150228-a Florida Crystals: Environmentalists could ‘derail’ Everglades restoration
Southeast AgNet – by the News Service of Florida
February 28, 2015
Florida Crystals Corp. is pushing back against an environmental coalition seeking to attach the purchase of U.S. Sugar property south of Lake Okeechobee to voter-approved Amendment 1, saying such an effort could “derail” ongoing Everglades improvement projects. Florida Crystals sent out a statement Friday afternoon criticizing the Everglades Trust’s earlier announcement that the organization will continue to urge lawmakers to support the sugar-land buy.
“The state cannot allow the Everglades Foundation to once again derail restoration,” Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens said in a release. “It was only a short time ago that the Foundation coerced a Florida governor into stopping meaningful projects in order to waste restoration dollars on needless land acquisition. The state has more than 100,000 acres already in public ownership for Everglades restoration. It’s time to stay the course and use that land for restoration work.”
Florida Crystals instead wants the state to follow the $880 million long-term Everglades restoration plan (HB 7065) approved by Gov. Rick Scott and legislators in 2013, which steers $32 million a year toward cleaning up water run-off from South Florida farms. The Everglades Trust wants lawmakers to designate about $350 million to purchase 46,800 acres, including 26,100 acres to be used for construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir.
The state has until Oct. 12 to sign off on the deal or would have to buy an additional 157,000 acres to get land for the reservoir. The agreement, which took two years to complete, was signed by former Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010. The trust considers the deal the only option immediately available to send and store water from Lake Okeechobee south through the Everglades. The money would come from the voter-approved constitutional amendment, expected to generate about $757 million this year for land and water maintenance and preservation. Lawmakers will have to divvy up the money during the 60-day regular session that begins Tuesday.
150228-b Florida environment to get billions, but how to spend it ?
February 28, 2015
After years of deep cuts to environmental programs, Florida voters last November overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1, which changed the state constitution to earmark billions for conservation. But the measure left it up to the Legislature and governor to determine the details of how the money will be spent, and that has led to a heated debate.
Gov. Rick Scott is proposing that the Legislature during its upcoming session allocate $150 million for Everglades projects, $50 million for springs restoration and another $150 million or more for conservation land acquisition and management in other parts of the state. Another $177 million would pay off debt obligations from previous conservation work. The Legislature convenes March 3.
What has raised the ire of conservationists is the other portion of Scott’s 2015-2016 Amendment 1 budget. A breakdown of this section by the governor’s office shows that he is proposing about $63 million for the operations of state agencies, including the Department of Environmental Protection, the five water districts and state parks department. Scott’s budget also wants $7.6 million to pay for state park patrol, in addition to $17.5 million of amendment funds for a wastewater treatment project in the Florida Keys.
Environmentalists say voters approved Amendment 1 so the state would buy land and fund water protection projects with the money, not fund state agencies and sewer upgrades that can be paid for by other means.
“We don’t believe Amendment 1 funds should be used to fix leaky sewer pipes,” said Will Abberger of the Trust for Public Land, a key sponsor of the initiative. “There’s lots of other sources to fund those wastewater needs, lots of federal funding.”
Amendment 1 passed in November with 75 percent support. It earmarks 33 percent – or about $18 billion to $20 billion over the next 20 years – from a real estate stamp tax to help the state purchase lands for conservation and water quality. It was the largest such measure ever approved in U.S. history.
The effect is already being seen in the 2015-16 state budget, with a projected $750 million to $775 million in Amendment 1 money.
Scott’s office would not comment directly on concerns about other items in his proposed budget. Spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said the governor is also proposing $80 million in environmental spending above the requirements of Amendment 1 for water quality projects throughout the state, including those that provide economic opportunities in “financially disadvantaged communities.” The specific projects have not been identified, she said, but there are numerous requests from throughout the state.
Conservative lawmakers who opposed Amendment 1 argued that it would tie up funds that the Legislature might need to use for more pressing needs in tough economic times.
But with the amendment’s passing, those lawmakers now say it is important that the Legislature be creative in allocating the money.
“I’ve encouraged (the Legislature) to think outside the box on Amendment 1,” said state Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. “Don’t just say, `Hey let’s just take 33 percent and dump it into the land acquisition trust fund and move on.’ Use it as an opportunity to reshape how we do environment.”
Amendment 1 supporters rallied recently on the steps of the old state Capitol building in Tallahassee, with hundreds waving signs that said “Conservation land, not slush fund” in protest of some of the governor’s proposals.
House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford said he does not think voters approved Amendment 1 to supplant agency operations budgets, but instead were sending a message that conservation programs cut in recent years need to be refunded.
One of those programs, the state’s conservation land purchasing program called Florida Forever, once saw more than $300 million in revenue per year, but has seen that dwindle by 97 percent since 2009. Amendment 1 supporters say it is important to fully restore the program as the state continues its population boom.
Whatever the Legislature decides in March, the new constitutional amendment still will send tens of millions of dollars to Florida Forever and Everglades restoration.
It has also started a conversation that’s been absent in recent years.
“It’s forced a great debate over the proper use of funding for conservation that’s not happened since I’ve been here,” Pafford said. “The debate from year to year has been `We have no money for these programs and can’t fund anything.’ It’s a good first step.”
150228-c Not a single legislative delegation makes buying U.S. Sugar land a priority
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
February 28, 2015
The outlook might get brighter next week for the Everglades Foundation and its allies, but for now their voice crying out to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land is like a wolf howling in the middle of the Tundra.
As far as I can tell, no legislative delegation in South Florida has made a 2015 priority of spending $350 million for the company's 46,800 acres.
That's zero delegations.
Even in Palm Beach County, ground zero for the Everglades Agricultural Area, the county lists its environmental priority for Everglades restoration funding this way: "The County supports State funding of at least $100 million for Everglades Restoration, particularly for shovel-ready projects located in Palm Beach County. The County also supports the State’s efforts to persuade the Federal government to allocate additional funds for Everglades Restoration."
Shovel-ready projects, not sugar land.
Rachel Ondrus, executive director of the Palm Beach delegation office, told me the delegation itself is backing just three specific projects and they're all local -- an amendment to the City of West Palm Beach Water Catchment Area; the City of West Palm Beach Firefighters Pension Fund; and a continuation of the School Signage Program.
The Miami-Dade County delegation unanimously selected its priorities last week. Buying U.S. Sugar land wasn't among them. “I am proud that our diverse delegation is able to come together to advocate for the issues most important to the residents of Miami-Dade County”, said Sen. Anitere Flores, chairwoman of the delegation, in a prepared statement. What are those issues? Protecting its safety-net hospital, securing funding for public institutions of higher education and protecting consumers from increased property insurance rates.
No luck for sugar land in Broward County, either. Faith Lombardo, administrative coordinator in the Broward delegation office, said the delegation produces a priorities list, but it's up to individual members whether they want to follow it. When I asked her if she had heard any legislators talking up purchase of U.S. Sugar's 46,800 acres, she said, "No, not even one."
In Martin County, where massive lake water releases into already-swollen canals poisoned the water for months on end in 2013, Ann Bolduc in the delegation office said she hasn't heard a word out of legislators' mouths about the U.S. Sugar land buy. "We don't put out priorities as a group," she said. "But I haven't seen any of the individual legislators list it. ... Of course, there's a long way to go."
In Lee County, where the Caloosahatchee River suffered the same devastation from polluted water after 2013 lake releases sent west, Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, spokesman for the delegation, told me, "I haven't heard anything among our members about buying sugar land. That's not a priority.
"Speaking personally," he added, "I'm against the U.S. Sugar land buy. We have billions of dollars in shovel-ready projects in this state. We need to get on with those."
He said, "It really is pie in the sky to think you could return the Everglades to what they were 200 years ago. To do that, you would have to dispossess 3 million people living in a lot of towns down here like Wellington, all part of the Everglades once upon a time."
Caldwell also said, "I'm not even sure it would be legal to do what they (environmentalists) are asking us to do -- buy land we're not going to use but trade for other land ..."
None of this nonchalance comes as a shock to me, frankly. Florida pays some of the finest scientists, engineers and planners in the world -- not just in the nation -- to work on Everglades restoration. In five years I haven't heard any of them -- not a single eminent man or woman of science -- jumping on the Everglades Foundation bandwagon.
And I know if I were a politician running for office -- and I believed with all my heart that the only way to solve our water problems and fix the Everglades is to buy up land and flow water south ... well ... I would chain myself to the door of the South Florida Water Management District and scream bloody murder until somebody paid attention to me. Figuratively speaking, at least.
None of that has happened.
However ... and this is a big however.
There's hope for the Everglades Foundation, Trust, Coalition back-to-the-future plan. Real hope. In fact, the "zero" delegation number could change after Monday.
That's when the University of Florida Water Institute is due to hand the Legislature its water flow study.
"I'm waiting to see that," Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told me Friday. "As leader of the Senate budget committee, I pushed hard to get the $250,000 UF study included in the budget last year. This is going to tell us the most cost-effective and workable means of moving water south."
Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, said she personally has been committed to ending the devastating lake water releases and therefore looks forward to results of the UF study. "I'm looking for the most cost-efficient and complete fix to make sure polluted water is cleaned and flows preferably south, but somewhere besides into our waterways and lagoon."
I admit, I like Gov. Scott's plan. It's a kind of back-to-the-future, too. Back to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). It’s all about timing, flow and distribution.
Scientists and engineers tell me real storage is needed north of the lake to help attenuate flow. More important, the local basin projects will help the estuaries dramatically. That's why we need to build and fund the C-43 and C-44 reservoir.
It was Charlie Crist who deep-sixed Accerler8 in favor of his shiny new dime -- buying out U.S. Sugar. And why we're having to rebuild the A-1 reservoir.
CERP promised to capture water loss to tide (preventing damaging releases), enlarge the water pie so one user group (agriculture, urban areas or natural systems) didn’t need to compete with one of the others and distribute flow in a more natural way through decompartmentalization. Under Jeb Bush, the state had undertaken and fast-tracked these steps.
I have real hope for Scott's back-to-the-future plan. But I'm certainly interested to hear -- perhaps as early as next week -- the results of the UF study.
150228-d We must manage existing state lands
Tallahassee Democrat - My View Rep. Katie Edwards
February 28, 2015
How Amendment 1’s Land and Legacy Trust Fund dollars will be divvied up promises to be a robust debate for the coming legislative session. The current Revenue Estimating Committee projects the one-third of documentary stamp revenue to come in at $757 million.
While 75 percent of Floridians voted for this constitutional amendment, they overwhelming did so because the use of the funds were described as much broader than just land acquisition. A high priority of Floridians is the protection of the state’s water supply, including spring-sheds in Central and North Florida. Equally important though, is having the ability to manage the land that is already in public ownership.
For example, in South Florida the state has purchased some 1.4 million acres and the federal government owns some 3 million more. Maintaining these lands and keeping them free from exotics is a Herculean task.
During strong economic times, the state went on a land-buying spree, only to find that they didn’t have an immediate need for much of the property purchased. In some cases they were able to lease the land to third parties to provide land management services. In other cases they relied on the state Land Management Trust Fund, which unfortunately has been raided due to decreasing state revenues during the recession.
This has led to a huge gap in being able to maintain land under state ownership. According to the State of Florida Uniform Land Management Council, statewide agencies spent $140,553,023 to manage 3,334,700 acres of land in 2013-2014. This obligation is continuous and will only grow as costs to manage property continue to increase.
A good example of how not to manage land is the 140,000 acre Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge adjacent to the area I represent in Broward County. The state owns the land and has entered into a 50-year lease with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to maintain the area as a National Wildlife Refuge.
A condition of the renewal of the lease in 2001 was a commitment to control Lygodium, Old World Climbing Fern, and Melauca by 2017. It’s clear these goals will not be achieved. These exotics have destroyed tree islands, smothered out native vegetation and have rapidly spread to private property in the region. The only way to get this under control now is for the state to bail the feds out.
The South Florida Water Management District estimates it would cost a minimum of $5 million a year for the next five years just to get it to a maintenance level. And of course, they will be coming to the Legislature for this funding.
Amendment 1 is about more than land acquisition. Let’s not forget about our obligation to manage and maintain the lands that are already under state ownership. We must be good stewards of our land to protect Florida for future generations.
150227-a Amendment 1: What will voters get for $758 million annually ?
Highlands Today – by Gary Pinnell
February 27, 2015
SEBRING — Ben Albritton has a $758 million job this year. He chairs the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, which will guide the Legislature on how to spend the money that voters approved for Amendment 1.
How will Florida citizens see the effects: better-tasting fish, fewer sinkholes, smaller algae blooms where rivers meet salt water, fewer impaired water bodies? “That’s a good question,” said Albritton, who represents Hardee, DeSoto and parts of Polk counties. Voters will have to look closely, because it may be hard to see clean water, a land purchase that protects scrub jays, or a more dynamic Everglades. The money to fund the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative directed Florida to dedicate 33 percent of the revenue from the existing tax on documents to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
The money grab has started. Albritton will be expected by his constituents to direct some of those millions to Central Florida. “The Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy have all been in my office,” said Albritton. Last summer, Rick Scott proposed $150 million for Everglades restoration and habitat preservation. The governor wants lawmakers to designate a quarter of Amendment 1 money for restoration work. That could be $5 billion for the Everglades alone, because $10-$20 billion could be raised over the life of the 20-year amendment. Slow down, Albritton said. According to Florida’s agreement with the federal government, phosphorus would be reduced to 10 parts a billion or less, Albritton reminded. “We’ve already come a long way,” Albritton said. “Right now, it’s down to 17 parts per billion. It’s just a matter of time. From my perspective, it’s almost accomplished. Let’s take a deep breath and remember: it’s a 20-year program. We don’t have to do everything in year one.” He’s more concerned about eradicating pythons and lygodium – Old World climbing fern – from the Glades. On a recent helicopter tour, he saw tree islands covered with the Asian-African invader. “It kills the natural vegetation and collapses the tree island,” Albritton said. “Every tree island had lygodium on it.
Those are two things that need to be dealt with before we go out and buy a ton of land.” “There will be people who will not be happy. It’s going to be about finding a balance,” Albritton said. “I want to get land management to a level of excellence, then buy land.” However, Albritton was unequivocal in his support of conservation easements.
Local purchases have made headlines in the past few years: South Florida Water Management District paid Adam Putnam’s family $25 million for easements in southeast Highlands County, families around the Avon Park Bombing Range accepted millions in exchange for not developing their lands, and the USDA paid more than $100 million to Lykes Brothers, Blue Head Ranch and two families along Fisheating Creek. “I believe in the conservation program,” Albritton said, and added that landowners have a right to sell development options. It’s too early for Albritton to see how exactly small counties like Highlands, Hardee and Glades will benefit from Amendment 1.
“That’s what we’re looking at right now.” But it’s already clear that protecting wetlands, water, forests, fish and wildlife habitat, the Everglades, beaches, recreational lands, farms, ranches, historic and geologic sites can mean just about anything. “Beaches are important to the economy,” Albritton said.
“That also has to do with protecting the structures. We don’t want hotels toppling into the sea.” “Sea-level rise is happening. And failure to plan is the same as planning to fail,” said Miami-Dade Clerk of Courts Harvey Ruvin, who chaired a task force to ask Mayor Carlos Gimenez to take formal oversight and dedicate staff and resources to shepherd the county’s attack on climate change. The task force wants to speed the planning process by hiring engineers or other experts to develop a capital plan to fortify the county’s vast road, bridge and sewer structures. “Impairment of the water bodies and projects that deal with minimum flows and levels,” Albritton said, “that’s important to Highlands County because of the lakes. It’s important because of the Peace River.”
But, Albritton said, Amendment 1 money will be will be based on need. In Highlands, that also includes Kelly Springs, near U.S 27 and S.R. 70, south of Lake Placid. Keystone Water Company delivers several brands of bottled water from those 61 acres, including Blue Forest Water and Kelly Springs. Money could be shared with the water districts. “There are conversations going on about cooperative funding, and where can we pool our resources,” Albritton said, with a focus on sinkholes, and also on springs and how healthy they still are.
“The expectations are great,” Albritton said. “What we need is for everybody to take a deep breath. We want to make sure we get it right. I don’t want to think 10 years from now, ‘I wish we hadn’t done that.”
Voters approved Amendment 1 on Nov. 4. The constitutional amendment funded the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore and manage wetlands, conservation and recreation lands, forests, farms, ranches, historic and geologic sites, fish and wildlife habitats. Water bodies and drinking water must be protected.
150227-b Don't be fooled by environmental bills in Washington, Tallahassee
Tampa Bay Times – by Bill Maxwell, Opinion Columnist, Tallahassee
February 27, 2015
How else do we describe the portent of President Barack Obama's veto of a GOP-sponsored bill that would have forced authorization of the 875-mile Keystone XL pipeline ? By rejecting the bill, Obama not only enraged Republicans; he deepened the wrath of the oil industry and other businesses with financial interests in the venture.
The veto is being called a "milestone" in Obama's presidency. Not only will it bring more partisan gridlock in Washington, its ideological impact will be felt nationwide, especially in Florida where environmental problems such as water pollution, sea level rise and wildlife habitat loss are worsening.
While the environment did not play major roles in midterm Senate races, triumphant Republicans are gearing up for a broad and sustained assault on environmental policies they deem harmful to the bottom lines of businesses.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his top priority is "to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in."
A Washington-based writer dubbed the remainder of Obama's presidency as the congressional Republicans' "regulation-hunting season." It is an apt description.
To begin the well-planned assault, the GOP-dominated House Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Environment and Public Works committees convened a joint hearing to attack the Clean Water Act. Members of the committees grilled Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy on the agency's proposal to expand the authority of the Clean Water Act.
According to the National Journal, a nonpartisan magazine that reports on politics and policy trends, the GOP has staked out 10 environmental rules to kill: the Clean Power Plan; Endangered Species Act; Ground-Level Ozone Standards; Methane Regulations on Oil and Gas Production; Renewable-Fuel Standard; Rules for Fracking on Public Lands; Waters of the United States; Coal Ash Disposal; Stream Buffer Zone Rule; and the Social Cost of Carbon.
Although these rules clearly protect the environment and public well-being, Republicans see them as job-killers and constraints on free enterprise itself.
States with Republican governors and Republican-controlled legislatures are eagerly adopting Washington's antienvironment and anti-Obama agenda. In Florida, voters tend to approve measures that protect the environment, especially the Greater Everglades. But the governor and Republican legislators routinely find ways to circumvent the will of the people to please various industries, many of them heavy polluters.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, for example, is pushing a bill (HB 7003) that will alter how the state manages water. Putnam's apparent goal is to loosen rules and lower enforcement. Under the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell, standards for water quality will be rolled back while the state works more aggressively to harvest new water resources.
Now the governor, with enforcement powers, heads the Department of Environmental Protection and the water management districts. This bill puts more oversight authority into the hands of Putnam, a man who hails from a wealthy agricultural family and who is a good friend of Big Sugar, the state's worst agricultural polluter.
The new arrangement puts Putnam in the lead of cleanup efforts for the 3.5 million acres of land north of Lake Okeechobee. Although the Department of Agriculture has only eight staffers to manage those 3.5 million acres, Putnam has assured lawmakers that these eight souls can perform inspection miracles.
The most harmful provision of the bill is that the relatively effective permitting process now used by the South Florida Water Management District to reduce discharge into Lake Okeechobee would be scrapped and replaced by an industry standard of so-called "best practices."
In other words, agribusiness, developers and other polluters — who profit from cutting corners — would be trusted to do the right thing, to earnestly reduce toxic discharges into Lake Okeechobee.
During seasons of excessive rain, the lake's dirty water is moved south and to each coast by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and SFWMD. The phosphorous-laden water that goes south ends up in the endangered Everglades, where, ironically, the world's largest restoration effort struggles to make a serious dint in eliminating hazardous conditions.
In a statement following the House Appropriations Committee's approval of the water bill on Feb. 19, Putnam served up boilerplate to hide the duplicity: "I thank (House leaders) for supporting a water bill policy that will secure the supply and quality of Florida's water for generations to come. Florida's water is one of our most precious resources, and the management of water quality and conservation has been and always will be a partnership."
Do not be fooled. The legislation is mostly a diversion that will please developers and farmers. Like many other GOP efforts in Florida, Washington and elsewhere, the bill is part of a campaign to roll back environmental protections.
150227-c Environmentalists press for lawmakers to buy sugar land
MiamiHerald - by Jenny Staletovich
February 27, 2015
Environmentalists say it’s now or never on a deal that could provide a critical link to moving water from Lake Okeechobee to the parched southern Everglades.
“This is a one-time opportunity for the state to fulfill its half of the responsibility,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Everglades policy director at the National Audubon Society. “This is not part of a wish list. It’s not anything new. This is part of the must-do list.”
The land, about 26,000 acres just south of Lake Okeechobee, would be used to store water from the lake bounded by an aging dike. High water levels have forced the U.S. Corps of Engineers to release water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers in recent weeks, potentially fouling the estuaries with pollution. The deal was negotiated by the state in 2010 and is set to expire in October.
But to use money from Amendment 1, a measure overwhelmingly approved by voters in November to spend taxes from real estate deals on environmental land, the South Florida Water Management District needs to obtain an appraisal. The land was last appraised as part of the 2010 deal at about $350 million.
District board members were unmoved earlier this month by environmentalists’ demand for action. So earlier this month, the Everglades Coalition, representing more than 50 groups, launched an ad campaign around the state. At a press briefing Friday, the group said lawmakers have so far rejected their requests.
“The question is, if not at this site, then where? And if not now, where?” said Tom Van Lent, science director at the Everglades Foundation. Relted: Everglades Trust Ramps Up Push to Buy US Sugar Land Southeast AgNet Everglades groups step up pressure for buying sugar land Palm Beach Post (blog)
150227-d Everglades advertisements push sugar land deal
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 27, 2015
The Everglades Trust has rolled out TV commercials calling for the state to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land that could cost taxpayers $350 million.
Everglades advocates are using TV, radio and online ads to try to build public support for a costly land deal that faces steep opposition from state leaders. With the Florida Legislature’s annual session starting next week, the Everglades Trust has rolled out the commercials calling for the state to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land that could cost taxpayers $350 million.
The farmland could be used to build a reservoir and move more Lake Okeechobee water south to replenish the Everglades and boost South Florida drinking water supplies.
“This is now the opportunity ... for this critically important project,” Julie Hill-Gabriel of Audubon Florida said during a press conference Friday.
But the land deal faces opposition from lawmakers and sugar industry representatives alike, who maintain that the state doesn’t need the land for Everglades restoration.
The South Florida Water Management District, which leads Everglades restoration for the state, so far hasn’t pursued the land buy.
Sugar-producer Florida Crystals Corporation opposes the proposed land buy and calls the environmentalists’ advertising campaign “false and misleading.”
“It’s time to stay the course and use (previously-purchased) land for restoration work,” Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens said in a statement released Friday.
The opportunity to buy the 46,800 acres is leftover from a previous land deal involving U.S. Sugar and the South Florida Water Management District.
The district in 2010 spent $197 million to buy 26,800 acres from U.S. Sugar. The deal also gave the district a 10-year option to buy U.S. Sugar’s remaining 153,200 acres.
Under the deal, the district has until October 2015 to buy 46,800 acres of the remaining land or until 2020 to buy all of U.S. Sugar’s property.
Buying the 46,800 acres would cost about $350 million if purchased at the same per-acre price as the 2010 deal. That cost could increase, depending on what new appraisals show.
Environmental groups including the Everglades Trust, the Everglades Foundation and the Everglades Coalition have called for the district and the state to pursue buying the 46,800 acres before the October 2015.
To do so, the Legislature likely needs to approve the money for the deal before its session ends in May.
The environmental groups argue that acquiring more land to build a reservoir in the agricultural region south of Lake Okeechobee is vital to Everglades restoration efforts.
“If not at this site, where? And if not now, when?” asked Tom Van Lent, Everglades Foundation scientist.
Supporters of the land buy say they have the support of Florida voters, who in November overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment that commits a portion of the fees levied on real estate sales to help pay for buying land for environmental projects.
Legislators have been “resistant to doing the will of the people,” said Mary Barley, Everglades Trust president and Everglades Foundation board member.
The money carved out by the constitutional amendment was intended for opportunities like the U.S. Sugar land buy, “not for political pet projects,” Barley said.
The environmental ad campaign may not be enough to overcome political push back in Tallahassee.
The 2010 U.S. Sugar deal, pushed by then Gov. Charlie Crist, bypassed the Legislature and generated backlash from state lawmakers who later slashed the water management district’s budget.
Gov. Rick Scott opposed the U.S. Sugar deal when he was running for office in 2010. During his time in office, Scott has prioritized using existing publicly-owned land for Everglades restoration efforts.
U.S. Sugar has “moved on” and isn’t pursuing the land deal, company representative Judy Sanchez said last week. Also, the water management district in 2008 was in the midst of building a reservoir south of the lake when work was stopped as state officials pursued the original U.S. Sugar land deal.
Instead of finishing the reservoir, reconfigured restoration plans led to ongoing work to turn the property into a water treatment area to filter pollution from water headed to the Everglades.
State leaders, environmental advocates and Big Sugar have tangled for decades over Everglades restoration.
More than half of the Everglades was drained to make way for South Florida development and farming. Multi-billion-dollar Everglades restoration plans call for building water storage and pollution treatment areas. They would be used to redirect more water to the Everglades, instead of draining it out to sea for flood control.
150227-e Nonprofit calls for county to support statewide fracking ban
Suwannee Democrat - by Amber Vann
February 27, 2015
Nonprofit organization Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) is asking commissioners in seven counties, including Suwannee County, in the Santa Fe River Basin to adopt local resolutions in support of a statewide hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, ban. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fracking is the well stimulation practice of injecting high pressure liquid mixtures, including water and acid, into coal beds or shale rock to force open fissures and extract oil or natural gas. It involves both vertical and horizontal drilling.
“Our intent is to let the legislators know the will of the citizens of the State of Florida and hopefully get your support for a ban on fracking within our precarious limestone environment,” wrote OSFR President Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson to the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners. “A ban on fracking in Florida now will be a future benefit to all Floridians. We cannot risk the potential underlying threats that we have seen in this extraction process that has destroyed communities across our nation. Florida cannot sustain unbridled, unlimited growth with an insatiable need for energy at someone else’s environmental expense.”
There are currently two bills filed in the Florida Legislature, SB 166 Hydraulic Fracturing and HB 169 Well Stimulation Treatments, that would prohibit fracking if passed.
Chairman Jason Bashaw asked for the board’s consensus to place the OSFR’s request on the agenda at the board’s Feb. 3 meeting, but the commissioners unanimously denied it.
“I’m not aware of any [fracking] that’s going on nor am I aware of any of it going on in Suwannee County,” said Bashaw.
“Since I don’t believe there’s any fracking in Florida at all, we don’t need to waste our time by discussing fracking, especially in Suwannee County,” added Commissioner Larry Sessions. Commissioner Ricky Gamble believed discussion wouldn’t be warranted until fracking became an issue in Florida. Commissioners Clyde Fleming and Wesley Wainwright were also in agreement.
During the board’s next meeting on Feb. 17, Malwitz-Jipson came in person to request the board consider a resolution. Malwitz-Jipson stated Alachua and Union counties, also in the Santa Fe River Basin, had adopted resolutions to support a statewide fracking ban. Miami-Dade County, the Leon Soil and Water Conservation District, and the cities of Coconut Creek and Hallandale Beach have also passed similar resolutions.
According to the EPA, hydraulic fracturing may greatly deplete or contaminate area water resources like the Florida aquifer.
“Fracturing fluids can be up to 99 percent water,” the EPA states. “Fifty thousand to 350,000 gallons of water may be required to fracture one well in a coal bed formation while two to five million gallons of water may be necessary to fracture one horizontal well in a shale formation. Water used for fracturing fluids is acquired from surface water or groundwater in the local area.”
150226-a House speaker responds to Times editorial on water resources bill
Tampa Bay Times - by Steve Crisafulli, , R-Merritt Island, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
February 26, 2015
Benjamin Franklin delivered the memorable line, "In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." Were he alive today, I believe Franklin would amend his short list of inevitabilities with a declaration that Florida Republicans can solidly count on negative editorials from the Tampa Bay Times.
Such is the case with the Feb. 22 editorial, "Water plan is a step backward." It was written with a lack of understanding of the complexities of Florida law and paints the House with an anti-environmental brush that can only be held by the most uninformed and extreme.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has publicly described Florida's water quality system as one of the most sophisticated and comprehensive water resource protection and restoration programs in the nation. The House water policy bill (HB 7003) builds upon Florida's existing foundation of science-based assessment and establishment of water supply and resource development plans, total maximum daily loads, basin management action plans, minimum flows and levels, and recovery and prevention strategies to protect and restore priority springs and other water bodies.
The Times states that the House's proposed legislation will slow Everglades restoration, the single largest natural resource protection program in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everglades restoration will benefit from the bill's proposal for all northern Everglades protection and restoration programs to be concentrated under a single plan. The Florida Legislature is committed to seeing Everglades restoration through to its end and has demonstrated this commitment by adopting a plan to invest more than $800 million to the project over the next 10 years.
The editorial also criticizes how the proposed legislation deals with the challenges facing Central Florida's water supply needs. The House bill embraces and strengthens the draft regional water supply plan by requiring the public entities involved in the initiative to enter a formal interagency agreement and to proceed with the development of the regional water supply plan.
The Times does not mention an amendment to the bill was unanimously approved by the House Appropriations Committee to require the Department of Environmental Protection to create multidisciplinary workgroups for the specific purpose of developing a septic tank assessment and remediation program to include prioritized funding needs. As amended, the bill authorizes the department to award grants to reduce nutrient impacts from onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems.
The Times did not get everything wrong. It correctly observes there is no funding in the House water policy bill. Yet it fails to tell readers it is customary for the Legislature to put funding in the appropriations act, not a policy bill. The General Appropriations Act, which will be developed during the upcoming session, will include funding not only for springs restoration, but also for Everglades restoration, water quality improvements, water supply and water resource development.
Though their criticism of House Republican efforts is as inevitable as death and taxes, the facts do not support the many accusations made by the Tampa Bay Times. The truth is, Democrats and Republicans in the state of Florida are working together to aggressively address the water quality and supply issues we face. The House's bipartisan legislation is a continuation of our ongoing commitment to the overall restoration of Florida's most precious natural resources. While we welcome thoughtful and serious debate on restoration ideas and ways to improve our environment, we will vigorously defend against mischaracterizations like those that were so carelessly dumped into the public discourse by the Tampa Bay Times.
150226-b Next phase of Lake Okeechobee dike repairs proposed
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
February 26, 2015
Another 6.5 miles of dike repairs are planned for Lake Okeechobee's troubled dike.
The Army Corps of Engineers remains behind schedule on rehabbing Lake Okeechobee's dike.
Finishing work to strengthen another section of Lake Okeechobee's troubled dike could still be five years, and about $85 million, away.
New rehab plans unveiled Thursday by the Army Corps of Engineers call for building another 6.5 miles of wall through the southern portion of the dike relied on to protect lakeside communities and South Florida farmland from flooding.
Lake Okeechobee's 143-mile dike is susceptible to erosion and considered one of the country's most at risk of failing. In addition to posing a public safety risk, concerns about the reliability of the dike threaten to send home insurance prices soring in lakeside communities.
"We are trying to keep the process moving," Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Army Corps deputy commander for South Florida, said about repair plans. "We are trying to do everything as quickly as possible."
The new repairs announced Thursday are a continuation of slow-moving efforts to shore up the southeastern portion of the dike, stretching through western Palm Beach County. That portion of the dike is considered the area most vulnerable to erosion and at risk for a breach. Adding the wall is intended to block lake water that seeps through or passes below the earthen dike, which can lead to erosion.
The Army Corps since 2007 has already spent $500 million on dike rehab efforts focused on the southeastern side of the lake. Yet federal officials acknowledge that much more needs to be done.
A study in the works since 2012 to gauge the progress made so far and to lay out the plan for repairing the rest of the dike remains incomplete, Army Corps officials said Thursday. They now aim to finish the study by 2016.
In the meantime, local officials continue to call for more federal money to help get the dike repairs done faster.
"Our western communities are at risk," Palm Beach County Mayor Shelley Vana said. "The corps is not getting this done fast enough."
The next phase of rehab proposed Thursday calls for building another 6.5 miles of wall through the earthen dike, between Belle Glade and John Stretch Memorial Park, at a cost of about $75 million.
The wall would reach down to about 38 feet deep. Construction would start in 2017 and could last until 2020, according to the Army Corps.
In addition, the Army Corps plans to spend about $10 million closing gaps left in portions of the previous wall construction. That could also start in 2017.
Also, the Army Corps is in the midst of replacing the dike's 32 culverts, which is now expected to last until 2021.
Flooding threats from farming and development invading the Everglades led to building Lake Okeechobee's dike in the 1930s to stop water that once naturally flowed south.
In the wake of New Orleans' levees failing after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, dikes and levees across the country got more federal scrutiny.
Repairing Lake Okeechobee's Herbert Hoover Dike is the Army Corps' largest levee rehab project, and work has been slowed by funding delays and design problems.
In 2012, the Army Corps completed five years of construction on 21 miles of a reinforcing "cutoff" wall built through the middle of the dike between Port Mayaca and Belle Glade. That wall reaches as far as 70 feet deep and cost about $10 million per mile to build.
The announcement of the new phase of dike rehab comes just three days after concerns surfaced that previous work on the dike could pose a risk to drinking water supplies near the lake.
The U.S. Geological Survey Tuesday issued a report showing that the depth of the reinforcing wall already built through the dike appears to have allowed more saltwater from deep below ground to mix with shallower freshwater supplies.
That increase in saltwater could foul drinking water wells and also harm nearby farmland, though no damage has emerged yet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The next phase of construction calls for installing walls only about half as deep and that shouldn't reach the saltwater level, according to Tim Willadsen, Lake Okeechobee dike rehab manager for the Army Corps.
The Army Corps maintains that the next phase of repairs could allow the dike to be rated trustworthy enough to potentially avoid or roll back spikes in insurance costs, expected from new flood zone maps being prepared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Local officials have called on FEMA to hold off on new flood zone evaluations to allow time for more dike repairs.
And while talk resumes about Lake Okeechobee dike rehab work to come, more consequences of dike safety concerns kick in on Friday. That's when the Army Corps plans to start draining more lake water west into the Calooshatchee River and east into the St. Lucie River to ease the strain on the dike.
Dumping lake water through the rivers and out to sea helps protect South Florida from flooding. But the draining also wastes billions of gallons of water each day that could replenish the Everglades and boost South Florida drinking water supplies.
Also, discharging large amounts of lake water the east and west into normally salty estuaries can kill coastal fishing grounds and fuel toxic algae blooms that make waterways unsafe for swimming.
150225-a Conservation land, water quality to be among chief issues when legislative session starts Tuesday
KeysNet.com – by Kevin Wadlow
February 25, 2015
A debate over specific spending on water quality and conservation land -- much of it affecting South Florida and the Keys -- likely will dominate the Florida Legislature's spring session that opens next Tuesday.
"The overarching issue is the money" coming into state coffers from Amendment 1, state Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo) said Tuesday.
"That's definitely still coming together and most likely will be part of the general appropriations act -- also known as the state budget," said Raschein, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
While many legislators have filed individual bills seeking a share of the estimated $500 million to $800 million annually from Amendment 1, Raschein said she expects the bills to be tabled in favor of "a more comprehensive policy."
"This remains as a pretty big negotiation item between the House and the Senate," Raschein said. "The Senate is focusing on [freshwater] springs, and there is the question of whether to buy a bunch of new land or maintain what we have."
Everglades restoration projects have been recommended for $150 million in spending by Gov. Rick Scott. "The Everglades is a big winner," Rashein said.
Monroe County is pushing for its third allocation of $50 million for Keys wastewater projects.
Florida legislators in 2009 authorized $200 million from Everglades restoration money to help pay for Monroe County's state-mandated sewer projects, forecast to improve nearshore water quality. The first $50 million allocation was not approved until 2012. A second $50 million allocation came through in 2014.
Scott recommended the third $50 million for Keys sewers and related projects this year, but a breakdown of the funding remains unsettled. Recent news reports indicate Scott may want $17.5 million of that from revenues of the constitutional Amendment 1.
Amendment 1 to the state Constitution passed in November with 75 percent of Florida voters in support. The amendment dedicates a third of proceeds from a state real-estate document tax to help the state purchase lands for conservation and preserve water quality.
In a controversy that surfaced this week, Scott's office apparently wants to fund state-park operations and the Department of Environmental Protection from the Amendment 1 money. Conservation groups objected strongly.
In other issues of Keys interest:
● Raschein sponsored HB 715 that lifts a Citizens Property Insurance Corp. ban on "certain improvements to major structures from being eligible" for coverage.
● Alcohol sales, including allowing local breweries to sell containers of up to 64 ounces of their beer for off-premises consumption and possibly allowing hard-liquor sales in grocery stores.
● Requiring that state colleges and universities allow concealed-weapon permit holders to carry guns on campus.
● Changing the slate of mandatory testing required at Florida schools. The testing requirements were passed by the state to provide "accountability" but educators and some parents groups have contended that a focus on test preparation limits education.
The legislative session runs for 60 days.
150225-b Everglades documentary to debut on WXEL
February 25, 2015
Just in time for Earth Day, April 22, a new locally produced, written and directed documentary, "The Unseen Everglades: Inside a Legendary Wilderness," makes its debut Thursday on WXEL-Ch. 42.
Hosted by Charles J. Kropke, owner of the tour company Dragonfly Expedition and author of "South Beach: Stories of A Renaissance," the hour-long film is written and produced by independent filmmaker Leesa Gordon, owner of Just Peachy Productions in West Palm Beach.
The film takes a look at the history of the Everglades, the current state of the Everglades and seeks to find solutions to preserving and restoring the unique eco-system that is the largest sub-tropical wilderness in the world.
The film looks to answer: What is the Everglades? Who lives there? What are its hopes and problems?
"We talked to scientists and environmentalists and cattle ranchers who work on the Kissimmee flood plain," Kropke said. "And we talked to the Miccosukee Indians as well as experts, scientists and real people who work in the Glades."
He said he believes the ecology of the Everglades is improving.
"We've seen the quality of water from the Kissimmee River get better," Kropke said. "As it comes into Lake Okeechobee, we've see the wildlife starting to come back to life."
He said the northern Everglades north of Lake Okeechobee has shown significant improvement.
Kropke said that years ago when the Army Corps of Engineers worked on the canals and diverted the water to the Loxahatchee River and the Caloosahatchee River on the west coast of Florida, they were more concerned with having dry land for development and cattle grazing.
"They were not thinking of the impact on the environment," he said. "Now we are much more cognizant of the effect that stopping the water has had. It's had a terrible effect on our environment."
One of the goals of the Everglades restoration projects is to get more water cleansed and diverted south to the Everglades instead of east and west, as it stands now.
"I hope that people understand how important the Everglades are to South Florida," Kropke said. "Restoration is critical. To cleanse and restore the water, that's what recharges the Biscayne Aquifer, from where we get our drinking water."
On the months-long shoot, Gordon rose many mornings at 3 a.m. to catch footage of the sunrise over the marshes.
"It's a real privilege to work on the making of this film, and I hope that it's a call to action for the Everglades," he said. Mark Pafford, CEO of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades and a state representative, is a major advocate in Tallahassee for the restoration and preservation of the Everglades.
"To conserve and protect the Everglades as a water resource is important for 8 million people," Pafford said. "It's a complex situation, and time is of the essence to protect this natural eco-system and habitat."
"The Everglades are thirsty and needs their historic water to survive as an intact ecosystem," he said.
He also said she believes the idea of diverting the water south into the Everglades is becoming more accepted by the public because of supply and demand.
"At the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, we educate the public on the importance of the Everglades to our well-being here in South Florida," he said. "In my role in Tallahassee, I support restoration efforts and help in the policy arena. I choose to stay optimistic over the status of the Everglades, although not everyone agrees."
Kropke is also optimistic about the future of the Everglades, the natural habitat for alligators, manatees, deer, crocodiles, wading birds, black bears and the endangered Florida panther.
"I'm hopeful that we will win the restoration of the Everglades," he said. "I believe we are five years away from seeing some incredible results such as improvements in the quality of water, more connectivity and an explosion of wildlife, especially birds."
He points to "vast changes" and the re-wilding of the Picayune Strand State Forest in Southwest Florida near Naples, which has shown an increase of panthers and bear traffic.
The state bought every property owner out over several years and is pulling out roads and backfilling canals. People are unaware of the progress, he said, because of the remoteness of the area.
Efforts include the re-channelization of the Kissimmee River, back-filling of ditches on Central Florida ranchlands, clean water storage, agricultural runoff management, lifting parts of the Tamiami Trail and plugging the canal at Cape Sable, the southernmost point of the U.S. mainland.
Kropke also has hopes of restoring a long-lost and little-known pond apple forest complete with gourds and vines that used to rim Lake Okeechobee.
It was lost in 1910 when the forest was bulldozed.
"This is a missing piece of our Everglades," Kropke said.
"Eternal vigilance," is how both Kropke and Pafford describe what's most needed for the health and well-being of the Everglades as a living, breathing eco-system.
"The Unseen Everglades: Inside a Legendary Wilderness" makes its debut at 8 p.m. Thursday, 5 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday. Visit wxel.org.
150225-c Miami archeological dig unearths evidence of sea rise
TheState.com - by Jenny Staletovich, Miami Herald
February 25, 2015
MIAMI — In the shadows of a condo canyon rising around the mouth of the Miami River, archaeologists have unearthed what they say is concrete evidence of South Florida's escalating rise in sea level.
Or brick evidence, to be more precise. Ten bricks. And some coconut palms.
"It's the first line of evidence something had really changed here in terms of sea level," archaeologist Bob Carr said Tuesday at the Met Square construction dig on Fourth Street where a team is excavating a 2,000-year old Tequesta Indian village in downtown Miami. The site will eventually be showcased in a towering entertainment complex - a compromise after a contentious debate last spring over preserving the city's ancient history.
Carr and his team discovered the submerged bricks, dating to the Civil War, about four months ago along a slice of old shoreline long buried a few feet deep under a parking lot. The find was not unexpected - Carr knew Fort Dallas occupied the site in the 1800s before famed industrialist Henry Flagler built his Royal Palm Hotel and lush gardens at the end of the 19th century.
But when Carr started to piece together where the 1860s-era bricks were found - about a foot below the water table - and what he knew about construction, he came to a surprising conclusion: the artifacts provided proof that sea level in the area had risen more than a foot in the last century. Neither the bricks nor coconut palms would have existed on submerged land.
"Numbers don't go back a long time in South Florida. So this is physical evidence," he said as he toured the site, a moonscape of exposed bedrock pocked with holes.
Climate change occurred naturally over the eons because of organic causes - something scientists know by analyzing indirect measures like ice cores, tree rings, glacier lengths and ocean sediments. But after the Industrial Revolution began pumping carbon into the atmosphere, temperatures started climbing, said University of Miami geologist Hal Wanless. Finding the bricks supports the theory, he said, that sea levels started rising rapidly in South Florida because of the increased carbon.
Finding historic evidence, though, is rare.
At the time, frontier Florida was confined to a narrow strip of high ground perched between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay. The human footprint left behind was small, except at the Miami River.
"The Miami River has always been prime real estate," said Wanless, who used oysters migrating up area piers three decades ago to track rises in sea level.
Carr, who has excavated Indian sites throughout South Florida, said he has found ancient evidence of changing sea levels but never relatively modern proof of the accelerating rise.
Carr, Miami-Dade County's first archaeologist, began examining the site in 2004, two years after MDM Development announced plans to build the hotel and entertainment complex. Carr had discovered the Miami Circle, likely a ceremonial site used by the Tequesta, on the river's south bank in 1998 and helped get the area designated as archaeologically sensitive. So he expected artifacts of the ancient tribe would turn up on the opposite bank. He eventually found 11 foundation circles, along with human remains and a trove of shells, pottery shards and discarded bones that provides a glimpse into Tequesta daily life.
He also expected to find remnants of Flagler's hotel - well-documented in photographs of early well-heeled tourists - as well as the 19th century army fort. What was unexpected lay in a slice of excavated bank now well below the water table: a brick pier, possibly part of a building foundation, and an iron plate, along with the coconut palms.
Workers digging in units across the site have gradually excavated soil and sediment to reveal a sloping bank. They have found turtle bones, conch shells fashioned into shovels and shards of Fort Drum Punctate, a distinctive pottery used by the Tequesta.
At the southern edge, the bedrock or karst, has been chiseled into smooth solution holes, indicating it was once covered with water. Further north, the bedrock levels out, indicating dry land, Carr said. When Flagler arrived, the rocky shoreline snaked under what is now the Epic Hotel, sloping diagonally northeastward toward the bay. To create his lush garden, Carr said Flagler, "the first person to seriously create a landfill in Miami," moved the Tequesta midden to level out the ground and plant trees. While Flagler used brick piers, the bricks Carr located were much older.
Carr also unearthed dozens of conch shells, which scientists will be able to study to determine changes in the environment and "reconstruct early history."
"We're getting pieces of an ancient jigsaw one post at a time," he said. "It's a huge reservoir of scientific information about the environment and prehistoric Miami."
150225-d New commercial urges viewers to revive sugar land buy to help Indian River Lagoon
February 25, 2015 The Everglades Trust launched a six-figure television, radio and online campaign urging Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers to enact the will of Florida’s voters who overwhelming supported the constitutional amendment The Water and Land Conservation Initiative last November.
The campaign calls upon Gov. Scott and the Legislature to use the amendment’s revenue to purchase farmland in the Everglades Agriculture Area to protect and save Florida’s drinking water and the Everglades.
Everglades Trust is bringing attention to the deadline on a contract made by U.S. Sugar Corp. in 2010 to sell Everglades lands back to the state for restoration.
The agreement will expire unless lawmakers allocate the dollars that were already approved before the end of session on May 1.
The land would be used to construct a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.
“U.S. Sugar signed a binding written contract, and just four months ago, 75 percent of Floridians voted for a constitutional amendment to set aside the money to pay for land acquisition projects such as this one. This is our last, best chance to protect drinking water, save the Everglades and reduce deadly discharges of pollution from the lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and estuaries — and time is running out,” said Mary Barley, President of Everglades Trust. “It’s now up to Governor Scott and the Legislature to tell U.S. Sugar, ‘a deal is a deal.’”
The ad campaign, with specific references to the Lake Okeechobee discharges, began Sunday with a 60-second television spot airing on broadcast and cable outlets in Fort Myers, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa Bay and West Palm Beach markets entitled “Saving Florida’s Water.”
The campaign urges Floridians to visit www.SavingFLwater.com, where they can write their legislators and Gov. Scott and ask them to protect and save Florida’s drinking water.
The Everglades Trust is a 501(c)(4) corporation created to ensure that Everglades restoration is completed on time and on budget. The Trust is committed to defend America’s Everglades and hold polluters and lawmakers accountable. For more than a decade, through grass roots support and a network of citizen action teams, the Trust has been fighting for government action and adequate funding for Everglades restoration.
150224-a Lake Okeechobee dike repair could hurt drinking water
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
February 24, 2015
Costly work to strengthen Lake Okeechobee's troubled dike may unintentionally pose a risk to drinking water supplies near the lake, according to new federal findings.
A wall built to reduce the amount of lake water leaking through the southeast portion of the dike also appears to have allowed more saltwater from deep below ground to mix with a freshwater aquifer.
That spike in salt levels could affect wells near the dike as well as farmland in western Palm Beach County, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
"We do not know the extent of the disturbance," said Scott Prinos, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist who helped conduct the study released Tuesday. "The aquifer is becoming saltier."
Since construction of the wall, monitoring wells spread along the southern end of the dike show salt levels rising in underground water supplies near the new wall, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The new wall helps block lake water that once seeped through or passed below the earthen dike. But by blocking that water and pushing more freshwater deeper below ground, saltier water appears to have moved up to shallower areas outside the dike, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The monitoring wells target an area up to 1,550 feet from the dike, yet the saltier water could affect water supplies farther away, potentially ruining drinking water wells or forcing more expensive water treatment.
So far, the saltier water hasn't knocked any residents' drinking water wells out of commission, but farmers have raised concerns about potential effects on crops, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Concerns about freshwater supplies becoming too salty could also end up affecting the course of taxpayer-funded Lake Okeechobee dike repairs, intended to protect South Florida against flooding.
The Army Corps of Engineers has already spent about $500 million on slow-moving dike repairs. Later this week, the Army Corps is supposed to unveil plans for the next 6-mile phase of rehab work near Belle Glade.
The Army Corps has been collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey on the study and "more information is going to be needed before we come to definitive conclusions," Army Corps spokesman John Campbell said. One change could be building shorter walls.
"We believe the same risk-reduction benefits will be achieved with a shorter [dike] wall, and we will plan to use that method going forward," Campbell said.
It's time The Army Corps of Engineers got off their asses and fix the dikes BEFORE they fail. They've done little to nothing for too long.
Lake Okeechobee's more than 70-year-old dike is considered one of the nation's most at risk of failing, because of its vulnerability to erosion.
In 2012, the Army Corps finished the five-year installation of a 21-mile stretch of reinforcing "cutoff" wall built through the middle of the dike between Port Mayaca and Belle Glade. The wall extends up to 70 feet deep through the most vulnerable portion of the dike.
Lake Okeechobee's 143-mile-long dike protects South Florida farming and development from waters that once naturally flowed south to replenish the Everglades.
Instead, the dike corrals those lake waters. Canals linking the lake to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers allow the Army Corps to drain lake water out to sea when water levels threaten to get too high for the dike.
Safety concerns about the dike prompted the rehab effort that has been hampered by funding delays and design problems.
In addition to building the wall, work continues to replace the dike's 32 culverts. That is expected to be completed in 2018.
The Army Corps since 2012 has been working on a report to gauge the rehab progress made so far and to determine what more should be done to bolster the rest of the dike. That report has yet to be completed.
While the dike rehab work lingers, residents and businesses in western Palm Beach County face the potential of big spikes in flood insurance costs because the dike is still considered unreliable.
Also, in order to ease the strain on the dike the Army Corps this year has resumed discharging lake water to the east and west coasts. That wastes billions of gallons of lake water that could help the Everglades and bolster South Florida drinking water supplies.
In addition, the lake discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers hurt coastal fishing grounds and can fuel algae blooms that make water unsafe for swimming.
150224-b Lawmakers wade into Amendment 1 policy, funding
News4jax.com - Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
February 24, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - New rules for Florida waters will be one of the first bills the House takes up when the legislative session gets underway.
But don't expect that all aspects of a voter-approved initiative to conserve water and land will sail smoothly through the 60-day session that begins March 3.
As House members and senators hammer out new rules and new funding levels required by the initiative, known as Amendment 1, a wide array of suggestions has poured in from Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, environmentalists and business lobbyists.
A House water policy measure (HB 7003) is intended to reverse the degraded state of the state's natural springs, coordinate water management in Central Florida and reduce pollutants that now flow into Lake Okeechobee and later into estuaries to the east and west.
Yet the House proposal doesn't match the details of what the Senate wants. And that is just one of three parts of the Legislature's approach to implementing Amendment 1, a priority of both House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner.
The legislative leaders expressed confidence lawmakers will agree on measures that backers of the amendment will support.
"When we look at water policy, we're really interested in that oversight, and that oversight not just on water policy but Amendment 1 as a whole," said Gardiner, R-Orlando. "We think it's very important that the voters that supported Amendment 1 know that decisions are being based on critical need."
Supporters of Amendment 1 are concerned the efforts will fall short of the improvements needed to the state's waters.
"We have an opportunity with Amendment 1 dollars to do something special for Floridians and that is deliver on their desire to conserve land," said House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. "We don't have cliffs and mountains, and mountain streams. Everywhere you go in Florida you're basically standing on top of your water supply. That said, we have these dollars available to talk about a comprehensive plan and that's what we need to do. … And I hope we get there."
Environmentalists say state needs have reached a critical juncture as Florida has become the nation's third most-populous state and draws nearly 100 million visitors a year. Also, growth will have to accommodate another 4 million people in the next 15 years
And a worry is that the money voters want for water and land maintenance and preservation will end up going to municipal and county utilities and storm-water projects.
"Last year there was $80 million for non-recurring member water projects," said Janet Bowman of The Nature Conservancy. "That's the kind of stuff that I don't see being funded with Amendment 1 money. It isn't necessarily connected with any restoration strategy. It's just something that's from a local government's capital-improvement plan."
Yet the environmentalists' desires are being countered from the business community.
Associated Industry of Florida's H2O Coalition has called the environmentalist approach to the policy changes "rigid" and said it would "cause water shortages and stifle responsible growth."
The issue most groups are waiting to see from lawmakers is the eventual breakdown of the money. And that likely will have to wait until deep into the session.
The amendment, backed by 75 percent of voters in November, requires 33 percent of the proceeds from a real-estate tax to go for land and water projects over the next two decades.
Amendment 1 is expected to provide about $757 million for land and water projects in the fiscal year that starts July 1, up from around $470 million in the current budget year.
The Senate has proposed a series of trust-fund bills (SB 576, SB 578, SB 580, SB 582, SB 584, and SB 586) that would designate a single pot within the Department of Environmental Protection to handle the Amendment 1 revenue. The measures also call for shifting about $100 million from transportation funding that typically comes from the real-estate taxes and another $100 million from affordable housing.
A group known as Florida's Land and Water Legacy, which led the amendment drive, has outlined a plan 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, $90 million would go for land management, $50 million to springs, $25 million for rural family lands and $20 million for beach management. The rest would cover debt service.
Meanwhile, Scott has offered his own spending plans, some of which are drawing criticism.
While touting a desire to provide funding on a recurring basis for Everglades restoration and springs maintenance, Scott during the upcoming fiscal year wants $150 million for the Everglades, of which $122 million would cover work already underway. He also wants lawmakers to allocate $50 million for springs and $178 million for debt service on bonds tied to the Florida Forever and Save Our Everglades programs. Another $20 million would go for land purchases and restoration of the Kissimmee River.
Scott has drawn criticism, in part, because his plan includes a proposal to provide $17.5 million for wastewater treatment in the Florida Keys, which environmentalists question as an allowed use under Amendment 1. Also, criticism has focused on Scott's proposal to use $156 million to cover operating expenses at state agencies.
Absent from Scott's plan, in the eyes of Everglades proponents, is money to purchase U.S. Sugar land to use as reservoir for water sent out of Lake Okeechobee. That would prevent polluted water from going into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
The state has an option to buy 46,800 acres at fair-market price by October or any deal would require Florida to pay for an additional 106,200 acres.
Groups such the Everglades Trust have launched what they describe as a "six-figure television, radio and online campaign" that urges Scott and lawmakers to include the U.S. Sugar purchase in any Amendment 1 spending plan.
"This is our last, best chance to protect drinking water, save the Everglades and reduce deadly discharges of pollution from the lake into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and estuaries --- and time is running out," said Mary Barley, President of The Everglades Trust.
The House and Senate have taken different approaches to water policy.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican who is sponsoring the House water-policy proposal, said the measure isn't about establishing individual regional projects.
"This bill broadens the process," Caldwell said. "There are certainly a number of projects I think can qualify in the Amendment 1 language. As we look to cost share --- it's not exclusively a state issue --- it's going to be a county and city and regional authority issue as well."
The Senate version is heavily focused on protecting the state's long-neglected natural springs, which were among Florida's first tourist attractions and now also are used as sources for bottled water.
The House approach, considered more business friendly, in part would impose what are known as "best management practices" for natural springs, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. Also, it would direct water-management districts to implement a water-management plan across Central Florida.
Environmentalists had hoped for more.
"They're just plans," Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues, said of the proposed "best management practices."
"They have a few things that people are required to do, but there is no requirement," Draper added. "And the one for Lake Okeechobee is ineffective."
Unlike in the Senate approach, the House does not include springs-protection zones, which would regulate the impact of septic tanks and the flow of storm water and agricultural runoff into springs.
Sen. David Simmons, among a group of senators that tried last year to advance a springs measure, said any land purchases or use of Amendment 1 money for water treatment and sewers must show the allocation is tied to water-quality improvements.
"At the end of the day, the real test is, are we solving the problems of our environment?" Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said.
As lawmakers try to reach agreement during the session, the key issues will involve water policy, how the increased funding will be used and the creation of a single trust fund to handle the money. Each comes with issues beyond the differences in approaches being taken by the House and Senate and have raised concerns from groups involved in the discussions.
Here are some of the concerns:
--- Future money for affordable housing and transportation could face decreases as trust funds are shifted to meet the environmental funding requirements of Amendment 1.
--- Proposals have been made to use the Amendment 1 money to replace dollars that now go to cover some of the daily operations of state environmental agencies.
--- A desire by South Florida residents and Everglades conservationists to purchase U.S. Sugar land for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee isn't currently addressed, and there doesn't appear to be an appetite from legislative leadership for the idea. Nor have lawmakers addressed the Panhandle's Apalachicola Bay, which continues to be enmeshed in a legal battle between Florida, Georgia and Alabama over upstream waters.
--- Little attention so far has been given to the future management of existing state lands.
--- Amendment 1 money could be used for projects that otherwise would be a matter for local governments or communities.
150224-c WPBT, FIU produce web series on rising sea levels
Sun Sentinel - by Johnny Diaz
February 24, 2015
FIU students produce YouTube series on rising sea levels.
Rising sea level focus of WPBT-FIU web series.
The threat of sea level rise comes into focus in a new weekly web series from WPBT-Ch. 2 and Florida International University.
The nine-part-program, "Sea Level Rise Impact," which launched Feb. 18, looks at how rising sea levels are affecting various parts of the region from Broward County and the Everglades down through Monroe County.
The episodes, which average 2 to 6 minutes are being released each Wednesday through April 15 on WPBT's YouTube channel: youtube.com/uVusouthflorida.
Thirty-three students, representing a mix of broadcast, public relations and advertising majors, produced the minidocumentaries. They were led by FIU assistant professor Kate MacMillin, who had worked with fellow associate professor Juliet Pinto on WPBT's half-hour documentary, "South Florida's Rising Seas," last year.
"I hope the audience sees that there are a number of dedicated, smart people looking at ways to address the issue of sea level rise, and not just politicians and scientists, but also young people,'' said Max Duke, WPBT's vice president of content and community partnerships. "Students today are going to be the ones inheriting the main effects of sea level rise, and they are actively working on ways to understand and tackle the problem."
For the web project, MacMillin took two of her classes and gave them the topic of the local rise of sea level.
"It's a story that needs a visual, and I think they captured that in a lot of different ways so people can understand what's coming,'' said MacMillin of the project, which was funded by a grant from the nonprofit Online News Association. "I think people will be educated and better informed."
In the first episode, the students looked at how rampant street flooding has affected businesses on Miami Beach's Alton Road. Other episodes cover the effects of rising sea levels on Everglades National Park and Key West's real estate market.
The March 18 episode will feature interviews with residents and city officials on how Fort Lauderdale has fared in the aftermath of 2012's Hurricane Sandy.
In late April, the mini-documentaries will be combined into a half-hour program that will air on WPBT in primetime, said MacMillin. No date has been announced yet.
The students did "a fantastic job illustrating that sea level rise is a significant issue, while also showing that there are a number of ways for people to get involved and help address the future challenges," Drake added.
150224-d WXEL-TV, PBS for the Palm Beaches, to broadcast major documentary exploring Florida Everglades
February 24, 2015
BOYNTON BEACH, FL - (NewMediaWire) - - Flowing southward for hundreds of miles from its headwaters near Kissimmee to Florida Bay, the Sunshine State's unique "River of Grass" is one of the world's most precious natural resources.
On February 26, 2015, at 8:00 p.m., WXEL Television will air “THE UNSEEN EVERGLADES: Inside a Legendary Wilderness,” a one-hour special presentation that examines the many aspects of this complex family of ecosystems – its role in the state's history and the challenges it faces today. The program will also air on February 27th at 5:00 p.m. February 28th at noon and on April 22nd in celebration of National Earth Day.
"We want to give viewers a better understanding of the size, scale and importance of the Everglades for our entire planet," says author and adventurer Charles J. Kropke, who hosts the documentary. Program producer is Tropic Moon Media, a Coral Gables, Florida based book publishing and media production company and WXEL, PBS for the Palm Beaches, is co-producer and provided management and oversight for the production. Emmy nominated independent filmmaker Leesa Gordon is the documentary’s writer/producer and film industry veteran Andy Cope is the man behind the camera.
"When people think of the Everglades, some visualize airboats racing over shallow waters, while others imagine a mysterious sub-tropical realm with orchids, ferns and majestic cypress trees,” Kropke says.“Still others think of a vast maze of mangrove islands and twisting rivers. In fact, the greater Everglades has eight different ecosystems that interact with each other in surprising ways to create diverse natural habitats for alligators, manatees, deer, crocodiles, wading birds, black bears and the elusive Florida panther."
Kropke has spent 30 years exploring and researching the Florida Everglades and interacting with the unique, independent-minded residents of this vast wetland. "The documentary introduces viewers to the people whose lives have been shaped by the 'Glades’ including Native Americans, sportsmen, farmers, conservationists and park rangers," Kropke says. "We begin with the northern stretches of the Everglades above Lake Okeechobee where the fresh water begins its slow flow to the south. Then we move throughout the remainder of this vast wilderness, ending up at the saltwater tip of mainland Florida, Cape Sable."
The documentary also focuses on the spirited fight to restore the Everglades to preserve and protect its unique habitats. This includes, among many other efforts, the re-channelization of the Kissimmee River, back-filling of ditches on Central Florida ranchlands, clean water storage, agricultural runoff management, lifting parts of the Tamiami Trail and canal plugs at Cape Sable. All of these issues will be addressed in this fast-moving documentary on the mighty ‘River of Grass’.”
For more about the documentary, contact Bay Proby at Proby & Associates Public Relations (305-613-4668. email@example.com) or visit or www.tropicmoonmedia.com. Cable and satellite viewers, check listings.
150223-a A 'Pants on Fire' for the Everglades Trust
SunshineStateNews – by Nancy Smith
February 23, 2015
Spreading a lie isn't going to win the Everglades Trust friends or influence any of the people I know.
The trust's six-figure "online campaign" launched Sunday to get "Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature to enact the will of Florida's voters" is going to explode on their face like a Bazooka bubble.
They're claiming the will of voters was to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land left from the fizzled, 2010 Charlie Crist deal.
This isn't the middle of election season. You can't just make up something like a new Amendment 1 definition and expect no one to notice.
"Four years ago, the sugar industry signed a binding written contract to sell us land to clean up their pollution, and for a reservoir to protect our water," says the ad. "Last November, 75 percent of Floridians voted YES to Amendment 1, making vital land purchases for the Everglades a part of the Florida Constitution. Now it's up to the governor to back it and the Legislature to fund it."
Let's see ... This seems like a spectacular disconnect to me. Yes, I remember the contract. But no, Amendment 1 wasn't all about finishing the Crist deal. Nowhere does it imply that the first $350 million should go to pay for 46,800 acres of sugarland, only 26,000 acres which are south of Lake Okeechobee and usable for the kind of water storage the Everglades Foundation wants.
It's only been four months since Floridians voted. I'm guessing their memory isn't that short. I think they can recall enough about the ballot language to know when the Everglades Trust is spinning them a tall one.
Here's what the ballot summary on the November amendment said, word for word:
"Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years."
I don't see the words "only the Everglades." I don't even see "especially the Everglades." Oh, wait -- there it is -- "including the Everglades."
The language says to me, "What's your conservation pleasure, voters? We've got it all here." And that was driven home to me last week at the Capitol water rally in Tallahassee, when I interviewed nearly two-dozen participants. They had all sorts of reasons for being there -- for springs and rivers, for beaches and farms, and yes, there were people who wanted the state to buy the U.S. Sugar land. But the vast majority I talked with had a larger, more generic purpose. They had driven great distances to stand in the bitter cold for no other reason than because they care about clean water for Florida now and into the future.
Pushed by the Everglades Foundation, environmentalists now are trying to pull a Marty McFly, sending their DeLorean back to 2008 when they convinced Gov. Charlie Crist to throw a wrench in the plans and progress Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature had made with Everglades restoration -- instead blowing the whole bank on buying more land for a plan they hadn't even conceived.
Even back then, at the time of the Charlie Crist deal, then-gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott could see what it was -- a boondoggle that would put the Everglades in jeopardy. Have a look at this video report -- a bit of history. Or this one. Anyone who claims Scott won't take a position on the U.S. Sugar deal wasn't paying attention in 2010. We have the governor on camera several times being quite clear, as he is today, that the U.S. Sugar deal is not the right way to go.
Fast forward to 2015 and here we have environmentalists trying to pull the wool over Rick Scott's eyes as they did with Crist, trying to get him to ditch funding for a whole suite of environmental projects in order to blow the Amendment 1 bank on -- guess what? -- the same U.S. Sugar deal. Say what you like about Rick Scott -- he's a smart executive, not an empty political suit. He is no Charlie Crist.
Florida voters didn't pass Amendment 1 to complete a bad deal that fell apart in 2010, or to keep the Everglades Foundation relevant. It's not how the ballot language read and it's not why 75 percent of Floridians voted for it.
The Everglades Trust has acted dishonestly. Its ad campaign -- my apologies to PolitiFact for borrowing the phraseology -- deserves a "Pants on Fire."
150223-b Reject the wackos’ solution to Lake O water issues
BizPackReview.com - by John R. Smith
February 23, 2015
South Floridians are being deliberately misinformed about water flow in Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Sometimes, those promoting the falsehoods are purposely misinforming the public to push misguided agendas.
The misinformation brigade is led by environmental groups that ought to pay a price for their dishonesty. Sadly, the only antidote is for others to publish the truth. The enviro voices would sound less hollow if they were truly unselfish. But they want the taxpayer to foot the bills for irresponsible purchases touted by a loudmouth minority that could care less about the consequences to taxpayers or private landowners.
This fight is all about how water is released from Lake Okeechobee when water levels rise to threatening heights. The enviros want to send water south, mostly through farmland and the Everglades. But the best solution involves finishing key projects already underway, sending excess water to reservoirs along two rivers to the east and west of the lake. From the very beginning, this has been the key solution in restoring the Everglades and protecting wildlife habitats.
Now, environmental groups want the South Florida Water Management District to exercise an option to buy 46,000 acres of land to store and move water south. The problem is that only 26,000 acres are useable, which is nowhere close to resolving the issue. It’s not the solution, because this land will provide only a tiny storage reservoir that will fill up quickly. To move water south, storage sites with 40 times more capacity than 26,000 acres are needed. And there are dozens of constraints if water is “simply sent south”, not the least of which requires protecting nesting grounds for birds and endangered species. Also, when water rises in the Everglades, it’s a huge threat to the safety standards of surrounding earthen dams.
Gov. Rick Scott is fulfilling his pledge to finance a fix, and sugar farmers support the governor’s priorities and funding, which are part of his commitment in his 2015 “Keep Florida Working” budget. The Legislature and the South Florida Water Management District should also be applauded for prioritizing the completion of more than $5.5 billion in existing and planned, shovel-ready restoration projects. Florida should stay the course.
The driving force behind all the protesting chatter is the Everglades Foundation, which needs something to do because the Everglades Restoration Strategies plan was unanimously passed by the Florida Legislature. It is also supported by every state and federal agency as the best way to clean up water flowing to the Everglades. When the strategies are complete, the final water quality standards will be met. That means that, to be relevant and keep raising money, the Everglades Foundation must find another way to re-direct its political machine. If the foundation really cared about meaningful progress on restoring the Everglades and helping the coastal estuaries along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, it would be joining other major players in pushing to build projects already planned and focus on cleaning water north of the lake.
At this point, there is no plan to use the optioned land south of Lake O. As a water management board member said recently, “If it was that simple, it would have been done already.” He’s right. All state and federal government parties, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and sugar farmers, agree that they should build the projects already planned, authorized and agreed on in the strategy that passed. The plan is working. These science-based projects will actually produce real benefits for all of South Florida. The work done to date demonstrates proven results, with a dramatic improvement in water quality.
It’s time to finish the job and actually build the entire $5 billion in projects on the land that has already been purchased, not spend another $500 million of taxpayer money for a project that will provide little benefit. Florida doesn’t need to own more land. It’s futile to waste taxpayer money on an irresponsible, pie-in-the-sky scheme to push water
150223-c State pressed to buy land in the Everglades' name
News4jax.com - by Matt Galka, Reporter, Capitol News Service
February 23, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Everglades advocates have started to roll out television, radio and Internet ads pressing the state to buy thousands of acres of land in the name of Everglades restoration. Florida signed a deal in 2010 with U.S. Sugar and the clock is ticking.
The purchase would cost around $350 million. The campaign said the state can use Amendment 1 money to buy the land. Advocate Will Abberger said that’s what it’s meant to do anyway.
“It is a water and land conservation amendment, so we’re talking about using land conservation as a tool to protect water at its source and keep pollution out of those water bodies by buying the land around them,” Abberger said.
The proposal focuses on the area around Lake Okeechobee to get water to flow further south in the state.
"Clearly Amendment 1 specifically talked about providing funding for everglades restoration," Abberger said.
How to deal with water is expected to be one of the prominent issues for the next two months as the legislative session plays out..
150222- With new TV ad, Everglades supporters break the peace with the sugar industry
SaintPetersBlog - by Peter Schorsch
February 22, 2015
For decades, Everglades advocates financed by Wall Street billionaires like Paul Tudor Jones waged war with the sugar farmers and rural communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The battlefields ranged from the EPA in Washington, the Legislature in Tallahassee, both state and federal courts, and the national and local media.
It has been an epic struggle. For the enviers, it was a matter of principle. For the farmers and their families, it was a matter of survival. The high water mark of hostility was the environmental groups’ 1996 campaign to amend the Constitution to impose a crippling tax on sugar produced in Florida — a campaign in which they suffered a stinging and expensive defeat. After that, a grudging cooperation developed between the sugar industry and the Everglades enthusiasts, the most recent example of which was their mutual support of the re-enactment of the
- and here is the VIDEO
Everglades Forever Act in 2012, which continued sugar industry financial support for the final Everglades restoration projects that will result in the water flowing into the Everglades from the Everglades Agricultural Area to the north being cleaner than the rain water that falls there.
But you don’t maintain membership in an advocacy organization by succeeding; you do it by always having a problem to solve, even if you have to create one. Which is why the Everglades enviros are now mounting a campaign to force the state to buy 46,000 acres of US Sugar land – the so-called “small option” – for close to $500 million. This land would be warehoused for projects that do not exist, would cost another billion dollars or so to build out if they did exist, and, by all accounts, wouldn’t work.
Even Eric Draper of the Audubon Society recently remarked that the idea of ‘sending the water south’ is “pie in the sky.”
But that hasn’t stopped the Everglades enviros from breaking the truce on the last lap to the Everglades restoration finish line. The Everglades Trust has begun airing a 60-second television spot around the state that resurrects the Big Sugar Bogeyman and urges the use of Amendment 1 money to exercise the “small option.” Cleaning up rivers and springs, restoring beaches, and protecting water supply in the rest of Florida, all specifically mentioned in Amendment 1, can wait. Again.
You can be sure that the sugar industry will respond in kind. Multiple sources tell me that mail, television, radio, and social media have been in the works and will soon fill the airwaves and computer screens. If the Everglades enviros thinks that the sugar industry has gone soft during the years of relative peace or that they lack the will or the resources to renew the ancestral war, they soon will learn they are mistaken.
Contacted this morning, long time US Sugar lobbyist and advisor Mac Stipanovich said, “We’re not surprised or overly concerned. This isn’t our first rodeo with these people. I’m sure they have a great plan, just like they did in ’96. Let’s see how it works out for them this time.” The script of the ad:
“Decades of uncontrolled pollution in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee is endangering our health, killing our wildlife and threatening our drinking water.
Four years ago, the sugar industry signed a binding written contract to sell us land to clean up their pollution, and for a reservoir to protect our water.
It’s been called the most critical piece of land ever for Everglades restoration. Last November, 75% of Floridians voted YES to Amendment 1, making vital land purchases for the Everglades a part of the Florida Constitution.
Last November, 75% of Floridians voted YES to Amendment 1, making vital land purchases for the Everglades a part of the Florida Constitution. Now, it’s up to the Governor to back it and the Legislature to fund it.
Call the Governor, call your legislator, and tell them to buy the land. Build the reservoir. And save Florida’s drinking water. Now, while there’s still time.” Related: A new TV campaign presses for purchase of US Sugar land Tampabay.com (blog) A new TV campaign presses for purchase of US Sugar land Sunshine State News
150221-a Florida’s new top legislative leaders both have personal mission
Palm Beach Post - by John Kennedy, Capital Bureau
February 21, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — Now residing at the top of Florida’s political world: a pair of 40-something Republicans who live an hour apart in Central Florida and who each hope to turn a very personal issue into a political legacy.
For House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, born into a ranching and real estate family with a Florida political pedigree, the priority is crafting a new state water policy.
Senate President Andy Gardiner is reminded of his leading issue at the breakfast table each morning. His oldest child, Andrew, 11, has Down Syndrome, and Gardiner has pledged to improve educational and career opportunities for Florida children with developmental and physical challenges.
Crisafulli, 43, of Merritt Island and Gardiner, 45, of Orlando — sworn into their leadership posts just after last fall’s elections — are set to command a Republican-dominated Florida Legislature that begins its two-month session March 3.
But, already, each man has staked a claim to a potential legacy.
Crisafulli wants a blueprint that protects the state’s troubled springs and estuaries such as the badly fouled Indian River Lagoon in his home county.
But he says there has to be enough water for agribusiness, still a fixture in the state’s economy.
“This is a modernization of our water policy and it’s time for us to begin moving forward,” Crisafulli said. “But this is just the starting point. To me, it’s an opportunity to work on something before we’re in a crisis mode.”
Gardiner, whose wife, Camille, is a leader in the Down Syndrome Foundation of Florida, said of his drive to improve opportunities for children with developmental challenges: “There are a lot of issues any family has with young children. But particularly, any family with a child who has unique abilities.”
“It’s opened our eyes to a lot of things,” he said.
The two leaders are similar in personality. Both are soft-spoken and spare in their speeches and conversations.
Their low-key style contrasts that of a Florida Legislature whose sessions typically are both a grind and a whirlwind – with budget, policy, and political issues colored by the special-interest hucksterism of a carnival midway.
“We’re going to help each other be successful,” Gardiner said. “That’s very important. You know, if I had grown up on Merritt Island, I think the speaker and I probably would‘ve hung out. I think we have very similar views.”
Gardiner is a hospital community relations executive elected to the Senate in 2008 after eight years in the House. Along with Andrew, he and Camille have two daughters, ages 4 and 7.
Crisafulli, 43, and his wife, Kristen, have two young daughters. He’s a vice president in the family’s real estate, construction, cattle and citrus business.
Gardiner says he has no plans to run for higher office. Around the Capitol, Crisafulli is seen as a likely candidate for Agriculture Commissioner if current officeholder Adam Putnam makes a widely expected run for governor in 2018.
While Crisafulli and Gardiner say they intend to merely steer while committees and individual lawmakers drive issues forward, the two men, like the long line of their predecessors, almost certainly will play a central role in deciding the fate of almost every idea.
They also pledge to help fellow Republican, Gov. Rick Scott, open his second term successfully. Scott has promised another big round of tax breaks, a record level of school funding, and spending increases on the environment and the scandal-plagued Department of Children and Families and prison system.
“Just having a partner like the governor to work with, who sees things through a conservative mindset is important,” said Crisafulli, a descendant of Doyle Carlton, Florida’s Democratic governor from 1929-1933, and Vassar Carlton, a Florida Supreme Court justice in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“I see a governor who wants to get things done. And we want to help him do it,” Crisafulli said.
Along with touting their own priorities, Crisafulli and Gardiner have borrowed a page from the playbook of their immediate predecessors, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel — now out of office — and ex-Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, who still serves in that chamber.
Like Weatherford and Gaetz, who took office following an especially combative time between the House and Senate, Crisafulli and Gardiner have crafted a handful of joint priorities for the spring session.
The broad policy areas cover tax cuts, advancing adoptions and boosting state spending for both K-12 and higher education.
Both men are in positions to get it all done.
Following Republicans gaining six seats in the state House in last fall’s elections, Crisafulli now commands a GOP supermajority in his chamber.
Gardiner’s Republicans have close to that dominance, holding 26 of the seats in the 40-member Senate.
The Republican leaders promise that Democrats will still have a voice. But minority party leaders are realistic.
“Certainly, there is this honeymoon period,” said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach. “But we know things may be different with three weeks to go in session.”
Both Republican leaders share a deep-seated conservatism on taxes, government spending and social issues that place them solidly in Florida’s GOP mainstream.
As a lawmaker first elected in 2008, Crisafulli isn’t identified with any milestone legislation. Gardiner, however, drew attention for sponsoring legislation requiring ultrasounds for first-term abortions, a measure later vetoed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist.
Like Weatherford, Crisafulli said he has no interest in expanding Medicaid, a core component of the federal Affordable Care Act that many Republicans seem intent on unraveling.
Gardiner, however, disagrees.
A vice-president with Orlando Health, a sprawling Central Florida hospital that sees Medicaid expansion as a source of needed dollars, Gardiner said he wants the Senate to at least conduct a workshop on the idea in hopes of wooing the House.
“I don’t know if it’s in play,” Gardiner said. “But I think it deserves a look.”
Both men say their two-year terms as leaders allow little time for empire building. They also acknowledge feeling lucky, after rising to leadership over a course that was bumpy for both.
Crisafulli was a late selection as speaker. He got the job only after the lawmaker in line, Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, was upset in the 2012 elections.
Earlier that year, Gardiner also had to fight to hold onto his post of incoming president, after a handful of Republican senators made a move to unseat him.
But he said all is good now.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, whose district includes part of Palm Beach County, agreed. Negron played a role in the attempted coup. But he said the two men have patched things up.
“We’ve served in the Legislature together since 2000,” Negron said. “We share a love for Seinfeld references and plenty more. I think he wants to see all of us thrive this year.”
HOUSE SPEAKER STEVE CRISAFULLI
Home: Merritt Island
Occupation: Vice president in family’s real estate, construction and agriculture business
Family: Married. Wife, Kristen; two daughters: Carly, 14, and Kennedy, 11
Education: Bachelor’s degree, University of Central Florida
Net worth: $453,989
Political history: Elected to Florida House, 2008. Re-elected since.
SENATE PRESIDENT ANDY GARDINER
Occupation: Vice-president for external affairs/community relations at Orlando Health
Family: Married. Wife, Camille; three children: son, Andrew, 11; two daughters: Joanna, 7, and Kathryn, 4
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Stetson University
Net worth: $751,353
Political history: Florida House, 2000-08. Elected to Senate, 2008; re-elected since
150221-b Legislature to tackle water woes
Herald-Tribune - by Zac Anderson
February 21, 2015
The blows have come one after another: An iconic Florida fishery collapses, a once-vibrant coastal ecosystem suffocates under an algal super-bloom, and thick layers of muck blanket once clear springs.
Not only is the state’s environment suffering from water pollution and supply problems, but future economic growth could be threatened as communities fight to maintain their share of the precious resource.
Existing development already is pushing the state’s water resources to the brink, fueling worries about what will happen if Florida meets expectations and adds another 4 million people — roughly equal to the entire population of Oregon — over the next 15 years.
“There is no part of our state that is not in some form of conflict over water,” state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said during a recent speech.
Seizing on worries that have been building over the last few years, legislative leaders are touting plans for a “comprehensive” overhaul of Florida’s complex water policy this year.
But critics say the proposals fall far short of fixing the underlying problems and could, in some cases, even make them worse.
While lawmakers will likely allocate significant sums for environmental cleanup and water-supply projects in the state budget, the House and Senate bills released so far do little to address the root causes of pollution or move water users toward more sustainable consumption patterns.
Water is at the center of Florida’s lifestyle and economy. It fuels everything from tourism to agriculture, industry to new development — all competing for a limited resource.
Clean, abundant water is also critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems in a state famous for iconic watersheds such as the Everglades and Myakka River State Park.
Few issues are more important to Florida’s future. Here are five key aspects of the debate that will be discussed during the legislative session that begins March 3:
Conflicts over water supplies have raged across the state, even pitting Florida against neighboring Georgia.
Florida sued to protect an oyster industry that has been devastated in recent years, with some faulting Georgia’s diversion of freshwater coming into Appalachicola Bay.
Water wars flared in the Tampa Bay region for years, dying down only recently as new supplies have been developed. Concerns are rising about similar issues around Orlando.
One message was clear from business leaders during a recent legislative hearing on water policy: Florida’s economy depends on abundant water.
“The last thing that we want is a series of water wars over the next 20 years as this additional growth puts demand on our resources,” said David Childs, a lobbyist for developers and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
The Senate wants to create a “Water Resources Advisory Council” tasked with choosing the best projects to receive state funding. The House is talking about overhauling water supply permitting.
Environmental groups say the House bill gives too much priority to agriculture operations in securing water supplies, and they note that there are no strategies in either piece of legislation for conserving water and reducing consumption.
One of Florida’s most pressing environmental problems in recent years is the excess levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous being flushed into waterways in the form of fertilizer, human waste and animal waste.
A massive algae bloom — likely fed by fertilizer-rich water released from Lake Okeechobee — blanketed the Indian River Lagoon in 2011, killing 73 square miles of seagrass beds and coinciding with the death of more than 500 manatees, dolphins and pelicans. Many of the state’s freshwater springs also are choked with algae.
More than 1,900 segments of Florida waterways are on a list kept by the state Department of Environmental Protection that tracks excess levels of nutrients and other key pollutants, such as bacteria and mercury. That understates the problem because waterways are removed from the list once pollution limits are established, even though they are still considered “impaired.”
And 57 percent of Florida waterways have yet to even be tested to see if they should be on the “impaired” waters list.
State officials long delayed setting strict limits on nutrient pollution in water bodies. Environmentalists sued the federal government in 2008 to try and expedite the standards, saying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was failing to enforce federal law in Florida.
After years of legal wrangling, the state has stepped up efforts to adopt pollution limits on individual water bodies. But many waterways with verified pollution problems have yet to go through the process.
Statewide, pollution limits have been adopted for just 386 cases of documented “impairment” — out of more than 3,000 — with 27 completed last year. At that rate it could take many years for the state to finish the job.
Regardless, the House and Senate bills contain no mandate to speed up this process on a statewide level or adopt any new statewide pollution regulations.
“There’s nothing really new,” said Mark Pafford, the House Democratic leader, of the legislation moving through his chamber.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, the North Fort Myers Republican who is shepherding the legislation through the House, said it “builds on the existing foundation of science-based assessment” and that the idea was not to implement tough new restrictions on polluters, adding: “In my mind it’s not just about punishing folks.”
The most ambitious effort to control pollution is in the Senate legislation, which puts restrictions on activities near freshwater springs.
Florida is believed to have the largest concentration of springs in the world, with more than 900 across the state.
Many are popular attractions for swimmers, kayakers and tubers, who are drawn to the cool, clear water and natural surroundings.
“If we didn’t have the Everglades in Florida springs would be what we’re famous for,” Putnam said recently.
But the limestone “karst” geology that creates Florida’s springs also makes them especially vulnerable. Pollutants move quickly through the porous rock. Of the state’s 33 first magnitude springs, 26 have excessive levels of pollution.
The House and Senate bills mandate that all first-magnitude springs, and a select number of second-magnitude springs, have a cleanup plan by Dec. 1, 2018. The Senate bill goes further by establishing “spring protection and management zones” for priority springs.
Local governments would have to come up with a plan to deal with pollution from septic tanks in the spring protection zones. They also would have to adopt ordinances to restrict fertilizer application. And certain activities that cause pollution would be prohibited in the zones.
Such rules are controversial. Lawmakers stripped the language from the House bill after agriculture interests protested.
In explaining his reversal, Caldwell said of the protection zones that testimony indicated they would be redundant because the state is already creating cleanup plans for each spring.
The same argument is being been used to roll back environmental regulations in the Everglades.
More than 5,000 people attended a rally near Stuart two years ago to protest discharges of polluted water into the St. Lucie River, which flows into the Indian River Lagoon.
Yet the House bill would repeal a long-standing pollution control measure for the Everglades that environmentalists say serves as an important “backstop” in the event a new cleanup model doesn’t work. It also shift control of regulating pollution in the Everglades to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which some worry would take a softer approach to regulating farm runoff.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, has been talked about as a future candidate for state agriculture commissioner. Crisafulli runs his family agribusiness operation and is the past president of the Brevard County Farm Bureau.
“The bill is being championed by people who don’t like government regulation so, for the most part, this bill weakens the power of government,” said Audubon Florida President Eric Draper.
Supporters of the bill say it eliminates overlapping rules and emphasizes one set of statewide standards for protecting water quality.
“There’s a desire to focus on solutions and eliminating duplicative processes,” Caldwell said.
In the absence of new pollution controls, environmental advocates are hoping a substantial increase in funding for cleanup efforts could help some ecosystems recover.
One reason many lawmakers are reluctant to impose new regulations on water use and pollution is the cost.
The Florida Association of Counties notes in its 2015 legislative agenda that the price tag for cleaning up nutrient pollution in the state is estimated in various studies at $3.1 billion to $8.4 billion.
Developing new water supplies also is expensive.
The Peace River-Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority spent roughly $300 million on a recent expansion, with nearly half of the money coming from the state.
“It was a big chunk of money. Will they have that in the future?” asked Water Authority director Patrick Lehman.
A key question facing the Legislature this year is how to divvy up money from a voter-approved constitutional amendment that requires 33 percent of state real estate tax collections — roughly $757 million — to be spent on environmental initiatives.
House and Senate leaders have yet to release their budgets for environmental spending. Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal includes $200 million for land conservation, $150 million for Everglades cleanup and $50 million for springs protection.
Draper argues that voters mostly had land conservation in mind when they approved the amendment, but he acknowledges that certain infrastructure projects may be appropriate. Funding is likely to be approved for two reservoirs that will hold overflows from Lake Okeechobee during the rainy season.
But other infrastructure that traditionally has been the responsibility of local governments should not be funded with the conservation money, Draper said.
Lehman believes there should be a clear environmental benefit for projects that receive conservation amendment funding, but hopes lawmakers are flexible.
It’s hard to accomplish much without money.
“It’s the carrot that brings people together,” he said. Legislation at a glance
Florida lawmakers are talking about overhauling the state’s water policy during the upcoming legislative session. Both the House and Senate have released draft bills. Highlights include:
• Requires state officials to create a cleanup plan for priority springs by Dec. 1, 2018.
• Repeals a long-standing pollution control measure for the Everglades, instead emphasizing newer regulations while moving oversight to the Department of Agriculture.
• Requires greater coordination of water supply efforts in Central Florida.
• Creates protection zones around priority springs and prohibits certain activities in the zones.
• Establishes the “Florida Water Resources Advisory Council” to evaluate which water projects should get state funding.
• Emphasizes public access to state-owned lands.
• Requires water management districts to publish more information about how water projects benefit the environment.
150221-c Should the state buy the U.S. Sugar land for Everglades restoration ?
February 21, 2015
For all the South Florida residents who will benefit if the state buys sugar industry land south of Lake Okeechobee, frustrations mount.
That’s because this story is getting old — quickly.
The land would be used to store the lake’s excess water, clean it and send it south to the Everglades National Park. It’s the most important piece of the Everglades restoration puzzle. If Florida doesn’t use its option to buy the land now, it’s not likely to happen.
Residents tried to talk to the South Florida Water Management District Board last week. On Wednesday, they traveled to Tallahassee in busloads to rally on the steps of the state capitol and urge Gov. Rick Scott to “send the water south.” even a representative of Martin County’s “River Kidz,” a children’s group of river advocates, spoke to a Florida Senate committee with the same message.
Officials don’t want to hear it. Water district governing board members insulted dozens of residents from Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties who asked the board to put buying the land on its March meeting agenda.
Last week, Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli told Scripps/Tampa Tribune Capital Bureau reporters that he opposes the land buy, and that the state should concentrate on managing and preserving land it already owns rather than buying more.Treasure Coast legislators Sen. Joe Negron and Rep. Gayle Harrell, who once supported buying the sugar land, now say they want to wait for a University of Florida Water Institute study on routes for sending water south. Perhaps no area on the planet has been studied more.
Gov. Rick Scott, seen here at the Pine Jog Environmental Education Center after signing the Everglades restoration bill. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)
Scott, still the best hope for the land buy to happen in this legislative session, ignored it in his environmental budget plan. Environmental groups say the governor admits Florida needs land south of the lake to store water.
Meantime, residents living near the Caloosahatchee River on Florida’s west coast and the St. Lucie River on the east, already are in trouble. While the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday it will suspend flows to the St. Lucie for a week to assist with a study, discharges continue to the Caloosahatchee.
The rivers were just beginning to recover from a 2013 deluge, which made fish sick, caused toxic algae blooms, warned residents and fishermen away from the waters and sent tourists packing.Water district officials in the past have made the case for sending water south. Now Scott’s appointees on the governing board, some of whom know less about Everglades restoration than the residents they are trying to silence, refuse even to listen.
150221-d Stay the course on Everglades restoration projects
Palm BeachPost.com – Point of View by Rep. Katie Edwards, Plantation, FL (Distr. 98)
February 21, 2015
There has been a recent cry by advocacy groups that the only way to protect the coastal estuaries and the Everglades is for the state to exercise the option to buy 46,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land with about $500 million of taxpayer money.
Buying land only warehouse it is not a responsible use of taxpayer dollars or a responsible way to spend the majority of Amendment 1 (Land and Legacy Trust) funds. A better, more responsible approach is to stay the course of implementing sound projects that have been authorized and started, and that continue with the state’s investment to see the ecological benefits come to fruition.
Two years ago, the Florida Legislature authorized, and began funding for, an $880 million suite of projects that are designed to complete the water-quality component of Everglades restoration. With the current footprint — artificial marshes, coupled with on-farm “best management practices” — we have removed more than 90 percent of unwanted nutrients.
This final investment of $880 million is designed to meet the state’s ultimate goal: limiting the discharge of nutrients in the stormwater treatment areas (STAs) to a water-quality standard of 10 parts-per-billion.
To date, there are $5.7 billion of authorized and started state and federal projects, with $3 billion already invested and $2.7 billion remaining to be funded. This doesn’t include the critical projects authorized by Congress in the Water Resources Reform & Development Act of 2014.
The Legislature is likely to endorse Gov. Rick Scott’s commitment to completely fund the state’s share of the most critical features for the coastal estuaries: storage in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie basins. These projects will bring real relief to our economic and ecological resources that need it most.
Equally important is completing the Modified Water Deliveries Project in southern Miami-Dade County. Without the ability to move water south into Everglades National Park — and without flooding the agricultural lands in southern Miami-Dade County — we will never be able to put the pieces together to get the right water quality for the Everglades.
The federal government must be held accountable — and complete the work on the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee — to protect the lives and property of all those who depend on the lake.
The Modified Water Deliveries Project, authorized by Congress in 1989, was a pre-condition to many Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) components, and it must be completed by our federal partners so that the state can pro-actively protect our ecological and economic assets.
Now is the time to stay the course and to complete the projects on the books.
150220-a EPA approves Tribe’s Water Quality Standards program
ATLANTA – The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has been granted the authority by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to administer the Water Quality Standards program under the Clean Water Act (CWA). With this approval, the Tribe likewise is authorized to administer water quality certifications conducted under CWA Section 401. The Tribe is the third tribe in Region 4 and 49th in the nation to obtain authority to administer the Water Quality Standards program.
“EPA’s approval reflects the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ effort to build expertise and capacity to protect and restore water quality,” said EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney. “Going forward, the Tribe will be able to set rules to protect waters within their jurisdiction, which in turn will protect public health, aquatic life and wildlife on the Reservation.”
The Clean Water Act’s goals include restoring and protecting the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. Water quality standards established under the CWA set the Tribe’s expectations for Reservation water quality, serve as a foundation for pollution control efforts and are a fundamental component of watershed management. Specifically, these standards serve as water quality goals for individual surface waters, guide and inform monitoring and assessment activities, and provide a legal basis for permitting and regulatory pollution controls (e.g. discharge permits).
EPA’s approval of the Tribe’s Water Quality Standards program application is not an approval or disapproval of the Tribe’s standards. EPA review and approval or disapproval of Tribe’s water quality standards is a separate Agency action.
The Tribe is currently revising its tribal water quality standards to include designated uses, narrative and numeric criteria to protect those uses, and an anti-degradation policy—all consistent with EPA’s Water Quality Standards Regulation at 40 C.F.R. Part 131. It is anticipated that the Tribe will request EPA review of its water quality standards in the near future.
The Seminole Indian Tribe and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida are currently the only other tribes in the Southeast with standards in effect under the Clean Water Act.
150220-b Notes from India on the future of the Everglades
CounterPunch.org - by Alan Farago
February 20, 2015
Although I am at the end of my third visit to India, this is still a nation that feels more remote from my experiences than any other. In the far south, it took nine hours to drive the hill country from Tamil Nadu on the east coast of India to the edge of Kerala on the west. The roads winds through villages, tea and rubber plantations, groves of spices – pepper, cardamon, cinnamon and nutmeg – then worth their weight in gold in European capitals.
Today, India is a nation on the move. Despite the suffering of its poor, the dirt and pollution and plastic-strewn commons, the nation is rising, propelled by two cylinder engines, nuclear power plants, and the global economy.
Still, with so many unique languages and 29 strong and independent states ruled by their own congresses, to an outsider India can seem more a state of mind than a sovereign state. When President Obama on his visit to New Delhi stated that there is no fixing climate change without success in India, I wondered: “How? Who? Where?”
This morning, I woke at the edge of the largest wetlands system in Kerala, called Vembanadu. It is shallow, not quite as shallow as Inle Lake in Myanmar, and home to fishermen paddling dugouts and wading birds scouring lotus mats for food in the quiet dawn.
In winter, the temperature here is very similar to the Florida Keys, a place I’ve known intimately for more than forty years. The sounds and flocks of cormorants, herons and egrets reminded me of dawn on Florida Bay in the early 1970s when – miles from the nearest marina – you would wheel the skiff around a small island at daybreak and cut the engine just to feel the world come alive.
Lake Vembanadu is a completely managed water system: saline in the dry season and fresh water during the monsoon. In India, flooding is crucial for the cultivation of its primary food crop: rice. In South Florida, flooding is managed primarily for one industrial crop: sugar. After many decades of mismanagement by government agencies, Florida Bay and the greater Everglades ecosystem has been so thoroughly degraded that its assets now can only be found in hidden corners, unaffected by pollution or water management extremes. Unless one experienced the place then, the value of what has been lost is for the imagination: sapphires and rubies and emeralds we let slip through our hands.
Unlike India, the “who, what, how” of Everglades restoration is clear. The government agencies and farmers and land speculators and conservationists are identifiable. It’s an important reason I am so adamant about seeing the Everglades in Florida returned to life so other generations can witness the ephemeral beauty of the world.
Our heritage wilderness is the rootstock of civilization because the values of conservation — at least, in principle — are based on a moral order. Accordingly, in the United States and in Everglades National Park, we decided to value wilderness for itself — not for profit motives — , and for that reason alone, it is more valuable than any treasure scoured from the earth. What we gain from nature is proof that life regenerates. Proof that hope springs eternal. It is a promise only humans can break. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” If we, in the United States, won’t clarify this point, who will?
The dawn haze on Lake Vembanadu and the morning mist over sawgrass prairies in Florida are separated by ten thousand miles and billions of beating hearts and sleeping souls, each filled with anticipation of the day ahead. For hundreds of thousands of years, the growth of the human tree has been defined by another promise: that one generation might follow another within the small space and time of a human life, if only we are industrious, wealthy and fortunate enough.
To those who say what happens to the environment is God’s will and besides, nature will adapt without any help from us, I have a simple response: that hubris breaks any connection to moral or spiritual value, turning us into a scavenger species.
At the end of the day, when the diversity of species is crushed, what survives are species and organisms that thrive on waste caused by decay. You can find that condition in Florida Bay now, where catfish dominate in places biodiversity flourished only a few decades ago. What is on the climate change horizon is not a world you or I would want to live in – a desecration of creation or a fulfillment of destruction theology. So why aren’t we changing our behaviors and beliefs to avoid that outcome?
I may have a better chance understanding India than the answer to that question. Alan Farago writes the daily blog, Eye On Miami, under the pen name, Gimleteye. He is president of Friends of the Everglades, a grass roots conservation organization based in Miami, FL. A long-time writer and advocate for Florida’s environment, his work is archived at alanfarago.wordpress.com
150220-c Overhaul of water policy on fast track in Florida House
Herald/Times - by Michael Van Sickler, Tallahassee Bureau
February 20, 2015
TALLAHASSEE -- A bill pushed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam to overhaul the state’s water management system won bipartisan approval Thursday from the House Appropriations committee.
At nearly 100 pages, HB 7003 outlines numerous revisions to the state’s management of water quality and quantity that supporters, including House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, say modernizes Florida’s water policy to accommodate future growth.
Next stop is the floor of the Florida House.
“I thank [House leaders] for supporting a water bill policy that will secure the supply and quality of Florida’s water for generations to come,” Putnam said in a statement. “Florida’s water is one of our most precious resources, and the management of water quality and conservation has been and always will be a partnership.”
The bill requires that the state develop action plans for springs that are deemed impaired. It expands a plan to assist landowners to implement best management practices that, if done properly, could reduce agricultural runoff polluting Lake Okeechobee.
It won support from some Democrats, who said the bill was a good effort to clean up the Everglades and natural springs.
“This is a step forward in the right direction,” said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. “It isn’t everything it ought to be, but what legislation the first time it’s filed is perfect? It’s perfected through the process and that process is obviously working.”
But the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, has drawn sharp criticism for not going far enough. Coming just months after voters overwhelming passed Amendment 1, which sets aside millions for projects intended to preserve environmentally-sensitive land, the bill makes no mention of costs.
For instance, a measure that would have the state pay half the costs for landowners to implement best management practices provides no cost estimate.
In addition, environmental groups are unhappy that the purchase of thousands of acres from U.S. Sugar south of Lake Okeechobee isn’t included. They want the land to be used as a reservoir to store water that, in turn, would siphon away pollutants.
“The big problem is that the land south of Lake Okeechobee isn’t in there,” said Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida. “If they’re serious about dealing with the Lake Okeechobee problem, buying that lake is low hanging fruit.”
But Crisafulli, who has strong ties to U.S. Sugar lobbyists, opposes the purchase. He instead supports an approach that’s mirrored in Caldwell’s bill that targets reducing pollution in the watershed north of Lake Okeechobee.
Currently, landowners in this area are required to follow permits issued to them by the South Florida Water Management District that limits the amount of phosphorous they can discharge. Under the bill, those limits would be replaced by a general target that all landowners must follow. Without individual limits, enforcement will be more complicated.
Landowners would be asked to implement land techniques recommended by Putnam’s Department of Agriculture that would reduce pollution, such as planting vegetation that would prevent nutrients from seeping into Lake Okeechobee.
But the Department of Agriculture has only eight staffers who monitor the 3.5 million acres north of Lake Okeechobee that would be subject to the new rules.
“With an area that big, how do we know the farmers are successfully implementing the best management practices?” said Douglas MacLaughlin, a former attorney with the South Florida Water Management District. “That’s a huge job. I don’t think there’s anyone who knows how they’re being implemented.”
150221-d Subs, drones part of South Florida flood-control plans
Sun Sentinel – Andy Reid
February 20, 2015
aws emerge through murky waters, clamping down on an underwater photographer sent into a South Florida canal's unseen dangers.
Yet the alligator bite doesn't affect this remote controlled, mini submarine, deployed by the South Florida Water Management District. It just keeps filming during the 2008 inspection of a water-pumping station west of Wellington.
The mini sub takes some of the danger out of caring for a vast system of canals, pumps and culverts relied on to protect South Florida from flooding. Now, the recent experience of using mini subs to help with underwater maintenance inspections has water management district officials exploring automated ways to monitor South Florida's flood-control system from the sky.
Scientists at the University of Florida use drones to help identify and count wildlife in Lake Okeechobee and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The South Florida Water Management District is relying more on drones like this one and mini-subs to do work in the Everglades.
Scientists at the University of Florida use drones to help identify and count wildlife in Lake Okeechobee and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The South Florida Water Management District is relying more on drones like this one and mini-subs to do work in the Everglades.
They propose using a fleet of drones for tasks such as looking for levee damage to counting wading bird nests in the Everglades.
Subs in the water and drones in the sky could lessen human risks — as well as personnel costs — as the water management district turns to technology to trim growing expenses for infrastructure maintenance and environmental restoration.
"That's what the future looks like," said LeRoy Rodgers, district biologist. "The question is, how long it is going to be until we are there?"
Using more technological tools are among the ways that the South Florida Water Management District proposes to tackle more of its flood-control, water supply and Everglades restoration duties in a far-flung region stretching from Orlando to Key West.
The district's responsibilities include care and maintenance of 2,000 miles of canals and levees, 71 water pumping stations and ownership of more than 1 million acres of South Florida land.
The district now spends about $50 million a year retrofitting South Florida's 60-year-old flood-control system, which could cost as much as $6 billion to replace. Add to that the upcoming maintenance expenses of new reservoirs and more pumps and water pollution treatment areas planned for Everglades restoration, and the costs keep growing.
"We need to be as efficient as we can," said Jeff Kivett, district director of operations, engineering and construction. He expects subs and drones to help with that efficiency.
The water management district already has three helicopters, one equipped with floats for water landings, which carry scientists, engineers and other key personnel to the tops of levees and other ares of the Everglades.
But adding a fleet of remote-controlled drones, which often look like gliders or tiny, multiblade helicopters, could potentially cover more ground while providing photos and video feeds that lessen the need to put people at risk on manned flights.
District officials envision deploying drones in the wake of storms to document damage to levees and to send back live images of canal blockages that pose flooding risks.
Instead of flying biologists out to the Everglades to try to count wading bird nests from the sky, hovering drones could feed hundreds of images into computers that boost the accuracy of the count.
Drones could even scoop up Everglades water samples and deliver them for testing back in a lab, instead of requiring a scientist to make the flight. They could also help identify invasive plants that threaten to squeeze out native habitat in the Everglades.
"We can take pictures. We can take them back to the office. We can investigate," Kivett said. "We think there's a huge future for this."
Scientists from the University of Florida have already teamed with the Army Corps of Engineers to use remote-controlled aircraft equipped with cameras and special software to gather images helping in the rehab of Lake Okeechobee's troubled dike and other South Florida levees.
UF's unmanned aircraft have used the same approach to document wildlife in the lake and northern reaches of the Everglades. The recorded images are linked to GPS coordinates. The technology can even give scientists the capability to zoom in and count the number of eggs in a bird's nest.
"You can develop these full mosaics of areas," said Matthew Burgess, a wildlife ecologist who heads the University of Florida's Unmanned Aerial Systems program. "There are so many productive uses."
Burgess and the university are now working with the water management district on ways to use unmanned flights to help with inspections of more South Florida levees and other potential uses.
Federal limitations remain a hurdle. The Federal Aviation Administration still must sign off on most research flights by drones, which can limit where and how often drones can fly, Burgess said.
New FAA drone regulations have been proposed, but still must be approved by Congress. Safety concerns about drones sharing the skies with manned aircraft as well as privacy issues from camera-wielding drones remain potential obstacles to loosening regulations.
While the push for using drones continues, the district continues to rely on the mini subs for work underwater.
The district has a fleet of four remote-controlled submersibles, with the newest ones costing about $45,000 each.
The subs can carry out routine checks for cracks in underwater cement, malfunctioning flood gates and damage deep within culverts that otherwise would require sending in one of the district's 10 divers.
Every time a diver goes in the water, the district hires a $300 per day alligator trapper to clear the area and stand guard in case an alligator has to be removed. The district makes about 100 dives per year.
The subs can sometimes provide an alternative to putting someone in the water for maintenance checks. They can also offer an additional safeguard for divers by going in first to look for threats lurking in the water.
"There's usually zero visibility. [Divers] are doing a lot of it by feel," said Karen Estock, district director of field operations and land management. "We can put [subs] 20, 30 feet up inside a culvert. It definitely puts our guys less at risk." Related: Sugar industry accused of dodging Everglades clean-up cost requirement Sun Sentinel
150219-a Crisafulli's water bill passes Appropriations, next stop: Floor vote
Miami Herald (Blog)
February 18, 2015
It’s a complicated bill that House Speaker Steve Crisafulli says will modernize Florida’s water policy.
So far, at least, the nearly 100-page HB 7003 is finding little opposition in the House, easily passing the Appropriations Committee on Thursday with bipartisan support.
“I don’t see this as a perfect bill,” said Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa. “I don’t think we go far enough to deal with the complexities of Lake Okeechobee. But my concerns with the septic systems are being addressed, so because of that, I will vote the bill up and hope that it gets better as we go along.”
Even though session hasn’t started, there’s not much more to go. Next stop is the floor of the Florida House. That makes the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres and is one of Crisafulli’s top priorities, to be a leading candidate for first bill passed by the House when legislative session begins March 3.
Still, there’s quite a bit of difference between the House bill and the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness.
“My hope is that we will work well with our Senate colleagues, collaboratively, and develop a good comprehensive policy,” Caldwell said after Thursday’s meeting. Related: Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam’s statement on the passage of House Bill 7003 by the House Appropriations Committee
February 19, 2015
From the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam released the following statement in response to the House Appropriation Committee’s passage of House Bill 7003.
“I thank Chairman Corcoran, Rep. Caldwell and the House Appropriations Committee for supporting a water policy bill that will secure the supply and quality of Florida’s water for generations to come. Florida’s water is one of our most precious resources, and the management and oversight of water quality and conservation has been and always will be a partnership.
“I’m grateful to Senate President Gardiner and House of Representatives Speaker Crisafulli for making water policy a top priority this legislative session.”
150219-b Everglades deregulation vs Everglades restoration
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
February 19, 2015
Under the banner of state water policy, some of Florida’s political leaders are trying to further dilute whatever diluted environmental regulations remain in Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
The topic is legislation whose provisions include making environmental regulation voluntary in the Lake Okeechobee basin at the headwaters of the Everglades.
As many of you know, the Everglades has suffered from water pollution from federally subsidized sugar plantations and other agricultural operations as well as urban runoff from advancing development for decades.
The article frames the issue as a dispute over which state agency, Adam Putnam’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Rick Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection, will be in charge of making sure the pollution is reduced.
The bill, a draft of which I saw a couple of weeks ago, relies heavily on something called “best management practices,” which is the environmental regulatory equivalent of plea bargaining.
It’s whatever the regulated industries will agree to say they’ll do instead of taking you to court to challenge the regulations. Whether they do any of it is anyone’s guess because there’s no teeth in the deal.
Some people might add that at this point in Florida political history, whether DACS or DEP is in charge of regulating Everglades pollution is academic, since both agencies are subject to political pressure to pull back if they offend the wrong person by actually requiring t hem to do something they don’t want to do.
This is a debate that has been going on as long as I can remember. For Putnam or anyone else to call this a “bold” initiative, implying that it’s something new, is misleading. It is just repackaging the same old arguments.
150219-c Florida Power & Light spars with national park over water needs for nuclear plant
MiamiHerald - by Jenny Staletovich
February 19, 2015
To keep its nuclear power plant at Turkey Point cool, Florida Power & Light wants to make a temporary fix orchestrated over the hot summer into a more permanent solution.
But the request — to pump up to 100 million gallons of freshwater daily into plant cooling canals from a nearby drainage canal over the next 20 years — would rob Biscayne Bay of freshwater needed to revive ailing coral reefs and seagrass meadows and undo millions of dollars spent in Everglades restoration, federal officials said at a South Florida Water Management District meeting Wednesday.
The latest complaints come amid growing controversy over how the aging canals are managed. Earlier this month, Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami asked the state Department of Environmental Regulation, which regulates power plants, to hold hearings on a new state management plan that they say does nothing to fix ongoing water problems.
“This is a stopgap measure to try to supplement a problem that is much bigger,” said Biscayne National Park Superintendent Brian Carlstrom, who called the cooling canals “a nice way to say an industrial wastewater facility adjacent to a national park.”
Diverting water for the utility is also “incongruous” and “not in the public’s interest,” said U.S. Department of Interior restoration policy analyst Joan Lawrence.
But FPL officials say they are simply following orders in the new management plan and chose to keep using the drainage canal because summer efforts were so successful.
“We understand that others, including the park service and other environmental groups, would like to see all the water … go to Biscayne Bay. However, that’s not the current status of the law,” said Steve Scroggs, FPL senior director.
Problems in the canals surfaced over the summer when water temperatures reached 102 degrees, prompting the utility to make an emergency request to up operating temperatures from 100 to 104 degrees. A vexing algae bloom also worsened, trapping even more heat.
FPL, which had already started pumping up to 14 million gallons of water from the Floridan aquifer daily to reduce salinity in the hot canals, tried to cool them by powering down the nuclear units to 75 percent operating capacity, according to water management district records. But temperatures remained high.
So in August, the utility made an emergency request to draw water from the L-31E, part of a canal system that provides the largest supply of freshwater to Biscayne Bay.
The water management district signed off on the request, but only until October and only if there was surplus water. Under Everglades restoration work, water managers must reserve a certain amount of water in the canals during the dry season to keep the bay quenched over the winter months.
In January, faced with the new state management plan signed two days before Christmas, FPL applied for a 20-year permit.
Of all the options considered, Scroggs said pumping water from the L-31E fixed the cooling canals “in the most rapid manner possible.” He also said 20 years was an option provided by the permit, not because FPL intended to use water for two decades. FPL models show the canals could be freshened in just two to three years, he said.
Concern over damaging Biscayne Bay has dogged Turkey Point since the 1970s when the United States government sued to keep the utility from dumping billions of gallons of hot water into the bay. The cooling canals were supposed to solve the problem by circulating plant water through a 168-mile long radiator-like loop. But over the years an underground saltwater plume spreading beneath the saltier, heavier canal water moved inland, threatening drinking wells.
Critics also say the canals started getting hotter and saltier after a 2013 expansion that increased plant production by 15 percent.
“FPL was never required to [expand] and never required to increase the heat load,” said South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard. “They did so to increase profit.”
But Scroggs said by shutting down an older oil and natural gas-fired unit at the plant, FPL in fact reduced the heat. He said he expects the district to reduce the duration of the permit, which Sharon Trost, the district’s division director for regulation, also suggested at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Duration and volume are always negotiable components in any application,” she said. “We don’t just willy-nilly sign off on permits.”
February 20, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott discussed his plans for Everglades restoration at a stop in Fort Myers on Wednesday.
When asked for his take on whether or not Florida should pick up land in Hendry County for Everglades restoration, Scott said the state should focus on finishing current Everglades projects.
“I want to finish C-43 and C-44 treatment areas. I want to continue funding the Kissimmee River project and then we’ve got to look for more storage area,” Scott said. “When we finish 43 and 44 that’s about 100 billion gallons of water storage, but that’s not going to be enough. So, we need to continue to work with our water management districts to look for more land. But right now, let’s finish these projects.”
The land in question would move water south from Lake Okeechobee. Environmentalists say a reservoir could be built on the land to store water.
The South Florida Water Management District has an option to buy the land. That option expires in October.
Scott also said he wants some of the money from Amendment One to become a dedicated funding source for Everglades restoration. He said that would come out to about $5 billion over the next 20 years.
150219-e Nobody wants dirty water, says House Speaker in response to Amendment 1 rally
SaintPetersBlog.com - by Bruce Ritchie
February 19, 2015
As hundreds of environmentalists gathered for a rally outside of the Capitol on Wednesday, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli fired back that nobody “wants us to have dirty water.”
About 400 people attended the rally for clean water and Amendment 1, the water and land conservation funding initiative approved by 75 percent of voters in November. They called for the state to take action on to protect waterways.
“You would be foolish to sit here and believe anybody wants us to have dirty water,” Crisafulli, R-Rockledge, told FloridaPolitics.com. “Obviously there are folks out there who think that’s the intention. They are sadly mistaken.”
A House water bill, HB 7003, goes before the House Appropriations Committee on its final committee stop. Some environmentalists favor a Senate water bill that they say doesn’t relax pollution regulation around Lake Okeechobee.
During the rally with representatives of more than 20 groups on Wednesday at the historic Capitol, speakers talked about the need to ban hydraulic fracturing to produce oil and gas and the need for protecting for protecting springs, beaches and wildlife under Amendment 1.
Most speakers did not mention specific laws or regulations. But a few in the audience held signs with slogans such as “Conservation Land, not Trust Fund” and “Use Amendment 1 as 75 percent of Voters Intended.
Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, told the rally that voters directed legislators through Amendment 1 to protect water resources and that “land acquisition absolutely has to be a part of that strategy.”
“I really appreciate the signs that say you are watching,” he said. “It really does make a difference.
Last week, Crisafulli told the Scripps/Tampa Tribune Capital Bureau reporters that he was against buying land from sugar farmers that would allow water from Lake Okeechobee to flow south into the Everglades, saying he’s a “proponent of agriculture.”
“I don’t think the state needs to own more land,” he said.
But on Wednesday, Crisafulli told Floridapolitics.com he wasn’t completely ruling out additional land purchases, such as wildlife corridors to connect conservation lands. But he thinks the state should first take care of the land it owns already.
“Certainly I understand there is need to connect corridors and do different things if we’re storing water or whatever it might be,” he said. “But even then I’m a proponent of leasing land or doing something from a standpoint of easements or that sort of thing versus owning more land.”
In recent interviews, Crisafulli has said that modernizing water policy will be a top issue in the upcoming legislative session starting March 3.
“My view is that first of all we do have to modernize it,” he said Wednesday. “Secondly, we don’t have a crisis. We need to avert a crisis and make sure we’re doing what we can from a policy and budget perspective to make sure we take care of a situation before it occurs.”
Adam PUTNAM Florida Agriculture
150219-f Putnam looks to shift oversight of state water to his department — away from Scott
Herald/Times - by Michael Van Sickler, Tallahassee Bureau
February 19, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — In another sign of frayed relations between the state's top Republican leaders, a tug-of-war is unfolding between Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam over arguably the state's most valuable commodity: water.
Putnam is lobbying for a bill that would overhaul the state's water management, loosening rules on pollution in the northern part of Lake Okeechobee.
The bill under consideration Thursday in the House Appropriations Committee would take enforcement powers away from what Scott controls: the state's Department of Environmental Protection and water management districts. Putnam's Department of Agriculture would fill the void, overseeing a far-less regulated 2-million-acre area north of Lake Okeechobee.
"We're all in this together," Putnam said in a statement on the proposed changes that his office released last month. "Our core values and our identity as a state is attached to water. We have an opportunity to think big and act boldly, and I'm excited about the opportunity."
Under House Bill 7003, which is sponsored by state Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, the permitting process used by the South Florida Water Management District to limit discharge into northern Lake Okeechobee, would be eliminated. It would be replaced by an industry standard of "best management practices," which refers to land use techniques designed to limit stormwater runoff.
Crop lands carry more phosphorous waste that leads to algae blooms, giving Lake Okeechobee its pea-soup color that can choke off marine life during periods of heavy rainfall. Under the proposed system, land owners are presumed to be in compliance with pollution limits as long as they employ the recommended land management techniques, such as planting vegetation between the crops and waterways to trap more of the waste.
But Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida, said using best management practices isn't as effective as permits, which regulate contamination limits for companies.
If permit limits aren't followed, the water management district can impose fines or revoke a permit. There's no comparable way to enforce conditions with best management practices.
"It's a weaker system," Draper said. "The water management district can now limit pollution. It wouldn't be allowed to with this bill."
The change could spark higher costs for taxpayers later, when millions in state and federal money is spent on cleanup projects downstream in the Everglades.
From a political perspective, it signifies a power grab in state water policy, said state Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.
"This bill diminishes the role of DEP," said Pafford, the House minority leader. "We're increasing the ability of the Department of Agriculture to have a say, but it's not set up to have that oversight. That's a big shift."
So far, Scott's office has lodged no public objections to ceding power to the Department of Agriculture.
It marks Putnam's latest challenge of Scott's authority. After Scott forced Gerald Bailey to resign from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Putnam was the first Cabinet member to question the move in mid January and later in the month leveled the harshest criticism.
"We were misled as to the timing and the process of how that would be handled," Putnam said. His fellow Cabinet members, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, also cited problems with how the Bailey situation was handled.
In the water issue, Putnam has found an ally in Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, who like Putnam works in his family's agribusiness. He's widely viewed as a likely candidate for commissioner of agriculture. Crisafulli calls the bill, which he says "modernizes" Florida's water policy to better support a broad array of interests, a top priority this session.
"This gives us a foundation to build on in the future," Crisafulli said earlier this month. The bill, which is expected to pass the House in the first week of the session that starts March 3, should be quite different from the Senate, Crisafulli said.
"Where we match up has yet to be determined over the next couple of months," he said. "But the goal is to find common ground."
A deal that would have provided better protection for the state's natural springs, a top Senate priority, died last year. This year, state Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, is sponsoring a similar bill in Senate Bill 918 that doesn't have any of the language in the House bill on Lake Okeechobee regulations. Dean said he's pleased with his proposal and hopes the House will compromise more than it did last year.
"We had the strongest bill to support the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee in the last two years than I've ever been involved in," Dean said. "We're not going to back up very far from where we are today. We brought a lot of that back online and we feel we're doing the right thing." Related: Putnam vies for more control of state waterways Tampabay.com (blog)
150219-g Rubio to fly over site where Lake Okeechobee discharges into St. Lucie River
TCPalm.com – by Isadora Rangel
Feb 19, 2015
Sen. Marco Rubio will take a helicopter tour Friday of the Indian River Lagoon and projects intended to restore it.
The Republican has been working on a bill that would transfer authority over discharges from the Army Corps of Engineers to the state. The helicopter tour will provide an aerial view of restoration projects under construction, such as the C-44 Canal reservoir in Martin County. He also will see water treatment areas that show the flow of water from the Kissimmee River Basin through the Everglades, his office announced in a news release.
What Rubio likely won’t see: lake discharges pouring into the St. Lucie River. Two hours after Rubio announced plans to fly over the lagoon discharges, the Army Corps of Engineers emailed a news release saying it will halt lake releases for a week beginning Friday.
After the tour, Rubio has scheduled a news conference in West Palm Beach.
He visited the St. Lucie River last year, when he received a bottle of dirty river water and vowed to work on the discharges bill. His office released a report last month that highlights several issues that could arise if the state assumes oversight of discharges, including whether it would be liable if the lake dike breaches.
Rubio is mulling over a presidential candidacy but hasn’t announced his plans yet. Several candidates have emerged as potential candidates for his Senate seat, including U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who represents most of the Treasure Coast.
Rubio to hold media availability after aerial tour of Northern Everglades
February 19, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Tomorrow, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) will hold a media availability in West Palm Beach, Florida following a helicopter tour over the northern Everglades to view projects currently under construction by both the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The tour will also provide an overview of water treatment areas that show the flow of water from the Kissimmee River Basin through the Everglades, as well as an aerial view of the eastern Lake Okeechobee discharges.
Rubio will be accompanied on the tour by Blake Guillory, Executive Director of SFWMD, and Tom Teets, SFWMD Everglades Policy Director.
The following event is open to the press:
Friday, February 20, 2015; 1:00pm ET
Rubio Holds Media Availability After Aerial Tour Of Northern Everglades
Signature Flight Support (PBI)
1500 Perimeter Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33406
NOTE: Media will be directed upon arrival.
150219-h Water released from Lake Okeechobee to estuaries this week
SWflorida.blogspot.com – by Don Browne
February 19, 2015
LABELLE, FL. -- To help protect South Florida’s estuaries, the South Florida Water Management District has begun boosting and also starting up pumping operations at several Glades and Lee county water storage sites in response to an increase in water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
With Lake Okeechobee’s level at 14.78 feet NGVD today — almost a foot higher than this time last year — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been increasing releases from the lake to both estuaries.
This week, SFWMD engineers activated all three pumps at the District’s Caloosahatchee Water Quality Treatment and Testing Project site in Glades (property formerly owned by BOMA Corp.), strategically located in the Caloosahatchee watershed. The site has approximately 1,500 acre-feet, or about 489 million gallons, of water storage capacity, with pumps pulling water directly from the Caloosahatchee River before it reaches the estuary.
While the site will one day become a nitrogen removal project to improve water quality, District engineers determined water could be stored there on an interim basis. The site was also used in 2014 for emergency storage.
Pumping into the Mirror Lakes property in Lehigh Acres began last week. The project was built to rehydrate Mirror Lakes Preserve with 1,000 acre-feet, or about 326 million gallons, of water storage. The project will also restore flow south of State Road 82 with 500 acre-feet, or about 163 million gallons, of water storage and move water to the Estero watershed with 2,000 acre-feet, or about 653 million gallons, of water storage.
The SFWMD helped fund Phase 1 of the effort, and engineers determined there is capacity now to pump water into the site. The District is working with its local partners in the project to begin pulling water onto the site from the surrounding watershed. This water would have otherwise flowed to the Caloosahatchee Estuary.
In January, the District began full-capacity pumping into the new Nicodemus Slough water storage area in Glades County. To send water onto the 16,000-acre project area, four pumps are each moving approximately 30,000 gallons of water per minute.
Through early February, about 6,700 acre-feet, or 2.2 billion gallons, of water has been pumped onto the site, which has a full pumping capacity of 120,000 gallons per minute.
150218-a Environmentalists rally for clean water in Florida
Famuan-Online - by JhaRonte James, Famuan Managing Editor
February 18, 2015
Florida environmentalists and legislators came from all over the state to support the Floridians For Clean Water & Amendment 1 Rally at the old Capitol building.
The clean water supporters came together to let state legislators know that the money for Amendment 1 should go solely toward the conservation and preservation of Florida water and wetlands.
The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, Amendment 1, was passed in Nov. 2014.
There were close to 400 people who attended the rally, including Chris Costello who is the coordinator of the Floridian Clean Water Declaration Campaign. Costello also serves as the Senior Regional Organizing Representative for the Sierra Club.
Costello stated, “Our job is to send a resounding message to all of the decision-makers whether they be the Governor the legislature or the high level water managers of the state. That Florida can’t live without clean we can’t prosper without clean water.
Costello went on to say that “they” should do whatever it takes to ensure water is protected in the state of Florida.
“They [legislature] need to do what they need to do to make sure that water is protected, that pollution is stopped at the source that pollution is regulated, and that the public lands that are necessary to clean and store clean water for Florida are preserved and protected. Through Amendment 1 funds or whatever funds. But if we don’t have clean water we don’t have anything in this state — we are lost,” Costello said.
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, who played a key role in getting the rally site, greeted the supporters with a call to action.
Vasilinda said, “Each Floridian has to take personal responsibility for their water usage, conservation, efficiency, and to move forward making sure we do other things to protect aquifers and springs in Florida.”
Rep. Vasilinda also made a resounding reference to fracking in Florida. The practice of fracking is a leading cause to ground water pollution in the state.
Estus Whitfield coordinator of the Florida Conservation Coalition shared his thoughts on the usage of the states wetlands and water.
“Long before statehood, Florida land and water was being exploited. Unrelentingly [Florida land and water] treated as a commodity, polluted, drained, bridged, abused in every kind of way. Only for the benefit of development,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield also gave a brief history on the state’s history in regards to environmental responsibility and integrity.
Whitfield stated, “the first state legislature declared the Everglades totally valueless, and petitioned congress to get an engineer to develop a reclamation plan.”
Whitfield said in 1972 Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, which is commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act. In that year Florida was best known for its growth management, water management, and environmental land acquisition program in the nation – “unqualified.”
During the programs success in the 80s and 90s, Florida’s population rate had grown more than ever. Whitfield said, “The year 1972 was the year of the environment.”
Whitfield said in 2011, 80 percent of the rivers and streams in Florida were “impaired [polluted].” 90 percent of the lakes, ponds and reservoirs were impaired. 97 percent of the bays and estuaries were impaired as well.
For more information visit http://wewantcleanwater.com Related: Conservationists Rally In Support Of Clean Water At The Capitol WFSU
150218-b Eric Draper: Lake Okeechobee to Everglades flowway 'Will never happen'
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
February 18, 2015
Sending water south from Lake Okeechobee to meander naturally through the Everglades -- the "flowway" endorsed by the Everglades Foundation as the only way -- "will never happen, it's pie in the sky," admitted one of Florida's leading voices on environmental policy.
But Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon, cautioned Sunshine State News Wednesday not to think that just because Plan 6 (the flowway) isn't where the Legislature should focus, doesn't mean Big Sugar should be allowed to escape its obligation to help solve water problems.
Participating with about 400 other Florida residents in a "clean water" rally at the base of the Old Capitol steps in Tallahassee, Draper said, "The sugar industry should see there's an additional need for land for reservoirs and they should agree to some of the land proposal," he said.
The land proposal comes from U.S. Sugar Corp. -- to buy a 46,800-acre parcel of its property. The Everglades Coalition, which includes more than 50 environmental groups and other advocacy organizations, claims buying that land is the only way to fix rainy-season problems created by water discharged from the lake.
According to U.S. Sugar's offer, state officials have until October to make the purchase; after October, the state would also have to buy another 106,200-acre parcel at top dollar.
In addition, there are three significant obstacles to lawmakers choosing that option before or after the October deadline:
The state already has a plan in place to fix and pay for Everglades restoration and save the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
Only 26,000 acres of the 46,800-acre U.S. Sugar parcel are south of the lake. The remaining acreage wouldn't help. And the deal doesn't come on an a la carte menu. The state can't buy just some property and leave the rest.
The per-acre price of U.S. Sugar property is significantly higher today than it was in 2010. Bang for the buck isn't there. Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs at U.S. Sugar, said Draper's statement is a first -- a public admission from a respected environmentalist who deals in realities that a flowway is a pipe dream.
"James Moran, one of the (South Florida) Water Management District's trustees explained it at the last meeting to a group of citizens who showed up demanding the flowway," she said.
Quoted in The Palm Beach Post, Moran said, "It's not as simple as buying the land and moving the water south. To come in here and lecture us -- just buy the land and move the water south -- if it was that simple, it would have been done already."
Sanchez said, "With only 26,000 acres south of the lake, that land isn't going to solve anything. A few days' worth of releases in 2013 would have gobbled that up. It's a drop in the bucket for what's needed. So, I'm saying, if it's not going to solve your problem, you're wasting your money."
She said Everglades restoration is working. The state already has 100,000 acres south of the lake -- a repurposed A-1 reservoir and an A-2 reservoir on the drawing board. And on top of that, it's all right next to established stormwater treatment areas.
"The way you fix the Everglades and the estuary problems is, fix the mess from Orlando south to the lake," said Sanchez. "That's the real source of the pollution going into the canals and into the rivers, and that's what the governor understands and what he's trying to do."
The U.S. Sugar Corp. land buy is looking more and more like a sinking option. The governor is unlikely to give it his blessing -- in 2010, while he was running for office, he signed a taxpayers-protest petition advocating against it. (See video reminder.) But the Water Management District trustees at the time bottomed out the district's bank account buying a small parcel anyway. They paid $197 million for 26,800 acres. Some of that land was never put to restoration use.
And House Speaker Steve Crisafullirevealed his feelings in an email to the Post Wednesday: “At this time, I do not support spending limited state resources to purchase more land south of the lake. My priority is to utilize and care for the land we own now.”
At the SFWMD trustees' Feb. 12 meeting, Jeff Kivett, chief engineer for the district, outlined other obstacles to moving water south, with or without the U.S. Sugar land:
Pumps, canals and other structures that water leaving the lake must pass through are not capable of moving large volumes of water from the lake to the Everglades.
The Endangered Species Act and other federal environmental regulations limit how much water can be moved south to protect migratory birds and prevent nests from being inundated.
Strict water regulation schedules set maximum limits on water depth in conservation areas.
The East Coast Protective Levee, which protects western neighborhoods in Palm Beach and Martin counties from flooding from the Everglades, could be compromised by higher water levels.
An agreement in a federal lawsuit prohibits the district from moving water with high levels of phosphorous south. Doing so would put the district in violation of the agreement.
150218-c Florida water quality debate reaches the Capitol
Fox4now - by Collin Mannon
February 18, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Groups from across Florida met in the Capitol on Wednesday demanding lawmakers fix water quality issues across the state.
Activists focused on amendment one which passed back in November. They're pressing for lawmakers to work harder at protecting conservation lands and restoring the everglades. More than a billion dollars have been allocated toward water related projects and there are several suggestions about how that money should be spent.
150218-d Why does Florida have so many climate change deniers ?
Republic.com - by Rebecca Leber
February 18, 2015
Florida is flooded with climate change deniers in its top political offices.
Governor Rick Scott has claimed he’s “not a scientist” when it comes to human responsbility for global warming. Former Governor Jeb Bush, a 2016 contender, is a self-described “skeptic.” Senator Marco Rubio, who may also run for president, said last year he disagrees that any actions we take "would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate.” A handful of House Republicans representing Florida deny climate science, too.
If Florida were a landlocked red state, its tendency to elect deniers might make political sense. But Florida has 1,200 miles of coastline vulnerable to rising seas and increasingly extreme storms. Its southern coast will eventually disappear, given projections of 10 feet of sea level rise within the next few centuries:
How's it possible that climate deniers have a stronghold in a swing state with well-protected Everglades and money-making beaches?
It has something to do with the Tea Party’s influence. Both Scott and Rubio rode the Tea Party wave to office in 2010. Billionaires Charles and David Koch have helped to fuel conservative activism in Florida, by spending millions over the years to establish elaborate political operations in the state. As a result, Florida has become something of a testing ground for anti-government campaigning from the Kochs’ primary group, Americans for Prosperity. A New York Times story last March noted that AFP used a special election for a House seat and “turned the Florida contest into its personal electoral laboratory to fine-tune get-out-the-vote tools and messaging for future elections as it pursues its overarching goal of convincing Americans that big government is bad government.” David Jolly, AFP’s candidate of choice, won that election. Like many of his colleagues, Jolly said he doesn’t think “the impact that humans have had on our climate is so dramatic” that it warrants government action.
The third, lesser-known Koch brother is hugely influential in Florida and national politics, too. William Koch, a Florida resident and owner of the coal company Oxbow Carbon, is often the state’s top individual donor.
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
Yale Project on Climate Change Communication
Conservative mobilization in the state helps propel deniers to top offices because the Tea Party is the least likely of any Republican group to accept climate change science. According to a survey from the Yale Project on Climate and Communication, more than half of Republican voters nationwide support federal regulation of carbon pollution. The 17 percent of Republican respondents who identified as Tea Partiers did not think climate change was happening and were the least likely to support government regulation.
Even if the rest of the electorate supports climate action, they don't always consider the immediate risks when they vote—making it harder for moderate candidates to topple science deniers. Rick Scott, after all, won his reelection against Democratic opposition. But voters there are beginning to see how even a minimal to moderate rise in sea level poses dangers to city aquifers and infrastructure. Flooding in its coastal cities is already a reality—by 2030, Miami will face eight times the number of floods at high tide.
150217-a Did Rick Scott and the Legislature 'neutralize' Florida environmentalists ?
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
February 16, 2015 10:00 AM
The one arm of party support Florida Democrats could always count on was the environmentalists. No other party faction has raised its voice louder against conservative leadership or carried as much weight against GOP policies as the state's conservation activists.
All of a sudden environmentalists have fallen silent. Listen closely: The political rhetoric is gone. Like a blown light bulb. We don't hear a peep.
If you looked in on Wednesday's House committee meeting on water resources, you witnessed something very rare: environmentalists on Prozac. Or a good imitation thereof. Let's just say these folks were greatly subdued. Officials from Audubon Florida, the Everglades Foundation, Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Florida, all of them ... they were there to give direction, yes, but either they made good-tempered, even jolly speeches about what amounted to a business-backed plan to address the state's water resources, or they were "waiving in favor."
This is fairly new in my experience. Only Audubon Executive Director Eric Draper spelled out some problems, but by his own admission, they were things that could be worked out.
The only protest Democratic lawmakers on the State Affairs Committee could muster was their vote. Even though there was no outrage or prepared remarks before the roll call beyond Rep. Mark Pafford's, all Dems but one -- Daytona Beach Rep. Dwayne Taylor -- voted against advancing the proposal (PCB SAC 15-01). It passed anyway, 12-5.
A day later we all got word that Pafford of West Palm Beach, leader of the 38-member Democratic Caucus, would give a press conference on water legislation. Here it comes, we thought, the Democrats are going to roast this new policy that would impose controversial "best management practices" on natural springs, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. But no. The press conference was a non-event. It was like a rained-out fireworks display -- full of fizzles and duds and fuses Pafford couldn't light to save his life. (See the transcript of his press conference in the attachment below.)
Could it be that Rick Scott and the Legislature stole the environmentalists' groove? I think so.
Now everybody -- not just the conservation crowd -- wants to fix Florida. Everybody wants clean water today and for the future. Everybody wants to protect our natural resources. And neither the environmentalists nor the Democrats know how to deal with life when the traditional opposition is on the same page as they are.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, lists first among his priorities "the environment, including the Indian River Lagoon." Senate President Andy Gardiner has identified implementing Amendment 1 -- the purchase and protection of conservation lands and natural resources -- as a primary session focus.
Meanwhile, House State Affairs Chairman Matt Caldwell, R-Fort Myers, said of a statewide water management plan, "My goal is to get the policy right. Once we get the policy right, then we're going to figure out how to pay for what we need to do."
Then there's Gov. Rick Scott. For his first two years in office he was a poster boy for environmental neglect. Now it's fairly obvious he sees solving Florida's water problems as a legacy issue. It has become personal to him. He's taken ownership of getting it done. Scott put $150 million in his next budget for Everglades restoration and habitat preservation.
In addition, he wants the Legislature to designate a quarter of Amendment 1 money -- expected to bring in $757 million the first year -- for restoration work only. If the Legislature goes along, Scott's impetus will be responsible for $5 billion for Everglades projects over the life of the 20-year amendment. And that could cover the entire cost of the work.
On Feb. 4, Scott even sent a letter to Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, urging Congress to reject cuts proposed by President Obama to budgets needed for the repair of the dike system around Lake Okeechobee and for Everglades restoration.
The bottom line is this: Environmentalists so used to disappointment, delays and lack of commitment from state and federal leaders, suddenly realize they might actually see a restored Everglades in their lifetime. I think maybe they're still in shock.
But consider the effect on the Democratic Party of Florida. I'm sensing party leaders feel abandoned at a time when they're trying to rebuild, when they need a fully engaged fighting force heading into a presidential election season.
All the money, all the opportunities at their doorstep. Florida environmentalists are getting their way at last and they know it. For now, anyway, it's taken a lot of fight out of them.
150217-b Nuisance flooding of coastal cities is a growing reality
Enviro-researchWeb.org – by Harvey Leifert
Feb 17, 2015
The combination of sea level rise and land subsidence has put many American communities at risk of increased nuisance flooding, according to William Sweet of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) speaking to press at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.
In the past, urban flooding was an occasional event, caused by major storms or hurricanes. Now, sunny-day flooding due to high tides is increasingly common, and it’s this phenomenon that is called nuisance flooding, he explained.
Sweet described the monitoring of floods through a proxy network of more than 200 tide gauges along America’s coasts, including the Great Lakes. “The infrastructure becomes vulnerable to coastal flooding somewhere between one and two feet [30 and 60 cm] above high tide, [the] average high tide today,” Sweet said, adding that Bob Dylan might now consider singing about “the tides, they are a-changin”.
Steady sea level rise has accelerated the impact of nuisance flooding along the East and Gulf coasts, according to a study by Sweet and co-author Joseph Park, which was published in Earth’s Future. West Coast sea level rise is not as steady, varying with the El Niño/La Niña phenomenon, but nuisance flooding is increasing there as well.
In Norfolk, Virginia, home of the largest US Navy base, nuisance flooding has risen from less than once per year in the 1950s to more than eight times a year at present. One place of worship in the city, according to the Washington Post, posts the daily tide chart on its Web page so, as the pastor puts it, “people know whether they can get to church”. Many other major US coastal cities are registering increases in nuisance flooding of 325 to 925 percent compared with 1960.
What does a nuisance flood look like? Sweet suggested several criteria: overtopping of a seawall, water in the streets, storm water removal systems overwhelmed by the volume of water, roads closed and warning signs, all of which may be more frequent than in the past in many cities.
Sweet speculated that communities would be moved to take action when such events occur 30 days per year or more, but when might that be? For Norfolk, which also experiences subsidence, projections place the 30-days per year mark between 2020 and 2040; by 2100, nuisance flooding could be a daily event. The experience of other coastal cities will vary but, according to NOAA, every one will reach the 30-day/year tipping point by 2050.
Jayantha Obeysekera of the South Florida Water Management District described his area as “ground zero for sea level rise impacts”. As the mean sea level increases, so does the extreme sea level, he noted, especially since the mean is expected to rise not in linear fashion but quadratically. Nuisance flooding of streets is already occurring annually in Miami Beach and elsewhere along the flat south Florida coast. It’s beginning to overwhelm the existing infrastructure for flood control and affect aquifers, Obeysekera said. His agency’s challenge is knowing what to design for today to have the level of protection needed for the next 30 to 40 years.
150217-c Tudor Jones on Jeb Bush and the Everglades
Bloomberg.com – by Amanda L. Gordon in Scene Last Night
February 17, 2015
(Bloomberg) -- Before rocker Steven Tyler came out in a wild print shirt crooning “Sweet Emotion,” hedge-fund manager and philanthropist Paul Tudor Jones, in a grey T-shirt and black jeans, tried to whip up some political fervor.
Invoking “we the people,” Jones asked everyone at the 10th annual benefit for the Everglades Foundation, including AMG’s Sean Healey, real-estate billionaire Jeff Greene and former Nabisco president F. Ross Johnson, to tell Florida’s governor and legislators to go through with
Paul Tudor Jones and wife Sonia at the
Everglades Foundation gala.
the purchase of 26,000 acres directly south of Lake Okeechobee.
The state has until October to acquire the land from U.S. Sugar Corp. According to the foundation, the transaction would allow water to flow south into purifying man-made wetlands, causing all sorts of good things to happen, instead of spilling over to the east and west, polluting other bodies of water and causing the algae blooms of the “lost summer” of 2013.
“If we miss this opportunity, we set back restoration 10 or 20 years,” Jones said in an interview during the Feb. 14 benefit at the Breakers in Palm Beach. Jones, founder of Tudor Investment Corp., has earned the right to sound alarmed: he’s worked on Everglades restoration for more than 20 years. He also sounded confident, as one would clad in the “rocker chic” dress code requested on the invitation, standing near his wife, Sonia, who wore an almost backless top and white jeans. Approving Voters
Other factors may warrant his optimism, too, such as having an idea where the money to buy the land will come from.
“Amendment 1 funds this,” Jones said, referring to a measure that received 75 percent of voters’ approval in Florida’s last election (an amendment to legalize marijuana failed to pass). Amendment 1 provides for 33 percent of the state’s real estate tax revenue to be spent on acquisition and conservation for 20 years, which is projected to be billions in the growing state. Jones called it a “mandate to buy land for the Everglades.”
Then there’s this year’s proposed budgets from President Barack Obama and Florida Governor Rick Scott, increasing funding for Everglades restoration projects.
To top it off, a former Florida governor is running for president.
“We love that,” Jones said. Jeb Bush “was a great champion of the Everglades, and I’m sure as president he’d be a spectacular champion of the Everglades.” Big Sugar Carl Hiaasen sounded more skeptical. Bush “does have some credentials,” having been “involved in the early stages of restoration; he certainly understood the economics way before a lot of other politicians,” said the Floridian-born columnist, novelist and Everglades advocate.
But Hiaasen warned that “Big Sugar” money may influence Florida politicians and derail the 26,000-acre purchase. Besides, he added, “Jeb’s going to have his hands full talking about education and immigration.”
Other guests mentioned those issues when they talked about Bush -- except for Gamco’s Mario Gabelli, who said, “Bush who? I’m going to wait nine more months,” and comedian Susie Essman, who said her vote will be with “the former senator of New York.”
Bush “has great policy on charter schools and immigration,” said Glenn Dubin, who co-founded Highbridge Capital Management. Peter Kiernan, a former Goldman Sachs partner, said Bush’s comments on job creation and improving education in Florida were “very compelling, at least they were to me as I was listening at a lunch in New York, in the freezing cold.” Water Supply
Mark J. Costa, chief executive of Eastman Chemical Co., said he likes Bush’s track record on education and the economy. “He has the most practical and realistic solutions to solving our problems,” Costa said. “That’s what we need right now -- not someone who will pull people apart and pander to extremes.” Eric Eikenberg, the CEO of the Everglades Foundation, said conservation is a “unifying issue.” Getting it done for the Everglades has meant “a commitment, where Washington and Tallahassee came together and said in a unified, bipartisan way, ‘we’re going to fix this,’” Eikenberg said. “It’s a perpetual investment.”
Eikenberg said the “rallying point” is the water supply. “We see it, whether it’s in California, or Brazil or here,” where the focus is providing clean water for 8 million south Floridians. “Water is a resource that cannot be neglected. Conservation is what are we doing to preserve it and protect it.”
The benefit, attended by 800 guests, brought in more than $2.5 million. Related: Hedgie Paul Tudor Jones Pushes For Wetlands Restoration FINalternatives
150216-a Local environmentalist groups join forces to protest mangrove cutting
February 16, 2015
MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Several environmental groups are joining forces once again in Manatee County to let people know about developer Pat Neal's plan to build a housing project along the Manatee County waterfront -- removing mangroves in the process.
The group of environmentalists held a protest rally Monday afternoon, outside of the Harbor Isle development by the Anna Maria Sound, as a demonstration of solidarity.
The loose coalition says they are fighting the Southwest Florida Water Management permit, which Neal Communities is seeking to dredge and fill on the last remaining saltwater wetlands overlooking Anna Maria Sound, to the north side of Manatee Avenue.
This is not the first time the group has held a protest. In January, they held a rally against the illegal mangrove cutting at Palma Sola Bay Club, and also spoke out against a development in Long Bar Pointe.
"If the developers had their way and every inch of shoreline was built, the ecosystem of the gulf would crash because so many species spend part of their lives in and among the mangrove roots taking shelter," says Andy Mele, of Suncoast Waterkeeper and a leader of the protest.
Organizers tell ABC 7, while they are not trying to influence the administrative hearing, which will take place Tuesday, they want to bring awareness to the issue.
150216-b Now is the time to push EPA for clean water protections
February 16, 2015
Polluters and their allies on Capitol Hill launched a new round of attacks against clean water. Their target? A rule proposed by EPA to restore Clean Water Act protections to thousands of streams and wetlands across the country — including those that feed into the Everglades and help provide drinking water for nearly 2 million Floridians.
The clean water rule has drawn considerable support from more than 800,000 Americans — from commissioners in Lauderhill and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea to more than 100 other elected officials, small business owners, farmers and environmental groups across the state. Yet a wide range of polluting industries — from oil and gas to corporate agribusiness has been lobbying furiously to derail it.
To protect our treasured Everglades from the latest dirty water attack, a growing number of senators who care about clean water are speaking up. We hope Sen. Bill Nelson and other leaders in the Florida delegation join in the defense of clean water while there is still time.
150216-c Silver Springs protection plan includes land swap
Gainesville.com - by Fred Hiers, Staff writer
February 16, 2015
OCALA - The St. Johns River Water Management District is forming a plan to protect Silver Springs' flow in case too much water is withdrawn.
The plan includes water conservation, projects and regulatory options. The goal: to ensure that minimum flows and levels are met for the popular 4.5-mile-long Silver River, which joins the Ocklawaha River.
Silver Springs once was the largest first-magnitude spring in Florida. Its flow has recently been surpassed by Rainbow Springs. During the past few decades, Silver Springs' flow has fallen by more than a third and polluting nitrate levels have risen significantly.
Central to the district's protection and recovery plan is a wetland recharge area that would increase spring flow as well as treat the water before it travels underground to the springs.
To that end, the district has agreed to pay $1 million and convey 625 acres of its Bear Track Bay land, east of State Road 315, in exchange for land that could be used for the needed Silver Springs recharge.
In return, the district will get 715.9 acres from what's known as Halfmile Creek, between State Road 326 and State Road 315, which is in the springs' recharge area; and 329.2 acres along the Ocklawaha River west of State Road 452 known as the Heather Island property.
The plan limits development of the Bear Track Bay land. The land swap and cash payment is with Wildwood-based Rainey Land Co. and Heather Island LLC.
“One of our core missions is to ensure sufficient water for users and the environment,” said Fred Roberts of Ocala, district governing board vice chairman, in a district news release. “This strategy is being drafted to address environmental concerns relating to the impacts of groundwater withdrawals on Silver Springs, while also ensuring that sufficient water is available for existing and new users.”
The water district obtained the 625-acre Bear Track Bay parcel in 2012 as part of the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) mitigation plan and in exchange for a section needed for the widening of State Road 40 and the expansion of the Ocklawaha River Bridge through the Ocala National Forest.
The Halfmile Creek land is just 1.2 miles from the main vent at Silver Springs and in the two-year capture zone of the springs, “which may be an ideal location for a recharge enhancement project to benefit Silver Springs,” according to water district records.
Also part of the proposed protection plan:
• Enhanced conservation by users in the Silver Springs area, including potential district financial help for new conservation programs.
• Using additional reclaimed water for irrigation in both Marion County and Ocala. This would also include district cost-sharing for new, related projects.
• Alternative water supplies for potable uses.
• Relocation of well fields and the conversion of some wells to withdraw from the lower Floridian Aquifer.
The next step is to complete a proposed draft version of the plan and set public meetings and arrange scientific peer review. Robert Knight, director of the nonprofit Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute in Gainesville and sometime critic of the water district, said the plan is not the wisest use of financial resources and does not sufficiently encourage conservation.
“I think it's a very expensive way to undo the damage of giving out too many consumptive-use permits,” he said.
The better plan would have been twofold, he said.
First, the district should pursue buying as much springs' recharge land as possible. Then the district should also force everyone using groundwater to pay for it.
Currently, agricultural businesses and water bottling plants are limited as to how much they can withdraw, but do not have to pay for the water they use.
Knight said that once those water users have to pay for water, they would think more carefully about how much they use.
Instead, the water district continues to focus on ways to keep handing out water-use permits rather than on real conservation.
“Everyone should pay,” Knight said. “That's true conservation.”
150216-d Springs protection funding at critical juncture
Tallahassee Democrat – by Jim Tatum and Merilee Malwitz-Jipson
February 16, 2015
Wow! We just got $757.7 million to spend next year. No, we didn’t win the lottery; this is the amount Amendment 1 will bring in just one year to help restore and preserve Florida’s environment. Many of those voting in the amendment would like to see about one third go to springs restoration and protection.
This yearly amount is less than the $300 million that the existing Florida Forever land acquisition program formerly counted on, before being decimated in 2009. It is safe to say that the voters who put Amendment 1 into the Constitution had not forgotten this, and wanted to restore this program.
Ever since the passage of Amendment 1, there have been increasing concerns about how the funds will be spent. Some groups want huge percentages spent on things not emphasized in the Land Acquisition Program, such as on septic tanks and water supply. Items such as these can be addressed locally and by funding sources such as the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.
Activity has already begun in Tallahassee, as Senator Charles Dean, Chair of our Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, has convened a public meeting and is calling for citizen input. As of this writing, he has received more than 4,000 responses.
Sen. Dean has proposed six new bills to effect the re-directing of funding for existing programs. This re-directing will eliminate their trust funds, but now the dollars from the amendment will be identifiable and will remain traceable. The current co-mingling of stamp tax funds, penalties, fines, fees and taxes makes it difficult if not impossible to determine exact amounts and exact sources
Seven now-existing trust funds will be terminated, although their programs will continue. If these trust funds are now already being generated by the documentary stamp tax, then concerns for revenue loss would be unfounded. If, on the other hand, a substantial amount of the current trust fund monies are from general revenues and sources other than the stamp tax, then the concerns are that new funds should not be a substitute for them, or the overall result would be a loss for these programs.
The Legislature should definitely not use Amenment 1 funds to replace any of what the state spends at this time on springs protection – that funding should continue, and any programs now funded from general revenue should not be transferred over to the documentary stamp tax sources. To do so would defeat the purpose of the amendment.
150216-e UF survey shows Floridians want to conserve water, but not if it costs too much
Univ. Florida News
February 16 2015
Floridians remain concerned about water and are willing to make changes to conserve it, at least until their efforts cramp their lifestyles, according to an annual University of Florida study on state residents’ attitudes about this precious resource.
For the second consecutive year, an annual online survey conducted by UF’s Center for Public Issues in Education shows that water ranks third on a list of 10 topics people consider important -- behind the economy and healthcare and ahead of public education and taxes. Eighty-three percent of 749 respondents indicated water is an important or extremely important issue.
Yet while three-quarters of them said they were likely to vote to support water conservation programs and nearly as many said they would support water restrictions issued by their local government, only 42 percent were willing to take action to conserve water if it meant their lawns would suffer.
”From our 900 miles of dazzling beaches to the crystal-clear cold waters of 700 named springs, water is all around us, and Floridians understand its importance,” said Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “But we must also help to educate them about protecting this natural resource.”
Survey data, collected in November, were weighted to balance geographic location, age, gender and race/ethnicity. Other key findings in the 34-page report, released today, include:
72 percent of respondents said they would be willing to have their water bill increase by 10 percent if it ensured a future water supply in Florida, but only 19 percent were willing to do so if it required a 50 percent increase in their water bill.
Only 15 percent owned rain barrels and fewer than one-quarter used recycled wastewater to irrigate their lawns.
85 percent said they were likely or very likely to pay attention to a news story about water, but only 52 percent said they had seen news coverage about water issues in Florida in the month preceding the survey.
The survey also revealed that respondents overall were unfamiliar with water policies. Only 30 percent considered themselves moderately or extremely familiar with both the Clean Water Act, a 1972 law that establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into U.S. waters, and the Everglades Restoration Act, a 2000 plan to capture fresh water and redirect it to the Everglades to help revive a dying ecosystem.
“I think this research can really help the public know more about water issues,” said Alexa Lamm, the UF assistant professor who led the survey. “It also lets IFAS faculty know the topics we can focus on if we want a more informed public.”
The survey is among several water-focused activities scheduled in February and March. UF’s Center for Public Issues in Education will host a webinar on landscape water use featuring Lamm and UF agricultural and biological engineering professor Michael Dukes at 2 p.m. Feb. 25. On March 19, Lamm and UF associate professor Kati Migliaccio will host a 2 p.m. webinar on public opinion of water and the implication for agriculture.
The water survey and a link to register for the webinars can be found at www.piecenter.com/water.
150215- How much water you use may surprise you
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
February 15, 2015
Do you know how much water you use?
I’m not talking about the amount on your monthly water bill.
I’m talking about how much water do you really use as a result of the products you eat, wear or use every day.
I didn’t either before reading a new book titled “Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products“ by Stephen Leahy (Firefly Books, Richmond Hill, Ontario, 127 pages, $19.95).
Water is essential to life.
If we didn’t consume enough water daily directly in liquid form or indirectly through the food we eat, we would eventually die.
Water is an obvious part of our daily lives in some familiar ways.
We also use water for familiar tasks such as washing dishes and clothes and flushing the toilet. Water is used on our behalf for electric power generation and food production.
But we use water in ways that are not quite as obvious.
It takes 15,850 gallons to produce the fuel to power the typical car we drive in its lifetime.
It takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans.
It takes 634 gallons to produce a cheeseburger.
It takes 366 gallons to produce a stick of butter.
It takes 240 gallons to produce a smartphone.
It takes 52 gallons to produce an egg.
It takes 37 gallons to produce a cup of coffee.
You get the idea.
These figures are based on the proportionate water consumption used to grow or process the materials that go into making these products.
The logical question to arise out of this discussion is what’s the best way to reduce one’s water footprint.
Quite a bit, Leahy writes.
There are obvious actions such as taking shorter showers, turning off faucets instead of letting water run and irrigating less.
But the list also includes purchasing second-hand clothing or wearing polyester clothing instead of cotton clothing, patronize businesses that promote water conservation, drive less, collect rooftop runoff in rain barrels and support increased use of reclaimed water.
Some of you may doing some of these things already.
The book is timely because water is a topic that is frequently discussed in Florida by elected officials and other government officials, environmentalists, business leaders and journalists.
Leahy, who is an international environmental journalist based in Canada, describes the water consumption issue in a term that relates other recent crises.
He describes it as a “water bubble,” which calls to mind the real estate bubble, the banking bubble and other phenomena where illusory prosperity preceded a collision with reality and the crash that followed.
He’s referring to the unsustainable use of water. That is, in some parts of the world, including parts of Florida, water has been withdrawn faster than rainfall can replenish the aquifer.
The results can include depleted river flow and lake levels, sinkholes and saltwater intrusion into aquifers.
Leahy doesn’t limit the discussion to water quantity issues in the United States.
The book also discusses international water issues such as the availability of clean drinking water in many parts of the world, the growing amount of the world’s population that will face water shortages and the role other environmental factors such as population growth, pollution and climate change play in these problems.
The book includes extensive references and an index, which makes it a useful reference tool and a gateway to learn more about this complex subject.
150214-a Are you confident the governor and lawmakers will do the right thing with the Amendment 1 money ?
February 14, 2015
For the last few weeks, Gov. Rick Scott has been playing a new role as a nature-lover. Meeting the press in the Everglades, with a caged Florida panther nearby, he announces a $5 billion Everglades restoration plan. At an Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, he touts a $1.6 billion plan to restore and protect Florida’s springs.
But what Scott carefully failed to clarify is how, exactly, he intends to pay for everything.
Turns out the governor, like dozens of lawmakers and lobbyists, hopes to hijack the estimated $757 million that will flow into state coffers this year from Amendment 1. And his “dedicated source of funding for the next 20 years?” Ditto.
Voters who overwhelmingly approved the water and land conservation amendment last November would cringe at some of the items Scott wants to charge to it.
Amendment 1 money comes from a third of documentary stamp fees on real estate sales, and is expected to raise as much as $18 billion by 2035.
Critics say Scott’s environmental budget uses money for agency operations and salaries rather than to buy, preserve and protect endangered waters and lands as the constitutional amendment directs. Scott also allocates money for wastewater treatment in Florida’s Keys — clearly not what voters had in mind.
Of almost $856 million earmarked for environmental spending in Scott’s budget, $773.4 million would come from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, the spending mechanism for Amendment 1.
Good luck with that. But meanwhile, Scott’s ambitious plans for Amendment 1 money will have to get in line. Legislators have their plans, too, and they’ll be lobbying to divvy up Amendment 1 dollars in the weeks ahead. Homebuilders want it for affordable housing. Municipalities are plotting to use the money for wastewater treatment.
In fact, the fight for Amendment 1 cash is shaping up to be a dreamers and schemers free-for-all that will dominate the upcoming legislative session.
150214-b Compared to House, Florida Senate offers wider-ranging water bill
SaintPetersBlog.com - by Bruce Ritchie
February 14, 2015
The Senate on Friday filed its version of a water bill that also deals with Amendment 1, the water and land conservation funding initiative approved by voters last November.
Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli both have said they expect water to be a major issue in the legislative session, which begins March 3. Last year, a bill that would tighten regulations on pollution around springs passed the Senate didn’t get a vote in the House. SB 918, filed on Friday by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, appears to be wider-ranging legislation than an industry-backed House water bill that was filed this week. HB 7003 is on the Appropriations Committee agenda for next Thursday.
The Senate bill doesn’t create or eliminate any programs and doesn’t allocate funding. The bill does identify the 33 largest springs, along with five others, for protection by the state Department of Environmental Protection — similar to last year’s bill.
SB 918 requires DEP to begin water quality assessments to complete springs assessments by July 1, 2018.
The bill also requires the state to identify septic tanks within springs protection zones and develop remediation plans for those causing pollution. Owners are not required to pay the cost of system inspection, upgrade or connection to sewage treatment plants.
And the bill creates the Florida Water Resources Advisory Council to annually evaluate and recommend to the Legislature water projects which have been prioritized by state agencies, water management districts or local governments. The five-member council would consist of the DEP secretary, the agriculture commissioner, the head of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and two scientist members appointed by the Senate president and House speaker.
Business and industry groups supporting the House bill could not be reached late Friday for a response on the Senate bill.
Audubon Florida’s Eric Draper said the Senate bill lacks controversial language dealing with Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades permitting that are in the House bill. But he thinks that issue could come into play in the Senate bill later.
While the House bill doesn’t directly deal with Amendment 1, Draper said the Senate bill seems to be placing an emphasis on springs and bicycling trails for the funding initiative.
Draper said the Senate bill also has good criteria for evaluating local water projects. Spending on those projects has ballooned in recent years to $88 million in the current state budget.
“Anything that creates a transparent system that has people nominating and getting projects approved based on criteria rather than just based on political influence is an improvement over what we have now,” Draper said.
Meanwhile on Friday, the Florida Clean Water Network issued a report calling for a moratorium on new septic tank permits in areas with elevated nitrogen levels in groundwater. The report also calls for the establishment of a statewide septic tank inspections program and for requiring homeowners to hook up to central sewer system when connections become available.
And on Thursday, the Florida Springs Council sent a letter to House and Senate leaders calling for $300 million for springs restoration in the 2015-16 state budget. The council was created by regional springs groups in 2014 to advocate for statewide springs protection.
The council says restoration funding could come from an “aquifer protection fee” charged on all groundwater uses and nitrogen fertilizers or Amendment 1 revenue, said Robert L. Knight, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. He also said funding for other water infrastructure projects should come from state general revenue and local governments.
150214-c Local government, FPL fight over water for Turkey Point canals
Miami Herald – by Jenny Staletovich
February 14, 2015
Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami stepped into the fray over Florida Power & Light’s problem-plagued Turkey Point cooling canals this week, arguing that the aging system is stealing too much water from Everglades restoration and leaving behind a trail of salt threatening drinking water supplies.
In petitions filed with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the two governments also contend the new state plan to manage the canals violates both water regulations and rules for managing nuclear power plants.
The plan “purports to order FPL to take certain actions to fix its cooling canal system, but DEP’s ‘remedy’ would, at best, allow those water quality violations to continue indefinitely,” the county’s petition said.
By adding fresher water to increasingly hot and salty canals rather than replacing the canal water, FPL risks worsening conditions for the entire area, according to the petitions by the governments, Tropical Audubon and rock mining company Atlantic Civil.
“If they don’t flush out all this stuff, it’s not going to operate properly. And we’re saying no way are you going to flush out this pollution to our wellfields and Biscayne Bay,” said Tropical Audubon executive director Laura Reynolds. “They [expanded] their power plant and went too far.”
FPL said it is trying to fix problems and accused the groups of “throwing up roadblocks that do absolutely nothing to solve the problem,” said spokesman Greg Brostowicz. “We see this as... procedural maneuvers, or a delay tactic, and they don’t benefit FPL customers, citizens or the environment in any way.”
The canals, a 168-mile-long loop, were built in 1970 to act as a radiator for the plant’s two nuclear reactors and licensed as an industrial wastewater facility. Canal water was supposed to stay put, even after the plant expanded in 2009. But in August 2013, the South Florida Water Management District found the canal water — heavier and saltier than nearby seawater — had spread underground, threatening inland wellfields. The district ordered FPL to come up with a plan to stop the spread.
The utility’s solution was to start pumping up to 14 million gallons of water daily from the Florida aquifer and nearby canals into the cooling system.
But over the summer, temperatures soared and conditions worsened: a festering algae bloom spread and the canal water heated up, routinely climbing above 100 degrees. At 104 degrees, the nuclear units must power down. FPL made an emergency request to draw up to 100 million gallons a day to freshen the system.
In December, when DEP approved the new management plan two days before Christmas, local officials say they were caught off-guard.
The water management district, which has long monitored conditions and found fault with FPL’s calculations for fixing the advancing underground saltwater plume, had been removed from the plan and stripped of oversight. Tropical Audubon, which objects to the removal, argued the move means the district will never get to weigh in on the calculations. The county contends the state does not have the authority to “unilaterally” eliminate regulatory agencies.
DEP’s office of general counsel is now reviewing the petitions to determine whether they merit a hearing, said spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller. If they don’t pass muster, the groups will get one more shot at making their case.
150214-d Stop stonewalling citizens’ initiatives
Tallahassee Democrat – by Paula Dockery, syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland
February 14, 2015
Does the Florida Legislature stonewall all constitutional amendments that pass or just the ones started by citizens’ initiatives?
We have numerous ways for our state Constitution to be amended. Of course, the Legislature can propose a change to the Constitution, with a three-fifths vote of both chambers necessary for the initiative to be placed on the ballot. Voters would still need to cast their ballots in sufficient numbers for the initiative to pass and for the Constitution to be amended.
A second, more costly and cumbersome way is for citizens to mount a citizens’ initiative campaign. This method requires ballot language and title to be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court after the required number of voter signatures are gathered and validated. Then more signatures need to be gathered that are geographically spread throughout the state for the measure to be placed on the ballot. These initiative efforts generally cost several million dollars just to make it to the ballot — an ambitious commitment of time and resources.
There are a couple of additional methods used less frequently — the Constitution Revision Commission, which next meets in 2017; the Taxation and Budget Review Commission, which meets every 20 years, and the rarely used Constitutional Convention.
From 1978 through the last election, 136 constitutional amendments have appeared on the Florida ballot for voters to consider. The vast majority of them — 57 percent — were placed there by the Legislature, 25 percent introduced through citizen initiative, 13 percent by the Constitution Revision Commission and five percent by the Taxation and Budget Review Commission.
Concerned that the Constitution was being amended too frequently — despite the fact that they were proposing the most changes — the Legislature continues to make it more difficult for citizens to get their initiatives on the ballot. Additionally, they proposed an amendment to raise the vote threshold needed for passage to 60 percent. Ironically, it passed by 58 percent of the vote.
In 2014, three constitutional amendments made it to the ballot. The legislative proposal on judicial appointments was soundly defeated. The medical marijuana citizens’ initiative came up just a little short of passing.
Amendment One, on water and land conservation, passed overwhelmingly with 75 percent of the vote — a true mandate. Can those supporters who jumped through all the hurdles to get this to the ballot and then campaigned for its passage count on the Legislature to implement it as intended?
Based on past history, the answer is no.
When legislative leaders are asked to enact certain laws that they oppose, generally they just ignore the request. When citizens take the extraordinary measure of proposing a citizens’ initiative to force the issue, the Legislature generally expresses its opposition and sometimes mounts an indirect campaign to defeat the measure. A few examples come to mind — medical marijuana, casino gambling, and high-speed rail.
If the amendment passes, the Legislature generally drags its feet on the implementation, tries to water it down or tries to repeal or drastically alter it.
When the lottery amendment passed, the Legislature played a shell game of using lottery funds to replace rather than supplement basic education funding. The amendment supporters intended the funds to be used for education enhancements.
After the high-speed rail amendment passed, the Legislature dragged its feet on implementation for four years, giving Gov. Jeb Bush time to get the issue back on the ballot for repeal.
When attempts to place the “reducing class size” amendment back on the ballot for repeal failed, the Legislature got creative with the timing of the counts and the flexibility of counting within the school and then the district rather than the actual classroom. Rolling the class-size reduction funding into the per-pupil spending made it difficult to determine what was spent on class-size versus instruction.
The “fair district” amendments for legislative and congressional redistricting were pretty much ignored as the ongoing lawsuits are pointing out. Legislative leaders did make a concerted effort to make the process outwardly appear to be adhering to the voters’ wishes, but confidential documents appear to indicate otherwise.
And now we have Amendment One, which requires setting aside 33 percent of documentary stamp revenue for water and land conservation purposes. The Legislature is already claiming it will force other projects to be cut. It also appears we may be in store for another shell game like we witnessed with both the lottery and class size. Supporters are rightfully concerned.
The Legislature seems to fast-track initiatives that special-interest groups got on the ballot on their behalf as well as those legislatively initiated, such as parental notification, tax exemptions and higher education governance. And remarkably they seem to be implemented as intended.
Don’t the true citizens’ initiatives deserve the same?
150213-a Deepest well project in Florida history
February 13, 2015
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Imagine a 10,000-foot deep injection. Queasy yet ?
Don’t worry, that’s not the next painful vaccine shot. Instead, that’s the depth the Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department (WASD) is going for the state’s record well project.
“WASD has recently begun drilling the largest deep injection well in the State of Florida, possibly the country for a water resource purpose at our Central District Waste Water Treatment Plant (CDWWTP),” said WASD Director Lester Sola. “We will be drilling to a depth of 10,000 feet and as a result needed a special drill to be built to accommodate this project.”
The purpose of the deep injection well is to comply with future state laws that will prohibit the disposal of treated wastewater into the ocean by 2025. The new disposal method at CDWWTP has already been successfully implemented at the South District Waste Water Treatment Plant.
“Injection wells usually cap at a depth of 3,500 feet – well beneath the Biscayne Aquifer, our drinking water source,” said Sola. “While that depth provides a sufficient distance to mitigate impact to our drinking water, we are interested in exploring whether there are additional injection zones even further removed from the aquifer at deeper depths to establish additional safeguards.”
The project began in January and has already reached a depth of 1,000 feet. Depending on drilling conditions and rock formations, it is expected to be completed by September.
150213-b More than 600 manatees counted in Broward
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
February 13, 2015
FPL plant is overwhelming manatee favorite – home to 513 of 626 spotted in Broward County
A helicopter survey found 626 manatees in Broward County on Thursday, the highest number of the season.
The vast majority, 513, were gathered for warmth at the cooling lakes of the Florida Power & Light plant west of Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport, according to a weekly county survey.
The Intracoastal Waterway north of Port Everglades had the second-highest number, 29, followed by the Dania Cut-Off Canal with 27.
With the coldest weather of the winter predicted to move in over the area this weekend, we can expect the number to possibly increase- Pat Quinn, Broward County manatee coordinator
"With the coldest weather of the winter predicted to move in over the area this weekend, we can expect the number to possibly increase," said Pat Quinn, the county's manatee coordinator. "...The manatees may also be aware it is Valentine's Day weekend as there were three cavorting groups observed in the cooling lakes
150212-a Army Corps to increase flows from Lake Okeechobee
WPTV.com - by Webteam
February 12, 2015
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will institute a small increase in discharges from Lake Okeechobee, part of its ongoing effort to manage water levels.
The releases will increase starting Friday, affecting both the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
"While the lake decreased slightly for three weeks, recent rains have caused the level to rise in the past few days," said Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida. "We will continue to monitor conditions and do everything possible to minimize impacts. At the same time, the Corps will manage the water in the lake in the interest of public safety for the people who live and work in the area by ensuring it is appropriately positioned for the upcoming wet season."
Discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River began on Jan. 16. As of Thursday, the lake stage is 14.80 feet.
For more information on water levels and flow data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website at http://w3.saj.usace.army.mil/h2o/currentLL.shtml .
150212-b Climate change
Florida Weekly – by Evan Williams
February 12, 2015
Local efforts modest in dealing with a warming planet
THE U.S. SENATE AGREED ON JAN. 21 that “climate change is real and not a hoax. It’s the senate’s first admission of the fact, after Democrats forced the issue by adding the language to the Keystone Pipeline XL bill. It passed 98-1.
There was not sufficient consensus among Republicans, though, to agree that people and their carbon emissions are a factor in changes such as global warming.
Those are two things the worldwide scientific community agrees on: climate change is a problem for us and we are partly to blame, along with nature, said Michael Savarese, Ph.D. in geology, a professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University who has researched the history of environmental change and the effects of sea-level rise on the coast.
Outside of that broad consensus, and outside the heated political debates and conjecture, the research and science behind climate change is enormously complex and varied. The U.S. government’s most recent 2014 National Climate Assessment, produced every four years with the agreement of hundreds of experts and 13 federal agencies, says global sea levels could rise between 1.5 and 6.3 feet by 2100. That could also vary widely at local levels.
Even with huge variability, said scientists and researchers at FGCU and the University of Florida, and other experts in the state, there are changes happening now and long-term effects that we should prepare for that range from inconvenient to devastating. The federal report identifies sea level rise, dangerously hot weather, hurricanes and decreased water supplies as key problems expected to worsen in the southeastern United States in decades to come.
The climate assessment also identifies some of the fastest-growing areas along the coast vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge, including Palm Coast, and the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area.
Jayantha Obeysekera, Ph.D. in civil engineering, sat on the federal committee that produced the National Climate Assessment and oversees climate and sea level rise issues with the South Florida Water Management District.
That agency’s mission includes protecting the water supply and quality, flood protection and environmental restoration.
“We realized all our mission elements could be impacted,” by climate change, Mr. Obeysekera said.
Many water control structures on the coast are out of date, for instance. “We’re beginning to look at what is the level of flood protection we have today and how will it change in the future due to sea level rise,” he said.
A warmer ocean in combination with population growth and other factors have implications from Hurricane intensity to saltwater intrusion in our freshwater underground aquifers.
The sea has moved up the Southwest Florida coastline over the last hundred years by about 9 inches, said James Beever, principal planner for the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, one of 11 in the state made up of mayors, commissioners and other officials. That speed could accelerate as the atmosphere and in turn oceans slowly warm, a warmth that causes the water to expand slightly, accelerating sea level rise along with melting icecaps in Greenland and Antarctica. It could also provide the energy to produce increasingly intense hurricanes and flooding events.
At the same time, droughts could also become more severe and, along with saltwater replacing fresh in depleted aquifers, lead to water shortages and political battles between agriculture and developers for the resource, said James W. Jones, Ph.D., director of the Florida Climate Institute and a retired UF professor who studies the effects of environmental change on crop yields.
But as an agricultural competitor, the state could also benefit from climate changes, he suggested. Florida could develop breeding programs for vegetable varietals like sweet corn that western states such as California produce less of due to already severe drought and water shortages.
“We have an opportunity to actually increase our share of the vegetable and fruit production because California is likely to lose a lot of that over the long term,” he said. “I don’t see them getting a lot of that water back in the long term.” Long-term planning
Although the idea of restricting development along popular areas of the coast could be political anathema, that is in some cases the most economically sound policy in the long run for communities, said UF professor of urban and regional planning, Zhong-Ren Peng, Ph.D. His current research includes the study of climate change planning from a cost-benefit perspective.
Professor Peng and other researchers are finishing a study after nearly two years that analyzes strategies in the Tampa Bay area for commercial and residential development and protecting the vulnerability of critical infrastructure like hospitals, roads and schools.
“Our recommendation is if it’s not a new development, we wanted to give some space between the beach and the buildings, and in some places probably discourage new development around the beach,” he said. “That’s probably from the government point of view the best way to adapt to future sea level rise.
“I would say right now from a planning point of view to take some actions to discourage current development in the coastal areas is probably the best strategy. If you look at the 50-year horizon, that’s probably the most economical way to do it.” What, me worry ?
Planning for climate change can be a tough sell in Southwest Florida, which is years removed from a major hurricane and hasn’t experienced the flooding that has mobilized big east-coast metropolitan areas to confront climate change. On a balmy afternoon in February, why worry about sea level rise or storm surge along the coast that could effect real estate, for instance?
“The only thing that’s affecting us is that it’s so beautiful down here in Naples, Fla.,” said David Frye, president of Downing-Frye Realty. “It’s hard to have that concern here just because it’s so perfect.”
Naples city officials have not made a detailed assessment of how climate change could impact the community over the long term.
“It’s something that at least at this point in time we haven’t seen much of a reason to put a lot of time and resources into that,” said Mayor John Sorey.
Mr. Frye, Mayor Sorey and others point out that the worst flooding has been happening on the east coast. The town of Fort Myers Beach, for instance, has not made plans to deal with climate change-related issues.
“There’s always been a challenge with beaches changing, but to say that’s because of climate change, I just wouldn’t want to say that, I just don’t know,” said town manager Don Stilwell.
But flooding problems on Miami Beach, which is both a municipality and a barrier island that catches the full impact of the Atlantic Ocean, could also indicate some of the troubles the western gulf side and its gentler waters might face in the future.
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine likes to joke that “I was floated into office” in 2013.
The most low-lying western part of the beach community was flooding often, even on clear blue days. This “sunny day flooding” phenomenon was “very unnerving,” to business interests and investors, the mayor said. It happened in the fall when the tides reached their peak. The mayor gathered engineers and other experts to fix the problem.
The pipes that drain water from the land through the seawall into the ocean were in poor shape. As the tide rose, it would come back up the pipes and flood the streets. The city repaired the tunnels so the water couldn’t reverse into the streets and tore up streets to install “massive pumps” underground that could be switched on when necessary. Having heard of Miami’s efforts, the national news media showed up last fall for “The Super Bowl of flooding,” when the tides would peak. Fortunately, the measures Mr. Levine took worked and the streets remained “dry as the Sahara.”
But that was only the start of measures to protect Miami Beach. The city plans to spend $300 to $400 million installing more than 60 of the big underground pumps, is considering new building regulations to set roads and homes above flood planes, and a program to put up seawalls. All that should keep Miami Beach prepared for climate change for the next 50 years. And after that?
“I’m a big believer in human innovation,” said Mayor Levine, who like other officials stressed each community needs its own plan.
“I always say the bay and the ocean is not Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative,” he said. “It doesn’t care how we debate it, it’s happening.”
Flooding is the biggest concern for Phil Buchanan, a Pine Island resident, retired attorney and environmental activist. While existing regulations require houses to be built at higher elevations, those don’t apply to roads on the island, which often flood during summer high tides; and in extreme cases could flood yards and wash through residents’ septic sewer systems.
“We’ve really got to get rid of those things,” he said.
He has observed that a mobile home park in St. James City floods nearly every summer now.
“Right now they go underwater so badly they get a foot of water in their trailers just about every summer,” he said. “It’s gotten worse over the years.” Punta Gorda looks ahead
Officials in Punta Gorda have been some of the most progressive in the region in looking closely at climate change effects, said Mr. Beever of the Regional Planning Council, by implementing a strategy into its comprehensive plan in 2009. Even if the world makes a pact to reduce carbon emissions or the state develops further wind-resistant building codes, he and other planners say, the effects of a warmer environment can be so place-specific that individual municipalities should have their own plan of action.
“Basically, climate change is something we can plan for, we can adapt to and we can live with if we make the right decisions,” he said. “But if we don’t plan and adapt we’re going to see disaster which will then become the immediate concern for people.”
Evaluating climate change science and scenarios for how their community could be effected was the first step, said Punta Gorda’s chief planner Joan LeBeau.
They are prepared for long term possibilities but have started with small changes, in part because there is so much uncertainty about how much the climate will change: the difference between seas rising a foot, for instance, or 4 feet by 2100 and inundating large portions of South Florida.
The city is protecting existing natural environments in Charlotte Harbor and creating “living” seawalls such as an oyster reef that are more adaptable to sea level rise than a traditional sea wall, for instance, along with developing city building codes that require more elevated structures, monitoring water usage and encouraging the use of native plants that are more drought tolerant.
“The oyster reef will give us, we believe, additional time,” she said. “We’ll be able to preserve that area as sea level rise begins to effect the city…
“I think the take home from it is you can do something. It doesn’t have to be extreme. I think people are worried about an extreme change and you can’t because you have existing properties. You don’t have to change everything today. Everybody has to look at it from their perspective, what their communities’ wants and needs are, and how you’re going to be moving forward.” Mangrove and natural protection
Florida’s existing natural environment, such as its mangrove swamps, helps buffer communities from sea level rise and storm surge. The environment also helps to reduce the warming effects of greenhouse gasses by absorbing carbon out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
“It is estimated that there are 500,000 acres of mangrove swamps in Florida, with 90 percent of them in the south Florida counties of Lee, Collier, Dade and Monroe,” William J. Mitsch, Ph.D., director of the Everglades Wetland Research Park at FGCU’s Kapnick Center in Naples, wrote in an email. “We estimate that 220,000 U.S. tons of carbon are sequestered annually from the atmosphere by Florida’s mangrove wetlands.
“From another source we found that one car emits approximately 2 tons of carbon per car per year. Therefore the Florida mangrove carbon sequestration is equal to the emissions of 110,000 cars.”
Sanibel Island is also unique in that 67 percent of the island is conservation land, a protective buffer, pointed out James Evans, the city natural resources director. Although the city council has not taken a formal position on climate change, he said the island is at about 89 percent build-out, so there won’t be as much development happening on other areas of the coast that could exacerbate weather problems.
“That in itself in preparing for climate change I think goes a long way,” he said. “That’s one of the huge benefits of having a comprehensive land use plan based on natural habitats and natural systems.” Hurricanes and the next Donna Joanne Muller, Ph.D. in paleoclimatology, came to FGCU in 2011. An assistant professor of marine science and geology, she researches past climate change in tropical latitudes focusing on Southwest Florida. She talked about her latest research, creating a hurricane history of Southwest Florida going back thousands of years:
“The most recent research is showing that hurricanes are not necessarily increasing in frequency, we’re not necessarily getting more hurricanes, we’re just getting more intense hurricanes.
“And that’s really well established now, (that) consistently over the last 20, 30, 160 years that hurricane intensity is increasing. Because sea surface temperatures are warmer now they have more likelihood of reaching that (Category) 3, Cat 4, Cat 5 status.”
But some have questioned the research and its accuracy because the record only goes back 160 years.
“What we’re trying to do with my research is extend that record back thousands of years,” said Professor Muller.
She uses sediment samples from local lagoons and marshes to reveal that hurricane history and show how it is effected by natural weather periods and patterns like the El Niño Southern Oscillation. The sediment cores contain “overwash layers” at different points, markers that show where storm surge washed offshore sediment into a lagoon.
As it turns out, hurricanes from about 500 to 1,000 years ago, during a Medieval warm period, left a record suggesting our warming waters could produce larger storms than we have seen in recent decades, something more like Hurricane Donna in 1960 with more than 10 feet of storm surge.
“There are really specific sorts of hurricanes that are leaving a geologic record and we think they are the very intense large storms that produce really big storm surge,” she said. “And the record essentially tells us when sea surface temperatures are warmer out in the Atlantic we get more of these big storms, hurricane Donna-like storms, in Southwest Florida.
“She flooded the entire area of downtown Naples. There was quite a bit of construction down here then but nowhere near today. If you have a storm that comes through with 3.5-meter storm surge it’s going to completely flood the area where it comes ashore.
“When such a storm does come and it will at some point whether it comes next storm season or 10 years from now or 100 years from now is a different question, but when that storm does come, it’s going to be a significant issue.” ¦ The last 100 years in Southwest Florida:
>> Increased annual number of 90-plus degree days by 12
>> Increased sea level by 8-9 inches
>> Longer more severe dry seasons and shorter, wetter wet seasons
>> Increased coastal erosion, tropical disease in plants, wildlife and humans
— Source: Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council
>> Temperatures are expected to rise between 2 and 12 degrees F by 2100, which could cause both more intense rain and snow storms since more water vapor is held in the atmosphere.
>> The climate is changing faster than any other time in history because of CO2 pollution.
— Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
If nothing is done to limit human-induced causes of climate change or adapt to it:
>> “The storm-related losses attributed to climate change along the Florida shoreline are likely to increase by as much as $1.3 billion per year on average by 2030, and by as much as $4 billion annually by 2050, bringing the state’s likely total annual storm damage to as much as $17.2 billion per year by mid-century.”
>> 7: number of days per year with temperatures above 95 degrees a typical Floridian experienced in the past 30 years.
>>30-76: estimated number of 95-plus days by 2050.
>> Between 2020 and 2039, the number of 95-plus degree days could increase the costs of coastal storm damage by 5.6 to 9.7 percent annually.
>> “(T)he most severe risks can be avoided through early investments in resilience, and through immediate public and private sector action to reduce the pollution that causes climate change.”
— Source: The Risky Business Project was launched in October 2013 as a non-partisan initiative to quantify and publicize the economic risks of a changing climate. It is co-chaired by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Tom Steyer.
150212-c Everglades advocates say another sugar land deal would help Lake Okeechobee
February 12, 2015
Environmental advocates want state officials to buy sugar cane land that could be used to move more Lake Okeechobee water south, instead of draining lake water out to sea.
Environmental groups want the state to buy more sugar cane land for Everglades restoration. Sugar land could be used to move more Lake Okeechobee water south to the Everglades. As damaging Lake Okeechobee water discharges to the coast increase this week, a chance to reroute more lake water south to help the Everglades could be slipping away, according to environmental advocates.
Fishermen, business owners and others Thursday stepped up their push for the state to buy more South Florida sugar cane land that could be used to restore Lake Okeechobee water flows to the Everglades.
They called for the South Florida Water Management District to start pursuing a land deal before missing a deadline this year to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee.
That land could be used to move more Lake Okeechobee water south to the Everglades, as an alternative to draining lake water to the east and west coasts for flood control. Draining Lake Okeechobee water out to sea wastes water that could help the Everglades and boost South Florida water supplies. Also, millions of gallons of Lake Okeechobee discharges can damage coastal fishing grounds and foul water quality, which scares away tourists.
Without more land to store water south of Lake Okeechobee, the draining to the coasts will continue and "the Everglades restoration will never be completed," said Newton Cook, of United Water Fowlers.
Everglades advocates are warning that if the South Florida Water Management District doesn't start pursuing the land deal now, the Florida Legislature won't consider approving the money during its spring session. If that doesn't happen, then the state risks missing an October deadline to try to buy the land.
"We have been met with silence and ignoring the issue," said Lisa Interlandi, of the Everglades Law Center, one of the dozens of people who Thursday called for the water management district to take action.
District officials say they are considering new water storage options north and south of the lake. But Thursday they again balked at committing to holding a public meeting and a vote on the U.S. Sugar land deal.
"We are trying to do the right thing and find the right answers," said Dan O'Keefe, the district board's chairman.
Amid the land deal controversy, the Army Corps of Engineers Thursday announced that high water levels in Lake Okeechobee are prompting a 22 percent increase in lake draining to the east and west.
That could mean discharging as much as 1.4 billion gallons per day of lake water west through the Caloosahatchee River and east through the St. Lucie River. That's enough water to fill about 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools a day.
The St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries are still recovering from lake discharges in 2013 that killed marine habitat and also fueled water quality problems that made some areas unsafe for swimming.
"Our estuaries are dying" said William Taylor, a fisherman from Jupiter who objects to more lake draining to the coast. "Every year ... the catches are getting smaller." Related: Time running out on Everglades land purchase MiamiHerald.com Time running out on Everglades land purchase MiamiHerald.com Environmentalists Urge South Florida Water Management District to ... WGCU
150212-d Frustrated enviros: Buy land to clean Everglades before it’s too late
Palm Beach Post
February 12, 2015
UPDATE: Environmental groups who want the state to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration efforts plan to attend today’s meeting of the South Florida Water Management District governing board to protest the board’s inaction.
The district has an option to purchase 46,800 acres of land from U.S. Sugar at fair market value. However, the option expires in October. If the district wants to purchase the U.S. Sugar land after that, it would have fulfill the conditions of another option, that would require the district to buy the 46,800 plus another 106,200 at fair market value.
District official have shown little interest in the deal, saying instead the district will focus on projects that are currently underway. There are no projects slated for the land.
However, environmental groups say the state should buy the land to store water, which would reduce harmful discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie estuary and Caloosahatchee river when water levels in the lake are too high.
150212-e More Lake Okeechobee water headed to threatened waterways
PalmBeachPost – by John Kennedy
February 12, 2015
The latest water release from Lake Okeechobee prompted environmentalists Thursday to call for stepped-up, land-buying efforts to blunt the flow of pollutants into already troubled water bodies.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it will increase the amount of water Friday that it sends out of the big lake, affecting both the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. Recent rains have caused the lake level to rise, prompting the release.
But the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie in recent years have been have been badly fouled by freshwater runoff from Lake Okeechobee which carry pollutants from neighborhoods, farms and cities.
Much of Gov. Rick Scott’s Everglades restoration effort is focused on reducing such releases.
“Today’s event is just further proof that we need to buy land in the Everglades Agricultural Area and build a permanent storage solution,” said Thomas Van Lent, director of science and policy for the Everglades Foundation. “If a reservoir were in place today, these precautionary dry-season releases would not be happening.”
Scott’s recent state budget proposal set aside $150 million for Everglades restoration, but did not directly address a priority for the South Florida Water Management District — purchase of a 26,100-acre parcel owned by U.S. Sugar Corp.
But Lent said the latest releases show such water storage land is needed — fast.
“We continue to urge the State of Florida to take advantage of a significant opportunity it has before it, and buy a strategic parcel of land – a 26,100 acre area – just south of Lake Okeechobee and build this badly-needed water storage reservoir,” Lent said.
150212-f New Amendment aims to clean Up Florida's water
February 12, 2015
TALLAHASSEE-- Water policy in Florida took a step forward at the state capitol on Wednesday and the legislation makes it clear that money set aside by voters in amendment one will not be used to repair local water supply and sewer pipes.
Wakulla Springs in north Florida hasn't been able to run glass bottom boat tours for more than a year, and only sporadically over the last few years, all because the once pristine spring just isn't clear enough.
The house State Affairs Committee took a step forward at solving the problem at Wakulla and other springs. It passed the first comprehensive water policy legislation in years.
Representative Mark Pafford, house democratic leader, said, "We've got oysters that are dying, springs that are suffering, a Kissimmee river basin that needs more help." The legislation doesn't put a cost on the water cleanup regulations, and that is concerning to environmentalists who pushed Amendment One to set aside millions for land and water conservation. "Certainly, springs protection the last couple years, while the legislature provided additional funding, its been very incremental and really inadequate to get the job done, so I'm confident that progress will be made," said Janet Bowman from the Nature Conservancy.
Since November, some lawmakers have pushed the idea of using conservation money to repair leaky sewer and pipes. The legislation approved Wednesday says no to state money for leaky pipes. Eric Draper from Audubon Florida explained, "This bill, however, does not transfer to the state the responsibility for waste water and storm water and says those are going to be local responsibilities."
The multi-million dollar question on how much Florida is going to be willing to spend on cleanup and conservation won't be know for months, but there is general agreement the first step is a positive one.
One of the major differences from what passed Wednesday and previous efforts is that Wednesday's legislation takes a statewide view of water needs, whereas past efforts have focused on individual problem areas.
150212-g Officials to enviros: Buying land, moving lake water south has risks
PalmBeachPost – by Christine Stapleton
February 12, 2015
WEST PALM BEACH — South Florida Water Management District officials made no commitments to several dozen environmental activists who begged them Thursday to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration, and for the first time they laid out the hurdles and risks they face in making such a buy.
“It’s not as simple as buying land and moving water south,” said district board member James Moran. “To come in here and lecture us — just buy the land and move water south —if it was that simple it would have been done already.”
150212-h Public hearing next week on beach funding
StarFL.com - by Tim Croft
February 12, 2015
The Board of County Commissioners will consider during a public hearing next Thursday formalizing a referendum concerning local funding for beach restoration on St. Joseph Peninsula.
The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. ET and will be held in the commission meeting room in the Robert Moore Administration Annex.
During the hearing commissioners expect to hear presentations on a final scope of work as well the cost, most particularly the local match required to leverage funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
Commissioners are also expected to formalize guidelines for a March vote in which fewer than 300 registered voters will be asked to establish a Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU).
That MSTU provides the mechanism for those voters, and property owners along the coast, to tax themselves to foot a bond estimated at $7 million to $8 million to serve as the local match.
Under current FDEP guidelines, the county would be eligible for 65 percent state funding for restoration costs with a 35 percent local match.
The likely voting scenario is that which was used for a referendum on a 2009 beach nourishment project: a three-tiered voting approach: one for gulf front property owners; another for owners of gulf interior lots; and a third for bayside property owners.
In 2009 the bayside voters declined to support the initiative and the project’s local match was funded by gulf-front and gulf-interior property owners.
Six years after that initial nourishment project, the peninsula is in need of maintenance, the county's coastal engineer has said..
The latest estimate from the county’s engineer, Michael Dombrowski, is that structures could begin to be impacted within two years if more sand is not applied.
Pat Hardman, president of the Coastal Community Association of Gulf County, said Tuesday she thought that estimate optimistic.
“I think we’ll lose homes before we get sand on the beach,” she told commissioners.
Primarily, the problem lies in the area just north of the Stump Hole rock revetment, the southern end of the project, as sand from the original project seems to have acceted to the north.
Commissioners have yet to see a full price tag on the restoration project.
“I expect these answers to be provided (during the public hearing) as far as expected costs,” said county attorney Jeremy Novak.
The goal is to have the MSTU and local match bond in place to apply for funding in the 2016 FDEP budget year, a timeline that could meet the two-year window.
Commissioner Warren Yeager reiterated again Tuesday that he is seeking alternative funding to bring down the local match – with some key additions the project could be eligible for 50-50 funding – including identifying a potential new beach access point.
Yeager also proposed Tuesday devoting a half-penny sales tax that currently is earmarked for landfill operations to support the beach nourishment project.
He received resistance from Commissioner Carmen McLemore, who has opposed county funding for the project.
“I can’t commit to using the half cent because I have problems on the north end,” McLemore said, noting several roads that have been inundated with water over the years.
The issue was tabled until Thursday’s public hearing.
Hardman said the property owners on the south end, who foot the bill for the original project and will now, in all probability, be asked to foot the next bill for restoration want to see “more skin in the game” from the BOCC.
She said the economic impact if beach nourishment is not done or not completed in a timely basis would be bleak for the entire county.
The CCA estimates, using Dombrowski’s engineering projections, that if sand is not on the beach in two years the resulting loss of property would be over $40 million, translating into nearly $300,000 in county property taxes.
Gulf District Schools could be similarily affected.
“Every person in this county has to make that up,” Hardman said. “The county will lose its single biggest asset.
“You lose that Cape … this county will remain as dirt poor as it is now.”
Hardman encouraged commissioners to arrive at next week’s public hearing with some ideas on relieving the financial burden South Gulf property owners were going to be asked to shoulder.
“They are asking you to help,” Hardman said. “Look at ways you can come to the table to protect the entire county.” Roadside garbage pickup ends
As of March 1 all yard debris removal is the responsibility of individual property owners, commissioners repeated Tuesday in attempt to address questions in the community.
In agreement to a lowering of bills, the BOCC recently released new garbage contractor Waste Pro from any roadside pickup of yard debris or limbs.
The county got out of the business of roadside pickup several years ago.
The BOCC intends for Public Works to undertake a final sweep of the county for roadside pickup prior to March 1.
But as of March 1 the responsibility, commissioners said, is the property owner’s.
ommissioner Ward McDaniel inquired about any county ordinance concerning dumping along roadsides. Told there was not an ordinance he replied, “That is something we may have to look at.” Next regular meeting cancelled
Due to the probability that the BOCC will lack a quorum at its next regular meeting Feb. 24 the meeting was cancelled.
The National Association of Counties will be in session that week.
150211-a Florida House water policy starts to flow
SouthEastAgNet.com - by Jim Turner
February 11, 2015
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, A business-backed plan to address the state’s water resources received initial support in a House committee Wednesday, though it continues to draw questions from environmentalists and Democrats.
The wide-ranging water policy is being crafted separately from a plan to carry out a voter-approved constitutional amendment that will require the state to spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on land and water projects.
The policy, in part, would impose what are known as “best management practices” for natural springs, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. Also, it would direct water-management districts to implement a water-management plan across Central Florida.
“My goal is to get the policy right,” said House State Affairs Chairman Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers. “Once we get the policy right, then we’re going to figure out how to pay for what we need to do.”
The State Affairs Committee voted 12-5 to advance the proposal (PCB SAC 15-01), with Daytona Beach Rep. Dwayne Taylor the only Democrat to vote in support.
Taylor said he expects lawmakers will “iron out” most of the issues that continue to draw flak before the proposal reaches the House floor.
“We’re not going to be able to fulfill everybody’s dreams of making this the exact perfect legislation,” Taylor said.
Since introducing the proposal a week ago, Caldwell has met with environmental groups to address concerns. But apprehensions remained Wednesday.
Among changes worked into the proposal over the past week is to include best-management practices from the Department of Environmental Protection for second-magnitude springs. The initial draft had the regulatory process only for larger, first-magnitude springs.
However, the changes removed springs-protection zones, which are designed to regulate the impact of septic tanks and the flow of storm water and agricultural runoff into springs.
House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said the bill should represent House leadership’s call for a comprehensive statewide water policy.
“Look, at the end of the day, we’ve got oysters that are dying, springs that are suffering, a Kissimmee River basin that needs more help in depleting some of the phosphorous, nutrients that are going into the lake,” Pafford said. “You’ve got tremendous outcry over the last number of years for the estuaries east and west of the lake (Okeechobee), and you’ve got a restoration plan for the Everglades that hasn’t been completed.”
Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues, said that among the remaining concerns is the lack of an immediate backup plan for water management agencies if the best-management practices, which have yet to be completed, fail to improve water quality.
“What happens if the (best management practices) don’t work?” Draper said. “The water management districts don’t have the ability at that point to adopt new rules without coming back to the Legislature.”
The regulatory best-management practices are about 40 percent completed for the Everglades, while the regulatory requirements have only been set for eight of the state’s 33 first-magnitude springs.
Caldwell said the rules for 11 additional springs are expected to be completed later this year.
Ryan Smart, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, said the proposal still needs to address more water conservation.
“Florida has a huge potential for water conservation to meet some of our supply needs going into the future,” Smart said. “That’s across all sectors, agriculture, public supply, low-flow toilets, better appliances, soil and moisture sensors for ag. It would be great to see some of those elements included in the bill as we look to expand the water pie to also make sure we’re using the water as efficiently as possible.”
The proposal has drawn support from business lobbying groups, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Farm Bureau. Brewster Bevis, of Associated Industries of Florida, called the proposal a “thoughtful and comprehensive approach.”
“This proposal takes a good first step toward ensuring Florida’s water supply is sustainable and available for future generations to enjoy,” Bevis said in a prepared statement after the meeting.
The Senate, which offered a springs-protection measure last year that failed to get heard in the House, has yet to release its plan.
Money to implement new policies is expected to be drawn from the “Florida Water and Land Legacy” constitutional amendment, which received the support of 75 percent of voters in November.
The amendment, which directs 33 percent of the proceeds from a real-estate tax for land preservation and water conservation efforts, is expected to bring $757 million for the water and land efforts in the next fiscal year.
How that money will be divvied up remains a separate battle for both chambers. Related: House advances water resources plan TBO.com
150211-b House water bill filed without funding or enviro backing
SaintPetersBlog – by Bruce Ritchie
February 11, 2015
A House committee voted Wednesday to introduce a comprehensive water bill despite concerns from environmentalists that the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect springs.
House State Affairs Committee Bill 15-01 addresses springs, water planning in Central Florida, and removes duplicate permitting for agriculture around Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
Many of Florida’s springs have become choked with weeds and algae in the past 20 years because of excess nitrogen in groundwater from a variety of sources including farms, septic tanks and fertilizer.
The committee bill relies heavily on the existing Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s regulatory structure, which is criticized by some environmentalists. On Wednesday, the committee rewrote its draft bill to remove a requirement for the state to establish protection zones around each of Florida’s 33 largest “first-magnitude” springs after groups representing agriculture and landscaping groups objected this past week.
The rewritten bill adds more springs to the list of priority springs to be protected and establishes a 2018 deadline for the state to assess springs for groundwater contamination. The bill also requires recovery plans to prevent over pumping at the time minimum flows are set for springs.
While praising the House effort, environmentalists said the bill fails to address groundwater pollution from urban areas and relies on agricultural “best management practices” that they say experts have criticized as inadequate to reduce groundwater contamination.
Environmentalists also are looking for funding for projects to reduce pollution but are concerned that the money would come from Amendment 1, the water and land conservation funding initiative approved by voters in November.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres and committee chairman, said after the meeting that funding for pollution-reduction projects will be handled separately. He said there are projects he could envision receiving Amendment 1 funding.
“My goal is to get the policy right; that’s our charge in this committee,” Caldwell said. “Once we get the policy right, then we’ll figure out how to pay for what we do.”
The bill passed with support from groups including Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.
Most Democrats on the House State Affairs Committee voted against the bill. Rep, Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, said the bill failed to address septic tanks, stormwater runoff and urban landscaping.
Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach and House Democratic leader, said the bill should be revised to represent what he said Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli wants: “a comprehensive, historic water bill.”
“We’ve got a couple of months ahead of us,” Pafford said. “The bill can be made a lot stronger. We want to be helpful in that process.” Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said the bill lacks protective zones around springs where certain polluting activities should be prohibited. Those were defined in a Senate bill last year that failed to pass the House.
He said, however, there is support from environmentalists for the bill because the House is at least taking up legislation this year.
“Caldwell is working with us,” Draper said. But he said stronger environmental legislation is expected to come out of the Senate.
Audubon Florida raised concerns this past week that the South Florida Water Management District’s “works of the district” permitting program for Lake Okeechobee pollution would be eliminated. He said he won’t push the issue because the revised bill now calls for the Department of Environmental Protection to provide a permitting backstop.
Caldwell also said the draft legislation was revised to deal with concerns but he still wants to address issues raised by Democrats and environmentalists as the bill moves forward.
“From the perspective of getting the policy right we’re going to keep moving forward in the committee process,” Caldwell said. The strike-all amendment for the committee bill can be found here
150211-c Legislation takes statewide view on water needs
News4jax.com - by Mike Vasilinda, Reporter, Capitol News Service
February 11 2015
1st comprehensive water policy passed in years
WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. - Water policy in Florida took a step forward at the state Capitol Wednesday after the Legislation made it clear that money set aside by voters in Amendment 1 will not be used to repair local water supply and sewer pipes.
One of the major differences from what passed Wednesday and previous efforts is that Wednesday’s legislation takes a statewide view of water needs, where past efforts have focused on individual problem areas.
Wakulla Springs in North Florida hasn’t been able to run glass bottom boat tours for more than a year, and only sporadically over the last few years, all because the once pristine spring just isn’t clear enough.
“The Sierra Club wants this bill to work,” said Dave Cullen, with Sierra Club.
The House State Affairs Committee took a step forward at solving the problem at Wakulla and other springs. It passed the first comprehensive water policy legislation in years.
“We’ve got oysters that are dying, springs that are suffering (and) a Kissimmee River basin that needs more help,” said Rep. Mark Pafford.
The legislation doesn’t put a cost on the water cleanup regulations, and that is concerning to environmentalists who pushed Amendment 1 to set aside millions for land and water conservation.
“Certainly, springs protection the last couple years, while the legislature provided additional funding, it's been very incremental and really inadequate to get the job done, so I’m confident that progress will be made,” said Janet Bowman, with Nature Conservancy.
Since November, some lawmakers have pushed the idea of using conservation money to repair leaky sewer and pipes. The legislation approved Wednesday said no to state money for leaky pipes.
"This bill, however, does not transfer to the state the responsibility for waste water and storm water, and says those are going to be local responsibilities,” said Eric Draper, with Audubon Florida.
The multi-million dollar question on how much Florida is going to be willing to spend on cleanup and conservation won’t be known for months, but there is general agreement the first step is a positive one.
150211-d Meetings focus attention on beach wastewater plant
PensacolaToday.com - by William Rabb
February 11, 2015
Two meetings in the next few days will let the public raise questions about the increasingly contentious issue of allowing a wastewater plant on Pensacola Beach to continue discharging reclaimed water into the sound near Portofino Boardwalk.
On Feb. 17, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will receive public comments about the DEP’s plan to grant a five-year permit renewal to the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority’s Pensacola Beach Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Utility spokeswoman Nathalie Bowers said ECUA will have several staff members on hand at the Tuesday meeting, including Edward McMath, deputy executive director for utility operations; Don Palmer, director of water reclamation; Tim Haag, director of communications and government affairs.
“We have not been invited to the Thursday meeting,” Bowers says.
The plant discharges an average of more than 800,000 gallons a day of treated wastewater into the sound, just 2,000 feet from one of the area’s most popular swimming, boating and entertainment spots, according to news reports.
ECUA officials have said the water is treated almost to the level at which it can be consumed by humans, and plans call for more of it to be stored, reused and kept out of the sound in coming years. The DEP’s notice about the draft permit says that the treatment plant complies with all state regulations.
But environmental groups say the treatment level does not meet federal requirements and does not remove enough fecal contaminants, chemical pollutants, pharmaceuticals and excess nutrients, which harm marine life, swimmers and the tourism industry.
They want ECUA to come up with safer methods of disposing the treated wastewater.
“This is the perfect time to be raising this issue, or else we’ll have to wait another five years,” said Linda Young, head of the Florida Clean Water Network.
The group asked for the Tuesday meeting to allow the public to raise questions and get answers from ECUA and state environmental regulators. But the meeting is scheduled during working hours and attendees only may submit written or oral questions.
“This new way of doing meetings undermines the public’s ability to understand what’s going on,” Young said.
Young’s group, along with the League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area, Earth Ethics Inc., and the Panhandle Watershed Alliance, are hosting their own question-and-answer session this Thursday, Feb. 12. The meeting will be at the Santa Rosa Island Authority office on Pensacola Beach at 5:30 p.m.
The wastewater treatment plant, located east of the SRIA building, has been hit with hurricanes and maintenance issues for more than a decade. ECUA officials have taken steps to reduce the amount of treated effluent that goes into the sound, including reusing the water on roadway medians and on private lawns when requested by property owners.
Last fall, ECUA received a $425,000 grant from the Northwest Florida Water Management District to expand its storage and pumping system to reuse more than 285,000 gallons of reclaimed wastewater per day.
“Reclaimed water is designated for irrigation, but it is better quality than (Santa Rosa) sound,” Bowers said. “They need reclaimed water for irrigation on the beach; otherwise you would be using potable water (for irrigation).”
The state has listed an expanded reclaimed wastewater system as one of its five projects in the Pensacola area to be funded by a portion of the BP oil spill penalty money.
That project, if awarded by a regional Gulf council, could cost $2.9 million and would allow up to 475,000 gallons a day to be reused for irrigation on public and private property on Santa Rosa Island.
150210-a Gov. Scott highlights $1.6 billion to restore Florida springs
SuwanneeDemocrat – by Amber Vann
ORLANDO – On Feb. 9, Governor Rick Scott highlighted a dedicated source of revenue that will provide $1.6 billion for Florida springs restoration over the next 20 years as part of his proposed 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget. If passed by the Legislature, $50 million will go toward springs restoration next year.
Governor Scott said, “Florida’s springs are one of the many natural treasures that bring families, visitors and job creators to our state. Over the last two years, we have championed record funding for Florida’s springs, and we are committed to building on that success going forward. By making these important investments now, we will be protecting and restoring our great springs for generations to come.”
In addition to funds to restore Florida springs, Governor Scott’s “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget also proposes a dedicated source of revenue that will provide more than $5 billion for Everglades restoration over the next 20 years, including $150 million toward Everglades restoration next year. The proposed budget also includes more than $150 million for land acquisition and management which will focus in part on protecting land for the Florida panther.
Jon Steverson, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said, “I’m a firm believer that how you spend your money is drives your policy, and Governor Scott’s budget clearly demonstrates his continued commitment to the protection of our state’s natural resources. This budget focuses on projects that will directly benefit the environment and communities of Florida.”
Charles Lee, Director of Advocacy for Audubon Florida said, “This $1.6 billion commitment will assure families and businesses that Florida is committed to restoring our great springs. I applaud Governor Scott for his continued commitment to protecting Florida’s natural treasures.”
Don Quincey, Jr. District Board Chairman of the Suwannee River Water Management, said, “Through partnerships with local governments and through optimizing private-public partnerships, Governor Scott is utilizing significant resources to ensure that our springs and water supplies are protected. We must be good stewards of the land and waters of our great state, and this funding proposal highlights the importance of Florida’s natural resources.”
About the Florida Department of Environmental Protection
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s principal environmental agency, created to protect, conserve and manage Florida’s environment and natural resources. The department enforces federal and state environmental laws, protects Florida’s air and water quality, cleans up pollution, regulates solid waste management, promotes pollution prevention, and acquires environmentally sensitive lands for preservation. The agency also maintains a statewide system of parks, trails and aquatic preserves. To view the department’s website log on to www.dep.state.fl.us. Related: Gov. Rick Scott dedicates $1.6B to Florida springs restoration over ... Bradenton Herald Gov. Scott touts $1.6 bil for Florida springs Orlando Sentinel Scott recaps environment budget without mention of Amendment 1 Orlando Sentinel
150210-b Rising seas threaten South Florida's drinking water
MarketPlace.org - by Dan Weissmann
February 10, 2015
Greater Miami is a place where the idea of not having enough water seems completely bananas. South Florida receives about 60 inches of rainfall a year, and groundwater is more than plentiful. Keeping streets and homes from getting flooded with freshwater is still a huge job here.
But rising sea levels change things in unexpected ways, and seawater threatens to turn the drinking water salty. In some places, the ocean has already made good on that threat. And the problem is going to get worse.
To illustrate, Harold Wanless takes me out behind a car-rental place by the Miami airport. He’s a University of Miami geology professor who has spent decades studying how sea levels change, from the ice ages to today.
There's a lot to see and hear in this little spot: two highways converging, planes flying overhead, Miami Jai-Alai, the Pink Pussycat Strip Club. ("Everything you want near an airport," says Wanless. "I guess.")
He's chosen this location for two reasons. First, this entire area used to be part of the Everglades. "When they drained the Everglades here, water levels dropped about 7 feet," he says. "And voila! You have an airport."
Second, in this particular spot, a canal comes under those highways and hits a little barrier. This structure, several miles inland, is the boundary between the salty ocean water, and South Florida’s freshwater supply.
That water supply isn't contained underground. "It goes right up to the surface," says Wanless. "So, yeah – this is our aquifer. This is our water."
And this is where the goal of managing freshwater flooding meets the threat of rising seas.
One of this little barrier's main jobs is actually to get rid of freshwater after heavy rains, to prevent flooding. The gate opens and rainwater building up behind the dam spills out to sea.
There are dams like this all over the region. But for them to work – for the freshwater to spill – the seawater has to be lower than the gate.
Which it won’t be for much longer. "By the middle of the century, or before, 82 percent of these structures will no longer function," Wanless says.
Meaning, if those gates got opened, seawater would flow in. And salt would contaminate the drinking-water supply.
Keeping the gate closed would mean flooding out areas on the freshwater side.
Miami Beach is spending up to $400 million on pumps to send floodwater out to sea.
But there's another threat to drinking water, underground. And it’s already resulted in contaminated drinking-water wells in some cities here.
To see that threat, I went to West Palm Beach – the offices of the South Florida Water Management District – to meet Jayantha Obeysekera, a scientist there with the title chief modeler of hydrologic and environmental systems.
Essentially, he looks at the big picture, and he showed me what’s under South Florida. "This is a little prop that I use," he says, pulling a piece of rock out of wrapping paper.
It’s called porous limestone. Before I got here, I was thinking, porous like a membrane – maybe a really thick, hard coffee filter? But no.
"This is like Swiss cheese," says Obeysekera. "There are a lot of openings for water to move through."
He’s understating things. Swiss cheese doesn’t have this many holes. This is all openings. It's porous like a volleyball net.
And this is what makes South Florida’s problem with rising seas, well, special.
"People suggest, why don't we do what the Dutch do," says Obeysekera. "Build a levee and stop the seawater coming,"
With rock like this, that won't work. A levee, says Obeysekera, "may stop the seawater storm surge on the surface, but the water will come underground."
That’s what’s happening right now. And before seawater floods the land, it’s flowing into the water supply.
To describe that process, it will probably help if we first clear up a question: If there’s really no barrier between saltwater and fresh underground water, why isn’t all the drinking water salty already?
The reason is gravity. Saltwater is heavier than freshwater. Some seawater has always moved into the limestone, but it sits under the freshwater, which floats on top.
Then sea levels rise. Saltwater pushes up to where that freshwater was floating. It doesn’t have to push all the way to the surface to cause problems – just to the depth where the local well got sunk a few decades ago.
When that happens, "those well fields will be impacted," says Obeysekera. "They will go salty."
That’s already happened in parts of Broward County, north of Miami. Some municipalities there now get some of their water from a county facility farther inland.
The more sea levels rise, the farther inland the saltwater comes, and the more places get affected. Jennifer Jurado directs Broward's environmental planning division, which means she oversees the county's long-term water planning. She shows me maps of where the saltwater has already come – and where it’s heading: Hollywood, Hallandale, Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale ... the list goes on.
"It’s quite significant," says Jurado. And it’s not just Broward.
That’s why Wanless has spent almost 20 years trying to warn his neighbors across South Florida: They’d better start planning.
"If we get blindsided," he says, "we’re a bunch of Okies." As in: Dust Bowl refugees. No water, no viable anything. "It’s going to be ugly," he says.
For years, his warnings got a less-than-warm reception. Then, gradually, things changed.
"It was maybe 2005 when I would give a talk to a Rotary or business group," he says. "They stopped yelling obscenities, at the end or during the talk, and they started listening."
A couple of years later, he says, there was another shift. "People were starting to hang around after talks," he says. They wanted to know what they could do, what the community could do.
Now, he says, he hears from people who have helped themselves.
"It’s truly unbelievable," he says, "the number of people that call me or send a note saying: 'We had three or four properties. We just sold them and made a killing, and thank you so much.'"
Meaning, they’ve gotten out while property values are still high. "We're truly entering a time of what will become real-estate roulette."
Looking at projections on a 30-year horizon, he says – that’s as long as a mortgage.
Wanless is not alone in his thinking. I meet Rene Machado as he prepares for a round of golf in Coral Gables. He’s 75, moved here 10 years ago from New York — and he thinks Coral Gables is the best place on earth: lush, peaceful and close to downtown.
"It's like being in New York City and living in Central Park," he says. "How cool is that?" And, bonus: It's never winter.
I ask if he thinks about the rising sea levels, the threat. He says, sure. All the time.
And yes, he thinks about how long he should keep owning a home here. "I would evaluate every five years," he says. "I think after 10 years, I have to take it seriously."
From the windows of his 24th-floor office in downtown Miami, land-use attorney Wayne Pathman has a panoramic view of Miami Beach and the central city. There are cranes everywhere, putting up new skyscrapers. Pathman has played a role in some of these projects.
However, he doesn’t think everything we see will survive the next few decades, as rising seas encroach.
"There are solutions," he says. "Man has been very good at finding solutions. But I don’t think we’re saving everything."
He’s been pushing for local officials to rethink building codes, to account for where sea-levels will be in a few decades.
"This is a very developed area – high-density population – and it’s coming," he says. "And we keep building as if it’s not, and we keep living here as if it’s not."
These new skyscrapers are just a small fraction of what he’s talking about. South Florida’s population was about 5 million in the year 2000. Now it’s almost 6 million and growing.
Defending structures against flooding, whether from storms or higher seas, seems like the most-immediate issue, but threats to the water supply can't be ignored.
"Obviously, nobody lives here if we don’t have potable water," Pathman says.
Not even behind a seawall.
150210-c USDA to spend $30 million fighting citrus disease
February 10, 2015
The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to spend $30 million fighting citrus greening, the disease that has decimated Florida's most famous fruit crops.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday that the funding will be split between long-term research and shorter-term measures.
Vilsak says $23 million will fund research on lasting solutions at four universities. Those schools are the University of Florida; the University of California, Davis; the University of California, Riverside; and Kansas State University.
Another $7 million will fund specific projects. One project lowers pH levels in irrigation water and soil to strengthen root systems in citrus trees.
Another project tests rootstock that has been shown to tolerate the disease.
The disease has caused Florida orange production to drop by more than half in the past decade.
150210-d Wading bird nesting in key U.S. area plummets 28 percent
February 10, 2015
One of the nation’s largest and most important wading bird breeding areas—south Florida, which includes Everglades National Park—has seen wading bird nesting plummet 28 percent below 2013 levels and about 18 percent below the nine-year average for the area.
According to the South Florida Wading Bird Report from the South Florida Water Management District, an estimated 34,714 wading bird nests were initiated in south Florida during the 2014 nesting season (December 2013–July 2014), a significant drop from last year’s estimate of 48,291 nests and well below the average of the last nine years—42,782 nests.
This is the 20th edition of the wading bird report which provides a long-term, continuous record of annual nesting dynamics for south Florida and has proven essential for assessing and guiding restoration and management activities in the Everglades region.
Most wading bird species reduced nesting effort in 2014, but the extent of the decline varied. Of particular note are the small herons, which have shown consistent declines in nest numbers in recent years. Nesting effort by Little Blue Herons, Tricolored Herons, and Snowy Egrets continued to decline, with nest numbers down 83 percent, 42 percent, and 47 percent, respectively, relative to last year, and down 91 percent, 53 percent, and 57 percent relative to the nine-year average.
These declines have been especially acute in the Everglades where numbers have steadily dropped from greater than a thousand nests per species for a typical year in the mid-2000s to only four Little Blue Heron, seven Tricolored Heron, and 122 Snowy Egret nests in 2014. Roseate Spoonbills also exhibited reduced nesting effort in 2014. In Florida Bay, Roseate Spoonbills nesting effort (126 nests) was less than half that of recent years (e.g., 367 nests in 2013) and a third of the 30-year average (479 nests). In the central Everglades, Roseate Spoonbills nesting fell from over 200 nests per year during the last three years to only 50 nests in 2014. Great Egret and White Ibis nesting effort was also reduced, but to a lesser extent than other species, down only six percent and 10 percent, respectively, from the nine-year average.
“An environmentally healthy Everglades Region is vitally important to many thousands of wading birds. Clearly, the significant declines in nesting of many of the typical species of the region tells us that much remains to be done to make it a properly functioning ecosystem,” said Kacy Ray, who directs American Bird Conservancy’s Beach Nesting Birds Program.
The only species that did not experience reduced nesting in 2014 was the Wood Stork, which produced 2,799 nests, a 26 percent improvement over the nine-year average. The report suggests that wetter than normal conditions in 2013 led to higher water levels in large areas and was conducive to greater fish production which are a key source of food for storks.
Most wading bird nesting in south Florida occurs in the Greater Everglades. During 2014, those wading birds initiated an estimated 25,529 nests (74 percent of all nests in south Florida) in the water conservation areas and Everglades National Park. This nesting effort is 28 percent lower than last year (35,580 nests) and the decadal average (35,483 nests). Lake Okeechobee, another important nesting area, produced an estimated 3,457 nests (about 10 percent of all nests in south Florida). This is fewer than half the 8,461 nests that were initiated on the lake last year and is down 32 percent relative to the nine-year average. In contrast to these declines, nesting Wood Stork returned to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and produced 270 nests. Wood Stork have historically nested there in relatively large numbers, yet had not done so in six of the last seven years.
The data reveal that several nesting responses used as indicators of area restoration success have improved over the past 20 years, while others have not changed or are getting worse. For example, nest numbers of ibises, storks, and Great Egrets have increased over the past 15 years and are regularly meeting restoration targets.
The report says that the improvement in some nesting responses suggests that conditions in the Everglades have become more favorable to birds, possibly as a result of a combination of altered water management regimes, decadal shifts in climate and annual patterns of inundation within wetlands, and a reduction in mercury levels. On the other hand, the decline and stasis of other responses show that current conditions are not comparable with those prior to drainage, and in many respects are getting worse.
Ecological deterioration is occurring across all parts of the ecosystem, the report concludes, and this increases the probability of irreversible ecosystem changes that limit the possibility of recovering the essential defining characteristics of the historical Everglades. Nesting targets might become unattainable, the authors say, if ecological conditions continue to degrade and the status quo is not improved upon soon.
Florida Everglades would be a winner, Louisiana coast a loser under proposed Obama budget
KSLA.com - by: John Snell
February 9, 2015
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -
For centuries, long before hotel resorts sprouted along the Florida Keys, Florida bay was a wonderland.
The Everglades fed the blue green waters of the bay just enough fresh water to create a world-class estuary between the Keys and the mainland.
“It's in sick shape,” said Dr. Jerry Lorenz of Audubon Florida, as he took FOX 8 on a tour of the bay last April.
The state of Florida, local water districts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and environmental groups have worked for years on ambitious plans to rescue The Everglades.
Just as man sought to improve on nature, building levees to tame the Mississippi River, he also rearranged nature's plumbing in central and southern Florida.
Historically, fresh water flowed south, beginning not far from Orlando, on a slow trek to the Gulf of Mexico, slower than the slowest Louisiana bayou.
As cities and farms sprouted, sticking more and more straws into what Floridians proudly call their “river of grass,” the system starved for fresh water.
“From that point on, things really deteriorated in Florida Bay,” Lorenz said.
However, Florida has a jumpstart on rescuing this wonderland and friends in powerful places.
Last week, President Obama proposed spending $195 million in the coming fiscal year for the Everglades through a series of projects aimed at restoring more of the nature water flow.
At the same time, the Obama budget would scrap plans to share half-a-billion a year in offshore oil royalties with Louisiana and other gulf coast states beginning in fiscal 2017.
Louisiana, home to much of the nation's offshore oil and gas infrastructure, would tap into roughly one third of that money under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA).
Instead, the president's proposal would sprinkle the GOMESA funding onto conservation programs around the country.
“I mean, Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades don't compare in terms of productivity,” said Jerome Zeringue, outgoing chairman of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
Zeringue noted Louisiana voters changed the constitution to dedicate the GOMESA funds solely to coastal restoration projects and hurricane protection.
The state's estimated $170 million annual take represents one-third to one-half of the anticipated funding for the state's Coastal Master Plan, Zeringue said, and the largest continuing source of revenue.
“What's even more insulting is the fact that it's even proposed," Zeringue said.
While many observers believe the Obama budget will meet an early death in the Republican-controlled House and Senate, the president may have opened up a discussion in cash-hungry Washington about the use of GOMESA funds.
“When Louisiana loses guaranteed money, other states benefit with the chance to get that money,” said Tulane University Political Analyst Mike Sherman. “So, we're going to see some strange coalitions probably on this one.'
Geologists estimate Louisiana is at risk of losing another 1,700 square miles of its coastline in coming decades. However, the issue may have more to do with another kind of map, an electoral one.
“Listen, most states in the country, we know how they're going to vote for president in 2016,” Sherman said. “There's just a few battleground states and then, there's one super battleground. That's Florida.”
Even without Barack Obama on the ballot 2016, Sherman said electoral politics still matter in Washington.
He believes the issue marks an early test for Louisiana GOP leaders, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the third-ranking republican in the House.
“Do they have the clout to stop President Obama from taking away this dedication?”
150209-b Florida GOP leaders have stopped taking King Ranch trips from U.S. Sugar
Tampa Bay Times - by Michael Van Sickler and Craig Pittman, Staff Writers
February 9, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — This month marks the height of hunting season at the majestic King Ranch in Texas, where some of Florida's top elected officials have visited, courtesy of U.S. Sugar.
Yet for the first time since 2011, records show, the state's Republican elite have yet to make the trek west. U.S. Sugar — which has much at stake this year with lawmakers rewriting the state's water policy — continues to contribute sizable amounts in cash, but the company has stopped paying for the secret trips to King Ranch.
For one GOP leader, that's no accident.
As incoming House speaker, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, said he has no intention of reviving the King Ranch trips as part of his job raising money for 2016 House races.
"I want the fundraising to be open and transparent," said Corcoran, in a break from his predecessors, Will Weatherford and current Speaker Steve Crisafulli.
U.S. Sugar officials did not respond Monday to a request for comment.
As the Times/Herald reported in a series of stories last summer, the King Ranch trips weren't disclosed in any financial reports the Republican Party of Florida filed with the state. Unlike other fundraisers that were clearly listed, the trips were only alluded to by the listing of non-cash contributions that the party reported having accepted from U.S. Sugar.
Florida law does not require much detail for "in-kind contributions," so the purpose could only be discerned by comparing the dates of the gifts with the dates when Florida politicians registered for Texas hunting licenses.
The politicians who went on the trips, including Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, did not want to talk about them. They referred questions to party officials who would not discuss the issue. When a Times/Herald reporter tried following Putnam into his office to ask for details, a staffer closed the door on him.
A Times/Herald analysis found that U.S. Sugar paid at least $95,000 to the state party for at least 20 weekend getaways at its King Ranch hunting lodge — a time when sugar executives enjoyed exclusive access to the state's top decisionmakers, far from public scrutiny.
This has been the longest interruption in the trips since they began four years ago. Campaign finance records show that from November 2011 to Aug. 6 of last year, U.S. Sugar paid the party $174,148 for travel expenses. That helped pay for at least 20 weekend getaways for an exclusive guest list that included Scott, Putnam and four House speakers.
Corcoran, who went on one King Ranch trip in 2012, said he plans to restrict future fundraisers to "traditional" events, such as luncheons, dinners and weekend trips in-state, for instance visiting Universal Studios in Orlando or fishing in Boca Grande. He said he'll make exceptions for only a few out-of-state events, such as a long-standing Yankee Stadium fundraiser in August and a Napa Valley wine country tour in California that has proved popular.
Corcoran also pledged to organize fewer fundraisers, involve more members who are not part of the House leadership, and make events more open to the public.
"There's no question that special interests have too much influence," he said. "They are strong. What we have to do is push back against those interests by being transparent in what we do." Crisafulli, who as current speaker was in charge of raising money for House Republican candidates in the 2014 election cycle, referred all King Ranch questions to Corcoran, explaining he'd rather talk about his current job. Crisafulli, who bought a Texas hunting license the previous three years, is planning a rewrite of state water policy, covering everything from springs to the Everglades — a subject sugar companies care about deeply.
For years, U.S. Sugar money dominated state campaigns. During the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, the company, its subsidiaries and its representatives gave $8.1 million to state candidates and their committees. More than 92 percent went to Republicans or conservative committees.
The company concentrated 10 percent of what it gave — $820,912 — to 10 elected officials and their committees who visited King Ranch: $547,462 to Gov. Scott; $36,000 to Putnam; $55,000 to Weatherford; $112,750 to Crisafulli; $31,000 to Corcoran; $10,200 to Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres; $13,000 to Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples; $8,000 to Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford; $5,000 to former Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland; and $2,500 to former Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando.
The trips appear to have stopped less than two weeks after the Times/Herald began publishing its reports. Instead, U.S. Sugar has contributed $815,000 directly to the party.
Through January, none of the state officials who made trips in previous years to the ranch registered for a Texas hunting license for the 2015 season. Without a license, they can't legally shoot the ranch's big game: trophy deer, hogs, birds and Asian antelope.
The clandestine trips to King Ranch — which also grows sugar and citrus in Florida — came at a crucial time for the sugar industry.
During the Charlie Crist administration, the state lined up an option to buy U.S. Sugar acreage for use in Everglades restoration. But then the company and Hilliard Brothers of Florida, another sugar company, unveiled plans to turn 67 square miles southwest of Lake Okeechobee in Hendry County into a development with 18,000 homes and 25 million square feet of stores, offices, warehouses and other commercial buildings.
The South Florida Water Management District, a state agency, holds an option to acquire 100 percent of U.S. Sugar's land through October 2020. The district also has an option to acquire only 47,000 acres — that option expires in October.
If the sugar companies' development plan is approved, that land would be worth a lot more — making it more expensive for the state to purchase. U.S. Sugar began working on the development plan a year after buying a hunting lease at King Ranch, but a spokeswoman said the company did not discuss the plan with any politicians who took the hunting trips.
Just before the November election, the state Department of Economic Opportunity, in a rare move, rejected U.S. Sugar's development plan. The decision can be appealed.
When polluted Lake Okeechobee gets too full, officials release excess water into two rivers — the St. Lucie to the east and the Caloosahatchee to the west — causing a cascade of environmental woes. Politicians and activists concerned about the rivers have been pushing for the state to buy the U.S. Sugar land so the Lake Okeechobee pollution can be sent southward.
Scott has avoided taking a position on buying the sugar land. When the Times/Herald asked Scott's staff whether he is for or against it, the reply was a three-sentence statement that did not contain either a "yes" or a "no." It said Scott is "focused on completely funding existing projects … to protect our estuaries and restore the Everglades," and looks forward to "working with stakeholders and the Legislature to identify additional storage projects." Related: King Ranch slips into history for GOP Tampabay.com (blog)
150209-c Sunshine Economy: Protecting Florida's environment et $800M a year (For 20 Years)
February 9, 2015
More than 4 million voters approved Amendment 1 in the November 2014 election. The measure received an overwhelming 75 percent "yes" vote.
That vote unleashed hundred of millions of dollars this year and billions of dollars over the next 20 years that have to be spent on acquiring and improving Florida lands. The amendment uses fewer than 150 words to describe the types of projects the money has to be spent on. That section is highlighted below.
SECTION 28. Land Acquisition Trust Fund. --
a) Effective on July 1 of the year following passage of this amendment by the voters, and for a period of 20 years after that effective date, the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall receive no less than 33 percent of net revenues derived from the existing excise tax on documents, as defined in the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, as amended from time to time, or any successor or replacement tax, after the Department of Revenue first deducts a service charge to pay the costs of the collection and enforcement of the excise tax on documents.
b) Funds in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund shall be expended only for the following purposes: 1) As provided by law, to finance or refinance: the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas, and related property interests, including conservation easements, and resources for conservation lands including wetlands, forests, and fish and wildlife habitat; wildlife management areas; lands that protect water resources and drinking water sources, including lands protecting the water quality and quantity of rivers, lakes, streams, springsheds, and lands providing recharge for groundwater and aquifer systems; lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area and the Everglades Protection Area, as defined in Article II, Section 7(b); beaches and shores; outdoor recreation lands, including recreational trails, parks, and urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms and ranches; historic or geologic sites; together with management, restoration of natural systems, and the enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation lands.
2) To pay the debt service on bonds issued pursuant to Article VII, Section 11(e).
c) The moneys deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, as defined by the statutes in effect on January 1, 2012, shall not be or become commingled with the General Revenue Fund of the state.
Now it's up to Florida lawmakers to decide what qualifies for the money. Should beach restoration be included? What about land for biking trails? How about money to pay for whole neighborhoods to get off septic tanks and onto sewer systems?
It's a mad dash with the Florida legislative session approaching quickly and lasting only two months.
There is no shortage of ideas. The Senate's Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation has received more than 4,000 online public comments on how to spend the money.
Florida has been buying land for conservation and recreation purposes since 1963. The first program was paid for by a tax on outdoor clothing and gear, including swimsuits. (Yes, the Sunshine State paid for public land purchases with bikinis.)
Amendment 1 guarantees a third of the state's share of real estate documentary tax stamp revenues will go toward the environment.
The state owns a lot of land already. Including federal and local government land ownership and management, 30 percent of Florida is taken. Here are Florida's current public lands, including state and federally owned and managed lands. Peter Frederick served for six years on the state's Acquisition and Restoration Council. The 10-member panel is responsible for making recommendations for what land the state should buy.
During Frederick's time, the group did not have much money to use thanks to the Great Recession and budget cuts. He thinks the council will play an important role in helping decide the fate of some of the Amendment 1 dollars, at least those going toward land purchases.
The council also reviews land management strategies for the properties in the state's portfolio, and he worries about the cost of upkeep.
Frederick says, "We are reaching a breaking point. There will be a point at which we can no longer do the prescribed fire or water management."
150209-d When it comes to fundraising, Florida House leaders say baseball and wine are good, hunting is bad
SaintPetersBlog - by Peter Schorsch
February 9, 2015
The Tampa Bay Times reports that Florida GOP leaders have not and will not be hunting for dollars at Texas’ King Ranch.
Craig Pittman and Michael Van Sickler report:
“… for the first time since 2011, records show, the state’s Republican elite have yet to make the trek west. U.S. Sugar — which has much at stake this year with lawmakers rewriting the state’s water policy — continues to contribute sizable amounts in cash, but the company has stopped paying for the secret trips to King Ranch.”
The Tampa Bay Times reported last year that records show that top Florida Republican officials have enjoyed repeated hunting trips to King Ranch thanks to the Sunshine State’s sugar industry and that the trips were financed all or in part by the Florida sugar industry. U.S. Sugar leased 30,000 acres at the ranch and built a hunting lodge amid its rolling hills.
Lawmakers can’t accept free meals, drinks and trips from donors, but a loophole allows parties and political committees to do so. They can then pass on these gifts without detailing who gives or receives them — as long as the donation can be considered for a “campaign purpose.”
The Times says the lack of disclosure means officials and sugar lobbyists can avoid scrutiny about dealings on a host of important issues like agriculture policy, water pollution and Everglades protection.
That will all come to an end, incoming House Speaker Richard Corcorantold Pittman and Van Sickler.
Not the part about closing the loophole that allows parties and political committees to accept in-kind gifts, just the hunting.
“Corcoran … said he plans to restrict future fundraisers to ‘traditional’ events, such as luncheons, dinners and weekend trips in-state, for instance visiting Universal Studios in Orlando or fishing in Boca Grande,” report P and VS. “He said he’ll make exceptions for only a few out-of-state events, such as the long-standing Yankee Stadium fundraiser in August and a Napa Valley wine country tour that has proven popular with both the House and Senate.”
In other words, hunting = bad; baseball and wine = good.
The Times‘ selective reporting about the fundraisers at King Ranch has always been my problem with its coverage. Why focus just on King Ranch and not, for example, the fundraiser benefitting Republican Senate candidates held at the storied Pebble Beach golf course?
Because some people just don’t like the people who enjoy hunting more than golf. Stories about hunting and lodging and taxidermy (!) make for better visuals.
As silly as it seems to favor one hobby over another when deciding where to host fundraisers, Chairman Corcoran deserves credit for the other reforms he says he will implement.
Corcoran pledged to organize fewer fundraisers, involve more members who are not part of the leadership, and make the events more open to the public, reports P and VS.
That’s all good, as long as there aren’t any deer around.
150208- Lawmakers deciding how to spend Amendment 1 conservation dollars
St.Augustine Record - by Tia Mitchell
February 8, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — Now that Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment setting aside $10 billion over the next 20 years for water conservation, it’s up to the Legislature to allocate the money.
Not everyone agrees on what type of projects qualify for this Amendment 1 funding, an estimated $757.7 million this year alone, and that will promote plenty of debate once the legislative session begins in March.
Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, a coalition group that successfully pushed for the ballot initiative, says it was clear about the types of initiatives that would qualify for the money.
The group plans a rally at the Capitol on Feb. 18, a preventative strike of sorts that will help spread its message that Amendment 1 dollars should be narrowly focused.
“This is the Land and Water Conservation Amendment; what we’re talking about here is conservation,” group chairman Will Abberger said Friday.
The coalition believes that 75 percent of voters supported the amendment in November because they were told the money would be used to buy land that helps improve Florida’s water supply.
Conservation groups proposed the amendment to create a guaranteed source of money for Everglades restoration and Florida Forever, a land acquisition program, after years of complaining the Legislature and governor had not done enough.
Opponents to the measure largely argued against using the state constitution to carve out funding for specific programs, though some also questioned the need for the government to buy more land.
Abberger gave the St. Johns River as an example of how he thinks Amendment 1 should work: Money could be used to buy or clean up land near tributaries and springs that feed into the river to improve the quality of the water flow.
But there are more ideas for the money, which comes from setting aside 33 percent of the documentary stamp tax the state collects when real state is sold.
The amendment language approved by voters said the money could be used for “restoration of natural systems” and “enhancement of public access or recreational enjoyment of conservation areas.”
“People think, look, it’s just a land law; no it isn’t,” said Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, chairman of the Senate’s Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee that is tasked with implementing the ballot initiative. He said there are many ideas for how the dollars could be used that fit within the scope of the ballot language.
The Legislature’s budget process has not yet begun, and it’s too early to tell exactly what projects will receive Amendment 1 dollars this year.
Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget combines the Amendment 1 dollars with about $15.7 million left over in various state conservation accounts and divides it like this: $150 million for the Everglades, $50 million for springs, $197 million for land acquisition and management, $25 million to improve Florida beaches, $333.9 million to continue paying for projects already underway and $17.5 million for wastewater programs in the Florida Keys.
The Senate has proposed legislation it says will provide greater transparency and accountability for Amendment 1 dollars — the bills identify the accounts, known as trust funds, the state would use to collect and spend the money — but it doesn’t determine what programs will receive money under this new structure.
It is also too early to tell whether Jacksonville’s request to breach the Rodman Dam to help improve water flow to the St. Johns River will become part of the Amendment 1 debate.
The project would require the Legislature’s approval.
A coalition that includes the St. Johns Riverkeeper, JAX Chamber and the Jacksonville Port Authority supports restoring the Ocklawaha River and its floodplains to allow more fresh water into the St. Johns. But business and elected officials in Marion and Putnam counties say allowing the Rodman Reservoir to drain would have a negative impact on tourism and cause wells in the community to dry up.
Dean said he remembered the Rodman Dam, built in 1968, being a focus of heated debate during his first year in the Legislature in 2002 and for many years after. He has fished there and said he talked to people who say the reservoir has improved agriculture and water supply.
“My personal opinion, I see it as an environmental asset not a detriment,” Dean said of the reservoir.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a former member of the Florida House, also expressed concern about the Jacksonville proposal, which has not yet been formally introduced.
“There’s an awful lot of good that we can do all around the state without opening that can of worms,” he said last month.
150207- Avenir developers: We’d restore wetlands on degraded Gardens site
February 7, 2015
PALM BEACH GARDENS — You’d have to walk more than 10 miles just to loop the perimeter of Vavrus Ranch, 4,763 acres of pastureland in the western reaches of Palm Beach Gardens that has defied developers’ dreams for decades.
A thousand cows and ornery Brahman bulls roam this expanse, nibbling in grassy fields crossed by drainage canals dug in the 1950s to support tomato and winter vegetable farming, active as recently as 10 years ago. Refreshingly quiet, its less dug-up sections host watchful hawks, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, wood storks and coyotes. The occasional family of otters dashes across a rutted car path.
But as pastoral as the scene is, those who’d like to develop here argue that it’s hardly an untouched, natural wonderland. A mile past West Palm Beach’s Ibis Golf & Country Club community on Northlake Boulevard, the property abuts Mecca Farms and The Acreage to the west, the Bay Hill community to the south and the Beeline Highway near the North Palm Beach County Airport on the north.
Stripped of most of its tree cover and speckled with invasive plants and rusty detritus from 50 years of farming and ranching, the canals and irrigation ditches also have left it much dryer than the pristine wetlands just past the barbed fences that mark its eastern and northern boundaries. Those wetlands serve as the model for the restoration Avenir Holdings promises to undertake on the northern half of the property, if the city lets it build thousands of homes on the southern half.
“We’re preserving much more than what’s pristine,” Danny Lopez, one of the Coral Gables firm’s principals, said Thursday. “The problem is it costs a lot to do this.”
The plan is to rework the land so that water stored at Mecca Farms and in wetlands to the northwest can flow slowly onto Vavrus, returning its natural verdure while filtering the water before it continues on to the Loxahatchee River and the Grassy Waters Preserve, rather than letting water continue to rush off through canals.
The firm bought the ranch for $20 million in 2012 and proposed a community of 7,600 homes, with stores, offices, a college, schools and parks and an environmental resort. Amid public resistance, they reduced that to 4,760 homes but still face staunch opposition from communities that came out of the ground before it. As it is zoned, only about 400 homes would be permitted on the site.
“I don’t buy their argument that they need all this increased density in order to justify their expensive restoration project, Lisa Interlandi, senior counsel for the Everglades Law Center, said Thursday. “A much better model is for that land to be made available to a government entity that has experience doing that work and letting them incorporate that into their restoration plans for the region.”
The fact that other houses were built in the surrounding areas doesn’t make it right to repeat bad decisions of the past, she said.
“We need to think about where we want to go as a community,” she said.
Those considering approval of the project should view it in the broader context of other proposed developments nearby and regional conservation needs, said former county commissioner Karen Marcus, an ally of Interlandi and longtime opponent of western sprawl.
“Vavrus needs to be part of the bigger conversation,” Marcus said.
After more than two decades in county government, she added, she’s come not to believe developers that say they’ll provide vast amounts of public amenities if only approval is given for their projects. They tend to come back five year later and say “that won’t work” and request revisions, she said.
Avenir officials have been hosting public meetings with residents and sitting down with influential people such as Marcus for two years, soliciting comments and trying to convince future neighbors of their good intentions with the project. Avenir principal Rosa Schechter first met with Marcus even before closing on the property.
ut a city council meeting both attended Thursday night cast doubt on how much ground Avenir has gained. Marcus walked past Schechter without a hello.
The project was not on the council agenda, but word had leaked out earlier in the week that Marcus and Interlandi planned to speak against the project. The two sat in the front row, along with Sal Faso, another outspoken opponent who serves as president of the powerful North County Neighborhood Coalition. But when open mic time came for public comment, the two women stayed planted in their seats. Faso got up to speak — but on another topic.
Marcus said later she decided not to speak after seeing that Avenir’s Schechter had appeared at the meeting.
Schechter, for her part, attended only because she hoped to respond to Marcus’ criticism. Instead, with Marcus staying put, Schechter came to the microphone, thanked city planning staff for its ongoing evaluation of her project, invited council members to tour the site to see how environmentally degraded it is, and sat down.
The traffic concerns are real, even Avenir officials acknowledge. Northlake and other roads in the area already are crowded, county traffic engineers say and the development, along with others already approved or anticipated nearby, would only make that worse.
Avenir officials contend that their community, because it would have its own schools, offices, shopping and recreation, would contain some of the traffic it might otherwise generate. With their strategy of continued outreach and accentuating the positives, they’re hoping to move the city council to see that their smart, New Urbanist development would have more merit for the city than dividing the site into smaller, less-unified projects without the revenue to support a major wetlands rebirth.
But they realize it’s a long way from 400 homes to 4,760.
So is there a number somewhere in the middle where they and current opponents can reach agreement?
Neither side is there yet. PAST PLANS FOR AVENIR SITE
Avenir’s proposal is the latest of five for the site since the 1990s. The first three called for much more intense development:
— Vavrus’ plan: Longtime owner Charlie Vavrus submitted a plan in 1991 to build 2.5 million square feet of industrial buildings, 7 million square feet of offices, 1 million square feet of stores and restaurants and 18,000 homes, bringing an estimated 42,000 residents to a city whose current population is 50,000. It didn’t happen.
— Gardens Science and Technology Community: In 2003, after the neighboring Mecca Farms site was named as the future home of Scripps Research Institute and its Biotechnology Research Park, 10.5 million square feet of industrial and office space, 500,000 square feet of retail and 2,000 homes were planned for that site. Next door, on 2,000 acres of Vavrus Ranch, with the city helping in the planning, there would be another 2 million square feet for research and office space, another 450,000 square feet of retail, a hotel and 7,500 homes. Scripps instead chose to settle farther east, in Jupiter.
— Exploration Pointe: In 2004 a partnership of home builders Lennar Corp. and Centex Homes announced plans to build, first on 2,000 acres of Vavrus Ranch, and later on the entire property. Lennar dropped out, but Centex kept trying for approvals for 9,982 homes, 2.8 million square feet of biotech space, five public and private schools and a 97-acre town center. Centex later dropped the proposal after opposition.
— Inland Port: Charlie Vavrus came back with another plan in 2008: He would turn 1,700 acres into an “inland port” distribution center that would serve as a landlocked extension of several Florida ports, including the Port of Palm Beach. The port project is still out to sea.
FL Ag Commissioner
and his motives are
150206-a Deleting history (and land) in South Florida
CounterPunch.org - by Alan Farago
February 6, 2015
Adam Putnam and the Great Destroyers
Fox News Florida branch, Sunshine State News, printed recently, “Putnam on Water Policy: Get Priorities Right From First, Then Spend Accordingly” (January 23, 2015). Some interpretation is needed for readers inclined to take the faux news source literally.
Adam Putnam is the telegenic, multimillionaire farmer and two-term Secretary of Agriculture for Florida. We last observed Secretary Putnam paving the way for the Cabinet to green light Florida Power & Light’s two new nuclear plants at Turkey Point.
So, it bears paying attention when Sunshine/ Fox surrogate reports what Putnam said to the Florida Legislature about water policy.
“Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Thursday urged members of the House State Affairs Committee – the lawmakers charged with increasing spending on water sources and sensitive lands – to first create ‘an overarching, already prioritized (water) policy’ that will keep the state on the right course for land purchase in good times and bad.”
The background for the story is the jockeying by politicians to grab the $20-plus billion in funding through Amendment 1, which 78 percent of Florida voters approved in November.
But wait: the basis of the story is that Florida has no “overarching, already prioritized water policy” for land purchases. Who says ?
For decades, priorities for water policy and land purchases have been right at the tip of environmentalists’ tongues and clearly stated in state policies through Forever Florida – gutted by the GOP Legislature during Scott’s first term – and missions of FDEP and the state water management districts.
At the top of the environmentalists’ list has always been: Buy Big Sugar Lands For Restoration Into Everglades Wetlands. So why is Putnam deleting history?
The issue is – and has always been – that large property owners who control Florida elections have zero interest in setting their land prices so long as they perceive endlessly increasing values.
There are some well-publicized cases of state land purchases by willing sellers who recognized the importance of protecting Florida’s natural heritage. These are not, however, the extraordinarily wealthy farmers – supported by billion-dollar subsidies – who control state elections.
Those farmers – Big Sugar billionaires – take elected officials like Putnam on all-expense paid trips by private jet to the King Ranch in Texas where they discuss strategy, how to expertly game the system through delay, litigation and more delay.
The second paragraph of the Fox News affiliate’s story: “Putnam recommended a long-term plan that focuses on the state’s three areas of current emphasis: springs restoration, the northern Everglades and the Central Florida Water Initiative.” What, no land purchases in the Everglades Agricultural Area ?
What about state purchases of significant acreage now in Florida sugarcane, beginning with the tendered US Sugar properties, the absence of which is bottling up Everglades restoration as completely as a waste water pipe stopped with feminine hygiene products ? Nada. Not a word.
Sunshine State News added, “Nobody on the committee, chaired by Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, had a question or comment for the commissioner during or after his presentation. Putnam later said he wasn’t surprised – “this is a lot to dump on somebody at one meeting.” Wait!
Now the bullshit meter is racing.
Putnam’s omission of buying Big Sugar lands with Amendment 1 funds is exactly what the sugar industry wants. No one had a question on Caldwell’s committee because the script did not call for questions. Just blank-faced nodding.
And what about the great unwashed public ? Here is what Big Sugar tells you and me, through a press release reported by the Palm Beach Post a few weeks ago during the annual meeting of the Everglades Coalition:
“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… (W)e have not seen any serious interest in purchasing a large amount of land for which there is no plan or project.”
“No serious interest” is a lie, pure and simple, and that lie is at the heart of Putnam’s comments and its purpose is to do what Big Sugar has always wanted: push off the date to the infinite future when Everglades restoration might be finally addressed.
Environmentalists, and especially the Save the Indian River Coalition and its allies, have been clamoring for years about the need to purchase sugar lands to restore a semblance of natural fresh water flow to the dying River of Grass. Store more water and cleanse it, on Big Sugar lands, and less pollution will rip through the estuaries, the Indian River and Caloosahatchee River.
By the way, when then-Gov. Charlie Crist initiated negotiations to purchase US Sugar lands south of Lake Okeechobee, the largest sugar producer in the state – the Fanjuls of Coral Gables and Palm Beach – immediately jumped behind Marco Rubio’s campaign for US Senate against Crist.
You see: Big Sugar wants to complain that no one is demanding purchase of its lands, while making sure its proxies in the Legislature and the Ag Secretary-who-would-be-Governor keep any mention of buying Big Sugar lands out of sight, and any mention of eminent domain as far from the public forum as Pluto from Florida Bay.
The Fox Sunshine State concludes, “Several groups applauded Putnam’s address to the committee, including the H20 Coalition, an offshoot of one of the state’s largest business organizations, Associated Industries of Florida. AIF had recommended against Amendment 1 before the Nov. 4 election.” No kidding. Now they are at work to direct traffic on how funds are used for Amendment 1.
In other words, the Great Destroyers got Florida Wildlife Federation and Audubon of Florida to do the heavy lifting to pass Amendment 1, and now the black hats have moved in with legislative wire cutters and are in the process of hijacking the largest pot of money ever made available in Florida – some $20 billion – to protect the environment.
It’s a real life “Ocean’s Eleven” except instead of a casino that is getting robbed with hi-tech wizardry, it’s the do-gooders opening the vault doors for the black hats to come in, at the last minute. As they leave, they’ll hand out a few hundred thousand dollars to any of the groups who will put them on their board of directors or maybe give them an award at their annual meeting.
The do-gooders will get their own plaques featuring wading birds that went extinct despite their earnest efforts and a thank you note.
“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 written statement. Wait, Tom Feeney ?
Oh that Mr. Feeney, as the Tampa Bay Times reports, is a former state House speaker who, after election to the U.S. House, repeatedly was named one of the “Most Corrupt Members of Congress” by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Need to read more?
At the Davos World Economic Summit, former Vice President Al Gore said that along with putting a price on carbon emissions, “we need to put a price on denial in politics. People need to stop financing denial.” Snap.
People need to stop voting for denial, but Al Gore, when he had the chance as presidential contender in 2000 to put pressure on Florida’s Great Destroyers, couldn’t find his way to the microphone. He was advised by the same Florida Democrats who direct party traffic flow today. Yeats said it best in his 1919 poem, The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Alan Farago writes the daily blog, Eye On Miami, under the pen name, Gimleteye. He is president of Friends of the Everglades, a grass roots conservation organization based in Miami, FL. A long-time writer and advocate for Florida’s environment, his work is archived at alanfarago.wordpress.com
150206-b Everglades Foundation applauds restoration budget allocation
SaintPetersBlog.com - by Janelle Irwin
February 6, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott has reiterated his commitment to Everglades restoration this week by announcing a $150 million allocation in the 2015-2016 budget.
The Everglades Foundation is praising the governor’s continued support for both Everglades and Lake Okeechobee restoration. “We continue to applaud and thank the governor for his commitment to America’s Everglades and finding water storage solutions. Today’s event reinforces the need and support for water storage solutions, Everglades restoration, and the funding needed to fulfill existing projects that are slated to be built and completed,” CEO Eric Eikenberg wrote in a statement.
Scott’s plan includes moving water south and away from the troubled St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. “Right now, the State of Florida has a storage option available – a 26,100-acre area just south of Lake Okeechobee – that can make a difference. Buying this strategic parcel would provide water managers with a new option to store, move and clean water south of Lake Okeechobee before it reaches the Everglades. This badly needed reservoir project is vital in protecting our local economies and ecosystem, and in the ultimate goal of protecting the drinking water for nearly 8 million Floridians and millions of tourists.”
Scott didn’t say whether or not he supported purchasing land south of Lake Okeechobee. The water management district could purchase nearly 28,000 acres for $7,400 an acre, but that offer expires in October.
150206-c Great Lakes toxic algae prompts big investment, rare political agreement
CircleOfBlue.org – by Codi Kozacek
February 6, 2015
State and federal lawmakers have mobilized more than $US 188 million since last August to understand and respond to the toxic algae outbreaks in Lake Erie that poisoned the water supply for 500,000 people in Toledo, Ohio. The surge in spending doubles the amount that has been directed to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) over the past four years to address the causes of a serious pollution and public health threat across the basin.
In all more than $US 336 million has been invested by Ohio and the federal government in work to clear Great Lakes waters of the nutrients that are the primary cause of the algae and microcystin toxins that are poisoning water. The algae reduction program is one of the most expensive and focused contemporary projects to reduce water pollution in the United States.
“These projects and funds are a first step, not a silver bullet to solve the problem of harmful algal blooms,” said U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who helped direct federal funds to the Great Lakes states, in a statement to Circle of Blue.
Agricultural activities in the Great Lakes Basin pollute the water to the critical state. The 2014 Toledo crisis was a proof of it. Similarities with the Everglades ?
He added: “We also need the EPA to issue guidance on microcystin now, and we need to be sure communities have the resources to update antiquated sewer systems.”
The program is a display of the powerful public concern about contaminants in drinking water. While both major political parties disagree about almost every major issue, dirty drinking water is an important departure. The Great Lakes algae project is the work of a Democratic president and a Republican governor, and has bipartisan support in Congress and state Legislatures.
The project also is the latest reflection of Ohio’s prominence in regional and national clean water policy and practices. In the 1940s, Ohio lawmakers and scientists were instrumental in developing water pollution control regulations to stem contamination in the Ohio River. Those regulatory innovations were influential in developing central provisions of the 1972 federal Clean Water Act, the nation’s most important water quality statute. Three years prior to the Clean Water Act’s Congressional passage the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland, a signal event that alerted the nation to the seriously degraded quality of American rivers, lakes, and bays.
Managed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is one of the largest investments in environmental research, conservation, and recovery in the United States. It follows in the footsteps of national projects like the Chesapeake Bay Program and the plan to restore Florida’s Everglades.
Along with steps to deal with poisoned algae the initiative includes the cleanup of toxic industrial sites, efforts to control invasive species, and conservation projects to protect native species and habitat. Over the last five years spending on these steps has injected more than $US 1.6 billion into the Great Lakes region. President Obama’s new budget, released this week, proposes a $US 50 million cut to the program’s funding level for 2016, but previous attempts to scale back the GLRI have failed in Congress. The program will receive $US 300 million this year. Last fall, the project’s leaders completed a new strategy plan to guide GLRI priorities for the next five years. That action plan outlined, for the first time, goals for reducing harmful algae blooms and the phosphorus pollution that drives them.
Scientists and other experts, however, have long warned that an investment strategy is not enough to rid the lakes of toxic blooms. Regulations that include agriculture—the source of nearly two-thirds of the phosphorus that is causing Lake Erie’s algae blooms—are also needed under the federal Clean Water Act, which currently addresses only urban phosphorus pollution in a meaningful way.
“They said no, we invested enough money in the problem. We’ve signed an agreement now. We’ve declared that eutrophication will go away,” David Schindler, a scientist at the University of Alberta, told Circle of Blue last fall. Dr. Schindler produced landmark experiments on Canadian lakes in the 1960s that identified phosphorus as the key driver of algae growth in fresh water. “Now, with increasing populations, we have used more and more fertilizer, grown more and more livestock on the land, and turned more and more natural ecosystems into concrete jungles, and all of those things have increased these nonpoint sources. The politicians can’t really claim that no one told them this was likely to happen.” “We talk a lot about the need for studies, but there is also a need for action.” –Adam Rissien, Ohio Environmental Council
Lawmakers are reluctant to impose regulations to reconcile the economically and politically powerful agriculture industry with drinking water safety. New legislation introduced in Ohio this year could begin to change that. The proposals, which call for restrictions on the timing of fertilizer application, stricter rules for the disposal of dredged lake sediment, and the creation of a new algae management office, set up a significant test for the state at a time when drinking water in the United States is once again under assault from chemical and oil spills, nitrate pollution, and aging infrastructure.
“It’s going to require some very nuanced legislation,” Adam Rissien, director of agricultural and water policy at the Ohio Environmental Council, told Circle of Blue. “We talk a lot about the need for studies, but there is also a need for action. We have enough studies that have recommended actions, and I think it is time we start moving on some of those.” Senate Bill Would Ban Spreading Manure on Frozen Ground
First in line is SB 1, a bill introduced this week by Ohio State Senators Randy Gardner and Bob Peterson, both Republicans. The legislation revives many of the provisions that were proposed in a Senate bill at the end of 2014, including a clause that would ban farmers from spreading manure or fertilizer on frozen ground. Unlike the previous bill, which died in December, SB 1 focuses solely on controlling nutrient pollution from farms and combating algae blooms. In addition to the manure ban, SB 1 would:
Transfer the Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture.
Create an Office of Harmful Algae Management and Response within the state Environmental Protection Agency.
Establish requirements for the disposal of dredge material, nutrient loading, and phosphorus testing by public water utilities.
Include an emergency clause that would make the law effective immediately.
The bill, as well as all of the funding that has been pledged in the last six months, is a good start, according to Ohio Democratic State Representative Mike Sheehy.
“We need to go in to look at this bill and see if it’s going to do all of the desired things to bring down the level of phosphorus that’s occurring in the Western Basin of Lake Erie every spring, because that’s the goal we’re driving at right now,” Sheehy told Circle of Blue. “If this legislation starts to address that, I’m going to support it, but if there are loopholes and some people don’t have to comply, I’m going to fight that. Everyone here in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate, and certainly the governor, all of them are talking about the need to address this problem. Hopefully we can get something done early here in the 131st Assembly.” Farms Support Safe Drinking Water, and Regulation With Caveats
The urgency of the problem is being echoed by leaders in Ohio’s agriculture industry, which has largely supported initiatives like the manure ban and a fertilizer application certification program required by legislation last year.
“Farmers have known for a while that we have some challenges, but when you wake up one morning and nearly half a million people can’t drink their water, it quickly screams to the top of the priority list,” Joe Cornely, senior director of corporate communications for the Ohio Farm Bureau, told Circle of Blue. “So it served as a wake-up call that, something we knew we needed to be working on, it needed to become more of a priority.”
In the short term, the Farm Bureau is working with state and federal funding programs to help farmers implement best management practices in areas where nutrient reductions will have the biggest, quickest effect on algae blooms, Cornely said.
While there is support for some regulation, he emphasized that one of the biggest concerns is knowing which management practices are most effective. Research into this question, known as “edge-of-field” studies, is being conducted by a number of Ohio agencies and universities with funding from the state as well as the agricultural community.
“We have to be cautious and smart about the steps we take so we don’t fix one set of problems and create another,” Cornely said. “We are very confident that it is not either-or. We’re not going to choose between producing food and having clean water, we think we can have both. Unfortunately, getting there, there are no flip-the-switch solutions. We can’t just make everything perfect tomorrow.” Federal Funding a ‘Shot-in-the-Arm’ For Farmers
Federal dollars will help put some of the practices that are known to reduce nutrient runoff—such as buffer strips and control structures that manage when water is released from tile drainage systems—on the ground in the western Lake Erie basin. Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana received $US 17.5 million from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to assist farmers with financial and technical resources.
“It certainly is a huge shot in the arm, and it is on top of some state efforts and other federal efforts,” Steve Davis, a watershed coordinator with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Ohio, told Circle of Blue. “At same time, this is a 7-million acre watershed.”
“The RCPP funding will help identify important points at which runoff becomes a problem and will help with the development of best management practices in agriculture,” said Senator Brown. “This targeted approach will have significant long-term benefits.”
150206-d Land purchase to expand conservation and widen I-75
News-Press.com – by Melissa Montoya
February 6, 2015
Almost 700 acres of land were acquired within the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for conservation efforts.
The land is within the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Florida forever project.
The land acquired connects to the Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area and abuts a portion of the Florida Department of Transportation widening project for I-75. FDOT provided $1.4 million for the purchase.
The land, part of the Bond Ranch, is located northwest of Fort Myers and was acquired for $3.15 million in collaboration with the Trust for Public Land, according to the Department of Environmental Protection. The Bond Ranch was previously a cattle ranch.
The land purchase will allow FDOT to widen the last 4-lane segments of I-75 to six lanes.
According to a press release, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will manage the property. Hiking trails and hunting opportunities will be provided. Because of the acquisition, Cape Coral residents will see an increase in groundwater and in their reservoir.
"Adding this land to Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area will create innovative stormwater treatment along the interstate, reducing wetlands impacts and improving water quality in the Caloosahatchee Estuary," said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson. "State ownership and management of this parcel will result in safe, self-sustaining habitat for wildlife in this area."
150205-a Glad for the Glades
February 5, 2015
Suddenly, saving the Everglades is a hot issue again. Real money, millions in state and federal funding, is being proposed in this year’s budgets. The combined amount, $390 million, would improve the health of the Everglades — and therefore the viability of South Florida’s drinking water, wildlife habitat and tourist magnet.
President Obama’s budget earmarks $240 million for Everglades restoration as outlined by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, CERP.
This comes on the heels of Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $150 million for restoration and habitat preservation. And Scott wants Everglades restoration to get funds from Amendment 1, the constitutional measure overwhelmingly approved by voters for land and water conservation. That would add another $5 billion for Everglades projects over the life of the 20-year amendment, which could cover the state’s projected costs.
We commend Mr. Scott’s turnaround here. During his tenure, spending on the state’s environmental protection agency steadily declined, along with money for restoration and habitat preservation. Plus, an improving economy should always give conservation funding a boost.
But is it enough money? When authorized in 2000, the tab for Everglades restoration was estimated at $7.8 billion; it is now $13.5 billion. Everglades restoration is expensive and moves at a snail’s pace. There have been some successes. The latest CERP report highlights the raising of a mile of the Tamiami Trail to unblock the water flow into the Glades; the near-completion of the Picayune Strand restoration; ecosystem responses to phased implementation of several projects that restored “sheet flow” into Florida and Biscayne bays; and near completion of the Kissimmee River restoration to undo a disastrous channelization in the 1960s.
The work being done is divided into four geographical regions: Greater Everglades, Northern Estuaries, the Southern Coastal Systems and Lake Okeechobee. This last is deemed of critical concern.
According to the Everglades Foundation, an advocacy group that seeks to build consensus around restoring the River of Grass, when Lake Okeechobee’s water level is high, especially during the rainy season, its water is released to the east and the west. But, CEO Eric Eikenberg told the Editorial Board, that water really needs to flow south to replenish the still-parched Tamiami Trail area of the Everglades. What’s missing are deep-water reservoirs to store and filter pollutants from the lake waters that are now going elsewhere. With a reservoir in place, a series of dams could then be dismantled to restore the flow south.
Not only is the land available on which to locate a reservoir, there is a contract between the state and U.S. Sugar, which owns that land, to allow the plan to forge ahead. The deal was sealed in 2010, during the Charlie Crist administration. That year, the state purchased 26,000 acres for $190 million, Mr. Eikenberg said. A second option makes 46,000 acres available for purchase.
This would be a boon to propel restoration forward.
However, Mr. Eikenberg says that, despite signing on the dotted line, U.S. Sugar wants to renege on this option, which, by the way, expires on Oct. 12. U.S. Sugar representatives did not return a call from the Editorial Board on Thursday.
Gov. Scott should use his new commitment to the Everglades to unclog this holdup before the opportunity to renourish a precious resource is lost.
150205-b GOP lawmakers want to block EPA clean water rule
SummitCountyVoice.com - by Bob Berwyn
February 5, 2015
No love for wetlands from new GOP majority in Congress.
Huge swaths of Colorado wetlands, streams at risk of degradation.
FRISCO — You may not know it as you speed down I-70 from the Eisenhower Tunnel toward Summit County, but a small stream that runs parallel the freeway, just a few hundred yards away, is the main source of drinking water for the town of Dillon.
Straight Creek’s waters gather up between the craggy peaks high above the tunnel, starting from droplets at the edge of a melting snowdrift, to mossy rivulets and roaring cascades amidst granite boulders. Keeping that water pure is important, not only for Dillon residents, but for thousands of visitors staying at local lodges, resorts and campgrounds.
But some of the smallest streams, like the headwaters of Straight Creek, don’t flow year-round, and that has put them at focal point of a long-running debate about the extent of federal clean water rules. The discussion was center stage today during a rare joint hearing of the House Transportation and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where the new GOP majority grilled top EPA administrators about the proposed Clean Waters of the U.S. Rule.
The agency’s proposed rule, based on the latest water and wetlands science, would clarify where and when the federal government can regulate water quality impacts. It could ultimately help protect water quality in 68 percent of Colorado’s streams and rivers, which provide drinking water for 3 million of the state’s residents.
The extent of federal authority over smaller intermittent streams and some types of wetlands has been in question for 10 years, since the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the Clean Water Act’s definition of ‘navigable waters” in a case involving a Midwest developer who illegally filled 22 acres of wetlands. In a civil claim, the builder claimed the privately owned wetlands weren’t connected to any navigable waterways, making them exempt from protection.
Conservation advocates say the proposed rule will restore some of the Clean Water Act’s previous protections for streams and wetlands, while some farmers, ranchers and developers present it as a new federal encroachment on private property rights or local control.
Today’s joint hearing came as the EPA prepares to finalize the rule as soon as April, according to Gina McCarthy, the agency’s chief, who told the lawmakers that the EPA is not considering any more delays or issuing supplemental information. McCarthy emphasized the extensive public process, including outreach to local governments, and said the rule will maintain all existing exemptions for agriculture.
That didn’t stop House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) from taking a nasty partisan tone from the start, accusing the EPA of undermining cooperation between local authorities and federal agencies, then cited a familiar laundry list of complaints, but no positive, alternate suggestions.
Shuster said the EPA chose to write a vague rule to give federal regulators carte blanche authority over water.
“This will give feds too much power … and mean higher food prices for hard-working American families,” Shuster said, invoking the never-fail Republican pocketbook argument used to attack any new environmental regulation.
Sen. Barbara Boxer explained that the threat to Clean Water hasn’t ended. Just last year, residents of Toledo has their water supply constricted by a bloom of toxic algae in Lake Erie. By helping to control pollution in tributary streams, the new EPA rule would help reduce the recurrence of such events.
“Let’s set aside fact from fiction,” Boxer said, responding to hyperbolic criticism of the proposed rule. “We don’t want to regulate a puddle, that’s ridiculous,” Boxer said.
She also addressed charges of over-reach by the Obama administration by pointing out that the President has issues fewer executive orders than Reagan, both Bushes or Clinton.
Florida Republican Congressman John Mica, representing agricultural and development interests in his state, threatened to pass legislation that would undo the EPA’s proposed rule, then acknowledged that would likely result in a presidential veto and yet more protracted uncertainty over clean water rules, part of a never-ending circle created when politicians try to drive natural resource management based on ideology rather than science.
Notably, Colorado wasn’t represented during the hearing on the House or Senate side, even though the regulation of waters in the state have far-reaching implications for the ski industry, agriculture, energy development and municipal use.
But environmental and community activists in the state rallied support from local government leaders around Colorado. In a letter, mayors and county commissioners from around the state urged Sen. Michael Bennet to stand up for clean water. The letter was signed by the mayors of Boulder and Lafayette, as well as town council members and county commissioners from around the state.
“As elected officials across Colorado, we write you to urge you to declare your support for the Clean Water Rule proposed by U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to restore Clean Water Act protection to thousands of waterways here in Colorado and across the country,” the local elected officials wrote.
“Our constituents need clean water for drinking, fishing, swimming, agriculture, recreation, and the well-being of their communities … But our waters’ health is in crisis … Many of our waterways are threatened with unregulated pollution, including the streams that feed our lakes and rivers, and wetlands that help keep them clean,” they wrote.
150205-c Governor proposes cuts to State agency that would oversee new conservation effort
WGCU.org - by Amy Green
February 5, 2015
Governor Scott’s budget proposal comes as Florida initiates a 20-year, $22 billion land and water conservation effort.
Economist Hank Fishkind says the governor's proposed cuts target the state agency tasked with overseeing Amendment 1 projects.
"That's precisely the problem, that the proposal would simply eliminate currently vacant positions", Fishkind said. "But that doesn't reduce the mission of the agency. The mission of the agency is going to increase, and the governor is reducing the manpower to conduct that mission."
The budget puts most of a billion dollar surplus toward tax cuts. It trims 155 positions from the Department of Environmental Protection.
The DEP says nearly all of the positions already are vacant or are expected to become vacant by the end of the fiscal year.
In a statement a spokeswoman says the governor's proposal goes beyond Amendment 1's requirements by putting $773 million toward the Everglades, springs and land acquisition and management. But former DEP attorney Chris Byrd says the cuts likely will slow Amendment 1's implementation.
"The files on their desk will begin to stack a bit higher, and it seems that with this increase of work it's not the time to be cutting staff", said Byrd.
Legislators will take up the governor's budget proposal when they reconvene next month.
150205-d Scott touts budget plan for Everglades clean-up in West Palm
Palm Beach Post
February 5, 2015
WEST PALM BEACH — Florida Gov. Rick Scott reiterated his pledge to spend $150 million on Everglades restoration in the 2015-2016 budget year as part of his 20-year, $5 billion plan to save the River of Grass during a brief press conference Thursday at the South Florida Science Center at Dreher Park.
Scott’s comments about funding Everglades restoration mirrored those he made in Miami on Jan. 28, when he unveiled his $77 billion state budget. Scott proposes allocating $150 million on continuing Everglades restoration efforts, while also largely endorsing land-buying and environmental preservation efforts of the voter-approved Amendment 1.
As part of the Everglades proposal, Scott said he continues to support work aimed at moving water south and away from the troubled St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. However, Scott refused to say whether he endorsed the efforts of environmental groups to persuade the South Florida Water Management District to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee owned by U.S. Sugar as part of Everglades restoration efforts.
The water management district has an option to buy nearly 28,000 acres at $7,400 an acre. The option expires in October.
150205-e The Beach: A river of sand
StarFL.com - by Tom Baird, Special
February 5, 2015
You get up in the morning and go out on the beach. It is the same beach you walked on yesterday. Tomorrow you will go to the same beach and it will be there as always. The tide may have brought in some new shells or possibly some trash, but the beach is the beach. It hasn’t gone anywhere. That is an illusion.
A beach is a river of sand.
Why we don’t perceive that beaches flow has to do with our timescale. Oceanographers have devised numerous experiments with dyes and other markers, and recorded beaches with time lapse photography. Over the course of a year, the dyes migrate laterally down the beach. The beach face may expand and contract with the seasons, but down at the level of a grain of sand, those sand grains are being moved along the beach face parallel to the water.
The name of this phenomenon is longshore transport. It is also known as littoral drift, longshore drift, and longshore current, and has been heavily studied by oceanographers. Without getting into the dizzying mathematics of the Bijker formula, the Engelund and Hansen formula, the Ackers and White formula, the Van Rijn formula, and others, just pretend you are down at the level of a grain of quartz sand. Waves hit the shore at a slight angle and as water rushes up the shore, it tumbles grains of sand up the beach at an angle. As the water rushes back out, gravity takes over and tumbles the sand grains straight back to the water’s edge. The next wave pushes the sand back up the beach at an angle, gravity pulls the sand back down, and so on and so on. This creates a zig-zag pattern of sand being moved along the beach face at the angle of the waves. The more energy that the waves have, like during storms, the greater the volume of sand that is moved and the faster the rate.
On both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States, longshore transport is predominantly north to south. This is especially true the further south along the coasts. However, local conditions may conflict with this trend. As inland mountains erode, rivers carry grains of granite and quartz to the sea where waves distribute it along the shore. Dams on rivers trap this sediment flow and the ocean processes are starved for sand. Waves begin to erode the beaches.
As anyone familiar with Cape San Blas and the St. Joseph Peninsula knows, the phenomenon of longshore transport is dramatically apparent locally. On St. Joseph Peninsula, sand is being moved from the south to the north and re-deposited at the northern tip of the peninsula. This rapid migration of sand northward leaves many structures on St. Joseph Peninsula in a precarious position, with their foundations being washed out from under them. Cape San Blas boasts, if we want to call it that, the highest rates of coastal erosion in the entire state, according to the Florida Geological Survey. Parts of Cape San Blas have been eroding at a rate of fifteen to twenty-five feet per year over the past 150 years. The Cape San Blas Lighthouse had to be moved numerous times in the past, and many of us remember, and have photographs, of when the keeper’s quarters and Air Force buildings stood shoreward of the lighthouse. The erosion caused by Hurricane Isaac brought the surf to the edge of the lighthouse and it had to be moved once again to protect the historic structure.
If we add sea level rise and hurricanes to the mix, erosion rates will continue to accelerate. The migration of sand not only moves material northward on St. Joseph Peninsula, but the peninsula itself has migrated. The peninsula has migrated “backward” from west to east. In other words, the peninsula is “slimmer” than it once was. How do we know this? Geologists have found a peat layer, the remains of a salt marsh, beneath the sand ridges. Carbon dating places the time when this layer was a thriving salt marsh, on the bay side of the peninsula, at only 750 years ago. Pine stumps become visible in front of houses on the beach after a strong storm. They are normally under three or four feet of beach sand. Sand has buried the terrestrial habitat and salt marsh that once stood where the beach is now.
Not that long ago, at least geologically, St. Joseph Peninsula was a series of barrier islands. According to geologists at the Florida Geological Survey, it was two separate barrier islands about 5000 years ago. About a thousand years ago, those islands merged where Eagle Harbor is now, forming the continuous sand spit we know as St. Joseph Peninsula. During historic times the peninsula was cut at that point by hurricanes, only to refill with sand and reform a barrier between bay and Gulf due to persistent longshore drift of sand toward the north. Another obvious place where there was a pass between barrier islands is at Lighthouse Bayou and the Stump Hole. Deep underwater channels at Lighthouse Bayou attest to the swift currents that once flowed from Gulf to bay at this point. A great deal of effort, expense and granite rock has gone into trying to prevent this pass from opening again. The salt marsh at Pig Island is another site where a pass may have once existed between the bay and the Gulf.
This is neither a recommendation nor criticism of local efforts at beach renourishment and stabilization. You can’t blame people for wanting to protect their property, and beach erosion removes property from the county tax rolls. And longshore transport can be slowed down. It is not totally impossible to control ocean processes; after all, the Dutch have demonstrated that for centuries. However, individuals and governments face tough choices when weighing the costs and benefits of trying to stabilize an environment that is naturally and constantly moving.
150205-f The craziest features of Miami's planned skyscrapers
MiamiNewsTimes.com - by Kyle Munzenrieder
February 5, 2015
Miami's latest condo boom is not meant for those who simply need a roof over their head. No, most of these skyscrapers are aimed firmly at the world's 1 percent. Twenty-four-hour access to a basic fitness center and a decent pool just don't do it for these folks when it comes to amenities.
Developers are in a race to outdo themselves to produce extravagant gimmicks to set their projects apart. Some of them are kind of cool. Others are, well, a bit bizarre. One Thousand Museum's Underwater View
Architect Zaha Hadid's plan for the crown of One Thousand Museum bravely answers the question: What if you could see the view from the top of a 700-foot skyscraper, but, like, while you were underwater?
Though the tower will already be eye-catching for its exoskeleton-like design, the rooftop pool might ultimately be the most talked-about feature. The entire pool deck takes up the top two floors of the 61-floor building, and the west-facing wall of the pool will be made of glass. Meaning, with goggles on, you'll be able to see across Miami-Dade County straight to the Everglades while you're underwater. Of course, the cheapest unit in the building starts at $5.5 million. Paramount Miami Worldcenter's Rooftop Soccer Field
OK, this is kind of cool, but we patiently await the day when we can write the headline "Soccer Ball Flies off Worldcenter, Destroys Porsche Below." But this is nothing compared to the next Worldcenter feature. Worldcenter's Rooftop "Yacht"
While the soccer field will be on a lower-level rooftop, this thing will apparently be on the very tiptop of the tower. Yes, it's a deck specifically designed to look like a cruise ship.
While the soccer field will be on a lower-level rooftop, this thing will apparently be on the very tiptop of the tower. Yes, it's a deck specifically designed to look like a cruise ship.
Also in beachless Edgwater is the Paraiso project's "Beach Club," which again is nowhere near a beach but, according to some renderings, will be littered with trucked-in sand. The four-tower project will also feature a beach-entry pool. Renderings aren't exactly clear on what that means, but typically it involves sand around the edge of a pool. Porsche Design Tower's Robotic Garage
One would expect a condo building named for Porsche to be car-centric, and this under-construction Sunny Isles Beach tower doesn't disappoint. It will feature a unique robotic car garage in which elevators lift residents' cars to their own personal spaces near their units. The total cost for the garage alone: $560 million. Oceana Bal Harbour's $14 Million Jeff Koons Sculptures
Jeff Koons is an artist beloved by rich people and loathed by art critics. Naturally, his work is being used to hawk condos at Oceana Bal Harbour. Developers bought two sculptures from the artist for $14 million, and each resident will receive a mini-stake in their ownership. "Some [buyers] appreciate art," Mark Zilbert, president of Zilbert International Realty, told the Wall Street Journal of the sculpture, "and those who are new to wealth, as long as they know it's expensive -- they love it."
150205-g The trouble with mangroves
PlanetSave.com - by Sandy Dechert
February 5, 2015
One answer to human cravings for living at the shore has always been “filling the swamps.” In many areas of the world, shoreline wetlands of mangroves thrive. These plants live in a world of high salinity, tidal inundation and storms, and oxygen depletion—conditions fatal to most other vegetable species. Because people perceive swampy ecosystems as smelly, often a bit dangerous, obstructive of views, and relatively easy to convert to “productive” land uses, we have not historically given much thought to the consequences of meddling with the lowly mangrove.
We’ve been wiping out mangroves for a long time. Early agricultural societies across the world drained and filled the coastal margins to increase their holdings of arable land. That practice continues, along with industrial and residential destruction of coastal habitat in the name of “reclamation.” For instance, the development of Miami Beach, once a mangrove island off the coast of Florida, turned it into a fabulous coastal resort. We’re only beginning to find out that in the long run, indiscriminate decimation of coastal forests has a hand in shifting the very climate that created them.
Land plants that live in the shallow tidal seawater of the world’s coasts, mangroves create unique ecosystems in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Their densest populations grow between 5° N and 5° S latitude. Over 118 countries and territories harbor mangrove forests (see map). Asia has 40%, followed by Africa (21%), North and Central America (15%), the islands of Oceania (12%), and South America (11%).
With roots submerged in water, mangrove shrubs and trees thrive in hot, muddy, salty conditions that would quickly kill most other plants. Although mangrove forests feature at most three or four of the tree species, they comprise one of the world’s most threatened biomes. Like tropical rainforests (which contain thousands of different tree species), the simple mangroves create a habitat that results in one of the the most productive and biologically complex ecosystems on Earth. A stunning variety of codependent organisms, including many that are unique, call mangroves home.
Mangrove areas represent less than 2% of the ocean’s surface—but they generate about 20% of global marine production. Their ecosystems supply humans with seafood, fruits, medicines, fiber, and wood. Says the Ocean Portal of the Smithsonian Institution:
“Dive underwater, and a mangrove’s smooth brown roots suddenly take on the textures and hues of the multitude of marine organisms clinging to its bark. Anchored in mud, the roots are literally coated with creatures—barnacles, oysters, crabs, sponges, anemones, and much, much more. The dense, intertwining roots serve as nurseries for many colorful coral reef fishes and for fishes valued by fishermen. Juvenile fish find shelter there during their first vulnerable weeks of life, before swimming off to deeper, more dangerous waters.”
The filtration systems of the mangroves isolate and concentrate marine salt. Their complex roots stabilize the soil, slow currents, and hold the plants upright in the shifting sediments where land and water meet. The mangroves build new land. In this lifestyle begins their doom.
The greatest threat to mangrove forests is development by humans. Since 1980, at least 35% of the world’s mangrove ecosystems have disappeared. In countries like India, the Philippines, and Vietnam, the number is more like 50%. The rate of loss in the 21st century is higher for mangroves than for the tropical rainforests.
Looking at the fate of mangroves in the United States, we should consider Florida first because of estimates that people have slain up to 90% of the forest population there. A publication from the Florida Bar Association states:
“Mangroves in Florida have been degraded by poorly conceived development that failed to consider losses of natural productivity. The greatest threat comes from construction activities.”
During the late 1800s and in the first half of the 1900s, Florida’s public policy favored the development of coastal areas. Pioneers drained cypress swamps, mangrove areas, and marshlands, filled in low-lying and submerged lands, channelized the rivers and streams, and began to regulate lakes, rivers, and other water bodies. As well as development itself, associated activities like dredging, using herbicides, increasing wastewater runoff, and spreading pollution are fatal to shoreline ecosystems.
Development has killed off about 90% of the state’s rich mangrove habitat, according to some estimates. Not only wiped out for residential use and tourism (hotels and associated facilities, eco-adventure, water sports), the resource has diminished because of aquaculture (tilapia), and associated channel changes work to destroy nearby coral reefs.
Heading into the 21st century, the state’s public policy has shifted, with more regulation and limits in environmentally sensitive areas. But continued urban development threatens even the remaining mangrove habitat along Florida’s coasts. Millions of tourists visit each year. Large numbers of people move south every day: the state is fourth in number of relocations, behind only California, New York, and Texas in numbers. (Part Two of this story, which describes how mangroves protect us—even against the impersonal forces of climate change—will follow shortly.) http://youtu.be/W8BsNW72Xgw
150204-a All sides praise House water bill effort while raising concerns
Saint PetersBlog.com – by Bruce Ritchie
February 4, 2015
Environmental and agriculture groups raised concerns on Wednesday with draft water bill language presented by a House committee but speakers on all sides praised the chamber for its comprehensive approach on the issue.
The House State Affairs Committee language addresses pollution threats facing springs and Lake Okeechobee and the need for increased water supplies in central Florida.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection would be required to complete an assessment of water quality for the state’s 33 largest springs, called “first magnitude” springs. DEP also would be required to draw boundaries for springs protection areas and adopt them as rules by July 1, 2016.
But representatives of groups representing fruit and vegetable growers and landscaping professionals said they were concerned about drawing boundaries for all springs when some may not be considered in trouble, or listed as “impaired” by the state.
“We understand how important it is to protect our springs,” said Jim Spratt, representing the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association.
“However, the identification of a ‘springs protection zone’ can lead even with the best of intentions to a scenario where you have a circle on a map or a list,” he said. “At some point somebody will say, ‘Inside the circle you can do this’ or ‘you can’t do this.’”
On the other side of the issue, Sierra Club Florida representative David Cullen said the organization was concerned that the draft does not set deadlines for the state to assess springs for pollution or threats of overpumping.
He said the draft language relies on the regulatory tools used historically while the state has gotten into the problems it has now.
“If we are going to use the same tools, we need to make sure they’re good and sharp before you try and do the job,” Cullen said.
Representatives of agriculture groups and Florida Power & Light Co. praised draft language that would require water management districts to provide priority consideration to the identification of preferred sources for water “self-suppliers,” which can include farms and power plants.
However, Ryan Matthews, representing the Florida League of Cities, said giving that priority to other water users causes heartburn for local governments in rural, economically distressed North Florida.
Representatives of Audubon Florida and the Everglades Foundation raised concerns about a proposal to replace a South Florida Water Management District permitting program that is used to reduce pollution of Lake Okeechobee with the state’s pollution reduction programs, which the groups said is voluntary.
State Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres and committee chairman, said in an interview after the meeting that the state’s process for setting pollution limits and establishing cleanup plans for Lake Okeechobee are adequate to replace the 40-year-old “works of the district” program.
“I’m not sure that we’ll come to a complete resolution on that one way or another,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell told committee members they should expect to vote on a proposed committee bill next week. The draft bill language and a committee staff analysis is available at www.myfloridahouse.gov.
150204-b Amendment 1 supporters respond — maybe — to governor’s budget
Saint PetersBlog.com – by Bruce Ritchie
February 4, 2015
Environmental groups said Wednesday that the water and land conservation ballot initiative approved in November makes no reference to wastewater treatment and water supply projects and doesn’t call for spending on current programs.
The policy statement and news release issued by Florida’s Water & Land Legacy coalition comes a week after Gov. Rick Scott issued his 2015-16 budget request that included $17.5 million for Florida Keys wastewater improvements and $156.3 million for continuing environmental programs.
But the coalition made no reference Wednesday to the governor’s budget.
Sierra Club Florida field director Frank Jackalone said a policy statement about not using Amendment 1 to fund existing expenses — such as agency operations — was a reference to the governor’s budget request.
“Ultimately, the intent of Amendment 1 is to provide funding at historic levels for these programs, and not merely to supplant Florida’s current budget for environmental programs,” the position statement said.
However, asked whether the groups were commenting on the request for continuing environmental programs under amendment 1, coalition chairman Will Abberger said the groups are not taking a position on any specific projects.
“What we are trying to do is articulate to the Legislature the Scott administration the clear intent of the amendment as the amendment sponsors and the broader principle that Amendment does not require any new legislation,” said Abberger, who also is director of conservation finance at The Trust for Public Land. Amendment 1, approved by 75 percent of voters in November, included broad language to direct documentary stamp tax revenue to a broad range of programs involving water and land conservation.
Voter approval immediately touched off debate about whether wastewater treatment programs were eligible for funding. Some supporters have said Amendment 1 spending should not offset revenue for some existing environmental programs or go towards wastewater treatment.
The governor’s budget request provides $773.4 million for Amendment 1 spending including $100 million for the Florida Forever land-buying program, $50 million for springs, $97 million for land management, $156.3 million for continuation of environmental programs.
Of the $50 million that the governor has proposed for Florida Keys wastewater projects, $17.5 million would come from Amendment 1 documentary stamp tax revenue. Another $32.5 million would come from general revenue as would $50 million for water supply projects.
In a press release, coalition supporters said the selection of Amendment 1 projects should be based on science and not politics.
“Amendment 1 is intended to fund land conservation, not wastewater infrastructure and water supply development,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. “There are other, more appropriate sources of revenue to meet those needs.”
Abberger said some projects that involve improving wastewater to protect springs could be eligible for Amendment 1 funding. But if every local government thinks it deserves Amendment 1 funds for upgrading wastewater, “that clearly is not the intent of the voters in my opinion,” he said.
And he said the coalition still is analyzing bills introduced last week by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness and chairman of the Senate environmental committee, that would restructure trust funds with the goal of making Amendment 1 spending transparent.
“We certainly support that intent,” Abberger said, although the coalition still believes that implementing legislation is not required.
Adam H. PUTNAM
FL Commissioner of Agriculture
150204-c Putnam testifies on newest federal overreach
February 4, 2015
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam testified today on the impacts of the Waters of the United States rule at the Joint Hearing Before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in Washington, D.C. Excerpts of his testimony are below:
“The EPA has once again made an attempt to expand federal jurisdiction on Florida’s waterways with its proposed changes to the rules guiding the implementation of the Clean Water Act.
“The EPA claims that the purpose of this rule is to clarify which bodies of water are and are not subject to the Clean Water Act. The EPA claims that the proposed regulations will not significantly change what currently is considered Waters of the U.S. And the EPA claims the proposed regulations will not substantially effect communities like agriculture.
“I believe this is another attempt by the EPA to regulate areas outside their authority, and in contradiction to guidance given by the courts.
“Contrary to what the EPA claims, the proposed rule will in fact lack clarity, significantly expand federal jurisdiction, impose burdensome requirements on agriculture, and impede efforts to protect and restore the environment.
“Across the nation, farmers and ranchers are good stewards of the land, and the expansion of federal jurisdiction under this rule will deem many areas of farmland as Waters of the U.S. and therefore subject to federal jurisdiction. The EPA’s proposed rule will expand federal jurisdiction across the country, as much as 20 percent in isolated wetland areas of Central Florida and South Florida.
“In addition, the EPA’s proposed rule will impede and, in some cases, dismantle existing restoration efforts for critically impaired and truly important natural water resources. Rather than supporting environmental restoration projects around Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and other lakes, rivers and springs, we’ll be forced to divert funding to meet the requirements of this new rule.
“For the sake of Florida’s farmers and ranchers, and our efforts to protect Florida’s environment, I urged the U.S. Congress to stop the EPA from advancing this disastrous policy.”
150203-a After Rick Scott pledges $150 million, Barack Obama wants $240 million more for Everglades
MiamiNewTimes - by Kyle Munzenrieder
February 3, 2015
Barack Obama and Rick Scott may not have that much in common politically, but both the president and the governor's recently proposed budgets had one thing in common: Lots of money for the restoration of the Florida Everglades.
Last month Scott set aside $150 million in his budget for the Everglades as part of a 20-year, $5 billion plan. Now, Barack Obama's newly proposed 2016 budget has also earmarked $195 million for the Everglades, a significant increase in federal spending in the wetlands.
Yep, politicians on all levels are making it rain on the Everglades.
"Building on the Obama Administration's record investment of more than $1.6 billion in the Everglades, the budget proposes $240 million to continue restoration efforts," touts a press release from the White House.
About $124 million of that cash will go toward doubling spending on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects. That money will likely be spent on canal, reservoir and water preserves with the goal of restoring the Everglade's natural water flow, eliminating pollution runoff from cities and farms, and keeping Florida's drinking water supply safe.
It's part of a long-running trend in the Obama administration to spend money on infrastructure projects with an eye on job creation -- those Corps projects are expected to create hundreds of positions. Some past proposed speeding on the Everglades by the White House has been a victim of a divided Congress, but with several key powerful Republicans in the house, including Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, its likely this budget item should make it through unscathed.
The announcement comes on the heels of Rick Scott's own pledge to increase spending on Everglades restoration. Voters passed an amendment last November that would set aside one third of all excise taxes on documents for environmental purposes. Scott wants at least a quarter of that money to be dedicated to the Everglades with an eye on spending $5 billion over 20 years. Scott's funding would be dedicated to projects along the Tamiami Trail, reservoirs in central Florida, and restoration of the Kissimmee River.
Both politicians' Everglades promises come after years of economic turmoil have often left funding for Everglades projects in turmoil. According to some critics' analysis, Scott himself had slashed environmental funding by 95 percent during his first term.
150203-b Drilling in Atlantic raises alarm
NewsHerald.com - by Carl Hiaasen
February 3, 2015
As a monster storm roared up the northeastern seaboard last week, the White House announced plans to open a wide swath of offshore waters to gas and oil exploration. Nice timing.
Although drilling is years away, future rigs in the Atlantic would lie in the path not only of fierce winter clippers but also hurricanes, presenting the year-round potential for devastating winds and pounding seas.
The risk doesn’t trouble the oil companies or the governors of Virginia , Georgia and the Carolinas , all eager for a piece of the action.
Already the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe of 2010 is a fading memory, except for the families of the 11 workers who died and the hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents whose lives were upended.
We’re told that the BP disaster was a jarring wake-up for the energy industry. Today the drilling technology is much better, the companies boast, and so are the safety measures.
Trust us, they say. Something that terrible can’t happen again.
Which is what they said after the tanker Exxon Valdez dumped its load in Alaska ’s Prince William Sound , polluting a thousand miles of shoreline. Twenty-six years later, there’s still crusted oil on the beaches.
After the BP rig blew up off the Louisiana coast, crude oil gushed for almost three months before the company could cap the pipe. Day after day, underwater video cameras let the whole nauseated country watch the poisoning of the Gulf of Mexico .
Nobody knows how much oil really leaked out, but BP’s early estimates proved absurdly (and predictably) low. The U.S. government says the amount was at least 210 million gallons, much of which is still suspended as a spectral goo somewhere in the depths, according to many experts.
Tar-balled beaches from the Mississippi to the Florida Panhandle have been cleaned, groomed and re-cleaned to make them presentable to tourists, but the Gulf still shows signs of sickness.
In the time since the spill, marine biologists have documented more than 900 dead bottle-nosed dolphins and 500 dead sea turtles — and those are just the corpses that were found. Infant dolphins continue dying at a suspiciously elevated rate.
While some prized species of Gulf fish seem to be rebounding, life-threatening deformities are occurring in the organs of tuna and amberjack. A University of Miami study found that larval and juvenile mahi exposed to Deepwater crude were much weaker, losing up to 37 percent of their swimming strength.
The possibility of a similar calamity along the eastern seaboard hasn’t deterred the Obama administration or politicians in the lower coastal states, but it’s scaring many oceanfront municipalities with economies that rely on clean beaches and healthy, abundant seafood.
And scared they should be. One blowout is all it takes
Fortunately, Florida was spared from Obama’s offshore-lease plan, thanks to Sen. Bill Nelson and others who don’t suffer from Deepwater Horizon amnesia.
Energy-industry lobbyists insist that oil spills are extremely rare, but that’s not true. According to the Associated Press, at least 73 domestic pipeline-related spills happened in 2014, an 87-percent jump since 2009.
Two weeks ago, a pipeline broke near Glendive , Montana , spewing more than 50,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River and contaminating the public water supply. A similar accident happened less than four years earlier, when an ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured and dumped 63,000 gallons into the Yellowstone near the town of Laurel .
Those spills weren’t on the nightmare scale of Exxon Valdez or the Deepwater Horizon, yet they jolted the rural communities that treasure the Yellowstone and depend on it for irrigation, drinking water and family recreation.
(Boosters of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry foreign-bound Canadian oil through Montana and elsewhere, say recent mishaps demonstrate a need for larger, more modern pipes.)
Major ocean spills don’t happen often, but the damage is long-term and far-reaching. If a major well ruptured off the Atlantic seaboard, the resulting spill could impact millions of residents by killing tourism and destroying vital fisheries.
Obama said the rig platforms must be at least 50 miles from land, not much of a comfort zone. The Deepwater Horizon was about the same distance offshore, and that wasn’t enough to spare the beaches or the marine life.
At the same time the president declared his intention to allow oil leases in the Atlantic and expand exploration of the Gulf, he said he will prohibit drilling in parts of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in the Arctic Ocean .
These areas, explained Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, “are simply too special to develop.”
That’s another way of admitting that drilling is still very risky.
The shorelines of Virginia , Georgia and the Carolinas evidently aren’t “special” enough to deserve protection.
150203-c Eroded South Broward beaches may get sand
Sun Sentinel - by David Fleshler
Work on the eroded beaches of southern Broward County wouldn't begin until 2018 at the earliest
More sand may be on the way for the chronically eroding beaches of southern Broward County, which are retreating at an average rate of six feet per year.
Gov. Rick Scott's proposed budget includes $496,486 for preliminary work on a major project to widen beaches at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, Dania Beach, Hollywood and Hallandale Beach.
A massive delivery of new sand is spread along the beach in Hollywood in 2005, as part of a project to widen south Broward beaches.
A massive delivery of new sand is spread along the beach in Hollywood in 2005, as part of a project to widen south Broward beaches. (Susan Stocker / Sun Sentinel)
The work wouldn't begin until 2018 at the earliest, and many unknowns remain - how much sand would be added, where it would come from and what the project would cost, said Nicole Sharp, Broward County's beach erosion administrator.
The Broward County Commission will be presented with options, probably at one of its March meetings, she said.
The last big beach restoration project on this eight-mile stretch of coast took place in 2005 and 2006, when about 1.9 million cubic yards of sand were spread along the coast from John U. Lloyd to the Miami-Dade County line.
As expected, about a quarter of the sand has washed away. The southern Broward County beaches suffer chronic erosion, largely because the Port Everglades inlet cuts off the natural southern flow of sand, denying them a source of replenishment.
Beach restoration work can harm coral reefs as a portion of the sudden, massive deposit of sand washes off the beach, burying corals and clouding the water, blocking the sunlight on which shallow-water corals depend.
Dan Clark, director of Cry of the Water, a Broward environmental group critical of renourishment projects, said the original 2005-06 project harmed 38 acres of reef and the county has still not taken sufficient steps to mitigate that damage.
"We need to resolve the problems with the original project before we do a new one," he said.
He said the reef off southern Broward County provides shelter to juvenile fish and foraging grounds for young green turtles, which graze on the algae.
Sharp said any damage to the reefs was the fault of storms, not the beach renourishment project. She said the new project would use sand of a sufficiently large grain to avoid getting suspended in the water column and covering up the reef.
A project called a sand bypass is intended to address erosion problem, with an undersea hole dug out by the inlet to collect sand that would be scooped up every few years and taken to the southern Broward beaches. Work on that project is expected to start next year, Sharp said, with the first deliveries of sand taking place possibly in 2019.
150203-d Martin County's largest industrial land development announced
WPTV.com – by Anne Kazel, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers
February 3, 2015
INDIANTOWN — Skyfarm Strategic Capital LLC, a Miami-based diversified asset management company, has received approval to develop a 100-acre industrial park in Indiantown in Martin County.
The development, Florida Commerce Park, represents one of the largest non-residential land developments in recent South Florida history, and with up to 1.3 million buildable square feet is by far the largest industrial development ever undertaken in Martin County.
Florida Commerce Park's approval comes at an opportune time for trade and industry in South Florida as the Panama Canal expansion, nearing completion, will double the canal's capacity and have significant trade implications for South Florida.
Florida Commerce Park is primed to capitalize on that trade proliferation. The park is situated at a crossroads of commerce — along DOTs critical intermodal roadway system and CSX's main rail line, offering easy access to Florida's east and west coasts, and the park is only 1.5 hours from PortMiami and even closer to Fort Lauderdale's Port Everglades.
Florida Commerce Park is also "shovel-ready" meaning that businesses can obtain permit-ready parcels —1.4-100 acres in size — saving up to 12 months of permit-processing time. Project development of the park will begin within two months.
"Florida Commerce Park is situated at a crossroads of commerce in South Florida. The park is in an ideal location for trade to and from Latin and South America, Asia, and the Caribbean including trade transiting the Panama Canal," said Jeremy Shapiro, Director of Corporate Real Estate Development for Skyfarm Strategic Capital.
"The park is in a superior logistical location and features exceptional broadband capacity and uninterrupted clean energy sources. Florida Commerce Park is ready, redundant and sustainable."
Florida Commerce Park, www.floridacommercepark.com, is located in Martin County inland off State Road 710 — one of the state's main emergency routes — by SW Railroad Avenue. The western border of the 100-acre park runs parallel to the CSX main rail line, and adjacent to rail lines is SR 710.
Immediate proximity to these strategic intermodal arteries provides Florida Commerce Park with significant logistical advantages. Furthermore, the park is at high elevation to sea level, which together with its inland location, provides enhanced safety compared to coastal locations prone to tropical storms.
The park is situated in a strong path of regional growth and moreover — critical to development in Florida — the park's comprehensive plan takes on the master water-management system, which translates into more buildable square feet per individual site parcel and, in turn, lower land costs.
Skyfarm received final approvals for the industrial park from Martin County.
Amenities bounding the park include an adjacent hotel and restaurants, and retail and medical facilities. Indiantown also boasts a robust and diverse labor pool that businesses in Florida Commerce Park are expected to tap, boosting job growth in the region.
Indiantown has been honored nationally as a Smart Rural Community with high-tech readiness and a secure, redundant, ITS Telecom underground fiber network. Florida Commerce Park benefits from that redundancy.
The park is also adjacent to FPL's power plant, which includes the largest solar-thermal power plant in the eastern U.S.
FPL's energy sources, together with natural gas providers and other sustainable resources, will provide Florida Commerce Park with uninterrupted and sustainable energy at a time when clean energy is of rising importance to businesses seeking social responsibility.
Added, Neil E. Merin, Chairman at NAI/Merin Hunter Codman, "Florida Commerce Park will set the new gold standard for industrial parks in South Florida with its superior logistics, redundancy and sustainability. This is one of the most important new commerce parks to come on the horizon in decades."
NAI/Merin Hunter Codman, one of the largest commercial real estate brokerage firms in South Florida, represents sales and leasing at Florida Commerce Park.
Richard Economou, Managing Director at NAI/Merin Hunter Codman, added that he expects to see strong interest in the park from data centers, distribution and energy-related companies, and manufacturing and warehouse facilities. Some of those industry sectors, said Economou, will benefit strongly from the Panama Canal's expansion.
Florida Commerce Park will serve as an industrial gateway for commodities transiting the canal. More than 10.1 million long tons flowed through the canal in 2014 from Central and South America, Oceania and Asia, and the west coast of North America, to US southern Atlantic ports such as Miami and Port Everglades.
Over 13,000 vessels use the canal annually,
Florida Commerce Park is also situated in a designated Enterprise Zone, offering powerful business incentives, and in an Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone), which provides advantages in winning federal contracts.
Skyfarm Strategic Capital LLC is a privately held, diversified asset management firm headquartered in Miami. The firm, founded in 2010, is focused on strategic investments in emerging and undervalued sectors of business and commerce.
150203-e Over $5M for springs through agriculture cost-share projects, Santa Fe, Suwannee River Basins
SuwanneeDemocrat – by Jeff Waters
February 3, 2015
The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) are furthering efforts to conserve water supplies and reduce nutrient loading in the Suwannee and Santa Fe River Basins and related springs. DEP and the District are investing over $5 million in funding through four initiatives for producers located in these Basins.
These four initiatives are estimated to save more than 6.0 million gallons of water per day and reduce nutrient loadings to the Suwannee and Santa Fe River Basins by 592,000 pounds annually. Thanks to Governor Scott, the Legislative Budget Commission, and DEP these and other projects will protect springs in the District.
“The District and producers alike continually seek out ways to improve water quality, to increase water conservation and to protect springs. DEP’s springs grants for conservation technology is a great boost for local efforts to improve water quality and supply” says Dr. Ann Shortelle, Executive Director of the District.
One grant is for commercial nurseries in the Santa Fe River Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) area. The purpose of the grant is to convert overhead irrigation systems to water-saving drip or micro-spray irrigation. These methods allow growers to apply water directly to the plant which reduces water losses to evaporation and overspray. Drip and micro-spray systems also help target fertilizer application, and can reduce losses to leaching. The total grant funding available for this initiative is $979,325.
The second grant program is designed to reduce nutrient loading through center pivot fertigation for qualifying farms within the Suwannee River BMAP area. Fertigation is the process of applying fertilizer through irrigation water. Benefits of employing this method include a reduction in fertilizer runoff and groundwater leaching because producers apply fertilizer in smaller amounts at a greater frequency. The total grant funding available for this initiative is $948,150.
The third grant allows the District to offer of the cost to expand existing manure-management lagoons on qualifying dairies. Larger lagoons enable longer retention times for greater flexibility in irrigation scheduling. This will reduce the nutrient loading to groundwater and nearby water bodies by allowing dairy operators to delay irrigation during heavy rains or until crops are present. The total grant funding available for this initiative is $959,325.
The fourth grant program will assist producers in retrofitting center pivots with water-saving equipment is a cost-effective way to improve irrigation efficiency. By taking part, producers will conserve water and thereby help sustain the springs along the Suwannee River. Upgrades within the grant program include tools for farmers to operate their systems based on crop needs and weather. The total grant funding available for this initiative is $2,120,000.
Producers outside of these areas may still qualify for cost-share on a variety of water-saving projects.
For more information and applications for these grant opportunities and other agriculture programs through-out the District contact Kevin Wright firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.mysuwanneeriver.com.
150203-f Personnel note: Craig Varn named DEP special counsel
SaintPetersBlog - by Phil Ammann
February 3, 2015
Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson appointed Craig Varn as Special Counsel on Water Policy and Legal Affairs.
Varn’s role will be to serve as DEP General Counsel and direct the Office of Water Policy.
“Craig’s experience in environmental and water policy will serve the department well as we continue to work closely with the water management districts on the state’s most pressing water matters,” Steverson said in a statement. “I’m confident his expertise will benefit the agency as we work to protect Florida’s water resources.”
With over 15 years’ experience in the private and public sectors, Varn worked with both legislative and executive branches of government, as well as with agencies Cabinet and gubernatorial commissions on growth management, environmental and local government issues.
Most recently, Varn worked as an attorney with MansonBolves and previously served as chief policy advisor to former Senate President Jeff Atwater, where he was involved in environmental, growth management, agriculture and utility issues.
Prior to his career as an attorney, Varn was an engineer designing stormwater management facilities, drainage systems and support structures. He also assisted clients in the environmental permitting process.
Varn holds a civil engineering bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, and a law degree and master’s degree in business administration from Florida State University.
150203-g Wading birds of a feather flock to Lee mangrove islands
News-Press.com – by K. Lollar
February 3, 2015
As if taking a cue from the rising sun last week, dozens of white ibis rose from the southernmost of the Broken Islands in Pine Island Sound, landed in the shallow water and started probing the mud for breakfast.
Although most wading bird nesting in South Florida takes place in the Everglades, Lee County’s mangrove islands support a healthy nesting population, according to the recently released 2014 South Florida Wading Bird Report — last year, scientists counted 1,361 nests on islands in Estero Bay, Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor.
“These islands are very important,” said Jeremy Conrad, a wildlife biologist at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. “They provide good habitat for roosting and nesting efforts. They provide coastal habitat, while the Everglades provide interior habitat.”
• Greater Everglades: More than 25,000 nests.
• Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve/Ding Darling complex (this survey includes four islands in Charlotte County): Scientists documented nesting on 25 islands and a total of 1,011 nests; the biggest nesting colony was Hemp Key, with 228 nests; second was Broken Islands, 141 nests.
• Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve: 350 nests were documented on 19 islands; the unnamed spoil island just north of the Matanzas Pass Bridge was the top producer with 119 nests.
Diving birds are included in the Wading Bird Report, and double-crested cormorants led all species with 539 nests.
The big news from the 2014 Wading Bird Report is that nesting throughout South Florida was down by 28 percent from 2013 and was 19 percent below the average of the last decade.
Little blue herons have experienced the biggest drop in nesting numbers over the past 10 years: 91 percent.
Researchers have been conducting nesting surveys in South Florida for 20 years, but surveys of Lee County’s mangrove islands started in 2008.
“We don’t have enough data to show trends — we need 10 to 15 years,” Conrad said. “Anecdotally, we can say some years we have more nests, and some years we have fewer nests. The data run in cycles, with a peak followed by a drop followed by a peak followed by a drop, but we don’t know what the baseline is.”
Everglades nesting success depends on heavy rains during the wet season, which fills wetlands and causes wading bird prey (small fish and invertebates) to breed in vast numbers.
But even when enough rain falls in South Florida, the destruction and draining of wetlands have reduced areas for prey items to reproduce, which has reduced wading bird nesting.
Scientists use long-term nesting data to assess Everglades restoration: If wading bird nesting activity improves over time, restoration is working.
Mangrove island nesting in Lee County depends less on rainfall and healthy wetlands than does interior nesting, but local wading bird surveys are still useful, said Mary McMurray, an environmental specialist with the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve.
“Wading and diving birds are indicator species of how an estuary is doing, and a lot of them are listed as species of special concern,” she said. “Those are reasons we want to know how they’re doing.”
Soon after the flock of white ibis settled in for breakfast last week, two roseate spoonbills appeared in the canopy of the largest of the Broken Islands.
Roseate spoonbill nesting season starts in March, and those two might have been a breeding pair — or not, said Karl Miller, lead researcher for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; most roseate spoonbill nesting takes place in Florida Bay, and spoonbill nests have not been documented on Lee County mangrove islands.
“When we see two birds together, we say, ‘Oh, they might be a mating pair,’” Miller said. “It makes sense. Those spoonbills were together doing whatever. That’s all we know. They might be moving around, prospecting. Maybe they’ll spend some time exploring the neighborhood for future opportunities.”
150202-a Everglades restoration: A $5 Billion Reality ?
PublicNewsService.org - by Phil Latzman, Public News Service - FL
February 2, 2015
MIAMI, Fla. – Conservation groups are celebrating some progress in the longstanding battle to restore the
In November, 75 percent of the voters who went to the polls in Florida approved a constitutional amendment allocating one-third of the state's excise taxes to acquire sensitive lands for land and water conservation.
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg calls it a major victory for restoration efforts in the famed River of Grass.
"That investment now over the next number of years, over the next 20 years – if abided by, if implemented – we will be able to look back and say Amendment 1 enabled the Everglades to be restored forever, and it's an exciting time," he stresses.
With the funds now guaranteed in the state Constitution, as part of the Florida's upcoming fiscal year budget, Gov. Rick Scott has set aside an initial $150 million and has promised a total of $5 billion for Glades restoration over the next 20 years.
After lawsuits dating back more than a decade had accused the state and federal government of not doing enough to protect water in the Everglades, the governor says he's committed to seeing the long-stalled projects come to fruition.
"What I want to do as governor, is do everything I can to continue to improve the environment,” Scott says. “That's why we put all the effort in to get the Everglades litigation settled. We're very focused on finishing projects with regard to the Everglades."
Eikenberg hopes lawmakers will follow through on their pledge to use the newly-mandated funds properly.
"With this pot of money sitting there, we need to ensure that conservation is protected in Florida that those dollars go to those programs – they're not spent on other things that should be dealt with in the general budget," he stresses.
Eikenberg maintains some of those dollars should be used to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee. He says buying back those parcels, now used mostly for farming, would help restore the natural flow of water through the Everglades and the area's fragile ecosystems.
150202-b It's not global warming that's causing floods
WausauDailyHerald.com - Letter by Walter Mattson, Rothschild
February 2, 2015
EDITOR: Recent letters to the editor on climate change have been one-sided. There have been none that give an opposing or skeptic view. Why is that?
The L.A. Times refuses to publish articles that provide a skeptical view of climate change or that claim that man-made global warming is not significant. Its reasoning is that the science is settled. Science is never settled. Is the Daily Herald of the same mindset?
A recent article stated that warming is causing the oceans to rise at an alarming rate. It is currently causing flooding of multiple areas of Florida and other coastal areas. While it is true that the oceans are rising, warming is not the major cause along most of the East Coast states. Instead, the cause is the subsidence of the land. That means the coastal lands are sinking faster than the oceans are rising. Some of the causes of subsidence include the fact that the high population density along the coasts has required a high demand for water. When water is drawn from underground aquifers it creates a zone of depression. That means sinkholes and other land movement takes place.
There have been numerous articles written about sinkholes in the Florida area. There are 17,000 square miles affected by subsidence in 45 states of the U.S. and the sea level rise is 3 to 4 times faster along the East Coast due to subsidence than in other U.S. coast lines.
150202-c Nature designs its own protective barriers in Brevard
FloridaToday – by Keith Winsten
February 2, 2015
Mangroves along the shoreline of the 1000 Islands area of Cocoa Beach, are a natural barrier against storms.
I just got back from a short trip to St. Thomas where I had an opportunity to go kayaking in their mangrove reserve. One of the other trip participants asked the guide about the absence of motor boats in the preserve and we learned that motorized vessels are only allowed in the preserve for five days before a predicted hurricane and then the five days after the actual event.
According to our guide, the island has experienced two hurricanes in modern times. In preparing for the first hurricane, the emergency planners checked the historic records and found out that early European settlers moored their vessels in the harbor of the main town, Charlotte Amalie, to ride out storms. So, they anchored their boats accordingly, and almost every single boat was lost.
Turns out, back in the day, Charlotte Amalie harbor was a mangrove swamp. But the mangroves were all removed. For the second hurricane, the planners learned their lesson and all of the inhabitants tied up their boats to the deep roots of the mangroves found in the reserve — and not a single vessel was lost.
This is a beautiful example of nature’s incredibly effective research and development process known as evolution. Red mangroves are a slow-growing, marine specialist. So their approach to survival is build it to last. Their roots are strong and their trunks can twist and turn in the wind and waves.
Boats nestled in their sinewy branches and tied up to their cable like roots were protected from the storm. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years of evolution had carefully selected the best design for surviving tropical storms and the boat owners of St. Thomas benefited from this slow, careful process.
Other plants take the opposite approach to survival, grow fast, win the battle of the sun and spread seeds. If a storm takes you out, so be it. You’ve already out-multiplied your rivals.
After kayaking through the mangroves, we tied up our boats on a little sandy beach, donned our snorkel gear (minus fins because the water was too shallow) and set out for some little reefs that were scattered in the lagoon.
In the distance, we could see that the wind was stirring up whitecaps on the ocean. But the mangrove reserve was flat calm because a natural coral breakwater rose up to the ocean surface and broke up the energy of the waves. Another wonderful feat of natural engineering. Together, the coral heads and mangroves dissipated most of the ocean’s power — making for a wonderful day.
In the Indian River Lagoon, we have a slightly different version of this integrated protection system. Oyster reefs replace coral reefs as the first line of defense. They both stick up above the water at low tide.
In both places, mangroves forests serve as the linebackers. And, of course, we have three types of mangroves. Red mangroves in the deep water, then black mangroves with their knobby breathing roots and then land-loving white mangroves.
Finally, we have specialized grasses like Spartina to anchor the mucky soil. Together, this mix of living organism provides a natural barrier that can evolve and change, according to conditions. As the sea levels rise, so do these organic breakwaters.
If only human beings were smart enough to design seawalls that absorbed energy instead of reflecting it, that fixed themselves when broken and that naturally adjusted to sea-level rises. But because we’re not, we should try to preserve nature’s design.
150202-d Obama proposes $240 million in 2016 for Everglades restoration
Miami Herald – by Jenny Staletovich
February 2, 2015
The Obama administration signaled it’s serious about fixing the Everglades Monday by unveiling a budget that proposes spending $240 million on restoration work.
Of that, at least $124 million would go directly toward U.S. Army Corps of Engineers construction projects, nearly double the current budget and more than four times what was spent the year before, said Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg.
The money builds on $1.6 billion the administration says it has so far spent to complete chronically-delayed repairs to one of the nation’s largest ecosystems. Restoring the wetlands drained for development in the 1940s was first authorized under a landmark act signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000. But in recent years, the large public works bill intended to pay for projects failed to pass a divided Congress.
“We’ve been very vocal that if we’re going to avoid Everglades fatigue not only in Florida but around the country, we’ve got to move to finish these projects,” Eikenberg said. “So the White House coming out with $124 million just for the Corps is a very positive development.”
While the administration did not name specific projects to be funded, Julie Hill-Gabriel, director of Everglades policy for Audubon Florida, said top contenders include two older canal projects in South Miami-Dade County authorized nearly two decades ago, along with four projects inserted into a major 2014 water works bill. Among the projects are a water preserve in western Broward County and two reservoirs needed near Lake Okeechobee to keep polluted water from fouling the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. In 2013, water from the lake triggered toxic algae blooms. Related: President Obama proposes millions for Everglades projects WPBF West Palm Beach Obama budget gives boost to Everglades Sun Sentinel Obama budget includes money for Everglades, Indian River Lagoon TCPalm Gov. Scott Announces $5B Over 20 Years To Restore The Everglades Water Online (press release) After Rick Scott Pledges $150 Million, Barack Obama Wants $240 ... Miami New Times (blog)
Climate fix for rising seas could foul Miami’s Biscayne Bay
Rock python might hold clues in Florida about invasive snakes
Gov. Rick Scott proposes $150 million for Florida Everglades work
150202-e Polk plan for $300 mil. well field, treatment plant is ill-advised
TheLedger.com – Letter by Frances Howel-Coleman, Winter Haven, FL
February 2, 2015
Polk County is currently involved in the Central Florida Water Initiative — a process for planning and building future water supply projects for the exploding urban growth in this area. The governor-controlled water management districts are in charge of this process and plan to spend $3 billion over the next 30 years.
The problem is that we have run out of cheap, clean ground water. Between urban, agricultural and industrial uses, we are already pumping more aquifer water than our springs, lakes and rivers can bear. Many lakes along the Lakes Wales Ridge are 10 to 15 feet lower than a few decades ago; the Upper Peace River in south Polk has gone almost dry in recent drought years.
The proposed water supply plan de- pends on the use of lower quality water from the deeper Floridan Aquifer. Polk wants to build a $300 million well field and treatment plant in southeast Polk and pump this water 30 miles to fuel future growth.
This seems like a plausible idea but in reality, because of the not-fully-understood interconnectedness of our sur- face and ground water systems, we can expect more receding surface water levels. And, we are being lulled into postponing conservation action we need to take now. Low-flow fixtures and Florida Friendly Landscaping should be prioritized by our utilities and developers — what a waste that up to one-half of residential consumption of water is for lawn irrigation.
The solution is for Polk to comprehensively plan for all aspects of water, not just supply for future development. The construction of many new nature parks like Circle B would be a sustainable way to store and treat water while benefiting residents — a better approach than building new well fields at great public expense.
Other parts of the world have reduced their water consumption by half through aggressive conservation techniques. Florida is way behind on implementing a sustainable approach.
150202-f Troubled waters for housing advocates, Senate environmental committee chair
SaintPetersBlog - by Ryan Ray
February 2, 2015
What a tangled web we weave when we practice to achieve (even admirable) public policy goals via constitutional amendment.
That’s the situation that presumably millions of Florida voters who support both Amendment 1’s expansion of funding for water and land conservation and affordable housing programs like the Sadowski housing trust fund, says Florida Housing Coalition President Jaimie Ross.
Ross and his group are planning to vehemently oppose state Sen. Charlie Dean‘s SB 586, one of a handful of bills meant to serve as vehicles for Amendment 1’s implementation. The Inverness Republican — and chair of the key Environmental Preservation & Conservation Committee — has filed a series of bills, including to put all Amendment 1-related funds into one big pot that Senate President Andy Gardiner says will not cut overall funding for such programs.
Ross begs to differ:
“At first blush, Senate Bill 586 appears to do no harm to affordable housing; but, in actuality, the bill will do significant and permanent harm to affordable housing if no changes are made,” said Ross in a statement on Monday. “For example, if this legislation passes as is, monies coming into the housing trust funds will drop from $266.87 million to approximately $154.14 million for fiscal year 2015-2016. And, the changes that this bill proposes will be permanent, substantially reducing the doc stamps distributed to the state and local housing trust funds every year, in excess of $100 million per year.”
“The voters of Florida were repeatedly assured by proponents of Amendment 1 that it would not hurt affordable housing,” said Ross. “When 75 percent of Floridians voted for Amendment 1, I don’t think they meant to hurt the Sadowski Act, which provides funding for Florida’s most vulnerable citizens, persons with disabilities, the elderly and veterans.”
Ross, though, is ultimately hopeful.
“We hope to work with the Senate to craft a bill that implements Amendment 1 without causing harm to Floridians in need of affordable housing,” he concluded.
The bill, filed last week, will likely be taken up at least in concept when the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation meets on Wednesday.
150201-a Gov. Scott hopes for an early spring
February 1, 2015
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Groundhog Day might not be until Monday, but Gov. Rick Scott probably doesn’t need a rodent to tell him that his winter of discontent is going to last awhile longer.
If Scott somehow thought that one of the most difficult periods of his governorship was about to end, the Associated Press’ annual legislative planning day last week was proof that it was likely to continue.
On one hand, his three fellow Republicans on the Cabinet continued to suggest that Scott, or at least his administration, had mishandled the forced resignation of former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey. Meanwhile, the pixels on Scott’s budget were barely dry when legislative leaders started casting doubt on whether the governor’s proposed tax cut on cell-phone and television services would be as large as he wants.
But some issues have been lingering even longer than Scott’s troubles – including how the state handles medical marijuana, something that would change under a bill filed by a Republican lawmaker.
THE BLAME GAME
What did the governor know, and when did he know it ? That was the question perhaps inadvertently added to the saga of Bailey’s firing when Attorney General Pam Bondi floated the idea that maybe Scott’s staff acted without his knowledge in the way that the FDLE commissioner was pushed out last month.
“Did I know that Jerry Bailey was going to be told he was fired and have his things packed up, his entire life as a career law-enforcement officer in a cardboard box, and be told to be out of the office before the end of the day? Absolutely not. Nor do I believe the governor knew it,” Bondi said to reporters and editors gathered at the Capitol for the Associated Press event.
Of course, even Bondi acknowledged that she didn’t have any proof to back her opinion, and it seemed to conflict with how Scott’s office has explained the events that led to Bailey’s ouster. But it was about the nicest thing that a Cabinet member said about the controversy during Wednesday’s planning session.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam described the treatment of Bailey as “shabby.”
Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater both said they had been advised in December by Scott’s staff that the governor was interested in making a change at FDLE, but expected the change to come up at a January Cabinet meeting. Instead, Scott office announced in December that Bailey had left the agency.
“I wasn’t aware that it was accelerated,” said Atwater, who declined to say he was “misled.”
Scott stuck to his guns. He acknowledged that his office asked Bailey “to step down.”
“Gerald Bailey was given the opportunity to step down, he did,” Scott said.
WHICH TAXES MAKE THE CUT?
The governor was able to avoid answering too many questions about the Cabinet issues during Wednesday’s legislative planning session because he formally unveiled his nearly $77 billion spending plan for the budget year that begins in July. But legislative leaders were already raising questions about a $470.9 million tax cut that lies at the heart of the proposal.
Overall, Scott is proposing $673 million in tax reductions, on everything from cell-phone bills to college textbooks. But the lion’s share of that money would go to relaxing the communications services tax applied to cell-phone, cable and satellite television services.
“The benefit of the CST (communications services tax cut) is that it impacts pretty much everybody in the state. It’s going to go to everybody,” Scott said.
But House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told the AP gathering that Scott’s plan on the communications tax was higher than what the House had in mind. And Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said there are “plenty of ideas” about how to reduce taxes in addition to Scott’s request.
“Certainly, that will be on the table,” Gardiner said. “But there will also be quite a few others.”
There were few surprises in Scott’s budget plan, which he’s spent several weeks rolling out in piecemeal fashion. The proposal would reduce state spending by about 0.1 percent from the current budget year.
To cover the tax cuts and a record level of per-student education spending while keeping the overall budget relatively flat, Scott’s proposal calls for deep reductions in other areas. Spending on transportation would fall by almost $235.5 million, though Scott’s office said the Florida Department of Transportation’s work plan is smaller this year and fully funded. The proposal would also cut nearly $120 million from the Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration.
The plan would reduce the state’s payroll by more than 1,000 full-time positions. Scott’s office said that the “vast majority” of those jobs are expected to be unfilled by the time the budget takes effect. Most of the positions would come from the Department of Health; the agency would shed 758 full-time positions.
Some agencies would gain jobs. For example, the Department of Corrections, recently plagued by reports of suspicious inmate deaths, would add 163 full-time positions.
Lawmakers will consider Scott’s proposal as they negotiate a budget and tax cuts during the legislative session that starts March 3. In preparation for the session, House and Senate committees will receive presentations about the proposal next week.
Scott also had some apparent suggestions this week for how to spend a hefty chunk of the billions of dollars earmarked for land and water conservation efforts under a constitutional amendment approved by voters last year.
The proposal, outlined on Tuesday, would devote $5 billion to the Everglades, beginning with $300 million in the upcoming year. It would include money for building water-retention reservoirs and maintaining the upland habitat of endangered Florida panthers.
Lawmakers are working to determine how to carry out the constitutional amendment, which designates 33 percent of the revenue from a type of real-estate tax to conservation for the next 20 years.
Scott didn’t support or publicly oppose the amendment but the Everglades proposal, if funded through the amendment, would require about a third or a quarter of the money.
150201-b Millions of gallons of oil: Gulf floor tests show 10 million oil gallons remain
February 1, 2015
Millions of gallons of oil – allegedly close to ten million – are buried on the seabed floor of the Gulf of Mexico. Forgotten, but not gone, so the reverse expression goes. This would certainly hold true for the 2010 Deepwater HorizonBP oil spill disaster. Close to five years after the explosion and subsequent 87-day oil leakage into the ocean, little is written in the way of headlines regarding the biggest accidental marine oil slick in the history of the petroleum business. That may change however, after a recent study out of Florida State University showed countless millions of gallons of crude remain buried in the Gulf.
Writes UPI on Jan. 31: “Up to 10 million gallons of crude oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 remains buried under sediment in the Gulf of Mexico, spelling out long-term dangers for local marine life and raising questions about permanent damage to the waterway, a Florida State University professor said.”
Oceanography Professor Jeff Chanton, speaking of the estimated 200 millions of gallons that plumed out of BP’s uncapped seafloor gusher, said that cleanup crews estimated that six to ten million gallons of oil remained “unaccounted for.” While a large portion of the spillage floated to the surface and washed up on the shorelines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, close to 20 percent of the total spill factor remained missing. Chanton said he knows where all that oil is – buried approximately 62 miles out in the Gulf’s sediment.
According to an Associated Press report, the buried oil forms a “bathtub ring” more than 1,200 square miles in area, a size larger than Rhode Island.
“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.” Chanton said the buried oil, located about 2,000 feet down, is subject to very little oxygen. As a result, few bacterium are available to assist in a natural decomposition.
The findings, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, shows how oil particulates clumped together and sank – giving the false appearance that the ocean water had clarified.
Writes news.fsu.edu: “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.”
In response to the published findings, BP execs have come out and essentially said... It's not all our oil. BP Oil spokesman Jason Ryan told NBC News that the idea of ten millions of gallons of oil being traced back to the 2010 disaster is a gross overstatement.
“The authors failed to identify the source of the oil, leading them to grossly overstate the amount of residual Macondo oil on the sea floor and the geographic area in which it is found,” Ryan said. “Instead of using rigorous chemical fingerprinting to identify the oil, the authors used a single compound that is also found in every natural oil seep in the Gulf of Mexico, causing them to find false positives all over the sea floor.”
Still, whether its two million or ten million gallons of oil, the discovery shows the continual environmental impact of the BP oil spill.
SMAP - new NASA satellite launch
150201-c NASA launches groundbreaking climate change satellite
ClickGreen.org – by staff
February 1, 2015
NASA has successfully launched its first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of vital data to provide more accurate short-term weather forecasts as well as more precise long-range climate change models.
The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off at 6:22 a.m. PST (9:22 a.m. EST) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.
About 57 minutes after liftoff, SMAP separated from the rocket's second stage into an initial 411- by 425-mile (661- by 685-kilometer) orbit. After a series of activation procedures, the spacecraft established communications with ground controllers and deployed its solar array. Initial telemetry shows the spacecraft is in excellent health.
SMAP now begins a three-year mission that will scratch below Earth's surface to expand our understanding of a key component of the Earth system that links the water, energy and carbon cycles driving the living planet.
SMAP’s combined radar and radiometer instruments will peer into the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of soil, through clouds and moderate vegetation cover, day and night, to produce the highest-resolution, most accurate soil moisture maps ever obtained from space.
The mission will help improve climate and weather forecasts and allow scientists to monitor droughts and better predict flooding caused by severe rainfall or snowmelt -- information that can save lives and property. In addition, since plant growth depends on the amount of water in the soil, SMAP data will allow nations to better forecast crop yields and assist in global famine early-warning systems.
"The launch of SMAP completes an ambitious 11-month period for NASA that has seen the launch of five new Earth-observing space missions to help us better understand our changing planet," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "Scientists and policymakers will use SMAP data to track water movement around our planet and make more informed decisions in critical areas like agriculture and water resources."
SMAP also will detect whether the ground is frozen or thawed. Detecting variations in the timing of spring thaw and changes in the length of the growing season will help scientists more accurately account for how much carbon plants are removing from Earth's atmosphere each year.
"The next few years will be especially exciting for Earth science thanks to measurements from SMAP and our other new missions," said Michael Freilich, director of the Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Each mission measures key variables that affect Earth’s environment. SMAP will provide new insights into the global water, energy, and carbon cycles. Combining data from all our orbiting missions will give us a much better understanding of how the Earth system works."
SMAP will orbit Earth from pole to pole every 98.5 minutes, repeating the same ground track every eight days. Its 620-mile (1,000-kilometer) measurement swath allows SMAP to cover Earth’s entire equatorial regions every three days and higher latitudes every two days. The mission will map global soil moisture with about 5.6-mile (9-kilometer) resolution.
"SMAP will improve the daily lives of people around the world,” said Simon Yueh, SMAP project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "Soil moisture data from SMAP has the potential to significantly improve the accuracy of short-term weather forecasts and reduce the uncertainty of long-term projections of how climate change will impact Earth's water cycle.”
The SMAP team is engaged with many organizations and individuals that see immediate uses for the satellite’s data. Through workshops and tutorials, the SMAP Applications Working Group is collaborating with 45 “early adopters” to test and integrate the mission's data products into many different applications.
Early adopters include weather forecasters from several nations, as well as researchers and planners from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United Nations World Food Programme.
During the next 90 days, SMAP and its ground system will be commissioned to ensure they are fully functional and are ready to begin routine science data collection. A key milestone will be the deployment of the spacecraft’s instrument boom and 20-foot- (6-meter)-diameter reflector antenna. The observatory will be manoeuvred to its final 426-mile (685-kilometer), near-polar operational orbit, and the antenna will spin up to 14.6 revolutions per minute.
SMAP science operations will then begin, and SMAP data will be calibrated and validated. The first release of SMAP soil moisture data products is expected within nine months. Fully validated science data are expected to be released within 15 months.
SMAP is managed for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington by JPL, with instrument hardware and science contributions made by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. JPL built the spacecraft and is responsible for project management, system engineering, radar instrumentation, mission operations and the ground data system.
Goddard is responsible for the radiometer instrument and science data products. Both centers collaborate on science data processing and delivery to the Alaska Satellite Facility, in Fairbanks, and the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
NASA's Launch Services Program at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida was responsible for launch management. JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Related: NASA's SMAP soars into the sky atop ULA Delta II rocket on ... SpaceFlight Insider
150201-d The nature of things: Florida water policy will come down to money
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
February 1, 2015
As I was thinking about the current buzz in Tallahassee about water policy, I recalled the scene in the movie "The Right Stuff" when the guy asks one of the engineers what makes the rockets go up.
The engineer begins to respond with a technical explanation about the complexity of the aerodynamics, and the guy cuts him off and tells him the real answer is money.
The fact is that after you cut through the technical discussions about the hydrology of aquifer storage and recovery, the engineering of pipeline construction for alternative water supplies, the exploration of a supposedly untapped portion of the Floridan aquifer and more, the discussion always comes back to finding enough money to pay for all of these projects to meet future water demand without trashing the environment.
Hand in hand with the money chase is coming up with a plan to spend the money strategically in an organized way on projects that have been well-planned.
Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam made an astute observation recently about the timing of the current discussions.
This is a good year to talk about water policy because there is no immediate crisis that would distract legislators eager to deal with emergency situations in their districts, Putnam said.
Much of Florida's water management was born out of crisis.
The South Florida Water Management District, formerly known as the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District, was organized to deal with flooding in the Everglades Basin in the 1940s.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District was formed in reaction to the flooding that occurred in the Tampa area in the aftermath of Hurricane Donna in 1960.
Crises lead to crazy ideas being taken seriously.
The 1940s flooding led to the idea of turning the Kissimmee River into a drainage ditch, which was an environmental disaster that provided no real flood protection and will cost $1 billion to undo.
The 1960 flooding in Tampa spawned an idea to create giant reservoirs in the Green Swamp to collect water before it headed downstream. Fortunately, that project never happened.
I was assigned to get involved in covering water issues in 1981 during the first of a series of serious droughts, when it was recognized that in some parts of Florida, pumping from the aquifer had become unsustainable and major users needed to get serious about conservation.
The droughts spawned other crazy ideas, such as building a water pipeline to the Suwannee River. That idea never went anywhere.
Some people had warned about water shortages in Florida as long ago as the 1950s, but it wasn't until after state law was enacted in 1975 to require permits for major water withdrawals for the first time in Florida history that anyone had comprehensive data to more clearly define the water consumption problem.
Also, the idea that there were limits even with conservation is not a new one.
Swiftmud's voluminous 1992 "Water Supply Needs & Sources 1990-2020" bluntly stated, "In no way does this plan guarantee that all future needs will be met." Now, here we are a generation later.
In Polk County, anyway, utility officials have come up with what seems like a sensible long-range plan to take care of the public supply end of the water issue. Power companies, industries and farmers, all of whom have reduced water demand tremendously in recent decades, are working on their own plans to make sure they have the water to stay in business.
However, Polk County's public supply plan alone will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Some of it will be paid by water customers, but local officials here and elsewhere will be looking to the water management districts or the Legislature for the rest.
The water management districts have additional revenue potential if the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, which earlier in the current administration worked to slash water management budgets, allow districts to raise revenue.
Under existing state law, four of the state's five water management districts have the legal authority to levy up to $1 per $1,000 of taxable value. That would yield $23 million this year just within the section of Polk County within the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The Northwest Florida Water Management District, which includes the embattled Apalachicola River Basin, is allowed to levy only 5 cents per $1,000 of taxable property.
That's $14.5 million more a year than is being levied now at the current rate, which is only about a third of what's authorized. Yes, it's a tax increase.
The fact is that the money to develop future water supplies is going to have to come from some tax or fee somewhere, so you might as well get used to the idea that water is going to be more expensive.
As more money becomes available, it's also important to come up with a system to demonstrate to the taxpayers the money isn't being wasted. That's where another interesting approach suggested by House Speaker Steve Crisafulli comes in.
Crisafulli proposes planning water projects the way the Florida Department of Transportation plans road projects. That involves listing projects in five-year capital plans.
The plans would be updated annually and subject to public hearings
That would ensure structure and transparency.
1502dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text
The main past event that influences and expedites THIS year Everglades restoration activities
The main Everglades
started in 2013 by a storm of public eco-
activity from the Indian
River Lagoon area:
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 ?
ABC-7.com - by Chad Oliver, Reporter GLADES COUNTY - "Move it south! Move it south!"
That was the chant I heard last week in Stuart during Governor Rick Scott's visit to the St. Lucie Lock.
He was there to discuss solutions to water releases from Lake Okeechobee that are damaging water quality in Southwest Florida.
It led Terry in Punta Gorda to ask the Good Question:
"Why can't more Lake O water be discharged through the Everglades instead of the Caloosahatchee River?"
Historically, water from Lake Okeechobee did flow south. It slowly moved into the Everglades.
Two things happened to stop that, the Herbert Hoover Dike was built to protect people from flooding. Then came the Tamiami Trail, which is also a man-made structure that basically acts as a dam.
There is a plan in the works to lift part of Tamiami Trail so that more water flows underneath toward the Everglades. This week, Governor Scott announced his intention to allocate $90 million over three years for the project in Miami-Dade.
The original ABC-7 video with Chad Oliver disappeared from the web - it is replaced here by this 25-WBPF report
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