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Ban Fracking

Ban fracking in Leon County
Tallahassee Democrat - My View by Gary J. Whittenberger
April 30, 2016
My wife and I have been residents of Tallahassee and Leon County for approximately 43 years. We love this county. It’s a great place to live, but danger is lurking. The fracking fanatics are coming! We need to stop them.
Fracking is a particular method of extracting oil and natural gas from the ground. It involves high-pressure injection of a mixture of toxic chemicals and large amounts of water into the ground in order to fracture or dissolve rock and sediment to release oil and natural gas. Since Newsweek dubbed Florida “fracking’s next frontier” early in 2014, it has been clear that the oil and gas industry is chomping at the bit to frack in Florida.
Recently, you may have read a few essays in the Democrat minimizing the dangers of fracking, so let’s set the record straight. Fracking is dangerous to the environment. It invariably contaminates the water supply; it’s just a question of how soon and how badly. Medical problems in adults, children, pets, and farm animals have been associated with fracking. Wastewater injection, which is the disposal of the toxic water fracking produces, and fracking itself have precipitated hundreds of earthquakes in Oklahoma and elsewhere. There have been leaks of huge amounts of methane from other fracking sites, and methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, especially in the short term—the window we have in which to beat back global warming. Although the oil and gas industry has invested a fortune in obfuscating the facts, the science is clear. Fracking is deadly, and it destroys communities and the environment on which they depend.
If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend that you watch the film “Gasland,” a documentary about fracking which was produced by Josh Fox and released in 2010. It is a real eye-opener.
Fracking poses a particularly high risk to Florida and Leon County because the water table is so high here compared to other states and because of our karst geology. Our Florida economy depends primarily on tourism and agriculture, both of which are incompatible with fracking. We can’t and shouldn’t allow this to happen in our state!
Fortunately, there is something you can do to stop fracking in its tracks. Contact your county commissioners and insist that they pass an ordinance banning fracking in Leon County, as other commissioners have already done in other Florida counties. If we ban fracking in every county, then it will be hard for the state legislature to override the will of the people. Let’s do the right thing before it’s too late !


Congressman not fixin' water woes – by Ray Judah, former Lee County Commissioner
April 30, 2016
In his recent editorial, "Real Progress Made In Reducing Water Pollutants," Congressman Tom Rooney suggests this year's wettest dry season, since 1932, has magnified a long standing grievance with the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACOE) as excessive volume of polluted water was released from Lake Okeechobee to downstream estuaries.
Contrary to Rooney's claim that a balanced decision determined the release of storm water runoff from the lake, the driving factor to use the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie as the relief valves in response to rising lake water was to prevent flooding in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of the lake to ensure optimum growing conditions for sugar cane to the detriment of coastal estuaries.
To prevent flooding in the EAA, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) manages water in the EAA at 18 to 24 inches below grade, regardless of seasonal fluctuations. To make matters worse, the SFWMD back pumped water
laden with chemicals including insecticides, pesticides and fungicides and fertilizers such as phosphorus and nitrogen from the EAA into Lake Okeechobee at the same time that the USACOE was working to respond to rising lake water.
Rooney takes exception to the recent articles and editorials that have repeatedly characterized the water discharges from Lake O as “dirty” and “polluted" and cites a 2016 South Florida Environmental report as evidence of phosphorous reduction in agricultural runoff.
The facts do not support Rooney's position. In 2014, a federal district court judge ruled that back pumping from the EAA into Lake Okeechobee violated the Clean Water Act. The Florida Legislature response was to eviscerate state water policy during the 2016 legislative session and adopted a water bill that delays Lake Okeechobee clean up by eliminating a January 2015 deadline - which the state didn’t meet - for compliance with nutrient levels without creating a new deadline.
More than 400 tons of phosphorus enter the lake each year and the state was supposed to reduce it to 105 tons. Furthermore, the water bill failed to establish deadlines for setting Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for removal of nutrients even though nitrogen and phosphorous are the most destructive pollutants throughout the state.
Rooney says he is a fiscal conservative and opposes the need to purchase additional land south of Lake Okeechobee, suggesting that such action is a "costly federal land grab." If only the Congressman would review the economic and
water budget for Everglades restoration.
The Central South Florida Flood Control project model used as the basis for Everglades restoration under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP) is seriously flawed because the model incorporated data collected from a 30 year dry cycle between 1965 to 1995. The SFWMD underestimated the need for water storage to restore the Everglades and there is a need for an additional one million acre feet of water storage to properly manage maximum flow from Lake Okeechobee.
However, the Congressman would prefer to spend approximately $16 billion of taxpayers' money over the next 30 years under the guise of Everglades restoration that will not adequately address the storage and treatment of excessive flows from Lake Okeechobee.
Furthermore, the USACOE has already spent approximately $750 million on fortifying 22 miles of the Herbert Hoover Dike and recognizes the alarming potential costs of restoring the remaining 120 miles. The Congressman should realize that a
spillway combined with additional land south of the Lake would be the most cost effective and efficient solution to storing, treating and conveying water south to restore coastal estuaries, rehydrate the Everglades, recharge the Biscayne aquifer and protect public and private well-fields from salt water intrusion.
The Congressman says to trust him and that he is "workin’ on it" with regards to Florida's water problems. Unfortunately, his voting record and blatant disregard for responsible stewardship of our precious water resources require further public scrutiny to hold him accountable for his actions.


Criticism of Florida’s sugar farmers frustrating
Tallahassee Democrat - My View by J.P. Sasser, former Mayor of the City of Pahokee.
April 30, 2016
It’s incredibly frustrating to read statements from people making judgments on circumstances about which they have no real knowledge or understanding. Particularly those that do not live in farming regions in South Florida.
One only has to look no further than Gene Walton’s latest column entitled “ Big Sugar has high environmental cost” as a perfect example. Not only is this headline an astonishingly dishonest claim, it’s just one of the many falsehoods Walton pedals in this column.
I do not think a $3.2 billion contribution to Florida’s pocketbook is “trivial.” Florida’s farming industry, and the tax revenue it generates to the state, is arguably one of the reasons the State of Florida does not have a state income tax.
It is also irresponsible that Mr. Walton would insinuate that Florida’s sugarcane farmers are responsible for environmental damage when these same farmers are consistently setting records for reducing pollution. In fact, last year Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) farmers achieved a historic 79 percent reduction in phosphorus.
Furthermore, Mr. Walton paints a very inaccurate picture that attempts to link sugarcane farmers to the water quality problems in the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie estuaries. The overwhelming scientific evidence does not support these claims. What is scientifically proven is that 80 percent of the pollution is from local sources such as local run off, septic tanks and sewage effluent from communities north and west of Lake Okeechobee.
By comparison, the communities south of Lake Okeechobee — which are on modern sewer systems and located over 100 miles away- are only responsible for less than 1 percent of the water inflow and pollution in Lake Okeechobee over the last decade. This is from data obtained from the South Florida Water Management District.
Mr. Walton never mentions the 6 million people calling South Florida home. He never mentions that while agriculture in the EAA is required by law to meet strict pollution limits- none of these 6 million people and the developers that build their homes are held to any state pollution standards. In fact , the State of Florida repealed it’s statewide septic tank standards law in 2010. The counties were to step up to the plate. This never happened. It’s just easier to blame agriculture for your environmental issues rather than lack of leadership.
Sadly, Mr. Walton is not alone in his opinion that the communities south of Lake Okeechobee and the 40,000 souls that proudly call the Glades home are beneath him. He arrogantly states our lives are worth only one tenth of one percent of the State of Florida and we really are not worth the effort. He uses figures that are tied directly to the sugar industry to make his pitiful point. He does not take into account the many businesses - large and small- that indirectly depend on agriculture for their livelihood, including farming suppliers, mechanics and other independently - owned businesses . His vilification of an industry that thousands depend on to feed our families is less about protecting the environment and more about someone’s personal agenda against Big Sugar. He and those that he is speaking for would see us flooded out and homeless to achieve their goals.
While the Everglades Agricultural Area may produce 25 percent of this country’s sugar — we are more than that. I am sure Mr. Walton is neither aware nor does he care that we are a huge producer of a variety of vegetables and rice. In fact, the EAA is the winter vegetable capital of the world.
For those whose understanding of history is lacking, I would refer you to Teddy Roosevelt’s soliloquy about the man in the arena “ The easiest thing to do in the human condition is to sit on the sidelines and criticize those that make it happen.”


Florida Power & Light says customers likely will pay for clean-up efforts at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant
Associated Press
April 30, 2016
 HOMESTEAD, Florida — Florida Power & Light says customers likely will pay for cleanup efforts at its Turkey Point nuclear power plant.
Those efforts target a troubled cooling canal system and an underground saltwater plume. The Miami Herald reports ( ) that FPL's vice president of governmental affairs, Mike Sole, estimated the cleanup costs at $50 million this year alone.
Sole spoke Friday at a state Senate field hearing in Homestead. The plant on Biscayne Bay has drawn increased scrutiny after public reports about its canals leaking both offshore and into underground drinking water supplies.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava told lawmakers the canals should be abandoned for more modern technology.
In February, an administrative judge tossed the state's management plan for the canals, saying environmental officials failed to adequately address the saltwater plume.
Related:           Turkey Point water solutions addressed (registration)
FKAA: Extremely low levels of tritium found in Keys water  (registration)
FPL spends $50M in one year to contain saltwater pollution; will bill ...      Bradenton Herald


Senate panel OKs $2 billion Everglades project – by Kevin Wadlow
April 30, 2016
A $2 billion piece of Everglades restoration efforts that was stuck in the mud of government process gained traction Thursday.
The Central Everglades Planning Project, described as a series of engineering projects to hold and channel water around Lake Okeechobee south into the center of the Everglades, was approved by a key U.S. Senate committee Thursday.
The Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee included the Central Everglades Planning Project as part of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act. That bill now is pending before the full Senate.
"Getting this project approved is a major step in our ongoing efforts to restore the Everglades," Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said. "It will help us not only restore an area that is the crown jewel of Florida's landscape, but is also a source of clean drinking water for millions in the state."
"Moving forward with components of the Central Everglades Planning Project ... will alleviate harmful freshwater releases to Florida's coastal estuaries while sending water south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay and the Keys," said Cara Capp, Everglades restoration program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.
This winter's record rains raised the level of Lake Okeechobee, forcing massive freshwater discharges through canals to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries in Central Florida, which have disrupted the natural ecosystem.
Florida Bay is suffering the effects of not having enough fresh water, which apparently has triggered a massive seagrass die-off.
"After three years of united advocacy among the Florida congressional delegation and community leaders, it was great to see the Senate include language to authorize CEPP in its 2016 water bill," U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla. 18) said.
"This is a major win for our community and the fight to protect our waterways," Murphy said. "By working together, we were able to reach this critical milestone and will continue to make progress to move this and other Everglades projects forward to send more clean water south."
The CEPP funding missed a 2014 congressional vote because of a missed deadline for a key study.



Broken Lagoon: Indian River Lagoon suffers as wet winter forces lake water its way
WLRN - by Amy Green (WMFE)
April 29, 2016
The problem in the southern Indian River Lagoon is Lake Okeechobee.
An abundance of polluted water from the state’s largest lake is turning the lagoon’s normally aquamarine water brown and murky and endangering oysters, seagrass and other marine life.
The Lake Okeechobee water spreads across the Indian River Lagoon like a shadow. From the sky the boundary between dark and aquamarine is clear.
Chuck Mitchell stands on his dock as the water rushes past. He is angry.
“Ever have to flush your toilet twice? It looks like the first time. It’s that bad.”
Mitchell is a Stuart homeowner on the St. Lucie River, one of the waterways connecting the lake with the lagoon. Normally he enjoys sailing and swimming but not lately. He points to a large boat heading up the river.
“The bow water coming off of it should be blue. If you go down to the Keys it would be blue or the Caribbean. But what you see is a brownish-gray. That’s not the normal color of ocean water. That’s the normal color of Lake Okeechobee water.”
Since January more than a half-billion gallons daily have gushed from Lake Okeechobee through the St. Lucie River into the Indian River Lagoon as a wet winter pushed the lake to its highest level in a decade.
Mark Perry walks along the boardwalk at the river’s edge in downtown Stuart.
“The city of Stuart, for instance, uses about 6 million gallons a day. So that’s a lot of water going past here and going out to the Atlantic Ocean and kind of being lost.”
Perry monitors the lake and lagoon for the Florida Oceanographic Society. He eyes the river’s brown water, colored by the silt and sediment it carries from the lake.
The water’s journey begins in central Florida. Historically the water flowed slowly into Lake Okeechobee and then continued south through the Everglades as wetlands cleansed the water of pollutants. Now a series of man-made canals sends the water rushing toward the lake and then much of it east and west through the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers rather than south.
The water that ends up in the Indian River Lagoon then drifts through the St. Lucie Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean. It is not responsible for the northern lagoon’s algal blooms and die-offs. But Perry says in the southern lagoon the water especially threatens oysters and seagrass.
“It also is damaging from the nutrient standpoint. In other words we get so much nitrogen and phosphorus in these discharges that we’re afraid if the water temperature comes up a little closer to 80 degrees and all the sunlight we might start to see algae blooms.”
“There were signs like right here on this beach and in every park all over Martin County and parts of Saint Lucie County that said, Don’t touch the water. Toxic algae.”
Not far from Stuart, Sewall’s Point Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch stands on a sandy shore of the Indian River Lagoon where she played as a child.
Toxic algal blooms in 2013 prompted advisories that people with respiratory conditions take extra precautions. Sailing camps were canceled, and a fishing show abandoned filming. Thurlow-Lippisch says the tropical playground she had grown up with is vanishing.
“People came to paradise because we come to paradise, but unfortunately sometimes when we come to paradise we turn it into hell.”
Like many she fears water flows from Lake Okeechobee will continue to hamper the lagoon’s recovery. And with the summer rainy season ahead she worries that another toxic algae bloom will further harm the health of the Indian River Lagoon.


Clean water nets dollars – by Chad Gillis
April 29, 2016
Dirty water is bad for business.
That was a theme among industry leaders and politicians gathered Thursday at the Crowne Plaza hotel at Bell Tower to talk about the economic impacts of record January rains and the Lake Okeechobee releases that followed.
"It all starts with the Lake Okeechobee watershed," said Drew Bartlett with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. "It feeds everything during wet season and it feeds everything during the dry season. And we’ve got this Goldilocks situation with the Caloosahatchee River because it can’t have too much water or too little water, so we need storage."
A strong El Nino weather pattern dumped more than a foot of rain, on average, across Southwest Florida in January. Rainwater from local landscapes rushed to the coast, and releases from Lake Okeechobee added to the problems.
South Florida was altered decades ago to send water to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Oceans as fast as gravity and pumps can send it. Too much freshwater disrupts the delicate, brackish mixture needed to sustain marine life.
State and federal agencies that manage Lake Okeechobee levels maximized releases to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, which were artificially connected to the lake as a way to drain the Everglades for development and farming.
Heavy rains during the summer of 2013 caused similar conditions, where water turned brown, if not black, and blasted 15 miles or more into the Gulf of Mexico.
This past January was similar, only it happened during the dry season and at the beginning of the height of tourism season.
Realtors have felt the impacts, said Shane Spring, a Sanibel Realtor.
"We are all about environment," Spring said. "People want to come here and live on the water. We saw a direct correlation in 2013 where people were walking away from buying a home because the water quality was bad."
Spring said Lee and Martin County, where the releases go on the east coast, have likely lost $1 billion or more in property value. While property values have gone up, they would be much higher with better water quality, according to a Florida Realtors reports conducted in conjunction with the Everglades Foundation.
The water quality summit was sponsored by the Southwest Florida Chamber of Commerce and drew about 100 people.
Fixing the water problems won't be cheap or fast, said Roland Ottolini with Lee County Natural Resources.
The main issue on this coast is excess nutrients and too much, or too little freshwater. Flows that are too high kill of the base of the marine food chain while too little causes the water to be too saline for estuaries.
About 150,000 tons of nitrogen must be removed from the Caloosahatchee River, according to DEP regulations; and the cost can be as high as $6 a pound, Ottolini said.
"Source control is by far the cheapest and most efficient means of reducing excess nutrients," Ottolini said. "Nitrogen is very difficult to remove. ... It could well be over $60 million, so it's quite an undertaking."
Ron Hamel with the Gulf Coast Citrus Growers Association said farmers have worked for decades to improve the quality of water leaving farms and that various interests will be better off working together rather than "throwing rocks at each other."
"Water’s probably the most significant challenge facing Florida," Hamel said. "And water is inseparable to all of our industries. We’re tied to each other through water."
While there's no silver bullet to solve local water quality problems, Bartlett said the long-term solution revolves around Lake Okeechobee, the heart of the historic Everglades.
"It’s a valuable place to put more storage," he said. "And what do you put with storage, we’ve talked about water quality. You put water quality treatment with that storage. That lake needs to be fixed and it’s not going to happen without (Everglades restoration projects) happening in that watershed."


Everglades City's poorly treated sewage sent into mangroves
Naples Daily News – by Greg Stanley
April 29, 2016
Everglades City's failing sewage plant pumped inadequately treated liquid sewage — hundreds of thousands of gallons of it — into nearby mangroves in late March and early April, according to state inspectors.
The Department of Environmental Protection has asked a judge to issue an injunction to force the city to make fixes at the plant to stop similar discharges. The city also needs to haul off wastewater from an overflowing percolation pond, which has been intermittently leaking into the same mangroves since April 7, inspectors said.
The city has started working with the DEP to make the fixes, stopping the most serious discharge. Engineers have been hired to design a new plant, said Mayor Sammy Hamilton Jr.
"We're working on it all," Hamilton said. "It's looking good. We're going to get everything fixed that they want fixed right away. The main thing I want do right now will be to get the money for the new plant. I'll get that through some grants."
DEP in March asked Collier County to consider taking over the plant or to help run it. But commissioners, following the advice of the county manager and attorney, decided against getting involved.
County officials estimated it would take between $30 million and $55 million to bring the wastewater system up to standard. Hamilton said he believes it will cost under $20 million to replace the plant.
"I don't want the county to be involved in this," Hamilton said. "It belongs to the city of the Everglades and I am the mayor. I worked hard to get new water plant, we worked hard to get a new city hall and now we'll get a new wastewater plant."
The DEP has been trying to get Everglades City, which sits just outside the border of the national park, to replace its treatment plant for years. It sued the city in November, saying officials failed to make 12 of the 24 necessary repairs and replacements they agreed to make in a past lawsuit over the failing plant. The city could face crippling fines, up to $1,000 for each day it didn't meet a series of deadlines dating back to 2013 for replacing pipes and parts, and designing plans for a complete replacement of the treatment plant itself. The city also operated the treatment plant without a permit from July 5 to March 7, a violation that carries up to a $10,000-a-day fine, according to the lawsuit.
Inspectors found the city pumping between 100 to 200 gallons a minute of liquid sewage into the mangroves on March 21 and 22. The discharge continued until March 25, said DEP spokeswoman Jessica Boyd. The discharge never threatened the health of the 400 or so residents in Everglades City, Boyd said.
"Sampling of the discharged water revealed bacteria levels to be within state standards and did not pose a health threat," she said.
When improperly treated wastewater flows into surface water it can cause a host of water quality and environmental problems.
The waste carries nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus, causing algae blooms and lowering oxygen levels, which can lead to fish kills and other types of die-off, said Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
"When bacteria levels get high enough it can make it unsafe to harvest shellfish or go swimming," Hecker said. "It's not a good idea to allow more nutrients and this type of pollution to enter into our waterways. It has to be addressed and controlled immediately and we commend the DEP for taking action."
The city has been working with the DEP to make needed repairs for several weeks, Hamilton said.
The department has committed to give the city more than $600,000 to help plan and design the new plant.
Related:           Failing Florida Treatment Plant Pumped Sewage Into Mangroves    NBC 6 South Florida


Pumping pollution

Gov. Scott calls for more emergency pumping into Everglades
Sun Sentinel - Andy Reid, Reporter
April 29, 2016
Gov. Rick Scott says more emergency pumping is needed to avoid flooding Everglades animals in western Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Scott is calling on the federal government to extend the increased draining that sends more water than usual from Everglades sawgrass marshes in western Broward and Miami-Dade and into Everglades National Park.
Back in February, Scott and other state officials warned of a potential wildlife disaster if something wasn't done to reduce water levels that threatened to flood the high ground that deer, wading birds, panthers and other animals need to survive.
Now. Scott is asking for federal approval to continue the emergency pumping that is otherwise scheduled to end by May 11.
The increased draining "has begun providing needed relief from the flooding," Scott wrote in a letter Thursday to federal officials.
"The State of Florida stands ready to continue these efforts that truly benefit our state's wildlife and economy," Scott said.
To avoid what officials call a potential wildlife disaster, Gov. Rick Scott is asking for federal help getting rid of rising waters threatening Everglades animals in western Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
A rainier-than-usual winter, fueled by the El Niño weather pattern, has boosted South Florida...
To avoid what officials call a potential wildlife disaster, Gov. Rick Scott is asking for federal help getting rid of rising waters threatening Everglades animals in western Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
The Army Corps of Engineers would have to approve state plans to keep sending increased water levels through Shark River Slough and into Everglades National Park.
"We have received the Governor's request and are reviewing options," Army Corps spokesman John Campbell said Friday.
South Florida has been dealing with higher-than-usual water levels, from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades, due to El Niño-driven rains during what was usually the state's dry season.
To reduce South Florida flooding risks, the Army Corps since January has been draining Lake Okeechobee water to the east and west coasts — even though that hurts coastal fishing grounds near Stuart and Fort Myers.
The governor maintains that allowing more water pumping into Everglades National Park could end up lessening the draining of Lake Okeechobee water to the coasts.
That's because lowering water levels in western Broward and Miami-Dade by sending more water into Everglades National Park could make room for pumping more Lake Okeechobee water into South Florida.
"Moving water south in this manner is highly preferred to high volume discharges east and west from Lake Okeechobee (that) harm our valuable Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries," the governor wrote to the Army Corps.
When Lake Okeechobee rises too high, the Army Corps drains water to the east and west coasts to lessen the strain on the 30-foot-tall, earthen mound surrounding the lake — relied on to protect South Florida from flooding.
The lake's erosion-prone dike is considered one of the country's most at risk of failing and remains in the midst of a decades-long rehab.
High lake levels since January have led to draining billions of gallons of lake water each day east into the St. Lucie River and west into the Caloosahatchee River — clouding delicate estuaries with dark, pollution-laden water that at times scares away fish and tourists alike.
The governor's proposal envisions creating an alternative route to the south for some of that lake water, by prolonging the extra pumping in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Getting more water to Everglades National Park, and filtering out pollutants along the way, is the goal of a multibillion-dollar state and federal Everglades restoration plan.
That involves using reservoirs, water treatment areas and pumps to recreate the natural flow of water that once existed from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay — before South Florida farming and development drained half the Everglades.
This emergency pumping has been a good "field test" for plans to pump more water south, said Kevin Kotun, Everglades National Park's chief hydrologist. Park officials support extending the increased pumping, he said.
Emergency pumping since February has already moved about 58 billion gallons of that water into Everglades National Park, according to the state.
That has delivered record-high water levels for this time of year for normally dry portions of Everglades National Park, according to Kotun. Portions of the park that typically have a foot of water are now about 2 feet deep, he said.
While in the long-term that could be good for restoring long-parched portions of the Everglades, in the short-term the influx of water has greatly reduced the wading bird nesting usually going on this time of year, Kotun said.
"There are few parts of the park that are dry now," Kotun said. "Things that like it wet are doing well."
Lake Okeechobee draining to be decreased again
Drier weather will reduce the draining of Lake Okeechobee, but the harmful discharge of lake water could continue for weeks, federal officials said Thursday.
Fears of South Florida flooding from El Niño-driven rains have triggered the drainage of lake water to the state's east and west coasts —...
Drier weather will reduce the draining of Lake Okeechobee, but the harmful discharge of lake water could continue for weeks, federal officials said Thursday.
Fears of South Florida flooding from El Niño-driven rains have triggered the drainage of lake water to the state's east and west coasts —...


Marco Rubio: Buying sugar land south of Lake O is not ‘realistic’
Palm Beach Post - by George Bennett, Staff Writer
April 29, 2016
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio does not support buying U.S. Sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee “at this time” to create a reservoir to reduce harmful discharges into the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River.
Former Republican presidential candidate Rubio, whose Senate term ends in January, spoke to reporters Friday after visiting the South Florida Water Management District offices near West Palm Beach to discuss a variety of water projects.
The Everglades Foundation and many environmentalists favor sending more Lake Okeechobee water to the south by buying thousands of acres from U.S. Sugar to store it. But U.S. Sugar opposes the deal and the water district’s board — all appointees of Gov. Rick Scott — voted against making a $500 million purchase last year before one option expired.
Rubio said there is no single “silver bullet” project that can solve the issues of Everglades restoration, flood control around the lake and pollution along the St. Lucie River to the east and the Caloosahatchee River to the west.
“We’ve got to do a bunch more things — it’s the ability to store more water, it’s the ability to treat that water before it’s released,” Rubio said. “It’s also localized issues. Some of the issues we’ve seen with the water quality both in St. Lucie and Southwest Florida have been driven by seepage that’s occurring in the local communities from old septic tanks and things of this nature.”
Asked specifically if he supports buying U.S. Sugar land to store water south of the lake, Rubio said: “Not at this time. First of all, the money isn’t there. You’re not going to get it funded. Second of all, I don’t want to distract from the projects that are currently underway. Third, you don’t have a willing seller right now.”
He also said he doesn’t want to “lose focus” on other projects that are already in the works. The U.S. Sugar land buy, Rubio said, would “take a lot of time and a lot of money and right now I don’t think it’s a realistic proposal.”
Former West Palm Beach City Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell, who recently became executive director of the Everglades Trust, took issue with Rubio’s assessment.
 “There is a ‘silver bullet’ fix — it’s the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The projects currently underway do not make any significant difference on the discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and estuaries, nor do they help Florida Bay,” Mitchell said.
Related:           Marco Rubio against buying land south of Lake Okeechobee to ...   TCPalm
Marco Rubio visit all about Everglades, sugar Friday            TCPalm
Triumphant Rubio Talking up Major Everglades Restoration Coup at ...      Sunshine State News


Public hearing set on plan to pump nearly 500,000 gallons of water per day out of Sumter County
Villages News - by Marv Balousek
April 29, 2016
A public hearing will be held next week in Tampa on an Ocala company’s application to pump nearly 500,000 gallons of water daily from two Sumter County springs.
The hearing, which will address six water use and three environmental resource permit applications, begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Tampa Service Office of the Southwest Florida Water Management District at 7601 Highway 301 North, Tampa.
SWR Properties of Ocala, also known as Spring Water Resources, has applied for a 20-year permit to begin pumping water by November from Fern Spring and an unnamed spring along County Road 470 near Sumterville.
More than 200 emails and letters objecting to the plan, many from The Villages, have been sent to the state Water Use Permit Bureau over the past month. An overflow crowd opposed to the pumping attended a March meeting of the Sumter County Commission.
The public hearing allows “interested stakeholders” an opportunity to comment on pending applications prior to permitting decisions, according to the district.
According to the company’s application, the well normally would operate 13 hours a day and fill 80 trucks with 6,200 gallons each. In peak months, it would operate 24 hours a day, pumping 892,000 gallons daily and filling 144 trucks.
The water would be sold to Azure Water of Leesburg, which supplies grocery, convenience and other stores with bottled water under several brand names.
In March, Ralph Kerr, a senior professional geologist with the Water Use Permit Bureau gave company manager Darryl Lanker three months to clarify the project’s anticipated effect on the Belton’s Millpond, which is nearby. Kerr wrote in a letter that the pumping could drain the millpond and the requested amount of water might need to be reduced.
The company plans to build a pumping station, loading driveway and modular office building on the 10.5-acre property, which it owns.


Sugar farmer Rick Roth runs for Congress in Indian River Lagoon country
TCPalm - by Tyler Treadway
April 29, 2016
BELLE GLADE — Rick Roth thinks Congress needs more farmers.
Roth happens to be a farmer; and he happens to be running for the U.S. House District 18 seat.
As he steered his Ford pickup along dirt roads separating fields in the 5,000-acre Roth Farms east of Belle Glade on a cool, windy January day, Roth said farmers possess qualities often lacking among today's lawmakers and government leaders.
"You don't see people in Washington working together anymore. Republicans and Democrats won't work together, states and the feds won't work together," said Roth, a Republican. "Now farmers, we've figured that out. We don't see each other as competitors. We work together."
But could a congressman who grows sugar cane — as well as rice, celery, parsley, lettuce and radishes — on two-thirds of his 5,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee work with environmentalists?
Environmentalists say farmers, particularly mega-farmers U.S. Sugar Corp. and Florida Crystals, are impeding a plan to build a reservoir in the EAA to clean excess lake water before sending it south to Everglades National Park.That water currently is discharged from the lake east to the St. Lucie River in Martin and St. Lucie counties, both in District 18, and west to the Caloosahatchee River, causing environmental and economic damage to those waterways and the Indian River Lagoon.
Farmers want to hold onto their land, arguing the more than 60,000 acres in the EAA already taken out of farming for water projects is enough. Roth said environmentalists aren't interested in cleaning water and preserving estuaries. Their agenda is "about pushing human activity out of the region. The environmental groups' goals are anti-food, anti-water supply and anti-people," he told the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association's online publication "Harvester" in July 2012.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, who is running for Senate, made the discharges and the health of the river and lagoon a top issue of his congressional tenure. But it was Bonita Springs tea party favorite U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson who filed a bill in March to earmark $500 million for the U.S. Interior Department to buy land for the reservoir.
Roth's disdain for what he calls the "professional environmental community" is well documented.
As he drove past a sugar cane field flooded by rain in what is supposed to be South Florida's dry season, Roth said environmental groups have become "a cottage industry that has to have an issue to fight on to continue to raise money. They've got a predetermined agenda to take away farmland. How can I work with people who want to destroy a way of life that employs people — a lot of people — and feeds a lot more people?"
The comment makes Eric Draper, director of Audubon Florida, chuckle.
"I've known Rick for a long time," Draper said. "He's a likable guy who makes some bombastic comments, including some hard shots at environmentalists. I appreciate his point of view as a farmer in the EAA, even if he doesn't appreciate mine."
Environmentalists want to use only 5 to 10 percent of the area's 450,000 acres to clean water to send to the Everglades, Draper said.
"That's hardly taking it all," he said. "Are there some environmentalists who want to take over the entire EAA? I guess. But I've been working on Everglades issues for 25 years, and I've never said anything like that. None of the credible leaders in the environmental community have said that."
Rather than build a reservoir south of the lake, Roth said the best way to protect the Everglades, the St. Lucie River and the lagoon is "to move forward on all the projects that have already been started," including the nearly completed restoration of the Kissimmee River north of the lake.
"The biggest problem I see facing the lagoon is that we need to clean up the water in Lake Okeechobee," Roth said.
The 3,000-square-mile Kissimmee River basin that stretches north to Orlando is the largest source of water and phosphorus draining into Lake Okeechobee. Fertilized ranch pastures and urban areas along the Kissimmee each contribute about 25 percent of the phosphorus that runs into the lake. Dairies north of the lake have the highest concentration of phosphorus per acre but contribute only about 5 percent of the total load because they have lower acreage. Sod farms, ornamental foliage farms and natural areas make up the rest of the phosphorus load.
"It's a no-brainer that the emphasis should be on adding storage north of the lake," Roth said.
It's not so obvious to University of Florida Water Institute experts who said in a 2014 study that in addition to projects currently under construction, "between 11,000 and 129,000 acres of additional land" in the EAA is needed to store and treat water so it isn't sent to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee.
Overall, Roth said, environmental regulations are too stringent.
"It's not the 1970s anymore," he said. "Everyone understands now that we have to save the environment, and farmers know that better than most people. We depend on the land for a living. You don't protect the environment by over-regulating; you do that by working together.
Environmentalists can work with "ag-oriented" congressmen, Draper said. "If Rick gets elected, we can work with him. We always find a way to work with people."
Sugar price supports
“The Farm Bill is a safety net; it doesn’t guarantee you make a profit,” Roth said of legislation that inflates prices by controlling supply through import and domestic sales restrictions. The government also loans money and buys excess sugar. “I’d be gone without the Farm Bill to help me get through the tough times. The Farm Bill is designed to help farmers stay in business, and farmers staying in business means feeding people and hiring people.” U.S. consumers pay $3 billion a year in higher prices, according to the Commerce Department.
Immigration reform
“From a farmer’s perspective, we use a lot of seasonal workers, and we need a stable workforce. ... So we need a system that allows people to be able to come and go legally. Whether or not they become citizens isn’t the most important thing to us, and I don’t think it’s the most important thing to the workers. They just want to be able to come and go legally.”
Affordable Care Act
“Making health care more accessible to people is a brilliant idea. ... But Obamacare didn’t solve the main problem with health care; that is, make it more affordable. Competition is what drives down prices, but when you have a government system, you eliminate competition.”



Corps further reduces Lake Okeechobee discharges
Palm Beach Post – by Kimberly Miller
April 28, 2016
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced today it will further reduce harmful Lake Okeechobee water releases into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
The changes will begin tomorrow.
An average of about 650 cubic feet per second will be released into the St. Lucie estuary. That’s 420 million gallons per day.
The Caloosahatchee will be reduced to 1.2 billion gallons per day.
On Thursday, Lake Okeechobee stood at 14.33 feet above sea level, two feet lower than when it peaked on Feb. 8 at 16.4 feet.
Florida water ­managers monitor the level of Lake Okeechobee closely because if it gets too high, it could begin to erode dike that protects communities around the lake from flooding. The corps likes to keep the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet above sea level.
This is the second time in two weeks the corps reduced flows from the lake.
Sending excess freshwater through Florida’s complicated man-made plumbing system of canals and catchment areas can be harmful to other areas. In the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, ecosystems that thrive in brackish, high salinity, water are damaged, while bloated water catchment areas can cause wading birds to starve and deer to drown.


FPL acting responsibly over issues at Turkey Point
Palm Beach Post – Point of View by Michael Sole, Juno Beach, vice president of state governmental affairs at Florida Power & Light Co.
April 28, 2016
The April 19 Point of View, “FPL has repeatedly failed to stop polluting Biscayne Bay,” by the president of a South Florida rock-mining company, about Florida Power & Light Co’s. Turkey Point Power Plant near Homestead, is misleading.
For decades, FPL enjoyed a productive, cooperative relationship with its rock-mining neighbor — Steve Torcise and his company, Atlantic Civil Inc. Lately, however, Torcise has rarely missed an opportunity to publicly attack FPL.
Atlantic Civil claims to be worried about the intrusion of saltwater along the east coast of Florida, in particular near Turkey Point. No one disputes that saltwater intrusion exists; in fact, it exists throughout Miami-Dade County and existed long before the Turkey Point nuclear plant was built.
It’s correct that, throughout the 40-year operation of the Turkey Point facility, very salty — or hypersaline — water has formed in the existing saltwater aquifer under the area. It’s also correct that FPL has accepted responsibility and is executing a plan to safely remove that water and to dispose of it.
Torcise claims the state and FPL have failed at every turn to stop saltwater intrusion. This is not true. Numerous monitoring programs required and approved by state and local agencies are in place to better understand the issues, and a series of actions have been taken since 2009 that are addressing the problem.
Torcise also is calling on our state leaders and regulatory agencies to get involved, rather than recognizing the significant time and resources that they have already devoted, and continue to spend, working on this important issue.
FPL has been working with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District and the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Management to implement solutions that will protect the long-term health of the environment around Turkey Point.
It’s important to point out that where Atlantic Civil has injected itself into the process, the only result has been delay. Atlantic Civil’s legal maneuverings slowed down one FPL project by more than a year, wasting precious time and customers’ money with its posturing. In the end, the rock mine’s arguments were rejected by the judge and only served to delay our efforts to restore water quality and to improve critical habitat for threatened crocodiles.
FPL always tries to be a good neighbor, even when we disagree with the person on the other side of the proverbial fence. We find it irresponsible that Torcise would attempt to scare people by invoking Flint, Mich., a true public-safety crisis that is affecting thousands of families, to advance his own agenda.
FPL is taking action to address its contribution to saltwater intrusion and is committed to doing the right thing at Turkey Point. For more information, visit


Sea-Level Rise Summit coincides with flooding risks in South Florida due to the moon, high tides and inclement weather
Florida Atlantic University - Newsroom
April 28, 2016
Newswise — Just as parts of South Florida are bracing for potential risks of flooding in low-lying areas due to the close proximity of the moon, high tides, sea-level rise and inclement weather, Florida Atlantic University is spearheading efforts to bring together professionals from the private sector as well as the public sector to help identify solutions and develop adaptation pathways.
“Connected Futures from Alaska to Florida,” FAU’s third Sea-level Rise Summit, will take place from Tuesday, May 3 through Thursday, May 5 at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66, 2301 SE 17th St., in Fort Lauderdale. The summit will bring together sustainability professionals from the private sector – including insurance companies, realtors, architects and developers – who will join leading scientists, decision-makers and members of the public sector.
Among the distinguished panel of speakers and presenters at the summit are Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Ph.D., deputy assistant secretary for environment, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental And Scientific Affairs, U.S. Department of State; U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch; State Rep. Kristin Jacobs; Jim Cason, mayor of Coral Gables; Roderick King, M.D., Florida Institute for Health Innovations; Nic Kinsman, Ph.D., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); and Alex Gardner, Ph.D., NASA Jet Propulsion Lab.
“While Florida and Alaska are on the opposite ends of the continent, they share mutual concerns of the imminent challenges presented by environmental changes,” said Colin Polsky, Ph.D., director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies at FAU. “The rapid melting of Arctic ice is threatening coastal locations globally, and impacts include increased flooding from sea-level rise in Florida to infrastructure instability from permafrost melting in Alaska.”
The aim of the summit is to compare and contrast the unfolding impacts and response in these different regions to identify and highlight opportunities for building coastal resilience both locally and globally. The subtropics and the Arctic are rarely discussed together, and comparing shared experiences is expected to unlock new insights. Stakeholders in both regions will identify globally relevant public policy and private adaptation strategies to lessen the impacts everywhere.
“Like the Arctic, South Florida is one of the world’s most vulnerable areas to climate change, especially sea-level rise,” said Polsky. “In Florida, potential adaptation to sea-level rise is complicated by the porous limestone geology of the region, permitting salt water intrusion into important aquifers. The low level terrain in many areas makes even a relatively small sea-level rise problematic.”
Since the United States assumed chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council for the period 2015-17, the U.S. State Department has highlighted how ice melting in the Arctic affects people, infrastructure and ecosystems worldwide, multiplying risks around the world.
“Coastal cities are critically important for our economy and society, and are facing unprecedented environmental challenges,” said Polsky. “This summit will break new ground by pairing two coastal regions that are both experiencing environmental challenges, but are already working to adapt to these changes. By tapping into the collective wisdom of the participants, the summit will result in a living document titled ‘Adaptation Pathways 1.0.’ that will serve as a blueprint for other coastal communities throughout the world.”
FAU’s Sea-Level Rise Summit will open with a pre-summit examination of the science, commencing with a presentation by NASA Jet Propulsion Lab. The following two days will include facilitated panel sessions and interactive visioning activities covering topics such as the economic implications of sea-level rise, impacts on infrastructure, health and livelihoods, and response success stories.
FAU’s summit is supported in part by the Canadian, British and Dutch Consulates in Miami; the Chambers of Commerce of Greater Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beach; the U.S. Geological Survey; World Resources Institute; Union of Concerned Scientists; Florida Climate Institute; and FAU. The summit is open to the general public, agencies, decision makers, businesses, planners, researchers, risk management offices, and other interested parties.
Registration is $300 and includes materials, conference app, all sessions and panels, the evening opening reception in the Pier Top Ballroom on Tuesday, May 3, as well as the main reception, two breakfasts, two lunches and all breaks.



U.S. Senate panel approves Everglades funding
Sun Sentinel – by Dan Sweeney, reporter
April 28, 2016
Nearly $1 billion could be headed from Washington to the Everglades under a bill approved by a U.S. Senate panel Thursday.
Some of the money would go to a $2 billion project that would send more water south from Lake Okeechobee through Everglades National Park.
Under the bill, $976.4 million of that cost will be paid by the federal government, with the rest from state and local sources. The project is the costliest of the 25 Army Corps of Engineers projects to be approved.
The project is designed to both restore Everglades wetlands and also divert water from flowing to the west and east, where it picks up agricultural runoff filled with nitrogen and other pollutants. A recent flow of water from Lake Okeechobee sent polluted water into the St. Lucie River to the east and the Caloosahatchee River to the west, causing a rush of brown water.
Environmentalists blamed pollution from the state's sugar industry, tourism took a hit, and Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, Lee and St. Lucie counties. The pollution coincided with a massive fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon, but experts believe the two events are unrelated, as the brown water mostly flowed out into the ocean before reaching the northern part of the lagoon, where the fish kill occurred.
The Water Resouces Development Act would also greenlight dredging six feet from the bottom of Port Everglades. The new 48-foot depth would allow access to larger cargo ships, which will be able to cross a newly expanded Panama Canal starting June 26. That project will cost the federal government $220.2 million, with another $102.5 million in state and local funds.
Neither senator from Florida is on the committee, but both supported the projects.
"Getting this project approved is a major step in our ongoing efforts to restore the Everglades," Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement. "It will help us not only restore an area that is the crown jewel of Florida's landscape, but is also a source of clean drinking water for millions in the state."
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio played a direct role in getting the Everglades project included in the package. Sen. Jim Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate's environment committee, is a climate change denier who takes a dim view of large-scale projects such as Everglades restoration. The Oklahoma Republican was the only senator to vote against the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan when it passed the Senate in 2000. But according to Inhofe, Rubio persuaded him to include the Florida projects in the bill.
The bill also includes a third, much smaller project in Florida, with about $24.6 million from the federal government going to Flagler County for beach renourishment and storm damage protection.
The bill will still need to be approved in the full U.S. Senate and paired with similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives before going to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. With support from Everglades restoration's biggest critic in the Senate, the chances of passage are good.
It took just 15 minutes for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to send three bills to the full Senate.
"Maybe a record has been set," Inhofe said. "I don't know."
Related:           Senate committee approves $250M Flint aid package           PBS NewsHour


Crisafulli: Lagoon 'F' grades unfair, missed muck efforts
Florida Today – by Rep. Steve Crisafulli, guest columnist, 2015 FL House Speaker
April 27, 2016
I am deeply disappointed in the approach taken by FLORIDA TODAY in its recent coverage of the Indian River Lagoon. Perhaps that was the goal of the paper: to agitate and incite. Anger sells, as is plainly seen in the daily barbs and insults traded in the presidential campaigns by both parties. Whether for political purposes or commercial gain, insults may grab attention, but they do little to solve problems.
That is not to say that action is not warranted. As a seventh-generation Floridian, the health and well-being of our water and natural resources are matters of great importance to me. This is the community where my family has lived and worked for decades, where I have chosen to raise my family, and where I hope my children will raise their families.
Long before the horrendous fish kill captured headlines, I was working with lawmakers within this delegation and across our state to increase funding to restore the Indian River Lagoon and surrounding water bodies and address the water quality and supply challenges facing Florida in a comprehensive, science-based manner.
While I do not quarrel with FLORIDA TODAY for aggressively highlighting the needs of our community, its legislative scorecard fails to accurately depict the efforts of the Brevard delegation to fight for the Indian River Lagoon and environmental protection efforts more broadly in Tallahassee.
FLORIDA TODAY selected five bills and arbitrarily assigned weight to the vote for each bill, without regard to their relative impacts on the water quality of the Lagoon based on independent scientific data.
FLORIDA TODAY'S Indian River Lagoon scorecard
Furthermore, the first set of questions sent to legislators made no mention of muck removal, objectively the most important issue to the health of the Lagoon. When policymakers independently raised the issue, the paper inexplicably credited only one legislator with securing the funds for muck removal, though the record clearly shows that others had a more significant role.
As the vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, I secured the first major appropriation for muck removal, and during my two years as Speaker of the House, I was able to secure tens of millions of dollars for additional muck removal in the Lagoon. Muck removal is crucial because it has been identified as the one initiative that will have the greatest impact to reducing the nutrient load in the Lagoon.
Moreover, as House speaker, I made the protection of our water resources the centerpiece of the Florida House’s agenda. The House led the effort to pass the first comprehensive water policy reform bill in decades and establish dedicated funding for the restoration of crucial water bodies such as the Everglades. Our legislative delegation worked diligently and cooperatively on behalf of our community.
It took nearly three years to pass the comprehensive water policy bill, and I am grateful that Governor Scott signed the bill into law. This did not come about by attacking or selectively dismissing the efforts of others. It was the result of advocates and lawmakers listening to constituents, researching options, and working together.
The Nature Conservancy wrote of the bill:
The Florida Legislature has shown its commitment to addressing Florida’s water challenges by passing a water bill that includes some significant positive changes to statewide water policy. Throughout the past three years, The Nature Conservancy has worked with several members on this legislation and we appreciate the inclusion of provisions by the Legislature, to ensure that projects which produce water for the environment and for people are planned for concurrently. These changes will benefit Florida’s natural systems and provide water for Florida’s present and future economic growth and development.
Our community has received over $60 million for muck removal, as well as over $20 million for other water quality improvement efforts in the Lagoon. Unfortunately, our muck removal projects have been delayed by the bureaucracy of the federal government. I believe that the removal of the muck will result in tremendous improvements to the quality of the water. I know that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is working hard to cut through the federal red tape. State funding is committed; we need to remove the muck from the Lagoon as soon as possible.
FLORIDA TODAY certainly garners more attention by issuing Fs than providing thoughtful analysis. Our community does not need manufactured scorecards. We need and deserve science-based solutions.
I hope that going forward we can resist the temptation of divisive and misleading sensationalism and pull together to focus on restoring our natural resources, including the Indian River Lagoon.


Finding the truth in murky water – by Editorial Board
April 27, 2016
Searching out the truth for what is causing our bad water can be as murky as the water we see now.
The positions of the those who are experts and those who claim to be experts are well documented in what The News-Press has written and produced visually, including comprehensive pieces by environmental reporter Chad Gillis on the water quality within the Caloosahatchee and what is flowing from Lake Okeechobee.
We know that:
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, through its research and using documents produced by several government agencies, including the South Florida Water Management District, believes discharges from the lake are resulting in high nitrogen pollution, resulting in 61 percent of that nitrogen reaching the estuary, making the river “unsafe for swimming and fishing.” Nutrient pollution does contribute to red tide, says the conservancy, based on research from several scientists.
U.S. Sugar, often blamed for causing much that pollution from fertilizer-filled water runoff from its agricultural lands, believes it has been environmentally responsible and is working within federal guidelines in reducing phosphorous and nitrogen loads into the lake. The company touts that it is an important economic engine for the state, producing thousands of jobs and quality products.
The South Florida Water Management District says it has been a leader in water quality recovery,   dedicating “$1.993 billion to restoration projects, including the restoration of the Picayune Strand and the C-111 Spreader Canal," as well as construction of the Caloosahatchee Reservoir to store up to 55 billion gallons of water.
The Clewiston Chamber of Commerce believes the lake is healthy, citing good fishing and the number of bass tournaments recently, and U.S. Sugar should not be an easy target. 
Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann believes most of the dirty water is caused by natural tannins and run-off from our local basin produced from record rainfall, not from the lake itself.
Congressman Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, is doing his part to bring change from a federal level, sponsoring legislation that would provide $800 million to expedite repair of the Herbert Hoover Dike around the lake, along with legislation announced last week, dedicating another $500 million for the Department of Interior to acquire land for storage and continue to work toward the long-term solution of restoring the natural flow way south to the Everglades. The legislation is called Everglades Land Acquisition Act and looks to acquire enough land to produce one million acre-feet of storage to reduce discharges to the estuaries by 90 percent, and produce an additional 350,000 acre-feet of annual flow to the Everglades.
Today in Views, you will read both in the paper and online, four opinions from various agencies and sources about our water problem. The truth, when it comes to Florida’s centuries old problem of chewing into the environment, draining the Everglades, killing off sea grass, oyster beds, other marine life, converting wetlands into uplands for development, is difficult to find. What isn’t murky in any of this is we need solutions and we need them now.
As we argue back and forth about who is to blame, who is telling the truth and who is protecting their environmental behind, our water problems grow.
The water storage projects and land acquisition are important to controlling the bad water flows now killing off life in our waterways. Environmentalists and government agencies must do all they can to make sure these projects are completed, the water is stored and used when it is most needed in the dry season. But as we invest in these smaller projects – and the state is putting another $205 million toward those projects in this year's budget – we must keep moving forward to a natural flow way to the Everglades. It will take land acquisition, massive re-engineering efforts of an effective water route that incorporates canals, land and a filtering system. It’s not just about sending water over land. That won’t work.
The effectiveness of these smaller projects is marginal. Take the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which includes the C-43, and the Central Everglades Project. Based on evidence from research by the University of Florida Water Institute, C-43 will only hold about 10 percent of the discharges, while the CEP will help establish a pathway to move water south but not at the rate needed to stop the discharges to the Caloosahatchee until “the bottleneck in the Everglades Agricultural Area that sits between Lake Okeechobee and CEP is fixed,” according to the institute. Also, C-43, is not expected to be fully operational until 2026 at a cost of $436 million, according to the water district. The state has dedicated about $148 million to the project so far.
The truth lies in solutions that will not ruin existing wetlands, that will protect our environment, that will keep our water clean and safe, that will not hurt our tourism or our economy.


Judah addresses Matlacha Civic Association
Pine Island Eagle - by Ed Franks
April 27, 2016
Clean water was the topic at the Matlacha Civic Association's monthly meeting last week. Ray Judah, former Lee County Commissioner and former coordinator of Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition, made a presentation about the "Sate of Florida/Lee County Waters."
"Ray Judah is a champion for healthy fisheries and clean water and a long-time friend to Matlacha and Pine Island," Matlacha Civic Association director Nancy Hindenbach said in introducing the speaker. "Ray also served as our County Commissioner."
Judah opened his presentation by addressing the Seven Islands project proposal in Cape Coral.
"Before we get into the Everglades and the estuaries, I want to say that the Seven Islands development Cape Coral plans to build is a horror story," Judah said. "Those seven islands just west of Burnt Store Road are right on the spreader canal. One has to wonder whether removing the boat lift wasn't part of the plan to allow larger boats and larger homes on the spreader swale.
"The effects on our estuaries from the Cape runoff has, as you know, been catastrophic to the water in the estuaries," Judah said. "You, as citizens, should take a stand against that type of development. That's what 20/20 is supposed to be used for. In fact, the very first line describing Conservation 20/20 is, 'Conservation 20/20 is an environmentally-sensitive land acquisition and stewardship program in Lee County. This program preserves and protects environmentally critical land in Lee County for the benefit of present and future generations in Southwest Florida.' This Seven Islands land is perfect for Conservation 20/20 funds."
Judah then moved onto water quality issues for the are and state.
"The major concern with our estuaries is we either get too much fresh water, heavily laden with pollutants like insecticides, pesticides and fertilizers," Judah said. "In the lands south of Lake Okeechobee, there are 700,000 acres of Everglades Agricultural area, 440,000 acres are sugar cane fields and south of that is 950,000 acres of Water Conservation area before you get to the Everglades."
Nature never connected Lake Okeechobee with the Caloosahatchee or St. Lucie rivers.
"Before these were connected, when the lake would overflow, it would drain down to the Everglades," Judah said. "After Castro took over Cuba there was an interest in creating sugar cane fields in the Everglades Agricultural area. Those sugar cane field actually severed the connection between the lake and the Everglades. Approximately 45 percent of the water is discharged to the west and 25 percent is discharged to the east with the remainder, about 30 percent, going to the Everglades Agricultural area."
Judah said that the state must find a way to stop the excessive releases to the estuaries and provide more water to the Everglades. That could be accomplished by purchasing land south of the lake.
"But Gov. Scott and the Legislature are against it," Judah said. "We could even use Amendment 1 money to do this."
In November 2014 the Florida legislature passed Amendment 1, a measure that designates billions of dollars for conservation over the next 20 years.
"But in order to get this done, you need to become politically engaged," Judah said. "You need to be a registered voter and get your neighbors and your family and fiends to vote. Special Interests, sugar, has a stranglehold on our Legislature. Ray Rodriguez was the sponsor for the fracking bill which would have absolutely contaminated our most precious aquifer. Voters shouldn't vote along party lines - they should vote for the candidate that supports clean water.
"On a local level 'we the people' need to get involved," Judah said, "either with phone calls, emails or petitions we can change this. Contact your County Commissioner, your legislators, and even the governor."


Dead seagrass

This massive seagrass die-off is the latest sign we’re failing to protect the Everglades
Washington Post - by Chris Mooney
April 27, 2016
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Florida — The shallow coastal waters of Florida Bay are famed for their crystal clear views of thick green seagrass – part of the largest stretch of these grasses in the world.
But since mid-2015, a massive 40,000-acre die off here has clouded waters and at times coated shores with floating dead grasses. The event, which has coincided with occasional fish kills, recalls a prior die-off from 1987 through the early 1990s, which spurred major momentum for the still incomplete task of Everglades restoration.
“It actually started faster as far as we can tell this year,” said James Fourqurean, a Florida International University marine scientist who studies the system. “In the 80s, it continued to get worse for 3 years.”
Fourqurean and government Everglades experts fear they’re witnessing a serious environmental breakdown, one that gravely threatens one of North America’s most fragile and unusual wild places. When most people think of the Everglades, they envision swamps — but sea grass is just as important, if less romanticized.
Besides being the home to majestic sea turtles, dolphins, and manatees, Florida Bay also hosts pink shrimp, spiny lobsters, spotted seatrout, and much more – sport fishing alone here is worth $ 1.2 billion per year, according to the Everglades Foundation.
And although there is at least some scientific dissent, Fourqurean and fellow scientists think they know the cause of the die-off. It’s just the latest manifestation, they say, of the core problem that has bedeviled this system for many decades: Construction of homes, roads, and cities has choked off the flow of fresh water. Without fast moves to make the park far more resilient to climate change and rising, salty seas, the problem will steadily worsen.
The Everglades ecosystem “being out of balance at a time of climate change is really going to have a huge impact on South Florida, if we don’t do something about it,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who surveyed the sea-grass die-off last week during an Everglades Trip.
Holding dead grasses in her hand in a National Park Service boat in the more than half-a-million-acre estuary, Jewell told a group of staff and reporters, “This is what we get when we don’t take care of Florida Bay.”
Florida Bay encompasses roughly one-third of Everglades National Park. And like the park’s mangroves and sawgrass prairies, it relies on the same broad water system. Both need fresh water to flow southward from Florida’s Lake Okekchobee, and the central part of the state, to preserve their unique characteristics. And both have suffered from highway and water management projects that have blocked or diverted much of this water away.
“It’s basically a permanent manmade drought, created by the drainage and development patterns to the north in the Everglades,” said Robert Johnson, director of the National Park Service’s South Florida Natural Resources Center, on the boat trip with Jewell.
The sea-grass die off, according to Johnson, was caused when this perennial problem was further exacerbated by a 2014-2015 South Florida drought.
Flows through Shark River Slough, which feeds water to the Everglades and eventually Florida Bay, plunged to just 200,000 acre-feet in 2015. That’s just a quarter of standard annual flows, which themselves are less than half of historic flows of 2 million acre-feet per year before major projects blocked and redirected the Everglades’ water.
The center of the bay then heated up last summer, saw considerable evaporation, and became quite salty – for some parts of the bay, twice as salty as normal sea water.
 “It’s a really delicate balance between how much freshwater comes in each year, how much rainfall falls, and then how much evaporation occurs,” Johnson said. “In the absence of rainfall, salinity takes off in the bay, and we get a lot of harmful impacts of that.”
In very salty conditions, waters hold little of the oxygen that sea grasses need to live. At the same time, other marine organisms turn to a different “anoxic” process – one that goes forward without oxygen – that has a nasty by-product: hydrogen sulfide.
The chemical “is a notorious toxin,” said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “It kills life, including human.”
And that’s just the beginning. Once the sea grass dies off, it becomes a feedback – the water becomes filled with dead grasses that release nutrients, and those can stoke huge algal blooms (which happened the last time around, but so far have not appeared en masse). That clouds the water and prevents light from reaching remaining sea grasses, which then also die, because they need the light for photosynthesis.
 “You have this water that’s notoriously gin clear water, because the sea grasses and the biology kept the light penetrating, and then all of a sudden it changes pretty dramatically to a system without grass, and very turbid waters,” Boesch said.
Granted, there are some dissenters. Brian LaPointe, a researcher with Florida Atlantic University, contends that Florida Bay seagrass die-offs are caused by the runoff of too many nutrients, like nitrogen, into the Bay’s waters, which in turn stoke algal blooms. “There really isn’t a correlation over time of high salinity and problems in the Bay,” LaPointe said.
Seagrasses, he said, “can handle pretty high salinities.” During the last dieoff, a large scientific debate erupted over whether changes in salinity were indeed the cause.
But Boesch, who led a scientific review of the last die-off during the Clinton administration (which failed to reach a conclusion at the time), said that the high-salinity explanation “has now become kind of the mainstream scientific explanation,” although that now encompasses other related processes involving oxygen content of waters and buildup of hydrogen sulfide.
It’s not just Florida Bay: Seagrasses the world over are threatened. In a 2009 study, scientists found that segrass extent had declined globally by 29 percent since the late 19th century. They concluded that seagrasses were just as threatened as their companion coastal ecosystem, coral reefs, though the latter tend to get far more attention.
The Obama administration, in collaboration with Florida state agencies and local leaders, has been moving lately to simultaneously restore historic Everglades water flows and to try to safeguard the park against climate change.
President Obama visited last year, telling his audience that “You do not have time to deny the effects of climate change…nowhere will it have a bigger impact than here in South Florida.”
And this year Jewell visited the Everglades on Earth Day to announce a $ 144 million “bridging” project that will elevate 2.5 miles of Highway 41, more popularly known as the Tamiami Trail, which connects Miami to Tampa and runs through the Everglades. Constructed in the 1920s, the highway impairs water flow southward, from Lake Okeechobee, into the Everglades (and, eventually, the Bay). It’s like a dam across the famed “river of grass.” Lifting it could restore a substantial part of historic freshwater flow levels.
But that will take years – the project should be completed in 2020 — too long to stop the current sea-grass die off from running its course and perhaps having many cascading effects, scientists fear.
And it’s not just nature that needs this fresh water: It’s people.
South Florida, the home to 6 million people now and growing steadily, relies on the Biscayne aquifer, which is refilled by the Everglades, for drinking water. The aquifer’s water flows through limestone that is quite porous, which means that saltwater and freshwater can both penetrate it.
In effect, two walls of water abut one another, facing off — and for the sake of nature and people alike, freshwater needs to hold its ground. If inadequate freshwater flows southward in Florida, then Florida Bay can get too salty even as the seas also creep into the Everglades, potentially causing land to subside and sink – but also penetrating the aquifer and threatening drinking water.
In short, it’s bad news across the whole system.
And even as governments at the local, state, and national level move faster to send the Everglades and the Bay more fresh water, the question remains just how much climate change will worsen problems like the sea-grass die-off. After all, it will raise seas, increase air and water temperatures, and perhaps drive more droughts as well.
 “The questions I would ask, from a climate perspective, going forward, is first of all, are we going to have more conditions of really high temperature, due to, you know, the atmospheric warming, coupled with these extended periods of still water?” Boesch said. “Are we going to have longer periods of drought in the Everglades ?”
Boesch said that while higher temperatures are a given, precipitation patterns are difficult to predict, but notes that there is some reason to fear South Florida could get drier in the future.
“What happened to the Bay is very much a climate change issue,” Jewell said in an interview during her Everglades tour. “It’s tied in to a drought. Now, is the drought tied to climate change? None of us could tie any single hurricane or storm event or drought to climate change, but we do know that the weather here is getting more extreme. And we do know that those extreme weather patterns are having a dramatic impact on our ecosystems, as we saw today on Florida Bay.”
Still, much of Florida Bay remains unaffected – for now. That includes an area of lush seagrass meadow near a small island named Johnson Key. A trio of bottlenosed dolphins approached the National Park Service skiff there, and as the boat trolled slowly through the clear, only 3- to 4-foot-deep water, started to lead the way ahead of it.
Nonetheless, the second major sea-grass die off in three decades certainly suggests that something has changed recently in the system. “The really disturbing thing is, this unprecedented event has now happened twice in my career,” Fourqurean said.
Related:           'Environmental breakdown': Florida Bay hit with huge seagrass die-off       RT


U.S. needs to take the lead in climate change
The Hill - by Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
April 27, 2016
Election seasons are, by their very nature, polarizing – you have to choose one side of another. As we all certainly know, this one is no exception.
That is why we were pleased to see an important bit of bridge-building taking place amid the season’s rancor, especially because it involves an issue that usually elicits some of the most partisan rhetoric of any – climate change.
Sen. Lindsay Graham, a Republican from South Carolina marked Earth Day by leading a bi-partisan group of Senators in introducing an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill that calls on the legislation to clearly state that:
●  Climate change is real
●  Human activity contributes to climate change
●  The United States Congress is best placed to address the threat climate change poses to our country’s health and security
Noting that over 180 countries, including China, India and Brazil, have made commitments to reducing greenhouse gases, the amendment calls on the U.S. to become a leader on this issue because it, “creates opportunities for workers of the United States and innovative private industries to benefit from global clean energy markets.”
While the amendment ultimately did not receive a vote, we applaud Sen. Graham and the co-sponsors of his amendment – Republicans Kirk of Illinois, Ayotte of New Hampshire, Collins of Maine, and Portman of Ohio, along with Democrats Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Merkley of Oregon, Schatz of Hawaii and Markey of Massachusetts – for giving climate change the serious consideration it deserves. We hope Senator Graham and his fellow co-sponsors offer this amendment again in the future, and encourage all Members of Congress to support it.
Coming on the heels of the U.S. signing of the Paris Climate Change Accord last week, adoption of this amendment would send an important signal to our citizens and to the rest of the world that our country is taking a leadership position on this issue, as it should.
It is also heartening that this is not the only bi-partisan effort underfoot tackling climate change. Two representatives from southern Florida, Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutch, are leading a group of bipartisan House members in the new Climate Solutions Caucus which will seek “to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and protect our nation’s economy, security, infrastructure, agriculture, water supply, and public safety,” according to the petition it filed with the Committee on House Administration.
It is not surprising that they are from southern Florida as there climate change is not an abstract issue but as real as water pouring onto low-lying streets due to the rise in sea levels.
As someone heeding Pope Francis’ call to care for God’s creation in his important encyclical Laudato Si, I count myself among those who know we must pay attention to and speak out on this matter. But I also recognize that, just as denying climate change will not make the problem go away, doing nothing more than launching attacks from the perceived moral high ground will not help find a solution.
What is needed is not more rhetoric, but action. And action only comes when we all seek the common good, finding common ground through such bipartisan efforts. Those advocating for immediate steps need to understand the fears some have for their jobs and take steps to address those fears. Those saying nothing should be done need to come to terms with the vast amounts of evidence that show real peril, both for the United States and the entire world, if action is not taken, the sooner the better.
As an organization that works with the global Catholic Church to implement humanitarian and development projects serving the poor, we know from firsthand daily accounts of the widespread effects of the changing climate, from drought in Africa to storms in Asia to failing coffee plants in Central America.
This bipartisan effort led by Sen. Graham gives us hope that our country can not only take meaningful steps to reduce the causes of climate change but can also generously support efforts to help the poor around the world adapt to these changes that they have not caused.
Amid the rising temperatures of this political season, many more members of Congress should follow his example.


Brevard cities' actions impact Indian River Lagoon
Florida Today – by Jim Waymer and Dave Berman
April 26, 2016
Cities face costly sewer system improvements, such as this massive project in 2007, along South Patrick Drive, which included the placement of new sewage pipes mainly between Eau Gallie Blvd., down toward U.S. 192.(Photo)
State and county efforts have been the recent focus in cleaning up the Indian River Lagoon. But it's what happens at the local level that is crucial in stopping pollutants from entering and damaging the lagoon.
With 50 cities and towns in the five-county Indian River Lagoon region — including 16 in Brevard County alone — "this effort starts at the local municipality level," said Duane De Freese, executive director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. "The cities are hugely valuable and hugely powerful."
Nearly two-thirds of Brevard's 562,000 residents live in cities or towns, as opposed to the unincorporated parts of the county.
In March, the lagoon suffered its worst fish kill in memory, with thousands of fish dying from Titusville to Malabar. The die-off put an ecological exclamation point on five years of algae blooms that have killed more than half of the lagoon's seagrass, more than 130 manatees, about 80 dolphins and up to 300 pelicans.
The harmful algae are fueled by nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers, leaky septic tanks and sewer systems, sewage sludge spread on rural lands, air pollution and other sources.
In this excerpt from "The Matt Reed Show," Duane De Freese, Ph.D., executive director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, says that a healthy, vibrant lagoon is a long term investment. Video by Rob Landers (Posted March 29, 2016).
Each community is responsible for reducing its nitrogen and phosphorus discharges into the lagoon, and to report on its progress in reports to the state through what's known as the basin management action plan. The cities and towns have done this through a number of approaches, such as restrictions on fertilizer use, adding retention ponds and baffle boxes that capture vegetation and sediment, and educating their residents on what they can to to help the lagoon.
Some also have banned blowing grass clippings into streets or stormwater drains where they be washed down into the lagoon.
There are more than 1.7 million residents in the lagoon region that includes Brevard, Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie and Volusia counties. The lagoon has an estimated $3.7 billion annual economic value on the region.
Scorecard shows failures on the Indian River Lagoon
The Space Coast League of Cities and Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities this month both unanimously approved an "Indian River Lagoon Regional Compact" to work on approaches to restore the health of the lagoon.
Among the more than a dozen policies and approaches the regional compact seeks are:
• Streamlining the permitting process for lagoon-improvement projects.
• Accelerating wastewater infrastructure improvements.
• Seeking increased funding for and reducing the cost of converting coastal septic systems to central sewer systems, and providing incentives for property owners and local governments to convert.
• Leveraging the money derived from Florida's Land Acquisition Trust Fund for Indian River Lagoon restoration.
• Pushing for muck removal from the Indian River Lagoon.
• Encouraging the restoration, replanting and restocking of critical habitats and species. These include seagrasses, oysters, clams, wetlands and mangroves.
West Melbourne City Council member Stephany  Eley, chair of the Space Coast League of Cities Environmental Committee, said it is critical for the cities in the lagoon region to join together as a unified force in tackling issues related to the lagoon.
“We’ve never really had a coordinated effort by the municipalities to speak with one voice,” said Eley, who also is immediate past president of the Space Coast League of Cities and is current chair of the Energy, Environment  and Natural Resources Committee of the Florida League of Cities.Eley said many of these ideas depend on a dedicated funding source, potentially from the state and federal governments.
But there also is a need to persuade state legislators to give Florida counties and cities more “home rule” power. Among potential examples, Eley said, are allowing local regulation of fertilizer sales during the rainy season when fertilizer use is restricted and requiring inspections of septic tanks when a home is sold.
Did the summer fertilizer ban work ?
In March 2013, as hundreds of manatees and pelicans were dying in the lagoon, Rockledge — Brevard's oldest city — became the county's first city to ban use of fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus from June 1 to Sept. 30. Beyond the lagoon, Rockledge was concerned about the St. Johns River, where half the city's stormwater flows.
Brevard's other cities followed suit, as did the Brevard County Commission, which took that action in March 2014.
Lawn fertilizer distribution seemingly plummeted, based on the limited state data available.
Satellite Beach City Manager Courtney Barker said the Brevard cities adopting fertilizer restrictions was an important development.
She concedes that the rules are "difficult to enforce" against individuals who may be ignoring the restrictions. But she believes that increased public awareness of the issue has led to general compliance with the rules.
Cities struggle with how to pay to switch thousands of homes from septic tank to sewer systems. Palm Bay, alone, has more than 27,000 septic tanks.
But hooking up to sewer doesn't always mean cleaner waste water, especially when aging infrastructure sometimes leads to large sewage spills, such as Palm Bay experienced during heavy rains in late 2014.
The city sent 5.7 million gallons of partially treated sewage toward the lagoon's Turkey Creek that year.
In a similar incident around the same time, 16 million gallons of raw sewage and rainwater overflowed after a Brevard County lift station in Indian Harbour Beach was inundated during heavy rains.
Brevard plans to spend $110 million in the next several years on sewer system improvements, including upgrades to sewer plants, replacing old pipe and other improvements.
But cash-strapped cities such as Palm Bay struggle to keep up with maintaining 105 lift stations and sewer pipes well past their prime. So the city takes a proactive stance, by conducting smoke tests to find leaks, then coating cracks with an epoxy resin they pump into the pipes.
Don George, a partner in Cocoa-based Geomar Environmental Consultants and member of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council's Beach Improvement Committee, emphasized that efforts also need to be stepped up at the local level to stop the harmful runoffs into the lagoon.
"We've got a long way to go, and a short time to get there," George said.
The Space Coast and Treasure Coast leagues of cities are working in partnership with De Freese, Marine Resources Council Executive Director Leesa Souto and Brevard County Natural Resources Management Department Director Virginia Barker to help plan the first Indian River Lagoon Compact Summit, which will determine the focus of a one-year action agenda for the compact partners.
One goal of the summit, Eley said, is to agree on one initiative that all signers of the compact can join forces to accomplish this year.

Project to reduce Lake Okeechobee releases on track to get congressional approval – by Isadora Rangel
April 26, 2016
Water from Lake Okeechobee is discharged through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam on Feb. 11 in Martin County. The discharges, which began Jan. 30, will continue for at the least the next couple of weeks at a rate of 2 billion to 3 billion gallons of water a day into the St. Lucie Estuary, according to Army Corps of Engineers officials.
A much-awaited project that would reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges by about 14 percent is on track to get congressional approval.
The Central Everglades Planning Project made into in a bill that authorizes water and maritime infrastructure projects across the country.
The 2016 Water Resources Development Act will get its first hearing Thursday in the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee on Thursday. Republican Chairman Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma told the Miami Herald last month he will support the inclusion of the Central Everglades Planning Project after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida advocated for it. If Congress passes the bill, the $1.9 billion project still needs to get money in the federal budget over the years.
Known as CEPP, the state-federal project is designed to send nearly 65.2 billion gallons of lake water to the Everglades by building storage and treatment projects on land already in public hands and removing canals and levees north of Everglades National Park that impede the water's flow south.
The project couldn't be included in the 2014 Water Resources Development Act because it was pending final approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which happened last year.
Florida lawmakers have filed separate bills that didn't get passed to expedite CEPP out of fear Congress wouldn't approve a Water Resources Development Act this year. Congress is supposed to pass the act every two years but seven years went by between the latest bill in 2014 and the previous one. Florida's U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson filed the latest bill to expedite CEPP and other Everglades restoration projects in February but it's stalled.


A Congressman wants to build a reservoir in the Florida Everglades. There’s just one problem… - by Dan Peterson, director of the Center for Property Rights at The James Madison Institute in Tallahassee
April 25, 2016
Words that should trigger the red flag: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” In the Sunshine State, it’s time to start waving in warning because U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson has arrived with a federal “solution” to Florida water storage issues specifically in regard to the restoration of the Everglades.
Sadly, his proposal is one that will not solve anything. To understand why, one must understand the challenge.
At the epicenter of this issue is Lake Okeechobee, the fourth largest freshwater lake in the U.S. To the south of the lake is some of Florida’s most fertile land for agriculture. In the 1920s, as farmers were just beginning to understand the value and richness of these lands, two hurricanes led to extreme flooding of this area. In one storm, more than 2,000 people perished.
As a result, President Herbert Hoover and Congress acted to prevent such floods from happening again. In the 1930s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) began the task of building what became known as the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD), a 143-mile earthen dam that surrounds Lake Okeechobee.
Despite the added protection and capacity the dike brought to Lake Okeechobee, there are constraints that limit how much the Lake can hold. First, the Kissimmee River watershed, a 5,300 square mile watershed originating just to the south of Orlando, drains into Lake Okeechobee, a 750-square-mile body of water. Second, during heavy rain events, the added amount of water to the lake can also present additional complications.
A series of canals authorized by Congress funnel some of the waters from the lake to the Atlantic Ocean. However, when water levels reach a certain depth (approximately 15 feet), the integrity of the HHD becomes threatened. To counteract this and keep the dike intact, the USACE is mandated to release excess water though passageways to the east and to the southwest. These releases cause damage to the ecosystems because they create harmful algae blooms and destroy submerged plant life. This, in turn, affects tourism, local businesses and the fishing industry, major pillars of Florida’s economy.
The solution to this challenge has almost universal agreement: excess water needs to be captured and stored before it can do harm. The “help” the federal government proposes is in the form of $500 million to build a reservoir to the south of Lake O.
However, the proposal from Rep. Clawson, who campaigned on the value of limiting government, not only does just the opposite by empowering the federal government to land grab from private owners, it disregards several important factors.
To begin with, it goes against logic. If the water in your bathtub were dangerously close to overflowing, logic would dictate to turn the water off to avoid a spillover. Would it not follow similar rationale to capture and store water before it gets to the lake, in effect stopping the overflow?
Second, Florida environmental specialists, both in and out of government who have studied this issue for years, agree that capturing and storing the water south of the lake will be insufficient. Millions of acre-feet of storage are needed, and the best storage locations are in fact north of the lake.
Third, Everglades projects that have already been approved are supposed to be funded through a 50-50 partnership between the state and the feds. To date, the federal government is about $1 billion behind in their part of the agreement. Instead of $500 million for an effort that won’t work, how about the federal government fund already-made promises they haven’t delivered on?
Finally, the agricultural community has been proactive and continues to lead the way on water quality protection through best management practices (BMP). Enacted BMPs have led to nearly 95 percent of the Everglades meeting a stringent 10 parts-per-billion water quality standard. Stormwater treatment areas have also contributed massive amounts of additional clean water to Lake O.
In addition, Floridians approved Amendment 1 to the state constitution in 2014. It authorized one-third of doc stamp revenues for 20 years be allocated for conservation land purchases, maintenance of current government-owned lands (Florida is already more than 28 percent in conservation), and Everglades restoration.
Recently, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Legacy Florida bill, dedicating $200 million per year from Amendment 1 funding go to restoration projects, the large majority of money going to Everglades projects. This money will recur for the 20-year life of the bill.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has mapped out a 20-year plan that will put the Everglades ecosystem in a sustainable status.
If the federal government truly wants to have a positive impact in Florida, here are a few recommendations. First, the federal government should fulfill its already-made financial promises. Second, the feds, and others, should understand that buying or taking (through eminent domain) productive farmlands south of the Lake would not solve overflow problems. And third, if you’re “from the government and here to help,” take time to understand the plans Florida already has underway instead of proposing new ways to spend our tax dollars inefficiently.


Florida cites FPL for Turkey Point cooling canal violations
Miami Heraald – by Jenny Staletovich

- State says utility has 21 days to provide information on saltwater plume
- Clean-up plan must be hammered out in 60 days
- FPL has 15 days to set up meeting to address leaks into Biscayne Bay

April 25, 2016
Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FP&L, defends the company's environmental record in a recent meeting with the Miami Herald.
Days after issuing a controversial new plan for managing troubled cooling canals at Turkey Point, state environmental officials on Monday moved quickly to hammer out a fix to stop the spread of underground saltwater threatening nearby drinking water supplies.
In a notice to Florida Power & Light officials, the Department of Environmental Protection gave the utility 21 days to provide any information about how the 40-year-old canals have seeped into the Biscayne aquifer and enter negotiations to come up with a clean-up plan. If the two sides fail to agree on a fix, the agency may come up with its own measures in 60 days.
DEP Water Resource Management Director Frederick Aschauer also warned FPL that Miami-Dade County reports confirming the canals have leaked into Biscayne Bay may violate state water quality standards. In a separate notice, Aschauer gave FPL 15 days to arrange a meeting to discuss how to address canal water in Biscayne Bay.

FPL addressing saltwater problems
Tallahassee Democrat – My View by Michael Sole
April 25, 2016
A recent column by Steve Torcise, Jr., the president of a south Florida rock mining company, about Florida Power & Light Company’s Turkey Point Power Plant near Homestead, is so misleading that I felt compelled to correct the record. Unfortunately, Mr. Torcise is letting his personal agenda overshadow the facts of the issue. And at FPL, facts matter.
For decades, FPL enjoyed a productive, cooperative relationship with its rock mining neighbor, Mr. Torcise and his company, Atlantic Civil Incorporated. Lately, however, Mr. Torcise has been anything but neighborly, rarely missing an opportunity to publicly attack FPL.
Atlantic Civil claims to be worried about the intrusion of saltwater along the east coast of Florida, in particular near Turkey Point. No one disputes that saltwater intrusion exists; in fact, it exists throughout Miami-Dade County and existed long before the Turkey Point Plant was built. It’s correct that throughout the 40 year operation of the Turkey Point facility, very salty – or hypersaline – water has formed in the existing saltwater aquifer under the area. It’s also correct, but not acknowledged by Mr. Torcise, that FPL has accepted responsibility and is executing a plan to safely remove that water and dispose of it.
Mr. Torcise claims the state and FPL have failed at every turn to stop saltwater intrusion. This is simply not true. Numerous monitoring programs required and approved by state and local agencies are in place to better understand the issues, and a series of actions have been taken since 2009 to address the problem.
Mr. Torcise also is calling on our state leaders and regulatory agencies to get involved, rather than recognizing the significant time and resources that they have already devoted, and continue to spend, working on this important issue. FPL has been working with the state Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District and the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resource Management to implement solutions that will protect the long-term health of the environment around Turkey Point.
It’s important to point out that where Atlantic Civil has injected itself into the process, the only result has been significant delay. Atlantic Civil’s legal maneuverings slowed one FPL project down by more than a year, wasting precious time and customers’ money with its disingenuous posturing. At the end of the day, the rock mine’s arguments were soundly rejected by the judge and only served to delay our efforts to restore water quality and improve critical habitat for threatened crocodiles.
FPL always tries to be a good neighbor, even when we disagree with the person on the other side of the proverbial fence. We find it outrageous and irresponsible that Mr. Torcise would attempt to scare people by invoking Flint, Michigan, a true public safety crisis that is affecting thousands of families, only to advance his own personal agenda. Undeniably, FPL is taking action to address its contribution to saltwater intrusion and is committed to doing the right thing at Turkey Point. We urge anyone interested in the truth to visit


Current outflow from LO is wrong

Lake O caught in middle, but progress is being made
Palm Beach Post – Point of View by Tom Rooney, congressman for Florida’s District 17
April 25, 2016
This year, grievances with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been on display as Florida experienced its wettest “dry season” since 1932. Because Lake Okeechobee’s water levels can rise six times faster than water can be released, large-volume discharges are required during extreme weather events, including tropical storms and hurricanes.
The decision to release water — either east, west and/or south of the lake — is based on a balance between 1. the need to protect the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike and the communities south of Lake O under risk of severe flooding if a breach were to occur, and 2. the impact of freshwater releases on the ecosystems of our estuaries and the Everglades.
Recent articles have characterized the water discharges from Lake O as “dirty” and “polluted” — but the prosecutor in me feels compelled to present the other side of the story.
The 2016 South Florida Environmental Report, prepared by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District, concluded that total phosphorus in agricultural runoff from land south of Lake O was reduced by 79 percent in 2015 — three times the amount required by state law. In addition, phosphorus flowing from north of the lake was reduced by 26 percent.
I am proud to represent a district that’s made real progress because of the cooperation among ranchers, farmers, conservation groups, and state and local governments — and their willingness to share responsibility with the federal government to complete one of the largest ecosystem-restoration projects in the world.
When momentum slows, or halts, it’s almost always a result of a lack of funding or delayed decision-making at the federal level. As a fiscal conservative, I disagree with advocates of a sweeping, costly federal land grab that disrupts my constituents’ ability to enter into contracts to sell or lease their land.
One of the first votes I cast when Republicans took control of the House in 2010 was in support of the ban on earmarks. However, we didn’t fully consider the impact of the earmark ban on Congress’ ability to exert oversight and control over funding for local programs run in conjunction with the federal government, like those funded by the Army Corps of Engineers.
There are projects the Corps has underfunded or didn’t fund, but the earmark ban prevents members of the Appropriations Committee (of whom I am one) from increasing the budgets for specific projects, like the Herbert Hoover Dike.
The Appropriations Committee has developed solutions, within the confines of this rule, to address funding shortfalls — by providing additional money for “flood control,” “dam safety” and “ecosystem restoration” projects, generally, in our Energy and Water bill. The latest bill, which passed in December with my support, provided these accounts with $125 million, $24 million and $8 million, respectively, hopefully breathing new life into construction efforts.
This doesn’t solve all of Florida’s water problems. But I’m workin’ on it.


Limited nuclear option
Herald-Tribune - Editorial
April 25, 2016
Court provides chance to rethink FPL energy plans.
An appeals court last week dealt a setback to Florida Power & Light’s expansion effort in South Florida. The ruling bolsters the validity of local planning and environmental rules, but raises questions about previous state approval of this large and costly project.
The case concerns FPL’s long pursuit of permission to build two additional nuclear reactors and transmission lines at its Turkey Point plant in Miami-Dade County. FPL has not made a final decision on building the reactors but said it wants the option so it can meet future power needs of a growing state. Permitting is complex, and involves several stages of state and federal hearings.
Aside from controversies over nuclear costs and environmental risks, communities in Miami-Dade have objected to the route of the giant proposed transmission lines, which they say would damage vistas and urban property values along U.S. 1. Another portion of the lines could encroach on the Everglades, posing potential damage to water flow and habitat.
Miami-Dade and three cities fought the FPL plan, seeking alternative routes and undergrounding of the towers, among other issues. The cities contended that the utility’s plan also should have been subject to local land-use regulations. But a Florida administrative law judge recommended approval for FPL. In 2014, the state’s Siting Board (composed of the governor and Cabinet) granted certification for FPL.
Miami-Dade and the cities took the case to the 3rd District Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel of that court issued a unanimous opinion last week, overturning the state certification. The court found that indeed, the local regulations should have applied and that state law is clear on this point. The court said the Siting Board has the authority, if it chooses, to set undergrounding of the power lines as a condition of approval. It also said FPL did not provide “competent substantial evidence” that its project would meet Miami-Dade’s environmental rules.
The case is supposed to return to the Siting Board for reworking. But after so much wrangling over the transmission line controversy, it is hard to believe that a mutually acceptable compromise can be reached on this issue.
The estimated price of completing the Turkey Point nuclear expansion has climbed to $20 billion, and the project remains a long way from final approval. Although FPL has said it ultimately may decide not to build the nukes, the planning and permitting process is still generating expenses — over $200 million so far.
As the power provider to millions of Floridians, and as a generous campaign donor, FPL has enormous clout in Tallahassee. Perhaps that helps explain why the Siting Board OK’d the utility’s expansion plan so uncritically. The Court of Appeal took a more skeptical, independent stance, coming down on the side of of local concerns and regulations.
We recognize that FPL is obliged to meet customers’ future energy needs in a reliable, cost-effective way. But are additional nuclear reactors the best way to do so? We have long believed that the answer is no.
Nuclear power produces far fewer carbon emissions than fossil-fuel-based generation, it’s true. But nuclear’s physical risks — exemplified by Japan’s Fukushima disaster — and exorbitant up-front costs make it a significant gamble. The problem of long-term nuclear waste disposal remains unresolved, with inherent security concerns in keeping radioactive materials out of the hands of terrorists.
In an era when natural gas and solar power are increasingly affordable, the nuclear bet makes less and less sense. The appeals court has issued a wake-up call — and a chance to rethink FPL’s nuclear pursuit.


Noted wetlands scholar to speak at Ohio State Mansfield
April 25, 2016
MANSFIELD – Noted Ohio State professor and wetlands scholar William J. Mitsch, Ph.D. will present a special lecture “Phosphorus and Nitrogen and Carbon, OH MY!, The role of wetlands in mitigating pollutants in our landscape and globe” at 1 p.m. May 5 in 151 Riedl Hall at The Ohio State University at Mansfield.
Mitsch, who is Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science at The Ohio State University and Founding Director, Olentangy River Wetland Research Park, will speak about the need to increase wetlands resources around the world in order to mitigate pollutants from excessive nutrients.
Mitsch is also Eminent Scholar and Director of Everglades Wetland Research Park, Sproul Chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration and Management at Florida Gulf Coast University, Naples Florida, USA and Editor-in-Chief, “Ecological Engineering.”
The public is invited to attend the one-hour lecture.


The Climate Imperative and the Transformation of Politics
Huffington Post – by Kathleen Frydl
April 25, 2016
Scientists offer a bleak forecast for the future of the climate, and already the urgent need to redress its most dire consequences has turned everyday global citizens into environmental crusaders.
Political systems around the world absorb climate activism with varying degrees of sincerity. Some, like the government of the state of Florida—charged with stewardship over an endangered coastline, and a world-class city susceptible to blue-sky flooding—respond simply by instructing state employees not to speak on the subject. That’s hardly reassuring. Along with its obvious call to action, climate change can be regarded as an indirect audit on the health and functionality of any given political entity. As of right now, Florida Governor Rick Scott’s administration would not pass, nor for that matter would the Republican majority of the US Congress.
But in some respects we have all been climate deniers. We persist in minimizing the issue of global warming by presenting it as a discrete set of concerns—just another item on the progressive policy menu. Some order it, and some don’t.
In our conversations about climate change we fail to recognize the ways in which the task ahead will not just add to or reorder our priorities, it will restructure our politics, forcing unexpected common pursuits upon places and among people previously inhospitable to them, and fracturing others along lines that look trivial to us now.
Either way, the climate imperative will transform politics on a global scale.
Take for example the Middle East, which is right now mired in intractable conflict. We are accustomed to casting disputes between Israel and Palestine in religious and historical terms. Yet, although the region can be described and analyzed by invoking occupation and Zionism, or by pointing to implacable enemies and the need for security, its future politics will hinge more upon its status as coastal Levant, a precarious river basin where water and arable land are already scarce, and will only grow more so over time.
Existing tension over the allocation of natural resources strains the structure and adherence to current agreements between Israel and Palestine; as drought plagues the region and a rising sea level hampers the coastal aquifer, the ability to equitably divide water and land will become, for all intents and purposes, impossible. This could portend still greater conflict (and some suggest the Syrian civil war represents just that), or the need for cooperative projects on conservation and the desalinization of water may enhance the stature of the one-state argument, a proposal to integrate the region into one entity with different districts and citizenship rights for all. Right now both sides spurn a one-state resolution. Nevertheless, regardless of the outcome, the effects of climate change will render the status quo—two parties committed to a two-state peace process in theory, but not in practice—unsustainable.
This is only one pointed example of the way in which the climate imperative will reshape the landscape of conflict, and cooperation. It is not a constellation of issues; it is more a point of rupture, separating our current political premise from what will inevitably follow. So far only presidential candidate Bernie Sanders seems to grasp the transformational reality of global warming, and he has recently mentioned the (somewhat fraught) analogy of war to characterize the level of government mobilization required in response.
Though startling to us now, Bernie Sanders’ metaphor will be a standard framework of discussion in the not very distant future.
If progressives fail to anticipate the climate imperative, we will once again be unable to hold moments of crisis accountable to our values, and to influence them according to our ideas. In that sense, we also fail to pass the “audit.” I am reminded of a quietly indignant Franklin Roosevelt, forced to watch peacetime US military exercises where the infantry sent trucks into battle with placards that read “TANK” for want of the real thing, as antediluvian commanders assured him that the next war would be won by horse-mounted soldiers and urged him to invest more in cavalry. Meanwhile Hitler stormed through Europe, piercing defenses with the techniques and tools of modern warfare.
To extend Bernie Sanders’ metaphor, our meek responses to global warming are trucks posing as tanks, and the Democratic Party’s notion, both implicit and explicit, that global warming is just one issue among many deserving of our attention is akin to expanding the stables in anticipation of more cavalry.
Global warming will change everything. So far, although we have proven ourselves able to understand science better than Republicans, we have yet to recognize and organize in anticipation of its far-reaching implications.


Legacy Florida a victory for iconic natural resources
Tallahassee Democrat - My View by Gregory Munson
April 24, 2016
Changes that come about through the hard work of consensus-building and compromise are often unheralded these days, so congratulations go to the Florida Legislature, Gov. Scott, Commissioner Putnam, agricultural interests and environmental organizations for supporting – not to mention passing and signing – House Bill 989, better known as Legacy Florida.
Two years ago, environmental groups were outraged at the treatment of funding from the recent Constitutional amendment known as Amendment 1, and promptly sued the Legislature and elected officials over the alleged misappropriation. Those lawsuits linger, but Legacy Florida should provide salve for the wounds.
For the next eight years, Legacy Florida provides up to $200 million a year for America’s Everglades, up to $50 million a year for North Florida’s iconic springs, and up to $5 million a year for Lake Apopka, a jewel in Central Florida. The dollars are important to restoration, of course, but equally important is the long-term commitment.
As the former DEP Deputy Secretary for Environmental Restoration and former General Counsel to a private-sector company engaged in environmental restoration, I know how important it is that agencies and contractors know that the funding will be around for years to come. This level of commitment allows long-term plans to be made and executed, experienced employees to be retained, and motivates other potential funding partners to become involved.
In the Everglades, where a state-federal partnership still moves forward, funding from Legacy Florida should help remove barriers to the next major phase of the comprehensive plan to restore the River of Grass that, when completed, will bring back historic water levels to areas that are today too parched in the dry times and too flooded in wet times. It will also help Florida cement its commitments to improving water quality in the Everglades that Gov. Scott made in 2012.
Long-term dedicated funding of this magnitude for Florida’s springs is unprecedented. The funding will allow Florida DEP and the state’s water management districts to kick-start their clean-up plans for Florida springs, whether this means helping local governments remove problem septic tanks, improving water conservation measures, or better controlling stormwater runoff.
Floridians should know that thanks to Legacy Florida, some cherished places in Florida will only be getting better. So, in an age of cynicism, take a moment and thank the people who rose above it.
Gregory Munson twice held senior positions at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. He served as general counsel from 2004 to 2006, and most recently as the deputy secretary for water policy and ecosystem restoration.


Dike repairs

Locals press feds for more money to shore up Lake Okeechobee dike
Palm Beach Post - by Eliot Kleinberg, Staff Writer
April 24, 2016
BELLE GLADE — Lake Okeechobee’s name comes from the Seminole words for “big water.” And how. It holds trillions of gallons. And for nearly a century, it’s been kept back by a massive mound of gravel, rock, limestone, sand and shell.
The people who live around there worry if that will hold.
They’re not the only ones. Various scenarios have said a failure of the Herbert Hoover Dike could send water as far east as The Acreage and Wellington. On top of that, many in Palm Beach County would suffer from the massive economic loss of flooded crops in the Glades.
After 2006, when a state-hired panel of engineering experts warned the leak-prone levee around the lake poses “a grave and imminent danger to the people and the environment of South Florida,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shored up a 22-mile stretch fronting Palm Beach County.
But it then pivoted to replacing aging giant culverts, which move water into and out of the lake, either to provide water to local areas or to facilitate small lake releases not related to changing the lake’s level. The culverts need to be replaced because of the danger of leaks or even failure.
Meanwhile, work on the lake’s southern stretch, which the Corps says poses the highest risk for a dramatic, perhaps catastrophic failure, remains undone. Bidding for work on a section in Palm Beach County is due to start in 2017, but the southwest stretch primarily along Hendry and Glades counties is on a long-term wish list. Even if green-lighted, it would be at least a decade before it’s done.
Now local leaders are pressuring the feds to speed up all the remaining work. Before something really bad happens.
“You have a whole lot of people getting frustrated,” Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes the western part of the county, said this month. Brandon Kruse
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and visitors in 2009 approach a work site on the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee near Pahokee three miles north of Tory Island. (Brandon Kruse/The Palm Beach Post)
 “The Army Corps has taken a focus on improving the culverts, but we need the project completely funded,” McKinlay said. “Because if the dike breaks, the water’s going to flow somewhere.”
McKinlay also was in Washington in February to press Florida’s congressional delegation that the dike is a top priority.
Among McKinlay’s local allies is former Pahokee mayor J.P. Sasser, who is pressing Pahokee, Belle Glade and South Bay to pass resolutions urging the federal government to free up more money for the dike. Sasser told McKinlay in an April 7 email the work is “moving at idle speed due to lack of funding and priorities.”
McKinlay told Sasser she’ll lobby for similar resolutions from the county commission, the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and the “16 County Coalition,” a group of counties surrounding the lake that next meets in June.
Nothing will happen right away. Florida U.S. Sen Bill Nelson’s office said this month he has asked for more than last year’s $64.1 million. But an appropriation bill that passed a committee on April 14 “provides only the $49.5 million that the president had requested in this year’s budget request,” Nelson spokesman Ryan Brown said. “So right now Nelson is looking at other possible options to increase funding for the dike.”
Built after the great 1928 hurricane, the dike has been showing its age for more than two decades. It’s one of 12 to 15 “dams” around the country that the Corps says are those most likely to fail.
The Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee: What’s at stake and what’s being done.
Worries about leaks since the 1990s and gouges that Hurricane Wilma carved in the dike in 2005 were only magnified later that year by the catastrophic failure of New Orleans’ levees during Katrina. Amid growing concern about the 143-mile-long Herbert Hoover Dike’s ability to withstand sudden attacks from hurricanes and the slow pressure caused by decades of high water in the lake, the South Florida Water Management District hired experts to study the dike.
That study concluded in 2006 that the dike had a one-in-six chance of failure during any year and posed a “grave and imminent danger” to the region. In one worst-case scenario, Pahokee, Belle Glade and South Bay would be under 1 to 5 feet of water for weeks, and within days of a breach, floodwater could cross sugar cane fields and reach the edges of Palm Beach County’s western population areas.
Then-Gov. Jeb Bush, who had dealt with a half dozen hurricanes hitting the state in the previous few years, urged the Corps to take “immediate action” to fix the dike. By 2007, the Corps drafted plans to strengthen the dike and lower water levels in the lake.
Since 2008, about one in five Corps dollars dedicated to dam safety nationwide has gone to the dike. The Corps estimates it has spent $800 million on shoring projects, and expects to spend another $700 million in the next decade.
Work mostly has involved installing a “seepage barrier” inside the dike that blocks most percolation but lets in just enough so that the ground doesn’t dry out, which can cause cracks in the dike’s foundation.
The federal agency reinforced the first of eight segments, a 22-mile “reach” from around Port Mayaca to just north of Belle Glade. If you see the lake as a misshapen clock, that would be from around 3 to 6. The cost: About $220 million. The work was finished around 2013.
But along the way, the Corps called an audible.
It decided that while working on “Reach 1” it also would pivot toward fixing 26 culverts. They’re giant water control structures — sometimes big pipes, sometimes big concrete boxes. And they’ve eroded over the years; some date to the original construction in the 1930s. Eighteen have been finished or are under construction; the last eight should be completed by 2022. The Corps has spent as much as $22 million on one but, as the agency gains efficiency, the cost is coming down to about $12 million to $15 million each.
Fifteen of the 24 culverts are between 3 and 9 on the lake’s clock. That’s where, Corps spokesman John Campbell says, “we’ve seen the majority of problems.”
It’s also where most of the population lives. Between them, Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay and Clewiston, bunched at the lake’s south end, account for three fourths of the population ringing the lake, and more than 90 percent of the population south of the town of Okeechobee.
The culverts “were going to have to be replaced anyway,” Campbell said. He said the work done in the 1930s “certainly does not meet today’s construction standards.”
In the meantime, the Corps is moving forward on reinforcing a 6.6-mile segment from Belle Glade west to John Stretch Park on the Palm Beach-Hendry county line. The Corps expects to award a contract by the summer of 2017 and have the work done by 2020. Local leaders want that timetable sped up, for fear that “2020 could turn into 2022,” McKinlay said.
The Corps also is mulling a $400 million project: reinforcing a 24-mile “cutoff wall” from the Hendry line around the lake to north of Moore Haven, or at about 9 on the clock. That work is the bottom line of a “Dam Safety Modification Study” that the Corps expects to approve by the summer of 2016 and submit to Congress for a 2019 budget item. If approved, the work would be done by 2024 to 2026.
That’s 10 years from now. Considering it already has been more than a decade since Florida had a hurricane landfall, people around the lake worry about pushing their luck. While that stretch is not in Palm Beach County, McKinlay said there’s no guarantee a failure there wouldn’t damage areas in the county. Plus until all the dike work is done, lake communities that can ill afford it potentially face outrageous flood insurance premiums.
The Corps says it has not left the Glades twisting in the wind. While it can’t immediately control the integrity of the dike, it can manipulate the level of the lake by releasing millions of gallons during high-rain periods to reduce the pressure on the dike.
But those releases have caused a whole new set of problems.
Businesses and elected officials on both sides of the state say the fresh water releases displace the brackish water of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, devastating vegetation and animals and causing environmental and economic calamity.
Watching all of this is the South Florida Water Management District, responsible for balancing water supply and quality, flood control, and nature across a 16-county area.
“It’s imperative that the federal government continue to fund the Corps so that they can complete the work on the Herbert Hoover Dike as soon as possible,” district spokesman Randy Smith said. “It should stay in the property category to where the federal government continues to fund it without interruption.”
Todd Bonlarron, who recently was made an assistant administrator for Palm Beach County but continues to serve as the county’s legislative lobbyist, said, “We understand that the dike is not going to be completed overnight. We get that. They’re moving quickly. We’d love to have it finished as quickly as they can.”


Regulators must hold FPL accountable
Miami Herald - Letter to the Editor by Steve Torcise, Jr., president, Atlantic Civil, Miami
April 24, 2016
Three decades — or 33 years to be exact. That’s how long Florida Power & Light knew that contaminated water would leak from the cooling canal system (CCS) at its Turkey Point nuclear facility.
The company submitted information to the South Florida Water Management District in 1983 showing that a plume of hypersaline water had advanced nearly 1,000 feet beyond the CCS. A condition they agreed to prevent in 1972.
Since then, FPL and the state have failed at every opportunity to stop this contamination from advancing further west.
In 2008, FPL did nothing when we presented them with their own information documenting how the contamination stemmed from its CCS. In 2009, instead of taking action, FPL convinced regulators it would monitor the situation, even though the plume had already grown substantially since 1983. While denying the CCS was causing any problems in 2010, FPL prepared an internal document outlining more than 30-plus possible corrective actions to stop the salt water intrusion, but never implemented any of them.
While the pollution plume continued to grow, in 2013 FPL completed an uprate of the power plant that brought further strain to its CCS and caused temperatures and salinity levels to rise even further.
If you listen to FPL, there is no problem. FPL maintains that the saltwater leak poses no adverse impact to drinking water. That is simply not true.The company’s response to the recent scrutiny is shocking in both its brazen arrogance and in creating a ‘solution’ that ironically helps FPL at the detriment of one of our region’s most precious resources.
It’s up to our elected leaders and environmental regulators to stand up to FPL and force it to stop the plume from moving westward. There are countless solutions to stop it, but it will require the political will to force them to do so.


County funds $1 million wastewater storage, recovery well study – by Penelope Overton
April 23, 2016
The county will be spending almost $1 million to study if it can build an underground wastewater storage and recovery well in Fort Myers Beach.
Storing treated wastewater during the rainy season, and pulling it back up for use as irrigation water over the winter dry season, would help the county cut its discharges to the Caloosahatchee River, said County Manager Roger Desjarlais. Not only would it help customers in need of reclaimed water, like parks or golf courses, but could help the county cut down on the Caloosahatchee's already high nitrogen levels.
During the rainy season, the county usually disposes about 850 million gallons of treated water collected from sinks, showers, dishwashers and toilets, either through the deep injection well already in place at the Beach or pipes that dump into the Caloosahatchee. Storing and then reclaiming the wastewater during the dry season may cut the amount of nitrogen the county dumps into the river by as much as 2,840 pounds a year, county official say.
But it would come at a steep price, said County Commission Chairman Frank Mann — about $6.9 million, according to county estimates.
The county already uses this kind of technology to store and withdraw drinking water deep under ground, but it has now hired a contractor, CH2M Hill Engineers Inc., to decide if the aquifers under the Beach are suitable to do the same thing with treated wastewater from the Fort Myers Beach and Fiesta Village treatment plants. Lee has not used this well technology for wastewater before, but other counties in Florida already do, said Patty DiPiero from Lee County Utilities.
Lee stores about 300 million gallons of drinking water in these kind of deep storage and withdrawal wells, DiPiero said. The fresh water pumped into the aquifer pushes the salty water out, and the salty water forms a kind of bubble around the fresh that, along with the layer of confining rock usually found in such aquifers, keeps most of the fresh water in place, DiPiero said. For the drinking water wells, the county usually recovers about 80 percent of what it stores.
In addition to reducing the county's nitrogen discharge into the river, the county also estimates it could earn about $96,250 a year selling the reclaimed wastewater to the golf courses and residential communities that rely on it to keep their landscaping alive during dry winters, DiPiero said. It would also conserve about 250 million gallons a year of groundwater that does not have to be used for irrigation, she said.
This kind of technology used to be at the heart of the water storage plans for the Everglades restoration project, but was rejected after project officials decided it wouldn't work there. Excess water could be stored in these wells, but not withdrawn. But county officials say that it has worked fine for potable water storage and recovery in Lee County since first launched in 2000.


DEP'S daily update on Lake Okeechobee
DEP Press Office
April 23, 2016
In an effort to keep Floridians informed of the state’s efforts to protect the environment, wildlife and economies of the communities surrounding Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is issuing a Lake Okeechobee status update each weekday. These updates will help residents stay informed of the latest rainfall and lake level conditions, as well as the latest actions by the State of Florida and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Latest Actions:
Yesterday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee beginning this weekend. Click here for more information.
On April 20, 2016, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) received two permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that will allow the District to plug the L-28 tieback canal and use the existing S-344 water control structure on the west side of the water conservation area to move up to 300 cubic feet of water per second into the Big Cypress National Preserve.
The permits were expedited in response to Gov. Rick Scott's previous emergency request – allowing the District to deviate from its previous water control schedules.
This is an additional strategy taken by the SFWMD and the State of Florida in response to unprecedented dry-season rainfall that has filled Water Conservation Area 3A above its regulated levels. This will allow the SFWMD to move even more water south and west out of the conservation area into the Big Cypress National Preserve, improving flood control throughout the system and protecting wildlife habitat in the conservation area.
By raising the L-29 canal level, per an order from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and at the request of Governor Rick Scott, the South Florida Water Management District has been able to move approximately 52.0 billion gallons of clean water into the northern portions of Everglades National Park, as of midnight on April 20, 2016.
For more information about the State of Florida's actions on Lake Okeechobee, click here.
Lake Conditions:
Current Lake Level

14.50 feet

Historical Lake Level Average

13.69 feet

Total Inflow

2,560 cubic feet per second

Total Outflow 
(by structures operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

8,380 cubic feet per second


6,890 cubic feet per second


-12,710 cubic feet per second

Lake level variation from a week ago

-0.25 feet


Multimillion-dollar plan in place to sustain Everglades ecosystem
Associated Press -
April 23, 2016
MIAMI (AP) - Federal officials say they will soon begin the next phase of a multimillion-dollar project to erect a bridge across the Everglades in South Florida.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewel announced plans to raise a two-and-half mile section of U.S. 41 during a visit Friday to Everglades National Park. She was joined by several members of Congress, including Democratic Rep.'s Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Patrick Murphy, and Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
Jewell says the Tamiami Trail Bridge project, among the National Park Service's biggest conservation efforts, will return water flows to more historic levels and sustain the Everglades sensitive ecosystem.
Bridge construction first began in 2009 with the building of a one-mile bridge. It was finished in 2013. The latest portion, costing $144 million, is to be done by 2020.


STAs work

Water district proves ability to clean water – by Mark Generales, member of the Water Resources Advisory Commission to the SFWMD Board of Directors
April 23, 2016
The South Florida Water Management District has significant experience in removing pollutants from Lake Okeechobee water. Using its system of Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) south of the Lake, it has met and exceeded the legal requirements for removal of phosphorus from the water going into Everglades’ National Park.
Water flowing into Lake ‘O’ from the Kissimmee River Basin contains over 130 parts per billion phosphorus. The water treated entering the park is now measured at 9 parts per billion, exceeding the legal requirement of "10 parts per billion." This amazing achievement is the result of many years of focused efforts to create the Stormwater Treatment impoundments where specific vegetation is planted and maintained to do the filtration.
Two things are abundantly clear from the Water District’s success. First, the Treatment Areas must have a flow of water that is within a specific range. Overwhelm the reservoirs with massive amounts of water and the plants would be uprooted and would fail. Don’t give them enough water in dry season and they die. And without the plants and Treatment Areas, water cannot legally flow into the Park. For those interested in facts – this is just one of the major reasons a "southern floway" is not possible. Untreated Lake water would vastly exceed the legal requirement of 10 parts per billion phosphorus.
Second, the District has more than proven its ability to clean water. This is a methodical, scientific and deliberate process. The Water District has the scientists, engineers and operations staff to deal with Lake ‘O’. For the Caloosahatchee – that means ridding the water of nitrogen. Anyone that thinks the Caloosahatchee Reservoir or C-43 will be a cesspool of highly “toxic’ water has been spending too much time listening to the naysayers.  The water district is in the testing process, building the first “cell” of the reservoir. They will do as they must; gather data, analyze the data and take the most effective course of action possible. The nitrogen issue is well known to all.
Misinformation and agenda ridden commentary fuel speculation that does nothing to assist in helping the lay public understand the issues. Without facts – speculation breeds fear and bad conclusions.
The Army Corps and the South Florida Water Management District follow the law, manage according to science and are staffed with professionals who happen to live among us with their families. These pros have been tasked to ensure public safety, restore the Everglades and a plethora of other significant challenges. That is their job. They don’t take sides, they don’t set policy and they respond to lawsuits and settlements as required. Those that deride the efforts of these professionals do the public a grave disservice.
Most important - for those of us that live on or near the Caloosahatchee, our own actions are vastly more important. During rainy season - upwards of 80 percent of the "dirty water" is our own from our own watershed, not Lake "O." Remember this next time you hear about lake releases.


Real progress made in reducing water pollutants – by Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, is a U.S. Congressman, representing the 17th District, which includes parts of Lee, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties.
April 22, 2016
This year, longstanding grievances with the Army Corps have been on full display as Florida experienced its wettest dry season since 1932.
Because Lake Okeechobee’s water levels can rise six times faster than water can be released, large-volume discharges are required during extreme weather events like the current “100-year rain” and during tropical storms and hurricanes. The decision to release water either east, west and south of the lake is based on a balance between the need to protect the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike and the communities south of the lake that risk severe flooding if a breach were to occur, and the impact of freshwater releases on the ecosystems of our estuaries and the Everglades.
While the current situation leaves much to be desired from the bureaucratic slog of the federal government, headline-grabbing scapegoats and hurried endorsements of lavish, silver-bullet solutions are irresponsible distractions from reality.
Recent articles and editorials have repeatedly characterized the water discharges from Lake O as “dirty” and “polluted” – which I’ve tried not to take personally – but the prosecutor in me felt compelled to present the other side of the story which, lucky for me, is based in indisputable fact.
The 2016 South Florida Environmental report, which was prepared by people much smarter than me at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District, concluded that total phosphorus in agricultural runoff from land south of Lake O was reduced by 79 percent in 2015, three times the amount required by state law, and phosphorus flowing from north of the Lake was reduced by 26 percent.
I am proud to represent a district that’s made real progress because of, not in spite of, the successful cooperation among ranchers, farmers, conservation groups and state and local governments and their willingness to share responsibility with the federal government to complete one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in the world.
When momentum slows, or halts to a stop, it’s almost always a result of a lack of funding or delayed decision-making at the federal level.  Floridians are also keenly aware that progress also depends on the availability of the land needed to complete comprehensive everglades restoration north and south of the Lake.  As a constitutional and fiscal conservative, I disagree with advocates of a sweeping, incredibly costly federal land grab that disrupts my constituents’ ability to willingly enter into contracts to sell or lease their land.  Before we consider relinquishing more local control to the executive branch at a significant cost to the taxpayer, I urge my colleagues to first consider the less-flashy option of voting in support the annual spending bills that already fund the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Herbert Hoover Dike and the Kissimmee River Restoration Project.
One of the first votes I cast when Republicans took control of the House in 2010 was in support of the ban on earmarks that stands in the rules of the House to this day.  At the time, Republicans rightfully wanted to exert more oversight over government spending following then-Speaker Pelosi and President Obama’s stimulus spending crusade.
However, what we didn’t fully consider was the impact of the earmark ban on Congress’ ability to exert oversight and control over funding for inherently local programs run in conjunction with the federal government, like those funded by the Army Corps of Engineers.  My constituents witness and feel the consequences of every federal government hiccup, misstep, delay, or funding shortfall, and rightfully expect me – a Member of the Appropriations Committee – to be able to do something to make it better.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of the funding decisions for everglades restoration programs are left entirely up to bureaucrats in Washington, DC, many of which have never stepped foot in Florida’s heartland.
I know that there are projects the Corps underfunded or didn’t fund, but unfortunately the earmark ban prevents all members from increasing the budgets for specific projects, like the dike, which are urgently needed.
The Appropriations Committee has developed creative solutions within the confines of this rule to address the Administration’s funding shortfalls by providing additional money for “flood control,” “dam safety” and “ecosystem restoration” projects, generally, in our Energy and Water bill.  The latest bill, which passed in December with my support, provided these accounts with $125 million, $24 million and $8 million, respectively, hopefully breathing new life into construction efforts stalled by the administration. This is the excruciatingly technical reality facing Members working largely behind the scenes to come up with complicated solutions to complex problems.
I fully realize that this isn’t the stuff typically worthy of a reporter’s attention, because it doesn’t – nor does it claim to – solve all of Florida’s water problems. That’s why I ask my constituents to trust me when I say, although you might not read about it every day in the paper, I’m workin’ on it.


The 19 Best Environmentalists in South Florida
Broward Palm Beach New Times - by Deirdra Funcheon
April 22, 2016
Today, we have fresh water to drink, clean air to breathe, and sea turtles to awwwww at. But let's be very clear: These are not givens — particularly in a state driven by Rick Scott, a Republican legislature, and constant development.
In Florida, there's practically a war on nature. Wild animal habitat is constantly taken over by homes, highways, Walmarts, and FIU's sports fields (grrrr). Oil drilling and fracking are always-looming possibilities. Thanks to sugar growers, runoff, and roads, Lake Okeechobee and the entire Everglades ecosystem have been almost completely decimated in a mere hundred years. Sea-level rise threatens not just our homes but our drinking supply. On top of that, now we gotta worry about radioactive isotopes from the nuclear power plant getting into the water. Greeaaat. 
It's easy to whine and complain; it's tougher to take action. Yet every day, a small, dedicated, certainly underpaid and mostly unheralded class of individuals goes to work to combat our environmental challenges. They follow boring-ass administrative hearings. They decipher complex regulatory documents. They sound the alarm when there's an important petition to sign or a vote to cast. When necessary, they file the lawsuits, and when we're lucky, they even run for office.
To these folks (OK, we crammed in more than 19), especially on Earth Day (today!), some thanks are in order:
Matthew Schwartz: "It's the best of times, and the worst of times. People are more aware of environmental issues — but we're facing more threats than ever before," says Schwartz, a Brooklyn transplant and founder of the South Florida Wildlands Association, basically a one-man operation that tracks and counters threats to the environment, like proposed FPL power plants and housing developments that will destroy panther habitat. If there is a concerning bill or an important hearing, Schwartz will likely be the first one filing opposition and talking to the media. To earn a living, he leads bike and kayak tours in the Everglades.  "It's not just gloom and doom," Schwartz says. "There's still a lot of beautiful stuff people should go and enjoy." Maybe one day his nonprofit will bring in enough revenue to pay himself a salary, start and insure his own ecotourism company, and still fight the powers that be. "That's my dream," he laughs. "I can sue people and go hiking at the same time." See 
Sam Van Leer:  Van Leer, who grew up on Key Biscayne, is another person who more or less single-handledly runs a nonprofit, Urban Paradise Guild, that harnesses the power of plants. About seven years ago, he quit a corporate job and launched an effort to return South Florida to "paradise"  — and fend off climate change at the same time. Big businesses would kill to have the power of leverage that he does: He runs his organization more or less on air, yet his enthusiasm alone is enough to inspire volunteers to come out six days a week to help him dig and install plants that filter air and water, create animal habitat, and provide organic food. The reward is theirs: For the price of a little sweat, volunteers take away from Van Leer a wealth of information about native plants and gardening. Currently, UPG is really looking to beef up its volunteer boards. Sign up here. 
Kristin Jacobs:   All the lobbying and petitioning in the world is a big waste of breath if there are no people in office to vote the right way. Few things are as unsexy as the local zoning board... and few things so consequential. But Jacobs, a Broward College grad, started there. Then she tackled the county commission. Now, she's a state representative. She was one of the first to take action on sea-level rise as a leader of the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact. She's also a big proponent of bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly streets. Said one fan, Fort Lauderdale activist Robin Merrill: "Once you meet her, she restores your hope in politics."
Michael Madfis:  Can we save the world through vegetables? Maybe. Urban farmer Michale Madfis is a licensed architect, sustainable planner, and master grower of kale. As the owner of Fort Lauderdale Vegetables LLC and leader of the Broward Food System Cooperative, he develops real-world solutions showing how we can meet our needs for food and housing in a sustainable way. There's a whole corps of gardeners and farmers in South Florida who deserve credit for advancing ideas around permaculture and community gardening, but he is one of the best evangelists... and has some killer style to boot. (The bow ties!) Check out his vision for how to "merchandise urban farming" though visionary ideas like "extreme microfarm sports."
Stephanie McMillan:  There's working within the system, and then there's working outside of the system. McMillan, a cartoonist, thought-provokingly traces environmental problems back to their ultimate source: capitalism! Is that "radical"? Or just logical thinking? McMillan has fun with being labeled an extremist; you gotta love her calendar, “365 Daily Affirmations for Revolutionary Proletarian Militants.” Recently, she published a comic about the Flint water crisis — in Forbes, of all places. Love the subversiveness! 
The Miccosukee Tribe:  Sugar farms and modern developments pour pollutants into Lake Okeechobee, and dirty water from there moves south into wetlands controlled by the tribe. Over the past few decades, the tribe proper, through lawsuits, has fought tooth and nail to force a lowering of the levels of pollutants. It even founded its own science department, which carries out studies and experiments. Today, individual tribe members like Michael Frank, Betty Osceola, and Houston Cypress lead efforts to block environmental threats like fracking and a paved bike path that would cut across the state. The efforts of the few benefit the many. 
Rachel Silverstein:  Silverstein has the coolest job title: "The Miami Waterkeeper." Scientist, scuba diver, legal advocate, and spokesperson, Silverstein followed the disaster when PortMiami was dredged and ended up killing acres of coral. Now, as Port Everglades is also set to be deepened and widened, she's intervening to see that Broward's coral don't meet the same sad fate. 
Ron Bergeron:  Not all conservationists are dyed-in-the-organic-cotton liberals. "Alligator" Ron Bergeron wears blue jeans, a killer mustache, and a belt buckle the size of your head. He runs a rodeo and drives a gold-plated Hummer. A builder and garbage company magnate, he has constructed roads all over South Florida. But he brings a a very important element to the table: modern reality. As much as some of us might like to live in tree huts and ride fuel-efficient horses to work, it ain't happenin'. Bergeron has profited off of modern development but has funneled his wealth into large tracts of land and left them undeveloped. Because he is one himself, he can talk to wealthy landowners and persuade them to follow win-win approaches like conservation easements, which give property owners financial incentives to keep their holdings undisturbed. He's also a hunter and harnesses the will of like-minded Gladesmen who want wild places protected so they can fish and hunt there. A longtime member of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, he was the only commissioner to vote against a bear hunt last year.
Richard and Siouxzen Whitecloud:  Two days before this couple was set to move out of Florida, Siouxzen saw some sea turtles run over. The Whiteclouds scrapped their plans, stuck around, and devoted their lives to protecting the critters. They formed a nonprofit called Sea Turtle Oversight Protection, got specially trained to monitor turtles during nesting season, and now lead a small army of volunteers who stay awake all night from March to October.  The results have been phenomenal: Turtle populations rebounded to record highs in 2013. The Whiteclouds are constantly working to get politicians and businesses to value the environment over the almighty dollar. The awesomely outspoken Richard challenges cities to enforce sea turtle lighting laws. "Just pick one," he pleads. "Pick the biggest violator. Slap a big fine on one, bring their ass in court."
Panagiotis Tsolkas: Today, everyone thinks of Lake Worth as a funky beachside city that harbors a bunch of radicals (like former Mayor Cara Jennings, the woman who yelled at Rick Scott in Starbucks this month). But the city was once a boring enclave for grannies and workaday folks. Tsolkas brought with him a lively spirit of environmental activism that had only been seen in hippie meccas like Berkeley. To protest the building of a new condo in Lake Worth, he sat atop a 25-foot-tall tripod and blocked traffic on Dixie Highway. He was protecting the Briger Forest before most of knew there was a forest in Palm Beach Gardens. These days, his civil disobedience has taken a backseat to running publications Prison Legal News and the Earth First Journal, but the mischievous and friendly character has inspired a spirit of activism that lives on. Read more about some of his greatest hits here. 
Beam Furr: At the beginning of 2016, environmentalists were starting to get that familiar feeling of disappointment in the pits of their stomachs when it looked like the state Legislature was going to pass a bill to prevent municipalities from regulating fracking. The Broward County Commission moved to do what it could by voting to ban the practice first. "This is about protecting our water supply and environment," said Furr, the commissioner from Hollywood who introduced the ordinance. Lo and behold, the sponsor of the state bill withdrew it from consideration. Even hardcore environmentalist Matthew Schwartz gives credit to Furr, saying the Broward commission's vote "sent a strong message to Tallahassee." In addition to having an awesome name and being a librarian, Furr is known by his fellow commissioners as the "King of Garbage" for his obsession with finding solutions to solid waste problems. Also, his yard is a certified wildlife habitat full of butterflies. 
David Shiffman:  By combining a love for marine science with a deftness on social media, this PhD student and blogger inspires a love
for learning about the environment. His Twitter handle @WhySharksMatter, has more than 25,000 followers. He will answer any question, argue any point, debunk any stupid petition, share pics of Hammerhead eyeballs, invite people shark-tagging, and tell science jokes. The man live-tweeted his thesis defense.  
Kim Porter:  This diver and underwater photographer has taken it upon herself and her GoPro to call attention to the condition of coral reefs off the Broward County shores — treasures hidden in plain sight. The beach widening projects that so many property owners called for are actually harming the reefs, she says. "Last year," she told New Times,"I held a protest in the form of a 'funeral' for the inner reef system. [Recently], I did one at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea... Nobody even realizes there's a reef out there. They think the reef stops at the Keys. They see a dump truck [bringing sand] and they say, 'Yay, we'll have new, beautiful beaches!' I don't." 
David Fleshler, Christine Stapleton, and Jenny Staletovich:  It takes a certain amount of institutional knowledge to know your DEP from your DERM and your CEPP from your CERP.  This dream trio of environmental reporters from the Sun Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, and Miami Herald, respectively, cut through the proverbial crap and understand who needs to be publicly pressured on any given day. Stapleton untangled complicated rules about phosphorus and mercury used by the agriculture industry and told us straight-up that "the so-called emergencies aren't really emergencies and the state agency responsible for protecting the public... rarely inspects." Staletovich knows her way around Biscayne Bay like nobody's business. And Fleshler gives us awesome tales about the weird birds and giant snails that surround us. He's also very cute when he tries to catch pythons.   
Laura Reynolds: "Regulators are not protecting the environment," Reynolds wrote plainly in a Miami Herald op-ed last week, on the topic of radioactive leakage at Turkey Point (though that headline could have applied to numerous instances where the fox — or nobody at all — is guarding the henhouse under Rick Scott). Always a scrappy fighter facing a big, powerful foe, the past executive director of Tropical Audubon and current wonder woman at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy vowed that her organization "plans to do everything in its power to hold FPL to the high standards necessary to protect [Everglades] national park, our waters, and our drinking water."
Susan Hargreaves: You'd be hard-pressed to find a more compassionate person than the founder of Animal Hero Kids, who will sweetly and patiently describe how cruelty to animals is the source of many environmental ills and then scribble out a vegan shopping list for you to follow. A watchdog of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, she was an outspoken critic of last year's bear hunt. Her main gig, though, is harnessing young people's love of nature and empowering them to become leaders themselves. 
Chris Brennan:  Last we checked, that rain tree was still standing. We owe it largely to Brennan, a park ranger turned water taxi captain turned bartender who led the public outcry against the potential moving of a hundred-year-old tree for a condo development and has never been meek about challenging Fort Lauderdale's moneyed political crowd. Last year, he had the gumption, smarts, and wonderful sense of humor to run for mayor on a "gonzo" platform: "Rip up all city streets with jackhammers" and "sod the streets at once," he said. "All public movement would be by foot and a fleet of bicycles." Here's hoping for his next act. 
Guy Harvey:  Perhaps most influential in having given millions of dads something to wear, Guy Harvey has also helped the cause of conservation in a massive way. The fisherman/diver/scientist/artist seized on watermen's love of the water and helped direct their attention to marine conservation efforts. He also puts his money (from sales of 2 million T-shirts a year!) where his mouth is: He founded the Guy Harvey Research Institute with Nova Southeastern University in Dania Beach. South Florida is lucky to have him. 
Chris McVoy:   Some people like their politicians to dole out "straight talk." We prefer ones that can speak five languages and have written books on the "predevelopment ecohydrology of the Everglades." McVoy worked for the South Florida Water Management District until the Legislature in 2011 cut funding and let go hundreds of scientists in an unprecedented "brain drain." McVoy decided to be the politician rather than be beholden to one. Can't this dude be the governor ?
Sorry to anyone we missed! Feel free to give shoutouts in the comments.


What do you give the Everglades for Earth Day ?
How about a bridge ?
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich, Staff
April 22, 2016

  Tamiami Trail Bridge
- Bridge will restore water flowing into Everglades National Park
- First span in Tamiami Trail overhaul was finished in 2013
- Second span is part of $16 billion effort to fix ailing marshes
The view south from a one-mile span of bridging on Tamiami Trail, which was completed in 2013, shows thunderheads rolling across the marshes. On Friday, the federal government held a formal groundbreaking for a second span.  The Everglades got a little present to celebrate Earth Day.
On Friday, state and federal officials kicked off work to remove part of the Tamiami Trail that has dammed water going into the park for nearly nine decades and build a second, long-awaited span. At 2.6 miles, the $144 million bridge will be more than twice the length of the first bridge completed in 2013. Another three miles of bridging are also planned.
Work started on the second leg of the Tamiami Trail bridge Friday, which will restore water flow into Everglades National Park as part of a $16 billion restoration project. In 2013, a one-mile span a few miles west of Krome Avenue, was completed.
 “This new bridge is part of the largest conservation effort ever undertaken by the National Park Service and will return water flows to more historic levels,” said Interior Secretary Jewell, who made her Friday Everglades stop the first in a summer-long tour of national parks to mark the service’s centennial.
Jewell was joined by South Florida U.S. Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Carlos Curbelo and Patrick Murphy; Florida Department of Transportation District Secretary Gus Pego; Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy; and National Park Service Deputy Director Peggy O’Dell. The cost of the bridge will be split between the state and the park service, and construction is expected to take four years.
Bridging the Trail is a key piece in fixing the Everglades, which is in the midst of a $16 billion restoration effort started in 2000, and will help deliver fresh water to ailing Florida Bay.
Over the last year, getting water to the bay has become even more urgent after a summer drought killed more than 25,000 acres of seagrass. Scientists now worry a lethal algae bloom could follow. Over the winter, Corps engineers began testing water flow under the first bridge to determine how best to move water, which must be delivered to the right place at the right time to mimic historic flows that moved in sweeping sheets from Lake Okeechobee across marshes before spilling into the bay.
$144 million
The cost of the 2.6-mile long bridge expected to take four years to build.
Engineers had planned to test water flows over the next two years, but an unusually wet dry season fed by an El Niño system produced record rain, raising water levels in Lake Okeechobee to dangerous levels that threatened the aging dike. The levels forced the Corps to begin flushing water into nearby estuaries, a move that triggered outcry from both coasts.
Water conservation areas to the south also flooded, prompting the state to ask for a diversion from the scheduled tests and begin pumping massive amounts of water under the bridge and through a series of culverts. As of Friday, about 52 billion gallons had flowed into the park, according to updates provided by the Department of Environmental Protection.
“Sending water south is the only way we can hope to restore Everglades National Park and solve Florida’s water crisis,” John Adornato, a senior director with the National Parks Conservation Association, said in a statement.
Environmentalists, who are frequently at odds with state and federal water managers, celebrated the bridge as a major move forward.
 “Each bridge,” said Audubon Florida’s Julie Hill Gabriel, “brings us one step
closer to true restoration.”
Related:           Feds lay out plans for Everglades bridge to boost water flow           Washington Times 
Feds Lay Out Plans for Everglades Bridge to Boost Water Flow     NBC 6 South Florida
On Earth Day 2016, Interior Secretary Jewell Celebrates Next Phase of Everglades Ecosystem Restoration Project             eNews Park Forest

100-year rain, the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee caught in the middle
Sun Sentinel - Guest column by Tom Rooney
April 21, 2016
Murky waters from Lake Okeechobee discharges stain the St. Lucie River on Feb. 11 near Palm City and Stuart. The Army Corps of Engineers opened the St. Lucie Lock and Dam on Jan. 30 and Lake Okeechobee water has been flowing into the St. Lucie River since. The lake water dumps nitrogen into the river which eventually creates toxic algae blooms. Vegetation and animals suffer from the dirty water and the local economy is impacted negatively. (FILE PHOTO)
This year, long-standing grievances with the Army Corps of Engineers have been on full display as Florida experienced its wettest dry season since 1932.
Because Lake Okeechobee's water levels can rise six times faster than water can be released, large-volume discharges are required during extreme weather events like the recent "100-year rain" and during tropical storms and hurricanes.
Follow our Lake Okeechobee discharge meter for daily updates.
The decision to release water east, west and south of the lake is based on a balance between the need to protect the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike, and the communities south of the lake that risk severe flooding if a breach were to occur, and the impact of freshwater releases on the ecosystems of our estuaries and the Everglades.
Recent articles and editorials have characterized the water discharges from Lake O as "dirty" and "polluted" — which I've tried not to take personally — and the prosecutor in me felt compelled to present the other side of the story. The 2016 South Florida Environmental report, which was prepared by people much smarter than me at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District, concluded that total phosphorus in agricultural runoff from land south of Lake O was reduced by 79 percent in 2015, three times the amount required by state law, and phosphorus flowing from north of the lake was reduced by 26 percent.
I am proud to represent a district that has made real progress because of the successful cooperation among ranchers, farmers, conservation groups and state and local governments.
When momentum slows, or halts, it's almost always a result of a lack of funding or delayed decision-making at the federal level. Floridians are also keenly aware that progress also depends on the availability of the land needed to complete comprehensive Everglades restoration north and south of the lake. As a constitutional and fiscal conservative, I disagree with advocates of a sweeping, incredibly costly federal land grab that disrupts my constituents' ability to enter into contracts to sell or lease their land. I urge my colleagues to first consider the less-flashy option of voting in support of the annual spending bills that already fund the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Herbert Hoover Dike and the Kissimmee River Restoration Project.
One of the first votes I cast when Republicans took control of the House in 2010 was in support of the ban on earmarks that stands in the rules of the House to this day. At the time, Republicans rightfully wanted to exert more oversight over government spending following then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama's stimulus spending crusade. However, what we didn't fully consider was the impact of the earmark ban on Congress' ability to exert oversight and control over funding for inherently local programs run in conjunction with the federal government, like those funded by the Army Corps.
My constituents witness and feel the consequences of every federal government hiccup, misstep, delay or funding shortfall and rightfully expect me — a member of the Appropriations Committee — to be able to do something to make it better. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the funding decisions for Everglades restoration programs are left up to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.
I know there are projects the Army Corps underfunded or didn't fund, but unfortunately the earmark ban prevents all members from increasing the budgets for specific projects like the dike. The Appropriations Committee has developed creative solutions within the confines of this rule to address the administration's funding shortfalls by providing additional money for flood control, dam safety and ecosystem restoration projects, generally, in our energy and water bill. The latest bill, which passed in December with my support, provided these accounts with $125 million, $24 million and $8 million, respectively.
This is the excruciatingly technical reality facing members working largely behind the scenes to come up with complicated solutions to complex problems. I ask my constituents to trust me when I say, although you might not read about it every day in the paper, I'm workin' on it.
U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican from Florida's Congressional District 17, previously served as a congressman representing the Treasure Coast.


Everglades flowage easement yields benefits
Sun Sentinel – by Steve Waters
April 21, 2016
Here's a story that all anglers can celebrate this Earth Day:
The benefits of the emergency measure that took effect Feb. 15 to allow excess water in the Everglades water conservation areas to flow south under Tamiami Trail into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay has exceeded expectations.
In addition, at the request of Gov. Rick Scott and the South Florida Water Management District, on Monday the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the temporary release of water, until July 15, from the WCAs into Big Cypress National Preserve.
That means more needed fresh water for the park and the bay, less stress on animal and plant life in the conservation areas, reduced amounts of water that need to be released from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and better fishing in all those affected areas.
"This is coming not only from me, but from talking to guides who've been down there 20- and 30-plus years: There are huge amounts of tarpon in Everglades National Park," said Capt. Jason Sullivan, who does most of his guiding out of Flamingo. "Nobody knows exactly why, but the only difference this year is there's fresh water in the park."
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has asked the Corps to extend the emergency flowage easement so even more water can be removed from the conservation areas, which extend from the Broward-Palm Beach county line to Tamiami Trail.
"It's a tremendous success story, but it's critical that this deviation extension is approved," said FWC commissioner Ron Bergeron. "It benefits the whole system."
James Erskine, the FWC's newly appointed Everglades Coordinator, noted that the flowage easement has significantly lowered the water level in the WCAs: In a little over 60 days, the level in WCA 3 has dropped about 18 inches, from 11.5 feet to nearly 10 feet.
"That's the difference between survival and mortality," said Erskine, who has 16 years of water management experience with the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, during which time he served on the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.
But Bergeron said water levels are still above the 25-year average heading into the rainy season of between 9 and 9.5 feet. He added that the forecast is for an exceptionally wet spring and summer, which could get the water level back up to dangerously high levels if the southerly flow is stopped.
"We are not out of the emergency until we get to the 25-year average," said Bergeron, of Weston, who worked closely with Scott, state and federal agencies and seven private landowners who were affected by the easement to get the water flowing under Tamiami Trail.
"Obviously, the more water you get out at the bottom, where it's needed, the less water you need to let out elsewhere. You don't open it up at the bottom, the bathtub's going to overflow."
The emergency flowage easement was needed because of South Florida's record rainfalls in December and January.
Water levels that were nearly two feet higher than the historical average for the time of year, according to the FWC, forced wildlife such as white-tailed deer to congregate on the few tree islands that weren't underwater, which can lead to disease and starvation. The water depth also limited the places where wading birds could forage for fish.
Both Erskine and Bergeron noted that the ongoing southerly flow is how the Everglades used to work before it was compartmentalized by man, and it's what the restoration of the River of Grass is all about.
Because of the emergency, it's happening three years ahead of schedule and it's working.
"Everglades restoration is a test," Bergeron said. "If we pass the test, we will save the planet."


Everglades restoration a work in progress
Miami Herald – Op-Ed by Col. Jason Kirk, commander of the Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

- Florida, Corps of Engineers have invested over $1 billion so far
- There is much more work to be done as part of a comprehensive revitalization plan
- Sea level rise adds to the urgency of finding right solutions

April 21, 2016 9:28 PM
As commander of the Jacksonville District’s 780-member team of professionals, I want to share information about our efforts to restore the environment and to help our nation face the challenges posed by rising sea levels.
I am honored to lead a team working to restore America’s Everglades — an ecosystem unlike any other in the nation, or the world. Together, with the state of Florida, the U.S. Department of the Interior and other government agencies, we’re seeing positive momentum to “get the water right” in terms of quantity, quality, timing and distribution.The federal-state partnership is the strength of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, an unparalleled ecosystem restoration effort. The Corps and Florida have each invested over $1 billion to date in this vital effort.
Restoration of this treasure will improve 2.4 million acres of south Florida’s ecosystem, including Everglades National Park. It will help reduce large discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries. It will improve water deliveries to Florida and Biscayne bays, reducing saltwater intrusion accelerated by sea level rise into aquifers. It will also enhance water supply.
We already see restoration benefits in stretches of the now meandering Kissimmee River north of Lake Okeechobee, as well as in restored sheetflow in the Picayune Strand area in the southwest corner of the Everglades system. Both the corps and the state are working to construct new reservoirs to capture water that would otherwise flow directly to tide via the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
We’re also planning for future restoration, with the ongoing Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project study and with two new planning efforts that we’ll start this year for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed and Western Everglades projects.
The corps integrates the potential effects of sea level rise into our studies, which is an increasing threat to coastal communities and economic productivity. Miami-Dade County is one of nation's most densely populated coastal areas and is vulnerable to coastal flooding. The ocean has risen several inches since the Central and Southern Florida flood control system was designed in the 1950s.
Higher water is already causing loss of flow capacity throughout South Florida.
The Interagency Flood Risk Management Project Study will develop adaptive strategies to address coastal storm surge and reduce risk of flood damage associated with sea level rise in Miami-Dade County. The study will also develop a decision-making tool to help community officials prepare the region for pre-storm operations.
The corps is also developing the South Atlantic Regional Systems Management Strategy. This is a comprehensive assessment to address coastal storm and flood risks along the South Atlantic coastline now and into the future. Over 3 million people live in high-risk areas in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Property in this area is worth over $616 trillion. Pre-disaster planning can save communities about 75 percent of post-storm costs.
Public participation is a key element of reducing risk and increasing resiliency. We encourage public involvement and will maintain open dialogue as we move forward in our efforts to restore the Everglades and address sea level rise.
The stakes are high, but the Army Corps of Engineers, alongside state, federal and local partners, have the knowledge and capability to collaboratively engineer solutions that overcome challenges. On Earth Day and every day, we’re building strong for the future to support national security, energize our economy and increase resiliency.

Turkey Point's salt problem explained - by Jenny Staletovich
April 21, 2016
In the wake of revelations last month that its aging cooling canals at Turkey Point were leaking into Biscayne Bay, Florida Power & Light rushed to do damage control: company leadership went on the defensive, insisting they were acting responsibly and, in a full page ad, blaming “misinformation” for fanning unfounded fears.
“We’re not punting on this at all,” president and CEO Eric Silagy told the Miami Herald editorial board earlier this month as he laid out a list of on-going fixes.
 “If this company has given that impression, that’s my fault,” he said. “What is frustrating a little bit is we’ve worked really hard over the decades to do the right thing.”
But critics contend the powerful utility worked even harder at delay tactics in the face of mounting evidence that its compromised canal system had produced an underground plume of saltwater threatening nearby drinking supplies and contaminating Biscayne Bay.
Records show FPL had been warned for years about problems and even conducted its own research in 2010 that concluded its key fix — adding millions of gallons of brackish water to freshen the super salty canals — would likely make the plume worse.
After overheated canals forced the plant’s two reactors to partially power down in 2014, the utility pushed state regulators and water managers repeatedly to add more water, solutions that would allow it to continue operating under Nuclear Regulatory Commission limits but potentially increase the extent and speed of saltwater seepage from the unlined canals.
At the time, the company was still publicly insisting its canals were “definitely a closed system” not impacting any other source of water.
The end result, say environmentalists and others who pushed FPL to move faster over the years, are patchwork fixes and shortsighted solutions they say have failed to deal with broader problems caused by the 44-year-old canals.
“They’re band-aids,” said Steve Torcise, whose family has operated a rock mine just west of the canals for 90 years and earlier this year won a legal fight demanding the state overhaul a management plan that allowed FPL to add more water without fully addressing the impact on the plume. An administrative judge in February faulted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for being too weak and not citing FPL.
Despite the criticism, the DEP on Thursday approved the plan, dismissing many of the judge’s findings. In a 28-page decision, DEP Secretary Jon Steverson wrote the judge “inappropriately invaded the exclusive province” of the state’s ability to regulate the utility. The city of Miami, which had joined the lawsuit with Torcise, plans to appeal.
 “We will be pursuing all available appellate remedies to challenge this ruling,’’ said deputy city attorney Barnaby Min.
In the meantime, the salt plume continues to grow. According to the DEP’s own 2014 management plan, it has advanced at a rate of 525 to 660 feet per year with up to 600,000 pounds of salt escaping daily from the canals. That’s pure salt, not salty water.
 “Their first order of business has to be to do no harm to our community and to our environment. FPL definitely should have shared that they were working on a solution, instead of fighting us in court,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who pressed for information from additional monitoring wells that this year confirmed the presence of tritium, a radioactive isotope used to trace cooling canal water, in Biscayne Bay.
“Their first order of business has to be to do no harm to our community and to our environment,” she said. “They want to be known as being good stewards, so it’s especially incumbent upon them to set the example.”

Turkey Point’s leaky cooling canals - see figure above. CLICK it to ENLARGE.
This month, County Commissioner Dennis Moss, whose district covers the canals, asked the Environmental Protection Agency to weigh in, joining Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, who in March requested an investigation. In a letter to Rodriguez this week, EPA regional administrator Heather McTeer Toney said the agency has been meeting with county, state and FPL officials to collect information. The agency has already made one visit to the canals and plans to before the end of the month, a spokeswoman said.
Worsening conditions have also caught the attention of Monroe County, which operates its only wellfield west of the canals. The county, which this week passed a resolution raising concerns, is considering buying land further west to relocate its well field as well as build an additional reverse osmosis plant in Key West, an expensive option that can make salt water fit for human consumption.
“The cooling canals have been on our radar screen as long as I’ve been here,” said Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority deputy director Tom Walker. “We literally have a line we watch.”
How FPL got to this point is a complex path of regulatory decisions and company expansion, complicated by the singular design of the cooling canals. Turkey Point is the only nuclear power plant in the country that uses the radiator-like cooling system spanning 5,900 acres. It also sits atop the Biscayne aquifer, a pitted layer of coral rock that looks more like a hardened sponge than solid ground.
In 1972, when the canals were created — a compromise FPL says it was forced to accept after federal environmental regulators sued in court to stop the plant from dumping cooling water directly into the bay — it was understood canals in such porous geology would leak. So the design included a critical feature: a straight, deep canal, called an interceptor ditch, to stop saltwater piling up under the canals from migrating west.

Model VIDEO:      Turkey Point’s salt problem explained - Position of the Plume
Engineer Ed Swakon created this video model of an expanding saltwater plume near Turkey Point using data collected from groundwater sampling. Swakon, who was hired by Atlantic Civil, a rock mining company that has sued FPL, depicted what the underground salt front looked like over time and expanded as conditions in the canals grew saltier.
The interceptor ditch was important because South Florida’s drinking water supply also sits just below the surface in the Biscayne aquifer. Canals dredged in the 1940s to drain the Everglades had caused the salt front to migrate inland. But over the years water managers installed hundreds of gates and other controls to stop the migration — and in some cases, even reverse it.
But by the 1980s, there already was an indication that Turkey Point’s ditch wasn’t effective, with the underground salt front moving just west of what was suppose to act as a barrier.
Under all five management plans for Turkey Point drawn up by the Florida environmental regulators and water managers over the decades, FPL has been under orders to maintain the quality of surrounding groundwater. A network of monitoring wells was dug to keep watch.
Over the years, the number of wells dwindled, falling to just four by 1983. If state regulators were watching them, they weren’t doing it very closely, said consulting engineer Ed Swakon. Torcise hired him to investigate the plume after plans to expand a rock mine near Homestead were nearly derailed when environmental regulators wondered whether mining would pull the saltwater front inland.
In 2007, Swakon went to the South Florida Water Management District, the regulatory agency keeping tabs on salt water intrusion, and asked for old records. To his surprise, Swakon found salinity in groundwater spreading and spiking. By 2001 and 2002, readings showed the front — water with higher salt concentrations than in Biscayne Bay — had reached Southwest 137th Avenue about three miles to the west.
 “The way the reports were written, they never really did a long term history of the data. They only [compared] quarter to quarter and there was very little difference,” he said. “But if you really plotted it, and somebody had taken the time, they would have seen each successive quarter got a little worse and a little worse.”
Swakon said he and Torcise met with FPL officials to report their findings, but got no response. An FPL spokesman later called them “unfounded allegations.” At the time, the utility was in the midst of hammering out a new administrative order required by a $3 billion uprating project of Turkey Point’s two nuclear reactors that FPL said it needed to keep up with increasing demand: as much as 40 percent of the power the county needed was being imported, FPL officials said in a 2007 zoning meeting.
The uprate would increase power output by 15 percent but also raise temperatures in the cooling canals, with the effect of increasing evaporation and salt concentrations. FPL officials planned to offset additional heat going into the canals by shutting down the plant’s two oldest fossil fuel burning units. The move was expected to cap the heat increase to only by 2.5 degrees — an impact FPL insisted would not effect the operation of the canals.
But modeling done by the U.S. Geological Survey in 2009 found that as the canals grew hotter and saltier, they could potentially shoot “saline fingers” to the bottom of the 98-foot thick aquifer —sometimes as fast as a few days. The extra salty water could then spread laterally, expanding the plume.
Water managers, whose approval was key to the uprating moving forward, wanted to know if the interceptor ditch was still an effective barrier. At the time, FPL officials assured them it was.
Engineers who designed the ditch weren’t so confident. According to a report compiled this year by University of Miami hydrologist David Chin for Miami-Dade County, the engineers worried as early as 1971 that saltwater could migrate inland even if the ditch was properly operated. Chin also found the ditch only blocks shallow saltwater from spreading — and the canal system was pushing it deeper into the Biscayne aquifer.
Faced with increased scrutiny, FPL hired its own engineers to look for remedies, according to an in-house study Torcise obtained in his recent lawsuit. Completed in August 2011, the study found that canal water had moved 3.5 miles west of the plant and was spreading at a relatively brisk pace of 500 feet a year. In response to a question, an FPL spokesman this week revised that figure, saying the rate has since slowed to just over 120 feet a year.
FPL’s engineers offered five alternatives, including building massive slurry walls underground to stop water from moving at a cost of $134.4 million. But the cheapest and preferable alternative, the engineers said, was adding fresher water from the Floridan aquifer.
“The alternative is attractive because it effectively removes the source of the hypersaline water,” engineers wrote. But a “potentially negative aspect” of the remedy, they said, was it did nothing to stop the westward movement of saltwater. Nor did the other four.
Despite the findings, FPL officials in 2010 and 2011 continued to work with water managers on an elaborate monitoring plan that also for the first time included checking for tritium, a radioactive isotope found in canal water that could be used as a tracer. In 2011, as part of their effort to confirm tritium as the best tracer, district hydrologists John Janzen and Steven Krupa found that canal water was in wells at Southwest 137th Avenue. Tritium was also found in surface water just east of the canals and at the mouth of the Card Sound Canal. To get a better read, the hydrologists recommended installing a better network of wells.
But in its annual post-uprate report in October 2012, FPL continued to debate the 2009 USGS findings of the expanding plume, arguing that the wells used by the agency might not be connected or in the same zone because of the “complex geology of the area.” Still, the utility agreed a plume existed and offered solutions.
FPL managers now say the location of the saltwater plume wasn’t in dispute — just the exact cause of it.
 “We always said we were part of it, but there’s other factors,” including
lowering the water table seasonally for nearby farmers, senior project director
Steve Scroggs said this week. “It’s easy to say it’s all FPL. It’s not.”
Meanwhile, the boundaries of the tritium were growing clearer. A Miami-Dade County contour map of samples in 2011 and 2013 show tritium detected well beyond cooling canal borders. County officials had been keeping an eye on the wells, but had no authority without a water quality violation, said Lee Hefty, director of the Division of Environmental Resources Management. Instead, he said, they pushed for the district to act.
In April 2013, the Water Management District finally officially notified FPL that the canals were in violation. The utility responded by asking to add 14 million gallons of water a day from the Floridan aquifer, which it said would reverse the plume, a prediction that contradicts the earlier 2010 report. But district hydro-geologist Jeff Giddings found FPL used faulty modeling. While adding Floridan water reduced salinity in the canals, it did nothing to reduce the underground plume.
District consultant William Nuttle also concluded more water would just increase seepage and warned that FPL failed to account for local conditions including a major change on the horizon: sea rise. A foot rise, now predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by 2030, would put the shoreline west of the canals.
As the agencies tried to hammer out a deal, temperatures in the canal spiked in the summer of 2014, prompting the utility to scramble for solutions, including getting operating limits raised to 104 degrees, the highest in the country, and an emergency permit to pump up to 100 million gallons of water a day from a nearby drainage canal. The utility also began pumping water from unregulated marine wells.
Over the next year, Miami-Dade County officials estimate that FPL pumped more than 12 billion gallons of water into the canals. Half that came from the marine wells with a quarter coming from the nearby L-31e canal. Rain supplied just 37 percent, even though company officials say rain remains the primary source of water to address increasing evaporation with higher temperatures.
What caused the spike remains in dispute. Chin, whose final report is due next month, concluded that the uprating project caused it. FPL blames a local drought. In July 2014, FPL environmental services director Matt Raffenberg said rainfall over the canals amounted to just 5.29 inches and only 20 inches in all of 2013.
“If it’s such an important facility, you would expect its design would not be based upon the weather,” said Lee Hefty, director of Miami-Dade County’s Division of Environmental Resources Management
 “It sounds like a funny thing to say, but really it’s a fairly significant facility. I would have expected their design engineers would have contemplated how that facility would operate without rain.”
FPL’s Scroggs also said that when the canals were briefly shut down, sediment built up in the northwest corner, which slowed flowed, turned the water browner and hotter, and caused an algae bloom to spread. Sediment had not been removed from the canals since 1990s, Scroggs said, because it is expensive.
When the state finally issued a new administrative order late in 2015, allowing FPL to pump more water into the canals to lower salinity and “abate” the plume without fully spelling out how, Torcise, environmentalists, neighboring cities and the county sued. Last month, a Tallahassee administrative judge ordered the state to redo the plan after it failed to cite FPL for a specific violation.
On Thursday, DEP chief Steverson wrote that the order in fact contained remedies which were not suitable for judicial review and that choosing to fix the problem, rather than penalize FPL, was up to the department.
The state’s decision, South Miami Mayor Phil Stoddard said, comes as no surprise given the utility’s political connections.
“I suspect there’s incentive enough for DEP to disrespect the administrative law judge and the public welfare to avoid holding FPL responsible for the environmental damage they’ve done.”
On May 15, FPL is also due to submit a clean-up plan to the county, which pulled out of the suit and hammered out its own deal. The plan calls for FPL to install extraction wells to pump the extra salty water deep into the boulder zone, which environmentalists worry won’t do enough to address the plume. To address high levels of ammonia and phosphorus leaking into the bay, FPL also dug a 30-foot deep well east of the canals, which it did without consulting the county
environmental staff, prompting another letter from Hefty to better spell out plans.
FPL now says the cooling canals are back under control, that salinity is a third
lower than last summer and, now that they’ve cleared sediment and have permission to add water from the deeper brackish Floridan aquifer, they expect the canals to work properly. Efforts to address the plume was delayed not by them, Scroggs said, but by a complicated bureaucratic system.
“For years people knew about this and everybody talked about what we would do. Well, we finally broke through that,” he said. “I’m living everyday with the delays and the questions and the go back and do this and the back and forth. It’s an incredibly complex process with multiple people and multiple interests. But at the end of the day, we’ve moved to a place where we’re taking action.”


Massive nuclear plant plan near Everglades delayed by court
AP - by Curt Anderson,  legal affairs writer
April 20, 2016
A massive nuclear plant expansion proposed by Florida's largest electric utility must be redone to meet environmental and other concerns near Everglades National Park, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal in Miami reversed a 2014 decision by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet to approve construction of two nuclear reactors by Florida Power & Light at its Turkey Point plant near Homestead. The project, costing up to $18 billion, would add about 2,200 megawatts of electric power or enough to supply 750,000 homes.
A three-judge panel ruled the governor and Cabinet failed to account for environmental regulations meant to protect the Everglades and endangered birds that make their home in the wetlands. Part of the plan includes erecting about 90 miles of transmission lines that would skirt the eastern edge of Everglades National Park and slice through several cities.
The court found that Florida Power & Light should be required to bury the power lines at the utility's expense; that a proposal to fill in about 137 acres of right-of-way would affect critical water flow; and that proposed access roads would have to be elevated at some points.
"FPL presented no competent substantial evidence that the project could satisfy the environmental performance standards" of Miami-Dade County rules, Judge Ivan Fernandez wrote for the panel. The county, the city of Miami and other nearby cities had challenged the project at the appeals court.
Scott and the Cabinet determined there would be no impact on endangered birds. But the appeals court found the opposite, noting that species such as the wood stork and snail kite would be greatly affected through loss of foraging habitat and collisions with transmission poles and lines.
The project envisioned ways to prevent birds from perching on poles and lines and avoiding them in flight, but the judges said those ideas also fall short.
"The mitigation technique presumes that some of the species are going to die. And that simply is not the standard," Fernandez wrote.
The court ordered Scott and the Cabinet to reconsider the project in light of its ruling. Florida Power & Light spokesman Peter Robbins said the company was disappointed in the decision and was reviewing its legal options.
One of the major failings of the 2014 decision, the judges found, was that it did not apply local development regulations and considered the proposal more of a zoning matter than an environmental one.
"The east Everglades is a unique section of land with a biologically diverse ecosystem," the order says. "The ultimate purpose of the (county Everglades ordinance) is to protect the environment of the Everglades."
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is holding public comment meetings on the reactor plan later this week, one in Homestead and one at Florida International University. Opposition has focused on such concerns as how the reactors would handle rising sea levels, if evacuation plans are adequate and whether the reactors might threaten waterways and drinking supplies.
Related:           Nuclear Energy News: Massive nuclear plant plan near Everglades ...          PennEnergy
Turkey Point nuclear expansion delayed by court ruling        Sun Sentinel


Underwater 'zombie grass' signals trouble for Florida fishermen
AFP – Mail Online
April 21, 2016
Decades ago, the sight of seagrass swaying beneath the waters off south Florida conjured romance for those who dangled their fishing lines in hopes of catching redfish, snook or mangrove snapper.
But now, seagrass is dying at a rate unseen since the late 1980s in the Florida Bay, off the southern tip of Florida between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
"It is like a desert," said fishing guide Xavier Figueredo, peering into the water, where only an occasional needle fish or ray could be seen scooting along a bottom clustered with matted, dead underwater grasses.
Seagrass provides shelter for small fish, which are eaten by bigger fish, and serves as the foundation for the marine food chain.
In Florida, where recreational saltwater fishing is a $7.6 billion industry, experts consider seagrass a key indicator of the ecosystem's health.
"This has historically been a wonderful spotted seatrout fishery. This year it was non-existent, literally," said Figueredo, one of a group of fishing guides who cater to tourists visiting the string of islands known as the Florida Keys.
- A man-made problem -
Ecologists say the problem is mainly due to the way humans have for decades diverted the natural flow of fresh water from central Florida southward to the Everglades wetlands, protecting sugar cane farms and other property.
A massive die-off that began in 1987 and lasted for years helped spark ambitious plans to protect the area, but fishermen say progress has been too slow.
Now, they see the death cycle happening again, as increasingly warm and salty water smothers the underwater grass.
First the grass detaches from the bottom. It floats to the surface during the day and sinks again at night, earning it the nickname "zombie grass," said Steve Davis, a wetland ecologist with the Everglades Foundation, as he inspected a once-popular fishing area called Whipray Basin.
"It's dead, it just doesn't know it yet," he explained.
Eventually, the grass bleaches, and the blades amass into smelly islands.
The die-off makes an algae bloom quite likely, sucking oxygen out of the water and making it a hostile environment for marine life.
"It is dramatic. It looks like a disaster area," said Davis.
Heavy rain led to record freshwater inflows coming into the bay in January and February, Davis said, but it is not enough. The die-off is gathering steam.
"We just have to now ride it out, and we know it is going to take years to recover," he said.
State wildlife officials say the affected area covers about 25,000 acres (110,000 hectares) of dead sea grass -- about the size of Paris.
But Davis said fishermen who have seen it firsthand say it's twice that big -- on the order of 50,000 acres.
"It is a massive area in Florida Bay where the entire habitat has been decimated," said Davis.
- 'Big Sugar' and the salty water -
The crisis has prompted some fishing guides to press for government action. Some have formed advocacy groups like Captains for Clean Water, which has more than 9,000 followers on Facebook.
The solution, they say, is to acquire a patch of land south of the state's largest freshwater lake, Lake Okeechobee, to act as a reservoir for fresh water that can flow south to the Everglades and the Florida Bay.
But the land in that area belongs to sugar cane farms, a powerful industry known as "Big Sugar" that has resisted giving up any territory.
"When times were tough, the industry was anxious to sell, and then times got better and the economics changed," Congressman Carlos Curbelo told a gathering of fishermen and concerned citizens in Islamorada this month.
"We need to find a partner that is willing to engage."
The lead government agencies involved -- the US Department of the Interior and the South Florida Water Management District -- did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
The Everglades Foundation said money is not an issue, with some $200 million a year for the next 20 years earmarked to pay for the state's share of restoration, and federal funds to match.
"The only other thing that is lacking is the political will to get the land that we need," said Davis.
"Without that land, without that reservoir, we can't solve the problem in the Florida Bay."
- Changing way of life -
The Florida Bay did bounce back on its own after the 1987 die-off, but the rejuvenation process took nearly a decade.
John Guastavino, who has been taking tourists out to fish from the Florida Keys for 26 years, remembers a time, not so long ago, when the catch was bountiful.
"I've had days when I could go catch 65 redfish in a day, and days when I've caught 30 or 40 snook," he said.
Now, "if you are having a good day, you might catch five or six snook," he added.
"I can't remember the last time I had someone catch more than one or two redfish."
He also has to travel farther than ever to find a good fishing spot.
"It is probably one of the most frequently asked questions that I get," said Guastavino.
"'Aren't there any fish back there, the 30 miles we just traveled?' It is sad to tell them, 'No, not really.'
Related:           Dying seagrass wreaks havoc on Florida's fishing industry   Shanghai Daily


Congressional bills aim to kill Biscayne National Park's protected no-fishing zone - by Kevin Wadlow
April 20, 2016
A planned no-fishing zone in Biscayne National Park could be undone by Congress.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) this week filed a Senate bill called the Preserving Public Access to Public Waters Act that puts the 16-square-mile Biscayne marine reserve in its crosshairs.
The Senate bill largely tracks the U.S. House of Representatives' "Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act" that passed a full House vote Feb. 26.
The House bill, whose sponsors include South Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo (who represents the Keys) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, includes a provision that state fish and wildlife regulators can block a federal fishing closure lying within state waters.
"This legislation will ensure that the state's authority to manage state fishery resources is maintained and will provide a backstop against poorly developed fishing closures that would only serve to deter fishing participation," Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association, said in a statement.
The National Park Service in late 2015 approved a new management plan for Biscayne National Park, which lies a few miles north of North Key Largo.
The plan includes the 16-square-mile reserve in the country's largest marine national park as a key measure to protect the coral growth and fish populations.
The reserve was applauded by the National Parks Conservation Association and numerous other environment groups as "one of the most effective and scientifically sound ways to protect the incredible living coral reef ecosystem that has degraded over the past two decades," said Caroline McLaughlin, NPCA's Biscayne program manager.
Sport and commercial fishing organizations, including the CCA and the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen's Association, protested the reserve as excessive and endorsed the congressional bills intended to remove it.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission objected to closing a reef-fishing area accessible to the large South Florida boating community.
The FWC board "has been continually frustrated with the National Park Service for its unwillingness to explore alternatives to a no-fishing marine reserve zone," FWC Director of Marine Fisheries Jessica McCawley told congressmen in 2015.
The National Parks Conservation Association "strongly opposes these bills as overreaching legislation," McLaughlin said. "If passed, it could severely undermine the authority of the National Parks in 88 coastal parks across the country."
The Biscayne reserve has been adopted in the park's management plan but has not been put into effect pending additional federal regulatory steps. The zone covers about 6 percent of Biscayne National Park waters but anglers contend it comprises about 40 percent of the prime reef-fishing areas.
The House bill, HR-2406, passed on a 242-161 vote. Republicans overwhelmingly supported it; Democrats cast 157 of the no votes.
Everglades National Park's updated management plan does not appear to be affected by the congressional bills.


Lake Okeechobee

Florida's legacy law brings responsibility
Orlando Sentinel – by Elizabeth Ross, Guest, columnist
April 20, 2016
Congratulations to Florida's Legislature, Gov. Rick Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, agricultural interests and environmental organizations, who collaboratively developed and signed into law the Legacy Florida Bill on April 7.
This law implements Amendment One, the Florida constitutional amendment approved by voters in November 2014, setting aside one-third of the net revenues from statewide documentary-stamp taxes to fund Florida's vital land and water protection and restoration efforts.
For nearly two years, environmental organizations have been outraged at the implementation of this constitutional amendment, even suing the Legislature and elected officials over alleged misappropriation. While the lawsuits spiral onward, the path set forth by Legacy Florida should provide renewed confidence in our state's long-term commitment to sustainable environmental performance. With this steady funding stream comes the opportunity to benefit natural resources throughout Florida.
The Legacy Florida Bill, sponsored by Senate President-Designate Joe Negron and Rep. Gayle Harrell, with co-sponsors Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, annually dedicates significant funding for critical projects. The primary beneficiaries are two of Florida's iconic natural resources: the Greater Everglades Ecosystem and unique natural spring systems in Central and North Florida.
The funding is well-timed, with the concurrent enactment of a "water bill" that strengthens several of the state's existing water-resource protection laws and heralds the need for increased spending on a wide variety of projects. Now, financial backing for long-lasting water resource restoration programs exists.
Natural spring-system restoration and protection projects will annually receive funding of up to $50 million in needed support. Project examples include aquifer-recharge projects and wastewater-treatment plants, which could help reduce excessive nutrient levels — a key threat to spring water quality.
Consistent funding of $5 million a year through 2026 for restoration of Florida's fourth-largest lake, Lake Apopka, is also given. Dovetailing with water bill programs, these funds should jump-start projects to protect both water quality and spring flows. As a former water-management district attorney working on water resource issues for more than 30 years, I know the combination of projects and funding is rare and presents an opportunity that must be ceased.
Of significant import to Central Florida stakeholders and the connected downstream regions, particularly those near the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, are funding provisions for the Greater Everglades Ecosystem. In fact, the lion's share of annual funding is directed to the long-standing suite of Everglades restoration projects. These defined projects, while well on their way, are reinforced by the Legacy Florida funding commitment. With Florida's dedication evident, federal appropriations for the Central Everglades Project, the next increment in Everglades restoration, hopefully will follow.
Legacy Florida also provides critical funding for Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program projects. These projects hold the potential to address inflows to Lake Okeechobee at their source — the 3.45 million acre Lake Okeechobee watershed — where well-crafted projects can optimally address water quality, water storage and timing of inflows to Lake Okeechobee.
Predicated on a two-phase comprehensive plan, the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Protection Plan includes both public works and public/private partnerships that increase watershed storage for healthier lake levels and to reduce harmful discharges to the estuaries. Existing laws detail required plan contents, including development of appropriate water-storage goals to achieve desirable Lake Okeechobee levels and inflow volumes to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, while meeting other water needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection. Therein lies the opportunity.
Aptly designed projects north of Lake Okeechobee can slow flows south, treat water quality and potentially provide some water supply for the Central Florida region while assuring long-established interests of those in Lake Okeechobee's service area. In this manner, harnessing damaging flows before they enter the Lake for discharge to the estuaries can accomplish multiple benefits and further restoration of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.
With this consistent and substantial funding source, efforts steadily progressing over the past two decades now stand to be catapulted toward completion. Taken together, the Legacy Florida Bill and the water bill make it clear 2016 was a banner year for Florida's water resources.
The great task and responsibility remaining is effective implementation of these measures.




Florida sugarcane farmers are not the bad guys they’re being portrayed to be – by Ryan Weston, Special to The Tampa Tribune
April 20, 2016
Florida’s economy has been one of the great success stories in America in recent years. In February, the millionth job in the past five years was created in Florida. Although the state remains a global tourism destination and has benefited from foreign investment, its farming industry still serves as the backbone of its economy by providing thousands of jobs in every corner of the state.
In South Florida, a good portion of the farmers are growing sugarcane, which has been a staple of Florida’s farming success for generations. Florida’s sugarcane industry has an estimated $3.2 billion impact on the state’s economy and supports 12,500 jobs.
For all of the economic stability sugarcane farming has brought South Florida, sugarcane farmers have unfortunately been the scapegoat for some of Florida’s problems in the eyes of environmental activists, despite the industry’s economic and environmental successes. One of the most common and untrue criticisms is that Florida’s sugarcane farmers receive direct subsidy checks from the federal government, but it’s simply not true. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that domestic sugar policy will have no taxpayer cost through 2026.
Considering the lack of subsidies for domestic farmers, the price of American sugar remains a bargain when compared to what is being sold by our foreign competitors. The retail price of sugar is less in the U.S. than most developed countries — 29 percent less on average. Mexican sugar is the same price or higher than U.S. sugar, and the Mexicans were found by the U.S. government in 2012 and 2013 to be illegally dumping sugar into the U.S. market.
Instead of denigrating hard-working Florida farmers, the so-called “defenders of the environment” should be praising them for the undeniable progress they are making in cleaning up the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
Unlike some farmers around America, EAA farmers are required to meet stringent federal requirements for reducing phosphorous, and 100 percent of the innovative farming equipment they use is paid for with private dollars.
Using best management practices (BMPs) that were researched and developed in conjunction with scientists at the University of Florida and the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences last year, EAA farmers achieved a historic 79 percent annual reduction. To date, 90 percent of the water in Everglades National Park is meeting or exceeding the federal standard of 10 parts per billion.
On top of the investment sugarcane growers put into their operations, they are also assessed an agricultural privilege tax at $25 per acre. Over time, this tax raised more than $200 million for restoration in addition to the more than $200 million more for performing our on-farm water clean-up efforts. Combined, this $400 million is more than any other private group or industry.
For many, it’s easy to point the finger at “Big Sugar,” but the industry helps put food on the table for thousands of Florida families. Without it, South Florida would be missing out on thousands of good-paying jobs, and our nation would likely have to rely increasingly on sugar from foreign countries.
When you tune out the heated rhetoric from environmentalists and look at the facts, their arguments just don’t add up. Florida sugarcane farming remains a pillar of Florida’s agriculture industry. Our farmers are doing more with less and achieving significant, measurable results.
Ryan Weston is executive vice president of the Florida Sugar Cane League and former staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Conservation Subcommittee of the Agriculture Committee.


Amendment-1 YES

Lost in translation: whatever happened to Amendment 1 ?
Florida Weekly – by Roger William
April 20, 2016
Nathaniel Reed, a born-and-raised Florida boy, stepped out of his home on the southern terminus of the Indian River lagoon one early morning last week, looked up the river where he can see five miles on a clear day, and spotted a pod of dolphins.
“They weren’t feeding on snook,” he says. “They were moving through.”
The sight, which reminded him of how it once was when many more of them were feeding on snook and many other species, made his heart ache, he admits. It’s an ache, a longing for what was and what should be again, that isn’t new for the 83-year-old Mr. Reed, a founder and chairman emeritus of 1000 Friends of Florida.
A former assistant secretary of the interior under Presidents Nixon and then Ford — a man who has served six Florida governors and sat on the boards of such august outfits or agencies as the National Geographic Society and Yellowstone National Park — Mr. Reed had just come back from a 1000 Friends meeting in Key West to prepare for a fishing trip to the Bahamas.
His work in the world isn’t done, he insists, in part because 18 months ago Florida voters sought to give officials the most powerful tool they’ve ever wielded in an effort to resist the destruction of lands and waters in the state, only to have it misused by state legislators, in his view.
The tool is called Amendment 1 to the Florida constitution. About 75 percent of voters approved it — 4 million men and women in the voting booth. Its relatively simple language requires a third of the tax money collected from the documentary stamps that come with every real estate sale in Florida between 2015 and 2035 to be set aside and used to buy land and help save water now being polluted and degraded so much that it threatens the future of the state.
That will amount to some $700 million to $900 million or more each year in what is now a booming real estate economy attracting hoards of new residents and businesses to Florida.
It gives legislators and resource managers a chance to plan, a chance to do the hard bargaining and purchasing of lands throughout the state that are crucial to cleanup and restoration.
But many of them have no intention of doing that now, says Mr. Reed.
At the 1000 Friends meeting, “we talked about what the hell do we do after Gov. Scott and certain members of the Legislature are retired.
“The overwhelming sentiment shown by Amendment 1 voters has to be transplanted into acts at the local level to protect our land and water.
This has to be a citizens’ movement.
We’ve given up on government right now, because anti-government feeling toward the governor and his appointees, right down to the water management districts, is crushing any kind of sensible decision making on new plans blooming all over Florida.”
CALDWELL:  The devil and the details
Although the language of Amendment 1 orders that the monies not be used for other purposes, only about a third of more than $650 million collected this year has been channeled directly into land purchases and water conservation projects defined as strictly Amendment 1 uses.
And in the first year of the program, legislators put only about $17.5 million of what could have been more than $200 million into land acquisition — through a program called Florida Forever Land Acquisition — and managed to reinterpret how Amendment 1 should be understood, their critics say.
But many legislators view such criticisms as unjustified.
 “I think how we spent the money is completely consistent with the intention of Amendment 1,” says Rep. Matt Caldwell, a District 79 Republican.
“The amendment says the trust fund is created to acquire, store, manage and improve conservation lands — it’s a four-tier purpose. ‘Acquire’ is only one of four verbs. So I feel comfortable I have met my constitutional duties toward that Amendment.”
There’s a lot more involved in solving the problem than simply buying land, he argues — and leaving significant portions of that land in private hands has benefits both to agriculture and to conservation.
“It’s so easy to say, ‘we want Florida Forever, it’s land acquisition and that program used to get $300 million,’ Rep. Caldwell explains.
“But the problem is, Florida Forever used to be all bonded — borrowed — money. That’s the $175 million were paying on the debt for the existing bond. I put that expense in the land category (of Amendment 1) because it’s paying for land we already bought.”
Not only that, he adds, but as much as 70 percent of state lands may be in government hands — federal, state or local, he estimates. And that’s enough.
“So the rural and family land program, in which ranchers on their property can buy development rights — that’s a prototype of where the legislature is moving,” he says. “Keeping farmers on their land is a major part of the success we’ve had in recent years. The money goes farther.”
Those arguments don’t make it with critics who say those old purchases already were planned for, and voters clearly saw Amendment 1 as a way to get new land essential to cleaning water.
“Because we’re now using Amendment 1 money to fund existing programs that we previously funded through the general revenue, we don’t have these funds available to pay for outstanding programs urgently needed, like buying lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (south of Lake Okeechobee), which is imperative for restoring the Everglades,” says Jennifer Hecker, director of Natural Resource Policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
And as for leaving key lands in private hands, “it’s a slippery slope,” she warns. “The permanent solution is to purchase those lands because you can’t live without their storage and (filtering) capacity. It’s very dangerous to try to privatize clean-up.”
Critics liken that approach to the fox guarding the hen house, while acknowledging that many landowners do deeply care about the environment. But they have cared in the past, too, and still sold crucial lands to developers.
Several environmental groups, therefore, have sued the legislature to force it to use Amendment 1 monies properly, as they see it.
The ongoing battle
On Thursday last week, lawyers defending legislators in an ongoing lawsuit aimed at forcing them to put at least $222 million from the revenue of this single year into land acquisition denied each claim of the environmental groups challenging them.
David Guest, the managing attorney for Earthjustice Florida, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, said that in spite of some improvement in the coming year’s spending pattern, when legislators will increase Amendment 1 monies aimed at land purchases, “more than half of money available will be spent on accounting gimmicks, instead. You thought, we thought, I thought we were buying land and restoring things. Instead we got air-conditioned buildings full of state employees that already had jobs — that’s what we’re paying for.”
Land that could help clean the water isn’t being purchased by the state because many legislators simply don’t like the idea, says Ms. Hecker.
“It’s no secret that the legislature wasn’t supportive of Amendment 1 from the onset,” she explains.
“So we’re still struggling with a lack of political will to implement the amendment in a manner consistent with voters’ wishes, mainly in regards to land conservation.
“We have to have dedicated funds to do that. The idea of dedicated funds is that you need to plan in advance for multi-year efforts. If you don’t know how much funding you will have available, you can’t plan anything.”
One of the keys in saving Florida water is land, and especially the purchase of land south of Lake Okeechobee where corporate sugar growers now dominate agricultural production, says State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, a District 78 Republican.
It is not a widely popular opinion among Republican members of the state’s House and Senate.
“There are differing views in how we solve our problems,” she notes, encouraging compromise, “and I don’t think the state needs to open (for possible purchase) everything that is private property that might have some value to environmental preservation.
“But I do think we need to identify those lands that have the most value for preservation, and that have the most risk of being used for other purposes than conservation.”
Part of the solution must be to purchase key lands south of Lake Okeechobee, she says, where water originating near Orlando once flowed southward, filtering and cleaning itself naturally before reaching Florida Bay.
Now, the 700,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area dominated by sugar growers stands in the way.
“I respect the agricultural interests south of the lake,” says Rep. Fitzenhagen. “But because they have benefitted from certain government programs that allow them to maintain their businesses at a high level of profitability, perhaps they could see their way to give back — a little quid pro quo.”
By “give back,” she means sell their land to the state so it can be restored as a natural flow-way.
Government programs include the huge system of canals, pumps and water managers funded by taxpayers to allow crops to be grown in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
But legislators have found ways to divert money away from land acquisitions in large part, the critics say: They’re paying for older land purchases and programs already established on which debt remains; they’re paying for maintenance of equipment and current water systems as well as salaries of managers; they’re paying private landowners not to develop their land — at least not now while they’re being paid not to; and they’re even paying to help Gov. Rick Scott satisfy his $700,000 penalty in a lawsuit for violating publics records law, as Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen pointed out last August.
The governor took $445,000 out of the Department of Environmental Protection monies to help pay the fine.
“It’s another kick in the teeth for the 4 million Floridians who voted for Amendment 1, believing DEP would use newly designated revenues for the purchase and protection of conservation lands,” Mr. Hiaasen wrote. “Nobody dreamed that the governor — even this governor — would loot DEP to pay his own legal bills.”
As for using Amendment 1 money to support the salaries of land mangers, “Land management was already built into agency budgets in no small amount, but dollars approved for (land) purchase went for that,” points out Wayne Daltry, a planner, former Smart Growth director and environmental leader on the Southwest coast.
Meanwhile, environmental conditions are rapidly declining, as last winter’s devastating algal blooms and dirty water both east and west of Lake Okeechobee attest.
“God, a million fish. How shocking,” Mr. Reed exclaims, describing the estimated fish kill alone.
“The reason people live on the Indian River is for the light and color and the sunsets in the evening on those islands in one of the most beautiful lagoons in the world. It’s a world treasure, but now stuff is coming out of Okeechobee and going right down the Caloosahatchee or (the St. Lucie).”
In addition to beauty and aesthetics, there is also the issue of survival, says John Cassani, chairman of the Southwest Florida Watershed Council.
“What the legislature is doing is not enough fast enough. We’re about to experience another major population boom. Add climate change effects to that, and there isn’t a lot of time to delay what needs to be done.”
For Rep. Fitzenhagen, “Water is the most valuable resource in the world. Everywhere. Across the globe. If we here don’t get on board and understand this, and manage it properly,” the consequences are likely to be dire.
Rep. Caldwell agrees with her, he says, but the issues of implementation will have to be worked out.
For Mr. Reed, the half-century champion of a cleaner Florida and a cleaner nation, Amendment 1 remains a chance to correct some significant mistakes of the past.
“We’re being overrun by development,” he says. “But by using Amendment 1 we can buy in. We can create big green zones, little green ones, green zones around cities to protect unique habitat. There are plenty of them that need to be created.”
And in creating them, perhaps, we create our future, he insists, echoing the sentiments of many, who acknowledge that development will continue.
“Our future depends on molding that development to protect the watershed. We must protect our water. That is the number one issue for Amendment 1.” ¦
If distribution were equitable (one analyst’s view of one region):
“Southwest Florida as a whole has about 10 percent of the state’s population, and area, also.
“So, if the $750 million per year in estimated money generated by the funding source (Amendment 1’s cut of the real estate stamp taxes) was applied equally statewide, then Southwest Florida would get about $75 million, or about double the funds for Conservation 20- 20 (a county program to buy undeveloped land) at its peak, applied over an area about seven times larger ... annually. For 20 years.
“Since we are impacted by Lake Okeechobee, land programs in the Kissimmee and Everglades basins would benefit us — and perhaps be partially tolled against us. All that is if distribution was equitable.”

Officials push for Everglades plan speed up
April 20, 2016
U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are on opposite sides of the aisle in the Congressional chambers.
Nelson is a Democrat and Rubio is a Republican and a former candidate for the Republican nominee for presidency.
They have come together and are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to move forward on three Everglades-restoration projects that Congress authorized nearly two years ago
In a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Jo-Ellen Darcy, the lawmakers pressed the Corps to complete the Project partnership Agreements that must be finalized before the Corps can begin work on the projects lay out in detail how each project's costs will be split between the state and federal governments, and the Corps cannot begin funding the construction of these Everglades projects until the partnership agreements are in place. "Administrative delays like these are one reason Everglades projects have lagged for so long between authorization and completion," the senators wrote. "It is important that the Army Corps quickly approve PPAs for these projects so that restoration efforts are not further delayed." Army Corps quickly approve PPAs for these projects so that restoration efforts are not further delayed." "The three projects the lawmakers are pressing the Corps to move forward on are the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project to reduce harmful discharges into Biscayne Bay, the Broward County Water Preserve Areas to reduce water loss from the central Everglades, and the Caloosahatchee River West Basin Storage Reservoir, or C-43, to improve the overall health of the Caloosahatchee Estuary. The Nelson office said all three projects were authorized in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act signed into law in June of 2014. The following are some pats of the letter from the lawmakers to Assistant Secretary Darcy, the assistant secretary of the Army - Civil Works, Dept. of the Army at the Pentagon: "We write to urge you to execute projects partnership agreements (PPAs) for the three Everglades restoration projects authorized through Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 that still do not have final agreements in place: Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands, Froward County Water preserve Areas, and the Caloosahatchee River West Biassin Storage Reservoir. "Administrative delays like these are on reason Everglades projects have lagged for so long between and completion. It is important that the Army Corps quickly approve PPAs for these projects so that restoration efforts are not further delayed. "The Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project will restore wetlands and reduce discharges to Biscayne Bay, improving the health of the bay and providing nursery habitat for wildlife and fish,. This project received $2.6 million in Fiscal Year 2016 funding for design. The Broward County Water Preserve Areas project will reduce water loss from the central Everglades and must be completed before the Central Everglades Planning Project can be implemented. The Army Corps allocated $2.9 million in Fiscal Year 2016 funds for design of this project. "Additionally, the Caloosahatchee River West Basin Storage Reservoir (C-43) will improve conditions to the Caloosahatchee Estuary. This project received approval to execute a PPA; however, it has yet to be finalized. We respectfully request that you provide funding to negotiate and execute project partnership agreements for these important projects. "Signing PPAs for these projects is essential to maintaining t he 50-50 cost share balance between the non-federal sponsor and the Army Corps, as required under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan."


Focus on endangered bird harms Florida Bay
Miami Herald - Op-Ed by Sam Accursio, SFWMD

- Cape Sable seaside sparrow at the heart of the bay’s crisis
- Order to protect sparrow curtails needed flow of fresh water into the bay
- Action fails to consider overall health of the Everglades and Florida Bay

April 19, 2016
The environmental crisis in Florida Bay this past year was well documented, but one of its causes is many miles to the north and not well publicized. During near-drought conditions last summer, Florida Bay became way too salty and low in oxygen, causing a yellow fog to cloud the water, killing seagrasses and fish and threatening the entire ecosystem. The bay was crying out for more fresh water from its primary source: Everglades National Park.
Beginning in January, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) was delivering clean water to help rescue Florida Bay by altering canal and pump operations in south Miami-Dade County. But our efforts were hindered by an action, related to the U.S. Endangered Species Act and enforced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that focused water management on a single wildlife species while failing to consider the overall health of the Everglades and Florida Bay.
This federal restriction, based on preference for one animal — the Cape Sable seaside sparrow — significantly limited our ability to provide water and help the bay’s ecosystem and all its wildlife.
More comprehensive, forward-looking strategies assure better outcomes for our environment, especially in water management. SFWMD strongly prefers a balanced approach in managing its 2,000 miles of canals, three vast conservation areas, Kissimmee chain of lakes and coastal estuaries. Decisions by this agency, and our water resource recommendations to federal interests, are formulated to help balance the overall system.
But since 1999, at the direction of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has closed very large water control gates along Tamiami Trail leading into Everglades National Park, preventing their use from November to July every year supposedly to protect the sparrow. This has parched the park and Florida Bay of much needed fresh water.
Further, the Center for Biological Diversity sued the federal government last year to prevent any potential use of these gates. This group has long advanced its narrow agenda that does not benefit the sparrows and is hurting all the other species in Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
I agree that protection of the sparrow is important, as is protecting all species that reside in the park and Florida Bay. However, the data do not support the original purpose of keeping the gates closed.
Since the limitations on using the gates took effect, the number of sparrows in the affected area sadly has continued to drop, from 28 adult birds in 2000 to only about 13 in 2015.
Closing the gates each year cuts in half the volume of clean water that can be moved south into the park and eventually into Florida Bay.
Closure also causes water to back up in the conservation areas north of the park, which endangers wildlife and prevents more water from being moved south out of Lake Okeechobee.
As we’ve seen this winter, a too-full system south of the lake leaves the Corps of Engineers with few other options after heavy rains than to release damaging water into the coastal estuaries, where it is destructive.
Clearly, it is time to focus on a much broader approach.
Allowing the gates to be opened year round on an as-needed basis to hydrate the Everglades National Park will better protect the many ecosystems surrounding the Everglades and Florida Bay. The time has come for management decisions that take into account South Florida’s entire ecosystem and actions that will benefit all that we cherish here.

Interior Secretary Jewell lays out vision for next 100 years of conservation in America - by NPT Staff
April 19, 2016
Editor's note: The following is an unedited transcript of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's speech on conservation in America delivered Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
This week is National Park Week – a time when we celebrate the more than 400 natural, historical and cultural sites that make up the most incredible parks system on Earth. Places that attract visitors from around the world and inspire other nations to follow our lead.
But being the “best” wasn’t always a forgone conclusion.
During World War II, national parks fell into a state of disrepair. Congress, needing to fund the war effort, directed much-needed resources elsewhere.
After the war, veterans packed up their families and drove to the national parks, looking to heal and reconnect in the way that we know getting outside can uniquely do. Instead, the war heroes and their families were greeted by crumbling buildings, roads full of potholes and huge crowds.
The state of the parks got so bad that Harper’s Magazine ran an essay in 1953 entitled, “Let’s Close the National Parks.” The author, Bernard DeVoto, hoped the shock of suggesting that Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon should be shut down until they were worthy of visitors would push Congress to properly funding the nation’s crown jewels.
So that could have been the end of the story, the tombstone reading: Here lies the national parks. Loved to death.
But DeVoto’s essay, plus a few visionary leaders – like Conrad Wirth, who was Park Service Director in the Eisenhower Administration – spurred a historic investment in our national parks. Starting in 1956 – the year I was born – and over the course of the next 10 years, more than a billion dollars of capital improvements were completed. Roads were fixed, sewer systems upgraded, and visitor centers added – just in time for the Park Service’s 50th anniversary in 1966.
Mission 66, as it was called, was rooted in the simple idea that investing in our national parks was an investment in the heart of our nation – not only our economy, but our very identity.
Corporations also stepped up to help, like the memorable ad campaign of the day: “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet,” a jingle that my generation can still hear in our minds.
And what happened to all those kids who were loaded into the backs of station wagons and taken to Rocky Mountain National Park for their summer vacation?
They grew up. They became today’s champions for the national parks.
The real legacy of Mission 66 is that it inspired an entire generation – baby boomers, my generation – to love and visit and support the great outdoors.
You don’t need to look too hard to see the parallels to today.
Our national parks are being visited in record numbers – 307 million visits last year alone.
But our maintenance backlog – nearing $12 billion – is also at record levels. And budget crunches have left our national parks and public lands understaffed and struggling to keep up with day-to-day operations.
And the people visiting the parks? It’s still the baby boomers. The majority of visitors to national parks today look like me: older and whiter.
Which means we haven’t found a way to connect with the young people of today, who are more diverse, more tech-savvy, and more disconnected from nature than ever before.
Those trends coincide with the emergence of an extreme movement to seize public lands – from Oregon to Puerto Rico – putting lands that belong to all Americans at risk of being sold off for a short-term gain to the highest bidder. This movement has propped up dangerous voices that reject the rule of law, put communities and hard-working public servants at risk, and fail to appreciate how deeply democratic and American our national parks and public lands are.
What’s more, climate change – the most pressing issue of our time – threatens our land and water in existential ways, with longer, hotter fire seasons, record-breaking droughts, and more frequent and severe superstorms.
Some experts believe that we’re on the brink of the planet’s sixth mass extinction, with humans playing a major role in wiping out species at a rate 53 times greater than normal.
And a new analysis by the non-profit Conservation Science Partners finds that natural areas out West are disappearing at the rate of a football field every two and a half minutes.
If you add that all up, you’re looking at a pretty bleak picture. If we stay on this trajectory, 100 years from now, national parks and wildlife refuges will be like postage stamps of nature on a map. Isolated islands of conservation with run-down facilities that crowds of Americans visit like zoos to catch a glimpse of our nation’s remaining wildlife and undeveloped patches of land.
Now, that can’t – and won’t – happen.
But we, as a country, need to make a major course correction in how we approach conservation to ensure a bright future for our public lands and waters.

Here’s what I believe that course correction looks like:
First and foremost, we need to kick off the new century of American conservation by issuing a giant, open invitation to every American to visit their national parks and public lands.
The National Park Service’s Centennial is about inspiring people – from all ages and all backgrounds and all walks of life – to love the great outdoors and our rich history and culture.
If we’re successful, the next generation of America’s elected officials, scientists, philanthropists, teachers, and Supreme Court justices will understand the value of conservation and public lands.
I’m proud of the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation for launching the Find Your Park campaign. The campaign, which kicked off last year, has already made nearly six billion impressions, which is marketing speak for ‘they’ve reached a lot of people.’
The campaign is making a special effort to target Millennials and a diverse, young audience. For example, I will admit that I did not know who Bella Thorne was a year ago, but her six million Twitter followers did. So when she tweeted #findyourpark, I humbly submit that meant a lot more than when I did it.
I’m also proud of the President’s Every Kid in a Park initiative. By providing every fourth grader in America with a free pass to visit our nation’s public lands and waters with their families, we’re breaking down barriers that can keep underserved communities from discovering the great outdoors.
Some of my favorite moments in this job have been handing out the passes – like to a fourth grade class of Native American students outside Tucson, Arizona. Along with several elders from the Tohono O’odham Nation, we took a hike in Saguaro National Park where we learned how the kids’ ancestors and the desert have co-existed for thousands of years. It was a magical experience.
I am committed to making sure that this program lasts long after I leave this office, so that 12 years from now, we’ll have a whole generation of students whose love for public lands was sparked in fourth grade.
We also need to ensure that when a diverse class of 4th graders does visit, that they see park rangers who look like them. Or talk to wildlife biologists who share their background. Or see signs in their first language.
Or, that they can visit a place that honors their heritage or culture.
For too long, our national parks have ignored important parts of our nation’s story. I’m proud of what this President has done to expand that story and make our national parks and public lands more relevant to all Americans.
People like César Chávez, Harriet Tubman and the Buffalo Soldiers now have their contributions to this country rightfully recognized through the national parks.
Just last week, President Obama acted again. In establishing the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, he honored a key chapter in the ongoing fight for political, social and economic equality.
Still, with only a sliver of national parks and historic sites focused on women, minorities and underrepresented communities, there’s more to be done. Right now, there’s not one national park or national monument focused on the struggle for LGBT rights. And we haven’t done enough to celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, or Latinos, or Native Americans, or African Americans.
That needs to change, and I look forward to continuing our efforts to leave our national parks and public lands decisively more inclusive places than they were in 2009.
To that end, throughout this summer, my team and I will travel across the country to hear from communities about their vision for conservation as we look to the next 100 years. Our goal will be to find and highlight opportunities where we can make progress – both in the near and long term – to ensure that our parks and public lands are benefiting all Americans.
From coast to coast, we’ll talk to communities about: What places are special to you and why? What’s important to your community’s economy, your identity, your heritage? And how can we make it easier for you to visit and enjoy your public lands?
This is about lifting up what’s working and learning what we can do better when it comes to supporting our public lands. My first stop will be this Friday in Florida to celebrate another major milestone in the effort to restore the natural water flows in the Florida Everglades. Then, in the coming weeks, I’ll visit Montana to talk about the nexus between public lands and outdoor recreation. I plan to visit Idaho to discuss building resilient sagebrush landscapes in the face of wildfires. And I plan to visit places, like Utah, where there are a range of conservation proposals – legislative and otherwise – to further protect public lands.
My team and I look forward to getting out into communities across the country this summer.

Let me pause for a minute here to talk about the Antiquities Act, because there’s a lot of discussion about it in this final year of the President’s term.
For over 100 years, since Congress passed the law in 1906, Presidents have used this authority to protect special places that, without action, might be lost forever to wrecking balls, looting or other destructive activities.
I believe it’s one of the most important tools a President has to improve our country. It’s a tool that should not be used lightly or invoked without serious consideration of the impacts on current and future generations. President Obama has been judicious and thoughtful in his use of the Antiquities Act.
I do not think the Act should only be used in places where there is complete agreement, as some are suggesting.
If that were the case, then Teddy Roosevelt would never have protected the Grand Canyon or Muir Woods. And Franklin Roosevelt would never have protected Zion or Joshua Tree.
These were all controversial when they were established. Just go look up old quotes in the local papers from Members of Congress or developers who decried that a national monument would tie up resources and halt economic progress – all for a little bit of scenery.
But their doomsday predictions didn’t come true. And today, every one of those (now) national parks is an economic engine and huge source of pride for its respective state.
There are communities across America who believe that President Obama should act to protect more special places. Places that, yes, help tell a more complete story of America. Places with incredible antiquities at risk of looting or development. Places that could create local jobs and boost small businesses should they be recognized on the national stage. Places that future generations should have the chance to experience for themselves.
I believe these ideas should be heard and discussed. Even when – in fact, especially when –there’s a spectrum of opinions. Or when the path forward isn’t always clear. In some cases, I imagine the best next step will simply be more conversations.
But I’ve found in my life – whether as a parent, a banker, a CEO, a volunteer, or an Interior Secretary – that the best results start with the simple act of listening. So that’s what I plan to do.

The second course correction we need to make is to think big. It’s simply not enough to protect a few isolated places.
The same analysis I cited earlier by Conservation Science Partners found that, if you were to randomly drop a pin in a natural area in the West, on average it’d be only 3.5 miles from some form of human development.
Think about that. That’s a great statistic if you’re a lost hiker looking to be rescued. But it has highly alarming implications for the mule deer or the grizzly bear who need connected corridors of land to survive.
When I was walking into National Geographic today, I stopped in the lobby to check out the display on Yellowstone. There’s a panel that reminded me that it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t quite know where or why animals disappeared for half the year. Even into the 1800’s, many believed that migrating birds spent the winter buried in mud at the bottom of ponds.
Well, we know better now.
We know that healthy, intact ecosystems are fundamental to the health of our wildlife – and our nation. They clean our air and provide our drinking water, they store carbon and combat climate change, and they are critical to our economy.
But if their integrity is undermined by a haphazard web of transmission lines, pipelines and roads, where does that leave us 50 years from now? Or 500?
It’s an issue that can’t be solved by simply creating a new national park or wildlife refuge – although there’s no doubt that we need those places to serve as critical anchors for conservation.
What we need is smart planning, on a landscape-level, irrespective of manmade lines on a map. We need to take a holistic look at an ecosystem – on land or in the ocean – to determine where it makes sense to develop, where it makes sense to protect the natural resources, and where we can accomplish both.
This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky idea. We need look no further than the greater sage-grouse conservation effort to see what’s possible when people work together across a landscape.
The bird’s 173-million acre range spans federal, state, and private lands across 11 states in the West. Lands that – not surprisingly – overlap in some places where folks want to mine, graze, or drill for oil and gas. Lands that are also home to hundreds of other species, like elk and pronghorn.
Rather than shut down all economic activity to save the sage-grouse, or let it go the way of the dodo, stakeholders came together to map out what areas are too important to the bird to disturb, what areas should have development activity modified or adjusted, and what areas should have the green light to continue business as usual.
You know how this ends. As a result of this unprecedented planning effort, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the greater sage-grouse does not need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
I’m not suggesting that this was an easy task. It wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination. But the epic collaboration did result in a thoughtful, science-based roadmap for a healthy ecosystem and sustainable development across a landscape.
That’s the model for the future of conservation. That big-picture, roll-up-your-sleeves, get-input-from-all-stakeholders kind of planning is how land management agencies should orient themselves in the 21st century.
That’s why, this year, I look forward to getting a number of things across the finish line to cement the forward-thinking path we have embarked upon.
That includes completing the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, where the Bureau of Land Management is working with state and local partners to map out our part of 22 million acres in the California desert where we want to encourage wind and solar projects, and where we want to manage for conservation.
That includes issuing Master Leasing Plans for places like Moab, Utah, where we are collaborating with local stakeholders to develop a blueprint for balancing energy development with conservation and outdoor recreation.
That includes finalizing the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 rule, which institutionalizes this new way of doing business – engaging early and often with stakeholders.
And that includes a comprehensive review of the Federal coal program.
In the meantime, we also have some work left to reexamine whether decisions made in prior administrations properly considered where it makes sense to develop and where it doesn’t. Or where science is helping us better understand the value of the land and water and potential impacts of development. Places like Badger Two-Medicine in Montana, or the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, or the Roan Plateau in Colorado.
These are special areas, and I look forward to making progress on them this year.

The third and final area where I believe we need to make a course correction is related to resources.
The National Park Service is about to release a report that parks generated $32 billion in economic activity for the nation in 2015.
They did that on a budget of about $3 billion, meaning that for every dollar invested in the national parks, taxpayers saw a 10 to 1 return on investment. As a businessperson, I can tell you that’s pretty darn good.
But just as we did with Mission 66, our nation needs to make serious investments in our national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, public lands and waters to ensure that they are prepared for the next 100 years.
That not only means investments in roads and bridges, but also in “green” infrastructure to check the spread of invasive species, build resilient coastlines in the face of climate change, and restore wetlands and watersheds.
Congress took a good step with last year’s Omnibus, but we need to do more to give national parks and public lands the resources they need to fund critical infrastructure projects, leverage private donations, and enhance visitor experiences. The Administration’s Centennial Act proposal, introduced in Congress by Senator Cantwell and Representative Grijalva, does just that – and I remain hopeful that, working together, we can get it across the finish line.
Congress can also do right by permanently authorizing and fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million as originally intended. Congress took an important initial step to reauthorize the fund for three years, but it should not have been the battle it was, and it should not be seen as enough.
And Congress can help greatly in dealing with the ever-increasing threat of wildfires by making a simple change in the budget to treat large-scale fires like the disasters they are. This will help the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management avoid borrowing money from other programs – including those designed to prevent future wildfires.
To be sure, there are many great champions for conservation in Congress. I’m hopeful that we can convince even more Members to support public land management agencies in accomplishing what the American public expects of us, which is being in the “forever business.”
The federal government can do our part by spending our money wisely, encouraging public-private partnerships and inspiring volunteer service, which fosters a deep personal connection to public lands and has become essential in supporting our visitors.
We can also do a better job of capturing the value of public lands.
Now, I’m not talking about the value of hearing the quiet of the night pierced by the howl of wolves that once again roam Yellowstone. Or the value of feeling the first rays of sun while catching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia. Or the value of seeing your grandchild try in vain to wrap his little arms around the old growth trees in the Pacific Northwest.
There are some things you can’t put a price tag on.
But by producing credible data on the tangible economic benefits of public lands, we can help the public and Members of Congress better understand the benefits of investing in them.
That’s why, today, I’m pleased to announce that we will work with the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis to produce an independent study on what impact outdoor recreation has on our nation’s economy. Hunting, boating, hiking, OHVing, wildlife viewing, and other outdoor activities are so closely tied to the health and accessibility of our public lands, yet this sector has, for too long, been overlooked and undervalued.
Industry estimates show that consumer spending for outdoor recreation is almost equal to pharmaceuticals and motor vehicles and parts combined – and yet the federal government has never fully recognized or quantified these benefits.
We want to know the impact of everything from buying gear, to hiring a guide, to renting hotel rooms in gateway communities. This project is the start of a multi-year effort to quantify these contributions in a comprehensive and impartial way.
So today, we are putting America’s outdoor economy on equal footing with every other major economic sector. This fast-growing economic powerhouse deserves to be counted.
I’d like to thank the bipartisan group of Members in the House and Senate for championing this issue.

We’re celebrating the 100th birthday of the National Park Service this year – but there’s another, much less well known anniversary also happening in 2016. That’s the 40th anniversary of a landmark piece of legislation that provided a framework in which public lands could be managed in perpetuity for the benefit of present and future generations. It defined the Bureau of Land Management’s mission as one of multiple use and sustained yield – a new concept for the times, but which today stands as the agency’s greatest strength.
That legislation is called the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, or FLPMA.
It just rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?
I raise this because being in the forever business doesn’t always lend itself to the best soundbites. I imagine that Mad Men’s Don Draper would not have suggested the name ‘FLPMA’ if given the task of marketing what the Bureau of Land Management does for the American people.
And yet, this country’s public lands, national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and federal waters are some of the most valuable assets that we collectively own.
At a time when they face threats from land grabs to climate change, we can’t afford to turn our backs on them.
That won’t happen because I believe we are at the dawn of a new conservation era in America.
Americans are more determined than ever to solve the problems we face. To take action to confront climate change. To pass ballot initiatives to fund parks and open space. To work the lands in a sustainable way. To give everyone an equal chance to get outdoors.
Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, Rachel Carson – the conservation movements they ignited fit their particular historical moment.
And likewise, the groundswell for conservation that is building today is different from any other we have seen. It is digital, it is diverse, and – more than ever – it is motivated by values that are widely shared among Americans of all political beliefs.
Find me someone who doesn’t take pride in America’s wildlife, in our clean air and clean drinking water. Find me someone who really wants to privatize the national parks. Find me someone who doesn’t want to pass on a healthy planet to their children.
When I am with young people in nature – like the 4th graders from a California farming community who squealed when they saw island foxes on the Channel Islands after studying how they have been brought back from the brink of extinction – I am confident that we are waking up as a people to recognize what’s at stake.
The truth is that – outside of Washington, D.C. and the rhetoric heard on some campaign trails, at least – Americans know we need to correct course if we are to ensure a bright future for our public lands and waters.
As Americans who continue to benefit from the foresight of Mission 66, we now have a responsibility to inspire a new generation of outdoor stewards to keep public lands public.
So, let us use this special year of the Centennial to set a new path for conservation in the 21st century. One that celebrates the diversity of public lands. One that relies on science and collaboration to chart a sustainable future for entire landscapes and ecosystems. One that invests the necessary resources into these incredible places. And one that welcomes all Americans to help care for our most treasured assets as though they were their own – because they are!
Thank you to the public servants, public lands advocates, National Geographic and all of you in joining this effort to start the next 100 years of American conservation on the right foot.


Miami Beach's $400 Million Sea-Level Rise Plan is unprecedented, but not everyone is sold - by Jessica Weiss
April 19, 2016
The poster-sized map on Bruce Mowry's desk is scrawled with blotchy patches of red, showing elevations across Miami Beach. Everywhere 2.2 feet or lower is shaded in deep crimson. That's the same height, incidentally, that water reached last September during the King Tide, the highest nonstorm water level ever recorded in the city.
Mowry, a jovial man with gray hair, rosy cheeks, and a Southern accent, is calm and calculated as he explains the disturbing reality evident on the map: Fifty percent of South Beach is red. Almost all of Belle Isle and the west side of Palm Island are too. The Indian Creek corridor from 26th to 39th is bright red. And so is Normandy Isle and the eastern part of Biscayne Point. If current forecasts are right, these areas will be submerged within the next century. "When people ask me where I'm going to focus my attention, I just tell them to look at the map," Mowry says. "Where would you start?"
  Miami Beach flooding
From his sunny corner office on the sixth floor of Miami Beach City Hall, the engineer has spent the past two and a half years working on one of the hardest jobs in the country: trying to keep this city of 90,000 above water.
The Mississippi native has tackled difficult jobs before. Before Mowry took the position in 2013, he'd spent 35 years working on water-resources projects from China to New Orleans. Now he's a key part of a stable of experts Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine has positioned in top city posts since 2013, all trying to save this town from salt water without tarnishing its well-groomed tourism image.
Their plan of attack is unprecedented: $400 million poured into state-of-the-art stormwater solutions, from valves and pumps to raised roads. The project is especially bold in a state where the governor refuses to acknowledge that climate change even exists, let alone fund infrastructure improvements to prepare for it. Just across the causeway, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez recently said a lot of sea-level-rise talk "is of doomsday scenarios which, frankly, I do not believe."
"Would you want to lose a patient on life support just because you were too busy looking for a cure?" Mowry says.
In Miami Beach, Levine has never denied the science. And for his willingness to stare straight into the problem and invest huge sums of money into fixes, he's been lauded as a pioneer. Media across the country have characterized him as "Bloomberg South," a progressive political outsider who kayaked into office saying, "Enough is enough."
"Here's a community with worldwide notoriety for getting things done," Levine says of his work.
But not everyone is cheering the city's plans. Some wonder if aggressive action on sea-level rise can really coexist with a boom in luxury development. The mayor — who owns millions in South Beach property himself — has installed developers in key positions and, some say, steered city action toward protecting big-money interests. Local critics question the city's rapid-fire move toward untested solutions. Still others say the plan doesn't go nearly far enough to save the city long-term from being swallowed by water.
"We're spending exorbitant amounts of money, and it's the first time anyone's ever done anything like this," says Miami Beach City Commissioner Kristin Rosen Gonzalez. "We've got to be sure we're doing it right, because we're not going to have the money to do this twice."
The behind-the-scenes story of Miami Beach's war against sea-level rise makes this much clear: No city has ever faced a threat quite like this. And whatever happens here will be a blueprint — for better or worse — for the whole world.
"This is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced," geospatial analyst Keren Prize Bolter recently told an audience in Miami Beach. "In South Florida, the water is coming in not just at the sides. It comes up from underground. Not even seawalls will stop the flow of water. This is bigger than the government."
Given that danger, Mowry says slowing down or rethinking strategy isn't an option. Though he admits he's as clueless about the future as anyone else, he refuses to let Miami Beach sink.
"You can't take a city and say we're gonna wait until the last minute and then let that city decay its economy," he says. "Would you want to lose a patient on life support just because you were too busy looking for a cure?"
Long before the white sands and the sunbathers, Miami Beach was an overgrown, bug-infested swath of mangroves and swampland.
A little more than 100 years ago, a Midwestern auto pioneer and real-estate developer named Carl Fisher invented the idea of Miami Beach after setting his sights on the uninhabited stretch of land between Biscayne Bay and the ocean. For such a prolific entrepreneur (he created the automobile headlight, the Indian­apolis 500, and America's first transcontinental highway), the swampy ecosystem couldn't stop his grand vision of an island paradise. In 1912, he and his wife bought a Miami vacation home and began acquiring land. They widened the shoreline with millions of cubic yards of white sand dredged from the bottom of Biscayne Bay. The beach, on the east side, was built up into the highest part of the island.
In his 2006 book The Swamp, Michael Grunwald writes about "Crazy Carl," saying that "by 1920 he had remodeled a worthless spit of swampland into a destination resort, but he had also ravaged a formerly pristine habitat for crocodiles, pelicans, shrimp, crabs and fish."
Other developers soon followed, adding a smattering of manmade islets up the west side of Miami Beach, from Star Island and the Venetians to Normandy Isle and Biscayne Point. But Fisher and his followers didn't give much thought to elevation as they carved out their slice of paradise. Most of Miami Beach was built at barely two feet above sea level, making it one of the lowest-lying places in the entire country.
Almost immediately, the winter playground began to flood. On September 18, 1926, the Category 4"Great Miami Hurricane" made landfall over Miami Beach, spewing tides from 10.6 feet on the ocean side to 6.4 feet on the bay side. Miami Beach was inundated.
"If the guy who built Miami Beach could go back and redo it, the whole area should have been four feet higher from the beginning," Mowry says. "But that's 20/20 hindsight now."
During early population booms between the 1930s and the 1960s, the city built a storm drainage system to fight the problem. It used gravity to drain the town from east to west, where the water drains into Biscayne Bay. It mostly worked. And until recently, occasional flooding was called a recurring nuisance.
But over the past two decades, as the floods worsened and climate-change science improved, the facts began to suggest otherwise.
Though there is still wide disagreement on the rate of sea-level rise, it's become indisputable that it's happening. Scientists generally agree that it's caused by a warming planet that's melting the polar icecaps. Global sea level has risen by about eight inches since reliable record-keeping began in 1880. And over the past decade, the average rate of sea-level rise has increased by 6 millimeters per year — from 3 millimeters per year before 2006 to 9 millimeters per year since.
That's already having unique impacts on Miami Beach. A team of University of Miami scientists using data like tidal records, rain gauges, and insurance claims found that since 2006, rain-based floods have increased by 33 percent and tidal flooding by an astounding 400 percent.
Scientists point to Miami Beach's unique features, like its proximity to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and its geography atop porous limestone, as contributing factors. The Gulf Stream creates a "hill" of water in the Atlantic Ocean that's roughly parallel to the shores of the East Coast. But the Gulf Stream has been slowing down, causing the hill to flatten out, which leads to higher sea levels along the Eastern Seaboard.
"We know there are certain processes that are going to make sea-level rise a lot worse here than in other parts of the world," Bolter says. "Gulf streams are slowing down like a traffic jam up the coast."
So just how much are the seas going to rise? The best-case scenario is that ice sheets melt at a relatively stable rate through the end of the century. The doomsday possibility? The melt will keep accelerating ever faster as the Earth warms.
That latter possibility is more than just a slight risk. Last month, science journal Nature published a report finding that oceans could rise by more than six feet by the end of the century. If high levels of greenhouse gas emissions continue, scientists concluded, the melting of ice on Antarctica alone could cause seas to rise more than 49 feet by 2500.
"Big surprises may come in the future," says Dr. Roni Avissar, dean of the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. "We just have to stay open and continue to follow the science."
It's only recently that all this science has become part of the daily conversation in Miami. Greenpeace was perhaps the first group to raise local concern, in July 2001, when activists gathered at Tenth Street and Ocean Drive to warn that rising temperatures could drown the city. In 2006, that message went global thanks to Al Gore's Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth. In 2008, the late Florida International University geoscientist Peter Harlem earned international recognition by using a depth-mapping program called Lidar to show just how much of Miami could sink under water.
Around 2009, Miami Beach began to experience a troubling new phenomenon: Pools of water appeared out of the blue on the west side of the island. The floods didn't come from a storm but rather from below, as if out of nowhere. And that water, scientists discovered, was salty.
"Big surprises may come in the future," says Dr. Roni Avissar, dean of the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. "We just have to stay open and continue to follow the science."
Research showed that the porous limestone below Miami was completely saturated, causing "sunny-day flooding." The gravity that had funneled water off the beach for decades no longer mattered; encroaching seawater simply soaked into the city's foundation, rubbed up against freshwater supplies, bubbled up through pipes and drains, and overwhelmed the streets. In 2012, the city, then under Mayor Matti Bower, crafted a blueprint for overhauling the stormwater system.
Then came Levine, a political newbie, media mogul, and real-estate developer. Levine got his start as an entrepreneur in 1990 when he was working as a port lecturer on cruise ships, telling people where to shop onshore. He turned that into an $85 million business that produced onboard TV advertisements, magazines, and port marketing. Through a merger, he expanded his company, Onboard Media, to create the world's largest duty-free shopping and media firm, with revenues reaching $400 million. In 2000, he sold that company to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
In his $2 million campaign to replace Bower in 2013, Levine blamed the constant flooding and broken streets on poor investments in the city's infrastructure in the face of rising seas. The longtime Clinton donor — and close friend of the ex-president — even snagged an endorsement from his pal Bill.
"Before Philip, the model for sea-level rise was kind of 'Don't freak everyone out,' " says former Miami Beach Commissioner Jonah Wolfson. "Assumptions were always very conservative, as if the problem wasn't really as bad as it was."
Levine changed that entirely. In a memorable campaign ad, Levine and his Boxer pup Earl paddled on a kayak through the streets of South Beach during yet another deluge. "Vote Philip Levine, a businessman and part-time gondolier, for Mayor," the ad chided.
"Like others before him, this mayor talked about flooding and keeping the streets dry, but he was the first to really link it to climate change," says Betsy Wheaton, the city's environment and sustainability director, who's been working for Miami Beach since 2009. "He expanded the conversation."
That message helped Levine win the mayor's office. Then came the hard part: how to actually fix it. "There's no playbook for this," Levine says. "There's no one saying, 'Here, mayor, follow these 20 easy steps and you'll be OK.' I wasn't swept into office; I floated in."
"See those stairs there?" Mowry asks, pointing to the entrance of Publix in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood. "There used to be seven stairs leading up to the front door."
Now, there are just two. That's because throughout Sunset Harbour — a booming area of hip restaurants and bars — the streets have been raised by a full two and a half feet. While Publix still sits above street level, the entrances to neighboring businesses like Purdy Lounge and Pubbelly are now subterranean.
"Elevation is a key aspect of our plan," Mowry says. "We've inherited problems from the past because people were instructed to build low. You're going to start seeing a lot of cultural and architectural changes."
The sidewalks are just part of a never-before-attempted civic plan, which took massive political will, creative financing, and a team of world-class scientists. And while returns are early, Levine insists it's working.
"Sunset Harbour was underwater all the time. People were freaking out and leaving," Levine says. "But look at it now. Look at those streets. These raised streets have become the eighth wonder of the world."
Levine's scheme took shape soon after he took office. Mowry, who had just been hired a month earlier, got right to work. Like Levine, Mowry touts his private-sector background as a boon to getting things done quickly. After earning a PhD in civil engineering from the University of Mississippi in 1982, Mowry worked on water and wastewater projects at a private company in Louisiana. He went on to work on water projects from California to Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Egypt, and China. Although the scope of the problem in Miami Beach was new, his solutions weren't.
"The things we're doing — with pumps and valves and elevation — aren't different," he says. "It's just that we're actually doing them."
Alongside Mowry, Levine rallied Wheaton as well as top Miami engineers like Dwight Kraai and Michael K. Phang. Levine recalls first gathering them all to talk about their plan.
"We had all our chief engineers, everyone around the table, and I said, 'Guys, the days of analysis and paralysis are over. We're not hiring a consultant to hire a consultant. We need a plan to get rid of this water," Levine says.
"I told residents, you have a choice to make," Levine says. "Would you rather keep living in Miami Beach, or would you rather live in Atlantis?"
Wolfson says he vividly remembers how the tone changed after that meeting. The city had been debating a variety of solutions, including new injection wells, but those ideas were quickly scrapped. Instead, the city tackled the plan devised by Mowry and his colleagues.
"Bruce and Philip came in and ramped everything up," Wolfson says. "There were new engineers, new assessments, new committees. We developed a more realistic viewpoint of sea-level rise. And we moved very quick."
The goal was clear: keeping at least some of the most flood-prone areas dry during the looming King Tide — the first big test — in early October 2014.
But first Levine needed to pay for his plan. Levine and commissioners swiftly raised stormwater rates by 84 percent, for a $7 increase per month per household. "I told residents, you have a choice to make. Would you rather keep living in Miami Beach, or would you rather live in Atlantis?" Levine says.
That tax bump secured $90 million worth of bonds to start work in the fall of 2014, when pumps began to go in along Alton Road and in Sunset Harbour under emergency single-bidder resolutions.
When that King Tide came, those streets stayed mostly dry, even as other Beach neighborhoods sank under several inches of water. Since then, 12 new pump stations have been installed along the west side of South Beach, in Sunset Harbour, the Sunset and Venetian islands, and South Pointe. At the same time, streets were raised on West Avenue, 20th Street, Tenth Street, Sixth Street, and all of Sunset Harbour.
Mowry is now finalizing plans for two big pump stations near the Convention Center and others at 19th Street and in Flamingo Park, with simultaneous street raising. And the city is about to embark on a huge new endeavor: raising Indian Creek, from 26th to 41st streets, and improving the seawall. That area was heavily impacted during last year's King Tide, when the water reached a foot higher than predicted, spilling onto the road and causing traffic disasters.
"When Al Gore visited Miami Beach and said he saw fish swimming in the streets on a sunny day, that's the area he's talking about," Mowry says.
That project has been an even bigger political challenge than the rest of the Beach projects. Indian Creek is actually a state highway, not a city road, so Levine and his allies had to fight Tallahassee for approval and funding. The upgrades will be a $25 million partnership between the Florida Department of Transportation and the city, with the goal to stop flooding before this fall's King Tide. During construction, there will be no parking along the road.
Miami Beach isn't necessarily stopping with pumps and raised streets. In September, the city hired its first "Chief Resiliency Officer" to oversee everything from building-code compliance to green spaces to recycling and environmental departments. Susanne Torriente, who had been Fort Lauderdale's assistant city manager before taking the job, says the city can become a national leader in fighting climate change.
"Bruce's work came first, and it was the biggest and most visible," Torriente says. "The resiliency strategy that we're developing now is building upon that."
In a fifth-floor City Hall conference room, the city's Blue Ribbon Panel on Sea Level Rise considers a tricky question: As new buildings and homes — including the city's growing crop of McMansions — are built ever higher to avoid rising seas, what becomes of the older, low-scale constructions more characteristic of historic Miami Beach?
At the head of the panel sits megadeveloper Scott Robbins. Robbins, who is Levine's good friend and partner in several real-estate deals, shared his vision for those older homes: "Well, they are knockdowns," Robbins calmly noted.
Immediately, preservationist Daniel Ciraldo, of the Miami Design Preservation League, shot back, "Not everyone feels that way."
The testy exchange underscores the delicate balance among preservationists, politicians, and developers in a city on the edge of sea-level ruin. Although Levine has been widely lauded for his quick action on flood prevention, he's also been criticized for his close ties to developers and his no-bid contracts. Some environmentalists, meanwhile, question whether the pumps and raised streets are more than a short-term solution. Others say the pumps have filled Biscayne Bay with polluted runoff.
"We're getting world-class attention because we're making efforts a lot sooner than others — but that's out of necessity," says scientist Isaiah Mosley, who lost a campaign for the commission last year. "We have billions of dollars of property on Miami Beach. The cheapest way to solve the problem right now is to build, build, build."
Of the criticisms lobbed at Levine, his ties to developers might be the most consistent. Many point to the history of the Blue Ribbon Panel as evidence. When Levine first convened the group in 2014, it included engineers Kraai and University of Miami engineering Professor Phang. "We were talking about really exciting solutions, and we had found new ground," Kraai says.
"We have billions of dollars of property on Miami Beach. The cheapest way to solve the problem right now is to build, build, build."
But the engineer quickly grew disillusioned. "The atmosphere kind of changed. It seemed like the panel existed just to monitor the public-works projects that were being implemented. No one wanted to talk about the long-term impacts of sea-level rise," he says. "I think Levine decided he didn't want to be mayor of Venice, but he is."
Some environmentalists questioned Robbins' leadership, especially after he told Audubon magazine in 2014 that developers had no cause to fear climate change. "Right now, Miami is going through one of the hottest real-estate booms ever in its history," he said. "People are investing enormous sums of money, and many of them really aren't worried about sea-level rise."
Those critics had more ammunition when Levine disbanded the panel, then rebuilt it — but without the two scientists. In their place came Wynn Bradley, an architect who does not live in Miami Beach, and Michael DeFilippi, a luxury-real-estate agent who focuses on trash and litter issues. Robbins returned as chairman.
"Although the administration makes jokes about Governor Scott being a climate-change denier, it seems that this group has a different type of denial going on," Ciraldo says, "one that denies the impact that climate change will have on the ability for new development."
The panel has little real power. But its composition amplifies other concerns about Levine's ties to developers. During last year's reelection campaign, Levine's opponent, David Wieder, noted a potentially shady side to Levine's acclaimed work in Sunset Harbour: The mayor owns millions of dollars' worth of property there, as does Robbins.
Wolfson, then a commissioner, says he understands why people would be suspicious. "Sunset Harbour needed pumps; however, Sunset Harbour also got the streets raised, and no other area in the city got that," Wolfson says. "There is an obvious interest there; they own a lot of property together. Is it a conflict? Maybe. It clearly raises property values there."
Levine pushes back against those criticisms, though. He says the city raised streets and installed pumps in Sunset Harbour first for one reason: It's the lowest-lying part of the city. "When you look at the topography, that's the topography," he says. "What could we do?"
As for Robbins' role in the city's plans, he says the developer has taken on the volunteer job at considerable time and expense — and no business advantage. "He has the expertise and the passion for fixing this city," Levine says. "It's like with me: This is the most expensive job I've ever had in my life. I've lost more money being mayor than I could ever make back."
Within City Hall, others have raised questions about the speed with which Levine attacked his sea-level-rise plans. To build pump stations and raise streets so quickly, the city waived normal bidding processes. "We did it like an emergency measure," Levine says. "We did it like it was World War II and we'd just been attacked at Pearl Harbor."
Rosen Gonzalez says there's a big risk in that approach. So far, four companies have managed all the city's sea-level-rise projects: Bergeron, Lanzo, Mancini Brothers, and Ricman. "When we do bid things out, we are getting one bidder," Rosen Gonzalez says. "I think people are discouraged. Why should they try if only Lanzo or Mancini Brothers are going to get contracts?"
Levine says that a single-bid process was the only way to cut through red tape and that he's held the companies responsible. "Some of these things had to be done fast and furious," he says. "We've made them sharpen their pencils. Going forward, we're trying to get more and more contractors in this so we can really bid it out more."
"We did it like an emergency measure," Levine says. "We did it like it was World War II and we'd just been attacked at Pearl Harbor."
On the environmental front, the Beach's massive effort has also raised some concerns. Soon after the pumps kicked into gear last year — spewing out more than 7,000 gallons of water per minute — some residents noted dirty plumes of rainwater and debris shooting into the bay. Videos showed up on YouTube exposing the mess. Last summer, Mosley decided to check it out for himself. With a snorkel, fins, and underwater camera in tow, he jumped into Biscayne Bay near the Tenth Street pump and found a disgusting mess.
"It was horrible," Mosley told New Times last August. "It tasted like petroleum and gasoline. It was foul, and some of it even made it into my nose. I was so grossed out, I don't even want to think about it."
Mowry says the pump systems have been built to filter out most pollutants. But he admits it's an issue that still needs to be addressed. "Storm drains are the sewers of a city," he says. "They take all the runoff; everything left by all the people who come here ends up in storm drains."
Urban designer and coastal resilience expert Walter Meyer, who runs the New York-based company Local Office Landscape, says there are other ways the city could clean that water. Though state and federal permits would be required to build into the bay, a new habitat with oysters, grasses, corals, and mangroves just off the pump evacuation point could filter some of the toxicity.
But there's an even bigger-picture environmental question as well: Will the pumps and raised streets even help if the worst sea-level-rise projections hold true? Levine admits he can't answer that question.
"We believe what we're doing, this $400 million plan, could be a 30- or 40-year solution, depending on projections," he says. After that? He trusts that the inventors of tomorrow will come up with another plan.
"I know that human innovation is so incredible," he says. "If I told you 30 years ago that an iPhone could Facetime with a friend in Europe right now in real time, you'd think I was out of my mind. The opportunity for entrepreneurs is unlimited. They'll come up with solutions we can't even think of today. Deep-water injection pumps below the aquifer? Who the hell knows?"
The key, he says, is fending off the water until then. "We don't want people to get tired out or lose interest or lose confidence," he says. "Once you lose confidence, try getting it back."
As Miami Beach prepares for the future of sea-level rise, it may just be time to look to the past, before the days of Crazy Carl, when Miami Beach was still an actual swamp. As efforts mount to find ever-more-creative ways to force water off the land, some visionaries say it's time to invite it back in.
Developer Isaac Stein, a UM alumnus currently working in New York City, has proposed one of the most creative solutions yet to save South Beach: a mix of urban mangrove forest, buildings on stilts, and citywide canals that would turn Miami Beach into a pedestrian-friendly, water-borne city — a mix of the Everglades and Venice.
"Just look at Venice or many Dutch cities," he says. "Bringing in water and inviting it to be part of the city can really add quality and value. It can make the city better."
On the Bay side, Stein envisions returning Miami Beach to its early glory, notably by restoring mangroves, which were once plentiful there. "Mangroves create a subdued storm surge," he says. In some residential areas, six feet of fill could be cut to form an ecological canal and "raise the grade" of residences on these streets. At the heart of his vision: fewer cars and more public transportation options.
Stein's plans might be extreme, but so is the threat facing Miami Beach. Whether Levine's plans end up as a visionary solution to sea-level rise or a short-term Band-Aid, nearly everyone agrees that outsized ideas like Stein's are going to be key to Miami Beach's long-term future.
The city itself is trying to start that move, through Torriente's job as chief resiliency officer. Torriente says she plans to replenish oceanside dunes, heighten existing seawalls, and create new urban green spaces that will absorb water and carbon dioxide. Flood regulations could change for new buildings, and so could building heights.
"Thinking about 2100 is overwhelming," Torriente says. "But if you think about the things we can do now, it's a manageable challenge and an opportunity. The next person in my job is going to have to keep building upon this over time."
Plenty of long-term thinkers say there's only one real solution to Miami Beach's mess: a mass migration to higher land. But Torriente says there's newfound optimism and energy in the city — an opportunity for Miami Beach to become a world leader.
"This is an opportunity to be creative, to innovate," Torriente says. "I don't think anything's off the table. Even a far-out idea can give you a spark of something that could be implemented easily."
Although Torriente isn't backing any plans as extreme as Stein's, she too envisions mangroves, new dunes, solar panels, and a more efficient building stock as part of the solution.
For now, Mowry's not slowing down on the current project. Ten new pump stations are under construction, and three additional projects will break ground in the next six months. In total, the city will get 60 to 80 pump stations over the next few years. Meanwhile, streets on Palm and Hibiscus are being raised, as are streets in Bayshore South and Flamingo Park. Eventually, 30 percent of all roads on the Beach will be elevated.
The work may not be perfect — or even a long-term solution at all — but Mowry says there are few other options.
"Mother Nature's gonna win, and sea-level rise is coming," he says. "But failure is not an option. Retreat is unacceptable. When people say we should leave Miami Beach, I ask them if they would like me to buy them a ticket to leave town. We need positive thinkers who believe there are solutions and are ready to try them."

Too much development
Naples Daily News - Letter to the Editor by Ann Thomas, Naples, FL
April 19, 2016
I am writing regarding a guest commentary by Rob Moher of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida that I hope readers will read and take notice.
It's regarding the proposed Eastern Collier Habitat Conservation Plan as described in this commentary.
The over-development of Collier County is one of my pet peeves. A ride to Marco Island brings into view the three high-rise condo buildings in the middle of the greenery of the Ten Thousand Islands and Everglades background.
The loss of habitat for the wildlife in this area is distressing.
Mark Strain is the chairman of the Collier County Planning Commission. He should be inundated with mail asking that the proposed Habitat Conservation Plan mentioned above be reviewed carefully and analyzed by experts not hired by the people who expect to profit from such a plan.


Big Sugar

Big Sugar has high environmental cost
Tallahassee Democrat – by Gene Walton, retired Naval aerospace physiologist and a retired biology professor
April 18, 2016
In his “My View” column, Ryan Weston praises Florida sugar cane farmers for their “important role” in Florida’s economy. He nicely propagandizes for his employer, the Florida Sugar Cane League, but this is a complex story with many significant downsides.
Maybe Mr. Weston’s telling us that Big Sugar (not his words) has an economic impact of $3.2 billion and supports 12,500 jobs would impress you, but me not so much. Florida’s 2014 Gross Domestic Product was about $770 billion. Big Sugar’s 0.4 percent of that seems nice, but borderline trivial. Big Sugar’s jobs are extremely important to its employees’ families and a couple of South Florida counties, but they make for only 0.1 percent of Florida’s total employment.
Big Sugar relies on federal subsidies to unsuccessfully pretend its product is competitive with imported sugar. National Review, a magazine often to the right of “extremely conservative” recently hammered that subsidy mess harder than Thor would have assaulted a monster. Noted debater and soon-to-be-ex-Sen. Rubio routinely defends Big Sugar’s subsidy, but I’m with National Review on this one.
Big Sugar extracts its elixir from cane grown in the Everglades Agricultural Area, 700,000 acres mostly south of Lake Okeechobee. The mucky soil there accumulated over millennia, and became exploitable only after massive ditching, diking, draining and pumping. Barely imaginable environmental damage resulted.
I’ll toss out a couple of lowlights.
Muck oxidizes away when exposed to the atmosphere, something like oxygen rusting away iron. Florida researchers tell us that the EAA muck’s surface is now, on average, seven feet lower than it was 100 or so years ago. This oxidation has also added about 550 million tons of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere. No space for details here, but some of you will see how Big Sugar is expediting the EAA’s drowning under salt water.
The environmental destruction of the Indian River Lagoon, the Caloosahatchee Estuary and Florida Bay are not yet big stories in Tallahassee, but they certainly are down south. These, again, are complex situations with multiple culprits, Big Sugar included. I suspect that bigger still will be the coming story of Big Sugar’s contributions to the ecological collapse of the Florida Keys’ aquatic ecosystems.
Yes, I know that the EAA muck is not suitable for all crops, and I would be more forgiving if this story involved Big Oats, Big Edamame, Big Tofu or even Big Bang for the Buckwheat. But sugar? Come on, y’all. I just heard a rumor that the next edition of Roget’s Thesaurus lists “sugar” as a synonym for “toxin.”


FPL cites progress at Turkey Point, will draw water from aquifer
Palm Beach Post - by Susan Salisbury, Staff Writer
April 18, 2016
Citing progress in solving water quality problems at its Turkey Point Nuclear Plant, Florida Power & Light Co. said Monday it plans to begin drawing up to 14 million gallons of water a day from the Floridan Aquifer this summer.
In late March, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved FPL’s request to draw water from four new wells it will drill. That means it won’t need to pump storm water runoff from the L-31E canal as it did in 2015, FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said.
“We have been taking aggressive action to address the cooling canal system’s water quality challenges, and we are seeing significant progress,” Randy LaBauve, FPL Vice President of Environmental Services, said in a statement. “We have been clear that it will take several years to fully resolve the canal system’s complex challenges — and that continues to be true — but the improvements we’re seeing are important steps forward.”
The wells are the company’s long-term solution to address salinity in canals and groundwater, and that initiative is now moving forward, Robbins said. The wells will average of 1,250 feet deep. Two will be operational this summer and two by the end of the year.
The Floridan Aquifer contains saltier water and sits beneath the less-salty Biscayne Aquifer, which is the source of drinking water for 3 million South Floridians. From Aug. 27 through Nov. 30, 2015, FPL drew an average of 30 million gallons a day from the L-31E Canal.
FPL’s plant about 25 miles south of Miami on the shores of Biscayne Bay is the nation’s only power plant between two national parks — Everglades and Biscayne — and is the only plant with an extensive 168-mile earthen cooling canal system.
In 2014 the cooling canals were plagued with algae blooms and hypersalinity that FPL officials said were due to hot weather and a severe drought.
Last month, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Tropical Audubon Society said they plan to file a lawsuit against FPL. Since 2010, the plant’s cooling canals have been linked to higher phosphorus and ammonia levels in Biscayne Bay and groundwater directly connected to the Biscayne Aquifer.
“We have not seen FPL’s new data in order to evaluate it in the context of the serious pollution issues impacting Biscayne Bay National Park as well as nearby surface water and ground water. We welcome proactive, constructive actions that will reduce these releases and the ongoing spread of the contamination,” SACE said in a statement Monday. “We have serious concerns about past practices that added more water to the porous canal system, which in turn moves more contamination to the Bay and surrounding ground and surface water.”
SACE said it will evaluate new data closely before deciding whether to move forward with its proposed lawsuit.



The Everglades: Environment and Economics - by Tom Hudson
April 17, 2016
The mix of organizations and agencies involved in the Everglades is about as complex as the ecosystem itself: the South Florida Water Management District, the National Parks Service, Fish and Wildlife, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, the federal departments of transportation, justice and agriculture and the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes are just some of them.
From the headwaters of the Everglades south to Florida Bay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) -- a 30-plus year project. It’s now 15 years old and has doubled from its original cost, according to an update this month from the Corps to Congress. It’s a massive ecosystem restoration project in which the Corps’ doesn't conduct its usual financial cost-benefit analysis. It's judged on its environmental benefits.
"It is the highest-percentage-supported aquatic ecosystem restoration project in our nation," said Col. Jason Kirk, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District. "About 30 percent of the nation’s aquatic ecosystem restoration goes toward the Everglades. That’s higher than any other project."
That's just half of the dollars directed at fixing the Everglades. The state of Florida is responsible for the other half. The goal of the CERP is to capture and redirect the fresh water that now is let out of the east and west sides of Lake Okeechobee. That water is blamed for ecological disasters along coast estuaries. Meantime, not enough fresh water at the southern end of the Everglades is blamed for dying seagrass on the bottom of Florida Bay.
Hoover Dike
Separate from the Everglades restoration is $700 million being spent on rehabilitating the Hoover Dike. The earthen dam has been holding back the waters of Lake Okeechobee since the early 1930s. The lake is the source of water for the high-value farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area. It’s also the historic source of water for the Everglades ecosystem -- water that now finds its way to the east and west coasts of Florida. When the lake level rises like it did in December and January, a lot more of that water finds its way out of the lake a lot faster and a lot dirtier, hurting the rivers, wildlife, and tourism businesses.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the lake level and for the bowl of dirt, rocks and shells making up the Hoover Dike that holds its water in.
Is the dike safer today ?
"Every element of construction helps, but because we still have gaps, the short answer is no; we’re not much safer today than we were a year ago. But every element does help get us towards that," Kirk said.
He said the Corps is finishing another study along the perimeter of the dike. He anticipates that this study will call for another $700 million investment in addition to the current rehabilitation spending. 
The lake has been managed at a lower level since the Corps undertook a national removal of its levee system after Hurricane Katrina. However, Kirk would not commit on whether  the fixes to the dike, once complete, would have the Corps return the lake level to its higher capacity. "It is possible that it could hold more water, but that is not necessarily going to be the outcome."
Everglades Restoration
WLRN's Sunshine Economy spoke with Kirk about the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer's responsibility regarding Everglades restoration.
Q: What is the Corps’ highest priority when it comes to its responsibilities regarding the Everglades?
A: Regarding the Everglades, [it is] aquatic ecosystem restoration. The principal efforts back in the 1948 Central and South Florida Project were fundamentally about flood risk management. That was the No. 1 driver of the 1948 effort. Now, with the 2000 and beyond effort, the primary effort is restoration. It’s important to note that there’s also the imperative to maintain the water supply commitments and maintain the flood risk management benefits of the system while restoring the system. When we talk about this restoration, we say we’re trying to get the water right. Getting the water right is about quality, quantity, timing and distribution. How much of it? How clean is it? When does it move? And where does it move? Those are all the elements that are being attended to in this restoration effort.
Q: How does the Corps balance all the stakeholders in this effort? Public safety and the Hoover Dike [around the waters of Lake Okeechobee]? Recreation and fishing? Environmental aspects? Real estate protection with flood control? And of course the agriculture industry?
A: It starts with the fundamental premise that this is a restoration effort. We’re looking at the benefits gained in our flexibility with water distribution, improvements to water quality. And that’s in multiple directions. Right now, the system does not allow us to move as much water south as we envision in the ultimate plan. So we move water in great quantities both east and west when it’s burdening Lake Okeechobee. We do not have as many options.
The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is not in the business of buying land for reservoirs, is it?
A: The state of Florida has the responsibility to acquire the lands that then become part of the Everglades restoration.
Q: The five-year report card on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project acknowledged that the costs continue rising. In 2000, the total cost of the plan was just over $8 billion. Now it’s about twice that. What is that return on investment for South Florida? 
A: What are the benefits? The improved health of Lake Okeechobee. The water in Lake Okeechobee and the water going out of Lake Okeechobee will have less of a nutrient load. Therefore the freshwater releases to the estuaries will be decreased and the water that goes out will be cleaner. The water to Florida and Biscayne bays will be cleaner. The increased water that will get to Florida and Biscayne bays has a value in helping address sea level rise. Part of the manifestation of sea level rise is the salt water intrusion can creep further in subsurface and surface water.
The policy that guides us in an ecosystem restoration project is a little bit different compared to a navigation project such as dredging Port Everglades. The aquatic ecosystem restoration benefits only need to equal the cost as we amortize the economic benefits.​



Q&A with U.S. Army Corps’ Col. Jason Kirk: ‘We’re trying to get the water right’
Miami Herald –– by Tom Hudson,

- Col. Jason Kirk oversees the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Everglades restoration work
- WLRN’s Sunshine Economy spoke with Col. Kirk about the Corps’ Everglades work and responsibilities
- In President Barack Obama’s 2016-2017 budget request, about 30 percent of the nation’s aquatic ecosystem restoration goes toward the Everglades

Aprli 16, 2016
From the headwaters of the Everglades south to Florida Bay, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead federal agency on restoring the Everglades. It’s a project 15 years old with a rising price tag. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project was approved in 2000 with an estimated cost of $8.2 billion. Halfway through, its 30-year time line and the cost have doubled according to the latest update from the Corps to Congress. That’s significantly different than a navigation project, such as dredging a port, where the Corps looks to create more economic value by its spending to change the environment.
Col. Jason Kirk oversees the Corps’ Everglades restoration work. He took command of the Jacksonville District amid a drought in July 2015. Just five months later, record rainfall forced the Corps to increase discharges from Lake Okeechobee, sending billions of gallons of dirty water to Florida’s east and west coasts. In the meantime, environmental groups such as the Everglades Foundation worry that last summer’s seagrass die-off in Florida Bay is growing due to the lack of fresh water at the bottom of the Everglades.
WLRN’s Sunshine Economy spoke with Kirk about the Corps’ Everglades work and responsibilities. Here are excerpts from the interview:
Q: Describe the Corps’ Everglades responsibility.
A: The Army Corps of Engineers, specific to the Everglades, has been engaged for many years. In 2000, the federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, entered into the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project. Everglades restoration remains a federal priority. It is the highest-percentage-supported aquatic ecosystem restoration project in our nation.
Q: When you say the highest-supported, do you mean the highest financially supported?
A: That’s right. In President [Barack] Obama’s 2016-2017 budget request, about 30 percent of the nation’s aquatic ecosystem restoration goes toward the Everglades. That’s higher than any other project.
Q: What is the Corps’ highest priority when it comes to its responsibilities regarding the Everglades?
A: Regarding the Everglades, [it is] aquatic ecosystem restoration. The principal efforts back in the 1948 Central and South Florida Project were fundamentally about flood risk management. That was the No. 1 driver of the 1948 effort. Now, with the 2000 and beyond effort, the primary effort is restoration. It’s important to note that there’s also the imperative to maintain the water supply commitments and
maintain the flood risk management benefits of the system while restoring the system. When we talk about this restoration, we say we’re trying to get the water right. Getting the water right is about quality, quantity, timing and distribution. How much of it? How clean is it? When does it move? And where does it move? Those are all the elements that are being attended to in this restoration effort.
Q: How does the Corps balance all the stakeholders in this effort? Public safety and the Hoover Dike [around the waters of Lake Okeechobee]? Recreation and fishing? Environmental aspects? Real estate protection with flood control? And of course the agriculture industry?
A: It starts with the fundamental premise that this is a restoration effort. We’re looking at the benefits gained in our flexibility with water distribution, improvements to water quality. And that’s in multiple directions. Right now, the system does not allow us to move as much water south as we envision in the ultimate plan. So we move water in great quantities both east and west when it’s burdening Lake Okeechobee. We do not have as many options.
Q: The Hoover Dike is undergoing a rehabilitation program. Is the dike safer today in advance of another wet season than it was a year ago?
A: Every element of construction helps, but because we still have gaps, the short answer is no, we’re not much safer today than we were a year ago. But every element does help get us towards that. We have worked on and are almost complete with a dam safety modification study. It will help give the answers to what specific things need to be done along the perimeter of the dike again. We’re looking at an additional investment of about $700 million dollars. This is on top of the $700 million that’s already been extended. It will allow us then to operate the lake with less risk.
Q: Would it allow the Corps, which is responsible for setting the lake level, to set a lake level that is higher than it is set at today?
A: Completing the study and the work directed in the study will allow us to evaluate the lake [level] schedule. We will revisit the Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule that was drafted in a very public process in 2008.
Q: So it’s possible it could hold more water than it does today?
A: It is possible that it could hold more water, but that is not necessarily going to be the outcome.
Q: As you’ve mentioned, it’s very difficult to move that water south when there is an historic rainfall such as in December and January. The fastest way to reduce the lake level is to the east and the west, and we’ve seen the environmental damage those fast releases have done in those watershed areas. The issue is the ability to store water. Storing water also allows the potential of cleaning the water. What’s the feasibility of an aquifer storage program instead of reservoirs?
A: We spend a lot of time studying that. This was a prominent feature in the original study in the 2000 effort. It certainly won’t solve the storage effort by itself. We think that it’s about two-thirds [less] capacity of what was originally envisioned. We need other options.
Q: Those other options are going to be reservoirs. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is not in the business of buying land for reservoirs, is it?
A: The state of Florida has the responsibility to acquire the lands that then become part of the Everglades restoration.
Q: The five-year report card on the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project acknowledged that the costs continue rising. In 2000, the total cost of the plan was just over $8 billion. Now it’s about twice that. What is that return on investment for South Florida?
A: What are the benefits ?  The improved health of Lake Okeechobee. The water in Lake Okeechobee and the water going out of Lake Okeechobee will have less of a nutrient load. Therefore the freshwater releases to the estuaries will be decreased and the water that goes out will be cleaner. The water to Florida and Biscayne bays will be cleaner. The increased water that will get to Florida and Biscayne bays has a value in helping address sea level rise. Part of the manifestation of sea level rise is the salt water intrusion can creep further in subsurface and surface water.
The policy that guides us in an ecosystem restoration project is a little bit different compared to a navigation project such as dredging Port Everglades. The aquatic ecosystem restoration benefits only need to equal the cost as we amortize the economic benefits.

Sugarcane farmers play important role in Florida’s economy
Tallahassee Democrat – My View by Ryan Weston
April 16, 2016
While Florida remains a global tourism destination and has benefited from foreign investment, its farming industry still serves as the backbone of its economy by providing thousands of jobs in every corner of the state.
In South Florida, a good portion of the farmers are growing sugarcane, which has been a staple of Florida’s farming success for generations. Florida’s sugarcane industry has an estimated $3.2 billion impact on the state’s economy and supports 12,500 jobs.
For all of the economic stability sugarcane farming has brought South Florida, sugarcane farmers have unfortunately been the scapegoat for some of Florida’s problems in the eyes of environmental activists, despite the industry’s economic and environmental successes. One of the most common – and untrue – criticisms is that Florida’s sugarcane farmers receive direct subsidy checks from the federal government. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that domestic sugar policy will have no taxpayer cost through 2026.
Considering the lack of subsidies for domestic farmers, the price of American sugar remains a bargain when compared to what is being sold by our foreign competitors. The retail price of sugar is less in the U.S. than most developed countries – 29 percent less on average. Mexican sugar is actually the same price or higher than U.S. sugar.
Instead of denigrating hard-working Florida farmers, the so-called “defenders of the environment” should be praising them for the undeniable progress they are making in cleaning up the Everglades Agricultural Area. Unlike some farmers around America, EAA farmers are required to meet stringent federal requirements for reducing phosphorous and 100 percent of the innovative farming equipment they use is paid for with private dollars.
Using best management practices that were researched and developed in conjunction with scientists at the University of Florida and the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, last year, EAA farmers achieved a historic 79 percent annual reduction. To date, 90 percent of the water in Everglades National Park is meeting or exceeding the federal standard of 10 parts per billion.
On top of the investment sugarcane growers put into their operations, they are also assessed an agricultural privilege tax at $25 per acre. Over time, this tax raised more than $200 million for restoration in addition to the more than $200 million more for performing our on-farm water clean-up efforts. Combined, this $400 million is more than any other private group or industry.
It’s easy to point the finger at “Big Sugar,” but the industry helps put food on the table for thousands of Florida families. Without it, South Florida would be missing out on thousands of good paying jobs and our nation would likely have to rely increasingly on sugar from foreign countries.
When you tune out the heated rhetoric from environmentalists and look at the facts, their arguments just don’t add up. Our farmers are doing more with less and achieving significant, measurable results.


U.S. Sugar’s advertisements deceive while its pollution destroys – Letter by Jim Weix, Palm City, FL
April 16, 2016
U.S. Sugar is spending a lot of money running ads in Treasure Coast Newspapers, explaining "the facts about U.S. Sugar and Lake Okeechobee water." Conveniently, U.S. Sugar doesn't give us the real facts.
The ad features a map that shows us graphically that 95 percent of the water flowing into Lake Okeechobee comes from the Kissimmee Basin, which is north of the lake.
What it doesn't show is where the water goes after it gets to Lake Okeechobee.
It also doesn't show where the water should go.
In reality, the water should flow south from Lake Okeechobee, into the Everglades. Instead, it is impounded in Lake Okeechobee so that U.S. Sugar has its very own taxpayer-supported irrigation and flood control system.
By the corporation's own admission, it uses use "billions of gallons ... to irrigate our sugar cane When the retained water gets too high, it is unceremoniously dumped into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. These massive water dumps affect tens of thousands of people and destroy our rivers.
U.S. Sugar lays the blame for this on the South Florida Water Management District, which is partly true. What it doesn't mention is that this whole disastrous situation is the result of U.S. Sugar contributing heavily to the political campaigns of those corrupt politicians who make this situation possible.
If U.S. Sugar really wants to "protect Glades-area communities, businesses, hospitals, schools and farms from catastrophic flooding," it should devise a plan and donate or sell the land needed to restore the water flow to the south.


Sea rising

El Niño weakens, here comes La Niña
Associated Press -
April 15, 2016
WASHINGTON -- Following an epic El Niño, federal meteorologists say its flip side, La Niña, is around the corner.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center on Thursday reported that the current strong El Niño is weakening but likely to stick around a couple more months. At the same time, NOAA issued a formal watch for a fall arrival of La Niña, saying there is a 70 percent chance for the flip side of El Niño.
Prediction center deputy director Mike Halpert said it often means dry weather for the U.S. Southwest and parts of California, which haven't quite recovered from a four-year drought.
"A dry winter next year won't be good, I can assure you of that," Halpert said.
What may be truly confusing is this summer's Atlantic hurricane season, Halpert said. At the start of the summer, Earth may still be in the tail end of an El Niño, which often reduces the number of Atlantic hurricanes. But by the time the hurricane season hits its fall peak, it should be a La Niña, which tends to increase the number of storms.
La Niña often means wetter winters in the Pacific Northwest and Ohio Valley and drier in the south, especially Florida, Halpert said. It often means fewer East Coast snowstorms, but a bit colder weather, especially in the Northern Plains, with the Northeast more a wild card, he said.
El Niño is the natural warming of parts of the Pacific that alters weather worldwide that occurs every several years and last nearly a year. La Niña, with cooler Pacific waters, lasts a bit longer.
La Niña "largely is kind of a reverse of what we see" in El Niño, Halpert said. "Brazil should be wet instead of dry. South Africa should be wet instead of dry."
El Niño, La Niña and a neutral condition, neither warm nor cool, together make up what's called the El Niño Southern Oscillation. But don't expect neutral for long. Halpert said computer models are unanimous that the world will zip past neutral and directly into the cooler La Niña.
This El Niño, which started a year ago, has been one of the strongest on record. At this point, readings indicate it is of moderate strength, but the pool of warm water is pretty thin and it could change fairly rapidly, Halpert said.
Six out of the last 10 moderate or strong El Niños since 1950 have been followed quickly by a La Niña, according to calculations made earlier this year by Tony Barnston at Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society.


Eradicating invasive species one sushi roll at a time
NY Times – by Florence Fabricant
April 15, 2016
MIAMI BEACH — Plenty of chefs have burns on their forearms, but Bun Lai’s battle scars did not come from hot oven racks. His were a result of an inadvertent brush with fire coral while scuba diving for ingredients off the Florida coast.
The payoff was a tub filled with pointy little whelks, mottled periwinkles, a few bright orange crabs and some chitons — oval mollusks that look like fossils with shells of interlocking plates. These would go on the menu at Prey, the pop-up restaurant he has been running for the last two months on the rooftop of the 1 Hotel South Beach here in Miami Beach.
Mr. Lai, 46, is a chef with a mission: Create sustainable menus that make good use of ingredients usually discarded or ignored, and, when possible, to exploit destructive invasive species like lionfish, Asian carp, Chesapeake Bay blue catfish, wild Everglades seaweeds and feral pigs. It’s a concept he honed at his home base, Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Conn.
Naming the restaurant Prey is a purposeful double entendre. At a dinner last month, Mr. Lai served small bowls filled with citrus broth and those whelks, periwinkles and chitons tucked into a tangle of seaweed invasive to the Everglades. Alongside he poured sake infused with white pine needles, at once tart and sweet.
He tucked knots of pickled mugwort into sushi and shingled other ovals of rice with raw antelope, invasive to Texas. With his sous-chef, Luis Alamos, Mr. Lai layered fried blue catfish into sushi rolls, fanned slivers of raw lionfish on plates and slathered the moist flesh clinging to cartilaginous Asian carp ribs from Kentucky with a guava-based barbecue sauce. He used vegan cashew “cheese,” plantains, wild grape leaves and garlic mustard. His menu also includes wild, non-invasive fish like Pacific salmon and sustainable line-caught albacore tuna.
NYT FoodCulinary TravelFollow On
The South Beach project came about, thanks to James Sternlicht, a son of Barry Sternlicht, the chairman of Starwood Capital Group, which owns the hotel. (The group is not connected to Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which has been in the news lately.) James Sternlicht became a regular at Miya’s Sushi when he was a student at Choate Rosemary Hall, near New Haven, and finally persuaded his father to try the restaurant. “I had an amazing dinner there last year,” Barry Sternlicht said. Mr. Lai “served me stuff I’d never order, and it was all delicious,” he said, adding, “He lives and breathes sustainability.”
Mr. Lai was born in Hong Kong and moved to Japan and then to New Haven as a young child when his father, a doctor, had an opportunity to do research at Yale. Mr. Lai’s mother, who is Japanese, started the restaurant in New Haven.
Mr. Lai thought about becoming a wrestler or an artist, then began helping his mother in the restaurant. “I always painted, and cooking was just a change of medium,” he said.
At one point he tried to find work in other sushi bars, but well-trained Japanese chefs would not give him a chance, he said.
So he kept working in the family restaurant. Eventually, his family acquired a 10-acre farm in Woodbridge, Conn., to grow ingredients, leaving some of the acreage untilled to permit wild herbs to flourish. He also leased an area of Long Island Sound so he could forage undersea. His sister and brother now work at Miya’s Sushi, too.
At first, Barry Sternlicht tried to work things out to bring Mr. Lai’s restaurant to the 1 Hotel in Miami Beach in time for Art Basel, but that was not possible. So the opening coincided with the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. It had to be a pop-up on the roof since Tom Colicchio’s Beachcraft already occupied the hotel’s restaurant space.
The downside of the open-air location is that it can only operate in good weather. Mr. Sternlicht is hoping to make Prey a fixture. As it is, it will remain open until April 30.


Florida's environment is showing warning signs - by Ron Littlepage
April 15, 2016
Florida’s precious environment is under assault, yet there is mostly silence when there should be clanging warning bells.
In the Panhandle, two rivers — the Flint and the Chattahoochee — merge when they cross into Florida from Georgia to form the Apalachicola River.
The Apalachicola empties into Apalachicola Bay when it reaches the Gulf Coast, creating a world-class fishery famous for its oysters, or at least it once was.
Last week, the national environmental group American Rivers named the Apalachicola-Chattachoochee-Flint River Basin the most endangered in the country in its annual ratings of the country’s rivers.
The culprit is Georgia and Atlanta, which are taking too much water from the basin to meet the demands of out-of-control growth there.
That has deprived the bay of the freshwater it needs to sustain a healthy estuary there. Without it, the bay is on the verge of collapse.
This is not new. The battle over the water among Florida, Georgia and Alabama, which also draws water from the basin, has gone on for decades.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the spigot, has mostly watched as the bay has declined.
The fight is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the bay that has sustained people for centuries is in danger.
In South Florida, hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee have been dumped into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers because of fears the lake’s weakened dike will be overwhelmed by heavier than usual rains.
That dirty water has flowed into the normally clear, azure Gulf of Mexico around vacation hot spots like Sanibel Island, killing sea life, staining beaches and turning off tourists.
The same thing has occurred where the St. Lucie reaches the Atlantic Coast.
While Lake Okeechobee gets most of the attention and blame, septic tanks, in use even in many well-to-do neighborhoods, are also adding damaging nutrients to the waterways.
To the north of there, the Indian River Lagoon has been hit by a fish kill recently.
Called the brown tide, the algae has sucked oxygen out of the lagoon that fish need to survive, and large areas of critical sea grass beds have been smothered.
Although happening at the same time, the devastation in the Indian River Lagoon has nothing to do with Lake Okeechobee releases.
Too many septic tanks and storm water runoff carrying fertilizers and pesticides are damaging the lagoon, once one of the most diverse estuaries in the country.
As with Apalachicola Bay, the problems with the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, and the Indian River Lagoon are not new, yet they persist.
In our own neighborhood, the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River is facing dangers of its own, from the proposed deep dredge of the river’s shipping channel to siphoning millions of gallons of water from the river daily to water lawns in Central Florida to polluted storm water runoff that flows from our streets and lawns into the river and its tributaries.
And our awesome springs are under stress from pollution and reduced flows, and in some cases are already dead.
Obviously, we have crammed too many people onto this fragile peninsula and in the process messed up the natural plumbing system, clearly illustrated by what has happened to the Everglades.
Add to that the denial of sea-level rise and climate change, and Florida’s future is bleak.
Some of the things we have done to this land are beyond repair, but improvements can be made to reclaim part of what Florida once was.
That will take action, not hand wringing, and leadership, which is currently lacking in Tallahassee.
One day it will be too late.


‘Colored’ beaches, pollution, storm surge make urgent news
Westside Gazette - by Audrey Peterman
April 14, 2016
In an eerie example of events building to some kind of crescendo, the historic “colored beach” in Fort Lauderdale and in Miami are simultaneously back in the news. Both are on barrier islands which must have been considered noxious throw-aways in the Jim Crow era, worthy of being given for the Negroes’ use. Ironically we now know that barrier islands are of vital importance to protect coastlines from the effects of storm surge.
Under a bill proposed by State Senator Chris Smith and State Rep Evan Jenne, the “Colored Beach” at John U. Lloyd  State Park will be renamed for the Black pioneers who integrated the beaches at the risk of life and limb. Gov. Scott signed the bill renaming the Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park that takes effect July 1.
  Sanibel sea pollution
But  I felt as if I’d fallen into the abyss when I read last week that Miami Dade County is drilling a 10,000-foot deep well on Virginia Key to pump sewage underground for storage. TO SAVE MONEY!! It doesn’t take more than average intelligence to sense that this is a dangerous gamble that will exacerbate our dangerous water situation.
To be clear, Gov. Scott recently signed a bill relaxing permitting laws and allowing polluters to determine the level of pesticides they can use on their land, putting them on the “honor system.” Immediately after that the skies opened up as if weeping at our folly. Three times the usual amount of rain we’d get in the season descended on South Florida. To control the resultant flooding, the South Florida Water Management District pumped water off the agricultural lands into Lake Okeechobee, and out to the St. Lucie and Calahoosahatchee Estuaries.
Fouled water, massive fish kills, and a hugely negative impact on the tourism industry spurred an immediate backlash from businesses and citizens. Suddenly Governor Scott began touting new support for restoring the Everglades, a sure fire way to gain brownie points from City Hall to Congress.
Simultaneously, we learned that the Turkey Point Nuclear Plant in Biscayne Bay is leaking dangerously polluted water into the Bay, with impacts still unknown. When radioactive material 200 times the accept-able level is found in our water, it’s time for us to find out more.
According to Climate Central, by 2030 we will begin experiencing serious sea level/storm surge effects that will affect millions of people living on the coasts and swamp billions of dollars in infrastructure. If Everglades restoration, involving a partnership between the federal and state governments has been on the drawing board for almost 30 years and we couldn’t accommodate a few inches of unexpected rainfall, how many years will it take us to come to agreement about what needs to be done STATEWIDE to prepare for sea level rise, and then to get it done?
If an increase in the average rainfall can lead to such dire consequences including dead fish on the beaches; back pumping from the cane fields into Lake Okeechobee; endangered animals drowning in the Everglades; and an unaccustomed torrent of emails from the South Florida Management District telling the public all the things they’re doing right, what is going to happen when we have a hurricane, a weather event to which South Florida is prone? What will we do when the winds off the Atlantic or the Gulf whip the waters onto the land’s end occupied by so many people? What will we do when that water is increasingly toxic? What do we imagine will happen to the sewage pumped beneath our aquifers on a barrier island?
I can only say that if we the people fail to exercise our citizenship rights to be involved in our government and big decisions such as these, then maybe we deserve what we get. It has long been said that in a democracy, we get the kind of government we deserve, as we vote on it. Failing to be involved in every aspect of the process, from making sure we are living up to one woman, one vote, to keeping our elected officials on track, means we are part of the problem.
It’s time to do your research as a conscious citizen and get involved.

Legacy Florida’s solid step – Editorial
April 14, 2016
The enactment of Legacy Florida — legislation that funds work on the Everglades, the state’s springs and Lake Apopka — provides some hope Tallahassee will eventually comply with voters’ Amendment 1 directive. The 2014 constitutional amendment, which passed with 75 percent of the vote, directed lawmakers to devote one-third of the state’s existing documentary stamp tax revenue for conserving and managing lands. Last year lawmakers diverted the bulk of the funds to other purposes, including salaries, equipment purchases and operational costs. They’re still misusing Amendment 1, which is raising about $900 million a year. But Legacy Florida indicates lawmakers are making progress. The legislation earmarks some Amendment 1 dollars to Everglades restoration (up to $200 million a year), springs protections (up to $50 million a year) and Lake Apopka’s revival (up to $5 million a year.) All are worthy conservation projects that need the state’s continued support. Indeed, those Everglades dollars could help address polluted water releases from Lake Okeechobee that are fouling the St. Lucie estuary on the east coast and the Calooshatchee estuary on the west coast. A quick remedy is desperately needed for the mucky discharges that are ruining coastal waters and harming local economies. Gov. Rick Scott, who signed the bill, and the lawmakers who championed it, including incoming Senate President Joe Negron, deserve credit. But this should only be considered a first step. Tallahassee still is not spending nearly as much as it should — or can, thanks to Amendment 1 — on conservation. In particular, Florida Forever, the state’s leading land acquisition program, is being sadly neglected. When the conservation program was launched as Preservation 2000 in 1990 by former Gov. Bob Martinez, the goal was to spend $300 million a year preserving natural Florida. That number understandably dropped during the recession, but lawmakers continue to neglect Florida Forever. This year, to their credit, lawmakers did increase funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which buys conservation easements to private land but doesn’t buy the land outright. This allows ranches and other agricultural operations with important habitat to continue to operate but ensures the land is not paved. It is a smart conservation strategy that deserves continued funding. But lawmakers also should remember that the public doesn’t have access to the lands, as they would to Florida Forever, which deserves more support. Indeed, with Florida’s growth once again exploding, it would be appropriate for lawmakers to earmark up to $300 million a year of Amendment 1 funds for land preservation. This should include Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. This would still allow funding for land management, beach erosion and other appropriate expenses but would ensure Amendment 1 is fulfilling the conservation mission that voters intended.


Miami-Dade explores ways to inject sewage deep underground
Associated Press – South FL
April 14, 2016
MIAMI – Miami-Dade County officials are exploring ways to inject sewage deep into the earth instead of releasing it into the Atlantic Ocean.
Changes in state law will require the county’s water and sewer department to stop pumping most of the 300 million gallons of treated waste generated daily through pipes miles out into the ocean.
Officials tell The Miami Herald that the only inexpensive way to comply with the new law is to send treated waste into cavernous saltwater zones below South Florida’s drinking water supply.
Miami-Dade’s senior professional geologist, Virginia Walsh, says pumping waste into the earth to filter over centuries deep into the ocean is safer and more environmentally friendly than dumping sewage into the ocean.
The Environmental Protection Agency says Florida is the only state that allows municipal injection wells for such waste water.


Neurological health threat is one more reason to end Lake Okeechobee discharges - Editorial
April 14, 2016
The health risks posed by polluted water in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon may be taking an ominous — and potentially deadly — turn.
For years, Treasure Coast residents have raged against the environmental and economic impacts caused by voluminous discharges of tainted freshwater from Lake Okeechobee.
Now we are learning the negative impacts may damage the human brain.
How pervasive and destructive must this crisis become before state and federal officials end the discharges?
Scientists have identified a possible link between neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and a toxin produced in blue-green algae blooms.
The toxin — Beta-N-Methylamino-L-alanine — is a nonprotein amino acid that grows in blue-green algae. BMAA can impair nerve cells and leave plaque deposits in the brain.
Follow our Lake Okeechobee discharge meter for daily updates.
Bottom line: What we still don't know about toxic algae blooms may be altering our brains.
While recognizing the presence of BMAA in algae blooms, the Florida Department of Health downplays any connection to brain diseases.
"BMAA is one of the many possible environmental triggers to neurological disease that is being investigated by researchers in Florida and elsewhere," according to a health department fact sheet. "There has been little evidence of BMAA being linked to neurodegerenative diseases in the general public."
Feel better ?  Probably not.  Nor should you.
Add in the fact toxins from blue-green algae also can be breathed in and you quickly realize the potential, far-reaching implications of the BMAA revelation.
Our river and lagoon become a petri dish when conditions are ripe. It may happen again this summer when temperatures rise. Lower salinity levels and increased nutrients in our waterways — the result, in large part, of Lake O discharges — create the perfect storm for algae blooms.
BMAA is one more potential health hazard lingering in the shadows of our collective conscience.
Yes, scientists have yet to establish a definitive connection between neurological diseases and exposure to BMAA. "But the evidence is growing," said Larry Brand, marine and atmospheric science professor at the University of Miami.
Florida health officials need to be proactive in keeping Treasure Coast residents informed of the latest findings with respect to BMAA. And state and federal officials need to accelerate their efforts to move more water south of Lake Okeechobee and end the discharges.
Our region is weary of paying such a high price to accommodate the state's flawed water delivery system.
Related:           Scientists: Toxin in blue-green algae could trigger neurological diseases


Bay degradation dominates meeting – by Brian Bowden, Free Press Staff
April 13, 2016
ISLAMORADA — A standing-room-only crowd at last week’s Village Council’s meeting, which included the likes of Everglades Foundation biologist Stephen Davis, Tavernier-based Audubon scientist Pete Frezza, longtime backcountry guide Sandy Moret and many others, was there to discuss one topic. 
That issue was what they characterized as the state government’s mismanagement of Lake Okeechobee freshwater flow and how that continues to harm the Everglades and Florida Bay.
“There’s a big spotlight on our water problems now,” representative David Preston said at the Thursday meeting. is a bipartisan group founded in 2013 whose sole purpose is to pressure the state to buy U.S. Sugar lands directly south of Lake Okeechobee. Such a deal had been in the works under former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, but his successor, Rick Scott, and the South Florida Water Management District subsequently backed off. and most South Florida environmentalists say acquiring those lands are a key component to restoring the Everglades and the freshwater flow to Florida Bay. If purchased — the last option for the state to buy some of those lands is 2020 — they would more than likely serve as storage areas for released freshwater from the lake.
Presently, when Lake Okeechobee water levels rise too high, water managers flush freshwater into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, which damage their estuaries. 
“We have to recoup all the lost storage,” Davis said. “But we are not doing anything that really addresses that problem.”
The matter has regained urgency among Keys officials and anglers after Florida Bay suffered a massive seagrass die-off last summer summer due to drought-like conditions. More freshwater flowing through the Everglades into the bay could have lessened or prevented the die-off, environmentalists say.
State reports show that the die-off impacted roughly 22,000 acres of bay bottom. But Davis believes the impact could be much larger, perhaps up to 50,000 acres, because harder-to-reach areas of the bay were not studied.
And it gets worse.
According to Davis, it’s just a matter of time before that decaying seagrass spawns a massive algae bloom that could devastate the bay and possibly surrounding waters. Based on previous large-scale die-offs, he believes such a bloom could follow in 2017 or 2018.
“It’s just a matter of when,” Davis said.
Preston echoed Davis’ thoughts.
“We know the algae blooms are coming,” he said.
A handful of state and federal water projects are in the works or recently implemented that will direct more freshwater into the Everglades and bay, but they offer long-term solutions and no short-term solutions really exist to prevent a massive algae bloom. These projects include the C-111 canal system, the Modified Water Deliveries, the second part of the Tamiami Trail Bridge and the Central Everglades Planning Project.
“It’s now or never,” Councilman Jim Mooney said of state action on the issue.
Another topic discussed at the meeting included enforcing fines, up to $25,000, against boaters who refuse to lay down their vessel’s outriggers while traveling Snake Creek and cause unnecessary openings for the drawbridge there. The openings, which typically create lengthy traffic backups along U.S. 1, currently occur once every hour as needed.
“This is a problem that could be addressed,” Councilman Mike Forster said.
Signs are posted along the drawbridge warning boaters of unnecessary openings. But as one Islamorada resident pointed out at the meeting, it hasn’t deterred those who do it. He also said that 99 percent of the boats would have drawbridge clearance if their outriggers were down.
The council also chose to table two items pertaining to the Transfer of Development Rights program in the village. Both will be sent back to the Local Planning Agency to discuss sender sites under the program and whether they should be retired or still deemed a buildable parcel.
The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28, at the Founders Park Community Room, mile marker 87, bayside.


Big Sugar

Big Sugar supporters use deceptive science - Guest Opinion by John Cassani, resident of Alva, FL
April 13, 2016
Hillary Hyslope’s recent guest opinion in The News-Press (March 27, Lake O water fine; smear tactics wrong), claiming that critics of corporate sugar producers have mischaracterized decades of science, is a case of the “pot calling the kettle black”. Ms. Hyslope states that “decades of scientific data clearly shows that up to 80 percent of the nutrients (pollution) are being added in the local area basins”.
What she has clearly omitted in that statement is that decades of back-pumping from sugar fields into the lake has created legacy nutrients “banked”  in the Lake’s sediments. Scientific data demonstrates that every year more nitrogen and phosphorus pollution bleeds from the Lake’s sediments into the water column than all external sources combined. In the case of “legacy” nitrogen pollution, it is typically five times the annual rate from local basins.
Sugar producers didn’t create all of the “legacy” nutrients in the lake, but they contributed a significant portion of it over past decades and likely more than the four percent of the phosphorus budget Ms. Hyslope claims sugar producers now contribute when considering historic contributions that continue to plague the Lake today and into the future.
On an average rainfall year about 61 percent of the nitrogen that enters the Caloosahatchee Estuary is from Lake Okeechobee and it’s quite plausible that much more than four percent of that pollution stems from decades of back-pumping from sugar fields south of the Lake facilitated by the South Florida Water Management District.
Hyslope claims recent fishing success in the lake is evidence that the lake is healthy. Again what’s missing from that statement is the long history of toxic algae blooms in the lake stemming from nutrient pollution that has, at times, wreaked havoc on the lakes plants and animals and has tainted the drinking water supply of Belle Glade and Okeechobee. She also does not mention a word about human consumption advisories for the lake’s fish resulting from mercury pollution, one of the most restrictive statewide.
Hyslope’s suggestion that we work together is disingenuous in that the sugar industry she is supporting continues to lobby for the status quo and support politicians that seek the same outcome, blocking progress on a real and accelerated solution to the excessive flows to the estuaries. Furthermore the Chamber of Commerce which Ms. Hyslope also represents is a frequent litigator on the side of big polluters opposing regulatory clean-up efforts on many fronts.
Science-based solutions to the ongoing water disasters are evident from several prominent studies. Even the Water Management District was the biggest proponent of solutions that included land acquisition for more conveyance, storage and treatment south of the Lake until the politics in Tallahassee changed.
As such, it appears the only real solution is a political one.


Make the water flow south…again
Island Reporter, Captiva – Letter by Dick Hasselman, Sanibel, FL
April 13, 2016
U. S. Sugar's full-page ads explain how water from north of Lake O has been diverted to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers by blocking its previous outlet to the south, via the Everglades.
That was done to create the agricultural area now used by "Big Sugar".
But no one has explained why a channel cannot be made through that agricultural area so that this water can again flow south.
Who can help us, please, to provide such a solution?


State regulators must hold FPL accountable
Tallahassee Democrat - My View by Steve Torcise, Jr.
April 13, 2016
Three decades, or 33 years, to be exact.
That’s how long Florida Power & Light knew that a slew of contaminated water was leaking from the Cooling Canal System at its Turkey Point nuclear facility.
The company submitted information to the South Florida Water Management District in 1983 showing that a plume of hypersaline water had advanced nearly 1,000 feet beyond the Cooling Canal System, a condition they agreed to prevent in 1972. FPL and the state have failed at every opportunity to stop this contamination from advancing further west.
In 2008, FPL did nothing when we presented them with their own information documenting how the contamination stemmed from its cooling canal system. In 2009, instead of taking action, FPL convinced regulators it would monitor the situation, even though the plume had already grown substantially since 1983.
While publicly denying the CCS was causing any problems in 2010, FPL prepared an internal document outlining an extensive series of more than 30 possible corrective actions to stop the saltwater intrusion. But they never implemented any of these corrective measures.
While the pollution plume continued to grow, in 2013 FPL completed an uprate of the power plant that added 208 megawatts to the plant’s nuclear capacity that brought further strain to its CCS and caused temperatures and salinity levels to rise even further.
If you listen to FPL, there is no problem. Yet FPL has repeatedly failed to address the leaky CCS until forced to by our legal action. FPL has maintained that the saltwater leak poses no adverse impact to drinking water.
That is simply not true.
Approximately 25 square miles of Biscayne Aquifer since 1972 has already been polluted with CCS water identified with Tritium which will increase every day for many years to come.
FPL touts an agreement with Miami-Dade County as their solution because it slows the hypersaline plume western migration down a little. But the solution they want the public to buy into doesn’t solve the problem.
The company’s response to the recent scrutiny is shocking in both its brazen arrogance and in creating a “solution” that ironically helps FPL to the detriment of one of our region’s most precious resources.
It’s up to our elected leaders and environmental regulators to take control and reset history. Our country has seen, in places like Flint, Michigan, what can happen when government is allowed to flout the rules. With the right leadership, our state can become a model example for how government dictates corporate compliance while safeguarding public health and preserving natural resources.
FPL has had so many chances, and repeatedly failed to act. It’s long past time they were made to do what’s right.
Steve Torcise, Jr. is the president of Atlantic Civil, a family-owned rock mining company that sits west of FPL’s Turkey Point power plant.


Environmentalists hamper Florida growers - by Doug Ohlemeier
April 12, 2016
A war against South Florida growers is taking a toll on the truth.
After record winter rains deluged fields and raised canals to flooding levels, the South Florida Water Management District took emergency measures and pumped water back into Lake Okeechobee. 
The “back pumping” generated media attention, while environmentalists accused farmers of pumping polluted water into the lake.
Truth is farmers weren’t sending polluted water into the lake or into the Everglades.
In late March, the media barrage continued, and the water management district released a fact sheet countering the false claims that farmers orchestrated the rare pumping.
Less than 1% of all water entering Lake Okeechobee originates south of the lake in the Everglades Agricultural Area where most of the region’s sweet corn, green beans, radishes and lettuces are grown.
Water running off growers’ fields is cleaner than when it enters, according to growers, who have invested millions of dollars into protecting the environment through required Best Management Practices and a mandatory $25 per acre Everglades privilege tax.
The growers have reduced phosphate discharges three times more than what is required and most of the water entering the lake originates in the Kissimmee River Valley’s headwaters around Walt Disney World in the Orlando, Fla., area, and includes a lot of urban runoff from streets, parking lots and golf courses.
John Scott Hundley, president of agricultural operations for Loxahatchee, Fla.-based Hundley Farms Inc., counters environmentalists’ blatantly false and distorted information.
 “The hype and misinformation just drives peoples’ opinions and makes us look bad,” he said. 
 “It’s like we’re farmers who want to just kill the environment. I constantly try to work with people at all levels of government and environmentalists I know who don’t have all or any of the facts. It makes our job much more difficult because we’re constantly fighting in the court of public opinion.”
There’s a lot of politics involved in the area-wide industry issue and the lies and misleading statements from groups including the Sierra Club  — which targets US Sugar Corp. — tarnish the region’s farmers overall. 
About 80% of the region’s acreage is sugarcane and many south Florida vegetable growers also grow sugarcane.
It’s “wagging tongue syndrome,” where many well-intentioned people believe things they read or hear, and it’s difficult for many to separate emotions from facts.
The war on growers has been going since the 1970s and likely won’t stop until environmentalists swallow every acre of land in south Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. 
Fortunately for Florida’s ag industry, members of Hundley’s generation and the next feel like fighting and don’t plan to surrender of the truth that farmers are good stewards of their resources.



Save the Lagoon - A call to action - by Terri Wright
April 12, 2016
Vince Lamb, Chairman of Preserve Brevard and Mike Conneen, Executive Director of the Anglers for Conservation speaks about the IRL event.
Join us to show your support of the Indian River Lagoon and to learn what we can do to protect this estuary of national significance.  This free public event will feature exceptional speakers as well as a musical performance by folk guitarist Dana Lyons.  Wayne Mills, a former Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation who now lives in the IRL watershed, will share ideas that helped the Chesapeake and could help here.  Dr. Duane De Freese, Executive Director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. will discuss how this organization is moving forward to restore the Lagoon.
Maggy Hurchalla, a tireless advocate for the Indian River Lagoon from Martin County, will serve as the keynote speaker for the evening.  She served as a Martin County Commissioner for 20 years through tumultuous battles over growth and environment, and she is a member of the Everglades Hall of Fame. When isolated wetlands were not protected by state or federal agencies, Maggy transformed Martin County into a national leader for wetland protection.  She received a 2015 National Wetlands Award from the Environmental Law Institute for this work.
Many artists have recorded Dana Lyons’ songs, but perhaps his highest honor as a songwriter came when Pete Seeger called him to get the music for Dana’s song “I Am An Animal.”  Dana has shared the stage with many notable performers including Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and Stephen Stills.  We are delighted that he will perform at this event.
Other speakers are being added who will represent various occupations that depend upon the Indian River Lagoon such as fishermen and restaurant workers.  Details will be provided later.
Reservations are required for this free event so that we do not exceed the capacity of the auditorium.  If you have difficulties registering with, just send an email with your name or names to



FL residents, wildlife breathe easier with Everglades' cash injection – by Deborah Kaye, PNS
April 11, 2016
MAITLAND, Fla. – Conservation groups are praising the Florida Legislature's $200 million funding for projects in the Everglades. Everglades restoration projects have been under way for a few years now, but they lacked a stable source of funding, which groups have been working on for about 16 years. Beth Lewis, director of water resources for The Nature Conservancy's Florida chapter, says some of the most critical projects can now move forward, and they will have a far-reaching effect. "It helps rehydrate those natural areas on the coast that provide resilience against sea level rise, against hurricane impacts that we have in Florida," she explains. Lewis says the funding will support river and lake improvement projects and ensure the health of the Floridan Aquifer, which runs under the entire state and is the primary drinking water supply for Miami-Dade County's more than 8 million residents. She stresses the aquifer's health is critical. "Through the ability to put more fresh, clean water into the Everglades, we replenish that aquifer, which keeps that water supply for people sustainable and healthy," she states. Everglades wildlife should also appreciate the funding, according to Lewis. The projects should help rehydrate wetlands and return them to a healthier natural state. "The wildlife will return to those areas and will use those areas for growth and propagation," she points out. The legislation also includes $50 million per year to protect Florida's springs, though Lewis says more funding is necessary for some of the larger, billion dollar projects.


The eight best activists in Broward County
Broward Palm Beach New Times - by Jerry Iannelli
April 11, 2016
Fighting for political rights in Florida is a Sisyphean task, sort of like trying to dam the Atlantic Ocean. It takes a certain kind of spunk to try to stand up to politicians in South Florida — a land founded on the idea that condominiums have more inherent value than nature and most human lives. The state flag might as well depict a huge boot crushing a mangrove tree.
In Fort Lauderdale, city officials passed laws criminalizing virtually every aspect of homelessness. The Everglades have been destroyed to grow sugar cane. State legislators this year passed legislation that protects the freaking Styrofoam industry.  Here in the Ponzi-scheme capital of the world, it often seems like every adult, child, animal, and plant has gone morally bankrupt.
But still, there are a few brave souls left in town willing to fight for the rights of common folk. And so today, we're saluting the eight best activists in Broward County. 
1. Arnold Abbott
Fort Lauderdale's homeless problem is perhaps the greatest shame in all of Broward County. The city's proposals to alleviate the problem have been laughable at best, downright unconscionable at worst. Case in point: After the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, at the apparent request of Beelzebub, made it prohibitive to feed the homeless outdoors in 2014, police cited a 90-year-old man, Arnold Abbott, for breaking the law. Abbott had been feeding the homeless since 1991, and it's pretty hard to break a 90-year-old with nothing left to lose. After his arrest, Abbott made no effort to stop helping the homeless, got cited a second time, debated Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler on television, and even sued the city. 
2. Jasmen Rogers
When it comes to race relations, South Florida sometimes still functions like a deep Southern enclave. But Jasmen Rogers remains committed to fighting for civil rights. When Peter Peraza, a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy, was criminally charged for having shot and killed a black computer engineer holding an unloaded air rifle, scores of cops wearing "All Lives Matter" T-shirts turned up at the Broward County Courthouse to support him. But Rogers, on behalf of both Black Lives Matter Broward and Dream Defenders, was there as a living reminder of the life that had been lost. Then, when Donald Trump came to town a few weeks ago, she stormed into the center of his Boca Raton rally and managed to catch a Palm Beach cop blocking black protesters from the event in the process. 
3. Elijah Manley
Manley, 17, is the kind of kid who thinks he can do anything. Even if a few of the ideas he's proposed — like running for president before turning 35 or lowering the voting age to 15 — don't seem fleshed out, his ambition is inspiring. Manley, a junior at Fort Lauderdale High School, unabashedly supports youth rights and believes that teens ought to get involved in local government from a young age. It's an admirable goal, even though we're a bit worried about some of the school days he seems to be missing.
4. Chaz Stevens
Let's get this out of the way: Chaz Stevens is obnoxious. His blog, MyActsOfSedition, can be particularly crass. But as distasteful as his style may be, he's effective, for sure. With a careful eye on local politics and a computer ever ready to dash off formal complaints, he has forced out of office several politicians, including the mayor of Deerfield Beach, and sent a few to jail.  Stevens made international headlines after the Florida State Capitol installed a Nativity scene, and in response, he claimed that he was a Satanist and deserved equal rights to celebrate his religion, eventually securing the right to place a Festivus Pole made of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans in the Capitol rotunda. Stevens continues to rail against corruption and mismanagement. In March, he asked the inspector general to investigate Broward County Commissioner Chip La Marca's financial dealings, adding at the end, in signature style,  "PS LaMarca blows donkey dick." 
5. Norm Kent
As publisher of South Florida Gay News and vice chair of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Kent manages to be the most prominent voice for stoners, LGBTQ folk, and any combination thereof throughout the state. (He's also managed to serve as president of the Broward County Criminal Defense Attorney’s Association too.) After the South Florida Blade shut down in 2009, there were fears that gay media in South Florida would die along with it. Without Kent, we may not have  a strong LGBT voice in print at all down here.
6. Sylvie Suri-Perez
It's astounding that, in 2016, any streets in America are named after Confederate generals. But at least three streets in Hollywood, Florida, have been named after some of America's most racist people: Lee Street, after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee; Hood Street, after Gen. John B. Hood; and, most egregiously, Forrest Street, named after Ku Klux Klan founder Nathaniel Forrest. After New Times pointed out the street names, Suri-Perez of the Broward County Green Party mobilized, canvasing neighborhoods and protesting at City Commission meetings, with the hope that the streets be renamed after Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass.
7. Cal Deal
It should surprise no one that Deal, a longtime newspaperman, made this list. In his earlier years, Deal spent time at the New York Daily News, the now-defunct Miami News, the Sun Sentinel, and even a supermarket leaflet. Now, he's just a guy with a camera who can't stop himself from loosing unbridled fury at local politicians and scumbags. He was one of the first people to take on the North Broward Hospital District for giving a local pill mill some parking spaces. He fought to save a 100-year-old tree from the grubby hands of commercial real estate developers. He should probably still be working in newspapers.
8. Jillian Pim
After Fort Lauderdale banned feeding the homeless two years ago, Arnold Abbott wasn't the only person to stage a protest. Jillian Pim, of homeless advocacy group Food Not Bombs, decided to go on a hunger strike on behalf of the city's homeless, electing to drink only lemon water until the ban was lifted. (She added salt for electrolytes.) 
Bonus: Cara Jennings
Jennings, who is from Lake Worth (which is in Palm Beach County, not Broward), is a former city commissioner turned activist who famously bikes around town, advocating on behalf of undocumented immigrants and the poor. We've included her just as an excuse to re-embed this video of her calling Rick Scott an asshole to his face another time.


Historic Monroe Station on Tamiami Trail in Big Cypress burns - by Amy Bennett Williams
April 10, 2016
Fire has destroyed Monroe Station, a historic Tamiami Trail outpost in the Big Cypress. The cause is being investigated, said Bob DeGross, spokesman for the Big Cypress National Preserve, which was in the early stages of planning the long-abandoned wooden building's restoration.
"My understanding is it started around 11 p.m. (Saturday)," DeGross said "I don't have many details other than that."
Fort Myers historian and real estate appraiser Woody Hanson is the grandson of W. Stanley Hanson, one of the Tamiami Trailblazers, a group that made the first Florida coast-to-coast trek on the road in 1928, ushering in the era of cross-Everglades travel.
Mourning the iconic building's loss, Hanson said, "Florida, along with her folklore and legacy assets continue to slip away (as) an outpost on a former Florida frontier vanishes, along with the Florida myth.” Before it burned, Monroe Station was one of two of the original six such outposts on Tamiami Trail, situated on the western end of scenic Loop Road.
  Monroe Station in the 20s
The other, Royal Palm Hammock station, is still a gas station selling live shrimp, sweet tea and firewood just outside Collier-Seminole State Park.
Originally constructed in the 1920s, the remote oases, staffed by lawmen and their wives, offered gas, food and security to motorists traversing the two-lane Everglades highway.
They were also sales centers, in which the motorcycle-mounted staff was expected to urge travelers to buy some land along with their sandwiches and gas. After all, there was plenty of it — most owned by Barron Gift Collier.
"This was the most remote place in the eastern United States," DeGross told The News-Press in 2013. "In a 100-mile stretch, there wasn't one house."
The short-but-colorful heyday of the six way stations on the trail bore Collier's trademark showmanship.
The millionaire advertising tycoon had already masterminded the publicity stunt that got the trail finished in the first-place: the trek of the Tamiami Trailblazers in 1928, drawing media attention from around the country.
Five years earlier, Collier had agreed to bankroll the project in return for the state Legislature carving off 2,300 square miles from Lee County to form Collier County in his honor.
Once the roadway was opened, Collier built identical two-story, Italian-style buildings at 10- to 12-mile intervals. He hired couples to live on the buildings' second floors. While the wives pumped gas, sold groceries and kept the public restrooms clean, the husbands patrolled on their Harleys in uniforms Collier bought from a shuttered Broadway musical,
A vintage News-Press ad shows Monroe Station as it looked decades ago. (Photo: The News-Press archives)
"They went out during the day and once at night," said Naomi Goren, curator of education at the Collier County Museum in Naples.
"They were essentially a private police force created by Collier," DeGross said, "but they are considered to be the first Collier County law enforcement, and also the first two deputies killed in the line of duty."
One was hit by a car soon after the stations opened; the other wrecked his motorcycle in morning fog, DeGross says.
"Some of them did have families too, and I remember reading a little memoir written by the daughter of one of them," he says. "She remembered that the summers were so slow that the families would just screen in the awning roof that covered the gas pumps and use it as a lanai."
But as the Great Depression deepened, business got slow year-round and by 1934, Collier had disbanded his security force and sold the stations, according to a document in the Collier Museum's archive. One was moved to Everglades City and converted into a house, DeGross said, and he assumes all but two of the buildings were demolished. Of the pair that remained, one is still a gas station/bait shop at Royal Palm Hammock.
The other, Monroe Station, remained a boarded-up ruin on park service land.
It was still a honky-tonk roadhouse as late as the 1980s, and photographer Niki Butcher, who'd moved to the Big Cypress with her husband, Clyde, also a photographer, found it fascinating, if intimidating. "It looked like a wild place (and) Clyde and I don't do bars or wild places," she recalled. She eventually snapped a photo of it, which she turned into a popular hand-colored print.
Even though it was on the National Register of Historic Places, funding hadn't been easy to find. "We got some money — about $300,000 — from a federal highway grant," DeGross said, estimating at least that much more was needed to do the job right. "We want to stabilize and restore it, but it's in great disrepair and about the only remaining original (portion) that can be reused is the roof."
Even so, he had hoped it would happen, given the building's historic value. "This road, and the stations connected with it, brought great change and opened up the state. The Tamiami Trail changed Florida forever," DeGross said. "It is a terrible loss."

$600M reservoir could hurt rather than help, scientists say – by Chad Gillis
April 9, 2016
Top water quality scientists says the reservoir will turn into a massive algal bloom
It was supposed to help our river and estuaries but could end up hurting them with toxic algae.
And now some scientists say the $600 million C-43 project to store water for dry season could be a waste of money because it won’t clean water and the dirty water it stores could grow far worse as it festers under the Florida sun in shallow pools.
Also, some scientists worry that releasing that water into the river could violate the Clean Water Act standards, which basically say it's illegal to move pollution from one property or water body to another. And U.S. Rep Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, who recently waded in with a new water bill, says spending money on water storage isn't necessarily bad, but doesn't address the key problem: dirty water.
The Caloosahatchee reservoir will take another decade to complete, according to the South Florida Water Management District. But one of the world's top water quality scientists says the reservoir will turn into a massive algal bloom that could become more of a hindrance than a help.
"I can predict 100 percent that that’s going to happen," said William Mitsch, a Florida Gulf Coast University professor and world-renowned marine scientist. "You’re talking about the same water Lake Okeechobee has released, and you’re going to put it in a shallow basin. With shallow lakes, with all the nutrients we have in the water, it’s not a good idea."
William Mitsch talks about water storage and whether the Caloosahatchee reservoir will be more of a management pain.
State engineers, however, say that although algal blooms can happen in any freshwater system, the reservoir will be dynamic, rising and falling as it captures and releases water.
“We will measure nutrients in the reservoir, and if we see problems with the water we will address it,” said Ernie Marks, Everglades projects manager for the South Florida Water Management District. Marks joined the district in March. “Our hope is that we don’t see those kinds of conditions.”
But Mitsch isn't the only scientist in Southwest Florida with concerns about the reservoir and what it will look and function like in 2026, when it's scheduled to be completed.
"I agree with (Mitsch): there may be clean water limitations," said John Cassani, a retired biologist and chair of the Southwest Florida Watershed Council. "Even if you capture it and store it, there are questions about if you can legally release it."
Cassani has followed Everglades restoration in his professional career as a biologist and, more recently, as an activist for the council, a nonprofit clean water advocacy group that formed in 2001.
The doubts over the reservoir come at a bad time, about 10 weeks after heavy January rains flooded most of the state. Immediately after the rain, much of the freshwater flowing down the river was from development north and south of the river.
Lake Okeechobee was opened to its full capacity in February, sending billions of gallons a day of lake water to the coast, where waters have run brown.
South Florida was built and designed to send freshwater to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico as fast as possible. Storing water on the landscape (which stored the water for free before development) is one way to keep coastal estuaries healthy while also sending vital freshwater to Florida Bay.
Releases from water storage areas could be good for the estuary because they provide enough freshwater to get that magic brackish mix in coastal areas.  During the rainy season, estuary waters can run too fresh; during droughts, they get too salty from intrusion of sea water.
The main goal of the reservoir is to provide freshwater to the Caloosahatchee estuary during extremely dry conditions. It was never designed to clean water like a filter marsh, a natural or man-made wetland.
"Basically the reservoir becomes a new lake with all the chemical and biological dynamics of a lake without the effect of bottom sediments such that exist in Lake Okeechobee," John Capece, who holds an agriculture engineering doctorate from the University of Florida and is director of the Caloosahatchee River Citizen Association, told The News-Press in an email. "The total mass of nitrogen or phosphorus will increase while in the reservoir."
Under that scenario it may be illegal to release water from the reservoir because the water would be dirtier after storage than it was when first captured, which could violate the Clean Water Act.
Those fertilizers fuel algal blooms in the river and along the coast and can feed and extend the life of red tide (Karenia brevis).
Poor water quality in Southwest Florida has been proven to hold down or even decrease home and property values. A Florida Realtors report says Lee County's overall property value would be $500 million more than it is today if local waters were clear.
Florida Bay has lost about 50,000 acres of sea grass in the past few months due to poor water quality there.
Sea grass and oyster beds have died off in the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary as well. Well-balanced estuaries are nurseries for many kinds of sea life, including game fish.
Fishing captains say there is little bait swimming in the water, and that most anglers are going 20 miles or farther in search of clean, fish-filled waters.
Boating that far takes time, and travel time takes away from fishing because most trips are scheduled for a four- or eight-hour period.
"This is the time of year when we make most of our money for the year," said Josh Constantine, owner of Caloosahatchee Cowboy Charters out of Punta Rassa. "I've fished snook here all my life, but now I can't catch one."
Clawson recently filed a bill that would set aside $500 million to buy some farm lands south of Lake Okeechobee. While not speaking specifically about the Caloosahatchee Reservoir, Clawson said water storage projects won't be as effective as buying land for a flow-way and reservoir to send water south to the parched sections of Everglades National Park.
Clawson said storing water is fine but that it doesn't address the larger problem, cleaning up waters throughout most of the district.
He compared our local water quality needs with those in Florida Bay.
"It's crazy to me to have dirty water here, too much freshwater here while seagrass dies in Florida Bay south of the Everglades," Clawson said Wednesday. "We have too much and they don't have enough, and in the meantime we keep building storage pots where the water just gets nasty anyway."



Frustration spills over seagrass die-off in Florida Bay, the worst in decades; residents and officials demand action – by Kevin Wadlow
April 9, 2016
The campaign to save Florida Bay should move to the ballot box, speakers fumed Thursday in Islamorada.
"Talking to the politicians obviously is not working," Islamorada Village Council member Jim Mooney said after a presentation on Florida Bay's woes to the village board.
"I think you've got to march on Big Sugar and got to go big," Mooney said. "Make a statement the entire world has to see."
"It's up to each and every one of us to send those people a message," Councilman Dennis Ward said, suggesting sugar boycotts and demonstrations outside grocery stores.
Congressional and state candidates "need to be vetted [on Florida Bay] by everyone in the Keys," he said.
Presentations on Florida Bay's worrisome status by Stephen Davis, a wetland ecologist for the Everglades Foundation, and Michael Donovan of, a group fighting government sugar subsidies, were followed by a string of annoyed residents.
"Rankin Bay is now dead, period. Snake Bight is dead," said fishing guide David Purdo, a former councilman. "We are losing the economy of the Florida Keys. Somehow we've got to stop it, but I don't know how."
"It's pathetic," said fishing outfitter Sandy Moret. He described a recent meeting on bay problems as "the exact same meeting" he attended 35 years ago. "There's no political will."
Audubon biologist and fishing guide Peter Frezza said, "The dire situation in Florida Bay is pretty evident."
"The shallow-water fisheries really are in trouble. We're losing skiff guides," Frezza said. "That's history and a part of the community and I feel it's going away."
Florida Bay is undergoing a massive seagrass die-off, which the Everglades Foundation and other environmental groups say was caused by a summer drought that turned bay waters abnormally salty.
That in turn caused oxygen deprivation for seagrasses, which led to an increase in hydrogen sulfides that destroyed seagrass roots.
After a century of statewide development, Florida Bay has received far less water from Central Florida and the Everglades than it historically received.
Last summer's drought worsened the problem, with the result leading to a seagrass die-off similar to the massive incident of 1987-91 that included an algae bloom that destroyed bay sponges and drove fish away.
A plan to create a huge storage area for fresh water south of Lake Okeechobee that could be released when needed has stalled.
Conservationists say elected officials who cater to the demands of Florida's two major sugar-producing companies are to blame.
The Big Sugar companies "effectively control every drop of water in our state" through lobbying and campaign donations, Donovan said.
"We've got to focus on the land" for the storage area, Donovan said, "and the current powers that be who stand in the way of fixing the problem."
"It's a heavily subsidized industry [by government price supports] and we're subsidizing them to destroy our waters," Donovan said.
Former village councilman Ted Blackburn said, "What do you do when both sides take money from Big Sugar? It seems hopeless but I guess you start at the ground level and keep going."
Government subsidies make the sugar-growing land valuable, Village Councilman Mike Forster said. "Take away the subsidies and you can buy the land for cheap."
"Everybody agrees on the problem and the solution, except for two [sugar-producing] families in the center of the state," Forster said. "The political will is not there at this point."
Islamorada is joining with Monroe County and other Keys governments to craft a strong resolution on the need for Everglades restoration and increased water flow to Florida Bay, Islamorada Mayor Deb Gillis said.
County Commissioner George Neugent said Friday that he expects Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay to become major discussion points in the two federal and state election cycles.
"We're certainly not going to forget, and the people in Sanibel, Fort Myers and Port St. Lucie aren't going to forget either," Neugent said.


Sending stored water south is key to Everglades health - by Erik Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation
April 9, 2016 
Described as the River of Grass by writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas, America's Everglades is a complex wetland system with an area greater than 4,500 square miles and supported by a watershed nearly 22,000 square miles in size.
More than 8 million people live in the greater Everglades ecosystem, which is integral to the human health, as well as the economic and recreational vitality, of the nation's third most-populous state -- with 2,000 new residents joining the state each day.
America's Everglades is now less than half of its original size of nearly 3 million acres. And much of the water that should be going into the Everglades remains polluted, especially with phosphorus from the fertilizers used in agricultural areas north and south of Lake Okeechobee.
Not only do these fertilizers produce accumulations of toxic mercury in fish, birds, reptiles and mammals -- including the iconic Florida panther, among more than 60 other endangered species -- it compromises the region's largest source of fresh water for human consumption. These are dire problems that, if not remedied, will have severe and lasting effects on the overall quality of life here.
The Everglades Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. We do not support or oppose candidates for office or political parties, but we wanted to see how Floridians and likely voters felt about issues relevant to the Everglades.
In our poll last month, an overwhelming majority of voters, 88 percent, expressed their concern with the current environmental state of America's Everglades. Correspondingly, 61 percent of voters regard its restoration as being a very important issue -- and an even greater percentage view government as being essential to an overall solution.
Seven in 10 voters believe environmental laws haven't gone far enough to protect the Everglades, while 69 percent favor the state purchasing land south of Lake Okeechobee to create additional water storage, thereby ensuring long-term conservation.
Meanwhile, Floridians on both the east and west coasts are witnessing a familiar crisis: Lake Okeechobee threatens to overflow its southern border, venting billions of gallons of polluted water east and west via the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. Florida Bay to the south is suffering a sea grass die-off that parallels the late 1980s and early 1990s, while the quality and quantity of the drinking water for nearly 8 million Floridians remains threatened. Intuitively, 73 percent of the state's voters now are more concerned about Florida's water supply as a result of the crisis in Flint, Mich.
The tragedy of Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and Florida Bay can be solved if we send Lake Okeechobee water south where it will be stored, cleaned and delivered to the Everglades and Florida Bay. This is the heart of Everglades restoration and is a near-term priority of the highest order.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP, is a master plan that requires the incremental support of our elected leaders in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. and, therefore, frequently stalls. It is only with lawmakers' support that we can create essential water storage south of Lake Okeechobee while initiating infrastructure projects removing manmade levees and dams in the central Everglades, thereby creating a more natural sheet flow of freshwater south.
Despite the decades-long debate surrounding the restoration of America's Everglades, Florida voters remain steadfastly committed to the priority, 84 percent of whom consider the Everglades to be a "source of pride" -- 65 percent strongly so.
With so much at stake and voters of various ethnicities and political stripes uniting to speak in such a pronounced voice, we need to double down on our collective resolve to finalize the implementation of CERP, beginning with storing the water of Lake Okeechobee and sending it south.
Related:           Florida's River of Grass gets a conservation boost     Christian Science Monitor
Florida legislators forced to spend $250M per year on Everglades   Bradenton Herald


Conservation land
Naples Daily News - Letter to the Editor by Bonnie Michaels, Naples, FL - Collier Citizens for Sustainability
April 8, 2016
As rapid development is on the rise, it appears that initiating ideas to acquire conservation lands is imperative.
Every green space is going quickly, which not only affects our quality of life but prevents water from flowing to our aquifers.
Conservation Collier was a community planning initiative that resulted in funds for land acquisition but now future acquisition cycles have been suspended.
Public policy by the governor, state legislators and Collier County Commission is unfavorable so that private funding seems the only alternative. Amendment 1 had a 75 percent favorable vote for government funding for land acquisition but the legislators put it into administration.
Enter Bobbie Davenport, a passionate environmental activist who has volunteered for Sierra Club Calusa Group, Responsible Growth Management Coalition, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, Save our Creeks and the Agency for Bay Management, and who is taking action to protect and preserve our wildlife and sensitive lands.
She has formed a nonprofit organization, Cypress Cove Conservancy, to begin a process of buying up land for preservation. The message of the organization on their website,, is simple — "Together we can make a difference."
They believe that if everyone gave as little as $25 to $100 per year, there would be dollars to buy land.
It is time to revisit the course and pursue land purchases before it is too late. If you are concerned about the loss of green space, wildlife and our aquifers, you can participate in the initiative by donating and spreading the word,
The current project offers much for the community and the funding site is certainly worth a read.


Cow-eating alligator the 'size of a car' shot in Florida
April 8, 2016
Animal was almost 15ft long and weighed 780lbs – but it's not the biggest the
state has seen.
A man in Florida has shot dead an alligator the size of a car which he believes was eating his cattle - and the photos of the 15ft reptile have gone viral.
Lee Lightsey, a professional hunter and farmer, killed the animal on a guided hunt on Sunday at Okeechobee. He says it was one of the biggest he has come across in 18 years.
"Although this animal is huge I was not that surprised it existed. We have come across lots over the last 20 years that have been only a little smaller," he told the BBC.
"But what really drew our attention to this animal was the fact that it seems to have been feasting on the cattle on my farm, because mutilated body parts were found in the water. It was a monster which needed to be removed."
He added that he has killed 5,000 alligators bigger than five feet since 1988, but always "with the minimum of suffering, without allowing them to be injured before they die".
According to Florida's [2] Sun Sentinel newspaper, the animal was so big that photos put on Facebook by Lightsey were at first thought to be Photoshopped. A tractor was required to shift the carcass.
The alligator was "the size of a CAR", The Sun observes. But it wasn't the biggest recorded in Florida. By weight, it is substantially outclassed by a 1,043lb gator harpooned by a trapper near Gainesville in the late 1980s.
Lightsey said he plans to have the hide stuffed and to give the meat to charity. It's likely to be a substantial donation: the Gainesville alligator yielded 294lbs of meat and 15ft of hide, which together had a wholesale value of $2,500 - in 1989.

Gov. Scott Signs 'Legacy Florida' For Everglades
CBS Local – by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
Apr 8, 2016
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Governor Rick Scott has signed a bill known as “Legacy Florida” that opens a tap of cash to help restore the Everglades, the state’s natural springs and Lake Apopka.
The measure, which was a priority of legislative leaders and had the support of conservationists, could annually set aside more than $250 million for restoration work. The money will come from funds that voters designated in 2014 to manage and preserve state lands and waters.
“I want to thank the Florida Legislature for fulfilling the promise I made to create a dedicated source of funding to restore the Florida Everglades,” Scott said in a prepared statement.
The release from Scott’s office also noted that the governor will hold ceremonial bill-signings across the state in the coming weeks.
“The Legacy Florida program will allow us to provide clean water to Florida’s growing population and will aid us in completing the decades-long restoration of the River of Grass,” House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, said in a statement.
The money for the work will come from the state’s land-acquisition trust fund, which is used to carry out a 2014 constitutional amendment that requires a portion of documentary-stamp taxes to be set aside for land and water buying and preservation.
Conservationists considered the Legacy Florida measure their biggest accomplishment of the 2016 legislative session and hope that lawmakers will continue to carve out money from the voter-backed amendment for other priorities.
“I like the idea of earmarking. If we could just get a generous earmark for land conservation, then we will have finally achieved exactly what the voters wanted,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. “But the voters certainly wanted the Everglades. That was in the first line of the amendment.”
The funding doesn’t address issues such as water problems in Northwest Florida’s Apalachicola Bay or in the northern Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, where “brown tide” problems have resulted in thousands of fish dying. But it is expected to help areas such as the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been harmed by polluted water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
Incoming Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who sponsored the Senate version of the Legacy Florida bill, said the measure “will bring much needed relief to our community and others impacted by water releases from Lake Okeechobee.”
The Everglades work is expected to draw more water from Lake Okeechobee to the south, away from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
In February, Scott signed an executive order that declared a state of emergency for counties — Martin, St. Lucie and Lee — impacted by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
State Affairs Chairman Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, and Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, sponsored the bill in the House.
Under the Legacy Florida plan, the state will designate up to $200 million a year to the Everglades, $50 million annually to the springs and $5 million a year to Lake Apopka, which environmentalists consider the state’s original polluted lake.
Under the bill, the Everglades and Lake Apopka funding will run until the 2025-2026 fiscal year. No end date has been attached to the springs funding.
The measure was the last bill approved before the session ended March 11, getting near-unanimous support.
The House initially sought to limit Legacy Florida to the Everglades, where projects have already been identified through the Central Everglades Planning Project, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.
But some key senators have long pushed for springs projects. Negron has said he expects the Department of Environmental Protection to provide lawmakers with a ranking of springs projects next year.
Related:           Gov. Scott approves Legacy Florida legislation to help Everglades  Associated Press
State commits to spending $250 million a year to repair Everglades       Miami Herald
Florida's River of Grass gets a conservation boost       Christian Science Monitor  


Everglades Day not much to get excited about
TCPalm – by Ed Killer
April 8, 2016
Murky waters from Lake Okeechobee discharges stain the St. Lucie River on Feb. 11 near Palm City and Stuart. The Army Corps of Engineers opened the St. Lucie Lock and Dam on Jan. 30 and Lake Okeechobee water has been flowing into the St. Lucie River since. The lake water dumps nitrogen into the river which eventually creates toxic algae blooms. Vegetation and animals suffer from the dirty water and the local economy is impacted negatively. (LEAH
"The water is timeless, forever new and eternal." — Marjory Stoneman Douglas, "The Everglades: River of Grass"
Happy belated Everglades Day.
In case you missed it, Thursday would have been the 126th birthday of noted Floridian, author and Everglades champion Marjory Stoneman Douglas. She was a conservation-minded visionary who viewed the saw grass and lily pad covered wetlands of South Florida as more than just an obstacle in the way of development.
She penned the iconic Florida work "The Everglades: River of Grass" in 1947, the same year the National Park Service instituted Everglades National Park.
The "River of Grass" Douglas wrote about actually is much larger than the park. It has its headwaters more than 200 miles to the north, in the creeks on the south side of sprawling Orlando.
Thursday was a cause for celebration. The Everglades Foundation hosted a special "State of the Everglades" address at Stuart's Downtown Riverwalk along the shores of the St. Lucie River. Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg emceed a presentation that covered the dry season El Nino-spurred Lake Okeechobee discharges into the river and Indian River Lagoon, the recent passage of Legacy Florida legislation sponsored by Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell and signed Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott, and the need to expedite restoration projects that will help bring economic relief to waterfront communities along three of Florida's largest estuaries.
This a day after Stuart was announced as Coastal Living magazine's "Happiest Seaside Town."
The need for clean water in Florida is critical on so many levels. Since Jan. 30, 100 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee runoff has been sent seaward through the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. Twice that has been sent westward into the Gulf of Mexico through the Caloosahatchee River and Charlotte Harbor.
That water should never go to these estuaries. It completely disrupts the circle of life meant to take place in these fragile waters every spring.
Plus, the Everglades badly needs that water, too. Two generations ago we diverted that water for the purpose of growing crops. We began to drain the swampy lands north, south and around Lake Okeechobee for its gift of fertile soil. We began to grow cattle, cabbage and corn, beans and radishes, and now, sod and sugar cane.
It made sense in the 1920s to build roads across the Everglades and a dike around the lake. Based on engineering of the day, excess water had to go east and west into rivers and estuaries never designed by Mother Nature to accept it. Now, it makes more economic sense to stop discharging water into the coastal estuaries, and restore the flow of the River of Grass to the south.
Eikenberg said the $293 million federal commitment to fund the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) finally may be in the next budget. That's good news, since Floridians have waited 16 years so far for Congress to match the state's contribution of $200 million.
He said it will likely be the next president who will sign the budget. The thought made me shudder. Who among the proposed presidential candidates would support the funding necessary to complete these projects?
It may sound crazy, and this is not an endorsement, but there is a chance that CERP, signed in 2000 by President Bill Clinton, could one day be funded by the signature of another President Clinton.
Eikenberg closed the gathering speaking passionately and with a tone of hopeful optimism. He said the battle to restore the flow of Central Florida's water toward the thirsty Everglades and Florida Bay needs to continue. We need to keep fighting, he said, so our children can benefit from healthy Florida waters.
I've been told I live in the nation's happiest seaside town, but forgive my cynicism. If the River of Grass is ever to return, and Lake Okeechobee discharges to our coasts are to end, it will require the kind of political leadership at state and federal levels that is in short supply. And at the rate Everglades restoration is taking place, our children won't live to see it, but our grandchildren might.


Everglades Foundation's Eikenberg hails CERP as the 'One Solution'
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
April 8, 2016
It's not often Everglades Foundation Chief Executive Officer Eric Eikenberg and I agree. But Thursday in Martin County, on Marjory Stoneman Douglas' birthday and in celebration of Everglades Day, Eikenberg told a gathering this: "Despite three estuaries in crisis, we have ONE solution and that solution is the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) …."
I couldn't agree more. But I don't think I've heard, or read anywhere, that he ever before called CERP the "one" solution. Have a look at Eikenberg addressing celebrants along the Riverwalk in Stuart Thursday in the video below. CERP is indeed the solution.
Of course, later, the local press picked up the other Everglades Foundation "only solution" -- "move the water south." Move it into reservoirs? Nah, probably not what they have in mind. But CERP work is expected to draw more water from Lake Okeechobee to the south, away from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. 
In spite of mounting evidence that septic tank waste is the chief waterway polluter in counties now experiencing brown tide and other water fouling following freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee, Eikenberg doesn't buy it. He has blamed pollution from Lake Okeechobee. That's where he and I disagree.
For now, though, I'm hopeful the Everglades Foundation CEO believes in the CERP Plan, will give it a chance, and with his formidable influence, take an active role in its completion.
Environmentalists look at Legacy Florida as their biggest accomplishment of the 2016 legislative session. They're hoping lawmakers will keep on carving out money to fund their other priorities.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, told the News Service of Florida, "I like the idea of earmarking. If we could just get a generous earmark for land conservation, then we will have finally achieved exactly what the voters wanted. But the voters certainly wanted the Everglades. That was in the first line of the amendment."
Certainly, Eikenberg -- by defining CERP as the one solution to South Florida estuaries in crisis -- would agree with Draper.
Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, House sponsor of Legacy Florida, stood with Eikenberg during his talk in Stuart Thursday. He called Legacy Florida "a key part of making (CERP) a reality."
Here's how Legacy Florida works, including its implications:
-- The bill amends the Florida Statutes to provide for the distribution of funds deposited into the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. Of the funds remaining after the payment of debt service obligations, the Legislature will be required to appropriate a minimum of the lesser of 25 percent or $200 million for Everglades projects that implement CERP, including the Central Everglades Planning Project subject to congressional authorization, the Long-Term Plan, and the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program (NEEPP).
-- After deducting $32 million for distribution to the SFWMD for the Long Term Plan, the bill provides for a distribution from the funds remaining, a minimum of the lesser of 76.5 percent or $100 million be appropriated each fiscal year through the 2025-2026 fiscal year for the planning, design, engineering and construction of the CERP. The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the SFWMD to give preference to projects that reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee estuaries in a timely manner.  After these distributions expire, the entire $200 million must be appropriated annually for CERP and NEEPP projects through 2035-36.
-- In addition, the bill requires an appropriation of a minimum of the lesser of 7.6 percent or $50 million each fiscal year through the 2035-2036 fiscal year for springs restoration, protection and management projects, and requires a $5 million appropriation each fiscal year through 2025-2026 to the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) for projects dedicated to the restoration of Lake Apopka.
House Bill 5001, the 2016-17 General Appropriations Act provides $32 million for the Long Term Plan, $100 million for the CERP, $70.1 million for northern Everglades and estuaries protection, $50 million for springs restoration, protection and management, and $5.1 million for Lake Apopka restoration in accordance with the provisions of House Bill 989.
President-Designate Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who sponsored the  bill in the Senate, said,  “The passage of Legacy Florida is a historic achievement in Florida and will bring much needed relief to our community and others impacted by water releases from Lake Okeechobee. I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 989 into law today and also recognize fellow members of the Legislature for their united efforts on this important legislation.”


Environmentalists, lawmakers talk pollution on Everglades Day – by Hannah Schwab of TCPalm
April 7, 2016
Happy Everglades Day !
In March 2012, the Florida Legislature voted to make April 7 Everglades Day in honor of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who fought to protect the Everglades.
Douglas' book, "The Everglades: River of Grass," published in 1947, still draws attention to the threats facing the national park. April 7 was Douglas' birthday. She died in 1998.
On the fourth annual Everglades Day, environmentalists and lawmakers met at the Stuart Riverwalk to talk about the state of the Everglades. Among the speakers were members of the Everglades Foundation, the Florida Oceanographic Society and State Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart.
The Everglades are inextricably linked to the Indian River Lagoon by the diversion of Lake Okeechobee water, which is released via the St. Lucie River when the lake level gets too high, posing a risk of the dike breaking.
That water historically flowed south to the thirsty Glades. Now it devastates the lagoon, killing marine life that needs salty water to live, and polluting it with nitrogen, which can cause algae blooms. Some types of algae can be toxic.
In 2013, Treasure Coast Newspapers created an Indian River Lagoon team dedicated to covering the problem, seeking solutions and holding government leaders accountable.
Keep up with all of our lagoon content at or click on the links below to read some of our biggest stories and learn how you can get involved in saving the waterway.
●  Lake Okeechobee discharge meter
●  How's the water in your area?
●  How to check for Vibrio vulnificus
●  Meet our Indian River Lagoon dolphins
●  Contact your lawmakers about the pollution in the Indian River Lagoon
Related:           Locals discuss Lake Okeechobee discharges on Everglades Day


Indian River Lagoon declines trigger alarm
Orlando Sentinel – by Kevin Spear
April 7, 2016
A staggering die-off of fish now raising stench and emotions is just the latest of many disasters for an abused span of Florida's east coast, the Indian River Lagoon.
Hugging nearly half of the state's east coast, Indian River has suffered an epic decline.
The skinny, 156-mile-long bay welcomed the rush of new residents in the 1900s as an idyllic aquarium. Its sandy bottom was lush with sea grass and translucent water teemed with oysters, red fish and manatees.
By this decade, however, pollution from fertilizer, septic tanks, sewage plants and storm water has transformed the lagoon into a killing field for essential grasses and creatures with shells, fins and feathers.
"I think we have hit that low point where this isn't just something that if we give it a few days, it will go away," said Duane De Freese, director of Indian River Lagoon Council, a state agency of local leaders that gets federal help.
The ailing gem has arrived at a key juncture, some environmentalists say.
"Can it get worse? Absolutely," said Laurilee Thompson, owner of Dixie Crossroads restaurant in Titusville and a lagoon advocate who welcomes invitations to speak about a waterway once touted as among the nation's most biologically spectacular.
"It's up to the people who live here to clean up the lagoon," she said.
Central Florida's Lake Apopka is an example of a system that went belly up and has stayed that way. The huge and severely polluted lake has had only incremental improvement after nearly 30 years of work costing millions of dollars.
Of the relatively few Florida examples of communities banding together to restore an environment, those of Sarasota and Tampa bays are often mentioned.
Tampa Bay was so wrecked a few decades ago that it was showcased in a 60 Minutes broadcast. Fish kills were frequent and rotting algae was ugly, stinky and everywhere.
Holly Greening, director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, said cities, counties, activists and industries facing each other across the bay coalesced to revive sea grass that is essential to maintaining the ecosystem of the bay.
When Sarasota Bay started to decline, leaders in the predominantly Republican area voted a decade ago to raise taxes, adopt environmental ordinances and get rid of septic tanks at a cost of thousands of dollars for each homeowner.
Jon Thaxton, then a Sarasota County commissioner, said key for those moves were residents' characteristics: they were engaged, educated and affluent.
Indian River leaders have met with their counterparts in Tampa and Sarasota to see if similar steps would help the Indian River Lagoon. Whether their lessons are transferable remains to be seen.
The lagoon is mutating from a diverse environment into the domain of a single form of marine life: algae.
A team of state biologist spent a day recently on the Indian River Lagoon near Titusvlle. The biologists measured fish, animals, grasses, algae, temperature, oxygen, clarity and other fundamentals. The data may help solve and prevent fish kills like a massive episode in March.
A team of state biologist spent a day recently on the Indian River Lagoon near Titusvlle. The biologists measured fish, animals, grasses, algae, temperature, oxygen, clarity and other fundamentals. The data may help solve and prevent fish kills like a massive episode in March.
One particular type has begun to flare up in recent years, revealing itself as unpredictable and lethally opportunistic.
At times, the algae's microscopic cells have multiplied into such concentrations that lagoon waters have turned opaque with what scientists call "brown tide."
"It's pretty gross," said Beth Sanford, 33, an Orlando resident who grew up in Brevard County with the lagoon as her playground.
Curious about conditions, she went fishing Monday from a pier in Merritt Island and was dismayed by water that previously had several feet of clarity but now was saturated with a greenish-brown stain.
A brown tide earlier this decade decimated sea grass — which was linked to a die-off of manatees — by blocking sunlight to the plants.
The latest outbreak this year in Brevard has been blamed for a plunge in oxygen that suffocated so many fish that a fleet of Dumpsters was brought in to haul away rotting carcasses.
"Now, the realization is that unless we do something, we are going to live with this over and over and over again," De Freese said.
Last month's fish kill has further spurred residents and local leaders to take action, said Vince Lamb, a longtime Brevard County environmental advocate.
"It was a pretty good wake-up call," said Lamb, who hopes summertime bans on lawn fertilizer adopted in recent years will reduce pollution.
Brevard governments and state agencies are promoting measures to be taken, including dredging, treating storm water and establishing oyster beds.
Last week, biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission boated into the lagoon near Titusville.
They are conducting part of the agency's research in many of the state's coastal waters, making sophisticated assessments of fish, animals, grasses, algae, temperature, oxygen, clarity and other fundamentals.
"We try to look at the entire ecosystem," biologist Doug Adams said.
With scientific data and projects growing by the day, Brevard Commissioner Trudie Infantini wanted to go a step further late last month.
She called on other commissioners to declare the river a top priority and to ask Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency. Both efforts were rebuffed.
"I'm concerned because we are doing too little," Infantini said. "Our lack of action will cause dire consequences that our community will not like."


‘Legacy Florida’ sets aside $250M for Everglades, springs - by Jim Turner, the News Service of Florida
April 7, 2016
TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday signed a bill known as "Legacy Florida" that opens a tap of cash to help restore the state's natural springs, the Everglades and Lake Apopka.
The measure (HB 989), which was a priority of legislative leaders and had the support of conservationists, could annually set aside more than $250 million for restoration work. The money will come from funds that voters designated in 2014 to manage and preserve state lands and waters.
Under the Legacy Florida plan, the state will designate up to $200 million a year to the Everglades, $50 million annually to the springs and $5 million a year to Lake Apopka, which environmentalists consider the state's original polluted lake.
The Everglades and Lake Apopka funding will run until the 2025-2026 fiscal year. No end date has been attached to the springs funding.
"I want to thank the Florida Legislature for fulfilling the promise I made to create a dedicated source of funding to restore the Florida Everglades," Scott said in a prepared statement.
The release from Scott's office also noted that the governor will hold ceremonial bill-signings across the state in the coming weeks.
"The Legacy Florida program will allow us to provide clean water to Florida's growing population and will aid us in completing the decades-long restoration of the River of Grass," House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, said in a statement.
The money for the work will come from the state's land-acquisition trust fund, which is used to carry out a 2014 constitutional amendment that requires a portion of documentary-stamp taxes to be set aside for land and water buying and preservation.
Conservationists considered the Legacy Florida measure their biggest accomplishment of the 2016 legislative session and hope that lawmakers will continue to carve out money from the voter-backed amendment for other priorities.
"I like the idea of earmarking. If we could just get a generous earmark for land conservation, then we will have finally achieved exactly what the voters wanted," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. "But the voters certainly wanted the Everglades. That was in the first line of the amendment."
The funding doesn't address issues such as water problems in Northwest Florida's Apalachicola Bay or in the northern Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, where "brown tide" problems have resulted in thousands of fish dying. But it is expected to help areas such as the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries that have been harmed by polluted water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
Incoming Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who sponsored the Senate version of the Legacy Florida bill, said the measure "will bring much needed relief to our community and others impacted by water releases from Lake Okeechobee."
The Everglades work is expected to draw more water from Lake Okeechobee to the south, away from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
In February, Scott signed an executive order that declared a state of emergency for counties --- Martin, St. Lucie and Lee --- impacted by discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
State Affairs Chairman Matt Caldwell, R-North Fort Myers, and Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, sponsored the bill in the House.
The measure was the last bill approved before the session ended March 11, getting near-unanimous support.
The House initially sought to limit Legacy Florida to the Everglades, where projects have already been identified through the Central Everglades Planning Project, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program.
But some key senators have long pushed for springs projects. Negron has said he expects the Department of Environmental Protection to provide lawmakers with a ranking of springs projects next year.


Gov. Scott

Rick Scott signs Legacy Florida bill on Everglades Action Day
Florida Politics
April 7, 2016
On Everglades Action Day, Gov. Rick Scott took steps to make sure there’s a dedicated funding source to restore the River of Grass.
Scott signed a bill (HB 989) into law on Thursday to create an annual dedicated funding source to protect Florida’s environment. The Legacy Florida bill sets aside up to $200 million a year for Everglades restoration, up to $50 million for Florida springs, and $5 million for Lake Apopka.
“Florida is known across the world for our pristine ecosystem and waterways, supporting our economy and quality of life,” Scott said in a prepared statement Thursday. “Over the last five years, we have invested more than $688 million for Everglades restoration. This legislation will continue our commitment to protecting Florida’s environment so future generations can enjoy all that Florida has to offer.”
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron and Rep. Gayle Harrell. In statements on Thursday, the pair thanked Scott for his support.
“By passing this legislation to establish the Legacy Florida initiative, the House is ensuring we have a dedicated and reliable funding source to restore the Florida Everglades, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers and end the releases from Lake Okeechobee,” said Harrell in a prepared statement. “Legacy Florida will enable us to preserve these natural treasures for future generations.”
Among other thing, the Legacy Florida bill required the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to give preference to projects that reduce the discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee estuaries.
Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, both Southwest Florida Republicans, cosponsored the legislation.
“The restoration of Lake Okeechobee, the Indian River Lagoon, and the Everglades is a major concern for all of Southwest Florida,” said Caldwell in a prepared statement. “With the passage of Legacy Florida, we are taking steps to solve those concerns by creating a dedicated funding stream with the sole purpose of protecting the health of the Everglades.”
The Everglades Foundation applauded Scott for passing the bill. In a statement, CEO Eric Eikenberg said the bill “marks a momentous occasion.”
“This will establish a dedicated source of revenue for Everglades restoration projects and allow for significant progress toward completing the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan,” Eikenberg said. “Restoration is a smart investment for our state. Every dollar spent on Everglades restoration results in a $4 return.”
Related:           New law guarantees state Everglades funding           Sun Sentinel
River of Grass: Scott approves Legacy Florida legislation     Wink News
Rick Scott signs 'Legacy Florida' bill, steers millions to environment            MyPalmBeachPost
Scott Signs 'Legacy Florida' for Everglades, Springs Southeast AgNet
Scott Signs 'Legacy Florida,' Greens Rejoice WFSU
Rick Scott Signs Legacy Florida Bill into Law          Sunshine State News


St. Lucie River oysters ready to spawn, if Lake Okeechobee discharges don’t increase - by Tyler Treadway
April 7, 2016
STUART — The Lake Okeechobee discharges keep hanging around. At least for now, so is life in the St. Lucie River.
The future of the discharges, however, seems more certain than the future of marine life in the estuary.
The Army Corps of Engineers announced Thursday the discharges would remain at their current level — an average of about 750 million gallons a day — for at least the next week.
The reason: Lake Okeechobee stood at just over 15 feet Thursday, a foot higher than this time last year and "much higher than we'd like it to be this time of year," said Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, the corps' deputy commander for Florida.
The corps would like the lake to drop to around 12 feet, 6 inches by June 1, the beginning of the summer rainy season. It's dropped less than a foot since the discharges started Jan. 30.
As bad as 750 million gallons a day sounds — enough water to fill more than 1,300 Olympic-size swimming pools — it's a lot less than the 2 billion to 3.4 billion gallons a day that were being dumped into the estuary in February. Feb. 14 marked the highest daily discharge recorded, 3.4 billion gallons, which is enough to cover the city of Stuart with more than 19 feet of water.
The drop in discharges has helped the St. Lucie River stay alive, but just barely, said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart. The fresh water from the lake drops salinity levels in the estuary, which is supposed to be a mixture of fresh water from the local basin and salt water brought in from the ocean via the St. Lucie Inlet.
"Salinity levels in the estuary are coming back up, but only slightly," Perry said Thursday after environmentalists marked Everglades Day at the Riverwalk Stage in downtown Stuart. As he spoke, the river seemed alive as mullet flopped and birds skimmed the mocha-colored water.
But saltiness in the river is just above the minimum amount oysters need to survive, about half the amount they need to actually thrive. In particular, oysters could use more salinity in April and May: spawning season.
"We've had people out in the estuary running tests," Perry said, "and the oyster are really, really ripe; they're ready to spawn."
The lack of salt in the estuary makes spawning iffy, Perry said. If the oysters do spawn, the young likely would not survive if the discharges are increased at the beginning of the rainy season in late May.
Whether the discharges ramp up, decrease or stop altogether depends, as always, on the rain.
Except for a good chance of rain next Wednesday and Thursday, the National Weather Service is predicting dry conditions through the end of April, said Matt Volkmer, a meteorologist at the Melbourne station.
The El Niño weather pattern that brought lots of rain over the winter "is on the wane over the next month or two," Volkmer said. "We're already seeing evidence of that with the return of normal dry-season conditions."
The chance of rain increases a bit in May, Volkmer said, just as the wet season begins June 1.
The forecast for the summer rainy season is a tossup.
"There are equal chances of the summer being wetter than normal, drier than normal or just plain normal," Volkmer said. "But chances are we'll see a fair amount of rain."


WWF: Industrial activity threatens almost half of World’s Natural Heritage Sites - by Karan Gosal
April 7, 2016
On Wednesday, the WWF conservation group said that industrial activity like mining and logging is threatening nearly 50% of the natural World Heritage sites in the world, ranging from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru.
WWF conservation group has asked companies to abide by the UN appeals of announcing all heritage sites ‘no go’ regions for oil and gas exploration, mines, invalid timber production and over-fishing.
As per the study by WWF and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, a US-based consultancy, in total 114 World Heritage sites among the 229 across the world, that have been prized for nature or a mixture of nature and culture, have been facing threat.
While speaking to Reuters, Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, said that this was shocking and they have been trying their level best to raise a flag here. Lambertini said that they aren’t against this development and are just opposing badly planned development.
The WWF findings are more in number compared to the 18 natural sites catalogued as ’in danger’, a more serious condition, by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, the UN's cultural agency.
For example, the WWF has rated the Great Barrier Reef as facing threat from shipping and mining, while previous year, the Heritage Committee stopped short of an ‘in danger’ listing. The WWF further said that Andes’ Machu Picchu that wasn’t also on the UN list was facing threat from logging.
It added that the other areas facing threat include the United States’ Everglades, Galapagos Islands in Ecuador or Kamchatka volcanoes in Russia. It mentioned that among them, the Heritage Committee rated just the Everglades as ‘in danger’.
Mechtild Rossler, director of UNESCO's World Heritage Centre in Paris, said that these kinds of non-governmental reports are welcomed by her as an aid to increase risk awareness.
According to a report in CS Monitor by Story Hinckley, "Not at all, says a new report on United Nations World Heritage sites commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). On the contrary, healthy environments often boost local economies, meaning that industrial expansion in natural heritage sites is a threat to those who live there, too."
World Heritage sites numbering 229 have been designated in 96 countries because UNESCO believes their "outstanding universal value" should belong to all people in the world, from Australia's Great Barrier Reef to Machu Picchu in Peru. But WWF's report, released Tuesday, estimates that almost half of these sites are threatened by industrial activities such as construction, mining, oil and gas exploration, illegal logging, or overfishing.
"The Director of the World Heritage Centre welcomes cooperation with NGOs, including WWF, on the protection of World Heritage sites worldwide as partners in the identification, nomination and protection of World Heritage properties. The International Council on Minerals and Mining (ICMM)’s “No-Go commitment”, signed in 2003 by some of the world’s biggest mining companies "not to explore or mine in World Heritage properties", was a major breakthrough at the time. An increasing number of private companies are uniting around this commitment not to carry out extractive operations in World Heritage sites, with Tullow Oil joining most recently. In part thanks to NGOs and civil society, many States Parties have been alerted to potential threats to their irreplaceable heritage and to sites of Outstanding Universal Value. The World Heritage Committee is taking increasingly strong action to prevent deterioration of World Heritage sites and mitigate threats to them," according to a news report published by UNESCO.
The 1972 World Heritage Convention was ahead of its time when it considered “that, in view of the magnitude and gravity of the new dangers threatening them, it is incumbent on the international community as a whole to participate in the protection of the cultural and natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value…”. The challenges to World Heritage conservation, combined with the effects of climate change, are unprecedented in human history. The need for joint and collective collaboration among all stakeholders has never been more important.
In a report published by the Brevard Times, "Almost half of all natural World Heritage Sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Machu Picchu, are threatened by industrial activities such as mining, oil exploration and illegal logging, conservation group WWF warned Wednesday."
The 114 threatened sites, virtually half the total listed by UNESCO, provide food, water, shelter and medicine to over 11 million people — more than the population of Portugal, according to a WWF-commissioned report.
“Instead, too often, we grant concessions for exploration of oil, gas or minerals, and plan large-scale industrial projects without considering social and environmental risks.”
Related:           114 out of 229 World Heritage sites under threat from industrial ... Maine News Online
Shocking report: Half of World Heritage Sites face this huge threat BABW News
Natural World Heritage Sites at Risk: Includes Great Barrier Reef ...           The Marshalltown


Clawson, local captains push for sugar land purchase – by Chuck Gillis
April 6, 2016
Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, filed the Everglades Land Acquisition Act last month, and now he's trying to gather support for buying and restoring agriculture lands south of Lake Okeechobee.
Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, is pushing a bill that would set aside $500 million to purchase agriculture lands south of Lake Okeechobee
Curt Clawson wants $500 million set aside to buy agriculture land south of Lake Okeechobee in order to help ease dirty water conditions on the east and west coasts.
The congressman from Bonita Springs filed the Everglades Land Acquisition Act last month, and now he's trying to gather support for buying and restoring agriculture lands south of Lake Okeechobee. Much of that land is owned and operated by U.S. Sugar.
His move comes more than two months after the Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District began releasing maximum amounts of water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. Local waters have turned murky and lifeless, and Clawson and others want more water flowing south and into Everglades National Park.
"This black water wasn't meant to be here; it was meant to go south," Clawson said while standing under a Sanibel causeway bridge. "We can build bigger holding ponds (treatment areas) and bigger dikes and other holding ponds and inventory storage methods for the black water, and eventually drain it down here (Southwest Florida) one way or another."
The land is south of the lake and north of Everglades park, right in the middle of the historic Everglades. Water from the lake is too dirty to be legally discharged into Everglades National Park, so the state has built a series of what are called "stormwater treatment areas" to clean up some of the agricultural pollution.
Clawson said the system is simply unbalanced.
"It's crazy to me to have dirty water here, too much freshwater here while seagrass dies in Florida Bay south of the Everglades," Clawson said. "We have too much and they don't have enough, and in the meantime we keep building storage pots where the water just gets nasty anyway."
State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, and fishing guides, Realtors and environmental groups met with Clawson on Wednesday to talk about securing those farm lands.
"We're talking about an opportunity that exists because the governor declared a state of emergency," Fitzenhagen said. "And with that comes opportunities to take steps we would not normally do."
Fitzenhagen said she sent a letter to the state's emergency management team, asking for any and all available resources to address the problem.
"I've asked (state emergency management) to please do anything they can, marshaling all the resources to begin to find a way to get the (South Florida Water Management District) to take a look at finding a plan to send water south," Fitzenhagen  said.
A century ago water from the lake would have slowly spread across the southern peninsula, but that connection has been disrupted by the Herbert Hoover Dike, Interstate 75 and Tamiami Trail.
Recreating some of that historic storage is a major constraint with Everglades restoration, critics say.
"You have to store water south of Lake Okeechobee and you have to store water in other areas," said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO. "Not only are we having a crisis on this estuary, we're seeing it along the east coast along the St. Lucie. In Florida Bay, 50,000 acres of dead sea grass from the lack of freshwater flowing south. We have three crisis and one solution."
Buying farm land south of the lake would improve water quality conditions here and elsewhere by cutting down on the amount of fertilizers that flow into the Caloosahatchee River.
The excess nutrients feed toxic algal blooms. If that weren't enough, dark water prohibits sunlight from reaching seagrass beds, which stops the critical process of photosynthesis.
Steve Davis, a biologist who works for the foundation, said this region may see Lake Okeechobee releases for the remainder of 2016.
"Typically at this time of year the water would be clear," Davis said. "You'd see the seagrass on the bottom. And we're still seeing about 2 billion gallons of polluted, black water coming out of the lake each day."
Fishing guides with Captains for Clean Water took the Everglades Foundation on the water earlier in the day to see the murky waters flowing along the coast.
"This problem doesn't go away when this water clears up and we get the beautiful turquoise water that Southwest Florida is known for," said Daniel Andrews, a spokesperson for the captains group. "It will take years of proper management to restore the habitat that was lost. The sea grass, the oysters, they add a huge economic value to his area."
Andrews said the problems can be solved if politicians pay more attention to coastal communities than they do large agriculture operations, many of which fund their campaigns.
"Florida is the fishing capital of the world," Andrews said. "And we need to preserve that. But in order to do that we have to have the political will."


Science shows more EAA land needed to restore Everglades
Naples Daily News - Guest commentary by Jennifer Hecker
April 6, 2016
The Everglades, one of the largest and most unique wetlands on Earth, is often now parched without sufficient clean freshwater.
On this Everglades Day, it is important to not only remember why it is critical to invest in the existing restoration plan, but to also call attention to the critical missing piece of the puzzle needed to quench its thirst.
This missing piece is buying additional lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) for more water storage, treatment and conveyance south to the Everglades.
The state's 2008 Reviving the River of Grass initiative and the more recent 2015 University of Florida Water Institute study both state over a million acre-feet of storage north of Lake Okeechobee and 1.2 million acre-feet (391 billion gallons) of storage in the EAA would be needed to take the amount of water coming into the lake and out to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries as harmfully high discharges and send it instead to the Everglades.
To address the pollution in this water also requires EAA lands.
Water from the lake is too dirty to send to the Everglades without filtration. Current treatment areas in the Everglades are maxed out, so added treatment would be needed. The water must be captured and stored first to not overload the new treatment areas, or they will fail and polluted water would flow downstream and destroy the remaining Everglades and Florida Bay.
The bottom line is that water currently being discharged out of our river originally flowed through the EAA region when it was historically part of the Everglades. With added EAA land, we can move that water south again, building a wider path for conveyance, a catchment reservoir and additional filter marshes.
This can all be done without reducing flood protection for inland communities or displacing large numbers of inland residents. Additionally, Lake Okeechobee will be healthier and there would be a reduced risk of dike failure, improving the economy and safety of both inland and coastal communities.
In response to the state's current inaction to secure the EAA lands based on political reasons, it is appropriate and necessary for the federal government to pursue buying them to protect federal resources being impacted, such as the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
That's why the Conservancy of Southwest Florida supports a bill recently filed by U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, to buy lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area (HR 4793). This bill would draw upon emergency funds and would not affect funding for other Everglades restoration projects.
To quote the South Florida Water Management District from when its members were supportive and had begun acquiring these lands in 2008: "The potential acquisition of vast tracts of long-sought-after land in the EAA now offers the unprecedented opportunity to re-establish a historic connection between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades through a managed system of water storage and water quality treatment."
Last year, the district choose to terminate one of the purchase options. However, there is still an option for the state to buy the EAA lands at fair market value. This land isn't going to get any cheaper, and with mining and development marching inward, we cannot allow this opportunity to save our estuaries and the Everglades slip through our hands forever.
Support Everglades restoration by contacting federal and state legislators to request they authorize and appropriate more money for restoration projects, as well as to support buying EAA lands.



CEO of the Everglades

Voters want lawmakers to protect the Everglades
Miami Herald - Op-Ed by Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation

- Acquiring land for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee urgent priority
- Seven in ten voters in recent poll believe environmental laws haven’t gone far enough to protect the Everglades
- Eighty-eight percent expressed concern with environmental state of the Everglades.

April 6, 2016
Everglades pollution threatens its vitality and compromises region’s largest source of fresh water for human consumption. 
Described as “the River of Grass” by writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas, America’s Everglades is a complex wetland system with an area greater than 4,500 square miles, and supported by a watershed nearly 22,000 square miles in size.
More than 8 million people now live in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem, which is integral to the human health, as well as the economic and recreational vitality, of the nation’s third most populous state — with 2,000 new residents joining the state each day.
America’s Everglades is now less than half of its original size of nearly 3 million acres. And much of the water that should be going into the Everglades remains polluted, especially with phosphorus from the fertilizers used in agricultural areas north and south of Lake Okeechobee.
Not only do these fertilizers produce accumulations of toxic mercury in fish, birds, reptiles, and mammals — including the iconic Florida panther, among more than 60 other endangered species — it compromises the region’s largest source of fresh water for human consumption. These are dire problems that, if not remedied, will have severe and lasting effects on the overall quality of life here.
The Everglades Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. We do not support or oppose candidates for office or political parties, but we wanted to see how Floridians and likely voters felt about issues relevant to the Everglades.
In our poll last month, an overwhelming majority of voters, 88 percent, expressed their concern with the current environmental state of America’s Everglades. Correspondingly, 61 percent of voters regard its restoration as being a very important issue — and an even greater percentage view government as being essential to an overall solution.
Seven in ten voters believe environmental laws haven’t gone far enough to protect the Everglades, while 69 percent favor the state purchasing land south of Lake Okeechobee to create additional water storage, thereby ensuring long-term conservation.
Meanwhile, Floridians on both the east and west coasts are witnessing a familiar crisis: Lake Okeechobee threatens to overflow its southern border, venting billions of gallons of polluted water east and west via the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. Florida Bay to the south is suffering a sea grass die-off that parallels the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, while the quality and quantity of the drinking water for nearly 8 million Floridians remains threatened.
Intuitively, 73 percent of the state’s voters now are more concerned about Florida’s water supply as a result of the crisis in Flint, Michigan.
The tragedy of Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and Florida Bay can be solved if we send Lake Okeechobee water south where it will be stored, cleaned and delivered to the Everglades and Florida Bay. This is the heart of Everglades restoration and is a near-term priority of the highest order.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan or CERP is a master plan that requires the incremental support of our elected leaders in both Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. and, therefore, frequently stalls. It is only with lawmakers’ support that we can create essential water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, while initiating infrastructure projects removing man-made levees and dams in the central Everglades, thereby creating a more natural sheet flow of freshwater south.
Despite the decades-long debate surrounding the restoration of America’s Everglades, Florida voters remain steadfastly committed to the priority, 84 percent of whom consider the Everglades to be a “source of pride” — 65 percent strongly so.
With so much at stake, and voters of various ethnicities and political stripes uniting to speak in such a pronounced voice, we need to double down on our collective resolve to finalize the implementation of CERP, beginning with storing the water of Lake Okeechobee and sending it south.

April Freeman calls on Barack Obama to designate Lake O a national monument
Florida Politics – by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster
April 5, 2016
A Southwest Florida Democrat is calling on the federal government to designate Lake Okeechobee as a national monument.
April Freeman, a Cape Coral Democrat running for Congress, said Tuesday that President Barack Obama should designate the lake as a national monument through executive order. The action, she said, would expedite clean-up, and “ensure appropriations for needed repairs and water quality projects.”
“The federal government already owns and maintains the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, and the poisonous water being released from the lake through the Caloosahatchee River and killing the protected wetlands and wildlife of J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge,” she said in prepared remarks.
Freeman is running in Congressional District 17, in hopes of unseating incumbent Republican U.S, Rep. Tom Rooney. The newly drawn district covers all of part of nine counties, including Lee, Charlotte, Polk and Highlands counties.
“I have been an environmental activist for years and have closely been following the water release issues from Lake O for as long as I can remember,” she said.
Freeman started the petition Tuesday on the White House site We the People. The petition calls on the the president to proclaim the lake a national monument, and says that, in conjunction with a proposal by Rep. Curt Clawson, would solve the area’s water crisis.
“Immediate action should be taken to preserve human life, the ecosystem and economic losses that will continue,” the petition says.
In March, Clawson introduced the Everglades Land Acquisition Act. If approved, it would set aside $500 million for the Department of Interior to buy land in the Everglades Agriculture Area. That land would help move the water south.
At least 100,000 people need to sign the petition by May 5 before it will be considered. As on Tuesday evening, 12 people had signed the petition.
“Working together is the only way we are going to make a real difference,” she said.
Freeman is no stranger to congressional runs. In 2014, she ran against Clawson in Congressional District 19. That district includes most of Lee County and a portion of Collier County, and is considered a Republican stronghold.


Casting it as Big Sugar vs. Big Nature isn't helping to restore the Everglades
Tampa Bay Times - Column by Laura A. Ogden, special to the TB Times
April 5, 2016
The politics surrounding the Everglades were driven further into the muck last month after prominent environmental organizations took out newspaper ads comparing the U.S. Sugar Corp.'s pollution of wetlands to the impacts of lead poisoning in Flint, Mich.
This escalating rhetoric only further solidifies the standoff between "Big Sugar" and "Big Nature" at a time when Florida politics hardly needs additional partisanship.
Environmentalists popularized the term "Big Sugar" in the 1990s to counter the sugar companies' fashioning of themselves as humble farmers whose livelihoods were under attack. The sugar industry — whose bigness lies in both its acreage and political giving — has used its influence to subvert efforts to impose a state tax on sugar and, more recently, to water down legislative efforts to acquire agricultural lands for water storage.
Once again, the companies and their legislative allies are countering these escalating attacks by portraying Everglades activists in oppositional terms, what we might call Big Nature. From this rhetorical position, Big Nature is an equally well-financed political machine, intimately connected to the bureaucratic excesses of Big Government. The blogosphere is filled with conspiratorial attacks on Big Nature, often characterized as a "juggernaut" of incestuous leadership and shadowy funding mechanisms.
This script positions Big Sugar as a protector of jobs and rural communities, with Big Nature only interested in saving nature for the people who can afford to drive there, lattes steaming in the cupholders of their Priuses. When Alan Farago, the president of Friends of the Everglades, recently said the Everglades and Flint represented "similar perils in water quality," it did little to lessen concerns that environmentalists are out of touch with the poor and vulnerable in this country.
I am sympathetic to the environmental community's frustrations, as I was raised in a family of committed Everglades scientists and have spent most of my life slogging around these mangrove swamps and sawgrass prairies. I have little doubt that without the efforts of environmental organizations, what's left of the Everglades would have been paved over years ago.
Still, the current Big Sugar vs. Big Nature scenario is producing partisan divisions that are too simple. As should be clear, the Big Sugar (Republican) vs. Big Nature (Democratic) conflict aligns nicely with contemporary political positions. Certainly, Big Sugar's contributions to Republican political campaigns and Gov. Rick Scott's support for Big Sugar's interests simplifies this dichotomy.
Yet the Everglades are complex and resist such simplicity. Republican leadership and bipartisan compromise have been crucial to whatever gains we have made toward Everglades restoration and improving water quality. The 1996 penny-a-pound tax campaign — the original battle against Big Sugar — was led by Republican environmentalists, including Nathaniel Reed, former assistant secretary of the interior in the Nixon and Ford administrations. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the first major restoration effort authorized, required years of bipartisan compromise, including with groups previously opposed to environmental advocacy. This climate of cooperation is essential, even in an era when shouting seems to be the only method of communication.
We need courageous Republican leaders to continue to advocate for land acquisition in the Everglades Agricultural Area and for protecting water quality in Lake Okeechobee. Of equal importance, we need to make sure that blind attacks on Big Sugar don't limit the political possibilities for that leadership.
Laura A. Ogden has written two books about the history of the Everglades. She is an associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College and a 2016 Public Voices Fellow of the Oped Project. She wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.


FL Capitol

How to make America great again
Huffington Post – by Alan Farago
April 5, 2016
Legislatures do perform illegal acts. When they do, it is incumbent on citizens to litigate against those legislatures through the courts. Today the case of Florida’s Fair Districts stands front and center — the historic effort led by Miamian Ellen Freiden to reverse gerrymandered districts in by the GOP — it is far from the only case.
In the past 25 years, I’ve been involved in many skirmishes that sought to hold legislatures and local, state and federal agencies accountable to state and federal law.
I am going to spend the entire day, today, as the only unpaid plaintiff from the “public” in a federal court mediation on the particulars of an Everglades case where $880 million was determined to be the “fair and equitable” settlement framework for clean water in the future, as measured by at least another decade.
A federal court agreed with Friends of the Everglades and the Miccosukee Tribe that the Florida legislature, under instructions from then Gov. Jeb Bush, violated federal law when it passed a 2003 law to protect Big Sugar’s pollution of the Everglades. Our attorneys still have not received a dime, because the defendants — the state and Big Sugar — are still contesting the federal court decision even though Gov. Rick Scott declared “victory” two years ago.
It is not right in the case of attorneys like Richard Grosso, former director of the Everglades Law Center. Mr. Grosso was not only the most effective defender of growth management laws in the state, but also one who was unable to collect attorney’s fees when he prevailed in defending the public interest. (Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP legislature solved that problem when they finally killed off growth management law in Florida, the same way mosquito control boards spray for mosquitoes.)
It is primarily a Republican ethos to bitterly complain about the litigious nature of American society, but shouldn’t the public be protected when GOP or Democratic legislators break the law? Yes, the attorneys should be paid when they prevail. Instead, in the case of state law, the scales have tipped backwards the other way, often requiring plaintiffs to pay if they lose.
This would be a simple problem to solve if it were addressed as a moral matter.
Not only should lawyers be paid in cases like Fair District, but a fair and equitable society would figure out a way to pay defenders of the public interest during the course of litigation.
Government — read the Republican legislature in the Fair District case — spent many millions of taxpayer money. Corporations who intervene to oppose the public spend pre-tax income to compensate its squadrons of attorneys — who are often paid double or triple the rates of government attorneys.
Through the course of my thirty years as a civic activist, if I made a commission from all the fees generated for lobbyists, consultants, and attorneys I’d helped to generate, by trying to get government to follow its own laws, I’d be wealthy. But I would happier if those consultants, lobbyists and lawyers paid through a licensing fee into a pool that public interest attorneys could access, and when attorneys who represented the public interest prevail in state and federal court just got paid competitively and in a timely manner. Period. Were this the case, ours would be a better state and a better nation.


Big Sugar should pay for damage inflicted to our waterways - Letter to the Editor by Nathaniel Reed, Jupiter Island, FL
April 4, 2016
Joseph Reed's donations toward Hobe Sound and Banner Lake are well-noted. Very few Floridians ever took such a keen interest in the well-being of a county.
Because of these and more, I want to see major changes in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
I want an end of cane sugar subsidies that cost the American consumer millions of dollars in the increased cost of sugar. The world price is almost half of what is guaranteed for a small group of very wealthy individuals who own sugar plantation in the EAA.
I do want the EAA landowners to pay the full cost of cleansing their agricultural pollution prior to draining it into the everglades.
The vast majority of the cost of acquiring and constructing the thousands of acres of man-made pollution control marshes has been borne by the taxpayers of the 16 counties that make up the South Florida Water Management District, despite the fact that 75-plus percent of Floridians voted for a constitutional amendment which required the polluter to pay the full cost of cleansing its pollution.
I believe it is both the federal and state government's interest to construct a large EAA reservoir and add an extensive man-made marsh system to remove tons of phosphorus used drained by EAA sugar cane growers.
I believe that converting a 10th of the EAA land to significantly limit the majority of agricultural runoff into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee is a sound investment.
No one wants to destroy the farming industry south of the lake, but sugar cane should not be a subsidized crop paid for by American consumers.
These entities should pay the full cost of cleansing their pollution like every other polluting industry in America.


Official USF word:  'Red tide' does NOT come from Lake discharges
Sunshine State News - by Nancy Smith
April 4, 2016
If you heard west coast Florida "red tides" come from Lake Okeechobee discharges, you aren't alone. You're wrong -- but not alone. It's time to flush that misinformation down the hopper. It's no better than an old wives' tale.
University of South Florida researchers now confirm what they have long known but so few of us have accepted: Red tides aren't born in the big lake, they start in oligotrophic offshore waters and are pushed into coastal waters by winds and tides.
After years of study, researchers and colleagues at the university's College of Marine Science have identified reasons why some years are worse than others for the harmful alga bloom (HAB) Karenia brevis, called "red tide," when it occurs off the west coast of Florida.
In a recently completed study comparing data collected on the 2012 red tide season, which was particularly robust compared to the quiet 2013 season, scientists found that the coastal ocean circulation on the West Florida Continental Shelf -- highly dependent on the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current -- was a determining factor in the greatly differing red tide occurrences.
Their paper describing this research was recently published in the journal Continental Shelf Research.
K. brevis creates a toxin that is threatening to organism health. In years of the worst outbreaks, red tide is responsible for millions of dollars in losses in the shellfish, finfish, recreation and tourism industries. 
The university tells us, red tide toxins that end up in the food web can be transferred to other forms of life, from tiny zooplankton to birds, fish, aquatic mammals and humans. Toxins may also be inhaled, causing respiratory distress. 
USF researchers confirm that red tide occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico -- certainly not close to shore and never in lake water. 
Perhaps the first official to point this out loudly and publicly was Kevin Ruane, mayor of the City of Sanibel. Writing an op-ed for the Feb. 5, 2016 Fort Myers News-Press, Ruane said, "While it may be tempting to blame all adverse water conditions on Lake Okeechobee releases, it is not accurate to do so.  Red tide blooms are initiated offshore in the Gulf of Mexico and are not the result of Lake releases."
In fact, Ruane went further. "Water that appears brown in color is also not necessarily the result of Lake Okeechobee releases," he said. "Despite the initiation of increased Lake Okeechobee regulatory releases, over the last four days approximately 70 percent of the current water flow is runoff from the Caloosahatchee watershed."
USF researchers say the trick is knowing when and where a red tide threat may emerge and how it may evolve along the coast. A number of predictive tools are in development to investigate this natural phenomenon, which has both biological and physical dimensions.
The study's lead-author Robert Weisberg, distinguished university professor of physical oceanography at USF, and his co-authors and colleagues have developed tools for observing, tracking and forecasting red tides using a combination of moored instrumentation, robotic gliders, satellite imagery and computer models.
While biology and chemistry control the growth of the blooms, they say, it is ocean circulation that unites the nutrients with sunlight to make photosynthesis happen. Ocean circulation also transports offshore blooms to the coast, Weisberg says. If the circulation conditions are not right, then a red tide will neither bloom, nor manifest along the coastline.
In this study, the simplifying factor was identified to be the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current. When the Loop Current interacts with the shelf slope near the Dry Tortugas, it can set the entire shelf in motion, bringing new nutrients onto the shelf from the deeper ocean. This sequence of events suppresses red tide by favoring other, faster growing phytoplankton (microscopic sea plants). By and large, the position of the Loop Current in spring and early summer provides a predictor of fall red tide conditions.
As documented by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the 2012 bloom resulted in the mortality of 293 endangered Florida manatees, the greatest number of red tide-related manatee deaths recorded from a single bloom.
If you want more information, check out the USF College of Marine Science Ocean Circulation Group website.


Too much salt in Florida Keys concern fishermen, ecologists
April 4, 2016
FLORIDA KEYS, Fla. (WSVN) -- Excessive minerals affecting the waters of Florida Bay is bringing concern to fishermen and ecologists near the Everglades.
The Florida Bay is one of the most beautiful and pristine parts of our state and is just below the Everglades, along the Florida Keys. "This is one of the most beautiful habitats in the world to me," said fisherman Xavier Figueredo.
Figueredo knows this water like the back of his hand, and he's seen the changes. "Oh, it is just a horrible situation," he said. "It's a situation that could have probably been prevented."
Healthy sea grass that once grew in the bay is now dead. According to scientists, grass that feeds fish has been killed by huge amounts of salt in the water. "So up ahead, the dark colored water there, that is all sea grass," said ecologist Steve Davis with the Everglades Foundation.
The deflated growth has Davis worried. "My biggest concern is that we have nearly 50,000 acres of dead sea grass in Florida Bay," he said.
The Florida Bay needs fresh water to balance out the salt water that has done so much damage. The fresh water should naturally flow from Lake Okeechobee, but development and farming get in the way. The critically needed fresh water is pumped to the east and west instead of south. "The sea grass habitat is really what makes the Florida Keys the fishing capital of the world," Davis said.
Everglades restoration projects must happen soon or the damage will get much worse. "I have a lot of hope this is reversible," Figueredo said. "The cycle has started this particular time, but hopefully we can prevent it from happening again."
Real hope for the Florida Bay is still 10 to 20 years away. Scientists said they have the funding they need, but it will take political willpower to start sending the fresh water south.



Enviros should work harder at forming alliances, author argues - by Tom Palmer
April 3, 2016
The deep ideological divide between the environmental community and Florida’s political leadership today is troubling.
Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to set aside more money to preserve what’s left of Florida’s landscape in 2014.
The Florida Legislature’s response was to take advantage of the measure’s broad language and to figure out a way to spend some of the money for something else.
Legislators passed a comprehensive water bill that engraves in state law the ability to delay cleaning up Everglades pollution for another two decades. Environmentalists’ protests about the bill’s shortcomings were largely ignored.
This atmosphere today is the opposite of what occurred in the 1970s and 1980s as residents and their elected representatives in Florida were waking up to the effects of decades of unregulated environmental damage and came up with new laws to confront these issues to protect Florida’s future.
That was the era of Florida’s first effective rules to reduce water and air pollution, to protect Florida’s natural heritage and to curb urban sprawl. Much of that regulatory framework has been dismantled in the past few years by ideologues that have taken over state government.
That reversal and what to do about it is the topic of a new book titled Getting to Green, Saving Nature: A Bipartisan Solution by Frederic C. Rich (W.W. Norton, New York, 288 pages, $26.95). Rich is a lawyer who lives in New York and has been active for many years in conservation efforts in the Hudson River Valley.
Politics has always been at the heart of getting anything done here or anywhere else. Rich argues throughout the book that environmentalists have, like their counterparts in the anti-environmental movement, let ideology and half-baked causes lead to what he calls “the Great Estrangement.”
Some of it was fed by the human tendency to stereotype anyone who doesn’t see things one’s way, leading to overgeneralizations about opponents’ character and motives.
In that world, all corporation executives are immoral greedheads who don’t care about the effects of their decisions on human health or the environment and all environmentalists are radicals dedicated to the destruction of the capitalist system by overregulating every aspect of commerce.
That all sounds great in a fundraising appeal, but it doesn’t go very far in building relationships necessary to gain political support to get anything done, Rich argues.
Rich argues that to regain its former influence over national policy, environmentalists need to overcome stereotypes and to work with people with whom they might disagree on other issues to achieve common goals, such as preserving natural areas for future generations and protecting local natural heritage.
He uses his background in land trusts and land preservation as that kind of non-threatening big tent issue that can form these coalitions.
However, organizing voluntary purchases of conservation land is perhaps the least controversial environmental issue there is. Rich’s template falls short in other situations.
Rich addresses that problem, too, arguing for the need to make a better case for the value of well-grounded environmental regulations.
“There is no empirical evidence that sound environmental policy hurts economic competitiveness and much empirical evidence that the environmental regulation in the latter part of the twentieth century actually spurred both innovation and competitiveness,” he writes.
However, he criticizes some members of environmental movement for waging campaigns that are more symbolic than substantive.
One example he cites is opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline, which he argues was a delusional attempt by some environmental groups to reduce fossil fuel supplies to push the country toward other forms of energy when in fact stopping the pipeline did no such thing.
Rich argues campaigns like this hurt the environmental movement because they do little to protect the environment while wasting political capital and unnecessarily alienating people.
These single-minded campaigns can even lead to clashes among environmental groups.
Last year Sierra and Audubon activists in the Tampa area clashed over an idea to start a ferry service across Tampa Bay.
For Sierra Club activists, the ferry would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from commuter traffic.
For Audubon, the construction of the ferry terminal meant the loss of more coastal habitat they had spent years trying to restore and protect.
In the same vein, Rich advises political conservatives to look beyond the rantings on talk radio and examine their roots as leaders in the conservation movement and to act as responsible people who believe in looking for what’s best for the country and its natural resources in the long run.
This is a thoughtful look at a complex issue that, like everything in the natural environment, is never as simple as it seems.


District must do its job to end Lake O discharges
Palm Beach Post - Opinion by Jaclyn Lopez, the Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity
April 2, 2016
It was laughable, if not a bit shameful, to learn of the South Florida Water Management District’s recent proclamation that the Cape Sable seaside sparrow is to blame for the ungodly, high-volume discharges of Lake Okeechobee water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and their estuaries.
After flubbing a deal to buy sugar land last year, SFWMD seems desperate to blame someone else – even our beleaguered sparrows – for the disastrous discharges trashing our estuaries.
However, few Floridians could forget that just eight years ago the water district was making the argument, and indeed reached a deal, to purchase land from the U.S. Sugar Corp. to secure much-needed storage to relieve pressure from the estuaries that were getting blown out during high-water events in Lake O.
The plan originally called for purchasing 187,000 acres in Palm Beach, Hendry, Glades, and Gilchrist counties in order to restore water flows to the Everglades. According to SFWMD itself, the purpose of the purchase was to increase the availability of water storage thereby “significantly reducing the potential for harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to south Florida’s coastal rivers and estuaries.”
SFWMD’s recent blaming of the sparrow for the damage to the estuaries seems like a last-ditch effort to deflect criticism for its 2015 decision to not move forward with the land purchase. Perhaps it didn’t anticipate that we would have so much rain this winter, and that the lake would fill to its brim.
The state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continue to treat these vital bodies of waters like toilets: flushing out the murky, polluted Lake O waters when necessary to protect land and lives around the lake, and cutting off the rivers entirely when the lake’s water level is low and instead sending the water to nearby agriculture. Until the state steps up and buys the land necessary for storage and treatment, Florida will be locked up in this morass. But instead SFWMD is feebly attempting to pit the sparrow against the estuaries (this tactic is nothing new, it used to be the sparrow against the snail kite), but no one’s fooled.
SFWMD knows that even if it could flood out the sparrow, dooming it to certain extinction, it could not do so without violating water quality standards because the water from the lake needs time and processes to filter out harmful pollution before being sent south. Those standards are in place so that sawgrass and wading birds can continue to dominate the Everglade’s iconic landscape. The system, as currently designed, cannot handle the volume of rain we received this winter. The system, as it naturally evolved over many millennia, could have handled that volume, and that’s what we need to strive to emulate.
Those studying this issue for years tell us we need to buy land for storage. There’s really no other way. The state needs to face the scientific reality that we find ourselves in and stop the blame game. Nobody’s buying it anyway.


LO releases

Lake Okeechobee solution needs to go in many directions
Naples Daily News - Editorial
April 02, 2016
The question is what to do with the overwhelming amount of drainage water that comes in a southerly direction from Central Florida and regions south, west and east of Lake Okeechobee.
The answer is a puzzle, both literally and figuratively.
As with any puzzle, it takes many pieces to create the full picture. The longer it takes, the more pieces that can be lost. In this case, it will cost a lot more, too.
This wasn't the first year the estuaries along the Southwest Florida and central east coasts took the brunt of water released to keep Lake Okeechobee from bursting through the Herbert Hoover Dike that protects neighboring towns from catastrophic flooding. Water was released in 2013 and 2014, then again in January. It's certain to happen again.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, other environmental groups statewide and U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, are among those advocating acquiring land south of the lake to get cleansed water stored and moving back toward the Everglades and Florida Bay. This past week, a local South Florida Water Management District board member endorsed Clawson's approach. That included not only Clawson's suggested study for where more land can be acquired, but expediting money for bolstering the dike so the lake can safely hold more water.
Those are identifiable, necessary pieces of the puzzle.
We've also heard from a former executive of the water district and representatives of U.S. Sugar, who contend the answer lies north of the lake, not to the south. Their arguments are persuasive — a 5,000-square-mile basin south of Orlando is draining into a 730-square-mile lake. Without more storage to the north of the lake, their point goes, the lake will continue to fill up with nowhere for excess water to go but down the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie canal. Yes, northern storage sites are necessary puzzle pieces as well.
Missed opportunity
The clearer the final puzzle picture becomes, the more evident it is that the missing piece from 2015 may be an irreplaceable one.
In 2008, then-Gov. Charlie Crist negotiated a deal that could have seen the state spend some $350 million for land in the agricultural region south of the lake, including a 26,000-acre parcel to build a reservoir to hold excess water. The state didn't pull the trigger by the mid-October deadline.
Critics of that deal suggest there already is untapped government land south of the lake for storage and, instead of buying more land, money could better be utilized for completing planned projects.
While the state still has options to acquire agricultural land south of the lake until 2020, U.S. Sugar representatives said it would require buying all of the corporation's land at current market rate, not a portion. That's an unthinkable cost not even worth calculating.
On the other hand, Clawson's recently proposed Everglades Land Acquisition Act would identify another parcel the federal government might buy for water storage. In a recent guest commentary, Clawson stated that the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which includes about 60 projects, is projected to take until at least 2050 to complete.
Given the irreplaceable piece the state passed on in 2015, the more water storage pieces north and south of the lake, the more they will all add up. Land costs will only rise; availability will decline as time passes. Waiting for Congress and the state to authorize spending for all currently planned projects before acquiring potential future storage land would be a mistake in our view.
Clawson's commentary noted Congress "has historically authorized water projects every seven years. We need to speed this up to at least every two years — to stay on top of things." He couldn't be more right.
Every seven years, the makeup of Congress can change three times. The White House and governor's mansion can have new occupants, who appoint new environmental and water district leaders.
As faces change, someone needs to keep the final picture in focus. We see Clawson as secure in his district seat for as long as he wants to be. We again urge all government, corporate and environmental stakeholders in Florida to unite and follow Clawson's lead on addressing the crisis around Lake Okeechobee.


Club Med’s not moving, but fiscal impact of discharges should get decision-makers moving
TCPalm – by Gil Smart
April 1, 2016
I hadn't realized until recently there was a Club Med in Port St. Lucie. Which seems a little less exotic than some of the company's other locations: "Come enjoy the shopping (Walmart out on U.S. 1), the amenities (traffic) and the exotic dishes (there's a McDonald's and Little Caesar's just up the road)!"
I'm kidding, I'm sure it's nice. Although I suspect it's been less nice over the past few months, with the discharges from Lake Okeechobee flowing by the sandy beaches.
Earlier this week a report in the Sunshine State News asserted Club Med was thinking about leaving Port St. Lucie. Club Med officials now say that's not true. But you can understand how they might be concerned; since February, an avoid-water advisory has been in place because of high levels of enteric bacteria at the nearby Sandpiper Bay canoe launch. On, several recent guests noted the resort's sailing and paddle boarding area is closed, with a notice citing bacteria in the water.
I'm thinking a riverfront resort where guests have to avoid the river wouldn't be a big hit.
And it's an indication of the financial impact of the discharges. There's no question that the environmental catastrophe is also a big economic problem.
It's not just fishing guides and bait 'n tackle shops anymore. Some local Realtors are reporting waterfront sales are falling through, because who wants to look out on brown, bacteria-fouled waters?
And imagine if you owned property along the northern Indian River Lagoon in Brevard County, where tens of thousands of fish washed up dead last month because of brown algae blooms unrelated to the discharges. What a peaceful scene that would be: You with your coffee, on a crystal clear Florida morning, gazing out some post-apocalyptic deathscape.
One scientist told Treasure Coast Newspapers this week the fish kill in Brevard County is so massive, it could "crush" the Banana River ecosystem. That couples nicely with an Associated Press story from early March headlined, "Florida coastal environments are collapsing."
Imagine the impact all this is destined to have on the state's tourism industry. "Hey honey, let's go to that place where the coastal environments are collapsing!"
As you may know, I'm the new guy in town. I try to explain Florida's environmental problems to people up north, and they don't get it. Come on, they say, it can't be that bad.
Then, over Easter, I showed them pictures of the dead fish in Brevard County, and photos of the black discharge water flowing into the azure ocean along the Treasure Coast. And I told them that things like this don't just happen in Florida — they happen again, and again and again.
Maybe this leads to inertia or a sense of helplessness. You've seen it all before. None of these problems were created in a day, and there's no quick fix.
But what struck me was that it took a tea partyer from Bonita Springs, U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, to actually propose a bill to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area, with the goal of sending water in that direction.
Let's reiterate this: The guy who gave the tea party response to President Obama's 2015 State of the Union Address, a guy opposed to more federal spending, he's the one willing to lead a quixotic campaign to spend more taxpayer dollars to buy land.
Everyone else has talked a good game, but where are the legislative proposals? There have been a few (like the "Legacy Florida" bill backed by state Rep. Gayle Harrell and Sen. Joe Negron, which will spend up to $200 million in Amendment 1 funds on Everglades restoration, including projects benefiting the lagoon), but the point is, the grass-roots fury hardly led to a flurry of legislative activity.
One wonders if that might change were this to become a full-fledged economic disaster.
So far it's been the little guys hammered economically. But if it continues to cause problems for Realtors — who in 2013 formed an alliance with the Everglades Foundation for this very reason — if tourism really tumbles, if the likes of Club Med really did pull up stakes, we're talking big money.
Could that be a game-changer? Maybe not, but who knows.
After all, big money gets more attention in the halls of power than the little guy ever does.




We need to act now to solve water crisis – by Rep. Curt Clawson
April 1, 2016
South Florida is experiencing an ecological and economic disaster not seen since the 2010 BP oil spill. It’s time for action.
Today’s alarming situation is caused by record rainfalls – associated with this winter’s strong El Niño conditions; a phenomenon typically experienced every five years.  Unsafe Lake Okeechobee water levels have forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) to discharge massive volumes of murky, nutrient-laden water into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.  It’s horrific to witness the damage these discharges inflict on our way of life in south Florida. This crisis provides an opportunity to address these water issues with a sense of urgency – with the public will serving as a wind at our back.
Recently, I introduced H.R. 4436, bipartisan legislation to provide $800 million of emergency funding to expedite repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, and requiring completion of this critical project by December 31, 2020 – four to six years ahead of current schedules. My legislation would provide the option of temporarily holding more water in the Lake during periods of heavy rains.
I also introduced the Everglades Land Acquisition Act of 2016 (H.R. 4793) that would set aside $500 million for the Department of the Interior to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee. Many experts agree that more storage, filtration, and a flow-way south from the lake are critical to move clean, naturally filtered fresh water to the Everglades and Florida Bay, instead of dumping nutrient-laden waters and toxins into Florida’s fragile estuaries and coastal regions.
This tragedy is deeply personal to me. I entered public service, at the urging of my parents, to protect the water and beaches in my home town of Bonita Springs.  It breaks my heart, and should concern everyone, to see the filthy plume of dark brown, toxic waters killing or driving away aquatic life – as it blankets South Florida’s beaches, barrier islands, and coastal communities with dead sea grasses, fish, and other creatures.
Much of modern south Florida was formed when man drained the Everglades for agriculture, below Lake Okeechobee. Later, the Herbert Hoover Dike was built, and natural flows were altered, enabling the once unimaginable development that has occurred.
Unfortunately, much of the unintended ecological consequences of this development, including discharges from Lake Okeechobee, are borne disproportionally by those who depend on or enjoy the estuaries, the Gulf and the Ocean waters in south Florida. We lack the infrastructure needed to deal with large water flows in rainy years, like 2016. The current practice of using the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers as the drainage pipes for the state should be ended – as soon as possible. It’s just not fair to the people or the critters affected.
By the year 2000, after a century of development, concern for these problems culminated in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) – a long term plan to permanently restore safe, clean water flows throughout south and central Florida – and restore the Everglades. We will never completely restore these flows to what nature provided before development. But CERP is a major step toward this goal. The original projected CERP costs, which the state of Florida and federal governments share 50/50, were $8 billion over 30 years. Of concern, these estimates have now doubled.
Also underway are repairs on the failing Herbert Hoover Dike, and a number of state and federal programs for water storage, treatment, and conveyance. These include Kissimmee River Restoration, Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park, Picayune Strand Restoration, Indian River Lagoon, C-43 and C-44 initiatives.  I appreciate, and support the significant efforts and investments being made in executing these projects. Nonetheless, the citizens and coastal communities of south Florida still unfairly bear too much of the state’s drainage and flood protection burden.
Progress is too little, too slow
Despite on-going investments, today’s crisis tells us that we’re not acting fast enough – even with the creative and admirable emergency actions taken by the Governor, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), and ACE to move water away from the Lake and relieve pressure on the Dike. The current polluted waters heading into the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean are a resounding wake-up call for immediate additional steps to avoid further calamity in subsequent rainy years.
We need to move faster on CERP, a series of more than 60 projects, each of which needs authorization. Completion of CERP is now seen as beyond 2050.
As currently anticipated, the critical repairs needed on the Dike will not be completed for a decade.
Then there is the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), the next planned Everglades restoration project. Once implemented, CEPP will store, treat, and convey 200,000 acre-feet of Lake water south into the central Everglades. But CEPP is not yet even authorized – and completion could also take another decade.
Moreover, Congress has historically authorized water projects (WRDDA) every seven years. We need to speed this up to at least every two years – to stay on top of things.
While I support CERP, Dike repairs, CEPP, and WRDDA – as critical in restoring water flows and protecting south Florida – current schedules are simply unacceptable – especially when considering the high likelihood of another El Niño. Today’s problems will only become more expensive to solve – unless we prioritize and speed up the pace of projects underway and in the pipeline.
Let’s move faster –and save money in the long run
Specifically, here’s what I propose:
First, Congress should reauthorize federal water projects (including additional CERP projects) every two years, to avoid delays in projects critical to Florida.
Second, I support authorizing and immediately beginning work on CEPP.
Third, I urge passage of H.R. 4436, my bipartisan legislation to expedite Dike repairs. I acknowledge that completion of these repairs is not a panacea – and that there would be negative ecological impacts with prolonged high lake levels. But the repairs must be done, and the sooner the better. Let’s be ready for the next El Niño flood year.
Our elephant: additional land acquisition
The final missing piece of the puzzle, fraught with sensitive political issues, is the purchase of additional land south of Lake Okeechobee. I urge passage of my proposed land acquisition bill (H.R. 4793). While land purchases are typically the responsibility of the State of Florida, my bill would serve as another option to get water flow south – and away from the Gulf and Atlantic.  Any money spent by H.R. 4793 would be credited to the federal government’s 50% overall share.  My bill would enable the purchase of land sufficient to create one million acre-feet of additional storage, which experts say would achieve a 90% reduction in lake-triggered discharge to east and west estuaries, meet 90% of the Everglades dry season targets, and provide approximately 350,000 additional acre-feet of annual flow to the Everglades.
Let’s act now – before it’s too late
These solutions are not cheap. But in the long run, the initiatives I’m proposing will help us avoid catastrophe – and will save significant money over the long run. Let’s focus investments on filtering and moving water south, as opposed to endlessly building lakes and storage reservoirs that would become stagnant and nasty anyway.
Human intervention with nature created today’s Florida – with some pretty amazing results. We’ve enabled the growth of Florida’s agriculture, cattle, tourism industries, and coastal communities – Florida’s advanced technology leadership in aerospace, space, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biotech, clean-tech, and other industries – and America’s fourth largest state economy. Florida’s Gross State Product (GSP) will exceed $1 trillion this year. Over 20 million people currently reside here. And over 100 million tourists visit Florida annually.
Nonetheless, the current water situation is not sustainable. The estuaries of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie, and the Gulf and Atlantic Ocean, receive the disastrous discharges from Lake Okeechobee, hurting our citizens, wildlife, and affected businesses. Our rivers to the east and west of the Lake should not remain the drain pipes for the state. This is simply not fair. Meanwhile, the Everglades and Florida Bay are often hollering for clean fresh water. And finally, our fresh groundwater, the source of 90 % of Florida’s drinking water, is in jeopardy, because of the water diversions and development.
Our economy and way of life are at risk. I appreciate the actions by the federal and state governments to implement CERP. However, my call now is to go faster; fix the Dike quickly; and buy more land ASAP for water filtration and a flow-way south to the Everglades.
This is an environmental issue, a business issue, and a moral imperative. The time for action, political will, and teamwork is now. I will do all that I can to make it happen.


What's ahead for some of South Florida's biggest economic engines – by Emon Reiser
April 1, 2016
Broward County’s ports and tourism numbers continue to boom, regional leaders said Friday.
The Port Everglades Association held its eighth annual Economic Engine Performance Report with hundreds of South Florida business leaders in attendance at the Broward County Convention Center.
Executives from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Port Everglades and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau offered updates, projects and a few milestones the economic engines would soon reach:
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
“We will pass 29 million passengers this year,” said Kent George, outgoing director of Aviation at the Broward County Aviation Department. “We go to over 60 international destinations and we’re still growing.”
The airport reported about 26 million passengers in 2015 and is on track to grow that number, George said. He outlined multiple upgrades to FLL that will accommodate even more travelers passing through its terminals. Renovations include Delta Airlines’ Concourse A opening in mid-2017, which will add 5 new gates, and the Terminal 4 expansion, which will add eight new gates to the airport by 2018.
The airport will continue to expand its flights, including a new route to Paris starting in August.
Port Everglades
The port officially confirmed Friday that it surpassed the world record for single-day passengers for the second time in a row. In mid-March, the port recorded more than 54,700 cruise passengers, up from 53,485 passengers in December when the port broke the previous record. In 2015, Port Everglades had 3.77 million cruise passengers.
New ships, including Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas - the largest ship in the world - will begin setting sail from Port Everglades this year.
The latest numbers show the port continues to grow in import-export dollars, with $27.15 billion in trade in 2014. It marks the fourth consecutive year of trade growth for Port Everglades. It was the No. 14 seaport in the nation and its No. 1 trade partner remains Venezuela, despite the country’s economic decline.
“Our numbers are growing,” said Steven Cernak, port director of Port Everglades.
The port is expected to handle even more trade as the Panama Canal completes its expansion project. The port is already handling Post-Panamax ships, but they are not fully loaded. The port is in the midst of its own $374 million dredging project.
Nicki Grossman, longtime president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, bid farewell to the event’s attendees in one of the last public speeches of her career. She has 61 more days left in her position after 21 years of leading the bureau, she told attendees. Grossman then offered an outline of Broward County’s record achievements in hospitality.
The county welcomed a record 15.4 million visitors in 2014, according to the most recent numbers. Last year welcomed new, lucrative convention business such as as the National Urban League convention and its 9,000 visitors and Seatrade Cruise Global, which brought about 11,000 executives from global cruise companies and ports to Broward County.
“We accounted for 15 percent of visitors to Florida and we don’t even have a mouse,” Grossman said, alluding to Orlando's top lure: Disney World's Mickey Mouse.
More convention business is expected to flow into Broward County as officials hammer out plans for its convention center hotel. More new trade events will arrive in the next few years, including conventions from the National Genealogical Society, IBTM Americas and the National Speech and Debate Conference.
After Grossman said some of her final farewells, Broward College officially presented a legacy scholarship to the tourism czar to honor her career. The Nicki Englander Grossman Endowed Hospitality and Tourism Management Scholarship will be awarded annually to students who study hospitality-related fields at Broward College’s campuses, with the first one going out this fall, said Nancy Botero, executive director of the Broward College Foundation.
“What this scholarship will do is carry on a legacy,” Botero told the Business Journal. She credits Margaret Kempel, executive director of the Port Everglades Association, with initiating the scholarship. “She wanted a suitable way to honor Nicki and thankfully she thought of Broward College.”
Broward College students preparing for careers as marketing specialists, cruise industry managers and event planners can apply for the scholarship through the college’s financial aid office.
“We have long admired Nicki and her contributions to the tourism and hospitality industry,” said Broward College President David Armstrong. “There’s no better way to continue her legacy than through a scholarship.”
Grossman took the helm in 1995 when travelers generated $3.2 billion for the local economy. This year's visitors had an economic impact of $14.2 billion.
“She has elevated everything for our county and made tourism the No. 1 industry here,” said Heiko Dobrikow, general manager of the Riverside Hotel. “I can also say bravo and we were so blessed having her here for over two decades.”

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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

A 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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