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In Paris, Secretary Jewell releases report on actions underway to combat climate change in National Parks – News Release
November 30, 2015
Case studies demonstrate how parks adapt to climate change to protect nation's natural and cultural assets
WASHINGTON - November 30, 2015 ( newswire) Today, the National Park Service (NPS) released a report detailing actions underway to address climate change threats to infrastructure, recreation, and natural and cultural resources. The report follows a recent study that revealed sea-level rise caused by climate change could pose a risk to more than $40 billion worth of national park assets and resources.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell highlighted today's report during a meeting in Paris with representatives from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, where the delegates discussed shared challenges in protecting World Heritage sites in the face of a changing climate.
Jewell is in Paris as part of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference.
"What's happening in our national parks is a small window into the impacts of climate change on natural and cultural resources around the world," Secretary Jewell said. "As negotiations kick off in Paris today, this report offers positive examples of what we can do, at a local level, to adapt and build resilience in the face of a changing climate – even as we work to curb carbon pollution around the world."
Actions used by NPS managers to combat climate change in an already dynamic coastal zone are described through 24 case studies in the report. A few examples include: At Everglades National Park in Florida – a World Heritage Site – the new visitor's facility in the Flamingo area was built with an elevated design to help reduce the risks from sea level rise and storm surges; the Gateway National Recreation Area in New York has restored salt marsh elevation in Jamaica Bay through the addition of sediment and vegetation; and in a lab in Ofu, part of the American Samoa islands, the National Park of American Samoa operates a facility that works on unique adaptations to Ofu coral and determining the cause of coral loss and damage.
"Sea level changes are subtle at some parks but already destructive at others where we are losing shoreline and infrastructure and where historical and cultural resources are also at risk," National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said. "The upside is that we're taking positive action as the result of adaptation planning we began in the National Park Service several years ago. This report illustrates actions we have underway to adapt to our changing climate, and as best we can, to preserve and protect the resources of our coastal parks."
Dr. Rebecca Beavers, co-editor of the report, Coastal Adaptation Strategies: Case Studies, said the report was compiled to inspire action, innovation, and dialogue among park managers and other coastal management agencies that are responsible for protecting natural and cultural resources.
The report comes in advance of the National Park Service's 100th anniversary in 2016 and is part of Director Jarvis' Call to Action, in which the NPS has already highlighted a need to plan for climate change.
Beavers, the NPS lead scientist on coastal adaptation to climate change, said the case studies will provide park managers with an array of coastal adaptation strategies.
"This report is one of a suite of tools with which the National Park Service is equipping their frontline managers – the park superintendents – to tackle diverse coastal challenges," Beavers said.
In addition to her meeting with representatives from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee today in Paris, Secretary Jewell also met with U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO Crystal Nix-Hines and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova to emphasize continued U.S. support for World Heritage and other UNESCO programs. Currently, there are 23 U.S. World Heritage sites.


South Florida officials get ally in fight against effects of climate change
Palm Beach Post – John Kennedy
November 30, 2015
South Florida officials, who have been clamoring for years to get state help in countering flooding and seawater intrusion tied to global warming, have an ally in the Florida League of Cities.
The organization said Monday that it is supporting any legislation aimed at gauging the impact of rising ocean water and helping local governments coordinate among themselves to ease the problem.
“That’s what it’s going to take,” said Rebecca O’Hara, a league lobbyist.
For his part, Gov. Rick Scott in his $79.3 billion budget proposal released last week, calls for a relatively routine state government step.
Scott, who is among those mostly Republican elected officials who refuse to acknowledge that climate change is occurring, recommends spending $5.8 million for land acquisition near Biscayne Bay, $1 million for the state’s coastal zone management program and $25 million for beach renourishment.
South Florida water managers two years ago submitted a report that showed climate change causing sea level on the state’s Atlantic Coast to climb nine inches over the past century.
That rate is accelerating and could advance an at least an additional nine inches over the next 50 years, analysts have concluded.
Evidence of the changes are already being seen across South Florida, where regional flooding and saltwater intrusion is becoming common in area canals and waterways. Many coastal streets in Palm Beach County now flood during higher-than-usual ‘king’ tides and even normal high tides, officials said.
South Florida lawmakers, though, not only struggle to get fellow legislators to steer dollars or programs their way, they continue to work on convincing colleagues that the region’s problems have a statewide impact.


Warmer ocean water breeds health risks - by Gary Brode, Weekend Anchor
November 30, 2015
Fort Myers Beach, FL - When the ocean water is warm, not only are stingrays more likely to stick around, but the water can also be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Physicians at a Fort Myers Beach medical center are worried about an uncharacteristically high number of stingray accidents in recent weeks, and they're blaming the warmer weather.
The water temperatures went down to about 76 degrees on Monday, but higher temperatures within the last several days were recorded in the 80s.
A physician associate at Estero Medical Center spoke with ABC7 and said they saw 11 cases related to stings of the rays in one day last week. They've seen about a 300-percent increase in incidents from 2015 at this time. 
A big reason for this jump is the extended stay of the stingrays in Southwest Florida. It's even more important to make sure to see a doctor if you are stung. 
The Lee County Health Department says there has not been an increase in bacterial infections around the beach, but if the water is above 80 degrees, there is a potential for bacteria to grow in the water. Don't go in the water if you have a fresh, open wound because if there are increased numbers of bacteria in the water, the cut could become infected.
The physicians aren't saying this to scare people from going into the water, but to just be aware.


Our excesses are destroying the environment - by Ron Cunningham
Special to the Star-Banner
November 29, 2015
What a bizarre species we are.
We split the atom to hard-boil eggs. And create growing heaps of deadly wastes that someone will still have to guard a hundred generations hence.
We carry those eggs home from the store in little plastic bags. And those “disposables” end up strangling pelicans and clogging the oceans in swirling garbage heaps the size of Rhode Island.
And my favorite: Some genius down in marketing figured out we would buy more skin lotion if it had “texture.” Now plastic “micro-beads” are part of our food chain — passed along from tiny fish to small fish to big fish to humans with unpredictable biological outcomes down the road.
The most bizarre thing about our newfound affinity for micro beads is that it is an environmental catastrophe born out of pure vanity. According to a recent account in the Washington Post, an estimated 8 trillion micro-beads now flow into aquatic breeding grounds every day and “another 800 trillion or so end up in the sludgy runoff from sewage plants, which can go on to pollute waterways as well.”
But, hey, that’s a small price to pay for nicely exfoliated skin.
Anyway, here’s some encouraging news. According to a new Sunshine State Poll conducted by the University of South Florida, Floridians now consider water quality and quantity to be the state’s top environmental concern.
“For a second year, water has been the No. 1 issue, which I think will get a lot of legislators’ attention,” USF political science professor Susan MacManus, was quoted in the Sun Sentinel last week. “This may be one of those issues they can agree on.”
I’ll bet 800 trillion micro-beads you’re wrong, Susan.
If we know anything about Florida’s political elite it is that they simply don’t care what Floridians think about the environment. This Legislature spit in the face of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the land and water conservation Amendment 1.
And why not ? When was the last time a politician in the Sunshine State got thrown out of office for not being green?
Anyway, USF was asking the wrong questions.
Floridians, do you care enough about clean water to kill your green lawns?
Do you care enough to pay more for the water you are literally pouring on the ground?
Will you pay more for food if that’s what it takes to restrict Big Ag’s use of pesticides and fertilizers and force dairies and hog farms to deal more responsibly with animal wastes?
Truth is we are victims of our own excesses. It is a malady of mindless consumerism that was foreseen by one of the brightest minds ever to occupy lab space at the University of Florida.
The late Howard T. Odum was the father of the science of ecology — the notion that our natural environment is an interconnected life-support system. If the name sounds familiar it is because the Gainesville-based Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute continues to amass evidence that we are systematically killing Florida’s magical springs with our excesses.
“The present level of our urban civilization cannot be sustained indefinitely on the worldwide declining concentrations of resources,” Odum warned in “A Prosperous Way Down,” a little-noted book published in 2001 that he co-authored with his wife, Elizabeth Odum.
Odum was at heart an optimist who believed that people will ultimately do the right thing — consume more responsibly — if only they have the right information. “If everyone understands the necessity of the whole society adapting to less, then society can pull together with a common mission to select what is essential,” he wrote. “Presidents, governors and local leaders can explain the problem and lead society on a shared mission.”
Prescient he may have been, but obviously, Odum never foresaw the likes of Donald Trump and Rick Scott.
Still, maybe we can take baby steps toward Odum’s “Prosperous Way Down.” Maybe we can ban micro-beads. And if civilization doesn’t collapse under the sheer tonnage of unscrubbed skin, we can get rid of those plastic bags.
Who knows, maybe we can even elect “presidents, governors and local leaders” who care as much about the environment as we say we do.


Counties oppose bills to pre-empt fracking bans
Tallahassee Democrat – by Jeff Burlew
November 28, 2015
County commissioners across Florida are opposing a push by lawmakers that would short-circuit their ability to regulate or ban fracking in their communities.
About 20 counties, from Leon to Miami-Dade, and nearly 40 cities, including Tallahassee, have passed resolutions or ordinances banning fracking, an unconventional drilling technique that’s generated controversy over environmental and health concerns. As of late October, the bans were in place in cities and counties representing roughly 8 million people or about 43 percent of the state’s population.
But legislation (HB 191 and SB 318) designed to set up a regulatory framework for fracking would pre-empt the measures. The bills, sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, and Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, would give the state authority to regulate oil and gas exploration, development, production, processing, storage and transportation. Only local zoning ordinances adopted before 2015 would remain enforceable under the legislation.
Earlier this month, the Florida Association of Counties’ general membership voted unanimously to oppose the pre-emption measures along with provisions in the bills that would exempt chemicals used in the process from public disclosure if they’re considered trade secrets. FAC also voted to support a moratorium until “independent and comprehensive” studies on fracking are completed and peer-reviewed.
Wakulla County Commissioner Howard Kessler was among commissioners to vote in favor of FAC’s stance during its 2015 legislative conference in Amelia Island. Kessler called the pre-emption issue a “no-brainer.”
“Whether you like fracking or don’t like fracking, to have the county’s powers usurped by the state is just the complete antithesis of local government,” he said.
Like other fracking opponents, Kessler said he’s concerned about the impact hydraulic fracturing could have on the environment, public health and major industries like tourism and agriculture. The drilling technique involves the injection of mass amounts of water along with chemicals under great pressure to fracture underground rock formations and release oil and gas.
“This is all about the preservation of water resources of Florida and not risking the major economic engines of the state on a possibility of maybe having fracking work in Florida,” he said. “To risk our tourism, to risk our agriculture … because they’re so dependent on clean water — it doesn’t make any sense.”
David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, said Florida law is fairly clear that oil and gas should be regulated by the state. And he said differences between the industry and cities and counties over the pre-emption issue are “resolvable.” But he acknowledged some fracking opponents won’t budge on that or other issues “because they do not want oil and gas activity in the state of Florida.”
“I understand that point of view,” he said. “It’s an extremist point of view because Florida has a long history and a positive history of exploring for and producing oil and gas. We’ve done it since the ‘40s and we need to do it in the future. And we need to do it in ways that are protective of Florida’s environment.”
Fracking opponents: 'Very bad legislation'
The state has two areas that have produced oil and gas for decades through conventional drilling: the Sunniland Trend in South Florida and the Jay Field in the western Panhandle. Production peaked in the late 1970s, generally declining since then.
But oil and gas companies are showing renewed interest in the state — a Texas company with a history of fracking is seeking state permits to search for oil and gas on private land in Calhoun and Gulf counties, north of the fragile Apalachicola Bay.
Fracking is already legal in Florida, though it’s believed to have occurred only once, in Collier County. The legislation would regulate the practice, establish fines for violations and pay for a study of any hazards or risks it might pose.
Last year, Rodrigues and Richter sponsored similar bills in the House and Senate. But they died when the regular session imploded over health-care differences between the chambers. The re-filed House bill passed its first committee stop earlier this month.
Business groups like Associated Industries of Florida support the legislation. After the bills were re-filed earlier this year, AIF issued a statement saying the oil and gas industry boosts the economy by bringing jobs and revenue to local communities.
“But given advances in technology, legislative change is warranted so this responsible industry may continue to grow and contribute to Florida’s bottom line," AIF said.
Amy Datz, a member of the Environmental Caucus of Florida, has been trying to persuade counties — Calhoun, most recently — to pass fracking bans.
“If a county does not want their water and air quality devastated by fracking, it will not have that right under this very bad legislation,” she said in an email.
Former Leon County Commissioner Cliff Thaell sent letters to every county commissioner in the state ahead of the FAC vote urging them to oppose the legislation. He said he’s “very concerned” the bills will open the door to fracking in the Big Bend and elsewhere in the state.
“I hope the state legislators recognize that their counterparts in local government who have now unanimously adopted this position will pay attention,” he said. “They represent the same people that legislators represent.”


Amendment 1 intent clear to all, but the Legislature
Citrus County Chronicle
November 27, 2015
THE ISSUE: A second legal challenge on implementation of the Florida Water and Land Conservation constitutional amendment.
OUR OPINION: When state officials ignore the wishes of voters, lawsuits are necessary.
In November, 2014, an impressive 75 per cent of Florida voters approved the “Florida Water and Land Conservation” amendment to the state constitution. It “dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.” Effective on July 1, 2015, it runs for 20 years.
This measure mandates that the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund is to receive at least 33 per cent of net revenues on existing state real estate documentary stamp tax collections. In the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015, that should be about $740 million.
We think the voters were pretty clear in their wishes that the monies were to “acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.” But apparently the Legislature is not entirely on board: in the year since that historic vote, two lawsuits have been filed charging failure to comply.
During the summer, a suit was filed through Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and two others, asking the courts to force the Florida Legislature to return Amendment 1 funds to the conservation land-buying fund. The groups charge that monies were instead diverted to such unrelated purposes as paying state executive salaries, agricultural pollution subsidies and insurance premiums.
In November, a second legal challenge was filed by Florida Defenders of the Environment. This suit is attempting to block expenditure of any Amendment 1 dollars during this fiscal year, charging that the Legislature is attempting to mis-spend millions on salaries, purchase of motor vehicles and general operating costs. This suit also asks the court to declare that the Legislature broke the law.
Legislators typically adopt an “I know what’s best” attitude, but that’s a hard position to maintain in the face of overwhelming voter action. It’s laughable that this year’s House speaker Steve Crisafulli was quoted as saying that the “Legislature complied with both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution.” The voters and volunteers and organizations mounting legal challenges disagree, and so do we.
The amendment’s language may open the door to some interpretation, but the overall intent is clear. Legislators need to comply; voters should watch them carefully. Elections are right around the corner in 2016.
- Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment (became Section 28 in Article X, Florida Constitution).
- Ballot Title: Water and Land Conservation dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.
- Ballot Summary: Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years.


dying citrus

Asian invader wiping out Florida OJ crop
Bloomberg - by Marvin Perez
November 27, 2015
Florida oranges are threatened with destruction if scientists and the government can’t find a way to stop an Asian bug from spreading a tree-killing disease.
The harvest for the state’s signature fruit could plunge to 27 million boxes by 2026, according to an Oct. 21 report by the Florida Department of Citrus. That’s an 82 percent drop from 149.8 million boxes in 2005, the year the bacterium that causes Huanglongbing, better known as citrus greening, was found in southern Florida.
The disease is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid, a tiny winged insect, and there’s currently no known cure. Greening already caused industry-wide losses of $7.8 billion and more than 7,500 jobs between 2006 to 2014, the University of Florida estimates.
The outlook is “precarious” for Florida’s citrus industry, which “risks losing relevance and economic impact” in the long run if crop yields continue to fall and trees keep dying, the citrus department said in its Oct. 21 report.
The current harvest will shrink to 74 million boxes for the season that began Oct. 1, down 24 percent from a year ago and the lowest since 1964, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Nov. 9. The forecast signals the fourth consecutive seasonal decline, the longest slump since at least 1913, state data show. The prospects pushed prices for frozen concentrated orange juice to $1.4785 a pound Nov. 23 on ICE Futures U.S. in New York, up 43 percent from this year’s low of $1.0345 on Sept. 29. On Nov. 13, prices touched $1.607 a pound, the highest since June 2014. This is raising costs for Coca-Cola, maker of Minute Maid brands, and PepsiCo, which sells Tropicana and Gatorade.
Demand for America’s favorite juice has fallen because of consumer perceptions about about high calorie content and the rise of alternatives such as coconut water. Even so, Florida’s industry, which includes grapefruit and specialty citrus, still employs about 62,000 people and has an annual economic impact of $10.7 billion on the state, according to Florida Citrus Mutual, the largest grower organization.
Les Dunson, a 53-year-old farmer in Winter Haven, calls psyllids “the little monster” and says the insect has been more deadly than hurricanes. He’s the president of Dunson Harvesting Inc., which his grandfather started in the 1950s, and currently has about 2,000 acres. His output has fallen to about 600,000 boxes from 1 million a decade ago, even though he’s increased his annual pesticide use and feeds his groves with more nutrients to help productivity, he said in a telephone interview.
The invasive psyllid was first found in Florida in June 1998 and is now established throughout the state’s citrus-growing region. It feeds on the sap of tree leaves and can carry the bacterium that causes greening a mile without stopping. The insects live for about a month, and females can lay as many as 800 eggs in that time. A recent study by the University of Florida showed the bugs fly earlier in their life cycle, more frequently and farther when they are infected.
The bacterium blocks the passage of nutrients through a tree’s vascular system, producing leaves that have yellowing veins, yellow-green mottling and sometimes no green coloring at all. The yellowing typically spreads throughout the tree over a year, causing oranges to drop prematurely, contain aborted seeds or have a salty, bitter taste, compromising their use for juice. Root systems of infected groves often are poorly developed, and new root growth may be suppressed.
Infected trees get a “death sentence” after their sap is poisoned, even though symptoms might take several years to appear, said Michelle Cilia, assistant professor at Cornell University affiliate Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, who has studied greening for two years.
One short-term approach under trial is thermotherapy: encasing tree canopies in plastic tents and using steam to raise the temperature and kill the bacterium without hurting the plants. Some growers are applying nutrients directly on the leaves to keep trees productive even as they’re dying, and some are using pesticides, although too much can burn the fruit and psyllids have developed resistance to certain chemicals. To avoid a “bad neighbor” impact, some farmers have agreed to jointly apply pesticides in Citrus Health Management Areas.
“If someone makes a decision that they are going to control it aggressively, and if their neighbor doesn’t, they constantly get new insects coming from abandoned groves or neighboring groves,” said Robert G. Shatters Jr., a research molecular biologist for the USDA Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Florida, described as the “epicenter of the disaster.”
Longer-term, genes from other plants could provide resistance to the psyllids or bacterium, but a transgenic plant would have to go through a lengthy registration process, he said.
There also are concerns about the cost of genetically engineered products, not to mention a possible public backlash against them.
By some estimates, the industry needs to plant more than 20 million trees in the next 10 years to restore production to pre-greening levels, said Michael W. Sparks, chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, which has more than 8,200 members.
While the disease is killing crops in other areas — including Brazil, the world’s top orange grower — it has caused the most damage in Florida, where urban sprawl and hurricane damage have helped shrink citrus groves to 501,396 acres, the lowest in 50 years. High salinity in water can weaken the trees, leaving them unable to fight the bacterium, and strong winds from Caribbean storms carry insects farther into healthy groves. There also are more small farms in Florida, and many have been abandoned or poorly maintained, allowing the insect to proliferate, according to Shatters.
“In Brazil, because they can control at such a large scale, they don’t have the ‘bad neighbor’ effect,” Shatters said. “They’re able to impose strict rules about removing infected trees, which they were able to apply with more clout, and they all abide by that.”
Partly because of this, Brazilian growers seem to be more successful than Floridians in battling the psyllids.
“Brazil and U.S. have adopted completely different strategies since the beginning,” said Ibiapaba Netto, executive director of industry group CitrusBR in Sao Paulo, the biggest producing state. “They spent everything in finding a ‘silver bullet’ against the greening, while we focused on controlling it.” Some farms have been able to contain the infection, and crops have been restored in some areas once devastated by the disease, “which means producers are getting more efficient in fighting it.”
Finding a permanent solution is difficult because the bacterium causing the disease can’t be cultured outside citrus groves, Shatters said. Still, “there’s hope” for Florida, as scientists pursue all possible options. Short-term fixes, including killing the bacterium with heat, “will provide a window of opportunity for the growers to remain productive while more mid-term and long-term solutions come down the road.”


DEP deputy administrator may lack environmental experience, but is an expert in hunting
Tampa Bay Times - Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
November 27, 2015
Three months after Gov. Rick Scott named Jon Steverson the new secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, Steverson hired a man with nearly zero environmental experience to serve as one of his top administrators.
Before getting the $125,000-a-year job as deputy secretary in charge of state lands and parks, Gary F. Clark had no prior experience working for DEP or for any other state agency, much less managing Florida's state park system.
He holds a bachelor's degree in business administration, not biology, from an online university. He has been vice president of a rural electrical co-operative, director of a bank, co-owner of a dozen Subway sandwich shops, a college trustee and chairman of the Washington County School Board. He has seldom traveled far from his Panhandle hometown of Chipley (population: 3,600).
But Clark, 47, does own and operate what's billed as "Northwest Florida's premier bobwhite quail hunting preserve."
"He must have been brought in to oversee the introduction of hunting to the state parks," said Jerry Phillips, a former DEP attorney who heads up the Florida chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a group that's frequently critical of the agency.
In announcing Clark's hiring this year, Steverson did not mention his new employee's hunting expertise.
"Gary brings a broad range of management experience, leadership skills and investment expertise to this position," Steverson said in April. "He will be a tremendous asset to the state and department."
Steverson and Clark were not made available for comment by the DEP. However, a statement released Wednesday by Steverson in response to the Times' questions praised Clark's leadership abilities and said he "is dedicated to the protection of our state parks and lands."
Steverson has made headlines over his proposal to make the state parks pay for themselves by opening them up to such activities as timber harvesting, cattle grazing and hunting.
He first announced his intentions in March in testimony to a legislative committee, in which he talked about bringing in timber harvesting and cattle grazing to help the parks boost their income. The parks are covering 77 percent of their expenses, he said then, but he wants that to be 100 percent.
Steverson did not mention hunting then, but internal DEP documents showed this summer that it was under consideration. This month, the Times reported on a checklist that park planners were required to use that included hunting as one activity that must be considered in reviewing every park, no matter where the location or how small — even Honeymoon Island State Park in Dunedin and Ybor City Museum State Park.
At a Nov. 18 Senate committee meeting, Steverson for the first time revealed what he has in mind regarding hunting. Larger parks — 30,000 acres, 20,000 acres — might benefit from managed hunts of animals like feral hogs for perhaps two weekends a year, as long as they don't harm the visitor experience.
The list of parks larger than 20,000 acres includes Crystal River Preserve State Park in Citrus County, Myakka River State Park near Sarasota, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in Collier County and Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park near Gainesville.
Steverson did not offer details on how limited hog hunting at those parks would help make them self-sufficient. He did promise that "no one will be firing high-powered rifles on Honeymoon Island or setting up tree stands in downtown Ybor City."
If hunting is introduced to state parks, Clark's hiring makes perfect sense, say former DEP employees who have been critical of Steverson's attempt to squeeze more money out of the parks.
Clark co-owns Hard Labor Creek Shooting Sports Inc., a 2,600-acre pine plantation. According to a recent profile in the Jackson County Floridan, Clark helps oversee the plantation's land management and hunting operations. In a 2013 article about the plantation on a hunting and fishing website, Mark S. "Corky" Decker called Clark "probably the best quail guide in the South."
In other words, he's "eminently qualified" to implement Steverson's plans for timber harvesting and hunting in the state parks, said Albert Gregory, a DEP retiree who worked for the park system for three decades — and who opposes Steverson's changes.
Documentary filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus, a friend of Clark's for years, took a less critical view: "If Gary follows his love for the outdoors and conservation, he will be a great asset in protecting the state lands of Florida."
Clark and Steverson met two years ago, while they were both with the Northwest Florida Water Management District. Clark, an appointee of Gov. Scott, served on the board. Steverson was executive director.
When Steverson hired Clark for the deputy director spot in March, the DEP staff was told the two men were friends, said Marianne Gengenbach, who until September worked in DEP's division of state lands as bureau chief of the office of environmental services.
Steverson, in his application to be DEP secretary, listed as a reference one person who also showed up on Clark's application to be appointed to the water district board: Public Service Commission member Jimmy Patronis, a former state representative who was widely praised by industry lobbyists and reviled by environmental activists for his annual effort to repeal as many DEP regulations as he could.
"He is a problem solver," Patronis said of Clark in an email last week. "Gary has incredible patience to work with folks at all levels. I have always found him to be honest, quick to respond."
Clark replaced Katy Fenton, who spent nearly a decade rising through the ranks of DEP to the deputy secretary position. A month after Steverson's appointment, she resigned to take a job with a private tech company.



Florida considers a bill that would regulate fracking, but preempt and overturn local bans
November 26, 2015
Florida is a state you don’t normally think of when it comes to fossil fuels – but the Legislature is considering a bill to regulate fracking. FSRN’s Seán Kinane reports, it’s not surprising that environmentalists want to derail the bill, they are opposed to fracking altogether. Business groups and fossil fuel companies are welcoming the measure even though it would mean new regulations for their industry, perhaps because it would strip local governments from banning the practice.
Much of the Florida peninsula is made of porous limestone and there are few oil or gas reserves. But two years ago a company surprised environmentalists in Southwest Florida. Karen Dwyer, an activist with the Stone Crab Alliance in Collier County says the Dan A. Hughes Company drilled near the Everglades and used acid and chemicals to help fracture the rock at a site called the Hogan Well.
“This was right in the Corkskrew Swamp sanctuary watershed. It was fracked by Dan A. Hughes [company] over New Year’s Eve in 2013,” explains Dwyer. “The state issued a cease and desist order when they found out about it, but they didn’t have enforcement power so they couldn’t actually stop that from continuing.”
The reason the state doesn’t have enforcement power is there are no laws allowing the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – the DEP – to regulate fracking in Florida. Not yet. Bills are working their way through the state House and Senate to study and regulate fracking. The House sponsor is Ray Rodriguez, a Republican from Collier County.
“The status quo has us in a position where technology has exceeded our statutory regulations. Under existing regulations fracking can occur in this state without a specific permit issued for this activity by DEP,” says Rodriguez. “All a company has to do is to come in, apply for a conventional drilling permit and then at a later time notify DEP via workover notice that they’re going to frack. And then DEP has to accept that, there’s nothing that can be done beyond that, statutorily. And so it’s my belief that we should have a specific permitting process for this activity here in the State of Florida and that was the genesis of this bill.”
Rodriguez pitched his bill this month to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, where it passed 9-4 along party lines. Before the vote, there was overwhelming opposition during public testimony — 35 residents opposed the bill. One was Rich Templin from the Florida AFL CIO. He said the broad membership of his labor union coalition voted to oppose fracking and this bill.
“A cross section of Florida directed us to oppose this legislation. I was surprised at first, but I guess I shouldn’t have been considering that 17 counties and almost 40 cities have passed resolutions against these drilling practices, many in districts represented by folks on the committee,” Templin says. “Now, we’re being told that we should welcome this bill because it brings a regulatory framework where none exists, that there are many experts on environmental regulations that can speak to that. But what else is in the bill? Well, lines 82-91 tells our members – the folks that directed us to be here today – that there’s no way they can take local action to protect their families and their communities.”
The bill as written would create statewide rules for fracking and override any local regulations or bans put in place by cities or counties. That means that municipalities would not have power to decide what industry practices are — and aren’t — acceptable in their communities. Moreover, it’s not clear what precedent a state-wide override could have on local regulations in any number of arenas. The lobbyists for the local communities, the Florida Association of Counties and Florida League of Cities, said they were working with the bill’s sponsors to address those concerns.
During public testimony only three people supported the bill. They were from the Florida Petroleum Council, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. David Mica, the director of the Florida Petroleum Council, says he is fine with this bill that would regulate fracking and initiate more studies of fracking in Florida because he says research shows fracking is safe and jobs would be created.
“We don’t believe as an industry that we want to just do more studies, but if it will satisfy – which I don’t think it will — many of the folks who do not want our operations to exist, not here, not anywhere,” says Mica. “And if they would just say that that would be fine. But you can’t just keep moving the ball. Because the studies keep showing on both sides of the aisle that we do a pretty darned good job. And it’s transformed America. It’s made us an energy-producing nation. It’s showing up in the prices for your constituents at the pumps. It’s making a difference. And I appreciate that question and we have a very good record with regard to water quality in that regard.”
But a Tallahassee doctor, Ronald Saff, who is a member of the Florida Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility counters that the kinds of jobs fracking will bring to Florida might not be the ones Mica has in mind: “There’s increased endocrine hospitalizations, hospitalizations for heart problems, urologic hospitalizations, skin problems. Sure, I think fracking will create jobs, I’ll give it to Mr. Mica and some of the others. But look at those jobs. I think there’s going to be an increase in grave diggers, morticians and funeral home directors.”
Florida Democrats have sponsored bills to ban fracking outright, but they haven’t seen the light of day in committee in the Republican-controlled legislature. If the fracking regulation bills continue to advance, the full House and Senate may get a chance to vote during Florida’s regular legislative session, which begins in January.
Related:           Counties oppose bills to pre-empt fracking bans



Why the Paris accords matter to Florida – by Alex Epstein
November 26, 2015
Starting Nov. 30, Floridians may want to keep a watchful eye on what world leaders say and do in Paris. The heads of 190 countries, including President Obama, are meeting for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change.
Their goal is to reach an international agreement that will stall — or even reverse — human progress.
That’s not how they see it, of course. Their stated objective is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which will require dramatically restricting fossil fuel usage. But the reality is that restricting fossil fuels, which provide 84 percent of Florida’s electricity, means abandoning the energy source that helped make the 21st century the best time in human history to be alive—not just in America, but around the world.
Fossil fuels helped shape most of the technological and economic advances we enjoy today. Oil, coal, and natural gas played little role in mankind’s development until the late 1700's. After we began to harness their potential, we went from no indoor plumbing to landing on the moon in less than 200 years.
The energy industry, the industry that powers every other industry, is fundamental to that progress. And the fossil fuel industry produces 85 percent of the world’s energy — for the simple reason that no other industry can come close in terms of affordability, availability, and reliability. The developing world, from China to India, has used fossil fuels to raise their standards of living for precisely this reason. And the United States is no exception: we get 83 percent of our power from fossil fuels, permitting almost all Americans — rich or poor — to have electricity.
This energy enables limitless productivity and innovation. We also use oil and gas to make countless products, including clothing, cellular phones, and lifesaving medical technology such as artificial heart valves, to name but a few of millions of examples. Even the protesters likely to urge leaders in Paris to ban fossil fuels altogether will themselves be carrying dozens of items made of the materials they condemn.
The advancement made possible by cheap, plentiful, reliable energy from fossil fuels extend to every realm of life, including our health and our environment. The more energy we have at our disposal, the more time and machine-power we have to fight nature’s many dangers and afflictions.
Data from the World Bank show a strong correlation between increased use of fossil fuels and decreased rates of malnutrition, youth mortality, and death by disease. Less than 80 percent of the world population had access to clean water in the 1990’s, but thanks to in part to fossil fuels, which help us purify and transport drinking water, that number has now grown to almost 90 percent.
Our environment is also far better. While we are taught that we lived in harmony with nature pre-fossil fuels, we actually lived and died at nature’s mercy — including the naturally merciless climate. Since major fossil fuel use began, the rate of deaths from climate-related causes fell 98 percent. Thank air-conditioning, heating, sturdy infrastructure, and disaster-relief tools—all of them powered by or made with fossil fuels.
Despite this evidence, many of the world leaders taking part in the Paris conference will promise to cut their nation’s fossil fuel usage. Many are even citing a “moral obligation” to do so. Yet if they succeed, they will deny countless people the comfortable life and continued progress that Floridians take for granted.
How is it moral to deny billions of people a better life? World leaders, President Obama included, should be looking for ways to advance human flourishing — handicap it. These days, it’s customary to condemn fossil fuels or call them a necessary evil at best. But for those who value human life, it’s only fair to say that fossil fuels are a necessary good.


Feds set boat fees for Everglades National Park - by Kevin Wadlow
November 25, 2015
A mandatory education class for boaters using Florida Bay waters within Everglades National Park will be free but a mandatory boat permit will cost.
Those proposals to protect the bay's shallow waters are written into the national park's new management plan but no start dates have been announced. 
Everglades staff briefed the advisory council members of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary at an October meeting.
Regional boaters using bay waters in the park will be assessed a fee "probably in the $50 to $70 range" to fund law enforcement, channel marking and management of new poll-or-troll zones, a sanctuary report says.
The permit fee likely will be lower for short-term visitors, and annual permit costs may be reduced in the first year of implementation. No start date has been announced.
The boater-education course, when approved, will be offered free online. Boaters planning to enter the park's bay waters, which cover about 800 square miles, can take the "e-course" at home. 
Kiosks also are proposed for the park's Flamingo base and at the National Park Service's Florida Bay Science Center on Key Largo.
The Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands, based at Indiana University, is designing the course with assistance from the National Parks Conservation Association, which designed the voluntary Eco-Mariner program.
"Boating visitors to Everglades National Park will hit the water with a wealth of knowledge and resources to protect them, their boat, and the amazing ecosystem they came to enjoy," an Eppley report says.
The education program, funded by a grant from the Florida Bay Stewardship Committee, is expected to debut sometime in 2016.
The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust based in the Keys is working with the University of Alabama "to develop a [geographical information system]   navigation app that will be tied to boater education."


clear spring dive

Gilchrist County and SRWMD work to restore Hart Springs
Florida Water Daily
November 25, 2015
Hart Springs a 2nd magnitude spring is flowing stronger thanks to a successful restoration project undertaken by Gilchrist County and the Suwannee River Water Management District (District). This collaborative partnership between the County and District, along with help from volunteers, has improved the health of the spring and the experience for visitors.
Over time sediment and portions of the retaining walls washed into the spring vents which significantly blocked the spring flow. In recent years Gilchrist County replaced the deteriorating retaining walls, constructed controlled access points to the spring and spring run and stabilized erosion issues around the springs. The County’s partnership with the District removed significant amounts of debris blocking the vents resulting in improved spring flow.
Noah Valenstein, District executive director said, “The restoration of Hart Springs accomplished three significant tasks. This project reinvigorates the local economy, provides a source of recreation and protects a priceless natural resource.”
“The joint efforts of Gilchrist County and Suwannee River Water Mangemant working together for a common goal has helped preserve the future of Hart Springs,” Said Bobby Crosby, Jr., Gilchrist County Administrator.
“Thanks to the Suwannee River Water Mangement District, senators and representatives of Florida for seeing the importance of the natural springs and providing funding for preservation of the springs.” Collective actions have restored the spring, and removed hazards, improved water quality and quantity as well as the safety of the spring for all to enjoy.
The District contributed $76,700 towards the restoration project and the County provided in-kind services towards the Hart Springs restoration.


Orlando residents battle developers over industrial project that could impact wetland property 
Orlando Weekly - by Monivette Cordeiro
November 25, 2015
In between West New Hampshire Street and WD Judge Drive in West Orlando, Marchelle Robinson and her neighbors have what she calls "a little piece of heaven."
Away from the traffic and skyscrapers of downtown, this primarily African-American neighborhood close to the city's boundary is also home to about 36 acres of wetlands that are part of the Little Wekiva River Watershed. Water from the property drains into a canal that flows to nearby Lake Lawne, the headwaters of the Little Wekiva River.
"There's no lights," Robinson says. "No noise. No people. We just have the animals and the crickets. Everything is wonderful."
But that could soon change.
Robinson and her neighbors have been fighting for months now against developers who want to build an industrial park called Princeton Oaks on the 123-acre property that includes the wetlands. Developers say Princeton Oaks could create new jobs for Orlando's District 5, which is in need of them.
The Princeton Oaks project wouldn't be unusual for the area. Currently, other industrial warehouses, including one for Frito-Lay, and car dealerships surround the community. The project proposes wiping out almost nine acres of wetlands and the remaining forest to build 11 structures and a road through the property. It would conserve about 27 acres of wetlands in the middle. At a quasi-judicial hearing to determine the fate of the project last week, Robinson and other residents remained unconvinced that it would be good for their neighborhood.
"This has changed what I feel about Orlando, because I thought it was supposed to be for the people, not just for big business," she says. "You just closed us in by industrial parks. That's environmental injustice if I've ever seen it in my life."
Before the 1.03 million-square-foot project was called Princeton Oaks, city officials and residents knew it as Princeton Village.
Trusts for Nancy Rossman and Scott Gold owned the land along WD Judge Drive when it was still part of Orange County. In 2005, KB Homes submitted an application to Orlando to have the property annexed into the city. KB Homes planned to build Princeton Village, a complex consisting of 1,275 dwelling units, 300,000 square feet of retail space and an elementary school. In a 2011 growth-projection report, the city called Princeton Village one of the most significant retail developments in the city's northwest sector, and the elementary school was projected to open between 2021 and 2025.
Somewhere along the way, the project fizzled out, and in 2014, according to city emails, CNL Commercial Real Estate and the Orlando office of engineering firm VHB proposed an industrial use for the site.
The application for the project, made by Jim Hall of VHB, asked the city's Municipal Planning Board to change the property's zoning designation from low residential to industrial and amend the existing planned development to allow an industrial park. Developers paid Joel Thomson of Thomson Environmental Consulting to do an environmental study of the land, which was included in the application.
Thomson classified the wetlands on the property as "low quality" due to a history of on-site and regional hydrologic impacts. The environmental scientist said he found two burrows potentially occupied by gopher tortoises, which are listed in Florida as a threatened species. Thomson did not find activity of any other protected species.
In July, before the planning board meeting, the developers had a community meeting, but only 12 residents attended. In early August 43 courtesy notices were sent to residents and businesses within 400 feet of the property, according to city emails. Biologist Dr. Wanda Jones, who lives one block away from the industrial park, attended the planning board meeting on Aug. 18 when the board approved the project.
Jones, her mother, Mamie Jones, and Robinson are spearheading the opposition to the project. They attended an Oct. 19 City Council meeting at which the city was voting on future land-use designations and a truck policy for the property, but the council could not vote on the zoning ordinance because Jones had filed a petition for a quasi-judicial hearing.
"There have been a number of studies that have been conducted by the Center for Disease Control, by OSHA and a number of prestigious universities that prove that diesel exhaust fumes lead to lung cancer, lead to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, blood clots and also genetic mutations," Jones told council members. "This environmental injustice tends to happen in African-American neighborhoods. This doesn't seem to happen often in Caucasian neighborhoods."
Jones also cited environmental concerns, excess noise, traffic and the fact that the neighborhood is already surrounded by industry. City Planning Division manager Dean Grandin said the industrial park would be more of a corporate center, allowing for light assembly, warehouses and offices. Commissioner Regina Hill, who represents the district where Princeton Oaks will be, told residents she saw joblessness in the area.
"There's over 600 jobs created with this project right there in that corridor," she said. "We're not talking about high-tech jobs, we're talking about workforce jobs. ... Most people are for progress in that corridor called Mercy Drive because there has been so much hopelessness and despair for a very long time."
Tensions ran high last Wednesday as both sides tried to convince a hearing officer of their arguments.
Attorneys for the developers and the property owners said in their response to Jones' petition that she had not provided any factual evidence for her claims the project would damage neighbors' health and impact the environment.
"It is evident from the face of the petition that Petitioner is opposing the project simply because she wants the property to be utilized for a conservation area ... and not for any valid land-development concerns," the response says.
Attorney Becky Wilson says her clients' proposed development will lessen the traffic impact to the area, preserve wetlands that Princeton Villages would have stripped away completely and create jobs in a district that needs them.
The residents told the hearing officer they were several small Davids fighting an influential and wealthy Goliath. City election finance records show that CNL Financial Group, the parent company of CNL Commercial Real Estate, and VHB donated money to Mayor Buddy Dyer's recent campaign for re-election, to the tune of $7,000 and $500, respectively.
One of the parcel's owners, Nancy Rossman, is no stranger to the Central Florida real estate community. In 2001, Rossman and a business partner bought 1,584 acres near the Wekiva River for $7 million that Florida had shown interest in for preservation, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Five years later, when the state wanted the land for the Wekiva River Parkway project, she sold it to them for $74 million.
Community organizer and former candidate for District 5's City Council seat Lawanna Gelzer, who came to support the residents who don't want the development in their midst, says environmental injustice affects communities of color at disproportionate rates.
"We constantly see our way of life and what we're accustomed to changing for big business and big developers and we're just tired of it," she says. "I'll consider myself a David, because David did bring down Goliath."
The hearing officer in the case has 45 days to issue a decision to City Council.



Environmentalists say Scott budget doesn't go far enough - by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
November 24, 2015,
Gov. Rick Scott is proposing more money for land preservation next year, but environmentalists say the levels fall short of what voters wanted in passing a 2014 constitutional amendment.
As part of his proposed $79.3 billion budget introduced Monday, Scott is asking for $62.8 million for the land-acquisition program Florida Forever, $188 million for work to improve the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee and another $50 million to help maintain the state's natural springs.
Scott called his proposal a "historic investment" as all the numbers top the funding for the current year.
Scott is also asking the Legislature to provide $10 million for the Florida Communities Trust Program, which provides matching grants to local communities for land buying.
Environmentalists praised Scott for his attention to the Everglades and his effort to fund the communities trust.
But they also contend the overall funding should be higher in light of the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2014 and controversial spending decisions made by the Legislature this year. Those decisions, which included using money to cover agency operations, are the focus of two lawsuits.
"We're going to work with him and the Legislature to try to get those numbers up," said Will Abberger, campaign manager for Florida's Water and Land Legacy, the group behind the 2014 measure known as Amendment 1.
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The Nature Conservancy lobbyist Janet Bowman said she will also work to include funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which has been championed and used in the past by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The program buys conservation easements over agricultural land.
The conservancy also will seek to "increase funding for the purchase of strategically important critical natural lands under the Florida Forever program; for example, the protection of critical habitat corridors for Florida panthers that are highly ranked on the Florida Forever list," Bowman added.
The land-preservation money --- along with additional spending on water-supply projects and the maintenance of state parks, beaches and even a few coastal projects aimed at addressing "sea level rise" --- would be funded under Amendment 1, which requires for 20 years that 33 percent of an existing tax on real-estate documentary-stamps go for land and water maintenance and acquisition across Florida.
Amendment 1 is expected to generate $905 million during the fiscal year that starts July 1, according to the governor's office. The voter-backed measure was projected to generate $740 million in the current fiscal year.
Legislators, when piecing together the current year's land-acquisition funding, argued there is already an overabundance of Florida land in government ownership.
Scott's funding proposals represent a $45 million increase for the Everglades, an $11.5 million boost to natural springs and nearly $50 million more for Florida Forever.
Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said in a release the money to complete restoration projects "is something desperately needed."
"Whether it's Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, or Florida Bay, the solution to these water crises is completed Everglades projects," Eikenberg said in a prepared statement.
Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said he had hoped Scott would maintain a $150 million funding request for Florida Forever the governor made a year ago.
"The economy is booming. People are moving to Florida. Florida is becoming more crowded all the time. So why can't we invest more money into protecting land?" Draper said. "This is not an adequate budget for the environment."
The Legislature-approved funding for the current year, particularly the use of $237 million to offset state agency operating costs, salaries and buying motor vehicles, has spurred two lawsuits.
Asked about Scott's funding proposals for next year, Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller said in an email that issue may not be settled until after the 2016 legislative session gets underway in January.
"The judicial timelines and the legislative calendar are not on the same schedule so we could be well into the next session or even later before the courts make their final rulings on this matter," Fuller said.
The Florida Wildlife Federation, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and the Sierra Club want a Leon County circuit judge to require state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to transfer $237 million from the General Revenue Fund to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, which is used to carry out Amendment 1, and to declare exactly what lawmakers can and can't do with the Amendment 1 money.
Meanwhile, the Florida Defenders of the Environment wants a Leon County circuit judge to block the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of State, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission from spending the dollars in the current fiscal year.
Thomas Hawkins, executive director for the Florida Defenders, said in an email on Monday that "all Amendment 1 money should be used to acquire and restore conservation lands."
"Florida Defenders has made a legal challenge to the improper spending in the last budget and will closely examine additional action if future budgets similarly misspend taxpayers' dollars," Hawkins said in his email.
Related:           Environmentalists Say Governor's Budget Doesn't Go Far Enough  WGCU News
Rick Scott budget is chock-full o' freedom    Creative Loafing Tampa
Compilation of reactions to Gov. Scott's 2016-17 budget proposal   SaintPetersBlog (blog)
Editorial: Scott's environmental budget


Some slippery ciphering on new state budget
St.Augustine Record - Editorial
November 24, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott this week unveiled his budget proposal for the new fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016.
His new budget is $1.1 billion more than last year, and the cornerstone of the new document is about $1 billion in tax cuts, predominately on manufacturing. He wants an additional $250 million to lure new businesses to the state.
On the flip side, he’s touting an increase in education spending to what he terms “historic levels.” He has also announced funding increases for Everglades and Lake Okeechobee restoration projects and another $50 million to protect and maintain the quality of Florida’s springs.
Mark Twain once quipped that “there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.”
Scott’s budget does seem to employ some slippery bookkeeping and some well-drawn financial misdirection plays.
There are myriad ways to measure school funding, but the two Scott likes to tout are total education spending and per student spending. His $20.2 billion school budget is the highest in state history, but does not take into account that there are 100,000 more students in the state than when he took office. Neither is the spending total tied to inflation. Economists insist that actual spending is down from 10 years ago.
His per pupil spending, likewise, appears to be record-setting and is — in a way. What we’re not being told is the state’s general fund is lowering its previous share of the responsibility, which is being shifted squarely onto the backs of the state’s property owners, rather than the potpourri of sales taxes and other revenue sources that have historically funded school spending. So he’s not spending more of “his” money, he’s spending “ours.”
On Scott’s environmental funding hikes, there’s more sleight of hand than financial shuffling.
Yes, more money is going toward some critical environmental priorities.
But you may remember that voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 1 in 2014, which set aside 33 percent of an existing tax on real estate documentary stamps for land acquisition and conservation. In the coming fiscal year, that’s expected to generate $905 million. The money generated was earmarked to “acquire and improve conservation easements, wildlife management areas, wetlands, forests, fish and wildlife habitats, beaches and shores, recreational trails and parks, urban open space, rural landscapes, working farms and ranches, historical and geological sites...
As soon as Amendment 1 was put on the ballot, lawmakers were staying up nights contriving ways to pilfer that sack of money — and did it with great vigor. Some of these raids have been turned back.
But the big grab swiped from the Amendment 1 pot the operating budgets of the DEP and other state agencies, which were previously bankrolled from the general fund.
There are currently two lawsuits pending by environmental groups challenging the legality of that financial shell game, seeking to return to its rightful place the $237 million hijacked to make agency payrolls. That is protecting, acquiring and increasing public access to wild or endangered lands.
Scott has also poked the beehive of federal hospital funding, which blew the first legislative session apart back in the spring. He’s cutting dollars for indigent care, basically saying that hospitals are making plenty of money as is: This from the CEO who oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in the nation’s history for which his company paid $1.7 billion in fines.
So, we’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt on this last one. He seems to understand how hospitals make money.
Related:           Scott's Everglades budget spot on; falls short on land conservation ...


Unwanted chicken farm prompts land regulation, environmental concerns - by Shayna Tanen
November 24, 2015
One month after a controversial chicken farm was brought to the attention of Columbia County commissioners, residents are still waiting for answers and change.
The farm is still being constructed, but some residents are concerned about the county land-use regulations that allowed it to be built so close to Florida waters.
Betsy Thomason said she lives about a mile away from JTC Farm Chicken Houses, located at Wilson Springs Road and Southwest Briar Patch Terrace. The property is about two miles away from the Santa Fe River. The wooden frames of chicken houses are already being built.
Thomason started an online petition one day before the Oct. 15 county commission meeting to protest the construction of the chicken farm, she said. By Nov. 19, the petition reached 3,284 signatures.
“I started the petition… because I wanted to show the county commissioners how important it was to everybody,” she said. “And it didn’t seem to have much impact on the county commissioners, and so we realized that we had to keep fighting.”
Thomason then filed a petition for an administrative hearing with the Suwannee River Water Management District, which issued the only permit on file for the farm. She also began a fundraiser for legal aid in changing the county’s intensive agriculture regulations.
She said that bad county zoning allowed the 12-house chicken farm to open. It could house up to 270,000 chickens.
“People that do have farms just have a few acres and a few head of cattle or horses,” she said. “There is nothing around here within miles that has anything compared to the scope of anything that this chicken factory has.”
The farm is on Agriculture-3 land, which according to Columbia County land development regulations (LDRs), allows all agricultural activities, including raising livestock and poultry — except in intensive agricultural uses in high groundwater recharge areas, as defined by the county’s comprehensive plan.
The Columbia County Comprehensive Plan shows that the chicken farm is located on an area of high recharge potential to the Floridan Aquifer. This means that if surface water is contaminated, there is a possibility that the water will reach the aquifer, which supplies drinking water to Floridians.
Randy Jones, the county building and zoning coordinator, said the land has been classified as Agriculture-3 since 1986 when zoning was instituted in Columbia County. Jones confirmed that there have been no changes to the LDRs since then, and it is up to the board of county commissioners to revise the definitions of LDRs.
“Eighty-five percent of Columbia County is agriculturally loaned,” he said. “It doesn’t preclude agricultural uses in the higher recharge areas — just precludes how you can do some of it.”
Practices that may be called intensive agriculture and are not allowed on Agriculture-3 land must receive an industrial waste and wastewater permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
As a result of the October commission meeting, County Attorney Joel Foreman contacted the DEP to determine if the permit was required. In a November email, Foreman said that the DEP determined that the permit was not required.
This means the land cannot be controlled using intensive agriculture regulations.
“They (DEP) do assessments based on their projections for runoff for the type of operation proposed, and they do not consider chicken “broiler” operations like this one to be high water runoff operations,” Foreman wrote in an email.
Foreman also confirmed with WUFT in an email that because projected runoff for these broiler operations is minimal, the DEP does not need to analyze the environment or area where the farm is located to determine possible environmental damage.
However, Jenny Huynh, the owner of the chicken farm, is collaborating with the DEP to make a formal permit determination, according to DEP Press Officer Jess Boyd.
Boyd said that this could take several months, and the farm can continue construction as a decision is being reached.
WUFT attempted to reach Jenny Huynh or Larry Huynh for comment, but was unsuccessful. Attempts to contact a representative of Pilgrim’s Pride, the company that contracted the farm, about its runoff practices and standards were also unsuccessful.
Despite the DEP’s conclusion that farms of this nature do not create runoff water, John Jopling, the president of the Ichetucknee Alliance, still has concerns.
“We have a concern about the Floridan Aquifer in general of course, because it’s the same water that feeds our Ichetucknee springs,” Jopling said.
He added that it “is the same water that we all drink from. And that aquifer is particularly vulnerable in this area: the area of Southern Columbia County.”
Jopling said that nitrate levels in the Ichetucknee are already too high, and if nitrates from chicken feces go into the ground, it will go directly into the aquifer.
“So to allow an operation that is going to make worse a problem that we’ve already acknowledged exists is ridiculous,” he said.
The key to this issue, Jopling said, is rezoning and changing the definitions of existing LDRs.
“Columbia County could — and we believe should — adopt strict zoning. They should have a springs protection zone” Jopling said. “They have little signs that remind people all along the roadway that this is a spring shed, but they don’t have anything with any teeth in it,” he said.
By the end of the year, Jopling said the Ichetucknee Alliance intends to present county planners, commissioners and staff with solid evidence as to why zoning should be changed.
“I don’t think anything has been done about that so far, but we believe that is the key from preventing this sort of thing from happening again, and more broadly to protect the Ichetucknee and the Santa Fe from this kind of nitrate pollution,” he said.
District Two Commissioner Rusty DePratter said in an email that he agreed with County Attorney Foreman about the county’s legal position in dealing with the chicken farm.
If no wastewater permit is required, for now, the Agriculture-3 zoning allows the farm to operate, and legally, the county cannot do anything to stop it.


Another View: Sunshine State government still in dark
November 23, 2015
Florida is known as the Sunshine State, but that bright and cheery appellation turns dreary when evaluating its policies on open government. There's a cloud over accountability for public officials.
In a national study for the USA Today Network by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, Florida earned a cumulative grade of D-minus and a ranking of 30th among the states for government transparency and accountability. States were evaluated according to 13 criteria, including public access to information, executive and legislative accountability, electoral oversight, budget processes and ethics standards.
The Center for Public Interest was a tough grader — no state earned higher than a C. Eleven states were assigned failing grades.
But given the money and power the public has entrusted them with, governments should be held to high standards.
Florida's evaluation wasn't a total bust. Its highest grade was a B in internal auditing, and it got a C-plus in legislative accountability (which ranked second in the nation). But it was D's and worse the rest of the way, including F's in seven categories.
Among the high-profile failings were access to information and the state's budget process, neither of which should come as a surprise.
Florida prides itself on having one of the first and strongest Sunshine Laws, which ensure public access to government records and meetings. Yet, the Legislature annually passes new exemptions to the law, which slowly but steadily chip away at the public's right to know. Few of the measures are considered major changes, but after awhile it becomes death by a thousand tiny cuts.
The Center for Public Interest study criticized Florida for not holding accountable the public officials and administrators who withhold documents. In addition, the state said the process for requesting documents can become drawn out, sometimes for months. Complainants can be forced to hire a lawyer, but because the loser must pick up the fees and court costs it can become prohibitively expensive, which discourages many from making the effort. Both situations create incentives for government not to comply with records requests.
Meanwhile, the state budget continues to be a sore spot, as much of the negotiating occurs behind closed doors, and money is dropped into it at the last minute. Florida's F in this category ranked 49th out of 50 states. That's disgraceful.
Floridians don't need letter grades and rankings to know that the state has failed them in transparency and accountability. Just this year there have been scandals in Tallahassee regarding the roles Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet had in firing the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for political reasons, and the surreptitious way the state has been shaking up the administrations of water management districts.
Policy choices and their trade-offs are debatable, and no side has a monopoly on wisdom and truth. However, what's ironclad is the importance of making sure those discussions, and the materials that inform them, are open and accessible to the public. Florida needs to up its game in those responsibilities.



Everglades restoration would get bump under budget proposal
Naples Daily News
November 23, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott wants to boost dollars for Everglades restoration next year but falls short on money environmentalists say is needed to buy land for conservation under the Florida Forever program.
Scott unveiled Monday his proposed budget for fiscal 2016 and wants the Legislature to allocate $151 million for Everglades restoration and projects that help the Indian River Lagoon. That's an increase of $45 million over this year's budget, according to his office.
Scott also wants to reserve $5 billion over 20 years for the Everglades, a measure he proposed for this year's budget but which the Legislature didn't adopt. The money would come from Amendment 1, approved last year by voters to set aside funds for land and water conservation.
Environmentalists supported Scott's proposal, saying it's important to secure future money for Everglades projects such as the C-44 Canal reservoir in Martin County, which cleans St. Lucie River water.
"Securing a dedicated, recurring revenue stream for restoration projects ... is something desperately needed," said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation chief executive officer, via a news release.
Eric Draper, Audubon Florida executive director, said Scott's Everglades proposal is spot on, but hoped to see more for Florida Forever, the state program that buys lands for habitat protection and parks.
Scott's budget proposes $63 million for the program. Yet only $35 million would go to buy new land for preservation, but that money also could go to water management districts to develop projects to increase water supply, according to language tucked in Scott's budget bill.
The remaining $28 million would pay for land acquisition necessary for Everglades restoration projects already on the books: the Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands project in Miami-Dade County, a water storage project in Lake Hicpochee in Glades County and the Picayune Strand restoration near Naples.
Scott's budget includes more than $185 million for land acquisition and additional land management activities, which is a $13.5 million increase from this year, according to a news release.
Draper said Florida Forever should receive $100 million, closer to the roughly $300 million it used to get before the economic recession. A group of environmentalists drafted Amendment 1 to boost the program's funding. The measure sets aside 33 percent of real estate tax revenue to buy, restore and manage land and water resources.
"When you measure (Scott's) budget by what voters voted on, it's not what voters expected," Draper said.
The Legislature will decide how to allocate money in the state budget during its 2016 session from January through March. This year, lawmakers allocated $17.4 million for Florida Forever despite criticism by environmentalists. There are two lawsuits pending over the Legislature's use of Amendment 1 to pay for routine operating expenses, such as salaries and benefits, of the state's environmental and land programs.


Murphy hails groundbraking of C-44 Indian River Lagoon South reservoir - Florida
November 23, 2015
U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) joined Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy and other federal, state, and local officials to mark a major milestone in Everglades restoration efforts to benefit Treasure Coast waterways at a groundbreaking ceremony for the reservoir component of the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) project. With a storage capacity of 16 billion gallons, this 3,400-acre reservoir is the largest component of the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project, which once completed will reduce harm to the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon by providing water storage and treatment areas
WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 20, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) joined Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy and other federal, state, and local officials to mark a major milestone in Everglades restoration efforts to benefit Treasure Coast waterways at a groundbreaking ceremony for the reservoir component of the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) project. With a storage capacity of 16 billion gallons, this 3,400-acre reservoir is the largest component of the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project, which once completed will reduce harm to the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon by providing water storage and treatment areas.
“Continued progress to improve water quality throughout the entire system can only be achieved through collaboration across all agencies, levels of government, and the community. So while today’s groundbreaking of this vital reservoir is a major milestone, we also know that our work is not done in the fight to protect our waterways,” said Rep. Murphy. “Together, we will see the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project and other vital Everglades restoration efforts come to completion, providing the relief our local waterways so desperately need after being inundated by toxic discharges for decades.”
“The Obama Administration has already invested $2.2 billion in the restoration of the Everglades and today marks yet another groundbreaking on a project that will restore the most biologically diverse estuarine system? in the United States,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.  “We will save this system and preserve it for future generations.”
The St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are vital to the Treasure Coast, and their health and well-being has been one of Congressman Murphy’s top priorities.  As a native Floridian, he has focused on protecting our environment and the role it plays in our future, our economy, and our entire way of life.  Since his first days in office, Congressman Murphy has been a vocal advocate for both long-term and short-term solutions to improve the health of local waterways, including the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project.
Murphy C-44 Advocacy in the 114th Congress:
●  Successfully advocated the Administration for full funding of $60 million for the Army Corps to continue construction on phase two of the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project, which was included in the President’s fiscal year 2016. 
●  This followed Murphy’s successful advocacy of full funding for this critical project in the President’s fiscal year 2015 budget, which was also passed by the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress during the appropriations process with bipartisan support.
●  With full C-44 funding included in the President’s budget, Murphy successfully advocated for full Everglades funding– including the full $60 million for C-44 – in the House Energy & Water Appropriations Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support.
●  Additionally, Murphy offered an amendment to this bill that was passed by the House to increase the Army Corps’ environmental restoration funding by $1 million to help them keep vital projects to help the Indian River Lagoon, including the C-44 reservoir, moving forward.
●  Advocating for full funding for the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project, resulting in the Army Corps’ ability to continue moving forward on this vital work with the award of a major construction contract for the reservoir component of the project.
●  For his leadership and dedication to protecting the Everglades in Congress, including advocacy on behalf of the Indian River Lagoon and the C-44 project to help local waterways, Murphy was recognized by the Everglades Coalition with their distinguished James D. Webb Public Service Award at their 2015 conference.
Murphy C-44 Advocacy in the 113th Congress:
●  After successfully advocating for the President to prioritize in his budget the full funding request for FY15 to begin phase 2 of the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project, Murphy successfully advocated for full Everglades funding, including this $38 million for C-44, in the House Energy & Water Appropriations Act that passed the House with bipartisan support.
●  Called on the Senate to act to pass this funding measure, preserving this full funding amount for C-44.
●  Advocating for the President to prioritize funding for the C-44 project which resulted in the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2015 including $66 million for the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Program, and $38 million to finish phase 1 of the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project and begin phase 2.
●  Requesting the President visit the area to witness the pollution firsthand.
●  Hosting a historic bipartisan Congressional briefing on issues affecting the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, bringing national attention to the issue of toxic waters that have been plaguing the Treasure Coast with over 100 members of the community and over 20 Members of Congress participating.
Meeting with top agency officials to get federal agencies more involved, including showing the head of the Army Corps issue firsthand.
●  Bringing Congressional leaders to tour the damaged areas, bringing attention to the ongoing crisis.
●  Supporting Army Corps funding to complete the C-44 reservoir project to help filter water flowing into the St. Lucie.
●  For his advocacy on behalf of the Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie Estuary, and Everglades restoration projects – including the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project – Murphy was recognized as the2014 Champion of the Everglades by Audubon Florida as well as receiving Keep Martin Beautiful’ s Environmental Leadership Award in 2014.
- See more at:
Related:           Reservoir construction underway for Everglades restoration project WaterWorld


Council members consider next move after stormwater assessment fails – by Christopher O’Donnell, Tampa Tribune staff
November 22, 2015
TAMPA — One day after a divided city council voted down a new stormwater assessment, emotions still simmered on both sides.
“This makes me angry,” tweeted Councilwoman Lisa Montelione, who voted for the new tax to tackle some of the city’s most notorious flood hot spots.
Colleague Yvonne Yolie Capin, who voted against the new assessment, was equally upset, bristling at criticism of her and other council members for not backing the city plan that she said was too expensive since it would not fix all the city’s flooding issues.
“When we assess the people and their streets still flood, who are they going to come after: the mayor or the city council ?” she asked.
Severe flooding at the start of August had heightened the urgency for the city to finally address long-standing flooding problems at locations like Dale Mabry Highway and Henderson Boulevard. Even before then, city officials had worked for months drafting the $251 million plan to improve the city’s aging drainage system.
That momentum crashed to a halt with the council’s 4-3 rejection Thursday, leading supporters of the plan to ask “what now?”
“We have to address these issues,” Montelione said. “We cannot sit and pretend that just upgrading our maintenance schedule after what we already have is going to alleviate this flooding.”
Under city rules, only the four council members who voted down the plan can bring it back up for a vote. The city, however, can revise its plan and resubmit it to the council.
But it seems unlikely that any of the four council members who voted down the plan will reconsider it in its current form.
Capin said the city should use the money it got from the BP settlement and tackle whatever project is the most pressing. The city’s plan was too broad and put too much burden on too many low-income residents, she said.
“Pick what you want to fix and fix it,” she said. “I didn’t see prioritization. I saw a smorgasboard menu.”
Frank Reddick, whose East Tampa district includes some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, said it would be unfair for residents there to pay for better drainage in more well-heeled areas like South Tampa that are more flood prone.
The new 30-year assessment would cost the owner of an average-size home $98 per year. The city was planning to phase in the new tax over six years to make it easier for low-income residents. But the new fee would have been on top of the annual assessment for stormwater services, which council agreed in September to increase from $36 to $82.
Retiree Jo Norton, who lives with her husband, Willie Norton, in their East Tampa home, said she was relieved she will not have to pay the new assessment.
The couple live on social security and a small pension and struggle to pay for Willie Norton’s dialysis treatments.
“I feel like they were looking out for the elderly people,” she said. “We’re barely making it as it is. I have to buy gas and groceries on credit cards.”
The Nortons, however, may have been eligible for a new hardship program that would give assistance to elderly people, veterans with a disability related to their service and people whose disability prevents them from working.
City officials argued that the new assessment was fair because residents would benefit even if their local streets are flood free since they drive all over the city to get to stores and their workplace.
But critics questioned why that logic was not applied citywide. Areas north of Fowler Avenue, MacDill Air Force Base and parts of Harbour Island would have been exempted because those communities have already built stormwater infrastructure and do not burden the city’s system.
There was also concern that a program that gives a mitigation credit to property owners who paid for ponds or ditches or other ways to capture storm runoff did not provide enough of an incentive.
Arguably the stormwater vote may have been toughest for District 6 Councilman Guido Maniscalco, whose diverse district includes several flood hot spots but is also home to many low-income residents.
The city’s plan included three major drainage projects that are either in or abut his West Tampa district. This includes the $40 million upper peninsula project to install box culverts from Beach Park to the intersection of Henderson and Dale Mabry Highway.
Now, those projects, which required matching grants from the Southwest Florida Water Management District, will be put on indefinite hold, and the city is likely to cancel its grant applications.
Maniscalco said he would rather see the city address individual flood hot spots, possibly through the creation of an enterprise fund or by creating small taxing districts so residents pay only for drainage improvements in their own neighborhoods.
“You’re addressing the issues in parts of the city that are the most prone to flooding without having to burden other neighborhoods like Ybor City and East Tampa that don’t see so much flooding,” he said.
That will result in a piecemeal approach that won’t address all the city’s flooding issues since many of the city’s drainage basins are connected, countered Councilman Mike Suarez, who supported the new assessment.
“There is serious flooding in every part of the city,” he said.
Suarez said he hopes city officials will come up with a revised plan that the council can support but admitted he doesn’t yet know what that is. “I’ll sit down with the administration and legal department and possibly public works folks and figure out what the next steps might be and how we might be able to solve this problem,” he said.
Related:           Tampa Rejects Stormwater Fee to Address Flooding Problems        Florida Water Daily

An old Florida way of life shrinks in the swamps of the Everglades – by Joseph Cranney
November 21, 2015
FROM THE DECK OF AN AIRBOAT IN THE EVERGLADES – The airboat pushes off from the dirt bank around 10 a.m. Propelled by the engine of a small plane, it heads north. Tracy Lange uses the sandal of his right foot to press the gas pedal. He's in a rush to get back to the place that feels like home.
The airboat thrashes through sawgrass marshes in the Everglades. It's Sunday morning and the clear sky allows a panoramic view of the buttonwood and cypress trees. Bugs collide with a boater's face the way flies would a windshield of a highway truck. Birds, with a dearth of good perches, seem to hang in an endless swoop.
Lange, 49 and thin, wears a white T-shirt and cargo shorts and a chain around his neck. He keeps a pack of Marlboro Gold in the shirt's left breast pocket. His goatee is graying below his chin and his baseball cap is fraying at the brow.
Lange, who lives in East Naples, guides the airboat from the ramp on U.S. 41 east, near Tippy's Outpost, to the swamplands south of I-75 and east of the Miccosukee Reservation. He is hurrying to one of the last remaining spots in South Florida where he and his crew of buddies can have a good ol' time.
Here, these so-called gladesmen swim alongside alligators in dark water, sleep in swamp camps and accelerate their airboats to lethal speeds.
It's a lifestyle with a shrinking appeal, and Lange and his friends don't want it to die. They've seen what has happened in Collier County, where hunting areas and four-wheeling tracks have been erased by golf courses and condominiums. And they notice the transformation encroaching inland to the Everglades National Park, where new rules were recently passed that restrict park use.
But in Area 3A, owned by the South Florida Water Management District, airboaters are free to glide through the muck without worrying too much about trail designations or government encroachment.
From his seat raised several feet off the slip, Lange uses his left hand to work a lever that turns the airboat's rudders. He steers the airboat toward marsh patches that look thick until the airboat barrels over them.
The airboat is oblong and seems remarkably capable of capsizing. Watch out for tree stumps and rocks, Lange says, as he continues to plow through an area filled with tree stumps and rocks.
The airboat glides for a half hour before stopping at The Monument. The Monument is a patch of trees where boaters meet to smoke and figure out where they're going next.
On another boat, Mike Frye shows up with Lange's brother, Randy.
"What took you so long?" Lange says. "You stop for coffee or something?"
Frye, 61, is the eldest of the group. He's been airboating since the 1970s when Butch Kent, his Naples Middle School buddy, got him hooked. Kent had a swamp buggy. Every weekend, the pair would tell their parents, "I'll see you Sunday night," and take off into the woods.
Frye, who lives in Golden Gate Estates, has five children. His son airboats. His daughter airboats. Frye wants his grandkids to live this Old Florida life while they still can.
But airboating areas are shrinking. New rules in the Everglades National Park that were passed last month are meant to phase out airboating in the park. The National Park Service says implementing the plan will take years, but only boaters that can prove they had registered airboats in 1989 will be allowed to continue to airboat recreationally. The permits are non-transferrable. As the elders die, so will this old hobby.
"They're trying to close all this down and they're saving it for posterity," said Frye, who is also a member of the airboat association of Florida. "But you're making it so the present-day generations don't get a chance to experience it."
The group heads next to Randy's Camp. It's called Randy's Camp because Randy Lange constructed most of it by hand, using 4x4's and 3x8's he brought by airboat, one trip at a time, to the middle of nowhere.
But the camp, a cabin erected over the swamp, is miraculously livable. It sleeps four to six people. There's air conditioning, a full bathroom and a TV. The kitchen pantry is stocked with canned vegetables, grits and coffee. There's a dock outside for fishing.
Another friend, Sue, grabs a rod and puts a line in the water.
Randy, 57, added the amenities after the former owner died and Randy became the main tenant. The camp's structure, with a long wooden dock, was put in decades before.
"In 1973, it was built," Randy says. "Jimmy Sparks built it. He had a camp on the Indian land. When the Indians took over, he built this. And then he died. Everyone's dying off."
The land is owned by the water management district but monitored by the state. The Department of Environmental Protection inspects the camp sites in Area 3A every year. Last year, Randy says, the state made him remove an 85-foot finger dock (the DEP couldn't confirm this). He said officials told him the dock extended beyond the camp's approved footprint.
"They want this land," Randy said. "They want all of it, so they can protect it against you."
Then Sue shrieks from the end of the fishing dock.
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" she screams. "I got a fish!"
She pulls a 10-inch Oscar out of the water. The fish is dark and orange and slimy.
A friend grabs the fish with his right hand and uses his left hand to wrench the hook free. He hands the fish to Sue, who holds it for a photo. Then the fish pops out of Sue's hands and one of the fish's barb's pricks an observer beneath the fingernail of her left thumb. The thumb bleeds.
The fish falls free to the dock. It flops. It aggressively urinates.
"Somebody step on him!" Sue screams.
"Kill that thing," Randy says calmly.
Sue walks the fish to the shade where she kisses her boyfriend and poses for photos. The fish slips out of her hands again. She picks it up. She asks if she can eat it. Her friends tell her she better not.
"Sorry I couldn't eat you dude, cause I sure as heck would have," Sue says, talking to the fish.
She uses two hands to toss the fish back into the water, where they use the sun's reflection on the rocks to see if the fish swims away lively.
"Did he swim?" someone says.
"Yep," Sue said. "He's gone."
They're at Randy's Camp for about an hour before leaving for the Swimming Hole. The Swimming Hole is the main social gathering in Area 3A. It's where the swamp water is kept shallow by the rocks and an adjacent dirt road. The topography makes for something like a pool.
Randy calls it The Everglades Jacuzzi.
Boaters load up their coolers and sit in the water with coozies. There are 17 boats. One of the boats has speakers playing Led Zeppelin.
Most of the families brought their kids. A young boy, when he's not doing belly flops in the shallow water, casts an empty hook into the deep of the pool. He catches a fish. The adults drink Bud Light. Alligators show their heads nearby.
The bonds made here helped save Randy's life when he was diagnosed with head and neck cancer in 2006. Randy didn't have insurance to pay for his many expensive treatments. In 2007, about 1,100 people showed up to a fundraiser for Randy at the Florida Sports Park. More than $30,000 was raised.
"Randy has been out here his whole life," Tracy says, speaking about his older brother's love for the Everglades. "When you're having a benefit, it's only as big as the person you're having it for. It all came back to him. It was the best medicine."
The day ends back at The Monument. Boats line up here in the afternoon to watch airboat races. The races are relatively informal. Boats pull up next to each other, takeoff and whoever is ahead for the longest time wins. There's no checkered flag.
An older man who flies a Confederate Flag on his boat must be going close to 100 miles per hour as he wins every race. A blue boat keeps losing.
The races are dangerous. The Monument is called The Monument because of the tree-side memorials erected for racers who have died. One of the memorials is a cross made of PVC pipe with a firefighter's hat on top.
The firefighter was named Scott. He was racing once, Tracy says, and flipped his boat. Scott was slammed down and broke his neck.
"He used to say, if he died here today, he'd be good," Randy said. "And then he did."
It's almost 1 p.m. The boats have been on the water for three hours. Tracy says he's ready to go. He ignites the engine to a roar and the boat accelerates. Beneath the clouds, the boat blows over the sawgrass marsh and again passes the buttonwood and cypress trees, a bumpy return south.
It's back to the road.


Dead fish

Red tide killed millions of fish near Sanibel Island
The Monitor Daily - by Ryan Harriss
November 21, 2015
Red tide killed millions of fish near Sanibel Island, a safe haven for species which migrate during winter times. However, when the phenomenon of the red tide happens, the shores of the island turn into a graveyard. This year, scientists have found out that fewer fish have died, which is a good sign.
A water quality scientist from the Conservation Foundation Sanibel Captiva, Rick Bartleson, declared that it is most likely that the fish did not wash from a distance upon the shores of the island. The fact that some of them were missing their eyes and that they showed elevated cell counts demonstrates the fact that they were hit by the red tide very close to Sanibel. The Sanibel island is located in Florida.
But what is the red tide? The phenomenon is actually a type of red algae which turns the water uninhabitable by marine life. However, it is not related at all to the tide, and the algae are not always red.
The red tide is caused by another phenomenon called Karenia brevis, a type of algae in Florida. It does not affect only the marine life, but also human beings and mammals, irritating their respiratory system, which can prove very serious for people suffering from allergies.
Rick Bartleson stated that for the red tide to start killing fish it takes about 10,000 cells of algae. Putting that into perspective, the algae near Sanibel measured about 500,000 cells or even 760,000.
After it devastated Sarasota County, the tide moved on to Lee County .
One of less devastating but still ugly consequences is that the people who live on the island have now to endure the smell of rotting fish.
This is the most relevant occurrence of the phenomenon in some time.
The Conservation Commission for Fish and Wildlife in Florida reported that the red tide tends to happen in November in Florida. However, no one can say for how long it will last.
The fact that the red tide killed millions of fish near Sanibel Island comes as no surprise to scientists, but the tourists on the island are very affected. Several of them expressed their displeasure with the graveyard of fish on the beach. This is understandable when people are trying to escape the cold of the approaching winter and are met only by the smell of rotting fish.
Related:           Red tide likely cause of massive fish kill on Sanibel Island
Red tide on the move in Southwest Florida   Naples Daily News-Nov 19, 2015


C-44 location map

Corps breaks ground on reservoir for Everglades project
USACE, Jacksonville District - story by Jenn Miller
“What surrounds us all today is a true demonstration of what can be accomplished when we work together,” said Jacksonville District Commander Col. Jason Kirk at the Nov. 20, 2015, C-44 reservoir groundbreaking ceremony in Indiantown, Fla.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, alongside federal, state and local officials, celebrated the start of a major construction contract today for the reservoir component of the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area project, a critical restoration project to restore America’s Everglades.
The reservoir is the largest water storage component of the C-44 project, which is under construction in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District, as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan’s (CERP) Indian River Lagoon-South project.
"The Obama Administration has already invested $2.2 billion in the restoration of the Everglades and today marks yet another groundbreaking on a project that will restore the most biologically diverse estuarine system in the United States,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, who spoke at the event. “We will save this system and preserve it for future generations.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District awarded the $197 million construction contract to Barnard Construction Inc., from Bozeman, Montana. The contract involves the construction of a 3,400-acre reservoir that will store an additional 16.5 billion gallons of water from the C-44 Basin.
"Awarding the C-44 reservoir contract demonstrates federal dollars at work to deliver much-needed water storage to this precious ecosystem," said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District commander. "In terms of cost, this $197 million construction contract is the largest single contract award for the Jacksonville District, and Corps-wide, is the second largest contract award for a project this past year."
The ceremony included participation from Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson, Interior Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Michael Bean, U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy, State Sen. Joe Negron, SFWMD Governing Board Vice-Chair Kevin Powers, and Martin County Commissioner Anne Scott.
"Florida remains steadfast in its commitment to restore and protect the Everglades ecosystem, and we are proud to be a vital partner in this important project," said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson. "Thanks to the support of Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature, I look forward to completing this reservoir and moving forward with other projects to help protect this crucial natural resource."
In an effort to construct the project as expeditiously as possible, the SFWMD awarded construction contracts for the discharge canal, pump station and STA. The shared efforts on construction contracts will reduce the time needed to fully-construct the project by at least two years.
"As a Florida native and a longtime resident of the Treasure Coast, I am proud of the state's significant contribution and the continued endeavors of the South Florida Water Management District in building this project,” said Kevin Powers, SFWMD Governing Board vice-chair. “The C-44 project will be one of the greatest steps forward in a generation for the quality of the water in the St. Lucie Estuary and the quality of life for all its residents, people and wildlife."
Construction of the C-44 Reservoir and STA is scheduled to be complete in 2020. Upon construction completion, up to two years of operational testing will occur.
Once all work is complete, the project will capture local runoff from the C-44 basin, reducing average nutrient loads and improving salinity in the St. Lucie Estuary and the southern portion of the Indian River Lagoon. It will provide, in total, 60,500 acre-feet of new water storage (50,600 acre-feet in the reservoir and 9,900 acre-feet in the STAs) and 3,600 acres of new wetlands.
The Indian River Lagoon is the most biologically diverse estuarine system in the continental United States and is home to more than 3,000 species of plants and animals.
Quotes from governmental officials:
“Today we celebrate another important milestone in our effort to restore America’s Everglades. The C-44 reservoir will help restore and protect natural resources in the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon which contribute so much to the quality of life and economy of the region," Michael Bean, Interior Department principal deputy assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks and chair of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.
“This is a big deal. Not only will this project help us clean up the water in the Indian River Lagoon, it’s also an important step in our overall efforts to restore the Everglades," U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.
"Continued progress to improve water quality throughout the entire system can only be achieved through collaboration across all agencies, levels of government, and the community. So while today's groundbreaking of this vital reservoir is a major milestone, we also know that our work is not done in the fight to protect our waterways. Together, we will see the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project and other vital Everglades restoration efforts come to completion, providing the relief our local waterways so desperately need," U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.
"Martin County is proud and grateful to our federal and state partners for their support in the completion of the C-44 project component of the Indian River Lagoon-South project. We thank our federal and state delegation for their unwavering advocacy and our citizens who helped make this project happen through their contributions, so we can experience near term progress in our water quality. Today is a good day for every Martin County citizen, for the state of Florida and for America's Everglades," Anne Scott, chair, Martin County Board of County Commissioners.
Event photos will be added to the C-44 Reservoir and STA photo album as soon as they become available and will be available at:
Additional information on the C-44 Reservoir and STA is available at:


Patrick Murphy heralds new reservoir for ailing Indian River Lagoon
SaintPetersBlog - by Ryan Ray
November 20, 2015
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy joined officials with the Army Corps of Engineers to hail the start of construction on a major project to build a new 3,400-acre reservoir to help relieve pressure on the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River.
Murphy attended a ceremony in Stuart Friday morning, where federal, state and local officials broke ground on the C-44 Reservoir, part of a larger Stormwater Treatment Area project.
The project will ultimately yield a reservoir capable of holding and treating 16 billion gallons of stormwater that would otherwise end up in the lagoon, the St. Lucie River, and other downstream estuaries beset by algal blooms and other environmental woes caused by agricultural runoff and rising sea levels.
“Continued progress to improve water quality throughout the entire system can only be achieved through collaboration across all agencies, levels of government, and the community,” said Murphy in a statement Friday. “So while today’s groundbreaking of this vital reservoir is a major milestone, we also know that our work is not done in the fight to protect our waterways.”
“Together, we will see the C-44 Indian River Lagoon South project and other vital Everglades restoration efforts come to completion, providing the relief our local waterways so desperately need after being inundated by toxic discharges for decades,” said Murphy.
Support for the environment and social welfare programs, particularly Medicare and Social Security, have been key in shoring up Democratic support for the coastal moderate throughout his career.
An announcement from Murphy’s office contains a laundry list of moves Murphy has made to bolster federal efforts in the ecologically-sensitive Indian River Lagoon region, including voting stewarding budget amendments and successfully calling upon the executive branch for support.
The move comes a day after Murphy joined U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in voting to support the so-called SAFE Act of 2015, which would halt the processing of all foreign refugees until new vetting measure are approved. The pair were the only two Florida Democrats to vote for the bill, which President Barack Obama has promised to veto.
Murphy ascended to the House by defeating Republican Congressman Allen West in 2012. He easily defeated former state lawmaker Carl Domino to retain the seat in a conservative-leaning midterm cycle last year.


The Everglades: Land of the Miccosukee
Palm Beach Post – by Jeff Klinkenberg
November 20, 2015
John Tigertail wants to show me his Everglades. He hands me ear protectors, punches a button, and his airboat engine roars to life. We skim across the river of grass in water inches deep and see his great blue herons, his white ibis and his alligators.
He taps me on the shoulder and I uncover my ears. “Look over there,” he shouts. A snail kite, among the world’s rarest birds of prey, is sitting on a rickety nest perched on dead grass. He considers the snail kite as much his as the rest of the Everglades. “It’s our place,” he tells me. “We take care of it.”
He grew up here. His people, the Miccosukee, have lived in the Everglades for a century and a half. John Tigertail gives airboat tours of the Everglades like his father and grandfather once did. His great-grandfather, Charley Tigertail, traded frogs legs and furs to white settlers in the late 19th century. In the pre-road Everglades, before airboats, Miccosukees got around in canoes hewn from cypress trees.
Here’s a little history: By the 18th century, virtually all of the original Floridians were gone, killed off by diseases and war. Into Florida came surviving Indian people from the South — the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws. They were collectively known as Seminoles, meaning “the free people” or “the runaways’’ by the Spanish. In the 19th century, the Seminoles fought three wars with the United States and never surrendered. The branch of the Seminoles who called themselves Miccosukees settled in the Everglades. In the 21st century, visitors who drive across the Tamiami Trail pass through their reservation.
They’re a traditional people. John Tigertail, still a young man, may watch television and communicate by email, but he also speaks the Miccosukee language and attends the sacred Green Corn Dance in the spring that keeps alive his culture.
His late uncle, Pete Osceola, was a medicine man. As a boy, Pete took John by airboat into the Everglades to the hidden island where his grandmother, Lina Tigertail, lived in isolation. When her grandson was sick, she could heal him with plants. If the boy was hungry, she fed him roasted garfish or snapping turtle stew. She died when she was 112.
Piloting his airboat deeper into the Everglades, John Tigertail points to an island of cypress trees ahead. “My camp,” he tells me. At the dock, he suddenly starts grunting. An unseen alligator, hiding in the thick weeds, grunts back a greeting. “My grandmother,” he says with a smile, “taught me how to talk alligator.”
Strolling around the island, he shows his hogs and his turtles and his alligators. They were sick and hurt when he found them. When they are healthy, he plans to release them.
“This is the life I know,” he says. “This is my world.” When his great-grandfather came to the Everglades, skies were black at night except for the countless stars that burned like lasers. Now from his camp he can see the glow of Miami. Traffic rumbles past on the highway. Sometimes you hear horns honking and the boompy-boom of heavily amped music.
But some things haven’t changed. Most nights he can listen to frogs perform their opera. And when the gators grunt, he grunts right back at them and remembers his grandmother


Erosion, rising sea threaten tourism - by Aliana Zamorano, Staff Writer
November 19, 2015
Environmental issues impacting South Florida are raising concerns about tourism throughout Miami’s beaches and the Everglades.
Recent worries from environmental scientists about beach erosion and sea level rise, as well as pollution and water diversion, predict consequences to Florida’s main economic source of tourism in the future, particularly Miami.
Miami hosted roughly 14.5 million visitors in 2014, which is the largest amount of tourists to date, and gained $23.7 billion from tourist spending, according to a Miami Herald article.
But if maintenance of the beaches is not kept, erosion and flooding may ruin the draw to visit Miami.
“In 20 to 30 years from now, if sea levels continue at this rate, Miami Beach won’t be what it is today,” said Nicole Hernandez Hammer, southeast climate change advocate for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy organization based in the United States.
Hammer referred to last week’s King Tide Day on Indian Creek Road, a day in which the tides are highest.
There were sandbag barriers holding back the canal water, threatening to spill out onto Indian Creek Drive in Miami Beach.
Hammer believes the barriers are just a band aid that will not be sufficient for the King Tides, as they become more severe as time passes.
“We are lucky that, today, people can walk along the streets,” said Hammer.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection already spends a minimum of $25 million yearly for restoration projects for eroded beaches. Now, it estimates that 407 miles of Florida’s beaches are facing coastal erosion.
Stephen Leatherman, a coastal scientist at the University, said in a Travel Weekly article last month that quality of sand is not the same as it was before and the restoration projects are becoming more expensive.
“Tourists might not think it as that much of a problem, but people who have been coming there a lot are going to want to see the same sand,” said Leatherman in the article.
Hospitality and tourism students at the University are also taught to be aware of environmental sustainability.  
“It’s such an alarming issue for our futures,” said Mariam Santamaria, senior hospitality major who has been required to take sustainable tourism and South Florida ecology classes. “I plan on working in Miami Beach. If, in a few years, the hot spot for vacationing is no longer nice enough to visit then a lot of people are going to be out of jobs. People need to realize that the environment has huge impacts on lives, too.”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s public claim is to “ensure that Florida’s coast is as valuable to future generations as it is today,” while the Everglades Trust states that its purpose is to achieve a clean water supply for the natural systems that feed the Everglades as well as drinking water for South Florida.
According to a Pew Research center survey, only 45 percent of Americans consider climate change a problem.
“It’s good that FIU is taking part in bringing awareness to our sea level rise problem,” said Stephanie Coretto, student in the Professional Science Master’s in Environmental Policy and Management. “…These issues are not only going to affect Miami’s economy, but the daily lives of citizens. If tourists don’t want to come here anymore, what does that mean for the people actually living here?”


Sea rise

South Florida flooding will make Katrina conditions ‘a walk in the park’
Westside Gazette - by Audrey Peterman, an environmentalist and writer living in Fort Lauderdale.
November 19, 2015
Writing for the Westside Gazette since 1985, I’ve mostly focused on changes in the built and natural environment as well as our national parks. In the 90s my husband Frank and I drew attention to the urban redevelopment efforts increasing the density of downtown redevelopment, and shared how the Black community could leverage environmental justice measures to make sure we benefit from the change. We kept you abreast of issues connected to the restoration of the Everglades and worked with Rep. Carrie Meek to get a clause included in the federal Water Resources Development Act of 2000 stating that minorities had to be part of the economic opportunities from the restoration.
So it feels surreal that in 2015 the issues have accelerated to an extreme and yet my friends and family seem almost completely unaware that South Florida is in the bull’s eye for flooding from climate change as the ocean rises in the next 15 years. It’s  bizarre to get emails from organizations around the country that use Fort Lauder-dale as Ground Zero for the worst climate effects, yet few of my friends that live here even seem to know.
A brief Google search for “South Florida flooding and sea level rise” will shock you with where the water is projected to be in just 15 years, 2030. Think New Orleans after Katrina, except that there will be no “after,” as this becomes the new normal.
I wouldn’t blame you for thinking I sound hysterical, because any sane person would reason that if such a thing is on the horizon and there’s something we can do about it, we would all know and be involved. I can tell you categorically that cities across the country are using “adaptive” management that look at development in a whole new way, focused on dealing with the coming flooding. Professionals have made this their field of expertise, and some of them are available through our Diverse Environmental Leaders Speakers Bureau. The Mayor of Baltimore told me in a recent interview that they issued their Climate Action Plan in 2013, developed in consultation with all sectors of the community so that as many people as possible under-stand the threat and are part of the solution.
Why are we so far behind ?
Recently I received an invitation from the South Florida Regional Planning Council to the SE Florida Regional Climate Leadership at the Casa Marina Resort in Key West Dec. 1-3. Maybe that’s a beginning. But the way to handle something that affects all of us cannot be for a few people to huddle in a resort and decide. We need a wide scale communications effort that gets the right information to the right people through the right sources so that everyone knows what’s coming and feels that the solutions include their interests.
Last week Friday, Nov. 13, members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading climate scientists, met in Miami to talk about how to get people to care about climate change. They agreed that focusing on our wallets might be the way. Flooding will cost us millions of dollars in lost property, lost revenue and loss in quality of life. I’m presuming that research showed that money is the way to our hearts. We’ve always felt it was more important to focus on the opportunity and responsibility to take care of our life support sys-tem and benefit as citizens from everything involved.
The Hispanic community is getting involved. This week I received an invitation to the VotoLatino Power Summit at the Frost Art Museum at FIU, Nov. 17, at 6:30 p.m., “Defending Our Future: Fighting Climate Change in South Florida.”
Where is the leadership in the Black community ?  It is well established that non-white Americans and people who are poor suffer the greatest hard-ships when environmental disasters occur, and are least prepared economically to deal with them. What will it mean when the land west of the train tracks currently occupied by Black citizens suddenly becomes the only high, dry and desirable land? We should be at the front of the line talking with our government officials and requiring them to show us their plan.
Since we are obviously not getting this vital information from state and local govern-ment, it falls to our elected officials, our state, local and federal representatives to make that demand. But that will not happen until we start calling the people we vote into office and demanding to know what’s happening on this issue. Ignorance will be no defense.



Agriculture pollution far outweighs septic tanks’ damage to our waterways – by Mark Perry, executive director of Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart
November 18, 2015
Martin County just completed a study identifying 16,209 septic systems in the Martin County Utility Service Area that were evaluated to be replaced with a public sanitary sewer collection system.
Twenty-four areas in the Septic Tank Elimination Study were evaluated and ranked based on 10 factors, including proximity to surface waters and nitrogen load contribution.
The ranking identified the top three areas, and the Martin County Commission directed staff to put together a policy for eliminating these septic systems and identify funding to help offset the costs (estimated at $138 million).
A University of Florida study shows an average subdivision of 200 homes can generate about 7,200 pounds per year of nitrogen with an average of about 9 pounds per year, per person. On the same area of agricultural crops, about 33,000 pounds per year will be generated. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection calculates nitrogen loading to the St. Lucie Estuary from its own watershed at 1.56 million pounds per year from agriculture runoff and 866,710 pounds per year from non-agriculture runoff. The South Florida Water Management District data for 1995-2014 shows an average of an additional 1.3 million pounds per year flowing into the St. Lucie from Lake Okeechobee.
With a total annual load of about 4 million pounds per year, devastating impacts have resulted in the St. Lucie Estuary and southern Indian River Lagoon.
Too much nitrogen going into the estuary and coastal waters can cause algae blooms and impacts on fish, oyster reefs, sea grass habitat and nearshore reefs.
Martin County's septic-tank elimination plan could remove 145,800 pounds per year of total nitrogen from the system.
What about the huge nitrogen inflows from agriculture runoff and Lake Okeechobee?
In 2013, DEP began the Basin Management Action Plan to reduce nitrogen inflows into the estuary. The 15-year plan outlines nitrogen reductions for 22 entities within the watershed, the top one being agriculture at a starting load of 1.56 million pounds per year. Reductions required for agriculture were set at 925,029 pounds per year, and in the first five years agriculture reductions are supposed to be 277,508 pounds per year. However, DEP granted agricultural outfits credits for "best management practices" and land-use changes totaling 468,702 pounds per year.
DEP claims agriculture has already exceeded its first five-year nitrogen reduction requirement. Really? Is anybody monitoring to see if these reductions are actually happening?
It seems like Martin County is ready to spend millions of dollars on eliminating the much-talked-about septic tank share of nitrogen inflows to the estuary while the largest inflows, from agriculture, just received credits that far exceeded their required reductions.
At recent meetings of the SFWMD, staff presented the past five years of water flows south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades through the Stormwater Treatment Areas. These man-made marshes were built to take out phosphorus; which is to the Everglades what nitrogen is to the estuaries.
The total inflows to the STAs have averaged 344 billion gallons per year with 90 percent coming from the 700,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area south of the lake. Just last year, however, the water district sent a record 190 billion gallons from the lake and the remainder from EAA runoff. Concerns over too much lake water were eliminated when the outflow concentrations of phosphorus were "the lowest achieved in over 21 years of STA operation," according to the district. This was good news for the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, as it diverted billions of gallons of water (and nitrogen) coming from the lake — and sent the clean water south to the Everglades where it is needed.
Still, agriculture interests in the EAA were not happy and wanted the total 344 billion gallon annual capacity in the STAs available for their runoff. Really ?
Water needs to flow south from Lake Okeechobee — not to the estuaries, not to the ocean and gulf — to the Everglades and Florida Bay where it is needed, where it flowed historically.
The public spent $ 1.2 billion to build the STAs, and we are now spending another $880 million over the next 10 years to expand them so we can store, treat and move more water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. The public's money is for saving Florida's water, saving the estuaries and saving the Everglades and Florida Bay — not just to treat drainage runoff from the Everglades Agricultural Area.


Don't ignore environmental, economic significance of the Keys - by George Neugent, Monroe County Commission District 2 seat
November 18, 2015
Monroe County is the southernmost county in Florida and includes the islands that make up the Florida Keys. This area is important to me, as I not only serve its citizens on the Monroe County Commission but it has been my home for more than 30 years. Needless to say, this area holds a special place in my heart, just like it does for many of us who are lucky enough to call the Keys home.
Monroe County's coastline extends from the Everglades all the way down to the Dry Tortugas, encompassing the third-largest coral reef in the world, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, three national parks, five state parks, four national wildlife refuges and three state aquatic reserves.
These features draw visitors from all over the state, nation and world; contain many federally and state-listed endangered and threatened species; and allow species that don't exist anywhere else in the world to thrive. Quite simply, the environmental significance of this area is immense.
But the economic significance of the Florida Keys can also not be ignored, as Monroe County's economy generates more than $4.6 billion annually in positive economy activity. The area is a premier tourist destination, contains a preeminent military presence and has world-class sportfishing. In fact, the county's tourism, military, and commercial and recreational fishing industries create a remarkable number of jobs and revenue for the area and for the entire state.
These characteristics make the Florida Keys not only a national treasure, but an invaluable economic driver for the great state of Florida. The tourism, military, commercial and recreational fishing industries together generate more than $200 million in sales tax revenue annually for Florida. Of the 66 other counties in Florida, Monroe County is the highest per-capita generator of sales tax for the state.
However, the county's three most valuable industries are intrinsically linked to the Keys' one-of-a-kind environment. Protecting the Keys' unparalleled environment is tantamount to ensuring that these industries continue to flourish for years to come.
This is one of the reasons why Monroe County puts its full support behind the Florida Keys Stewardship Act -- state Senate Bill 770 sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and House Bill 447 sponsored by Rep. Holly Raschein (R-Key Largo).
This act would designate $25 million per year for 10 years for water-quality protection and land investment. Specifically, these funds would go to address some of the area's most significant environmental needs, including nearshore water quality, restoration and protection through wastewater, stormwater and canal water restoration; water supply protection; and land investment for critical habitat protection, public safety, property rights and military base protection.
But we aren't alone. This legislative initiative is wholeheartedly supported by the cities of Key West, Marathon and Key Colony Beach; the village of Islamorada; the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District; and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority.
Like the other local governments and entities that support this important measure, we know that the Florida Keys Stewardship Act will go a long way toward preserving the Florida Keys' unique habitat for future generations of Floridians. Even more, the act would create an invaluable partnership with the state, allowing it to safeguard the investments it has already made in the area. By doing so, the state would also be investing in an initiative that would yield a significant return on investment for Florida.
Just like the Florida Keys' water, it is clear to see that the Keys have so much to offer to the local area and the entire state. Passing the Florida Keys Stewardship Act is paramount to ensuring that this doesn't change, and we look forward to working with the Florida Legislature to advance this meaningful initiative during the 2016 legislative session.


Florida flood preparations slammed in national report
Sun Sentinel – by David Fleshler
November 18, 2015
Florida received a failing grade on its long-term preparations for coastal flooding, in a study released Wednesday that assessed how well the 50 states were gearing up for the impact of climate change.
The study, called States at Risk, says Florida lacks a long-term plan for dealing with rising sea levels, despite being the nation's most vulnerable state as oceans inch higher. The report gave Florida a C- overall, with B+ grades on preparing for drought and wildfires – for which the report says the state faces average or below-average risk – a D on preparing for extreme heat and a D- grade on preparing for inland flooding.
"Florida has a lot of work to do," stated the report, prepared by the environmental group Climate Central, which publishes peer-reviewed articles on climate change, and ICF International, a 5,000-employee consulting firm with 70 offices worldwide. "Even though the state has plans in place to face today's threats, Florida has not taken sufficient steps to prepare for the serious threats posed by future climate change, particularly coastal flooding."
Oceans have risen about eight inches over the past century, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, because water expands as it warms and the melting of glaciers raises sea levels. This has been the hottest year since records were kept in 1880, with October becoming the sixth consecutive month to break a global heat record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Contrary to the state, the four counties of southeast Florida have undertaken extensive preparations for climate change. Members of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, which consists of Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, held a news conference Wednesday at Florida Atlantic University to discuss the report. Although they largely concurred with the conclusions, they said it appeared to have ignored work by the state's water management districts in preparing for sea-level rise, as well as the extensive work being done in South Florida at the city and county levels to adapt to high sea levels.
"From an economic standpoint, it is critical that we take advantage of the opportunity to invest in preparedness today in order to avoid paying the higher costs of later," said one of the speakers, Julio Fuentes, president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "Spending a small amount before this happens is a better use of government funds than paying out a massive amount later on."
Low-lying coastal neighborhoods in Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach and other cities already experience occasional fair-weather flooding during high tides, particularly during the king tides of October and November.
The Southeast Florida compact recently raised its projection of future sea level rise, calculating the ocean could rise 31 inches by 2060, about two inches more than was estimated five years ago. It predicted seas up to 46 inches higher by 2075, enough to submerge extensive areas of South Florida.
Four states received A's in the new report; five received F's. California received an A for an "exceptional level of preparedness" in facing some of the "most severe climate threats of any states," with an elaborate climate preparedness plan and the requirement that major construction project in vulnerable areas address climate risks. Texas received an F for doing little to prepare, despite facing the highest threats in the lower 48 states for heat, drought and wildfires.
On coastal flooding, the report said Florida has worked hard on dealing with current problems but falls short on future threats. Although the Florida Department of Transportation has written sea-level rise preparations into its plans, the report says the state as a whole lacks a plan for preparing for the extensive flooding expected to strike low-lying coastal neighborhoods in the coming decades.
"Florida earns an F for its average level of preparedness in the face of a far-above-average coastal flooding threat," the report stated.
Here's how Florida did on the other criteria.
Extreme heat:  Although Florida currently averages 25 days a year of dangerous or extremely dangerous heat, that number is projected to rise to 130 days by 2050. The Department of Health has assessed how higher temperatures could affect the state but no action has been taken.
Wildfire:  The state has taken extensive action to prepare for current risks and has included wildfires in a plan for dealing with climate change. By 2050 the wildfire threat to the state is expected to increase by 57 percent.
Drought:  The state faces one of the lowest risks in the nation for future drought and has undertaken a drought vulnerability assessment.
Inland flooding:  The report says by 2050 Florida's inland flooding threat will increase more than any other states, yet Florida has taken only limited action to plan for its future risks.


Long-awaited water policy bill passes House Ag. budget committee
Florida Politics - by Ryan Ray
November 18, 2015
A House budget panel on agriculture and the environment passed an expansive water policy bill by Rep. Matt Caldwell Wednesday afternoon.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Committee approved HB 7005 by a vote of 11-1, with Republican Rep. Paul Penner voting ‘No.’
The state’s Department of Environmental Protection has signaled its approval for the bill, as did a number of business-backed groups like Associated Industries of Florida and Florida Chamber of Commerce, while some environmentalists remain on the fence.
Stephanie Kunkel, a lobbyist with the Nature Conservancy of Southwest Florida, told the panel her group was grateful for steps the bill’s sponsor had taken since the last time the bill appeared before the Legislature earlier this year.
Kunkel specifically mentioned greater verification and enforcement of best management practices, known as “BMAPs” in legislative jargon.
However, Kunkel also cited lingering concerns over water conservation incentives and new sometimes permanent extensions for certain water use permits, especially when it comes to areas around bodies of water with maximum nutrient levels, and a general lack of vigorous oversight from the Department of Environmental Protection when it comes to oversight.
The Nature Conservancy representative also informed the panel they would like to see the development of nitrogen targets for Lake Okeechobee, which has been beset by problems stemming from too much agricultural runoff which in turn affect ecologically-sensitive bodies downstream, like the ailing Caloosahatchee River.
David Cullen spoke on behalf of the Sierra Club, expressing his appreciation for a “very good amendment” dealing with minimum nutrient levels, but also criticized the bill as getting only “halfway there” to a good water policy bill.
Cullen called for more concrete deadlines for permit holders and seekers, said prohibitions against releasing nutrients around springs, and called definitional language governing springs policy “deficient.”
Rep. Ray Pilon agreed the bill was not perfect, but called the measure “a solid foundation” for water policy going forward.
Relatedly, Rep. Debbie Mayfield expressed a desire to change the Legislature’s structure for founding water projects. Mayfield wants projects to be funded more like road projects, where appropriations are granted on a five-year basis rather than one year at a time.
2015, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli‘s first year at the helm, was supposed to be the “Year of Water” following a voter-approved constitutional amendment created a permanent dedicated source for water protection efforts.
No bill emerged from this year’s regular Session, as a similar bill by Caldwell and the State Affairs Committee was one of many casualties of the House’s move to adjourn three days before the scheduled end of the annual lawmaking period.


cows - water

9 Investigates water district's permit for huge cattle operation – by Christopher Heath
November 17, 2015
MARION COUNTY, Fla. —  The Saint John’s River Water Management District spent $402,525 of taxpayer money on outside consultants to study a Canadian billionaire’s cattle ranch.
Frank Stronach’s Sleepy Creek Ranch (formerly Adena Springs Ranch) won approval earlier this year to pump 1.46 million gallons a day from the Floridan Aquifer for a grass-fed cattle operation. The permit for the water, which is in the Silver Springs watershed, was challenged by environmental groups claiming that the pumping, coupled with the waste from the cattle would cause irreversible damage to the springs.
“I think it’s outrageous” said Dr. Bob Knight of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. “I’m very concerned, I see the springs dying on my watch, as I do research I am watching the demise of Florida’s springs.”
The Saint John’s River Water Management District has its own staff of experts including hydrologists that traditionally do modeling for permits, however, the district says it was necessary to hire outside help for this specific situation.
“It’s not unusual for us to use consultants when we need to, when there is an issue of particular concern or an unusual project that comes in,” said Michael Register, the director of the Division of Water Supply and Assessment for the St John’s River Water Management District. “In this example, the application for a significant water withdrawal was right near Silver Springs, a first magnitude spring of particular importance to the district and the region.”
According to documents provided to 9 Investigates by the SJRWMD, Sleepy Creek project consultants concluded that the water withdrawal would have an impact on 45 springs in addition to Silver Springs. The documents also show that the 1,242 acres could support 1,207 head of cattle producing 249 pounds of manure each day. Additional documentation shows the cattle operation is only “economically feasible” if the ranch is allowed to use 15 Upper Floridan wells for grass-fed beef. Ultimately the ranch got its wells.
“The district in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Protection has already spent $11 million to purchase almost 5,000 acres of land in the springs shed to protect that spring,” says Register.
“We’re already in a hole and we need to stop digging,” said attorney Marcy LaHart, who sued the district to stop the permit. “It was absolutely shocking to me, I’m a former water district attorney and I was never, ever, authorized to spend money on consultants, we relied on our own staff to have the expertise to review a permit and determine whether or not the applicant had proven that the permit was not going to cause environmental harm.”
The Stronach Group, which owns several other tracts of land and operations in the Marion County area, did not return emails to 9 Investigates concerning the number of cattle or its plans for water use and waste disposal.
The permit approval by the SJRWMD comes just as district staff has recommended denying a second permit by the Stronach Group for a second water withdrawal on a second tract of land; that permit is still pending.


Team reports on coastal ocean response to global warming acceleration and hiatus - by Karen B. Roberts
November 17, 2015
In a new paper out in Nature Scientific Reports today, the University of Delaware's Xiao-Hai Yan and colleagues report on the coastal ocean response to global warming acceleration and hiatus.
The so-called global warming "hiatus" refers to the possible temporary slow-down of the global mean surface temperature trend said to have been occurring since 1998. 
While many studies have focused on the mechanisms that caused the purported hiatus, few have paid attention to the coastal effects. Yan believes this area of study is critical as approximately 50 percent of the world's population lives within 124 miles of coastal waters, with many more relying on the world's coasts for commerce and natural resources. 
"This is a hot topic that has caused heated debates within many scientific and policy spheres, but it also offers an opportunity to study and improve our understanding of climate change dynamics and our coastal responses," said Yan, Mary A.S. Lighthipe Chaired Professor and director of UD's Center for Remote Sensing.
"Putting sea surface temperature variability and its consequences into a global context is significant to understanding the spatial patterns of extreme events, as well as to conservation strategies and mitigation approaches for negative ecosystem responses in our coastal regions."
Co-authors on the work include UD graduate students Enhui Liao (the paper's lead author), Wenfang Lu and Autumn Kidwell; and Yuwu Jiang, a collaborator from the State Key Laboratory of Marine Environment Science in Xiamen University, China.
In the study, the researchers examined 15 years of sea surface temperature (SST) data, from 1998-2013, available through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 
Their findings showed that while the deep ocean was getting warmer during this time period, one-third of the world's coastal oceans in the low- and mid-latitudes experienced a cooling trend from 1998-2013.
For example, exceptionally cold water in the China Sea resulting from a cold event in the Taiwan Straight caused widespread coastal ecosystem casualties in temperature-sensitive coral reefs in 2008. Similarly, NOAA reported that record low water temperatures in the Florida Keys in 2010 caused cold-water coral bleaching and death for the first time in 30 years.
At the same time, 17.9 percent of the global coast showed a warming trend. Water temperatures along the Delaware coast during the same time period, for example, grew warmer—approximately .54 degrees per decade, Yan said. 
Coinciding with this, there was a significant increase in the number of extremely hot days outside of the Delaware coastal region, from the Gulf of Maine to Cape Hatteras. 
The SST trend reversals in the Northern Pacific and Atlantic coincided with the phase shift of Pacific Decadal Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation, respectively. 
Meanwhile, a continuous increase of SST was detected for nearly 47 percent of coastlines with a strengthened warming along the coastlines in the high northern latitudes. Yan said this suggests the warming still continued and strengthened in some regions after 1998, but with a weaker pattern in the low- and mid-latitudes.
Coastal oceans are very sensitive to climate change, Yan said, and even a 0.5-degree change is enough to raise alarms in the coastal community. 
"Historical knowledge tells us that a big El Niño always follows a big La Niña, like in 1997-98 and 1982-83. If this is the case, the global warming hiatus will continue, which could cause consequences including increased extreme hot/cold events," Yan said.
The most significant concern, he continued, is sea level rise.
Simply, thermal expansion causes sea level rise and higher temperatures mean more thermal expansion in coastal areas. This is particularly concerning for Delaware, which is a marine-oriented state with no part more than eight miles from tidal waters.
"The coastal ocean response to this global surface mean temperature slow down may vary from place to place, but overall, our coastal ocean responds faster to change than the global ocean, making coastal environments an important indicator of the larger global picture."
Yan and colleagues from across the globe will continue this conversation about the global warming acceleration and hiatus at the upcoming American Geophysical Union annual conference, Dec. 14-18, in San Francisco, during a special session by the U.S. Climate Variability and Prediction program.
Explore further: Rate of temperature change along world's coastlines has itself changed dramatically over the past three decades
More information: Enhui Liao et al. The coastal ocean response to the global warming acceleration and hiatus, Scientific Reports (2015). DOI: 10.1038/srep16630


The shell game of politics and water quality
Naples News - Guest commentary by John Cassani
November 17, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott's July public relations event in Lee County on Pine Island touting our "pristine waterways" was yet another feeble attempt to convince the public that he and his policies are making Florida a better place to live.
The supporting cast of state Reps. Matt Caldwell, whose legislation is frequently a gift to Big Sugar, and Ray Rodrigues, now sponsoring legislation to remove home rule on oil and gas fracking, were there singing the same tune.
The following month, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that Matlacha Pass State Aquatic Preserve, a few miles from where Scott made his speech, was officially impaired for nutrient pollution.
Matlacha Pass, designated a Florida Aquatic Preserve in 1972 for its exceptional natural and cultural resources, is an Outstanding Florida Water and may be the first Southwest Florida aquatic preserve designated impaired from excess nitrogen.
Florida Aquatic Preserves require a higher level of protection and apparently the governor and his supporting politicians were not familiar with that component of Florida water law.
Part of the governor's speech was about the $1.7 million the Legislature allocated this year for local waterway improvement projects. On the surface, this sounds like progress, but behind the scenes the governor and his political allies, including local ones, are systemically changing Florida water law. The policy changes are evident from rule and regulation revisions that weaken Florida water resource protection that typically blur the threshold for compliance on resource permit provisions. The result is more pollution.
Another tactic is to terminate critical water resource monitoring when it becomes evident that water permit compliance, dependent on the water data, will get in the way of political expediency. Without litigation from conservation groups, the situation would likely be worse and the cleanup costs would be much higher.
The losers are local communities and businesses, especially where the economy is largely based on tourism and property values linked to water resource appeal. The water quality funding from Tallahassee is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the current and eventual cleanup costs and only serves to mask the root causes mired in politics.
A significant contributor to the recent impairment of Matlacha Pass is the northwest spreader canal system in Cape Coral. The area was previously designated by permit and regulation as a stormwater treatment area, but all that changed as a result of removing the Ceitus Canal barrier in 2008 to facilitate direct boat access to Matlacha Pass.
Removing the barrier was like pulling the plug on a bathtub of dirty water. The result was the loss of more than 600 acres of stormwater treatment area that created a massive point source of inadequately treated runoff flowing directly into Matlacha Pass. The impairment that followed was predictable as development is surging in the upstream watershed and little is being done to mitigate the impacts or comply with permit provisions. DEP staff won't even comment on the issue.
Consider telling your local and state politicians that you value clean water. Otherwise there will never be enough funds to change the current trend of declining water quality.


Indian River Lagoon

Indian River Lagoon
battle rages on - just
keep it clean !

'Sick' Idea: Septic tanks used to control growth
Sunshine state News – by Barbara Clowdus, editor and publisher of Martin County Currents
November 16, 2015
When Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard voted two years ago not to fund a DNA study of the pollutants in the St. Lucie River by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute's Brian Lapointe, we were somewhat surprised at her dissent … but our most environmentally concerned citizens trusted her. Heard told us then that she already knew the source. She said, “It's agriculture. Not septic tanks.” Well, that study came back this month with overwhelming, resounding proof that NO, it's NOT agriculture, it's septic tanks. Human waste is poisoning our groundwater, our surface waters, the wildlife that lives in it, and is damaging not only the St. Lucie estuary, but the Indian River Lagoon and our reefs. Our septic tanks threaten even dolphins that consider this place their permanent home. They do not leave it, even when they eat what kills them. Does Heard accept the study results? No. Instead, she attempted to poke holes in Lapointe's study to prove that his science is flawed, that it is indeed agriculture that damages the estuary more than septic tanks, and the Lake Okeechobee discharges are more damaging than our own water basin runoff. Yet, two other studies, one of which was conducted by our county staff, echoed Lapointe's results. Yes, Lake Okeechobee discharges are an issue, but septic tanks are a more immediate issue. Now we know irrefutably that septic tanks near waterways are a menace to life of any kind. In the fresh light of this study, did our county commission opt for a comprehensive, phased plan to remove all the septic tanks along the shores of our treasured waterways, the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon and the Loxahatchee River ? Unfortunately, regrettably, unconscionably NO. They did not. They had already targeted the septic tanks in our agricultural areas, some of which will not drain into the river for 50 years, and had already killed at least one sewer line extension along the Indian River Lagoon to stop development, and now they've added only two “hot spots” -- in Golden Gate and All American Ditch in Old Palm City for sewer lines, removing a total of 2,100 septic units from the nearly 20,000 we know about. What about the rest? Commissioner Doug Smith made a strong case, yet again, to at least put a plan in place, even if it's a 20- or 30-year plan, for what Lapointe said causes at least four times the pollution of lake discharges -- maybe up to seven times more. Having a plan attracts more grant funds -- and we're going to need every dime we can get. Smith was ignored. Why? Because sewer systems foster development. They will make this place a more desirable place to live, and will eliminate the need for septic drain fields, allowing property owners more options to use their property. It's a sick way to control development. Literally. Sick. Allowing our septic tank effluent to feed the toxic algae that kills our sea grasses; letting the effluent-borne bacteria and viruses and pharmaceuticals infect our groundwater, our rivers and the lagoon; and allowing our dolphins to suffer and our reefs to die because that's a better alternative than allowing any growth, which also would help fund a sewer system, too? This truly archaic policy makes no sense. Our growth is strictly controlled by our Comprehensive Growth Management Plan -- as it should be. Controlled growth. We've won awards for that plan, yet this fight over sewer systems has been ongoing for more than two decades. When Maggy Hurchalla was an elected county commissioner, she led the fight to KEEP septic tanks even for new development in order to thwart growth. She won the fight then, and she's still fighting. No need for a countywide plan, she still says. Just get those hot spots ... well, just get some of the hot spots. Ignore the ones on the Loxahatchee, she insists, a refrain parroted by Sarah Heard, Ed Fielding, and Anne Scott, her faithful commissioners, and even Marty Baum, our Indian Riverkeeper. What's difficult to follow is that in one breath, Fielding is leading the charge against septic tanks to justify gutting the Community Redevelopment projects, yet he, Anne Scott and Sarah Heard laud the effectiveness of septic tanks along the Loxahatchee in order to justify their ban on sewer lines into the secondary urban services district. Then they blast septic tanks again when farmers want to build a packing house. A dichotomy? Definitely. Their priority is not water quality. Their priority is stopping all growth of any kind, anywhere. They are willing to destroy our CRAs, pollute our rivers and make our dolphins sick, if necessary, to ensure that Martin County is set aside as an enclave for only the mega-wealthy. They are succeeding.


Climate change could wreck natural water supplies affecting billions, study claims – by Maria Asuncion
November 15, 2015
Another day, another climate change report. This time, it’s about its effect on the northern hemisphere’s water supply. Home of more than 2 billion people, scientists say many countries north of the equator could suffer water scarcity due to shrinking snowpacks.
Published in the Environmental Research Letters Thursday, the journal article revealed that scientists have identified snow-dependent drainage basins in the northern hemisphere that currently serve 2 billion people. Their models suggest reduced snowpacks in many regions, and it could affect water supplies by year 2060.
The basins, according to researchers, take in large parts of the American West, countries in the southern Europe, the Middle East and central Asia.
Lead author Justin Mankin from the Columbia University explained why snow matters, and how global warming is upsetting the balance.
“Snow is an important seasonal water source because it forms its own reservoir,” he said. During spring and summer when human demand peaks, snow melts and water runs gradually into the lowlands, for instance, cities and towns where demands for clean drinking and farm water are high.
In short, snow is important because it forms its own reservoir where humans can collect water, and use them to grow crops, produce food, and stay healthy.
He clarified that the consequences of reduced water are not the same for all places. He adds, “water managers in a lot of places may need to prepare for a world where the snow reservoir no longer exists.” Mankin is a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Earth Institute
Declining snowpack
Mankin and co-authors from Stanford University and Europe universities have calculated the possible effects of shrinking snow reservoir, based on how many people in the northern hemisphere consume water from snowmelt. They looked at 421 drainage basins in the northern hemisphere, and combined multiple climate models with water demand and demographics.
From these data, they found nearly a hundred basins that serve water to 2 billion people.
The study specified the most sensitive places.
The list includes north and central California, places near the basins of Colorado and the Rio Grande rivers, Atlas basin in Morocco, the Ebro-Duero basin which feeds water to Spain, southern France and Portugal, basins covering eastern Italy, the southern Balkans, northern Turkey and several countries in the mountainous southeastern Europe and northwestern Asia.
Also included on the list is the Shatt al Arab basin which supplies water to war-torn areas — from Iraq, eastern Turkey, Syria, eastern Iran to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Across most of United States, Canada, northern Europe, Russia, China and southeast Asia, researchers say rainfall is projected to keep meeting human demand. They also clarified that many changeable factors can affect water supply and demand, so the projections contain large uncertainties. Their models show that climate change is about as likely to increase water supply as to decrease it, in the form of greater seasonal rains.
World leaders will meet in Paris this month to discuss and draft plans to curb carbon emissions. Current plans submitted to the United Nations climate chief could cut world’s average emission by up to 8 percent per capita before the end of 2025. Participating nations represent around 90 percent of the global carbon emissions.
The study “The potential for snow to supply human water demand in the present and future,” is now accessible online via the IOP Science website. Other researchers are Noah Diffenbaugh of Stanford University, Daniel Viviroli of the University of Zurich, Lamont-Doherty postdoctoral researcher Deepti Singh and Arjen Y. Hoekstra of the University of Twente in the Netherlands.


Lakeside Ranch is already benefiting Lake Okeechobee, greater ecosystem
SFWMD News Release
November 15, 2015
The transformation of ranchlands into water-cleaning wetlands continues as the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) approved a construction contract to build the southern Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) at Lakeside Ranch. These specialized wetlands in western Martin County are designed to remove phosphorus from stormwater before it reaches Lake Okeechobee.
"Reducing the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Okeechobee is an important component of the overall strategy to improve water quality in the lake and in the Everglades," said SFWMD Governing Board member Kevin Powers. "Building this next phase of wetlands at Lakeside Ranch will increase the project's already proven ability to reduce nutrient loads to the lake."
Exceeding Expectations
Lakeside Ranch is situated in the Taylor Creek/Nubbin Slough sub-watershed, one of the nutrient "hot spots" in the overall Lake Okeechobee watershed.
Phase I, the northern STA, which began operating in 2012, has reduced phosphorus loads in the water it has treated by 82 percent.  During the last two years (July 2013 to June 2015), a total of 23 metric tons of phosphorus has been removed, well exceeding the design rate of 9 metric tons per year.
In Water Year 2015 (May 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015) alone, the STA captured 30,851 acre-feet of stormwater runoff, removing 13.89 of the total 16.29 metric tons of phosphorus it received, an 88% reduction. This phosphorus would have otherwise gone into the lake.
Construction Begins
With an investment of approximately $35 million, the SFWMD Governing Board has authorized Munilla Construction Management to begin work on the Southern STA.
This phase of the Lakeside Ranch project includes construction of:
●  8 inflow/outflow, gated water control structures
●  5 "cells" (retention areas) of aquatic vegetation that remove phosphorus, with an effective treatment area of 788 acres
●  Distribution and outlet canals/seepage ditches
●  Recreation area with an informational kiosk and restroom
Together the north and south STAs are expected to reduce phosphorus loads into the lake by 19 metric tons annually.



New Swiftmud water plan reflects advances in conservation
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
November 15, 2015
Tuesday the Southwest Florida Water Management District will adopt its latest regional water supply plan.
I, like anyone else who covers or follows water issues in Florida, have a pile of previous Swiftmud water supply plans somewhere on my desk or tucked away in files or bookshelves.
I met recently with a small group of Swiftmud officials recently at their invitation to discuss the latest plan.
My first question was how this plan is much different from previous plans.
The response was that although the overall elements of the plan are not that much different, what is different is the context under which the plan is being produced.
Swiftmud’s regional plan is now part of a another regional plan called the Central Florida Water Initiative whose purpose is to come up with a long-term, sustainable plan to supply water in what is essentially the greater metro area surrounding Orlando, which includes Polk County.
It traces its origins to an earlier cooperative that was ordered to be established under orders from then-Gov. Jeb Bush to head off what appeared to be a protracted and wasteful legal fight over water allocation reminiscent of what happened in the Tampa Bay area decades earlier.
The reason water allocation decisions nearly ended up in court was because scientists had concluded that the Orlando area had reached the point where its projected water demands threatened to outstrip the ability of the Floridan aquifer to supply it.
This  had  happened decades ago  in parts of the Tampa Bay area. That forced  the development of wellfields in then-rural inland areas north of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Those wellfields eventually pumped so much water from underground that the effects showed up above ground. Lakes went dry. Cypress domes went brown. In  areas closer to the coast, the increased pumping allowed salt water to advance into what were once sections of the aquifer filled with fresh water.
Here in Polk, Kissengen Spring, a second-magnitude  spring that fed the Peace River south of Bartow for millenia, quit flowing in 1950 as a result of heavy groundwater pumping by the phosphate industry. It never recovered and it’s unlikely it ever will.
In the meantime occasional droughts, such as the ones in 1981 and 2000, highlighted the limits of water supplies in this part of Florida, which are totally dependent on rainfall.
What this all means is that water plans these days must include two important elements: conservation and development of alternative water supplies, which means using something besides wells to take care of part of future demand.
The good news is that because of conservation and perhaps some refined forecasting, the projected water demand in the region that includes Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties has reduced substantially in the past 15 years.
Swiftmud’s 2000 water supply plan projected a total need for that part of the region of 557 million gallons a day by 2020..
The latest plan projects a demand for 393 mgd by 2020 for the same section of the district.
Nevertheless, how far water officials will go to pursue conservation remains an unanswered question.
People commenting on the Central Florida Water Initiative plan of which Swiftmud’s plan is a part were vocal on this subject, alleging water officials were not doing as much as they could before embarking on expensive public works projects to create alternative supplies.
The two recurring comments dealt with doing more to push for stricter requirements for installing water-saving appliances–some jurisdictions in other states require retrofits as part of property transfers–and doing more to reduce landscape irrigation demand.
Landscape irrigation demand is the biggest part of residential water use.
Critics have suggested that instead of adopting mild measures that attempt to continue business as usual with a greener face–Florida friendly landscaping, rain sensors for irrigation systems–water managers should be pushing to do away with irrigation systems and the notion that lawns that can only be maintained with a steady supply of water, fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides in the first place.
This, of course, would create pushback from some commercial interests that make a living convincing homeowners that high-input landscaping is the ideal.
The importance of conservation will be increasingly evident as the figures emerge for the costs of developing alternative water supplies.
Estimated costs for projects under way at the moment come to about $130 million and will grow. Some of these costs will be included in higher water bills so any projects that conservation can delay will keep money in your wallet.
Locally the details are being worked out by a countywide committee composed of local elected officials and their staff. The final details are expected to be worked out by the middle of next year.
To learn what that group is doing, go to this link.


Support strengthens to stop oil and gas development to keep Florida’s Everglades wild - by Julie Dermansky
November 15, 2015
Betty Osceola, a member of the Miccosukee tribe and Panther clan, has made it her mission to protect the Everglades. The 49-year-old grandmother, who operates an airboat tour company in the Everglades, plans to spend the rest of her life protecting the land of her ancestors for future generations. 
Despite millions of dollars spent on conservation in recent years, the Everglades is still threatened by factors including, pollution, invasive species, salt water intrusion, and the ongoing development of South Florida that continues to encroach on indigenous lands.
Yet of all the threats, Osceola sees a proposed bike path that would cut through the Everglades as the most important threat to stop – and she is not alone. 
Osceola is part of a growing coalition of Indian tribes, environmental groups, and concerned citizens who are fighting the creation of The River of Grass Greenway (ROGG), a bike path that would connect Naples to Miami. Stopping the bike path is a move to keep what is still wild in the Everglades, wild.
The ROGG was designed to be built along U.S. Route 41, one of two roads that cross through the Everglades. The path, if created, would be a multi-purpose 76-mile-long, 12 to 16 foot wide road that would include restroom facilities and additional loop paths that cut into the Everglades. 
Construction of the new path would cut through seven national and state parks, two native reservations, and a World Heritage Site.
The coalition’s objections against the project include further destruction of the wetlands, disruption of vital watersheds, fragmentation of critical habitat for endangered species, the further commercialization of the Everglades, encroachment on indigenous land, and desecration of burial grounds.
Some also fear that the pathway could potentially open the floodgate to new oil drilling and fracking because the design plans leave open the possibility of incorporating other elements that could include power lines or even pipelines.
“The bike path is an example of greenwashing at its worst,” Osceola told DeSmog during an airboat tour in the wetlands. “It is being sold as a project to promote stewardship, help conservation, and help Everglades restoration,” but she and others against the project believe it will do the opposite. 
“There is no need for anything new,” Osceola said. “Cutting trees to build a road isn’t green. The greenest thing would be to use the bike paths we have already,” she said.
The Miccosukee tribe issued an official comment letter against the ROGG draft plan that includes a list of federal acts it alleges it breaks, including skipping initial tribal consultation before commissioning the feasibility study.
There are now over 400 miles of paved and unpaved trails for hiking and biking already throughout the Everglades, according to a Sierra Club Calusa Group ROGG letter opposing the project signed by dozens of concerned citizens and local business owners located along the route of the proposed bike path.
“Since writing the letter, after further analysis we realized the number of existing trails could be over 800,” John Scott, Chairman of the Sierra Club Calusa Group told DeSmog.
Damage caused by building existing paths was done and paid for decades ago, the letters states, and asking taxpayers to pay the bill for this $140 million project plus maintenance at a rate of $7,500 per mile per year, doesn’t make sense. 
The letter concludes, “This project is an unnecessary use of public funds while community benefits are minimal and dubious in value.”
Among other problems the new path will create, the letter argues that the new path will make conditions for those who use U.S. Route 41 more dangerous. The bike path would eliminate existing shoulder space where locals traditionally stop and fish. 
The River of Grass Draft Feasibility Study and Master Plan, released in May by the National Park Service, prepared by AECOM Technical Services, identifies more than 20 wildlife species that could be affected by the ROGG, including the endangered Florida panther.
According to the Miami-Dade County Parks Department, the final feasibility study, paid for with a $1 million federal grant, will be released by January 2016.
As a decision on the project looms seven years after it was initiated, the ROGG is losing support.
The Naples Pathway Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for safe roads for bicyclists and pedestrians that originally proposed the project in 2006, withdrew its support. Though the group has not condemned the ROGG, Beth Brainard, the coalition's executive director, told  Broward Palm Beach New Times, that the organization feels its resources are better spent working on other projects. 
The Miami Dade Government has a page on its website about the plans for the ROGG that is arguably an endorsement – it doesn’t mention any potential negative outcomes.
DeSmog asked whether the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Dept. supported the bike path.  Mark A. Heinicke, senior park planner and project manager for the ROGG, didn’t answer the question. Instead, Heinicke referred DeSmog to an advocacy group called Friends of the River of Grass Greenway (FROGG) to get more information, and sent a list of “quick facts” about the project that states: “No decision has been made to move forward on this project at this time.”
Maria I. Nardi, chief of Planning and Design Excellence with the parks department would not indicate one way or the other where the department stands. She wrote in an email: “The Parks Department is simply facilitating the Feasibility Study, various path options have been presented, and Federal agencies are responsible for making a final decision on the project.“
Osceola sees the Parks Department’s lack of commitment as a sign the tide is turning against the project.
However, even without the path, the Everglades is still under constant threat. “Today’s Everglades cannot sustain human life in the way it did for our ancestors,” Osceola said. “Now to exist here, you have to bring in food and water. People have been advised not to eat more than one meal of fish caught in the Everglades a week due to the high level of phosphate and mercury pollution.”
Another threat is the expansion of drilling in the Everglades. Oil extraction is already taking place at the Raccoon Point oil fields, inside the Big Cypress National Preserve. 
When learning about the project proposal, the word “collocate” made Osceola and others question if the bike path isn’t just a way to get taxpayers to cover needed infrastructure to expand oil and gas operations. 
The Parks Department did not comment on what potential elements could be collocated with the ROGG. However, the department has previously claimed: “No part of this study is intended to promote development nor does it in any way analyze or allow for oil or gas exploration.”
But opponents of the project believe companies could stand to benefit by gaining access to the environmentally sensitive areas. Osceola and Scott wouldn’t be surprised at all if Raccoon Point is able to benefit from the building of the ROGG in some way.
Currently under consideration is a proposal by Burnett Oil Company to seismically test 70,454 acres in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Seismic testing is done to determine if recoverable oil exists. 
And last year the Dan A. Hughes Company was caught fracking without permission in Naples. The public outcry against the frack job resulted in a local ban against fracking in Bonita Springs, and a bill co-sponsored by Democratic State Senators Dwight Bullard and Darren Soto to ban fracking statewide. But fracking and other forms of well stimulation in the Everglades remains a possibility.
Senator Dwight Bullard on Fracking Ban in Florida 
At a public meeting in Naples ahead of the 2016 legislative session, the public had a chance to comment on new bills dealing with the fracking industry. Republican Congressman Curt Clawson took the floor and thanked those at the meeting for the service they were providing to the state. 
He reluctantly talked with DeSmog after he stepped out of the meeting. “I am not a big fan of drilling in the Gulf and we are on the record with that,” Clawson said. “With respect to the Everglades, number one, we respect private property rights. That is important in our economy and our society. Number two, we are respectful of the state’s regulatory authority. And number three, I’m not a big fan of drilling in the Everglades.”
After making that statement, Clawson demanded a promise that his statement on private property rights be published with his statement about drilling. After no such promise was given, Clawson expressed regret for having spoken on the record, and was visibly shaken by the idea that his statement about not being a big fan of drilling in the Everglades would be published without his statement on having respect for private property. 
Though the oil and gas industry plays a small role in Florida’s economy, speaking out against the oil industry seems to be political taboo for many state politicians, including Clawson.
During a visit to the Everglades on Earth Day, President Obama used the opportunity to take a jab at Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott, who prohibited state employees from using the term “climate change.” 
“Climate change is threatening this treasure and the communities that depend on it, which includes almost all of South Florida,” Obama said. “And if we don’t act, there may not be an Everglades as we know it. Simply refusing to say the words ‘climate change’ doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t happening.”
Opposition to the bike path peaked in March, when indigenous people and their supporters walked the length of the proposed bike path during a protest to raise awareness to the project.
“Traditionally the Florida tribes have wanted to be left alone,” Nicole Williams, a craftsperson and teacher of indigenous descent who took part in the walk, told DeSmog. “But in an effort to protect what is left of the Everglades, that has changed.”
“The Internet has been an important tool for indigenous people across the continent to mobilize against further destruction of the Earth in the fight to stop tar sands use,” she said. “People coming together to fight for the planet is our only hope of saving what is left.” 
Yet supporters of the ROGG like Maureen Bonness, a co-founder of FROGG, an advocacy group established to support the project, believes the protest is being led by a “not-in-my-backyard” group of recreational hunters and others who just want the Everglades to themselves, according to the Naples Daily News
The only claim her organization makes about the project, which those who oppose it don’t dispute, is that it could bring hundreds of thousands more visitors to the Everglades.
“How much population can the Everglades sustain and still keep its wildness?” Oscaola asks. “If you keep taking away from the areas that animals have to live – where are they going to go?” she pondered from atop of her airboat in the heart of the Everglades. “This land can only sustain so much life.” 


Florida’s most deadly hurricane broke dikes
Tallahassee Democrat – by Peter Ray, Professor of meteorology at Florida State University
November 14, 2015
Okeechobee means “ big water” in the Seminole Tribe language.
Florida and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, are hurricane central for Atlantic hurricanes. There have been many noteworthy hurricanes in Florida and some, like Andrew have changed the economy more than others. But the deadliest was the Okeechobee Hurricane that had modest winds of 125 mph when it struck Palm Beach on Sept. 17, 1928. Lake Okeechobee flooded and the dikes broke. That caused a flood that killed over 2,500 people, more than any other with the exception of the Galveston hurricane.
It started out as many hurricanes do, as a tropical cyclone off the coast of Africa and traveled westward. It steadily gained strength, eventually becoming a Category 5 hurricane with 160 mph winds on Sept.13.
After producing heavy damage in Puerto Rico, it moved on to the U.S. and made landfall near West Palm Beach as a Category 4 hurricane on Sept. 17. But the greatest impact was around Lake Okeechobee. The storm surge poured out of the lake and was 20 feet deep. At least 2,500 people died, making it the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida.
Lake Okeechobee formed about 6,000 years ago as waters receded and left a shallow depression that filled with fresh water.
Hurricanes continued to plague the area and organizations were created to monitor and correct the flow of water in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. Culverts were constructed, canals, levees and pumping stations. Now there are 2,000 miles of canals and more than 2,800 miles of levees and 700 culverts to protect regional water supplies and provide flood control.
There were so many dead, that they were buried in mass graves and large funeral pyres.
President Hoover toured the lake and started the process of rebuilding the failed dikes and the Hoover Dike was built. This and other events led to the formation of what has become the Water Management Districts of which the “big dog” is the SFWMD or the South Florida Water Management District. They manage the lake level and the flow of water through the Everglades and out to the Atlantic and to the Gulf.


OK, Mr. Antonacci, show us what you’ve got; help save our lagoon - Opinion Letter by Bob Poller, Port St. Lucie, FL
November 14, 2015
Pete Antonacci (new executive director of the South Florida Water Management District) says, "My goal is to put a shoulder to the wheel and get water quality projects completed ..."
For one who worked for Gov. Scott, Antonacci has a smart copy writer. Well, I have these assignments for him:
Resolve Ten Mile Creek.
Complete C-44 Reservoir, and please read the University of Florida Water Institute study.
Kick butt, not the can down the street. Help clean up our lagoon. Light that fire; show your passion.



Planning in a changing water environment a challenge
The Ledger - by Tom Palmer
November 14, 2015
Tuesday the Southwest Florida Water Management District is expected to adopt its latest regional water supply plan.
I, like anyone else who covers or follows water issues in Florida, have a pile of previous Swiftmud water supply plans somewhere on my desk or tucked away in files or bookshelves.
I met recently with a small group of Swiftmud officials at their invitation to discuss the latest plan.
My first question was how this plan is much different from previous plans.
The response was that, although the overall elements of the plan are not that much different, what is different is the context under which the plan is being produced.
Swiftmud's regional plan is now part of another regional plan called the Central Florida Water Initiative. The purpose of that initiative is to come up with a long-term, sustainable plan to supply water in what is essentially the greater metro area surrounding Orlando, which includes Polk County.
It traces its origins to an earlier cooperative that was to be established under orders from then-Gov. Jeb Bush to head off what appeared to be a protracted and wasteful legal fight over water allocation reminiscent of what happened in the Tampa Bay area decades earlier.
The reason water allocation decisions nearly ended up in court was because scientists had concluded that the Orlando area had reached the point where its projected water demands threatened to outstrip the ability of the Floridan aquifer to supply it.
This had happened decades ago in parts of the Tampa Bay area. That forced the development of wellfields in then-rural inland areas north of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Those wellfields eventually pumped so much water from underground that the effects showed up above ground. Lakes went dry. Cypress domes went brown. In areas closer to the coast, the increased pumping allowed salt water to advance into what were once sections of the aquifer filled with fresh water.
Here in Polk County, Kissengen Spring, a second-magnitude spring that fed the Peace River south of Bartow for millenia, quit flowing in 1950 as a result of heavy groundwater pumping by the phosphate industry. It never recovered and it's unlikely it ever will.
In the meantime, occasional droughts, such as the ones in 1981 and 2000, highlighted the limits of water supplies in this part of Florida, which are totally dependent on rainfall.
What this all means is that water plans these days must include two important elements: conservation and development of alternative water supplies, which means using something besides wells to take care of part of future demand.
The good news is that because of conservation and perhaps some refined forecasting, the projected water demand in the region that includes Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties has been reduced substantially in the past 15 years.
Swiftmud's 2000 water supply plan projected a total need for that part of the region of 557 million gallons per day by 2020.
The latest plan projects a demand for 393 mgd by 2020 for the same section of the district.
Nevertheless, how far water officials will go to pursue conservation remains an unanswered question.
People commenting on the Central Florida Water Initiative plan, of which Swiftmud's plan is a part, were vocal on this subject, alleging water officials were not doing as much as they could before embarking on expensive public works projects to create alternative supplies.
The two recurring comments dealt with doing more to push for stricter requirements for installing water-saving appliances — some jurisdictions in other states require retrofits as part of property transfers — and doing more to reduce landscape irrigation demand.
Landscape irrigation demand is the biggest part of residential water use.
Critics have suggested that instead of adopting mild measures that attempt to continue business as usual with a greener face — Florida friendly landscaping, rain sensors for irrigation systems — water managers should be pushing to do away with irrigation systems and the notion that lawns that can only be maintained with a steady supply of water, fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides in the first place.
This, of course, would create pushback from some commercial interests who make a living convincing homeowners that high-input landscaping is the ideal.
The importance of conservation will be increasingly evident as the figures emerge for the costs of developing alternative water supplies.
Estimated costs for projects under way at the moment come to about $130 million and will grow. Some of these costs will be included in higher water bills so any projects that conservation can delay will keep money in your wallet.
Locally the details are being worked out by a countywide committee composed of local elected officials and their staffs. The final details are expected to be worked out by the middle of next year.
To learn what that group is doing, go to


Big Money
Big Sugar = Big Money

Big Sugar and Corporate Welfare: Finally in the political spotlights ?
Huffington Post – by Alan Farago, board president of Friends of the Everglades
November 13, 2015
In Florida's political circles, criticizing Big Sugar is about as popular as whining about coal in Kentucky. It never happens. Suddenly, though, the tectonic plates are shifting around Florida. It is because of a GOP presidential primary completely scrambled by outsiders.
A month ago, front runner Donald Trump bumped up against the Big Sugar issue when he condemned the closure of a midwestern candy factory and the loss of jobs to Mexico. He didn't quite get the reason, right, or the point of outrage. But he wasn't far off.
The one who does get it right isn't even on the stage: Grover Norquist. Earlier this year, eyebrows lifted when Norquist, arguably the most effective conservative firebrand in American politics, declared that ending the sugar subsidy in the Farm Bill was his top priority, after cutting taxes. Norquist called the sugar subsidy, "cronyism in its undiluted, inexcusable majesty."
The reason my jaw didn't drop is that for decades, the sugar subsidy has been lambasted as corporate welfare in its worst form from conservative news organizations like the Wall Street Journal to foundations like the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute. All regularly railed against the sugar subsidy, enriching a few billionaire farmers in Florida. And nothing changed.
Big Sugar's perks amount to legalized corruption of the campaign finance system. In the state capitol, the industry's influence is so pervasive that it acts as a shadow government. What Big Sugar wants, it gets. These days, a solid GOP majority in the state legislature, Gov. Rick Scott, and Adam Putnam -- the agriculture secretary aiming to replace Marco Rubio in the US Senate -- are so deep in Big Sugar's pocket, you can't even see them. Not that Floridians are looking.
So it comes as a shock, at least to this jaded observer, that the rest of the nation is suddenly looking at Big Sugar. It is almost as though Donald Trump served the purpose of Indiana Jones in the Raider of the Lost Ark, showing the treasure hunters -- the rest of the GOP field -- that you won't disappear off the face of the earth if you challenge Big Sugar.
It is Ted Cruz, the Senator from Texas, who pushed through the door first.
In Tuesday's Republican debate, Ted Cruz pointed to sugar subsidies as a prime example of crony capitalism -- a semi-subtle dig at Floridian opponent Marco Rubio, the sugar industry's man in Washington. Rubio argued yesterday that doing away with our subsidies would mean surrendering American jobs, but neither liberal nor conservative commentators are buying that defense. "It's hard to credibly criticize the welfare state without trying to take down the corporate welfare state first," the conservative American Enterprise Institute's Tim Carney tells Greg Sargent at The Washington Post's Plum Line blog. "The argument for free enterprise doesn't have a foundation if you also tolerate corporate welfare." (Bill Moyers and Company)
It is a sign of desperation that Jeb Bush, trailing his dispirited exclamation point like a wet blanket, has called for the end to the sugar subsidy that keeps domestic sugar at nearly twice the price of world markets and provides profits to sugar billionaires like the Fanjuls of Coral Gables and Palm Beach with seed for next season's crop of political hopefuls. In eight years as governor, Jeb Bush was as unfailing a friend to Big Sugar as Mitch McConnell to Big Coal in Kentucky.
Marco Rubio owes his political existence to Big Sugar. He carried the industry's water in the 2003 attempt through the state legislature to up-end the Everglades settlement agreement, helping Jeb Bush in passing a new law that was subsequently over-turned through federal litigation by environmentalists, derided as "The Everglades Whenever Act". After Gov. Charlie Crist tried to buyout more than 130,000 acres of US Sugar lands, the Fanjuls threw their full weight (and money) to Rubio -- then fighting Crist for the US Senate.
So it is no surprise that Marco Rubio will parrot whatever lines he is fed by Big Sugar. Most recently, their line of defense was that protectionism is necessary on grounds of "national security". Rubio complained, "We will not unilaterally disarm"; meaning surrender sugar profits to Brazil. For the first time, though, blowing Big Sugar's smoke doesn't seem to be holding.
Rubio's specious argument is not just an easy target for Cruz. Conservatives who fund political campaigns are being asked -- through this disruptive GOP presidential primary -- to take the litmus test themselves.
Although we have been saying for a long, long time -- Big Sugar poisons people, poisons democracy and poisons the Everglades -- the only way to describe what it feels like in Florida to have the sugar subsidy in the spotlight is: OMG.


Commissioner Putnam Appoints Steve Dwinell as Director of Office of Agricultural Water Policy - by Dan
November 13, 2015
From: The Office of Commissioner Adam Putnam
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam announced today that he has appointed Steve Dwinell to serve as the Director of the Office of Agricultural Water Policy within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“Steve is a proven leader who will serve Floridians well in his capacity as the Director of the Office of Agricultural Water Policy,” stated Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam.
Steve began his career as an Extension Agent in Hamilton County before moving to the Department of Environmental Protection to work in the Bureau of Groundwater Protection. He joined the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services more than 20 years ago as an Environmental Administrator, and he has served as the Assistant Director of the Division of Agricultural Environmental Services since 2000. Steve earned a master’s degree in Agricultural Entomology from the University of Florida.


Lakeside Ranch is already benefiting Lake Okeechobee, greater ecosystem
SFWMD News Release
November 15, 2015
The transformation of ranchlands into water-cleaning wetlands continues as the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) approved a construction contract to build the southern Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) at Lakeside Ranch. These specialized wetlands in western Martin County are designed to remove phosphorus from stormwater before it reaches Lake Okeechobee.
"Reducing the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Okeechobee is an important component of the overall strategy to improve water quality in the lake and in the Everglades," said SFWMD Governing Board member Kevin Powers. "Building this next phase of wetlands at Lakeside Ranch will increase the project's already proven ability to reduce nutrient loads to the lake."
Exceeding Expectations
Lakeside Ranch is situated in the Taylor Creek/Nubbin Slough sub-watershed, one of the nutrient "hot spots" in the overall Lake Okeechobee watershed.
Phase I, the northern STA, which began operating in 2012, has reduced phosphorus loads in the water it has treated by 82 percent.  During the last two years (July 2013 to June 2015), a total of 23 metric tons of phosphorus has been removed, well exceeding the design rate of 9 metric tons per year.
In Water Year 2015 (May 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015) alone, the STA captured 30,851 acre-feet of stormwater runoff, removing 13.89 of the total 16.29 metric tons of phosphorus it received, an 88% reduction. This phosphorus would have otherwise gone into the lake.
Construction Begins
With an investment of approximately $35 million, the SFWMD Governing Board has authorized Munilla Construction Management to begin work on the Southern STA.
This phase of the Lakeside Ranch project includes construction of:
●  8 inflow/outflow, gated water control structures
●  5 "cells" (retention areas) of aquatic vegetation that remove phosphorus, with an effective treatment area of 788 acres
●  Distribution and outlet canals/seepage ditches
●  Recreation area with an informational kiosk and restroom
Together the north and south STAs are expected to reduce phosphorus loads into the lake by 19 metric tons annually.


More red tide found in water samples alongshore Pinellas - by Suzette Porter
November 13, 2015
High concentrations and fish kills reported in Treasure Island.
The Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, was detected in very low to high concentrations in six samples collected Nov. 5 and 9 in and alongshore of Pinellas County.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission researchers confirmed the presence of two red tide bloom areas in September. One is located in northwest Florida and the other in southwest Florida, which includes Pinellas.
Florida red tide is a naturally occurring algal bloom caused by an organism known as dinoflagellate Karenia brevis. The organism produces a toxin that can kill fish, birds and marine mammals; cause health problems for humans; and adversely affect local economies.
FWC reported in its Nov. 13 red tide status report that fish kills were continuing throughout both bloom areas. Locally, fish kills have been reported on Treasure Island. Respiratory irritation also is possible.
Five samples taken alongshore and inshore Pinellas County Nov. 9 showed the presence of red tide, including one with high concentrations taken at 115th Avenue, south of Isle of Palms in Treasure Island.
Samples with low concentrations of Karenia brevis were taken from Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach, Clearwater Pass, Redington Pier and from Gulf Pier on Mullet Key. One sample with very low concentration was taken from Tarpon Key, located 4.6 miles east of Tampa Bay on Nov. 5.
No red tide was detected at nine other sampling sites alongshore Pinellas. No samples were taken from waters offshore.
Evidence of red tide started showing up in water samples Oct. 26 when background concentrations were found at Pier 60 in Clearwater Beach and very low concentrations were found at Mullet Key; Gulf Pier. No red tide was found in samples taken at Clearwater Pass or Redington Pier.
Samples taken Nov. 2 found no signs of red tide at Pier 60 or Clearwater Pass, but low concentrations were found at Redington Pier and very low concentrations at Mullet Key.
Red tide also is being detected alongshore in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties in southwest Florida.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Nov. 13 red tide report states that the bloom remains patchy and respiratory irritation varies based on concentration levels in the local vicinity.
The forecast through Monday shows a very low risk of respiratory irritation in northern and southern areas of Pinellas. But the risk is high in the bay regions of southern parts of the county. Mote Marine Laboratory shows no reports of fish kills at Fort De Soto, Clearwater Beach or Caladesi Island as of Nov. 13.
Red tide is feared in coastal communities like Pinellas that have a successful tourism industry. Blooms in 1971 and 2005-06 cost local governments thousands of dollars just to cleanup dead fish on the beaches. Thousands more dollars were lost as tourists fled the county due to the smell. Large numbers of marine animals died. The fishing industry suffered.
The red tide organism releases a neurotoxin that directly affects animals that come in contact by breathing or ingesting it through food sources. The neurotoxin shuts down the nervous system.
The effect on humans is not as severe but red tide can cause eye, nose and throat irritation. People with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma or chronic lung disease might want to avoid places where the bloom is more concentrated.
Pets also should stay out of the water that contains red tide. If a pet does contact water with red tide, FWC advises to rinse off the fur and paws with fresh water right away. Do not let your pet eat the dead fish or drink the water.
Related:           Red tide cancels snook tournament, other events still on       WTSP 10 News


Ramifications of symbolic fracking ban - by Tom Jackson, Tribune Staff
November 13, 2015
Recent moves by Pasco lawmakers against fracking are, in all likelihood, merely symbolic. I mean, for all the proven oil and natural gas under our feet, they might as well be considering prohibitions on alien spacecraft landings or Victoria’s Secret fashion shows.
Let me add also this: Generally, the closer to residents decisions are made, the more those decisions reflect the sentiments of the folks likely to feel their effects. In that sense, as long as their decisions don’t create adversity for their neighbors, it’s perfectly OK with me if county commissions, city councils and even homeowners association boards pass intensely localized ordinances and resolutions.
Moreover, even if those decisions are rooted in sloppy thinking or cherry-picked evidence, the Legislature generally ought to butt out. Local voters will determine whether their community interests are being well and properly seen after.
So, if officials representing Dade City and Pasco County want to make the areas subject to their jurisdiction fracking-free zones, that’s fine. Have at it. As long as they’re burning through the public’s time going after stuff that’s never going to happen here, they might as well ban live dinosaur theme parks and time portal development, and throw in an anti-cross-country-skiing law for good measure.
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Still, it’s hard not to feel at least a little dismayed by the two boards’ race to pander — not for the first time — to the backward-gazing not-in-my-backyard impulses of its most panicky constituents.
OK, I get that these are essentially consequence-free votes. Wildcatters are not probing the eastern uplands or the western mangroves for signs of the next Bakken formation, so it’s not like commissioners are spurning an untold number of high-paying jobs and wells spurting tax revenue.
But it’s disappointing, even so, because it lends an air of credibility to the Luddite fringe that’s convinced technology is out to get them. Never mind that the vast majority of studies — including one released in June by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — debunk the worst claims against fracking (for the record, hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting oil and natural gas trapped in rock using water, sand and a small amount of chemicals under pressure), including that it pollutes groundwater (yes, but rarely), releases methane (again, rarely, and is preventable), contributes to earthquakes, worsens climate change and that it burdens precious water supplies.
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What fracking, accompanied by horizontal drilling, does, mostly, is create economic opportunity from otherwise unattainable deposits of fossil fuels. In the 21st century, the result has been job creation, improved American energy security and the enhanced freedom that accompanies lower energy costs.
Let me add, and this is just a guess, Dade City motorists are as pleased as the rest of us to be paying around $2 at the pump. Without icky fracking’s felicitous doubling of domestic crude oil production, however, they — we — could be paying twice as much.
This is not a guess: Doubling or even tripling the price of unleaded regular would please your no-fracking environmentalist friends enormously. And that’s much of why the Dade City resolution and the pending action by Pasco commissioners, even if only symbolic, is worrisome.
Florida has proven hydrocarbon reserves in the Panhandle and South Florida. Each area has been producing small amounts of crude and natural gas for decades. Fracking could expand significantly what’s economically recoverable.
But public relations is nearly as important as geophysics wherever the oil patch emerges, and if dozens of Florida cities and counties with no skin in the game have approved fracking bans, activists will point to them as proof of what Floridians prefer.
In this way, seemingly intensely local preferences could create difficulties for Florida communities where petroleum exploration can be accomplished safely and effectively. For legislators sponsoring bills that would ban local fracking bans, that’s surely among the angles they’re working against.
Sigh. Heading off ­NIMBYism isn’t the best reason for the Legislature to stamp its gigantic feet, but when it comes to securing the national energy supply, it’s not the worst reason, either.
Related:           Ban fracking in Florida, Dade City says


Septic tanks ID'd as bad guy 10 years ago
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
November 13, 2015
I'm catching an earful about St. Lucie estuary pollution from some of the folks I used to know during the years I lived on the Treasure Coast. I'm pretty sure they're ready to tar and feather me.
Many of them believe my concentration on septic tanks as the primary source of pollution is a deliberate dodge to divert attention from the real major source of the problem, Big Sugar.
One of these people, lifelong Stuart resident and attorney Mac Stuckey, wrote me an email after my  Nov. 3 column in which I said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, should have supported a bill mandating septic tank inspections. In part, he said this: 
"Septic tank 'science' is being used to divert the public's attention from the real cause," Stuckey said in his email. "Your condescending tone in the article you wrote, attempting to 'teach' Mr. Negron something would be comical if it wasn't so delusional and part of the problem."
What is so interesting about this email is, it came in on precisely the same day I discovered another Brian LaPointe study -- in fact, a 10-year-old study -- that produced the same results as the one biologist LaPointe presented to the Martin County Commission Nov. 3.
Please click on the attachment below, "Effects of Hurricanes, Land Use, and Water Management on Nutrient and Microbial Pollution: St. Lucie Estuary, Southeast Florida," from The Journal of Coastal Research for November 2012. Scientists involved were Brian E. Lapointe, Laura W. Herren, and Bradley J. Bedford. The three were working for the Marine Ecosystem Health Program, part of Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
The team studied the estuary in 2005 and 2006, following the most active Florida hurricane season in recorded history. 
Note that scientists concluded there were two problems involving Lake Okeechobee discharges and septic tank pollution in the local basins: The highest nutrient and fecal coliform was in canals and tidal creeks surrounded by septic tanks; and the highest ammonium and phosphate were found in the river's North Fork, which is not influenced by the C-44 discharges into the South Fork.
What that means in a nutshell is, the most polluted fork of the river wasn't affected by agriculture/fertilizer runoff.  
Says the report, "The data suggest that increased stormwater retention, minimization of freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee, and enhanced treatment of both stormwater and sewage are needed to mitigate future stormwater-driven water quality perturbations in the St. Lucie estuary."
All this is repeated in the concluding paragraph:
"Improved capacity for storage, minimization of freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee, and treatment of stormwater runoff and sewage in the watersheds of the St. Lucie estuary extending to Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River basin, must be implemented if these (pollution) problems are to be moderated in the future."
What this study tells me is that 10 years ago waterfront communities of the Treasure Coast had a septic tank problem, and they've done little that I can see to address it.
I want to apologize if, as Mac Stuckey says, I've come off in these columns as condescending.  Certainly, I'm no scientist, nor could I ever pose as one. I just try to do my homework and report what I find. That's about the best I can do.


SFWMD awards Everglades restoration project contracts
Florida Water Daily
November 13, 2015
From the SFWMD Press Release:
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) [Thursday] approved two construction contracts to maintain significant momentum for the State of Florida’s Restoration Strategies plan to improve Everglades water quality. Both projects will expand the size and function of treatment wetlands, known as Stormwater Treatment Areas, or STAs.
Already a proven green technology, Stormwater Treatment Area 1 West (STA-1W) in western Palm Beach County will grow from 6,700 acres to 11,300 acres. The $79.2 million investment nearly doubles the STA’s ability to clean excess phosphorus from stormwater before it reaches the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and the greater Everglades.
“In a short time, key projects in Gov. Rick Scott’s Restoration Strategies plan are underway or nearly complete,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Daniel O’Keefe. “This is the next critical piece of the plan to achieve cleaner water for America’s Everglades.”
Formalized in 2012, the Restoration Strategies plan is a suite of projects scientifically designed to achieve the ultra-low phosphorus levels needed in the Everglades. Under the plan, the District is creating more than 6,500 acres of new STAs and 116,000 acre-feet of additional water storage.
Expansion of STA-1W involves an array work, including construction of:
●  49,000 feet of perimeter embankment
●  34,000 feet of collector canals to convey flow
●  10 inflow gated concrete box culverts
●  6 overflow weirs
Once infrastructure is complete, plants are expected to grow in naturally, removing excess nutrients from stormwater.
As part of the plan, a second expansion of 1,800 acres in STA-1W will be accomplished in the future to further increase treatment capacity.
Construction work will also include building a structure that increases the flow capacity in the nearby Stormwater Treatment Area 1 East. Increasing water flow from 1,580 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 3,600 cfs will improve the ability to distribute water during storms and other high flow events into the STA, where it can be cleaned.
In related activities, the SFWMD approved acquisition of an important seepage canal at the southern end of the project. The canal will capture clean water that naturally seeps under embankments and return it back to the regional system.
Restoration Strategies Progress
The first two major initiatives in the governor’s $880 million suite of projects are nearly complete and operating.
●  A-1 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB): With 60,000 acre-feet of water storage, the project captures and stores peak stormwater flows. Water managers can move water from the basin into STAs at a steady rate to optimize the wetlands’ performance and achieve water quality improvement targets.
- Construction utilized 16,500 cubic yards of concrete, 2,100 tons of steel and 21 miles of levees.
- The site is west of U.S. 27 in Palm Beach County.
●  L-8 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB): Designed to operate like the A-1 FEB, the project is being built on a strategically located 950-acre former rock mine.
- The deep-ground reservoir is capable of storing 45,000 acre-feet of water.
- Initially, this project will function as a multipurpose FEB to capture, store and deliver water to STA-1 East, STA-1 West, the Loxahatchee River and for other restoration purposes.
- When the STA-1 West expansion is completed and in-basin storage for the Loxahatchee River comes online, the L-8 FEB will transition to primarily delivering consistent flows needed to optimize performance of STA-1 East and STA-1 West.
The SFWMD also has begun construction on the Bolles East Canal upgrade. The project will enhance flexibility for moving stormwater from the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) into wetlands that improve the quality of water before it reaches the Everglades. Blasting work at the site was recently documented on video:


Answering the alarm bells in Florida Bay
Miami Herald – by Sam Accursio, member of the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District.
November 12, 2015
Highlights:      Vast area clearly in distress.
Many projects on the books, but haven’t been implemented.
Moving water through the existing system is a complex challenge.
It’s no longer a question whether two years of localized drought might mean trouble for Florida Bay.
  FL Bay
It clearly does, because this vast, shallow area between the mainland and Florida Keys is now in distress. The bay’s waters have become much saltier than they should be, and seagrasses are dead or dying. Algae blooms are starting to appear, painful reminders of a sick bay back in the 1980’s.
As a recently appointed Governing Board member of the South Florida Water Management District — and as part of a family that has been farming in Miami-Dade County since 1948 — I ask a lot of questions about water.
One of them is, “Why do Everglades National Park and Florida Bay have too little fresh water, but there is way too much water on my nearby farm?”
It doesn’t make sense.
Experts agree that scant rainfall over two years is central to the current conditions, and no one can change that. But water managers, federal officials and environmental groups each have played a part in affecting the bay’s long-term health and its resiliency to drought. Consider:
▪ When Everglades restoration was initiated in the early 1990’s, one of its primary goals was increased water flow into Everglades National Park. Florida Bay, at nearly 1,000 square miles, is part of the park. Regrettably, the projects to deliver more water are not yet constructed, although project components, scientific analyses and engineering designs are in place.
▪ Moving more water through the existing system is an especially complex challenge. It is restricted by federal operational plans, bird species protection, groundwater seepage, flood control requirements, landscape features, conveyance limitations and other significant factors, which — as always — require adequate rainfall so there’s enough extra water to move.
I want to be part of solving this challenge, and I do believe there are short-term steps to take, even as we work on implementing the projects that will provide longer-term improvement.
At the SFWMD Governing Board’s direction, a South Dade investigation effort has been convened to explore innovative ways to move water south to Florida Bay. Participants include water managers, federal agencies, environmental advocates and farmers in the region, which includes me and my family business.
We all recognize the competing needs for water management decisions in South Dade. Farmers need water to support the fruit and vegetable production that is an important source for America’s domestic food supply (yet too much water destroys huge fields of crops).
Like our urban neighbors to the east, we all expect and need flood protection and adequate water supplies in our communities. At the same time, federal park managers have a responsibility to preserve existing flora and fauna, even as some environmentalists advocate for single-species protection above all other needs.
As a fundamental goal, it makes sense to move water away from areas where there is too much and into areas, like Florida Bay and Everglades National Park, where there is not enough. It’s especially frustrating that growers’ fields are too wet now — even after this summer’s near-drought conditions — yet only a few miles to the west, the natural systems of Everglades National Park and Florida Bay are suffering for lack of fresh water.
The South Dade investigation is tasked with identifying the projects and operational changes that will provide relief. As a Governing Board member, agricultural stakeholder and one who shares public concern for responsible water management, I am committed to finding and implementing solutions to this critical problem.
Related:           Sending water south to Florida Bay is in everyone's interest (Nov.14)


EPA and partners launch challenge to recycle nutrients from livestock waste
EPA News Release
November 12, 2015
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pork and dairy producers, and environmental and scientific experts to launch the Nutrient Recycling Challenge, a competition to develop affordable technologies that recycle nutrients from livestock waste.
Every year, livestock producers manage more than one billion tons of manure, which contains valuable nutrients – nitrogen and phosphorus – that plants need to grow. Challenge participants will develop technologies that extract nutrients from livestock manure to generate products with environmental and economic benefits that farmers can use or sell.
“Scientists and engineers are already building technologies that can recover nutrients, but further development is needed to make them more effective and affordable,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The Nutrient Recycling Challenge will harness the power of competition to find solutions that are a win-win for farmers, the environment, and the economy.”
During the four-phase competition, innovators will turn their concepts into designs and eventually into working technologies that livestock farms will use in pilot projects.
Phase I, which begins Nov. 16 and ends Jan. 15, calls for papers outlining ideas for these technologies. Phase I prizes will be announced in March and include up to $20,000 cash to be split between up to four semi-finalists; invitation to a two-day partnering and investor summit in Washington, DC; and entry into subsequent phases of the challenge with larger awards. Final awards will be announced January 2017, with farm demonstration pilots to follow.
Partners in the Nutrient Recycling Challenge are:
• American Biogas Council
• American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
• Ben & Jerry’s
• Cabot Creamery Cooperative
• Cooper Farms
• CowPots
• Dairy Farmers of America
• Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
• Iowa State University
• Marquette University
  • National Milk Producers Federation
• National Pork Producers Council
• Newtrient LLC
• Smithfield Foods
• Strategic Conservation Solutions
• Tyson Foods
• U.S. Department of Agriculture
• Washington State University
• Water Environment Research Federation
• World Wildlife Fund

Contact Information:

Robert Daguillard (MEDIA ONLY),, 202-564-6618;
Hema Subramanian (PUBLIC INQUIRIES),, 202-564-5041


Polluted canal

ORCA: Algae in canals causes pollution in estuaries – by Tyler Treadway
November 11, 205
FORT PIERCE — Algae blooms aren't just the result of pollution in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon; they're a cause.
Kilroy water quality monitors deployed by the Ocean Research & Conservation Association indicate that algae from canals and creeks is "a significant source" of nutrients, muck and toxins in the Florida's east coast estuaries, said Edith "Edie" Widder, ORCA's lead scientist and CEO.
"It's a different problem than we've always thought we had in the lagoon," Widder said. "Right now it's a hypothesis, but we think it's a pretty good one."
If ORCA's finding is correct, measures to clean the estuaries need to change drastically, she said. The good news is getting rid of algae should be easier while it's still in relatively small canals than after it's in the much larger lagoon, she added.
The traditional view of how the estuaries get polluted goes like this:
High levels of nutrients — primarily nitrogen and phosphorus — flow from creeks and canals into the estuaries, spawning algae blooms in the slightly salty water. The slimy, pea-green blooms shade and kill sea grass beds.
ORCA's theory goes like this:
Nitrogen and phosphorus cause freshwater algae to build up in the canals and creeks leading into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. The nutrients aren't detected because they're inside the algae. When the algae hits the slightly salty water of the estuaries, it dies. That releases the nutrients and toxins within the algae into the estuary, and the dead algae cells fall to the bottom of the water as muck.
In this theory, damage is done to the estuaries even when there aren't bright green blooms covering large portions of the estuary.
Data from Kilroys
ORCA scientists developed the theory by studying algae readings from Kilroys in the C-24 Canal, a tributary of the St. Lucie River where they are conducting research sponsored by the Scotts Miracle-Gro fertilizer company.
State-sponsored Kilroys deployed at the mouths of creeks and canals along the lagoon also showed significant periodic accumulations of algae. The only Kilroys that didn't follow the pattern were on Hutchinson Island, where there are no long creeks or canals.
Ongoing measures to clean Florida's estuaries, such as the state Department of Environmental Protection's Basin Management Action Plans, are based on monitoring nitrogen and phosphorus. They don't see those nutrients "hiding" in algae, Widder said.
"We need to be looking at all the algae entering the estuaries, as well as the nutrients if we're going to understand what's really harming our water," Widder said.
Next steps
Widder said the findings lead ORCA to two next steps.
One is finding where the nitrogen and phosphorus that feed freshwater algae are coming from.
Boyd E. Gunsalus, an environmental scientist with the South Florida Water Management District and member of an oversight panel keeping track of the Scotts study, said researchers have identified several "hot spots" with high nutrient levels where some creeks and smaller canals drain into the C-24. Putting Kilroys at the mouths of those creeks and ditches will help determine individual groves and fields with high-nutrient runoff.
"The ultimate goal is to stop nutrients at the source," Widder said. "Pointing fingers is usually counterproductive; but hopefully we can convince farmers they're wasting money by putting too much fertilizer on their fields."
The other is to figure a way to stop algae in creeks and canals before it enters the estuaries.
The bad news is that algae cells are too small to filter out of the water.
The good news, according to Indian River County Commissioner Peter O'Bryan, a member of the oversight committee, "It could be that removing algae from the canals will be easier than removing nitrogen once it hits the estuary."
More research, more money
The 25 Kilroy water monitors in the lagoon are paid for by a state contract set to run out in March. ORCA Managing Director Warren Falls said the Fort Pierce-based nonprofit will ask the 2016 Florida Legislature for $750,000 in January to continue the program.
Scotts gave ORCA $625,000 for the study to pinpoint the sources of pollution entering the St. Lucie River via the C-24 Canal. Falls said that money will run out in about six months.
"We haven't approached Scotts for more money, yet," he said, "but that's the plan."
Here's what you need to know about preliminary findings of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association's study sponsored by Scotts Miracle-Gro:
●  Kilroy water monitors found that algae built up in creeks and canals is a significant source of nutrients, muck and toxins in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
●  The finding was confirmed by state-sponsored Kilroys elsewhere in the lagoon and in separate lab testing.
●  If ORCA's hypothesis is true, Basin Management Action Plans that currently work toward reducing nitrogen and phosphorus need to consider algae, too.
●  Getting rid of the algae in the relatively small creeks and canals should be easier than when it reaches the lagoon.
●  ORCA's next steps include figuring out how to do that, and pinpointing the sources of the nitrogen and phosphorus feeding the algae.
Donald Albrey Arrington, executive director, Loxahatchee River Environmental Control District
Deborah Drum, manager, Martin County ecosystem restoration and management
Boyd E. Gunsalus, lead environmental scientist, Okeechobee Service Center, South Florida Water Management District
Peter D. O'Bryan, Indian River County commissioner
Mark Perry, executive director, Florida Oceanographic Society, Stuart
H.M. Ridgely, real estate manager, Evans Properties Inc.


Polluted canal

Scientists tracing algae in local canals – by Jon Shainman
November 11, 2015
Findings could change plans to clean estuaries
ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. - New data has scientists taking a new look at what's behind the algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon.
Even without massive freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee this summer, The Dickerson family of St. Lucie County stays on top of the water, rather than swimming in it.
“My son is a diver and we do a lot of recreational swimming out by the St. Lucie River but we didn’t do it at all this summer because we were afraid of people getting sick," said Susan Dickerson on Tuesday.
What scientists are finding in the C-24 and in other canals is leading them to a new hypothesis when it comes to nutrients getting into the Indian River Lagoon.
 “They are coming in the form of algae blooms that are occurring out in the canals," said Dr. Edie Widder with the Ocean Resarch and Conservation Association.
ORCA has deployed two dozen Kilroy water quality monitors in two dozen sites on the Treasure Coast that pump out data 24-7.
Scientists say they are detecting algae in area canals that are a significant source of nutrient pollution.
“That freshwater algae hits the salt water in the estuary.  The cells rupture, they release their nutrients.  They also release the cyanotoxins, the toxins that these blue green algae produce," said Dr. Widder.
Dr. Widder says the dead algae becomes muck, the black mayonnaise that’s smothering the bottom of the lagoon, killing the sea grass.  She adds its important not just to focus on nutrient runoff from the land, but also to find ways to get rid of the algae in the canals before it gets into the lagoon.
“We’re trying to figure out where the nutrients are coming from, we have to take this into the equation as well or we’re going to miss the whole point of the problem," said Dr. Widder.
ORCA plans to ask state lawmakers for another 750-thousand dollars next year to continue the Kilroy program.


South Dade landfill wants to expand on wetlands slated for Everglades restoration
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
November 11, 2015
    Landfill originally opened to handle construction debris from Hurricane Andrew
    Expansion sits on land targeted to protect wellfields and restore Biscayne Bay
    Waste Management argues site will help county’s shrinking landfill capacity
With space in Miami-Dade County landfills in danger of filling up amid the region’s renewed construction boom, Waste Management Inc. wants to expand its South Dade dump into nearby wetlands.
There’s just one thing standing in the way: a $164 million project to help fix the Everglades.
The land, at the corner of Southwest 328th Street and 117th Avenue, is in the footprint of the Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands project, a plan to undo decades of damage to Biscayne Bay from manmade canals by restoring the natural flow of freshwater as well as protecting wellfields that supply drinking water. As sea levels rise, the revived marshes also are expected to help fight flooding and saltwater intrusion.
The county, which passed a resolution last month to speed up the restoration work, already has spent $8.6 million on the project.
 “All we can do is push back with water and this is key for that area,” said Tropical Audubon executive director Laura Reynolds, who said the county should protect the wetland site.
But Waste Management Inc., which wants to more than double its existing dump to 110 acres, says it is helping the county deal with another crisis: rapidly filling landfills.
The county’s main 300-acre landfill along south Biscayne Bay, better known as Mount Trashmore, is expected to max out by 2029. Waste Management’s landfill, which takes only construction debris and yard waste, will likely fill up in eight years, according to a preliminary application submitted in September. An expansion would add another 15 years and keep the dump open until 2050. When Waste Management filed the application, the company thought the expansion fell outside wetlands slated for restoration, said spokeswoman Dawn McCormick.
 “We believed, based on the survey work done for us, that we were not encroaching on any (Everglades work),’’ she said. “Our intent was not to.”
But earlier this month, the county’s Division of Environmental Resources Management recommended rejecting the application, saying the expansion sits squarely in the footprint of the project and would “result in destruction of wetlands that have been designated for protection and restoration.”
McCormick said there may be some confusion over project boundaries.
“Our experts interpreted this as us not crossing in,’’ she said. “So we definitely need to work with DERM to clarify our understanding of the boundaries and their understanding.”
Even if the landfill falls outside the boundaries, Everglades Law Center attorney Julie Dick said its continued operation needs to be reviewed because the dump was never intended to be run long term.
The landfill first opened in 1993 in the wake of Hurricane Andrew to handle mounds of debris from the region hardest hit by the powerful Category 5 storm. Altogether, the storm destroyed tens of thousands of homes and damaged another 100,000. DERM officials said the dump was approved “under emergency conditions” and that these conditions no longer exist.
“I don’t think it was ever evaluated,” Dick said. “It was we have an emergency from Andrew and we need a landfill. Quickly. If it was well thought out, I’m not clear that it would ever have been authorized in the first place.”
But in June 2013, the county approved an upwards expansion requested by Waste Management, which gave about $36,000 in campaign donations to county incumbents over the last two years, including $13,000 to Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Adding more space to the east, McCormick said, “complements the goals of the Miami-Dade Solid Waste master plan by preserving landfill space.”
In addition to working out how the expansion would fit into restoration work, Waste Management also must obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because the dump would go on wetlands.
McCormick said the wetlands also have been “highly disturbed and degraded” over the years. To make up for turning them into a dump, she said Waste Management would help restore wetlands elsewhere.
But in a letter to the Corps asking for an environmental review, Dick — representing Tropical Audubon and the National Parks Conservation Association — argued that adding more wetlands won’t matter if they’re not in the right place. Dick said that before a project that potentially pollutes water is approved, other locations must be considered.
“The proposed project involves the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters,” she wrote. “Waste Management … does not in fact own the land it proposes to use for the landfill expansion. It could expand in any other location.”
Rather than enlarge the dump in an area increasingly vulnerable to sea rise — since 1995, underground saltwater just south of the landfill has moved about two miles inland — Reynolds said efforts should be made to buy the site using the state’s Amendment 1 money. The amendment, overwhelmingly supported by voters, is supposed to use taxes from real estate deals to buy sensitive land, but state legislators have mostly spent the money on administrative costs, prompting a lawsuit from critics who said the lawmakers violated the amendment.
“It’s just a matter of time [before we get] Amendment 1 money to buy that land,” Reynolds said. “There are lands to the west and I would suggest expanding to the west or vertically. But not to the east. That’s all we want.”



St. Johns River water managers approve Central Florida Water Supply Plan - by Ryan Benk
November 11, 2015
Tuesday, St. Johns River water managers nearly unanimously approved a controversial plan to handle Central Florida’s looming water shortage.
For years, a consortium of water planners took input from agricultural, residential and conservationist stakeholders to craft what they call a balanced plan.
Northeast Florida river advocates are complaining their data is wrong.
On a vote of 8 to 1, the St. Johns River Water Management District Board approved the sweeping water supply plan crafted by the Central Florida Water Initiative.
After years of debate and research, the plan’s authors say they’ve created a balanced blueprint for avoiding a projected California-style water shortage by 2035. The plan includes the possibility of withdrawing millions of gallons of water per day from the St. Johns River in Central Florida.
But St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman says people from the First Coast didn’t have enough input, and she says the plan uses flawed math to determine how much water people use.
“We were promised more conservation would be included in the plan,” Rinaman says. “While it’s included in the narrative, they actually reduced the amount of conservation as a starting point and failed to truly make it a robust, aggressive goal of the Central Florida Water Initiative.”
Rinaman and aligned advocates say although population is projected to increase in the Orlando area, per-person water use has been steadily decreasing. She estimates the plan’s water use numbers are inflated by more than 20 percent.
CFWI’s water supply plan is working on the assumption individuals use around 122 gallons of water per day in Central Florida, but that number is actually between 90 and 100 gallons, Rinaman says.
Still, St. Johns River water managers say the plan can be revised when it’s revisited in five years.
Water management board member George Robbins was the lone dissenting vote, saying he was unhappy with the plan’s inaccurate numbers and the prospect of withdrawing water from the St. Johns.
“I think there’s too much good work to just flat reject it and say, ‘Start over.’ That’s just illogical to me," Robbins said, "but I think there’s some corrections that need to be made before we can approve this plan.”
Shortly before the board adjourned, it passed a resolution adding a letter to the plan clarifying withdrawals were to be a last resort and water-demand numbers should be revised.
But Rinaman says the resolution amounts to “kicking the can down the road.”
Before the CFWI plan can be implemented, it must also be approved by South Florida Water Management District on Nov. 12 and the Southwest Florida Water Management District on Nov. 17.


What do you need to know about El Nino
Curbed. Com
November 11, 2015
El Niño is happening this winter and it's going to be big. You've probably heard talk of the weather phenomenon set to flood Los Angeles with rain, rescue Lake Tahoe from drought, and provide New England with its mildest winter in years. But besides providing Chris Farley in 1997 with one of his greatest Saturday Night Live skits ever, what do you really know about El Niño ?  We've broken down the science, gathered the best weather research, and talked to seasoned meteorologists to give you the ultimate insider intel on what to expect this winter across the United States.
1. Why is this El Niño so special ?
This year's El Niño is so strong that some are calling it a "super" El Niño. In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) predicts that there is now over a 90 percent chance that this will be one of the strongest El Niños on record. Since 1950, there have been only two other El Niño winters of this magnitude, one in 1982-1983 and another in 1997-1998. According to CNN, the 1982-1983 El Niño caused more than $8 billion in damage worldwide. The 1997-1998 event caused flooding in the southeast, a severe ice storm in the northeast,
$550 million in rain and flood damages in California, and tornadoes in Florida. Overall, the last strong El Niño resulted in $35 billion in damage and 23,000 deaths worldwide. While no two El Niño events are the same, we can compare past events to try to predict what will happen this year.
2. What exactly is El Niño ?
El Niño occurs when ocean water temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean become warmer than normal. While this may not sound like a big deal, it can have profound impacts on weather patterns around the world and it can create very severe weather in the United States. Some El Niños are strong and some are mild, but all El Niños influence global weather patterns. El Niños occur every 3-5 years but can happen as often as every two years or as rarely as every seven years. Each event usually lasts 9-12 months and peaks in January or February.
3. Is El Niño the same thing as La Niña ?
Nope. La Niña refers to times when waters in the tropical Pacific are colder than normal. Typically, El Niños occur more frequently than La Niñas.
4. What causes El Niño ?
No one really knows what triggers an El Niño cycle, but the change in weather pattern is caused by trade winds in eastern Asia. These trade winds weaken and cause warm water to pile up and migrate towards South America. Head over here for a primer on what the equatorial Pacific Ocean looks like under neutral, El Niño, or La Niña conditions.
5. What does El Niño mean for temperatures this winter ?
According to NOAA, this year's El Niño will likely bring warmer temperatures to the northern half of North America and colder temperatures to the southern half. That means that it's unlikely that Boston will see a repeat of last year's never ending winter.
6. What does El Niño mean for precipitation this winter ?
The northern half of North America will see less precipitation this winter, especially Idaho, Montana, and the midwest. The southern half of the United States should see more precipitation. Historically, El Niño winters have meant less snow in the Northeast.
7. Can El Niño pull California out of the drought ?
No, but it can help. Because California has been in the midst of an epic four-year drought, everyone wants to know if El Niño is the solution. And while a wetter-than-normal winter would certainly help California's water supply, the state's drought problem can't be solved in just one winter. It will take multiple years of above average or average precipitation to make a dent. It also matters where El Niño's biggest storms hit. The backbone of California's water supply, delivery system, and reservoir capacity is in Northern California. If El Niño storms deliver more water to Southern California, it won't be as helpful to the drought. But if heavy rain falls north of Sacramento, where some of the state's largest reservoirs are located, the El Niño precipitation would be much more helpful. Best case scenario? The entire state sees substantial rainfall and enough snowfall to replenish both California's reservoirs and its high-altitude snow fields.
It's also important to note that El Niño is not the only factor that influences global weather patterns. Last year there was a weak El Niño in place for much of the winter but warm water in the northeast Pacific Ocean (also known as the Blob), had a much stronger influence on snowfall amounts. While last year's high pressure ridge seems to have broken down, we won't really see the strongest effects of El Niño in California until December or January.
8. Does El Niño only matter to California ?
No. The El Niño weather pattern influences the entire country, just in different ways. While people in Los Angeles and San Francisco could see record rainfall and flooding, people in Chicago and Detroit can expect a milder winter. Likewise, New York City could see a major El Niño ice storm, while Miami might face severe thunderstorms and high winds. With an El Niño this strong, extreme weather is highly likely.
9. Will this El Niño cause weather-related damage ?
Yes, it's possible. Because El Niño often brings severe weather — flooding, ice storms, blizzards, and even tornadoes — there's a good chance that this year's strong El Niño will cause damage. In anticipation of severe storms, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has established an El Niño-specific website. The good news is that you can make some preparations in advance. In Los Angeles, homeowners are rushing to fix their roofs before the El Niño rains, overwhelming the roofing industry. The Los Angeles Times even has a list of 28 things to do to prepare for El Niño.
10. Is there anything good about El Niño ?
Despite the risk of floods and severe weather overall, El Niño isn't all bad. During strong El Niño years, hurricanes in the Atlantic are often suppressed and warmer temperatures in Northeastern North America can help ensure that cities like New York or Chicago aren't buried under record-breaking amounts of snow. El Niño can also be a boon to ski areas (depending on where they are).
 Whether you're in Brooklyn or San Diego, El Niño matters. Here at Curbed, we're on the El Niño-beat, ready to bring you coverage on everything from what's flooding to which ski areas will be hit with the best El Niño snow. We'll also tackle helpful stories like how to sell your house in an El Niño year and bring you top-notch photos of the most extreme weather. Have a tip or an El Niño story idea ? Send them our way. Stay safe out there; winter is coming.

Florida Cabinet approves list of conservation lands that includes 4 Treasure Coast ranches – Isadora Rangel
November 10, 2015
JUPITER — Treasure Coast ranches could be spared from urban development after Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved Tuesday adding local properties to a list of lands the state wants to preserve.
The Cabinet approved a list of 70 lands that will be part of the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. The program started in 2001 and pays agricultural landowners not to develop their land.
The properties were ranked according to their priority. Among the 35 ranked in the top tier are the 759-acre Ox Creek Ranch in Indian River County and the 2,220-acre Walpole Ranch in Martin and St. Lucie counties. A portion of Fort Pierce-based Adams Ranch Inc. in Osceola County also is in the top tier.
The Cabinet also approved 20 properties in tier two, including Lewis Friend Farms Ranch in Indian River County and Russakis Ranch in St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties. An additional 15 lands statewide are in tier three.
A selection committee under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services ranked the properties after a review team made up of staff of different state agencies visited the sites and evaluated them.
Half the projects the Cabinet approved Tuesday are in the Lake Okeechobee watershed. Environmentalists contend preventing land north of Lake Okeechobee from being developed from relatively low-impact pastureland to high-impact urban areas will reduce the potential for more pollution entering the lake, which in turn will help protect the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
The program also creates wildlife habitat while keeping the preserved land in the hands of the owners instead of the state maintaining it.
"We view this program as the true hope of stabilizing what's happening in the northern Everglades," said Charles Lee, director of advocacy of Audubon Florida.
The Cabinet, which met at the Florida Atlantic University's Jupiter campus, is made up of Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and Adam Putnam, the agriculture commissioner.
Now it's up to the Legislature to allocate money to buy conservation easements for the properties during the 2016 legislative session that starts in January. The easements ensure the land will stay in agriculture and not be developed.
The Legislature gave $15 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program this year using money available through Amendment 1. The amendment was approved by voters in 2014 to set aside money for land and water conservation. That's far below the $39 million the environmental groups that sponsored the amendment proposed. Putnam is asking lawmakers to boost funding for the program to $25 million next year using amendment dollars.
The Legislature is expected to undergo scrutiny over how it uses Amendment 1 next year. Environmental groups filed a lawsuit that alleges lawmakers misused more than $200 million of the $740 million available through the measure this year, allocating the money for routine operating expenses of environmental agencies instead of the environment.


Artificial photosythesis

A major breakthrough ?

New artificial material mimics photosynthesis to create clean, self-sustaining energy source – by Peter Dockrill
November 9, 2015
It’s one of the holy grails of scientific research: discovering a way of replicating the natural process of photosynthesis, such that light could be easily converted into energy for other purposes, just like a plant does. And now researchers in the US have discovered an artificial material that lets them mimic this system to create a clean, sustainable source of power.
Researchers at Florida State University have discovered a method of using manganese oxide – also known as birnessite – to capture sunlight and then use that solar energy to create an oxidation reaction, breaking down water (H2O) into hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O2). Oxidation occurs during photosynthesis, and by replicating this part of the natural process, we might be able to produce energy in new ways via a simple, practical mechanism.
“In theory, this should be a self-sustaining energy source,” said Jose L. Mendoza-Cortes, assistant professor of chemical engineering. “Perhaps in the future, you could put this material on your roof and it could turn rain water into energy with the help of the sun.”
Best of all, using manganese oxide in this kind of way would be an entirely carbon-neutral method of producing energy sources like hydrogen fuel, and wouldn’t have any negative impacts on the environment. “You won’t generate carbon dioxide or waste,” said Mendoza-Cortes.
Once produced, hydrogen can be used as a fuel and burned with oxygen to form H2O, releasing energy in the process. But usually the creation of hydrogen fuel is powered by burning fossil fuels, which is why this new technology is so exciting.
When looking to find a material that would be able to facilitate the process of breaking down water but also capturing the energy from the Sun, the researchers faced two initial challenges: finding a material that didn’t rust due to exposure to the water, and also one which wasn’t too expensive to create.
The answer Mendoza-Cortes and his team came up with – which is described in their paper in The Journal of Physical Chemistry – was to develop a multilayered material out of manganese oxide. However, it was only when they stripped back the multiple layers to a single layer that they struck what they were looking for. When they did this, the material was able to trap light at a much faster rate.
How is this possible? According to the researchers, the single layer of the manganese oxide material provides what’s called a direct band gap, whereas multiple layers constituted an indirect band gap. Light penetrates different sorts of materials differently, but its energy is only effectively captured and stored by materials with a direct band gap.
What’s remarkable about the material the researchers developed in this instance is that it is more effective at capturing energy when there is only a single layer of it – a desirable outcome for the purposes of any potential real-world applications, as it will be cheaper and easier to manufacture.
“This is why the discovery of this direct band gap material is so exciting,” said Mendoza-Cortes. “It is cheap, it is efficient and you do not need a large amount to capture enough sunlight to carry out fuel generation.”
It’s early days yet and there’s no word so far on when we can expect to see this kind of material manufactured for domestic purposes, but with the researchers already envisaging potential applications like household roof-top energy generators, it’s an incredibly exciting development.
Related - read these next:
Scientists have "hacked" photosynthesis, and it could help them speed up food production
New method of artificial photosynthesis can turn waste CO2 into fuels
Artificial photosynthesis could power homes in a few years, say researchers


Property owner disputes ‘dead zone’ finding - by Jonathan Romeo, staff writer
November 09, 2015
State, gas firm finds die off not related to drilling.
Jennifer Thurston in October stands on a steep hillside on her Florida Mesa property the middle of what she calls a “dead zone” after a rapid die off of trees and plants.
Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald file photo
Jennifer Thurston in October stands on a steep hillside on her Florida Mesa property the middle of what she calls a “dead zone” after a rapid die off of trees and plants.
A Florida Mesa property owner disagrees with a recently conducted study that concluded nearby drilling operations are not responsible for an expanding die-off of vegetation on her land.
Last month, Jennifer Thurston, 55, was trying to get the attention of state officials to look into whether the drilling of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s natural-gas and oil company, Red Willow Production, had in some way affected a spring on her property, causing what she called a 2-acre “dead zone.”
Not too long after The Durango Herald’s Oct. 14 report, officials for both Red Willow and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission went to Thurston’s land – near U.S. Highway 550 and County Road 302 – and conducted extensive water sampling.
Bob Zahradnik, operating director of Southern Ute Growth Fund, said when a third-party company tested the water emitting from the spring, results showed no correlation to the minerals found in the drilling fluids injected 3,000 feet below the mesa. The samples also tested negative for the presence of methane.
“The bottom line is the water produced from the spring looks just like the water from nearby domestic wells,” he said. “It doesn’t look anything like the water produced from the coal-bed methane wells.”
Instead, Zahradnik and his team believe increased irrigation from surrounding property owners, as well as rainier seasons the past several years, account for an increase of flow from the spring. That, in turn, has killed off juniper and piñon trees, and replaced it with wetland-area grasses.
“It’s a swamp,” said Zahradnik, citing the presence of cattail, reed canary and bent grasses. “Cattail doesn’t grow where piñons grow, and vice versa.”
State officials agree and said their findings were consistent with Red Willow’s.
“Seeps along the edge of Florida Mesa are well documented,” COGCC spokesmen Todd Hartman wrote in an email. “It appears that oil and gas activities are not responsible for the stressed/dying vegetation near the seep on the Thurston property.”
However, Thurston still isn’t convinced. She told The Durango Herald on Sunday that irrigation on the mesa has decreased by more than half over the past 15 years. Instead, she believes the water table from Red Willow’s injected fluids are finally filling up, and running into her spring after more than twenty years of operation.
“The drought has forced everyone to be more efficient in our water management, so we have less runoff than there’s ever been,” she said. “The water they are injecting back into their gas wells has to go somewhere. You cannot deny that.”
“It has found the path of least resistance to follow track of the spring, and it’s going there,” she continued. “As it passes through 3,000 feet of geologic matter, it is going to change in composition. It’s not going to be the same when it reaches the surface as it is when it goes in.”
Florida Conservancy District President Phil Craig said the change from flood irrigation to sprinkers has reduced groundwater on the mesa over the past decade, and up until this year, the region has experienced incredibly dry seasons.
Craig, 60, has lived on Florida Mesa his whole life, and said he’s had some die-off of juniper and piñon trees near springs on his property. But he doesn’t believe that’s related to the gas wells nearby because in drought years, his springs dry up – a sign injected fluids are not spilling out.
“Those trees are extremely suspceptible to too much water,” he said. “They just can’t tolerate that amount of water. Maybe (Thurston) is right, but my belief is she’s not. It’s hard to say. It’s difficult even for the experts to figure out.”
Lynn Woomer, regulatory compliance manager for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, added similar die-offs are occurring at five other spring locations to the south of Thurston. He said potable, clean water is emitted, with noticable levels of calcium carbonate, a naturally occurring substance on the mesa.
“What we’re seeing is a die-off because of oversaturation of soil,” he said. “Yet on the other hand we’re seeing a thriving wetland community of plants in that area.”
Red Willow has vowed to fix any problem in the area if it can be connected to its operations. Thurston is grateful for the company’s response, but said it’s almost impossible to prove oil and gas operations are at fault in these types of situations.
“I knew it would be difficult to take them on directly,” she said. “Where we go from here, as a landowner, I don’t know. There’s not much I can do. We’ll just see what happens and continue to try and follow up.”


Sea rise

A rising tide - by Stan Cox and Paul Cox
November 8, 2015
Miami is sinking beneath the sea—but not without a fight.
“When I started this job, people kept asking me, ‘Why do we have so much flooding now?’ and I said, ‘Well, there’s just one problem: The whole city’s four feet too low—that’s all!’” But as Miami Beach city engineer Bruce Mowry, the person responsible for maintaining and improving the island’s public infrastructure, steered his car through the Flamingo Park neighborhood this past January, his typically cheery mood dimmed. “You know, I drive around a lot, looking at all these streets and trees and homes and thinking about what’s coming,” Mowry said. “If we get the four feet of rise that’s predicted, all of this area will be two-and-a-half feet underwater.”
“This whole beautiful landscape’s going to change,” he said.
Miami Beach consists of a long, low barrier island accompanied by a scattering of manmade islets. It’s one of the lowest-lying municipalities in the country, and its residents are leading the way into the world’s wetter future. Along the island’s low western side bordering Biscayne Bay, people have come to dread full-moon high tides, when salt water seeps into storm-drain outlets and the porous limestone that provides the island’s foundation, forcing water up and out into the streets and sidewalks and threatening buildings and infrastructure.
And Miami Beach is just one small part of a region that’s in big trouble. If sea levels rise as projected, no major U.S. metropolitan area stands to rack up bigger losses than Miami-Dade County. Almost 60 percent of the county is less than six feet above sea level. Even before swelling of the seas is factored in, Miami has the greatest total value of assets exposed to flooding of any city in the world: more than $400 billion. Once you account for future sea-level rise and continued economic growth, Miami’s exposed property will far outstrip that of any other urban area, reaching almost $3.5 trillion by the 2070s.
The sea level around the South Florida coast has already risen nine inches over the past century. Among experts, the optimists expect it to edge up another three to seven inches in the next 15 years and nine inches to two feet in the next 45 years. More pessimistic (some say increasingly realistic) predictions say the rise will be much faster. Even the very gradual rise of recent decades will make extensive infrastructure reengineering necessary—Mowry’s job. However, according to a report published by the Florida Department of Transportation, it will become difficult, expensive, and maybe impossible for these efforts to keep up with the accelerated sea-level rise that is actually expected. 
Mowry assumed the city engineer’s position in 2013, and it has fallen to him to carry out an ambitious plan to pump water out of the city’s storm-drainage system and into Biscayne Bay whenever the drains get too full and threaten to flood the streets. Eventually, he said, it will require 50 to 60 pumps to keep the city dry. Earlier this year, as we stood at the west end of Tenth Street where it meets the bay, Mowry pointed to two big European pumps that had kept the city’s notoriously flood-prone Alton Road area relatively free of water last October during a “king tide,” the event that causes each year’s worst flooding.
To protect the pumping station, he had put up a seawall rising nearly six feet above mean sea level, four-and-a-half feet above high tide. Clearly, Mowry had built the wall with climate change in mind. Stretching north and south from his wall, privately owned seawalls rose less than two feet above high tide. That will be a problem, Mowry said, because “everybody in the world agrees we’ll be getting at least two more feet of sea-level rise.”
Unfortunately, if the bay continues rising, at some point too much effort and expense will be required to keep the island’s low spots dry. So Mowry has made even more ambitious plans to raise the lowest-lying streets throughout the west side of the island. He showed us block after block that he planned to raise by two feet: on West 20th Street, Tenth Street, Sixth Street, Purdy Avenue (down which residents have been known to kayak during high tide), West Avenue, and others. He even intended to take one block of Sixth Street over a hump, elevating it two feet at the ends and a full six feet in the middle, to allow level street access from new, well-elevated buildings that flood-conscious developers had planned for either side of the street.
There’s a problem with all of this road-raising, of course. Once they’re two feet higher, streets and sidewalks in many places will loom above the doorways of the existing buildings alongside, pouring water into them when it rains. In such spots, Mowry said, it might be necessary to leave the sidewalk low and place a short wall between it and the street. Many of the newer luxury condo complexes had been built on high mounds of fill, so their owners generally welcomed the road-raising plans. But so much elevation activity will also require staggering quantities of fill soil. There are no sources on the island, and dredging Biscayne Bay for fill is now prohibited, so most will have to be imported from the mainland.
Some of the sand dunes that overlook the beaches and the Atlantic on the island’s east side and adorn the fairways of Miami Beach Golf Club are among the highest elevations on the island. But Mowry has them beat. He showed us an artificial plateau rising 15 feet above sea level that he’d built with recycled construction fill in a secluded spot behind the golf course to store the city’s critical machinery and the ultra-expensive pumps waiting to be installed—just in case there’s a storm surge. His most precious stuff will probably be safe there, he told us. “I just have to hope that when the storm surge comes, it’s not 20 feet,” he said.
Storm surge
In Miami, the prospect of a Category 5 hurricane producing a 20-foot storm surge is not necessarily a science-fiction nightmare. The Great Miami Hurricane built up a twelve-foot surge way back in 1926. Now, as seas continue to rise and hurricanes grow more powerful in the Earth’s warmer atmosphere, Mowry may want to add a little more height to his storage plateau.
Such measures might stave off disaster in the short term, but the long-term outlook remains bleak. A geologic time-lapse video would show the Florida Plateau on which Miami is perched bobbing in and out of the Atlantic over the millennia: For a while it’s dry land; for a while it’s seafloor. At the peak of the last interglacial period about 120,000 years ago, Florida was a narrow, ragged stump reaching not much farther south than present-day St. Petersburg. By the time the most recent Ice Age reached its zenith 18,000 to 20,000 years ago, sea levels had dropped, and the peninsula had swelled to almost twice today’s width.
Since then, however, the world’s oceans have been creeping up again, helped along by human-induced warming. Along Florida’s west coast, where the first humans in the region settled about 10,000 years ago, archaeologists who study their villages have to wear scuba gear.
Harold Wanless, a professor of geology at the University of Miami, is well known around southeast Florida as the indefatigable Paul Revere of the climate crisis. According to Wanless, what many see as Miami’s worst-case scenario is actually a conservative estimate. Using the latest U.S. government projections, he is confident that the waters offshore will rise by more than the predicted two feet by 2048, three feet by 2064, and four to six-and-a-half feet by the end of the century. At six feet, more than half of Miami-Dade County will be submerged. The entirety of Miami Beach will be transformed from an island to a sandbar.
But problems will begin arising much sooner, even after a foot or two of rise. “Inland areas will see more and more days of flooding after big rains because drainage will become more and more sluggish,” Wanless said. “And we’ll be more and more prone to storm-surge damage from a hurricane.”
Another geologist, Peter Harlem of Florida International University, maintains that severe disruptions can result even from the kind of “nuisance flooding” that’s already occurring in some places and will spread to many more with even small increases in the sea level. “People don’t understand six inches,” Harlem said. “Six more inches can make life miserable here.”
In dealing with the Everglades on its western fringe, Miami faces a delicate balancing act. Freshwater flows out of the giant Lake Okeechobee in central Florida through the Everglades, and from there it pushes eastward underground to keep the Biscayne Aquifer filled. Were the aquifer to be ruined by saltwater intrusion, Miami would be doomed. So water managers adjust the flow from Okeechobee and the Everglades to apply back pressure against westward intrusion from the salty rising waters of Biscayne Bay.
Coming from behind
But that vital water flow also complicates Miami’s future flood problems. “Around here, the flooding’s not just coming from the ocean. It’s coming from behind us,” said Henry Briceño, a research scholar at the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University. “We’re gonna get our asses wet—with water coming from the Everglades!”
In the longer term, pumps and fill dirt won’t be enough. Miami-Dade faces not one but four related flood threats. There is Miami Beach’s tidal flooding, which affects parts of the mainland’s coastal areas as well. There is the rainy-day flooding that increasingly plagues low-lying inland communities out west. There is the possibility of a big storm surge, a threat that looms larger with every inch of sea-level rise. And then, as the Atlantic continues to warm and swell, there is the long-term prospect of seawater pushing up from Biscayne Bay into glades and canals, flooding more and more of the city’s east side while backing up the whole hydrological system and causing the western suburbs of Miami-Dade to be permanently inundated from the Everglades side.
The entirety of Miami Beach will be transformed from an island to a sandbar.
That last form of flooding will occur gradually over an extended period, but Harlem and his colleagues have modeled the end game: With a 2-degree Celsius rise in the global mean temperature, the Florida Keys, the entire Everglades, and all of Miami-Dade County will be submerged. That, they predict, will be the situation sometime after the year 2100—it’s hard to say exactly when.
For decades, Wanless, Harlem, Briceño, and other scientists met with frustration when trying to draw attention to the sea-level problem. Recently, however, as more and more Miamians have found themselves wading through the fallout of global warming, it’s seemed like everyone has been questioning the city’s future. A Rolling Stone headline waved, “Goodbye, Miami,” while The Guardian announced, “Miami, the Great World City, Is Drowning.”
It was just about the worst possible news for anyone connected to the pillars of the area’s economy: tourism and real estate. The city already had an effort going to pump the waters out of the storm drains, but more was needed. So in February 2014, the city commission voted to create a beefed-up flood-prevention infrastructure.
That new plan, under which Mowry was installing all those new pumping stations, backflow prevention valves, and other features, would cost $400 million over five years, doubling the price tag of the city’s existing flood plan. Even more money would be needed to cover the massive costs of the many other planned flood-prevention projects, including the extensive road-raising.
The pumps installed in 2014 achieved a large reduction in flooding during the October king tide, and a surge of relief swept over the island. Nicole Hernandez Hammer, a climate researcher with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the director of the Environmental Protection Agency and a contingent of U.S. senators had come to see the flooding, but the pumps had done their job. “It was like, ‘Ah, OK, I guess they took care of it,’ and they went home,” she said. But that small success masked the bigger problem lurking in the background. “Look at the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to prevent just this little bit of flooding,” she said, “which is only a small fraction of what we’re going to see in 30 years.”
It didn’t take long for Hammer’s fears to be confirmed. This September, a so-called supermoon, a full moon at its closest orbital approach to Earth, produced not only a striking photo opportunity but also three days of especially high king tides in southeast Florida. Mowry’s efforts spared the southwest portions of Miami Beach, but many other parts of the island suffered severe flooding, prompting calls to extend the raising-and-pumping project throughout the city.
What can Miamians expect in the coming decades ? Harlem thinks in terms of a five-stage timeline. In stage one, only the lowest-lying areas, mostly out-of-sight, out-of-mind natural landscapes, flood frequently. In stage two, more private property is affected. He says Miami-Dade County is now passing from stage one to two. In stage three, the majority of people become affected; at that point, sea level becomes a political issue and collective action will replace individual responses. Impacts become increasingly dire in stage four, until the region arrives at stage five, when the only exposed land in Miami-Dade County and neighboring Broward County to the north will be a string of islands inhabited by a relatively small population of easygoing but hardy hurricane veterans—a place Harlem has nicknamed “Margaritaville.”
As the years wear on, South Florida municipalities with the highest property values and the most solid tax bases will follow Miami Beach’s lead—pumping, raising, and armoring. Other places may be considered expendable. Here is how University of Miami architecture professor Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk has predicted that state and county funding for dealing with rising waters will be allocated. “It’s going to have to be a political-economic question, and you’re going to say, ‘What is the most meaningful to us in terms of economic development and the GDP of the region ?’ And everyone would say, ‘Well, the airports, the port, the tourist industry, that means the islands, our white-collar downtowns,’ and you’ll start thinking about what to do for those,” she said during a 2013 panel discussion on Miami public radio station WLRN. “The shopping centers or the houses that are, let’s say, out west, very low density—water will be coming up there as well ... generally speaking, affecting the economy minimally. Those are the places that you might decide to give up.”
One such place “out west” is Sweetwater, a small suburban town that sits just north of Florida International University, at three feet above sea level. Eight-and-a-half miles to the west, the Everglades begin. Under Sweetwater’s modest streets and lawns runs the constant eastward subterranean flow of fresh water from the Everglades, sustaining the aquifer under Miami. Sweetwater flooding
Sweetwater floods with every hard rain, and the reason is obvious. Walk along one of its residential streets, look through one of the many metal grates embedded flat in the asphalt, and there is the water table—not far down, partially filling the system’s lateral conduits even during the dry season. With any significant rainfall, the drains fill instantly, and the streets flood.
Sweetwater’s population is 96 percent Latino, and its median household income is $34,000. Its small slab-on-grade houses are a world away from the pastel-trimmed condo towers overlooking Biscayne Bay. Plater-Zyberk is almost certainly right: It will be the condo towers, not Sweetwater homes, that will be protected to the bitter end.
Many have argued that the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the level of fresh water in the Everglades, should raise the water level further, thereby increasing the flow eastward through the limestone under Miami-Dade County and pushing back more forcefully against the seawater that’s trying to intrude from the Atlantic. That would quickly flood low-lying towns like Sweetwater.
Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami, a small municipality on the mainland south of downtown Miami, sees the reluctance to purposefully flood towns like Sweetwater as a threat to the water supplies of other communities, including his. “One foot of sea-level rise reverses everything,” he said. “After that, if they were to raise the freshwater level in the aquifer up to where it needs to be to keep seawater out, Sweetwater floods. And the Corps of Engineers isn’t allowed to do that. This one small community is going to cost us our water supply many years earlier than we’d lose it otherwise. But no one will do anything about it because of the politics.”
Are Plater-Zyberk and Stoddard right ? If the fragility that is Greater Miami is to be preserved for a while longer, will there be no choice but to surrender Sweetwater and other communities to the Everglades? And if so, will there be any provision made for compensation and relocation? Will communities be able somehow to keep themselves intact, somewhere else on higher ground?
Hammer points out that if there is another monster hurricane, or when parts of Miami-Dade County simply become unlivable because of routine flooding and seawater intrusion, the economic impacts will of course run along class and color lines but may adhere just as closely to lines of home ownership. There will be something like a three-way split.
Renters can take their remaining possessions, leave, and find housing and employment somewhere else; they will suffer, but they won’t necessarily be wiped out. Affluent owners of properties, in places like Miami Beach or the city’s waterfront Brickell neighborhood, will also come out fine if they can absorb their uninsured losses or if their losses are only on second homes or investment properties. It’s middle-class and low-income families—often immigrants—who have saved, scraped together a down payment, and bought a small place of their own who will take the biggest hit.
Few people we talked with in Miami believed that the city they all know and love would remain intact into the deep future. The question was not whether people will have to leave but when. When people ask Stoddard, “When should I think about selling my house ?” he said he tells them, “It depends on whether or not you can afford to lose the capital in it. What happens to you? Are you ruined financially ? It’s a question of risk tolerance. If you can afford to lose the capital in your house, keep it. Enjoy yourself! But if you’re counting on that house for retirement, or if you’ll end up destitute if you lose it, I say now would be a good time to sell your place.”
Miami like Venice
With a seemingly insoluble predicament looming, there is much talk around Miami of embracing the water by becoming more like Venice, Italy, a city that has in recent decades been attempting to protect its canal-laced urban area with a huge flood barrier. Wanless isn’t impressed. “Venice now has one-third the population it used to have,” he said. “No Sandy, no Andrew, no Katrina, just rising seas, increasing frequency of flooding, rotting, disruption of infrastructure—that’s made it an unpleasant place to live.”
Stoddard would like to see what’s often called “managed retreat”: devising a schedule to take land lying one foot, then two feet, then three, then four, above the current sea level and turn it over to aquatic parks, protective wetlands, or other uses. As part of this process, cities, counties, and the state could buy out homeowners in affected areas. Stoddard prefers the term “rolling easements,” because, he said, “Americans hate the word retreat.” Today in Miami’s political circles, he doesn’t see as much resistance to the idea itself as he once did. “No one’s even wincing now when you bring it up,” he said.
Archipelago of Miami-Dade
He expects the Miami that remains above the floodwaters decades from now, if it has managed to remain viable, will have abandoned its famed flashiness, excess, and bravado to adopt a culture more like that of the Florida Keys. “Down there, people just accept storms and floods as part of life,” Stoddard said. “They just board their houses up and ride it out. If we go the way of the Keys, the place will be a lot funkier, no longer the playground of the rich. But it could save the tourism economy—except of course they’d have to keep resupplying the beaches with sand.” If the city’s future does end up looking like Stoddard’s funky mini-Miami or Harlem’s Margaritaville, that will mean that old Keys have already gone under the waves, and Miami-Dade County has become an archipelago: the New Florida Keys in both geography and culture.
For now, though, most Miamians—even those who see clearly what’s coming—want to stay and make the most of a place they love. “Even before we’re underwater, within just 20, maybe 30 years, the salt water’s going to get these trees,” Mowry told us back in leafy Flamingo Park, pointing up. He couldn’t stomach the thought. “We just can’t make that sacrifice,” he said. “We’ll have to put our trees up in planter boxes.” Sitting on his back porch, 10 feet above sea level, Stoddard said, “At some point this house will be impossible to sell. I could get a good bit for it right now. Maybe I should sell it and move to the hills. … Then I also think how pretty this yard is.” Even Wanless, one of the most vocal on the climate emergency, agreed. “Compared with whatever is going on up in the rest of the country, this is just a wonderful place to live,” he said. “We’re all going to enjoy it as long as we can.”
Stan Cox and Paul Cox are a father-son team who have reported together from the locations of cyclones, tornados, fires, earthquakes, and floods. Their piece in this issue is drawn from their forthcoming book, How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe’s Path, from the Caribbean to Siberia, to be published in June 2016 by The New Press. Copyright © 2016 by Stan Cox and Paul Cox.



Lawmakers duped voters, but courts could right wrongs with respect to Amendment 1 - by Editorial Board
November 8, 2015
Three out of four Florida voters can't be wrong, can they ?
In a nutshell, that is the question a judge is being asked by conservation groups with respect to the Florida Legislature's specious handling of Amendment 1.
A lawsuit filed in Leon County Circuit Court claims the state misused Amendment 1 funds, seeks guidance on how lawmakers should allocate these funds in the future and requests the state transfer $237 million of its general revenue surplus to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.
It's a shame judicial review is needed to sort out this mess.
But this is a mess that must be sorted out.
A hearing in the case has been scheduled for Dec. 3.
Florida voters will be watching to see if their wishes will be vindicated by the court.
Amendment 1 was supposed to set aside one-third of "documentary stamp" taxes on real estate transactions over 20 years to preserve land and water.
It was approved last fall by 75 percent of Florida voters — people who took the ballot measure at face value. The Water and Land Legacy constitutional amendment promised to earmark hundreds of millions of dollars a year "to acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands" and for "protecting water resources ... including the Everglades."
Passage of the amendment was hailed as a watershed moment in Florida's struggle to protect and preserve our land and water resources.
However, what was straightforward to voters was opaque to Florida lawmakers, who diverted Amendment 1 revenues to other state programs historically funded by the general budget.
Of the $740 million appropriated this year from Amendment 1, legislators earmarked $192 million to general operating expenses. Less than 12 percent — $88.7 million — will be spent on land acquisition.
Let's be clear: Voters didn't approve Amendment 1 to establish a separate — and lucrative — revenue source for lawmakers to supplement funding shortfalls in the state budget.
The lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of several conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and the Florida Wildlife Federation, seeks to correct this egregious inequity.
Florida voters have been duped by state lawmakers.
Hopefully, the courts will make it right.


Thumb down: Florida House committee approves controversial ‘fracking’ bill - by Editorial Board
November 7, 205
BAD DECISION: A bill that would erode local control over hydraulic fracturing cleared a hurdle this week in the Florida Legislature.
Hydraulic fracturing — or "fracking" — is the process of injecting highly pressurized fluids and materials deep into the ground to fracture shale for the purpose of releasing, and extracting, oil and natural gas. Potential environmental impacts include contamination of water supplies, air pollution and consumption of water resources.
House Bill 191, sponsored by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, was approved 9 to 4 by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee. The bill is disconcerting because it would significantly limit local government control over oil and natural gas exploration.
More than 40 local governments in Florida have adopted resolutions opposing hydraulic fracturing, according to Floridians Against Fracking.
These bans would be negated if Rodrigues' bill becomes law.


FL water districts

Water districts face decision on initiative
St.Augustine Record - by Steve Patterson
November 7, 2015
Days before votes that could ensure water supplies for growing Central Florida areas, a St. Johns River Water Management District board member warns that water-use estimates seem “dramatically overstated.”
Estimates that are overinflated could cost Floridians up to $2.8 billion too much for the Central Florida Water Initiative, argued George Robbins, a Jacksonville businessman.
“Using the current forecast would deceive those involved and cause taxpayers to pay for activities not needed,” Robbins told a panel overseeing the initiative in an email last week. “You have a moral, ethical and fiduciary responsibility to provide the most accurate information you have.”
The projections have been challenged before from outside government, but having the argument come from a district board member complicates the case for the initiative, which the water management board is slated to vote on Tuesday.
“District staff is aware of Mr. Robbins’ concerns and is prepared to address his concerns during the discussion of this item,” district spokeswoman Teresa Monson said by email Wednesday.
The Central Florida initiative was drafted after years of work between three water management districts — St. Johns, South Florida and Southwest Florida — that each control part of the area the initiative involves.
It’s designed to make sure water is available for communities around Orlando to continue to grow over the next 20 years.
The plan covers areas in Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and southern Lake counties.
All three water districts are scheduled to vote this month on the initiative.
Tapping the river
Their decision could be important to the St. Johns River.
A supply plan drafted last year for the initiative said “it is expected” some water to meet projected needs would come from rivers or lakes.
A revised plan lists potential projects that could take up to 160 million gallons of water per day from the St. Johns River in Orange and Seminole counties, although water might also come from other sources instead. St. Johns advocates have argued that taking water from it could harm the river’s health.
Building projects in the supply plan could cost billions, but firm numbers are nearly unknown because there’s no agreement on which, if any, of a string of efforts would actually be pursued.
The Central Florida plan forecasts people’s demand for water there could increase from about 850 million gallons per day this year to nearly 1.1 billion gallons per day in 2035.
But Robbins said the actual water use last year was less than 700 million gallons daily, only a few hundred thousand gallons different from 2013 — and that per-person water use is falling.
The gap between last year’s level and the forecast for 2015 “is inexplicable,” he told members of a steering committee for the water initiative.
“Compounding that mistake for 20 years produces the grossly inaccurate 2035 number,” Robbins argued.
Just resetting the beginning number and assuming the same growth rate could eliminate most of the need for “alternative sources,” the all-purpose label that can include pumping water from rivers instead of the Florida aquifer, the state’s first choice for water now.
Water managers heard Robbins, and they’ll update the plan’s numbers soon, said Drew Bartlett, deputy secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Just the same, he said, what’s at stake is still mostly theoretical.
“It’s a planning exercise. What it [the supply plan] does not do is impose requirements,” said Bartlett, part of the steering committee Robbins wrote to.
Bartlett said the supply plan was written to identify places that communities might tap for water if they had to. It doesn’t order utilities to build dams or dig reservoirs, or tell communities to write checks for waterworks that won’t have customers.
The steering committee talked after Robbins’ email was sent, Bartlett said, and agreed to update supply projections within two years, as well as a computer model used to track impacts of groundwater withdrawals on wetlands and lakes.
Sets direction
Critics of the supply plan are trying to rally opponents, saying the plan sets a direction utilities follow, and makes the projects it lists easier to permit. The St. Johns Riverkeeper organization and Audubon Florida asked their backers online to email the St. Johns district’s board members and urge them to vote “no.”
Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman argues state leaders are focused on guaranteeing water for Central Florida to ensure growth of businesses in that area but aren’t considering how those guarantees might impact other parts of the state.
Indeed, keeping water at hand has sometimes been discussed as a starting point for the region’s future.
“You can’t expect world-class attractions in Orlando to put billions of dollars into their parks if they don’t know whether they’re going to get an allocation for their newest water-based features,” Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said during a Florida Chamber of Commerce forum in September. “You can’t expect to bring in a Boeing, a Mercedes, whatever shiny economic-development prize that we want, if there is some question about whether the most fundamental element in economic development will be available to them.”
Robbins said all management districts’ first responsibility is making sure there’s enough water available, but it’s important to recognize how much conservation is curbing public demand.
Water that’s not used because people waste less can balance a lot of population growth, and Robbins pointed to estimates that per-person water demand in Central Florida had dropped nearly 40 percent over the past 20 years.
“That’s a great thing,” Robbins said.
More demand
To be sure, not everyone has been ready to accept forecasts of less individual use.
In August, the city manager for Minneola in Lake County wrote to the South Florida district that numbers in the supply plan “drastically understate the growth in population and water demand” his community will face over the next 20 years.
New development will have different characteristics than the town has been used to, City Manager Mark Johnson wrote, and “typically includes in-ground automatic irrigation systems and requirements for upkeep of lawns and landscaping, which results in higher water demand.”
He also said the population would likely grow faster than the plan forecasts.
Johnson argued his town, which used a little less than 1.5 million gallons daily in 2010, would need about 12.7 million by 2035, not the 2.5 million the supply plan predicted.
The management district’s executive director, Ann Shortelle, urged board members to approve the supply plan, writing in a briefing after the steering committee’s last meeting that the board agreed long ago that a final plan should be approved after a public comment period that ended in August.
After years of preparation, her brief told the board that it’s time to get the plan signed.


Re-used water

Treated (re-used)
water pipeline network

Increase use of treated Collier wastewater for irrigation could spare precious drinking water
Naples Daily News – by Greg Stanley
November 6, 2015
Cleaned and treated wastewater — the kind where they put up signs warning you not to drink it — could soon become the norm for much of Collier County's lawns.
Demand for the recycled water, which comes from sewage and stormwater, is expected to grow fast enough that its use will outpace regular tap water in the next five to 10 years, according to county projections. The projections show even with growth and big population increases in the next 20 years, residents could be using enough of the cheaper reused water that they help limit the use of the more precious and costly drinking water.
"We just have to manage supply and demand more wisely," said George Yilmaz, administrator of public utilities. "We can use less and less potable water to the point that we don't use potable water at all for irrigation. It will make us sustainable and affordable."
The key is to make it easy for homes, businesses and golf courses to use the treated wastewater on lawns, gardens and for general irrigation thereby saving tap water, Yilmaz said.
It's unclear how homeowners could be affected by the change or how exactly the county may pay to install more pipes for treated wastewater. The water department will ask commissioners Tuesday to green-light a feasibility study that would show the needs and projected costs of expanding the treated water system, including building recovery wells and storage areas that could capture billions of gallons of ground and stormwater during the rainy season as it's on the way to the Gulf.
The study would also propose ways to fund it, including potentially creating a wastewater utility to bill homeowners.
"The ultimate goal is for the water used indoors — our potable water — to be captured and reused at close to 98 percent," he said.
The first step is to plan for new neighborhoods and business parks to essentially be built with two water pipes, one for indoor use and one for outdoor use, Yilmaz said.
To get that capture rate, potable water can't be used for irrigation.
The water comes from what would normally be a by-product of the county's sewage treatment. Rather than losing that water out through the Gulf, it's treated and re-treated at one of two plants serving the north and south sides of the county.
The water typically has an odor. It isn't safe to drink and the county warns against using it on food or crops that don't have peels.
It saves millions of gallons every day in drinking water that would otherwise be used on grass, plants and trees along road medians, parks and golf courses. About 40 percent of the total water usage in the county — 16 million gallons per day — is treated wastewater. It's used by 35,000 people and business, on 14 golf courses, six parks and 65 miles of roadway medians.
Still, too much drinking water, which is more costly for the county to treat and more expensive for people to use, is also being used on lawn care and irrigation, said Commissioner Tim Nance.
"We have places with extensive landscapes that are using municipal because it's what's available," Nance said. " It's just not the best use of our resources. So the idea is how to make more irrigation quality water so we cannot use potable water for that."
The county expects total water usage to jump from 40 million gallons a day to 60 million in the next 20 years as the population grows. To keep a sustainable amount of drinking water the amount of treated wastewater would need to jump from the 16 million gallons per day to 36 million over that time, Yilmaz said.


The Everglades Coalition comes out in support of Floridians for Solar Choice amendment –b y Mitch Perry
November 6, 2015
The Everglades Coalition, an alliance of more than 50 local, state and national conservation and environmental organizations dedicated to full restoration of America’s Everglades, has endorsed the constitutional amendment being advocated by the group Floridians for Solar Choice.
“Water quantity and quality are critical for Everglades restoration, yet the Everglades ecosystem has competing demands for water from the power sector,” said Laura Reynolds, director of Tropical Audubon Society in a prepared statement issued  Thursday. “Unlike conventional power plants, solar power uses no water – the Solar Choice initiative moves the state towards a water-smart and sustainable energy future.”  
Floridians for Solar Choice is one of two competing solar amendments fighting to get on the 2016 ballot. If passed, its constitutional amendment would end the utilities’ hegemony on energy generation in Florida and give homeowners the flexibility to enter into contracts with solar companies, also known as Solar Power Purchase Agreements (SPPA). If passed, the initiative would make Florida the 47th state to allow SPPA’s.
Consumers for Solar Choice is the other campaign fighting to get on the ballot. It’s the solar power measure backed by the utility companies such as Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy and TECO.
Jennifer Hecker, director of Natural Resource Policy with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, stated, “Expanding access to solar provides consumers more environmentally sustainable choices for meeting their energy needs. With the expansion of oil and gas proposals that can involve immense amounts of freshwater, and the need for additional freshwater flows to restore natural systems all over Florida including the Everglades, promoting less water intensive energy alternatives, such as solar, will be vital to the success of restoration efforts.”
“The Everglades ecosystem is threatened by two proposed Florida Power & Light natural gas power plants that will use enormous amounts of water. Removing barriers to access clean solar power will reduce the state’s reliance on natural gas to generate electricity. Additionally, rooftop solar power doesn’t destroy valuable habitat and migratory corridors for wildlife – expanding solar choice just makes good sense,” stated Rhonda Roff, Energy chairwoman, Sierra Calusa Group.
This past month the Florida Supreme Court approved the proposed ballot language for Floridians for Solar Choice.  
Consumers for Smart Solar amendment has also collected the 10 percent of required signatures and is awaiting its chance for a court review.
Both groups are working to obtain the 683,149 petition signatures required to put the measure on next year’s ballot by next February.


Florida GOP politician warns sea-level rise is "Speculation or personal opinion" - by Tim Elfrink
November 5, 2015
Sea-level rise shouldn't be a controversial subject in a state subcommittee tasked with talking about Everglades restoration and water management. That's exactly why two state representatives from South Florida began asking a Tallahassee bureaucrat earlier this week about climate change's impact on the state's projects.
But this is Florida, where the GOP is still living in a fantasy land where Miami Beach isn't sinking into the Atlantic. So the meeting's chairman — a Republican businessman from central Florida — quickly interjected to warn that sea level rise was simply "speculation or personal opinion."
For politicians who actually represent low-lying South Florida, the moment was just the latest frustration in a state where the governor himself has banned "sea level rise" from official documents and the attorney general is suing over plans to promote cleaner energy.
"It's entirely appropriate for us to be asking our state agencies to assess the risks and to prioritize plans for eventual sea level rise," says Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat who was in the meeting. "It's not a partisan issue. It's just that the folks who happen to be in power right now are inexplicably afraid of the issue."
The latest moment of conservative climate change lunacy came on Tuesday in a meeting of the Florida House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. 
Rodriguez — who has been outspoken on climate change, inviting skeptical state Attorney General Pam Bondi to come see Miami flooding for herself — was the first to broach the topic. 
"Looking at the prospect for low or moderate sea level rise, what would the priorities be, and how would the system be impacted?" he asked a representative from the state Department of Environmental Resource Management.
Before he could answer, subcommittee chairman Rep. Ben Albritton had to interrupt. 
"We want to be very careful of course in providing speculation or personal opinion on something that may be out 5, 10, 15 or 30 years from now," he cautioned, "and not building concrete ideas or concrete decisions around this table on something that might be speculation."
Albritton repeated a similar warning later in the meeting when Rep. Kristine Diane Jacobs, a Coconut Creek Democrat, raised her own sea-level rise questions. 
So is Albritton a well-versed climate scientist with relevant data to share? Uh, no. He just read a book, that's all. 
Albritton hasn't returned a message from New Times, but this is what he told Politico this morning
"I don't understand sea level rise, global warming — this whole discussion," Albritton said. "I've seen really good data that shows global warming. I read a book recently that had really good data in it that shows we are actually entering into a cooling period that happens about every 200 years."
To recap: A Republican with no scientific background who read an unnamed, five-year-old book is happy to throw a wrench in state proceedings surrounding an issue with close to 100 percent scientific consensus. Meanwhile, saltwater intrusion and spiking King Tides are already impacting the people who live in South Florida.
Dade County Needs 50-Year Sea-Level-Rise Plan, Democrat's Letter Urges
Miami Is Sinking but Might Just Teach the World to Deal With Sea-Level Rise
Seas Could Rise Ten Feet in Next 50 Years, Famed Climate Scientist Warns


Gravestone epitaph of Florida's dismantled natural resource management - "Science-based"
SWFWMD Matters – by Sonny Vergara
November 5, 2015
I am giving a little talk  in The Villages Monday.  Here’s what I'm inclined to say about SSB 552.
a) The Legislature is poised to make major changes to state water policy
                               i)  They want to move the needle more toward fulfilling residential and commercial water needs and away from sustaining natural systems, which in their hearts is just a waste of good tax money that could be better spent to grow the interests of special interests who will pay for their re-elections and make them President of the Senate.
                              ii)  SB 552
1.    It is a bill that will create the expectation that conservation lands and efforts to protect natural systems should have a cost benefit ratio where the benefits must outweigh the cost.  Environmental protection and preservation always has a positive bottom line, but not always in dollars.  The extreme fiscal conservative will never acknowledge this.
2.    It is being written by those who proffer no monetary value for natural systems and who will use the resultant poor economic value to further extinguish legitimate environmental management in Florida.
3.    It is counter intuitive that giving the Ag Commissioner role as overseer of agricultural pollution and freeing farmers from regulatory accountability does not give them a free ride.  It is no different from giving a coyote keys to the coop and asking him to protect the chickens from other coyotes … and saying, “We trust you and all your friends will do the right thing.”   ......  BMP’s
4.    Requires self-reporting and data by environmental agencies at all levels that is clearly intended to load the political guns of special interests and make extreme fiscal conservatives like Alan Hayes drool.
5.    It is a bill written by those who see the dismantling of Florida’s natural resource protections as clearing the way for an ever upward-spiraling state gross domestic product, and who could not careless that the resultant environmental losses may be for all time.
6.    It is filled with condescension and empty platitudes for a public starving to hear something positive from a dysfunctional state Government.
7.    Liking anything in this bill is like saying you like a pie filled with arsenic because you like the Oreo Cookie crust.  It will do a great deal more harm than good.
8.    It will write the final epitaph on the gravestone of natural resource management in Florida as we once knew it … "Science-based"



LOL: Rick Scott honored for conservation - by Ryan Yousefi
November 5, 2015
November 14, Gov. Rick Scott is being honored for his excellent work in conservation. No really, we're serious. I'm sorry you had to find out this way.
Yes, an award for the guy whose response to climate change is "I'm not a scientist," yet whose administration instructed scientists not to use the term "climate change." 
The Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida is a nonprofit group that provides funding and support to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission — i.e., the state agency that is currently stacked with Scott appointees and just approved the killing of 320 black bears. 
The foundation has announced that Scott will be honored at the annual BlueGreen event for his supposed outstanding work in fish and wildlife conservation. The event will take place at Green Glades Ranch — owned by FWC Commissioner Ron "Alligator" Bergeron. Tickets will be sold for a minimum of $200 per plate.
In the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida news release, Gov. Scott and First Lady Ann Scott are touted as outdoorsy angels sent from heaven above: 
“Governor Scott has been instrumental in helping develop a strong connection between fish and wildlife conservation and traditional outdoors activities like hunting and especially fishing,” said Rodney Barreto, Chairman of FWFF.
“And our First Lady Ann is an outdoors enthusiast in her own right, dedicated to getting our kids outdoors. Together they provide leadership for effective conservation and youth engagement in Florida.”
As you might have imagined, this has royally pissed off some people who are well aware of Scott's less-than-stellar environmental track record. So much so, in fact, that a group is planning to peacefully protest the ceremony. The group plans to make it apparent why it is there and why Scott receiving a conservation award seems like some sort of sick joke. 
It's tough to say what exact event has caused the outrage in Scott being honored as a environmentalist, because there are so many possible suspects.
During his time in office, Scott has lessened restrictions on polluters, killed a statewide septic tank inspection program that would have reduced water pollution, supported the recent black bear hunt in Florida that resulted in more than 300 killings, and never delivered on promises that would have greatly improved vital parts of the Everglades needing tons of attention. Scott has been so opposite-of-green during his tenure that the Tampa Bay Times called him an "environmental disaster" last year.
So yeah, he's being honored, and people are hella pissed about it. 
Protesters will be meeting outside Green Glades Ranch, located at 21111 SW 16th St. in Weston. The event is scheduled to take place from 4 to 6 p.m.


Sea could rise more than 6 feet by 2100: Report
Sun Sentinel – by Ken Kaye
November 5, 2015
New estimates paint a much bleaker picture for sea level rise in the last half of the century.
The outlook for South Florida's rising sea levels has turned potentially catastrophic, as new long-term projections estimate the ocean will be six and a half feet deeper by 2100 under a worst case scenario.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, consisting of Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, calculated that seas could rise 31 inches by 2060, about two inches more than was estimated five years ago. It predicted seas up to 46 inches higher by 2075, enough to submerge a large chunk of coastline.
Even if seas rise three to five inches, which is expected within the next 15 years, South Florida would face a range of hardships, from endangered drinking water supplies to a degradation of public services.
"What we'll see is systematically more flooding, deeper flooding and more pervasve flooding – and with lesser events," said Jennifer Jurado, Broward County's director of natural resource planning and management. "It will take less in the way of rainfall before you flood."
Long-range predictions, which previously hadn't extended to the turn of the next century, call for the sea to rise 78 inches at an accelerated rate. If the projections hold, much of this region would be underwater within the next 85 years unless greenhouse emissions are sharply reduced, the steady rise of the Earth's temperature is stopped and arctic ice stops melting.Jurado said evidence of the increased flooding can already be seen with heavy rains and King tides, particularly in the coastal areas of West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderale, Hollywood and Miami Beach.
Other major impacts, some of which already are being seen:
• Increased sand and soil erosion, leading to more coastal flooding;
• Increased inland flooding, including areas west of Interstate 95, as a higher ocean would disable the stormwater drainage system;
• Saltwater intrusion in the Biscayne aquifer – South Florida's primary freshwater supply – and local water supply wells;
The updated projections are to be presented to each of the counties' commissions before the end of the year. If they approve the Compact's report, plans for buildings, bridges, transportation networks and other critical infrastructure projects could be amended, limited or denied based on the new sea level rise numbers. Projects expected to last more than 50 years could come under particular scrutiny.
Natalie Schneider, Palm Beach County's climate change and sustainability coordinator, said for now county planners are mainly concerned with the impact on projects that might be built over the next few decades. Beyond that, she said, there's too much uncertainty.
"All of this underscores the complexity that surrounds this whole issue," she
said.  The projections paint a much bleaker picture than was depicted in an earlier report compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations sanctioned body, Jurado said.
"They had absolutely failed to intergrate ice melt in the projections," she said. "So everybody knew it was really conservative."
Because of the uncertainty of how fast the seas will rise – and how much greenhouse gases will be curbed – the Compact predicted a wide-range of possibilities.
Specifically, it calls for sea levels to rise 3 to 5 inches by 2030, 8 to 31
inches by 2060 and 19 to 78 inches by 2100.
Although much of the globe will be subject to the same sea level increases, the fear is that South Florida will be particularly vulnerable to flooding because of its low level and because of strong ocean currents that run nearby, such as the Gulf Stream.
The Florida Department of Environmental Projection is currently is evaluating risk for vulnerable communities, said spokewoman Lori Elliott.
"The department partners and coordinates with a number of local and state agencies to address the challenges of sea level rise statewide," she said.
To slow down the rise, the environmental community calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by about 80 percent by 2050.
There is strong evidence those emissions are causing an alarming increase in global temperatures: 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. This year likely will be the warmest year on record, "with 2016 a good bet to exceed even 2015's warmth," said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for Weather Underground, the online weather site.
Further, greenhouse gas emissions nurtured several extreme climate events in the past year, including a highly active hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific, drought in East Africa and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia and South America, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration said.
Jurado said action needs to be taken now to prevent the seas from rising to disastrous levels.
"We have to think about what we want the landscape to look like for the generation behind us," she said.


Florida Senate Committee advances statewide policy for water and natural resources
Sunshine State News
November 4, 2015
Sen. Charlie Dean's Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation today passed Senate Bill 552, Environmental Resources, which provides for a statewide policy to restore and preserve Florida’s water and natural resources.
Senate President Andy Gardiner's office released the following statement:
“Over the last three years, Senator Dean, Senator Simmons, Senator Simpson, Senator Hays, and Senator Montford have worked with Speaker Crisafulli, our colleagues in the House, Commissioner Putnam, and other dedicated stakeholders from across Florida to develop a statewide policy to restore and protect Florida’s water supply and natural resources,” said Gardiner, R-Orlando. “I am pleased the legislation includes key provisions from the bills the House and Senate advanced last year and am particularly grateful to Senator Dean for his tireless work on this legislation.”
“This legislation represents a comprehensive plan to restore our unique springs to make sure they are preserved for the next generation of Floridians and visitors to our state,” said Dean, R-Inverness. “The bill will also help protect Florida’s Everglades and estuaries by ensuring we stick to our action plans and implement best management practices that will improve our water quality and make sure we have the clean water supply we need to accommodate the needs of a growing state.”
“This bill creates a transparent process to address water quality and quantity projects in Florida, so we can ensure we are making the best use of limited taxpayer dollars,” continued Gardiner. “The legislation also expands access to public lands and will make information about conservation areas and recreational opportunities more readily available, so more Floridians will have the opportunity to enjoy the pristine environment the state has worked so hard to conserve.”
Public Access to Public Lands
The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to publish an online, publicly accessible database of conservation lands on which public access is compatible with conservation and recreation purposes. The bill requires the database to be available online by July 1, 2017. The database must include at a minimum: the location of the lands; the types of allowable recreational opportunities; the points of public access; facilities or other amenities; and land use restrictions. 
The bill also directs the DEP to create a downloadable mobile application to locate state lands available for public access using the user’s current location or activity of interest. Using a smartphone, users could locate recreational opportunities throughout Florida just as easily as people can currently locate hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.
Outstanding Florida Springs
SB 552 creates the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act to provide for the protection and restoration of Outstanding Florida Springs (OFSs).
The bill defines “Outstanding Florida Springs” to include all historic first magnitude springs, including their associated spring runs, as determined by the DEP using the most recent version of the Florida Geological Survey’s springs bulletin. The following springs and their associated spring runs are also considered OFSs: Deleon Springs, Peacock Springs, Poe Spring Rock Springs, Wekiwa Springs, and Gemini Springs.
Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection
SB 552 updates and restructures the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program to reflect and build upon the DEP’s completion of basin management action plans for Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, and the St. Lucie River and Estuary, and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ implementation of best management practices;
Water Conservation and Water Supply 
The bill requires additional information related to all water quality or water quantity projects as part of a 5-year work program. The following must be included in the Consolidated Water Management District Annual Report:
●  All projects identified to implement a Basin Management Action Plan or recovery or prevention strategy; 
●  Priority ranking of each listed project, for which state funding through the water resources development work program is requested, which must be available for public comment at least 30 days before submission of the consolidated annual report;
●  Estimated cost of each project;
●  Estimated completion date for each project;
●  Source and amount of financial assistance that will be made available by the DEP, a water management district (WMD), or some other entity for each project;
●  A quantitative estimate of each project’s benefit to the watershed, waterbody, or water segment in which it is located;
●  And, a grade for each watershed, waterbody, or water segment where a project is located representing the level of impairment and violations of adopted or interim minimum flow or minimum water level.
SB 552 also creates a pilot program for an alternative water supply in restricted allocation areas, a pilot program for innovative nutrient and sediment reduction and conservation, and revises certain considerations for water resource permits.
Annual Review of Water Supply and Conservation Lands 
The legislation requires the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) to conduct an annual assessment of water resources and conservation lands and modifies water supply and resource planning and processes to make them more stringent.
Concerning water resources, the assessment must include:
●  Historical and current expenditures and projections of future expenditures by federal, state, regional, and local governments and public and private utilities based upon historical trends and ongoing projects or initiatives associated with water supply and demand and water quality protection and restoration;
●  An analysis and estimates of future expenditures necessary to comply with federal and state laws and regulations;
●  A compilation of projected water supply and demand data;
●  Forecasts of federal, state, regional, and local government revenues dedicated in current law for the purposes of the water supply demand and water quality protection and restoration, or that have been historically allocated for these purposes, as well as public and private utility revenues;
●  And, an identification of gaps between projected revenues and projected and estimated expenditures.
Concerning conservation lands, the assessment must include:
●  Historical and current expenditures and projections of future expenditures by federal, state, regional, and local governments based upon historical trends and ongoing projects or initiatives associated with real property interests eligible for funding under the Florida Forever Act;
●  An analysis and estimates of future expenditures necessary to purchase lands identified in plans produced by state agencies or WMDs;
●  An analysis of the ad valorem tax impacts, by county, resulting from public ownership of conservation lands;
●  Forecasts of federal, state, regional, and local government revenues dedicated in current law to maintain conservation lands and the gap between projected expenditures and revenues;
●  And, the total percentage of Florida real property that is publicly owned for conservation purposes.
SB 552 also requires the DEP to conduct a feasibility study for creating and maintaining a web-based, interactive map of the state’s waterbodies as well as regulatory information about each waterbody.
Click here for more information on SB 552.


Florida struggles to find balance on water preservation policy
Herald/Time - by Mary Ellen Klas, Tallahassee Bureau
November 4, 2015
TALLAHASSEE -- A compromise bill that attempts to strike a balance between the agriculture industry need for water and the public desire to restore degraded springs received approval from a key Senate committee Wednesday despite warnings from some environmentalists it does little to reverse the pollution and over-pumping that has caused the damage.
The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee unanimously approved Senate Bill 552 Wednesday and heralded it as a comprehensive water policy bill that gives farmers predictability and environmentalists some of the independent oversight they have sought.
State Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, the chairman of the committee who has made the bill a top priority for the last three years, said it will "provide transparency" to water policy in Florida and will "show the entire nation that we are challenging the status quo."
Environmentalists complained, while the measure makes some important progress in establishing new standards and definitions, it doesn't do enough to restore Florida's natural springs and aquifers, which have been declining at a rapid rate in the face of nitrate pollution and over-pumping.
"This water bill doesn't go far enough. We need to have the water resources protected better. We need to have less water withdrawals," said Merrilee Malwitz-Jipson of Our Santa Fe River, Inc.
The bill is on a fast-track after a previous version last year became a victim of the infighting that led the session to end last year without a budget.
This year, the House State Affairs Committee unanimously backed an identical version of the Senate bill last week, PCB SAC 16-01.
The bills require the Department of Environmental Protection to establish guidelines by July 1, 2017, such as minimum flow levels, to withdraw water from vulnerable Florida springs that do not yet have those protections in place.
It also directs the agency to adopt a uniform definition of what is considered "harmful" to Florida springs and calls for DEP to work with water management districts to establish five-year recovery plans intended to reduce pollution and pumping from the state's most polluted springs.
And it requires DEP to develop remedies for 20 percent of the septic tanks that are determined to be polluting lakes, springs and waterways.
Bob Palmer, legislative committee chairman for the Florida Springs Council, a coalition of 35 groups formed last year to demand action to protect the state's springs, told the committee requiring more regulations of an agency that has failed to enforce existing laws is shortsighted.
"I think a lot more can be done in terms of oversight, holding the agency's feet to the fire," when regulations don't produce the desired result, he said.
He noted regulators too often rely on models to justify policies that allow problems to continue. For example, Manatee Springs, Wekiva Springs and other waterways have had regulations relating to minimum flow requirements in place for years and "aren't making it."
"I don't find a certain amount of harm is acceptable," he said. "I think there should be no harm."
State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, countered the goal of the committee was to create a new standard to "prevent groundwater withdrawals that are harmful" and he expects regulators to develop a new definition with public input.
"I don't know how much better the Legislature can do to putting something together than this," he said.
Ryan Smart of 1000 Friends of Florida said there are good elements in the bill, but some provisions allow for excessive pumping of water from state aquifers with little or no oversight.
For example, while the bill allows for monitoring of consumptive use permits that use eight-inch pipes -- which can withdraw 2 million gallons of water a day -- it does not require monitoring of people who draw water using six-inch pipes which can pump more than 1.5 million gallons a day.
"Since this provision will only apply to new or modified permits, anyone can just come in with a 6-inch pipe, or two 6-inch pipes or three 6-inch pipes and get around it," he said.
The bill makes several concessions to agriculture and business interests, which had opposed a stricter version being pushed in the Senate last year.
For example, one provision to limit groundwater pumping from water bodies if it was determined the pumping would have been "significantly harmful" was removed.


How to profit from global warming - by Matt Egan
November 4, 2015
Companies cleaning up carbon act cleaning up in the stock market.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - - Here's a dirty little secret: companies that are cleaning up their carbon act are also cleaning up in the stock market.
There are lots of ideological reasons to invest in companies committed to being a part of the solution to climate change. But there's also a greedy reason.
  Global warming
Companies that have been the best at improving their carbon efficiency since 2012 have dramatically outperformed the ones that have been the worst at it, according to a new report published on Wednesday by the world's largest asset manager BlackRock.
The report analyzed the stock market performance of the more than 1,850 companies that have entered into the Carbon Disclosure Project. It includes everyone from energy and auto companies like BP and General Motors to tech companies like IBM.
BlackRock, which manages nearly $5 trillion, analyzed the data to determine which companies did the best job of cutting their pollution relative to annual sales.
The 20% of companies best at slashing their carbon intensity beat the world stock market by almost 6%. The worst 20% of companies trailed the market by nearly 6%. That's a big difference.
"Sustainable investing is not a passing fad. This is not just about doing or feeling good," BlackRock wrote.
The report comes just ahead of next month's climate change summit in Paris and at a time when some large institutional investors and celebrities are divesting or considering getting out of fossil fuels.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, whose fortune was built on Big Oil, recently told CNNMoney its surprising decision last year to no longer invest in fossil fuels hasn't hurt its performance at all.
Focus on pace of change
But ordinary investors may not need to take such a black-and-white approach if they do not want to. BlackRock found that rather than simply buying the cleanest stocks and dumping the dirtiest, investors should pay close attention to the rate of change.
"It is arguably better to focus on the companies that are best in class -- even if they happen to be within polluting industries," the report said.
To be sure, BlackRock cautions that this is not a perfect science. The research focused on a relatively small pool of companies. Plus the data was self-reported, which the report acknowledges "leaves room for fudging the numbers."
Climate change focus signals strong governance
Recognition of climate change as an issue to deal with is a sign of strong corporate governance in general.
"We have a very strong view: companies with a good environmental, social and governance record have good governance overall (which) equals good long-term returns," said Ewen Cameron Watt, chief investment strategist of the BlackRock Investment Institute.
It's something big-time investors are increasingly paying attention to.
Last year a group of institutional investors, including BlackRock, that together manage $24 trillion in assets pledged to manage climate change risk as part of their fiduciary duty to clients.
BlackRock is hoping to glean more investing tips from those disclosures. The asset manager is sifting through new data on companies' water management to see how it correlates to stock market performance.

Industry-backed fracking bill clears Florida House Panel - by Margie Menzel, News Service of Florida
November 4, 2015
A bill that would create a new regulatory structure in Florida for oil and gas drilling, including the controversial practice known as "fracking," easily passed a House panel Tuesday despite roughly 50 environmentalists on hand to oppose the measure.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee approved the bill (HB 191), filed by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, and Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, on a straight party-line vote of 9-4.
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to create fractures in rock formations, allowing natural gas and oil to be released.
The bill would set up a state permitting process for fracking and require oil and gas companies to register the chemicals they use on a national website. It would also require the companies to inform the state Department of Environmental Protection of chemicals they inject into the ground — after the fact, not before. And it would set aside $1 million for a study on the impact of fracking.
"I believe that it improves our environment here in Florida," Rodrigues said.
Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, is sponsoring a similar bill (SB 318) in the Senate.
The proposal is backed by the Florida Petroleum Council, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which contend that fracking would be a boost to jobs and energy independence.
"It's transformed America," Dave Mica of the Florida Petroleum Council told the House panel. "It's made us an energy-producing nation. It's showing up in the prices your constituents pay at the pump."
"Will this create jobs in Florida? Of course it will," said Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida.
But opponents said the bill is deceptive and that fracking would dirty the state's groundwater and damage the health of people who live near drilling operations.
"At its core, it's legislation designed to facilitate fracking in Florida," AFL-CIO spokesman Rich Templin said.
Tallahassee immunologist Ron Saff said people living near fracking wells are getting sick.
"Sure, I think fracking will create more jobs … for grave-diggers, morticians and funeral directors," Saf said.
But Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, disagreed about risks associated with fracking.
"It's been proven already that fracking is a safe process," he said. "Now, are some of the chemicals dangerous? Absolutely. But so are so many of the things we use on a daily basis."
The bill would also ban local governments from imposing fracking regulations, and critics warned against that as well, saying the provision would deprive local governments of self-determination.
"I really thought that was a cornerstone of conservative principle — the idea of smaller government and local control," Templin said. "This legislation takes that away."
But Rodrigues said he is working with the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities to address their concerns with the bill. Florida has long had oil drilling in parts of Southwest Florida and the Panhandle.
Opponents of the bill expressed little confidence that the state Department of Environmental Protection would hold violators accountable.
But after public comment ended, Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, scolded the environmentalists for basing their stand on "emotion and opinion" rather than trying to make constructive changes to the bill.
"You can't always stand against things," Smith agreed. "Progress is going to happen."


Senate backs resolution to get rid of EPA clean water rules
Associated Press – by Mary Clare Jalonick
November 4, 2015
WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite White House objections, the Senate voted for a resolution Wednesday to scrap new federal rules to protect smaller streams, tributaries and wetlands from development and pollution.
Senators voted 53-44 in favor of a “resolution of disapproval,” a measure that would void the regulations if also passed by the House and signed by the president. The White House has already said it would veto the resolution.
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats blocked a separate bill that would have required the agencies to withdraw and rewrite the rules. The House had passed similar legislation.
The Obama administration says the rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in May would safeguard drinking water for 117 million Americans. In its veto threat, the White House said that more than 1 in 3 Americans get their drinking water from rivers, lakes, and reservoirs that are at risk of pollution from upstream sources.
Republicans and some rural Democrats say the regulations are costly, confusing and a government power grab, giving federal regulators unprecedented control of small bodies of water on private land.
“I’ve heard from constituents across the state of Iowa who have grave concerns with the ambiguity of this rule,” said Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, the Republican sponsor of the resolution. “They are holding off on making conservation improvements to their land, for fear of being later found out of compliance.”
Federal courts have already put the regulations on hold as they consider a number of lawsuits against the water regulations.
The rules clarify which smaller waterways fall under federal protection after two Supreme Court rulings left the reach of the Clean Water Act uncertain. Those decisions in 2001 and 2006 left 60 percent of the nation’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands without clear federal protection, according to the EPA, causing confusion for landowners and government officials.
The EPA says the new rules would force a permitting process only if a business or landowner took steps that would pollute or destroy the affected waters — those with a “direct and significant” connection to larger bodies of water downstream that are already protected. For example, that could include tributaries that show evidence of flowing water.
Farm and business groups are among the rules’ chief opponents, and more than half the states have sued the government in an attempt to block them. Officials from states such as Georgia, New Mexico and Wisconsin have suggested the regulations could be harmful to farmers and landowners who might have to pay for extra permits, face work delays or redesign their property to manage small bodies of water on their private land.
The EPA has argued the criticism is overblown. Since the rules were originally proposed last year, the agency has been working to clear up some misconceptions, like some critics’ assertions that average backyard puddles would be regulated. Current exemptions from the Clean Water Act for farming practices, including plowing, seeding and the movement of livestock, among other things, will continue.


FDACS, DEP say best management practices are working, reducing ‘Glades pollution
November 3, 2015
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Darrell Smith told a Senate appropriations panel that voluntary standards adopted by the agriculture industry in South Florida – so-called “best management practices,” in Capitol-speak – are helping to clean up the Everglades by reducing water waste and nutrient levels.
The practices include new water control structures to help slow the flow of nutrients towards estuaries, water cattle troughs and controllers in tractors to help guide the placement of fertilizer.
“I believe we are making significant progress in the northern Everglades but also across the state,” said Smith.
Department of Environmental Protection’s Deputy Secretary for Ecosystem Restoration Drew Bartlett agreed.
“We’re seeing results in our investments,” in BMPs and other pollution mitigation efforts, citing a downward trend in phosphorous levels.
Among the findings presented as the administrators requested funds from the panel was a 79 percent decrease in levels of harmful phosphorous – a product of agricultural runoff – in the Everglades Agricultural Area, according to recently released state data.
Though he said BMPs “will only get us so far” and additional funds are needed to carry out large-scale water quality remediation projects, Smith was upbeat about the status of state agricultural water policy.
Smith said phosphorous levels were down “77 percent to 93 percent” since 2013, when heavy rains and flooding ravaged the area, creating the conditions for toxic algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon, St. Lucie Estuary, and Lake Okeechobee.
“The positive water quality data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is another sign that Florida’s farmers, through their Best Management Practices, are meeting and exceeding targets for cleaner water in the Everglades Agricultural Area,” said Barbara Miedema, VP for communications at the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, who along with other industry advocates say harsher regulations are unnecessary in light of improvements in the ecologically-sensitive region.
“We are proud of the progress we are making to improve water quality in a watershed that is critical to Florida’s future and the protection of its natural resources,” said Miedema.
Brewster Bevis, chair of the Associated Industries of Florida’s H2O Coalition, was similarly upbeat upon hearing the news. The coalition organized to work on water issues after voters approved an initiative to increase water quality funding, known as Amendment 1.
“Today’s presentation on Everglades restoration demonstrates that Floridians are finding local solutions to address water quality challenges instead of relying on new mandates from Tallahassee. The proposed water bill empowers local water managers and ensures they can meet the needs of their communities,” said Bevis.


Miami flooding
Miami watch out !

Slow-motion disaster: New York prepares for up to six feet of sea level rise - by Bobby Magill
November 3, 2015
By the end of the century, LaGuardia Airport will have fish swimming where airplanes once parked.
LaGuardia Airport is about to be rebuilt in New York City, but by the end of the century, fish could be swimming where airplanes once parked at the terminal. That’s because sea levels in the area could rise by as much as 6 feet over the next 75 years, according to new predictions released by the state of New York.
New York State environment officials announced Friday that they’re creating new sea level rise regulations that will help coastal communities build more resilient homes and other buildings that will be better able to withstand storm surges and other flooding made worse by rising seas driven by climate change.
The new regulations will require developers in New York City, along Long Island and on the shores of the Hudson River to prepare for sea levels that could rise between 15 and 75 inches by 2100.  At the far end of that scale, many of the areas hit hard by Hurricane Sandy — the Rockaway Peninsula and the shores of Staten Island, for example — could be underwater.
In addition to increasing temperatures and more frequent extreme weather, rising seas are expected to be among the most destructive effects of climate change. If greenhouse gas emissions are left unchecked, most of the U.S. population could be affected by rising seas, submerging some of America’s most famous icons, such as Wall Street, New Orleans and the Everglades.
About 500,000 people live on the 120 square miles of land that lie less than 6 feet above the mean high tide line in the state of New York. More than $100 billion in property value exists in that area.
The sea level rise projections were created as part of New York’s Community Risk and Resiliency Act of 2014, which requires the state to set official sea level rise projections for the end of the century. It also requires many building permit applicants to consider future flooding risks posed by rising seas.
The sea level rise range the state uses comes from a study conducted by Cornell and Columbia universities and Hunter College showing that rapid melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets could raise sea levels much faster and much higher than previously expected.
The study projects that sea levels could rise between 15 and 72 inches at Montauk Point on the eastern edge of Long Island, and between 15 and 75 inches in New York City. The level of the Hudson River near Albany, more than 150 miles inland from New York Harbor, could rise by up to 71 inches.
Cynthia Rosenzweig, study co-author and senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University's Center for Climate Systems Research, said the state’s use of the study ensures consistency between resilience planning at both the state and city levels because New York City’s climate change panel is using the same methods to determine the threat from sea level rise.
"The New York State sea level rise projections, developed using state-of-the-science methods, will provide the best available climate risk information for decision makers throughout the state,” she said.
Daniel Zarrilli, director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said in a statement that accurate science is critical to effective climate adaptation.
“These coordinated projections, which also inform the city’s investments, will support critical work of making investments in climate adaptation and resiliency across the entire state,” he said.
Tell U.N. Climate Chief to Sign and Implement a Meaningful Climate Treaty in Paris
We understand the problem and we have the tools in hand to begin reversing the warming trends. We have yet-untapped global innovation that is only waiting for adequate investment. The economics of action and inaction are clear. Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is in a position to help the world get on the right track. Urge her and her colleagues at the Paris Climate Change Conference to forge and sign a new agreement that will ensure meaningful action on climate change. Key elements should include:
1. Ambitious action before and after 2020
2. A strong legal framework and clear rules
3. A central role for equity
4. A long-term approach
5. Public finance for adaptation and the low carbon transition
6. A framework for action on deforestation and land use
7. Clear links to the 2014 Sustainable Development Goals
Tell U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres to sign and implement a meaningful climate treaty at the Paris climate talks in December 2015.


Corps awards contract for C-111 South Dade project
US-ACE Jacksonville, FL - Release no. 15-095
November 2, 2015
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has awarded one of the three remaining construction contracts for the C-111 South Dade project, an Everglades restoration project in Miami-Dade County, Fla.
The $13.9 million construction contract was awarded to the Polote Corporation from Savannah, Ga., Oct. 29. The contract, known as Contract 8, involves constructing a detention area that will connect the C-111 South Dade project to the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park (Mod Waters) project.
“The northern detention area is an important piece of infrastructure that is needed to restore conditions in Everglades National Park,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida. “It will allow additional water to flow into this vital ecosystem and will also enable us to have more operational flexibility in the southern portion of the system.”
The C-111 South Dade project will restore natural hydrologic conditions in Taylor Slough and the eastern panhandle of Everglades National Park while also preserving the current level of flood protection for agricultural lands in South Dade County. Once completed, the project will work in concert with the infrastructure constructed as part of the Mod Waters project and will create a hydraulic ridge that will help prevent ground water from seeping out of Everglades National Park.  As a result, this will enable additional water flow into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
“We are pleased to see that the Army Corps has made their award to begin construction of the C-111 North Detention Area (or Contract 8). This is the last remaining component of the seepage management features that will allow us to begin restoring water flows to Northeast Shark River Slough, while mitigating for adverse flooding concerns,” said Pedro Ramos, Everglades National Park Superintendent. “This marks a new era in water management in the southern Everglades, which is critical to both ecosystem restoration and water sustainability.”
The project is currently 75 percent complete.  Two construction contracts remain for the project and are scheduled to be awarded within the next two years. Construction and operation of the C-111 South Dade Contract 8 components are necessary to maximize restoration objectives of the Mod Waters project. 
“This is the vital connection needed to enable portions of the Mod Waters Project and the C-111 South Dade project to operate more efficiently,” said Tom Teets, South Florida Water Management District Director of Everglades Policy and Coordination. “It also represents continued momentum in a year that has seen significant Everglades restoration progress.”
Construction and operation of these components are also necessary to raise the maximum operating limit of the L-29 Canal under Increment 2 of the G-3273 and S-356 Pump Station Field Test. The data collected during this water operations field test will assess how newly-operational project infrastructure integrates with the current water management system, and how to maximize ecological restoration objectives. 
The information obtained from the first two increments will be used in the development of the Combined Operating Plan, a comprehensive integrated water management plan for the southern portion of the Everglades ecosystem.  Increment 1 of the field test began Oct. 15 and is planned for approximately two years, with a minimum duration of one year. 
Restoring historic water flows to Everglades National Park is a complex endeavor that requires many projects to work in concert. Two of these projects are the Mod Waters and C-111 South Dade projects.  They are part of the Foundation Projects, which the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) builds upon to deliver essential restoration benefits to America’s Everglades.
Additional information on the C-111 South Dade project available at:
Contact: Jenn Miller:(904) 232-1613


Cracking the problem of river growth
November 2, 2015
A general mathematical theory that predicts how cracks spread through materials like glass and ice can also predict the direction in which rivers will grow, according to a new MIT study.
In fracture mechanics, the theory of local symmetry predicts that, for example, a crack in a wall will grow in a direction in which the surrounding stress is symmetric around the crack’s tip.
Scientists at MIT have now applied this theory to the growth of river networks, finding that as a river fed by groundwater cuts through a landscape, it will flow in a direction that maintains symmetric pressure from groundwater around the river’s head. The group tested the theory on 255 streams in the Florida Panhandle, and found that streams grow in a direction consistent with symmetry.
  River growth
The local groundwater flow — and specifically, the height of the underlying water table — therefore plays a large role in directing a river network’s evolution.
Daniel Rothman, a professor of geophysics in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, says that what typically drives a river’s growth is a complicated mix of physical processes that contributes to landscape erosion. The details of these processes are poorly understood.
“Really, what we’re trying to do is express the growth of a river in a way that is independent of the complicated mechanism of erosion,” Rothman says. “Symmetry is a basic physical idea that applies in a variety of settings. By hypothesizing its relevance to channel growth and showing that it works, we can identify the growth of river networks with the class of phenomena that can be described in this way.”
The researchers say the theory of local symmetry may also be used to predict the growth of other branching systems, such as geological faults, root systems, and even neural networks.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study’s authors are Rothman, postdoc and lead author Yossi Cohen, graduate student Robert Yi, former postdocs Olivier Devauchelle and Hansjorg Seybold, and Piotr Szymczak of Warsaw University in Poland.
“The problem of the growing stream”
In 2012, Rothman’s group developed a mathematical theory for river growth that identified a common angle at which river valleys branch. Cohen joined the group shortly after, having worked on problems of fracture mechanics while completing his PhD in theoretical physics. While studying the mathematical principles underlying river networks, Cohen recognized some similarities with theories of fracture mechanics.
“The physical processes are completely different, but there are commonalities in the mathematics,” Cohen says. “So we thought, ‘OK, maybe we can use some of the well-developed theories in fracture mechanics to solve the problem of the growing stream.’”
The researchers applied the fracture mechanics theory of local symmetry to river growth, and found that whether a river grew to the left or right, or straight ahead, depended on the pressure of the surrounding groundwater, or the underlying water table.
Groundwater saturates soil and can be stored in large underground aquifers, the top of which is called the water table. The height of a water table can dip and rise, much like the hills and valleys of a landscape. Higher parts of a water table create more groundwater pressure below, which can ultimately be released by flowing into a river, thereby growing the river incrementally.
By applying the theory of local symmetry to river growth, the researchers found that a river will grow straight when the pressure contour of the surrounding water table is symmetric around the river’s head. The theory also predicts the angle at which a river would turn.
Calculating the “growth exponent”
To test the theory, the group analyzed an intricately branching river network in Bristol, Florida, where Rothman’s group has previously studied river growth. The researchers calculated the position of the water table around 255 branching streams in the river network. From the contours of the water table, they established the degree of symmetry in every region around a stream tip. Then, they examined whether the streams grew in the direction predicted by the local symmetry theory.
They found that enough streams agreed with the predictions to confirm that the theory did apply, not just to fractures and cracks, but also to river growth.
Having validated the theory, the researchers then used it to calculate a “growth exponent” — a number that relates the flow of groundwater to how fast a stream is growing. They then calculated the velocity of all 255 streams in the river network, and determined the optimal growth exponent that minimizes deviations from the predictions of local symmetry.
Rothman says the group’s method in applying the local symmetry method may have applications in other areas of network growth, such as geological fault networks.
“In any problem where there is growth in response to a field which can be characterized as diffusive, our ideas here should apply,” Rothman says.
Related:           A similar principle predicts the growth of fractures and rivers          Phys.Org

Hydrilla targeted in Kissimmee chain of lakes - by Amy Green
November 2, 2015
Wildlife authorities plan to treat two Osceola County lakes this week for hydrilla.
The invasive plant affects nearly half of Florida waterways.
Hydrilla can grow more than an inch a day and spread across a waterbody within a year.
It creates a canopy at the water’s surface, shading submerged vegetation and lowering the oxygen level in the water.
The invasive plant inhibits boating and other recreational activities. It can restrict water flow, causing flooding along rivers and canals.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will treat lakes Kissimmee and Hatchineha with an herbicide called Aquathol K.
The herbicide has no restrictions for fishing, swimming or irrigation.
Both lakes are part of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, an important economic driver in Osceola County and part of the Everglades headwaters.


Red tide confirmed in Lee County, Collier still clear
Naples Daily News – by Kristine Gill
Red tide is the result of a high concentration of a microscopic algae called Karenia brevis. Its toxins cause respiratory discomfort when carried in the wind and inhaled. Symptoms can also occur if someone consumes shellfish with a high concentration of the toxin.
Red tide was confirmed in Southwest Florida this week as well as in Northwest Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported each incident in September and again on Monday as conditions persisted.
Naples officials were monitoring local beaches Monday in case it spread.
"It could spread in the course of a few hours if the winds were right," said Mike Bauer, natural resources manager.
In the event that it is located in Naples, Bauer said signs at each beach end will be flipped to notify beachgoers of the signs and symptoms.
Red tide is also responsible for fish kills on some beaches. To report a fish kill, call 800-636-0511. You can also make a report online at
"The bloom in the Panhandle is currently affecting Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay and Gulf counties," Alina Corcoran, FWC research scientist said in a news release. "In Southwest Florida, patchy blooms have been confirmed along Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties. Extensive fish kills and respiratory irritation have been associated with the bloom in the Panhandle but in Southwest Florida the effects have been less."
Related:           Red Tide found in samples taken off Pinellas, Pasco Suncoast News
Red Tide a Lingering Bay Area Concern


Water wars update - by Jane Harrison
November 2, 2015
A Georgia Tech University professor whose research contributed to a tri-state water sharing plan must produce non-privileged emails sought by Florida attorneys in a federal lawsuit. Special Master Ralph Lancaster granted Florida’s request for email records from Dr. Martin Kistenmacher, hydrologist and assistant director of the Georgia Water Resources Institute.
Florida attorneys believe the professor’s emails related to a hydrology modeling project from 2012 to 2015 will show how Georgia’s upstream consumption of water for agriculture and other uses impacts river flows on the Apalachicola. Attorney Philip Perry stated Florida’s intent in an Oct. 20 teleconference with Lancaster and Georgia attorneys.
The special master is presiding over pre-trial proceedings in the Florida v. Georgia lawsuit over water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. Florida filed suit in Oct. 2013 alleging that Georgia is hoarding water on the Chattahoochee and Flint, causing low flows on the Apalachicola River that nourishes the Panhandle’s oyster fisheries. Lake Lanier is the largest reservoir on that river system.
Each state has subpoenaed and sent depositions to a number of university professors from both states whose research teams worked on a Sustainable Water Management Plan for the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Stakeholders. The private, non-profit organization of water users from Georgia, Florida, and Alabama raised more than $1.7 million and devoted six years to develop a plan they hoped would promote a scientific solution to the tri-state water dispute. Now, research that they anticipated might avert legal wrangling seems to have become central to Florida’s case. Lancaster has forbidden ACFS officials and other sources involved with the case from communicating with the media.
Transcripts of the teleconference prior to Lancaster’s decision regarding the emails reveal Florida’s intent to employ researcher’s findings to support the state’s claims. Perry said Kristenmacher’s and the GWRI’s hydrologic modeling will show “the flow of water into Florida and the effect of Georgia consumption for agriculture and other uses, agricultural irrigation specifically, on that flow.”
He told Lancaster, “Your Honor, we believe that – that the hydrologic modeling here will be an important part of this case. That the experts from both Georgia and Florida will have competing hydrologic models. And that Dr. Kistenmacher and GWRI’s work will support Florida’s, rather than Georgia’s, assessment of the relevant hydrologic principles. And, also, that Dr. Kistenmacher and GWRI’s work will identify very specific serious weaknesses in Georgia's case.”
Georgia attorney K. Winn Allen objected to the production of professors’ emails, claiming they would be burdensome to collect and of little relevancy. He added that if Kristenmacher was compelled to release his emails, it’s “just a tip of the iceberg for future professors.” He speculated emails from six or seven professors from Tech and the University of Georgia may also become legal fodder.
Perry read a transcript of Kristenmacher’s testimony from a Sept. 30 deposition in which the professor stated he would produce his emails “If that’s part of the subpoena, and I’m required to do so, then I have no problem producing.”
The Florida attorney said he sought the emails to get answers to roughly 200 questions to which Kristenmacher had responded “I don’t know” or “I don’t recall.” Perry reported that University of Florida professors agreed to comply with any Georgia request for emails.
Attorneys for both states were busy taking depositions from 45 non-expert witnesses to meet a Jan. 15, 2016 deadline. States have until April 1, 2016 to get testimony from expert witnesses.


November is manatee awareness month: Learn the dangers they encounter and how you can help - by Tracy Hughey
November 1, 2015
Moving at just an average of three miles an hour, adult manatees are on the endangered list with problems of entanglements and also collisions with watercraft. November is the prime time for these problems when the sea cows move to warmer waters.
November has been proclaimed as Manatee Awareness Month, but how much do you know about this odd sea creature? Chances are that if you don't live in Florida, then not much. So let's examine the manatee, often referred to as a sea cow, and get acquainted with the wonderfully slow, sweet creature.
For starters, they get pretty big! When grown, the manatee is about 10 to 12 feet in length, weighs about 1,500 to 1,800 pounds and has a good life span in the wild of 50 to 60 years, according to Defenders of Wildlife. No wonder they are referred to as sea cows; they are cow-sized, which is no surprise when you learn they are relatives of the elephant.
The Florida manatee is endangered as they face several threats. Manatees start searching for warm water shelters as the temperatures start to dip around November, and this is where a lot of their troubles begin.
They are subject to getting tangled in nets and anything else in the water. Marine Mammal Biologist Dr. Ann Spellman and Manatee Specialist Wayne Hartley discuss how this happens and the effects on these sweet creatures in a wonderful video by Adopt A Manatee. Information is available at Save the Manatee Club.
The slow-moving sea creatures are subject to collisions with watercraft, which is their leading cause of death.
Florida residents and visitors are asked to go slow in manatee-prone areas and be aware at all times. Notice the signs along the waterways so you can avoid a collision with these sweet sea cows. They are simply too slow-moving to get out of the way.
"Manatees can't tolerate cold water," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson said, according to WFSU. "So, they start to seek warmer water, and therefore, they're more active at this time. So, the Manatee Awareness Month brings that to people's attention."
"So, one of those things is to wear polarized sunglasses, so you can see below the surface of the water, and certainly, observe any speed zones," she added.
Segelson said that they do wish for people to be able to enjoy the manatees, but the public is asked to be respectful of the endangered species and enjoy them from a distance.
Related:           Warning to boaters: Manatee viewing season is among us     News 13 Orlando
TECO Manatee Viewing Center opens for 30th season in Apollo ... WFLA



Florida's Commissioner
of Agriculture

Putnam protects Big Ag more than water, Star-Banner - by Nathaniel Reed
November 1, 2015
I read with interest Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam's comments to the Star-Banner's Oct. 5 editorial, “Water policies need real change.”
There is not a thoughtful, well-informed Floridian who is not concerned with the proposed, complex “water bill” that will be presented to the Florida Legislature when it convenes. I have been a critic of the commissioner for a number of years, as Florida's public waters — rivers, lakes, and estuaries — have all suffered from excessive amounts of agricultural pollution. Incredibly for an outspoken “water conservationist, Commissioner Putnam indicates that “Florida's springs have played second fiddle to South Florida's complex and expensive plumbing issues far too long.”
Yes, the water issues that South Florida faces are complex and costly. The Biscayne Aquifer supplies drinking and irrigation water for 7 million South Floridians. The combination of agriculture and the 7 million residents and the millions of tourists who visit South Florida should be of major concern to Commissioner Putnam.
His interests regrettably have shown primary concern for protecting the subsidized sugar plantation owners whose drainage has been a major source of pollution of the Everglades system. It took major federal legal action to force the state and water district to acquire thousands of acres of expensive land and construct a series of so-called Stormwater Treatment Areas to reduce the tons of excess phosphorus flowing from the sugar plantations into the Everglades.
The commissioner has been all too silent on the issues of Everglades agricultural pollution. The vast majority of the costs of land acquisition, construction of the STA's — in reality Pollution Control Treatment areas — and the management of the system to cleanse the polluted drainage has been borne by the taxpayers of the 16 counties that comprise the South Florida Water Management District. So much for the amendment requiring that “Polluters shall pay the full cost of cleansing their pollution”! Without effective litigation before federal courts, the industry would never have complied with strict water quality standards.
Commissioner Putnam avoids the “costly issue” of saving billions of gallons of water desperately needed to recharge the Biscayne Aquifer and restore a functioning Everglades ecosystem. He ignores the wasting of billions of gallons of excess Lake Okeechobee water by having to release it down the lake's two outlets — the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers — constantly destroying their estuaries. He simply cannot support acquisition of a major land area within the Everglades Agricultural Area; the construction of a major reservoir to hold the lake's excess water, cleanse it and allow it to flow south to Florida Bay, which is in desperate need of the once natural runoff from the Everglades system. He is “blinded by the usual suspects.”
No one would deny the needs for major statewide water management improvements. No one would object to the polluters being required to dramatically reduce their discharges to the publicly owned “waters of the state.” We would all hope that water managers will take serious concern over the needs of Florida's unique natural systems as a legitimate co-equal partner as our state's water priorities are divided up.
We all will watch with curiosity Commissioner Putnam's claims of keen interest in the management of our state's most precious asset — plentiful supplies of clean fresh water — in the months ahead as a water bill will be fiercely debated.
Nathaniel Reed has served seven governors. He is best known as the chairman of the Commission on Florida's Environmental Future. He also served as assistant secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in the Nixon and Ford administrations. He is a member of the Board of the Everglades Foundation. He lives in Hobe Sound.

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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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