FULL TEXTS OF ARTICLES
Floridians should be empowered to help fight climate change
Switchboard NRDC – by Pamela Rivera
July 31, 2014
Things are definitely picking up steam in Florida and on a wide variety of efforts to urge Governor Rick Scott to come up with a strong plan for reducing carbon pollution.
Since the release of the National Climate Assessment, there has been a growing concern among Floridians about the impacts of climate change. Among the most alarming findings, the NCA says that “some of Florida’s top tourist attractions, including the Everglades and the Florida Keys, are threatened by sea level rise, with estimated revenue losses of $9 billion by 2025 and $40 billion by the 2050s.” Telemundo did a story on the very real impacts of climate change on public health, in particular, on that of the Hispanic community. These impacts are not a thing of the future, they are happening now.
In May, we began a coordinated multi-faceted campaign in Florida to raise public awareness to the Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming Clean Power Plan. We started with straightforward engagement to get Gov. Scott to explain his plan to tackle climate change. Partnering with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, we employed various initiatives to ask the governor, “What’s your plan?”
In the last three months, mayors have voiced their support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which was announced on June 2nd, and business leaders have begun to mobilize around this plan. Many people have weighed in through op-eds, press conferences, roundtables (including one with EPA chief Gina McCarthy), and other public events. Former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and current Mayors Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg and Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner have all spoken favorably about the Clean Power Plan.
Others, too, have joined this effort. The evangelical community has reached out to Gov. Scott on this issue. Mitch Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network told MSNBC in May that Evangelicals are looking to Governor Scott for a response to the issue and Rev. Hescox has since then taken the next step to ask for a time to meet with the governor. Hopefully that meeting will happen.
Recently, Governor Scott made headlines when he said he wasn’t a scientist in response to a question about man-made climate change. A group of Florida scientists we worked with then stepped forward to deliver a letter to the governor requesting a meeting to discuss just that. Little did we know the media coverage that one act would generate. From the Miami Herald to CBS Miami to the Weather Channel! and more, this story has resonated with Floridians. And, to the delight of many Floridians, Governor Scott agreed to meet directly with the scientists.
To top everything thing off, this past week we released a new poll that showed that nearly eight in ten Floridians want limits on power-plants’ carbon pollution. That ‘s a big deal! Floridians think carbon pollution is a problem, and they think our political leaders should take action and fight pollution.
Even better, curbing climate pollution can be an economically lucrative course of action for Florida, which isn't known as the "Sunshine State," with over 300 days of sun a year, for nothing. It’s ironic that Florida is #3 in the country in terms of solar potential and the 3rd biggest power plant polluter at the same time. Switching to solar and other forms of clean energy, while improving Florida's energy efficiency, will mean that instead of spending more than $1 billion a year to import coal for polluting Florida power plants, we can instead promote jobs and clean renewable solar energy here at home.
Better yet: the cost of clean energy continues to decline, with Greentech Media recently reporting that "wind's levelized cost of energy is catching up to gas, and solar is only a step behind." Given this trend, clean energy offers huge economic potential to develop homegrown energy that puts Floridians to work in coming decades, and it would be a big mistake for the state to miss out.
So where is Governor Scott on all this? In early June, following the release of the EPA's draft rules on carbon pollution at existing power plants, a spokesperson for Governor Scott said, "The Florida Department of Environmental Protection will review the EPA's proposal and will work to continue to protect Florida's environment." But Floridians want the Governor to continue protecting Florida’s environment and want him to makes the process open for all Floridians to participate in. The Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comment and so should the Governor and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The clock is ticking. Like other states, Florida will need to submit a compliance plan showing how it can meet the EPA’s Florida-specific carbon reduction target within two years, with a lot of hard work required before then. In developing Florida's compliance plan, we certainly encourage Governor Scott to solicit input from Florida’s diverse communities and businesses as soon as possible, and to do what’s right for Florida’s future by putting in place steps that will cut carbon, create jobs, protect health and help Floridians escape the worst impacts of climate change.
Legislation to restore Indian River Lagoon announced
July 31, 2014
U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy yesterday introduced legislation to bolster projects related to protecting and restoring the Indian River Lagoon.
The Indian River Lagoon Nutrient Removal Assistance Act would create a grant program to provide assistance to projects that will result in environmental benefits for the Indian River Lagoon, produce the greatest nutrient load reductions in the area, and advance the initiatives of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuaries Program.
The grant program would be funded by increasing fees associated with violating the federal Water Pollution Control Act.
“The crisis facing our local waterways has gone on for far too long, adversely impacting the Treasure Coast community and economy,” said Rep. Murphy. “This bill will provide much-needed assistance to projects that will directly and substantially benefit our Indian River Lagoon, helping improve the severe situation in our waters.”
Protecting Florida waterways has been a top priority for Murphy. He also worked to advance dredging projects for the Kissimmee River and C-111 canal, which redirects water flows to the east, thereby reducing flow through Taylor Slough, located in the southeastern corner of the Florida Everglades, into the northern Florida Bay.
Clean water activists to rally Sunday
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer
July 30, 2014
What is being termed "the biggest of all rallies for clean water in Florida to date" will happen on the east coast of Florida, roughly three hours away from Fort Myers Beach.
The second annual Save Our River Clean Water Rally will take place at Phipps Park (2175 Sw Locks Rd.) in Stuart this Sunday, Aug. 3, at 10 a.m.
The rally is a demand for clean water for both west and east tributaries of Lake Okeechobee -most notably the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie River. Environmental speakers and officials from both coasts will present facts and heighten community awareness about polluted runoff from Lake O that affects our state's estuaries and natural habitat.
Expected speakers from the west coast include Sen. Nan Rich, politicians April Freeman and Charles Messina, FMB Councilwoman Summer Stockton, Naples anti-fracking activist Dr. Karen Dwyer, Sierra Club's Cris Costello, Friends of Warm Mineral Springs Juliette Jones and Beach activist John Heim. Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki and Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane may also be there.
"Speakers on stage will present educational values one after another until noon," said Heim. "At noon, we will hold a peaceful protest and march directly onto the locks at Phipps Park, followed by a "Rock the Vote" concert, all in the name of saving our waterways."
Last summer, many weeks of high flow regulatory freshwater releases discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers were known to damage the area's coastal habitats and water quality to the point where polluted water negatively affected not only our ecology but our economy and tourism industry.
"The movement for clean water in Southwest Florida has reached a new level of awareness. We as a community have finally began to talk about the elephant in the room, which is the Lake O release and its damaging effects to our community," said Heim.
Local activists believe Plan 6 to be the solution. Heim says Plan 6 returns the natural flow of water from the lake south, while aiding in the Everglades restoration.
"The land south of the lake is owned by U.S. Sugar who refuses to sell that land to the state in order to create that natural flow way once called the 'river of grass'," Heim said. "We, as activists and everyday folks, feel strongly as if its our human responsibility to educate others while being vocal of Plan 6 and its natural flow way, along with the reason Plan 6 is not happening: agriculture greed and the hands of 'Big Sugar.' We encourage all to attend this very educational event not only for the experience, but to follow thorough with being a good steward to our local ecosystem and its health."
Join in! Local activists will be gathering at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the Wal-Mart parking lot at 4770 Colonial Blvd. to caravan over to Stuart and camp out at Phipps Park Campground prior to the Sunday rally.
Lurking red tide bloom generates gloomy outlook
July 30, 2014
The largest red tide bloom recorded in Florida waters since 2006 is lingering in the Gulf of Mexico and could move south over the next few days.
Red tide, caused here by Karenia brevis, can cause fish kills, make shellfish unsafe to eat and cause respiratory issues in marine mammals, sea turtles and humans. Thousands of dead fish were reported late last week about 40 miles off Hernando County, where the bloom stretches 80 miles north to south.
"The surface bloom is pretty stationary, but the deeper water portion of the bloom is projected to move south over the next three days," said Brandon Basino with the Florida Wildlife Research Institute. Species killed include snapper, grunts, various grouper, black sea bass, hogfish, triggerfish and crabs.
Upward of 236 manatees were killed in Lee County waters by a red tide outbreak in 2013 — causes of death for some animals was undetermined but thought to be related to the red tide bloom.
Predicting when and if the 4,000 square mile bloom will move into Southwest Florida waters is impossible, but water quality scientists say the region is ripe for an algae outbreak. Scientists with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation tested the salinity, chlorophyll and turbidity of the water Tuesday at the Sanibel Causeway, looking for clues.
Algae feeds on nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and heavy loads of those nutrients were flowing through the Caloosahatchee River and coastal bays and beaches last summer as the region experienced record rainfall coupled with Lake Okeechobee releases.
"Right now nutrient levels are elevated and will probably support Karenia because of the lyngbya that's here," said water quality scientist Rick Bartleson, with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
Lyngbya is a form of cyano bacteria found in the tropics and subtropics that's known to cling to certain sea grasses, forming a shiny clump of fiberlike hairs. Lyngbya can choke off oxygen from sea-grass roots, killing the grasses and lifting them from the bottom of bays and estuaries.
"It's almost as far as you can see in the shallow water along Sanibel," Bartleson said. "We're not seeing it offshore, so it's getting what it needs near shore."
Grass blades from various species were scattered along the causeway beach, along with the blob-like lyngbya.
Lyngbya is problematic in itself, but there's also a chance that the lyngbya that's here now will fuel a red tide in the near future as it releases nitrogen, a critical component for Karenia brevis — the organism that causes red tides in Southwest Florida.
"When it's out there and when it's that far away, I'm not sure that it would even get down here," Bartleson said of the current bloom. "We would probably have more patches that would show up if it comes our way. If it was closer to Sarasota, we're in line because we're sort of downstream from that area."
Red tide blooms in Southwest Florida typically start offshore of Sarasota before moving south to the Fort Myers area, which is where Lake Okeechobee releases stir with Gulf of Mexico waters. Lake Okeechobee and stormwater runoff across Lee County can feed red tide blooms, extending the duration and intensity of the outbreak by providing extra nutrients.
An algae bloom has also been reported in the Indian River Lagoon on the east coast, Basino said. The bloom in the Gulf of Mexico is about twice the size of Delaware.
"It's quite sizable," Basino said. "Most of the blooms form offshore in deeper water and are pushed by winds and currents inshore."
Bartleson said the bloom off Hernando County probably won't make it to Southwest Florida. Then again, there could be a bloom offshore now in the depths of the Gulf.
"We don't know when it's going to take off, it's difficult to tell," he said. "Sometimes it just pops up just west of us. In 2006, we didn't know anything until I saw red water at the beach. Nobody saw that coming. It can be in the lower portion of the water column where satellites can't see it."
Connect with this reporter: ChadGillisNP on twitter.
1844 First documented red tide outbreak
11 Months in duration for 2005 event
10,000 Cells per liter can cause fish kills and respiratory issues in humans, sea turtles and marine mammals
65 Feet deep FWRI can monitor for presence of organism
20 Million cells per liter measured off Sanibel in recent years
Public gets preview of steps to come on water reservation rules for Kissimmee River
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
July 30, 2014
KISSIMMEE | As the Kissimmee River restoration nears completion, work is under way to draft regulations that will prevent growing urban water demands from undoing the project's environmental benefits.
The public got a preview Wednesday of the issues and the steps that will occur over the next two years during the first of what will be several public meetings to discuss water reservation regulations for the Kissimmee River and the lakes and creeks that feed it.
Wednesday's meeting drew representatives from various interest groups — utilities, environmentalists, farmers, waterfront homeowners associations and local, state and federal agencies — from all over the basin.
The heart of the effort is to make sure the natural systems and the wildlife in the Kissimmee River Basin have adequate water before any withdrawals or diversions for commercial or public use can be considered.
"We want to make sure we protect the $900 million public investment," said Don Medellin, principal scientist for the South Florida Water Management District.
The tension between water for natural systems and water for cities is the result of a current effort called the Central Florida Water Initiative that is looking at future alternative water sources to meet water demand in Polk, Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties in the coming decades.
The effort was launched to improve coordination and to reduce competition among water users in the wake of threatened lawsuits involving competing permits to withdraw water from the Floridan aquifer, which for many years was the primary source of drinking water in this part of the state.
The search for alternatives comes after water managers concluded that continued pumping from the aquifer is unsustainable.
One of the alternative supplies is to tap surface water bodies as has been done already in west Central Florida on the Peace and Alafia rivers. Other sources are more use of reclaimed water and improved conservation.
The action is part of a process known as rule making that will ultimately require approval by the South Florida Water Management District's Governing Board and the Florida Legislature.
This will be the first time the Florida Legislature will become involved in reviewing agency rules under a 2011 law that requires review and ratification of any agency rules that involve an estimated regulatory impact of more than $1 million over a five-year period, Medellin said.
Under the tentative schedule, SFWMD's Governing Board is scheduled to approve the proposed rule by December 2015 and the Legislature will review it during the 2016 session.
Environmentalists dominated the public comment period following the staff presentation.
They said they supported the water reservation, but were concerned about how the process would play out.
"I can't tell you what a cold chill goes up my spine when I hear there are plans to remove water from the Kissimmee River," said Frances Howell Coleman, a Sierra Club activist from Winter Haven who has been involved in the Kissimmee River restoration since the 1970s.
"Resorting to surface water is short-sighted,'' she said. "We need more innovative conservation."
She said she supports efforts to reserve water for the river and the fish and wildlife that inhabit it, but said she's aware of the political pressures that could affect that.
Medellin said conservation being emphasized in the district's water planning efforts.
Jane Graham of Audubon Florida said allowing too much water to be removed from the river could have a "domino effect on the entire ecosystem."
She urged water officials to consider future habitat needs after the river is restored and not just the immediate needs.
Dawn Shirreffs of the Everglades Foundation urged water officials to "fulfill the promise to taxpayers who supported the project."
She said it's important for any rule to consider the cumulative impacts of even small water users and to look at the river's original conditions for guidance in setting water reservations.
She was referring to the fact that the river was converted from a winding stream to a straight ditch in the 1960s. The project, which was done as a flood control measure that later turned out to be ineffective, drained tens of thousands of acres of natural floodplain wetlands, causing a major decline in waterfowl, wading birds and other wildlife in the basin.
The restoration project is an attempt to undo most of the damage .
Scott Burns, a SFWMD scientist involved in the project, said there is relatively little historical data from before the ditching project and they have had to rely on more recent hydrologic data dating only to 1965.
He said scientists can look at the cumulative impacts to see if those uses have any real effect.
SFWMD scientists acknowledged they have an incomplete picture of what the river was like before it was ditched. Data is sketchy, they said. I once heard one data cache was lost when a field station containing the only copies of one batch of data flooded during a hurricane many years ago.
Tapping Kissimmee River gets pushback
TheLedger.com – by Tom Palmer
July 30, 2014
There may be water to spare sometimes in the Kissimmee River to pipe to slake the growth machine’s thirst, but during a meeting today in Kissimmee over water reservations, the environmental community was cautious about endorsing the idea until more facts are in.
The river’s floodplain disappeared for decades as a result of a misbegotten flood-control project that turned a wild river into an urban drainage ditch. The restoration is bringing the wetlands back, but wetlands need enough water at the right time to be productive.
That’s where Wednesday’s opening meeting comes in. South Florida Water Management District is working on a rule whose intent is to make sure the river has all of the water it needs before any withdrawals will be considered.
What they do know is impressive. This is a place where more than 50 species of fish, more than 65 species of wetlands-dependent birds, 24 reptiles and amphibians and four species of mammals living among a much larger number of species of plants and invertebrates at the headwaters of the Everglades.
Environmentalists made it clear they don’t want to sacrifice any of those gains.
They are also realists.
There are many other interest groups involved and their voices will be heard, too.
Utilities need to find water for future growth, which local governments and business leaders court to improve their fortunes. The reality is that people will continue to come to Florida to live or to visit and they’ll need water while they’re here.
The message from environmentalists is to avoid the easy, short-term solution and to think farther ahead.
The challenge that will probably hinge on the results of upcoming elections will be how this issue will be handled when it reaches the Florida Legislature. Legislators passed a law a few years ago to give them to authority to look over agencies’ shoulders when they propose a rule that has a major regulatory impact. Major is defined as more than $1 million over a five-year period.
SFWMD officials assured the audience that there probably would be no problems because the Legislature was already on record supporting the Kissimmee River restoration. Well, I guess that depends on your definition of what restoration is.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy introduces legislation to restore Indian River Lagoon
SaintPetersBlog.com - by Phil Ammann
July 30, 2014
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy introduced federal legislation on Wednesday to help restore and protect the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s Treasure Coast.
The Indian River Lagoon Nutrient Removal Assistance Act seeks to create a grant program for projects providing a number of environmental benefits for the Indian River Lagoon region, such as reducing the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and other nutrients entering into watersheds.
The Jupiter Democrat’s proposal would also provide grants for the Indian River Lagoon National Estuaries Program, which protects the 156-mile-long waterway that stretches from Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County, south to the southern edge of Martin County.
Funding for the Act would come from increased fees for violators of the federal Water Pollution Control Act.
“The crisis facing our local waterways has gone on for far too long, adversely impacting the Treasure Coast community and economy,” Murphy said in a statement. “The best part is taxpayers won’t be asked to foot the bill. Polluters will.”
Protecting Florida waterways has been a top priority for Murphy. Among his efforts are securing $38 million in House funding for Phase 2 of the Indian River Lagoon South Project, which improve surface-water management. Murphy also worked to advance dredging projects for the Kissimmee River and C-111 canal, which redirects water flows to the east, thereby reducing flow through Taylor Slough, located in the southeastern corner of the Florida Everglades, into the northern Florida Bay.
Murphy also played a key role in the authorization by Congress of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act, the first such bill in 7 years, which contained four new Everglades restoration projects.
Big Sugar bags Florida's top lawmakers
July 29, 2014
On the tab of Big Sugar, clues show Florida's governor, agriculture commissioner and an array of past, current and future state House speakers have quietly traveled to Texas to hunt at King Ranch.
The lawmakers might have bagged some critters. But it looks like Florida's sugar industry bagged itself some bigwig Republican politicians.
A Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald analysis of contributions, travel itineraries and hunting license applications paints a picture of plush travel, fine accommodations and hunting adventures – provided free by U.S. Sugar – designed to stroke politicians while keeping the public in the dark.
Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, House Speaker Will Weatherford, incoming Speaker Steve Crisafulli and many others refused to provide details. Some refused to even confirm they took the trips. Responses to inquiries have been terse and opaque. Putnam shut the door on a reporter.
Of all the bad things about this practice, stonewalling is the capper, especially from people who claim to support government transparency and ethics reform.
And there is no way to camouflage the fact that the sugar industry is expecting a return on its investments, which include millions in donations to Republicans.
It would be better to say the sugar industry is seeking more returns on its investment. The Legislature already has given Big Sugar breaks on environmental regulations and allows the industry to pay a pittance in per-acre pollution fees that affect the Everglades.
Gov. Scott and the others look so bad clamming up that the public can only conclude that the details would be breathtakingly embarrassing. Scott, who went on one of the hunting trips in 2013, wouldn't be interviewed by the Times/Herald and dodged questions at public events.
Charlie Crist, who is trying to get his old job back, did not go to King Ranch when he was governor.
The hypocrisy prize goes to Weatherford – who wouldn't admit he went to King Ranch. As speaker, he touted his push for campaign finance reform, claiming he brought higher ethical standards and beneficial transparency to the business of political fundraising. Yet he treated himself to a hunting excursion by sneaking through a loophole. And when he was caught, Weatherford zipped his lips.
It's infuriating because although Weatherford and the other political leaders are allowed to be silent, no law or rule requires them to be silent. Why do they think the public doesn't deserve to know what's on the agenda of sugar executives and lobbyists who pay for these trips?
The money trail that leads from Florida to Texas is convoluted. For example, the Times/Herald reported that from late 2011 to this spring, U.S. Sugar donated $95,000 in "in-kind" contributions — such as plane trips, food and lodging — to the Republican Party of Florida. Those donations helped pay for at least 20 trips, with no destination noted. The trips coincided with applications for Texas hunting licenses from a bevy of Florida Republican politicians.
Those politicians won't talk and the Republican Party of Florida, when it says anything, says it doesn't know what happens at the hunting lodge U.S. Sugar built on land leased from King Ranch.
All of this apparently is legal. Donors can make unlimited contributions to political parties. Then the party passes the contributions to individual candidates.
The rules allow the donor, party and eventual recipient to provide only the most generic explanation. If the money technically was not a direct contribution, it is certain that the governor, speakers and others knew that Big Sugar was footing the bill for their pampered excursions.
And by the way, King Ranch itself has vast sugar cane holdings in Florida.
The sugar industry is hunting for access and influence. All the money and perks lavished on hunting jaunts are bait for politicians. Rarely has the quarry been so willing to be caught. The public gets stonewalled. The sugar industry gets its trophies.
Researchers examine population dynamics and disease in mountain lions
PhysOrg - by Jeff Dodge
Jul 29, 2014
A Colorado State University research team is examining how illnesses are transmitted in mountain lion populations in an effort to manage future outbreaks of diseases, such as feline leukemia virus, that could threaten the species.
Susan VandeWoude, a research veterinarian and associate dean for research in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is leading a team that recently received $2 million from the National Science Foundation for a five-year study of the big cats.
The project is expected to shed light on the complex outcomes of human impact – both wildlife-management practices and land development – for a particularly sensitive species of wild cats in the United States. These interwoven consequences, which the scientists have identified through earlier research, include changes in puma populations, population movement and disease dynamics that could have implications for pumas and other cat species, including housecats.
The new research is designed to further understand how people affect puma movements in the wild and the way that disease travels through populations, providing insight about wildlife management used from Florida to California.
For example, when an endangered subspecies called the Florida panther was nearing extinction in the Everglades in the mid-1990s, wildlife managers imported Texas cougars to breed with their cousins. Managers hoped to rebuild the population. For the most part, it worked: Officials estimated last year that this cat population is about five times larger than it was two decades ago.
Other states have used different tactics to deal with the species referred to interchangeably as pumas, cougars or mountain lions. California has banned the hunting of pumas for decades. Hunters on Colorado 's Western Slope are asked to avoid killing female lions in places with low population.
Joining VandeWoude in the interdisciplinary research at CSU are Kevin Crooks, a professor in the Warner College of Natural Resources, and Chris Funk, an associate professor in the College of Natural Sciences.
Each researcher brings distinctive expertise to the project: VandeWoude is an authority on feline diseases; her discoveries include uncovering a new family of feline herpesviruses that infects housecats, pumas and bobcats. Crooks, a wildlife ecologist, specializes in the effects of manmade disturbances on the natural world, so he is focusing on how puma habitat and travel corridors have been affected by urban and housing development.
"Large carnivores like pumas tend to be especially sensitive to human impacts," Crooks said. "They're often the first to feel the effects, like a canary in the coal mine."
Funk will use cutting-edge techniques to compare the genetics of various puma populations so that scientists may assess the degree to which they have interbred – providing evidence about their travel patterns.
"It's hard to track how they move, so we use genetics to infer where they've gone," Funk said. "If you have two groups with similar genes, you can infer that they have interacted."
Two faculty members from other institutions, Meggan Craft of the University of Minnesota and Scott Carver of the University of Tasmania, will perform the mathematical and statistical analyses needed to create models of how disease is expected to spread geographically through puma populations.
Other collaborators include Dr. Holly Ernest and colleagues from the University of California Davis and a large number of wildlife managers, field biologists, and veterinarians working for state and federal agencies.
The team will examine how wildlife management approaches influence disease transmission. In the case of the Florida panther, for instance, did the imported Texas cougars bring pathogens with them that affected the panthers?
"We're studying the effects of that intervention, and the intersection of that with landscape dynamics," VandeWoude said, citing rivers, highways and cities as possible barriers to puma movement and factors in disease transmission.
She explained that researchers can track the speed and direction of virus movement by testing various puma populations and comparing results. For example, the team will try to predict what pathways diseases like the feline leukemia virus will take when spreading through a population, and which groups of pumas are particularly susceptible to outbreaks. The models the team generates will also inform predictions about how disease could spread to pets and humans.
As an outreach project, one of Crooks' former postdoctoral students will create a video game that simulates disease movements and lets players manipulate puma populations to help them avoid infection.
The new study is a continuation of a project that VandeWoude and Crooks recently completed on disease transfer within three cat species, in which they compiled a database of puma blood samples and pathogens.
"We now have data on a high percentage of the puma population in our study areas, partly because they are so limited in number," VandeWoude said.
Governor Rick Scott should accept free science lessons
Huffington Post – by Rep. Ted Deutch, Democrat, Florida's 21st District
Last week, a group of well-respected Florida scientists sent a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott and requested a meeting to discuss the environmental and economic threats posed by climate change to Florida. The letter read, "We note you have been asked several times about how, as Governor, you will handle the issue of climate change. You responded that you were 'not a scientist.' We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state."
I applaud these scientists for taking the initiative. In an ideal world, the Governor of Florida would actively seek out their expertise on a comprehensive plan for preventing and mitigating the risks associated with climate change to our communities, our environment, and our economy.
We were reminded just how serious those risks are by the National Climate Assessment released earlier this year. A peninsula situated in the vulnerable Southeast region of the United States, Florida is especially threatened by rising sea levels, increasing temperatures, and water availability.
In South Florida, we understand the danger posed by rising sea levels. Heavy rain and tropical storms already overwhelm drainage systems designed to dump floodwater into the ocean. Just a few inches on top of current sea levels would allow saltwater to permeate our porous landscape and seep into the Everglades, jeopardizing the freshwater supply relied on by nearly 6 million Floridians. The economic impact of more flooding is also staggering. In Florida, between $15 billion and $23 billion of existing property will likely be underwater by 2050, and the value of the property lost to rising sea levels could rise as high as $208 billion by the end of the century.
Increasing temperatures and water availability affect public health, agriculture, energy use, and transportation infrastructure. South Florida's aging population already struggles with high rates of chronic illnesses, including heart disease and respiratory problems. Heat-related mortalities will only aggravate the health care challenges we face and possibly result in up to 36,000 additional deaths each year. By the end of the century, temperatures in the Southeast could reach 95 degrees or higher over 120 days each year, decreasing labor activity in vital sectors like construction, transportation, agriculture, and environmental restoration.
It's time for all of us to listen to the scientists. Just last week, a report released by the American Meteorological Society reaffirmed that 2013 continues to reflect trends of a warming planet. The trends, occurring throughout the world, mirror those happening within Florida: rising sea levels, increasing global temperatures, and rising greenhouse gas emissions.
While Governor Scott has shrugged off climate change, South Florida's leaders understand that confronting climate change is not about politics. It is about survival. That's why several counties have formed a Climate Compact focused on reducing the risks posed by global warming.
Yet local efforts are no replacement for a coordinated state and federal action plan to reduce the carbon pollution that is warming our planet. We need to protect our environment for future generations with a comprehensive, nationwide action plan to reduce carbon emissions, mitigate the threats, and accelerate our adoption of clean, affordable renewable energy technologies.
Combating climate change is a priority in South Florida. It must be a priority in our Governor's mansion and in Congress too.
Big Sugar could do better in the Everglades
Sun Sentinel – Letter by Steve Coleman, Fort Lauderdale
July 27, 2014
Should society rein in sugar? I'd like to point out that the "No" response in your recent point-counterpoint package — from Andy Briscoe, president and CEO of the Sugar Association — claims the industry has contributed more than $200 million for Everglades restoration.
That could be true, but it is because of their farming practices over many decades and their pollution of our water supplies that we, the residents and taxpayers, have spent over $2 billion to clean up the mess they've made. Plus, there's $2 billion more in clean-up projects needed over the next 20 years.
Now a federal judge has ruled that the South Florida Water Management District has failed to meet the 10 parts-per-million standard over the past 20 years. Nothing to my knowledge is planned to meet these standards with future projects, either. Just more tax and spend.
None of this takes into account the pollution caused by Big Sugar and its effects on the outdoor recreational industries, which support 100,000 jobs. Neither does it address lost incomes or the millions of dollars in lost tax revenues from fishing, hunting and tourism the state is losing.
Also, regarding the pollution, I have yet to see mentioned the impact of setting the sugar-cane fields on fire before each harvest and what effect this has on the health of the environment and the people who have to breathe the smoke. Someone needs to look at the cost this has had over the years they have been doing this.
Kissimmee River battle looms: Water for fish or cities ?
Orlando Sentinel –by Kevin Spear
July 27, 2014|
The Kissimmee River, which begins as rain running off Orlando streets and has had nearly $1 billion in environmental repairs along its run to South Florida, is under scrutiny again for how much water it could provide to Central Florida cities while still preserving its rebounding fish and wildlife.
The South Florida Water Management District already has put enormous effort into figuring out the biology of the liquid spine of the greater Everglades ecosystem and how many millions of gallons of water could be pumped from it.
That effort — amid warnings from environmentalists and utility companies' worries that little water would be available for new development — was shelved five years ago. Now it's back and likely more contentious than ever.
"It is non-negotiable that the water-management district must fully protect water for the Kissimmee River restoration before even considering giving away any water," said Jane Graham, an Audubon Florida legal expert.
Tensions over the Kissimmee River water include:
•Findings in the past year by a Central Florida consortium that the traditional source of water, the Floridan Aquifer, is unable to provide much more and that rivers are among the most likely new sources.
•A recommendation this month by the St. Johns River Water Management District to block a billionaire from pumping Floridan Aquifer water, confirming for many that pressure to tap rivers is on the rise.
•Creation of the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge three years ago to protect 150,000 acres of wildlife and water along the river.
"We've seen a tremendous investment in the restoration of the Kissimmee River," said Dan O'Keefe, an Orlando lawyer and chairman of the South Florida Water Management District. "We need to maximize return on that investment."
O'Keefe is on the steering committee of the Central Florida Water Initiative, the consortium of water regulators and utilities that has calculated that the region's demand for water will rise significantly in coming decades.
He said he is aware of growing pressure to pump water from rivers such as the Kissimmee but does not know if that's going to prove appropriate. "I would hesitate to guess," he said.
A report by the South Florida Water Management District in 2009 concluded "all water" in the Kissimmee River "is required for the protection of fish and wildlife." But even as that report circulated, agency administrators were suggesting further study may show the river has extra water during rainy times.
What is certain is that the Kissimmee River is complex. The many lakes in Orange and Osceola counties that drain south to the Kissimmee River are regulated by dams.
Farther downstream is a stretch of river wrecked by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a half-century ago. The federal agency cut a 57-mile ditch and filled or bypassed 103 miles of winding river.
After decades of work, more than 40 miles of river and 40 square miles of adjoining wetlands have been restored. Fish and wildlife have responded impressively, district scientists say.
To protect those species and the water they depend on, the water-management district is using a state regulation called a "water reservation." Once set, a reservation will "guarantee that the water needed to keep these ecosystems thriving will not be allocated," according to the district.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which created the new wildlife refuge, pledges to pay close attention to the setting of a reservation "to help ensure the best possible outcome."
Also watching are water-utility directors, including Brian Wheeler at Toho Water Authority, Osceola County's largest utility.
"We understand that the Kissimmee River is extremely flashy, meaning that right now, with all the rain we've had, it's running at a pretty good volume," he said. "At other times, there isn't much water draining to the river so there isn't much to be taken out."
"What we've told the district is to go ahead and do the reservation and let us know if there is excess water, and then we can sit down to see if there is a project where we can utilize that water," Wheeler said.
The water district will hold a public workshop Wednesday at the Osceola County Administration Building in Kissimmee from 10 a.m. to noon.
Don Medellin, district manager for the reservation project, said he didn't know when proposed limits on river water would emerge. "We're going to take our time and do the technical work right to make sure it's legally defensible," he said.
BP oil spill dispersants still in environment
PensacolaNewsJ.com - by Kimberly Blair
July 26, 2014
Despite claims by BP and government agencies, dispersants have not evaporated.
A little more than four years after BP oil began soiling our beaches, BP contract crew on still working to cleanup a 1,000-pound tar mat on Fort Pickens beach.
A common ingredient in human laxatives and in the controversial dispersants that was used to break down oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill is still being found in tar balls four years later along Gulf Coast beaches including Perdido Key.
This finding in a new study contradicts the message that the chemical dispersant quickly evaporated from the environment, which BP and EPA officials were telling a public who grew outraged over the widespread use of the chemicals in the Gulf of Mexico in the weeks following the April 20, 2010, oil spill disaster.
More than 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersant was used on oil slicks and injected subsurface to prevent oil from fouling beaches and marshes.
Scientists at Haverford College and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, whose research paper was published in Environment Science & Technology Letters, say it's important for other scientists studying the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster to know dispersant is still present.
The study, according to a news release from Woods Hole, examined samples from deep sea corals and surrounding sediments collected in December 2010 along with oil-soaked sand patties found along Gulf Coast beaches from July 2010 to the present.
Crist meets with scientist on climate change
July 26, 2014
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Former Gov. Charlie Crist was given a climate-change lecture Friday and used the opportunity to point out that Republican Gov. Rick Scott isn’t saying much about the issue.
Crist, now seeking his old job as a Democrat, was considered a national Republican leader on the topic when he served from 2007 to 2011 — twice holding climate-change summits that attracted international experts.
The candidate said Friday that he continues to believe it is a serious issue that threatens Florida, the state most vulnerable to rising sea levels. So the half-hour presentation from Florida State University environmental science professor Jeffrey Chanton wasn’t to convince Crist there’s a problem.
“It’s to try to push the dialogue,” Crist said. “I’m convinced. I’m a believer and I notice that my opponent, Rick Scott, would not meet with this wonderful scientist. It’s important for people who have the opportunity to help direct policy to be open-minded and to listen.”
Chanton and nine other scientists offered to meet with Scott on climate change after the governor deflected a question on the topic, saying he wasn’t an expert. Crist immediately said he would meet with the scientists. Scott later said he would also meet with them, but he hasn’t scheduled anything.
“I haven’t heard from his office directly,” Chanton said. “I’m sure he hasn’t gotten around to it yet. I’m just waiting by the phone.”
Scott’s campaign on Friday didn’t directly answer questions about whether the governor believes climate change exists and whether humans are causing our contributing to it. Instead, the campaign twice pointed out that Scott supports restoring the Everglades and other water projects.
We can't let up on Everglades restoration, which is moving too slowly
KeysNet.com – Letter by Tyler Breault, intern, Florida Audubon
July 26, 2014
As Floridians like to say, we live where you vacation. But most people don't know that one of the country's favorite holiday destinations is under threat. Sea-level rise and climate change are already affecting South Florida. Fortunately, continued restoration efforts of the Florida Everglades will help impede these consequences.
Last month, the National Research Council released a report. "Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades." It illustrates the positive results of current restoration projects, but says that these efforts are not happening quickly enough and need to be hastened, especially to mitigate issues caused by rising sea levels.
The Florida Everglades are considered one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet, home to many endangered species, including the Everglades snail kite and the elusive Florida panther.
The water flowing through the Everglades also provides South Floridians' drinking water. Essentially, the Everglades need to be restored not just because it provides important habitat for wildlife, but also because its restoration will protect the drinking water that makes southern Florida habitable.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we give the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (known as CERP) all the support and funding it needs in order to save this integral environment. According to the report, since the restoration plan was authorized in 2000, only four of the 67 projects have been completed.
Although CERP is expected to take several decades to complete, the plan is severely behind schedule, resulting in rapid habitat degradation and loss of diversity across the Everglades.
CERP will provide the freshwater flows needed to restore the ecosystem and recharge our aquifer. As a consequence of delaying Everglades Restoration, South Florida is standing by as fresh-water supplies are increasingly threatened by salt water intrusion.
As a Miami Beach resident, I clearly see how important the efforts of CERP are and how immediate action is needed. As most Miami Beach residents know, most side streets are often flooded even on sunny days, indicative of the rising sea levels.
Thus, as residents of South Florida, we must fight for the funding that these projects desperately need. If we want to continue to call this vacationland our home, the restoration efforts of the Everglades must not only continue, but also be expedited in order to save this ecosystem and protect our freshwater drinking supply.
A new monitoring program could help detect water problems quicker in the Indian River Lagoon
WPTV-Ch5 – by Elizabeth Harrington
July 25, 2014
STUART, Fla. - There's a new tool that will help detect water problems quicker. Experts say it could one day help solve the toxic water problem we saw last year.
It's a new monitoring program by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It's a simple tactic. As the research vessel travels the Indian River Lagoon it collects and tests the water.
"So that's a good thing that they can do that on a moving basis," says Mark Perry with the Florida Oceanographic Society.
The instruments onboard measure salinity, temperature and other factors that indicate harmful algae blooms. The system uses GPS to create maps so scientists know exactly where algae is.
"Where are the high concentrations, the hot spots if you will," says Perry.
Perry adds it could help find the origin of the problem.
"Then we can trace it back to fix it at the source rather than downstream," says Perry.
Tt's also a big help to fishermen at Sandsprit Park in Stuart.
"Definitely help out the situation," says Robert Stavely.
They hope to avoid last year's toxic water problems and keep fishing.
"Everything is linked to this water around here I would say," says Stavely.
The research vessel will map the Indian River Lagoon during typical algae bloom season which is now through August.
Since first detected on the edge of Miami's western suburbs in 2011, laurel wilt has killed swamp bay trees scattered across 330,000 acres of the Everglades, a roughly 2 million-acre system that includes Everglades National Park. The fungus is spread by the tiny redbay ambrosia beetle, which likely arrived in this country in a shipment of wood packing material.
Deadly fungus spreads in Everglades, killing trees
July 25, 2014
MIAMI (AP) — A fungus carried by an invasive beetle from southeast Asia is felling trees across the Everglades, and experts have not found a way to stop the blight from spreading. Then there's a bigger problem — the damage may be leaving Florida's fragile wetlands open to even more of an incursion from exotic plants threatening to choke the unique Everglades and undermine billions of dollars' worth of restoration projects.
The same fungus also plagues commercial avocado trees and redbay trees elsewhere in Florida and the Southeast. While the state has been working with the avocado industry to mitigate the damage, there's been no way to contain it in swamp bay or redbay trees. Experts say the best defense would be stopping invasive pests from crossing U.S. borders in the first place.
Hundreds of millions of redbay trees have succumbed across six states since 2002, said Jason Smith, an expert in forest pathology at the University of Florida.
"It's amazing how much of an impact this one little tiny beetle that's no bigger than Lincoln's nose on a penny has done," Smith said in a recent interview. "And it continues to spread."
This summer, Smith will survey the national park for living swamp bay trees to collect samples in the hopes of propagating new trees resistant to the pathogen from their cuttings or seeds. The South Florida Water Management District, the state agency that oversees Everglades restoration, also plans to ramp up its monitoring and maintenance of the tree islands where swamp bays are found.
The damage is easily spotted from the air and from the highway that cuts across the Everglades. Gray skeletons of swamp bays that died in the pathogen's first wave and newly dead trees that have turned dry and brown mar the dark green tree islands that dot the vast expanse of pale sawgrass.
Each tree island is losing up to half its tree canopy, said LeRoy Rodgers, the water management district's lead invasive species biologist.
That's worrisome because invasive plants may work their way into those open spaces — like weeds in a garden, but worse.
Old world climbing fern, melaleuca, Australian pine and Brazilian pepper are the invaders that particularly worry state and federal caretakers of the Everglades. Like the invasive Burmese pythons that are blamed for dramatic drops in the populations of native mammals in the wetlands, the plants have established a home in South Florida's sunny and wet climate.
The exotic plants can transform sawgrass prairies into impenetrable thickets, and they fuel explosive fires that kill native plants adapted for less intense burns. They're not a food source for native wildlife, and in coastal areas, their roots can disrupt the nests of endangered sea turtles. They're so tenacious and difficult to remove that even if Smith finds a way to propagate swamp bays to replace the ones lost, the invasive plants could prevent them from taking root.
"We already have these problems with invasives that are almost too daunting. When you add laurel wilt to the mix, it's only going to get worse," said Tylan Dean, chief of biology at Everglades National Park.
Nonnative plants currently comprise 16 percent of the flora in the Everglades, according to a congressionally mandated restoration progress report published last month by the National Research Council.
Billions of dollars have been pledged for Everglades restoration projects that span decades, but those funds are mostly focused on restoring a more natural flow of freshwater through the wetlands south to the Florida Keys.
In spite of the disturbances they cause, invasive species haven't been factored into Everglades restoration planning beyond treating invasive plants that spread during construction, and there's little funding or manpower available to fight them back, according to the report.
"In Everglades restoration, we have a mantra: we want to get the water right," Rodgers said. "But if we cannot deal with the invasive species, we can get the water right but not get the Everglades we thought we were getting."
Maj. Gen. John
Deputy commanding general sees south Florida projects first-hand
July 24, 2014
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Understanding the complexities of the south Florida ecosystem requires time, dedication and taking the initiative to see the unique system personally. That is exactly what Maj. Gen. John Peabody, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers deputy commanding general for Civil and Emergency Operations, did during his visit to the Jacksonville District's south Florida projects June 18 -19, 2014.
During his two-day visit to south Florida, the deputy commanding general for Civil Works and Emergency Operations took a helicopter tour of the system, from Lake Okeechobee all the way to Florida Bay. He also met with district staff, partnering agencies and stakeholders to discuss ongoing Everglades restoration efforts, water management, regulatory matters and Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation.
“The scope, scale and complexity of the work the Corps is doing in south Florida can only truly be appreciated by getting out and seeing things first-hand,” said Peabody. “The environmental value of this enormous and unique ecosystem is compelling, and the need to complete Everglades restoration projects and rehabilitation efforts of Herbert Hoover Dike is patently evident. Every agency that has a role in this effort must work together closely so we can get things done.”
Accompanied by South Atlantic Division Commander Col. Donald Walker and Jacksonville District Commander Col. Alan Dodd for the duration of his visit, Peabody not only met with staff and stakeholders, but also toured the ongoing construction efforts at Herbert Hoover Dike and trekked through the Everglades by airboat, and at times, on foot.
During his time at Herbert Hoover Dike, the 143-mile-long earthen dike that encompasses Lake Okeechobee, Jacksonville District staff provided Peabody with a detailed overview of the efforts being undertaken to actively reduce the risks of a potential dike failure during high water events. Currently, the district is working on seven construction contracts to replace or remove old water control structures around the dike, which from a structural integrity perspective, currently pose the greatest risk of failure due to the loss of embankment material into and along the culverts.
In its most vulnerable areas, between Port Mayaca and Belle Glade, 21.4 miles of concrete cutoff wall has been installed into the foundation of the dike. This cutoff wall helps reduce the risk by eliminating existing piping and preventing additional internal erosion and under-seepage through the dike and foundation.
“Since 2007 we have made great progress in our rehabilitation efforts to strengthen the dike and ensure it continues to protect the lakeside communities that depend on it,” said Dodd. “We’re working with an entire system with many interwoven components. In addition to our work at HHD, the completion of Everglades restoration projects will provide us with alternate means to store, treat and distribute water that currently flows into Lake Okeechobee.”
The Jacksonville District manages the Corps’ Everglades restoration program, which includes the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the single largest ecosystem restoration project in the world. Currently, in partnership with local sponsor, the South Florida Water Management District, the Corps is actively constructing, planning and designing projects to restore this unique ecosystem.
Not only did Peabody have the opportunity to see the Everglades restoration projects being constructed and where they are being planned via helicopter, but he also had the opportunity to literally get his feet wet, touring the Everglades by airboat and also stopping off onto a native tree island to explore the unique landscape.
“There is only one Everglades,” said Dodd. “Time is of the essence, and we are working alongside our partners to do everything we can to get projects planned, designed and built as quickly as possible.”
The Jacksonville District is in the process of constructing numerous restoration projects throughout the Everglades system, including the Indian River Lagoon South’s C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area project, Picayune Strand Restoration project, Site 1 Impoundment project, Kissimmee River Restoration project, and also recently finished construction of the Tamiami Trail Modifications project.
Not only are projects being built, but four additional projects just received congressional authorization in June, which now makes them eligible for funding during the appropriations process. These projects are the C-43 Western Basin Storage Reservoir, Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands, Broward County Water Preserve Areas and C-111 Spreader Canal Western projects.
The Jacksonville District is also in the process of planning the Central Everglades Planning Project, which will set the foundation for restoration efforts in the central portion of the Everglades.
Satellites show major Southwest groundwater loss
July 24, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A new study based on NASA satellite measurements reveals what researchers called a shocking loss of groundwater in the Southwest's largest river basin.
The study released Thursday by NASA and the University of California, Irvine says the Colorado Basin has lost enough water since 2004 to supply more than 50 million households for a year. It says more than 75 percent of that loss is groundwater.
The basin supplies water to about 40 million people in seven states as well as people in Mexico.
Lead author Stephanie Castle and fellow researchers say the losses raise further questions about the long-term sustainability of the basin's water supplies to the Southwest and Mexico.
The basin encompasses parts of California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.
Scientists to search lagoon for deadly bacteria
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
July 24, 2014
Fort Pierce scientists plan to find the worst hotspots for a potentially deadly bacteria that lurks naturally throughout the Indian River Lagoon and that sickened 41 people in Florida last year, including two Brevard County men.
The bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths annually in the United States.
It killed 11 people in Florida last year.
Scientists at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute hope their study will help warn the public about the places where and the times when the bacteria is most dangerous.
It's likely Vibrio has always been in the lagoon, but Harbor Branch is the first to go looking for the bacteria in this region, says Peter McCarthy, a research professor in Harbor Branch's marine biomedical and biotechnology program.
"This area of the coast, nobody has really studied it," McCarthy said.
They'll search for the bacteria at seven sites within about 30 to 50 miles of Harbor Branch in Fort Pierce.
The research is a part of a larger study looking at the impacts of bacteria on human and ecological health.
The recently-launched study is also the subject of FAU graduate student Gabby Barbarite's Ph.D. dissertation and is being conducted under McCarthy's guidance.
"The lagoon is not only ecologically important, but it is also a great area for aquatic activities like boating and fishing," Barbarite said in a release. "This study will help us understand the distribution of these pathogens and the sources that they are associated with, in order to make everyone's time spent on the water as enjoyable and safe as possible."
Although Vibrio bacteria occur naturally in warm coastal waters, freshwater discharge such as stormwater runoff can increase their distribution and abundance.
The study will determine Vibrio's local presence and establish a monitoring baseline to reference after heavy rains.
The study is examining sediment, oysters, catfish and other finfish from recreational areas. Early findings confirm Vibrio's presence throughout the lagoon. Its abundance
differs by location mainly due to salt content and other water quality parameters.
Researchers plan to sample throughout the year to determine seasonal differences.
Experts say it is important to be aware of the risks but that the bacteria's presence in the lagoon is not a cause for alarm. Severe infections are mostly limited to individuals with compromised immunity. People can reduce risk of infection by properly disinfecting, avoiding exposure of wounds
and by using caution when handling and consuming seafood.
Last year, two Brevard County men contracted vibrio from the lagoon, prompting health warnings. Officials urged residents to avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm, salty outdoor waters, and to abstain from raw shellfish harvested in the lagoon. Both men were infected after fishing in the lagoon. Each recovered.
They were among 41 reported cases of infections from the deadly bacteria last year in Florida, which killed 11 people, including a 59-year old man infected while crabbing in the Halifax River near Ormond Beach.
Now is the most dangerous time of year for the bacteria. Vibrio infections tend to occur between May and October, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Every year Brevard has a few cases due to water exposure.
Boating and other sporting activities in the lagoon are generally safe, and infections are very rare. But health officials recommend people avoid eating raw
seafood or exposing themselves to lagoon water if they have an open wound, especially if they have liver or immune system problems.
Vibrio infections in people with those types of conditions have a 50 percent fatality rate.
When it infects the skin via open wounds, Vibrio vulnificus can cause skin breakdown and ulcers.
Ingestion of the bacteria can trigger vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Eating a single contaminated oyster can kill.
Or even an ant bite or any tiny wound can allow an entry point for the bacteria.
Vibrio dies at salt levels typically seen in the ocean but thrives at lower to moderate salt concentrations, such as those found in the lagoon.
Vibrio vulnificus infection prevention tips
● Do not eat raw oysters or other raw shellfish.
● Cook shellfish (oysters, clams, mussels) thoroughly.
● For shellfish in the shell, either a) boil until the shells open and continue boiling for 5 more minutes, or b) steam until the shells open and then continue cooking for 9 more minutes. Do not eat those shellfish that do not open during cooking. Boil shucked oysters at least 3 minutes, or fry them in oil at least10 minutes at 375°F.
● Avoid cross-contamination of cooked seafood and other foods with raw seafood and juices from raw seafood.
● Eat shellfish promptly after cooking and refrigerate leftovers.
● Avoid exposure of open wounds or broken skin to warm salt or brackish water, or to raw shellfish harvested from such waters.
● Wear protective clothing (e.g., gloves) when handling raw shellfish.
Solution suggested for water-shortage areas
Florida Today - Letter by Bob Noe, Suntree
July 24, 2014
The massive shortage of water in many parts of the country and excess water in other areas suggests that a solution may be readily, if not immediately, at hand.
Why can’t the movement of oil from well-available sources to heavy-use locations thousands of miles away be duplicated by the relocation of water, which is arguably more necessary for life than oil ?
Both are liquids, both can move through pipes and be stored and transported in rigid containers.
Would bone-dry agricultural interests, such as farmers and ranchers, and all who need drinkable water be willing to pay for water from far away? Ultimately, there may be no choice. Harvest the excess rainfall, store it, then move it by pipeline and/or tanker to the areas of need.
Sooner or later, the price may be right. Has anyone else thought of that ? I haven’t seen it in writing.
St. Johns Riverkeeper and Florida Defenders of the Environment urge against water withdrawals
Jacksonville Business Journal – by Catherine Byerly, Digital Producer
The St. Johns Riverkeeper and Florida Defenders of the Environment aren't happy with plans to overcome water shortages by pumping water from rivers.
The St. Johns River Water Management District's plan — which the St. Johns Riverkeeper and Florida Defenders of the Environment disagree with — is to take 86 million gallons of water a day from the Ocklawaha River and over 64 million gallons of water a day from the St. Johns River once shortages occur.
The opposing groups say they would like to see a more efficient use of the water already at play.
“The time is now to get serious about conservation,” said Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper.
By 2035, the water management district estimates demand for water will exceed groundwater availability by 257 million gallons a day.
“Why spend billions of dollars and jeopardize the health of our rivers with massive surface water withdrawals when we can meet our future supply needs by using our water resources more responsibly and efficiently ?" Rinaman said. “We must first address the root cause of our water problems and exhaust all opportunities to use water more efficiently, instead of focusing on new sources, such as water withdrawals from the St. Johns.”
The St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Florida Defenders of the Environment are calling for the water management district to not pump water out of the two rivers and instead prioritize and mandate conservation efforts.
“Over-pumping from the aquifer has already resulted in low lake levels, dried up wetlands, and reduced flows in springs and rivers," said Karen Ahlers, executive director of Florida Defenders of the Environment, "It is outrageous to suggest that taking even more water from these already depleted surface waters is the remedy to the problem."
Will Clean Water Act foes leave small businesses high and dry ?
GreenBiz.com - by Zach Bernstein
July 24, 2014
The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't have an easy job. Just look at its work to protect clean water. Earlier this year, the EPA announced a draft "Waters of the U.S." rule to clarify which bodies of water are protected under the Clean Water Act. Some in Congress, and some business groups — but not all — immediately began attacking.
The reaction to the rule's announcement was predictable, if disappointing. Opponents argue that it represents a land grab by the EPA that will kill jobs and put our agricultural system at risk. Some members of Congress propose legislation to block the rule from being implemented, even before the comment period ends in October.
Is what's good for water bad for business?
So it might surprise you to learn that 80 percent of small business owners actually support that proposal. Yes, that's right: four out of five small business owners think it's a good idea for the government to protect clean water.
That's just one thing the American Sustainable Business Council found when it recently commissioned a scientific poll of small business owners nationwide. And while the poll's findings definitely contradict the media narrative around these clean water rules, they shouldn't be the least bit surprising.
The ASBC poll shows just how seriously small business takes clean water. When asked for their views on clean water regulations, 71 percent said they were necessary for economic growth and job creation, compared to only 6 percent who said they were job-killers. When these businesses owners heard both sides of the argument, 60 percent still supported regulations over deregulation.
One number in particular is worth noting: Those who supported the EPA's proposed water rule included 78 percent of self-identified Republicans. (Of the entire sample, a plurality — 43 percent — identified themselves as a Republican, or leaning Republican.) Many policymakers attacking this proposal are Republicans; but the truth is that protecting clean water should be a bipartisan issue.
That's because so many industries rely on clean water, such as tourism, agriculture, food or drink production, clothing and even technology. Clean water is an essential ingredient for them, and without it, they cannot function. You only need to look at businesses such as New Belgium Brewing Company or TS Designs, both of which gave testimony on Capitol Hill in support of clean water protections.
Even industries that don't rely directly on clean water would suffer if it were no longer available. For example, tourism in the U.S. generated $2.1 trillion in direct and indirect economic impacts last year, supporting nearly 15 million jobs. Without clean water protections, a lot of those jobs could vanish. In that case, the suffering wouldn't be limited to just a few businesses. The entire economy would take a hit. And that's just one example.
Listen to small businesses, tell the EPA
It's time to stop pretending that regulations to protect our water and air are naturally incompatible with economic growth, or that the business community is only interested in continuing to strip away those protections. Those protections are in place precisely to make sure the economy keeps growing.
There are other economic benefits, such as improvements to public health and flood preparation — those easily outweigh the rule's costs, according to the EPA. But the most important benefit is the simplest: making sure small business can keep operating, growing and creating more jobs. Small businesses, the job creation engine of our economy, know just how important this resource is, and why it needs to be protected.
So take a moment to thank the EPA. (Sending the agency a comment in support of the rule would be one way to do that.) Small business certainly will.
The desired Everglades
sheet flow can be
attained with funding -
Amendment aims cash at conservation efforts
Orlando Sentinel - by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
July 23, 2014
TALLAHASSEE — For Florida environmentalists, the fate of the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway is emblematic of why they are taking the fight over preserving green spaces to the voters this fall.
Amendment 1 on the November ballot sounds like a godsend for green groups. If passed, the constitutional question could steer $700 million or more to conservation projects next year, and more than $1.3 billion annually within two decades.
But the reality of the amendment may be in the eyes of the Legislature, which would have broad authority to decide what types of projects could qualify for the money.
Environmentalists say the amendment was spurred by projects such as the Wekiva-Ocala Greenway, which have price tags putting them out of range. Florida policymakers through the decades have devoted $183 million to assembling the jigsawlike pieces of the threatened 80,000-acre natural landscape of springs, swamps, uplands and rivers connecting Orlando to Ocala National Forest.
But first came the Great Recession, drying up Florida's documentary-stamp tax on real-estate transactions, the traditional source of cash for many conservation efforts. The Legislature responded by scrapping spending on land purchases.
Then in 2013, when bonds used to make environmental purchases were paid off, the Legislature rerouted $140 million that could have otherwise gone to conservation into road-building. Suddenly, the thought of finishing projects such as Wekiva, which still needs about $32 million to buy the remaining 25,000 acres, felt like a pipe dream.
"We just realized that when the next set of environmental bonds are paid off, the Legislature was just going to steal that money and put it into development subsidies," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida, which has been pushing the Wekiva project for years.
The amendment is designed to force lawmakers to steer 33 percent of net doc-stamp taxes into the state's Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
That money would have to be spent on buying, restoring or managing "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."
Right now, doc-stamp taxes are split under a formula that steers more than $2 billion into a grab bag of programs for land conservation, parks, hunting grounds, water management, transportation, invasive-plant control and affordable-housing projects. Supporters say the redirection of more money into the land-buying fund won't hurt other projects because the revenue source — real-estate transactions — is projected to consistently grow for the next two decades.
"This is a pie that's increasing out into the future," said Will Abberger with The Trust for Public Land, one of the main financiers of the amendment.
But state economists required to review its impact noted last year the amendment "may result in reductions to existing programs," depending on how lawmakers decide to shift funds. For instance, they could provide level funding for many of the same programs out of the land-buying trust fund.
This year, lawmakers steered at least $637 million into water- and land-protection programs that could have fallen under that definition, including money for Everglades and Indian River Lagoon cleanup; land management; springs protection; beach and inlet protection; lake restoration; and petroleum-tank cleanups.
"There is nothing in the amendment that requires us to prioritize specific water or land projects," said incoming House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican who would help oversee implementing it should it pass. "The wording is so broad that it will depend on how legislators will direct those funds in the future."
His Senate counterpart, incoming President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, has conceded the amendment overwhelmingly appears poised to garner the 60 percent voter approval needed to pass, and "we will evaluate all the options" for carrying it out.
Most of Florida's Republican leadership has taken a hands-off approach to the amendment, refusing to endorse it but also avoiding being too critical
"I recognize the importance of conserving our natural resources, but I'm concerned about writing the budget into our state constitution," said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
But others say the real positive from the measure would be a two-decade prohibition on lawmakers' raiding the environmental trust fund for other government expenses.
"This is simply stating that we need to get a little help with our discipline," said Sen. David Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican. "It's not my preference to do it this way. At the same time, I'm a realist."
Palm Beach County rejects western industrial push
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
July 23, 2014
Industrial development shouldn't spread west of Palm Beach County's current dividing line between suburbia and sugarcane country, county commissioners decided Wednesday.
The Palm Beach Aggregates rock mining company proposed changing county rules to allow more industrial development on its property west of Royal Palm Beach and north of Wellington.
The mining company argued that allowing an industrial center, north of Southern Boulevard 2 miles west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, could bring new job opportunities to the county.
But environmental advocates warned that allowing industrial development to reach that far west would open the door to building on farmland in the vast Everglades Agricultural Area.
"If it is approved, it is the beginning of the end for agriculture in the Glades," said Lisa Interlandi, of the Everglades Law Center.
Commissioners' ultimately said "No" to allowing a new infusion of development at the Palm Beach Aggregates property, pointing to a long-standing agreement to hold the line on western development.
"I'm pretty uncomfortable with this," Commissioner Hal Valeche said about the new development proposal. "An agreement was reached. … There was a deal made."
The L-8 drainage canal that extends through the Palm Beach Aggregates property has long served as the dividing line between urban development and the agricultural region that was once part of the Everglades.
A portion of the Palm Beach Aggregates property is already home to a new power plant as well as an Everglades restoration reservoir, with talk of building another reservoir nearby.
Also, county commissioners this year approved revived plans for a 2,000-home neighborhood on Palm Beach Aggregates property, with the understanding that other development wouldn't spread to the west side of the mining property.
The new proposal called for allowing an industrial center on 142 acres of unused Palm Beach Aggregates land between the power plant, mining areas, the reservoir and the planned neighborhood.
The company envisioned developing 2.7 million square feet of building space for light industry and other related uses.
The power plant could then serve as a boundary to further western development, according to Palm Beach Aggregates.
"We don't feel this is detrimental," said development consultant Joni Brinkman, who represented the Palm Beach Aggregates' proposal.
The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County and other business leaders supported Palm Beach Aggregates' proposal.
"This could be an employment center for the Glades," said Brandon Carson, of the Business Development Board.
But allowing more development at Palm Beach Aggregates would risk setting a precedent sure to enable more development to push west, sacrificing more farmland and potentially tying up land needed for Everglades restoration, said Drew Martin of the Sierra Club.
In addition to Palm Beach Aggregates' push for industrial development farther west, nearly 20,000 new homes have been proposed on Loxahatchee-area agricultural land pegged for development east of the L-8 canal.
"The last thing you want is industrial [development]," Martin said.
The measure before commissioners Tuesday would have allowed a more in-depth review of Palm Beach Aggregates' proposal, setting up another commission vote in August. Instead, commissioners decided against changing development rules to accommodate more building plans.
Changing the rules to accommodate Palm Beach Aggregates would have been "directly contrary" to the county guidelines that limit additional development west of the L-8 canal, according to Commissioner Jess Santamaria.
Commissioners Shelley Vana and Mary Lou Berger cast the only votes in support of at least considering the Palm Beach Aggregates development proposal.
A new job-producing industrial center on the land might be environmentally preferable to more rock mining on land beside an Everglades restoration reservoir, according to Vana.
"Mining would be much worse," Vana said. "Common sense has flown out the window today."
Past controversies involving Palm Beach Aggregates didn't help the mining company's sales pitch Wednesday.
Palm Beach Aggregates in 2007 agreed to reimburse the South Florida Water Management District for a $2.4 million secret "success fee" that federal prosecutors contend was paid to an engineering consultant who suggested that the district approve the reservoir deal — without revealing he was a consultant for Palm Beach Aggregates.
That reservoir deal and another Palm Beach Aggregates land deal were linked to separate scandals that ousted two Palm Beach County commissioners.
Why you should care about snakes in Florida?
Palm Beach Post
July 23, 2014
Why worry about snakes today ?
Thursday, July 24, is the last day to register your comment if you want five more types of snakes added to the U.S. Food and Wildlife’s “injurious species” list. Instructions on how to comment can be found in the Federal Register at:
Snakes on this list can’t be imported or taken across state lines.
Why should you care?
The Everglades is so overrun by pythons that raccoons, opossums, bobcats, rabbits and foxes have been almost eradicated from some parts of the Everglades National Park.
What snake is the biggest menace?
Burmese pythons. They don’t roam Palm Beach County right now, but experts say they’re on the way.
“The population of pythons appears to be moving and expanding out of extreme South Florida going northwest toward Naples and north into Broward and Palm Beach counties,” Jenny Novak, an employee with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said last week. “At this point eradication is unlikely. Our goal is now to push them back and contain them as far back as possible.”
Novak said Burmese pythons are the greatest concern because they’re well-adapted to Florida. Females are very successful at reproducing, can go six months to a year without eating, hide well and are easy to misidentify as a native snake species, she said.
“They become a top predator at 6 feet. They eat our native wildlife, and that becomes a huge concern for us.”
Local youth discovers the Everglades through internship
South Dade News Leader – by Sabrina Diaz
July 22, 2014
It’s 9:00 am and Bleu Waters is putting on her heavy nomex pants.
Despite the weather forecast of 90 degrees plus humidity, Bleu is suiting up with a smile on her face.
It will be her first time working as a wildland firefighter on a prescribed burn in EvergladesNational Park.
She is nervous, excited, and most of all, proud.
Eighteen months ago she had no idea that she would be a National Park Service Ranger at the third largest National Park in the lower 48 states in America.
In December 2012, Waters joined the EvergladesNational Park team as a Greening Youth Foundation Intern.
Her new internship involved staffing a visitor center and leading a variety of guided educational programs throughout the Park.
While Bleu had lived in south Florida for several years she had never considered a long term career with the National Park Service.
Fate can bend a student’s path in interesting and unforeseen ways!
In Bleu’s case, upon graduating from FloridaInternationalUniversity’s Environmental Science program, she found herself pondering what next and happened across an announcement for an internship at the park.
Not sure what to expect, but not having other plans, she gave it a shot and applied.
She was selected for the position, and now eighteen months later, has gone from intern to seasonal interpretive park ranger and earned her Red Card certification, which qualifiers her to safely assist with wildland fire management in the park.
Whether Bleu continues to pursue a career as a park ranger or some other field, her time in the park has clearly inspired her to be part of the next generation of public land stewards.
“While completing my internship at Everglades I quickly realized that my long time passion for preserving the world that we live in and inspiring others to do the same was exactly aligned with the mission of the National Park Service” said Bleu.
During her time in the park Bleu was able to learn about the Everglades and the vast and varied experiences that go into running a park that covers nearly 2,400 square miles.
The internship afforded her opportunities to experience a broad range of work environments that go into park operations including science and research, community outreach, administration, and fire.
Over the last eighteen months, Ranger Bleu led groups of visitors on guided walks, talks, bike hikes, and wet walks!
She’s heard Barred Owl hooting to each other and Alligators bellowing along the Anhinga Trail.
Yet some of her fondest memories thus far include how special it felt to her when she was able to connect local youth to the beautiful resources of the park.
“Bleu Waters exemplifies why it is so important to recruit local youth to participate in various park programs,” said Alan Scott, Chief of Interpretation at EvergladesNational Park.
“Through the Greening Youth Foundation internship program we have gained a wonderful new ranger who will also be a steward of the park in our community.”
When asked what advice she would give to other local youth who might be interested in a career with the National Park Service, Waters replied “Becoming a park ranger was the biggest triumph in my new career. It showed me that hard work, dedication, and most importantly, believing in myself, could lead to this experience of a lifetime!”
Costly fight against
Melaleuca tree has
been going on in Florida
What we talk about when we talk about invasive species is ... Florida
Tampa Bay Times – by Michael Kruse, Staff Writer
July 22, 2014
17 things I underlined in this week's Time magazine cover story on invasive plants and animals:
1. "Removing a huge portion of all the mammals from the Everglades is going to have a dramatic impact on the ecosystem," says Michael Dorcas, a snake expert at Davidson College. "But right now we don't have anything that can significantly suppress the python population."
2. A quarter of the wildlife in South Florida is exotic, more than anywhere else in the U.S., and the region has one of the highest numbers of alient plants in the world.
3. ... Florida is America's soft underbelly when it comes to invasives.
4. ... during any 24-hour period, some 10,000 species are moving around in the ballast water of cargo ships ...
5. Add in climate change, which is forcing species to move as they adapt to rising temperatures, and it's clear that the planet is becoming a giant mixing bowl, one that could end up numbingly homogenized as invasives spread across the globe. "The scale and the rate is unprecedented," says Anthony Ricciardi, an invasive-species biologist at McGill University, who calls what's happening "global swarming."
6. The U.S. federal government spent $2.2 billion in 2012 trying to prevent, control and sometimes eradicate invasive species ...
7. Human activity has so fundamentally altered the planet that there's no going back, and we must learn to love -- or at least tolerate -- what the writer Emma Marris has called our "rambunctious garden" of a world. "The planet is changing," says Mark A. Davis, a biologist at Macalester College. "If conservation is going to be relevant, it has to accept that." And that means that the future could look a lot like South Florida.
8. "We're absolutely seeing more invasions," says David Lodge, a conservation biologist at Notre Dame. "The sheer speed at which things move around the planet gives them a much better chance to arrive alive, happy and ready to reproduce."
9. The reality is that we already live in a deeply invaded world. Look out your window and you'll see alien species everywhere. Kolbert writes that "almost all the grasses in American lawns come from somewhere else, including Kentucky bluegrass."
10. More than 50 years ago, British ecologist Charles Elton, widely considered the founder of invasion biology, warned that "we are living in a period of the world's history when the mingling of thousands of kinds of organisms from different parts of the world is setting up terrific dislocations in nature." There's another name for that "terrific dislocation": Florida.
11. Invasive plants and animals have flocked to Florida for some of the same reasons that more than 600 people a day move there: the sunny climate, the plentiful land and a generally welcoming attitude toward newcomers. And like many of the new human arrivals, invasive wildlife often enter that state through the sparwling hub of Miami International Airport, which ranks first in the U.S. in international freight shipments and live-animal traffic, with about 3,000 live-wildlife shipments every month. While border-control officials check cargo for invasive species, the sheer number of alien species entering Florida on any given day -- and a climate that seems designed to turbocharge the growth of anything living -- tilts the odds in the species' favor. "We are ground zero for the impacts of invasive species," says Doria Gordon, director of conservation science for the Florida chapter of the Nature Conservancy (TNC). "And our invaders are very good at finding new habitats."
12. Half of the original Everglades has been developed for farming or housing, and the sprawling wetland has been carved up by more than 1,400 miles of canals and levees that divert water for South Florida's 5.8 million people. That mix of suburbs and wilderness makes the Everglades an invasive free-for-all.
13. ... TNC's Roberto Torres shows me thickets of Brazilian pepper trees thronging the sides of a canal. The pepper trees are beautiful, which is why they were imported as ornamentals from South America in the mid-1800s, but they've come to dominate more than 700,000 acres of Florida, producing a dense canopy that shades out competitors.
14. Florida has spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to control invasives, work augmented by the efforts of ordinary people, like those who volunteer for the Python Patrol.
15. ... pythons are ambush predators, waiting out their prey in hiding, and even experts will usually miss 99 pythons for every one they can see in the wild.
16. "There might be 4,000, and there might be hundreds of thousands," says Cheryl Millett, a TNC biologist who helped run the Python Patrol before it was transferred to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Either way, there's more than there should be."
17. There is one species that can claim to be the most dominant invasive of all time. From its origins in Africa, this species has spread to every corner of the world and every kind of climate. Everywhere it goes, it displaces natives, leaving extinction in its wake, altering habitat to suit its needs, with little regard for the ecological impact. Its numbers have grown nearly a millionfold, and its spread shows no sign of stopping. If that invasive species sounds familiar, it should. It's us.
FGCU researchers come up short for mercury study
News-Press.com – by K. Lollar
July 21, 2014
A rainbow's end touched the Gulf of Mexico a few miles offshore at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday as three FGCU scientists approached Redfish Pass aboard a 22-foot Tidewater center console boat.
Their mission was to fish northern Pine Island Sound for mangrove snapper, snook, spotted seatrout and redfish for an ongoing project looking at how mercury moves through the marine food web.
Principal investigator Darren Rumbold and David Fugate, associate professor of marine science, thought the rainbow was a good sign, but Bob Wasno wasn't sure.
"We want God to be more explicit," said Wasno, education and resource coordinator at FGCU's Vester Field Station. "We want a neon arrow pointing at the fish."
The chemical element mercury occurs naturally in air, soil and water; human activities such as burning municipal waste and burning coal in power plants can increase elemental mercury in the environment.
Natural chemical reactions can turn elemental mercury into oxidized mercury; bacteria can then convert oxidized mercury into methylmercury.
Methylmercury is the bad form: It's a neurotoxin that accumulates in animal tissue, and it bioaccumulates, or works its way through the food web.
If, for example, a pinfish eats shrimp that have methylmercury in their tissues, that methylmercury accumulates in the pinfish; a snook that eats methylmercury-laced pinfish absorbs all their mercury, and so on through the food web, eventually putting people in danger of mercury poisoning.
The Florida Department of Health lists 60 marine and estuarine bony fish species and all shark species for limited consumption.
Rumbold, a professor of marine science, has already completed a study and published a paper on mercury in sharks caught in the Gulf and is now investigating estuarine food webs.
In addition to Wednesday's target species in Pine Island Sound, the project is targeting sheepshead, menhaden, pinfish and invertebrates.
The yearlong study, which has six months to go, includes the Caloosahatchee River and Shark River in Everglades National Park.
"We're interested in mercury because of its health threats," Rumbold said. "Mercury is stored in things we like to eat: filets of fish. We should be eating fish. We need to be eating fish. We just need to pick the right fish."
Rumbold's project will ultimately help people pick the right fish.
"Looking at the whole food web, we can develop models to predict how mercury is transferred to the next level," Rumbold said. "We've got to understand the whole picture to make management decisions."
To test fish for mercury, of course, fish must be caught (the more, the better), but the target species weren't cooperating Wednesday: Fishing the outgoing tide on both sides of Redfish Pass for three hours, the scientists caught four mangrove snapper, and various non-target species, including a 12-inch pompano.
Driving the boat, Army veteran Wasno exhorted the fishermen: "You guys need to focus. Have a positive attitude. Be the fish. If you don't get your minds right, I'm going to take you up on the beach and make you do push-ups."
As the tide continued to fall, the scientists moved to a nearby grass flat known to hold redfish at low water — nothing.
At 1 p.m., Team Rumbold returned to the staging point, the Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island, to weigh and measure the snapper, document stomach contents and take a tissue sample from each for analysis; the filets were put on ice for future consumption.
After lunch at Cabbage Key, the scientists drifted the incoming tide at Captiva Pass (more nothing) and a grass flat east of Cayo Costa's Pejuan Point (and still more nothing).
Throughout the day, squalls popped in every direction, and on several occasions the scientists were caught in the rain. According to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation's weather station at Redfish Pass, the wind while the scientists were on the water was westerly, blowing in the teens with gusts in the 20s.
Late in the afternoon, a particularly ugly thunderstorm moved in from the Gulf, and the scientists decided the prudent action would be to get off the water.
Over cold beer, black beans and rice and fresh mangrove snapper and pompano that night, the scientists evaluated the day's research.
"There are good days and bad days," Fugate said. "This was closer to a bad day."
"We persevered, so I'd put it in the win column," he said. "But we did have plenty of rain and lightning and not many fish. In the future, we should follow the rainbow."
Spring Hill, Florida sinkhole threatens to devour homes after sneaking up on a Sunday afternoon
July 20, 2014
The maw of a 120-foot wide Spring Hill, Florida sinkhole threatened to swallow homes in a quiet neighborhood after sneaking up on a group of neighbors on a Sunday afternoon. The terrifying 30-foot-deep sinkhole opened up in front of witnesses who said it emerged with no warning at all, according to neighbors who spoke to local station WTSP. Neighbor Margaret Helmick saw what happened firsthand, ABC said.
Out of nowhere the earth just went straight up in the air and exploded up in the air.
At least one woman had to be evacuated from her home in Hernando County, Florida, ABC reported. Linda Fisher, whose house neighbored the sinkhole, was out of town when the earth opened up. She told WTSP she had to leave her house overnight.
It’s devastating. You don’t expect it.
Her daughter Michelle Parisik said the front of her mom’s house was “on a ledge hanging, pretty much.”
Sinkholes are really common in the state, and the Southwest Florida Water Management District calls them “one of the predominant land forms in Florida.” Cool. They occur when a soft or porous underground surface — one that water can flow through — is gradually dissolved, according to USGS. But though the dissolution of the ground may be gradual, the opening of the sinkhole itself often isn’t.
USGS says sinkholes also happen often in Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania, but they can happen elsewhere, too. Usually they don’t sneak up on people like this one did, instead opening up as a small hole and gradually getting bigger, but it can happen, the agency says. The rapid ones, according to the Florida Geological Survey (FGS), are called collapse sinkholes and usually show up in areas with “clayey sediment.” Smaller ones are called solution sinkholes, which open up more slowly and less dramatically in sandy places.
About 300 sinkholes have opened in Florida since 2010, ABC reports — and those are just the ones we know about. The FGS says it’s not an illusion: sinkholes really have started forming more often recently. That’s been influenced by periods of drought mixed with heavy rain; more land and road development; retention pumps; and water management that changes the way groundwater flows beneath the surface.
Usually there isn’t video of big sinkholes emerging because it often happens so quickly, but here’s security camera footage of one sinkhole that opened up underneath a car museum in Kentucky
US Army Corps of Engineers increases Lake O releases
Fox4now - by Sara Belsole
July 20, 2014
SANIBEL, Fla. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased target flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River Saturday.
The Corps says it's to help slow the rise of water levels in Lake Okeechobee.
The rise in releases has fisherman Roy Sabalboro worried. He says he never wants to see the dark murky waters again.
"It was terrible, dead fish, it was so brown you couldn't see anything," Sabalboro said. "I didn't even want to go in the water."
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the new target flow has a 10-day average of 1,500 cubic feet per second. It's a level they say will have little impact on Southwest Florida because local runoff into the river has exceeded that target in recent days.
Fisherman Michael Roskov says he's not worried about the small change.
"There's plenty of room for plenty of water," Roskov said.
But local environmentalists say every little bit counts.
"It's killing our Caloosahatchee, it's killing our St. Lucie and the Indian River Lagoon, it's got to stop," Stone Crab Alliance leader Dr. Karen Dwyer said.
Dwyer says she hopes one day Lake O releases will stop being dumped on the east and west coasts and instead cleaned and sent south.
"Once your water is gone you cannot have the economy, the tourist industry and we will be a dead zone," Dwyer said.
U.S. backs sonic devices in East Coast oil and gas hunt
Washington Post (Associated Press - by Jason Dearen
July 20, 2014
ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. — The Obama administration has sided with energy developers over environmentalists, approving the use of underwater blasts of sound to pinpoint oil and gas deposits in federal Atlantic Ocean waters.
The regulatory decision is the first real step toward what could be an economic transformation in East Coast states, potentially creating a new energy infrastructure, thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue. But it dismayed people who owe their livelihoods to fisheries and tourism, and activists said it stains President Obama’s environmental legacy.
“Opening vast stretches off the East Coast to oil and gas has no place in an otherwise historic agenda to combat climate change,” said Michael Jasny, a marine mammal expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The cannons will substantially increase the noise pollution in Gulf Stream waters shared by whales, dolphins and turtles, sending powerful sound waves reverberating through the deep every 10 seconds, for weeks at a time.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management acknowledged that thousands of sea creatures will be harmed but ultimately decided to approve this exploration in the outer continental shelf from Delaware to Florida. Energy companies need the data as they prepare to apply for drilling leases in 2018, when current congressional limits expire.
“The bureau’s decision reflects a carefully analyzed and balanced approach that will allow us to increase our understanding of potential offshore resources while protecting the human, marine, and coastal environments,” acting bureau director Walter Cruickshank said in a statement.
Sonic cannons are already used in the western Gulf of Mexico, off Alaska and in other offshore oil operations around the world. They are towed behind boats, sending down pulses of sound that reverberate beneath the sea floor and rebound to the surface. Hydrophones capture the results, which computers translate into high-resolution, three-dimensional images.
“It’s like a sonogram of the Earth,” said Andy Radford, a petroleum engineer at the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and gas trade association. “You can’t see the oil and gas, but you can see the structures in the Earth that might hold oil and gas.”
The surveys also can map marine habitats and identify solid undersea flooring for wind energy turbines. But fossil fuel mostly funds this research, and corporations keep the data secret, disclosing it only to the government.
“They paid for it, so I can see why they don’t want to share. These things are not cheap,” said John Jaeger, a University of Florida geology professor.
Oil lobbyists say drilling for the estimated 4.72 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 37.51 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that lies beneath federal waters from Florida to Maine could generate $195 billion in investment and spending between 2017 and 2035, contributing $23.5 billion per year to the economy.
Those estimates describe the total amount of energy “technically recoverable” from the nation’s outer continental shelf, but the Atlantic seabed from New Jersey through New England remains off-limits for now. While some states have passed drilling bans, Virginia and the Carolinas asked for the surveys, bureau officials explained Friday.
“I honestly feel we can go offshore and harvest the energy that’s out there,” said South Carolina state Sen. Paul Campbell. “I think we’re kind of foolish not to.”
In any case, the area to be mapped is farther offshore in federal waters, beyond the reach of state law.
The sonic cannons are often fired continually for weeks or months, and multiple mapping projects may operate simultaneously. To get permits, companies will need to have whale-spotting observers aboard and do undersea acoustic tests to avoid nearby species. Certain habitats will be closed during birthing or feeding seasons.
Still, underwater microphones have picked up blasts from these sonic cannons over distances of thousands of miles, and the constant banging — amplified in water by orders of magnitude — will be impossible for many species to avoid.
Whales and dolphins depend on being able to hear their own much less powerful echolocation to feed, communicate and keep in touch with their family groups across hundreds of miles. Even fish and crabs navigate and communicate by sound, said Grant Gilmore, an expert on fish ecology in Vero Beach, Fla.
“We don’t know what the physiological effects are,” Gilmore said. “It could be permanent hearing damage in many of these creatures just by one encounter with a high-energy signal.”
More than 120,000 comments were sent to the government, which spent years developing these rules. The bureau’s environmental-impact study estimates that more than 138,000 sea creatures could be harmed, including nine of the world’s remaining 500 North Atlantic right whales.
These whales give birth and breed off the coast of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
“Once they can’t hear — and that’s the risk that comes with seismic testing — they are pretty much done for,” said Katie Zimmerman, a spokeswoman for the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, based in Charleston.
“Even if there were oil out there, do we really want that ?” she asked. “Do we really want to see these offshore rigs set up?”
By federal law, scientists cannot approach marine mammals without following careful protocols, and yet this decision will pervade their environment with noise pollution that could have a long-term impact on their population, said Scott Kraus, a right-whale expert at the John H. Prescott Marine Laboratory in Boston.
“No one has been allowed to test anything like this on right whales,” Kraus said. The Obama administration “has authorized a giant experiment on right whales that this country would never allow researchers to do.”
Some exploratory wells were drilled before the Atlantic seabed was closed to exploration in the 1980s, but they never produced much. The latest seismic technology should change that.
“One thing we find is, the more you get out and drill and explore to confirm what you see in the seismic, you end up finding more oil and gas than what you think is out there when you started,” Radford said.
More than 16 communities from Florida to New Jersey passed resolutions opposing or raising concerns about seismic testing and offshore drilling.
“Florida has already felt the devastating effects of an uncontrolled oil release with the Deepwater Horizon event, of which cleanup efforts are still ongoing,” said John Morris, a county commissioner whose constituency includes the beach town. “Any oil spill, large or small, off the coast of St. Johns County would greatly affect the county’s economy.”
The 5 Worst Invasive Species in the Florida Everglades
Time – by Bryan Walsh
July 19, 2014
A most wanted list for alien pests in the Sunshine State
As I write in a cover story in TIME this week, invasive species are a growing threat around the U.S. And there is no place quite as thoroughly invaded as Florida:
“We are ground zero for the impacts of invasive species,” says Doria Gordon, director of conservation science for the Florida chapter of the Nature Conservancy (TNC) . “And our invaders are very good at finding new habitats.”
Often those habitats are in or around the Everglades, that vast “river of grass” that covers much of South Florida. Half of the original Everglades has been developed for farming or housing, and the sprawling wetland has been carved up by more than 1,400 miles (2,250 km) of canals and levees that divert water for South Florida’s 5.8 million people. That mix of suburbs and wilderness makes the Everglades an invasive free-for-all.
But which invasive species pose the biggest threats to the Everglades? Check out the video:
A most wanted list for alien pests in the Sunshine State
Rising Lake O triggers more draining
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
July 18, 2014|
Rising water levels are triggering more discharges of Lake Okeechobee water out to sea due to flood control threats, federal officials said Friday.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would boost the amount of Lake Okeechobee water drained into the Caloosahatchee River toward the West Coast in order to ease the strain on the troubled dike that protects South Florida from flooding.
DEP suing oil company for using fracking-like technique near Everglades
July 17, 2014
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida's Department of Environmental Protection says it's planning to sue a Texas oil company for violating state drilling regulations at one of its wells located near the Everglades.
DEP says it will sue the Dan A. Hughes Company for failing to comply with demands after it was learned the company was using a fracking-like practice known as "acid stimulation" at the site.
The company has already announced it shut down operations at the disputed well site which is near endangered Florida panther habitat.
DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard Jr. made the following announcement:
"DEP will file a lawsuit against the Dan A. Hughes Company to address violations at the Collier-Hogan well. After months of holding Dan A. Hughes accountable for unauthorized activities at the Collier-Hogan well site, it is clear that the Company has not taken seriously the Department’s demands to protect Collier County families or Florida’s natural resources. This suit will seek to shut down operations at the Collier-Hogan site, until pending completion of appropriate environmental testing.This lawsuit will be brought before a Collier County circuit court judge. In the lawsuit, the Department is seeking additional financial penalties and to shut down all the operations at the Collier-Hogan well. The Department will ensure Dan A. Hughes is accountable for its actions in the state of Florida."
Related: Texas Oil Company Busted Fracking in the Everglades Faces DEP ... New Times Broward-Palm Beach (blog)-Jul 16, 2014
Florida Sues Oil Company For Everglades Violations Chem.Info
Under pressure, Texas oil company shuts last well near Everglades Tampabay.com
Gov. Rick Scott to talk about climate change
WINKnews.com – by Jennifer Kay
July 17, 2014
MIAMI (AP) - Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday his administration would be "happy to meet" with 10 scientists from Florida universities who want to talk about climate change, a subject he has been reluctant to address.
A letter from the scientists was delivered to Scott's office Tuesday. Scott and other Republicans have been skeptical of global warming and the governor has worked with the GOP-controlled Legislature to dismantle climate change initiatives.
When a federal report earlier this year highlighted Florida - and Miami in particular - among the parts of the country most vulnerable to global warming and rising sea levels, Scott said: "I'm not a scientist" when asked about it.
In a statement about the letter, Scott said he was "focused on solutions we can implement to protect our land, water and families."
"We have made environmental restoration a top priority - investing record amounts in the Everglades and Springs projects all across Florida, even many that were not prioritized by the previous administration," he said.
During an unrelated bill signing event in Key Biscayne Wednesday, Scott told The Associated Press that much of his own family continues to live in Florida and that he hopes to preserve it for his grandchildren.
"I want to make sure this is a place where we'll have a pristine environment that we all can enjoy," Scott said.
The letter was signed by experts in marine systems, atmospheric sciences and other climate change-related fields at the University of Miami, Florida State University, Eckerd College and Florida International University.
"We are scientists and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state," the scientists wrote.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given Florida a target of cutting its carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 38 percent by the year 2030, as part of the Obama administration's effort to reduce emissions nationwide by nearly a third over the next 15 years.
Florida will choose how to meet that goal, and the scientists wrote that they hoped to provide Scott with the latest climate science as the state prepares those plans.
"Those of us signing this letter have spent hundreds of years combined studying this problem, not from any partisan political perspective, but as scientists - seekers of evidence and explanations," the letter said.
The letter's delivery was first reported by the Miami Herald.
Scott, who is running for re-election, has worked to dismantle climate change initiatives put into place by his predecessor and current opponent, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist.
Florida's other top Republicans, including possible 2016 presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush, also have challenged climate science.
The letter comes as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy lead a statewide "What's your plan, Gov ?" campaign seeking energy alternatives and transparency as state agencies work to meet the federal carbon pollution standards.
Scientists offer to brief Florida Gov. Scott on climate change
July 17, 2014
Ten scientists say they are happy to offer a tutorial on climate change to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has said he hasn't been able to acknowledge the phenomenon because he's "not a scientist."
"We note you have been asked several times about how, as governor, you will handle the issue of climate change. We are scientists, and we would like the opportunity to explain what is at stake for our state" according to their 2-page letter to the Republican governor on Tuesday, which was reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
"Florida is one of the most vulnerable places in the country with respect to climate change, with southeastern Florida of particular concern," the scientists told Scott.
"This is not a hypothetical," the Florida experts wrote, according to the Times. "Thousands of scientists have studied the issue from a variety of angles and disciplines over many decades. Those of us signing this letter have spent hundreds of years combined studying this problem, not from any partisan political perspective, but as scientists — seekers of evidence and explanations."
Scott, who is a climate change skeptic but in a tight re-election bid against former Gov. Charlie Crist, on Wednesday in a statement said he welcomes their briefing, The Hill reported.
The governor said he was "focused on solutions we can implement to protect our land, water and families."
"We have made environmental restoration a top priority — investing record amounts in the Everglades and Springs projects all across Florida, even many that were not prioritized by the previous administration," he said.
Scott touted his record on the environment in his March state of the state speech, saying his administration had spent "record funding in protecting our environment" — an accomplishment that was investigated and determined to be false by the website PolitiFact.com.
Related: Rick Scott agrees to meet with Florida... The Hill
Gov. Scott, Scientists to Meet About Climate Change The Ledger
150,000 burmese pythons threaten Everglades ecosystem
NatureWorldNews.com – by Jenna Iacurci
July 16, 2014
In the spirit of today, World Snake Day, Americans might want to consider the fact that some 150,000 Burmese pythons have invaded Florida's Everglades, and are threatening the local ecosystem and other wildlife.
Native to South America and India, this slithering species was imported to the United States in the thousands for the pet trade, and eventually made its way to Southeast Florida. Since their introduction, they have multiplied and trampled on native species of mammals, birds and even reptiles in Everglades National Park, south of Miami. By preying on native wildlife and competing with other native predators, they are seriously impacting the natural order of things.
According to 2012 study, the population of raccoons, opossums and even bobcats have declined significantly in the Everglades regions where pythons have been established the longest.
Officials are doing everything they can to control python populations.
"With respect to controlling Burmese pythons, we are working diligently with our state, federal, tribal, and local partners to manage this invasive species and educate the public on the importance of not letting invasive species loose in the wild," Park Superintendent Dan Kimball said in a US Geological Survey news release.
More than 2,000 pythons - the largest of which was over 17 feet long - have been removed from the Everglades since 2002, according to The Washington Post. But that is only a fraction of how many are still left, not including the other two species of pythons - among them the big, bad African rock python - that are also established and breeding in the park.
Since controlling their numbers hasn't effectively worked so far, last year the state of Florida held an open hunt called the Python Challenge that only proved the snakes are extremely hard to find and even harder to eradicate.
So now the Conservancy of Southwest Florida is asking the public and park visitors to keep their eyes open and report any Burmese python sightings, the Austrian Tribune reported. They can send in pictures and note the location to www.ivegot1.org. Pictures are important so as not to confuse invasive hatchlings for some of Florida's native snakes such as the red rat snake or the banded water snake.
According to the Florida Invasive Species Partnership, there have been about 2,040 Burmese python reports in all of Florida since the partnership began tracking them.
While this invasive species is a threat to the local ecosystem, they do not pose a danger to park visitors - although the risk of an attack is not nonexistent.
"Our guidance to visitors with respect to Burmese pythons is the same as for our native wildlife - please maintain a safe distance and don't harass the wildlife," Kimball advised.
Related: Displaced Burmese Pythons in Florida Can Find Their Way Back Home
Burmese Pythons Pose Little Risk to Everglades National Park Visitors
Pythons Invade Southern Florida Patch.com
Burmese Pythons Invade South Florida: 150000 Now Live In ... The Inquisitr
Corps of Engineers hopes to accelerate permit process to protect endangered species
WLRN - by Constanza Gallardo
July 16, 2013
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a controversial history in Florida -- especially when it comes to the Everglades and the state’s wildlife.
But now, the agency wants Floridians to know they’re working harder to protect endangered species.
Each year the Corps of Engineers receives requests for various projects to build on regulated wetlands or the coast.
The agency tries to issue half of those permits within 120 days.
The Corps’ regulatory chief, Tory White, says this may be difficult to achieve this year because many of the new permit requests could have a harmful impact on endangered species -- and Florida has more than 100 endangered species.
White says in South Florida, marine species are the biggest concern on that list. The agency is assessing the effects of docks, seawalls and beach nourishment on species.
So the Corps of Engineers is trying to find ways to expedite the permit process while at the same time protecting vulnerable wildlife.
“Even though the situation is pretty bad now, we are aware of it and we are trying to do things to improve it in the future,” White says.
Endangered Florida forest will be destroyed to make room for Walmart and Chick-Fil-A
ThinkProgress.org – by Kiley Kroh
July 16, 2014
A section of rare and endangered forest in Florida’s Miami-Dade County will be destroyed to build a Walmart, Chick-fil-A, Chili’s, 900 apartments, and an LA Fitness. Approximately 88 acres of the pine rockland forest was sold by the University of Miami to a Palm Beach County developer this month, the Miami Herald reported.
While the sale included an agreement to set aside 40 acres for a preserve, researchers say the area they will develop is a globally imperiled ecosystem with a remarkable diversity of plant and animal life found nowhere else.
“Compared to other habitats you might come across, it’s very, very diverse,” Sarah Martin, a biologist with the Institute for Regional Conservation, told ThinkProgress. Pine rocklands are home to a variety of rare and threatened species and occur only in South Florida and the Caribbean. “Over 225 types of native plants occur here and more than 20 percent of the plant species are found here and nowhere else in the world,” according to Miami-Dade County.
Thanks to urban development, fire suppression, and invasion of exotic species, the habitat is now severely threatened. The pinelands once covered 185,000 acres of the county but by 1996, only two percent of the forest remained. Martin said that because pine rocklands are upland ecosystems and thus on higher ground, they’ve long been targets for development in Florida. And with over 2.5 million people living in Miami-Dade County development is seemingly endless.
The widespread development of the area has led to fragmentation of the pine rocklands, Martin explained, with each little parcel of ecosystem serving as a refuge for plants and animals. “That piece in particular is connected to one of the historically largest tracts remaining,” Martin said of the 88 acres sold by the University of Miami. “So for them to start chipping away at it is kind of awful.”
The university “said in a statement that it is committed to protecting the forests” but did not respond to questions from the Miami Herald. Casey Cummings, CEO of Ram, the development company that acquired the land, told the paper that particular area “provided a ‘unique chance to create … a place where people can easily walk from the neighborhood to shops and elsewhere.’”
Cummings also “pointed out that the company could have built even more housing — 1,200 apartments — and added 70,000 square feet of retail space to the 300,000 it has planned.” Ram is planning to develop 35 additional acres adjacent to the tract in question.
While the section of Florida’s pine rocklands that extends into Everglades National Park is protected, “most of the federally listed species are found outside of the park,” Martin said. “These little pockets are just hanging on.”
Jennifer Possley with Fairchild Tropical Gardens and a team of researchers were recently allowed to rescue some of the threatened species from the area as development stands to wipe them out completely. Possley told the local CBS4 station, “We’ve rescued 30 species so far but there are about 200 in there.”
In addition to numerous species of plants, the land is also home to the Bartram’s hairstreak butterfly, which is expected to be added to the endangered species list this summer. But federal officials told the Miami Herald that they are limited in what they can do, as “habitat for endangered wildlife can be protected only if federal money or property is involved. And sanctions can be issued only if endangered animals — say, the eggs of a butterfly left on a croton — are killed.”
While Martin’s organization works with landowners and land managers to protect and restore ecosystems like Florida’s pine rocklands, she said that as a small nonprofit, their ability to slow the rapid rate of loss is limited. “We work with the people that want to maintain it,” she said. Martin also noted that while the University of Miami sale is by far the highest profile, she sees For Sale signs in the rocklands on a regular basis. Martin frequently tries to track down the owners of unmanaged sections of pine rockland forest, but “I’ll find that its owned by a bank in Ohio,” she said. “Not even a person you can contact to try to manage it.”
Based on the loss she sees, Martin thinks the statistic that just two percent of pine rockland forest remains in Florida might even be high. “Something needs to be done; otherwise, we have to accept that number is going to keep going down,” she said.
Related: Rare Florida Forest to be Bulldozed and Turned into Wal-Mart Nature World News
Hot cooling canals threaten shutdown of Turkey Point nuclear power plants
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
July 16, 2014
Rising water temperatures and severe algae blooms in cooling canals have threatened to force the shutdown of two nuclear reactors at Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point plant over the last few weeks.
The utility and federal regulators say there isn’t a public safety risk but the canal temperatures, climbing to 94 to 99 degrees, have come within one degree of a federal limit that would mandate an expensive shutdown at a time when power demands are soaring. The hot water has also stoked the spread of algae through the 168-mile long canal system, which has helped keep temperatures high and reignited concerns about the power plant’s impact on water quality in Biscayne Bay.
In a letter last month to state regulators, the company asked to control the algae with herbicides and to cool the canals with daily injections of millions of gallons from an underground reservoir that supplies Miami-Dade County’s drinking water — requests that drew questions from Biscayne National Park and environmentalists. FPL has also asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to raise the 100-degree operating limit to 104 degrees to keep the reactors on line.
“The urgency in all of it is that we’re in the summer. Demand on the grid is very high and we have to make sure we can service our customers,” said FPL spokeswoman Bianca Cruz.
In an effort to address concerns, FPL on Wednesday outlined its plans during a meeting of federal, state and local agencies overseeing restoration of Biscayne Bay.
Worries over damage to the bay, now protected in a national park, have dogged the plant since FPL dug the sprawling canal system in the 1970s after environmentalists sued to stop billions of gallons of hot water from being pumped into the bay. Environmentalists also worried that a recent $3 billion overhaul of the plant, which allows FPL to generate up to 15 percent more power, could worsen the inland creep of an underground plume of saltwater that threatens drinking water well fields in South Miami-Dade County.
But Matt Raffenberg, FPL’s environmental services director, said Wednesday that the overhaul, called an uprating, had not caused the jump in temperatures and was not harming the bay.
“There are things going on in the cooling canals we’re trying to manage,” Raffenberg said. “But in terms of impacts to Biscayne Bay, we don’t see data suggesting the cooling canals are affecting bay water.”
In a June 27 letter to the South Florida Water Management District, an FPL manager asked for emergency withdrawals of up to 30 million gallons a day of cooler water from a brackish section of the underground Biscayne Aquifer — source of most of Miami-Dade’s fresh water — to avoid shutting down its two reactors and a natural gas plant.
That same day, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection agreed to allow FPL to pump up to 14 million gallons a day but from a deeper source, the Floridan aquifer. DEP also approved the utility’s plan to dump herbicides, including copper sulfate and hydrogen peroxide, for up to 90 days to kill algae boosted by the warmer water.
The NRC, meanwhile, is still evaluating FPL’s request to increase the cooling canal temperature limits for operating the reactors.
“What they’ve run into more recently is (temperatures are) trending higher than historical averages,” said NRC spokesman Roger Hannah. “It is very warm because most plants in the country, and I don’t know specifically for all plants, but most plants would have temperatures much lower.”
High water temperatures, an algae bloom and a spreading underground saltwater plume may not appear related but they do highlight the complexity of operating a plant that depends on cool water in steamy South Florida.
“With a big industrial facility next to the park, you’ve got be concerned, said Biscayne National Park superintendent Brian Carlstrom. “I’d rather be on the side of erring with an abundance of caution than be on the response side of trying to mitigate an environmental catastrophe.”
Last month, George McHugh, the park’s chief of administration, wrote federal, state and local officials asking for an investigation into the “broad poor water quality trends, their source and potential solutions.”
Worsening salt water intrusion, which can alter native coastal habitat, is the biggest threat.
A U.S. Geological Survey mapping the leading edge of the plume earlier this year showed the biggest advance since 1995 in Florida City, just northwest of the sprawling grid of canals. In 2009 and again in 2011, water managers and environmentalists worried that tapping the aquifer to cool canals would worsen saltwater intrusion.
The chemical request also raises concerns, said Julie Dick, an attorney for the Everglades Law Center.
“When they’re doing things on an emergency basis, it makes it hard for all the responsible agencies to deal with all the issues. There should be more forward thinking,” she said. “These aren’t necessarily benign chemicals being applied and additional monitoring is needed.’’
Mining companies just west of Turkey Point have also argued that saltier water from the sprawling canal system, which is heavier than freshwater, has sunk deep within the aquifer and migrated west, threatening their business as well as drinking water wells.
“When they were originally conceived and designed in the late 60s and early 70s, they were supposed to theoretically operate in a way that the salinity in the canals was going to mimic what’s in the bay,” said Ed Swakon, president of EAS Engineering and a consultant for Atlantic Civil, which operates a large mine just west of the canals. But over the years, salt built up, he said, making the water heavier and forcing it deeper underground.
At some 70 feet below the surface, he said, “it begins to spread like an inverted mushroom.”
FPL maintains salt water intrusion issues have existed since the 1940s and its canals have not played a part in the spreading plume.
“The canals are definitely a closed system,’’ Cruz said. “They don’t touch any other source of water.”
But on Wednesday, Scott Burns, a chief environmental scientist with the water management district, said tests conducted in recent years indicate underground water is creeping west. And in a letter last month, Justin Green, chief of DEP’s office that permits power plants, said FPL has been “put on notice” about the creeping plume. DEP and the water management district, he said, are drafting an order to deal with it, which will include pumping water from the Floridan Aquifer, deep below the Biscayne.
“When we increase pumping, that will reduce salt seepage and stabilize the system,” Burns said.
But Phil Stoddard, mayor of South Miami and a longtime critic of Turkey Point’s nuclear operations, worries drawing more water from the lower aquifer will make things worse.
"All the crap we've thrown into the Floridan is going to end up in the Biscayne Aquifer heading toward the drinking water," he said. "The green slime is absorbing heat and heating up the water. The problem for FPL is hot water doesn’t do such a good job of cooling the pipes."
Report: Everglades plans hurt by financial, procedural barriers
LaboratoryEquipment.com – by National research Council
July 16, 2014
Although planning for Everglades restoration projects has advanced considerably over the past two years, financial, procedural and policy constraints have impeded project implementation, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council. Timely authorization, adequate funding levels and creative policy and implementation strategies are needed to achieve restoration benefits and to expedite implementation of the Central Everglades Planning Project. Climate change and the invasion of nonnative plant and animal species further challenge the Everglades system. The impacts of climate change — especially sea-level rise — provide a stimulus to accelerate restoration efforts, the report adds.
The report is the fifth in a series of biennial evaluations of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a multibillion dollar project launched in 2000 with the goal of reversing the ecosystem's decline and creating a water system that simultaneously serves the natural, urban and agricultural needs of southern Florida.
According to the report, restoration progress to date has been modest and focused along the edges of the ecosystem. The Central Everglades Planning Project, initiated in October 2011, recommends a suite of projects that would provide substantial new water flow to the central Everglades, equivalent to approximately two-thirds of the new water envisioned in CERP. The committee that wrote the report urged CERP planners and policymakers to find solutions to expedite the project’s implementation in order to avert further degradation of the ecosystem’s core. Without such solutions, water redistribution may not be feasible until 2035 or later, and with the envisioned funding level of $100 million per year, construction would not be completed for approximately four decades.
The report found that the infrequency of Water Resources Development Acts (the congressional mechanism for authorizing CERP projects exceeding $25 million), the availability of funding and cost-sharing challenges have impeded CERP progress over the past two years. The Water Resources and Reform Development Act of 2014 — the first authorization in seven years — enabled four additional CERP projects to proceed with federal funding, although the Central Everglades Planning Project was not completed in time to be included in the legislation.
The Integrated Delivery Schedule, which lays out construction plans for the next decade, needs to be revisited to incorporate the newly authorized projects and the Central Everglades Planning Project with existing restoration efforts, the report says. Given limited funding, all projects cannot be advanced equally, and planners should consider factors such as possible climate change and sea-level rise to determine which projects have the greatest potential for restoration benefits.
Sea-level rise has already increased saltwater intrusion into Everglades freshwater habitats and urban water supplies, and potential future changes in temperature and precipitation may affect the timing, volume and quality of freshwater and the distribution of species, as well as increase agricultural water demands. Although they pose a challenge to restoration efforts, climate change and sea-level rise are reasons to accelerate restoration to enhance the ecosystem’s ability to adapt to future changes. For example, improvements in water depths could promote the accumulation of peat in Everglades wetlands, reducing coastal wetland loss caused by sea-level rise.
The report recommends that climate change be incorporated into adaptive management planning at both the project scale and in system wide goals, and that planners build flexibility into the design so new knowledge and improved climate change projections can be incorporated as they become available and future restoration efforts can be adjusted appropriately.
The report also states that planners should consider the implications of restoration activities on nonnative species. Invasive plants and animals displace native species and disrupt ecosystem structure and function, and some projects may affect the extent and abundance of nonnative species. The committee found that although there has been good coordination of invasive species management at the project level, strategic coordination over management and research priorities is lacking.
Setting effective priorities for managing invasive species requires a comprehensive understanding of all nonnative species present in the Everglades and their impacts and threats, as well as those of impending or possible new arrivals. Research is needed to determine which species could reasonably be predicted to have considerable ecological impacts. A strategic early detection and rapid response system that addresses all areas, habitats and species is needed, the report states.
Scientific research provides the knowledge and tools that can help decision makers ensure that the resources invested in Everglades restoration are used wisely. Long-term monitoring collects useful information for understanding how projects are changing ecosystem conditions. A comprehensive re-evaluation of restoration-related monitoring is needed to determine its adequacy considering budget pressures, extended implementation time frames and potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. In addition, renewed attention to science coordination and communication is needed, which includes adequate funding, staff and a clear charge to address scientific priorities for restoration.
Burmese pythons starting to hatch around Collier County
NBC-2.com – by Hollie Hojek, reporter
July 15, 2014
A new predator is invading SW Florida. The Burmese Python has been spotted in Collier County but what makes this noteworthy, it is hatching season. There is no way according to experts to control the highly invasive species.
As a small reptile, the pythons do not pose an direct threat to humans, they are dangerous. They have been known to grow quite large, especially in the Everglades.
Those at the Conservancy SWFL are asking residents to be cautious and report what they see.
W Ian Bartoszek, Conservancy SWFL "They've traveled a quite a bit of ways,"said Ian Bartoszek with the Conservancy SWFL. "These are originally found Vietnam."
The invasive species has been spotted lately on the streets in Collier County and there is a reason why.
"They are emerging from their eggs right about now," said Bartoszek. "This is a new apex predator in South Florida eco system, one we're going to have to learn to live with."
The Conservancy has been studying the python for years and now they are asking the public to take part in their research.
"We need some eyes on the ground to document the spread of this invasive, so we can continue to work towards a more effective management strategy," said Bartoszek.
Right now, there is no way to control the Burmese Python population growing in SW Florida.
Should a python be spotted, take a picture if possible and record the location. Then enter the information at www.ivegot1.org. The geographical data helps researchers track them.
Related: Spread of Burmese pythons in Florida worries wildlife officials UPI.com
BMPs help protect the environment while helping growers succeed
TheGrower.com – by Kelly Morgan and Stewart Swanson
July 14, 2014
The Florida legislature passed the 1999 Florida Watershed Restoration Act that gives the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services the authority to develop interim measures. They include best management practices or BMPs, cost-share incentives and other technical assistance programs to assist agriculture in protecting our water resources.
By definition, BMPs are a practice or combination of practices, based on research, field-testing and expert review, to be the most effective and practicable on-location means to reduce potential nutrient contamination of surface and ground waters. The BMPs includes economic and technological considerations, growers can implement with a minimum impact on production.
In 2013 University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, specialists and Extension agents created 10 BMP watershed teams to address the water quality and quantity issues that the agricultural industry is facing. Educational programs were developed to cover topics including irrigation efficiencies, nutrient application and efficiencies, soil testing, conservation techniques, runoff reduction, etc.
Seminars, field days, workshops and demonstrations have been conducted to assist the 44,000 commercial farmers who produce food, fiber, and livestock on approximately 10 million acres in Florida to better understand and adopt BMPs.
A website (http://bmp.ifas.ufl.edu/) has also been improved to provide meeting schedules, presentations, published works and other information to allow growers to make informed choices.
UF/IFAS research has demonstrated that water and fertilizer management are inextricably linked. Changes to one will almost inevitably affect the efficiency of the other.
The goal of proper water management is to keep both the irrigation water and the fertilizer in the root zone. Fertilizer and the energy to run irrigation systems are significant costs of production and through education growers are learning that besides benefitting the environment the adoption of BMPs can contribute significant savings to their operations while maintaining high yields.
The following are a few stories to illustrate the impact and successes of the BMP watershed teams.
Increasing irrigation efficiency in North Florida
North Florida’s Lower Suwannee River Basin is a major field crop production area, particularly for corn and peanuts. Supplemental watering is required to achieve maximum economic production due to sandy, porous soils.
More than 100,000 acres of agricultural land in the basin have been fitted with overhead irrigation systems to meet water demand and achieve economic optimum production. The Suwannee River Water Management District reports that on average, production agriculture withdraws 180 million gallons of water per day. More than 2,000 center-pivot irrigation systems in the Suwanee River Basin account for most of the consumption by agriculture.
Continuously measuring soil moisture and climate data using current, affordable technology is an excellent method to optimize irrigation management, increasing economic and environmental sustainability. Measuring systems are automated and relatively maintenance free.
However, gaps exist in both technical and agronomic knowledge which reduces on-farm implementation of the technology.
IFAS Extension agent Mace Bauer developed a project that assembled equipment into a package that could be readily adopted by farmers.
Field sensor kits were put together using commercially available components including a fiberglass enclosure mounted on a pole, datalogger, cell phone modem and antenna, 12-volt battery, solar panel, tipping bucket rain gauge and a soil moisture sensor.
Fifteen sites spread over several counties and multiple farmers were equipped with the package at their own expense. The Extension agent familiarized the growers with the user interface and irrigation management basics including soil water holding capacity, evapotranspiration and allowable water depletion.
Farmers willingly adopted and used the technology. One farmer reported eliminating four 1-inch irrigations on 180 acres. This resulted in water savings of 19 million gallons and reduced pumping costs by about $5,000.
Courtesy National Environmentally Sound Production Agriculture Laboratory, University of GeorgiaVegetable growers install drip irrigation in Southwest Florida
According to a survey by Gene McAvoy, a multi-county vegetable Extension agent and county Extension director in Southwest Florida, vegetable growers are installing drip irrigation at an increased pace.
Over the past five years, adoption of more efficient low-volume drip irrigation systems by vegetable growers has increased dramatically in Southwest Florida from approximately 35 percent of the total acreage to more than 65 percent of the total acreage, converting from traditional seepage irrigation systems to more efficient drip irrigation systems.
This change to drip has the potential to reduce water consumption by nearly 2 billion gallons per week. Educational programs are being developed to help growers learn how to efficiently manage these drip systems.
Potatoes grown in the Tri-County Agricultural Area of North Florida have traditionally been fertilized by pre-plant incorporated broadcast applications.
This practice tends to waste fertilizer because nutrients invariable find their way into the water furrows and ends of the fields where potatoes will not be grown.
Over the past few years, IFAS on-farm research has demonstrated the uniformity and value of banding fertilizer into each row of potatoes.
Banding increases the fertilizer use efficiency and allows growers to reduce the amount of fertilizer that is applied to a field for crop use.
Combined with not fertilizing field edges and water furrows, fertilizer applications have been reduced by about 25 percent.
The technology has had overwhelming adoption rates with more than 30 percent—6,000 acres—of the potato acreage converting from broadcast to banding.
This trend is expected to continue over the next few years. The concept of banding instead of broadcasting fertilizer is also spreading to other area vegetable producers, including those growing cabbage and leafy greens.
Dr. Kelly Morgan is an associate professor of soil and water sciences at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee. He can be reached at email@example.com. Stewart Swanson is a consultant on the BMP Project.
Frack No More: Collier County activists drive Texas oil company from the Everglades
BrowardPalmBeach.com - by Fire Ant
July 14 2014
Prospectors from Texas oil company Dan A. Hughes won't be drilling throughout the Big Cypress Swamp watershed anytime soon. That means (1) diminished revenues for Old Florida plutocrats Barron Collier, (2) one fewer threat to the Florida Panther and other species, and (3) one fewer worry for Collier County residents concerned about toxic contamination of the environment.
See also: Fracking the Everglades: Enviros Claim State Deception on Water Quality
The Texans had leased mineral rights on 115,000 acres of land from Collier Resources over the past few years, including portions of the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, Picayune Strand State Forest, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Some wells adjoined residential neighborhoods in Naples.
Regulators busted the drillers for unauthorized fracking at a Collier County well last December (which neither the state nor the company disclosed at public hearings this year), and when the news broke this spring, it scandalized an already aroused citizenry and provoked official local resistance. Unable or unwilling to play well with others (the company stiffed the efforts of state officials to smooth things over), the drillers chose to skedaddle.
The citizens' victory note sounded in the form of a Hughes announcement Friday that the company had "assessed [its] capital budget and [its] prospects in other parts of the country and decided to allocate [its] resources to other project areas." That same day, in a letter to the Collier County Board of Commissioners, Collier Resources announced that the Hughes leases had been terminated.
One exception remains: the Hughes drilling operation at the Collier-Hogan site, where last winter's acid fracking occurred. That project faces a legal challenge from the Collier Commission, which has asked that its permit be revoked, as well as a warning from Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard, who has given the drillers until Tuesday to meet a set of demands regarding operations and transparency.
We'll soon see if Vinyard can walk the walk. In the meantime, Collier County's environmental activists are in a mood to party.
Global warming is coming, but climate hysteria doesn’t help anyone
Time – by Michael Grunwald
July 14, 2014
The Guardian's dire report of a climate change catastrophe unfolding in Miami is a case of premature evacuation.
Help us ! We’re drowning ! It’s a catastrophe ! DO SOMETHING !
Well, we’re not actually drowning. We do get damp every now and then, but it’s hard to see how some modest sunny-day flooding in my neighborhood at high tide justifies The Guardian headline that’s been generating so much buzz: “Miami, the great world city, is drowning while the powers that be look away.” I’ve described South Beach as the canary in America’s coal mine for climate change, and the canary has started coughing a bit, but it isn’t dead or even very sick. I’m sorry to spoil the climate porn, but while the periodic puddles in my Whole Foods parking lot are harbingers of a potentially catastrophic future, they are not currently catastrophic. They are annoying. And so is this kind of yellow climate journalism.
The Guardian article—by Robin McKie, the science editor (!) — begins a block from my home, on Alton Road, which is “hemmed in by bollards, road-closed signs, diggers, trucks, workmen, stacks of giant concrete cylinders and mounds of grey, foul-smelling earth.” That’s a pretty ominous description of a basic construction project. The state is rebuilding the street, in part (not entirely) because Biscayne Bay is backing up through storm drains at high tide, in part (not entirely) because global warming has helped increase the sea level around South Florida by about 10 inches over a century. McKie describes this gentle backwater flooding with absurdly apocalyptic prose: “Tidal surges are turned into walls of seawater that batter Miami Beach’s west coast and sweep into the resort’s storm drains.” He also claims that the water then “surges across the rest of the island,” which simply isn’t true.
“The effect is calamitous,” McKie writes. Calamitous !
“City life is paralyzed,” he continues. Paralyzed !
Well, it does get hard to park at Whole Foods. Puddles form in front of Walgreens. A few cars have been damaged—or, as McKie described it, “ruined” by “surging seawaters that corrode and rot their innards.” McKie was apparently too lazy to talk to any actual victims of our ongoing calamity, but he did rip off a quote from a laundromat owner who told The New York Times that Alton Road flooding once blocked the entrance to his front door. What’s happening in the Middle East right now is calamitous. A blocked entrance is inconvenient.
Hey, it’s been inconvenient for all of us. I’m bummed that my favorite Alton Road burger joint just closed, although its downfall was the construction mess, not the flooding. But let’s get real. The Pacific island of Kiribati is drowning; Miami Beach is not yet drowning, and the Guardian’s persistent adjective inflation (“calamitous,” “astonishing,” “devastating”) can’t change that. We should fight global warming—and the powers that be, including Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott, should stop looking away—because it’s a potential disaster for Miami and the rest of this very nice planet. But we shouldn’t pretend it’s a disaster now
I get why the Obama administration wants to emphasize that global warming is a today issue, not a someday issue. I understand that stories about how climate change is already affecting our cities and our farms and our lives—even our wine–can make the issue feel more pressing to ordinary Americans. But fortunately, the effects are not yet calamitous; the reason we ought to DO SOMETHING is that they’ll get calamitous if we don’t. If we think once-a-month ankle-deep water is drowning, then why should Americans care whether we drown ?
Neverglades: Sorry Michael Grunwald, South Florida IS drowning
ThinkProgress.org – by Joe Romm
July 14, 2014
Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.
In many child drownings, adults are nearby but have no idea the victim is dying. Here is what to look for.
One of the most useful articles published online is “Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning.” The author is Mario Vittone, a 20-year Coast Guard veteran and an expert on drowning and sea survival.
It is a must-read for anyone with children headed to the beach this summer. I was reminded of that article by a pointless semantic dust up over a powerful piece last Friday in the U.K. Guardian, “Miami, the great world city, is drowning while the powers that be look away.” The article quotes Dr. Harold Wanless, chair of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Miami:
“Every day we continue to pump uncontrolled amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, we strengthen the monster that is going to consume us. We are heating up the atmosphere and then we are heating up the oceans so that they expand and rise.
There doesn’t look as if anything is going to stop that. People are starting to plan in Miami but really they just don’t see where it is all going.”
Thus one of the great cities of the world faces obliteration in the coming decades. “It is over for south Florida. It is as simple as that. Nor is it on its own,” Wanless admits.
We would have a serious chance at stopping this if we took the advice of many top climatologists and launched a World War II scale effort to rapidly bring CO2 emissions to near zero and then worked hard to pull CO2 out of the air (to bring us back to 350 parts per million of CO2 in the air — from the current level of 400 ppm). Failing that, we could stabilize near 450 ppm, keeping total warming as close as possible to 2°C, which would, at the very least, slow sea level rise dramatically.
But the forces of denial and delay — and their enablers in the media — have put the first option (which is arguably the most sane and moral) outside the Overton window. And they have made the second option all but untenable politically — even though study after study has concluded it could be achieved at virtually no net cost.
The grim fate for South Florida in a world of uncontrolled CO2 emissions is neither very controversial scientifically nor even very new. Last June, Jeff Goodell had a piece in Rolling Stone, “Goodbye, Miami: By century’s end, rising sea levels will turn the nation’s urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin.”
The latest research “suggests that sea level could rise more than six feet by the end of the century,” as Goodell noted, and “Wanless believes that it could continue rising a foot each decade after that.”
And that was before recent research on the collapsing West Antarctic ice sheet and the accelerated melting of Greenland made clear we are headed toward the high end of sea level rise projections this century and beyond.
Worse, South Florida rests atop “a vast and porous limestone plateau” (think Swiss cheese). That means you can’t save it with conventional sea walls and barriers.
So, hasta la vista, south Florida. Oh, and hasta la vista, Everglades, which will eventually need to be renamed the Neverglades.
Rather than trumpeting this reality, Michael Grunwald, TIME’s senior national correspondent — and a Miami resident — has decided to write a piece attacking the Guardian mostly on semantic grounds:
Well, we’re not actually drowning. We do get damp every now and then, but it’s hard to see how some modest sunny-day flooding in my neighborhood at high tide justifies The Guardian headline that’s been generating so much buzz: “Miami, the great world city, is drowning while the powers that be look away.”
Hmm, if the waters are rising around you and your current course of action must inevitably lead to your total inundation and death, is that “drowning”? As purely semantic questions go, I suppose it might have some interest to linguists and journalists. As existential questions go, however, everyone in Miami needs to understand that the city simply is not going to exist unless we immediately start ignoring the do-nothing and do-little crowds.
As Wanless told the Guardian:
“The next two or three feet of sea-level rise that we get will do away with just about every barrier island we have across the planet. Then, when rises get to four-to-six feet, all the world’s great river deltas will disappear and with them the great stretches of agricultural land that surrounds them. People still have their heads in the sand about this but it is coming. Miami is just the start. It is worth watching just for that reason alone. It is a major US city and it is going to let itself drown.”
Ah, but what does Wanless know, he’s just a leading expert on sea level rise and chair of the science committee for the Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force.
In Vittone’s article on drowning, he quotes Dr. Francesco Pia’s description of what drowning actually looks like — from the Coast Guard’s “On Scene” magazine (emphasis in original):
Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help….
Drowning people cannot wave for help.
That sounds an awful lot like South Florida.
Report: Brevard will have to tap into other water sources
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
July 14, 2014
Charlie Mondale of the St. Johns Water Management District lowers a set of new devices into the Indian River off the Titusville Municipal Pier. The devices are designed to give scientists real-time data about water conditions within the lagoon
Brevard and other East Central Florida counties will have to tap the St. Johns River and other sources besides groundwater to fill future water demand, according to a regional water plan.
The St. Johns River Water Management District recently released the final draft of its water supply plan.
The district developed the plan to ensure water supplies can meet future needs without causing saltwater intrusion, harming wetlands or triggering other unacceptable environmental damage that can result from drawing too much groundwater.
The district's governing board will consider approving the plan at a public meeting Aug. 12, in Palatka. The public can give input at the board meeting.
Brevard County will have to find about 11 million gallons more water daily by 2035, as the county's population grows about 25 percent, to 677,900, according to district projections.
During the same time frame, the county's water demand will grow about 10 percent, to more than 122 million gallons daily.
Assuming no drop in per capita use, water demand is estimated to increase by 314 million gallons per day within the entire 18-county district, to more than 1.5 billion daily gallons.
The district's population is expected to increase by almost 1.8 million people from 2010 to 2035, growing to almost 6.5 million people.
Less water use for farming is expected to someone offset the increased use from population growth throughout the district.
Fresh groundwater alone cannot supply all of the 2035 estimated increase in water demand without unacceptable impacts to water resources and related natural systems, district officials say.
Water conservation and alternative water supplies, such as the St. Johns River, will be needed to supplement available groundwater, officials say.
Plans to meet the Brevard region's future demand include a $215 million expansion of Taylor Creek Reservoir in Osceola and Orange counties.
• The District Water Supply Plan 2013 is available for review and comment at floridaswater.com/DWSP/
• Governing Board public meeting at 9 am., Aug. 12, at District Headquarters, 4049 Reid St./Hwy. 100 West, Palatka.
Sen. Nelson: Prevent oil drilling in Southwest Florida from ‘messing up' Everglades
Naples News – by June Fletcher
July 14, 2014
FORT MYERS, Fla. - U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson flew in to Southwest Florida on Monday to listen to concerns from local environmental groups and government officials about continued oil drilling in Southwest Florida — and he got an earful.
“We’ve spent billions of dollars to restore the Everglades — that’s taxpayer dollars,” said Nelson, who made a brief stopover at Southwest Florida International Airport for the meeting.
“I want to make sure what goes on does not mess that up,” he said.
Nelson asked local officials to explain what effects alternative drilling techniques such as fracking could have on the fragile ecosystem and watershed of the area.
But local government administrators said they need more scientific and technical information from the federal government on how safe these practices are.
“We just don’t know if it’s safe or not,” said George Yilmaz, public utilities administrator for Collier County government.
Although Collier Resources Co. announced late last week it has severed its leases with Beeville, Texas-based Dan A. Hughes Co., except for the still-disputed Collier Hogan well, it still has leased thousands of acres to other drillers.
Representatives from environmental groups that have long opposed oil drilling in the area told Nelson they are concerned about what techniques would be used to test for underground oil reserves, including seismic testing using explosives or “thumper trucks,” which drop heavy weights on the ground. The weights could fracture the crust over the porous limestone rock where the area gets its drinking water, they said.
They also expressed worries about the cumulative effect of stepped-up drilling in the Big Cypress Preserve and Everglades watershed areas, including regional groundwater contamination, a draw-down of water supplies and habitat disruption and loss for panthers and other wildlife.
And they told Nelson they needed stronger regulations on both a state and federal level to protect the region, since many rules were written when traditional vertical drilling was the only kind done in Southwest Florida. Drilling has occurred in the area since the 1940s.
“We’ve had completely inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement,” said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resources for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Nelson said it’s premature to introduce legislation on the subject until he has more facts, but that he would be “riding administrative agencies to determine what we ought to do” regarding fracking and other similar alternative drilling methods.
Related: Sen. Bill Nelson Says He'll Press Federal Agencies For Information ...
Guardian of liberty or enemy of wildlife ?
Sun Sentinel – by David Fleschler
July 13, 2014
Pacific Legal Foundation takes on environmental protection rules
They successfully fought to strip the wood stork of its endangered status and won the first skirmish to do the same to the manatee. Their clients range from small businesses to Florida's powerful home building industry.
Lawyers for the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation celebrated two victories involving South Florida wildlife in recent weeks, with the federal government's decision to reclassify the wood stork from endangered to threatened and its announcement that a similar change would be considered for the sea cow.
The foundation, often called the right-wing equivalent of the American Civil Liberties Union, fights government interference with business, environmental regulations it considers excessive, and race-based government programs – all, its lawyers say, in the name of preserving liberty.
"People hear about the wood stork and the manatee and think, 'Gee those people hate the environment,' and that's not true at all," said Mark Miller, who took over in March as managing attorney of the foundation's Florida office, located in Palm Beach Gardens. "It's about trying to make sure the government doesn't exceed its boundaries. To me it goes back to the beginnings of our country with the Federalist Papers and how far government can go, making sure people have the freedom to live their lives."
David Guest, managing attorney of the Tallahassee office of the environmental law firm EarthJustice, said the purity of the group's motives don't diminish the environmental damage of its work.
"I don't think the group is run by big business – and I'd love to slam them because I dislike what they do so much – but I think of them as ideologues," he said. "Although they are completely principled, what they're doing is really antithetical to the public interest in a very serious way. It doesn't seem to bother them that what their own clients are doing are things that involve the wholesale destruction of things everyone values."
Founded in California in 1973 by former aides to then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, the foundation is run by a 23-member board that consists mainly of agriculture executives, developers and real estate lawyers. Headquartered in Sacramento, the foundation has offices in Bellevue, Washington; Honolulu, Washington, D.C., and Palm Beach Gardens.
The Florida office, originally opened in Stuart in 1997, was established because the foundation's leaders thought there would be a need for its services in a fast-growing state that abounded in disputes over economic rights and environmental protection.
"It seemed like a natural place for us to establish an office to make sure environmental regulations are carried out in a balanced way, that they respect the constitutional rights of land owners," said James Burling, the foundation's litigation director. "You need to make sure that when the government acts for the public good that it respects individual rights, including property rights."
He acknowledged big business likes his organization's fights with environmental groups, but said there have been times when its strict free-market agenda has clashed with the interests of corporations that can benefit from big government.
"Sometimes people tend to think of us being an arm of ExxonMobil, but nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "The truth is we sometimes take positions opposed by big business."
For example, he said, the foundation has filed briefs challenging the authority of government redevelopment agencies to condemn land for use by big developers.
At any one time, he said, the foundation has about 125 active cases, mostly involving land-use and environmental regulations, the rest split between cases involving economic freedom and race-based government programs.
In Florida, it represented a Panhandle couple challenging protections for the Perdido Key beach mouse, which was interfering with their plans to rebuild their house after Hurricane Ivan. They filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of Volusia County in a case over whether the county would have to require beach residents to dim lights to protect hatchling sea turtles. They represented a Hillsborough County limousine company owner accused of charging less than the amount required by the county transportation commission.
The group represented the Florida Home Builders Association in its effort to reclassify the word stork, a classic Everglades bird that can be seen feeding in ditches by South Florida roads.
Douglas Buck, government affairs director for the Florida Home Builders Association, said, "I don't doubt that they're having a lot of success because a lot of the regulatory agencies have overreached. We've got some skinks and bats and every time you turn around there's a new species that you have to protect."
Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, said the foundation is neither a dark force threatening the nation's wildlife nor much of a guardian of constitutional rights.
"I've been dealing with them for the past 25 years," he said. "Their success record on environmental issues is pretty low. They lose more cases than they win. The downlisting from endangered to threatened has virtually no conservation implications. Threatened species are not any less protected than endangered species. [The suits] keep them in business. It keeps them in the news."
Burling said the foundation's goals run much deeper.
"I think the struggle between government needs and regulations and the tendency of the government to trample on our rights will never end," he said. "As long as there's a need for government, there's going to be a need for organizations like ours to be watchdogs."
Jeb's legacy as governor taking a huge hit
Sun Sentinel – by Jac Wilder VerSteeg
July 13, 2014
Scripps Research Institute is in turmoil, there's talk of fracking in the Everglades and Florida is preparing to adopt Utah's standardized tests to assess our students and teachers. Three pillars of Jeb Bush's gubernatorial legacy are crumbling.
Jeb himself is only partially responsible. Fellow Republicans on the state and national level have done much to ruin the resume of a leading contender to be the GOP's 2016 presidential nominee.
Scripps is based in California. Its Florida campus is in Jupiter, and Palm Beach County residents have been shocked to learn Scripps projects a $21 million deficit for the fiscal year ending in September. Scripps itself is so concerned about survival that it considered a takeover by the University of Southern California.
Bush's vision when he lured Scripps in 2003 was to leverage it into a biotech hub with multiple spinoffs and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. The state and Palm Beach County together have invested more than half a billion dollars in that vision.
Hasn't happened. Scripps Florida has met its modest targets for hiring — fewer than 700 employees — but it has not spawned a biotech hub. The now-cancelled merger idea roiled top scientists, triggering resignation threats.
Drying up of federal funding for science is a major reason for Scripps' woes. And the Republican-led U.S. House is a major reason for the dearth of research dollars. God forbid federally funded research should advance stem-cell research or climate studies validating warming warnings. So much for the Scripps pillar.
One of Bush's finest moments came in 2002, when he and President George W. Bush pledged a 50-50 state-federal partnership to clean up the Everglades. Gov. Bush did secure state funding. Federal funding, however, lagged. Republican deficit hawks played a part in that. And Gov. Bush significantly undermined his own work when he agreed to delay clean-water standards for a decade.
Now, as the Sun Sentinel reported last week, oil companies are taking advantage of Florida's chronically lax environmental laws to begin a form of fracking — fracturing of underground rock to release oil — in sensitive areas close to the Everglades. Republicans who dominated the Legislature since Jeb's tenure have failed to approve rules to protect the Everglades from fracking and other techniques such as horizontal drilling. Jeb's Everglades pillar is cracked and fracked.
Then there's education. Former Gov. Bush enjoys a national reputation as an education reformer — a neat trick considering the terrible harm he has inflicted on public education. Although the Legislature and succeeding Republican governors share responsibility, Jeb is mostly to blame for the bad things that followed his 1999 arrival in office.
Jeb is a godfather of bogus high-stakes testing. Way back in 1999, he started using the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to assign grades to schools. Nothing about that grading system was valid. Yet then-Gov. Bush claimed it was "accountability."
Things have only gotten worse in subsequent years. Schools and teachers have been labeled as "failing" by a test that was not even administered to large numbers of their students. The Legislature and Gov. Scott decided high-stakes tests should be used to decide if a teacher should be kept or fired. Never mind that there is no formula or algorithm that can reliably tell which teachers are good and which are bad.
The harm to students punished, retained and even denied a diploma because of bad scores on high-stakes tests, is even worse. In a tacit admission that the FCAT was inadequate for the purposes for which it was used, Florida abandoned that test and planned to adopt the Common Core Standards and tests. But Florida's Republican governor and Legislature fretted and dithered because of right-wing opposition to Common Core — which former Gov. Bush supports.
The result is that Florida does not have its own tests to measure progress on Common Core and, as the Sun Sentinel reported, will use a version of Utah's tests.
Any in-depth look at Gov. Bush's education record will confirm his reputation is undeserved. That's the third pillar falling down.
If Republicans like Bush so much, why has the party done so much to botch his Scripps and Everglades accomplishments and exacerbate his education mistakes ? Why would Jeb want to lead a party that knocked down the pillars of his reputation?
Without those pillars, why would anybody want to vote for President Jeb ?
Estero begins preparation to fight fracking
News-Press.com – by Denes Husty III, Special to The News-Press
July 12, 2014
Two controversial subjects (fracking and rock mining)dominated much of Friday’s discussion during the Estero Council of Community Leaders meeting and sparked an impromptu exchange between two opposing state House candidates.
Both are volatile issues in Southwest Florida, involving a planned oil exploration project that Collier County is opposing in state administrative court and threatened lawsuits by firms that want to mine lime rock in Lee County.
“I think both issues are threats to our water supply,” said Estero resident Jane Moran, following the meeting.
The fracking issue was raised during state Rep. Ray Rodrigues’ recap of this past legislative session.
Rodrigues, R-Estero, when asked by Democrat opponent Charles Messina whether he thinks fracking is safe, said he hasn’t taken a position. “I’m open. I haven’t seen enough data on either side.”
Messina, of Pine Island, said he especially opposes acid fracking, a method of injecting acids and water underground to split up rock to extract oil. “This is not a safe practice,” he said.
Rodrigues said he has tried to be proactive by introducing bills for the past two years that would require oil companies to disclose exactly what chemicals they are pumping underground.
“This bill would have the most strict disclosure requirements in the country,” Rodrigues said. However, he said because some chemicals involve trade secrets protected by federal law, disclosure of these substances would be made available to state regulators, but would not be made public.
Unfortunately, Rodrigues said his bill hasn’t been passed by the Legislature, but he’ll keep trying.
“Fracking is permitted under state law. The question is are we going to regulate it or not?” Rodrigues said. He said there’s a potential for fracking operations to spring up in Lee, Hendry and Collier counties.
Messina said Rodrigues’ bill is insufficient. If elected, he said, he’d call for a state moratorium on fracking while more stringent state regulations are explored.
However, Phil Douglas, the environmental director for the ECCL, said there is a more serious threat to the local environment than fracking.
Rock mining “is a much more serious (issue) than fracking in Lee County” regarding the water supply, Douglas said.
This is especially true of the area on Corkscrew Road east that has been the subject of lawsuits for years.
So far, “we’ve won every lawsuit” opposing mining, Douglas said.
However, mining companies are threatening to file lawsuits under the state’s Bert Harris Act, claiming the mining ban infringes on their property rights, Douglas said.
He said the ECCL is prepared to join with Lee County in fighting this action.
In other business, Roger Strelow, the council’s community planning director, said work is progressing planning the transition of Estero from county government to city government should voters approve an incorporation referendum in November.
That includes what services the village should contract with Lee County for, the hiring of a city manager and staff and securing flood insurance rates, Strelow said.
“We want to nail down the nuts and bolts of government so that the (village) council can pick right up and run with the ball next March,” after the members are elected, he said.
State representative, local officials focusing on water, land for 2015 legislative session
KeysNet.com - by Ryan McCarthy
July 12, 2014
An emphasis on a team effort was the dominant theme during a Thursday roundtable hosted by state Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) to discuss future Keys water-quality improvement projects.
Raschein called it all but a foregone conclusion that voters in November will approve the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1 to the state Constitution.
"It's going to happen and I happen to think that amendment describes my entire district. Is there a way to get a piece of that pie ?" Rashein asked the various local officials that gathered for the confab at the Marathon Government Center.
Amendment 1 would set aside one-third of documentary stamp revenue, raised through land sales, to state efforts to acquire and protect sensitive land and waterways. It's expected to raise as much as $10 billion during the next 20 years.
Raschein gathered the Keys officials to take input about how they should pursue Amendment 1 funding and what projects are most important to them. On hand were representatives from Monroe County, Marathon, Key West, Islamorada, Key Colony Beach, the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority and the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District.
The answers were varied, but included the following projects or concerns:
-- Potable water supply and water reuse.
-- Stormwater projects.
-- Sea-level rise and possible saltwater intrusion of sewer systems.
-- Canal restoration.
-- Paying down debt from existing wastewater and stormwater projects.
In addition, the group discussed the possibility of amending language to the existing so-called Mayfield grant that authorized $200 million in state funding for Keys sewer projects. So far, $100 million, including $50 million this year, has been doled out.
But Raschein has been clear she prefers not to go after another $50 million in the 2015 state legislative session. She's said it was a large ask and that she wants to address other priorities.
"We need to get the Mayfield language amended, allow it to be used for other things and that's what we need to talk about,” Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said.
Marathon Mayor Dick Ramsay, among others, urged the group to show the same "unity" it did in lobbying the state for the first $100 million in Mayfield funding.
"I'm not sure we're going to come to specifics today, but that's my input. We have got to work as a team," he said.
County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said it's important to hammer home to state officials the "value we bring to the entire state" in terms of tourism.
"Our functional population is twice what our permanent population is," she said. "Investing in water quality here is more important in some ways than anywhere else. We need to make that argument as forcefully as possible."
The group agreed to discuss how to approach funding at a future meeting, once all the stakeholders have a chance to evaluate the others' priorities.
Insider trading ties Gov. Scott to fracking
PeoplesWorld.org - by: Joshua Leclair
July 10 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- As Gov. Rick Scott's financial ties to big energy begin to surface, Florida's citizens and environmentalists start to turn up heat.
The governor's investment in the French energy company Schlumberger is in the six-figures. At the same time, it is Gov. Scott and his Cabinet that oversee the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and are tasked to regulate oil drilling in Florida. This is obviously a conflict of interest if the governor has investments in businesses that should be regulated by DEP and other state agencies.
According to Steve Bousquet of the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau, Scott put his assets in a blind trust in 2011 to "avoid conflicts" after the public began to question he and his wife's ties to the health care industry.
Scott last week said, "I put everything in a blind trust, so I don't know what's in the blind trust." All while the original blind trust from 2011 showed an investment of $135,000 in Schlumberger Ltd. - which happens to be the world's largest oil services company.
Bousquet continued saying that the Schlumberger Ltd. "stock has risen steadily over the past year and trades at $107 a share, but the blind trust prevents the public from knowing whether Scott still has a stake in the company - or whether it has grown."
The Dan A. Hughes Co., a Texas oil company who recently was fined and told to halt fracking operations in Southwest Florida, was aided by Schlumberger Ltd. In their application process with the Florida DEP according to Bousquet. Bousquet went on to say Schlumberger Ltd. has been surveying abandoned oil wells and conducting groundwater tests for Collier Resources who maintain the mineral rights of the drilling sites.
According to Stephen Harris of Schlumberger Ltd., "Schlumberger Water Services has been involved primarily in the permitting of the saltwater injection wells for Dan A. Hughes and has assisted with the oil well permit application."
In an interview with Bousquet, Joe Mule, president of Preserve Our Paradise (an organization opposed to drilling and fracking in South Florida) is one of many Floridians shocked by Gov. Scott's continuing financial ties to Schlumberger. Mule said, "This makes a huge difference to me," and that now he is "more suspicious of DEP's layoffs of dozens of employees charged with regulating polluters in 2012."
Alexis Meyer of the Sierra Club program that is charged with protecting panther habitats in Southwest Florida said that "It's very two-faced...and to have a governor who invests our money for Everglades restoration but also supports a company that wants to drill in the Everglades makes me very uncomfortable."
Recently, Carl-John X Veraja of the Nightly Citizen (a citizen watchdog blog) posted a list of Gov. Scott's insider ties that began in 2011. Here is just a small sample of 2014. Click here for entire history.
-January 14. 2014: FGCU employee, Rep. Ray Rodrigues, pushes his fracking bills at the Florida House of Representatives.
-March 11, 2014: DEP doesn't tell public about the fracking by Dan A. Hughes despite hours of discussion at the Golden Gate Estates Community Center.
-March 8 -30, 2014: As it turns out, Rep. Ray Rodrigues' campaign manager, Terry Miller, works for Strategic Advocacy. Strategic Advocacy is part of an organization that writes legislation to create loopholes for frackers. They change their webpage after I report this. The organization in question has ties with the Koch brothers.
-March 31, 2014: DEP doesn't tell public AGAIN about fracking at the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee. It votes to stop drilling...
-April 15, 2014: DEP decides against the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee, saying it's BEYOND OUR PURVIEW". And then, 3 DAYS LATER-
-April 18, 2014: DEP finally tells the public Dan A. Hughes fracked Florida. Dan A. Hughes finally signed consent order.
-April 4, 2014: I am asked for $725.00 for a public records request relating to these matters. The charge is for the material to be redacted by lawyers, so I'd be paying to not see what I ask for.
-April 22, 2014: Stonecrab Alliance and John Lundin get Collier County commissions to consider a petition against DEP and Dan A. Hughes.
-May 30, 2014: Jeff Littlejohn turns in his resignation letter. He intends to resign June 6, 2014. He writes to Herschel Vinyard about his "more consistent" regulatory process, and about rules.
-June 3-6, 2014: Jeff Littlejohn spends his last days trying to derail the Collier County Commissioners petition against the DEP.
-June 10, 2014: New Deputy Secretary Clifford Wilson III interrupts a Collier County Commission meeting with a threatening email, the Commissioners express outrage and proceed with the petition.
-June 13, 2014: Herschel Vinyard steps in to arrange closed meeting with Tom Henning.
-June 15, 2014: Rick Scott shown to have a financial stake in fracking Florida.
-June 17, 2014: Ethics complaint filed on Rick Scott after it is revealed he invested in Schlumberger, international fracking material supplier.
-June 18, 2014: Herschel Vinyard sends letter to Collier Resources and Dan A. Hughes asking them to answer public's questions, but making no indication of other conditions on the industry, or of specific promises of the manner of water testing that will be conducted.
Miami, the great world city, is drowning while the powers that be look away
The Guardian – by Robin McKie
July 11, 2014
Low-lying south Florida, at the front line of climate change in the US, will be swallowed as sea levels rise. Astonishingly, the population is growing, house prices are rising and building goes on. The problem is the city is run by climate change deniers
A drive through the sticky Florida heat into Alton Road in Miami Beach can be an unexpectedly awkward business. Most of the boulevard, which runs north through the heart of the resort's most opulent palm-fringed real estate, has been reduced to a single lane that is hemmed in by bollards, road-closed signs, diggers, trucks, workmen, stacks of giant concrete cylinders and mounds of grey, foul-smelling earth.
It is an unedifying experience but an illuminating one – for this once glamorous thoroughfare, a few blocks from Miami Beach's art deco waterfront and its white beaches, has taken on an unexpected role. It now lies on the front line of America's battle against climate change and the rise in sea levels that it has triggered.
"Climate change is no longer viewed as a future threat round here," says atmosphere expert Professor Ben Kirtman, of the University of Miami. "It is something that we are having to deal with today."
Every year, with the coming of high spring and autumn tides, the sea surges up the Florida coast and hits the west side of Miami Beach, which lies on a long, thin island that runs north and south across the water from the city of Miami. The problem is particularly severe in autumn when winds often reach hurricane levels. Tidal surges are turned into walls of seawater that batter Miami Beach's west coast and sweep into the resort's storm drains, reversing the flow of water that normally comes down from the streets above. Instead seawater floods up into the gutters of Alton Road, the first main thoroughfare on the western side of Miami Beach, and pours into the street. Then the water surges across the rest of the island.
The effect is calamitous. Shops and houses are inundated; city life is paralysed; cars are ruined by the corrosive seawater that immerses them. During one recent high spring tide, laundromat owner Eliseo Toussaint watched as slimy green saltwater bubbled up from the gutters. It rapidly filled the street and then blocked his front door. "This never used to happen," Toussaint told reporters. "I've owned this place eight years and now it's all the time."
Today, shop owners keep plastic bags and rubber bands handy to wrap around their feet when they have to get to their cars through rising waters, while householders have found that ground-floor spaces in garages are no longer safe to keep their cars. Only those on higher floors can hope to protect their cars from surging sea waters that corrode and rot the innards of their vehicles.
Hence the construction work at Alton Road, where $400m is now being spent in an attempt to halt these devastating floods – by improving Miami Beach's stricken system of drains and sewers. In total, around $1.5bn is to be invested in projects aimed at holding back the rising waters. Few scientists believe the works will have a long-term effect.
"There has been a rise of about 10 inches in sea levels since the 19th century – brought about by humanity's heating of the planet through its industrial practices – and that is now bringing chaos to Miami Beach by regularly flooding places like Alton Road," says Harold Wanless, a geology professor at the University of Miami. "And it is going to get worse. By the end of this century we could easily have a rise of six feet, possibly 10 feet. Nothing much will survive that. Most of the land here is less than 10 feet above sea level."
What makes Miami exceptionally vulnerable to climate change is its unique geology. The city – and its satellite towns and resorts – is built on a dome of porous limestone which is soaking up the rising seawater, slowly filling up the city's foundations and then bubbling up through drains and pipes. Sewage is being forced upwards and fresh water polluted. Miami's low topography only adds to these problems. There is little land out here that rises more than six feet above sea level. Many condos and apartment blocks open straight on the edge of the sea. Of the total of 4.2 million US citizens who live at an elevation of four feet or less, 2.4 million of them live in south Florida.
At Florida International University, geologist Peter Harlem has created a series of maps that chart what will happen as the sea continues to rise. These show that by the time oceans have risen by four feet – a fairly conservative forecast – most of Miami Beach, Key Biscayne, Virginia Key and all the area's other pieces of prime real estate, will be bathtubs. At six feet, Miami city's waterfront and the Florida Keys will have disappeared. The world's busiest cruise ship port, which handles four million passengers, will disappear beneath the waves. "This is the fact of life about the ocean: it is very, very powerful," says Harlem.
Miami and its surroundings are facing a calamity worthy of the Old Testament. It is an astonishing story. Despite its vast wealth, the city might soon be consumed by the waves, for even if all emissions of carbon dioxide were halted tomorrow – a very unlikely event given their consistent rise over the decades – there is probably enough of the gas in the atmosphere to continue to warm our planet, heat and expand our seas, and melt polar ice. In short, there seems there is nothing that can stop the waters washing over Miami completely.
It a devastating scenario. But what really surprises visitors and observers is the city's response, or to be more accurate, its almost total lack of reaction. The local population is steadily increasing; land prices continue to surge; and building is progressing at a generous pace. During my visit last month, signs of construction – new shopping malls, cranes towering over new condominiums and scaffolding enclosing freshly built apartment blocks – could be seen across the city, its backers apparently oblivious of scientists' warnings that the foundations of their buildings may be awash very soon.
Not that they are alone. Most of Florida's senior politicians – in particular, Senator Marco Rubio, former governor Jeb Bush and current governor Rick Scott, all Republican climate-change deniers – have refused to act or respond to warnings of people like Wanless or Harlem or to give media interviews to explain their stance, though Rubio, a Republican party star and a possible 2016 presidential contender, has made his views clear in speeches. "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy," he said recently. Miami is in denial in every sense, it would seem. Or as Wanless puts it: "People are simply sticking their heads in the sand. It is mind-boggling."
Not surprisingly, Rubio's insistence that his state is no danger from climate change has brought him into conflict with local people. Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami, has a particularly succinct view of the man and his stance. "Rubio is an idiot," says Stoddard. "He says he is not a scientist so he doesn't have a view about climate change and sea-level rise and so won't do anything about it. Yet Florida's other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson, is holding field hearings where scientists can tell people what the data means. Unfortunately, not enough people follow his example. And all the time, the waters are rising."
Philip Stoddard is particularly well-placed to judge what is happening to Miami. Tall, thin, with a dry sense of humour, he is a politician, having won two successive elections to be mayor of South Miami, and a scientist, a biology professor at Florida International University. The backyard of the home that he shares with his architect wife, Grey Reid, reflects his passion for the living world. While most other South Miami residences sport bright blue swimming pools and barbecues, Stoddard has created a small lake, fringed with palms and ferns, that would do justice to the swampy Everglades near his home. Bass, koi and mosquito fish swim here, while bright dragonflies and zebra lapwing butterflies flit overhead. It is a naturalists' haven but Stoddard is under no illusions about the risks facing his home. Although several miles inland, the house is certainly not immune to the changes that threaten to engulf south Florida.
"The thing about Miami is that when it goes, it will all be gone," says Stoddard. "I used to work at Cornell University and every morning, when I went to work, I climbed more elevation than exists in the entire state of Florida. Our living-room floor here in south Miami is at an elevation of 10 feet above sea level at present. There are significant parts of south Florida that are less than six feet above sea level and which are now under serious threat of inundation."
Nor will south Florida have to wait that long for the devastation to come. Long before the seas have risen a further three or four feet, there will be irreversible breakdowns in society, he says. "Another foot of sea-level rise will be enough to bring salt water into our fresh water supplies and our sewage system. Those services will be lost when that happens," says Stoddard.
"You won't be able to flush away your sewage and taps will no longer provide homes with fresh water. Then you will find you will no longer be able to get flood insurance for your home. Land and property values will plummet and people will start to leave. Places like South Miami will no longer be able to raise enough taxes to run our neighbourhoods. Where will we find the money to fund police to protect us or fire services to tackle house fires? Will there even be enough water pressure for their fire hoses? It takes us into all sorts of post-apocalyptic scenarios. And that is only with a one-foot sea-level rise. It makes one thing clear though: mayhem is coming."
And then there is the issue of Turkey Point nuclear plant, which lies 24 miles south of Miami. Its operators insist it can survive sea surges and hurricanes and point out that its reactor vessel has been built 20 feet above sea level. But critics who include Stoddard, Harlem and others argue that anciliary equipment – including emergency diesel generators that are crucial to keeping cooling waters circulating in the event of power failure – are not so well protected. In the event of sea rise and a major storm surge, a power supply disruption could cause a repeat of the Fukushima accident of 2011, they claim. In addition, inundation maps like those prepared by Harlem show that with a three-foot sea-level rise, Turkey Point will be cut off from the mainland and will become accessible only by boat or aircraft. And the higher the seas go, the deeper it will be submerged.
Turkey Point was built in the 1970s when sea level rises were not an issue, of course. But for scientists like Ben Kirtman, they are now a fact of life. The problem is that many planners and managers still do not take the threat into account when planning for the future, he argues. A classic example is provided by the state's water management. South Florida, because it is so low-lying, is criss-crossed with canals that take away water when there is heavy rainfall and let it pour into the sea.
"But if you have sea level rises of much more than a foot in the near future, when you raise the canal gates to let the rain water out, you will find sea water rushing in instead," Kirtman said. "The answer is to install massive pumps as they have done in New Orleans. Admittedly, these are expensive. They each cost millions of dollars. But we are going to need them and if we don't act now we are going to get caught out. The trouble is that no one is thinking about climate change or sea-level rises at a senior management level."
The problem stems from the top, Kirtman said, from the absolute insistence of influential climate change deniers that global warming is not happening. "When statesmen like Rubio say things like that, they make it very, very hard for anything to get done on a local level – for instance for Miami to raise the millions it needs to build new sewers and canals. If local people have been told by their leaders that global warming is not happening, they will simply assume you are wasting their money by building defences against it.
"But global warming is occurring. That is absolutely unequivocal. Since the 1950s, the climate system has warmed. That is an absolute fact. And we are now 95% sure that that warming is due to human activities. If I was 95% sure that my house was on fire, would I get out? Obviously I would. It is straightforward."
This point is backed by Harold Wanless. "Every day we continue to pump uncontrolled amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, we strengthen the monster that is going to consume us. We are heating up the atmosphere and then we are heating up the oceans so that they expand and rise. There doesn't look as if anything is going to stop that. People are starting to plan in Miami but really they just don't see where it is all going."
Thus one of the great cities of the world faces obliteration in the coming decades. "It is over for south Florida. It is as simple as that. Nor is it on its own," Wanless admits.
"The next two or three feet of sea-level rise that we get will do away with just about every barrier island we have across the planet. Then, when rises get to four-to-six feet, all the world's great river deltas will disappear and with them the great stretches of agricultural land that surrounds them. People still have their heads in the sand about this but it is coming. Miami is just the start. It is worth watching just for that reason alone. It is a major US city and it is going to let itself drown."
Other areas at risk
With eight power stations, 35 tube stations and all of Whitehall in the tidal Thames floodplain, the threat of floods has long loomed large, posing a risk to the economy, infrastructure and national heritage. With sea level rises and increased rainfall on the cards thanks to climate change, measures are being put in place to revamp and boost the ageing flood defences. Meanwhile, the south-east of England is sinking by around 1.5mm a year.
The Dutch are often looked to as the masters of flood defence engineering with their impressive array of dams, dikes and barriers. It's a skill they have had to acquire as almost half the population lives less than 3ft above sea level and many livelihoods depend on the country's strong flood defences. They have adopted a "live with water, rather than fight it" attitude in recent years, with innovations including "floating homes" being built in Amsterdam.
Bearing in mind that roughly half of New Orleans is below sea level, its future in terms of coastal flooding does not look too bright. Indeed, according to the World Bank it is the fourth-most vulnerable city to future sea level rise in economic costs, with predicted average annual losses of $1.8bn in 2050. It is predicted that rising waters and subsiding land could result in relative sea level rises of up to 4.6ft by 2100, one of the highest rates in the US.
The Maldives is generally thought of as an island paradise but is critically endangered by the rising ocean that both supports and surrounds it. Of its 1,192 islands, 80% are less than 3ft above sea level, with global warming putting the Maldives at risk of becoming the Atlantis of our time. So perhaps it is unsurprising that the Maldivian president is looking at the options of buying land should the country's 200 densely inhabited islands need to be evacuated.There's even a pot of money especially allocated for buying land overseas and moving the islands's residents to safer ground.
Bangladesh is a nation in which three majestic Himalayan rivers converge, before meandering their way to the sea via the Ganges delta: beautiful on a map, but not ideal in terms of river flooding, or tidal flooding for that matter. The country is basically a massive floodplain, with more than 20% of its land awash with water every year and around 70% experiencing severe flooding in extreme cases. As one of the world's least developed countries, it cannot afford the technology others use to mitigate the effects of flooding and has to turn to more imaginative means, such as creating houses built on stilts in coastal areas.
Texas oil company retreats from Everglades well
Sun Sentinel – by William E. Gibson
July 11, 2014
State officials reported on Friday that the Dan A. Hughes Co. of Texas has withdrawn its application for an exploratory oil well near the Golden Gate Estates at the western edge of the Everglades.
The company is still pumping oil at a production site about 10 miles away, known as the Collier-Hogan well, near Naples.
But the retreat from the Golden Gate site appears to be a partial victory for environmental groups and homeowners who opposed expansion of drilling close to neighborhoods and environmental refuges. Opponents fear the drilling will jeopardize wildlife and drinking water supplies.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which has been putting pressure on the company to disclose its plans to the press and public, said it received notification that the Hughes Co. was withdrawing its application for the Golden Gate well. DEP officials said the company has lost the public’s trust and had failed to appear at a Collier County Commission meeting on Tuesday meeting.
“There are still many existing demands we have of Dan A. Hughes in order for them to continue their operations at the Collier-Hogan site,” DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. said on Friday.
Both well sites have been controversial.
The Golden Gate site is next to a panther refuge, and the company was seeking permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to dig an injection well to store toxic wastewater.
The Collier-Hogan well drew protests when the company used acidic fracturing to blast open rock to extract oil, which critics say is akin to the controversial practice of fracking. DEP ordered a halt to the unapproved practice, and the Hughes Co. paid a $25,000 fine.
The company was taken aback by a harsh letter from DEP last week demanding answers and a series of actions by July 15 to reassure the public. Hughes spokesman David Blackmon called the agency’s statements “quite extraordinary given the constant and open dialogue the company has been engaged in with the DEP at multiple points of contact over the last several months.”
Related: Dan A. Hughes Co. dropping plans for Estates-area exploratory well Naples Daily News
Breaking: Triumph For Citizens in Florida As Hughes Oil Company ... De Smog Blog (blog)
Texas company ends controversial oil drilling in Florida; keeps ... Tampabay.com
Part 3: Renewed Push For Oil Sparks Concern In Florida; Laws ... WFSU
Change can be seen in old maps of Southwest Florida
News-Press.com – by Amy Bennett Williams
July 10, 2014
On the 1956 U.S. Geological Survey map, a marshy zone labeled THE EVERGLADES stretches from Buckingham south to Collier and east to Hendry County.
Today, that wet blue area is crisscrossed with roads and dotted with strip malls. Right under the E is the Crossroads Shopping Center, complete with Il Primo pizzeria, a Publix and a pack-and-ship UPS store.
Let your eyes wander around the 48-year-old map and you'll see all sorts of artifacts: old railroad grades, an all-but empty Cape Coral and towns named Harker and Bunker Hill in Collier County.
As many map geeks have recently, I've been savoring a new tool the USGS released this month, which lets you pick a place, then call up its historical maps and see how it's changed over the decades.
Though some cities' maps go back to the 1800s, Southwest Florida's, alas, begin in the 1950s. (In fact, I was so convinced there had to be a mistake, I called the federal agency to check, but Missouri-based spokesman Mark Newell talked me through the process and confirmed that's just what we've got.)
But even so, it's great fun to play with, and as so many of us are from other places originally, there's lots to explore.
Then this week, I got an email from Pine Island attorney and environmental advocate Phil Buchanan with another set of maps that stretch back further.
They're contained in a PowerPoint presentation produced by Lee County, and show how Lee County's population has increased since 1930.
You can click from image to image to watch it happen. With each passing decade, the red areas that signal population centers swell. Not surprisingly, much of the growth begins at the region's waterfronts and radiates from there.
It's also usually where people have built before — starting with the Indians who lived here before Europeans arrived.
"Many of the coastal mangrove areas now populated coincide with Calusa villages," Buchanan says, including Bokeelia, Pineland and St. James City on Pine Island, though the Calusa also settled on Sanibel, Marco Island and Fort Myers Beach. "In St. James, their mounds created our streets — they were leveled and hauled off in mule-drawn wagons."
After that, many of the region's cities once grew around military forts — Fort Myers, as the name implies, but also LaBelle and Cape Coral.
To Buchanan, the maps are impressive, but disturbing.
"You can see over the years that the environmental devastation's been enormous, especially on environmentally sensitive lands."
The final map in the presentation is not historic — it shows the county's possible future.
At first glance, it looks surprisingly like the east coast, with large areas of high- and medium-density neighborhoods covering much of the county.
But it's important to understand that the map is a planning tool mandated by the state — not a certain prediction of what will be, points out the county's Community Development Director Mary Gibbs.
"Growth in Lee County and all Florida coastal communities has certainly been significant since 1930. As a result, the state requires us to plan for an eventual population build-out of more than 1 million," she says.
I can't imagine Florida without these
Tampa Bay Times – by Ernest Hooper
July 10, 2014
Sometimes, I worry about Florida.
As a native, certain icons, standards and institutions frame my appreciation for living here. It's difficult to envision Florida without them, but sometimes I get a nagging feeling I'll wake up one day and the things that help define my love of the state will be gone.
I can't imagine a Florida without homegrown oranges and orange juice. From my earliest childhood days — when my mom mixed frozen concentrate and two cans of water in the blender — to now, when I spare no expense to buy the premium stuff in the bottle, I've started most days with a glass of orange juice squeezed from oranges grown just down the road.
However, an insidious plant disease known as citrus greening threatens one of the state's most iconic industries. The state and federal government are pouring money into research for a solution and I hope they find it. Can we still call ourselves Florida without Florida citrus?
I can't imagine a Florida without the flora and fauna, beaches and springs that make it a great place for people who love nature. Admittedly, I'm not Mr. Outdoorsman, but I'll fight to protect the state's environment. The Everglades, beach renourishment and our ailing springs system need greater legislative funding. As someone who grew up going to Wakulla Springs, I know the Sunshine State won't be as sunny if these precious resources continue to suffer.
I can't imagine a Florida without Florida A&M University. My late mother and father spent their lives teaching at the historically black school. While it soldiers on with a new president, longtime supporters always will share a fear that the state will someday try to merge the school with nearby Florida State University. Some may say it will never happen, but a history of tension between the universities and a Legislature that's asserting greater control over higher education does little to ease concerns.
I can't imagine a Florida without Publix. Sure, it may seem folly to link natural resources and education institutions with a grocery store chain — especially when you consider their relatively high prices for premium orange juice — but ask yourself: Is there another retail outlet more Florida than Publix ?
A friend of mine who is a military wife has found herself living in varied outposts over the years, including Canada. When she finally got a chance to come back to her native state last week, she made a beeline to Publix — even before heading to the beach. Anyone who moves away develops a greater appreciation for the chain, and those of us who live here make up excuses just to go in and enjoy the bright atmosphere and friendly customer service.
I need an eggplant.
From all accounts, Publix is doing just fine but ever since mighty Walmart got into the grocery business, I've been a little worried. It's almost inconceivable to imagine the chain ever being in trouble, but over the years, we've seen a lot of grocery store chains come and go. Anyone remember A&P ? Pantry Pride ?
Finally, I can't imagine a Florida without compassion. Upon meeting my son in Tallahassee, an aide to State House Speaker Will Weatherford said, "Your father never writes anything nice about my boss."
Let me be clear: Weatherford deserves kudos for at least one laudable piece of legislation. He set out this year to pass a law that would grant in-state tuition for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. While I greeted the effort with a degree of cynicism, he succeeded, moving Florida in the right direction.
Of course, an undercurrent of intolerance always lurks, but as we wrestle with issues like immigration, let's hope the better Florida — the compassionate Florida — continues to emerge.
That's all I'm saying.
Fracking the Everglades: Enviros claim State deception on water quality
July 9, 2014
Citizen activists opposed to oil drilling in the Everglades claim the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a "bogus" clean bill of health for Texas oil company Dan A. Hughes' acid fracking operation in Collier County.
Citing an analysis by their court-certified expert, biochemist Dr. Ron Bishop, the group Preserve Our Paradise says the DEP's claims are "arguably intended to obfuscate" the results of water quality tests at the Collier-Hogan well, not far from Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Orangetree suburb of Naples.
The Collier-Hogan well has been ground zero in Florida's fracking wars since late February, when Collier residents and environmentalists state- and nationwide learned that the DEP had sanctioned Hughes for unauthorized fracking there. The fracking and sanctions, including a $25,000 fine, dated to last December but were not disclosed through months of hearings this year on the Hughes Co.'s Florida activities.
The Collier County Commission, dissatisfied with DEP's handling of the matter and its assurances of public safety and environmental safeguards, has filed a legal challenge asking that the well's permit be pulled. At a Commission meeting yesterday, DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard tried to dissuade the commission, to no effect. The Hughes Co. failed to appear at the meeting, despite DEP's promise to "press" the company for "transparency."
DEP claims groundwater testing at the well site has revealed "no evidence of contamination." Here's how Preserve Our Paradise's expert broke that down:
The chemicals for which tests were done were indeed a cookie-cutter list, cheaper by the hundred, and arguably intended to obfuscate the purpose of the tests. This is not even a close call; the list includes benzoic acid, which is so sparingly soluble in water that it cannot physically dissolve at hazardous levels, a fair number of phthalates (plasticizers) which are not used by the petroleum industry, and a large number of halogenated organics which may be problematic for water treatment systems that use chlorine, but not for drillers anywhere...
...there were no tests for any biocides (bromine-based or aldehyde), corrosion inhibitors (acetophenone derivatives, propargyl alcohol or thioglycolic acid), multi-purpose solvent additives (especially 2-butoxyethanol, used ubiquitously in petroleum projects), or flocculants (especially ammonium chloride). There were also no tests for chemicals such as acrylonitrile, which are commonly used to coat sand particles in deep well projects.
Therefore, the simplest explanation is that the chemicals for which Hughes / FDEP conducted tests were carefully chosen to avoid any which are commonly used by the petroleum industry.
Also, as you pointed out, such shallow monitoring wells would capture only surface spills.
In a text message to New Times, Dr. Karen Dwyer, a key figure in citizen resistance to oil drilling in the Everglades, said this:
Dan A. Hughes was a no-show [at yesterday's Commission meeting] which means they should have their permit revoked since they refused to meet one of the 9 DEP "non-negotiable" stipulations. WHAT WE NEED IS A STATEWIDE BAN ON EXTREME EXTRACTION, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, FRACKING."
Related: Dropping Acid in the Everglades: Fracking War Drags On in Collier County
Judah reports on Tiger Bay luncheon
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer - to the Editor from Ray Judah
Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, Fort Myers
July 9, 2014
Water issues was the topic of conversation at the Tiger Bay Club business luncheon on June
Given the insufficient storage proposed under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program to alleviate the massive releases of excessive polluted water from Lake Okeechobee that is causing adverse impacts to the coastal estuaries on the west and east coast of south Florida, there was discussion on the restoration of a flow-way south to the Everglades.
Plan 6, which has long been proposed as the solution to establish a portion of the historic flow-way from Lake Okeechobee south to Everglades National Park, would provide the needed water storage, treatment and conveyance of water to the south, thereby avoiding harm to the west and east coast estuaries.
Unfortunately, a high ranking official from the South Florida Water Management District
made an irresponsible and unsubstantiated statement that Plan 6 would cost $20
billion and, therefore, not be financially feasible.
The Sugar Industry has staunchly opposed any restoration of a semblance of a flow-way in the approximately 700,000 acre Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee, and the SFWMD and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have yet to conduct a peer-reviewed study evaluating the merits of a flow-way through the EAA.
In 2008, George Cavros prepared an analysis of a storage flow-way plan to restore and protect the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades in a comprehensive and detailed report for The Rivers Coalition that demonstrated a flow-way south of the lake to be the most practical and cost effective solution to alleviating the massive releases of water from Lake Okeechobee that is causing adverse harm to coastal estuaries.
The proposed flow-way in the EAA south of Lake Okeechobee requires state acquisition of approximately 20,000 acres of U.S. Sugar lands and approximately 30,000 acres of Florida Crystals lands to provide sufficient storage, treatment and conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee south to the Everglades. The combined acreage of 50,000 acres is only 7 percent of agricultural lands in the EAA and 15 percent of sugarcane fields, thereby assuring a sustainable agricultural industry and restoration of Lake Okeechobee and Everglades and protection of coastal estuaries.
Based on land value of $7,400 per acre when the state was pursuing purchase of U.S. Sugar land holdings a few years ago, an inflated adjustment to $8,000 per acre would place the current purchase of the needed 50,000 acres at approximately $400-$500 million. Even land conversion cost for a meandering flow-way, including a combination of shallow-water reservoirs and wetlands with other infrastructure such as pumps and containment berms along with land coast, would be comparable to the approximately $1 billion for the C-43 reservoir, $2.6 billion for the Central Everglades Planning Project
and $3 billion for Aquifer Storage Recovery Wells.
Plan 6 is the fix and a flow-way in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of a Lake Okeechobee is the only meaningful solution to "get the water right " and restore and protect our coastal estuaries.
‘Plan 6’ only viable solution to water discharges
Lehigh Acres Citizen - by Ray Judah, Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition.
July 9, 2014
Water issues was the topic of conversation at the Tiger Bay Club business luncheon on June 27 in downtown Fort Myers. Given the insufficient storage proposed under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program to alleviate the massive releases of excessive polluted water from Lake Okeechobee that is causing adverse impacts to the coastal estuaries on the west and east coast of south Florida, there was discussion on the restoration of a flow way south to the Everglades.
Plan 6, which has long been proposed as the solution to establish a portion of the historic flow way from Lake Okeechobee south to Everglades National Park, would provide the needed water storage, treatment and conveyance of water to the south, thereby avoiding harm to the west and east coast estuaries.
Unfortunately, a high-ranking official from the South Florida Water Management District made an irresponsible and unsubstantiated statement that Plan 6 would cost $20 billion dollars and therefore, not be financially feasible.
The sugar industry has staunchly opposed any restoration of a semblance of a flow way in the approximately 700,000 acre Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee and the SFWMD and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have yet to conduct a peer reviewed study evaluating the merits of a flow way through the EAA. In 2008, George Cavros prepared an analysis of a storage flow-way plan to restore and protect the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades in a comprehensive and detailed report for The Rivers Coalition that demonstrated a flow-way south of the lake to be the most practical and cost effective solution to alleviating the massive releases of water from Lake Okeechobee that is causing adverse harm to coastal estuaries.
The proposed flow-way in the EAA south of Lake Okeechobee requires state acquisition of approximately 20,000 acres of U.S. Sugar lands and approximately 30,000 acres of Florida Crystals lands to provide sufficient storage, treatment and conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee south to the Everglades. The combined acreage of 50,000 acres is only 7 percent of agricultural lands in the EAA and 15 percent of sugar cane fields thereby assuring a sustainable agricultural industry and restoration of Lake Okeechobee and Everglades and protection of coastal estuaries.
Based on land value of $7,400 per acre when the State was pursuing purchase of U.S. Sugar land holdings a few years ago, an inflated adjustment to $8,000 per acre would place the current purchase of the needed 50,000 acres at approximately $400 to 500 million. Even land conversion cost for a meandering flow way including a combination of shallow water reservoirs and wetlands with other infrastructure such as pumps and containment berms along with land coast would be comparable to the approximately $1 billion for the C-43 reservoir, $2.6 billion for the Central Everglades Planning Project and $3 billion for Aquifer Storage Recovery Wells.
Plan 6 is the fix and a flow way in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of a Lake Okeechobee is the only meaningful solution to "get the water right" and restore and protect our coastal estuaries.
Florida gets $2 million to conserve lands
Sun Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
July 8, 2014
Florida received $2 million of federal land conservation money on Tuesday to help protect wilderness areas, create parks and shelter public spaces from urban development while preserving the natural environment.
The announcement came in advance of a gathering of ranchers, sportsmen and federal officials in Fort Pierce on Wednesday to talk about the next steps for creation of an Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area.
Ranchers in Central Florida have agreed to allow conservation measures on their lands to keep them rural and available for grazing. The plan is to avoid development that leads to urban runoff that could add pollution to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will lead the discussion with members of the Northern Everglades Alliance and the Florida Sportsmen's National Land Trust.
Federal officials are pointing to the Everglades Headwaters initiative as a leading example of land conservation.
They say it will conserve habitat for 88 threatened or endangered species, including the Florida panther, black bear, whooping crane, snail kite and wood stork. And they say it will help filter pollutants from the Everglades watershed while protecting the water supply for millions of residents.
It is part of a broader plan to take pressure off of Lake Okeechobee and prevent polluted discharges during rainy seasons that foul estuaries leading to the east and west coasts. Those discharges have impaired boating and other recreation in nearby waterways, forced communities to restrict swimming and depressed property values in parts of northern Palm Beach County and along the Treasure Coast.
But the headwaters project is just one form of conservation. Florida Park Service officials will decide how to distribute this year's $2 million allotment, which comes from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The fund, generated from offshore oil-drilling revenue, has provided $134 million to Florida since 1965, and every county has benefited. The fund has been used in past years to help pay for parks, wilderness areas, access for hunting and fishing, veterans memorials, boat marinas and picnic areas.
"These local projects – parks, ball fields, open spaces – play an important role in improving the health and vitality of urban areas, and protecting natural areas for future generations of Americans to enjoy," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said on Tuesday.
Florida's share is part of $43 million that will be distributed to the states.
Interior officials are using a national tour, including the Florida visit, to make a pitch for extending the program, which is set to expire unless Congress acts. They say it generates $4 of economic activity for every $1 spent.
Murphy pushes plan to use Ten Mile Creek as reservoir for lake runoff
Palm Beach Post - by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
July 8, 2014
Efforts to revive and rebuild a botched 550-acre reservoir that could relieve harmful dumps of polluted runoff into the St. Lucie Estuary got a bump on Monday from Rep. Patrick Murphy.
Murphy, D-Palm Beach Gardens, sent a letter to Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army Corps of Engineers, and to Blake Guillory, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, urging the corps to hand-over the project to the district.
“Recent heavy rainfall resulting in local run-off into the St. Lucie waterways has emphasized the need to pursue all possible long and short-term solutions,” Murphy wrote. “Water storage in the Ten Mile Creek structure is an important tool that can soon be utilized with cooperation between the corps and SFWMD.”
The project was a partnership between the corps and district. The corps finished building the reservoir in 2006 but the shallow-water reservoir was declared too unstable to store water. Since then, it has become a weed-choked hole in the ground as the corps pursues legal action against the the engineering firm hired by the corps to design the reservoir.
Guillory was the project manager for the engineering firm that oversaw design and building of the Ten Mile Creek reservoir. Guillory has said he did not become manager until late in the project and that it had a long history of problems. In April, Guillory asked the corps to end the partnership with the district and allow the district to fix the reservoir alone.
In exchange for fixing the reservoir, the district wants the corps to accept a settlement in a long-standing dispute over sharing the costs of other projects, such as the restoration of the Kissimmee River. Guillory estimated the district can fix the reservoirs for less than $1 million. In a letter dated June 16, the corps indicated that it is “prepared to entertain a formal request from the SFWMD concerning the Ten Mile Creek Project.”
Murphy has been pushing the corps and district to reach an agreement to finish the reservoir since last summer’s heavy rains dumped polluted water into the estuary, causing extensive damage to plants and wildlife. In protests and public hearings last year about the estuary’s problems, critics pointed to the abandoned reservoir as a project that could have lessened the damage, and they urged officials to find a way to fix it.
We need more than candidate rhetoric about the environment
Jacksonville.com – by Ron Littlepage
July 8, 2014
He’s tanned, rested and ready.
That whimsical campaign slogan became a staple at political conventions on T-shirts and buttons featuring a photo of a smiling Richard Nixon long after he resigned the presidency in disgrace.
Charlie Crist didn’t resign his governorship, although some of his former Republican friends insist he left office in disgrace.
But he’s tanned and he’s rested, and this week Crist launched his first television ad to let Florida know he’s ready to be the state’s next governor, this time as a Democrat.
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but “sunshine” is a major theme.
Gov. Rick Scott, of course, has been looking out at you from television sets for months now, already having dropped $12 million on campaign ads.
Folks, it’s only going to get worse between now and November.
You will be seeing more of Scott and Crist than John Morgan and the Farah and Farah brothers.
There will be gobs of talking points used to answer every question no matter how unrelated.
There will be meaningless charges and countercharges.
There will be snarky one-liners that operatives hone and feed their candidate.
What there won’t be is a lot of meat.
Voters must demand more and ask that famous political question from years ago, “Where’s the beef?”
That’s especially true when it comes to Florida’s environment, which in many ways is at a tipping point.
The state’s water management districts, under the thumb of Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection, are busily setting minimum flows and levels for the state’s rivers and springs.
It’s critical that these are done correctly, or the health of our waterways will continue to suffer.
It would be unacceptable if the MFLs amount to little more than weak standards that allow big water users to continue to contribute to the degradation of the water resources that make Florida what it is.
At the same time, the water management districts are looking at developing alternate water supplies to meet the demands of growth.
That has a direct impact on Jacksonville because one of those alternate sources being eyed for millions of gallons a day is the St. Johns River.
Everyone agrees that a better answer is conservation, but the water management districts, which have been severely weakened under Scott as have growth management laws, have little power to enforce conservation efforts.
That must change.
In the weeks ahead, both Scott and Crist will undoubtedly tout more growth and more jobs, but the next governor better be ready to begin dealing with another environmental issue that will determine Florida’s future.
It’s a potential catastrophe that is already impacting South Florida and will eventually arrive in Northeast Florida — sea level rise.
The Miami-Dade Sea Level Rise Task Force wrapped up a year’s worth of work earlier this month.
What the task force concluded as to the impact of sea level rise on that region alone was sobering.
According to the task force’s report:
“Sea level rise is an inevitable consequence of the warming of the oceans and the accelerated melting of the planet’s ice sheets — regardless of cause.
“It is a measurable, trackable and relentless reality.
“Without innovative adaptive capital planning, it will threaten trillions of dollars of the region’s built environment, our future water supply, our unique natural resources, our agricultural soils and our basic economy.”
Catchy campaign slogans aren’t going to be enough to begin dealing with that reality.
The environment isn’t the only critical issue facing Florida.
That list is long: public education, violent crime, infrastructure improvements, a competitive work force, poverty, health care.
A question for Crist and Scott:
Where’s the beef ?
'Goldilocks' of the Everglades making a slow comeback
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid,
July 7, 2014
Life is getting better for the Goldilocks of the Everglades.
After years of droughts pushing water levels too low or floods pushing water levels too high, more recent conditions have been just right for the ever-sensitive bird of prey known as the Everglades snail kite.
As a result, the number of the endangered birds is growing, signaling hope for both the health of the struggling species and for the famed River of Grass that it calls home.
There were just 800 Everglades snail kites in 2008, but their numbers had grown to about 1,200 birds in 2013 and are so far holding steady this year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"They are a very good indication for the health of the Everglades," Jane Graham, Audubon Florida's Everglades policy associate, said about the snail kite. "We want to see them doing well."
The future of the Everglades snail kite has been imperiled by decades of draining to make way for South Florida farming and development, which has shrunk the Everglades to about half of its size.
The hope is that the endangered bird will be one of the beneficiaries of ongoing Everglades restoration efforts aimed at re-creating water flows that once naturally sent more water south, efforts that are moving more slowly than planned.
"For this species, one of the biggest threats is habitat loss and significant changes in water level," said Laura Barrett, imperiled species conservation coordinator for the wildlife conservation commission. "It is definitely tied to the ecosystem functioning properly."
Everglades snail kites are typically about 14 to 19 inches tall, with wingspans that can stretch to nearly four feet. They feed over areas with little vegetation and swoop down to snatch snails with their talons.
The bird of prey is almost too finicky for its own good. With its skinny, curved bill, it feeds primarily on the apple snail. The problem is that the snails lay their eggs just above the water line. That means droughts and floods as well as manmade manipulations of water flows can put the next generation of snail kite food at risk.
Now, a new snail invading the Everglades has offered some dining relief for the snail kite.
While exotic species that aren't native to Florida are usually seen as a threat to the ecosystem, this larger, heartier "island apple snail" has provided a more steady food source.
Native apple snails are about the size of a golf ball and produce up to 50 eggs at a time during the spring.
The exotic snails, originally from Argentina and Brazil and imported for South Florida aquariums, can grow to the size of a baseball and produce up to 500 eggs year-round.
Wildlife officials say the new snails could end up being too much of a strain on vegetation or have other harmful environmental consequences. But so far, they are at least part of the reason that snail kites are doing better.
"It has been stable the last two years and increased over previous years," Barrett said about the snail kite population. "We have seen a slight uptick."
At the peak of the Everglades snail kite nesting season, about late May, more nests had been identified from the Kissimmee River to the southern Everglades, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
The birds typically nest in short shrubs or on the ground and lay 3-4 eggs. That nest count was a little less than last year, but still in line with the holding-steady estimates of the snail kite population in recent years.
Fewer snail kite nests were found along the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee this year compared to last year, partly due to chillier temperatures at the start of the nesting season. Experts found more nests south of the lake, in the Everglades water conservation areas that stretch along western Palm Beach and Broward counties as well as Everglades National Park.
That could signal that snail kites are making more of a return to the southern and central Everglades area where they once flourished, officials said.
"The good news is they are moving out to other parts of the system" as their numbers increase, said Terrie Bates, the South Florida Water Management District's director of water resources.
Despite encouraging signs of snail kite resiliency in recent years, significant obstacles remain for the bird that Audubon calls an Everglades icon.
The up-and-down water levels that are a consequence of South Florida's vast flood-control system remain a threat and Everglades restoration is moving slower than once expected.
While the yo-yoing snail kite population has held steady in recent years, it is still less than half of the 3,600 snail kites that were found in 1999.'Goldilocks' of the Everglades making a slow comeback
Summer Symposium 2014
Saturday, July 26 -
Sunday, July 27.
Miccosukee Resort &
FIU Modesto A. Maidique Campus.
Love the Everglades at FIU
BrowardPalmBeach.com - by Chuck Strouse
July 7, 2014
The environmental keystone of the South Florida ecosystem, the Everglades, remains the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, and a landscape of almost mystical power. "Grassy Waters," the Seminole first called it; "River of Grass," the Anglos later said.
See also: Dropping Acid in the Everglades: Fracking War Drags On in Collier County
Now under attack on many fronts -- and greatly shrunk from its original expanse -- Everglades preservation rests in the hands of environmentally aware citizens. Late this month, if the planners of Love the Everglades succeed, a broad network of activists, artists and academics will gather to celebrate the great landmark and foster unified action on its behalf.
The brainchild of Houston Cypress, a spiritually oriented, multi-media threat, and Jean Sarmiento, an artist and filmmaker, LTE's Summer Symposium 2014 will include a day of presentations, workshops and airboat tours at the Miccosukee Resort & Convention Center and a day of planning future action, at Florida International University's Modest A. Maidique Campus.
"There's so much fragmentation among Everglades advocacy groups." Cypress told New Times. "We're trying to bring people together under a common umbrella. Also understanding that everyone has their own priorities. There's places where we'll disagree but also places where we'll find common ground. We're all about cultivating community concern with Everglades matters."
While the Miccosukee Tribe is hosting day one of the gathering, and have a strong interest in Everglades preservation, the Symposium is not officially a Tribe effort. "We listen to what they say and we put that forward," Cypress said. "But they don't have anything to do with our decision making or planning. We're just respectful of what they say."
LTE's outreach is broad enough to include the Artopia Art Center, the Christian Cultural Development Fund, the Medicine Signs Spiritual Center, Sierra Club of Broward, the South Florida Audubon Society, the Everglades Law Center and the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival -- though Cypress doesn't promise everyone of those groups will participate in the Symposium.
He does promise the gathering will be fun, as in the airboat excursions, and enlightening. "The Everglades is a place of healing," he said. "There's fun to be had out here and healing to be had. There's awakening to be had. We want to share that vision."
Love the Everglades: Summer Symposium 2014, Saturday, July 26 - Sunday, July 27
Miccosukee Resort & Convention Center; FIU Modesto A. Maidique Campus
FREE - Details here
Endangered Everglades snail kite rebounding
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
July 6, 2014
Life is getting better for the Goldilocks of the Everglades.
After years of droughts pushing water levels too low or floods pushing water levels too high, more recent conditions have been just right for the ever-sensitive Everglades snail kite.
As a result, the number of the endangered birds is growing, signaling hope for both the health of the struggling species and for the famed River of Grass that it calls home.
There were just 800 Everglades snail kites in 2008, but their numbers had grown to about 1,200 birds in 2013 and are so far holding steady this year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
"They are a very good indication for the health of the Everglades," Jane Graham, Audubon Florida's Everglades policy associate, said about the snail kite. "They are like the Goldilocks bird. … We want to see them doing well."
The future of the Everglades snail kite has been imperiled by decades of draining to make way for South Florida farming and development, which has shrunk the Everglades to about half of its size.
The hope is that the endangered bird will be one of the beneficiaries of ongoing Everglades restoration efforts aimed at recreating water flows that once naturally sent more water south.
"For this species, one of the biggest threats is habitat loss and significant changes in water level," said Laura Barrett, imperiled species conservation coordinator for the wildlife conservation commission. "It is definitely tied to the ecosystem functioning properly."
The Everglades snail kite is almost too finicky for its own good.
The medium-sized bird of prey with its skinny, curved bill feeds primarily on the apple snail.
The problem is that apple snails lay their eggs just above the water line. That means droughts and floods as well as manmade manipulations of water flows can put the next generation of snail kite food at risk.
Now, a new snail invading the Everglades has offered some dining relief for the snail kite.
While "exotic" species that aren't native to Florida are usually seen as a threat to the ecosystem, this larger, heartier "island apple snail" has been able to provide a more steady food source.
Native apple snails are about the size of a golf ball and produce up to 50 eggs at a time during the spring.
The exotic snails, originally from Argentina and Brazil and imported for South Florida aquariums, can grow to the size of a baseball and produce up to 500 eggs year-round.
Wildlife officials say the new snails could end up being too much of a strain on vegetation or have other harmful environmental consequences. But so far, they are at least part of the reason that snail kites are doing better.
"It has been stable the last two years and increased over previous years," Barrett said about the snail kite population. "We have seen a slight uptick."
As of late May, the peak of the Everglades snail kite nesting season, about 311 nests had been identified from the Kissimmee River to the southern Everglades, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
That nest count was a little less than last year, but still in line with the holding-steady estimates of the snail kite population in recent years.
Fewer snail kite nests were found along the Kissimmee River and Lake Okeechobee this year compared to last year, but there were more nests in Everglades National Park, the Everglades water conservation areas that stretch along Broward and Palm Beach counties and the nearby stormwater treatment areas.
That could signal that snail kites are making more of a return to the central Everglades area where they once flourished, officials said.
"The good news is they are moving out to other parts of the system," said Terrie Bates, the South Florida Water Management District's director of water resources. "That's a good thing to have them back in the conservation areas of the Everglades."
Despite encouraging signs of snail kite resiliency in recent years, significant obstacles remain for the bird that Audubon calls an Everglades icon.
The up-and-down water levels that are a consequence of South Florida's vast flood control system remain a threat to the future of the Everglades snail kite.
Everglades restoration is moving slower than once expected.
And while the yo-yoing snail kite population has held steady in recent years, it is still less than half of the 3,600 snail kites that were found in 1999.
"We want (more of) them to be nesting," Graham said. "It means the Everglades are doing better."
It's such a threat to native fish populations that organizations and government agencies have held lionfish derbies in several Florida counties as well as the Bahamas, Mexico and the Bay Islands of Honduras. The goal of these derbies is to kill as many lionfish as possible.
Freshwater exotics altering ecosystem
News-Press – by Chad Gillis and Kevin Lollar
July 6, 2014
Exotic freshwater fish of Lee and Collier counties.
Nonnative freshwater fish altering ecosystem in Southwest Florida.
David Ceilley and his son Connor weren't surprised last week when they pulled two clear-plastic fish traps from Owl Creek in East Lee County.
Total catch: 21 African jewelfish (also known as jewel cichlids and African cichlids), four dollar sunfish and one sailfin molly.
Although not surprising, the catch was disturbing because African jewelfish are an exotic (nonnative). Dollar sunfish and sailfin mollies are natives; in other words, the exotic species outnumbered the natives 4.2 to 1, at least in these two traps.
The African jewelfish is one of 23 exotic (nonnative) freshwater fish species that have become established in Florida; it's also one of nine non-native freshwater species commonly found in Lee and Collier counties.
"African cichlids are the worst," said David Ceilley, a senior ecologist for Johnson Engineering. "They're having a terribly negative impact. The biomass of jewel cichlids is massive. They can dominate a water body. They're prevalent in the Peace River and Caloosahatchee River and areas in between."
For the past few years, an exotic saltwater fish species, the lionfish, has been in the news because it reproduces rapidly and eats huge numbers of juvenile native fish, including snappers and groupers.
READ: Wanted dead and filleted: Lionfish
An invasive African jewelfish, front, and a native dollar sunfish, are found in a trap together by David and Connor Ceilley. The jewelfish are aggressive and bite at the tails of the native sunfish. (Photo: Jack Hardman/The News-Press)
But how harmful are Florida's freshwater exotic fish species?
"We don't have many good scientific studies on how non-native freshwater fishes are affecting native habitat and native species," said Pam Schofield, an exotic-fish expert for the U.S. Geological Service. "We have observational data that show when a non-native fish becomes abundant in an area, we see changes."
Blue tilapia, for example, arrived in Florida in 1961 when 3,000 were stocked in a series of Hillsborough County phosphate pits for aquatic plant control experiments and have been documented in 35 counties.
They're so abundant, in fact, that a commercial fishery has grown up around them: In 2004 and 2005, the only years for which data are available, commercial fishermen in Florida harvested 5.8 million and 6 million pounds of blue tilapia with a dockside value of $1.79 million and $1.84 million.
"When blue tilapia become abundant, native fishes decrease, or vegetation decreases," Schofield said. "But there's no smoking gun, no scientific studies that show they are the causative agent."
How exotics get here
Aside from the common carp, which was introduced from Europe into the Hudson River in 1831 and reached Florida in 1889, the first freshwater exotic fish documented in Florida was the Rio Grande cichlid, first reported in the Tampa area in the 1940s and Lee County in 2010 (it hasn't been reported in Collier County).
Many freshwater exotics got into Florida waters when they were released from aquariums or escaped from fish farms.
Pike killifish became established in the state after several specimens raised for medical research at the University of Miami's Department of Medicine were released into a local canal in 1957.
This species, which has been documented in Collier County but not Lee County, is thought to compete for food with juvenile snook and has been reported to reduce populations of mosquitofish, which help control area mosquitoes by eating mosquito larvae.
A bad actor
African jewelfish were first documented in Hialeah in the 1960s, probably the result of aquarium releases; the species was first reported in Collier County in 2002 and Lee County in 2003.
From October 2006 to February 2011, Ceilley was principle investigator for a study of freshwater fish communities in man-made and natural waterways across Babcock Ranch in Charlotte and Lee counties.
Ceilley's team collected 9,059 fish from 26 species and found that the two dominant species were native mosquitofish and African jewelfish; a single 12-inch-by-six-inch-by-6-inch trap would sometimes catch 150 African jewelfish.
The study showed that African jewelfish not only ate native fish, but they also bit off the tails of natives, causing fungal infections that led to death.
One positive discovery from the study is that African jewelfish are very cold-sensitive and suffered mass die-offs during major cold events in 2009 and 2010.
Unfortunately, many survived in the slightly warmer water of canals, and the population quickly recovered.
"They're a bad actor," Ceilley said. "They're the lionfish of the freshwater ecosystem. They make good aquarium fish. That's where they belong. The only thing that knocks them back is cold, but then they come back."
The Mayan cichlid question
Jeff Schmid, environmental research manager at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, has been studying the gut contents of Mayan cichlids from the tidal creeks of Estero Bay — this species was first documented in Everglades National Park in 1982, another probable aquarium release; Mayan cichlids appeared in Lee County in 1998 and in Collier County in 1999.
Now they can be found in neighborhood retention ponds and tributaries, from the ditches along Tamiami Trail to protected waterways like the Estero River.
"Our study is showing that in this estuary system, they're not eating fish; they're eating invertebrates, mussels, snails, terrestrial and aquatic insects, and a lot of organic matter, stuff they probably chew off mangrove roots," Schmid said. "They might not have any direct effects on native fish communities, but they might have indirect effects."
Because Mayan cichlids feed heavily on mussels, they might be competing with native mussel-eaters, but Schmid doesn't know of any natives that rely on mussels.
"If there aren't estuary fish feeding on mussels, it appears that Mayan cichlids have found an unoccupied niche," Schmid said. "That's probably what's allowing them to persevere: They've tapped into a food source not used by other fish."
Fishing for exotics
Exotic species are rarely good for the environment, but some non-native freshwater fish species have become popular angling targets.
Oscars, for example, rank second to largemouth bass in popularity among South Florida freshwater fishermen. This species and Mayan cichlids, are very aggressive, tough fighters and are highly prized for their white, flaky fillets.
Although Oscars and Mayan cichlids are not good for the ecosystem, they are good for a fish fry. And unlike native fish, some of whose populations are struggling in Florida, there is no ecological reason for not taking as many as possible; FWC has no daily bag limit on exotic fish.
Here to stay
Exotic freshwater fish species have been swimming in Florida's waterways for more than 100 years.
While none of the state's established 23 non-native species has become evil-incarnate like the lionfish, some are causing problems for local fish populations.
At the same time, others seem to be fitting in with the natives.
"We sure wish none of them was here," said Kelly Gestring, director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Non-Native Fishes Laboratory. "Now it's up to us to try to develop ways to cope with these guys. There's no way we can get rid of them, so it's important to stress prevention: Don't release them into the environment. Once they're out there, there's not a lot we can do."
Grass-fed cattle Florida's latest environmental worry
Ocala.com - by Bruce Ritchie, Special to the Star-Banner
July 6, 2014
Grass-fed beef is a health-food trend that’s been spreading since at least 2010, and its advocates say it also benefits the environment.
The trend also is creating huge changes in the cattle industry in Florida, but not necessarily in ways that some environmentalists would like.
In North Florida, billionaire Frank Stronach has invested an estimated $200 million since 2010 to buy 86,356 acres in Marion, Levy, Taylor and Putnam counties, according to a 2013 article in Beef Magazine.
Stronach also plans to spend $60 million to clear pine forests and convert them into pastures. He plans on having cows on 50,000 to 60,000 acres, the magazine article said.
The American Grassfed Association says pasture-based farming restores natural ecosystems and wildlife habitat, reduces reliance on petrochemicals, improves soil and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
But some people disagree, particularly those who say eating little or no meat would do more to benefit the planet.
In 2011, Stronach’s 30,000-acre Adena Springs Ranch in Marion County applied to the St. Johns River Water Management District for a permit to use up to 13.2 million gallons of water daily.
That appalled environmentalists, and the controversy contributed to springs legislation passing the Florida Senate this year. The bill was not taken up in the House.
Adena Springs, now called Sleepy Creek Lands, has reduced its pumping request to 2.4 million gallons per day, according to the district.
Earlier this month, Sierra Club Florida and the St. Johns Riverkeeper filed a legal challenge, claiming the district hasn’t done enough to ensure springs are protected from overpumping and waterways are protected from agricultural pollution.
The Sleepy Creek Lands website says a retention pond will capture stormwater, and there will be a state-of-the-art nutrient management plan.
“We plan to protect natural resources while creating a one-of-a-kind Marion County grass-fed beef product,” a Sleepy Creek Lands telephone greeting said. There was no response to messages requesting comment.
But the dispute represents more than a fight between agriculture and environmentalists. It represents a big-time shift in how the cattle industry in Florida has operated.
Florida’s cattle industry is one of the 15 largest in the United States, according to the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. Most of Florida’s cattle farms raise calves until they are old enough to be shipped to the Midwest, where they are fattened on grain feed in their final months before being slaughtered.
The trend toward Florida beef started when grain prices soared, fueled by drought in western states. And the health and environmental benefits of grass-fed beef meant green consumers were willing to pay more.
Now, the Seminole Tribe of Florida also is working to create its own brand of Florida beef, said Sam Ard of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.
“Simple economics are driving the equation,” Ard said.
But environmentalists say clear-cutting forests in Marion County, pumping water to irrigate pastures and spreading cow manure does more environmental harm than good.
“I get it,” Lisa Rinnaman of the St. Johns Riverkeeper said of the touted environmental benefits of grass-fed beef.
“I’m not opposed to grass-fed beef. I am opposed to further polluting our waterways.”
Invasive lizards threaten Florida's turtles, alligators
Reuters - by Zachary Fagenson
July 6, 2014
MIAMI (Reuters) - An invasive lizard first spotted in southern and central Florida about a decade ago has become the latest concern for wildlife officials after the four-foot-long, black-and-white tegu was caught on video stealing alligator and turtle eggs from their nests.
Scientists from the University of Florida during the spring and summer of 2013 planted several cameras in the Everglades around nests containing dozens of eggs.
“We captured images of tegus removing (up to) two eggs per day until an examination of the nest on Aug. 19 revealed no remaining eggs,” University of Florida professor Frank Mazzotti wrote of one alligator nest in a forthcoming study, conducted with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, to be published in journal Biological Invasions this summer.
Mazzotti said the species, found naturally in Argentina and parts of South America, is thought to have first arrived in the U.S. via pet traders sometime in the early 2000s. Since then its population has boomed thanks to an ability to withstand cold and large clutch sizes containing up to 30 eggs.
“Any species that is a predator and eats high up the food chain and is introduced into a novel environment has potential for causing serious ecological damage,” said Mazzotti, a member of the UF's team of wildlife researchers known as the "Croc Docs."
Florida, and particularly the Everglades, is home to dozens of invasive species that have escaped into the wild or been released by pet owners after growing too large. Most famously wildlife officials have struggled to contain Burmese pythons, and occasionally encountered some nearly 20-feet (6-meters) long, even preying on adult alligators.
Mazzotti said tegus are split into two groups, one in the Everglades and another near Tampa on the state’s west coast. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimated the size of the South Florida group in the low thousands, and Mazzotti said more than 400 have been trapped in the last year.
“We can’t contain them,” he said.
Water quality mandate: Lee County's $60 million question
News-Press.com – by Heather Wysocki
July 6, 2014
Powell Creek Preserve sits between two mobile home parks and a storage facility.
Its entrance is on a potholed North Fort Myers Road where trucks roll by and cars honk in the distance, but inside the preserve's gates birds swoop past trees and dragonflies land on water lilies at the small preserve's two-year-old man-made filtration marsh.
Compared to some of its larger Conservation 20/20 cousins, Powell Creek is humble.
But it and properties like it are Lee County's hope for tackling a water quality mandate that could cost a not-so-humble $60 million — or more — in the next few years.
"When you say 'unfunded mandate' this is the best description you're going to get, right here," said Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Larry Kiker. "It's a federal mandate the state implements. They delegate down and we're down here and we have to implement it. But there's no money with it."
The county has gotten a head start on fixing the problem, putting existing water quality projects toward the mandate and hitting its required improvement in just year three of the first five-year phase of the project.
Now, with no more pre-existing projects to credit, the county must look to Conservation 20/20 and possible land purchases to complete the work.
"We met our five-year obligation but now we really need to have a plan in place to say this is where we're going to get in 12, 15 years," said Roland Ottolini, director of the Lee County Division of Natural Resources.
In 2009, the state Department of Environmental Protection identified the Caloosahatchee River Basin, an estuary, as "impaired," according to the Caloosahatchee Estuary Basin Management Action Plan. Under the federal Clean Water Act, every two years states must identify its impaired waters and create plans for them.
The designation is given to bodies of water that don't meet their "designated use and are not expected to improve within the subsequent two years."
That designated use means the waterway must "be suitable for recreation and must support the propagation and maintenance of a healthy, well-balanced population of fish and wildlife," the basin plan states.
The Caloosahatchee estuary couldn't do that because of the nitrogen in its waters, which is over what the state calls its "total maximum daily load."
"It's the total amount this system can handle or assimilate," said Ottolini.
High levels of nitrogen in the water occur from agricultural use, fertilizers and stormwater runoff.
"Any type of land use contributes to the problem," Ottolini said.
In 2012, the state determined the Caloosahatchee estuary needed a 23 percent reduction in its daily load.
And though the majority of pollution to the waters in the basin comes from outside Southwest Florida, the report said, about 75 percent of it is in Lee County and about a quarter in Charlotte — meaning it's Southwest Florida's problem and burden to clean up. The action plan doesn't outline the exact cost to the cities, but their nitrogen reduction requirements are much lower than Lee's.
Lee County is the biggest local entity in the plan, which also includes the cities of Cape Coral and Fort Myers, plus Charlotte. The East County Water Control District (which is mostly Lehigh Acres) and the Florida Department of Transportation are also on board.
And so far, the region is on track to meet its first five-year requirement.
Under the Caloosahatchee action plan, projects dating back to 2000 can be used as credits to offset the amount of nitrogen that must be reduced.
In Lee County, 20 completed projects were credited toward the reduction.
That includes Powell Creek, where a filtration marsh was built on 20/20 conservation property.
It cost about $2 million — Lee County spent $1.24 million, the state spent $300,000 and the state gave $440,000.
The county's fertilizer ordinance, which bans use at certain times and puts additional rules on using fertilizers on land near the watershed, was also credited, said Kiker.
In Fort Myers, the downtown river basin project and a filter marsh project on Ford Street were credited, as were Cape Coral's classes on stormwater runoff and illicit water discharge, according to the action plan.
Overall, existing projects have already made up 40 percent of the reduction required in the action plan. They have cost "tens of millions (of dollars)," Ottolini said.
It's the remaining 60 percent that could be the real challenge.
Lee County estimates it could take $60 million to finish the 23 percent required reduction of the Caloosahatchee watershed's maximum load .
That figure is based off the cost per pound of nitrogen that's mitigated — in the Caloosahatchee's case, about $600,000 per pound.
But that is really just a "gross approximation" that doesn't include potential land purchases the county might have to make, Ottolini said.
"We've got this $60 million challenge in front of us, but that's predicated on one of the best ways to accomplish that being our property," Kiker said.
The mandate has been discussed at county commissioners' non-voting workshops, but only in passing. No public discussions have taken place on how to fund it.
Conservation 20/20 allows for land purchases for water quality purchases, and that's one of the conditions 20/20 officials use to determine whether a land is worth buying, Kiker said.
The Conservation 20/20 fund has about $100 million in it, of which $65 million is earmarked for land acquisition. But the county must wait for landowners to approach it when they want to sell land.
While a committee is reviewing that and other 20/20 rules, no formal changes have been made.
That water quality allowance isn't without caveats though.
First, not all 20/20 properties are compatible with the water quality mandate.
"We've consistently partnered with natural resources on water quality when they enhance Conservation 20/20 lands," said Cathy Olson, conservation lands manager for Conservation 20/20. "But you don't get the big bang projects like when you do a big filter marsh or water storage project, because those don't normally necessarily fit with us."
Some proponents of the program also think there's a limit to 20/20's responsibility when it comes to larger-scale water quality projects meant to meet the action plan's requirements.
"We've been involved in water quality since the start of the program. But the program was never set up to fund any of the improvements on any of this water quality that they've talked about. I don't think this is a job of the 20/20 program other than if, in fact, a property was large enough and met our criteria," said George Wheaton, chairman of the Conservation 20/20 committee.
What that boils down to is an unanswered question of how much 20/20 will help with the rest of the nitrogen reduction.
"Purchasing land for water quality has been hit or miss," Ottolini said. "We may make it to a point where we have to be a little more proactive."
Controversy spreads over Everglades oil drilling
Sun Sentinel - by William E. Gibson, Washington Bureau
July 5, 2014
Some press for ban on 'extreme extraction' in a delicate environment.
WASHINGTON — Alarmed by the spread of oil drilling in the Everglades, environmental activists and some lawmakers are pressing for stricter regulation of the energy industry and a state ban on new fracking-like techniques that blast open oil deposits near Florida's aquifers.
Critics in Collier County, the center of a mini-oil rush, warn that drilling leads to pipelines, refineries and hazardous-wastewater disposal — a domino effect that threatens a delicate ecosystem and water supplies. They say Florida is ill-equipped to control the search for black gold and that Texas wildcatters are taking advantage of the state's limited laws.
"It's not just the drilling activities on site but what happens with this hazardous waste and where it is disposed of, which could affect communities well outside of the oil-drilling zone," said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, a 50-year-old environmental group in Naples.
Low-volume drilling has quietly taken place near the Everglades since the 1940s. But new techniques — horizontal drilling and high-pressure injections of water and chemicals to fracture underground rock — have prompted energy companies to delve deeper into lands where panthers and wading birds roam.
The result is pressure to drill near or below the Big Cypress National Preserve, the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge — all part of a watershed that stretches across the lower Florida peninsula.
Collier Resources Co., which controls much of the land in this lush corner of the world, is leasing mineral rights for oil exploration under hundreds of thousands of acres, and energy companies are lining up to take advantage.
The Burnett Oil Co. of Texas, for example, is seeking state approval to conduct seismic tests under almost 235,000 acres in Big Cypress. It plans to use vibrators to send sound waves that help pinpoint oil deposits.
Drilling proponents, eager to make Florida more energy-independent, say horizontal drilling underground is less intrusive than a field of vertical wells.
"That doesn't bother anybody, really, but a couple of bugs and snakes, which I don't have a lot of sympathy for," said Frederick Taubert of Delray Beach, who retired from the oil-importation business. ""The Everglades probably has a ton of oil and natural gas. Don't let it just sit there. Our kids need it."
But others are aghast about drilling in a sensitive ecosystem full of threatened species, and they fear a major spill would poison the water.
"I cannot believe our governor or anybody would allow this to happen in the Everglades, which is supposed to be a major filter for our water into the homes," said Douglas Brodhead, 57, of Fort Lauderdale. "They should be letting kids know that this is what grownups are doing, and that this is what your water supply is going to be when you grow up."
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the Collier County Commission and some state legislators are raising alarms about expanded drilling.
"My biggest concern is that we are a state where it's not really appropriate to have fracking, with the Floridan Aquifer underneath and with so much of our drinking water in jeopardy," said state Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee, who hopes to enact a ban.
He said passage in the Legislature "will be a tough road but one that's achievable.
"We are seeing more awareness across the state now that the truth is coming out. A lot of the environmental community here and statewide groups are discussing the issue. Even developers and growth-management people have to take this seriously. Tourism is a huge ally. We learned from the BP spill that tourism and oil spills don't mix," Soto said.
Much of the recent controversy over drilling focuses on the Dan A. Hughes Co. of Texas, which plans to drill an exploratory well next to the Panther Refuge and is producing oil from another site 10 miles away. Without state approval, the company used high-pressure injections of toxic chemicals and water around New Year's Day.
Critics say this is akin to "fracking," a controversial practice that extracts oil from shale. The company says it's not the same because it employs an acidic solution in porous limestone.
Florida's Department of Environmental Protection fined the company $25,000, the most allowed by law. Hughes has suspended the method while continuing to pump oil.
"The company is encouraged by the results from this first well, and their initial program envisions drilling two more wells," said David Blackmon, a Hughes spokesman. He said "fear tactics" by critics have delayed the process but that "the company has been supporting DEP any way it can."
He said vacuum trucks carry wastewater from the well every two or three days to Raider Environmental Services in Opa-locka.
Steve Obst, owner of Raider, said that as far as he knows, the wastewater contains nothing toxic or hazardous. "It's just plain groundwater that's got some oil with it," he said.
The oil is skimmed off, he said, and the water is pre-treated before getting dumped in Miami-Dade County's treatment facilities. The process must meet standards set by the county and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Obst said.
Critics say the wastewater is bound to contain the same toxic, cancer-causing chemicals used in drilling. Blackmon said it might contain traces of chemicals.
Two weeks ago, DEP tested groundwater near the Hughes production well and reported this week that it found no sign of contamination. But the wastewater was not made available for testing, raising more questions.
DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. sent a stern letter on Thursday to the Hughes Co. demanding information about the wastewater and an explanation for why it was trucked offsite prior to a June 23 inspection.
"If samples exist, immediately provide those samples to DEP," the letter stated. "Provide an explanation of the agreement between Dan A. Hughes and the facility that agreed to accept the flowback material to provide full assurance that this material is being disposed of appropriately to safeguard the public."
Politics, profits delay action on arsenic in drinking water
SCPR.org – by David Heath, The Center for Public Integrity
July 4, 2014
Arsenic is nearly synonymous with poison. But most people don't realize that they consume small amounts of it in the food they eat and the water they drink.
Recent research suggests even small levels of arsenic may be harmful. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been prepared to say since 2008 that arsenic is 17 times more toxic as a carcinogen than the agency now reports.
Women are especially vulnerable. EPA scientists have concluded that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic each day, 730 of them eventually would get lung or bladder cancer.
The EPA, however, hasn’t been able to make its findings official, an action that could trigger stricter drinking water standards. The roadblock: a single paragraph inserted into a committee report by a member of Congress, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found. The paragraph essentially ordered the EPA to halt its evaluation of arsenic and hand over its work to the National Academy of Sciences.
The congressman, Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, said he was concerned that small communities couldn’t meet tougher drinking water standards and questioned the EPA's ability to do science. But a lobbyist for two pesticide companies acknowledged to CPI that he was among those who asked for the delay. As a direct result of the delay, a weed killer the EPA was going to ban at the end of 2013 remains on the market.
The tactic is among an arsenal of tricks used by industry and lawmakers to virtually paralyze EPA scientists who evaluate toxic chemicals. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order seeking to stop political interference with science. The EPA unveiled a plan to evaluate far more chemicals each year than had been done during the George W. Bush or Bill Clinton administrations. In the last two years, however, it’s completed only six.
It’s now unclear when the agency’s arsenic review will be finished, even though scores of studies have linked arsenic not just to cancer, but also to heart disease, diabetes and strokes.
Meanwhile, people like Wendy Brennan, who lives in rural Maine with her two daughters and two grandchildren, are left to worry about all the arsenic-tainted water they've consumed. Brennan participated in a study by Columbia University researchers, who found levels of arsenic in her well water that were more than five times the federal standard.
“My eldest daughter said … ‘You’re feeding us rat poison,’ ” Brennan said. “I said, ‘Not really,’ but I guess essentially, that is what you’re doing. You’re poisoning your kids.”
Then, another shock: The researchers reported that children who drank water containing arsenic – even at levels that met the federal standard – scored six points lower on IQ tests than children who drank clean water.
“Your job as a mother is to give your kids the best,” said Brennan, who installed an $800 filter that removes arsenic from her water. “Just by giving my kids juice … giving them cups of water, which you are supposed to do, I was actually giving them a sediment that’s settling in their body, and I may not know for 10 years if it’s affected them.”
● Arsenic, a potent poison, is found in small amounts in the food we eat and the water we drink.
● EPA scientists have concluded that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic each day, 730 of them eventually would get lung or bladder cancer.
● A single paragraph inserted into a committee report by a member of Congress essentially ordered the EPA to halt its evaluation of arsenic, an action that has kept the agency from tightening its drinking water standard for the toxin.
● A lobbyist for two pesticide companies acknowledged that he was among those who asked for the delay. As a result, a weed killer the EPA was going to ban at the end of 2013 remains on the market.
State's water resources need a hero
Florida Today – by Paula Dockery, served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Lakeland Republican
July 4, 2014
As Florida's 2014 legislative session ended, the much-touted springs bill dried up as many predicted. The bipartisan bill pushed by several Senate co-sponsors couldn't navigate through the man-made dam in the Florida House.
This wasn't the only disappointment for those committed to protecting Florida's natural resources. With a record-high state budget of $77 billion, hopes ran high among those concerned about springs protection, Everglades restoration and water resources that this might be the session we return to the environmental funding of the past.
Then, Florida Forever was fully funded at $300 million and Water Protection and Sustainability received the full $100 million originally intended.
This year, not even close.
While the Legislature funded some water projects that individual legislators requested, it failed to fund environmental programs that look at whole ecosystems and ongoing projects. One notable exception was considerable funding approved for the Indian River Lagoon restoration.
Another cause for celebration came from the federal government. In early June, President Obama signed a big water-projects bill that provides funding for some Everglades restoration projects. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act will allow state and federal partners to start new restoration projects in the River of Grass after seven years of stagnation. It's hard to believe the best environmental news for Florida came from Washington, D.C., the bastion of divisiveness, obstruction and inaction.
Why can't Florida provide responsible environmental policy and consistent funding?
The fundamentals are in place. Our state revenues are increasing. And documentary stamp revenue, the customary funding source for environmental and infrastructure funding, is on the rise after years of a slowdown in the housing market.
Over the years, good people fought hard and accomplished great things.
Florida Forever, the successful voluntary land-acquisition program, is still enshrined in state law, providing a strong framework for conservation efforts. The Water Sustainability and Protection Act set forth a solid blueprint to ensure an adequate and safe supply of water. It's still the law of the land and focuses on water quality and quantity. It created a matching fund program with local governments to address their water- supply needs.
It was my hope the proposed springs legislation would join Florida Forever and the Water Sustainability Act in Florida's statutes and that all three would receive the continuous funding that's necessary to restore and maintain our natural resources and quality of life.
Why didn't that happen ?
The springs bill failed, in part, because the incoming House speaker wants it done on his watch. Of course, there are many user groups, some with deep pockets, that want a say. Accommodating them runs the risk that good springs-protection legislation gets watered down.
The problem with water, land, springs and Everglades policy is that Florida has no long-term stability and continuity, despite the hard-fought battles to put a funding source and meaningful legislation in place.
And, one might argue, no backbone to say no to the special interests that take a parochial view of our environmental policies.
As leadership in the House and Senate changes, the commitment to water resource funding ebbs and flows. When the economy slows, the environmental programs are the first to take a hit. When legislators are term-limited and leave office, new legislators need to be educated on the environment and, frankly, not too many are interested.
But they should be. Water is vital to our very survival — and our economy.
While the governor and legislators acknowledge the importance of an adequate water supply, their words are cheap. While they sing the praises of springs protection, their inaction hits a sour note.
We're refighting the same battles. We're not making the progress we once did. Empty words and promises aren't going to restore the Everglades, protect our springs, increase our water supply, or clean up our waters.
It's time for a sincere commitment to our resources backed by dedicated, sustainable and continuous funding. Frustrated Floridians are looking for an environmental hero.
Clearly, it's not going to come from our current leaders.
Wood stork's 'threatened' status causes controversy
Orlando Sentinel - by Kevin Spear
July 3, 2014
The nation's premier advocate for wild birds supported authorities when they eased protections for bald eagles and other species in past years.
But the move last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to downgrade safeguards for wood storks, which are found mostly in Florida, has left the National Audubon Society fearing the big birds are being celebrated for a recovery that never happened.
"With the eagle, we figured out what the threat was, what was causing their decline, and we stopped that," said Audubon biologist Jason Lauritsen. "With the case of the wood stork, we really haven't done anything."
The U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the wildlife service, announced in late June the stork had been reclassified as threatened, a grade less dire than the endangered label declared for the bird in 1984.
"The down-listing of the wood stork from endangered to threatened demonstrates how the Endangered Species Act can be an effective tool to protect and recover imperiled wildlife from the brink of extinction," Interior Secretary Sally Jewel said.
As the only stork that breeds in North America, the birds have nothing to say about the matter. That's because they are mute.
Other wading birds in Florida are quick to communicate their moods. The wails and screams of limpkins can make a preschool playground seem quiet. When bothered, great blue herons will rise ponderously to fly away, complaining with harsh squawks.
By comparison, wood storks are calm and almost priestly in demeanor. They are black and white, featherless from the neck up and have an enormous bill.
Wood storks also are able to glide great distances effortlessly, riding updrafts of warm air.
The birds take advantage of that ability, hopscotching if necessary from the Everglades to the Carolinas for a place to nest.
For a rare bird long classified as endangered, the conspicuous storks turn up in Central Florida, foraging in ditches along major roads and in drainage ponds of suburban subdivisions.
Lauritsen said those birds are often biding their time, waiting for rains to hydrate wetlands enough to begin nesting — something they haven't always had to do.
The Everglades region south of Lake Okeechobee historically was the reliably wet heart of the wood-stork habitat. But ditching and draining of past decades wiped out vast amounts of shallow wetlands.
By the 1970s, the population was declining by 5 percent annually, reaching fewer than 5,000 nesting pairs and raising fears the bird was doomed.
To the surprise of biologists, wood storks began to migrate north for nesting places, including the Carolinas, and abandoning the Everglades.
One explanation is that former rice fields in South Carolina are being managed artificially so that water levels are hospitable to wading birds, including wood storks.
In justifying its reclassification of the stork, the Fish and Wildlife Service said that for the past decade — using counts that are averaged over several years — there have been 7,000 to 10,000 nesting pairs.
Those numbers exceed a goal set in 1997 that specifies 6,000 pairs as enough to revise the bird's status from endangered to threatened.
Lauritsen said too little is being done to restore and protect Florida's wetlands, including those in the Everglades, to fundamentally improve conditions for wood storks.
The number of nesting pairs may stem largely from a few years of unusually ideal weather in the 2000s that produced a bumper crop of birds.
"Unless the population continues to increase significantly, which it hasn't since 2009, we may very well just have a bubble in the population that eventually will go away."
Everglades Progress Report shows modest improvements
ENR.com - by Thomas F. Armistead
July 2, 2014
In its latest report, the National Research Council tempered its mild praise for "fairly modest progress" in the $13.5-billion Everglades restoration plan with its concerns over climate change, rising sea levels and the invasion of non-native plant and animal species.
The fifth congressionally mandated biennial report on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), released on June 26 by a 14-member scientific committee, criticizes the financial, procedural and policy constraints that have impeded project implementation. Those constraints include infrequent passage of Water Resources Development Acts by Congress. The committee called for expedited implementation to avert further degradation of the ecosystem.
To people outside Florida, Everglades restoration is an immense money pit advancing at a snail's pace. But the Everglades are also essential to the health of the South Florida economy as well as its ecosystem, being a principal source of public water supply in addition to being an attraction for tourists.
CERP progress flows at the same languid rate as the water through the Glades, but it does flow. The report highlights successes such as raising a mile of the Tamiami Trail to unblock the flow of water into the Glades; near-completion of Picayune Strand restoration due to a failed residential development; ecosystem responses to phased implementation of several projects that restored "sheet flow" into Florida and Biscayne bays; and 85% completion of the Kissimmee River Restoration to undo a disastrous channelization of the river in the 1960s.
But the Everglades program needs updating to integrate climate change into future ongoing analysis and monitoring. Implementation priorities must be revised "to focus resources on those projects with the greatest potential to avert ecosystem degradation and provide long-term benefits considering sea-level rise and potential changes in temperature and precipitation," the report says.
Before the 1960s, the Kissimmee River, headwaters of the Everglades, was a 103-mile-long meandering stream feeding into Lake Okeechobee; then, the Corps converted it into the 40-mile-long C-38 canal for flood control. Now, at a cost of $727 million, its restoration is 86% complete. "This is the crown jewel of ecosystem restoration," says Howard Gonzales, ecosystem branch chief for the Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District in Florida. When natural conditions are restored, "ecosystems respond almost immediately," he says. Five projects remain to be awarded, and they are "relatively small—backfilling and structures to keep backfill in place," he says. Completion is scheduled for 2019.
Built in the 1920s, the Tamiami Trail, part of U.S. Route 41, effectively dammed the flow of water into the Everglades, devastating its ecology. In December 2013, an $81-million, mile-long section was completed, elevating the road to allow water to flow freely. In August 2013, the state of Florida committed $90 million for its half of the cost to elevate an additional 2.6-mile segment of the highway.
Elevating the Tamiami Trail is part of the Modified Waters Delivery program to restore the broad, shallow flow of water, or sheet flow, that created the Everglades and is needed to maintain the Everglades National Park's health. The $323.2-million C-111 South Dade Project also serves Mod Waters by creating a seepage barrier that helps keep the additional water in Everglades National Park. With three pump stations and a detention area, it is now about 75% complete.
The $620-million Picayune Strand project was the first CERP project to be constructed. The project is converting back into its natural state 55,000 acres of a failed development. Canals have been plugged and roads removed; spreader canals with three pump stations are now being constructed. Two pump stations are scheduled for completion by this fall and the last by fall 2017.
Ecosystem benefits are beginning to appear. "We have seen some changes in salinity levels and in aquatic vegetation," says Eric Draper, Audubon of Florida's executive director. "The marshes seem to be a bit healthier, and Picayune Strand is showing very impressive signs of transition to what the original was like." In the Kissimmee River basin, observed changes include expanded wetlands with swelling populations of largemouth bass and sunfish and a robust, growing diversity of birds, says USACE's Gonzales.
Cost escalation is inevitable in a program as huge, long-running and complex as CERP. When authorized in WRDA 2000, its estimated cost was $7.8 billion; it is now $13.5 billion. While much of that is for purchasing land, there is a large allotment for professional-services fees, says Blake Guillory, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, the state agency responsible for CERP. "We could have a dozen big projects in the next few years," he says. Thirteen teams comprising 105 separate member firms are on board for design work worth some $90 million in fees, he notes.
Florida county goes to court over 'acid fracking' near Everglades
NPR.org - by Greg Allen
July 2, 2014
In southwest Florida, county officials are fighting the state over a new oil drilling process that's known by many different names: acidification, acidizing, acid stimulation and acid fracking.
Collier County has charged that state regulators have been lax in their oversight of the drilling, jeopardizing public health and the environment.
Acid has long been used in oil drilling operations in Florida to dissolve and loosen the limestone bedrock. But a drilling operation near Naples, on the western edge of the Everglades, was something new. In December, Texas-based Dan A. Hughes Co. injected acid under pressure there — a process not used before in Florida.
Florida regulators asked the drilling company to suspend the operation while the state studied the process. The company refused.
"Within a matter of hours after we realized that the process was going forward, I issued a cease and desist order," says Herschel Vinyard, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection.
Despite the cease and desist order, Vinyard says, the company continued the work anyway and completed its operation. Eventually, Florida and the driller signed a consent agreement, and the company agreed to pay a $25,000 fine and install groundwater monitors.
But in Collier County, where local officials, residents and environmental groups had already been raising concerns about the new drilling, the dispute between Hughes and the state remained secret. More than three months after the cease and desist order was issued, Collier County officials finally learned about it through a press release.
"One of the frustrations with the Board of County Commissioners is all of the information that we've been receiving has been through the media," says Tim Nance, a Collier County commissioner.
A New World Of Drilling Methods
There have been oil wells in this area of Florida for more than 70 years. What has raised concerns now are the new technologies — horizontal drilling and advanced extraction techniques — and what risk they may pose to the area's groundwater.
County commissioners asked state officials for a public meeting without success. Finally, Collier County went to court asking the state to revoke the oil driller's permit. It's similar to legal action to block fracking taken by local governments in other states like California, Colorado and New York. In Florida, Nance says the state needs to tighten regulation of drilling before the new oil boom goes any further.
"Frankly, I'm very, very concerned about how well sites in the future that are near residential properties are going to be managed — because that's my No. 1 concern," Nance says.
To try to allay the concerns of county officials and residents, Florida's Department of Environmental Resources recently installed its own groundwater monitors and says preliminary results show no evidence of contamination.
Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, an environmental group, isn't reassured. She says the state needs to install deeper monitors — below the aquifer where Florida draws most of its drinking water.
But Hecker says there's a larger problem. Florida, she says, isn't ready for the new oil drilling technologies.
"We have some very antiquated oil and gas [regulations] that were written long ago when these kinds of techniques didn't really even exist or were used," Hecker says.
Florida's oil and gas regulations currently make no mention of acid stimulation, hydraulic fracturing or other new extraction technologies. Hughes says that's why it believes its operations are allowed under Florida law.
Hecker says regulators and lawmakers need to take action before approving more drilling permits.
"This horizontal drilling, the use of all of these chemicals, the high-pressure injection of those chemicals — that's a whole different process than what we have traditionally seen here in Collier County, so we need to update the laws and regulations," Hecker says.
On this point at least, state regulators, local officials and environmental groups agree. Vinyard says he has asked his staff to develop recommendations on updating Florida's oil and gas regulations.
Related: Florida County Takes the State to Court over Lax Supervision of ... ForexMinute.com
State Officials Struggle With Controversial Fracking-like Incident In ... FCIR
Water protection turns to dust in Legislature
TheLedger.com - by Paula Dockery, Syndicated Columnist - served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Lakeland Republican.
July 2, 2014
Why can't Florida provide responsible environmental policy and consistent funding ?
The legislative session ended and the much-touted bill for springs dried up, as many predicted. The bipartisan bill pushed by several Senate co-sponsors couldn't navigate through the man-made dam in the Florida House.
This wasn't the only disappointment for those committed to protecting Florida's natural resources. With a record state budget of $77 billion, hopes ran high among those concerned about spring protection, Everglades restoration and water resources that this might be the session that we return to the environmental funding of the past.
Then, Florida Forever was fully funded at $300 million, and Water Protection and Sustainability received the full $100 million originally intended.
Not even close.
While the Legislature did fund some water projects that individual legislators requested, they failed to fund environmental programs that look at whole ecosystems and ongoing projects. One notable exception was considerable funding granted for the Indian River Lagoon restoration.
Another cause for celebration actually came from the federal government. In early June, President Barack Obama signed a big water-project bill that provides funding for some Everglades-restoration projects.
The Water Resources Reform and Development Act will allow state and federal partners to start new restoration projects in the River of Grass after seven years of stagnation.
It's hard to believe the best environmental news for Florida came from Washington, the bastion of divisiveness, obstruction and inaction.
Why can't Florida provide responsible environmental policy and consistent funding ?
The fundamentals are in place. Our state revenue is increasing and our budget reached a record high. Documentary-stamp revenue, the customary funding source for environmental and infrastructure funding, is also on the rise after years of slowdown in the housing market.
It was my hope that the proposed spring legislation would join Florida Forever and the Water Sustainability Act, which ensures an adequate and safe supply of water, in Florida's statutes — and that all three would receive dedicated-and-continuous funding. This is necessary to restore and maintain our natural resources and quality of life.
The spring bill failed, in part, because the incoming House speaker wants it done on his watch. Of course there are many user groups, some with deep pockets, that want a say. Accommodating them runs the risk that good spring-protection legislation gets watered down.
The problem with water, land, springs and Everglades policy is that Florida has no long-term stability and continuity, despite the hard-fought battles to put a funding source and meaningful legislation in place.
And, one might argue, no backbone to say no to the special interests that take a parochial view of our environmental policies.
As leadership in the House and Senate changes, the commitment to water-resource funding ebbs and flows. When the economy slows, the environmental programs are the first to take a hit. When legislators are term-limited and leave office, new legislators need to be educated on the environment and, frankly, not too many are interested.
They should be. Water is vital to our very survival — and our economy.
While the governor and legislators acknowledge the importance of an adequate water supply, their words are cheap. While they sing the praises of spring protection, their inaction hits a sour note.
Empty words and promises aren't going to restore the Everglades, protect our springs, increase our water supply, or clean up our lakes, rivers and estuaries.
It's time for a sincere commitment to our resources, backed by dedicated, sustainable and continuous funding. Frustrated Floridians are looking for an environmental hero.
Clearly, it's not going to come from our current leaders
Waterways set for restoration project
AroundOsceola.com - by Ken Jackson, Staff Writer
July 2, 2014
Kissimmee residents, and those who use Lake Tohopekaliga and the connected waterways to the south, are closer to seeing what could be a cleaner lake.
Toho Water Authority will soon start the permit process with the South Florida Water Management District to begin the Lake Toho Restoration Initiative project on the Judge Farm property just east of Kissimmee across from Osceola Heritage Park.
The joint project between Osceola County, the city of Kissimmee, the city of St. Cloud and the Toho Water Authority will, as TWA Executive Director Brian Wheeler put it, be a “quality and quantity” improvement.
“If the ponds we’re digging work out right, we hope to store 400 million gallons of water we can use for irrigation during the dry season,” he said.
The project will cost $15 million, with the Florida Legislature approving $1 million in state funding at the end of its most recent session. It will consist of digging a pair of reservoirs that will take up about 200 acres and help filter and clean water that runs into Lake Tohopekaliga, thereby improving the quality of the waters along the Kissimmee River such as the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and eventually Lake Okeechobee and the Florida Everglades.
Those who walk Kissimmee’s Lakefront Park may have seen smaller “baffle boxes” that trap some pollutants before rainwater drains from the park into the lake. This bigger project will do the same thing on a bigger scale, Wheeler said.
“These reservoirs will help remove the nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus from Mill Slough, and get the sediment out of that water before it reaches the lake,” he said.
TWA estimates it will remove 7,700 pounds of phosphorus and 71,000 pounds of nitrogen per year, removing 99 percent of those nutrients. That will happen after Mill Slough, one of the area’s drainage tributaries into Lake Toho, is redirected to flow into the treatment ponds at
Downstream flow from Mill Slough, the East City Ditch, the Judge Farm Ditch and the rest of the surrounding 10,200‐acre tributary area will be captured to create that 400-million gallon supplemental water source that will help decrease demand for potable uses, specifically irrigation, and extend the supply of groundwater for potable purposes to utilities located within the Central Florida Water Initiative, which have identified limits on groundwater withdrawals.
In addition, the ponds that are dug for the water mitigation project will help the county offer up 265 acres of Judge Farm land as “pad-ready” for another recently-approved project: a high-tech sensor research facility that the University of Central Florida will partner with.
Professor A. Hartley
Claim that fracking is safe and well-regulated is unfounded
News-Press.com – by Anne Hartley, associate professor in the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences at FGCU. Her field of expertise is terrestrial biogeochemistry
July 1, 2014
As a Collier County resident and environmental scientist, I have been following the responses of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Collier County commissioners, nonprofit organizations, and citizen groups to the unauthorized oil and gas drilling east of Golden Gate Estates by a Texas-based firm, the Dan A. Hughes Co.
Hughes' drilling activities prompted FDEP to file a cease-and-desist order on Dec. 31, 2013.
Details of the drilling operation were not provided in the April 2014 consent order, a legal document that describes the settlement reached by FDEP and Hughes. Exhibit 1 referenced a Florida statute that protects trade secrets.
On June 22, a consultant representing Hughes wrote that the company did not use hydraulic fracturing on the Collier Hogan 20-3H well. ("Hydraulic fracturing is legal, safe, well-regulated," David Blackmon.) Hughes used an acid stimulation treatment, then injected "sand mixed with a gel solution into the formation in order to hold open the channels that had been created by the acid treatment."
Hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") involves pumping millions of gallons of water into an oil or gas well at high pressure to fracture the rock to allow water or gas to flow to the well bore. Chemical additives to the water include acids, propping agents, such as sand to keep fractures open once they are produced under pressure, gelling agents, friction reducers, surfactants, corrosion inhibitors, and antibacterial agents.
In its June 12 challenge to the consent order, Collier County commissioners petitioned FDEP to hold a public administrative hearing that will give Hughes an opportunity to clarify how its practices differ from hydraulic fracturing, and to explain its future plans for drilling and environmental monitoring.
Hughes' claim that hydraulic fracturing is "very safe and well-regulated" is unfounded. EPA has not regulated hydraulic fracturing under the U.S. Safe Water Drinking Act. No plan exists to systematically sample drinking water wells and deep formation waters for contaminants. Companies are not required to disclose chemicals under federal or state law.
The EPA will soon release a study of hydraulic fracturing impacts on drinking water, specifically, the impacts of large volume water withdrawals on ground and surface waters; surface spills on or near well pads of drilling chemicals, flow back, and produced water; impacts of injection and fracturing; and inadequately treated wastewater. Duke University researchers reported that incomplete wastewater treatment from hydraulic fracturing and shale gas extraction damaged water quality in Pennsylvania. Impacts of nonconventional drilling on Florida geology and hydrology remain unstudied.
Hughes is permitted to drill in the Lower Sunniland formation, a porous, carbonate substrate. Carbonate rocks are readily dissolved by acids. Rainwater acidity is sufficient to dissolve limestone, creating sinkholes at the surface. Drilling practices that are "well within the scope of operations being performed in states like Texas, Pennsylvania and North Dakota" may not be safe in Florida.
In the consent order, Hughes agreed to supply information to the FDEP, including material safety data sheets for all chemicals used in the operation, proportion and volume of chemicals used, total volume of water used, total volume and management of flow-back material used, and provide an interim spill prevention and cleanup plan. FDEP may now have much of that information, but it has not yet agreed to the public hearing requested by the county.
Collier commissioners objected unanimously to the permit, and to the violations of Hughes.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has also called for a more transparent process, the revocation of Hughes' permit, and recommends additional remediation and financial commitments to address the unauthorized activities.
Citizens groups are asking salient questions. How different was the unauthorized drilling activity from hydraulic fracturing, or even from the first acid extraction Hughes used? Why is well water being tested almost six months after the operation ? Why will FDEP not attend a public hearing ?
A single, positive outcome for a well water test does not prove the process is safe. If water is tested too infrequently, at the incorrect depth, or if undisclosed chemicals are omitted from the analysis, test results will be misleading.
Commissioner Fred Coyle captured the significance of this case: "What we do now is going to set the stage for the next 20-25 years." The time to regulate oil and gas drilling is not after the next chemical spill or gas leak or sinkhole appearance. FDEP should work closely with commissioners, in a public administrative hearing, to strengthen the regulatory process.
Related: Guest commentary: Strengthen the drilling regulatory process before ... Marconews
DEP water quality test finds no contamination at Collier well site
July 1, 2014
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection found no contamination in early groundwater tests from an oil drilling site in Collier County.
DEP released the results from several groundwater samplings near the Collier-Hogan well Tuesday showing no evidence of pollution from a drilling operation. The findings are the first in a series of tests ordered in response to an unauthorized, fracking-like procedure used at the well this winter by the Dan A. Hughes Co., of Beeville, Texas.
Two private lab analysis are pending, according to a news release from DEP.
"Our lab technicians expedited their analysis and today we have confirmation that the first water-quality tests show that contamination in the area is highly unlikely," DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard said in a statement.
DEP set up six new aquifer monitoring wells last week, along with two existing monitors, to check for contamination from "enhanced extraction operation" the company used in December and January. The procedure involved injecting a dissolving solution into the oil-bearing rock formation at high pressure to ease extraction. The technique had never been used in Florida before and a DEP description matches hydraulic fracturing, which has stirred controversy in other parts of the country.
Hughes denies it was fracking.
In April the DEP and the company agreed to a $25,000 fine and independent testing of groundwater for the
Last month, the Collier County Board of County Commissioners voted to challenge this settlement agreement, arguing for a harsher penalty along with more communication between DEP and the county.
That petition is under review for completeness and will be forwarded to the state Division of Administrative Hearings once fully vetted.
In response, the DEP announced its own water testing outside what was called for in the consent order.
Those results released Tuesday show low levels of naturally occurring materials and undetectable levels of more than 120 other elements, including the chemicals used by Hughes in its operation.
Analysis for an additional 30 materials is being conducted by two private labs, with results expected later this week, according to the DEP.
President Obama signs toxic water bill benefiting Treasure Coast
WFLX.com - by Breana McCoy
July 1, 2014
TREASURE COAST, FL (WFLX) - Millions of dollars are on the way to help fight toxic water on the Treasure Coast. President Barack Obama signed a bill sending $82 million for new research targeting ways to control toxic algea outbreaks.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson sponsored the bill which streamlines existing efforts nationwide to fight harmful algae blooms. The group Ocean Champions says harmful algea blooms cost the country nearly $100 million a year
Storm Team Fox Forecast
As Tropical Storm Arthur continues to move north this afternoon, more moisture will be drawn up into South Florida and scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible. More >>
State to permit Port Manatee injection wells
Bradenton_Herald - by Matt Johnson
July 1, 2014
MANATEE -- The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has published an "intent to issue" notice that clears the way for a construction permit for two new Manatee County wastewater injection wells.
The two Class V wells will be used to pump as much as 15 million gallons of treated municipal wastewater underground every day. They are intended to act as a relief valve for the county's wastewater system.
During the summer rainy season, precipitation can overwhelm the ability of the county's three water reclamation plants to treat and dispose of the water. Plants are connected by a pipeline that can shift water loads around the system.
Excess water is now pumped into a deep injection well in Cortez. The two new wells will be built on Port Manatee property and drilled to 1,100 feet.
Problems with excess water are particularly hard on the North Regional Water Reclamation Facility near Port Manatee, said Jeff Goodwin, county wastewater division manager. High water levels in a storage lake at the facility stresses berms that contain it. At times, the county must discharge the water into a canal and nearby surface waters.
The new wells will be connected to the North Regional facility with a dedicated pipeline. Excess water from the facility will go to those wells.
DEP spokeswoman Mara Burger said the agency received no public comments concerning the Class V wells. The agency is expected to issue a permit for construction within the next few weeks unless a petition is filed to send the project to an administrative hearing.
The project, cost estimated at nearly $18.9 million, includes the wells, dedicated pipeline and a pump station.
When built, the wells will join more than 14,000 other Class V wells in Florida.
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Notable in 2013
wet season :
Despite the current obstacles, I got a rare view of how water is still flowing south.
Last year highlight - still a lingering "Good Question" -
Good Question: Why not send more Lake O water south ?
||WHY NOT "Move it South" ? Meaning "dirty" water from Lake Okeechobee - and instead of disastrous releases into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, move it where it used to flow - South. Is it possible ? Would the bridge on US-41 do the trick ?
ABC-7.com - by Chad Oliver, Reporter
GLADES COUNTY - "Move it south! Move it south!"
That was the chant I heard last week in Stuart during Governor Rick Scott's visit to the St. Lucie Lock.
He was there to discuss solutions to water releases from Lake Okeechobee that are damaging water quality in Southwest Florida.
It led Terry in Punta Gorda to ask the Good Question:
"Why can't more Lake O water be discharged through the Everglades instead of the Caloosahatchee River?"
Historically, water from Lake Okeechobee did flow south. It slowly moved into the Everglades.
Two things happened to stop that, the Herbert Hoover Dike was built to protect people from flooding. Then came the Tamiami Trail, which is also a man-made structure that basically acts as a dam.
There is a plan in the works to lift part of Tamiami Trail so that more water flows underneath toward the Everglades. This week, Governor Scott announced his intention to allocate $90 million over three years for the project in Miami-Dade.
The original ABC-7 video with Chad Oliver disappeared from the web - it is replaced here by this 25-WBPF report
As a member of the Governing Board for South Florida Water Management, it's a Good Question that Mitch Hutchcraft has heard often.
"Part of the answer is we now have seven million more people than we used to in a natural condition. We have roads, we have communities. Everglades National Park is half the size it used to be," he said.
Water managers are required by a federal court order to clean what they send south to the Everglades.
"Just moving water south without the water quality component is not beneficial," Hutchcraft said. They're now using former farmland to build basins and treatment areas south of Lake Okeechobee. The dark, polluted water is naturally cleaned as it flows over land.
Our pilot mentioned that it works like a great big Brita water filter."
To the question of why not put more water south, if we put more water in this basin, then the vegetation no longer has the capacity to clean it the way that we do," Hutchcraft explained.
South of Lake Okeechobee, we see field after field of sugar cane.
The State of Florida has the option to buy an additional 180,000 acres of farmland.
That deal expires in October. Proponents of the deal say it would provide more space to send water south. Opponents say it would kill their way of life and cost too much money.
As for Hutchcraft ? He doesn't see the need for more land; his focus is on completing projects already in the pipeline.
"So we could send more water south, but if we don't make those other project improvements, there's nowhere for it to go," he said.
It's a Good Question that's neither easy nor inexpensive
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