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Democrat fracking ban runs out of gas
WFSU.org - by Jim Ash
March 31, 2015
Democrats sounded the alarm about hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the same day Republicans went ahead with plans to cement ground rules for the controversial gas and oil drilling technique.
The Senate Environmental Preservation Committee approved a drilling bill that forces members of the public to go to court if they want to know the chemicals drillers pump a mile below the ground.
Unable to gain traction in a Republican-controlled Legislature for a fracking ban,  Democrats took their case to the public Tuesday at a Capitol press conference. Sign-waving activists from the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida lent moral support. Spokeswoman Judy Meyers:
“All issues are women’s issues. We support the bills by Representative Jenne, Representative Pafford and all of our Senators because it’s going to devastate our ecosystem all along our coastline.”
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a highly controversial drilling technique. Oil and gas companies pump sand, water and chemicals at high pressure deep  underground to free oil and natural gas. Democratic Representative Evan Jenne of Fort Lauderdale wants to ban it. He knows he’s fighting a losing battle.
“It’s a mix of highly toxic chemicals blasted literally into the foundation of our state. If you and your family have an aversion to methanol, boric acid and hydrochloric acid, well, our bill is for you.”
Fracking’s been blamed for everything from flaming tap water to earth quakes. Governor Andrew Cuomo banned it in New York in 2014. House Minority Leader Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach says Republican leaders are being short sighted. Why encourage fracking in Florida when the nation is awash in domestic oil.
“What is our legacy? Right now, our legacy is looking down at our feet and not looking at a horizon.”
At a committee meeting later in the afternoon, supporters fired back at the critics. Florida Department of Environmental Protection administrator Paul Cobb described an engineering study declaring fracking safe. Fracking can happen now, she says, and there are no rules to govern it.
“I don’t know anyone that would argue that we are better off not having a bill in place that includes these protections versus the status quo that exists today.”
DEP asked for the bill after a 2013 run in with a Texas oil company. Caught drilling near the Everglades without a permit for its “fracking like” operation. The company paid heavy fines and pulled out.
Senator Darren Soto of Orlando pushed for a five-year moratorium and to make it easier for the public to know the chemicals drillers use. He also pushed for one hundred thousand dollars a day in potential fines for permit violators.
“We need to jack up the fines so badly that it isn’t even worth it to come here to frack one drop of oil or gas from this state.”
Republicans shot Soto’s amendments down in short order.  Democratic attempts to ban fracking in the state appear all but dead, but environmental lobbyist David Cullen isn’t giving up hope.
“It aint over till its over. This is the hottest issue, the most emotional issue that I have dealt with in my eight years representing the Sierra Club. People are tremendously upset about this.”
The Republican fracking bill passed overwhelmingly.
Related:           Some say restricting Florida fracking proposals fall short      NBC2 News

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Gators in the glades are shrinking…and it’s our fault
CLICK for VIDEO here  
Fusion.net - by AMERICA With Jorge Ramos
March 31, 2015
Jorge Ramos, one of the most influential journalists of the day, goes wherever the story is to bring you a bold and uncompromising look at the issues that matter most to you.
Alligators are one of the top health indicators of the Florida Everglades. “Alligators are top predators,” said Michiko Squires, a wildlife biologist who goes by the nickname Momo. “So if they’re doing well, if their body condition is good, then we know that everything else in the food chain below them is doing well.”
Which is why it’s so worrisome that the gators are shrinking.
Climate change and draining the glades to make way for urban development are forcing fresh water out of the Everglades, which impacts the overall health of these reptiles.
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Lawmakers must stop obeying Big Sugar, save Everglades
Orlando Sentinel – by Manley Fuller, President and CEO of the Florida Wildlife Federation
March 31, 2015
A coalition is working to stop wealthy sugar polluters from running Tallahassee: With wealthy sugar polluters running the show in Tallahassee, it sometimes seems hopeless to stop them from slowly killing our coasts and destroying the Everglades. However, a coalition of outdoor recreationists including hunters and anglers, environmentalists and small-business interests may soon force the politicians to cut their sugar intake.
Twice in the past 20 years, overwhelming majorities of Florida voters told Tallahassee to make Everglades restoration a priority.
In 1996, they told Tallahassee what most of us learned as children: People should clean up their own messes.
By a margin of more than 2-to-1, Florida adopted the "polluters pay" constitutional amendment, directing that the cost for Everglades restoration be borne by the sugar barons who caused the damage in the first place.
Tallahassee's response? A collective yawn. Roughly 62 percent of the polluting phosphorus that streams into the Everglades comes from sugar cane operations, but just 12 percent of the $2 billion cleanup cost has been paid by Big Sugar and other agribusiness interests. Two decades later, a rising tide of resentment is gathering to keep Tallahassee from doing the same thing with a vitally important Everglades land purchase that voters expected would be paid for with money they set aside last November under Amendment 1.
Five years ago, U.S. Sugar Corp. signed a binding written contract to sell the state 46,000 acres of sugar land immediately south of Lake Okeechobee — a site perfectly suited for storage of lake runoff until it can be gradually released for purification and later used as drinking water and to irrigate the Everglades.
The storage facility has been part of the bipartisan Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan for more than 20 years and — thanks to Amendment 1 — voters have set aside ample funds for the purchase.
U.S. Sugar has reaped a public-relations bonanza from its commitment to sell this land, touting it as an example of the company's responsible environmental stewardship.
Now that the state is finally able to fund the purchase, however, U.S. Sugar wants to walk away from the deal it made.
In frenzied conversations in expensive restaurants all over Tallahassee, Big Sugar's lobbyists are telling the Legislature to drag its feet.
The purchase contract expires in October, and if the Legislature fails to fund the purchase, U.S. Sugar can renege on its commitments and keep its massive profits flowing — right along with the pollution. Meanwhile, the legislators can use the Amendment 1 money to bring home all kinds of pet water projects and other pork-barrel goodies. Sweet, huh ?
The Tallahassee politicians, long addicted to a gooey mix of Big Sugar's campaign cash, luxury vacations, expensive meals, business contracts, retainers and post-public office employment, have so far been keen to obey U.S. Sugar's commands.
But the rumble of approaching thunder is threatening Big Sugar's picnic.
Predominantly conservative, Republican-leaning sportsmen and small-business owners are joining forces with environmental and Everglades groups — and together, they are making the politicians think twice about doing Big Sugar's bidding this time.
The planned storage facility will lessen the discharges of phosphorous and nitrogen-laden Lake Okeechobee overflow that have devastated both of Florida's coasts, causing toxic algae blooms and killing oyster beds, destroying fishing and closing beaches along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and their estuaries. The practice has wreaked havoc on Florida's recreational fishing, tourism and boating industries — and the people most affected are making their voices heard.
Only time will tell if the voices of Florida's sportsmen and small businesses —backed by a chorus of 4.2 million Floridians who supported Amendment 1 last November — will be loud enough to drown out the millions that Big Sugar has lavished on the politicians in Tallahassee — but let's hope so.
Related:           State leaders need to buy land to protect the Everglades      Sun Sentinel
Everglades Foundation: Here's another reason to buy US Sugar land           Palm Beach Post (blog)
"Big Sugar" Getting a Sweet Deal from Florida Lawmakers?           Public News Service
Get Serious about Water Use with a Comprehensive Policy Sunshine State News
Amend. 1, campus carry and Rubio: Letters  Orlando Sentinel

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USDA to provide $332 million to protect and restore agricultural working lands, grasslands and wetlands
USDA
March 31, 2015
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that U.S. Department of Agriculture is making available $332 million in financial and technical assistance through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will accept ACEP applications to help productive farm and ranch lands remain in agriculture and to protect the nation's critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species.
"USDA helps farmers, ranchers, private forest landowners and partners to achieve their conservation goals using our technical expertise, Farm Bill funding and sound conservation planning," Vilsack said. "Conservation easements are an important tool to help these landowners and partners voluntarily provide long-term protection of our nation's farmland, ranchland, wetlands and grasslands for future generations."
The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. NRCS easement programs have been a critical tool in recent years for advancing landscape-scale private lands conservation. In FY 2014, NRCS used $328 million in ACEP funding to enroll an estimated 145,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through 485 new easements.
In Florida, NRCS used ACEP funds to enroll an additional 6,700 acres in the Northern Everglades Watershed, supporting the restoration and protection of habitat for a variety of listed species, including the Wood Stork, Crested caracara, and Eastern Indigo Snake. The Nebraska Land Trust plans to use ACEP to enroll more than 1,400 acres of native grazing lands that also include grasslands and woodlands that provide critical habitat for Nebraska's bighorn sheep and elk.
ACEP's agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation's food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space. American Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements. A key change under the new agricultural land easement component is the new "grasslands of special environmental significance" that will protect high-quality grasslands that are under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development and other non-grazing uses.
Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private and tribal landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements, and Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement; tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.
ACEP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before May 15, 2015.
To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA Service Center.
Today's announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships.

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Enviros face new campaign convincing Legislature where to spend money
Palm Beach Post
March 30, 2015
After leading a ballot measure last fall directing millions of state dollars toward environmental efforts, conservation groups now find themselves waging a new campaign to convince lawmakers how to spend the money.
Lawmakers’ email in-boxes are being flooded with fresh, late-hour pleas from activists who led Florida’s Amendment 1, dubbed the Water and Land Legacy measure.
An overwhelming 75 percent of voters supported Amendment 1 – with a state-leading 85 percent backing it in Palm Beach County.
The ballot proposal grew out of years of frustration among environmentalists over Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature’s reducing funding for Florida Forever, the state’s key conservation land-buying program.
So environmentalists were stunned by what they saw as bitter irony when separate budget blueprints emerging in the House and Senate last week again shortchanged Florida Forever.
Activists are firing back with a barrage of emails.
“These proposals have a long way to go before they satisfy the intent of Florida voters,” said an email last week from 1000 Friends of Florida, among several conservation groups urging supporters to contact lawmakers.

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Florida’s climate denial could cause catastrophic recession
ThinkProgress.org – by Joe Romm
March 30, 2015
Miami streets see heavy flooding from rain in September 2014. Some neighborhoods flood regularly during deluges or extreme high tides.
Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) has made Florida the punchline for countless jokes since we learned in early March he barred state officials from using the term “climate change.” As Jon Stewart joked last week holding a copy of “Roget’s Denial Thesaurus,” Florida is headed toward “statewide jacuzzification,” and “It appears by 2020, Miami will be involved in a surprise pool party.”
But the joke is on all of us: Florida has led the way in all but ignoring the growing twin threats created by human-caused climate change — sea level rise and superstorm surge — thereby creating a trillion-dollar real-estate bubble in coastal property. When the next superstorm like Katrina or Sandy makes its target Florida and bursts that bubble, the state can declare bankruptcy. So too could some insurance companies. But taxpayers — you and I — will get the several hundred billion dollar bailout bill.
And a bailout will be the best-case scenario for all of us. When the coastal property real estate bubble bursts, what measures do we have in place to stop another catastrophic recession like the most recent one, which was also driven by a real estate bubble bursting?
Let’s do the math. There is now at least $1.4 trillion in property within 660 feet of the U.S. coast, a detailed analysis of the data by Reuters found. Worse, “incomplete data for some areas means the actual total is probably much higher.”
While Florida is denying the very existence of climate change, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is here to remind us that, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” And what science told us in the last 12 months about likely sea level rise has been shocking. It’s the kind of news that should have stopped coastal development cold.
Last May, we learned that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) appears close to, if not past, the point of irreversible collapse. Relatedly, “Greenland’s icy reaches are far more vulnerable to warm ocean waters from climate change than had been thought.”
We also learned in August that Greenland and the WAIS more than doubled their rate of ice loss in the last five years.
Already this year, we learned two more stunners. First, a large glacier in the East Antarctic Ice Sheet turns out to be as unstable and as vulnerable to melting from underneath as WAIS is. This alone could “could lead to an extreme thaw increases sea levels by about 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) worldwide if the glacier vanishes.”
Second, two new studies find that global warming is weakening a crucial ocean circulation pathway in the North Atlantic, the Gulf Stream system, to a level “apparently unique in the last thousand years.” And if that circulation continues to weaken, it would also add another few feet of sea level rise to the East Coast. Indeed, this weakening is maybe one reason why large parts of the East Coast are already experiencing much faster sea level rise than the rest of the world.
A January study found that global sea level rise since 1990 has been speeding up even faster than we knew. “The sea-level acceleration over the past century has been greater than had been estimated by others,” explained lead writer Eric Morrow. “It’s a larger problem than we initially thought.”
The recent findings have led top climatologists to conclude we are headed toward what used to be the high end of projected global sea level rise this century: four to six feet or more. A 2013 NOAA study found that, under such sea level rise, the areas that received the very worst storm surges from Superstorm Sandy — such as devastated places like Sandy Hook and The Battery — will be inundated by such storm surges every year or two. In fact, in that scenario, the New Jersey shore from Atlantic City south would see Sandy level storm surges almost every year by mid-century
Worse, as discussed above, the East Coast of the United States is very likely headed toward considerably higher sea level rise over the next century than the planet as a whole. If we don’t take very aggressive action to slash carbon pollution, we could be facing a rise upwards of 10 feet. And considerably more than that after 2100 — sea level rise exceeding a foot per decade.
And so we are in a major coastal real estate bubble.
How big is the bubble, and who will pay when it bursts? The excellent Reuters series, “The crisis of rising sea levels: Water’s Edge,” has a sobering chart:
It’s a trillion-dollar bubble. And it looks like American taxpayers are on the hook for much of it.
Florida is ground-zero for this bubble for several reasons. First, as the chart shows, Florida’s $484 billion leads the country in “the value of property covered by the National Flood Insurance Program, often at below market rates.” Indeed, its covered property is three times as much as the next state, Texas.
Second, Florida’s topology makes some of its urban coastal areas especially vulnerable to warming-driven sea level rise and storm surge. Tampa Bay has unique geography that puts it atop Climate Central’s list of U.S. cities most vulnerable to a direct hit from a major hurricane. And Miami is second on the list!
The Miami area is so flat that even with a mere three feet of sea-level rise, “more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone.”
Third, Miami-Dade County by itself has some $94 billion worth of property along coastal waters — and the city can’t protect itself the way many coastal cities can. “Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here,” explained Robert Daoust, who works at a Dutch firm specializing in designing responses to rising sea levels. Why? As Jeff Goodell noted in Rolling Stone:
South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. “Imagine Swiss cheese, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like,” says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means water moves around easily – it seeps into yards at high tide, bubbles up on golf courses, flows through underground caverns, corrodes building foundations from below.
For all these reasons, Harold Wanless, chair of University of Miami’s geological sciences department, told National Geographic in 2013, “I cannot envision southeastern Florida having many people at the end of this century.” In 2014, he said, “Miami, as we know it today, is doomed. It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”
Under these dire circumstances, a rational statewide response might be to stop all new coastal development, have insurance priced according to risk, and start doing some intense planning. Instead we have Rick Scott’s complete denial, and sharp cuts in the budget for the South Florida Water Management District. Chuck Watson, a disaster ­impact analyst with a great deal of Florida experience, has warned, “There is no serious thinking, no serious planning, about any of this going on at the state level.
“The view is, ‘Well, if it gets real bad, the federal government will bail us out,’ he said. “It is beyond denial; it is flat-out delusional.”
The state level denial, while easy to milk for laughs, is thus epically tragic — and not just for Floridians, but for all of us.
Significantly, the planning going on at the local level, while better informed, is still relatively blind to what’s coming and what the response needs to be. That is clear from a very recent article by WLRN, South Florida Public Radio, “An Idea To Mitigate Rising Seas In Miami Beach: Lift The Entire City.”
KLRN interviewed public works director for the City of Miami Beach, Eric Carpenter, who asserted “The only tried and true solution to combating rising sea levels is to raise with it.” Seriously.
KLRN asked Carpenter about the sea-level rise projections Miami uses:
“All we can really count on are the projections that are made by the people that do this for a living. The Army Corps of Engineers are a great source of information. They’re projecting anywhere between seven and 24 inches of sea-level rise over the next 50 to 75 years. … We’re kind of picking numbers that are in the mid to upper portion of that range to be on the conservative side.”
Two feet by 2090 is not conservative. As KLRN points out, South Florida task forces “projected seas to rise anywhere from two to six feet by the end of the century” — last decade. The new findings discussed above make clear that the worst-case scenarios for sea level rise from the last decade have now become simply the “business-as-usual” scenario. Generally people prepare for the plausible worst-case — buying catastrophic health insurance, for instance — since the consequences of underestimating what’s to come can be so ruinous.
Miami should be planning for sea level rise of 6 to 10 feet by century’s end and a foot per decade rise after that. And it’s hard to see how “raising the city” is the optimal response. Is the plan to turn Miami into Venice? Will the valuable parts of Miami simply keep elevating themselves until the place becomes an island disconnected from the rest of South Florida, which will be underwater?
And what about storm surge ? What happens when the new island fortress of “Miami Beachless” gets devastated by a major hurricane post-2050, with a storm surge of 10 to 20 feet?
There is a trillion-dollar bill on its way, with no one stepping up to pay it

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Email blitz fights cuts to state land-buying funds
Palm Beach Post - by John Kennedy, Capital Bureau
March 29, 2015
TALLAHASSEE —   After leading a ballot measure last fall directing millions of state dollars toward environmental efforts, conservation groups now find themselves waging a new campaign to convince lawmakers how to spend the money.
Lawmakers’ email in-boxes are being flooded with fresh, late-hour pleas from activists who led Florida’s Amendment 1, dubbed the Water and Land Legacy measure.
An overwhelming 75 percent of voters supported Amendment 1 – with a state-leading 85 percent backing it in Palm Beach County.
The ballot proposal grew out of years of frustration among environmentalists over Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature’s reducing funding for Florida Forever, the state’s key conservation land-buying program.
So environmentalists were stunned by what they saw as bitter irony when separate budget blueprints emerging in the House and Senate last week again shortchanged Florida Forever.
Activists are firing back with a barrage of emails.
“These proposals have a long way to go before they satisfy the intent of Florida voters,” said an email last week from 1000 Friends of Florida, among several conservation groups urging supporters to contact lawmakers.
The Senate is recommending $2 million as the pot of money Florida Forever could use to buy new land and preserve it from development. The House has set $10 million aside.
Both amounts are far less than the $67.5 million currently budgeted for land-buying and the $100 million recommended for the coming year by Scott. Environmentalists have said $170 million should go toward Florida Forever.
Another strange irony as the legislative session nears this week’s midpoint is that the Republican governor has suddenly turned into an awkward ally, despite drawing historically poor reviews from environmentalists.
Even as he is seeking a more robust level of land-buying money, Scott is getting hammered by criticism over recent claims his Department of Environmental Protection has banned use of the term “climate change” – a charge he denies.
Still, with more than $750 million in real estate taxes made available this year for water and land programs under Amendment 1, advocates feel Florida Forever is being unfairly stiffed.
“Everything else is doing fairly well,” said Will Abberger, a director at The Trust for Public Land and the chairman of last fall’s ballot campaign. “It’s Florida Forever that’s not getting funding.”
Florida Forever has more than 9.5 million acres of land. And many leading lawmakers, including House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, maintain the state should focus on managing the land the state currently has shielded from development, rather than growing its inventory.
“There are some critical pieces of land that need to be bought,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who recommended the $2 million for land-buying in the portion of the state budget he oversees. “But I can also show you from property tax appraisers … some real abuse in the system.”
Hays said some landowners have deftly flipped conservation land to the state at inflated prices.
“You can’t use these examples against the whole program,” he conceded. “But, yes, people are sending me emails saying, ‘Buy more land.’ But I’m also getting emails from people saying, ‘Don’t buy more land.’ “
But many lawmakers acknowledge they’re also concerned about the low level of funding. They say it not only leaves an impression that the Legislature is ignoring a mandate from voters, but it also makes bad business sense.
“I just feel we have many, many projects that if we don’t act soon, they will be gone forever,” said Sen. Thad Atlman, R-Rockledge. “And then we’ll have more very, very expensive capital-improvement projects, retrofits, engineering solutions that may never be able to turn it back.”
Crisafulli, who already angered many environmentalists with a House water policy they say gives the powerful sugar industry too much leeway in managing polluting farm runoff, said he was pleased the House and Senate appear to agree on limiting land purchases.
He also lashed out at those now targeting lawmakers with email.
“Unfortunately, some of those organizations probably used me … to raise membership,” Crisafulli said. “But the fact of the matter is we’ve been consistent on that message.”
He added, “We’ll have a conversation (with the Senate) about where that magic place is that we’re going to land on the issue. But we’re obviously not going to get anywhere near what some of those groups out there are asking for.”

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Protecting the Everglades prompts walk to Miami
WZVN-TV
March 29, 2015
COLLIER COUNTY, FL -  Dozens of protestors are marching from Naples to Miami to prevent the expansion of a bike path in the Everglades.
That pathway, known as the River of Grass Greenway, would connect Naples to Miami through some of nation's most sensitive land areas.
Native Americans and conservation groups joined hands Sunday and began their march to create awareness and to protest the planned construction.
"Its personal cause it affects the future. The future of like, not only for indigenous people but also for the earth."
The plan, which is a dream for some, is to have the path run as a sidewalk on U.S. 41.
The 76-mile path could damage an already fragile eco-system according to some.
"There's all sorts of animals, wildlife and plant life that are already endangered by invasive species, by poor water quality and we do not need another impediment to water flow."
Patti Hoff understands their concerns. She is a self-described environmentalist and an avid biker.
"We have no plans at all to go through any sacred land we have expressed this in emails and in person to all the native Americans that we have total respect for their culture and burial grounds."
Even if approved, the bikeway is still years away. A feasibility study will be finished this summer.
Related:           Walkers aim to protest proposed Everglades bike path          Naples Daily News
For Florida Indian Tribes, Everglades Bike Path a Threat     Newsweek

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She Blinded Me With Science: ******* ***** Is Happening
Independent Florida Alligator – by Hannah Morse
March 29, 2015
Last November, I received an interesting tweet after commenting on Rick Scott's re-election and his infamous “I’m not a scientistrebuttals when asked about climate change on the campaign trail.
“Where’s the proof of man-made global warming ?” a Twitter user asked me. “Did you know the temp has been going down or does that not matter?”
I don’t know if I was my reaction was more shocked or pleased at this opportunity to teach a fellow Floridian about an issue so important to the state.
In the past few weeks, reports have surfaced about Department of Environmental Protection officials being told not to say “climate change,” which Scott says are false. Even with Scott’s historical responses on the topic, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt since it’s still a game of “he said, the rest of them said.”
  CLICK to Enlarge
If I had but one word to use to describe this whole debacle, it would be “irresponsible.”
It’s really hard to get on board with something when you can’t see it in front of your eyes. “It’s not happening here, to me, so I must not be a part of this imaginary problem.”
But with Miami already having torrential floods, it’s also hard to ignore that something’s happening.
The terms “climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably, but in the science realm they mean different things. The phrase climate change refers to the general long-term change of Earth’s climate.
Global warming, first used in 1975, refers to global surface temperature increased by human emissions and greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb infrared wavelengths—essentially trapping heat—and re-radiate them back to Earth’s surface. These gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.
This change isn't just seen in increasing temperatures. My favorite is hearing that “today’s actually the coldest on record.” There are fluctuations, but the trend is increasing at rate that will be difficult to control.
This graph, created by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, is about 15 years old but is still relevant today. It shows temperature change and carbon dioxide concentration from thousands and thousands of years ago. Scientists are able to get these numbers through drilling ice cores in Antarctica. Ice sheets from years past contain air bubbles of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Causes of climate change include accumulating greenhouse gases from fossil fuel emissions, and industrial clearing of agricultural lands and forests.
The effects of climate change can be seen in sea-level rise, ocean warming, ocean acidification (when an excess of carbon dioxide is emitted and absorbed into the water), melting ice sheets and extreme weather events like more rainfall and rising temperature.
Current—and highest in 650,000 years—carbon dioxide concentrations are at 399.5 parts per million (ppm), which is a ratio of carbon dioxide compared to other molecules in the atmosphere. Within the past century, the seas have risen 6.7 inches. In the last 12 years, we’ve recorded 10 of the warmest years in history. Also, oceans have warmed up about 0.3 degrees since 1969. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but even the slightest change can disrupt delicate aquatic ecosystems.
Like I’ve mentioned in a past post, it’s better to be conservative and take precaution against worsening conditions rather than wait until species go extinct and the world as we know it can never be seen again.
The activist organization called 350.org suggests that getting our carbon emissions down below 350 ppm is what it’ll take to preserve what we have. They’ve run petitions from trying to get others to go fossil-fuel free and even trying to prevent the Keystone XL Pipeline from happening.
This all might be considered hippie, leftist talk, but numbers don’t lie. If we’re still discussing the verity of irreversible changes we’re causing, it might be too late.
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Our next big bankruptcy ?
BizPacReview.com
March 28, 2015
An organization formed by a group of Florida residents is opposing a proposal by environmental activists and the Everglades Foundation to purchase of tens of thousands of acres of farmland with $500 million funded by taxpayers.
The group seeks raise public awareness about the ongoing Everglades Restoration Project, according to a statement released Wednesday.
Florida Citizens Against Waste, the organization behind the effort, has launched a website, Stopthelandgrab.org. Floridians are encouraged to sign an online petition “urging the state legislature to reject the proposed land purchase.”
Miami resident Nicholas John Kakanis announced the formation of Florida Citizens Against Waste and said in the statement:
“Everglades restoration and protection are high priorities for all Floridians. Taxpayers, farmers, businesses and water managers have devoted more than two decades and $10 billion in a cooperative and massive effort to restore a precious resource, and that effort is working. Court mandated Everglades water quality tests today surpasses federal standards, and the experts have a science-based plan to complete the restoration project. Gov. Rick Scott recently provided $900 million more to finish the effort.
“Unfortunately, environmental and political special interests are now trying to convince the legislature to divert $500 million to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee — a land grab that is not part of the restoration plan, has no science behind it, and that will only add to the government’s already ample real estate portfolio. This land would have little or no impact on Everglades Restoration.
“We all want Everglades restoration to succeed, and we have all contributed to the effort. Disrupting the restoration project at this late stage with an extremely costly and counterproductive land grab simply doesn’t make sense, and will leave Florida taxpayers holding the bag for a reservoir we don’t need and potentially billions in future costs.
“Floridians deserve to know the truth about this land grab, and once they do know the truth, we are confident they will let their legislators know that the state needs to spend our tax dollars finishing the real work of Everglades restoration – not buying more real estate.”

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Big Sugar


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Sweet deal
Miami Herald
March 28, 2015
Florida lawmakers may be on the verge of making a mistake of historic proportions by letting a splendid opportunity to aid Everglades restoration and clean up waters east and west of Lake Okeechobee slip through their fingers this session.
This may sound like hyperbole, but it isn’t.
If anything, it understates the stakes involved for Florida’s environmental future as a deadline to buy land that could be used as a reservoir to store and clean polluted water gets nearer while the state dawdles.
▪ The land is available. The state has an option to buy 46,800 acres from U.S.
Sugar under an agreement reached in 2010, when land values were low because of the housing collapse and the recession. The deal calls for a base price of $7,400 per acre or fair market value, whichever is higher.
▪ The acreage is a key piece of the Everglades restoration puzzle. The low-lying areas south of the lake would serve as reservoirs to filter out pollution and renew the flow of cleaner water that historically fed the River of Grass. Also:
It would reduce the need to release polluted discharges east and west through the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers that wind up fouling coastal estuaries on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
▪ For once, it’s not about the money. When they approved Amendment 1 by 75 percent last year, Florida voters said (shouted, actually) that they want to buy land for conservation purposes and created a fund with more than enough money to pay the estimated $350 million purchase price.
▪ The clock is ticking. The option to buy from U.S. Sugar expires in October. Realistically, the money must be allocated earlier to leave time for proper valuations and all the other details involved in such a massive land purchase.
▪ Politics is getting in the way. U.S. Sugar, a powerful lobby in Tallahassee, is no longer interested in selling. Once, when the corporation needed cash, they thought it was a great idea; now they say it’s a waste of money. The Legislature, as a result, isn’t making the purchase a priority. A Senate proposal on how to spend Amendment 1 money, released on March 19, includes no funds for that purpose. Neither does a House proposal unveiled two days earlier. (It does include money for purposes other than buying land, which would seem to thwart voter intent, but that’s fodder for another day.)
▪ There is no magic bullet to save the Everglades. This land purchase won’t do it, nor will any other single action. But Florida can’t afford to pass up this deal because it’s vital to the overall solution. This month, the University of Florida released a 143-page report confirming that “the current U.S. Sugar land purchase option” is among the must-have pieces of land that a winning
environmental strategy requires.
Commendably, Gov. Scott and lawmakers have supported hundreds of millions in state expenditures over the years for the restoration effort. But they need to step up again, before the option to buy the land expires.
It will assuredly be more expensive later.
If restoration experts are right, there’s no alternative to using the land south of Lake Okeechobee to clean the Everglades. It’s been obvious for years, which is why the Editorial Board supported the move as far back as 2008, when a much-larger purchase involving much more money was envisaged.
Sooner or later, it has to happen, so why not now ? The money is available. The land is available. The time is right.
The only thing missing is leadership.

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Why is it so hard to listen to voters ?
Tallahassee Democrat - byPaula Dockery, Syndicated Columnist
March 28, 2015
We’re nearly halfway through the legislative session and the Florida House and Senate are releasing their respective budget plans. Many important budget issues are still in flux.
One issue that shouldn’t still be in flux is funding for the Land and Water Conservation Amendment, which passed in the November election with 75 percent of the vote. Yes, Amendment one received more votes than any other item on the ballot — by far. One could call it a mandate.
The amendment language was clear and voters understood what they were voting for. The title of the amendment was crystal clear:
“Water and Land Conservation – Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.”
Sounds a lot like Florida Forever.
It requires that one-third of an existing revenue source — the documentary stamp tax — annually be placed in a trust fund and used for conservation and recreation land acquisition, restoration and management. Again, sounds a lot like Florida Forever.
A brief history:
Recognizing the importance of protecting and preserving our natural resources, the Florida Legislature passed two different land acquisition and restoration programs, Preservation 2000 and its successor, Florida Forever. For its 10-year duration Preservation 2000 was fully funded. Florida Forever was fully funded at $300 million a year for its first nine years.
In 2009, Florida Forever received no funding due to the budget crisis. Supporters of the preservation program understood that the recession necessitated taking a year off. But the following year only $19 million of the $300 million was funded followed by nothing in 2011 and 2012, $10 million in 2013 and $17 million in 2014.
How did such a popular program that goes to the very heart of what makes Florida special get on the chopping block and never regain its intended level of funding?
Frustrated citizens took matters into their own hands to help preserve the quality of life for Floridians and our nature-based tourism. The impetus for Amendment One was to restore funding for Florida Forever and Everglades restoration to protect and preserve our natural habitats and water resources.
So now we’re waiting for the Legislature to follow the state Constitution and implement the will of the voters.
It’s not looking good.
In a deliberate snub to voters, the House and Senate released drastically different and equally offensive funding plans.
The Senate plan puts aside a paltry $2 million for Florida Forever. Two million? Are you kidding me? After voters passed the amendment with 75 percent of the vote?
How insulting! Voters should be outraged.
To put it in perspective:
The total 2015 budget is expected to be somewhere between $77 billion and $80 billion. Documentary stamp revenues are estimated to be $2.16 billion.
One-third of the total doc stamp revenue required for Amendment One equates to $720 million. That represents less than one percent of the total budget.
So it was reasonable to expect that Florida Forever would be fully funded at $300 million and funding for Everglades restoration could be $50 million to $100 million.
That would leave $300+ million to boost conservation and recreation land management, protect our springs, restore natural systems, enhance public access to conservation lands and pay debt service on conservation bonds issued.
Apparently that is only reasonable here in the real world, not in the Tallahassee bubble. When a large pot of money appears, there’s a feeding frenzy for a piece of the action. And ironically, those who voted against the ballot initiative are among the first ones with their hands out.
It’s amazing how creatively they craft their projects to try to fit the parameters for the Land and Water Conservation dollars. But it’s like putting a square peg in a round hole — it just doesn’t fit.
Unfortunately legislators seem to be accommodating their wishes while ignoring the voters.
Legislators are also playing shell games by including items that have traditionally been funded with other revenue sources such as septic tanks, wastewater treatment plants and state agency operations.
The chairman of the Senate committee that determined this level of funding believes Florida owns enough land. While that’s an interesting — albeit misinformed — personal opinion, it’s also a moot point since the Constitution now requires land acquisition.
The coalition that jumped through all the hoops to get the amendment on the ballot and passed now has to beg the legislators who ignored their pleas before to honor them now.
The difference is they now have 4,230,858 voters standing with them.
There’s still a long way to go in the budget process. Let’s hope that means something when the full House and Senate vote on the final budget.
Related:           Protect land, respect will of voters on Amendment 1            Orlando Sentinel
On land and water, voice of voters ignored   Tampabay.com
Don't let lawmakers defy voters' wishes        Gainesville Sun

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Amendment 1


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Amendment 1 still getting opposition
News-Press.com – by Betty Parker
March 27, 2015
Despite the voters’ 75 percent approval last fall for Amendment 1, which calls for the state to acquire conservation lands much as it’s done in the past, legislators have taken little action to enact it.
Amendment supporters have taken out ads urging voters to remind lawmakers of their vote and supporting purchase of land south of Lake Okeechobee; land that the state has an option to buy from sugar interests, and that would be used to help prevent big discharges down the Caloosahatchee River, clean and store water, and help Everglades restoration.
The opposition for that land purchase stepped up its efforts this week.
An online petition drive by a group called “Florida Citizens Against Waste” asks Floridians to tell legislators to reject the land purchase. Their website “stopthelandgrab.org” is slick and professional, and they also offer a pre-written email to send to Tallahassee that sounds like national appeals from high-profile politicians or issues.
The purchase is supported by the Everglades Foundation and numerous, well-known state and local organizations, businesses and people, including former U.S. Rep. Porter Goss, who wrote a piece in The News-Press last week about the advisability of buying the land.
Finding out who’s behind “Florida Citizens Against Waste” is more difficult.
Their emails are signed by Miami resident Nicholas Kakanis, who the designated contact person, Joe Hunter, said is “a conservative.” Little other online information could be found.
Hunter said the effort is backed by businesses and tea party sympathizers. Although he declined to name the businesses or any other individuals, he did say sugar interests are involved.
“The supporters do not want to be named beyond that,” he said when pressed for details. “This is not an election campaign. We’re under no legal obligation to disclose.”
Ditto for finances or donors. “We don’t really have a target budget,” he said. “We’ll spend however much it takes and can be raised.”
The group’s emails include harsh attacks on environmental groups supporting the purchase, saying they’ve “mounted a disinformation campaign” and include political operatives, liberals and bureaucrats.
Most water in the Everglades now is cleaner than Evian’s bottled water, they write.
Eric Eikenberg, director of the Everglades Foundation, said he’s never heard of Kakanis or the group, but he’s not surprised they emerged. “It’s unfortunate when misinformation like this gets spread around,” he said, adding that both the Caloosahatchee River and the east coast are about to receive even more water released from the lake, which often leads to problems in the rivers, estuaries and beaches.
“As so many groups are trying to find solutions to the release problems and send water south instead, we get things like this,” he said of the opposition group. “I think sugar is making it clear they are no longer a willing seller.”
But after visits to Southwest Florid and the east coast, he said he’s sure the voters understand the issue, and support such land purchases, as the amendment vote shows.
“The people get it,” he said. But meanwhile, he added, water is being wasted by pumping it down the rivers because there’s no way to move it south.
When sugar gave the state the option a few years ago to buy the land, they were a willing seller, even though they have apparently taken a different view since then, he said. “Now we’re challenged by the lack of political will to move forward on the purchase” and execute the option, he said.
Goss’ views
Chauncey Goss, who was elected earlier this month to Sanibel’s city council and spent years working in Washington mostly on budget-related matters, said he thinks much of the divisiveness that’s virtually paralyzed the capital comes down to redistricting.
“The way congressional districts are set up, almost everyone has a safe general election now,” he said. “It’s hard for the incumbent to lose in a general,” because so many districts are drawn to give one party the advantage.
That means the real fight comes in the primary, he said, when the extreme right and left wings of the same party fields candidates.
“That breeds internal party squabbling” that carries over into Washington, and makes it harder to reach agreements even if one party has a strong majority, he said in remarks to BUPAC this week.
In Washington, Goss was deputy staff director for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget committee; Ryan supported Goss in Goss’ unsuccessful congressional bid, and later Ryan joined Mitt Romney’s ticket as vice president.
Goss said he has no expectation that Ryan would pursue a presidential bid now. “I think he’s very happy being chairman of Ways and Means,” Goss said of his former boss.
Goss did not pick a favorite for president. “Running for president is a money game,” he said. “If you can’t raise the money, that’s a really big problem. And Jeb Bush’s team has a great track record with fundraising.”
On the other hand, he added, Hillary Clinton also had fund-raising skills, and still lost out in the primaries to Barack Obama.
Goss said he’s had budget discussions with Southwest Florida’s new U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, and found him “very thoughtful, very smart. He asks good questions.”
Clawson — who defeated Goss in the primary — ran as an outsider, and faced a few bumps in his earliest days in office, Goss said. “There are some institutional ways of doing business in Congress, and knowing how it works is important, even if you’re not part of the establishment” and ultimately decide to do things differently.
“Curt’s getting it. He’s smart. He came in as an outsider, and he’s doing what he said he would,” Goss said.
Clawson holding town hall
U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, will have a two-hour “town hall” type meeting from 10 a.m.-noon Wednesday, at the Estero Recreation Center, at 9200 Corkscrew Palms Boulevard in Estero.
The event, sponsored by numerous Republican clubs and groups throughout Southwest Florida, is free and open to the public. RSVPs are requested at “info@curtclawson.com
Clawson will make some remarks, then do Q&A.
Freeman hosts Internet show
April Freeman, the Lee County Democrat who lost to Curt Clawson in the last election and is already running against him next year, is doing her own Internet-based weekly talk show featuring Southwest Florida issues and personalities of all parties.
Freeman, who works in video production, said the shows are available on YouTube; one of the first featured a 45-minute interview with Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki.
The next is expected to feature Michael Dreikorn, who also ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican.
Each segment will be 30-45 minutes long, Freeman said; sometimes more than one person or event may be featured.
She hopes to especially attract young viewers, who get much of their information from social media. “The youth vote was so low in the last election,” she said. “I wanted to try something to get them engaged, and through putting this on YouTube and promoting through social media and Facebook would be a good way to reach out.”
The show is called “Coffee and Bacon,” she said. “Everybody drinks coffee, and we wanted a reference to politics, and decided bacon sounded better than pork,” she said with a laugh.
Betty Parker is a freelance writer specializing in politics. Her column appears in Saturday’s The News-Press and on news-press.com.

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Florida taxpayers pay ranchers millions to hold water back from Lake Okeechobee
TampaBay.com – by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
March 27, 2015
For generations, Florida's farmers and ranchers have used their land to grow oranges, sugar, tomatoes and beef cattle, among other things. But now they've added a highly profitable new crop:  Water.
A state agency is paying large agricultural operators millions in taxpayer dollars to hold water on their property, treating it as if it were a crop. The agency sees it as a way to create a series of "reservoirs" without the expense of building anything permanent.
The state's most powerful business lobby thinks this is a great idea. The sugar industry loves it. So do legislative leaders and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putman, the most influential voice in Tallahassee on state water policy.
"Investing in this program is a win on multiple fronts," said Gary Ritter of the Florida Farm Bureau.
While water farming has some powerful fans, it's also stirring controversy:
• An audit found that the program costs taxpayers far more than it should — tens of millions of dollars more.
• Scientists say it stores just a fraction of the water that's needed to be effective. The largest contract, worth more than $120 million over 11 years, makes a difference of about 1 inch in the depth of Lake Okeechobee.
• That contract went to agricultural giant Alico, which pulled political strings to get it. The company dispatched its lobbyists to Tallahassee again this spring to make sure those taxpayer dollars keep flowing. An Alico spokeswoman says the company is lobbying for the whole program, not just its own contract.
Critics say Florida's water farming program is akin to corporate welfare.
"They get a big chunk of money for doing nothing," said Tom Swihart, former boss of the Department of Environmental Protection's office of water policy and the author of the book Florida's Water: A Valuable Resource in a Vulnerable State.
The controversy is part of the ongoing debate over what Florida should do about cleaning up polluted Lake Okeechobee and restoring the Everglades.
It's a debate that centers on plans by U.S. Sugar to develop thousands of acres south of the lake, even though the state holds an option to buy that land. The state obtained that option with an eye toward using the land to send the lake's excess water south, the way it used to flow back when the Everglades functioned naturally.
Although the South Florida Water Management District holds the option on the sugar land, so far no one in Gov. Rick Scott's administration, nor in the legislative leadership, wants to buy.
And U.S. Sugar definitely wants to hang onto its property.
"We like our land, and the district doesn't need or want it and couldn't afford to build anything on it if they bought it," said J.M. "Mac" Stipanovich, chief of staff for Gov. Bob Martinez, campaign adviser to Gov. Jeb Bush and a longtime lobbyist for U.S. Sugar.
More than 200 Everglades scientists signed a petition urging the governor and legislators to buy the U.S. Sugar land to start sending the lake's overflow southward — to no avail.
Meanwhile a University of Florida science team released a report that said the state should at least consider exercising its sugar land option because current efforts to hold the water north of the lake would not be sufficient.
That includes water farming, which the report said "will fall short of providing the additional storage and treatment needed."
"We don't have much data about what good (water farming) does," said Tom Van Lent, chief scientist of the Everglades Foundation, which supports buying the sugar land. "It's very new. But it's clear that it will never be anywhere close to holding the amount of storage that we'd need."
• • •
For decades, polluted water has been pouring into the lake, turning it into what one federal official called "a chocolate mess" when foul weather stirs it up.
When the lake gets too full, the federal agency in charge, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, dumps some of its contents rather than risk having it flood surrounding communities.
Those Army dumps carry the lake's polluted freshwater into the brackish estuaries of the St. Lucie River on the east coast and the Caloosahatchee River on the west. Algae blooms, fish kills and other woes ensue, hurting the environment and the economy in Port St. Lucie and Fort Myers.
Solving the problem will require either sending water in a different direction or holding it back before it gets into the lake — or both.
Environmental advocates and civic activists from the two estuaries have been lobbying hard for the state to pursue the first option. They want to start sending more water flowing south the way it did naturally when the River of Grass remained pristine.
But that's difficult. In the 1930s the Corps built a dike around the lake to stop it from overflowing and in subsequent decades replumbed the Everglades, creating an elaborate system of pipes, pumps, levees, and canals in the name of controlling floods. The land south of the lake became small towns and farms — growing, among other things, sugar cane.
In 2008, facing a costly legal judgment for polluting the lake with its runoff, U.S. Sugar approached then-Gov. Charlie Crist for help. Crist proposed the state buy all the company's 187,000 acres and various assets for $1.75 billion and use it for Everglades restoration projects, a move hailed as bold and forward-thinking at the time.
But in 2010, amid the economic meltdown and with a new governor in charge, the state bought just 26,800 acres for $197 million, with an option to buy the rest later.
The South Florida Water Management District holds an option to acquire 100 percent of U.S. Sugar's land through October 2020. The water district, a state agency, also has an option to acquire only 47,000 acres that expires in October 2015.
In the meantime, though, U.S. Sugar now has plans to develop its property. Partnering with a smaller sugar company, U.S. Sugar wants to plop 18,000 homes and 25 million square feet of stores, offices, warehouses, and other commercial buildings amid the rural landscape.
Rather than see those development plans destroyed, U.S. Sugar and its allies from Associated Industries are instead pushing the second alternative solution — holding back more water.
That's where the water farming pilot project comes in.
• • •
In 2005, the water agency selected eight South Florida ranches and groves that had volunteered to take public money in exchange for holding back water. The agency would build earthen berms to keep the water penned up. The agency would also pay inspectors to visit every year to make sure everything was working.
The water agency liked how this turned out, so in 2011 and 2012 it lined up eight more projects, with another 19 proposed for the third round. But then the district ran out of money from South Florida taxpayers. Some contracts were left hanging, their water retention areas still dry.
One landowner whose contract wound up in limbo: Alico, the largest citrus producer in the United States. The company, run for years by prominent University of Florida backer Ben Hill Griffin Jr., also has big interests in sugar and cattle.
One source for money to revive the water-farming contracts was money from the taxpayers from the rest of the state, via the Legislature. But the water district's governing board, under state law, is not allowed to hire its own lobbyists to pursue funding.
Instead, Alico did it for them.
The company employed 16 lobbyists last year, and it turned them loose on the Legislature to get $13 million to pump new life into the project. Alico spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said the company was just helping out a state agency in need, and its lobbyists did not specifically ask for money for Alico's own contract.
Sen. Joe Negron, who chaired the Appropriations Committee last year, was convinced.
"I have supported dispersed water storage projects because I believe they are an important part of a comprehensive strategy to improve water quality and create options to the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee," Negron said this year.
Among those 16 Alico lobbyists was one named Craig Varn. Last month, Varn was named head of the DEP's office of water policy.
• • •
With money to spend, the South Florida board met in December to hand out the contracts to Alico and the other landowners. But several speakers raised questions about how the contracts were working out.
One, former water district attorney Keith Rizzardi, pointed out that the contracts called for the water agency to alter the land to hold water back, but the 10-year contracts could easily be terminated by the landowner.
"We're making a capital investment in rental property," he said. "We're making improvements on these guys' land."
And what if there was a drought, he asked, one that left the land bone-dry? The taxpayers would still have to pay for water farming, but without the water.
Then there was the audit produced by the agency's own inspector general just a month before. The 57-page audit said the program was far more expensive than it needed to be, basing its calculations on a water-volume measure called acre-feet — in other words, how many feet (in depth) of water per acre. One acre-foot equals about 325,000 gallons of water.
The contracts the agency had approved averaged $103 per acre-foot a year, the auditors said. The highest-priced one was the one pending with Alico, which would go for $135 per acre-foot a year for its 91,000 acre-feet of water retention.
By contrast, the auditors said, if the agency were to avoid private land and instead store the water on land the public owns, it would cost a mere $8 per acre-foot.
In other words, putting 91,000 acre-feet of water on public land would cost the taxpayers $728,000 a year. But the Alico contract would cost about $12 million a year for 11 years, or $122 million total.
Despite that difference, the auditors said, the district staff had yet to do a study to look for other feasible sites. Agency officials say they have already found some public land for storing water in addition to the water farm spots.
The auditors also predicted another cash shortfall of $17.5 million between 2018 and 2024 unless the Legislature rescues the program again.
Despite those concerns, the water board approved the contracts.
For Alico, that means its 35,192 acres of ranchland will be closed in to retain an annual average of about 91,000 acre-feet of water. The rest of the contracts added another 4,000 acre-feet, for a total of about 95,000 acre-feet, or about 36 billion gallons of water.
That's the equivalent of about 1.5 inches of water in 730-square-mile Lake Okeechobee, held back for about $125 million total.
By comparison, the agency's scientists have calculated the region needs to hold back 750,000 acre-feet to be effective.
• • •
This isn't the way the program was supposed to work, according to one of its designers, Sarah Lynch of the World Wildlife Fund. She spent years working with ranchers and state officials to set up what was dubbed the Florida Ranchlands Environmental Services Project.
It was intended as a market-based solution to an environmental problem, one in which all the ranchers and farmers would compete for the contracts, Lynch said. The end result would benefit both Lake Okeechobee and the small mom-and-pop farms and ranches that were struggling to get by.
"It would keep cattle ranchers ranching, and there would be less pressure on them to leave ranching," she said. "It was a way to enhance the ecology as well as the economic sustainability of the area."
It wasn't intended to be a program that allows one big landowner to get the biggest contract by lobbying the Legislature for millions of taxpayer dollars, then using a state agency as a pass-through for the money.
But Putnam, the agriculture commissioner, said he didn't see anything wrong with the way the Alico contract was handled by the South Florida water agency.
"To hold water out of Lake Okeechobee, you're probably going to have to make an agreement with people whose names you recognize," he said. "You can't get around that. That's who owns the land."

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Save Amendment 1, Gov. Scott
TBO.com - Editorial
March 27, 2015
It takes a special kind of arrogance to completely dismiss the directive of 75 percent of voters.
But that is what the Florida Legislature is doing. Voters last fall overwhelmingly passed Amendment 1, which requires more conservation spending, particularly on land acquisition that has been virtually abandoned in recent years. Although the amendment mentioned other uses, including land management, its text — and the campaign on behalf of the constitutional amendment — made clear the priority was preservation.
Yet lawmakers are spitefully ignoring citizens’ desire that one-third of the state’s existing documentary stamp tax revenue on real estate transactions be used for conservation.
The amendment does not raise taxes and sunsets after 20 years. It is expected to generate about $700 million a year.
Sen. Alan Hays, an Umatilla Republican, is among the legislative leaders successfully blocking substantial funding for land preservation. In the past Hays has sought to ban any additional public land purchases, and now looks to be more concerned with his agenda than voters.’
He says that about 25 percent — 9.4 million acres — of Florida land is already in public ownership.
“My question is, how much is enough ?” he asks. It matters little to Hays that voters think differently.
The answer is simple. About 2 million acres are targeted for acquisition under the Florida Forever program that seeks to buy tracts of particular environmental value.
This would increase the amount of publicly owned land by about 5 percent, hardly unreasonable, particularly given the state’s rapid growth and imperiled resources.
Too, many new land purchases would come in the form of conservation easements, where development rights would be bought but the land would remain in private hands.
Buying Florida Forever lands would protect beaches and springs, estuaries and forests. It would safeguard the surface and groundwater essential to our drinking water supply. It would allow wilderness areas to be linked by wildlife corridors, enabling Florida to preserve its natural heritage even as the nation’s third-most populated state continues to add to its 20 million residents.
All this will make Florida a more desirable place to live and visit.
It should be recognized that the 2 million acres is almost surely an unreachable goal. Florida Forever buys only from willing sellers, and the purchase price must be reasonable. Nobody wants funds spent carelessly. It is unrealistic to think the state can save every tract worthy of preservation. It should not be unrealistic to expect lawmakers to respect the law — and voters’ will.
The people of Florida knew what they were doing. They see rapid development changing the landscape — as well as increasing water demands and pollution threats — daily and understand the necessity of acting before special places are forever lost.
One leader in Tallahassee who has shown regard for voters is Gov. Rick Scott. His budget includes $100 million for Amendment 1 land purchases, not as much as the $170 million environmentalists wanted but a reasonable amount, particularly for the program’s first year.
Scott might put an end to the Legislature’s Amendment 1 sabotage by vowing to veto a budget that doesn’t fund additional land conservation. Scott knows Florida’s economic appeal is tied to its natural assets.
Will Abberger, the campaign manager for Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, which pushed Amendment 1, says: “The next 20 years — the life of Amendment 1 — will be the ‘end game’ for land conservation in Florida. We will either buy it, or it will be developed.”
If the view of Hays and other like-minded lawmakers prevails, little will be bought, and development will claim much of what remains of Florida’s natural wonders.
We hope Gov. Scott acts decisively to prevent that from happening.

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Saving Florida's coral reefs must be a priority
Sun Sentinel
March 27, 2015
Is there really the will to replenish offshore coral reefs ?
Few thought that restoring South Florida's offshore coral reefs would be easy or cheap. The temptation to wring hands is understandable. But the problem demands action — now.
A recovery plan released earlier this month by the National Marine Fisheries Services says it will take more than $250 million — and an astounding 400 years — to replenish the elkhorn and staghorn corals that have formed once-fabulous reefs off Florida's coast and throughout the Caribbean.
The challenge is daunting, and progress will have to be measured in years, not centuries. But if South Florida hopes to continue reaping the benefits of this great natural resource, we can't give up. The rehabilitation of our precious reefs must remain a priority.
The federal agency lays out a plan to address the devastation caused by ocean warming and acidification. Ideas include transplanting coral grown in nurseries, restocking sea urchins that clear algae from corals, improving sewage treatment and reducing the amount of fertilizer and other pollutants that reach the sea.
By September, the fisheries service hopes to have created teams of representatives from government, environmental groups and outside scientists to implement the plan and raise money and support from other government agencies and concerned non-profits.
"I think the strategy should be that the U.S. needs to take significant action to slow climate change, and we need to reduce significant threats to corals while we work on the climate problem," said Shaye Wolf, a climate science director who participated in the recovery plan.
Make no mistake. The coral reefs are important not only to our environment, but to our economy. About $174 million is spent in South Florida every year on recreational fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and glass-bottom boat rides, according to a 2013 National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration study.
Sadly, Florida's coral reefs have been in steady decline for more than 40 years. Environmental changes are damaging key coral species that provide an underwater home to an array of marine life.
Doing nothing means the trend line will continue and more coral will be lost. Jump-starting the federal recovery plan is a big step forward in what will be a long-term recovery. The sooner the start, the better.
Coral grows extremely slowly; some of the reefs off Florida's coast are hundreds of years old, and current funding from the federal government isn't enough to address the problem. This year, the feds have budgeted $500,000 to $800,000 for programs to protect corals, a drop in the bucket considering the true costs of replenishing the reefs.
The road map for recovery is a good start. The challenge may be Herculean, but failure remains an option the state can't afford.
Florida has a long-term strategy to restore the offshore coral reefs. What's needed now is the will to implement it.

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VIDEO - CLICK
See wonderful
Everglades video



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Everglades under attack
Fusion
March 26, 2015
The Florida Everglades is one of the most unique natural resources in the world, with an abundance of wildlife found nowhere else. It also soaks up carbon dioxide from the air better than major rainforests around the world, researchers say.
But it is slowly disappearing, and has been for more than a century. Today, the Everglades is about the size of New Jersey — half the size it once was.
Much of the damage has been caused by humans through water diversion, population pressures, and agricultural run-off. But there are more subtle forces at work, including the growing effects of climate change.
Fusion met with the scientists whose research may save the River of Grass; got a rare view of the Everglades at night to try to find out why the alligators here are shrinking; and tackled the tricky politics that may hold the key to keeping this vulnerable ecosystem alive.
1. Lifeline to Everglades
Nick Schulte has the dirty job of picking at the brownish-green algae that grows on the top layer of soil here.
“There’s actually a big party going on that we can’t see...so we collect all of it,” said Schulte, who was covered in dirt and stuffing a plastic container with samples.
Schulte, a 23-year-old master’s graduate student at Florida International University, is out in the middle of Everglades National Park with a group of researchers who are testing water quality and taking samples to understand how this sensitive ecosystem is being affected by climate change.
“It’s a new rate of exposure that we don’t understand how the Everglades ecosystem is going to adapt to,” explained Evelyn Gaiser, an FIU professor who has the impressive title of lead principal investigator with the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research Program with funding from the National Science Foundation.
The fear is that salt water is moving through Florida’s porous limestone underneath the Glades and into the aquifers where the region gets its fresh water.
At stake: 67 threatened or endangered species, and the drinking water for some seven million Florida residents. The Everglades also soaks up carbon dioxide from the air better than major rainforests around the world, according to experts.
2. Shrinking Gators
Southern Florida is famous for its alligators, and they serve as one of the top indicators of the health of the glades.
“Alligators are top predators,” said Michiko Squires, a wildlife biologist who goes by the nickname Momo. “So if they’re doing well, if their body condition is good, then we know that everything else in the food chain below them is doing well.”
Which is why it’s so worrisome that the gators are shrinking.
They now weigh 20 percent less than their counterparts in the rest of the state, according to the Croc Docs, a group of wildlife biologists that includes Momo. (The Everglades is the only place in the world where both alligators and crocodiles live.)
One of the top threats: water. Less water means less food for the gators to eat.
“You need the water to have the food they need to survive,” said the 27-year-old Momo.
The group’s research includes a survey to estimate overall what the population looks like and capturing gators to a quick check up: drawing blood, taking measurements and other data before releasing it back into the water.
3. Changing Times
We are out in the middle of nowhere—there’s no cell phone reception—when we meet up with Steve Markley.
“To you, we’re in the middle of nowhere. To me, we’re in the middle of heaven,” said Markley, better known as Captain Steve.
He gave us a personal swamp buggy tour in an area between Miami and the city of Naples, on the west coast of Florida, where he and his family has lived for generations.
This is all he knows.
“The stuff that I’ve learned, I’ve learned from years and years and years of being around it,” he told us on one of our stops between centuries-old cypress trees.
Sea-level rise is already showing its effects on the environment here, he said. He can tell the difference by what grows and what doesn’t. But he remains optimistic of restoration efforts, he said.
“The area that they’re working on is going to come back...me and you are not gonna see it. Grandkids maybe will see some of it. Whatever it is...it’s moving in the right direction now.”
Everglades: Before & After
before 1900, the Everglades carried a steady flow of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Bay. However, due to urban development much of that fresh water is now channeled to the eastern coast of Florida. Already cut in half, modern drought and global warming threaten to consume the already fragile ecosystem.
The Incredible Shrinking Gator
in most places across the U.S., a ten-year-old alligator can easily be six feet long. But not in the Everglades-- where they only reach four or five feet. Additionally, gators caught in the Everglades are weighing about 80% of what they should. Researchers believe the decline in gator size is linked to a 2001 drought.
4. Future of Everglades
congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000, allocating $7.8 million to try to keep pace with the slowly disappearing Everglades.
Those plans, though, remain far behind schedule -- stuck in a financial and political limbo in a state where Republican Gov. Rick Scott reportedly banned the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sea level rise.” His office told Fusion he was not available for further comment.
And an important piece of land south of Lake Okeechobee remains in a tug of war between conservationists and the one of largest sugar company in the state.
The land deal would use some of the land to store water and help reroute more water south to help the Everglades. The deal is set to expire at the end of October.
“This is not for the sake to buy land or take out of sugar production,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, director of Everglades Policy with Audubon Florida. “It’s really the next step in the right direction.”
Once those efforts restore what man has done to this ecosystem, “it’s sending a global message,” said Evelyn Gaiser, the lead researcher for long-term restoration efforts.
Despite any setbacks financially and politically, the race to save the Everglades and restore its natural water flow continues.
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CLICK-VIDEO
Laugh with us -



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Jon Stewart talks Climate Change in dick-shaped states Florida and California
Uproxx.com - by Stacey Ritzen
March 26, 2015
On last night’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart discussed how Earth has had its warmest winter in recorded history in a new segment called “La La La Climate Change Doesn’t Exist La La La.” Specifically focusing on Florida and California, the segment delves into the fact that our “most phallic states” are the ones at the greatest risk of experiencing severe effects of climate change.
First up, Florida is seeing a rise in sea level that could eventually put Miami underwater. Or, nuisance flooding, as they call it, because Florida Governor Rick Scott has banned the use of the term “climate change” in all official state communications. It’s one thing to see that on paper, but when taken into a state senate hearing where Florida’s Emergency Management Chief avoids the term to the point of ridicule from the actual senate, you see exactly how bad it is.Meanwhile, California is experiencing severe drought, and conservation efforts are focusing mostly on glasses of water at restaurants and hotel towels instead of say, the almond and beef industry, which is actually monopolizing most of California’s water resources. The whole thing ends with Stewart talking to an almond and a burger because we need to avoid thinking about how screwed up everything is.
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River Life: Year of the River has been eye-opening
Jacksonville.com
Mar 26, 2015
This has been an exciting year for the St. Johns River.
I don’t think there has been a time when more attention has been focused on the river, with more people than ever concerned and engaged in discussions about this tremendous natural resource that flows through Northeast Florida.
The discussion has gone well beyond the concern about dredging, port expansion and water withdrawal. Although these topics are important, the river is essential in so many other ways.
In case you missed it, this is officially the Year of the River sponsored by Cultural Fusion, a collaboration of more than 50 Jacksonville arts and cultural organizations. The hope is that by banding together, the group can raise awareness of the St. Johns River as an important cultural component and economic driver for development, tourism and quality of life. A variety of projects has included exhibits, performances, special programming and events highlighting the river.
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens opened an excellent exhibit last month called Reflections: Artful Perspectives on the St. Johns River. It is well worth your time to visit the museum and see this exhibit. My personal favorite is River Table, a perspective of the St. Johns done in blown glass by Jacksonville University art professor Brian Frus.
Earlier this week, as part of the Year of the River, the World Affairs Council of Jacksonville brought award-winning journalist James G. Workman, author of “Heart of Dryness: How the Last Bushmen Can Help Us Endure the Coming Age of Permanent Drought,” for a series of programs at JU and the University of North Florida.
Workman is deputy director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Catch Share Design Center that works with the fishing community to find a process to maintain a healthy fishery, and co-founder of SmartMarket, a start-up venture based on principles learned from the Bushmen, to create solutions to our shrinking water supply.
I was honored to be asked to participate in some of the programs. As a lifelong learner, this was an opportunity to interact with someone who has been a foreign correspondent, worked to blow up dams, released wolves and is now an emerging leader in the effort to conserve fresh water and marine fisheries.
Fresh water and marine fisheries are not two things we usually associate together. Yet they are intimately linked, beyond the obvious connection of fish living in water. Both are free to anyone who wants to gather and collect them. You don’t pay for water or for fish. You can sink a well and essentially pump all the water you want and not pay anyone a cent for it.
Likewise, you can go to the river or ocean and catch fish to your heart’s content and not pay anyone for the fish.
Still, both have value.
You pay your water bill for the delivery service of that water to your tap. In a similar fashion, when you buy fish, you are paying for the cleaning and delivery of that fish to your table.
Perhaps the stronger link is that both water and fish are in danger of overuse. We are running out of clean, plentiful and cheap water, just as we are overfishing some species of fish.
Water and fish both have individual users and commercial users, with typical tension between these two groups over who is getting their fair share. The good news is that there are now innovative ways to solve these problems, but they will take all of us working together to do it.
ASK RIVER LIFE
Are there any artificial reefs in the St. Johns River?
The city of Jacksonville and the Coastal Conservation Association partnered to build two river reefs that were installed in December of last year. The concrete rubble reefs will be studied by the JU Marine Science Research Institute for the next three years to assess how successful they are in providing a fishing resource to area anglers. It is too early to tell, but we are optimistic that they will have a positive impact on fishing in the river.

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Amendment 1


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What part of Yes don’t they understand ?
The Island SandPaper – by Missy Layfield – Editor
March 26, 2015
Last November 75% of Florida voters sent a message to the Florida Legislature: We want designated funds used for land and water conservation. It isn’t often that such a large number of voters are so clear on an issue.
Fort Myers Beach voters were even more insistent, with over 82% of voters voting yes on Amendment 1.
Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature hasn’t heard the message.
Amendment 1 called for 33% of documentary stamp taxes to be used to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands for the next 20 years.
The first thing the Legislature did was pull funding for affordable housing, also funded by the documentary stamp fees. They could have adjusted the amount of stamp fees going into the general fund, but apparently needed to make a statement about the effects of Amendment 1. "See what you foolish people made us do?” Once their point was made, they magically found the funding to restore the full amount that the affordable housing trust fund would have received before Amendment 1 before passing the bill along. Seems childish, doesn’t it?
Another tack they’re trying is to use Amendment 1 funding to cover existing administration costs for the Department of Environmental Protection or pay for park ranger salaries rather than invest in new land and water projects.
See, if they use Amendment 1 funds for those things, then they can take the money that would have paid for the DEP and rangers and use it for something else. Maybe even something that will make a campaign donor happy and willing to donate more money next campaign cycle.
Senator Alan Hays, Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, thinks that there is already enough land held in conservation in Florida. Apparently Senator Hays believes his opinion is more important than the 4.2 million voters who voted Yes on Amendment 1 last November. Those 4.2 million said very clearly that they want that money used for land and water conservation. Not park ranger salaries. Not DEP paperclips.
Why is this so hard to understand?
The Legislature is now proposing budgets that circumvent Amendment 1. They did it with the Fair Districts amendments, why would we expect anything different for this one?
For all intents and purposes, Big Sugar and Big Agriculture own the Florida Legislature. They donate heavily to campaigns. They sponsor vacation trips, err, I mean fact-finding trips, for state officials and legislative representatives. They pay lobbyists who wine and dine legislators and staff whispering in their ears what is "best” for Florida business. Who do you think they listen to ?
Not us - the 75% of voters that approved Amendment 1 - that’s for sure.
Two years ago, we suffered from horrible pollution sent down the Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee during a record wet season. Both east and west coast residents and businesses called for help along with local government. That water hurt our community. Hurt our businesses. Hurt the employees of those businesses. The Florida Senate finally felt enough pressure that they put together a special committee that called for both short and long term solutions, most of them water storage related.
Now it’s 2015 and water quality is far from the minds of our representatives. In the first week of the session the Florida House passed the HB 7003 Water Bill that is amazing in its bold blindness to water quality. HB 7003 removes water quality requirements at Lake O structures. The elimination of water quality standards and treatment for nitrogen, a major pollutant in the lake and downstream, will send 6,000 tons of nitrogen into the lake, down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and into our estuaries. Under this misguided bill, phosphorus, another major pollutant, will be controlled only via the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP). The BMAP covers only 40% of the Lake O watershed and relies on VOLUNTARY Best Management Practices.
Oh yeah, that will work. Does this sound like anyone in Tallahassee cares one iota about our water quality? They’ve funded some water storage and it’s now back to business as usual, i.e. whatever Big Sugar and Big Ag want.
Remember the US Sugar land south of Lake O that they wanted to sell to the state just a few short years ago? The amount of land available has dwindled, leaving a chunk south of the lake that would allow water to once more flow into the Everglades. But nobody in Tallahassee wants to pull the trigger before the October deadline, even though they have the money available via Amendment 1. Wonder why that is ?
They’re passing water bills that remove water quality standards and ignoring the people’s will to devote millions to land and water conservation. They have the option and the money to finally do something for the Everglades and address Lake O issues, yet all they offer is excuses.
Why do we keep re-electing them?

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Algae from clogged waterways could serve as biofuels and fertilizer
Scicasts.com
March 25, 2015
Denver, CO (Scicasts) — Water-borne algal blooms from farm fertilizer runoff can destroy aquatic life and clog rivers and lakes, but scientists will report today that they are working on a way to clean up these environmental scourges and turn them into useful products.
The algae could serve as a feedstock for biofuels, and the feedstock leftovers could be recycled back into farm soil nutrients.
A multi-pronged nutrient bio-remediation system is the goal of a team of scientists who will present their research at the 249th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
“I grew up on a farm, and I know firsthand the needs of small-scale farmers, as well as the problems posed by algal blooms,” says Dr. John B. Miller. “But I am also a chemist, so I see an upside with algae.”
Algae can range in size from a single cell to large seaweeds. They only need water, sunlight and a source of nutrients to grow. But with a boost from high levels of man-made nutrients — particularly nitrogen and phosphorus from farm runoff — the growth springs out of control. They form clumps called algal blooms that can be directly toxic to fish and other aquatic life. The blooms also can draw oxygen from the water, creating dead zones, where most life cannot exist.
But Miller and his team at Western Michigan University envision a solution to problematic algal blooms, which can benefit small-scale farmers. Already, algae are gradually but increasingly being used as a feedstock for different classes of biofuels, including ethanol. It grows very quickly — some two to eight times faster than similar land-based ethanol feedstocks, such as corn, soybeans or cellulosic biomass — which is an advantage. Large-scale, centralized “algal turf scrubber” operations in Florida and elsewhere are getting underway and are growing natural communities of periphytic or attached algae for biofuel production. Miller is building on this approach but will downsize it to water bodies near small farms throughout the U.S.
“For small farm applications, the system must be easy to operate, nearly automatic and be suitable for diffuse installations,” he says. “So, my focus has been to apply this technology without requiring the large infrastructure of the electric grid, large pumping installations and all the rest that is needed for centralized operations. A farmer won’t have time to check an algae collection and processing system, so it has to also be able to operate remotely.”
Currently, the team is exploring different substrates to optimize algae growth in water bodies. By using 3-D printing technologies, the researchers engineer substrates to provide different geometric features that foster growth of algal blooms. They are testing these first in the laboratory before analyzing them out in the field. Also, they are investigating different options for collection techniques that will be more appropriate for small, remote locations.
Miller points out that the algae can be used for biofuel feedstock, making a profit for the farmers. And the waste left over after the biofuel’s fermentation and distillation steps is high in nutrients and carbohydrates, which is a material that can be recycled back to farm fields for use as an organic fertilizer.
It may take a while to get the system up and running at farms, but Miller says that there is a powerful economic incentive for farmers to sign on. That’s because it has the potential to shift problematic algae into biofuels, taking a farm-based ecological problem and turning it into a revenue stream for small-scale farmers, he says.
Article adapted from a American Chemical Society (ACS) news release.
Related:           Algae from clogged waterways could serve as biofuels and fertilizer           Phys.Org

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Scott

Tight lips -

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Climate change semantics affect leadership in Florida
EnvironmentalLeader.com – by Sara Gutterman
March 25, 2015
In Florida Governor Rick Scott’s world, the perils of a warming planet somehow seem to be diminished simply by changing the words we use to refer to them.
According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, Scott, recently reelected to a second term, commanded environmental officials at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)—the very agency in charge of setting the state’s conservation policy and enforcing environmental laws—to stop using the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sustainability” in official communications, reports, and emails—an immensely ironic action considering that Scott governs a state that is precariously positioned on the front lines of climate change.
Even “sea level rise” was under temporary siege (provisionally replaced by “nuisance flooding”) despite the fact that rising sea levels are expected to submerge up to 30% of the Florida coast over the next 85 years.
Beyond strange wordplay, Scott seems to be avoiding the environmental realities that his state is facing. Florida has already been hit hard by superstorms and climate events. Sea level rise has already caused extensive flooding at high tide in the southern part of the state. Salt water has already contaminated drinking water. Heavy rain during exacerbated storms has already impaired stormwater drainage systems. And warming temperatures and increasing ocean acidification have caused extensive damage to coral reefs surrounding Florida’s sandy white beaches.
In what seemed like a moment of enlightenment, Scott recently unveiled a $106 million proposal to deal with “the effects of rising oceans.” Sustainability advocates waited with bated breath, but were sorely disappointed: $50 million of that amount was allocated towards a sewage plant in the Keys and $25 million for beach restoration—hardly a viable plan to protect homes, communities, and key infrastructure from the threats of climate change.
When asked about his stance on climate change and his banishment of related terms, Rick “I am not a scientist” Scott simply responded that he is not convinced that climate change is caused by human activity—as if that matters one way or another in scenario planning for the future. Whether climate change has been created by humans or not, Scott needs to be preparing his state and protecting his people.
Scott also denies expelling the terms in question. However, verbal testimony from four former DEP employees, confirming that the order was “well known and distributed statewide” puts Scott’s abnegation in question. “We were dealing with the effects and economic impact of climate change, and yet we can’t reference it,” one former DEP employee said.
Scott’s heedlessness is particularly infuriating in light of Florida’s bleak prognosis: it’s projected that Florida will be the US state hardest hit by climate change. According to Ben Kirtman, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Miami, Broward and Miami Dade counties are expected to experience two feet of sea level rise by 2048, swallowing much of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties and nearly all of the state’s barrier islands. Climate Central projects that this extent of sea level rise will affect approximately 300,000 houses and cause nearly $145 billion in damages.
Now, I’m not a scientist either, but these numbers are impossible to ignore. Even if there is only a 10% chance of the forecasts coming true, isn’t that enough of an incentive to develop appropriate policy to protect Florida residents?
Don’t want to speculate about the future ? Fine. Here are some irrefutable numbers from the past: 14 of the past 15 years were recorded as the hottest ever, with 2014 topping the list with record breaking temps across the board.
Instead of seizing an opportunity to show courage, foresight, and innovation, it seems that Scott is resolved to pass up a huge leadership moment. It’s unfathomable that he’s tripping over semantics—avoiding scenario planning that could mean life or death for the citizens of Florida simply because he can’t decide whether climate change is human induced or part of a natural planetary cycle. And I’m pretty sure that ignoring science isn’t an effective legislative approach.
Perhaps Scott thinks he can skirt the issue since he’ll likely be out of office by the time things really start heating up in Florida, but it’s hard to believe that voters aren’t up in arms over his $1.4 billion dollar budget with its glaring—and dangerous—blind spots, demanding better representation and greater protection.
Unfortunately, Scott’s not alone. There is precedent—North Carolina passed a bill in 2012 that banned state agencies from basing coastal policies on the latest scientific predictions about rising sea levels. Instead, policymakers have been instructed to refer to moderate “historical data” and completely ignore a report conducted by the state’s own Coastal Resources Commission, forecasting that North Carolina will face a 39 inch rise in sea levels by the end of this century. The sickening scuttlebutt is that this policy was, apparently, a concession made to the real estate industry, which lobbied that they’d lose home sales if prospective buyers knew that their homes were expected to be swallowed by rising tides.
The sad truth is that policy makers fighting for sustainability are finding in today’s polemic political climate that the most effective way to get climate policy passed is to shroud it in something that looks nothing like climate policy. Climate change is now referred to as extreme weather, and climate action is now called resilience.
Let’s be honest, folks. At this point, it really doesn’t matter what is driving climate change or what we call it. Ignorance, evasion, and stubbornness won’t reverse its effects. What matters is that things are getting hot, and crowded. Our air and water are visibly and undeniably dirty. Our soil is increasingly unproductive. Our prairies are becoming deserts, and our forests and coral reefs are dying en masse. Regardless of the cause, this is simply not acceptable, and if we have any iota of humanity left in our profit-driven society, then we must have the courage to do better.
Fortunately, only the smallest bit of financial analysis proves that clean energy, carbon taxes, and intelligent technologies that facilitate sustainable living are actually economic boosters rather than shackles.
According to the Advanced Energy Now 2015 Market Report conducted by Navigant Research, in 2014 the global market for advanced energy products and services experienced unprecedented growth and reached $1.3 trillion, making it as large as the fashion and apparel industry and four times the size of the worldwide semiconductor sector.
In the U.S. alone, the advanced energy market has grown 38% since 2011, growing five times faster last year than the nation’s overall economy to $200 billion—a staggering 14% increase representing 15% of the global market. Fortunately, for those of us in the building sector, building efficiency is now the largest segment of the U.S. advanced energy market, representing revenue of $60.1 billion in 2014 and 43% growth since 2010. Not surprisingly, solar photovoltaic revenue has experienced 173% growth over the past four years, reaching $22.5 billion.
So what will happen when Florida is hit with the inevitability of climate change ?  I suspect that the state will become green by necessity, forced to invent long-term sustainable solutions to deal with extreme weather and rising tides.  Until that time, barring a new stock of enlightened leadership, Florida’s future is unknown, but suffice to say that it will be difficult to plan for climate events if they’re expelled from the state’s dialogue and vanished from the government’s vernacular.
Related:           Climate Change By Any Other Name...         3BL Media (press release)-
Sara is the Co-founder and CEO of Green Builder Media. An experienced entrepreneur, investor, and sustainability consultant, Sara specializes in developing companies that are simultaneously sustainable and profitable. Sara is a former venture capitalist and has participated in a portion of the life cycle (from funding to exit) of over 20 companies. Sara graduated Cum Laude from Dartmouth College and holds an MBA in entrepreneurship and finance from the University of Colorado. This article was republished with permission from Green Builder Media and was originally published on the Green Builder Media blog.

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Gardiner issues statement on water & natural resources
SpaceCoastdaily.com - by Office of Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner
March 25, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The Florida Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation today passed Senate Bill 918, Environmental Resources, by Senator Charlie Dean (R-Inverness), which outlines a comprehensive, statewide water and natural resources policy for Florida.
Senate President Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) released the following statement:
“Two months ago, Speaker Crisafulli and I made a commitment that the House and Senate would work together to develop a statewide water and natural resources policy for Florida. That pledge is reflected in Senate Bill 918, which includes key environmental and water policy issues brought forward by both chambers.
“By enhancing our focus on preserving Florida’s unique springs, developing our statewide trail system, improving public access to conservation lands for recreation, and creating a transparent process to evaluate state tax dollars spent on water projects, this legislation addresses many priorities of our Senators. Following last week’s workshop on similar legislation passed by the Florida House, the bill as amended today now includes many priorities of our House colleagues as well.
“There is still work to do on this important issue, but I am confident we will close out this session with a statewide policy that will allow for better long-term planning and accountability for environmental policy and spending that can make a real difference in the lives of current and future Floridians.”
Outlined in their Work Plan 2015 agenda, establishing a statewide strategy for water and natural resources is a joint priority of President Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island). For more information, please visit the Florida Senate online.

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Land


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Measures increasing state land buying program don't survive Senate budget panel
NaplesNews.com – by Matt Dixon
March 25, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — The Senate's top budget committee Wednesday swatted two amendments that would have boosted funding for Florida Forever, the state's top conservation land buying program.
The Senate's proposed $80 billion budget includes $2 million for the program, which many in the chamber say is not enough in the wake of Amendment 1, a conservation amendment approved by 75 percent of voters in November.
The amendment required that 33 percent of real estate taxes – about $750 million – be spent on the environment. There has been some disagreement over how much of that money to use on land buys versus taking care of land the state already owns.
The House and Senate plans outlining Amendment 1 spending, for example, do not include money for the purchase of 46,800 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp., which advocates have said would be used to move Lake Okeechobee water south.
Some argue voters wanted the state to buy more conservation land, and that $2 million is not nearly enough.
"I think that we need to address this issue in the budget and it needs to be more reflective of the intent of the voters," said state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart,
State Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, echoed the sentiment of those who say the state owns enough land, and that Amendment 1 money should be used to take care of current state lands.
"We don't want to be known as the land hoarding state," he said.
The comments came as the Senate Appropriations Committee considered the chamber's full budget. State Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, filed an amendment that would have boosted Florida Forever funding to $350 million.
He said that funding Florida Forever fulfills "the intent of the constitution, and was the intent of the voters."
His plan relies on a mix of taking money out of individual projects already in the budget, and issuing bonds, a move that ran into opposition. Gov. Rick Scott and some GOP leaders are opposed to additional bonding for conservation projects because the issue increases overall state debt.
There was concern that the bonding language would not pass the Legislature, and if it did, would meet Scott's veto pen.
"We all know the governor's attitude towards bonding," said state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.
Senate Budget Chief Tom Lee said that the land acquisition issue will remain on the table as they enter final budget negotiations with the House, which has vocally opposed the idea buying additional state lands.
Altman withdrew his amendment when it became clear the proposal would not pass. The committee then considered an amendment from state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, that would have taken $77 million from other programs to fund Florida Forever.
After similar debate, Joyner also withdrew her amendment.
Related:           Senate Adopts Parts of House Water Policy  WTXL ABC 27
Florida Senate Adopts Parts of House Water Policy Southeast AgNet

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South Florida's Amendment 1 fight
NewsHerald.com - Our View
March 25, 2015
The first shots of the war over Amendment 1 have been fired, but if you didn’t hear anything, that may be because the battle is taking place in South Florida and is mostly concerned with the Everglades.
Florida’s House passed water policy legislation earlier this month. The Senate is now working on its own version of the legislation, and while the two versions were — as of this writing — quite different, we can expect the Republican-controlled government will work out a compromise eventually.
It’s not surprising (though perhaps a little disappointing) that the focus of both bills is on the Everglades. That is a multiyear, billion-dollar fracas between entrenched business interests and environmentalists over the fate of South Florida’s drinking water and the largest wetland ecosystem in North America. An argument like that inevitably will suck all the air out of the room.
However, while South Florida is rightly concerned about that issue, Northwest Florida has ongoing environmental issues that must be addressed, including beach renourishment, the fate of Apalachicola Bay, a second source of drinking water in Bay County and the flow of freshwater from Atlanta to Florida. And, while the water policy law is certainly not the last or only place to address these issues, it does seem to show where the real concerns of Florida’s Legislature reside. 
That seems to us to be a bad sign, especially given how much money for environmental projects is now at stake thanks to the passage of Amendment 1. Florida’s voters approved changing the state’s constitution in November and forcing the Legislature to commit about $648 million on environmental projects in fiscal 2015-16. After 20 years, the annual sum could be $1.26 billion. Most of the fighting on that will be done during the annual budget process and will center on how much land should be purchased with these funds.
As we said when we argued against Amendment 1 last year, Florida’s government owns enough land — somewhere close to 30 percent of all the land in the state is owned by the state. Also, we believe the Legislature’s fiscal hands should not be tied in this manner. By forcing them to commit a certain amount of money each year to environmental projects, we also are forcing them to ignore other worthy issues that might have been resolved or at least improved with taxpayer funds.
For instance, last year, this state’s leaders worked hard on changes to Florida’s Department of Children and Families and included $18 million for the state to hire and train 270 additional employees who would reduce caseloads. In robust budget years, these kinds of decisions are easy, but when things get tight, lawmakers will be forced to decide what program is vital this year and what can wait.
Now, in at least one spending category, they no longer have the option to wait.
Thankfully, while environmentalists are urging the state to buy even more land, the language of the amendment gives the Legislature enough leeway to do other important things for the environment besides real estate deals.
Those include restoring, improving and managing wetlands and forests, and protecting our streams, shores, beaches and drinking water sources.
Though some claim that’s a bait and switch, we don’t believe the voters honestly expected the Legislature to buy land with every cent of the money that comes in. Instead, what they expected was the government would use the money for projects and (some) land acquisitions that would have a positive impact on the environment.
Presuming our reasoning and what appears to be the plain language of the law pass muster in the statehouse and the courthouse, then the next step will be to ensure North Florida isn’t forgotten when the projects are approved in Tallahassee. So, if you care about Apalachicola oysters, white sandy beaches and drinking water, now might be a good time to contact your representatives.
If you wait until the battle over the Everglades is over, it may be too late.
Related:           CHIEFTAIN: Conservation fund deserves to be conserved Wallowa County Cheiftain

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Time to act is now for waterways
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer - Guest commentary by Rob Moher
March 25, 2015
With the beginning of a new legislative session, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and conservation partners are urging legislators to take advantage of a historic opportunity to buy land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, located south of Lake Okeechobee to support Everglades restoration and redirect harmfully high flows that are destroying the Caloosahatchee River and estuaries.
- Why Southwest Florida needs the State to buy land in the EAA
EAA land is in a strategic location, just south of Lake Okeechobee, which makes it absolutely necessary for any realistic solution to redirect, store and convey water to Southwest Florida and into the Everglades.
Enormous amounts of polluted water are forced from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River, instead of to the south where it should naturally flow. To stop the harmfully contaminated water discharges that are destroying the Caloosahatchee, killing our wildlife and dumping pollutants onto our beaches, more land is needed south of Lake Okeechobee to provide an alternate path to store and treat our water.
- Timing is critical
Purchasing this land now makes good business sense. The State of Florida must appropriate the funds to purchase the lands in the EAA currently under option by May 1 or it will miss the Oct. 12 deadline to finalize the purchase at the agreed upon price. This land is being eyed for expanded mining and development, so it may never be cheaper or available again.
This land is essential to any permanent solution for restoring the Caloosahatchee and the Everglades. Why take a risk of losing this opportunity for the permanent solution we've been waiting decades for? Why wait and pay more for something we know we need now? Purchasing the land now while we know we have the opportunity to do so and at a relatively low price is in the best interest of Florida taxpayers.
- The missing piece of the puzzle for fixing the Caloosahatchee and the Everglades
For Southwest Florida two projects must be funded to fully realize improved water quality:
1) The purchase of at least 26, 1,000 acres of EAA land currently under option south of Lake Okeechobee.
2) Building the C-43 Reservoir to the west of Lake O, near LaBelle. This reservoir will store and cleanse water before it is released down the Caloosahatchee and onto our shores.
We commend the state's support and stated commitment to fund the C-43 Reservoir, which is vitally important for providing water to the Caloosahatchee during dry periods when it is receiving too little flow. However, without the EAA land, we will never be able to redirect the harmfully high flows that are also destroying the Caloosahatchee; therefore, this purchase is vital to a healthy Caloosahatchee River and Estuary.
The State's purchase of EAA lands is the missing piece to restoring the Everglades and the Caloosahatchee. It works together with existing Everglades projects, and we absolutely need both if we are to be successful.
- What needs to be done
The Governor needs to direct the state water management agency for our region to immediately initiate appraisals to know the fair market value of the land. Without that, the legislators cannot know how much to appropriate before the end of legislative session May 1. The state legislators need to fund the purchase, either through using funds available from the passage of Amendment 1 or bonding as has been done for other state land purchases.
- What you can do to help
Our state leaders need to hear from you right away. Please visit www.conservancy.org/policy/alert/everglades-agricultural-area to write a quick email to the governor and legislators asking them to make good on their promise to restore our waters and the Everglades through the purchase of this land.
The state needs to act now. Without this land, the other Everglades restoration projects cannot work together to produce the collective benefit intended and needed. Furthermore, the Caloosahatchee will be doomed to continue to receive devastating high discharges that pollute, kill its aquatic life, and contribute to unsightly harmful algae blooms dangerous to our wildlife and public health.
- About the Conservancy's Water Work
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has a long history of monitoring and protecting our water, including the first landmark Naples Bay study conducted in 1979. Water quality monitoring and research are still large parts of the work we do. Throughout the five-county region, we work with planners and decision-makers to ensure they are educated on the that stringent water management tools and best practices are in place, utilized and enforced across the region, and that they base their decisions on best-available science. For information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 262-0304 or visit www.conservancy.org .
--Rob Moher is the president and CEO of Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

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Why elections matter: A rundown of all the evil stuff being pushed through the Florida Legislature this session
OrlandoWeeky.com – by Billy Manes
March 25, 2015
Quote of the Week: “Indeed, lawmakers seem more inclined to listen to industry groups that had nothing to do with the Amendment 1 campaign, such as Associated Industries of Florida, than to its backers, who won the public’s endorsement. It’s outrageous. But, sadly, lawmakers can get away with such arrogance. Most are in safely drawn districts that rarely expose them to a broad section of voters.”
– Tampa Tribune Editorial Board in a March 16 editorial
Ever get that feeling that you're flying down a slalom on a track constructed of razor blades that ends up in a blood-filled pool located somewhere in the middle of nowhere behind a mobile home? Oh, then you must have been paying attention during the third week of this year's legislative session in Tallahassee. While liberal opponents of backroom deals are frowning at the fact that much of the recent (mostly) hot-ticket social-issue legislation is the fruit of both an inactive electorate last midterm November – still think that mandatory elections are a bad idea? – and lamenting the fact that a supermajority means that a total of one Democratic bill (ONE!) has actually advanced through committee as of press time, we're going to be optimistic (cough) and hope that the oversteps on decency we're about to zip through below just make you want to care enough to vote next time ? Maybe ? Or call your representative ? Maybe ?
OK, it's possible, as some have accused, that we're just venting, because, you know, guns freak us the fuck out. As does that sinking feeling that Florida ought to be feeling after numerous reports that the state doesn't have long to live above the sea, especially in South Florida, where saltwater intrusion into drinking water supplies is already an issue and the preservation of the Everglades is, apparently, not important.
80: Number of elected Florida House Republicans currently in legislative session in Tallhassee
But this is not an election year, and like most not-election-years, the Republican supermajority brought to you by apparent electoral apathy is toeing the hardline, likely gearing up for the 2016 elections, which ... well, we'll talk about that later in the year.
Key to last week's disappointments was the seeming constitutional questionability of how the Legislature is choosing to treat a 75 percent "yes" vote on environmental Amendment 1, intended to ensure water quality and conservation. The House dove in headfirst with a bill, HB 7003, that would effectively remove regulations from farmers on all things preservation, because the farmers know better and "best practices" and all. But insult was added to liquid energy when the Senate chimed in with its budget goals that, not-at-all-suspiciously, stroked its Big Sugar friends and caved on Everglades restoration. All of this as Gov. Rick Scott's administration has been recently accused of demanding a mental evaluation and time off for a Department of Environmental Protection employee who dared mention "climate change." See you underwater.
39: Number of elected Florida House Democrats currently in legislative session in Tallahassee
It gets worse, though. On the social-issues front, Republicans have rediscovered their terrible, sharp tooth and started riding the backlash on increased LGBT and reproductive rights, even with some unexpected overlap. After some impassioned testimony, the House Government Operations Committee went ahead with their anti-transgender legislation, HB 583, which aims to make transitioning folk wet themselves, apparently – either that or suffer the indignity of risking a third-degree misdemeanor if they don't use public bathrooms representing their "biological sex." Sixty days of jail and a $500 fine for being yourself, then. Sounds like important legislation in these troubling times.
On top of that, a Republican bill, PCP HHSC 15-03, designed to allow the increasingly privatized trade of childhood adoption to operate (with taxpayer money! Church and state!) under the auspices of the religious biases of said companies, is trying to circumvent the 2010 state appeals court ruling that gay adoption is legal. It easily cleared the House Health and Services Committee last Thursday, even after there was speculation that it was both unconstitutional and discriminatory (say, a Jewish woman walks into an adoption agency and is greeted by a Catholic: no dice).
406: Number of Republican bills that have been heard
"This gives tax payer funded adoption agencies a license to discriminate against qualified parents based on their own religious objections unrelated to parenting or to the needs of the child," Equality Florida representative Carlos Guillermo Smith says. "Now is the time Florida should be encouraging the adoption of needy children by loving families, not making things harder."
Another Republican bill, HB 633, aims to force women to endure a 24-hour waiting period to receive an abortion, because it's not emotionally disturbing enough to endure the violence of protesters outside a clinic just once. That bill is pretty close to the House floor, according to CBS, though the milder Senate has yet to assign it to anything.
41: Number of Democratic bills that have had a hearing out of the 462 bills that have been heard
How's this Republican supermajority thing working out for you?
Well if you're one of the nearly one million people falling into the much-publicized Medicaid gap – or even just medically needy, or even just a hospital in need of public funding – maybe not too well. Just like in 2013, the House and Senate are clashing over funding for some kind of Medicaid expansion so that the state can retain its Low Income Pool health care funding. The Senate wants a private market in Florida that draws down from the Affordable Care Act; the House doesn't want to talk about poor people. Don't expect much when the Sine Die hanky drop comes around at the end of session.
Meanwhile, last year's reasonably popular (58 percent via constitutional amendment on the ballot!) medical marijuana bill has yet to be assigned to a committee. A bill that is playing the backwards logic that more guns on college campuses will make for less violence is flying through like a bullet. Once again, the Legislature is going after the Florida Department of Corrections in a downsizing volley that its sponsor, House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, is claiming has nothing to do with privatizing prisons, but more to do with how shitty the department is in total as it has become a "monstrosity," the Miami Herald reports. That sounds nice. The House wants to drastically decrease the size of the agency, but without the oversight that the Senate is suggesting. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
State Rep. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, "felt that the Department of Corrections shouldn't be penalized without the proper opportunity to be fully funded and if they are understaffed and overworked, how about we consider providing the staff with the proper environment in the prison system without penalizing them with an oversight commission," the Herald reports. Bracy just wants to put the horse before the whole prison corruption cart, see?
And it just goes on and on and on and on and on into the sunshine. Oh, wait. There are 50 exemptions proposed by conservatives to the state's Sunshine Laws; last week, ironically, was Sunshine Week in Tallahassee. You can see the horizon from here.
"What you won't see, though, is anything about our Legislature working to improve our right of access, to create an effective enforcement mechanism so we're not forced into court every time there's a violation of our right of access, to ensure we have affordable and timely access to public records, that we're not shut out of public meetings," writes First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen in an op-ed for the Sun-Sentinel.

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Critics dump on senate water plan
WFCU.org - by Jim Ash
March 24, 2015
In what amounts to the year of the environment, the Senate focused Tuesday on Florida’s water and its troubled springs.
Republicans on the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee vowed to protect the quality and quantity of spring water, but critics say those are just empty promises.
The bill by committee chairman Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican, covers water regulation from the very top, creating a super advisory council, to the very bottom, identifying septic tanks in springs protection zones.
But environmentalists say the protection strategies it relies on are too leaky to work. Here’s Anna Upton of the Everglades Foundation:
“The Everglades Foundation is opposed to this amendment and that problem that we have is that it is based on a theory that is detached from reality.”
Environmentalist complained the bill doesn’t change much. It relies on so called “best management practices” and “basin management plans,” that give polluters more freedom to police themselves.
And Robert Palmer of the Florida Springs Institute, wasn’t afraid to tell Dean that’s not working.
“The Santa Fe River in your district. We have a “BMAP” there, and that’s not going to restore that river or that spring in my opinion.”
Palmer’s fellow council member, Robert Knight, says the bill does little to stress, or encourage, water conservation.
“And so one of the amendments we would like to see put in is a groundwater protection fee, which would actually put a fee on groundwater uses.”
Knight doesn’t criticize everything in the plan. Unlike  a competing House plan, Dean’s bill  lowers the bar for triggering springs management and restoration plans.
The bill is also backed by one of the most influential business lobbying groups in Tallahassee, Associated Industries of Florida. Greg Munson, head of AIF’s H20 Coalition, was filled with praise.
“We’re very encouraged and very appreciative of the changes made by the amendment that we’re talking about here today.
But not surprisingly, Munson thinks the bill goes too far. Especially when it comes to setting water standards and flow levels for springs.
After calmly watching his bill get trampled from all sides, Dean promised to keep
“Let me say this. There’s no perfection in this bill, or anybody else’s bill.”
Expect more changes. Dean’s bill has two more committee stops before reaching the floor.

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Everglades' future hangs in the balance
TampaBay.com - Wednesday's Letters by Jason Eames, Tampa
March 24, 2015
There is an epic battle being waged in the Legislature for the future of the Everglades.
You might think that, after 75 percent of voters supported Amendment 1 to provide a stream of reliable conservation funding, lawmakers would get behind efforts to protect the Everglades and stem the rising tide of pollution that is slowly destroying critical waterways like the Indian River Lagoon. But unfortunately, the powerful sugar industry is working behind the scenes to back out of the deal despite a binding contract.
In the past two election cycles alone, sugar interests gave more than $8 million to political candidates and committees. They gave more than half a million to Gov. Rick Scott alone, in addition to whisking top elected officials away on secret King Ranch hunting trips in Texas, as reported last year by the Times.
When the gavel drops on the 2015 session, much of its legacy will hinge on the Everglades land deal. For the sake of clean water and Florida's future, I hope legislative leaders, and especially the Tampa Bay delegation including Sens. Tom Lee and Jack Latvala, support the will of voters rather than sugar industry lobbyists.

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Florida Senate adopts parts of House water policy
Palm Beach Post – by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
March 24, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House’s business-friendly approach to protecting Lake Okeechobee has been added to the Senate’s plan for new water policies for the state.
The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved changes to its version of the water policy bill (SB 918), which is deemed stronger by environmentalists for the state’s natural springs.
The Senate proposal, which also seeks to develop a statewide trail system and increase public access to conservation lands for recreation, is more project-focused than the House plan, which was approved in a 106-9 vote on the third day of the legislative session.
The water-policy proposals, while backed by many legislators, are considered separate from a voter-approved requirement to increase spending on water and land projects in the Senate and House budgets.
Committee Chairman Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who is sponsoring the water-policy bill, said his proposal is still a work in progress.
“There is no perfection in this bill or anybody else’s bill,” Dean said. “We will consider anything that is doable and desirable and manageable and is open and transparent.”
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, issued a release Tuesday saying the amended bill reflects the “commitment that the House and Senate would work together to develop a statewide water and natural resources policy for Florida.”
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, has said if the House and Senate can’t find common ground on water policy this year, they’ll try again in 2016.
In addition to including the House policy changes to impose what are known as “best management practices” for the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee, the Senate added a House provision to require water-management districts to implement a water-management plan across Central Florida.
The South Florida waterway proposals drew opposition from environmental groups that would like stronger measures in place to reduce pollution from entering and exiting Lake Okeechobee.
Anna Upton of the Everglades Foundation said the plans are incomplete without “clear cut” enforcement and need firm deadlines for water quality improvement.
“It does little to move Florida forward to actually improving water quality,” Upton said of the amended bill.
Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues, said the proposal at best would reduce the nearly 450 metric tons of phosphorus that annually goes into the lake by about 100 metric tons, rather than lowering the pollutants to 100 metric tons a year.
Environmentalists contend that “best management practices” are simply guidelines that fail to mandate needed improvements.
The “BMPs” are favored by business and agricultural interests, which continue to express concerns with the Senate plan for maintaining protection zones for the state’s natural springs.
“While this bill is moving in the right direction, we have serious reservations about the springs component of the bill, which is based on untested science, adds additional layers of regulations, and provides no real environmental benefits,” Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida, said in a prepared statement after the meeting.
The protection zones would regulate the impact of septic tanks and the flow of storm water and agricultural runoff into those water bodies.

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Jimmy Buffett to support Everglades with free show on Capitol steps
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton
March 24, 2015
Jimmy Buffett will perform on the steps of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee at the Everglades Day Rally on April 7 in Tallahassee.
The rally is part of the Everglades Coalition‘s third annual Everglades Action Day, which brings Floridians from across the state together in Tallahassee to meet with decision makers about Everglades policy and restoration.
Environmental groups, spearheaded by the Everglades Foundation, are strongly urging lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott to push the South Florida Water Management District to take advantage of a option to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for future restoration projects. The option expires in October.
Neither the governor nor the district have shown any interest in the purchase. If lawmakers do not include money for the deal in the budget before the session ends in May, it is unlikely the deal could go through.

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Florida family of 4 found after getting lost in Everglades
The Associated Press
March 23, 2015
BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Authorities found a family of four that didn't return from a weekend airboat ride in the Everglades.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the family was located Sunday, wet and cold but uninjured.
The family had left from a marina in Belle Glade on Saturday night. Rescuers searched the water in boats after the family was reported missing.
WPTV in West Palm Beach (http://bit.ly/1EC7Vor ) reports the family was brought back to the marina on Sunday evening

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Rep. Patrick Murphy to seek Rubio's Senate seat
Sun Sentinel - by William E. Gibson Washington Bureau
March 23, 2015
Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy won twice in a Republican-leaning House district.
WASHINGTON — South Florida Congressman Patrick Murphy, a centrist Democrat from Jupiter, announced Monday he will run for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Marco Rubio.
Murphy, a former Fort Lauderdale businessman who ousted tea party firebrand Allen West to win a seat in Congress, is running as a middle-of-the-road pragmatist who promises to overcome partisan gridlock and get something done.
"I'm a CPA and small businessman — not a career politician — who saw the dysfunction in Washington and decided to do something about it," Murphy said in a prepared statement.
Murphy plunged into a Senate race expected to draw many candidates, especially if Rubio decides to run instead for president. Rubio's departure would create a wide open Senate contest in a major swing state likely to play a pivotal role in the 2016 elections.
Murphy moved from Fort Lauderdale to Jupiter to take on West in 2012, setting off one of the most expensive, high-profile congressional races in the nation.
The former Republican positioned himself as an independent-minded Democrat to win re-election last fall in a Republican-leaning district that includes northern Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. An expert on oil-spill cleanup, he rallied a grass-roots campaign to restore polluted waterways that flow from Lake Okeechobee.
LOL...what a joke...the only reason paddy wacker won is because the bi polar short bus crowd of racists went all in against west... a senate race will be much different...the rest of the state is repulsed by libtarrdz and paddy wacker is just another loser libtarrd... the seat will stay...
Murphy, 31, brings a moderate record and image to the statewide race, following in the tradition of former Democratic Sens. Bob Graham and Lawton Chiles.
His more liberal Democratic colleagues — Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton — decided not to give up safe House seats to jump into a Senate race.
"I'm a consensus-builder who is working to boost the economy by cutting waste in government, raise the minimum wage, strengthen Social Security and Medicare and protect the Everglades," Murphy said. "I've done all of this by being an independent voice for Florida, and that's what the Senate needs more of right now."
Rubio is expected to announce his candidacy for president within a few weeks.
Murphy is the first major party candidate to announce a Senate campaign. Other possible contenders include Pam Bondi, the Republican attorney general; Jeff Atwater, the Republican chief financial officer; and Democratic U.S. House Reps. Kathy Castor of Tampa and Alan Grayson of Orlando.
Related:           Murphy announces Senate candidacy | TIMELINE  TCPalm

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A growing state means growing threats for Florida’s official state animal
TheEpochTimes.com - by Elizabeth Fleming, the senior Florida Representative for the defendersblog.org.
March 22, 2015
Florida is a pretty incredible place. It has some of the greatest biological diversity – the widest variety of plants and animals – in the entire country, and is home to many species found nowhere else in the world. It’s also home to people – lots of them. In fact, with nearly 20 million residents, Florida recently surpassed New York as the third most populous state in the entire country. The economy has picked up once again and development and road building are accelerating. Florida is also a top travel destination in the world, hosting 93.7 million visitors in 2013, and many visitors return to live in Florida, encouraging the building of more homes and highways. All this places the Sunshine State in the unique position of having both tremendous wildlife diversity and mounting pressure from development.
What’s At Risk
Among the many species threatened by this nonstop development is our state’s official animal, the Florida panther. With just an estimated 100-180 adults left in the wild, the Florida panther is one of the most endangered mammals in the country. Once ranging across the southeastern U.S., today it is restricted to south Florida, in just five percent of its historic home range. The greatest threat to panther survival is the loss of its habitat, which is continually being destroyed, fragmented and degraded. And it isn’t just the buildings, but also the roads that connect them that cause problems. Wide-ranging panthers have to cross dangerous roads and highways in their search for territory, food and mates, and collisions with vehicles take a toll on the small population. Vehicle strikes are the greatest source of human-caused mortality for Florida panthers. In fact, 2014 set a new and tragic record for panthers lost to vehicle collisions, with a total of 25 panthers killed.
The Work Ahead
Fortunately, Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Conservation Amendment was passed by an overwhelming 75% of Florida voters in November. This constitutional amendment (Amendment 1) will set aside an estimated $18 billion over the next 20 years to fund water and land conservation, management and restoration, including protecting important habitat for Florida panthers and other wildlife. It takes a percentage of the existing documentary stamp tax revenues generated by real estate transactions and dedicates them to protecting and restoring important habitat on land and water. This source of funding was used for nearly two decades to fund the land acquisition program and because it is tied to development, the very thing that contributes to habitat destruction is also helping to prevent it.
Defenders is hard at work to make sure that elected officials will put that money to use in the way that the conservation amendment (and the Floridians who voted for it) intended, not on shopping lists of inappropriate projects brought to them by lobbyists. We are working with our members and supporters to remind their elected officials that they knew exactly what they were doing when they voted for the amendment, and that they expect their legislators to carry out the voters’ wishes. Amendment 1 funds could be spent to help secure, manage and restore important habitat and corridors for the panther and its prey, expanding and buffering protected areas, and protecting lands to enable construction of more wildlife crossings.
Saturday, March 21, is Save the Florida Panther Day, when Florida residents and visitors celebrate the state’s official animal. The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge will host its annual Open House to celebrate, and since increasing human tolerance for sharing the landscape with a large predator is key to panther recovery, I will be there along with our Southwest Florida Coexistence Coordinator Lisa Östberg and volunteers to provide visitors with information about living with panthersand other wildlife. The refuge interior is not normally open to the public, and the event gives people the opportunity to explore panther habitat through swamp buggy tours and guided walks. Even if you don’t live in Florida, you can join in on the fun of this important day by learning more about the plight of these highly endangered cats and helping to get the word out.
When the Florida legislature designated the third Saturday in March as Save the Florida Panther Day they said, “it is proper and fitting for all Floridians to pause and reflect on the plight of the Florida panther and the task of preserving this rare component of Florida’s diverse natural resources as a legacy to generations of Floridians yet to come.” If we’re truly going to do that, we need to be planning ways to give these endangered cats more room to roam so that they can remain a viable part of the wild Florida landscape.

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An insult to voters
Gainesville.com - Editorial
March 22, 2015
Former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham said at a forum Thursday that it was “an insult” to the 75 percent of voters who supported Amendment 1.
Will Abberger, chairman of the Amendment 1 sponsor committee, said in a written statement that it “appears to ignore the very reason that Florida voters approved Amendment 1.”
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, told Floridapolitics.com that it was a “message of hostility to parks and wildlife habitat.”
They’re all referring to the spending plan released Thursday by a Florida Senate subcommittee on general government, chaired by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla.
The proposal would spend $714.2 million on Amendment 1, the voter-approved measure that requires lawmakers to spend 33 percent of revenue from an existing real-estate tax on land and water conservation.
At least that was what voters presumably thought when they passed a measure with the official title “Water and Land Conservation — Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.”
Yet the Senate budget dedicates just $2 million to fund land acquisition through the Florida Forever program. As the Tampa Bay Times reported, that represents an 84 percent cut from last year’s budget — passed before Amendment 1 was approved.
The Amendment 1 campaign cited inadequate funding of land conservation to rally support for the measure. More than 4.2 million voters backed the measure, nearly 1.4 million more than voted to re-elect Gov. Rick Scott.
Hays apparently didn’t hear that resounding message of support for land conservation. Instead, he told that News Service of Florida that the will of the voters is “open to interpretation” and he’s been flooded with email and calls from people claiming the state doesn’t need to buy more land.
“There was a lot of other things listed in that constitutional amendment other than land acquisition, and we have funded a lot of other things other than land acquisition,” he said.
Perhaps Hays needs to hear from voters who aren’t hostile to the idea of more parks and conservation land. His email address is hays.alan@flsenate.gov and his phone number is 850-487-5011.
We’re you’re at it, contact our local lawmakers as well. Their email addresses and phone numbers can be found at www.gainesville.com/lawmakers.
The Sun’s land and water conservation forum Thursday should provide material for your messages. One fact that Pegeen Hanrahan, deputy director of the Amendment 1 campaign, noted there was that the amendment repeatedly references land conservation.
“It says the word ‘land’ 18 times,” she said.
The Senate’s plan isn’t the only sign that lawmakers are subverting the will of voters. The House budget plan, released Tuesday, is only slightly better in dedicating $10 million to Florida Forever.
The budget process has just begun. Voters must make it known that they won’t stand for lawmakers ignoring the intent of a measure that received overwhelming support and is now part of the state Constitution.
As Alachua County Forever program manager Ramesh Buch said at the forum, “If they do something different and we let them get away with it, what’s next?”
Related:           Are legislators ignoring voters' wishes?          Ocala

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GOP expands list of things you can't say
Amarillo.com - by Leonard Pitts Jr.
March 22, 2015
You are, perhaps, already familiar with the Republican List of Things You Cannot Say. If not, here’s a quick refresher:
1. “Vagina.” That’s a definite no-no. Three years ago, Republicans in the Michigan statehouse banned Democratic Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking after she used the v-word.
2. “Condom.” The Bush administration sought to ban sex-ed teachers from mentioning the c-word or, indeed, any contraceptive method but abstinence.
3. “Gun.” A 2011 Florida law prohibits pediatricians from asking whether parents have a g-word in the house. Mind you, they can ask about swimming pools, tobacco, seat belts, lead paint and other potential home-based threats to children’s health. But not firearms.
To that list, a new term has now been added. In Florida, you may not say “climate change.”
Now, you’d think the Sunshine State would be using the double c-word quite a bit just now. Florida is, of course, a lowlands state, home to the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, i.e., the Everglades, and as such, one of the most environmentally vulnerable places in the country. That confluence of facts represents a challenge to which a governor can respond in one of two ways: 1) grapple with the problem and look for ways to solve it; or 2) ignore the problem and silence those who dare to bring it up.
Gov. Rick Scott has chosen the second option. The state operates under an unwritten gag order banning environmental officials from using the double c-word in any official email, correspondence or report to discuss the threat from human-caused planetary warming and rising seas.
The governor, for the record, denies any such rule exists. “It’s not true,” he told reporters. But Scott’s words are simply not credible in the wake of a withering report published by the Miami Herald. In it, multiple former state Department of Environmental Protection officials describe how they were, in fact, censored by their superiors.
“We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or “sustainability,’ ” said former DEP attorney Christopher Byrd.
No, the GOP is not the only party to regulate what its officials may say. Yes, the Obama administration has lately come out against language conflating Islam and terrorism in order, it says, to deny gangs of criminal thugs the legitimacy of religious underpinnings. You may or may not find that reasoning persuasive, but give the White House this much credit: The ban seems designed to make a philosophical point — not to forestall discussion of terrorism.
What we see in Scott, on the other hand, amounts to little more than a reality-avoidance scheme, a way of not having a debate he cannot win and would rather not have. The governor has previously tried denying the reality of global warming. He has used the “I’m not a scientist” dodge that the GOP adopted in lockstep last year. But this may be his most effective means yet: Commandeer the language, rendering discussion impossible.
It is not, however, the debate about global warming that threatens to submerge downtown Miami, but global warming itself. It turns out that, contrary to what we believed as children, if you ignore a thing, it doesn’t go away. Often times, it simply festers and gets worse. And as guns, condoms and vaginas continue to exist despite GOP silencing, so too does the threat to Florida, the country and the planet from rising seas and temperatures.
Yet in the face of that existential danger, the GOP continues its strategy of sowing doubt, denial and delay. It is a depressing sign of our times that Florida’s governor exerts so much energy to manage the language of catastrophe.
Here’s a thought: Address the catastrophe and the language will take care of itself.

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Lee County's environment and lifestyle in jeopardy
Sanford Herald - Letter by Elizabeth (Betty) and Frank Robinsone, Sanford, FL
March 22, 2015
Dear commissioners: My husband and I chose to move to Lee County nine years ago from Los Angeles. Between us, we have lived in eight states now. Our choice was influenced, to a large degree, by the beauty of the area and the state, but particularly for Lee County's healthful environment and the lifestyle offered. We believe these critical criteria are now in jeopardy.
We know something about contamination of the environment: Our home of 17 years in southern New Jersey was within 10 miles of what was ultimately described by the EPA as "one of the most toxic sites in the U.S." This did not happen overnight. It happened a ton at a time. Likewise, New Jersey artesian well systems, which quality had been some of the best available in the country, were defiled by polluters who claimed -- and whose attorneys argued over decades -- their effluents contained only miniscule hazardous parts per unit. The problem was the volume! The scenario about the water then and there closely parallels that of Jordan Lake today.
In relocating, we have left behind the polluted potable waters north of Los Angeles' former Air Force base area, the catastrophic sinkholes of Florida brought about in part by the excesses of commercial, 24-hour-a-day depletion of subterranean water reserves, and Philadelphia's woes in removing toxic PCB's left behind by the railroad industry.
None, not one, of the culprits in these instances has been made to compensate -- let alone undo -- the damage they've perpetrated upon the local populations. To the contrary, costs for the remedies (to the degree the damages can be re-mediated) have been borne universally by the taxpayers. We have already seen Duke's sense of "fairness" in the Dan River spills: The victim is responsible for the tab!
If the Lee County Board of Commissioners enters into a contract with Duke Energy, I hope theirs is a better, more concrete outcome than what we are personally experiencing by the takeover company of Progress Energy. Since Duke's arrival, and despite multiple statements in the press by Duke to the contrary, our monthly household electric bill has increased in less than two years by 35 to 40 percent of our pre-Duke bills. And, that has occurred without any material change in our lifestyle.
Similarly, Duke's promise not to change the CEO in the transition period was seemingly written in "smoke." (The costs around this breach of faith is being challenged by the stockholders, it appears.)
Why would the BOC think it will fair any better? If you go forward, you'll need to escrow wheelbarrows full of cash to wage the inevitable legal battles you'll face trying to hold Duke to their "promises."

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Don't let Tallahassee's political ways spoil critical land buy
News-Press.com – by Porter Goss
March 21, 2015
As an elected representative of the people of Southwest Florida for a cumulative 30 years, including mayor of Sanibel, chairman of the Lee County commission and member of Congress, I found it rare to be offered such an opportunity as Gov. Rick Scott and legislators have today to purchase lands south of Lake Okeechobee at a price favorable to the public.
The state has the funding, thanks to the overwhelming voice of the electorate in supporting Amendment 1 last November.
The state has a contract executed by a willing buyer and a willing seller, and the state has all the science it needs determining that moving water south is preferable to moving water east and west during high flows.
This is the perfect confluence of events for our policy makers, yet I am seeing heel-dragging in Tallahassee and bureaucratic excuses from West Palm Beach.
I would be grateful if the governor, the House speaker, the Senate president, or the governing board would articulate a legitimate reason why now is not the time to move forward with the purchase.
If that reason is because the seller is no longer a "willing" seller due to an escalation of property valuation, then go ahead and say that — but remember, your responsibility is to the taxpayers of Florida and not to the seller.
This is a great deal for the taxpayers and your constituents have a legally binding, properly executed contract.
If the reason you don't want to proceed is because you were caught unaware by Amendment 1, which supplanted your priorities with those of the voters and created holes in your budget, then simply explain that to the voters who supported the amendment. As a former legislator, I am not terribly sympathetic to that argument and I doubt the voters will be, either.
If your argument is that you are focusing on other projects and want to finish them first before you start anything else, I would suggest that Florida, which has an economy larger than most nations, is capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.
This is a time-sensitive opportunity — one that will never again be available — and arguments of bureaucratic ineptitude are not the ones we want to be making as we strive to attract businesses to Florida to grow our economy.
Our state is proud to be the Sunshine State. Our sunshine laws are second to none. Let's have this debate — in the sunshine. Shady deal making in Tallahassee is not the way.
Porter Goss was elected to the Sanibel City Council in 1974. He served as the city's first mayor. He was appointed to the Lee County commission in 1983. He became a member of Congress, representing Southwest Florida, in 1988 and served in the House for 16 years until he was appointed Director of Central Intelligence by President George W. Bush. Goss lives on Sanibel.

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Still little land-buy funding
Herald-Tribune - by Zac Anderson
March 21, 2015
The phrase “land acquisition” features prominently in the constitutional amendment approved last November to fund conservation efforts in Florida.
The amendment says money from the voter-approved initiative must fund the “Land Acquisition Trust Fund” and can only be used for “the acquisition and improvement of land, water areas and related property interests.”
The people who crafted the ballot measure say its main purpose is to buy environmentally sensitive lands and preserve them from development, which is why they were so disappointed when state leaders unveiled proposals for spending more than $700 million set aside for environmental programs under the amendment this year.
Buying more land is still not a legislative priority. The Senate’s proposed budget includes just $2 million for Florida Forever, the state’s land acquisition program.
The Candy Bar Ranch in DeSoto County, just over the Sarasota County line, is among 10 Southwest Florida ranches included in recent applications for funding from the Florida Forever land conservation program. (H-T ARCHIVE / 2014)
Conservation advocates say such budget proposals completely ignore the will of the voters, 75 percent of whom approved the amendment.
“It’s sickening, it really is,” said Christine Johnson, president of the Osprey-based Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, which is trying to secure state funding to preserve ranches in Sarasota and Manatee counties. “The Legislature is thumbing its nose at the voters.”
Many lawmakers see the issue much differently. They say Florida owns enough land, and argue that the amendment language is broad enough that they can steer nearly all the money to other environmental priorities.
The starkly different views on buying conservation land illustrate a recurring theme in Florida’s Capitol: Proposals that have broad popular support are frequently ignored, even when voters make their intentions clear.
Environmental advocates are gearing up for a lobbying push to convince top lawmakers to change their minds about Florida Forever spending before the legislative session ends in six weeks.
But some are already wondering if the conservation amendment will follow the path of the Florida Lottery, class-size limits and other voter-approved ideas that did not turn out as many had expected.
Clear intention
The fight over conservation spending dates back to 2009, when lawmakers cut off funding for Florida Forever in that year’s budget.
Buying conservation land used to be a popular bi-partisan effort. Florida Forever spent $275 million a year on average from 1990 — when it was authorized under a different name — to 2008.
Since 2009, only $129 million has been dedicated to the program, which has a huge backlog of priority projects that are unfunded.
There are more than 100 properties on Florida Forever’s priority acquisition list, including a Sarasota County ranch that borders Myakka River State Park and another property in Manatee County that includes 3.2 miles of Myakka River shoreline.
Frustrated by the lack of funding to address that backlog, environmental groups joined to gather signatures and put the conservation amendment on the ballot last year.
The coalition was careful to emphasize land acquisition when drafting the amendment language, said Will Abberger, who led the campaign.
“It’s very clear,” he said.
But Abberger said the group also wanted to provide some flexibility in how the money is spent so the state can tackle other environmental issues, from managing invasive species to cleaning up pollution.
Lawmakers have seized on that additional language to argue that the amendment is not a mandate to buy more land.
“There is such a thing as too much,” said Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, in noting that Florida already has a substantial number of conservation areas.
Hays chairs the Senate committee that was responsible for creating an environmental spending plan that conforms with the constitutional amendment.
The fact that he and many other lawmakers continue to resist funding land conservation despite the amendment’s passage does not surprise some political observers.
Ignoring voters
Lawmakers have a habit of ignoring the voters when it comes to ballot measures they don’t like, said Paula Dockery, a former Republican state senator from Lakeland.
Dockery pointed to amendments for the limiting of class sizes and the gerrymandering of legislative district lines as initiatives that the Republican majority did not implement as voters intended.
“History’s repeating itself,” she said. “The Legislature does not like citizens’ initiatives.”
Others have compared the situation with the conservation amendment to the Florida Lottery, which was sold to voters as a way to increase education spending but used by lawmakers to shift other funds away from education to various issues.
When it comes to the conservation amendment, Hays said “voters were not told the complete story” about how much environmental spending already was in the state budget. Since the law’s passage, the senator, said many people have contacted him to say: “ ‘Don’t buy any more land, we have enough already.’ ”
Dockery believes that is a minority opinion, and that the amendment’s wide margin of approval — it was supported by 78 percent of voters in Sarasota County and 76 percent in Manatee — shows most people want more state parks, trails, wildlife corridors and other conservation areas.
Lawmakers are not listening to that majority view because they don’t have to, Dockery said.
“There’s just no fear that there will be any punishment,” she said.
Voters don’t tend to follow such issues very closely or vote against lawmakers who fail to carry out ballot measures, Dockery said.
Instead, citizen groups have been forced to fight in court, with only limited success.
Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, said he expects a court challenge if the Legislature passes a budget with so little funding for Florida Forever.
He lambasted the Senate’s budget proposal, saying it “clearly does not meet the constitutional test” laid out by the new amendment.
“This would fly in the face of the will of the people and I think it would end up in court,” Altman said.
Abberger said his coalition is “not talking about lawsuits now.” He is hopeful that the Legislature’s final budget will include considerably more money for land acquisition.
Nothing final
Even Hays, the Senate committee chairman, acknowledged last week that the $2 million for Florida Forever is just a “placeholder.”
“It’s a statement from me that we’re not ignoring Florida Forever,” Hays said, adding, “Everything that’s in there is subject to change.”
Altman plans to draft a budget amendment that would boost funding for land acquisition.
Abberger hopes to convince lawmakers that buying conservation land makes good sense from both an environmental and financial perspective.
Many of the budget items in the House and Senate environmental spending plans are aimed at cleaning up pollution problems created by past land development practices.
There is $82 million in the Senate budget for Everglades restoration and $50 million for springs restoration.
Other money is set aside for tackling nutrient pollution that is causing algae blooms in waterway across the state.
One way to prevent future pollution problems — and save the state from paying for cleanup — is to buy up the most environmentally significant properties and preserve them from development.
“It’s just common sense,” Abberger said. “We should protect it before it gets degraded. Then we don’t have to worry about restoration.”

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Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in West Palm Beach, pushes state water plan
Palm Beach Post – by Eliot Kleinberg
March 20, 2015
Florida needs a comprehensive statewide policy to protect the supply and quality of its water, something that ties everyone, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told a Chamber of the Commerce of the Palm Beaches breakfast Friday morning.
Putnam and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, also from an “ag” family, have been pushing a water policy bill; some environmental groups say it does not go far enough in setting pollution limits and deadlines and could gut efforts to clean up Lake Okeechobee.
Business, tourism and agriculture, Putnam said Friday, all need a statewide water plan that can deal with a state as physically disparate as the swamps of the Everglades and North Florida’s famous, and myriad, fresh water springs.
“There’s not a corner of our state that’s not in the middle of a conflict over water,” Putnam told the gathering at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
Putnam, 40, already is being floated as a possible Republican pick for governor in 2018, and his talk Friday morning sounded a little like a commentary on his future as much as the state’s.

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Florida Five: Project plans to move water to Everglades, Gov. Scott signs 5 bills into law
BizpackReview - by Cheryl Carpenter Klimek
March 20, 2015
Florida Gov. Scott says Tamiami Trail project will help move water south— On Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott announced that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently issued a permit to the Department of Interior’s National Park Service, Everglades National Park, for the construction of 2.6 miles of bridges and raised roads along the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) in Miami-Dade County. The project will deconstruct a section of the Tamiami Trail and replace it with a bridge so that water north of the road may flow into the Everglades, providing needed water to the Everglades National Park. This project will result in enhanced movement of water south from Lake Okeechobee. Read more
Gov. Rick Scott signs 5 bills into law – Florida’s 2015 Legislative Session is in full swing with legislators handing Gov. Rick Scott bills which he signed into law Thursday, according to a statement from his office. Read more

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Maybe Senate will do better
Ocala.com – Editorial
March 20, 2015
The Florida House’s new water policy looks an awful lot like its old policy: toothless measures that fail to conserve and protect the groundwater that feeds our springs and supplies our drinking water.
In what was clearly a rush to do the bidding of big business and development interests, on the third day of the legislative session House lawmakers pushed through a water bill that lacked anything remotely resembling a vision for Florida’s troubled water future.
The measure, HB 7003, relies on “best management practices” — without any accompanying sanctions or even requirements — for agriculture that to date have been ineffective in cleaning up water quality. It offers little in the way of new restrictions on the activities that are polluting and draining our region’s natural springs.
The measure also fails to mandate the kind of water conservation that is desperately needed to protect our depleted aquifer. Instead, it paves the way for public money to be used for water supply projects without requiring more efficient use of that water.
In short, the House water bill is more a series of suggestions than meaningful, effective policies that will protect the quality and quantity of our water in the decades ahead.
A water measure being considered in the Senate could be improved, but does far more to protect our aquifer and springs.
SB 918 — sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, who represents part of Marion County — would create springs-protection zones where wastewater applications are restricted. Local governments would be required to address pollution from septic tanks and fertilizer use in those areas, two pollution creators that desperately need addressing.
The bill would also create a system to assess water projects to ensure they truly provide environmental benefits. Such checks are needed as lawmakers consider how to spend money dedicated by Amendment 1, the Land and Water Conservation Amendment passed by 75 percent of voters last fall.
Despite the fact that land conservation was part of the amendment’s title and mentioned throughout its text, big business groups inexplicably are fighting its use for acquiring conservation land.
Instead, lawmakers are considering infrastructure projects that have a negligible or even negative impact on water quality.
Our local lawmakers should be paying the most attention to these concerns, given that they represent a region rich with natural springs, indeed home to the world’s most famous spring, Silver Springs. Yet Reps. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, Charlie Stone, R-Ocala, and Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake, voted for this weak measure. Rep. Clovis Watson, D-Alachua, who represents northern Marion county, was among the handful of Democrats to vote against it.
We hope that the Senate passes a stronger version that wins the day in negotiations with the House.
Otherwise, despite promises to finally address the Florida water crisis in a substantive way, lawmakers will have done little to protect our aquifer and springs other than to continue the same kind of policies that depleted and polluted them in the first place.

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World could face water 40 per cent shortfall in just 15 years, UN report warns
Independent.co.uk
March 20, 2015
The report has urged politicians to take action or face the consequences
The UN has urged world leaders to rethink water policies or face a 40 per cent shortfall in just 15 years.
A combination of low underwater reserves and erratic rainfall patterns caused by climate change, has brought the problem to the fore according to a report which stresses how water resources are essential to achieving global sustainability.
These factors are compounded by the fact that the world’s population is growing, and expected to reach 9 billion in 2050. This means more groundwater will be needed for farming, industry and personal consumption.
The UN’s annual World Water Development report predicts that as reserves dwindle, global water demand will increase 55 per cent by 2050. If current usage does not change, the world will have only 60% of the water it needs in 2030, it said.
If this became a reality, the consequences would be catastrophic. Crops could fail, ecosystems could break down, industries could collapse, disease and poverty could worsen, and violent conflicts over access to water could become more frequent.
"Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit,” the document released two days before World Water Day reads.
It goes on to note that more efficient use could guarantee enough supply in the future.
The report urges politicians and communities to rethink water policies, and consider making a greater effort to conserve water.
A wastewater system similar to that used in Singapore – developed due to the fact the small island is densely populated -could be adopted, the report suggested.
More controversially, it said that countries could also prevent a crisis by raising water prices as well as developing new ways to make industries reliant on water more efficient and less polluting, it said.
In many nations water use is unregulated and often wasteful, while the pollution of water can be ignored and unpunished.
In India, for example, at least 80 per cent of the country’s population drinks groundwater to avoid bacteria-infested surface waters.
The report went on the caution leaders not to reply on economic growth to solve the problem that around 748 million people worldwide have poor access to clean drinking water.
Related - Read more:
Climate change must be dealt with
Officials 'banned' from using 'climate change' in Florida
As China gets richer, the world must be being green
Manicured lawns produce more greenhouse gases than they absorb
2014 the hottest year since records began, climate experts confirm
UN warns world could have 40 percent water shortfall by 2030       WPEC

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Millions of gallons of wastewater to be injected underground
MySunCoast.com - by Rebecca Vargas
March 19, 2015
A new deep injection well has been operating for about a week now in a process that injects the brine 1,700 feet below ground. It's part of an agreement between the city and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. "It takes away any impact that we have on the bay, any anthropogenic effect that we might have on the bay is now ceased and the bay can return to a pristine setting" said Gerald Boyce, City of Sarasota Utilities GM.
Before the well was installed last Friday, 9 million gallons of water treatment residue and treated waste water was legally discharged into Hog Creek and Whitaker Bayou each day, which leads to the Sarasota Bay.
 
In the next few weeks the city will also pump the 6 million gallons of treated waste water, that was being disposed in the Whitaker Bayou, into the new well.
This new process is not without risk, "there are chances for the material you're injecting below the aquifer to seep into the aquifer, which would be our drinking water, and for things to go wrong" said Justin Bloom, Executive Director of the environmental group Suncoast Water Keeper.
Both city officials and environmentalists say the well is designed to prevent that from happening, and will be continually tested for safety.
The well, which is located on the north side of the utilities campus on 12th street, is able to receive up to 18 million gallons of brine a day.
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Panel blasts Legislature on Amendment 1 plans
Gainesville.com - by Christopher Curry, Staff writer
March 19, 2015
Some of the driving forces behind the Amendment 1 referendum blasted state lawmakers Thursday evening for budget plans that would put a tiny fraction of the money set aside by the initiative toward the purchase of conservation land.
During a panel discussion sponsored by The Gainesville Sun and the Bob Graham Center for Public Policy organized on the University of Florida campus, Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, said budget plans in the Florida Senate and House were “an insult” to the 75 percent of the voters who approved the water and land conservation measure.
The referendum is projected to set aside more than $700 million for the state’s land acquisition trust fund next year, and advocates saw it as a way to restore funding for the Florida Forever program. For decades, that land acquisition program received $300 million annually for land conservation but saw major cuts after the recession.
Even with Amendment 1 in place, a House budget panel recommended $10 million for Florida Forever, and a Senate panel has a plan for $2 million to go into the program.
“The whole purpose of this effort was to reverse the drastic cuts in the Florida Forever program … now instead of going above the bare bones initiative of the recent past, they’ve cut it further,” Graham said. “To recommend $2 million is an insult.”
Pegeen Hanrahan, the deputy campaign manager for Amendment 1 and a former Gainesville mayor, said the language of the amendment stated repeatedly that the money was to go for land to protect the environment, wildlife habitat and water resources.
“It says the word ‘land’ 18 times,” she said.
Ramesh Buch, who manages county government’s Alachua County Forever conservation program, said the budget plans now circulating in the Legislature ignore the will of the voters.
“You don’t have a more direct signal than a direct referendum,” Buch said.
Charlie Houder, who has worked in land management with the Suwannee River and St. Johns River water management districts for decades, and Buch did praise a House budget panel for putting a significant amount of funding toward the management of conservation lands already acquired by the state
But Buch still voiced concerns if county programs would see that money.
“I don’t see any of it trickling down to local government,” he said.
Panel members pushed members of the audience at Pugh Hall to contact lawmakers and urge them to put money toward land conservation.
Hanrahan noted that Amendment 1 had support from Republicans and Democrats and that Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget would put $100 million toward Florida Forever.
She said she now expected a “grand negotiation” in Tallahassee on how much money ends up going to purchase conservation land.
Panel moderator Nathan Crabbe, The Gainesville Sun editorial page editor, asked Hanrahan if the groups that got Amendment 1 on the ballot would pursue a lawsuit if they determined the Legislature and governor were spending Amendment 1 money improperly.
“We don’t think under ideal circumstances we should pursue a lawsuit,” Hanrahan said.
She said their preference would be working with lawmakers to increase conservation spending from the levels now recommended.
But Hanrahan pointed to the legal fight that backers of the Fair Districts redistricting referendum launched when they felt lawmakers adopted gerrymandered districts despite the voter mandate. That showed, she said, that a political committee behind a constitutional amendment does have legal standing to pursue a case if they feel lawmakers are not implementing the measure properly.
Related:           Little Land Buying In Senate's Amendment 1 Plan   CBS Local
Little Land Buying in Florida Senate's Amendment 1 Plan   Southeast AgNet
State Rep. Jim Boyd: Amendment 1 legislation miscast        Bradenton Herald
Amendment 1 Spending Plan Lands Mixed Reviews                        WLRN
Senate panel deals second blow to US Sugar buy      TCPalm
The pain continues for Amendment 1 supporters with release of ...  MiamiHerald.com (blog)

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Amendment-1

The battle for
Amendment-1 money
for land



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The pain continues for Amendment 1 supporters with release of Senate plan
Miami Herald - by Michael Van Sickler
Mar. 19, 2015
Environmental groups hoping the Florida Senate would do better than the House in respecting the intent of Amendment 1 were disappointed on Thursday.
The Senate’s appropriations subcommittee on general government, which is chaired by Sen. Al Hays, R-Umatilla, released its $4 billion spending plan for next year. It includes the Senate’s plan on following the new constitutional amendment, passed overwhelmingly by voters in November, that requires 33 percent of documentary stamp revenues be spent to buy, restore, improve and manage conservation lands.
The Senate proposes spending $714.2 million on Amendment 1, which is about $58 million less than what the House proposed and $43 million less than what Gov. Rick Scott set aside for it.
The Senate’s proposed budget includes just $2 million to fund land acquisition under Florida Forever, an 84 percent cut from this year’s budget, which passed before Amendment 1 was approved..
Florida Forever was created in 1999 to allocate funds for public land acquisition and was initially authorized to spend $300 million a year. But since the recession, it has struggled. In 2011, it wasn't funded at all. In this year’s budget, lawmakers set aside $17 million, of which $5 million went to deals with private landowners.
Yet this year’s proposal of $2 million, just months after Amendment 1 passed, is an affront, said Will Abberger, chair of the Amendment 1 sponsor committee.
“The intent of the 4.2 million voters who voted Yes for Amendment 1 was clear: fund the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the acquisition of parks and natural areas,” Abberger said. "The Senate’s budget proposal appears to ignore the very reason that Florida voters approved Amendment 1.”
The Senate’s spending plan includes money for agency operations and other expenses that were never intended to be funded by Amendment 1, said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, the sponsor committee for Amendment 1.
“We are deeply disappointed by this proposal,” Moncrief said. “There’s no way that anyone could have read the Amendment and consider this budget to be adequate.”
The Senate version was especially disappointing for Amendment 1 supporters Senate leaders had promised an upgrade from the House version.
On Wednesday, the Senate’s appropriations chair, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said the upper chamber’s version would be more inclusive.
“We’ll end up with a much more balanced approach, to make sure all of the stakeholders involved in Amendment 1 have some outcome that they were hoping for when those expectations were set,” Lee said.
That appears not to be the case, however.
Related:           Little Land Buying In Senate's Amendment 1 Plan   CBS Local
Little Land Buying in Florida Senate's Amendment 1 Plan   Southeast AgNet
State Rep. Jim Boyd: Amendment 1 legislation miscast        Bradenton Herald
Amendment 1 Spending Plan Lands Mixed Reviews                        WLRN
Senate panel deals second blow to US Sugar buy      TCPalm
The pain continues for Amendment 1 supporters with release of ...  MiamiHerald.com (blog)

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A sense of Florida
Patheos.com - by Nathan Hall
March 18, 2015
The reputation of Florida goes so far beyond it’s own borders that it’s likely people who have never been here and never will are aware that this is a land of oddities, contradictions, and downright jaw-dropping absurdity. Social media has made this a near certainty. So opening up with a statement like, “Florida is a strange place” feels a bit redundant.
It’s not all silliness and Florida Man har hars either. Think drug cartels, murders for hire, the Seminole wars, a young Andrew Jackson cutting his genocidal teeth, and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Why the Army Corps? Honestly, the full blame for the mess the Everglades doesn’t entirely rest with them. They came in at the behest of politicians, developers and agriculture business to try and “fix” the flow of the Everglades to prevent coastal flooding in urban areas like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and the agricultural areas surrounding. By using two different rivers as drainage for when Lake Okeechobee got too high and by putting a dike around the lake itself, the course of tens, if not hundreds of thousands of years of a highly evolved ecosystem were immediately altered. Imagine that… trying to fix nature.
Like I said, Florida is a strange place.
Because I live here and benefit from what’s been done, I bear some of the responsibility for these actions, whether I directly caused them or not.
By way of introduction, this is my place. Like a majority of folks in Florida, I’m not from here originally. A long circuitous trip brought me here and the double whammy of the full force of a hurricane and a new love lead me to stay. You’ll find out more about me as I contribute a new post every other week to this blog.
I’ve grown to love it here, and I’ve learned to work with some of the spirits that occupy this place as well. Let me tell you, they are some tough ones. In my recent quests for connection and communing, I sprained my ankle while seeking the horned god, Cernunnos, who I believe to be here thanks to a large number of early Irish settlers. I found myself face down in the swamp, being attacked by fire ants immediately. It was a bad enough sprain that I couldn’t put any weight on it, which forced me to hobble on my walking stick the three miles or so back to the trailhead. With mud in my beard, exhausted and in excruciating pain a sullenness overcame me for a few days. Eventually it gave way to near ecstasy though, when I realized that I had a brief dance with the divine, even if it had thrown me to the ground.
About a month later I broke that ankle on the same hike. One hell of a dancing partner.
Florida is a strange place, and it may make people strange.
Recently, I found myself in the Everglades National Park. The presence of spirit there is palpable and so unmistakably everywhere around you. In every direction, 360 degrees, you’re surrounded by blonde sawgrass in standing water. It looks harmless but if you’re wearing shorts you’ll quickly find your legs covered in tiny bleeding knicks from the sharp edges that give it it’s name. As you continue your circumambulation, islands of cypress pop out of the landscape. Called domes, they are like lockets, hiding precious animals, herons, egrets, forests of bright pink catopsis or bromeliad perched on the cypress trunks and occasionally an alligator, waiting in the pond at the center. On my trip there, the presence of spirit became so overwhelming that I actually ended up retching. I’ve heard some in the community calling this type of experience a ‘puking in the cauldron’ moment.
This is the side of Florida that not many get a chance to see and, to me, this is the ‘real’ Florida. Wild, dangerous, strange, even while ailing from human interference. This is the side that I hope to share here with you.

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Water quality !



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End wait for strong plan to protect water quality
Orlando Sentinel – Editorial
March 18, 2015
There's an old saying that good things come to those who wait. That's not always true — especially in Tallahassee.
A year ago, then-Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford ruled out his chamber's consideration of a promising, bipartisan Senate proposal to overhaul state water policy. He called for "time and serious thought" before action.
That delay, in the House, has yielded a disappointing result: a bill heavy on expanding water quantity but too light on improving water quality.
It's true that Florida's water supply could fall far short of the state's needs in the future — the gap by 2030 has been estimated at 1.3 billion gallons a day. But water quality already has reached a crisis across the state.
In 2010, a state assessment found 80 percent of streams and rivers, 90 percent of lakes, and 97 percent of bays and estuaries in Florida were not meeting minimum water-quality standards for safe public use.
Many of Florida's incomparable natural springs are dying from pollution and overpumping from their underground water supplies.
Discharges of water polluted by fertilizer and urban runoff from Lake Okeechobee have spawned toxic algae blooms in other waterways, with disastrous consequences. In 2013, scores of manatees and dolphins and hundreds of pelicans died in the Indian River Lagoon.
The House bill, HB 7003, lacks deadlines on goals for water quality and flow in ailing springs. It also wouldn't stop additional pollution in springsheds from new septic systems, animal feedlots, minimally treated wastewater and hazardous waste.
The bill actually eliminates a 2015 deadline for meeting water-quality standards to clean up Lake Okeechobee. It also shelves a rule that allows state agencies to enforce water-quality standards on discharges from the lake.
And the legislation fails to expand on modest regional conservation plans to help preserve Florida's dwindling water supply. Instead, it adopts industry's priority of developing new supplies to facilitate future growth.
The Senate bill, SB 918, has a strong focus on rescuing springs. It would establish protection zones for those waterways, require recovery plans, and bar future activities nearby that would degrade them.
In another farsighted provision, SB 918 would set up an advisory council to rank water projects for their priority for funding under Amendment 1, which voters passed last year to guarantee state spending on water and land conservation.
We agree with environmental advocates who wish the deadlines in SB 918 for springs restoration were more ambitious. We also concur with industry critics of the bill who argue that springs should be just one of multiple priorities in a water-policy overhaul. Still, the Senate's approach is far preferable to the House's.
The Legislature needs to pass a strong bill — this year — to improve water quality. Floridians have waited too long.

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From coastlines to the Everglades, researchers tackle sea level rise
Phys-Org
March 18, 2015
Under the streets of Miami Beach, seeping up through the limestone, water creeps into storm drains and pours into the streets. It happens once a year when the sun and moon align in such a way that gravity pulls at Earth's water. The phenomenon is known as King Tide. It is the highest of high tides, and every year, it puts Miami Beach at risk of major flooding.
FIU researchers were on-site during the latest King Tide event to collect and assess data. The efforts are part of a university-wide initiative to study, better understand and develop solutions for sea level rise. Plans are under way to create an institute dedicated to the interdisciplinary work being done at FIU, which includes collaboration among researchers from Arts & Sciences, Architecture and the Arts, Business, Law, Public Health and Social Work, Engineering, Hospitality and Tourism Management, as well as Journalism and Mass Communication.
South Florida ranks as the world's most vulnerable urban region in terms of assets exposed to the effects of sea level rise. FIU's research is dedicated to developing and implementing solutions for the major environmental and economic challenges created by the rising seas.
Beyond the Shoreline
When King Tide arrived in October of 2014, all eyes were on Miami Beach and a new pump system that helped to keep the water off the streets—this time. But the manner in which the water traditionally invades is a stark reminder that when it comes to sea level rise, there is more to be concerned about than just the shoreline. The hidden danger is largely the water within. In South Florida's case, that means the Everglades.
"The greater South Florida ecosystem is predicated on the balance of freshwater and saltwater," said Todd Crowl, researcher within the institute and director of FIU's Southeast Environmental Research Center. "When that ecosystem hits its tipping point and an imbalance occurs, that's when this whole
thing collapses."
A natural region of subtropical wetlands, the Everglades is a complex system that features sawgrass marshes, cypress swamps, mangroves and marine environments. The Everglades is also the main source of freshwater for the Biscayne Aquifer, South Florida's primary water supply. Beneath the river of grass, rising sea levels are pushing saltwater inward into the Everglades.
This intrusion is already affecting South Florida residents through a shrinking and tainted aquifer. Some communities, such as Hallandale Beach, can attest to the problem as underground wells have been closed due to saltwater, forcing communities to buy water from other sources.
"Few people might make the connection between sea level rise and the water pouring out of their faucets," said Evelyn Gaiser, a wetland ecologist and interim executive director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society. "We simply don't have freshwater moving in at the rate we need it, but Everglades restoration provides a solution for that."
The River of Grass
In 2000, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was approved as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Water Resources Development Act. The 30-year plan provides a framework to restore and protect the water resources of Central and South Florida.
Every two years, the National Research Council issues a report evaluating the progress of the plan. In the 2014 report, the authors raised concerns about slow progress, noting sea level rise is causing new concerns for the already troubled Everglades.
"Climate change and sea level rise are reasons to accelerate restoration to enhance the ecosystem's ability to adapt to future changes," authors of the report wrote.
Much of FIU's work in the Everglades is based on research conducted within its Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program, which studies how hydrology, climate and human activities interact with ecosystem and population dynamics in the Everglades. With 9 million residents in the greater South Florida region, long-term data will be the key to long-term solutions.
Certainty in Uncertain Times
One of the greatest uncertainties with sea level is just how high and how fast the seas will rise. Without that knowledge, it's difficult to plan for how South Florida should adapt. Conservative projections suggest sea levels could rise by almost a foot by 2100, but some scientists believe that number will be closer to three feet.
Earth and Environment Professor René Price, along with a team of international researchers, recently completed a study, based on historical data that identifies the timings at which accelerations might first be recognized.
While she can't say for sure today, Price knows a data-driven prediction about rate and height is near.
"Our results show that by 2020 to 2030, we could have some statistical certainty of what the sea level rise situation will look like in 2100," Price said. "That means we'll know what to expect and have 70 years to plan. In a subject that has so much uncertainty, this gives us the gift of long-term planning."
Even with long-term predictions on the horizon, immediate action is still required as sea level rise is the reality today. Communication and collaboration among scientists, policy makers and community members are crucial in FIU's efforts to not only study climate change but also to help define how South Florida responds to the rising seas.
Hydrologist Henry Briceño spends much of his time in the community sharing what he and his students are working on and engaging policy makers in the issues they uncover.
"It's really not enough what we do in the lab and field. What we discover has to transcend the decision-makers," Briceño said. "We have to take this crisis and turn it into an opportunity. South Florida has the opportunity to become a leader worldwide to tackle sea level rise. We have a way out. We can adapt. Humanity can deal with this and can prevail."

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‘Rarest of the rare’ plants face endangerment in the Florida Everglades
The Washington Post – by Nicole Crowder, Photo-Editor
March 18, 2015
In March 2015, an exhaustive 10-year report by the The Institute for Regional Conservation revealed that close to 60 “rarest of the rare” and endangered plants, many of which used to flourish in South Florida, are now barely clinging to existence in the Everglades. The study, authored by chief conservation strategist for The Institute for Regional Conservation, George D. Gann, looked at any species that were in peril or had been in Florida historically and were possibly wiped out, along with federally endangered species. The study also concluded that orchids and ferns remain the most imperiled plants, with poaching, and rising sea levels by climate change, among the primary causes.
Gann’s detailed report focused primarily on 59 out of more than 760 species found in the Everglades National Park and nearby protected areas. It was conducted to help find a way to manage threatened plants that are found in and outside of the park. In a video produced by the Miami Herald, Gann stated that while he is not surprised by the findings, he did discover that rare plants are not just one group, but that within a plant lies a sub species. They include trees, shrubs, vines, orchids, wildflowers and grasses. Gann also discovered “hot spots” of rare plants regarding their geographic location. And while more than half of the species have been extinct or endangered, Gann is hopeful that opportunities to remove invasive exotic plants or restore the depleted ones are in the works with the help of park managers and environmentalists.
On Monday, Getty Images photographer Joe Raedle accompanied Gann and Jim Sadle, a botanist for the Everglades National Park, through the park as they closely examined several species of rare and endangered plants.

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South America's vast
Pantanal wetland may
become next
Everglades,
UN experts warn





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The Pantanal: A look at the world's largest tropical fresh water wetland
BlufftonToday - by Drs. Barry and Barre Wright
March 18, 2015
World Water Day has been observed on March 22 since 1993, when the United Nations and its member nations came together in support of a campaign to promote populations’ awareness of the need for clean fresh water and sustainable aquatic habitats.
In 2013, more than 1.2 billion people, about 20 percent of the world’s population, still lacked access to potable water and an estimated 3.4 million people died from preventable water-related diseases. “Water and Sustainable Development” has been chosen as this year’s theme for World Water Day.
While most people associate rivers and lakes with fresh water, wetlands are also an important source. The ecosystems of wetlands filter out hazardous substances dumped into water, store carbon gases, reduce flooding and slow down erosion, and yet they are among the most endangered environments on earth. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 60 percent of the world’s wetlands have been lost to drainage and many of the remaining ones have suffered significant degradation.
  Pantanal
Everglades’ example
Perhaps a cautionary tale about how man’s abuse of nature driven by greed turned a pristine natural treasure into an ecological mess is the lesson of the Everglades of south Florida. Once an 11,000-square-mile natural region of tropical wetlands, the Everglades’ water has been systematically drained and re-channeled over the past 60 years to allow conversion of the watershed into urban and agricultural developments.
As pollutants affected water quality and the physical environment deteriorated, indigenous species of flora and fauna were forced out or died off. Less than
5,000 square miles of these fragile wetlands remained in last year and flourishing populations of invasive, non-native species introduced by humans are considered to be major threats of the Everglades restoration efforts.
The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical fresh water wetland and covers more than 75,000 square miles of central western Brazil, eastern Bolivia and eastern Paraguay.
Alluvial processes associated with the dynamic changes in water flow levels caused by the seasonal rain cycles have created multiple subtle and overlapping ecosystems such as saw grass marshes, wet prairies, hardwood hammocks and pine rocklands that, in turn, support an unparalleled biodiversity of fauna and flora.
Six hundred fifty indigenous species of birds, 80 species of mammals, 50 species of reptiles and 250 species of fish and 1,700 distinct flowering plants as well as indigenous trees, vines, ferns, sedge and moss have been documented, but authorities opine there are many more than the known 5,000 different species yet to be discovered.
Native animals
The Pantanal’s wildlife density is the greatest in all of Central and South America and the wetlands are a sanctuary for such awesome native animals as jaguars, giant river otters, capybaras, giant anteaters and tapirs.
With more bird species here than in all of North America and as the last resort breeding region for the highly endangered hyacinth macaw parrots, the Pantanal is one of the best international destinations for twitchers.
There are few people and even fewer towns in the Pantanal, but clustered around the Transpantaneira, the only road which crosses the Mato Grosso state in the northern Pantanal, are fazendas or cattle ranches.
In the open grasslands habitat here live pampas deer, maned wolf, giant anteaters and Brazilian tapirs, the largest mammals in South America and which intriguingly look like a cross between pygmy hippos and striped anteaters.
Even this area of the wetlands area is so biologically intense that plentiful wildlife can be observed while riding in an open 4x4 vehicle. For we, who throughout our entire adult lives have been fascinated by the unique environmental adaptations of animals that prefer proximity to water in isolated wildernesses, however, travel by light aircraft and boat were the only options to penetrate the floodplains where we’d opportunity to observe some of the linear evolutionary trends in New World species.
Consider reptiles. Among animals classified as vertebrates, there are almost twice as many species of reptiles as species of mammals.
In Australia, salt water crocodiles have developed into such adaptable hypercarnivorous ambush hunters that they have become the country’s apex predators. The males average 23 feet long and 4000 pounds and females are about half that size, but both genders are fiercely aggressive, highly territorial and, because they travel long distances by sea, spend little time on land when not actively hunting.
In the southeastern U.S., male alligators can average 10-15 feet long and weigh 1000 pounds with females being about one-third smaller in size, but both genders can be aggressive. Alligators live only in fresh water and often come on land to sunbathe.
Found in the Pantanal are yacare caiman, the smallest and least aggressive of crocodilian species. Minimal sexual dimorphism can be appreciated and both male and female average about 6 feet long and 70 pounds.
Here, free from human incursion and with large ranges of lowland wetlands and rivers in which to hunt abundant food sources, caimans thrive in large congregations of as many as 30-50 members that regularly spend most of a day basking at water’s edge. Although there are other natural predators in their ecosystem, caiman have benefited most from the near extinction of jaguars.
Cope’s Law
In the late 1890s, American paleontologist Edward Cope hypothesized that over time mammalian populations tend to increase in body size.
Certainly during our experiences with the wildlife of southern Africa we’ve observed that larger animals have a number of advantages: They are more successful in reproductive matings, conflicts with predators, killing prey and surviving rapid changes in climate than smaller animals.
However, larger animals require more food and water, longer familial dependence and seem more at risk for death and potentially irrevocable population decline as a result of man’s negative impact on the environment.
While some scientists question Cope’s Law, the size of giant river otters, capybara and jaguars in the Pantanal seem supportive of his theory of evolutionary trends. These three quintessential Neotropical animals all like the water and thick waterside vegetation associated with wetlands.
Like our local river otters, giant river otters are members of the weasel family and well adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle. They, South America’s rarest mammals, are really big at an average of about 6 feet long plus tail and weight of about 50 to 75 pounds versus our otters, who measure about 2 feet, 3 inches long and weigh 10-20 pounds.
Since giant river otters are social, vocal and depend on their eyesight to locate prey, they hunt in shallow water and after successfully catching fish, the adults joyfully communicate with a cacophony of chuckling-like chirps, snorts and howls .
Herbivorous capybaras are the world’s largest rodents with adults standing about 30 inches high at the shoulder and weighing an average of 175 pounds.
Like hippos, capybaras can stay underwater for up to five minutes to hide their bodies from predators, but when a threat approaches on land, adult members of the troop head to the river’s edge and, in the same manner as elephants, form a protective circle around their young while facing outward.
Wildlife biologists have determined that these rodents use their long and sharp incisors for varieties of tasks, such as food foraging or weapons similarly to how elephants use their incisors a.k.a tusks.
After tigers and lions, jaguars are the earth’s third largest living Big Cat and the biggest one in the New World. At about 7 feet in overall length and 200-250 pounds, jaguars are solidly built, stocky cats built for power with the strongest bite force of any Big Cat.
Jaguars are the ideal ambush hunters who capture prey by stealth because, in addition to the black rosettes on their tawny colored fur providing ideal camouflage among the dense riverside vegetation, they are equally adept at executing a successful surprise attack from trees or from water.
Conservation biologists have opined that probably a major contributing factor in jaguars’ successful evolution as the apex predator in the Pantanal is their ability to easily edit their diet since these opportunistic cats will happily eat more than 60 separate species of prey. Such a pattern of prey discrimination means that no matter the climate or season, generalist predators will not go hungry.
However, because of humans’ relentless greed, intolerance and callous indifference, jaguars are highly endangered throughout their range. At last count there are fewer than 10,000 jaguars living wild, whereas the species numbered in the hundreds of thousands throughout all of the Americas in the early 20th century.
Slaughter for their fur, preemptive killing to limit livestock loss, and poisoning of their grassy habitats and prey are egregious but escalating destructive human behaviors toward jaguars.
Human threat
Despite its having one of earth’s greatest biodiversity, the entire Pantanal is currently under extreme threat from man. Its strategic location makes it vulnerable to exploitation by mining interests for natural minerals and fuels and by development projects for large-scale mechanized agriculture whose use of insecticides and herbicides affect all wildlife directly through exposure and indirectly when the chemical toxicities alter habitat.
No living being can survive without water, so the proposed diversion of the rivers in the Upper Paraguay Basin to create transportation networks portends irreversible ecological destruction. The transboundary nature of the Pantanal makes it essential that countries embrace a collaborative approach to the development, implementation and enforcement of sustainable management plans if the remaining wetlands are to be saved from more degradation.
As the African continent’s last remaining wetland wilderness, the Okavango Delta of Botswana is an enviable model of how diligently meeting the needs of the land, its humans and its wildlife can support thriving freshwater wetlands.
Since the late 18th century, the Batawana tribe has had political control of the Delta and today its 6,000 square miles support keystone populations of cheetah, hyena, leopard, lion and wild dog in addition to 530 bird species, 260 mammals and 155 reptiles.
At this year’s Convention on Wetlands of International Importance the theme was “Wetlands For Our Future !”
International experts presented the following statistics: Since 1900, 64 percent of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed and none have successfully been restored; and according to the World Wildlife Federation’s Living Planet Index, 76 percent of populations of freshwater species have significantly declined in the past 40 years due to stressors, but the loss of habitat has been the most important and No. 1 factor associated with declining biodiversity.
The most severe loss of biodiversity occurs in tropical countries because they are home to 90 percent of the total species on earth. If we humans continue the current course of misuse in the Pantanal without intervention, by 2070 man will have caused all of its water and wetlands and its species to disappear
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The money from
Amendment 1 funding
includes $15 million for
an agricultural project
on the west side of
Lake Okeechobee, but
little money is devoted
to land acquisition





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$772 million Amendment 1 spending focuses more on management and water projects than land acquisition
FlaglerLive
March 17, 2015
Florida’s natural springs would get $50 million, the Kissimmee River is in line for $30 million, and a wastewater plan for the Florida Keys is up for $25 million, under a newly released House proposal that would help carry out a voter-approved increase in conservation dollars.
But there are few other clearly outlined projects in a $772.1 million proposal for next fiscal year released Tuesday by the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. The proposal is focused more on land management and water projects than on new land acquisitions.
  Agri land at Lake O
The plan quickly drew mixed reviews from conservationists, whose reactions included that it was a “a good starting point” for negotiations and that lawmakers disregarded the intent of voters who supported a constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 1, in November.
“The recommendation ignores what the voters thought that they were voting for, which was to put money into land acquisition for parks and wildlife habitat and trails,” said Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues.
Among the House funding proposals were $191 million for debt service for the Florida Forever program, Everglades restoration and water-management districts; $100 million for Everglades restoration bonding; $91.6 million for management of state parks, greenways and wildlife management areas; $35 million for water farming; $25 million for beach restoration; $15 million for an agricultural project on the west side of Lake Okeechobee; and $800,000 for an increase in pay for Forest Service firefighters.
“There is some serious funding in there to solve some serious problems,” said subcommittee Chairman Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula. “We focused on the things that we think have to do with helping the environment, helping out ecosystems and providing for quality land management.”
The proposed spending plan is about $30 million more than state economists have projected will be available.
The Senate’s proposal for the Amendment 1 money will be released Thursday by the General Government Appropriations Subcommittee.
Sen. Alan Hays, a Umatilla Republican who is chairman of the subcommittee, said Tuesday he had only briefly seen the House proposal, but that he supports the idea of favoring land management over acquisitions.
“I think that’s a move in the right direction,” said Hays, who added that the Senate proposal may offer similar approaches.
The amendment, approved in November by 75 percent of voters, lays out for 20 years an increase in funding for land and water conservation.
The amendment requires 33 percent of the proceeds from a real-estate tax to go for land and water projects. The funding level is currently projected to generate $741 million in next year’s budget, more than $200 million above what lawmakers allocated for such uses in the current year.
Nearly $200 million of the House proposal falls under two categories — water resource development and fund shifts from the General Revenue Fund — that don’t fully indicate how that money will be used.
“That’s mystery money,” Draper said. “You might call that a reserve for lobbyist-driven water projects.”
More importantly, the budget is limited to the state’s springs and the area around Lake Okeechobee, he said.
“If you’re a voter from Tallahassee, outside the capital, or you’re in Miami, or in Orlando, this really doesn’t do anything for you,” Draper said.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, disagreed, saying the money will get spread statewide to maintain lands the state already owns.
The House proposal addresses the Kissimmee River, some cleanup in the Indian River Lagoon, and includes the Keys wastewater plan, but doesn’t break down further local projects for purchase or management.
Noticeably absent is any indication that there will be funding to buy U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee.
Some South Floridians have recently called for the state to complete a 2010 deal to acquire 46,800 acres from U.S. Sugar, of which 26,100 acres would be used for construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir, which would aid in the shifting of water now going east and west to the south.
The deal, estimated at $350 million, must be completed by Oct. 12 or Florida would have to buy an additional 157,000 acres to get the land for the reservoir.
Albritton noted that U.S. Sugar has recently soured on the deal.
“For there to be an agreement consummated, everyone has to want to do it and agree on a price, and I don’t think U.S. Sugar is interested in selling,” Albritton said.
As with most of the Amendment 1 spending plan, spending on local projects must still get hammered out through negotiations with the Senate later in the legislative session.
Janet Bowman of The Nature Conservancy said she was encouraged with the plan enhancing land management, increasing from $5 million to $25 million the annual funding for the Rural and Family Lands program, while putting $105 million into programs that could result in land acquisitions.
“It’s a good starting figure going into conference,” said Bowman
Gov. Rick Scott has offered his own spending plans, some of which have drawn 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 for his proposal to use $7.6 million for state park ranger wages and $63 million to cover operating expenses at water-management districts and the Department of Environmental Protection.
Related:           Florida House Amendment 1 plan long on land management, short ...         Bradenton Herald
House Amendment 1 plan long on land management, short on parks ...       MiamiHerald.com (blog)
The state can manage land — and buy more  Daytona Beach News-Journal
Protect our land          MiamiHerald.com
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Construction of Tamiami Trail project advances; More water for the Everglades
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
March 17, 2015
The current of Everglades restoration carried forward to another milestone Tuesday, as Gov. Rick Scott announced the construction green light for the Tamiami Trail project, a critical feature needed to feed more water to Everglades National Park.
The Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County has acted as a dam, impeding the flow of water south to the Everglades, since its construction in the 1920s. The newly approved permit is for 2.6 miles of bridges and raised roads that will allow water to continue to move under it into Everglades National Park. Although much of the restoration buzz has been about water quality, the Everglades has also long needed enhancements to water quantity, timing and flow. The bridges, which are a component of the federal Modified Water Deliveries project (aka “Mod Waters”), will remove one of the constraints.
Tuesday’s declaration continues the momentum the governor started last January when he announced a $90 million commitment from the state’s transportation budget -- $30 million per year for three years – to help the federal government with its project. Two months later, the Obama administration cut restoration funding, causing a sharp rebuke from Scott, who, nonetheless, continued his commitment to push the project forward.
While announcing the new construction permit, Scott said, “Restoring the Florida Everglades and protecting Florida’s natural treasures is incredibly important to protect the beauty of our state. The Tamiami Trail project will help move more water south from Lake Okeechobee, which directly benefits the Everglades, as well as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.”
According to the South Florida Water Management District, more than 13 billion gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee was moved south to the Everglades last week alone. Since November, nearly 195 billion gallons of lake water has been directed south to the Everglades.
Jon Steverson, who took over the helm of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection this year, said, “This is a huge step forward in our efforts to restore the Everglades. Moving water south through the Everglades is critical for wildlife, and keeping it out of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries is vital to protecting these important water bodies."
The Florida Legislature is in the process of deliberating over how to invest nearly $730 million in water conservation funding from Amendment 1, approved by Florida voters in November. True to their nature, Everglades activists want the lion share of the funding. They propose using roughly $500 million for the acquisition of farmland from U.S. Sugar Corp. Meanwhile, a coalition of water advocates is lobbying for lawmakers to use the conservation funding for other environmentally sensitive areas important to tourism, for example Florida's vast collection of impaired springs.
Related:
Florida Governor Scott: Tamiami Trail Project will Help Move Water ...      Southeast AgNet
 Governor signs off on Tamiami Trail work    WPTV.com
Fla. bridge project to boost water to Everglades gets OK
Law360 - by Michael Mello
March 17, 2015
Los Angeles -- Florida issued the U.S. National Park Service a permit to convert into a bridge, 2.6 miles of U.S. 41 roadbed near Everglades National Park so water north of the road more freely enters and replenishes the Everglades, Gov. Rick Scott’s office said Tuesday.
The $144 million plan brings the NPS one step closer to rebuilding the historic route to improve water flow into the Everglades. The 1920s-era roadway has long been recognized as a barrier to the southward flow of water from Lake Okeechobee that's critical...
To view the full article, register now.

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Florida Governor Scott: Tamiami Trail project will help move water South
SouthEastAgNet - by FDEP
March 17, 2015
From the Florida Department of Environmental Protection:
TALLAHASSEE – Governor Scott today announced that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently issued a permit to the Department of Interior’s National Park Service, Everglades National Park, for the construction of 2.6 miles of bridging and road raising along the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) in Miami-Dade County. The project will deconstruct a section of the Tamiami Trail and replace it with a bridge so that water north of the road may flow into the Everglades, providing needed water to the Everglades National Park. This project will result in enhanced movement of water south from Lake Okeechobee.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Restoring the Florida Everglades and protecting Florida’s natural treasures is incredibly important to protect the natural beauty of our state. The Tamiami Trail project will help move more water south from Lake Okeechobee which directly benefits the Everglades, as well as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries. On top of completing critical projects, we have proposed a dedicated source of revenue that will provide more than $5 billion for Everglades restoration over the next 20 years. This funding will ensure that future generations of Floridians can enjoy our state’s natural beauty.”
The Tamiami Trail currently inhibits water flowing south into Everglades National Park. By constructing bridges, water will be able to flow more naturally to the Park.
DEP Secretary Jon Steverson said, “This is a huge step forward in our efforts to restore the Everglades. Moving water south through the Everglades is critical for wildlife, and keeping it out of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries is vital to protecting these important waterbodies.”
The total cost of the 2.6 mile Bridge Phase of the project is estimated to be $144 million. Governor Scott has committed up to $30 million/year over three years or $90 million total for this project.
In addition to long term investments, the department is working with the South Florida Water Management District and local partners to take aggressive action on both coasts to improve the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water in Florida.
Governor Rick Scott’s 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget provides a total of $150 million for Everglades restoration, including $20 million for Kissimmee River restoration. The “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget also creates a dedicated source of revenue for Everglades restoration that provides more than $670 million for ecosystem restoration over the next four years and more than $5 billion over the next 20 years. This means that during the Governor’s second term alone, South Florida’s families will know the state has the ability to fund its share of the restoration of the Kissimmee River and the construction of the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs – projects that will provide almost 100 billion gallons of storage to protect Florida estuaries.

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Even fast-breeding rabbits can’t withstand Everglades python invasion
Science News - by Susan Milius
March 17, 2015
Fecund little mammals can’t keep up with voracious reptiles.
Even breeding like bunnies can’t save some mammals in Everglades National Park from invading Burmese pythons.
When the heat of summer revved up snake activity, the pythons ate up to a fifth of a study population of marsh rabbits each week, researchers report March 18 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. That rate of predation over the long term is “not even close to sustainable” for the once-abundant rabbit population, says mammal ecologist and study coauthor Robert McCleery of the University of Florida in Gainesville. It’s the best evidence yet — contrary to what a mammal ecologist might predict — that the pythons really could wipe out populations of a famously fast-breeding mammal, he says.
McCleery had been skeptical that pythons by themselves could do so much damage. Marsh rabbits (Sylvilagus palustris) can produce six litters a year of multiple young, he says, and biologists have long expected that in rich habitats, fast-reproducing little animals rebound faster than predators can gobble them.
McCleery and colleagues monitored the fates of 80 marsh rabbits, some introduced into the snakiest locales and some in snake-poor zones. Examining the carcasses revealed mammals as the top predators in python-poor zones. But pythons killed more than two-thirds of the dead rabbits in the high-snake zone. “We’re talking about a total switch of predators,” McCleery says. Pythons, which don’t limit their diet to rabbits, may also be a major cause of dwindling populations of slower-breeding mammals, the study says.
Related:
Study Suggests Pythons Throwing Off Everglades Food Chain       CBS Local
Burmese Pythons are clearing the Everglades Populations    Times Gazette
Rise in Numbers of Burmese pythons in Everglades causes decline ...          West Texas News
Burmese Pythons Are Wiping Out the Everglades, Scientists Conclude       New Times Broward-Palm Beach
Burmese pythons are dominating the Everglades       UPI.com
Small Animal Populations In Everglades Increasingly Under Threat ...        Tech Times
Everglades populations are being eaten by Burmese pythons            American Register
Study suggests Burmese pythons changing Everglades' food chain  Lexington Herald Leader
Burmese pythons in Everglades increase, small animals decline        The Seattle Times
Everglades Rabbits Would Love It if You Could Speed up the Python ...   Sunshine State News
The Python Invasion Of The Everglades Is Even Worse Than We ...            io9

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150317-e
Fracking opponents push statewide ban
Tallahassee Democrat – by Jeff Burlew
March 17, 2015
Activists gathered Tuesday at the Capitol to push for a bill that would ban fracking in Florida and speak out against legislation they say would lay the groundwork for the controversial form of natural-gas extraction to occur.
Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando and sponsor of the bill (SB 166) that would ban the practice, said fracking would cause environmental damage and harm the tourism industry. Soto spoke during a news conference hosted by ReThink Energy Florida and the Sierra Club Florida.
"When you look at the fact that we get our water from underneath the ground, the fact that tourism is a major, major employer — the biggest industry we have here — we can't afford not only to have a spill or an issue here but even the perception that Florida is slacking in preserving our environment," Soto said.
The bill hasn't been heard in committee yet, but Soto said Senate President Andy Gardiner committed to giving the bill "an up-or-down look." Soto also said he could attach amendments to relevant bills for moratoriums, increased fines and public-notice requirements.
"If we continue to stand up and we continue to protest, it puts a chilling effect on people wanting to come here," he said. "So we're not going to give up no matter what happens."
Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which water, sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into rock formations to extract natural gas. Acid fracturing, used in places with porous limestone, employs acidic chemicals at lower pressure to release natural gas.
On Tuesday, members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee approved a measure (HB 1205) that critics say would set up a regulatory framework for fracking in Florida. Activists spoke out against the bill, which is supported by the oil and gas industry.
Proponents say hydraulic fracturing is boosting domestic oil supplies and reducing the county's dependence on foreign oil. But opponents say it causes great harm to the environment and people's health.
Dr. Ray Bellamy of Tallahassee, a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said fracking poses a grave risk to Florida's groundwater supply at a time when the state is already facing a water crisis. He said millions of gallons of water can be used for just one fracking episode and that the back flow, roughly half of the water used, comes back contaminated with heavy metals, radioactive substances and carcinogens.
"There are complaints in the thousands from people who feel their water's been contaminated, their kids have been made sick and their farm animals have died," he said.
David Cullen, lobbyist for the Sierra Club, said regulation isn't the answer.
"We don't think there is a regulatory regime that will protect Florida's aquifers from contamination due to fracking," he said. "And with the alternatives that are available now in terms of renewable energy and energy efficiency, we don't need to put Florida's residents and visitors at risk from water contamination."
Brian Lee, director of research and policy for ReThink Energy Florida, said he is aware of only one instance of fracking in Florida, which occurred in late 2013 in rural Collier County, not far from the Everglades. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection fined the Dan A. Hughes Co. $25,000 for violating its permit and ordered it to conduct groundwater testing after it used a procedure that critics called fracking.
Lee, a Leon Soil and Water Conservation District supervisor, said regulations proposed in the House and Senate are inadequate because they wouldn't have prevented the fracking episode. And while proposed fines for violations would go up under the House bill, Lee said they wouldn't be cost-prohibitive for energy companies.
"That's why we need a ban," he said.

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150317-f
One named, one reappointed to water management board
Palm Beach Post – by Julius Whigham II, Staff Writer
March 17, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday appointed a new member to the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District and reappointed another.
Clarke Harlow, 34, of Fort Lauderdale was appointed to fill a vacant seat and will serve a three-year term. Frederick “Rick” Barber, 68, of Bonita Springs was appointed to a new term that runs through March 1, 2019.
Harlow is the president of Harlow Asset Management, a commercial leasing and management company and Southeast Landscape Management Co. Both are based in Fort Lauderdale.
Barber was first appointed in March 2013 after former board member Dan DeLisi resigned to become the district’s chief of staff.
Barber is the chief executive officer of Agnoli, Barber, and Brundage Inc., an engineering, planning and surveying firm with offices in Naples and Bonita Springs. He currently serves as the chair of the board for the Big Cypress Basin, one of two major drainage basins in district’s 16-county region.
The district is responsible for water supply, flood control and restoration of the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee and other water bodies in the 16 counties south of Orlando.
The appointments of Harlow and Barber are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

150316-a










150316-a
It's odd that protesters are going after Paul Tudor Jones
Institutional Investor – by Imogen Rose-Smith
March 16, 2015
Union and community protesters are marching today on the home of Paul Tudor Jones, the founder and head of the Greenwich, Connecticut–based hedge fund firm Tudor Investment Corporation with the hopes of calling attention to the financial influence of billionaires in the political process.
“Hedge Clippers,” a campaign organized by the Strong Economy for All Coalition, a New York–area labor and community action group, aims to, according to its press release, “expose the mechanisms hedge funds and billionaires use to influence government and politicians in order to expand their wealth, influence and power.”
At first blush, however, Paul Tudor Jones is not the most obvious target for the protesters’ ire.
After founding his hedge fund firm in 1980, Tudor Jones has become one of the wealthiest managers in the industry and owns one of the most resplendent homes in affluent Greenwich. At the same time, Jones is well known for his philanthropy. He founded the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at tackling poverty in New York. He has also fought to preserve the Florida Everglades. The protesters, however, allege that Tudor Jones’ largesse is undercut by his support of Republican candidates and the opulence of his own lifestyle.
Compared to other hedge fund managers, such as John Paulson and Paul Singer on the Republican side and Marc Lasry and Jim Chanos, who both back Democrats, Tudor Jones is not very active in politics. Nonetheless, the Strong Economy for All Coalition has identified donations Tudor Jones made to state-level Republican candidates running in New York support the group alleges helped move New York State government back into Republican control.
Regardless of whether Tudor Jones deserves to be the target of protests on his front lawn, the demonstration is a signal of what may lie ahead in the U.S. as the country gears up for the 2016 election cycle. Income inequality in the U.S. and other parts of the developed world is at an all-time high. The boom in financial services over the past few years that has been so generous to Tudor Jones and others like him left behind many in the middle and lower classes. In the U.S., the issue is magnified by the role donations play in the political system.
The rich are not blind to the problem. Tudor Jones’ Robin Hood Foundation is but one example of an organization that is trying to tackle the problem of what to do about those the economy has left behind. The spectacle of billionaires flying into the Swiss ski resort of Davos to discuss income inequality at the World Economic Forum this past January might have been at once both humorous and distressful. But the issue is real.
Where the political left and the political right disagree is on the solution. Those on the left in the organized labor movement believe that the problem needs to be fixed from the ground up by raising tax revenue, giving more to public services, creating better jobs and better schools. Those on the right believe in a top-down solution that argues government is costly and inefficient. Philanthropy and public markets are a better way, goes the reasoning, to tackle the deep-seated problems of poverty.
It is clear that the issues of income inequality and big money in politics will weigh heavily on the 2016 election.

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Rising seas



1500316-b
Rising seas bring heavy burden to Florida coastal economy. Can it adapt ?
TheConversation – by Karl Havens, Professor, Director of Florida Sea Grant at University of Florida
March 16 2015
Florida is a coastal state. Nearly 80% of its 20 million residents live near the coast on land just a few feet above sea level, and over a hundred million tourists visit the beaches and stay in beach-front hotels every year. The coastal economy in Florida is estimated to account for 79% of the state’s gross domestic product, a measure of direct revenue into the economy.
People living and working on the Florida coast face threats from hurricanes and storm surge, sometimes more than once a year. Scouring of beaches by wind and waves takes away sand, and beaches must be nourished with new sand, as often as yearly, in areas with high erosion. Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties now have problems obtaining near-shore, low-cost sand. This means that they will have to use considerably more expensive alternatives to native sand that may negatively impact sea turtles or beach plants, diminish the quality of the beach environment and have adverse impacts to local communities that pay for beach re-nourishment.
The threats aren’t reserved just for coastal residents. People in south Florida who live farther inland have homes and businesses on former wetlands that were drained in the middle of the 20th century. After a heavy rainfall, canals carry water to the sea. Should those canals fail, there would be massive flooding. Those canals also maintain a freshwater “head,” or buffer, that prevents salt water from intruding into the well fields that supply drinking water to the millions of residents.
In this precarious situation, how is sea-level rise affecting coastal Florida, and what can we expect in the future?
Inches matter
An important reality is that sea-level rise is not a future phenomenon. It has been happening slowly over the past decades, at about one inch every ten years. That’s a half foot since the 1960’s and already it is taking a toll. Areas of Miami now have flooding at high tide – a situation not observed in the past. The drainage system in south Florida is starting to fail. Flood control structures that take away rainwater by gravity sometimes cannot flow when the ocean side of the flood gates have a higher level of salt water than the upstream fresh water sides.
Why does one inch matter? When I lived in coastal Florida, one time a major rain event coincided with high tide, which made it difficult for water to quickly exit to the ocean. When water levels rose one half of an inch from the storm, my entire neighborhood flooded and water nearly entered my house. As we hastily tried to block all of the doors with tape and towels, it hit home what a difference one more inch of sea level would have meant – the difference between no damage and perhaps thousands of dollars of damage to our home. However, over many decades, we are looking at feet, not inches of rising sea levels.
What we know now
Three years ago, leading researchers convened at a climate change summit hosted by Florida Atlantic University, the research program Florida Sea Grant and the University of Florida to discuss the future of Florida under projected climate change and sea-level rise conditions. The picture these researchers paint is bleak. Between now and 2100, floods that happen every 100 years are projected to start happening every 50, then every 20, then every 5, until large areas of coastal Florida are under water.
These experts' discussions considered such dire things as: how to strategically abandon large areas of the Florida Keys; how animals that now live in low-lying areas will move to higher ground when human populations are vying for the same territory; and even how to reconfigure Miami into a series of islands on a historical ridge along the southeast Florida coast, knowing that at some point, even those ridges will be part of the ocean.
A report by the Florida Oceans and Coastal Council, a body established by the state’s legislature and on which I serve, developed a comprehensive report on the probable and possible effects of sea-level rise on coastal Florida. Major findings of that report included:
●  Sea level is likely to rise by 20 to 40 inches by 2100. If there is major melting of polar and glacier ice, sea level could rise as much as 80 inches this century
●  During hurricanes, higher sea levels may boost storm surge, causing greater scouring of beaches and in the worst case scenario, inundation of barrier islands and loss of coastal properties
●  There will be increased pressure to armor shorelines with seawalls to protect buildings from waves, but at some point this may not be effective because of escalating costs and the porous rock that underlies most of Florida, which will allow sea water to seep under seawalls.
●  Rising seas will shift the beach inland, imperiling coastal roads, homes and businesses.
●  Rising seas will stress coastal infrastructure (buildings, roads and bridges) because salt water will affect structural integrity.
●  Saltwater intrusion will become more common in freshwater well fields near the coast. A sea rise of just six inches will require water conservation, waste water reuse, stormwater storage facilities and alternative water supplies including desalinization.
It now is widely accepted that climate change is causing an unprecedented rise in sea levels around the world, and that locations such as Florida, where huge infrastructure and large populations live right on the coast, are especially vulnerable.
As noted in the Oceans and Coastal Council report, the risks compel us to seek a more thorough understanding of the impacts, and provide current and future generations with the information needed to adapt. Ignoring climate change or dismissing it as ‘not settled science’ will only lead to more costly and complex decisions in the future and cause greater harm to our people and our economy.
Future communities
While the challenges presented by climate change and sea-level rise are great, challenges also bring opportunity.
As Florida seeks to adapt to the changing future, it is an opportunity for us to engage in vibrant discussions at the local, regional, state and federal levels about the nature of our communities, how we want them to look in the future, and how to achieve our goals. Engaging in such conversations will help us learn and work together for the best possible future for our communities.
Many communities around the state are already doing this. Southeast Florida has its Climate Change Compact, northeast Florida is working together under the Public Private Regional Resilience Initiative, southwest Florida and Punta Gorda as far back as 2009 developed the City of Punta Gorda Adaptation Plan. With such work, we can move towards a future which, while filled with challenges and different than the past, need not be only about loss, but also about what we can accomplish.

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150316-c
Scott's 'creative editing' deftly deletes 'climate change'
Miami Herald - by Carl Hiaasen
March 16, 2015
Rough draft of Gov. Rick Scott's urgent message to all employees of the state of Florida:
Please pay no attention to recent news reports about my administration banning the use of the terms "climate change" and "global warming" in official documents, letters or emails.
There is no official ban.
All communications among state employees are routinely diverted for review by my staff members who, when appropriate, re-phrase the content.
For example, residents in Miami Beach are blaming so-called climate change for raising the sea level and causing frequent flooding of streets and neighborhoods.
The crisis poses an undeniable threat to the tourism and real-estate industries, and I've acted swiftly. At my direction, the state Department of Environmental Protection will henceforth define the situation in Miami Beach as a "permanent high tide."
This isn't censorship. It's creative editing.
As I have said many times, I'm not a scientist so I can't say for sure that the climate is changing because of human activity. I'm also not a reader, so I am basically incapable of researching the subject on my own.
Another word I'm accused of banning is "sustainability," which refers to the wise and measured use of environmental resources. Or so I've been told.
Again, there's no official ban of that term. If someone can just explain to me what sustainability means - and, more important, what's the darn point? - I might allow it to appear in a memo or perhaps a low-level email.
Please understand that part of my duty as governor is to polish the image of the Sunshine State, and make it a welcoming place for businesses who might want to relocate here and take advantage of our laughably low wages. We in state government shouldn't frighten people away with alarmist speculation. Under my watch, no official documents shall ever suggest that Miami Beach is sinking underwater - not as long as a single manhole remains dry!
This editorial vigilance applies to other hot-button issues, as well.
The other day I intercepted a copy of a memo that unnecessarily contained the word "pollution," in reference to silted waters being pumped in biblical quantities from Lake Okeechobee toward Florida's coastlines.
Certainly we can all agree that "pollution" is a term that has negative connotations. It implies not only that our famed wild waters aren't clean and safe, but that somebody is at fault for "polluting" them.
As your governor I don't like playing the blame game - and it's got nothing to do with the fact that my re-election campaign took truckloads of money from U.S. Sugar and other companies that treat Lake Okeechobee as a septic tank.
In your official correspondence, never be shy about emphasizing our commitment to Everglades "restoration," which is much nicer than the word "cleanup." The latter implies past negligence.
Like "climate change" and "global warming," the term "pollution" is constantly being twisted by the liberal media.
We don't have pollution in Florida. We have "runoff." We have "outfall." Personally, I'm fond of "collateral spillage."
It's bad for business if state officials toss around inflammatory expressions such as "algae bloom," when the same aquatic phenomenon could be more gently described as "decorative greening."
Likewise, the unappealing phrase "red tide" has been overused by the wildlife officers who patrol our busy beaches. These incidents should be more benignly reported as "floating fish hospices."
Not being a scientist, I find myself confused by tricky technical terminology like "nitrogen" and "phosphorus." People who went to science school tell me these are real chemical elements found in the waste of farms and ranches, and unhealthy in heavy concentrations.
However, using such weird mumbo-jumbo puts Floridians on edge about what's happening to their water. Wouldn't it be better to focus on all the harmful chemicals that aren't being dumped into the Everglades?
For instance, gasoline ("G" on the periodic table I was given). Water sampling shows almost no gas, leaded or unleaded, in the public aquifers. There's some news worth spreading!
Be assured that the aim of my administration isn't to muzzle or distort known facts. Climate change, global warming, sustainability - these are interesting theories, and I encourage all state workers to discuss them freely with your families, in the privacy of your own homes.
Again, I'm not a scientist. I'm just a governor in way over his head, and proud to be there.

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150316-d
Spotters count record number of manatees in Florida
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
March 16, 2015
Spotters counted a record 6,063 manatees in Florida this winter.
During the February count, 20 observers from 11 organizations logged 3,333 manatees on Florida's East Coast and 2,730 on the West Coast of the state.
This year's count exceeded the previous high count in 2010 by almost 1,000 manatees, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Of the 3,333 manatees spotted on the state's East Coast, 1,141 of the sea cows were at Florida Power & Light Co.'s Cape Canaveral power plant in Port St. John.
"Manatees used warm-water sites and other winter habitat areas to cope with a strong cold front that recently moved through the region," FWC biologist Holly Edwards, said in a release. "In many of the regions surveyed, warm, sunny weather caused manatees to rest at the water's surface, which facilitated our efforts to count them in these areas. Calm waters and high visibility also contributed to the high count."
Last year, spotters counted 4,824 manatees. Counts for 2012 and 2013 were canceled because winter temperatures never dipped low enough, long enough to make manatees huddle into easy-to-count herds.
When it's warm, sea cows are too spread out to count effectively.
The annual manatee surveys, which started in 1991, are required by state law, as long as weather permits.
Counters survey from aircraft and on foot.
When it's cold, manatees gather at warm-water discharges at power plants and natural springs, where they're easy to spot.
Hundreds of manatees regularly gather to get warm near FPL's power plant in Port St. John.
The plant's warm water discharge lures manatees by the hundreds, training them to stay farther north than they otherwise would.
Since July 2012, as many as 140 manatees have died in the Indian River Lagoon alone for mysterious reasons. Large die-offs elsewhere in Florida also have occurred in recent years as a result of red tides and cold snaps.
"We were very fortunate to have near-optimal conditions for our survey this year," said Gil McRae, director of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. "The high count this year is especially encouraging, given the large-scale mortality events that resulted in over 800 deaths in 2013."
Related:           Florida biologists count record number of manatees  WFLA
Wildlife Officials Count Record High Number Of Manatees           CBS Local
Latest manatee count breaks all-time record with more than 6000    Tampabay.com

150315-a








Canals


150315-a
Effort to rescue 'River of Grass' lags behind schedule
USA Today – by Ledyard King
March 15, 2015
WASHINGTON — Fifteen years ago, officials in Florida and Washington announced a bold partnership to restore the Everglades by 2030.
Today, with that ambitious effort to save one of the world's ecological jewels nearing the halfway point, the finish line still appears decades away. None of the 68 projects originally included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan has been completed, and only 13 have been authorized.
The project's original price tag of $7.8 billion has nearly doubled and continues to rise.
The Great Recession is partly to blame for squeezing federal and state spending, and an increasingly fractious Congress has failed to pass bills authorizing water-related projects.
"There hasn't been a sense of urgency," said former Florida governor Bob Graham, a Democrat and former U.S. senator who co-sponsored the Everglades restoration law. "There's an attitude of, well, if it doesn't happen this year, it'll happen next year or two years from now, or three years from now."
The Everglades, a World Heritage site and the largest subtropical wetland ecosystem in the world, once stretched over 8 million acres — from the southern suburbs of present-day Orlando down to the Florida Keys. As recently as the early 1900s, the southern interior "was a vast and foreboding swampland, largely inaccessible," according to the South Florida Water Management District, the state agency that oversees Everglades restoration.
That changed when hurricanes in the 1920s struck communities around Lake Okeechobee, prompting calls for drainage and flood-control measures designed to protect lives and property. By the 1940s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had begun designing the present-day patchwork of canals and other "plumbing" components that fostered massive growth in the region.
The Everglades began shrinking as human activity increased. Thanks mainly to expanded farming and creeping development, it has lost more than half its acreage.
Dubbed "River of Grass" by author Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 1947, the Everglades is home to 67 threatened or endangered species and serves as the water supply to 7 million Floridians, or about one every three people in the state.
There have been a few recent signs that the effort to get the plan back on course may be gaining momentum.
Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, unveiled a budget in January that includes $130 million for key components of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
And in November, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved amending the state's constitution to require that the state devote one-third of certain real estate transaction fees to water conservation projects. One catch: The amendment doesn't require that any of the fee revenue be spent on the Everglades specifically.
There's also talk in Congress that bipartisan passage of a water bill last year could pave the way for a new water bill by 2016 that could mean hundreds of millions more in federal aid for Everglades restoration.
Advocates say any real progress depends on the state's willingness to exercise an option it holds to buy land owned by U.S. Sugar Corp. that's considered vital to the project's future. Those 46,800 acres are in addition to 26,000 acres the state bought from U.S. Sugar in several years ago that already are being used for water quality efforts.
The state must exercise the option by Oct. 12 or lose control of the land, which is vital for the water storage capacity at the heart of restoration efforts. The land would be used to help move more water south of Lake Okeechobee, reducing polluted runoff from the lake that now discharges east into the Indian River Lagoon and west down the Caloosahatchee Watershed.
The estimated purchase price is $350 million, considered a relative bargain. Punting on the purchase now would basically eliminate any chance of meeting the 2030 target for Everglades restoration, said Charles Lee, advocacy director for the Audubon Society of Florida.
"This is the linchpin," he said. "If you don't do this, the rest of it all starts to fall apart."
It's not clear whether Scott will exercise the option.
The 55,000-acre Picayune Strand, a habitat for Florida panthers inside the Everglades, offers an example of how expensive the entire rescue plan has become. Before the area was abandoned as the site of a massive housing development decades ago, more than 250 miles of roads were built and nearly 100 miles of canals were dug to drain the wetlands, according to the Everglades Foundation.
Restoring the Picayune Strand was projected to cost about $15 million when then-Florida governor Jeb Bush and then-president Bill Clinton signed the Everglades restoration program in 2000. Since then, the cost has risen to more than $600 million.
The water projects bill that Congress passed last year authorized hundreds of millions of dollars for four Everglades projects including a reservoir project designed to reduce harmful discharges into the Caloosahatchee River.
But Congress still must come up with the money. President Obama's fiscal 2016 budget request includes only about $75 million, mainly for design costs, and there's no guarantee lawmakers will go along with that amount.
Graham, the former governor, says 2030 is still an attainable goal for rescuing the Everglades.
"I did think we'd be further along than we are," he said. "But we've now got the resources at the state level. And we've got a fairly clear plan to restore the water flow that existed 100-plus years ago, before human beings started to assert themselves into that natural system."
Related:           Finish line appears decades away for glades restoration        The News-Press
'River of Grass' rescue is far behind schedule, cost rises        Tallahassee.com
Projects for restoration of Everglades far behind their target            Uncover Michigan
Projects aimed at restoring the Evergladesfar far behind schedule          Science times

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150315-b
Florida has one last chance to save the Everglades
Digital Journal - by Karen Graham
Everglades - There's an ugly rumor going around the Internet that says Florida's Everglades will be "killed in October by Florida's own Koch Brothers." But there is more to the story than just the headline.
The rumored stories showed up on the Daily Kos and Alternet. Both stories refer to the Fanjul family of Palm Beach, Florida as the state's very own "Koch Brothers." They are the owners of Flo-Sun, Inc., a huge sugar and real estate conglomerate in the U.S. and Dominican Republic. They alone control one-third of the country's raw sugar.
But the main gist of the Alternet and Daily Kos stories was actually about a parcel of land on the southwestern edge of lake Okeechobee. It is considered a key parcel of land, and is necessary to the future longevity of the lake itself and the Everglades National Park. Right now, the parcel of land is owned by huge sugar corporations, among them U.S. Sugar Corporation, Florida Crystals, owned by the Fanjul family, as well as other smaller companies.
The map below shows which sugar companies own which parcels of land around Lake Okeechobee. The land in yellow is owned by Florida Crystals, and the land in orange is owned by U.S. Sugar. The parcel of land the state of Florida has an option to buy until October 12, 2015 is a block on the southwest side of the lake colored in red and yellow. The parcel consists of 46.800 acres, and the state will be allowed to purchase the land at fair market value.
What the land purchase will do for the environment
At this time, the sugar companies are irrigating their crops with water taken from the lake. There are no environmental controls on the discharge of toxic wastewaters back into the lake or estuaries. If the state purchases the parcel of land in question, there are plans in place to create large surface reservoirs to contain the wastewater. The reservoirs would make it possible for freshwater to again be allowed to flow into the Everglades and on into the Florida Bay.
Besides stopping the continuing contamination of the waters in Lake Okeechobee, Florida is eventually going to have to address the looming water quality and water supply shortage. But with a Republican-heavy state government refusing to acknowledge that climate change or global warming even exist, they certainly have no great interest in the Everglades.
In Florida's 2014 legislative session, ending May 2 of last year, nothing was done about the water shortage and water quality problems already existing in the state, and the buy-back of the parcel of land was not even mentioned. Now, with this year's legislative session slated to end on May 1, the state will have to make a decision, one way or the other. Environmental groups have already started lobbying to convince lawmakers to spend the $350 million to buy the land from U.S. Sugar.
The Everglades Trust even has a TV spot airing in south Florida markets, urging people to contact their state legislators to find the money to buy the land. But with all this going on, U.S. Sugar says no one has contacted them about purchasing the land. Even more interesting is the latest comment from the sugar company. They have issued a statement saying the state has found other and better ways to store excess water from Lake Okeechobee.
Could this be part of a sneaky way of getting out of spending money the voters of the state have already given approval on ?  Last November, 75 percent of Floridians voted YES to a constitutional amendment making vital land purchases for the Everglades a part of the Florida Constitution. Now it is up to the legislature to fund the purchase and the governor to sign off on it. Voters are being asked to sign a petition demanding the legislature follow through on the amendment.

150314-a






LO release
This LO release should
be going South,
NOT "sidewise" to the
estuaries !

Hitting estuaries

150314-a
Inaction on Everglades could hurt all of Florida
Pensacola News Journal – by Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation
March 14, 2015
Only three months into the new year and already the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has started to release polluted water from Lake Okeechobee, resulting in water flowing into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, and the Indian River Lagoon, which is expected to continue over the coming weeks and months.
Millions of Floridians are affected by the releases of this polluted water. Releases from Lake Okeechobee during the 2013 rainy season killed wildlife, depressed home values, hurt tourism and threatened the drinking water supply for eight million Floridians. Yet, since 2013, nothing has been done to address the problem. Nothing has been done to start sending Lake Okeechobee water south so that we can stop dumping polluted water into the estuaries. Today, water levels are even higher than we faced in January 2013 and we're just one or two heavy rains away from reliving the "lost summer of 2013" disaster.
Right now, the state of Florida, through the South Florida Water Management District, has the opportunity to buy land in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) – namely, a strategic 26,100-acre area just south of Lake Okeechobee – to build a reservoir that has been congressionally authorized, and is scientifically supported and approved by state and federal governments, as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
The bottom line is simple: When water levels rise in Lake Okeechobee, there is a tremendous fear that the aging Herbert Hoover Dike may breach. Due to this concern, the only option available today is to dump billions of gallons of polluted water to the east and west, which brings toxic algae, dead fish, job loss and other detrimental impacts to the local areas and the state of Florida.
A reservoir in the EAA could store one foot of water off of Lake Okeechobee, and would not only aid in Everglades restoration, but would also reduce impacts to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, and the Indian River Lagoon, which have been severely damaged by these polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
Florida voters made this solution possible with their overwhelming support of Amendment 1, which created a dedicated revenue source for the environment over the next 20 years. The amendment specifically identified the goal of using the money collected to "purchase land in the Everglades Agricultural Area." And, with the 2015 Legislative Session under way, lawmakers are busy deciding how to spend this Amendment 1 money.
This is a historic opportunity. But, with an October deadline, the opportunity to buy the land and build a reservoir is slipping through our fingers everyday. The Florida Legislature and SFWMD must take action now so that we can protect the Everglades, and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. Because, if the state and the SFWMD decide not to take advantage of this opportunity to buy the land, we need to be asking what their plan is for water storage? We simply cannot afford to keep wasting water and killing fisheries; and, we do not have the option to wait until this year's rainy season is upon us and the funds have been squandered.
Seventy-five percent of Floridians showed their love of the Everglades and Florida's environment in November and continue to stand united. We can't afford to play politics. Legislators and SFWMD must act now before this option is completely off the table and Florida families are left facing a 2013-like crisis every year, and the drinking water for 8 million Floridians and tourists is, again, in jeopardy.

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150314-b
Protesters to picket Paul Tudor Jones’ home over income inequality
Institutional Investor - by Imogen Rose-Smith
March 14, 2015
A group called the Strong Economy for All Coalition is descending on the hedge fund manager’s Connecticut home to demonstrate against what it sees as billionaires’ outsize role in political campaigns. Union and community protesters are marching today on the home of Paul Tudor Jones, the founder and head of the Greenwich, Connecticut–based hedge fund firm Tudor Investment Corporation with the hopes of calling attention to the financial influence of billionaires in the political process. “Hedge Clippers,” a campaign organized by the Strong Economy for All Coalition, a New York–area labor and community action group, aims to, according to its press release, “expose the mechanisms hedge funds and billionaires use to influence government and politicians in order to expand their wealth, influence and power.” At first blush, however,  Paul Tudor Jones is not the most obvious target for the protesters’ ire.
After founding his hedge fund firm in 1980, Tudor Jones has become one of the wealthiest managers in the industry and owns one of the most resplendent homes in affluent Greenwich. At the same time, Jones is well known for his philanthropy. He founded the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at tackling poverty in New York. He has also fought to preserve the Florida Everglades. The protesters, however, allege that Tudor Jones’ largesse is undercut by his support of Republican candidates and the opulence of his own lifestyle.
Compared to other hedge fund managers, such as  John Paulson and  Paul Singer on the Republican side and  Marc Lasry and  Jim Chanos, who both back Democrats, Tudor Jones is not very active in politics. Nonetheless, the Strong Economy for All Coalition has identified donations Tudor Jones made to state-level Republican candidates running in New York support the group alleges helped move New York State government back into Republican control.
Regardless of whether Tudor Jones deserves to be the target of protests on his front lawn, the demonstration is a signal of what may lie ahead in the U.S. as the country gears up for the 2016 election cycle. Income inequality in the U.S. and other parts of the developed world is at an all-time high. The boom in financial services over the past few years that has been so generous to Tudor Jones and others like him left behind many in the middle and lower classes. In the U.S., the issue is magnified by the role donations play in the political system.
The rich are not blind to the problem. Tudor Jones’ Robin Hood Foundation is but one example of an organization that is trying to tackle the problem of what to do about those the economy has left behind. The spectacle of billionaires flying into the Swiss ski resort of Davos to discuss income inequality at the  World Economic Forum this past January might have been at once both humorous and distressful. But the issue is real.
Where the political left and the political right disagree is on the solution. Those on the left in the organized labor movement believe that the problem needs to be fixed from the ground up by raising tax revenue, giving more to public services, creating better jobs and better schools. Those on the right believe in a top-down solution that argues government is costly and inefficient. Philanthropy and public markets are a better way, goes the reasoning, to tackle the deep-seated problems of poverty.
It is clear that the issues of income inequality and big money in politics will weigh heavily on the 2016 election.

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CLICK HERE
TO SEE HOW THE
FUTURE ENVIRONMENTAL
DEBATE
IS
OVER WATER.





150313-a
Koch brothers spent the most to pollute our environment and politics

BlueNationReview.com – by Jill Bond
March 13, 2015
The verdict is in. The Koch brothers are guilty of spending the most money on lobbying so they could dump their toxic waste into Florida waterways.
According to Environment Florida, Buckeye Florida LP, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, poured almost $14 million into lobbying in a single year after the company dumped 264,460 pounds of toxic chemicals into Florida’s waterways in 2012. Rather than spending the money on finding a responsible way to handle the toxic chemicals, the Kochs are using their wealth to buy political favor and ensure they have free reign to poison Florida waters.

 
The report also found Koch Industries gave more than $7.7 million to candidates seeking federal office during the 2014 election cycle.
They don’t have a single damn to give about the health of our environment or the health of the public. It’s all about making as much money as they can, regardless of the damage that it does.
The report released by Environment Florida came after a state House bill was introduced designed to block the EPA’s plan to restore Clean Water Act protections to thousands of waterways in Florida, including those that feed into the water we drink.
Even as I write this, the lobbying continues against the EPA. House Republicans are trying their best to pass two anti-science bills that deny the EPA’s advisory board from taking actual science into consideration when deciding on what regulations to put into place to protect the environment and our health.
The Koch brothers have their hands into every aspect of our lives, including our health care, women’s rights, the criminal justice system, our schools and textbooks, minimum wage, and social security. It’s about time we stopped allowing them to run (and ruin) our lives.
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Shark


Sharks, particularly
great whites and mako
sharks like this one
near San Diego,
tend to avoid marine
waters that are low in
oxygen.
The expansion of low-
oxygen zones may
change what they can
eat.
The diving patterns of Atlantic sailfish
and blue marlin helped
scientists figure out that
many fish are spending
more time in shallower
water as low-oxygen
zones
push closer to
the surface.

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Oceans are losing oxygen—and becoming more hostile to life
National Geographic - by Craig Welch
March 13, 2015
Low-oxygen areas are expanding in deep waters, killing some creatures outright and changing how and where others live. It may get much worse.
Marlin and sailfish are the oceans’ perfect athletes. A marlin can outweigh a polar bear, leap through the air, and traverse the sea from Delaware to Madagascar. Sailfish can outrace nearly every fish in the sea. Marlin can hunt in waters a half mile down, and sailfish often head to deep waters too.
Yet in more and more places around the world, these predators are sticking near the surface, rarely using their formidable power to plunge into the depths to chase prey.
The discovery of this behavioral quirk in fish built for diving offers some of the most tangible evidence of a disturbing trend: Warming temperatures are sucking oxygen out of waters even far out at sea, making enormous stretches of deep ocean hostile to marine life.
“Two hundred meters down, there is a freight train of low-oxygen water barreling toward the surface,” says William Gilly, a marine biologist with Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, in Pacific Grove, California. Yet, “with all the ballyhoo about ocean issues, this one hasn’t gotten much attention.”
These are not coastal dead zones, like the one that sprawls across the Gulf of Mexico, but great swaths of deep water that can reach thousands of miles offshore. Already naturally low in oxygen, these regions keep growing, spreading horizontally and vertically. Included are vast portions of the eastern Pacific, almost all of the Bay of Bengal, and an area of the Atlantic off West Africa as broad as the United States.
Globally, these low-oxygen areas have expanded by more than 1.7 million square miles  (4.5 million square kilometers) in the past 50 years.
This phenomenon could transform the seas as much as global warming or ocean acidification will, rearranging where and what creatures eat and altering which species live or die. It already is starting to scramble ocean food chains and threatens to compound almost every other problem in the sea.
Scientists are debating how much oxygen loss is spurred by global warming, and how much is driven by natural cycles. But they agree that climate change will make the losses spread and perhaps even accelerate.
“I don’t think people realize this is happening right now,” says Lisa Levin, an oxygen expert with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in San Diego.
Bad Water Rising
Few understand marlin and sailfish better than biologist Eric Prince. He has studied them in Jamaica, Brazil, the Ivory Coast, and Ghana. He has examined their ear bones in Bermuda, taken tissue samples in Panama, and gathered their heads—with bayonet-like bills still attached—during fishing contests in Puerto Rico.
One day a decade ago, while tracking satellite tags attached to these fish, Prince saw something bizarre: Marlin off North Carolina fed in waters as deep as 2,600 feet (800 meters). But marlin off Guatemala and Costa Rica hovered high in the water, almost never descending beyond a few hundred feet. Sailfish followed a similar pattern.
These billfish have special tissues in their heads that keep their brains warm in deep water. So why were they bunching up at the ocean’s surface?
Pristine Seas
Working to Save the World's Oceans
The culprit, it turned out, was a gigantic pool of low-oxygen water deep off Central America. These fish were staying up high, trying to avoid suffocating below.
Prince’s discovery came just as other scientists were figuring out that rising temperatures were expanding natural low-oxygen zones in the deep ocean, pushing them skyward by as much as a meter (three feet) per year.
Over the next decade, researchers figured out that this change already was driving marine creatures—sailfish, sharks, tuna, swordfish, and Pacific cod, as well as the smaller sardines, herring, shad, and mackerel they eat—into ever narrower bands of oxygen-rich water near the surface.
“It leaves just a very thin lens on the top of the ocean where most organisms can live,” says Sarah Moffitt, of the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Davis.
Congregating alongside their prey appears to be making some bigger fish fatter, as they burn less energy hunting. But living in such a compressed area also may be speeding the decline of top predators such as tuna, sailfish, and marlin by making them more accessible to fishing fleets.
“It makes the predators much more likely to be caught by the longline fleet,” says Prince, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center in Florida. “Very slightly, every year, they become more and more susceptible to overfishing.”
Oxygen is so central to life, even in the marine world, that its loss is harming animals in countless other ways, too.
Warming Waters Deplete Oxygen
Fish, squid, octopus, and crab all draw dissolved oxygen from the water. And just as oxygen levels shift with elevation, oxygen at sea varies with depth. But in the ocean, oxygen is also dynamic, changing daily and seasonally with weather and tides or over years with cycles of warming and cooling.
Oxygen gets into the sea in two ways: through photosynthesis, which takes place only near the top where light penetrates, or through the mixing of air and water at the surface by wind and waves.
Deep ocean waters hold far less oxygen than surface waters because they haven’t been in contact with air for centuries. And in many places, decomposing organic matter raining down from the surface uses up what little oxygen remains. These natural deep-water “oxygen minimum zones” cover great swaths of ocean interior.
They are far different from hypoxic coastal dead zones, which are multiplying, too, with more than 400 now reported worldwide. Dead zones are caused by nitrogen and other nutrients as rivers and storms flush pollution from farms and cities into nearshore waters.
The expansion of deep-sea low-oxygen zones, on the other hand, is driven by temperature. Warm water carries less dissolved oxygen. It’s also lighter than cold water. That leaves the ocean segregated in layers, restricting delivery of fresh oxygen to the deep and making these oxygen-poor zones much bigger.
Breathless seas
Oxygen is as essential for life in the sea as it is on land. Oxygen levels normally vary with depth. But deep ocean areas already low in oxygen are losing more as seas warm, wreaking havoc on marine life. Here are four elements of that change.
“The natural thing to expect is that as the ocean gets warmer, circulation will slow down and get more sluggish and the waters going into the deep ocean will hang around longer,” says Curtis Deutsch, a chemical oceanography professor at the University of Washington, in Seattle. “And indeed, oxygen seems to be declining.”
The zone off West Africa that’s as big as the continental United States has grown by 15 percent since 1960—and by 10 percent just since 1995. At 650 feet (200 meters) deep in the Pacific off southern California, oxygen has dropped 30 percent in some places in a quarter century.
Many scientists already suspect global warming is partly to blame for this transformation. Deutsch and others, however, think oxygen declines so far have been driven by complicated natural factors. Ocean conditions vary so much normally that they might be experiencing an unusual period of depletion—one that could moderate soon.
But Deutsch called that “a very, very thin silver lining.”
“Right now in the ocean, there is incredibly strong internal variability and a very tiny climate trend on top of it,” he says. “But my sense from all the model simulations we’ve done is that we’re on the verge of having that trend emerge from the noise.”
Some species, such as Dover sole, may be unaffected, but many areas could be left with far fewer higher life forms.
Most researchers project that oxygen loss will keep driving many species toward the surface, reducing habitat for some and concentrating prey for birds, turtles, and other surface predators.
Winds in some regions will draw the oxygen-depleted water to the surface and push it onto shallower continental shelves. When oxygen drops there, some sensitive species that can’t move die. Even survivors experience stress, which can make them vulnerable to predators, disease, or overfishing.
This has already begun. The waters of the Pacific Northwest, starting in 2002, intermittently have gotten so low in oxygen that at times they’ve smothered sea cucumbers, sea stars, anemones, and Dungeness crabs. This biologically rich region—where winds draw waters from the deep 50 miles (80 kilometers) offshore and push them to the beach—is temporarily transformed into a lifeless wasteland.
Many midwater fish, such as the odd-looking Pacific hatchetfish, hide in deep, dark water during the day, rising only at night to feed. But changes in the ocean’s oxygen level can alter how high in the water they go.
 “I look at it as a major reshaping of the ecosystem,” says Jack Barth, a chemical oceanographer at Oregon State University, in Corvallis.
Localized die-offs aren’t even the most disruptive effect of depleted oxygen.
“Changes in oxygen turn out to be really important in determining where organisms are and what they do,” says marine biologist Francis Chan, also at Oregon State University.
The fate of some odd little fish suggests the consequences can be enormous.
Into the Light
Since the 1950s, researchers every year have dropped nets 1,000 feet (300 meters) down to catalog marine life many miles off California. Most track commercially important species caught by the fishing industry. But J. Anthony Koslow tallies fish often credited with keeping marine systems functioning soundly—tiny midwater bristlemouths, the region’s most abundant marine species, as well as viperfish, hatchetfish, razor-mouthed dragonfish, and even minnow-like lampfish.
All are significant parts of the seafood buffet that supports life in the eastern Pacific, and all are declining dramatically with the vertical rise of low-oxygen water.
“If it was a 10 percent change, it wouldn’t have been worth noting, but they’ve declined by 63 percent,” says Koslow, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. And “what’s been amazing is it’s across the board—eight major groups of deep-sea fishes declining together—and it’s strongly correlated with declining oxygen.”
Most of these fish spend their days swimming hundreds of feet down, just above low-oxygen water. Many are black, camouflaged by the dark, deep waters where light never reaches. They rise at night to feed on plankton.
As lower oxygen levels drive fish closer to the surface, many, including this viperfish and the hatchetfish it is chasing, may spend more time in areas where light penetrates. That can make them far more vulnerable to predators.
Koslow can’t say precisely why these fish populations have collapsed. But he suspects they, too, now spend more time closer to the surface seeking oxygen. That puts these fish during the day in a region where light penetrates, making them easier pickings for birds, marine mammals, rockfish, and other sight-feeders.
If that’s the case, Koslow says, “the ramifications would be huge.”
Such tiny fish are a massive food source around the world. Globally, they account for far more mass in the sea than the entire world’s catch of fish combined. But there isn’t enough historical data in other parts of the world to determine if the trend is unique to California.
“They are central to the ecology of the world’s oceans,” Koslow says.
Scientists suspect these fish already may be partly responsible for at least one surprising change—a massive northward expansion between 1997 and 2010 of the northern Pacific Ocean’s most ravenous visitor, the Humboldt squid.
Once found from South America to Mexico, with occasional forays into California, the Humboldt squid has moved so far north that in recent years it has been seen off Alaska. Researchers tested squid in tanks and found low oxygen was hard on them, too, even though the jumbo squid could slow its metabolism. Yet here they were, faring so well at the edge of low-oxygen areas they had become a master predator of midwater fish.
“These squid are out-competing all the tunas and sharks and marine mammals that may want to feed in this zone,” Stanford's Gilly says.
Researchers did not directly connect the expansion of the squid's feeding area to rising oxygen-poor water. But Koslow linked low-oxygen water to shifts in where the midwater fish on the squid's menu live. And scientists now can draw a direct line between where those fish went and the squid’s northward march, Gilly says.
“I think there might be a sweet spot for Humboldt squid, where low oxygen, food, and light are in perfect balance—and that’s accounting for their expansion,” Gilly says.
Still, the squid’s expansion was not subtle. Tracking its causes almost certainly is simpler than unspooling other impacts. And oxygen loss exacerbates other issues. Marine creatures need more oxygen in warmer waters, for example. Climate change means they increasingly will have less.
From 1997 to 2010, Humboldt squid expanded their range in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Scientists suspect changing oxygen levels may have played an important role.
 “I think we are changing the world; I just don’t think the responses are going to be as predictable as we think,” says Francisco Chavez, senior scientist with California's Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. “I think there are a slew of surprises ahead.”
And how low-oxygen areas will affect everything else depends on how much they spread.
Looking Back to See Ahead
To answer that question, scientists recently examined marine sediment cores from a period of glacial melt 17,000 to 11,000 years ago.
During that time, global average air temperatures rose 3 to 4 degrees Celsius, the closest historical analog for the projected future, says study co-author Tessa Hill, of the Bodega Marine Laboratory. “The idea here is … let’s take an interval with somewhat analogous warming and see how low-oxygen zones responded,” Hill says.
The results: Low-oxygen areas exploded around the world.
“What we found is that their expansion was just extremely large and abrupt,” says lead author Moffitt. “Their footprint across ocean basins grew much more than we had anticipated.”
One low-oxygen region off Chile and Peru—combined, the two countries now have an anchovy fleet that makes up the world’s largest single-species fishery—was much larger then, thousands of years ago. It stretched from 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) deep to within 490 feet (150 meters) of the surface. And off California, low-oxygen waters came far closer to the surface than they do today.
Their research showed that “environments we might think of as stable, like the deep ocean, may not be so stable at all,” Moffitt says.
In the blink of an eye, geologically speaking, entire ocean basins changed. And many scientists suspect they are doing so once again, at a cost they can’t yet quantify.

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150312-a
Backroom Briefing: Water not a Commodity for Late-Session Bargaining?
SunshineStateNews - by: Jim Turner and Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida | Posted: March 12, 2015
If the House and Senate can't find common ground on water policy in the next 50 days, then they'll try again next year, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said this week.
While the two chambers are looking at widely divergent proposals to enact new water policies across most of Florida, Crisafulli said he doesn't expect leadership-backed water priorities to be used as a late-session hardball bargaining chip for issues such as Medicaid expansion or stadium funding.
"I'm not going to pass a bad water bill," Crisafulli said after the House floor session Wednesday. "If we have a bill that's in play that's just not good for the future of a clean, sustainable water source … for the future of our state; we don't need to pass a bad bill just to pass a bill."
The House version (HB 7003), which has already been approved by the full House, is considered more business- and agriculture-friendly than the Senate's proposal (SB 918), which is viewed as being more project-focused.
"If we can work something out, great," Crisafulli added. "If not, then we gave it our try and we'll come back next year and try again."
The water-policy discussions come as lawmakers work on carrying out a voter-approved constitutional amendment that will require the state to set aside hundreds of millions of dollars a year for land and water conservation. Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg, who has been meeting this week with lawmakers to ensure money for the Everglades is included in the final appropriations, said he wouldn't be disappointed if the water-policy aspect of enacting the constitutional amendment was delayed a year.
"In a way, that's a positive outlook, that there is no drop-dead deadline," Eikenberg said Thursday. "I've seen legislation not make it the first year and you come back and make a better bill."
Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who plays a key role in Senate water issues, called the differences "significant."
But Dean also didn't see lawmakers using the voter-approved constitutional amendment, which is now forecast to generate about $741 million in the next year, being used by either chamber to advance other issues that are stuck in the budget and late-session conference talks.
The House policy changes would impose what are known as "best management practices" for natural springs, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. Also, water-management districts would be directed to implement a water-management plan across Central Florida.
The Senate version is heavily focused on protecting springs. It also would establish a method to prioritize various water projects and create a nonmotorized trail network. 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 stormwater and agricultural runoff into springs.

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150312-b
Can purchasing U.S. Sugar's land fix South Florida's water problems ?
The Clewiston News - by Melissa Beltz
March 12, 2015
Environmentalists are pushing for the state to purchase 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar-owned land to store water from Lake Okeechobee. But will turning the sugarcane fields into a water storage facility be enough to fix South Florida's serious water problems?
CLEWISTON — As the deadline to purchase sugar-owned land approaches, the spotlight is once again on United States Sugar Corporation and the environmental groups calling on the state to exercise its option.
The contract-bound option to purchase an initial 46,800 acres of land owned by U.S. Sugar expires this October, and environmental groups like the Everglades Trust and Everglades Foundation are signaling their desire for the state to purchase the land with intense lobbying efforts.
Environmentalists are asking the state to purchase the land in order to send more water from Lake Okeechobee south, instead of to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers to the east and west.
By purchasing U.S. Sugar’s land, they claim, more water can be stored and sent south without harming the coastal estuaries.
The land in question lies in Hendry County and is spread out in various-sized chunks, the largest and most viable chunk being a roughly 26,000-acre parcel directly south of the lake. If the state purchased the land, it could turn the parcels into reservoirs that would store water released from Lake Okeechobee during the rainy season. That water could then be sent south to the Everglades.
The state would purchase the lands for $350 million, as laid out in the contract, and would then spend millions more to turn those parcels into reservoirs that could store water and in turn send that water to the Everglades.
The amount of water that could be stored in the largest, 26,000-acre area is “a drop in the bucket,” according to Judy Sanchez, senior director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for U.S. Sugar.
The reservoir could only be dug four feet deep without having to build a levee around the retention area, explained Sanchez. A 26,000-acre area dug four-feet deep could hold about 104,0000-acre-feet of water. In 2013, when the water levels of Lake Okeechobee reached critical levels, the Army Corps of Engineers began discharging large amounts of water to either coast via the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. About 4.5-million-acre-feet of freshwater was discharged to the coastal estuaries in 2013.
Storing just over 100,000-acre-feet of water south of the lake would seem to do little to stop large amounts of water from being released to the coasts in periods of high rainfall.
If water is stored on the specified areas of land with the intention of moving it south, other constraints identified by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) would impact the amount of water that could be moved south.
According to information released by SFWMD, federal regulations limit the amount of water allowed to enter the Stormwater Treatment Areas (STA), Water Conservations Areas (WCA) and Everglades National Park (ENP) south of Lake Okeechobee.
Nesting birds that have made their homes in the STAs and ENP also limit the amount of water that can be sent south from Lake Okeechobee. The nests of these birds are federally protected; too much water could destroy those nests and would be a violation of federal law, according to the information.
Sanchez said purchasing U.S. Sugar land would not fix the coasts’ problems and accused the Everglades Foundation of using serious water issues for its own gain.
“Exercising the option does not solve the problem. ... Buying additional land would only take a huge amount of money away from approved projects,” said Sanchez. “The Everglades Foundation is using very real and very serious water issues to further their political agenda against the Florida Sugar Industry.”
Sanchez is not the only one sounding the alarm against purchasing U.S. Sugar lands. Local officials said taking U.S. Sugar’s land out of production would be detrimental to the area’s livelihood.
“It would take 30,000 acres out of production instantaneously and it would have a detrimental effect on our bottom line. We’re already the state’s leading, perennial winner in unemployment,” said Karson Turner, chairman of the Hendry County Board of County Commissioners. “I think it’s a smoke and mirrors move by the environmental community to take our eye off of building projects that are actually going to help the system.”
County Commissioner Janet Taylor expressed her own concern for the people who rely on U.S. Sugar to live.
“That’s our livelihood, what is going to happen to us when they arbitrarily want to buy up land to store water? Who is more important? The people or the water ? And I know that water is essential to our living, but what about our jobs? Sugar has been a great corporate community sponsor, bringing jobs, providing resources for our parks, our pools. Everything we’ve got we can pretty much go back and say U.S. Sugar had a hand in it,” said Commissioner Taylor.
Clewiston Mayor Phillip Roland wants the state to focus its attention on what he calls “the real problem”: the north-side of the lake.
“The problem is north of the lake. If you store water north of the lake, then we can get rid of our problems. It used to take five months for water to meander into Lake Okeechobee from the Kissimmee River Valley. It now takes 2.5 days. They straightened a system that can’t work. The only way that things are going to work is to store water north of the lake,” said Mayor Roland.
Sanchez agrees.
“It’s time for everybody to look in the mirror. The solution is to go where the problem starts, up north, all the way up to Orlando,” said Sanchez.
Though environmental groups and concerned citizens on both coasts are pushing for the state to purchase sugar’s land, Florida’s legislators do not seem eager to rush into any expensive land deals, especially with millions of dollars already invested in projects aimed to address Florida’s water issues.
As reported by CBS Miami, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) remains in favor of maintaining lands already owned by the state.
“If we truly want to honor our beautiful state, then we should spend these early years making sure we can maintain the 5.3 million acres of conservation land we already own.”

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150312-c
‘Climate change’ — there, we said it !
Miami Herald – Editorial
March 12, 2015
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has denied — and his office continues to deny — that there is an official policy banning state employees from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in state documents.
But days after the news broke, additional current and former staffers say it’s true that the terms were discouraged from use. And a search of the state’s website documents that the use of the terms have declined during Mr. Scott’s tenure.
This head-in-the-eroding-sand position is an embarrassment, at best. At worst, it’s regressive and dangerous.
The controversy began Sunday when a story by Tristram Korten, of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, disclosed that employees of the Department of Environmental Protection have long had orders not to mention the terms “in any official information.”
Climate change’s reality is rejected by many conservative politicians, among them Gov. Scott, who during his first campaign for office in 2010 said he was not convinced that there was climate change. In 2014, when asked again about his stance, he replied, glibly, that he was not a scientist.
Fine, but he’s not the governor of South Dakota. He’s the leader of a peninsular state surrounded by water. In fairness, the term sea-level rise is allowed by state workers.
Good thing, because the terms are less important than dealing with the reality: Glaciers and massive sheets of ice around the world are melting. It’s happening in the Himalayas, it’s happening in Alaska and the Andes, it’s even occurring on Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania — the tropics. During the past century, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica have lost mass.
One of the most noticeable results ? Sea-level rise, which is lapping up on South Florida’s own doorstep. Far from denying it, South Florida’s leaders have adopted a more active and responsible stance and are confronting it head-on.
When she chaired the Miami-Dade County Commission, Rebeca Sosa created the Sea Level Rise Task Force and put County Clerk Harvey Ruvin in charge. They worked hard to keep politics from derailing the work that has to be done if the region is to protect its residents, its infrastructure, indeed, its very future.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, too, takes seriously the work and admonitions of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact, which joins Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach leaders in seeking solutions to rising sea levels, predicted to reach three feet by 2060. And there are concrete solutions, such as building higher levees and imposing new building codes. Miami Beach, considered Ground Zero for sea-level rise has committed up to $400 million to install scores of pumps to counter widespread flooding.
Meanwhile in Florida, ‘climate change’ has disappeared from official use, and with it, any chance of a cogent state strategy to deal with its ramifications. Jerry Phillips, a former attorney with the state Department of Environmental Protection said that he received several complaints from muzzled DEP staffers: “The complaints have been that if climate-change projects can be put on the back burner, that’s what the administration would want to have happen,” he said.
Mr. Scott can call it “Mother Earth’s little hot flash,” if he wants. But it’s irresponsible to force his ideological blinders onto how Florida responds to what is so obvious. Denial is strong, but those rising seas are stronger.

150312-d







Land !



150312-d
Environmental advocates say state ignoring Everglades land deal
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
March 12, 2015
Warning that time is running out to save the Everglades, environmental activists Thursday tried to turn up pressure on state leaders to buy more sugar industry land south of Lake Okeechobee.
Environmental advocates argue that the South Water Management District, the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott are ignoring an opportunity to buy 46,800 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. The land could be used to move more Lake Okeechobee water south to the Everglades, instead of draining lake water out to sea for flood control.
Waiving signs saying "Buy the Land" and "Save the Glades," about 70 people in support of the land deal gathered at the West Palm Beach headquarters of the South Florida Water Management District, which leads Everglades restoration.
"We are here today to be heard. We have been ignored," said Cara Capp, Everglades Coalition national co-chairwoman. "Time is running out."
The environmental groups maintain that buying the U.S. Sugar land and building a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee are vital to the success of Everglades restoration.
The land deal could cost taxpayers $350 million. Supporters say the cost is worth the opportunity to save what remains of the Everglades and to stop the lake draining to the east and west that hurts coastal fishing grounds.
They want district officials to push for the Legislature to approve the money for the land deal before the legislative session ends this spring. Without the money, a chance to buy the land expires in October.
"We have got to put the pressure on the policy makers," said Mark Perry, of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart. "This is a question of doing the right thing."
But state leaders and water management district representatives have so far balked at pursuing the costly land deal. Instead, they have prioritized using land already acquired to build long-planned water pollution treatment areas and other Everglades restoration projects.
"We are working on solutions," water district board member Mitch Hutchcraft said. "We have got to get those base improvements completed."
The chance to buy the 46,800 acres stems from a 2010 land deal between U.S. Sugar and the water management district. That deal cost the district $197 million to acquire 26,800 acres from U.S. Sugar for Everglades restoration. It also gave the district a 10-year option to buy the sugar giant's remaining 153,200 acres.
Instead of buying all of that remaining land, the deal gives the district until October 2015 to buy just the 46,800 acres.
It would cost $350 million if bought at the same per-acre price as the 2010 deal, but that could increase depending on what appraisals show.
Environmental advocates say the state has the money for the land deal, thanks to a constitutional amendment that voters overwhelmingly approved in November. The amendment dedicates a portion of existing fees levied on real estate sales to help pay for buying land for environmental projects.
"We have a plan. We have a contract. We have the money," said Maggy Hurchalla, a Martin County environmental activist. "We have a solution [that is] possible."
The need to buy more land for Everglades restoration was reinforced by a report released this month from the University of Florida Water Institute.
The report found that Everglades restoration requires "enormous increases" in water storage. It identifies buying the 46,800 acres from U.S. Sugar as one of the alternatives the state could pursue to move more Lake Okeechobee water south, instead of draining lake water east and west.
"Given the limited opportunity and the uncertainty of any future similar opportunities to purchase large acreages of lands in the (Everglades Agricultural Area), the state should consider this time-limited option," according to the report.
More than half of the Everglades has been drained to make way for South Florida farming and development. Water that once naturally flowed south from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay now gets redirected east and west and out to sea for flood control.
That wastes water that could replenish the Everglades and also boost South Florida drinking water supplies.
Also, large discharges of Lake Okeechobee water west into the Caloosahatchee River and east into the St. Lucie River damage coastal fishing grounds and can make water unsafe for swimming. That can scare away tourists and home buyers.
The state and federal government have already spent about $3.1 billion on Everglades restoration efforts aimed at storing and cleaning up more water to be redirected to the Everglades.
However, big political hurdles remain for buying more U.S. Sugar land for Everglades restoration.
Gov. Rick Scott when he first ran for office opposed the 2010 U.S. Sugar land deal that was pushed by his predecessor, then-Gov. Charlie Crist. The governor appoints the water management district board. And since 2010, Scott and the Legislature have cut the district's budget and limited its land-buying abilities.
Also, U.S. Sugar representative Judy Sanchez has said that the company has "moved on" and isn't pursuing the land deal.
Thursday, water management district officials said that just buying more land wouldn't be enough to resolve the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee water problems. Limited canal and pumping capacity as well as south Florida flooding threats from moving more Lake Okeechobee water south are among the "constraints" that district officials cited.
But environmental advocates counter that the opposition to the land deal has more to do with sugar industry unwillingness to part with land than with the infrastructure "constraints" cited by the district.
"Constraints are excuses. Excuses aren't acceptable," said Lisa Interlandi, of the Everglades Law Center.
Related:           Will lawmakers spend the money to buy sugar land for Everglades ...          Palm Beach Post (blog)-Mar 12, 2015
Inaction on buying land threatens drinking supply    Opinion-MiamiHerald.com-Mar 11, 2015
Water bill splits House and Senate, but for how long?          In-Depth-Tampabay.com
Protesters push state to buy US Sugar land    MiamiHerald.com
 Everglades advocates say another sugar land deal would help Lake O
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.

150311-a







Everglades flow ?
Are we going to have
the southward flow -
or not ?



150311-a
Florida leaders failing voters on land conservation amendment with improper projects
Bradenton Herald - Editorial
March 11, 2015
As expected and feared, new legislation allows Amendment 1 monies to be spent on wastewater and other municipal and county water projects that already enjoy funding sources. The governor, Senate and House all agree with that interpretation of the language in the highly popular land and water conservation commitment now enshrined in the state constitution.
By stretching the meaning of the amendment beyond the spirit of the measure as promoted by advocates of the citizen initiative, current legislation allows dollars to flow to local governments for water treatment projects that would be built anyway. By saving on those expenditures, governments can then fund non-conservation programs.
The amendment title states, "Water and Land Conservation -- Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands." Furthermore, the ballot language specifically states, "Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund" in order to "acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands ..."
Manatee County's point person on conservation, Charlie Hunsicker, agrees that a portion of Amendment 1 money should be spent on county water projects.
The Parks and Natural Resources director also told Herald reporter Kate Irby last week the three funding requests the county submitted to the state for amendment dollars have existing money sources. And all three projects, designed to improve the county's water quality and increase the drinkable supply, would move forward since they are already budgeted.
Manatee County would be under no obligation to spend those savings, amounting to $4.8 million, on land conservation measures.
This sidesteps the will of the people. Had voters realized the state's broad interpretation of the amendment's language would include wastewater treatment plants, would the measure have passed with 75 percent of the vote?
The authors of that amendment wrote as restrictive a measure as possible, fearful the Florida Supreme Court would have refused to put it on the ballot had the language handcuffed the Legislature. Some environmental organizations certainly oppose the state's liberal interpretation.
State Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, is sponsoring House legislation titled Implementation of Water and Land Conservation Constitutional Amendment (HB 1291). The 191-page proposal and two other bills establish trust funds to distribute the amendment's money. Similar legislation is moving through the Senate.
While storm and wastewater management are important ingredients to land protection and restoration, two Manatee County projects veer away from Amendment 1's intent. One expands storage facilities for treated water, and the other provides better control of the quantity of water flowing in and out of the Lake Manatee Reservoir.
Since lawmakers and the governor decimated previous conservation spending and land acquisition under the Florida Forever program, voters dedicated one-third of the revenue from the state's documentary stamp tax to environmental preservation and conservation. The amendment's mandate is expected to pump $22 billion over the next two decades.
That kind of money brings the same sort of temptation that ruined voter intent with the passage of the state lottery. In 1986, voters authorized a lottery through a constitutional amendment on the promise that proceeds would enhance public education through additional significant monies.
But instead of increasing the amount spent on education above historic levels, the Legislature replaced general revenue spending with lottery proceeds -- thereby robbing education.
Current legislation addressing Amendment 1 appears poised to adopt a similar strategy. If these bills pass as now written, which appears inevitable, voters should lobby lawmakers and hold them accountable for project approvals.

150311-b







Silenced ?



150311-b
Squeaky-clean futures from ISIS & Florida’s Rick Scott
CleanTechnica.com - by Sandy Dechert
March 11th, 2015
Did you hear that right? Yes, I just compared the actions of the scariest group on earth and the governor of the state of Florida. Both have rewritten a little history lately, and I’m somewhat concerned about what their revisions portend for our future.
The governor of Florida appears to be attempting to whitewash the fact that residents of his state are in for some coastline alterations due to climate change. The news comes from a report over the weekend by Tristram Korten of the little-known Florida Center for Investigative ReportingClimate Progress broke the news on Sunday and 35,000 people reportedly shared it. Quickly, the Miami Herald, the Tampa Bay Times, and national and international media picked up the story. National Geographic was even ahead of the game. In February, Laura Parker thoughtfully addressed Florida’s “noisy, contentious public debate” over climate issues, including but not limited to taxes, zoning, public works projects, and property rights.
In his weekend investigation, Korten starts out slow with some facts that [almost] everyone agrees with:
“The state of Florida is the region most susceptible to the effects of global warming in this country, according to scientists. Sea-level rise alone threatens 30 percent of the state’s beaches over the next 85 years…. Low-lying Miami is among the U.S. cities most vulnerable to sea-level rise.”
As well as sea level rise, the state is also uniquely vulnerable to harmful changes in storms and in hurricanes, temperature and precipitation, the acid balance of the ocean, and — vital for citrus crops — the duration and timing of the frost-free season.
Miami’s risk stands out because sea water has already started to soak through the city’s bedrock of porous limestone, seep up through pipes and drains, and compromising freshwater supplies. Global change there will affect landowners, minicipalities, federal interests, the real estate market (currently booming thanks to European and South American investors), the flood insurance system, and tourism, the state’s economic backbone. Ironically, Florida ranks fifth among states, behind only Texas, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, in annual carbon dioxide emissions. As borders contract due to land subsidence and sea level rise, the CO2 numbers will likely fall.
Korten goes on to explain how independent witnesses, one of them a longtime attorney with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of General Counsel in Tallahassee, have revealed an unwritten policy adhered to by state officials since 2011, when Governor Rick Scott took office.
Scott, who beat Democrat (and longtime Republican before that) Charlie Crist and his backer Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action group, says he does not believe that climate change is caused by the activity of humans. He has reportedly instructed state employees not to use the terms “climate change,” “global warming,” and “sustainability” in any official reports. (They’ve been told to refer to “nuisance flooding” instead.) The governor’s directive goes beyond semantics, Korton says, and has affected “reports, educational efforts and public policy in a department that has about 3,200 employees and [a] $1.4 billion budget.”
Funny how soon governments forget the conclusions they came to only five years ago. The Florida DEP, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services through The Oceans and Coastal Resources Act, wrote a report in 2010 that unequivocally stated:
“Some effects of climate change, such as acceleration of sea level rise, have already begun. Others will begin in the coming decades, and the time will come when Florida is simultaneously and continuously challenged by many of these effects. The long-term extent and severity of oceanic or coastal effects caused by climate change including sea-level rise ultimately depend on how rapidly humanity can eliminate human sources of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere at harmful levels, now and in the future…. Several local communities have begun to respond. Our wisest course is to expand our response to all of Florida now, while at the same time increasing our knowledge as recommended by this report.”
The official National Climate Assessment of 2014, an in-depth look at climate change impacts across the US, mentions Florida 71 times. A team of more than 300 experts produced this report, guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee, and experts [including a panel of the National Academy of Sciences] and the public reviewed it exhaustively.
Also last year, hundreds of scientists from 27 countries participating on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wrote in the IPCC assessment report for world policymakers: “Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.”
Questioning Florida state officials about what the witnesses had told him, Korton heard from Jeri Bustamante, a spokesperson with the governor’s office, that “There’s no policy on this.” The press secretary for the responsible state agency (Florida Department of Environmental Protection), Tiffany Cowie, replied “DEP does not have a policy on this” and declined to respond to three other emails requesting more information.
The newspaper reports cited University of Miami geologist Harold Wanless:
You have to start real planning, and I’ve seen absolutely none of that from the current governor. It’s beyond ludicrous to deny using the term climate change. It’s criminal at this point.”
It’s ridiculous to claim this 180-degree volte-face in Florida has nothing to do with national politics and vested interests. And it can’t be laughed down to the level of some dude with a snowball (Senator Jim Inhofe) taking up precious minutes of congressional time.

Perhaps even scarier, Florida’s Marco Rubio, Arkansas transplant Mike Huckabee, and Jeb Bush, all possible 2016 Republican candidates for the presidency, appear to share Scott’s perspective on the existence, causes, and possible antidotes for global climate change.
Declining to elaborate when asked about the weekend’s report, Scott told reporters yesterday,
“First off, it’s not true. What we’re doing is, we’re solving problems…. Here’s what we’re dealing with: we’re dealing with the problems of Florida. We’re dealing with beach re-nourishment, flood mitigation, dealing with making sure we push water south [through the Everglades], we have the right storage things for the Everglades. We’re dealing with all these things.”
One account noted that Scott seemed to be recalling talking points from his reelection campaign. In a May 2014 interview, a Miami Herald reporter asked him, “Do you believe man-made climate change is significantly affecting the weather, the climate?”
“Well, I’m not a scientist,” Scott predictably averred. “But let’s talk about what we’ve done. Through our Division of Emergency Management — the last few years, three years — we put about, I think, $120 million to deal with flooding around our coast. We also put a lot of money into our natural treasures, the Everglades, trying to make sure all the water flows south. So we’re dealing with all the issues we can.”
A followup question came from the audience: “So do you believe in the man-made influence on climate change?”
The governor’s reply: “Nice seeing you, guys.”
Now, observers around the world have recently seen video of ISIS thugs destroying irreplaceable monuments of our human past. The bloody revisionists believe these artifacts to be idolatrous and contrary to their politically correct ideology of today. Never mind that these statues and friezes belong to the whole world and reach back as long ago as the settlement of the Fertile Crescent, where humans first learned to farm and to write. Along the same lines as 20th century iconoclasts Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, the current North Korean government, and a few other leaders of today, ISIS is attempting to wipe out collective human memories, while institutionalizing chaos.
What’s so different about these “true believers” and the governor of Florida? ISIS is bound on destroying vestiges of the past, on the grounds that these icons sully the present. Scott and his political kinfolk are taking thick red pencils to everyone’s future.
Related:           'Climate Change' Ban? Then Why Are There References in State ... FCIR
Florida Officials Do Not Believe In Climate Change, Here's Why   Science Times
Editorial: Climate-change denial soon may flood across Florida       Memphis Commercial Appeal
In Florida, some employees prohibited to use terms global warming ...         Maine News
Florida's War on Words 'Climate Change' Will Doom The Sunshine ...        De Smog Blog (blog)
Florida isn't the only state trying to shut down discussion of climate ...       Vox

150311-c










150311-c
The war with the sugar industry
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer - To the editor by John G Heim, Local clean water activist, Fort Myers Beach
March 11, 2015
On the ballot this past election was something to vote on called Amendment 1, which passed with more than 75 percent of Floridians having their voices heard to allocate funding for the protection of our environment and waterways.
Now that the people of the state have been heard, we must demand those funds be used correctly by the state. These funds are being demanded by clean water activists to be used for land purchase below Lake Okeechobee to allow the restoration of the Everglades and to finally end the discharges from Lake O into our river, estuaries, and Gulf that have ruined and destroyed our ecosystem. The continued discharges will only result in more record manatee fatalities the death of our oyster pollution, massive fish kills, unsafe water to swim in due to the extreme pollution caused by the discharges right into our local communities.
The University of Florida this past week recommended using the funds to send the water south as mother nature intended, also better known as "Plan 6." Without the natural flow way south, we as a community are doomed! The elephant in the room being ignored is no longer being ignored as the sugar industry and the state have been exposed for its wrong doings through awareness, education, acknowledgment and direct action toward these two entities. The cat is out of the bag and our time is NOW to react. The deadline to purchase this land in order to save our community is Oct. 1 2015. As people of Fort Myers Beach, I personally plead with you to not allow these corrupt politicians and corporations to line their pockets with our money ever again when so much is at stake presently.
Do you want your children to be able to take their own children to enjoy our local waterways in the future? Do you want to see our 100 percent tourism sector wiped away due to greed? Do you as locals care enough to save our community from toxic chemicals and waste blatantly discharged into our local waterways.
Now is our time. The only way this is to be done correctly is for all you to get involved. Write to your local politicians, email your local state representatives, stop by senator Lizbeth Benacquisto's office to demand her to speak for us on Capitol Hill and contact our state Governor, Rick Scott, to demand the funds be used to send the water south of Lake Okeechobee by purchasing the land once and for all. If we choose to do nothing then we too are simply a part of the problem, the same very problem that will change everything we know and love about FMB forever without being able to turn it back ever again.
I applaud your love for FMB, as I see it though your actions everyday with benefits for people, celebrations through parades that show the love of our shrimping industry that has all but vanished as our towns identity. I see the love everyday by ordinary people picking up trash on the beach all day long, everyday long. We must fight! We must declare war in a sense against these powers that be who care nonetheless about us as FMB, because if they did care for one minute about us or our town, they certainly would not have let this go on for the last 86 years without doing one thing to prevent it.
If we do not demand the purchase of the sugar cane fields just south of the Lake by Oct. 1, we are simply digging our own graves while a few get extremely wealthy off of our own graves. Freedom is a path seldom traveled by the multitude, let's change that mentality today and be the multitude who now constantly makes it our priority for our freedoms to safe and clean water right here at "home!"?It's simple to understand:?Buy the land. Send the water south. Restore the Everglades. Save our community!

150310-a










150310-a
Exercise land purchase option, restore water flow
North Fort Myers Neighbor – Guest Opinion by Ray Judah, former Lee County Commissioner
March 10, 2015
During the 2015 Florida legislative session, the legislature has a unique and unprecedented opportunity to restore the Florida Everglades and coastal estuaries on the west and east coast of south Florida.
While Governor Scott and key legislative leaders including Senator Joe Negron (R), Senate Appropriations Committee, Representative Steve Crisafulli (R), Speaker of the House and Representative Matt Caldwell (R), House Appropriations Committee continue to support the expenditure of billions of dollars of taxpayers money under the current capital improvement program of water resource projects to the west and east of Lake Okeechobee, there is a critical need to purchase additional land south of the lake for storage, treatment and conveyance of water to the Everglades.
Even with the proposed short and long term fix to enhance the quantity and quality of water in the Lake Okeechobee watershed, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP) of reservoirs and storm water treatment areas, will provide some storage and enhance minimum flows, but have a negligible impact on maximum flows from Lake Okeechobee. In fact, a review of the water budget for Lake Okeechobee in terms of rainfall, inflow and evaporation requires a minimum of one million acre feet or approximately 325 billion gallons of water storage in addition to the storage capacity to be constructed under CERP to properly handle maximum flows from the lake.
In order to move water south to rehydrate the Everglades, recharge the Biscayne aquifer and stop the excessive releases of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to downstream coastal estuaries, the legislature needs to exercise the existing option with U.S. Sugar Corporation to purchase approximately 46,000 acres south of the lake prior to the end of the 2015 legislative session. Legislative appropriation of the funds by May 1, 2015 is of paramount importance to purchase the lands by the Oct. 12, 2015 deadline.
Funding is available through the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative (Amendment 1), approved by over 75 percent of the voters, which specifically 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." Purchase of the lands would not obviate funds needed for springs and coastal beach protection.
There will be detractors who insist that there are "constraints" to moving water south. For the record, the only constraint is the vast expanse of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee, including approximately 440,000 acres of sugar cane fields, that severs the hydrological connection between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
Low lying areas in the EAA caused by subsidence of the substrate, due to decades of burning and accelerated oxidation of the underlying peat and muck, would be ideal as storage reservoirs in a flow-way that would function in the same manner as the chain of lakes in the Kissimmee River Basin. Furthermore, any pooling of water in the absence of gravitational flow to the south can be pumped in the same manner that pumps redistribute water for agriculture in the EAA today.
Potential seepage from a flow-way in the EAA can be managed in a variety of different ways including the use of seepage cut off walls and seepage canals to avoid damage to the agricultural fields.
A meandering flow-way with wetland vegetation would effectively stabilize the rate of surface water flow to the south and greatly enhance the quality of water in the Everglades. This would also reduce harmful discharge to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
Moving forward proactively to obtain the available land to secure the last piece of the puzzle to restore the Everglades and prevent further harm to our coastal estuaries would be the most cost effective and efficient solution for the public taxpayers.

150310-b







Sea rise



150310-b
More laughs at Florida's expense
Jacksonville.com – Editorial by Ron Littlepage
March 10, 2015
The rest of the nation in need of yet another Flori-duh belly laugh got one this week courtesy of an intriguing report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
That report said officials in Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Environmental Protection — you know, the department that’s supposed to protect Florida’s environment — had been instructed to not use the terms “climate change,” “global warming” and “sea-level rise.”
The latter — that wet stuff that is already spilling over into parts of Miami — should be referred to as “nuisance flooding” if mentioned at all.
Not surprisingly, USA Today, The Washington Post, the Huffington Post, Newsweek, Time and numerous other publications immediately jumped on this rather odd approach in a state that is likely more vulnerable than any other state to “nuisance flooding.”
But, come on, give Scott a break.
His position on climate change has evolved from “I have not been convinced” when he was campaigning for governor in 2010 all the way to “I’m not a scientist” when he ran for re-election last year.
When asked about the burgeoning brouhaha that is causing another dose of national snickering directed at Florida, Scott told reporters in Tallahassee, “First off, it’s not true.”
Kaput. That was it. There was no elaboration.
Anyone who has followed Scott, however, knows there can be a rather large gulf between what he says and what the truth is.
There was his key campaign promise to create 700,000 jobs in Florida in addition to those that would have come with normal economic growth.
He later dropped, without even a hint of a pang of guilt, the “in addition to” part even though that pledge was captured on video for all to see.
Then there was Scott’s firing of the long-time and well-respected commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Gerald Bailey, which Scott first insisted didn’t happen but later had to admit that it did.
There is a possible reason why Scott would want to place a gag on any talk about climate change from people he can fire.
Scott became chummy with the Koch brothers when he snuck out of the state in 2011 to travel to Denver to attend one of their indoctrination seminars.
The Koch brothers, of course, who have made billions of dollars from an industrial empire that relies heavily on polluting our air and water, are spending millions to support groups that deny climate change is connected to human activity.

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150309-a
Development interests attacking environmental land buying
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
March 9, 2015
Last  year Florida voters overwhelmingly voted to spend money to restore funding to the Florida Forever program to buy conservation land.
You wouldn’t know that by reading the propaganda coming out of a group called the H2O Coalition, which is backed by Associated Industries, one of Florida’s longtime lobbying groups representing the state’s corporate establishment.
In the latest mailing,  titled “Government Land Grabs Sparking Alarms,”  they  repeat the familiar complaint about the fact  there is already a substantial amount of public conservation land  in Florida and question why there’s a need to buy more.
The answer is  simple.
First, the government is not “grabbing” anything. All public land conservation land purchases  come only after negotiations, appraisals and that only occurs after there’s some consensus on whether the land is worth buying for conservation in the first place. Except in some isolate instances involving inholdings, the purchases involve willing sellers.
Second, any land that’s not protected by  conservation purchases or easements is in play for conversion to whatever use local officials can be persuaded to allow.
As I’ve pointed out in t his pace before, if you want to develop water supplies, fix inadequate sewer systems and perform other public works projects, there are other funding sources available for such projects. Tapping some of those sources would require the political courage and responsible fiscal management to  charge those who would directly benefit for this rather than plunder someone else’s trust fund.
Instead, there’s an active move afoot to hijack the voters’ intent–the lottery analogy is coming up often these days–to use money intended for one purpose to pay for something else entirely.
The decision will be a major test of the integrity of the Florida Legislature and other elected leaders in Tallahassee. It’s a real simple test. Who do you serve: voters or  corporate lobbyists?

150309-b








Land


150309-b
Florida House likely to pursue buying land for conservation purposes
BizJournals.com – by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
March 9, 2015
A House committee that crafted a newly approved water-policy plan is now looking at how a voter-approved increase in conservation dollars should be used for land management.
Just don't anticipate a splurge on land buying, such as spending about $350 million on a proposal to purchase U.S. Sugar land in the Everglades.
House State Affairs Chairman Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, said Friday he expects his committee will direct the use of so-called "Amendment 1" dollars more toward managing land already publicly owned rather than simply buying more.
"We do own a substantial amount of land already, and when you combine that with the federal level, you can see we've got a lot of public property already," said Caldwell, who spearheaded a wide-ranging water policy proposal (HB 7003) approved Thursday by the House.
"There is still going to be possibilities for more," Caldwell added. "Those springs that are available for purchase, I'd love to see those bought and made state parks, obviously. But in the large mosaics, less than fee ownership, conservation easements that allow the continuation of ag activities, those are things that I'd love to see us prioritize. It's a fact that the center of the state is the second largest population of bald eagles precisely because it's all ranch land and they flourish there."
Both chambers are working on multi-pronged approaches to implement a constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 1, which lays out for 20 years an increase in funding for land and water conservation.
The amendment, overwhelmingly approved by voters in November, requires 33 percent of the proceeds from a real-estate tax to go for land and water projects. The funding level is projected to generate $757 million in next year's budget for the state's land and water needs, more than $200 million above what lawmakers allocated for such uses in the current year.
The House approach appears to at least partly conflict with the Amendment 1 priorities of environmental groups. The group Florida's Land and Water Legacy, which led the amendment drive, has presented lawmakers with an outline that includes using $90 million for land management, $150 million for Everglades and South Florida estuaries and another $150 million for the Florida Forever program for land acquisition, springs and trails.
Ultimately, the House and Senate will have to come to agreement on Amendment 1 spending and on water-policy issues. Environmentalists also have been critical of the water-policy bill approved by the House this week.
Caldwell's committee requested that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection create a detailed map outlining all government-owned land in Florida as well as property held by environmental trusts.
He said the committee might also consider ways for the state to work with the federal government to increase the eradication of invasive species.
"The Everglades mosaic is one I'm most familiar with," Caldwell said. "We don't manage the national park. We don't manage the Big Cypress Preserve. We manage our lands that abut (the federal parks), and there is no doubt we have got real problems. What's the point in saving the Everglades if it's taken over by pythons, Brazilian pepper and melaleuca. There is nothing left for anybody to enjoy at that point."
Kelley Boree, director of the Division of State Lands in the Department of Environmental Protection, estimated that about 27 percent of the state is already in public hands, through state, federal and local ownership.
For the H2O Coalition, led by the business advocacy group Associated Industry of Florida, that's enough.
The coalition, which backed the House water policy approved this week, has been urging lawmakers against using Amendment 1 dollars for land purchases.
"Floridians do not want the funding priorities under Amendment 1 to just reflect the narrow interests of certain environmental advocacy groups," Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of AIF, said in a release that accompanied a new television and radio campaign the coalition stared to run this week in Tallahassee.
The concept of the constitutional amendment was spawned as funding diminished for the Florida Forever program.
Florida Forever, which uses bonds backed with revenue from the documentary-stamp real-estate taxes, authorizes lawmakers to spend up to $300 million a year for preservation. But as the economy went sour during the recent recession, so did funding for Florida Forever.

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Good read from Politico — Jeb in the ‘glades
SaintPetersBlog - by Ryan Ray
March 9, 2015
Amid a great deal of noise currently being made about the environment in Florida – from Amendment 1’s sweeping mandates on land and water preservation funding to reports that Gov. Rick Scott has outlawed any official discussion about climate change — one player not getting much burn in that arena these days is Jeb Bush. That’s strange, writes Michael Grunwald in POLITICO, because it was under Governor Bush that Florida took on the largest-scale conservation effort in American history, in South Florida’s Everglades.
Wetlands were once considered wastelands, and Florida’s early settlers yearned to drain the marshes of the Everglades, to “reclaim” and “improve” a vast liquid wilderness of snakes and mosquitoes into a subtropical paradise for people. But now that half the original watershed is gone, sucked dry for farms or paved over for development, people have embraced what’s left of the Everglades as an iconic paradise in its own right, a unique ecosystem stretching from Orlando in the center of the state all the way down to Florida Bay at the tip. It’s not a breathtaking geological marvel like Yosemite; it’s mostly a flat, muddy expanse of shallow water and razor-edged sawgrass, in uncomfortable proximity to the sprawling civilization that is modern South Florida. But the Everglades is one of America’s most important ecological jewels, providing kitchens and nurseries for flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth. It’s become a motherhood-and-apple-pie issue in the post-Earth Day era, forcing politicians of all stripes to pledge to save it and revive it.
Jeb Bush certainly did. Fifteen years after that awkward Oval Office ceremony, as he hopes to follow his father and brother to the White House—perhaps after a showdown with Clinton’s wife—the Everglades is an issue that sets him apart from other Republican candidates, a deviation from GOP orthodoxy on Big Government eco-spending. He spent a lot of time slogging through the swamp of Everglades policy, and the saga reveals a lot about his approach to power and politics.

If there’s one thing that both parties agree on, it’s that Republicans are not in favor of spending tons of money to rectify a looming environmental crisis that many Rs say isn’t even happening. But here Jeb Bush, as in so many other ways, is the exception that proves the rule:
It wasn’t the slash-and-burn anti-green style some expected from a free-market conservative who was born in the Texas oil patch, became a Miami developer and raked in donations from real estate and agriculture interests at a time when green Republicans were becoming an endangered species. But it wasn’t a purely environmental approach, either. The restoration plan that Bush supported was not just about the Everglades. It was also about flood control and water supply for the residents and businesses that share South Florida with the Everglades and depend on aquifers underneath the Everglades. He shepherded the Army Corps of Engineers plan to re-engineer and replumb the ravaged watershed through the Florida Legislature without a single dissenting vote, and despite his tightfisted reputation, he spent lavishly to get it started. But he also fought to make sure it did not prioritize nature over people, often siding with the sugar industry, development industry and other business allies against conservation groups. He routinely fought Everglades activists, over everything from an Enron subsidiary’s pitch to privatize the ecosystem’s water to Big Sugar’s push to delay water-quality deadlines to his own effort to create a sprawling biotech campus on the fringes of the marsh. But he still saw himself as the ecosystem’s champion, telling his team he didn’t need permission from environmentalists to save the Everglades.
Check out the entire well-done piece by the author of seminal Florida book The Swamp here.

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Six reasons you shouldn't be shocked Rick Scott banned DEP from using "Climate Change"
BrowardPalmBeach.com - by Chris Joseph
March 9, 2015
Rick Scott has an abysmal environmental record.
So the latest report revealing that Scott ordered the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to ban the term "climate change" from all emails and reports should be the least shocking thing you've ever heard in your entire life.
Scott has, from the word go, has been the exact opposite of an environmental champion as (a now two-term) governor of a state that is literally going to disappear from the map thanks to rising sea levels due to that term he doesn't want the people charged with protecting the environment to use.
Sure, he's giving big money to conservation and hey that's super. But when you are going out of your way to make sure the term "climate change" is banned from studies, reports and efforts to clean up the state, that sort of negates any good you do. Because it's not enough. And the banning of that term shows a systematic, willful intent to thwart any good work that can be done to make sure Florida doesn't go the way of Atlantis.
Here are six reasons you shouldn't be shocked by any of this:
1. Rick Scott Has Pretty Much Always Openly Denied His Belief in Climate Change
Scott's public reluctance to side with science on climate change began back in 2010, when he first ran for office, and his official stance was, "I have not been convinced." On more than one occasion, Scott has used the bizarre "I'm no scientist" defense whenever he's asked about climate change being man-made. He's also either gotten in the way, or has done nothing at all to help Florida from becoming a solar energy state.
2. Rick Scott Loves Nuclear Plants
Scott has been a big fan of nuclear plants, particularly the one in Turkey Point, where he wants another one built. He wants another plant in Miami for Florida Power & Light -- which, incidentally, has donated $550,000 in campaign contributions to the governor. For his reelection, Scott's PAC collected millions from utility companies to keep Charlie Crist and his green policies from taking office.
3. Rick Scott Has a History of Screwing with DEP
In the no climate change mentions report, Christopher Byrd, an attorney with the DEP Office of General Counsel said, "We were told not to use the terms 'climate change,' 'global warming' or 'sustainability.' That message was communicated to me and my colleagues by our superiors in the Office of General Counsel."
But this is nothing new. When Scott took over in 2011, there was a 28 percent drop in enforcement cases handled by the DEP, while pollution penalty assessments dropped by 29 percent, according to a report from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. That same report also showed that there were only nine cases involving a fine of more than $100,000 in 2011 to companies that violated environmental laws. This was a 50 percent drop the previous year. The report also revealed that the DEP's Office of General Counsel handled the third lowest number of case reports in the history of the agency. 
4. Rick Scott Has Never Been a Real Friend to the Everglades
Yes, he's pledged millions to help the Everglades. But Scott is not innocent when it comes to the damage done to the Everglades. Why ? Because he himself appointed a man who was responsible for screwing up the Everglades to protect the very Everglades he screwed up.
5. Rick Scott Has Been Screwing Up the State's Waters
Since he's been in office, Scott has systematically weakened the DEP by cutting down on environmental oversight by getting rid of jobs from the South Florida Water Management District, slashing $150 million of DEP's budget, and even killed Jeb Bush's environmentally friendly initiative that protected the state's springs. From the time he was first voted in, Scott has made it almost a hobby to gutting Florida's environmental protection programs across the board.
6. Rick Scott is Shady and Secretive
Rick Scott is known for invoking the Fifth Amendment as if he was told he would be paid a million dollars every time he did so. His shady history with medicare fraud and has been a master at eluding questions that might otherwise nail him. He lied about his use of his government email for private use, and has never been known as a guy who is straight forward and honest. So for his administration to order the DEP to not use "climate change" in secret memos and behind the scenes should shock no one. Least of all anyone living in Florida.
Related:           Report Accuses Florida Officials Of Banning 'Climate Change' Terms ...    STGIST
Florida officials banned from saying 'climate change' because Gov ...          Raw Story
Threatened by climate change, Florida reportedly bans term 'climate ...        Washington Post
Florida State Employees Reportedly Banned from Saying “Climate ...        GOOD Magazine
Fla. Environmental Agency Can't Talk of Climate Change: Report  Newsmax
Mitch Perry Report for 3.9.15 — Let's not talk about climate change ...       SaintPetersBlog (blog)
Officials 'banned' from using 'climate change' and 'global warming' in ...     The Independent
Terms 'Climate Change,' 'Global Warming' Banned In Florida          ValueWalk
Florida, U.S. State Most Affected by Climate Change, Bans Use of ...        Chinatopix
Florida officials barred from mentioning climate change       MSNBC
Gov. Rick Scott Banned Talk of "Global Warming" and "Climate ...            PoliticusUSA
Officials Banned From Saying 'Climate Change'       Sky News

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UO geologists open window on arsenic cycling
AroundTheO – University of Oregon, by Jim Barlow
March 9, 2015
A notice about dangerous arsenic levels from the city of Creswell in 2008 turned UO geologist Qusheng Jin from a lab-based modeler into a field researcher. His curiosity generated what he called "A Wild Hypothesis" about a bacterial process possibly being in play in the region's aquifer.
Already adept at building computer-generated models of microbial bacterial reactions in natural systems, his transition to fieldwork was easy. He started small, with an internal UO seed grant to begin gathering water samples. Next came a grant from the National Science Foundation to test his theory.
His findings landed online March 9 in the journal Nature Geoscience. He urges scientists to pay more attention to the presence of organic arsenic — a series of carbon-containing forms generally considered to pose less danger than inorganic forms — when assessing drinking water quality. Currently such assessments look at total arsenic, which is commonly assumed as pure metalloid form, and consider anything above 10 micrograms per liter to be cancerous to humans.
Jin's paper reports a fundamental discovery of arsenic cycling in which organic arsenic forms represent a mid-stage of a naturally occurring bacterial process.
"No one has touched on the link between arsenic on the surface and in groundwater," said Jin, an associate professor in the UO Department of Geological Sciences. "Traditionally the presence of the organic form in groundwater has been ignored. The focus has always been on inorganic forms, arsenate and arsenite."
That approach, he said, over-simplifies the view on arsenic levels and overlooks how human activities, including pumping and irrigation, or environmental factors such as heavy rain or drought may influence organic forms. Arsenic is a natural element found in abundance in the Earth's crust. It often changes forms as it moves through the environment.
Central to his team's findings is dimethylarsinate (DMA). He describes DMA as a mishmash of dissolved organic forms in combination with inorganic arsenite and arsenate already floating freely in the water.
DMA's concentration, researcher found, sometimes exceeds 10 percent of inorganic arsenic and always correlates well with the overall arsenite level. Eventually, the cycling can turn arsenic into arsine, a volatile gas similar to fluorescent phosphine that rises as the result of decomposition in graveyards.
In the field, Jin's team gathered water samples at depths ranging from 66 to 131 feet from 23 wells located on rural properties near Creswell. In 10 of the wells tested, DMA concentrations were as high as 16.5 micrograms per liter.
The aquifer consists of volcanic sandstone, tuff and silicic ash, overlaid by lava flows and river sediments. The basin floor dates to 33 million years ago. Organic arsenic in the aquifer, the researchers noted, is similar to that in aquifers in Florida and New Jersey in the United States and in Argentina, China (Inner Mongolia and Datong), Cypress, Taiwan and West Bengal. Arsenic in groundwater is a challenge worldwide, including all 48 contiguous U.S. states.
To test the hypothesis that native bacteria drive arsenic cycling, UO doctoral student Scott C. Maguffin conducted three laboratory experiments involving dissolved arsenite and arsenate taken from wells in the study area. The addition of ethanol in the final experiment stimulated bacterial activity, resulting in DMA concentrations much higher than those found in the field.
The findings, Jin added, open a window on naturally occurring arsenic cycling and how, eventually, it might be manipulated to treat arsenic-contaminated water. "The cycling is important," he said. "This basic science provides a conceptual framework to understand arsenic behavior in the environment."

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Are Lake O discharges threatening Martin’s Bird Island ?
PalmBeachPost – by Sally Swartz
March 8, 2015
Florida’s newest Critical Wildlife Area, a tiny bird island in the Indian River Lagoon near Sewall’s Point, has survived erosion, hurricanes and the curiosity of boaters and fishermen. Now if faces a challenge — again — from an early dumping of Lake Okeechobee’s murky water.
The 1.5 acre spoil island, created from sand dredged from the lagoon’s bottom in the 1940s, remains a favorite gathering place for more than 40 different kinds of birds and a nesting choice for at least 15 bird species.
Martin County’s Bird Island in some ways is even more popular than Pelican Island, the nation’s first National Wildlife Refuge in Indian River County.
Why do birds love the island and keep coming back?
Ecologist Greg Braun, speaking to about 140 Martin residents at a Florida Oceanographic Society lecture last week, cites location, plus continued help from environmental advocates, government and residents.
Located too far from Sewall’s Point shores for such predators as raccoons to swim to it, the island at one point was stripped of all non-native trees and shrubs. Establishing healthy native plantings took years.
Wind and waves eroded the shoreline, so Martin County, which leases the land from Florida, won grants to build a protective breakwater north of the island.
When boaters and fishermen get too close to nesting birds, Braun said, determined Sewall’s Point residents use megaphones to yell “Stay away from the island!”
The endangered wood storks, oyster catchers, roseate spoonbills and others, unaware of all the protective activity, continue to show up at the island, along with white ibis, ospreys, double-crested cormorants and magnificent frigatebirds. The wood storks and others return year after year.
Nesting birds have faced other challenges, Braun said, such as marauding fish crows. These bird world predators often strike when boaters or fishermen frighten parents away from nests, eating eggs or attacking hatchlings. Some birds get entangled in fishing lines.
The 2004 hurricanes blasted Bird Island, and plantings of mature black and red mangroves and sea grapes were uprooted.
And, while the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted polite “Please Keep Out” signs, many ignored them. Enforcement was difficult, Braun said. With no statute, for example, showing chicks died because parents were frightened off nests was impossible to prove.
Since the FWC has declared the island a Critical Wildlife Area, more penalties come into play, ranging from warnings and fines as high as $500 to seizure of boats and equipment.
The effects of discharges from Lake Okeechobee, which surround the island with dirty, murky water, are easier to see, Braun said. “If you’re a bird that relies on seeing your prey, you’re going to leave the area, if you can. If you can’t see fish (to catch them to feed hatchlings), your chicks will die.”’
Summer discharges of dirty lake water are less troubling to Bird Island residents than those in the spring, when nesting season is at its height.
“This year is a problem,” Braun said, because so much water is being discharged now. “This may turn out to not be a good nesting season.”
Helping nesting birds on this little island turns out to be one more reason the state should buy sugar industry land south of the lake. Storing and cleaning water there, before sending it to the Everglades, would let the island’s birds fish clean waters to feed their hungry hatchlings.

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County land conservation program’s well is running dry
TBO.com - by Mike Salinero, Tribune Staff
March 8, 2015
TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s land conservation program is a voter favorite, winning 70 percent approval on three different occasions.
With that bedrock of voter support, the Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program has purchased more than 61,500 acres of environmentally sensitive lands. These pristine tracts, protected from development for posterity, are popular getaways where people can hike, camp, canoe or fish. The land also protects watersheds from pollution and maintains corridors for wildlife.
But now, in its 25th year, the program commonly called ELAPP is at a crossroads. Money to make new land purchases is running short, and county commissioners, in a slow-to-recover economy, are loath to pass even a small property tax to fund future bond issues.
“We have a lot of A-rated sites,” said Jack Berlin, a businessman and member of the ELAPP general committee. “If they became available and we don’t have the funds to buy them, I suspect there would be a revolt of the environmental community.”
ELAPP’s current problem sprang from the 2008 election when voters authorized up to $200 million in bond issues to buy land. Unlike earlier successful ELAPP referendums, the 2008 ballot language did not include a small property tax of up to 0.25 mills — about $25 a year for the owner of a $150,000 house, with homestead exemption. In past elections, the tax had been included to provide money to pay off bonds.
ELAPP general committee chairwoman Jan Smith said she and other environmentalists wanted the property tax included in the 2008 referendum. They were opposed, however, by county commissioners who didn’t want to put an ELAPP measure on the ballot at all.
“In order to get anything, we had to cave to the county,” Smith said. “A large group of us worked … to get an ordinance written in such a way to be acceptable to everybody.”
With no revenue stream, ELAPP is in jeopardy of becoming irrelevant. Just $3.5 million remains in the ELAPP fund from a $59 million bond issue approved by county commissioners in 2009. The other $55.5 million was used to buy 17,000 acres of undeveloped land, including the 12,800-acre Lower Green Swamp Preserve, formerly called Cone Ranch.
“If we said we wanted to have another $59 million, would the county commission be willing to raise the millage across the board so that money can be bonded?” Smith asked.
The answer probably is no. Not only has the commission’s Republican majority been averse to raising the property tax rate, it takes pride in lowering the millage by a fraction every year. In the most recent exercise of this mostly symbolic gesture, commissioners cut the property tax for this year by 0.0017 mills. That’s a reduction of 26 cents for the owner of a house valued at $200,000, with homestead exemption.
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Even commissioners who say they are strong supporters of ELAPP are not willing to renew the property tax once earmarked to fund the program. Victor Crist, for one, has suggested the county should do more to encourage ecotourism. But when asked about funding for ELAPP, Crist said some yet-to-be-revealed revenue stream will be identified to rescue the program.
“I am for buying more land; I am not for raising any property taxes,” Crist said. “I don’t think we’ve recovered enough for people to afford it.”
Commissioner Sandra Murman said she could not commit to levying a property tax for ELAPP without knowing more about what land would be purchased and checking with her constituents.
“I do think land acquisition is important for the quality of life in our state,” Murman said. “But as a commissioner, I have to balance those priorities.”
The commission’s newest member, Stacy White, recently proved his environmental bona fides when he publicly opposed expanding the county’s urban service boundary, the line beyond which the county will not extend sewer, water and other services.
Pushing water and sewer lines into largely rural areas is seen by smart-growth advocates as a recipe for sprawl.
White, an avid outdoorsman, said he is a staunch supporter of ELAPP and pledged to work for its funding.
“I would say you can never have enough with respect to conservation easements, especially in an urbanized county like Hillsborough,” White said. “We’re renowned because of the land we’ve been able to preserve.”
But when asked about ELAPP’s present predicament, White suggested that as property values rise in a recovering economy, they might yield enough new tax revenue to fund bond issues without raising the millage rate.
Even if commissioners were open-minded about passing a tax for ELAPP, the county has competing priorities that likely will trump land conservation. Fixing the area’s congested traffic system will take billions of dollars, for example — money that only can be raised through a tax increase.
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A sales tax increase likely will go to a vote in November 2016.
On that same ballot, voters will be asked to renew a property tax that funds the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. Voters first approved underwriting the child welfare agency in October 1988 by passing a 0.5 mill property tax — 50 cents for every $1,000 in property value.
County Administrator Mike Merrill said Hillsborough has so many pressing needs that an ELAPP bond issue is unlikely to make the cut as commissioners work on the fiscal 2016 budget this year.
“It’s the timing,” Merrill said. “If in a couple of three years (finances) get better, absolutely.”
Other current events, however, argue for urgency in solving the ELAPP funding problem. In November, Florida voters approved Amendment 1, also known as the Florida Water & Land Legacy amendment. Passed with a 75 percent majority, the amendment earmarks 33 percent of taxes collected on real estate documents for water and land conservation.
State legislators will decide in the next seven weeks how the money from Amendment 1 will be divvied up. Supporters of the amendment want a large percentage to go to the Florida Forever trust fund for land acquisition. Millions of dollars from the trust fund could then become available for ELAPP projects, but only if the county can come up with matching money.
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Also looming is the rapid revival of the homebuilding industry and the inevitable development pressures it will put on rural lands. ELAPP’s site selection committee has identified 21 parcels of more than 27,000 acres as priorities for acquisition. Those parcels easily could be developed before ELAPP gets adequate funding.
“Other than a few parcels, we haven’t really done anything since Cone Ranch” in January 2010, said Berlin, the ELAPP committee member. “It would be terrible for one to come up and not have the funds to take advantage of it.”
Berlin, president of the Accusoft software company, criticized county commissioners for stubbornly refusing to even talk about raising taxes for ELAPP. He said the rural lands that shelter wildlife and cleanse rainwater should be seen as investments, just like roads and bridges.
“We want people to come here because of our water and air and our hiking and beaches and fishing and weather,” Berlin said. “We should put our money where our mouth is.”

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Florida officials were barred from using the term 'Climate Change' once Rick Scott took power
The Huffington Post - by Amanda Terkel
March 8, 2015
Officials responsible for making sure Florida is prepared to respond to the earth's changing climate are barred from using the terms "global warming" and "climate change" in official communications, emails and reports, according to new findings from the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.
"We were told that we were not allowed to discuss anything that was not a true fact," said Kristina Trotta, a former Florida Department of Environmental Protection employee.
Another former employee added, "We were dealing with the effects and economic impact of climate change, and yet we can't reference it."
Climate change is a major problem for Florida. Last year, the National Climate Assessment named Miami as one of the cities in the United States most vulnerable to damage from rising sea levels. A Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact paper has also warned that water in the area could rise by as much as 2 feet by the year 2060.
But the state's governor, Republican Rick Scott, has frustrated scientists by downplaying the problem.
 

Last year, a reporter asked Scott whether man-made climate change "is significantly affecting the weather, the climate." Scott tried to change the subject and replied, "Well, I'm not a scientist."
When asked by the Tampa Bay Times in 2010 whether he believed in climate change, Scott simply replied, "No."
In August, five climate scientists met with Scott and told him he needs to do more to protect the state from rising sea levels.
According to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, the policy against mentioning global warming went into effect after Scott took office in 2011 and appointed Herschel Vinyard Jr. as the agency's director.
Christopher Byrd, a counsel with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said he first heard about the policy at a staff meeting in 2011.
"Deputy General Counsel Larry Morgan was giving us a briefing on what to expect with the new secretary," Byrd recalled, saying he gave them "a warning to beware of the words global warming, climate change and sea-level rise, and advised us not to use those words in particular."
"I did infer from this meeting that this was a new policy, that these words were to be prohibited for use from official DEP policy-making with our clients," he added.
The agency's press secretary told the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting that "DEP does not have a policy on this." The governor's office similarly said, "There's no policy on this."
Related:           "Florida Officials Ban The Term 'Climate Change'"   ThinkProgress
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Land conservation is focus of forum
Gainesville.com - by Nathan Crabbe
March 8, 2015
Environmental advocates such as Florida Springs Institute Director Bob Knight have said, “A spring with no flow is just a hole in the ground.”
It follows reason that saving our springs will require protecting the land around them, so the development and farms put there don’t deplete or pollute the groundwater feeding the springs.
A year ago this week, The Sun held the Fragile Springs forum to bring attention to the poor condition of our region’s springs. Knight and other panelists discussed their hopes for state lawmakers to better address the threats to water quality and quantity in our state.
Unfortunately, our state lawmakers weren’t listening and failed to pass meaningful springs legislation last session. That failure, compounded by the Legislature’s refusal to properly fund land conservation programs, gave voters reason to overwhelmingly approve Amendment 1 in the fall election.
The amendment dedicates revenue from an existing real-estate tax to land and water conservation projects. But it requires lawmakers to allocate the money.
Once again, they seem to be ignoring public sentiment that more must be done to protect our natural resources. Instead, they are considering spending much of the money on infrastructure projects that might actually encourage development in environmentally sensitive areas.
The Sun has run editorials, columns and letters to bring attention to this issue, but more must be done. That’s why we’re holding a Land and Water Conservation forum.
The forum will be held March 19 at 7 p.m. at the University of Florida’s Pugh Hall. The event and parking are free and open to the public.
UF’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service is co-sponsoring the event. It will be streamed live at www.bobgrahamcenter.ufl.edu.
The forum will include a panel discussion featuring some of the foremost experts on land conservation in our area. They are Ramesh Buch, who manages the Alachua County Forever land conservation program; Greg Galpin, a Plum Creek timber company official who has worked on local conservation easements; Pegeen Hanrahan, former Gainesville mayor and deputy director of the Amendment 1 campaign; and Charlie Houder, who spent 28 years in public land acquisition and management with the Suwannee and St. Johns water management districts.
I’ll be moderating. Suggestions for questions can be emailed to nathan.crabbe@gainesville.com. There also will be time for audience questions at the event.
I’m sure there will be plenty for the Plum Creek official in particular. As we consider land conservation and easements in our community, some being proposed in exchange for development rights, having these kind of public discussions will hopefully be helpful in better considering the issues at hand.
County voters have shown their support for land conservation through the passage of the two ballot initiatives that funded the Alachua County Forever program. The wide support for Amendment 1 showed that voters across the state share their views.
Hopefully events such as The Sun’s forum can help convince state lawmakers to take those

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Life is a mystery in the Florida Everglades
JerusalemPost – by Ben G. Frank, a travel writer, lecturer and author
March 8, 2015
Think of Florida and you conjure up Disney World, Orlando, Miami, sun, sand and oranges.
But there’s another destination on the state’s tourist map – one of the world’s most enticing subtropical regions, Everglades National Park.
Paul Bithorn, a specialist in South Florida exotic birds and a tour guide, says the Everglades hold three very impressive world designations: as an International Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Site and Wetland of International Importance, adding that “the Everglades is the largest wetlands national park in the country.”
It sure is ! The South Florida Everglades comprise one of the most interesting and unusual wetland areas in the world. The park itself makes up about one-fifth of the original area of the Everglades, still containing over 607,000 hectares (about 1.5 million acres).
Located southwest of Florida City (itself a suburb of Miami and the southernmost municipality in the South Florida metropolitan area), the Everglades are basically “a river of grass,” covering about 1,950 sq.km. The area is so huge that it reaches about 160 km. from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico, and is 113 km. wide.
“No one has ever fought his way along its full length. Few have ever crossed the northern wilderness of nothing but grass,” wrote Marjory Stoneman Douglas in her classic, The Everglades: River of Grass.
Indeed, the mystery of the Everglades is the grass, called sawgrass – which is really a fierce, ancient cutting sedge, according to author Douglas. Below that grass is water.
Everglades National Park itself is about 970 sq.km. and guide Bithorn takes us on the boardwalk of Anhinga trail at the Royal Palm Visitor Center as well as the Gumbo Limbo trails. The latter loops through a canopy of hardwood hammocks.
The tour is a big hit among camera clubs and bird and nature groups, which voice excitement and interest as they proceed above a sawgrass marsh.
“There they are!” shout out a few members of our group, who have spotted three American alligators sunning themselves on a patch of land. “Three of them,” someone whispers, though from where we are it is unlikely the reptiles heard us.
Everyone has their camera ready, as there are plenty of marsh and wading birds and turtles. Some of the birds we spot are American bittern, wood storks, great egrets, great blue herons, turkey and black vultures, and short-tail hawks.
We then stop at Long Pine in a nearby park where we have our packed lunches, as there are no eating facilities in the park. Here, some of our group voice their opinion on what they have seen.
Richard Emory, a former lead attorney for the US Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal investigators, stresses that “we need to know and understand the Everglades, and we really have to preserve its natural beauty and life. But it’s not just the wildlife that is at stake for people such as Emory, who see this area as “unchanged since the beginning of time.”
“This site,” says the Boynton Beach resident, “is a rest for my eyes after suburban sprawl and urban development.”
The trip causes Craig Small, an astronomer, to recall a memory. Once he went to the area for an observation of the heavens and was in the Everglades at night – an activity he does not recommend due the natural dangers. He, too, emphasizes that we need to protect the area.
According to a US National Park Service brochure, threats to the park include regional growth. “South Florida development has made people and the everglades ecosystem compete for a finite water supply.
Each day, 800 people move to Florida; 39 million people vacation some years, 12 million come in winter’s dry season when water supplies naturally drop. The historic everglades- – four-fifths of which lies outside the park – feel this population pressure.
Today, only California, New York and Texas outstrip Florida in population.”
Small, the astronomer who is also from Boynton Beach, will later comment on the trip: “We got a taste of what the environment is like in the Everglades.
“ After lunch, we drive past the Pinelands – with its tall stands of pine forest on either side of the road and the most botanically diverse ecosystems in the Everglades.
Next stop is Rock Reef Pass, with our first look at the cypress communities of the Everglades. We make our way to Pa-hay-okee Overlook, where we walk the short boardwalk and again spot a variety of birds.
“Birders from all over the world come here,” says Bithorn, who takes us to an observation tower to look out over the stunning vista of the sawgrass river of Shark Valley Slough.
Bithorn also served as mayor of his hometown, the Village of Virginia Gardens, for nine years; he encouraged his residents to “xeriscape” by planting native species of plants and shrubs to attract birds and butterflies.
By the way, in other areas of Florida, one can board vessels for airboat rides in the Everglades, though not in the national park.
I was surprised to learn that Everglades National Park houses one of Florida’s best-preserved relics of the Cold War. The historic Nike Hercules Missile Base, dubbed HM-69, remains virtually the same as it was when official use of the site was terminated in 1979.
The missile base was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers and completed in 1964 at the height of the Cold War, immediately following the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. At the time, when national security against Soviet attack was America’s main priority, the US Army chose this strategic site within the park. It was, after all, about 257 km. from the Cuban coast and a good spot to build an anti-aircraft missile site.
“The area includes 22 buildings and structures associated with events that have made a significant contribution to American history,” says a brochure.
Some of the extant structures include three missile barns, a missile assembly building, a guard dog kennel and barracks.
Access to the site is only available through National Park Service ranger-guided tours. (For specific tour times and information, stop by the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, check out the website at www.nps.gov/ ever or call US 305-242-7700.) Regarding that visitor center named after Ernest F. Coe: Well, he was one of the leaders who dedicated his life to the preservation of the Everglades.
“The Everglades is a test. If we pass it, we get to help the planet.”
Certainly, if you tour the Everglades, you’ll likely agree.

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Passed !



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With reservations, House passes water bill
StAugustine.com – by Isadora Rangel, Treasure Coast Newspapers
March 8, 2015
House members recognized a controversial water bill doesn’t do enough to protect Lake Okeechobee but still voted to pass it Thursday.
Democrats raised concerns during debate about provisions they said could delay lake cleanup, but some of them supported the bill because they believe it is a good start as it moves to the Senate, which is working on similar legislation without the same provisions.
Rep. Larry Lee Jr., D-Port St. Lucie, was the only Treasure Coast lawmaker who voted against HB 7003, which was passed by a 106-9 vote and only a few Democrats voting against it.
Republicans Gayle Harrell of Stuart, MaryLynn Magar of Tequesta, Debbie Mayfield of Vero Beach and Cary Pigman of Avon Park approved the legislation.
Harrell said she expects the Senate will improve the bill and send it back to the House, adding Thursday’s vote was the first step in creating a statewide water policy. There is no date for the Senate bill to be heard.
“I think it’s a work in progress,” she said. “For the first time (the state) will have an unified plan with a process in play.”
Lee said he decided to oppose the legislation after talking to environmentalists and the agriculture community. He wants the bill to include the purchase of U.S. Sugar Corp. land to move lake water south and provisions to reduce pollution in the Indian River Lagoon.
“It seemed I had more people concerned about not enough being done to control discharges from the lake and phosphorus coming out of that area,” Lee said. “I think (the bill) is a good first step but I think it can be stronger.”
Environmental groups, such as Audubon Florida and Earthjustice, oppose the legislation while House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and business groups support it.
Sticking points
The legislation eliminates a program that issues land permits to reduce phosphorus in lake water and replaces it with Basin Management Action Plans — known by the acronym BMAP — that exist for major water bodies in Florida.
Those management plans largely rely on techniques farmers can opt to implement to reduce runoff filled with fertilizer and pesticides from going into waterways. Farmers are considered to be reducing pollution if they implement the so-called “best management practices,” such as reducing fertilizer. But the state doesn’t monitor farmers to see if they are following the practices.
Democrats said the state needs a fallback plan in case management plans don’t work and are worried about farmers’ lack of accountability.
The way to go
Ninety percent of farmers signed up to follow best management practices, which save 65 billion gallons of water per day that otherwise would wash away into canals and end up lost in the ocean, Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, said.
Sponsor Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, said “we know that we need more and better solutions to achieve total remediation for Lake Okeechobee” but Basin Management Action Plans will clean up 40 percent of the water and the Legislature will continue to improve the state’s policies in future years.
He also addressed concerns about a provision that eliminates a January 2015 deadline for when permits for land owners who discharge water into the lake should meet state water quality standards. The bill doesn’t create a new deadline but states permits must comply with Basin Management Action Plans.
“What I do not want to see in this bill is false deadlines,” Caldwell said, “just based upon what you pull out of the air.”
HB 7003 also requires the state to adopt a cleanup plan for impaired springs by 2018, but environmentalists said the bill should set a pollution reduction target.
The Senate version (SB 918) needs to clear two committees before reaching the floor.
It focuses mostly on springs restoration, which environmentalists also say doesn’t go far enough, creates an advisory committee to rank water projects and establishes a trail network and calls for the creation of an online map and a mobile application that show state-owned land locations and what amenities they offer to the public.

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Amendment 1 money for land conservation: House Panel says buy fewer acres, manage more
FlaglerLive.com – by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
March 7, 2015
Scaling back the intent of a voter-approved amendment that was to replace the defunct Florida Forever land-buying program.
A House committee that crafted a newly approved water-policy plan is now looking at how a voter-approved increase in conservation dollars should be used for land management.
Just don’t anticipate a splurge on land buying, such as spending about $350 million on a proposal to purchase U.S. Sugar land in the Everglades.
House State Affairs Chairman Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, said Friday he expects his committee will direct the use of so-called “Amendment 1″ dollars more toward managing land already publicly owned rather than simply buying more.
“We do own a substantial amount of land already, and when you combine that with the federal level, you can see we’ve got a lot of public property already,” said Caldwell, who spearheaded a wide-ranging water policy proposal (HB 7003) approved Thursday by the House.
“There is still going to be possibilities for more,” Caldwell added. “Those springs that are available for purchase, I’d love to see those bought and made state parks, obviously. But in the large mosaics, less than fee ownership, conservation easements that allow the continuation of ag activities, those are things that I’d love to see us prioritize. It’s a fact that the center of the state is the second largest population of bald eagles precisely because it’s all ranch land and they flourish there.”
Both chambers are working on multi-pronged approaches to implement a constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 1, which lays out for 20 years an increase in funding for land and water conservation.
The amendment, overwhelmingly approved by voters in November, requires 33 percent of the proceeds from a real-estate tax to go for land and water projects. The funding level is projected to generate $757 million in next year’s budget for the state’s land and water needs, more than $200 million above what lawmakers allocated for such uses in the current year.
The House approach appears to at least partly conflict with the Amendment 1 priorities of environmental groups. The group Florida’s Land and Water Legacy, which led the amendment drive, has presented lawmakers with an outline that includes using $90 million for land management, $150 million for Everglades and South Florida estuaries and another $150 million for the Florida Forever program for land acquisition, springs and trails.
Ultimately, the House and Senate will have to come to agreement on Amendment 1 spending and on water-policy issues. Environmentalists also have been critical of the water-policy bill approved by the House this week.
Caldwell’s committee requested that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection create a detailed map outlining all government-owned land in Florida as well as property held by environmental trusts.
He said the committee might also consider ways for the state to work with the federal government to increase the eradication of invasive species.
“The Everglades mosaic is one I’m most familiar with,” Caldwell said. “We don’t manage the national park. We don’t manage the Big Cypress Preserve. We manage our lands that abut (the federal parks), and there is no doubt we have got real problems. What’s the point in saving the Everglades if it’s taken over by pythons, Brazilian pepper and melaleuca. There is nothing left for anybody to enjoy at that point.”
Kelley Boree, director of the Division of State Lands in the Department of Environmental Protection, estimated that about 27 percent of the state is already in public hands, through state, federal and local ownership.
For the H2O Coalition, led by the business advocacy group Associated Industry of Florida, that’s enough.
The coalition, which backed the House water policy approved this week, has been urging lawmakers against using Amendment 1 dollars for land purchases.
“Floridians do not want the funding priorities under Amendment 1 to just reflect the narrow interests of certain environmental advocacy groups,” Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of AIF, said in a release that accompanied a new television and radio campaign the coalition stared to run this week in Tallahassee.
The concept of the constitutional amendment was spawned as funding diminished for the Florida Forever program.
Florida Forever, which uses bonds backed with revenue from the documentary-stamp real-estate taxes, authorizes lawmakers to spend up to $300 million a year for preservation. But as the economy went sour during the recent recession, so did funding for Florida Forever.
Related:
The Only Mandate From This Election: Protect Florida’s Environment
Hearing Voters’ Demand for Conservation, Florida Senate Begins Money Game
Proposed Conservation Amendment: $5 Billion Over 10 Years, Without Raising Taxes
Amendment 1: GOP Raising Objections to Sensitive Lands Conservation Funding Measure
Gov. Scott Punts on Proposed Land-Preservation Amendment
GOP Lawmaker Calls State’s Surplus Land Sale Program a “Disaster”
Amendment 1: What It Said

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Dams in Everglades could improve regional ecosystem
Miami Herald - by Sue Cocking
March 7, 2015
It had been several years since Islamorada light-tackle guide captain Paul Hunt had explored the sparsely traveled no-motor zones of Everglades National Park near Flamingo. So he was pleasantly surprised when he arrived last week aboard his 22-foot Angler bay boat at the Homestead Canal Dam separating Florida Bay from the Cape Sable region’s vast interior marsh.
Hunt found a floating dock to tie up his boat and a small launch ramp for his 16-foot kayak.
“They made this really nice,” he said.
The dam and its improvements were built in 2011 — along with the nearby East Cape Extension Canal Dam — with the aim of reducing saltwater intrusion from canals dug early in the 20th century and restoring the freshwater and brackish marshes to a more natural state.
But adding those structures isn’t enough to shore up the regional ecosystem, so park officials are proposing four more dam projects at House Ditch, Slagle Ditch, Raulerson Canal and East Side Creek. The park is asking for public input as planners prepare an environmental assessment of several alternatives.
Tylan Dean, the park’s biological resources branch chief, said there always has been some saltwater influence inland from Florida Bay but the canals made things worse, eroding shorelines and degrading the habitat of birds, fish and other wildlife. The dams, he said, could make things better.
“By limiting the amount of saltwater flow, we expect some of the prey fish to do better,” Dean said. “When you get more of the little fish, often you get more bigger fish that come to prey on them. Some species might be less common. I don’t think there are any species that would disappear completely.”
Dean said he would like to hear from anglers about their experiences and concerns. He also has reached out to NOAA Fisheries because endangered smalltooth sawfish reproduce in the Cape Sable area during the spring.
Amid weak tidal flow, Hunt and a companion paddled easily inland from the Homestead Canal Dam last week and entered a primitive wonderland. A dozen American crocodiles sunbathed on a mud flat as juvenile tarpon rolled nearby. Hunt’s companion caught and released a jack crevalle using a Hank Brown jig head with a Saltwater Assassin tail but couldn’t entice the tarpon to bite.
The pair headed into a shallow lake surrounded by mangroves and dotted with deadfalls where they jumped and lost a snook and practically ran over several more laid-up snook warming themselves on the mud flats following several days of cold fronts. All around the paddlers, mullet mudded and jumped and clouds of small minnows darted about. But no big fish chased the bait. Hunt and his passenger paddled for a couple of miles then headed back toward the dam, passing a large bull shark and releasing another jack. At the dam, Hunt’s companion caught and released a sheepshead after tipping the jig with shrimp. They hadn’t seen another boat all day.
Dean said the dam projects might provide some fishing benefits to Florida Bay by limiting the nutrients that spill out of the canals causing fish-killing algae blooms. Water clarity, he said, might improve with less sediment flowing into the bay.
Hunt wondered what Cape Sable’s interior marshes might look like years from now with dams built and less saltwater flowing in.
“Once it’s complete, it might change to different species,” he said. “A hundred years ago, who knows what it was like up there? Maybe they were catching bass.”
The comment period for Cape Sable Dams Restoration Phase II ends Sunday. Go to www.parkplanning.nps.gov and select “Everglades NP,” then “Cape Sable Dams-Phase II,” and “open for public comment.”

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Ad war under way over using Amendment 1 money for Everglades
TBO.com - by Matt Dixon, Scripps-Tribune Capital Bureau
March 6, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — Two groups fueled by undisclosed campaign donors are waging a media war in an effort to persuade lawmakers over how to divvy up $750 million made available by a conservation amendment passed in November by voters.
The Florida H2O Coalition, which is backed by business lobby Associated Industries of Florida, last week plastered television airwaves in Tallahassee as lawmakers gathered for the opening of the Legislative session. Their message was clear: “Amendment 1 is for Everyone.”
It’s a reference to a constitutional amendment that requires spending 33 percent of real estate tax revenue on the
 
environment, or about $750 million next year. It received 75 percent of the vote.
The coalition is working against The Everglades Trust, a group that recently ran its own television ads in Fort Myers, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa Bay and West Palm Beach markets. It is encouraging the state to use Amendment 1 money to buy 46,800 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar. The land would be used to move water from the lake south to help prevent harmful discharges from flowing down the Caloosahatchee River and into the St. Lucie Estuary toward the Indian River Lagoon.
The AIF-backed coalition says the money should be used for things like lake and river cleanup, Everglades restoration, and beach renourishment, according to a new mail piece that is dropping in every House and Senate district across the state.
It says the Everglades Trust’s push to secure money to buy U.S. Sugar land amounts to a special interest group seeking cash for “pet projects.”
“Some special interest groups want the lion’s share of the money for their pet projects,” reads the mailer. “And that’s just wrong.”
The industry opposes the land buy, and says projects approved through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan should be priority No. 1. The plan is a framework that aims to “protect and preserve the water resources of central and southern Florida, including the Everglades.”
The battle is heating up as the clock ticks on an October deadline. In order to complete the deal in time, lawmakers would likely have to approve the funding during the 2015 legislative session, which began last week.
The land buy has high profile opposition from House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. But last week state Sen. Joe Negron, a Republican whose district includes the Indian River Lagoon, said the state should consider the land deal. Negron is one of his chamber’s most prominent members, and is likely a future Senate president.
It’s unclear who is providing the cash to fund the messaging and political push on either side. Both organizations are setup as 501c(4) corporations, which means they don’t have to disclose donors.
During the last election cycle, political committees controlled by Associated Industries of Florida, which is leading the Florida H2O Coalition’s effort, did receive nearly $1 million from U.S. Sugar and other industry interests that oppose the land buy.
The Everglades Trust has been using the sugar industry’s noted reputation as large campaign donors as a messaging weapon.
“Since 2010…sugar has been lobbying the Florida government to not go through with the deal,” according to a video on the Everglades Trust’s website.
Who is paying for the Trust’s site, its ads, or its overall push in favor of the land buy is also unclear because the group does not disclose its donors.
Related:           Groups battle media war over how to spend $750 million Amendment 1     NaplesNews.com
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Florida House passes comprehensive water policy bill
Suwannee Democrat
March 6, 2015
Tallahassee, Fla.–The Florida House of Representatives today passed CS/HB 7003 relating to water resources. The bill is a comprehensive approach to addressing Florida’s water policy initiatives.
“I applaud Chair Caldwell on the passage of the House’s bipartisan water policy legislation,” said House Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island). “Water is one of Florida’s most precious resources. Addressing our state’s water challenges is not an issue that can be fully addressed in one legislative session, but our bill lays a solid foundation for future efforts to strengthen Florida’s critical water resources.” 
“With the passage of this bill today, the House has taken a long-term, comprehensive approach toward solving the water quality and supply challenges facing our entire state, rather than just focusing on the problems of any one particular region,” said State Representative Matt Caldwell (R-North Fort Myers), Chairman of the State Affairs Committee and sponsor of HB 7003. “Our bill modernizes existing water policies and provides scientifically sound, responsible solutions to protect the health of our waterways and develop greater, reliable access to clean water for Floridians.”
The bill makes a number of revisions to Florida’s water policy. All first magnitude springs in the state and all second magnitude springs within state or federally owned lands will be designated as Priority Florida Springs (PFS). The bill requires water management districts (WMDs) to develop new or revise existing recovery or prevention strategies concurrently with the establishment or re-evaluation of minimum flows and levels (MFLs). The bill requires the WMDs to include in their 5-year water resource development work program an annual funding plan for each of the 5- years for water resource and water supply development projects contained in each approved regional water supply plan (RWSP). RWSPs must be amended to include any water supply development and water resource development project identified in a recovery or prevention strategy and for the amended RWSP to be approved concurrently with the recovery or prevention strategy
The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), by December 1, 2018, to complete an assessment of water quality for each PFS for which an impairment determination has not been made, establish total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for all PFS deemed to be impaired, and establish basin management action plans (BMAP) for impaired PFS. In addition, persons engaged in agriculture within the geographic area encompassed by a BMAP for a PFS are required to implement best management practices (BMP) or conduct water quality monitoring. DEP is also required to form a working group responsible for collecting and evaluating scientific information on the effects of nutrients on springs, developing a public education plan, and developing projects to reduce nutrient impacts where sewage treatment and disposal systems in springs areas represent a source of excess nitrate-nitrite that must be controlled to meet TMDLs. DEP is also authorized to award funds to address certain septic tank issues contingent on an appropriation. Further, DEP is required to establish an interagency agreement with the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to develop and implement uniform water supply planning, consumptive water use permitting, and resource protection programs for the area encompassed by the Central Florida Water Initiative (CFWI). DEP is also authorized to adopt by rule a specific surface water classification for certain waterbodies used as a source of drinking water.
The SFWMD is required to continue exercising the state’s authority to allocate water and assign priorities among other water uses served by the Central and Southern Florida Project (Project) and to provide recommendations to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers that are consistent with all SFWMD programs and plans when developing or implementing joint water control plans or regulation schedules required for the Project.
The bill updates and restructures the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Act to reflect and build upon DEP’s completion of BMAPs for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, and the St. Lucie River and Estuary; DEP’s continuing development of a BMAP for the inland portion of the Caloosahatchee River watershed; and DACS’ implementation of BMPs in the three basins. The bill designates the Lake Okeechobee BMAP as the phosphorus control element of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Protection Program, designating BMAPs adopted for the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie River watersheds as the pollutant control programs for those watersheds, and requiring the BMAPs to contain an implementation schedule for pollutant load reductions consistent with adopted TMDLs. It also directs the SFWMD to revise its Works of the District Rule to be consistent with the Lake Okeechobee BMAP and report to the coordinating agencies the results of water quality monitoring conducted by landowners outside of the Everglades Agricultural Area who do not choose to participate in the DACS’ BMP program. The bill also eliminates duplicative permits by relying on the BMAPs as the basis for water quality regulation in the Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River, and the St. Lucie River watersheds.
Related:           House Passes Bill to Clean, Protect Florida's Water  WCTV
Florida House passes comprehensive water policy bill           Branford News
Fla. House passes bill backing clean water     St. Augustine Record
Over environmental concerns, Florida House passes water bill          Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Houses passes water bill by wide margin; dismaying environmentalists        Bradenton Herald
Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton drafts Amendment 1 legislation that ...           Bradenton Herald
Fla. House Passes Water Resources Bill, Despite Criticism   Law360 (subscription)
House water bill passes as critics hope for better Senate legislation  SaintPetersBlog (blog)

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Floridians fight back against impending and massive government land grab
BizpackReview.com
March 6, 2015
With government land grabs sparking alarm across the country, private property owners in Florida are growing increasingly concerned about new state powers to buy up land for so-called conservation purposes.
It’s land that will be bought and paid for with taxpayer money.
Voters have themselves to thank. In November, nearly 75 percent of those who cast their ballot approved Amendment one formally known as the Florida Water and Land Legacy Amendment, which allows state officials to spend nearly $1 billion to buy and improve conservation easements, wildlife areas, wetlands, forests parks and other preservation areas. The money will come from dedicating 33 percent of net revenues gained from existing excise taxes on documents.
Now, environmental groups are lining up to dictate how the government should spend the money and it’s making private property owners squeamish.
“We don’t believe Amendment One funds should be used to fix leaky sewer pipes,” said Will Abberger, conservation finance director of the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that helps communities raise money and develop plans for parks, playgrounds and other recreational purposes.
Abberger and other environmentalists say Amendment One money should be used to buy conservation lands and to fund water protection projects.
Florida residents have good reason to be concerned about what that could mean for their property rights, especially given what’s happened in the Western U.S. states.  The government owns over 50 percent of the land there – and so poorly maintains it that brush fires, and illegal activity run amok.
Drug and human smuggling have become so rampant on government-owned land in Arizona, that officials have erected warning signs – paid for by taxpayers – of the dangers in the area, according to The Washington Times.
Neglected government land has also become a breeding ground for invasive plant and animal species, which only harm the environment.
Opponents worried about government land grabs say they do recognize Florida’s very real environmental needs.
Even though Florida is the fifth wettest state in the nation, experts say the Sushine State will suffer fresh water shortages in the near future, largely because of rainwater runoff and population growth. Central Florida is particularly at risk, and most experts agree there won’t be enough groundwater to sustain local population if quick action isn’t taken.
But property rights advocates believe the state can address such issues without taking away Floridians’ land or property rights. They say Amendment One should be used to restore failing conservation projects already on the books, instead of wasting the money buying more land.
Determined to see Amendment One funds spent efficiently, the Associated Industries of Florida’s H2O Coalition has developed a comprehensive plan that addresses five key priorities:
- Sustainability, to ensure an adequate water supply for residents, businesses and the environment.
- Funding, to make sure recurring state money is available for water supply projects
- Innovation, to support and fund innovative solutions including public-private partnerships
- Sound Science, to address quality water problems with the best science available
- Incentives, to motivate stakeholders to use the latest technological solutions
- Property rights groups hope that Amendment One money will be used to restore existing and failing conservation projects rather than to acquire more land.
Concerned citizens are voicing their opinions about the loss of local control and freedom when the scale is tipped too far in the government’s favor. Many Floridians, meanwhile, are voicing their concerns on issues like “Agenda 21,” a multinational environmental plan-of-action approved by 172 countries including the United States.
Many Floridians are worried that Agenda 21 and its inherent land-acquisition component will affect state and local communities, at a painful cost to taxpayers.
The federal and state government already owns one-third of Florida’s land, according to PropertyPatriots.org. The more Uncle Sam takes from private citizens, the less taxable property there will be left, ultimately requiring state and local officials to raise sales and property taxes to make up for the inevitable revenue shortfall.
Today’s property rights hopes are on HB 7003, a water conservation bill filed in the Florida House and supported by the H2O Coalition and other property rights advocates.
“Florida’s water users are looking for comprehensive solutions that will grow our water supply, not merely grow the supply of state-owned lands,” said Brewster Bevis, the Associated Industries of Florida’s senior vice president of state and federal affairs.
“The House proposal relies on science-tested tools to promote sustainability and ensure the conservation of our natural resources.”
In other words, it’s not another take-what-you-can-get government land grab. It could be, at long last, as a step in the right direction for all of Florida, especially its environment.

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Jeb Busch

Jeb BUSCH,
former FL Governor




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Jeb in the wilderness
Politico.com – by Michael Grunwald
March 6, 2015
Jeb Bush had an obvious reason to be in Washington on December 11, 2000. He was the Florida governor, and the Supreme Court was hearing a historic Florida case. It happened to be called Bush v. Gore, and it would determine whether his older brother, George, would win his state’s electoral votes and become the next president.
But that’s not why Jeb was in Washington. As the ultimate partisan battle played out at the court, Bush was attending a quiet bipartisan ceremony in the Oval Office, watching President Bill Clinton, the Democrat who had ousted Bush’s father from that office, sign a bill to save the dying Florida Everglades. The $8 billion plan to revive the so-called River of Grass was the most ambitious ecosystem restoration effort in history—and one of Bush’s key priorities. So while his brother fought Clinton’s vice president over Florida’s political swamp, Jeb stood beside Clinton to celebrate Florida’s literal swamp. After signing, the president handed Jeb the first ceremonial pen. “What a bizarre day,” recalls David Struhs, Jeb’s top environmental official at the time.
Once the event was over, Bush strolled out to the White House driveway for a news conference with Clinton’s aides and members of Congress from both parties. Predictably, reporters were less interested in hearing the governor discuss the panthers, gators and herons of the Everglades than hanging chads, butterfly ballots and the high-stakes oral arguments across town.
“No, no, no, no, you’re going the wrong way on that one,” he told them. “We’re here to talk about something that’s going to be long-lasting, way past counting votes. This is the restoration of a treasure for our country.”
Wetlands were once considered wastelands, and Florida’s early settlers yearned to drain the marshes of the Everglades, to “reclaim” and “improve” a vast liquid wilderness of snakes and mosquitoes into a subtropical paradise for people. But now that half the original watershed is gone, sucked dry for farms or paved over for development, people have embraced what’s left of the Everglades as an iconic paradise in its own right, a unique ecosystem stretching from Orlando in the center of the state all the way down to Florida Bay at the tip. It’s not a breathtaking geological marvel like Yosemite; it’s mostly a flat, muddy expanse of shallow water and razor-edged sawgrass, in uncomfortable proximity to the sprawling civilization that is modern South Florida. But the Everglades is one of America’s most important ecological jewels, providing kitchens and nurseries for flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth. It’s become a motherhood-and-apple-pie issue in the post-Earth Day era, forcing politicians of all stripes to pledge to save it and revive it.
Jeb Bush certainly did. Fifteen years after that awkward Oval Office ceremony, as he hopes to follow his father and brother to the White House—perhaps after a showdown with Clinton’s wife—the Everglades is an issue that sets him apart from other Republican candidates, a deviation from GOP orthodoxy on Big Government eco-spending. He spent a lot of time slogging through the swamp of Everglades policy, and the saga reveals a lot about his approach to power and politics.
The Bushes in Glades
President George H.W. Bush signed a modest expansion of Everglades National Park in 1989. In 2000, Governor Jeb Bush announced state funding for Everglades restoration. The next year, President George W. Bush promised (but did not deliver) federal money for his brother's project.
It wasn’t the slash-and-burn anti-green style some expected from a free-market conservative who was born in the Texas oil patch, became a Miami developer and raked in donations from real estate and agriculture interests at a time when green Republicans were becoming an endangered species. But it wasn’t a purely environmental approach, either. The restoration plan that Bush supported was not just about the Everglades. It was also about flood control and water supply for the residents and businesses that share South Florida with the Everglades and depend on aquifers underneath the Everglades. He shepherded the Army Corps of Engineers plan to re-engineer and replumb the ravaged watershed through the Florida legislature without a single dissenting vote, and despite his tightfisted reputation, he spent lavishly to get it started. But he also fought to make sure it did not prioritize nature over people, often siding with the sugar industry, development industry and other business allies against conservation groups. He routinely fought Everglades activists, over everything from an Enron subsidiary’s pitch to privatize the ecosystem’s water to Big Sugar’s push to delay water-quality deadlines to his own effort to create a sprawling biotech campus on the fringes of the marsh. But he still saw himself as the ecosystem’s champion, telling his team he didn’t need permission from environmentalists to save the Everglades.
Bush’s aides see the Everglades saga as Jeb in his element, pursuing what he called Big Hairy Audacious Goals, grilling aides about wonky details, aggressively defending state prerogatives and private property at the same time that he sought to repair some of the injuries man had inflicted on nature. He was good about doing what he promised to do, less good at showing flexibility when others questioned the way he did it. He helped assemble the diverse coalition that got the Everglades plan into law, but when it came to executing the plan, his team had a rocky relationship with the feds, even though his brother was in charge of the feds. The federal-state Everglades partnership has been smoother under President Obama and Republican Governor Rick Scott, a Tea Party favorite who is basically Obama’s ideological opposite, than it was under the two Bushes.
“We thought: Hey, the president is our governor’s brother; the Everglades has got it made!” says longtime Florida environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla. “But almost nothing got done in those six years.”
Bush’s former aides recall that era as a time of gradual progress spearheaded by a cerebral, self-confident, demanding leader, tempered by immense frustration with foot-dragging federal bureaucrats and bellyaching environmental activists. They believe that if the other players in the restoration wars had spent less time whining about Jeb’s insistence on doing things Jeb’s way, and more time doing things Jeb’s way, the Everglades would be in much better shape today.
“There was so much nitpicking and distrust, when all Jeb wanted was to restore the Everglades as quickly as possible,” says Henry Dean, a top water management official under Bush. “You know, we gave it our best shot.”
Related:           Politico: When Jeb Bush took on Everglades restoration       MiamiHerald.com (blog)

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More on that viral blog going around today about Florida's Koch Bros. killing the Everglades
OrlandoWeekly.com - by Erin Sullivan
Mar 6, 2015 at 4:15 PM
There's a post going viral on the interwebs right now titled "Everglades to be killed this October by Florida's own Koch Bros." It's posted to the Daily Kos and Alternet, and it points out that the state has an option to buy a key parcel of land near Lake Okeechobee that's currently owned by huge sugar corporations. One of those corporations is U.S. Sugar, which is based in Clewiston, Fla. The other is owned by Florida Crystals, owned by a couple of Cuban-born brothers whose last name is Fanjul – and,  yes, they're frequently referred to as Florida's very own version of the notorious political bad guys, the Koch Bros. 
Take a look at the map below, posted to the Daily Kos, which shows which sugar companies own what parcels of land around Lake Okeechobee. The land in yellow is owned by Florida Crystals; the land in Orange is owned by U.S. Sugar. That concentrated red and yellow block on the southwest side of the lake is the parcel of land in question:
If the state purchased that acreage, it would keep the sugar interests from dumping toxic waste into Lake Okeechobee by creating massive surface reservoirs where waste water could be dumped, rather than allowing it to flow into the lake and its estuaries. It'd also allow the state to encourage the free flow of fresh, clean water into the Everglades and the Florida Bay.
Practically since Florida was settled, people have tried to manipulate the way Lake Okeechobee and its estuaries function – artificial flood control, drainage, levies and canals have been constructed around the lake to make the land surrounding it more useful, and to the south, much of the land – which used to be a direct source of fresh, clean water to the Everglades, which flowed from small tributaries that drained away from the lake – was converted to agricultural use. At one point, there was even an attempt to drain the Everglades and turn it into rich, fertile muck farming land. With agriculture comes agricultural byproducts – chemical runoff, toxic discharges and fertilizers that cause massive algae blooms and poison the water that makes its way south. The University of Florida's Water Institute just released a study recommending that the state accelerate its plans to restore vital watersheds around the lake to protect the Everglades from the poison flowing directly into it. 
And the state Legislature now has a chance to buy a big chunk of land from U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, but – shocker – it's not jumping at it. According to the News Service of Florida, legislators are reluctant to buy the land which they have the option to purchase until it expires in October. Then, the land just goes back to being agricultural land owned by the Fanjuls, U.S. Sugar and other interests, and the dumping, algae blooms, nitrates and whatever else Big Sugar pours into the lake and its estuaries keeps coming. 
Why is the Legislature dragging its feet on this ?  Here's what the News Service says:
The "I don't want to be guilty of trying to do everything for everybody" argument:
"There are a lot more significant issues right now," said Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Chairman Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who is helping lead Senate water-related efforts this session. "Life is going to change in five years. I don't want us to be guilty of trying to do everything for everybody. We need to spread this out."
The "harmful invasive species" argument:
"Buying up land we cannot care for, that falls into disrepair or becomes a breeding ground for harmful invasive species, is not a legacy I am interested in leaving," Crisafulli said while addressing the House on Tuesday. "If we truly want to honor our beautiful state, then we should spend these early years making sure we can maintain the 5.3 million acres of conservation lands we already own."
The "it's not the best use of dollars" argument:
But support isn't coming from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Putnam said Tuesday that while he hasn't had a chance to review the entire 148-page university study, what he's seen backs his belief that the state needs to complete reservoirs north and south of the lake, but those areas don't require the U.S. Sugar land.
"I was opposed to the purchase of the sugar land under Gov. Crist," Putnam said. "It's the wrong land for a central flow-way. It's not the best use of dollars for Everglades restoration."
Want to send your legislators a message? There's now a petition you can sign to tell them to buy the land, build the reservoir and help keep Big Sugar from turning the Everglades into one big vat of poisonous, bitter tea. 

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The Rising Tide Within: From coastlines to the Everglades, researchers tackle sea level rise
FIU News – by Evelyn Perez
March 5, 2015
Under the streets of Miami Beach, seeping up through the limestone, water creeps into storm drains and pours into the streets. It happens once a year when the sun and moon align in such a way that gravity pulls at Earth’s water. The phenomenon is known as King Tide. It is the highest of high tides, and every year, it puts Miami Beach at risk of major flooding.
FIU researchers were on-site during the latest King Tide event to collect and assess data. The efforts are part of a university-wide initiative to study, better understand and develop solutions for sea level rise. Plans are under way to create an institute dedicated to the interdisciplinary work being done at FIU, which includes collaboration among researchers from Arts & Sciences, Architecture and the Arts, Business, Law, Public Health and Social Work, Engineering, Hospitality and Tourism Management, as well as Journalism and Mass Communication.
South Florida ranks as the world’s most vulnerable urban region in terms of assets exposed to the effects of sea level rise. FIU’s research is dedicated to developing and implementing solutions for the major environmental and economic challenges created by the rising seas.
Beyond the Shoreline
When King Tide arrived in October of 2014, all eyes were on Miami Beach and a new pump system that helped to keep the water off the streets — this time. But the manner in which the water traditionally invades is a stark reminder that when it comes to sea level rise, there is more to be concerned about than just the shoreline. The hidden danger is largely the water within. In South Florida’s case, that means the Everglades.
“The greater South Florida ecosystem is predicated on the balance of freshwater and saltwater,” said Todd Crowl, researcher within the institute and director of FIU’s Southeast Environmental Research Center. “When that ecosystem hits its tipping point and an imbalance occurs, that’s when this whole thing collapses.”
A natural region of subtropical wetlands, the Everglades is a complex system that features sawgrass marshes, cypress swamps, mangroves and marine environments. The Everglades is also the main source of freshwater for the Biscayne Aquifer, South Florida’s primary water supply. Beneath the river of grass, rising sea levels are pushing saltwater inward into the Everglades.
This intrusion is already affecting South Florida residents  through a shrinking and tainted aquifer. Some communities, such as Hallandale Beach, can attest to the problem as underground wells have been closed due to saltwater, forcing communities to buy water from other sources.
“Few people might make the connection between sea level rise and the water pouring out of their faucets,” said Evelyn Gaiser, a wetland ecologist and interim executive director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society. “We simply don’t have freshwater moving in at the rate we need it, but Everglades restoration provides a solution for that.”
The River of Grass
In 2000, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was approved as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Water Resources Development Act. The 30-year plan provides a framework to restore and protect the water resources of Central and South Florida.
Every two years, the National Research Council issues a report evaluating the progress of the plan. In the 2014 report, the authors raised concerns about slow progress, noting sea level rise is causing new concerns for the already troubled Everglades.
“Climate change and sea level rise are reasons to accelerate restoration to enhance the ecosystem’s ability to adapt to future changes,” authors of the report wrote.
Much of FIU’s work in the Everglades is based on research conducted within its Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program, which studies how hydrology, climate and human activities interact with ecosystem and population dynamics in the Everglades. With 9 million residents in the greater South Florida region, long-term data will be the key to long-term solutions.
Certainty in Uncertain Times
One of the greatest uncertainties with sea level is just how high and how fast the seas will rise. Without that knowledge, it’s difficult to plan for how South Florida should adapt. Conservative projections suggest sea levels could rise by almost a foot by 2100, but some scientists believe that number will be closer to three feet.
Earth and Environment Professor René Price, along with a team of international researchers, recently completed a study, based on historical data that identifies the timings at which accelerations might first be recognized.
While she can’t say for sure today, Price knows a data-driven prediction about rate and height is near.
“Our results show that by 2020 to 2030, we could have some statistical certainty of what the sea level rise situation will look like in 2100,” Price said. “That means we’ll know what to expect and have 70 years to plan. In a subject that has so much uncertainty, this gives us the gift of long-term planning.”
Even with long-term predictions on the horizon, immediate action is still required as sea level rise is the reality today. Communication and collaboration among scientists, policy makers and community members are crucial in FIU’s efforts to not only study climate change but also to help define how South Florida responds to the rising seas.
Hydrologist Henry Briceño spends much of his time in the community sharing what he and his students are working on and engaging policy makers in the issues they uncover.
“It’s really not enough what we do in the lab and field. What we discover has to transcend the decision-makers,” Briceño said. “We have to take this crisis and turn it into an opportunity. South Florida has the opportunity to become a leader worldwide to tackle sea level rise. We have a way out. We can adapt. Humanity can deal with this and can prevail.”

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The St. Johns River is worth billions, study says
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
March 6, 2015
The St. Johns River provides $95 billion to $122 billion worth of yearly nitrogen removal and $20 million to $490 million a year in phosphorus removal, according to a new study by the University of North Florida.
“If you were to have to remove the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that the wetlands in the river would do, that’s what it would cost in the typical processing that the wastewater treatment plants do,” said Courtney Hackney, director of coastal biology at the University of North Florida.
The University of Florida conducted the $400,000 study on behalf of the St. Johns River Water Management District.
The researchers examined geographic information systems data, and data on wetland nitrogen and phosphorus accumulation in the St. Johns River watershed and nearby areas (northern Everglades and southeastern Georgia). They used the cost per pound of nitrogen and phosphorus removal by sewer plants and the cost per pound of nitrogen and phosphorus bought and sold in nutrient trading programs in the St. Johns watershed, Florida and nearby states.
They found the St. Johns River’s wetlands remove an estimated 188,000 metric tons of nitrogen and almost 2,400 metric tons of phosphorus per year.
The river’s wetlands also provide $3 billion worth of flood prevention, with an average decrease in residential property value of $15,156 from being in a flood zone.
Nitrogen removal using nutrient trading program costs values the river’s wetlands at $3.3 billion to $21.7 billion each year, the study concludes. For phosphorus removal using trading programs, the value is $360 million dollars per year.
The yearly value of surface water used in the river’s basin (in 2010 dollars) was about $70 million, the researchers found, while the value of groundwater used was greater than $420 million.
“An awful lot of the rationale for doing this kind of study is just to get people to appreciate how much is being done for them without any particular expense on their side,” Hackney said. “The natural world does things for us that are actually worth dollars.”
Related:           The St. Johns River is worth billions, study says        First Coast News
St. Johns River economic study :
http://floridaswater.com/stjohnsriver/pdfs/St._Johns_River_Economic_Study.pdf

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Wild Side: Big birds back from verge of extinction
Pierce County Herald  - by Dan Wilcox
March 6, 2015
We really enjoyed bird watching in Florida this winter. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a checklist of 255 species of birds observed in the Cedar Keys and Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuges. During our stay in that area this winter we saw 57 species of birds.
Black and white tuxedo-clad American oystercatchers patrolled the oyster bars at low tide probing for crabs with their big orange bills. Similarly colored black skimmers flew along with their large orange and black bills zipping through the water catching minnows. Tri-colored herons danced in the shallows chasing fish. Clapper rails hidden in the salt marsh ‘zeeped’ loudly in the evening. They occasionally appeared out in the open swimming in the tidal creeks.
Flocks of white ibis, white pelicans, brown pelicans, and wood storks flew by on missions to different parts of the coast seeking food, roosting places and shelter from the wind. Ospreys and bald eagles perched on big nests in tall cypress trees along the Lower Suwannee River and soared over the area searching for fish.
Populations of bald eagles, ospreys, peregrine falcons, and brown pelicans were devastated by the organochlorine chemical DDT that caused the birds to lay thin-shelled eggs that broke during incubation. Rachael Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring” carefully documented how DDT entered the food chain, accumulated in the fatty tissues of animals including human beings, causing cancer and genetic damage. This led to banning use of DDT in the U.S. on June 14, 1972. The DDT ban is considered one of the first major successes in the modern environmental movement.
Osprey, peregrine falcon, brown pelican, and bald eagle numbers have soared since the DDT ban. Peregrine falcon, brown pelican and bald eagle populations recovered sufficiently that they were removed from the endangered and threatened species list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1999, 2009 and August 2007, respectively.
Wood storks are big awkward-looking wading birds three-and-a-half-feet tall with a five-foot wingspan. They have a heavy curved bill on a bald head and white plumage with a short black tail and black primary feathers on their wings.
Of the 17 species of storks world-wide, the wood stork is the only species found in the U.S.  Wood storks escaped the plume hunters who killed thousands of egrets for ladies hats in the late 1800s because the storks lacked the egrets’ fancy breeding plumes. Although wood storks once had detectable concentrations of DDT in their tissues, they didn’t suffer population declines due to eggshell thinning.
Wood storks are wading birds that prey on frogs, snakes, tadpoles and insects in freshwater wetlands. They are especially adapted to prey on minnows in shallow murky water. They wade along, swinging their opened bill through the water.  When a fish is touched, the bill snaps shut on the fish in about 25 milliseconds, one of the fastest reflex actions in vertebrates.
Once a fish is caught, the stork raises its head and gulps the fish. They stir the water and vegetation with their feet to flush out fish. Because a pair of wood storks needs to eat more than 400 pounds of food during the breeding season to sustain them and fledge their young, they require shallow drying wetlands where food is abundant.
Wetland drainage and diversion of water from the Everglades and elsewhere in Florida disrupted the seasonal timing of water flow and the availability of suitable feeding habitat for wood storks. Although they can soar on thermals and fly as much as 80 miles away from their roosting colonies to feed, habitat loss led to reduced reproductive success and population size. The wood stork population in the U.S. declined from 40,000 nesting pairs in the 1930s to about 5,000 nesting pairs in the 1970s. The wood stork was listed as an endangered species in March 1984.
Wood storks made a remarkable resurgence by expanding their territory from south Florida, establishing nesting colonies in northern Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi. Despite severe habitat decline in south Florida, today there still about 9,000 breeding adults. Many wood storks are living in restored wetlands in their expanded range. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service changed the wood stork status from an endangered to a threatened species in June last year.
Watching big birds soaring in the sky is always inspiring. Bringing back bird populations from the edge of extinction takes extraordinary effort. We should do what we can to protect birds and their habitats so that we can continue to be inspired by their graceful flights.

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Florida water board ignores pleas to discuss U.S. Sugar land deal
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton
March 5, 2015
A deal that would allow the South Florida Water Management District to purchase U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee to store water is not on the agenda of the board’s monthly meeting next week but there will be a discussion about the obstacles facing the district in trying to move large amounts of water - like those that could be stored on the land.
The district has not publicly announced whether it intends to purchase the 46,800 acres from U.S. Sugar - estimated to cost as much as $500 million. At its board meeting last month, several dozen environmental activists from the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, Audubon Society, Everglades Foundation and Martin County Conservation Alliance begged the board to buy land and urged the district to put the land deal on its agenda for its March meeting.
Environmental groups, spearheaded by the Everglades Foundation, say the district could use the 46,800 acres to store water, which would prevent harmful discharges of water from the lake into the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River that are necessary when the lake levels become too high. The land would likely cost the district between $350 and $500 million. The option to purchase the land expires in October.
In response to criticism from environmentalists, board member Jim Moran told the audience that “it’s not as simple as buying land and moving water south.”
Moran urged those pushing the deal to review a report by the district’s chief engineer, Jeff Kivett, about constraints on the existing water system, including pumps, canals and other structures that are not capable of moving large volumes of water south.
“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,” Moran said.
The agenda for the board’s March 12 meeting includes a presentation by Kivett on those constraints. The public will be allowed to comment.

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House passes water bill opposed by environmentalists
Gainesville.com - by Zac Anderson, Halifax Media Services
March 5, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — Water policy legislation favored by business interests and opposed by environmental advocates cleared the Florida House Thursday with bipartisan support. But a parallel effort in the Senate looks much different and it is unclear if the two chambers can reach agreement.
The water bill is a top priority for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, an agribusiness owner who has repeatedly talked about his desire to leave a legacy of tackling water quality and supply issues.
“You have to have some place to start,” Crisafulli said after the debate. “This is a good place for us to start.”
Many House Democrats echoed those statements and most voted for the legislation, which passed 106-9.
Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said he supports the bill because it has “positive aspects for our water quality and our environment.”
But House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said the complex legislation was rushed through the process and many members did not have enough time to study the bill to understand what it really does.
“It’s a bad bill,” Pafford said.
The legislation deals with pollution in freshwater springs and the Everglades and also includes changes to water-use permitting and how water supply issues are coordinated in Central Florida.
Supporters highlighted the emphasis on creating springs clean-up plans. Every priority spring must have a plan by 2018.
But environmental groups say the springs protections are weak, there are no water conservation strategies in the bill and that the legislation actually backslides on Everglades clean-up by eliminating one regulatory scheme in favor of another.
“The water quality stuff is good for ag, it’s good for developers, but it’s not good for people who genuinely want accountability,” said Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen.
Environmental groups favor a less comprehensive Senate bill that mostly focuses on springs protection. Crisafulli said he hasn’t talked with Senate leaders about finding common ground on the legislation yet.
“We’re certainly in the House focused on a comprehensive piece of water policy that we can pass out of both chambers by the end of session,” he said.
Related:           House Passes Bill to Clean, Protect Florida's Water  WCTV
Florida House passes comprehensive water policy bill           Branford News
Fla. House passes bill backing clean water     St. Augustine Record
Over environmental concerns, Florida House passes water bill          Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Houses passes water bill by wide margin; dismaying environmentalists        Bradenton Herald
Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton drafts Amendment 1 legislation that ...           Bradenton Herald
Fla. House Passes Water Resources Bill, Despite Criticism   Law360 (subscription)
House water bill passes as critics hope for better Senate legislation  SaintPetersBlog (blog)

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Seminole Tribe’s cattle operation protects Florida wildlife
Columbia Daily Herlad - by Donna Gehrke-White, Sun Sentinel
March 5, 2015
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — As development eats away at Florida’s untamed lands, wild animals have found an ally in the Seminole Tribe.The tribe’s 36,000-acre cattle operation on the Brighton Reservation, north of Lake Okeechobee, is an important pathway for migrating wildlife including panthers, bobcats, bears, deer, wild hogs and turkeys. So is the even larger Big Cypress reservation, which covers 52,000 acres in southwest Florida but has fewer cattle.The Seminoles have increased efforts in recent years to preserve this habitat, by ensuring cleaner water and by rooting out invasive species, helping wildlife to move freely between public preserves that abut the reservation.Without the Seminoles’ safe haven in between, the animals would be trapped.“Florida’s working farms and ranches are a critical component of Florida’s Wildlife Corridor, and their connections with natural lands and waters help protect our wildlife and watersheds,” state Agriculture Commissioner Adam H. Putnam said in an email.The tribe, headquartered in Hollywood, operates the nation’s fifth-largest cattle operation with 45,000 acres in Florida and Georgia. Say Seminoles, and most people think of casinos. But the tribe in 2013 bought a Georgia purebred Brangus cattle spread as part of an attempt to diversify its business interests.Gambling still generates 90 percent of the tribe’s revenue, but the Seminoles are expanding their cattle operations as well as stakes in citrus, construction and beverage production.About a third of the cattle are owned and managed by 67 tribal members and their families, who participate in a co-op program. The rest of the herd is managed by the tribe on behalf of its 4,000 members.As ranchers, the Seminoles “are incredibly important stewards of the land,” conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt said by cellphone recently as she hiked across Seminole land.She joined photographer Carlton Ward Jr. and biologist Joe Guthrie in hiking a 1,000-mile wildlife corridor stretching from Everglades National Park to the Okeefenokee Swamp at the Georgia border.The Seminoles’ Brighton Reservation is part of the corridor. Such public-private partnerships are crucial to Florida’s wildlife being able to roam for hundreds of miles, said Alex Sink, a former Florida chief financial officer and gubernatorial candidate who’s on the board of the Florida Wildlife Federation.The state can’t buy all of the land needed to ensure that wildlife has enough habitat to survive — even with the passage of last fall’s Florida Amendment 1, which earmarks $1 billion a year to conservation efforts for the next 20 years, Sink said.The Seminoles see wildlife — and their cattle — as part of their heritage, said Alex Johns, the tribe’s natural resource director. “It’s part of who we are.”“The tribe has always made it a part of their way of life to take care of the land,” Seminole Tribe President Tony Sanchez said in an interview. “Being in the woods was always part of how we grew up. We had to pay respect to our surroundings.”So far, the Seminoles’ land restoration efforts appear to be helping both cattle and wildlife, Johns said.The Seminoles, for example, are trying to root out invasive species that would take over natural prairie grasses, Johns said. The tribe conducts controlled burns of prairies to ensure vegetation stays healthy in pastures. Both efforts help produce fresh cattle forage that wild animals also eat and use for nests.The tribe also ensures that water quality on its land meets state standards, though, as a sovereign nation, it is required only to meet federal law, Johns said.Recent water improvement efforts appear to have encouraged some wildlife to return, Johns said. Wood storks and brown pelicans have been stopping at the reservation’s water spots. “We didn’t use to see that,” he said.He pointed out an alligator, brown pelican, wood stork and osprey during a recent drive on the tribe’s cattle spread on the Brighton Reservation.The Seminoles are good neighbors — and good land stewards, said Ron Bergeron, a southwest Broward developer, road builder and trash hauler who also is a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation commissioner.Bergeron’s 8,000 acres border the tribe’s Big Cypress reservation and also lie in the wildlife corridor.His ranch, called Green Glades West, “protects some of the best wildlife habitat in the state where both bears and panthers thrive,” according to the book “Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition.”Bergeron’s ranch “is one of the wildest and most natural properties I have experienced in Florida,” wildlife corridor photographer Ward said in an interview.Bergeron — who goes by the nickname “Alligator Ron” — said his land has been untouched for hundreds of years and will remain so. Its prairies are good for cattle grazing while allowing wildlife to coexist, he said.Hundreds of deer, bears, wild hogs, alligators, turkeys, bobcats, panthers, eagles and hawks call the ranch home, Bergeron said.Every year he compiles a book of wild birds and animals photographed on his ranch, from a sleeping panther to a bear strolling into a prairie to join a trotting wild hog.“It’s totally natural — just like God made it,” Bergeron said.

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Supporting sugar land purchase for water storage
News-Press.com
March 5, 2015
As state legislators focus on finding all the necessary funding for current, critical water storage projects, we urge them and Gov. Rick Scott not to ignore a significant land purchase, which could increase that storage even further and route harmful water from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades.
But elected leaders need to act quickly as an October deadline could turn this land from what is now an affordable purchase – thanks to the passing of Amendment 1 last year – into an environmental pipe dream.
There are approximately 47,000 acres available — currently owned by U.S. Sugar Corp. and just south of Lake O – for the purchase price of $350 million. Yes, the price is high. But based on an agreement set up in 2010 when the South Florida Water Management District spent $197 million for 26,800 U.S. Sugar acres, the option on the current land purchase expires Oct. 12. If the state wants it after that, it will have to purchase an additional 106,000 acres of sugar land for an eye-popping amount extending over $1 billion.
We can afford the land because of Florida voters, who decided it was better to use money from existing document stamp taxes on the environment. On July 1, that fund will generate $750 million that can be applied to the purchase price.
What do we get. We get enough water storage and treatment space to lower Lake O by a foot and keep harmful nutrients that are devastating the fishing, boating and tourism industries from flowing into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuary. Because of the wet winter, the Army Corp of Engineers has increased freshwater discharges by 22 percent into the lake, further harming our waterways.
This project would not only store the water but also treat it and then eventually send it south to the Everglades where it is needed.
The Florida Wildlife Federation, other environmental groups, as well as two opinion pieces on page A17 and a recent University of Florida study support the purchase.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, does not. He believes a more rational approach is to stop harmful waters from flowing into Lake O from the north. The problem with that reasoning is enough harmful water is already in the lake that any release leads to the demise of marine life.
The Caloosahatchee reservoir project (C-43), which has over $18 million in funding dedicated to it, is another important water storage area, but is not nearly enough to make any real significant impact without adding to our water storage needs that the 47,000 acres can provide. Scott has committed $5 billion to Everglades restoration, to C-43 and to C-44 (St. Lucie). Now, he needs to be a voice to steer funding to the land now available before it is too late.

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U.S. Army Corps of engineers to release more Lake Okeechobee water east
WFLX.com - by Rachel Leigh, Content Manager
March 5, 2015
WFLX) - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will increase discharges from Lake Okeechobee, beginning Friday.
"Heavy rains in the past week have caused the lake to rise," Lt. Col. Tom Greco, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida said in a news release. "Increasing flows out of the lake will help increase storage for wet season."
Many concerned citizens and environmentalists say the discharges harm the environment and adversely affect marine life.
They're pushing lawmakers to pass and fund plans to send the water south to the Everglades. “We continue to work to move as much water south as possible,” said Greco. “However, with the flows into the lake increasing over the past week, we have to use all available options within the system.”
Gov. Rick Scott has released a statement in the past saying that he's committed to moving the water south, away from the Treasure Coast.

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US Sugar land buy a tough sell among lawmakers
Highlands Today - The News Service of Florida
March 5, 2015
TALLAHASSEE – A Senate-commissioned study could give hope to people who want the state to use a large chunk of voter-approved money for water and land projects to buy U.S. Sugar land in the Everglades before an October deadline. Yet there remains a bitter taste among legislative leaders about completing a deal that was worked out by former Gov. Charlie Crist. And opponents of the sugar-land purchase, including a coalition that counts U.S. Sugar as a member, contend the University of Florida’s Water Institute study simply highlights the need for the state to speed up completion of existing reservoir projects. The release of the university study comes as the regular 60-day session begins and as the House is set Wednesday to take up what environmentalists say is a business-friendly approach to creating a new statewide water policy. Lawmakers also are working to implement a recently passed constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 1, which lays out for 20 years an increase in funding for land and water preservation. That has spurred environmental groups to increase the pressure on completing the estimated $350 million U.S. Sugar purchase. But legislative leaders said Tuesday they don’t want to rush into the U.S. Sugar deal or any other large land purchases. “There are a lot more significant issues right now,” said Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Chairman Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who is helping lead Senate water-related efforts this session. “Life is going to change in five years. I don’t want us to be guilty of trying to do everything for everybody. We need to spread this out.” House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, also remains solidly in the camp that favors maintaining existing state lands over quick purchases. “Buying up land we cannot care for, that falls into disrepair or becomes a breeding ground for harmful invasive species, is not a legacy I am interested in leaving,” Crisafulli said while addressing the House on Tuesday. “If we truly want to honor our beautiful state, then we should spend these early years making sure we can maintain the 5.3 million acres of conservation lands we already own.” Crisafulli told reporters later that not all land buying is off the table, but the focus of the House will be to maintain state-owned lands and waterways. The University of Florida study, released Monday, says lawmakers should consider accelerating funding to complete needed reservoirs east and west of Lake Okeechobee, build additional water storage and treatment north and south of the lake, create deep wells to reduce the flow of polluted water from the lake and readjust scheduled releases from the lake to the estuaries east and west. Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who was able to push through a major funding bill last year aimed at cleaning South Florida waterways, said Tuesday he agrees with the study’s authors in urging lawmakers to “consider” all options to improve the water and southern flow, including the U.S. Sugar land deal. House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, also said he believes there remains time for Republican leaders to alter their view on the U.S. Sugar deal. But support isn’t coming from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Putnam said Tuesday that while he hasn’t had a chance to review the entire 148-page university study, what he’s seen backs his belief that the state needs to complete reservoirs north and south of the lake, but those areas don’t require the U.S. Sugar land. “I was opposed to the purchase of the sugar land under Gov. Crist,” Putnam said. “It’s the wrong land for a central flow-way. It’s not the best use of dollars for Everglades restoration.” The study’s release was made as lawmakers are starting to divvy up a projected $757 million in next year’s budget for the state’s land and water needs, more than $200 million above what lawmakers allocated for such uses in the current year. The Everglades Foundation said the university study confirms its belief that more water storage is needed south of the lake, which it says should include the use of the Amendment 1 dollars to purchase the U.S. Sugar land. The 2010 deal would require the state to purchase 46,800 acres, of which 26,100 acres would be used for construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir. “This reinforces the position the foundation has been advocating, and the foundation encourages the Legislature and the governor to act on the land purchase option now,” foundation Chief Executive Officer Eric Eikenberg said in a release. The deal approved in 2010, must be completed by Oct. 12 or Florida would have to buy an additional 157,000 acres to get the land for the reservoir. Meanwhile, the Florida Sugar Farmers, an agricultural coalition comprised of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp., contend the study indicates the need to complete already approved and funded water-management infrastructure projects within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan framework. “Like the University of Florida, we have long advocated existing, shovel-ready projects within the CERP framework. In the report, researchers state that expansive gravity-driven wet flow-way through the Everglades is neither feasible, nor able to provide maximal benefits to the estuaries,” Brian Hughes, spokesman for Florida Sugar Farmers, said in a release. The complicated task of shifting the flow of water from the lake, which scientists have long tried to tackle without available funds, requires working with an area crisscrossed with decades of man-made flood-control projects that have redirected water for an ecosystem similar in size to New Jersey covered with agricultural lands and an ever-expanding population. “In the system’s pre-engineered state, during high water events, the vast majority of water coming into Lake Okeechobee overflowed the southern rim of the lake and was carried south into the Everglades as sheet flow,” the study said. “However, urban and suburban development along the eastern and western margins of the historic Everglades, and conversion of marsh land south of Lake Okeechobee into agricultural production in what is now the Everglades Agricultural Area, have reduced the Everglades to approximately one half of its original size.” The study was commissioned by the Florida Senate last year to offer options to reduce freshwater flows from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries by sending more water south to the Everglades. The study notes that Florida is far behind its need to create about 1 million acre-feet of water storage north and south of the lake, 400,000 acre-feet to the west within the Caloosahatchee River watershed and 200,000 acre-feet to the east for the St. Lucie watershed. So far, only one surface reservoir is being built for the St. Lucie estuary, and it totals 40,000 acre-feet. The Caloosahatchee watershed is only at the design stage for a 170,000 acre-feet reservoir, while no state or federal money has been appropriated. As for the need for storage north and south of the land, four shallow storage areas, totaling 168,000 acre-feet, are planned, all south of the lake. Three of the reservoirs are scheduled to be completed by 2018.

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Water policy flows easily from Florida House
SouthEast AgNet – by Jim Turner
March 5, 2015
A plan that would make changes to the management of the state’s natural springs and address drinking-water issues across Central Florida and the flow of pollution in and out of Lake Okeechobee was approved Thursday by the House on the third day of the legislative session.
The proposal (HB 7003), which has backing from the state’s agriculture industry and influential business groups, must still get through the Senate, whose members have their own ideas about changing the state’s water policies to meet the demands of a newly approved constitutional amendment about land and water conservation.
Environmentalists and a number of Democrats are pinning their hopes on the Senate blocking many of the House’s proposals.
The bill is a priority of House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and was the first measure approved by the House after the session started Tuesday.
“This is a foundational place for us to begin on this bill,” Crisafulli, whose family owns agricultural land, told reporters after the vote. “We’re going to continue to communicate with our Senate partners on it. But at the end of the day, we’re very comfortable where we are starting.”
The chamber spent less than 40 minutes Thursday debating the bill before members voted 106-9 to approve it.
House State Affairs Chairman Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers Republican who has spearheaded the bill, acknowledged his proposal “is a broad policy framework” compared to the Senate’s effort (SB 918), which is more project-focused.
“They’re not necessarily in conflict, they can be potentially complementary,” Caldwell said. “We’re going to have to work through those issues just like you do on every big issue.”
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam issued a release after the vote praising the House bill for offering “a comprehensive, long-term and flexible approach to protecting the supply and quality of our water now and in the future.”
The House policy changes would impose what are known as “best management practices” for natural springs, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. Also, water-management districts would be directed to implement a water-management plan across Central Florida.
Environmentalists contend that “best management practices” are simply guidelines that fail to mandate needed improvements.
The Senate version, which closely mirrors a proposal the chamber considered in 2014, is heavily focused on protecting the state’s natural springs. It also would establish a method to prioritize various water projects and create a non-motorized trail network, which is backed by Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.
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.
Opponents noted the House plan also doesn’t address the declining status of the dike around Lake Okeechobee or the Panhandle’s Apalachicola Bay, which continues to be enmeshed in a legal battle between Florida, Georgia and Alabama over upstream waters.
The House bill has backing from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida.
Associated Industries opposed a Senate proposal last year. Brewster Bevis, senior vice president of AIF, said the business group continues to have concerns that the Senate measure needs a more “comprehensive approach.”
“I would encourage the Senate to broaden their bill, to include South Florida, to include the Central Florida water initiative and not just simply focus on the springs issues,” Bevis said.
Meanwhile, Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, a lobbyist on environmental issues, said the House bill would reduce the power of the state’s water management districts and shift oversight of many water issues from the Department of Environmental Protection to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is Putnam’s agency.
“They have admitted that a different bill is likely to come back from the Senate,” Draper said. “So it’s our job to get over there in the Senate and improve the shortcomings of the House bill.”
In debate, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said the measure provides a “20-year outlook, proactively addressing springs challenges today.” And Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, said the proposal provides an “approach based upon experience and science” to address pollution in state waters.
Yet in opposing the measure, House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, said he’d prefer legislation that directs money from the constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 1, to conserve land and water and questioned the speed in which the bill was rushed to the floor.
“There is very little conservation in (HB) 7003, there’s very little land discussion,” Pafford said. “We’re talking comprehensive water fixes, couldn’t they have taken more time?”
Pafford, however, was in the minority among even his own party, with many Democrats saying they still had questions about the proposal but voted to support it.
Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed, D-Deerfield Beach, noted the bill doesn’t include financial estimates and said in voting for the measure she hoped that “somewhere along the way we’ll get to see that.”
Related:           House Passes Bill to Clean, Protect Florida's Water  WCTV
Florida House passes comprehensive water policy bill           Branford News
Fla. House passes bill backing clean water     St. Augustine Record
Over environmental concerns, Florida House passes water bill          Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Houses passes water bill by wide margin; dismaying environmentalists        Bradenton Herald
Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton drafts Amendment 1 legislation that ...           Bradenton Herald
Fla. House Passes Water Resources Bill, Despite Criticism   Law360 (subscription)
House water bill passes as critics hope for better Senate legislation  SaintPetersBlog (blog)

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A1 reservoir
ON-OFF-ON again -

costing a fortune.



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Everglades Trust's bully-boy tactics only draw bad blood
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
March 4, 2015
No good has come of the Everglades Trust's six-figure TV, radio and online campaign to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land.
If you saw the counter-attacking ad Monday released by the Associated Industries of Florida's H2O Coalition, you know what I'm talking about.
By muscling up and demanding the first and largest share of Amendment 1 cash, the Trust has created a new team sport. 
Your environmental priorities against my environmental priorities. Call it a new version of tug of war.
Floridians are lining up behind the one that most affects them personally.
"What makes their rivers any needier than my springs?" asks Merri Goodall of Leon County.
"Where is the money to repair oyster beds? We have things we need, too," Lenny Clovis of Apalachicola told me.
It's unhealthy and doesn't feel right for Florida, this competition -- particularly over an issue that drew 73 percent of the voters in November. 
AIF's H2O Coalition is simply reacting to the Everglades Trust, reminding lawmakers that Amendment 1 is for more than just South Florida.
Think for a minute how bad this is. Think how divisive an issue it has been already, and the Legislature hasn't been in session for more than 24 hours.
We're already looking at the start of a kind of environmental civil war. A war of words and ill feeling between regions fighting for a fairer share of the Amendment 1 pie. And suddenly the Everglades -- whose stewardship should be the responsibility of all Floridians -- could turn up as the enemy. Resented. Something just for South Florida. Something they want over what we want.
At fair market value the U.S. Sugar land now will cost $500 million for 46,800 acres. That's more than two-thirds of the first year's 33 percent doc stamp take.
But it isn't just the money. It's the University of Florida Water Institute report, commissioned in 2014 by the Florida Legislature. 
If you listen to the Everglades Foundation, the report proves the sugar land buy is just the ticket: “The report ... confirms much of what the Everglades Foundation has been saying for years -- more storage is needed south of Lake Okeechobee, storage south of the lake is more effective ..." says Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg.
But, wait a minute.
In the first place, the Everglades Foundation has been saying no such thing "for years."
Taxpayers had already shelled out almost $300 million of the $800 million A-1 reservoir price tag when then-Gov. Charlie Crist -- under the Everglades Foundation's watchful eye and working with the South Florida Water Management District -- shut reservoir construction down in 2008. Had the shutdown never happened, the reservoir would have been completed in late 2010 and would have been ready to store 62 billion gallons of water -- the equivalent of more than 5 million residential swimming pools.
Imagine how that might have helped during the disastrous deluges of spring and summer 2013. But the A-1 reservoir was dismantled -- the idea being, with the U.S. Sugar land, it would no longer be needed. Again -- not only was the Everglades Foundation on board with the dismantling, it had encouraged it.
On March 31, 2010,  Federal District Court Judge Federico Moreno ordered construction to resume. That day, Sunshine State News interviewed Mike Collins, former SFWMD board member. 
"You know," Collins said, "the judge's ruling makes me feel good for Chip Merriam, a Water Management District scientist who was fired -- that's right, fired -- for refusing to go along with the new baloney. All of a sudden the Everglades Foundation comes along, and after we built a plan with sound science and financial responsibility, they're making scientific decisions because a bunch of faux environmentalists gives them a lot of money ..."  Read the April 1, 2010 story for yourself.
In the second place, the UF water report I see must be different from the Foundation's. If it justifies Eikenberg's plan, it certainly escaped me.
Page 9 in the executive summary states categorically that a flowway would not be feasible. 
The top two recommendations are 1) build the projects already planned and 2) store and treat more water NORTH of the lake. There is already planned storage and treatment SOUTH of the lake in the Restoration Strategies Gov. Scott signed last year. I'm talking about another $880 million in projects that will enable more water to be sent south. 
Both Lt. Col. Tom Greco of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bob Johnson of Everglades National Park have said publicly that even when all this is built, you plain can't -- that's cannot -- send SOUTH more than an additional 235,000 acre-feet of water total due to all the constraints listed in the Kivett report.
My point here is, Eikenberg and the Foundation-Coalition-Trust are still twisting reality like a hairstylist with a French braid. Hopefully, legislators will read the 143-page report for themselves, listen to interpretations from the authors and other scientists and engineers, then make up their own minds.
 Floridians don't need to be taking sides in a cause meant to preserve our common treasures.

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Land buy critical for Everglades restoration
News-Press.com - Ray Judah, Former Lee County Commissioner
March 4, 2015
During the 2015 Florida legislative session, the legislature has a unique and unprecedented opportunity to restore the Florida Everglades and coastal estuaries on the west and east coast of south Florida.
While Governor Scott and key legislative leaders including Senator Joe Negron (R), Senate Appropriations Committee, Representative Steve Crisafulli (R), Speaker of the House and Representative Matt Caldwell (R), House Appropriations Committee continue to support the expenditure of billions of dollars of taxpayers money under the current capital improvement program of water resource projects to the west and east of Lake Okeechobee, there is a critical need to purchase additional land south of the lake for storage, treatment and conveyance of water to the Everglades.
Even with the proposed short and long term fix to enhance the quantity and quality of water in the Lake Okeechobee watershed, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP) of reservoirs and storm water treatment areas, will provide some storage and enhance minimum flows, but have a negligible impact on maximum flows from Lake Okeechobee. In fact, a review of the water budget for Lake Okeechobee in terms of rainfall, inflow and evaporation requires a minimum of one million acre feet or approximately 325 billion gallons of water storage in addition to the storage capacity to be constructed under CERP to properly handle maximum flows from the lake.
In order to move water south to rehydrate the Everglades, recharge the Biscayne aquifer and stop the excessive releases of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to downstream coastal estuaries, the legislature needs to exercise the existing option with U.S. Sugar Corporation to purchase approximately 46,000 acres south of the lake prior to the end of the 2015 legislative session. Legislative appropriation of the funds by May 1, 2015 is of paramount importance to purchase the lands by the Oct. 12, 2015 deadline.
Funding is available through the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative (Amendment 1), approved by over 75 percent of the voters, which specifically 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”. Purchase of the lands would not obviate funds needed for springs and coastal beach protection.
There will be detractors who insist that there are “constraints” to moving water south. For the record, the only constraint is the vast expanse of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee, including approximately 440,000 acres of sugar cane fields, that severs the hydrological connection between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
Low lying areas in the EAA caused by subsidence of the substrate, due to decades of burning and accelerated oxidation of the underlying peat and muck, would be ideal as storage reservoirs in a flow-way that would function in the same manner as the chain of lakes in the Kissimmee River Basin. Furthermore, any pooling of water in the absence of gravitational flow to the south can be pumped in the same manner that pumps redistribute water for agriculture in the EAA today.
Potential seepage from a flow-way in the EAA can be managed in a variety of different ways including the use of seepage cut off walls and seepage canals to avoid damage to the agricultural fields.
A meandering flow-way with wetland vegetation would effectively stabilize the rate of surface water flow to the south and greatly enhance the quality of water in the Everglades. This would also reduce harmful discharge to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
Moving forward proactively to obtain the available land to secure the last piece of the puzzle to restore the Everglades and prevent further harm to our coastal estuaries would be the most cost effective and efficient solution for the public taxpayers.

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Legislators hesitate to buy U.S. Sugar-owned land in the Everglades
Jacksonville Business Journal – by Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
March 4, 2015
A Senate-commissioned study could give hope to people who want the state to use a large chunk of voter-approved money for water and land projects to buy U.S. Sugar land in the Everglades before an October deadline.
Yet there remains a bitter taste among legislative leaders about completing a deal that was worked out by former Gov. Charlie Crist.
And opponents of the sugar-land purchase, including a coalition that counts U.S. Sugar as a member, contend the University of Florida's Water Institute study simply highlights the need for the state to speed up completion of existing reservoir projects.
The release of the university study comes as the regular 60-day session begins and as the House is set Wednesday to take up what environmentalists say is a business-friendly approach to creating a new statewide water policy.
Lawmakers also are working to implement a recently passed constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 1, which lays out for 20 years an increase in funding for land and water preservation. That has spurred environmental groups to increase the pressure on completing the estimated $350 million U.S. Sugar purchase.
But legislative leaders said Tuesday they don't want to rush into the U.S. Sugar deal or any other large land purchases.
"There are a lot more significant issues right now," said Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Chairman Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican who is helping lead Senate water-related efforts this session. "Life is going to change in five years. I don't want us to be guilty of trying to do everything for everybody. We need to spread this out."
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, also remains solidly in the camp that favors maintaining existing state lands over quick purchases.
"Buying up land we cannot care for, that falls into disrepair or becomes a breeding ground for harmful invasive species, is not a legacy I am interested in leaving," Crisafulli said while addressing the House on Tuesday. "If we truly want to honor our beautiful state, then we should spend these early years making sure we can maintain the 5.3 million acres of conservation lands we already own."
Crisafulli told reporters later that not all land buying is off the table, but the focus of the House will be to maintain state-owned lands and waterways.
The University of Florida study, released Monday, says lawmakers should consider accelerating funding to complete needed reservoirs east and west of Lake Okeechobee, build additional water storage and treatment north and south of the lake, create deep wells to reduce the flow of polluted water from the lake and readjust scheduled releases from the lake to the estuaries east and west.
Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who was able to push through a major funding bill last year aimed at cleaning South Florida waterways, said Tuesday he agrees with the study's authors in urging lawmakers to "consider" all options to improve the water and southern flow, including the U.S. Sugar land deal.
House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, also said he believes there remains time for Republican leaders to alter their view on the U.S. Sugar deal.
But support isn't coming from Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Putnam said Tuesday that while he hasn't had a chance to review the entire 148-page university study, what he's seen backs his belief that the state needs to complete reservoirs north and south of the lake, but those areas don't require the U.S. Sugar land.
"I was opposed to the purchase of the sugar land under Gov. Crist," Putnam said. "It's the wrong land for a central flow-way. It's not the best use of dollars for Everglades restoration."
The study's release was made as lawmakers are starting to divvy up a projected $757 million in next year's budget for the state's land and water needs, more than $200 million above what lawmakers allocated for such uses in the current year.
The Everglades Foundation said the university study confirms its belief that more water storage is needed south of the lake, which it says should include the use of the Amendment 1 dollars to purchase the U.S. Sugar land. The 2010 deal would require the state to purchase 46,800 acres, of which 26,100 acres would be used for construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir.
"This reinforces the position the foundation has been advocating, and the foundation encourages the Legislature and the governor to act on the land purchase option now," foundation Chief Executive Officer Eric Eikenberg said in a release.
The deal approved in 2010, must be completed by Oct. 12 or Florida would have to buy an additional 157,000 acres to get the land for the reservoir.
Meanwhile, the Florida Sugar Farmers, an agricultural coalition comprised of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp., contend the study indicates the need to complete already approved and funded water-management infrastructure projects within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan framework.
"Like the University of Florida, we have long advocated existing, shovel-ready projects within the CERP framework. In the report, researchers state that expansive gravity-driven wet flow-way through the Everglades is neither feasible, nor able to provide maximal benefits to the estuaries," Brian Hughes, spokesman for Florida Sugar Farmers, said in a release.
The complicated task of shifting the flow of water from the lake, which scientists have long tried to tackle without available funds, requires working with an area crisscrossed with decades of man-made flood-control projects that have redirected water for an ecosystem similar in size to New Jersey covered with agricultural lands and an ever-expanding population.
"In the system's pre-engineered state, during high water events, the vast majority of water coming into Lake Okeechobee overflowed the southern rim of the lake and was carried south into the Everglades as sheet flow," the study said. "However, urban and suburban development along the eastern and western margins of the historic Everglades, and conversion of marsh land south of Lake Okeechobee into agricultural production in what is now the Everglades Agricultural Area, have reduced the Everglades to approximately one half of its original size."
The study was commissioned by the Florida Senate last year to offer options to reduce freshwater flows from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries by sending more water south to the Everglades.
The study notes that Florida is far behind its need to create about 1 million acre-feet of water storage north and south of the lake, 400,000 acre-feet to the west within the Caloosahatchee River watershed and 200,000 acre-feet to the east for the St. Lucie watershed.
So far, only one surface reservoir is being built for the St. Lucie estuary, and it totals 40,000 acre-feet. The Caloosahatchee watershed is only at the design stage for a 170,000 acre-feet reservoir, while no state or federal money has been appropriated.
As for the need for storage north and south of the land, four shallow storage areas, totaling 168,000 acre-feet, are planned, all south of the lake. Three of the reservoirs are scheduled to be completed by 2018.
Related:           UF study: Western route from Lake Okeechobee to Everglades ‘promising option' TCPalm.com

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Reservoir would protect estuaries and Everglades
News-Press.com – by Manley Fuller, President of the Florida Wildlife Federation and based in Tallahassee, FL
March 4, 2015
The great challenges faced in restoring the Everglades, top to bottom, are to store, treat and move water south into Everglades National Park without destroying Lake Okeechobee and reducing dramatically the deleterious discharges east and west to the coast’s estuaries.
Increased flows of clean water are wanted and needed south in Everglades National Park and for the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and Biscayne bays and the Keys. How can we provide them ?  By significantly increasing water storage capacity throughout the greater Everglades and, in particular, by expanding storage capacity south of the lake in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The state now has an option contract, negotiated and agreed to between former Gov. Charlie Crist and U.S. Sugar to buy land south of the lake; that option expires in October 2015. When U.S. Sugar signed the contract, it strongly and publicly advocated the state's purchase of its lands south of Lake Okeechobee to store, treat and flow water south. Exercising that critical purchase option now requires the strong support of Gov. Rick Scott, who already has called for spending $5 billion over the next 20 years on Everglades projects.
By an overwhelming 75 percent plurality Florida voters in November approved Amendment One, the text of which specifically called for buying lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Adding an EAA reservoir would provide a lot more flexibility in managing water in ways that are compatible with Florida’s environment and economy, much of which is nature-based. Initiating construction of the Caloosahatchee (C-43) and completing construction of the St. Lucie (C-44) reservoirs are critical in dealing with dry-season low water and drought and with high-water and flooding in the rainy season.
However, if we do not now provide additional storage capacity south of the Lake Okeechobee, then highly destructive discharges into the estuaries will continue. The Florida Wildlife Federation supports bonding Amendment One dollars as well as using other available funding sources to pay for the storage needed.
Florida Wildlife Federation, joined by a large number of allies, asked the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District to take actions necessary to facilitate and complete the EAA-land purchase. The board essentially responded with this: “Yes, we need more storage but we don’t have the money or political directive to do this. Go ask the Legislature and Governor to make it their 2015 priority.”
Now we’re asking Floridians to do exactly that: Contact Governor Scott, Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andrew Gardener, and your legislators. Ask them to support buying land in the EAA and to do it in this legislative session. The expiring option is the only option on the table to reduce the amount, frequency and duration of destructive water discharges like those that occurred in 2013. It is our best opportunity to save our Everglades habitats south of the Lake. Also, please remind them that when U.S. Sugar signed the contract, the corporation supported Florida’s purchase of these lands as critical for Everglades Restoration.
A poignant reminder of the urgency is that during this dry season in South Florida, the Corps of Engineers is already discharging Lake Okeechobee water into the estuaries, lest rising water levels in the Lake Okeechobee threaten the integrity of the dike when the wet season begins.
A major new reservoir in the EAA near the lake will give future water managers safer, less destructive choices than they have available today. Join us in reaching out to Governor Scott and the Legislature and in working together to make it happen and to protect public safety and Florida’s natural resources and legacy.

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Will Florida's legislature decide the fate of the Everglades ?
Christian Science Monitor - by Rowena Lindsay, Staff Writer
March 4, 2015
How to spend money allotted for conservation is becoming a surprisingly bipartisan issue in South Florida. Will the Everglades suffer as a result?
Last fall, voters in Florida approved Amendment 1, which designated one-third of real estate transaction taxes to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The money would ultimately fund conservation programs. As Florida Legislature’s annual session begins this week, so does the debate over how that money will be spent.
Environmental groups such as Everglades Trust, the Everglades Foundation and the Everglades Coalition are advocating for the district and state to allocate the money to buying 46,800 acres of land from U.S. Sugar Corp.
 
The conservationists want to use the land to build a reservoir in the agricultural region south of Lake Okeechobee that would replenish the drying Everglades National Park. This would be one step in the multi-million-dollar Everglades restoration plan, which also includes building a filtration system to clean pollution out of water before it runs into the Everglades.
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“This is not part of a wish list,” Julie Hill-Gabriel, director of Everglades policy for the National Audubon Society, told the Palm Beach Post. “This is part of a must-do list.”
However, lawmakers and representatives for the sugar industry are pushing back.
Many politicians, including Gov. Rick Scott, do not think that the state should be incurring more environmentally fragile land – as it already has more than it can handle. U.S. Sugar isn't pushing for the sale anymore either. 
Instead, opponents for the purchase want the allotted conservation money to be spent on protecting springs and on municipal water and sewer projects. And as for the restoration of the Everglades, they want the state to build the reservoir on existing publicly-owned land.
“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.
If the purchase goes through, it would be the time Florida purchased a large amount of land from U.S. Sugar Corp.
In 2010, then-governor Charlie Crist orchestrated a deal between the South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Sugar to buy 26,800 acres for 26,800 acres then and to postpone buying either an addition 46,800 acres until October 2015 or all 153,200 acres of the company’s property in 2020, according to the Sun-Sentinel. But, when Scott ran for office he opposed the U.S. Sugar deal.
In order for the land to be purchased before the October deadline the divided Legislature will need to approve the money before the session ends in May. 
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Full text of House
Speaker’s speech





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Crisafulli pushes overhaul of state water policy, testing; $500 million plus in tax cuts
Times/Herald – by Michael Van Sickler, Tallahassee Bureau
March 3, 2015
Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli stressed an overhaul of the state’s water policy, more than $500 million in tax cuts, and a revamp of the state’s student testing in his opening remarks to lawmakers on the 1st day of legislative session on Tuesday.
A soft-spoken 43-year-old Merritt Island Republican, Crisafulli oversees a House chamber with a commanding 81-39 GOP advantage over Democrats. But his manner is modest, and has been viewed by some as more accommodating than his predecessors.
“I’m not the Speaker of just the Republicans, I am the Speaker of the House,” Crisafulli said early in his remarks. “Every Member in this chamber has an important role to play in our work.
(Minoary Leader Rep. Mark) Pafford, I look forward to working with you, and I believe we can have a successful session.”
But make no mistake. Crisafulli’s agenda is a conservative one that is strikingly similar to prior years.
His main priority this session is passage of legislation that would overhaul the state’s water policy, which would include the removal of punitive measures on agribusinesses in exchange for enticements.
“Water is a fundamentally precious resource, and we should not wait for a crisis to tackle this very important, and complex issue,” Crisafulli said. “We must establish a long-term, comprehensive approach toward addressing our water challenges. It will take a combination of sound policy and smart investments to protect the health of our waterways and develop greater access to a clean and abundant water supply for our state. And, to be clear – we cannot solve all of Florida’s water challenges in a single session – this issue will require a sustained commitment from this Legislature for years to come.”
But the plan doesn’t include buying 46,800 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar at a fair market value in a deal that was first negotiated in 2008 by former Gov. Charlie Crist. But that option to buy the land expires in October. Environmentalists consider the land critical in the overall effort to clean up the Everglades.
Crisafulli also supports broadening the purpose of Amendment 1, which was overwhelmingly passed by voters in November, to include projects other than the purchasing of preservation land.
“Buying up land we cannot care for that falls into disrepair or becomes a breeding ground for harmful invasive species is not a legacy I am interested in leaving,” Crisafulli said. “If we truly want to honor our beautiful state, then we should spend these early years making sure we can maintain the 5.3 million acres of conservation lands we already own.”
Instead, Crisafulli will push that much of the Amendment 1 money, which is expected to be about $300 million to $500 million per year, be used for a series of wastewater projects and other agribusiness related projects.
Student testing will be one of the most “important topics” taken up by lawmakers this year, Crisafulli said. An adocate of testing, Crisafulli acknowledged “legitimate” concerns. In the coming weeks, he said the House will roll out an overhaul that will maintaing accountability but will increase transparency and flexibility for teachers, principals and school districts.
“Our reforms will recognize that the number one priority in education is to ensure that our schools are focused on student success,” he said.
Crisafulli was thrust into the House leadership position in 2012 when Chris Dorworth of Lake Mary lost reelection. But while his rise may have been unexpected, it’s in keeping with his lineage. A seventh generation Floridian who comes from a prominent agricultural family that helped settle Brevard County. (Doyle Carlton, who served as governor in the 1930s, is a cousin, while Vassar Carlton, a Florida chief justice in the 1970s, is his grandfather.)
His agribusiness background colors his perspective as a lawmaker. Vice president of his family’s cattle, citrus, real estate and construction business (he claimed $78,000 in income from his family’s business in 2013), Crisafulli emphasizes a business-friendly agenda that eliminates regulations.
He’s the 10th straight Republican male House speaker (not including Ray Sansom, who resigned) to lay out conservative, a small government agenda for Florida since Daniel Webster in 1997. That uninterrupted string of 18 years of Republican leadership of the House has led to an agenda that doesn’t differ from year to year.
Like the past two years, what was perhaps most notable about the speech from the speaker was what wasn’t mentioned: Medicaid expansion. The refusal by House Republicans the prior two years has cost the state billions and denied health coverage for hundreds of thousands.
“Last year, Republicans refused to even vote on issues like equal pay or Medicaid expansion, and the doors of opportunity remained shut for millions of Florida families,” the Florida Democratic Party said in a statement before Crisafulli spoke. “Meanwhile, the wealthiest corporations got millions in taxpayer handouts. Now, before the start of the 2015 legislative session, it looks like nothing will change.”
Like Weatherford, Crisafulli spoke of revamping the state’s pension system. A main priority with Weatherford, it’s been less so, at least so far, with Crisafulli. But in his remarks, Crisafulli vowed he’d continue to push for the same reforms.
“It’s an issue we can’t afford to ignore,” he said. “A pension crisis does exist, and it’s bankrupting cities and states and altering the deals many hardworking families were counting on for their retirements.”
Illinois is currently facing a pension crisis after years in which the Legislature didn’t fund the pension, It’s estimated to have a deficit of $111 billion with enough money to fund only 34 percent of its obligations. That’s not the case in Florida, which has enough money to fund more than 87 percent of its obligations.
Crisafulli’s speech was non-confrontational and put a happy face on his pro-business, small government views.
“Did you know that in 1845, our motto was actually ‘Let Us Alone?’ Today, it’s ‘Visit Florida!’,” Crisafulli said. “I am thankful we have turned away from the “Get off my lawn” state – and have partnered with Visit Florida to welcome people from all around the world to enjoy our Florida.
Still, Crisafulli and state leaders will raise the specter of Illinois often this session to bolster the case that traditional pensions are too risky and 401(k)-style management plans are more practical.
“Today’s Florida would surprise someone like my cousin Doyle Carlton, the Governor during the Great Depression,” he said. “He ran a state with 1.4 million people and a $30 million budget.
Although, he would be familiar with some of the problems we’ve faced recently – budget shortfalls, a citrus industry under attack from disease, and even...pension reform, he would be surprised by how far we’ve come.”

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Put water needs before political interests
PalmBeachPost - Point of View by Richard Grosso, Ft. Lauderdale, Professor of law — and director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Clinic — at the Shepard Broad Law Center of Nova Southeastern University
March 3, 2015
I disagree with Rep. Katie Edwards’ Feb. 21 Point of View, “Stay the course on Everglades projects,” and her opposition to exercise the state’s contractual option to buy 46,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land.
Decades of science have shown that storing large volumes of water south of Lake Okeechobee — in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) — is the only way to re-create the natural water-storage role this area played before we drained and decimated the Everglades. Her call to “stay the course,” with just the currently planned restoration projects, ignores the fact that the current lack of a major water-storage project has, for years, been the single greatest flaw in the existing restoration plan.
That flaw exists because of the power of U.S. Sugar and others in the industrial agricultural industry that have opposed restoring the water-storage function in the EAA in favor of the current approach — under which the public subsidizes the artificial drainage of their land and the cleanup of their pollution.
Edwards’ argument against buying this land for this critical water-storage need overstates the progress that has been made on pollution cleanup by existing projects; ignores the remaining, and massive, water-quantity needs; and fails to acknowledge that land — previously bought by the public — plays a dominant role in pollution cleanup.
It takes land to do these projects, and you usually need to buy that land to use it. The existing projects cited by Edwards will have only minimal impact on the crisis in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. Anything that is done — other than taking the water we now dump into the estuaries, storing it south of Lake O, and replenishing the Everglades with it — is window dressing.
That water must go somewhere other than the estuaries. It needs to go south — to become the water source for the Modified Water Deliveries Project that Edwards discussed.
As long as Florida politicians continue to put the desires of a small number of politically powerful interests over the future water-supply, flood-protection and ecosystem-restoration needs of South Floridians, the plan to restore the Everglades will be dangerously inadequate.

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Rising seas endanger several Everglades plants
NatureWorldNews - by Jenna Iacurci
March 3, 2015
Thanks to rising sea levels caused by climate change, nearly 60 plants in Everglades National Park are critically endangered, highlighting the need for stepped up conservation efforts.
The Everglades are the tropical wetlands in the southern region of Florida, and are home to about 760 plant species. Surprisingly, poaching is actually the biggest threat to most of these plants. Long ago, orchid collectors and attempts to drain the Everglades swamps ravaged the region. But now, as vegetation is still recovering, a new study has revealed another danger to coastal plants.
"Any of the species that have coastal distribution entirely or in part are going to be a priority in the face of imminent sea level rise," Jimi Sadle, a botanist at the park, told The Associated Press (AP).
The study found that 16 species may have already vanished from the park whereas other species have not yet fully recovered from previous damage. Some species of rare ferns and orchids are already believed to be extinct.
It has previously been revealed by the NOAA that US coasts will see month-long floods by 2050 as a result of climate change-related sea level rise, and now it seems that these rising waters are already taking their toll.
Earlier research found that one in four plants native to Florida is now extinct or endangered; however, just one rare plant in the Everglades park is on the Endangered Species List. Now, a new 10-year report by the Institute for Regional Conservation hopes to change that.
The researchers suggest that previous studies merely made a count of rare plants. This time around the team also identified the habitat of endangered species, which will help officials take a better approach for saving plants.
"Patterns pop out and can really show why we really need to pay attention to these parts of the park and these habitats," George Gann, the chief conservation strategist at the Institute for Regional Conservation who led the study, told the Miami Herald.
For the study, Gann and his colleagues examined 59 rare plants, finding that the most endangered species of plants are found in the interior of the park, rather than on the coast. Also, 56 percent of the rarest plant species are found in the hardwood hammocks in the Everglades, while pine rocklands come in second, housing 27 percent of the endangered flora.
Some plants actually moved to much safer spots on the endangered plants list, but concurrently others became more endangered.
While experts are mainly focused on declining plant populations in the Everglades, this research will also shed more light on the management of various plant habitats across southern Florida.
Gann presented the findings Monday at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Coral Gables.
Related:           Researchers: Rising seas threaten rare Everglades plants       The News-Press
 Rising Seas Threaten Everglades' Rare Plants: Study           Uncover California
60 Rare Plants Species in the Everglades are Endangered, New ...   Apex Tribune
Researchers: Rising Seas Threaten Rare Everglades Plants    WUSF News
Rising seas threaten rare Everglades plants, say researchers  WPTV.com
Study Shows Close To 60 Rare Plants In The Everglades Are ...      Tech Times
Nearly 60 rare plants endangered in Everglades National Park         Customs Today Newspaper
At least 60 Everglades plants are endangered, a new study says       SMN Weekly
Report: Rare plants in Everglades National Park are increasingly ...  Greenfield Daily Reporter

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Send in the drones
Miami Herald - by Douglas Hanks
March 3, 2015
Miami-Dade County wants to get into the drone business.
County commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to designate the Tamiami airport a “Drone and Robotic Hub” in order to attract businesses and non-profits focused on the unmanned aircraft.
The drone vote mostly amounts to a branding effort, said sponsor Juan C. Zapata, who represents the western district that includes the Miami Executive Airport (previously known as the Kendall-Tamiami Airport). Zapata’s resolution establishes a “West End Innovation District” in the western part of Miami-Dade.
Zapata said Miami-Dade College already is launching a drone training program out of its aviation school at the county-owned airport (though the drones themselves have to launch miles away from the runways). His legislation lays out the district as bounded by Southwest 112th Street to the north, Southwest 137th Avenue to the east, the CSX railroad tracks to the south and Southwest 157th Avenue to the west — an area that falls between the neighborhoods of the Hammocks and Country Walk.
The legislation directs the county’s tax-funded Beacon Council, an economic-development agency, to promote the district as an “innovation hub.”
“This designation has no cost,” Zapata said. “More than anything, it’s a marketing effort.”
Zapata said the area is close enough to the Everglades to provide plenty of uninhabited areas for low-flying aircraft. His proposal came up just days after a drone crashed into a Hialeah home, arriving through a bedroom window. Commissioner Rebeca Sosa pointed to the mishap as a cautionary tale.
“They break your windows, they turn your alarm on, your children get afraid,” Sosa said of drones buzzing residential areas. “I’m just bringing that up.”

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Session openers: Rick Scott touts enviro spending, Steve Crisafulli warns against land-buying
SaintPetersBlog - by Bruce Ritchie
March 3, 2015
House and Senate leaders touted water policy during opening speeches of the legislative session while Gov. Rick Scott again said he’s proposing more than required under Amendment 1.
And House Speaker Steve Crisafulli warned that he’s reluctant to support an increase in land-buying despite Amendment 1, the water and land conservation funding initiative approved by 75 percent of voters.
The 2015 Legislative Session began with the usual pomp and glad-handing but somewhat quieter than in recent years in the social protest department. Meanwhile, some Democrats said they want more for the environment than has been offered by Scott and Republican leaders.
Amendment 1 provides $757 million for water and land conservation in fiscal year 2015-16 and more than $20 billion over the next two decades.
Scott said his budget request provides $82 million more than required by Amendment 1. He is counting $50 million for water supply projects and $32 million for Keys wastewater plants that some environmentalists say shouldn’t count.
“The final thing we must do to out-compete the world is keep Florida beautiful,” Scott said. “Florida is an exceptional place — we have the economy and the opportunity to keep it that way.”
In response, the Florida Democratic Party issued a statement describing what they called Scott and the GOP’s “toxic environmental record.”
Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, delivered the first of the opening speeches by saying the House on Wednesday will vote on HB 7003, a water policy bill shepherded by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres and chairman of the House State Affairs Committee.
“We cannot solve Florida’s water challenges in one session,” Crisafulli said. “This issue will take a sustained commitment from this Legislature for years to come.”
And while saying the intention of Amendment 1 is good, he said there is more to stewardship than buying more land.
“Buying up land that we cannot care for, that falls into disrepair or becomes a breeding ground for harmful invasive species is not a legacy that I am interested in leaving,” Crisafulli said.
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, echoed Crisafulli in stressing the need for transparency in how the Amendment 1 money is spent and about the need to address water policy and land management. Gardiner has been a proponent of spending money on bike trails including the Coast-to-Coast Connector across Central Florida.
“It’s not just the water — it’s the maintaining of these lands,” Gardiner said. “It’s the access for the public to those lands … as well as ecotourism, which I have talked about with bike trails.”
Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach, the House Democratic leader, called for a return to the historic $300 million spending or more on the Florida Forever land-buying program, which is three times more than Scott is requesting.
“It (Amendment 1) specifically said the people wanted more dollars for consideration and protection of land and water,” Pafford said. “I don’t think we’re there yet. I don’t want any dollars supplanted. That’s what seems to be happening right now.”
Scott’s budget includes $156 million for what his office has labeled as continuing environmental programs.
Meanwhile, organizers of the “Awake the State” rally held each year at the Capitol since 2011 instead held a press conference inside the Capitol to call for a progressive agenda that includes more solar energy.
“What we say is if you’re not mad you’re not paying attention,” said Susan Glickman, representing the Floridians for Solar Choice proposed constitutional amendment.

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UF report: Basin runoff hurting estuaries more than Lake Okeechobee releases
FL NewsZap - by Eric Kopp, Okeechobee News
March 3, 2015
OKEECHOBEE — A University of Florida Water Institute report delves deeply into moving fresh water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, and concerns that lake releases to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee waterways have created negative ecological and impacts.
The report, released Monday, March 2, was authorized by the 2014 Florida Senate.
According to the report, moving water south of the lake to the Everglades and providing relief to the estuaries can be accomplished with water storage and treatment north and south of the lake.
Existing and currently authorized storage and treatment projects are insufficient to achieve these goals,” states the report. “The path forward requires significant long-term investment in the infrastructure of the South Florida hydrologic system.”
In the past years, water releases from Lake Okeechobee have been blamed by residents of Florida’s east and west coasts for causing algal blooms and fish kills. While lake releases must shoulder some of the blame, the report indicates the biggest blame lies in the local water basins.
On average, 70-80 percent of the freshwater discharge and 65-80 percent of the nutrient load to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries originates in the local basins, with the remaining balance contributed from Lake Okeechobee,” stated the report.
Previous Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program (NEEPP) and River of Grass Planning Process (ROG) exercises have all identified that large volumes of regional storage is “... essential to reduce freshwater discharges to the estuaries.”
The report estimates that:
400,000 acre-feet of storage is needed in the Caloosahatchee River watershed;
200,000 acre-feet of storage is needed in the St. Lucie River watershed; and,
• about 1,000,000 acre-feet needs to be distributed to the north and south of the lake.
As an example, the report points out that while 200,000 acre-feet of storage is needed in the St. Lucie River watershed only one, 40,000-acre-feet surface reservoir, is under construction.
The report goes on to suggest that funding and completion of existing projects be accelerated in both basins.
Also, it states current Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) will not reach Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) approved Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) of phosphorus.
Beyond existing and planned approaches, the substantial reservoir of legacy phosphorus in the Northern Everglades watersheds will necessitate new and more aggressive strategies to combat the mobility of phosphorus,” states the report.
Phosphorus that remains in the watershed and is stored in the soil is considered a legacy pool. Legacy phosphorus can substantially extend the time needed for a wetland or aquatic system to recover from an impaired state and become compliant with adopted water quality standards.
Legacy phosphorus, explains the report, can be either reactive or non-reactive. Reactive phosphorus can potentially be released from the watershed. Non-reactive phosphorus exists in a stable pool and is essentially immobile.
Other reports have estimated that 170,000 metric tons of phosphorus is stored in the lake watershed soils. That means, about 110,500 metric tons of reactive phosphorus could potentially be leached out of the watershed.
Because of this, continues the UF report, legacy phosphorus in the Lake Okeechobee watershed could “... sustain contemporary phosphorus loading rates — that is, 500 metric tons per year — for more than two centuries.”
One method of trying to clean water before it enters the lake is dispersed storage, which is referred to as Dispersed Water Management (DWM) in the report.
This is a method by which water is distributed across landscape using simple structures. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) started a dispersed storage program whereby cattle ranchers are paid up to $150 per acre to provide water storage and nutrient retention on their properties.
This method is a shallow water approach and can reduce phosphorus and nutrient loading. However, the report points out flooding of these lands can potentially increase the mobility of phosphorus in surface or groundwater.
In addition, flooding may cause a shift in vegetation to water tolerant plants that may not be grazed readily by cattle,” added the report.
The report went on to say while dispersed storage may provide some benefits it “... will fall short of providing the additional storage and treatment needed, even if fully implemented.”
It goes on to say more land north of the lake will need to be acquired for dispersed water management storage and treatment.
As for north of the lake, the report suggests planning similar to the ROG Planning Process be used to provide for more water storage and treatment such as was done south of the lake.
It also points out the necessity of a “new strategic planning exercise” that would include new information that includes: permitting requirements; engineering feasibility and costs; inter-annual storage benefits associated with Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR); deep storage reservoirs; shallow water impoundments; DWMs; and Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs).
Not long after the 143-page report was issued, the Florida Sugar Farmers coalition responded by saying it backed the research group’s findings.
“The conclusions outlined in this study are in line with solutions that Florida’s Sugar Farmers have supported for years,” said Brian Hughes, a spokesman for the sugar group.

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Water managers struggle with invasive hydrilla
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
March 3, 2015
PALM BAY – Hydrilla's roots run deep in Florida.
After a Gulf Coast aquarium dealer had the plant shipped from Sri Lanka in the early 1950s, the stringy nuisance has cost government agencies countless millions. Hydrilla grows up to two inches a day, clogging lakes, rivers and canals that flow to the Melbourne-Tillman (C-1) canal in Palm Bay. That, in turn, raises flood risks.
So Florida water managers spray upward of $15 million worth of herbicides annually to keep the invasive plant in check on public lands — with uncertain environmental consequences.
The Melbourne-Tillman Water Control District uses a slow-release herbicide called fluridone (brand name Sonar), spending about $120,000 annually to control hydrilla in 163 miles of canals in the 100 square-mile district. They plan to apply the herbicide again in the next few weeks.
But as government gears up to spend millions to dredge muck from Turkey Creek and the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), one longtime, avid river advocate is raising concerns that the herbicide might be killing seagrass at the mouth of the creek and fouling the lagoon with rotted, dead hydrilla and other plants.
"Why are we creating muck upstream from the Indian River Lagoon and letting it flow down into the IRL, while we spend millions of dollars to remove the muck from the IRL?" said John Mongioi, a longtime river advocate and Palm Bay resident.
Brevard plants to dredge muck from the lagoon
Nobody knows whether fluridone is killing seagrass. Experts doubt it. But some scientists say the herbicide might be worth testing for in waters near seagrass. And recent concerns about the lagoon could lead to more environmentally friendly ways of handling hydrilla. Water managers want to limit how much dead, rotted hydrilla builds up as muck along canal bottoms. Plant ecologists say herbicide is the most practical, affordable way to control hydrilla and other nuisance water plants. But this die-hard plant defies simple solutions.
"It's so complex, all the facets of trying to control this stuff," said Dan Anderson, manager of the Melbourne-Tillman district. "There's just no quick fix."
Mongioi has been pushing the district to find a better way. He was chairman of Friends of Turkey Creek. The now-defunct volunteer group for a decade represented more than 200 homeowners along the creek and pushed for dredging the creek and other improvements to the lagoon.
Melbourne-Tillman district has used fluridone for years. The herbicide was first registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1986.
"Everything we do is according to the label," Anderson said of the district's fluridone use. "That label is our bible."
Hydrilla haven
Helping the lagoon unintentionally set the stage for hydrilla to thrive.
The invasive plant has grown worse in Melbourne-Tillman's canals since 2011, when a new dam structure went in as part of efforts to hold back nutrient-rich fresh water from flowing to the lagoon. That created a hydrilla haven.
"Now that we're holding the water back, it's like Miracle-Gro," Anderson said.
District officials — bolstered by scientists who study fluridone — say the herbicide is safe. The district must remove hydrilla to prevent the plant from clogging up canals and water control structures that provide flood control for some 80,000 people, district officials say. The district spends $1,100 an acre to treat hydrilla with the herbicide, Anderson said, so they are very careful not to over-use it.
"It's essentially nontoxic to wildlife — shrimp and invertebrates — because it inhibits the production of chlorophyll, and animals don't do chlorophyll," said William Haller, acting director of University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. He conducted some of the early tests on fluridone.
"It doesn't kill many other plants other than hydrilla," he added. "A lot of other native plants will survive the treatments."
Using the herbicide early in the spring minimizes muck, because it kills hydrilla while the plant is very small, he said.
Haller doubts any impacts to downstream seagrass, because the herbicide would be so diluted by the time it reaches seagrass.
Nonetheless, Anderson said the Melbourne-Tillman district is in discussions with state environmental officials about conducting water tests to see whether the herbicide remains at levels that might harm seagrass.
DDT-derivitaves and fireproofing chemicals found in lagoon sharks
Fluridone may be worth testing for, says John Windsor, a professor of marine and environmental sciences at Florida Institute of Technology. But finding herbicide near seagrass is a far-cry from proving it's a problem.
"I understand the concern ... herbicide in a canal that runs to a place where seagrasses are dying," Windsor said. "It seems like it's a good thing to consider."
But he says tests could be expensive and yield no answers.
"It's something that people should be concerned about," he added. "But we have such a long list of concerns. If we had an infinite amount of time and an infinite amount of money, we should be looking at all of it."
Meanwhile, the Melbourne-Tillman district hopes to team with Brevard County to harvest some hydrilla and other excess water weeds mechanically. Brevard plans to buy a small mechanical harvester with $118,000 state grant the county received last year.
Brevard asks to double lagoon funding
But Anderson said his district would need a much larger machine to make a significant dent in the district's hydrilla onslaught. Melbourne-Tillman hopes to buy its own larger mechanical harvester, which Anderson says would run about $250,000.
Melbourne-Tillman also hopes to partner more with the St. Johns River Water Management District to battle back hydrilla.
But Anderson says it would be too costly to harvest hydrilla throughout the entire 100 square-mile district.
Mechanical harvest is often impractical, especially in remote areas, says Gary Nichols, supervisor of the St. Johns River Water Management District's invasive plant program.
"Then you have to have an area to go dump it," Nichols said.
Bass like hydrilla for hiding places, but the plant has few natural enemies.
"A lot of waterfowl eat it," Nichols said. "Coots can decimate hydrilla."
Biologists once considered introducing manatees to eat back hydrilla in certain Florida springs, but they found sea cows wouldn't make enough of a dent in the plant to make it worthwile.
In some areas, hydrilla has grown resistant to fluridone.
"They call it Rambo hydrilla," Anderson said. "We haven't run into any resistance yet."
Some hydrilla relief may arrive later this year, when the St. Johns district completes the required structures to divert water from the C-1 to store it on thousands of acres west of the western end of Malabar Road. The reflooded marshes will help filter out the nutrients hydrilla feeds on.
Meanwhile, Mongioi watches canals along his Turkey Creek home turn to dead zones and wonders whether fluridone played a role.
"There ain't nothin' in the canal. There ain't a blade. It's dead," he said.

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Associated Industries H2O Coalition launches ad campaign highlighting “Amendment 1 is for Everyone”
SaintPetersBlog - by Peter Schorsch
March 2, 2015
Associated Industries of Florida’s H2O Coalition today launched a television ad campaign to “inform Floridians about the need for the Florida Legislature to responsibly and fairly spend Amendment 1 dollars this session,” reads a release. The first ad begins running today in the Tallahassee television and radio markets.
You can view the ad here.
The television and radio campaign will supplement the Coalition’s targeted mail and social media efforts supporting members of the Legislature who are working to ensure that the entire state benefits from Amendment 1.
 
“Last Fall, two-thirds of Florida voters adopted Amendment 1 to ensure our state has adequate funding to preserve, sustain, and protect our natural resources,” said Brewster Bevis, Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs for the Associated Industries of Florida.  “Floridians do not want the funding priorities under Amendment 1 to just reflect the narrow interests of certain environmental advocacy groups. They want the spending to reflect the needs of everyone who cares about our beaches, lakes, rivers, and fresh water supply throughout the state. We are just reminding their elected representatives that Amendment 1 is for everyone.”
“We look forward to taking our message to every Floridian who cares about the future of fresh water in Florida,” continued Bevis. “Working together, we can ensure all of Florida is treated fairly with respect to Amendment 1.”
Transcript of the H2O Coalition television ad running in Tallahassee today:
“Last November, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1 – providing money to clean up our rivers, springs and lakes.  Finish Everglades restoration. Renourish our beaches and protect our water supply.
Lawmakers are now deciding how to spend Amendment 1 money.  And special interest groups want the lion’s share for their pet projects.
We all voted for it.  And we should all benefit from it.  Let’s remember: Amendment 1 is for everyone.”
The Florida H2O Coalition is comprised of stakeholders interested in water quantity and quality issues in Florida with the goal of making recommendations on state and federal water laws and rules impacting Florida.   For more information about the Florida H2O Coalition, please visit here.
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Miami researcher sees danger for South Florida coastline
TradeOnlyToday.com
March 2, 2015
New research is showing that rising sea levels will sink Miami in the not-so-distant future.
The catastrophe is happening, according to a blog in the Miami New Times. The question is when South Florida will sink.
The answer, according to new work by a University of Miami researcher: even more quickly than we thought.
“People ask me all the time: ‘When is it going to happen? When will we start seeing sea level rise?’ ” Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the university’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, told the paper. “We’ve already passed that. It’s happening.”
To chart that rise, McNoldy recently crunched nearly two decades’ worth of data from a tidal monitoring station on Virginia Key. First he looked at the heights of high, low and mean sea level measured at the station from 1996, when it was set up, until today.
In research that was posted in February, he reported that in 2014 the linear trend in all three was more than three inches higher than in 1996.
Even more worrying, though, the data suggest that the trend is accelerating. By charting just the highest tide each day and breaking that info into five-year chunks, McNoldy found that the high-water mark rose by an average of 0.3 inches a year overall — but a much higher 1.27 inches a year during the last five years.
“It was surprising,” McNoldy says. “I didn’t realize that over such a short time, going back to only 1996, you’d see that much of a trend.”
One challenge in convincing people to take the threat of rising seas seriously is that the change is incremental; it’s not a sudden Pompeiian eruption, but a slow-motion disaster.
But McNoldy says he hopes his data add more fuel to the growing conversation about what to do in Miami, where the risks include not only billions of dollars’ worth of property along the coastline, but also a fresh-water table — the drinking water source for millions — that could soon be infiltrated by rising seawater.
McNoldy does not have any answers, but he’s glad we’re talking about them.
“That’s one good thing about Miami,” he says. “Here people do recognize what’s happening and they are trying to do things, while other parts of our country are turning their backs.”

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Watch it !

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UF study says more water storage needed south of Lake Okeechobee
SaintPetersBlog - by Bruce Ritchie
March 2, 2015
Environmental groups pushing for the state purchase of U. S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee may have received a boost Monday when a University of Florida study said additional land is needed for water storage.
Environmental groups have been pushing the state to exercise an option to buy 46,800 acres for water storage to prevent polluted water in Lake Okeechobee from being discharged to the sensitive estuaries of St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
But Gov. Rick Scott didn’t include the purchase in his budget and the company now is expressing a reluctance to sell. Environmentalists say money from Amendment 1, the water and land funding initiative approved by voters in November, could be used to buy the U. S. Sugar land.
The Senate commissioned the study by the UF Water Institute to determine how to reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries. The review team determined that moving more water south into the Everglades is key to protecting the estuaries.
“The solution is enormous increases in storage and treatment of water both north and south of the lake,” the study said. “Existing and currently authorized storage and treatment projects are insufficient to achieve these goals.”
Water is released by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers from Lake Okeechobee after heavy rains to prevent flooding and the weakening of the dike around the lake.
The study said additional land is needed including possibly the U. S. Sugar land that the state negotiated a purchase option for in 2010 at fair market value. Land also could be obtained from other willing sellers or using existing state owned land, such as the Holey Land or Rotenberger wildlife management areas.
“There is no reason why the state shouldn’t sit down with U. S. Sugar and the other sugar companies and talk about where the best storage (land is) and when and how to buy it,” Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, said Monday.
Sen. Joe Negron, who in 2013-14 chaired a Senate special committee on Lake Okeechobee and the Indian River Lagoon, said the report affirms that Florida is on the right track with Everglades restoration.
“I agree with and support the Water Institute’s recommendation that the state should consider the option to purchase 46,000 acres” of U. S. Sugar property, said Negron, R-Stuart.
Scott requested $150 million in his 2015-16 state budget for Everglades restoration and has pledged $5 billion over 20 years.
Scott has emphasized finishing projects already approved including the C-43 and C-44 reservoir storage projects to capture flow that could go to the estuaries. But the UF study says flow to the estuaries will be reduced by less than 55 percent and that less than 75 percent of Everglades water needs will be provided.
“Governor Scott is focused on completely funding existing projects, like the Kissimmee River restoration and the construction of the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs to protect our estuaries and restore the Everglades,” Scott spokeswoman Jeri Bustamante said in response to the report. “We look forward to working with stakeholders and the legislature to identify additional storage projects.”
In addition to more water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, the plan calls for accelerating funding and completion of existing approved projects, providing water storage and treatment north of Lake Okeechobee, creating deep-well disposal for Lake Okeechobee discharges and revising water storage operations in the lake.
“Even in the face of uncertainty, many existing plans and projects have been fully vetted and can be expected to yield substantial benefits to the citizens of Florida,” the study said.
“Most of the projects are delayed because of a lack of funding. In the interim, the coupled human-ecological system is continuing to degrade in ways that may not be reversible.”
Amendment 1 is expected to provide $757 million for water and land conservation in the 2015-16 state budget and $22 billion over the next 20 years. Draper said he doesn’t know how much the U. S. Sugar land would cost the state but Audubon thinks money could be bonded for the purchase.
A spokesman for a coalition of sugar farmers that includes U. S. Sugar said the group supports the recommendations to accelerate and complete existing “shovel ready projects” — an apparent reference to projects other the option to buy the company’s land.
“The report’s conclusions are in line with solutions that Florida’s Sugar Farmers have supported for years,” spokesman Brian Hughes said in a written statement.

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‘Constraints' south of Lake O: Argument for or against buying U.S. Sugar land ?
TCPalm.com – by Tyler Treadway
March 1, 2015
A South Florida Water Management District report outlining “constraints” to moving excess Lake Okeechobee water south is being used as evidence against the state buying U.S. Sugar Corp. land south of the lake for a reservoir to help environmentally damaging discharges to the St. Lucie River.
Full story available to subscribers only.

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Everglades’ future at key juncture this year
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
March 1, 2015
While I was on a journalism fellowship at Florida Atlantic University in 2007, the group toured part of U.S. Sugar’s domain in Hendry County.
Then, as now, the discussion concerned the effect of the tens of thousands of sugar fields and the intense agricultural operations that resulted in polluted runoff to Lake Okeechobee and some of the rest of the Everglades system.
I’d read the main reason sugar is profitable in Florida is because of federal price subsidies that was part of the Cold War thumb in the eye to Cuba.
There had been pressure from environmentalists to return the land to a natural state or to at least halt the agricultural pollution.
The issue of what would the sugar companies do with the land if they weren’t growing sugar on it came up during our tour.
The woman from U.S. Sugar who was leading the tour turned to us and declared that most of us, who were from Florida, surely understood that U.S. Sugar could simply develop the land instead.
My jaw dropped. I couldn’t think of anything to say that would have been polite or professional.
Fast forward ahead to this year.
U.S. Sugar has proposed a Poinciana-size community in Hendry County called Sugar Hill.
For the moment the project is going nowhere because the three agencies that have something to say about it–the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District and the Department of Economic Opportunity–have issued reports that conclude the project is a non-starter. Their reasons range from the assessment shared by the environmental community that this development hampers Everglades restoration plans to the simple fact that it promotes what Florida’s growth laws, even in the watered-down form that exists today, says constitutes urban sprawl.
Even with no development pending–if that’s really how this case turns out–the fact that there is an active development plan on the table will almost certainly jack up the price of any Everglades-related land purchases that may occur in that part of the basin.
That, of course, may have been the only purpose of the development proposal in the first place.
There are ample examples here in Polk County of real or imaginary development plans forcing government agencies to pay a lot more than they would have paid otherwise for conservation land.
It happened with the Prairie Unit of Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, Circle B Bar Reserve and Colt Creek State Park.
It’s not clear what kind of additional purchases, if any, will occur in the Everglades, even with the availability of Amendment 1 funds.
Some legislative leaders who have close ties to agribusiness have stated they aren’t interested in buying much.
Meanwhile, one version of water legislation being championed by Florida Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam proposes laxer enforcement of farm pollution.
Audubon still has an active legal challenge under way of past permitting practices that they consider too permissive. Oral arguments are scheduled later this month at the 2d District Court of Appeals in Lakeland.
This whole effort to somehow reduce agricultural pollution–and more recently pollution from encroaching urban development–saga goes back decades.
I remember interviewing Gov. Bob Graham more than 30 years ago at a conference at Everglades National Park when I asked him how the fledgling Everglades restoration efforts he was championing at the time would fare after he left office.
He said he hoped what he was doing at the time would set the course in place so that Everglades restoration would not stop when he left office.
The fact is that administrations in Tallahassee and Washington come and go and that affects projects as massive, complicated, expensive and time-consuming as Everglades restoration.
No politician with any sense will publicly oppose Everglades restoration.
But the test isn’t what they say, but what they do, or refuse to do.
How the implementation of Amendment 1 plays out will be an important test of their sincerity.
The future of one of the most unique ecosystems in the country is at stake here.
Now’s not the time to retreat or compromise.
LOCAL HIKES
The Heartland Chapter of the Florida Trail Association is planning a hike and meeting March 7 at Tenoroc Fish Management Area, 3925 Tenoroc Mine Road  near Lakeland. The former phosphate mine, which is open only on weekends (Friday-Monday) contains miles of trails through a variety of habitats.  Another hike is planned March 11 by special permission. For meetup details, contact Monika Hoerl at 863-858-3106.
BLACKBIRD BLITZ
Scientists are looking for reports of migratory rusty blackbirds. The species, which was once found regularly in Polk County in small numbers, has declined in recent years.
The March survey called the Rusty Blackbird Blitz is one component of the research to better understand the species’ migratory behavior and whether there are key stopover locations that are important.
For details, go to this link.
ADVANCED BIRDING
If you have a long list of Florida bird observations and you were looking for some distinction for your efforts, stay tuned.
The Wings Over Florida program, which years ago initiated a series of certificates for various levels of birding in Florida, is poised to offer some new certificates for more advanced Florida birders.
One will be a certificate decorated with an image of a mangrove cuckoo for those who have seen at least 400 species of native birds. The current certificate series stops at 350 species.
There also will be certificates for people who pursue a Big Year, which involves trying to see a large number of species in Florida in a single year.

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Groups push state to buy farmland for restoration
News-Press.com – by Chad Gillis
March 1, 2015
The original plan was to buy all of U.S. Sugar and came from then-Gov. Charlie Crist, who proposed paying $1.7 billion for 194,000 acres. The state scaled back the plan several times and only paid a fraction of the price for a fraction of the land: $197 million for 28,000 acres.
“The timing is vital because if this contract passes in October, the other alternative is buying all of U.S. Sugar,” said Dawn Shirreffs with the Everglades Foundation. “So those who don’t want a ‘buyout’ should support this instead of going the route of purchasing an entire corporation.”
The most recent appraisals value the land at around $193 million, or $7,400 per acre, although environmental groups expect that number has fallen in recent years. Buying the entire corporation and its farmland would likely cost billions today.
Dozens of environmental groups in Florida, including Audubon and Sierra Club, have signed a petition to the state to purchase the acreage.
Musgrove said the first challenge is to get the issue in front of the South Florida Water Management District, the state agency charged with carrying out the Everglades restoration. Musgrove said she’s also not very confident in the current district board.
“There’s not a single person on the board who negotiated that option to buy. These are all (Gov.) Scott’s people,” she said. “Having an option like this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for the state of Florida and should at least get a review.”
Some state lawmakers have hinted that they do not want to purchase the land, and that there are better uses for $200 million or so.
“When people hear they want to ‘restore the Everglades’ south of the lake, I don’t think they see how much land has already been developed,” said Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers. “It’s not realistic. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to improve water flow and quality. We want to get water to the (Everglades National) park and we want the reservoir for the Caloosahatchee.”
The reservoir Caldwell referred to is called C-43 and is located on the south side of the Caloosahatchee River just east of the Lee-Hendry border. The reservoir is also an Everglades restoration project and would improve water quality along the coast by collecting and retaining stormwater from the river’s watershed. Caldwell said the reservoir will cost at least $100 million.
Caldwell said fully restoring the Everglades is impossible and would require the relocation of 3 million South Floridians. South Florida will never again be like it was centuries ago, he said.
Musgrove and others are frustrated that the state seems content to let the option expire.
She said: “(Right now) we’re just trapped in one of the those god-awful, let-it-be-politically-controversial worlds.”

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Legislature 2015: The session ahead
Herald-Tribune - by Lloyd Dunkelberger ,
March 1, 2015
TALLAHASSEE -- With a healthier budget forecast and a newly re-elected governor, Florida lawmakers begin their annual 2015 session on Tuesday facing a familiar set of issues.
Tax cuts will be on the agenda. Lawmakers will renew their debate over Medicaid expansion. And gambling legislation may become a major issue before the Legislature adjourns in early May.
But new issues will also confront the 40-member Florida Senate and 120-member House. Lawmakers will have to incorporate a new constitutional amendment that directs more spending on environmental initiatives. Legislative leaders are also advancing a major water policy bill for the state.
And lawmakers will have to resolve a growing outcry over the expanding use of tests in the public school system.
Legislature 2015: The players
Gov. Rick Scott, who won his re-election bid in November, has set the stage for the 60-day session by advancing a $77 billion state budget plan as well as $673 million in tax cuts. Scott, who oversaw a $1.3 billion education spending cut in his first year in office, also wants lawmakers to raise funding for Florida public schools to a historic high.
Scott says his budget proposal “builds on the foundation laid during the last four years of cutting taxes, investing record amounts in education, lowering the cost of higher education and improving workforce development.”
Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, called Scott’s budget “a good starting point” that is also in line with the Legislature’s support for tax cuts, economic development programs, higher school funding and lowering the cost of higher education.
But there will be plenty of debate over how to achieve those goals, starting with Scott’s $673 million tax-cutting plan.
His biggest tax reduction would be a $471 million cut in the tax that Floridians pay on their cellphone and cable television bills — although that works out to about $43 a year for every $100 a month that Floridians pay for communications services.
Scott also wants to eliminate the state sales tax on book purchases by college students.
“Obviously there are a lot of tax-cut ideas in the queue,” Lee said, adding that specific bills will have to be worked out in House and Senate negotiations.
Legislature 2015: The Issues
The work of the budget committees will be easier this year; state economists have forecast a surplus for the coming year in the range of $1 billion.
But one fiscal challenge could alter that scenario. The federal government recently announced it was firm in its decision to end a $2.2 billion program that reimburses Florida hospitals that care for large numbers of poor and uninsured patients. The so-called “low income pool,” or LIP, will expire by July 1, the start of the new budget year.
Lee said lawmakers are prepared to deal with that possibility. “There’s plenty of time to react and develop a budget,” he said. But he also said lawmakers interpret the federal decision as ending the current LIP program but remaining open to alternatives.
“It doesn’t mean they’re not willing to look at a wide array of options,” he said.
In a related issue, the Legislature will again consider expanding Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor and disabled, under the Affordable Care Act. A coalition of hospitals and business groups are pushing an alternative expansion plan, one the Senate has said will be considered.
But as long as the expansion plan relies on federal funding, House leaders are expected to renew their opposition. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said his chamber remains committed to a plan that offers “a sustainable, effective, private-sector based solution that meets Florida’s needs.”
While the two chambers may differ on the approach to Medicaid expansion, Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, have announced a joint “work plan” for this session, signaling there will be more accord than discord in coming weeks.
The shared agenda includes tax relief, higher spending on education, a major water policy and initiatives aimed at expanding education and work opportunities for Floridians with disabilities.
“We’ve seen what can happen when the House and Senate set priorities early and work together toward common goals,” Gardiner said, referring to the past two sessions where House and Senate leaders set a similar agenda.
But achieving a major element in that plan will not be easy. The House and Senate are already taking different approaches on developing a statewide water policy. And the debate is complicated by the passage of Amendment 1, which requires lawmakers to spend about $757 million on environmental programs in the new budget.
Environmental groups, which want to see a revival of the Florida Forever conservation land program, have already said lawmakers are advancing projects, like stormwater treatment systems, that “do not fit into the purposes of Amendment 1.”
“Those projects can be funded from other sources, including federal funds, local government funds and utilities,” said a statement from a coalition of environmental groups that backed the amendment last fall. “Legislators should use Amendment 1 to fund existing conservation programs, such as land acquisition, management and Everglades restoration.”
In his budget proposal, Scott endorsed using $150 million for Everglades restoration and $150 million for Florida Forever.
Another major issue that brings uncertainty to the session is gambling. The state’s agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, allowing tribe facilities to offer card games like blackjack, will expire in July. If not renewed, it could result in a loss of roughly $160 million in the coming year.
It will be up to Scott to reach an initial agreement with the Seminoles and then bring the proposal to the Legislature for final approval. But if a new Seminole deal emerges, it is likely to provide momentum for a broader gambling bill that could include financial incentives for Florida’s existing dog and horse tracks, while also opening up possibilities for a major Las Vegas-style casino in the state.

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Live up to Amendment 1
Herald/Tribune – by Christine P. Johnson, President of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, in Osprey.
March 1, 2015
The people spoke. Will the legislature listen ?
Last November, 75 percent of Florida voters cast their ballot in favor of Amendment 1, The Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative. Through passage of this amendment to our Constitution, the people of Florida made clear their desire that the state renew its commitment to providing appropriate funding for the protection and preservation of our natural habitats.
The Florida Legislature must now enact Amendment 1 through the budgetary process. It remains to be seen whether they will act in accordance with both the language and spirit of the amendment. It is easy to assume that legislators must abide by the will of the people, but recent history teaches us this may not be so.
For more than 40 years, beginning in 1963 with the creation of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, and continuing through both Democratic and Republican initiated programs including The Conservation and Recreation Lands Program, Save Our Rivers, Save Our Coast, Preservation 2000, and Florida Forever, the state of Florida ensured funds would be allocated to acquire and conserve the land and water upon which our way of life and economy rely. The revenue for these programs was generated first from a tax on outdoor clothing and equipment and, later, from a documentary stamp tax on real estate transactions and financial documents.
That changed in 2009. Since then, the Legislature has stalled decades of progress. Funding for water and land conservation has been cut by more than 95 percent, with those funds diverted to other purposes. Amendment 1 was designed to compel the Legislature to reverse course and once again provide stable, long-term funding for protection of the environment. The amendment requires that the Land Acquisition Trust Fund receive no less than 33 percent of the revenue from the existing documentary stamp tax for a period of 20 years. Over its life span, without increasing taxes, Amendment 1 should provide $10 billion to protect our environment -- but only if the Legislature allocates funding correctly.
The governor's current proposed budget has $63 million going toward state-agency operations like the water management districts and Department of Environmental Protection, $17.5 million to pay for Florida Keys wastewater treatment, and $7.6 million for state park ranger wages. While these are worthy of state funding, they do not need to be funded out of Amendment 1 revenue. These programs and agencies should receive their funding as they have in the past, from general-revenue dollars. Supplanting the funding with Amendment 1 revenue is reminiscent of the dupe played on Floridians back in the 1980s, when our state lottery was promised to increase K-12 education funding.
Florida's commitment to preservation has paid dividends in the past and will again, in the future. Residents and visitors alike have reaped the rewards. We know our spectacular beaches are the number-one reason tourists choose to come here. You might be surprised to learn that viewing our magnificent wildlife is also one of the top outdoor recreational activities, according to a survey of state residents and tourists. Furthermore, according to a Visit Sarasota County study, bird watchers stay longer and spend more money than golfers. In our area alone, we benefited greatly when funds from documentary stamp revenue were used for conservation. The wildly popular Robinson Preserve in Manatee County and Red Bug Slough Preserve in Sarasota County are just two examples.
Those of us who call Florida home and those who visit each year (nearly 100 million in 2014, the fourth consecutive record-setting year) know there is no place like Florida. From our pristine beaches to the wonders of the Everglades, our abundant wildlife and crystal clear springs, we have inherited an irreplaceable heritage. While growth and development are essential to our future, protection of our land and water is equally necessary. We must have confidence that those things that make Florida unique will not be lost.
In November, the people of Florida spoke with a resounding voice by passing The Florida Water and Land Conservation amendment to our state Constitution. We said, "Protect our water and our land." Our governor and legislators must now construct a budget that aligns with the will of the people. If you were part of the overwhelming majority who voted for the amendment; if you understand that our economy and way of life depend on conserving our natural resources; it is imperative you contact your representatives and make your voice heard before the budget is finalized.
The land and the water are a gift. Once gone, they are gone forever.

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One serious Southwest Florida asset
News-Press.com – by Sarah Owen, President & CEO, Southwest Florida Community Foundation
March 1, 2015
Water. It is a basic human need. We cannot survive without it. That alone is a pretty compelling argument for protecting it.
In Southwest Florida, water is also the reason why people come here. The region’s unique environment is our attraction, drawing visitors, residents, and business to the area. It drives our economy.
Tourism generates more than $2.7 billion annually in Lee County alone. A recent poll by the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau shows 94 percent of all visitors to the area identified our beaches as our most attractive asset. These are impressive numbers but don’t account for the many ways in which water defines quality of life here in SWFL.
All of us benefit from our green spaces, local agriculture, recreational uses, wildlife habitat and stormwater management systems, not to mention that clean stuff that comes out of our faucets when we’re thirsty. As the lifeblood of our community, environment, and economy, water is a cause that has captured the attention of the region.
In February, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosted John Moran’s The Springs Eternal Project Exhibition “Florida’s Fragile Fountains of Youth,” documenting the beauty, history and increasing ecological devastation of Florida’s springs and aquifer.
What was clear is that our waters are part of an ecosystem that connects us all.
The Springs Eternal Project showcased photojournalist and nature photographer Moran’s 20-plus-year journey photographing and documenting Florida’s treasured springs. I have seen his presentation several times and each time I audibly gasp at his before and after photos of springs across the state.
You see, I grew up in Florida and visited many of the springs often in my childhood. I had secretly harbored a dream of someday becoming one of the famous mermaids at the Weeki Wachee Springs. The Seminole Indians named the spring “Weeki Wachee,” which means “little spring” or “winding river”, and mermaids have performed there for mroe than 60 years.
As Moran moved through his presentation that highlighted dramatic decline in most all of Florida’s Springs, my mind immediately went to the Mermaids, the natural habitat and the generations of Floridians who may never have the chance to see them if we don’t take this water issue seriously.
Those in attendance also let out some gasps and voiced the same thing I was contemplating when it comes to this type of significant issue. What can we do? Water knows no jurisdictional boundaries. It is impacted by every one of us in so many ways.
It can feel overwhelming. But like with any complicated challenge, the answer requires everyone play a part to achieve a common outcome. Plentiful and clean water is a certainly a worthy goal for our region.
There’s no denying water is on the radar of policy-makers, nonprofits and other stakeholders across the region and state. As conveners around regional issues and lovers of SWFL’s unique environment, we believe there is a role for our foundation to play in improving and protecting our waters.
Beginning in the fall of 2013, the foundation held four water roundtable discussions with environmentalists, developers, policy-makers and technocrats from across the region to explore the problem. A common topic that surfaced among these community leaders was the lack of unity around a common message from the region about how to address our water problems.
A unified message could result in additional assistance and opportunity for the region to drive real solutions to protect this precious resource.
On July 8, 2014, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation sent the first of two letters to the Army Corps of Engineers with a unified message from 24 individuals representing local governments and organizations from across the region. I know the letters won’t solve our water woes but they represent another step forward toward collaborating around this important Cause.
Water “issues” aren’t going away and everyone has a role to play in conserving and protecting our natural resources, whether it is turning off the faucet while you brush your teeth and changing the way you maintain your lawn or contributing to this or one of the many efforts going on in our community to protect our environment.
Here at the foundation, we are invested in continuing the conversation around the region’s efforts to promote the health of our water resources. To learn more about our work around this issue, visit our website to read our 2014 Water Roundtable Report at floridacommunity.com/environment.

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Our model water policies
Herald/Tribune
March 1, 2015
In weighing statewide plans, Legislature should learn from this region's success
With Florida facing a water crisis on multiple levels -- supply, pollution, and funding to address those problems -- the Legislature is seeking to overhaul water policies.
  Reservoir
A couple of things that lawmakers should keep in mind:
1. In a state as diverse as Florida, one set of rules won't fit all regions.
2. The Legislature could do worse than using our region -- Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties -- as a model in deciding what to do.
On the issues of supply and funding, the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, which is overseen by representatives of the four counties, might be the envy of the rest of the state.
Through foresight, cooperation and planning, the authority has secured an interconnected water supply that can weather a drought and preclude "water wars" that can pit one county against another.
In the early 1990s, the authority embarked upon an aggressive, progressive and environmentally sustainable expansion project. The authority first purchased a small, rundown water-treatment plant on the Peace River in DeSoto County and expanded the plant dramatically to increase the volume of water it treats.
Later, it obtained permits to increase withdrawals from the Peace -- during the rainy season. By "scalping" excess water when the river's flow is heavy, the authority has methodically diverted billions of gallons to a reservoir, which it constructed, and new or expanded storage wells.
At the same time, transmission pipes were built, linking local utilities to regional and local treatment plants -- providing emergency connections and enabling the authority's staff to rotate supplies as needed.
Let districts raise revenue
The 6-billion-gallon reservoir and the storage wells, when full, can accommodate enough water to supply the authority's customers in Charlotte, DeSoto and Sarasota counties for a year -- even if no other supplies are tapped, according to authority officials. (As for Manatee County, its Lake Manatee reservoir provides virtually all potable water used in the unincorporated county. The city of Sarasota, too, has its own water supply from a number of wells.)
It is vital for legislators to recognize, however, that few cities, counties or regional authorities can afford to undertake water-storage projects on their own.
The Southwest Florida Water Management District, which encompasses the four counties, contributed substantially to the Peace River initiative. The authority's expansion of its reservoir, storage wells and other facilities cost roughly $300 million.
Yet, in recent years, the Legislature has significantly reduced the ability of Florida's five water management districts to raise tax revenue in order to fund improvements. That trend must be reversed to stimulate investment in new water supplies.
On the issue of pollution that impacts bodies of water and waterways throughout the state -- lakes, estuaries, the Everglades, rivers, springs and more -- the problem is complex. But much of the problem can be traced to the agricultural, commercial and residential use of fertilizers, the runoff of which carries algae-fueling nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus into surface waters. Another source of pollution is faulty septic systems that spill human waste into the groundwater and eventually waterways.
In tackling these aspects of pollution, our region has been more vigilant than other parts of Florida. Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties have all adopted fertilizer ordinances that ban the use of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus during the rainy season, from June 1 to Sept. 30. In most cases the ordinances also cap the level of the two chemicals that can be used in fertilizers year round and impose other limits and requirements on fertilizer use.
And the ordinances work. A study last year by the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program compared the health of the harbor's estuarine system before the fertilizer ordinances, most of them by 2006, and afterward. The estuarine system includes bays, rivers and other waterways from Venice to Bonita Springs on the Gulf, and inland as far north as Winter Haven in Polk County. It covers about 4,500 square miles.
Between the two time periods, the study found, on average, a 21 percent reduction of nitrogen and a 27 percent reduction of phosphorus.
Given the size of the Charlotte Harbor system and the relatively recent adoption of fertilizer ordinances, CHNEP Director Lisa Beever said, the reductions "are significant." Beever credits the reductions almost exclusively to the fertilizer ordinances.
Commitment comes first
Besides enforcing its fertilizer ordinance, Sarasota County has an ongoing septic tank replacement program for homes along Phillippi Creek. And, as the Herald-Tribune's Zac Anderson recently reported, the county and water authority are planning to spend $12.5 million to divert water flowing into Dona Bay to man-made wetlands that will absorb excess nitrogen.
The counties in our region are not perfect in their water policies. They, like most Florida communities, should do more to ensure that water supplies will be sufficient to accommodate new growth, and take a stronger role in encouraging water conservation.
But, more than most places in Florida, they have made a commitment to preserve and protect their water supply and surface waters. The coming legislative session will determine whether the state as a whole is ready to make a similar commitment.
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The Nature of Things: Politics still threatening Everglades
TheLedger.com - by Tom Palmer
March 1, 2015
While I was on a journalism fellowship at Florida Atlantic University in 2007, the group toured part of U.S. Sugar's domain in Hendry County.
Then, as now, the discussion concerned the effect of the tens of thousands of sugar fields and the intense agricultural operations that resulted in polluted runoff to Lake Okeechobee and some of the rest of the Everglades system.
I'd read the main reason sugar is profitable in Florida is because of federal price subsidies that was part of the Cold War thumb in the eye to Cuba.
There had been pressure from environmentalists to return the land to a natural state or to at least halt the agricultural pollution.
The issue of what would the sugar companies do with the land if they weren't growing sugar on it came up during our tour.
The woman from U.S. Sugar who was leading the tour turned to us and declared that most of us, who were from Florida, surely understood that U.S. Sugar could simply develop the land instead.
My jaw dropped. I couldn't think of anything to say that would have been polite or professional.
Fast forward ahead to this year.
U.S. Sugar has proposed a Poinciana-size community in Hendry County called Sugar Hill.
For the moment the project is going nowhere because the three agencies that have something to say about it — the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District and the Department of Economic Opportunity — have issued reports that conclude the project is a non-starter.
Their reasons range from the assessment shared by the environmental community that this development hampers Everglades restoration plans to the simple fact that it promotes what Florida's growth laws, even in the watered-down form that exists today, say constitutes urban sprawl.
Even with no development pending — if that's really how this case turns out — the fact that there is an active development plan on the table will almost certainly jack up the price of any Everglades-related land purchases that may occur in that part of the basin.
That, of course, may have been the only purpose of the development proposal in the first place.
There are ample examples here in Polk County of real or imaginary development plans forcing government agencies to pay a lot more than they would have paid otherwise for conservation land.
It happened with the Prairie Unit of Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, Circle B Bar Reserve and Colt Creek State Park.
It's not clear what kind of additional purchases, if any, will occur in the Everglades, even with the availability of Amendment 1 funds.
Some legislative leaders who have close ties to agribusiness have stated they aren't interested in buying much.
Meanwhile, one version of water legislation being championed by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam proposes laxer enforcement of farm pollution.
Audubon still has an active legal challenge under way related to past permitting practices that they consider too permissive. Oral arguments are scheduled later this month at the 2d District Court of Appeal in Lakeland.
This whole effort to somehow reduce agricultural pollution — and more recently pollution from encroaching urban development — saga goes back decades.
I remember interviewing Gov. Bob Graham more than 30 years ago at a conference at Everglades National Park. I asked him how the fledgling Everglades restoration efforts he was championing at the time would fare after he left office.
He said he hoped what he was doing at the time would set the course in place so that Everglades restoration would not stop when he left office.
The fact is that administrations in Tallahassee and Washington come and go and that affects projects as massive, complicated, expensive and time-consuming as Everglades restoration.
No politician with any sense will publicly oppose Everglades restoration.
But the test isn't what they say, but what they do, or refuse to do.
How the implementation of Amendment 1 plays out will be an important test of their sincerity.
The future of one of the most unique ecosystems in the country is at stake here.
Now's not the time to retreat or compromise.
LOCAL HIKES
The Heartland Chapter of the Florida Trail Association is planning a hike and meeting March 7 at Tenoroc Fish Management Area, 3925 Tenoroc Mine Road near Lakeland. The former phosphate mine, which is open only on weekends (Friday-Monday) contains miles of trails through a variety of habitats. Another hike is planned March 11 by special permission. For meetup details, contact Monika Hoerl at 863-858-3106.
BLACKBIRD BLITZ
Scientists are looking for reports of migratory rusty blackbirds. The species, which was once found regularly in Polk County in small numbers, has declined in recent years.
The March survey called the Rusty Blackbird Blitz is one component of the research to better understand the species' migratory behavior and whether there are key stopover locations that are important.
If you have a long list of Florida bird observations and you were looking for some distinction for your efforts, stay tuned.
The Wings Over Florida program, which years ago initiated a series of certificates for various levels of birding in Florida, is poised to offer some new certificates for more advanced Florida birders.
One will be a certificate decorated with an image of a mangrove cuckoo for those who have seen at least 400 species of native birds. The current certificate series stops at 350 species.
There also will be certificates for people who pursue a Big Year, which involves trying to see a large number of species in Florida in a single year.

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


DAMAGING
FRESHWATER
WASTING



LO water release







Last year highlight - still a lingering "Good Question" -
  WHY NOT "Move it South" ? Meaning "dirty" water from Lake Okeechobee - and instead of disastrous releases into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, move it where it used to flow - South. Is it possible ? Would the bridge on US-41 do the trick ?  
Good Question: Why not send more Lake O water south ?
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

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E-mail: evergladeshub@gmail.com

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