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LO water release

More Lake O discharges heading toward coast
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 30, 2015
More Lake Okeechobee water will be drained east and west to ease South Florida flooding threats, despite concerns about spreading a toxic algae bloom, federal officials announced Thursday.
A spike in rainfall is boosting water levels and increasing the strain on the lake's troubled dike, considered one of the country's most at risk of a breach.
Draining nearly 2 billion gallons a day of lake water out to sea, as proposed, lessens the pressure on the erosion-prone dike. But that draining also wastes water that could replenish the Everglades and help restock South Florida drinking water supplies.
In addition, lake discharges to the east and west can worsen water quality problems in the normally salty fishing grounds near the coast.
In this case, that includes potentially moving a toxic algae bloom — which can kill fish and make water unsafe for human contact — from the lake and into the St. Lucie River.
But the public safety risk of South Florida flooding trumps the water-quality concerns from lake discharges, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.
"We have continued concerns about the lake level as the wet season draws closer," said Col. Alan Dodd, Jacksonville District Commander. "Recent rain has caused the lake to rise. Increasing discharges will help us to manage water levels in the lake."
That's a "terrible" decision, according to Mark Perry, of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, where lake water drains out to sea.
While the Army Corps maintains that draining more lake water should break up the toxic algae bloom, Perry says it will just end up moving the bloom — and its threat to people and marine life — into the St. Lucie Estuary.
"That's very naive of them to think that's the way to get rid of the [algae] bloom," Perry said. "You are still just moving it from one place to another."
The lake on Thursday was 13.85 feet above sea level, which is .75 feet higher than this time last year.
The Army Corps tries to keep Lake Okeechobee water levels within 12.5 to 15.5 feet above sea level. Officials prefer to have the lake below 13 feet by June 1.
Monday, the Army Corps plans to start draining up to 581 million gallons per day of lake water into the St. Lucie River and out to sea. That's in addition to as much as 1.3 billion gallons per day to be drained west through the Caloosahatchee River.
The total lake discharges to the east and west combined would be enough water to fill about 2,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools each day.
The algae bloom last week persuaded the Army Corps to hold off on plans to resume draining lake water east following a three-week break from discharges. Increased rains this week have about six times as much water flowing into the lake as flowing out, prompting the need to drain more water, according to the Army Corps.
"Every drop counts. [The lake] is going to continue to rise," said Jim Jeffords, Operations Division Chief for the Jacksonville District.
Before decades of draining to make way for South Florida farming and development, Lake Okeechobee's water used to naturally overlap its southern shores and flow south in shallow sheets, replenishing the Everglades.
Everglades restoration, which could get more Lake Okeechobee water flowing south again, is billed as the long-term solution to the region's water supply struggles.
But the planned reservoirs and water treatment areas that could get more lake water flowing south remain slowed by funding delays, design changes and court fights. This year state officials have balked at a proposal to buy more sugar industry land south of the lake for an Everglades restoration reservoir.
Also, work to strengthen the lake's dike could be more than a decade away from completion.
Since January, the Army Corps has drained more than 126 billion gallons of water toward the east and west coasts to try to lower the lake.
ReplyArmy Corps holds off on draining more Lake Okeechobee water to the east
An algae bloom Friday put the brakes on draining more Lake Okeechobee water to the East Coast.
Water releases from Lake Okeechobee raise concerns for rivers and ...         Bradenton Herald


Vice President Biden talks Everglades with Florida officials
CBS Miami
April 30, 2015
MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Vice President Joe Biden is set to meet with Florida officials Thursday to talk about efforts to protect the Everglades.
The Board of Directors of the Everglades Foundation along with U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18)  are set to meet with the vice president in the afternoon.
Rep. Murphy is also set to discuss the discovery of toxic blue-green algae that threatens the St. Lucie River.
The meeting comes a little more than a week after President Barack Obama stopped into South Florida and spoke about the effects of climate change on Earth Day.
Obama used the Everglades as a backdrop to warn the world and South Florida community of the damage from climate neglect.
The president said rising sea levels are threatening South Florida aquifers and called on Congress to provide money for a land and water protection fund. He also emphasized his administration’s commitment to the world’s largest public plumbing project, as environmentalists call it, the Everglades restoration.
“South Florida, you’re getting your drinking water from this area. It depends on this,” said the president on April 22nd.
Eric Eikenberg, CEO for the non-profit group the Everglades Foundation which actively pushes for the completion of the restoration project is expected to be at Thursday’s meeting.
Last week, Eikenberg emphasized that the 240-million proposed in the president’s 2016 budget is critical to the project’s success to keep freshwater flowing, and preventing it from being contaminated and in some cases, dumped out into the ocean and Gulf.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has criticized the Obama administration over a backlog of federal dollars to maintain the Everglades.
In statement sent last week, he said in part, “We also need the federal government to step up their commitment to Everglades restoration by immediately requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the Lake Okeechobee dike.”


Deadline approaching for land purchase
North Ft.Myers Neighbor - by Bob Petcher
April 29, 2015
You've seen the television commercials. You've heard the pleas.
Buy the Land. Save our drinking water.
May 1 -just two days away from today - looms as a deadline for water quality.
Last November, 75 percent of Floridians voted for Amendment 1 (Water and Land Conservation) to the Florida Constitution. The action dedicated 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.
  Sugar land by LO
The vote allowed funds to be added to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire lands, restore them and manage improvements. These funds could be used to clean and protect the Everglades, protect our drinking water and ease harmful high flow regulatory discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
The State of Florida must appropriate the funds to purchase the lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area currently under option by May 1 or it will miss the Oct. 12 deadline to finalize a purchase of land at the agreed upon price.
Residents and visitors are urged to call state legislators and government officials to tell them you support purchase of the land.
"If our state government decides NOT to use Amendment 1 funds for the purchase of the land south of Lake Okeechobee from the sugar industry, then our state government IS surely deciding to ignore over 75 percent of you and I as Florida voters and the true owners of Amendment 1, while reaffirming that our state elected officials are truly representing special interests, not representing the public interest they have been sworn in on Election Day to represent," said Fort Myers Beach resident and clean water activist John Heim, who was named 2014 River Champion by Washington D.C.-based American Rivers organization last year. "How can we educate our children to have faith in and participate in our electoral process when we, as their parents, can plainly see that the electoral process is a living lie proven by ignoring the will of its own people who demand Amendment 1 funds for the purchase of the land south of Lake Okeechobee ?"
Heim has made six trips to Tallahassee to demand the purchase of the land south of the Lake. During his latest trip, he and many others voiced their concerns directly to Gov. Scott.
"Without the land deal, we will be basically cutting off our area's clean water supply, which indeed will be the end of times for you and I here locally," he said. "No clean water, no more FMB as you know and love it. Sadly, that's the reality for us all locally, come May 1. Our reality may become something even worse then an obvious, sold-out state government.
"If we cannot be granted a basic human right such as 'clean water,' then we can be sure to know our very existence doesn't even matter anymore to our state government."
Last month, at a news conference at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers, conservation organizations and local officials urged the state legislature to purchase Everglades Agriculture Area lands and by holding signs and speaking of the importance of stopping the discharges into the river, which they said is killing the estuary.
County Commissioner Frank Mann, a lifelong resident and strong environmental proponent, stated it has been an issue that always seems to get close to having something done but never happens.
"I was born here and learned to swim and waterski in this river when it was natural," Mann said then. "In the last 100 years, we have made a serious effort to mess it up."
In 2010, U.S. Sugar Corporation agreed via a binding, signed contract to sell 46,000 acres of its land -26,000 of which is directly south of Lake O. That Everglades area land could be used to store, clean water and flow water south from the lake to the "river of grass" as it once did. Water storage could be created with such strategic acreage to allow such cleaning and restoration efforts.
The option is for the state to pay $7,400 per acre or fair market value if it is higher than that amount. This land is currently being eyed for expanded mining and residential development, which will only drive up the costs of the land even further in the future.
The estimates are $350 million to buy all the land, but with Amendment 1 expected to generate $650 million annually, as well as other funding possibilities, the land is affordable, according to Jennifer Hecker, of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
Over the years, nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen have polluted Lake Okeechobee. That polluted water is now held within the lake until it is so high that it must be dumped down both the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, sending tainted water east and west into the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean and beachfronts. On the west coast, it damages our coastal estuaries, kills fish and contributes to algae blooms and red tide.
"The solution is in our hands. The opportunity is for the legislature to appropriate the funds before May, when the session ends," said Rae Anne Wessel of the Sanibel/Captiva Conservation Foundation at the recent news conference. "This is the only solution for high flows that are catastrophic to our rivers, estuary and Gulf ecosystem."
Due to the amendment's dedicated funds, now is the ideal time to purchase the 46,800 acres of sugar land to the state for construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. Money and land are now available, but U.S. Sugar is said to be backing out of its original agreement. State government must force sugar industry officials to honor their binding written contract, but they are balking.
Repeated emails and calls to Gov. Scott's office to ask if he would consider appropriation of funds to purchase the lands by May 1 and why if he chose not to yielded no response.
Prior to President Obama's visit to the Everglades on Wednesday, he released a statement: "President Obama needs to live up to his commitment on the Everglades and find a way to fund the $58 million in backlog funding Everglades National Park hasn't received from the federal government. This has caused critical maintenance delays in the Everglades to linger for over a year. We also need the federal government to step up their commitment to Everglades restoration by immediately requiring the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the Lake Okeechobee dike. As we continue to make important investments in our environment, the President's latest budget cuts millions from the repair of the Lake Okeechobee Dike - the rehabilitation of which is critical to the protection of south Florida's estuaries. Our environment is too important to neglect and it's time for the federal government to focus on real solutions and live up to their promises."
According to Everglades Trust, the Everglades ecosystem is a major contributor to Florida yet agricultural pollution kills two to nine acres a day and could lead to the loss of a $20 billion tourism industry, more than 365,000 jobs and the only source of safe clean drinking water for more than eight million Floridians. The organized group of activists, businesses and community leaders are committed to defend America's Everglades and hold polluters and lawmakers accountable.
According to Rob Moher, president and CEO of Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Gov. Scott. 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," said Moher via guest commentary. "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."
Moher asks everyone to go to 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.
Proponents say the need is justified, the plan has been put in place. So why hasn't it been thrust into action for Florida's most vital natural areas?
Amendment 1 overview
* provides funding to protect water quality in Florida's rivers, lakes, streams, beaches, and estuaries for future generations.
* directs one-third of existing fees collected when real estate is sold (the "Documentary Stamp Tax").
* This will result in over $10 billion to preserve Florida's wildlife habitat, wetlands, water quality over the 20-year life of the amendment without any increase in taxes.
Related:           Buy Everglades Acres, Greens Urge Legislature       WFSU

'Must buy the land,' My foot! Classic bait and switch
SunshineStateNews – by Nancy Smith
April 29, 2015
One last time, senators: If you bought into the Everglades Foundation's propaganda about the implicit land-buying intention of Amendment 1, if you allowed them to lay a reservoir-sized guilt trip on you because you understandably want to follow the will of the people -- calm yourselves.
Amendment 1 isn't, and never was, principally about buying land. Allow me to present the evidence.
Before last year's election, Amendment 1 supporters were arguing for a broader use of Amendment 1 dollars. Maybe they didn't mean it at the time. Maybe when writing the ballot language they threw in everything but the kitchen sink to make sure the amendment would pass. But clearly, what they're saying now is a country mile away from what they said in their Supreme Court Brief from June 24, 2013.
Please have a look at the brief in the attachment below, or click here and follow along: 
On page 6, they assert that the Legislature has “complete discretion as to the allocation among the broad conservation purposes” as defined in the amendment.  Complete discretion ...
On page 25, it mentions “beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites” and others as projects eligible for funding. 
If the Florida Supreme Court Brief isn't enough for you, how about a statement from Allison DeFoor ?
DeFoor served as the campaign chair for Florida's Water and Land Legacy, the coalition responsible for placing Amendment 1 on the ballot. DeFoor should carry some weight. He's a seventh-generation Floridian, an Episcopal priest and a former vice chairman of the Republican Party of Florida who ran for lieutenant governor under Bob Martinez in 1990.
In the op-ed DeFoor wrote for the June 6, 2014, Orlando Sentinel, he shows the forces behind the amendment wanted more than land-buying.
"I support Amendment 1 because, without raising new taxes, it will enhance drinking water sources, manage fish and wildlife habitats, add and restore lands, protect beaches and shores, and maintain state and local parks."
Read the entire op-ed, "Allison DeFoor:  For Florida's future, Amendment 1 a good bet."
I met DeFoor nearly a year ago at a Center-Right Coalition luncheon in Tallahassee and we talked about Amendment 1. Both of us were speakers and on opposite sides of the ballot issue. 
Afterward, we talked together for about half an hour, just the two of us, during which DeFoor did his best to try to convince me Amendment 1 wouldn't unintentionally break Florida's bank.
Eloquent and impassioned as he was, I don't recall him even once mentioning the amendment writers' intention to buy only land, or even principally land. Nor do I recall a single word about the need to complete the 46,800-acre U.S. Sugar Corp. land buy. I do remember him talking about the economy and, in particular, the link between tourism and Florida's fragile ecosystem, and speaking in broad generalities about preserving Florida's environment for future generations.
Not that any of this is as urgent today as it was Tuesday, when the House inexplicably walked out on the 2015 legislative session three days early.
It's now uncertain when, or if, talk of reassessing Amendment 1 money will resume. Certainly the Everglades Foundation's latest "Buy the Land" attack -- leaving petitions and bottles of polluted water with legislative leaders and at other strategic locations around the Capitol -- lost a lot of its sting after Tuesday's drama.
On Tuesday morning Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper told reporters there were discussions among Senate leadership to put a provision in environmental bill SB 918 to allow government to buy land in the Everglades. 
With the House adjourned sine die, SB 918 changes will fall by the wayside.
Still. Watching senators in recent weeks, so filled with angst over the intention of Amendment 1, it needed to be said one more time: This insistence that land is what Amendment 1 is all about and the Legislature is obligated to put it first has been a hoax. A very effective bait-and-switch scam.



NRC's Review of the Everglades ASR Regional Study now available
NAS Press Release
April 29, 2015
We are pleased to announce the release of the Nation Research Council’s Review of the Everglades Aquifer Storage and Recovery Regional Study.  You can read a brief summary or download the full report at

We will be hosting a webinar on May 13 at 11 am EDT, where the committee chair and several members of the committee will discuss the report findings.  If you are interested in participating, please register in advance at:

Patrick Murphy meets with Joe Biden Thursday on Everglades protection - by Phil Ammann
Apr 29, 2015
Florida House lawmakers ended this year’s Regular Session with a number of budget issues unresolved, such as water conservation funding through Amendment 1. But the movement to protect the Everglades on the federal level continues.
On Thursday, Congressman Patrick Murphy, who represents Florida’s Treasure Coast, joins members of the Everglades Foundation to meet with Vice President Joe Biden on continuing efforts to protect the Everglades.
Among the issues on Murphy’s agenda is the discovery of toxic blue-green algae, which threatens St. Lucie River from discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
Following the meeting, the Jupiter Democrat announced he would host a 2:00 p.m. joint press call with Eric Eikenberg, Chief Executive Officer of the Everglades Foundation.
Water, particularly in the Everglades, has become the hot-button issue in Florida this year, as environmentalists face off against property-rights advocates over government land acquisition, unfinished and underfunded conservation projects.
One debate is over a land deal where the state could buy thousands of acres south of Lake Okeechobee for flood water treatment and storage, which some believe could be employed in the fight to control future algae blooms.
U.S. Sugar, which owns the land, is reluctant to close the deal, as is Gov. Rick Scott; environmentalists, like the Everglades Foundation, are particularly strong on the idea.
Another contentious matter is Amendment 1, approved by a majority of voters last November. The constitutional measure seeks to spend nearly $1 billion for purchasing and preserving conservation easements, wildlife areas, wetlands, forests parks and other areas. The money comes from a third of the net revenue from document stamps, an excise tax collected from real estate transactions.
Opponents of new land purchases point out that state government now owns one-third of Florida’s land – nearly 9.5 million acres – with much of that land neglected. They believe the Amendment 1 money is not specifically intended to buy more land, but for technology and other conservation projects.
The East Orlando Post reported that the Army Corps of Engineers have now approved 350 water projects in Florida, all examined and planned for completion. Each project seeks to improve the state’s drinking water supply and have applied for Amendment 1 funds.
Murphy  recently announced he is a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate to replace Sen. Marco Rubio, who himself is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.


FL Capitol

Special session looming after House adjourns early
News-Press - staff
April 29, 2015
The Florida House abruptly adjourned Tuesday, three days early, assuring the call for a special session to come up with the required state budget by June 30.
The adjournment also means that bills covering everything from tax cuts to gambling, medical marijuana and making changes in the state's scandal-rocked prison system died as a result.
Since the GOP won control of the Legislature two decades ago, the chambers have let their disputes derail the session only a handful of times.
On Tuesday, as House Speaker Steve Crisafulli banged his gavel to end the session, Republican House members cheered, some raising both thumbs in the air.
"I get to go home and see the family," state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, said about the early end to the session.
The House actions drew scorn from Senate Republicans, who called it immature, and Democrats, who called it "unconscionable" because bills dealing with everything from death benefits to slain police to help for developmentally disabled children were not going to pass.
"There will be some that are going to 'high-five' and joke around later," said Senate President Andy Gardiner. "Nobody won today. Nobody won. The taxpayers lost. It's an unfortunate turn of events."
Fort Myers political consultant Cole Peacock, who worked in the Legislature 20 years ago, said the rancor among Republicans is similar to what happened in the 1990s when Democrats dominated the House and Senate. He said the infighting damaged the Democrats and was one reason for their fall from power.
If somebody in the private sector just walked out of work like House members did, they would be fired or forced to quit, he said.
Who's to blame?
Crisafulli blamed the Senate for the awkward session end. The House has been adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid to more than 800,000 Floridians, even though the Senate has proposed a plan that would allow the state to eventually require recipients to work or attend school.
Crisafulli said the House had made "genuine and legitimate offers" to end the budget stalemate only to have them rebuffed by the Senate.
"It was the right thing for us to do," Crisafulli said. "We've made every effort we can to negotiate with the Senate on the budget. ... I don't think it's healthy for the process to stay here and continue to talk about something that neither side is changing their view on."
The House decision to abruptly end the session came with about "10 seconds" of warning, said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford. Gardiner said in the morning he had offered to have two senators negotiate the end of the regular session and a special session to pass a new state budget. He said Crisafulli left a voice mail telling him the House was quitting early.
The fight over Medicaid expansion is linked to a $1 billion pot of federal money that helps hospitals that treat Medicaid and uninsured patients. President Barack Obama's administration has signaled it is unlikely to extend the hospitals funds if the state doesn't expand Medicaid.
Hours after the House left, Republican Gov. Rick Scott announced he had filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the issue.
The Senate continued its session even after the House left, discussing a bill on hydraulic fracking as House members filed out of their chamber.
The move means that the Senate must take any bills the House passed as they are or they will die. Any bills the Senate passes at this point also will die. Gardiner said the Senate would remain "professional" and continue to work Wednesday on legislation. Sen. Tom Lee, the Senate budget chief, said that after the House adjourned, some of their members pleaded with senators to pass their bills so they will not die this session.
Despite ending the session early, House members will continue to get paid extra for their meals up until Friday or until they return to their districts.
Republican House members took to Twitter to boast about the move.
The Florida House just sent a strong message about wasting your tax dollars. Adjourned #SineDie on Day 57. Headed home! #sayfie," tweeted Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral.
Lawmakers will now have to hold a special session to approve the state's budget before July 1. But it's clear that legislative leaders will have to deal with a divide that is widening between the two chambers.
Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, said it was particularly striking that some bills designed to aid developmentally disabled children — a high priority for Gardiner — will now die. Gardiner has a son with Down syndrome.
"Those are people that need help now," he said. "That's a sharp stick in the president's eye. Using kids with disabilities as a tool to poke the Senate president is beyond the pale. I don't understand the method of thinking there."
Here is part of a memo Speaker Steve Crisafulli sent to all members:
"At this time, I do not have information on when we will be back in Tallahassee for a Special Session. I understand the uncertainty creates difficulties for your family and work schedules. I am committed to doing everything I can within our principles to get us into conference. Our office will continue to provide you with information and updates in a timely manner.
Related:           Florida Five: Angry Fla. House quits legislative session 3 days early ...        BizPac Review


Conservancy urges legislators to say no to fracking bills – by Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
April 28, 2015
Weak oil and gas regulatory legislation proposed in response to the unauthorized fracking that took place in Southwest Florida is currently poised to pass with the support of the oil industry, in spite of widespread opposition from advocates for public health and water resource protection. One of the four fracking bills passed the House on Monday and awaits a Senate vote. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has worked tirelessly in good faith with all parties to try to craft legislation for this session, in light of fracking being presently allowed with virtually no regulatory oversight or information being public disclosed. However, we are now left with no choice but to oppose the current proposed legislation because it does not provide even the most minimal of safeguards for public health and water supplies.
We cannot support legislation that does little more than provide false assurances to the public, as these bills do. From the start, we were concerned there could be an attempt to pass legislation that would give a facade of regulatory protections without the substance. Our worst fears are now realized with these proposed bills that are filled with loopholes to benefit the industry in exempting many forms of fracking from regulation and public disclosure.
What the bills will do:
•Only regulate and require chemicals to be disclosed from some forms of fracking defined as “high- pressure well stimulation treatments” (those using high pressure and over 100,000 gallons of fluid total) — suspending permitting of those techniques until studied.
What the bills won’t do:
•Will not regulate or require public disclosure of chemicals in fracking and fracking-like extraction using low pressure or under 100,000 gallons total — even if using the same toxic chemicals as in high pressure well stimulation treatments. Will not suspend use of these other fracking-type techniques or study how they impact Florida’s unique geology and hydrology before allowing them to be used.
•Will not require individual bonds for these riskier techniques or oil well operators to hold liability insurance in the event that the cost of remediation exceeds the amount of the bond posted, so taxpayers are not burdened with cleanup costs.
•Will not require well operators using these new, more water-intensive techniques to use alternative water supplies rather than our prime drinking water sources. Taxpayers already have to pay higher water prices as the county is forced to use more expensive alternative, salty water supplies. Oil well operators should not be allowed to use our limited best potable water supply sources for industrial purposes.
•Will not require vital information, such as health and safety data for first aid to be provided to emergency responders or to health professionals to diagnose and treat patients.
These are just some of the most severe deficiencies in the proposed oil and gas legislation.
Over one year after the fracking operation at the Hogan well, the deep groundwater monitoring well is just being installed and the sampling initiated to do a meaningful investigation of potential contamination to our water supply sources. While we certainly hope no contamination occurred, we cannot know at this point.
Our community expects and deserves a thorough assessment of the condition our water supplies as well as strong legislation to protect against future irresponsible use of fracking-type extractions that leave our water supplies and citizens at risk of exposure to toxic contaminants. The Conservancy is committed to continuing to fight for the meaningful comprehensive legislation we desperately need.
We urge citizens to contact their legislators immediately and urge them to vote no on these bills and support the introduction of stronger oil and gas legislation next session instead. Go to for a quick and easy way to contact your legislators today on this issue.


Everglades Trust delivers petitions urging governor to buy U.S. Sugar land
SaintPetersBlog - by Ryan Ray
April 28, 2015
A small clutch of activists gathered on a foggy Tuesday morning to deliver petitions to Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders.
Executive Director of Audubon Florida Eric Draper was handed a bottle of water infused with a blue-green algae bloom beforehand, FedExed straight from central Florida the afternoon before.
The green, murky water came from Lake Okeechobee and is the product of too much agricultural runoff polluting the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, Draper told assembled reporters on behalf of the Everglades Trust.
His message to the governor and to leaders in both chambers of the legislature – augmented by what organizer Joseph Romero of the Everglades Trust estimated were 20,000 petitions – was simple: buy the land U.S. Sugar Corporation has agreed to sell to the state of Florida and use it for conservation purposes.
“You just can’t watch this slick of green water going into that river heading to the coast without saying ‘Wait a minute!’ – we can’t put this off just because U.S. Sugar doesn’t want to execute a contract that they signed legally five years ago,” Draper told reporters.
What about a recent argument circulating among anti-land acquisition legislators that we ought not buy the land and send the water south because the state needs to treat the water where it is first?
“It’s a bogus excuse,” Draper replied.
Below is the text of the petition, which will be delivered to Gov. Scott, Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Senate President Andy Gardiner, House budget chief Richard Corcoran and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.
“Dear Governor Scott and members of the Florida Legislature:
We need you to act now to protect and save Florida’s drinking water.
Last November, 75 percent of Floridians voted for Amendment 1 to the Florida Constitution, setting aside funds to clean and protect the Everglades and protect our drinking water.
The US sugar industry is encouraging you to ignore the voters.
You should reject the arguments of the sugar industry and force them to honor their binding written contract to sell 46,800 acres of sugar land to the state for construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. Unlike projects being advanced by the sugar lobby, the new reservoir will help control pollution and save the Everglades. In addition, the reservoir will have a major impact on saving our state’s water supply as the Everglades provides water to 1 in 3 Floridians.
We urge you to follow the will of the voters over the US Sugar lobbyists and prioritize Everglades restoration and fund the purchase of this critical land.
I add my name to tens of thousands of Floridians who voted to save the Everglades and protect Florida’s drinking water for decades to come.”
Related:           Lawmakers get slimy green water in late-hour appeal from ...           Palm Beach Post (blog)
Citizens demand Gov Scott "do the right thing"        WPEC-3 hours ago


Green algae can be an ally for environmentalists
Miami Herald – by Michael Van Sickler
April 28, 2015
Green algae just might be the best lobbying tool environmentalists have in making their case that the state should buy land owned by U.S. Sugar.
Last week, a bloom of toxic blue-green algae in water adjacent to Lake Okeechobee led to the suspension of water pumping that had been ordered by the Army Corps of Engineers. Environmentalists want to purchase about 46,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land that could be used to build a reservoir to capture the dirty discharge, purifying the water that drains into the Everglades, a case that was bolstered by last week’s bloom.
On Tuesday, the green algae was on full display during a news conference on the steps of the Capitol.
“The U.S. Sugar land gives us the opportunity to treat the water and send it south where it belongs rather than dumping it on those poor people on the coast,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, holding a bottle filled with dark green water that ostensibly came from Lake Okeechobee. “If they don’t buy the U.S. Sugar land then the people downstream from Lake Okeechobee can expect to continue to get this type of green, slimy, toxic algae water dumped on them on a continuous basis.”
It should have been a good year to lobby lawmakers for the land.
Voters passed a ballot measure in November, Amendment 1, that earmarked 33 percent of documentary tax revenue for land preservation and conservation efforts. Next year, that should mean about $740 million of available revenue.
But while supporters of Amendment 1 had made clear that they wanted at least $300 million restored to the state’s land acquisition program, Florida Forever, neither the House or the Senate budgets come close. The House budget provides about $10 million for land buys through Florida Forever. The Senate provides about $17 million.
To complicate matters more, U.S. Sugar no longer wants to sell its land, despite negotiating the sale with the state in 2010. Not only does the company oppose the deal, it’s lobbying against it, spending $550,000 in campaign contributions this year on state legislative races in 2016.
To answer questions about the purchase, U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez refers reporters to a statement that the company has been using for months. It’s up to the South Florida Water Management District to exercise the option to buy the land, according to the statement. The board voted against the purchase earlier this month. With estimates that it would cost between $300 million and $500 million, the board concluded it was too costly with too little benefit. How independent is the board? Well, it includes this guy.
And don’t forget about Malcolm “Bubba” Wade, a U.S. Sugar vice president, who currently sits on the South Florida Water Management District Water Resources Advisory Commission.
But independent or not, the water district’s objection to the purchase is U.S. Sugar’s main line of argument.
“All of the state parties have concluded that buying the U.S. Sugar option land does not solve any significant problems and doing so would consume HUGE financial resources elsewhere for real and more immediate environmental benefits,” the U.S. Sugar statement says. “That is why the focus of these taxpayer dollars has been on completing the badly needed projects that are currently planned and approved for construction.”
Draper questioned the premise of U.S. Sugar’s objection.
“That is amazing that U.S. Sugar is pretending to protect Florida taxpayers,” Draper said. “Isn’t that amazing? We use taxpayer dollars to subsidize the sugar industry in the state of Florida to provide them with free irrigation water, to give them flood protection and now they’re saying they’re protecting the taxpayer? That’s pretty amazing.”
Draper said the U.S. Sugar property’s last chance for funding may depend on whether Senators amend SB 918, which is up for a floor vote tomorrow. It would allow the state to buy land near the Everglades to build a storage treatment facility to treat Lake Okeechobee discharges before it goes downstream.
But it’ll be written in such a way, Draper said, that wouldn’t limit it to U.S. Sugar land.


House approves fracking bill
Pensacola Today - by Jim Turner
April 28, 2015
TALLAHASSEE — The House on Monday approved a measure that would require oil and gas companies to inform the state of chemicals being injected into the ground as part of a controversial drilling process known as “fracking.”
The bill (HB 1205) also would prohibit permits from being issued until a study is completed on the potential impacts of fracking.
However, a number of Democrats contend the measure that now awaits Senate approval simply creates the appearance of government scrutiny at the expense of the state’s groundwater at a time when lawmakers are looking to implement new water policies.
“We have a very unique state, with a unique hydropology, and we absolutely should not be doing anything with fracking,” said Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, a Tallahassee Democrat who said the state should ban fracking. “Our aquifer is so sensitive and our lands are so sensitive that this is not the right answer for Florida to move forward with new industry or with energy independence. This puts everything at risk that we cherish”.
Fracking involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to create fractures in rock formations, which allows the release of natural gas and oil. Florida has long had oil drilling in parts of Southwest Florida and the Panhandle.
The techniques are formally known as chemical hydraulic and acid fracturing.
The Florida Petroleum Council-backed bill, approved 82-34, would set up a state permitting process for fracking, require companies to register the chemicals being used on a national website and prohibit local governments from imposing their own regulations.
Lawmakers in support of the bill contend the drilling process helps the nation establish energy independence.
Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk City, argued there is always risk in producing energy and that the bill gives needed authority to the state Department of Environmental Protection to regulate fracking proposals.
“I like the outdoors. I like hunting and fishing. But let me tell you another thing, I like electricity,” Combee said. “I like lights and air conditioning and television. I like gasoline to put in my truck to come up here to visit with all my friends.”
In opposing the proposal, Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, said the state needs to be more cautious about the impacts to its water supply.
“On Friday we heard a little about how it’s all new technology and everyone is going to be perfectly safe,” Jenne said. “The odd thing is, the last time I heard that very specific debate point being made on this floor was literally one week before Deepwater Horizon blew sky high.”
The April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon oil spill flooded the Gulf of Mexico with 4.9 million barrels of oil and nearly 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants, but wreaked most of its havoc on the open Gulf itself and the coastal areas of Louisiana, and to some degree Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
The Senate version of the fracking bill (SB 1468), which is similar to the House proposal, is scheduled to make its first appearance on the Senate floor Tuesday.
House sponsor Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, has been pursuing the registry in recent years, with the House approving a similar proposal in 2013 only to have the bill never make an appearance on the Senate floor.
Not all Democrats opposed the bill.
Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, said she could support the bill because the study required on the potential impacts of fracking will create a moratorium on the drilling process that could last two years.
“The choice for me isn’t to be able to vote against fracking,” Edwards said, “but to at least put something in place that taps the brakes, to have a thoughtful study and have a rulemaking process in place that reflects the safe needs and the environmental concerns that I share with the members here in the back row.”
The state study would look at the impact of the geology under the counties where fracking may occur, the impact on ground water and surface water, what would become of chemical-filled water, and whether reclaimed water, also known as recycled or irrigation quality water, could be used rather than water directly from the aquifers that produce drinking water.
The permitting process, to require a company to declare upfront the kind of drilling that will occur, was added at the request of the state Department of Environmental Protection, which currently has no authority to issue or prohibit permits related to fracking.
The request followed the discovery that unauthorized acid fracking had been conducted in Collier County in December 2013 and January 2014.
The bill would increase the daily fine to $25,000, up from the current $10,000 a day fine, for companies that begin fracking without permits.
Rodrigues wasn’t able to get a second fracking-related measures advanced Monday.
The House postponed a vote on a separate measure (HB 1209) that would alter the process for gas and oil companies to shield the chemicals they use from the public.
Rodrigues said his public-records measure would have put more of an onus on oil and gas companies to maintain their trade secrets when someone files a public-records request.
“Currently if you want to challenge a trade secret, you have to hire an attorney, as an individual, you have to file a court case and pay for the fees to do that,” Rodrigues said after the floor session Monday. “Under my bill, an individual would file a public records (request). DEP would then say this has been requested, tell the corporation you have 10 days — and that was an amendment we put on at the request of the First Amendment Foundation — to challenge this.”
A two-thirds vote of the House is needed to pass new public-records exemptions, and with several Republican lawmakers absent it is unknown if the measure would have survived Monday.
Related:           Wednesday's letters: Fracking puts Florida water at risk
Fracking bill passes Florida House over fierce Democratic opposition          Palm Beach Post (blog)          
Florida Lawmakers Pass Bill That Arrests Local Efforts To Ban ...
Florida House Approves Controversial 'Fracking' Bill           WJCT NEWS

Study finds Everglades pythons like saltwater mangroves as much as freshwater marshes
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman
April 28, 2015
For five years, scientists tracked the 19 Burmese pythons around the Everglades, following their radio and GPS signals. They were hoping to learn where the invasive snakes prefer to live.
The answer is: pretty much everywhere. They live in the trees, and they live underground. They mostly thrive in freshwater marshes — but there was one that, to the scientists' surprise, found a home in the saltwater mangrove swamp at the Florida peninsula's southern tip and stuck around for quite a while.
“They're completely capable of living in the Gulf of Mexico mangroves for a year," said Kris Hart, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and the lead author on a new study released Tuesday. "He was just happy as a clam in that salt water.”
The study is an attempt to figure out where best to target efforts to eliminate the most famous invasive species in the country — and to get a glimpse of where the big snakes might go next, Hart said.
The scientists put tags on the pythons they had captured and released them as close to where they had been caught as they could. Then they tracked where the reptiles roamed.</p>
<p>For the most part, the pythons stayed in an area roughly 3 miles wide by 3 miles long. They seemed to prefer sloughs and coastal habitats, particularly tree islands — tropical hardwood hammocks where the roots have collected enough detritus to create an island slightly higher than the water level in the River of Grass.
But then there's that one that spent a year in Cape Sable hanging amid the mangroves. Scientists have already seen evidence that the pythons can swim, too. A few years ago one scientist trying to track down what happened to an endangered rat species that had been bred in captivity and released in Key Largo discovered that the tracking signal for one rat was coming from inside a python that had apparently swum over from the mainland.
The one in Cape Sable shows how adaptable the pythons can be. &quot;They can live in the freshwater environment and be fine,&quot; Hart said, &quot;and they can live in the saltwater environment and be fine.&quot;
As for their diet, she said, the scientists found that the pythons ate birds and mammals and alligators too.
Florida is infested with more exotic species than any other state, with the roster ranging from feral hogs originally imported by Spanish conquistadors to giant African land snails smuggled in a few years ago by a religious cult. But the pythons, which first cropped up in the Everglades in 1979, have proven the most persistent and difficult to deal with.
Pythons have largely taken over the southern half of Everglades National Park. Wherever the snakes go, scientists have reported finding a 99 percent decrease in raccoons, a 98 percent drop in opossums, a 94 percent drop in white-tailed deer and an 87 percent falloff for bobcats — and rabbits and foxes were gone entirely.
The problem captured worldwide attention in 2005 when Everglades National Park employees snapped photos of a python that had died while attempting to swallow an alligator, and the photo went viral.
State officials have tried everything to get rid of them, including holding a month-long python hunt outside the national park's boundaries.
Most of the 1,500 hunters who signed up for the 2013 Python Challenge never saw a single snake. They killed 68 — fewer than the number of eggs typically laid by a female python — but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced this month that it's planning another hunt for 2016.
The extensive studies that have been done on the Everglades pythons, such as this one, Hart said, mean that &quot;we know more about these guys here in Florida than we know about them in their native range.
Related:           'It's all about food and sex': Study shows how Florida Everglades ...           Miami Herald, Bradenton Herald
Burmese Python Habitat Use Patterns May Help Control Efforts     United States Geological Survey (press release)


U.S. Sugar says land buy not worth it, others disagree – by Chad Gillis
April 28, 2015
The U.S. Sugar Corp. is trying to save taxpayers from themselves.
That was the company's message while giving The News-Press a tour of its facilities and lands that could be purchased for Everglades restoration later this year.
The South Florida Water Management District has an option to buy about 46,000 acres of sugar land by October at an estimated cost of $500 million to $700 million.

The South Florida Water Management District has an option to buy about 46,000 acres of sugar land by October at an estimated cost of $500 million to $700 million. One proposal is to build a water storage reservoir on the 26,000 acres that is south of Lake Okeechobee, but state representatives and the water management district have been hesitant to pull the trigger on the deal. The company doesnÕt want to sell the land, which has been under contract since former Gov. Charlie Crist proposed buying all of U.S. Sugar and its assets in 2008.

One proposal is to build a water storage reservoir on the 26,000 acres that is south of Lake Okeechobee, but representatives of the state and the water management district have been hesitant to pull the trigger on the deal.
The company doesn't want to sell the land, which has been under contract since former Gov. Charlie Crist proposed buying all of U.S. Sugar and its assets in 2008.
Lake Okeechobee is drained primarily by flushing nutrient-laden waters down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, both of which were connected to the lake as a way to drain the Everglades for farming and development.
"If your solution is 'let's just send it (lake water) south,' you've done nothing to improve the water quality at the coasts," said U.S. Sugar senior vice president and former water management district board member Malcolm Wade. "And you've written off Lake Okeechobee, the chain of lakes (north of Okeechobee) and Everglades National Park."
The public push to "send water south" gained momentum in 2013, when record flood conditions swamped most of the state. Freshwater plumes spewed 15 to 20 miles offshore of Sanibel, and residents on both coasts held rallies and protests.
"They're ignoring that the government doesn't want to buy it and they don't have any plan designs for it," Wade said. "(The land under contract) has no trade value. The state has been surplussing land already, and they're looking at this and saying 'here we go again.'"
Lawmakers seem hesitant to buy the land as well, saying the money would be better used to build the Caloosahatchee Reservoir, also called C-43, and a similar project on the east coast. The reservoir is designed to capture and store about 55 billion gallons of stormwater runoff from lands north and south of the river at a cost of $580 million.
"We could do that (build a reservoir south of the lake), but it wouldn't change a single thing that happened to Sanibel in 2013 because the volume of water is exponentially larger than the amount you can send south," said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, who is against the sale.
Water managers have given up to 17 reasons why the district's purchase of the land is not worth pursuing, including the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding the lake, wildlife species protection concerns, water level limitations and flood risks.
Environmental groups disagree.
"I absolutely think it's worth buying the land for all the reasons we know related to the Caloosahatchee and the St. Lucie (rivers and estuaries)," said Linda Young, with the Clean Water Network. "It is illegal to destroy such an enormous reach and range of resources willfully when there are alternatives."
A University of Florida report released earlier this year said many Everglades projects are behind schedule and that little has been done to meet water storage needs. Historically, the Fort Myers area was cypress swamp and pinelands, systems that drain slowly while purifying water. The modern landscape is dotted with canals and pumps, which replaced the natural drainage system.
"The UF report, the first thing it says, is we should finish (current Everglades projects), which we're still 15 years away from," Caldwell said. "Then if we finish that we're looking at storage north of the lake and projects and then storage to the south."
The UF report also said the state and federal government should focus on getting the Caloosahatchee Reservoir and other projects built, that more money should be dedicated in order to finish projects.
Environmental groups say the money and public will are there, and they want the state government to understand and respect those concerns. About 75 percent of Florida voters last year passed an amendment that's expected to generate nearly $19 billion over 20 years, money to be used for purchasing and conserving land.
State lawmakers have not lived up to the people's will with that amendment, Young said, so why would they listen to the public now?
"The Legislature knows that the people of Florida are disgusted with their extreme, mean-spirited behavior and they don't care," Young said. "(It's) certainly not good public policy, most certainly not high-minded environmental protections."
Caldwell said the farms get a bad reputation and that the federal government is the root of the problem.
"I grew up thinking these stupid farmers were causing the problems," Caldwell said. "But I've spent 10 years on this, studying the maps, talking to engineers and scientists and learning how the system works. You can't physically move the volume water south, physically, the way it used to."
By the numbers
•23: locomotives used to harvest, move crop
•140: Miles of privately owned railroad tracks
•8: Billion tons of cane harvested per year
•800,000: Tons of refined sugar produced annually
•$500 to $700: Million in estimated costs for land purchase
•46,700: Acres can be purchased by October deadline
•24 to 36: Hours it takes from harvesting cane to shipping refined sugar
(Source: U.S. Sugar Corporation)

President Obama will press the climate change agenda on Earth Day – by  Bog.Moisa
April 27, 2015
Wednesday, president Obama will make a visit to the Everglades in South Florida. During this visit, the president will speak about the continuous efforts made to secure a cleaner environment and respect all the terms of the Climate Action Plan.
“Someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safe, more stable world?” – President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013
Wednesday, president Obama will make a visit to the Everglades in South Florida.  During this visit, the president will speak about the continuous efforts made to secure a cleaner environment and respect all the terms of the Climate Action Plan.
The purpose of the visit is to highlight the dangers of global warming that threaten the 734 square-mile tropical wetlands in the Everglades.Wednesday, president Obama will make a visit to the Everglades in South Florida.  During this visit, the president will speak about the continuous efforts made to secure a cleaner environment and respect all the terms of the Climate Action Plan.
“As the sea levels rise, the shorelines erode, and that salty water travels inland, threatening the aquifers supplying fresh drinking water to Floridians.” – wrote Brian Deese, senior adviser to Obama, on the White House blog.
Deese also highlighted the economic consequences of global warming on tourism. The Everglades are a well-known tourist attraction and losing it will cost the local economy many millions of dollars.
The White House will also announce this week a number of new small-scale initiatives, including new funding to protect national parks and a new partnership between the Department of Agriculture and ranchers, farmers and landholders.
The climate change agenda includes a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions up to 28% by 2025.  These issues are likely to be debated during the presidential race in 2016.


Study: 75 Percent Of Extreme Weather Due To Climate Change
Bloomberg - by Justin Doom
April 27, 2015
NEW YORK — Blame global warming for about 75 percent of the world’s unusually hot days and 18 percent of its extreme snow or rain, according to a new paper in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Heat waves and heavy storms are occurring at least four times more often than they did before carbon pollution started driving up thermometers. Global average temperatures are now about 0.85 degrees Celsius (1.4 Fahrenheit) higher than before industrialization.
Additional heat and precipitation are expensive. Severe weather costs the U.S. economy as much as $33 billion a year, according to a U.S. Energy Department report released April 21.
And those figures will increase as the planet continues to warm, as climate change may not be smooth or gradual, according to the new paper. At 2 degrees Celsius — United Nations climate negotiators’ avowed upper limit — extremely hot days may be twice as likely as at 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming. After 2 degrees Celsius, the odds of high-heat days may be five times greater than today.
“What used to be a one-in-a-thousand day, a one-in-three year event, actually occurs four times in three years,” Erich Fischer, a researcher at the Institute for Atmospheric & Climate Science in Zurich and one of the study’s authors, said in a telephone interview. “Weather extremes have always been occurring, before any human influence, but that doesn’t mean that there can’t be human influence on the extremes.”
There is widespread scientific consensus that human activity is causing climate change, which President Barack Obama said “can no longer be denied” while visiting the Florida Everglades last week.
Fischer and colleague Reto Knutti examined more than a century’s worth of data using more than two dozen climate models, running simulations that account for rising greenhouse- gas emission levels through the year 2100. Fischer was quick to emphasize the global nature of their results. The study is confined to heat and precipitation. How might evolving conditions affect meteorological events like tornadoes or hail? “We do not agree how they change,” he said.
Global warming’s responsibility for the world’s heavy rainfall may increase from 18 percent today to 40 percent if temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius.
The authors said that their results may be of use to policy makers, by sharpening their understanding of risk as climate change worsens. “With every degree of warming,” they wrote, “it is the rarest and the most extreme events — and thereby the ones with typically the highest socioeconomic impacts — for which the largest fraction is due to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.”
Translation: The worse things get, the more we’re bringing it on ourselves.


LO release

Tests confirm blue-green algae releasing toxins; lake discharges halted until at least Friday – by Jon Shainman
April 27, 2015
PORT MAYACA, Fla.---The Army Corps of Engineers has announced that it will hold off on moving any lake water into the St. Lucie Canal until at least Friday. It's trying to find out what is in an algae bloom on the east side of Lake Okeechobee.
State officials confirmed to the Corps Monday afternoon that the algae has tested positive for low levels of microcystin, which is a toxic substance produced by freshwater cyanobacteria and can cause liver damage.
Environmentalists are concerned that this could be a replay of the lost summer of 2013.
Large blue green algae masses ring the lake near the Port Mayaca dam.
Erik Eikenberg with the Everglades Foundation says an option many people have been pushing is to buy land to the south of Lake Okeechobee, so the Army Corps doesn’t have to continue to discharge the freshwater  east into the Indian River Lagoon.
“I don’t know how many more toxic algae outbreaks we need to have in order for folks in Tallahassee to realize this is a serious problem. This lake to my left is polluted and it’s sick,” said Eikenberg.
The Army Corps is working a balancing act. The lake water level stood at 13.78 feet Monday.
The Corps ideally likes it at 12 1/2 feet by the beginning of hurricane season June first.
In regard to the land to the south of the lake, it’s currently owned by U.S. Sugar and the state has until October to reach a purchase agreement. 
However, any deal would have to be approved by the legislature, and many state leaders have said they have no interest in buying more land so it’s uncertain if something can be hammered out before then.


We voted to buy land to benefit communities, not the sugar growers
The Ledger – Letter by Ray French, Babson Park, FL
April 26, 2015
An ad on TV stated that more than 70 percent of voters voted to buy land south of the Everglades to ensure we will always have fresh, clean water. I didn't realize my vote was for the Everglades. I thought my vote was to buy land for future use as parks and other recreation use.
This action near the Everglades is not a new item. In the last decade this issue came up when the concerned area promoters asked and received millions of dollars to restore water shortages. The plan turned sour right from the start when voters realized they would not get the water.
An investigation revealed that the water was going to the sugar growers in the area. Sugar cane requires that the fields be flooded to make the sugar cane grow. Someone is paying good money to try and pump fresh water into a space that is slowly being invaded by salt water. Have any ideas who would benefit ?


Amendment 1

Amendment 1 intent in jeopardy, backers say
Tallahassee Democrat – by Jeff Burlew
April 25, 2015
When environmental leaders across the state decided to push for a constitutional amendment generating billions to buy conservation lands, one of their key goals was to replenish the Florida Forever fund.
Under Florida Forever and its forerunner, Preservation 2000, the state purchased 2.5 million acres of environmentally sensitive land, including rare-species habitat, floodplains and fragile coastline, protecting them in perpetuity from development.
But Florida Forever, approved in 1999 and envisioned to raise $300 million a year for land acquisition, hasn't been fully funded since the 2008 legislative session. In 2009, after the recession hit and doc-stamp revenue from real-estate sales plummeted, lawmakers put no money into the fund. Since 2008, the program saw a 97-percent drop in funding.
Florida's Water & Land Legacy, made up of more than a dozen groups, formed in part because of flagging Florida Forever support. The coalition gathered enough petitions to put Amendment 1 on ballots last year, and voters approved it overwhelmingly, with 75 percent of the vote.
The amendment, which sets aside 33 percent of doc-stamp revenue over 20 years to acquire and restore conservation land, is expected to raise $750 million in its first year alone. But with a week to go before regular session ends, Amendment 1 supporters have concern over House and Senate plans to implement it.
The House has proposed only $8 million for Florida Forever, the Senate $15 million, though land purchases are included elsewhere in the budget. Scott has proposed $100 million; Amendment 1 sponsors want $155 million.
"Based on what we know today, it appears to be a betrayal of what the voters wanted to happen," said Jim Stevenson of Tallahassee, former chief naturalist for Florida's state parks Florida Springs Task Force chair. "I'm very disappointed in the Legislature for not following the voters' wishes."
The constitutional amendment forbids commingling of dollars deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund with general revenue. But Scott and the House and Senate have proposed using between 20-30 percent of Amendment 1 dollars for existing state-agency expenses.
Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, who wants to fully fund Florida Forever, said last week if at least half of Amendment 1 dollars don't go toward land acquisition, the debate will have to be settled in court.
"You can't just sweep (agency) operational costs out and and then back-fill it with Amendment 1 money," Altman said. "That's a bait and switch. That's a Ponzi scheme. And that will never work. I don't think any court in the land can uphold that."
It's unclear where funding levels will land — this year's legislative session, which was set to end Friday, has been thrown into chaos by a standoff between the House and Senate over Medicaid expansion and funding of safety-net hospitals.
"What it's beginning to look more and more like is the lottery," said Will Abberger, chair of the Amendment 1 coalition and director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land. "When Floridians voted to approve the state lottery, it was sold on providing additional funding for education. And the Legislature used those lottery funds to replace existing education funds. So far, it looks like that's what they're doing with Amendment 1."
Jessica Blackband, a Florida State University senior who helped collect petitions for Amendment 1, said Florida has a long list of land that should be purchased to protect the ecological integrity of the state.
"The voters have clearly spoken, and our representatives in the Legislature have an obligation to honor that vote," she said.
The Everglades
One option coalition members support is bonding Amendment 1 proceeds, which would increase dollars available for land by a factor of about 11. Bonding would allow for purchase of land south of Lake Okeechobee owned by U.S. Sugar seen as key to restoring the Everglades, which supplies drinking water to millions in South Florida. The state has an option to buy the land, which could cost $350 million or more, but it expires in October.
Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the only way to make a meaningful purchase of land south of the lake is to bond. But he pointed out Scott has expressed opposition to bonding and the House plan has no bonding for land acquisition. Lee himself said he doesn't know whether he supports it.
"I'm not sure we want to go out in the first year and blow a bunch of money and throw it at a bunch of projects without going through a process that identifies the best scientific use for these limited resources," he said. "So while I would support conceptually trying to advance projects if they're timely, I'm concerned that we're going to, in a rush to judgment, maybe spend money unwisely."
Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said bonding makes good business sense now because of low interest rates and it would allow for full funding of Florida Forever and purchase of the Everglades land. He vowed to keep pushing for appropriate use of Amendment 1 dollars.
"We're going to keep working to get it right," Fuller said. "We're not going to quit. Florida's going to have a much brighter future if we have strong, robust conservation programs with Florida Forever and the Everglades as centerpieces of that policy."
The Florida Forever list includes about three dozen projects in the Big Bend, including the Wakulla Springs Protection Zone, located in Wakulla and Leon counties. Since the late 1990s, the state has spent more than $7 million buying more than 4,000 acres around the threatened springs, and another 3,000 acres are slated for purchase.
Abberger said without significant land purchases, springs will continue to be degraded and polluted, the Indian River Lagoon will not be restored, clean drinking water won't be available for South Florida and property values and tourism will see sharp declines.
"Over the next 20 years, which is the life of Amendment 1, Florida's population is projected to grow from 18 million to 25 million," he said. "So this is really the end game for land conservation in Florida. If we don't buy it and conserve it and protect it, over the next 20 years it's going to be lost forever to development."


By any other name, Florida mulling climate change in disaster plans - by Steve Patterson
April 25, 2015
People have heard by now about Florida officials not wanting to use the term “climate change.”
Reports mocking Gov. Rick Scott’s administration for refusing to use the words have run in newspapers from the Washington Post to The Vindicator, the small-town daily in Youngstown, Ohio.
Websites posted video of the state emergency manager who answered a senator’s climate change questions by talking about “the issue you mentioned earlier,” but never saying the words.
But it turns out state administrators really have paid some attention to how climate change affects Florida’s risk of disasters the state tries to plan for, from floods to sinkholes.
Compared with some states, Florida’s planning doesn’t look too bad.
“It’s definitely not the worst,” said Becky Hammer, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council who tracks climate change preparedness.
That’s good, because the Federal Emergency Management Agency said last month that states will have to consider how climate change affects their disaster risks to keep getting a type of federal aid that totaled about $800 million for Florida over the past 25 years.
Many risks seem larger when climate change is added to the mix. A report funded by Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity made these points:
■ “Climate change is expected to increase rainfall intensity and frequency. … Climate change can affect the incidence and behavior of wildfires. … [And could] intensify and prolong droughts. …
■ “While different climate change scenarios predict differences in the number of days that Florida will experience extreme heat, they all show an increase in the frequency and duration of extreme heat.”
While Scott generally has punted when asked about climate change, the head of Florida’s disaster planning office said the state is working on being ready.
“Florida is taking a comprehensive approach in finding solutions to address sea level rise and flood mitigation planning,” said Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, in a written reply to Times-Union questions about climate change disaster planning.
Like Koon’s dialogue last month with Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, the reply still didn’t use the words.
Koon said his office — an arm of the Executive Office of the Governor — is working with the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Environmental Protection on a review of sea-level rise planning.
Part of that review will be a pilot project evaluating communities’ vulnerability to rising seas and potential for adaptation, said Dee Ann Miller, a DEP spokeswoman. Information from the pilot project can help local governments update their growth plans, she said, and can help mitigate damage through preparation and set post-disaster redevelopment plans.
Miller said that in 2013, her agency set up a work group with staff at the state’s five water management districts to look at impacts of sea-level rise on communities’ water supply and water quality, as well as their natural environments and flood control.
That same year, the state sent FEMA its latest State Hazard Mitigation Plan, a 2,234-page report about how and where Florida is vulnerable to disasters varying from tornadoes to tsunamis. That’s the report that has to incorporate climate change when the next version is sent to FEMA, something Florida has until 2018 to do.
There are a lot of questions to be answered before then, said Rachel Cleetus, an economist with the Union of Concerned Scientists who studies climate change policies. States who plan well will be more prepared when disasters eventually happen, she said.
“Just denying it or turning away because it’s hard is not helpful,” Cleetus said.
Florida’s last report mentioned climate change in several places, and included a list of webinars and conferences involving climate change or sea-level rise that emergency management planners attended, sometimes as speakers.
But the plan seemed to assume similar conditions year after year, and planning for climate change is less certain and requires states to be more forward-thinking, said Hammer, who worked on a 2012 petition to FEMA asking then to require states to fit changing climate conditions into disaster plans.
Florida’s plan, for example, maps wildfire risks for forests in each county based on about 50 years of recorded conditions. Hammer said she doesn’t dispute that record, but changes in conditions — rain, for example, or heat — may cause risks to change faster than planners would realize if they assumed conditions were static.
State emergency plans are drafted with input from an advisory group that Koon said has more than 500 members representing organizations from the American Red Cross to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
That crowd of advisers could help shape how the state plans on climate change.
But like a lot around that change, what the result will look like isn’t clear yet.
“This is an ongoing process and we will continue to work with FEMA,” said Aaron Gallaher, a state emergency management spokesman.


FL Capitol
Amendment 1

Florida Legislature has its own ideas for voter-approved conservation fund
New York Times – by Lizette Alvarez
April 25, 2015
MIAMI — Facing a thicket of candidates and ballot measures in the November election, Florida voters sent one resounding message to elected officials: More must be done to protect the state’s natural habitats — including the long-suffering Everglades.
But as the Legislature heads into the final days of this year’s session, Republican leaders are being criticized for the way they are divvying up a $750 million pool of money created to buy, conserve and restore land and water resources. It was established when three-quarters of Florida voters approved constitutional Amendment 1, which sets aside part of a real estate tax.
The amendment was intended to bolster a popular conservation program, Florida Forever, that had been hard hit by state budget cuts. But instead of using the bulk of the money to safeguard land from development, supporters of the amendment say, state lawmakers have shifted it to other projects and programs.
 “The word ‘land’ appears 18 times in the text of the ballot amendment,” said Will Abberger, the chairman of the Amendment 1 sponsoring committee, who helped lead the arduous task of getting the proposal on the ballot. “We thought the voters sent a pretty loud and clear message.”
Republican legislative leaders, however, see it differently: Florida has already conserved enough land — 5.3 million acres — so using the money for other crucial projects and expenses is a smarter approach. Because Amendment 1 allows funds to go toward land management, it gives them the discretion, they argue, to use the money more broadly, including to pay for day-to-day operations of several state agencies that deal with management.
“We don’t need to be known as the hoarding-land state,” State Senator Alan Hays, a Republican, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that allocates Amendment 1 money, said during a meeting. “We need to be known as good stewards of the resources that the people own.”
So far, the Republican-controlled Legislature has funneled only a modest amount of money into buying land — not the $300 million share that was expected. Other environmental initiatives, including protection of springs, are also languishing. And a pivotal component of a long-term plan to restore the Everglades — acquiring land from the U.S. Sugar Corporation to help increase the flow of water into the Everglades — appears to be off the table entirely.
 “The Legislature is showing how out of sync they are with voters and how much they hate the amendment,” said Eric Draper, the executive director of the Audubon Society of Florida. “If they can find a way to pay for paper towels in the washroom with Amendment 1 money, they would do it.”
In Florida, where the battle over development is constant, buying land is seen as the surest way to protect natural resources. Florida started its program — the largest in the country — under Gov. Bob Martinez, a Republican, in 1990. The program, later called Florida Forever, was embraced by Gov. Jeb Bush.
But then a recession, coupled in 2011 with a Legislature that often catered to business, and Gov. Rick Scott’s emphasis on jobs, nearly decimated the program. Money dried up, scientists said, at a time when Florida’s springs, estuaries, rivers, lakes and coral reefs were being hurt by factors ranging from waste and fertilizer runoff to water consumption and climate change.
Voters acted to correct this in November by providing a dedicated stream of money for 20 years to Florida Forever.
Of the $750 million in the Amendment 1 budget, the Florida House approved $10.5 million for land on Florida Forever’s conservation and restoration priority list, environmentalists said. An additional $90 million, through bonds, would go toward buying land for springs protection and restoring the Kissimmee River among other projects, which, while laudable, fall outside Florida Forever, Mr. Abberger said.
The speaker of the House, Steve Crisafulli, “believes it is irresponsible to buy land that falls into disrepair or becomes a breeding ground for harmful invasive species,” his communications director, Michael Williams, said. Mr. Crisafulli, though, is not opposed to “long-term strategic” land buying.
The Senate approved $17 million for Florida Forever after the $2 million it initially proposed unleashed a torrent of angry emails from conservation supporters. It budgeted an additional $20 million for springs. The two chambers must now reach a final agreement on the budgets by May 1.
A large share of Amendment 1 money — more than $230 million — would go toward state agency operations and regulatory expenses, including paying for the salaries of state employees. Ordinarily, these expenses are paid through the general pool of appropriations, not the special tax.
“There is a shell game of sorts going on,” said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “It’s a bait and switch.”
Environmentalists said they were hoping that Mr. Scott, who proposed $100 million for Florida Forever, would pressure the Legislature to increase the amount. But the governor has so far not wrangled with the Legislature on the environment.
Other sensitive issues, including water pollution controls, also have been diminished. A much-hoped-for Senate bill to protect Florida’s springs from growing pollution and low water flow was weakened this month. The changes came after lobbyists for Florida businesses and agriculture told lawmakers that the bill — which would have curbed water pumping permits, among other things — was too strict and could hurt businesses.
Action is needed, scientists say, because Florida’s incomparable landscape continues to decline. Once crystal-clear freshwater springs have grown murky with algae. Critical estuaries, the breeding ground for marine life, have languished because of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee. And the Everglades are still reeling from thirst, something that also affects South Florida’s dwindling water supply.
Perhaps the biggest environmental battle unfolding is over a component for the Everglades’ restoration. Advocates are pressuring the Legislature to allocate money in the next week to buy 46,800 acres owned by U.S. Sugar, part of an option worked out several years ago under Gov. Charlie Crist. The option expires in October.
Republican leaders and Mr. Scott want to focus on other plans to help the Everglades, including a separate $880 million project to build two reservoirs to store and clean some of the polluted water that flows out of the lake. Mr. Scott also led the effort in 2013 to build a series of bridges to help the flow of the River of Grass, a nickname for the Everglades.
But environmentalists say the U.S. Sugar land, which lies south of Lake Okeechobee, is also needed to help clean the water and push more of it directly into the parched Everglades — not into estuaries to the east and west. (To control for flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers funnels the lake water east and west into estuaries that have been badly damaged by the polluted water.) The idea is to build a reservoir on the land, which was bought decades ago by sugar companies, to make that happen.
If the land is not purchased soon, the option will expire and the deal must be renegotiated.
“While all the other projects are equally important pieces of an interconnected puzzle, this missing piece is also necessary,” Ms. Hecker said. “Without this, at the end of the day we won’t be successful.”
U.S. Sugar, part of a powerful industry that donates heavily to lawmakers, championed the deal during the recession. But now the company has backed off the idea, saying the land would not solve the pollution problem.
Action, Mr. Abberger said, is imperative. Development is booming again, the state’s population is surging and land prices are rapidly climbing.
“The next 20 years will be the end game for land conservation in Florida,” Mr. Abberger said. “If it’s not acquired and conserved, it will be gone.”


Water policy expert Swihart speaks Monday - Staff report
April 25, 2015
The new “Water Voices” speaker series continues Monday evening in High Springs with a talk by water policy expert Tom Swihart.
Swihart is the former administrator of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Water Policy and author of the book “Florida’s Water: A Fragile Resource in a Vulnerable State.” He writes a regular blog on the state’s water issues,
On Monday evening, he will speak and answer questions on the topic “The Florida Water Policy Toolbox.”
The event runs from 7-9 p.m. at the High Springs New Century Woman’s Club, 40 NW First Ave., High Springs. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.
Water Voices is an educational speaker series organized by the Ichetucknee Alliance, Our Santa Fe River and the and the High Springs New Century Woman’s Club.


Army Corps holds off on draining more Lake Okeechobee water to the east
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 24, 2015
An algae bloom Friday put the brakes on draining more Lake Okeechobee water to the East Coast.
A rainy week initially triggered plans to resume draining lake water east into the St. Lucie River to ease South Florida flooding threats. But an algae bloom, which can cause fish kills, near Port Mayaca raised concerns that more lake discharges could worsen water quality.
Suspending lake releases allows the state to test the waters to determine the extent of the potential risk.
"After we receive additional information, we will make another decision early next week," Army Corps of Engineers spokesman John Campbell said Friday.
Draining water eases the strain on the lake's troubled dike, considered one of the country's most at risk of a failing. But dumping lake water out to sea also wastes water that could boost South Florida drinking water supplies, help irrigate crops and replenish the Everglades.
And prolonged lake discharges into the normally salty coastal estuaries on the east and west coasts can harm fishing areas and fuel toxic algae blooms that make the water unsafe for swimming.
The Army Corps tries to keep Lake Okeechobee water levels within 12.5 to 15.5 feet above sea level. Officials prefer to have the lake below 13 feet by June 1.
The lake level on Monday was 13.71 feet, which is about 6 inches higher than this time last year.
The Army Corps since January has drained about 126 billion gallons of water toward the east and west coasts to try to lower the lake.
A dry start to April enabled the Army Corps to hold off on lake discharges toward the east coast for nearly a month, but that changed after the wet weather this week.
Before decades of draining to make way for South Florida farming and development, Lake Okeechobee's water used to naturally overlap its southern shores and flow south in shallow sheets, replenishing the Everglades.
Swollen Lake O dropping back toward normal level
Lake Okeechobee's declining water levels have eased, but not erased, South Florida flooding threats as the summer rainy season fast approaches. ( Andy Reid )

As U.S. Sugar flexes muscle, Amendment 1 supporters fret about less money for land purchases
Herald/Times - by Michael Van Sickler, Tallahassee Bureau
April 24, 2015
TALLAHASSEE - - Supporters of Amendment 1, an environmental ballot measure that passed last year with a resounding 75 percent of the vote, are bracing for a legal battle with legislators over how to spend a $740 million windfall.
The showdown looms with less than a week left in the regular 2015 session. Lawmakers have set aside no more than $20 million next year for Florida Forever, the state’s public land acquisition program. Environmentalists had expected at least $300 million when the ballot measure passed less than six months ago.
“It’s pretty doggone clear that the intent was to acquire more land,” said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge. “If we don’t put meaningful dollars in land acquisition, it will go to court.”
Environmentalists say much of the obstruction comes from one company: U.S. Sugar.
Since the end of December, the Clewiston agriculture company and its executives have showered Republican and Democratic lawmakers with $550,000 in campaign contributions for their 2016 races.
Their lobbying has been focused on blocking one specific land purchase, property that they own south of Lake Okeechobee.
But their opposition to that single purchase has been so vociferous across-the-board that it has imperiled the overall Florida Forever program, said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. When Altman proposed an amendment last month that would put $300 million into Florida Forever, U.S. Sugar lobbied against it out of fear that it would be used to purchase its property, Draper said.
“The sugar lobby has pushed lawmakers so hard that they’re confused,” Draper said. “A lot of them think they’re the same thing — (that) the U.S. Sugar property is Florida Forever.”
The company owns about 26,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee and another 20,000 near Clewiston. Environmentalists had identified this property as crucial in helping clean the Everglades. The land could be used for a reservoir that captures dirty discharges, improving the quality of water that drains into the Everglades.
But U.S. Sugar wants to develop 18,000 homes and 25 million square feet of stores, offices, warehouses and other commercial buildings on the company land instead. In November, the Department of Economic Opportunity objected to the project, giving the company until later this year to appeal.
If lawmakers bypass the state purchase, which has an option that expires in October, that would give U.S. Sugar a stronger case that its property no longer provides an opportunity for conservation or Everglades restoration activities.
Two lawmakers who have an outsized say on that purchase are the budget chiefs in the House and Senate, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes and Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon.
Each has a political action committee that received a $25,000 contribution from U.S. Sugar in February.
U.S. Sugar contributions didn’t stop there. The Republican Party of Florida was paid $159,382 since January, with another $35,000 going to the Republican Senatorial Campaign run by Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando. The Florida Democratic Party was paid $45,000. On the day before the session started, the last day U.S. Sugar could make contributions to lawmakers, it gave a total of $25,500 to 22 lawmakers, half Republicans and half Democrats.
Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, has witnessed U.S. Sugar’s change of heart in selling its land.
He was chief of staff for then Gov. Charlie Crist when he helped negotiate a deal with U.S. Sugar where the state would buy the property at a market rate. At the time, U.S. Sugar executives Malcolm “Bubba” Wade and Robert Buker wrote op-eds in 2010 urging the deal.
Now Eikenberg heads the foundation that has been pushing its purchase. He’s been backed by a University of Florida study that identified the U.S. Sugar property as critical in cleaning the Everglades.
He said he’s been mystified by the opposition to the purchase from the same company that agreed to it in 2010.
“U.S. Sugar has put so much energy into killing it,” Eikenberg said. “And they’ve accomplished it.”
Asked why U.S. Sugar now opposes selling its land, company spokeswoman Judy Sanchez provided only a one-sentence statement. “We should be celebrating the implementation of 2013’s restoration strategies and working together in the Legislature to secure long term funding of ecosystem restoration.,” Sanchez said.
Lee said that Senate support for buying the U.S. Sugar property, once Eikenberg’s best hope, has vanished. That position falls in line with House leaders who have always opposed it.
“There is a belief that acquiring land in this moment in history is probably not the best bang-for-the-buck,” Lee said. “I’m not sure if we want to go out in the first year of (Amendment 1) and blow a bunch of money and throw in a bunch of projects without going through a process that identifies the best scientific use of these limited resources.”
Gov. Rick Scott, who won’t comment about the U.S. Sugar property, included $100 million in his proposed budget in January for Florida Forever land acquisition.
In recent meetings, Draper said he’s been encouraged by Senate leaders who have shown support for increasing the amount of money to be spent on Florida Forever.
But they’ve got a long way to go. Supporters of the amendment say that means that Florida Forever, a state program created in 1999 to fund public land acquisition, should have its initial authority to spend $300 million restored. The House budget provides about $10 million for land buys through Florida Forever. The Senate provides about $17 million.
Even Lee said he expects litigation over the Legislature’s Amendment 1 spending plan. So far, the amount earmarked for buying land is a pittance, said House Minority Leader Rep. Mark Pafford of West Palm Beach.
“It’s a form of malfeasance,” Pafford said. “We’ve been directed by the people to spend money to conserve land, and clearly that hasn’t happened the way 75 percent of Floridians wanted to do that.”
The issue has been delayed because of an unrelated showdown on Medicaid expansion, making it difficult to assess just how much money will be available.
“Everything is operating in the shadow of Medicaid,” said Clay Henderson, an Orlando lawyer and former president of the Florida Audubon Society who helped write the amendment.
If lawmakers return for a special session in June, that might help the cause, Henderson said.
“It’s hard to think it can get any worse,” he said. “But in a special session, lawmakers would go home and have to confront their constituents. That could make a big difference.”



Bill NYE,
"the Science Guy"

Climate change is “not something you should be debating or denying”: Bill Nye
Washington Post – by Chris Mooney
April 24, 2015
“Shooting the messenger isn’t going to help you on climate change.”
Bill Nye is talking by phone on an early morning bus ride to Ithaca, N.Y., where his alma mater, Cornell University, is set to celebrate its 150th birthday and he’s scheduled to speak. It has been a busy week — including, most notably, a Wednesday trip with President Obama on Air Force One to visit the Florida Everglades on Earth Day — and Nye is answering the political critics who sniped at the visit.
[Why Obama’s trip to the Florida Everglades is a shrewd move in the climate debate]
When Nye tweeted about the trip, political conservatives made a giant fuss about the amount of energy the trip consumed, and, Nye says, attacked him pretty personally.
“That it uses a lot of fossil fuel for the president to move around is a necessary evil at this time,” Nye responds. “Earth Day is not ‘stay home from work’ day. It’s ‘let’s change the world’ day.”
“Change the world!” is probably Nye’s trademark line — it was written in a 1992 “rules of the road” memo, he says, that he delivered to all incoming staff on the set of the 1990s PBS show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” telling them modestly what their goals were.
With that TV series, Nye captivated kids with scientific showmanship and humor. In the last few years, though, he has not only recaptured that now-grown-up audience but won an even larger one, with something quite different.
He’s still a jokester — but he’s also become someone who acts a bit like a science gladiator, willing to debate anyone who expressed skepticism about the science of evolution and climate change. He’ll do it on TV — or even at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where he famously debated creationist leader Ken Ham.
In the process, he’s become one of the nation’s leading spokespeople on the climate change issue. “It wasn’t conscious,” Nye say. “I was just playing the hand I was dealt. I take the complicated ideas and make them accessible to everybody.”
There is, admittedly, sometimes a tension involved in Nye’s newer and more politically charged role. His friend and fellow science celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson declines to debate those who challenge science — sticking more with the role of an educator.
Related:           Obama and Bill Nye Beat Up on Republicans           White House Dossier
Bill Nye 'the Science Guy' brings climate change message to Rider ...
 White House attacks climate deniers as political opportunists after ...          Daily Mail
Where do the 2016 presidential candidates stand on climate change ?         New Pittsburgh Courier
Rep. Lamar Smith: Global Warming Has Become a 'Religion'          Newsmax


Demand water quality
Cape Coral Daily Breeze
April 24, 2015
Voters have spoken.
Amendment 1 -allowing funds to be added to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire lands, restore them and manage improvements- received 75 percent approval last November.
The Water and Land Conservation change to the Florida Constitution could provide funding to protect water quality in Florida's rivers, lakes, streams, beaches, and estuaries for future generations.
More than $10 billion could preserve Florida's wildlife habitat, wetlands and water quality over the amendment's 20-year life. Yet, it will not require a single increase in taxes. Rather, it will direct one-third of existing fees collected when real estate is sold.
Appropriated funds could be used to clean and protect the Everglades AND ease harmful high flow regulatory discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. We all know what excessive discharges has done to our area estuaries and wildlife. Excessive nutrients in our water can cause algae blooms, red tide, fish kills and manatee deaths when red tide gets into the respiratory system of these endangered mammals.
Locally, Lee County Health Department officials reported evidence of bacteria in the Caloosahatchee at the end of the summer of 2013 due to repeated high flow discharges. Not only was wildlife impacted, so too was human life. Recreational boating, fishing and swimming were threatened.
An environmental slide topped off with an economic impact. Tourists were said to have shortened or cancelled vacation times on both Florida coasts due to water quality reasons.
Let's make sure that does not happen again. All that is needed is an allocation by Gov. Rick Scott. A political will.
Conservation organizations and local officials have made pleas. Sanibel/Captiva Conservation Foundation, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Sierra Club, Everglades Trust, environmental champion Ray Judah and Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann are among them.
Five years ago, U.S. Sugar Corporation agreed via a binding, signed contract to sell 46,000 acres of its land -26,000 of which is directly south of Lake O. Some EAA land could be used as water storage, to allow it to be cleaned of pollutants then flowed south from the lake via Plan 6 to the "river of grass" as it once did.
Buy the land.
Lawmakers are being held accountable. Is it more of a question of special interests over public interest?
The Herbert Hoover Dam does not have a spillway. Instead, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers both act as its release valve. The influence that U.S. Sugar Industry has on certain groups has been tabbed a determining factor.
It will cost $350 to purchase the Everglades Agriculture Area land, but Amendment 1 is expected to generate $650 million annually,conservationists say. Everglades Trust says agricultural pollution kills two to nine acres a day in the Everglades ecosystem and could lead to the loss of a $20 billion tourism industry, more than 365,000 jobs and the only source of safe clean drinking water for more than 8 million Floridians.
So, why the wait?
Next Friday serves as the deadline to purchase the lands currently under option. Gov. Scott and state legislators need to hear from every one of us to understand this deadline cannot pass us by without action. Reach Gov. Rick Scott at 1-(850)-717-9337 (, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli at 1-(850)-717-5051 ( and Senate President Andy Gardiner at 1-(850)-487-5229 (
The clock is ticking on a land purchase and our collective health.


Turkey Point reactor hearings pit jobs against water
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
April 24, 2015
Allan Martin lives in Gainesville where he is a University of Florida sophomore majoring in nuclear engineering. But this week, he and three other engineering students drove to South Florida to testify at public Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearings that could influence what happens to two new reactors planned for Turkey Point.
Martin, who said his expenses were covered by lobbyist Jerald Paul’s Energy Information Center, was unsurprisingly a big supporter of adding two more nuclear reactors to the site along Biscayne Bay.
“We have no qualms about any of the recommendations made by the NRC,” he told commissioners. “Go Gators. Go nuclear.”
In the long-running debate over whether to build new reactors between two national parks on fragile wetlands stressed by cooling canals and threatened by rising sea levels, lines are being drawn between the environment and the economy. The hearings this week were intended to focus on environmental concerns — and critics have raised a long list of them. But Florida Power & Light employees, union reps, and other supporters, including Homestead Mayor Jeff Porter and Homestead Hospital CEO Bill Duquette, tried to shift the focus to economic benefits.
 “FPL is a great corporate citizen,” Duquette said. “They’re very into community activities.”
The hearings, held Wednesday and Thursday at Florida International University and in Homestead, provided a rare chance for the public to weigh in on the federal process. The state signed off on the expansion last May. Comments from the meetings will be considered before a final environmental report is issued. A safety review, which does not allow public comment, is also being conducted.
Expanding the plant has long drawn criticism from environmentalists, but this summer concern intensified after problems in the plant’s cooling canals surfaced — a spike in temperature and an algae outbreak triggered emergency measures — and the state changed the way it monitors the canals.
“Marine parks and huge nuclear plants simply don’t go together,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Important natural resources would be in serious jeopardy.”
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, in town with President Barack Obama this week, said her agency, which oversees Biscayne and Everglades national parks, is carefully considering the balance between the need for nuclear power and the location of the plant. But the NRC will have the final call.
 “Nuclear energy has been and will continue to be a viable resource of power ...,” she said. “And we want to make sure that all of the things that are important to the ecosystem of this region are taken into account as they move forward or assess the future of those plants.”
Biscayne National Park, which has criticized the plans, is also planning to file more detailed comments before the May 22 deadline for mailed and emailed responses, said Superintendent Brian Carlstrom.
If built, FPL officials say the plant would save the state $100 billion in fossil-fuel costs, cut carbon emissions by 481 million tons, and provide 800 permanent jobs. The company hopes to start construction after permits are approved in 2017, said spokesman Greg Brostowicz.
But mayors from Miami, South Miami, and Pinecrest say the reactors, which are designed to last at least 40 years, don’t do enough to factor in climate change. Plans only account for a foot of sea level rise by 2100 and not the three feet projected by the United Nations climate panel that issues forecasts, the mayors say. The cities, which sued to stop the addition of towering utility lines along U.S. 1 needed to carry additional power, also object to changes in monitoring water quality around the cooling canals.
While the new reactors would use reclaimed water from a nearby Miami-Dade County sewage-treatment plant, backup cooling water would come from wells drilled deep in the aquifer. Those wells could use up to 7.4 billion gallons of water a year — about a billion more than now used by all of the Keys, said Miami Waterkeeper Executive Director Rachel Silverstein.
At the hearing, retired lawyer Joseph Segor also wondered if FPL had a plan for nuclear waste stored at the site if rising seas threaten the plant.
“What I would suggest here is that a careful scientific analysis be made,” he said.
Critics also question the wisdom of allowing a utility to use so much water while spending upwards of $8 billion on Everglades restoration work.
“I’m not against nuclear power. I own stock in (FPL parent company) Next Era,” said Capt. Dan Kipnis. “This is strictly a brains thing. Why build it there?”


Heed the Everglades’ warning on climate change
Palm Beach Post - Commentary by Rhea Suh
April 23, 2015
What is causing highway cavities in Palm Beach County ?
Of all the voices calling for action against the dangers of climate change, none can match the Florida Everglades for a fierce and urgent testament to the damage already happening and the threat of further harm to come.
Rising seas are turning freshwater wetlands into saltwater lagoons along Cape Sable. Droughts threaten the seasonal rains that recharge the Everglades, the source of drinking water for one in every three Florida residents. Warming temperatures are extending the range of insects that bear such illness as West Nile virus, dengue fever and Lyme disease.
All of that gets worse from here — for the Everglades, the nation and the world — unless we act now to cut the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving climate chaos.
That’s the message coming out of the Everglades.
President Barack Obama drew on that authority on Wednesday, taking an Earth Day trek to the Everglades to make the case for action now.
Last year, after all, was the hottest since global record-keeping began in 1880. The 17 hottest years on record have all occurred since 1997. And the first quarter of this year was the hottest yet.
We’re on track for further warming in the coming decades. And scientists say sea levels could rise another 2 feet or more by the end of the century — a level that would put much of the Everglades under seawater — if we fail to act.
At risk is not only the Everglades but Florida’s diverse economy, more than $200 billion worth of coastal real estate. And for the health of our people, especially seniors, children and those who work outside in extreme heat, that means extra hardship for those who suffer from asthma, heart conditions or many other ailments.
Climate change is a global problem. Fixing it will take global solutions.
By leading the way in protecting future generations from worsening climate change, though, we’re doing what’s right for our country. As we do, we’re seeing progress from others around the world, including China, India, Mexico and the European Union. That’s building real momentum toward global cooperation when leaders from more than 190 countries gather for critical climate talks this fall in Paris.
The heart of Obama’s climate-change agenda is a plan to help clean up the dirty power plants that account for about 40 percent of our carbon footprint, nationwide. Astonishingly, there’s no limit on how much of this pollution these plants may cough up.
The president’s Clean Power Plan would change that. Over the next 15 years, it would cut carbon emissions from our power plants by 30 percent, compared to 2005 levels.
We can do even better than that, but we have to get started now.
Under the plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will tailor specific reduction targets to match each state’s energy mix. States then work with local power companies to find the most cost-effective way to get the job done.
In Florida, for example, power companies may promote energy efficiency to help families and businesses do more with less waste — the quickest and cheapest way to cut our carbon footprint. They may get more power from the wind and sun, tune up aging generating equipment or some combination of all of this.
By cleaning up its dirty power plants, Florida can create thousands of good-paying jobs in the clean energy sector, reduce electric bills for its residents and strike a blow against the central environmental challenge of our time.
Tallahassee, though, is wasting time, dragging its feet on a plan that deserves our support, and standing up for fossil-fuel polluters instead of the people of Florida. It’s time to stop pretending we can escape climate change and its rising toll by telling folks not to talk about it.
Nature has a way of speaking with a kind of power and eloquence that can transcend words. The Everglades is telling us every way it knows how that we must cut the dangerous carbon pollution that’s driving this widening menace. When a voice like that cries out to us, it’s time to heed the call.


rising -

Miami Beach sees rising seas as no threat to real estate boom, for now
The Peninsula
April 23, 2015
Miami Beach, United States--Miami Beach's condo boom is bubbling hot, with glass towers being built as fast as they can be -- even as scientists say rising seas could swamp much of the storied city by the century's end.
City officials are betting that a surge in real estate tax dollars fueled by the property boom will bankroll big investments in fighting the effects of climate change.
Many scientists, however, have doubts about how much can be done, and how soon, to stem tides that few until recently thought would rise so fast.
The sea and sand lifestyle is big business for the area. Millions of tourists visit Miami Beach's white sands and Art Deco buildings every year.
Residents of the city -- which sits on an island just off downtown Miami -- have grown increasingly used to seeing streets flooded with seawater, even on sunny days.
Almost all of low-lying Florida's population of just under 20 million lives crowded along its two sandy coasts. Florida is already the third most populous US state -- and expects to grow as the US baby boom generation heads into retirement.
And the island on which Miami Beach sits is on the frontlines for storm and tidal surges. As a whole, the state's mean elevation is just 100 feet (30 meters).
To help get its standing water out, Miami Beach alone is installing a pumping system expected to cost $300-500 million.
US President Barack Obama, who traveled to Florida's Everglades Wednesday in a high-profile push to raise awareness about the dangers of climate change, acknowledged that "folks are already busy dealing with this."
"We don't have time to deny the effects of climate change," Obama said, as he spent "Earth Day" in the subtropical wilderness.
"Nowhere is it going to have a bigger impact than here in South Florida," he said.


Perspective: How much land to protect ?
Tampa Bay Times – Exclusive by Tom Hoctor, director of the Center for Landscape Conservation Planning at the University of Florida
April 23, 2015
Bluehead Ranch, one of the many currently unprotected Florida Forever projects, is important for protecting the headwaters of Fisheating Creek, the health of Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades, habitat for Florida panther and Florida black bear. It is one of the largest remaining private expanses of dry prairie, an endangered ecosystem supporting many listed species, left in Florida.
When it comes to conserving Florida's natural and rural lands, a simple question arises - how much is enough? How much land needs to be protected to save Florida's ecosystems ?
The short answer ? More than is currently protected. The long answer ? It's complicated, so keep reading.
The issue takes on added importance as the Legislature decides how to spend Amendment 1 money. Supporters of the measure, which passed with 75 percent of the vote, say they intended that the money from documentary stamp revenue would be used to acquire important conservation land (or its development rights) to protect it from development.
But some politicians claim that Florida already has enough conservation land or that there isn't a plan for additional protection needs. They are wrong on both counts.
Florida currently has about 10 million acres, or 29 percent, of its land in protected public and private lands managed compatibly with conservation, with the majority of it in vast acreages of wetlands and federal lands including Everglades National Park and Florida's many military reservations.
Protecting almost all Florida Forever lands on the current project list would add an additional 2 million acres and raise the protected percentage to approximately 35 percent. But Florida's extensive research on conservation priorities makes it very clear that additional land protection beyond current Florida Forever projects is essential for achieving our conservation goals.
These are not wild-eyed guesses. For more than three decades, Florida has led the nation in science-based conservation planning regarding identifying the areas most important for protecting Florida's biodiversity and ecosystems.
Floridians and our political leaders need to keep in mind that protecting our green infrastructure is just as important as providing and maintaining our gray infrastructure, that is, our transportation, residential, commercial and industrial land uses and systems. Green infrastructure is a collective term encompassing the knowledge that biodiversity produces services including clean and sufficient surface water, water recharge, storm protection, flood control, clean air, food and fiber, fish and shellfish production, and nature-based recreation worth billions of dollars every year.
Through cooperative efforts among state universities, state agencies, conservation organizations and private landowners, we have engaged in a series of scientific assessments over the years to identify Florida's biodiversity and ecosystem conservation priorities. This conservation science and planning coincided with both the start of Florida's growth management efforts and Florida's two land conservation programs, Preservation 2000 and Florida Forever. Both programs were heavily influenced by Florida's wealth of conservation science expertise and collectively protected more than 2 million acres of land from 1990 until 2009.
Though those acres represent very important progress toward achieving the goal of protecting Florida's conservation priority areas, the science makes clear that there are still many unprotected acres essential for conservation and to sustain human populations. This includes the 2 million acres of land still waiting on the Florida Forever list, and many additional high-priority areas identified as essential for wildlife habitat, wildlife corridors and natural resources including our water supply.
So where does this put us regarding the future of Florida conservation and the claim that Florida already has "enough" conservation lands? And how does it relate to scientific estimates of land needed to effectively protect biodiversity and ecosystem services? Or, in other words, "How much is enough"? Scientists have been investigating this question for at least the last half-century, and the research and discussion continue to be better informed as conservation science continues to advance.
"How much is enough?" depends on a number of factors including geography, climate, habitat diversity, endemism (species found only within a specified region and not anywhere else, and parts of Florida are important centers of endemism), and level of conversion to development.
In short, the answer could be any where from 25 percent to 75 percent of a state or region, though this collective body of work has also suggested that approximately 50 percent of a region's land in conservation (this includes a range of lands from natural to working landscapes such as ranches and silviculture) is a general benchmark for sufficient protection of our natural resources and to sustain human populations.
As a starting point, we need to use Amendment 1 to revitalize the funding of our landmark Florida Forever program. There is no legitimate, science-based or economic argument against returning Florida Forever to a minimum annual funding of $300 million a year. At current land prices and $300 million a year, Florida Forever might protect approximately 750,000 acres per decade, though protected acres would diminish as land prices continue to increase. That means we have many decades ahead of conservation land protection to achieve our science-based conservation goals.
In addition, the majority of our future conservation land protection can be done using conservation easements (selling development rights), which keeps the land in private hands where the landowner is responsible for management. And Florida Forever is a willing seller program, which means instead of attempting to rely on regulations to protect ecosystems, landowners voluntarily agree to sell their land or the development rights on their land to protect its conservation values.
Florida Forever and similar programs like the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program are by far the most effective tools we have to ensure functional ecosystems are protected. This is especially true now that Florida's growth management program has been largely dismantled, while Florida is now again growing at the rate of over 350,000 people per year and losing at least 75,000 acres of rural land to new intensive development per year.
The overwhelming message from Floridian voters' approval of Amendment 1 is that they see these same trends and want a very strong conservation land protection effort to ensure that Florida's most important lands for conservation are protected before they are lost to development. Now the Legislature needs to listen and act accordingly.


Statement by the WH Press Secretary
April 23, 2015
Obama at Everglades: Climate Warning
• President Obama spoke Wednesday at Florida’s Everglades National Park, with a vast, marshy field as a backdrop. “You do not have time to deny the effects of climate change,” he told an audience of several dozen guests. “Nowhere will it have a bigger impact than here in South Florida.” (WaPo, TRNS, me)
• The political context was unmistakable: Obama’s climate change-focused trip on Earth Day was aimed at goading Florida Republicans – including Gov Rick Scott and two presidential contenders, former Gov Jeb Bush and Sen Marco Rubio – to engage him on the issue
• Obama mocked the GOP pointedly when he referred to Sen Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) stunt in February, when he brought a snowball to the Senate floor to argue that climate change is a hoax. “Yes, this winter was cold in some parts of the country, including Washington,” Obama said. “Some people in Washington helpfully used a snowball to demonstrate that fact. But around the world, in aggregate, it was the warmest winter ever recorded.”
• The friction with Republicans was evident by Scott’s refusal to show up at the Miami airport to greet Obama on the tarmac, even though the WH had invited him
• Obama’s trip to the Everglades was part of a week of climate-related events at the WH. Obama has also highlighted his pact with China to significantly reduce greenhouse gases by 2025. He has announced a $25 million fund of public and private money to restore and maintain national parks, along with other things


Thawing permafrost feeds climate change
April 23, 2015
Carbon, held in frozen permafrost soils for tens of thousands of years, is being released as Arctic regions of the Earth warm and is further fueling global climate change, according to a Florida State University researcher.
Assistant Professor of Oceanography Robert Spencer writes in Geophysical Research Letters that single-cell organisms called microbes are rapidly devouring the ancient carbon being released from thawing permafrost soil and ultimately releasing it back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Increased carbon dioxide levels, of course, cause the Earth to warm and accelerate thawing.
"When you have a huge frozen store of carbon and it's thawing, we have some big questions," said Robert Spencer, assistant professor of oceanography. "The primary question is when it thaws, what happens to it? Our research shows this ancient carbon is rapidly utilized by microbes and transferred to the atmosphere, leading to further warming in the region and therefore more thawing. So we get into a runaway effect."
Spencer and a team of researchers first began looking at this issue of what happened to the carbon as permafrost thawed several years ago. There was a gap in the scientific literature because terrestrial scientists had found that permafrost was thawing and thus releasing long-stored carbon. But, aquatic scientists found no evidence of that ancient carbon at the mouths of major rivers leading to the Arctic Ocean.
So, where did the carbon go?
The simple answer is that it became food.
The more complex answer provides an interesting glimpse into how some of the smallest living organisms can have a major effect on the planet. Microbes, single-cell organisms that are too small for the human eye to see, are the oldest form of life on Earth and carbon is a rich food source for them.
Scientists weren't finding carbon at the mouth of major Arctic rivers because it was already consumed and released into the atmosphere.
"This material is very attractive to these microbes as a food source," Spencer said. "As permafrost thaws, microbes are going to use this carbon with clear ramifications for climate change."
To conduct this study, Spencer led a team of researchers who spent more than three months between 2012 and 2014 studying thawing permafrost in Siberia. Permafrost in the region is extremely deep—more than 100 feet in some places—and has remained frozen for tens of thousands of years.
At 19 different sites in the Siberia region, Spencer and his colleagues collected hundreds of water samples and conducted experiments to determine what portion of the carbon pool microbes were using as a food source—the ancient carbon coming from the thawed permafrost or new sources.
Spencer acknowledged it is exceptionally difficult for scientists to capture that process in real time, but future research will take his team to small streams dominated by permafrost thaw to see if they could quantify permafrost carbon inputs before microbes gobble it up.
"We have to capture this material as soon as it thaws because that's where we see its unique compositional features which make it so attractive to microbes," he said.


We should continue buying land
Time Observer - Letter by Jim Thomas, founder, Friends of Lake Apopka, Winter Garden, FL
April 23, 2015
Our opinions and beliefs about Amendment 1 and conservation in general are, for the most part, opposite. I do feel, however, we can disagree and discuss the issue with civility.
The organization of a program to pass Amendment 1 should not have been necessary. We had a good program that used a portion of the doc stamps to buy land until it was conveyed to the general fund by our governor, who is not noted for his environmental sensitivity. Many efforts by groups of all sizes to restore the program were ignored. 
The decision to make it a constitutional amendment was the only apparent direction we could take. The 75% vote was, to me, a clear proof that the majority wanted it.
While I certainly don’t condone anything similar to communism, the fact is that private protection of larger important tracts of land cannot be operated by individuals. The most massive pollution problems were owned by corporations, which have polluted huge areas of Florida on both coasts and by the farm cooperatives that polluted our 31,000-acre Lake Apopka and another 20,000 acres of marshland that is one of the largest migratory waterfowl refuges in the world.
We are not promoting the acquisition of land just to save it. We have specific criteria for selecting parcels: habitat for declining populations of plants and animals; protection of water recharge areas; CO2 uptake; etc. The list is long, but there are criteria for acquisition.
My studies in Madagascar show what can happen to an entire population when we do not protect the environment: massive erosion throughout; major pollution of all natural water bodies; no safe drinking water; loss of unique flora and fauna that was a major ecotourism market now in total decline.
Florida already faces a major drinking water issue with our aquifer continuing to decline. We also face continuing air pollution and transportation issues as we continue to build more roads. With more than 850 people per day moving to Florida, our natural resources will continue to decline, and larger numbers of permanent residents are predicted for the future. 
It is my opinion that what lands we acquire in the next few years will be all we have in the future.



Obama visits Everglades to call for action on climate change
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid and William E. Gibson
April 22, 2015
President Barack Obama used an Earth Day visit to the Everglades to make South Florida the poster child for fighting climate change.
In his first trip to Florida's famed River of Grass, the president Wednesday tried to build national support for cutting air pollution and other conservation efforts to lessen global warming and rising seas. The low-lying Everglades is at risk from sea-level rise, which could erode shorelines and push salty water further inland — hurting wildlife habitat and fouling South Florida drinking water supplies.
"Climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it," Obama said, standing at the edge of a sawgrass prairie near the entrance to Everglades National Park in Miami-Dade County. "If we don't act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it."
The president is pushing for the country to cut carbon emissions by 28 percent by 2025 to try to lessen the impacts of climate change.
The president's visit to Everglades National Park comes as he is proposing more funding to protect and promote national parks. That includes a plan to give fourth-graders and their families free passes to national parks across the country for a year.
Also, the president on Wednesday urged Congress to approve his proposal for $240 million in federal funding this year for Everglades restoration, which is billed as a way help stem the effects of climate change.
"We don't have time ... to deny the effects of climate change," Obama said. "Nowhere is [climate change] going to have a bigger impact than here in South Florida."
Obama's Earth Day speech to about 150 invited guests, which included environmental advocates, South Florida elected leaders and even Bill Nye "The Science Guy," was the first presidential visit to Everglades National Park in 14 years, according to park officials.
South Florida environmentalists welcomed the president's visit as a chance to highlight restoration projects designed to save wildlife and preserve water supplies and to push for more conservation efforts.
"Everglades restoration is the key to combating impacts from climate change in South Florida," said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon Florida's director of Everglades policy.
While the president's visit brought renewed attention to the Everglades, state officials say the federal government has been slow to deliver money for restoration.
The state and federal government in 2000 agreed to split the billions of dollars it would cost for dozens of Everglades restoration projects, such as reservoirs and water pollution treatment areas. While progress has been made, none of those projects is finished as budget cuts, political wrangling and construction problems continue to slow the work.
"President Obama needs to live up to his commitment on the Everglades and find a way to fund the $58 million in backlog funding Everglades National Park hasn't received from the federal government," Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday. "This has caused critical maintenance delays in the Everglades to linger for over a year."
Obama administration officials acknowledge that more federal funding is needed, but point to Congress as the holdup.
"We know that the federal government has an important role to play," said Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Sally Jewell, who joined the presidential visit. She added that Congress needs to "follow through."
Despite questions from conservatives about the projected threats of climate change, South Florida officials in recent years have said they can't afford to do nothing.
Broward and Palm Beach counties five years ago teamed up with Miami-Dade and Monroe counties to create the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Action Plan. The plan seeks to prepare for and try to minimize the effects of climate change, including more than 100 recommendations such as raising low-lying roads and moving drinking-water wells farther inland.
The president praised South Florida's climate action plan as "a model not just for the country, but for the world."
Scientists say natural climate change has been worsened by man-made pollution from burning fossil fuels, which produces more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that capture the sun's heat. Increased temperatures melt ice sheets and boost sea levels. That puts low-lying places such as Florida at risk of more flooding as well as more freshwater drinking water supplies turning salty.
Tackling climate change should be a bipartisan effort and it requires "political will," said Obama, who pointed out that Republican president Theodore Roosevelt started the national parks system.
"Refusing to say the words 'climate change' doesn't mean that climate change isn't happening," said Obama, taking a jab at climate change deniers. "Protecting the one planet we've got is ... what we have to do for the next generation."
Experts say climate change is the latest threat to the Everglades, which already suffers from decades of draining the land to make way for South Florida farming and development, which shrunk the Everglades to half its size.
Also, draining water out to sea for flood control starves what remains of the Everglades. Pollution washing off farmland and urban areas and into the water that still flows south threatens to wipe out the Everglades' tree islands, sawgrass marshes and other vital habitat.
Everglades advocates used the president's visit as another chance to renew their call for state leaders to buy more sugar industry land to get additional water flowing to the struggling River of Grass.
A proposed deal gives the state until October to buy nearly 50,000 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. that could be used to move more water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, instead of draining it out to sea for flood control.
Supporters say money for the deal is available after Florida voters in November overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment dedicating existing fees levied on real estate sales to buying land for environmental projects.
But state officials have so far balked at paying for land that could top $500 million, instead focusing on finishing planned restoration projects.
"If Gov. Scott and the legislature fail to act in the final weeks of the legislative session, the contract with U.S. Sugar Corporation will expire in October and we will be back to square one in finding a solution," Everglades Trust founder Mary Barley said.
The Obama administration supports the state pursuing the U.S. Sugar land buy, Jewell said.
"We do need support from the state and the growers in the region," Jewell said. "We need to be able to store that water."
Related:           Obama visits the Everglades to talk about climate change — and ... Washington Post
Obama Picked the Perfect Location for an Earth Day Speech          Slate Magazine
Obama Uses a Visit to the Everglades to Press His Climate Agenda            New York Times
Obama Uses Everglades As Backdrop To Warn Of Damage From ...           CBS Local
Why Obama's trip to the Florida Everglades is a shrewd move in the ...       Washington Post
What Obama's Earth Day visit means for the Everglades      The News-Press
Obama Everglades trip to highlight week focusing on climate change          Miami Herald
Obama to push climate agenda in the Everglades      CNN
President Obama Visiting Everglades National Park On Earth Day ...          National Parks Traveler
Obama's Catch-22 on climate change Vox
Obama in Everglades says climate change can't be denied
Message to Obama: To save Everglades, buy US Sugar land            TCPalm
Governor declines to meet Obama in Everglades       TCPalm
- etc.etc.etc. - -


How should the Everglades be restored ?

Global Warming 101

Why Obama went to the Everglades for Earth Day
National Geographic – by Laura Parker
April 22, 2015
The president chooses the nation’s most vulnerable state to talk about impacts of climate change and rising sea levels.
As a prop for President Obama’s Earth Day speech on climate change, the Everglades lacked the dramatic imagery of shrinking glaciers in Alaska or the drought-stricken peaks of California. But Florida’s great swamp provided an urgency that other settings couldn’t:
South Florida already is in trouble from rising seas.
The third most populous state is one of the most vulnerable places on Earth to climate change. The combination of low, flat landscape and population density—three-fourths of its 19.9 million residents live in coastal counties—creates uniquely compelling climate challenges for the coming decades.
Already, more than half of Florida’s 825 miles of sandy beaches is eroding. Tourist destinations such as Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale have endured sunny-day flooding during exceptionally high tides for years.
The Everglades protects the aquifers of South Florida, so as sea level rises, so does the prospect that the drinking water of seven million people will become too salty.
“We do not have time to deny the effects of climate change, folks,” Obama said Wednesday in a speech at Everglades National Park. “Nowhere is it going to have a bigger impact than here in South Florida.” (Read more about Obama's Earth Day announcements.)
Drinking Water at Risk
The president’s visit to the park was his first. He strolled with celebrity scientist Bill Nye along the Anhinga Trail, named for the long-necked water bird that swims underwater to hunt for fish. The boardwalk circles through a sawgrass marsh past the scene of a legendary 2003 battle between an adult alligator and a Burmese python that played out for 24 hours in front of horrified tourists, propelling the Everglades’ invasive python problem into the headlines.
“South Florida, you’re getting your drinking water from this area and it depends on this,” Obama said.
The only subtropical wilderness in North America, Everglades National Park is home to such endangered or threatened species as Florida panthers, American crocodiles, manatees, and a long list of birds. At 1.5 million acres, it is the largest wilderness east of the Rockies. Two-thirds of the park lies near sea level, at an elevation below three feet.
But the Everglades isn’t only a sanctuary for animals. The freshwater marshes of the River of Grass, as it also is known, refills and protects the Biscayne Aquifer, the vast underground basin beneath South Florida that supplies drinking water to one-third of the state’s population.
This occurs in two ways. Surface water in the marshes seeps through porous limestone bedrock into the aquifer. And, if there is enough fresh water flowing through the marshes, it pushes back salt water.
“The Everglades and the drinking water supply are very much connected,” says Jayantha Obeysekera, chief modeler for the South Florida Water Management District. “The more water you bring into the aquifer, the more it helps [stop] salt-water intrusion near the ocean. You have to have more fresh water to push the salt water out.”
The Everglades of today is about half its original size and is undergoing a restoration billed as the biggest environmental rehabilitation in U.S. history.
In mid-century, Florida’s original developers built hundreds of miles of canals to drain the swampland and create farmland and salable real estate.
The canals, operating on gravity, move water out to the ocean. As seas rise along the Florida coast—now at a rate that is six times faster than at any time in the past 3,000 years—the canals can’t drain. Instead, they flood into the interior of South Florida. Pumps and gates installed on some canals prevent flooding now. A two-foot rise in sea level would render more than 80 percent of the gates inoperable.
Already, salt-water intrusion has forced some wells along the coast that supply suburban water systems to be relocated inland. The Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District are developing a new 50-year plan to “replumb” the canals.
Obama’s Message to Skeptics
The president’s choice of Florida for his Earth Day excursion also provided him with a political gift too irresistible to pass up—the chance to jab Republican leaders for failing to embrace the science of climate change. (Read "Earth's Dashboard Is Flashing Red—Are Enough People Listening?")
In what scientists call the most at-risk state, Governor Rick Scott and two presidential contenders, former Governor Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio, remain skeptical that climate change will have dramatic effects. Bush hasn’t said much other than he is “concerned,” while Rubio questions whether climate change is caused by human activity. Scott cemented his image as a skeptic in his first term with his declaration “I’m not a scientist.”
Two months into Scott’s second term, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting exposed a directive prohibiting some state officials from using the terms “climate change” and “global warming.” When Scott disputed the claim, several state officials stepped forward to say they had been pressured to remove those terms from their written work.
“So climate change can no longer be denied. It can’t be edited out. It can’t be omitted from the conversation,” Obama said.
The president also named a list of Republican presidents—including Theodore Roosevelt, who established the national park system, and Richard Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency—who have promoted environmental protections.
“This is not something that historically should be a partisan issue,” he said.
Not Just Theory to City Planners
In the meantime, many local officials in Florida say they’ve no time to debate whether climate change is real.
In Miami Beach, with millions of dollars’ worth of real estate at risk, leaders call their barrier island “ground zero of ground zero.” They, along with leaders in the four southeastern counties—Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe—are drafting plans to reengineer their network of suburbs through 2060, when sea level is expected to rise two feet. That includes raising seawalls, roads, and highways; rezoning land that can’t be protected; and abandoning lowland that floods today.
Miami Beach is spending more than $400 million, most of it on new pumps, to overhaul a storm drainage system and stop street flooding that occurs regularly. The pumps are designed to buy time.
This spring, Miami Beach has launched a second front against advancing seas: elevating sidewalks and roads.
While Obama toured the sawgrass, construction crews in Miami Beach spread out along a three-block stretch of 17th Street, where they are raising the sidewalks by 18 inches. It is another measure to buy time.
“We have no alternative,” says Bruce Mowry, the city’s engineer. “We have to adapt. We can’t ignore it.”


Everglades important, but so are our local waterways – by Curt Clawson, U.S. Congressman representing District 19.
April 22, 2015
My first steps into political life came in the summer of 2013, standing in the Gulf off Little Hickory Island. Accompanying my Dad into the water that day, we both noticed how dirty it was, to which my father looked at me and said, "Do something about this." It was the dirty, and sometimes toxic, discharge from Lake Okeechobee.
I started coming to Bonita Springs in 1993 on a frequent basis, when my parents settled here, and in turn, I retired to Bonita Springs in late 2011. After that memorable day with my Dad off of Little Hickory, I quickly found myself a regular at the City Council meetings in Bonita Springs, heavily involved in local water issues related to development east of I-75.
The reason I share this story is because, when it comes to the health of the waters of South Florida and the Everglades, all elected officials are accountable for its welfare and preservation. We may get to the idea of a healthy Everglades by different paths, but the end result is the same. The Everglades is the lifeblood of Florida – from drinking water to tourism. It's an environmental issue and a business issue, pure and simple.
While we welcome the President's attention to the well-being of the Everglades, one of the more pressing issues facing all of us in South Florida is the polluted water discharges from Lake Okeechobee resulting in the water diversion to the west (Ft. Myers) and east (Port St. Lucie), which is starving the southern Everglades. The discharges and diversions created by prior generations have negatively impacted businesses, homeowners and local residents, as well as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and estuaries. While the President intends to discuss rising salt water levels in the Everglades, we should talk about restoring the Everglades with a larger fresh water supply, which flows naturally from the north. This would indeed be the right next step in protecting our national treasure.
Our Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and estuaries are vital to our economy and overall ecosystem, and in 2013, we saw the delicate balance of these systems threatened. Currently, the only way to deal with rising water levels in Lake Okeechobee — and avoid breaching the more than 70-year-old Herbert Hoover Dike — is to discharge the polluted, overflowing water down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and estuaries.
This polluted water cuts a toxic trail through our waterways, destroying sea grasses and reefs, as well as manatee populations and local shellfish; ultimately hurting small businesses and the local economy. A recently released report by the Florida Association of Realtors finds that Lee County home values alone could be hit by a half a billion-dollar loss directly attributed to these discharges.
Unfortunately, these were the only two choices to make in 2013 – releasing polluted water into the estuaries or potentially breaching the dike – and they are the only two choices to make now.
That's why I cannot stress enough the importance of water storage solutions, such as the C-43 reservoir, outlined in the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration, to help mitigate environmental and economic damage to our local area by the polluted discharges and to also preserve water flows in dry years. And, working with the South Florida Water Management District, we need to take steps now to store and send more water south of Lake Okeechobee to avoid repeats of the "lost summer" of 2013.
To restore a natural water flow to the southern Everglades, Florida now has a prime opportunity to purchase a strategic parcel of land just south of Lake Okeechobee that is already approved and authorized and qualifies for cost sharing with the federal government.
The benefits of building filtration systems on this parcel are twofold — to reduce pollution from lake discharges that plague our rivers, strain local business and depreciate home values; and to help restore water flow to the Everglades, which provides drinking water for eight million Floridians and nourishes the Florida Bay.
But this deal has an expiration date – October 12, 2015. The land is available, the project is approved and authorized, and the deal is on the table. Of course, there are many challenges facing the budgets of both the federal and state governments; but those immediate needs must be weighed against this once-in-a-generation opportunity to protect our way of life in South Florida.
As a conservative, this is a win-win outcome for everyone – it protects the environment and respects private property rights. And, as elected officials in federal and state offices, it's on all of us, for the sake of our economy and our environment, to care for the Everglades. Simply put, good policy is good politics for everyone involved.



State must invest in water resources
Orlando Sentinel - by Irela Bague, principal for Bagué Group, a former member of the Board of
Governors of the South Florida Water Management District and current member of
the Florida Water Advocates board
April 21, 2015
Florida depends on water resources to grow the economy, a columnist writes. Water is life. It is our most basic need and the most important element sustaining all life on this planet, and yet we too often take it for granted.
A report published by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2013 estimated that Florida will need $32.4 billion in new drinking and wastewater infrastructure by 2020. That estimate does not include the funds necessary to repair or replace aging infrastructure, provide adequate levels of flood protection or to restore the Everglades and other natural water bodies needed to satisfy the new state and federal standards for pollutants in the state's water bodies. Where will that money come from ?
Currently, state government spending on water averages 0.25 percent of Florida's total annual budget.
No one would argue the need to invest in health care and education, which in the governor's "Keep Florida Working Budget" proposal for next year would receive 41.3 percent and 29.9 percent, respectively, of the total budget. Next follows transportation and economic development at 15.3 percent. It isn't until you pass public safety at 6.2 percent of the budget that you arrive at the environment at 4.4 percent, with the funds being directed to water being a little less than a quarter of that funding.
Florida saw the first indications that we were in trouble in the Tampa Bay region years ago. Now, Central and South Florida are teetering close to the brink of crisis. The water supply and current infrastructure needed in order to sustain these areas do not exist. Projections show the utilities of Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Lake counties need billions of dollars of water-supply projects in order to produce the 250 million gallons per day necessary to satisfy the regions' growing population by 2035.
Despite 2015 being dubbed the "Year of Water" in the Florida Legislature, the House is proposing to spend only about $6 million more on water than last year, and the Senate is proposing to spend $182 million less than last year in its budget. We must focus on ensuring adequate funding for water moving into the future in order to grow our economy and ensure a sustainable and affordable supply of water for future generations.
The time to be proactive is now. We can no longer put off investing in our most
valuable resource.


Tallahassee ignoring voters again
Miami Herald – Op-Ed by Victoria Tschinkel, vice chair of 1000 Friends of Florida and former Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for former Gov. Bob Graham
April 21, 2015
On this the 45th Earth Day, one would think it time for special celebration in Florida. Last November, 75 percent of Florida’s voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 1 establishing in Florida’s Constitution a dedicated source of funding for the purchase of conservation lands. But sadly, celebration is not in order.
Amendment 1 supporters around the state have been writing essays and editorials to voice their outrage that the Legislature is ignoring their will. Amendment 1 was written primarily to restore funding to wonderful Florida Forever, historically budgeted at $300 million a year, which bought carefully prioritized lands for their environmental and state historical value. The editorial writers have been nice people, and mostly extoll the virtues of land acquisition and Florida Forever. Well, 75 percent of those who voted already got that.
It's the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott who don’t get it. Let’s be clear about one thing — they are carrying out exactly what they started in 2011, and are counting on our passivity to use Amendment 1 to further their goals.
Here’s how: In 2011, Gov. Scott launched his tax-cutting frenzy by deleting over $700 million from the budget of the five Water Management Districts, with $520 million specifically from the South Florida Water Management District. At that time, the governor knew full well that this district had the capacity to make the U.S. Sugar purchase. The Caloosahatchee River and its estuaries, the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, would be recovering right now if the governor had not slashed the districts’ budgets.
Just to complete that picture, remember that the water-management districts (except for Northwest) have adequate ad valorem taxing authority (by virtue of a second ignored Constitutional Amendment) to fund water conservation and supply projects, including land acquisition and to help local governments. But, disgracefully, the governor and Legislature balked in 2011 at the thought of the districts independently funding their own regional projects and further capped their taxing ability.
This year, for the first time, they grudgingly realize that Florida is running out of clean water. They are scrambling for general revenue and other taxing sources and fighting each other to fund the same projects that could have been completed with district tax dollars, which would have cost the average household the price of a pizza or two, if they had not meddled with the will of the people.
Now the citizens have voted to fund Florida Forever. But, even before Amendment 1 passed, bean counters at the Legislature and in the Governor’s Office were figuring out how to replace existing program funding with Amendment 1 dollars.
In doing so, they’re disregarding a long list of outstanding environmental land acquisition projects that should be funded by Amendment 1. And, they are even proposing that more than $200 million of Amendment 1 funds be spent on agency operations and regulatory expenses. What an insult to me and the other 4.2 million who voted for Amendment 1.
This sham has been politically facilitated by Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government. Sen. Hays is an extremist. He does not like the government to own land for conservation purposes. To justify this, he says that there is no plan for land acquisition, when the Natural Areas Inventory and the State Acquisition and Restoration Council have such a plan. He also says that the state has not adequately funded management of those lands. Sen. Hays has been in the Legislature for 11 years, so whose fault is that?
galleryWidgetIds7 = []; $(document).ready(function() { googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display("div-gpt-ad-7"); });}); globalWidgetEventManager.subscribe( new mi.WEB.subscriber.WidgetSubscriber(7,"ad","ad_group",[new, "div-gpt-ad-7")])); My, how things have changed. In 2006, when the opportunity arose to buy the Babcock Ranch property in Southwest Florida, the Legislature appropriated an additional $310 million, on top of fully funding Florida Forever at $300 million. Oddly enough, Sen. Hays, then a member of the Florida House, voted in favor of that purchase.
In a way, we fell right into their hands. Amendment 1, as it stands now, will be used to fund water and wastewater projects and to clean up industrial agriculture’s mess, which shows little corporate responsibility on the part of the landowners. And that brings us to the third ignored constitutional amendment, the one that required growers around the Everglades to pay to clean up their pollution. Now they want to shift costs to the Amendment 1 pot.
When the dust settles after the session, and we comb through hundreds of pages of budget, and we come to fully understand this shell game, we will come to only one conclusion: Our governor and legislators are steadfast in believing that voters may tell them what to do through constitutional amendments, but they sure don’t have to listen.


USGS issues revised framework for hydrogeology of FL aquifer
Water World
April 21, 2015 -- Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) have updated the hydrogeologic framework for the Floridan aquifer system that underlies the state of Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina.
The Floridan aquifer system is the principal source of freshwater for agricultural irrigation, industrial, mining, commercial, and public supply in Florida and southeast Georgia. The extensive underground reservoir currently supplies drinking water to about 10 million people residing across the area as well as 50 percent of the water that is used for agricultural irrigation in the region.
By describing the hydrologic and geologic setting of an aquifer, a hydrogeologic framework enables appropriate authorities and resource managers to monitor an aquifer more accurately, improving their ability to protect these critical resources and determine the near- and long-term availability of groundwater.
As the first update of the framework for the aquifer in over 30 years, the revision incorporates new borehole data into a detailed conceptual model that describes the major and minor units and zones of the system. Its increased accuracy is made possible by data collected in the intervening years by the USGS; the Geological Surveys of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina; the South Florida, Southwest Florida, St Johns River, Suwannee River, and Northwest Florida Water Management Districts; and numerous other state and local agencies.
The USGS is releasing two reports as part of its current assessment of groundwater availability of the Floridan aquifer system. The first report documents the revised framework, and the second provides datasets that describe the surfaces and thicknesses of selected hydrogeologic units of the Floridan aquifer system.
The data depicts the top and base of the aquifer system, its major and minor hydrogeologic units and zones, geophysical marker horizons, and the altitude of the 10,000-milligram-per-liter total dissolved solids boundary that defines the approximate fresh and saline parts of the aquifer system.


Florida needs more lands placed in conservation - by C. Kenneth Dodd Jr., a courtesy associate professor is the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida
April 20, 2015
Several Florida legislators have raised concerns about the implementation of Amendment 1, the land and water conservation measure approved by 75 percent of Florida's voters. This amendment to Florida's Constitution requires the state to acquire land to be managed in perpetuity for future generations. Conservation lands provide habitats for wildlife; protect groundwater sources, springs and surficial waters; and offer recreational opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking and other activities.
In particular, state Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has challenged Amendment 1, proposing instead to divert funds from the clear intent of the amendment — to buy land — to projects that would actually promote development and threaten existing natural resources. He and his supporters, including agribusiness and the Chamber of Commerce, contend that there already is too much protected land in our state.
Do we have enough? It might help to put the land conservation crisis in perspective, based on peer-reviewed scientific literature, even if the information is already somewhat out of date.
First, the United States has had a 97-98 percent loss of longleaf pine savanna across its historic range from southeast Virginia to east Texas and a 99 percent loss of historic canebrake habitats throughout this ecosystem's range. About 185,400 hectares (1 hectare equals 2.2 acres) of wetlands were lost per year between the mid-1950s and mid-1970s, with 117,400 hectares of wetlands lost per year between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, and 155,200 hectares of wetlands lost to urbanization and rural development from 1986 to 1997. Sixty-six percent of the historic riparian forest in the U.S. has been eliminated, particularly along the Mississippi floodplain and the formerly great forests along major southeastern rivers.
And in Florida, there has been an 88 percent loss of remaining longleaf pine savanna from 1936-1987 and an 85 percent loss of slash pine savannas from 1900-1989. There has been a 74.4 percent loss or degradation of scrub, scrubby flatwoods and sandhills on the southern Lake Wales Ridge as of 1985. About 611,845 hectares of natural and semi-natural habitats were converted to urban and suburban development from 1985-2003; 703,292 hectares of natural and semi-natural habitats converted to agriculture from 1985-2003; 243,508 hectares of natural pinelands lost from 1985-2003; and 25 percent of all dry prairies lost from 1985-2003. Natural and semi-natural areas were lost at a rate of 73,063-93,938 hectares per year from 1985-2003.
In addition to these figures, there are projected losses of 437 hectares of globally imperiled sand pine scrub and 621 hectares of imperiled sandhills over the next 50 years in the urbanizing coast region.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, if Florida's population doubles during the next five decades, as scenarios predict, about 7 million additional acres of land could be converted from rural and natural to urban uses. Nearly 3 million acres of existing agricultural lands and 2.7 million acres of native habitat will be claimed by roads, shopping malls and subdivisions. More than 1.6 million acres of woodland habitat may be lost, and wetland habitats will become more isolated and degraded. For the most part, the animals and fish that currently live in these habitats will disappear.
According to Landscope, habitat destruction is the issue most often cited for the problems now facing Florida wildlife. During the mid-20th century, Florida lost more than 7 million acres of forest and herbaceous wetlands to development.
So yes, Sen. Hays, Florida needs more lands placed in conservation, both as state-owned lands and in private easement. We are in a crisis concerning Florida's environment and biodiversity.
I contend that you and your supporters ask the wrong questions.
How many more wetlands do you want drained? How many more species should be pushed to extinction? How many more hectares of longleaf pine will satisfy your saw? How many more flatwoods and pitcher plant bogs do you want bulldozed? How much lower do you want the groundwater to be? How many more toxic contaminants do you want in your water? How many springs do you want to go dry?
And finally, do you really think that humans can increase in Florida forever with no impacts? To 2050? 2150? 2500? When do you say enough?
We need to set aside land now for wildlife, groundwater protection, oxygen production and other attributes associated with a healthy ecosystem. The science is incontrovertible; the time is now.


Martin’s Economic Council has got some explaining to do on sugar land deal
Palm Beach Post – by Sally Swartz, a former member of The Post Editorial Board
April 20, 2015
UPDATE: The emails are puzzling. They are misleading. They are sneaky. The subject lines, in lower case letters, are nondescript, such as “funding” or “need this finished.”
The sender — the Economic Council of Martin County — does not want to explain them.
The emails do not ask readers to back what the Council website lists as its prime objective for waterways and the environment: “Support continued money to store, clean and move more water south from Lake Okeechobee, rather than having it discharged to tide through our estuary.”
Instead, the Economic Council emails tell residents to send the opposite message: DO NOT buy U.S. Sugar land to send Lake O water south. Urge lawmakers to give Amendment 1 money to “existing projects,” even though buying the sugar industry-owned land is vital to protecting east and west coast rivers and the Everglades.
The Economic Council is promoting the sugar industry’s “support existing projects” agenda, which doesn’t include the state buying sugar land south of the lake.
When a new Council email appears, Martin environmental lawyer Ginny Sherlock and others immediately send messages to set the record straight. “Don’t buy what the Economic Council is selling,” Sherlock writes. “Stand up to Big Sugar. Stand up to organizations that claim to care about the environment and our quality of life without acting responsibly to preserve them.”
Sherlock suggests using the links the Economic Council provides in the deceptive emails to “tell your elected representatives to buy the U.S. Sugar land and send the water south.”
The Economic Council seemed to be on a positive track after the disastrous summer of 2013, when prolonged Lake Okeechobee discharges devastated tourism, sent fishermen and boaters away and left residents and businesses staring at health department signs warning them not to touch the water in the St. Lucie River.
The council produced a series of videos detailing economic impacts of Lake Okeechobee discharges. But one video suggests that things with the Economic Council are not what they seem. Don Voss, who started a group called One Florida that is bankrolled by the sugar industry, stars in it. The sugar industry message — give money to existing projects, not  to buying land needed south of Lake Okeechobee — comes through loud and clear in the video.
The emails confused many residents. One who was upset she was misled said on Facebook she tried to send a retraction.
So, take a look at Economic Council members. Chairman is Joseph W. Capra of CAPTEC Engineering Inc. Vice Chairman is Dan Carmody of Olde Florida Realty, treasurer is Alex Beringer of Fair Wind Air Charter, and secretary is Sara Wingfield Lindgren of JP Morgan Chase. Ed Weinberg, an environmental consultant whose past reports failed to favor Martin gopher tortoises or Palm Beach County’s offshore reefs, is past chairman.
At-large members include Tom McNicholas of McNicholas and Associates. His public relations firm  often supports growth industry causes and clients. Until I wrote about it in a Jan. 25 column about sugar industry-supported One Florida, his firm’s website touted its success at “marginalizing” environmental groups protesting Florida Power & Light projects. South Florida Water Management District paid McNicholas’ firm to put a positive spin on Lake Okeechobee dumping in 2005.
Dan Morris of Corsair Capital Group and Robert S. Raynes, a Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart lawyer who often represents developers trying to win exceptions to Martin’s protective growth plan, are other at-large members. Board members also include another Gunster employee, representatives of a bank, development and construction companies, office supply, accounting and telecommunications firms and two real estate companies.
So, no surprise, the Council has no environmentalists. But why the deceptive emails ? Especially when the Council claims to support saving local waterways by sending more Lake O water south ?
“We believe completing the existing projects would have the most immediate effect on our local economy and on our waterways,” Council CEO Chuck Gerardi said, after at first asking to speak off the record. “We’re not advocating for the purchase of the sugar land, but we’re not opposed to it.”
A sugar industry spokesperson couldn’t have said it better.


Obama to press climate change agenda with trip to Everglades on Earth Day
Washington Post (blog) - by David Nakamura
April 20, 2015
President Obama will tout his administration's efforts to protect the environment during a visit to the Everglades in south Florida on Wednesday, as the White House presses its go-it-alone climate-change agenda.
With legislative efforts dead on Capitol Hill in the face of Republican opposition, Obama has sought to move forward on his own in ways large and small. The trip, on Earth Day, to the 734 square-mile tropical wetlands is aimed at highlighting a region that the administration said is threatened by global warming.
"The Everglades are flat, and they border a rising ocean," Brian Deese, a senior adviser to Obama, wrote on the White House blog. "As the sea levels rise, the shorelines erode, and that salty water travels inland, threatening the aquifers supplying fresh drinking water to Floridians."
Deese tied the potential damage to the economy -- namely, the state's tourism industry -- and added that "we're far beyond a debate about climate change's existence. We're focused on mitigating its very real effects here at home."
In addition to the trip, the White House will be announcing a number of small-scale initiatives this week, including new funding to protect national parks and new partnerships between the Department of Agriculture and farmers, ranchers and forest land owners.
Obama has larger initiatives underway, as well, including a major climate pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that the United States struck with China last fall. The administration recently announced its plans to cut emissions up to 28 percent by 2025.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, Obama said there is "no greater threat to our planet than climate change. This is the only planet we've got. And years from now, I want to be able to look our children and grandchildren in the eye and tell them that we did everything we could to protect it."
The issue is likely to be debated during the presidential race in 2016, with some GOP candidates taking a skeptical view.
"Debates on this should follow science, and should follow data," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who announced his candidacy last month, said on "Late Night with Seth Meyers." "And many of the alarmists on global warming, they’ve got a problem because the science doesn’t back them up.”
Related:           Obama Everglades trip to highlight week focusing on climate change          Miami Herald
Obama plans Everglades trip to highlight cost of climate change      PBS NewsHour
Obama to the Everglades to Sell Climate Change      The Weekly Standard (blog)
President's visit is “vital” to land deal, Everglades Trust says           SaintPetersBlog (blog)
With Earth Day nearing, Obama calls climate change biggest threat ...         Fierce Homeland Security
Email: Tell Us, What Would You Fight to Protect?   The White House (blog)
Obama Says 'Climate Change Can No Longer Be Ignored' as Jeb ...            EcoWatch
Why Obama's trip to the Florida Everglades is a shrewd move in the ...       Washington Post
Obama team talks climate change during Earth Day week    USA TODAY


Will Florida’s coastal economy adapt to rising sea levels ?
Quartz – by Karl Havens, Director of Florida Sea Grant
April 19, 2015
Stormy outlooks
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 1960s 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.


Bill to protect Florida springs seen as possible threat to existing safeguards - by Steve Patterson
Apr 19, 2015
Projects taking water from St. Johns River could be aided, says riverkeeper
Legislation that was billed as a tool to protect Florida’s struggling springs is drawing criticism from environmental activists who say it could undermine existing rules that protect the state’s water supply.
“The Senate bill … really started out with some well-intended protections. Unfortunately, it appears that most of those protections have been stripped and hijacked by special interests,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman.
Rinaman said a rewrite of the legislation, offered months after voters approved spending tax money to conserve land and water, allows funding for projects to pump drinking water from the St. Johns. It’s not clear whether those projects would be paid for with conservation money or other funds, but Rinaman said work like that could weaken the river’s health without even trying to save water.
“This bill would actually allow more damage to be done,” she said.
Advocates for springs also lost some hope in the Senate legislation, which last month was considered more environmentally friendly than a bill already approved by the Florida House.
“I don’t expect that anything will emerge from the 2015 legislative session that will materially improve the condition of Florida’s springs,” said Bob Palmer, a retiree who is chairman of a legislative committee for the Florida Springs Council, after the Senate bill (S.B. 918) changed.
The council, representing environmental and civic groups tied to roughly 20 springs, last month endorsed the legislation and suggested changes it considered improvements.
The bill at that stage would have set deadlines for state agencies to calculate minimum water levels that could prevent environmental harm at a list of large or important springs.
White Sulphur Springs, on the banks of the Suwannee River, was promoted as a resort with healing waters as far back as the late 1800s.
This 2012 photo illustrates all that remains of the resort and the enclosure built in 1906.
Agencies would check against those levels before issuing new permits for water use, and would have to set “recovery strategies” if water levels were already below the limits.
The Senate bill’s current version still requires agencies to set minimum limits for water withdrawals, but it ties those to levels that are “significantly harmful” to waterways or the area’s ecology. The original bill, filed in February by Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, simply said minimum levels should be a point that’s harmful to fall below.
The bill has grown from 46 pages when Dean filed it to 140 pages that a Senate appropriations subcommittee approved this month.
“However, as the bill has moved through the legislative sausage grinder, it has been weakened at every step,” Palmer said by email after that vote. The springs group continued to support the bill, though.
Dean seemed comfortable with the changes, telling the last subcommittee that the bill pushes the state toward environmental improvements.
“I believe we have increased reporting, given deadlines and challenged the status quo,” said Dean, who chairs an environmental committee and last year spearheaded a springs-protection bill that the Senate approved but was never voted on by the House. This year’s bill is scheduled to be considered Tuesday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Voter approval in November of Amendment 1, the measure to fund land and water conservation with a share of document-stamp taxes collected from real estate sales, had buoyed hopes for helping rivers and springs this year.
Proposals in both the House and Senate for spending some of the expected $741 million of Amendment 1 revenue budgeted $50 million for springs restoration.
But environmentalists had been banking on Dean’s bill to improve state water policies.
After the House passed its own water legislation (HB 7003) in March, Audubon Florida told members it would “work in the Senate to fix the problems” the House bill hadn’t solved, including a lack of deadlines for setting minimum flow levels in major springs and a timeline to restore the ones that are already too weak or too polluted.
Changes in the Senate bill seemed to lower activists’ hopes.
“Audubon accepts that it is likely that either [bill] … will pass and so will focus efforts to improve the bills or limit additional amendments,” said an update the group emailed to members this month.
To be sure, some people cheered the senators’ choices.
“These are welcome changes that ensure the Senate plan is taking a broader approach to challenges water users are facing statewide,” said Brewster Bevis, a vice president for the Associated Industries of Florida, an important business lobby.
The group regularly fights what it considers excessive state regulation, but it encouraged expanding the Senate legislation to include provisions about the northern Everglades and a water-supply planning effort called the Central Florida Water Initiative.
The Central Florida initiative is a deal that’s still evolving between the St. Johns River Water Management District and water management districts in South Florida and Southwest Florida, who all control part of the land around Orlando. Development there has made communities, companies and water managers nervous about keeping sources of drinkable water available, and the three districts have talked for years about coordinating their efforts in five counties where the initiative will happen.
A supply plan the districts drafted last year says, “it is expected that sources to be developed will include surface water,” meaning water pumped from rivers or lakes. Floridians typically get water from underground aquifers instead of rivers.
The supply plan lists four potential projects that could draw from the St. Johns in Orange and Seminole counties, and 11 other possible project sites elsewhere.
Opponents of river withdrawals have said they might impact environmentally important marshes and wetlands, and that watering lawns with recycled water is a better way to protect communities’ water supplies.
Jacksonville, St. Johns County and the Riverkeeper organization brought legal challenges in 2008 to try to block the management district from permitting a withdrawal from the river in Seminole County. An administrative law judge ruled in favor of the management district.
The Senate bill codifies the water initiative, although the material the bill cites is a January paper the management districts labeled as a “guiding document” with some details still left unsettled. Rinaman said updated information is scheduled to become available in May, after lawmakers finish their work.
She said she’s still trying to understand the legal impact of fixing a document into law that could become obsolete, and is seeking some expert guidance. But she’s sure she’s troubled about language in the bill that talks about funding for “water supply development,” which could mean siphoning water from the St. Johns.
While some concerns about parts of the Senate bill had been spelled out before, she said the effects on areas around the St. Johns are still coming into focus.
“It’s worse than I even had realized,” Rinaman said. “This is cause for grave concern.”

Everglades Foundation, Pied Piper of humbug and hype
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
April 19, 2015
If Florida lawmakers are a little skeptical of information the Everglades Foundation puts out as fact, good for them. I applaud their instincts.
The more I look at where the EF's science has been and where it's going, the more I find to question. 
It's true, the foundation has an army of followers in South Florida, particularly among those beleaguered souls who experienced algae blooms and poisoned rivers east and west of Lake Okeechobee in 2013. I saw the water back then; it wasn't as bad as they say, it was worse. No wonder so many fall in behind the soothing flute they hear from the pied piper of bad science.
The tune they're playing is hype. Effective on residents desperate for answers and somebody to blame. But it's part of a PR campaign promulgated by people with a great deal of money, the support of the federal government and influence on a broad stage. They know full well they're peddling bellywash but somehow believe they've crossed the point of no return and mustn't admit any part of where they're taking Florida is dead wrong.
I ask you. Look at what the University of Florida water study actually says ... not what the pied piper tells his followers, what the study actually says. Recommendations are on page 9. 
After UF's No. 1 recommendation (complete and accelerate existing projects) and No. 2 recommendation (storage and treatment north of Lake Okeechobee), No. 3 is this:
"Independent assessments suggest that an expansive gravity-driven wet flow-way throughout the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) may not be feasible or provide maximal benefits to the estuaries."
Did you get that ?  Flowway may not be feasible ... In fact, not only isn't it feasible, it's downright lethal, perhaps even criminal for Florida Bay. But I'll get to that in a minute.
No. 3, however, does say, "Achieving substantial reduction in lake-triggered discharges to the estuaries and substantial improvement toward the dry season Everglades demand target will require additional land between the lake and the EAA, e.g., the current U.S. Sugar land purchase option, lands from other willing sellers, and/or use of existing state-owned land (e.g., Holey Land and Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)."
So, like the wording in Amendment 1, the UF study doesn't specifically recommend the U.S. Sugar purchase. It's given equal treatment with "lands from other willing sellers" and "use of existing state-owned land."
No. 4, incidentally, calls for deep-well disposal of excess flows -- "the option of constructing a system of large injection wells to permanently dispose of excess flows to Lake Okeechobee in the deep Boulder Zone, rather than discharging to the estuaries, should be explored."
No. 5 suggests operational changes ... "a substantially revised regulation schedule that provides more storage in the lake ..."
For more than two decades, marine biologist Brian Lapointe tried to show scientists at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that their theory on what was killing coral, seagrass and fish in Florida Bay wasn't, as they insisted, hypersalinity -- too much salt water. Lapointe admits it was rough going trying to have a conversation with them.
"Scientists often disagree," he told me in a telephone interview. "That's good, because that's how advances are made. But this was different. Zieman and Jones, the foundation and the sanctuary and the Keys Nature Conservancy -- they all circled the wagons and went overboard to discredit everything I was saying, even though I was presenting papers to show I had the evidence."
In December 1994, after a New York Times Magazine piece by William K. Stevens, "Will Remedy Worsen a Sick Bay?" -- a story questioning Florida's hypersalinity/just-pump-more-fresh-water theory for saving Florida Bay -- the Times received a sharp letter to the editor from John H. Ryther, scientist emeritus at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
"There is no question that the Bay is suffering from a bad case of eutrophication (excessive growth of algae) that has turned its once crystal clear waters to pea soup. It is the imputed cause of the eutrophication that I take issue with. The latter is not just wrong, it is completely bakwards. The method proposed to correct the situation would almost certainly make it much worse."
What Lapointe had discovered more than two decades ago, and what was corroborated by other algal scientists in scientific journals and in in-depth newspaper stories was that the missing quotient in the Zieman-Jones hypothesis was nitrogen -- the chemical that primarily comes from agricultural runoff and sewage.
"Zieman and Jones were only worried about phosphorus," Lapointe explained. "They knew wetlands can clean up phosphorus. So they insisted the bay only needed more fresh water flowing through the 'Glades and into the bay to heal the reefs, get the coating of slime off them. But fresh water wasn't the problem. The problem was, wetlands don't clean nitrogen."
Nitrogen works in combination with phosphorus to create eutrophication. It's eutrophication -- or over-enrichment by nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and silica -- the chemicals that come from sewage outfalls, industrial and agricultural runoff -- that create sheets and blooms of algae that degrade and ultimately destroy life-giving coral reefs.
In fact, in 2007 investigative reporter Ken Weiss, reporter Usha Lee McFarling, and photographer Rick Loomis of the Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for their series, "The Rise of Slime." The series covered research in the Florida Bay/Florida Keys region and based breakthroughs Lapointe's hypothesis. 
But scientists Jay Zieman and Ron Jones had become so invested in their hypothesis that the bay needed more fresh water flowing south, pumped from canals in the Everglades Agricultural Area, that they couldn't -- or wouldn't -- turn back even when they realized they should.
"Between 1991 and 1995, when they were sending the greatest deluge of water south -- as they want to again -- the effect was horrific," Lapointe told me. "Because wetlands can't deal with such concentrations of nitrogen, the volume of water was sending literally thousands of tons of nitrogen into Florida Bay, and then, combined with the phosphorus ... algae blooms are nitrogen limited, so it was like we were feeding the algae with Miracle Gro."
Said Lapointe, "How bad was this wrong hypothesis ? Some 40 percent of Florida Bay's coral reefs were lost in the blink of an eye. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in modern history."
If you haven't already, read Bob Malloy and Will Bourne's 1996 manuscript written for the New York Times Magazine, but never published. I wrote about it last week.
It was George Barley, co-founder with Paul Tudor Jones of the Everglades Foundation, who officially brought Zieman and Jones aboard the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's fledgling Keys Marine Sanctuary. Barley was a respected Central Florida multimillionaire who, like his friend Paul Tudor Jones, bought a home in Islamorada and became active in environmental matters in the Everglades and the Keys. Zieman and Jones morphed into the scientists for the Everglades Foundation, too.
The Everglades Foundation is still underplaying the role of heavy nitrogen content in the health of Florida Bay, and its goal is still to run fresh water down into Florida Bay as "the answer." 
At the Everglades Coalition meeting in Key Largo this past January, the theme was "Send It South" -- which says it all. "Clearly, they have no intention of abandoning their hypothesis even now. Yes," Lapointe said, "water needs to be sent south, but into places where it can be stored so that nitrogen can be cleaned out as well as phosphorus."
Lapointe calls himself now only "a concerned scientist." But I say he's far more than that. He's an algal physiologist, director of the Marine Nutrient Dynamics Program at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce. He has lectured around the world on the effects of coastal nutrient pollution, and after 30 years of research in waters in and around Florida, we ought to be listening to him.
In 2002, the Committee on the Restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, or CROGEE, questioned the prevailing, bogus hypothesis that too much salt water was killing Florida Bay. The committee acted as an independent advisory panel to the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. It was a fancy name for a group of state and federal agencies overseeing the multibillion-dollar Everglades Restoration.
The important thing is what the report concluded: "The widely held perception that the murky, ailing Florida Bay will recover when the Everglades restoration sends more fresh water there could be wrong. ... Restoration plans as they now exist could actually harm the bay instead of improving it."
Said Lapointe, "At the 2014 Everglades Coalition meeting, I showed the 30 years of nutrient and chlorophyll data documenting how Everglades runoff is linked to eutrophication in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary." He sent me  a paper on Looe Key monitoring, published as a case study of eutrophication in a NOAA report in 2007; a recent Indian River Lagoon paper, which draws comparisons with the algal blooms and nitrogen-enriched waters of Florida Bay.
None of it seems to matter even now," he says. "It seems those on the payroll want to continue 'business as usual.'" 
NOAA is an arm of the Department of Commerce, what  else can we expect ?
On the other hand, this year is the 25th anniversary of The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary -- as good a time as any for self-examination. Rumor has it in Washington that NOAA is in hot pursuit of answers. The agency wants to know why the coral reefs in Florida Bay and off the Keys have deteriorated at a faster clip than reefs off any other nation in our region of the world -- never mind the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the last 25 years that went into trying to save them.
It will be interesting to see how public that investigation gets, if there is an investigation at all.
In the meantime, legislators might want to pause when they hear/see the words "Send the Water South." Ask the pied piper or some of his faithful what he means by that.


FL Capitol

Everglades land purchase a no-brainer, except in Tallahassee
Tampa Tribune - Editorial
April 18, 2015
The state cut a deal with U.S. Sugar seven years ago to pay a fair-market price for 46,800 acres south of Lake Okeechobee that could be used to filter polluted water before it flows to the Everglades.
It was a good deal then, and it’s a good deal today.
Yet state lawmakers may not go through with it, even after 75 percent of the state’s voters approved the environmental lands amendment (Amendment 1) last November that could provide a definite funding source for the purchase. Moreover, a recent Senate-sponsored University of Florida study on how to move more fresh water into the Everglades suggests the land’s purchase would be a good option to consider.
Lawmakers should stop playing games with Everglades restoration funding and respect the will of the voters by approving the land’s purchase before adjourning this legislative session. And Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned for a second term on his concern for protecting Florida’s natural beauty, should push the Senate and House to do the right thing and buy the land.
The purchase option expires Oct. 12. The state will never get a better deal. As Charles Lee, advocacy director of Audubon Florida tells us, “The issue here is a simple one: Don’t walk away from a sure thing.”
Former Gov. Charlie Crist cut the deal with U.S. Sugar to buy the acreage, part of which was to be used as a reservoir to store tainted water rather than divert it into rivers and estuaries.
U.S. Sugar supported the deal then, when the economy was reeling from the recession. Now it doesn’t, and it appears its generous donations to powerful figures in Tallahassee has put the deal in jeopardy as the deadline nears. If lawmakers let the option lapse, the land reverts to U.S. Sugar, which has proposed building a large housing and retail development in the area someday down the road.
The company’s considerable influence in Tallahassee is stoked by more than $2 million in donations to Republican candidates last year and by the secretive hunting trips it hosted in Texas for Scott, and for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, among others. The company gave generously to Scott’s re-election campaign.
Opponents of purchasing the land, such as Putnam, who has opposed it from the start, say it doesn’t represent the best use of Everglades restoration expenditures.
They say money should be spent on projects north of Lake Okeechobee to clean the water before it reaches the lake. During heavy rains, overflow from the lake water, tainted with phosphorus and nitrogen, is diverted into rivers flowing east and west of the lake and causes significant environmental damage.
But that argument is a red herring. The question at hand is whether to exercise an option to purchase land for a fair market value, estimated today at $350 million. The annual proceeds from Amendment 1 are expected to be about $750 million over the next 20 years. The state could bond the purchase for $35 million a year and have over $700 million a year for other projects, including those north of the lake that lawmakers now find so appealing.
Even if the reservoir project isn’t immediately undertaken, the land should be purchased now because it’s doubtful the state could get a better deal in the coming years, especially if U.S. Sugar is allowed to develop its land in the area.
Purchasing this land is exactly the kind of deal the voters had in mind when approving Amendment 1. Lawmakers who say otherwise are perpetuating a sham on the public.


Huge carnivorous Nile lizards invade Florida – by Cherise Udell
April 18, 2015
Roaming Florida in increasing numbers, the massive carnivorous Nile monitor lizard is making sensational headlines across the nation:
These giant reptilian beasts typically grow to about 5 feet long, but can reach 8 feet, and they’re considered a threat to smaller animals such as burrowing owls, tortoises and small mammals. They have been known to eat cats in their domestic habitat in Africa.
Nile monitor lizards live partly on land and partly in the water, and they are often seen basking and foraging along canal banks. If encountered, these mottled yellow and brown lizards usually flee into the water, according to the FCW. Once in the water, they use their powerful rudder-like tails to swim swiftly away or stay submerged for extended periods of time. They are primarily active during daylight hours and spend nights sleeping in burrows.
David A. Steen, a conservation biologist who included the lizard on a list of the “worst invasive reptiles” published on, describes the reptile as a “hulking beast” that’s “a voracious predator of any creature smaller than itself.”
Native to sub-sharan Africa, the Nile lizards were brought to Florida as part of the exotic pet trade. People typically buy them when they are small, but when the novelty wears off and the lizard becomes more than they can handle, irresponsible owners dump them in areas they figure they can survive.
The problem with Nile lizards, along with two other exotic species Burmese pythons and the more aggressive African rock pythons, is that they not only survive, they thrive in Florida’s tropical ecosystems and while doing so, wreck havoc on the native species.
The Nile monitor lizard, a cousin of the huge and poisonous monitor lizard, the Komodo dragon, has been multiplying across the state since at least 1990. Hundreds are now thought to be running amok and concerted efforts have begun to eliminate the lizards in the area before they establish a firm claw hold.
According to the Sun Sentinel, wildlife officials armed with shotguns are increasing patrols of Palm Beach canals from once a month to four to six times a month to try to hunt the reptiles down. So far 20 lizards have been eliminated in Palm Beach since July.
Florida officials are caught between the tough decision of killing the lizards or letting the reptile destroy native species and threaten small domestic animals. This is yet another sad textbook example of what can happen when people release exotic species into a new environment. It’s also a cautionary tale against irresponsible pet ownership.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife, the Nile Monitor lizard is a conditional species in Florida and cannot be acquired as a pet in the state without a special permit, but unfortunately people find ways around these laws or bring the lizards in from other states. 
To help combat the problem of pet owners wanting to unload unwanted exotic species, Florida does have an exotic pet amnesty program.  Amnesty events are held periodically around the state as a penalty-free and free-of-charge opportunity for people to surrender their exotic pets in a responsible manner. Pre-approved adopters with permits are then allowed to adopt surrendered exotic animals at these events. Since the amnesty program started, 2340 exotic animals have been surrendered.
Related:           8-foot Carnivorous Cat-Eating Lizards are Invading Florida
Carnivorous Nile Lizards Invading Parts of South Florida
Shotgun-toting Officials Seek Nile Lizards in Palm Beach


Obama will visit the Florida Everglades on Earth Day — to talk about climate change
Washington Post - by Chris Mooney
April 18, 2015
Saturday morning, President Obama gave a speech on climate change — to preview a bigger speech on climate change.
In the President’s weekly Saturday morning address, he declared that he’s headed to the Florida Everglades Wednesday — Earth Day — to “talk about the way that climate change threatens our economy.”
“The Everglades is one of the most special places in our country,” the president said. “But it’s also one of the most fragile.  Rising sea levels are putting a national treasure — and an economic engine for the South Florida tourism industry — at risk.”
“Climate change can no longer be denied — or ignored,” said Obama.
Indeed, in much of South Florida and especially Southeast Florida, climate change is an accepted reality for regional government leaders who have organized themselves into the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, an agreement by Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe Counties to collaborate on climate change adaptation measures for Florida and its coastal communities.
[Forget “bans” on talking about climate. These Florida Republicans are too busy protecting their coasts]
However, the issue remains more widely politicized in the state. Governor Rick Scott’s administration has been accused of trying to “ban” mentions of the climate issue by state environmental officials, and Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a just announced presidential candidate, recently voted against an amendment stating that climate change is real and “human activity significantly contributes” to it.
[Floridians seem a lot more worried about climate change than Marco Rubio is]
Another expected presidential contender from Florida, Jeb Bush, commented Thursday, “Look, the climate is changing. Obviously it’s changing. Down where I live … in a place where you’re pretty close to sea level, a couple of inches starts having an impact.”
By going to Florida to address climate change, then, President Obama could force more of a focus on the state’s unique vulnerability — where flooding and spoiling of water supplies by saltwater are already recurrent problems — and where its politicians stand on that.
The Everglades, too, are imperiled by climate change — by rising seas and, in particular, the way that intrusion of saltwater could threaten freshwater ecosystems.
In his address, Obama also suggested that 2015 could be a year of major progress on climate change — citing how the U.S.’s agreement late last year with China to cut carbon emissions could lay the groundwork for a global agreement in Paris late this year.
“Because the world’s two largest economies came together, there’s new hope that, with American leadership, this year, the world will finally reach an agreement to prevent the worst impacts of climate change before it’s too late,” Obama said.
Related:           Obama to visit Everglades to speak about climate change     Miami Herald (blog)
Obama headed to Everglades, talking of rising seas  Sun Sentinel
Obama to mark Earth Day with climate change speech at Everglades          The Hill (blog)
President Barack Obama coming to Florida to visit Everglades on ...           Palm Beach Post (blog)
President Obama Coming to the Everglades for Earth Day   WPEC
Obama set to utter term 'climate change' in Florida on Earth Day trip          The Guardian
'Power up the jet, boys!' Obama to recognize Earth Day immersed in ...       BizPac Review
Climate Change Can No Longer Be Ignored Imperial Valley News



Temperince MORGAN,
Executive Director
of The Nature
Conservancy Florida

Protecting Florida’s rural lands - Temperince Morgan, executive director of The Nature Conservancy Florida Chapter, based in Altamonte Springs
April 18, 2015
As the Florida Legislature debates how to allocate Amendment 1 dollars to protect land and water resources, Floridians should be aware of a cost-effective program that conserves lands and preserves Florida’s rural way of life.
The Florida Rural and Family Lands Protection Program is a valuable conservation program that ties together our state agriculture community and conservationists in a way that brings Floridians together to preserve our rural economy, water resources, and habitat. During the heated debate over how to allocate taxpayer funds, it is important for the Legislature to remember this essential program.
Amendment 1 specifically identifies the protection of rural landscapes and working lands as an allowable purpose for tax revenue set aside for land and water resource protection purposes. While Speaker Steve Crisafulli’s House budget contains $25 million for this important program, the Senate budget omits funding for the program.
This is how the program works:
Instead of purchasing lands, which can sometimes be costly to acquire and manage, the state purchases conservation easements on these lands — for a fraction of the cost. The land remains with the owner, under agreement that it may not be developed. It provides savings to the taxpayer in protecting habitat and water resources, while allowing the landowner to continue to provide management of the land.
It also assists local governments by keeping the land on the tax roll. This safeguards valuable conservation lands while guaranteeing Floridians will have fresh agricultural products available to them for years to come.
During the past year, the governor and cabinet utilized the Rural and Family Lands Program to approve the purchase of over 7,900 acres of easements on Adam’s Ranch in Osceola County, a rapidly growing county struggling to contain its development and sprawl.
In addition, it has also purchased easements to protect the military mission of Avon Park Air Force Range in Highlands County.
These purchases were smart, cost effective, and provide a practical tool to protect these critical lands.
Other conservation easements such as those in Glades County along the Caloosahatchee River were acquired to protect 1,278 acres of prime habitat for the Florida panther, while retaining the use of the land for cattle ranching — a win for agriculture and our environment.
In addition to protecting habitat, these purchases also provide a strategic approach for water resource protection.
This program protects land, forests, habitat, water, and our rural way of life.
As the Legislature embarks on what may be a contentious budget conference process, The Nature Conservancy is hopeful that it will fully fund the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. It has become an integral part of Florida’s land and water protection framework so Floridians can continue to bolster our agriculture community while enjoying and preserving nature for future generations.


flooding !

Florida’s DEP does not have any policy against climate change discussion, Secretary Steverson
Empire State Tribune
April 17, 2015
On Wednesday, Secretary of Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Jonathan Steverson has reiterated 3 times the phrase “climate change”. Steverson stressed to the Senate Environmental Preservation Committee that the department does not have any policy against climate change discussion.
During the confirmation hearing, the secretary, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott last December, has answered to the question of Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, regarding the reported prohibition to which he answered Soto that in fact the department has multiple programs addressing climate change.
This incident came to fruition as a result of the report last March 8 by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting that ex-DEP officials were instructed to steer clear of  phrases such as “climate change” and “global warming”. This prohibition was denied by Scott who stated last year that he was “not a scientist”.
The report caught the attention of the nation when on March 25, “The Daily Show” aired an exchange where Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, did not manage to get Director Bryan Koon of the state Division of Emergency Management to say the “climate change” phrase.
Steverson told the senators he supports Gov. Scott’s call for funding amounting to $100 million in the next budget for Florida Forever Land acquisition and has said that there are programs for climate change that are mostly directed at Florida Keys within Florida Forever. He added that the DEP is in partnership with the water management districts, the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to address climate change concerns. They even have a group working over the rising sea water levels issue. He stated that the impact to the infrastructures of the rising sea level is a real concern in South Florida.
Steverson served as director of Northwest Florida Water Management District for two years and as environmental policy coordinator for former Gov. Charlie Crist. The committee has collectively backed Steverson for confirmation.


GULF SPILL:  Political, bureaucratic brawls threaten restoration hopes – by Annie Snider, E&E reporter
April 17, 2015
Five years ago, the massive, 87-day Deepwater Horizon oil spill dealt a major blow to the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and the economies that rely on it, smothering wildlife, shutting down commercial fisheries and emptying beaches from Texas to Florida.
Now, in a twist of fate, that disaster is offering an unprecedented opportunity to repair long-standing problems that had the ecosystem in a downward spiral even before the spill.
Thanks to a rare congressional compromise and the creative work of federal lawyers, billions of dollars' worth of penalty money stemming from the 2010 spill is being routed to ecological and economic restoration efforts across the five Gulf states.
Some of the most important fines are still wrapped up in litigation, but $4.3 billion is already locked in for Gulf recovery, meaning the effort could end up seeing funding at a scale even the country's biggest environmental programs can only dream of.
"It would be the largest restoration undertaking in history anywhere in the world," said David Muth, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program.
"There are huge restoration goals on paper in places like the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay and the Sacramento River Delta; nothing is on the scale of the Gulf of Mexico. And nothing has yet come as close to financing," he said.
To be sure, there is a lot to fix.
Even before the Macondo well blew out on April 20, 2010, the Gulf of Mexico had big problems.
There's the massive oxygen-starved zone that appears in the Gulf every summer, driving away or suffocating marine life over thousands of square miles. It's fed by fertilizer and sediment washing off Midwestern farm fields and suburban parking lots into the Mississippi River and eventually into the Gulf.
Last year, the so-called "dead zone" sprawled over an area as large as Connecticut, although that's actually 800 square miles smaller than the year before. Earlier this year, the federal-state task force charged with stanching the problem said it will take another 20 years for it to reach the goal it was supposed to meet in 2015 (E&ENews PM, Feb. 12).
Off Florida, the draining of the Everglades has resulted in polluted water pouring into the state's southern estuaries, spawning harmful algal blooms, killing off wildlife and taking a toll on the state's lucrative tourism industry.
Meanwhile, a legacy of overfishing left populations of iconic Gulf sportsfish like Atlantic bluefin tuna and red snapper at depressed levels even before the spill. Other marine wildlife, like brown pelicans and Kemp's ridley turtles, was still in the process of recovery after being under serious threat in earlier decades.
But perhaps the largest problem is in south Louisiana, where New Orleans and other coastal communities are battling a breakneck rate of coastal wetlands loss. Every hour, a football field's worth of the state's marshes disappear into the Gulf of Mexico, leaving juvenile shrimp, blue crabs and many species of fish without vital nurseries, and human communities without protection from hurricanes barreling in off the Gulf.
The problem has several causes. The building of levees along the Mississippi River nearly a century ago starved marshes of sediment that would have naturally flowed in with spring high waters. The thousands of miles of canals, pipelines and trapper's lines carved through the wetlands have also eroded and weakened marshes over the years.
For Louisiana, the threat is existential: Without swift and significant action, the state has concluded that many coastal communities -- and the billions of dollars in energy, ports and other infrastructure there -- won't last long.
'Old Testament restoration'
But with federal dollars ever harder to find, state officials and environmental groups were at a loss for how to fund the massive work needed to restore the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.
Then came the 2010 oil spill.
At a minimum, the law requires companies responsible for the accident to pay to fix what they broke. Under the Oil Pollution Act, passed in 1990 in the wake of the Exxon Valdez spill, people or companies behind a spill have to foot the bill for returning the ecosystem to the health it was in beforehand and compensate the public for the time it couldn't use those resources.
This can mean cleaning up oiled marsh or doing things to protect fish and wildlife from other stresses as a way of rebuilding populations hurt by the spill. For instance, a company could make up for damages a spill caused to bluefin tuna by buying new gear for commercial fishing fleets that won't accidentally snare tuna.
"It's what I call Old Testament restoration: You oil a pelican, you have to compensate for that oiled pelican or the equivalent of that oiled pelican," said Bethany Kraft, director of the Ocean Conservancy's Gulf restoration program.
What BP will ultimately owe for natural resource damages under the Oil Pollution Act is still wrapped up in litigation and could remain so for years (see related story). But in the immediate aftermath of the spill, the company put up a $1 billion down payment in order to get some work on the ground more quickly.
So far, nearly $700 million has been awarded to projects as varied as creating barrier islands off Louisiana; changing out nighttime lighting at Florida and Alabama beaches to keep baby sea turtles from being disoriented and scurrying toward land; and building a causeway and beachfront promenade in Mississippi.
But the Oil Pollution Act process only pays for environmental damages that are directly related to the spill.
The first big money for efforts to repair the Gulf's long-standing environmental problems has come through a $4 billion criminal settlement hammered out between BP and Department of Justice lawyers in 2012.
That agreement -- in which BP pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter and one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act -- included a surprise provision sending $2.4 billion to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for Gulf projects.
A low-profile, congressionally chartered nonprofit, the foundation specializes in piecing together federal, private and court-directed funding for conservation work.
So far, it has awarded nearly $390 million for 50 projects like buying and preserving key land on the Texas coast and restoring and enhancing oyster reefs in Alabama. It has had an especially keen eye out for gaps between projects already underway.
Cash for Gulf states
But the mechanism that could represent the biggest influx of funds for the Gulf is still in limbo, as BP and the federal government duke it out in court over Clean Water Act civil penalties.
If the Oil Pollution Act requires those responsible for spills to fix what they broke, the Clean Water Act is the punishment, meant to deter companies from taking risks that can lead to disastrous spills.
The 1972 law levies fines based on how much oil was spilled and how irresponsible the spiller was.
Last September, a federal judge in New Orleans ruled that BP was grossly negligent in its actions leading to the Deepwater Horizon spill, making the company eligible for the maximum fine of $4,300 per barrel. On the high end, that means BP could be looking at a civil liability of $13.7 billion (Greenwire, Sept. 4).
But under the language of the Clean Water Act, that money would go into a trust fund sitting at the federal Treasury.
To Gulf Coast officials, this would have added insult to injury.
The Gulf is "where the damage happened. That's where the restoration has to occur," Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) argued to colleagues in 2011.
It took months of wrangling, but lawmakers from the region eventually reached an agreement to send 80 percent of the Clean Water Act civil fines back to the five Gulf states and got their colleagues on board.
The Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act -- dubbed the RESTORE Act -- passed in 2012 at a time when little else was moving through a deeply divided Congress.
To be sure, it was a compromise.
Green groups and Louisiana officials had wanted most of the money to go to large-scale ecological projects. Other lawmakers, led by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), said the hit their states took from the spill was mostly financial and wanted to be able to use the money for economic development projects like convention centers, boat ramps and highways.
"Because no state was affected exactly the same, the RESTORE Act allows for funds to be used towards both environmental restoration and economic recovery," Shelby said by email. "This flexibility is extremely important to the state of Alabama, where economic damage outweighs environmental harm."
At the same time, there was the usual tug of war between Republicans and Democrats over whether power should rest with the states or the federal government.
In the end, lawmakers agreed to send 80 percent of Clean Water Act civil fines back to the Gulf, dividing the money into three main pots.
The first, constituting 35 percent of those funds, is to be divided equally among the five states for projects largely of their own choosing.
Pot two holds 30 percent of the funds and is to go to ecosystem restoration projects based on a Gulf-wide comprehensive plan.
Pot three, with 30 percent of the money, is to be divided among the states according to a formula related to impact and to be used for restoration work.
The remaining money is tagged for a science program and "centers of excellence" for research.
A federal-state panel called the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, or Restore Council, is to manage the process.
More than two years after the spill, the law passed the Senate overwhelmingly as part of a highway package, 74-19.
'Open to interpretation'
But little has panned out as Gulf Coast officials had hoped.
For starters, at the time that the RESTORE Act was passed, experts widely expected BP and federal lawyers to reach a settlement resolving both the Clean Water Act civil fines and the Oil Pollution Act fines.
That didn't happen. Negotiations fell apart as the first phase of the trial kicked off in early 2013, and since then, the oil behemoth has been fighting aggressively in court (see related story).
At the same time, the compromises that lawmakers hammered out to pass the law did not result in clear legislative language.
"Like any complex law, there are provisions that are open to interpretation," said Justin Ehrenwerth, executive director of the new Restore Council. "As the federal agency created by Congress under the Restore Act, our job is to responsibly implement the law as it's written."
In practice, this has left the states and federal agencies to fight it out behind closed doors over how to interpret the law, rehashing many of the same debates lawmakers had while trying to craft it.
Fault lines have emerged over which money can go to economic projects and which can only go to environmental projects, and whether some funding pots are limited to federally planned ecosystem projects or whether smaller state projects are also eligible.
States have been locked in a stalemate for more than a year over the impact formula directing 30 percent of the funds, each pressing for different tweaks that would give it a larger share.
Meanwhile, without the White House at the table, there has been discord among the federal agencies that combined get only one vote on the council.
That vote is made by the federal chair -- the Commerce Department -- although there is debate over whether it is Commerce's to control, or whether it is meant to be a consensus vote of the agencies.
All of this has environmentalists who pushed for the law feeling like they might be watching a golden opportunity slip through their fingers.
"The plan was to have this big, comprehensive ecosystem restoration plan under which this money would then be allocated to things as they're prioritized and ranked," said Brian Moore, legislative director for the National Audubon Society.
He said the expectation was that the funding would primarily go to massive ecosystem projects like the replumbing of southeast Louisiana and parts of the Everglades. Those efforts already have federal plans in place, but they need more money than Congress is ever likely to give them.
"What we don't want are random acts of conservation that don't speak to each other," Moore said.
'The third disaster'?
Now, groups are about to get their first hint at how the Restore Act process might go if the big money ever arrives.
While everyone is still waiting to see what BP pays in Clean Water Act fines, Transocean settled its civil liabilities under the law for $1 billion in 2013. That sends $800 million to the Restore Council.
The council is preparing to award a first chunk of that, on the order of $150 million, to get some projects on the ground and -- just as important -- figure out how it will select projects.
Insiders say they're gearing up for high-stakes negotiations, where parties form strategic alliances with each other and make trades. Environmentalists are on the defense, worried that such a scenario would short-shrift the ecosystem overall.
But even without the politics, it would be a challenge to decide what work to fund now when no one knows how much money may eventually be on the table for restoration.
"There are some important, big-ticket restoration projects across the Gulf that we couldn't afford even if we used every penny we have today," Ehrenwerth said. "That's one of our biggest challenges: How do you most effectively move restoration forward with the limited amount of money we have?"
The council received 50 project proposals late last year and is expected to make funding decisions by the end of this year.
That means the first Restore funding would be making its way onto the ground nearly four years after the law was passed and six years after the spill took place.
To those who were on the front lines during the disaster, scrambling to respond as oil continued spewing, day after day, the pace of recovery has been far too slow.
"The fact that we're approaching a five-year anniversary and the fact this thing is not all closed up right now is the third disaster," said Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), who served as Gov. Bobby Jindal's coastal adviser during the spill and its aftermath, and was elected to Congress last December.
"Every day you're not restoring, you're losing," he said. "The Gulf is really the foundation for that huge economy of the region, and it would be incredibly shortsighted to allow for some of the ecological impacts to go unaddressed."
Click here to go to E&E's "Gulf Spill: Response to an Environmental Disaster" special report.


On Amendment 1, Tallahassee is ignoring voters — again
Palm Beach Post - Commentary by Victoria Tschinkel, vice chairwoman of 1000 Friends of Florida; she was secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for former Gov. Bob Graham.
April 17, 2015
Amendment 1 supporters around the state have been writing op-eds to voice their outrage that the Florida Legislature is ignoring their will. Amendment 1 was written primarily to restore funding to the Florida Forever program, historically budgeted at $300 million a year, which bought carefully prioritized lands for their environmental and state historical value.
The op-ed writers have mostly extolled the virtues of land acquisition and Florida Forever. Well, 75 percent of those who voted in November already got that. It’s the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott who don’t get it.
Let’s be clear about one thing, they are carrying out exactly what they started in 2011, and are counting on voters’ passivity to use Amendment 1 to further their goals. Here’s how: In 2011, Scott launched his tax-cutting strategy by taking more than $700 million from the budget of the five water management districts — with $520 million alone from the South Florida Water Management District. At that time, Scott knew that the SFWMD had the capacity to make the U.S. Sugar land purchase. The Caloosahatchee River and its estuaries, the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon would be recovering right now if the governor had not slashed the districts’ budgets.
Also, remember that the water districts (except for Northwest) have adequate ad valorem taxing authority (by virtue of an earlier ignored constitutional amendment) to fund water conservation and supply projects — including land acquisition and to help local governments. But Scott and the Legislature balked in 2011 at the thought of the water districts independently funding their own regional projects, and further capped their taxing ability.
This year, for the first time, legislators begrudgingly realize that Florida is running out of clean water. They are scrambling for general revenue and other tax sources, and fighting over how to fund the same projects that could have been completed with district tax dollars. Moreover, they would have cost the average household the price of a pizza or two.
In November, the citizens voted to fund Florida Forever. But, even before Amendment 1 passed, budgeteers in the Legislature and governor’s office were figuring out how to replace existing program funding with Amendment 1 dollars. They are disregarding a long list of outstanding environmental land acquisition projects that should be funded by Amendment 1. And, they are even proposing over $200 million of Amendment 1 funds to be spent on agency operations and regulatory expenses. That’s an insult to the 4.2 million who voted for Amendment 1.
This sham has been politically facilitated by Sen. Alan Hays, the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government. Hays, R-Umatilla, does not like the government to own land for conservation purposes. To justify this, he says that there is no plan for land acquisition. But the Natural Areas Inventory and the State Acquisition and Restoration Council do have such a plan. Hays also says that the state has not adequately funded management of those lands. Well Hays has been in the Legislature for 11 years, so whose fault is that?
My, how things have changed. In 2006, when the opportunity arose to buy the Babcock Ranch property, the Legislature appropriated an additional $310 million, on top of fully funding Florida Forever at $300 million. Oddly enough, Hays, then a member of the Florida House, voted in favor of that purchase.
In a way, voters fell right into their hands. Amendment 1, as it stands now, will be used to fund water and wastewater projects and to clean up after industrial agriculture. And that brings us to the third ignored constitutional amendment: the one that required growers around the Everglades to pay to clean up their pollution. Now they want to shift costs to the Amendment 1 pot.
When the dust settles after the session, and we comb through hundreds of pages of budget, and come to fully understand this shell game, we will come to only one conclusion: our governor and legislators are steadfast in believing that voters may tell them what to do through constitutional amendments, but they sure don’t have to listen.


Buy the sugar land to help our water quality – by David Urich, a life member and past president of the Responsible Growth Management Coalition, Inc., a Fort Myers resident.
April 16, 2015
Thanks for the Doug MacGregor Cartoon Sunday. He is one of my favorites !  “How Government Grows in Tallahassee” says it in a nutshell.
We have about three weeks to reverse the plans to divert Amendment 1 funds from the urgently needed purchase of the Sugar lands in the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area). Many of us use the chant “Plan 6 is the fix” as a shorthand way of stressing the need for this purchase.
  Sugar land
Ask the current Legislature to designate funds to use the option expiring in October to purchase some 46,000 acres - a rather small amount of the total holdings of U.S. Sugar. Buy the land South of Lake “O” for about $350 million. If we have to buy U.S. Sugar it might be a billion dollars.
Who is listening, in spite of busloads of folks to Tallahassee, and vanloads of concerned voters to the Southwest Florida Water Management Board in West Palm Beach (reported by The News-Press on March 13). It would appear that nobody in Tallahassee seems to have their “listening ears” on. The Governor’s number is: 850-488-4441. Calls to the “850” legislative numbers seem to be going to answering machines, rather than being responded to by a staff person. At least that was my experience. Porter Goss had a well written commentary published on March 22, which also seems to have been ignored.
On Wednesday, April 15, the Bonita Springs City Council voted on a sugar land resolution. What actions are being taken by any other local elected bodies? It would seem that Sanibel, Cape Coral and our Board of County Commissioners should be debating this issue and making their feelings known to the Legislature. We know from past history of massive discharges from Lake “O” to our Caloosahatchee that red tide and dead fish have resulted. Do we want to again see that brown water cascading down our river and again resulting in the destruction of the estuary, creating foul Southwest Florida Beaches?
Please understand that red tide and dead fish do not keep tourists coming. We need to look at this issue now and make the decision to fund with Amendment 1 money the purchase of the sugar land before the option expires in October. Studies from the University have shown that the present C-43 Reservoir Plans do not hold enough water to solve the problem for Southwest Florida. Quick answers say that a lot is being done for the Everglades - but that is just not enough to reverse years of neglect and wrong actions.
It might be best to send emails to the following Legislators whom have input to the budget process for the Amendment 1 money:
Rep. Richard Corcoran -; Rep.
Jim Boyd -;
Rep. Ben Albritton -;
Rep. Ray Pilon -;
Sen. Andy Gardiner -;
Sen. Tom Lee -;
Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto -;
Sen. Oscar Braynon II -;
Rep. Mat Caldwell -
The emails for the SW Florida Water Management District Governing Board are:;;;;;;; If you write the Water Management Board - tell them that buying the U.S. Sugar Land is a way of truly moving Everglades Restoration forward. Also, they should not approve the Resolution # 2015-0414 to dispose of important state owned lands known as Nubbins Slough, which is part of the Watershed Land for Lake “O”.

Watered down one more time
April 16, 2015
F or the second year in a row, state Sen. Charlie Dean has carried the banner for substantive changes to Florida’s water policy and springs protection program. And for the second year in a row, the Inverness Republican’s ambitious but reasonable proposals have been watered down by special interest pressure and a House leadership who refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the state’s water crisis.
From the Everglades and Estero Bay in South Florida to Alexander Springs in our own back yard, declining water quality and quantity are realities of 21st century Florida. While many lawmakers and critics of calls for stricter pollution standards, defined protective zones and consumption monitoring and restrictions have panned Dean’s Senate Bill 918 as overreaching, the fact is the vast majority of Florida’s streams, rivers, estuaries and springs fail to meet minimum water quality standards for safe public use. Those same critics say there is not enough science to require the steps SB 918 originally sought to put in place, but one look at Lake Okeechobee or Alexander Springs or the Indian River Lagoon is all the evidence anyone needs, scientist or not, to recognize something is terribly amiss. Plus, there is a veritable library of studies that have been conducted from one end of the state to the other citing the causes of and solutions to Florida’s water quality and quantity problems.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merrit Island, offered hope last year when his predecessor, Will Weatherford, refused to take up the water issue. Crisafulli declared water would be a priority under his leadership.
Then, in his first act during this year’s legislative session, Crisafulli ushered through a water bill that was business- and agriculture-friendly and inadequately addressed our water crisis in a serious manner.
Now SB 918 is nearing a Senate vote, and what promised initially to be solid legislation that would step up springs protection, expedite the cleanup of the Everglades, address faulty septic tanks, monitor major water users, create springs protection zones and reduce water permit limits if the user is not using what the permit allows, have all been deep-sixed.
What Floridians are likely to be left with is more baby steps to fixing a water quality problem that is growing by leaps and bounds, and state environmental regulators hobbled by legislative limitations.
Sure, the House’s version of the water bill, HB 7003, and Dean’s now-watered down bill will provide some nominal improvements to water policy and programs, but far less than is needed to clean up and restore our waterways in both quality and flow. Once again, the Legislature is kowtowing to big business and big agriculture at every Floridian’s expense.
Florida’s water crisis is hardly new, but it is being exacerbated daily by the pressure of 20 million residents, with more moving in every day. Once again our elected representatives in Tallahassee are ignoring the obvious signs of widespread degradation of our waterways, not to mention the long-term well-being of our state, all to satisfy big campaign donors and special interests.


Hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II selling Florida Keys mansion - by: Angela Colley
April 15, 2015
Paul Tudor Jones II, billionaire founder of Tudor Investment Corp., has listed his opulent beachfront mansion in the Florida Keys.
Needless to say, high finance has been very, very good to Jones. Forbes ranked him as the 18th-highest-earning hedge fund manager in the country and estimates his personal net worth at $4.6 billion.
The 6.5-acre gated property he listed with broker Cheri Tindall for $14.5 million in Islamorada, FL, offers the allure of a five-star resort in Key West wrapped into a private residence.
The main home was designed with sunny southern Florida in mind. Many of the rooms in the two-story home feature wall-to-wall windows with ocean and garden views. The vaulted ceilings and pale color palette give the home a light and airy feel. And if being steps from the beach isn’t enough water for you, there are two massive aquariums on the first floor of the home.
Stepping on to any one of the numerous decks, you’ll find ocean views, cool breezes, and plenty to do. The property has large gardens, a patio, a swimming pool, a hot tub, and a tennis court.
And if you truly want to get away from it all, you’re only a short walk to a private, deep-water basin and dock large enough to hold several boats.
There are also two large cottages for guests. The west-side cottage has four bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, and ocean views. The east-side cottage has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, and garden views.
Jones is also widely known for his philanthropy. He founded the Robin Hood Foundation, a charitable organization focusing on poverty and disaster relief in the New York area. He also co-founded the Everglades Foundation, a nonprofit that funds restoration and protection projects projects in the Florida Everglades.
Jones has made recent headlines for another charitable project, one that aims to change businesses and the growing income gap in the U.S. According to CNBC, Jones founded Just Capital, a nonprofit that will work to increase “justness” in companies. “Justness” is a broad term that CNBC says could include anything from job creation to wages to environmental issues. Jones is conducting polls and national surveys.
And while Jones may be selling his Florida Keys paradise, he isn’t leaving Florida for good. Palm Beach Daily News reported that Jones purchased the Casa Apava estate in Palm Beach, FL, for $71 million. The beachfront estate sits along a row of properties locally known as Billionaires Row, so we’re sure Jones will feel right at home.



Scott's chance to fix Florida's fouled estuaries
Tampa Bay Times - Column by William D. Balgord
April 15, 2015
When I came to Florida to fish in 2000, I saw sparkling, blue-green water flooding into its lagoons and estuaries and roseate spoonbills roosting in mangroves. Since then dramatic changes have occurred and, as seasoned guides will tell you, there just aren't as many fish left. What happened in 15 years?
For one, massive discharges from Lake Okeechobee regularly course east and west down canals into estuaries at Fort Myers and Stuart. Prolonged, damaging discharges came midyear in 2013. And another just resumed in February. Fresh water incursions, fouled with algae-stimulating contaminants, are primarily to blame for killing the salt water sea grasses and contributing to red tides. Algae and turbid water coat grass and block sunlight — "shading" — from reaching these essential aquatic plants.
Sea grass beds and mangroves stabilize the lagoons and sounds and provide habitat to animal life up and down both coasts. On the Atlantic side, heavily affected areas extend northward from the St. Lucie estuary into the southern end of the Indian River Lagoon. There and in the Fort Myers estuary, manatees, fish (in various stages of development) and benthic (bottom-dwelling) animal life (mollusks, crustaceans and smaller forms) depend on ubiquitous sea grasses for food and for shelter from predators. Sea grass flats represent the base of the food chain for the two most diverse and highly productive ecosystems in the United States.
Lake Okeechobee discharges move vast tonnages of suspended and dissolved agricultural and urban runoff to two estuaries: the mouths of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers and of the St. Lucie River in Stuart. Discharges, some originating in the Kissimmee basin (Orlando), contain fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide residues contributed by sugarcane, vegetable and turf farms, cattle grazing and the chemicals and nutrients from residential lawns and septic systems. Silt is picked up by the heavy flows that scour canal bottoms during discharges. Later these same materials are deposited as shoals and bars in the quieter waters of the estuaries. They coat and bury sea grass, oyster beds and other sessile aquatic life.
Sugarcane and truck farming along the southern end of Lake Okeechobee into western Palm Beach County contribute the bulk of effluents released to the canal systems. Federally subsidized sugar-cane farming depends on irrigation water from the lake during dry periods. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, responsible for maintaining lake levels within a narrow range, releases water whenever rising levels threaten the perimeter levee. During the 1926 and 1928 hurricanes, the former dike collapsed and released floods that took the lives of nearly 3,000 residents in Belle Glade and nearby communities.
South Florida's fish populations have expanded and collapsed several times since the days of Spanish control. In February 1899, a cold wave, like in January 2010, killed snook, trout and other species. That Florida's splendid fishery has recovered from severe declines itself is cause for optimism. Fish populations recovered dramatically following the 1994 commercial netting ban. Afterward, trophy trout and snook were again being caught. But multifaceted problems today seem more serious because of their political roots.
In 2008, U.S. Sugar Corp. reached an agreement with the people of Florida, who in one way or another are affected by the discharges, to purchase 187,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee. It would be swapped for other holdings completing a corridor south into the undeveloped Everglades. Except for 24,000 acres already acquired, the remaining purchases await the approval of the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, and Amendment 1 makes money available for these purposes. With the economy recovering, U.S. Sugar is reluctant to sell land at the agreed price and exerts influence in Tallahassee to stall sale until the option expires in October.
Scott doesn't depend on agribusinesses for re-election. Before him is an opportunity to secure his legacy. By resolving the problem of excess water from Lake Okeechobee, he ameliorates two problems: first, restoring beneficial flows of water south through the Everglades to Florida Bay, and second, eliminating discharges that wreak havoc with two premiere estuaries. The people of Florida would stand up and cheer.


Spymaster spins Everglades yarn
BizPac Review - Op-Ed by Saint John Hunt
April 15, 2015 by
Oh the irony. Being lectured about “shady deal making”, bureaucratic ineptitude and having debates in the sunshine — by a former Director of the CIA.
In an opinion piece published in the News-Press, such a lecture is precisely what was delivered by former Congressman and CIA Director Porter Goss. And employing another specialty of the CIA, Mr. Goss engages in some serious disinformation about the proposed $500 million land grab by which the State of Florida would buy tens of thousands of acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee under the false pretense of restoring the Everglades.
I have just moved to the Sunshine State from California. At first, based on what I read in the newspapers, I supported the state purchase of 46,700 acres of farm land in the Everglades. Upon doing some research I learned that this land is not required for Everglades restoration and diverting money for its purchase could actually take money from projects needed to finish successful Everglades restoration.
In fact, buying this land will do little or nothing towards restoring the Everglades. Let’s be clear: Restoring and protecting the Everglades is not at issue here. Everyone agrees with that goal. That’s why Florida taxpayers, farmers and businesses have invested more than $10 billion already to improve water quality and implement dozens of projects to restore this amazing resource. And that’s why we have committed another $5.5 billion to finish the job.
Of course, in his opinion piece, Mr. Goss neglects to mention that all these efforts are working. Everglades water quality today far exceeds federal standards. He also neglects to mention that the state and federal governments already own more than 25% of Florida land. Instead, he just wants us to believe that giving the government even more land will somehow make things better. Sounding more like a real estate investor than a retired spook , Mr. Goss says exercising the U.S. Sugar option will let the government buy land at a “price favorable to the public”. He conveniently overlooks the fact that his “favorable” price expired in 2013, and that a new, current, market value would be required. Who knows if it would be favorable? Closer to $700 million than $500 Million.
What’s more the water contained in the 26,000 acre, $2 billion dollar reservoir is a drop in the bucket –less than 150,000 acre-feet to solve a 4.5 million acre foot problem. Not enough to effect quality of water.
Our former CIA Director also says the state has “all the science it needs” to justify this massive land grab. Well…if that is true, why isn’t the land grab included among the 43 priority projects identified by the South Florida Water Management District for Everglades restoration? Maybe the experts DO have all the science they need — and that science doesn’t support exercising the option.
Everglades restoration projects have been underway for more than two decades, and are achieving and surpassing the science-based goals for water quality and quantity. Buying more land — at tremendous cost to taxpayers and farmers — simply isn’t part of the plan, for good reason. It will only divert dollars and water that can be better used for real projects, rather than to just satisfy the appetites of extreme environmentalists and their political friends to add to the government’s real estate portfolio.
My father worked for the CIA. I learned early that the CIA deals in disinformation. Mr. Goss is continuing that tradition. Let’s keep our eye on the ball. Restoring the Everglades is the objective. Spending $500 million to buy up land, and untold amounts to maintain it, will do nothing to achieve it.


Time to ask why leadership isn't performing
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander – To the Editor by John Raffensperger, Sanibel Island
April 15, 2015
Water quality is a major industry in southwest Florida. Politicians, realtors and developers who thought of creeks and rivers as sewers or nuisances to be drained, channeled or dammed, all of a sudden became concerned when algae and dead fish accumulated in smelly piles on our beaches. There was even more alarm when tourists developed sore throats from red tide.
When running for office, every politician expresses support for clean water but only in the vaguest of terms. I haven't been in church lately, but I suspect preachers mention water. After all, no one wants to be baptized in sewerage. There have been seminars, lectures, and discussion groups devoted to water quality and environmental organizations have raised oodles of cash. Despite this activity, tons of fertilizers, septic waste and municipal sewage pours into our estuary and the Gulf. There is less fertilizer in the Sanibel Slough since our city council passed the fertilizer ordinance, but the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are still high enough to support algae blooms. If the council is serious, it should ban all fertilizers and pesticides on Sanibel.
Sadly, politicians, including our own city council, say nothing and do nothing about the tons of nitrogen and phosphorus that the agriculture industry pours down the Caloosahatchee River. The best way to control agricultural pollution is the construction of grassy swales and wetlands to catch runoff from fields before it reaches waterways, but the politicians never mention this as a solution. Although Floridians voted overwhelmingly for Amendment 1 that provides money for everglades restoration.
The governor and legislators are determined to divert the money to public works projects involving contractors and construction companies. These companies will be grateful at election time with votes and campaign donations. Our city council has not even supported the purchase of land from the sugar industry for Everglades Restoration. Are they looking forward to sharing the spoils when U. S. Sugar develops 67 square miles of land southwest of Lake O for residential and commercial development? Mr. Goss summed up the attitude of politicians when he said, "I can work with polluters."
Does this mean he doesn't want to aggravate potential contributors to his political campaigns? It gets even worse; in HB 7003/companion SB 918 the state legislators would transfer water management to the state Department of Agriculture and will reduce accountability and enforcement of water quality.
Come on, COTI, SCCF, the Ding Darling Society and all others interested in water quality. Initiate a boycott of Florida sugar and support a ban on septic tanks. If poverty-stricken towns such as Captiva can't afford a sewer system, let them install electric incinerator or composting toilets rather than allowing their sewage to seep into the bay.
Finally, rise up, ye citizens and vote the rascals out of office.


Public python hunt will return to Florida Everglades in 2016
Associated Press
April 14, 2015
Florida is bringing back a public hunt for invasive Burmese pythons in the Everglades.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission plans to hold the next "Python Challenge" early next year. Registration opens in October.
About 1,600 people participated in 2013 during the first monthlong python hunt on state lands. Most of the 68 pythons collected were caught by experienced hunters.
Tens of thousands of pythons may be slithering through the Everglades, and the hunt illustrated how difficult they are to find. Kristen Sommers of the wildlife commission's exotic species coordination section says only about 200 pythons are caught in an average year.
Sommers says the next Python Challenge will increase training for the public to identify the invasive snakes, so that they also can report python sightings year round.


Full story draft


Current flow diversion away from FL Bay

The untold, bad-science story of the Everglades Foundation founders - by Nancy Smith
April 14, 2015
It's been 19 years since investigative reporters Bob Malloy and Will Bourne wrote how money and political influence contributed to the demise of water quality and the seagrass/coral reef ecosystems of Florida Bay and the Florida Keys.
The story reads like a Greek tragedy. Everglades Foundation founders George Barley and Paul Tudor Jones featured large in the 7,925-word epic. According to the story, Barley bought into bad science promulgated by Joseph Zieman, a University of Virginia seagrass biologist, and his colleague, Ron Jones of Miami's Florida International University; Tudor Jones bankrolled the development of their wrong conclusions. Meanwhile, water quality in Florida Bay and the upper Keys worsened because of it.
Though Malloy and Bourne's story was bound for the New York Times Magazine, for reasons largely unexplained, it went unpublished. What it did do, however, is record the cluster of misery left in the wake of scientists whose theories were disastrously off base.  
An ecological disaster had been unfolding in South Florida since the 1970s. "Fishermen began reporting blooms of sheetlike macroalgae in western Florida Bay, the crescent of water that lies between the Keys and the southern tip of the mainland," wrote the authors.
Much of the coral in the Keys died between 1986 and 1996. Said Malloy and Bourne, "These algae blooms today are as bad as they have ever been. ... An estimated 100,000 acres of seagrass has died while schools of tarpon and other game fish are washing up onto the beaches, killed by explosive blooms of neuro-toxic 'red tide.'"
Zieman sold the scientific community and prevailing bureaucrats his theory, that a reduction in the freshwater flow through the Everglades had led to a chronic increase in the salinity of Florida Bay. Too much salt in the water was somehow killing seagrass beds. See page 2 of the story for the complete explanation.
Zieman said the solution was to restore fresh water to the bay. Throughout the 1990s, in fact, this was the "cure." Backed by environmentalists pushing for restoration -- just as they are today -- Zieman called for fresh water to be shipped down canals operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and sent into Florida Bay.
There were a handful of scientists who studied data from the South Florida Water Management District and realized Zieman and Ron Jones had it wrong. Among them was Brian LaPointe, a marine algae specialist from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
LaPointe said, contrary to Zieman's hypothesis, there was plenty of fresh water entering the bay. In fact, more than enough most of the time. He said the algae blooms could be explained by the bay's Petrie dish effect, that you always get your biggest growth response when you add nitrogen and phosphorous together. It's eutrophication, or overenrichment by nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and silica -- the chemicals that come from sewage outfalls, industrial and agricultural runoff -- that create the algae.
Malloy and Bourne said the environmental community had to grant LaPoint "pariah status." He had to be ignored, they had no choice, the authors said. "The fact that eutrophication is such a well-documented phenomenon ... meant that ignoring LaPointe's theory would be scientifically irresponsible in the extreme."
LaPointe was right, and later vindicated. But in the meantime he and a handful of his colleagues "endured years of reduced funding, ostracism, bad-mouthing and general alienation."
Said the authors, "What we couldn't understand was, that from 1992 to the present day, why the bay's need for water was continually cast in the future tense, as if none were coming in. There was no recognition -- in the press, in official documents, anywhere of the fact that the taps had been on for more than a decade, that the water had been flowing, in fact, since the algae problem began. Gradually, we began to realize that no one, or very few, knew about that water at all."
But, they said, Ron Jones knew. Joseph Zieman knew. "Was it a coincidence that the two scientists who were looking to make a name for themselves via hypersalinity -- as both unquestionably were by the early '90s -- were forgetting to mention a fact that decimated the hypothesis?
"We guessed not. So we began looking into the mechanism by which hypersalinity was elevated from obscurity to become the model driving Florida Bay policy. We found two individuals: George Barley, the chairman of the Sanctuary Advisory Council, and the Nature Conservancy's Keys honcho, Mark Robertson."
The authors described Barley as a smooth-talking, Harvard educated Floridian who, by the time he died in a 1995 plane crash, had accumulated an estate worth more than $30 million. "Most of it came from the real estate market, from selling swampland around Orlando."
It was Barley who in 1992 brought Zieman before the Sanctuary Advisory Council in the Keys and Robertson brought him before the Nature Conservancy. Barley had more than money; he had plenty of environmental credentials, including five years as chairman of the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission, service on a couple of Everglades boards including the Everglades Foundation with his friend Paul Tudor Jones, on the National Park System Advisory Board and he'd put in time as director of Florida Audubon.
So, by 1993 the public at large was hearing from the "experts": Malloy and Bourne cite a January 1993 article in a Keys newspaper under the headline, "Super Salty Water Killing Florida Bay." And "within months there were Keys citizens in the streets, demanding that the floodgates be opened. No one seemed to know that water was already flowing, thick with nitrogen."
The authors continue, "As one scientist now departed from the Keys says: 'I don't think independent science in the way I like to do it is being done here. There's an awful lot of influence peddling and so much defense of turf that I felt rational science was taking it on the nose. People who did not want to build an empire were being forced out by people who were much more aggressive and truculent. You were in or out, part of the club or not. And I wasn't part of the club.
"Zieman and Jones, along with several of Zieman's former students, were the club. Jones admits that he has 'an empire here, a nice empire.' As for Zieman, who ... received a $4 million anonymous grant (linked to Tudor Jones, Barley's multimillionaire friend) through the University of Virginia for his Florida work, he intends to be 'down here for a long, long time.'"
Actually, it didn't happen. Zieman and Jones, the purveyors of bad science, were "disappeared." Zieman, at least for a time, did leave the state after all. And Jones not only left Florida, he left his tenured professorship at FIU and all of his funding.
That's not to say the environmental community ever acknowledged their devastating mistake -- frightening in the context of the Everglades Foundation/Trust/Coalition today. Instead, they relate it all to "climate change."
Wrote Malloy and Bourne, "What began for us as an investigation of bad science, of a flawed hypothesis that seemed to acquire supernatural powers, evolved into an examination of power, money and big-business environmentalism in South Florida. As environmentalists, it rapidly soured us on the philosophy and tactics that have moved to the forefront of the battle to save our natural treasures. It became a case study in ethical disintegration."
This is a bad-science story to keep in mind as the Everglades Foundation whips up its believers and jockeys for $500 million to $700 million to buy U.S. Sugar Corp. land, only a fraction of which is usable.
Take all the time you need to fill in the gaps by reading Malloy and Bourne's 1996 effort in full -- click here: New York Times Magazine Draft - Destruction of Florida Bay


Watered down one more time - Editorial
April 14, 2015
For the second year in a row, state Sen. Charlie Dean has carried the banner for substantive changes to Florida’s water policy and springs protection program. And for the second year in a row, the Inverness Republican’s ambitious but reasonable proposals have been watered down by special interest pressure and a House leadership who refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the state’s water crisis.
From the Everglades and Estero Bay in South Florida to Silver Springs and the St. Johns River in our own back yard, declining water quality and quantity are realities of 21st century Florida. While many lawmakers and critics of calls for stricter pollution standards, defined protective zones and consumption monitoring and restrictions have panned Dean’s Senate Bill 918 as overreaching, the fact is the vast majority of Florida’s streams, rivers, estuaries and springs fail to meet minimum water quality standards for safe public use. Those same critics say there is not enough science to require the steps SB 918 originally sought to put in place, but one look at Lake Okeechobee or Silver Springs or the Indian River Lagoon is all the evidence anyone needs, scientist or not, to recognize something is terribly amiss. Plus, there is a veritable library of studies that have been conducted from one end of the state to the other citing the causes of and solutions to Florida’s water quality and quantity problems.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merrit Island, offered hope last year when his predecessor, Will Weatherford, refused to take up the water issue. Crisafulli declared water would be a priority under his leadership.
Then, in his first act during this year’s legislative session, Crisafulli ushered through a water bill that was business- and agriculture-friendly and inadequately addressed our water crisis in a serious manner.
Now SB 918 is nearing a Senate vote, and what promised initially to be solid legislation that would step up springs protection, expedite the cleanup of the Everglades, address faulty septic tanks, monitor major water users, create springs protection zones and reduce water permit limits if the user is not using what the permit allows, have all been deep-sixed.
What Floridians are likely to be left with is more baby steps to fixing a water quality problem that is growing by leaps and bounds, and state environmental regulators hobbled by legislative limitations.
Sure, the House’s version of the water bill, HB 7003, and Dean’s now-watered down bill will provide some nominal improvements to water policy and programs, but far less than is needed to clean up and restore our waterways in both quality and flow. Once again, the Legislature is kowtowing to big business and big agriculture at every Floridian’s expense.
Florida’s water crisis is hardly new, but it is being exacerbated daily by the pressure of 20 million residents, with more moving in every day. Once again our elected representatives in Tallahassee are ignoring the obvious signs of widespread degradation of our waterways, not to mention the long-term well-being of our state, all to satisfy big campaign donors and special interests.


A Road runs through it: Tamiami Trail Lecture
Naples Illustrated
April 13, 2015
For many in Southwest Florida, Tamiami Trail is simply a way of life. From Tampa to Miami (hence the name, a contraction of Tampa to Miami), and all Gulf Coast cities and towns in between, US 41 has developed as a bustling business and entertainment hub, the main route from point a to point b, and so much more. But prior to the completion of the highway, which officially opened on April 25, 1928, the southwest Florida region looked much different than it does today, with much of it uninhabitable wilderness. And the construction of the highway was nothing short of a modern marvel, cutting through marsh, swamp and forest, taking 13 years to build at a cost of $8 million (adjusted for inflation, a cost of nearly $190 million today), and a whopping 2.6 million sticks of dynamite. Now, stretches of the road, most notably the east-west portion and the Tamiami Canal bisecting the Everglades, has in effect stopped the natural flow of the wetlands, prompting a multi-million dollar restoration project to restore flow.
   With the road’s upcoming anniversary, the Marco Island Historical Museum is looking in the rearview at the thoroughfare’s history on April 21 at 7 p.m. In conjunction with the Smithsonian’s “The Way We Worked” exhibition on display at the Marco Island Historical Museum through May 16, park ranger Bob DeGross, Chief of Interpretation at Big Cypress National Preserve, will present “A Road Runs Through It,” a discussion about the construction of the road and Monroe Station, one of six service station outposts constructed along remote stretches of the road through Collier County. With just two surviving service stations left, Monroe Station sits in the heart of Big Cypress National Preserve and is open for visitors to explore.
Admission for this drive down memory lane is free; call 239-642-1440 to reserve a seat. For more information, visit



Huge records request another “who done it” in U.S. Sugar deal
PalmBeachPost-Blog – by Christine Stapleton
April 13, 2015
A Stuart lawyer has filed a sweeping public records request with the University of Florida, seeking all documents related to a Lake Okeechobee water report being touted by proponents of a controversial land deal  as a reason to by U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee.
Attorney Lance Richard, who handles criminal defense and divorce cases, declined to comment on why he filed the report or how he intends to use it. Richard’s 7-page records request was made March 11, 2015 – ten days after the report was released.
The target of Richard’s request is a 143-page report entitled a Technical Review of Options to Move Water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. The university’s Water Institute produced the report at the request of the Senate as part of its efforts determine ways to reduce harmful dumps of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River.
When the report was released on March 1, the Everglades Foundation issued a press release saying the report validated the foundation’s efforts to convince the South Florida Water Management District to purchase 46,800 acres of farmland south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar.
The district’s option to buy the 46,800 acres expires on Oct. 12. The district has shown no interest in buying the land and U.S. Sugar, although compelled to do so under the contract, does not want to sell. The governor and other top lawmakers have said they prefer to see the district complete Everglades restoration projects already underway before buying land for more projects.
But the Everglades Foundation has persisted – sponsoring television ads and encouraging environmentalists who want to stop water from Lake Okeechobee from being dumped into the estuary and river. Fresh water from the lake and local stormwater runoff from roads yards and field, wreak ecological havoc in the delicate, brackish waterways.
Richard’s declined to comment on whether he had filed the request on behalf of a client. But his request is the second incident since March whose backers are unknown. On April 2 paid actors protested outside the district’s headquarters against the land deal. Most knew little about the land deal and nothing about who was paying the $75 they earned for shouting and holding signs.
As for the deal, the district’s governing board has not shut down the deal but strongly indicated at its meeting on April 9 that it preferred to finish restoration and storage projects already underway rather than purchasing new land for a project that does not yet exist.
In response to his records request, Richards said the university estimates gathering and copying records will cost $30,000. Richards said he may scale down his request in response.
Related:           Massive records request made for UF documents      Gainesville Sun




Negron proves there is hope state lawmakers will stand up to Big Sugar
PalmBeachPost – by Sally Swartz
April 12, 2015
They spell out “Buy the Land” in live bodies along along a Stuart beach. They gather in standing-room-only crowds at South Florida Water Management District meetings, traveling from Miami aboard Tri Rail and car pools from the Treasure Coast.
They travel to Tallahassee by the busload for rallies on the Capitol steps. Last week, singer Jimmy Buffett sang to 500 fellow Floridians at the latest Tally rally, where he went to “raise a little hell” and urge lawmakers to buy sugar industry-owned land south of Lake Okeechobee to store and clean water. South Floridians would drink some of it; the rest would flow south to the Everglades National Park.
On Thursday, more “buy the land” advocates packed another water district meeting.
So it’s clear that Floridians want the state to buy land south of the lake. Unfortunately,that’s not what the sugar industry wants.
Will lawmakers who took campaign cash from the sugar industry have the courage to cut the strings of their Big Sugar puppet masters to do what the people want?
It could happen. The “Save Our Rivers/Buy the Land” advocates aren’t giving up, and Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, offers a glimmer of hope.
Opponents are starting to appear desperate. As The Post’s Christine Stapleton reported earlier, anonymous money paid actors to demonstrate against the land buy at a Tea Party-organized event. No one  admits bankrolling this charade, but a sugar industry spokeswoman defended it.
Never has everything been so perfectly aligned for the land buy.  The people want it, and they have said so again and again. The Legislature has the money — at least $750 million from Amendment 1, which more than 75 percent of Florida voters approved last November to buy conservation lands.
But so far, every lawmaker who takes campaign cash from sugar sources is  stalling, marching in lockstep with what Big Sugar wants.
If the land purchase is delayed until the state’s option to buy more than 46,000 acres south of the lake runs out in October, the sugar industry wins. It can continue to farm the land, consider development proposals — or simply let the price of the land increase.
Lawmakers, meantime, are pushing to hijack Amendment 1 money for purposes voters never intended, such as operating expenses for the Department of Environmental Protection. They won’t give enough money to Florida Forever, the state’s land-buying agency. They’re on board with the sugar industry-backed agenda of using the money for projects already in the works.
Dirty tricks reminiscent of recent elections are in play. In Martin County, some Economic Council members have ties to the sugar industry. The council sent residents a misleading email that seemed to support buying the land south of the lake. Instead, clicking on the provided links sent lawmakers the opposite message: Don’t buy the land. Spend money on existing projects.
Last week, however, Sen. Negron, who has taken large amounts of campaign money from the sugar industry, offered his Treasure Coast and north Palm Beach County constituents reasons to carry on. He told Stuart News reporter Isadora Rangel he will ask the Legislature to set aside $500 million in the state budget to buy lands under Amendment 1.
There still would be a battle over whether the money goes to buy sugar land south of the lake or to other restoration projects. But it’s better than the big bag of nothing Negron and other lawmakers so far have handed residents who support the land buy.
The folks at, a nonprofit dedicated to stopping lake discharges to east and west coast rivers, said it all in a recent Facebook post. “Call Sen. Joe Negron at 850-487-5032…Leave a message something like this…There is no good reason to delay this land purchase. The people who voted for you need your leadership now.”
Pretty simple.
Joe, step up.


Florida's future is in grave danger
Pensacola News Journal – Viewpoint by Robert Michael Wernicke, member of Pensacola's Bream Fishermen Association and a supporter of the Everglades Foundation.
April 11, 2015
We are at a major turning point for the future of Florida. The Everglades, the "river of grass" that once flowed from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay, is in grave danger. While this isn't new, it has reached a critical point.
Sadly, the destruction of the Everglades has been underway for almost a century. Back in the 1920s, before people understood what a natural treasure they are, people saw the Everglades as only a big, useless swamp obstructing agriculture and development. So the government built canals and levees to drain the water and convert the Everglades into "usable" land. But these canals and levees cut off the Everglades from Lake Okeechobee.
Some of the southern Everglades were preserved in a national park, but without that flow of water from Okeechobee, the Everglades have gradually dried up.
Today, there is not enough water to fully recharge the South Florida aquifers that serve cities like Miami, nor to maintain the delicate balance of fresh and salt water in Florida Bay that is critical to its health. The Everglades themselves no longer provide adequate habitat for the wild animals and birds that used to flourish there. Lake Okeechobee, deprived of its natural outflow and filled with fertilizer and other runoff from human activity, has become so polluted that the water is toxic to fish and other animals.
There is a plan to save the Everglades by restoring the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee. This plan, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), is an agreement between the state of Florida and the federal government. A critical part of this plan is to build a large reservoir to take water from Okeechobee and hold it for gradual release in wetlands where the excess pollutants can be filtered out to make the water clean enough for the Everglades. The CERP mandates the state to find and purchase land for this reservoir, but the state has not done so yet.
The state has an option to buy 46,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar in the Everglades Agricultural Area, including a 26,000-acre parcel south of Lake Okeechobee that would be a good location for the needed reservoir. However, the option expires in October. If not exercised, it will expire, and the land will become difficult, if not impossible, to buy.
Furthermore, the state has the money to buy this land.
Last November, we, the citizens of Florida, voted overwhelmingly for Amendment 1, which directs the state to spend 33 percent of document stamp taxes (on real estate transactions) to buy and manage environmentally important lands for the next 20 years. This amount is projected to be $650 million in the coming year, and more in later years. The price of the lands under option is estimated at $350 million, and not more than $500 million, well under the first year's income from the document tax.
Yet Gov. Scott and the Legislature are defying the will of the voters and doing everything they can to avoid appropriating funds to purchase the land. It is not totally clear why they are doing this, but apparently U.S. Sugar no longer wishes to sell the land, and the sugar lobby has a lot of influence in Tallahassee.
This land is crucial to saving the natural beauty of the Everglades and the water supply for South Florida. As a Floridian, it makes me sad to see major environmental damage being done to our state. If you feel the same way, please contact the governor and your legislators and tell them that it's time to step up and save the Everglades.
Robert Michael Wernicke is a member of Pensacola's Bream Fishermen Association and a supporter of the Everglades Foundation.


FL Capitol

- - a busy place these days

U.S. Sugar land buy backers still hope to strike unlikely deal in final weeks of session – by Isadora Rangel
April 11, 2015
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - With three weeks left before the end of the legislative session, Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, announced he wants to find $500 million during budget negotiations with the House that could be used to buy 46,800 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. to help reduce polluted-water discharges by moving excess Lake Okeechobee water south.
But Negron faces an uphill battle.
Key lawmakers, including Republican House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, oppose the state owning any more land and have doubts the south-lake parcel is the right land to buy.
“It is somewhat unlikely that we would be able to achieve it this session,” agreed Republican Sen. Tom Lee, of Brandon, a former Senate president who heads the chamber’s budget committee.
U.S. Sugar, though bound by an agreement to sell the parcel to the state, has criticized the plan. Another major obstacle is the Legislature likely would have to issue bonds to buy the land. Republican Gov. Rick Scott opposes such additional borrowing. Without bonding, it’s unlikely lawmakers will want to take money from other projects already slated to receive more than $740 million combined in state environmental money.
Negron countered that, saying the voter-approved Amendment 1 language allows the state to use that money to gradually pay off a bond issue. The state issued bonds to build a Florida Keys wastewater facility last session, he pointed out.
U.S. Sugar’s agreement to sell its land expires Oct. 12, but the state needs to appropriate the money before the May 1 end of session.
“There’s plenty of time left in session to find common ground,” Negron said.
U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez has said it would be a waste of taxpayer money to buy the company’s land. She said the state should focus on existing Everglades restoration projects.
That’s a stance the South Florida Water Management District board shared Thursday, to the dismay of residents who pleaded with them to buy the land.
U.S. Sugar and its affiliates gave more than $1 million in campaign contributions to Scott, Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner, as well as top environmental budget writers, since 2010, when it agreed to sell the land to the state. More than $6 million went to the Republican Party, which controls both legislative chambers and the governor’s office.
On the other hand, hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II, co-founder of the Everglades Foundation, the organization leading lobbyist efforts to buy the land, donated at least $916,000, including a $50,000 donation to Negron’s Treasure Coast Alliance political committee in 2013.
“It’s a standoff right now,” Audubon Florida executive director Eric Draper said. “The sugar industry lobbyists are just as resolute in their opposition as they have been. We are just as resolute in our support.”
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said his meetings with lawmakers have left him encouraged by a “willingness” in the Senate to strike a deal. He will have a tougher time in the more conservative House because of Crisafulli’s opposition.
Eikenberg, a former lobbyist and chief of staff to former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who oversaw the land buy negotiations, also acknowledged the sugar industry’s influence in Tallahassee.
“It’s a machine,” he said. “They know what they want, and they get what they want.”
Sen. Alan Hays, head of the Senate budget committee in charge of allocating money for the environment, said he hasn’t talked to sugar lobbyists but opposes buying the land. Hays, R-Umatilla, is a staunch opponent of the state owning more land because 9.4 million acres are already publicly owned in Florida, he said.
“The main sticking point for me is (buying the land) does nothing to diminish the nutrient load in Lake Okeechobee because it’s south of the lake,” Hays said. “Let’s diminish the nutrient load going into the lake and therefore let’s diminish the nutrient load coming out of the lake.”
Lee said he and his staff are still trying to determine whether the U.S. Sugar land is the right parcel needed to move water south or if the state should consider other options.
Environmentalists say the state should buy the land before the deadline, use about 26,100 acres to build a reservoir to hold excess water before it’s sent to the Everglades, then swap the remaining acres for other needed parcels.
A University of Florida Water Institute study found more south-lake storage is needed and recommended the state consider buying the sugar land.
The best way to resolve the issue, Draper said, would be for Scott to get U.S. Sugar, environmentalists and state agencies to discuss a compromise.
“It’s not too late,” Draper said. “If people can find an agreement, then it’s never too late.”



Big sugar land buy for Everglades restoration hits road block
Miami Herald – by Jenny Staletovich
April 10, 2015 
Calling the deal too costly with too little benefit, the South Florida Water Management District board on Thursday effectively canned a 2010 deal to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land that it once considered critical to restoring the Everglades and coastal estuaries.
Instead, board members voted to back a $5 billion restoration plan mapped out by Gov. Rick Scott for the next 20 years that does not include the land.
“If we can get $5 billion in state dollars and match that with $5 billion in federal dollars and have $10 billion, to me that is the big huge goal we have to go after right now,” said board chairman Dan O’Keefe.
The vote followed weeks of rowdy protests by environmentalists, topped by a Tallahassee concert headlined by Jimmy Buffett this week demanding the state buy the land. Located just south of Lake Okeechobee, the cane fields would help fill what supporters say is a critical need to store and move water to the parched southern Glades, a major goal in fixing marshes and reviving Florida Bay and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
On Thursday, board members listed a host of problems with the deal, from a purchase price estimated at between $500 and $700 million to restrictions that would prevent more than 11,000 acres being used for restoration over the next five years.
Frustrated with the West Palm Beach-based board’s inaction, environmentalists have shifted their efforts to Tallahassee, where Buffett’s concert this week drew big crowds.
“People along both coasts who have been ravaged by dirty polluted water want a solution,” said Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg. “So the nine board members need to demonstrate leadership and come up with a plan.”
To fix the Everglades, more land is needed to store polluted water from Lake Okeechobee. When lake levels get too high and threaten its aging dike, phosphorus-rich water gets flushed down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie to sensitive coastal surrounding estuaries. In 2013, the latest in a periodic string of massive algae blooms, the polluted water killed off seagrasses and oysters in the St. Lucie and left the river unhealthy for swiming for months. Critics say that current plans, including Scott’s proposal to finish 68 projects still incomplete after nearly 15 years, do not include enough storage space.
Riding a landslide November victory on a land preservation amendment, environmentalists hoped to buy the cane fields, which sugar growers tried to rezone late last year for residential and commercial development. Amendment 1 is expected to generate about $650 million its first year.
But to persuade legislators, who are now deciding how to spend the money, an appraisal needs to be done. Up until Thursday, despite requests from environmentalists, the board refused to include the matter on its agenda.
In voting to endorse Scott’s plan, board members — all appointed by the governor — and district staff argued that the land would provide far less use than environmentalists claim.
Only 11,000 acres could be used over the next 20 years for restoration under the terms of the deal, district Everglades policy director Tom Teets said. The remainder would be parceled out at 10,000 acres every ten years. Removing infrastructure would be costly, he said, as well as removing six to eight feet of muck to install levees.
“It’s not a simple solution to a complex problem,” O’Keefe said.
But environmentalists, who have packed meetings in recent months, presented a half dozen resolutions from South Florida counties and cities that back the deal and accused board members of over-complicating the matter in an attempt to thwart it.
“It’s a business contract. It’s not part of the U.S. Constitution or cast in stone,” said former St. Lucie County Commissioner Charles Grande. “These things can be reopened to negotiation any time.”
Scott, whose latest election campaign was heavily backed by the sugar industry, has avoided publicly stating his position on the deal. On Thursday, he said he was focused on his own plan when asked about the board’s decision or need for the land.
"I haven't seen the vote,” he said. “What I'm focused on is my budget, a dedicated funding source.”
The district originally hammered out the land deal under former Gov. Charlie Crist, who initially proposed buying all 180,000 acres owned by the U.S. Sugar Corp. But Crist’s grand vision crumbled with the economic downtown.
In 2010, the district bought a small fraction of the land — 26,800 acres for $194 million — and negotiated options for the remaining land. In 2013, the district let expire an initial option to buy the 46,800 acres at $7,400 an acre. The current option would allow the district to buy the land at fair market value.
But without an appraisal from the district, backers say legislators won’t be able to use Amendment 1 money to make the purchase and would instead have to craft another deal for land to store water.
And without land to store water, supporters say Everglades restoration will continue to falter.
“How much faster would you be able to reach [your goals] with the land purchase,” asked Tropical Audubon executive director Laura Reynolds.
Reporter Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.
Related:           Pressures Mound On Lawmakers To Buy Sugar Land For ...            WLRN
Push for sugar land buy meets water board resistance           WPEC


From pollution to power: Scientists are working on turning harmful algae blooms intro practical energy sources - by Rebecca Harrington
April 10, 2015
As if to mark the passing of spring into summer, every year the mirror-clear surface of the St. Croix River separating Minnesota from Wisconsin turns dull as a slimy green sheen overtakes it like a shabby coating of tinted plastic wrap. Likely a result of runoff from the agricultural lands surrounding the river, these algal blooms shut down beaches, denying schoolchildren newly free for summer break from one of the few amusements in the sleepy towns surrounding the river. At the camp I attended for 10 summers, we swam in it anyway, the algae staining green polka dots into the lining of our swimsuits.
Algal blooms come in a rainbow of colors, caused by a slew of algae and bacterial species that multiply exponentially with enough sun, slow-moving water and nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen that commonly come from fertilizers, wastewater and fossil fuels. While most are merely inconvenient and kind of gross to humans, some blooms can cause neurological complications, respiratory problems and rashes.
And they’re even worse for wildlife. Algal blooms can eat up the oxygen and sunlight in the water, creating dead zones that kill fish, plants and other marine life. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that harmful coastal algal blooms cost the U.S. economy $82 million per year by negatively impacting recreation, tourism and the seafood industry. And their effects will likely worsen with climate change, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
One way of preventing algal blooms is to go right to the source: fertilizer runoff from farms. John Miller, a chemist at Western Michigan University, and his team presented research at the American Chemical Society meeting on March 25 that aims to give nutrient scrubbers to farmers on the frontlines. These scrubbers provide a home for algae and bacteria to thrive on the fertilizer nutrients right where the runoff starts, before it reaches major waterways. The algae grow on screens with the water flowing through them, leaving the water less polluted than when it entered. The growing algae can then be harvested and used to make biofuels, and what’s left over after that process can be spread back onto crops as fertilizer. Miller’s group is now 3D printing scrubbers in the lab that are specifically designed to foster algae growth.
Similar clean-up efforts have been in development on a large scale since the 1980s and have proven effective in Florida, Popular Science reported, but this would be the first small-scale attempt that could work off the electric grid — a must if it’s going to be used in farm fields. The cost is unknown at this early stage, but these smaller scrubbers will likely be much cheaper than the massive scrubber operations in Florida and elsewhere. Miller and his team are still refining their technologies in the lab, but plan to have them in the field soon. Hopefully their scrubbers can save some sea life — and summer camp swimsuits — from an untimely algal death.


Influential Environmental Advocates Open 2015 Conversations Series – Press Release
April 10, 2015
From the Clean Water Act to Everglades Restoration: 40 Years of Conservation
St. Louis, MO, April 10, 2015 --( The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center’s Conversations Series will kickoff its 2015 series on Thursday, April 16, 2015 at the Danforth Center, 975 N. Warson Road. A reception will begin the night at 5:15 p.m. and the program will immediately follow at 6:00 p.m. Featured panelists are Nathaniel Reed, Vice Chairman and Founding Member of the Everglades Foundation, Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation and Dan Burkhardt, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center Board Member and Author. Reservations are required but complimentary; seating is limited. To reserve your seat call (314) 587-1070 or register on-line at
The program will feature remarks and a fascinating discussion of conservation efforts in the United States, particularly as they have impacted the Everglades, including restoration policy and the relationship between sustainable agriculture and the renewal of natural landscapes.
The 2015 Conversations Series is sponsored by St. Louis Public Radio and HEC-TV. To view previous Conversations programs visit
About the Speakers
Nathaniel Reed –Vice Chairman and a Founding Member, Everglades Foundation
Nathaniel is a seminal figure in the American conservation movement and a founding member of the Everglades Foundation. He has served two Presidents and six Governors as Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Nathaniel has worked with numerous not-for-profit organizations to restore natural ecosystems, protect wildlife and curb air and water pollution. In 2008 he was selected as the first recipient of the Everglades Foundation’s award for ‘his years of concern and determined efforts to restore the everglades ecosystem’. He is the recipient of many national, state and environmental awards that run the gamut of the extraordinary range of his passions and interests.
Eric Eikenberg – CEO, Everglades Foundation
As the CEO of the Everglades Foundation, Eric leads the foundation's science, advocacy, communications and legal teams, which are nationally recognized for their expertise in Everglades restoration. He has extensive policy and political experience, having served as chief of staff to former Governor Charlie Crist and former U.S. Representative E. Clay Shaw. Prior to joining the Everglades Foundation, Eric was senior policy advisor at the law firm of Holland & Knight, LLP, and co-chaired the firm’s Florida Government Advocacy Team with former Governor Bob Martinez.
Dan Burkhardt – Venture Capitalist, Author and Member of the Board of Directors, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Dan is a principal at Oakwood Medical Investors, a venture capital firm that invests in early stage medical device companies. He and his wife Connie, an attorney, own a farm in Marthasville, Missouri near the Katy Trail. They co-founded the Katy Land Trust in 2010 to highlight the value of, and protect, the rural and scenic landscape along the Katy Trail. In 2012 Dan co-founded Magnificent Missouri, an organization that connects Missourians to the landscape and countryside of the state through local food production. He has created and edited two coffee-table books, Missouri River Country - 100 Miles of Stories and Scenery from Hermann to the Confluence and Florida Bay Forever - A Story of Water from the Everglades to the Keys. Both books benefit conservation causes. Dan serves on the boards of the Danforth Plant Science Center, the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Mercantile Library and the Nine Network of Public Media (Channel 9).
About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research aims to feed the hungry and improve human health, preserve and renew the environment and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants and contract revenue from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Bill & Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffett Foundations. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.


Water district board OKs restoration plan without U.S. Sugar land buy – by Tyler Treadway
April 10, 2015
WEST PALM BEACH — Indian River Lagoon advocates got one thing they wanted: After months of asking, the South Florida Water Management District Board put the proposed U.S. Sugar Corp. land buy on the agenda for its Thursday meeting.
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Florida's wetlands are in danger, according to a study by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center - by Chris Joseph
April 9, 2015
The Environment Florida Research & Policy Center released a new report showing that a good amount of wetlands remains in the flood-prone areas of the state to hold enough rain to cover Broward and Palm Beach in more than four feet of water. And the group is calling on the federal government to further protect these wetlands that help protect us from flooding. The study was released just as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers restoring protections for small wetlands and streams.
"Seventeen state and local elected officials signed on to a letter to Sen. Bill Nelson earlier this spring," Environmental Florida field organizer Jennifer Rubiello tells New Times. "They support restoring Clean Water Act protections to the 15,000 miles of streams in Florida and 20 million acres of wetlands nationwide that are open to pollution."
Currently, there are 9 million acres of wetlands throughout the state that help filter dirt and pollutants and provide home to rare wildlife such as herons, egrets, ibis, and alligators. The wetlands can also store vast amounts of water to protect communities against flooding. They act as a sponge and are the first line of defense against flooding, says Rubiello. But they're dwindling. 
The main issue is that many of the state's streams and wetlands are no longer protected under the Clean Water Act because of a loophole created by what Rubiello calls "polluter-driven lawsuits" filed several years ago. The loophole has allowed developers to build over the wetlands and for power plants to dump pollution into streams. 
Related Stories
Just last year, Florida Power & Light went before the Florida Public Service Commission requesting permission to collect $228,500 in public funds to lobby against proposed water rules by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
Moreover, about 20 million acres of wetlands across the U.S. lack guaranteed protections under the Clean Water Act. Floods are the most common natural disaster in the U.S., causing an average of $8.2 billion in damage each year. Now the EPA is looking to restore safeguards for Florida’s wetlands and streams, just as the rainy season creeps around the corner. And things will only get worse as global warming continues.
According to the study, titled Shelter From the Storm: How Wetlands Protect Our Communities From Flooding, warmer air is able to hold more water vapor, leading to higher levels of precipitation during rainstorms. At the start of this decade, storms were already producing 9 percent more precipitation in Florida than they did in the 1970s.
The study goes on to say that Florida's wetlands are very much at risk from even more development and pollution. 
"We need to protect what's left of them," Rubiello says.
A ruling on the EPA's proposal for restoring the safeguards is expected to be finalized as early as next month.


TruthTest: Media war over Everglades -  by Paul LaGrone
April 9, 2015
  Which ?
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —Lake Okeechobee has quickly become ground-zero in a turf-war and it's playing out in your living room.
Lake O', the watery heart of Florida is now the heart of commercial combat.
What's at stake? $750 million and the future of Florida's environment.
The money comes from the "conservation amendment". You know Amendment One, the one you voted on last November. Two groups are staking their claim to the cash with competing ads.  Here's the first Ad.
"Again !  Health warnings from polluted runoff. Our beaches and rivers threatened," the ad claims.
The "Everglades Trust" is behind this ad. They want lawmakers to buy 46,000 acres of land from U.S. Sugar, south of lake o' to keep dirty water out of the Indian River Lagoon.
Sounds fair, until this.
"75 percent of us voted yes to amend the constitution to protect the everglades. Now there's a binding contract to buy land south of lake Okeechobee to provide clean drinking water to the treasure coast. Buy our land, save our drinking water, time is running out," the ad claims.
Okay. Here's the truth.
Your vote was never just about the Everglades. WPBF 25 pulled up the ballot. The language includes "beaches, shores; outdoor recreation, recreational trails, parks,  urban open space; rural landscapes; working farms, ranches; historic or geologic sites." So yeah this ad does not pass the truth test!
But wait there's more. Another group is airing a counter ad.
Here's the verbatim:
"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 trying to determine 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."
Now The Truth.
The group behind this ad is called "Florida H2O Coalition," which is a sub-group of powerful business lobby called "Associated Industries of Florida."
The headline on the "about us" section of their website boldly states: "Taking Care of Business". Their headquarters *is *literally *on the road that connects the state capitol to the governor's mansion. So when they call out "special interest" in their ads. It's like a tornado calling a hurricane windy! And we both know they're both windy.
And who's writing checks to associated industries? You guessed it: Big Sugar. WPBF 25 pulled the finance records -- nearly $100,000 in the past 18 months.
So is "Amendment One for everyone?" Sure. But do they represent everyone? No.
The Truth Test finds this ad false for being misleading.

Water district balks at Everglades land deal
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
April 9, 2015
A proposal to buy sugar industry land for Everglades restoration could cost twice as much as once thought.
A change in state leadership soured the South Florida Water Management District on buying Big Sugar land.
Buying more Big Sugar land for Everglades restoration could cost taxpayers up to $700 million and slow other efforts to save Florida's River of Grass, South Florida water managers warned Thursday.
Environmental groups for months have been calling for state leaders to buy 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee and use it to restore water flows needed to replenish the Everglades.
But the South Florida Water Management District, which leads Everglades restoration, estimates that the cost of buying the land could be nearly twice as much as once projected.
And district leaders maintain that there are costly hurdles to building a reservoir on the land to hold lake water and pump it to the Everglades. The district board Thursday opted to back current Everglades restoration plans and balked at supporting the land deal.
"It's a complicated transaction," district board Chairman Daniel O'Keefe said about the proposed land deal. "I don't think it's a simple solution."
Environmental advocates counter that the land is needed to get more lake water moving south to help the Everglades, instead of dumping water out to sea for South Florida flood control.
They argue that state leaders' opposition has more to do with the political influence of the sugar industry, which doesn't want to part with more land, than with what's good for the Everglades.
The chance to buy the land expires in October, and supporters want the district to push the Florida Legislature to approve the money for the land deal before the legislative session ends May 1.
"We know we need this [land] to restore the Everglades," said Jonathan Ullman, of the Sierra Club. "We are running out of time and we need to take action."
After a series of protests and other public prodding from West Palm Beach to Tallahassee, the South Florida Water Management District's board Thursday finally agreed to discuss the proposed land deal.
The district has been shying away from a land deal that previous district leaders negotiated and approved in 2010.
Five years ago, the district spent $197 million to acquire 26,800 acres from U.S. Sugar for Everglades restoration. The deal included a 10-year option for the district to buy U.S. Sugar's remaining 153,200 acres.
As an alternative to buying all of that remaining land, the deal gives the district until October 2015 to buy the 46,800 acres.
That 2010 land deal was championed by former Gov. Charlie Crist and approved by district board members that Crist appointed.
Gov. Rick Scott as a candidate in 2010 opposed the U.S. Sugar deal. Now Scott, district leaders and the Legislature prioritize using land already owned by the state to finish long-planned water storage and treatment projects planned for Everglades restoration
Also, U.S. Sugar now prefers to keep its land and isn't pursuing the land deal.
The Everglades' water supply and pollution problems stem from decades of draining land to make room for South Florida farming and development.
Lake Okeechobee water that once naturally flowed south to Florida Bay now gets corralled by levees and canals, drained to the east and west and out to sea to protect South Florida from flooding.
That lake draining wastes water that could replenish the Everglades and boost South Florida drinking water supplies.
In addition, draining large amounts of Lake Okeechobee water west into the Caloosahatchee River and East into the St. Lucie River kills coastal fishing grounds and can make water unsafe for human contact.
Supporters of the U.S. Sugar land deal say that building a reservoir on farmland just south of the lake would create a water-storage alternative that lessens the amount of damaging discharges to the east and west coasts, while providing more water for the Everglades.
The 46,800 acres would cost $350 million if bought at the same per-acre price as the 2010 deal. But the deal calls for the property to be sold at current market rates, which district officials Thursday said could now range from $500 million to $700 million.
That doesn't include the cost of building a reservoir and pumps that would be needed to move the water south. District officials say there are other steep infrastructure costs, such as potentially having to pay $50 million to move rail lines, a road and power lines. They say that could take away from other Everglades spending.
"There are significant barriers," district Board Member Mitch Hutchcraft said about a potential land deal. He said prefers to "stay the course" and focus on getting previously planned Everglades restoration projects done.
The Everglades Coalition and other environmental groups say new appraisals are needed to actually determine what buying the land would cost. They argue that it would have cost less if state officials had opted to buy the 46,800 acres sooner.
"The price of land is not going to go down," said Lisa Interlandi, of the Everglades Law Center. "If you continue to delay, it is going to continue to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars."
The state and federal government have already spent about $3.1 billion on Everglades restoration efforts and have yet to complete dozens of projects intended to clean up water pollution and get more water flowing south.



Action, funding needed to fix Caloosahatchee water woes
News-Press – by Chad Gillis
April 8, 2015
A consortium of Southwest Florida interests put together a water quality priority list that's expected to help secure funding for Everglades restoration and other projects aimed at improving conditions in the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary.
Called the Vision for the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, the report, headed by the South Florida Water Management District, says the water control system here is plagued with water quality and quantity issues. Alternating periods of high and extremely low freshwater flows is causing stress to the river and its estuary.
The 117-page report also says inability of various groups in the region to present a unified voice has caused Southwest Florida to lag behind other regions in addressing longstanding water quality and quantity impacts.
"What's really important is for the scientists and resource managers to be able to identify the really important projects so that when we get that information to our elected officials, they can go say with a unified voice, 'This is the top project for our region,'" said Keith Laakonen with the Town of Fort Myers Beach. "A streamlined list is good to have because legislators are hearing the same message."
Poor water woes
Excess nutrients in the river and estuary can kill of sea grasses, oyster beds and even marine mammals like manatees and dolphins. Poor water quality also can cripple local economies, which are largely built on tourism.
"I think there were some doubters when we started down this road a couple of years ago, that it was just another planning session," said Kurt Harclerode with Lee County's natural resources department. "But it evolved, and we are very happy with it. We use it as a legislative agenda."
The highly engineered water management system causes freshwater volumes to be too high during rainy season (which harms sea grass production and critical marine habitat) and too low during dry season (which can lead to water quality problems like harmful algal blooms).
Immediate priorities identified in the report are the Caloosahatchee River reservoir and associated water quantity and quality features, a water storage project at Babcock Ranch Preserve and the Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Initiative – a 90-square-mile hydrological restoration aimed at improving water conditions for tributaries flowing into Charlotte Harbor and Matlacha Pass.
Completing five of six projects identified as "immediate regional priorities" would cost nearly $500 million dollars. The cost for the other, part of the Caloosahatchee Reservoir, is unknown at this time. The majority of the money, $452 million, will be needed for the reservoir, which is designed to store 170,000 acre-feet, or about 55 billion gallons, and release that water when needed.
"(The reservoir) is the No. 1 thing that's been on everyone's lips for years," Laakonen said. "It will not be the (final) solution but it will certainly be a help, especially to ameliorate some of those high flows and to help us out when we get into dry parts of the year when we get releases from the lake."
Increased water demands over the decades has made some of the problems worse, and the report says demands from agriculture and development are unlikely to decrease in the foreseeable future.
"What came out of that is we have some really good science already done," said James Evans, Sanibel director of natural resources. "It's telling us we're not doing what we need to do to do to protect and preserve the estuary."
Southwest Florida once was a forested wetland system that allowed rainwater to slowly move to the coast, which cleans the water, and downward into what are now drinking water aquifers. Development here, for the most part, pushes water off the landscape as soon as possible, a process that carries pollution from paved lands and over-fertilized lawns to ditches and eventually the river and estuary.
Phil Flood, with the district's west coast office in Fort Myers, said the state will use the report as a baseline for needed projects and ecological conditions in Southwest Florida.
"I like to think it's helped because some of the projects are moving along," Flood said. "The Charlotte Harbor Initiative has been purchased and there is a lot of synergy to push that forward."
Southwest Florida projects
●  C-43, also called the Caloosahatchee Reservoir, is about 11,000 acres of Hendry County land that will be used to store excess stormwater run-off from the watershed for release during dry conditions.
●  C-43 Water Quality Treatment and Demonstration is aimed at developing cost-effective ways to lower nitrogen levels.
●  Lake Hicpochee North Hydrologic Enhancement will help water quality in the river and may be connected to district projects like Nicodemus Slough.
●  West Caloosahatchee Water Quality Treatment Area is a water quality feature of the larger Caloosahatchee reservoir and will help reduce pollution downstream.
●  Babcock Ranch Preserve Water Storage will redirect stormwater that flows into the river to Matlacha Pass and Charlotte Harbor.
●  Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods Initiative will help restore historic hydrologic conditions north of the river.


Fracking in Florida
The Ledger – Letter by Ruth Ann Eady, State Committeewoman, Polk County Democratic Executive Committee, Lake Hamilton
April 8, 2015
Karen Welzel and I participated in Tally Days with the Democratic Women of Florida recently. We went to a Senate hearing of the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee at Senator Darren Soto's request. We were there to witness the committee hearing on Senate Bill 1468 (Permitting) and Senate Bill 1582 (Public Records).
Karen and I were shocked at what we witnessed. The Department of Environmental Preservation presented a bill to regulate fracking. They did not even consider the possibility that they could use this opportunity to present a bill to ban fracking.
The room was full to capacity with people waiting outside to voice their opposition. The only people speaking for the bill were from the energy sector. Sen. Soto was the only Senator speaking against the bill. He commented that Florida was the home of tourism and agriculture and fracking would damage both.
The people speaking in opposition spoke about the dangers to our water supply as well as danger of causing sinkholes. Experts and ordinary, caring citizens spoke opposing the bill. At the end of the meeting there were only two votes opposing the bill, Sen. Soto being one.
The Republicans are bound and determined to allow fracking in our state. In the next meeting they voted to keep secret the list of chemicals that the frackers put into the ground.
This issue is not a conservative or a liberal issue. It is an issue to preserve our quality of life in the state of Florida.


Have we drained the Everglades' future ?
CNN - by Bill Weir
April 8, 2015
The next time you fly to see Grandma in Florida, look down.
The next time you take the kids on a pilgrimage to see the talking mouse or head down to South Beach for some sun/sin, get a window seat and spend the moments before landing contemplating the seemingly endless swamp below.
Because there are few places that represent the folly of man -- and the cost of redemption -- like the Everglades.
On approach into Miami or Orlando, it just looks like squishy wasteland full of things that want to hurt you: snakes and scorpions, rats and roaches, gators and mosquitoes. (A researcher once caught 365,000 bloodthirsty bugs in a single trap in a single night.)
As you drive along the Tamiami Trail, it just looks like endless sawgrass, the kind that feels like walking through broken glass.
"Too wet to farm, too dry to sail, too unpredictable to settle," as Michael Grunwald put it in his definitive history, "The Swamp."
And so, a century ago, some American dreamers decided to drain the swamp. They decided to conquer that uninhabitable frontier known as Florida. And long before air conditioning, bug spray and Social Security helped seal that vision, the Army Corps of Engineers blasted and dug 2,000 miles of dams and dikes, ditches and pipes.
They did a hell of a job. A watershed built for 2 million people now supports nearly 8 million, and another 50 million tourists each year.
But what they didn't know is that without this swamp, there can be no "good life" in Florida. There can be no life.
After a century of development, half the Everglades is dead and the other half is on life support.
This is a problem, not just for the gators and snakes.
It is a problem for the eagles, panthers, snails, dolphins, hawks, manatees, flamingos, vase sponges, black bears and ghost orchids that make up the most unique, diverse wetlands in the world.
And most of all, it is a problem for people.
Because most of the drinking water in South Florida comes from the aquifers beneath the Everglades.
This 2 million-acre river of grass is not only the best form of hurricane protection, it also supports the multibillion-dollar fishing, shrimping and crabbing industries around the Florida Keys. What was once a slow-moving river of gin-clear water became so sluggish and toxic in the 1990s that most of the life in Florida Bay was wiped out -- and America woke up.
Fifteen years after then-Gov. Jeb Bush smiled as Bill Clinton signed the most ambitious wildlife reclamation plan in history, the same Army Corps of Engineers that was ordered to rip the Everglades apart is now under orders to help it heal, to the tune of $13 billion as part of a larger congressional restoration plan.
That story hook is what drew me here for the final episode of our first season of "The Wonder List." To be honest, as a veteran of a few ho-hum airboat rides, I came with really low expectations.
But this place, more than any other this season, surprised me with sublime beauty, great stories and a sense of real urgency as good people try to right the wrongs of the past.
Nowhere else is the border between bustling civilization and untamed wilderness so narrow, which is why conservationists like to say that the Everglades is a test.
If we pass, we might just get to keep the planet.


Jimmy Buffett’s pitch not enough to save the Everglades
Palm Beach Post – by Bill DiPaolo and Christine Stapleton
April 8, 2015
Despite pitches from singer Jimmy Buffett and author Carl Hiassen – think Everglades and you think of these guys – Florida’s plan to buy 46,800 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar may strike out.
Like the sun dropping behind the horizon at a Key West sunset, the size of the land buy has been shrinking. In 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist proposed spending $1.7 billion to buy on 197,000 acres. The economy tanked, and the plan was dropped to $197 million for about 28,000 acres.
The land is needed to store water, which environmentalists say will reduce harmful discharges from the Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River.
Too much land, not enough land, not enough money, environmental issues – Buffett and Hiassen may find writing books and songs is much easier that trying to sway Florida lawmakers to their side.
Here’s 10 reasons why the deal might not happen.
Related:           Jimmy Buffett Rallies Parrotheads for Sugar Land   Naples Herald
Sunburn – The morning read of what's hot in Florida politics – April 8        SaintPetersBlog (blog)
Jimmy Buffett plays on Florida Capitol steps at Everglades rally     News 13 Orlando
Jimmy Buffett and Environmentalists Lobby for Amendment One ...          WJHG-TV
Jimmy Buffett performs at Everglades Action Day rally       WTSP 10 News
Jimmy Buffett Pitches Land Buy, 'Changes in Attitudes' at State Capitol   Sunshine State News
Buffett raises a little hell for Everglades
Jimmy Buffett fails to sway lawmakers on 'Glades   Sun Sentinel
Everglades Ecological Rally Invites Big-Name Floridians     WFSU
What Everglades advocates are fighting for in Tallahassee — and ... 


New pond to help Indian River Lagoon
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
April 8, 2015
A new stormwater park in southern Brevard County promises a cleaner Indian River Lagoon.
Construction of the $3.57 million stormwater park on 300 acres south of Micco Road soon will capture pollution from 21,000-acres in southern Brevard before it can reach the lagoon.
The series of stormwater ponds and restored wetlands, known as the Wheeler Stormwater Park, is being built through a partnership between St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Transportation and Brevard County.
DEP and DOT both contributed $1.5 million for the project. Brevard chipped in $570,000.
The project includes a 23-acre pond and a 7-acre pond. It also includes the Herndon Swamp restoration area and additional wetland restoration areas next to the Sottile Canal. Hundreds of wetland trees will be planted at the site.
The last portion of the project — the 23-acre pond — is under construction and expected to be finished in December, water management district officials said.
The district acquired the 300-acre, former farmland site to reduce pollution from the Sottile Canal watershed. The canal runs through the middle of the property, receiving runoff from farms and the Barefoot Bay mobile home community.
The canal discharges into the north prong of the St. Sebastian River at the property’s southern boundary. The St. Sebastian River is a major tributary of the lagoon.
“This is an excellent opportunity to provide additional treatment of surface water flowing into the Indian River Lagoon,” Bill Tredik, leader of the district's Indian River Lagoon Protection Initiative, said in a release Wednesday. “It is a positive step in reducing nutrients and sediment inputs to the lagoon.”


Water bill critics can't fathom some changes - by Jim Ash
April 8, 2015
A massive, industry friendly rewrite of state water policy continued churning through the Senate Wednesday.  Some critics contend the policy changes are a mile wide and only a few inches deep.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government was a sea of acronyms as it sifted through the legislation. They make up the genetic code of its new plan for protecting ground water supplies, springs and the coffee colored Lake Okeechobee.
Here’s the bill’s sponsor, Republican Charlie Dean of Inverness.
“It requires monitoring of groundwater withdraws above 100 thousand gallons or more per day. It requires BMAP (bee-map) to have 5, 10 and 15-year milestones to achieve the TMDL.”
The translation, according to Audubon of Florida executive director Eric Draper, is a lot of words and not much cleanup or protection.
“The bill does nothing to accelerate the cleanup of Lake Okeechobee. We never thought it was necessary to put this section on Lake Okeechobee into law.”
The new policies are far reaching, supporters say. But they rely heavily on an old technique called BMAPs, or basin management action plans. And Everglades Coalition Lobbyist Stephanie Kunkel says their track record isn’t stellar.
“The latest BMAP results were just put in and over the last five years the pollution levels have not decreased and we want to make sure we’re dealing with all of the tools in the toolbox when we’re looking at the Caloosahatchee River.”
There is no agriculture without water and much of the bill was written by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
And that means the bill also leans heavily on BMPs, or best management practices. They give farmers and ranchers more flexibility to police themselves. But Florida Farm Bureau attorney Frank Matthews insists that doesn’t mean his clients get a free ride.
“BMPs are flexible, but there’s still accountability. You have to improve water quality. You have to be monitored and you have to have quality. That’s what gets us to where we need to go.”
Greg Munson, a former administrator at the Department of Environmental Protection, is riding heard for big business. Munson’s an attorney with a silk stocking firm and represents Associated Industries of Florida.
Munson sees little to criticize in the bill.
“With the addition of the provisions addressing the central Florida Water Initiative, and the Everglades, it fully addresses Florida’s needs.”
The Senate bill ostensibly sets July 1 of next year for regulators to establish minimum flow levels for most freshwater springs. If they’re not in place, emergency rules kick in.
But like the limestone aquifer that feeds the springs, the deadlines are porous. And Sierra Club lobbyist David Cullen warns they’re hardly forward looking.
“This would mean that they establish by rule, an MFL, MFL’s are established by rules and it would expire in 90 days per this language.”
If another industry gets its way, septic tanks, at least high-tech versions, would be allowed in sensitive areas. That’s the agenda of the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association.


150408-g                                                                                                           CLICK picture to ENLARGE >
Well-meaning people are accidentally drowning tortoises – by Amelia Butterly, Newsbeat reporter
April 8, 2015
People in the US are accidentally drowning baby tortoises by mistaking them for turtle hatchlings and "releasing" them into the water.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) says it knows of three "well-intentioned
TURTLE - swims
TORTOISE - does NOT swim
good Samaritans" who have made the error.
It's now giving advice to help people spot the difference between sea turtles and gopher tortoises.
"Gopher tortoises cannot swim well and can easily drown," it says
"Because gopher tortoises often nest in dunes adjacent to sea turtle nesting beaches, correct identification of these terrestrial animals is important before deciding what action, if any, is necessary."
You can tell whether you are looking at a tortoise or a turtle, by just looking at their limbs from a distance - and the conservation group has released some photos to help.
"Gopher tortoises have toes, with claws on each toe. Sea turtles have flippers with only one or two claws present on each foreflipper," says the commission.
They say it is important that people do not touch or handle the animals.
"All five species of sea turtles found in Florida are federally endangered or threatened and managed under the Endangered Species Act as well as under Florida Statutes. The gopher tortoise is listed under state law," the commission explains.
"If you spot any of these species in danger on the beach, please do not disturb the animal."


Senator Joe NEGRON

Negron says he's trying to get money for sugar land – by Isadora Rangel
April 7, 2015
Sen. Joe Negron said Tuesday he is working to free up state money that could be used to buy sugar land to help move Lake Okeechobee water south and reduce discharges into the St. Lucie River.
Negron, R-Stuart, said he plans to propose a measure asking the Legislature to allocate $500 million for land purchase in the state budget.
That money could be used for the 46,800 acres owned by U.S. Sugar Corp., the Florida Forever conservation land program or to expedite restoration projects, such as the C-44 Canal reservoir to clean up that flows into the St. Lucie River.
“There is a long way to go to achieve this objective,” Negron said in an emailed statement. “Once we have designated this revenue, we can then consider and evaluate all the possibilities. I remain committed to projects that will clean, store and send water south of Lake Okeechobee.”
Neither the Senate nor the House appropriated money for the sugar land in their proposed budgets.
Environmentalists say the land is needed to build reservoirs to move lake water into the Everglades instead of estuaries to the east and west.
Lawmakers have to allocate the money this session because of an Oct. 12 deadline to buy the land per a 2010 agreement between the state and U.S. Sugar. Many lawmakers, however, are against the state owning more land.
The House and Senate will begin negotiating a final spending budget soon, which needs to be approved before session ends May 1.
Environmentalists are upset the Legislature is not using money available through Amendment 1, approved last year by voters to set aside money for land and water preservation, to buy more land under Florida Forever.
The Senate gives the program $17 million and the House $10.5 million.
Florida Forever used to receive about $300 million in bonds per year until the state slashed its budget during the economic recession.
The state probably cannot use Florida Forever money to buy the U.S. Sugar land because it isn’t on the program’s priority list. That means money for the land would have to allocated separately in the budget.


Difficulties in sending
Lake O water south

What Everglades advocates are fighting for — and why it may not happen
Palm Beach Post – by Christine Stapleton
April 7, 2015
Today, Everglades advocates will rally for officials to buy more than 40,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar Corp.
And as they listen to fellow environmentalists Jimmy Buffett and Carl Hiassen champion their cause, no doubt many will have some concerns about the future of their endeavor, which has gained little support among decisionmakers.
» SLIDESHOW: Difficulties in sending Lake O water south
Here are the top 10 reasons why a deal to buy the sugar land may not go through: 
1. The buyer isn’t interested - and the seller doesn’t want to sell. To execute the deal, the South Florida Water Management District would have to meet with U.S. Sugar this year. The district hasn’t contacted U.S. Sugar about a meeting, and the company isn’t exactly chomping at the bit to see the deal go down.
2. No political will.  Among the lawmakers who say they oppose the sale: House Speaker Steve Crisafulli. Plus, Gov. Rick Scott has said he prefers tax money be spent on projects already underway and approved by the Army Corps of Engineers. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli has said he opposes the deal. The district’s governing board has not come out publicly against the deal but has provided a litany of reasons against it.
3. No money in proposed budgets:  Mid-way through the legislative session there is no money specifically allocated for the land purchase in the proposed budgets in either chamber. Many believe the deal will be dead if not included in the budget when the session ends May 1.
4. Process hasn’t started:  Under terms of the 2010 contract, U.S. Sugar would have 60 days after receiving an appraisal from the the district to either accept it or conduct its own. If the U.S. Sugar appraisal is 10 percent lower or higher than the district’s, a third appraisal must be done within another 60 days. To date, the district has made no effort to hire an appraiser.
5. No need for that much land:  The option requires the district to purchase 46,800 acres, even though it would only use about 26,000 acres for a reservoir.
6.  Financial risk: Although water storage south of Lake O is part of the Everglades restoration plan, there is no project to do so. Because the Corps or district split the cost of restoring the Everglades, if the district purchases the land for a project that the Corps has not approved, the district risks having to pay for the entire project should the Corps decide against it or decides the district purchased more land than necessary.
7. Legal issues:  An agreement in a federal lawsuit prohibits the district from moving water with high levels of phosphorous — typical of Lake Okeechobee water — south to Everglades National Park. To do so would put the district in violation of the court order.
8. System constraints:  Pumps, canals and other structures that water leaving the lake must pass through are not big enough to handle the huge volumes of water that would be stored in a reservoir south of the lake, according to the district’s engineers. Also, man-made wetlands built south of the lake to treat polluted water were not designed to treat large volumes of water from the lake.  Too much water will kill the plants that clean phosphorous from the water.
9. Won’t help the estuary:  During a record-breaking wet season in 2013, enough water was dumped into the St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River to cover 4.5 million acres with one foot of water. A four-foot deep reservoir on 26,000 acres of the sugar land — with an estimated price-tag of $2.5 billion — would only provide enough storage for 100,000 acres to be covered with one foot of water.
10. Environmental concerns:  Federal laws requiring the district to protect the habitat of migratory birds and endangered species put strict limits on the amount of water allowed in nesting areas to protect food supplies and prevent nests from being flooded. This limits the amount of water that can be stored and moved south from Lake Okeechobee.
 Related:          Interactive — Water issues facing Florida
» SLIDESHOW:  Difficulties in sending Lake O water south


Yes - for what ?

Audubon’s Eric Draper says Legislature “out of sync” with voters - by Bruce Ritchie
Apr 6, 2015
Eric Draper of Audubon Florida told a television audience during a weekend broadcast that legislators are showing they are “out of sync” with voters who supported Amendment 1 .
Seventy-five percent of voters in November approved the funding initiative, which provides an estimated $742 million for water and land conservation in the 2015-16 state budget.
Environmental groups say the House and Senate have ignored the intent of voters in their spending plans. The House approved perhaps $10 million for land acquisition although House leaders say it’s more. The Senate voted last week to boost spending on land buying from $2 million to $37 million.
Appearing on “The Usual Suspects” taped in Tallahassee, Draper praised the Florida Forever state land-buying program as scientific process for determining land that should be bought. But he said legislators have “started substituting their own judgement” for that process in recent years.
“For example there is a bill in the State Affairs Committee that would actually start giving the (state) land away, giving it to adjacent farmers,” Draper said. “Those are the sorts of things that seem very out of sync with where the voters are, with the voters who voted 75 percent (for Amendment 1).”
Draper was referring to HB 7135, filed by the House State Affairs Committee on March 26, which would allow the Cabinet to give state land to adjacent landowners who agree to conserve both properties. Rep. Matt Caldwell, a Republican from North Fort Myers who is committee chairman, argued the state could end up conserving land without having to spend money.
Draper appeared on the show with Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, with show hosts Gary Yordon and Steven J. Vancore.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Republican from Merritt Island, has said the state needs to better manage the land it has before it buys more. But Draper said that was a “false claim” and an “excuse” to not buy land.
“The Legislature made the decision not to take care of the land,” Draper said. “Now they are using that as an excuse.”
Both Draper and Eikenberg promoted the idea of buying a portion of the 46,000 acres of U. S. Sugar Corp. land south of Lake Okeechobee for a water storage and treatment reservoir. Gov. Rick Scott and Crisafulli have expressed reluctance at exercising a state option to buy the land before an October deadline and U. S. Sugar has expressed a reluctance to sell.
“We do that and we can also afford to expand our park system and protect our water supply,” Draper said.
“These (Amendment 1) dollars get us a long way toward that,” Eikenberg added.


At midway point, Florida legislators pay attention to powerful interests - by Mary Ellen Klas, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
April 6, 2015
TALLAHASSEE -- With Florida lawmakers having reached the halfway point of their 60-day session last month, the lineup of legislation with traction looks like a Who’s Who of fundraising and lobbying heft:
▪ Sugar growers, who collectively gave $6 million to the governor, Legislature and both major political parties in the 2014 election cycle, persuaded legislators to block the state from buying land they no longer want to sell for Everglades cleanup.
▪ State worker unions, which contributed $6.8 million to legislators in the last election cycle, and the teachers union, which gave another $2.4 million, kept the Republican-controlled Legislature from reforming the state retirement system.
▪ The powerful HMO industry, which through more than a dozen participating plans contributed $5.6 million to legislators and the governor’s campaign, is poised to compete for multi-million dollar state contracts to provide mental health services.
▪ And, in a sign of how winners and losers are often decided, the for-profit charter schools industry won House approval to draw taxpayer money from public school districts to pay for building construction with little public debate. The industry contributed more than $1 million to legislative coffers.
“Money plays a huge role in what goes on up here” and the issues that “get traction just happen to line up with a lot of those large campaign contributions,” said House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. But, he notes, “I don’t think it’s any different than any other year.”
The 2014 election cycle was unprecedented in the amount of money that flowed into the governor’s race and legislative campaigns under changes to the state campaign laws that allowed unlimited amounts to go to political committees and political parties. Gov. Rick Scott alone spent more than $100 million to get re-elected.
Nearly all of the big donors have a stable of lobbyists ready to influence legislation and, by mid-session, there were 1,826 lobbyists registered, 10 for every legislator, representing 3,559 companies.
In the debate over buying land for Everglades cleanup, U.S. Sugar lobbyist John M. “Mac” Stipanovich said the Legislature sided with his industry because it was a bad deal for the state — not because of campaign contributions.
“I’m not denying that Big Sugar doesn’t contribute a lot of money but occasionally, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, they might be right,’’ Stipanovich said. “Do contributions have an effect? Of course they do, but they’re not always the outcomes they’d like.”
Eric Draper, a veteran lobbyist for Audubon of Florida, said he began the session trying to fend off a fast-tracked bill to make it easier for large landowners, like Big Sugar, to avoid regulations.
“We were run over. I didn’t get around to members quick enough,’’ said Draper, who has just four lobbyists compared to U.S. Sugar’s 27-member lobbying team.
Draper said public interest groups like his are at a disadvantage because they don’t have the staff or the money “to match the relationships” the big lobbying teams have.
“We aren’t at the golf tournaments. We can’t give money to political parties. Those social connections are pretty much cut off,’’ he said.
Sen. Tom Lee, a Brandon Republican and former Senate president who now serves as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said these investments have turned the Legislative process into one that now “turns on relationships.’’
“I have never seen the process more relationship driven and less policy driven than it is today,” he said, noting that relationships extend beyond the lobbyist-to-legislator and are also shaped by legislators’ relationships with other lawmakers.
“It’s member to member — an internal quid pro quo,’’ he said. “Bills are being heard and not heard on the basis of internal and external relationships, not necessarily the policy.”
Lee acknowledged that some interest groups have such an influence on the process that “no one even bothers to look to see if there is a justifiable reason for policy changes” and decisions have become “transactional” instead of transformative.
The dominance of special interests spawned warnings last week from Lee and House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, in speeches. Lee chastised the influence of education accountability advocates like the Foundation for Florida’s Future, founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush during the debate over school testing, and Corcoran said “the enemy is the status quo” and warned of the hospitals and health care lobbyists pushing lawmakers to expand a “broken Medicaid system.”
Both urged members to challenge the status quo, be willing to transform big government and not be beholden to special interests -- even those that have helped Republicans control Tallahassee for the last 18 years.
“We’re becoming just like the people we sought to unseat in the mid ’90s,’’ Lee told the Herald/Times, referring to the Democrats who dominated the Legislature until 1996. “We were willing to challenge the status quo when the program wasn’t of our making but now, many of the service delivery models of state government have been reshaped by Republicans and we want to defend them.”
Meanwhile, a handful of bills that have gotten the most attention this session challenge so-called “legacy” industries — the alcohol industry led by Anheuser Busch, dog tracks, taxi companies, and electric utilities. Each is being threatened by disruptive upstarts ready to challenge their traditional business model and the legislature’s reaction to them has been mixed.
While the House has been inclined to pass legislation to update laws to help craft brewers and social-media based companies, like the ride-share program Uber or the vacation rental company Airbnb, the Senate has weakened the proposals or let bills languish in committee.
“Our main goal was to be able to get this disruptive technology out there to make it more accessible to people and to bring down some of those barriers to regulation,’’ said Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, chairman of the House Economic Affairs Committee.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, who has authored much of the “disruptive technology” legislation describes it as a “fortress versus frontier mindset.”
The taxi-cab industry and Mears Transportation, which controls the Orlando market, “see Florida as a fortress that needs to be protected while Uber and Lyft see Florida as frontier to be explored,’’ Brandes said. “It’s a lot easier to be a fortress business in the legislative process than it is to be a frontier business. They have long history and Uber was not a company five years ago.”
He said he is hoping that legislators learn to value ideas as much as money in the process. “Half the Senate couldn’t spell Uber last year,’’ he said. “We’re moving the needle.”
Oliva noted that the one bill the Legislature is constitutionally required to pass — the appropriations act containing the budget — is stalled over an intractable divide over health care funding and that, he said, is evidence that money interests are not in control of the agenda.
The Senate’s budget includes $2.8 billion for a plan to use Medicaid expansion money from the federal Affordable Health Care Act, to help lower-income Floridians purchase private insurance, while the House rejects that plan as perpetuating a failed program.
“If special interests had their way we’d be expanding Medicaid,’’ Oliva said. “That is far and away the priority of hospitals and the Chambers of Commerce.”
Indeed, hospitals contributed more than $3.9 million this election cycle, not including money funneled by them into political committees run by business groups such as the Associated Industries of Florida, which made contributions on their behalf.
“The idea that special interests get their way works when our interests align with their agenda, but when we don’t, what’s the answer then?,” Oliva asked.
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, disagrees that expanding Medicaid is buckling under special interest pressure and, he notes the answer may come in the second half of session.
“The Senate’s ready to help cover people who need insurance,” he said. “We’re looking at all options to address that.”


Debate over state buying conservation land continues – by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster
April 6, 2015
Also  titled  “Florida lawmakers set aside little for environmental land acquisition”  (April 5, Tribune/Naples Daily).
TALLAHASSEE — There’s money for rural lands, beaches and the Everglades. But as lawmakers prepare to negotiate details of the new state budget, debate continues over whether more money from Florida’s land and water conservation amendment should go toward buying property for conservation.
Amendment 1, a land and water conservation provision sponsored by Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, passed with 75 percent of the vote in November. The measure sets aside one-third of money collected through taxes on real estate documentary stamps to protect environmentally sensitive areas for the next 20 years.
About $750 million is expected to be set aside in the first year, and Florida’s Water and Land Legacy had hoped the state would dedicate $170 million of that to Florida Forever, a state program to buy land for preservation, to protect and maintain conservation lands and local parks.
House and Senate leaders don’t appear to be close to that number. The state House set aside $10.5 million for Florida Forever in its budget, while the Senate initially put $2 million toward the land buying program.
“It’s an abysmally low figure compared to $750 million,” said Ray Judah, coordinator for the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition. “It’s really very distressing.”
Some lawmakers and Southwest Florida officials said there needs to be a greater focus on managing the land Florida already owns. They’re at odds with others who argue the intent of the amendment was clear — more money is needed to acquire land.
“Growth and development is starting to pick up again, and a lot of valuable lands that are either on the state acquisition list or have been identified are going to be increasingly threatened by development,” said Will Abberger, chairman of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy.
The state Senate on Wednesday bumped up its Florida Forever spending to $15 million. But many environmental organizations said that amount still doesn’t cut it, especially when there is believed to be about 2 million acres on the Florida Forever priority purchase list.
Neither the state House nor Senate allocated money to buy 46,800 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp., south of Lake Okeechobee to build a reservoir to move lake water into the Everglades and reduce discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
“The Legislature has been balking at purchasing it for lack of funds,” said Judah. “Now they have the option. They have the funds, and they have the documentation from the Water Institute stating it needs to be taken advantage of.”
The state has an option to buy the property in the Everglades Agriculture Area at fair market value until Oct. 12. Legislative leaders have said they aren’t supportive of the purchase. The company has told lawmakers the purchase would be a waste of money and the state should focus on restoration projects already on the books.
But Rae Ann Wessel, the natural resources policy director for Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, said that property “is the only project of all the projects” that will address high flows.
While the push to buy the U.S. Sugar property may be getting most of the attention in the battle over Amendment 1 dollars, there’s also a push to buy small parcels of property to complete the land preservation puzzle.
Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said while the U.S. Sugar property is important, the state needs to be setting aside money to help organizations across the state pursue executing smaller, local projects.
But not everyone believes the state needs more land in its inventory. Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said 9.4 million acres, or 27 percent of the state, are publicly owned in Florida.
“We don’t want to be known as the land hoarding state,” he said last month as the Senate appropriations committee considered its budget.
Hays said money should be used to take care of the land the state already owns. The Senate has set aside more than $115 million for land management, while the House earmarked more than $144 million. The proposals also set aside money for rural lands, beaches and agency operating and regulatory expenses.
Environmental groups are still holding out hope that more money will be set aside for acquisition. Television advertisements have been airing across the state urging lawmakers to move forward with the U.S. Sugar purchase. Groups like the Conservancy are sending out alerts to members to tell them to encourage lawmakers to support more money for land purchases.
“It’s not like this is a new idea. It’s not like this is the latest new shiny toy,” said Wessel. “It’s a legacy opportunity.”
Related:           Environmental disappointments, Loretta ...    SaintPetersBlog (blog
Citizen lobbyists seek to be heard in Florida's Capitol           Bradenton Herald


Jimmy Buffett performing at Capitol for Everglades rally
Tallahassee Democrat – by Jeff Burlew
April 6, 2015
The Florida singer will bring a taste of Margaritaville to the Capitol as part of rally for Everglades issues.
Crooner Jimmy Buffett will be performing Tuesday at the Capitol as part of an Everglades Day Rally.
Buffett will be appearing with Mississippi singer-songwriter MacMcAnally and steel drum and recording artist Robert Greenidge for a short acoustic set. The performance is set for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Old Capitol.
The Everglades Coalition is sponsoring the event, designed to raise awareness for the Everglades, which supplies drinking water to 8 million Floridians and is home to numerous threatened and endangered species.
Buffett was last in town in October to perform at a fundraiser for Gwen Graham, who would go on to unseat Rep. Steve Southerland in the race for the 2nd Congressional District seat.


Sugar company hires actors to protest against Florida land deal
April 5, 2015
Lights…camera…protest !
Florida’s Big Sugar has found that if you can’t lure people to your side of a controversy by using facts, a little money can do the trick. A group protesting a proposed purchase of environmentally sensitive Everglades land from U.S. Sugar Corporation was found to be actors from a nearby theater group.
The “protesters” were asked via Facebook to show up last Thursday at South Florida Water Management District headquarters in West Palm Beach, according to Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post. The district was considering whether to spend $500 million to buy 46,800 acres and use it to store water containing agricultural pollutants from Lake
  Real protesters ?
Okeechobee, reducing or eliminating the need to release lake water into area estuaries.
The actors were offered $75 (but “NO BREAKFAST”), according to the posting.
The offer was made by the Tea Party of Miami and Florida Citizens Against Waste, a group that has no contact information on its website, nor a license to do business in the state, according to the Post. U.S. Sugar, although it would rather not sell the land, says it’s not connected to the “protest.”
“This is absolutely ridiculous and, quite frankly, embarrassing for these two groups to have hired paid actors to pose as protestors who ultimately had no idea what they were there to oppose,” Sarah Bascom, a spokeswoman for the Support the EAA Reservoir Project Coalition, said in a written statement according to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. “Our efforts to encourage buying the land owned by U.S. Sugar to build a badly-needed reservoir and send water south have been above board and transparent from day one. It is bad enough to have these last-minute groups pop up without any accountability on who they really are being funded by – but now, we have actors posing as concerned Floridians. If they could not find 50 people who were truly and genuinely concerned about the future of Florida’s drinking water and how best to spend funds from Amendment 1, we could have gladly helped them with crowd development.”
Amendment 1 was approved by Florida voters last fall and is supposed to generate about $750 million a year to buy environmentally sensitive land for conservation purposes.
Related:   ‘Tea Party’ Protest Against Proposed Land Deal Mostly Actors       (Palm Beach Post, by Christine Stapleton )
Actors ‘Protest’ Land Buy Aimed at Everglades Restoration           (Creative Loafing Tampa Ba,y by Kate Bradshaw )
Big Sugar Weasels Out Of Land Deal           (Miami Herald, by Carl Hiaasen, )

In report to U.N World Heritage Committee, the Everglades are deemed in danger - by Kevin Wadlow
April 4, 2015
Too many lionfish, pythons and other invasive species threaten Everglades National Park resources, says a new park report to the United Nations' World Heritage Committee.
Hopeful signs in the "Everglades National Park 2015 State of Conservation" report include an accelerated plan to bridge more of Tamiami Trail and progress on other projects intended to restore more natural water flows.
Worldwide, there are 1,007 World Heritage Sites. Of this, the U.N. says 46, including the Everglades, are "in danger." The Everglades is the only one listed as in danger in the U.S.
The report, updated every two years, was sent to the United Nations committee that has listed Everglades National Park as a World Heritage Site in Danger almost continuously since 1993.
Climate change remains an issue of concern for the low-lying park that covers about 2,300 square miles.
"Burmese pythons occupy an increasingly larger range over which they are having a significant impact," the report says. "There remains little optimism for widespread control." 
The Everglades has numerous species of nonnative freshwater fish whose populations are increasing. "The relative abundance and spatial occurrence of exotic fish reached study highs," the 2015 report notes.
Lionfish, first reported inside the park in 2010, seem to be growing in numbers. Lionfish are considered the most threatening saltwater fish species to the Everglades ecosystem. "Lionfish are able to invade any habitat type within Florida Bay," the report says.
Nesting of wading birds in the Everglades has improved in recent decades from a near-disastrous level but changes to the water flow seem to be affecting wood storks and roseate spoonbills.
Several exotic plant species, including Old World climbing fern and Brazilian pepper, continue to threaten the native ecosystem with limited ways to control them.
Development of South Florida reduced the natural Everglades system by half, and resulted in construction of water reservoirs and flood-control projects.
"These changes outside the park have had tremendous implications the northeastern sector of the park (Northeast Shark River Slough) is unnaturally dry; western Shark Slough is too wet; and the estuaries of Florida Bay are starved for fresh water and suffer from high salinity levels," the report details.
"This altered wetland function has profoundly affected both habitat and the wildlife that depend on them."


Proposed bike path through the Glades drawing fire – by Maryann Batlle
April 4, 2015
On the day before they marched for miles to picket a proposed paved path through the Everglades, the protesters gathered at an Ochopee campground to share - -
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State debate: What's the best way to police water pollution? – by Tyler Treadway
April 4, 2015
Picture this: A Florida state trooper is assigned to catch speeders; but he never uses his radar gun, so he makes no arrests. Just as he’s finally about to take the device out of its box, a supervisor tells him not to; the state police aren’t going to use radar guns anymore.
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Everglades show-biz

There's no business like Everglades show business
SunshineStateNews - by: Nancy Smith
April 4, 2015
Buy the land, don't buy the land -- it's all pretend, all a big show and all for naught.
The pretend:  In case you missed it, "protesters" against buying 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land turned up at Thursday's South Florida Water Management District meeting in West Palm Beach shouting slogans and waving signs. But before the day ended they were found out as frauds -- actors paid $75 to play angry taxpayers by an anonymous sugar-land opponent.
The show:  One day later, the other side -- the Everglades Coalition, South Florida environmentalists who want the land deal completed -- was rounding up college students on Easter break, offering them what the coalition calls "scholarships" to join the third annual Everglades Action Day in Tallahassee -- and, oh, yes, while they're at the Capitol, lobby for the U.S. Sugar land deal. 
Charter buses leave from Miami, West Palm Beach, Stuart and Fort Myers on Monday.
Here's a minimum of what participating students get: free round-trip bus transportation to Tallahassee on Monday, a crash course in how to lobby for the cause, the expectation that they will bend the ear of legislators involved in land decisions, a free hotel stay, a dinner, good seats at a Jimmy Buffet concert with commentary from best-selling author Carl Hiaasen, and transportation to and from all events.
In an email Friday to Sunshine State News, Judy Sanchez, spokesperson for U.S. Sugar Corp., argued against the Everglades Coalition's outrage over actors at Thursday's SFWMD meeting. She wrote, "I guess if you give free bus fare to Tally ($100?) and free hotel room at the Wyndham ($100) to a bunch of college students and provide lobby training to have them learn your message (oh, and then you throw in a Jimmy Buffett concert – and that's not buying folks??)."
Needless to say, it isn't 2009 and U.S. Sugar doesn't want to sell its land anymore.
Meanwhile, Cara Capp, national co-chair of the Everglades Coalition, insisted students' participation is nothing like hiring actors. On Friday she told Christine Stapleton of the Palm Beach Post, "(Students) are spending their own time and energy. We’re lucky to be able to offer scholarships.”
The naught: Both sides can pay and play-act all they want. I would bet my paycheck all they're doing is playing out a charade.
I predict students Monday will be talking to a brick wall. Legislators will be polite, they love talking to students. But they aren't going to pay $500 million for land even the Water Management District isn't interested in. 
And then there's the matter of the University of Florida Water Institute report. When Florida lawmakers get a good look at pages 6 and 8, a half-billion-dollar land buy to stop the pollution of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries is going to be a tougher sell than a family vacation at the Holiday Inn Kabul.
Those two pages work like a tag team. 
I'll spare you the technical explanation. What page 6 says in everyday language is, nearly 80 percent of the water to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries is local basin runoff. That means only 20 percent has been coming from Lake Okeechobee.
Then, on page 8 the report states, after completion of all the current projects -- IRL-5, C-43, the Restoration Strategies, and Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) -- lake discharges will be reduced only by 55 percent. But -- reducing 55 percent of the 20 percent of the water the lake contributes to the estuaries means you move that 20 percent contribution to less than 10 percent of the fresh water that goes into the estuaries.
I know it's complicated, but this is the bottom line legislators already have heard in testimony: Florida is going a long way toward solving the lake-to-estuaries component of the water problem by working to complete the projects already on the table and with land already owned by the state.
With all the demands on Amendment 1 money in the first year especially, and all the ready-to-roll projects needing a cash-infused kick start, it seems unlikely lawmakers -- even senators who don't want to see land buys shortchanged in the 2015 budget -- will want to spend $500 million for land and another $1 billion for a project.
Nor will they want to listen to a stirred-up Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam hoisting the banner for retaining productive farmland and safeguarding the jobs and economic activity it brings in rural South Florida.
Projects are on track to help the Everglades and the northern estuaries. In fact, there is more good news for the River of Grass on this third Everglades Day than there has been in a very many years.
Related:           Everglades Coalition pays for students to support land deal Kentucky Post Pioneer
'Tea Party' protesters opposed to Florida land deal were mostly actors hired by ...   Raw Story
US Sugar asks: Isn't paying actors to protest the same as paying travel and ...         Palm Beach Post (blog)


Advocates:  Use Amendment 1 money for lagoon
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer
April 3, 2015
MELBOURNE – Florida has chipped in to dredge rancid muck from the Indian River Lagoon. But buying more land to buffer from the pollution that causes muck buildup is proving a much tougher sell, lagoon advocates said Thursday.
"This is what 4.2 million people voted for," Vince Lamb, an environmental activist, said Thursday to a crowd of about 70 gathered at Front Street Civic Center for a lagoon forum. "The people spoke. Unfortunately, I'm afraid the legislature is not listening very well."
The Space Coast Progressive Alliance, a local political organization, held Thursday's forum to update the public on the lagoon.
Lamb was speaking of Amendment 1, which passed in November. It dedicates a third of the state's net revenues from the excise tax on documents to conserve lands and restore waters such as the lagoon. It is expected to raise about $10 billion and sunset in 2035, setting aside less than 1 percent of the state budget, starting with upward of $750 million in 2015.
Some lagoon advocates, like Lamb, hope to see more land set aside to expand the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge and more areas for stormwater retention to guard the lagoon from runoff.
State money to buy land could secure green space corridors linking large conservation areas already in public ownership, they say
Biologists say healthy ecosystems require large swaths of contiguous lands.
But state legislators have suggested using Amendment 1 for septic tank removal, sewage infrastructure improvements, paying salaries, managing existing state lands and other uses.
Lamb urged people to contact House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, to push for using Amendment 1 money for more land buying.
"The most important thing we can do right now is call Speaker Crisafulli's office," Lamb said.
Brevard County officials want the Florida Legislature to spend $46 million this year on the Indian River Lagoon for projects within Brevard County, double what state lawmakers provided the county last year.
A bulk of the request — $36 million — would pay for projects spearheaded by Brevard County government. That's $13 million more than the county received last year. About $25 million would go toward dredging muck. Other projects would reduce runoff and groundwater pollution, and help to restore oysters and clams.
A separate $10 million request would enable the St. Johns River Water Management District to begin dredging the Eau Gallie River by late 2017.
County officials also hope to take advantage of current leaders in the state House and Senate being from the lagoon region. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli is from Merritt Island. Senate President Andy Gardiner is from Orlando.
A white marker board at the speakers' table at Thursday's forum read: "Action item: 1. Call Crisafulli, 2. Thank (State Sen.) Thad Altman."
Altman had recently backed a proposal to restore more state funding for land buying.
Brevard plans to dredge "hot spots" where removing muck would create the most benefit for seagrass. Muck is mostly soil runoff from construction, farming and erosion, but also rotting algae and dead plants. The black, viscous stuff limits seagrass growth and the fish and other marine life that need seagrass to survive. It contributes to bacterial decay, which consumes oxygen, triggering fish kills.
Muck also produces noxious chemicals, such as hydrogen sulfide that creates the lagoon's occasional rotten-egg smell.
Five priority sites Brevard plans to dredge include the mouth of Turkey Creek, and canals in Sykes Creek, Cocoa Beach, Grand Canal in Satellite Beach and waters near Jones Road Boat Ramp in Mims.
Brevard received $10 million last year for muck dredging: $9 million toward permitting the five priority sites and to get dredging started by June 2015. The other $1 million went for Florida Institute of Technology to study whether the dredging improves water quality and seagrass.
This year's request includes funding to complete two or three sites, and another $1 million for FIT to continue its study, according to county documents.
"It's 90 percent water, this muck," said John Trefry, a geochemist at Florida Institute of Technology.
Dried muck is mostly silt and clay, with just 10-20 percent organic matter, he added. "That means it's not going to decay away like your compost pile," Trefry said.
Muck stores nitrogen and phosphorus that fuel harmful algae blooms.
Trefry said muck contributes the equivalent nitrogen in 88,000 fifty-pound bags of fertilizer annually.
"This is why I'm pushing so hard to get some of the muck out," Trefry said.
He emphasized keeping muck out of the lagoon in the first place, through better stormwater management and lawn practices.
Leesa Souto, executive director of the Marine Resources Council, a nonprofit group based in Palm Bay, stressed the importance of reaching consensus and speaking with a unified voice on behalf of the lagoon.
"It's a multi-headed beast, and it's going to take all of us," Souto said.
Her group plans to do a "report card" of the state of the lagoon, similar to what's done for Chesapeake Bay and Tampa Bay.
"As you know, the public will forget there is a problem," Souto said of why such an exercise would be valuable.
They would look to give letter grades for the status of water quality, habitat and wildlife, she said.
Related:           Senate Increases Land-Buying Money, Slightly        WUSF News


Paul Tudor Jones buys $71M Palm Seaside estate
April 3, 2015
Paul Tudor Jones, who last week warned of the rising wealth gap sparking a revolution, just spent $71 million on an estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
Paul Tudor Jones, who previous 7 days warned of the soaring prosperity gap sparking a revolution, just put in $71 million on an estate in Palm Seaside, Florida.
In accordance to the Palm Seashore Day-to-day Information, Jones acquired Casa Apava, which was as soon as owned by billionaire Ronald Perelman, for $71.two million.
The residence was bought by true-estate developer Dwight Schar, who acquired the residence from Perelman. The estate is on six acres, has 420 ft of oceanfront and a landmarked residence reportedly developed in 1918.
A spokesman for Jones declined to remark.
Final week, Jones gave a TED speech calling the escalating gap among the wealthy and the relaxation of the nation "disastrous," and explained inequality is normally solved by revolution, war or better taxes.
"The hole amongst the one per cent and the rest of us, and involving the U.S. and the relaxation of the world, cannot and will not persist," he reported. "Now here is a macro forecast that's quick to make, and that is that the hole involving the wealthiest and the poorest, it will get shut. Heritage usually does it. It typically comes about in 1 of three ways—either by way of revolution, bigger taxes or wars. None of people are on my bucket checklist."
He said higher company gains and share selling prices have only assisted the rich and he formed a new non-financial gain named "Just Money" to address the dilemma. Jones previously was the co-founder of the Everglades Basis and the Robin Hood Basis.
"It is like we've ripped the humanity out of our organizations and minimized them to a established of figures," he stated.
At minimum for some persons, people figures have turn out to be quite massive.


Tea Party Hires Actors to Protest Everglades Land Buy
New Times - by Deirdra Funcheon
Friday, April 3, 2015
Tea Party activists are encouraging people to "stop the land grab" — meaning stop the state from buying 46,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee that environmentalists say would be critical to cleaning up the Everglades. Tea partiers held a protest yesterday at the South Florida Water Management District's West Palm Beach office — but now screen grabs seem to reveal that the group hired actors to pose as protestors. 
A screen grab provided by Progress Florida seems to suggest that a Fort Lauderdale realtor named Karen Donohue posted an ad to the Broward Acting Group, offering $75 for people who would hold signs and pose as protestors. 
  Real protesters ?
Donohue did not return a call yesterday afternoon. 
Sugar companies that operate on the north side of Lake Okeechobee discharge massive amounts of phosphorous from fertilizer into the lake, which has thus become horribly polluted. During the rainy season, the water gets high and threatens to break the dam and flood the surrounding area, so water managers must divert that dirty water east through the St Lucie River and west through the Caloosahatachee. Last year, horribly polluted water killed dolphins and fish all along the rivers to both coasts, destroying local fishing and tourism economies and lowering property values. 
If the state were to buy the land south of the lake, scientists say, water could go south and the plants there would naturally filter out pollution. Environmentalists have eyed this land for decades.  The state now has until October to purchase the land or the deal expires. This year, conservationists were especially optimistic that a deal would go through because last November, voters passed Amendment One which specifies that money from the documentary stamp tax — a few dollars charged when courts process paperwork lie deeds and mortgage documents — would be used for conservation. 
But now, those monies are being hijacked, say the people who campaigned for Amendment One.
In the summer of 2008, then-governor Charlie Crist announced a deal with U.S. Sugar to buy its land for $1.75 billion — a deal Crist likened to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park. That fall, the recession hit and the deal was watered down. Mark Ferrulo of Progress Florida explains that in 2010, the state signed a deal to buy . "Back then, Big Sugar even touted it — like they were stepping up and doing their part by turning this land into a reservoir." Money, however, wasn't available for the state to make the purchase. Now, with Amendment One funds, it should be.  
"They're pulling a move like they did with the lottery money," says Ferrulo. In the late 1980s and 1990s, money from the Florida lottery was supposed to be earmarked for education. But instead of using the money to supplement existing school funding, "they took lottery money and used it for existing costs," Ferrulo says, "and to give tax breaks to corporations and other special interests. We're seeing the same thing play out with Amendment One — they're taking the bulk of Amendment One money and using it for pet projects pushed by powerful developers and other special interests for things that are not land and water conservation."   
A program called Florida Forever used to be funded at $300 million a year for conservation, but it has been gutted over the years. Amendment 1 is expected to reap $757 million. 
As the Sun-Sentinel explained: 
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.
The language of Amendment 1 is very specific in mentioning that it be used for conservation and recreational waterways, but legislators are proposing it be used to  "build more pipelines - more water, so homebuilders can build more homes," Ferrulo says. "They are completely warping the will of the voters by diverting this money to fill existing budget gaps."  
Whether or not the land gets bought will be a matter of whether it gets funded in the budget. The legislative session ends May 1.
Ferrullo expressed confusion that the tea party — which promotes fiscal responsibility in government spending — was "backing big multinational corporations like the sugar industry — that gets huge government support . The Tea Party's going to carry water for these guys? It makes no sense!" Ferrullo said voters should urge their legislators to  "buy the land, save our everglades, and protect our drinking water."  His group has set up a petition. 
But Everett Wilkson, a tea party activist, says he opposes the deal. "Why? First off, the federal government already has 25 percent of the land in Florida. It's a boondoggle - it won't help the environment. It could cost up to $2 billion. It's in the wrong location, and there's programs already working for the environment that they need to fund."  
Asked what such programs he was speaking of, Wilkinson said, "kids without shoes and veterans dying in the street" are more deserving of public monies.  "I'm against wasteful government spending." Buying the land would be "a major waste of taxpayer money," he said. Of the alternate programs, he said, "I don't want to go into the specific programs because I don't know the names of them," he said. 
He said that someone —  "sound environmentalists — I can't remember the guy's name — but these people are 100 percent committed to the fight to clean up the river and the inlet and every one of them have told me [that buying the land] isn't going to help the environment."  
He said he attended yesterday's rally and there were about 50 people there.  
The acting ad had called for 40. 
Afterward, Donohue posted: "easiest $$ ever": 
Related:           Actors "protest" land buy aimed at Everglades restoration    Creative Loafing Tampa
Tea party’ protest against proposed land deal mostly actors Palm Beach Post
Death Mermaid, paid actors, melodrama cheapen Everglades policy ...        SaintPetersBlog (blog)

Conservationists:  Lawmakers ignoring intent of Florida Water and Land Amendment - by Anna Hamilton
April 2, 2015
Among the issues Florida lawmakers are wrestling with is how to spend a pot of money set aside by last year’s Water and Land Conservation Amendment. Voters passed Amendment 1 with overwhelming support after a long and expensive campaign by conservation advocates. But as the House and Senate hash out the details, those advocates are worried the Legislature is ignoring their intent.
Amendment 1 Easily Passed Into Law
Aliki Moncrief remembers the shock she felt on election night last November. She didn’t have to wait long to find out Florida voters had passed Amendment 1 by a sweeping 75 percent.
"We thought we were going to be up till midnight as the results rolled in around the state," Moncrief said. "It was a such a resounding victory. It was such a resounding statement that voters were making, that we at 8 o'clock in the evening learned that we had won."
Moncrief is Executive Director of Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, a coalition that campaigned for the passage of the Water and Land Conservation Amendment. Now, the Florida Constitution mandates 20 years of state funding for conservation, including the purchase and management of land. For the upcoming budget year, the mandate is expected to generate more than $700 million from a tax on property exchanges.
Conservationists Say Spending Not Lining Up
But organizers like Moncrief are concerned about how the Legislature proposes spending those dollars.
"They’ve outlined their initial take on how Amendment 1 should be spent, and unfortunately, I have to say, we’re disappointed in what we’re seeing," Moncrief said.
For a long time, Florida Forever was the state’s conservation land-buying program, but in 2009, the state eliminated its annual $300 million funding. Moncrief says Amendment 1 was meant to revive land-buying on a large scale.
On Thursday, the Senate passed a budget with $35 million for Florida Forever and $20 million for restoration of the Kissimmee River. And as of Wednesday, the House was proposing $10 million for land acquisition. Moncrief says both are paltry compared to Florida Forever’s historic budget.
"It’s disconcerting. It’s disappointing because of the amazing support voters had for Amendment 1," Moncrief said. "The amendment itself references 'land acquisition' 18 times. So, it’s a little hard to believe anyone can read the amendment and not put at least some money into Florida Forever and land acquisition."
Umatilla Republican Alan Hays is the chief budget writer for environmental spending in the Senate. He leads the opposition to reinstating land-buying funds, saying Florida owns adequate conservation acreage. Instead, Hays is diverting Amendment 1 funds toward water projects that support increased development, among other things.
Advocates Consider Legal Action
Conservationists argue that kind of allocation is not in line with Amendment 1. Clay Henderson is a New Smyrna Beach attorney who helped draft the amendment.
"It’s not good news," Henderson said. "It may be in Florida that we have a schizophrenic electorate or a bipolar electorate. So they passed Amendment 1 with 75 percent but returned to office the same people who didn’t like land conservation to begin with."
Henderson says he will consider legal action if the legislature veers too far from the amendment’s intent.
Hendersaid said, "Our expectations were very clear. We hoped that this would restore funding for Florida Forever, for the Everglades, and for springs protection: things that are listed in the amendment."
The advocates say they’re hoping to sway lawmakers before a final budget passes. About a month remains in this year’s legislative session.
Related:           Senate Increases Land-Buying Money, Slightly        WUSF News


Anything for money

A story of Clean Water, Big Sugar, Amendment 1, Hunting Trips, the Everglades and more Development
Bradenton Times - by Dennis Maley
April 2, 2015
There has been much talk over the last two weeks regarding monies accrued via last year’s constitutional amendment, which sets aside a portion of doc stamp fees for land acquisition, and whether they should be used to purchase land to protect the Everglades. The debate takes place within a larger, more convoluted story.
Back in 2010, while US Sugar was facing a settlement in a suit with shareholders and land prices were depressed by the Great Recession, the corporation eagerly agreed to a deal that gave the State of Florida (via the South Florida Water Management District) an option to purchase 46,800 acres of property it owned south of Lake Okeechobee, for preservation. That option expires in October, and perhaps more importantly, US Sugar would now very much like to keep the land and use it for housing development, now that the market has picked back up.
Restoration experts argue that the land could act as multiple reservoirs, filtering water that will feed the Everglades, while reducing the need for the discharge of polluted water into rivers that then pollute coastal estuaries on both coasts of the state. They feel it is an essential element to repairing and protecting this key environmental bedrock and more than 200 scientists have petitioned the cause.
The purchase price of around $350 million would amount to less than half of what Amendment 1 will generate in a single year. None of the current budget proposals, however, allocate money for such a purchase. Those wanting to purchase the land fear that the corporation's vast influence in Tallahassee will translate to an ability to quash the deal.
The company's close ties with the state's biggest politicians came under heavy scrutiny last year, when it was revealed that it had been sponsoring expensive hunting trips to the exclusive King Ranch in Texas for everyone from Governor Rick Scott and Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam to a who's who of the state legislature. No one knows what was discussed on those secret outings, but the industry did win a big victory via a bill that would help them save millions on Everglades clean-up.
The sugar lobby is now arguing that the state has too much land already and that the purchase would be a waste of money it doesn't have. When you put together the seemingly unanimous notion among restoration experts that the land in question will ultimately be necessary to the long-term viability of the Everglades with the rare circumstances that have found Florida with both an option on the land and dedicated funding to easily afford it, such an argument seems wholly counter-intuitive.
Meanwhile, the state is paying an enormous premium to store water on private lands north of the lake, in what critics have called a corporate welfare scheme. Scientists seem to agree that sending the water south is a great idea, while “farming” it to the north is both inefficient and ineffective. In case you're wondering – no, the state has not studied the feasibility of instead storing the water on publicly owned lands.
The idea that the water farming is an alternative to allowing the lake water overflow to head south, does not seem to hold up. Instead, it looks like a boondoggle, in which politically connected corporations get to suck down taxpayer money north of the river, while a politically connected company gets to build yet another large, master planned community of retail and residential development south of the river, while both the taxpayer and our environment gets the short end of the stick.


Enormous sea turtle swallows scientist
News-Press – by Kevin Lollar
April 1, 2015
In a bizarre and horrific twist of fate, a gigantic sea turtle attacked and devoured one of the world's leading sea turtle experts Tuesday in the Ten Thousand Islands.
Jeff Schmid, research manager of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, had just returned to the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve's field station in Goodland after releasing a satellite-tagged Kemp's ridley (named "Nolan" after Schmid's hero, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan) in Gullivan Bay when an enormous turtle of the same species lurched out of the water and grabbed his legs.
This is the first recorded case of an unprovoked sea turtle attack on a human.
Kemp's ridleys (scientific name Lepidochelys kempii) normally have a carapace (shell) length of two feet and weigh no more than 100 pounds, but the attacking turtle was at least 10 feet long and probably weighed 2,000 pounds, said Rookery Bay resource management specialist Greg Curry,
who had helped release Nolan and witnessed the deadly assault.
Curry and Schmid, who has been studying Kemp's ridleys since the 1980s, left the field station dock aboard a 21-foot Carolina Skiff at 8:15 a.m.

Giant turtle
You don't believe it ?

Tuesday and ran eight miles to White Horse Key, where they released the tagged turtle — satellite tags help researchers determine the home range of the species.
The two scientists had captured Nolan in the same area on March 25 and had kept it in a plastic wading pool at the field station so they could collect its feces for an ongoing study comparing the diet of Ten Thousand Island Kemp's ridleys to that of another Lepidochelys species, the olive ridley, which inhabits tropical waters of the South Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
Returning to the field station at 12:30 p.m., Curry cleaned the boat as Schmid walked toward shore on the dock, carrying plastic bags filled with trash.
"I heard Jeff scream, and I looked up and saw this massive turtle lying on its back on the dock with Jeff's legs in its mouth," Curry said. "Jeff seemed frozen, just bending over, holding a couple of bags of trash as the turtle bit down on him.
"My fight-or-flight response took over, and I grabbed the boat hook and ran up the dock to try and save him. But before I could get there, the turtle just swallowed him. Then it rolled over and slid back into the water, and it was gone. God, I felt so helpless."
Curry paused and shook his head.
"I just can't believe this happened," he said. "Look at me: I'm still shaking."
State wildlife officials could not explain how a Kemp's ridley sea turtle could have grown so large.
"I'm baffled," said Sidd Finch, a state scientist. "There might be some sort of natural selection going on among Kemp's ridleys that has produced a population of super sea turtles that we're unaware of: All previous research includes limited field observation of lepidochelys social dynamics and yields nothing that would solve this mystery."
Oh yeah, Happy April Fools Day!

Florida legislators ignoring the will of voters on Amendment 1 – Letter by Ronald Randall, Marathon, FL
April 1, 2015
I am writing this out of frustration that our Florida Legislature will not act on state Constitutional Amendment 1 that 75 percent of voters passed in the last election that sets aside dedicated money for 20 years for land acquisition and water projects.
I thought I was living in a democracy. The referendum should be honored because the stakes are huge. We voted to acquire lands for Everglades yet our legislators will not act. Can we press criminal charges?
The Indian River estuary is in critical condition because nutrient-loaded water is being sent through the St. Lucie River every time we need to lower the water level in Lake Okeechobee. The same environmental damage is happening on the state’s West Coast.
But one thing that slips under the radar is the steady decline of Florida Bay. I’m writing as a 37-year resident and I have seen the results of steady nutrient overloads.
Most individuals I know have given up fishing the bay. You can still catch some fish but you really have to work for them. You might think this could be the result of overfishing but you know it is difficult to even catch bait in the chum slick. The ballyhoo seem to be disappearing. The stone-crab fishery is on life support and the only thing keeping it going is the high landing price paid because of lack of product. I can show you seagrass that should appear green and healthy but has a white film on it and clumps of moss.
We need to purchase the sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee to treat the runoff waters. We have the science, we have the budgets, we have voter approval but we have legislators so compromised by sugar lobbyists that they will sacrifice our waters and their integrity.


LO release = Algae

Lake O discharges did nearly $500 million in damage to one county’s home values
Palm Beach Post – by Kim Miller
April 1, 2015 |
A landmark study from Florida’s leading Realtor group proves what some homeowners were saying back in 2013 when Lake Okeechobee discharge turned parts of the St. Lucie River green mucky water lowers home values.
According to research released Tuesday by the Florida Realtors, changes in water quality during the height of the Lake Okeechobee discharges in 2013 resulted in an estimated $488 million reduction in Martin County aggregate property values between May and September of that year.
Economists from the Florida Realtors spent a year crunching water quality and home value data in Lee County and Martin County to measure the impacts. Lake Okeechobee water can also be released into the Caloosahatchee River in Lee County.
Lee County property value reductions measured an estimated $428 million.
“We were trying to figure out whether there was a substantial impact here, and what impressed us the most, is that it seems to be a pretty substantial number,” said Brad O’Connor, research economist with the Florida Realtors. “There are a lot of studies that show how property values are impacted by proximity to water, but not how they are impacted by the quality of that water.”
To protect the aging earthen dike around Lake Okeechobee, the Army Corps of Engineers releases water from the lake into the St. Lucie Estuary and the Caloosahatchee River.
In 2013, those releases, coupled with stormwater runoff, caused extensive damage to plants and animals in the estuary. In the Treasure Coast, the water quality was so poor that toxic algae blossomed, prompting health officials to warn people to stay out of the water.
“Realtors in Lee and Martin were in an uproar,” O’Connor said. “We were hearing all this anecdotal evidence and we wanted to see if we could quantify the water quality’s effect.”
⇒ For a different perspective on the discharge issue, check out our environmental reporter’s blog on the same issue here.
Related:           Florida Realtors study reveals impact of Lake Okeechobee releases ...


Miami Beach 'rising' to challenge of encroaching seas – by Manon Verchot
April 1, 2015
In Miami Beach, Fla., flooding is not unusual. Vehicle owners are accustomed to salt water getting into their cars, corroding the metal, and getting stuck in traffic when floods turn streets into shallow canals.
Several years ago, flooding got so bad, people were kayaking through the city.
"Everything becomes a challenge," said Eric Carpenter, public works director for the city of Miami Beach.
To cope with the sea-level-rise-related flooding, the city is changing its coastline. In the next five years, 70 to 80 pumps will be installed to keep the streets free of water -- a project that will cost $300 million to $500 million, according to Carpenter. Funding comes primarily through city bonds and should buy the city about 30 years in its efforts to adapt to sea-level rise, he said.
At the same time, the city may raise roads and sidewalks by 1.5 to 2 feet along the west side that faces the Biscayne Bay.
"We're anticipating that the elevation of roadways will not cost more than 10 to 15 percent more for stormwater improvements," Carpenter said. "It's a long-term prospect."
While raising Miami Beach above sea level could slow flooding, the city may need to raise itself an additional 2 to 4 feet in the next four years.
Florida is one of the states most vulnerable to climate change. Sea levels rose 8 to 9 inches in the last hundred years and are expected to rise 3 to 7 inches more in the next 15 years, according to federal projections.
Cities across the state are preparing their coastlines for the imminent sea rise, raising bridges, installing backflow preventers to protect drinking water supplies, building sea walls and managing dunes. In 2012, Miami Beach implemented a Storm Water Management Master Plan to assess the city's needs and implement effective adaptation strategies.
Preparing while Tallahassee drifts away
"We can only postpone the problem," said Luiz Rodrigues, executive director of the Environmental Coalition of Miami and the Beaches. "We need to do what we can to preserve what we have. The city [of Miami Beach] is doing what it can right now."
In the last 10 years, Miami Beach's economy has suffered from the effects of sea-level rise, Rodrigues added. Businesses along West Avenue on the western coast suffered damage from being flooded two to five times a year until recently, when pumps installed ahead of a major tide in 2014 were built to keep the streets dry and diminish the impact of flooding.
Miami Beach hopes to literally rise above this situation, which occurred June 5, 2009.
Though the city has actively implemented sea-level adaptation strategies, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco said a lack of support from the state is forcing cities like Miami Beach to fend for themselves. At a sea-level-rise summit last Friday, he said he sent lobbyists to "beg" for money from the federal government but that the government in Tallahassee didn't "want to deal with realities."
Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales, who also attended the summit, said the state has been supportive of the city's plans to adapt to sea-level rise and expedited necessary permits.
Florida's position on climate change has been under fire since reports that the governor banned the phrase "climate change" came out earlier this month. Environmentalists are concerned about what this could mean for how the state addresses climate change, but government officials are not too concerned.
"Our officials have embraced the idea that the sea is rising no matter what the source may be," Carpenter said. "We don't have time to debate the causes."
For Susanne Torriente, assistant city manager of Fort Lauderdale, climate change is part of the daily vocabulary in South Florida. Like Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale has faced flooding and sea-level rise. The city has developed coastal resilience by improving roads damaged in flooding to mitigate future risks, Torriente said. Though funding is always a challenge, it has nothing to do with opinions on climate change.
"Cities all over the country are dealing with aging infrastructure," she said. "There's no new pot of money that appears from the federal government."


Senate panel OKs fracking bills despite vocal opposition
Tallahassee Democrat – by Jeff Burlew
April 1, 2015
Bills that would create a regulatory framework for fracking in Florida and allow chemicals used in the process to be kept secret from the public easily cleared their first committee stops Tuesday.
Members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee voted 6-2 along party lines in favor of Senate Bill 1468, which would require the state to adopt rules regulating high-pressure well stimulation, a form of fracking, and Senate Bill 1582, which would create an exemption in public-records laws for chemicals used in fracking. Both bills are sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, who was out of town at the time of the hearing.
Concerned citizens packed into the hearing room to express concerns that hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, would cause environmental harm to the state's drinking-water supply by injecting dangerous chemicals into the ground and pose risks to human and animal health.
Jim Tatum, a member of Our Santa Fe River, warned lawmakers that regulations will not stop problems resulting from fracking.
"They will only serve as a guideline to determine how poisoned we want to be," he said. "We can argue over how contaminated we want our water, and we can sit around in meetings and hearings and negotiate how dead we want our bodies to be. Regulations can be broken with little fear of punishment."
Supporters say SB 1468 would provide regulations for fracking, which is already allowed in Florida, including requirements for permits, monitoring and inspection and fines for any violations. The bill is backed by the oil and gas industry and other powerful groups including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida.
"I'm going to support it because I think you can have both — you can protect the environment and you can also keep America on track in the utilization of its energy and natural resources," said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge.
But opponents argued that there is no safe form of fracking.
"There is no regulatory or permitting scheme that guarantees that the aquifers of the people of Florida will not be compromised and contaminated," said David Cullen, lobbyist for the Sierra Club Florida. "While we may stipulate that the probability of that happening might be low, the consequences could be catastrophic."
Hydraulic fracturing is a process by which water, chemicals and sand are injected under high pressure to release natural gas trapped in rock formations. Critics say it has led to major problems in other states where it has occurred, including contamination of the water supply with chemicals such as benzene, a known carcinogen.
John Dickert, a retired engineer from Madison, said California found the wastewater resulting from fracking to be poisonous.
"Florida does not need to experiment with this," he said. "It's already been proven in other states."
Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando and a member of the committee, offered amendments that would have increased fines and placed a moratorium on fracking. But he failed to get support for them. He said Richter's legislation is intended to "pave the way for fracking here in the state of Florida," something he called "short-sighted."
"I don't think the answer here is to regulate — it's to eliminate any chance of this happening," Soto said. "Chemicals will be thrust deep into the ground, and to say that anybody here is going to know exactly how that's going to affect our water supply with any certainty is kidding themselves."
Only one instance of fracking is known to have occurred in Florida, 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.
Paula Cobb, DEP deputy secretary for regulatory programs, told lawmakers that a subsequent report from an outside firm found "no adverse effects" from the fracking incident.
"This legislation is in part a response to what occurred in 2013, because we did not have something like what we have in this bill today, which specifically prohibits this activity without a DEP-issued permit," she said, adding that the legislation would put in place a "robust regulatory framework."
Earlier in the day, Soto and other Democratic lawmakers joined in a news conference with the Democratic Women's Club of Florida to call for a ban on fracking. Soto and other Democrats have offered bills that would enact such a ban.
"My biggest concern about fracking is the water system," said Harriett Myers of Lynn Haven. "I feel sure it will contaminate the water — it has happened in other states. And they're using very dangerous chemicals, a lot of chemicals of which they won't even tell us about so that we can treat ourselves if we become ill."
3:25 p.m. update
Members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee voted along party lines in favor of bills that would establish a regulatory framework for hydraulic fracturing or fracking in Florida and allow chemicals used in the process to be kept secret.
Both bills, sponsored by Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, passed 6-2, with opposition coming from Democratic members of the panel.
Environmental groups oppose the bills; industry and business groups are supporting them.
Check back with for more on this story.
Morning update
Democratic lawmakers and members of the Democratic Women's Club of Florida are holding a news conference this morning at the Capitol to push for legislation that would ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the state.
The news conference will be 10 a.m. in the House media room on the third floor of the Capitol.
Taking part are Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, and Maureen McKenna, president of the Democratic Women's Club of Florida.
Jenne is sponsoring HB 169, and Soto is sponsoring the companion bill, SB 166, which would ban fracking in Florida. Supporters of the ban say fracking would cause environmental harm and pose health dangers to residents and tourists.
The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee is set to hear a pair of bills today that critics say would lay the regulatory groundwork for fracking to continue in Florida and keep chemicals used in the process hidden from public scrutiny. The bills are SB 1468 and SB 1582. The Senate panel meets at 1:30 p.m.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which water, sand and chemicals are injected under high pressure into rock formations to extract natural gas. Supporters of the process say it is boosting domestic energy supplies and reducing the country's dependance on foreign oil.
Check back with for more on this story.

1504dd-z        upward

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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:


LO water release

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

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


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