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Does Gov. Scott’s Everglades restoration plan go far enough ?
Palm Beach Post
January 31, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott sided with a majority of Floridians this week when he urged lawmakers to set aside a quarter of the money raised by Amendment 1 for Everglades restoration. In November, voters overwhelmingly approved spending a third of real estate documentary stamp fees for water and land conservation.
If legislators go along with Scott, about $150 million this year and $5 billion over the next 20 years would be dedicated to Everglades restoration projects. Amendment 1 is expected to raise about $18 billion by 2035.
  LO and lands South (EAA)
Scott’s plan is a welcome surprise from a governor who has cut money for environmental protection, failed to buy and protect environmentally sensitive land and destroyed the state’s growth management agency.
The governor wants to spend the money to restore the Kissimmee River, to build reservoirs for the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River estuaries, and to buy land to store and clean water. The plans only need money to speed them forward.
Environmentalists praised Scott’s plan to set aside money for Everglades restoration. But he disappointed many by not specifically mentioning the need to buy sugar industry-owned land south of Lake Okeechobee.
The state has an option to buy 46,800 acres U.S. Sugar Corp. owns south of Lake O. The sugar giant wants a portion of the land for a housing development.
Cara Capp, national co-chair of the Everglades Coalition, which favors cleaning up excess lake water and sending it south to the Everglades, said she hopes lawmakers will decide to buy the land when the current session gets underway in March.
The governor didn’t list all the Everglades projects by name, she said, “but we certainly hope an Everglades Agricultural Area water storage reservoir will be part of it. It’s the way to move water south.”
Will Florida lawmakers take it from here and exercise the option to buy sugar’s land, clean the water and send it south to the Everglades ?

Dean proposes putting conservation money in one pot
CBS Miami
January 30, 2015
TALLAHASSEE (NSF) – Money that Florida voters want to use for land and water conservation efforts would go into a single trust fund under a new Senate proposal, but lawmakers are still weeks away from deciding how they will use the money.
Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who chairs the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, filed a series of bills Friday that would designate a trust fund within the Department of Environmental Protection to handle money from the voter-approved “Florida Water and Land Legacy” constitutional amendment.
In addition to directing 33 percent of revenue generated from a real-estate tax into the trust fund, Dean’s proposal (SB 576, SB 578, SB 580, SB582, SB 584, and SB 586) would do away with a number of existing trust funds that benefit environmental programs.
But Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said in a letter to senators that the proposal won’t impact those programs.
“The legislation does not eliminate a single program currently receiving state funding, nor does it allocate funding to any new or existing program, project, or initiative,” Gardiner wrote, in bold lettering, to the senators.
The proposal also keeps lawmakers from tipping their hands about how they will decide during the upcoming legislative session to use the money.
Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues, said Dean’s proposal appears “pretty straightforward” and doesn’t immediately give reason for concern.
“What’s encouraging to me is it gives us some sense of security that they are tracking close to the constitutional amendment,” Draper said.
Meanwhile, Aliki Moncrief, director of Florida’s Water & Land Legacy, said his group’s legal and legislative team is still analyzing the proposed legislation.
Since the constitutional amendment was approved in November, lawmakers have differed on how to define land-preservation and water-conservation projects, how the state should determine which of its “impaired” water bodies is most critical and how to approach the reduction of stormwater runoff and agricultural fertilizer use.
Environmental groups have presented Dean’s committee with a potential funding outline for next year that would send $150 million to the Everglades and South Florida estuaries and another $150 million to the Florida Forever program for land acquisition, springs and trails. Also, $50 million would go for springs, $90 million for land management, $20 million for beach management, and $25 million for rural family lands. The rest would cover debt service.
Gardiner also suggested last month that lawmakers could use the amendment to craft a 5-year plan for the long-term water and land conservation projects.
Lawmakers have so far also received more than 3,800 written public comments about how the money should be used.
The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference has estimated that the “Florida Water and Land Legacy” amendment, approved by 75 percent of voters in November, will generate $757.7 million in the next fiscal year.
Currently, about 20 percent of the annual real-estate documentary stamp revenue — $470.8 million in the 2014-2015 fiscal year — is divided up into the different trust funds supporting environmental programs, according to Gardiner’s letter.
Gardiner added that by putting all the land and water money into a single trust, Dean’s proposal will “prevent the commingling of these funds with the state’s general revenue.”
Last week, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told House members that he thinks their Amendment 1 and water-policy priorities should focus on restoring the state’s natural springs and revising laws to reflect progress on Lake Okeechobee and the Northern Everglades. He also said lawmakers need to complete the implementation of the Central Florida Water Initiative, which ties together the St. Johns River Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Meanwhile, he said the state needs to review its land-management policies and set priorities on purchasing new lands that close gaps between wildlife corridors and create buffers around military bases.
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.


Invasive rock pythons slowly encroaching on Florida Everglades
Tech Times - by Dianne Depra
January 30, 2015
The Northern African Python, also called an African rock python or simply a rock python, continues to threaten the Everglades, prompting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to increase efforts at locating and removing the invasive snake before its population grows too big to handle.
So far, rock pythons are believed to be confined to a single county. This has made seeking out the invasive species easier for the FWC and its partners but they can't be complacent unless they want another snake population rivaling the Burmese python's. To ensure that none have ventured beyond the Bird Drive Recharge Area in the western portion of the Miami-Dade County, the FWC is scheduling surveys, taking advantage of the weather.
"Snakes often bask in open areas on sunny days during cool winter weather," explained Jenny Ketterlin Eckles, a biologist with the FWC.
This would make spotting rock pythons easier because they would be more out in the open.
In their native land Africa, rock pythons can grow up to 20 feet in length. In Florida, they are smaller at an average of 10 feet in length but still pose a great threat to local wildlife.
Aside from the Everglades National Park, the FWC and its partners will also be surveying parcels of land that have not been searched before. They will also be reaching out to landowners and residents in the area to facilitate canvassing.
It's still unclear how rock pythons got to Florida but it is possible that some were dumped illegally in the state or accidentally escaped from their owners. They were first spotted in 2001 but surveillance and removal efforts didn't start until 2009.
The FWC listed rock pythons as a conditional species in 2010, making it illegal for any individual to acquire the snake in Florida for personal use. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the snake as an injurious reptile species in 2012, making it illegal to transport the rock python across state borders. Rock pythons also can't be imported into the United States without the necessary permits.
Rock pythons look a lot like Burmese pythons but feature less-defined scale patterns on their backs. It's easiest to tell them apart by looking at their bellies--rock pythons have markings of black and white while Burmese pythons have white undersides.
To help the FWC in tracking the rock python's activities, residents in the area are advised to report sightings immediately.
Related:           Hunt is on for Northern African pythons to keep them out of Everglades    Nature World Report
A sneaky snake: Teams hunt for rock pythons in Everglades            The Florida Current
FWC seeks volunteers to hunt for pythons
Florida Python Hunters Turn Up Empty-handed       Nature World News
Hunt fails to find pythons, and that's good news      Sun Sentinel
Florida wildlife experts try to stop North African pythons from teaming ... Science Recorder
Rock python might hold clues in Florida about invasive snakes
Wildlife Officials Hunt North African Pythons At Edge Of Everglades      CBS Local
Wildlife Officials Hunt Rock Pythons Near Everglades        NBC 6 South Florida


Lake Okeebhobee water being pumped into vast new storage area
SW Florida (blogspot) – by Don Browne, Editor
January 30, 2015
MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- To increase storage of freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee and help protect the Caloosahatchee Estuary, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has begun full-capacity pumping into the new Nicodemus Slough water storage area in Glades County.
Located south of Fisheating Creek on the western bank of the lake, the Nicodemus Slough project is intended to provide interim water storage until projects such as the Caloosahatchee River (C-43) West Basin Storage Reservoir are completed. In a cooperative agreement with Lykes Brothers, the District is leasing the property for an investment of $2 million a year for 8 years, with an option to extend the agreement.
To send water onto the 16,000-acre project area, four pumps are each moving 30,000 gallons of water per minute. It may take approximately six weeks of round-the-clock operations to fill the vast site. The project can store an annual average of 34,000 acre-feet of water, or about 11 billion gallons.
“Working in concert with efforts to capture water on public and private lands and move water south, Nicodemus Slough provides some relief now to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries,” said SFWMD Executive Director Blake Guillory. “The project also adds to our critical storage options in the interim while regional projects now under construction — and making progress — are completed.”
With Lake Okeechobee’s level at 14.74 feet NGVD today — about a foot higher than this time last year — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been releasing water out of the lake to both estuaries. In response, the District worked to accelerate construction and testing operations in order to begin full-capacity pumping several weeks early onto the Nicodemus Slough site.


Study finds massive amounts of oil from Deepwater Horizon disaster buried in Gulf of Mexico sediments
Summit County Citizens Voice -  by Bob Berwyn
January 30, 2015
It’s a conduit for contamination into the food web …’
FRISCO — Five years after BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drill rig spewed 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a significant amount of that oil remains buried in seafloor sediments.
A new study by a Florida State University researcher estimates that about 6 to 10 million gallons of oil are still there, perhaps decomposing slowly, but probably affecting Gulf ecosystems.
“This is going to affect the Gulf for years to come,” said researcher Jeff Chanton. “Fish will likely ingest contaminants because worms ingest the sediment, and fish eat the worms. It’s a conduit for contamination into the food web,” he said.
Chanton’s research is outlined in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, detailing how oil caused particles in the Gulf to clump together and sink to the ocean floor.
The researchers used carbon 14, a radioactive isotope as an inverse tracer to determine where oil might have settled on the floor. Oil does not have carbon 14, so sediment that contained oil would immediately stand out.
Chanton then collaborated with Tingting Zhao, associate professor of geography at Florida State, to use geographic information system mapping to create a map of the oiled sediment distribution on the sea floor.
Chanton said in the short term, the oil sinking to the sea floor might have seemed like a good thing because the water was clarified, and the oil was removed from the water. But, in the long term, it’s a problem, he said.
Less oxygen exists on the sea floor relative to the water column, so the oiled particles are more likely to become hypoxic, meaning they experience less oxygen. Once that happens, it becomes much more difficult for bacteria to attack the oil and cause it to decompose, Chanton said.
Chanton’s research is supported by the Florida State University-headquartered Deep-C Consortium as well as the Ecogig consortium, centered at the University of Mississippi. The work was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Institute created to allocate the money made available to support scientific research by BP.


Tallahassee's views on conservation at odds: Battle over Amendment 1 money brewing
Bradenton Herald - Editorial
January 30, 2015
While the Legislature grapples with composing policies to meet the requirements set into the state constitution with November's passage of Amendment 1, various parties are lining up to grab a piece of the huge money pie now set aside for environmental protection and conservation. This political football is bouncing all over the place as lawmakers query the public about how to prioritize spending the newfound conservation riches.
This week Gov. Rick Scott tossed out a big one, signaling another advance on the evolution of his views on the environment. Once the architect of the steep decline in state spending on the protection and restoration of fouled waterways and critical habitat for endangered species, Scott now proposes designating $150 million in the coming budget year to help reverse the decline of the fragile Everglades.
For a governor accused of slashing spending on environmental lands by 95 percent during his first term and dismantling growth regulations, this is a positive shift. To his credit, he also budgeted $120 million for Everglades projects this fiscal year.
Now the governor can afford such generosity for a massive restoration effort long idle or delayed by political obstructions and funding roadblocks.
Some 75 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 1 in November. The measure dedicates one third of the revenues raised through documentary stamp taxes -- paid during property transactions -- to land and water conservation and protection.
Scott dipped into this new honey pot, not general revenue, for the Everglades. He also proposes lawmakers designate a quarter of the amendment money to restoration of this critical and damaged River of Grass. That could mean an investment of $5 billion over the life of the 20-year amendment, should the Legislature agree.
This certainly serves the purpose behind Amendment 1, and is an appropriate and commendable expenditure proposal. In his budget blueprint, unveiled Wednesday, Scott pledged to fully comply with the amendment, even including additional funding for such environmental initiatives as conserving land for the Florida panther and springs. Estimates put the amendment set-aside at $22 billion over those two decades. That amount has generated great interest. But two powerful politicians are promoting the idea that water and land conservation money also be spent on repairs and maintenance of municipal water and sewer systems. Both House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam expressed that position, but amendment supporters are crying foul since that violates the spirit of the measure and the will of the people. We agree. Infrastructure was not cited in the amendment's language.
But Crisafulli has stated, "Now it's up to us to interpret the intent" of voters as the Legislature establishes a policy strategy for implementing the amendment. And he also stated that water and sewer projects fit "the intent of the amendment."
The Legislature has a long history of bucking the will of the people on amendments, ranging from numerous exemptions to the 1976 Sunshine Amendment that ignore the spirit of the law to the 2010 Fair Districts Amendment designed to prevent gerrymandering to rig elections. Lawmakers lost a court case invalidating several congressional district maps.
Amendment advocates note that the amendment does not require implementing language, only appropriations to current conservation programs. Legal action might be necessary should the Legislature attempt to divert this dedicated environmental money elsewhere -- particularly to programs that the state already funds, thus freeing up dollars for other projects. At that point, then the governor must demonstrate that his pledge to the amendment is not hollow.


Stick to the mission
Miami Herald
January 29, 2015
Back in November, 75 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 1, the statewide environmental-conservation funding measure. The support was obviously a mandate for the spirit of the amendment, which proved to be the only successful one on the ballot.
Guaranteeing the conservation of Florida’s natural environment is a crucial issue for residents and the state’s largest industries — tourism and agriculture.
Amendment 1 comes with a savvy source of funds. It requires that “no less than 33 percent” of net revenue from the existing documentary-stamp tax on real-estate transactions be spent on conservation. That comes to about $10 billion over the amendment’s 20-year life. Nice.
What’s not so nice, however, is that Florida’s legislative session is looming, and there already is some indication that lawmakers are prepared to have their way with how these funds are allocated — the wrong way.
A little history: The genesis of the amendment — the Water and Land Conservation Amendment — came during the economic downturn. Legislators diverted Florida Forever funds meant to acquire and preserve land.
The Trust for Public Land led the charge to guarantee conservation money remained intact. It helped craft the amendment and is playing a leadership role in monitoring how it is dispersed.
Amendment 1 is wide ranging and enables the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to “acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands, including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources … beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites.”
The Florida Association of Counties told the Editorial Board that it has a mandate to make sure the money is spent equally for land acquisition and water conservation, in urban and rural areas, both inland and coastal.
“We want a balanced distribution of the Amendment 1 funds,” said Grover Robinson, FAC president.
Some counties want beach restoration to be the No. 1 priority for Amendment 1 money; other counties want money for the preservation of springs and estuaries.
Raymond Christman, senior vice president for the Trust for Public Land told the Editorial Board that making sure amendment funding doesn’t become a shell game is imperative, but it’s too early to know what the Legislature will do.
“The real challenge is not the environmental groups fighting for money, but seeing that the governor and the Legislature approve the appropriations in the spirit of the amendment,” Mr. Christman said.
New Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said this week that they have a five-point joint “work plan” for the 2015 legislative session that includes developing a statewide policy for water and natural resources.
Mr. Christman said his organization has two principles guiding how Amendment 1 money should be spent: First, money allocated must represent enhanced funding, not money to replacing existing funds. TPL is right to be concerned. Florida already has set a bad precedent in using Lottery funds to replace education funds, not enhance them as originally promised.
Second, funds must be directed to the state’s high-priority environmental needs.
Amendment 1 was created to do one thing: preserve Florida’s natural resources. But with millions of new dollars at lawmakers’ disposal, voters must stand vigilante against legislative pickpocketing.


Where did the missing oil go ? New FSU study says some is sitting on the Gulf floor
January 29, 2015
After 200 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, the government and BP cleanup crews mysteriously had trouble locating all of it. Now, a new study led by Florida State University Professor of Oceanography Jeff Chanton finds that some 6 million to 10 million gallons are buried in the sediment on the Gulf floor, about 62 miles southeast of the Mississippi Delta.
"This is going to affect the Gulf for years to come," Chanton said. "Fish will likely ingest contaminants because worms ingest the sediment, and fish eat the worms. It's a conduit for contamination into the food web."
The article, published in the latest edition of the journal Environmental Science & Technology, details how oil caused particles in the Gulf to clump together and sink to the ocean floor.
The researchers used carbon 14, a radioactive isotope as an inverse tracer to determine where oil might have settled on the floor. Oil does not have carbon 14, so sediment that contained oil would immediately stand out.
Chanton then collaborated with Tingting Zhao, associate professor of geography at Florida State, to use geographic information system mapping to create a map of the oiled sediment distribution on the sea floor.
Chanton said in the short term, the oil sinking to the sea floor might have seemed like a good thing because the water was clarified, and the oil was removed from the water. But, in the long term, it's a problem, he said.
Less oxygen exists on the sea floor relative to the water column, so the oiled particles are more likely to become hypoxic, meaning they experience less oxygen. Once that happens, it becomes much more difficult for bacteria to attack the oil and cause it to decompose, Chanton said.
Chanton's research is supported by the Florida State University-headquartered Deep-C Consortium as well as the Ecogig consortium, centered at the University of Mississippi. The work was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Institute created to allocate the money made available to support scientific research by BP.
His previous research examined how methane-derived carbon from the oil spill entered the food web.


The Caloosahatchee
River is polluted -

Critics: State blind to pollution problem
News-Pres – by Chad Gillis
January 28, 2015
The state is not doing its job when it comes to controlling and eliminating pollution loads in Florida's lakes, rivers and estuaries.
Those were the sentiments of several outspoken critics of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection during a meeting the state agency hosted Tuesday in Fort Myers to present the latest information on nitrogen loads in the Caloosahatchee River, and its approach to cleaning up excess nutrients.
"It's a lot of guesstimations and hoping and pray," said Linda Young, director of the Florida Clean Water Network, about DEP's pollution reduction program. "We keep seeing more and more stalling with no results."
The Caloosahatchee River was artificially connected to Lake Okeechobee as a way to drain the lake and the Everglades for development. Nutrients from farm fields north of Okeechobee flow into the lake and then are, at times, pumped down the river and into the estuary where nitrogen imbalances can kill sea grasses, fuel algal blooms and shut down oyster beds.
Young and others said they appreciate work done by Bonita Springs, the City of Fort Myers, Lee County and other local governments, but critics say the state is refusing to face the real pollution problem: Lake Okeechobee.
Many of the projects discussed Tuesday would remove anywhere from 1 pound of nitrogen per year to several thousand pounds per year. And while that may sound like a lot of nitrogen, millions of pounds flow down the Caloosahatchee annually.
"Twenty-four thousand pounds of nitrogen a day come from east of Franklin Lock (dam near Alva)," said former Lee commissioner Ray Judah, now with the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition. "While these projects are great, we've lost focus on the real problem."
That 24,000 pounds per day translates into nearly 8.8 million pounds of nitrogen flowing from Lake Okeechobee and the upstream farming lands along the Caloosahatchee River a year.
DEP officials said the agency does not consider Lake Okeechobee to be impaired for nitrogen, so there is no official plan for identifying or removing nitrogen from the lake.
David Liccardi, with Bonita Springs public works, said the city is working toward a project that will use wood chips to remove some nitrogen. The project involves digging a large pit under an existing canal or waterway and filling that area with wood chips. The idea is that the wood chips will act like decaying organic matter, which is the natural way pollution is removed from water.
Liccardi said early estimates show wood chip reactors remove 80 percent or more of nitrogen. The nitrogen is absorbed by bacteria and released as a gas. This project could help Bonita Springs remove thousands of pounds of nitrogen each year.
"We need to take it one step further — implement the project and monitor it to see if we're correct on our assumptions," Liccardi said.


Governor's budget recommends nearly $1.6 billion to protect and preserve Florida's natural resources – by Amber Vann
January 28, 2015
TALLAHASSEE – Governor Scott today recommended nearly $1.6 billion in funding dedicated to the protection and preservation of Florida’s natural and water resources. The Governor’s “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget includes funding dedicated to key environmental projects, such as $150 million for Everglades restoration, $50 million for springs protection and improvements, more than $150 million for the acquisition and management of conservation lands, and $50 million for water supply development projects.
Governor Scott said, “Florida has an abundance of natural resources that help create a foundation for our growing economy, whether it is driving our state’s tourism industry or providing a great quality of life that has attracted families to our state for generations. During my first term, we made historic investments in our springs and Everglades and I am proud to continue to make important investments in our environment this year. We will keep working to make sure we preserve our natural treasures so Florida can continue to be a top destination for families, visitors and businesses.”
The Governor’s proposed budget creates a dedicated source of revenue for Everglades restoration that will provide nearly $670 million over the next four years and more than $5 billion over the next 20 years. In addition, a dedicated source of funding will provide more than $220 million over the next four years and $1.7 billion over the next 20 years to ensure the continued protection of Florida’s springs. The budget also proposes a 10-year, $500 million program to ensure Florida’s water supply remains adequate to support a growing economy while still ensuring the environment is protected.
“Governor Scott’s proposed budget reflects his continued commitment to protecting the natural resources that greatly impact Florida’s economy and quality of life,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson. “I look forward to working under his leadership to focus on completing projects that offer direct benefits to the natural resources and communities of Florida.”
“Governor Scott’s recommended budget recognizes the importance of restoring not only the Everglades, but Florida's treasured springs and other vital water bodies,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. “We applaud his continued commitment to the protection of Florida's environment."
The Governor is recommending the following proposals to help Florida’s environment:
$150 million for Everglades Restoration
In 2011, the Governor proposed his Everglades Restoration Strategies, which provides $32 million annually in state funding to improve water quality and move more water south, reestablishing a more natural flow through the Everglades. The “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget builds upon this recurring funding by providing $150 million in Fiscal Year 2015-2016 for projects vital to the protection of the Everglades and associated South Florida estuaries, including construction of the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs.
$150 million for Land Acquisition and Management
Governor Scott’s recommendation includes $150 million dedicated to land acquisition and management, so that the state can continue to conserve natural and historic resources, as well as effectively manage and protect lands already under state ownership for future generations to enjoy. This funding will focus in part on protecting land for the Florida panther.  
The budget includes $100 million to support land acquisition through the Florida Forever program, $20 million to restore the Kissimmee River and $30 million for additional management dollars to ensure the land already owned by the state is properly cared for.
“We applaud Governor Scott for taking this critical step toward increasing land management funding. This increase will allow for enhanced prescribed fire and invasive plant management necessary to ensure the health of Florida’s conservation  lands for iconic Florida species, such as panther and scrub jay and to enhance public recreation,” said Temperince Morgan, executive director of the Nature Conservancy in Florida.
$50 million for Springs Protection and Restoration
The “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget includes $50 million for springs restoration projects, building on the historic funding provided by the Governor’s administration over the past two years. In partnership with Florida’s water management districts, local governments and other stakeholders, the $40 million directed to springs protection over the past two years has leveraged more than $100 million in springs restoration and improvement projects throughout the state.
$100 million for Water Supply Development and Keys Wastewater Treatment
Governor Scott is working to ensure Florida’s natural resources, communities and growing economy all enjoy a sustainable supply of water. The “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget includes $50 million and will kick-off a 10-year, $500 million program to provide more than 250 million gallons of water a day to Floridians.  
This also includes funding for regional alternative water supply development and for small, economically-challenged communities who need additional help to ensure the needs of their residents and natural resources are being met.
The Governor’s recommended budget includes $50 million for improving wastewater treatment in the Florida Keys, which will build upon the $100 million previously invested during the past four years. These improvements will protect water quality in the Keys, ultimately protecting South Florida’s reefs and waters.
“Florida has now surpassed New York as the third most populous state in the nation and as such, we need smart solutions to meet the needs of Florida’s families and small businesses,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Governor Scott’s budget recommendations will continue to move Florida in the right direction. Ensuring our state has the necessary resources to stay competitive is vital to helping Florida’s economy grow.”
"Monroe County commends Governor Scott for his continued environmental commitment to the Florida Keys with his recommendation of $50 million in funding to help implement measures vital to the protection of our nearshore and National Marine Sanctuary waters, and in doing so, helping to preserve the Florida Keys as a unique environmental treasure and a valuable economic engine," said Monroe County Mayor Danny Kolhage.
$25 Million for Beach Renourishment
The “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget also includes $25 million for projects to protect, preserve and restore Florida’s famous beaches and dune systems. Beach projects include:
$1,100,911 for Venice Beach Nourishment/ Sarasota County Shore Protection
$726,848 for Duval County Shore Protection Project
$10,520,990 for Walton County Hurricane and Storm Damage Reduction Project
$100,000 for Ft. Pierce Shore Protection Project
$39,262 for Brevard County Shore Protection Project/ North & South Reaches
$496,486 for Broward County Shore
$60,000 for Blind Pass Ecozone Restoration in Lee County
$117,630 for South Amelia Island Beach Nourishment
$4,566,500 for Upham Beach Groin Replacement
$1,598,463 for Longboat Key Beach Nourishment (funds will be divided with inlet project)
$2,684,976 for Statewide Post-Construction Monitoring
$160,500 for Port Canaveral Inlet Management Plan (IMP) Implementation
$46,500 for Lake Worth IMP Implementation
$4,963,900 for Longboat Pass IMP Implementation (funds will be divided with beach restoration project)
$19 million for Florida State Parks Repairs, Renovations and Development
Florida is the only state that has been awarded three National Gold Medals for Excellence by the National Recreation and Park Association, and the funding recommended in the “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget will help this award-winning system continue to improve. Along with repairs and renovations, the budget also includes funding for ADA access improvements so all Floridians and visitors are able to enjoy the natural treasures of Florida’s 161 State Parks.
“This funding will help Florida State Parks continue to protect some of our state’s most beautiful natural and cultural resources for millions of visitors to enjoy each year,” said Don Philpott, president of Friends of Florida State Parks.


Scott seeks money to restore Everglades
WJCT News - by Jim Turner
January 28, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott, who environmentalists said was reluctant to support wildlife and conservation efforts for most of his first term, will ask lawmakers to designate money for the next 20 years for Everglades restoration.
Scott on Tuesday outlined a $5 billion plan for the Everglades that would begin with $300 million in the upcoming year. The plan, which includes money for building water-retention reservoirs and maintaining the upland habitat of endangered Florida panthers, was announced as Scott prepares to release his proposed 2015-16 budget this week.
The Everglades proposal comes as lawmakers are determining how to carry out a voter-approved constitutional amendment that requires the state to spend money on conservation efforts for the next 20 years. The amendment, approved in November, designates 33 percent of the revenue from a type of real-estate tax.
Scott didn't support or publicly oppose the amendment, and his office didn't mention it in a news release Tuesday. But the Everglades proposal, if funded through the amendment, would require about a third or a quarter of the money.
In a statement, Scott said his Everglades proposal is to "preserve our natural treasures so Florida can continue to be a top destination for families, visitors and businesses." Lawmakers will consider the proposal this spring as they negotiate a budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
The proposal drew positive responses from environmental groups and from a coalition of sugar farmers who have often been criticized because of phosphorus-laden runoff that has gone into the Everglades and nearby waterways.
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg called Scott's proposal "another historic moment in Everglades restoration." Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues, said "this ensures that there will be enough money to finish restoring the Everglades."
Meanwhile, Brian Hughes, a spokesman for Florida Sugar Farmers, which is a coalition formed by Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar, and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, said in a release that "Scott's financial commitment toward real solutions for the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers should help cut through the rhetoric and begin building storage and treatment where the estuaries need it most."
Still, David Guest, the managing attorney for the environmental-advocacy law firm EarthJustice, expressed hope Scott's proposal will bring "action that will create meaningful restoration" and not "more corporate welfare for big agriculture."
"Job number one is to stop the big South Florida agricultural operations from dumping their pollution into the public's waterways," Guest said in a prepared statement. "If we can finally stop that pollution from going into the waterways that flow into the Everglades, we have a chance for meaningful environmental restoration."
Under Scott's proposal, $150 million during the upcoming budget year would go to Everglades restoration and the other $150 million would be designated for land acquisition and management that in part will protect land for Florida panthers.
Draper noted that before Scott's proposal to save panther habitat, the governor has been "pretty reluctant, historically on land acquisition as a conservation strategy."
"Frankly, wildlife has not been a focus of this governor," Draper said. "We may have found our sweet spot. At least, I'm hopeful we have."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls the Florida panther the most endangered mammal in the eastern U.S., with "only between 120-180 left, all in South Florida."
Scott traveled Tuesday to Gator Park in Miami to announce his spending proposal, where he maintained his support for restoring the Kissimmee River, which feeds into Lake Okeechobee, and building reservoirs for the C-43 and C-44 canals, which take water east and west from the lake.
"Collectively these projects will provide more than 100 billion gallons of storage to protect our estuaries from discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee," a release from the governor's office said. "The dedicated source of funding for Everglades restoration will also allow for the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to identify and fund additional storage projects in the future — and provide the certainty that a restored Everglades will become a reality."
The proposal would continue efforts from the 2014 legislative session in which lawmakers approved $231.9 million to improve South Florida waterways and direct some water out of Lake Okeechobee to the south rather than east and west.
The 2014 funding included $60 million during the next two years to bridge a portion of the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County. Lifting the road is expected to help shift the flow of water in the Everglades to the south.
The funding was the result of a select legislative committee that was initially focused on improving water quality in the St. Lucie River estuary, which in 2013 was inundated with nutrient-heavy waters released from nearby Lake Okeechobee.
Related            Florida Fishing News: Governor Scott Invests in Environment         Live Trading News
Gov. Rick Scott proposes $150 million for Everglades (blog)
Rick Scott pledges billions for the Everglades           Jacksonville Business Journal (blog)
Scott proposes $5 billion for Glades restoration         Sun Sentinel
Florida Gov. to pledge millions for Everglades restoration    Wink News
Rick Scott Wants Billions for Environment   Sunshine State News
State says 'yes' to Everglades restoration money        The News-Press
Florida Governor announces $5 bln over 20 years to restore ...         Reuters


SMAP satellite will help scientists track drought and improve weather forecasts
Full-Time Whistle – by David Jackman
January 28, 2015
Look to the skies Thursday morning and you will see a NASA Delta II rocket that will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. According to a release from, the rocket was built by United Launch Alliance and will be carrying a NASA scientific satellite and three additional secondary payloads.
NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, able to produce the highest-resolution and most accurate maps of soil moisture ever obtained from space, is set to launch Thursday, Jan. 29, from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
9:20 a.m. EST (1420 GMT) marks the beginning of a three minute launch window, and if all goes according to schedule, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket will carry SMAP into orbit.
As NASA’s first U.S. Earth-observing satellite designed to map global soil moisture, SMAP plans to dig into the topmost layer of our planet’s soil in order to accurately measure the hidden water within and determine how that soil water affects our weather and climate. The mission will produce the most accurate, highest-resolution global maps ever obtained from space of soil moisture, while enhancing scientists’ understanding of the processes that link Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles.
The mission is designed to last three years and once in orbit, SMAP will maneuver into a 426-mile (685-kilometer) altitude, near-polar orbit that repeats exactly every eight days. SMAP data will enable us to better understand how Earth’s water cycle will respond to climate change.
“SMAP will be the first mission to measure the soil moisture in the top two inches of the Earth’s surface,” said Chuong Nguyen, the SMAP mission manager for the Launch Services Program (LSP) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
On a global scale, the amount of moisture with soil varies depending on the region — it ranges from 3-5 percent in desert areas and ranges from 40-50 percent in saturated soils. This amount also depends on other factors such as precipitation patterns, topography, vegetation cover and soil composition. From its orbital position, SMAP will be able to produce global maps with 6-mile (10-kilometer) resolution every 2-3 days.
By measuring soil moisture and how its freezes or thaws will be beneficial to scientists for multiple reasons. In order to grow, plants and crops extract water from the soil via their root system. If the moisture levels in the soil are inadequate, the plants will not grow, and ultimately the amount of crops produced will dwindle.
Energy produced by the Sun also has an effect on soil moisture. Soil moisture evaporates as a result of solar energy, cooling surface temperatures and as a result, increasing moisture in the atmosphere. This allows for more cloud formation and increased precipitation. Soil moisture plays a key role not only in short-term regional weather, but also in longer-term global climate.
During the summer months, plants in the planet’s northern boreal regions — forests located in high northern latitudes — grow by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, before entering a dormant state during the winter. Scientists have discovered that the longer the summer growth period is, the more carbon dioxide is removed from the air and absorbed by the plants.
The start of the summer growing season is signaled by the thawing of water in soils, SMAP will be able to help scientists more accurately measure how much carbon dioxide is removed from the air. These measurements are key to better understanding of future global warming.
SMAP also will advance our ability to monitor droughts, predict floods and mitigate the related impacts of these extreme events. It will monitor regional deficits in soil moisture, while providing critical inputs into drought monitoring and early warning systems. The mission’s high-resolution observations of soil moisture will improve flood warnings by providing information on ground saturation conditions before rainstorms.
“Soil moisture is an important part of the Earth’s climate. As it evaporates, it condenses into the clouds and atmosphere, and that in turn becomes rain later in the weather cycle,” Nguyen said. “SMAP will help with climate forecasting and help predict a good growing season. That’s an important part of agriculture, in the U.S. and around the world.”
Approximately four hours before liftoff, Nguyen and his team will begin to monitor launch activity and will continue to do so right up until launch. The team will check the health and status of the rocket and ensure everything is nominal prior to flight.
“After the launch, we will monitor the performance of the rocket though its various stages of flight, and the separation of SMAP from the Delta II,” Nguyen said. “We’ll be looking for an indication that the satellite is healthy. We will all be literally holding our breath.”
SMAP contains two advanced instruments, working together to produce global soil moisture maps. It employs active radar, very similar to the flash on a camera; however, it transmits microwave pulses instead of visible light. These pulses pass through clouds and moderate vegetation cover to the ground and measures how much of that signal is reflected back.
SMAP’s passive radiometer, captures emitted microwave radiation, much like a natural-light camera, but without transmitting a pulse. The images produced are in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum, as microwave radiation is sensitive to how much moisture is contained in the soil.
SMAP’s radiometer has the capability to record measurements over relatively large areas, with a 25-mile resolution. In order for that measurement to be accurate for agriculture practices, scientists need to integrate data from SMAP’s radar instrument, which was developed and built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The radar, will send out a signal and listen for the return. It has a resolution of only about 0.6 to 1.9 miles. The radar is more sensitive to vegetation and other features on top of the soil; however, it’s not as accurate as the radiometer.
“The receiver is very, very sensitive,” said Jeff Piepmeier, radiometer instrument scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “If we could put a cell phone on the moon, working at the same frequency as the receiver, we could see the thing turn on and off.”
Together, the two instruments will provide greater accuracy and spatial resolution than either could on its own. The duo will also share a large, lightweight reflector antenna that will be unfurled in orbit like a blooming flower and then spin at about 14 revolutions per minute. The antenna will allow the instruments to collect data across a 621-mile (1,000-kilometer) area, enabling global coverage every two to three days.
“Combine the two together, use the best of both, and you come up with a pretty accurate soil moisture product at a spatial resolution of 6 miles,” said Peggy O’Neill, SMAP deputy project scientist.
The radiometer is capable of detecting a high-quality signal, but also picks up noise. Radio-frequency interference, or RFI, is what happens when technology, like air traffic control radars or closed circuit televisions, broadcast at the same or neighboring frequencies. The noise will “bleeds over” into the frequency that the radiometer is tuned into, and corrupt the data — just like on the radio when you hear one station trying to come in over top of another.
SMAP operates at a frequency of 1.4 gigahertz, which is reserved for scientific instruments listening in on Earth and space. There have been reports of earlier instruments listening in to that frequency, and running into radio-frequency interference signals. To help combat the RFI, the science team developed new anti-RFI enhancements for SMAP.
“Because we knew RFI was a problem, engineers at Goddard said we’ve got to design a way to detect it, and if possible throw out the bad data and leave enough good data behind,” O’Neill said. “It’s a new and unique system.”
The new technique requires satellite data to be separated into different bins, with respect to sub-frequency and time. If there are outliers, that only appear at one time or a narrow frequency band, computer programs can throw those data out to isolate the natural signals from the soil, which will be more constant and from a wider frequency band.
Once in orbit, the SMAP satellite will deploy its very extensive boom assembly that has an almost 20-foot-diameter antenna at the end of it. During processing, the antenna assembly and boom were folded up and neatly loaded inside the payload fairing of the rocket.
Tim Dunn, the NASA LSP launch director, said the Delta II rocket is perfectly sized for the mass requirement for SMAP. The physical size of SMAP fits within the payload fairing volume of the rocket.
“Delta II has the nickname ‘the workhorse’ for NASA for a reason,” Dunn said. “It has an incredible track record.”
With the launch of SMAP, this flight will mark the 52nd Delta II mission for NASA. To date, there have been 152 launches of the Delta II since 1989, with 51 of those for NASA. The Delta II’s significance in NASA launch history can been seen with all of the science and exploration missions that it has carried aloft. This flight will mark the second of 13 planned ULA missions for 2015, and the second launch in just over a week for ULA.
“Our team has been working very hard for the launch processing phase of the SMAP launch campaign. We’re all excited for countdown,” Dunn said. “The Delta II rocket and SMAP spacecraft are ready and the launch team is prepared and excited to be here at Vandenberg Air Force Base to launch this important mission for our nation.”
SMAP mission is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, with participation by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The frightening true story of the Florida sinkhole that swallowed Jeffrey Bush
Science – by Erin Brodwin
January 28, 2015
Just before midnight one February evening, a giant hole in the earth swallowed Rachel Wicker's brother-in-law, Jeffrey Bush. His body was never found.
Had she known what was about to happen that night, Rachel and her family would have moved out of the house years earlier, she explains in a new NOVA documentary, which is how we learned about her story.
But she had no idea that their modest Florida home was sitting on top of a ticking time bomb — a sinkhole that would change their lives forever.
While Florida has a reputation for sinkholes, they happen all over the United States and all over the world, often suddenly and without warning, the NOVA premiere ("Sinkholes—Buried Alive") explained.
The events that precede a sinkhole are subtle, which is why they often go unnoticed.
In the case of Jeffrey Bush, what likely happened is some variation of the following:
Rainwater seeps inside a tiny crack in the ground to the sediment beneath. As more rain pools inside, the water begins to carve out hollow opening deep inside the earth underneath the ground's surface.
Above the widening gap under the ground, sticky, clay-enriched soil will keep the earth together so that, even as the ground beneath starts to open up, the surface remains superficially strong. In these types of situations, it's tough to notice that anything's changed.
But the void underneath begins to swell, growing larger and larger. Suddenly, often without notice, it gives way.
This is a cover collapse — and it's the most dangerous type of sinkhole. These kinds of sinkholes typically take place in areas where limestone or other types of water-soluble rock makeup a primary component of the underground sediment. Because liquid passes through limestone so easily, it is particularly vulnerable to getting worn away by rainwater.
What happened to the Bush family is rare, however. Most of the time, sinkholes give way gradually, and loose, clay-free soil above the widening gap begins to creep into the hole. Slowly, the ground above begins to sink, forming a bowl-shaped depression in the earth.
Human-Caused Sinkholes
If the causes of sinkholes seem entirely natural, it's important to keep in mind that there are several human activities that can turn a pending threat into disaster.
One of them is salt mining.
Although most American salt mines were built more than a century ago, we still use them to get the ingredients for everything from table and rock salt to chorine gas, a key component of plastic.
The problems start when mining companies send drilling pumps into ancient salty seabeds, pillar-like formations that form over millions of years as surrounding sediments propel them upwards. The pumps dissolve the salt into a salty brine, creating a big watery cavern around the pillar.
If the cavern gets too close to a sinkhole, soil from the sinkhole leaks into the saltwater cavity, causing the ground above to collapse.
In Bayou Corne, Louisiana, a massive sinkhole opened up when an underground gap in the earth collided with an expanding salt mine, swallowing trees and land. Residents were forced to relocate. As of Oct. 2014, the sinkhole continues to spread.
In THIS 2013 video, the Bayou Corne sinkhole swallows up trees in seconds.
While sinkholes are common and somewhat terrifying to watch, they only rarely lead to fatalities, experts say.
"In Florida we are only aware of maybe five fatalities that have ever happened due to sinkhole activity," geologist Guy Means told The Tampa Tribune. And that's in a state where, according to CNN, insurers processed close to 25,000 claims for sinkhole damage over the course of 4 years.
Related:           The World's Biggest Sinkholes           The Most Terrifying Sinkhole Pictures You've Ever Seen


Billions on table for Everglades – by Chad Gillis
January 27, 2015
After years of underfunding (some years with none) the state's land conservation arm seems poised to get the Everglades restoration on track.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Tuesday that the state will commit $5 billion over 20 years to fully fund the state's portion of Everglades projects like the Caloosahatchee River reservoir, a massive compound designed to store upwards of 55 billion gallons of stormwater run-off.
"We're just delighted that the governor is committed to provide money for the state share of Everglades restoration," said Pete Quasius with Audubon of the Western Everglades. "This will help both the Calooshatchee and the St. Lucie."
The Caloosahatchee and St Lucie Rivers were artificially connected to Lake Okeechobee about a century ago, and taxpayers have spent untold billions to mitigate the drainage work and to protect endangered species threatened by the ecological changes.
Everglades money will be used for the Caloosahatchee reservoir as well as water storage areas to the south. Those lands could take release water from Lake O, which now comes mostly through the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie systems.
Much of the money Scott promised is tied to Amendment 1, which was approved by more than 75 percent of voters and could eventually generate $1 billion a year for state land purchases, Everglades projects and land management. Scott and Florida lawmakers can only use those monies for land and water quality issues.
Eric Eikenberg with the Everglades Coalition said now is the time for residents and business owners to build on the momentum -- maybe send letters to elected officials or reach out to them by phone.
"We're at the goal line," Eikenberg said. "We need somebody to take the ball and score. (The government) needs to hear that. They need encouragement."
Bills regarded how the Amendment 1 money will be used are expected to come from the House of Representatives and Senate in the next few weeks and will likely set the framework for the next 20 years of Amendment 1 money allocation.
One major goal is to purchase lands south of Lake Okeechobee and use those lands for water storage. Storing water on land allows for natural filtration of nutrients and pollution and helps drinking water aquifers recharge.
Nearly 75 percent of voters said "yes" on Amendment 1, or the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative. The money is generated by a real estate transaction document tax and will be used for land purchases and management. Recent state estimates say the program will generate more than $600 million in its first year, which starts in July.
Locally, the initiative is expected to fund Everglades restoration projects, water quality features such as the Caloosahatchee Reservoir, and to pay farmers for land easements that would increase panther habitat.
The amendment would not increase taxes but would force the state to use the money for conservation and land management. That money was used under past regimes: Florida started setting aside money for conservation purchases in 1963, and was once the nation's leading conservation program. Florida Forever, in its heyday, had an annual budget of $300 million and secured more than 683,000 acres at a value of $2.87 billion.
From 2009 through 2012, a period that would have generated $1.2 billion under past regimes, the state government under Charlie Crist and Rick Scott set aside about $20 million combined for Florida Forever.
"(Tuesday's commitment) creates some certainty that restoration projects will get done," said Eric Draper with Audubon of Florida.


Gov. Scott announces $5 billion over 20 years to restore the Everglades - by Melissa Mickey
January 27, 2015
MIAMI, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott proposed a dedicated source of revenue that will provide more than $5 billion for Everglades restoration over the next 20 years as part of his 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget.  
If passed by the Legislature, $150 million will go towards Everglades restoration this year. In addition, Governor Scott’s proposed budget also includes $150 million that will be allocated toward land acquisition and management which will focus in part on protecting land for the Florida panther.
Governor Scott said, “Florida has an abundance of natural resources that help create a foundation for our growing economy, whether it is driving our state’s tourism industry or providing a great quality of life that has attracted families to our state for generations. During my first term, we made historic investments in our springs and Everglades and I am proud to continue to make important investments in our environment this year.  We will keep working to make sure we preserve our natural treasures so Florida can continue to be a top destination for families, visitors and businesses.”
As part of the $5 billion investment, Governor Scott is committed to fully funding the state’s share of the restoration of the Kissimmee River and the construction of the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs over the next four years.  
Collectively these projects will provide more than 100 billion gallons of storage to protect our estuaries from discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee.  The dedicated source of funding for Everglades restoration will also allow for the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to identify and fund additional storage projects in the future – and provide the certainty that a restored Everglades will become a reality.
The Governor will release his full “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget recommendations this week.
Related;           Florida governor to pledge millions for Everglades restoration - WESH Orlando
Florida Gov. to pledge millions for Everglades restoration -
Scott Announces Plan To Restore Everglades -
Gov. Rick Scott proposes $5 billion Everglades plan
Scott seeks money to restore Everglades        WJXT Jacksonville
Gov. Rick Scott proposes $150 million for Everglades
State says 'yes' to Everglades restoration money        The News-Press
Florida Governor announces $5 bln over 20 years to restore ...         Reuters


Overpopulation: The environmental movement's third rail
Huffington Post – Marc Ross, Founder and executive director, Rock the Earth
January 27, 2015
In 2014, our planet added approximately 80 million new Earthlings. That equates to the population of California, New York and Florida added to a world with depleting natural resources, unprecedented water scarcity and citizens with a "throwaway" mentality. As scientists predict that Earth's population will only continue to grow, our fate will be determined by strides toward sustainable life now and in the future.
Population growth is an issue that transcends age, race, religion and borders. It touches on every environmental issue facing our planet -- clean water, energy usage, public lands and wilderness use, endangered species, raw materials and food. And yet, it is the one issue that most major environmental organizations are not mentioning, let alone addressing. Humankind needs to become more educated on this topic. It's vital to the survival of our species.
Take a second to think about the following statistics:
1 billion people are added to the planet every 12 years.
• Today, nearly 1 billion people do not have access to food and safe drinking water.
2.2 million acres of forest and ranch land are destroyed every year in the U.S, due to sprawl.
Deforestation limits our planet's ability to control temperature.
• Every human generates 4.3 lbs. of waste per day.
One can easily grasp from these numbers that a growing population in a habitat with diminishing resources is not only detrimental, but is deadly.
Consider water. We rely on water for sanitation, sustenance and agriculture. What's mind-boggling is that only 2.5 percent of the Earth's water is fresh, and we only have access to one percent of it! What's more, UN research suggests that water usage is growing at twice the rate of the population and that by 2025, approximately 23 percent of the population will live in an area affected by water scarcity. Our growing population is and will further strain our diminishing freshwater, and has already been the cause of domestic unrest in the U.S. (for example, "The American Nile").
Another serious issue is waste. We often treat Mother Earth as a perpetual trash can. Too often the "use and throw away" mentality trumps all. The public is bombarded with products that are not designed for reuse. The trash often provides the graveyard for modern consumerism.
According to a robust breakdown by the EPA, in 2012 the U.S. incurred the highest levels of municipal solid waste generation so far in the 21st century (with 2012 being the second highest ever on record). A chilling, yet opportunistic, finding in the report is that Americans' largest component of discarded waste is organic and recyclable. This means that Americans are putting too much paper, paperboard and compostable materials in landfills rather than recycling and reusing.
The silver lining is that Americans have an opportunity to better our practices by educating communities on recycling and composting programs, and providing accessible and affordable options. Convenience play a major factor in the adoption of recycling. However, compared to our European counterparts, we have a long way to go. Population growth requires us to abandon the traditional "use and discard" method.
Another pressure of population growth has been the impacts to our public lands and wild areas. Millions of acres of previously undeveloped lands are sacrificed each year in the U.S. to support urban growth, energy development and other private interests. Public lands, which support diverse ecosystems and exploratory outlets for those channeling their inner John Muir, are diminishing. Visits in 2014 to our National Treasures are up 20 million visitors over 2013. Conflicts between disparate users of public lands are becoming higher profile. Ranchers and gun owners protesting curtailment of public use, off-road vehicle enthusiasts and hikers coming into conflict, and the growth invasive species (often transported by human visitors and their machines) all threaten our public lands.
In addition, our forests are also shrinking. Saving America's forests is rooted in protecting our wild, undeveloped areas. The Natural Resources Defense Council cites how U.S. energy companies in the Southeast are putting a tremendous strain on the local forests to produce energy for their fossil fuel burning plants. The U.S. also utilizes domestic forests for international profit agendas, and the Southeast has become the largest exporter of wood pellets in the world.
Urban growth also puts pressure on wild lands and has garnered serious attention from the Center for Biological Diversity (Director of Population and Sustainability Stephanie Feldstein's blog), NYU (Urbanization Project), and the World Urban Forum. All three agree that population growth is a humanitarian issue, which requires careful attention and planning from urban and rural centers now.
Finally, there is the hard truth about birth rates. While falling world-wide, we are still replacing each human on the planet with two, four, and in some places, upward of eight children per adult! Though some economists believe world economic growth might be negatively impacted by a reduction of birthrates, our planet cannot sustain our current use of resources. Each year, we use the equivalent of 1.5 Earths. If current population growth and use statistics continue on the path we're on, it is projected that we will be using two Earths of resources every year by the 2030s.
Meanwhile in the U.S., 397,122 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. A total of 101,666 of these children are eligible for adoption. Around the world, an estimated 153 million orphans have lost one parent, and there are 17,900,000 orphans who have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets - and lack the care and attention required for healthy development. These children are at risk for disease, malnutrition and death. In other words, there are many children worldwide needing homes, but yet we as Americans compound our sustainability and environmental problem by having children at a rate that dwarfs the adoption rate by over 500 times.
Many small organizations, including my own, are scrupulously working toward protecting our growing population. While I believe that contributions from smaller organizations help enact change, it is also imperative that larger organizations with more robust resources get involved. Mobilization and activation are critical if we are going to make any real preparations to host our fast-growing family on Earth.


Pace of Everglades restoration threatens to harm estuaries
Sun Sentinel – by Martha Musgrove
January 27, 2015
Spooked by warming currents in the Pacific known to presage heavy rains in Florida, the Army Corps of Engineers has been lowering Lake Okeechobee by discharging water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. Coastal residents are none too happy about it.
But 15 years after adoption of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan to clean and send water south, there's still no choice but to discharge east and west to lower the lake. Neither the Corps nor the South Florida Water Management District is going to risk letting Lake Okeechobee rise above 16 feet and possibly trigger a catastrophic failure of the Herbert Hoover Dike.
The dike doesn't meet national "dam safety" standards. It is under repair, but runoff from rain in the Kissimmee Valley flushes into the lake six times faster than it can be released. To maintain a margin of safety, releases must start before the rain. The lake is now at about 15 feet.
Keeping water low has been good for Lake Okeechobee and its rebounding bass fishery. It's murder for the estuaries. And the bitter irony is: This is happening in the dry season.
The Caloosahatchee River and its estuary, on Florida's west coast, handle lake releases better than the St. Lucie on the east coast. The St. Lucie neither needs nor wants lake water, and is still recovering from the 2013 lake dump during summer's "rainy season." That discharge uprooted and washed away grass beds, killed the oysters and shellfish and fed an algal bloom so toxic that health officials were warning: "Don't touch the water."
Protesters chanting "Send It South" don't want any repeats.
Historically the water of the Kissimmee-Lake Okeechobee-Everglades did flow south. There are no natural links between Lake Okeechobee and the coast, only canals.
"Send It South" resonates well within the Everglades Coalition, which adopted it as the theme for its recent annual conference in Key Largo. There, the steadfastly bi-partisan coalition of 57 organizations urged attending members of Congress, state and federal officials to speed up implementation of the restoration plan adopted in 2000 by Florida's Legislature and Congress with near unanimous support.
The plan laid out 68 projects to get the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of South Florida's water "right."
The basic principles are:
- Store freshwater in the rainy season for use in the dry season.
- Clean it up so the Everglades River of Grass doesn't turn into a stagnant cattail marsh.
- Re-establish the seasonal shallow-sheet flow south through the Water Conservation Areas into Everglades National Park.
Assurances were also included that the region's then-existing flood protection and water supply for urban, agriculture and commercial use would be maintained. Implementation of the plan has been painfully slow. As repeated "emergency" water discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries attest, there is now an urgent need for places simply to store water.
There was no doubt Gov. Rick Scott would press the Legislature for funds to complete his "Restoration Strategies" program to expand the filtration marshes, called Stormwater Treatment Areas, south of Lake Okeechobee and resolve longstanding lawsuits over water-quality issues. Tuesday, the governor made a welcome commitment to a much larger restoration program — $5 billion over 20 years. The South Florida Water Management District and Legislature must follow through, exercising the state's option to buy 46,000 acres of U.S. Sugar-owned land for a reservoir adjacent to Lake Okeechobee to increase storage and conveyance, initiating construction of the long-planned Caloosahatchee Reservoir, and completing construction of the St. Lucie Reservoir.
Total costs on those water projects alone are estimated at $1.8 billion. So, bond-financing for such projects must be on the agenda too.
With 19 million people, Florida is now the nation's third most populous state. That's 19 million reasons to finish Everglades Restoration and to protect the state's other endangered waters resources — springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries. Florida has the financial wherewithal. What we need is the sustained bi-partisan political will to do so.
Martha Musgrove is a veteran South Florida journalist, formerly with The Miami Herald and Cox Newspapers. She is also a director of the Florida Wildlife Federation, which is a member organization of the Everglades Coalition


Rick Scott announces Everglades, land-buying requests
SaintPetersBlog - by Bruce Ritchie
January 27, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday announced he will request $150 million for Everglades restoration in fiscal year 2015-16 along with $150 million for land acquisition and management.
Scott apparently will use money for water and land conservation under Amendment 1, approved by 75 percent of voters in November. The request for land acquisition falls short of what environmentalists are requesting.

Florida Forever
By the numbers (since 2001)
  • $2.89: Billions spent
  • 707,740: Acres purchased
  • 384,380: Acres acquired to function as flood plains
  • 818: Archeological, historic sites
  • 9.9: Million acres of conservation land in Florida

Source: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

The announcement comes in advance of Scott releasing his 2015-16 budget request later this week. Scott said the Everglades funding is part of a $5 billion “investment” by the state over the next 20 years to fund Everglades restoration.
“We will keep working to make sure we preserve our natural treasures so Florida can continue to be a top destination for families, visitors and businesses,” Scott said in a news release.
The governor did say the state is committed to fully funding the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs that will provide 100 billion gallons of storage to protect the estuaries of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers from discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
That announcement drew praise from sugar farmers and the Everglades Foundation.
Scott’s request “should help cut through the rhetoric and begin building storage and treatment where the estuaries need it most,” said Brian Hughes, spokesman for a coalition of sugar farmers that includes Florida Crystals and U. S. Sugar Corp.
Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, said Scott is leading one of the largest environmental restoration projects in the world with an $880 million water quality treatment plan through 2025 and $90 million for bridging the Tamiami Trail over three years. Eikenberg said Scott’s budget request is a good starting point with the Legislature and he hopes the state will exercise an option to buy U. S. Sugar Corp. land there.
“The communities east (along the St. Lucie River) and west (along the Caloosahatchee) need to send the water south,” Eikenberg told “Let’s not miss the opportunity from our perspective.”
David Guest of the Earthjustice Florida office said his nonprofit law firm welcomes any action that will create “meaningful restoration” but also said it doesn’t want more “corporate welfare.”
“Job number one is to stop the big South Florida agricultural operations from dumping their pollution into the public’s waterways,” Guest said.
Amendment 1 calls for transferring one-third of a state excise tax on documents, or an estimated $757 million in FY 2015-16, to the state Land Acquisition Trust Fund over the next 20 years.
Scott would provide the $300 million for Everglades restoration and land acquisition and management but he doesn’t say how another $457 million under Amendment 1 would be spent. Other industry and utility groups likely are pushing for money to be spent for water supply and pollution projects.
In updated request on Jan. 21, a coalition of Amendment 1 supporters wants $170 million for Everglades projects and $170 million for land acquisition. The coalition said it also wants $110 million for land management, which Scott has included in his request along with land acquisition for $150 million.
“The governor’s recommendation is not there,” said Eric Draper of Audubon Florida. “But it still is a substantive number.”

Send Lake Okeechobee water south
Miami Herald - by Maggy Hurchalla, member, Everglades Coalition Hall of Fame, Stuart
January 27, 2015
Buy the land, and send the water south. That’s the war cry of the folks where dumping Lake Okeechobee is killing the their coastal estuaries. The irony is that the people who need to be shouting loudest are the residents of Miami-Dade County.
The Jan. 18 editorial, A matter of when, not if, pointed out that Miami is Ground Zero for the impacts from climate change. For whatever reason, the sea level is rising faster. For Miami, more than any great city in America, the question is one of salt intrusion and the destruction of the aquifer that supplies everyone’s drinking water.
With the flood-control plumbing system we have in place, a very small percentage of Lake Okeechobee overflow comes south through the Everglades. That’s where all of it used to go.
Everglades National Park is dying because it’s not getting enough water. The coastal estuaries are dying because they are getting too much water. Climate changes will make that worse.
With climate change, storms are increasing while annual rainfall decreases. There will be more droughts and more floods and less water to keep the Everglades wet.
Miamians need to think what it’s like when the ’Glades west of Miami are on fire and the wind is from the west. For old people and kids with asthma, it’s more than a nuisance. It’s a visit to the hospital emergency room.
If we don’t send more water south from the lake, the increased dry-season fires will burn the organic muck soils and lower the ground surface. The result will be a rising Florida Bay moving up Shark Valley Slough until Miami is surrounded by saltwater on three sides.
Moving water south from Lake Okeechobee will not stop the sea level from rising, but it will slow the process and give natural and manmade communities a chance to adapt.
In October of this year, the option to buy the key piece of U.S. Sugar land that can send the water south expires. You can read the details at
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. South Florida is looking the other way. History will pass judgment on those who do nothing. Then it will be too late. Miamians need to demand action.


sea rise

Miami-Dade County takes reins on climate change
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
January 26, 2015
Jan. 22--Miami-Dade County commissioners passed resolutions Wednesday aimed at tackling the risks of climate change, playing catch up in a region long declared the nation's epicenter for rising seas.
"People are going to look back at this day as a turning point," said Clerk of Court Harvey Ruvin, who chaired two different task forces working on plans for over six years.
The resolutions now put the work of preparing for climate change under the supervision of county Mayor Carlos Gimenez and his staff. His first assignment will be hiring experts to look at predicted threats and developing a capital plan to fortify the county, particularly at-risk structures like the county's wastewater treatment plant on Virginia Key.
No price has been estimated for how much it will all cost. But Ruvin has compared the needed work to a $20 billion plan created by New York City's former Mayor Michael Bloomberg in June 2013.
The measures help bring the county in line with surrounding governments already working to address threats. Broward County most notably took a lead role in a regional compact, while Miami-Dade stumbled in 2013 after an earlier task force devised a wide-ranging blueprint that included 57 recommendations. Some of the suggestions were included in a countywide Greenprint, but many got discarded during a shuffle in administration after former Mayor Carlos Alvarez was recalled, Ruvin said.
Commissioner Rebeca Sosa reconvened the task force and sponsored Wednesday's resolutions as one of her last acts as commission chairwoman, hoping to establish deadlines and nail down a capital plan.
To win bipartisan support, Sosa said she intentionally left out any references to talk that human action caused climate change.
"I told [the task force] from day one, 'Leave politics aside,'" Sosa said. "At the same time, I said give me realistic recommendations."
The move rankled environmentalists who argued that not addressing carbon emissions that warm the planet and drive climate change undermines efforts to prepare for rising seas.
"Given how much we have to lose, shouldn't we lead the planet in combating the cause?" asked South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard.
Yet Sosa succeeded at forging unusual allies: the Florida Atlantic Building Association and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce lined up behind environmental groups to urge support Wednesday.
"Miami has been branded with ground zero," said the chamber's Irela Bagué. "But we can show the rest of the world through collaboration and action that we can protect our assets."
At risk are about $6 trillion in assets, Ruvin said. One resolution, based on meetings with representatives in the insurance and reinsurance industries, calls for the county to address expected rate hikes.
In endorsing the resolutions, Commissioner Juan Zapata also warned that the county may need to declare some areas too threatened to save.
"I don't think we should have a save-everything-at-all-costs" mentality, he said referring to the Virginia Key treatment plant. "We shouldn't have assets where they don't make sense."
Gimenez, who said the administration "wholeheartedly" supported the measures, also pointed out that some work has already been done, including incorporating predicted risks into contracts for water and sewer projects.
In a separate but related resolution proposed by Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, the commission also agreed to support a state ban on searching for oil by injecting water under high-pressure into the ground, called fracking. The practice in Florida includes mixing water with hydrochloric acid to break down the state's limestone base, said University of Miami geologist Harold Wanless, and could threaten South Florida drinking water supplies.


Florida lobbyists elect new officers
Sunshine State News – by Nancy Smith
January 25, 2015
The Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists (FAPL) announced in a press statement Sunday the results of its election of officers for 2015-2016.
Officers elected are as follows:
Chairman, David R. Mica, CAE, DPL, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Institute;
Vice chairman, Mike Hightower, senior policy adviser with the Holland & Knight law firm;
Secretary-treasurer, Lori Killinger, Esq., DPL, shareholder with Lewis, Longman & Walker, one of Florida’s pre-eminent law firms where she chairs the Legislative, Lobbying and Governmental Affairs Practice Group.
Appointed to the executive committee by Chairman Mica, with the board's concurrence, were Jose Gonzalez, DPL, state affairs director with Anheuser-Busch; and Michael Carlson, Esq., DPL, executive director of the Personal Insurance Federation of Florida.
Continuing their service as directors are Mike Brawer, M.S.Ed, DPL, executive director, Association of Florida Colleges; Eric Eikenberg, DPL, executive director, Everglades Foundation; Candice Ericks, DPL, partner, Adams Street Advocates; former state Rep. Susan Goldstein, DPL, founder, Susan Goldstein Consulting; Jennifer Green, CAE, DPL, president and founder, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee; Fred Leonhardt, Esq., DPL, shareholder, Gray Robinson, PA; Andrea B. Reilly, Esq., DPL, Smith, Bryan & Myers; John Wayne Smith, DPL, partner, Peebles-Smith Consulting; and Doug Wheeler, DPL, president, Florida Ports Council.
FAPL represents government affairs professionals regulated and registered with the state of Florida.
According to the association, its mission focuses on education and ethical conduct. Each member must complete an initial course in lobbying regulation and ethics and then participate in periodic continuing education.
The association's code of ethics sets out explicit standards of conduct in dealing with public officials, clients, and with one another that are based on "principles of honesty, candor, integrity, and respect for the process."


Mote Marine scientists certain ocean chemistry is changing for the worse – by Cris Adams, Herald Washington Bureau
January 25, 2015
SARASOTA -- For Gareth Lawson, the tiny water creatures known as "sea butterflies" might offer insight into one of the biggest problems to confront the world's oceans.
For Emily Hall, who manages the ocean acidification program at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, that insight might come from some of the oceans' biggest organisms: coral reefs.
"The chemistry of the oceans is changing -- we know that as a fact," Hall said. But the ultimate impact, she said, is uncertain.
Lawson's research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts
is on tiny marine snails called sea butterflies but formally known as pteropods (pronounced TARE-a-pods).
"No more than a few centimeters - many of them the size of a grain of sand," said Lawson.
Lawson said that the sea butterflies are vital to understanding the world's changing oceans because they come equipped with thin, sometimes-transparent, shells that are susceptible to changing ocean chemistry. As waters become more acidic, the sea butterflies' shells dissolve.
While the long-term impact on sea butterflies and the marine environment around them is uncertain, what Lawson does know is that these lowly, delicate creatures play a big part in the food chain.
Pink salmon off the coast of Alaska, for example, get half their diet some years from sea butterflies.
"If they all dissolve away, what happens to the pink salmon?" he said. "That's not clear."
Hall's research at Mote, meanwhile, is on corals - living organisms that bind together to form colonies known as coral reefs.
Mote, which has facilities in Sarasota as well as the Florida Keys, is actively conducting experiments to see if added carbon dioxide causes corals' growth to slow or stop altogether.
In the most extreme cases, coral skeletons can begin to dissolve from acidified waters.
But even corals that survive, Hall said, can be affected.
"We know that short-term they're not necessarily dead -- but they are changing," she said.
Mote has received National Science Foundation money to help develop the kind of facilities that will allow it test the impact of changing ocean chemistry on coral reefs. In experiments so far, Mote has taken seawater and bubbled in carbon dioxide - an attempt to approximate levels the oceans will eventually experience.
Researchers then monitor the calcification and other physiology processes of the corals, comparing them to corals living in regular seawater.
"What we're seeing is that different species react differently," she said.
Some species may do better in a high-carbon dioxide environment than others, she said - but it's not easy to predict which might be the winners and which the losers. Mote scientists want to find out so they can know which corals are best to use in their coral-restoration work.
Overall, there are more than 60 species of hard corals in the Caribbean, most of which can be found in the Florida Keys and which include the species that form coral reefs.
Other scientists from around the country have received funding from the National Science Foundation, a federal agency that sought five years ago to better understand ocean acidification.
David Garrison, a program director in the foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences, said changing acid levels might affect organisms in the ocean "in ways we can't appreciate." The foundation had a five-year program, starting in 2010, that awarded about $12 million a year for research into ocean acidification. Lawson's work at Woods Hole was among the projects.
Among 22 grants announced last year:
• Florida Atlantic University will study marine macroalgae and how their responses to changing ocean chemistry could affect coral reefs.
• University of California, San Diego, will explore the links among offshore biogeochemistry, coral reef metabolism and acidification.
• Pennsylvania State University will explore the response of tiny shelled organisms to ocean acidification during a warming period 56 million years ago.
• Duke University and Georgia Institute of Technology researchers will explore how microbes in coastal ecosystems fare differently from those in the open ocean.
• North Carolina State University researchers will study ocean acidification and coral reefs.
Of the projects announced in 2014, nine are by California researchers; two by North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Florida; and one each by Hawaii, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Bermuda.
Related:           Fearful scientists expect extinctions as ocean acid levels rise            Bradenton Herald
Rising Oceans A Slow-Moving Disaster, But Also A Business ...     KQED




FL Agriculture Commissioner

Putnam: 'Think big, act boldly' on environment
Tallahassee Democrat – by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
January 25, 2015
Florida lawmakers, who received a directive from voters in November to increase spending to protect water sources and sensitive lands, were told to "think big and act boldly" by the state agriculture commissioner on Thursday.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told members of the House State Affairs Committee that any approach to addressing Florida's water needs should first focus on restoring natural springs and revising laws to reflect progress on Lake Okeechobee and the Northern Everglades. He also said lawmakers need to complete the implementation of the Central Florida Water Initiative, which ties together the St. Johns River Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Meanwhile, he said the state needs to review its land-management policies and set priorities on purchasing new lands that close gaps between wildlife corridors and create buffers around military bases.
"We need to view this from a long-term perspective, 10 to 20 years," Putnam said. "We need to estimate how much it's going to cost us and prioritize by project. So that as legislatures change, economic conditions change, budgets change, but if the policy is right, the investments that you're making, whether you can afford to make an enormous investment one year, and scale back the next, we're still moving down the road making the right investments based on an already prioritized policy."
Committee members didn't ask any questions, but Putnam said afterward he anticipates that will change as "this is a lot to dump on somebody at one meeting."
Meanwhile, through work Putnam has done with House leadership, a bill is expected to be rolled out that will include many of the commissioner's proposals.
Environmentalists credited Putnam with taking leadership on the issue.
"He's building on something that the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) and water management districts have been working on, but he's making sure they get the attention they deserve from the Legislature," said Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues.
Putnam's comments were also applauded by the H20 Coalition, a group formed by the business lobbying group Associated Industries of Florida, which was a critic of the "Florida Water and Land Legacy" constitutional amendment approved by voters in November.
"Commissioner Putnam's recommendations provide an excellent framework to increase Florida's water supply and enact common-sense, science-based water quality reforms," AIF President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Feeney said in a prepared statement.
With the 2015 legislative session starting in March, Putnam has requested $25 million for the Rural and Family Lands Program, which allows farmers and ranchers to continue to use their land while the state is able to keep those parcels from being developed. Also he is seeking $18 million to fight diseases impacting the citrus industry. He also intends to seek increased funding for springs maintenance and reforestation efforts.
Since voters approved the "Florida Water and Land Legacy" amendment, lawmakers have heard from a growing number of interests about how to carve up the money — estimated to reach $650 million to $750 million next year.
The amendment, which received support from 75 percent of the voters, devotes 33 percent of the revenue from a type of real-estate tax to conservation efforts.
Since the amendment was approved, lawmakers have differed on how to define land-preservation and water-conservation projects, how the state should determine which of its "impaired" water bodies is most critical and how to approach the reduction of stormwater runoff and agricultural fertilizer use.
Putnam's approach of creating a long-term plan appears in part to mirror a proposal from Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. Gardiner has suggested lawmakers lay out future water and land preservation efforts in a five-year plan updated annually, similar to how transportation projects are prioritized.
"We know the price tag is much greater than what we have to spend, so let's have a road map for how to get there," Putnam said after the meeting.
Putnam said even if the amendment wasn't approved, lawmakers would have needed to address water issues this year as the wetland-dominated peninsula houses 19.9 million people, a $100 billion-a-year agricultural industry and nearly 100 million tourists a year.
"Our identity as a state is attached to water," Putnam said. "We really have an opportunity to think big and act boldly."
Among the situations facing Florida is that the freshwater demands are expected to reach 7.5 billion gallons a day by 2030, which would be a 20 percent increase from 2010, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Public consumption, which accounts for more than 40 percent of the state's water demands, is expected to grow 30 percent. Agriculture, which is now under 40 percent of the state's water demand, is projected to see a 5 percent increase in use.


Before sea level rises, Miami Beach officials want to raise West Avenue 1½ to 2 feet
Miami Herald - by Joey Flechas
January 24, 2015
In an area that has seen its fair share of roadwork during the past few years, city officials want to raise West Avenue between 1½ to 2 feet during the next few years in an effort to prepare one of the lowest-lying points of Miami Beach for anticipated sea level rise.
Raising the road would be tied to stormwater drainage and sewer improvements that include installing more pumps to prevent flooding from rain and high tides. The first phase, which will likely begin in February, involves work on West Avenue from Fifth to Eighth streets and from Lincoln Road to 17th Street. This phase would last until August.
The West Avenue Neighborhood Association met Wednesday night with city officials to discuss the plans. Public Works director Eric Carpenter told the packed room of about 100 residents — some skeptical and some more in favor of the plan — that he prefers dovetailing the street raising with the underground infrastructure work rather than tearing up the street several times.
“It doesn’t really make any sense to disturb those segments of the street twice,” he said. “We’re moving forward with the stormwater improvements. What we’re trying to do now is get a consensus from the community that we want to move forward with everything else on that street so that we don’t have to come back later and tear it up again.”
With a higher road, the city would create transitions from the road to the sidewalk that include, depending on the property, a higher sidewalk, steps down to the sidewalk and/or extra drainage components to ensure that no water from the street is draining onto private property.
The stretch between 8th Street and Lincoln Road would be done at a later date in the second phase of the improvements.
Valerie Navarrete, president of the neighborhood association, said she feels the project is necessary sooner than later, even if it means everyone has to put up with more construction. She added that some private properties, like the building she lives in, will have to find solutions to pump water from their land.
“I’m three feet below sea level,” she said. “Our building’s water pump cost us $2,000.”
The contractor for phase one is Bergeron Land Development, and that first phase will cost about $15 million, according to city engineer Bruce Mowry.
Mowry also spoke to residents Wednesday, saying that Miami Beach — the western swath of South Beach in particular — is “ground zero” for the affects of sea-level rise.
“I’m not going to stop sea-level rise,” he said. “But we are here to try and mitigate.”
Some residents have been skeptical since first hearing about the project at a neighborhood meeting in December. Business owners have felt the pinch since a large section of Alton Road was torn up and rebuilt recently, and they worry work on West Avenue will further hinder business. Residents already tired of construction headaches are wary of more detours, jackhammers and dust.
With Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and commissioners pushing for projects like these to get done quickly, some residents are actually wondering if maybe the city should take more time to hash out the details before launching the two-phase project.
Wednesday night, residents asked several questions about timing and what impact the street raising would have on their properties. Virtually all agreed the work is necessary to keep South Beach dry, but many want to keep discussing details of how it will be done and what the finished street will look like.
 “It’ll be OK,” said Gayle Durham, who is a member of the neighborhood association board and has had reservations about the project. She, like many, wants to keep discussing the impacts, including what kind of streetscaping will be done after the the road is raised. She suggested properties work with the city plant trees on private property to create a bigger canopy, and city staff said they were open to the idea.
“I feel better after this meeting,” she said at the end. “I trust them more.”
Shawn Bryant, another board member, asked why the city hasn’t fully designed both phases of the project, along the whole stretch of West Avenue, before starting phase one.
“This is a 12-block area, and you’re going into a project that hasn’t been full designed out,” he said. “That’s just astonishing to me.”
Carpenter and Mowry assured everyone that there would be a smooth transition between raised sections of West and non-raised sections between phases, and that the details of impacts on the sidewalk would get hashed out on a property-by-property basis. The project has also been broken up into phases because the neighborhood has, in the past, requested the city not tear up the whole street at once.
By the end of the two-hour meeting, Bryant was thankful for the explanations.
“I’m not against the project,” Bryant said. “I just want to understand the project.”
Carpenter said his office was available to people who have questions or concerns.
“I know that’s a scary thought when the government comes and says, ‘We’re here to help,’ but we really are here to help,” he said. “And if you have concerns or you have problems, let us know, and we’ll try and fix them.”
Related:           Rock mining for landfill         Everglades Plan


BP oil spill

BP could owe billions for past and future harm from the 2010 oil spill - by Catherine Gill
January 24, 2015
Tuesday began the third and final segment of the trial for the BP oil spill that happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. This portion of the trial is mostly about determining whether BP should pay $13.7 billion in Clean Water Act penalties — $4,300 for each of the 3.19 million barrels of oil that were discharged as a result of the oil disaster. To make that determination, lawyers are looking at the existing damage as well as what future harm may arise as a result of the 2010 spill.
It has been almost five years since the tragic spill that claimed the lives of eleven workers, defacing the environment, wetlands, beaches and wildlife from Texas to Florida with oil. Following the spill, toxicity levels in the water were high, and experts believe that future risks to the environment are likely.
BP attorneys are ruthlessly sparring with environmental researchers to avoid having to pay these penalties. BP is actually known to appeal each fine that they receive. The oil giant claims it has already spent an estimated $42 billion in costs relating to the spill, though the cleaning methods used are also suspect and harmful.
During questioning, government witness, Dr. Stanley Rice, who is a retired National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) toxicology expert, denigrates BP’s report following the 2010 spill. Rice believes that the oil conglomerate failed to focus on surface waters or the deep-sea oil plumes that were following the soiling that occurred in the Gulf. When speaking about BP’s report, which glossed over the effects of the event, Rice said, “You do not get the impression that there’s anything to worry about.”
Donald Boesch, a professor from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, justified his conclusions that the spill caused harm and that there are potential future hazards present. Boesch based his findings on the host of reports and data that he reviewed following the spill.
Boesch was the first witness that the government called on Wednesday, and he outlined the prospective of harm to sea life populations. Boesch and his analysis were questioned by BP attorney Mike Brock, and he stuck by his expert opinion that the oil spill had a significant effect on wildlife and can cause future peril as well based on the effect of oil on microbes at the bottom of the natural food chain.
BP is also making a claim for its inability to pay the steep fine, which would be the highest penalty of its kind ever to be imposed under the Clean Water Act. Government lawyers countered with the fact that BP recently told investors that price volatility is something that they can handle. It was also suggested that they pay the penalties back over time, in increments.
So far, the end result is not yet known and no decisions are expected to be made in the near future. In fact, the post-trial briefing schedules will extend into April of this year.


Keeping Florida’s waters protected
Mami Herald – Letter by Patrick Murphy, congressman, Florida’s 18th district, Jupiter
January 24, 2015
I am proud to represent the Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast in Washington. Having been born and raised in Key Largo, I am also proud to be the first conch in Congress. The Keys are where I caught my first fish, where I rowed my first kayak, and where, on an Outward Bound expedition, I first experienced the beauty and power of Mother Nature on my own.
Everything we did — whether it was swimming, fishing,or boating — relied on the water.
I have carried with me the lessons that I learned from this area to Washington. It is more than just recreational activities that are dependent on the water — our restaurants, businesses and tourism industry also need a healthy environment to thrive. It requires our entire state doing its part to protect the Everglades system that flows from Orlando all the way here.
Congress finally passed a water bill in 2014 with many major wins for Florida. New investments totaling $1 billion were authorized — from the C-43 Reservoir to the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands — to improve the water quality of the entire system and restore the natural flow of the Everglades southward. The bill also helped clean up Army Corps of Engineers red tape and free $400 million in South Florida Water Management District credits.
In the past two years, every substantial Everglades restoration project has seen progress.
Recently, I introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Bill Nelson, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. David Jolly to authorize the Central Everglades Planning Project, which will implement long-term strategies to send clean water south.
Further, Florida voters approved Amendment 1 in November, which redirects documentary-tax revenue to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
As advocates in Tallahassee fight to ensure this funding goes toward effective projects, I will make sure every dollar is stretched to its maximum capacity in Washington. For every dollar invested in our environment, it’s returned four-to-one to local economies.
As long as I have the responsibility of serving Florida in Congress, I will continue to fight for the future of our natural resources.
It is truly a legacy worth leaving to the next generation.


Birds, water & Everglades restoration
The Ledger (Blog) - by Tom Palmer
January 23, 2015
The news was mixed this week on  Everglades restoration.
Audubon Florida called for completion after pointing out the South Florida Water Management District’s latest report on nesting of colonial wading birds showed that while some species are thriving, others are not and no one knows why.
The report was the result of extensive surveys that stretched from Florida Bay all the way north to some lakes in Polk and surrounding counties in the Everglades headwaters.
Audubon’s position is that increasing restoration efforts will help the situation.
In addition to the mixed nesting success of wading birds in the Everglades ecosystem, it is also well documented that some species such as wood storks have been nesting successfully in good numbers farther north in Florida and elsewhere in the Southeast. One of the biggest rookeries is on Lake Somerset in Lakeland, where a handful of roseate spoonbills and brown pelicans have also nested in[ recent years.
Meanwhile, Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam appeared before a House committee this week to discuss future water policy.
According to press reports, he said he favored  “revising laws to reflect progress on Lake Okeechobee and the Northern Everglades” without elaborating on what exactly that means.
Also this week the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the awarding of a $4.7 million contract to fill the McArthur Ditch to restore natural sheet flow and prevent more water from bypassing the Kissimmee River’s historic watercourse.
Are the Florida Everglades Sick? Wading Birds In Steep Decline ...            The Weather Channel
Decline in South Florida wading birds could mean Everglades ...
Below-average year for wading bird nesting in Everglades, with ...  Greenfield Daily Reporter
State reports below-average year for wading bird nesting     Daytona Beach News-Journal-
South Florida wading bird nesting declines   Sun Sentinel
Explore in depth (31 more articles)


sugar land

Should Florida buy the U.S. Sugar land to help save rivers, restore the Everglades ?
Palm Beach Post
January 23, 2015
The message to Gov. Rick Scott from a growing number of South Florida residents is clear: Buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee now. Use it to store and clean the lake’s excess water, and send it south to the Everglades.
Take the 200 or so Treasure Coast environmental activists who gathered at the St. Lucie Lock in Stuart last week, for example. They were there to protest as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began dumping excess Lake O water, polluted with nutrients from farms and cities, into the St. Lucie River.
Earlier this month, a majority of 300 people at an Everglades Coalition Conference in Key Largo sent the governor the same message children chanted at the protest: “Buy the land. Send water south.”
Leaders rarely have a chance to make a mark that affects future generations. This is Scott’s opportunity. If he truly wants to be known as “the environment governor”, can start by saving a world heritage site and two rivers.
A wetter-than-usual dry season has put too much water into Lake O. The Corps and the South Florida Water Management District, which together manage the lake, want it to drop from 15 feet to 12.5 feet by the time the rainy season begins June 1.
The current system is engineered to dump excess Lake O water into estuaries that lead to the Atlantic Ocean on Florida’s east coast, via the St. Lucie River, and the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast, through the Caloosahatchee River. The estuaries are nurseries for fish and other marine life. But the polluted freshwater kills sea grass and oysters, makes fish sick, and sends plumes of dirty water into the ocean and Gulf.
Environmental activists want the water cleaned up and sent south to the water-starved Everglades instead; and for the first time in years, everything is aligned to make that happen — if the governor leads the way.
Everglades group wants state to buy more Big Sugar land    (Sun Sentinel)
Buying more Big Sugar land is at the top of Everglades advocates' 2015 to-do list, with taxpayers potentially facing a price tag that could hit $350 million.


South Florida wading bird nesting declines
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
January 23, 2015
Drop in wading bird nesting is triggering calls to jump start Everglades restoration.
South Florida wading-bird nesting dropped 28 percent last year, according to estimates released Thursday, prompting calls to jump start Everglades restoration.
Almost every wading bird species suffered declines during the 2014 nesting season. The nearly 35,000 nests were 19 percent lower than the nesting total average during the past decade, according to a report from the South Florida Water Management District.
District officials said that the timing of rainfall combined with flood-control measures and other water management factors during the nesting season meant less food for birds and "prompted nest failure and abandonment."
Insuring that wading birds can survive in the Everglades depends on speeding up projects to restore South Florida water flows to replenish habitat vital for feeding and nesting, according to Audubon Florida.
"The poor nesting efforts seen this year show that Everglades restoration cannot wait," Tabitha Cale, Audubon Everglades Policy Associate, said in a statement released Thursday.
Nesting levels for herons and egrets saw some of the largest declines last year.
There was an 83 percent drop in Little Blue Heron nests and a 42 percent decline in Tricolored Heron nests, according to the report. Snowy Egret nests decreased 47 percent.After rebounding in previous years, Roseate Spoonbill nesting also declined last year. The 126 nests found in Florida Bay were half as many as the previous year.
The Wood Stork was the only species that increased, with 2,799 nests spotted last year. Wood Stork nesting numbers have increased 26 percent during the past nine years, according to the report.
Wood Storks did better than other birds last year because they tended to nest later in the December-to-July nesting season and weren't as affected by changing water levels, according to the water management district.
In South Florida, most wading birds nest in Everglades National Park as well as the Everglades water conservation areas that stretch across western Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Slow-moving, multibillion-dollar Everglades restoration efforts involve building water storage and treatment areas to get more water flowing south to replenish the Everglades, instead of draining the water out to sea for South Florida flood control.
Related:           Decline in South Florida wading birds could mean Everglades worse off -
Florida reports below-average year for wading bird nesting -
State reports subpar year for wading bird nesting - The News-Press


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7 natural wonders that humans could destroy
USA Today - by Hyacinth Mascarenhas, Global Post
January 22, 2015
If you've dreamed of seeing the Amazon rainforest with your own eyes, you better start planning that trip soon.
Many of the world's most spectacular natural wonders are disappearing with devastating speed. Entire ecosystems, habitats and species that have existed for many thousands and in some cases millions of years could disappear in a little as a few decades, thanks to the destructive greed and consumption of one culprit: us.
Humans have burned, cut down, poisoned and torn their way through nature's resources and treasures at a much faster rate than the Earth can sustain. According to the latest Living Planet report, released by the World Wildlife Fund, humanity continues to consume natural resources at an alarming rate. The report says that our demands for the past 40 years have far exceeded what the Earth can replenish.
At the rate we're going, climate change, deforestation, mining, illegal consumption and even war could ensure that our grandchildren never see some of these natural wonders. And we might not just have to worry about the Earth's beautiful places and animals disappearing: In a new paper published by the journal Science, a group of scientists concluded that human activities "are destabilizing the global environment."
In other words: We're in big trouble unless something changes.
Here are some of the natural wonders of the world that have been endangered and damaged by humans:
1. The Everglades
The Everglades National Park's fragile wetlands are home to a large number of birds, reptiles, water habitants, and threatened species. The Florida park is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and since 2010 UNESCO has included it in its list of endangered sites.
Encroaching urban development, reduced water flow and pollution from farms have destroyed more than half of the original Everglades and continue to endanger the habitat with further decline.
2. Amazon rainforest
As the world's largest tropical rainforest, the Amazon is home to millions of rare animal and plant species, one-fifth of the world's fresh water and more than 30 million people, including 350 indigenous groups.
But its breathtaking splendors are being threatened by a host of problems, including illegal logging, drought, soil erosion, water contamination, and, of course, old-fashioned climate change. Antonio Nobre, a researcher for Brazil's Earth System Science Center, has warned that both illegal logging and burning the forest to make way for agriculture are threatening its ability to regulate climate.
An estimated 20% of the forest is now clear, and Nobre warns that reaching 40% could turn the famed rainforest into an "Amazon savannah."
Ending deforestation in the Amazon is one step toward saving it, but even if that ended overnight, various rare species will still slowly die out as the loss of habitat continues to take its enormous toll on the region.
3. Congo Basin
It's home to the world's second largest rainforest, and stretches across six countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Illegal and industrial logging, mining, farming, ranching, illegal wildlife trade and guerrilla warfare continue to deplete and threaten the future of this vast wilderness region.
Abundant in natural resources, the Congo Basin lost about 700,000 hectares of forest per year from 2000-2010, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
4. Mount Everest
Climate change has also taken a toll on the world's tallest summit, Mount Everest, resulting in a decrease in glaciers by 13% over the past 50 years, and the snowline shifting upward by several hundred feet.
The temperature in the Everest region has also increased by slightly more than 1 degree Fahrenheit. While this change may seem miniscule, even small increases in temperature can have devastating consequences, including melting glaciers leading to flooding, rock slides and avalanches that could further alter the snow-covered landscape and ecosystem.
5. Dead Sea
Known for its low elevation, salted waters and the cornucopia of natural beauty products made from its raw, nutrient-rich minerals, the Dead Sea has been known by many names throughout history, including al-Bahr al-Mayyit in Arabic, Yam Hamelach in Hebrew, Bahr Lot and Lot's Sea.
Sadly, this historically significant natural wonder is yet another victim of human greed.
Neighboring countries continue to tap into the Jordan River — the sea's sole source — for farming, agriculture and agricultural purposes, depleting the sea at a rapid rate. Pairing that with the extraction of minerals for potash and cosmetics companies, the Dead Sea's decline has only hastened. This continual pressure on the Dead Sea has resulted in its recession from the shore, the creation of dangerous sinkholes and its shrinking by more than 3 feet a year.
6. Great Barrier Reef
Larger than the United Kingdom and Ireland combined, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef ecosystem in the world and home to more than 1,500 species of fish, one-third of the world's soft corals, 411 types of hard coral and a vibrant marine life.
Marine scientists have warned that climate change will cause "irreversible damage" to this iconic heritage site by 2030 unless immediate action is taken. University of Queensland reef researcher Ove Hoegh-Guldberg told The Guardian "it is highly unlikely that coral reefs will survive" if the current average global temperatures continue at what he called the "business as usual" pace of hitting 4 degrees Celcius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
"Even under the best-case scenario of 2C (35.6F), corals disappear," said Hoegh-Guldberg. "But with business as usual, it's game over."
7. Bamiyan Valley
Included in UNESCO's World Heritage List and the List of World Heritage in Danger, the fragile yet beautiful Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan continues to bear the scars of the country's lengthy war.
Sadly, the valley has suffered the brunt of military action with parts of it abandoned and others parts inaccessible due to the presence of antipersonnel mines.


Report puts fracking, oil well, back in the spotlight
Naples Daily News – by June Fletcher
January 22, 2015
A state-commissioned report by an Oklahoma firm has “concluded with confidence” that the Collier-Hogan oil well was hydraulically fractured at the end of 2013 — a practice that is under increasing scrutiny across the country.
The report directly contradicts an earlier statement by the Texas-based driller, the Dan A. Hughes Co., that it did not hydraulically frack the well.
Prepared for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection by Tulsa, Oklahoma-based ALL Consulting, the 67-page report sheds light why the now-closed well, south of Lake Trafford, became a bone of contention between the DEP and the driller Dan A. Hughes Company, based in Beeville, Texas.
And it calls into question an earlier report the Hughes Co. commissioned that said the driller followed “standard industry practices” in drilling and operating the well.
Both reports were submitted to the DEP in December.
Click here to read the FDEP report
While both reports concluded that there was not enough available data to evaluate whether the three-day workover at the well impacted drinking water — DEP’s main concern — ALL’s report said it was evident releases of oil and other liquids did happen at the well site, leading to inspectors finding an oily sheen on an adjacent canal.
It also disclosed a number of missteps the driller made, including dropping tools down the borehole that weren’t fished out; poorly cementing casings; failing to pressure-test the casing and surface equipment to see if they could handle the pressures of the frack job; and not taking adequate steps to contain spilled oil or liquids at the drilling site.
But petroleum engineer Dan Arthur, who prepared the report, warned against jumping to extreme conclusions about what these mistakes mean for the environment and Southwest Florida’s water supply until more groundwater monitoring data is available.
While its initial testing of the groundwater did not show significant anomalies. the DEP has not released the latest data from its surface groundwater monitoring wells at the site and is in the process of digging a deeper well to test lower aquifers.
“While mistakes happen at wells, it doesn’t necessarily mean that bad things happened because of it,” Arthur said.
Frack attacks
Arthur said that many people think of fracking as a new and sophisticated well stimulation technique.
In reality, he said, the practice goes back to the 1800s, when a Pennsylvania driller decided to shoot nitroglycerin into his dead wells. The explosions created fractures to get the oil flowing again.
But these days, hydraulic fracturing uses chemicals and liquids injected under high pressure to create fissures, which are propped open with sand, to stimulate oil or gas flow.
Fracking has been under fire in recent years because of its use of carcinogenic chemicals and heavy use of freshwater, among other concerns.
Legislators from New York to California have voted to ban it, and three Florida lawmakers have introduced bills in recent weeks following suit.
Currently, Florida has no regulations banning either hydraulic or acid fracturing, or requiring the disclosure of what chemicals have been used in the fracking process.
Although environmentalists have long suspected the Collier-Hogan well was fracked, the Hughes Co. contends that what happened during the three-day workover was routine.
In a May 1 email to the Daily News, David Blackmon, then-spokesman for the driller, said the procedure was “not a hydraulic fracturing operation” but rather “a stimulation treatment very similar to acid stimulations that have been commonly used in Florida for more than 50 years.”
He said a similar acid stimulation had been performed on the Collier-Hogan well in mid-2013.
“We followed the second acid stimulation by injecting a modest volume of water and sand under enough pressure to prevent the formation from closing in on itself,” he said in the email.
Different conclusion
But that’s not how the DEP saw it. A day after the procedure began on Dec. 30, 2013, the agency issued a cease-and-desist order, signed by then-DEP Secretary Hershel Vinyard, saying it did not have “sufficient information that the proposed workover would be protective of the state’s groundwater resources.”
The workover didn’t stop until shortly after 4 p.m. the next day.
On April 8, the DEP reached a consent order with the Hughes Co. that required the driller to pay $25,000 and come up with a plan to monitor groundwater for possible pollution.
After increasing public outcry from environmentalists, as well as criticism from the Collier County commissioners, the DEP revoked all of Hughes’ permits, and the driller exited Florida.
The DEP and the Hughes Co. currently are locked in litigation over the matter.
As he was preparing his report for the DEP, Arthur was not allowed to inspect the Collier-Hogan well site during his visit in October, although he was provided access to the exterior perimeter of it and was able to read gauges and make other observations with binoculars.
Instead, he used DEP inspection reports, photographs and reports by other consultants, including the one commissioned by Hughes by New Port Richey, Florida-based HRP Associates, and another done in November by Fort Myers-based AECOM for the Collier County Growth Management Division.
The Hughes Co. would not comment on why Arthur was not allowed to tour the well site or ALL Consulting’s conclusion the well was fracked.
It did, however, issue a statement through its current spokesman, Lucas Frances, that it was “pleased” that ALL’s and AECOM’s reports “found no adverse impacts to water resources from the Collier-Hogan 20-3H well.”
Yet neither report came to that specific conclusion, although both noted it was highly unlikely that chemicals would migrate upward through the protective casings or the thick layers of hard rock between the oil reservoirs and the aquifers.
One other possible upward route for chemicals — two abandoned oil wells dating from the 1940s near the Collier-Hogan well — also was considered in both reports as a possible migration venue for waste fluids from the well.
Potential problems
The wells had been singled out as a potential problem by hydrogeologist Noah Kugler, a consultant hired by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
The AECOM report found “plugging deficiencies” in both old wells; the ALL report said only one was possibly deficient because its driller, the Humble Oil and Refining Company, tried and failed to re-enter it in 1953.
Because of this, the ALL report suggested a cement plug and casing be tested at the well, known as Permit 103, and that cross-flow conditions should be investigated from the surface to a depth of 4,200 feet.
Once the investigation was completed, the report recommended the well be plugged with cement to a depth of 1,900 feet.
In a letter to DEP, Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resources for the Conservancy, took issue with ALL’s suggestion that Permit 103 be reopened for testing, saying it increased the chances groundwater contamination could take place. For the same reason, she suggested the Collier-Hogan not be reopened to obtain flowback samples.
She also questioned why the simulated modeling of fractures mentioned in ALL’s report did not match the proposed or actual workover, and said there was not enough supporting evidence for ALL to conclude that there was a limited likelihood that shallow aquifers were not affected by the well’s faulty construction.
She told the Daily News that in the absence of evidence about the effects of hydraulic fracturing in Florida’s unique geology, the DEP needs to be cautious and ask more questions before allowing other drillers to proceed.
“Otherwise, we’re playing Russian roulette with our water supply,” she said.

Tallahassee raid - Editorial
January 22, 2015
Last November, Florida voters delivered a message on environmental protection so clear that not even the solons in Tallahassee could doubt its meaning. Three of every four voters supported Amendment 1, which mandated funding to help preserve and protect springs, rivers and the aquifer, the Everglades and beaches, open recreation lands and ranches — even geological sites.
Amendment 1 dedicated 33 percent of the net revenue from taxes on real estate transactions, commonly known as doc stamps, over 20 years for that purpose. One estimate pegged the potential windfall over two decades at $10 billion. The beauty, supporters maintained, was that revenues would be sufficient to make up for past (and very deep) cuts to environmental protection while not hurting other programs.
Yet some lawmakers have openly suggested someone will get hurt in implementing Amendment 1. That would be the Floridians who need affordable housing. Two weeks after the election new Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, told fellow lawmakers: "The challenge facing this Senate is the impact Amendment 1 will have on transportation, affordable housing, and economic development, and other priorities which also receive doc stamp funding."
Now, as the Legislature's budget-making season gets heated up, the Sadowski Coalition is trying to counteract that prediction. The group — an array of 30 different housing, social service, business, seniors and veterans groups — is urging an appropriate share of the doc stamp pie is set aside for low-income Floridians' housing needs.
In 1992, lawmakers passed the Sadowski Act, which, like Amendment 1, earmarked doc stamp revenue for housing programs. Cities and counties utilize allotted doc stamp revenues to partner with contractors in building or renovating single-family homes, while also helping prospective buyers with down payments and closing costs. Seventy percent of the housing trust fund is used this way. A state-approved agency doles out the rest to developers on a competitive basis to boost the supply of rental units.
The Sadowski Coalition projects that the housing trust fund would reap $267 million in the state's 2016 budget.
Lawmakers, first under former Gov. Jeb Bush and then especially during the recession, were not shy about shoveling trust fund revenues — whether for housing, the environment, transportation or other needs — into the state's general fund to pay for government services. The ongoing economic upswing, however, should stop such raids.
Yet Gardiner and others indicate the housing account must be drained again to meet obligations now funded with general tax dollars.
Sadowski Coalition President Jaimie Ross says that doesn't have to happen. "Nobody voted for Amendment 1 and thought they were hurting affordable housing," she said. "It's unfair to do that to ... voters."
Her group argues a fully funded trust fund would create about 25,000 jobs and $3 billion in new economic activity next year.
We must preserve Florida's natural splendor. It sustains us physically and economically. But all the coalition seeks is for lawmakers to use the doc stamp revenue as intended more than 20 years ago. Honoring Amendment 1 doesn't have to mean shortchanging residents struggling to find housing and idling the workers who can provide it.


Barack Obama trolled Rick Scott on the environment during State of the Union
Broward/Palm Beach New Times - by Chris Joseph
January 21 2015
 Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union last night, and pretty much everyone is talking about the moment in the evening when the president did some trash talking at Republicans who sarcastically applauded his declaration of not campaigning anymore by claiming it's because he won both elections. Boom. Mic drop.
But there was a similar moment during the speech, when Obama took to talking about the environment.
And while he didn't mention any names, the president's comments sure sounded very much like he was talking directly to a certain Florida governor who just won reelection.
Obama began to address his concerns with global warming and how the United States is contributing to it by saying, "I've heard some folks try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists, that we don't have enough information to act."
If by "some folks," he means Rick Scott, sure.
And if by "try to dodge the evidence by saying they're not scientists," he means the times Scott has said that to the media, then also, sure.
Obama could also be talking about Marco Rubio, who has also evoked the "I'm no scientist" version of the Fifth.
In 2012, Rubio invoked his right to tell people he wasn't a scientist when he was asked if he knew whether the Earth was more than just a few thousand years old.
Then, just last year, Scott began throwing the "I'm no scientist" declaration everywhere he went and anytime a reported asked him to address global warming concerns, particularly when it came to Florida.
When asked by a reporter if people were responsible for climate change, Scott answered, "I'm not a scientist. But I know what I can do, and that is do everything I can do to protect the environment."
He was asked the same question just two weeks later, and he gave the same answer. Twice.
"Do you believe man-made climate change is significantly affecting the weather, the climate?" someone asked him.
"Well, I'm not a scientist," Scott replied. "But let's talk about what we've done. Through our Division of Emergency Management -- the last few years, three years -- we put about, I think, $120 million to deal with flooding around our coast. We also put a lot of money into our natural treasures, the Everglades, trying to make sure all the water flows south. So we're dealing with all the issues we can. But I'm not a scientist."
News of Scott, and to some extent Rubio's, constant claims of not being scientists was met with incredulity by environmental groups and people who generally care about these things. Of course, that didn't match the poll numbers, and Scott won reelection this past November, six months after he made these comments.
But on Tuesday night, Obama reminded America -- and us -- that Scott and politicians like him did say these things. He even acknowledged, inadvertently maybe, Rubio's claims that the president isn't a meteorologist (or scientist) either.
"Well, I'm not a scientist either," Obama said. "But... I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA and NOAA and at our major universities. The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate."
Obama then cited a recent report that showed 2014 as the hottest year on record and took shots at the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
Last year, Obama announced that he wanted to implement more than 300 private- and public-sector clean job creations to help cut down carbon pollution with solar energy. He also wants to implement EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse emissions from power plants.
Moreover, Florida stands to lose the most should greenhouse effects remain the same. Which means, we're all going to sink into the ocean if things don't change.
The 2014 National Climate Assessment report says that South Florida, in particular, is "exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise."


Putnam to detail water recommendations - by Randall, from The News Service of Florida
January 21st, 2015
With Florida lawmakers preparing for a potentially major debate about water policy, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will make recommendations Thursday to a House committee. Putnam said during an interview this week with The News Service of Florida that he hopes lawmakers will be “bold” in addressing water issues.
“(We) need a policy that’s flexible enough to recognize that some years we have droughts and some years we have 90 inches of rain in 80 days, comprehensive — in other words, making it statewide, recognizing this isn’t just an Everglades issue or a Tampa Bay water shortage issue, this is statewide — and long-term,” Putnam said during the interview. “It’s going to take more than just one session of doing something about it to really have a long-term, sustainable method of bringing our water supply back to where we need it to support the economy and the environment.”
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, have made clear they want to focus on water issues. Also, voters approved a constitutional amendment in November that requires setting aside money for land and water projects. Putnam is slated to testify Thursday before the House State Affairs Committee.
Related:           Agriculture Chief Adam Putnam Talks About FDLE, Citrus, the Future     The Ledger


The aquifer may not fare so well under Wellness Way
Daily Commercial – by Linda Bystrak, Leesburg, FL
January 21, 2015
I would like to thank the Daily Commercial for printing two opinion columns regarding the proposed development known as Wellness Way in south Lake.
On Nov. 18, the Lake County Commission voted to transmit their Wellness Way sector plan to the various government agencies that need to review and approve it. Their documentation reveals that more than 15,894 acres (with 3,785 acres in wetlands) wi ll be within the boundaries of this proposed commercial/business and residential project. This land is on the northern portion of the 150-mile long Lake Wales Ridge, which has also been declared a Priority Water Resource Caution Area. The property is also directly across the street from the protected Green Swamp. To the south of this project is the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest and the Lake Wales Ridge NWR.
Unlike the southern part of the ridge, this land is not under state or federal ownership, and is mostly owned by multiple landowners , most of them citrus grow ers. Due to the devastating citrus greening disease, many of the trees are dying. Grove owners are now faced with a difficult decision about selling their land to developers or replanting. Now would be a good time for the state or St. Johns River Water Management District to try and purchase some of that land under Amendment 1, to protect what is left of the aquifer’s high-recharge areas, in a highly populated section of the state.
The Lake Wales Ridge borders many of the large tourist attractions that support Florida’s economy. In 2013, more than 55 million visitors came to Central Florida. That creates a tremendous burden on the water supply and aquifer. Parts of the Lake Wales Ridge in this project’s boundary are able to provide 8-20 inches of rainwater per year in natural recharge. While we average 50-inches of rainfall per year, our local groundwater pumping to meet potable water n eeds exceeds the recharge from rainfall. Our economy cannot afford the loss of this high rech arge land so close to the major tourist attractions that drive our economy.
The Wellness Way project could have 16,464 housing units and 39,552 residents, plus commercial and business property. The estimated water need is 21 million gallons per day, which is more than that used by the City of Clermont. This property is also located in the boundaries of the Central Florida Water Initiative, which is projected to only have 50 million gallons per day of fresh groundwater left to allocate. This is a lot of water for one major development. The question is, which is more important, maintaining the existing water needs of the growing tourism economy bordering this ridge or building 16,000 new homes that would be competing for that same groundwater, that are really not needed? Lake County has thousands of homes in foreclosure, many unsold and new housing units still waiting for buyers.
We need to protect our existing economy from over-pumping the aquifer for housing not yet needed.


Obama's State of Union speech plans would affect Florida
Florida Today – by Ledyard King
January 20, 2015
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama enters the last two years of his presidency with his approval rating languishing below 50 percent and Congress under Republican control.
Despite the unwelcome political terrain, the president has aggressively pushed his priorities in recent weeks, opening up relations with Cuba and promoting a middle-class agenda that includes free community college tuition and extra housing assistance.
In the days leading up to his State of the Union speech tonight, Obama has laid out a number of proposals he wants to pursue in the coming year, many of which would affect Florida.
That's a break with tradition. Presidents usually showcase their proposals in the national speech first, then travel the country building support for them.
"Since I've only got two years left in the job, I tend to be impatient and I didn't want to wait for the State of the Union to start sharing my plans," the president said at one stop.
Marco Rubio hopes to send message to Obama tonight
Here's a look at some of the key programs Obama is expected to highlight Tuesday and what they might mean for the Sunshine State:
Free community college tuition
This would benefit many of the nearly 500,000 Floridians who attend the state's 28 community colleges.
Obama wants to join with states to pay for two years of community college for students with at least a 2.5 GPA. The administration argues that, by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor's degree. An additional 30 percent will require some college or an associate's degree.
"It's something that we can accomplish and it's something that will train our work force so that we can compete with anybody in the world," the president said.
About 26.4 percent of Floridians age 25 or older have a bachelor's degree. That's below the national average of 28.8 percent, according to census data.
Obama's idea, expected to cost $60 billion over 10 years, is already drawing criticism from Gov. Rick Scott. He has pressed the state's public universities to keep tuition low, but isn't convinced Obama's approach is sound.
"In the long run, the president would likely save college students more money by holding the line on the rising cost of undergraduate and graduate school tuition instead of creating another government program," Scott said in a statement.
Housing help
After touting the recent rise in home values and declines in foreclosures, Obama said the administration will lower borrowing fees so more people can buy a home.
Under the plan unveiled last week, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will reduce annual mortgage insurance premiums by half a percentage point. That's expected to save a typical first-time homebuyer about $900 a year in mortgage payments, or about $75 a month.
Homeowners who refinance into an FHA mortgage will see similar reductions to their mortgage payments as well, according to the administration.
It's not clear how many Florida homebuyers might benefit, but nearly 445,000 state residents have FHA-insured loans, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank, panned the proposal. He said it puts the country at greater risk of repeating the 2008 housing collapse.
"By proposing to reduce the premium for FHA insurance, President Obama will not only increase the FHA's losses, but also the number of subprime loans on government balance sheets," Wallison said. "This is bad for taxpayers, of course, but also bad for neighborhoods and homeowners when these subprime mortgages default."
The White House said the proposal has the necessary safeguards to prevent another crisis because it will mandate that mortgages "are underwritten in a more sustainable manner."
Climate change
Obama has been a relentless champion of efforts to combat climate change. His latest effort, announced this week, will look for ways to cut methane emissions, the third-largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The approach, focused on emissions from oil and natural gas sources, includes regulations combined with a push to develop technology aimed at reducing natural gas leaks that contribute to methane releases.
The oil and gas industry, citing a 12 percent decrease in methane emissions since 2011, dismisses the president's plan as "regulation in search of a problem."
Environmental groups applaud the move as a key to slowing the acceleration of man-made global warming.
That's where the proposed policy could have long-term effects in Florida. A White House report in May warned that if climate change continues, the Sunshine State faces:
• More category 4 and 5 hurricanes threatening the state's Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
• More days where the temperature hits at least 95 degrees, a danger not only to humans but livestock and crops. The threat of wildfires also increases with higher temperatures.
• Rising sea levels that will lead to more saltwater intrusion into fresh water aquifers and wells, which also threatens crop production.
The alarming rise of data breaches has affected millions of Florida consumers who shop at some of the nation's most popular stores, including Target and Home Depot, which were hacked during the past year.
Obama wants to require companies that discover data breaches to notify customers in a timely fashion to prevent identity theft. His proposal prompted Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson to announce plans to sponsor legislation enacting many of those reforms.
Nelson's bill would:
• Require companies, under most circumstances, to notify consumers of data breaches within 30 days.
• Direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to develop security standards to help businesses protect consumers' personal and financial data.
• Provide incentives to businesses to adopt new technologies to make consumer data unusable or unreadable if stolen during a breach.
"How many more consumers will be affected before something is done?" Nelson said. "Now is the time Congress must act."
It's likely Obama will use Tuesday's State of the Union speech to tout his announcement last month of moves to normalize relations with the Castro regime and ease some trade and travel restrictions in place for decades. On Friday, the Treasury Department began putting those changes into effect.
People will be able to travel to Cuba without a government license and will be allowed to use credit and debit cards. They will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods acquired in Cuba for personal use, including up to $100 of alcohol or tobacco products. And some restrictions on telecommunications and financial activity have been lifted.
Leaders of the South Florida Cuban community condemn the president's moves as a betrayal and an undeserved reward for an oppressive government.
Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants called the easing of sanctions "a windfall for the Castro regime that will be used to fund its repression against Cubans."
He's vowed to block anyone Obama nominates as U.S. ambassador to Cuba.
But supporters, including some Cuban-Americans in Florida, say the move is not only long overdue but could eventually prove an economic boon for some U.S. companies, especially agribusinesses.
Internet access
The president wants to improve Americans' access to "fast and affordable" broadband as a way to improve economic opportunity.
Internet capacity and speed varies from state to state, even from community to community, creating an uneven playing field.
Some Florida communities have taken steps to improve broadband access at relatively low cost, including Tallahassee, Gainesville, Jacksonville and Palm Beach County, according to the White House.
The Obama administration hopes to build on existing efforts taken in the wake of the economic stimulus to help communities expand Internet access. And it wants the 19 states that limit local governments' broadband — including Florida — to eliminate those restrictions.



Restoring and protecting the River Of Grass
South Dade Newsleader – by Stephen Shelley, City of Homestead Vice-Mayor
January 20, 2015
This past weekend the 30th Annual Everglades Coalition Conference took place in the only Three Palm Designated Hotel in the Florida Keys, the Hilton Key Largo which overlooks Florida Bay. The theme of this year’s conference was Send It South: Water for America’s Everglades. 
  More than 300 people comprised of local, state and federal elected officials, environmental advocacy groups, state and federal agencies, scientists, educators, media members, students and the general public came together to work toward a common goal: restoration and preservation of the Everglades Ecosystem.  The Everglades Coalition, host of the annual event, is an alliance of 57 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem through advocacy, education, research and other efforts. 
  One of the highlights of this year’s conference was an appearance and keynote speech by United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.  Prior to speaking at the conference, Secretary Jewell toured FloridaBay and Everglades National Park, including taking a slough slog through a cypress dome.  Later that evening, Secretary Jewell acknowledged the determination and hard work of the Everglades Coalition and congratulated them on their many successes including bringing Everglades restoration and preservation initiatives to the fore front.  Secretary Jewell went on to state that she would continue to be an advocate for restoration initiatives and that restoration of America’s Everglades is a top priority. 
  The location of the conference next to Florida Bay was fitting as many of the discussions centered on Florida Bay and how the condition of the plants and animals within it are key indicators of the health of the Everglades watershed. The consensus among experts is that more freshwater needs to be delivered into the surrounding tributaries north of Florida Bay in order to reach historical salinity levels and create an environment in which the fish, birds and plants can thrive.  To effectuate this, water that is now being diverted east and west needs to be re-engineered to once again flow south. 
Presently, water that has historically flowed south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay is instead now being diverted west to the Gulf of Mexico and East to the Atlantic Ocean through a series of canals.  The diverted water contains high levels of nitrogen and other contaminants that are not given the opportunity to be filtered out through natural processes.  The result is frequent toxic algae blooms that can decimate the plant and animal life it encounters.  As a result, not only is Everglades National Park and Florida Bay being deprived of the water it needs, but the diverted water is now wreaking havoc on otherwise healthy ecosystems. 
The good news for advocates is that most parties now seem to agree that the problem needs to be addressed however, a unified solution remains elusive.  The main stumbling block is that the land necessary to restore clean natural water flow south from Lake Okeechobee is presently in the hands of private land owners.  This land is needed to create water storage retention areas that can be used to naturally filter the contaminants from the water as well as give the Water Management Districts the tools they need to properly control the rate of flow during the rainy and dry seasons.  Advocates for Everglades restoration hope that Amendment One (1), passed by 70% of Florida’s voters, will help provide a necessary state revenue source to purchase lands and fund water projects to send the water south. 
While a solution is being devised, other projects are already moving forward further south to help increase the flow to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay and restore the Everglades Ecosystem.  Most of these projects are 20 years in the making and have had to carefully balance the need for flood control for the heavily populated areas in South Florida with the need to restore the natural sheet flow of water through the Everglades.  Some projects have been completed, such as the 1 mile bridge on Tamiami Trail, or are nearing completion like the Picayune Strand restoration and pump project, whereas others have stalled due to a lack of federal funding.
On this front, legislation has been filed by both the (federal) house and senate to expedite $1.9 billion in funding for restoration projects set forth in the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), specifically those focused on moving the water south.  The legislation has bi-partisan support but was not heard during the recent lame duck session.  It is anticipated that action will be taken on the proposed legislation during the 114th Congress.
What does a restored Everglades mean to Florida and local communities ?  Traditionally, most arguments in favor of Everglades’ restoration have focused on environmental and scientific facts and figures.  However, recently the argument for Everglades restoration has morphed into an discussion of economics and return on investment. 
  In 2011, Florida had 87.3 million visitors that generated 67 billion dollars and resulted in Florida being the number one (1) tourist destination in the world.  The attraction for many of Florida’s visitors is its natural resources such as lakes, rivers, beaches, parks and forests.  Fishing and related activities accounted for 80,200 jobs and 5 billion dollars in annual revenue.  Photography, bird and animal watching activities generated more than 5.2 billion dollars.  In 2011, Florida’s state parks had 21.1 million visitors (compared to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando receiving 18 million visitors).In 2013, Florida’s National Parks had 10.2 million visitors. 
The argument for restoration economics is that without clean water and a healthy ecosystem there will not be any fish to catch, birds to watch or nature to enjoy.  A depleted and unhealthy ecosystem will result in a huge negative economic impact to Florida’s economy and a loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
A recent study funded by the Everglades Foundation determined that for every $1 invested in Everglades Restoration activities, $4 will be generated in economic benefits for a 4 to 1 return on investment.  It is estimated that a restored everglades will add an additional $46.5 billion dollars to the Florida economy over the next 50 years and create an additional 440,000 jobs.
Everglades restoration and activities related thereto have the potential to create huge economic benefits to those communities ready to embrace the environment around them.  By branding themselves as the “Gateway to Everglades and Biscayne National Parks” and building a partnership with their neighboring national parks, the City of Homestead has already positioned itself to not only advocate for its neighbors but to also benefit economically. 
The Homestead National Parks Trolley initiative has generated economic benefits to Historic Downtown Homestead by hosting more than 5,000 riders during last year’s shortened trolley season.  Additional projects are in the works with both Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, such as Biscayne/Everglades Greenway, that look to further solidify the City’s partnerships and create additional economic benefits to both the City and the National Parks.
Moreover, the City of Homestead’s connections with Everglades and Biscayne National Parks have created positive news media coverage both locally and nationally, providing invaluable marketing dollars to the City of Homestead.  The most recent national media coverage centered on the release of the Everglades Quarter this past December and the Homestead National Parks Trolley’s participation in NASCAR this past November.
A restored Everglades benefits all, the wildlife, residents, local communities and the economy of the State of Florida. 
The Hilton’s Three Palm Designation referred to above is awarded by the Florida Green Lodging Program, an initiative of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.  The award goes to those hotels that have proven to be environmentally friendly by implementing programs that increase energy efficiency and indoor air quality as well as reducing water consumption and waste. 


From feathery hats came Florida conservation movement
Florida Today – by Ben Brotemarkle
January 19, 2015
It was very fashionable in the 1800s for women to wear bird plumes, and even entire bird carcasses, on their hats. This fashion trend led to the beginning of the conservation and environmental movement in Florida.
"The conservation movement in Florida began with a specific aim. It was a group of people who were alarmed about the fact that wading birds were being slaughtered in the Everglades for their feathers, which were sold to hat manufacturers in the North," says Gary White, author of the book Conservation in Florida: Its History and Heroes.
"Since then, it's broadened to include many other areas (such as) concern about invasive species, protection of the land itself; not only the birds and other wildlife but the land itself that they depend on for habitat. There's much more understandings now of how certain species have to have a certain kind of habitat. So it's broadened greatly over the past century or so."
This week, thousands of conservationists, environmentalists, naturalists, bird watchers, and eco-tourists will converge on the Titusville campus of Eastern Florida State College for the 18th Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, presented by the Brevard Nature Alliance, Jan. 21-26.
From 2 p.m. to 4 pm, Gary White will be signing copies of his book in the Exhibit Center at the festival.
"The organized conservation movement in Florida began March 3rd, 1900. That was the day that fifteen people met at a house in Maitland and decided they were going to create the Florida Audubon Society," White said. "Their purpose was to bring attention to the slaughter of birds, because there were no laws at the time to protect wading birds in the Everglades, so one of their highest priorities was to push the legislature to enact laws that would protect birds."
The Florida Audubon Society was successful. The Florida legislature passed a law protecting non-game birds in 1901. The popularity of plumed hats around the world, and the rampant slaughter of birds to meet that demand, had nearly led to the extinction of egrets and other birds in Florida. President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island, which is in the Indian River Lagoon near Sebastian, as the first National Wildlife Refuge in 1903, to protect birds from plume hunters.
It was the Maitland home of Louis F. and Clara J. Dommerich where the Florida Audubon Society was founded. One member of the group was particularly persuasive when it came to convincing women to stop wearing plumed hats.
"Mary Munroe was the wife of a renowned nature writer, Kirk Munroe," White says. "She met strangers on the street who were wearing hats adorned with bird feathers, which was extremely common at the time, and (would) lecture them on the cruelty that went into those feathers being on their hats. According to the early biographers, some of the women were so moved by what she said that they took off their hats and pulled off the feathers and changed their ways right there."
From the work of naturalist William Bartram and ornithologist John James Audubon in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, to the most contemporary discussions of climate change and water use, Conservation in Florida: Its History and Heroes chronicles in detail the pivotal moments in our state's environmental movement as it developed.
"After the original priority of enacting laws to protect birds, the next major stage was turning attention toward the preservation of the Everglades," says White. "In south Florida there had been schemes for decades to drain the Everglades. Networks of canals were dug to try to dry it up so it could be used in a more valuable way. That process started in the 1920s and lasted about 20 years until in 1947, Everglades National Park was dedicated."
Another milestone in the conservation movement was the successful effort to halt construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal in 1971, after about a third had been built. Since the 1800s, attempts had been made to bisect the Florida peninsula with a canal across the state, which would have devastated both the St. Johns River and the Ocklawaha River.
The conservation and environmental movement continues today, and it all started with opposition to a misguided fashion statement.
About the writer
Dr. Ben Brotemarkle is executive director of the Florida Historical Society and host of the radio program "Florida Frontiers," broadcast locally on 90.7 WMFE Thursday evenings at 6:30 and Sunday afternoons at 4:00, and on 89.5 WFIT Sunday mornings at 7:00. The show can be heard online at


Melting glaciers have big carbon impact, study shows - FTW23648 - David Jackman, Editor
January 19, 2015
As the world warms, glaciers around the world are rapidly hemorrhaging ice and threatening catastrophic sea level rise. But melting glaciers also pose another kind of menace: the release of vast amounts of stored organic carbon into waterways.
Several recent reports have found that glaciers are melting faster than scientists realized and that as a result, sea levels are rising faster than ever before. Now, new research sheds light on another aspect of the global melting trend.
In addition to adding water to the oceans, eroding ice sheets are also contributing significant amounts of carbon that feed the bottom of the food chain in marine ecosystems. The findings raise a new question: What will happen to these ecosystems when the glaciers melt away?
"This is the first attempt to figure out how much organic carbon is in those glaciers and how much will be released when they melt," said Robert Spencer of Florida State University, one of the authors of a study out Monday in Nature Geoscience looking at the impact of this release.
Glaciers, far from being just massive blocks of frozen fresh water, contain their own natural stores of organic carbon, and also amass the element from the accumulation of soot or from other outside sources. By analyzing measurements of organic carbon in glaciers and ice sheets around the world, the research team found that when the glaciers melt, large amounts of pent up carbon are released into local waters. They estimate that the release will increase by 50 percent over the next 35 years, as glaciers and ice sheets continue to melt at a rapid pace.
"Naturally as glaciers melt there may be a short-term increase in the flux of organic carbon into marine ecosystems but that will of course decline as glaciers continue to shrink," Spencer told CBS News. "It's a short term increase for a very long term loss."
The problem is that scientists don't know what will happen when this carbon contribution is removed from the equation. Microbes at the bottom of the food web can thrive on glacier-derived organic carbon. If their supplies run low as global ice stores melt into oblivion, it could affect entire ecosystems from the bottom up.
"It could change the whole food web," Spencer said.
He and his collaborators will continue to study the impact of glacial carbon runoff. "The thing people have to think about is what this means for the Earth system," he said. "We know we're losing glaciers, but what does that mean for marine life, fisheries, things downstream that we care about ?"
Related:           Melting glaciers release massive amounts of carbon, affecting ...      Market Business News
FSU professor's glacier study breaks new ground
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Melting Glaciers Will Release Massive Amounts of Organic Carbon            AZoCleantech
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Plan for paved bike path across Everglades moves forward
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
January 19, 2015
A proposal for a paved bike trail across the Everglades moved closed to reality this month, with the release of a draft feasibility study for a 76-mile path that would run next to Tamiami Trail.
But groundbreaking remains years away if it takes place at all, and opposition has surfaced among some of the people living along its path and their supporters, who say it would destroy wetlands, encroach on tribal land and further commercialize the Everglades.
The River of Grass Greenway would be a paved path 12 to 16 feet wide, running from the outskirts of Miami to the outskirts of Naples. Trail heads every 10 or 12 miles would offer parking, restrooms, water, air for tires, picnic shelters and vending machines.
"We're in such a perfect location, with the national parks, for people to experience the Everglades from a recreational standpoint without having to pull over to the side of the road," said Patty Huff, an Everglades City cyclist and one of the originators of the proposal. "Right now it's very unsafe. People do bicycle the Tamiami Trail. This could offer an opportunity for all different types of recreational users, for walkers, bird watchers, bicycling, running – without having to drive by very fast or pull over and get out of the car. It's a much safer alternative for people to see the Everglades."
Originally proposed in 2006 by the Naples Pathway Coalition, a cycling group, the proposal was taken up by the National Park Service, which obtained $1.5 million for the initial planning work.
At a meeting last week at Big Cypress National Preserve, the latest draft was discussed by representatives from Collier County, Miami-Dade County, the Florida Department of Transportation, the National Park Service and other agencies. A final feasibility study is expected to be released in May.
Several people attended the meeting to oppose the greenway, largely Miccosukee Indians living along the route and their supporters.
"You're only helping the ones who are going to make a profit out of this. We don't want it here," said Betty Osceola, a Miccosukee who lives along Tamiami Trail. "It's certainly going to cause more destruction. My ancestors have been here for years. They died for the right to be here."
Karen Dwyer, a founder of the Stonecrab Alliance, a Naples-area environmental and human rights group, said the project's organizers should defer to the wishes of those living along the projected path.
"If there is just one Seminole or Miccosukee who doesn't want it, we shouldn't put it in," she said. "We should respect their rights. I don't think anyone should be building a bike path across their sacred burial grounds, their battlegrounds and the places where they live. It's going to cause a lot of impact. There will be dredging in wetlands. I just think the environmental impacts are too great."
Mark Heinicke, project manager for the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, said neither tribe has taken a position on the project but they will be consulted through the entire process. His department has taken the lead on the feasibility study.
Huff, the cyclist who helped come up with the proposal, said the trail is intended to go in with as small an environmental impact as possible.
"I love the parks. I love nature," she said. "I don't want to do anything that's going to take away from anyone's experience of the parks. I want to do the minimum amount of trail heads and amenities."
No one expects the greenway to be built at once, and no one expects the funding to come from a single source. But the initiative is clearly a serious one, involving federal, state and local agencies that have gone deep into a planning process to make the trail a reality.
No one knows the cost yet. Heinicke said greenways typically cost $500,000 to $1 million per mile. By this formula, the Everglades greenway would cost $38 million to $76 million.
The cost would vary along the route, since the trail would have to take a variety of forms to get it across the Everglades. Depending on the location, the trail could run a few yards from the road, on a newly constructed boardwalk, on top of a levee, on a bridge that would have to be built for that purpose and in various other configurations.
Funding for greenways generally draw on federal transportation money, state grants, local sources and corporate donations. Most of the $38 million to construct the 36-mile Northwest Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway, for example, came from federal transportation funds and from a foundation run by the family that founded Walmart.
There is also no set timetable on when work could start, if it ever does. There will be years of studies, including an environmental impacts statement. If work does take place, backers say the project will be built in segments, beginning at each end and working toward the middle.


Scott's promise a start, not enough for water quality
January 19, 2015
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, and his wife Ann, wave after the swearing in for his second term as governor of Florida at the Florida state capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., Tuesday Jan. 6, 2015. The inauguration took place in front of the Old Capitol. (AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser)(Photo: Mark Wallheiser, AP)
We were encouraged by Gov. Rick Scott's announcement last week that he plans to fully fund water quality restoration projects. We would expect nothing less.
The preservation of the state's estuaries, particularly in Southwest Florida, and improving our water quality should be of the highest priority
But funding the C-43 (Caloosahatchee reservoir) and C-44 water storage projects is only a small part of what needs to be done to save harmful pollutants that flow from Lake Okeechobee and impact the Caloosahatchee in so many negative ways..
C-43 reservoir does not provide enough storage - and storing water does not clean it !
Until there is an aggressive commitment to buy agricultural land from U.S. Sugar and build the necessary storage areas and return the natural flow way south from Lake O into the Everglades, we will never eliminate the damage being done to our water environment.
But the state is not in this alone. This is supposed to be a 50-50 split in funding between Florida and the federal government. So far, despite repeated pleas from local legislators and other government officials throughout the area, Washington is not making the necessary funding commitments. We need for our congressional leaders — Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Reps. Curt Clawson and Tom Rooney — to step up their roles in getting that funding.
We appreciate the work of the Everglades Foundation and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in keeping this issue front and center — where it should be. The foundation noted last week that another 80 billion gallons of polluted water was just released from the St. Lucie Lock and Dam and began flowing into the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee estuaries. It is unusual for releases this time of year because we are not in a period of heavy rain when the releases usually occur.
The Everglades Foundation is pushing for the purchase of about 46,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area to build a reservoir that would help store more water to the south. We also agree with its recommendation to Scott that he can write "his own plan," purchasing smaller parcels (26,000 acres) to also build a reservoir south of the lake.
We fight time and money. About $18 million has been dedicated to the C-43 project, which has a price tag of almost $600 million. To restore the Everglades to safe levels will cost approximately $11 billion and take decades to complete. We are no where near that amount. This needs to be a year where we not only have Scott's promises but also promises from other federal and state leaders that funding goals will be met in a time frame satisfactory to restoring the health of our most prized resource.

With global warming, why not all El Niño all the time ?
Sun Sentinel - by Ken Kaye
January 19, 2015
With the Earth warming to record levels, it might seem like El Niño should be a permanent fixture – and knock down hurricanes every year.
The large-scale atmospheric pattern develops as a result of abnormal warming in the eastern Pacific – and 2014 was the warmest year on record globally. But it's not that simple, experts say.
"Just because the tropical Pacific warms doesn't guarantee El Niño conditions," said Phil Klotzbach, a Colorado State University climatologist.
An El Niño requires not only ocean warmth but atmospheric instability generated by a clash of water temperatures.
Specifically, the western Pacific must be cooler than the adjacent eastern Pacific to create a "gradient," which triggers the thunderstorms and wind shear that suppress storms, Klotzbach said.
That didn't happen last year, and as a result there was no El Niño.
Instead, the entire Pacific Ocean warmed, producing a more stable atmosphere, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.
"If the Pacific Ocean warms uniformly, there are no El Niño impacts at all," he said. "You don't see these temperature contrasts and you don't see a change in the wind patterns."
Instability aside, the main ingredient to brew up an El Niño is heat. Technically, the eastern Pacific must reach about 75 degrees, or at least 1 degree higher than the ocean's 30-degree average temperature.
In November, NOAA scientists found that ocean body was close to reaching that threshold and some of its regions even heated to record warmth. Yet the western Pacific was warm, too, Halpert said.
"If you take all the El Niños ever recorded, you would find the western Pacific had below average temps," Halpert said.
Some models predict El Niño will emerge by this spring or summer, but Halpert said that is far from assured.
"What we're saying is that neutral conditions are the most likely," he said.
Neutral conditions – meaning neither El Niño nor its polar opposite, La Niña, are present – have been no friend to South Florida or the rest of the U.S. coastline.
In 2005, a neutral year, Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma struck the United States, the most destructive storm season on record.
Overall, the planet continues to set heat records. For instance, last year, the Earth's average temperature was 1.24 degrees higher than the 20th Century average and the warmest on record. As part of that, the global ocean temperature was 1.03 degrees higher than the 20th Century average and also the warmest on record.
But that only reduced the odds of El Niño forming, said Klotzbach, who develops seasonal predictions with William Gray.
"Currently, the entire tropical Pacific is warm and, consequently, we don't have the wind and pressure patterns necessary to establish an El Niño event," he said.
In any case, El Niño is difficult to predict.
Last March, NOAA issued an El Niño watch after giving it high chance of it developing. That was a primary reason experts predicted a relatively slow hurricane season. But El Niño never showed.
"Here we in the middle of January, and there's nothing that would indicate it will get going," Halpert said.


Rising seas

New plans call for Miami-Dade mayor to take rains on sea rise
Miami Herald – by Jenny Stilletovich
January 18, 2015
Miami-Dade County’s task force on rising seas wants the county mayor to take the reins on the mounting problem and will propose a suite of resolutions before commissioners on Wednesday to address the issue.
The measures will serve as “marching orders” to increase the county’s response to sea rise, County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said during a meeting with Miami Herald editors last week. She sponsored the legislation carrying out the task force recommendations as one of her last acts as commission chairwoman.The resolutions ask Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to take formal oversight and dedicate staff and resources to shepherd the county’s attack on climate change.
One resolution would also ask the administration to speed up the planning process by hiring engineers or other experts to develop a capital plan to fortify the county’s vast infrastructure against the dangers of sea rise — everything from roads to bridges to sewer structures. Another resolution also calls for a comprehensive study on flooding and saltwater intrusion along with a time frame for carrying out changes and source of money. “Sea level rise is happening. And failure to plan is the same as planning to fail,” said Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin, who chaired the task force.
Ruvin and Sosa could not say how much a plan or necessary changes might cost. But a similar strategy for New York City unveiled in June 2013 by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg came with a $20 billion price tag.
While the resolutions ask the county to incorporate measures to adapt to rising sea levels, they provide no specific changes to zoning or building regulations that could make building in the region more expensive. Sosa, who wants to avoid the politically divisive issue of what causes climate change, said the county needs to first lay the groundwork and not risk stirring opposition.“We have to be careful about the way we take baby steps,” she said.
But at some point, the commission will have to take “some pretty hard-headed action,” Ruvin said.
The task force is the county’s second stab at tackling climate change. An earlier group that included architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and former Everglades National Park Superintendent Dan Kimball delivered dozens of recommendations after meeting over five years. But the group’s report came just as voters ousted former Mayor Carlos Alvarez in a recall election. Many of the recommendations, Ruvin said, got lost in the shuffle.
The new recommendations build largely on the work of the former task force, he said.
The latest group relied on predictions that seas off Florida would rise two feet by 2060, but cautioned that levels are a “moving target.” Harvard University researchers published a new study this month recalculating the rates of increase and found seas have risen 25 percent faster in the last two decades than previously thought. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which predicts rates for the United Nations, said the results would not likely change predictions for a three-foot rise by 2100.
“If we don’t address this, this will prevent — at some point — people from coming,” Sosa said.
Another resolution asks the mayor to find more ways to pay for the county’s Environmentally Endangered Lands program, which raised $80 million through a tax referendum and bond more than a decade ago. Preserving sensitive lands would help boost the natural plumbing that historically helped South Florida cope with its low elevation. The program has resulted in the purchase of more than 20,700 acres and manages another 2,800 acres, but it is running out of money.
While Miami-Dade County is not the most populated region at risk, it does have the highest value in property and buildings, Ruvin said.
“The water table is the problem,” he said. “It threatens everything.”


Climate change impacts being assessed by Florida Department of Health
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
January 17, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott has never said that he believes climate change is really happening, despite meeting with scientists who did their best to persuade him. His Department of Environmental Protection has no specific program devoted to combating the problem. And although a group met in St. Petersburg last year to propose some possible climate change solutions for Scott, they have gotten no response from Tallahassee.
But one agency, the Florida Department of Health, is taking action on climate change. It's handing out $10,000 grants to people and organizations exploring the health impacts of a warming world.
One grant recipient, Vicki Boguszewski of Key West, said she wasn't surprised to find that agency pursuing a climate change agenda, despite the lack of interest or direction from the governor's office.
"There are very intelligent people working for the people of Florida in the DOH," she said.
The department's grants are part of a program called Building Resilience Against Climate Effects, or BRACE. The money — $234,000 so far — comes from an identically named program at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that's funding projects in 14 other states.
So far the Florida grants have gone to Manatee and Sarasota county health departments, as well as to Boguszewski, who is health services director for a nonprofit in Monroe County.
The goals of the program include developing a state hazard and health response plan, incorporating the science regarding climate change into routine public health surveys, and increasing public awareness of what an altered climate will do to everyone.
However, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health was careful to avoid using the term "climate change" in explaining its goals. Instead, she said it's focused on "health effects related to weather events."
The latest news regarding climate change seems particularly dire. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA announced Friday that 2014's global temperatures show it was the warmest year on record, dating back 135 years to when records first began being kept in 1880.
Florida's geography — extremely flat and surrounded on three sides by water — makes the state vulnerable to sea level rise. Increasing acid levels in the oceans hurt the state's coral reefs, and most Floridians would say the state is already hot enough.
But there are plenty of other potential health effects from climate change, too, according to the Department of Health: "allergies, asthma, cancer, cardiovascular disease, foodborne illness, heat-related illness and death, injury, mental health disorders, stress-related disorders, stroke," and diseases spread by mosquitoes, to name a few.
In fact, a recent survey of doctors across the U.S. who belong to the American Thoracic Society found that the majority said their patients were already experiencing medical conditions associated with climate change, such as increased asthma attacks and allergic reactions.
Yet Scott has not embraced the cause, saying in 2010, "I've not been convinced that there's any man-made climate change . . . Nothing's convinced me that there is." In 2014, while running for re-election, he answered all questions about climate change by saying, "I'm not a scientist."
In August, a coalition of scientists from Florida universities met with Scott to try to convince him that climate change is both real and a serious problem for the state. It did not go well.
"There was, in fact, no acknowledgment of the issue, nor was there any reflection of the seriousness of the issue,'' Eckerd College professor David Hastings said after the meeting. "I'm concerned he might not do anything."
Scott did ask the scientists for solutions, so in October, Hastings and other concerned scientists, students, activists, and business entrepreneurs gathered at Eckerd to brainstorm a list of solutions that they then sent to Scott. He has not responded, according to Hastings and Susan Glickman, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund, who helped organize the meeting.
The news that the Department of Health is pursuing research on the problem is a sign that some government agencies are acknowledging what seems obvious, she said.
"Even if the administration wants to ignore reality," Glickman said, "the world is still moving forward."


LO water release

Everglades Foundation warns of new Lake-O discharge danger
Saint Peters Blog - Email insights by Phil Ammann
January 17, 2015
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began to discharge water from Lake Okeechobee this week into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River estuaries.
Standard procedure for the corps is to initiate water releases when the lake level gets above 15 ½ feet, give or take depending on the weather.
Among concerns of environmentalists, polluted water could set off toxic summer algae blooms. Breakdown of algae can produce rashes, flu-like illnesses and lung infections in people who encounter the water.
This recent decision, a result of the wetter-than-expected season, spurred an urgent response from Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg.
Although Eikenberg sees this development as just the latest in a long series of potential disasters, the warning email calls for immediate action this year to offset polluted outflows.
“Here we go again,” he writes.
The new threat echoes the crisis of 2013, when massive downpours in the spring and summer ushered in one of the most significant dangers the aging 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, now over 80 years old. The corps released water as quickly as possible to protect the fragile dike, which resulted in additional water disrupting the surrounding ecosystem and reducing natural salinity.
For decades, environmental groups such as the Everglades Foundation have joined the battle to adjust the flow into the Everglades.  A monumental (and expensive) feat at best, but one with far-reaching significance for South Florida waterways, agriculture and tourism.
With a commitment to working with Scott, the Legislature and the South Florida Water Management District, Eikenberg urges all parties to “quickly find a solution for more storage in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
“The release of more polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River estuaries is proof that we need additional water storage south of the lake to alleviate these discharges,” he adds.
Progress can be possible, especially if Florida leaders act swiftly and (as the saying goes), good Lord willing and the creek – in this case “Lake O” — don’t rise.


water release

Army Corps to begin pumping Lake Okeechobee
Miami Herald – by Jenny Staletovich
January 16, 2015
With a wetter-than-normal dry season predicted, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday that it would begin releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River, raising concerns that the polluted water could trigger toxic algae blooms.
Forecasters predict that an El Niño weather pattern could form, bringing more rain in a time of year when water managers usually expect levels of the lake to recede. In a press conference Thursday, Lt. Col. Tom Greco said the agency has been steadily moving water out of the lake, pumping it south and west down the Caloosahatchee River. But levels remain higher than needed. So the Corps plans to do smaller releases over time to prevent the need for larger releases later.
Levels of the lake are currently about where they were in the summer of 2013, when water released from the swollen lake triggered massive algae blooms and fish kills.
“We understand it’s going to be wetter, so we know we need to take action now,”
Greco said.
The move prompted Gov. Rick Scott to urge the Corps to move faster on Everglades restoration work and repairing the aging dike that surrounds the lake.
“The discharges from Lake Okeechobee in 2013, and the resulting harm to our estuaries, serve as a major signal that we must accelerate work on the restoration projects needed to safeguard South Florida’s waters,” Scott said in a statement.
Related:           Lake O discharges start before state-mandated water quality ...       TCPalm
Lake Okeechobee water release prompts protests      WPBF West Palm Beach


Be careful what you ask for
Sun-Sentinel - by Vickie Machado
January 16, 2015
Should fracking be a part of Florida's future ?
Living in a car-centered society like South Florida, it's easy to celebrate low gas prices. However, I question what cheap gas really means, beyond being the calm before another storm, illustrating the extent of our unsafe dependence on fossil fuels.
Fracking isn't the only reason for low gasoline prices. Oil is a global commodity, global demand is down more than expected, and some big players in OPEC aren't slashing production to match that lower demand.
Burning gasoline, diesel, natural gas and coal are driving sea-level rise here, within our lifetime, that will utterly threaten our community and economy. Miami-Dade and Broward counties are already experiencing saltwater intrusion. Six out of eight wells that Hallandale Beach relies on have experienced closure due to saltwater intrusion. Fracking makes that more likely, and communities where companies drill and frack are seeing numerous problems. Indeed Florida Power & Light is now in the business of owning these problems, on the state's residents' dime.
At Food & Water Watch, we've made the case for a ban on fracking. Put simply, fracking, acid fracking, acidizing, etc., in South Florida's sensitive Everglades, and elsewhere in the state, violate the public interest. The Health Commission of New York determined that fracking is such a threat to public health that the state banned it in December.
The science isn't much different in Florida, where there are even more open questions. Thankfully, some state lawmakers are taking precaution and have filed bills in the House and Senate to remove all forms of fracking from Florida.
We are hopeful SB 166 and HB 169 filed by Sen. Darren Soto and Rep. Evan Jenne will provide much needed attention to this important issue.
On behalf of our environment, health and our economy, it is important to prohibit fracking in Florida, especially considering the damage that has been done throughout the country in places like Pennsylvania where water supplies have been greatly damaged and Oklahoma and Texas where earthquake frequencies have seriously increased.
Energy is a complicated issue and complex issues require complex solutions. Fracking cannot and should not be the solution to our energy woes.
It certainly should not be presented without carefully realizing that the so-called new, clean energy of natural gas, may hurt rather than help.


Gov. Scott targets Caloosahatchee project – by Chad Gillis
January 16, 2015
The Caloosahatchee Reservoir is an Everglades restoration project that Congress agreed -- through a Water Resources and Development Act -- to fund its portion of the water treatment compound.
Randy Smith
, spokesperson for the South Florida Water Management District -- the state agency overseeing Everglades restoration, said the money will be used to get an early start on the project, although no construction timeline was available Friday.

Caloosahatchee Reservoir:
• 55: Billion gallons of storage
• 1,500: Cubic feet per second of water that will flow into reservoir
• $585: Million dollars in estimated cost
• 10,700: Acres in size
• $18: Million Gov. Scott previously committed to project

Sources: South Florida Water Management District,
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Governor Scott's office

"(This money) will be used for features in the southwest corner than will provide semi-permanent storage of 5,000 acre-feet," Smith said. "This will help store stormwater runoff from the watershed as well as lake releases, and both of those will help the estuary."
The Caloosahatchee estuary is where fresh water from the mainland mixes with salt water in the Gulf of Mexico. The mixing of fresh and salt -- often referred to as brackish -- is critical to a variety of marine vegetation, shellfish, manatees and many species of fish.
"It's something we've worked at for years," said Jim Beever, with the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council. "The main thing you'll see is potential attenuation of high flows and the opportunity for more balanced water releases during the dry season."
Scott also agreed to set aside money for the St. Lucie Reservoir (a sister project to the Caloosahatchee that's located on the east coast) as well as restoration work on the Kissimmee River, which feeds nutrients into Lake Okeechobee from the north.

Is $750M in water, land conservation money too much for lawmakers to resist ?
Palm Beach Post – Opinion by Staff
January 16, 2015
Yep; they’re still at it.
Winning was just the beginning. Now Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, a coalition of conservation groups that convinced a record number of Florida voters to approve the water and land conservation amendment, has a new challenge: Convincing legislators to spend the money as voters want.
Residents who voted for Amendment 1 share that challenge. They must continue to urge legislators to spend the money to protect the state’s beaches, lands, rivers, lakes, springs and coastal waters.
In November, almost 76 percent of voters statewide — 1.3 million more votes than Gov. Rick Scott — approved the constitutional amendment calling for a third of documentary stamp taxes on real estate sales to be spent on water and land conservation.
That could amount to $757 million this first year — even more than the conservation groups at first estimated, said Eric Draper, Audubon lobbyist speaking for the coalition.
After a Jan. 7 meeting with the Senate Committee on Water and Land Conservation, which by mid-February will come up with the first list of projects for lawmakers to consider, Draper is cautiously optimistic.
“I’m encouraged by the initial response,” he said. “I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
Good because incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, bemoaned the notion of spending additional money to protect our water and land, lamenting that “we already spend hundreds of millions of dollars … on many initiatives that benefit Florida’s environment and natural resources.” He further warned that to rededicate money to protecting natural Florida, critical programs like infrastructure and affordable housing could suffer in the upcoming budget.
But Senate Committee Chairman Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, sounds as if he is mindful of what the public wants. “We don’t want to overdo it; we don’t want to underdo it,” he said at the meeting, “but we want to meet the desires of the 76 percent” of voters who approved Amendment 1.
For more information on the coalition, its goals and projects, visit To support the coalition’s plans for spending the money as voters intend, or to push individual projects, residents can send comments to the Florida Senate Committee on the Water and Land Conservation Amendment at
Senate Committee members say they know what the public wants. But over the next 20 years, lawmakers will decide how to spend a projected $22.6 billion generated by Amendment 1. So we’ll see.


Rodman dam should be breached, Putnam economy should be protected
January 16, 2015
The Ocklawaha River should flow into the St. Johns River the way Mother Nature intended it.
Man disrupted that flow for the Cross Florida Barge Canal, a project that made so little sense it was stopped in midstream by President Richard Nixon.
It was called “the biggest unfinished public works project in history” and “one of the greatest boondoggles ever perpetuated” in an article in the Audubon magazine
But it has become a beloved fishing hole and a proud icon in Putnam County.
The environmental damage was been well documented. By reopening the river, the water level would drop and a total of 20 springs stopped up by the reservoir would flow again. Also, wetlands would be restored.
Arguments for keeping the dam show the power of inertia and fear that something would be lost.
In reality, much more would be gained.
How do we know? This environmental disaster has been studied to death.
Now an important coalition involving the JAX Chamber, the Mayor’s Office and the St. Johns Riverkeeper have vowed to fight to reopen the river to its natural course.
There are two problems with this agreement:
■ There is no immediate source of funding identified to pay for the breach of the dam. Perhaps a portion of state funds reserved by Amendment 1 could be used.
■ Key Putnam County officials and advocates were not included in these talks. Some fast work is needed to bring Putnam stakeholders into the loop.
Putnam County leaders and citizens need assurances that there is every intention to improve the economy through these changes. They should be active partners in this new pact with an economic action plan that takes advantage of the revived Ocklawaha tributary.
Restoring the Ocklawaha, the largest tributary of the St. Johns River, is just as important to Northeast Florida as restoring the Everglades is to South Florida.
Many government agencies and environmental groups have proposed breaching the dam to allow water to flow naturally into the St. Johns.
After the Cross Florida Barge Canal was officially declared dead, the U.S. Forest Service said in so many words, “We want our land back.” That’s the thousands of acres of flood plain covered by the Rodman reservoir.
The Florida Legislature ordered the Department of Environmental Regulation to produce an environmental impact statement that looked at alternatives for the dam that included keeping it, removing it and two forms of partial removal.
The main proposal was partial removal that includes breaching the dam with limited removal of the structures. This would allow the Ocklawaha to flow into the St. Johns at minimal cost.
The environmental report notes these impacts:
■ Water quality has been degraded in the reservoir and upper river. There are low oxygen concentrations, soil toxins and decreased light penetration.
■ There was been reduced fish and shellfish productivity in the lower Ocklawaha River and the nearby St. Johns River.
■ Flood plain habitat has been eliminated.
■ Stagnant water levels and flow have increased exotic and nuisance plants.
As the impact report’s cover page declares, breaching the dam would produce “negligible recreation and socioeconomic impacts.”
In addition, “partial restoration is expected to have significant positive environmental impacts on water quality and water supply,” the report stated.
The impact report predicts improvement in water quality, increased fish productivity, better habitat for plant and wildlife and reduction in nuisance plants.
Roy Lewis, a wetland scientist and certified biologist, wrote that a number of migratory fish species have been reduced from the Ockalwaha River above the dam. This includes striped bass, American eel, American shad, hickory shad, hogchoker, striped mullet, channel and white catfish, needlefish and Southern flounder.
“There is no credible scientific basis to predict any permanent decline in fish resources following restoration, nor a specific decline in sports fishing opportunities over the short or long term,” Lewis wrote.
“The species may change, but fish biomass … will likely remain the same or increase over time after the Rodman pool is drained and migratory fish populations return,” Lewis added.
Sport fishing for striped bass is likely to increase and largemouth bass fishing will persist, he concluded.
In addition, the state would not have to spend money on maintaining the lock and managing the vegetation.
Finally, there would be “enhanced recreational opportunities on the restored river.”
The dam should be breached. The river should be allowed to flow again. And the region should partner with Putnam County to improve its recreational economy.


Study: Ocean life faces mass extinction - by Philip J. Victor
January 16, 2015
Human-caused loss of marine life, so far confined to low rates, could soon overwhelm the seas
The loss of animal species in the planet's oceans is expected to "rapidly intensify" due to human-caused activities, but swift intervention could still prevent "disaster of the magnitude observed on land," according to
  Dead whale
study published Friday in the journal Science.
Humans have "profoundly decreased" the number marine animals, large and small, though there have been few outright extinctions, the study notes. That’s because animal loss attributed to human activity "began in earnest tens of thousands of years later in the oceans that it did on land." 
But there is growing concern that low extinction rates seen today “may be the prelude to a major extinction pulse, similar to that observed on land during the industrial revolution” — and that has wider implications for humans and marine life, such as "imperiling food sustainability" for humans and depleting "a wide range of ecologically important marine fauna."
“We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event,” ecologist Douglas J. McCauley, of the University of California, Santa Barbara and a co-author of the study, told the New York Times, referring to marine life. 
Unsustainable fishing is the principal threat to marine life today, according to the study, but the ocean life faces a number of dangers.
The study’s authors say the great whale species, while no longer being hunted on a wide scale, face hazards that include noise pollution and oil exploration. Bottom trawling, an industrial fishing method that can alter marine habitats, can also put species at risk.
The development of coastal cities and a practice known as "seasteading," or building artificial lands in the ocean — with one such example being the United Arab Emirates famous construction of artificial islands off the coast of Dubai — also present problems to marine habitats, along with seafloor mining and oil and gas extraction. 
But there is still time to change course and avoid the damaging repercussions already seen in land animals, the study notes. 
The authors say there is time to “avert the kinds of defaunation disasters observed on land" through "efforts to slow climate change" and rebuild animal populations, while ensuring marine mining and energy development "take important marine wildlife habitats into consideration." 
The study cites The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, which has recorded 15 global extinctions — none of which occurred in past five decades — of marine animal species over the past 500 years. That number pales in comparison to the over 500 extinctions of terrestrial animals over that same period of time. 
Marine animal loss, however, remains significant, the study noted, with changes that affect the bottom of the food chain and travel upward. 
"Depletions of fauna such as anchovies, sardines, and krill cause reductions in food for higher-trophic level (position on the food chain) animals such as seabirds and marine mammals, potentially resulting in losses in reproduction or reductions in their population size," the authors said. 
And this has troubling implications for humans, by “imperiling food sustainability and increasing social conflict,” said the scientists, who point out that fish makes up a large part of global protein intake — especially true in poorer coastal countries. "Declines in this source of free-range marine food represent a major source of concern," said the report.
Also at risk is coastal protection like coral reefs, which "can dissipate up to 97 percent of the wave energy reaching them, thus protecting built structures and human lives." 
Nevertheless, the report makes clear that "we are not necessarily doomed to helplessly recapitulate the defaunation processes observed on land in the oceans."
“We’re lucky in many ways,” Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University and a co-author of the report, told the Times. “The impacts are accelerating, but they’re not so bad we can’t reverse them.”

Water issues on front burner
World-Herald - Editorial
January 16, 2015
Last year Nebraska officials took a major step forward in addressing important water needs.
The state agreed to appropriate $32 million over two years, plus $11 million annually thereafter, for projects that will conserve, store and manage water for human and livestock consumption. Other projects will involve irrigation, industrial uses, wildlife habitat and recreation.
In addition, Nebraska has been making notable progress in negotiations with Colorado and Kansas over management of Republican River flows. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is hosting a series of seven lectures on East Campus through April on major water issues facing Nebraska and the Plains region.
NU’s Daugherty Water for Food Institute just held its annual conference, drawing water-policy experts from across the globe.
Look around the country, in fact, and one finds that a growing number of states are devoting increased attention to water policy. Some states are undertaking ambitious long-term initiatives.
>> Infrastructure funding. Last November, voters in California, Florida and Maine approved ballot measures authorizing their states to spend increased resources on water conservation, water treatment plants, pollution cleanup and river restoration.In Florida, real estate taxes will fund a water conservation fund projected to generate between $10 billion and $18 billion over 20 years in that fast-growing state.
Texas is distributing water infrastructure loans from a $2 billion fund approved by voters in 2013. Pipes, wells, reservoirs and treatment plants are among the projects to be funded.
>> State water strategies. More than a dozen states discussed or submitted new statewide water plans last year.
Kansas — working to manage the stresses on its part of the Ogallala Aquifer — aims to complete its water plan this year. Colorado, Arkansas and Montana look to finish their statewide strategies, with Colorado and Arkansas looking at undertaking multibillion-dollar infrastructure initiatives.
>> Groundwater. Strong debate is expected in Wisconsin over groundwater regulation as well as the connection between groundwater and surface water, amid charges that irrigation wells in the central part of that state have caused streams to go dry.
In Texas, lawmakers are expected to debate policies governing water-use permits decided by groundwater management districts.
>> Court battles. Florida and Georgia continue to tussle in court over river issues, and Texas has sued New Mexico over declining flows in the Rio Grande River.
Nebraska is by no means alone in stepping up to address the complex and varied concerns involving this precious natural resource.


Commitment to:
- water quality
- storing excess water
- C-43 reservoir

- send water south

Gov. Scott plans to fully fund water projects
January 15, 2015
In what should be viewed as good news for Southwest Florida, Gov. Rick Scott announced today his commitment to funding key water quality projects for the region on the heels of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announcement about coming Lake Okeechobee water releases.
Governor Scott said, "The Corps' announcement of releases today from Lake Okeechobee proves that we cannot relent in our mission to restore Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. We must stay the course on our current water restoration commitments and complete the projects we have already started. We also need the federal government to step up their commitment to Everglades restoration by immediately requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the Lake Okeechobee dike.
"The discharges from Lake Okeechobee in 2013, and the resulting harm to our estuaries, serve as a major signal that we must accelerate work on the restoration projects needed to safeguard South Florida's waters. Addressing the environmental challenges of South Florida requires the simultaneous investment in projects to store excess water, clean polluted water and send the clean water south – away from our estuaries and into the Everglades."
Over the next four years, Governor Scott is committed to:
• Fully funding the state's share of the restoration of the Kissimmee River (which Governor Scott has already funded at $5 million).
• Fully funding the construction and completion of the C-43 ($18 million already funded) water storage project to help store water released from Lake O and keep pollutants out of the Caloosahatchee.
• Scott says he is committed to moving forward with sending water south. This year, the South Florida Water Management District sent more than 69 billion gallons of water south, sparing the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, who led the drive for C-43 funding last year, said: "We are really proud the Governor has taken this strong stand and is protecting this vital and treasured resource for our region and is keeping the focus on the C-43 project. We will work hard all session, along side the Governor, to make sure that funding for this project becomes a reality."


Water discharges from Lake Okeechobee into St. Lucie Estuary begin
WPTV-Ch5 – by Elizabeth Harrington
January 15, 2015
Promptly at 6:52 a.m. Friday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began discharging water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary toward the Indian River Lagoon.
The discharges are small compared to 2013 but local activists say one drop is too much.
“Every time they dump this polluted water it’s bad for us,” says Indian Riverkeeper Marty Baum, “There’s algae blooms that happen. Everything dies.”
A group known as the River Warriors planned to rally at the St. Lucie Locks on Friday.
 “We’re gonna get organized and we’re gonna try to get out there and try to plead our case and hopefully maybe the Army Corps will listen,” says Kenny Hinkle, Jr.
They worry about the timing. It’s still the dry season.
“It’s January and we’re talking about discharges,” says Hinkle, Jr.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says they have to release water east to help drain Lake Okeechobee because the water level is too high.  The discharges will equal about 194 million gallons a day. It’s a huge amount but it’s actually 20 times less than the peak discharges in 2013.
“We’re not going to stand by and just watch it happen over and over and over again,” says Hinkle, Jr., “It’s time for a change.”
That’s why they’re pushing lawmakers to pass and fund plans to send the water south to the everglades.  Part of that requires buying farmland.
“We’re going to focus on buying land,” says Baum, “We have a very limited amount of time.”
Gov. Rick Scott released a statement on the discharges on Thursday, calling it harmful and said he’s committed to moving the water south, away from the Treasure Coast.
Related:           Army Corps of Engineers to resume Lake Okeechobe Discharges ...  


Cabinet approves purchase of land for conservation - by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
January 14, 2015
A pair of land purchases approved Tuesday by Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet were hailed by conservationists as a sign that a pulse is returning to the Florida Forever conservation program.
The Cabinet unanimously agreed to spend $3.15 million to acquire 669  acres in Charlotte County to help restore the flow of fresh water to the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve, and $9.77 million for 619 acres in Collier County that will provide additional buffering for the 13,000-acre Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Bird Rookery Swamp.
Around the State
Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues, said the deals are a sign that "the state of Florida is back in the business of conservation."
"We depend in Southwest Florida on a healthy environment," Draper said. "That's part of our economy down there."
Starting in 1991, lawmakers had consistently provided $300 million annually for the Florida Forever and Preservation 2000 land-buying programs. But in recent years, funding has dried up as the state faced a series of tight budgets and Republican leaders expressed increasing concern over costs of managing the state's growing real estate holdings.
Funding for the purchases Tuesday were made by selling nonconservation parcels of land. The sales replaced a more controversial program that sought to raise the money by selling parcels the state has previously acquired for preservation.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said funding for programs like Florida Forever should increase due to the 2014 voter-approved Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment, which devotes a portion of real-estate taxes to conservation efforts, and the recovering economy.
Putnam added that there should be a mix of outright purchases of land for conservation and the purchase of development rights, which allow farmers and ranchers to continue to use their land while the state is able to keep those parcels from being built up.
"I believe the purchase of development rights achieves the same environmental benefits at greater savings to the state," Putnam said.
Putnam has requested $25 million for the Rural and Family Protection Program, which is used for development right deals.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers have started to break down how they will use money from the land and water conservation amendment, approved in November with 75 percent of the vote.
The amendment requires that for the next two decades, 33 percent of the revenue from a tax on real-estate transactions, known as documentary stamps, goes into conservation efforts, including Florida Forever.
Staff for the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee last week projected the amendment will generate $757 million for conservation efforts during the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Since the amendment was approved, lawmakers have differed on how to define land-preservation and water-conservation projects, how the state should determine which of its "impaired" water bodies is most critical and how to approach the reduction of stormwater runoff and agricultural fertilizer use.
Related:           Gov. Scott, cabinet approve purchase of SWFL land for conservati ...         WZVN-TV
State Officials Approve Land Purchases In Southwest Florida         WGCU News


Corps opens St. Lucie locks but not to water from Lake O
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
January 14, 2015
The Army Corps of Engineer opened the spillway gates at the St. Lucie Lock & Dam today to lower levels of runoff from the St. Lucie Canal.
Although the releases mean polluted water will again be dumped into the St. Lucie Estuary, which was damaged in 2013 by releases caused by heavy rains, no water is currently being dumped from Lake Okeechobee in the canal or estuary at this time.
The lake now stands at 14.98 feet, nearly a foot higher than this time last year.
However, discharges continue from the lake to the Caloosahatchee River on the west side of the lake at 1,500 cubic feet of water as measured at Franklin Lock & Dam. The seven-day pulse to the Caloosahatchee began on Jan. 9 and is scheduled to end on Jan. 16.
As the lake rises, so does the Corps’ concern for the aging, earthen dike around the lake and the safety of communities on the lake’s shore.
After extreme rainfall in 2013, lake levels reached 16 feet and the Corps was forced to release billions of gallons of fresh water from the lake into the St. Lucie Estuary. The fresh water lowered the salinity levels, and oysters, sea grasses and other wildlife began dying.


Now is the time for national water resource policy Blog – by Cornelius B. Murphy, Jr., Ph.D., Senior Fellow for Environmental and Sustainable Systems, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
January 14, 2015
Water is our most precious natural resource and, yet, we abuse it and fail to effectively manage it.
The Center for Neighborhood Technology, a not-for-profit organization based in Chicago that focuses on sustainable cities, estimates that the loss of water from our municipal distribution systems approaches 2.1 trillion gallons per year. Just this past summer, part of Southern California experienced the classic failure of a 90-year-old water main on Sunset Boulevard that flooded the UCLA campus with 2 million gallons of water. This represented a major breach in our nation's water distribution system. However, there are thousands of less-publicized breaks that happen on a weekly basis. This is not sustainable.
Increasingly, we see domestic conflicts arise over the allocation rights to tap into our surface and sub-surface water supplies. There have been 15 years of disagreements over the management and rights to the Missouri River and longstanding difficulties in developing an agreement among state officials in Alabama, Georgia and Florida over the allocation of the water from the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. And of course, there is a debate among four states and Mexico over allocating the decreasing flow of the Colorado River.
Many of our water resources are under stress. Consider the problem of drought: In 2002, 49 percent of the United States was in moderate to severe drought conditions. Despite the precious nature of our water resources, hundreds of thousands of miles of our rivers don't meet basic water quality standards. And more than half of nature's water-cleansing systems -- wetlands and marshes -- have been lost because of development. And, of course, the impact of climate change is stressing our natural and constructed infrastructure with either too little or too much precipitation.
It is only reasonable that we establish a national policy to guide us in developing regional water-resource plans, establish guidance to ensure that our groundwater resources are not exploited, develop water allocation priorities to minimize the impact of current and future conflicts over the allocation of water, and require that sustainable water management strategies be established.
The time is right.
Water is too precious to be abused.
We need to plan for our water-dependent future.


Send the water south of Lake Okeechobee
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer – To The Editor by John G Heim, Fort Myers Beach
January 14, 2015
This past weekend Key Largo hosted the Everglades Annual Conference that is fully focused on sending the water south of Lake Okeechobee, rather than the discharges east and west down our rivers that have destroyed our local waterways health and marine life amongst other qualities of life.
We, as activists for clean water in Florida, have sent many operatives and representatives to the conference to stand up for our local communities and the well-being of our town's lifeline. The pollution that exists in our water is still there even though you cannot see it, and we will not stand for it now or never.
  Lake Okeechobee
The reality of the 2013 "summer lost" is still in our minds and hearts as it killed off a record of manatees, erased our oyster populations and about crippled our local tourism in the summer months and threatened to lose tourism season in itself as the polluted water sifted into winter months. We are committed to raising awareness to the general public, as well as both locals and tourists of our very grave situation that very much still exists.
The Caloosahatchee River was deemed number 7 on the most critical list in the United States not too long ago, while the Indian River Lagoon is also in peril. Mother Nature intended the water to slowly drift south of the lake while naturally cleaning the water to feed the everglades. If you ever heard anyone say "the Everglades are dying," this is why. The top of the lake is a river called the Kissimmee River, which used to flow in a zig zag, slow, meandering manner into the lake and would eventually drift onward into the Everglades naturally. However, man ruined that by channelling the river into a gushing onslaught into the lake and connected our rivers on the east and west. The Everglades no longer gets that needed flow way south at all. Instead we get the gush of rushing water into our rivers that are not well suited to handle this aggressive onslaught.
To add insult to injury, the sugar industry is fully responsible for years and years of back pumping its chemicals into the lake. You got it, right into our local communities waterways! The sugar industry has gone as far as to grow sugar cane crops along the southern perimeter of the lake, making it impossible for water to flow naturally. Recently, the sugar industry wanted to build housing along the south perimeter. However the work of local activists put a halt to that Sugar Hill Housing Project.
We activists of the clean water movement have been to our local politicians offices, to our state representatives offices, to the governor's office in Tallahassee and his mansion in Naples and all the way to Washington DC to be heard in front of Congress as common day people fighting for the future of our communities. Without clean water we will have no tourism. Without tourism we will have no jobs. Without jobs will have no homes or businesses. Without jobs or businesses will have no local economy. Everything we call home solely depends on clean water and seeing the water flow south naturally into the Everglades.
We will not stop! We will continue at any and all measures to better educate and bring truthful awareness to this very real life do or die situation for us all locally who live here and visit here. We are not afraid to speak to this issue. Our next stop is Gov. Rick Scott's office in Tallahassee in February. Fight for your community. It's depending on you.

With Lake O level at 15 feet, releases into St. Lucie Canal may start
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton, Staff Writer
January 14, 2015
The Army Corps of Engineers is considering releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Canal to lower the lake’s level, but has not announced when it would begin.
The lake level now stands at 15.02 feet, about a foot higher than a year ago, said John Campbell, spokesman for the Corps. The Corps has already begun releasing water on the west side of the lake into the Caloosahatchee River.
Although South Florida is in the midst of its winter dry season, there are growing concerns that there will be above average rain for the remainder of the dry season.
As the lake rises, so does the Corps’ concern for the aging dike around the lake and the safety of communities on the lake’s shore. The 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike was built after hurricanes in the 1930s killed more than 2,000 people and swamped much of the lower part of the state.
Higher water levels put more pressure on the dike, and because water can flow into the lake six times faster than it leaves, the Corps says it needs to drop water levels now before the rainy season begins. The Corps tries to keep the lake’s level between 12½ and 15½ feet during the summer rainy season.
To buttress the dike, the Corps has completed a 21-mile cutoff wall and is replacing many aging culverts. Still, the earthen dike remains in such poor condition that it is ranked among the most likely to fail in the United States.
After extreme rainfall in 2013, lake levels reached 16 feet and the Corps was forced to release billions of gallons of fresh water from the lake into the St. Lucie Estuary. The fresh water lowered the salinity levels, and oysters, sea grasses and other wildlife began dying.


Flow south

Florida lawmakers want Congress to send it south … to the Everglades
SaintPetersBlog - by James Call
January 13, 2015
The Army Corps of Engineers delivered an Everglades Christmas present and now Florida’s Congressional delegation wants Congress to pay for it.
Funding for an Everglades restoration project hit a snag in April when the Army Corps of Engineers wasn’t ready to approve it in time for a bill appropriating money for water projects.
The Corps signed off on the Central Everglades Planning Project Dec. 24 and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy is seeking $1.9 million to implement it. And the state’s Congressional delegation is supporting his effort to fund a project diverting water now flowing into the ocean to the Everglades and Florida Bay.
“No single effort is more important to the future of the Everglades than the CEPP,” said Sen. Marco Rubio.
The CEPP is a three-year effort by the Corps, the South Florida Water Management District and other stakeholders to protect the Everglades and drinking water from  high-levels of phosphorus found in Lake Okeechobee discharges  The idea is to reduce the amount of phosphorus in the water to 10 parts per billion and protect the Everglades delicate ecosystem.
“This historic project to send clean water south to the Everglades is a major step in restoring Florida’s vulnerable river of grass,” said Congresswoman Gwen Graham.
Graham and ten other Florida House members have signed on as cosponsors to Murphy’s proposal. Senators Rubio and Bill Nelson have introduced a companion measure in the Senate.
“I am proud that our delegation stands united in both chambers and both parties in pushing Congress to get this done,” said Murphy
Funding for water projects are usually included in a broader water bill Congress passes every few years. Murphy’s proposal speeds up the process for the Everglades project.
Murphy has signed up the following House members as cosponsors; Reps Corrine Brown, Curt Clawson, Ander Crenshaw, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Gwen Graham, Alcee Hastings, Bill Posey, Tom Rooney, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Frederica Wilson.


Time to tear down dam, restore what was once 'the sweetest water-lane in the world' - by Mark Woods
January 13, 2015
America went on a dam-building frenzy in the middle of the last century.
If there was a wild river, there’s a very good chance we tamed it.
We did it for electricity, irrigation, flood control.
By the end of the century, we had more than 80,000 dams.
By the end of the century, we also realized that some dams no longer did what they were supposed to do, that some dams produced more costs than benefits and that some dams were mistakes right from the start.
More than 800 dams have come down in the last 20 years. And they haven’t come down just because a bunch of river-huggers wanted them to. In most cases, they came down because a broad coalition of people agreed removing them would be good for the river and for the long-term health — environmentally and economically — of their area.
Yet the Rodman Dam — once described by Audubon Magazine as “the only dam in the nation without even an alleged purpose” — has remained standing.
What happened Monday could be the first step toward changing that. Emphasis on could, But a group of North Florida leaders, from a wide range of interests, gathered to sign an agreement that could lead to the end of a lawsuit challenging St. Johns River dredging and the start of the dam removal on its largest tributary.
It’s about time.
When President Nixon killed a cross-state canal project in 1971, the dam built three years earlier instantly became the symbol of the project. A canal to nowhere. With a dam to a river that shortly after the Civil War was described as “the sweetest water-lane in the world.”
The reason the dam is still standing is what formed behind it — a reservoir that became a bass fishing mecca.
When University of North Florida president John Delaney was Jacksonville’s mayor, he was among those opposed to removing the dam. But Monday, he was among the group signing the agreement, saying he changed his mind about the dam, partly because so much behind the dam has changed.
Some of it stems from looking at scientific data, he said. But some of it comes from simpler measures, like the weight of a bass or the clarity of the water in the Silver River.
“I love fishing,” he said after the news conference. “But you can see what (the reservoir) turned into ... a massive retention pond.”
This is hardly an isolated story. In 1960, a dam was built across the Chipola River, a tributary of the Apalachicola in the Panhandle. The dam was supposed to create great fishing. And for a while it did. By the 1970s, the fishing was on the decline. And in 1987, the Dead Lakes Dam was removed.
It has since been joined by the Brown Pond, Kelley Branch and (best dam name ever) Puddin’ Head on a list of dams that have come down in Florida.
It is time to add the Rodman Dam to that list. Not because it might end a lawsuit. Or even because it will restore the natural flow of the St. Johns River. It’s about time simply because of what the Ocklawaha River once was — and what it could be again.


Efforts to send water south from Lake Okeechobee must continue — and be expanded - Editorial Board
January 12, 2015
Do you need proof of the ultimate solution for the main problem plaguing the St. Lucie River and southern Indian River Lagoon?
Consider the correlation between these three facts:
The South Florida Water Management District moved 70 billion gallons of water south from Lake Okeechobee in November and December - roughly the equivalent of six inches off Lake O. Note: This is water that wasn't discharged into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon....
A legislative budget commission authorized $2.8 million in September 2013 for the water management district to maximize pumping stations and send excess water south from the lake. This helped prevent the need to dump water in the St. Lucie River.
The latest water-advisory reports show our waterways stable and recovering. However, we won't know until the spring - when oysters, fish and myriad aquatic life begin reproducing - whether the recovery was merely a short-term event.
There is no mystery to solving what ails the river and lagoon. When there is too much water in Lake O - 15.5 feet or more - the "solution" by the Army Corps of Engineers has been to discharge the excess water east into the St. Lucie River or west to the Caloosahatchee River. (The current lake level is about 15 feet.)
This cycle, repeated for decades, is disastrous for fish and plant life, and detrimental to tourism, boating, fishing and marine-related industries.
Sending water south is the answer.
This was the theme of the 30th annual Everglades Coalition conference Jan. 8-11 in Key Largo, where about 200 environmentalists, government officials and others gathered to consider proposals to accomplish this important objective.
The long-term solution may become clearer in March, when the University of Florida Water Institute releases its much-anticipated study on proposed routes for moving water south of Lake Okeechobee. Meanwhile, Everglades and lagoon advocates are mounting a campaign to convince the Florida Legislature to use money from recently approved Amendment 1 to buy U.S. Sugar land south of the lake.
Could this be the year state and federal officials chart a course, agree upon a strategy and commit themselves to fund a long-term solution for our waterways?
Yes, the ultimate solution to protecting, preserving and restoring our river and lagoon is moving all excess water in Lake O to the south. However, as noted above, for a relatively modest appropriation of $2.8 million, state officials were able to buy some valuable time last year for the river and lagoon to recover.
Efforts of this kind need to continue - and be expanded.
Interactive Map


Florida State Representative: Ban fracking, significant risk to public health & to water supply - by James Ayre
January 12, 2015
It looks as though opposition to the practice of fracking has finally started to coalesce even in the political world, based on recent statements and positions taken in places not known for their environmental boldness and leadership.
In particular, recent statements from one of Florida’s state representative stand out (to my mind) due to how blunt they are — calling for the banning of fracking (via a bill he introduced) in the state, owing to the great public health risks posed by the practice, and the risk to the state’s water supply.
The representative in question, Evan Jenne (D), put it thusly (in his proposal): The practice includes the use of chemicals which “may pose a widespread and significant risk to public health and safety and the environment.”
The bill also makes mention of the high rate of methane leakage that regularly accompanies the practice, and the contribution of this methane to anthropogenic climate change.
Perhaps most importantly, though, is the mention made of the huge amounts of freshwater needed for the practice — given the issues that Florida has had in recent years meeting water demand, that’s an important point to consider.
The bill noted that point when arguing that allowing the practice would be a poor choice at the moment, “at a time when many Florida municipalities are struggling with the impacts that water scarcity may have in the state in the near future.” By banning fracking, the legislature can “protect the public health and welfare” of the state.
A similar move was made not that long ago (December) by two Florida senators seeking the same outcome — the banning of the practice of fracking in the state. Said bill — filed by senators Darren Soto (D) and Dwight Bullard (D) — isn’t the first in the state to target fracking, either. There was a bill seeking to force companies to disclose the chemicals used in the fracking process died last year, for example.
“We get most of our water from the Floridian Aquifer — which is obviously an underground water source,” state Representative Soto, back in December. “We are very concerned fracking could potentially do damage to this critical water supply.”
And there’s good reason for that worry (well, if you live in Florida anyways), so hopefully something will be done to address the issue before harm is done, rather than after the fact.

Graham joins up to support Everglades bill
News Herald – by Chris Olwell
January 12, 2015 at 07:11 PM.
PANAMA CITY — Rep. Gwen Graham is among a bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers getting behind a plan to increase the flow of clean water to the Everglades, which supporters said would preserve and protect the delicate but vital ecology.
The Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) is actually a bundle of projects designed to increase the collection of clean water around Lake Okeechobee and send it south into the center of the Everglades, said Dawn Shirreffs, a senior policy advisor for the Everglades Foundation who was involved in shaping the legislation.
“It’s actually just a smarter way to implement the projects that were passed by Congress in 2000,” Shirreffs said. “This basically takes out a bunch of blockages to moving water south.”
Moving more water from the lake to the Everglades cleans the water and enhances the ecosystem, Shirreffs said.
“From North Florida to Miami, our entire state’s ecosystem and water supply is dependent on keeping the Everglades healthy,” Graham said in a statement released Monday. “This historic project to send clean water south to the Everglades is a major step in restoring Florida’s vulnerable river of grass.”
Graham is a cosponsor of a bill to authorize the CEPP, which Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, introduced, along with about 10 other Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
As if to prove Shirreffs was correct when she said, “This is one of those issues that unifies,” Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
“It’s time to cut through the red tape and get this project moving forward,” said Graham, D-Tallahassee. “This is an issue I’m proud to be working with Democrats and Republicans on for the benefit of our entire state.”
The bill provides authorization for the project to move forward and $1.9 billion from federal and non-federal sources.
About 8 million Floridians depend on the Everglades for drinking water, Shirreffs said, so the issue is only growing more urgent. The CEPP barely missed being included in the Water Resources Development Bill last year, which became the first water bill to be signed into law in seven years.
 “We can’t afford to wait seven more years,” Shirreffs said.
A final report from the Army Corps of Engineers was released in December. That was too late to be included with projects from around the nation in the water bill, but it has cleared the way for the introduction of CEPP as a single-project authorizing bill.
“We look forward to working with Congress to get it passed,” Shirreffs said.


Patrick Murphy recognized for ‘tireless commitment’ to Everglades protection - by Peter Schorsch
January 12, 2015
For a “tireless commitment” to protecting Florida wetlands, including the Indian River Lagoon, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy last week received the Everglades Coalition James D. Webb Public Service Award.
Murphy, who represents Florida’s 18th Congressional District, accepted the award from the South Florida-based conservation activist group, which made the announcement during its 30th Annual Conference in Key Largo Jan. 8-10.
The award recognized Murphy’s “leadership on and dedication to protecting the Everglades in Congress,” above all advocacy for the health of the Indian River Lagoon, which is in his district.  CD 18 covers much of the Treasure Coast, stretching from Palm Beach to Fort Pierce, all of St. Lucie and Martin counties and the northeastern part of Palm Beach County.
Given annually by the Coalition since 1996, the Webb Award honors public servants making an “outstanding contribution to the Everglades.” Murphy joins past recipients such as U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, and Secretary Jo-Ellen Darcy.
“While it is humbling to be recognized tonight, I know that my work is far from done,” Murphy said in a statement. “As long as I have the privilege of serving in Congress, I promise to continue fighting for the Everglades and the future of our natural resources.
“I know that if we remain united,” he added, “we can save this precious ecosystem and the vital role it plays in the economy and entire way of life for Floridians.”
Murphy, since first taking office in 2013, has made the Everglades a priority, resulting in a number of legislative wins for local waterways.
With the beginning of the 114th Congress this week, Murphy vows he will “hit the ground running.” So far, the Jupiter Democrat has re-introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Central Everglades Planning Project Act, designed to allow the U,S. Army Corps of Engineers to direct flows to the Everglades and Florida Bay, instead of the water emptying into the ocean.
Murphy also said he would bring up legislation to allow the State to begin utilizing the Ten Mile Creek project


West Palm Beach commissioners talk long-term water plans today
Palm Beach Post
January 12, 2015
The next step in West Palm Beach’s search for long-term water treatment options comes at a special meeting at 9:30 a.m. today.
Options that have been discussed:
Ultraviolet technology, which would cost $30 million to $40 million.
A far more costly “membrane” system.
Building a plant on 4.5 acres of Port of Palm Beach property, just over the line in Riviera Beach. A private firm, New England-based Poseidon Resources, has said it will design, finance, build, operate and maintain the new facility on its nickel, and even pay for a 5-mile-long, 48- to 54-inch-diameter pipe that would be laid from the new plant to the current plant and back. Poseidon has said it’s convinced it can sell water to West Palm Beach for what the city’s spending now to produce it, and still recoup its private investment.
Building a brand new plant out west, on 200 acres just south of the East Central Regional Water Reclamation Facility. That plant is operated by West Palm Beach in partnership with Palm Beach County, Lake Worth and Riviera Beach.
At a Dec. 15 workshop, commissioners Kimberly Mitchell and Shanon Materio asked why the city hadn’t, for a year, allowed a presentation by New England-based Poseidon Resources, which has offered to take over the system and build, operate and maintain a plant near the Florida Power & Light Co., power plant in Riviera Beach. Mayor Jeri Muoio said she wanted another workshop first. Keith James then asked that the workshop be converted to a special meeting, which would give the commission the option of voting. Before hearing from Poseidon. That set off Mitchell and Materio. But with three members in favor, the commission was in consensus for the special meeting.
Today’s meeting is in Commission chambers on the first floor of City Hall, 401 Clematis St.
For more details on this story, go later to


2015 expedition launches in Everglades headwaters
National Geographic -  by J. Guthrie in Florida Wildlife Corridor
January 11, 2015
We are poised at the brink of the 2015 Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. This trek begins in the northern reaches of the Everglades Headwaters, on the banks of Lake Hatchineha in Polk County, Florida. This is familiar ground for expedition members Carlton Ward, Jr., Mallory Dimmitt and myself. South of Kissimmee and I-4, Lake Hatchineha marks the mid-way point for a 100-day expedition we undertook in 2012. Lake Hatchineha is one of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, which collect and feed water south to the vast Lake Okeechobee.
This area is the footprint of a major conservation project still awaiting funding. In 2010 the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a plan to protect 150,000 acres of wildlife habitat in Central Florida, encompassing an area from Orlando south to Lake Okeechobee. The plan was to create a new National Wildlife Refuge, and to augment and buffer the refuge, the government would form public-private partnerships with the areas ranchers in the form of conservation easements. Easements were to account for 2/3 of the 150,000 acres. It was named Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, and it stands to fill in a gap in the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Inspired by the creation of the new refuge and the opportunity to build grassroots support for conservation in an oft-overlooked area of the Everglades ecosystem, the 2012 Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition powered through the opportunity area of the proposed new refuge, crossing 6 properties where willing sellers representing thousands of acres were seeking to sell easements, which would keep their land from being developed in perpetuity. We met with landowners and land trust partners, all of whom were focused on the importance of conserving a substantial piece of a landscape that many Baby Boomers today still remember as a vast grassland and open space. But as Florida’s population has exploded with the influx of one thousand new residents a day, this rural land, so treasured by its natives, has been taken over by housing developments pressing in from urban areas on its fringes.
Today, Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge exists, but its acreage has yet to be expanded beyond the ten acres donated in 2012 by the Nature Conservancy in the official creation of the refuge. Today there has been progress made, especially through the dedicated work of ranchers as well as Florida’s sportsmen and women. Leaders among both groups have worked together and collectively thrown their weight into expanding the refuge for the best interests of the land, water, and wildlife, but also in the best interests of the people who work and use the land.
But the lion’s share of the work remains to be done, and the urgency is great. That was true in 2012 and it is true today, as the real estate market in Florida comes roaring back. The USFWS, along with most other federal agencies, has been criticized in the halls of Congress, enduring deep budget cuts that have hindered progress on many projects, including Everglades Headwaters NWR.
In Florida, a new funding stream has emerged through the passage of Amendment 1, or the Land and Water Legacy Amendment.  In 2014, 75% of Florida voters approved the placement of conservation funding in the state’s constitution for the next twenty years at levels some believe will be from $500 million to $700 million per year. Most of the acres of interest to the federal officials guiding the refuge are also highly valued by conservationists on the state level. The good work of partnership building done around the refuge creation means that with USFWS funding levels low, the state, with its newly beefed-up conservation budget, may step in and help with the expansion and management of the refuge and conservation area.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor team has followed the Everglades Headwaters NWR story since its inception, and we trumpeted its virtues to all that would listen during the 2012 trek and in the years since. We have watched friends and family members in the landowner and sportsmen communities alike, our partners in the land trust and agency professions, all struggle with bureaucracy, politics and shrinking budgets, all to try to forge the refuge and conservation area into something substantial.
We recognize that there is much still to be done and we’re hoping to shed light on the story through this expedition. We’re beginning on the refuge’s ten acres, in the hope that very soon we will see added to the footprint of Everglades Headwaters NWR those acres of new public land and private conservation land that are yet to be protected.
Related;           Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition Kicks off First Leg     WUSF News


Amendment 1 spending plans begin to take shape - by Lloyd Dunkelberger, Halifax Media Services
January 11, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — This week Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet will consider the purchase of a 669-acre tract in Charlotte County that could help improve water quality and wildlife habitat in the area.
State officials will pay $3.15 million for the land, which is part of the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods project in the Florida Forever program. State environmental officials said acquisition of the property, which includes the removal of a cattle operation, will help "jump-start an ecosystem restoration project that has been stalled for decades."
Scott and the Cabinet will also consider a $9.77 million purchase in the Corkscrew Swamp in Collier County — another Florida Forever project with similar environmental benefits.
Floridians can expect to see many more of these Florida Forever projects in the coming years as the result of the decision by 75 percent of the voters in November to back a constitutional amendment requiring the Legislature to set aside at least a third of the annual tax on real estate transactions for environmental projects.
Amendment 1 could provide more than $750 million in environmental spending in the new budget year and $22.6 billion over the lifetime of the 20-year program. In addition to Florida Forever, the initiative could also mean spending increases for the Florida Everglades, restoration of natural springs, beaches and water-quality projects. The list is long but it will be up to the 2015 Legislature, which begins meeting in March, to decide how to allocate that funding.
House and Senate environmental leaders are well aware of the popularity of the measure with voters.
"We're going to be careful," said Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, chairman of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.
The key decision will be deciding which programs and projects will get the environmental funding boost.
Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources budget subcommittee, said there would be a "fair distribution" of the funding. He said issues ranging from the protection of lakes and rivers to water quality and water quantity will be considered in addition to programs like Florida Forever and the use of conservation easements.
"There's a long list of things we need to be addressing," he said.
Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, vice chair of Albritton's committee, expects a debate over the uses of the increased funding but will argue that each program has wide-ranging benefits. "They're all interrelated," Pilon said. "What's good for the environment is good for water. What's good for ag is good for the environment and vice versa."
Eric Draper of Florida Audubon said the coalition of environmental groups that helped pass the amendment is pleased with the initial reaction of lawmakers. Draper presented a coalition proposal to the Senate that would include $150 million for Florida Forever, $150 million for the Everglades and related water systems, $50 million for springs and $90 million for land management in the coming budget year.
One expected debate will involve how much money should be allocated to programs like Florida Forever and how much should go toward water projects, including drinking water supplies and wastewater systems.
Draper said the environmental groups would object to a surge of spending on wastewater systems and other infrastructure, unless it can be shown it would have a major benefit for the Florida environment.
"Wastewater treatment is traditionally a local government expense, and we don't believe that we should transfer that local expense of wastewater treatment on to the state," Draper said.
"I think we just have to be careful that it's directly related to conservation efforts and not just have every water project that gets on the list somehow made into an Amendment 1 project," said Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando.
Another task for lawmakers is reviewing how much of the real estate transaction tax — known as the documentary stamp tax — is being used for environmental programs and how that will change under the amendment.
Under a House analysis, about $466 million — or 22 percent of the tax — is being spent on environmental programs. It would have to be boosted to more than $700 million to meet the 33 percent threshold in the new amendment.
Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who oversees environmental spending in the Senate, said lawmakers also have to look at non-documentary stamp tax money already being spent on environmental programs, which he estimated at more than $500 million in the current budget.
"I think if we're going to paint the picture, we need to paint the whole picture," Hays said.
David Cullen, a lobbyist for Sierra Club Florida, said some advocates were concerned that Amendment 1 could face the same fate as the amendment implementing the Florida Lottery in the 1980s. Critics said the lottery was originally designed to enhance education funding but the reality was the non-lottery funding was shifted out of the schools, lowering the enhancement value of the lottery funding.
"One of our major concerns is that this not be another education lottery where the money is taken from other sources and this would supplant it," Cullen said.
Advocates for transportation and affordable housing are also closely monitoring the impact of the new amendment. Road programs currently receive about $443 million in documentary stamp tax funding and housing gets $342 million.
Transportation and housing advocates are concerned the new amendment could mean lower funding for their programs.
Draper, representing the environmental coalition, said that should not happen. He said documentary stamp taxes that go into the state's general revenue fund could be diminished but there is adequate tax funding for the environmental programs as well as housing and transportation.
Related:           Allotting funds for environment         Sarasota Herald-Tribune

January 2015 - 2025 Vision for the Everglades
Everglades Coalition – Press Release
January 11, 2015
The Everglades Coalition's vision for America's Everglades for 2025 includes eight specific goals which capture those objectives we feel are most critical to successful longterm restoration of the iconic "River of Grass."
Vision 1 // Growth Management & Land Acquisition
Lands necessary for restoration are brought under perpetual conservation status to expand the spatial extent of wetlands and associated uplands and prevent inappropriately-sited development that undermines restoration.
Vision 2 // Wildlife, Plant & Ecosystem Biodiversity
A network of protected land and water is conserved and managed for viable and abundant populations of native plants and animals.
Vision 3 // Water Quality
Abundant clean freshwater exists for the Greater Everglades and its estuaries.
Vision 4 // Water Storage
America's Everglades and estuaries thrive with sufficient flows of clean water that come from adequate storage throughout the system, including the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Kissimmee Valley.
Vision 5 // Climate Resiliency
Everglades restoration is the central component of climate adaptation and resiliency planning and implementation.
Vision 6 // Energy Policy
Florida's energy choices do not compromise land and water resources critical to Everglades restoration efforts.
Vision 7 // Sustainable Regions
Ecosystem-wide benefits are achieved to support connectivity across a unique and diverse landscape, and stem ecological decline.
Vision 8 // Federal & State Leadership
Restoration sees substantial progress with full partnership and commitment at the highest levels of the federal and state governments.



FL satirist

Hey, America — all of you c’mon down
Miami Herald – by Carl Hiaasen
“I have a message today to the people of New York, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and others: Move to Florida !”Such was the sunny welcome put forth by Gov. Rick Scott at his second inaugural last week in Tallahassee.
Quit your jobs, pack up your families and get down here as fast as you can. Twenty million people aren’t enough — Florida needs more!
I was thinking the same thing the other day on I-95, when I glanced in the rearview and actually saw about eight feet of air between my bumper and the tanker truck behind me.
The first thing that sprung to mind was: Hey, another car could fit in there !
Not a regular-sized car, true, but maybe one of those adorable little Smart cars that you sometimes see on the streets of Manhattan or Chicago. It was a revelation.
Probably 99 out of 100 drivers in Florida would say our traffic already sucks, with a little imagination and no concern for the quality of life, there’s always room for more.
So you go, Gov. Scott! Keep on spreading the word.
The thought again popped into my head as I passed a middle school where every classroom has about 30 students, which most teachers will tell you are too many.
Know what ? That school didn’t seem so crowded, at least from the outside.
The county had trucked in rows of windowless portable classrooms and painted them the same earth-tone color as the main school building, so they looked hardly anything like warehouse storage.
Also, there was plenty of space for more portables at the east end of the soccer field.
So, everybody, listen to Gov. Scott ! Bring your kids down to Florida and, by God, we’ll find a way to shoehorn the little imps into one of our schools.And don’t be spooked by the fact that we spend less per pupil on education than 47 other states, because we make up for it in so many other ways.
Low taxes, for example. The governor loves to brag about Florida’s low taxes.
You might think it’s a sore subject among Floridians, this being the time of year when many of us are staring at our property-tax bills and wondering why they keep going up, up, up.
It’s because irresponsibly jamming so many humans together requires somebody (and it’s never the developers!) to pay for the roads, bridges, sewers, fire stations, extra police officers and so on. That somebody who pays is us.
So what’s Gov. Scott really talking about when he says our state has low taxes ? Get ready, future Floridans! Here’s the big celebrated tax break that the governor and the Legislature gave to all residents last year:They cut the cost of our vehicle license tags by an average of $25. That’s not a typo, folks. Twenty-five whole buckeroos.
I still haven’t figured out what to do with all of it. Treasury bonds ? High-cap stocks ?
If a double-digit cut in auto-tag fees isn’t enough to bring caravans of U-Hauls streaming into the Sunshine State, then I don’t know what will.
The other morning I was driving through the Everglades thinking: Isn’t this swamp water finally clean enough? Really, how much urban runoff could a few million more people possibly dump ?
We’ve probably got enough fish, wildlife and wading birds to last one more generation. What we really need are more subdivisions full of humans flushing toilets.
Aside from water shortages, saltwater intrusion, sink holes, red tides and the ludicrous cost of windstorm insurance, one thing that might keep newcomers away is fear.
Please don’t judge by what you read in the papers or see on TV, or by the latest FBI stats, which show Florida has more violent crimes per capita than New York, Illinois,California or Pennsylvania — all the places Gov. Scott is urging people to flee.
True, all types of criminals love it down here because of the climate. But while our prisons have been wretchedly overcrowded, additional cell space has become available under Scott’s administration due to a surge of untimely (and unexplained) inmate deaths.
So don’t be scared of Florida. Hurry on down before South Beach is underwater.
We’re desperate for more people. We love sitting in traffic. We love standing in Line.
Promised the governor: “Over the next four years, I will be traveling to your states personally, to recruit you here.”
Go get ’em, you crazy Martian goofball !
Lie all you want about low taxes, and don’t say a word about the pythons.


SFWMD moving water out of Okeechobee with El Nino conditions forecast through spring - by Del Milligan
January 10, 2015
A wet winter is expected by the South Florida Water Management District in lower Florida, and that is impacting the release of water from Lake Okeechobee.
The SFWMD said Monday that there’s potential for above-average rains across the 16-county district, which includes the Kissimmee River Basin down to Lake Okeechobee and below, based on forecasts.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts a 65 percent chance for El Nino conditions through the spring, according to the SFWMD news release.
The SFWMD intends to release smaller amounts of water through the winter. It said that is better ecologically than releasing large amounts in the spring if needed.
This week, releases are going only to the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary. None is going to the St. Lucie Estuary on the east coast.
The SFWMD moves water south out of Lake Okeechobee based on a regulation schedule. Water flows out of the lake into five major canals through four control structures and goes to the Everglades Agricultural Area, STAs (Stormwater Treatment Areas) and Everglades Water Conservation Areas.
Should El Nino conditions occur, the SFWMD said its computer modeling is showing that the Corps of Engineers wouldn’t have as much flexibility to release water from Okeechobee if the lake remains high.
Lakes on the Kissimmee Chain are still high from one of the wettest years on record in Central Florida even though November and December were pretty dry. And Lake Okeechobee has been higher than its long-term average.
Water flows could increase, depending on rains.


Brevard plans to dredge muck from Indian River Lagoon
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
January 9, 2015
The muck stops here, in the Indian River Lagoon, where it robs fish and other marine life of oxygen.
So Brevard County will soon dredge up the cumulative sins of our past poor soil management: the noxious muck that blankets the lagoon bottom throughout the estuary.
Beginning this year, the county will spend $10 million in state money to dredge five sites: the mouth of Turkey Creek in Palm Bay; canals along Sykes Creek and in Cocoa Beach; the Grand Canal and associated canals in Satellite Beach; and waters near Jones Road boat ramp in Mims.
About $1 million of the state money will go to Florida Institute of Technology scientists to study the before and after of the dredging projects to measure the environmental benefits.
Combined, the five dredging projects will remove 1.4 million cubic yards, enough muck to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool about 437 times. Lagoon advocates hope that will help begin to cure a lagoon ailing from years of algae blooms. A "superbloom" of green algae in 2011 and subsequent brown algae blooms killed off 60 percent of the lagoon's seagrass, the barometer of the estuary's ecological health. Hundreds of manatees, dolphins and pelicans also died in the wake of the blooms.
The county hopes to begin the Turkey Creek, Sykes Creek and Cocoa Beaches projects this year. The work in Mims is expected for late 2015. Dredging in the Grand Canal should start in 2016.
"It's going to happen as quickly as we can pull it together," said Matt Culver, boating and waterways program coordinator for the county's Natural Resources Management Department.
At the Jones Road boat ramp site in Mims, the county plans to dredge about 40,000 cubic yards of muck, Culver said. In partnership with Cocoa Beach, Brevard would dredge about 87,000 cubic yards from the city's canals, he said. The scope of the Grand Canal project is still in development but expected to remove about 500,000 cubic yards of muck and to span through 2016.
The county plans to store muck from the Sykes Creek project at a small island just north of Kiwanis Island Park.
Muck from Turkey Creek would go in a spoil site managed by the Florida Inland Navigation District just north of the creek near U.S. 1 and Robert Conlan Boulevard. Brevard also hopes to use a navigation district spoil site in north Brevard for the Mims project.
While some of the dredging will improve navigation, the focus is on the environmental benefits of removing muck.
All dredging is expected to use hydraulic dredges, which pump muck through a pipeline to a spoil site. The dredge sucks up muck in a targeted manner, like a floating vacuum cleaner.
Seagrasses, mangroves or other marine resources within the project areas will remain, Culver said, as will be surrounded by a buffer area. To prevent damage to structures, workers also would maintain a buffer along exiting docks and seawalls.
Muck is mostly soil runoff from construction, farming and erosion, but also rotting algae and dead plants.
By blocking sunlight to seagrass, muck limits seagrass growth and contributes to bacterial decay, which consumes oxygen, potentially causing fish kills.
The viscous stuff also harbors excess nutrients that can fuel algae blooms that also kill fish.
Muck produces noxious chemicals, such as hydrogen sulfide that creates the lagoon's occasional rotten-egg smell.
Last year, the Legislature also approved $10 million toward dredging Eau Gallie River, which could cost more than twice that amount to complete.
Beginning in 2016, the St. Johns River Water Management District plans to remove 625,000 cubic yards of muck from the river and Elbow Creek.
Maps of where Brevard County plans to dredge:
Overwhelmed Brevard sewers tax Indian River Lagoon       Florida Today


sugar cane

Everglades group wants state to buy more Big Sugar land
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 9, 2015
Everglades Coalition wants the state to buy more land from U.S. Sugar Corp.
Environmental group planning to ask state to buy land that coudl cost at least $350 million
State may be asked to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land that could cost $350 million
Buying more Big Sugar land is at the top of Everglades advocates' 2015 to-do list, with taxpayers potentially facing a price tag that could hit $350 million.
The Everglades Coalition is calling for the state to buy another 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land. The sugar cane fields and other property south of Lake Okeechobee would be used to get more water flowing south to the Everglades, instead of draining that water out to sea for South Florida flood control.
"The acquisition of the land is a critical piece of the restoration puzzle," Jason Totoiu, Everglades Coalition national co-chairman, said Friday.
South Florida taxpayers already spent $197 million in a 2010 land deal allowing the South Florida Water Management District to buy 26,800 acres from U.S. Sugar for Everglades restoration efforts.
That deal also gave the South Florida Water Management District an exclusive, 10-year option to buy some or all of U.S. Sugar's remaining 153,200 acres.
Under the deal, state officials have until October to be first in line to buy another 46,800 acres of that U.S. Sugar land. Yet U.S. Sugar's interest in selling more land to the state may have cooled since the 2010 deal.
U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez on Friday said that federal and state restoration plans have changed and that the company has "not seen any serious interest in purchasing a large amount of land for which there is no plan or project."
The Everglades Coalition — which includes more than 50 environmental groups and other advocacy organizations — plans to try to change that. The group Friday announced that lobbying for the state to buy those 46,800 acres would be the coalition's top priority in 2015.
Acquiring more land to store and clean up water that rains down on South Florida each year could help send more water to the Everglades, which suffers from decades of draining to make way for farming and development. Sending more of that water south to the Everglades helps replenish both wildlife habitat and South Florida's supply of drinking water.
Also, restoring more Lake Okeechobee water flows south to the Everglades could lessen flood-control discharges from the lake out to sea. Draining hundreds of billions of gallons of lake water toward the coast, as occurred during 2013, can hurt coastal fishing grounds and fuel algae blooms that make waterways unsafe for swimming.
"Time is of the essence," said Cara Capp, of the National Parks Conservation Association, who also heads the Everglades Coalition. "[The land] should be in the state's ownership."
If bought at the same per-acre price as the 2010 deal, buying all 46,800 acres would cost taxpayers about $350 million.
That cost could go up or down depending on updated land appraisals that would likely be part of a land buy. State officials could also try to buy less than 46,800 acres.
But another high-dollar sugar land deal could face hurdles getting support from state lawmakers.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist bypassed the Legislature when his administration negotiated the previous deal for U.S. Sugar land that the water management district bought in 2010. Afterward, the Legislature slashed the water management district's budget by 30 percent.
Also, Gov. Rick Scott when he first ran for office in 2010 opposed Crist's U.S. Sugar deal. Since then, Everglades restoration proposals advocated by Scott have involved making use of land already owned by the public.
Everglades Coalition representatives say they have the public support they need to win over support in Tallahassee for another Everglades land buy.
Florida voters in November overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment intended to commit a portion of fees levied on real estate sales to helping the state pay for buying land for environmental projects.
Voter approval of Amendment One doesn't mean there will be state support for buying more U.S. Sugar land, said Sanchez, of U.S. Sugar.
"Surely the preference for Amendment One Funding will be the significant number of shovel-ready projects that will benefit the Everglades, estuaries, lakes, springs and beaches and other environmental priorities all over the state," Sanchez said.
The Everglades Coalition gathered in Key Largo starting Thursday and wraps up Sunday for its 30th annual conference, bringing together a host of environmental groups and state and federal leaders to discuss ways to help Florida's famed River of Grass.
During the past 15 years, much of the coalition's efforts have focused on trying jump start state and federal efforts for slow-moving Everglades restoration.
To try to reverse the environmentally harmful consequences of South Florida flood control and pollution, the state and federal government in 2000 agreed to an Everglades restoration plan that calls for redirecting more water to the Everglades.
It has already cost taxpayers about $3.1 billion to build more places to store water that rains down during storms as well as treatment areas to clean up pollutants washing in from farmland, lawns and roads.
While progress has been made, none of the Everglades restoration proposed in the 2000 plan have been finished.
"The Everglades restoration for many years has crawled along," South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Blake Guillory told the Everglades Coalition. "We have a lot more to do."
Related:           State officials object to Big Sugar building plans
Sugar industry building plans threaten to get in the way of Everglades restoration and could create flooding hazards, according to state regulators.  Sun Sentinel
South Florida growers exceed pollution clean up goal, but standards questioned     Sun Sentinel
South Florida sugar cane growers and other farmers once again met annual Everglades pollution reduction requirements, but environmental advocates say the state's standards aren't tough enough.
South Florida growers exceed pollution clean up goal, but standards questioned Sun Sentinel
South Florida sugar cane growers and other farmers once again met annual Everglades pollution reduction requirements, but environmental advocates say the state's standards aren't tough enough.  Sun Sentinel
Scott calls for scrutiny of Big Sugar development plan
Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday called for state regulators to pay “special attention” to potential effects on the Everglades that could come from sugar industry development plans for farmland south of Lake Okeechobee.


Fla. lawmakers seek how to spend environmental protection money - by Matt Galka, Reporter, Capitol News Service
January 9, 2015
Floridians want state to devote money to environmental preservation
You probably voted for it, and now lawmakers have to figure out how to spend guaranteed environmental protection money. They're looking for public input from a surging population.
Quick Clicks
It wasn't close when voters passed Amendment 1, as 75 percent of Floridians said they wanted the state to devote money to environmental preservation. Now how exactly do we do it?
"I think that the public should have an input because the public overwhelmingly supported the Amendment 1 issue," said Sen. Greg Evers.
A Senate environmental panel introduced a website devoted to public input this week. There's around $700 million to spend this year alone because the amendment is tied to a property tax in the state.
Environmental groups like the Florida Audubon said that the growing population means the money is more important now than ever. Gov. Rick Scott is sending a strong message and a promise of low taxes.
"People of California, Pennsylvania and New York ... move to Florida," Scott said.
Julie Wraithmell, with the Florida Audubon, said the guaranteed protection money is key.
"If we talk about attracting the best and the brightest, in order to be competitive for those workers in Florida, they need to have a good quality of life, they need to be able to know their kids will be able to fish and swim safely in Florida waters," Wraithmell said.
While legislators figure out whether to devote most of the money toward land acquisition or water cleanup, what's not debatable is that Floridians knew what they wanted.
"I feel like that they know exactly what they were expecting and I assure you we will give them the protections that they asked for," Evers said.
Florida had the largest land-buying program in America before the recession when funding was eliminated. The lack of spending prompted the amendment to be passed.
If you want to make your voice heard on Amendment 1, go to the Florida Senate's website.



Jewell calls Everglades work a lesson for the nation
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
January 9, 2015
After a boat ride through Florida Bay Friday and a quick primer on efforts to replenish the world’s largest seagrass meadow, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called Everglades restoration work a model for the nation.
“There’s such important work going on here with potential to influence the world,” Jewell said from the banks of North Nest Key. “It’s a model.”
The lessons learned from more than two decades of work on the beleaguered estuary should inform conservation projects around the nation, Jewell said.
“The Everglades is teaching us about the interconnectedness of the landscape,” she said. “We’re learning the impact of what we do on shore is impacting what we do offshore.”
Scientists from the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, along with newly appointed Everglades Superintendent Pedro Ramos, led Jewell to Poor Joe Key and other spots to explain how decreased water flow has allowed pollution and salinity to increase and foul the once pristine bay.
To repair the damage, scientists hope to return water flow to more historic levels by building a series of bridges across the Tamiami Trail and other projects. A one-mile span was completed in 2013, but two more spans remain.
Despite chronic delays, planning has proceeded, said Nick Aumen, regional science advisor for the USGS. Modeling has also provided a glimpse of what restoration can accomplish.
“Even though it’s a small amount and low flow,” Aumen said, “’s replicating the natural movement.”
Completing the work will become even more crucial if predictions for sea rise come true, he added.
Jewell’s tour coincides with a three-day conference by environmentalists in nearby Key Largo hoping to jump-start Everglades restoration efforts that flagged last year after $1.9 billion in crucial projects failed to make it into a public works bill. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers derailed the projects after failing to sign a report. Florida lawmakers proposed legislation this week to provide money, but parks service staff members predicted funding would not come until 2016, when another public works bill is expected in Congress.


Secretary checks Everglades restoration in Florida bay
Associated Press – by Jennifer Kay
January 9, 2015
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK – U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the new superintendent of Everglades National Park island-hopped in Florida Bay on Friday, gauging wetlands restoration efforts against the effects of climate change.
Through a multibillion-dollar series of projects, the state and federal governments are attempting to restore a more natural flow of water through the unique wetlands into the bay that’s vital to the fisheries in the Florida Keys. Rising sea levels and the intrusion of saltwater into freshwater environments has added urgency to restoration already beset by funding and legal challenges.
“There’s such important work going on here that really has the potential to influence the world in terms of recovery of ecosystems and undoing what man did,” Jewell said.
“There are many parts of the country that would love to have the resources that are being brought here,” she said. “It’s a model.”
Jewell, federal scientists and Pedro Ramos, the park’s new superintendent, toured small islands in park waters between the Florida Keys and the swamps on the mainland.
The mangroves that comprise these islands act as a natural buffer against storm-surge flooding. While their growth has been able to keep up with rising seas and storm flooding so far, researchers question how resilient the islands will be if the rate of sea level rise increases and what will happen if the mangroves are replaced by open water.
“The big question is, what can we do from a restoration standpoint to help increase and foster that inward migration of mangroves to keep up with sea level rise?” said Nicholas Aumen, a regional science adviser for the U.S. Geological Survey.
One hope for Everglades restoration, Aumen said, is to restore a natural flow of freshwater and sediment at the coastline that would allow mangroves to adapt.
Later Friday, Jewell was to be the keynote speaker at the Everglades Coalition Conference, an annual meeting of elected officials and environmental advocates.
Jewell praised the unity of Florida’s congressional delegation, among other state officials, in support of Everglades restoration.
U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and David Jolly introduced legislation Thursday to authorize a $2 billion Central Everglades Planning Project that missed a cutoff for inclusion in a federal water projects bill passed last spring.
The project would increase amount of water flowing south into the park, reducing harmful streams of water sent to Florida’s coasts.
Related:           Interior Sec. checks Everglades restoration in Florida bay     Colorado Springs Gazette
Interior Sec. island hops in Florida bay to see Everglades restoration ...       Greenfield Daily Reporter


U.S. Sugar: Where’s the interest in buying our land for Everglades restoration?
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton
January 9, 2015
Although the 56 member organizations of the Everglades Coalition have endorsed efforts to purchase 46,800 acres of land from U.S. Sugar for restoration efforts, U.S. Sugar put out a statement this afternoon saying it has “not seen any serious interest in purchasing a large amount of land for which there is no plan or project.”
The land purchase is a hot topic at the Coalition’s annual conference in Key Largo, which ends on Saturday. The South Florida Water Management District has an option to purchase the land as part of the contract it negotiated with U.S. Sugar in 2010 to purchase 26,800 acres for $197 million. The option expires in October.
In response to public comments and hallway gossip at the conference about using money raised through the recently passed Amendment 1, which guarantees money for environmental land buys, U.S. Sugar put out this statement:
“Surely the preference for Amendment One Funding will be the significant number of shovel-ready projects that will benefit the Everglades, estuaries, lakes, springs and beaches and other environmental priorities all over the state.
While the SFWMD holds a legal option on U.S. Sugar land, Everglades restoration plans have taken a much different direction over the last several years as governed by a Federal consent decree and the State’s Everglades Restoration Strategies.
As a result of the numerous projects being requested around the state and the emphasis on implementing the shovel-ready projects in South Florida, we have not seen any serious interest in purchasing a large amount of land for which there is no plan or project.”


Amendment 1

Amendment 1 packs committee room as enviros outline spending recommendation - by Phil Ammann
January 8, 2015
Senate committee meetings without bills on the agenda rarely draw crowds, but the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation meeting on Wednesday was an exception.
With more than $700 million in revenue at stake in the coming fiscal year from a broadly-worded conservation funding initiative, representatives of environmental groups, water utilities, developers, industry groups and state agencies packed the meeting to find out how the money may be spent.
Amendment 1 was approved by 75 percent of voters in November. Environmental group representatives said they’re against spending the revenue on wastewater projects and they want more money for buying land than the state is spending now.
Florida’s Water & Land Legacy, the political committee that collected signatures to put the initiative on the ballot, wants nearly half to go towards the Florida Forever land-buying program and Everglades restoration, Eric Draper of Audubon Florida, said Wednesday.
Draper outlined a spending recommendation for a Senate committee after some senators clashed over whether the money should be used to clean up wastewater to protect springs.
“I would recommend to you looking at the long history of funding those wastewater (projects) from other sources,” Draper told the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation.
That countered an arguments from Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, that the amendment was written broadly to provide for water quality improvements.
He sponsored a bill last year to provide an estimated $365 million per year on projects to protect springs including sewage treatment plant improvements and hooking up homes that now are on septic tanks. While the bill failed, it shows the amount of Amendment 1 revenue that could be soaked up by wastewater projects in coming years.
Florida had the largest land-buying program in the nation with at least $300 million per year spent from 1990 until 2009 when funding was eliminated. Since 2010, the Legislature has appropriated about 5 percent on average of that historic spending on land buying.
Florida’s Water & Land Legacy also would spend 13 percent of Amendment 1 revenue on land management, 7 percent on springs, 4 percent on paying rural landowners not to develop and 3 percent beach management.
In fiscal year 2015-16, the group would spend 26 percent to pay for debt for past land purchases. As those bonds are retired in a few years, Draper said, the amount available for other Amendment 1 programs would increase proportionately.
Earlier in the meeting, Simmons said the amendment was written broadly by supporters with the goal of preserving water in a “pristine” environment.
“I think we are not limited to acquiring land,” Simmons said. “There’s a whole group of things that can and should be done to solve the problem.”
But Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, disagreed with Simmons, saying the amendment language emphasized land acquisition. He said the funding initiative was approved by voters who were frustrated with by the lack of money spent recently on land-buying.
“My feeling is we do have legislative discretion, but the intent of the amendment is acquiring and improving lands,” he said.
Only environmental group representatives spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. No action was taken, and the Senate has set up a web page to post documents to take public comment on Amendment 1.
Doug Mann, representing the Florida H2O Coalition created by Associated Industries of Florida, said afterwards that the meeting was a good start in figuring out how Amendment 1 money should be spent.
Asked how the coalition wants the money spent, he said, “That’s the Legislature’s job.”
“It was good to see a positive discussion started on this issue,” Mann said.
Related:           Legislative Scramble Begins for Amendment 1         WFSU
Senate panel mulls where environmental windfall goes         Palm Beach Post (blog)
Lots of cooks in Amendment 1 conservation kitchen            Orlando Sentinel
Some hot topics in Florida this year   Florida Courier
Hearing Voters' Demand for Conservation, Florida Senate Begins ... 


FL Capitol

Florida Senate begins work to carve up conservation money - by Jim Turner
January 8, 2015
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE - - Environmentalists offered state lawmakers a possible funding breakdown that included springs preservation and land acquisition, as work began Wednesday to carve up the money Florida voters overwhelmingly said in November should go to conservation efforts.
However, members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, starting to tackle the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment, indicated there remains a wide range of views on the measure.
Among those views is that the voter-approved measure allows funding for stormwater, sewer and similar water-related projects as long as the intent is to preserve the quality of water in Florida.
“We’ve been given an awesome opportunity to solve a major issue that is going to affect generations,” Altamonte Springs Republican David Simmons said. “What is the goal? It is to make sure our water is preserved in a pristine situation.”
Committee Chairman Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, said he intends over the next couple of months to take a “meticulous” approach to the amendment, which over the next two decades requires 33 percent of the revenue from a tax on real-estate transactions, known as documentary stamps, to go into conservation efforts.
“Seventy-six percent of the people in this state expect us to perform in the most magnificent way that we can,” Dean said. “We’re going to be careful. We don’t want to overdo it. We don’t want to under do it.”
Pepper Uchino, committee staff director, estimated that the amendment, approved by 75 percent of voters, will generate $757 million for conservation efforts during the upcoming 2015-16 fiscal year.
Since the amendment was approved, concerns have been expressed about issues such as how lawmakers will define land-preservation or water-conservation projects, how the state will determine which of its “impaired” water bodies is most critical and how to approach the reduction of stormwater runoff and agriculture fertilizer use.
Eric Draper, state director of Audubon Florida, said Wednesday, that the money could go to the pipes involved in distributing water or to wastewater treatment, but only in limited cases.
“We’re saying except where you can really show a high state priority in doing that, that is not what the voters thought they were doing,” said Draper, who during the meeting represented the group Florida’s Land and Water Legacy, which led the amendment drive. “Wastewater treatment is traditionally a local government expense and we don’t believe that we should transfer that local expense of wastewater treatment on to the state of Florida.”
Draper put the conservation-money total from documentary stamps at $662 million, which is closer to the $648 million offered last year in a state analysis.
He also presented the committee with a potential funding outline for next year that would send $150 million into the Everglades and South Florida estuaries and another $150 million into the Florida Forever program for land acquisition, springs and trails. Also, $50 million would go to springs, $90 million for land management, $20 million for beach management, and $25 million for rural family lands. The rest would cover debt service.
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, suggested last month that lawmakers could use the amendment to craft a 5-year plan for the long-term water and land conservation projects.
The Senate also posted a webpage on its site as the committee meeting got underway that allows people to chime in on how the money should be spent.


‘Moonlight on the Marsh’
January 8, 2015
Lecture series at the Garden begins Jan. 15 with McGill University professor
Some of world’s most distinguished experts on coastal landscape ecology, hydrology and ecological engineering will share their knowledge during The Bernard and Susan Master “Moonlight on the Marsh” 2015 lecture series presented by Florida Gulf Coast University at Naples Botanical Garden.
The third annual series sponsored by FGCU’s Everglades Wetland Research Park runs from January through March. Topics include timely issues of local, regional and global interest such as watershed restoration, prevention of coastal dead zones and the potential for conflict over water management in the Middle East.
The free lectures are open to the public and are held at FGCU’s Harvey Kapnick Education and Research Center at the Garden, 4940 Bayshore Drive.
 “This series brings to Naples the nation’s — and the world’s — best minds in environmental sciences,” says FGCU Professor William Mitsch, director of the research park and Juliet C. Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration and Management. “Because Naples and Southwest Florida have unique and vital relationships with our freshwater and coastal water environments, these lectures offer all of us some positive approaches and solutions to problems we see around us.”
Gail Chmura, Ph.D., associate professor of geography at McGill University in Montreal, kicks off the 2015 series on Thursday, Jan. 15, with “Losing Money with the Mud ? How Sea Level Rise Will Affect Carbon Accumulation in Salt Marsh and Mangrove Wetlands.”
Other lectures in the series are:
Thursday, Jan. 29: “Coastal Areas of the World and Global Change,” by Thomas Bianchi, Ph.D., Thompson Endowed Chair of Geological Sciences at the University of Florida.
Thursday, Feb. 12: “Will the Next Middle East Tension Be About Water ? Threats and Opportunities,” by Aazam Alwash, Ph.D., a civil and geotechnical engineer who was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2013 for his efforts to restore freshwater marshes in southern Iraq that are sometimes referred to as the Garden of Eden or Mesopotamian marshlands.
Thursday, Feb. 26: “Restoring the World’s Rivers and Watersheds with Ecohydrology,” by Maciej Zalewski, Ph.D., professor of applied ecology and director of the UNESCO Regional Center for Ecohydrology at the University of Lodz in Poland.
Thursday, March 12: “Preventing Coastal Dead Zones From a Distance,” by Jennifer Tank, Ph.D., Galla professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
The series’ new title sponsors, Bernard and Susan Master of Naples, signed on to show their support for the science being done at the research park that will benefit the Everglades. Additional sponsors are: The Heffner Family, Columbus, Ohio; Gator Club of Naples and Southwest Florida Gator Club; CH2M HILL, Tampa; The Isles of Collier Preserve-Minto Communities, Naples; and the Notre Dame Club of Naples.
All lectures are at 7 p.m. Seats can be reserved by calling 325-1365.


Moving water south next step in Everglades restoration
News-Press – by Chad Gillis
January 8, 2015
There are two big problems facing hydrologists and engineers working to restore flows in the historic Everglades: inadequate water drainage and storage infrastructure and too much phosphorus in Lake Okeechobee.
A committee of the South Florida Water Management District met Thursday in West Palm Beach to discuss how state and federal agencies can best remove pollution from Lake Okeechobee before redirecting that water south to Everglades National Park.

By the numbers
Herbert Hoover Dike/Lake Okeechobe:

• 143: Linear miles of earthen berm surrounding the lake
• 2,500: Estimated lives lost during two 1920s hurricanes
• 19: Culverts used to drain the lake
• 451,000: Acres in size
• 5: Million people could be at risk if the levee broke

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

"Obviously the estuaries aren't the place to put it, unless, of course, it has an ecological benefit," said Jeff Kivett, water district director of operations. "The expectation would be that we would relook at the regulation schedule - which we hope would give you additional storage in the lake."
The regulation schedule Kivett referred to is an Army Corps of Engineers protocol that dictates when to release water and how much. The district and corps typically must lower the lake level in the spring or early summer to provide space for that coming rainy season.
The water district includes 16 counties and represents the historic Everglades system. It starts just south of Orlando, flows south to Lake Okeechobee and then is disbursed to various drainage features. The system works well, too well in some instances, as fresh water is sent to the oceans at an unnatural rate.
But at times, like late summer of 2013, water can come into the lake faster than the water district and Army Corps can pump it out. The dike itself is part of the problem.
"There's been a lot of talk about having a big open area in the dike where water could flow through it, but we have to have those control structures in place to protect lives during a hurricane," Kivett said. "Even if you want to send everything, you have a structure that won't allow it physically. It's a sever constraint."
This year, water is being released early because the lake is relatively high, at more than 15 feet above sea level Thursday, and because meteorologists are predicting El Nino conditions will impact weather here by spring. El Nino generally brings cooler, wetter winters to Southwest Florida.
The phosphorus comes into play when it's time to release lake water. Phosphorus levels in the lake have been 150 parts per billion or higher in the last decade or so. State law says it is illegal to discharge water that contains more than 10 parts per billion, so water managers, at times, are forced to either keep the water in Okeechobee or send mass freshwater plumes to one or both coasts.
Tom Teets, water director of Everglades policy, said water conservation and storage areas south of the lake and north of Everglades National Park are making larger freshwater releases to the south more realistic because, hopefully, the lower levels won't violate water quality laws.
"We're gradually decreasing the phosphorus levels in those conservation areas," Teet said. "We're working our way further from that line."
Bubba Wade, former WMD governing board member and senior vice president at U.S. Sugar, said the state should focus more on cleaning water upstream of Okeechobee, where much of the phosphorus enters the system.
Sending lake water south, Wade said, will not be an option during heavy rain events.
"It's really not feasible when you have an event like we had in 2013," Wade said. "(And) if that's your solution - sending dirty water through the lake - the focus should really be removing those nutrients before they get into the lake."


Public urged to sound off about conservation measure - by Lucas Seiler, Reporter
January 8, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - State legislators say they want to hear from the public about how to put in a place a newly passed conservation amendment.
Voters in November overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1. It requires the state to earmark billions of tax dollars for a host of environmental protection projects.
But there are questions being raised about what type of projects should be eligible for the money. The amendment could also require legislators to drop funding from other programs in order to pay for it.
The Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation on Wednesday launched a website that would allow members of the public to comment on what should be done.
The Florida Legislature is expected to pass a bill during its annual session that would implement the amendment.
Related:           Legislative Scramble Begins for Amendment 1         WFSU
Senate panel mulls where environmental windfall goes         Palm Beach Post (blog)
Lots of cooks in Amendment 1 conservation kitchen            Orlando Sentinel
Some hot topics in Florida this year   Florida Courier
Hearing Voters' Demand for Conservation, Florida Senate Begins ... 


Secretary Jewell to Tour Everglades, Approve Seminole Leasing Regulations - Staff
January 8, 2015
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is scheduled to be in South Florida this week for a series of announcements on restoring the health of the Everglades. While there she will be part of a milestone announcement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida in regards to the HEARTH Act.
Jewell, along with Bureau of Indian Affairs Director Mike Black, and Seminole Chairman James E. Billie will formally approve leasing regulations under the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act (HEARTH Act). The signing ceremony will be held today at 9.45 a.m. at the Seminole Tribal headquarters.
Then on Friday, Jewell will take a boat tour of the Everglades National Park to review progress that has been made in the restoration of its historic water flows. Friday afternoon Jewell will be joined by Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, for a media event to discuss the restoration efforts. Later that evening she will deliver remarks at the 30th Annual Conference of the Everglades Coalition in Key Largo.


4 Things to Know Before Your Water Is Privatized - by Rachel Dovey
January 7, 2015
In New Jersey, a controversial new bill illumines a quiet-but-steady trend: municipal water privatization.
Optimistically titled the “Water Infrastructure Protection Act,” the bill, which passed the state’s Assembly on December 15th, points to aging water systems that are supposedly so deteriorated they are “beyond governmental capacity to restore.”
“It is in the public interest that public entities have the option to transfer, lease, or sell water and wastewater assets if there exists emergent conditions that threaten drinking water or the environment,” it states.
But according to a slew of critics, including D.C.-based Food and Water Watch, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and the state’s Division of Rate Counsel, the Protection Act doesn’t really fall under the category of public interest — because it excludes the public. Currently, any municipality that wishes to sell its system has to go to the voters first through a ballot measure. That requirement would be nixed under the current proposal, and would make the state similar to Illinois, Pennsylvania and California.
Whether help or harm for local ratepayers, this likely is not the last bill of its kind. Right now, private water companies serve about 15 percent of the U.S. population, but that number could soon skyrocket thanks to several new federal laws and an investment gap of as much as $500 billion over the next 20 years. However, even as private water IOUs eat up an increasing chunk of the U.S. market, water infrastructure’s decentralized nature — owned and operated by thousands of local municipalities, tied to each individual watershed — means that little national data exists. When bills like New Jersey’s stir controversy, local media is often forced into he-said, she-said coverage, without much information on how privatization will actually affect the local system.
Here, then, is a roundup of the facts, figures, studies and articles that do look in-depth at the topic, arranged around the common themes you’ll hear in a public meeting or read in the local paper when system privatization comes up.
The Numbers
Privately owned water systems serve close to 50 million customers, with investor-owned utilities making up more than two-thirds of that market according to advisory firm Bluefield Research. American Water has the largest customer base, followed by United Water, Aqua America, California Water Services and American States Water. California, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida tend to be especially attractive to private water suppliers because of their large populations and state-level policies.
The Cost Factor
One fear often repeated by privatization critics is that it will raise rates — and some evidence does bear that out.
According to a state-by-state cost comparison from Food and Water Watch, the average household water bill for a private water utility customer is 33 percent higher than its public counterpart.
A comprehensive meta-analysis from the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management didn’t find that high disparity, but did counter the widely marketed notion that municipal water privatization increases system efficiency while lowering costs. Analyzing dozens of empirical studies (some from as far back as the ‘60s) it found that results have been mixed for utilities bought by private companies, with recent acquisitions showing less cost savings. Unlike the Food and Water Watch comparison, the paper looked at utilities both in and outside the U.S.
The Quality Factor
Advocates for water privatization tend to downplay rate increases. Often their logic, captured in this Wall Street Journal article, is that water infrastructure (some of it a century old) desperately needs investment — and someone needs to pay.
So does the quality of infrastructure increase when an IOU takes over a crippled system, as privatization advocates often claim it will?
Again, the answer is difficult to measure with ratepayers spread across 100,000 systems.
Food and Water Watch claims that 16 percent of privately held systems reverted back to public ownership between 2007 and 2011, with quality a top complaint. However, The Pacific Institute has analyzed private and public systems in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere to assess quality and effectiveness, and, echoing the Wall Street Journal, its report does acknowledge chronic, long-term under-investment as a top problem. However, the report concludes that privatization is not a “silver bullet” for these costly issues — public, private and public-private systems can work effectively if they’re properly staffed and funded. Often, some form of competition, even measuring staff performance and rewarding effort, is present in successful agencies, the report found.
The Equity Factor
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of water privatization is how it can disproportionately impact low-income ratepayers. This can come from steep cost increases as well as the manner in which certain states regulate their water systems.
In California, for example, each municipality can only pay for its own system under state law. The reason is that water infrastructure is inherently local — tied to each regional watershed. So unlike electricity, where increases are spread across a large, statewide base, rates to fund broken pumps and pipes are much higher in smaller towns and cities, many of which also have the high poverty rates you would expect to contribute to neglected municipal systems. In reporting in-depth on these rate hikes in California, I saw bimonthly residential bills as high as $600 — four times the rate of neighboring public municipalities — in areas where people lived only on fixed incomes.
Some organizations do offer low-income rate assistance with this problem in mind. However, it’s often a small, double digit sum. California newspapers cover stories of people selling their cars and skimping on medical care in areas with private systems.
Can Capitalism Quench Beirut’s Thirst ?
Op-Ed: Nation’s Pipes Leak Enough Water to Drown Manhattan and Chicago
How Phnom Penh Created a Super-Efficient, Totally Drinkable Water Supply
Pondering Privatization for D.C. Streetcar and Buses


A detailed map of the world's ecosystems, so we can understand how we're changing them – by Ben Schiller
January 7, 2015
Before we figure out how climate change is affecting the planet, we need to understand the planet.
As humans impact the environment through climate change and development, it's important to have a record of what we stand to lose. Take a look at the maps in the slideshow and at the link here. They're the finest-grain renderings to date of some of the basic components of the planet, including land-cover and climate type. They show Earth in greater detail than we've had previously and set a baseline for the world as it is now.
"We know about ecosystems at a macro scale, for example the Amazon, Everglades, or the Congo Basin. But our knowledge of finer resolutions has been incomplete," says Roger Sayre, a data scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey who developed the maps. "Previously, we could only talk in generalities about very big ecosystems. Now, we can talk about 4,000 ecosystems across the planet."
The new maps incorporate four data-sets for bioclimate, landform, rock type and land cover. Type in "Spain" or "the Himalayas" and you're taken to a page where you can zoom in on different regions. The area around Santander, in the Pyrenees mountains, for example, is "warm semi dry," with "flat plains," "carbonate sedimentary rock" and "sparse vegetation." Areas of the Sahara Desert, in North Africa, may be "hot dry plains, with sparse vegetation, over unconsolidated sediments."
"We consider these areas a meaningful accounting unit for climate impact assessment—what are the impacts from climate change on ecosystems, what we've done, and what ecosystems are being impacted," Sayle says. "Now, we know what they are and where they are."
The maps are a collaboration between USGS and Esri, mapping software company. There's a public web version, plus an Esri "story map" version, with several areas explained in more detail. More broadly, the effort is part of a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy initiative to use publicly-held data for new, useful purposes.
The idea with the USGS/Esri maps is they'll now be taken on by other data scientists who'll build their own work."The map is a baseline for these ecosystems, so we'll be able to assess them for climate change or other disturbances," Sayle says. "We see the value of the dataset as a spatial accounting framework. {In the future] we'll be able to show them as a temporal sequence [of the world unfolding]."


Florida needs to take control of its future – by Harold Joseph, a UF political science junior
January 7, 2015
At the turn of the New Year, Florida’s population surpassed that of New York state, making this the third-most populous state in the country. In recent years, migrants have been flocking to the Sunshine State from the North as part of the expansion of the Sun Belt. 
As Floridians take pride in this achievement, there are also a number of issues our state faces.
The southern part of the state is nearing an environmental crisis due to the stagnation and pollution of the Everglades, the threat of over-development and the expectation that climate change will cause sea levels to rise. The political officials in Tallahassee unfortunately show no sign of tackling these challenges head-on. 
As our population is increasing, the issue of water shortage is coming to the forefront. The overpumping of water from the Floridan aquifer has robbed its ability to feed our springs during the dry season. 
Everybody remembers what happened in the summer of 2013 when the Ichetucknee and Santa Fe rivers were covered in thick, algae-produced blooms. It was a scene that resembled death itself. 
But — unsurprisingly — the 2014 legislative session did not pass the bill meant to protect the springs that was considered important by many state lawmakers. 
Meanwhile, the cost of inaction increases more and more. Reduced flows will cause saltwater to intrude into the aquifer, rendering the water undrinkable. With this new set of challenges, the state has steered clear of conservation methods but has turned to getting its water supply not from ground water but from the surface water of rivers and lakes.
Florida still has a long way to go in terms of social justice, too. 
To Florida’s credit, same-sex couples can now marry and reap the same benefits that married straight couples do. 
But the justice system is failing many other communities. Florida has increased its number of private prisons that seek to line the pockets of politicians at the expense of young people of color. Focusing on low-level crimes to fill prison space is immoral and, in many ways, costly. 
The counterproductive war on drugs, voter suppression, the school-to-prison pipeline and an underfunded education system serve to destroy communities rather than build them. 
The state’s economic failures impact Florida’s future as well. Tax incentives and tax abatement policies, part of the Legislature’s “job creation” package, seem to have failed to attract skilled workers or jobs in manufacturing and high-end service. 
In fact, the state has only attracted one Fortune 500 company in the past decade. This is pretty pathetic considering Florida, once the envy of the region, is a state of nearly 20 million people. 
The state has failed to create a climate of innovation and attract new industries. But a new year brings new beginnings. We as the UF student body have an obligation to get educated about issues that affect thousands of Floridians each and every day. 
Let’s talk about rebuilding Florida from being the butt of national jokes to a state that takes control of its future in the 21st century. 
The good news is more and more lonely voices are chiming in to tell politicians: No more business as usual. 
No time is better than the start of a new year to begin a conversation.



new superintendent for
the Everglades National

New chief named for Everglades, Dry Tortugas national parks
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
January 7, 2015
The National Park Service named a new superintendent for Everglades National Park Wednesday, sticking with a local well-versed in the complexities of the South Florida environment.
Currently the superintendent of Big Cypress National Preserve, Pedro Ramos will be the park’s first Hispanic chief when he takes over later this month. Ramos will also oversee the more remote Dry Tortugas National Park.
“I am tremendously honored to have been entrusted with the awesome responsibility of leading the stewardship efforts for Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks,” Ramos said in a statement. “These two special places are truly American treasures.”
Ramos started working at South Florida’s Big Cypress — one of the nation’s first preserves created in part to replenish freshwater flowing into the Ten Thousand Islands — in 2001 as an administrative officer. He was named superintendent in 2009.
Born in Puerto Rico, he attended college at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, then spent a decade with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, first as a community development officer in the U.S. Virgin Islands and then as a regional director overseeing parts of New England and the Virgin Islands.
While both parks share environmental concerns, they are distinctly different places that Ramos will have to navigate. They also differ sharply from Big Cypress, a preserve that allows hunting, off-road vehicles and drilling. All are prohibited in national parks.
Ramos takes over Everglades National Park, the nation’s third largest park, as it continues to wage a decades-long struggle to restore the flow of freshwater to revive marshes and the Florida Bay.
Past superintendents have spent as much or more time lobbying for the park — about 2,400 square miles squeezed between two urban coasts inhabited by some eight million people — as managing it, said John Adornato, regional director for the National Parks Conservation Association.
“It is a very unique park in the system because of its need to engage in an outside activity called Everglades restoration,” he said.
But being a local allows Ramos to deploy ties that could aid in restoration work, Adornato said.
“Pedro has been in the community and developed a lot of relationships with a lot of people, so this will heighten the park’s perspective in some peoples’ eyes.”
Everglades managers have also grappled with creating a new park management plan for about 13 years. The plan has not been updated since 1978. Past proposals that placed heavy emphasis on conservation were rejected by sportsmen and anglers while environmentalists argued for tougher restrictions to preserve fragile marshes, seagrass beds and fish populations.
The plan is expected to be finalized any day, Adornato said.
“It’s a seesaw act and any superintendent has that challenge of balancing the seesaw,” he said.



Coordinating the rescue of marine mammals
Washington Post - by Blair Mase
January 6, 2015
When reports come in about whales, dolphins or other marine mammals stranded on a beach or tangled in debris in waters in the coastal waters of the Southeast, Blair Mase goes to work.
One of five regional coordinators with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Mase manages a network of volunteer responders who head to the scene to help the animals and determine what happened.
“A lot of times the calls come to me and I distribute them to our network or coordinate the Coast Guard and the networks,” said Mase, who has served as NOAA’s regional marine mammal coordinator in the Southeast since 1996 and has been at NOAA since 1992. “The volunteer organizations are the boots on the ground that collect the data.”
If the animals are alive, a quick response is important for saving them, she said. It’s also important for experts to determine the cause of death and the physiology and biology of the deep-water marine animals, which are difficult to study far out in the ocean.
“Dolphins can be a sentinel for human health,” Mase said. “If waters are so toxic that they’re affecting the most sentinel species in the ecosystem, it’s a wakeup call for us as humans as well.”
It’s not always known what causes marine mammals to get stranded, but some causes include disease, parasite infestation and harmful algal blooms. For Mase, saving an animal is gratifying. “It’s one small piece of the puzzle, but it keeps me going,” she said.
Each year, thousands of marine mammals die from stranding. “It occurs all along the coastline at any given moment or day,” Mase said.
She mentioned the recent stranding of a pygmy sperm whale in North Carolina, a dolphin washed up on a Florida Keys beach and two entangled dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
“These animals garner a lot of public interest,” said Megan Stolen, research scientist with Hubbs-Seaworld Research Institute in Florida. “Blair is the conduit between the public and the scientific community collecting data. She has a way of making everyone feel at ease in difficult situations.”
The level of attention to these stranding incidents increases when large numbers of marine mammals get stuck. And the media and the public are more likely to get involved, such as in December 2013 when a pod of pilot whales got beached in the Florida Everglades.
The response to numerous stranded animals at once requires a team of about 40 people and several vessels, Mase said. State and local organizations stand by in case they need to encircle the animal with a net, and paramedics are on hand in case responders get hurt performing the often dangerous work.


Dignitaries expected in Key Largo this weekend to mark Everglades Coalition’s 30th anniversary - by Kevin Wadlow
January 6, 2015
The secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior comes to Key Largo this weekend to mark the 30th annual conference of the Everglades Coalition.
Secretary Sally Jewell, only the second woman to lead the Department of the Interior, will be the keynote speaker for the conference at the Key Largo Hilton.
About 300 people are expected to attend the three-day event, hosted by the Everglades Coalition, encompassing dozens of organizations and agencies involved in restoring Florida's Everglades.
Three Florida congressmen — Patrick Murphy, Alcee Hastings and Curt Clawson — have confirmed their attendance, along with former Florida governor and U.S. senator Bob Graham.
"This is our 30th annual conference, so we'll look back at the tremendous accomplishments and progress that has been made by so many groups," said Everglades Coalition national co-chair Cara Capp. "But there is still so much to do."
Conference sessions at the 2015 event focus on "Send It South: Water for America's Everglades," the effort to undertake a wide array of projects critical to store fresh water and move it from the Kissimmee River through Everglades National Park and into Florida Bay.
Chris Bergh, Keys representative for The Nature Conservancy, will lead a seminar on the complex task of balancing water deliveries to Florida Bay.
Other presentations will be made by the Everglades Foundation on the economic importance of the Everglades, and a discussion by the National Parks Conservation Association on potential damage to South Florida's freshwater resources from oil drilling. Nutrient pollution and sea-level rise are also among topics.
The coalition will look at the need to secure federal funding for projects in the Central Everglades Planning Project.
Updates on plans to build another 2.5 miles of miles of bridges along the Tamiami Trail to improve flow will be updated. The historic highway across southern Florida "has for many years served as a road barrier, blocking critical freshwater flows south into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay," according to the coalition. 
State Rep. Holly Raschein and Monroe County Commissioner George Neugent will attend the conference.


Rep. Jenne introduces fracking ban bill in Florida House – Press Release
January 6, 2015
Statement by Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Tallahassee, FL — “Yesterday, Florida Rep. Evan Jenne introduced legislation calling for a ban on fracking in Florida. By prohibiting “well stimulation treatments for exploration or production of oil or natural gas,” the bill prohibits hydraulic fracturing, acid fracturing and acid matrix fracturing. Food & Water Watch, along with its allies in the fight against fracking, applauds Rep. Jenne’s initiative in introducing legislation to protect Florida and its citizens from the dangers associated with drilling and fracking.
“Coming on the heels of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban fracking in New York that was based on New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker’s assessment that fracking is inherently unsafe, Floridians are asking their legislators to exhibit the same level of concern for the health and safety of Floridians. Earlier this month, State Senators Soto and Bullard introduced similar legislation in the Senate. We commend these efforts to stand up to the oil and gas industry by protecting the state’s residents and environment.”
“We urge our elected officials to follow New York’s lead and to protect all Florida families by banning fracking.”
Fracking Ban Bill Introduced by Florida Rep. Evan Jenne    New Times Broward-Palm Beach (blog)
Fracking Ban Bill Introduced in Florida        Targeted News Service (subscription)
Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Ban Fracking In Florida, Citing Health ...      ThinkProgress


More energy good for the environment – by David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council
January 5, 2015
Florida is home to wondrous natural resources delighting residents and tourists alike: sugar-white beaches, springs that support wildlife unique to this area, and natural preserves that are known throughout the world.
In addition, Florida has historic locations that have shaped our state’s and country’s destiny: Pre-Columbian archaeological sites, the settlements in St. Augustine and Pensacola, and sites associated with the Seminole War, Civil War and the U.S. space program.
Florida is unsurpassed in its quality of life, natural beauty and cultural history.
A concerted effort by local, state and federal governments has led to the purchase, conservation and, in many cases, restoration of these treasures. Much of the funding has been provided from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. The LWCF derives its funds from revenues generated from offshore oil and natural gas production.
America’s most important conservation program has funneled about $908 million into Florida over the past five decades. For example, areas where we have been producing oil for more than a half-century, Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, received $30 million in LWCF funding in 2012 alone. In addition, the Florida Everglades Restoration Project has received about $58 million from the LWCF over the last three years to restore the natural flow of water in the everglade ecosystem.
The LWCF is celebrating its 50th year. Its idea dates back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, was built upon by President John F. Kennedy and then enacted into law in 1964 during President Lyndon Johnson’s administration in a brilliant bipartisan congressional effort. What a “win-win” situation: Americans have access to affordable, reliable energy produced from domestic resources offshore, and our environment and cultural heritage is conserved using the revenues generated from royalties paid by the oil and natural gas industry.
Do not be fooled into thinking these funds are strictly for big projects located elsewhere. Hillsborough County, for example, has benefited through the years, including 17 park projects. You do not, however, have to travel too far down the street — how about the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island or Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge? — to find many more examples of the LWCF at work in Florida.
When we discuss the energy security, enhanced economy and job opportunities that come from increased domestic offshore oil and natural gas production, we should also remember the tremendous environmental benefits that we have realized in the past and the potential for the future.


Nitrogen from recycled wastewater can benefit turf-grass growth, study finds
January 5, 2015
GAINESVILLE, FL, Jan. 5, 2014 -- As competition for freshwater increases and fertilizer prices rise, the horticulture industry is looking to reclaimed wastewater as a valuable resource for supplying irrigation and necessary nutrients for urban landscapes. According to a new study conducted by the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), recycled wastewater can be beneficial for turf-grass growth because it contains valuable nutrients -- such as nitrogen and phosphorus -- that are essential to plant health.
Reclaimed water (RW) is defined as wastewater that has gone through at least secondary treatment. "The main difference between RW that has received secondary treatment versus advanced treatment is the reduced level of nutrients and other chemicals remaining in water subjected to advanced treatment," said Jinghua Fan and George Hochmuth, corresponding authors of the study. "Water receiving advanced treatment typically has 25 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorus and less soluble salts than contained in secondary treatments. Increasingly, the reclaimed water used for irrigation is from advanced wastewater treatment facilities."
As production and testing of RW increases, there is more interest in using the resource to irrigate residential lawns and urban landscapes. One benefit to using this water containing nitrogen is that it may allow for reductions in the amount of other sources of nitrogen fertilizers. "It is important to determine the optimum combinations of water and nutrient applications to support turf-grass production without impairing groundwater through losses of nutrients from the landscape," Fan and Hochmuth said. They noted that few studies focused on the degree to which residential turf-grass can use the nitrogen from RW following advanced treatment.
The state of Florida, for example, is a large user of recycled water, with more than 50 percent of the state's RW being used for irrigation of recreational areas such as golf courses, parks and residential landscapes. A University of Florida research team designed greenhouse experiments using 'Floratam' st. augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) and 'Empire' zoysiagrass (Zoysia japonica.). Treatments included irrigation with tap water (control), irrigation with RW from a university wastewater treatment facility, irrigation with RW with additional nitrogen supplied from ammonium nitrate (to achieve 5, 9, and 13 mg/L N-solutions), and a dry-prilled fertilizer treatment.
Results showed that turf-grass growth responded positively to nitrogen concentration in the irrigation water. The concentration of nitrogen in the unamended wastewater was not sufficient for optimal turf-grass growth. Measurements showed no difference in turf-grass growth with the base level nitrogen in the delivered RW compared with tap water. The data showed that as more nitrogen was added to the base recycled water, turf-grass growth increased.
"The nitrogen concentrations in reclaimed water from advanced wastewater treatment facilities in the study were too low to benefit turf-grass and achieve acceptable quality," the scientists said. Grass quality and turf-grass clipping yields maximized when the total nitrogen concentration in the irrigation water was at least 5 mg/L. Turf-grass receiving dry synthetic nitrogen fertilizer resulted in greater growth and two-fold greater nitrogen leaching than with the remaining treatments for both turf types, though leaching of nitrogen was determined to be negligible with all treatments.
The authors said that their greenhouse studies show that nitrogen from recycled water can be beneficial for turf-grass growth and health, but the concentration of nitrogen in recycled water with advanced treatment needs to be at least 5 mg/L. They recommended outdoor field-scale experiments to validate the results of the greenhouse studies.


LO water level regulation

SFWMD moving water to favorably position Lake Okeechobee level
CBS Miami
January 5, 2015
WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami) – With above-average rain predicted for winter, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is continuing to move water south to help achieve a desirable water level in Lake Okeechobee.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, using the available science and data provided by its staff and partners like SFWMD, is responsible for managing the Lake’s levels based on a regulation schedule.
“The goal is to favorably position Lake Okeechobee’s water level before the 2015 rainy season starts, balancing the needs of many water users while helping to protect the coastal estuaries next summer,” said Jeff Kivett, SFWMD Division Director of Operations, Engineering and Construction. “With the likelihood of increased rainfall in the next few months, our enhanced operations are essential to this process.”
The district’s region, which totals at 16 counties, averaged less than an inch of rain in December, which is one of South Florida’s drier months historically.
The SFWMD moved approximately 69.37 billion gallons of water, the same volume as 161,269 football fields with one foot of water, from the Lake in November and December.
In accordance with the regulation schedule, and at the request of the Corps, the SFWMD is able to move water south out of the lake through four large water control structures into five major canals.
Water moves from these canals to various destinations: the Everglades Agricultural Area for water supply; to tide for flood control; and through water-cleaning Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) to the Everglades Water Conservation Areas for storage.
Direct rainfall and local storm water runoff also add to these volumes of water.
The District provides an operational “water tracker” map to tell the story of how much water SFWMD moves from Lake Okeechobee and where it goes. The map is updated weekly. Click here

$10m Prize

The Everglades
Foundation is preparing
a $10-million Prize for
removing phosphorus

At long last some hope for Lake O
Sun Sentinel - Editorial
January 4, 2015
Good news on the need to clean up Lake Okeechobee.
Just a few weeks after the state's voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1 and effectively told the Legislature to make clean water a priority, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced a new plan to clean up Lake Okeechobee. On this issue, at least for now, Tallahassee and the public agree.
The DEP estimates the plan will cost $750 million over 10 years and will reduce the amount of pollution — primarily phosphorus — entering the lake by one-third. Audubon of Florida President Eric Draper praised the plan for having a "clear target for reduction."
His group and the Everglades Foundation helped to craft the plan, which Draper said will include "regular interim reviews so that additional requirements will be added." 
For decades, Lake Okeechobee — the perfect natural cistern in the hydrological system that covers the southern third of the state — has been used as a cesspool. In the 1960s, at Florida's urging, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers turned the meandering Kissimmee River into a canal. The river no longer could filter water naturally, so pollution from subdivision and dairy farm runoff rushed along and fouled the lake.
To keep the lake from rising so high that it might threaten the Herbert Hoover Dike that protects the southern rim, the Corps of Engineers — in conjunction with the South Florida Water Management District — releases water, mostly to the east and west. Five times since 1998, that polluted water regularly has poisoned the St. Lucie River in Martin County and Indian River Lagoon, which stretches from Daytona Beach to Jupiter. The discharges sent brown plumes into the Atlantic, harming commercial and recreational fishing.
The most recent crisis occurred in 2013, and it finally may have triggered the perfect political reaction. State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, called the damage "catastrophic," and got Gov. Rick Scott to visit during the worst of it. For the 2014 session of the Legislature, Negron chaired the Senate Budget Committee. He secured $231 million over three years to divert, store and filter water in huge reservoirs before it gets to Lake Okeechobee. That money will be in addition to the new plan for the lake.
For the 2015 session, Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, will be House speaker. Crisafulli's district includes a key portion of Indian River Lagoon. Crisafulli also says clean water must be a state priority. So does Scott, who became much more environment-friendly during the second half of his first term.
Environmental groups also cite the work of DEP Deputy Secretary Drew Bartlett, who in August 2013 took over the agency's Water Policy and Environmental Resources Division. In that role, Bartlett oversees the water management districts. Everglades Foundation CEO Erik Eikenberg says Bartlett has been "a real leader" on Lake Okeechobee.
Nearly a decade ago, during the Jeb Bush administration, the Legislature directed the DEP to develop a specific plan for restoring Lake Okeechobee. Eikenberg, who was chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Crist, points out that the Scott administration "is the first to actually do it."
Helping Lake Okeechobee means helping the Everglades, which means helping the water system on which South Florida depends and which is the only one of its kind in the world. Still, reducing pollution by one-third would make the lake less sick, not healthy. The work would be far from over.
Nevertheless, Draper correctly calls the plan "a step forward." Eikenberg agrees. Money will remain the key issue. The language of Amendment 1 compels the Legislature to finance environmental programs, but as Draper says, "We have to keep hammering away at this." The Everglades Foundation is looking outside government for solutions, having offered $10 million to anyone who devises a way to take phosphorus — the main ingredient in fertilizer — from the lake for use as fertilizer elsewhere.
Scott just named Jon Steverson to run the Department of Environmental Protection. He has timing, public approval and presumably the governor's support to show that there might yet be hope for a healthy Lake Okeechobee.


Marshall Foundation celebrates longtime Everglades advocate
PalmBeach Daily News - by Jane Fetterly, Special to the Daily News
January 4, 2015
Longtime environmental advocate Nathaniel P. Reed, of Hobe Sound, was honored Dec. 6 at an event aboard a moonlit cruise on the 170-foot private Lady Windridge yacht. The River of Grass gala was hosted by the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades. Reed, a former staffer to six Florida governors and two presidents, received the Champion of the Everglades Award from John Marshall, board chairman. Pine Jog Elementary School received the Josette Kaufman Leadership Award for its focus on environmental education. Accepting the honor was Principal Craig Sommer.  “It was just a beautiful evening,” said Bonnie Lazar, chairwoman of the annual gala.


Annual look-ahead: What to expect in 2015
Sunshine State News – by Brandon Larrabee, News Service of Florida
January 3, 2015
With Gov. Rick Scott set to be sworn in for his second term and legislative committee meetings beginning next week, the topics that will dominate discussion in the Capitol in the coming year are already starting to shape up. Here are 10 stories that could generate major headlines -- or at least dominate the Tallahassee chatter -- in 2015.
-- WILL SCOTT GET HIS WAY?: A key question for Scott is how focused Republican legislators will be in helping deliver on his promises without the threat of Democrat Charlie Crist to focus their attention.
Scott promised during his 2014 re-election campaign against Crist to slash taxes by $1 billion over the next two years and to spend the state's budget surplus on a variety of other measures, but the Legislature still has to go along with him while advancing its own priorities.
So far, House and Senate leaders are saying all the right things -- but the true test will come after the legislative session begins in March.
Around the State
-- NEW PRESIDING OFFICERS: Every two years, the top posts in the House and Senate typically change hands -- and that brings a new personal dynamic that plays heavily into which bills pass and which ones fail. The notoriously fractious relationship between former House Speaker Dean Cannon and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos in the 2011 and 2012 sessions prompted their successors, former Speaker Will Weatherford and former President Don Gaetz, to be at least publicly friendly over the past two years. But new House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican who wasn't even tapped for the office until after the 2012 elections, is just becoming known to the Capitol crowds. How he and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, interact could decide whether the next two sessions are successful or a struggle.
-- NEGRON-LATVALA BATTLE CONTINUES: In one of the longest-running soap operas in Tallahassee, there's still no definitive word on the outcome of a leadership fight between Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. The two are vying to become Senate president after the 2016 elections. Even with the failure of former Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff's comeback bid in November -- a blow for Latvala's chances -- it doesn't look likely that either man will back down until a vote is called, whenever that might be. Meanwhile, the proxy skirmishes between Negron and Latvala will provide entertainment, if nothing else, for denizens of the Capitol.
-- REDISTRICTING APPEAL: The Florida Supreme Court will get its first chance to consider the state's congressional districts when it hears oral arguments March 4 in an ongoing legal challenge to the map. Voting rights groups argue that lawmakers violated a constitutional ban on political gerrymandering in drawing district boundaries. Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis in 2014 ordered some relatively minor tweaks to a congressional map the Legislature approved in 2012, but his decision has been appealed by the voting-rights groups who want a broader overhaul of the plan.
-- VOUCHER LEGAL BATTLE: Lawyers for the Florida Education Association, the state and a group of parents who benefit from the state's de facto school-voucher program will return to court Feb. 9 for the next showdown in a high-stakes fight over the program's future. The FEA and other groups filed a lawsuit in August claiming that the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program is unconstitutional. The program, which could raise as much as $357.8 million this year, provides tax credits to companies that donate money to nonprofit entities that pay for children to go to private schools. The parents have since intervened in the case on the side of the state. A judge is scheduled to hear the state's motion to dismiss the case in February. If it moves forward, the litigation could lead to the most important school-choice decision since a 2006 ruling from the Florida Supreme Court that held the state's Opportunity Scholarship Program unconstitutional. That program was a purer version of a voucher system, using public money directly to fund private education for some students.
-- MEDICAID EXPANSION: The odds that the joint federal-state health program for low-income Floridians will be expanded to cover more state residents are still relatively small. But some business groups are starting a new push to get some sort of plan approved, and Gardiner hasn't ruled it out. In a meeting with reporters, Gardiner described as "intriguing" a proposal that would accept billions of dollars available under the federal Affordable Care Act and provide coverage through private insurers. A similar plan failed to pass the House in 2013, but Crisafulli said he might consider expanding health care coverage via the private sector.
-- BUSH (AND MAYBE RUBIO) RUN FOR PREZ: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's declaration that he would "actively explore" a run for the presidency made it appear to be a near-certainty that the Republican, whose presence still looms large in state politics, will seek the GOP nomination for 2016. But the state could have a second favorite son enter the race if U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio decides he also wants to take a shot at the White House. Either way, the nation's largest swing state could play an even more outsized role this year in choosing the next president.
-- TIME FOR A DEAL ON GAMBLING?: The prospect of new state legislation on gambling has become a game of its own the last few years, with insiders placing odds in December and January only to watch things go bust in March and April. But few things focus legislators like a deadline, and there's a looming one this year: A portion of a 2009 agreement giving the Seminole Tribe exclusive rights to conduct card games at seven of its facilities dries up in July unless lawmakers and Scott renew the deal. A sweeping gambling proposal crumbled last year when proponents of allowing at least one mega-casino in South Florida put the bill on ice because they lacked the votes for Senate passage. And Gardiner, an anti-gambling legislator who frequently says he would scrap the state lottery if he could, said recently that he doesn't care if the table games disappear and the state loses the Seminoles' cash. Florida stands to lose about $116 million a year if the portion of the compact giving the Seminoles exclusive rights to table games such as blackjack expires, according to an estimate from state economists.
-- HIGH POINT FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Approaching the one-year anniversary of when the Legislature approved a bill that would allow a limited form of medical marijuana, there's still no final regulation from the state that would allow sales of pharmacological pot to go forward. And a Department of Health Official told an audience in Orlando this week that the rule will require the Legislature's blessing because costs associated with the new law are growing. Florida law requires the Legislature to ratify rules that cost in excess of $1 million over five years. Office of Compassionate Use Director Patricia Nelson said she anticipates that the combined costs for businesses to operate the cannabis industry and for the state to regulate it would exceed $1 million over five years, triggering ratification. Doctors on Jan. 1 were supposed to begin ordering strains of cannabis that are low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD, for patients who suffer from severe spasms or cancer. Meanwhile, supporters of broader medical marijuana -- who failed to get the 60 percent approval required for a constitutional amendment in November -- have promised to try again, either through the Legislature or at the ballot box.
-- WATER AND LAND MONEY: Much of the budget-related buzz around the Capitol since the November elections has focused on Amendment 1, also known as the "Florida Water and Land Legacy" constitutional amendment, which was approved by voters in the November elections. The measure requires the state to dedicate a portion of real-estate tax revenue -- by some estimates $10 billion over 20 years -- to land and water projects. Gardiner supports using a 5-year plan, similar to one that the state uses to fund transportation projects, but Crisafulli has seemed ambivalent toward the idea. Whatever the vehicle, lawmakers will now face a new constraint when crafting a spending plan.

Hold politicians to account on land preservation – by David Guest, managing lawyer for the Florida office of Earthjustice, a public-interest law firm. Originally in the Tampa Bay Times
January 3, 2015
The most popular thing on the whole statewide ballot in 2014 — far more well-known than any candidate or problem — was the land acquisition amendment to our state Constitution. We know all too effectively that Floridians are perennially divided on so a lot of votes, but this one was a landslide, approved by a whopping 75 percent majority.
Now that we've got the land acquisition amendment on the books, we citizens will need to watch closely to make positive that unique interests and their politician pals do not attempt to make an end-run around the voters' will.
The amendment guarantees that $ten billion over the subsequent 20 years is set aside exclusively for state conservation land-obtaining and management. The Legislature gets to make a decision what constitutes shopping for land for conservation. Already, agricultural lobbyists have their hands out for a lot more corporate welfare. Agriculture is a single of the state's largest polluters, and also one particular of its greatest campaign contributors, with political beneficiaries in each political parties.
We're hearing some disturbing speak that some want to take the land-shopping for income we voted for and attempt to divert it to pay for points that are not truly getting and managing land for conservation: things like giving corporations tax dollars to spend for facilities on agricultural operations, and developing sewage therapy plants to subsidize the construction of much more residential subdivisions on what is now agricultural land. These items do not meet the intent of the land acquisition amendment.
Floridians have produced it clear that we want the land and water of our stunning state conserved as a legacy for future generations. We want a green infrastructure that preserves the very assets that make this a good location to live. We want clean water to drink, and to fish, swim and surf in.
Keep in mind that the drive to pass the amendment came out of aggravation that the governor and Legislature had been, year immediately after year, starving our state's Florida Forever conservation land-shopping for plan. Although the money was supposed to be set aside for conservation, it kept obtaining diverted into the state's common income fund. In the previous five years, even though genuine estate was readily available at rock-bottom prices, Tallahassee politicians slashed the state's conservation land-purchasing plan by 95 %.
To get about these political shenanigans, the citizens' drive that became the land acquisition amendment was born. The initiative is not a new tax it merely takes an current state tax supply (the documentary stamp tax paid on all Florida true estate transactions) and earmarks it permanently to conservation.
And now it is part of our state Constitution. We know from experience how ugly the dealmaking can be at the Legislature, so we all require to keep vigilant to defend our victory. Our state leaders, who have been busy starving and dismantling environmental applications for years at the behest of corporate polluters, need to take notice of this extremely clear message from the public they are elected to serve. In overwhelming numbers, the public desires land and water conserved.
The Legislature starts its committee meetings this month, and the complete 60-day legislative session occurs in the spring. We all require to make sure our regional lawmakers know this when they go to Tallahassee: We have spoken, and we want the land acquisition amendment to do exactly what it says — acquire land to conserve Florida's land and water.
David Guest is managing lawyer for the Florida office of Earthjustice, a public-interest law firm. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.


flooding sea

Climate change is a grave environmental threat – Viewpoint by Jake Thompson, senior press secretary for the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York
January 2, 2015
With the start of a new term, Gov. Rick Scott faces a fresh opportunity to confront the gravest environmental threat of our time: climate change.
But with Florida widely regarded as America’s ground zero for global warming, the state is moving in the wrong direction. State regulators recently acted to gut energy efficiency goals and end solar rebates.
That’s wrong. And so is the governor’s refusal to address climate change –despite a warning by the National Climate Assessment that Florida is “exceptionally vulnerable to sea level rise, extreme heat events, and decreased water availability.”
We urge you to call on Scott to heed the voices of scientists – and to demonstrate true leadership on this issue.
Above all, he needs to support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. The historic proposal would impose the first limits on carbon pollution from power plants – by setting a cap on such emissions for each state while granting each the flexibility to devise its own formula that best suits its needs, based on its mix of energy sources.
Power plants account for 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution, which can have far-reaching impacts to our health and our economy.
Health risks include worsening of allergies, asthma, and other respiratory illness, more cases of heat stroke and cardiovascular disease, and increased populations of disease-carrying insects and mold in houses. Economic impacts of more frequent, destructive and costly extreme weather events were evident in SuperStorm Sandy.
While we long have limited the emissions of arsenic, mercury and other dangerous pollutants from power plants, there are none for carbon pollution –until now.
By putting in place strong limits on carbon pollution, Florida would create 10,000 clean energy jobs and generate about $50 million in savings on electric bills for residential and business customers in 2020, according to an NRDC analysis.
No wonder the public strongly supports taking climate action. According to exit polls from the midterm elections, 6 in 10 Americans regard climate change as a serious problem. A SurveyUSA poll of Floridians commissioned by NRDC, found nearly eight in 10 favor limits on carbon pollution.
Florida power plants released 124 million tons of carbon pollution in 2011 – equal to the tailpipe emissions of 26 million cars. That ranks third-highest in the nation, according to air emissions tracking from the 100 largest electricity providers.
Let’s go to some numbers. Nearly 1.2 million Floridians live in the nine counties where average summertime temperatures set records in 2010. And the state experienced its wettest summer on record in 2012. As many as 64 counties in Florida face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as a result of climate change.
Moreover, Florida’s average temperature is projected to increase by between 4 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years. The summer heat index increase of 8 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit would be the most dramatic in the nation.
During his re-election campaign, Scott pledged to work to “ensure that Florida’s treasures are protected for generations to come,” and declared, “Florida’s natural beauty is a big reason why this is the best state in the country to call home.”
It’s time for him to back up those words with action.
We urge you to press Gov. Scott to come up with an innovative state-based plan to turn this grave challenge into an opportunity to protect public health, create clean energy jobs and grow the economy.
Scott has said, “I'm not a scientist.” But he should – he must – listen to the scientists.


Everglades National Park seeking "Citizen Scientists" for bird count - by Christine DiMattei
January 2, 2015
How’d you like to become a citizen scientist and help conservation efforts in the Everglades?
Every other Saturday from Jan. 3, 2015 until late March, Everglades National Park will host its Big Day Birding Adventure.
Novice and experienced birders alike will be asked to spend the day counting birds within the varied habitats of the park -- from freshwater marsh to mangrove swamp.
Park officials say bird count data helps scientists and wildlife managers make informed decisions about conservation efforts. In previous years, about 60 species of birds have been spotted in the park. They include the roseate spoonbill and vibrantly colored purple gallinule.
Anyone who wants to go should pack a lunch along with water, sunscreen and something that’s an absolute must in the Everglades: mosquito repellent.


Second term, second chances – by Paula Dockery, Syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland.
January 2, 2015
When Rick Scott was elected governor four years ago, he promised to change the way state government operated. He appealed to the tea party with his message of shaking up the establishment. Once he became governor his first test was putting together a top-notch team to run his agencies.
To put it in perspective, the governor as the state’s chief executive officer has sole authority over 23 executive branch agencies and departments and shares authority with the Cabinet over another six.
Scott, unfamiliar with the usual cast of characters in Florida political circles, surrounded himself with advisers who like him were outsiders, too. They chose not to keep experienced agency heads that served under his predecessors even though they shared the same party affiliation and ideology.
That didn’t work out too well. Many agencies had chronic problems. There was a lot of turnover. In less than four years, Scott had been through four chiefs of staff, four secretaries of the Department of Corrections, four education commissioners, three Department of Children and Families secretaries, and at least two secretaries or agency heads at nearly every other department.
As he starts his second term, the once-proud outsider has become the establishment. He has learned a few lessons and has the opportunity to restructure his team.
Some of his secretaries are moving on to other opportunities. After years heading up an agency, they have become a valuable commodity. Their political stock is at its highest and this is the perfect time to cash in.
Others choose to leave with the satisfaction of having accomplished their goals or after burnout in their current position. Still others are forced to leave as they serve at the pleasure of the governor.
Let’s take a look at the governor’s substitutions.
Two of his longest-serving secretaries at two of his biggest departments announced they were leaving at the end of the term. At the Department of Environmental Protection, Herschel Vinyard’s announced departure is giving Scott the chance to appease those unhappy with the agency’s many controversies.
Scott chose Jon Steverson, the executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. Steverson, unlike his predecessor, is a political insider and has extensive experience in and around state government. He also has a much more balanced view of the environment and expertise in water resource issues. While I had hoped for a true environmental advocate, I’m cautiously optimistic with this pick.
Secretary Ananth Prasad’s resignation from the Department of Transportation was somewhat of a surprise. Prasad, an engineer, had worked for FDOT for many years prior to being named secretary and had the expertise to run the highly technical department that manages multimillion-dollar projects. Prasad has not announced his future plans.
Scott chose Jim Boxold, Prasad’s chief of staff, to replace Prasad. While Boxold has a pretty impressive political resume, he has no expertise in transportation projects. He served 10 years as the director of Cabinet affairs for the Florida commissioner of agriculture and as deputy director of Cabinet affairs for Gov. Jeb Bush. The jury is out on this one.
The Department of Corrections has been a major challenge for Scott and his administration. Michael Crews, Scott’s third DOC secretary, recently left an agency plagued by inmate deaths, allegations of corruption and a culture of abuse. Scott chose Julie Jones, the former head of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Prior to that Jones served as director of law enforcement at another state agency.
While initially surprised at Jones’ selection, I’m now intrigued. Having worked with her, I find her to be a very capable, serious, no-nonsense, task-oriented leader. She may be a great choice.
Scott has asked two interim secretaries to remain in place as secretaries of the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Juvenile Justice. With encouragement from legislators, judges and advocacy groups, Scott has asked Michael Carroll to stay on at DCF and Christy Daly to stay on at DJJ.
Scott seems to have a better handle on what and whom he needs on his team as he starts his second term. Thank goodness.


rising seas

South Florida flood-control costs rising amid budget cuts
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
January 1, 2015
There's a growing tab for living in what used to be the Everglades, and that increased flood-control bill could soon come due for South Florida taxpayers.The 60-year-old system of canals, pumps and levees that guards against flooding in swampy South Florida needs more upkeep and repair to continue to protect homes and businesses.
In addition, ongoing work to fix the environmental consequences of draining the
Everglades to make way for development and farming has a multibillion-dollar
price tag of its own that is adding to the public costs.
Sugar industry accused of dodging Everglades clean-up cost requirementThe South Florida Water Management District now spends about $50 million a year fixing flood-control facilities, and in the coming months district officials are expected to consider ways to prioritize and pay for more upkeep and upgrades.
The water management district already "struggles" with meeting maintenance needs and now has to account for adding a host of new pumps, water treatment areas and other Everglades restoration-related structures to take care of, district Board Member James Moran said.
"We can't get behind the curve any more," Moran said. "This district was established to do flood control. … The longer we kick that can down the road, the further behind we get."
Decades of draining to make way for development and farming shrunk the Everglades to about half its size.
Now 2,000 miles of levees and canals and 71 water pumping stations are among the far-flung, flood-control structures relied on to keep flooding rains from swamping South Florida.
Water management district officials estimate it would cost about $4 billion to $5 billion to completely replace South Florida's vast flood-control system.
"We couldn't live in South Florida if this system didn't perform as it should," district Executive Director Blake Guillory said.While the South Florida flood-control system is good at draining rain water out to sea, it also wastes water needed to replenish the Everglades as well as South Florida community drinking-water supplies.
To try to reverse some of those harmful flood-control consequences, the state and federal government in 2000 agreed to an Everglades restoration plan that calls for redirecting more water to the Everglades. That involves building more places to store the water that rains down during storms as well as treatment areas to clean up the pollutants that wash in off of farmland, lawns and roads.
Federal and state Everglades restoration efforts have already cost taxpayers about $3.1 billion, with most of that money — $2.4 billion — coming just from Florida taxpayers.
There are now nearly three times as many water pumping stations spread
throughout the South Florida Water Management District system as there were in
1999. There has also been a 20 percent increase in the miles of canals and levees.At least 19 more water pumping stations and another 116 miles of canals are planned, according to the district.
Construction costs for new facilities come from future operations and maintenance expenses, much of which will be added to the South Florida Water Management District's responsibilities."We are going to need a hell of a lot more money to keep this show on the road," Moran said.
The South Florida Water Management District has a $700 million annual budget and about 1,500 employees. The agency oversees flood control and guards water supplies in a 16-county region reaching from Orlando to Key West.
Gov. Rick Scott made cutting the water management district's budget a priority during his first term in office. In 2011, Scott and the state Legislature slashed the district's budget by 30 percent, which triggered layoffs and put some district construction plans on hold.
Since then, the district's nine-member, governor-appointed board has reduced the property tax rate for four years in a row, including a 7 percent cut for 2015.The $50 million a year the district now spends on construction to fix flood control facilities is about $10 million less a year than prior to the budget cuts that started in 2011.
Environmental groups in recent years have raised concerns that state-imposed water district budget cuts and continued trims to the district property tax rate have gone too far to keep up with restoration needs.
"We need money and that is not going to go away," said Drew Martin, of the Sierra Club.District and state officials counter that budget cuts were needed to reduce expenses outside of the district's "core" mission and haven't hampered restoration or maintenance needs.
District officials say they are working on ways to better project the life span of flood-control facilities.
Also, the district in 2015 plans to spend about $2 million to start preparing engineering designs for future upgrades and rehab work so they can be ready to get to work when more construction money is available.
The water management district needs to make sure it's making the right maintenance investments while focusing on ways to be "more efficient, more cost effective," district Board Member Mitch Hutchcraft said.
"Rethink how we do this," Hutchcraft said. "All things are on the table."
Related:           Upkeep on canals, pumps and levees that protect South Florida from flooding is getting more costly:
Water district considers using storm money for pay increases
Everglades restoration projects are adding to South Florida taxpayers' flood control maintenance costs

1501dd-z        upward

1501dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text                        upward                         JANUARY 2015                             upward

The main past event that influences and expedites THIS year Everglades restoration activities        upward
The main Everglades
restoration thrust
started in 2013 by a storm of public eco-
activity from the Indian
River Lagoon area:


LO water release

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

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


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