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Mountain Lake commits to community sustainability in partnership with Audubon International
Audubon Press Relase
May 31, 2014
Lake Wales, FL, May 31, 2014 --( Joining six other Florida communities pursuing certification through the Sustainable Communities Program, the private community of Mountain Lake is now working with Audubon International to become a leader in community sustainability.
Audubon International’s Sustainable Communities Program provides a path to certification, which ensures a community’s economic and social wellbeing are built on a sustainable natural environment. The program tools provide guidance for citizen-driven planning and community actions, facilitate partnerships with governmental agencies, businesses, and academic institutions, and help communities demonstrate success through establishment of measurable goals. Following this framework, Mountain Lake will take a comprehensive approach to community preservation and environmental protection.
“Communities that integrate principles of sustainability into policies and practices should be recognized for their leadership,” said Sustainable Communities Program Manager, Joanna Nadeau. “In cooperation with efforts at the Mountain Lake Golf Club in responsible stewardship, residents are working to implement environmental stewardship throughout the community. Through planning and implementation across a range of focal areas, Mountain Lake will ensure that it remains a great place to live in the future. This is the concept of sustainability, which Audubon International views as the foundation for quality communities of today and tomorrow.”
By joining and participating in the Sustainable Communities Program, Mountain Lake joins 13 other communities as members of the program, four of which have achieved certification. During the three stages in the certification process, Mountain Lake will complete an assessment, define a long-term community vision, choose sustainability indicators as a mechanism for fostering action and measuring success, and implement its plan. After completing a vision plan and reporting progress on chosen goals, members of Audubon International’s Sustainable Communities Program are eligible for certification and designation as an Audubon International Sustainable Community, which recognizes dedication to the process of becoming a sustainable community.
“Mountain Lake is pleased to be a part of the Audubon International certification program,” stated John L. Delcamp, Jr., Vice President and General Manager of Mountain Lake. “Noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. designed the original layout for Mountain Lake at the turn of the century, and our guests frequently comment that the community has the beauty and tranquility of a nature preserve. Our Board’s commitment to preservation, conservation, and quality are hallmarks of our club and community, and our ongoing partnership with Audubon is another measure of that success.”
Located an hour south of Orlando and east of Tampa, the Mountain Lake community is perched atop the Lake Wales sand ridge in central Florida. With their centennial anniversary coming in 2016, several generations of families have enjoyed this seasonal retreat for birdwatching, golf, and quiet lakeside living. The neighborhood was designated a historic district in 1993 because of a heritage that includes designer Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., mastermind of New York City’s Central Park and the Biltmore Estate. An organic garden available to residents is part of the community’s ethic to live in harmony with the ridge’s unusually large number of endemic plant and insect species. The golf course on site, Mountain Lake Golf Club, recently earned Audubon International’s Environmental Planning Award for its work towards certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
About Audubon International
Audubon International is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) environmental education organization dedicated to providing people with the education and assistance they need to practice responsible management of land, water, wildlife, and other natural resources. To meet this mission, the organization provides training, services, and a set of award-winning environmental education and certification programs for individuals, organizations, properties, new developments, and entire communities. Through the Sustainable Communities and Green Neighborhoods Programs, Audubon International works to help community leaders and stakeholders embrace environmental stewardship and sustainability as a central element of planning, policies, and practices.
For more information, contact Joanna at Audubon International at (518) 767-9051 ext. 124 or, or visit the website at .


US Congress

$2 Billion plan to restore Everglades stuck in Congressional limbo
National Geographic – by Jackie Snow
May 30, 2014
The plan aims to reverse much of the 20th-century draining of the Everglades.
In the 20th century the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drained much of Florida's Everglades to prepare the wetlands for development. At the dawn of the 21st century, Congress directed the corps to reverse much of that work and restore the Everglades to a more natural condition.
It's proving to be a very slow process.
Last week, the corps approved a central element of the restoration plan: a $2 billion series of engineering projects designed to collect water around Lake Okeechobee, in the center of the Everglades, and channel it south into the rest of the wetlands. The corps had hoped this Central Everglades Planning Project would be approved and funded by Congress quickly.
But Congress is operating on its own schedule. On May 22—the day before the corps took action—the Senate passed and sent to President Obama a bill funding water projects nationwide. Although it includes some money for the Everglades, it was passed before the Central Everglades Planning Project was finalized.
Now it could take years before Congress passes another water bill—it's been seven years since the last one—and projects that are critical to the restoration of Florida's famous swamplands could face long delays.
Proponents of restoration argue that more urgency is needed. Dawn Shirreffs, senior policy adviser for the Everglades Foundation, an advocacy group, hopes the corps's approval of the Central Everglades Planning Project will spark Congress to revisit the issue sooner.
The corps concurs. "We're at a key point for gaining and keeping momentum," says Kim Taplin, its Central Everglades branch chief.
A River of Grass
Florida's coasts were among the first places explored by Europeans in the 1500s, but the newcomers were reluctant to venture far into the seemingly endless, swampy interiors. The vast expanse of subtropical wetlands—the saw grass marshes, mangrove forests, and dense stands of tropical hardwood trees called hammocks—were not fully charted until the 1940s, long after the rest of the East Coast was mapped.
The idea to drain the Everglades was brought up as early as 1837. But it wasn't until the 1930s that engineers began a 40-year effort to build 1,800 miles of canals. That construction, mostly done by the corps, included projects that diverted water from Lake Okeechobee.
Named after a Creek Indian word meaning "big water," Lake Okeechobee was the heart of the Everglades. In the centuries before engineers arrived, the lake would flood its banks and the excess water would follow a gently sloping grade south in what is called a sheet flow.
This created a 60-mile-wide "river of grass" that became the iconic image of the Everglades.
But unpredictable flooding wasn't good for development. Lake Okeechobee was dammed in the 1930s, and canals were built to direct excess water to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic.
Land speculation came in waves, with developers putting ads in Northern newspapers touting South Florida's warm temperatures during the winter months. Buyers purchased swampy lots sight unseen.
Depleted Aquifers
The population in Florida, much of it concentrated in the south, swelled from two million before World War II to six million in 1965. The state prepared more new lots for homes in the 1960s than the rest of the country combined.
The draining worked too well. In dry years no water at all flowed south to the Everglades and the aquifers it replenishes. This includes the 4,000-square-mile Biscayne Aquifer, which serves as the main water source for much of South Florida.
As populations swelled and the Everglades diminished, salt water seeped into depleted aquifers. In the 1970s, after an especially dry year showed how precarious the water situation had become, Florida governor Reubin Askew said that the southern part of the state could become "the world's first and only desert which gets 60 inches of annual rainfall."
A 30-Year Plan
The fight to save the Everglades was already well under way by then. Marjory Stoneman Douglas, an activist and journalist, wrote in 1947 that the region was in its "11th hour." Douglas identified the wetlands as a unique place worth saving, not a wasteland to be paved over.
The activism of Douglas and others slowed development and allowed the creation of Everglades National Park, but the depletion of wetlands continued. One of every three Floridians relies on the Everglades for water, yet the wetlands today are half the size they were at the beginning of the 20th century, and they continue to dry up.
Concern has been growing. In the 1990s local residents, farmers, environmentalists, and people from hotels and other businesses involved in tourism banded together to help persuade Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers to act.
In 2000 Congress passed a 30-year plan to save the Everglades. It's the biggest and most expensive restoration ever attempted: a $12 billion scheme to backfill canals, create reservoirs, eradicate invasive species, and improve water quantity and quality in an 18,000-square-mile area that covers 16 counties, from Kissimmee to the Keys, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.
The project was lauded as proof that large-scale ecological damage can be reversed. But a 2012 study from the U.S. National Research Council pointed out that the first projects—including storm-water treatment plants and the redirection of a river to its original path—were addressing issues only on the peripheries of the wetlands.
So the corps, with input from a wide variety of groups, including environmental organizations, bass fishermen, and property owners, worked on a plan to restore the central part of the ecosystem.
The result was the Central Everglades Planning Project, which will redirect water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, backfill 19 miles of canals, and restore the sheet flow to one million undeveloped acres, among other things.
A Dire Situation
The project is considered more vital than ever, in part because another factor has gained importance in recent years: climate change, which poses a severe threat to South Florida's coastlines.
The latest National Climate Assessment report, on May 5, painted a dire situation.
Sea levels on Florida's coasts have risen five to eight inches since the 1960s. Canals built in Miami to discharge storm water to the Atlantic have been closed because the ocean would rush in if they were open. And Miami Beach floods during high tides when the moon is full.
Everglades restoration, by adding fresh water to the area, will help prevent salt water from intruding on the aquifers. The project will also stave off peat collapse (when normally damp soil dries out and loses volume), which lowers elevation and lets the ocean encroach inland.
Jayantha Obeysekera, the chief hydrological modeler for the South Florida Water Management District, calls the restoration "one of the best strategies for climate change and sea level rise."
A corps study shows that on a 50-to-100-year time line that takes into account climate change, land loss in South Florida will be up to 50 percent less with Everglades restoration than without it.
And the plan could still be tweaked to improve that ratio.
Conflicting Concerns
Eric Bush, the corps's policy chief overseeing the Central Everglades plan, said discussions are under way about how to reset priorities with climate change in mind.
But the discussions aren't easy, because different parties have conflicting concerns. Environmentalists want more water for the wetlands, for instance, but water also needs to be diverted to residential purposes to accommodate further growth.
If previous discussions on Everglades restoration projects are any indication, compromising on climate change will be tricky. "I like to say the Everglades is a full-contact sport," Bush says.
And as debate continues—in Florida and in Washington, D.C.—progress is excruciatingly slow. To date, only one of 68 projects listed in the overall restoration plan has been completed. Other work will proceed, but much of the restoration depends on future funding.
Congressman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, issued a statement that supported revisiting the water bill every two years.
"It is vital that Congress immediately begin work on the next [water] bill as promised," says Shirreffs, the adviser with the Everglades Foundation. "We desperately need authorization of CEPP to begin moving clean water south, to protect the Everglades and provide critical relief to the coastal estuary communities."


Collier tourism doing well in 2014, council reports – by Laura Ruane
May 30, 2014
Collier County's Tourist Development Council on Thursday got a glowing report on visitor trends for the first four months of this year.
Two Collier beaches star on Top 10 US list
"You have done extremely well," said Walter Klages, county tourism's statistical consultant and CEO of Research Data Services. Among the January-through April highlights:
• Estimated visitors using paid lodgings: 726,900, up 4.1 percent year-over-year.
• Estimated room nights: 995,300, up 2.7 percent year-over-year.
• Estimated economic impact: $851,948,901, up 10.8 percent year-over-year.
At the same meeting, the council endorsed spending up to $200,000 in bed tax money to help four nonprofit organizations with their marketing/special events campaigns in the next fiscal year.
The organizations and the amounts were: ArtsNaples World Festival, $25,000; Betterment Association of the Everglades Area/Everglades Seafood Festival, $25,000; The Holocaust Museum & Education Center of Southwest Florida, $50,000; and Golisano Children's Museum of Naples, $100,000.
The council also supported spending up to $125,000 in bed taxes for qualified expenses related to the National FBU Youth Football Championships in December, an event new to the area and which is expected to generate $2 million in visitor spending that month.
Collier County charges a 4 percent tax on short-term lodgings rentals.
Lee County has a bigger share of hotel rooms for bed tax collections than Collier County.
Lee County charges a 5 percent bed tax. For January through March:
• Lee County preliminary collections topped $14 million, for a 13 percent, year-over-year increase.
• Collier County scored a first quarter bed-tax total of more than $9 million, up about 15 percent, year over year.
Related:           Tourists showered Collier with boost in April            Naples Daily News


Deputy DEP secretary Jeff Littlejohn resigns
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
May 30, 2014
After three years of running the regulatory side of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn — son of veteran Florida Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Chuck Littlejohn — turned in his resignation Friday afternoon.
Littlejohn, a frequent target of criticism from environmental activists, said in his resignation letter that he was glad he had been able to reduce “unnecessary regulatory burdens” on Floridians by eliminating or streamlining hundreds of rules “without lowering environmental standards.”
He also said his staff of 1,250 had “significantly reduced the time it takes to make a permit decision” from 79 days in 2010 to 28 days this year.
Littlejohn, who earned $125,000 a year, said he would be pursuing a job in the private sector, but did not say what. Prior to being hired by DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. in March 2011, Littlejohn spent more than 10 years working as a consulting engineer getting state and federal permits for his clients.
In a memo to the staff, Vinyard hailed Littlejohn’s work at DEP, which he said “yielded tremendous performance gains for DEP and Florida’s natural resources.”
Littlejohn made headlines a year after his hiring when he ordered the agency’s top wetlands expert to approve a permit that she said would violate state law. When Connie Bersok refused, she wound up being suspended and investigated by the agency.
Later, during a legal challenge to the permit, a judge declared Bersok to be the only one giving credible testimony, and blasted Littlejohn and the DEP for creating a new approach “developed by the department and Highlands Ranch, without opportunity for public participation or input.”
Last year, when four of the agency’s attorneys who prosecuted rule violators were let go, one of them said Littlejohn was to blame. Although he was in charge of regulatory programs, “Littlejohn doesn’t like enforcement,” Chris Byrd said. “He doesn’t want the department to do any high-profile enforcement cases.”
Vinyard announced Friday that Littlejohn’s replacement will be Clifford D. “Cliff” Wilson III, who like Littlejohn worked at an engineering company prior to being hired at DEP at the start of Gov. Rick Scott’s term in office. In Wilson’s case, he was a project manager at Preble-Rish Inc.


Florida's Everglades National Park an ecosystem in distress
LA Times – by Amanda Jones
May 30, 2014
The first time I waded thigh-deep in the waters of the magical Everglades in south Florida, it seemed like nature's resting place, with an air of prehistoric tranquillity. Everything was still and heavy with humidity and unlike anywhere else I'd been. And yet even here in the U.S., Everglades National Park is on UNESCO's List of World Heritage in Danger.
The park is home to endangered plants and animals, including the manatee and panther. Yet humankind has drained, encroached, introduced nonnative species and developed the margins of the Everglades so that the entire area is half the size it was a century ago. Only a fifth of the Everglades ecosystem is protected by the national park, but even this land cannot be shielded from the effects of what happens around it.
For 60 years, the sugar industry has thrived on the borders of the park, siphoning off water. The fertilizer runoff and pollution from sugar cane and other agricultural operations have degraded the water quality, altering the ecosystem's plant and wildlife within and outside the park. The enormous housing growth and subsequent population boom in southern Florida have also placed huge demands on water supplies.
Everglades National Park is a prime example of the law of unintended consequences. Introduced species are a problem throughout the region, the most diabolical of which is the Burmese python. Owners often secret them into the park where they are released without a thought to their impact. They thrive — the park service website says more than 2,000 have been removed in the last dozen years, and park officials believe there could be more than 100,000 voraciously eating wildlife.
If more animal habitat is affected in the name of human progress, the world stands to lose the 70 to 100 Florida panthers left in the park; the green sea turtles that nest in its estuaries; the manatees that swim inland for warm water; and the wading birds that have lived here for millenniums and are now on the endangered species list.
Although the U.S. government has allocated funds to restore the Everglades park, including buying up surrounding sugar cane fields, improvement has been glacial. It's unlikely the Everglades will disappear entirely, but it is worth a trip to see the park now before the landscape is changed forever. "The wilderness," Clyde Butcher, a photographer and Everglades environmentalist, once said, "is a spiritual necessity."
Info: Everglades National Park,;


Moms tell EPA to ban Glyphosate after residues found in breast milk
30 May 2014
Washington, DC--(ENEWSPF)--May 30, 2014.  This week, a group of concerned mothers and environmentalists met with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials to discuss a recent pilot study that detected glyphosate residues in breast milk. Organized by Mom’s Across of America, which is seeking to stop the sale and use of glyphosate, the meeting underscored the limitations of EPA’s pesticide registration program in addressing the real-life impacts of pesticides on children and the concerns of mothers surrounding the dangers of glyphosate in particular. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, is the most widely applied herbicide in the U.S., with uses ranging from genetically engineered (GE) crops to lawn turf.
The meeting with Moms Across America, Beyond Pesticides, Consumes Union, Organic Consumers Association, other groups and EPA came after Mom’s Across America’s five-day phone call campaign urging EPA to recall Roundup. Participants in the campaign made close to 10,000 calls to the agency.
The pilot study, supported by Moms Across America, looked at ten breast-milk samples from across America. Three of the ten breast milk samples tests reveal high levels of glyphosate, meaning that the amount of glyphosate found is between 76 ug/l to 166 ug/l. The highest glyphosate level detected in a mother is from Florida (166 ug/l) and the other two mothers with “positive” results are from Virginia (76 ug/l) and Oregon (99 ug/l). While these levels fall under the EPA drinking water maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 700 ug/l, across the pond in Europe this range of exposure is 1,000 higher than what is deemed acceptable.
“This is a poison and it’s in our food. And now they’ve found it in breast milk,” said Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, in a Reuters article. “Numerous studies show serious harm to mammals. We want this toxic treadmill of chemical cocktails in our food to stop.”
The pilot study is groundbreaking in contradicting the chemical industry’s assertion that glyphosate has little to no potential to bioaccumulate. By showing that this chemical does build up in human bodies, the finding of bioaccumulation raises a critical issue that advocates say, at the least, must be addressed in glyphosate’s reregistration process and tolerance setting process for the chemical in milk. The study sample size is clearly limited, but the groups told EPA during the meeting that a new independent U.S. study of glyphosate levels in breast milk is planned this year.
According to an eNews Park Forest post, Zen Honeycutt noted that during the two hour meeting EPA “fully listened” to what the group said, and it even appeared that, “We have some people on our side.” EPA staff said that they would include the milk study in their review “when protocols are met,” Honeycutt said.
Glyphosate is currently under registration review, the process through which EPA reviews each registered pesticide every 15 years to determine whether it continues to meet the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) standard for registration. Glyphosate’s first Reregistration Eligibility Decision (RED) was finalized in 1993, before the explosion of GE herbicide tolerant crops. A final work plan for the reregistration process was published in 2009 and set a goal to have the final registration review decision finished by 2015. Although the agency expects to have a preliminary risk assessment completed late this year, these assessments have been chronically delayed in the past.
Last year, EPA raised the permitted tolerance levels for glyphosate residues in several commodities. Some of the allowable limits, or tolerances, more than doubled.
Beyond breast milk, there are multiple other health concerns over the continued use of glyphosate. A recent MIT study finds that glyphosate’s interference with important enzymes in the body can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Drinking water contaminated with Roundup can lead to congestion of the lungs and increased breathing rate, as well as kidney damage and reproductive effects. Increasing tolerances on glyphosate means not only higher dietary exposure but also more glyphosate use.
Currently, the only way to avoid eating food grown with harmful synthetic pesticides like Roundup is by eating organicFor this and many other reasons, organic products are the right choice for consumers. For more information on organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture program page.
Sources: Reuters,


Why flooding can't be prevented in South Florida
WLRN - by Lisann Ramos
May 30, 2014
There's a reason flooding is always a possibility when it storms in South Florida.
"Our flood-control system was built over 60 years ago to handle two million people. We now have almost eight million people," says Gabe Margasak, a public information officer for the South Florida Water Management District.
Because of this, in the past six years the District spent about $270 million in upgrades. 
The department says in most cases the flood system operates as it’s designed, but there are storms with more rainfall than the system can handle. That’s when we’ll see flooding. They also attribute flooding to other factors.
"In South Florida, especially places that are built up with concrete; these are places that historically the water would trickle into the ground and now you have a parking lot or road so there’s nowhere for the water to go," says Margasak.
According to the district, water levels are currently where they’re supposed to be for this time of year. But just like Florida weather, things can change fast.


McTeer Toney

Heather McTeer Toney
EPA South

EPA leader talks climate change, water rules – by Jennifer Kay
May 29, 2014
A shift in the political conversation on climate change will come from local communities seeking solutions, the Southeast EPA administrator says.
MIAMI – A shift in the political conversation on climate change will come from engaging local communities seeking solutions to the problems they’re already experiencing, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator for the Southeast said.
While some politicians remain skeptical or even silent on the issue, local communities understand the effects because they see them already in increased energy costs, crop production hit by rising temperatures, extreme weather events, rising sea levels and smaller fish catches, Heather McTeer Toney said Wednesday before touring a south Florida plant that processes waste into energy.
“The more people that we have engaged, whether or not it be high school seniors, whether or not it be PTA moms, whether or not it’s the local track club, farm workers, the people in the church — getting them to understand how important this is and embracing it then helps build the groundswell that moves it up the political ladder,” Toney said.
“What we’ve found is when we’re out in the field, people know and they’re ready to do something, and we’re here to support them,” Toney said.
Toney, the former mayor of Greenville, Mississippi, was appointed in January to oversee the eight states and six tribes that make up the EPA’s most populated region. Among her priorities for her swing through South Florida was seeking feedback on a proposed rule that seeks to clarify regulatory authority over the nation’s streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.
The rule proposed by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wouldn’t add any new waters, but it clarifies that seasonal and rain-dependent streams and wetlands near rivers and streams would be protected. Others waters would be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they affect the quality of downstream waters. The proposed rule also preserves exemptions already granted for agriculture.
Some Republicans in Congress have called the rule the government’s attempt at a water grab. Environmental groups have praised it for restoring protections that had been lost under Bush administration policies.
“We want to make sure the waters that we have that are clean stay clean, and the work that is ongoing in terms of really restoring some of our waters, that we’re able to continue that work effectively with everyone at the table,” Toney said.
The EPA and the corps will decide whether to adopt the rule after a 90-day public comment period ends July 21.


Everglades National Park takes climate change initiative
Miami Today - by Nina Lincoff
May 28, 2014
In order to get the message out, Everglades National Park has instructed staff to approach climate change in conversation with visitors and community members. 
Following a late 2010 strategy to respond to climate change, the National Park Service took a more aggressive stance when it came to communicating about climate change with guests and staff.
With about 300 million visitors per year, the park service is in a position to start a discussion about climate change. In September 2010, the service released its Climate Change Response Strategy, which detailed the ways parks across the country would respond to changing temperatures and rising seas, among other things.
Four categories are outlined in the strategy: science, adaptation, mitigation and communication. One of the easiest to handle is communication, said Larry Perez, science communications liaison for Everglades National Park.
“We were encouraged by our top brass in Washington for everyone in our organization to communicate internally… [and] to communicate outside the park to our visitor groups and to where our stakeholders are located,” Mr. Perez said.
At the height of its visitor season, winter, Mr. Perez estimates 60 staff members worked throughout the park. All were instructed to engage on the topic of climate change.
“We know that despite our very best efforts in mitigation and adaptation, the parks are going to change. There are some tough decisions to be made in the days ahead and we want to make people aware,” Mr. Perez said.
The park service has a four- to five-day formal training that focuses on communicating about climate change and other topics. Because volunteers and rangers have a bevy of programs and topics already under their belts, the tact the Everglades park service has taken toward climate change communication thus far is to address the topic in its existing programs, Mr. Perez said.
“What we really try to do with our volunteers and park rangers is have them tell visitors about the effects of climate change,” said Dan Kimball, who retired at the end of March as Everglades National Park superintendent. “We’re doing that at our visitors centers, trails. We’ve got a really life-changing experience [and we] try to weave climate change into that story as well,” he said.
Because the primary goal of most Everglades visitors is enjoyment and recreation, each volunteer and ranger judges the mood of each tour to see how receptive they might be to a discussion about climate change.
“The last thing we want to do as rangers is be Debbie Downer to them,” Mr. Perez said. “We’re very cognizant that visitors to the park are there for recreational [reasons],” he said.
In February however, Jonathon Jarvis, parks service director, took a stricter stance toward communicating about climate change in a policy memorandum.
Building on the 2010 strategy, each park and program should engage its staff, from maintenance and facilities workers to scientists, to share their stories with climates change, Mr. Jarvis wrote in the memo.
“It is important to do this – even when doing so is uncomfortable – so that they can spark discussion and inform choices,” Mr. Jarvis wrote.
Everglades volunteers and rangers are making a move toward facilitated dialogue instead of the traditional park tour data dump when addressing topics like climate change with guests.
“What we’re finding with climate change and these hot-button topics is that people have stuff to say, and if we give them the opportunity [to talk], it really gives them the opportunity to have that ‘ah-ha’ moment themselves,” Mr. Perez said.
On topics like climate change, he said, it’s easier as a park ranger and volunteer if, instead of trying to convince guests about the importance of considering climate change, they come to that idea on their own.



Rising sea levels will be too much, too fast for Florida
28 May 2014
It is amazing for me to see the very aggressive building boom underway in south Florida; on the beaches and barrier islands, throughout downtown and in the low western areas bordering the Everglades. They are building like there is no tomorrow. Unfortunately, they are right.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published its assessment of sea level rise in 2012 as part of the National Climate Assessment. Including estimates based on limited and maximum melt of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, it anticipated a raise of 4.1 to 6.6ft (1.25 to 2m) by 2100, reaching 2ft (0.6m) by around 2050 and 3ft (0.9m) by around 2075.
This degree of sea level rise would make nearly all the barrier islands of the world uninhabitable, inundate a major portion of the world’s deltas, upon which hundreds of millions of people live, and leave low-lying coastal zones like southeast Florida increasingly difficult to maintain infrastructure services for and increasingly vulnerable to hurricanes and storms.
Most models of projected sea level rise assume a gradual acceleration of sea level in line with gradually accelerating ice melt. But our knowledge of how sea level rose in the past paints a very different picture of response to climate change.
At the peak of the last ice age 18,000 years ago sea level was some 420ft (128m) lower due to the vast quantities of water locked away in continental ice sheets. Subsequent ice melt was not a gradual process, but rather a series of very rapid pulses of sea level rise interspersed with pauses in which coastal environments formed. During pulses the seas rose between 3-30ft (0.9-9m) fast enough to drown not just reefs, sandy barrier islands, tidal inlets and other coastal features, stranding their remnants across the continental shelf, now disappeared beneath the ocean.
The cracks are showing
That is what happens when climate change warms enough to destabilise some ice sheet sector. It rapidly disintegrates, resulting in a rapid rise. This is what is beginning to happen to the Greenland ice sheet, where surface melting has concentrated dust and black carbon in the ice on the melting surface darkening and further accelerating the surface melt.
More importantly, warmed ocean water has accelerated the ice melt at both poles, working its way into the glacial fjords under the ice sheet in Greenland and under the outlet glaciers around the Antarctic ice sheets. While this “warm” water is only 2-4°C, even this moderate heat is capable of vast amounts of ice melt, and once started, the melt creates positive reinforcing feedbacks that speed the acceleration far beyond anything originally anticipated.
Water on the melting ice surface adsorbs more heat which accelerates the surface melt. Meltwater percolating down through the ice lubricates the base permitting faster motion, which results in more extensive fracturing, in turn allowing more, warmer water through the fractures and into the interior of the ice sheet, and so on. We are most certainly witnessing the onset of a rapid pulse of sea level rise.
The view from above
Flying 50 miles over Greenland’s interior last summer, the Jacobshaven (or Ilulissat) Icefjord looked like the bed of a giant meandering stream carved on the surface of the ice. The bottom of the channel, some 500ft (152m) below the level of the ice sheet above was moving faster than than the ice above, having been penetrated by the warmed ocean water. As a result the ice has dramatically fractured and has accelerated, from moving a couple of miles in a year to over 20. A spectacular but most disturbing experience.
Even if we stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow, the greenhouse gasses already in the atmosphere will continue to warm the atmosphere for at least another 30 years. And as most of this heat has already been absorbed by the oceans, which have the capacity to store heat for centuries, the overall effect on ice sheet melt will continue for centuries, accelerating all the way. If we are at just 5ft (1.5m) rise at the end of the century, sea level will be rising at a foot per decade – think about trying to maintain a port facility anywhere with that.
Florida – here today…
To consider the risk in present investments is beyond sobering. By the middle of this century most of the barrier islands of south Florida and the world will be abandoned and the people relocated, while low areas such as Sweetwater and Hialeah bordering the Everglades will be frequently flooded and increasingly difficult places to live. Florida will start to lose its freshwater resources, its infrastructure will begin to fail, and the risk of catastrophic storm surges and hurricane flooding will increase.
Florida counties should be planning for their future to determine at what point the costs of maintaining functional infrastructure, insurance, and human health and safety becomes economically impossible. Already, there are areas and properties that will become unlivable within a 30-year mortgage cycle. The Four-county Compact on climate change in southeast Florida has some 1,200 action items to help ensure some stability for the communities there.
For south Florida, forget the levees and dikes. That may be fine for New Orleans and the Netherlands, but not here where the limestone and sand under our homes is much too porous and permeable. For each day action is put off, it becomes harder and more expensive to make the inevitable changes required. Without planning, there will come a point where society will collapse into chaos.


When it comes to saving Everglades, call him No-Show Rubio - Letter by Wayne A. Mills, Fort Pierce
May 28, 2014
Am I missing something, or has Sen. Marco Rubio totally divorced himself from the fight to help save the Everglades, and specifically The Central Everglades Planning Project?
How can he? And why would he avoid meeting his obligation to represent the people of Florida in this critical lifesaving initiative?
The Army Corps of Engineers fiddles while Rome burns. A critical opportunity to move this project forward is continuously met with some technical excuses as to why the Corps won’t make the timetable to be included in the current authorization of the Water Resources Development Act pending a vote in Congress next month.
Sen. Bill Nelson is working hard to help Florida get legislation passed that includes CEPP.
Meanwhile, Rubio apparently hiding out somewhere and shirking his obligation to represent the best interests of Florida.
Why? I can’t begin to imagine, unless it has something to do with his coziness with Big Sugar and his financial supporters from that business sector.
In any event, it’s clearly time Rubio stepped up to help. Time is running out. We need all of Florida’s congressional reps to strongly support this cause now.
My next letter is to President Barack Obama to fire the Corps of Engineers leadership, an oxymoron for sure, and put action-oriented leaders in place to get this job done and Save the Everglades and South Florida’s drinking water supply.



Scott in Oakland Park: "I'm not a scientist"
Miami Herald – by Amy Sherman
May 27, 2014
Gov. Rick Scott took his campaign pitch about small businesses to Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine restaurant in Oakland Park this afternoon.
Scott, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and other Republican leaders repeated familiar lines about how Florida’s economy and employment fared under Scott compared to rival Charlie Crist.
Here are some very similar claims that have previously been fact-checked by PolitiFact Florida:
* Scott’s claim that he cut taxes 40 times
* Jobs lost and rising unemployment under Crist
* Job growth under Scott
There was also a mention of Broward County’s 5 percent unemployment rate.
During the press gaggle after the event -- where a big sweaty crowd jammed into a stiflingly small spot -- Scott was asked about whether he believes in climate change.
Question by SharkTank blog: “Gov. Scott it's very hot in here. Does that have anything to do with global warming considering Charlie Crist’s position is that global warming exists. What is your take on global warming or climate change.”
Scott: “I’m not a scientist but we are going to make sure we take care of our environment.” Scott then talked about funding for the coasts, Everglades and springs but didn’t address climate change.
He faced similar questions about climate change at an event in Hialeah earlier in the day.
Related:           Rick Scott won't say if he thinks man-made climate-change is real ...  (blog)
Rick Scott awkwardly dodges questions about his climate denialism           Salon


Beating GMO cartels at their own game can create 200,000 good jobs in Florida, at NO cost to taxpayers - by Farid Khavari
May 26, 2014
Beating GMO cartels at their own game can create 200,000 good jobs in Florida, at NO cost to taxpayers.
(Speech by Farid A. Khavari at the March against Monsanto, Miami, May 24, 2014)
I have good news. There is a lot we can do to fight GMO right here in Florida. In fact, we have a huge opportunity to solve this problem in Florida, and to beat Monsanto and the GMO gangsters at their own game.
Folks, I am an economist. I see solving our biggest problems as opportunities to create jobs. The GMO food problem in America is an opportunity to create 200,000 good permanent jobs throughout Florida, at no cost to taxpayers.
Here is how this works for GMO.
People all over America are hungry for non-GMO foods, but there aren't many options at the supermarket.
In Florida we have vast areas of land that haven't been contaminated by GMO crops. We have a year-round growing season.
We can even make organic fertilizer from the algae that we can use to clean the runoff water flowing into our Everglades and rivers and estuaries. You can learn about that on our website.
Florida can lead the nation, and feed the nation--with non-GMO, organic foods, livestock and poultry grown by Floridians earning a living wage. We can process this food in Florida and sell it all over America, and even export to other countries.
People will pay a little more for certified non-GMO foods, and that will allow people to earn good wages for doing this important work.
We can get this ball rolling in Florida without spending taxpayer money. What we need is a governor to provide leadership, not just try to give away our tax dollars. We need a governor who will publicize and promote non-GMO foods from Florida, and organize demand across America for "Florida Non-GMO".
By the way, did I mention that I'm running for governor ?
Now, of course we need GMO labeling in Florida. But the gangsters will fight it every step of the way. If GMO is so good for us, why do they pay so much to hide it?
Monsanto alone spent over $8 million to defeat GMO labeling in California. But now Vermont and Maine stood up against big money and passed GMO-labeling laws. We can do the same in Florida.
However long it takes to get GMO labeling, we can have NON-GMO labeling right now. We just need the NON-GMO products to label! Even the GMO gangsters can't fight NON-GMO labeling. When more NON-GMO foods are available, demand for GMO products will decline.
As for GMO labeling, can put pressure on our state legislature and hope that something will happen in 2015, but we all know that Monsanto and friends can just spread around a few dollars and buy the right lapdogs to block it. So we need to use Direct Democracy. I will support and personally promote any ballot initiative on GMO labeling, so the people can do the job if the legislature won't.
The GMO situation is part of a larger story--big-money special interests taking over our government against the interests of the people. The corruption that greased GMO products through the FDA without real testing, that blocks GMO labeling, and protects the monopoly of the GMO gangsters, only costs them a few million dollars, while they make billions, and threaten our health, too.
Now folks, I have always spoken out against corruption of government at all levels by big-money special interests such as Monsanto and the GMO gangsters, and the politicians who take their money. This corruption costs us billions of dollars every year just in Florida.
What most people don't realize is that corruption has cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs in Florida, too.
When Florida's 4 million seniors are forced BY LAW to overpay billions per year to the pharmaceutical cartels that is the same kind of corruption, brought to us by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Republicans and Democrats exempted the fracking companies from the Clean Water Act and allowed them to pump millions of gallons of secret toxic chemicals that are already showing up in people's water. That's the same kind of corruption.
Closer to home, look at your property insurance bill, hundreds of dollars too much and going up every year. Look at your light bill! The power companies and insurance companies spend a few million buying Florida politicians, and we pay billions extra every year. The list goes on.
Our politicians have sold us out time and again to greedy big-money special-interest scumbags. We all know it, don't we? And we keep re-electing them. Why?
The Republicans and Democrats aren't even real political parties any more. They are service companies for big-money special interests. They are two sides of the same coin.
The first step to fix this situation in Florida is to elect an independent governor, who doesn't work for big-money special interests. As an independent, I will work with both parties to promote legislation that will benefit the people of Florida. And I will veto any legislation that favors special interests over the interests of the people. No Republican or Democrat will do that, and we all know it.
If you are ready for an independent governor with the guts to stand up to big money and the political cartels, and the heart to stand up FOR the people, here I am.
I hope you'll visit our website and learn about other ways to create a million good jobs at no cost to taxpayers, while solving Florida's problems--the high costs of interest, insurance, health care, and much more. See my positions on important issues like medical marijuana. Then tell your friends, and I hope you all vote for me, and for Amendment 2.
Let's all take heart. We can have hope for the future. Americans are waking up and they're getting angry at last.
If a bunch of Yankee snow bunnies up north can stand up to the GMO gangsters and win, so can we!
I would be proud to help lead the fight for GMO labeling and against pay-for-play politics in Florida.
And I would be proud to lead Florida to feed America non-GMO and organic foods and put 200,000 of our friends and neighbors to work for decent pay.
Thank you for having me here and thank you for standing up to Monsanto and the GMO gangsters today !
Farid A. Khavari, Ph.D., is a noted economist and independent candidate for Florida governor. He is the author of 10 books, including the 1993 classic Environomics -- The Economics of Environmentally Safe Prosperity and Toward a Zero Cost Economy (2009). His Economic Plan for Florida includes job creation, cleaning up our water, improving healthcare quality and availability for everyone while reducing costs by 30% or more, reducing college costs, interest cost on mortgages and student loans, and more, all at no cost to taxpayers.
This plan is explained in detail at



Corps OKs release of final report for Central Everglades Project – USACE Press Release
May 26, 2014
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, is one step closer to finalizing a report on the Central Everglades Planning Project after receiving unanimous approval to release the document for state and agency review in the next few weeks.
This milestone was achieved today at the Corps’ Civil Works Review Board (CWRB) in Washington D.C., which served as the follow-up meeting to the April 22 CWRB that determined additional time was needed to complete the policy assessment of the report. The extra review time was taken to ensure consistency with legal requirements, Corps policies, and administration priorities. The board concluded that the final report is ready to be released for state and agency review after their recommended revisions are incorporated into the report. It is anticipated that the report will be released in the next few weeks.
“We now have a report that’s ready to move forward with state and agency review,” said Col. Alan Dodd, Jacksonville District commander. “I’m sincerely grateful for everyone’s patience and continual support as we worked on our assessment. CEPP is moving forward and we remain committed to delivering a quality final report that is ready for congressional authorization.”
The state and agency review will begin once the board’s recommended revisions are incorporated into the report and are coordinated with the local sponsor, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD). It is anticipated that this will take between 4-6 weeks to complete. Once the report is updated, a notice will be published in the Federal Register, starting the 30-day state and agency review period. Comments and responses during the review will be incorporated into the final report and the Chief of Engineers Report, also known as a Chief’s Report, will be finalized for signature. The signed Chief’s Report will then be submitted to the administration for review. Based on this timeline, it is anticipated that the final Chief’s Report will be submitted to Congress this summer.
“We have made great progress with this report, but there’s still more work to be done before it’s ready to be submitted for congressional authorization,” said Dodd. “Our goal is to deliver a completed Chief of Engineers report by this summer following state, agency and administration reviews. We’re on track to deliver the final report this summer, in less than three years since the study initiated, and we remain dedicated to achieving this goal.”


Fat, happy African crocodile flourished in Florida's Everglades: officials
NY Daily News – by Nicole Hensley
May 26, 2014
Nobody knows where the lone West African crocodile captured in March came from, but it had a belly full of fish and was growing fast in the muggy Everglades National Park.
Wildlife experts are stumped by a gluttonous West African crocodile captured a long way away from home in the moist swamps of Florida.
A DNA test proved the five-foot-long reptile captured alive by authorities on the edge of the Everglades National Park in March did not escape a nearby breeder, reported the Orlando Sentinel.
The croc flourished in the muggy marshes and had a belly full of fish, Frank Mazzotti, a crocodile expert and professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Florida, told the Sentinel.
“It found a place where it could be fat and happy, and that’s not good,” Mazzotti said.
Even though the critter was on the small side, it was growing fast and authorities initially believed it was the dangerous Nile crocodile, a predator known for attacking and gobbling up hundreds of people a year in Africa.
It’s likely a West African crocodile — Crocodylus suchus — a beast frequently mummified and stashed in Egyptian tombs as an offering to the god with a crocodile head, Sobek.
The crocodile is likely not an invasive threat to the Everglades habitat, but Mazzotti believes there might be another one lurking in the swamps.


Desal Plant

Desalination plants
are expensive but
may be necessary

How oceans can solve our freshwater crisis
CNN - by Brandon Griggs,
May 26, 2014
(CNN) -- It's been a cruel irony for ancient mariners and any thirsty person who has ever gazed upon a sparkling blue ocean: Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink.
But imagine a coastal city of the future, say in 2035. Along with basic infrastructure such as a port, roads, sewer lines and an electrical grid, it's increasingly likely this city by the sea will contain a newer feature.
A desalination plant.
Thanks to improved technology, turning ocean water into freshwater is becoming more economically feasible. And a looming global water crisis may make it crucial to the planet's future.
The United Nations predicts that by 2025, two-thirds of the world's population will suffer water shortages, especially in the developing world and the parched Middle East. Scientists say climate change is making the problem worse. Even in the United States, demand for water in drought-ravaged California and the desert Southwest is outpacing supply.
This is why a huge desalination plant is under construction in Carlsbad, California, some 30 miles north of San Diego. When completed in 2016, it will be the largest such facility in the Western Hemisphere and create 50 million gallons of freshwater a day.
"Whenever a drought exacerbates freshwater supplies in California, people tend to look toward the ocean for an answer," said Jennifer Bowles, executive director of the California-based Water Education Foundation. "It is, after all, a seemingly inexhaustible supply."
A growing trend
Most desalination technology follows one of two methods: distillation through thermal energy or the use of membranes to filter salt from water.
In the distillation process, saltwater is heated to produce water vapor, which is then condensed and collected as freshwater. The other method employs reverse osmosis to pump seawater through semi-permeable membranes -- paper-like filters with microscopic holes -- that trap the salt while allowing freshwater molecules to pass through. The remaining salty water is then pumped back into the ocean.
Officials at the Carlsbad plant say they can covert two gallons of seawater into one gallon of freshwater by filtering out 99.9% of the salt.
There are some 16,000 desalination plants on the planet, and their numbers are rising. The amount of desalted water produced around the world has more than tripled since 2000, according to the Center for Inland Desalination Systems at the University of Texas at El Paso.
"Desalination is growing in arid regions," said Tom Davis, director of the center. "We are making progress in the USA, but the countries around the Persian Gulf are way ahead in the use of desalination, primarily because they have no alternative supplies of freshwater."
Israel, in an arid region with a coastline on the Mediterranean, meets half its freshwater needs through desalination. Australia, Algeria, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also rely heavily on the ocean for their municipal water.
In the United States, desalination projects are concentrated in coastal states such as California, Florida and Texas.
Some environmentalists are wary of desalination, which consumes large amounts of energy, produces greenhouse gases and kills vital marine organisms that are sucked into intake pipes.
But proponents believe the technology offers a long-term, sustainable solution to the globe's water shortages. One entrepreneur has even built an experimental solar desalination plant in California's San Joaquin Valley.
"When other freshwater sources are depleted, desalination will be our best choice," said Davis, a UTEP professor of engineering.
California dreaming
Within the United States, the water crisis is especially severe in California, which has been stricken by drought over the last three years.
California's biggest source of freshwater is the snow that falls in the Sierras and other mountains, where it slowly melts into creeks and makes its way into aquifers and reservoirs. But if the planet continues to grow warmer, snow will increasingly fall as rain and will be harder to collect because it will swell creeks faster and create more flooding, said Bowles of the Water Education Foundation.
Seventeen desalination plants are being built or planned along the state's 840-mile coastline. City officials in Santa Barbara recently voted to reactivate their desalination plant, which was built in 1991 but shut after heavy rains filled nearby reservoirs in the early 1990s. Another $200 million facility has been proposed for the Bay Area, although construction won't likely begin for several years.
"The key question with ocean desalination is how much are you willing to pay for it? The amount of energy required to desalt ocean water can be daunting," said Bowles, adding that operating costs at the Santa Barbara plant alone are estimated at $5 million per year.
But advocates believe the price of desalination will continue to decrease as the process improves. This will be true of the massive Carlsbad plant, said Bob Yamada, water resources manager with the San Diego County Water Authority.
"The cost for this water will be about double what it costs us to import water into San Diego," Yamada said. "However, over time we expect that the cost of desalinated water will equal, and be less than, the cost of imported water. That may take 15 or 20 years, but we expect that to occur."
Ultimately, experts say, municipalities will need to balance desalination projects with conservation and water from more traditional sources, such as rivers, reservoirs and recycled wastewater.
"You can't get all your water from one source and have that source be hundreds of miles away," said Peter MacLaggan, senior vice president at Poseidon Resources Corporation, which is leading development of the Carlsbad plant.
"When and if the drought does come, and you don't have enough snowpack in the Sierras -- after 12 dry years the Rockies are seeing the impact of that today -- you've got (water) sources here within the boundaries of San Diego County," he said.
"We have a $190 billion economy in this region. It's dependent on water to sustain that economy. So the question you need to consider, is 'What's the cost of not having enough water ?'"


Time for Rick Scott to take climate change seriously
May 26, 2014
This blog is a guest post written by Kristin Jacobs and Cindy Lerner and was originally published in Florida’s Sun Sentinel on May 23, 2014 and can be viewed here if you have a subscription to the paper.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released the 2014 National Climate Assessment, an important report analyzing the potential impacts of climate change on the U.S. and its territories. As South Florida elected officials, we are particularly concerned with the findings in the section, the “Southeast and the Caribbean,” which was authored by leading experts from the University of Florida, the South Florida Regional Planning Commission, the South Florida Water Management District, and Florida Atlantic University. Here’s what we found troubling: “Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to both natural and built environments, as well as the regional economy.” “Rising temperatures and the associated increase in frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme heat events will affect public health, natural and built environments, energy, agriculture, and forestry.” “Decreased water availability, exacerbated by population growth and land-use change, will continue to increase competition for water and impact the region’s economy and unique ecosystems.” The report found the southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean — an area that’s home to more than 80 million people, including several major metropolitan areas right here in Florida — is “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, and decreased water availability” caused by climate change. For example, Miami and Tampa are among the cities at risk from sea-level rise, with areas around Miami-Dade County facing the loss of thousands of acres of farmland and increased risk of flooding. Another potential adverse impact of climate change on Florida is an increased number of extreme heat events, contributing to a deterioration in air quality, a rise in hospital admissions, an increase in respiratory illnesses and even fatalities. In addition, increased water temperatures caused by a warming climate could result in “harmful algal blooms and several disease-causing agents in inland and coastal waters,” damage to coral reefs, more rapid spread of non-native plants, reduced dairy and livestock production, drought and wildfires and many other problems. There’s also the potential for stronger storms and more incidences of extreme weather. All of these impacts could be damaging, even devastating, to states like Florida. That is why we need to take strong action immediately to mitigate their effects. We should start with sources of carbon pollution, the largest of which is coal-burning power plants, and also includes transportation. After all, we limit how much arsenic, lead and mercury power plants can emit. It is time we stop allowing power plants to dump unlimited carbon pollution into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency will soon propose carbon pollution standards for power plants. Our state needs a plan for meeting them. Here in Florida, fortunately, we are blessed with tremendous solar power potential. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Florida ranks third in the nation for solar potential. Let’s face it, we’re not known as the “Sunshine State” for nothing. Despite this, Florida is ranked just 18th for installed solar capacity, in large part because our state’s solar policies lag far behind many other states. For instance, as SEIA points out, Florida “has no renewable portfolio standard and does not allow power purchase agreements, two policies that have driven investments in solar in other states.” As elected officials, we’re doing what we can to address the tremendous challenge of climate change. But frankly, this problem cannot and will not be solved at the local level alone. We also need action at the state and national levels. That is why we are calling on Gov.Rick Scott to read this report, take its warnings seriously, and tell us his plan for meeting the EPA’s carbon pollution standards. As Florida’s top elected official, it’s time for Gov. Scott to address the challenges we face from climate change, to devise a plan to deal with it, and to work with elected officials across the state to get the job done. There’s no time to waste.
Cindy Lerner is Chair of the Miami/Dade County League of Cities and Mayor of Pinecrest.Kristin Jacobs is the Commissioner for District 2, Member of the White House’s National Climate Preparedness and Resilience Task Force.


Something is wrong with the water on the Treasure Coast
CBS 12 News - by Harrison Barrus
May 25, 2014
MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- There is something in the water on the Treasure Coast.  That something is fecal matter at dangerous levels.
Health officials advise not to get in the water where bacteria has spread from Palm City to Fort Pierce.
Not good news for tourism on a busy Memorial Day weekend.
“Everyone wants to go in the water but you can't go in because of all the bacteria--if you have any kind of cut it gets under your skin and it's a big ordeal," said fisherman Chris Longo.
Dead oysters are a reminder of the plague of toxic algae.  Water quality was improving but now, feces is forcing people out and boaters are fed up, especially on a weekend designated for fun in the sun.
"It's gone on way too long, it affects a lot of people, a lot of people," said resident Wayne Jablonski. Something is wrong with the water on the Treasure Coast


Corps of Engineers approves $1.9B Everglades plan
Associated Press
May 24, 2014
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved a $1.9 billion plan for central Everglades restoration projects, after weeks of criticism over its review process.
Environmentalists had hoped the Central Everglades Planning Project would be included in a federal water projects bill that now awaits President Barack Obama's signature. It's been seven years since the last water projects bill, and Everglades advocates worry that the slow pace of restoration will stall in congressional gridlock.
The Miami Herald reports ( ) that after the Senate approved the water bill Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wrote Assistant Army Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy and blamed the corps for missing the opportunity to include the plan.
Corps officials in Washington approved the plan Friday. It now goes to the South Florida Water Management District for review.


Army signs off on central Everglades plan
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
May 23, 2014
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday belatedly approved a $1.9 billion suite of restoration projects targeting the central Everglades after enduring weeks of criticism from both environmentalists and lawmakers.
The revised plans, originally conceived as a way to speed up Everglades restoration, now go back to the South Florida Water Management District for review.
Last month, the Corps’ Civil Works Review Board surprised state officials and environmentalists when it balked at signing the plan, upsetting a tight schedule needed to get the six projects in a national waterworks bill that Congress approved this week and forwarded to the White House. In the days leading up to the review, lawmakers including Gov. Rick Scott, water managers and environmentalists argued that missing the deadline in a chronically gridlocked Congress could indefinitely jeopardize the work. Congress last approved a water resources bill in 2007.
After the Senate voted Thursday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wrote Assistant Army Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy, pointedly blaming the Corps for derailing the project.
“Because of your agency’s inability to approve the Central Everglades Planning Process (CEPP) in a timely manner, the project did not receive Congressional authorization,” Rubio wrote before urging the Corps to approve the plan Friday.
At the Friday meeting, Corps officials asked for parts of the plan to be clarified, Corps spokeswoman Jenn Miller said in an email. Specifically, she said, the Corps wants to ensure that work contained in the larger Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and designed to clean pollution from water is completed before the Central Everglades work, which will move water to the parched southern Everglades and Florida Bay.
“It’s a positive step forward, but at the same time there’s a new layer of frustration with the additional time that has now been tacked on,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon Florida’s director of Everglades policy. “The bottom line is still that this project is supposed to be an example of how to do things faster.”


$12.3B Water Bill awash in rare bipartisan effort
The Fiscal Times - by Eric Pianin
May 23, 2014
The Senate on Thursday put the finishing touches on a $12.3 billion water resources authorization bill – marking one of the few tangible things Congress has done so far this year to try to boost the economy and create jobs. We won’t know for some time,   however,  how much economic good it will do.
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act authorizes 34 water projects, ranging from the management of flood risks in Minnesota and North Dakota to environmental restoration in Louisiana to dredging the Boston Harbor.
Related: Spending on Infrastructure Now Generates Long-Term Jobs Later
Congress committed $6.7 billion of a $10.3 billion hurricane protection project along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast, by far the largest investment authorized in the new legislation for waterways and navigation pathways. There are billions more in the bill for the Sabine Neches Waterway in Texas and Louisiana, Chesapeake Bay improvements in Maryland, and Everglades restoration in Florida.
The Senate voted 91 to 7 Thursday afternoon to approve the bill and send it to President Obama. On Tuesday, the  House approved the massive public works legislation by a similar overwhelming vote of  412 to 4 after six months of tough negotiations between the House and Senate.
It’s worth noting that the bill merely authorizes new projects and keeps a few other old ones going. It will be up to the House and Senate Appropriations committees to decide how portions of the overall authorization will be divvied up each year. Moreover, while the bill provides reassurance to state governments, local communities and the construction and engineering industry that Congress is behind their most important waterway and environmental restoration projects, there’s no way of knowing for sure what the long-term economic benefits will be.

10 Largest Water Navigation and Restoration Projects
(Cost includes federal and state funding)

Louisiana – Morganza to the Gulf Hurricane Protection Project

$10.3 Billion

Maryland – Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island

$1.9 Billion

Minnesota-North Dakota – Fargo-Moorhead Metro Flood Management

$1.9 billion

Louisiana  -- Coastal Area

$1.6 billion

Maryland --  Poplar Island Restoration

$1.23 Billion

Texas-Louisiana  -- Sabine Neches Waterway

$1.1 Billion

Mississippi  -- Coastal Improvement Project

$1 Billion

Georgia – Savanah Harbor Expansion

$706 million

California – Sutter Basin 

$688.9 million

Florida -- Central and Southern Florida project / Everglades Restoration

$626 million

Source: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee

Related: Cities Face Costly Projects to Cope with Climate Change
Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the Senate Environment and Public Works committee chair, predicted the water legislation would “directly support approximately 500,000 jobs” and sustain the millions of jobs that depend on our water transportation system. 
Proponents stress that the economic benefits will go well beyond creating construction jobs because the navigation and waterway projects will enhance this country’s competitive edge in international trade by improving and expanding U.S. ports. With the expansion of the 50-mile Panama Canal to be completed in 2015, the U.S.must prepare for larger ships passing through and making calls at U.S. ports.
However, Jimmy Christianson, director of government affairs for  Associated General Contractors of America, said after the Senate vote, “It’s hard to calculate how many jobs this bill will exactly support.”
Related: 700,000 Jobs at Risk If Highway Trust Fund Falters
“It’s easy to throw out large numbers [of jobs], but backing them up is always a different story,” he said in an interview. “I would say, though, that this legislation helps provide a lot of certainty to the markets. They know at least that there are projects out there.”
He added, “If you’re a construction company in the Louisiana area, you know you’re going to have a chance to do work” for a major project on the Gulf Coast. “It provides more certainty.”
The bill’s passage marked a rare display of unanimity on Capitol Hill. While election-year partisan gridlock has seemed to preclude action on immigration reform, the extension of long-term unemployment insurance or an increase in the minimum wage, there’s clearly bipartisan appetite for the approval of major public works, infrastructure and environmental restoration projects – especially in light of recent hurricanes, flooding and the recent brutal winter.
Congress still must deal with legislation to reauthorize spending for federal highway, bridge and mass transit projects before  the Highway Trust Fund is exhausted this summer. The Obama administration said recently that failure to avert a bankruptcy of the trust fund could mean delaying about 112,000 roadway projects and 5,600 transit projects – and cost the economy as many as 700,000 construction jobs within the next year.
Related: American Infrastructure Gets a New Wakeup Call
In recent years,  Congress has clamped down  on old-fashioned pork-barrel spending on locks and dams, waterway improvements and flood control projects under the aegis of the Army Corp of Engineers, which  supervises these federally funded improvements. However, leaders of the  House and Senate committees with jurisdiction boasted that the projects included in the new Water Resources Reform and Development Act survived tough reviews. In the process, they  jettisoned $18 billion worth of dormant   projects that had been approved before 2007 but no longer measure up.
The bill’s authors – Boxer and House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) – contend   that it does  more to rein in spending than any previous water bill, while helping  the economy and the environment.
“This is a great day for the United State Senate . . .  for jobs, for business, for eco-system restoration, for our oceans,” Boxer said before the final vote. “It’s a great bill.”
“This legislation is about jobs and our country’s economic prosperity,” Shuster said earlier in unveiling the compromise package.
Some conservative and government oversight organizations have criticized the measure. They assert the bill doesn’t curb spending enough, according to the Associated Press. The bill represents “specifically the sort of parochial-based, politics-laced decision-making process that the current earmark moratorium was meant to guard taxpayers against,” Russ Vought, Heritage Action’s director of grass-roots outreach, wrote. And the seven votes against the bill came from Republicans, among them Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who said the bill is “full of unnecessary and unwanted projects.”
Related:           34 Projects Authorized by Water Legislation ABC News
Critical Water Resources Legislation Passes Full Congress   Dredging Today

Army Corps review panel OKs project to ease Lake Okeechobee releases
TCPalm - by Tyler Treadway
May 23, 2014
An Army Corps of Engineers review panel on Friday gave unanimous approval to the Central Everglades Planning Project, a major step in advancing the proposal to move some Lake Okeechobee water south instead of to the St. Lucie River estuary and Indian River Lagoon.
After getting the stamp of approval from the Civil Works Review Board in Washington, D.C., the project known as CEPP now will go through another review period before final approval in the corps Chief’s Report.
CEPP is designed to move some, but not all, of the polluted Lake O water dumped into the St. Lucie and the Caloosahatchee River estuary, moving it south to the Everglades. The $1.9 billion cost is to be split 50-50 between the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers.
“We now have a report that’s ready to move forward with state and agency review,” Col. Alan Dodd, the corps’ commander in Florida, said in a prepared statement. “I’m sincerely grateful for everyone’s patience and continual support as we worked on our assessment. CEPP is moving forward and we remain committed to delivering a quality final report that is ready for congressional authorization.”
The report had been delayed when the review panel declined to approve CEPP at its April 22 meeting, saying more time was needed to be sure it meets legal requirements, corps policies and priorities.
The panel’s action comes too late for CEPP to be included among other projects in this year’s federal Water Resource Development Act. The House of Representatives approved the legislation Tuesday and the Senate followed suit Thursday. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.
The next water project bill is scheduled to be considered by Congress in two years.
In an effort to speed up the process, language was inserted into this year’s bill allowing the South Florida Water Management District to begin work on CEPP as soon as the Chief’s Report is approved, which is expected this summer.
However, Blake Guillory, the water district’s executive director, told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers on Wednesday CEPP isn’t high on the agency’s priorities.
Guillory noted that CEPP includes “six or seven individual projects with 40 or more pieces in them. There are pieces of CEPP we can move forward sooner rather than later, and in two or three years we’ll be at the point where we can really look hard at CEPP. ... Three years from now we may say, ‘This piece of CEPP needs to be done now; let’s do it.’ ... And who knows ?  By that time a (water) bill may pass that has CEPP in it.”



Everglades restoration project needs more work but got preliminary approval today
Palm Beach Post - by Laura Green
May 23, 2014
An internal review board at the Army Corps of Engineers called for as much as six weeks more work on the details of a massive Everglades restoration plan. But the Civil Works Review Board voted its preliminary approval, assuming the paper-pushing will go smoothly.
Advocates were infuriated last month when the review board refused to approve that plan, ensuring the project would not be included in the water bill approved by Congress this week.The review board decided there were too many details unresolved at the April meeting.
Now that the project has missed the Congressional window, it is unlikely to be approved until two years from now, under the most optimistic scenario.
The last water authorization bill was passed in 2007, and the one before that was approved in 2000. Members of Congress have committed to returning to an era in which such bills are considered every other year.
Advocates still hope that something can be done to fast track this project, meant to increasing drinking water, decrease the need for polluting discharges and bring water to starving parts of the Everglades.
Major General John Peabody opened this morning’s meeting with a reference to the board’s decision in April: “This body is not a rubber stamp.”


The Florida Everglades: A new frontline for fracking ? - by Julie Dermansky, DeSmogBlog Report
May 23, 2014
Pamela and Jamie Duran of Naples, Fla., had not spent much time worrying about fracking. Like most Floridians, they'd been repeatedly told it couldn't happen there. Until it did.
Texas-based Dan A. Hughes Oil Company recently used a form of "enhanced extraction," which fits the description of fracking, in Naples, the gateway to the Everglades. The drilling took place in the Sunniland Trend, an underground limestone formation with an oil reserve stretching from Fort Myers to Miami.
The Durans were aware there was oil in the area, but the realtors who sold them their house seven years ago never mentioned the possibility of new drilling. Not far from them, on Oil Well Road, is a park where Florida's very first oil derrick is on display with a historic plaque.
Instead of enjoying their retirement and working in their shared art studio, the Durans are learning all they can about oil drilling and fracking and are doing everything they can to stop it.
"This is so stressful. It's like living with a dark cloud over your head. You never know what they will do next," Pamela told DeSmogBlog.
They joined a group of concerned citizens spearheaded by retired school teachers and social justice activists Karen and John Dwyer and are trying to stop new oil drilling in the Everglades.
The Durans' battle began after they received a letter from Total Safety, a company hired by Dan A. Hughes to develop an emergency evacuation plan. They were asked to provide contact information and answer an array of personal questions. Pamela called the phone number on the letter for more information.
She says a representative of Total Safety told her Hughes plans to drill a well 1,000 feet away from her home and there could be a hydrogen sulfide explosion or gas leak.
Pamela was so shocked that she called the police.
"They didn't know anything about it," she says. "The fire department, they didn't know about it. I asked at a Collier County Commission meeting. Nobody knew anything. So I called the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who told me Hughes had not yet applied for a permit yet, but they will be drilling by October."
On May 2, the state suspended all of Hughes' drilling operations in southwest Florida until further review after the company allegedly ignored a Department of Environmental Protection request.
The ban stems from Hughes' application for a workover order on the Collier-Hogan well.
"The company proposed to inject a dissolving solution at sufficient pressure to achieve some openings in the oil bearing rock formation that would be propped open with sand in pursuit of enhancing oil production," according to Dee Ann Miller, spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Protection.
The department requested the company not move forward until an additional review could be performed.
"However on Dec. 31, 2013, the department became aware that the workover procedure had commenced, without approval," Miller told DeSmogBlog. "As a result, a cease and desist order was issued and the department immediately pursued formal enforcement."
The company was fined $25,000 for defying the order.
Aerial footage of the Collier-Hogan well site shows oil on the ground and on top of tanks. This has led some industry insiders to speculate that something went wrong.
Dan A Hughes didn't respond to a DeSmogBlog inquiry about oil on the tank tops at the drill site.
Dee couldn't say what went wrong, but wrote DeSmogBlog, "I can tell you there has been no blow out at the Collier-Hogan well, nor any known or reported casing or cement failure."
She suggested: "The source of the oil on what you refer to as the tanks in the picture I could only reasonably speculate as being from the loading of oil into the tanks which is loaded from the top".
Hughes has denied allegations of fracking.
Instead of using water mixed with chemicals to create fractures, as is common in fracking, the company was using acid, David Blackmon, a spokesman for Dan A. Hughes Co., told the Tampa Bay Times.
"We plan to fully perform the well monitoring and other actions required in the Consent Order and are already in the process of doing so," the company said in a statement. "We are confident the results will show that our operations at the Collier Hogan site are safe, and that the ground water was not impacted by our operations."
The Dwyers and the Durans raise concerns about public safety ranging from potential health impacts to lack of an evacuation plan to traffic concerns. The drilling is also happening in the endangered Florida panthers' habitat and the Collier-Hogan well, now shut down, is next to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a 5,000-year-old-forest with the last remaining old growth cypress trees in the world.
"Drilling three miles deep through all our fresh water aquifers in the Big Cypress Swamp watershed is not safe," Karen Dwyer wrote in a letter urging the state to deny the drilling permit next to the Durans' home.
"If something goes wrong, the watershed that feeds the Picayune Strand State Forest, 10,000 Island National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park could all become contaminated."
"There are only between 100 and 160 Florida panthers remaining, making them the most endangered mammal in North America, perhaps in the world," Alexis Meyer, spokesperson for the Sierra Club's Florida panther critical habitat campaign, told DeSmogBlog. "Telemetry data clearly identifies a tremendous amount of panther activity in the area Hughes has proposed to drill, including den sites. Previous statements by the Dan A Hughes Company that no panthers have been found on the property is a blatant lie."
Florida State Senator Dwight Bullard (D) was made aware of the situation a year ago by concerned citizens. He supports his constituents' efforts to stop fracking.
"The idea you green-light a permit even though you have such a public outcry — and the outcry in essence means nothing to the permitting process — screams lack of democracy. When residents in a community don't want something to happen and they feel as though they have no say so, anyone who calls himself a public servant should be appalled," he told DeSmogBlog.
Bullard describes the existing drill site and the proposed site next to the Durans' home as "too problematic," pointing out the proximity to Big Cypress Swamp watershed, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, the Everglades Restoration area, the water supply which affects 300,000 people and the porous limestone geology. He described the site as the "absolute worst area to begin a drilling project in the history of drilling projects."
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) also weighed in earlier this month.
"We cannot tolerate expanded industrial drilling activities that pose a threat to the drinking and surface water so close to the Florida Everglades, one of the world's great environmental treasures," he said.
Last week the tide began to change in Naples. After the Collier County commissioners learned that Hughes had not only disobeyed state orders, but also may have contaminated the water supply, they voted unanimously to challenge the consent order and petition the state to revoke the permit.
Karen Dwyer was elated but warns the Everglades are not out of danger yet. Collier recently leased an additional 350,000 acres for seismic testing.
The battle against enhanced drilling and fracking in Florida continues, with concerned citizens the leading the way.


The world would not be the same without Everglades National Park – by Mary Plumb
May 23, 2014
The world would not be the same without Everglades National Park! That is not just the opinion of millions of people from all over the world who love the park. It is also solemnized through five prestigious international designations that few areas receive. Everglades National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1976, a World Heritage Site in 1979, a Wetland of International Importance in 1987, a World Heritage Sites in Danger in 1993, and a Specially Protected Area under the Cartagena Convention in 2012.
These international designations honor an elite few areas in the world and demonstrate the special place the park holds in worldwide reverence. The park received these international designations for several reasons, among them being that it contains “outstanding universal values of benefit to humanity.” Pretty heady stuff.
Everglades National Park Is Exceptional - “Excepcional!”
Obviously all national parks are special, so what’s so exceptional about Everglades National Park? It is the largest national park east of the Rocky Mountains and the third largest in the lower 48 (second only to Yellowstone and Death Valley). Everglades National Park was established due to its unparalleled biological diversity (unlike other national parks set aside due to their majestic scenery). Congress recognized the park’s benefit to the people in preserving the ecological functions and integrity of a representative portion of the original Everglades watershed. (The Everglades watershed is widely known as the “Greater Everglades Ecosystem,” and starts at the headwaters of Lake Okeechobee. The lake originally overflowed south through sawgrass to Florida Bay, hence the title, “River of Grass.” This area consists of 18,000 square miles. Everglades National Park is at the southern end of this watershed, and is approximately 2,400 square miles. Many people use the term “Everglades” without clarifying which area they are talking about, so sometimes clarification is needed...)
Everglades National Park Is …Mostly Wilderness “sobre todo desierto”
All national parks are protected areas; but not all receive another layer of permanent protection through wilderness designation. In 1978, Congress set aside 86 percent of the park as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness. Spanning the southern tip of the Florida peninsula and most of Florida Bay, Everglades National Park is the only subtropical wilderness in North America.
Wilderness designation preserves essential primitive conditions including the natural abundance, diversity, behavior, and ecological integrity of the area’s flora and fauna. As America’s subtropical wilderness, it is a mosaic of unparalleled diversity. It provides refuge for fourteen endangered and nine threatened species, such as the manatee, crocodile and Florida panther. It is known for its rich wildlife, particularly large wading birds, and is the only place in the world where both alligators and crocodiles coexist.
The park has also been cited for being the most significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America and containing the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere.
World Heritage Site -“Patrimonio de la Humanidad”
Based on this history of protective layers as a national park and then as a designated wilderness, it is no surprise that Everglades National Park was among the first to be inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites. This demonstrates the importance, for all the peoples of the world, to safeguard the park as a unique and irreplaceable property unlike anywhere else in the world!
World Heritage Site in Danger– “Patrimonio Mundial en Peligro”
Everglades National Park is also recognized as the most threatened U.S. national park, due primarily to hydrological alterations upstream in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. This has disrupted downstream water flow into the park with serious ecological consequences. In 1993, at the request of the United States government, the park was inscribed on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger. The park is working with partners on every level of government to implement restoration strategies and eventually remove it from the World Heritage Endangered List.
Also a Magnet for Tourism– “Te Amo, el Parque Nacional Everglades!”
These five international designations elevate Everglades National Park’s prominence and provide another important layer of special protection: “International Biosphere Reserve,” “World Heritage Site,” “Wetland of International Importance,” “World Heritage Site in Danger,” and “Specially Protected Area under the Cartagena Convention.”
These international designations are also a magnet for tourists from all over the world who love the Everglades! Part of the great fun for visitors is hearing many different foreign languages being spoken! Statistics are not broken down by originating countries, but as an international magnet for tourism, 1,141, 906 visitors came in 2012, who spent approximately $103 million in nearby communities, supporting 1,402 jobs in the local area. That’s international designations really “hitting home!”
The world would not be the same without Everglades National Park! We hope you will come and see for yourself. Join the chorus of voices from all over the world saying (in their own language), “I love you, Everglades National Park!”
• French - JE T'AIME, Parc national des Everglades
• German - ICH LIEBE DICH, Everglades National Park
• Haitian Creole - MWEN RENMEN OU, Everglades National Park
• Italian- TI AMO, Parco nazionale delle Everglades
• Portuguese - EU TE AMO, Everglades National Park
• Spanish- TE AMO, el Parque Nacional Everglades
Mary Plumb is a Public Affairs Specialist at Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks


Two Thrips for possible biological control of Brazilian peppertree
Entomology Today
May 23, 2014
The invasive Brazilian peppertree has supplanted critical habitat for many organisms. In Florida, the peppertree has infested nearly 700,000 acres and has been particularly abundant in the Everglades. In general, the trees take over space where native plants should be. Animals such as white-tailed deer, the Florida panther, and migratory birds that depend on native vegetation for food and shelter are deprived of that habitat.
“This can have cascading effects through the food chain,” said Bill Overholt, an entomology professor at the University of Florida’s Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
Although scientists have not come up with a specific cost for Brazilian peppertree eradication efforts, the South Florida Water Management District estimates it spends $1.7 million per year to control the invasive tree. Herbicides are sometimes used to kill Brazilian peppertree, but researchers are looking for environmentally friendlier biological agents to permanently suppress growth and reproduction of the tree.
Recently, University of Florida and USDA researchers brought two populations of thrips (Pseudophilothrips ichini Hood) — tiny insects that often feed on plants — from Brazil to Florida laboratories, where they were tested for temperature requirements, reproductive ability, and their plant impact. The UF and USDA research was recently published in the journal Biocontrol Science and Technology.
Both thrips feed on the Brazilian peppertree, but scientists found that one from Ouro Preto was more cold-tolerant than a thrips from farther north in Brazil. They predict the insect will thrive in Florida, where temperatures sometimes dip below freezing, which is only slightly colder than the insect is used to.
“The idea of biological control is to reunite these highly specialized natural enemies with their host plant, in this case Brazilian peppertree, to help reduce plant densities in the invaded area,” said Veronica Manrique, a UF senior biological scientist and lead author of the study. “We are also working with two other natural enemies, a psyllid and a defoliating weevil, which should further reduce Brazilian peppertree growth and reproduction in Florida.”
The scientists will now seek permission to release the thrips into areas where the Brazilian peppertree is growing. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will review the joint UF/IFAS and USDA petition for the thrips’ release, Overholt said. That agency typically takes 1.5 to two years to decide whether an insect is safe to use as a biological control agent.
“If we get this far, we will release the thrips at several locations in south and central Florida, initially mostly on public lands, because that’s where the problem is biggest,” Overholt said. “If we have success here, I’m sure folks in Hawaii and Texas will want to introduce the insect. Eventually, there may also be interest in other areas of the world, such as Australia.”
Read more at:
- Comparison of two populations of Pseudophilothrips ichini (Thysanoptera: Phlaeothripidae) as candidates for biological control of the invasive weed Schinus terebinthifolia (Sapindales: Anacardiaceae)
- Brazilian Peppertree


Rising seas

When will coastal property values crash and will climate science deniers be the only buyers ? - by Joe Romm
May 23, 2014
The latest scientific observations provide strong evidence we are headed toward the high end of sea level projections. And we already knew that devastating storm surges will become routine on the East Coast.
This raises the question: What year will coastal property values crash?
I first posed the question five years ago. Back then we were getting a bunch of studies suggesting sea level rise in 2100 would be 3 to 6 feet. Since then the evidence for that has become even stronger.
Just this month, multiple studies found that both the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) and Greenland are poised to continue their accelerating ice loss, with WAIS apparently now in a state of irreversible collapse. This in turn has led top climatologists and glaciologist to warn that we are headed toward the high end of sea level rise projections this century and beyond.
What does that mean for coastal property ? As a National Geographic article on the subject last year put it:
In a state exposed to hurricanes as well as rising seas, people like John Van Leer, an oceanographer at the University of Miami, worry that one day they will no longer be able to insure — or sell — their houses. “If buyers can’t insure it, they can’t get a mortgage on it. And if they can’t get a mortgage, you can only sell to cash buyers,” Van Leer says. “What I’m looking for is a climate-change denier with a lot of money.”
South Florida will likely be ground zero for the coastal property collapse. As a 2013 Rolling Stone explained, the region suffers from “two big problems.” First, it has “remarkably flat topography. Half the area that surrounds Miami is less than five feet above sea level.”
So even with a mere three feet of sea-level rise, “more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone.” In short, half of southern Florida could be gone in a century. Jeff Goodell explained in Rolling Stone:
Even worse, South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. “Imagine Swiss cheese, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like,” says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means water moves around easily – it seeps into yards at high tide, bubbles up on golf courses, flows through underground caverns, corrodes building foundations from below. “Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here,” says Robert Daoust, an ecologist at ARCADIS, a Dutch firm that specializes in engineering solutions to rising seas.
Harold Wanless, chair of University of Miami’s geological sciences department, has said last year, “I cannot envision southeastern Florida having many people at the end of this century.”
I wrote in 2009 that coastal property values won’t wait to (permanently) fall until sea levels have actually risen 4 or 5 feet:
Coastal property values will crash when a large fraction of the financial community and of opinion-makers — along with a smaller but substantial fraction of the public — realize that it is too late for us to stop 4 to 5 feet of SLR.
Further, if we don’t get on the sustainable sub-450-ppm path soon, then people will quickly come to understand that SLR will continue at a rapid pace post-2100: “Wanless believes that it could continue rising a foot each decade after that.” And that would make protecting most coastal property very, very difficult and expensive.
Of course, we haven’t hit that critical mass of knowledge yet. If we had, the world would be engaged in a massive, desperate effort to avert catastrophe. But the attention given recent observations of WAIS and Greenland instability — even the New York Times pointed out this could lead to “enough sea-level rise that many of the world’s coastal cities would eventually have to be abandoned” — suggests we are closer to the tipping point then people realize.
Certainly the price crash is unlikely to happen over just a 12-month time period — so perhaps the better question is, What year will U.S. coastal property values peak?
I tend to think the peak comes some time in the 2020s.
The peak will probably be linked to one or more major climate disasters of a kind that I enumerated in “What are the near-term climate Pearl Harbors ?” Note that the growing fear of a hurricane damage has already been made getting new insurance for coastal homes in places like Long Island difficult. On top of that, the latest research suggests that the strongest hurricanes are occurring more frequently.
And superstorm Sandy demonstrated that sea level rise coupled to a strong super storm can lead to unimaginable coastal destruction. New Jersey in particular has mindlessly proceeded with almost a blanket policy of rebuilding, as Gov. Christie rejects any contribution of climate change to the devastation.
But what would happen if there was anything comparable to Sandy in the next couple of decades ? It’s hard to believe we’d have the same kind of coastal rebuilding — especially since the science makes clear such storm surges are going to become commonplace around midcentury. Same if there were a Sandy-level storm surge that hit the Miami area.
As for who will be the buyers of coastal property by the end of the 2020s, it won’t be the smart money, who will long since have divested themselves from assets that like fossil fuel companies that will inevitably be devalued once the world figures out failure to act on climate change is simply not an option.
I suppose the buyers will be the remaining hard-core deniers and/or the super-rich who want to keep the view and the beach-front as long as it lasts, people who can afford to simply let their investment disappear with the rising tide. Sadly, there appears to be a significant overlap between those two groups.


Climate change—right here at home – by Randy Schultz
May 22, 2014
Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera spends his workdays finding out how to keep South Florida from having too much water in the wrong place.
For roughly the last six years, Obeysekera (“Dr. Obey” to co-workers) has been the South Florida Water Management District’s point person on climate change and sea level rise. Mainly, that means helping cities keep saltwater from penetrating underground drinking water supplies and assisting local governments in protecting key services from flooding.
Like Florida Atlantic University civil engineering professor Frederick Bloetscher, whom I quoted previously on this subject, Obeysekera believes that Boca Raton, Delray Beach in particular and Palm Beach County in general, face less of an immediate threat than Broward and Miami-Dade counties. The land, Obeysekera says, is between 5 feet and 6 feet higher. Also, the main aquifers—underground reservoirs—are less porous in this area than they are farther south. That feature makes it harder for saltwater, which is pushing farther inland as seas rise, to penetrate drinking water well fields. Salt water is slightly heavier than fresh water.
But also like Bloetscher, Obeysekera warns against complacency. “We have to think how we will adapt over the next two or three decades,” he said. “Even a rise of just 6 inches can make a big difference.”
As Congress remains frozen on this issue, however, Obeysekera points to the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, which includes Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. In October 2012, the group produced a report setting out goals for everything from reducing the emission of greenhouse gases that cause global warming to easing the effects of higher sea levels caused by that warming. The counties also produced a 42-page plan for meeting those goals by 2017. The documents aren’t exactly page-turners, filled as they are with references to “stakeholders,” but they offer hope of avoid the worst-case scenarios from, say, storm surges during hurricanes.
Indeed, Boca Raton in particular and Florida in general have more interest and more potential involvement in finding solutions to the effects of climate change than most parts of the country.
One small solution is for cities to add what planners call “transit-oriented development,” which means clustering homes near rail lines, to reduce commuting and thus emissions from cars. Boca Raton made this a goal years ago, and other coastal cities hope that Tri-Rail one day can move its trains to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks that run through most downtowns.
A large solution is for power companies to use cleaner fuel. Every analysis concludes that coal-fired power plants—the main energy source in China and some larger developing nations—emit huge amounts of greenhouse gases. Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility with roughly 4.6 million customers, generates only about 5 percent of its electricity from coal. Very soon, almost 70 percent will come from natural gas, which also is a fossil fuel but emits roughly half the amount of carbon dioxide compared to coal.
Few aspects of climate change policy, though, are easy. FPL is pushing ahead with plans for two new nuclear plants south of Miami. The company, which hasn’t made a final decision, touts the fact that nuclear power emits no greenhouses gases. True, but the plants would be very expensive—perhaps $20 billion—and would create more nuclear waste, for which Congress still has not developed a national storage plan.
Locally, the focus will remain on water. Obeysekera praises Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties for their efforts on water conservation. Boca Raton was an early advocate of using treated wastewater for irrigation, even as people worried aloud that they could get sick from sprinklers at Mizner Park. Bloetscher says that for Boca, Delray and other coastal cities another issue will be “access”—to roads and sewer systems during floods.
“Dr. Obey” does not minimize the challenge, but he also is not a pessimist. With enough effort in the right places, Boca Raton and the state can rise to the challenge of rising seas.


Closely regulate oil drilling near Everglades
Sun Sentinel – by Editorial Board
May 22, 2014
It might surprise you to know Florida is in the midst of an oil and gas boom. Our state currently has 162 oil and natural gas wells. And in the past five years, the state Department of Environmental Protection has approved 37 new drilling permits.
Close to home, the big draw is the Upper Sunniland Trend, which runs from just east of Naples into parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties. This tract of land is believed to hold 29 billion gallons of oil.
Problem is, this tract also holds the Everglades, South Florida's primary source of drinking water.
And now, a Texas-based firm stands accused of exceeding its permit and engaging in a drilling practice the state has specifically prohibited: fracking.
Since World War II, Florida has allowed traditional drilling techniques to unearth oil. However, companies increasingly want to use more modern techniques, primarily horizontal directional drilling, which works on an angle to reach previously unattainable spots.
But now we learn there's also a push toward fracking, a mining technique that injects water, sand and other chemicals into the ground under high pressure to fracture rock and release natural gas or oil. While the technique has shown great commercial promise, it's also carries great environmental risks, including groundwater contamination. And given that the Everglades is South Florida's water lifeline, the danger is clear.
But what exactly constitutes fracking?
The Dan A. Hughes Co., a Texas-based firm, asked DEP for permission to use a mix of highly pressurized sand and chemical gel to prop open fractures deep beneath Collier County. However, the company said it planned to use an "acidic treatment," rather than the chemicals typically associated with fracking.
DEP balked, and told the company to hit the pause button pending further review. The Hughes Co. didn't comply. Instead, around the turn of the new year, it proceeded with unapproved injections, according to DEP records.
"It is very troubling that they would flagrantly engage in a practice the DEP had specifically prohibited," Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board. "I think it reinforces the need for the Legislature to think proactively about under what circumstances they would allow it, and what the disclosure requirements should be."
Give DEP credit. When the department discovered the violation, it used its resources to address the infraction and possible risks to the environment.
The agency imposed a $25,000 fine, the highest penalty allowed by law. It also required the company to devise an interim spill-protection and clean-up plan, plus hire an independent expert to monitor for possible environmental damage.
Still, given what's at stake, the small fine represents a slap on the wrist.
State lawmakers should give the agency better tools to regulate drilling. Raising the fine would be a start. Also, companies should be forced to be transparent about what chemicals are being used.
The Hughes Co. is bullish on oil exploration in Florida. The firm has several wells, including one a few miles from Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and another near the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. It's also seeking federal approval to store toxic wastewater from drilling near the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Hughes spokesman David Blackmon insists company's operations won't hurt the environment, but his assurances have failed to calm concern. The Collier County Commission is asking the state to cancel the company's drilling permit, and members of Florida's congressional delegation have asked the U.S. Department of Interior to investigate.
Like the nation, Florida is a growing state that needs a variety of energy sources — from oil and natural gas, to nuclear and renewable alternatives, such as wind and solar. While no one disputes the need for further energy exploration to achieve our nation's goal of energy independence, the Hughes Co. case shows the need to proceed with care.
Amid Florida's energy boom, DEP made a loud and clear statement about the importance of environmental protection. But to protect our quality of life, the agency needs better tools, specifically harsher penalties and stronger disclosure requirements.


Protect the environment first
Palm Beach Post - Point of View by Drew Martin, Lake Worth, FL
May 22, 2014
We need to set our priorities to protect Florida’s environment first. We cannot produce a strong Florida economy that ignores Florida’s environment.
South Florida is pressed with a number of crucial decisions that could have a negative impact on our future.
One is the decision to move forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. This trade agreement, which is being negotiated with a number of our Asian trading partners, is strongly opposed by the Sierra Club. It should not be passed in a fast-track vote that denies members of Congress the right to modify the agreement.
TPP also has some very problematic items in it, including something called “investor-state resolution.” This means a corporation or group of investors can litigate any sovereign government and ask for damages. In the Sierra Club’s opinion, this basically eliminates national governments and replaces them with international corporate-controlled courts.
During this same period, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to produce a Chief’s Report on the Everglades, thus eliminating significant funding on the Central Everglades Planning Project. In order for this project to make it into current legislation for funding, the Chief’s Report needed to be completed last month. We now must wait for the next funding bill that could be years away, or hope Congress changes its funding rules. During wet years, the Indian River Lagoon, Caloosahatchee River area and the Lake Worth Lagoon are bombarded with filthy water. CEPP is the first step to remedy this problem.
The Army Corps is approving plans to dredge our ports, dynamite reefs and destroy sea grasses. This is being done to enhance Florida’s trade. But it is sacrificing our beaches and environment. The beaches suffer when deeper ports push sand away from its natural flow south and out to sea. Beaches than have to be filled with poor quality dredged sand to compensate for the loss of natural sand.
How do these decisions relate? They relate because we have lost sight of what is important. We are being told that trade will solve Florida’s economic problems, while we let our environment be destroyed. We need to go back to the basics and protect the Everglades, our beaches and reefs, and turn down TPP.



South Florida Water Management District wins state Supreme Court decision
Palm Beach Post
May 22, 2014
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday sided with the South Florida Water Management District in a battle about the extent of evidence needed to impose financial penalties on a land developer.
The court’s unanimous decision stemmed from the district’s allegations that Osceola County landowner RLI Live Oak, LLC, had been involved in unauthorized dredging and other activities, such as filling wetlands, without getting district approval.
A circuit judge ruled in favor of the district and awarded it $81,900 in civil penalties.
But the 5th District Court of Appeal reversed that ruling, saying the district should have been required to prove the violations by “clear and convincing evidence” — a tougher test than what is known as a “preponderance of the evidence” standard.
Then the Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Jorge Labarga, overturned the appeals court Thursday.
“When the Legislature statutorily authorizes a state governmental agency to recover a ‘civil penalty’ in a ‘court of competent jurisdiction’ but does not specify the agency’s burden of proof, the agency is not required … to prove the alleged violation by clear and convincing evidence, but rather by a preponderance of the evidence,” the Supreme Court opinion said.
The district, based in West Palm Beach, is responsible for ecosystem restoration, including the Everglades, flood control and water supply in 16 counties between Orlando and Key West.


Advocates want more frequent federal water bills
Associated Press – by Jennifer Kay
May 21, 2014
MIAMI -- Environmental advocates hope Everglades restoration won't have to wait another seven years for a federal water projects bill like the one expected to clear Congress this week.
The House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) on Tuesday, and the Senate could vote on it later this week.
The bipartisan legislation authorizes over $1.8 billion for four Everglades projects, along with 30 other water projects nationwide. It's been seven years since Congress last considered a similar bill.
When a massive, multibillion-dollar Everglades restoration plan was approved in 2000, Congress took up water projects bills every two years. Few of the roughly 60 projects originally included in that plan have been authorized for federal funding.
Some of the original projects have been absorbed into a $1.9 billion Central Everglades Planning Project that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing. Environmental advocates had hoped it would be included in this water projects bill so that it wouldn't languish for years without authorization.
The advocates say the lag between authorization bills and federal bureaucracy in project planning forces the state to shoulder more of the funding burden up front and keeps Everglades restoration to incremental progress.
"In order to have more things to work on, we needed this bill," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, director of Everglades policy for Audubon Florida.
"There has to be a more efficient way of doing things," she added.
In general, the state and the federal government each pay half the cost of Everglades restoration projects.
The state hasn't sat idle during the yearslong wait for authorizations for federal funding, though. Two projects included in the current bill — coastal wetlands along Biscayne Bay and a plug to an existing canal that keeps water from seeping out of Everglades National Park — already have been completed, and now the federal government will kick in its half of the costs.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan doesn't need to readjust its goals to restore Florida's iconic wetlands over 30 years, said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.
"We don't have to do anything with the plan. We need Congress to get back to regular order," he said.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., has said he wants to see lawmakers consider water projects bills every two years, as they did in the 1980s and 1990s.
Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., whom Shuster selected for the Conference Committee to work with the Senate to finalize the bill, said he's looking forward to working on the next water projects bill next year. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., said she believes there would be bipartisan support for similar bills every two years. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., also supports including Everglades restoration in more frequent water projects bills.
"One would hope that the support would continue to be there for restoration projects because there are many more projects that have to be done," said Randy Smith, spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District, which leads Everglades restoration efforts for the state.


US Congress

Congress appears set to OK money for four Everglades projects - by Kevin Wadlow
May 21, 2014
Four major Everglades restoration projects that will help fresh water reach Florida Bay made the cut in a federal bill expected to be approved by Congress.
A joint committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate last week published its final version of the Water Resources Development Act that authorizes nearly $1 billion for Florida cleanup projects.
The bill has not passed yet but committee approval indicates passage is "virtually" certain, according to a statement from Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's office.
"These are major Everglades projects that would be very beneficial to improving the ability to store water and clean water, which are some of the keys for Everglades restoration," said Gabe Margasak of the South Florida Water Management District, the state's lead agency on Everglades restoration.
The closest project to the Florida Keys is a $197 million effort called Biscayne Bay Coast Wetlands Phase I, which will redistribute freshwater runoff away from existing canals and into the coastal wetlands along Biscayne Bay.
A small pilot program at the Deering Estate on Biscayne Bay already has produced significant and positive results for the ecosystem, Margasak said.
The federal bill references a Florida Keys project; however, that basically expands the ability Monroe County to apply for projects in future funding. No additional Keys funding was authorized.
Other projects in the WRDA, like funding for the western C-111 spreader canal and a large water-holding areas covering about 10,000 acres in Broward County, benefit the southern Everglades and Florida Bay by increasing the flow of fresh water through the natural system, said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Everglades policy manager for Florida Audubon.
"Ultimately, it's one of biggest steps forward the Everglades has seen in about seven years," Hill-Gabriel said. "But we're still disappointed the Central Everglades Planning Project is not in the [Water Resources Development Act] bill."
The Central Everglades project covers a number of projects costing an estimated $1.9 billion to improve water flow near Lake Okeechobee, and prevent fresh water from being carried out to sea.
That project hit a snag in late April when a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers review panel said the project's 8,000-page report was not ready for final approval. The Corps committee, the Civil Works Review Board, meets Friday in Washington, D.C., to consider the Central Everglades project again.
Conservationists sorely wanted the Central Everglades project in the current water bill but that appears impossible, Hill-Gabriel said. That could provide incentive for Congress to increase the pace of Water Resource action, she said, possibly fashioning a new bill by 2016.
"A lot of other big-ticket items major did not make it into the bill, either," Hill-Gabriel said. ""We're calling on Congress to come through with that process."


Everglades backers want more federal work
Associated Press – by Jennifer Kay
May 21, 2014
MIAMI - Environmental advocates hope Everglades restoration won't have to wait another seven years for a federal water projects bill like the one expected to clear Congress.
The House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act on Tuesday. The Senate could vote on it later this week.
The legislation authorizes four Everglades restoration projects, along with 30 other water projects nationwide. It's been seven years since Congress last considered similar legislation.
When a massive Everglades restoration plan was approved in 2000, Congress took up water projects bills every two years. Just a few of the roughly 60 projects originally included in that have been authorized for federal funding.
Environmental advocates say lawmakers need to keep promises to consider these authorization bills more often to quicken the pace of Everglades restoration.


National landmarks threatened by climate change - by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
May 20, 2014
Climate change is putting historic and cultural landmarks around the USA at risk, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a non-profit science advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.
"Sea-level rise, coastal erosion, increased flooding, heavy rains and more frequent large wildfires are damaging archaeological resources, historic buildings and cultural landscapes across the nation," says the report, "National Landmarks at Risk."
The report, which was not a peer-reviewed study, includes 30 at-risk locations, including places where the "first Americans" lived, the Spaniards ruled, English colonists landed, slavery rose and fell, and gold prospectors struck it rich.
Locations include the Statue of Liberty; Jamestown, Va.; the Cape Hatteras (N.C.) Lighthouse; and the Kennedy Space Center.
"You can almost trace the history of the United States through these sites," says Adam Markham, director of climate impacts at UCS and report co-author.
Sea levels already have risen 1-2 feet across portions of the East and Gulf Coast, USA TODAY reported last year, and global sea levels will rise about 1 foot to slightly more than 3 feet by 2100, according to this year's Fifth Assessment Report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
During the past 20 years, the sea level along the 620-mile Atlantic coastline north of Cape Hatteras, N.C., has risen up to four times faster than the national average. (Photo: AP)
Many at-risk sites are national parks, including Mesa Verde, Bandelier, Cape Hatteras and the Everglades. According to the National Park Service, 96% of park service land is in areas where global warming has been observed in the past century.
Each year, millions of tourists visit national parks and other historic sites, benefiting local and national economies, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. National parks alone generate more than $27 billion in the economy, according to a USA TODAY analysis last year.
According to the UCS report, one historic site — Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the Americas —will likely be underwater by the end of the century.
The Kennedy Space Center and surrounding Cape Canaveral area in Florida, site of the Apollo launch, are threatened by storm surges that regularly breach dunes near the launch pads. Efforts to restore and protect the dunes have been undone by subsequent storms.
In the West, climate change is increasing the risk of large wildfires in places such as California's Sierra Nevada, the report says. Across the region, wildfire season lasts two months longer than in the 1970s.
Cultural resources in the Southwest have been hit by intense, large-scale wildfires that often are followed by flooding.
"During the last decade and a half, massive fires have swept through Mesa Verde National Park and Bandelier National Monument and other southwestern sites, damaging ancient pueblo masonry, petroglyphs and pottery," Markham says.
"This report certainly echoes findings from an array of different peer-review studies and is very consistent with the challenges confronting our national security installations," says J. Marshall Shepherd, a University of Georgia atmospheric scientist who was not involved in the report.
"Remember, most naval facilities, like many of these national treasures, are at or below sea level," Shepherd says.
Related:           128 more articles. Some titles:
National Landmarks Defenseless against Climate Change    Nature World News
Many landmarks threatened by climate change          Herald Times Reporter
National Landmarks around the World Threatened by Climate Change       Design & Trend
Scientists warn climate change threatens National Landmarks          Wisconsin Gazette
United States' Cultural Heritage At Risk Due To Changing Climate            RedOrbit
Climate Change Threatens Iconic National Parks


Power from ocean currents 24/7 - Pilot project plan - At source of Gulf Stream in Florida
Science 2.0 – by Robert Walker
May 20, 2014 
We are surrounded with an abundance of clean energy, if we only had a way to harness it it. Most people probably know about solar energy, that we would only need to harness a tiny fraction of it to power the entire world (e.g. the Sahara desert has eighteen times the surface area needed to power the entire world).
However, solar power is intermittent, even in deserts, with day night cycles. Wind also is unpredictable. Tidal power is intermittent also. Hydro power on the land is limited - and also often has environmental impact because of the need, usually, to dam a river to get it.
  Ocean currents
The Gulf Stream runs continuously year in and year out. They could be an important part of our energy mix in a sustainable clean energy future for the planet, taking over from other 24/7 load power sources like oil and coal. For instance, a thousandth of the energy from the gulf stream could supply 35% of the energy requirements of Florida.
Florida is where the gulf stream "starts", and has a tight ocean current, good place for a pilot scheme in subsurface ocean currents.
Other places where ocean current energy could be a valuable part of the energy mix include places with shallow waters and sea lochs.
Here in Scotland, not far from where I live, we have the falls of Lora where Loch Etive pours into the sea, sometimes quite a spectacle.
There are rapid tides that move clockwise and then anti-clockwise around the islands depending on the tide - and strong currents in the English Channel also. Though they are intermittent, because of the complex coastline then different parts of the coast have currents at different times of day - though as they are tidal currents would be strongest at spring tides. It's not quite the 24/7 of the Florida current - but you can well see them filling in gaps in solar and wind power coverage for the base load.
Other places with strong tidal currents include UK, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Philippines, parts of the US, 
Sea water is 832 times as dense as air, providing a 5 knot ocean current with more kinetic energy than a 350 km/h wind.
According to the Ocean Energy Council, "Ocean currents are one of the largest untapped renewable energy resource on the planet. Preliminary surveys show a global potential of over 450,000 MW, representing a market of more than US$550 billion.".
Major currents of the world, red ones are warm, blue ones are cold. Some are in remote locations, and some are too slow moving to be easy to extract but some are close enough to land masses with populations and industries with significant amounts of power consumption - and powerful enough to be of considerable interest, especially, the Gulf stream. 
They represent a vast amount of energy, many times the worlds total power requirements though of course you'd only extract a tiny fraction for power. 
There are many other tidal currents on a small scale not shown on the map, for instance around the islands of Japan, the Philippines, around Italy and the UK.
Look up what "Ocean Energy Turbine" looks like:
Ocean Turbine from Crowd Energy on Vimeo.
More videos here: Ocean Turbine from Crowd Energy on Vimeo.

The way they work is innovative, the shutters open when they are moving against the current and close when moving with the current, so turning a steady current into a rotating motion.
They will also use the turbines to generate clean drinking water from the sea, which may end up being as important as the power generation.
The aim of the kickstarter is to test a 52 inch prototype in the lab. That would lead up to a full trial off the Florida coast later on which will take power to land via a DC cable. He is working with the Florida Atlantic University Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center
Their kickstarter ends in a couple of days.  Since kickstarters often get many of their donations in the last couple of days, they do have a chance, but I think not a huge one. They are obviously new to kickstarter and had various issues with the campaign .
However, if you like the idea, this is an opportunity to show your support. Also, they will probably launch again, which is permitted on kickstarter, even the exact same project. You can show your support this time around by pledging to the project if you are interested in it.
Check it out here: Ocean Energy Turbine - Limitless Clean Renewable Energy
I started a kickstarter myself recently, and found this while looking at other technology related kickstarters.  I usually post on space issues, and on music. There's a connection with the space articles as of course, one of the possible future benefits from space is unlimited solar power from satellites, which again I think might be part of the future energy mix, similar advantage that it is all round uninterrupted power.
However, this is a far simpler method to achieve uninterrupted renewable energy, with a surprising amount of potential, and perhaps will be part of the mix in the future.

Program to fund environmentally friendly farming techniques seeing results; deadline for money approaching – by Meredith Rutland
May 20, 2014
Some First Coast farmers are trying new irrigation and fertilization techniques to see if they can keep waste out of the St. Johns River amid debate about managing the river’s water quality.
Two years into a new partnership that gives farmers money to try new irrigation and fertilizer methods, some farmers say they’re able to produce the same amount of crops with fewer resources. Applications for funding through the project are due June 15.
Farmers, regional agencies and state departments banded together in 2011 to form the Tri-County Agricultural Area Water Management Partnership, which provides farmers in St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties with money to try new methods that could be more environmentally friendly.
Water quality and water quantity issues in the St. Johns River have been the subject of an ongoing debate. A plan to provide Central Florida with water — due to its growing need and shrinking water supply — has focused attention on the river as a possible source of water for the area. Algae blooms, caused by too much waste in the river, also have been a concern in recent years.
But keeping fertilizer out of the river is difficult for farmers whose irrigation runoff is often next to the river’s banks.
Traditional irrigation and fertilizer methods encourage lots of water and lots of fertilizer. Leftover fertilizer can wash off farms and into the river, especially during rainy months.
However, those methods are the tried-and-true methods that keep crops healthy, and installing new devices or buying new machines are expensive ideas for some First Coast farms.
The partnership gave out $3.4 million last fiscal year to farmers for equipment and projects, and about $2.5 million will be given out this fiscal year through grants from the St. Johns River Water Management District, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The money doesn’t always cover the full cost of the installation, and the farmers have to pay for maintenance themselves, but it provides an incentive to try a new method despite some farmers’ tight budgets, said Bryan Jones of Riverdale Farm in St. Augustine, which got a grant to try underground drip irrigation.
He said he’s been able to save money in the long term because the drip pipes use so much less water. He said he’s heard from other farmers that use banding fertilizer techniques that they’ve saved money by using less material.
Banding fertilizer has been shown to reduce potassium use by 30 percent and nitrogen by 8 percent, according to a St. Johns River Water Management District report.
Certain irrigation methods, such as water pipes that disperse water on top of the soil, use about 30 percent less water than traditional seepage irrigation, according to a study done by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Jones said he’s noticed an 60 percent savings on his farm while using pipes that run under the soil. Jones’ farm installed the underground pipes to drip water onto its potato crops, which he sells to Frito-Lay. He said the soil gets moist within a day. Old methods slowly seeped through the entire field, taking a week or more to soak the entire area.
“It’s remarkable,” he said. “The potential is just so immense.”
The program is still in its infancy, said Terry Pride, environmental administrator at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Agricultural Water Policy. She said farmers are becoming more interested in participating. About 12 farms are involved so far in St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties.
“I just think it’s an example of how much you can do when you actually involve the folks you’re trying to regulate,” said Terry Pride, environmental administrator at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Agricultural Water Policy. “There’s just much more cooperation because they can come up with ideas that work for them and the environment.”


U.S. House approves Everglades, port spending
Sun Sentinel
May 20, 2014
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House on Tuesday approved a controversial dredging project at the Port of Palm Beach and cleared a path for eventual federal spending on a plan to curb polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
The long-awaited water resources bill, passed by a vote of 412 to 4, will unleash federal spending on a range of Florida projects, from seaport dredging to Everglades restoration. Senate passage is expected to quickly follow.
All of these projects are projected to generate a wave of construction jobs and boost the local economy.
“Is the bill perfect ? No. But it’s a good day for Florida,” said U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, who negotiated the final compromise bill as part of a House-Senate conference committee.
Florida has eight of the bill’s 34 water projects and $2 billion of the $12 billion authorized for federal spending. Funding still depends on annual appropriations and local or state matching money.
The seaport dredging — including an $88.5 million project to deepen the Lake Worth Inlet at the Port of Palm Beach — is designed to help attract larger cargo and cruise vessels. But the Palm Beach project has drawn opposition from nearby communities.
Frankel said her vote for the bill should not be construed as support for the Lake Worth dredging, which has sparked fears of damage to the environment, marine life and the character of the region.
“Moving forward, our first priority should be to first do no harm, without degradation of our environment or quality of life,” Frankel said. “It should be a local community decision as to what uses dominate the Intracoastal Waterway in the Lake Worth Inlet, and I urge the Port of Palm Beach, Town of Palm Beach, County Commission and other interested stakeholders to come to a joint resolution.”
One “big disappointment” was failure to get the Central Everglades Planning Project cleared for construction by the Army Corps of Engineers in time to be authorized by the water bill, she said.
That project is designed to move water south from Lake Okeechobee to be stored and gradually released while filtering out pollution. One goal is to take pressure off the lake and the dike rimming it. That would help avoid discharges during wet seasons into estuaries that flow to the east and west, polluting waterways and depressing real-estate values while impairing boating, fishing and swimming.
But a “pre-funding” amendment in the bill will allow the state to move forward with planning and design work and potentially be reimbursed by future legislation once the Army Corps clears it.
“While I wish the Central Everglades Planning Project planning was completed so it could have been included in this bill, the other projects will allow Everglades restoration to move forward without interruption,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.
The other work includes a Caloosahatchee River storage project to reduce polluted water flow from Lake Okeechobee to the west coast; a spreader canal to improve the timing and distribution of flows into Florida Bay; and a Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands project in Miami-Dade County.
The bill also approves federal spending on the Broward County Water Preserve Area, which would build two above-ground reservoirs and create a buffer between the Everglades and urban development.
“It’s pretty much one of the very few Everglades projects that will re-create a set of wetlands habitat, rather than improve wetlands that are there now and have been damaged,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Everglades policy director for Audubon Florida.
“Stormwater runoff from urban Broward County now goes right into one of the water conservation areas in the Everglades,” she said. “We went out on an airboat on a bird tour, and at one point I looked over and said, `What is that ?’ There was this brown water flooding into the water conservation area. This project will hold the water and let some of the nutrients drain out before we send it into the Everglades.”
The state’s 15 deep-water ports, members of Congress from both parties and environmental groups banded together to lobby for the Florida projects, taking advantage of the first federal water-projects bill in more than seven years.
“Sometimes bipartisanship does prevail in Washington,” Wasserman Schultz said.
Related:           Congress appears set to OK money for four Everglades projects      Florida Keys Keynoter
Everglades advocates want Congress to consider water project ...    Greenfield Daily Reporter
Osceola finds success in legislative session    Osceola News-Gazette
House passes bill to fund Great Lakes and flood control projects     The Plain Deale


Water bill moves forward despite Palm Beach County concerns
Palm Beach Post - by Laura Green, Washington Bureau
May 20, 2014
Washington — A water bill that members of Congress hailed as a rare show of bipartisan cooperation has angered advocates and residents in Palm Beach County for what it contains and what it doesn’t.
An extensive Everglades restoration project was excluded because it did not receive Army Corps of Engineers approval in time.
(Read full article – by subscription only)


Water projects authorized by house
Associated Press
May 20, 2014
On Tuesday, the House passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, which authorizes 34 water projects across the country. The Senate is expected to consider the bill later this week. A list of each of the projects, and the federal funds authorized for each:
Navigation projects:
— Sabine Neches Waterway, Texas and Louisiana, more than $748 million
— Jacksonville Harbor- milepoint, Jacksonville, Florida, more than $27.8 million
— Savannah Harbor, Savannah, Georgia, $492 million
— Freeport Harbor, Freeport, Texas, $121 million
— Canaveral Harbor, Cape Canaveral, Florida, more than $29.2 million
— Boston Harbor, Boston, Massachusetts, more than $216.4 million
— Lake Worth Inlet, Palm Beach County, Florida, more than $57.5 million
— Jacksonville Harbor, Jacksonville Florida, $362 million
Flood risk management projects:
—Topeka, Kansas, more than $17.3 million
— Natomas Basin, California, more than $760.6 million
— Cedar Rapids, Iowa, more than $73.1 million
— Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota, $846.7 million
— Ohio River Shoreline, Paducah, Kentucky, more than $13.1 million
— Springfield, Missouri, more than $13.5 million
— San Joaquin River basin, California, more than $23.6 million
— Sutter Basin, California, more than $255.2 million
— Truckee Meadows, Nevada, more than $181.6 million
Hurricane and storm damage risk reduction projects:
— West Onslow Beach and New River Inlet, North Carolina more than $99 million
— Surf City and North Topsail Beach, North Carolina, more than $206 million
— San Clemente shoreline, California, more than $51 million
— Walton County, Florida, more than $42 million
— Morganza to the Gulf, Louisiana, more than $6.6 billion
Hurricane and storm damage risk reduction and environmental restoration projects:
— Mississippi Coastal Improvement Program, Hannock, Harrison and Jackson County, Mississippi, more than $693.3 million
Environmental Restoration:
— Mid-Chesapeake Bay Island, Maryland, more than $1.2 billion
— Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, Caloosahatchee River, Florida, more than $313.3 million
—Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, Canal Western Project, Florida, more than $87.2 million
— Louisiana Coastal Area, Louisiana, more than $1 billion
— Marsh Lake, Minnesota, more than $6.7 million
— Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetland, Florida, more than $98.5 million
— Broward County Water Preserve Area, Florida, more than $448 million
— Barataria Basin Barrier, Louisiana, more than $321.7 million
— Neuse River Basin, North Carolina, more than $23.8 million
— Lynhaven River, Virginia, more than $22.8 million
— Willamette River Floodplain restoration, Oregon, more than $27.4 million


Water resources bill passes Congress, to the benefit of Florida
SunshineStateNews – by Kevin Derby
May 20, 2014 
To the delight of the entire Florida delegation, the U.S. House overwhelmingly voted to pass the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) Conference Report on a 412-4 vote on Tuesday.
The measure now heads to the U.S. Senate, which is expected to pass it.
Leaders from Florida insisted it will boost the area by supporting ports, even as the Panama Canal expansion nears completion, helping Apalachicola Bay’s oyster business by including water agreements with Georgia and Alabama and helping Everglades restoration.
Former U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, president and CEO of the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), praised Congress for passing the report, insisting it will help the Sunshine State.
“With the passage of WRRDA today by the U.S. Congress, Florida can expect to see a boost in economic growth and job development by way of manufacturing and transportation industries looking to locate near our Florida ports,” said Feeney. “Along with Gov. Rick Scott, AIF and its members have been advocating to expand our ports’ capabilities to accommodate the supersized ships and build more manufacturing and transportation infrastructure as a result of the Panama Canal expansion.”
Feeney singled out leaders from both parties for their efforts in passing the report.
“As a state affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, AIF has supported these maritime and manufacturing efforts in our nation’s Capitol, and we applaud the leadership efforts by Gov. Scott, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, Congresswoman Lois Frankel, Congressman John Mica, Congressman Steve Southerland, and Congressman Dan Webster for seeing this good bill through the process,” Feeney added. “AIF supports WRDA and encourages the U.S. Senate to pass this bill so that we can see the fruits of its labor in action here in Florida.”
“Florida's water resources are a competitive advantage that we must continue to responsibly develop,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla.  “Investing in our ports, harbors and other water infrastructure will expand our economic footprint, create jobs and help us compete to be the crossroads of international trade following the completed expansion of the Panama Canal. If you manufacture goods, import or export products, ship containers or aggregates, retail consumer merchandise, or work in any of these industries, then this bill is for you.”
U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., took to the House floor to praise the bill.
“The Water Resources Development Act Conference Report is a perfect example of how government is supposed to work,” Brown said. “I want to thank Sens. Boxer and Vitter and Congressmen Shuster, Gibbs, Rahall and Bishop for their commitment to producing a comprehensive and bipartisan bill supported by all stakeholders. I also want to thank President Obama for his leadership in improving and expediting the process for completing projects at the Corps of Engineers and encouraging Congress to complete the WRDA Conference. I hope this bipartisanship continues as we reauthorize Surface Transportation Programs.
“This legislation includes a lot of positive provisions that are going to help improve, expand, and accelerate Corps of Engineers projects,” Brown insisted. “These projects, in turn, will improve the safety of the American public, generate billions of dollars in economic activity, create hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs, and benefit the nation’s economy as a whole.”
Brown and U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., insisted the report would help the First Coast.
“The improved policy and programs in this conference report are great news for the nation and my home state of Florida,” Brown said. “Along with the authorization for both Mile Point and JAXPORT channel dredging that I championed, the bill includes authorizing language for numerous critical water infrastructure projects throughout Florida. The bill also allows for federal assumption of operations and maintenance for projects paid for by nonfederal sponsors, includes a provision that will allow ports to utilize more of the harbor maintenance tax, and allows local sponsors to fund and seek future reimbursement for any project that receives its chief’s report. This language is essential because there are still several critical projects that will be ready to go long before we do another reauthorization.”
Said Crenshaw, “Passage of the WRRDA bill means authorization for JAXPORT dredging and a fix for Mile Point -- a giant step forward for job creation and economic growth in Northeast Florida. I’ve backed these projects from day one and couldn’t be happier to vote for this comprehensive bill on the House floor today. With the long-overdue removal of navigation hazards at Mile Point and the dredging of the St. Johns River, large cargo container ships can move into the region, bringing more trade, more jobs, and a stronger economy for decades to come. That’s a win-win across the board.”


Water supply a concern in St. Johns County - by Erica Bennett
May 20, 2014
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla.-- Water is something most people can't go a day without. That's why the future of it in St. Johns County is top of mind.
"The biggest thing is keeping the resources that we have and make sure they improve them also," kayaker Chris Naff said.
We found Naff out on the Intracoastal. According to the St. Johns County Utility Department, he's right. Conservation is key.
The problem is local water sources have been stressed. More people equals more demand. More demand makes it harder to keep water not only plentiful -- but clean.
"As you get closer to the coast, and pull from the well, you might have salt water inclusion," utility engineer Gordon Smith said.
The latest census numbers show St. Johns County grew 6.4 percent from April 2010 to July 2012, which means more demand for water.
"The population has definitely grown a lot lately. I work for the fire department, so see it a lot," Naff continued.
Smith said they are working on a 30-year plan. The well isn't in danger of running dry now, but Smith said they must look at alternative sources later.
"We live in the state of Florida. We've got water all around us. It's just how we treat that ... ."
The Floridan Aquifer is the main water source for the area. Most of St. Johns wells are located in the western part of the county. 
A retired hydrologist from the U.S. Geological Survey will answer water questions May 22 at the Holiday Isle Oceanfront Resort on A1A Beach Boulevard. The session starts at 11:30 a.m.


Tree-killing pest destroying Everglades canopy
May 19, 2014
FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Trees are dying in the Everglades at an alarming rate and scientists worry it will result in a major change for the ecosystem if it isn’t stopped.
The disease killing the trees is laurel wilt disease and it is impacting swamp bay trees.
The trees provide food for wildlife and they are used as a traditional medicine for the Seminole Tribe, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The beetle that causes laurel wilt disease
The disease is a fungus carried by a beetle that’s just the size of a grain of rice.
It’s been found across more than 500 square miles in the Everglades, according to a soon to be released paper by state and federal scientists.
The beetle likely arrived from Asia in Port of Savannah packing crates making its way through Florida and into Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward Counties.
It also affects Avocado trees.
Some scientists said the disease is more devastating to the Everglades’ ecosystem than the recent surge in pythons.
It has managed to spread across one-sixth of the Everglades since first being found in Everglades National Park in 2011.
It has killed sawgrass and trees islands along Alligator Alley in Broward County.
While it was discovered in Palm Beach County, it has not spread at the same rate as it has in other locations, Christen Mason, a biologist at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge stated to the paper.
The trees produce an abundance of blue and black berries, staples in the diets of wild turkeys, black bears, squirrels and other animals that inhabit the tree islands.
The leaves serve as food for two butterflies, the spicebush swallowtail and the palamedes swallowtail.
When trees die-off, they leave behind vast open spaces in the canopy that can then be taken-over by invasive Brazilian pepper or old-world climbing fern. Neither provides much food for wildlife.
The disease kills by choking the tree’s tubes for transporting water and nutrients. There is no cure. However, a vaccine can help trees resist the fungus exists, but it’s not affordable to inject every tree.
Scientists have obtained funding to locate Avocado trees that may be resistant to disease and attempt to propagate them.
This summer, a group of scientists will go to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and other areas of the Everglades and look for the swamp bays still left standing.
The state has received $5.4 million in the latest federal farm bill to fight laurel wilt in the avocado groves, among other diseases.
The state has formed a working group, set out beetle traps to monitor the infestation and collaborated with the industry and UF to study the disease.
Symptoms of the disease include: sudden leaf wilt, darkened wood and very quick death.

Water supply at risk
Miami Herald
May 19, 2014
OUR OPINION: Corps of Engineers must get on board and approve vital Everglades plan — quickly.
For everyone who lives in South Florida and depends on a reliable supply of clean water — nearly 8 million of us, plus visitors — a decision by Congress to move ahead with a major waterworks bill is a bittersweet victory. It authorizes at least $800 million for improvements in the Everglades, but it fails to include the portion that lies at the heart of the restoration plan.
Leaving the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) out of the Water Resources and Development Act moving through Congress is a potentially crippling setback for cleanup efforts of the vast area from the Kissimmee River to the Keys.
The good news is that the long-stalled bipartisan legislation in Congress finally got the green light from Senate and House conferees earlier this month. That clears it for a final vote in both chambers, where passage is expected because of overwhelming support. (The House version won approval by a margin of 417 to 3.)
The legislation covers water projects across the country. It includes about $174.56 million for the C-111 Spreader Canal in Miami-Dade County, which will increase water flow into the ’Glades ecosystem. It also authorizes $627 million to reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee west to the Caloosahatchee River.
These are significant achievements, a tribute to the hard work of Florida’s congressional delegation and countless Everglades advocates and supporters, whose unceasing efforts made it possible.
But the omission of the CEPP is a huge disappointment. While much progress has been made in areas outside of the central Everglades, thanks to state and federal efforts, CEPP is absolutely vital. It provides $1.9 billion to restore, “a more natural quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water” to the central area, according to government plans.
What makes the omission terribly frustrating is that President Obama placed CEPP on the list of urgent public works, which should have sealed the deal. But suddenly last month, the Army Corps of Engineers surprised nearly everyone by delaying its approval.
The Corps, whose support is essential for these huge water projects, had received letters urging endorsement of CEPP from Gov. Rick Scott, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and several members of Congress. The agency seemed to be on board, but at virtually the last moment it found a hitch involving differences in wording about water-quality standards between its own draft of the plan and that of the South Florida Water Management District, which would pay for half the project.
It’s hard to overestimate the damage done by this delay. The last time a national waterworks plan was approved by Congress was seven years ago. The previous one was seven years before that. If CEPP misses its chance now, it may not get the opportunity again for a very long time.
The Corps agreed to meet again at the end of this week to reconsider its decision. At this late date, a green light would not guarantee CEPP’s inclusion in bills quickly nearing votes on the floor of Congress, barring a long-shot chance at a last-minute amendment.
Still, this is the best hope until another water bill comes along, and who knows when that will happen? It should never have come to this, but if the Corps of Engineers gives its approval this week before Congress takes a final vote, there’s still a chance to support a project vital to South Florida’s water supply.
Cleaning up the Everglades can’t wait forever.


Climate change is upon us and we must act
The Observer – Editorial
May 18, 2014
Global warming is here. It has arrived. And the effects are already devastating
It is often claimed by those who deny the reality of climate change that scientific forecasts about the impact of global warming are far too uncertain to merit taking action. There is no reason to suffer the inconvenience of leaving the planet's fossil fuels unburned when the current analyses of meteorologists, oceanographers and geophysicists will probably turn out to be false alarms, they argue.
Such contention is dangerously false. For a start, scientists' warnings about future weather patterns are certainly not overreactions to the evidence they have gathered. In most cases, observed climate changes – the slump in summer sea ice coverage in the Arctic in recent years is a good example – have turned out to be far more drastic than researchers had originally predicted. Their views of the future – melting icecaps, spreading deserts and acidifying oceans – are cautious evaluations that most probably underestimate the likely impact of global warming.
There is another, more straightforward reason to repudiate deniers' claims about scientists' "false alarms", however. The impact of climate change is not an issue that is going to be determined in far-off years for the simple reason that it is already happening. This is a point made clear by Nasa glaciologist Eric Rignot who reveals that his observations show that a large part of the West Antarctica ice sheet has now begun to disintegrate and that the entire sheet appears today to be in irreversible retreat.
"One of the feared tipping points of the climate system appears to have been crossed," says Stefan Rahmstorf, an expert on the physics of the ocean at Potsdam University. Certainly the consequences of this massive destabilisation of ice cover at the south pole are going to be considerable, scientists now argue
The last assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put a modest figure of one to three feet as the likely rise in sea levels that will be experienced this century. The disintegration of the entire West Antarctic ice shelf changes that forecast drastically. A figure of more than 10 feet is now a more likely option. Vast tracts of heavily populated coastline around the world face inundation. Millions are likely to lose their homes. It may take more than a century for this devastation to occur. Nevertheless, it now looks to be inevitable, says Rignot. Nor will the residents of low-lying regions such as Bangladesh or Florida be surprised at this forecast. They are already experiencing the consequences of rising sea levels triggered by melting icecaps.
A useful example is provided by Miami. The city is built on top of porous limestone and its foundations are now absorbing water from rising seas at an alarming rate. Water now bubbles up through pipes and drains and taints fresh water supplies while seawater regularly flows out of drains into streets, which become flooded.
Civil engineers currently estimate that the cost of putting right the damage to Miami could rise to billions of dollars and that, please note, is the price that a single city will have to pay to deal with just one aspect of global warming. Repeat it across the globe and you get a notion of the vast cost we now face for having failed to deal with climate change for the past two decades and for faltering in our commitment to agree to curb emissions of carbon dioxide from our factories, power plants and cars.
The result of this continued inaction has been straightforward: climate change – once a far-off threat – is now upon us and is already bringing alarming change to our planet, as the citizens of Miami are now experiencing, along with those living near spreading deserts in Africa, in the far north where tundras are melting, and in high mountain areas in the Andes and Himalayas whose glaciers are now disappearing. As Leonard Berry, director of the Florida Centre for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University puts it: "Climate change is not a future thing, it's a 'happening now' thing."
After a week that has seen several UK newspapers give wild and inordinate coverage to false claims that some scientists have tried to suppress inconvenient climate research, this point needs emphasising. A world bedevilled by climate change is not a remote, questionable prospect. It is a reality that has already arrived and is destined to have increasingly profound impacts until we wake up to the threat and act coherently.
Related:           As San Diego Burns Republicans Refuse to Acknowledge Climate Change              


Enormous water puzzle needs our total effort - Editorial
May 18, 2014
This puzzle is enormous and could take a lifetime to complete. In the meantime, we run the risk of watching our poor water quality issues and restoration efforts grow in size and in funding to eliminate the contamination. There are no simple solutions, especially when local, state and federal leaders are controlling the puzzle pieces.
Decisions made this past week helped connect some of those pieces but certainly not enough of them to restore much confidence that we will have the Caloosahatchee and surrounding estuaries at safe levels for fishing and swimming anytime soon.
The ultimate solution remains a distant goal: taking the bad water flowing from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee, cleaning it and restoring it to a natural flow way south to the Everglades. It is a herculean effort that will require land purchases from the sugar industry in the Everglades Agricultural Area, as well as an elaborate canal, filtration and storage system capable of handling billions of gallons of water.
In the meantime, we face at least 30 years of cleanup — again at costs into the billions of dollars — to bring impaired waterways, like the Caloosahatchee, back to pristine life. No one wants to look at our black water — not those who live here and especially not those that spend millions to help keep our tourism industry robust.
But there were advances this past week.
A big puzzle piece is federal funding driven by the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, announced that the bill — which likely will be passed by Congress next week — authorizes $1 billion for four Everglades projects, including a water storage area, called C-43, that would keep about 55 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water and pollutants from flowing into the Caloosahatchee.
The storage project has its supporters in Nelson, state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, who spearheaded the effort to get $18 million in this year's state budget to help get it built, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. They like it because it stores the water and keeps it available to be discharged into the Caloosahatchee when the river needs it most during the dry season to help prevent high salinity contents.
It has its critics in former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah, who met with The News-Press Editorial Board this past week, and former The News-Press editorial board member Wayne Daltry, also a water expert. Judah says during the rainy season, when about 6 billion gallons of water are discharged from the Lake each day, the reservoir will fill up in nine days and then must be closed down. It has no water-cleaning component, so the stagnant water can develop green algae and who wants that flowing into the Caloosahatchee ?  It takes care of only about 10 percent of the water discharges that can amount to about 500 billion gallons during a four-month rainy season, meaning the area estuaries will still receive an enormous amount of the dirty water.
Benacquisto should be applauded for her efforts to kick off funding for the project, which is supposed to be split by the state and federal government. The cost, however, by most expert accounts, will be more than $600 million. The state is committed to funding the project over three years. We hope the federal government keeps its end of the bargain.
As the conservancy points out, and we agree with the analysis, something needs to be done now. These projects, along with another $510 million storage project called C-44, which also collects Lake O water, keep it out of the St. Lucie Estuary/Indian River Lagoon and include a water treatment component, as well as $90 million from the state budget. That money is dedicated to the next phase of the 2.6-mile Tamiami bridge project, which will also help disperse water flow south, instead of into the Caloosahatchee, which will make a difference.
Conservancy leaders will be in Washington, D.C, next week to lobby for that federal funding and we hope Congress listens. Our national leaders have delayed action on WRDA funding for years, backlogging more than 900 projects all fighting for a share of the money. Yes, Florida is in a strong position to capture a large chunk of it because of federal decisions mandating we clean up our water.
Another important decision made this week came from the South Florida Water Management District. In a meeting Thursday, the district mandated that water stored in C-43 can only be used to help the Caloosahatchee when it is running dry. Initially, there was a component to the rule that would have allowed for public usage of that water. The conservancy challenged the ruling, an administrative law judge agreed, and the water management district removed that component. The decision was the correct one, but only if the stored water is properly cleaned before it is released. The conservancy says it is working on such a plan.
Judah had other recommendations that deserve attention:
• Collaborate with Florida League of Cities, Florida Association of Counties and the legislative delegation to support legislation to implement the 1996 Polluter Pays Constitutional Amendment.
• Coordinate with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to support Basin Management Action Plan for Lake Okeechobee to include nitrogen.
• Coordinate with the congressional and legislative delegation to support acquisition of 50,000 acres (20,000 from U.S. Sugar and 30,000 from Florida Crystals) of land between the North New River and Miami canals and south of Lake Okeechobee for storage, treatment and conveyance of water to the Everglades.
• Request that the SFWMD use the 35,000-acre Holey Lands for storage and treatment of water from Lake Okeechobee during times of emergency water releases in the wet season.
• Support modification to the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule that provides equitable water conservation practices for agriculture, utilities and environmental release.
• Request U.S. Army Corps expedite its risk assessment study for a spillway on the south side of Lake Okeechobee to alleviate pressure on the Herbert Hoover Dike, thereby reducing reliance on the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers as the relief valves during wet years for massive releases of polluted water.
Another important piece to this puzzle is the dike and its condition. As Army Corps. has increased lake levels, a tremendous strain has been placed on the dike. Federal projects continue to fortify the dike but at a high cost and at a snail's pace. About $740 million has been spent over the first 12 miles of repairs, but there are still 122 miles to go and funding is not guaranteed.
But this puzzle can only be completed and pristine waters restored if all leaders work toward the ultimate goal of the flow way south into the Everglades. It is the only overall solution to our mess. Purchasing land in the agricultural area really doesn't put a dent into the sugar industry. It still would have at least 90 percent of its land.
There are so many moving pieces to water restoration, so many groups involved, so much money needed that efforts almost seem insurmountable. But we have to move forward with the smaller projects like C-43, current clean-up efforts, the Tamiami Bridge project and federal mandates to stop back pumping into the lake. It all will make a difference. We will eventually need to find that final puzzle piece — a flow way south — in order for our environmental portrait of clean and safe water to be complete.
Timeline of significant water quality efforts
1983: The Save Our Rivers program established by Florida Gov. Bob Graham recognized that the entire ecosystem needed to be restored, not just parts of it; the State initiated the Kissimmee River Restoration Project.
1984: Florida's Warren Henderson Act gave authority to the State Department of Environmental Regulation (now DEP) to protect wetlands and surface water of the state for public interest.
1987: The Everglades was designated a Wetland of International Importance on June 4.
The Legislature passed the Surface Water Improvement and Management Act, creating the first cleanup plan for the Everglades. The Florida Surface Water Improvement and Management Act required the five Florida water management districts to develop plans to clean up and preserve Florida lakes, bays, estuaries, and rivers.
1988: In August, the federal government filed a lawsuit against South Florida Management District for polluting the Everglades with excessive phosphorus.
Construction began on the Everglades Nutrient Removal Project, the first man made wetland to remove phosphorus.
1989: On Dec. 13, President George H.W. Bush signed into law the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989, authorizing the addition of 107,000 acres of the east Everglades to the park.
1990: The Florida Preservation 2000 Act established a coordinated land acquisition program to protect the integrity of ecological systems and to provide multiple benefits, including the preservation of fish and wildlife habitat, recreation space, and water recharge areas.
1991: Florida's Everglades Protection Act provided water management districts with clear tools for ecosystem restoration.
The Settlement Agreement and Consent Decree, entered into by the federal government, the state of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District, established interim and long-term total phosphorus concentration limits for the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park.
1992: Settlement agreement set out in detail the steps Florida would take over the next 10 years to restore and preserve water quality in the Everglades.
The Water Resources Development Act of 1992 and 1996 authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review the current C&SF Flood Control Project and develop a comprehensive plan to restore and preserve south Florida's ecosystem, enhance water supply and maintain flood protection.
1994: The Legislature passed the Everglades Forever Act, calling for the restoration and protection of the Everglades. Part of the law mandated construction of Stormwater Treatment Areas to improve water quality in the Everglades. The sugar industry agreed to pay $320 million over 20 years with taxpayers expected to pay the rest.
The Everglades Nutrient Removal Project began operation and was considered a huge success, removing 112,000 pounds of phosphorus in its first three years of operation.
1997: Construction of the first of six Stormwater Treatment Areas to clean up the Everglades is completed and construction starts on three others.
1999: The Everglades C&SF Restudy report finalized, recommending a 30-plus year restoration plan and a multibillion dollar budget for the comprehensive restoration of south Florida's ecosystem.
2000: President Bill Clinton authorized the Water Resource Development Act of 2000, committing a multibillion dollar budget to comprehensive Everglades restoration. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signs the Everglades Investment Act, committing the state to 50 percent of Everglades restoration costs.
2001: On Nov. 3, Congress passed Restoring the Everglades, an American Legacy Act, authorizing and initiating funding for the $7.8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
2002: On Jan. 9, President George Bush and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed an agreement providing for Everglades restoration at a cost of $7.8 billion. The cost will be shared by the feds and state.


Plight of Everglades still desperate today
Palm Beach Post – Letter by Stephen W. Barto, Jr., Palm Beach
March 18, 2014
The article last week by Maggy Hurchalla regarding the restoration of the Florida Everglades (“Restoring Everglades critical to all Americans”) is another example of the desperate struggle to save the wetlands and water source in Florida.
With Marjory Stoneman Douglas book “The Everglades: River of Grass,” in 1947 and then the same year the creation of the Everglades National Park signed into law by President Harry Truman, the fight to preserve this delicate ecosystem started. Again in the 1950s, Douglas made the Army Corps of Engineers her No. 1 priority to stop the destructive building of canal, roadways, levees, dams, pumping stations and dikes. She noted the destructive consequences of the changes to the natural flow of water long before the environmentalist and scientist proved that she was right.
Here we are, 67 years later and Maggy Hurchalla is describing the same destruction brought on by the Army Corps of Engineers in the name of South Florida development. This is all about money and the pressure that the land developers have placed on the politicians that pass the laws. The proof to the destruction of the ecosystem has already been proven with the billions of dollars being spent in redirecting of the Kissimmee River when it was widened and straightened for a barge canal. By the way, the barge canal was another billion-dollar disaster by the politicians in Florida.
What is being done to correct the problems created by land development in Florida is only slowing the destruction of the Florida Everglades. Land development in this area and a very aggressive restructuring of the natural ecosystem is the only solution to the destruction created by greed and money. I was born and raised in South Florida and remember what the bays and lakes were in the 1950s and 1960s. What has been allowed to happen in the name of development is a crime that should be punishable by law.


State tries to silence springs advocates - by Nathan Crabbe, Editorial Page Editor
May 18, 2014
John Moran is well known in the Gainesville area as a nature photographer, but lately he's been more of a nature activist.
Moran was the most passionate defender of the environment at The Sun's Fragile Springs forum in March. His advocacy also could be seen in the Springs Eternal exhibit displayed at the Florida Museum of Natural History until January.
The exhibit documented the deterioration of the region's springs, their waters changing over the years from crystal clear to algae-filled.
A photo of the slime in Fanning Springs was featured with a quote from Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr.: "Floridians and DEP are on the right track to getting the water right."
Now the exhibit has moved to Vinyard's turf and appears to have gotten his attention. The exhibit is on display at the R.A. Gray Building in Tallahassee through May 30.
As the Tallahassee Democrat reported this month, Moran's photos were ordered removed from a DEP website. The Democrat obtained a DEP email suggesting that Moran was specifically targeted.
DEP officials claimed that the photos were taken from a greenway and trails website as part of a "routine rotation" to accommodate new photos from an annual contest. Ironically, Moran has been a judge of that contest for the past few years.
Moran, for his part, has stayed above the fray. He told the Democrat that he hopes "this isn't what it looks like" and declined additional comment to me last week.
So, I'll go ahead and say what it looks like to me: The continuing politicization of a state agency under to a governor who pays lip service to protecting springs while gutting protections for them.
Under Gov. Rick Scott and Vinyard, formerly a Jacksonville shipbuilding executive, a department that is supposed to be the guardian of Florida's environment but has been doing the exact opposite. As the Tampa Bay Times has reported, Scott's environmental record includes dramatically reducing DEP enforcement cases and forcing cuts to the funding and authority of the state's water management districts.
DEP also laid off 58 employees that included several who publicly alleged that the agency was easing regulations on developers and industrial plants, according to the Times. Around the same time, a legislative committee gave $500,000 in bonuses to employees who sped up permits.
The removal of Moran's photos fits a pattern. Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office cancelled a talk in April by Diane Roberts, a Florida State University professor who planned to discuss problems with the state's water bodies.
In January, Scott pledged $55 million for springs protection right before a rally on water issues in Tallahassee that featured Moran. The governor then did nothing as lawmakers obliterated and then abandoned a springs bill. They ended up dedicating $20 million less than Scott promised for springs.
If the governor and his agency heads are unhappy with criticism of their environmental records, they should prove their naysayers wrong rather than clumsily trying to silence them.


Tree disease sweeps through Everglades
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
May 18, 2014
Major die-off underway.
A plant disease blazing through South Florida is killing off swamp bay trees, an important part of the architecture of the Everglades that provides food for a vast range of wildlife and traditional medicine for the Seminole Tribe.
Laurel wilt disease, a fungus carried by a beetle the size of a grain of rice, has been detected across more than 500 square miles of the Everglades, according to a forthcoming paper by state and federal scientists. The beetle, thought to have arrived from Asia in the Port of Savannah in packing crates, has hopscotched down the southeast coast, infecting avocado trees in the commercial groves of southern Miami-Dade County, reaching the wilderness of western Palm Beach County in 2012 and western Broward County in 2013.
"This is a huge, huge threat to the Everglades," said Jason Smith, associate professor of forest pathology at the University of Florida. "The loss of that tree canopy is going to totally change the ecosystem. It's arguably far more damaging to the Everglades than the pythons. These trees are dying rapidly in very, very large numbers."
Since first being detected east of Everglades National Park in 2011, the disease has spread across about one-sixth of the Everglades. Many canals through the southern Everglades are lined with dead swamp bay trees, said Tony Pernas, exotic plant management specialist with the National Park Service.
In Broward County, the disease has killed trees in the flat expanse of sawgrass and trees islands through which drivers pass on Alligator Alley. The amount of damage varies, with some tree islands showing a 10 percent loss of canopy and others, particularly in the southern Everglades, showing a 50 percent loss, said LeRoy Rodgers, lead scientist for the Land Management Bureau of the South Florida Water Management District.
"We're obviously very concerned," he said.
Although the disease turned up at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in western Palm Beach County, it appears to have stalled there, without spreading beyond the few trees in which it was found, said Christen Mason, a biologist at the refuge.
The trees produce an abundance of blue and black berries, staples in the diets of wild turkeys, black bears, squirrels and other animals that inhabit the tree islands. The leaves serve as food for two butterflies, the spicebush swallowtail and the palamedes swallowtail.
They are a source of traditional medicine for the Seminole Tribe. In a column in the Seminole Tribune, tribal Chairman James Billie told of going as a child with his grandmother to gather leaves of the Tu lee tree for the Medicine Maker.
"The leaves have many uses, such as repelling evil spirits or easing the pain of arthritis," he wrote, expressing concern about the disease. "And the list goes on and on."
As the trees die off, they leave open spaces in the canopy that could easily be colonized by invasive Brazilian pepper or old-world climbing fern, which provide little food for wildlife.
"These tree islands don't have a lot of species that are capable of growing in these conditions," said Smith, of UF. "If these trees die, what do you replace them with? If you don't replace them with something, you have the potential for invasive species to take over."
The disease kills by choking the tree's tubes for transporting water and nutrients. There is no cure. A vaccine that allows trees to resist the fungus exists, but even avocado growers can't afford to inject every tree, and no one thinks this would be a practical solution.
There is one source of hope: A small percentage of trees appear to be resistant to the disease. Scientists have obtained funding to locate these trees and attempt to propagate them. This summer, a group of scientists will go to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and other areas of the Everglades and look for the swamp bays still left standing.
In the avocado groves of southern Miami-Dade County, the second-largest crop in the country after California's, a helicopter makes routine flights over the 7,400 acres of groves in a survey for wilting or brown leaves, the signs of the disease, said Jonathan Crane, a UF tropical fruit crop specialist.
"We're very concerned," said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. "This is one of a number of threats to iconic Florida crops. We're doing everything we can to save the avocado."
The state has received $5.4 million in the latest federal farm bill to fight laurel wilt in the avocado groves, among other diseases. The state has formed a working group, set out beetle traps to monitor the infestation and collaborated with the industry and UF to study the disease.
Among the symptoms: sudden leaf wilt, darkened wood and very quick death. Among the causes of the disease's spread is the transport of firewood, and authorities have asked the public to try to restrict themselves to local firewood.
Although the disease could also pose a threat to residential avocado trees, it's unclear whether it has spread to them yet. The Broward and Palm Beach extension services, which operate with UF to provide horticultural information to the public, said they have received no inquiries to indicate the presence of laurel wilt in backyard trees.
"That doesn't mean it isn't here," said Michael Orfanedes, commercial horticulture agent for the Broward Extension. "We've been watching this thing. People should be vigilant for it."


Dozens head to Naples Pier for Hands Across the Sand event - FOX4- by Sara Belsole
May 17, 2014
NAPLES, Fla. - Dozens lined the shores next to the Naples Pier Saturday for the fourth annual Hands Across the Sand event.
"We are literally drawing a line on the beach, we are drawing the line against dirty fuels," Karen Dwyer, with the Stonecrab Alliance, said.
The group is pushing for the shutdown of new Everglades oil drilling and finding new, more energy-efficient ways to live.
"It's about unity, solidarity, it's about the entire nation saying we are ready to make that leap and we need to, especially here in Southwest Florida, Dwyer said.
Environmentalists have new ammunition after Dan A. Hughes, a Texas oil company, was caught and fined $25,000 for illegally fracking in Collier County. 
While the state has suspended all drilling by Dan A. Hughes, groups like the Stonecrab Alliance say they are still fighting the possibility of fracking in the Everglades, which they say would devastate the environment.
"Our environment is the cornerstone of really what is a multi billion dollar industry in the state of Florida. People come here because of our clean air and clean water," Ray Judah, with the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, said.
Judah says those in power need to do more. A recent federal climate change study shows much of Southwest Florida could experience dramatic, damaging effects.
"Our elected officials are just not taking seriously enough their responsibility to be stewards of our environment," Judah said.


Florida delegation rallies behind water resources report
Sunshine State News - by: Kevin Derby
May 17, 2014
This week, congressmen from Florida cheered the final version of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) conference report as good for the state.
With the U.S. House expected to vote on the conference report on Tuesday, both Republicans and Democrats from the northern part of the Sunshine State insist it will boost the area by supporting ports, even as the Panama Canal expansion nears completion, and helping Apalachicola Bay’s oyster business by including water agreements with Georgia and Alabama.
“I am pleased that we’re now on the verge of some tremendous victories for Florida’s growing maritime industries,” said U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla. on Thursday. “This legislation will direct new resources to Florida’s emerging ports to help capitalize on the economic growth opportunities that come with the expansion of the Panama Canal. I look forward to voting for the WRRDA bill and continuing my work to strengthen Florida’s ports and maritime industries.”
Longtime U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., who sits on the U.S. House Transportation Committee which oversaw the report, said she was “absolutely thrilled” because the measure would direct federal funds to improve Mile Point in the St. Johns River and ready dredging efforts to improve Jacksonville’s maritime trade.
“I am very happy with the local Jacksonville community’s strong group effort, which helped a great deal in having both Mile Point and the dredging project included in the final conference report,” Brown said. “I have been working for over a year to ensure that both projects were authorized in WRRDA, and am extremely satisfied to see them come to fruition.
From his perch as chairman of the House Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., also praised the report as good for Jacksonville and Northeast Florida.
“Inclusion of Mile Point and JAXPORT dredging in the Water Resources and Development Act Conference Report is great news and win-win for the First Coast,” Crenshaw said. “With the long-overdue removal of navigation hazards at Mile Point and the dredging of the St. Johns River, large cargo container ships <can come> to the region, meaning more trade, more jobs, and a stronger economy for decades to come. I look forward to voting for the conference report when it comes to the House floor next Tuesday.”
Brown gave her Republican colleague from the First Coast a shout out as she called for more federal funds to complete dredging the St. Johns.
“Now we must continue to fight for the funding that is needed to complete the dredging,” Brown added. And with completion of the conference report, I am very confident that this can be accomplished if we continue to work together in the same way we did to secure the chief’s report. I’m certain that with an ongoing effort by all the partners involved, as well as Congressman Crenshaw and the other members of the North Florida delegation, we can secure the necessary federal funds to move the dredging project to completion.”
The report also focused on other parts of the Sunshine State, authorizing projects in the Everglades, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and across Florida. 
Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon Florida, applauded the report for being the first federal effort in seven years to authorize and fund Everglades restoration. The report backs projects involving the C-111 Spreader Canal, the C-43 Caloosahatchee Storage Reservoir. water preserve areas in Broward County and coastal wetlands in Biscayne Bay.
“The Everglades projects included in WRRDA will provide diverse benefits for Florida's birds and wildlife,” Draper said. “Passage of this bill is a clear signal from Congress that the River of Grass is still a national priority.”
Draper singled out members of the Florida delegation -- including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla. -- for helping craft the report.
“The efforts of these legislators will benefit Florida’s environment, economy, and the one in three Floridians that get their drinking water from the Everglades,” Draper said. “Now we call on Rep. Shuster and Sen. Boxer to follow through on their promises to begin work on the next water resources bill so that Congress can authorize the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP).” 
For her part, Frankel praised the report for including Everglades projects and for giving the green light to expand Port Everglades.
"I’m excited to see this bill finally come to the floor next week,” Frankel said. “It means improved water quality and more jobs for South Florida.”


Lagoon assembly closes with action plan
Florida Today - Jim Waymer, Brevard
May 17, 2014
MELBOURNE – One hundred delegates gathered at Florida Instiute of Technology this weekend came up with 10 main ideas to cure the Indian River Lagoon, centering on septic tanks, muck and public awareness.
While they haggled over wording, the scientists, government and business leaders chosen by a nonprofit group agreed on the main gist of proposed lagoon fixes.
After breaking into smaller groups and voting, they whittled more than 100 ideas down to just 10 as the Lagoon Action Assembly wrapped up Saturday.
The Marine Resources Council, the nonprofit that ran the three-day event, plans to present the final wording of the proposed 10 actions during a public forum at 5:30 p.m. May 29 at Front Street Civic Center in Melbourne.
The delegates’ draft action items centered on creating a muck management program; identifying leaking septic tanks; supporting stricter state stormwater rules for new development; and educating the public about lagoon-friendly landscaping.
Other ideas included increasing street sweeping; promoting compliance and enforcement of new fertilizer ordinances; encouraging water reuse in urban areas and on farmland; and developing better ways to measure progress on pollution, habitat and species in the lagoon.
“I believe strongly, we as delegates have to be willing to be brave,” said Martin County Commissioner Ed Fielding, a delegate who also sits on the five-county Indian River Lagoon Counties Collaborative.
“We’re aiming for restoring the quality of life of our lagoon,” Fielding said, stressing that the delegates need to stand strong and take action. “Be brave,” he said to the applause of the 100 delegates gathered at FIT’s Evans Library Pavilion.
Dwight D. Eisenhower founded the American Assembly process in 1950 as a way to build consensus on vital public policy issues.
The nonpartisan public forums bring together community, business and government leaders to speak freely and prioritize solutions.
This weekend’s event marked the 14th time such an assembly has been held on the lagoon’s behalf. Between 1984 and 1997, MRC conducted 13 American Assemblies for the lagoon. Themost notable outcomes included the creation of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program and a 1990 state law that stopped sewer plants from directly discharging into the lagoon.
Now, the estuary’s advocates aim again to inspire hope, innovation and action to heal the lagoon, plagued for years by algae blooms and wildlife die-offs.
“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Richard Baker, a delegate from Vero Beach, said after the final group discussion. “I think we really need to galvanize the public around this.”
Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or Follow him on Twitter
Results of the Lagoon Action Assembly
The public can learn about the lagoon actions the 100 delegates came up with at a forum at 5:30 p.m. May 29 at the Front Street Civic Center, 2205 S. Front Street.
Related:           Matt Badolato: More love of Lagoon may cure what ails      Florida Today
100 delegates debate ways to help lagoon     Florida Today
Guest column: Community joins forces to save lagoon          Florida Today


Observers fear exotic pet release all too common, The Monitor – by Elizabeth Findell
May 17, 2014
As she cradled the ball python Kim in the National Butterfly Center one cool April morning, Director Marianna Trevino-Wright said school field trips had given her the chilling realization of how many people let exotic pets go in South Texas.
“It was really after we started using Kim and hearing from children ‘Oh, my dad or my brother or my uncle had one of those…and it got huuuge, and we set it loose in the park,’” she said. “It got to the point where every day we were hearing a child or a teacher say something to that effect.”
Ball pythons, which are native to West Africa, can grow up to six feet in length — fully capable of eating cats, dogs and other small mammals.
And Kim is only one of a slew of animals that have been surrendered to the Butterfly Center after their owners couldn’t care for them, or they were found loose.
In a specially-built enclosure out back is Spike, a 100-pound African spurred tortoise nicknamed the “little Volkswagen” after he escaped repeatedly from his previous owner’s yard.
The center also now has a tegu lizard, what Wright called a current “fad pet” that people buy at pet stores when they can fit in the palm of a hand, without realizing they can grow to over four feet long and become quite aggressive.
All are symptoms of what Wright called an increasing problem: people buying unusual animals at flea markets or stores without knowledge of what it means to care for them. When they are set loose, besides some being dangerous, they can wreak havoc on local ecosystems not used to including them.
Robert Russell, director of Palm Valley Animal Center, echoed many of Wright’s experiences, adding that he knows the problem is much greater than the stories he hears directly.
“That’s where it goes back to education,” he said. “It’s like ‘Oh, I let it go in the wild!’ Um, you did what with a python?”
Palm Valley has seen rhesus macaque monkeys, exotic parrots and, most recently, a Chilean Rose tarantula dropped off at its Edinburg facility or picked up by Animal Control after someone let it go.
He called it concerning that anyone would set a pet loose, especially one that could overpopulate or become dangerous.
“It’s not accepting responsibility for the ultimate outcome of the animal,” Russell said. “They can look at their children and say ‘Oh, I let it go.’”
Wright pointed to problems in Florida as a cautionary tale, where Burmese pythons as long as 18 feet have populated wildly in the Everglades, South American tegu lizards have become a feral species and local bird, reptile and plant species have suffered.
“If people are releasing boa constrictors in Michigan, maybe it’s not a big problem because they’re not going to survive the blizzards, but people setting them loose in South Texas — we don’t want to have the same problems that Florida has,” she said.


Caloosahatchee projects get go-ahead but no funds, yet – Chad Gillis
May 15, 2014
The federal government is expected to publish a list of water quality and public works projects today that includes final approval for the Caloosahatchee Reservoir, or C-43.
Called the Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, the finalized list of projects is the next step in moving projects like these closer to reality. A vote must take place on the House and Senate level, and President Obama must sign off on the bill before money is committed.
Total costs for the Caloosahatchee Reservoir is nearly $627 million, according to federal documents. The bill, if funded, also will send $175 million for a spreader canal along the Caloosahatchee River that will divert some stormwater runoff south toward the Everglades.
"That's the general budget range," said Mitch Hutchcraft, governing board member for the South Florida Water Management District, the state cost-share partner for C-43 and other Everglades projects. "Having it in there and having it authorized is the critical next step. That's one of my highest priorities because as we get into the lower water levels int the lake, being able to rely on C-43 to make the difference is a critical item for Southwest Florida."
The reservoir includes two storage cells that would be capable of holding 170,000-acre feet, or 55 billion gallons, of water. Water from the Caloosahatchee would be pumped into the cells during the rainy season and released during especially dry periods.
Balancing fresh water and salinity levels is crucial to the coastal chain of life, safe recreation waters and a healthy tourism industry. Water would be pumped from the river to the reservoir during periods of heavy rain and then released back to the river during dry spells. The reservoir will not capture excess flows from Lake Okeechobee.
Hutchcraft said money from the federal government will likely be released in "chunks" over the course of several years. The reservoir will be built on farm lands, some of which are being used. Otherwise, the district is poised to put the work up for bid.
"We have our permits in place," Hutchcraft said. "The design is complete. From that perspective, we are ready to go."
Some environmental groups wanted to see the Central Everglades Planning Project — a series of projects expected to cost $1.9 billion — included in this WRDA cycle. Water bills were once funded every two years, but it's been nearly seven years since the federal government last sent money to states for these types of projects.
"Obviously that's a disappointment, but the timing didn't allow for CEPP in this round," said Dawn Shirreffs, science policy expert for the Everglades Foundation. "We need to sit down and see how we can get WRDA on track."
Shirreffs said she hopes the federal government will stay true to recent commitments to release water and infrastructure bills every two years.
"That language is common when WRDA gets passed," she said. "It was certainly part of the dialogue in 2007. We are hoping the commitment is held and not just rhetoric."
By the numbers
• 55: Billion gallons of water storage capacity
• 2: Holding cells
• 11,000: Acres of land within the project
• 15 to 25: Feet of depth in storage cells
• 800: Thousands of acres within the Caloosahatchee River watershed


Caloosahatchee reservoir inching closer to reality – by Chad Gillis
May 16, 2014
The state voted Thursday to give fish and wildlife in the Caloosahatchee River at least part of the fresh water they need to survive and thrive.
The South Florida Water Management District governing board voted unanimously to supply the estuary with all water that is pumped into the treatment cells or that falls onto the water treatment compound. The reservation essentially means that water in the system — which will be capable of storing 170,000 acre-feet, or 55 billion gallons — is designated for ecology and not future development.
"For 10 years I've been hearing the naysayers voice opposition to the reservoir — it won't stop red tide, it won't stop drift algae from piling onto our beaches," said Pete Quasis, a boat captain and member of Audubon of the Western Everglades.
"It provides protection for this jewel that we have in western Florida. It's not just about the fish and wildlife."
The state is required to make water reservations for Everglades restoration projects such as the reservoir, and Thursday's vote was the next step in making the reservoir a reality. According to district records, the reservation sets aside water for fish and wildlife along coastal Lee County.
Water quality experts say the reservoir will hold about one-third of the water needed to keep the estuary healthy.
The reservoir will be built on an 11,000-acre farm in Hendry County, but its impact will be felt mostly in Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sanibel — communities that are downstream of C-43. The reservoir is designed to capture stormwater from inside the Caloosahatchee River watershed — about 800,000 acres along the north and south banks of the river — store it during period of heavy rain and then release the water during the dry seasons, when sea grasses and oysters sometimes die off because of high salinity levels.
Heavy rains last summer sent freshwater plumes 15 miles off Sanibel in one of the wettest rainy seasons on record. The Caloosahatchee Reservoir is expected to help with flooding, but water quality experts say the reservoir would have filled within a week or so in July of last year.
The reservoir received another boost Thursday when the federal government published a final list of Everglades restoration projects, which showed nearly $627 million in costs for C-43. Like most restoration projects, the Caloosahatchee Reservoir is a cost-share agreement between the Army Corps of Engineers and the state.

Lake Okeechobee water levels in better shape for summer storms
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
May 16, 2014
Nearing the end of South Florida's dry season, Lake Okeechobee is better positioned than last year to handle the summer rains to come, water management officials said Thursday.
Last year, flooding threats blamed on the swollen lake's troubled dike lead to the Army Corps of Engineers draining hundreds of billions of gallons of lake water out to sea.
Those lake discharges wasted water South Florida relies on to boost water supplies and also had environmentally damaging consequences on coastal fishing grounds.
But now the lake is about a half foot lower than this time last year, allowing more capacity for the influx of stormwater runoff expected to flow into the lake during the summer-to-fall storm season.
"We are in pretty good shape," said Jeff Kivett, operations director for the South Florida Water Management District. "We have made a lot of strides."
The dry season allowed Lake Okeechobee — which serves as South Florida's primary backup water supply — to recede without dropping too low. On Thursday, the lake level was 12.82 feet above sea level.
Likewise, water levels in the Everglades water conservation areas have hovered near normal. Those conservation areas supplement community drinking water supplies in addition to providing wildlife habitat.
Unlike past dry seasons that prompted droughts and tougher water rationing, this dry season delivered closer to normal rainfall — almost 13 inches since November, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
While Lake Okeechobee's water level is well positioned now, one strong storm or just a rainier-than-usual summer could still trigger renewed lake water releases to the coast.
In June, water management district officials plan to discuss adjusting the guidelines used to determine when water gets released from Lake Okeechobee and how much.
"We have got to look at our priorities," said water district Board Member Mitch Hutchcraft, who said we need to "manage the water better."
Before drainage for South Florida farming and development got in the way, Lake Okeechobee water once naturally flowed south and replenished the Everglades.
Slow-moving, multibillion-dollar Everglades restoration efforts are aimed at restoring more of those water flows to the south. Likewise, a decades-long rehab project aims to strengthen the lake's dike, considered one of the country's most at-risk of failing.
But until those improvements are made, rising Lake Okeechobee water levels that put the dike at risk are expected to lead to draining more lake water west into the Caloosahatchee River and east into the St. Lucie River.


Senators release WRRDA Conference Report Summary - Press Release
May 16, 2014
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Senator David Vitter (R-LA), EPW Committee Ranking Member, released highlights of the bipartisan, bicameral agreement that was reached late last week on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) conference report.
The WRRDA conference report was filed yesterday and is expected to be voted on in the House and Senate next week.
“The bipartisan, bicameral conference report on the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) authorizes 34 critical Army Corps projects. These projects, which have undergone Congressional scrutiny and have completed reports of the Chief of Engineers, will strengthen our nation’s infrastructure to protect lives and property, restore vital ecosystems to preserve our natural heritage, and maintain navigation routes for commerce and the movement of goods to keep us competitive in the global marketplace,” they stated.
The highlights include:
• Improvements for Commerce and Increased Investments in Ports
Ports and waterways in the United States moved over 2.3 billion tons of goods in 2012. These ports and waterways require dredging, maintenance and modernization to ensure the efficient, safe and timely movement of goods.
The conference report authorizes improvements to ports around the country. These improvements at ports such as Jacksonville, FL and Boston, MA, will help expand the flow of commerce and improve goods movement.
Each year only roughly half of the $1.8 billion collected in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) for maintenance and dredging is being used to support projects. The conference report establishes minimum authorization levels for HMTF funding in future fiscal years, with the goal of achieving full use by 2025.
The conference report sets priorities that address the needs of larger ports, like Los Angeles, Long Beach, and New Orleans, which are some of the busiest ports in the world. The conference report also addresses smaller ports, the Great Lakes, and the sea ports that are large donors to the fund, which will improve the flow of commerce at the ports and waterways. It also helps underserved ports that have not been maintained at their authorized depths or widths in the last six years.
• Protection for Communities from Extreme Weather and Natural Disasters
After the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, it became clear that communities needed assistance to protect lives and property and improve infrastructure resiliency from the impacts of extreme weather and natural disasters.
The conference report encourages the Corps to use resilient construction techniques that are more durable and sustainable in the face of extreme weather. It also requires the National Academy of Sciences and Government Accountability Office to evaluate options for reducing risk from extreme weather events and ensure the Corps is using best practices to address threats from floods, droughts, and storms.
The conference report improves responses to extreme weather events by providing the Corps with new authority to conduct rapid, post-disaster watershed assessments and implement small flood control and ecosystem restoration projects.
• Flood Protection and Safety Improvements for Communities
The conference report authorizes critical flood control and coastal hurricane protection projects across the country, including rebuilding the levees in the Natomas Basin of Sacramento, CA, and constructing the Morganza to the Gulf project, which will protect coastal communities across Louisiana.
Of the 100,000 miles of levees across the country, almost 85 percent of these are locally owned, operated, and maintained — making it extremely difficult to collect information about the levees or estimate their reliability and leaving the public at risk if a levee fails. The conference report enhances the safety of the Nation’s levees, establishing a National Levee Safety Initiative that promotes consistent safety standards and effectively communicates to the public the risks of living behind a levee.
Another challenge that communities face is that the nation’s dams are improperly maintained and are aging quickly, which poses significant safety and economic risks. Of the 84,000 dams in America, the average dam is 52 years old, and 14,000 are considered high-hazard, meaning failure would cause significant loss of life and damage to the surrounding area.
The conference report increases funding for dam inspections and maintenance, provides stronger safety requirements, upgrades emergency preparedness plans in order to prevent dam failures, and improves recovery plans in the event of dam failures.
• Ecosystem Protection
The conference report authorizes numerous projects to restore the precious ecosystems and preserve the natural heritage, including four projects critical to the ongoing restoration of the Florida Everglades and multiple projects to restore Louisiana’s valuable coastal wetlands.
The conference report prioritizes ecosystem restoration projects that address identified threats to public health and preserve or restore ecosystems of national significance. It is also addresses important ocean and coastal resiliency issues, allowing the Corps to carry out ocean and coastal resiliency projects in coordination with a broad range of stakeholders, including states, federal agencies, and NGOs.
• Initiatives to Address High Priority, Regional Water Resources Issues
Waterways do not stop at the state border, and greater cooperation is needed to address issues that affect different regions of the country. The conference report focuses on regional initiatives to address important water resource issues that impact communities located near river basins and coastal areas across the country.
These initiatives authorize restoration of important ecosystems along the Atlantic coast, control invasive species in the Columbia River, repair water infrastructure in Western states, authorize environmental restoration and navigation on the Middle Mississippi River, address extreme weather impacts in the Northern Rockies, and reauthorize successful programs to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the Rio Grande River, and the Lower Columbia River.


Indian River Lagoon

Indian River Lagoon program could become independent of district
DaytonaBchNewsJ. - by Dinah Voyles Pulver
May 15, 2014
Researchers, scientists and interest groups along the Indian River Lagoon will convene in Melbourne on Friday and Saturday to discuss challenges facing the lagoon system at an “Action Assembly” sponsored by the Marine Resources Council.
One of the biggest discussion items is expected to be whether the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program could be restructured to an independent body that could collect more state, federal and private money to devote toward restoration of the troubled lagoon system.
For the past three years, a series of algae blooms, sea grass die-offs and marine mammal deaths have plagued the lagoon system, which stretches 156 miles from Ponce Inlet to Jupiter Inlet. The News-Journal profiled the problems in a five-day series in December.
The Resources Council organized the Action Assembly to “lay the foundation for an action plan to address the deteriorating condition” of the lagoon, bringing together roughly 100 community representatives “to serve as the community’s voice.”
Chad Truxall, director of the Marine Science Center in New Smyrna Beach, will attend. Truxall said Thursday he thinks much of the talk could focus on the potential new independent estuary program.
“I think the problems are pretty clear, and now it’s coming up with a cohesive management plan lagoon-wide,” Truxall said.
Since its inception in 1991, the estuary program has been sponsored by the St. Johns River Water Management District and housed at the district’s Palm Bay offices. The program operates with an advisory board, which includes representatives from the counties along the lagoon as well as state and federal agencies, and a similarly structured technical advisory committee.
As the public concern grew over the lagoon issues, the advisory board has become more interested in doing more to protect and preserve the lagoon system and expand the program’s public education efforts.
The water management district has hired Henry Dean, a consultant and former district executive director, to look at whether the program should become more independent. Dean’s objective, according to the contract, is to determine if the program could be designed like the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, which has a federal tax status that allows private, tax-deductible contributions. Dean will talk with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the estuary program, one of 28 nationwide.
Bill Kerr, a former St. Johns district governing board member who has also served on the estuary program board for years, said he’s interested in the possibilities.
“If splitting it comes with a lot of money, then that’s the best thing to do for the lagoon,” said Kerr said. “If it doesn’t come with money and you just cut the board off with only the half million dollars from the EPA, then you have another ineffective organization.”
As the three-day council convened its first event Wednesday night, some Volusia officials voiced concerned about the way invitations for the assembly were handled.
“We have been left out terribly,” said Councilman Doug Daniels, who represents Volusia on the national estuary program board.
Volusia needs “to get more involved,” said Daniels, speaking to his fellow council members. He was frustrated that of the $230 million the Florida Legislature appropriated for lagoon programs in the coming year, little, if any, of that money appeared destined for Volusia County.
Truxall said New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer also will attend the assembly, as well as a representative of Bethune-Cookman University.


Louisiana sees a mirror image in efforts to save Florida's Everglades - by John Snell
May 15, 2014
THE EVERGLADES, FL (WVUE) - Florida has made progress carrying out its ambitious Everglades restoration effort, but faces many of the same frustrations plaguing Louisiana's coastal restoration plans
One of America's great natural areas might remind the casual visitor of Louisiana, populated by a couple million alligators, thousands of wading birds and vistas that seem mirror images.
Though different in many ways, the two landscapes share another trait: Man has radically altered the forces that shaped them and now seeks to, at least partially, turn back the clock.
For thousands of years, water spilled out of Lake Okeechobee and crept toward the Gulf of Mexico, through sawgrass, swamps and - by Louisiana standards - giant mangrove trees.
Author Marjory Stoneman Douglass called this unique place, "a river of grass," a moniker proudly adopted by Floridians to describe the Everglades.
Aida Arik, a hydrologist with the Everglades Foundation, explains the plumbing here used to work differently.
"Water would flow as a sheet over land," Arik said.

The Everglades are the only place in America where a visitor will spot breeding storks, the Wood Stork, and the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles coexist.
"There are no other Everglades in the world," Arik said.
Just as in the Louisiana river delta, man sought to improve on the plumbing, aggressively draining, damning and diverting water through the 20th century.
South Florida has one of the world's most elaborate canal systems, highways of water draining what seemed a vast wasteland decades ago.
"Everybody looks at swamps and says, 'that's a useless thing.' No, it's not," said Dr. Jerry Lorenz, State Research Director for Audubon Florida.
As developers and farmers found other uses for water, over half the original Everglades were lost.
Water that had historically flowed south was channeled to the east and west coasts of Florida, often loaded with the fertilizer runoff from farms that fouled estuaries and harmed the seafood industry.
"The Everglades is like a giant jigsaw puzzle," said Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon Florida. "It's even more complicated, like a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle."
In the year 2000, Congress approved The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a $10 billion effort over 30 years to restore the system to a more natural flow.
Just as in Louisiana, people in Florida learned that winning Congressional authorization for a federal waterworks project often bears little connection to actually building one. That changed over the last couple of years, as Florida completed some of the first key projects.
Last year, crews elevated the first of six miles of roadway along the Tamiami Trail, an east-west highway in South Florida that acts as one long levee, choking Everglades National Park.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers redesigned a major canal outside the park - the C-111 - to the channel more water into Florida Bay.
"We're not getting the federal authorizations and resources that we need," said Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Just last month, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers review panel missed a deadline to approve a key part of the restoration effort. The $2 billion Central Everglades Plan bundles half a dozen different projects, designed to move more water south to the national park, increase South Florida drinking water supplies, and lessen discharges of water on the east and west coasts of Florida.
Environmentalists believe the delay was responsible for leaving the critical projects out of the Water Resources Development Act, a massive waterworks project working its way through Congress and threatens to delay their authorization by years.
However, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson points out the CEPP study has progressed at a far faster pace than the average Corps project and the review panel could sign off on the plan by this summer.
That same bill, expected to be approved by both the House and Senate, also authorizes the Morganza to the Gulf levee system to provide hurricane protection for the Houma area.
Without the authorization, water projects stall, often sitting as nothing more than plans on a shelf for years or decades.
Nearly $1 billion dollars in other work for the Everglades made it into the bipartisan bill published Tuesday, including a project to bring fresh water to Biscayne Bay and $627 million to would capture and treat polluted Lake Okeechobee water.
The stakes are huge for this American treasure and Florida's multibillion-dollar tourism industry.
"Why should people care about the Everglades is like asking why should you care about the Washington Monument or the Statue of Liberty or the Grand Canyon or any of the other great monuments or places that we have in our country," Audubon's Draper said.
In fact, the issue is not just for tree huggers and bird watchers.
Turns out, fresh water feeding the Everglades also seeps into a giant aquifer that provides drinking water to seven million people, including all of metro Miami.
"When I come and I talk to people about birds, they're like, 'whatever, my favorite kind of bird is fried,'" joked Jane Graham, Audubon Florida's Everglades Policy Associate.
However, Graham said, when she explains the connection to water supplies "that's when they realize, okay, this is important."
For those projects that have been completed, environmentalists insist the early signs are positive, as vegetation springs back to life in some areas and wildlife returns.  However, experts warn it's far too early to know definitively how well the projects are working.
"We didn't impact the Everglades overnight," said Charles Pattison, President of the group 1000 Friends of Florida. "It's going to take many, many years to correct many of the mistakes that we now realize."
The effort's staunches advocates concede that others are watching Florida closely to see if this first major restoration actually works.
"It really is the model for many other projects," Hecker said. "If we can do this successfully, we hope it is a template for success that can be used elsewhere."

Of alligators, heavy metal, and space shuttles - by Lindsey Konkel
May 15, 2014
Did NASA's shuttle launches affect gators in a Florida wildlife refuge ?
(Originally published by Environmental Health News)
Billows of fire and smoke filled the air above Florida’s Kennedy Space Center as the countdown clock reached zero. Flanked by two rocket boosters and strapped to the back of a giant red fuel tank, the space shuttle blasted off.
Within seconds, the spacecraft disappeared from sight. In just over eight minutes, it reached outer space. But NASA’s launches have left more than a legacy of space exploration.
Before leaving Earth’s atmosphere, each shuttle spewed thousands of pounds of metals and other chemicals into the air. Some contaminants fell into a federal wildlife refuge surrounding the base that is home to alligators, sea turtles, and other endangered animals.
“People think of a shuttle launch as a short-term, finite event, but each launch expels a huge amount of debris into the atmosphere with the potential for long-term effects on the surrounding ecosystem,” said John Bowden, an environmental chemist at Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C.
Metal levels spiked after every launch
Immediately after each takeoff, metal concentrations spiked in the waters around the launch pads. And while the levels remained high for only a few days, these contaminants may have accumulated in the ecosystem’s top predator – the alligator. Gators near the launch pads have excessive levels of iron in their livers.
Effects on the creatures, however, are largely unknown. Alligators there have elevated thyroid hormones, which can disrupt growth. Nevertheless, the gators and other creatures in the 140,000-acre refuge appear healthier than animals in some highly developed, polluted parts of Florida.
From 1981 through 2011, NASA launched 135 space shuttles from Kennedy Space Center, which is surrounded by one of Florida’s last protected saltwater ecosystems.
Refuge hosts 14 endangered species
The 35-mile long Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 1,500 species of plants and animals, including 14 at risk of extinction.
“If it wasn’t for the launching facilities, the feds would have never acquired this land, and I think it’s safe to say it would look a lot like the rest of the East Coast of Florida right now – condos,” said Mike Legare, the refuge’s supervisory biologist.
Yet preservation comes at a price. “What we pay for all the positives is localized contamination, specifically at these launch pads,” Legare said.
The launches spew metal particles that fall back to earth and settle into the water. Where those particles ultimately go and what effects they may be having on animals in the refuge remain unclear.
Metal particles may be in food web
Some scientists suspect the contaminants may be working their way up the food web.
Louis Guillette, a zoologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, has been studying alligators in Florida for decades. He found that gators in a lagoon near one of the launch pads had higher levels of iron and other metals, including lithium, nickel and mercury, in their livers than alligators from two other parts of Florida.
Their levels of iron were so high that the same amount would cause liver damage in mammals--humans, donkeys and deer, according to the study. However, few studies have investigated iron toxicity in reptiles, and no one knows what levels might cause liver damage in alligators.
Gator hatchlings smaller
In addition, baby alligators collected as eggs from the brackish waters of the Merritt Island refuge had elevated thyroid hormones. Some metals can target the thyroid gland, which regulates growth and metabolism. When they hatched in the lab, the refuge’s gators were smaller and weighed less than gators taken from another Central Florida refuge.
The different thyroid hormones and weight may have more to do with Merritt Island’s salty, brackish water than its contaminants. Saltwater contains iodine that can alter thyroid hormones, and alligators aren’t very efficient at excreting salt because they are adapted to freshwater environments.
Still, Guillette said, it’s possible that the contaminants were behind the hormone differences. “Some of the heavy metals we saw are clearly not supposed to be there in the environment,” he said. In the juvenile alligators, for instance, they found lithium, nickel, bismuth and other metals used in the shuttles.
NASA says gators healthy
NASA officials said that the creatures around the Kennedy Space Center are healthy.
“We have robust ecological communities that appear to be thriving in these areas,” said Mike Deliz, NASA remediation project manager.
Guillette, for the most part, agrees. The alligators he tested near the space center are healthier by many markers than alligators at a contaminated lake near Orlando, Lake Apopka. Guillette is renowned for discovering in the 1990s that a pesticide spilled in the lake altered the gators’ sex hormones, leaving them feminized.
When the shuttle launches began, NASA-affiliated scientists began collecting water samples to observe the environmental effects, said Carlton Hall, program manager for the Kennedy Space Center Ecological Program.
Water sampled for 13 years, 41 launches
The researchers collected water from 11 sites after 41 shuttle launches between 1996 and 2009. Some were within drainage lagoons adjacent to the launch pads. Others were located in nearby Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River and Banana Creek.
Immediately after launches, the researchers detected what they called “a dramatic increase” in four metals associated with launch operations. Manganese, aluminum, iron and zinc rose between 37 and 175 percent in the sampling sites closest to launch pads compared with other parts of the Merritt Island refuge.
“While there could be several natural and anthropogenic sources for metal deposition at KSC, the data in this report indicate that shuttle launch events are a significant source,” according to a study by Bowden, Guillette and other researchers published this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Metal levels fell to normal
Yet within a day or two after the launch, the levels around the launch pads fell back to normal. The water in 2009 did not contain appreciably higher levels of metals than it did in 1996.
“The fact that we found no accumulation over time was really interesting. We know that each launch puts thousands of kilograms of matter into the environment. Where it goes is still a bit of a mystery,” Bowden said.
Unpublished research from Kennedy Space Center scientists showed the contaminants apparently were not accumulating in the sandy soils. Deliz said low levels of zinc and aluminum were found, but not at levels high enough to warrant cleanup.
Water caustic as battery acid
In Merritt Island’s shallow water ecosystem, sediments are constantly moved around by tides and storms. The contaminants also may seep into groundwater and disperse throughout the refuge, Legare said.
Bowden suspects gases released by the shuttle may play a key role in the uptake of metals into wildlife. The plume contains hydrogen chloride, a strong acid. After launches, the pH of the lagoons may plummet for a short time, rendering the water nearly as caustic as battery acid.
Seashells and limestone soils quickly neutralize the water, restoring normal pH within hours. But acidity can make some metals more soluble, meaning they can be taken up by plants and animals.
Alligators perfect monitoring tool
Protected as a threatened species, the alligator, Guillette said, is a perfect animal for monitoring the health of the wetlands around Kennedy Space Center.
Gators may live 40 to 60 years, which means that the oldest ones at Merritt Island may even predate the moon landing. “It’s a long-lived, top predator. And unlike birds, they can’t get up and fly away,” he said.
Although the shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA scientist Lynne Phillips said it’s important to understand hazardous contaminants as the space center transitions to what she calls “the next generation of space launch.” The launch pads and buildings are being redesigned for future missions with commercial space partners.
Commercial launches on horizon
“There are going to be environmental consequences any time you light off a Roman candle that big, but NASA itself has been a very good neighbor to wildlife by minimizing impacts to pristine parts of the wildlife refuge and seashore,” said Charles Lee, advocacy director of Audubon of Florida.
But Lee worries about the future. A proposal to build a commercial spaceport just north of Kennedy Space Center may jeopardize habitat in other parts of the refuge, in an area considered one of the most important sites on the East Coast for wading birds.
The most compelling issue, Lee said, is “whether the private space industry is going to confine its impacts to sites that have already been disturbed or attempt to chop up the remainder of the wildlife refuge.”
Lindsey Konkel is a staff writer for the Daily Climate and its sister site, the Environmental Health News, a foundation-funded daily news service that also publishes its own enterprise journalism.


Oil Drilling

Oil drilling ? In the Everglades ?
Florida Current – by William Gibson, Sun Sentinel
May 15, 2014
Fracking-like activity raises alarms
WASHINGTON – A Texas company has been caught using fracking-like blasting methods to drill for oil near the Everglades, raising alarms from state officials and inflaming a long-simmering controversy over energy exploration in the midst of a cherished ecosystem.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., urged federal officials to investigate. The state fined the company and demanded a temporary halt to five new exploratory wells.
And the fracking-like episode drew widespread attention to an emerging oil rush at the western edge of the Everglades, rousing opposition from environmentalists across the state who worry about the impact on water quality and wildlife.
‘Watershed’ event
“This is our watershed,” said Vickie Machado, of Fort Lauderdale, a Florida organizer for Food & Water Watch. “They are using millions of gallons of clean water, mixing it with chemicals with known carcinogens, and pumping it underground to break up the protected rock formations out there. The potential is pretty scary.”
State officials last month cited the Dan A. Hughes Co., of Beeville, Texas, for using an “enhanced extraction procedure” in December akin to fracking without a permit in defiance of a cease-and-desist order to stop the practice. The Department of Environmental Protection said the enhanced procedure, which some call fracking, “had not previously been used in Florida.”
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, blasts open rock formations through high-pressure injections of chemicals and water while filling fissures with sand to hold them open, drawing out trapped oil or natural gas. Environmentalists scorn the practice and some communities are considering banning it, largely because it produces large amounts of toxic wastewater.
Broke the law
The Hughes Co. last year asked the state for permission to use high-pressure injection of dissolving acids at a production well in Collier County. The environmental protection officials, concerned about this new procedure, told the company not to move forward but later found that it did anyway.
The department slapped the company with a $25,000 fine for “unauthorized actions,” which the agency called the maximum civil penalty under Florida law, and ordered it to hire an independent expert approved by the department to monitor groundwater near the site. Then on May 2, under pressure from the state, the company agreed to stop drilling five new wells until a review of the impact of the fracking-like episode is completed, probably in December.
Spokesman David Blackmon said the company is “confident the results are going to show that the groundwater hasn’t been negatively impacted” and that its operations do not pose a threat to contamination.
“The way these wells are constructed, there are multiple layers – five layers of concrete and heavy steel – that prevent any of the fluids going through the well bore from contacting the groundwater formation,” Blackmon said.
‘Not fracking’
The company denies that the new practice amounts to fracking because it uses an acidic solution instead of the usual fracking chemicals and a “modest volume” of water and sand.
But state officials remain wary of the practice. And Sen. Nelson has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the groundwater data once it is submitted by the company and state officials.
To environmental activists, already concerned that oil drilling will contaminate water supplies and damage the Everglades, the episode seemed to confirm their worst fears.
“It doesn’t reassure many people that they are pumping acid into the ground under high pressure to break up rock and draw out more oil,” said Matthew Schwartz, of Lake Worth, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. “Those liquids could move around laterally, but also up and down and into the drinking water supply.”
History of drilling
Energy companies have been extracting small amounts of oil on lands near the western Everglades since the 1940s without a major spill. Some 162 wells are operating in Florida, and the state has granted 37 drilling permits over the past five years.
New drilling techniques, the high price of oil and the depletion of deposits elsewhere have prompted energy companies to intensify the exploration while looking for “black gold” under deepwater areas offshore and near delicate ecosystems like the Everglades.
The Hughes Co. well is within a few miles of the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
The company also is drilling on a site adjacent to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. It has asked the Environmental Protection Agency for permission to dig an injection well next to the site to store wastewater dredged up from the drilling, a bid strongly opposed by many homeowners in Naples and activists across the Everglades watershed.
Cost of business ?
The fracking-like episode “shows us how far they will go to get the oil out. They will even break the law, knowing the fine is so nominal that they can just add it into the cost of drilling,” said Karen Dwyer, of Naples, who has organized opposition to drilling.
“Hopefully, there will be enough local, state and national attention so we can shut down Dan A. Hughes permanently in Florida before we get a catastrophic accident. We don’t need an onshore BP oil spill that could wipe out our Everglades.”
The Hughes well, 13,500 feet deep, is on private farming land owned by a Collier family company that has leased mineral rights to several oil companies exploring the region.
The drilling is unlikely to contaminate underground aquifers unless it springs a leak from pipes or casings, said Don Hargrove, minerals management specialist at the nearby Big Cypress National Preserve. He said aquifers in that area are separate from the Biscayne Aquifer underlying southeast Florida, making any underground contamination from one region unlikely to affect the other.
Attracting ‘wildcatters’
An estimated 702 million barrels of oil or natural gas – the equivalent of 29 billion gallons – are contained in a band of deposits known as the Sunniland Trend that stretches from Florida’s west coast to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report.
That’s enough to attract smaller independent “wildcatter” companies, said Jorge Pinon, an oil industry expert at the University of Texas.
He said drilling techniques, including fracking, have improved markedly since the Deepwater Horizon spill fouled the Gulf of Mexico four years ago. But oil drilling is inherently risky, he said.
“I don’t think there’s enough oil there for the major companies to take the risk – the political risk, the image risk, the reputation risk – of drilling in the Everglades,” Pinon said. “But you are going to see some of the independent companies taking that risk.”


Piney Point has earned public's apprehension on injection well
Bradenton Times – by Dennis Maley
May 15, 2014 
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has a big problem in Manatee County. It is responsible for a former phosphate mining operation that went bankrupt and left behind a toxic mess that only gets worse by the day. One effort to contain the hazard already proved disastrous. Now, they would like to build a Class I injection well and pump the problem deep into the Floridan aquifer, a process that it claims is safe and will not impact drinking or agricultural irrigation water.
Manatee County Utilities is on board and has proposed that the county spend more than $20 million to build the well. For obvious reasons, many people in Manatee County are about as comfortable with this idea as elective brain surgery. I can't say I blame them.
The site is located at the northernmost reaches of the county, adjacent to both Port Manatee and Bishop Harbor. The problem at Piney Point is a 350-acre pond filled with poisonous water. Taxpayers first inherited it in 2001, when Mulberry Phosphates Corporation went bankrupt, abandoning a fertilizer plant and its three mountainous stacks of radioactive gypsum  - a byproduct of phosphate mining that has no other application and dots the landscape of Florida's Bone Valley.
Such stacks sit around and collect rainwater, which they contaminate, in this case somewhere around a billion gallons worth that is forever threatening an ecological calamity for our community. Clearly, those responsible for such a mess would like to see it go away, but just because an idea is proposed doesn't mean it is the right way to go. Instead, there seems to be some merit in calls to slow this process down and gather more information.
Last fall, Manatee County Utilities asked the DEP for a permit to build the well. The DEP is enthusiastic for what would seem to be obvious reasons, including that the county would be footing the bill for a liability the department currently holds. The county would subsequently hold the liability should anything go wrong with the well. That sounds like a great deal for one of the two parties.
In fact, the DEP is so keen on the injection well solution that its representatives inferred several times on Tuesday that if the county didn't build one, a private company might, and that they would be equally enthusiastic about granting an approval if one did. That set up familiar warnings from the county attorney's office that they would be unlikely to win in court. It also set up Manatee County Utilities' argument that building it ourselves would give us control over what goes in the well that we might otherwise lose, as a private company might look to offset costs by soliciting toxic water from other companies to inject into the well for a fee.
The collective apprehension from those not with the DEP or Manatee County Utilities is well earned to say the least. If you know anything about the subject, the mere words Piney Pointusually causes your sphincter to clench. The site has already hosted numerous industrial accidents, a sulfuric gas leak that led to illness and dead cattle, and of course the toxic spills - including an intentional discharge into the Gulf of Mexico by the DEP in 2003, which spawned a historic red tide bloom, devastating the area's tourism industry. These have all been much less than what we've been told were worst case scenarios.
Most recently, when the DEP sold the site to HRK Holdings in 2006, the company hatched a plan to fill the gypsum stacks with material dredged from Port Manatee while port officials were deepening the waters to allow for larger ships. We were told that filling the stacks with the port's spoil would be the best way to prevent water from accumulating in them, and that the problem would be all but solved.
In 2011 of course, a rupture in the liner of one of the stacks led to the discharge of 170 million gallons of that poisonous water into Bishop Harbor. HRK filed for bankruptcy, sending the cursed land back to DEP and the taxpayers, who have thus far footed a bill of somewhere around $150-200 million before they start stroking checks for a well. The cost of that will likely be somewhere around $22-25 million more, assuming nothing goes wrong - a big assumption given the site's history.
Tuesday's Manatee County Commission workshop was a familiar scene. A bunch of people in suits paraded across the dais giving assurances that the plan was safe, necessary and prudent. The commission asked questions about something that in all fairness, they really couldn't be expected to fully understand; then a stream of distraught and often surprisingly-knowledgeable members of the public tried to squeeze their concerns and dissent into the allotted three minutes that individuals are restricted to during public comment.
We were told that Florida has around 180 active Class I wells and there have only been four "incidents," three of which were "corrected," while the other was sealed. From what I could find, there is somewhere just over 600 Class I wells throughout the United States. That would put at least a quarter of them in our state, which the presentation also claimed was particularly suited geologically (and I would imagine politically) to hosting such wells.
We were told that the injection site would be far beneath the part of the aquifer that is used for drinking water or irrigation, and that it is totally sealed off from that portion. We were also told that a reverse osmosis plant the county plans to build in 2020 would need such a well for its byproducts (the most common use for such wells today) and that by building this one, we'd be offsetting some of the future costs associated with that facility.
However, the fact of the matter is no one has ever used deep well injection to get rid of toxic phosphate byproducts. That's the reality and no matter how many assurances are given on pretreatment or other steps that would be taken, it causes most people's hair on the back of their necks to stand up. Bottom line: this is a new approach, even if it's using an oldtechnology.
To paraphrase one of the citizens who gave public comment at Tuesday's workshop, every catastrophe in history had been pronounced harmless at some point before things went pear shaped. From the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that recently poisoned our gulf, to the spewing of millions of gallons of toxic discharge at the very site in question, the science behind the endeavors that ultimately led to those incidents had been pronounced sound - and often by experts much better credentialed than those who presented Tuesday.
When it comes to disposing of toxic waste, history is riddled with environmental missteps that were hailed as scientific solutions. The staggering price alone should designate this as the kind of project that the board moves slowly on and with much public input and outside research. However, this is about much more than cost and much more than the here and now. This is about protecting the very foundation of human life for generations to come. When you consider what is at stake, it's difficult not to come away feeling as though the process that is under way has not been nearly as cautious and comprehensive as that which is deserved.


St. Johns River Water Management District website now offers regular water quality info
May 15, 2014
 The St. Johns River Water Management District has launched a new website page.
Called, it will provide regular updates on water quality in the Lower St. Johns River Basin in Northeast Florida.
The website will also include information about projects to restore and protect the river system, significant algae blooms when they occur, and links to other agencies’ river information.
District scientists collect algae samples for analysis to determine the species and possible presence of algal toxins to better understand algal blooms, which regularly affect the St. Johns River in the Jacksonville area.
To learn more about what can be done to reduce the potential for algal blooms in the St. Johns River and other waterways, visit


Adapting to change - Editorial
May 14, 2014
Climate change has already affected Florida and is likely to be a continuing disruptor, a new report suggests. But the state has an enormous opportunity to confront this challenge, adapt and ensure a better future.
That means building infrastructure that withstands rising sea levels; preserving natural systems to protect water supplies and reduce flooding; and making energy investments that curb greenhouse gas emissions. As with all things related to global warming, the report — the Third National Climate Assessment — will elicit debate and denial.
  City planning
A design for a coastal city that grows much of its own food, created by DeltaSync, a Dutch firm focused on “water-based urban development
The report acknowledges that many long-range impacts are hard to predict and subject to conflicting factors. But the assessment makes it clear that sea levels and average air temperatures are already higher.
Now is the time to start working on solutions. After all, we are not powerless against climate change. We can adapt. We must.
As the report warns, “our society and its infrastructure were designed for the climate that we have had, not the rapidly changing climate we now have and can expect in the future. In addition, climate change does not occur in isolation. Rather, it is superimposed on other stresses, which combine to create new challenges.”
The assessment sees challenges for the fast-growing Southeast. Rising sea levels are of particular concern in Florida because of the potential for saltwater intrusion on drinking water supplies.
That risk is not theoretical; it's been occurring in some coastal areas for decades.
Communities are trying to address it; strategies include bolstering efforts to reduce water usage, add storage capacity and capture rainfall naturally to recharge supplies. Such efforts should intensify.
Stormwater and sewer issues are additional concerns. The report notes that “just inches of sea level rise will impair the capacity of stormwater drainage systems to empty into the ocean.”
Upgrading wastewater-treatment systems is an expensive but crucial step in preparing for climate change.
Because emissions from fossil fuels are central to climate change, it is vital to curb them through conservation, advancements in cleaner burning technologies and greater reliance on nonpolluting energy sources.
Florida lags in this respect, even though its famous sunshine makes it well suited for solar power.
The cost of installing solar panels has dropped significantly, yet Florida's energy regulations and incentive regimens are largely unfriendly to solar energy. That needs to change. The state also should push for more fuel-saving mass transit.
The climate assessment emphasizes that rising temperatures would pose health dangers. More heat-related deaths are anticipated, for example, as well as illnesses once limited to tropical zones. Again, adaptive strategies — in areas such as the medical field and community design — can and should address these concerns.
The climate assessment is sobering, though some projected effects on health, agriculture and the environment are probably too uncertain to plan for at this point. The specifics remain debatable but the risks are not.
Climate change already is afoot, the report states, and offshore waters are “acidifying” — a serious concern to fishing and the entire marine environment that is such a precious part of life in Florida.
Denial is not the prudent course. It is time to meet the climate challenge head-on.
Related:           Sea level rise could lap at DC memorials        W*USA 9
Rubio: Climate Laws Won't Stop Storms, or China   Wall Street Journal
Marco Rubio Wants To Let The Planet Burn De Smog Blog

Atlantic hurricane season 2014: Two US landfalls predicted, East Coast at risk
May 14, 2014
Following a season with the fewest number of hurricanes since 1982, the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to follow suit as a below-normal hurricane season.'
With roughly 10 named tropical storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes predicted for the Atlantic Basin this season,
  Hurricanes's long-range forecasting team anticipates two storms, either tropical storms or hurricanes, to make landfall in the United States.
Atlantic Hurricane Season Key Points:
1. is predicting a below-normal hurricane season.
2. Tropical development this season may be altered by the onset of El Niño in late summer or fall.
3. Areas from the central and eastern Gulf of Mexico up through the East Coast will be most vulnerable for impacts from a tropical system.
The onset of El Niño, a short-term phenomenon associated with above-normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, may alter weather patterns across the globe. At some point this summer, El Niño will likely increase wind shear across portions of the Atlantic basin and thus suppress the development of tropical storms this season.
"If we have a robust El Niño develop, then the numbers will be much lower and this could be one of the least active years in recent memory," Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.
If the 2014 season falls short of normal, it would only be the fourth below-normal season in 20 years, according to NOAA.
The official start of hurricane season, June 1, 2014, could be ushered in by one or two storms in June or July, according to Kottlowski.
However, most storms and the best potential for landfall will be on the horizon for the basin during the heart of hurricane season, which occurs later in the summer and into fall, in the months of August, September and October.
This summer, the areas to watch closely for potential impact will be those from eastern Louisiana, east through Florida and up through the Carolina and Virginia coasts, including the cities of New Orleans, Tampa, Miami, Key West, Charleston and Norfolk.
However, other areas along the coastline could still be hit as early predictions for pathways and intensity of storms and hurricanes weeks ahead of time are extremely difficult, according to Kottlowski.
Although this season overall numbers are predicted to be low, meteorologists urge people to be prepared for the worst.
"All we need is one hurricane," Kottlowski said. "Just because we are saying this is going to be an inactive season doesn't mean we couldn't have a couple of very intense hurricanes."
Kottlowski emphasized the importance of preparing for a storm, comparing this season to that of 1992. Nearly 22 years ago, after a nearly tranquil summer, Hurricane Andrew made landfall. A Category 5 storm, Andrew wiped out South Florida and portions of Louisiana, including Morgan City, and became one of the most memorable hurricanes in history.
"I'm worried because people think this is going to be a very inactive year, so people think they don't have to worry, but that's not the case at all," Kottlowski said. "All it takes is one storm or hurricane to ruin your vacation or your property."
Ahead of the season, meteorologists urge citizens along the coast to begin preparations for the season. Once a storm or hurricane is on its way, it's almost too late, Kottlowski added.
Hurricanes can induce storm surges, or a pile-up of water that moves with a hurricane and rises quickly before crashing along the coast, which can wash away entire neighborhoods. Superstorm Sandy demonstrated the strength of storm surges in October 2012, nearly demolishing the New Jersey coastline.
Damaging winds are another component of hurricanes that can bring extensive damage to impacted areas, as straight-line winds can knock down anything untethered. Hurricanes are also known for spawning tornadoes as they make landfall.
"Have an emergency kit together that includes food, water, copies of your housing documents, insurance papers and a safety kit," Kottlowski said. "Think about the possibilities of where you are going to evacuate to."

Engineers seeking options to speed up slow Lake O dike repairs
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid, 
March 14, 2014
Overdue answers for how to fix more of Lake Okeechobee's troubled dike may come this summer, but the start of that repair work could still be almost three years away, according to federal officials.
The 70-year-old dike that protects South Florida communities and farmland from flooding is considered one of the country's most at-risk of failing. Despite the concerns, repairs have been slowed through the years by technical problems, escalating costs and other setbacks.
After finishing a 21-mile-long section of a reinforcing wall in 2012, the Army Corps of Engineers launched a study of options for fixing the other 122 miles of levee surrounding Florida's Great Lake.
That exploration of alternatives for reinforcing the 30-foot-tall earthen levee was supposed to be completed in 2014, but delays pushed it into this year. And the upgrades it ends up calling for could still take more than a decade to finish.
"There's still a lot of work to do on the dike," Lt. Col. Thomas Greco, the Army Corps' deputy district commander who oversees the dike rehab, told South Florida officials on Thursday.
While the Army Corps maintains that progress is being made, local and state officials for years have been calling for the federal government to do more to jumpstart efforts to strengthen the dike.
"It's going to take forever," said Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana, who serves on the South Florida Water Resources Advisory Commission. "We still have concerns. ... You have got to speed it up."
In August, Gov. Rick Scott tried to turn up the political heat on the federal government by saying that the dike "has deteriorated due to a lack of investment and maintenance by the Corps of Engineers."
The slow-moving rehab of the143-mile-long Herbert Hoover Dike is already costing about $750 million for its initial phases.
Dike repairs are aimed at guarding against erosion, which can lead to a breach. While water naturally seeps through the earthen structure, increased seeping in concentrated areas raises the risk of erosion.
The main rehab work so far includes the five-year installation of a 21-mile stretch of a reinforcing "cutoff" wall built through the middle of the most vulnerable section of the dike, between Port Mayaca and Belle Glade. That section of wall was completed in October 2012.
Now work crews are replacing the dike's 32 culverts, which the Army Corps estimates will take until 2018.
The study coming out this summer is aimed at finding dike repair alternatives that would be less costly to build. The idea is also to avoid using more land along the perimeter of the dike, which in some sections borders backyards, rail lines and businesses.
Work on the "future fixes" could start in 2017, Greco said.
"The cutoff wall is extremely expensive," Greco said. "We think there are other alternatives out there."
In addition to posing a flooding threat to lakeside communities, the poor condition of the dike also limits how much water can be held in the lake.
To ease the strain on the dike when water levels rise during rainy periods, the Army Corps dumps lake water out to sea through the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
That draining wastes hundreds of billions of gallons of water that could be used to boost South Florida water supplies and replenish the Everglades. Also, dumping large amounts of fresh water from the lake into salty estuaries hurts coastal fishing grounds and can fuel toxic algae blooms, making water unsafe to swim.
Heavy lake discharges last summer triggered protests from coastal residents and businesses who called on state and federal leaders to stop the dumping.
While backlash over lake discharges to the coast drew more attention to the slow pace of dike repairs, there's no guarantee that once the repairs are completed that the discharges will lessen.
As the dike is improved, the Army Corps can consider holding more water in the lake as an alternative to dumping it out to sea, Greco said.
But on Thursday, Greco warned officials not to expect the ongoing review of dike conditions to show that the improvements made so far will indicate that the risks have been lowered enough to allow holding more water in the lake.
In addition to dike repairs, relief from the lake's damaging coastal discharges could come from Everglades restoration projects aimed at moving more Lake Okeechobee water south - where it once naturally flowed.
The nearly $2 billion Central Everglades plan, which still needs state and congressional approval, would take some of that lake water now dumped out to sea and instead send it south by removing portions of levees, filling in canals and increasing pumping.
"We are destroying those estuaries. The only alternative is sending that [lake] water south," said Drew Martin, of the Sierra Club. "We have to go forward."


Everglades projects included in federal water bill
May 14, 2014
MIAMI — A joint congressional committee has signed off on a long-anticipated federal water resources bill that includes some Everglades restoration projects.
Congress is likely to pass the bipartisan Water Resources Reform and Development Act next week.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., says the bill authorizes over $1 billion for four Everglades projects that would direct freshwater into Biscayne Bay and the southeastern Everglades. They also would store polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to keep it from flowing into the Caloosahatchee River.
However, the bill published Tuesday does not include the Central Everglades Planning Project. That plan would redirect more water south of Lake Okeechobee into the central Everglades and south into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. It's still being reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Related:           Everglades restoration projects included in federal water bill            Local 10-2
Federal bill covers some Everglades work
Congress agrees on water projects funding    Wink News
Chamber members listen to water quality reality        Beach Bulletin
Climate change report warns of frantic future for Florida
Water manager explains budget, Lake Okeechobee operations


Everglades restoration America’s issue, not just Florida’s
Palm Beach Post - by Maggy Hurchalla
May 14, 2014
Recently a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Review Board in Washington, D.C. threw a monkey wrench in Everglades restoration by failing to approve a key project.
Everyone, from local officials to Florida’s governor to the president, had supported the project that got derailed. That support was a model for cooperation in a politically gridlocked world.
The denial by the Corps bureaucracy left those who care about the Everglades in a puzzled rage.
The rage was duly communicated and the unfortunate decision will be reversed.
It provided a wake-up call we need to pay attention to.
We need to remind the world, the country and ourselves, what is at stake. We need to let them know we can’t wait to do the operation until after the patient has died.
There are no other Everglades in the world. It is the second largest wetland in the world. It is recognized as a World Heritage site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance.
What is at stake is far more than “just” the Everglades.
It is about all of South Florida and the interconnected wonders that make up the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.
That system runs from just south of Orlando through the coral reefs of the Florida Keys.
It holds the largest mangrove swamp in the world and the biggest sea grass beds. Without them we would be without fish, lobster, stone crabs and a recreational fishery like no place in the world.
It includes the third largest barrier reef in the world and surely the most accessible. Those who have dived, snorkeled or passed over the reef in a glass-bottom boat know that in terms of both biological diversity and the artistic wonder of creation, it is world class.
All this belongs, not just to Florida, but to the residents of every state who come here to vacation or retire. Twenty-five million people a year visit Florida. There is no other state that is shared by so many Americans.
It’s hard to believe we could kill all those superlatives.
But we can and we will if we do not vigorously pursue “comprehensive” Everglades restoration. It can’t be about my project vs. your project. It has to be about getting the water right to make the whole system work.
It’s disturbing to find out that urban South Florida legislators aren’t as worried about their future water supply as we are about our river.
It’s frustrating to find that North Florida legislators seem to think Everglades restoration is a project that doesn’t affect them. They should imagine trying to run the state with South Florida’s water supply and economy disappearing.
You have to wonder why every Congressman from Florida isn’t fighting for Florida’s Everglades.
Last summer, Martin County residents had a front-row seat watching our estuary die. We know that restoration has to be comprehensive and it can’t wait.
The state and federal officials who are involved in restoration have learned that the blame game doesn’t sell and it doesn’t work. Cooperation is beginning to happen.
We need to organize around that cooperation and create a national lobbying effort to educate Congress and their constituents about what is at stake.
In 2000, Congress, almost unanimously, approved a Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and committed to saving America’s Everglades.
We need to hold them to that promise.


Governor and Cabinet approve unpopular power lines and nuclear plant

Miami Herald - by Mary Ellen Klas
May 14, 2014
TALLAHASSEE -- After a last-minute settlement removed the city of Coral Gables from the communities fighting Florida Power & Light, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet granted the company permission to build two nuclear generators and 88 miles of transmission lines in Miami-Dade County.
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It was a victory for the state’s largest utility, but it won’t be the last fight. Local governments, who have challenged the placement of the 80- to 150-foot-high voltage towers along the line, are now preparing to sue the state.
“We’ll continue to fight it and challenge this in court in Miami,” Miami city attorney Victoria Méndez said after the two-hour hearing in the packed Cabinet room. “This entire process has been so one-sided in favor of FPL that we look forward to getting this into the court system, where justice will be served.”
Under the proposal, FPL will build two new 1,100-megawatt nuclear generators, known as Turkey Point 6 and 7, at a cost of $24 billion. The power supplied by current and future generators will be amped through two transmission lines. One will be a 230-kilovolt line running from Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Gables to a substation in Coconut Grove; the other will be a 500-kilovolt line, along the western edge of the county, adjacent to Everglades National Park.
FPL says the new lines are essential to supplying energy to South Florida’s growing population. The project would not come online until 2028, and FPL predicts that, over the 40-year life of the project, customers will save $64 billion in fossil-fuel costs.
Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, sitting as the Power Plant Siting Board, unanimously approved FPL’s request at the recommendation of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The announcement came after a last-minute settlement was reached between the power company and the city of Coral Gables, which is among the cities that have been at war over the proposal for nearly six years.
Under the settlement terms approved late Monday, FPL agrees to limit its pole heights for the proposed 230-kilovolt power lines to between 77 and 85 feet in Coral Gables. The current power poles in the city are between 47-72 feet, said city attorney Craig Leen. He said the settlement was the city’s attempt to salvage something from a losing hand.
“We saw the proposed order. We were going to lose, so we tried to get as much as we could out of this proceeding,” he said. “We believe it’s in the best interests of the city.”
The agreement will not keep the city from pursuing its lawsuit against FPL for violating its franchise agreement, Leen said. FPL also agreed to “make good faith effort to lower pole heights if technically feasible and practicable.” It will also allow Coral Gables to install LED lights on its light poles and to save money by bidding out the maintenance of the utility poles to FPL competitors.
FPL attorney Peter Cunningham wouldn’t say whether FPL would be willing to lower its pole size for other communities. “We focused on Coral Gables because they wanted to talk,” he said.
Coral Gables, along with the city of Miami and the village of Pinecrest, among Miami-Dade’s most affluent communities, have argued that if FPL needs the power lines, it should install them underground to avoid the negative impact on property values and economic development. FPL has argued that the cities should pay for any potential underground power lines.
Scott and the Cabinet rejected the cities’ arguments, and also rejected appeals from the cities to prohibit FPL from building the transmission lines until it has received a license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build the new generators.
“If there is never NRC approval of these nuclear reactors, then there should be no transmission lines built — and that’s the key,” Méndez told the governor and Cabinet. “It needs to be clear.”
But under state law, there is nothing that bars FPL from seeking approval from the Public Service Commission to charge customers under the nuclear cost recovery fee to build the power lines even before its engineering plans and safety designs get approved by the NRC.
Critics say FPL can build the transmission lines and use them to transmit power generated by its natural gas plants — even if it never builds the nuclear plants. Duke Energy in St. Petersburg and many other utility companies around the nation have launched plans to begin building nuclear plants but have abandoned them in the face of rising costs and cheaper alternatives.
The order approved Tuesday by the Power Plant Siting Board includes a voluntary agreement by FPL to refrain from building transmission lines in Coral Gables and Pinecrest until FPL receives federal approval for the nuclear project. But there is nothing to stop the company from building the lines along the western corridor and through the city of Miami or to change its mind.
The cities urged the Cabinet to impose tougher language — granting the permit for any construction only on the condition that a federal nuclear permit is received — but the governor and Cabinet rejected that.
“I hope they choose to do the right thing,” Bondi said after the meeting. “Our authority is very limited.”
Méndez said she was disappointed in the answer. “They should have done the right thing.”
The next step for FPL is to seek approval from the Public Service Commission to start charging customers to build the transmission lines.
“We will continue to proceed with NRC approvals subject to the NRC’s review schedule,” FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said. “As that gets more clear, we will be able to provide more certainty on other aspects of the project, including the [Florida Public Service Commission] review of transmission lines.”
In the western part of the county, FPL agreed to compromise with environmental groups and accept a proposed transmission line that would run alongside — but not in — Everglades National Park. There, three 500-kilovolt lines would be built on 150-foot poles. If the parties fail to reach agreement for that plan, environmental groups warn that a backup plan could harm sensitive wood-duck habitat, panther zones and wetlands.
During the hearing, Miami Dade County and environmental groups argued that the legal framework on which the governor and Cabinet were making the decision was one-sided and flawed. Proponents, including union members and local nuclear power plant workers, extolled the project’s job creation value.
The decision Tuesday was just one in a string of victories for FPL since 2006, when it first indicated it wanted to take advantage of the emerging interest in nuclear power as climate change became a politically volatile issue.
In 2008, during the height of South Florida’s housing boom, the Florida Public Service Commission agreed with FPL that there was no alternative available to match the potential of the nuclear plants, so it gave the company permission to start charging customers in advance to construct them.
An administrative law judge took eight weeks of testimony last year and concluded that the FPL met all the requirements of the state law that authorizes approval of power plants. FPL must receive approval each year from the PSC to continue to collect its nuclear fee, but in the last four years, the utility board has not rejected any of the company’s rate requests.
Opponents said they had hoped that election-year pressures would persuade the governor to at least delay a decision to get new estimates on the prudence of the proposal. But if that was a concern, Scott and his Republican colleagues did not seem to notice.
Putnam called the FPL plan “a significant expansion” of the state’s nuclear program that will help to diversify the state’s energy mix and have “great potential for our state.”
Scott said he was happy that FPL “is going to work with local communities to figure out where those lines should be.”
But opponents warned that the issue will resonate with voters.
“He just antagonized half of Miami-Dade County,” said Cindy Lerner, mayor of Pinecrest, after the vote.
South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard, who defeated a 10-year incumbent and was twice reelected on the platform of opposing the transmission lines, predicted it will hurt the governor’s reelection bid in November.
“I think he gave Charlie Crist a win,” he said. “I really thought he’d take it more seriously.”
FPL is among the largest campaign contributors in Florida.
Since 2010, FPL has contributed nearly $3 million to the campaigns of the governor, the Cabinet and the Republican Party of Florida. During the last 18 months, FPL has contributed $550,000 to Scott’s campaign alone and more than $700,000 to the RPOF.
Related:           Politicos Protest New FPL Nukes, Powerlines In Southern Dade     CBS Local

Three long views of life with rising seas
NY Times - by Andrew C. Revkin
May 14, 2014
After finishing my post on the inevitability of substantial long-term sea-level rise from Antarctic ice loss, I sent this question to Curt Stager, a paleoclimatologist and author of “Deep Future,” Kim Stanley Robinson, the novelist focused on “cli fi” before that term was conceived, and the astrobiologist David Grinspoon:
Given your focus on long timescales, environmental change and the human journey, I’m wondering if you might do quick riffs on how humans — in your view — will most likely deal with this?
Here are their responses:
Curt Stager, Paul Smith’s College:
The extra sea level rise due to the collapse of West Antarctic ice masses will play out over several centuries. It’s not like you’ll take your kids to the beach, leave them on a towel while you go to the snack bar for some ice cream, and then come back to find them washed out to sea.
When such changes are so slow, it’s hard for people to notice or even believe in them. Major coastal cities from Tokyo to Venice to New Orleans have already been dealing with the equivalent of catastrophic sea level rise for decades, thanks to land subsidence from the extraction of groundwater or hydrocarbons, but you rarely hear about that. It’s the sudden, extreme changes that we notice, and most of us will mainly experience chronic sea level rise in the form of sporadic storm surges that drive higher and farther inland than expected – as happened with Hurricane Sandy. It will be our challenge to connect those dots to expose the underlying trend, and to recognize our role in causing it.
For me, though, the apparent inevitability of such a large melt-off alone is shocking. It means that coastal cities I know and wild places like the Everglades that I love are now living on borrowed time, even if we could switch to non-fossil fuels fairly soon. The inundation may take centuries, but hearing that it may be un-stoppable makes it harder to ignore. These are huge changes we’re setting in motion – slow, yes – but huge nonetheless.
Judging from our responses to the sea level rise of the past century, our responses to the ongoing rise will probably vary wildly. New Jersey is seemingly trying to rebuild its shoreline communities as fast as possible with little thought for the future, politicians in North Carolina have essentially told coastal planners not to take future sea level rise into account, and some places would like to resist or adapt but lack the resources to do so. On the other hand, the Netherlands and New York are actively preparing for higher sea levels.
It’s not so much a question of science as of human nature. Imagine the stink we would all raise if another nation tried to take even one inch of our coastline away from us – and yet here is a slow taking of countless square miles from our shores by a carbon-driven ocean-turned-invader. We’ve become a major force of nature in this new Anthropocene epoch; politics and psychology have now become branches of ecology, and how we think, feel, and act has consequences of geological scope that will echo deep into the future.
We’re going to lose a lot of ice and a lot of coast with it, but there’s still time to avoid de-icing the planet entirely. As Washington governor Jay Inslee recently said, we’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change, and the last generation who can do something about it.
David Grinspoon, Library of Congress:
How will we deal with this?
Well, as you point out, sea level in itself will not have much of a drastic effect for a long time. Yet it is rightfully something people should be concerned about – because people need to become aware of longer timescales, and of problems that will increasingly affect our descendants. But its also fascinating and somewhat terrifying to realize that if this study is right then within centuries we may have to abandon or radically change so many low lying centers of human habitation and activity. A friend of mine joked on Facebook today about becoming a gondolier in New York City. I bet even if it comes to that we won’t abandon places like New York, but they may become unrecognizable.
The flooding of low-lying densely populated areas and potential changes to the global circulation system upon which agriculture depends – these are even harder problems than fixing cities.
But I think if our society is around for several more centuries we will have to have found different ways to deal collectively with our world-changing technologies. If we’ve made it that far, we’ll find ways to adapt.
On the shorter run it adsd to my concern that we are unleashing changes to the Earth system that we don’t actually know how to predict very well. I don’t have confidence in our ability to very precisely predict the responses of the Earth system, and that makes me more concerned about results like this, not less.
Kim Stanley Robinson:
I think maybe you could connect up this growing awareness of long time or deep time, in human civilization, with the previously noted increase in our sense of spatial reach, that sense that we are now all part of a single global civilization, the “global village” notion. Our sense of space and time has extended to the global, so we think in planetary terms in both now.
Thus although I believe strongly in thinking hard about our paleolithic roots as indicators of our mental and civilizational capabilities (see my most recent novel “Shaman”) I also think we are changing culturally, and can now think on the scale of centuries, and plan and act accordingly as a civilization. So this news is germane even though it is very long-range in its implications. We can think that long now.
When I was in Antarctica in 1995, what the glaciologists were saying about the WAIS [West Antarctic Ice Sheet], is that its changes will mostly likely take a long time, but there was a wild card, in that there are volcanoes under that ice, and if one were to erupt, things could change very quickly. Now they have found signs that those volcanoes are at least active, if not fully erupting. This was the scenario I pursued at the end of my “Green Mars,’ and in “Blue Mars” all the coastal cities are flooded.
In my recent novel “2312″ I describe an 11-meter sea level rise that is the result of a similar abrupt change. Manhattan is like Venice, fully functioning, indeed “better than ever” as they say in that time; a setting I plan to return to next year.
It was when the ice core data in Greenland established the three-year onset of the Younger Dryas that the geologists had to invent the term “abrupt climate change” because they had so frequently abused the word “quick” sometimes meaning several thousand years when they said that. Thus the appearance of “Abrupt Climate Change” as a term (and a National Research Council book in 2002).
Sea level rise is not likely to be abrupt, but merely “quick,” unless one of those volcanoes erupts, in which case all bets are off.
I think global civilization will take this new data in, and it will increase the urgency of the decarbonization efforts. Then there will be a long period of adaptation to the climate change and sea level rise already caused and almost inevitable. Maybe geo-engineering will get more discussion and maybe someday some geo-engineering will even be attempted, if conditions get desperate enough. The infrastructure efforts in all the coastal areas of the world could be thought of as simply the necessary human work, maybe even a full employment program of sorts. Intertidal real estate might be a thing: see the Manhattan in my “2312,” or the London in my “Blue Mars.”
Strange to think, I’ve been imagining these scenarios for 25 years now. Talk about long time scales! It means I am old. But even as short as our times are, we can still imagine centuries and plan for them, too.
Postscript | There are others I’d like to hear from, including Annalee Newitz, the io9 editor and author of “Scatter, Adapt and Remember,” the novelist Barbara Kingsolver and perhaps Wolfgang Lutz, a population analyst at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.
Why Lutz ?
While glaciologists are modeling the long-term fate of ice sheets (and sea levels), he’s modeling the fate of human populations through 2300. In an important 2008 paper, he and his co-author, Sergei Scherbov, charted a substantial prospect of a non-calamitous path toward 2 to 4 billion of us living prosperously on a thriving planet. Other paths head to 30 billion or more. (A 2013 paper builds on this work.) One of those outcomes is probably a more sustainable fit with retreating shores.
Why does this matter ?
It’s important to keep track of the human factor in charting environmental risks, whether of our making or “natural,” given that vulnerability to a hazard — coastal or otherwise — is a function of both the scope of the threat and the amount of exposure (and the resilience of those exposed).
How will humans respond?
The glacier analysis in Antarctica provides a good view both of the scope of changes humans are setting in motion in the “age of us,” the Anthropocene, and the (still poorly understood) complexity of the systems we’re nudging.
In an e-mail exchange with my friend Tom Yulsman, who also wrote about the Antarctic news, I said this in reflecting on broader implications of these findings:
The realities of sea-level rise and Antarctic trends and China’s emissions, etc., make me feel ever more confident that the [bend, stretch, reach, teach] shift I charted for my goals in my TEDx talk (away from numbers and toward qualities) is the right path.
What’s your path ?


Authorities: Plan to inject Piney Point water poses no threat
Herald Tribune - by Eric Ernst
May 13, 2014
MANATEE COUNTY - State Department of Environmental Protection officials and Manatee County utility planners sought today to reassure the public that a plan to inject hundreds of millions of gallons of treated waste water from the former Piney Point contaminated site will pose no threat to farmers and other residents.
The state DEP and Manatee County staff have recommended a plan to inject the treated into the Florida aquifer in an area below and separate from the part of the aquifer from which the county gets drinking water and irrigation.
About 75 people were in attendance at today’s Manatee County Commission workshop.
Some commissioners have expressed skepticism about the plan. And the local Farm Bureau is strongly opposed.
But state and county officials said today that similar wells are operating problem-free around Florida. They said other options, including disposing of the treated waste into local surface waters, posed far greater risk.
Residents are expected to comment later today (May 13, 2014).


Rising seas

Climate change is the great moral challenge of all time – by Cynthia Tucker, Patriot-News
May 13, 2014
Last month, a torrential rainstorm dumped 22 inches of water on the Florida panhandle and Alabama coast in 24 hours -- flooding houses, stranding residents, washing out roadways. The lucky were plucked from rooftops by helicopters or rescued in boats, but some perished in the high water.
Meanwhile, California is experiencing the third year of an extreme drought that has bankrupted farmers and pitted agricultural regions against big cities. Climatologists say this is the driest period in the state's recorded weather history, and its effects may become much more severe.
Isolated events ? Mother Nature's caprice at work ? Nope. According to scientists, those are manmade disasters, weather phenomena created (or at least worsened) by human-induced climate change.
Last week's National Climate Assessment -- a report prepared by a scientific panel -- lays out the effects of climate change throughout the country. The report found increases in heat waves, drought, torrential rains and flooding of the sort seen with Hurricane Sandy.
You might think the report would have scared the nation's political class into immediate action. But you'd be wrong. While President Obama used the news to try to whip up support for legislation to combat greenhouse gases, Republicans greeted it with their usual flat-earth denial. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, for example, derided the president for emphasizing the report's conclusions and criticized Obama's "war on coal."
So this is a manmade disaster worsened by another: denial, hubris and ignorance rolled into a ball and frosted with petty partisanship. Though the planet is already hotter, the worst might be mitigated if the world's big carbon emitters (the United States is second to China) made changes now. Unfortunately for every living thing, that seems unlikely.
This is the great moral crisis of our time, the overriding problem that dwarfs all others.
After all, we can hardly expect to solve war, terrorism, hunger, the slave trade and assorted other ills if climate change threatens our very survival. Why is it that we fail to act?
Polls show that Americans tend to be less concerned about climate change than citizens of other wealthy nations. About 40 percent of Americans say that climate change is a significant problem, according to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey. That contrasts with more than 50 percent of Australians, Canadians, French and Germans, more than 60 percent of Italians and Spaniards, and more than 70 percent of Japanese, according to The New York Times.
It's no accident that the world's "exceptional" nation has its head buried in, well, rising waters. Industries that profit from fossil fuels have spent billions on lobbying and public relations campaigns to persuade voters that climate change is either a hoax or, if it's real, relatively unimportant.
In their book "Merchants of Doubt," science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway document a decades-long campaign by a handful of politically conservative scientists to "obscure the truth" about global warming, among other issues. 
With strong ties to industries that profit from the status quo, that small group managed to create the perception that there is confusion about the scientific data. (In fact, the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is quite solid, unlike the polar ice caps.)
More recently, a fevered partisanship has added another thick layer of hot, smoggy air. If Obama and other Democrats support something -- such as the notion that human activity has warmed the planet -- then Republicans must mount scorched-earth opposition to it, the facts notwithstanding. That means few GOPers dare to publicly acknowledge the scientific consensus.
The brilliant Octavia Butler -- the late, great science fiction writer -- saw this coming. In her apocalyptic 1993 novel "Parable of the Sower," the United States has come apart, torn asunder by the pressures generated by the devastation of climate change. 
And because she understood her nation so well, her novel features characters who still don't believe that human beings have influenced the weather -- though their lives have been wrecked by environmental degradation.
When I read the novel some years ago, I saw it merely as great entertainment. Now, unhappily, I believe it to be prophecy


Conservancy files legal challenge on oil well drilling
Naples Daily News – by June Fletcher
May 13, 2014
NAPLES — Collier County commissioners decided unanimously Tuesday not to take part in proposed settlement talks with the Dan A. Hughes Co. and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over oil well drilling in Southwest Florida.
Instead, the commissioners reconfirmed their earlier decision to file a petition to challenge a consent order between the Hughes Co. and the DEP over unauthorized well acid-stimulation activities that took place at the Collier-Hogan well southwest of Lake Trafford at the end of 2013.
The DEP fined the Beeville, Texas-based oil company the maximum amount of $25,000 and required an independent inspector and a clean-up plan. But the commissioners said the order didn't go far enough to protect the public.
“I’m not interested in getting into a fight with the state, but this is an issue worth fighting for,” Collier Commissioner Fred Coyle said.
“The commission took a huge step in the right direction,” said Rob Moher, president and chief executive of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Testimony and a report by a hydrologist the Conservancy hired, Noah Kugler, paid a big role in the commission’s decision.
Kugler discovered two abandoned dry-hole wells, drilled in the 1940s, in close proximity to the Collier-Hogan well that were never properly plugged.
He said that the unapproved activities at the Collier-Hogan well may have introduced contaminants into water flow zones.
“There is a strong potential for existing and further contamination of groundwater,” he said.
Posted earlier
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is urging the Collier County not to reach a private settlement agreement with the Dan A. Hughes Co.
"We do not want any private deals," said Robert Moher, president and chief executive of the Naples-based environmental group. "We want the process to be transparent."
The Conservancy also filed a legal challenge on Monday to try to prevent the Beeville, Texas-based company from drilling in Southwest Florida.
Among other concerns, the environmental group said the county needs to do more testing to make sure toxins from the Beeville, Texas-based company’s unauthorized acid stimulation techniques, done at the end of 2013, have not contaminated drinking water wells in Southwest Florida.
It also submitted information from an independent hydrologist who found a decades-old, improperly plugged well near the Hughes Co.'s Collier-Hogan well south of Lake Trafford in Collier County. The Conservancy said this well might have leached toxic chemicals when the Hughes Co. well was stimulated.
In mid-April, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced a consent order agreement with the Hughes Co., fining it for the unauthorized activities at the Collier-Hogan well.
On April 25, the county asked for the oil company’s permit at the well to be revoked. Hughes has drilled at the site since 2012.
On May 2, DEP ordered the company to cease any new operations in Florida until it could assess what occurred at the well.
On Tuesday, the county will consider a recommendation to authorize the county attorney to attend a settlement meeting scheduled for May 15 in Tallahassee involving the potential challenge of the consent order.


Federal funds released for SWFL water quality projects
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander - by Mckenzie Cassidy
May 13, 2014
Congress finally released funding for a major water project that will benefit Southwest Florida.
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson announced on May 13 that the House and Senate committee overseeing the passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) -- a bill authorizing federal funding for water projects nationwide -- reached an agreement on the legislation.
The WRDA authorizes the release of $626.6 million to finish construction of the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Project, a project expected to help reduce polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee to local waterways, as well as $174.56 million for the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project in the southeastern portion of the Everglades ecosystem.
Besides providing for the construction of the C-43 Reservoir, it will also fund environmental projects such as the Broward County Water Preserve Area, the Biscayne Bay Coast Wetlands Phase I Project, and other regional improvements across Florida.
Nelson described the announcement as "great news" in a prepared statement.
"We are constantly wanting to help clean up the Caloosahatchee River from the discharges coming out of Lake Okeechobee. We have $626 million to build the reservoir near Labelle in order to be able to do that," said Nelson. "This is an important first step."
The WRDA is a piece of legislation that needs to be reauthorized every six or seven years, said Nelson.
Since last summer, water officials have been saying that their hands were tied in helping with water quality because the federal government hadn't authorized WRDA, and now with those funds released, environmentalists are hoping C-43 will improve the water in Southwest Florida.
Yet, construction of C-43 may not be enough to solve the problem.
Ray Judah, the coordinator of the Florida Coastal and Oceans Coalition, described the authorization of funds for C-43 as "insignificant." He said that last year alone, over 500 billion gallons of water flowed from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River, most of which was full of pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous.
Estimates of C-43 put the maximum amount of storage at approximately 55 billion gallons of water, said Judah, meaning that in a particularly rainy season -- such as last year's flow of approximately 5 billion gallons a day, according to a study by the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation -- the reservoir could fill up in between 9-11 days.
And last year, there were four straight months of excessive flows from the lake, he said.
Furthermore, the C-43 project won't treat any of the water it stores, he said, meaning it will act as a giant incubator for toxic blue-green algae.
Judah has been advocating for part of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) to be purchased and used to convey water south, its natural and historical route before planners diverted the flow east and west.


Power line issue puts governor, Cabinet, in political quandary
Tampa Bay Times – by Mary Ellen Klas
May 12, 2014
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Cabinet face what may be the most controversial and politically delicate decision of their term Tuesday, when they will decide whether to give Florida Power & Light permission to build two new nuclear power generators and 88 miles of new transmission lines in South Florida.
The proposed high-voltage lines, which would be hoisted on towers which could rise as high as 150 feet, have generated opposition in the cities in Miami-Dade County through which the lines would traverse — a region of the state that Gov. Rick Scott has deemed crucial to his re-election bid.
While cities have questioned the need for the power plants, their main objection has been on where to locate the 230-kilovolt lines on 80- to 100-foot poles.
The lines are projected to run from Cutler Bay through Pinecrest, South Miami and Coral Gables to a substation in Coconut Grove. The towers would be built along Metrorail and U.S. 1, past Cadillac show rooms, Porsche dealers, retail malls and through miles of concentrated development.
On the west, three 500-kilovolt transmission lines on 150-foot poles would run through the edge of Everglades National Park, a prospect that conservation groups say could have a detrimental effect on sensitive wildlife habitats.
FPL says the new lines are essential to supplying energy to South Florida's growing population and, over the 40-year life of the project, predicts that customers will save $64 billion in fossil fuel costs, down from the $75 billion in savings the utility projected last year. Any further delay, the company argues, will be expensive for customers, said Peter Robbins, an FPL spokesman.
FPL began seeking approval for two new 1,100 megawatt nuclear generators, known as Turkey Point 6 and 7, in 2006. Since then, the state's Public Service Commission determined in 2008 that there was a need for the project. The Florida Department of Environmental Regulation signed off on the proposal and, this past November, after an eight-week administrative hearing, Judge D.R. Alexander sided with FPL on nearly every disputed claim.
The cities argue that if FPL needs the high-voltage wires, they should be built underground to protect property values and avoid the negative effects on economic development. They are asking the governor and Cabinet to reject the request, or defer a decision until more information can be obtained.
"This item is of extreme importance to our city and Miami-Dade as a whole," said Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez at a meeting of Cabinet aides last week. "There are 450,000 residents in the city of Miami and 2 million residents in Miami-Dade County — 1.2 million of which are voters — something to keep in mind."
The political implications have not been lost on FPL either. The project is the largest the utility has proposed in 40 years and, in anticipation of the public opposition, the company has been actively working to influence both local governments and the governor and Cabinet, who will sit as the Power Plant Siting Board.
The siting board is a rarely convened body that has the exclusive authority to approve the construction of any new power plants in Florida.
According to the Division of Elections, FPL and its parent company, NextEra, have given more than $800,000 directly to Scott and his political committee since 2010.
The company gave another $50,000 to the political committee of Attorney General and Cabinet member Pam Bondi and has contributed more than $700,000 to the Republican Party of Florida this election cycle, more than $1 million to the RPOF in 2012 and another $1.1 million in 2010. The party has, in turn, given all but one third of the more than $3 million it collected this cycle back to the political committees of the governor and Cabinet.
In addition, FPL president Eric Silagy has traveled with the governor on every one of the trade missions organized by Enterprise Florida during his term.
"No one can purchase Governor Scott's support or opposition to anything," said Scott spokesman John Tupps. Similar sentiments were expressed by spokesmen for each of the other Cabinet officials, Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
In the November hearing, Alexander, the administrative judge, made 787 findings of fact that laid out the conditions of the project in a 328-page order that will serve as the official recommendation to the governor and Cabinet.
He dismissed an economic analysis by the cities that estimated 8,000 jobs would be lost and property values would drop by 10 percent because of the negative aesthetics of the massive towers. He concluded that creating an underground line would cost nine times more than hoisting the cables overhead. And he said there are no renewable energy sources or conservation measures that would equal the energy produced by the new plants.
None of these conclusions have stopped the cities from fighting. The cities of Coral Gables and Pinecrest filed a lawsuit before the judge began the hearing. Both cities claim FPL's pursuit of the project violates the 30-year agreement they have with the utility for electric power. The franchise agreement expires in 2028.
Dennis Kerbel, assistant city attorney for Miami-Dade County, said the judge made a fundamental legal error when he failed to apply the proper local land-use and zoning law when he analyzed the proposal for transmission lines along the western corridor and therefore failed to properly consider the environmental impact.
Kerbel urged the governor and Cabinet to send the issue back for the judge to correct the record.
Sarah Fain, a lawyer for the National Parks Conservation Association, said the law requires power companies to build transmission lines in places that have the least adverse impacts and added that the judge erred by not requiring FPL to identify a transmission line corridor that does not cut through the Everglades.
Opponents also say that natural gas and other energy alternatives are now cheaper than nuclear power, but FPL continues to pursue expansion of its Turkey Point Nuclear Plant so it can charge customers for the transmission lines before they are built, using the state's nuclear cost recovery fee.
"The price of solar and natural gas has dropped while the price of nukes has skyrocketed," said Phil Stoddard, mayor of South Miami. "If they were looking out for [customers] they would have taken those changes into account, they're still stuck because if they can add $24 billion to their rate base, they can charge us 11 percent annually when they flip on the switch. The more money they can get into infrastructure, the more money their shareholders make."
Stoddard, who said he has been elected three times because of opposition to the transmission lines, said he believes the issue is a litmus test for many voters in the county.
State Rep. Javier Jose Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat who hosted a town hall meeting last week on the issue, said he believes the governor and the Cabinet may be his community's last hope.
"Given the history of our regulators, the best and perhaps only hope we have is the fact that his is an election year," he said.
Miami Herald staff writers Joey Flechas and Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.
Related:           In face of local opposition, FPL seeks Cabinet OK for transmission ...
Gov. Scott, Cabinet Approve New FPL Nuke Plants, Power Lines In ...     CBS Local


Researchers start to pinpoint biological control for Brazilian Peppertree – U. of Florida IFAS
Newswise — GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- A South American insect could help control the invasive Brazilian peppertree in places where it supplants critical habitat for many organisms, according to University of Florida and U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.
Brazilian peppertree has clusters of hundreds of small, red berries, and grows about 10 feet per year, to about 30 feet. It is native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The tree has moved around the world as an ornamental plant and has become invasive in several states and countries, including Florida, Texas and Hawaii as well as Australia, New Zealand and some Caribbean islands.
In Florida, Brazilian peppertree has infested nearly 700,000 acres in the central and southern regions. It has been particularly abundant in the Everglades. In general, the trees take over space where native plants should be. Animals such as white-tailed deer, the Florida panther and migratory birds that depend on native vegetation, such as mangrove, for food and shelter are deprived of that habitat.
“This can have cascading effects through the food chain,” said Bill Overholt, an entomology professor at UF’s Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
Herbicides are sometimes used to kill Brazilian peppertree, but researchers are looking for environmentally friendlier biological agents to permanently suppress growth and reproduction of the tree. Although scientists have not come up with a specific cost for Brazilian peppertree eradication efforts, the South Florida Water Management District estimates it spends $1.7 million per year to control the invasive tree.
For the experiments, UF and USDA researchers brought two types of thrips -- tiny insects that often feed on plants -- from Brazil to Florida laboratories. There, scientists tested them for temperature requirements, reproductive ability and their plant impact.
Both thrips feed on the Brazilian peppertree, but scientists found Ouro Preto was more cold-tolerant than a thrips from farther north in Brazil. Scientists predict the insect will thrive in Florida, where temperatures sometimes dip below freezing, which is only slightly colder than the insect is used to.
“The idea of biological control is to reunite these highly specialized natural enemies with their host plant, in this case Brazilian peppertree, to help reduce plant densities in the invaded area,” said Veronica Manrique, a UF senior biological scientist and lead author of the study. “We are also working with two other natural enemies, a psyllid and a defoliating weevil, which should further reduce Brazilian peppertree growth and reproduction in Florida.”
Scientists will now seek permission to release the thrips into areas Brazilian peppertree is growing. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will review the joint UF/IFAS and USDA petition for the thrips’ release, Overholt said. That agency typically takes 1½ to two years to decide whether the thrips is a safe control agent.
“If we get this far, we will release the thrips at several locations in South and Central Florida, initially mostly on public lands, because that’s where the problem is biggest,” Overholt said. “If we have success here, I’m sure folks in Hawaii and Texas will want to introduce the insect. Eventually, there may also be interest in other areas of the world, such as Australia.”
Starting in the 1800s, two types of Brazilian peppertree were brought to Florida, Overholt said. A southern Brazil variety was brought to an area along the Gulf Coast, probably near Punta Gorda; the other, from northern Brazil, was introduced in the late 1800s near Miami.
The UF and USDA study is published in the May issue of the journal Biocontrol Science and Technology.
Overholt co-wrote the paper with Manrique, Rodrigo Diaz, an assistant research scientist; Lenin Erazo, a former intern in Overholt’s lab; Neha Reddi, a former high school student Overholt mentored ─ all with the UF/IFAS Biological Control Research and Containment Laboratory in Fort Pierce; Gregory Wheeler, research entomologist with the USDA Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale and Dean Williams, a biology associate professor at Texas Christian University.



Water quality restoration begins in Everglades
May 13, 2014
A contract has been awarded by the South Florida Water Management District for construction to begin on a new water quality restoration project in the Everglades.
May 13, 2014
A contract has been awarded by the South Florida Water Management District for construction to begin on a new water quality restoration project in the Everglades.
As part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the C-44 Reservoir/Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) will begin a long-term plan for restoring and protecting water resources in central and southern Florida.
High levels of polluted stormwater have affected recreation and the livelihood of residents and businesses, particularly in the areas close to the C-44 canal runoff. This new project will help build canals, discharge structures, and embankments to capture local runoff and return treated water to the C-44 Canal.
As a result of this restoration project, the water quality will be improved by reducing the level of nutrients, pesticides, and other pollutants that are currently being discharged into the estuary. Damage to the ecosystem as a result of storms will also be drastically reduced.
Related:           Parsons Brinckerhoff awarded contract for stormwater management ...       Water Technology Online


Americans’ aversion to science carries a high price
Washington Post - by Michael Gerson
May 12, 2014
Americans have something of a science problem. They swallow, for example, about $28 billion worth of vitamins each year, even though the Annals of Internal Medicine recently concluded that “[m]ost supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.” Americans often fear swallowing genetically modified plants (and Vermont recently required labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs), though GMOs have “been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects,” according to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Other opinions are closer to astrology than science. Some deny a link between HIV and AIDS or confidently assert a connection between cellphone usage and cancer. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), during the last presidential campaign, contended that the HPV vaccine causes “mental retardation.” (And, yes, about a quarter of Americans believe in astrology.)
Science has its own explanation for why people are resistant to scientific beliefs. In evolutionary theory (assuming you believe such a thing), our intuitions about the physical world are generally accurate on a human scale — calculating the proper force and trajectory to hit a mammoth with a spear. But on matters that are not immediately related to our survival — say, on quantum motion, or the nature of black holes, or the effect of radio-frequency energy on the DNA in cells — our intuitions are pretty much useless. Science has often advanced in an uphill fight against common intuitions.
These intuitions can be shaped by a variety of factors: ideology, religion, philosophy or culture. Resistance to vaccination or GMOs is sometimes rooted in a nearly religious belief that natural things are better — including, apparently, disease outbreaks and plants that die easily in droughts. A decade ago, I met a South African health official who argued that AIDS could be treated with garlic because she believed that pharmaceutical treatment was a neocolonial plot. Resistance in the United States to evolution is often associated with conservative religion. And skepticism about climate change is correlated with libertarian and free-market beliefs.
Merely raising climate disruption in this context will cause many to bristle. Skeptics employ this issue as a prime example of motivated reasoning — politicians motivated by the prospect of confiscation, scientists motivated by securing acclaim and government contracts.
In its simplest, cable-television version, this charge, at least against scientists, is outrageous. The assumption that the vast majority in a scientific field is engaged in fraud or corruption is frankly conspiratorial. In this case, the conspiracy would need to encompass the national academies of more than two dozen countries, including the United States.
Other, more measured criticisms ring truer. Some scientists have displayed an artificial certainty on some matters that seems to cross into advocacy. Others assume that the only way to deal with greenhouse gas emissions is a strict, global regulatory regime — an economic and political judgment that has nothing to do with their actual expertise.
But none of these objections relates to the scientific question: Is a 40 percent increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution driving disruptive warming? And further: Can this process be slowed, allowing societies and ecosystems more time to adapt?
Our intuitions are useless here. The only possible answers come from science. And for non-scientists, this requires a modicum of trust in the scientific enterprise. Even adjusting for the possibility of untoward advocacy, it seems clear that higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have produced a modest amount of warming and are likely to produce more. This, in turn, is likely to produce higher sea levels, coastal flooding, shifting fisheries, ocean acidification, water shortages, lower crop yields and vanishing ecosystems. The consequences will vary by region but are likely to be more severe in poorer nations. New York City can adapt to a rising ocean better than Bangladesh.
This scientific consensus raises difficult political questions. Is some grand global bargain on carbon-dioxide emissions, including China and India, even a possibility ? Might it be more practical to make polluters pay — perhaps with a revenue-neutral carbon tax, fully rebated to taxpayers — thereby encouraging the development of new technologies that limit future carbon emissions ? And I’d add: How can you oppose GMOs that resist pests and drought while pretending to help poor nations cope with climate disruption ?
But perhaps the most difficult question is this: How can you make serious political decisions based on scientific likelihoods when politics thrives on the feeding of ideological certainties ?
Eugene Robinson: No more excuses on climate change
Charles Krauthammer: The myth of ‘settled science’
The Post’s View: A backup plan for climate change
Robert J. Samuelson: We have no solution for climate change yet
The Post’s View: States and cities should act now on climate change
Kofi Annan: A united call for action on climate change



Carl Hiaasen: Fla.'s Gov. Scott takes deep dive into climate change
Miami Herald - by Carl Hiaasen
May 12, 2014
 (Rejected first draft of Gov. Rick Scott's position on climate change).
My fellow Floridians, as you've all probably heard, a new National Climate Assessment report says that Florida is seriously threatened by rising sea levels, mass flooding, salt-contaminated water supplies and increasingly severe weather events - all supposedly caused by climate change.
Let me assure you there's absolutely no reason for worry. I still don't believe climate change is real, and you shouldn't, either.
Don't be impressed just because 240 "experts" contributed to this melodramatic report. The tea party has experts, too, and they assure me it's all hogwash.
Even if the atmosphere is warming (and, whoa, I'm not saying it is!), I still haven't seen a speck of solid evidence that it has anything do with man spewing millions of tons of gaseous pollutants into the sky.
Is the planet a hotter place than it was 200 years ago ? Yes, but only by a couple of degrees. Did most of the temperature rise occur since 1970 ? Yes, but don't blame coal-burning plants or auto emissions.
Maybe the sun is getting closer to the Earth. Ever think of that? Or the Earth is moving closer to the sun? Let's get some brainiacs to investigate that possibility!
As long as I'm the governor, Florida isn't going to punish any industries by imposing so-called "clean air" regulations that limit carbon emissions.
In fact, soon after I took office we repealed the state's Climate Protection Act and eliminated the Energy and Climate Commission that was created under my predecessor, the Obama-hugging turncoat Charlie Crist.
I also ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to halt all initiatives dealing with renewable energy and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, no one at DEP is even allowed to whisper the phrase "climate change" any more.
Yet the subject just won't go away. That's because the liberal media keep trying to scare everybody.
Say the polar ice caps really are melting, and sea levels really did rise eight inches during the last 130 years. Who says there has to be a scientific explanation? Maybe God's just messing around with us for a few centuries.
I myself own a big home in Naples right on the Gulf of Mexico, which is supposedly rising along with the oceans. Do I look scared? Do you see a moving van in my driveway?
Of course not (although I'm grateful to the Koch brothers for offering to let me stay with them in Wichita during the next hurricane).
And, please, enough griping already about Miami Beach going underwater! While I sympathize with all the homeowners and businesses along Alton Road that are being swamped by flooding at high tides, there's not much I can do as governor except pretend it isn't happening.
So let's pull together to remind the rest of America, and the whole world, that most of Florida is still dry, and it will be for many, many real-estate cycles to come.
Newcomers who might be queasy about purchasing waterfront property in South Beach or Fort Lauderdale should instead consider some of our inland gems like Sebring (where the average elevation is 131 feet above sea level), Haines City (182 feet) or Eustis (67 feet).
Let's get out the word that it could be hundreds of years before Ocala (104 feet) is submerged. So come on down now and get your homestead exemption before you need a snorkel to find your homestead.
If you really want to play it safe, try beautiful Britton Hill, the highest point in Florida at 345 feet above sea level. It is way up in Walton County near the Alabama border, but at least you'll still be on the map if Key Biscayne turns into a coral reef.
To concerned residents of greater Miami, Tampa Bay and Apalachicola - three areas singled out by the federal report as imperiled by rising water - here's what I would say:
Open a paddleboard shop, people. Or an airboat taxi service.
Why not turn a negative situation into a positive opportunity? One person's sinkhole is another person's cave-spelunking franchise.
Come on, Florida, let's get to work.


Company drilling near Everglades claims not to be fracking,just acid fracking - by Ari Phillips
May 12, 2014
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, is both a fractious term and a fractious process. Stakeholders across the country ranging from environmentalists to landowners have voiced repeated concerns of the impact of fracking on local health, water supplies and even earthquake frequency. At the same time, what exactly is involved in the fracking process is often shrouded in mystery as companies are resistant to releasing the exact chemical composition of the mix they inject into the ground along with water and sand to open fissures in the rock and draw out oil or natural gas.
In Florida, the Everglades are on the front lines of this debate as companies become anxious to get at any fossil fuels surrounding this ecological wonder. In an effort to keep the process going, one oil and gas company has even gone as far as denying that what they’re doing actually amounts to fracking.
In December and January, Dan A. Hughes Co. of Beeville, Texas undertook, for the first time in the state, an “enhanced extraction procedure” during exploratory drilling, which according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is consistent with the EPA’s description of hydraulic fracturing. Furthermore, the company did so without a permit and in defiance of a cease-and-desist order to stop the practice.
“The company denies that the new practice amounts to fracking because it uses an acidic solution instead of the usual fracking chemicals and a ‘modest volume’ of water and sand,” reported the Orlando Sentinel.
What Hughes Co. is doing is an old process that involves pumping an acid solution down a well to dissolve rock formations and allow more oil to flow up the well. The technique called “acid well stimulation” or “acid fracking” uses large volumes of hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acid to dissolve rock, not fracture it — hence the argument that it’s not really fracking. The process of acid fracking near the Everglades was still of equal concern to the state’s DEP, but Hughes Co. continued to move forward even though it was told not to.
For this transgression the Florida DEP fined the company $25,000 for “unauthorized actions,” apparently the maximum civil penalty under Florida law, and also ordered that a preapproved expert monitor groundwater contamination in the area. On May 2, the state banned Hughes Co. from beginning to drill five other wells for which permits had been secured until further review is complete, to which the company agreed.
Of the situation, Hughes Co. spokesman David Blackmon told the Orlando Sentinel the the company is “confident the results are going to show that the groundwater hasn’t been negatively impacted” and that “its operations do not pose a threat to contamination,” saying that “the way these wells are constructed, there are multiple layers — five layers of concrete and heavy steel — that prevent any of the fluids going through the well bore from contacting the groundwater formation.”
The number of spills reported at oil and gas production sites rose nearly 18 percent last year, with at least 7,662 spills, blowouts, leaks and other blunders.
The wells in question are on part of a 115,000-acre lease Hughes Co. has from Collier Resources, the largest private mineral company in South Florida. The area includes large portions of the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. Coincidentally, Hughes Co. President Dan A. Hughes chairs the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. He is also a member of the All American Wildcatters, an organization that celebrates exploration wells drilled in untested areas.
The drilling applications granted to Collier were some of the first in the state, and no official fracking has yet taken place in Florida. However, as the quest for fossil fuels expands, recent legislation proposed by the Florida state lawmakers foreshadow the industry’s likely emergence. One bill would have allowed drillers to label their chemical mixtures as “trade secrets,” exempting them from disclosure to the general public under Florida’s Open Government and Public Records laws. It failed to pass this year’s recent legislative session.
While proponents of the bill labeled it a disclosure bill, an analysis by DeSmogBlog found that the bill is essentially a mirror image of the right-wing, corporate-funded American Legislative Executive Council’s “Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act”. While only a few states actually have laws enforcing hydraulic fracturing chemical disclosure, the Florida bill would have allowed companies to keep proprietary information as permitted for fracking under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, an issue commonly referred to as part of the “Halliburton Loophole.”
“The proposition that these are trade secrets is ridiculous. It’s like pancake mix,” David Guest, the managing attorney at Earthjustice, told the Tampa Tribune. “If you’re going to inject something into the ground, you have to say what it is. This is a groundwater contaminant secrecy bill.”
The sensitivity and prominence of the issue has attracted local and state politicians to get involved at more than just the legislative level. In a recent letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, said that “we cannot tolerate expanded industrial drilling activities that pose a threat to the drinking and surface water so close to the Florida Everglades. The recent discovery of a fracking-like incident there raises serious concerns about whether outside wildcatters would soil one of the world’s great environmental treasures.”
State Senator Darren Soto (D-Orlando) has made a similar request at the state level to Florida’s DEP, writing in a letter:
With tourism and agriculture as our main industries, there is simply too much at stake to permit extensive oil drilling in our state. We learned all too well from the BP Gulf Oil Spill that the effects of an oil spill far outweigh any particular minuscule economic benefit from drilling in comparison … the Upper and Lower Floridan Aquifers span our state and provide the vast majority of our water supply. Any contamination of these water bodies could put our entire state supply in jeopardy.
The EPA doesn’t control exploratory wells, but it does issue permits for underground storage associated with fracking and drilling. The agency is reviewing comments regarding whether to permit Hughes Co. to open a waste well, and is consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of a consideration of Sen. Nelson’s comments according to the Los Angeles Times.
All this activity is happening even in the face of uncertainty regarding substantial oil and gas reserves existing in Florida. While the state has a history of oil production, it has seen that plummet over the last several decades. And there are no major proven shale plays. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Florida has few proven crude oil reserves and very small natural gas reserves onshore.


DEP hosts Annual Indian River Lagoon nutrient pollution reduction plan Development Meeting
FDEP – Press Release
May 12, 2014
DEP staff and stakeholders review ongoing and potential projects to improve water quality.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection invited local governments, scientists, environmentalists, agricultural operators and other stakeholders to attend an annual meeting to review and refine the Nutrient Pollution Reduction plan for North and Central Indian River Lagoon and Banana River Lagoon. The meeting was held Tuesday, May 13, at the Brevard County Agricultural Center in Cocoa, Fla. Speakers included representatives from Brevard and Indian River Counties, from the cities of Indian Harbour Beach, Melbourne, Satellite Beach and Sebastian, and from Patrick Air Force Base. It has been one year since the adoption of the restoration plan, and this is the first meeting to discuss ongoing and future restoration efforts.
"The department and stakeholders have made solid strides to control nutrient pollution in the Indian River Lagoon's watersheds," said Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett. "More is needed. These meetings provide an excellent opportunity to provide updates on our progress and identify future restoration projects."
The Indian River Lagoon system has been stressed over time by the excessive freshwater discharges, and the influx of nutrient pollutants (nitrogen and phosphorous) through stormwater and wastewater. The department's Basin Management Action Plans are intended to remove or reduce the sources of nutrient pollution and to promote seagrass growth.
Separate restoration plans have been developed for North Indian River Lagoon, Central Indian River Lagoon and Banana River Lagoon. In the last year, 35 new projects have been developed to address nutrient loading into this watershed. The new projects are in addition to the 552 projects identified in the restoration plans and are projected to reduce thousands of additional pounds of nitrogen and phosphorous.
The Indian River Lagoon system is a nationally renowned estuary that supports both remarkable biological diversity and recreational resources. It is considered the most biologically diverse estuary in North America and was recognized as part of the National Estuary Program. The lagoon directly and indirectly supports a large part of the economy for both the region and state. Investing in projects and programs to improve the lagoon's water quality is not only important for environmental considerations, but also for Florida's economy.


First phase of largest Tampa Bay restoration project complete - by Charles Schelle, Bradenton_Herald
May 12, 2014
TERRA CEIA -- What was once a land of failed subdivisions and invasive pepper fields is now 843 acres of restored habitat at Terra Ceia Preserve State Park.
The project is the largest ecosystem restoration project completed in Tampa Bay, and public officials celebrated the first phase completion on Monday.
So far, 843 acres of the 1,800-acre Terra Ceia Isles tract have been restored as part of the $7.5 million first phase. In all, the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve is about 22,000 acres.
As part of the celebration, Ed and Gail Straight of Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation on Bradenton Beach released rescued screech and barred owls and a wood stork.
"The wetland restoration of this magnitude is truly special for those of us who live here and who love the natural beauty of this area," Manatee County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle said as mullet jumped out of the man-made lake behind him. "Wetlands not only improve that natural beauty, but are also a natural filter system for this environment and help improve the water quality of our pristine bays."
The land was co-acquired by the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for $1.5 million in 1995, which is included in the first phase price. Of that, 117 acres include freshwater and estuarine habitats and 726 are coastal upland habitats.
"I have to congratulate the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which partnered with DEP and others to get this land back into public ownership, which is very much a focus of the department right now," said Drew Bartlett, deputy secretary for water policy and ecosystem restoration for DEP. "And to make sure we get the right land that protects our aquatic resources."
One area once featured rows for farming gladiolus and Brazilian peppers, prompting crews to plug about 30 artesian wells used in the farming operations, straddling Interstate 275, U.S. 41 and Tampa Bay. Other areas were once struggling housing developments that never got off the ground, prompting the state to buy the land at a foreclosure auction in 1995. After the water district paid $1.5 million for the property, DEP acquired it for $750,000 in 1998.
"When we got the land, it needed some fixin'," Bartlett said.
The land is now a network of trails, wetlands, bird habitats, native palms and mangroves and contains more than 75 unmarked heritage sites where visitors could stumble upon Indian mounds and fossil sites.
County Commissioner John Chappie was impressed with how much was fixed.
"Anything we can do as a community for restoration of the ecosystem, especially in coastal communities, is so important," Chappie said. "We build on what we have. … Whether it is SWFMD, DEP, or the county, it's a great reflection of the type of environmentally conscious community that goes above and beyond to protect our coastal community."
Carlos Beruff, president of homebuilder Medallion Home and SWFMD's governing board chair, celebrated the nature preserve that was once abandoned homes and overgrown weeds. The district has impacted about 4,000 acres and created about 38,000 acres of public land through its land management practices, and sold surplus lands to help fund restoration projects like the one in Terra Ceia, he said.
"Over time, part of the mission of the district is to take those truly surplus properties and put them back into the taxpaying economy, and taking those dollars and segregating these type of properties, which are really important to the ecosystem," Beruff said.
In 2012, the district was approached by developers, Slip Knott LLC, to swap 77 acres of state land for 663 acres of Rattlesnake Key and submerged lands called the Knott-Cowen Tract for a resort called Skyway Preserve, but that deal died. The state also listed 13 acres of the Terra Ceia Preserve on a surplus sale list in 2013, but that was also removed.
Work began in 2002 on eight smaller phases through 2013 to make up the first phase of the overall project.
"It's all been removed, leveled out and it's all been replanted with native fauna," said Kevin Kiser, Terra Ceia Preserve State Park manager.
Phase I is really never complete. Controlled burns are needed to maintain the forestry, and park officials continue to weed out invasive species that creep up.
"It's going to always need maintenance because those exotics are near impossible to be eradicated," Kiser said.
Second phase
The water district is requesting $4.75 million from the state for a second phase of the project and continues to estimate the cost of the project. The second phase will include restoring 233 acres of upland and wetland habitats inside a 408-acre tract.
Freshwater and tidal wetlands habitats were also created and, in some cases, switched to stop the agricultural runoff from the property.
"Some of them were saltwater and now they're freshwater because when agriculture was going on here, they dug ditches to drain the property," Kiser said. "So what we wanted to do was to cut the ditch blocks off to create more freshwater recharge areas so that water would not run out into the bay."
The entire park, which lacks facilities, is open to the public, and by foot only, Kiser said. Cars can park outside as long as they don't obstruct the gates, he said, and at a historic Bishop Harbor boat ramp.
The water district oversaw parts of the project through its Surface Water Improvement Management Program, with which DEP manages the park and helps oversees the controlled burns.
More work still needs to be done. Permits are being processed to install permanent boat ramps at Bishop Harbor, off of Moccasin Wallow Road and the historic 1905 Haley Mansion continues to be renovated, though no state funding was granted this year to continue the mansion restoration efforts, Kiser said.
"The inside still needs lots of help," Kiser said.
While the mansion serves as offices for several state departments and is not open to the public, some officials envision it to double as a visitors' center one day for the park.
"It's a possibility. We don't have a slated use for it as yet," Kiser said. "Right now it's just office space until we get our shop facilities built."
State agencies have not approached Manatee County for funding to help with additional phases for the mansion restoration, according to officials from both the water district and DEP.


Florida In the Center of Climate Change Debate, Most State GOP Leaders Stay Silent - by Ashley Lopez, Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
May 12, 2014
Climate change’s impact on Florida has been in the news recently, following the release of a new scientific report, the National Climate Assessment, which listed Miami as one of the cities that will be most critically affected by changes. In the wake of the report, President Obama urged action, while Florida’s Republican Senator questioned the science behind the report, and the Sunshine State’s Republican leadership remains quiet on the issue.
According to The New York Times:
Speaking to Al Roker of NBC News, in an interview scheduled to be shown Wednesday morning on the “Today” show, Mr. Obama said “This is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now. Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires — all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.”
In the Northeast, the report found a big increase in torrential rains and risks from a rising sea that could lead to a repeat of the kind of flooding seen in Hurricane Sandy. In the Southwest, the water shortages seen to date are likely just a foretaste of the changes to come, the report found. In that region, the report warned, “severe and sustained drought will stress water sources, already overutilized in many areas, forcing increasing competition among farmers, energy producers, urban dwellers and plant and animal life for the region’s most precious resource.”
For instance, large parts of Nashville were devastated by floods in 2010 after nearly 20 inches of rain fell in two days. Last year, parts of Colorado flooded after getting as much rain in a week as normally falls in a year. Just last week, widespread devastation occurred in the Florida Panhandle from rains that may have exceeded two feet in 24 hours.
The new report emphasized that people should not expect global warming to happen at a steady pace, nor at the same rate throughout the country. Bitterly cold winters will continue to occur, the report said, even as they become somewhat less likely. Warming, too, will vary. While most of the country has warmed sharply over the past century, the Southeast has barely warmed at all, and a section of southern Alabama has even cooled slightly.
In a separate Times article published the same day, the paper took a focused look on Miami Beach, Florida where flooding is becoming a common occurrence.
A new scientific report on global warming released this week, the National Climate Assessment, named Miami as one of the cities most vulnerable to severe damage as a result of rising sea levels. Alton Road, a commercial thoroughfare in the heart of stylish South Beach, is getting early ripples of sea level rise caused by global warming — even as Florida’s politicians, including two possible contenders for the presidency in 2016, are starkly at odds over what to do about it and whether the problem is even real.
“The theme of the report is that climate change is not a future thing, it’s a ‘happening-now’ thing,” said Leonard Berry, a contributing author of the new report and director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University. “Alton Road is one of the now things.”
Sea levels have risen eight inches since 1870, according to the new report, which projects a further rise of one to four feet by the end of the century. Waters around southeast Florida could surge up to two feet by 2060, according to a report by the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact. A study by the Florida Department of Transportation concluded that over the next 35 years, rising sea levels will increasingly flood and damage smaller local roads in the Miami area.
The national climate report found that although rapidly melting Arctic ice is threatening the entire American coastline, Miami is exceptionally vulnerable because of its unique geology. The city is built on top of porous limestone, which is already allowing the rising seas to soak into the city’s foundation, bubble up through pipes and drains, encroach on fresh water supplies and saturate infrastructure. County governments estimate that the damages could rise to billions or even trillions of dollars.
In and around Miami, local officials are grappling head on with the problem.
While local officials scramble to deal with flooding and climate change issues, federal and state officials are having mixed reactions.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, has vocally supported cutting carbon emissions across the country. He even held a meeting with Miami Beach residents about the city’s flooding problems. However, Nelson is one of the very few political leaders in the state even talking about the issues.
According to the Times, leaders in the GOP won’t even answer questions about climate change.
…Three prominent Florida Republicans — Senator Marco Rubio, former Gov. Jeb Bush and the current governor, Rick Scott — declined repeated requests to be interviewed on the subject. Mr. Rubio and Mr. Bush are viewed as potential presidential candidates. Political analysts say the reluctance of the three men to speak publicly on the issue reflects an increasingly difficult political reality for Republicans grappling with the issue of climate change, particularly for the party’s lawmakers from Florida. In acknowledging the problem, politicians must endorse a solution, but the only major policy solutions to climate change — taxing or regulating the oil, gas and coal industries — are anathema to the base of the Republican Party. Thus, many Republicans, especially in Florida, appear to be dealing with the issue by keeping silent.
“Jeb likes to take positions on hot-button issues, the same with Rubio,” said Joseph E. Uscinski, a political scientist at the University of Miami. “On immigration they are further mainstream on that than the rest of the G.O.P. But on this, Republicans are dead set against taking action on climate change on the national level. If you have political aspirations, this is not something you should talk about if you want to win a Republican primary.”
Over the past year, Mr. Rubio has signaled his skepticism about the established science that fossil fuel emissions contribute to climate change. When asked in a 2013 Buzzfeed webcast interview if climate change posed a threat to Florida, Mr. Rubio responded: “The climate is always changing. The question is, is manmade activity what’s contributing most to it?” He added that “I’ve seen reasonable debate on that principle” and “if we unilaterally impose these sorts of things on our economy it would have a devastating impact.”
But in 2008, while serving in the Florida State Legislature, Mr. Rubio supported a bill directing the State Department of Environmental Protection to develop rules for companies to limit carbon emissions.
As governor from 1999 to 2007, Mr. Bush pushed several environmental initiatives, particularly efforts to protect Everglades National Park, which scientists say is highly vulnerable to encroaching seawaters. Political scientists say that Mr. Rubio’s shift and Mr. Bush’s current silence on the issue appear to reflect the position of lawmakers who are mulling transitions from the state to the national stage and the realities of satisfying their party’s base in the 2016 primaries.
Several days after the Times published it’s article with attempts to get Rubio on the record, Rubio said on ABC’s “This Week” that he didn’t think humans were even causing climate change.
Via The Los Angeles Times:
“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” Rubio said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy,” he added.
…Rubio said he doesn’t agree that actions humans take today could affect how the climate is changing.
“Our climate is always changing,” Rubio said. “And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activities.”
Back in 2010, Rick Scott said he didn’t believe global warming even existed. He said he had yet to be “convinced” that climate change is a real thing


From a planned community, back to the serene Everglades
May 12, 2014
COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. -- The serene beauty of the Everglades was interrupted 50 years ago by a massive construction scam. Now it's slowly being returned to the treasure it once was. Though at a staggering cost."What we're trying to do here is bring the ecosystem as close as possible back to its original condition," said Michael Collis with the Army Corps of Engineers.
It's a project unlike anything else in the world. Deep in the Everglades, between I-75 and U.S. 41 is the Picayune Strand State Forest. Once, it was the largest planned community in the US, 55,000 acres called South Golden Gate Estates. Unsuspecting buyers were sold vacation properties.
"They would bring the people in during dry season when it was cool weather and sell the properties," said Janet Starnes, the project manager with the South Florida Water Management District."And then they wouldn't be here in the summer when the area would flood."
The housing project went belly up in the 1970s. Long after 260 miles of roads and four canals were built. 55,000 acres of pristine land was destroyed and many property owners thought they lost their investments.
In 1985, the state of Florida started buying the property back from 17,000 land owners. For years, WINK News covered the story of Jesse Hardy, the last person to sill own property. He eventually, though reluctantly, sold his home to the state for nearly $5 million.The restoration project is spearheaded by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers. The plan is actually quite simple. Crews will remove and degrade the roads then use those materials to plug the canals.
"Once that is done, mother nature will take over at that point and bring the environment back to its right condition," said Collis.  Though, it's obviously much easier said than done.
In February, the water management district said the project would cost nearly $100 million more than originally anticipated. Pushing the cost up toward $620 million. Higher construction costs were blamed on the increase.
But some work has already been completed. One of the canals is plugged and native plants are starting to grow. One of three planned pump stations is gearing up to go online. The stations will control flooding in the developed portion of Golden Gate Estates, north of I-75.
"We're getting the quality, quantity and distribution of the water correct," Collis said.
The end goal is to remove any sign of the planned community and return this patch of the Everglades to what it once was.


Illegal 'fracking-like' oil drilling halted in ecologically-sensitive Everglades
May 12, 2014
Florida officials have ordered an oil-drilling company to halt its illegal fracking-like operations near the Everglades, raising the ire of area citizens already concerned about the harm of energy exploration to humans and the region’s delicate ecosystem.
Early this month, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ordered the Dan A. Hughes Company to stop all drilling in five exploratory wells in Collier County, near the western area of the Everglades, until further notice. In addition, US Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida has called on federal officials to investigate.
One month prior to the order, the state had cited the Texas company for extra-legal operations, levying the maximum civil penalties under Florida law. The $25,000 fine was assessed for an "enhanced extraction procedure” similar to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, without a permit.
The state has also demanded independent reviews of the company’s fracking-like practices and the groundwater near the drilling sites, which could last until December, according to the Sun Sentinel.
The fracking process entails blasting fissures in rocks thousands of meters under the earth with water and sand to release trapped deposits of oil and gas. Injection wells used to dispose of highly-toxic fracking wastewater have contributed to heightened earthquake activity across the nation.

The wastewater - riddled with hazardous and often undisclosed chemicals and contaminants - has been linked to a host of human and environmental health concerns.
The previously-unknown drilling in the fragile Everglades area has mobilized the local community, the Sentinel reported.
"This is our watershed," said Vickie Machado, of Florida’s Food & Water Watch, a public safety group. "They are using millions of gallons of clean water, mixing it with chemicals with known carcinogens, and pumping it underground to break up the protected rock formations out there. The potential is pretty scary."
The method employed by the Hughes Co. was initially questioned by state environmental-protection officials concerned about the procedure’s risks. The state told the company last year to refrain from advancing their drilling projects, but Hughes Co. went forward anyway.
Their method is considered “fracking-like” because the company injects dissolving acids into the ground to unearth oil reserves rather than the usual fracking chemicals. It also says it uses a “modest volume” of water and sand in the process.
Hughes Co. spokesman David Blackmon said the company is "confident the results are going to show that the groundwater hasn't been negatively impacted" and that its drilling projects will not contaminate any area drinking water.
"The way these wells are constructed, there are multiple layers — five layers of concrete and heavy steel — that prevent any of the fluids going through the well bore from contacting the groundwater formation," Blackmon said.
Opponents of drilling in the Everglades, long concerned that water contamination and damage to the Everglades is inevitable with such operations in the area, do not see this fracking-like process as so innocent.
"It doesn't reassure many people that they are pumping acid into the ground under high pressure to break up rock and draw out more oil," said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. "Those liquids could move around laterally, but also up and down and into the drinking water supply."
Energy companies have extracted small amounts of oil around the western Everglades since the 1940s. Yet new drilling techniques in recent years have lured new players into the region to tap into an estimated 702 million barrels of oil or natural gas in a strip of deposits within the Sunniland Trend, which spans from the state’s west coast to Broward and Miami-Dade counties in the east, according to the US Geological Survey.
The Hughes Co. is operating a few miles from the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a home for an array of plant and wildlife. The company is also drilling near the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge; it has asked the federal government for permission to store toxic wastewater from drilling near the site, a proposal strongly opposed by Naples residents and Everglades protectors.
Hughes Co. is drilling on private farm land in Collier County that was leased to several oil companies for energy exploration.
Experts say the risks inherent in drilling around the Everglades have alarmed larger companies afraid of possible fallout.
"I don't think there's enough oil there for the major companies to take the risk — the political risk, the image risk, the reputation risk — of drilling in the Everglades," said Jorge Pinon, an oil industry analyst at the University of Texas. "But you are going to see some of the independent companies taking that risk."
Related:           Fracking-like drilling near Everglades raises alarms   Sun-Sentinel
Company Drilling Near Everglades Claims Not To Be Fracking, Just ...       ThinkProgress

Is US Army Corps trying to confuse?
Sun Sentinel – Letter to the Editor by William Jordan, Boynton Beach
May 12, 2014
Thanks to Col. Alan Dodd of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for helping us understand why the Everglades restoration is taking forever to get approved, but 8,000 pages? The Bible is just under 1,300 pages and the entire Federal Income Tax Code is about 6,000 pages. What could possibly be written in 8,000 pages that could not be succinctly stated in under 100 pages regarding what is to be done to restore the Glades? Perhaps a few pictures or drawings would help.
Who would want to generate that amount of prose for anything? Unless, of course, they were trying to complicate and confuse the issue.
Then, the review process: I lost track of how many bureaucratic forums and groups must review and approve this treatise before it goes to Congress. I am sure each group is quite educated in environmental engineering. Then there's the U.S. Congress. Now there's a group of distinguished people who know best how to restore and revive the Everglades. And, a group that is sure to read all 8,000 pages of the plan.
If they didn't read the 2,000-page Affordable Care Act, I doubt they'll read this document.
William Jordan, Boynton Beach


The future of terrorism will be fueled by climate change - by Jon Gensler, Defense One
May 12, 2014
According to the Obama Administration’s newly released National Climate Assessment, climate change is already impacting communities in every corner of the country, with an increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events—storms, floods, and droughts—and rising sea levels destabilizing the everyday lives of Americans.
Worse, the impacts of these changes are accelerating, and they are affecting communities around the world. The Pentagon’s most recent Quadrennial Defense Review warns that “climate change may increase the frequency, scale and complexity of future missions.” Some of the least stable states in the world will face changing weather patterns that reduce arable land and fresh-water supplies, in turn driving mass-migration, provoking resource conflicts, and fostering global health threats.
As a former army officer, I have seen firsthand how “climate disruption” puts more of my fellow soldiers at greater risk. Both the creeping effects of climate change, producing gradual shifts over time, as well as the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters pose unique threats to global security.
Urban poverty is a major driver of terrorism, and climate-based migrations from disappearing coastal communities are likely to cause huge influxes in city populations around the world over the coming decades.
Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated states in the world, could see up to 18 million people displaced by 2050.
Competition for resources have been a fundamental driver in human conflict for centuries. States in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia have all already experienced varying levels of conflict and diplomatic tensions over access to freshwater resources. Moreover, rising saltwater levels in irrigation-dependent regions like the Mekong Delta in Vietnam threaten the food supplies of millions of people.
Global health is at risk, too. Rising temperatures are expanding the range of deadly diseases once confined to relatively small subtropical geographic areas. Instances of dengue, a mosquito-borne virus with flulike symptoms, have been on the rise in Florida and Texas. Alarmingly, the increase in instances of dengue in the US have not come from travelers returning to the US from abroad; instead, the disease’s indigenous zone is expanding due to increased heat and rainfall.
Ultimately, the disenfranchised and destitute are more likely to resort to violence as a means of finding income and creating purpose. High-profile security threats like the situations in Mali, Yemen, and Somalia all serve as clear examples of extremists gaining footholds in volatile societies; a central government that cannot provide for the basic needs of its people will only be more impotent in the face of climate-based challenges.
Yet these gradual shifts in weather patterns—while incontrovertibly causing serious change over time—are not even the most immediate threat to international stability. Natural disasters, increasing in both number and severity, are posing a greater risk at home and abroad.
Whether after Typhoon Haiyan in the Phillipines or New York City following Hurricane Sandy, helping those in need after tragedy strikes is a responsible way to uphold America’s moral leadership and build co-operation between nations. However, in a budget-constrained environment, any increase in the number of disasters is certain to stretch thin our military’s resources and divert attention from its primary mission.
Yet every humanitarian challenge that goes unanswered by the United States presents an opportunity for extremist groups to curry favor with communities; providing relief is a classic strategy of those seeking to implement radical social agendas. Groups in Syria, Pakistan, and Myammar have all endeared themselves to local populations via providing supplies, protection, and social structure at the cost of assuming moral authority.
The threats to our collective security are as abundant as they are clear. While civilian debate on climate change drags on, the US military has taken the lead in preparing to both adapt and react to climate-based challenges. Our security professionals understand that continued dependence on fossil fuels and willful scientific ignorance is not an option for a nation with major clout on the world stage.
This century must be a century of innovation, both in technology and policy. The NCA report is clear: there are no winners in a worst-case scenario, because climate change will impact us all. We need to take more aggressive action, and the time for American global leadership by way of comprehensive climate legislation is now.
This is the only hope we have of staving off the worst impacts of climate change. If we fail to take immediate action, we risk destabilizing the world to a point where it cannot sustain the peace and democracy we worked so hard to build. And that is the most serious long-term security threat we face.


Deep well at Piney Point: Best solution or too risky ? - by Matt M. Johnson
May 11, 2014 
MANATEE -- A Manatee County plan to pump potentially billions of gallons of industrial wastewater to the bottom of a 3,500-foot well is rife with controversy, as opponents say there's too much risk that it will taint the region's irrigation and drinking water supply, while proponents tout it as the answer to keeping the bay and other area waterways free from pollution.
One week remains for the public to comment on the construction of an injection well designed to eliminate contaminated water at the former Piney Point Phosphates fertilizer plant. And opponents, supporters and regulators are considering the long-term effects of a disposal method that has been linked to contamination of nearly 100 other water sources around the nation.
Officials with the county and the state's Environmental Protection Agency say any threat to the water supply can be managed with good engineering and favorable geology. In their opinion, a huge well is the best hope for cleaning up the abandoned fertilizer manufacturing facility, which polluted Bishop Harbor in 2011. County officials also consider it a potential business and income generator.
Opponents point to tens of thousands of violations at injection sites across the United States as an indicator of risk for the proposed well. They also question whether engineers designing the well can know enough about deep earth geology to guarantee that contaminated water pumped under the aquifer will stay entombed forever.
Manatee County farmers are particularly concerned. Many of them see the well as a threat to the groundwater they use to irrigate the crops that contributed to a farm economy a recent study valued at $2.36 billion.
"We're definitely not sold on putting this contaminated water down our aquifer," said Gary Reeder, president of the Manatee County Farm Bureau.
The plan for a deep injection well at the former Piney Point Phosphates facility has been in the works since 2012. It is one of three injection wells the county plans to build in the Port Manatee area. Two shallower wells to be built on port property and designated as aquifer recharge wells would pump treated municipal wastewater into the ground. The recharge wells are being considered on a permit application separate from that for the deep injection well.
The county has estimated the three wells and related infrastructure will cost more than $25 million.
Manatee County is already home to nine injection wells, with usage varying from disposing of treated wastewater to storing freshwater for municipal use, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Most are designated by the U.S. Environmental Agency as Class V injection wells, which are similar to the proposed, 1,100-foot deep municipal wastewater wells. Manatee County owns and operates seven of those injection wells, including one in Cortez that is identical to the controversial deep well from a regulatory point of view.
The deep well proposed for the Piney Point facility, designated by the EPA as Class I, would be permitted for the disposal of non-hazardous industrial waste. Manatee County has plans to not only use it for the Piney Point cleanup, but to dispose of brine from a planned reverse osmosis water plant and wastewater from industrial manufacturers in Manatee County.
Even though studies have found contaminants in the Piney Point water, including beryllium, cadmium, sodium, iron and arsenic, DEP says the levels of those contaminants are not considered hazardous or toxic.
Additional wells planned
More Manatee County injection wells may be on the way. In addition to the county's permit applications for the three new wells, DEP issued a draft permit two weeks ago for two Class V wells to be built at Tropicana's Bradenton manufacturing plant.
Above-average rainfall over the past four years has strained the county's ability to rid itself of treated or "reclaimed" wastewater. The problem is particularly pronounced at the North Regional Water Reclamation Facility. That facility treats water from Memphis Road to the northern border of Manatee County.
According to Jeff Goodwin, the county's wastewater division manager, and Mike Gore, director of the county's utilities department, the county went with a three-well solution when the local geology proved to be "not favorable from a permitting perspective" for a single deep well. CH2M Hill engineers said the rock at the bottom of the deep well lacked the capacity to absorb the combined wastewater flow.
Whether the wells are permitted depends on the next steps of the state approval process. The county applied for the permits last November. Notice of issuance of draft permits was published in early March. The DEP will review public comments on the permits after the comment period closes on May 16. After that, DEP officials will decide whether to publish an "intent to issue" notice.
The public would have one last opportunity to stop the permitting process, a 14-day period in which DEP could be petitioned to hold an administrative hearing concerning the project. If no petition is filed, DEP would issue permits.
It is the proposed Class I well -- which would accept more than a half billion gallons of Piney Point wastewater and future industrial wastewater in the first year -- that has drawn criticism since a public meeting April 16 gave the project its biggest airing to date. A second public hearing is planned at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Of greatest concern among critics is what will happen to the groundwater supply if the well ruptures or if injected waste finds its way into the county's freshwater aquifer.
Officials with DEP say injection is the safest, most permanent way to get rid of water they characterize as neither toxic nor hazardous, but too damaging to pump into rivers and Tampa Bay. But the wells will only get agency sign-off if an engineering analysis based on information from test wells shows that deep layers of limestone and clay will keep the waste in place, said Phil Coram, a DEP official who has worked as a contract manager for the Piney Point cleanup.
"It's our expectation that we'll only issue the permits if the injected water will stay where it's supposed to stay," Coram said.
If approved, the county's wells would join an estimated 240 Class I and 14,000 Class V wells across the state. The deep well would be one of 680 Class I wells in the nation, according to 2012 EPA data. Nationwide, an estimated total of nearly 850,000 injection wells pump and contain everything from fresh water to oil industry byproducts and hazardous waste, according to EPA estimates. It has been illegal to dump hazardous waste down an injection well of any category since 1983.
Piney Point's ills
State and county officials say the primary reason to build a Class I well at the former Piney Point facility is to dispose of nutrient- and salt-contaminated water. While the water could be treated through reverse osmosis or other methods that separate the water from contaminants, Coram said the well solution is the only one that doesn't create a byproduct that has to be disposed of in another way.
If built, the Class I well will send industrial wastewater 2,000 to 3,500 feet underground. At the minimum depth, the wastewater will end up about 1,200 feet beneath the local aquifer. Engineers designing the well say hundreds of feet of limestone and clay will prevent the waste from leaching upward into groundwater that is used for drinking and irrigation.
The well is expected to pump about 1 to 2 million gallons a day of water contained in the gypsum stacks into a layer of rock that contains salty, undrinkable water. That volume is planned to continue for more than a year. After surface water is drained from the gypsum stacks, the well will still receive about 150 gallons a minute for up to 30 years to clear drain systems under the Piney Point gypsum stacks.
Wastewater is expected to flow into pores between rock and sediment at the bottom of the well. Engineers hired by the county predict the waste will spread across a diameter of about .4 of a mile during the first 10 years of pumping. A test well to be drilled near the Class I well will be used to determine whether any waste has leaked out of the well or into the water table.
Years of cleanup
The cleanup at the several hundred-acre facility started in 2001 when Piney Point Phosphates notified DEP that it was abandoning the site. Shortly thereafter, its parent company, The Mulberry Corp., declared bankruptcy. The DEP stepped in to oversee and regulate cleanup.
In relating a history of the cleanup at Piney Point, DEP officials said the wastewater left behind is neither toxic, nor hazardous. Coram said the biggest problem with the wastewater -- which was used in the phosphate production operation -- is its high nitrogen and phosphate content. Those compounds can cause algae blooms associated with die-offs of sea life.
Results of third-party water testing at the site in 2012 show the other contaminants that DEP says are at levels not considered hazardous or toxic.
In the aftermath of the closure, a court-appointed receiver overseen by DEP went onsite to "manage the environmental threat" posed by contaminated water stored inside the gypsum stacks. Gypsum stacks are disposal sites for a slurry of water and phosphogypsum solids produced during the fertilizer manufacturing process. Over time, those sites built into hills containing small ponds.
At Piney Point, those ponds were dredged and the solids were used to build dikes at the edges of the stacks. The resulting reservoirs were used to store the slurry. Stacks as high as 90 feet cover about 400 acres at the site.
When a court-appointed receiver arrived at the Piney Point property, the stacks had high water levels from slurry dumping and rainfall. To bring those levels down and avoid a potential dike breach, the receiver disposed of 2.5 billion gallons of the water by methods including spray evaporation, barging the water into the Gulf of Mexico and trucking to active fertilizer manufacturers for use in their industrial processes.
In 2006, HRK Holdings LLC purchased the Piney Point property. After the purchase, HRK requested permission from DEP to store a mix of seawater and dredge material that neighboring Port Manatee planned to pump off the sea floor for a berth construction project. DEP granted permits allowing the material to be stored inside lined ponds in the gypsum stacks.
After a breach in one of the liners in May 2011, the state allowed HRK to discharge about 170 million gallons of Piney Point wastewater into Bishop Harbor. The company later repaired the liner.
Now DEP, Manatee County and HRK are looking to ground injection as the way to solve the wastewater problem for good. HRK's plan, according to DEP, is to inject about 1 million gallons of water a day into the well and use evaporation methods to dispose of another half-million gallons a day.
Once the water is gone, HRK would be expected to clean the pond liners in the gypsum stacks. Any rainwater that collected in the ponds thereafter could be discharged without treatment as stormwater.
But the financial status of HRK Holdings also could be an issue. HRK Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012. Since then, it has been selling off pieces of its land at the Piney Point land. The sales are being overseen by a federal bankruptcy court.
Jordan Levy, HRK's CEO, did not respond to a request to comment on the waste disposal plan.
Questions of reliability
CH2M Hill, the Englewood, Colo.-based engineering firm the county hired to design its new wells, says they are safe when it comes to protecting drinkable groundwater. The proposed Class V wells are designed to bolster the depleted, seawater-vulnerable water table near Port Manatee.
The wells would pump up to 15 million gallons of treated wastewater as far as 1,100 feet underground daily. That wastewater would be piped from the nearby North Regional Water Reclamation Facility on 69th Street East. At that depth, the treated water would be beneath a layer of limestone that engineers say will keep it away from shallower wells. It would also be below the 890-foot estimated bottom limit of the county's drinking water aquifer, according to documents prepared by CH2M Hill's Tampa office.
The Class I well is farther separated from groundwater.
At the April 16 meeting, CH2M Hill geologist Pete Larkin said groundwater will be well-protected by more than 700 feet of limestone.
"The confining layer is very significant," he said.
All three wells the county plans to build would operate under construction permits for five years. Joe Haberfeld, a DEP aquifer protection program administrator, said more frequent testing is required under such a permit.
Pressure in the well will also be monitored. A change in pressure can indicate a leak or if water in the well is backing up toward the surface.
Elizabeth Screaton, a University of Florida geologist and professor of hydrology, said the theory behind injection wells is sound where ground conditions are right.
"With sufficiently high hydraulic conductivities in the injection zone, low hydraulic conductivity and good thickness to the confining unit between the injection zone and the drinking water aquifer, and no cross connections between the two zones, injection of waste can be a reasonable option," she said.
DEP officials say that Manatee County's current Class I well at its water treatment plant near Cortez has only about 200 feet of non-porous limestone separating injected wastewater from the aquifer. They say the wastewater has not moved upward through the earth since the well began operations in 1988.
Other wells' problems
The same cannot be said for all injection well sites in Florida. According to DEP, treated wastewater injected through 17 Class I wells in Miami-Dade County was found to be moving toward the surface in the 1990s. While the effluent-tainted water did not reach the drinking water aquifer, DEP and EPA adopted regulations requiring operators of domestic wastewater wells to both treat and disinfect effluent before pumping it underground. DEP said drinkable groundwater in that area remains free of coliform bacteria.
Some local groundwater protection advocates and farmers place less faith in engineering. Susan McMillan, president of Sarasota-based Protect Our Waters Inc., cited a study undertaken by nonprofit news organization ProPublica that showed a significant failure rate in injection wells nationwide. Of the 680,168 wells identified in the study, 6,743 were found to have "significant leaks" between 2008 and 2010. More than 67,000 were found to have violations of some kind. Ninety-nine wells were linked with cases of water contamination.
According to the EPA, two types of failure in a Class I well can cause groundwater contamination. Those failures are leaks in well tubing or casing, or when injected fluid is forced upward between the well's outer casing and its central bore.
About a dozen Class I wells in Florida have experienced failures, according to DEP. All have been repaired and are currently in operation, department officials said. None leaked into the surrounding ground.
McMillan said she is not convinced the engineering behind Manatee County's well is safe.
"It's not ready to go," she contended.
McMillan is also concerned that Manatee County is looking to use the well to attract industry that will use it to dispose of their waste.
"They're garbage disposals for corporations that don't want to clean up after themselves," she said.
Economic risks
Some farmers working land near the Piney Point site are as concerned about their livelihoods that rely on groundwater. Reeder, president of the Manatee County Farm Bureau, said a leak could ruin the groundwater farmers use to irrigate their crops. That, he said, could destroy the county's farming industry, which a recent University of Florida study showed supporting more than 42,000 Manatee County jobs and generating $2.36 billion in annual revenue.
Reeder said the Farm Bureau is committed to working with Manatee County to get the former Piney Point land cleaned up, but not at the expense of the county's water supply. Bureau members want the county to look at other methods to clean up the Piney Point Phosphates waste before it enters the aquifer.
"How are we going to clean it up ?" he said.
Farmers express concerns that contaminated water could show up in some of the deeper irrigation and drinking water wells near the Class I well. In preparing a November 2013 permit application, the county identified 119 wells between 4 and 1,600 feet deep located within the permit application's area of review. None are within 500 feet of the proposed well.
Contamination worries aside, the usefulness of the well is not lost upon opponents. Glenn Compton, director of environmental protection organization ManaSota-88, said that while he does not believe a Class I injection well should be located on the former Piney Point land, something has to be done to clean the site. ManaSota-88 has served as an unofficial citizens watchdog over the cleanup at Piney Point.
"To the county's credit, they realize that there's a serious problem at Piney Point," Compton said.
Compton wants the county to look at alternative methods of cleaning up Piney Point, or a different location for the well. In comments submitted to DEP, Compton states that "all wells are subject to failure" and the waste pumped into such a well "will ultimately migrate beyond the point of injection." His group is asking DEP to disapprove of the county's permit for the deep injection well.
The deep well was developed collaboratively with DEP, Gore and Goodwin said. HRK was also included in early discussions.
If the Class I well is built and used for the cleanup, the county would charge HRK a pumping rate. Goodwin said the county is working with a rate consultant to determine the amount. The county also plans to charge industrial manufacturers for pumping their non-hazardous waste into the well.
That income would pay a portion of the well construction. The county is also seeking $7.5 million from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Potential waste dumping down the well could far exceed the volume of water in the Piney Point stacks. The county's permit application for the well estimates that a pumping rate of 1 million gallons a day could push more than 3.6 billion gallons of wastewater into the ground.
Larry Bustle, chairman of the Manatee County Board of Commissioners and a member of the Manatee County Port Authority, said he intends to vote in favor of building the Class I well. Still, he said he shares the concerns of the county's farmers and wants to know that the well will be safe.
The well, he said, could bring several benefits to the county. If built, it will provide a cleanup method at Piney Point and attract industry that needs a way to get rid of its wastewater.
Port Manatee is actively recruiting industrial, manufacturing and other business operations to build facilities on about 5,000 acres surrounding the port.
"If the science shows it's a safe thing to do, it's got a lot of advantages for the port and the overall environmental situation at the port," Bustle said.
At least one of Bustle's fellow board members, Michael Gallen, won't vote in favor of the deep injection well when its funding or related resolutions come before the board. He said the long-term effects of injected waste are unknown.
"I don't feel secure that this won't harm our water supply, won't harm our farming industry and won't harm our ecosystem," he said. "We can't take it back once there's a mistake.


Proposed constitutional amendment could lock in Florida conservation money - by Teresa Stepzinski
May 11, 2014
A proposed state constitutional amendment, advocates say, would help improve Northeast Florida’s water quality while protecting environmentally sensitive lands, but opponents contend the measure ultimately could shortchange the state’s overall budget leaving other programs without enough funding.
Florida voters on Nov. 4 will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to dedicate money to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands statewide.
If approved by 60 percent of voters statewide, the amendment would dedicate about $10 billion over 20 years for protection and restoration of environmentally sensitive lands and water resources. It also would be used to buy and maintain conservation easements. Such easements allow land owners to keep their property and get incentives – such as payments or tax breaks – in exchange for committing to conservation practices.
Advocates include the Sierra Club and North Florida Land Trust as well as about two dozen other nonprofit environmental, conservation and outdoor recreation organizations statewide. The measure is needed, they say, because the state legislature has significantly reduced funding for water and land protection – cutting key programs 95 percent – since 2009.
“The reality is, it seems that land buying as a function of conservation does not seem to be a priority of the legislature right now,” said Marc Hudson, land protection director at North Florida Land Trust.
The amendment guarantees the funding only could be used for conservation purposes including managing existing water protection and conservation lands, protecting lands that are deemed critical for water supply, restoring degraded natural systems and buying conservation and recreation lands.
Janet Stanko, chairwoman of the Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group, said the focus needs to be on preserving land now because with the state’s population expected to grow from the current 19 million to 30 million by 2035, the land won’t be available in the future.
“We cannot depend on the ad hoc beneficence of the legislators that happen to be in office. We absolutely have to have dedicated money,” Stanko said.
Another key reason for the amendment, Stanko said, is to preserve and protect Florida’s water supply. The state is running out of water because of its reliance on the Floridan Aquifer, which gets its water from recharge areas. If those recharge areas are paved over, the water goes into rivers, streams and eventually into the ocean instead of the aquifer. Preserving recharge areas is a water quality as well as a supply issue because those wetlands filter out nutrients and keep them out of the water supply, Stanko said.
Opponents include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, state Senate President Don Gaetz and state House Speaker Will Weatherford. They say mandatory budgeting via constitutional amendment is ill-advised, fiscally risky, and could backfire ultimately leading to a budget that can’t be balanced.
“ The constitution is more about a governing document to address our fundamental rights and organization of government, and not a wish list for every special interest that has an issue,” said David Hart, the Florida chamber’s executive vice president of governmental affairs and political operations.
The amendment, Hart said, would set a bad precedent. The state budget is the purview of the legislature, he said.
“Imagine if every group who didn’t get the funding they wanted for their pet issue in this year’s budget decided that they were going to circumvent our elected officials and put their issue on the ballot and try to get funded that way. You quickly become a state like California where they have loaded up so many mandates in their constitution that they are no longer able to balance their own budget,” Hart said.
California, he said, is essentially a dysfunctional state because it cannot manage its own fiscal affairs.
Putnam said that he’s also “concerned about writing the budget into our state constitution.” Gaetz, R-Niceville, has said the amendment would give too much land to the state. Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, also cited California as an example of how legislating by constitutional amendment doesn’t work.
Hart said the amendment likely will pass because “the overwhelming majority of Floridians are for the concept.” That will trigger a domino effect, said Hart, noting that the chamber has long supported environmental measures including Florida Forever, the state’s current conservation and recreation land acquisition program.
“It will show other groups, ‘hey, here is a path you might want to take if you don’t get the funding for your issue,” Hart said.
The money funding the Florida amendment would come from one-third of the documentary stamp tax paid on real estate transactions in the state.
The stamp tax generated slightly more than $1.6 billion in revenue during the state’s 2012-13 fiscal year, according to the Florida Department of Revenue. It is projected at about $1.7 billion this fiscal year. Proponents say the stamp tax has funded efforts to protect water quality, natural areas and wildlife habitat statewide for about 20 years.
Hart said past state funding cuts for conservation lands resulted from the bad economy. The amendment would mandate spending that money regardless if Florida plunges into another double digit recession.
“So, what won’t get funded because one group has said our priority is the most important ? Do teachers get a pay cut ? Does health care for senior citizens get cut ? Where does it end ?” Hart said.
Florida currently has about 3 million acres in conservation. That doesn’t include private and federal lands in conservation. There is no set annual goal for acquiring land for conservation using the amendment. It can vary year-to-year because lands are selected according to a scoring system based almost entirely on biodiversity and water quality, Hudson said.
Potential priorities in Northeast Florida, Hudson said, might include increasing the amount of land in conservation in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Jacksonville. It still has about 170 privately owned tracts. Undeveloped private property on Big Talbot Island and Fort George Island also would be desirable for conservation, Hudson said.
Stanko said thousands of acres along the St. Johns-Flagler County line would help enhance the water quality in Flagler County but also protect shellfish beds in the Matanzas River if it could be put into conservation.
The amendment would allow for more ecotourism and urban recreation opportunities. Land could be bought to build new urban trails and connect existing ones, said Linda Bremer, also of the Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group.
If approved, the amendment would take effect July 1, 2015.
Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075
If approved by state voters Nov. 4, the proposed Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative – Amendment 1 – would take effect July 1, 2015.
The ballot text for Amendment 1 reads as follows.
“Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.”


Spring diving

Try explaining inaction on springs to our young people - by John Hare, special to the Star Banner
May 11, 2014
 ‘Mr. Hare, would you please go over VSEPR theory again, just one more time?” She looked at me with a pained expression, head tilted slightly to the right. She was clearly frustrated after yet another attempt to understand molecular bonding theory. Reading the section in the text for the 10th time had failed to lift the fog that clouded this complex set of concepts.
Little wonder, I thought to myself. When I, her aging chemistry teacher, encountered valence shell electron pair repulsion (VESPR) for the first time, it was in a college-level quantum physics course and was a relatively new idea. Even though the brightest of the bright, these IB students are only in 10th grade. I’m not sure the right side of their brain has even developed the level of spatial visualization necessary to grasp bond hybridization, molecular shape and polarity. But, she was getting impatient, so on with the task at hand.
“OK, Madison, but let’s look at it in another way,” I said, seeking to unblock the traffic jam of thoughts in her head. “Let’s think of every pair of electrons as a center of charge that indicates what kind of orbital is forming.” Select, cut and delete the mental picture. Present an alternative view. Show VSEPR in a new light. Ten minutes later, the “Aha!” moment would come. Madison never stays blocked for long.
Too bad it isn’t this easy to explain how the latest and greatest effort to save Silver Springs has suffered a crushing defeat just when those paying attention were thinking this could be the year something serious is accomplished in the state Legislature. Only a few weeks ago, I had mentioned to my students, while on a water-monitoring research trip on the Silver River, that a bill this year really had a chance of going somewhere, and it had all the right stuff to set springs restoration into motion. It was to be Silver Springs’ “Everglades” moment in the sun.
Sad to say, last week, we found out that meaningful action on springs restoration would require yet another year of waiting and continued public education.
“But, Mr. Hare, I read it passed the Senate unanimously !”
“Well, yes, James,” I calmly began, “a gutted version did pass a vote in the Senate.”
“Well, then why didn’t the House even vote on it?” James demanded.
Young James Thrower, I must point out, is not a dispassionate teenager with only passing interest in Silver Springs. He’s a full voting board member on the Silver Springs Alliance, due to his dedicated volunteer service at every water awareness event the past three years. James has been up and down the river at least a half a dozen times, helping retrieve samples and data at 18 GPS points, bringing them back to the chemistry class lab and participating in research destined one day for university publication.
“C’mon, Mr. Hare, what do you know about why it didn’t happen this year ?”
He had me. I referred James, as always, to the best local news source on the springs, and there it was in the Star-Banner: Politics stopped it.
“What !?” his cheeks turning bright pink now, “They wanted to wait another year to bring up water for action ?”
No amount of thoughtful clarification was going to help James understand the theory of politics. I’m not certified to teach that, anyway.
On the bright side, these students will recover from this temporary setback and keep swimming, stronger than ever, right up the Silver River to a springs solution. They’ve learned the last few years that nothing can be assumed safe when it comes to the springs. They don’t even ask some of the questions that hounded them in the beginning. Questions like, “Mr. Hare, if the springs have been listed as a protected waterway for decades, why have they been allowed to degrade with little or nothing done to actually protect them?” Or, “Mr. Hare, I read that up to 60 percent of the water pumped from the Floridan aquifer ends up being used unnecessarily to water grass. Why ?” Or, “Mr. Hare, how can the springs possibly survive a 29,000-head, intensive cattle operation only 15 miles away ?” Or, “Mr. Hare, why do water management boards allow pumping up to double the permit holder’s amount whenever they feel it’s necessary?” Or, “Mr. Hare, why don’t they require meters on permitted water systems to see how much they actually pump ?”
Why, why, indeed.
This kind of frustration doesn’t emerge, mind you, in normal chemistry classes. It’s during the research sessions called the Group 4 project that all IB kids must complete once during their high school career. It’s supposed to give them “real world” experience in applying science in a meaningful way to their own lives.
I think those legislators and maybe even the governor should be required to field a round of these questions from those who are about to inherit the springs.
But, we adults have become accustomed to it, have we not ? Sometimes, all I can say to the students is, let’s not talk anymore about the springs right now and return to quantum mechanics and molecular bonding. Something less complicated than saving the springs, if you don’t mind.
John Hare is an IB chemistry teacher at Vanguard High School and a board member of the Silver Springs Alliance.


Inexcusable delay on springs
Daytona Bch. News.J. – Our View
May 10, 2014
For decades, Florida’s unofficial policy toward its troubled springs has embodied one word: Wait.
Wait — for the state to start measuring the levels of pollution and unhealthy nutrients in the once-pure spring flows.
Wait — for environmental officials to set minimum flow rates for springs, and craft rules to restore the most troubled.
Wait — for state and local leaders to establish common-sense protections that acknowledge springs’ crucial role in Florida’s overall hydrological welfare. Springs are the focal point of many of the state’s most popular parks — such as Volusia County’s own Blue Spring and DeLeon Springs — but the considerable economic benefit provided by those attractions pales next to springs’ real significance as a crucial harbinger of the health of the huge underground aquifer that provides the state’s drinking water.
Before this year’s legislative session, Gov. Rick Scott acknowledged as much, asking lawmakers for $55 million in increased spring-protection funding. And early in the session, key senators said they’d like to get started on measures to clean up already-polluted springs and restrict the damage that’s being done across the state.
But those efforts — cold-shouldered in the House — trickled down to one word.
Next year, legislators promised, things will be better. Incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, has said he will prioritize an intensive examination of water issues statewide. That should spell good news for springs, as long as Crisafulli is willing to confront the need to mitigate human impacts such as the damage done by failing septic tanks and overzealous application of lawn chemicals. Improving the health of springs will require a comprehensive legislative approach.
But the promise of extra attention for water issues next year doesn’t excuse the Legislature’s near-avoidance of springs-related legislation and funding this year. Of Scott’s requested $55 million — itself only a start, given the number of springs that need protection and the severity of the problems already cropping up — lawmakers approved only $30 million.
The inaction is even more puzzling in light of the Legislature’s willingness to finally provide money for cleanup and restoration efforts in the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee — both glaring examples of the high price of neglect. In the coming fiscal year the state plans to spend more than $230 million on those two interconnected systems alone. How much money would have been saved if the state had worked to protect its surface and ground water years ago? How much money will Florida’s taxpayers be forced to spend in the future to mitigate damage being done right now?
Voters might not be willing to wait until next year. In the fall, they’ll consider a proposed constitutional amendment that would force lawmakers to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to preserve and restore environmentally sensitive water and land.
But legislators shouldn’t have to be compelled to take action to protect Florida’s affordable, abundant, fresh water supply. The environmental and fiscal costs of neglect will keep growing.
And the springs won’t wait.


Fracking-like well near Glades alarms foes
Orlando Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
May 10, 2014
WASHINGTON — A Texas company has been caught using fracking-like blasting methods to drill for oil near the Everglades, raising alarms from state officials and inflaming a long-simmering controversy over energy exploration in the midst of a cherished ecosystem.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson urged federal officials to investigate. The state fined the company and demanded a temporary halt to five new exploratory wells.
And the fracking-like episode drew widespread attention to an emerging oil rush at the western edge of the Everglades, rousing opposition from environmentalists across the state who worry about the impact on water quality and wildlife.
"It opens the door to fracking for oil," said Marjorie Holt, chairwoman of the Sierra Club Central Florida Group. "It's near very sensitive public lands and habitat. And it could be an incentive for other companies to start exploration in Florida. We look at the big picture and feel it's a threat to Florida."
State officials last month cited the Dan A. Hughes Co. of Beeville, Texas, for using an "enhanced extraction procedure" in December akin to fracking without a permit in defiance of a cease-and-desist order to stop the practice. The Department of Environmental Protection said the enhanced procedure — which some call fracking — "had not previously been used in Florida."
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, blasts open rock formations through high-pressure injections of chemicals and water while filling fissures with sand to hold them open, drawing out trapped oil or natural gas. Environmentalists scorn the practice, and some communities are considering banning it, largely because it produces large amounts of toxic wastewater.
The Hughes Co. last year asked the state for permission to use high-pressure injection of dissolving acids at a production well in Collier County. The environmental-protection officials, concerned about this new procedure, told the company not to move forward but later found that it did anyway.
The department slapped the company with a $25,000 fine for "unauthorized actions" — which the agency called the maximum civil penalty under Florida law — and ordered it to hire an independent expert approved by the department to monitor groundwater near the site. Then on May2, under pressure from the state, the company agreed to stop drilling five new wells until a review of the impact of the fracking-like episode is completed, probably in December.
Spokesman David Blackmon said the company is "confident the results are going to show that the groundwater hasn't been negatively impacted" and that its operations do not pose a threat to contamination.
"The way these wells are constructed, there are multiple layers — five layers of concrete and heavy steel — that prevent any of the fluids going through the well bore from contacting the groundwater formation," Blackmon said.
The company denies that the new practice amounts to fracking because it uses an acidic solution instead of the usual fracking chemicals and a "modest volume" of water and sand.
But state officials remain wary of the practice. And Sen. Nelson, D-Fla., has asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to review the groundwater data once they are submitted by the company and state officials.
To environmental activists — already concerned that oil drilling will contaminate water supplies and damage the Everglades — the episode seemed to confirm their worst fears.
"It doesn't reassure many people that they are pumping acid into the ground under high pressure to break up rock and draw out more oil," said Matthew Schwartz of Lake Worth, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. "Those liquids could move around laterally but also up and down and into the drinking-water supply."
Energy companies have been extracting small amounts of oil on lands near the western Everglades since the 1940s without a major spill. Some 162 wells are operating in Florida, and the state has granted 37 drilling permits during the past five years.
New drilling techniques, the high price of oil and the depletion of deposits elsewhere have prompted energy companies to intensify the exploration while looking for black gold under deep-water areas offshore and near delicate ecosystems such as the Everglades. The Hughes Co. well is within a few miles of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
The company also is drilling on a site adjacent to the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. It has asked the EPA for permission to dig an injection well next to the site to store wastewater dredged up from the drilling — a bid strongly opposed by many homeowners in Naples and activists across the Everglades watershed.
The fracking-like episode "shows us how far they will go to get the oil out. They will even break the law, knowing the fine is so nominal that they can just add it into the cost of drilling," said Karen Dwyer of Naples, who has organized opposition to drilling. "Hopefully, there will be enough local, state and national attention so we can shut down Dan A. Hughes permanently in Florida before we get a catastrophic accident. We don't need an onshore BP oil spill that could wipe out our Everglades."
The Hughes well, 13,500 feet deep, is on private farming land owned by a Collier family company that has leased mineral rights to several oil companies exploring the region.
The drilling is unlikely to contaminate underground aquifers unless it springs a leak from pipes or casings, said Don Hargrove, minerals-management specialist at nearby Big Cypress National Preserve. He said aquifers in that area are separate from the Biscayne Aquifer underlying southeast Florida, making any underground contamination from one region unlikely to affect the other.
An estimated 702million barrels of oil or natural gas — the equivalent of 29billion gallons — are contained in a band of deposits known as the Sunniland Trend that stretches from Florida's west coast to Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report.
That's enough to attract smaller independent "wildcatter" companies, said Jorge Piñón, an oil-industry expert at the University of Texas.
He said drilling techniques, including fracking, have improved markedly since the Deepwater Horizon spill fouled the Gulf of Mexico four years ago. But oil drilling is inherently risky, he said.
"I don't think there's enough oil there for the major companies to take the risk — the political risk, the image risk, the reputation risk — of drilling in the Everglades," Piñón said. "But you are going to see some of the independent companies taking that risk."


Springs failure - Editorial
May 10, 2014
Before the 2014 legislative session started, there was bold talk of finally passing legislation that would begin in earnest the long, slow process of saving Florida’s spectacular but damaged springs. In the end, however, the Legislature couldn’t even pass a watered-down springs bill.
The state Senate unanimously passed the bill, but the House failed to even discuss it before the legislative session ended last week.
That said, environmental advocates should temper their disappointment. The Senate bill that was voted on was a shell of the original proposal, which would have created protection zones around the state’s most significant springs and dedicated about $365 million a year from an existing real-estate tax to projects to reduce pollution in those areas.
The measure was gutted as the session progressed. Regulatory measures were delayed years or even decades. The recurring funding was removed, replaced with one-time money that was whittled down to $30 million.
Keep in mind that this happened at a time when the state has a more than a $1 billion surplus. Lawmakers made a big show of cutting fees to save automobile owners a grand total of about $25 per vehicle, but failed to protect our springs and by extension the drinking water supply.
The latter is what to keep in mind when considering the complete lack of political will and foresight displayed by lawmakers. While North Florida residents certainly appreciate the recreational value of springs and the money they bring to local economies, the issue is really about the availability of clean drinking water.
As springs turn green from pollution-fueled algae and their flow drops due to the excessive groundwater pumping, they provide a window of what is happening to the aquifer.
There were a number of excuses about why the springs bill failed. Certainly, it didn’t help that special interest groups such as Associated Industries of Florida trotted out tired rhetoric about the state not needing additional springs protections despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The House version languished without a hearing as House Speaker Will Weatherford punted responsibility for water policy to his successor.
Our region’s lawmakers, Sen. Charlie Dean. R-Inverness, and Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, deserve credit as two of the five senators who crafted the bill. Rep. Clovis Watson, D-Alachua, was an early sponsor of the House version. In contrast, Rep. Dennis Baxley and Rep. Charlie Stone, both Ocala Republicans, never signed or even spoke up.
Residents shouldn’t forget the issue as these lawmakers run for re-election. Gov. Rick Scott also needs to be called out for an absence of leadership on the issue, given that money for springs included in the state budget fell short of even his pledge for $55 million for springs projects.
Residents can now turn their energies to helping pass Amendment 1, which would set aside a portion of real-estate tax revenue for land-conservation projects that include protecting drinking-water supplies.
And then next year, advocates can try again for a springs bill with some teeth. The year’s failure shows it won’t be easy, but protecting our springs and drinking water is essential to Florida’s future.


Murphy launches lagoon survey - by staff
May 9, 2014
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy wants your feedback on waterway spending.
Murphy announced his survey in a press release issued Friday.
The survey asks one question and provides an online form where people can answer and expound on their opinion: Do you support prioritizing funding for local environmental projects to help the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon?
News release from Murphy's office
The St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are vital to the Treasure Coast. That is why I am advocating for the U.S. House Appropriations Committee to match the $38 million funding commitment made in President Obama’s budget to finish Phase 1 and begin Phase 2 of the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South Project. Once completed, this project will help improve the health of local waterways by providing water storage and treatment areas.
Since taking office, I have made protecting our waterways a top priority, and have hosted a historic bipartisan Congressional briefing on the health of local waterways, brought leaders from the Army Corps and Congress on aerial tours of damaged areas, and successfully advocated for the funding commitment in the President’s budget.
Additionally, I was pleased that the Army Corps heard the concerns of our community, announcing that it will be moving forward on the Kissimmee River Project and the C-111 South Dade Project. These projects play a vital role in helping to store more water north of Lake Okeechobee and connecting key parts of the Everglades restoration system that will eventually allow more water to move south of the lake instead of being discharged into the estuaries to the east and west.
But to continue making progress, I will focus on bringing the community and government officials together to discuss ways to enhance efforts to improve the health of our local waterways. That is why I am asking you to share your thoughts about funding for local environmental projects in this survey. I am continuing to seek your input so I can best serve you and be your voice in Congress.



Florida's Land Conservation program gets limited funding in hefty budget – by Ashley Lopez
May 8, 2014
Lawmakers recently settled on a $77 billion budget this year, but with very little money set aside for the state’s land conservation program. Environmentalists said it’s a perfect example of why a constitutional amendment ensuring funding each year is needed.
Water quality issues in estuaries east and west of Lake Okeechobee got a lot of attention this year. That’s why state lawmakers set aside millions to fund restoration projects in the Everglades and the Kissimmee River. But, environmental groups warned lawmakers didn’t spend nearly enough on the state’s land and water conservation program called Florida Forever.
For decades, lawmakers set aside about $300 million a year for the program, but that budget was slashed to zero during the recession.
Laurie Macdonald with the Defenders of Wildlife said now that the state’s economy is rebounding and there’s a budget surplus, lawmakers should be funding land and water conservation for the entire state.
Macdonald said it is disappointing that lawmakers only set aside $17 million for Florida Forever—$5 million of which went to deals with private landowners.
“The legislature has not kept pace in funding the Florida Forever program with the needs,” she said. “Development is on the rise again throughout Florida, but our protection of conservation areas throughout the state is not being funded commensurate with the need.”
Macdonald also said this year’s budget is a good example of why a proposed constitutional amendment is needed. This year, Floridians will vote on a ballot measure that will ensure more funding every year for Florida Forever.
The money will come from a real estate tax that already exists. The amendment needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.


Green group says everglades project a waste - by Marianela Toldeo
May 8, 2014
This article originally appeared on
MIAMI — Government efforts to restore the ecological health of Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries are under fire from Florida environmental groups.
The projects on the table are well-intentioned, say several organizations. But the astronomical costs and unrealistic projections won’t restore wetlands and conserve water resources, and are nothing more than a waste of taxpayer money and resources, an environmental group says. The restoration of the Florida Everglades is part of the multi-billion dollar project — the Water Resources Development and Reform Act —  approved by Congress in 2000 to improve, conserve and develop U.S. rivers and harbors.
But some enviros say such projects — particularly those focusing on improving Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River Reservoir and the reservoir and storm water treatment area south of the Indian River Lagoon — don’t have sufficient capacity to handle the massive amount of contaminated water flowing from Lake Okeechobee.
“In fact, all the reservoirs to be built under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, including those on the East Coast, will not provide enough water storage from Lake Okeechobee to alleviate the massive release of polluted water causing adverse harm to our estuaries,” said Ray Judah, a former Lee County commissioner who now works for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, a group of organizations working together to conserve, protect and restore Florida’s coastal and marine environment.
When the projects were finalized, the original water-flow projections were based on the 30-year period from 1965 to 1995, a time when the state was exceptionally dry.
But a yearly average of about 455 billion gallons of polluted, brackish water flowing through the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers — and ending up in estuaries on the east and west coasts of the state — the projections are in need of updating.
“What we need to do is to provide storage of water released from the lake, treat it and then send it south. The reason why it’s a bad idea (the restoration plan) is because right now it is going to the east and west coast and destroying the estuaries, and there is not enough water going to the everglades,” Judah said.
According to Judah’s estimates, the Caloosahatchee River Reservoir project alone will cost more than $500 million but store only 55 billion gallons of water.
“If you put it in perspective, that will only allow for nine days of water storage,” he said.
Judah thinks buying up agricultural land — namely from “big sugar” outfits — and converting them to wetlands makes more sense.
His solution may be too simple for its own good. In October, state legislators blew a chance to buy up 153,200 acres for $7,400 per acre from U.S. Sugar Corp., the largest producer of sugarcane and refined cane sugar in the United States.
Judah said a purchase of just 50,000 acres at a cost of about $400 million would have been enough to restore wetlands and conserve water resources.
In comparison, the government’s plan would run taxpayers about $16 billion for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program.
Meanwhile, legislators seem intent on keeping up the pace of spending on restoration projects.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, on Monday designated $171 million for Lake Okeechobee and Indian River Lagoon cleanup.
Florida Watchdog tried to contact the senator, but he failed to respond to our inquiries.
Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers refused to sign off on the plan, saying it needed additional time to assess feasibility. Corps approval would have given the green light to massive spending on various projects, including a water preserve in Broward County for $433 million, a reservoir along the Caloosahatchee River in Southwest Florida for $297 million, a spreader canal in Miami-Dade County for $89 million and the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project for $96 million.
“This delay means Congress will be unable to act on (the plan) for years,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, an environmental group. “Once again the Corps is bogged down in its own bureaucracy and determined to follow a trail of red tape that leads to public frustration.”
It’s time to act, Judah said.
“It is important that the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Everglades Foundation, all the environmental organizations and the Legislature get behind the effort to create a flow way in the everglades agricultural area.”
“The saltwater intrusion is already affecting Miami because of the sea level rise, so it is important, economically and environmentally” said Darren Rumbold, professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University.

New Co-Chairman for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force (SFRTF) - Press release
May 8, 2014
At yesterday’s South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Meeting, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett was announced as the new Co-Chairman of the task force.
“As Deputy Secretary at DEP, Drew Bartlett is instrumental in implementing Governor Rick Scott’s landmark Everglades water quality plan. His contribution to the critical water management and supply planning for this region will have a positive impact on South Florida ecosystem restoration for years to come,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.
The Everglades is recognized both nationally and internationally as one of the world’s most unique natural and cultural resources. The South Florida ecosystem provides a rich natural heritage for all Americans and supports the economy and the high quality of life of Floridians and Native American Indians who live there.
Encompassing nearly 4 million acres of the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, the Everglades and the greater Everglades ecosystem, spanning from the Kissimmee River basin north of Lake Okeechobee all the way south to Florida Bay, are also the focus of the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration effort.


Tapped out - by Erin Sullivan
May 8, 2014
The 2014 session passed without the Legislature doing anything to address Florida’s pending water crisis
By the time the 2014 legislative session ended last week, the House and Senate had looked at nearly 1,000 bills each. They’d addressed everything from the establishment of a Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame to penalties for the possession of spiny lobsters in Florida to creating an official Florida Storytelling Week. But one issue they refused to address, at least not in any meaningful way, is the potentially devastating water shortage staring down the entire state.
 “Another year has gone by without tackling one piece of water quality or quantity issue legislation,” says state Rep. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, who sponsored the Springs Revival Act, introduced in the House on March 4, that went nowhere. “We’ve had not one single discussion about it.”
The problem, says Stewart (and water-conservation experts), is that the state keeps putting off dealing with water conservation and quality issues, despite the fact that our population is growing quickly — as a result, water demand is going up while supply is becoming dangerously low.
According to the Central Florida Water Initiative, a joint venture of the St. Johns River Water Management District, South Florida Water Management District and Southwest Florida Water Management District, Orlando is using as much water as it safely can from the Floridan Aquifer, where 90 percent of the region’s potable water comes from — and consequently, the CFWI has proposed raiding the St. Johns River to make up the difference. Though Central Florida treats the aquifer as if it had a never-ending supply of water, the quantity is finite.
“The current levels of groundwater withdrawals in the Orlando area are reaching the limits of sustainability,” says Hank Largin, public communications coordinator for the St. Johns River Water Management District. Currently, Central Florida pulls approximately 800 million gallons of water per day from the aquifer — and the aquifer can’t handle much more. “Technical experts from the Central Florida Water Initiative teams have determined that only about 50 million gallons per day remain.”
But growth projections (and constant requests from businesses, cities and counties that want permission to pump ever more water from the aquifer to meet their needs) say that over the next 30 years, demand for water is going to far surpass what the aquifer can deliver.
As Central Florida pumps more and more out of it, that region runs the risk of saltwater intrusion — as aquifer levels run low, they make way for coastal waters to flow inland. Saltwater intrusion can make fresh water undrinkable, increases the presence of minerals and nutrients in bodies of freshwater, and can harm crops. Too much pumping will also mean noticeable drops in the water levels in local lakes, rivers and streams, and reduction of flow in springs (which is already happening), as well as shrinking wetlands, which are vital for filtering pollutants from the water that reaches them.
Yet, water-management districts continue to issue permits to businesses that want to increase the amount of water they consume.
“They continue to give away consumptive use permits as if we had water to give,” Stewart says. “But we don’t have it. They just passed legislation to approve a 30-year consumptive use permit request — yet we don’t even have enough water for consumptive use past four years, let alone 30. They simply do not understand, nor do they even acknowledge, that there’s going to be a problem.”
“Right now we have an anti-regulation, de-regulation leadership in this state,” says St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman. “They want to fuel growth, and they don’t want people to think we have a water problem and we have to conserve, when that’s really what would sustain future growth if we do it smartly.”
Though the Floridan Aquifer supplies water for drinking and irrigation in Central Florida, what happens down there matters here in Northeast Florida, especially if the CFWI makes good on plans to drain 150 million gallons a day from the St. Johns, which critics say could lead to a host of environmental problems that would be very difficult and pricey to reverse, and have potentially disastrous effects on our region’s ecosystems.
Though the Senate has moved on some water-conservation bills this session, the House has failed to do so. And without similar or matching legislation in both houses, bills to address the state’s water-shortage problems were a dead issue this session. Stewart says that the House leadership decided it would rather wait another year before dealing with the water crisis. Why? Politics.
Stewart says House Speaker Will Weatherford held off on water legislation because he wants to leave it for Majority Leader Steve Crisafulli to address when he becomes speaker next year.
“Weatherford stated in the House that he would fund a lagoon project, some funding for the Everglades and for Lake Okeechobee, which runs into the Everglades, and that’s it,” she says. “His comment was that he wasn’t going to do anything further because when Crisafulli gets in as Speaker, that’s what he wants to tackle. He wants it to be his legacy,
so we’re going to let him do it. … It’s extremely frustrating.”
In the meantime, she says, the CFWI — a committee charged with figuring out how, exactly, Central Florida is going to meet its water needs in the coming years while accessible sources literally dry up — is working on a comprehensive regional water supply plan. A draft of the plan was finished late last year and should be finalized in May.
Among other things, it says that by 2035, the population of the area covered by the CFWI is projected to grow from 2.7 million to 4.1 million; to make sure that people have enough water to drink, Central Florida will need more than 1,100 million gallons of fresh water per day. That’s 300 million more gallons than it draws now — and about 250 million more gallons than the aquifer even contains to be pumped. Short-term solutions for meeting those needs include pumping water from nearby rivers and tributaries, including the St. Johns, but that carries with it a price. The St. Johns is already suffering from more nutrients than it can easily dilute — storm water runoff, fertilizers and wastewater running into the river are poisoning its waters — and pumping water out of it will only compound the problem. Desalinization plants that can remove the salt from seawater are also being considered, but they are wildly expensive. Plants that can safely sanitize wastewater will likely also have a growing role in the future of the state’s water supply.
“We’re going to be saddled with the future pollution problems in the St. Johns,” says Rinaman, “and we as a community will be responsible for cleaning it up. If we don’t start living within our water means, it’s going to cause us paying for more expensive water. The costs of making the water potable will get more expensive and will be passed on to the consumer. It’s pay now or pay later.”
Right now, Stewart says, our legislators should be funding water conservation, management and protection — something they’ve been historically slow to address.
“This is going to have to be dealt with,” Stewart says. “You cannot give water to subdivisions or to people that you don’t have. I think we only have like a year or two left in the aquifer — we don’t have that fresh source of water that we have always had access to, so we’re going to have to put plans together to do deals, and they are not cheap. … Water has been abused and misunderstood for over 10 years now, and we’re getting to a critical point.”
Though lawmakers declined to do anything meaningful this session, later this year, voters will have a chance to address the issue for themselves. Amendment 1, which will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot, will ask voters to amend the state’s constitution to set aside one-third of all real-estate documentary stamp tax revenues (paid when a property is sold) to fund water conservation, management and restoration projects. If the amendment passes, Stewart says, it would force the state to put plans into place for spending money to conserve the water resources we’re overusing.
Conservationists estimate that the amendment could generate up to $5 billion over the course of a decade if it passes.
Of course, Stewart says, expect to see a big pushback by business interests who don’t want the doc-stamp measure passed. “Their idea is to go and stick a straw in the [Econlockhatchee River, a tributary of the St. Johns River] and suck the water down so they can have water for a subdivision,” she says. “You’re going to see all kinds of ideas come up for how to get water, but unless you tackle water quality and quantity and new water resources, you are not going to tackle water. You’re just not.”
“There’s all these ways for us to live within our water means,” Rinaman adds. “We’re not getting serious about doing so. Until our elected officials start focusing on aggressive conservation, it’s going to force these extremely expensive infrastructure projects that are going to damage our rivers and springs.”
A version of this story originally appeared in Orlando Weekly. Additional reporting by Travis Crawford.


Click for VIDEO -
Good explanation
of the issue !

Water manager explains budget, Lake Okeechobee operations – by Chad Gillis
May 8, 2014
Mitch Hutchcraft, a member of the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District talks about water issues affecting SWFL. Andrew West/
The state is in the process of finalizing the budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, and water quality issues and Everglades restoration projects have been allotted more than $150 million.
To help explain the state budget and the workings of the South Florida Water Management District, governing board member Mitch Hutchcraft stopped by The News-Press recently for a video interview.
A longtime planner in the Fort Myers area, Hutchcraft represents agriculture interests and Southwest Florida.
Mitch Hutchcraft

Delay on the Everglades will work out best in the long run - by Col. Alan Dodd, commander of the Jacksonville district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
May 7, 2014
Last month, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Review Board decided to defer approval of an implementation report on the Central Everglades Planning Project. Since that decision, a lot of information has circulated regarding what this action means, and what happens next.
CEPP and the entire Everglades restoration program are very important to the Corps, and we remain committed to making progress. We have a strong partnership with the state of Florida and other state and federal agencies in ongoing efforts to restore this significant and unique national ecosystem.
The decision to defer approval of the CEPP report was made to enable the Corps to complete a full review of the almost 8,000-page document to ensure it complies with all applicable federal laws, regulations and policies. This kind of review must be completed for any national project report brought before a Review Board for consideration, and is a critical step before a project report can be released for state and agency review.
Failure to do so could result in significant delays if problems or issues are identified later on that could have been discovered prior to releasing the report.
The progress we have achieved with CEPP is a significant accomplishment for the Corps and our partners in the effort, especially for a project that is this large and complex. We have reached this point in the process in less than two and a half years, which is a reduction of several years in the traditional Corps planning process.
This is the result of a concerted effort by Corps staff and our partners, and our ongoing efforts to transform civil works planning processes nationwide. We expect to complete the policy review of the CEPP report within the next few weeks.
If issues are discovered during review of the report, they will be addressed as quickly as possible to keep the process moving forward. The CWRB members will then reconvene to finalize their deliberations on the report before it's released for the required 30-day state and agency review.
Following the state and agency review, there are still several required steps that must happen before CEPP can become reality.
First, the Corps must address any comments raised during the state and agency review. The Corps must then prepare a Chief of Engineers report to present to the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for approval and signature. That report is then forwarded to the Congress for information and to the Department of the Army and the administration for review.
Once the administration clears the report, it is sent to Congress for possible authorization and funding. These steps are required by law, must be accomplished sequentially and cannot be done concurrently.
I understand the frustration many have expressed about the actions of the CEPP Civil Works Review Board. We, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also wish to see CEPP move forward as quickly as possible and are fully committed to completing the review of the CEPP report as expeditiously as possible while continuing our role as a partner in Everglades restoration.
However, as stewards of the public trust and of the federal tax dollars appropriated to us, we must ensure that CEPP -- like all planned projects -- fully complies with federal law and policies before it is presented to Congress for consideration.
( reprinted this from the Miami Herald).


DEP Deputy Secretary Drew Bartlett named Co-Chair of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
FDEP News – Press release
May 7, 2014
At today’s South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Meeting, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett was announced as the new Co-Chairman of the task force.
“As Deputy Secretary at DEP, Drew Bartlett is instrumental in implementing Governor Rick Scott’s landmark Everglades water quality plan. His contribution to the critical water management and supply planning for this region will have a positive impact on South Florida ecosystem restoration for years to come,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “Drew has repeatedly demonstrated his leadership and commitment to using the best science to restore the health of our state’s most important ecosystems. His professional experience in water resource management makes him uniquely qualified for this task force.“
The Everglades is recognized both nationally and internationally as one of the world’s most unique natural and cultural resources. The South Florida ecosystem provides a rich natural heritage for all Americans and supports the economy and the high quality of life of Floridians and Native American Indians who live there. Encompassing nearly 4 million acres of the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, the Everglades and the greater Everglades ecosystem – spanning from the Kissimmee River basin north of Lake Okeechobee all the way south to Florida Bay - are also the focus of the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration effort.
Together, state, federal, tribal and local governments, and stakeholders are implementing numerous projects to restore the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of fresh water to restore the ecosystem as well as provide for future water-related needs of the region. To facilitate the coordination of these initiatives, Congress established the intergovernmental South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force in 1996.
As Deputy Secretary, Mr. Bartlett is responsible for carrying out the Department’s role in implementing the Everglades restoration, the Florida Watershed Restoration Act and ensuring consistency with the federal Clean Water Act for the State of Florida.
Additional Background on Mr. Bartlett:
In addition to working with the Water Management Districts, Drew Bartlett oversees the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, the Office of Ecosystem Projects, the Office of Water Policy and the Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas, Florida Coastal Management Program and the Intercontinental Shelf Program. Prior to serving as Deputy Secretary at DEP, he served as Director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. Under Bartlett’s leadership during the two previous years, the state has implemented the most comprehensive nutrient water quality standards in the nation. Bartlett also made it a priority to protect and restore Florida’s springs. In 2011, the Department adopted nutrient pollution limits for all the state’s springs. Bartlett’s team also set Florida’s first water quality restoration roadmap for a spring in the Santa Fe River basin and has currently proposed a water flow restoration roadmap.
Prior to that position, he was Chief of the Standards, Monitoring & TMDL Branch at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 office, responsible for implementing those programs authorized by the Clean Water Act.
Prior to his work in surface water quality, Bartlett spent 10 years implementing programs under the Safe Drinking Water Act. For seven years, he administered the public water supply program in the southeast through the transition of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments. He also administered for three years the ground water monitoring, wellhead protection, and underground injection control programs in the southeast.


EPA should rethink Clean Water Act rule, congressmen say – by Allison Floyd
May 7, 2014
More than half the members of the House of Representatives signed onto a letter urging the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to back off a new Clean Water Act rule that agriculture advocates say would be onerous for farmers.
The Waters of the U.S. rule would expand federal control under the Clean Water Act, opponents say, giving regulators control over even manmade ditches.0
Reps. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) wrote the letter to the EPA and Army Corps outlining their concerns about how the rule would impact farms across the country. A total of 231 House members from both parties signed the letter.
The proposed rule would apply Clean Water Act regulations to almost all structures that connect to downstream navigable waters – including ditches, natural or man-made ponds, flood plains and prairie potholes – under federal control, according to Collins’ office. The new rule would directly contradict earlier Supreme Court rulings about where to apply the Clean Water Act, signers said.
“EPA’s overreach is already causing real harm for farmers and stalling business development across our country,” said Collins. “When I visit with farmers in my district, the heavy burdens under the Clean Water Act come up each and every time. When the bureaucrats at the EPA decide to call a divot in the ground that fills with rain a ‘navigable waterway’ under the CWA, we know our federal government has run amuck. The fact that the EPA and USACE are now looking to formally broaden the definition of ‘navigable waters’ is an insult to hard working farmers all across this country.”
The American Farm Bureau and other agriculture advocacy groups have spoken out strongly against the proposed rule.
“It is refreshing to see that members of Congress agree with the American Farm Bureau that it is time to ditch this rule,” said Don Parrish, senior director of regulatory relations for AFBF. “This regulatory proposal is an end run around Congress and the Supreme Court, and we appreciate the efforts of Mr. Collins and Mr. Schrader to highlight the many concerns our members are expressing about the rule.”
The letter takes issue with vague language in the rule and economic analysis based on years when the country was in deep recession. The economic impact actually would be much higher, the letter contends.
“The EPA’s proposed rule is going to cause more harm than good,” said Congressman Schrader. “By adding yet another layer of unnecessary regulatory burden on our agriculture and business communities, this proposal will further hinder our country’s economic recovery and stifle job creation. The Clean Water Act is working, but this rule will create needless confusion based on bad science. I hope the administration acknowledges our concerns and heeds the advice of myself and my colleagues when we say: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The full letter is available here.


clear spring

Pollution sources - Editorial
May 7, 2014
It's long been known that pollution, especially from nitrates, is a major cause of the degradation of our iconic Silver Springs. The brown carpets of river-bottom algae, the dwindling fish population, the overtaking of shoreline by invasive plants all are evidence. Yet, it has been difficult to attack the problem with efficiency, because the exact sources of the pollution has remained specifically unidentified — until now.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently revealed the findings of a study of the 117,000-acre Silver Springs recharge area. The study narrowed the sources and the relative impact of each on the springs' pollution. And while there is more research to be done, and scientists say it takes 10 years for some of the toxins to reach the spring, the study gives DEP and springs advocates an idea of where to start focusing efforts to curb the long-running pollution.
Essentially, the study found that — as many have long suspected — septic tanks are the leading cause of nutrient pollution, contributing 40 percent of the nitrate pollution. That's not surprising given the number of septic tanks in Marion County — 100,000-plus — and the lack of oversight to ensure they are functioning properly.
The next biggest polluters of the springs are the county's horse farms, according to the study, which found them to be responsible for 14 percent of the tainting of the springs water. Agriculture fertilizer, 7 percent, and cattle farms, 4 percent, also were measured in the analysis.
The third biggest pollution source was county drainage wells, 12 percent, with residential fertilizer coming in next at 11 percent.
While none of the sources should surprise anyone, the magnitude of each is important in developing a long-range strategy reducing pollution damage to our springs. Certainly the County Commission and the Legislature have to quit turning a blind eye to some sort of septic tank regulation. And while the DEP has a feel-good policy of working with agriculture to implement “best practices” to reduce animal waste and fertilizer runoff, clearly they are not enough and something more is needed if the state and county are serious about cleaning up, indeed saving, our springs.
This is the first DEP-sanctioned measurement of source points around a Florida spring. That makes it a significant step that neither the agency nor Silver Springs' advocates can allow to go unfulfilled. It is an opportunity to learn how the state can go about setting standards and regulations that are workable and effective in cleaning up all our springs.
As with all things regarding our springs, the source point pollution study is but one small step toward the eventual goal. Yet, we are heartened by DEP's commitment addressing the unconscionable fouling of Silver Springs, first through the establishment of a Basin Management Action Plan, then turning the springs into a state park, and now the pollution source study. Collectively, they represent remarkable progress in a relatively short period of time.
The trick now will be to take what we have learned and start addressing the pollution in earnest.


Residents protesting Army Corps after delayed action on Everglades plan – by Scott Sutton
May 7, 2014
Protest being held in Royal Palm Beach Wednesday
ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. - A protest is being held in Royal Palm Beach Wednesday morning in an effort to restore the Everglades and nearby estuaries.
Protesters hope this will send a message to the Army Corps of Engineers, which recently delayed a plan to send Lake Okeechobee water south. The plan would have prevented toxic water from reaching the Indian River Lagoon.
The protest starts at 11 a.m. at the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center on Civic Center Way.  During the protest, the Everglades Restoration Task Force will be meeting from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.


Corps moves up review of Everglades Restoration
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
May 6, 2014
A $1.9 billion plan to move the chronically delayed Everglades restoration forward will be reconsidered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers later this month.
The Corps surprised supporters in April when its Civil Works Review Board failed to sign off on the Central Everglades Planning Project, potentially missing a critical window to win authorization from Congress.
The Corps took issue with how the South Florida Water Management District worded a resolution agreeing to cover half the cost and said it needed until June to review it. The decision was roundly condemned, from Gov. Rick Scott to environmental groups.
On Tuesday, Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy told a district board the Corps would reconsider the plan May 23, said Caroline McLaughlin, a policy analyst for the National Parks Conservation Association, who was at the meeting.
The Corps could not be reached for comment.
But even with the earlier review, supporters say there still may not be enough time.
“It’s going to take some creative accounting, so to speak,” said Water Resources Advisory Commission member Adam Gelber, who also attended the meeting.


DEP issues permit for Herbert Hoover Dike repair - FDEP Press Release
May 6, 2014
The Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Ecosystem Projects introduced a consolidated Environmental Resource Permit, or ERP, to the United States Army Corps of Engineers for the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) Repair and Rehabilitation Project (R&R Project).
The permit authorizes construction and replacement of Culverts 2, 12A and HP-2 with new water control structures S-278 (C-2), S-274 (C-12A) and S-287 (C-HP-2).
“The residents of South Florida are dependant upon a stable dike around Lake Okeechobee,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “DEP was able to streamline its permitting process for critical dike rehabilitation projects to alleviate flooding and environmental concerns for residents in the communities impacted by Lake Okeechobee.”
The HHD R&R Project is intended to reduce the risk of flooding, piping and seepage as a result of higher lake levels. The dike, which was constructed in the early to mid-1900s, is comprised of gravel, rock, limestone, sand and shell and does not currently meet the rigorous standards for dams and levees that exist today; limiting the flexibility of water managers with regard to lake operations. Enhancements to the HHD are critical to the restoration of the Everglades, and last year, the state urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (Corps) to expedite work on this dike system.
The culvert repair project is one component of the Corps comprehensive HHD R&R Project to enhance the stability of the 143 mile earthen dike around Lake Okeechobee. Replacement of the culverts will strengthen particular areas of the dike, reducing the risk of seepage, piping and levee failure when Lake Okeechobee reaches certain water levels.
The project is located within five counties: Glades, Hendry, Martin, Okeechobee and Palm Beach.
Related:           Lake Okeechobee Dike Quick-Permitted for Repair and Rehabilitation       Sunshine State News


Experts: Bad year for toxic algae blooms – by Leslie Coursey
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Lisa Ortiz loves playing outside with her kids. But these days, they stay away from the water in their back yard. It's the site of the latest blue-green algae bloom.
"It was little at first, and now it's just getting bigger and bigger," she said.
It's the same blue-green algae that's plagued the St. Johns River for years now. Slimy streaks on the water's surface have been blamed for fish kills. It even forced the cancellation of a river swim event last year.
Dr. Quinton White, the marine science director at Jacksonville University, said the green goop is toxic.
"It can cause some respiratory distress, can cause some health problems, liver damage," said White.
He said the algae usually dies off during the winter. But as Action News reported in January, fewer freezes this winter allowed the algae to survive.
And a buildup from fertilizers and leaky septic tanks keeps feeding the problem.
"I have said for a long time, we have used and abused the St. Johns River a lot," White said.
Ortiz said they don't see fish anymore. The turtles she and her son used to feed are gone. So, they'll stay on land and hope the algae clears.
"I thought maybe it would just die off eventually, but I don't think it will," she said.
If you see green water, White says stay out of it. Don't swim in it. Don't let your pets drink it. It's just not safe.
The state of Florida has picked up on the pollution problems in the St. Johns, too. The legislature approved $842,000 in the budget to help correct some of the wastewater runoff problems. It's just waiting for the governor's signature.


weather extremes

Report: More extreme weather to come
May 6, 2014
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — You can blame extreme weather on climate change. That’s the finding of a new federal scientific report the White House released Tuesday.
Scientists said it’s sounding the loudest alarm bell yet on global warming.
Americans are already feeling the impact of global warming in every corner of the country and in a new federal study the forecast is for more extreme weather.
“Areas of the country that are already quite hot are going to get hotter….already wet places getting wetter…already dry places getting dryer,” said Dr. Kathryn Sullivan of NOAA.
The National Climate Assessment looks at global warming’s impact region by region. The sweeping 840-page report warns the nation needs to be prepared for superstorms like Sandy, killer tornadoes, record rainfalls and devastating droughts.
The report indicates the Southeast and Caribbean region is exceptionally susceptible to sea level rise, extreme heat events, hurricanes, and decreased water availability.
“Decreased water availability, exacerbated by population growth and land-use change, will continue to increase competition for water and affect the region’s economy and unique ecosystems,” states the report.
The report says the region is in for increasingly hotter days at 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
“Increasing temperatures and the associated increase in frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme heat events will affect public health, natural and built environments, energy, agriculture, and forestry,” states the report.
According to the report,the increasingly  hot days are expected to cause challenges to our health, leading to an increase in deaths.
“Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, and Tampa have already had increases in the number of days with temperatures exceeding 95ºF, during which the number of deaths is above average. Higher temperatures also contribute to the formation of harmful air pollutants and allergens. Ground-level ozone is projected to increase in the 19 largest urban areas of the Southeast, leading to an increase in deaths.”
Tourism in Florida is expected to take a hit due to the climate change, according to the report.
“Some of Florida’s top tourist attractions, including the Everglades and Florida Keys, are threatened by sea level rise, with estimated revenue losses of $9 billion by 2025 and $40 billion by the 2050s,” states the report.
Rising sea levels  and saltwater intrusion are also expected to threaten reservation lands in Florida, causing tribes to possibly face displacement.
Some Republican lawmakers and energy groups are criticizing the report as “alarmist” and say the White House wants to use it to support government overreach.
The study recommends the U.S. change the way it uses energy, cut carbon pollution and build infrastructure to withstand the impacts of climate change.
An Associate Press analysis of federal weather records shows in the past 51 months, states have set 80 records for heat, 33 for being too wet, 12 for lack of rain and just three for cold.
Click here to view the full U.S. National Climate Assessment.
Related:           Tampa faces more heat deaths due to climate change            Tampa Bay Business Journal
Florida already feeling effects of climate change
South Florida at High Risk: White House Climate Assessment         NBC 6 South Florida
Florida squarely in cross-hairs of climate change, new report says
Climate change report forecasts trouble for Florida   Pensacola News Journal
Federal Report: Climate Change Is Disrupting Americans' Lives      WBUR
The Daily Fix: Climate Change Causes Rising Flood Waters ...        TakePart


Sunshine Sweet Corn is coming into markets
Florida Today – by Lou Gerber
May 6, 2014
We're entering one of nature's real treat seasons when delicious sweet corn is just beginning to appear on the market. It grows during the winter months, and harvesting has recently begun. It should be at its best in May, June and July.
No matter how you cook it, whether boiled, grilled on the cob or kerneled as an ingredient in any dish, this particular type of corn has a soft texture and buttery sweetness you won't find in any other vegetable.
Added to this enjoyment is the impressive fact that Florida ranks No. 1 nationally in the production of sweet corn, according to the University of Florida Extension. This produce loves the muck-soil prevalent in and around the Everglades, as well as the heat and sun in the far southern part of the state, where more than 50,000 acres are devoted to sweet corn production.
Corn, like many other vegetables, doesn't grow wild. It requires cultivation and attention. According to Herbs-Taste&, cultivation first took place thousands of years B.C. in Mexico, where ancient grains were first discovered. Corn soon became an important staple in Central America, and from there it migrated around the world in the centuries that followed.
Over time, corn's uses became voluminous — medicinal, animal feed, food supplements — and its commercial applications, to this day, are staggering, from the production of ethanol to boost gasoline's octane levels to its use in plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, fabrics and more.
But sweet corn as we know it today didn't just happen. In fact, only 50 years ago, corn wasn't all that sweet and had a relatively short shelf life, which inhibited high-volume retail sales. Then, in the early '50s, corn geneticists and professors of botany at the University of Illinois and the University of Florida developed a corn hybrid that stored much less starch and up to 10 times more sugar. Their research led to what has become known as Sunshine Sweet Corn, the highest quality of its type, which is now grown exclusively in Florida.
Tommy Holt Sr. of Wellington is one of the state's prime and long-time growers. He's been producing sweet corn from more than 4,000 acres around Lake Okeechobee near the Everglades since 1964, and despite some odd weather this year, he sees 2014 yielding a sizable harvest of high quality sweet corn.
Tommy's wife, Ann, who was voted Florida's Agricultural Woman of the Year in 2010, is equally involved in the business and for 14 years has headed up the Sweet Corn Fiesta, a major annual event at the South Florida Fair Grounds in West Palm Beach.
A highlight of the fiesta is a corn-eating contest, the organizing of which is contracted out to the folks who stage the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York. The record holder of the corn event consumed 35 ears in the allocated 12 minutes. According to Holt, the greatest hazard of participating in the event is extreme jaw fatigue more than gastric distress. I'd vote for both.
But for normal consumption, Florida sweet corn has many delectable uses. Here are examples of how to put this unique produce to good use as a savory and a dessert.


SW Florida residents say "No fracking" - by Joshua Leclair
May 6 2014
NAPLES, Fla. - Residents, activists and Collier County Commissioners are moving to halt any fracking projects in Southwest Florida.
On Earth Day, April 22, the Collier County Commission voted unanimously to legally challenge a consent order between the Dan A. Hughes oil drilling company and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The consent order amounted to a "slap on the wrist" for the Texas-based company over its fracking-like operations in Florida, according to Rob Moher, head of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, based in Naples.
The DEP acknowledged that the company was conducting drilling that fit the definition of fracking, but the agreement simply fined the Dan A. Hughes Co. $25,000 and barred it "from using the technique further until it completes a groundwater study, according to DEP Spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller."
According to the consent order filed by the DEP, "the Dan A. Hughes Co. performed the unpermitted technique for two days in December and January and defied a cease-and-desist order from DEP for one day," Steve Doane of reports. "The well in question is located at Hogan Island, which is located south of Lake Trafford, near the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed lands."
The Florida DEP has still not released more critical information about exactly how the Dan A. Hughes Company did their "extraction" says Doane. According to the Florida DEP, the company's "technique qualifies as a 'confidential trade secret' and is shielded from public disclosure under Florida law." Doane notes that Florida law does not require a company to obtain a separate permit for hydraulic fracturing, but it is required to notify the DEP to get permission.
Environmental activists and oil drilling opponents have many unanswered questions concerning several aspects of this type of operation. In particular they cite the number fracking accidents being reported nationally, and the potential contamination of local aquifers with drilling chemicals such as hydrochloric acid and the possible release of pools of trapped salt water.
Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said, "They've done experiments with our water supply, and we're left to deal with what they did after they've done it. We don't even know if it's possible to clean an aquifer after it's been polluted." Hecker added, "We don't know what we don't know, but I think we're going to find out more and that's disappointing."
Florida Senator Bill Nelson has recently gotten involved also. In a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, Sen. Nelson wrote, "We cannot tolerate expanded industrial drilling activities that pose a threat to the drinking and surface water so close to the Florida Everglades. The recent discovery of a fracking-like incident there raises serious concerns about whether outside wildcatters would soil one of the world's great environmental treasures."
In the meantime, the Florida DEP is requiring the Dan A. Hughes Co. to hire a third party to test the groundwater by June of this year. The company must submit the results of that test in a report on the quality of the groundwater by December 1.


Everglades restoration plan a waste of money, green group says - by Marianela Toledo
May 5, 2014
Government efforts to restore the ecological health of Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries are under fire from Florida environmental groups. 
The projects on the table are well-intentioned, say several organizations. But the astronomical costs and unrealistic projections won't restore wetlands and conserve water resources, and are nothing more than a waste of taxpayer money and resources, an environmental group says. 
The restoration of the Florida Everglades is part of the multi-billion dollar project -- the Water Resources Development and Reform Act -- approved by Congress in 2000 to improve, conserve and develop U.S. rivers and harbors. 
But some enviros say such projects -- particularly those focusing on improving Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River Reservoir and the reservoir and
  water release damages
storm water treatment area south of the Indian River Lagoon -- don't have sufficient capacity to handle the massive amount of contaminated water flowing from Lake Okeechobee. 
"In fact, all the reservoirs to be built under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, including those on the East Coast, will not provide enough water storage from Lake Okeechobee to alleviate the massive release of polluted water causing adverse harm to our estuaries," said Ray Judah, a former Lee County commissioner who now works for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, a group of organizations working together to conserve, protect and restore Florida's coastal and marine environment. 
When the projects were finalized, the original water-flow projections were based on the 30-year period from 1965 to 1995, a time when the state was exceptionally dry.
Related:           Green Group Calls Everglades Restoration Wasteful  

Federal Judge grants $1.6 billion consent decree for water quality improvements in Miami-Dade
DEP News Room
May 5, 2014
A Miami federal judge recently granted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Miami-Dade County's motion to enter into a consent decree, which calls for Miami-Dade County to invest $1.6 billion in major upgrades to its wastewater treatment plants and wastewater collection and transmission systems. This investment will help eliminate sanitary sewer overflows.
Under the terms of the consent decree, Miami-Dade will rehabilitate its wastewater treatment plants and its wastewater collection and transmission system within 15 years. The county will also develop and implement management operation and maintenance programs to help ensure the sewer system is properly operated and maintained in the future. By implementing these measures, Miami-Dade is expected to eliminate sanitary sewer overflows from its wastewater collection and transmission system and achieve compliance with its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, issued by the department.
"Miami-Dade County is home to America's Everglades, two aquatic preserves, as well as three of Florida's award-winning state parks," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. "The improvements to infrastructure in this agreement will bring lasting environmental and recreational benefits to the residents and visitors of the area."
Between January 2007 and May 2013, Miami-Dade reported 211 sanitary sewer overflows totaling more than 51 million gallons. The overflows included a number of large volume overflows from ruptured force mains. At least 84 overflows, totaling over 29 million gallons of raw sewage, reached navigable waters of the United States. Miami-Dade's Central District wastewater treatment plant also had several violations of the effluent limits contained in its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. EPA also documented numerous operation and maintenance violations at this same wastewater treatment plant during inspections in September 2011, April 2012 and April 2013.
Miami-Dade estimates it will spend approximately $1.6 billion to complete the upgrades required by the consent decree and come into compliance with the Clean Water Act. Under the settlement, Miami-Dade will also pay a civil penalty of nearly $1 million, with $466,300 allocated to the department. The county is also subject to stipulated penalties for delays in project completion or future sanitary sewer overflows. Further, Miami-Dade must complete a supplemental environmental project valued at $2,047,200.
Miami-Dade's supplemental environmental project involves the installation of approximately 7,660 linear feet of gravity sewer mains through the Green Technology Corridor, an area that is currently using septic tanks. Businesses in the area have been unable to connect to the sewer system because of a lack of sewer lines. Disconnecting industrial users from septic tanks will improve water quality in the Biscayne aquifer and nearby surface waters and prevent future contamination.


Lost chance for springs cleanup – Editorial
May 5, 2014
The Florida Legislature blew a historic opportunity to take a serious step in cleaning up the state's natural springs. The $30 million lawmakers approved for next year is a token effort that will do little to slow the deterioration of these vital habitats. Lawmakers sided with developers and the fertilizer industry over public health, fishing and tourism. They ignored the impact on property values and the security of the state's drinking water supply. Instead, lawmakers cared more about political maneuvering and campaign contributions than repairing environmental damage.
The speed of the collapse of a bipartisan Senate bill on the springs was remarkable even for a Legislature that often acts as a subsidiary for the state's most powerful industries. The Senate proposal called for steering $371 million a year toward a wide-ranging cleanup effort. The state would have allowed more local bans on using fertilizer on lawns and created protection zones around critical springs, removed old and leaky septic tanks, restored the flow and health of the springs and crafted long-term plans for cleaning up everything from wastewater plants to farming operations. State and local governments would have been true partners in prioritizing the cleanup and following through on restoration projects that would take years.
None of this caught the interest of House Speaker Will Weatherford or Gov. Rick Scott. Neither lifted a finger to save the Senate bill or even to accept the watered-down version that the Senate ultimately adopted by a unanimous vote. The final bill did away with the dedicated funding that is essential for addressing the springs on a statewide scale. The cleanup plans were pushed off for years. Rural counties where septic tank pollution is the worst got off the hook. And two areas of the Panhandle were relieved of the responsibility to provide local matching money for the cleanup effort. Even then the House refused to take up the bill. Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he wanted to leave that job to the incoming speaker.
The budget lawmakers sent to Scott still includes $30 million for springs restoration — state money that could be leveraged against other sources that could raise tens of millions of dollars in additional funds for the cleanup effort. But that is not nearly enough money to meet the challenges, and the work would come without the broad framework for coordination that the Senate bill provided. Yet again, the state is relying on a halting approach that hinges on the generosity of future legislatures.
The Legislature's failure also sent an inconsistent message on environmental protection. While the Senate decimated its original springs bill and the House failed to act, lawmakers included about $249 million in the budget for Everglades-related restoration projects. That will pay for cleanup work in the Indian River Lagoon and cover the state's share of elevated portions of Tamiami Trail, which will help move more water south into the lower Everglades. Spending nearly 10 times as much on the Everglades as the springs shows a lack of balance and priorities.
This Legislature and governor failed miserably to meet the expectations they set in advance of the session and the opportunities the recovering economy provides to pass a meaningful springs bill. They also tore at the fabric of a broad coalition that worked for months to craft an ambitious bill. The House had no reasonable excuse to wait, and Scott has no excuse for failing to champion even the stripped-down version of the Senate legislation. The best anyone can hope for is that this year's breakdown will inspire an even bolder attempt next year — after the November elections.


Springs' aid 'doomed from the start' by House decision, advocate says – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
May 5, 2014
Two months ago, when Florida's annual legislative session began, the effort to fix the state's ailing springs seemed to have a lot going for it. A coalition of powerful senators had drawn up a bill proposing a comprehensive approach to restoring their flow and cleaning up their ongoing pollution problem. Meanwhile Gov. Rick Scott had proposed spending $55 million on the problem this year.
But when the session ended late Friday, the springs bill was dead and Scott's proposed funding had been whittled down to $25 million for springs restoration and $5 million to help farmers clean up their own pollution near springs.
"I believe it was doomed from the start," said Estus Whitfield, a former gubernatorial aide turned springs advocate with the Florida Conservation Coalition.
The minute the senators unveiled their wide-ranging proposal, Whitfield said, "the lobbyists started to work on killing it." A cadre of business groups, including the Association of Florida Community Developers, the Florida Home Builders Association, the Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, opposed making any changes at all in state law to help springs, arguing the laws already on the books are sufficient.
Meanwhile House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said before the session began that his successor, Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, wanted to tackle the state's myriad water woes all at once — not just springs, but Everglades and other issues as well — next year, when he's in charge.
"The House sent a message from Day One that they wanted to wait until next year to take up all water policy issues so that Speaker-designate Crisafulli can make these issues his priority," said Audubon of Florida legislative director Mary Jean Yon.
So while the senators sweated over compromises to get their bill passed by the Senate in the final week of the session, the House version never got a single committee hearing, much less a floor vote. Crisafulli didn't like the multimillion-dollar price tag for replacing septic tanks and other pollution cleanup measures.
"When dealing with springs and other water issues, I think we need to carefully consider the impacts and costs our legislation could have on families, businesses and local governments," Crisafulli said Monday. The industry groups had a similar objection.
Although the state has more than 1,000 freshwater springs — generally hailed as the greatest concentration of springs in the world — many are suffering from nitrate pollution that fuels the growth of toxic algae blooms.
Compounding the problem is a decline in their flow that in some cases resulted in them sputtering out completely or reversing flow. State geologists have also found a disturbing increase in saltiness in a few freshwater springs, which could signal future problems with the state's drinking supply.
Because many of the springs are major tourist draws, both for the ones that are privately owned and for the ones that are part of the state park system, their environmental woes have an economic impact.
The original version of the Senate bill called for earmarking about $378 million per year from documentary stamp taxes for sewage hookups and septic tank improvements in springs areas. It also would have required the state Department of Environmental Protection to create "protection and management zones" for 38 of the state's most prominent springs. Most homes in those zones would have been required to hook up to a central sewer line.
Despite the bill's defeat, one of the Senate sponsors, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said it was a battle worth fighting. Solutions to complex issues usually take more than one year to get legislative approval in Florida, he said, "and I think we made major headway this year. I think we're on the right path."
Related:           Florida Legislature: Debacle For Springs, Aquifer     The Ledger
“Muddied waters” - Read the Times' investigation into problems plaguing Florida's springs.


Lone voice questions ship canal's impact on water table - by David Cook, Columnist
May 4, 2014
Drums were pounding relentlessly locally and in Washington in mid-June 1935 to stimulate momentum for an immediate start by the federal government on construction of the proposed Florida Ship Canal, which would have a great impact on Marion County.
Large crowds of jobless workers from all over the country began showing up in Ocala in the mid-1930s, anticipating jobs that would be created by the start of construction on the proposed Florida Ship Canal.
The pro-canal outcry was so dominant it almost drowned out a lone voice in Tallahassee. In view of the almost unanimous support of local and state officials and members of the congressional delegation, it is amazing that one minor official had the courage to raise his voice, saying, “Hold on, wait until all the evidence of potential damage to the water table can be determined.”
The official was Herman Gunter, Florida state geologist, whose voice should have carried some impact but was lost in the beat of the drums to get construction started immediately, even though plans were not complete but were being put together “on the fly,” so to speak.
Even Editor R.N. Dosh of the Ocala Evening Star, a major proponent of the canal, was complaining about a lack of details about the project. Would it be a deep-water canal or a barge canal requiring locks at strategic points ? Who knew ?
Unpopular position

There were no environmental groups to take up the cry, only natural enemies of alternate transportation, like the railroad lobby and those interests that wanted to get such massive spending by the federal government in their own areas of the country. The anti-canal groups heard Gunter's plea for more study on the impact of the canal on the water supply and, even though they had no more knowledge than anybody else, quickly concluded the canal would cut off South Florida's water supply. It took many months for the opponents to prevail and stop the ship canal project.
  Click to ENLARGE
Even Gunter was reluctant to speak out in public. His warning came in a letter to an executive of the national Gulf to Atlantic canal association, which he eventually made public. The executive had asked him what he should reply to critics who raised the water supply argument. The answer he got wasn't what he wanted.
Water table impact
Gunter made it clear his observations shouldn't be taken as opposition to canal construction. Then in round about fashion, he concluded that a canal across Florida, connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico, would upset the delicate balance of underground water and might prove disastrous.
There already were problems with salt water intrusion in the water supply in certain areas, Gunter said; with the canal, it would become worse.
The canal would lower the water table, affecting water wells far outside the canal right of way. And it would likely have some impact on the flow of major springs like Silver Springs and Rainbow Springs in Marion County.
These and other dangers “have caused concern to those who have given study to the underground waters of the state,” Gunter wrote.
Salt water intrusion
As for salt water intrusion, he said, “Once the fresh water is replaced by the heavier salt water there will be no chance to rectify or alter conditions.”
Gunter noted the national board of review of the Army Corps of Engineers already had concluded that a sea-level ship canal would be only mildly damaging to agriculture along the right of way.
The general conclusion was that a sea-level canal would be more advantageous than a lock canal, although there was still some argument over the two different approaches within the corps of engineers. Generally, Gunter said, he would prefer a sea-level canal, although he could not determine from the information he had what would happen to the water supply in other parts of the state, namely South Florida.
The result of Gunter's warning was a brief denial from the state's chief proponent of the canal, Gen. Charles P. Summerall, who declared, with no evidence to show, that the waterway would not endanger the water supply.
Damage to rivers
Gunter gave opponents of canal construction a strong talking point and, as time went on, dissent grew louder and more dire, even though no studies were made at the time on the state's water supply or the damage a canal might do in either long-term or short-term. As is usual in politics, the people shouting loudest had no real knowledge of what they were talking about.
Canal supporters felt the water issue could be settled in a manner that would produce the least damage to agriculture and the water supply by the engineers who would design and oversee construction.
Nobody even raised a question about the tremendous damage that would be done to the Ocklawaha and Withlacoochee rivers. That would not be a factor in figuring the overall cost of construction. It did not seem that anyone — at least in Marion County — put any value on the two rivers, except their service in providing water for the canal.
Virtually all canal digging would be across South Marion to connect the two rivers. Little thought seems to have been given to what would be done when the canal reached the St. Johns River at Palatka.
On April 5, 1935, Gen. Summerall, chairman of the Florida Ship Canal Authority, announced he would ask the state Legislature to establish a special ship canal taxing district to raise money for the authority. The district would include Marion County.
State geologist Gunter must have felt like the loneliest man in Tallahassee.
Project timeline (Wikipedia):
May 1933 - Canal Authority of the State of Florida was created to construct and maintain a deep-water ship canal across Florida.
1935-1936 – Construction of a ship canal began under the Emergency Relief Appropriations Act of 1935, but work was suspended when Federal funds were depleted.
July 1942 – Congress authorized construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.
February 1964 – The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.
1969 – The Environmental Defense Fund and others filed suit in the U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking temporary and permanent injunction against the construction of the canal.
January 15, 1971 – The District Court granted a preliminary injunction halting any further construction activities pending the outcome of the litigation.
January 19, 1971 – President Richard Nixon signed an executive order suspending further work on the Barge Canal. When halted, the project was one-third complete and approximately $74 million had been spent on land acquisition and construction.
1979 – Bills filed in Congress to deauthorize the Canal failed to pass.
May 22, 1990 - A revised federal bill was filed in the U. S. Senate by Senators Bob Graham and Connie Mack providing, among other things, for a minimum 300-yard wide greenway corridor to be maintained along the former Barge Canal route. This bill was agreed to by the entire Florida Congressional delegation.
May 31, 1990 - The Florida Legislature enacted a deauthorization bill conforming to the consensus bill filed in the U. S. Senate. Most of the provisions were not effective until Congress deauthorized the project.
October 27, 1990 – Senate Bill 2740 was passed by Congress and sent to the President for signature. The bill deauthorized the Cross Florida Barge Canal project upon acceptance by the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida.
November 28, 1990 – President George Bush signed SB 2740 into law deauthorizing the Cross Florida Barge Canal project and changing the purpose of the lands to recreation and conservation.
January 22, 1991 – The Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida signed a resolution agreeing to the terms of the Federal deauthorization bill thereby officially deauthorizing the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. This action ultimately led to the creation of the Cross Florida Greenway State Recreation and Conservation Area.
1998 - The Cross Florida Greenway was officially renamed the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway in honor of the individual who led the fight to stop the Cross Florida Barge Canal project.

The springs debacle - Editorial
May 4, 2014
Florida lawmakers had a rare opportunity during the just completed legislative session to take significant steps toward cleaning up the state's magnificent natural springs, only once again to cave to special interests and suffer policy myopia.
The session started with such promise for saving not only our springs but, indeed, our water supply. Led by five powerful Senate committee chairman — including our own Sens. Charlie Dean and Alan Hays — a bill was crafted that would have begun addressing the sources of pollution that are slowly killing our springs and also set new rules for water permitting to curb the overpumping that is draining our aquifer.
Maybe most impressive, the bill established a dedicated source of funding to ensure that springs cleanup was not a one-year affair but rather a matter of ongoing state policy. And that source, a share of the state's documentary stamp revenues collected on real estate transactions, would have generated $365 million next year. A lot could have been accomplished after years of watching the slow degradation and, in some cases, death of too many of Florida's 700-plus springs.
The public and politicians rallied around the Florida Springs and Aquifer Act. It looked as if springs protection had a chance.
Then, big business took notice. Led by the memberships of Associated Industries, the Florida Chamber and the Florida Home Builders Association, the springs protection bandwagon began running into roadblocks. None was bigger than House Speaker Will Weatherford, who stated flat out he did not want to deal with water policy this year. Wait till next year, he said. Why? With big businesses' big donors working behind the scenes — it is an election year, after all — the bill began being watered down. Then the funding source was removed.
In the end, the House, while never taking up the Senate springs bill, did agree with senators to put $30 million in the new state budget for springs restoration. Pathetic. That is $25 million less than Gov. Rick Scott proposed.
All the while, the quality and quantity of Florida's waters continues to decline. In the end, such shortsightedness will only cost more, a lot more, economically and environmentally.
A case in point. The Indian River Lagoon has been in the news a lot over the past year because pollution from Lake Okeechobee agriculture operations has fouled its water, killing hundreds of manatees, dolphins and other wildlife. While the state's hundreds of springs got $30 million for “restoration,” the Legislature allocated $171 million for the cleanup of Indian River Lagoon. That the lagoon sits in Senate budget chairman Joe Negron's district was no small factor.
The point is, one man, Weatherford, chose to do big business' bidding rather than the people's, and another, Scott, failed to exhibit the slightest bit of leadership on the springs issue. Scott was missing in action from day one.
Five powerful senators, a unanimous vote in the Senate, widespread public support, yet no springs protection bill — all because of a failure of leadership by Weatherford and Scott. All because, once again, special interest concerns matter more in the state capitol than the future of Florida's water supply. How sad.


Town’s fight against Lake Worth Inlet expansion plan grows
PBch Daily News – by Aleese Kopf
May 4, 2014
Army Corps, Port of PB support $88.6M project.
Opposition to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plans to deepen and widen Lake Worth Inlet has grown steadily throughout the season.
The fight to prevent the expansion — a battle that almost everyone in town supports — heated up after the contentious election season ended in March.
Now residents, civic associations, recreational clubs, environmental groups and elected officials have united in pursuing every avenue available to stall the project, from local campaigns to national lobbying.
Mayor Gail Coniglio is spearheading the opposition effort. She has been communicating frequently with the Corps; the town’s Washington, D.C., lobbyist; the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; state senators and representatives; and numerous local residents and groups.
The plan involves widening the outer channel from 400 to 450 feet and the inner channel from 300 to 450 feet, as well as deepening the channel from 35 to 39 feet. Maximum ship length would increase from 675 to 720 feet.
According to the Port of Palm Beach, the changes are needed to improve vessel maneuverability and economic inefficiencies, thereby increasing revenue and providing stimulus for local and state economies.
The Corps’ leadership already has approved the final dredge report, concluding that the plan is “technically sound, environmentally and socially acceptable, and economically justified.” Congress is expected to pass it as part of the Water Resources Development Act.
But congressional approval would not guarantee funding for the $88.6 million plan, and the Port of Palm Beach still would have to figure out how to pay its $35 million share. The project is about 10 years from commencement, according to the port.
Meanwhile, members of the opposition are gathering support and bolstering their case against the project. The Civic Association, for example, said the Corps’ report was “woefully inadequate in addressing the environmental and economic issues” associated with the project, including impacts to storm surge and coastal flooding, manatees, fish, coral reef, sea grasses, hard-bottom habitat, and marine and coastal recreation.
The Everglades Law Center already has submitted more than 1,000 pages of expert studies to the Corps on behalf of the Palm Beach Civic Association, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity. Civic Association leaders have yet to decide whether they will pursue legal action, but wanted to have evidence on file in case.
Coniglio will provide updates on the opposition’s efforts to the Town Council during its monthly meetings.


Money flows into Indian River Lagoon, but not into Volusia, other springs
Daytona Bch. News-Journal - by Dinah Voyles Pulver
May 3, 2014
State’s springs don’t fare as well in budget.
Projects to benefit the Indian River Lagoon system and Lake Okeechobee could receive more than $230 million in the budget approved by the Florida Legislature.
But environmental advocates monitoring the session say measures to protect and restore Florida’s springs and conserve additional public land didn’t fare as well.
Overall, $268.5 million was set aside for the Lagoon, the Everglades, Florida Forever and springs protection. However, advocates such as Janet Bowman, director of legislative policy for the Florida chapter of The Nature Conservancy, said that’s not enough, given the increased revenues available to the Legislature this year.
The Lagoon is a critical issue that deserves statewide attention, Bowman said. But, she questioned why the Legislature didn’t increase funding for “some of Florida’s other land and water protection programs,” such as springs protection, or even give springs the $55 million Governor Rick Scott recommended.
The Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to begin protecting and restoring Florida springs, but the measure didn’t wind up with the teeth or money that some had hoped. And the measure never went to a vote in the House, where several members had declared they preferred to wait until next year to work on water issues.
“Why aren’t they directing a similar level of funding to springs protection? Or at least what the governor asked for,” said Mary Jean Yon, legislative director for Audubon Florida.
Environmental advocates across the board said the lack of funding by the Legislature could wind up being a plus as they try to convince the state’s voters to approve the constitutional amendment known as the Florida Water and Land Legacy Initiative on the November ballot.
The measure would create a permanent funding source for water and land conservation and restoration.
It helped the Lagoon that Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart) considered it his number one priority, said Yon.
The push to help the Lagoon was driven in part by a public hue and cry after the deaths of hundreds of dolphins, manatees and other marine life over the past two years. Scientists trying to figure out why the animals died suspect the deaths may be related to a series of massive algal blooms blamed for killing 47,000 acres of sea grass in the Lagoon, which stretches 156 miles along Florida’s east coast between Ponce Inlet and Jupiter Inlet.
The News-Journal examined the Lagoon crisis in depth with a five-part series in December.
Last fall Negron chaired a Senate select committee that studied a number of issues related to the Lagoon, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
In a statement, Negron said he’s grateful his colleagues in the Senate and House agreed to funding that exceeded the committee’s recommendations. He said the short and long-term projects would improve the environmental and economic health of the lagoon system and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River systems.
Among the proposed line items are $10 million for muck removal in the north end of the Lagoon system in Brevard County, $3 million for a storage basin reservoir for the Caloosahatchee River, and $3 million for improving agriculture runoff.
Other environmental issues didn’t attract as much attention or money.
The Legislature’s final $77 billion budget includes $25 million for springs protection initiatives and $5 million for agriculture best management practices, Bowman said. But most environmental advocates said that’s far less than needed.
Defenders of Wildlife is “terribly disappointed the funding for Florida Forever didn’t rise with the health of the state budget and looks to receive only $17.5 million, said Laurie Macdonald, Florida Program Director.
Yon said she was encouraged by the unanimous vote from the Senate in support of the springs bill, which would have added requirements for mapping and protecting spring sheds, but the advocates’ hopes were dashed.
‘nickel & diming’ springs
As the clock ticked down last week, a group of five senators backing the springs bill agreed to strip out the $378 million in funding they’d proposed using from documentary stamp taxes when people record real estate transactions.
The Florida News Service reported the senators expect funding to come instead from the approval of the land and water ballot initiative this fall.
To pass, the amendment requires a yes vote from 60 percent of those who cast ballots. It would dedicate up to $10 billion over the next 20 years from those stamp taxes. It could be used to pay for restoring and protecting the state’s water supplies, acquiring recreation lands and conserving ecosystems and wildlife habitat.
Several statewide business groups, including the Florida Chamber, expressed concern about the amount of springs funding proposed by the Senate.
Projects to benefit the Indian River Lagoon system and Lake Okeechobee could receive more than $230 million in the budget approved by the Florida Legislature.
But environmental advocates monitoring the session say measures to protect and restore Florida’s springs and conserve additional public land didn’t fare as well.
Overall, $268.5 million was set aside for the Lagoon, the Everglades, Florida Forever and springs protection. However, advocates such as Janet Bowman, director of legislative policy for the Florida chapter of The Nature Conservancy, said that’s not enough, given the increased revenues available to the Legislature this year.
The Lagoon is a critical issue that deserves statewide attention, Bowman said. But, she questioned why the Legislature didn’t increase funding for “some of Florida’s other land and water protection programs,” such as springs protection, or even give springs the $55 million Governor Rick Scott recommended.
The Senate unanimously approved legislation Wednesday to begin protecting and restoring Florida springs, but the measure didn’t wind up with the teeth or money that some had hoped. And the measure never went to a vote in the House, where several members had declared they preferred to wait until next year to work on water issues.
“Why aren’t they directing a similar level of funding to springs protection? Or at least what the governor asked for,” said Mary Jean Yon, legislative director for Audubon Florida.
Environmental advocates across the board said the lack of funding by the Legislature could wind up being a plus as they try to convince the state’s voters to approve the constitutional amendment known as the Florida Water and Land Legacy Initiative on the November ballot.
The measure would create a permanent funding source for water and land conservation and restoration.
It helped the Lagoon that Senator Joe Negron (R-Stuart) considered it his number one priority, said Yon.
The push to help the Lagoon was driven in part by a public hue and cry after the deaths of hundreds of dolphins, manatees and other marine life over the past two years. Scientists trying to figure out why the animals died suspect the deaths may be related to a series of massive algal blooms blamed for killing 47,000 acres of sea grass in the Lagoon, which stretches 156 miles along Florida’s east coast between Ponce Inlet and Jupiter Inlet.
The News-Journal examined the Lagoon crisis in depth with a five-part series in December.
Last fall Negron chaired a Senate select committee that studied a number of issues related to the Lagoon, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
In a statement, Negron said he’s grateful his colleagues in the Senate and House agreed to funding that exceeded the committee’s recommendations. He said the short and long-term projects would improve the environmental and economic health of the lagoon system and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River systems.
Among the proposed line items are $10 million for muck removal in the north end of the Lagoon system in Brevard County, $3 million for a storage basin reservoir for the Caloosahatchee River, and $3 million for improving agriculture runoff.
Other environmental issues didn’t attract as much attention or money.
The Legislature’s final $77 billion budget includes $25 million for springs protection initiatives and $5 million for agriculture best management practices, Bowman said. But most environmental advocates said that’s far less than needed.
Defenders of Wildlife is “terribly disappointed the funding for Florida Forever didn’t rise with the health of the state budget and looks to receive only $17.5 million, said Laurie Macdonald, Florida Program Director.
Yon said she was encouraged by the unanimous vote from the Senate in support of the springs bill, which would have added requirements for mapping and protecting spring sheds, but the advocates’ hopes were dashed.
‘nickel & diming’ springs
As the clock ticked down last week, a group of five senators backing the springs bill agreed to strip out the $378 million in funding they’d proposed using from documentary stamp taxes when people record real estate transactions.
The Florida News Service reported the senators expect funding to come instead from the approval of the land and water ballot initiative this fall.
To pass, the amendment requires a yes vote from 60 percent of those who cast ballots. It would dedicate up to $10 billion over the next 20 years from those stamp taxes. It could be used to pay for restoring and protecting the state’s water supplies, acquiring recreation lands and conserving ecosystems and wildlife habitat.
Several statewide business groups, including the Florida Chamber, expressed concern about the amount of springs funding proposed by the Senate.
“It is clear that the Florida Senate wishes to provide funding for water quality standards,” said Edie Ousley, the Chamber’s vice president of public affairs. However, Ousley said, state research shows funds aren’t available to meet those standards. The Chamber “believes our natural resources should be protected by common-sense, sustainable reform, not by possibly harming Florida’s local governments and taxpayers with unfunded, or underfunded mandates for springs programs and projects,” Ousley wrote in an email.
The Legislature has approved nearly $90 million for water projects. Many of those also hold environmental benefits, said Yon.
But, she added, “here you have springs — a statewide priority — that they’re kind of nickel and diming.”
Clay Henderson, a New Smyrna Beach resident and attorney active in statewide environmental issues, said all through the session, legislators “talked about our crisis with the springs.”
But then, Henderson said, “they came back with far less money” than recommended by the governor.
When you add up the money needed for springs, the Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades, it is substantially more than what the Legislature has provided, Henderson said. “Every year you delay funding is going to cost us all more money.
Henderson and others who support the water and land ballot initiative, known as Amendment One, said the legislature’s lack of funding for the springs and conservation land buying programs will encourage voters to support the amendment this fall.
Voters need to provide money that will be guaranteed no matter what the legislative mood is each spring, said Henderson. “The Legislature has been inconsistent in providing enough resources to take care of these pressing problems.”


Revise restrictions to ensure safe oil drilling
Miami Herald - by William K. Reilly and Bob Graham
May 3, 2014
After an unsuccessful round of drilling in 2012 and 2013, Cuba’s oil and gas industry is poised for further deepwater exploration in the Gulf as soon as 2015. As Cuba explores and eventually drills for oil, Florida and neighboring states have a paramount interest in ensuring that Cuba’s drilling operators employ the highest safety standards and the best available technology. From our experience with the BP tragedy, failure to meet these standards would seriously threaten Florida’s economy and environment.
A half-century of trade and travel restrictions separates the United States and Cuba. And yet the island’s northern boundary floats just 50 miles from southern Florida. For communities in southern Florida whose commerce, especially tourism, depends on a healthy marine system, an oil spill would be disastrous. Coral reefs and mangroves, such as those found in the Everglades, Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys, serve as protective barriers from hurricanes. They also provide critical nurseries for species that support commercial and recreational fisheries on the east coast.
Earlier this year in Havana, we met with top energy and environmental officials in Cuba to assess the country’s preparation to mitigate an oil spill in Cuba’s Gulf waters. After successive meetings, we left with a new realization of Cuba’s imminent intention to explore for oil. Seismic studies indicate the potential for commercial-scale oil and gas deposits, and the instability of Venezuela, Cuba’s main oil provider, is further incentive.
We are confident that Cuba is adopting standards in line with the recommendations developed by President Obama’s National Commission on the BP Oil Spill and the Future of Offshore Drilling, which we co-chaired. The test will be the capacity to achieve these standards.
Given Cuba’s limited human and material resources and lack of substantial experience regulating deepwater oil and gas exploration, the United States should revise embargo-related restrictions to foster the highest standards of safe drilling. It is beyond our intentions to advocate for a total lifting of the embargo; rather, we urge for modifications to specific provisions to achieve maximum protection from a BP-type accident. One such restriction in need of modification is the U.S. sanction that prevents Cuba and its contractors from acquiring advanced technology with more than 10 percent U.S. content. Only one drilling rig in the world qualifies under this criterion.
U.S. travel and export restrictions further limit spill response in the Gulf of Mexico as they prohibit U.S. oil spill mitigation companies from traveling readily to Cuba. This potential danger became a reality during the BP explosion where the delay in capping the surging oil substantially increased the damage. In the aftermath of BP, the U.S. oil and gas industry established two response teams in the Gulf. But under current U.S. embargo restrictions, these response capabilities would not be available in the event of a similar accident in Cuban waters. We therefore urge the president to issue appropriate industry-wide “general” licenses for travel and export so that companies in the oil service and spill response industry can position proper equipment in advance.
The BP oil spill underscored that the Gulf of Mexico waters transcend national boundaries, making all countries sharing the Gulf vulnerable to consequences of a major spill. Within a year of the BP spill, commission representatives and affected U.S. agencies met with Mexican counterparts to coordinate Gulf drilling safety and response. Culminating at the Clean Gulf 2013 conference in Tampa, this dialogue now includes the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Cuba. The result was the establishment of the Multi-Lateral Technical Operating Procedure (MTOP) to institute safety protocols in the event of a cross-border spill. While this was a substantial start, more needs to be done. Appropriate agencies in the U.S. government should brief oil companies on safety procedures in the agreement. To strengthen their oversight of drilling in the Gulf, these agencies would likewise benefit from creating channels for the exchange of expertise and training between Cuban and U.S. personnel.
Given Cuba’s serious pursuit of offshore drilling and the potential risk of an oil spill, the slow pace of U.S. preparedness greatly concerns us. To avoid environmental and economic damages reminiscent of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the United States must relax equipment restrictions. It must take comprehensive actions to facilitate cross-border exchange of best practices, mitigation training and response strategies. Until such steps are in place, we cannot be satisfied that every possible measure has been taken to preserve the economic and ecological wellbeing of the Gulf of Mexico.
William K. Reilly, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Bob Graham, former governor and senator from Florida, co-chaired the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.



Some stalled Everglades restoration gets back on track - by Kevin Wadlow
May 3, 2014
A delayed Everglades restoration project near U.S. 1 leading to the Florida Keys could soon be revived as a result of agreements reached this week.
Construction that should complete the western portion of the C-111 South Dade project to store more water and direct water to areas that need it -- including Florida Bay -- was welcomed by conservation groups. But the uncertain fate of the larger Central Everglades Planning Project Central remains a critical concern.
"There are a lot of different pieces" to Everglades restoration that ultimately will affect Florida Bay, said Thomas Van Lent of Key Largo, chief scientist for the Everglades Foundation. "You need a program to follow the players."
Progress on the C-111 project "is good news," Lent said, but Florida congressional representatives, state officials and conservationists are pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for quick action on the Central Everglades plan. "That's the real prize," Van Lent said Thursday.
The series of Central Everglades projects, budgeted at $1.9 billion and to be shared by the state and federal governments, would provide the fresh water that would be delivered to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. Currently that water is carried to Florida's coasts, where it has damaged marine ecosystems.
The Central Everglades plan hit a snag in late April when the Corps cited technical details as a reason to withhold final approval. That could lead to a delay, possibly of several years, in congressional funding.
Gen. John Peabody of the Army Corps appeared before a Tuesday hearing of the U.S. House's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and said approval could be given before July.
"He did not really give a date certain, nor did he explain what the holdup is," Van Lent said. "The Florida [congressional] delegation showed up in force, and it was not happy."
Details of the C-111 project
The western C-111 project, on the design boards for 20 years, seeks to "improve water deliveries to Everglades National Park" and to Taylor Slough, which carries fresh water toward the bay, a Corps report summarizes. "Features ... include the Northern Detention Basin which is designed to reduce seepage losses from Everglades National Park."
Construction of the C-111 Canal for flood control disrupted much of the natural water flow, starving the southern Everglades ecosystem of water and increasing the salinity of Florida Bay.
A new one-mile bridge built on U.S. 41 to increase the water flow beneath the Tamiami Trail is carrying water, but a water-retention area and barriers to keep water inside the national park remain to be finished. They were expected to be done in 2012.
"This probably is the piece that we still have to finalize to get the maximum amount of water from the bridge," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Everglades policy manager for Florida Audubon.
"It's exciting but it's another example of a project that has not advanced because of the internal bureaucratic process," she said. "It's got congressional support and community support, but when the folks who happen to be in agency positions cannot agree, it gets held up."
No start date for resumption of construction has been set, and costs of several million dollars were still being calculated. Once work begins, it could take from 18 months to two years to finish, Hill-Gabriel said.
Caroline McLaughlin of the National Parks Conservation Association said, "Combined with the one-mile bridge on Tamiami Trail, the C-111 South Dade Project will flow more water south through Everglades National Park and Florida Bay."
A C-111 spreader-canal system east of the 18-Mile Stretch also is planned, but managers want the results from the western system first.


Special series delivered to public schools – by Mark Bickel
The News-Press Media Group is connecting with the Southwest Florida community in a special way.
More than 25,000 reprints of our special project, "Voices of the Everglades," will be distributed to classrooms in the Lee and Collier counties this month.
Bundles of the 16-page report that provides a unique glimpse into the culture and history of the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians, as well as never seen before photos and exclusive interviews with tribal leaders, were delivered to the Lee and Collier school district offices on Friday by News-Press staff.
"The topic fits perfectly with the Florida history curriculum that is part of the Social Studies work our students do," said Leanne Zinser, who is the supervisor of communications and community engagement for the Collier School District.
The special reprints will be used in multiple class levels in Lee County ranging from second-grade science classes to high school environmental science classes.
"Some of our Florida standards deal specifically with Florida resources and how we can teach students to be respectful and responsible for those resources," said Lee Hughes, the sciences curriculum coordinator for the Lee County School District. "This is a resource that spans not just science but social studies education as well. We look forward to using this resources in the classroom so the students can engage multiple sources of text and use that text to analyze their environment and also respond to social and environmental needs
The project encompassed months of work by reporter Chad Gillis and photographer Andrew West and resulted in exclusive access to the Indians who have called Southwest Florida home for hundreds of years.
"We are really pleased that our great project will be able to continues to exist through the education of students and it is a great connection between The News-Press and the Lee and Collier school districts," said Terry Eberle, executive editor of The News-Press.



Corps’ deferral of Everglades report is lawful, not a setback - Point of View by Col. Alan M. Dodd, Commander, Jacksonville District, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
May 2, 2014
Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Review Board (CWRB) decided to defer approval of an implementation report on the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). Since that decision, a lot of information has circulated regarding what this action means, and what happens next.
I am writing to assure you that CEPP and the entire Everglades restoration program are very important to the corps and we remain committed to making progress. We have a strong partnership with the state of Florida and other state and federal agencies in ongoing efforts to restore this significant and unique national ecosystem. The decision to defer approval of the CEPP report was made to enable the corps to complete a full review of the nearly 8,000-page document to ensure it complies with all applicable federal laws, regulations and policies. This kind of review must be completed for any national project report brought before a CWRB for consideration, and is a critical step before a project report can be released for state and agency review. Failure to do so could result in significant delays if problems or issues are identified later on that could have been discovered prior to releasing the report.
The progress we have achieved with CEPP is a significant accomplishment for the corps and our partners in the effort, especially for a project that is this large and complex. We have reached this point in the process in less than 2½ years, which is a reduction of several years in the traditional corps planning process.
We expect to complete the policy review of the CEPP report within the next few weeks. If issues are discovered, they will be addressed as quickly as possible. The CWRB members will then reconvene to finalize their deliberations before the report is released for the required 30-day state and agency review.
Following that review, there are still several steps that must happen before CEPP can become reality. First, the corps must address any comments raised during the review. The corps must then prepare a Chief of Engineers report to present to the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for approval and signature. That report is then forwarded to Congress for information and to the Department of the Army and the administration for review. Once the administration clears the report it is sent to Congress for possible authorization and funding. These steps are required in law, must be accomplished sequentially and cannot be done concurrently.
In closing, let me say I understand the frustration many of you have expressed. However, as stewards of the public trust and of the federal tax dollars appropriated to us, we, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, must ensure that CEPP — like all planned projects — fully complies with federal law and policies before it is presented to Congress for consideration.


Oil drilling near Everglades prompts worries about fracking, water – by Paresh Dave
May 2, 2014
The Florida Everglades has become the latest region to react against oil drillers and fracking, a technique that has spurred worries about earthquakes and water contamination across the country.
Concerns about an “enhanced extraction procedure” that conservationists in south Florida likened to fracking led an oil drilling firm to be slapped with a cease-and-desist order, face scrutiny from a U.S. senator and be questioned by residents about water supply safety. The company, however, contends that it is not using hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. 
Dan A. Hughes Company LLC sought a permit last December to try a new technique on its four-month-old oil well on a tomato farm in Collier County's portion of Big Cypress National Preserve. But the state rejected the application, saying it lacked sufficient information to be sure that groundwater would be protected.
The procedure, which had begun legally, continued for a day in defiance of the state’s cease-and-desist order, the Department of Environmental Protection said last month. The state reached a $25,000 settlement with Dan A. Hughes and ordered the company to hire consultants to check whether the advanced technique would affect aquifers. The consultant’s report is due in December.
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should scrutinize Dan A. Hughes’ application to drill a waste storage well next to the oil well.
"We cannot tolerate expanded industrial drilling activities that pose a threat to the drinking and surface water so close to the Florida Everglades," Nelson said in his letter.  "The recent discovery of a fracking-like incident there raises serious concerns about whether outside wildcatters would soil one of the world's great environmental treasures."
Dan A. Hughes contended in a statement Thursday that what it had done in December was an acid stimulation, commonly known as acidizing -- not fracking.
The company said acid stimulation, which involves injecting hydrochloric or hydrofluoric acids to dissolve oil-bearing rock, has been done for 50 years in Florida, including by authorities constructing water wells.
Dan A. Hughes noted that it had completed a similar procedure last summer. But this time around, workers also injected what it described as a “modest volume” of water and sand “under enough pressure to prevent the formation from closing in on itself.” The exact mix is considered a trade secret.
In hydraulic fracturing, a mixture of mostly water and sand is blasted into rocks to free oil and natural gas.
“Our well completion process prevents any fluids from contacting underground water by sealing the well off from the reservoir with multiple layers of steel and concrete,” company spokesman David Blackmon said in a statement. 
More than three dozen exploratory drilling permits have been issued in the past few years in Florida as speculators bet that the earth there holds valuable fuels.
Some residents and officials in Collier County have expressed frustration about the state issuing the permits for sites within delicate swamplands and just miles away from a panther refuge. Last month, the Collier County Commission called on the state to revoke Dan A. Hughes’ permit for the tomato-farm well.
The EPA doesn’t have control over exploratory oil wells, but it does issue permits for underground storage of waste generated from fracking and drilling. The agency is in the midst of reviewing public comments about whether to let Dan A. Hughes open a waste well about 1,500 feet from homes in Golden Gate Estates.
On Thursday, the EPA told The Times that it would consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and consider potential effects on the ecosystem.  A decision could come as soon as next month.
The agency also said Thursday that it would “appropriately review and respond” to Sen. Nelson’s letter.
Related:           Sen. Nelson warns of fracking in Everglades Sun-Sentinel (blog)
Florida senator calls on EPA to review oil-drilling incident   Sacramento Bee
Nelson wants Texas oil company scrutinized Daytona Beach News-Journal


Drilling opponents concerned about water contamination – by Steve Doane
May 1, 2014
Recent disclosures about unauthorized drilling operations in Collier County have oil opponents worried about water.
They’re concerned about possible contamination of Collier’s aquifers from drilling fluids the Dan A. Hughes Co. pumped underground during an “enhanced extraction procedure” performed this winter at its Hogan Island well, southwest of Lake Trafford.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the company “proposed an enhanced extraction procedure that had not previously been used in Florida. The company proposed to inject a dissolving solution at sufficient pressure to achieve some openings in the oil bearing rock formation that would be propped open with sand in pursuit of enhancing oil production.”
That description is consistent with the EPA’s definition of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
The DEP said the company was not permitted to perform the operation and defied a cease and desist order from the agency. For the violations, DEP fined the company $25,000 and ordered it to hire a third party to test groundwater to determine whether any contamination occurred.
The company, in a statement, denied it was fracking and described the procedure as an “acid stimulation technique.” It also maintains that “at no time was the groundwater in any danger of coming into contact with fluids flowing through the well pipe” during the 2-day operation, according to the statement.
Drilling opponents and environmental activists have taken issue with several aspects of the operation, particularly the potential contamination of area aquifers with drilling chemicals, including hydrochloric acid.
“They’ve done experiments with our water supply, and we’re left to deal with what they did after they’ve done it. We don’t even know if it’s possible to clean an aquifer after it’s been polluted,” said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
The procedure’s details are not public information because it’s been labeled a “trade secret.” Under Florida law, agencies can be exempted from public records statutes if doing so would divulge a trade secret.
“We don’t know what we don’t know, but I think think we’re going to find out more and that’s disappointing,” Hecker said.
Dan A. Hughes will hire a third party to conduct groundwater testing by June and that party will prepare a report on groundwater quality standards by Dec. 1, according to the consent order.
The Collier County Public Water Supply System supplies the bulk of public water in the county, and officials say they’d know if there was something in the water.
“Oh yeah,” said Margie Hapkie, a spokeswoman for Colliers Public Utilities Division. “We’d know.”
The utility serves 59,000 meters from North Naples to the Isles of Capri. County cities — Naples, Immokalee, Marco Island and Everglades City — along with some smaller communities like Ave Maria, all have their own separate water utilities but CCPWSS is the largest, Hapkie said.
Last year, the county pumped more than 3 billion gallons of water from 102 wells in three wellfields in Golden Gate Estates. The wells are relatively spaced out across the area, she said.
The northern parts of Golden Gate Estates are less than 2 miles from the Hogan Island Well.
Collier’s wells pull from the Tamiami aquifer, a relatively shallow freshwater supply of groundwater located beneath most of Southwest Florida. It also pulls from the deeper, brackish mid- and lower-Hawthorne aquifer.
The average depth of the Tamiami wells is 118 feet, the mid-Hawthorne is 487 and the lower-Hawthorne is 847 feet, according to data from the Collier Public Utilities Division.
The Hogan Island well is intended to descend well below that, to 13,500 feet, then horizontally to 16,900 feet, according to a permit application for the well filed with DEP.


Feds and State officials sign-off on completion of Everglades restoration projects – by Ashley Lopez
May 1, 2014
State and federal officials reached an agreement this week that signs off on the completion of two important Everglades Restoration projects.
Following a two-year stalemate, Florida water managers and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers resolved some disagreements about funding and land.
This means two projects aimed at fixing water issues in the Everglades and in Lake Okeechobee can now be completed.
One of the two projects is restoration of the Kissimmee River. The project restores a 9,000-acre floodplain that will hold water now flowing into Lake Okeechobee.
Eric Draper with Audubon Florida said this will eventually stop a lot of the harmful water flows into estuaries east and west of the Lake.
“At some point we will have a huge amount of water that will be sitting in that floodplain rather than flushing into Lake Okeechobee and into the Caloosahatchee,” he said. “It’s a real win.”
Draper said this latest agreement will complete restoration of the last four miles of the river.
Officials also agreed to finish the C-111 project in South Miami Dade, which will increase water flow under a bridged portion of the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades.
Governor Rick Scott applauded the Army Corps, saying in a statement it’s a signal of the Corps’ “willingness to join Florida in making water restoration a priority.”
Just a week ago, state officials were upset with the Army Corps because the federal agency announced it was delaying its approval of the Central Everglades Planning Project, which is a more comprehensive effort to move water south. 


FL Capitol

Florida Senate sends springs plan to House – by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
May 1st, 2014
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, …… Without a surge of once-envisioned money, members of the Florida Senate hope they can tee up new policies to help protect the state’s natural springs before the legislative session ends Friday.
The push comes after funding for the springs, located throughout central and northern Florida, came out of legislative budget talks far below the amounts earmarked for the Indian River Lagoon and the Everglades.
The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved
a measure (SB 1576) that, in part, seeks to control the amounts of fertilizers allowed into waterways, redirect waste water, replace septic systems at no charge to homeowners and have the Department of Environmental Protection rank the needs of the various critical springs projects.
“I think it’s imperative that we try to do the right thing, to do all that we can reasonably do, to make these springs healthy and to help other people enjoy them as they come to Florida and as they live here,” said Sen. Alan Hays, a Umatilla Republican who is one of five senators pushing the proposal.
But without a companion bill in the House, the proposal still needs the support of two-thirds of House members just to get brought up on the floor during the next two days.
Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said Wednesday he’ll huddle with House leaders, including Rep. Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican who is slated to become speaker in November, and “see if they think it’s a good bill.”
Weatherford has expressed skepticism about the Senate proposal, which has undergone several recent changes.
The most notable alteration came last week when a proposal was stripped from the plan to use existing revenue, estimated at up to $378 million a year, from a tax on real estate transactions to fund the springs improvements.
Prior to the session, Weatherford suggested that water-policy issues may have to wait until the 2015 session.
However, Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican who is also part of the group of five senators, remained optimistic that the policy proposal will get House support by the end of the week.
Also, Simmons said people shouldn’t look down on the more than $30 million allocated in the budget for springs next year. The House and Senate are slated to vote on the fiscal 2014-15 budget Friday.
“We have received a significant sum of money compared to prior years,” Simmons said. “It’s not what we wanted, but it is significant.”
The amount is $20 million less than Gov. Rick Scott requested.
Janet Bowman of The Nature Conservancy, called Senate Appropriations Chairman Joe Negron’s handling of the Indian River Lagoon funding “brilliant,” adding that she expects disappointment from springs proponents.
“There have been expectations raised,” Bowman said in reference to the springs funding sought by the five senators.
The springs money is far less than that $171.9 million being allocated for the Everglades and Indian River Lagoon.
Negron, R-Stuart, lined up the money by chairing a select committee that was initially focused on improving water quality in the St. Lucie River estuary, which last summer was inundated with nutrient-heavy waters released from nearby Lake Okeechobee.
Among the South Florida water projects in the budget are $32 million for water restoration projects in the Everglades; $20 million for muck removal from the Indian River Lagoon; and $1 million for seagrass and oyster restoration efforts in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
The funding for South Florida waterways grows to $231.9 million with the addition of $60 million during the next two years in transportation funding to bridge a portion of the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County. Lifting the road is expected to help shift the flow of water in the Everglades to the south.

Funding resolved for 2 Everglades projects
Associated Press
May 1, 2014
WEST PALM BEACH — State and federal authorities have resolved a funding stalemate over two delayed Everglades restoration projects.
One project includes a series of detention basins that will help replenish Everglades National Park. The other would allow water managers to store water in the Kissimmee River Basin rather than flushing it east and west of Lake Okeechobee.
Both were authorized years ago and are largely complete, but the work stalled as officials disputed funding and land issues.
South Florida Water Management District Director Blake Guillory said Wednesday that the agreement Florida and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will allow officials to finish both projects.
The projects are not part of the Central Everglades Planning Project, another restoration plan still awaiting a federal funding resolution.



“It’s finally over!” Storm system that brought deadly severe weather moving out
CNN Wire Service
May 1, 2014
 (CNN) — It’s almost over. The slow-moving storm system that brought deadly tornadoes to the Plains and the Deep South, and flooding from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast could pop off a few more storms before sliding out to sea, forecasters said Thursday.
But, thankfully, the system doesn’t appear to have enough left to be much more than an annoyance.
Saying the heaviest rains appeared over, forecasters dropped flood watches and warnings in many places while still warning of the potential for continued minor flooding in some — such as parts of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
On Wednesday, the storm brought a taste of its mayhem to the mid-Altantic states and the Northeast, with flooding covering some roads in the region and delaying some New York City-area train service, CNN affiliate WUSA reported.
Bob Bonenberger found himself cut off at every pass Wednesday trying to get to his Skippack, Pennsylvania, home.
“It’s just terrible,” Bonenberger told affiliate KYW. “The flooding is everywhere.”
Fears concerning a dam in Laurel, Maryland, receded on Thursday. City authorities lifted their evacuation order after the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said it had stabilized the situation, lowered the flow of water and determined the dam is sound.
Residents from an apartment complex, a senior center and a hotel had been moved to a community center after the commission opened the dam’s gates to relieve pressure, causing some flooding.
Florida sets rain record
In coastal Alabama and Florida, residents continued to struggle with the aftermath of flooding that washed out roads, chewed up parts of some buildings and caused at least $100 million in damage in Pensacola, Florida, alone, according to the city’s mayor.
A 67-year-old woman drowned after she was swept into a drainage ditch in Escambia County, a county spokeswoman said.
Mayor Ashton Hayward described the damage on one street overrun by retention ponds near the city airport.
“It was an old riverbed, you know, over 100 years ago, so the water just completely blew out,” he told CNN’s “New Day.”
“The asphalt blew out, the sewer blew out, the gas blew out. It devastated homes right there. It was really almost — it was surreal,” he said.
Pictures from Thursday posted to Facebook by the Walton County Sheriff’s office showed roads turned into waterfalls, cars sitting abandoned and half-submerged in front of tourist condominiums, and damaged buildings.
“Obviously we’re prepared for hurricanes but when you talk about flooding, Pensacola has never had this kind of flooding,” Ashton said.
Pensacola got an estimated 20.47 inches of rain over the two days of the storm, the National Weather Service said Thursday. On Tuesday alone, at the airport in Pensacola, an estimated 15.55 inches of rain fell — the largest amount in a single calendar day since officials started keeping track in 1879, the weather service said.
The area around Orange Beach, Alabama, got even more — a staggering 22 inches to 26 inches in less than 24 hours, the agency said.
Water rushed in so fast that residents climbed on top of furniture and waited on rooftops to be rescued, said Reggie Chitwood, deputy director of emergency management in Baldwin County.
“The waters rose at a historical level. … People had to scramble,” Chitwood said.
CNN iReporter Randy Hamilton described the scene Thursday as similar to that of the aftermath of a hurricane, with “abandoned and flooded cars just littering the streets.”
“Debris from trees everywhere. Standing water all around, gray skies, and wind gusts that make you fear something will blow down on you,” he said.
There was one drowning death tied to the flooding, Florida officials said. The victim, a 67-year-old woman, drove or was swept into a drainage ditch Tuesday night, Escambia County spokeswoman Kathleen Castro said.
‘People have lost everything’
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency.
“It’s unbelievable the amount of flooding we’ve had. We’ve have roads torn up, water clear through homes. I went to one home where the foundation was gone. … You saw cars just thrown down a road, pushed down upside down,” Scott said.
“People have lost everything, and they didn’t buy flood insurance because they didn’t think they were in a flood area,” he said.
Arkansas tornado was EF-4
The storms were part of the same system that has spawned tornadoes and other severe storms since Sunday, claiming at least 39 lives in Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Florida.
In addition to the Florida flooding death, police in Athens, Georgia, said a driver was killed Wednesday when storm winds toppled a tree onto a car.
On Thursday, authorities in Mississippi confirmed another death from storms that struck three days earlier, bringing its statewide total to 14. State emergency spokesman Brett Carr said that the body of a missing boy was found in Winston County.
Officials revealed new details Wednesday about the powerful tornado that struck the Arkansas towns of Mayflower and Vilonia.
The twister was rated an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Tornado Damage scale, with an estimated peak wind speed between 180 and 190 mph, the National Weather Service said. It was on the ground for 41.3 miles on Sunday and was responsible for 15 deaths, officials said



Florida CEPP full of
red tape -

Red tape could lead to more brown water
Island Sand Paper – Editorial by Missy Layfield
May 1, 2014
The alphabet soup of state and federal entities that must be involved in any water decision always results in miles of red tape that must be untangled in order for any true progress to be made. Each entity is devoted to its red tape and absolutely sure that every last bit of it is necessary.
In mid April those concerned about environmental and economic damage created by massive Lake Okeechobee water releases last summer cheered when the South Florida Water Management District committed to paying its half of the bill for the Central Everglades Planning Project. The CEPP is a bundle of water projects aimed at the core of the ecosystem that includes 16 counties from Orlando all the way to Florida Bay. CEPP projects would clean polluted water, then move some of it south to the Everglades rather than flushing it all down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and into critical estuaries.
Then this Tuesday, those cheers turned to jeers as the Army Corps of Engineers dropped the ball that the SFWMD had passed to them, blaming red tape. The Corps’ Civil Works Review Board opted to postpone their review, supposedly because the language in the SFWMD resolution differed from the Corps draft. That, my friends, is red tape.
Nobody is talking about what those differences are, but apparently they are enough to throw a monkey wrench into CEPP progress. The Corps claims there are 8,000 pages to review. Doesn’t the Corps have a close working relationship with SFWMD ? Is this truly the first time they’ve seen those 8,000 pages? They also claim that this byzantine process is required to protect federal money spent on these projects. If that is the case, the Corps is guilty of an abysmal public education failure because some pretty high-level governmental types, who should well know about the process, are unhappy with the delay also.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Governor Rick Scott and eight members of Congress have contacted the Corps urging it to approve the plan now.
The urgency is due to a Water Resources and Development Act (WRDA) appropriations bill authorizing funds for water projects that is before Congress right now. The last time Congress passed funding for WRDA projects was in 2007.
The Corps hopes to finish its review of CEPP by June, then offer a 30-day public comment period before it goes back for final approval and then finally to Congress. At which point the WRDA appropriation bill will be history without funding for CEPP.
The Army Corps’ lack of urgency is frustrating for all who have worked so hard to prepare these projects and move them along to funding. For the Corps to drop the ball now comes across as a reminder to the rest of us as to who is really in charge of our water quality. And it’s not us. The overwhelming impression the Corps gives is that they are in charge and we can’t possibly understand how complex their job is. Maybe it’s their military foundation. Officers don’t have to explain anything to those under their command. They issue orders and expect them to be accepted and obeyed. Except we aren’t in the military, we’re citizens whose livelihoods are directly affected by those decisions. We deserve to be treated better than mushrooms.
There has been some conversation about removing the Army Corps as the ultimate decision maker on water issues in the Lake O and Everglades areas. That suggestion used to sound like a convenient political ploy to punish the federal government that controls the Army Corps of Engineers. And it may be that, at least in part. The idea of having the state of Florida in charge of water quality, with the political machinations that guide Tallahassee, has seemed like a move from the frying pan into the fire. But with their latest move delaying CEPP again and putting funding in jeopardy, the Corps has given those wishing to remove them from the final decision-making seat yet another reason to ponder a change.
What can we the people do? Get your local, state and federal elected representatives involved. Support their efforts to deal with this problem. If you don’t know how to reach them, you can check this website from the Lee Election office listing federal, state and local contact information: Let them know that you are concerned for the environmental and economic damage caused by current water management policies. Those policies result in last year’s brown water deluge that turned our bay and Gulf into a brown mess and continue to contribute to a water-starved Everglades. Those policies kill sea grass growing in the rivers that manatees and other sea life need to survive. They kill oyster beds and more. They harm our tourism economy.
Sending Lake O water down the rivers to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico may seem like the only solution when the lake level rises, but it has real world environmental and economic consequences. Those consequences have been ignored for far too long. Last year our voices were heard and projects were fast-tracked. The Army Corps has just brought a big chunk of those projects to a standstill. They need to find a way to cut through the red tape and fix this problem now, not in three months or worse, another 7 years.


October 2013

Notable in 2013
wet season :


LO water release

Last year highlight - still a lingering "Good Question" -
  WHY NOT "Move it South" ? Meaning "dirty" water from Lake Okeechobee - and instead of disastrous releases into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, move it where it used to flow - South. Is it possible ? Would the bridge on US-41 do the trick ?  
Good Question: Why not send more Lake O water south ? - by Chad Oliver, Reporter
GLADES COUNTY - "Move it south! Move it south!"
That was the chant I heard last week in Stuart during Governor Rick Scott's visit to the St. Lucie Lock.
He was there to discuss solutions to water releases from Lake Okeechobee that are damaging water quality in Southwest Florida.
It led Terry in Punta Gorda to ask the Good Question:
"Why can't more Lake O water be discharged through the Everglades instead of the Caloosahatchee River?"
Historically, water from Lake Okeechobee did flow south. It slowly moved into the Everglades.
Two things happened to stop that, the Herbert Hoover Dike was built to protect people from flooding. Then came the Tamiami Trail, which is also a man-made structure that basically acts as a dam.
There is a plan in the works to lift part of Tamiami Trail so that more water flows underneath toward the Everglades.
This week, Governor Scott announced his intention to allocate $90 million over three years for the project in Miami-Dade.

The original ABC-7 video with Chad Oliver disappeared from the web - it is replaced here by this 25-WBPF report
Despite the current obstacles, I got a rare view of how water is still flowing south.
As a member of the Governing Board for South Florida Water Management, it's a Good Question that Mitch Hutchcraft has heard often.
"Part of the answer is we now have seven million more people than we used to in a natural condition. We have roads, we have communities. Everglades National Park is half the size it used to be," he said.
Water managers are required by a federal court order to clean what they send south to the Everglades.
"Just moving water south without the water quality component is not beneficial,"
Hutchcraft said.
They're now using former farmland to build basins and treatment areas south of Lake Okeechobee. The dark, polluted water is naturally cleaned as it flows over land.
Our pilot mentioned that it works like a great big Brita water filter.
To the question of why not put more water south, if we put more water in this basin, then the vegetation no longer has the capacity to clean it the way that we do," Hutchcraft explained.
South of Lake Okeechobee, we see field after field of sugar cane.
The State of Florida has the option to buy an additional 180,000 acres of farmland.
That deal expires in October. Proponents of the deal say it would provide more space to send water south. Opponents say it would kill their way of life and cost too much money.
As for Hutchcraft ? He doesn't see the need for more land; his focus is on completing projects already in the pipeline.
"So we could send more water south, but if we don't make those other project improvements, there's nowhere for it to go," he said.
It's a Good Question that's neither easy nor inexpensive


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