, all dead. It has been such a helpless feeling to call long-time experts and hear there is no magic bullet to save the lagoon. It took 250 years of tampering to reach this tipping point, and we will have to be both diligent and patient with the solutions.
The initial problem is that examination of the lagoon is not unlike investigation of an airplane crash with no black box. We still have multiple agencies collecting different kinds of data, with no clearinghouse available for researchers or policy makers. We can't prioritize any fix for the lagoon until we can collect the data necessary to focus our restoration efforts.
In the meantime, we have some unfinished work to do. In 1990, the Legislature passed the Indian River Lagoon Act, which required utilities to stop discharging sewage effluent into the lagoon and required hookups of septic tanks to wastewater treatment plants. This was to be done within five years, but more than two decades later, it is a task still incomplete. According to the state Department of Environmental Protection records, Edgewater discharges an average of a half-million gallons of treated effluent per day to an outfall pipe just off Menard May Park, where children play in the water every day. Fixing this should be a priority.
Beyond that, we should all be embarrassed that 40 percent of the homes in Volusia County are still on septic tanks! Many of these 93,000 septic tanks are little pollution time bombs which threaten our water resources. We should find a way to eliminate septic tanks from Oak Hill to Edgewater, many of which are along canals which ooze leachate directly into the lagoon.
While we're waiting on the data, there are other priorities we know we should address. Congress must pass the Water Resources Development Act, which among other things, authorizes fixes to the Everglades to reduce pollution-laden discharges into the southern stretches of the lagoon. Beyond that, Congress needs to appropriate $1 billion to fully fund the lagoon projects which are part of the Everglades restoration.
In Tallahassee, DEP should declare the entire Indian River Lagoon as “impaired waters,” so benchmarks and maximum pollution levels can be established, and locally focused restoration plans can be required. Beyond that, Gov. Rick Scott should never again veto money for Indian River Lagoon research and restoration.
Volusia County can take the lead in two important areas. Twenty-five years ago, the County Council adopted special protection measures for Indian River Lagoon, but it exempted New Smyrna Beach — and Edgewater and Oak Hill ignored its provisions. In response to the crisis, the council should revise these rules to protect natural buffers, reduce fertilizer use, retain stormwater, and stop homeowners from trimming mangroves as if they were hedges.
The most effective short-term campaign should be a broad public education program focused on personal responsibility, for homeowners, boaters, anglers and all other waterway users, on what they should do to help the lagoon: Please don't mow all the way to the shoreline, stop using fertilizers near the water, watch what goes into your storm drain, encourage native vegetation near the shore, and don't plow your prop through what's left of our sea grasses. Each of us has a stake in the protection of the lagoon.
New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, and Oak Hill should include annual capital improvements to improve water quality of stormwater discharges into the lagoon. The only way this overwhelming problem can be tackled is one small project at a time.
Lastly, all of us will have an opportunity to save our precious natural resources at the ballot box next year. Nearly a million Floridians have signed the Water and Land Legacy Initiative, to dedicate a portion of the existing documentary stamp tax for land and water conservation and restoration. If ratified by the voters, $600 million would be available in 2015 without any tax increase, and some of this will go to help the lagoon.
I do have hope for the lagoon, because it is a resilient system. Every small fix helps the natural system begin a process of healing itself.
People will rally to protect what they love. What is needed now is the political will to take the steps necessary to protect this national treasure, which happens to be in our front yard.
Henderson, a New Smyrna Beach attorney, is a former member of Volusia County Council and past president of Florida Audubon, with a long history of environmental advocacy.
Silver Springs advisory group recommends closing Wild Waters
Gainesville.com - by Bill Thompson, Staff writer
January 5, 2014
OCALA -- For more than three decades, kids of all ages have sought relief from the summer heat by flying down the flumes or bobbing in the wading pool at Wild Waters.
Such fun was expected to continue when the state took over the Silver Springs attraction as part of the deal to make it a state park.
And state parks managers say they are looking for a vendor to take over Wild Waters in time to open it next spring, now that the park's former operator, Palace Entertainment, has departed.
Despite that, though, could Wild Waters' days be numbered?
An advisory group helping shape the future of Silver Springs State Park has recommended that the popular summertime water park be dismantled.
And in its place, the committee suggests, parks managers should erect something that is both more appealing to the eye and more fitting with the back-to-nature theme the state desires for the site.
One suggestion is to turn that corner of the facility into a hub for other outdoor enthusiasts, such as cyclists, hikers and equestrians.
Amy Sampson, a Silver Springs resident and mother of three children who frequent Wild Waters, hopes the suggestion is canned.
"That's horrible. I cycle, I run, I do all those things. But we have other places in Marion County to do that stuff," said Sampson. "Wild Waters is one of the few places we have where kids and families can go on a hot day and spend quality time at a reasonable price."
The idea for replacing Wild Waters emerged at a Dec. 6 meeting of the Silver Springs Advisory Group.
The committee is a 21-member panel of government officials, scientists and representatives of various interest groups tasked by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection with helping craft a long-range plan for Silver Springs State Park — as the site has been known since Oct. 1, when Florida's first major tourist attraction was merged with the adjacent Silver River State Park.
The group has met monthly since its inaugural session in October, and records of the two most recent gatherings indicate its concern with Wild Waters' place in the park's future.
In November the group toured parts of the 242-acre former attraction as well as the campgrounds, cabins and day-use areas at the park.
The idea was to determine the strengths and weaknesses of those sites in guiding the park's future development.
The group's report on Wild Waters noted among its benefits that it was highly visible, easily accessible, located on already "disturbed" ground and offered "something to do."
On the other hand, Wild Waters came with aging infrastructure, consumed a high volume of water and was covered by too much pavement.
The committee also said it was incompatible with the park service's mission, contributed to the blight of the surrounding neighborhood, served as a liability and made the intersection of State Road 40 and Baseline Road less safe.
"Water park is in the wrong spot" was one summation the advisers offered.
When the group returned for its December session, the members were divided into three teams that were directed to come up with potential land uses for three areas at the former attraction.
Those included the headsprings, Wild Waters and a section referred to as the "Back 40," referring to the undeveloped land south and east of the headsprings, part of which has served as a maintenance area for vehicles and equipment.
The various teams differed on some points, but the report of the meeting shows they were unanimous with regard to Wild Waters.
"All three recommend eventual removal of the Wild Waters park and emphasize the importance of beautification and improved stormwater treatment in that area," the report states.
The teams agreed on the aesthetic importance of the intersection of SR 40 and Baseline Road, and the notion that Wild Waters was undermining that.
"All three identify the SR 40/Baseline Road corner as a visual gateway to the recreational opportunities of the state park and regional conservation lands and a symbolic gateway for the Silver Springs community," the report reads.
And according to the report, at least two groups suggested "concepts (that) propose a portion of the area as a hub for biking, paddling, hiking and equestrian trail services."
Wild Waters opened in April 1978 as part of a $5 million, five-year expansion plan by the American Broadcasting Co., which then owned the site.
It featured three slides, shooting bathers along a 300-foot trek from a 38-foot launch point, and a wading pool.
DEP spokesman Pat Gillespie said that while park managers have not made any decisions, officials will consider all recommendations made by the advisory group and continue to gather community input to make the best choices for the park.
"Ultimately," he added in an email, "the recommendations will be coupled with the knowledge and experience of park planners within the department's Division of Recreation and Parks to make the best decisions for Silver Springs State Park."
Gillespie pointed out that the state does not have a concessionaire to operate Wild Waters at the moment, although the current vendor has shown interest in doing so.
In September, Ocala-based Silver Springs Management LLC signed a three-year contract with the DEP to run concessions at Silver Springs.
The firm, a partnership of Joel Weissner, president of What's Up Productions in Ocala, and Bobby Genovese, owner of BG Capital Group, a private equity investment firm based in the Bahamas, was the sole survivor after the state could not find companies interested in operating various services at the park.
Related: Group recommends closing a Silver Springs water park ActionNewsJax.com
The move made sense because the 20/20 funds had become unbalanced with more than $63 million in the land acquisition fund and $36 million in the maintenance fund. There was $25 million coming into that fund each year and officials were not spending near that amount for acquisition or maintenance.
2014, year of the environment
News-Press.com - Editorial
January 4, 2014
20/20 land, water quality, Bonita DRGR (Density Reduction Groundwater Recharge) critical issues
When it comes to land and water preservation in Southwest Florida, 2014 may be the most critical of all years.
The future of the Conservation 20/20 land program could be decided. It is a program that by sheer definition has met its goals, but is it enough to preserve the environment and sustain a strong water supply going into the future? Building on our drinking water supplies through ground water recharge areas that take the pressure off of our aquifers is probably the most critical piece of the 20/20 program. Approximately 31 percent of all 20/20 lands are recharge areas.
Another year of record summer rainfall could bring another year of record water releases from Lake Okeechobee that could be devastating as dirty water pours into our estuaries and kills marine life, not to mention what it could mean for tourism.
A key tract of land that mixes environmental preservation and an opportunity for residential or commercial growth is in front of Bonita Springs leaders. It could mean more money for the city’s tax base, but at what cost? Will it jeopardize another key environmental, but impaired section called the Density Reduction Groundwater Resource area?
Conservation 20/20 has been the single-greatest land and water preservation program in Lee County since it was created in 1996 by the voters. Its mission was to collect land and water and preserve it, not only to ensure our environment was able to sustain itself but also to provide recreational opportunities for thousands of outdoor enthusiasts.
It was a referendum that passed with 54 percent of the vote as residents recognized the importance of land, water and wildlife sustainability. Its goal was to environmentally lock in 20 percent of all Lee County land for preservation by the year 2020, hence the name, Conservation 20/20. It exceeded that goal in 2012, with 21.5 percent of all county land now in the program.
The county is under no further obligation to continue to collect land. It must maintain the land based on the original criteria of the program. In fact, the nonbinding referendum faced an original time period of seven years, and was renewed by county officials for seven more years after that. It has continued for 18 years. We agreed with the county’s decision last year to take about $25 million from the 20/20 fund to balance this year’s budget, rather than raid general fund reserves that were approaching dangerously low levels.
In fact, 2013 was the first year in the program’s history that no land was purchased. There are many factors that go into the lack of land purchases, like people unwilling to let go of land at prices much lower than what they were during the land-buying heydays of 2006-08, when $144 million was spent on purchases.
The major questions county commissioners are fighting with now are: Has enough land been purchased for preservation? Should the tax rate be lowered to more accurately reflect what is needed for the program? Should the program go back on a referendum for the voters to decide its future, possibly this year or by 2016? We recommend the program go back to the voters. We also recommend closer analysis of the land already acquired, its restoration and maintenance, and how each of those 24,872 acres helps us reach our long-term environmental and water supply goals.
It is too valuable of a program to just let die. Our environmental sustainability is the key to our future.
Lake O releases
It is time for local, state and federal officials to be very aggressive in limiting water releases. Completion of the C-43 reservoir, as well as building other water storage facilities for storing those releases and filtering out contaminants, is important to limiting the flow into the Caloosahatchee and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.
Funding last year to build another section of the Tamiami Bridge to help get water from the lake to the Everglades restoration area helps but certainly is not the long- term solution. Reinforcing the Herbert Hoover Dike around the lake also is crucial in allowing more water to be stored in the lake. It is time for state and federal governments to become more vigilant in buying agricultural land, much of it owned by U.S. Sugar, to reach the ultimate goal, which is get most of the water flowing south from the lake into the Everglades and away from our area. That is the only true solution to the problem. We can’t stress enough how important it is for our local legislators and Gov. Rick Scott to continue aggressive negotiations with federal leaders for more funding.
We know another year of heavy releases from Lake O into our estuaries could cripple the area and drive down tourism.
Bonita and the DRGR
It is crucial for Bonita to move carefully with this 5,000-acre tract near Interstate 75. This area, like other DRGR areas, was created to limit development and preserve water resources. Mining and some residential development have limited the effectiveness of the intended goals of DRGR to cleanse water the way it was intended. Now, the city wants to create a master plan for some development of the area, which represents about 21 percent of the city, after land developers showed an interest in building there.
This is a classic example of growth colliding with the environment and it is important for Bonita not to rush into anything that could damage water resources in the area. Yes, development is important but at what cost? We understand a seven-member water task force has been created to examine the area over the next year. If the land was originally intended to be preserved and work as a way to improve local water flow ways, then that should remain its intended use, and we hope that premise guides the task force.
Bonita has hired consultants and conducted studies on the best use of the land, spending more than $1 million in the process, but has reached no successful conclusion. There is no reason to waste any more money on studies that are failing to reach any logical conclusion. We hope a master plan helps achieve the goals of a fair balance to environmental restoration and residential growth.
Making sure a river runs through it
TBO.com – Editorial
January 4, 2014
It is encouraging to see the neglected lower Hillsborough River finally receive thoughtful attention — thanks to persistent citizen activists and innovative state and local officials.
The plan to use water from Blue Sink to augment the river’s flow offers an example of how communities, with cooperation and commitment, can address daunting environmental problems.
For decades the Hillsborough River below the dam was a stagnant, polluted mess. The dam, north of Sulphur Springs, forms a reservoir that provides the bulk of Tampa’s drinking water. Consequently, little fresh water was released downstream during the dry season. About 200 days a year, the lower river had no flow from the dam at all.
So the Hillsborough lacked the fresh water needed to flush the river and invigorate marine life habitat. And with the city’s water demands growing, there looked to be little hope for change.
Fortunately, lawmakers had tasked the state’s five water districts with developing “minimum flows and levels,” and in the 1990s Southwest Florida Water Management District officials began studying the matter.
Scientists determined the lower river was receiving less than half the water it needed.
No snap solutions were available. The city understandably was unwilling to jeopardize its water supply.
It took years, and much prodding by activists such as the Friends of the River, but ultimately, city and water district officials worked out a sensible strategy that utilizes water from Sulphur Springs, Blue Sink and the Tampa Bypass Canal.
The city now has the option of pumping about 10 million gallons of water a day from Sulphur Springs, which is two miles downstream, to the foot of the dam. The former swimming hole is no longer safe for swimming, but suitable for boosting the river flow.
And as The Tampa Tribune’s Kevin Wiatrowski reported last week, the district also approved the city’s plan to pump as much as 2 million gallons of water a day from Blue Sink, a natural pool north of the river, into the Hillsborough.
The city and district will share the $11 million cost of the Blue Sink project.
All this should ensure the lower river the minimum amount of water needed for environmental health.
Some residents who live near Blue Sink near the intersection of Florida and Fowler avenues fear the pumping will threaten their wells and lake levels. Officials need to closely monitor such matters.
But the hydrologists are confident the project will have little impact, and during rainy months the city is unlikely to use Blue Sink at all.
The additional fresh water should put more oxygen in the river, lower its salinity levels and revitalize its marine habitat.
The payoff for all this will be a much healthier and appealing river coursing through the urban heart of Tampa.
Water quality, not quantity, is the issue
Florida Today – Hank Fishkind is a principal at Fishkind & Associates in Orlando, Naples and Port St. Lucie
January 4, 2014
Question: Why is water getting so much attention in Florida ?
FISHKIND: The demand for water from the population and the economic development that has occurred exceeds the ability to pump water out of the ground. In terms of water quality, we’ve seen massive algae blooms and we’re having major environmental problems now in the Indian River Lagoon, so that’s how these abstract water quantity/water quality translate into things that we can all see daily.
Q:Why have lawmakers decided it’s time for an overhaul ?
FISHKIND: I think because the problems are getting to be so apparent. Population growth has accelerated in Florida — there’s almost 1,000 people a day moving into the Sunshine State. And we’re getting economic growth, which is great, but that needs water.
So, the quantity of water becomes a big issue. If we simply continue to try to pump out of the Floridan Aquifer, which is the least expensive way to do it, we’ll draw down the lakes and we’ll draw down the springs. That’s exactly what happened in Tampa, and it will happen in other places. So now there is a push to regulate the use of that water to protect the springs.
You hear it cast up in terms of springs protection, but what it really amounts to is a reduction in the use of the cheapest water. So, we will all pay a lot more. Water is going to be much more expensive. It will be regulated to be expensive. One of the big problems is that we attempt to do this only by regulation, we don’t have a price for raw water. We don’t charge anything. So when we make decisions, it’s very difficult to do so.
Q:Why don’t we charge for water ?
FISHKIND: No one has established a price — nowhere in this country. It is well-known that we need to establish prices. We know that the West is water-poor and there’s been no pricing, and here we are in Florida, which is a water-rich state, but if we don’t price a resource, then we don’t use it properly.
Q:How are lawmakers going about trying to tackle this problem ?
FISHKIND: Purely regulation. They will try to impose more requirements off of conservation, we will have a massive amount of legislation that will limit pumping that will cause the utilities to have to go to ground water sources or desalinization, which will be much more expensive for the users.
Question: Why is water getting so much attention in Florida ?
FISHKIND: The demand for water from the population and the economic development that has occurred exceeds the ability to pump water out of the ground. In terms of water quality, we’ve seen massive algae blooms and we’re having major environmental problems now in the Indian River Lagoon, so that’s how these abstract water quantity/water quality translate into things that we can all see daily.
Q:Why have lawmakers decided it’s time for an overhaul ?
FISHKIND: I think because the problems are getting to be so apparent. Population growth has accelerated in Florida — there’s almost 1,000 people a day moving into the Sunshine State. And we’re getting economic growth, which is great, but that needs water.
So, the quantity of water becomes a big issue. If we simply continue to try to pump out of the Floridan Aquifer, which is the least expensive way to do it, we’ll draw down the lakes and we’ll draw down the springs. That’s exactly what happened in Tampa, and it will happen in other places. So now there is a push to regulate the use of that water to protect the springs.
You hear it cast up in terms of springs protection, but what it really amounts to is a reduction in the use of the cheapest water. So, we will all pay a lot more. Water is going to be much more expensive. It will be regulated to be expensive. One of the big problems is that we attempt to do this only by regulation, we don’t have a price for raw water. We don’t charge anything. So when we make decisions, it’s very difficult to do so.
Q:Why don’t we charge for water ?
FISHKIND: No one has established a price — nowhere in this country. It is well-known that we need to establish prices. We know that the West is water-poor and there’s been no pricing, and here we are in Florida, which is a water-rich state, but if we don’t price a resource, then we don’t use it properly.
Q:How are lawmakers going about trying to tackle this problem ?
FISHKIND: Purely regulation. They will try to impose more requirements off of conservation, we will have a massive amount of legislation that will limit pumping that will cause the utilities to have to go to ground water sources or desalinization, which will be much more expensive for the users.
Q:What do you think of that ?
FISHKIND: Well, I think it misses a big opportunity to use the price system to get people to economize. So if we charge for the raw water, then we would allocate raw water to its biggest users and to its best users and its highest and best users, rather than allowing regulators to determine whether new water should go to bottlers or whether it should go to agriculture or whether it should go to urban uses — the pricing system helps a lot.
Q:So we’ve taken a look at quantity, what about the quality issue ?
FISHKIND: Well The quality’s a big problem. We now have a regulatory system that does not serve us. We have too many septic tanks. Our wastewater treatment systems are not reducing the nitrogen and phosphorous loads, and as population continues to grow, we will continue to have too much affluent that is polluting these bodies of water, and we can see it in the Indian River Lagoon, we see it with increasing algal blooms, and it’s much more expensive to fix it than it is to prevent it. And we risk compromise on some of the environmental resources and treasures that bring people to Florida in the first place
What a year for our water
Ocala.com – Editorial by Brad Rogers
January 4, 2014
Some things we just take for granted. Take water, for example. We just assume that when we turn on the faucet that fresh, clean water will spew forth. And it does.
That is why it is hard to get the public riled up much over warnings that Florida’s freshwater supply is in peril. As long as the water flows from the tap, all is well.
Well, don’t bet on it. Having grown up in suburban St. Pete, I remember the day in the mid-1970s when we turned on our faucets and were shocked when brown, salty water came pouring out. Tiny but populace Pinellas County had overpumped and salt water had invaded the aquifer.
It was the beginning of the great Tampa Bay water war and, more importantly, the beginning of developing a serious strategy to conserve water and create a public mind-set that water is a precious commodity.
Today Tampa Bay is cited as a model of smart, sound water policy where per capita water consumption is half what it is hereabouts.
But it took pumping the well dry, literally, to get it done.
I mention this as I look back on 2013 and see the gains that we made in North Central Florida, and Ocala/Marion County in particular, on water.
The year started out with a push to save Silver Springs that was highlighted by an event of bearing that name. Former governor and U.S. senator Bob Graham headlined thousands of water preservationists who descended on Silver Springs to push for its salvation.
There were more good things regarding water too. The county’s two water management districts finally developed plans to begin curbing the amount of nitrates flowing into Silver and Rainbow springs. They established ambitious goals of reducing nitrate pollution to about one-seventh what it is today. Of course, the state taking control of Silver Springs was a huge win for water. Nothing better symbolizes all that is right and wrong with the state’s water policy than the granddaddy of Florida’s freshwater springs.
Then there was the $10 million the state spent on springs restoration. It was the largest infusion of state cash for the springs in decades, yet even lawmakers had to concede it was a pittance of what is really needed.
Finally, the St. Johns River Water Management District could no longer ignore the realities of 21st century Florida, and after years of telling us our water supply was adequate, it conceded that by 2035 we will tap out our groundwater supply and have to change our ways.
As we enter 2014, the Adena Springs Ranch water permit is due for a vote by the St. Johns board. Adena is asking for the right to pump 5 million gallons per day on average, and up to 22 million gallons a day when it “needs” to. Approval is all but assured, even though it can’t be good for our water supply. But, as long as the water flows when we turn on the tap … .
State Rep. Crisafulli: Florida needs statewide water plan
WMFE.org - by Amy Green
January 3, 2014
State Rep. Steve Crisafulli says Florida needs a water plan. The Merritt Island Republican is proposing a comprehensive outlook as water likely will be a big issue in this spring's legislative session.
Crisafulli says his comments don't put him at odds with Sen. Joe Negron, whose committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee has proposed millions of dollars in water projects.
He says Florida's water problems stretch beyond the state's midsection, from the Everglades to the Panhandle, where the state has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on a dispute with Georgia and Alabama.
"We have a big state here with vast issues with regard to water, and we need to look at all of them. I don't think focusing on one part of our state is the answer."
Heavy rain this past summer forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into coastal estuaries. That led to problems in the Indian River Lagoon where large numbers of dolphins and manatees died.
Crisafulli says the state's springs and water supply also are at risk, jeopardizing important industries like tourism.
He says he'll work for compromise among environmentalists, development interests and agriculture.
States reject water study secrecy pact
Gainesville Times - by Jeff Gill
January 3, 2013
Alabama and Florida’s denial could let water-sharing document go public.
Florida and Alabama have rejected a tri-state agreement that would have bound them to confidentiality concerning the results of a water-sharing study being done by a private group, the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Stakeholders.
John P. Heekin, assistant general counsel to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, sent a Dec. 12 letter, and David B. Byrne Jr., chief legal adviser to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Dec. 16 letter, to the organization rejecting a “memorandum of understanding.”
Heekin said Florida’s denial comes “as we pursue our claims against Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court and elsewhere.”
Alabama’s letter doesn’t cite why it won’t sign the agreement.
“It is disappointing that Florida and Alabama are categorically declining to sign the MOU,” said Jud Turner, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
“We had not completed a full legal review of the (document), but Gov. (Nathan) Deal was open to the concept of a MOU as a way to allow the states to continue to support the ACF Stakeholders work during any litigation. Without the governors signing the MOU, the future of the ACF Stakeholder group is called into question during the litigation between the states.”
The stakeholders group, comprising people interested in water flows through the basin that straddles the three states, has tried to clamp down on information as part of an ongoing water study conducted by Georgia Tech’s Georgia Water Resources Institute.
It had been concerned about information leaks since Florida filed suit Oct. 1 against Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court, alleging increased water consumption had limited flows into Apalachicola Bay and wrecked the oyster industry.
The group voted in early December in a meeting at Lake Blackshear near Cordele “to adopt (certain) procedures to keep our information confidential until we release it as part of an overall plan,” said James N. McClatchey, chairman of the ACF Stakeholders’ governing board, at the time.
“I think there was a strong, maybe almost unshakable, commitment that we were going to get to a sustainable water management plan, and that’s still the objective, I think, of the whole group.”
ACF Stakeholders sent a Nov. 15 letter to the governors of the three states appealing for them to sign a mutual agreement.
“We find that we are at a critical juncture in our Sustainable Water Management Plan process,” said then-Chairman Billy G. Turner, referring to the study. “For our process to work, the stakeholders must be able to communicate openly and candidly without fear that ACFS information will be used in a manner that is adverse to their interests.”
The letter says the group is “asking that the three governors also agree they will not use ACF Stakeholders reports or data for any purpose, including litigation, until such reports or data have been approved for release” by the group.
In reacting Thursday to the rejection by Florida and Alabama, McClatchey said, “This is not what we wanted, but we’re continuing to work on the (issue). We think it would help our process to have those (agreements) in place.”
“It’s our goal to stay out of the legal process as much as possible,” added McClatchey, who represents the Upper Chattahoochee subbasin as part of the ACF Stakeholders. “The (agreements) would have been a big help, but we haven’t completely given up on (a mutual agreement). We’re proceeding ahead whether we have them or not.”
The Supreme Court action draws out what has been a 20-year water-sharing conflict between Georgia, Alabama and Florida, often referred to as “water wars.” Much of the debate has focused on Lake Lanier, which serves as the main drinking water source for metro Atlanta.
Florida and Alabama appeared to gain the upper hand in July 2009, when U.S. District Court Judge Paul Magnuson issued a strict ruling against Georgia.
He imposed a three-year deadline for Georgia to either find another source of water, have Congress reauthorize Lake Lanier as a specially designated source of drinking water or successfully negotiate a water-sharing agreement with Florida and Alabama.
Georgia successfully appealed the decision in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, then gained further leverage in June 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal of the 11th Circuit ruling by Florida and Alabama.
Both Alabama and Florida jabbed Georgia in their letters rejecting the mutual agreement.
Florida said, “Equitably apportioning the waters of the ACF Basin is vitally important to the families, businesses, and plant and animal species that depend upon historical flows into the Apalachicola River and bay, but which are now threatened by unmitigated and unsustainable upstream withdrawals.”
Alabama used similar language in its letter, saying “the withdrawals caused by Georgia’s upstream consumption and storage represent a significant danger to the state of Alabama.”
The ACF Stakeholders was officially formed in 2009, “recognizing that litigation and politics have been unable to resolve the issues,” according to the group’s website.
The group “has made significant progress at establishing a better technical understanding of how the ACF Basin water is used and managed,” the letter to the governors states. “We believe this is pivotal to the eventual establishment of improved water usage by all parties in the basin.”
It has raised more than $1.5 million to help pay for the cost of the study.
The hope has been to produce water-sharing recommendations that ACF Stakeholders could present to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which governs Lake Lanier, and the three states.
“My optimistic time frame is that we may have something by the summer,” McClatchey has said. “I think that what we have found is when we’re dealing with data and science, we usually move pretty quickly. It’s when we’re discussing process and so on that we move slower.”
The corps, meanwhile, is working on a water control manual update for the basin. The manual is set to be implemented in 2015.
Related: Alabama, Florida shun agreement request by group developing ... The Florida Current
We are pleased the St. Johns district is addressing this problem. As we said at the outset, this is hardly a new reality — water experts and environmentalists, indeed everyday Floridians, have been warning about our growing population raining our water supply for more than a generation.
The water reality
Ocala.com - Editorial
January 3, 2014
The latest word on our water supply is hardly news but worth noting nonetheless. The St. Johns River Water Management District is projecting the 18 counties that make up the district — including Marion — will tap out their groundwater supply by 2035. When that happens, other means will have to be found to meet the shortfall that is forecast to be somewhere around 256 million gallons a day.
What is welcome in the district's latest water-supply report is that for the first time officials are talking seriously about the need for conservation measures. We and others have long advocated strict conservation measures and widespread water reuse programs similar to those implemented in the Tampa Bay region, where daily per capita water use is about half what it is in the St. Johns district.
Conservation, however, will not be enough, according to the water managers. No, even the best conservation scenario will leave the district, which includes big water users Orlando and Jacksonville, about 40 million gallons short, and probably much more.
So the district is looking at greater use of underground storage facilities, aquifer recharge, brackish groundwater from coastal areas and, of course, surface water, notably the Ocklawaha and St. Johns rivers. Desalination is also mentioned, but it is not an option the district has ever been warm to because of its cost.
Yet, while the district will seek public input on the water supply plan in the coming weeks, we would encourage water managers to strive to implement a serious, long-term conservation program. Water storage and aquifer recharge are also methods that are environmentally and consumer friendly. Tapping into our surface waters, though, should be a last resort — although because it is easy and relatively cheap, it tends to be the first resort. The Ocklawaha and the St. Johns rivers are both struggling against reduced flow and pollution, and tapping them for tens of millions of gallons a day should be done only after exhaustive study, if then.
St. Johns River watershed
In light of that, St. Johns officials, and Executive Director Hans Tanzler specifically, need to send a message that the district is serious about taking meaningful steps to assure our water supply this time.
Frankly, we have seen untold numbers of reports from the district in the past warning about this very thing, only to have the district put the issue on the back burner for another day.
Since the 1970s, when St. Johns and Florida's four other water management district were created, visionaries have warned of the day when we could not meet our water needs. Well, that day is coming and quickly.
We urge St. Johns officials to keep their eye on the ball and start addressing the problem by implementing a conservation program that all citizens can contribute to. That is the place to start.
Climate change will starve the deep sea, study finds
ThinkProgress.org - by Joanna M. Foster
January 2, 2014
It’s a vast, frigid abyss, where light rarely penetrates, and oxygen is in short supply. It’s very otherworldliness has helped it seep into cultural awareness through science fiction an horror stories, but for most people the deep sea barely seems like a real place, let alone an important one.
That’s why the news this week that climate change is expected to lead to staggering losses in deep-sea life, may not have seemed nearly as relevant as the traffic report or weather forecast.
Whether or not it’s public knowledge, however, the deep sea is home to thousands of commercially important species and is one of the last frontiers for new species discovery. The creatures of the deep are also key to the cycling of nitrogen, carbon and silicon in the ocean, a process that maintains the delicate balance of ocean life.
An international team of scientists from the UK, Australia, Canada and France have, for the first time, quantified the decline in seafloor life predicted by some of the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) climate models. They found that globally, about five percent of deep-sea life will be lost over the next century, while up to 38 percent of benthic life will disappear in the North Atlantic.
“I know a five percent loss doesn’t sound like a lot,” said lead author Daniel Jones of the National Oceanography Centre in England, in an interview with Climate Progress. “But when you understand the amount of life that represents, its huge. We are talking about losses of marine life weighing more than every person on the planet put together. That gives you a sense of just how much is down there.”
The research was published online in Global Change Biology.
How does climate change cause such devastation in one of the most remote places on the planet? Unfortunately for deep-sea creatures, which might seem isolated, all of the ocean’s ecosystems are profoundly intertwined. Life on the ocean floor depends on the steady rain of dead marine life from the surface waters. And all marine life ultimately depends on phytoplankton, the microscopic plants that drift in the sunlit surface waters. Phytoplankton are expected to be hit hard by climate change, which is leading to greater stratification of the oceans. When the water column mixes less, because of sharp differences in salinity and temperature at different depths, the key nutrients phytoplankton need to grow stay locked at the bottom of the ocean. Fewer phytoplankton in turn lead to less food on the ocean floor and a sharp reduction in deep-sea life.
Dr. Jones explained that a lot of the most commercially important species found at the bottom of the oceans won’t be missed at grocery stores or on menus.
“A lot of what is harvested from the sea floor actually ends up in fish meal so people aren’t familiar with those species” said Dr. Jones. “But orange roughy, blue ling and scabbard are all fish species that frequently end up on plates.”
Much of what will be lost in the deep sea as less food filters down, however, are species which no one has heard of, because they have yet to be discovered.
“The deep sea is one of the last truly wild places left on Earth, where we never know what we are going to find,” said Dr. Jones. “We don’t even know what we are destroying.”
Florida population growth begets environmental challenges
Jacksonville Business Journal – by Michael Clinton
January 2, 2014
Florida’s population didn’t overtake New York when the U.S. Census Bureau released estimates this week, but it will eventually and when it does there are environmental concerns that come with it.
Water and land conservationists say as Florida grows, it becomes more important to protect quality land for conservation and to keep a watchful eye on how development impacts troubled wildlife habitats, the Gainesville Sun reports.
Tom Kay, executive director of Alachua Conservation Trust, said a lot of land is being bought up because people realize that eventually the land that is not preserved will be developed.
“I don’t look at myself as being in competition necessarily with development, but I think we are in a position right now where it’s really critical,” Kay told the Sun. “I don’t think those same opportunities are going to be there in 100 years or even 50 years from now.”
Hope for city, state at start of a new year
Florida Times Union - by Ron Littlepage (From the editorial page)
January 2, 2014
The beginning of a new year is a time for reflection on things to come.
You’ve probably already seen such lists. Let me offer mine.
There are many things I hope will come to pass in Jacksonville and Florida in 2014.
We could begin by heeding the message that Pope Francis delivered on New Year’s Day in which he called for all people to put aside their differences and recognize they are brothers and sisters.
“We belong to the same human family, and we share a common destiny,” Francis said. “This brings a responsibility for each to work so that the world becomes a community of brothers who respect each other, accept each other in one’s diversity and take care of each other.”
If Mayor Alvin Brown and more of our City Council members followed such advice, we would have already moved beyond including protections for gays and lesbians in the city’s human rights ordinance.
I’m not Catholic, but many things the new pope is saying strike home.
Another message Francis delivered last year likely will fall on deaf ears in the administration of Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican leadership in the Legislature.
In their push for jobs and unbridled growth, they would defend what Francis called “the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.
“In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits,” Francis said, “whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.”
The Indian River Lagoon is sick as is the St. Johns River. Our once-celebrated springs are polluted and drying up.
Environmental protections are being slashed. A harmful deep dredge of the St. Johns River channel marches forward. The pursuit of more and more growth places demands on water supplies that already are overburdened.
Florida’s environment is not yet defenseless, but it’s getting close.
My hope for 2014 is that our elected leaders will see the folly of where we are headed.
For Jacksonville, I hope that the year brings success for downtown, that the Downtown Investment Authority will become the force that makes that happen, that The Jacksonville Landing shakes off the old and heads in a new direction, that the potential that exudes from the Shipyards and the old city hall and courthouse sites comes to fruition.
At the same time, we can’t afford to leave other neighborhoods behind.
One of the things that must be done in 2014 is coming up with a solution for the police and fire pension costs that are playing havoc with the city budget.
I hope that can be done with the ongoing work of the task force on pension reform.
Of course, I hope that our public schools will continue to improve, that the violence we’ve come to accept with a shrug lessens and that, as Francis said, we begin to “accept each other in one’s diversity.”
There’s always hope in a new year.
production leads to too
much of a precious good nutrient
- wrongly located.
Note also the discussion.
How mass-produced meat turned Phosphorus into pollution
NPR.org - by Dan Charles
January 2, 2014
It's a quandary of food production: The same drive for efficiency that lowers the cost of eating also can damage our soil and water.
Take the case of one simple, essential chemical element: phosphorus.
Phosphorus is one of the nutrients that plants need to grow, and for most of human history, farmers always needed more of it. "There was this battle to have enough available phosphorus for optimum crop production," says Kenneth Staver, a scientist with the University of Maryland's Wye Research and Education Center, which sits between farm fields and the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
That's also the tension in this story: agriculture on one side, and water quality on the other.
Traditionally, farmers got phosphorus from animal manure. So if you grew crops like corn or wheat, it was good to have poultry or hogs nearby. Your grain fed the animals, and their manure fed your crops. Everything worked together.
Then came industrial fertilizer: big phosphorus mines; factories for making the other important nutrient, nitrogen; and railroads or highways to carry that fertilizer to any farmer who needed it.
"With the development of the inorganic fertilizer industry, it's possible to grow grain without having animals nearby. So you can decouple the animal agriculture from the grain agriculture," Staver says.
And decouple they did. Farmers concentrated on just one kind of production. So did entire regions. Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama, for instance, now produce the largest number of chickens - more than a billion of them every year. But they don't grow much chicken feed. They haul in grain from far away.
As that grain flows from fields to chicken houses, or hog farms, so do the nutrients in it, such as phosphorus and nitrogen.
Some of it goes into meat that people eat, but a lot goes into animal waste.
This is where the problem starts. Farmers near those chicken houses or hog farms often take lots of that manure and spread it on their fields, partly just to get rid of it and partly for its value as fertilizer. Crops, however, need much more nitrogen than phosphorus. When farmers use manure to give their crops an optimal amount of nitrogen, they oversupply phosphorus.
"This is happening everywhere," Staver says. "Where you have large concentrations of animal production, you tend to have a buildup of nutrients - phosphorus is the one that accumulates - in soils around concentrated animal-producing regions."
Wherever it accumulates, rain washes it into streams, lakes and estuaries, where it's an ecological disaster.
"It drives algae growth, so it ends up clouding the water. You don't get the light penetration to support the rooted aquatic plants that are important in the food chain," Staver says. "You also get these algae blooms, and when they die, they draw oxygen from the water. You get dead zones."
In many places, environmental regulators are trying to stop this buildup of phosphorus.
Until recently, it looked like Maryland was taking the lead. The state has a big poultry industry right beside the Chesapeake Bay, which has been choked with nutrient pollution.
Last year, Maryland proposed new rules that would have stopped farmers from putting more phosphorus on any fields that already have too much of it. It required soil tests to determine a key phosphorus index number.
Lee Richardson, a farmer in Willards, Md., was worried. "The word we were getting - if [your fields] were over 150, you weren't going to spread manure," he says. Most of his fields are over that level.
The manure ban would have hit him two different ways.
First, he grows chickens; if their manure couldn't go on his fields, it would have to go somewhere else. "Chances are, growers were going to have to pay to get it hauled away and taken out of the chicken house," he says.
Second, his corn fields still need nitrogen. Without manure as a nitrogen source, he'd have to buy the manufactured kind of fertilizer, which is more expensive.
Richardson and other farmers protested, arguing that the new rules would inflict huge economic harm, while the environmental benefits are uncertain.
In November, the state of Maryland backed down. It promised to study the issue some more. Kenneth Staver, from the University of Maryland, says it's not that hard to imagine a solution to the problem.
"The obvious one is, find a way to redistribute the phosphorus from the animal production facilities back to where the crop production is," he says. The manure would have to travel to the vast fields that farmers currently fertilize with fresh, mined phosphorus.
Hauling manure such distances would cost money. Staver says it's the price of cleaner, healthier water.
If farmers have to pay that cost, growing chickens or hogs will get more expensive.
Then we, the consumers, would pay for it, through more expensive meat.
Some DISCUSSION: - - - -
Mark Fraser disqus_fItIw4wKnO
A strong centralized government ("The State") is always doomed to make bad decisions. This is another example of the historical problems of that. People can't fix the system when the system is the state trying to control everything.
Harvey Daniels Mark Fraser
Or it could be that the state is being run by the corporations ? Let's drown the government in a bathtub and turn everything over to large corporations and see if the far right is really "right".
Ron Goodman Mark Fraser
We are the state. However, we have elected representatives that have enacted laws or interpreted them in a manner that encourages the proliferation of propaganda and lies. Political advertising is not subject to truth in advertising laws. Our courts have ruled that the "news" outlets can knowingly lie to us. Republican nominees to the Supreme Court have ruled that corporations are people and that money is speech.
We elected some of these judges and the people who appointed them. We can get rid of them. But we have to get past the propaganda. Right now, we have the best government that corporate money can buy.
David Bedlow Ron Goodman
Can't get rid of SC judges until they either retire or die.
Man loses suit about water management district charges to FEMA
Palm Beach Post - by Jane Musgrave, Staff Writer
January 2, 2014
A former employee of the South Florida Water Management District lost his bid to prove that the agency lied to get millions from the federal government to make repairs after hurricanes in 2004. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday ruled that the district, as an arm of the state, can’t be sued under the 1863 False Claims Act, designed to protect the federal government from fraud by private contractors. But while the district defeated the suit filed by Michael Lesinski, it isn’t in the clear yet. It is still in federal court, contesting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 2012 decision to rescind its approval of 50 projects, costing $21.9 million, that were done in the wake of hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne.
Researchers from University of Florida report recent findings in Ecology Research
4-traders.com - by a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Ecology, Environment & Conservation
January 2, 2014
Investigators discuss new findings in Ecology Research. According to news originating from Gainesville, Florida, by VerticalNews correspondents, research stated, "Wetlands provide numerous ecosystem services, from habitat provision to pollutant removal, floodwater storage, and microclimate regulation. Delivery of particular services relies on specific ecological functions, and thus to varying degree on wetland ecological condition, commonly quantified as departure from minimally impacted reference sites."
Our news journalists obtained a quote from the research from the University of Florida, "Condition assessments are widely adopted as regulatory indicators of ecosystem function, and for some services (e.g., habitat) links between condition and function are often direct. For others, however, links are more tenuous, and using condition alone to enumerate ecosystem value (e.g., for compensatory mitigation) may underestimate important services. Hydrologic function affects many services cited in support of wetland protection both directly (floodwater retention, microclimate regulation) and indirectly (biogeochemical cycling, pollutant removal). We investigated links between condition and hydrologic function to test the hypothesis, embedded in regulatory assessment of wetland value, that condition predicts function. Condition was assessed using rapid and intensive approaches, including Florida's official wetland assessment tool, in 11 isolated forested wetlands in north Florida (USA) spanning a land use intensity gradient. Hydrologic function was assessed using hydrologic regime (mean, variance, and rates of change of water depth), and measurements of groundwater exchange and evapotranspiration (ET). Despite a wide range in condition, no systematic variation in hydrologic regime was observed; indeed reference sites spanned the full range of variation. In contrast, ET was affected by land use, with higher rates in intensive (agriculture and urban) landscapes in response to higher leaf area. ET determines latent heat exchange, which regulates microclimate, a valuable service in urban heat islands. Higher ET also indicates higher productivity and thus carbon cycling. Groundwater exchange regularly reversed flow direction at all sites in response to rainfall. This buffering effect on regional aquifer levels, an underappreciated service of isolated wetlands, was provided regardless of condition. Intensive landscapes may benefit most from the hydrologic services that wetlands provide because that is where certain services (floodwater storage, microclimate regulation) are realized."
According to the news editors, the research concluded: "While the portfolio of wetland services clearly changes with disturbance, our results support a revised approach to wetland valuation that recognizes the services that accrue from sustained or enhanced functions in these 'working wetlands."
FDACS outlines $26 million water initiative
Highlands Today - by John Buchanan
January 1, 2014
Ever since he took the reins of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam has stressed the critical importance of water management and conservation - and supported his commitment with resources.
Now he is asking the legislature for $26 million in new funding to continue his aggressive and innovative initiatives.
Rich Budell, director of FDACS's Office of Agricultural Water Policy, explained why the new funding is so vital to the state's economic interests.
"It's critical that if we're going to expand our economy and grow jobs and continue to feed a diverse population that has expectations of a certain quantity and quality of food, in the right places at the right times, that we be as innovative and efficient as we can possibly be in terms of how we produce that food," Budell said. "Water is a key component of the day-to-day work of and affluence of our agricultural industry. We wouldn't have the number one orange crop or watermelon crop or the number two tomato, pepper or cucumbers crops if it weren't for our access to and management of the adequate quantities of fresh water required to produce those commodities. That's the bottom line."
At the same time, Budell said, there is an ethical responsibility for the state's agricultural industry to be the best possible steward of the land by being as efficient and careful as possible in water use and related issues such as conservation and nutrient applications.
Of the $26 being requested from the legislature, $15 million is intended for use in the Lake Okeechobee and Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie River and estuaries watersheds, the area
north, east and west of Lake Okeechobee.
"A portion of that money," Budell said, "will be used for our routine best management practices (BMP) cost share program for things like fencing cattle out of waterways, placing or enhancing a landowner's ability to manage storm water by putting in water control structures such as swales."
FDACS will also use some of the money to support the Istokpoga Marsh Watershed Improvement District, just south of Lake Istokpoga. "That's an area of intense agricultural activity," Budell said, "where we're working with the landowners and [water management officials] to put in additional water storage and storm water management features that will allow them to recycle more water and reduce their discharges, thereby reducing load to Lake Okeechobee."
A total of $5 million will be focused specifically on programs in areas located north of the I-4 corridor, through the Big Bend and into regional spring sheds. That area extends west of the St. John's River and into the Panhandle.
FDACS will continue to work with water management districts and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to prioritize agricultural-related land use and water issues.
The goal is to implement more so-called crop tools, sophisticated technologies farmers and other agribusinesses now use to help manage irrigation water and nutrients.
Examples of tools include soil moisture probes and meters that allow farmers to measure nutrient content in crops while they are being grown as a better way of efficiently managing nutrient inputs.
Budell's focus is on promoting the use of the latest and best tools. "For example, soil moisture probes have been around for a number of years," he said. "But they're getting more and more sophisticated and reliable. And also less expensive to operate and maintain at the same time."
A total of $4.5 million will be targeted at other areas around the state, not located in the northern Everglades and spring sheds, to promote and improve water quality and conservation cost share programs such as irrigation system evaluations and upgrades. "For example, we want to make sure that the irrigation systems being used in the ag community are as efficient as they can possibly be," Budell said.
The plan includes additional cost share funding for expansion of the FAWN weather system that allows growers to track weather conditions in real time as a further way to make irrigation as efficient as possible.
FDACS's long-term vision for water management and conservation is essential if Florida is to keep pace with Florida's increased agricultural production and water needs, Budell said.
For example, he said, production of relatively new crops such as blueberries is expanding, while new crops such as olives and Caribbean-based fruits and vegetables are being developed as the population and consumer demand based on ethnic diversity broaden.
"So those kinds of trends and cropping patterns will continue to have a [changing] impact on what the likely amount of water is that is going to be needed for agriculture in five or 10 or 20 years," Budell said. "So it's more important than ever to work with our partners at the WMDs and University of Florida and USDA to track those trends and try to project estimates of agricultural water use and do a better job of managing the resource."
SouthLakePress.com – Editorial
January 1, 2014
It’s been more than a decade since the Florida Council of 100 recommended helping water-poor South Florida out by piping water from water-rich North Florida. The suggestion sparked outrage across the state, and after a series of Senate hearings around the state, the Council of 100 report was unceremoniously shelved.
A 2007 plan called for pumping up to 130 million gallons of water a day from the Ocklawaha River and piping it to thirsting greater Orlando through 500 miles of pipelines. The price of this project steadily rose until it hit some $800 million. Predictably, that plan met massive public pushback and, like the Council of 100 plan, was put in a drawer somewhere.
Well, here we go again.
The latest proposal to raid North Central Florida’s water supply comes from the Central Florida Water Initiative. CFWI is a consortium made up of the St. Johns River, Southwest Florida and South Florida water management districts, as well as representatives from 43 local and county governments in Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and southern Lake counties, plus a couple dozens utilities that serve those communities.
The water districts say metro Orlando has tapped out its groundwater pumping capacity. The aquifer has no more water to give, even though projections show the region will need 40 percent more water by 2035. Today, the CFWI territory has 2.7 million people and uses 800 million gallons of water per day. By 2035, an estimated 4.1 million people will live in the region and need 1.1 billion gallons a day.
So what’s the solution? Well, conservation is one thought, but water managers ridiculously argue there is not much more the people in Orlando can do to conserve water.
To no one’s surprise, the consortium is looking for “alternate sources” of water beyond the aquifer, namely surface water — lakes and rivers. Of course, the study found that most of the lakes and rivers in Central Florida — again, not surprisingly — are experiencing low flows and probably are not going to be of significant help without destroying them.
There is plenty of water available, however, in North Florida, especially the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers — or so the water experts say.
The CFWI needs to get serious about mandatory conservation and meaningful, tiered pricing to curb water usage in its region and begin investing in desalination before it looks to come here and drain our water supply dry, too. And that is precisely what will happen if the CFWI plan is carried out.
Notable in 2013
wet season :
Despite the current obstacles, I got a rare view of how water is still flowing south.
Contemporary "Good Question" -
Good Question: Why not send more Lake O water south ?
||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 ?
ABC-7.com - 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
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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