Javascript DHTML Drop Down Menu Powered by
Go to the Everglades-Hub homepage

     Search Site:

EvergladesHUB Home > News > Archives > MAY'16-TEXTS            2016:   J   F   M   A         2015:  J  F  M  A  M  J  J  A  S  O  N  D       2014:   J F M A M Jn JL A S O N D            2013      2012     2011    2010     2009


Alligators found eating human remains in Florida Everglades, police say
Washington Post - by Lindsey Bever
May 31, 2016
Authorities in South Florida are investigating after two alligators were discovered devouring a dead body on the edge of the Everglades.
Davie police officers responded Monday to a call from fishermen about alligators eating possible human remains on a canal bank in Southwest Ranches, about 15 miles from Fort Lauderdale, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
“We want to identify who the victim is and possibly figure out what happened to them, how did they end up here,” police Sgt. Pablo Castaneda told reporters, according to the newspaper. “Could it be homicide? Could it be suicide? Could it have been natural — a fisherman?
“We don’t know.”
When officers arrived, they said they saw the two alligators — a large one and a small one — and tried to scare them away.
The Miami Herald reported that trappers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were called to assist authorities so that divers could try to recover the body and any other evidence from the water.
“The body has been in the water for a while,” police spokesman Dale Engle told the newspaper.
Castaneda said that officers stood by armed with AR-15s “to make sure that our divers are safe once they’re in the water,” according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Carol Lyn Parrish, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told the newspaper that the corpse was a man, although authorities were not able to determine much else, including age or race.
The Broward County Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy to attempt to determine, among other things, the cause of death, according to reports.
Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Amy Moore told the Sun-Sentinel that it was not immediately known whether the alligators killed the man.
“If we determine that an alligator was the cause,” she told the newspaper, “then we’ll go back and recover it.”
Castaneda, the police sergeant, told reporters on the scene he had never seen alligators consume human remains.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “alligators are opportunistic feeders” whose diets “include prey species that are abundant and easily accessible. Juvenile alligators eat primarily insects, amphibians, small fish, and other invertebrates. Adult alligators eat rough fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.”
In addition, alligators have been known to feast on carrion — or dead animals —​ and even fellow alligators, according to the University of Florida.


Florida - Say it ain’t so Governor Scott
Huffington Post - by A.J. Hartnett
May 31, 2016
I love Florida. It’s my second home. I’m a Gator. I have spent a good portion of my life in this beautiful state. And it really pains me to write this.
Goodness knows the local media is looking the other way because they just don’t want to talk about it. It’s uncomfortable. Florida is in trouble and it’s coming from a number of different directions, and it’s coming fast. And all of this this really needs to see the light of day so it can all be dealt with. This is not a story about another parade or a car show. It’s about an ecosystem saying, “Ok, enough is enough. I’m out.”
I grew up in Delray Beach and the ocean there was my playground. I learned to navigate the waters there in a variety of ways. Surfing, paddle boarding, sailing, boating, snorkeling, spear fishing and just plain getting lost on the miles and miles of beautiful Florida beaches. As I travelled the state I stayed connected to the water any way I could. I know the state like the back of my hand.
If there is such a thing as too much, Florida has hit a breaking point. Consider these latest headlines:
The biggest coral reef in the continental US off of Florida is dissolving.
88,000 gallons of oil has leaked from a Shell Oil pipeline into the Gulf of Mexico
The massive seagrass die-off is the latest sign we are failing to protect the Everglades
Billions and Billions (of gallons) of water discharge from Lake Okeechobee will last months
And then there are the dire long term predictions that the entire state is going to be under water in 10 or 20 years due to the massive ice melts taking place on both poles. But let’s table that discussion for now and focus on the here and now.
Let’s start with the coral reefs. What is losing coral reefs telling us? It’s telling us our offshore water pollution is increasing and things are way out of balance. So far out of balance that huge tracks of life under water are dying or dead. The limestone that composes the reefs just dissolve due to acidity. Let’s be honest, the over-populated coastlines combined with the pollution and other human activities put stress on the ecosystem. Losing reefs means losing fish and marine life habitats. Coral that has died is gone for good, which affects other creatures that rely on it for food and shelter. Can we reverse this slide? Probably not, without swift strong leadership. As the climate continues to warm, acid seas will grow as we pour more greenhouse gases into the air. Same old song we have been hearing and ignoring for years. It’s now getting to a point where Florida will pay a hefty price.
Moving to my beloved Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is still trying to recover from the BP oil spill and all the indignities that seismic event heaped on this once beautiful body of water. Now Shell Oil has leaked another 88,000 gallons of sludge into the Gulf. It is really a sad state of affairs there. The Gulf is a tar pit. Others go so far as to call it a toilet. What concerns me most is what we don’t hear about. From Marco Island to Brownsville we treat the Gulf like a dump. And there is no leadership to reverse the course we are on there. The Gulf of Mexico’s once diverse and productive ecosystems, which provide a variety of valuable resources and services to the entire region, are becoming imperiled by pollution. The pristine waters of the Gulf are no longer. The adverse impact of the environmental degradation on the birds, marine mammals, fish, crustaceans and other organisms dependent upon the Gulf cannot be over-emphasized. Tankers and other large cargo ships travelling through the Gulf are thought to contribute significantly to the problem by adding debris and chemical pollutants to the water. All I can say is going, going, almost gone.
The Everglades. It’s amazing the Glades have held out this long. Forward thinking leadership back in the day saved the Everglades from being overrun by development and all that goes with it. No longer. Everglades experts fear they are witnessing an environmental breakdown of grave proportions. Construction of roads, homes and cities has choked off the flow of fresh water. Without rapid action to make the Everglades more resilient to climate change and salty seas we are looking at the demise of a treasured national ecosystem. There go the majestic sea turtles, Dolphins and manatees along with the $1.2 billion sport fishing business. 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 current seagrass die-off recently during an Everglades Trip.
Finally, majestic Lake Okeechobee. We are discharging billions and billions of gallons of harmful runoff into places in Florida and our surrounding waters where it was never intended. Blue-green algae blooms are at epic proportions and adjoining estuary ecosystems in southeast and southwest Florida will feel the impact. Local industry has long been using Okeechobee’s waters as a dumping ground for an assortment of chemicals, fertilizers, and cattle manure. While the pollution was once confined to the lake, it now flows toward Florida’s coastal communities via local rivers. The water, which is flowing out of the lake at 70,000 gallons per second, is polluting the ocean waters in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.
This pollution has immediate consequences for southern Florida’s environment and economy. The untreated water contains toxic chemicals and fertilizers that are harmful to local flora and fauna, and the fertilizers and chemicals found in the water are known to cause these algae blooms, which are known to poison shellfish and make life difficult for the marine food chain which will mean more and more massive fish kills.
The local economy, much of which is driven by tourism, will also be negatively affected by the polluted lake water. In 2013, the last time a significant water discharge occurred in southern Florida, locals dubbed the season the “lost summer,” due to the downturn in tourism and beach-going as a result of the polluted coastal water. In 2015, FloridaRealtors, a trade organization representing the Florida real estate industry, commissioned a study assessing the impact of water pollution on home values in Martin County, Florida. The results were alarming. During the “lost summer,” aggregate real estate value fell half a billion dollars, as potential buyers were reluctant to buy or invest in property that was near water that was both toxic and objectively disgusting. With heavier rainy seasons in the forecast due to the warming climate you kinda see where this is all going.
So where is the leadership? The environmental stewardship of the sitting governor has been atrocious. And his tone deaf approach to what is shaping up to be a very rough ride for Florida means a lot of unpleasant things (tourism, home values, etc.) that we can talk about in future columns. Short sighted, no plan to say the least. Someone, anyone, please get the governor some bifocals and give this man some vision.
AJ Hartnett - Business development executive and health and wellness advocate. University of Florida and Northwestern graduate. Currently enrolled at Stanford University.



Gov. Scott balks at prioritizing reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
May 3, 2016
As Florida waterways turn green with toxic algae, Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday promised more money but not necessarily new solutions for Lake Okeechobee water problems.
Draining Lake Okeechobee water to the east and west coasts, to prevent flooding in South Florida, is killing fishing grounds and spreading algae blooms that can make people sick.
Scott was in Palm Beach County on Tuesday to tout state plans to spend $200 million a year on Everglades restoration projects, which include moving more lake water south to the River of Grass instead of dumping it to the coasts.
But the governor has balked at environmental groups' renewed call to prioritize building another reservoir south of the lake — in the heart of South Florida sugar cane country.
Scott through the years has shied away from buying more land, saying he prefers to focus on finishing other long-stalled Everglades restoration projects.
"We do have a plan," Scott said. "Are we where we want to be? No. But we are making progress."
The problem, critics say, is that Everglades restoration plans don't include enough places to hold water that could be moved out of Lake Okeechobee as an alternative to draining it out to sea.
As a result, when lake levels rise too high, draining water east and west to prevent flooding in South Florida ends up fouling waterways — chasing away game fish and tourists alike — near Stuart and Fort Myers.
"They have nowhere else to go with [the water] until we get something built south of the lake," said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart. "We are kind of stuck."
Before decades of draining allowed South Florida farming and development to move into the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee's water used to naturally overlap its southern shores and flow south.
Now a 30-foot-tall mound of rock, shell and sand that surrounds the lake guards South Florida from flooding. Yet that erosion-prone dike is considered one of the country's most at risk of failing and it remains in the midst of a decades-long rehab.
When rising lake levels threaten to overwhelm the dike, the Army Corps of Engineers discharges lake water east through the St. Lucie River toward Stuart and west through the Caloosahatchee River toward Fort Myers.
El Nino-driven rains this year that boosted the lake have, since January, led to the Army Corps draining billions of gallons of Lake Okeechobee water each day toward the coasts.
That infusion of freshwater into the normally salty estuaries, along with the pollutants and sediment it brings, has been wiping out seagrass and oyster beds, scaring away fish and boosting bacteria levels that at times make waterways unsafe for swimming.
Then in mid-May, a 33-square-mile algae bloom sprung up in southern Lake Okeechobee, threatening to drift toward the coasts as the lake draining continued.
Over the weekend, more algae blooms were sighted in the waters near Stuart.
When the algae blooms start emitting toxins, the health threat can go from killing fish to harming humans who come in contact with the water. Ingesting the toxins can cause upset stomachs, diarrhea and damage to the liver and nervous system.
The long-term solution is supposed to be Everglades restoration, paid for in part by the yearly funding Scott trumpeted Tuesday.
The idea is to build reservoirs and water treatment areas that can hold onto and clean up more of the water that gets drained out to sea for flood control and instead redirect it to the Everglades.
The Scott-backed funding deal that the Florida Legislature approved this year calls for dedicating $200 million a year through 2024 to helping the Everglades. That includes prioritizing projects that help address damaging flood-control draining to the coast.
"Now we can focus on finishing projects that protect the estuaries," Scott said. On Tuesday he gathered with local and state elected officials at the Pine Jog Environmental Education Center west of West Palm Beach to publicize the Everglades funding deal.
Current Everglades restoration plans call for building reservoirs west and east of the lake, while finishing off other water storage areas to the south.
State funding needs to go toward building another reservoir south of the lake, according Audubon Florida, the Everglades Foundation and other environmental groups that sent an April 26 letter to state and federal officials asking them to prioritize added the reservoir.
They want the reservoir proposal considered during the round of restoration planning that begins this year, instead of potentially waiting another four years for a project needed to deal with what they call an "ecological collapse" along the coast.
"Only storing water south of the Lake will provide an outlet for water being discharged to fragile coastal estuaries while concurrently holding water that can be sent south to Florida Bay," the letter said. "Planning for storage options south of the Lake must therefore be a top priority."
Related:           Scott noncommittal on reservoir to reduce Lake O discharges          TCPalm
Scott signs Legacy Florida bill for environmental funding    Wink News
Lake Okeechobee algae bloom threatens to worsen water woes
Fish-killing algae blooms growing in Lake Okeechobee threaten to bring a new wave of trouble for coastal fishing grounds and the people who live nearby.
A 33-square-mile algae bloom that sprung up in southern Lake Okeechobee earlier this month could drift toward the east and west coasts, scientists...
Fish-killing algae blooms growing in Lake Okeechobee threaten to bring a new wave of trouble for coastal fishing grounds and the people who live nearby.


Gov. Scott comes to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to sign Legacy Florida bill for Everglades restoration
Naples Daily News – by Eric Staats
May 31, 2016
Gov. Rick Scott stopped by Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary on Tuesday morning for a ceremony to mark his signing of a bill dedicating up to $200 million annually for Everglades restoration.
The Legacy Florida bill allocates money voters set aside for land conservation when they approved Amendment 1, which has been the center of complaints from some environmental advocates that the money wasn't being spent as voters intended. The Legislature passed the bill this year, and Scott officially signed it in April.
Backed Tuesday by two dozen environmental advocates, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson and Southwest Florida legislators in the Blair Audubon Center at the sanctuary, Scott said the spending represents a milestone for Everglades restoration.
"We can focus on finishing projects now," Scott said. "When I ran back in 2010, the complaint was that we weren't finishing projects, we start a lot of projects, but we weren't finishing projects. That's not true today."
The projects include building reservoirs to control harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie River estuaries.
Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, said it's been clear for decades that a lack of funding has hampered the completion of Everglades restoration projects. The Legacy Florida bill will change that.
"It's a huge tectonic shift in where we've been, basically, in a stalemate for the last three decades, knowing what we need to do but not being able to get those projects done," he said.
Audubon Florida executive director Eric Draper said he is "confident" the bill in coming years will help pay for projects to send water south from Lake Okeechobee and into the Everglades, where water naturally flowed before the Everglades were drained for agriculture. Water managers should speed up planning for those projects, he said.
"This is a step in the right direction of using Amendment 1 dollars exactly the way they are supposed to be used," Draper said.
The bill also sets aside $50 million annually for springs restoration and $5 million for restoration of Lake Apopka, a former world-class bass fishing lake near Orlando polluted by agricultural runoff and wastewater discharges.
"I can't wait to see what we can do with that," said Steverson, the DEP secretary.
After the Collier County ceremony, Scott and Steverson traveled to West Palm Beach for a second Legacy Florida bill-signing ceremony.
"This is a good day for Florida," Scott said. "It's a good day for our citizens. It's a good day for taking care of our environment."


Scott's wacky take on the environment - by Ron Littlepage
May 31, 2016
It was one of those coffee-spewing moments.
And I’m not referring to State Attorney Angela Corey telling fellow columnist Mark Woods that she is “probably the least political elected official you know.”
An equally outrageous statement came from Gov. Rick Scott, as reported in The Palm Beach Post, who said all of those mega-developments popping up across Florida during his reign are actually good for the environment.
Let’s see:
Our once magnificent springs are polluted with some slowing to only a trickle. A big reason — over development.
Our aquifer, which has been Florida’s lifeblood for centuries, is over tapped. A big reason — over development.
Our wetlands, which help cleanse our water, are disappearing to be replaced by rooftops and asphalt. Yep, over development.
The Indian River Lagoon is a mess. Ditto the Everglades and the beaches and formerly clear ocean waters now muddied by discharges from Lake Okeechobee. Over development yet again.
But Scott says plopping down new cities the size of Orlando in undeveloped areas is good for the environment because they produce tax dollars to help repair the environmental damage that development causes.
How’s that for circular reasoning?
It reminds me of a study by the St. Johns River Water Management District that concluded it would be OK to take 100 million gallons of water a day out of the St. Johns to quench the thirst of over development because all of those rooftops and asphalt would send water that normally would be absorbed by the ground into the river instead.
Never mind that runoff would be polluted, and we won’t even go into the study’s conclusion that sea-level rise would add even more water to the river.
All of this development is possible because during the long, long years Scott has been in office, he and his cronies in the Legislature have wiped out the state’s growth management laws.
Scott began by dismantling the Department of Community Affairs and moving what was left of it to his economic development team.
A tool known as a Development of Regional Impact, which took into account concerns that its name implies, was also tossed onto the trash heap.
And you may remember a term that was used a lot when Florida was at least trying to make sense of rapid growth — concurrency.
The concept was simple: Needed infrastructure, such as roads and schools, should be in place concurrently with development.
That’s not the case now as you may have noticed the overcrowded schools and jammed roadways that are common.
With state oversight out of the picture, developers, who know a thing or two about schmoozing local elected officials, only have to convince a few county commissioners that it’s a good idea to add 100,000 or so people to what used to be ranch land.
Other potential barriers against development run amok have either been obliterated or weakened as well.
The water management districts have become a developer’s best friend, and the Department of Environmental Protection has turned that agency’s name into a laughable misnomer.
For proof of the latter, look no further than the DEP’s attempt to lower the restrictions on the amount of some cancer- causing chemicals that can go into our waterways.
I’m not suggesting that Florida won’t continue to grow, but that growth should be smart growth.
Smart growth comes with statewide growth management laws that take into account protecting the environment — you know, like the ones that Scott got rid of.
Here’s an idea:
We will get voters to approve a constitutional amendment to set aside several hundred million dollars a year to buy environmentally sensitive land to protect it from being developed.
Oh, wait, we did that, and Scott and the Legislature ignored it.
Developers are happy. Major land owners are happy. Scott is happy.
And the long, long years of Scott’s reign of terror can’t end soon enough.


State to test algae blooms on Treasure Coast
May 31, 2016
Jim Harter knows a thing or two about fishing the St. Lucie Estuary.
“Where my house sits used to be a place called the Sailfish Lodge.  Built in 1921, people used to come from all over the world to fish out of there," said Harter Tuesday as he pulled his boat onto the St. Lucie River.
This long time fisherman, says discharges from Lake Okeechobee, have been happening a long time.  As he makes his way out near the Veterans Memorial Bridge, there are large neon blue-green algae blooms, in places Harter says oysters used to thrive.
 “In the morning when there’s no wave action, the algae will raise to the surface," said Harter.      
Harter says he’s frustrated by what he sees, “I don’t sleep at night.  It’s disgusting.  My passion in life is to be on the water and when they take it away from you, it’s disheartening."
Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott was in West Palm Beach to sign a bill for the “Legacy Florida” initiative, designed to provide money to restore the Everglades.  He was asked about the recent algae blooms.
“DEP and the Department of Health, they’re testing to make sure all our citizens and all our visitors are safe.  We’ll be doing that all this week and we’ll be doing whatever we can to figure this out," said the Governor.
The fear for Harter, is we’ll see a rerun of what happened a few years ago.
“2013 was a lost summer and it looks like its going to be the same.”
The Department of Environmental Protection will test wherever it spots algae, like the St. Lucie Lock, and the area where the North and South forks of the St. Lucie River meet.  One of the most prominent places for algae this week has been at Shepard's Park in Stuart.


Hoover Dike

Restoring the Everglades will benefit both humans and nature – by Peter Frederick, Research Professor, University of Florida
May 30, 2016
Everglades National Park (ENP) is our only national wetland park, and one of the largest aquascapes in the world. Perhaps more than any other U.S. national park, ENP’s treasures are hard to defend. Lying at the southern end of an immense watershed the size of New Jersey, ENP is caught between the largest man-made water project in the world upstream and a rapidly rising ocean downstream.
The park and the wider Everglades ecosystem have suffered immense ecological damage from years of overdrainage to prevent flooding and promote development. In 2000 Congress approved the largest ecological restoration project in the world – the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which is expected to take more than 35 years to complete and cost at least US$10.5 billion. In addition to repairing some of the damage to this unique ecosystem, the restoration is designed to ensure reliable clean drinking water supplies for South Florida cities and protect developed areas from flooding.
The plan is making progress – but the closer it gets to its goal, the more the details matter, and some of those details have become roadblocks. As I complete my 30th year as an ecologist studying and trying to restore this great place, it is increasingly clear that restoration can work and will benefit both wild spaces and people. However, that view rests heavily on the assumption that we will commit to fixing a central problem – water storage.
Managing water flow
The Everglades drainage area stretches over 200 miles, starting near Orlando and reaching south to the Gulf of Mexico. At least 100 miles of it is made up of the wide-open grasslands called the Everglades. Nearly 83 percent of the Everglades lies outside of the national park, mostly on agricultural or state-protected lands.
The Everglades landscape is flatter than a billiard table, and water tends to pool on it. Florida has huge swings in annual rainfall, which can vary by as much as 82 percent from average levels year to year, and water evaporates very rapidly during dry seasons.
Before the 20th century, the Everglades managed these flows naturally. They were a network of vast marshes that expanded and contracted from wet to dry seasons, populated by plants and animals that evolved strategies for dealing with unpredictable depths. Alligators created ponds to live in and crayfish burrowed into sediments during dry seasons. Sawgrass, which grows throughout the Everglades, can withstand drought, floods and fires and thrives in soils that contain pathetically few nutrients.
As development spread across Florida, farmers, ranchers and urban dwellers sought to control floods and manage water supplies during droughts. In 1948 Congress authorized the Central & Southern Florida Project, which would become the largest water works project in the world, with more than 2,000 miles of canals and dikes, 71 pump stations, over 600 water control structures and 625 culverts. This infrastructure, which spans 16 counties, is operated today by the Current
Engineers rerouted a huge portion of the water that flowed south into the Everglades from Lake Okeechobee, diverting it to Florida’s east and west coasts. This enabled agricultural development and a huge western expansion of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
It also destroyed the St. Lucie and Fort Meyers estuaries by flooding them with unnatural pulses of fresh, and often polluted, water. In the Everglades it caused a 90 percent decline in populations of wading birds and repeated seagrass die-offs in Florida Bay and Charlotte Harbor, which in turn led to algae blooms and fish kills.
Seagrass dieoffs in southwest Florida, 2013.
Rehydrating the Everglades
The restoration plan seeks to restore some of the Everglades' natural water flow. Models increasingly confirm that it is possible to effectively rehydrate all of the Everglades, including the National Park.
But water coming out of Lake Okeechobee is polluted with phosphorus from fertilizer used on farms upstream. Plants in South Florida evolved in soils that were naturally low in phosphorus, so the Everglades is hypersensitive to it. Under natural conditions water flowing into the Everglades would contain 8-10 parts per billion (ppb) of phosphorus. Current levels range between 100 and 300 ppb.
Adding so much phosphorus to the system can cause massive shifts from sawgrass plains to dense, oxygen-poor cattail monocultures, which outcompete sawgrass under higher nutrient conditions. Florida is now under federal court orders not to release water to the Everglades until phosphorus levels have been reduced close to natural concentrations.
Removing a 300-year supply of phosphorus from Lake Okeechobee waters will require many acres of land to store and treat water by filtering it through beds of aquatic plants and algal mats. This system is partially constructed, but water cannot be released to the Everglades until it is finished, which may not happen for years or even decades, largely because of the cost. Restoration thus is effectively at a standstill.
Meanwhile, the Everglades ecosystem south of Lake Okeechobee is rapidly deteriorating. Fish and bird populations are not recovering, alligators are getting skinnier, invasive pythons are ranging unchecked and algal blooms repeatedly devastate Florida Bay.
In ecologists' worst-case scenario, the Everglades could reach a condition called an alternative stable state, in which the ecosystem has been altered so drastically that it cannot be restored to its original condition. Seagrass beds and mangrove forests along the coasts are already collapsing, partly due to reduced freshwater flow.
Facing these conditions, scientists and managers are privately and off-record debating the formerly unthinkable option of letting water that contains some intermediate level of phosphorus flow into the Everglades. Even mildly relaxing phosphorus standards could make hydrological restoration much more achievable. And the nonprofit Everglades Foundation, which advocates for restoration, is offering a $10 million prize to researchers who can develop a cost-effective technology for removing phosphorus from natural water bodies.
Global climate change raises other uncertainties. The Everglades is very close to sea level, and is already being affected by sea level rise. Peat soils in coastal forests are collapsing due to salt water intrusion. And a recent study estimates that hydrological restoration could be stymied if climate change reduces Florida’s annual rainfall by as little as 10 percent.
An interim goal: water storage
Still, progress is possible. In a 2015 report, the University of Florida’s Water Institute concluded that nearly all uncertainties and problems associated with Everglades restoration could be markedly improved by building more ponds and impoundments to store water.
One million acre-feet (an acre one foot deep) of storage, distributed across several locations both south and north of Lake Okeechobee, could substantially reduce water surpluses and shortages for farmers, tribes, city residents and the Everglades. Building more water storage facilities would also drastically improve our ability to remove phosphorus from the water.
But storing water is difficult and expensive in such a flat, porous landscape. Making dikes out of Florida’s porous rock is like trying to contain water with walls of Swiss cheese: they have to be very thick, and water cannot be stacked deeply for fear of rupturing those walls. As a result, it takes a lot of land to store water.
We have already made huge investments in water distribution and management to buffer ourselves from floods and drought, and to restore the ecology of the Everglades. Water storage is key to the future of cities, agriculture and Everglades restoration - the same structures buffer everyone. If we do not make these investments, all of South Florida’s past drought and flooding challenges will intensify as our weather becomes less predictable.
Completing an integrated natural and human water system for south Florida will have a payoff comparable to a moon shot. But unlike a space mission, we have already mostly paid for this venture. Going the final miles will be cheap compared to the alternative, and future generations will thank us for it.


Foundations to continue John Marshall legacy
Palm Beach Daily News – by Jane Fetterly
May 29, 2016
Meet the interns reception slated June 6.
The Arthur R. Marshall Foundation for the Everglades and the Everglades Foundation Inc. are co-hosting a reception at 5:30 p.m. June 6 at The Colony.
The “meet the interns” event will showcase the new John Marshall Everglades Legacy Fund and the class of 2016 interns.
Marshall Foundation President Nancy Marshall announced that the Everglades Foundation will continue two key programs of Marshall Foundation, beginning in 2017: the summer intern program and the Everglades Symposium. The programs will be endowed through The John Marshall Everglades Legacy Fund and administered this year by the Marshall Foundation.
“We are honored to continue the work of John Marshall, who was a champion for Everglades education and restoration,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.


Gov. Scott

Scott says mega-building is generating dollars that help Florida fight environmental problems
Palm Beach Post – by John Kennedy
May 29, 2016
Florida’s building boom, which followed Gov. Rick Scott’s rollback of growth management laws, is alarming many community activists and environmentalists.
But Scott sees the spread of mega-developments, from the Panhandle to the heart of panther habitat in Southwest Florida, as helping the state pay for widespread environmental problems facing the state.
The Indian River Lagoon on the state’s Atlantic shore and Caloosahatchee River on the Gulf of Mexico side have been badly fouled by freshwater runoff from Lake Okeechobee, carrying pollutants from neighborhoods, farms and cities.
At the same time, freshwater springs, concentrated mostly in Central and North Florida, have proved particularly vulnerable to pollutants from nearby development. Such landmark sites as Silver Springs, Wakulla Springs and Fanning Springs are choked by nutrients and algae.
Scott, though, said his administration has steered $880 million toward advancing long-stalled Everglades’ projects while backing major efforts for cleaning the Indian River Lagoon and endangered springs.
These initiatives would not be possible without the dollars provided by the building projects that are flourishing in Florida, he said.
“All that’s happened,” Scott said, “because we’ve turned around our economy.”
Palm Beach County’s unincorporated western area is the site of almost 14,000 new homes planned in coming years, spread across four new communities, including Westlake, whose developers want to make it the county’s 39th city.
On what had been timber and farm land in Charlotte County on the Gulf coast, a city whose acreage is bigger than Manhattan is beginning to emerge. In Orange County, 4,000 homes are on their way east of the Econlockhatchee River, long a dividing line between urban and rural Central Florida. Prime Florida panther habitat is targeted for development in eastern Collier County, just southeast of Palm Beach County.
What’s happened in Florida since growth oversight has been reduced?
More here:


Hurricane from above

As hurricane season nears, state looks strong
Herald Tribune - by Lloyd Dunkelberger
May 28, 2016
TALLAHASSEE - A decade without a devastating hurricane has left Florida in the strongest position ever to face the annual storm season that begins in June.
The property insurance market is thriving and the state has dramatically decreased the size of Citizens Property Insurance, the state-backed insurer. The Florida Hurricane Catastrophe fund, a program that backs up the private market as well as Citizens, is also flush with enough cash to able to financially withstand a major storm.
Even if a major metropolitan area was struck by a destructive Category 5 hurricane, with winds over 157 mph, projections show Citizens and the Cat fund have enough reserves to avoid imposing a multi-year assessment, or “hurricane tax.” An assessment was levied on all Florida property and auto insurance policies to pay for financial shortfalls after the eight storms in 2004 and 2005, the last time Florida was struck by a hurricane.
“The good thing for Floridians is if we do get that massive storm coming through, unlike anything you have seen in history, there would be no assessment,” said Barry Gilway, president and CEO of Citizens. “We’re going into the wind season again in the best shape ever in several different ways.”
But there are some threats on the horizon. While Citizens has shrunk, many of its remaining customers are in the most hurricane-prone areas of the state, including Southeast Florida and Tampa Bay.
Even without hurricanes, Citizens has been hit with non-storm challenges, including a spike in water-related claims in South Florida, which may force accelerated rate hikes.
Many former Citizens customers have been moved into new Florida-based insurers, which have never been tested by a significant storm season.
And, despite the storm-free decade, Floridians continue to pay the highest average property insurance premiums in the country, at $2,115 a year for a typical homeowner’s policy. The national average, based on 2013 premiums, was $1,096, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Declining exposure
Over the past 11 years, there have been significant changes in Florida’s insurance market, including the dramatic rise and fall of Citizens coverage, which reached a peak of some 1.5 million policies as the state’s largest property insurer in 2012.
But this January, following an aggressive effort to move policies back into the private market, the number had dropped by some 66 percent to 484,788, the lowest policy total since Citizen was created in 2002.
The massive decline in policies has resulted in an equally massive reduction of Citizens’ insured exposure to a storm, declining from some $514 billion near its peak to about $140 billion currently.
The reduced exposure is one of the reasons why Gilway and other analysts believe Citizens could handle a major hurricane. For instance at its policy peak, Citizens faced a “probable maximum loss” of $22 billion in the 2011 storm season, but it dropped to $7.8 billion last year with the policy reductions.
Heading into this storm season, Gilway said Citizens has a surplus of some $7.4 billion and the ability through reinsurance and bonding to raise a total of more than $16 billion to pay claims, which would be enough to handle a 1-in-100-year storm as well several subsequent lesser hurricanes.
But the shrinkage of Citizens has concentrated more than 80 percent of its insured exposure in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties and the Tampa Bay area, Gilway said.
“We have that concentration of risks which of course is hugely problematic in the event of a major storm that hits either one of those areas,” Gilway said.
Citizens’ coverage has been reduced in Florida through the state’s “depopulation” program, which has moved some 1.3 million policies out of Citizens and into private insurers since 2012. A “clearinghouse” initiative has also directed policies into the private market.
Many of those policies have been moved into newly formed Florida insurers, which now cover some 70 percent of the insured property, up from 22 percent in 2004. Citizens’ share has dropped from a high of 23 percent to 6 percent.
Remaining questions
Questions remain about the viability of many of these companies, which are hardly household names and didn’t exist before the 2004-05 hurricanes.
It was an issue raised by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who along with the governor and other Cabinet members oversees the state Office of Insurance Regulation, when he interviewed David Altmaier, Florida’s newly appointed insurance commissioner.
“There is a concern, I think that we can both acknowledge, that the public does not recognize the brand name of many of these companies,” Atwater said. “We would also acknowledge that many of these companies have never been tested by a significant event, the management team, their capacity to deal with claims, the quality of their reinsurance contracts, et cetera.”
Altmaier and other OIR officials said they have taken a number of steps to gauge the financial health of the Florida insurers, including running an annual “stress test” that projects the companies’ ability to handle major hurricanes. The 67 companies that participated in the last stress test in October all passed the evaluation.
Additionally, Altmaier said other changes have occurred in the last decade, including higher capital requirements for new insurers, increasing from $4 million to $15 million, with last half-dozen insurers licensed by the state, exceeding that by $10 million.
The historically low cost of reinsurance, which has also helped Citizens and the Cat fund, has also made the newer companies stronger financially, Altmaier said.
“There are a lot of market conditions that are present today that give us some optimism that were we to experience catastrophic seasons similar to ‘04 and ‘05, that our insurance companies would be in a better position to handle those losses and to also be able to secure reinsurance at a fair price in subsequent seasons,” he said.
One of the largest non-storm threats facing Citizens as well as the private insurance market is the growing number of water-related claims. Gilway and other insurance executives believe some law firms and contractors are taking advantage of Florida’s “assignment of benefits” law to drive up the number and cost of water claims involving things like faulty piping and leaky toilets.
The problem has been concentrated in Southeast Florida but is spreading around the state, Gilway said.
He warned his Board of Governors in March that the water claims crisis could lead to significant rate hikes, reduce Citizens’ income and ability to buy things like reinsurance and could impact Citizens’ efforts to keep policies in the private market.
Sean Shaw, a Tampa lawyer and former insurance consumer advocate for the state, said he remains disappointed that while Florida’s property insurance market has strengthened, homeowners have not benefited.
“The consumers have yet to reap the benefits of that ... and there have been no storms in a lot of years,” said Shaw, a Democrat running for a state House seat in Tampa.
“The response is always something different whether it’s fraud, water, public adjusters or sinkholes,” he said. “It’s always something, but the consumer is still paying the highest insurance rates in the country.”
Shaw said while rates have remained high, the scope of coverage for many homeowners has been “eviscerated.” And he said homeowners need to benefit more from issues like the cheap cost of reinsurance.
“If we’re paying all this money now with no hurricanes, if another hurricane hits, you’re going to have to pay more,” Shaw said. “I shudder to think what will happen if we do have another storm.”


Pollution from LO

Tainted water releases likely to continue even after Lake Okeechobee dike is refurbished
Florida - by Ann Henson Feltgen
May 27, 2016
Crews install a partial cutoff wall in the middle of the Herbert Hoover Dike near Pahokee in 2012. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers installed 21.4 miles of cutoff wall in the southeast side of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee from 2007-2013. Photo: US Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District
While Floridians are anticipating the completion of the renovation to the 75-year-old Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee during 2020, more water discharges, like those that occurred this winter, will likely be required after the work is complete, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“Our goal of the rehabilitation of the dike is to solve a public safety problem” of keeping nearby towns from flooding, said John Campbell, public affairs specialist with the Corps. “We don’t know the ecological problems that could occur if we keep the lake too high for too long. There’s not an unlimited amount of water that can be stored in Lake Okeechobee.”
The government has already spent in excess of $500 million to fix the dike.
This year El Nino turned Florida’s typically dry season into a wet season with 200 to 400 percent increases, depending on location, over the normal 12-inch dry season rainfall, according to the National Weather Service. When Lake Okeechobee gets too much rain, its decades-old dike, which protects nearby communities like Pahokee, Belle Glade and Clewiston from flooding, is in danger of failing from water pressure undermining the structure.
High-volume releases from the lake began in February. As water was pushed into the Caloosahatchee River and eventually flowed into the Gulf of Mexico at Fort Myers, a tea-colored bloom of water replaced the typically aqua color of the gulf. The fresh water, which is mixed with phosphates, fertilizer and farm waste dumped into Lake Okeechobee years earlier, mixes with saltwater, resulting in sea grass, fish and oyster kills throughout the area.
On the east coast, millions of gallons of tainted water poured out of the St. Lucie River, creating its own mess of dead fish. However, pollution along the Indian River is not related to the runoff from Lake Okeechobee, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
An economic assessment of damages is being conducted by surveying businesses in Lee, Martin, St. Lucie counties as well as other affected communities. As of March 23, 137 surveys have been returned with estimated losses to small businesses reaching as much as $15.5 million on both coasts.
The survey is being run through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity by its Florida Virtual Business Emergency Operations Center. Once tallied and analyzed, the results will be shared with state agencies that can offer small businesses emergency assistance, such as disaster bridge loans.
Lee County alone boasts five million visitors per year who generate about $3 billion during their visits. Fishing, shopping, eating and touring the area, which some call one of the last vestiges of “Old Florida,” are vacation highlights. Tourist season runs roughly from October through April.
Small business takes a hit
Ric Base, president of the Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, said the Lake Okeechobee releases are common in the summer, during the traditional wet season. He said locals are used to the tea-colored water. And while the releases pose ecological problems, they have never before affected the tourist economy.
On the islands, he said, some visiting anglers canceled their fishing trips and their short-term rentals. But he added that at the high cost of a weekly rental, many people stayed and found other things to do, including renting bicycles, visiting the numerous parks and wildlife refuges, shopping at mom-and-pop specialty shops that line the island and sampling the myriad restaurants.
“I don’t think anybody here will have to close their doors,” he said. “We made it through the recession very well. People were spending less, but they were still coming.”
Jim McCallion operates a small real estate business with his wife. He saw four home sales fall apart when the buyers heard of the discharge.
“We measure our sales in tens, not thousands like the big businesses,” he said. “We don’t know how much this will impact us; we don’t know how many people didn’t engage with us because they thought there was sewage in the water.”
McCallion claims people were misinformed by the media with misleading terms like “toxic bacteria” and “algae.”
“The color of the water was disturbing, it looked bad,” he said. But the brownish color was due to water flowing through mangrove-lined rivers, not sewage.
Because of the perception the water was impaired, the charter fishing business took a big hit, he said.
Daniel Andrews operates a fishing charter in Fort Myers and said his bookings are down by more than 50 percent from last year.
“Most guides are reporting their bookings are down between 20 to 90 percent,” he said in mid- March. “I usually have 10-14 charters per week. Now I have two to four per week.”
Hotel stays were down along the southwest coast during the first quarter of the year, according to county tourism reports. In Collier County, for example, hotel stays slipped 5.2 percent in March compared to the same period in 2015. Hotel stays in Lee County were off 6.7 percent overall for the first three months of 2016.
“According to reports from Lee County property managers, reservations for spring season 2016 suggest business will not be as strong as last spring,” says the report. “Thirty-three percent of those surveyed said their reservations are down compared with only 6 percent saying the same in 2015.”
No reason for the downtown is cited in the report, but a survey of visitors indicated that 13 percent disliked the water quality, compared to four percent in 2015.
Fishing guide Andrews has helped to form the nonprofit Captains for Clean Water to highlight the plight of the Everglades and enact a long-term solution.
Like others, he believes that discharges should flow south through the Everglades rather than west through the Caloosahatchee River and east along the St. Lucie River.
Andrews also agrees with the Everglades Restoration Project’s plan to purchase land near the lake to build water storage and treatment projects.
Those along the St. Lucie River appear to be faring better, with only about 20 of a small business impact surveys returned. However, some of their comments tell it all.
A St. Lucie County fish and tackle shop opener said he closed his doors for good at the end of March because he could not sustain his business.
Another said: “I want those responsible to be indicted and charged with endangering the health and wellbeing of 175,000 residents of Port St. Lucie by enabling our river to become an open sewer.”
A St. Lucie County dive service operator said: “Shame on you Florida.”
What is Being Done ?
Since 2007 the Corps of Engineers has spent $500 million to shore up the dike around Lake Okeechobee, said Campbell with the Corps. He said as the project has moved along, more structural areas of concern were identified.
While he expects the work to be completed in 2020, “not all of the funding is in place,” he said.
“Some of the funding was upfront and some is appropriated yearly by Congress, which has fully supported this project.”
While the Corps is responsible for the lake, it is not responsible for the flow of the water and what it carries with it. That charge belongs to the State of Florida. The Legislature had penned a deal to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee to begin implementing the Everglades Restoration Plan, but backed away and the deal fell through last fall.
On March 17, Congressman Curt Clawson (R-FL) filed federal legislation to set aside $500  million for the U.S. Department of the Interior to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee.
“While land purchases have traditionally been the responsibility of the State of Florida, this bill would serve as another option to get water flow back into the Everglades at the soonest possible date,” according to a press release from Clawson’s office.
The bill was referred to the House Budget Committee where it was not acted upon
Meanwhile, Fort Myers officials are taking a wait-and-see approach.
“Next year will show if this has lasting impacts,” said Matt Johnson, Fort Myers’ interim assistant city manager.
He said during the last discharge, his city beaches were not at all impacted, but “media frenzy and errant statements impacted us greatly the following year.
“The question now is what are they going to do to stop this from happening again.”
Jack Nicklaus in hot water with Justice Department over filled wetlands at golf club
Years later, Water District eyes suing Hollywood pump maker to recover lost taxpayer dollars
New law drives lobbyists out of the shadows at state water management districts
Water district loses $1.5 million on Hollywood company’s failed pumps; now buying $2 million more
South Florida Water Management District boss steps down abruptly after news reports


U.S. Sugar ad ignores missing piece of the puzzle – by Cara Capp and Michael, co-chairs of the Everglades Coalition
May 27, 2016
Florida’s waters are in crisis
FGCU students and activists supporting the purchase of land from U.S. Sugar to help restore the Everglades, hold a clean water rally on the FGCU campus on Monday.
U.S. Sugar has placed several full-page newspaper advertisements reporting the “facts” about moving Lake Okeechobee water south. On behalf of the 61 organizations of the Everglades Coalition, committed to the protection and restoration of America’s Everglades, we must set the record straight.
Florida’s waters are in crisis. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries are choking from polluted overflows from Lake Okeechobee, while Everglades National Park and Florida Bay are starved for freshwater. Habitat is fragmented, algae is blooming, and fisheries are dying. As Floridians, clean water is the lifeblood of our environment, economy, and quality of life — all of which are in jeopardy.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) — enacted under the bipartisan leadership of President Clinton and Governor Bush — seeks to restore some of the southern water flow that has been lost through the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), south of Lake Okeechobee.
U.S. Sugar’s ad ignores the consensus of expert opinion that more storage, treatment, and conveyance south of Lake Okeechobee is needed. This is the missing piece of the puzzle required to restore America’s Everglades and stop the harmful releases of contaminated lake water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee. Both CERP and the state-sponsored technical review by the University of Florida Water Institute indicate that achieving this goal will require additional lands in order to capture and convey hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water.
The ad suggests instead that completion of repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike will largely solve the problem, which is not the case. The important work to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike is being undertaken primarily to address the safety of communities south of the lake and will have a minimal impact on reducing lake discharges. Deepening lake levels much beyond today’s depths would only worsen ecological conditions of the lake and the quality of the water being discharged to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee.
The ad states the Federal Government already owns significant land south of Lake Okeechobee which, while true, neglects to mention there is a sizable gap between the lake and those federal lands — creating a bottleneck that restricts the ability to send water south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. Much of this critical land that is needed is owned by U.S. Sugar.
The ad states that “special interest groups unfairly blame farmers” for the harmful releases.  Environmental and public interest advocates do not stand to profit and are not special interests. Recognizing the role that agribusiness plays in both the problem and solution is not “blame.”
Everglades restoration and the elimination of harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee are imperative from an environmental and economic perspective. Returning a portion of the EAA back to the historical storage and conveyance of freshwater will allow agriculture to continue to thrive, while protecting the vital economic impact of our tourism and real estate sectors throughout South Florida. It will also grow the freshwater supply needed to sustain our growing population.
We applaud leaders like Congressmen Curt Clawson and Patrick Murphy, who support buying land for restoration. A recent U.S. House bill introduced by Congressman Clawson would allocate $500 million of emergency funds to study and acquire lands south of Lake Okeechobee. The Florida Legislature’s recent passage of the Legacy Florida bill designates at least $200 million per year for Everglades restoration. These efforts demonstrate that there can be the political will and funding needed to buy the needed land and get this done if U.S. Sugar would come back to the table as a willing seller.
The Everglades Coalition calls on U.S. Sugar to step up as a restoration partner and immediately resume negotiations with state and federal leaders to sell a portion of its EAA lands to secure the missing piece needed to solve Florida’s water crisis and restore America’s Everglades.


Controversial Lake O flushing to increase as dike concerns grow with rainy season
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich

Recent rain raised lake levels in Lake Okeechobee
Water managers to resume maximum releases to the coasts
To the south, water could help revive Everglades National Park

May 26, 2016
Storms in recent weeks have left the state too waterlogged and water levels in Lake Okeechobee too high as the rainy season ramps up, water managers warned Thursday.
In the last nine days, lake levels rose three-quarters of a foot, wiping out a winter’s worth of flushing to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers that fouled both coasts with muddy brown water. With the rainy season getting underway and the start of hurricane season just around the corner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a briefing that it will resume releases, doubling the current flow amount to lower the lake and protect its aging dike.
 “What we think we’ve seen is probably the lowest the lake is going to be this year,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, who called the year “really challenging.”
Water managers try to maintain the lake at between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet, preferring to head into the wet season at the low end. But on Thursday, levels measured 14.38 feet, well above a low reached on May 17 at 13.64 feet and close to a high not seen since 2010. Water flowing into the lake from the north also far exceeded what managers have been pumping out to lower levels.
“At that level, the lake will rise at a rate we can’t maintain during the hurricane season because it will take up all the storage we’ve made,” Reynolds said.
This year’s intense El Niño dumped record rain on the region, with lake levels shooting up in January. In February, the Corps opened up its flood gates to allow maximum releases that triggered a massive flushing. The surge from the lake soiled both coasts, angering residents who also saw releases in 2013 kill sea grass and trigger toxic algae blooms. In March, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency and blamed the Obama administration for not moving fast enough to fix the dike.
In recent months, water managers scaled back lake releases as the region moved into a more typical dry season, but concerns mounted over a possible outbreak of toxic blue green algae in the lake. On Thursday, Reynolds said the Corps was consulting with other state agencies about the algae, but couldn’t say whether increasing discharges would help flush out any algae, or spread it to the estuaries.
Water managers have for the first time also moved massive amounts of water in the southern Everglades from a sprawling conservation area north of the Tamiami Trail and into Everglades National Park through the Shark River Slough. The plan mirrors what managers hope to do with restoration work to revive water moving south, giving them a glimpse at future efforts. The data collected could lead to more water being moved, which had been planned for incremental tests.
“Right now water levels are higher than folks have seen since the 1960s and we think that’s great news,” Reynolds said. “As we move water south, it’s going where we want it to go.”
Related:           Lake Okeechobee to discharge more harmful fresh water to ocean   Sun Sentinel

Fight over sewage-sludge dumping averted in Palm Beach County
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid, Reporter
May 26, 2016
he stink and the flies still lead the way to Palm Beach County farmland that has become a dumping ground for Broward County sewage sludge — even after a cleanup to avoid a legal fight.
Complaints about overwhelming odors and "horrific" conditions last year triggered inspections by Palm Beach County officials revealing that tons of treated human waste was being disposed of at Dan Griffin Sod Co.'s land near South Bay.
Now, after the county threatened a court fight, the Dan Griffin Sod Co. has made changes to its 317 acres that county officials say make it more like a farm than a sewage dump.
Dan Griffin Sod Co. has scaled back the amount of land used to collect the dump truck loads of treated human waste to about 10 acres, according to the county. Sugar cane has been planted on much of the rest of the property.
Yet even after limiting the sewage sludge storage area, the strong smell of fecal matter still greets passers-by driving along the road bordering Dan Griffin Sod Co.'s property, just west of U.S. 27.
Florida law allows using this type of treated sewage leftovers as fertilizer on farmland, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
While county officials have questioned the appropriateness of dumping sewage sludge in a farming region that drains water to the Everglades, they say because state law allows it, the cleanup agreed to with Dan Griffin Sod Co. was as far as they could go.
"We decided to just accept their cooperation," said Pendleton, who said the property appraiser's office was "thrilled" to avoid going to court.
Dan Griffin, who could not be reached for comment for this report, has previously said he uses the sewage sludge as a fertilizer that helps restore land worn down by decades of farming.
The changes made at Dan Griffin Sod Co. may have eased the county's concerns, but environmental groups warn that the ongoing disposal of sewage sludge on western farmland poses a pollution risk to water flowing to the Everglades.
Treated sewage sludge, also called biosolids, is high in phosphorus and other potential contaminants and shouldn't be dumped on land anywhere in South Florida, said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida.
"It is just stunning that (state officials are) just looking the other way while sewage sludge is being applied on those fields," Draper said.
State officials counter that spreading the treated sludge on farmland is allowed, as long as pollution-control measures are taken to keep rain from washing that fertilizer into waters that drain into the Everglades.
The kind of treated sludge being disposed of at Dan Griffin Sod Co. meets "strict environmental criteria" and is "the highest quality of biosolids" — good enough to be sold at stores as a fertilizer, according to Florida Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Jessica Boyd.
Environmental groups have long questioned adding phosphorus to the farming region that borders the Everglades as well as the effectiveness of the state's farmland pollution control requirements.
They object to bringing phosphorus-loaded sludge into the farming region south of Lake Okeechobee — called the Everglades Agricultural Area — while taxpayers are already spending billions to get phosphorus out of water that drains into the Everglades.
Trucking in sewage sludge to dump on farmland has more to do with getting rid of human waste than helping plants grow, according to Earthjustice attorney David Guest, who has challenged sludge spreading elsewhere in Florida.
"The fertilization story is just a fiction that is used for disposal," Guest said. "You (will be) contaminating the Everglades."
As much as 10,000 tons of sludge a year were being spread on the 317-acre Dan Griffin Sod Co. property since 2009, according to the Property Appraiser's office.
The sludge trucked to the old sod fields in western Palm Beach County comes from the Southern Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant in Hollywood.
The sludge is a byproduct of the treatment plant, left over from cleaning up what gets flushed down toilets in communities including Hollywood, Dania Beach, Hallandale Beach, Miramar, Pembroke Park and Pembroke Pines.
The sewage sludge is dried, treated and heated to kill off bacteria, viruses and other contaminants that could pose a health risk or an environmental threat, according to Hollywood spokeswoman Raelin Storey.
The sludge dumping had gone unnoticed by Palm Beach County officials until an anonymous complaint in 2014 prompted inspections by the property appraiser's office and code enforcement.
Visiting Dan Griffin Sod Co.'s property last year was like "walking on raw sewage," said County Code Enforcement Director Ramsay Bulkeley, who inspected the land after getting complaints about noxious odors.
The property was "disgusting" and "you couldn't bear the smell," Bulkeley said.
Yet the county's code enforcement department couldn't require a cleanup because state law limits local regulations on land designated for farming.
With the Property Appraiser's Office opting not to go to court to challenge Dan Griffin Sod Co.'s agricultural designation, code enforcement hasn't been back to the property for a follow-up inspection, Bulkeley said.
"There's nothing that code enforcement can do," he said.
Related:           Palm Beach County fields once green with sod have turned into a sludge-covered disposal site that reeks like the inside of an over-loaded portable toilet.
Truckloads of leftover sewage sludge from Broward County are getting spread on western Palm Beach County farmland — turning a portion of the...
Palm Beach County fields once green with sod have turned into a sludge-covered disposal site that reeks like the inside of an over-loaded portable toilet.
Truckloads of leftover sewage sludge from Broward County are getting spread on western Palm Beach County


Healthy mangroves

How to end the cycle of destruction in our estuaries – by Mike Holliday
May 26, 2016
Florida's estuaries are under siege. At no time in our history has there been such a distinct collapse of our waterways as what we're seeing on both coasts and in Florida Bay. And it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better.
To understand the solutions, you have to understand the problems. The Everglades and Florida Bay are starving for the freshwater that used to flow south from Lake Okeechobee, through what is now the Everglades Agricultural Area. Less than one-third of the freshwater that historically flowed into the Everglades now goes there.
That reduction in freshwater has created a hyper-saline environment much like a dead sea. It's too salty, to the point the water has measured as high as 81 parts per thousand (35 is normal seawater). Because of that, more than 50,000 acres of sea grasses in an 80-square-mile stretch of Florida Bay have died. So have mangroves. It happened once before in the early 1990s, and it took decades to partially recover.
The results of the hyper-saline environment, mangrove, sea grass and fish die-offs is an overabundance of sulfide in the water, giving the water a yellow tint the locals call the "Yellow Fog." Where the fog lies, everything dies.
Water isn't going from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades because it's being diverted to the east through the St. Lucie River and the west through the Caloosahatchee River. Hundreds of billions of gallons already have passed through these waterways this year.
There are two issues with this water: one is the sheer volume of freshwater diverted; the other is the nutrients and poisons the water carries. Both have disastrous effects on our estuaries.
When you dump a continuous volume of freshwater on a marine ecosystem, it eventually goes from being saltwater or brackish water to entirely freshwater. After three weeks of freshwater, the systems' natural filters (oysters and sea grasses) die. We've already had more than 100 days of freshwater.
The second issue is all the legacy nutrients and poisons that are carried downstream with that freshwater flow. This mixture of silt, decaying plant matter and chemical compounds (fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides) have enough mass to make the water dirty and prevent light from penetrating it. They settle to the bottom, covering the sea grasses and oysters, and build into an impenetrable muck. They hamper the recovery of the system so it struggles to rebound.
Those nutrients feed the harmful algae and bacteria that create red, green and brown tides. They help the blooms grow, until they eventually die, and the process of decomposition sucks all the oxygen out of the water, creating the massive fish kills. Fish aren't the only thing to die. The entire food chain that depends on oxygen dies, wiping the system of life.
Our current water systems have starved the Everglades of water and created a cycle of destruction. So far, the marine ecosystems have rebounded, and for the most part recovered, because they were strong enough to survive. Unfortunately, the balance has tipped.
At some point, the ecosystem gets too weak or has too much destruction and residual algae and bacteria to recover. The stretch of seagrass and oysters that are killed off is too large and the nutrients remaining in the system too plentiful. That's where we are now.
We know from prior algae bloom events in Florida Bay that it takes about 20 years for sea grasses to recover, longer for the fisheries. Until we fix the hydrology issues, reduce the discharges to the east and west, better regulate the stages of Lake Okeechobee and significantly increase the flow of freshwater to the Everglades, we will not see a change in this pattern.
We know the water that flows into Lake Okeechobee needs to flow south through the Everglades Agricultural Area. It needs to help recharge the Florida aquifer and recreate the healthy brackish water environments that make the area thrive.
No one wants to swim in the chemicals we spray on farms and the animal refuse that washes off our lands. We know cancer, Alzheimer's and a host of other diseases have environmental triggers. Recreating in chemicals, algae blooms and farm runoff has to have consequences.
So why doesn't the water flow south through the EAA? Two reasons: opposition from Big Sugar and the politicians who take their campaign donations in exchange for their vote.
In 2014, Florida voters passed Amendment 1 which provides $700 million for land acquisition, thinking those dollars would be specifically used to purchase the land in the EAA to fix these problems. Instead, our elected officials allocated it for pet projects, salaries and vehicles.
Florida's marine environments are being systematically killed off in the name of short-term profit to the sugar farms that reside in the EAA. Our politicians are bought and paid for by the sugar lobbies and Big Sugar's reluctance to help with the problem, to share in the costs, to sacrifice a token of their total acreage for the good of mankind is the only thing standing in the way of a solution.
We can take those ecosystems back, fix them and resurrect our quality of life. We can remove from office every politician who voted to misappropriate Amendment 1 funds, who sidetracks the solution of sending water south and doesn't campaign to fix Florida's hydrology.
Land acquisition in the EAA needs to be a top priority. Hopefully, the owners of that land will understand the destruction, see the value of our ecosystems and be willing sellers.
If not, we need to take the land through eminent domain, either through a legislative act or a constitutional amendment. When you consider that Big Sugar wouldn't exist without government supports, it's more like payment due on a loan rather than eminent domain.
Related:           Follow our Lake Okeechobee discharge meter for daily updates.
Lake Okeechobee discharges to more than double into St. Lucie River


Lake-O-nomics: How polluted water could put a damper on Florida’s tourism boom – by Kate Bradshaw
May 26, 2016
Traffic on the Matanzas Pass Bridge, which leads out to Fort Myers Beach, was at a standstill, as it always seems to be in February, the height of tourist season.
To those who stood on the bridge’s pedestrian walkway chanting and waving signs, occupants of the cars that crawled along were a captive audience. The protesters were denouncing the US Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to release fertilizer-ridden water from Lake Okeechobee into delicate estuarine waters on either coast after heavy rains threatened to cause the lake to spill over into neighboring agricultural lands. That decision sent toxic, coffee-brown water to the southern Gulf Coast via the Caloosahatchee River, and to the Atlantic Coast through the St. Lucie River, and with it, toxic algae blooms and marine life die-offs.
The toxicity comes from fertilizer-rich agricultural runoff that has for decades been dumped into the lake. Nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) within the fertilizer feed algae blooms that are harmful to marine life as well as humans.
“It’s dangerous stuff, potentially dangerous stuff,” said Cris Costello, a water expert and senior regional organizing representative with the Sierra Club. “But beyond that, not very beautiful, not welcoming; a sure turnoff to both tourists and full-time residents alike. You don’t want to swim in it, you don’t want to fish in it, you don’t want to bathe in it, you don’t want to boat in it.”
The brown tint of the water itself comes largely from decomposed plant matter, but even if it’s safe, it doesn’t exactly look that way to tourists.
Environmental groups say state officials’ negligence on the matter — best characterized by their refusal to buy up agricultural lands south of the lake, into which that stormwater would instead flow, eventually filtering through to the currently parched Everglades — is already having grave consequences.
Aerial news footage from either coast showed a dramatic contrast between the clean, blue coastal water and the brown water that was invading it. Images of dead fish blanketing coastal waterways peppered social media feeds.
For those living in communities heavily reliant on tourism and fishing, the dark water and imperiled sea life represented an existential threat to many aspects of coastal life, from public health to environmental quality to the local economy.
“It affects everything,” said Kenny Hinkle, a Stuart resident, environmental activist and protester. “Paddleboard companies had to shut down completely at the height of tourist seasons. Tackle shops. People aren’t going in the water... our whole community’s based on the water.”
The bridge protest took place February 13, approximately the midpoint in what was to be a record-setting quarter for tourism.
Two months later, tourism leaders and elected officials, including Governor Rick Scott, heralded the unprecedented volume of visitors for the first three months of the year at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. That 30 million people visited the state between February and March, they said, was a sign that the state’s investment in tourism development via Visit Florida, a public-private partnership, is working, and the $76 million the state will invest in the next fiscal year will yield major returns, including badly needed jobs for Floridians.
“What’s great about our state is that we have people coming from all over the world and all over the United States,” Scott said. “So all the focus on tourism, all the investment of your tax dollars through Visit Florida and other things like the aquarium, they’re paying off... When we do the right thing with your tax dollars ... it creates jobs for families. It’s the most important thing you can do.”
That record-shattering quarter followed an all-time best tourism year: 2015 saw 105 million visitors, who spent a grand total of $89 billion in the state, said Will Seccombe, CEO of Visit Florida, and this year’s poised to be even bigger.
“To kick off 2016 with an all-time record quarter is a huge testament to the strength of the tourism industry,” Seccombe said. “There’s no question that we have the best tourism product in the world, but it doesn’t happen by accident.”
Environmental advocates would argue, though, that failing to prevent the dramatic coastal pollution associated with the Lake Okeechobee release could lead to unintended consequences for the tourism industry.
“The big impact of the polluted discharges of the Lake Okeechobee water is going to be the perception in the European tourist market, and also the tourist market in other parts of the United States, that Florida is a place that’s a developing world that can’t keep the water clean,” said David Guest, managing attorney for the Florida division of Earthjustice, who is retiring in early June. “It sounds like the Florida government is just about the same as the Brazilian government in that they can’t get a bay for the Olympic games that’s not so contaminated you can’t get in it.”
It’s now the time of year that families with children gear up for summer vacation.
Just as unseasonably heavy rains led to the release of untold amounts of polluted water into coastal waterways, extensive storms common in summer may result in similar releases; it’s happened before.
Kenny Hinkle said it was such a release three years ago that inspired him to get involved. He and a family member were trying to fish in the waters off Stuart, but were having a tough time finding a decent — unpolluted — spot.
“We had to go over 10 miles out of the inlet to avoid Lake Okeechobee discharges,” he said. “It just blew my mind.”
It’s unclear whether visitors, after witnessing firsthand the visual effects of the releases, will return.
And while Pinellas County and other tourism-dependent Tampa Bay communities may be somewhat removed from the mess, there still may be impacts here.
Environmentalists say the nutrient-dense wastewater may not make it up this way from Southwest Florida, but those nutrients may lend themselves to another hazard: harmful red tide blooms.
Caused by naturally occurring bacteria karenia brevis, red tide causes fish kills and can cause respiratory problems for children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
“Red tide, to a very small extent, is natural, of course, but so is bubonic plague. We didn’t invent bubonic plague. But the reason it spread was you’ve got this gigantic number of people living with rats and fleas,” David Guest said. “You can’t get away with it by saying it’s natural. And what we’ve done by contaminating the waters with sewage and fertilizer and manure, is we’re kind of creating perfect conditions for the red tide that’s already out there to go crazy, the same way the bubonic plague went crazy when it got into the right conditions.”
The Sierra Club’s Cris Costello added that, even if Tampa Bay doesn’t see a dramatic direct impact, the environmental havoc that’s occurring south of here signifies the state’s lack of political will to stand up to the sugar industry, which can be seen in the way the state treats federal environmental regulations like the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act — both policies over which the state is trying to fight the feds.
“The influence of big sugar is statewide,” she said. “The influences that keep elected officials’ attention away from the solution of sending water south from Lake Okeechobee are the same influences that are anti-any Clean Water Act influences.”
After the aquarium press conference, CL asked Scott whether he thinks the Lake Okeechobee releases might have any potential adverse impacts on tourism. He didn’t have an answer. Instead, he touted environmental measures taken at the state level before attacking the federal government for not doing enough to strengthen the wall around the lake.
 “Thanks to the support of the legislature, we’ve made significant investments in our environment,” he said. “When I first got elected we settled a decades-old lawsuit over the Everglades. We’re investing $880 million to improve water quality. We also invested significant amounts of money to move water south... But the federal government needs to do their part. They need to step up. They need to do more work to fix the dike at Lake Okeechobee.”
Guest said he’s not too surprised Scott is placing the blame at the feet of the Obama administration, even if the sugar industry’s influence on public policy in Florida is pervasive and easily seen in campaign finance records.
That, he said, is why Florida government is failing at protecting its own water.
“The root problem here is very simple, and that is that industrial-scale agriculture has been able to persuade Rick Scott and his friends that regulation of their contamination of waters is bad for the economy,” Guest said. “Invite the governor to store some water, and drink a cup of it on television, and see if it’s really a water storage problem.”
Yet environmental advocates have long argued that the money the state raises through the wildly popular Amendment 1, a measure directing the state to buy up environmental lands to protect them, ought to be used to purchase 46,800 acres of what’s currently cane fields south of the lake, and engineer the area so that water flows south — a project that could cost as much as $700 million.
“You can’t keep ignoring the problem of filthy water in Florida, and just distribute it around,” said Alisa Coe, also an attorney with Earthjustice. “The answer lies in actually cleaning up water, and that’s going to require more filter marshes or treatment systems, stormwater treatment areas like we have in the Everglades, more of that to actually make sure that there’s clean water. Water’s needed in the system, it’s just that we need clean water in the system.”
Without it, the Sunshine State’s bustling tourism economy may soon be just a memory.
“The draw of Florida is really the beauty of its environment and if we want people to visit, we’re going to have to learn how to keep the place clean,” Coe said. 
"Red tide is natural, but so is bubonic plague."


Murphy applaudes House Committee passage of water bill authorizing
RealEstateRama – by Erin Moffet
May 26, 2016
S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) made the following statement commending the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's passage of H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which includes language authorizing the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). Murphy has been a vocal advocate for this project's authorization to help restore the Everglades' natural southward flow as part of his continuing efforts to address the ongoing crisis in Florida's waterway UWASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) made the following statement commending the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s passage of H.R. 5303, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016, which includes language authorizing the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP). Murphy has been a vocal advocate for this project’s authorization to help restore the Everglades’ natural southward flow as part of his continuing efforts to address the ongoing crisis in Florida’s waterways. Today’s action in the House follows the passage of WRDA legislation by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also authorizing CEPP. Today’s action in the House follows the passage of WRDA legislation by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also authorizing CEPP. “For our Florida communities that have been suffering from toxic waters, today’s action in the House is a welcome step forward in our efforts to send more clean water south. Not only is it commendable to have Congress return to considering a water bill every two years, but having both chambers include authorization of CEPP is a major win,” said Murphy. “I am hopeful that the House and Senate move to swiftly pass this legislation and push this vital project forward.” Committed to continuing the fight to improve the health of local waterways, Murphy recently led the Florida delegation in calling on U.S. House and Senate leaders to include Congressional authorization of CEPP in the 2016 Water Resources Development Act. He also led a bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers in introducing H.R. 230 at the beginning of this Congress to authorize CEPP after the Army Corps finalized its Chief’s Report for the project in December of 2014. Background on CEPP: CEPP is a $2 billion series of engineering projects intended to collect and channel water around Lake Okeechobee south into the center of the Everglades, thereby reducing harmful discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and improving the health of the entire ecosystem. CEPP was not included in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had not completed a key report approving the project before the bill was signed into law on June 10, 2014. The Chief’s Report was finalized on December 23, 2014, which allows Congress to now take action to authorize it. Once authorized, the project can receive federal funding and construction can begin.


With storm on horizon, Lake O is at a high point
Palm Beach Post - by Kimberly Miller, Staff Writer
May 26, 2016
Forecasters are cautioning Memorial Day travelers headed to Georgia and the Carolinas to keep an eye on a burgeoning low-pressure system north of the Bahamas.
But Palm Beach County can expect a typical summer weather pattern this weekend with scattered afternoon showers. Today will be mild and dry.
Late Thursday, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center increased the probability of the low-pressure system becoming a tropical cyclone to 80 percent. If the system musters tropical-storm force winds , it would be named Bonnie.
The system is expected to enter an area of lower wind shear and warmer waters that may encourage development into a tropical or subtropical cyclone today or Saturday. Also today, a U.S. Air Force plane will investigate the system.
The quick start to the hurricane season puts the spotlight on Lake Okeechobee, where lake levels have hit a nearly six-year high for the month of May.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin releasing 1.1 billion gallons of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie beginning today, increasing concerns that a blue-green algae bloom in the lake will cause further damage to estuary ecosystems.
Freshwater discharges, which have been ongoing since January, already hurt sea life that thrive in the brackish, high-salinity waters of the estuary. The most recent releases into the St. Lucie were 420 million gallons per day.
To the west, the Corps will increase the releases into the Caloosahatchee Estuary to 2.5 billion gallons per day, up from 1.2 billion gallons per day.
“All of the progress we made in lowering the lake has basically been for naught as we are back where we were a month ago,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineer spokesman John Campbell. “We have concerns about the state of the lake. We just don’t have a lot of storage.”
Hurricane season, which roughly coincides with Florida’s rainy season, begins Wednesday.
The Corps monitors the level of Lake Okeechobee closely because if it gets too high, it could begin to erode the Herbert Hoover Dike, which 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.
On Thursday, the lake was at 14.38 feet, close to a May 2010 high mark of 14.57 feet. Last year, the lake was at 12.65 feet above sea level on June 1.
“This is a really tough year,” said Corps of Engineers Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, who is the deputy district commander for South Florida. “The releases we are making are necessary in order to keep people safe during the wet season and hurricane season.”
The amount of freshwater releases has been on the decline or stable for the past several weeks after a lack of rain in March and April.
But the year started off wet courtesy of the strong El Niño weather pattern. January was deemed the wettest on record after a 16-county area overseen by the South Florida Water Management District got 9.18 inches of rain for the month. That’s 7.25 inches more than normal.
Through Wednesday, the region was still up 8.93 inches of rain for the year.
Reynolds said she sympathizes with the problems the lake water causes in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and recognizes that the blue-green algae are a concern. She said the most recent measure she has is that the algal bloom had spread to 33 square miles on the south side of Lake Okeechobee.
Algal blooms are common in warm freshwater but can cause fish kills and be harmful to humans.
Last year, an algal bloom prompted the Martin County Health Department to warn against touching water near the lock and dam that control water releases from the lake.
“We have had a really challenging dry season,” Reynolds said. “Our decisions are based on the health and safety risk of the dam around Lake Okeechobee. That is our first and primary concern.”
Related:           Storm 2016: Tropical weather and hurricanes full coverage


Farmers work to conserve water
Miami Herald – Letter to the Editor by John L. Hoblick, president of Florida Farm Bureau Federation, DeLeon Springs, FL
May 25, 2016
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection forecasts that between now and 2030, demand for drinking water in our state will increase by nearly 30 percent.
Farm families are doing their part to conserve this vital resource. According to field monitoring data verified by state officials, farmers and ranchers conserve more than 12 billion gallons of freshwater each year by careful management.
Many of these agriculturists have spent thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to build closed systems which completely recycle water on their farms. Others have developed marshlands that remove nutrients before they enter the surrounding environment.
Ninety percent of all farmers who substantially reduce their water use do so without any public financial assistance, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The South Florida Water Management District has reported that farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area eliminated 70 percent of the phosphorous in waters leaving their properties in one year.
Meanwhile, farmers grow abundant food on shrinking acreage. According to Texas A&M University researchers, farms now produce more than 156 percent more food on 26 percent less acreage than they did in the 1940s.
Farm families maintain freshwater recharge areas, wildlife habitat and greenspace as part of their daily work — at no cost to the taxpayer.
But farmers cannot restore whole ecosystems that have been changed and manipulated for more than a century to accommodate new residents in Florida.
We must all share the cost of achieving comprehensive water conservation without risking a loss of our food productivity.
As we pursue conservation policies, I hope we will not lose sight of the fact that agriculture is a life-sustaining resource.


FL Senate

Plan to cut Lake O discharges in pipeline, incoming Senate President Joe Negron vows - by Isadora Rangel
May 25, 2016
A way to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges is in the pipeline, assured incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron, who on Wednesday said he's working on a plan to present to the Legislature next year.
Negron, R-Stuart, said he's been talking to scientists, environmentalists and the agriculture industry and asked each group to give him their solution to the discharges. He said he expects to decide on the best plan by early fall, just before state lawmakers begin meeting in committees to prepare for the 2017
legislative session, over which Negron will preside in the Senate.
He said he's asking each group the following:
●  What's the best way to reduce discharges?
●  Why is their proposal feasible?
●  How much will it cost?
Negron, a lawyer, compared his decision-making process to that of a jury: There will be a deliberation period and then he will come up with a verdict. He then will lobby his fellow lawmakers to accept the plan and allocate the money. As Senate president in 2017-18, Negron will be in a powerful position to negotiate with Gov. Rick Scott and incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes.
The money for the proposal would come from a law Scott signed in April that creates a dedicated fund for Everglades restoration. The law gives priority to projects that reduce lake discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. Sponsored by Negron and Rep. Gayle Harrell of Stuart, the law mandates at least $200 million or 25 percent of Amendment 1 dollars — whichever is less — be used for such purposes. Voters approved Amendment-1 in 2014 to set aside money for land and water conservation.
Negron said he will use a 2014 University of Florida study to guide his decision. The university's Water Institute found, among other things, Florida needs 11,000 to 129,000 acres of additional storage south of Lake O to significantly reduce discharges by moving water into the Everglades.
The Legislature chose not to fund the purchase of 46,800 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. after the company lobbied against it and many lawmakers opposed it. The board of directors of the South Florida Water Management District voted to void the sale option before it expired in 2015. The option was part of a 2010 contract between the state and the company to sell its land. One remaining option to purchase 153,200 acres expires in 2020.
The Legislature has made significant progress on Everglades and lagoon restoration in the past few years, Negron said. That includes allocating money in 2014 to raise the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County to allow water to flow into the Everglades; and money allocated this year for a water farm in Martin County. The project run by Caulkins Citrus Co. pumps and stores polluted water out of the C-44 Canal that otherwise would flow into the St. Lucie River and eventually into the Indian River Lagoon.


Rising seas push too much salt into the Florida Everglades – by Christopher Joyce
May 25, 2016
The Florida Everglades is a swampy wilderness the size of Delaware. In some places along the road in southern Florida, it looks like tall saw grass to the horizon, a prairie punctuated with a few twisted cypress trees. The sky is the palest blue.
But beneath the surface a different story is unfolding. Because of climate change and sea level rise, the ocean is starting to seep into the swampland. If the invasion grows worse, it could drastically change the Everglades, and a way of life for millions of residents in South Florida.
An experiment is going on here to help scientists understand more about what's likely to happen as the ocean invades. "We're making, basically, artificial seawater here," a guy wearing a mosquito net over his face tells me, as he stirs water in a vat the size of a hot tub.
The guy in the mosquito net is Joe Stachelek — a student of ecologist Tiffany Troxler, from Florida International University. They're making salt water and pumping it out into the wetland — dosing the plants and soil with their briny mix as a preview of what the ocean could do.
"As sea level rises," Troxler explains, "the saltwater wedge moves inland." And it infiltrates the bedrock.
"Our underlying rock is limestone," Troxler says. "That limestone is very porous; it's almost like Swiss cheese in some areas.
"We walk out into the test site — through the saw grass and the underlying peat, which is a fancy name for muck. It's rich stuff, full of nutrients and microorganisms that feed this river of grass. And, like the plants, the peat also is affected by salt water.
The team has laid out a metal boardwalk, so you can walk around the muck without sinking up to your waist. Out here the grass is patchier, and in some places the peat is slumping — collapsing.
Troxler says there's lots of this slumping going on. "When we start to lose the structure of the plants," she explains, "essentially this peat, which is otherwise held together by roots, becomes a soupy pond."
In response to the salt, the plants actually pull up some of their roots — out of the peat. The roots look like teeth protruding from receding gums.
This could be the future of the Everglades, Troxler says. And here's the thing: The Everglades acts like sponge, feeding off the Biscayne aquifer — a giant cell of freshwater that lies underneath the land.
"We get over 90 percent of our freshwater from the Biscayne aquifer," Troxler says, "we" meaning millions of people in South Florida.
As seawater seeps up from underneath, through the limestone bedrock, it is contaminating the aquifer and the Everglades above it.
That's starting to worry some people. Like Julie Hill-Gabriel, who directs Everglades policy for the National Audubon Society in Florida. She says she tells people in South Florida, "What we do in the Everglades is 100 percent going to affect you in your neighborhood — [and whether] when you turn on the tap water, you have enough fresh clean water."
For millennia, fresh water flowed south to the Everglades, making it the largest flooded grassland in America. But over the past several decades, that water was diverted to irrigate agricultural fields, and to keep homes from flooding. Environmental groups like Audubon have been trying to restore the natural flow to the Everglades, mostly to preserve wildlife.
Now, Hill-Gabriel says, there's a new reason for that restoration — to repel the invading sea. Putting more freshwater back into the sponge that is the Everglades could create a kind of "back pressure" to keep seawater out.
"It just really compounds the urgency to move that freshwater south," says Hill-Gabriel.
At least that's the theory.
When it comes to climate change in South Florida, much of the focus until now has been about protecting property with pumps and barriers. But James Cason, the Republican mayor of the city of Coral Gables, says he hopes his constituents can understand the importance of protecting the Everglades as well.
"It's not just so they can see the alligators," Cason says. "It's because they'll want to make sure the drinking water on which we all depend is not contaminated."

Big Sugar

Angry about Florida's ruined waters, fishermen unite against Big Sugar
Miami New Times – by Bill Kearney
May 24, 2016
Fishing guide Mike Conner putters his skiff across the Indian River Lagoon near Stuart, about a two-hour drive north of Miami. He used to bring clients from all over the United States here to stalk delicious pompano, yard-long snook, and the Holy Grail of inshore fishing: sea trout longer than 30 inches. Today the lush seagrass flats that once formed an underwater Serengeti are gone. Instead, Conner peers down through the shallows at a barren underwater desert — only sand, as far as he can see.
Conner, now 60, simmers with a controlled rage as he turns the skiff around, back toward the boat ramp in the Saint Lucie River. On the way, it smells like rotten lettuce as the water suddenly changes color from a delicate green to a dank wall of burnt coffee. This brown mass is the source of Conner's anger.
"I would say it's the worst environmental crisis ever in the state," he says of Florida's nasty water problem, "and I think its the 11th hour right now."
Lake Okeechobee has been severely polluted with phosphorus and nitrates.
Though the seagrass beds and his home waters have been deteriorating for decades, the summer of 2013 was a turning point, as pollution-induced algae blooms transformed the estuary into a human health hazard. "The fishing was horrible," Conner remembers. "The water was crummy. The warning signs were on the docks: 'Don't contact the water.' " The water grew so foul that boat captains and small business owners refer to that period as the "lost summer." When Conner lost 35 fishing charters over two months — $13,000 of income — he was irate.
The cause of all this disgusting water was, in a nutshell, plumbing. Lake Okeechobee has been severely polluted with phosphorus and nitrates from a century of farming and development around it. Under normal circumstances, in the rainy season, water is supposed to overflow the lake and move south, through the "River of Grass," and give life to the Everglades. But vast acres of sugar farms just south of the lake, and the communities of people who operate them, stand in the way.
To protect that land — called the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) — from annual flooding when Lake O fills up, the Army Corps of Engineers sends massive amounts of the polluted water through rivers that run east and west to Florida's coasts, regardless of the damage it does there. Two companies — U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, together called "Big Sugar" — own the bulk of the land in the EAA. Environmentalists have long suggested that the state purchase this land to restore natural water flows, and now fishermen are joining the chorus and making the same demand. But the companies have resisted, while also mastering the dark art of political influence.
The lost summer of 2013 was particularly wet and therefore particularly deadly to the seagrass and the critters on whom Conner's livelihood depended. "My dad taught me that if I believe in something, do something about it," he says. "Don't just bitch. I can't stand complacency. That drives me nuts — people walking around with their head in their ass, watching too much reality shows, then they complain about something."
At a meeting where officials were discussing Lake Okeechobee discharges, Conner confronted a representative of the Army Corps, which controls the water flows. He presented an invoice for the income he had lost.
"I want you to take it to the top," Conner remembers saying. "I want to be reimbursed. I'm out the money." The Corps rep promised to run it up the chain of command. Two weeks later, Conner says, he received an email saying sorry, but because of its flood control mission, the Corps was not responsible for his loss. "So I went on TV with it and publicized it," he says. "I had Channel 12 come out on my boat. I was a lone wolf then. But I wanted to set an example that way. The next year, guys started to think about how things were affecting their wallet."
Three years later, this winter's wet El Niño weather has made things far worse. In a normal year, the Corps sends 92 billion gallons of Lake Okeechobee water into the fragile waters near Conner's home. This year, the agency blasted through that mark in the first four months, and the rainy season still lies ahead. "This may not stop until next winter," Conner says.
On both Florida's east coast (near Stuart) and the west (by Sanibel Island), fishing guides are losing business, paddleboard shops are shuttering, real-estate agents are losing deals, and vacationers are canceling trips as brown water envelops the estuaries where the rivers pour into the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.
It's having an unusual political effect: Normally conservative Southwest Florida voters are lining up with tree-hugging environmentalists. Fishermen are organizing against politicians whom they see as concerned about corporations instead of the common good. Both the blue-collar and the rich are pissed off.
In the early 1960s, Mike Conner's dad landed a dream job as a football coach and teacher at Coral Park High School and moved the family to Miami from Pennsylvania. They lived two blocks south of the Tamiami Trail. By age 7, Conner was catching snook and redfish in Florida Bay, a passion that would determine his career as both a fishing guide and a magazine editor for Florida Sportsman.
In high school, he and his brother would put their redbone coonhounds in the back of the truck, pop in some Southern rock, and run the dogs at night in Big Cypress National Preserve, following their baying through the ancient trees. "The Everglades was our playground — we loved it! It was just the heyday of the Glades," Conner says.
Conner's family wasn't far behind pioneers who had radically altered the Everglades. In the late 1800s, a litany of mustached real-estate tycoons had tried to drain the land and get rich selling soggy farmland. (New York wanted winter veggies!) Eventually, a 47-mile dike was built to hold back Lake Okeechobee, and nascent farming towns — Belle Glade, South Bay, and Pahokee — popped up just south of it.
The dike was a success — until September 16, 1928, when a hurricane tore through and ruptured it, sending a wall of water south, killing 2,500 people, mostly poor black residents, making it the second-deadliest natural disaster in the nation's history.
That forced the federal government to step in. Over the next 20 years, the Army Corps of Engineers completed the massive, 143-mile Herbert Hoover Dike along the southern shores of the lake and permanently T-boned the Everglades' flow. Now engineers could keep farmland below the lake perfectly irrigated and safe by sending immense Lake O summer discharges east through the Saint Lucie River toward Stuart and west through the CaloosaCaloosahatchee River toward Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. The dike was like an open-for-business sign below the lake. Farming exploded.
From the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, other massive changes were being made throughout the Everglades' ecosystem from north of Lake Okeechobee and south to Florida Bay. Engineers totally reshaped the Kissimmee River, making it straight instead of meandering. Highways like I-75 and Tamiami Trail cut across the state, blocking water that would otherwise flow south. The Miccosukee were granted rights to swaths of wetlands in the middle. Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park were established. Development raged everywhere.
"Don't just bitch. I can't stand complacency."
Meanwhile, on an island 90 miles south, two little boys — Alfy and Jose "Pepe" Fanjul — grew up like princes as their family dominated Cuba's sugar industry. But when Fidel Castro in 1959 overthrew corrupt dictator Fulgencio Batista (to whom the Fanjuls paid bribes as a "cost of doing business," Alfy once recalled in a Vanity Fair profile), the bearded leader's forces, armed with machine guns, marched into the Fanjuls' family home and seized the dynasty's property. The Fanjul brothers made it to the States with enough money to buy 180,000 acres of land south of Lake Okeechobee and do what their family did best — harvest sugar. Castro's rise to power also prompted a U.S. embargo on Cuban sugar, and soon cane production in the upper Glades shot up 400 percent.
Later, the Fanjuls would found Florida Crystals and Domino Sugar and set up residence in tony Palm Beach. Earlier in the century, in 1931, Charles Stewart Mott, an original U.S. partner in General Motors, bought a bankrupt sugar company and turned it into the U.S. Sugar Corporation. Eventually, these two families would own 400,000 acres south of Lake O. They would become the dominant force in U.S. sugar production, and the industry would emerge as the biggest reason to keep Florida's plumbing as is, regardless of the destruction it wreaked on the coasts.
As development continued, the Everglades was dying. Lack of fresh water, high-nutrient loads from agriculture, and encroaching suburbia were strangling this one-of-a-kind ecosystem. Only over time did authorities begin to realize that a century of modern engineering hadn't improved Florida, but ruined it. Marjory Stoneman Douglas's pivotal 1947 book, The Everglades: River of Grass, helped change attitudes, as did the onset of the environmental movement in the 1960s.
Though it was a massive undertaking to please various stakeholders, plans were eventually made to reverse the damage. In 2000, Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bill Clinton, scientists, and even representatives from the sugar industry devised a master plan: the $8 billion, 30-year Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP). It consisted of 60-plus projects aimed at reestablishing clean freshwater flow south of Lake Okeechobee and breathing life into the River of Grass.
CERP noted that to fix the ecosystem, large reservoirs would be needed to store and control water before sending it south. The plan didn't specify buying the land from Big Sugar — though many people have proposed it as the solution. "If we want to reconnect Lake Okeechobee with the Everglades and alleviate the discharges going east and west, we need to have land south of the lake to build a reservoir to store water," explains Dr. Stephen Davis, wetland ecologist for the Everglades Foundation, an environmental group. "Without that storage, we just can't make that connection with the lake."
After being stored in said reservoirs, the water would flow through surprisingly effective Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) — large expanses of wetlands that don't look like much to anyone driving by but are actually sprawling marshes full of hard-at-work plants such as bulrush and hydrilla, which remove phosphorus and clean the water before sending it south to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
Without reservoirs south of Lake O, many doubted whether CERP would work. Then, in 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist announced a massive deal: The state would buy U.S. Sugar out — land, facilities, everything — for $1.8 billion, fair market value at the time. That would give the state a patchwork of 187,000 acres in the EAA.
Environmentalists were jubilant. "We were thinking that was it!" Davis remembers. Even U.S. Sugar officials described the deal as a win-win-win: for the state, for the environment, and for U.S. Sugar shareholders and employees.
But that fall, Wall Street collapsed. A massive recession hit. The bottom fell out of the state's budget. In the end, the deal was slashed to 26,800 acres for $197 million.
"That was a big blow for us when we lost that deal in 2008," fishing guide Conner laments.
U.S. Sugar stayed in business. The key reservoir was never built. Still, all was not lost: The state hoped it might be able to come up with money after the economy recovered, and retained options to buy various sections of land at later dates. Deadlines were set.
But Gov. Rick Scott has had other ideas.
When Governor Scott ran for office in 2010, it was on a platform of pro-business deregulation. Once in office, he put the fox in charge of the chicken coop.
Immediately, Scott replaced members of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), which determines the state's Everglades policy, with his own picks: agriculture executives, attorneys, real-estate execs, and civil engineers. After attending a secretive, off-the-books, all-expenses-paid hunting trip to King Ranch, a Texas hunting lodge run by U.S. Sugar, Scott appointed Mitchel A. "Mitch" Hutchcraft, who manages King Ranch's Florida agriculture interests, to a seat on the SFWMD board.
That wasn't all. Scott banned the phrase "climate change" in state offices. He appointed a shipping executive to be secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection. When a DEP wetlands expert refused to approve a permit she said violated the law, she was suspended (though later vindicated). Scott also nixed a statewide septic tank inspection program in 2012; four years later, massive fish kills related to septic tank leakage filled bays near Melbourne with so many dead fish it looked possible to walk across their ballooned bodies. Enforcement of DEP water-quality cases has dropped almost 90 percent during Scott's reign.
Last October, one of the deadlines on the Crist deal — the option to buy 46,000 acres — was about to pass. Conner and other conservationists hoped for a purchase, but Scott's SFWMD declined, claiming it would distract from other CERP projects. The final opportunity to buy the land — all of the land — expires in 2020. U.S. Sugar has proposed a 43,313-acre superdevelopment, replete with condos, hotels, and retail smack dab in the middle of it. Fishermen see it as a horrifying bargaining chip that potentially raises the property value and thus a cost to taxpayers if the state does finally buy it.
Frustrated with Scott and the Republican-led Florida Legislature, environmentalists went straight to the people in 2014 with a proposed constitutional amendment that would specify that $500 million a year in real-estate taxes be used specifically for conservation and land purchases. Fishermen were thrilled when Amendment 1 passed with 76 percent of the vote — now maybe here was the money to buy the sugar land! Instead, under Scott, most of those funds were diverted to salaries and other projects.
"All the oyster bars are dead. All the grass is gone."
The Fanjuls are generally more low-key than U.S. Sugar but have their own brand of influence a "cost of doing business." Their companies employ an army of no less than 50 lobbyists exerting leverage in both D.C. and Tallahassee, and spent more than $1 million on lobbying efforts in 2014, according to Privately, Florida politicians say the Fanjuls' lobbyists are polite, even nice. They don't argue if you disagree with their agenda; they simply shake your hand and funnel $200,000 to your opponent.
One of the reasons Big Sugar needs so many tentacles tickling politicians is to maintain the 1981 Farm Bill, repeatedly renewed in Washington. The bill (which enrages fiscal conservatives) guarantees sugar prices for the corporations, set at sometimes twice the price of the world market. If global prices drop, the fed gives Big Sugar loans that the companies pay back with sugar, not money. The feds then sell that sugar, really cheap, often to ethanol plants. Though the financial gain to Big Sugar fluctuates, it has in the past worked out to about $65 million a year for the Fanjuls and $55 million a year for the Motts.
In short, taxpayers help keep sugar corporations afloat and pay an elevated price for sugar at the grocery store. AEI, a conservative think tank, recommends that American sugar production decrease in order to keep Big Sugar from costing taxpayers money. On the other hand, lots of other countries protect their sugar industries with subsidies and tariffs, and without sugar production, already poor communities such as Clewiston, Belle Glade, and Pahokee would be in dire straights.
Critics oppose Big Sugar at their peril. Ray Judah claims the industry masterminded his political downfall. Judah — a graph-loving science geek — had helped save the endangered spotted owl and old growth forests as a grad student at Humboldt State University in California. After settling in hyper-red Florida, though, he ran as a Republican in order to win, resulting in a 24-year stint as a Lee County commissioner.
Judah was the sole Republican who stood by Charlie Crist when he made his deal with U.S. Sugar to buy the land south of Lake Okeechobee. In retaliation, Judah says, in 2012, "U.S. Sugar funneled money into [political action committees] that funneled money into other PACs that ended up sponsoring posters that were put in peoples' mailboxes twice a day for two weeks. There were radio commercials. They even ran TV commercials during the Olympics." That sort of spending was previously unheard of for a county commission seat.
U.S. Sugar spokesperson Judy Sanchez told the Naples Daily News at the time: "We tend to support candidates who understand agriculture and support its issues. Ray Judah did not understand agriculture and support its issues."
The Fanjuls, meanwhile, helped fund Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate run, foiling Crist's Washington dreams. When Rubio announced his run for the presidency last August, he walked offstage and into the open arms of Jose "Pepe" Fanjul, who has hosted $42,500-a-head fundraisers for the failed candidate (far more than the average annual salary in Pahokee). Rubio will say that federal sugar assistance is about food security: the nation is not safe without massive amounts of sugar, because losing production would cede power to Brazil.
On February 19, as black Lake Okeechobee water enveloped Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach, a crowd of about 300 very angry folks gathered at the Bass Pro Shops in Fort Myers. Some arrived in camouflage clothes with gun racks on their trucks; some came in matching cardigan sets; others were from the Sierra Club. Though a mix of Republicans, Democrats, and independents, they all wanted answers — and Rick Scott's head on a stick.
This was the first meeting of Captains for Clean Water, a nonprofit group started by fishing guides Capt. Dan Andrews and Capt. Chris Wittman, who had witnessed the waters they grew up on around Sanibel drastically deteriorate. "There were areas in the 1980s that were crystal-clear six feet deep with lush turtle grass and labyrinths of oyster bars," Wittman says. "That is just unheard of now. All the oyster bars are dead. All the grass is gone."
When they began posting about the disaster on Facebook, their posts would receive as many as a million views in a week. People who didn't know much about Everglades hydrology but were seeing black water and dead fish were hungry for action. Wittman remembers, "Pretty much everyone here, whether a fishing guide, a shelling guide, a hotel, a restaurant — everyone here lost money with this last discharge because of the time that it hit [in high season]. February, my business was down 80 percent," he says.
A crowd of about 300 very angry folks gathered at the Bass Pro Shops.
The captains consulted with scientists to figure out what they could do. Soon their mission became clear: They needed to pressure politicians to buy the sugar land south of the lake. "I haven't found any scientist who doesn't think this is absolutely necessary to have storage south of the lake” Andrews says.
"Moving water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay is not going to fix everything," Wittman adds, "but it's going to be the single biggest thing and most feasible solution where we can actually see positive change."
Though "environmental regulation" is usually a dirty phrase on the Republican national platform, Wittman relishes the mix of people uniting for cleaner waters. "We've got developers and business owners standing side-by-side with green activist groups," he says. Florida's Republican leaders traditionally ignore liberal environmentalists, he says, but pay attention when there's a grassroots movement of outdoorsmen who typically vote red.
"Now, all of a sudden, you're seeing liberals and conservatives all pissed off together," Wittman says with a grin. "Captains for Clean Water sends a message that the citizens are watching. If you don't do the right thing, you're not going to have a job very long." His group set up a website with a database making it easy to contact politicians, and a roster of studies on related issues. It also raises money to conduct economic impact studies.
On Florida's east coast, a similar group,, was finding a vast new audience as well. As Lake O discharges, prompted by the wet El Niño, roared eastward,'s Facebook followers doubled and now approach 100,000. At a news conference in Stuart in February, they gathered 250 or so fishing guides and angry business owners.
A friend of Conner's, Capt. Mike Holliday, took the mike with the fire of a football coach rallying his team. "What we're looking at right now is the single largest habitat destruction in the history of Florida. And it's happening during tourist season in an election year. And that's created the perfect storm. So I'm here to say, there's a public storm of outrage, and it's coming after you Rick Scott!" Roaring applause.
Conner began volunteering with Bullsugar, helping the group throw events and connecting the members with other fishing guides. The nonprofit's plan of attack is to register voters, launch an education campaign, and, borrowing from NRA methods, rate Florida politicians based on whether they take contributions from Big Sugar and whether they support buying EAA land south of Lake Okeechobee. They may ultimately endorse candidates and have registered as a lobbying organization, so they might run into their Big Sugar buddies in the halls of Tallahassee.
So far, the two parallel campaigns seem to have struck a nerve. Bullsugar's incessant social media campaign has become so effective that U.S. Sugar launched a counter-attack, running full-page ads in regional newspapers explaining how the company is not the main source of Lake O pollution (true, but ignoring the idea that U.S. Sugar is blocking southern water flow to the Everglades). The company has bombarded local papers with editorials calling members "extremists."
Two mysterious, anonymously written blogs have cropped up as well. Wellington Ledger, a Tumblr account, denounces the Bullsugar group as "environmental terrorists" and the blog Southern Exposure,, blasts headlines like "Shady Enviro Puppet Group Led by Odd Cast of Characters." These blogs paint the founders of Bullsugar as rich phonies who look down on farmers, and depict Captains for Clean Water as foolish hipsters. U.S. Sugar denies any involvement with those blogs. The Fanjuls could not be reached for comment.
On its website, U.S. Sugar is defensive, writing, "We share in the frustration over the Lake Okeechobee discharges..." but "mean-spirited attacks... misdirect the focus away from any meaningful discussion of the facts that will lead us to real solutions. That these radicals are blaming a single company, U.S. Sugar, for systemic regional problems wrought by over 100 years of change is utterly ridiculous."
U.S. Sugar says the focus should be not on the purchase of its land, but on several of the CERP projects that have been identified as priorities by a mix of politicians, scientists, and farmers. The company points out that Governor Scott has proposed a dedicated stream of $5 billion in funding for these projects over 20 years — a move that even environmentalists have welcomed because funding has been irregular in the past. U.S. Sugar says that, beyond this, the government could create reservoirs north of Lake Okeechobee, deepen existing reservoirs south of the lake to increase storage, and fix the Herbert Hoover Dike so that extra water could be held in the lake instead of released. Anglers and environmental groups counter that storage north of the lake would still end up in their estuaries and that fixing the dike is about safety, not greater storage.
Asked for a response to fishermen whose livelihoods have been ruined, spokesperson Sanchez said, "There's no question the releases are frustrating, which is why we support solutions that will reduce the frequency in the need for the releases to occur."
Still, reverberations from the anglers' uprising are reaching politicians. U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, a Tea Party poster boy, actually broke ranks in March and introduced the Everglades Land Acquisition Act, which would set aside $500 million in federal money for the land purchase. Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo is taking meetings with fishing guides, and Sen. Bill Nelson, who previously accepted campaign donations from Big Sugar, said recently to the Naples Daily News: "Bottom line is: We need to send more water south into the Everglades, and it needs to be clean. One way to do that is by getting the state to use Amendment 1 money to acquire more land south of the lake."
South Florida is not safe from this imbroglio — it's downstream. Tourism is based on clean water, especially in the Florida Keys, where it represents 60 percent of the economy. Miami fishing guide Benny Blanco takes clients to the Keys and Florida Bay, where the Everglades fades into salt water. Last summer's drought, coupled with the chronic dearth of freshwater flow from Lake O, caused spikes in salinity in Florida Bay. A few months ago, Blanco pulled up to his favorite seagrass bed. It was gone, replaced by mud. "It was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life," he says. All told, 50,000 acres of seagrass died just off Flamingo, and biologists fear ensuing algae blooms.
If you drive along the southern rim of Lake O today, you'll see the massive shoulder of Herbert Hoover Dike looming above, holding the lake back, sloping down to small concrete shacks, the town of Pahokee — mold-stained mobile homes, train tracks, and industrial farm warehouses. Beyond town, miles and miles of cane fields sprawl like massive green tiles — rigid, mono-cropped, perfectly regimented, as if the interior of the state had been turned into a colossal machine. This was once an aorta to the wild Everglades. Now it's a town with 14 percent unemployment as sugar harvesting becomes more mechanized. Cane smoke rises on the horizon, and a tractor passes with a young man driving. What will he do for work if all of this sugar land gets turned to marsh?
On a national level, CERP projects are moving along as funding is cobbled together — bends have been restored to the Kissimmee River, and bridges that will let water flow under the Tamiami Trail have broken ground. Fishermen are split on which candidate to support for president: They're wary of Clinton, who has ties to the Fanjuls. Yet Trump could coddle Big Sugar to stick it to Mexico's growing sugar industry. He's also reportedly flirting with Rick Scott for veep.
And the rains continue. Daily summer downpours will spew Lake O's fecund load to the sea, leaving Florida Bay to grow warmer and saltier, creeping toward a potential algae-bloom Armageddon.
On a recent afternoon, Mike Conner rolls down the window, cranks up some Southern rock, and accelerates onto I-95, heading from Stuart down to Islamorada. When he hits Key Largo, he'll pop in some Jimmy Buffett for that Keys vibe, the barefoot fantasy that seduces hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. In his pocket, he has a new business card: "Mike Conner, Director of Angler Outreach,"
Conner is the nonprofit's newest employee, tasked with being a Johnny Appleseed, using his old Rolodex from his days as a fishing magazine editor to rally national fishing manufacturers to the cause. They need Florida to remain the "fishing capital of the world," and Conner needs to get them pissed off. He's setting up presentations all over the state. His audience tonight in Islamorada: tackle store owners, Monroe County officials, and fishing guides with families to feed.
Conner drives on, PowerPoint presentation at his side. He's got memories of what Florida once was. He's got a war to wage. He's got a grin on his face.


FL from space

Florida Frontiers: Florida's geology shaped over time – by Ben Brotemarkle, Florida Today
May 24, 2016
At different points in time, Florida has been a series of islands and at other points was twice as large as it is today as sea levels have fluctuated.
Florida has a diverse wealth of geological resources.
People have enjoyed the sands of Florida’s beaches for more than 12,000 years. Prehistoric people in Florida used chert to make weapons and tools. Later indigenous people used clay to create bowls and storage containers.
Coquina rock provided a practical building material for Spanish colonists. The Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine was originally constructed in 1672 using coquina and the fort remains undefeated in battle.
The Seminole Indians and runaway slaves sought refuge among the stalactites and stalagmites in the caverns of north Florida.
As early as the late 1800s, automobile races were held on the firm sands of Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach.
World War II military bases transformed Florida
Phosphate, used as fertilizer and in some explosives, was discovered in abundant quantities in the late 19th century. By the early 20th century, phosphate mining was a major industry in Florida. Today, Florida provides about 80 percent of the phosphate used in the United States, and about 25 percent of the phosphate used around the world.
It took tens of millions of years for Florida’s geological resources to develop. Millions of years ago, North America looked much different than it does today, because Florida was completely submerged.
“During the early part of the Cenozoic Period which was about 65 million years ago, Florida was for the first 10 to 15 to 20 million years of that, completely underwater, and the limestone deposits which are underneath our feet here were being deposited at that time,” said Harley Means, assistant state geologist and co-author of the book “Roadside Geology of Florida.”
A prehistoric version of what is now called the Gulf Stream helped to keep Florida under water for millions of years.
“It kept all of the sediments that were being shed off of the Appalachian mountains, things like clays and silica sands, it kept them shunted away from the carbonate deposit that was going on in Florida,” said Means. “Florida’s limestones from that time period are very pure with respect to calcium carbonate. They’re 99 percent pure and that makes them sought after for numerous industries that would look to exploit them.”
Over millions of years, deposits did start to accumulate to create the Florida we know today. At different points in time, Florida would have appeared to be a series of islands, as sea levels fluctuated and our coastline shifted. At other points in time our state was twice as wide as it is now.
“Over the past 2.6 million years, during a period we call the Pleistocene Epoch, sea levels have fluctuated greatly,” said Means. “They were between 60 and 100 feet higher than they are today, and at some point, probably at multiple points, it was as low as 350 to 400 feet lower than it currently is today. So, the broader part of Florida, which we call the Florida Platform, is actually about twice as large as what the currently exposed, above sea level portion is today. So when the first Floridians came to Florida, they had a lot wider area to roam.”
Fossil evidence shows that land animals have inhabited Florida for 30 million years. The remains of mastodon, giant sloth, sabre tooth tigers, and armadillos the size of small cars have been discovered. Skeletons of Ice Age creatures can be seen at the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science in Cocoa.
MORE FLORIDA FRONTIERS: The story of the Apalachee
In the past, sea levels have risen to the point where only the highest portions of the Florida peninsula were exposed. Means says that Floridians today need to be aware that the same conditions are in Florida’s future.
“Sea level and climate change is inevitable,” says Means. “Sea levels have fluctuated all through geologic time, so too have climates. Really, the only debate is what is the extent of the impact of human activity on climate change. Unfortunately, we as Floridians live in a state that has very little topography. Many of us like to live right on the coast, so the first people that are going to be impacted by sea level rise, are going to be Floridians. We need to be thinking about this. I can’t tell you when, but I can tell you it is coming.”
Dr. Ben Brotemarkle is executive director of the Florida Historical Society. He’s also host of the weekly public radio program “Florida Frontiers,” broadcast locally on 90.7 WMFE and 89.5 WFIT. The public television series “Florida Frontiers” can be seen locally on WUCF-TV. More information is at


U.S. Sugar will honor commitment to find solution to Lake Okeechobee discharges - by Malcolm ‘Bubba’ Wade Jr.
May 24, 2016
At our request, members of Treasure Coast Newspapers' Editorial Board spent an hour and a half talking to representatives from our company last week about water quality and quantity issues facing our region.
The board's subsequent editorial has honed in on our commitment to work on developing solutions for the discharges that have been extremely taxing on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. That's a commitment we fully intend to honor.
While the editorial seemed mostly interested in the commitments we made for the future, our farmers have been part of the solution of cleaning up the Everglades over the past decades.
Here is what U.S. Sugar has done in the way of conservation, Everglades restoration and environmental advocacy to date:
●  Using best management practices, we have worked to reduce phosphorus in the water flowing off our farms by an average of 56 percent — well above the state/federal requirement of 25 percent. As a result, 90 percent of water on the approximately 2.4 million acres in the Everglades south of us is meeting the stringent 10 parts per billion standard for phosphorous.
●  Farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area have in recent decades sold 120,000 acres of sugar-cane farmland to the state, of which approximately 30,000 acres have been used to design or construct the A-1 and A-2 reservoir projects south of Lake Okeechobee. If it is determined that additional storage is needed in the EAA after the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), Restoration Strategies and the Modified Water Deliveries projects are implemented, this storage can be expanded by increasing the levee and pump capacity without having to purchase additional lands, which takes farmland out of production, results in job losses, reduces the tax rolls and harms communities. We believe this is a much more cost-effective storage solution on land the state currently owns and would not significantly detract from the planned solutions in the northern, eastern and western parts of the lake.
●  We will continue to support elected leaders on both sides of the aisle that share our commitment to finishing the CERP projects started nearly two decades ago and the South Florida Water Management District priority projects. We believe CERP represents the best path forward to provide relief to the entire Lake Okeechobee system. When initially developed, district scientists estimated the completion of CERP and district priority projects would reduce the discharges significantly from happening once every three years to once every 10 year events. We also strongly support the Central Florida Everglades Planning Project, which calls for restoring the timing and the distribution as well as storing water south and moving it south.
●  We also have hosted thousands of Floridians from neighboring communities, including from the Treasure Coast, on tours of our farming operations to show our commitment to conservation, proper land stewardship and sustainability.
We agree with scientists and engineers at the South Florida Water Management District, legislative and congressional leaders and even some members of the environmental community who have concluded the best way to provide substantial improvement to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries is to accelerate funding for existing federally-authorized projects.
In addition to our actions, we also want to continue playing a meaningful part in the conversation, which is why we are engaging with newspaper opinion leaders, communicating digitally, and placing newspaper advertisements on the Treasure Coast and in Southwest Florida to provide information about the issues and our company of 2,500 hardworking Floridians.
We recognize that the people of the Treasure Coast region want and deserve solutions that will prevent the discharges from occurring in the future.
U.S. Sugar employees live, shop and enjoy time outdoors here, too. We owe it to future generations of Floridians to find the right solutions that balance the economic needs of our state and our people with the needs of our environment.
Malcolm "Bubba" Wade Jr. is senior vice president of corporate strategy and business development for Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar.
More on the Editorial Board's meeting with U.S. Sugar
●  Editorial: U.S. Sugar exec says he 'absolutely' will work to end Lake Okeechobee discharges — let’s hold him to it
●  Digital extras: Videos from TCPalm Editorial Board meeting with representatives from U.S. Sugar
●  Poll: Should Congress preserve federal policies in the Farm Bill that benefit sugar growers?
●  Eve Samples: My top take-aways from our meeting with U.S. Sugar Corp.
Recap: TCPalm Editorial Board meets with U.S. Sugar representatives
U.S. Sugar ads
●  U.S. Sugar ads don’t tell Treasure Coast residents the whole truth



More Indian River Lagoon evidence: The enemy is us
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
May 23, 2016
Now it's all coming out. After years of allowing virtually all the blame for Indian River Lagoon degradation to go to Lake Okeechobee discharges, suddenly state authorities acknowledge that millions of gallons of waste is pumped directly from municipal sewage plants into the lagoon system.
In Cocoa Beach, for instance, we're looking at direct sewage discharges to the lagoon. According to a comprehensive story by Jim Waymer in Florida Today, Cocoa, like several other cities along the lagoon, is allowed 90 days of emergency discharges to the Banana River during heavy rains, when flows exceed capacity. 
The plant discharged 25 days last year, averaging 4.6 million gallons per day, Waymer writes. The discharges wind through a series of five ponds on the nearby city golf course before emptying to the Banana River. This year, the plant has discharged for five days, averaging 4.8 million gallons per day.
Be patient, the city begs -- those large discharges will end when the city completes a deep injection well in a few years.
Gary Roderick, an environmental consultant from Martin County and former county and state administrator, calls it "the 5,000-pound gorilla that's not saying anything right in the middle of the room."
Roderick told Waymer, "This is like a sleeping giant causing a silent scream in the lagoon."
Sewage sludge. "Biosolids," if you like euphemisms.  Farmers who love the stuff label it fertilizer.
But sludge is what’s left over after sewage is treated. It’s given class AA, class A or class B status, they say, depending on the level of bacteria, metals and other contaminants removed. Class AA is the cleanest level of treated sludge. But even the cleanest still contains some pathogens and nutrients that can feed algae blooms if they reach water.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection defends state regulations concerning sludge. It claims they protect public health and minimize potential nutrient impacts.
“As with any agricultural activity fertilizing land, there will be trace quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus leaving the site, but the state laws and rules act to minimize nutrient migration,” Jessica Boyd, a spokeswoman with DEP, told Florida Today.
Who knows how much class AA sludge — the most treated, driest form of the goop — goes into the lagoon watershed and eventually winds up feeding algae blooms? Said the paper, "The uncertainty worsened in 2010 when new Florida rules left unregulated this 'cleanest' class of sludge, in cases when it’s mixed with mulch and marketed and distributed as fertilizer."
Then cities could give it away, sell it for cheap or pay haulers to take it away to spread virtually anywhere, untracked. Farmers scored cheap, sometimes free fertilizer, and sewer plants cleaned their hands of the burdensome stuff.
I remember at the turn of the last century when sludge was trucked up to Martin County from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties and parceled out to small farms there. I watched the trucks unload it. Plus, you could smell the stuff when the wind was in the right direction in Palm City.
When I asked DEP about it, the only answer I got was, "it's been treated and deemed safe."
Haulers can dump the cleanest class of sludge, class AA, just about anywhere but in open water or on land near wetlands, ditches and other waters. That doesn't mean it doesn't work its way into canals and rivers.
Here's a stunner: Florida Today research claims sometimes trucks spread more of the fertilizer than crops or grass need, and well beyond what waters can withstand without algae blooming. Audubon of Florida in 2009 estimated sludge was getting spread on the Indian River watershed at 450 to 1,620 times the ideal level to meet nitrogen and phosphorus limits for Lake Okeechobee.
Roderick is now saying spreading sludge on rural lands may pose a long-term risk for the lagoon and other Florida waterways. While it’s uncertain how much nitrogen and phosphorus from sludge reach the lagoon, he thinks the amount could be significant. 
He told the newspaper utilities are using the watershed, “banking” the two nutrients there -- and in the long-term, the bad stuff gets deposited to the lagoon, the St. Johns River and other waters. “They’re all using (the watershed)," he said, "and we don’t know it. It’s a shell game."
So, even as communities do what we all know is the right thing -- convert thousands of septic tanks to sewer systems -- they still run the risk of spreading more nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich sewage sludge along the lagoon watershed.
Even waste pumped from septic tanks gets treated to class AA or B biosolids, then spread over land. That means it also stays in the watershed and eventually can wash back into surface waters and ultimately the lagoon. 
The Legislature needs to step in here and come up with a bill that can sort out a mounting donneybrook between the condition of our waterways and farmers. Farmers don't see the problem. They see sludge as a huge money saver, and less damaging to the environment than expensive chemical fertilizers. They say they should be able to use sludge because the government says it's safe and they take steps to manage the nitrogen and phosphorus.
Meanwhile, the lagoon system deteriorates by the week, the month, the year.
Florida Today quoted Martin County environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla: Yearly, about 300,000 dry tons of biosolids contribute 33 million pounds of nitrogen and more than 13 million pounds of phosphorus into the state’s watersheds, she noted, based on the levels of the two nutrients typically found in sludge." Class AA and B biosolids contain an average 5.5 percent nitrogen and 2.2 percent phosphorus, according to a 2009 report by Audubon of Florida."
Of the 300,000 dry tons of sludge produced annually in Florida, 37 percent gets spread on land, 34 percent goes to landfills and 29 percent is distributed and marketed as commercial fertilizers, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Florida Today asks, are nitrogen and phosphorus from sewage sludge reaching the lagoon?
"There is plenty of evidence that the usual ingredients of sewage are," says Waymer. "A 2009 study, for example, found triclosan, a widely-used antibacterial chemical widely used in soaps and hand washes, in blood plasma from bottlenose dolphins in the lagoon."
But that could be coming from septic tanks, sewer leaks, sludge or all the above.
Brian Lapointe, whom Sunshine State News has often quoted, a scientist at FAU-Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, sees septic tanks and direct sewage discharges as the larger contributor of nutrients to the lagoon.
Lapointe told Waymer the nitrogen and phosphorus in class AA biosolids is lower than class B and most of the two nutrients are in an organic form, less biologically reactive than artificial fertilizers. But the two nutrients can become available for plant growth over time, he said.
As I have tried to point out for the past three years -- and now Florida Today has done a better job documenting it than I ever did -- there are agents of lagoon and estuary degradation at work far removed from what goes in and out of Lake Okeechobee. I'm not saying these agents are the only thing fouling our water, but they are all practices within our control to fix.


Sugar walls
Naples Daily News - Letter to Editor by Ted Raia, M.D., Pelican Bay, FL
May 23, 2016
Let's bring down the wall that sugar has built between the people and our representatives.
Addressing the recent meeting of the Collier County Presidents' Council, state Senate candidate Kathleen Passidomo said her first passion was repairing the Everglades.
That's the same passion that 75 percent of the voters had when they voted for Amendment One. We now have someone who is listening to us. I have met with her and other candidates and unfortunately she is the only one who publicly has stated this position.
Other candidates are singing sugar's song and the travesty will continue until we elect those who share the concern of the 75 percent.
What do you expect when sugar spends more than a third of all its crop lobbying, and sugar PAC donations are more than all other U.S. crops combined.
Sugar's research and development money is invested in buying legislative influence and it pays. The subsidy of $472 per acre is 1,000 percent more than the subsidy for wheat, corn or cotton. This brings one owner $60 million a year in subsidy alone.
In the meanwhile, government is campaigning against obesity and sugar consumption. Sugar has absolutely no nutritional value. The industry, no matter how much it contributes to the economy (and our legislators), has no right to compromise the Everglades.
The Everglades now shares the ignoble position of being on UNESCO's list of endangered sites with Third World countries.
Please join me in voting for Kathleen Passidomo for state senator.


Big Sugar

My top take-aways from our meeting with U.S. Sugar Corp. – by Eve Samples, Staff
May 22, 2016
It's safe to say I was surprised in April when I received an email from a public relations firm working for U.S. Sugar Corp. requesting a meeting with our Editorial Board.
The last time our journalists had a meeting scheduled with the Clewiston-based company, in 2013, U.S. Sugar canceled the day before. Meeting with our journalists was not a priority for U.S. Sugar back then — but that's changed as it has redoubled its public-relations efforts across Florida.
On Wednesday, members of our board talked for 90 minutes with the following U.S. Sugar representatives: Malcolm "Bubba" Wade, senior vice president for corporate strategy and business development; Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs; Tom MacVicar, a water policy consultant and Ryan Duffy, a Tallahassee-based public relations consultant.
Duffy is former communications director for Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, and MacVicar is a former manager at South Florida Water Management District.
Our board didn't provide our questions in advance. Nor did we hold back.
We asked for a commitment from U.S. Sugar to work on a mutually agreeable solution to stop the discharges. Wade agreed, and we plan to hold him to that commitment, as articulated in this editorial.
That was a big moment, but it wasn't the only notable exchange during our meeting. Other take-aways:
1. U.S. Sugar has no love for former Gov. Charlie Crist's land deal.
Sanchez and Wade both made passionate arguments against the state's purchase of the company's property south of Lake Okeechobee — a sale U.S. Sugar execs touted in 2008 as a good deal for the Everglades. The sale remains on the table until the state's final option to buy all 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar property expires in 2020.
On Wednesday, Wade made it sound like he had doubts all along, from the moment Crist came knocking.
"It doesn't matter whether we believed it was the right thing for restoration or (if) Charlie Crist had a great idea and this was going to save South Florida," Wade told our Editorial Board. "None of that mattered."
Because of the attractive price — about $2 billion — he felt a duty to his shareholders and board to pursue it.
"We're team players," Wade said, "Our board says go get it, we're going to go get it."
2. It would take a major shift in state leadership to revive the deal — but it's possible.
"They have an option. If they want to exercise it, there's nothing I can do about it," Wade said.
"If there was support by the scientific and technical community that said there was a reason to do it, then if they want to buy it … they can get the Legislature to approve it and do it."
That doesn't look likely under Gov. Rick Scott, but Florida's next governor will be elected with two years remaining on the final option.
3. U.S. Sugar has a relationship with incoming state Senate President Joe Negron, even if it's not contributing to him.
In the 2012 election cycle, Negron's campaign received $15,500 from sugar interests, plus much more to affiliated committees. Today, sugar contributions are notably absent from Negron's coffers.
That's intentional.
"We do not want to be a thorn in his side," Wade told our board.
"We try to meet with him, let him know our positions on things. We know he's got a tough row to hoe to control the whole Senate and at the same time deal with his issues down here," Wade said.
4. But U.S. Sugar remains a major political player.
In this election cycle, U.S. Sugar has contributed $732,848 to federal candidates, political parties and outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Money it spends on state races is in addition to that.
"Political contributions are kind of a way of life in the U.S., unless we cut them out," Wade said Wednesday.
5. U.S. Sugar makes no apologies for sugar price supports and quotas in the Farm Bill.
Free-market groups including the Heritage Foundation have publicly criticized federal sugar policy, saying it drives up the price of sugar, jeopardizes export growth and weakens the U.S. economy.
"Sugar policy in the United States is nothing but a protection against the predatory practices of foreign governments," Sanchez said when our board asked why consumers should pay more for sugar to protect the industry.
Wade said ending sugar protections in the Farm Bill would "put every sugar business in this country out of business."
6. It has no plans to grow sugar in Cuba.
"We are not pursuing it in any way and don't see us as being a part of that," Wade told our board.
7. U.S. Sugar views the politically connected Everglades Foundation as a major adversary.
Sanchez characterized hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones, co-founder of the Miami-Dade County-based Everglades Foundation, as a wealthy opponent determined to work against the interests of sugar farmers.
"Paul Tudor Jones funds the major group of activists that have been fighting us for 25 years," Sanchez said.
She dismissed a question from our board that implied the sugar industry is better funded than the environmental movement.
"I don't know about anybody else in this room, but I don't have $5.5 billion sitting in my bank account," Sanchez said.
For the record, Forbes' most recent analysis of Jones' net worth puts it at $4.7 billion.


Surface water

DEP defends water pollution standards
Tallahassee Democrat – by Jeff Burlew, senior writer
May 21, 2016
The Department of Environmental Protection is defending its proposed new pollution limits for Florida surface waters, saying they aren’t weaker than current standards and won’t decrease the protection they provide people
But environmental groups assert the agency is in fact weakening standards for many of the toxic compounds it allows to be discharged into the state’s rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters. And they say DEP’s method of calculating limits — a process not used by any other state or the Environmental Protection Agency — allows for more pollution.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported last Sunday the state wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals it will allow in its surface waters. Florida is in the process of updating its standards, something it’s supposed to do periodically under the Clean Water Act but hasn’t since the early 1990s.
DEP Secretary Jon Steverson said the coverage “inaccurately and unfairly” depicted the agency’s proposal.
“The state has some of the most comprehensive water quality standards in the country, including the most advanced numeric nutrient criteria in the entire nation,” Steverson said. “We will continue to coordinate with EPA to adopt standards that will ensure our residents and natural resources enjoy clean and safe water.”
DEP is updating human-health criteria for 43 dangerous chemical compounds it regulates and adopting standards for another 39 for the first time. If approved, the state would double the amount of compounds it regulates.
But the agency would allow higher limits for more than half of the 43 toxic substances it currently regulates. And most of the 82 compounds it would regulate in total would have less stringent limits than what EPA recommends.
“We will be at rock bottom,” said Linda Young, executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network.
The state says its proposed standards are designed to allow Floridians to safely eat seafood and drink tap water their entire lives. And it says the new limits would protect human health even in the most extreme cases, involving people who are exposed to more pollution through eating, drinking, showering and swimming.
Specifically, DEP officials say the vast majority of Floridians would have a lifetime incremental risk of getting cancer from the new standards of between one in 100,000 and one in a million. People highly exposed to contamination, like subsistence fishermen, would have a higher chance of one in 10,000.
New approach controversial
DEP acknowledged the numeric standards for compounds currently regulated are higher in some cases and lower in others.
“This does not reflect a weakening in standards or a decrease in protection,” the agency said. “It is simply an update based on the latest science and risk models to ensure that Floridians continue to be protected from adverse health effects. DEP used only the latest, and most robust, scientific facts and figures to calculate the criteria.”
But David Ludder, a Tallahassee attorney who represents the Florida Clean Water Network, said DEP’s process for determining standards — the so-called Monte Carlo or probabilistic method — yields weaker limits than a competing method used by the other states and the federal government.
The more commonly employed deterministic method uses absolute values for factors including body weight and fish and water consumption. DEP is using a distribution of values for body weight and fish and water consumption that include numbers not as protective as those used in the deterministic method, he said.
“DEP justifies the change in methodology as ‘better science,’ ” Ludder said. “It may be a more precise method of characterizing the population, but it will produce higher criteria values (more allowable pollution) than the deterministic method. Bottom line is that human exposures to toxins will be higher using the probabilistic method than they would be using the deterministic method.”
Dee Ann Miller, a spokeswoman for DEP, said its method allows the state to consider the characteristics of all Floridians, not just one average weight or one fish consumption or drinking water rate. She said a scientific review panel that included the EPA and four Florida universities gave input on DEP’s technical and scientific approach, “including their preferred use of the probabilistic method.”
“This is a much more sophisticated and comprehensive analytical method that allows us to generate criteria to protect all Floridians including small children and people who eat more seafood than average,” she said.
Activist concerns
Environmental activists, doctors and scientists have expressed a myriad of concerns about the proposed new limits, including a nearly three-fold increase in allowable amounts of benzene.
They believe the proposed higher limit for benzene, a well-known carcinogen used in fracking and found in its waste water, is tied to efforts to bring the unconventional drilling technique to Florida. Last week, CREDO Action launched a petition drive against proposed standards it said “could pave the way for fracking.”
Marc Freeman, a retired professor of neuroscience at Florida State University, said benzene and many of the other compounds are endocrine disruptors, which interfere with hormones and are linked to a host of developmental and other health problems.
"The DEP folks are acting without prior information about endocrine disruptors,” he said. “I have yet to meet a DEP scientist who knows what an endocrine disruptor is.”
DEP hosted three workshops on the proposed new limits earlier this month in Tallahassee, Orlando and Stuart, and the agency is accepting public comment through June 2. The proposal could go before the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission for approval this fall. Adopted standards also must be approved by the EPA.
Contact DEP
Address: Water Quality Standards Program, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, 2600 Blair Stone Road - M.S. 6511, Tallahassee FL 32399
Email and phone: Visit for a list of staff contacts.
Contact Jeff Burlew at or follow @JeffBurlew on Twitter.
Proposed DEP surface water standards
The original table shows DEP's existing and proposed pollution standards for potable water supplies (Class I), shellfish harvesting waters (Class II) and fishing and recreational waters (Class III). The numeric values are for micrograms per liter.
TABLE of Chemical Compounds (click).


Algae pollution

Dirty water shouldn’t be our future, environmentalists say
Palm Beach Post - by Frank Cerabino, Staff Writer
May 21, 2016
The state is planning to increase the allowable limits of several cancer-causing chemicals in Florida’s rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries.
That isn’t sitting well with Dr. Raymond Bellamy. Bellamy, an orthopedic surgeon, is a former board member of the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission. He was was appointed by both Democratic and Republican governors during the 1980s to that commission, which operates in conjunction with the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation.
“In those days, the Department was a committed defender of our natural treasures,” he wrote. “Sadly, that does not seem to be the case in recent administrations. DEP employees, some of whom are my patients, now all fear for their jobs and are facilitating industry in most cases. Institutional knowledge has disappeared and aggressive enforcement of regulations is decried.”
What has Bellamy and other doctors and environmentalists particularly concerned is that the Florida DEP is using its authority to protect Floridians under the federal Clean Water Act as a way to create more relaxed pollution standards. The proposed standards in some cases allow for more toxic chemicals into the more than 50,000 miles of waterways that affect the state’s drinking water and toxicity levels in the fresh-water and near-offshore fish.
“If you ask the 20 million Floridians and 100 million visitors ‘Should we allow more carcinogens into the water?’ Nobody would say ‘Yes.” said Linda Young, the director of the Florida Clean Water Network. “Only the polluters want this to externalize their costs.”
The DEP is updating the standards for what is known as the Human Health Criteria. Using mathematical models that assess the health risk of ingesting varying levels of toxins in either fish or through drinking water, the state agency sets an acceptable level of pollution for these contaminants. The list includes 43 already-identified dangerous compounds and first-time standards for 39 more.
The DEP points out that many of the proposed new limits call for tougher standards of allowable concentration of these compounds in the water. And that these calculations are based on science, not accommodation to polluters.
“The criteria consider a range of environmental variables and account for the most at-risk populations, including young children, pregnant women and those whose diets comprise primarily of Florida seafood,” DEP spokesperson Dee Ann Miller wrote.
“This does not reflect a weakening in standards or a decrease in protection,” she continued. “It is simply an update based on the latest science and risk models to ensure that Floridians continue to be protected from adverse health effects.”
But for the past few years, environmentalists have been complaining about the method used by the state agency to arrive at these updated numbers. They say that instead of protecting the public from water toxins, the primary concern has been to go easier on polluters to minimize their business costs.
This is a short-sighted approach, said Dr. Lonnie Draper, the Florida chapter president of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
“It’s so much cheaper to prevent pollution than to clean up pollution,” he said. “It’s just not that expensive to err on the side of more environmental protection.”
Draper and others point specifically to benzene, a sweet-smelling colorless liquid that has a variety of industrial uses, and has been shown to cause leukemia.
The state agency has called for nearly tripling the allowable limit of benzene in Florida’s drinking water, from 1.18 micrograms per liter to 3.01 micrograms per liter. The new state limit on benzene would be 43 percent higher than the 2.1 micrograms-per-liter limit established by the federal EPA.
Why would the state want to subject its own population to more cancer-causing benzene? Maybe it has to do with benzene’s essential use in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
Benzene mixed with water is injected under extreme pressure miles underground to create mini-earthquakes in rock formations, releasing natural gas, which is collected in a well.
Local governments throughout Florida, including Palm Beach County, have passed laws or resolutions to ban fracking. But during the past two years, state legislators have pushed for bills that would nullify any local law that bans fracking in Florida. The bills were passed by the Florida House both years, but failed to make it through the senate.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has avoided the subject of fracking, but his blind trust has invested in Schlumberger Ltd., a French oil company that was part of an aborted effort to frack near the Everglades in Collier County.
“Once we start drilling in Florida, there’s going to be more benzene showing up in the surface waters,” Young said.
And using the agency that’s supposed to protect the environment to clear the path for more pollution is just wrong, said Dr. Ron Saff, an allergist and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
“The way you promote jobs and tourism is to set up a pristine environment, where people want to go fishing, swimming and boating,” he said. “But they’re doing the opposite. They’re pushing for more pollution, and we already have an excessive amount of pollution.”


Disputing water claims made against Rooney - by Malcolm “Bubba“ Wade, Jr, Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Business Development for U.S. Sugar
May 21, 2016
Former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah made so many outrageous statements in his recent attack on Congressman Tom Rooney that it seemed he was either trying to to set the world record for most inaccuracies in a column or he was having some sort of mental meltdown.
There is no truth in Judah’s claim the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie were the relief valves so the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) could maintain optimum growing conditions. The EAA was flooded during this event with many acres of vegetable and planted sugarcane lost.  The EAA has identical permits to every other agricultural interest in the South Florida Water Management District’s (SFWMD) 16 counties and is only allowed to discharge three quarters of an inch of flooding per day while many urban coastal areas discharge far in excess of that. Judah continues to maintain that somehow farmers in the EAA should not have the same property rights as others in the SFWMD and flooding our property should be no big deal.
Judah complains that the SFWMD was back pumping EAA water at the same time the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) was working to respond to rising lake water. Water is only pumped from the EAA to provide flood protection for Clewiston, Lake Harbor, Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee, and Canal Point in extreme weather events and for the last 5 years amounts to only three percent of the water flowing into the lake, four percent of the phosphorus and six percent of the nitrogen.  The EAA water quality is no different than the other ninety seven percent that flows into the lake from other sources.
Judah states that in 2014 a federal district court judge ruled that back pumping from the EAA into Lake Okeechobee violated the Clean Water Act.  There was never a federal court ruling in 2014 over Lake Okeechobee back pumping violating the Clean Water Act.  Judah may be referring to a New York Catskills case where a Federal District Court Judge ruled that EPA should review its criteria for deciding when and if permits are required and if so, Judah should have said so. In 2009, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which decides cases in Florida) decided that no permits are required here and thus there were no violations.  Regardless of the outcome in New York the Eleventh Circuit’s ruling controls in Florida, not the decision of a New York Court.
Nothing says crazy like a former politician trying to tell the SFWMD that their Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP) modeling is flawed by one million acre feet of additional storage to manage Lake Okeechobee. The SFWMD has already refuted this in a May 16 “Get the Facts” by stating its model is the most advanced in the world relying on data from 1965 to 1995 and later updated as projects are planned with up-to-date rainfall, topographic and land use data.  Maybe Mr. Judah would like to give his world renowned model to the SFWMD and other experts and subject it to peer review as well.
Judah’s closing statement was his most ludicrous where he suggested the final solution involves a spillway out of Lake Okeechobee. This alternative did not even see the light of day and was laughed out of the park in the 1990’s during the CERP deliberations.  A spillway in the lake levee makes no sense.  Judah claims more storage south will restore Coastal Estuaries, rehydrate the Everglades, recharge the Biscayne aquifer and protect private and public well fields. It would be interesting at best to hear from Judah how that would work in 2016 when the Everglades were several feet over their regulatory schedule, wildlife and tree islands were threatened, and the state and federal agencies were instituting emergency procedures to get the water levels in the Everglades down.  More storage in the EAA would have helped the Everglades crisis not the Lake or estuaries.
We have a daunting task to educate the general public of the facts on how our water systems actually work and the false Judah science should not be taken seriously by responsible citizens trying to understand our complicated and interconnected water system.  Our waterways need more champions like Congressman Rooney who rely on actual science and stick to the facts.


Federal funding key to water projects – by Larry Kiker, Larry Kiker, a Lee County Commissioner, District 3
May 21, 2016
Unseasonable, unpredictable, ill-timed describe the unfortunate events we have witnessed so far this year.
In January, we saw the impact freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed had on our local economy and estuaries. We must continue our past efforts to seek solutions to this and other vital issues affecting our economy, environment and quality of life here in Lee County. So this month, I will be traveling to Washington D.C. to advocate for full federal funding of critical water quality projects, address flood insurance issues with FEMA and build momentum and partnership in our mission to combat our aging infrastructure.
In 2014, I traveled to D.C. with Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane for a congressional hearing where we testified and successfully garnered support for the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which is now making its way through the appropriations process.
This time around ,we will be discussing the lack of water storage within the Kissimmee River Basin with the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee and expressing our support for Senate Bill 2481, the bi-partisan Everglades for the Next Generation Act. The bill expedites implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects, gives the Army Corp of Engineers the flexibility to continue necessary Everglades restoration projects and authorizes future restoration projects that benefit our watershed and estuaries.
Again, in other 2014 meetings with FEMA in Washington, we were successful in relaxing the rapid increase of flood insurance costs to a manageable rate schedule. However, the National Flood Insurance Program will be reauthorized in 2017 and potential rate hikes could affect over one million home owners and businesses.
While it is imperative the reauthorization happens on time to prevent interruption of service to policy holders and home buyers, efforts must continue to stabilize flood insurance costs. Therefore, we will be urging Congress to move forward with its affordability study, to update records with accurate elevation information, instead of estimated information, and support legislation to relieve barriers to private competition in the flood insurance market.
FEMA has been moving slowly to consider some corrections to the 2008 Flood Insurance Rate Maps, and in our meeting this month we’ll be asking for help to get those done.  We also want FEMA to revise mapping policies to give communities more input earlier in the process. Challenging these revisions can be cost prohibitive and time consuming for communities due to the many layers of bureaucracy.
Finally, Lee County Commissioners continue to increase its commitment to funding improvements to our community's aging infrastructure recently creating a Growth Increment Funding mechanism to keep up with pressing needs. However, long-term solutions will require a strong federal partner. During this trip we will be urging Congress to prioritize directing funding to areas such as Lee County that have stepped up to contribute significant local resources towards infrastructure projects.
Equally important is the need to address the ongoing delays in processing federal permits through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies. While we understand some permits are complex and require the coordination of multiple agencies, the process needs to be streamlined allowing simple, routine permits to be processed more quickly so that more complex permits can receive the focus they need and be processed expeditiously. Addressing these concerns will help alleviate ongoing significant construction delays causing citizen frustration and allow Lee County to continue moving forward to update our infrastructure.
While this may seem like a tall order, all of the initiatives listed above are critical to continually protect our water quality, protect the people of Lee County plus grow our communities and their local economies. Past trips have proven successful and I am strongly optimistic that this year we will continue to move the needle forward. It is an honor to represent the people of Lee County on these important matters and I look forward to reporting back on the progress that we make.


Rethink the surface water quality classifications rules
Tallahassee Democrat – Letter by Dillon McBride,
May 21, 2016
Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection held a public workshop on May 12 for the proposed changes to its criteria for Surface Water Quality Classifications rules.
Many of the individuals who attended the workshop were very concerned about the increases in the allowed concentrations of several serious chemicals in our surface waters, including benzene. Not only is benzene a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, but as representatives of Rethink Energy Florida, we are particularly concerned since hydraulic fracturing uses benzene and may be encroaching into Florida without legislative action.
Once injected deep into the ground, benzene could easily disseminate via Florida’s porous karst geology and pollute Florida’s water. Allowing for more toxic carcinogens in the water supply is a threat to our environment and health, and a blatant disregard of Florida’s future.


Man-eating Nile crocs newest threat to Everglades
May 20, 2016
The Burmese python was Florida's deadliest invasive species, that is until the aggressive Nile crocodile made an appearance in the Florida Everglades near Miami. 
We hear about Nile crocodiles living in other countries, but just recently, three researchers from the University of Florida linked DNA taken from three crocodiles captured in the Everglades. The crocodiles found living near Miami are in fact Nile crocodiles.
"This is the same habitat that they're natural to in other parts across the world with an unlimited amount of food source," said Cape Coral resident Tony French.
He was shocked to hear Nile crocodiles were found in Florida.
Over the past few years, crocodile trappers captured the three Nile crocodiles. In an article the UF researchers published about their findings, the crocodiles were found in 2009, 2011, and most recently in 2014.
Researchers also believe there could be more Nile crocs making Florida their home. This could pose a threat to large animals and even people. Nile Crocodiles are known to attack humans.
"These guys wanna eat the biggest thing they can because they're the biggest and the baddest animal on the planet," said alligator handler in Bonita Springs, Zack Murphy.
So how would you tell the difference between the Nile crocodile and the North American crocodile? There are subtle differences, according to Murphy. 
"I wouldn't know how to tell the difference," said Bonita Springs resident Russ Ondatje.
The most noticeable difference is the difference is the shape of the Nile crocodile's head. 
"Very snarly, he has a lot more snaggly teeth, not very uniform like this one," said Murphy. 
The Nile crocodiles are also much more aggressive than North American crocodiles, who normally keep to themselves.
Murphy said one thing you can do to avoid getting yourself caught in a bad situation is to steer clear of all types of crocodiles and alligators living in the wild.
Related:           Aggressive, man-eating Nile crocodiles lived in the Everglades for ...          Washington Post
Are Nile Crocodiles Breeding in Florida Everglades?           Discovery News
The Everglades' invasive species problem just got worse       Fusion
Nile crocs found in Everglades likely related, study finds — and ... In-Depth-Miami Herald


Big Sugar

U.S. Sugar must help end Lagoon pollution
Florida Today - Editorial
May 20, 2016
 “Absolutely.” That was the answer our Editorial Board got, without hesitation, from a U.S. Sugar Corp. executive when we posed this question:
Will you meet with local leaders and environmentalists to identify a solution to stop discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon ?
“I’d be more than willing to sit down with whoever it is to engage in those discussions as to what it is we ought to be doing and why,” said Malcolm “Bubba” Wade, the Clewiston-based sugar company’s senior vice president for corporate strategy and business development, during a meeting Wednesday with Treasure Coast Newspapers’ Editorial Board.
Let’s hold him to it.
We’re not looking for a temporary fix. We need a lasting remedy that will shut the flood gates that have been sending fouled water into our estuary for more than eight decades.
And U.S. Sugar, one of the two largest landowners in the Everglades Agricultural Area, must be a party to the solution.
We know it’s tempting to dismiss Wade’s comments as disingenuous.
This is the same U.S. Sugar that in 2008 heralded the state’s purchase of the company’s property south of Lake Okeechobee as “a monumental opportunity to save the Everglades” — then did an about-face and opposed the deal.
This is the same U.S. Sugar that is waging an aggressive public relations campaign, including ads in Treasure Coast Newspapers, to deflect the perception that it is standing in the way of restoration efforts.
Meanwhile, more than 116 billion gallons of lake water have entered the St. Lucie River so far this year — imperiling the estuary by decreasing salinity and delivering nitrogen, phosphorous and sediment.
The discharges continue even as toxic algae was confirmed this month in Lake Okeechobee. Algae that appeared this week in the St. Lucie River, close to Stuart, is being tested for toxicity.
And the rainy season has just begun.
Eight decades is long enough.
We must seize this moment.
Take Wade up on his commitment to begin talks with local leaders and environmentalists to find a way to end the discharges.
We recommend the University of Florida’s Water Institute lead the effort. It is familiar with the problems, having completed a report commissioned by the Florida Senate in 2015.
The report identified the need for “enormous increases in storage and treatment of water both north and south of the lake.”
The next step is to identify where that land should be and how it will work.
Florida has the money: More than 75 percent of voters approved Amendment 1 in 2014 to buy land for restoration.
During our meeting with him Wednesday, Wade cast doubt on whether buying land south of Lake Okeechobee is a technically feasible way to stop the discharges.
Yet more than 200 scientists who have worked in the Everglades — including those from the Everglades Foundation, the National Park Service and many universities — have signed their names to a petition that calls for “increased storage and treatment of freshwater south of Lake Okeechobee, and additional flow from the lake southward” to restore the Everglades, Florida Bay and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries.
The UF Water Institute can sort out these differences of opinion. It can convene Treasure Coast leaders and environmentalists with U.S. Sugar. Florida Crystals, the other large landowner in the Everglades Agricultural Area, also must be at the table.
And soon-to-be state Senate President Joe Negron can make it happen. Negron commissioned the original UF water study in 2014.
He should find the money to answer this question:
What’s the best way to permanently end the discharges ?


What's that green stuff tainting the Caloosahatchee ? – by Amy Bennett Williams
May 20, 2016
Swirling around dock pilings and lapping the shoreline, the brilliant green-marbled water would be hypnotically beautiful if it wasn’t almost certainly bad news for the Caloosahatchee and its watershed.
Spotted today along the Alva and Olga shorelines, the cause of the pea-colored water is likely a sudden bloom of cyanobacteria, sometimes called blue-green algae.
Though the organism occurs naturally in Southwest Florida’s fresh water, when it blooms heavily, it’s trouble.
State and county officials haven't yet identified the organism causing the tainted water. Water contaminated with potential toxin producing species can cause health problems in people and animals ranging from itchy eyes and sneezing to liver failure and even death, if ingested in significant amounts.
High temperatures and water polluted with excessive nitrogen and phosphorus can feed the blooms, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s website. “Nutrient pollution from human activities makes the problem worse, leading to more severe blooms that occur more often.”
Normally, the Lee County Health Department monitors and gives out information about such blooms, but currently has no internet because of server maintenance, said spokeswoman Tammy Yzaguirre. A spokeswoman from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in Tallahassee promised to look into any reports of blooms.
Members of the nonprofit Riverwatch, which advocates for the Caloosahatchee, are taking water samples after the group’s former president, Scott Perry, photographed a bloom along the LaBelle shoreline in Hendry County.
“River flow is very high (6,000 cubic feet per second) following the 3-5 inches of rain from May 17-19,” wrote John Capece, a Riverwatch founding member, in an email. “This will move the algae to Fort Myers quickly.”
Lee County is monitoring the bloom, said spokesman Tim Engstrom, but “Nothing has been confirmed at this time,” he said.
On May 28 last year, the health department issued an advisory warning people against exposing themselves, pets or livestock to Caloosahatchee River water and local lakes and ponds.



Critics are rightly skeptical of DEP plans
Tallahassee Democrat - Editorial
May 19, 2016
Nature blessed Florida with two abundant resources, sun and water.
The sun is 93 million miles away, so nobody has found a way to mess with it yet. Water, though, is all around us and seems to be permanently under siege by big builders, farming interests and energy companies.
A half-century ago, it was the Everglades Jetport, an idea that seems utterly mad today. They wanted to build a giant airport far enough from Miami and Fort Lauderdale — hey, it’s just a big swamp, right? — for the supersonic transport (which, itself, is no longer a threat.) Then there was the Cross-Florida Barge Canal, planned to link the Gulf of Mexico and the Jacksonville ports by digging a big ditch from the lower St. Johns River to Yankeetown. As usual, the promise was jobs and commerce, and never mind a few gators and ospreys.
From time to time, different plans to permit offshore oil drilling pop up. Florida and adjoining states have been squabbling, and suing, over Apalachicola River water quality for decades.
And in the past legislative session, a bill to stop cities and counties from banning the injection method known as “fracking” was mercifully put to sleep. It will be back.
Sometimes, we have to wonder which side state government is on.
The Department of Environmental Protection is revising limits on toxic chemicals allowed in surface waters. It is updating human-health limits for 43 chemical compounds that are already regulated, and adopting first-time standards for 39 others.
Of the 82 various toxic substances, most would have lower standards than recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency. And of the 43 chemicals now regulated, about a couple dozen would see limits increased beyond those currently allowed.
Senior writer Jeff Burlew reported Sunday that Tom Frick, director of the state Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, said new standards are “using the latest science and Florida-specific data to ensure Floridians can continue to safely eat Florida seafood and recreate in our waters.”
The state points out that the number of regulated pollutants would nearly double, from 43 to 82. The proposed new standards were developed with EPA-approved risk levels.
DEP Secretary Jon Steverson sharply disagreed with Burlew’s reporting. Like Frick, Steverson said Florida “has some of the most comprehensive water quality standards in the country, including the most advanced numeric nutrient criteria in the entire nation.”
Still, red flags pop up within the numbers. Allowable levels of chloroform would rise significantly, though still comparable to EPA guidelines. Arsenic levels would be unchanged — but still 1,000 times higher than the EPA recommends for drinking water.
Dozens of toxins on the EPA’s recommended criteria list would remain unregulated. That includes dioxin, the scourge of the Fenhollway River — the Taylor County waterway which our Legislature, in less enlightened times, once decreed to be an industrial stream, put there by Mother Nature to carry off pulp mill waste.
And the carcinogenic compound benzene would have its limit tripled under the DEP proposal. Although benzene is one of the things used in fracking, the DEP insists there’s no connection.
Critics are rightly skeptical.
“All this is about is that somebody wants to pollute,” Dr. Lonnie Draper, president of the Florida chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said of the new limits. “And in this case, it’s probably the fracking industry.”
DEP’s proposals could go before the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission in September. The commission rejected the agency’s previous recommendations in 2013.
With all due respect to the commission, its seven members are appointed by a governor who doesn’t let DEP use terms like “global warming” or “climate change.” Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has funded Everglades cleanup and springs protection, but he’s also the governor who’s proposed camping and horse trails in Wakulla Springs — to mention just one example of monetizing state parks.
Scott wiped out the Department of Community Affairs, which controlled growth, and the rap on DEP has been that its initials stand for “Don’t Expect Protection.”
It’s good that the state is reviewing and revising its limits, as required by the Clean Water Act. We’d feel a little safer, though, if Florida had a reputation for putting science and public health ahead of needs of the pulp and phosphate industries, big farming and developers.


Capitol - US Congres

House passes most environmentally destructive defense authorization act in history
May 19, 2016
Riders condemn species to extinction, give away public lands, undermine clean water act
Washington, D.C.-(ENEWSPF)- In a partisan vote today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which, if enacted into law, would gut protections for several endangered species, including the American burying beetle and lesser prairie chicken, and remove the Clean Water Act’s ability to control destructive invasive species. The must-pass legislation now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
“Republicans know that the overwhelming majority of Americans support the Endangered Species Act and our public lands, so they use ‘military readiness’ as a shield to advance their extreme agenda,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The deep antipathy they’re demonstrating toward endangered species is sad and disgraceful.”
The House bill would permanently end all federal protections for the American burying beetle and lesser prairie chicken under the Endangered Species Act. Other provisions of the bill would undo 5-year, landscape-level planning efforts to protect the greater sage grouse, transfer 800,000 acres of national wildlife refuge lands to the U.S. Air Force, transfer thousands of miles of right-of-ways in sensitive habitats to the state of Utah to facilitate oil, gas and coal extraction, and create a huge loophole in the Clean Water Act that would limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.
The best available science continues to demonstrate that the American burying beetle is highly endangered. The beetle has declined by more than 90 percent and is ranked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as “critically endangered.” Captive-breeding and reintroduction efforts increased the total number of populations from just two in 1989 to more than 20 by 2011, but the species is still missing from most of its historic range. Since the beetle was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 1989, the military has been one of its best stewards. The largest known population of the burying beetle is found on Camp Gruber in Oklahoma. Another large burying beetle population is found on Oklahoma’s McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, which was awarded the Department of Defense’s “best resource conservation program” in 2013 for its efforts to save the beetle. The House-passed bill would undo 20 years of conservation gains in rescuing the species from extinction.
“The U.S. military has been one of our nation’s best stewards of endangered species over the past 40 years, but today’s bill would pointlessly undermine its important conservation achievements,” said Hartl. “The military understands that preserving our natural heritage for future generations is a critical part of protecting our way of life.”
Another dangerous provision of the bill, Section 3601, would remove the EPA’s ability to regulate ballast water discharges under the Clean Water Act. The bill transfers all authority to regulate ballast water discharges to the U.S. Coast Guard and exempts ballast-water discharges from the requirements of the Clean Water Act. The spread of non-native, aquatic invasive species has damaged marine and freshwater ecosystems across the country and has caused or contributed to the decline of dozens of endangered species. Aquatic invasive species cost federal, state, and local governments billions of dollars annually through damage to infrastructure for public water supplies. If the bill is enacted into law, sensitive freshwater ecosystems like the Great Lakes, Bay Delta, Puget Sound and Everglades would increasingly be degraded by the spread of invasive species; restoration of these ecosystems would become much more costly.
“It’s never been more obvious that House Republicans are willing to sacrifice our environment and any plant or animal that gets in the way of industry’s short-term profits,” said Hartl.
The Obama administration has threatened to veto the House’s bill.


Shareholders of FPL’s parent company reject climate change report
Miami Herald - by Mary Ellen Klas, Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Shareholders voted down the proposal to report sea level risk to its operations
Shareholders approved $31 million in compensation packages for its top five officers
Shareholders also reject call to disclose political spending

May 19, 2016
In a swift 17-minute meeting held in a Oklahoma City hotel Thursday, NextEra Energy won shareholder approval of a $31 million compensation package for its five top executives, and defeated two proposals aimed at increasing transparency over how the company is handling sea level rise and political contributions.
“The company you own had a very strong 2015,'' declared NextEra president and CEO Jim Robo.
He is among the company’s five top executives who shareholders agreed will be paid $31 million in performance pay and stock because of the company’s strong financial performance in the last year. Robo alone earned at least $15.2 million in compensation in 2015, according to the company’s proxy statement.
The Juno Beach-based company is the parent of Florida Power & Light and one of the nation's largest utility conglomerates. The audio cast of the annual meeting for company shareholders is available on the company’s web site.
Robo cited NextEra’s better than average reliability, its lower than average customers bills, its satisfaction among business customers, its acquisition of a Texas pipeline, and its expanding wind and solar market as evidence of “the whole company delivering outstanding financial performance for our shareholders.”
Robo did not address troubles ahead, such as the federal and state orders for FPL to clean up its leaking cooling canals to stop a plume of saltwater from migrating into South Florida’s drinking water supplies and leaking into Biscayne Bay, or the resistance the company faces in its bid to purchase Hawaii Electric.
Robo recognized a representative for Coral Gables activist and NextEra shareholder, Alan Farago and his wife Lisa Versaci, to present their shareholder proposal to require the company to report each year on the risk its faces from sea-level rise. Farago has argued that FPL's position as the supplier of electricity to Florida's East Coast is “extraordinarily vulnerable to the financial disruptions of climate change.”
NextEra opposed the nonbinding measure, arguing that “a proposal that asks the company to speculate on a single aspect of global climate change nearly a century into the future would be a waste of time and money.”
NextEra shareholders — most of them mutual funds and financial companies — rejected the proposal, with 65 percent opposed and nearly all of the votes cast before the meeting.
Farago said he was encouraged by the vote, given the fact it was a first-time resolution.
“The issue's not going away and we're not going away,” he said. “I expect in the future there will be a lot more resolutions related to this disconnect between corporate behavior and investor concerns and sea level rise.”
The vote was closer for the proposal by Thomas P. DiNapoli, the comptroller of the State of New York who represents the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which owns more than 1.2 million shares of NextEra stock.
DiNapoli’s proposal would have required NextEra to disclose all political expenditures the company makes each year, including all campaign contributions made to candidates, campaigns and non-profits. It was rejected by 55 percent of the NextEra shareholders; last year, 60 percent of the shareholders defeated the measure.
Since the Citizens United ruling, DiNapoli has been on a campaign to get the nation’s Fortune 500 companies in which his state’s fund invests to list their spending on candidates, political parties, ballot measures, any direct or indirect state and federal lobbying, payments to any trade associations used for political purposes, and payments made to any organization that writes and endorses model legislation.
The measure attempts to shine a spotlight on dark money political contributions and on companies that publicly take one position but privately campaign against it. Aetna Insurance, for example, claimed support for Obamacare then accidentally disclosed documents that showed it had spent $7 million financing efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other groups to oppose it.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Political Accountability “NextEra Energy does not disclose its contributions to candidates, parties, and committees, or its payments to trade associations and other tax-exempt groups, such as 527 or 501(c)(4) organizations.”
A Herald/Times analysis of campaign records at the Florida Division of Elections found that FPL alone spent $2.3 million on candidates and campaigns in the last six months of 2015.
In addition to Robo’s pay, the shareholders approved the following executive compensation for 2015:
* Robo: $24 million in outstanding equity incentive awards;
* Moray Dewhurst, chief financial officer, $4.9 million in performance pay, $8.7 million in outstanding equity incentives;
* Manoochehr K. Nazar, president of the nuclear division, $4.5 million in performance pay and $5.6 million in outstanding equity incentives;
* Armando Pimentel, Jr, president of NextEra Energy Resources, $4.3 million in performance pay and $5.2 million in outstanding equity;
* Eric Silagy, president of FPL, $3.2 million in performance pay and $2.9 million in outstanding equity incentives.

Water quality concerns grow as toxic bacteria found in Lake O
May 19, 2016
LAKE OKEECHOBEE - Thirty-three square miles of blue-green algae are covering the southern end of Lake Okeechobee.
It's the perfect place for the algae to grow, according to John Campbell with the Army Corps of Engineers.
Campbell said still water, warm temperatures and water fueled with certain nutrients are a mixture that can create blue-green algae.
Tests were run on the algae and results are in: traces of a toxic bacteria called microcystin were found living inside the algae.
"It definitely caught us off guard 'cause we come here every year to fish," said Lake O visitor Brian Bucker
But this year, Buckner's hook is turning up empty. 
"When we first got here, we were very concerned because the water looked really nasty," said Ronnie Benenhaley.
Instead of fishing in Lake Okeechobee, the fishermen are going out a little bit further to the Everglades where the algae isn't seen.
"Obviously, if the fish is consuming that and then we consume it... Obviously, we could consume the same toxins," said Buckner.
So what does this mean for people in Southwest Florida?
"Water that is in motion down the Caloosahatchee River by far should reduce the probability of a large-scale alga bloom," said Campbell.
But small bundles of blue-green algae may find its way into areas that are still along the Caloosahatchee.
Many people enjoying the water just wish to see things clear up.
"I hope they can correct the situation because it would be a shame to let Lake O get into ruins."
Related:           Lake Okeechobee Toxic Algal Bloom Threatens To Spread To ...     WLRN-May 20, 2016


Broward wastewater soon heading to west Boca instead of ocean
Palm Beach Post - by Eliot Kleinberg, Staff Writer
May 18, 2016
WEST PALM BEACH — Broward County will soon reroute as much as 20 million gallons a day of treated wastewater to neighborhoods and golf courses west of Boca Raton, officials said Wednesday.
Broward has been dumping the wastewater into the Atlantic Ocean, but Florida gave it a deadline of 2025 to stop.
The county will sell the water to Palm Beach County Water Utilities for 5 cents per 1,000 gallons. Palm Beach County hopes to resell the water at the going rate of 19 cents.
But Palm Beach County loses money countywide at the 19-cent rate because of its overhead, said Robert Nelton, spokesman for the utility, which serves about a half million residents in parts of Palm Beach County outside cities.
Reclaimed water is nearly at drinking-water standards and is safe for irrigating and for filling lakes, Nelton said. He said there’s no limit on its use, even in a drought.
At least five golf courses in northern Broward and 11 in southern Palm Beach County already have expressed interest in the reclaimed water. Nelton said other potential customers are large shopping centers or neighborhoods that use lakes to supply their sprinkler systems. Nelton said in most cases it’s not cost-effective to route the water directly to individual residences.
The affected parts of southwestern Palm Beach County do not include suburban Boca Raton neighborhoods that are within the service area of Boca Raton Utilities.
Broward will spend about $56 million to build the pipes, $12 million to build 5.8 miles of 42-inch pipeline in Broward and $44 million to build several miles of the pipe in Palm Beach County. Broward will get help from Palm Beach County to pay off the project, which will take about 20 years to complete, said Alan Garcia, director of Broward County Water and Wastewater Services.
Neither Nelton or Garcia had a number for the length of pipe or cost of Palm Beach County’s share.
The pipeline will follow Florida’s Turnpike north to Glades Road, then split, with a western leg stretching west nearly to the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and a northern leg ending at Stonebridge Country Club, at U.S. 441 and Clint Moore Road. Another leg will go east along Kimberly Boulevard to Southwinds Golf Course.
Nelton said Palm Beach County’s Southern Region Water Reclamation Facility, on Hagen Ranch Road west of Boynton Beach, already generates more than 15 million gallons a day of reclaimed water but all of it already is spoken for by golf courses and neighborhoods from Clint Moore Road north to past Boynton Beach Boulevard, and west to U.S. 441. Any excess is pumped into nearby Wakodahatchee and Green Cay wetlands.
Currently it’s not available to southwest Palm Beach County Water Utilities customers south of Clint Moore Road.
Broward also will spend $45 million to $50 million to hike output at the Broward County North Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, in Pompano Beach, from 10 million gallons a day to 26 million. That project now is in design, Garcia said.
Broward looked north because its Pompano Beach plant is in a highly built-up area and it would be too costly to tear up roads and property to bury pipelines to serve surrounding ares of Broward, “and just the density of golf courses in the area (of southern Palm Beach County) made it a really financially feasible plan,” Garcia said.


clean water
clean water

Don’t water down standards
Tallahassee Democrat - Our opinion
May 18, 2016
Nature blessed Florida with two abundant resources, sun and water.
The sun is 93 million miles away, so nobody has found a way to mess with it yet. Water, though, is all around us and seems to be permanently under siege by big builders, farming interests and energy companies.
A half-century ago, it was the Everglades Jetport, an idea that seems utterly mad today. They wanted to build a giant airport far enough from Miami and Fort Lauderdale – hey, it’s just a big swamp, right? – for the supersonic transport (which, itself, is no longer a threat.)
Then there was the Cross-Florida Barge Canal, planned to link the Gulf of Mexico and the Jacksonville ports by digging a big ditch from the lower St. Johns River to Yankeetown. As usual, the promise was jobs and commerce, and never mind a few gators and ospreys.
From time to time, different plans to permit offshore oil drilling pop up. Florida and adjoining states have been squabbling, and suing, over Apalachicola River water quality for decades.
And in the past legislative session, a bill to stop cities and counties from banning the injection method known as “fracking” was mercifully put to sleep. It will be back.
Sometimes, we have to wonder which side state government is on.
The Department of Environmental Protection is revising limits on toxic chemicals allowed in surface waters. It is updating human-health limits for 43 chemical compounds that are already regulated, and adopting first-time standards for 39 others.
Of the 82 various toxic substances, most would have lower standards than recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency. And of the 43 chemicals now regulated, about a couple dozen would see limits increased beyond those currently allowed.
Senior writer Jeff Burlew reported Sunday that Tom Frick, director of the state Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, said new standards are “using the latest science and Florida-specific data to ensure Floridians can continue to safely eat Florida seafood and recreate in our waters.”
The state points out that the number of regulated pollutants would nearly double, from 43 to 82. The proposed new standards were developed with EPA-approved risk levels.
DEP Secretary Jon Steverson sharply disagreed with Burlew’s reporting. Like Frick, Steverson said Florida “has some of the most comprehensive water quality standards in the country, including the most advanced numeric nutrient criteria in the entire nation.”
Still, red flags pop up within the numbers. Allowable levels of chloroform would rise significantly, though still comparable to EPA guidelines. Arsenic levels would be unchanged – but still 1,000 times higher than the EPA recommends for drinking water.
Dozens of toxins on the EPA’s recommended criteria list would remain unregulated. That includes dioxin, the scourge of the Fenhollway River – the Taylor County waterway which our Legislature, in less enlightened times, once decreed to be an industrial stream, put there by Mother Nature to carry off pulp mill waste.
And the carcinogenic compound benzene would have its limit tripled under the DEP proposal. Although benzene is one of the things used in fracking, the DEP insists there’s no connection.
Critics are rightly skeptical.
“All this is about is that somebody wants to pollute,” Dr. Lonnie Draper, president of the Florida chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said of the new limits. “And in this case, it’s probably the fracking industry.”
DEP’s proposals could go before the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission in September. The commission rejected the agency’s previous recommendations in 2013.
With all due respect to the commission, its seven members are appointed by a governor who doesn’t let DEP use terms like “global warming” or “climate change.” Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has funded Everglades cleanup and springs protection, but he’s also the governor who’s proposed camping and horse trails in Wakulla Springs – to mention just one example of monetizing state parks.
Scott wiped out the Department of Community Affairs, which controlled growth, and the rap on DEP has been that its initials stand for “Don’t Expect Protection.”
It’s good that the state is reviewing and revising its limits, as required by the Clean Water Act. We’d feel a little safer, though, if Florida had a reputation for putting science and public health ahead of needs of the pulp and phosphate industries, big farming and developers.


John Scott challenges Big Sugar supporter Rep. Matt Caldwell in November election
North Fort Myers Neighbor - Letter to the editor by Jill Dillon, Sanibel, FL
May 18, 2016
Great news for all frustrated by the many Florida politicians who are routinely corrupted by Big Sugar. These legislators accept Sugar's campaign contributions in return for serving the exploitative interests of the agricultural industry, with ruinous consequences to their constituents.
Our first breakthrough is John Scott, Democrat, who has recently announced he is running against Matt Caldwell, Republican, for his seat as State Representative serving District 79, Lee County, in the November 2016 election cycle. His opponent Rep. Caldwell is Poster Boy No. 1 as servant to Big Sugar by legislatively spearheading the passage of the 2016 Water Policy Bill, which effectively undermines water resource protection from Apalachicola Bay to the Florida Keys. The weakening of state water management policy, coupled with refusal by the governor and legislature to use Amendment 1 funds to purchase land south of Lake O. for critical storage, treatment and conveyance of water to the Everglades is a recipe for the disastrous impacts on our waterways we experienced with the overflow from heavy rains this past winter. The black polluted water poured into the Gulf, resulting in harmful red tide blooms and fish kills. It is important to remember these cyclical, destructive rains are as inevitable as Florida hurricanes.
District 79 is located in North Fort Myers and covers Lehigh Acres to Paloma Park. John Scott promises as Representative he will serve the interests of the District 79 citizens, not the agricultural interests of Big Sugar as currently protected and promoted by Rep. Caldwell. Mr. Scott has lived in Fort Myers since 1979, and has a 20-year record of employment in the Information Technology industry.
Although most of us will not be able to vote for Mr. Scott, we can help fund his campaign, which will be open and running shortly. Please note Rep. Caldwell has already obtained $117,800 to fund his re-election, with most of it coming from agricultural interests and lobbying groups, all from outside his district. The constituents of District 79 are very unhappy with Rep. Caldwell's blatant support of Big Sugar while they must live with the severe consequences of the ever increasing pollution of their precious water resources. This evident displeasure combined with the political demographics of District 79 make John Scott's run very viable, with Republicans numbering only 34,800 to Democrats 30,200.
Let us hope that John Scott's campaign will serve as the "tipping point" for a galvanized SW Florida population demanding our representatives be accountable to us, rather than to the corruptible taste of sweet sugar. Then, and only then, will our current elected officials begin to feel the heat and power of wise, responsible voters. These officials will come to understand if they can't kick their Sugar habit, they will be kicked out of office.



NPR: Rising sea levels made this Florida mayor a climate change believer – by Katie Pohlman
May 18, 2016
Florida is one of, if not the, most vulnerable states in the U.S. when it comes to sea level rise. Though it’s clear Florida Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t believe the state needs to act on climate change, one mayor is attempting to prepare his town for higher water.
Coral Gables Mayor James Cason hadn’t given sea level rise much thought until climate scientists brought it to his attention. “You know, I’d read some articles here and there,” he told NPR’s Christopher Joyce, “but I didn’t realize how impactful it would be on the city that I’m now the leader of.”
Cason is searching for answers to questions about how the rising sea levels will affect Coral Gables’ bond-rating, property values, lifestyle and what the city should and can do in the future to help residents.
Here’s NPR’s All Things Considered interview with Cason:


Record rainfall increases risk of algae blooms in Indian River Lagoon - by Isadora Rangel
May 18, 2016
Tuesday's heavy rainfall increases the potential for algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon as more pollution-laden water flows into local waterways.
As the Treasure Coast on Tuesday got slammed with rain that broke records in Vero Beach, more water flowed into the lagoon from numerous canals throughout the estuary. Those canals bring two things, said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart:
Freshwater that lowers the estuary's salinity level and promotes the growth of blue-green algae; and
Farm runoff containing fertilizers that feed the algae, which is actually bacteria that is more likely to occur under the high temperatures and sunny days the region has been experiencing.
The recent dry conditions make matters worse, Perry said.
"If you have dry conditions over time, and all of a sudden you get this huge rain, this first flush will bring a lot of high bacterial levels," Perry said.
More freshwater could flow into the northern lagoon in the next few days. The Indian River Farms Water Control District, which covers the greater Vero Beach area, opened the flow gates to three major canals and it will take four to five days to empty the system of the estimated billions of gallons of water that fell yesterday, said district Director David Gunter.
Most of the floodwaters have drained off the roads, but a lot remains backed up in the district's miles of canals, he said.
Less salinity
George Mouton, an employee at Vero Tackle & Marina near Riverside Park in Vero Beach, noticed the decreased salinity levels Wednesday morning.
He said the shrimp in his bait were struggling to stay alive because of lower salinity in the water the store pumps out of the lagoon for its bait tank. He recommended those who want to fish to go south of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce or north near Sebastian.
Another side effect of the rain: With more water flowing into Lake Okeechobee from the Kissimmee River, discharges into the St. Lucie River could increase, Perry said.
That increases the risk for blue-green algae because the discharges reduce water salinity that helps thwart algal blooms. The Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday is expected to announce discharge levels for next week.
Toxic algae ?
Department of Environmental Protection officials could not be reached Wednesday to say whether the agency plans to test algae seen Tuesday in the St. Lucie River for toxicity.
Treasure Coast Newspapers confirmed what appeared to be blue-green algae in the South Fork of the St. Lucie River, just off Kanner Highway.
The state health department in Martin County advised people not to touch algae or let their pets touch it, and to report sightings to the DEP. Toxic algae can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested and rash or hay fever if touched.
Tuesday's rainfall in Vero Beach surpassed all prior daily rainfall records, totaling 11.22 inches. The prior record daily rainfall was 8.82 inches set Jan. 21, 1957. Fort Pierce got 9.85 inches Tuesday. Stuart received around 2.10 inches.



Restoring the Everglades
Forward Florida - by Dave Cocchiarella
May 18, 2016
Water is the thing that quite literally puts Florida on the map. It surrounds us on three sides and bubbles up out of the ground flowing through our lives north, south, east and west.  We drink it, we explore it, we play in it and get around on it, we fish it, we paint it, we love it while we sit and watch it.
It also is the key to our economic future, often at the center of the delicate balancing act between economic development and environmental preservation. A significant portion of Florida’s surface waters is “impaired” – at least in legal/technical terms – and the cost of mitigating the problem to ensure the state’s future is big and getting bigger. Multiple projects working or planned, all in the billions of dollars and all designed to restore our state’s water.
All of which raises an age-old conundrum: Given that we are talking billions of dollars, can we really afford to improve water quality and, conversely, can we afford not to?
The numbers can be daunting. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s 2014 Water Quality Assessment of Florida “there are 54,836 miles of rivers and streams; 49,128 miles of canals and ditches; 2,390 square miles of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds; 3,625 square miles of estuaries and coastal waters; and more than 1,000 springs in the state.”
Add to that more than 7,000 square miles of inland waters and 17,000-plus square miles of freshwater and tidal wetlands.  In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency published the Florida Water Quality Assessment Report indicating more than 80 percent of our rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, bays and estuaries are impaired.
If surface water contains enough of a particular pollutant to exceed the quality standards that protect human health and aquatic life, that water body is said to be impaired. The individual pollutants range from excess nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus to bacteria, pesticides, acids, toxins and mercury.
No doubt 80 percent seems like a lot, especially in so many different settings. It would seem a lot easier if there was just one big polluted lake that needed cleaning up. The reality is that we are looking at diverse settings with varying degrees of impairment (some minimally, some very seriously) and subtle interlocking processes in which the law of unintended consequence can often operate in opposition to the best laid plans.
Some of the plans, as originally conceived were very good: Improved transportation corridors, flood prevention and the creation of expansive and fertile agricultural lands. Unfortunately, those plans were not aligned with the intended work of Florida’s “River of Grass” – the Everglades.
In its natural state the Everglades was a massive connected ecosystem that moved water unlike most rivers moving in a channel, but more like a shallow sheet over the entire southern peninsula. Everglades Foundation Wetland Ecologist Dr. Stephen E. Davis III says the Everglades “served as a water management system to the nth degree, accepting five feet of annual rainfall, storing it and slowly moving it through the River of Grass into the Florida Bay, all while recharging the Biscayne Aquifer.”
Compartmentalization has hurt the Glades. The construction of the Tamiami Trail in the 1920s was the first project to block the flow from Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Bay.  After storm surge during the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane (the second deadliest in U.S. history) sloshed over the southern rim of the lake, killing thousands, the Herbert Hoover Dike was constructed as a flood control measure, further limiting the flow.
The most serious blow, though, came in 1948 with the Central & South Florida Project. Intended to control the water for a population in peril from flooding, the projects dikes, levees and flood control canals sealed the fate of the Everglades blocking the flow south (and east) from Lake Okeechobee forever. The Biscayne Aquifer, the Everglades and the Florida Bay were left without the freshwater they needed.
So, if not lazily down the southern peninsula in a shallow sheet of life-giving water, where does five feet of rain go every year?  Through Herculean water management efforts, east out of Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River and into the Indian River Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean or west out the Caloosahatchee River into San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
Previously pristine Florida waterways are now something akin to a giant drain pipe for Lake Okeechobee. And, as we all know, not everything that goes down the drain is nice.
Lake Okeechobee has suffered as a result. The lake is immense and its enormity has always meant it takes more than its fair share of what’s thrown away. Pesticides, fertilizers, urban runoff and industrial effluent are just part of the problem.
If water could flow south unimpeded out of Okeechobee across the Glades, nature’s wetland pollution processes would remove much of what’s nasty and leave cleaner water to continue its trek south. But compartmentalization means the impaired water is pushed east and west, posing a potential threat to coastal waterways, wetlands and estuaries that also must deal with the challenges that come with urban development.
Excess nutrients can result in harmful algal blooms along Florida’s east and west coasts, but phosphorus and nitrogen are not the only compromising components of the Lake Okeechobee billion-gallon-a-day discharges. As noted earlier, pesticides, bacteria, toxins and other contaminants all flow east and west into some of Florida’s most productive coastal environments.
It is a simple solution. Just not an easy one. Instead of east and west, let the water flow south.  That’s why Congress in 2000 enacted the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), a 30-year, $7.8 billion project.
It’s a massive undertaking, moving mountains of earth – and attitudes and perceptions as well.
Now estimated to cost nearly $16 billion, CERP is required to maintain the current level of water supply and flood control while “reconfiguring the internal infrastructure so it is more compatible to the needs of the environment” according to Davis. The goal, of course, is to allow the River of Grass to do what it was intended to do, while still protecting South Florida’s economy and 18-fold increase in population since the compartmentalization began.
Is it worth it ?  A valid question. What do you spend to right the honest mistakes of the past? Perhaps we live with them, learn from them and move on.  What could $16 billion do in other scientific, educational or humanitarian pursuits?
This is where attitudes are shifting when considering environmental remediation. Is it a cost or is it an opportunity?  When working the restoration math, the return on investment must be part of the equation.
In the report Measuring the Economic Benefits of America’s Everglades Restoration prepared for the Everglades Foundation by Mather Economics of Roswell, Ga., it was found that Everglades restoration would have significant economic impacts. The report stated the “best estimate is that restoration (by the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan) will generate an increase in economic welfare of approximately $46.5 billion in net present value terms that could range up to $123.9 billion.”
That’s nearly three dollars returned for every dollar invested.
"The Everglades restoration project is vital to the future of Florida, providing for the appropriate water infrastructure,” said Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg. “The project will produce a substantial return on investment with economic benefits streaming to tourism, recreation, development and fisheries.”
But there is a very real personal benefit as well. Have you ever been thirsty?  Seriously thirsty?  Well South Florida is thirsty and has been for years. Since the 1950s, compartmentalization of the Everglades has diverted freshwater east and west and away from the Biscayne Aquifer.
Without substantial freshwater recharge from sheet flow through the River of Grass, saltwater intrusion into the Biscayne Aquifer that has already begun will continue. Increased salinity in the aquifer threatens the water supply to the entire region.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan will combat this threat. “The return on this investment also comes in the form of a protected water supply for 9 million Floridians and millions of tourists,” said Eikenberg.
By realigning the natural flow of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee south to the Biscayne Aquifer saltwater intrusion levels might be held at current levels and pushed back to some degree.
Water, water, everywhere. And perhaps – with hard work, adequate funding and maybe a little luck – plenty to drink.


FPL presents Turkey Point hypersaline water removal plan
Palm Beach Post – by Susan Salisbury
May 17, 2016
Florida Power & Light Co. is working to develop a plan to  remove hypersaline water near the cooling canal system at its Turkey Point Power plant complex, but Tuesday a Miami-Dade County official called for the company to address saltwater intrusion in general.
Since 2010 the plant’s 2-by-5-mile unlined cooling canal system has been linked to higher phosphorus and ammonia levels in Biscayne Bay and groundwater directly connected to the Biscayne Aquifer. The plant 25 miles south of Miami is between Biscayne Bay National Park and Everglades National Park. It includes two nuclear reactors.
Tuesday, Miami-Dade County Commissioners weighed in on FPL’s proposal to use 3-D groundwater modeling to identify the location of hypersaline water groundwater and develop a plan to safely remove it.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said that modeling, as evidenced by hurricane modeling, isn’t always accurate.
Lee Hefty, the county’s director of its Department of Environmental Resources Management, agreed that  models are predictive tools and said the county will also require  groundwater monitoring.
Hefty said that while there has been concern about the hypersaline underground plume extending from the plant, there are also worries about saltwater intrusion in general because it could impact drinking water.
Progress is being made, Hefty said, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has indicated it wants to work with county and state agencies to solve the problem.
Giménez said, “We are not just looking to stop this hypersaline plume, we are looking to draw it back.”
Laura Reynolds, a consultant with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said Tuesday that  FPL’s proposal doesn’t include mitigation for damage to Biscayne Bay or any cleanup to the east to protect the national parks.
If the plan is approved by county and stage agencies, FPL said it will immediately implement it. Airborne Electromagnetic surveys conducted by helicopter have enabled scientists from FPL and other organizations to precisely identify the location of hypersaline groundwater and to develop detailed plans for its safe removal, company officials said.
“We are committed to eliminating our contribution to the high concentration of saltwater in the Biscayne aquifer,” said Randy LaBauve, FPL Vice President of Environmental Services. “The data-driven methodical plan demonstrates our ability to move the hypersaline plume back in an environmentally responsible manner and reverse a situation compounded by numerous environmental factors, including historically low levels of rainfall in 2014 and 2015.”
FPL scientists and engineers submitted the in-depth plan to DERM, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, and the South Florida Water Management District on Monday.
In addition to its long-term strategy to draw back the saltwater to the boundaries of Turkey Point, FPL will soon begin utilizing saltier water from wells being drilled to extract water from the Floridan Aquifer.
The Floridan Aquifer sits beneath the less-salty Biscayne Aquifer, which is the source of drinking water for 3 million South Floridians.
FPL officials have repeatedly stated that the recent hyper-salinity issue involving the cooling canal system has not had any adverse impact to drinking water, safety or public health. They have also said will there be any lasting adverse impact on Biscayne Bay.
Reynolds disagreed, saying that for the last 40 years the plant’s cooling canal system has been discharging pollutants into the groundwater, and now that groundwater is in the surface waters of both the national parks.
While the underground saltwater plume has not reached water being currently used for drinking water, Reynolds said it has seeped into drinking water supplies that could have been used in the future, but now cannot be.
“The areas that are contaminated we will never be able to drink. It is just not what we are currently consuming,” Reynolds said. “It is misleading for them to say everything is okay.


LO marshes

Lake Okeechobee algae bloom threatens to worsen water woes
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
Fish-killing algae blooms growing in Lake Okeechobee threaten to bring a new wave of trouble for coastal fishing grounds and the people who live nearby.
A 33-square-mile algae bloom that sprung up in southern Lake Okeechobee earlier this month could drift toward the east and west coasts, scientists warn. That's because of ongoing lake draining that guards against South Florida flooding.
Blue-green algae blooms that kill fish can turn toxic and be unsafe for human contact as well.
"It's a pretty good (size) algae bloom," said Paul Gray, a scientist for Audubon Florida who monitors Lake Okeechobee water conditions. "They go down stream and they can get into the estuaries."
Blue-green algae, called cyanobacteria, sometimes carries a foul odor and can look like a green, red, purple or rust-colored paint spill spreading through the water, according to the state health department.
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...
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...
When the algae blooms start emitting toxins, the health threat can go from killing fish to harming humans who come in contact with the water.
At high levels, that can lead to gastrointestinal problems and harm the skin, liver and nervous system, according to state health officials — who warn people to stay out of the water when algae blooms are present.
Continuing to drain Lake Okeechobee water to the east and west threatens to spread the harmful effects of algae blooms.
South Florida flooding concerns about Lake Okeechobee water levels rising too high have, since January, triggered the extra draining of lake water east through the St. Lucie River toward Stuart and west through the Caloosahatchee River toward Fort Myers.
Those discharges are good for protecting the erosion-prone, 30-foot-tall mound of rock, shell and sand that surrounds the lake, guarding South Florida from flooding.
The dike is undergoing a decadeslong rehab by the federal government to shore up the more than 70-year-old earthen structure, relied on to hold back lake waters that once naturally flowed south and replenished the Everglades.
But the ongoing lake discharges toward the east and west, and the pollutants and sediment that come with them, are bad for the normally salty fishing grounds near Stuart and Fort Myers.
Seagrass and oyster beds near the coast are already suffering from the deluge of dark lake water, which can scare off both game fish and tourists.
That could get worse if algae blooms from Lake Okeechobee wash into the estuaries.
Algae blooms are a natural occurrence in Florida, but they can be made worse by the influx of elevated levels of phosphorus and other pollutants that wash off farms, lawns and roads and into waterways.
Algae blooms spring up more regularly in the summer when temperatures are higher, so the algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee is earlier than expected, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
"They are very difficult to predict," said Terrie Bates, the district's water resources division director. "They move with the wind. ... They can form and dissipate in a week's time."
Stopping the lake draining to the east and west coasts could stop the algae bloom from spreading, but that would also reduce the ability to lower lake levels.
The Army Corps of Engineers tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level to lessen the strain on the lake's dike, which is considered one of the country's most at risk of failing.
On Tuesday, the lake was 13.64 feet and the Army Corps is still trying to get it lower before the summer storm season starts.
Continued draining to lower the lake now — and make room for the influx of water that summer rains are expected to bring — could avoid bigger lake discharges later, Gray said.
"We need it to get lower," Gray said. "If summer rains start, we could be right back to the big dumps."


Rising seas

South Florida’s climate change solutions
FIU Magazine – by Eric Barton
May 16, 2016
There’s no doubt among scientists that the climate is changing and the seas are rising, and so the work being done at FIU these days has moved from proof of the problem to solutions. In South Florida, that means fixing three major environmental issues associated with rising seas.
Fighting the seas with fresh water
Back before the massive development of South Florida, fresh water flowed naturally from the north end of the peninsula, making its way through swamps and estuaries and all the way out to Florida Bay. Water that flowed down the peninsula kept seawater from entering the Everglades, creating a natural estuary of fresh and brackish water.
Dams and levees built in the last century changed that. These days, water gets trapped before heading south, destined to be used as drinking water, to feed farms or flushed through canals into the ocean. Now, salt water has begun to invade. If it continues, the seawater could split Florida into two peninsulas, with a bay in the center, swamping the Everglades. Aside from the devastating loss of a natural resource, salt water would drown aquifers that supply South Florida with drinking water.
Luckily, we already know how to fix this, says René M. Price, chairperson of FIU’s Department of Earth & Environment in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. The answer is comprehensive Everglades restoration that begins with returning to the natural freshwater flow. That means breaking down levees and dams and buying up farms located in former wetlands. “If we work to protect the Everglades, it works to help protect our future,” Price said.
These are plans that began in the late 1990s and are backed by local and federal regulators. But Price said the trick these days has been convincing those in power in Tallahassee to continue with the plans, including expensive buyouts of sugarcane fields.
Among the work Price has done at FIU was producing a paper that predicted when scientists would know precisely how high the seas would rise due to climate change. Currently, computer models are predicting a wide range of futures, from the seas rising a few inches in the next century to several feet, which makes planning difficult. By 2025 or 2030, Price determined, computer models will have the data they need to make an accurate prediction on just how much the seas will rise.
“That gives us 30 years to come up with some possible solutions,” Price said. “And that’s what we’re working on now.”
Protecting wetlands so they can protect us
If you’ve ever been up close to a mangrove swamp, you’ve seen the tentacle-looking roots the plants send into the soil. They create a tangle in and out of the sand, and it works like a screen on a bathtub drain — letting water flow out but keeping soil in place.
And that’s why swamps can provide such protection, says Evelyn Gaiser, an aquatic ecologist and executive director of FIU’s School of Environment, Arts & Society. When a storm hits Florida, the mangroves and grasses and other plants not only keep soil from eroding but they also slow down storm waters that could threaten coastal communities.
Unfortunately, the salt water now threatening the Everglades is killing these mangroves and grasses. If that continues, soil could erode at a far faster rate. If the wetlands erode entirely, and we end up with a bay in the center of the state, a hurricane could cause an unfathomable disaster: a storm surge that could inundate western communities in South Florida and eastern development in Southwest Florida.
“Luckily we have a good solution to this, and that’s restoring the freshwater flow to the Everglades,” Gaiser said.
FIU scientists have taken the lead on championing for the restoration efforts using studies and papers that show the positive effects of the work done so far. They’ve also spoken to regulatory groups and before hearings to show how continued efforts will protect South Florida’s future.
Among the restoration efforts conceived with help from FIU scientists is a series of water retention areas in the Everglades. They will not only provide drinking water but will help divert the flow of water naturally, south toward Florida Bay.
“We need these big, expansive wetlands, and we need a lot more acreage than we currently have,” Gaiser said. “What we currently have does not equal the kind of protection we will need in the future.”
Keeping the floods at bay
To understand South Florida’s potential flooding problems, it’s best to imagine it as a sponge, floating just above the surface of a dish of water. For now, we’re just above the water line, and when a big storm hits, the water can safely seep through our porous soil.
But when the seas rise, things get tricky. Unlike other more rocky coastal areas like New Orleans, it’s not as simple as building levees and holding back the water, explains Ali Mostafavi, assistant professor at FIU’s OHL School of Construction in the College of Engineering & Computing. If climate change puts South Florida below sea level, the water will come up through our sandy soil.
There are solutions that FIU scientists are researching, Mostafavi said, but it’s not simple. “There is no one solution where you can say, if we do this we will fix it,” he said.
The main problem with creating a fix is that we still don’t know how high the seas will rise. With a few inches, there are costly changes we can make to stave off big problems; with a few feet, it’s likely nothing can be done to prevent South Florida from becoming a wetland, Mostafavi said.
With a few inches of sea level rise, seawater will threaten to seep into underground aquifers that provide our drinking water. One remedy: add a desalinization process to our water treatment plants. It’s a pricey solution and one that has to be completed before the seas ruin the freshwater supplies. Those underground aquifers can also be protected by injecting fresh water into them, filling them so that seawater has nowhere to go, Mostafavi said.
If the seas rise more than that, it’ll require a more complicated fix that could involve barriers to divert ground water, replacing locks along canals, and building pump stations throughout South Florida to replace the current system that works on gravity. It’s an exorbitantly costly solution that might not even keep the seawater back, so it’s one that likely won’t begin until we know for sure how high the seas will rise, Mostafavi said.
The key is that FIU’s researchers are concentrating on what can be done now. “Panicking over the worst-case scenario or being laid back about the best case is the worst thing that can happen,” Mostafavi said. “We have to concentrate on what can be done.”
Related:           Billion people face global flooding risk by 2060, charity warns
Science fundamentals for climate change       The Mountain -Ear


Tampa Bay red tide conditions improving
 Bradenton Patch - by Sherri Lonon, Staff
May 16, 2016
Red tide remains active in Tampa Bay waters, but concentrations have improved
over the past week.
BRADENTON, FL — Tampa Bay area beachgoers can breathe a little easier. The red tide bloom that has wreaked havoc along portions of the region’s coastline is waning in concentration.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, samples taken offshore of several bay area counties over the past week only showed background to low concentrations of Karenia brevis, the organism that causes Florida red tide.
Two samples of water taken offshore of Pinellas County showed background concentrations of the organism. Four samples from Manatee County also showed background levels. In Sarasota County, 22 samples showed background to low levels, FWC noted in its Red Tide Status report.
While fish kills and respiratory irritations had been reported over the past few weeks in Pinellas County and elsewhere, that was not the case last week, FWC said.
Red tide is an algae that occurs naturally in the Gulf that can cause respiratory irritations when it accumulates in large amounts. Toxins in red tide can “enter the air and cause respiratory irritation among beachgoers, such as coughing, sneezing or a scratchy throat,” the Mote Marine Laboratory explains on its website. Mote scientists conduct year-round monitoring of Bay area waters.
Beachgoers with respiratory conditions, such as emphysema and asthma, may be more susceptible to red tide irritants. FWC recommends these public health tips when red tide is present:
●  People who experience issues, such as nose, throat and eye irritations may want to leave the immediate area
●  Those with severe or chronic respiratory conditions should avoid areas that are known to have active red tide
●  When dead fish are present alongshore, it is advised that beachgoers avoid swimming in the water
●  Red tide may also pose a risk to pets. Pets should not eat fish or drink water from water with a high concentration of red tide
●  Recreational harvesting of such mollusks as hard clams, mussels and oysters is banned when red tide is present. To find out if harvest of shellfish is available in an area, visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Aquaculture online.
To find out the conditions on local beaches, check out Mote Marine’s online tracking tool. To find out more about red tide and its presence in Florida, visit FWC online.


EPA official links environmental, public health
May 15, 2016
When Gina McCarthy started her professional life, she was a public health worker in community health centers.
She still considers herself a public health worker, although her job today - administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - is vastly different.
What that early community work showed, McCarthy recently told a group of digital health professionals meeting in Philadelphia, was the strong connection between environmental health and public health.
"I was seeing people come in day in and day out with asthma, or the elderly who couldn't breathe," she said. She realized that the problem wasn't access to health care, "it was about them getting access to clean air.”
As such, she said, the EPA is "primarily a public health agency. That is our mission."
It always has been, she told the health-care audience. It's just that about 45 years ago, when the agency was formed, "environmental pollution was extraordinarily visible, in terms of black smoke pouring out of every smokestack. You had rivers that were burning, the Love Canals of the world. . . . We recognized very directly that environmental pollution was making people
Now, she said, "It continues to make people sick. The challenge we face today is they can't see it, they can't taste it, they can't feel it."
After the conference, we spoke more about this issue.
Is this a new focus for your agency ?
EPA has always been focused on public health. Science tells us that exposure to environmental pollution continues to take lives, and it continues to rob our children's future. As those challenges get a little more difficult to see, we just need to remind people about our mission to protect public health and the environment, and how important that is to them and to their children.
When I was growing up - I grew up in the city of Boston - we had black smoke coming out of smokestacks. We had rivers outside the city in industrial areas that some days were bright green, some days were bright red, some days were bright yellow, because the textile industry was discharging into them.
Now I know, and every mayor of the city will tell you, that the cleanup of Boston Harbor was the most influential thing that ever happened to that city in terms of making it a world-class city. . . .
In this country, our core values are reflected in our environmental mission and what we do to protect public health, and that has been the basis for strong economies. When you don't invest and you don't keep protecting those core values, like safe drinking water and clean air and clean land, that is when the economy will not continue to grow.
How well does this message resonate today, with critics calling for smaller government and industry saying pollution controls are too expensive?
I actually think it resonates very well. If you go and ask people if they care about clean air and clean water and clean land, it's going to be at the top of their agenda every time.
If you look at the work we've done on brownfields, you'll see that when you take a contaminated site and you bring it back to productive use, everything around it is elevated. Not just the community itself and its economic vitality and its ability to attract more business, but also the health of the kids in the community.
Tell us about a major environmental public health issue that needs to be addressed.
We have been trying to communicate the challenge of climate change for many years. I think we turned a corner with the public when we started to actually see the impacts, not just studies modeling the impacts. People now feel that they know it. They know climate change is happening.
The U.S. government put out a report a couple of weeks ago that detailed the impacts it will have on our lives if we don't address it and take action today. It's everything from our kids getting more asthma attacks to our elderly having more cardiac problems as a result of the warmer temperatures and the higher ozone levels that we anticipate.
We see the droughts in California, and people left without access to clean water. We see the floods that are inundating Florida, where saltwater infiltrates the drinking water.
What are some recent air-quality initiatives that also address health issues?
Science is telling us that particulate matter is one of the biggest challenges we face, especially in urban areas. So we are doing work now that actually serves dual purposes. It both lowers carbon pollution that's fueling climate change, and it's taking care of traditional pollutants that are causing us more health problems than we ever knew before.
We're going to finalize a heavy-duty vehicle rule, which is going to require that heavy-duty trucks get cleaner. It's going to drive down carbon pollution, but also, significantly, levels of particulate matter. Also, we've recently finalized our Clean Power Plan. We've done that to reduce carbon pollution, but it also drives down lots of pollutants from the energy sector that are impacting our health today.
You spoke at the conference about better monitoring technology and the links between environmental exposure and health effects.
Let's talk about pharmaceuticals showing up in our rivers and streams and drinking water. Let's talk about perfluorinated compounds - basically, industry chemicals that are now not just in our products and getting in our bodies, but also in our drinking water. Those are opportunities not just for continued diligence, but also for new technologies.
We have to think a lot more about the complexity of the challenges we face today, but also return to the simple message that we knew in the '60s. We have to invest in public health. We have to invest in reducing environmental pollution and we have to modernize to keep our water clean, our air clean, and our land safe - for our children to play and to go to school, and for us to work.


Public blasts DEP over new water toxics limits
Tallahassee Democrat
May 15, 2016
The state of Florida wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals that can be discharged into its rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is in the process of revising limits on toxic chemicals that can be released into surface waters, something it’s supposed to do from time to time under the Clean Water Act but hasn’t since the early 1990s.
The agency is updating human-health criteria for 43 dangerous chemical compounds it currently regulates and adopting standards for the first time for another 39.
Of the 82 various toxic substances, the vast majority would have lower standards than recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency. And of the 43 chemicals now regulated, about a couple dozen would see limits increased beyond those currently allowed.
DEP officials say the new standards — based on risk and factors like seafood consumption — would let Floridians safely eat Florida fish and drink local tap water their entire lives. They say the concentration of pollutants in the water wouldn’t pose a significant risk to the average Floridian’s health.
But environmental groups and concerned doctors say the new standards would increase chances people will get sick or develop cancer from the contamination in seafood and water. The proposal drew fire last week during a DEP workshop in Tallahassee, one of only three held around the state.
“The DEP should be pushing for even more stringent criteria than what we have now rather than trying to weaken them,” said Dr. Ron Saff, a Tallahassee allergist and immunologist. “Your job is to protect Floridians, not to poison us.”
Linda Young, executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network, said Florida’s tourism economy could be destroyed if the state allows more and more pollution into its waters.
“I can promise you that nobody takes a vacation to Love Canal,” she said, referring to the contaminated Superfund site in New York. “If you keep weakening Florida’s water quality standards, which you’ve been on a roll for a while now doing ... the word’s going to get out that Florida’s waters are toxic.”
Agency officials said the proposed standards were developed using EPA approved risk levels and methodologies and Florida specific data to protect human health. They noted that under the proposal, the number of pollutants DEP would regulate would nearly double.
“DEP is proposing to regulate 39 new compounds and update the 43 existing criteria using the latest science and Florida-specific data to ensure Floridians can continue to safely eat Florida seafood and recreate in our waters,” said David Frick, director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, in an email.
Fracking chemical a concern
Environmental groups are deeply suspicious the new standards are part of efforts to bring fracking to Florida. Allowable amounts of benzene, a well known carcinogen used in fracking and found in high levels in its waste water, would go up nearly three times.
“All this is about is that somebody wants to pollute,” said Dr. Lonnie Draper, president of the Florida chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “And in this case, it’s probably the fracking industry.”
But agency officials, during Thursday’s workshop, denied that the proposed standards are in any way tied to fracking, an unconventional drilling technique that opponents say causes a myriad of environmental and human-health problems.
“They are not connected,” said Ken Weaver, DEP’s environmental administrator for water quality standards. “I had no pressure to affect the benzene criteria. It’s just this is the methodology (and) that’s the number that came out of it."
Under DEP’s proposal, allowable levels of chloroform would go up significantly, though they would be similar to new EPA guidelines, Young said. Allowable levels of arsenic would stay the same but remain more than 1,000 times higher for potable water than what the EPA recommends, she said.
The proposed criteria could go before the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission as soon as this fall for possible approval. The board, whose seven members are appointed by the governor, tabled criteria proposed by DEP in 2013.
The state's plan would leave unregulated several dozen toxic compounds on the EPA’s list of recommended criteria, including dioxin, a byproduct of pulp and paper mills that’s contaminated places like the Fenholloway River in Taylor County.
“We’re threatening our real-estate values, our seafood industry and our tourism economy for the benefit of a handful of large corporations that want to externalize their operating costs by dumping their toxins in our waters,” Young said in an interview. “No one wants this except for the polluters.”


Big-Ag pollution

Using bad science to manage our water - by Diane Roberts, an author, teaches at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
Special to the Star-Banner
May 15, 2016
You’d think that a state where they launch rockets into space, a state which houses the world’s most powerful superconducting magnets, a state with several perfectly good universities, would embrace science.
Or at least not be so thoroughly hostile to it.
But this is Rick Scott’s Florida, where there’s still legislative resistance to teaching evolution (“just a theory!”), the Agency for Healthcare Administration doesn’t understand how doctors determine pregnancy, and climate change is the impending disaster that Dares Not Speak Its Name.
Scott has fired or forced out members of Florida’s water management district boards who actually know something about hydrology, replacing them with hacks-cum-hatchetmen such as Pete Antonacci.
Political appointees at the Department of Environmental Prostitution, unencumbered by knowledge or the ability to give a damn, have gotten rid of many environmental experts.
Those dang botanists, biologists and wetlands ecologists got in the way of allowing Big Ag and Big Construction to make money. Indeed, DEP once tried to change the definition of wetlands to accommodate a rich developer. They only stopped because they got caught.
Under the circumstances, you will not be shocked to hear that the state is using bad science to decide on permits for water use.
A recent letter from the Florida Springs Council to DEP’s Drew Bartlett, Deputy Secretary for Ecological Restoration, asserts that the models used to assess groundwater pumping are inaccurate. They haven’t even been peer-reviewed.
See, most of Florida sits on karst, limestone full of holes large and small. But the state’s models assume that under the grass lies sand and gravel. Water (and pollution) will move a lot faster through karst than through sand.
It’s important that the models be accurate. The water management districts are supposed to use them to see how much water can be pumped out of the aquifer without damaging nearby springs, rivers, lakes and wetlands.
The models should also help track pollution — all that nitrate-laced cow poop from giant dairy operations, chemical gunk from paper mills, leaking septic tanks and construction run-off for which Florida is becoming ever more famous.
But the models are no good. Dr. Robert Knight of the Florida Springs Institute wrote recently: “Gross over-estimates of groundwater availability appears to be the norm.”
“For example,” he says, “the St. Johns River Water Management District’s best models estimate that Silver Springs flow has been reduced by about 5 percent by groundwater pumping while actual average flow reductions are greater than 30 percent.”
Only off by 25 percent. Guess that’s close enough for (Florida) government work.
It gets better — I mean, worse: the state knows that its models are rubbish. They’ve known it for some time, as the Tampa Bay Times reported in January 2013.
The state shrugs and says they “tweak” the models to account for karst – which is really nothing like sand or gravel.
Here’s how well that’s doing: The flow in many Florida springs has slowed or stopped altogether. The St. Johns and the Santa Fe Rivers (among others) are slimy with toxic green algae. Silver Springs and Wakulla Springs are dark with fertilizer pollution. In 2010, farmers in Plant City pumped so much water out of the ground, the aquifer dropped by 60 feet and 140 sinkholes opened up.
The “tweaked” model did not predict this. DEP has not done anything about it.
In 2007, Coca-Cola created a good model, one based on geological reality. The corporation eventually offered it to the state. For free. The state declined.
See, if DEP and the water management districts use correct scientific information, they might have to stop throwing permits like Mardi Gras beads to the drain-and-pave crowd or the barons of Big Ag, the great polluters of our age.
Good science might force DEP to stop pimping out Florida’s environment. And that would never do.
Alaso in:      Clay Today Online (May 18):    Bad science is not good for state's waterways


Early man

Ancient tools and bone found in Florida could help rewrite the story of the first Americans
Washington Post and Toronto Sun – by Sarah Kaplan
May 14, 2016
Thousands of years ago, some of the first Americans knelt beside a pond in what is now Florida. Clutching sharp stone knives, they hacked at the tusk of a slain mastodon, slicing meat away from the long bone. Then, with their work completed, they got up and walked away, leaving behind some tools and the stripped carcass.
Centuries passed. Sea levels rose. The ancient site was submerged by layers of sediment, and then by a rising river. Wave after wave of human inhabitants came and went: hunters, farmers, explorers, colonizers, retirees from New York. Until, in 2012, a team of archaeologists descended into the river's murky depths to dig up the artifacts below.
The ancient tools and bone are 14,550 years old, the archaeologists reported Friday in the journal Science Advances, making them the most ancient human remnants ever found in the southeastern United States. The researchers say the find is unequivocal proof that people were in Florida more than 1,000 years earlier than anyone had imagined - a discovery that could help rewrite the history of humans on the continent.
The new study comes as something of a vindication for the swampy site in the Florida panhandle, named Page-Ladson for the diver who discovered it and the family whose land it is on. In the 1980s, archaeologist James Dunbar and paleontologist David Webb dug up the knife-scarred mastodon tusk that had been left there and estimated it to be more than 14,400 years old.
But the anthropological community was quick to cast doubt on that date. For half a century it had been assumed that the Clovis people - skilled hunters famous for their distinctive fluted spear points - were the first to migrate from Asia and then down through Canada after the glaciers began to melt at the end of the last ice age, roughly 13,000 years ago.
The age given for the tusk didn't fit that paradigm, other scientists said - the ice-free corridor wouldn't even have been open yet. Something must have gone wrong with the dig or the radiocarbon dating, or perhaps the marks on the tusk were caused by something other than a human. Even Dunbar and Webb expressed some misgivings about their results.
"I always felt that Dunbar and Webb had been kind of maligned," said Mike Waters, the director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M and a principal investigator on the latest Page-Ladson report. "So when I was given the chance to go back there, I jumped at it."
This time, Waters and his colleagues were armed with dating techniques orders of magnitude more precise than their predecessors'. They also had an increasingly compelling case for "pre-Clovis" occupation of the Americas: genetic analyses showing that Native Americans' ancestors arrived here some 16,000 years ago and archaeological sites as far-flung as Oregon and Chile bearing evidence of human presence long before Clovis.
"What we tried to do at Page-Ladson is make a really strong case that would be unassailable ... that these artifacts are man-made and they're exactly where those people left them 14,550 years ago," Waters said.
The project involved years of painstaking excavation in the Aucilla River, a slow-moving, coffee-colored waterway shaded by cypress trees and inhabited by alligators. Underwater archaeologists dug up and dated layer after layer of sediment from the river bottom, sifting through each patch of dirt for evidence that humans had once been there.
They uncovered what co-author Tom Stafford calls a "chronological layer cake." More than 70 samples of ancient organic material taken from the site and radiocarbon dated at Stafford's lab showed that each layer was slightly older than the one before it. They prove that nothing had disturbed or mixed up the sediments as they were laid down over time.
By the time archaeologists reached the 14,500-year-old stratum, they began to find objects they say could only have come from humans: five sharpened rocks that were carried in from elsewhere in the region, and a double-sided stone knife, or biface, that would have been among the most advanced technologies of the time. The team then re-examined the mastodon tusk found by Webb and Dunbar (who was also part of this excavation) and determined that it was most likely butchered by humans.
"It's really exciting," said Jessi Halligan, an archaeologist at Florida State University and Waters's fellow principal investigator. "We have these unambiguous cultural artifacts found in an intact geological stratum that dates to more than 1,500 years older than Clovis. That's why it's a big deal. That's why we have to revisit our theory for how the Americas were colonized."
Donald Grayson, an anthropologist at the University of Washington who specializes in American prehistory, noted that there's some doubt about radiocarbon dates coming out of the Aucilla River. Ancient carbon dissolved in the water can contaminate samples, causing them to appear older than they really are.
Halligan countered that the dates coming out of Stafford's lab match what is known about environmental changes at the time. For example, a layer of rapidly deposited dirt was estimated to have been laid down between 14,500 and 14,000 calendar years before present - at exactly the time that rising sea levels would have caused a huge influx of sediment. If the samples were contaminated, that wouldn't be the case.
"These are the most precise ages we can get," she said.
The discovery also jibes with other pre-Clovis archaeological finds across the Americas, including the more than 14,300-year-old Paisley Caves site in south-central Oregon. Dennis Jenkins, an archaeologist for the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon who co-led excavations of the caves, said that report offered "yet another data point" in favor of an increasingly popular new theory about America's first humans.
"I believe that the majority of professional archaeologists have reached a point that, yes, they agree there was something here a minimum of 1000 years before Clovis ... and since the ice free corridor wasn't open yet, obviously there are a lot implications for getting people down from the interior of Alaska," Jenkins said.
It seems likely that the first Americans sailed down the Pacific coast, where pockets of land and seal-rich seas would have sustained them as they migrated south to places like Paisley Caves and Monte Verde in Chile. From there, they may have followed America's river systems to the other side of the continent, or trekked across Central America at its narrowest point and sailed up into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Page-Ladson find also challenges another piece of anthropology orthodoxy: Scientists have long-believed that the arrival of human hunters in the Americas precipitated a "blitzkrieg" extinction of the region's megafauna - mammoths, giant bison, ground sloths, and others - because Clovis points appear at exactly the moment in the archaeological record where giant mammal fossils vanish. But the discovery of tools and a butchered mastodon bone suggest that humans and these large animals co-existed for at least 1,500 years.
So, how did the Page-Ladson people get to Florida ?  And what happened when they arrived?
"We just don't know yet," Waters said. "But what we do know now is that there were people at Page-Ladson 14,550 years ago ... and I'm hoping that it will blow the fence sitters off on to the pre-Clovis side and maybe it will open the eyes of the Clovis First proponents."
"And then," he added, "we can start looking for answers to all those other questions."
Sinkhole discovery suggests humans were in Florida 14500 years ago          The Guardian
Artifacts point to earlier people in Florida      Press Herald
Remarkable evidence of ancient humans found under Florida river  EMTV Online


Protesters call out FPL over Turkey Point plant
May 14, 2016
MIAMI (WSVN) -- Demonstrators took to the streets of Miami to protest Florida Power and Light over the way it is operating the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant.
Environmental groups, climate justice advocates and concerned citizens came together on 42nd Avenue and Flagler Street, Saturday.
Event organizers said they're upset with how FPL is operating its nuclear plant in South Florida. "We are here today demonstrating against FPL for many reasons," said Robert Mandell of 350 South Florida, "one of which is the problems the Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant is causing."
The power giant has come under fire after reports that the plant's wastewater leaks are threatening South Florida's drinking water.
The company released a statement that reads in part: "FPL is one of the cleanest utilities in the country, thanks in part to our zero-emissions nuclear generation, and our low carbon profile is already cleaner today than the high target rate that the [Environmental Protection Agency] has set for Florida to meet by 2030."


DEP’s daily update on Lake Okeechobee
F-DEP Press Office
May 13, 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:
On May 12, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that flows from Lake Okeechobee will remain unchanged for the upcoming week. Click here for more information.
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 67.0 billion gallons of clean water into the northern portions of Everglades National Park, as of midnight on May 12, 2016.
For more information about the State of Florida's actions on Lake Okeechobee, see below.
 Lake Conditions:
Current Lake Level

13.78 feet

Historical Lake Level Average

13.32 feet

Total Inflow

1,640 cubic feet per second

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

5,530 cubic feet per second


4,580 cubic feet per second


-8,140 cubic feet per second


Environmental critics muddying waters with misinformation
Sun Sentinel - Malcolm S. "Bubba" Wade Jr., senior vice president of Corporate Strategy and Business Development for U.S. Sugar.
May 13, 2016
Throughout the year, Floridians have watched with concern as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee in an effort to reduce pressure on the Herbert Hoover Dike and also prepare for the rainy season.
As residents of South Florida and Southwest Florida, U.S. Sugar's employees share in the frustration over these releases, which is why we support additional federal funds to expedite the repairs of the Herbert Hoover Dike and finish projects in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan pipeline. While the releases have been frustrating, frustration doesn't justify the war of misinformation currently being waged by environmental critics. Floridians following this issue want and deserve the facts, and sadly, there's nothing factual about the claims being made by these extremists.
For starters, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers are not relief valves so the Everglades Agriculture Area could maintain optimum growing conditions. The agriculture area was flooded during the historic January rains with many acres of vegetable and planted sugar cane lost. The agriculture area has identical permits to every other agricultural interest in the South Florida Water Management District's 16 counties and is only allowed to discharge three quarters of an inch of flooding per day, while many urban coastal areas discharge far in excess of that. But these critics maintain that somehow farmers in the agriculture area should not have the same property rights as others in the SFWMD and flooding our property should be no big deal.
Critics have also complained that SFWMD was back pumping agriculture area water at the same time the Army Corps of Engineers was working to respond to rising lake water. Water is only pumped from the agriculture area to provide flood protection for Clewiston, Lake Harbor, Belle Glade, South Bay, Pahokee and Canal Point in extreme weather events, and for the last 5 years amounts to only 3 percent of the water flowing into the lake, 4 percent of the phosphorus and 6 percent of the nitrogen. The agriculture area water quality is no different than the other 97 percent that flows into the lake from other sources.
Some critics have also suggested that restoration plan modeling is flawed by 1 million acre-feet of additional storage to manage Lake Okeechobee. The SFWMD has already refuted this in a May 16 "Get the Facts" by stating their model is the most advanced in the world relying on data from 1965 to 1995 and later updated as projects are planned with up-to-date rainfall, topographic and land-use data.
Some have also falsely claimed that more storage south will restore coastal estuaries, rehydrate the Everglades, recharge the Biscayne aquifer and protect private and public well fields. It would be interesting to hear from these same people how that would work in 2016 when the Everglades was several feet over its regulatory schedule, wildlife and tree islands were threatened and the state and Federal agencies were instituting emergency procedures to get the water levels in the Everglades down. More storage in the agriculture area would have helped the Everglades crisis, not the Lake or estuaries.
We have a daunting task to educate the general public of the facts on how our water systems actually work, and the false science peddled by some environmentalists should not be taken seriously by responsible citizens trying to understand our complicated and interconnected water system. Readers are encouraged to visit to read more of the facts, including data from the South Florida Water Management District, studies from reputable, independent scientific organizations and scientists and engineers who are closely following the issue. Working together, we can continue to make Everglades restoration and improving water quality a priority. But any good faith effort to address these concerns starts with an acknowledgment of the facts.


GOP Turmoil, Climate Change and Fair Districts in Florida have Big Sugar scrambling
Huffington Post – by Alan Farago
May 13, 2016
Based on simplistic polls that rank “the environment” as a low order of voter concern, most pundits overlook the complex tangle of taxpayer v. special interests, regulatory capture, and water pollution that is profoundly irritating the political status quo in the United States. Take Florida, one of the key electoral states, for example.
Rainfalls in January deluged much of South Florida. January is supposed to be dry season, but Lake Okeechobee filled to dangerously high levels, four to five times the average. To maintain public safety downstream of the Lake’s dam, water managers began dumping billions of gallons a day of toxic water into rivers flowing to both Florida coasts. The extreme weather was a sign of climate change, and it arrived at an inopportune time for the Florida Republican party.
The nascent civic movement called Bullsugar had been quietly building when the historic rains propelled it forward with the public. Its message: buy Big Sugar lands south of the lake to solve the problem of excess toxics wrecking rivers, estuaries, the Everglades and Floridians’ quality of life.
Out of 450,000 acres of sugarcane grown south of the Lake, scientists believe about 100,000 acres is necessary to create water storage sufficient to the task of cleansing and limiting the massive pulses to both Florida coasts and to protect the Everglades and badly diminished Florida Bay.
For decades, corporate welfare embedded in the federal Farm Bill has enriched a few sugar barons, including the Fanjul’s Flo-Sun empire and U.S. Sugar Corporation owned by the charitable Mott Foundation based in Flint, Michigan. The guaranteed profits of this monoculture crop, sugarcane, ensure a political status quo in the state capitol, Tallahassee, that organizes like a medieval fortress. Lobbyists staff the ramparts and legislators huddle behind thick walls where public dissent cannot be heard. and SWFL Clean Water Movement seemingly rose from nowhere, like a Florida Arab Spring, organizing through the one driver of public opinion Big Sugar cannot control through advertising budgets: social media.
During February and March, leading up to the Florida GOP presidential primary, social media brimmed with video clips and photos of massive fish kills and scenes of devastating pollution, energizing a fury in Republican strongholds that doesn’t show up in public opinion polls because GOP strategists don’t poll for that, convinced environmental concerns are not Republican issues.
Also, Big Sugar, its allies in state government and the GOP believed the opposition to be defined by traditional environmental groups: Florida Audubon, the Everglades Foundation, and Sierra Club. They didn’t realize how every day, billions of gallons of toxic water were piling up behind a dam of public outrage.
A strong case can be made that the presidential hopes of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both favored sons of Big Sugar, were washed away by January’s historic rainfall. The subsequent pollution devastated primarily Republican districts. None of the highly paid consultants and lobbyists in the Republican echo chamber heard what was coming.
Big Sugar drives state water policy at the expense of taxpayers. Its influence in Tallahassee is not just legendary, it is atmospheric. A fraction of money generated through corporate welfare serving Big Sugar billionaires is used to fertilize liberally the political landscape at the county and state levels so that industry-favorable terms are always available.
That is one reason that special interests like Big Sugar fought so long and hard against Fair Districts; a legal battle waged for years that began winding up as historic rains began filling Lake Okeechobee in dry season. Republicans were forced to capitulate in state court and accept a state redistricting map essentially drawn by their opponents; the Florida League of Women Voters. The GOP spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and untold contributions by special interests to the state party, to maintain the status quo.
Although Fair Districts prevailed in time for the 2016 election cycle, Democrats had a small chance in November to take a majority in the state senate and the Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio, a Republican, in the upcoming election cycle.
Donald Trump changed all that.
Big Sugar abhors uncertainty. Its privileges through the Farm Bill and control of the Florida state legislature and Congress have never been seriously challenged. In 2015 Trump came perilously close to landing a blow against Big Sugar when he held up to the mirror the loss of jobs from Nabisco, the Oreo manufacturer, to Mexico.
Even Grover Norquist had railed against Big Sugar’s corporate welfare, but Trump hadn’t been briefed or perhaps he didn’t land the punch on purpose. The GOP’s Florida priorities kept Big Sugar’s protectionism in place and forced American jobs making cookies and candies to Mexico and Canada.
For USA Today, James Bovard wrote at the time, “... sugar policy is one of Uncle Sam’s most successful job destroyers. The Commerce Department estimated a decade ago that “for each one sugar growing and harvesting job saved through high U.S. sugar prices, nearly three confectionery manufacturing jobs are lost.” Since 1997, sugar policy has zapped more than 120,000 jobs in food manufacturing, according to a study by Agralytica, an economic consulting firm. More than 10 jobs have been lost in manufacturing for every remaining sugar grower in the United States.”
While Trump was railing against jobs lost to low-cost labor nations, the audience for Bullsugar was sprouting in Florida. Its videos and posts were being viewed by hundreds of thousands.
Bullsugar substantially contributed to Rubio’s failure in March to carry Florida in the March primary. Rubio didn’t just lose. He was defeated so badly by Trump, his political future is in doubt. At the time, Rubio refused to even consider how much his unqualified support for Big Sugar cost him.
“What’s frustrating for those of us who support Marco Rubio is that he has always tried to work outside the box, he’s never been an establishment guy,” said Nick Iarossi, a Tallahassee lobbyist and Rubio fundraiser to International Business Times. “There’s a frustration that Marco’s message has not resonated as well this time.” There was frustration because Marco Rubio wasn’t paying attention: Bullsugar.
Big Sugar was convinced it had winners in the Republican presidential primary; not one, but two sons of Florida. Jeb Bush had proven his mettle as governor, pushing a bill into law sought by Big Sugar in 2003 that was subsequently overturned by a federal court, resulting in a billion dollar charge to taxpayers. (Defying credulity, in 2014 Gov. Rick Scott proclaimed it his victory.) Rubio’s rise owes to his availability as an opponent in the 2010 Senate race against Charlie Crist, who had infuriated the powerful Fanjul billionaires when he struct a deal with U.S. Sugar Corporation to buy 187,000 acres of its lands.
Only a year ago, one of two Florida-based politicians had a better than even chance to deliver a GOP candidate for president who was in Big Sugar’s pocket. Both flamed out, thanks to Donald Trump.
For special interests like Big Sugar, who have so carefully cultivated the playing field in American politics, the outcome was shocking, and it got even worse.
Trump is not only a wild card, GOP insiders are deeply worried that his upcoming campaign for the November election could seriously damage the election chances to maintain majority control in the US Senate and legislatures in states like Florida. For Big Sugar, that would be a catastrophic outcome.
For all these reasons — Donald Trump, climate change and Fair Districts — Big Sugar has launched an unprecedented media campaign against Bullsugar and the demands that the state and federal government do the unprecedented: take land out of sugar production and use it to the benefit of taxpayers who have been choking on the inequities of state water policies.
In Republican strongholds like Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie County’s — where the ravages of pollution on real estate values and quality of life continue to take a very serious toll — Big Sugar is carpet bombing its messages through daily full page newspaper ads and nightly advertisements on television news. It is reaching to the Florida Keys, where local officials are facing a public furious with the decimation of water quality and algae blooms.
Big Sugar has also launched personal attacks against its opponents through surrogates it has cultivated to appear as though unconnected to its cash flows and it has rallied the public relations of state government agencies like the South Florida Water Management to its cause. These are predictable responses based on Big Sugar’s primary driver: to make as much money as circumstances will provide until conditions change.
At some point in time Big Sugar will decide that the moment of its maximum political leverage has arrived and, with it, the opportunity to extract maximum value for its vast acreage that hold the key to solving the state’s water woes. That moment could be just around the bend, but it won’t come without Big Sugar testing the durability of its aging and predictable strategies to keep Florida in its grip.


Senate OKs $100M to Everglades restoration effort – by Ledyard King
May 13, 2016
WASHINGTON - Environmental projects in Florida got a significant boost from the Senate this week, with votes approving more than $100 million for Everglades restoration along with additional recovery money for the Indian River Lagoon and other distressed estuaries.
Lawmakers voted 90-8 on Thursday to pass $37.5 billion Energy and Water Appropriations bill that includes roughly $6 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A similar bill is expected to reach the House floor in the coming weeks.
Congress can’t explicitly tell the agency where to spend the money. It would be up to the Corps to allocate the money to individual projects after Congress approves the spending.
But the agency lists Everglades projects among its top priorities for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1.
The $37.5 billion spending bill includes $106 million for the South Florida Ecosystem, the multi-year program to restore the Everglades, partly by redirecting water flow from Lake Okeechobee south instead of east and west. Of that amount, $75 million would be allocated for projects under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, including $59.5 million to continue work on the Indian River Lagoon.
The bulk of that – $53.3 million – would be used to continue building the C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area in western Martin County. The reservoir is designed to store and treat nutrient-laden water drawn from farmland so it doesn’t pollute the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
There’s also $500,000 for construction oversight of the C-43 canal, which is designed to reduce water flows from the lake that carry farm-related nutrients into the Caloosahatchee River and befoul beaches in Southwest Florida.
The Corps of Engineers also plans to spend nearly $5 million continuing work restoring natural water flow across the Picayune Strand, an 85-square mile swath in western Collier County that was drained in the early 1960s in anticipation of extensive residential development.
The agency also says it wants to spend about $50 million to fix the decades-old Herbert Hoover Dike, a 143-mile earthen dam surrounding Lake Okeechobee that’s designed to reduce flooding from high lake levels but is increasingly prone to seepage.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the bill is good news for Florida.
“It provides needed funding for several key Florida projects, such as critical Everglades restoration, the Herbert Hoover Dike and the operation and maintenance of our harbors and waterways,” he said in a statement. “This is the first time in several years the Senate has advanced a stand-alone Energy and Water Appropriations bill, and as these projects are incredibly important to the state of Florida.”
The Indian River Lagoon also could receive some much-needed relief from a bill the Senate also passed Thursday night. The measure, whose chief sponsors included Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, now heads to President Obama for his signature.
The bill would authorize $26.5 million to help the nation’s 28 estuaries, and would provide extra funding to those in the worst shape. That would probably apply to Indian River Lagoon, a $3.7 billion annual economic engine that’s beset by algae blooms and suffered its worst fish kill two months ago.
Scientists say low levels of dissolved oxygen suffocated thousands of fish. More than 30 species died in the kill-off. The same scientists believe the recent “brown tide” of algae blooming in the lagoon is responsible for the low oxygen levels.
“This common-sense plan will help provide critical funding for our nation’s estuaries, and make available additional funding to estuaries that are experiencing urgent and challenging ecological problems, including our own Indian River Lagoon,” Posey said.
The bill only reauthorizes the program. Congress still has to approve the money for it.
Related:           US Senate passes bills with money to help Everglades, Indian River ...        TCPalm-May 14, 2016


Dike shape

‘Send the water south’ can be more than a slogan
Palm Beach Post - Editorial
May 13, 2016
For nearly a year, it’s been a rallying cry from Tallahassee to Stuart to Naples: “Send the water South!”
It’s a good slogan. When it comes to restoring Florida’s famed “River of Grass” — the Everglades — there’s nothing quite as attractive as the idea of parking millions of acre-feet of water to the south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee river estuaries. Environmental groups, business interests and water managers agree that it is the “natural” flow of things.
But that’s pretty much where the agreement seems to end. And where the frustrations for Florida residents and voters begin.
This is also where those residents and voters expect their government leaders to step in and finally break the logjam on the vital issue of water flows and water storage, which has become so much background noise for so many — even here in Palm Beach County, where the potential threat to land and lives is most apparent.
A break in the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, for example, would be devastating not only to the residential and business communities on its perimeter but as far east as Wellington. This is nothing new. Yet, efforts to reinforce and repair the dike are way behind schedule.
U.S. Sugar Corp., one of the region’s biggest water users, sees dike improvements as a top priority for helping stop the discharges. It has a point. Building up the dike and raising the allowed lake level to 18 feet would diminish the need to dump billions of gallons of fresh water into the rivers to reduce pressure on the dike.
But the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has about $1 billion more in repairs scheduled over the next decade, doesn’t want to raise the level higher than the current 16.5-foot maximum. Moreover, environmentalists add that raising the level would adversely affect the lake’s own ecology. U.S. Sugar is skeptical of that assertion.
Farming interests and the South Florida Water Management District have been saying lately that instead of sending the water south, the state and federal governments should first finish 43 restoration projects, many of them north of Lake O, already on the books. We agree those should be completed. The SFWMD announcement Thursday that it is taking control of turning the Ten Mile Creek Water Preserve Area into a “water storage and water quality project” is good news in that regard. It will hold 2,500 acre-feet of water when it is completed in June 2017.
Algal blooms, like this one in the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers, contain bacteria the release a toxin that have been found to damage brain nerve cells. (Handout)
That project, however, was authorized by Congress in 1996. This year, two decades later, another historically wet dry season forced billions of gallons daily in Lake O runoff into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and caused a second environmental catastrophe in four years. On Wednesday came word of a potentially toxic blue-green algae bloom stretching over several square miles in southern Lake O.
U.S. Sugar is correct when it told the The Post Editorial Board recently that buying land is likely not a silver bullet. But environmentalists also are correct that the state exercising its option on 154,000 of the company’s acres south of Lake O for water storage will help the situation — sooner rather than later.
There is land available. And contrary to Sen. Marco Rubio’s statement to reporters last month, money is available. Florida voters made sure of that by passing Amendment 1 in 2014, which provides some $700 million a year in funding.
Water managers should endeavor to finish incomplete projects. They should also stop looking at “send the water south” as a problem, and instead as part of the solution.
A break in the Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee, for example, could be devastating as far east as Wellington.


Florida agrees to pay another $1.5 million for ranch land owned by Scott appointee for panther habitat
Naples Daily News - by Greg Stanley
May 12, 2016
The state of Florida will move forward with plans to preserve about 2.5 square miles of prime panther habitat and ranch land in eastern Collier County even without federal help.
Gov. Rick Scott and the rest of the cabinet approved a $3.75 million deal Tuesday to buy a conservation easement on 1,617 acres of JB Ranch near Immokalee, south of Oil Well Road and east of State Road 29. The U.S. Department of Agriculture had planned to pay $1.5 million of the cost when the deal was first negotiated in September, but backed out before closing. The state will pick up the entire cost.
JB Ranch is owned and operated by Liesa Priddy, who was appointed by Scott to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2012 and is now its vice-chair. The 9,300-acre ranch has been in the Priddy family for generations. Two state-funded appraisals valued the easement land at between $4.2 million and $4.4 million.
The easement will essentially freeze that corner of the working cattle ranch forever. Owners will be able to keep using it as a ranch, but won't be able to develop it any further.
The purchase was applauded by local conservationists, who said such easements have become a key tool to keep essential habitat for panthers and other endangered species on private land.
"Cattle ranches are very compatible to panther habitat," said Brad Cornell of the Audubon Society of the Western Everglades. "The challenge is that the cats eat young calves, so ranchers aren't always too keen on having them around. But we need to keep these ranches, rather than convert them to more intensive row crops or houses or mines."
The land deal does not include mineral rights beneath the surface, meaning oil under the easement could be drilled horizontally from neighboring properties.
But the easement does the most important thing: protect the surface of the land from development, said Nancy Payton of the Florida Wildlife Federation.
"The habitat value of this land is so important," Payton said. "If somebody wants to drill that would have to go through a review process and we can deal with that if and when it ever pops up. This is about ensuring that there won't be an expansion of surface mining or more intensive agriculture or some sort of recreational use like a golf course."
The land is just north of the Big Cypress National Preserve and less than 2 miles from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. The Okaloacoochee Slough travels through its eastern half.
"I've walked the ranch and it's been managed well," Payton said. "It's heavily used by panthers and it's loaded with deer and turkey and other native wildlife. It's quite an impressive ranch."


Selling land

Keep our public lands in public hands
Tallahassee Democrat – by Jennifer Rubiello, state director of Environment Florida, and Marybeth Dunn, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility
May 12, 2016
This year is the centennial of the National Park Service – the perfect time to get out and appreciate the great outdoors!
Our public parks – from Dry Tortugas National Park in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico to iconic beauties like the Grand Canyon and the Everglades – are ideal places for our families to experience nature and the health benefits of being outside.
Time spent in a park is a great reprieve from the hustle and bustle. Beyond the physical exercise, a University of Michigan study showed that group nature walks help ease depression, while a study published in Psychological Science noted that being outdoors can improve focus.
Spending time around nature is especially important for kids. Today’s children spend just minutes a day playing outdoors, and nearly seven hours in front of a screen. Getting kids out into nature can make a huge difference for our kids’ health. More outdoor exposure can lower stress levels, protect against problems like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity and reduce symptoms of ADHD.
Public parks also provide kids in low income communities, already at higher risks for health problems, access to green spaces and safe play areas. Studies from the National Institute of Health suggest that green public settings encourage social interaction among both youth and adults, which may increase social trust, decrease crime and increase perceptions of community safety.
But as important as our parks are for our health and enjoyment, too many of them are threatened by underfunding, proposed development and even efforts by a few in Congress to sell them off to the highest bidder. In 2015, the Bureau of Land Management finalized weak new rules for drilling and fracking on our public lands. Fracking, an inherently dangerous industrial process, has been shown in hundreds of studies to be harmful to our environment, public health and safety.
Here in Florida, national parks like the Everglades and Dry Tortugas are suffering from a backlog of more than $215 million of needed repairs. Worse, the oil and gas industry has successfully proposed to conduct oil exploration inside Big Cypress National Preserve.
To protect and maintain these great spaces, we need everybody — from the public to our mayors, governor and U.S. Senators — to speak out in support of public lands that belong to all of us. Together we can make sure these places are just as special 100 years from now as they are today.


Tracking funding of Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative
FOX35orlando - by: Mike Synan
May 12 2016
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Remember in March, when hundreds of thousands of dead fish starting floating in the Indian River Lagoon ? Louis Gaudet sure does. The founder of Take Back Our Water is a boat captain and took FOX 35 out on the river to show us the conditions just two months later.
"I haven't fished personally in a month now. I find it too depressing to go out honestly," he said. When asked if he would eat the fish in the river, Gaudet replied, "No," and when asked if he would get in the water, he said, "No, not with any sort of open cut, wound, anything like that. Definitely not."
At 2014, environmentalists claimed it was the best way to save our land and water without raising taxes.  Two years into that program, we are taking a look at how that money is being spent, and why with so much money available for water cleaning are the fish still dying?
State Senator Darren Soto, D-Orlando, says lawmakers should have known this was coming.  "It's a catastrophe, and its a sign of over development. a sign of the vetoes for the dredging that we tried to get through this year for the Indian River Lagoon.  It's also a sign that Amendment 1 funds aren't being put to the use that the people intended."
Amendment 1 forces lawmakers to spend one third of all revenue generated from "doc stamps," the taxes people pay on real estate transactions, to protect the environment. That definition is pretty broad though. Here is the actual language used in the ballot summary:
"Funds the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to acquire, restore, improve, and manage conservation lands including wetlands and forests; fish and wildlife habitat; lands protecting water resources and drinking water sources, including the Everglades, and the water quality of rivers, lakes, and streams; beaches and shores; outdoor recreational lands; working farms and ranches; and historic or geologic sites, by dedicating 33 percent of net revenues from the existing excise tax on documents for 20 years."
If you thought the $740 million of money this year was going to be used to strictly buy conservation lands, you will be surprised.  State Representative Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, says they went to the Florida Supreme Court to clarify.   "Now if somebody misinterprets what was in Amendment 1, I would encourage them to read the amendment or read what was in the Supreme Court opinion. I think it will become very clear to them."
So in this latest fiscal year, $162 million -- more than 20 percent of the money collected for the Fund --  will go to pay the salaries of employees at the Department of Environmental Protection, Forestry, and Fish and Wildlife. These are not new positions. They are jobs that used to be paid from General Revenue tax funds.
Sen. Soto feels like Republicans hoodwinked the public.  "Those salaries represent a misuse of from the spirit of Amendment 1." 
Only about 10 percent of Amendment One money goes to buy new land.  Rep.  Brodeur says Florida owns a higher percentage of its land already than any other state in the South at about 27 percent, and buying large amounts more is not the way to go.
"We felt as though the money was  better spent  to make sure we improved maintained and restored the lands that we currently have."
The state does spend millions on water projects, but they also do things like instruct farmers on how to use less water with Amendment 1 money.  State statute requires all state agencies to send a certain percentage of their overall budget up to Tallahassee for human resources management. 
When we told Gaudet that millions in Amendment 1 money went to Tallahassee, so employees from the Division of Forestry could be managed while his beloved river ecosystem was in trouble, he got angry.  "It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. I mean, this state is made on its waterways... we are watching all the major waterways of our state go under, and for them to either not see it or not care, is just very frustrating."
Millions have been spent on programs to restore the water flows in springs, and some has even been spent on Indian River dredging, but not enough to prevent a fish kill. The question is are lawmakers doing what the people want ?


A1 location

A1 reservoir location

Hold off on land purchases
News-Journal Online Daytona Beach - by Gary Ritter, Assistant Director of Government & Community Affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation
May 10, 2016
“Buy the land, send the water south” has become a rallying cry for Florida activists looking to return the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. This mantra tells me history has been forgotten and common sense ignored.
My fear is this mindset is tied to buying more land that would put rural Florida in the crosshairs of the coastal environmental extremists. The result could be a huge and unnecessary expense for Florida’s taxpayers.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has purchased more than 200,000 acres of land for conservation and restoration since 2000 and now owns over 750,000 acres of conservation lands in South Florida. Other state agencies own an additional million acres. When combined with the vast federal ownership of lands in South Florida, there are now over 5.5 million acres of conservation lands in public ownership within the boundaries of SFWMD.
Let’s maximize the use of these lands to accomplish our restoration and preservation efforts. Partnerships with the agricultural community are a good way to implement conservation programs on public lands. Recent science-based data shows that these programs are a success.
In 2013, the state and federal government analyzed how much additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee was feasible and determined that adding a 15,000-acre shallow reservoir to Florida’s existing 15,000-acre shallow reservoir was all that was needed. If the science shows a need to build additional storage in the future, the state can simply build deeper reservoirs on these 30,000 acres that are already in the right location.
These two sites are known as the A1 and A2 reservoirs. They are integral pieces of the overall Everglades restoration plan and are designed to be deepened if and when the science determines that additional storage is needed.
At a recent conference in Fort Myers, I listened to Ernie Marks of the SFWMD talk about the many state and federal projects ready for construction. These projects will change our landscape for years to come, ultimately restoring and preserving what we have for our children while maintaining economic sustainability in the region.
History tells us that it took nearly three decades to build the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control system. Now that Florida has almost eight times as many people, it will likely take us longer to build structures given the constraints that come with an increasing population and endangered species.
We need to spend our money wisely to implement this massive restoration project. With the science and a legislative mandate in place, we should not deviate from Gov. Rick Scott’s 20-year plan to build more treatment wetlands and water storage capacity to ensure that water moves south into Everglades National Park. This means completing the projects already on the books, not buying more land.
Simply put, “sending the water south” is a complete distraction. Both the Legislature and Congress have already invested billions of dollars into the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which does not include buying or developing land south of the lake. The next phase of CERP must focus on storing and cleaning the water where it enters Lake Okeechobee.
Let’s take advantage of Legacy Florida by designing and constructing these projects. This year, in a move that was widely celebrated by environmentalists, Florida increased its commitment by $200 million more per year through Legacy Florida to finish critical projects. Now the federal government needs to do its part by helping to more quickly fund the projects that are already in the pipeline.
We need science — not bumper sticker slogans — to guide us. The state needs to maximize the use of the land it has before purchasing more. If the state completes the mission of CERP that was started decades ago, we will finally have the meaningful solutions we need to fully restore the Everglades and manage water in a smarter way.


UF/IFAS Soil and Water Sciences Chair earns National Wetlands Award
May 11, 2016
GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- For his 40 years of groundbreaking work on nutrient cycling in wetlands aquatic systems, the chairman of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences soil and water sciences department has been named a winner of the National Wetlands Award.
Professor K. Ramesh Reddy is among five recipients of this year’s National Wetlands Awards, given by the Environmental Law Institute. Now in its 27th year, the program has recognized nearly 200 people from across the country for their exceptional and innovative contributions to wetlands conservation. The award recipients will be honored in Washington, D.C., during American Wetlands Month. The award ceremony is on May 11.
“As we walk through a wetland, we all admire beautiful plants, flowers, birds and other wildlife, and flowing water, but we rarely think about the ‘living soil’ under our feet,” Reddy said. “The chemical and biological processes in the soil essentially control the majority of functions and ecosystem services that provide wetlands. This is similar to the ‘brain’ orchestrating the many functions of human body.
“My passion for wetlands was influenced by my early work on rice paddies when I pursued the goal of sustainable food production through maximizing fertilizer use efficiency,” he said. “The biological and chemical processes I studied in these paddy soils formed the foundation of my understanding of complex hidden internal processes (now called biogeochemistry) in wetland soils.”
The recipients of the 2016 Awards are on the forefront of protecting wetland resources in the face of climate change and development, ELI President Scott Fulton said in a news release distributed by the organization.
“Through their dedication and achievements, they inspire wetlands protection across the country and worldwide,” Fulton said.
For more than 40 years, Reddy “has led groundbreaking research on the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients in natural and managed wetland and aquatic ecosystems, particularly in the Florida Everglades,” according to material from the ELI. “He is a renowned biogeochemist, mentor and leader in wetland science. He promoted an integrated approach to wetland science that included biogeochemistry in research and education.”
Reddy also has co-authored a book, “Biogeochemistry of Wetlands: Science and Applications,” and he has written more than 350 peer-reviewed papers. Reddy has served on the National Research Council Committee of the National Academy of Sciences for an independent review of the Everglades Restoration and he currently serves on the U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board’s Ecological Processes and Effects Committee.
The National Wetlands Awards are presented annually to people who have excelled in wetlands protection, restoration and education. The program is administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the Federal Highway Administration.
The winners selected by a committee of 12 to 18 wetlands experts from around the country, including representatives from each federal supporting agency, members of the conservation and business communities and representatives from state and local government.


U.S. Sugar facts ?
Pine Island Eagle - To the editor by Bob Skribiski, St. James City, FL
May 11, 2016
I just read Judy Sanchez's Guest Opinion in the May 4, 2016, Pine Island Eagle and I have a few comments.
She says that the U.S. Sugar Farmers, and others in the EAA, have played a significant role in ensuring that water leaving their farms is cleaner than when it enters. I note that she does not produce any scientific data to support that. It could be that the water entering is very dirty, and the water leaving is not quite so dirty. She has a standing invitation to come to St. James City and taste (not drink) the water in the local canals and Pine Island Sound. If it is good, clean sea water then it should only taste salty.
She states that the phosphorous levels have been reduced over the past two decades. Hmmm. It makes me wonder if the phosphorous mining rate has declined. Also, the past two decades have been some of the driest years in South Florida in recent history. Hmmmm.
I wonder about the 215,000 acres that she cites as providing a nurturing protected habitat ... As I understand it, there are over 400,000 acres under sugar production. If U.S. Sugar is such a good steward of the environment, then why are so many environmental groups concerned over the lack of clean fresh water in the Everglades, and concerned over the loss of wildlife populations? Can that many groups all be wrong ?
I wonder if the "more than $400 million in restoring and preserving ..." is really the amount spent on making sure the sugar fields do not flood in the rainy season. Right now the solution to preventing that sort of flooding is to pump the water into Lake Okeechobee - and guess where the excess water goes ...?  Originally, neither river was a natural connection to Lake Okeechobee; the connections were made by man.
As I understand it, the 27,000 acres sold to the South Florida Water Management District (all Board Members appointed by our Governor) is a mere pittance of what is being requested to be purchased with the Amendment 1 funds approved by 75 percent of Florida voters two years ago. The South Florida Water Management District often is the only organization that opposes many local attempts to correct local water polluting occurrences. As a closing comment, I wonder if it is time to send the sugar cane growing business back to Cuba. This would solve many concerns over the sugar growing negative effects on South Florida environment. In addition, it would provide jobs to many Cubans who desperately need it. If it were to happen, perhaps it would help push Cuba off Socialism and toward Capitalism. The downside of such a proposal, as I see it, might be that U.S. Sugar would sell the former farm land to developers and who knows what that might do to the Everglades. If they were such good stewards of the environment they might consider donating the former sugar land to an organization that would use it to restore and preserve the full, original size of the Everglades. After all, the Everglades is one of our National Parks.


Water quality continues to improve
Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander – by Meghan McCoy
May 11, 2016
The clarity of the waters surrounding Sanibel Island continue to see improvements as less flow is released from Lake Okeechobee.
James Evans, director of natural resources, said as of Monday, May 2, the elevation of Lake Okeechobee was 14.15 feet, dropping approximately .93 feet during the past month. He said as long as the dry conditions persist, the lake should be at 13 1/2 feet by June 1, which should put them in a good position going into the rainy season.
"There's different weather patterns that are starting to form. The water managers are really focusing on a potential strengthening La Nina pattern and that could mean a drier wet season," Evans said. "Obviously as we move into the raining season with a drier pattern, there could be some concerns about water supply. It's the balance between getting water out of the lake, but not too much water to make sure we have water for dry seasons flows next fall and winter and having water supply for the Everglades agricultural area and other parts of the system."
Because of the drier conditions in April, the Corps have been steadily cutting back on the release of Lake Okeechobee. On April 22, they reduced the pulse release from 3,000 to 2,500 CFS. On April 29, further reductions were made from 2,500 to 2,000 CFS.
"If you have noticed driving across the causeway the water is getting quite clear out there and along our gulf beaches are really starting to clear up," Evans said, which is great.
He said although the target flows are around 2,000 CFS, they are seeing slightly higher average flows. Evans said the flows are closer to 2,700 CFS, so it is surprising that the water is as clear as it is out in the bay right now.
He said about 90 percent of the water they are receiving right now is coming from the lake because there is no rainfall in the watershed. With the improved water clarity, he said they are seeing better salinity, which in turn is helping the oyster beds and sea grass.
Mayor Kevin Ruane said they have divided responsibilities among the council to talk about water quality. He said the "white paper" talks about what they would like and what is necessary, all science based and adopted by Florida entities.
Vice Mayor Mick Denham said one of the misunderstandings is that even if they could completely stop the flows from Lake Okeechobee coming down the Caloosahatchee they would still get some issues with water in the estuaries that they do not want. He said they get a good amount of water from the Caloosahatchee Basin when there is a rain event.
"If we were to stop flows from Lake Okeechobee we would still get flows from the Caloosahatchee Basin. A flow way south is part of the solution. I think calling the flow way south is an incorrect statement. It really should be described as a storage treatment and convenance system," he said. "That would be part of the solution, but not the complete solution."
Ruane said their job is to be advocates and educate people.
A revised draft of the "white paper" will be put on the agenda for consideration in June.


Florida ranchers keep adding acres to conservation easements
Southeast Farm Press - Farm Press Staff
May 10, 2016
Through conservation easements, the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program partners with Florida farmers and ranchers to preserve agricultural operations and their environmental benefit.
Recently, more than 3,700 acres of agricultural land in Osceola County was included in the program, which allows the land and agriculture operations to continue to contribute to Florida’s economy.
The perpetual conservation easements will preserve 528 acres of the Camp Lonesome ranch and 3,245 acres of Adams Ranch, both in Osceola County. The Adams Ranch conservation easement is the largest single easement in the program’s history and increases the total land preserved by the program to 18,378 acres.
“By partnering with Florida’s farmers and ranchers, we can preserve these invaluable pieces of our rural economy and our world-renowned ecosystem for future generations,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.
Adams Ranch was founded in 1937 and is a fourth-generation cattle business. The ranch is within the South Florida Water Management District's Northern Everglades & Estuaries Protection Program area and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. The property encompasses a large area of native “dry prairie” range and wetland marshes, as well as improved rangelands. Additionally, Adams Ranch was the winner of the Sustainable Rancher Award in 2014, as well as the Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award and the Landowner of the Year Award
Camp Lonesome is a cow-calf operation located in central Osceola County. The ranch is also within the South Florida Water Management District's Northern Everglades & Estuaries Protection Program area and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. This property is comprised of managed native flatwoods and palmetto dry prairie, as well as large cypress-dominated swamp and smaller marshes. The native range and pastures are well managed with routine use of prescribed fire, which has produced rich groundcover that supports a diverse mix of rare species, including: gopher frog, Florida grasshopper sparrow, hooded pitcher plant, and burrowing owls.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services created the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program in 2001 and since acquired 24 perpetual easements.


FPL’s parent company should issue annual reports on sea-level rise
Miami Herald – by Alan Farago, President of Friends of the Everglades

- Request was made as S. Florida faces doomsday scenarios due to global warming
- FPL is fighting the proposal
- Our economy is dependent on real-estate development on the shoreline

May 10, 2016
As the devastating facts of climate change pile up — severe droughts, extreme flooding, species migration through warming and rising oceans — the question arises: What will change corporate behavior?
My wife and I decided we needed to act. This year, we filed a shareholder proposal to our power company, NextEra Energy, which owns Florida Power & Light. Our proposal deals with the inevitable risks from sea-level rise.
Our shareholder proposal is simple. We are asking that the company issue annual reports to shareholders on the risk from sea-level rise, under a range of scenarios, according to the best available science. By issuing the report to shareholders, the public and government officials will also be able to review the information. Although the resolution we have proposed is nonbinding, it sends a clear signal: NextEra needs to tell shareholders what it knows about the risk from sea-level rise.
As residents of Miami, our city is often cited among the world’s most vulnerable areas to rising seas. We already are seeing the results: hotter weather, extreme rainfall events and high tides that have pushed some municipalities, like Miami Beach, to make $500 million in sewer improvements. In Miami-Dade County alone, fortifying infrastructure is a multibillion-dollar concern, yet the supplier of our electricity is silent.
Florida Power & Light is NextEra’s largest subsidiary. It provides electricity for 4.8 million ratepayers along Florida’s east coast, which makes the company and its shareholders extraordinarily vulnerable to the financial disruptions of climate change. The United Nations climate panel projects three feet of sea-level rise; however, scientists behind a new study published in the journal Nature conclude that levels could actually rise almost twice as much as previously predicted by the end of this century.
Here, the economy is largely dependent on real estate development at the shoreline. Most of South Florida is scarcely a few feet above sea level and is home to one of the nation’s oldest nuclear facilities: Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point.
At the same time, Florida Power & Light is waging an extraordinarily costly effort to win the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of two new nuclear plants next to the aging ones at Turkey Point.
Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, the company opposes our proposal. It first tried to block its approval when the Securities and Exchange Commission was reviewing our submission. Now, NextEra claims that shareholders do not need to be concerned with the rising sea and is calling the proposal a “waste of time and money.”
Management seems to be saying: We like making our money the old-fashioned way. We’ll change, when the circumstances warrant. By that time, it will be too late for many of us who live in Florida. And shareholders across the country will also suffer the consequences.
NextEra executives may be able to afford to pick up and leave for higher ground, but what happens to the rest of us ?

Flow south

There is no way but the ‘flow way’ — that’s why I support land-buying legislation - by Crystal Lucas, a Democratic candidate for the District 83 seat in the Florida House of Representatives
May 10, 2016
March 18 marked a positive shift of legislative action for those advocating for the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers: The introduction of the Everglades Land Acquisition Act.
House Resolution 4793, proposed by U.S. Rep. Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, would set aside $500 million from the U.S. Department of the Interior to buy land in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee. The money would be used after the appropriate locations are designated.
Buying land south of the lake is the answer to facilitate the natural, historic flow of water from Lake Okeechobee south into the Everglades and the Florida Bay. The acreage would not only act as a natural filtration system, but it also would provide crucial relief to surrounding watersheds that have been endlessly plagued by toxic discharges.
As the rainy season approaches, the issue of storing, moving and cleaning water becomes even more critical. The science of man-made filtration marshes has been demonstrated by the reduced levels of phosphorus and nitrogen that are in the water leaving these systems and flowing south already. We need to increase the amount of natural filter marshes and also exponentially increase the amount of water entering the Everglades to stop the damage to our estuaries. There is no other answer or any quick fix.
The bottom line is that a distinguished solution exists. Seventy-five percent of Floridians voted on the passage of Amendment 1, which explicitly authorized the purchase of land in the EAA south of the lake. So far, these funds — promised for the conservation and restoration efforts of what can only be described as the lifeblood of Florida — have been hijacked and spent in ways that voters never intended.
The problem is understood. The money is accessible. The obstruction to the remedy lies in an exceedingly disappointing lack of political will.
This is not, and never should be treated as a party-line issue. The economic and recreational sustainability of communities, such as Martin County on Florida's east coast and Lee County on the west coast, depend on the combined support of all concerned citizens. The elected officials of this state have a compulsory duty to act as the voice for the residents that need representation. Action needs to be taken to protect their communities and their economies.
As a concerned resident of Florida, as a state representative hopeful and as the mother of an 8-year-old who I plan to raise in and around these waters, I stand wholly and completely with Rep. Clawson by endorsing and supporting the land-purchasing legislation. Convincing the Army Corps of Engineers to authorize more money to be spent on land for water storage will require support and pressure from all directions and all party lines.
I implore every politician, across the aisle and regardless of office held, to join the fight if we hope to safeguard this unique and irreplaceable waterway for future generations.
Recreating a natural flow way saves the Florida Bay and the Everglades. Sending water south, clean and direct, is the only answer to the collapsing estuaries of the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River.


Don't frack !

Is it safe to frack in Florida ?
Newsweek - by Ray Russo, Associate Professor of geophysics, and Elizabeth Screaton, Professor of geology at the University of Florida
May 9, 2016
Florida is on the front lines of a debate over the spread of the controversial drilling technique hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which raises a crucial question: Are the state’s unique geology and hydrology safe for expanded oil and gas drilling?
Over the past several months, a number of counties and cities in Florida have banned fracking over environmental concerns. Earlier this year, the state Legislature considered but did not pass a bill to regulate fracking at the state level, which would have superseded local bans.
So far, there has been at least one exploratory well in Florida using fracking, but the practice is not widespread. However, the question of how and whether to allow fracking is likely to come back up again as early as next year.
How would fracking be done in Florida, and what environmental and geologic questions are worth considering? A close look at the particular conditions of the Florida Peninsula reveals a number of unresolved areas of concern.
Acid Fracturing
In some respects, Florida is an unlikely site for this battle. Florida ranks 31st of the 50 states in energy production. The state currently has two regions with conventional hydrocarbon production—the Sunniland trend in South Florida and the western Panhandle. Hydrocarbons are stored within carbonate rocks, which are composed of limestone and dolostone in South Florida and carbonates and sand in the Panhandle.
Potential hydrocarbon reservoir rocks in Florida are distinct from shales—the layers of sedimentary rock in other parts of the U.S. where fracking has led to a drilling boom in natural gas and oil. The rock under Florida generally has a higher permeability, making it easier for liquids to move through it.
A fracas ensued when one company in 2013 tested fracking before receiving a permit in Florida, which resulted in a cease-and-desist order from the Department of Environmental Protection.
The company used a technique known as acid fracturing, which is substantially different than what’s more commonly practiced elsewhere in the U.S. In this method, which is suitable only for carbonate reservoirs, acidic water is injected at high pressure into a well to dissolve the rock. Because carbonate rocks are highly soluble, acids can increase pore size and permeability, allowing oil or gas to flow.
What We Know
Elsewhere in the U.S., fracking has gained attention due to its association with two hazards: earthquakes and groundwater contamination.
Fracking is a well stimulation technique that entails injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into oil and natural gas wells. The fracking fluid pressure breaks up the rocks hosting the oil and gas, increasing their permeability and allowing the oil, gas, natural brine in the rock (called produced waters) and fracking fluid to migrate quickly to the surface. The oil and gas make their way to market, and the fracking fluids are often recovered and reused.
However, the briny produced waters can pose a problem. They are too laden with dissolved salts to release on the surface, where they would constitute a major pollutant. So these brines are generally reinjected into the earth in very deep wells called injection wells.
A growing body of research based on high-quality seismic data collected at surface sites around these injection wells clearly shows that voluminous wastewater injection affects seismicity.
Earthquakes in Oklahoma and several other pockets of the mid-continent U.S.—including two in Oklahoma with magnitudes greater than 5 since 2011—have been associated with high-volume deep-well injection of wastewater, a byproduct of oil and gas production.
An additional problem associated with oil and gas production is the potential for contamination of drinking-water and irrigation aquifers by either fracking fluids or produced wastewaters. Done correctly, production wells can be constructed and cemented to avoid the migration of fluids into the well.
However, natural gas and chemicals used in fracking have been found in the aquifers of the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, and poor drilling practices have been blamed for methane entering aquifers. Surface operations associated with drilling may also contribute to contamination.
As a result of the experiences in other states, the possibility of fracking in Florida has met strong opposition in some quarters.
What We Still Don’t Know
What would the environmental impact of fracking be in Florida?
At this point, there are more questions than answers. The specifics of proposed fracking in Florida are complicated by the very different regional geology of the peninsula.
Much of Florida sits atop what is called a karst terrane, a geological formation characterized by a complex, highly permeable and porous carbonate aquifer system. The geology includes an equally complex set of less permeable rock units—called confining units—that are distributed within, around and throughout the aquifer system.
Key unknowns for Florida:
●  Are there extractable oil and gas reservoirs outside of the currently producing regions of the Panhandle and South Florida ?
The recent local bans include many regions with no confirmed oil or gas reserves. Shales exist below the carbonate rocks in some locations, but it is unclear if conditions were right for oil or gas to form in those shale formations.
●  Where are the faults that could produce earthquakes in Florida ?
Wastewater injection occurs in many locations, but earthquakes are much less common. Earthquakes due to wastewater injection require a combination of factors.
First, there must be faults that can produce earthquakes and sufficient stresses. Second, there must be fluid pathways within the rock through which injected wastewater can increase the fluid pressure significantly.
The locations of basement faults in Florida are poorly known, and although none have been known to generate earthquakes, their ultimate impact on seismicity in the state will depend on knowing their proximity to proposed locations of wastewater injection.
●  Where and how deeply will wastewater be injected ?
Currently, some of the wastewater from Florida’s oil and gas drilling is injected where it is produced, which is in zones below drinking water. In South Florida, the “Boulder Zone” lies above layers from which oil and gas are drawn and below the tapped ends of the Floridan aquifer system (FAS). This cavernous zone receives injected wastewater from oil and gas and from municipalities with little pressure increase.
This could possibly indicate that induced seismicity may not occur even following rapid and high-volume wastewater injection. Many other parts of Florida do not have a permeable zone similar to the Boulder Zone, but the precise distribution of permeable and impermeable zones in the Florida subsurface is poorly known, so safe wastewater disposal is highly uncertain.
Florida’s geology is significantly different from that of Oklahoma, where there has been the most seismic activity. In Florida, wastewater injection has generally been above oil- and gas-producing zones. This means it is farther from deep formations. That could decrease the risk of earthquakes, since earthquake-producing faults occur in these deep formations in locations such as Oklahoma.
On the other hand, Florida’s practice results in wastewater injection closer to drinking-water aquifers. The confining units within the FAS have been extremely difficult to map and are highly variable in thickness and properties.
A comprehensive effort to map these and zones of high permeability—which could be suitable for injecting and storing wastewater—and rapid groundwater flow would be a monumental task requiring full-time work from many geologists and geophysicists for decades.
In other words, understanding with certainty how effective Florida’s geology is for storing wastewater from oil and gas drilling and its ultimate effect on aquifers will be a huge undertaking.
Furthermore, Florida cities have generally tapped shallower aquifers until now. However, as these aquifers become overused, deeper brackish-to-saline portions of the FAS are being considered as a source of freshwater through desalination. These aquifers could be used to store freshwater during wet periods, which would be pumped later during dry times (aquifer storage and recovery). Thus, zones of water used for human consumption may approach those where wastewater would be injected.
●  What will be the impact of surface operations ?
More widespread production of oil and gas drilling with fracking can result in a larger footprint of operations and more opportunity for surface contamination. Florida’s karst geology contains sinkholes as well as extensive cave systems, which allow rapid entry and dispersive flow of contaminants into the aquifer system. These karst features are obvious in North and Central Florida, where caves can be large enough to walk or swim through.
South Florida’s aquifers also have rapid flow. In a 2003 dye-tracer study in the Miami region, dyes reached the Miami-Dade County well field in hours rather than the expected days. Not only did the dye turn the water red, it exposed the vulnerability of Florida’s carbonate aquifers to contamination.
Contaminants could reach irrigation and drinking-water systems rapidly enough to pose economic and health risks before any effective warnings could be issued.
So although there’s been a sharp debate over fracking in Florida, the focus on “fracking” alone risks losing sight of the bigger picture. Florida’s aquifers are potentially vulnerable to injected wastes and contaminant migration through poorly sealed wells and from surface activities, regardless of whether fracking is involved.


Turkey Point continues to threaten water source
Miami Community Newspapers - by Grant Miller
May 9, 2016
Nuclear reactors at Turkey Point continue to threaten this community’s primary source for drinking water while our area’s monopoly utility, Florida Power & Light (FPL) continues to deflect blame for the problems with leaking cooling canals.
I warned in my column in April, “Turkey Point operations conflict with goals for Biscayne Bay and the contamination coming from FPL’s aging Turkey Point nuclear reactors via the problematic cooling canal system that is polluting Biscayne National Park and the Biscayne Aquifer upon which three million Miami-Dade residents rely on for drinking water.”
As concern grows, thankfully FPL has seen closer scrutiny than ever before, given the scope and duration of this pollution. And with the increasing pressure, the untility has been dealt some serious legal blows with more likely to come.
Recently, in Homestead, two Florida Senate committees held a workshop to discuss Turkey Point’s cooling canals. FPL also has been been called to task by a variety of municipalities and elected officials such as State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner and South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard who reached out to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to intercede where the Florida Department of Environmental Protection won’t, due to FPL’s political influence.
FPL appeared twice before the Miami-Dade County Commission and then the Monroe County Commission. Officials and the public in attendance want more immediate action to be taken by the utility to stop this pollution, clean up the mess that’s been created and prevent further degradation.
In the Monroe County Commission meeting, former Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole — who now works for FPL — was grilled by the mayor and commissioners and challenged afterward in presentations by Laura Reynolds, former Tropical Audubon director and now a consultant to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Ed Swakon, an engineer speaking on behalf of ACI, the local rock mining company.
Also at the meeting, a resolution from the Everglades Coalition, comprised of 61 member organizations committed to the full protection and restoration of America’s Everglades, was shared. It contained several important requests for government agencies and regulators to protect local surface and groundwater.
What’s more, FPL, which has proposed building two more nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, saw a Florida appeals court rule that the state power plant siting board, comprised of Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and CFO Jeff Atwater ignored local rules when, in 2014, they approved two massive transmission lines that would impact some of Miami-Dade County’s most fragile wetlands as well as heavily populated neighborhoods.
If you’re wondering why the Florida Cabinet would do that, the Miami Herald reported, “The politically powerful utility has spent $17 million in campaign contributions to influence politicians and the political process in the last six years. Of that, $3.9 million went to political committees for Associated Industries and Florida Chamber of Commerce, which then transferred FPL money to the political committees of Scott, Atwater, Bondi and Putnam. FPL also has given $805,000 directly to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political committee and $50,000 to Bondi’s Justice for All political committee.”
During the same week FPL was blasted by Miami-Dade and Monroe County officials, they also got an unfavorable ruling from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board which accepted the Everglades Law Center’s argument that there may be a migration of pollutants into groundwater from FPL’s proposed convoluted back-up cooling system for the proposed new reactors.
The writing is on the wall. FPL, if you can’t manage the existing nuclear reactors, why should you be allowed to put our community’s water source at risk or do further damage in this sensitive ecological area with two more reactors? It risks the lifeblood of our economy while socking consumers with a $20 billion price tag. That’s a one-two punch.
“Even more important than the cost is the threat to our precious water resources. Let’s not forget that FPL uses 2.78 billion gallons per day to operate Turkey Point. About half of that will draw from alternative water sources but the other half is coming from our aquifer,” explained Laura Reynolds, consultant for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “FPL is already one of the largest users of water in the state. Miami-Dade and Monroe counties are capped from further withdrawals from the Biscayne Aquifer, but FPL gets away with no real permitted limits.”
What we should be doing is to expand solar power and implement cost-effective energy efficiency programs to meet our power needs rather than further jeopardize our drinking supply with water-intensive power plants. It’s clear the antiquated cooling canal system must be replaced with new, efficient cooling technologies.
One thing is for certain — the spotlight needs to stay on FPL and the public, local and elected officials and the media need to keep paying attention, asking questions and demanding action.
Related:           Should Florida 'frack' its limestone for oil and gas? Two ...  University of Florida


Florida’s not the problem, it’s the state’s governor
Long Beach Press Telegram - by Tim Grobaty
May 8, 2016
Today’s Mailbag, after we dumped all the belated notes that are still trickling in from Texas apologists, is entirely full of responses from our increasingly large and loyal Floridian readership.
Our recent column about Gov. Rick Scott’s trade mission to California, in which the horrible little man tried to lure Golden State businesses to his Florida with the promise of legalized sub-subsistence pay for workers, got hijacked by the news site and Miami (actually, Tampa posted it first, then Miami snatched it from Tampa: It’s a feast of snakes down there). That resulted in emails and phone calls as well as online comments from a few dozen people who, surprisingly, weren’t mad at us. As a result, we’re no longer snobbishly disdainful of Floridians. Rather, we feel compassion for the poor people who are stranded in Gov. Scottsville.
If we get the money and support together for an airlift, among those left in his sinkhole will be Florida Man Joe Farrell, who called us something other than sinkhole, but pretty darned close. He spouted off about California rioting, overcrowding, general lawlessness, earthquakes, landlsides, wildfires and a government “absolutely devoid of fiscal common sense.”
OK. Guilty of earthquakes, landslides (though we’ve largely taken care of those by throwing a drought at the problem) and wildfires. But no one who lives in the sinister shadow of Rick Scott is allowed to disparage our sainted Gov. Jerry Brown.
The great majority of the correspondence we received was from people crying for help.
Pat4fla3 begged, “Please don’t lump all Floridians as Scott supporters.” Scott, says the androgynously named Pat, “is selling our state to the highest bidder and would love to see it paved from end to end. His policies...are hastening the decline of our springs, water quality, our potable water aquifer and trying to make commercial and/or private businesses of our award-winning parks.”
Treasure Coast Newspapers outdoors columnist Ed Killer, of Stuart, Florida, writes, “Loved your Florida column, and, yes, our governor is a stalker, and clueless, and despite no one admitting to voting for him, he somehow became our governor. Twice.”
Our favorite letter was a long one from Joyce Evans, who admits to liking California and cordially invites us to see some of the glories of her state (we are every bit as cordial in our declining her generosity).
“I understand the outrage you feel about our current governor,” she writes. “I certainly didn’t vote for him, and was deeply embarrassed when I heard about his plan to lure businesses from California by inducing them with Florida’s pathetic wages. I can’t remember any governor in my lifetime who was so disliked by Floridians. Our state tends to be Republicans, who flock to Florida to avoid state taxes, so that might explain the anomaly.”
In comments following the article on the Tampa Bay Times site, Floridian Jeni Mitchell took on California bashers with “CA is way ahead of us in solar and emissions standards. Our Sunshine State is too crooked to use renewables.”
And, in reference to the matter at hand, “Le Chifre” writes, “If Scott is as good at stealing jobs as he is at stealing billion$ from Medicare, Florida’s unemployment will plummet !”


IRL view

Northern Indian River Lagoon water quality rebounds since algae annihilation in March – by Jim Waymer, USA Today Network
May 8, 2016
The Indian River Lagoon still glows green, but water quality tests show light at the end of the "brown tide," at least for now.
Biologists report improving conditions since brown tide algae annihilated thousands of fish in March, mostly in the Banana River near Merritt Island and Cocoa Beach.
Long-term averages of water quality can deceive, scientists say. It is the short-term spikes in cloudiness, the blunt drops in dissolved oxygen and other sudden shifts that can kill.
Biologists warn that much of the more recent water monitoring data is "provisional" and has yet to go through quality assurances, so outliers should be viewed with caution, but they also vouch for the accuracy of the five continuous water quality monitors maintained by the St. Johns River Water Management District, which were installed two years ago.
The past month of data shows a lagoon on the mend, going into the season in which seagrasses, as well as algae, prosper. Rain and temperature will drive whether salt levels, pH, dissolved oxygen and other key factors for sea life stay within healthy ranges or trigger another fish-kill catastrophe this spring or summer.
"The fishing has improved on the Indian River, although the water is very cloudy," said Pete Wallace, of Capt. Pete's Lagoon Adventures, a nature and fishing tours business on Merritt Island. "On the Banana River side, things are terrible."
That's where thousands of fish began floating up dead in mid March, when a brown tide algae bloom crashed, and its rot choked out fish after almost all of the dissolved oxygen in the water was consumed by bacteria decomposing dead algae.
Preliminary data from the five lagoon monitors shows mostly healthy levels of dissolved oxygen, salinity, pH and overall cloudiness over the past month.
But in the days surrounding the mid-March fish kill, dissolved oxygen dipped near zero, suffocating thousands of fish. Dissolved oxygen is among the most vital indicators of good water quality, essential for fish and other marine life. Fish need at least 2 milligrams per liter of dissolved oxygen in the water. Below that, they begin to suffocate.
Cooler water holds more oxygen, so as summer approaches, hot days increase the risk of depleting dissolved oxygen in the lagoon.
Salt concentrations also have been healthy levels for fish over the past month, the five monitors show.
But heavy summer rains could dangerously dilute salt levels and carry excess nitrogen and phosphorus from land, via canals and ditches, to fuel future algae blooms.
"Rain drives inputs," said Charles Jacoby, a senior scientist for the St. Johns River Water Management District.
The turbidity, or "cloudiness" of water, measures the degree to which muck, algae or other particles suspended in the water scatter light, blocking sunlight seagrass needs to photosynthesize.
The monitor just south of Haulover Canal showed turbidity in the southern Mosquito Lagoon at levels high enough to block light to most seagrass. But the 30-day averages of the maximum turbidity levels have otherwise been in good ranges for seagrass, data from all five monitors show.
Biologists on the water also report a cleaner looking lagoon than what they saw a month ago.
Ed Phlips, professor of algal physiology and ecology at the University of Florida, sampled the lagoon April 16. The water was much clearer near Melbourne, but brown waters lingered near Cocoa, Titusville, southern Mosquito Lagoon and Merritt Island — the epicenter of the fish kill.
"It looked like the concentrations of algae were still quite high," Phlips said of water he sampled near Max Brewer Causeway.
But overall, brown tide algae levels had dropped to thousands of cells per milliliter — a teaspoon is about 5 milliliters — from the millions of algae cells per milliliter biologists found during the peak of the algae bloom.
The best news this week was improved visibility, biologists said. For months, scientists snorkeling in the lagoon couldn't even see the seagrass beds to measure their extent. Seagrass needs light to grow. When stirred-up muck, algae blooms or other particles block light, the bottom grass dies.
When light can't penetrate more than about 2.5 feet, seagrass can't thrive in deeper waters.
While light could only penetrate barely a foot deep during the brown tide algae's peak, more recently, water clarity has allowed light penetration of more than 5 feet, ideal for seagrass.
How the lagoon fares in coming months will depend upon light availability, temperature, and how much rain hits the region.
For now, the data hint at cautious optimism.
"We're not 100 percent out of the woods yet," Jacoby said.
Dissolved oxygen: It's among the most vital indicators of good water quality, essential for fish and other marine life. Fish need at least 2 milligrams per liter of dissolved oxygen in the water. Below that, they begin to suffocate.
Turbidity: The "cloudiness" of water, or the degree to which light is scattered by particles suspended in a liquid.
Suspended particles deflect light, keeping it from reaching seagrass, which needs it to photosynthesize. Suspended particles in the water also can clog gills of fish and shellfish.
Salinity: Tolerances and responses to salinity changes differ among marine organisms. Seagrass, a key barometer for the lagoon's ecological health, needs about 20 parts per thousands (2 percent) salt to grow. Most lagoon life prospers at that concentration.
pH: The pH scale, which ranges from 0 to 14, measures how acidic or alkaline — or "base" — a substance is. Acids (think vinegar) taste sour. Bases (think baking soda) are bitter and slippery. Pure water has a neutral pH, close to 7. For estuaries, a pH of 7.7 to 8.2 is ideal for sea life. Anything above that begins to indicate excess algae.


Restoration anyone ?
Naples Daily News – Letter by Tom Parsons, North Naples
May 8, 2916
The rains came to Southwest Florida in January, all right.
Our powers-that-be — regional industrialists and politicians — finally decided to convene a summit meeting to discuss the most basic component in our idyllic environment: water.
Summit rooms echoed with the overarching agreement: Dirty water is bad for business. This year's devastating deluge with concomitant unintended consequences followed a similar occurrence in summer 2013.
There were no established solutions to control such unexpected flow into the woefully inadequate system of canals, streams, and dams in addition to the limited capacity to store drainage.
While a growing number of concerned legislators have begun to draft a variety of realistic stop-gaps to ensure the quality of water in Southwest Florida, none have been approved — and authorized with appropriate funds.
Money, again? As many officials from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Gulf Coast Citrus Growers Association asserted, maximum attention should be devoted to imminent financial funding of southern flow into Lake Okeechobee, adequate storage facilities, and state-of-art water treatment of that storage.
As we enter the season's "hurricane watch," Naples residents should remember that a genuine catastrophe can exacerbate far beyond what El Niño and La Niña are capable of providing.
The Southwest Florida Chamber of Commerce summit was a start; let's hope it's not too late.


Seismic testing at Big Cypress is 'bad news,' NRDC says - by Bob Downing
May 8, 2016
From Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Alison Kelly on seismic testing in Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve being permitted by the National Park Service:
 “Greenlighting oil exploration in pristine areas of Big Cypress National Preserve is bad news for safe drinking water and the iconic Florida Panther. Oil exploration would bring devastating industrial activity into precious habitat for the highly endangered wildcat—threatening its continued survival. Additionally, the National Park Service is opening the door to potential oil drilling on top of the drinking water supply for much of South Florida. Oil drilling has no place in this crown jewel of the Everglades.”


Conservationists consider legal options to fight seismic testing for oil in Big Cypress National Preserve
Naples Daily News - by Eric Staats
May 7, 2016
Conservation groups are considering their legal options in the wake of a final sign-off by the National Park Service on a Texas company to look for oil in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
Burnett Oil Co. wants to use specially designed off-road vehicles to drive through 70,000 acres of the 700,000-acre preserve in eastern Collier County, stopping at spots to vibrate steel plates against the ground and see whether seismic signals from underground indicate geologic formations that might contain oil or gas.
After a nearly two-year review that triggered protests and political maneuvers, federal regulators issued a finding late Friday that the work would have "no significant impact" on the preserve's forests and wet prairies or the wildlife that live there, including endangered Florida panthers.
If Burnett decides it wants to drill for oil, that would require the company to submit a new plan that would be subject to another round of federal review and public input.
Before it can start seismic testing, the company must formally agree to follow various measures meant to lessen environmental damage. They include working around colonies of wading birds and nests of endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, using existing trails and roads when possible and sending monitors ahead of the seismic testing trucks to look for gopher tortoises, Eastern indigo snakes and burrowing owls.
"We look forward to beginning the process and continuing to work with our state and federal partners at every step of the way," Burnett Oil President Charles Nagel III said in a statement released after the federal announcement Friday.
Conservation groups also were quick to issue their own statements condemning the long-awaited decision.
"We are surprised and very sad that after years of contentious management of one of the most biodiverse but fragile public lands in our National Park System, the service has decided to move forward in this reckless manner," South Florida Wildlands Association executive director Matthew Schwartz said.
Schwartz said the group is consulting with its allies against the seismic testing plan on a "legal response" under the act that set up the National Park Service, the Wilderness Act, the Endangered Species Act and the law that set up the preserve in 1974.
The National Park Service released Burnett's plans for public comment in June 2015, and an environmental assessment was issued for public comment in November 2015. After the first round of public comments, Burnett changed its plans. A second assessment was released for public comment in March.
An overflow crowd from all over South Florida packed a room at the Big Cypress Swamp welcome center in December for a hearing on the seismic plan. About 80 opponents rallied outside the hearing room, carrying signs that said "Oil: Not Worth a Panther's Whisker" and "Kill the Drill — Deny the Permit."
And in January, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson called on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to conduct a more in-depth review of Burnett's plans. The agency did not agree.
Environmental advocates' march across the Everglades earlier this year along U.S. 41 East included a stop at Big Cypress National Preserve headquarters to deliver a stack of petition signatures against the seismic testing plan.
Oil exploration, even drilling, is nothing new in the Big Cypress preserve, which is part of the National Park Service system but falls under different rules than national parks.
Discovery of oil in Southwest Florida dates to the 1940s. The Collier family, the county's namesake, kept its oil and gas rights when they sold the original preserve the National Park Service.
Oil production in the preserve already has included 23 wells on nine pads in Exxon's Bear Island field and 17 wells on five pads in Exxon's Raccoon Point fields. Shell and Mobil also have conducted seismic testing in the preserve.
Burnett's plans include two groups of three seismic trucks working simultaneously in the preserve, covering 2.5 square miles a day, stopping at each survey point for about two minutes each. Vibrations would last less than 30 seconds at each stop.
The federal review predicted that field activities could be accomplished in one dry season, and field crews would work around wildlife buffer areas, soft soils or dense woods, according to Burnett's plan.


IRL pollution

Indian River Lagoon: Now or never. Let's clean up this toilet
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
May 7, 2016
A year ago environmentalists to a man/woman were blaming Big Sugar for the lion's share of Indian River Lagoon pollution, pooh-poohing the devastating effect of human waste leaking from the land. Actually, many of them still are. But times have changed. Florida rivers and estuaries have come under greater scrutiny. Now, through more concentrated scientific study, we understand what a threat septic tanks and faulty sewage pipes are to the quality of our waterways.
Sadly, that was made patently clear Thursday when Brevard County was ordered to pay $4,100 in state civil penalties and investigation costs for two sewage overflows that wound up in the Indian River Lagoon.
According to a story in Florida Today, last February, the Barefoot Bay Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility in Brevard County had unauthorized discharges of partially treated and partially untreated wastewater, for a combined 1,786,000 unchlorinated gallons, that dumped into a canal feeding the St. Sebastian River, a tributary to the Indian River Lagoon.  
That's a lot of toilet water, people.
The $4,100 isn't much of a penalty. Probably not enough to get much attention. And the overflows happened after heavy winter rains, when a flustered plant operator had to deal with clogged filters; he was rushing and released the wastewater into a pond dangerously near full.
Nevertheless, this is an important story because it comes along at just the right time, when the plight of the lagoon is attracting attention. It sheds a light on a fragile water system suffering fecal pollution at a greater rate than it can heal.
The evidence is all there, that's the frustrating thing. The "doing in" of the lagoon was caught red-handed in 2014, exposed in state data and reported in Florida Today
According to Florida Department of Environmental Protection data, in 2014 alone, at least 25 million gallons of wastewater was released in the five-county lagoon region, from Volusia through Martin County.
We've said it before, but it bears repeating: Sewage in waterways poses immediate risks to humans because of bacteria and viruses. But the threat to marine life comes more from the nitrogen and phosphorous the sewage contains. Those "nutrients" can feed algae blooms that can kill off seagrass, which provides vital food and shelter to fish, crabs and other aquatic creatures.
The septic tanks along the lagoon are bad enough. But Brevard, among the first Florida counties to install central sewer systems wherever it could, has come a cropper now because many of the systems in operation are more than half a century old. Pipes are deteriorating in the ground. Whole neighborhoods a stone's throw from the Banana River, for example, are only just becoming aware that they are dispatching sewage directly into the groundwater.
Says the newspaper, pipe called Orangeburg -- wood pulp covered in coal tar -- links thousands of homes in Brevard to sewer systems. The pipe, used in new airfields and military bases during World War II, also filled the post-war demand for affordable piping when materials were scarce after the war.
Demand for the pipe boomed in the 1950s and 1960s, until PVC came along in the 1970s.
According to Brevard County property appraiser data, some 52,000 single-family homes were built between 1945 and 1975, when the pipe's use was widespread.
It's the Orangeburg pipe that has decomposed.
Cash-strapped cities like Palm Bay struggle to keep up with maintaining 105 lift stations and sewer pipes well past their prime, explains Florida Today. So the city takes a proactive stance: It conducts smoke tests to find leaks, then coats cracks with an epoxy resin pumped into the pipes.
Mishaps are frequent when there are so many old sewage plants that have neither the time nor the money to modernize as fast as they should.
The American Society of Civil Engineers' 2013 report card on the state of America's infrastructure -- released every four years -- gave Florida a "C" for sewage infrastructure, dropping from a B-minus.
The report said Florida has $19.6 billion in sewer infrastructure needs over the next 20 years. (If we got a "C" in 2013, think of how many foul rivers there are in America the Beautiful. It's frightening.
You would think the lagoon would be much cleaner than it is. During the 1990s the state banned discharging sewage directly into the waterways. What it didn't do, though, is provide a plan for replacing existing, outdated pipes in waterfront neighborhood after waterfront neighborhood.
More and more waterfront density, basic-maintenance failure among utility plants and septic tanks up and down the rest of the lagoon keep taking their toll.
Florida Today provided this from state DEP databases:
Volume estimate of sewage spills by lagoon-region county
1. Brevard — 24,105,140 gallons
2. St. Lucie — 1,222,000 gallons
3. Martin — 220,100 gallons
4. Volusia — 40,600 gallons
5. Indian River — 38,112 gallons
Total: 25,625,952 gallons

The numbers you're seeing above are just spills -- the incidents plant operators can see with their own eyes and record. But consider the millions of gallons of unseen septic tank fallout. Consider the need to convert individual tanks to a modern system and the need to dredge muck out of the tributaries. 
How do we start again ? Can we start again ?
Treasure Coast Newspapers is pushing for the state to appoint a "lagoon czar" to coordinate IRL cleanup efforts in all five counties. If the paper gets its way, will the new czar be successful in getting the  Florida Legislature's attention? It will be a heavy lift. The resuscitation of the Indian River Lagoon will cost mightily.
 The lagoon is worth all the effort we can muster. Look what it generates each year for the five counties:
●  $3.7 billion in economic activity. That includes almost a $1 billion increase to property values for anyone who lives within 0.3 miles of the lagoon. Even property not on the lagoon benefits. And the lagoon is a huge draw, bringing in newcomers, bolstering property values throughout the region.
●  15,000 jobs created due to the lagoon-related activities such as boating and fishing, and $630 million in income.
●  $1.3 billion in recreational expenditures on fishing, boating and other lagoon-related activities.
Florida Today has done good work here. 
Keeping our waste out of the water. Why isn't that the top priority in all five IRL counties ?


DEP's daily update on Lake Okeechobee
FL-DEP Press Office
May 6, 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:
On May 5, 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that flows from Lake Okeechobee will remain unchanged for the upcoming week. Click here for more information.
On April 28, 2016, Governor Rick Scott sent a letter to Brigadier General C. David Turner of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting continued authorization for increased water levels at the L-29 Canal in Lake Okeechobee. If it is not granted, then the current authorization expires on May 11, 2016. This extension would continue to give the state flexibility to move the water south and reduce the discharges from the lake to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. Under the current authorization, the South Florida Water Management District has been able to move approximately 63.3 billion gallons of clean water into the northern portions of Everglades National Park.
For more information about the State of Florida's actions on Lake Okeechobee, click here.
Lake Conditions:
Current Lake Level

14.08 feet

Historical Lake Level Average

13.72 feet

Total Inflow

1,430 cubic feet per second

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

3,330 cubic feet per second


2,340 cubic feet per second


-4,240 cubic feet per second

Lake level variation from a week ago

-0.21 feet



Florida Senate holds FPL hearing in Homestead
South Dade Newsleader – by Frank Maradiaga
May 6, 2016
With the issue of the Turkey Point Cooling Canals raising the temperature of discussion in Miami-Dade and beyond about public health and the environment, the Florida Senate held a joint commission hearing last week to find answers.
Fittingly enough it was held in Homestead, just a stone's throw away from Florida Power and Light's South Dade nuclear power plant.
Both FPL and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection gave a time line, starting in mid-May, that will culminate in the energy company and regulators agreeing to certain steps that will, in theory, help curb the spread of a salt water plume.
FPL representative Mike Sole estimated that those solutions would cost around $50 million dollars. When pressed by the panel on whether those costs would be absorbed by the customers, Sole essentially said they would.
"Our job here is to insure South Floridians drinking water is safe, because the water that comes from Biscayne Bay and the water that comes from our aquifers are not just important to Miami-Dade's an issue for folks across the state," said FL Senator Anitere Flores (Rep.), who called this meeting.
Before the meeting she had promised to walk away with an action plan. After the meeting she told the News Leader that it had been accomplished. She was particularly pleased that if FPL failed to provide their findings and a course of action by mid-May, regulators would just impose actions unilaterally.
FPL's presentation was one of defense. Sole pointed out and illustrated in slides that moving salt plumes existed before the canals were created. He also made it a point to mention that no drinking wells have been affected. As for Biscayne Bay, Sole stated that the canals were not impacting it in "a lasting way."
When FL Rep. Javier Rodriquez, a Democrat from Miami, asked Sole if the canals were the main cause of the saline plume, Sole would not outright take responsibility but stated that some studies had found them to be a major contributor.
When Rodriquez asked for specific changes FPL would make he was told the company plans to infuse more fresh water, and to dispose of the salt content by dumping it where it couldn't cause additional problems.
State Officials have recently given FPL the go ahead to add an additional 14 million gallons of aquifer water into the canals.
The power company will share their findings with regulators on May 16. If within 60 days the two sides cannot come to an agreement, corrective actions will be imposed.
South Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava (Dem.) said the plant should "modernize" and step away from the canal system.
Before Rodriquez, a vocal critic of FPL, got off his question he was warned by the committee chair not to make a scene. That same warning was made to the audience multiple times.
Over 50 speakers signed up to speak. Public comment was held off until the last hour of the four hour meeting, allowing just one minute per speaker. The 50 speakers were decidedly distrustful of FPL, and called for more expansive regulation.


Abrupt sea level rise looms as increasingly realistic threat
Yale-e360 - by Nicola Jones
May 5, 2016
Ninety-nine percent of the planet's freshwater ice is locked up in the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. Now, a growing number of studies are raising the possibility that as those ice sheets melt, sea levels could rise by six feet this century, and far higher in the next, flooding many of the world's populated coastal areas.
Last month in Greenland, more than a tenth of the ice sheet’s surface was melting in the unseasonably warm spring sun, smashing 2010’s record for a thaw so early in the year. In the Antarctic, warm water licking at the base of the continent’s western ice sheet is, in effect, dissolving the cork that holds back the flow of glaciers into the sea; ice is now seeping like wine from a toppled bottle.
The planet’s polar ice is melting fast, and recent satellite data, models, and fieldwork have left scientists sobered by the speed of the sea level rise we should expect over the coming decades. Although researchers have long projected that the planet’s biggest ice sheets and glaciers will wilt in the face of rising temperatures, estimates of the rate of that change keep going up. When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put out its last report in 2013, the consensus was for under a meter (3.3 feet) of sea level rise by 2100. In just the last few years, at least one modeling study suggests we might need to double that.
Eric Rignot at the University of California, Irvine says that study underscores the possible speed of ice sheet melt and collapse. “Once these processes start to kick in,” he says, “they’re very fast.”
The Earth has seen sudden climate change and rapid sea level rise before. At the end of the planet’s last glaciation, starting about 14,000 years ago, sea levels rose by more than 13 feet a century as the huge North American ice sheet melted.
Greenland is losing some 200 billion tons of ice each year. That rate doubled from the 1900s to the 2000s.
But researchers are hesitant about predicting similarly rapid climate shifts in our future given the huge stakes involved: The rapid collapse of today’s polar ice sheets would erase densely populated parts of our coastlines.
“Today, we’re struggling with 3 millimeters [0.1 inch] per year [of sea level rise],” says Robert DeConto at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, co-author of one of the more sobering new studies. “We’re talking about centimeters per year. That’s really tough. At that point your engineering can’t keep up; you’re down to demolition and rebuilding.”
Antarctica and Greenland hold the overwhelming majority of the world’s ice: Ninety percent of the planet’s freshwater ice is locked up in Antarctica’s ice cap and nine percent in Greenland’s. Today, the ice sheet that’s inarguably melting fastest is Greenland. That giant block of ice, which has the potential to raise global sea levels by 23 feet if it melts in its entirety, is losing some 200 billion tons of ice each year. That rate has doubled from the 1900s to the 2000s.
“We are seeing changes in Greenland in all four corners, even in the far north,” says Rignot. Many of the outlet glaciers that flow down fjords into the sea, which were “on the fence” about retreating or advancing over the past decade, are now “starting to fall apart,” he says.
Illustration of the rapid expansion of ice melt on Greenland over just two days in April 2016.
And they’re moving fast. “The flow speeds we talk about today would have been jaw-dropping in the 1990s,” says Ted Scambos of the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center. Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier dumped ice into the sea at the astonishing rate of 150 feet per day in the summer of 2012. The most dramatic action in Greenland is simply from surface melting, as temperatures there and across the Arctic have soared in the last four decades. In 2012, Greenland lost a record 562 billion tons of ice as more than 90 percent of its surface melted in the summer sun.
Many questions remain about the physics of Greenland’s ice loss, such as whether meltwater gets soaked up by a ‘sponge’ of snow and ice, or trickles down to lubricate the base of the ice sheet and speed its seaward movement. Most modeling work has been about how Greenland’s melt tracks rising air temperatures; far less is known about how warming waters might eat away at the edges of its ice sheet. Rignot is part of a team now launching the Oceans Melting Greenland project (with the intentionally punny acronym OMG) to investigate that. These uncertainties make Rignot think that estimates of Greenland’s melt — contributing as much as 9 inches of global sea level rise by 2100, according to the 2013 IPCC report — have been far too conservative. Assuming that the Greenland ice sheet’s demise “will be slow is wishful thinking,” Rignot says.
But most scientists say there shouldn’t be too many serious surprises about the physics governing Greenland’s ice loss. Although the ice sheet can be expected to steadily melt in the face of rising temperatures, Greenland’s ice cap shouldn’t rapidly collapse, because most of its ice sits safely on rock far above sea level. “Greenland is more predictable and straightforward,” says DeConto.
For fear of rapid, runaway collapse, the research community turns its eyes south.
Antarctica is, for now, losing ice more slowly than Greenland. The latest data from the GRACE project — twin satellites that measure mass using gravity data — say Antarctica is losing about 92 billion tons of ice per year, with that rate having doubled from 2003 to 2014.
The sizeable western half of Antarctica holds some of the fastest-warming areas on the planet.
But Antarctica is vast — 1.5 times the size of the United States, with ice three miles thick in places — and holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by roughly 200 feet.
The larger, eastern half lies mostly above sea level and remains very cold; researchers have typically considered its ice stable, though even that view is beginning to change. The sizeable western half of the Antarctic, by contrast, has its base lying below sea level, and holds some of the fastest warming areas on the planet. “You look at West Antarctica and you think: How come it’s still there?” says Rignot.
Warming ocean water licking at the underside of the floating edges of the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet is eating away at the line where the ice rests on solid rock. Much of the bedrock of the Antarctic slopes downward toward the center of the continent, so as the invading water flows downhill it seeps further and further inland, causing ever-larger chunks of glaciers to flow faster into the sea. This so-called “grounding line” has been eroding inland rapidly, in some parts of West Antarctica at rates of miles per year. In 2014, satellite radar images revealed just how vulnerable five massive glaciers flowing into the Admundsen Sea are from this effect. And a 2015 paper showed that the same thing is happening more slowly to Totten Glacier, one of the biggest glaciers in the east.
Such dramatic processes have been the bane of Antarctic modeling and the reason why scientists have been loathe to put a number on sea level contributions from a melting southern continent. Then in March came a report in Nature that some say represents a step change in our ability to do that. DeConto and David Pollard of Pennsylvania State University put into their ice sheet model two basic phenomena: meltwater trickling down to lubricate glacier flow, and giant walls of ice (created when the ends of glaciers snap off) simply collapsing under their own weight. These new modeling parameters gave DeConto and Pollard a better understanding of past sea level rise events. For the Pliocene era 3 million years ago, for example — when seas were dozens of feet higher than today — older models estimated that a partially melting Antarctic added about 23 feet to global sea level rise. The new model increased Antarctica’s contribution to sea level rise during the Pliocene to 56 feet.
Turning their model to the future, DeConto and Pollard project more than three feet of sea level rise from Antarctica alone by 2100 — assuming growing greenhouse gas emissions that boost the planet’s temperature by about 4 degrees C (7 degrees F). That is far more than the last IPCC estimate in 2013, which projected less than eight inches of sea level rise from a melting Antarctic by 2100, with a possibility for inches more from the dramatic collapse of Antarctic glaciers.
Even DeConto admits that, under the model used in his paper, the timing and pace of Antarctica’s ice loss is “really uncertain” — it could be a decade or two, or three or four, before these dramatic processes start to kick in, he says. “The paper just shows the potentials, which are really big and really scary,” says DeConto. But Scambos and other observers call DeConto’s numbers “perfectly plausible.”
Researchers could better pin down their models if they could track the rate of sea level rise from polar ice sheet collapse in the past, but this has proven hard to do. When seas rose a whopping 13 feet per century at the end of the last glaciation (the current record-holder for known rates of sea level rise in the past), much of the water came from an ice sheet over North America, where there isn’t one today. “I wouldn’t use that as an analogue for the future,” says paleo-geologist Andrea Dutton of the University of Florida, who wrote a recent review of past records of sea level rise. “But it has important lessons for us nonetheless — that ice sheets can retreat suddenly and in steps instead of gradually.”
For a better analogue of what’s going on today, researchers often look to the last interglacial period, about 120,000 years ago, when temperatures were about a degree warmer than pre-industrial levels and seas were 20 to 30 feet higher than today. Ice cores from Greenland have suggested that much of that water must have come from the Antarctic. To find out just how fast sea levels rose at that time, Dutton is now looking at old corals in Mexico, Florida, and Australia; corals can be used to track sea level, since they grow in shallow waters to capture sunlight.
For the past six years, photographer James Balog has deployed dozens of time-lapse cameras around the world to chronicle one of the starkest examples of global warming — melting glaciers. In a photo gallery and interview with Yale Environment 360, Balog displays his work and discusses his passion to capture these vanishing landscapes.
A map of sea level rise around the world, and how it was higher in one place than another, could be used to infer where the water came from. Success isn’t guaranteed; corals are notoriously difficult to date. And whatever they find, notes Scambos, it will still be hard to draw a parallel to the modern world.
“That was a natural warming period in Earth’s history,” Scambos says. “We’re putting our pedal to the metal today; we’re driving the system very hard.”
James Hansen, a climatologist at Columbia University, summarized the evidence for rapid sea level rise in a recent controversial paper, raising some eyebrows at its stark warnings of catastrophe. Though many researchers have taken issue with the dramatic tone and specific details of that paper, its conclusion — that multi-meter sea level rise is possible in the next 50, 100, or 200 years — does not seem so alarmist in the face of other recent work.
“I think a lot of us who work on paleo records are all aware that a lot of change can happen very quickly — I’m always looking at big numbers,” says Dutton, who hasn’t been startled by recent studies like DeConto’s. “It’s always going to be a difficult question to answer. Maybe we need to accept we’re always going to have this uncertainty and just prepare for the worst.”


Ocean acidification leading to disintegration of Florida's Coral Reef
NorCalNews – by Natalia Hall
May 5, 2016
Almost all coral reefs around the globe have been declining due to numerous reasons, including bleaching event caused by global warming. Now, a new study has found that a coral reef region in Florida, also known as the biggest coral reef in the continental US, is dissolving faster than previously thought.
The study conducted by researchers from Florida International University and the University of Miami has claimed that human-induced ocean acidification is responsible for this disintegration. Results of the research have been published in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles.
For the study, the team considered surveys conducted from 2009 to 2010 throughout the Florida Keys. The surveys, with the help of chemical analyses, tried to determine the rates at which region's coral reefs were dissolving.
The researchers noted that the coral reef tract was disintegrating rapidly, generally during fall and winter. There found the phenomenon in various regions throughout the Keys. Some regions in south were noted making up during some parts of the year, generally spring and summer.
According to the team, worrisome results were from the reef in the northern Keys, closer to Miami, where the process of disintegration was quicker than other regions. Ocean acidification is the main culprit of this erosion, said Chris Langdon, a researcher from the University of Miami's department of marine biology and ecology and lead author of the study.
Ocean acidification is a chemical process which takes place when CO2 dissolves in ocean's water and lowers pH. When this reaction happens, ocean suffers many problems, like acidification, Langdon said.
"First, when water becomes more acidic, limestone - which is what makes up the hard, rocky skeletons secreted by corals - can start to dissolve, just like you dropped a sugar cube in water", as per the lead author.
A report published in Miamiherald revealed, "The UM report found that acidification, the process by which the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is turning out to be a deadlier threat, mainly due to spells of unusually hot weather - among other causes. Acidification is expected to increase as the climate warms, so the ultimate answer is to prevent the increasing buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by reducing global warming and the continued use of carbon-based fuels."
n December, the Corps blamed the damage on "white plague," a virus that bleaches and kills coral. A new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disagreed, however. It blames dredging sediment, which suffocates the coral. It cites the dredging itself and the failure to protect the vulnerable coral.
"Ocean water is growing increasingly acidic as it absorbs the extra CO2 we're pumping into the atmosphere, and now that water is eating away at the limestone foundations of coral reefs. A new study found that in the northern section of the Florida Keys' reef - the third largest barrier reef ecosystem in the world - 6 million tons of limestone have disappeared over the past six years," according to a news report published by Grist.
Ocean acidification is different from coral bleaching, another threat to reefs, though both have a common cause (climate change) and a common effect (dying corals). We're looking to our most resilient corals to survive the challenges of living in today's oceans.
According to a report in Washingtonpost by Chelsea Harvey, "The research, published earlier this week in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, took surveys of coral throughout the Florida Keys from 2009 to 2010, using chemical analyses of water samples to examine the rates at which corals were either calcifying - that is, building new parts of the reef - or disintegrating into the water."
The results are especially worrisome, given that the northern part of the reef appears to have hit a tipping point in which more limestone is being lost than rebuilt. While it's well established that acidification is bad for coral, previous research had suggested that reefs around the world likely wouldn't hit this net erosion threshold until closer to mid-century, when carbon dioxide levels were higher.


Ag pollution

The environmental cost of growing food
MPR News – by Dan Charles, NPR
May 5, 2016
Let's say you're an environmentally motivated eater. You want your diet to do as little damage as possible to our planet's forests and grasslands and wildlife.
But how do you decide which food is greener?
Take one example: sugar. About half of America's sugar comes from sugar cane, and half from sugar beets. They grow in completely different climates. Sugar cane is a tropical crop, and sugar beets grow where it's colder and dryer.
Each one has an impact on the environment — sometimes a dramatic impact — but in very different ways.
If you go to south Florida, for instance, to the town of Belle Glade, there's a silent yet dramatic measure of the cost of growing sugar there.
It's a concrete post, painted white.
Environmental scientist Leonard Scinto, from Florida International University, is standing beside the pole, and the top of it is above his head.
But in 1924, when researchers drove that pole deep into the soil, they left the top of it level with the surface of the ground. Over the intervening decades, the land surface has fallen, exposing six feet of pole.
"We've lost two-thirds of the soil right here," says Scinto.
That's because the soil here is no ordinary dirt. It's peat, the remains of long-dead vegetation. "It's old decaying plant fiber," says Scinto. "Decaying roots. It built up over a few thousand years in the northern Everglades. Built up bit by bit."
For all those thousands of years, it didn't rot away, because the dead plants were submerged in water.
But starting a century ago, people drained this area and created the Everglades Agricultural Area. It's a thousand square miles of fields for farmers like Rick Roth to grow vegetables and sugar cane. Especially sugar cane.
"I would make the argument that this is the best place to farm in the United States, if not the entire world," says Roth.
The soil is fertile, but once exposed to air, it started to decompose. It turned into carbon dioxide and vanished. In another 50 or 100 years, so little soil will be left, it may not be possible to farm here anymore.
The drained expanse of the Everglades Agricultural Area also prevents water from flowing, as it used to, from Lake Okeechobee in the north into Everglades National Park in the south. The water that does make it through picks up fertilizer from the farmland, causing more damage to the natural wetlands of the park.
For all these reasons, environmental advocates and the government of Florida have been putting pressure on farmers to limit the damage; to use less fertilizer and keep more of the peat soil immersed in water.
Roth is actually in favor of all that. Protecting the environment is important, he says — but it can't be more important than growing food.
"They're trying to get land away from the farmers, saying that the Everglades is more important than food production, which I think is relatively insane," he says. "Cheap food is the no. 1 goal! It should be the no. 1 goal of the world!"
This conflict between growing food and protecting the environment is not just playing out in the Everglades.
It's everywhere, actually.
If you don't get your sugar from Rick Roth's cane crop, you may get it from sugar beets that are growing on Bill Markham's farm at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains near Berthoud, Colo.
Growing beets, though, meant plowing up this area's grasslands a century ago. It also meant bringing in water; you can't grow much in this dry region without it.
"You got water coming out of the mountains. All our water comes out of the Big Thompson River," says Markham. "They dug all the canals to get water to these farms." But that means less water for fish and frogs and riverside vegetation.
No matter where food is grown, it has some environmental cost.
Increasingly, government officials and economists are trying to put a number on that cost. What's the price of soil in the Everglades? Or river water in Colorado. That price, if we could agree on it, might help all of us decide which food comes at a cost that we're not willing to pay.
Economist Catherine Kling, at Iowa State University, is working on this.
"In an ideal world, we would include the cost into a decision of where to produce, and how much to produce," she says.
Kling admits that this is not easy. It forces economists to be inventive. They've studied how much farther people are willing to drive to visit a pristine ecosystem versus a polluted one, for instance. That's a measure of how much they value it.
"Another way we do it is to straight-out ask people," Kling says. How much would they pay to restore a wetland, and bring back wildlife there?
Like all prices, these are based on personal preferences. Kling says that people tend to put higher values on ecosystems that seem unique, beautiful, original and natural. She hasn't tried to calculate the price that people would put on the ecosystem of the Everglades, and compare it to the grasslands of Colorado, but she suspects that people would consider the Everglades more valuable.
Ecologists aren't always happy about these subjective judgments. An ordinary-looking grassland can be just as precious, ecologically speaking, as an alligator-filled swamp. "The key is not to lose ecosystems," says Leonard Scinto, from Florida International University.
But the way Kling sees it, just talking about the economic value of ecosystems represents real progress. It's evidence that policymakers — and even consumers — are starting to balance the value of food against the environmental cost of producing it.


Concerns raised about phosphate mines damaging Santa Fe River - by April Warren, Staff writer
May 4, 2016
The Alachua County Commission has concerns that a phosphate mining proposal in Bradford County – with possible expansion into Union County – could damage the Santa Fe River and the springs along it.
“I will tell you as your environmental protection director, I would say this proposed mine, especially if it spans both counties, is the largest potential impact to the Santa Fe River ... that I’ve seen in the time I’ve been with Alachua County,” said Chris Bird. “Potentially, it’s that big.”
The board voted during a special meeting Tuesday to send letters of concern to various agencies, municipalities and landowners that would become involved in the application process for the proposed mine, hoping to start a dialogue and offer any assistance, such as data on waterways.
Staff also will begin compiling and report back with a list of other appropriate ways Alachua County could have its say in the process, with varying degrees of involvement.
The proposed 7,400-acre mine would be located on more than 10,000 acres in Bradford and Union counties owned by HPS II Enterprises, a partnership formed by the Hazen, Howard, Shadd and Pritchett families, who own the lands and are the parties applying for the mining application.
Animal feed, detergents, fertilizer and food and beverage products can be produced using phosphate rock, according to a 2013 report from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The proposed lands to be mined lie south of Lake Butler, west of County Road 235, north of Brooker and west of State Road 121.
While supports say the work would bring jobs and economic growth, it has sparked concern because of its potential damage to the environment, which could hurt the economy and enjoyment of the river.
The proposed mining could cause problems for both the New River and Santa Fe River systems, officials said. The Santa Fe River is Alachua County’s northern boundary and county line with both Bradford and Union counties.
“No matter how you look at it, the water goes downhill and it goes down river,” Bird said. “Just knowing the river like we do and what we’ve experienced we know things can get out of hand really quickly, just in terms of not being able to handle storm water.”
Bolstering Alachua County’s argument for concern is that the river attracts international ecotourism, has been designated by the state as being worthy of special protection and is already restricted in its daily pollutant load because it has been identified as an impaired body. Nearby Treehouse, Hornsby and Poe Springs have also been considered by the state to be worthy of protection. The county also has land interests on the waterway such as McCall Boat Park Ramp, Poe Springs Park and Camp Kulaqua-Hornsby Springs Conservation Easement.
“The protection of our waters and natural resources is one of my highest priorities,” said Commissioner Ken Cornell.
A federal critical habitat designation has been applied to both the Santa Fe and New rivers because of the existence of the oval pigtoe, an endangered freshwater mussel.
Letters from the board will go to Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bradford County, Union County, North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Letters also will be sent to the Suwannee River Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Alachua Conservation Trust and High Springs, all entities that own conservation property interests on the Santa Fe River.
On April 18, the Union County Commission approved a one-year moratorium on mining applications. The pause would give the commission more time to look at the plan and what mining methods would be used.
Bradford County was expected to hold a workshop April 29 to discuss HPS II Enterprises’ plans to mine phosphate 35 to 40 feet underground on at least 7,400 acres in Bradford and Union counties.
But the workshop was canceled after HPS applied for a special-use permit for their mining activities, a process that barred the commission from discussing the subject in advance of any hearings related to the special-use permit.
About 60 residents attended Tuesday’s meeting in Alachua County. Audience members included concerned residents and officials from both Union and Bradford counties.
About 15 people spoke, most expressing frustration with Bradford County for not answering questions from residents and also articulating skepticism at the HPS proposal. Many vented to the Alachua County Commission in hopes it would help.
Debbie Davey, of Worthington Springs said she could throw a rock from her property and hit the proposed mining land.
“I’m a landowner and I have been for 10 years now and I just think that this is very hazardous to our community and I’m speaking for the citizens of our community,” she said.
“I’d just urge you to engage in the highest level you can here and we’re very happy you’re helping our river,” said Jim Tatum a representative of the Our Santa Fe River nonprofit organization, who lives in Columbia County.
Alachua County resident TJ Strickland, one of the last to speak, said no one had spoken about property rights.
“I think it's important that property rights be at least recognized,” he said. “As in every divorce there’s two sides, I guarantee, to the issue.”
A few speakers later, a woman from Union County said she didn’t think someone else's property rights should impede residents living around her.
Will Sexton, attorney for Bradford County, said on May 19 county staff will look to the Bradford County Commission for direction on how to proceed on the mining issue.


Coral reef

Prevent additional damage to coral reefs
Miami Herald - Editorial

- South Florida reefs have reached the “tipping point.”
- NOAA says Corps of Engineers failed to protect reefs during PortMiami dredge
- State, feds must get serious about monitoring future projects

May 4, 2016
Sometimes, it seems, the only news about our most fragile ecosystems is bad news. The latest example is the deterioration of South Florida’s coral reef: First, it’s disintegrating at a faster rate than expected because of climate change. Second, dredging by the U.S. Corps of Engineers in the section underlying PortMiami has made matters worse.
Warnings about the increasing damage to the world’s coral reefs have been going on for years. Today, the system is blinking red. The alarm has been sounded because, as one report put it, parts of the South Florida reef have already reached what one scientist called the “tipping point.”
It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of this natural wonder that stretches some 300 nautical miles along Florida’s coast. It is the only barrier reef off the continental United States, home to 100 coral species and more than 400 fish species. This ecosystem not only protects the shore, but also attracts revenue from tourism and the commercial seafood industry — to the tune of $7.6 billion annually and 70,000 jobs, according to the report by University of Miami marine biologists.
Once, it was even larger, extending from the Dry Tortugas north to Palm Beach County. Today, it has been reduced to a fraction of its former size. Some areas, like Fowey Rocks, a popular dive spot in Biscayne National Park off Key Biscayne, are disappearing. The disintegration is part of a larger trend that has placed all of the planet’s coral reefs at risk. The causes vary, from pollution to destructive human activity to the warming of the oceans.
The UM report found that acidification, the process by which the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is turning out to be a deadlier threat, mainly due to spells of unusually hot weather — among other causes. Acidification is expected to increase as the climate warms, so the ultimate answer is to prevent the increasing buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by reducing global warming and the continued use of carbon-based fuels.
That’s a long-term project, but as the latest report makes clear, it’s an urgent one requiring attention by governments around the world. The damage to the reef underlying PortMiami is another matter. This is man-made damage caused by the failure of mitigation efforts, and it requires a man-made solution to prevent further harm.
In December, the Corps blamed the damage on “white plague,” a virus that bleaches and kills coral. A new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration disagreed, however. It blames dredging sediment, which suffocates the coral. It cites the dredging itself and the failure to protect the vulnerable coral.
Some of the coral should have been relocated by the Corps and was not. Monitoring was inadequate. Sediment extended farther than the anticipated area of potential damage.
Clearly, any further dredging should include independent monitoring. This includes the expected upcoming dredging of Port Everglades sought by Fort Lauderdale.
State and federal inspectors need to get serious about monitoring the work and including mandatory language to protect the coral reefs in any agreement with the Corps. Halting any activity deemed potentially harmful until remedial action has been taken should be required.
Much of the damage that has occurred is irreversible. Further damage must be prevented.

Brown water

Brown waters continue to plague coast - by Chad Gillis
May 3, 2016
Rick Bartleson lowers a metal box into the murky Caloosahatchee River waters.
Once it reaches bottom, he pulls a string that shuts the box, securing a chunk of river bottom. He lifts the box to let it drain, and thick drops of what looks like motor oil splash onto the white fiberglass boat.
"It would be good if there was sand on the bottom and not muck," Bartleson said after opening the box to inspect its contents, which looked like thick, dark chocolate cake batter.
Historically, the bottom of the Caloosahatchee was sandy, almost beach-like. Today it's difficult to tell what the bottom looks like because it's impossible to see through the suspended solids and excess tannins that have crippled part of the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary this year.
Record rains in January flooded much of the Sunshine State, and controversial practices like backpumping were used by the state to drain towns and farm fields south of Lake Okeechobee. Four months later, environmentalists and people who make a living on the river and its estuary are still worried about water quality and economic impacts.
During the heavy rains, Okeechobee waters were released to Fort Myers on the west coast and Stuart on the east coast. The water flowed, at times, as fast and pumps and gravity would allow.
Waters near the mouth of the river have been largely lifeless since.
Lowell Hillman is a commercial crabber and fished the river for blue crabs Tuesday.
How's the blue crabbing been going this year?
"It ain't been going," Hillman said after retrieving an empty trap.
A second trap produces one crab. The third, nothing.
"It all started about two weeks after they started releasing water from the lake," Hillman said, speaking of the South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — the state and federal agencies charged with managing Lake Okeechobee and the South Florida drainage network.
In some areas of the river, the bottom is practically lifeless. Organic material that washed through the lake and from the river's watershed has settled in some areas. Bacteria have been feeding on those solids in a process that absorbs oxygen (which marine life needs) and carbon dioxide.
This causes a thick, slime-like coating to develop on the river's bottom.
"There are no invertebrates that can survive for any length of time," Bartelson said. "And the temperatures are increasing."
Warmer conditions help bacteria reproduce, and May is one of the warmest months of the year.
Lake releases have slowly been lowered from around 9,000 cubic feet per second to about 2,000 cubic feet per second over the past three months, according to the Army Corps.
"It's done in a manner that simulates a rainfall event," said John Campbell, with the Corps' Jacksonville office, of the current releases.
That's right: Less than four months after record rainfall during the dry season, Lake Okeechobee water is being pumped down the river to provide the freshwater necessary to maintain a healthy estuary.
"We're still getting a little bit of water off the lake to the east and west and south, and we're seeing good recedence on the lake," Campbell said. "(But) it's not receding so rapidly that if we have a dry trend we won't be able to provide water."
Lake Okeechobee levels were 14.12 inches above sea level Tuesday. Army Corps protocols say lake levels should be kept between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet above sea level in order to provide water supply while also not flooding towns to the south.
The record rains were driven by a powerful El Nino system, which typically delivers cooler, wetter winters in this region. El Nino also tends to suppress tropical storm and hurricane formation in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
Meteorologists from various weather outlets have called for average or slightly below average rainfall for this region over the next two to three months.
The lack of marine life locally has impacted fishermen like Hillman, but the poor water quality conditions have also impacted the tourism, real estate sales and the recreational fishing industries.
Local guide Daniel Andrews, a member of the Captains for Clean Water group, said there are tarpon near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee, but that the estuary still looks brown and bleak.
"There's a lot of silt in the mouth of the river and in San Carlos Bay," Andrews said. "(The sea) grass has died off but there's still some patches of live turtle grass."
By the numbers  (Source: South Florida Water Management District, National Weather Service)
11.54: Inches of rain fell in January across Lee and Collier counties
557: Percentage of average rainfall for January 
3.5: Inches of rain falls on this region during an average May 
10: Inches of rain fall here during an average June
98: Degrees is the hottest temperature recorded in May 26, 1975)
49: Degree is the lowest temperature recorded in Fort Myers (May 8, 1992)
11.45: Inches of rain fell on the wettest day of May record (May 8, 1979)


Climate change shrinking South Florida reefs sooner than expected – by Jenny Staletovich, Miami Herald
May 3, 2016
South Florida’s shrinking reefs may be vanishing faster than expected.
In a new study published Monday in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, researchers found that climate-related coral erosion projected to start between 2050 and 2060 has already started near Miami. The situation is better moving south and away from Miami’s dense coast, where pollution may be worsening conditions. But researchers say Miami could serve as a glimpse of things to come for the Florida reef tract.
“We tend to think we have a lot of time and this study shows we have maybe 30 years less time,” said lead author Chris Langdon, a University of Miami marine biologist. “We need to get serious sooner rather than later.”
Monday’s report comes just days after another study concluded a reef tract near Miami took a hit from another unlikely threat: the U.S. government.
In its first assessment of a $205 million dredging of PortMiami, the National Marine Fisheries Service last week concluded that sediment stirred up by the work smothered and killed many of the coral near the Government Cut channel. The report contradicts findings earlier this year by the U.S. Corps of Engineers, which managed the project and blamed the deaths for an outbreak of white plague disease.
The findings follow months of warnings from NMFS and environmentalists, including the Miami Waterkeeper, that dredging the channel to 50 feet, and then barging that sediment to an offshore dump site, was spreading a plume of sand damaging far more coral than anticipated, including some threatened species.
NMFS divers surveyed more than 165 acres north of the channel that was hardest hit by the work and found sediment on about 158 acres, the report said. Sand piled up on more than six acres so thickly that the habitat is no longer functioning as a reef and likely won’t until the sand is removed. Divers also found severe to moderate damage from sediment on about 120 more acres.
Corps officials, however, defended their assessment that included over 7,000 dives covering 252 acres and concluded white plague, not dredging work, killed 85 percent of the coral.
The Corps “performed significant mitigation for the Miami Harbor deepening up-front and also during the project. Those efforts have been very successful and will lead to a net increase in the amount of listed staghorn coral colonies and seagrass beds,” spokeswoman Susan Jackson said in an email. “Completed mitigation features of the project include the creation of 17 acres of new seagrass beds and more than 11 acres of new artificial reef with thousands of coral relocations.”
In environmental circles, the debate over damage has sometimes turned bitter, with the Waterkeepers suing over management of the project and Corps’ contractors crying foul. Ecologist Bill Precht, who supervised the Corps’ assessment, plans on making a presentation later this month at a Coconut Grove restaurant to defend what he described in an email as “dramatic statements by project opponents.”
Florida’s reef tract once stretched from the Dry Tortugas north to Palm Beach County but has shrunk to just a fraction of that historic range, pounded by pollution, over-fishing and damage from anchors.
A year ago, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Science researchers warned that warming temperatures could cause an increase in bleaching events for the region a dozen years sooner than expected.
Langdon’s findings are even more alarming: Fowey Rocks, a popular dive spot in Biscayne National Park off Key Biscayne, is disappearing today, he said.
Typically reefs flourish in the summertime, when temperatures rise and plants grow, soaking up carbon making conditions just right for tropical coral to grow. In winter, the opposite can happen. Langdon said. Seagrass and other marine life dies, putting carbon back into the water. Historically, summer growth outpaced winter die-offs. But increasing acidification is expected to start slowing summer growth and worsening winter erosion.
Langdon’s team found patterns both seasonal and geographic. Reefs closer to Miami’s polluted coast did the worst with reefs getting progressively better heading south. That trend may reflect pollution, he said, as well as its unique position: most reefs are tropical and South Florida’s set on a gradient range of sub-tropical.
The study also found that transplanting corals or finding hardier species won’t be enough to protect a $7.6 billion asset estimated at creating 7,000 South Florida jobs.
“Those will have short-term benefits. But if the reef framework is dissolving under them, that’s not going to be a solution. So we really need to get serious about the carbon solution,” he said. “We have a real financial stake in trying to keep this ecosystem healthy.”
Related:           More acidic seawater now dissolving bit of Florida Keys reef          Dubuque Telegraph Herald


Rubio meets with State Agency following key step forward on water management
May 3, 2016
Rubio: “We were fortunate yesterday to get the Committee to approve, at the Senate level, the Central Everglades Planning Project and obviously we’re hopeful of getting that passed in the full Senate, over in the House and ultimately into law… So there are a lot of moving pieces that all have to fit together and there’s not a single project that takes care of all of it. It has to all happen and one project will build upon another so it’s a complicated issue and it’s gonna take more time. We feel good about the progress, but there’s more work to do.” Washington, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — Rubio: “We were fortunate yesterday to get the Committee to approve, at the Senate level, the Central Everglades Planning Project and obviously we’re hopeful of getting that passed in the full Senate, over in the House and ultimately into law… So there are a lot of moving pieces that all have to fit together and there’s not a single project that takes care of all of it. It has to all happen and one project will build upon another so it’s a complicated issue and it’s gonna take more time. We feel good about the progress, but there’s more work to do.” Washington, D.C. – Following the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passage of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today held a press conference following a meeting with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) in West Palm Beach. Rubio met with officials to discuss ongoing Florida water management issues, including harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the east through the St. Lucie River and to the west through the Caloosahatchee River, and the need for water to flow south for Everglades’ restoration. He also discussed solutions, such as the CEPP and the de-authorization of the Ten Mile Creek. Rubio concluded his visit with a tour of the operations control room, where water managers monitor water levels and flows for the 16 counties in the SFWMD. A portion of the transcript of the press conference is available below, and a video is available here. Senator Marco Rubio: “We are getting to a critical point in the process here in Washington. “We were fortunate yesterday to get the Committee to approve, at the Senate level, the Central Everglades Planning Project and obviously we’re hopeful of getting that passed in the full Senate, over in the House and ultimately into law. “And there’s a lot of work that remains to be done but we feel optimistic about it. So just kind of getting an update on the existing projects that are in the pipeline and being able to go back and justify to my colleagues why we need more money and more approvals.” … “Well the challenges at the federal level – number one just the process takes forever. To go from A to Z at the federal level takes a long time. It’s not as quick as it is at the state level. That’s been part of it. “I think part of it is the notion that there is no silver bullet. There is no one single project that in and of itself solves all the problems. “And the third thing is we’re trying to deal with multiple things at the same time. “I mean you’ve got an ecological system in Lake Okeechobee that you want to maintain, you’ve got flood control issues that you have an obligation to deal with. Then you’ve got the endangered species that might be impacted by water flows in a particular area. “And you see what’s happened in St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee and other places that have been complicated. “And then, of course, you’ve got the Everglades restoration component to it as well. So there are a lot of moving pieces that all have to fit together and then there’s not a single project that takes care of all of it. It has to all happen and one project will build upon another so it’s a complicated issue and it’s gonna take more time. We feel good about the progress, but there’s more work to do.” … “As you see, the answer is there’s no silver bullet. That’s the point I am saying. ‘Is there one thing we can do that changes everything?’ The answer is there’s no one simple thing we can do, we gotta do a bunch of different things. “It’s the ability to store more water. It’s the ability to treat that water before it’s released. “It’s also localized issues. I mean some of the issues we’ve seen with the water quality in both St. Lucie and in Southwest Florida have been driven by seepage that’s occurring in the local communities from old septic tanks and things of this nature. “I used the analogy in our meeting of a Rubik’s cube. You get one side of it right then the other sides are off balance. “So a lot of different things are going to happen over a period of time and we’re making incremental progress. “The Ten Mile Creek project has been de-authorized and hopefully will be transferred here over the next 30-60 days. That will help increase capacity in the long term of storing more water but a lot of different things have to happen and that’s why we want to make sure all of that is moving along.” … “One of the things that we push the Small Business Administration and others to do is the disaster declaration, which has allowed funds to be opened up to deal with it. “But again, one of the things we can help is where we can store more water and prevent some of that flow from happening, especially when water capacity has reached a certain point. “Separate from that is the local issues that exist. You know, who’s gonna pay for these septic tanks to be taken out and replaced? “These are localized county and city issues, which is why this is such a complicated issue. There are multiple places in which this becomes complicated, but we’ve gotten an extensive number of calls to our office from business that have been impacted, especially in the latest round of what we’ve seen here with the nutrients. That’s why we worked so hard for the disaster declaration and for those funds to become available.” … “The problem is, number one, a lot of what’s happening here is not just from the discharges from Lake Okeechobee. It’s a contributor, but even if discharges stopped completely, you are still going to have a problem because there’s local contamination that has to be addressed in the long-term. “I think over time, you will see discharges go down even further, first of all as Lake Okeechobee increases its capacity to hold water, and second as you find alternative places where that water can be held and treated. Obviously there’s a dual impact here so you want more clean water flow to restore the natural flow of the Everglades and the in the Florida Bay. So I think that part of it, hopefully continues to get better, but you are still going to have an issue in St. Lucie and Martin county and other places until the local contributors get their contamination issues addressed.” … “I think what’s important is to understand that a lot of those projects that are already in the pipeline have built into them the capacity to increase their capacity of storage. They have all been dredged at lower levels, creating the capability for those projects in the future, if more water storage is needed, to be dredged even deeper so they can hold even more water. “Again I think we are looking at not just what’s the most efficient use of taxpayer money, but also what can get you there the fastest. The process from buying land to turning it into a place that can hold water takes a long time. You’ve got current projects that are underway and you can’t lose focus on those, and many of those storage areas have been built with the ability to increase the capacity needed in the future.”


Turkey Point nuke

FPL: Turkey Point cleanup to cost an estimated $50 million in 2016
May 2, 2016
Florida Power & Light Co. customers will ultimately shell out an estimated $50 million this year alone for the cleanup of hypersaline water coming from the company’s Turkey Point nuclear plant south of Miami.
Peter Robbins, spokesman for Juno Beach-based FPL, said Monday the cleanup includes drilling  extraction wells to remove the hypersaline water  west of Turkey Point and removing hypersaline water in four isolated channels in Biscayne Bay.
The underground plume of hypersaline water extends for miles in all directions from the plant near Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park. The plume is considered to be a threat to drinking water from the Biscayne Aquifer.  The plant is cooled by a 5,900-acre network of unlined cooling canals.
Plans to fix the problem FPL has known about for six years are not yet finalized with Miami-Dade County and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Robbins said. Both the county and state have issued violation notices to FPL over the contaminated water.
On April 21, DEP issued a Final Order to FPL that recognized issues of environmental concern raised during an Administrative Hearing regarding the operations of the cooling canal system at the Turkey Point Power Plant, DEP spokeswoman Jess Boyd said Monday.
The Order also expressed the department’s commitment to consider and further evaluate actions as necessary. Last week, DEP took two additional actions to address these concerns by issuing a Notice of Violation and a separate Warning Letter.
The Notice of Violation addresses noncompliance with FPL’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Industrial Wastewater Permit, which prohibits cooling canal discharges from violating minimum water quality criteria for groundwater.
Under the Notice of Violation, FPL will be required to enter into a Consent Order with the department within 60 days, which will specify corrective actions FPL will take. DEP issued the Warning Letter to further investigate potential migration of cooling canal system water toward surface waters connected to the Bay. Through this process, DEP will determine if any additional violations have occurred, Boyd said.
Randy LaBauve, FPL vice president of environmental services said  FPL is now using data from surveys conducted by helicopter to more accurately locate the hypersaline water. It’s also collecting data from dozens of monitoring stations.
“A data-driven, science-based approach ensures that we’re taking the right actions at the right time to improve the situation. While it will take time to reverse the hypersaline plume in an environmentally responsible manner, this new data will help us achieve faster results and allow us to leverage the progress we are already making,” LaBauve said.
In addition to the plan to remove hypersaline water, FPL is using brackish water from the Floridan aquifer in the cooling canal system to help keep salt levels in the cooling canals in balance with the salinity of Biscayne Bay. This system, which has been approved by the state of Florida’s Siting Board and DEP, is expected to commence operations this summer and be fully operational by year’s end.
The recent water quality challenges involving the cooling canal system do not impact the safety of the plant or public health, FPL said.
Related:           Turkey Point nuclear plant canal leaks spark more scrutiny over ...   Utility Dive


Murphy hails inclusion of CETT in Senate Water Bill
May 2, 2016
U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) made the following statement regarding the inclusion of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) in the Senate's draft water bill text. Murphy has been a vocal advocate for this project's authorization to help restore the Everglades' natural southward flow as part of his ongoing efforts to address the crisis in local waterways Project Will Help Local Waterways by Sending More Clean Water South Washington, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Representative Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) made the following statement regarding the inclusion of the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) in the Senate’s draft water bill text. Murphy has been a vocal advocate for this project’s authorization to help restore the Everglades’ natural southward flow as part of his ongoing efforts to address the crisis in local waterways. “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. This is a major win for our community and the fight to protect our waterways,” said Murphy. “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.” Committed to continuing the fight to improve the health of local waterways, Murphy recently led the Florida delegation in calling on U.S. House and Senate leaders to include Congressional authorization of CEPP in the 2016 Water Resources Development Act to allow this vital project to move forward without further delay. He also led a bipartisan group of Florida lawmakers in introducing H.R. 230 at the beginning of this Congress to authorize CEPP after the Army Corps finalized its Chief’s Report for the project in December of 2014. Background on CEPP: CEPP is a $2 billion series of engineering projects intended to collect and channel water around Lake Okeechobee south into the center of the Everglades, thereby reducing harmful discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and improving the health of the entire ecosystem. CEPP was not included in the Water Resources Reform and Development Act because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had not completed a key report approving the project before the bill was signed into law on June 10, 2014. The Chief’s Report was finalized on December 23, 2014, which allows Congress to now take action to authorize it. Once authorized, the project can begin to receive federal funding and construction can begin.


Scientists ponder why Florida seagrass is dying
Washington Post, Sentinel Source - by Chris Mooney
May 2, 2016
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. — 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 dead grasses. The event, which has coincided with occasional fish kills, recalls a 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 three years.”
Fourqurean and government experts on the Everglades 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 seagrass 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 sea trout, and many other species of marine life. 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 is 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 southward flow of fresh water. Without quick action 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 seagrass die-off during a recent visit to the estuary, which covers more than half a million acres.
Holding dead grass in her hand in a National Park Service boat, Jewell told a group of Park Service staffers 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 Okeechobee 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 man-made 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 seagrass 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, a quarter of standard annual flows. (An acre foot of water is water a foot deep covering an area of one acre.) Today’s standard annual flows 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, experienced considerable evaporation and became highly saline. Some parts of the bay became twice as salty as normal sea water.
“It’s a really delicate balance between how much freshwater comes in each year, how much rainfall fall [there is], 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 high-salt conditions, waters hold little of the oxygen that seagrasses need to live. At the same time, other marine organisms turn to an anoxic process — one that goes forward without oxygen and has a nasty byproduct: 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 seagrass dies off, a destructive feedback loop is created: The dead grasses in the water release nutrients that can stoke huge algal blooms. (This happened the last time around, but such blooms have not appeared en masse this year.) The algal blooms cloud the water and prevent light from reaching remaining seagrasses, which then also die because they are deprived of the light they need for photosynthesis.
“You have this water that’s notoriously gin-clear water, because the seagrasses 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 at Florida Atlantic University, contends that Florida Bay seagrass die-offs are caused by the runoff carrying too many nutrients, such as 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 die-off, 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 (that study failed to reach a conclusion), 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.
Florida Bay is not alone in its troubles: Seagrasses the world over are threatened. In a 2009 study, scientists found that seagrasses had declined globally by 29 percent since the late 19th century. They concluded that seagrasses were just as threatened as coral reefs, a companion ecosystem, although the latter tend to get far more attention.
The Obama administration, in collaboration with Florida state agencies and local leaders, has lately been moving simultaneously to restore historic Everglades water flows and to try to safeguard the park against climate change.
President Barack Obama visited last year, telling his audience, “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 intended to elevate 2.5 miles of U.S. Highway 41, more popularly known as the Tamiami Trail, which runs through the Everglades and connects Miami to Tampa. Constructed in the 1920s, the highway impairs water flow southward from Lake Okeechobee into the Everglades (and, eventually, the bay). It is like a dam across the famed “river of grass.” Elevating it could restore a substantial part of historic freshwater flow.
But that will take years. The project should be completed in 2020, too far off to stop the current seagrass die-off from running its course and perhaps having many cascading effects, scientists fear.
And it is not just nature that needs this freshwater: People do, too.
For its drinking water, South Florida, home to a steadily growing human population that is well past 6 million, relies on the Biscayne aquifer, which is replenished by the Everglades. The aquifer’s water flows through limestone that is highly porous, which means that saltwater and freshwater can both penetrate it.
In effect, two bodies of water abut one another, facing off — and for the sake of nature and people alike, freshwater needs to hold its ground. If too little freshwater flows southward in Florida, the bay can become too salty even as the seas also creep into the Everglades, potentially causing land to sink, but also penetrating the aquifer and threatening the drinking water.
In short, it is bad news across the whole system.
And even as governments at the local, state and national levels move faster to send the Everglades and the bay more freshwater, it remains unclear to what extent climate change will worsen problems such as the seagrass die-off. After all, climate change will raise sea levels, increase air and water temperatures, and perhaps fuel more droughts.
“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 he noted that there is some reason to fear that South Florida could become drier.
“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 bottlenose dolphins approached the National Park Service skiff there and started to lead the way, as the boat trolled slowly through the clear, 3-to-4-foot-deep water.
Nonetheless, the second major seagrass die-off in three decades certainly suggests that something has changed recently in the system. “The really disturbing thing is, this ... event has now happened twice in my career,” Fourqurean said.


Don’t raise taxes to clean up Indian River
Florida Today – Guest column by Trudie Infantini, Brevard County Commissioner
May 1, 2016
Commissioner Trudie Infantini has opposed tax increases to fund road maintenance and Indian River Lagoon cleanup.(Photo: Craig Rubadoux/FLORIDA TODAY)Buy Photo
I believe that everyone agrees the lagoon needs a restoration plan. The questions are: what is the best way to restore it, and how to fund it?
Desperate times call for desperate measures and the state of our Lagoon warrants asking the governor to declare a state of emergency to free up state funds and cut through the permitting bureaucratic red tape as I requested. The other commissioners did not want this.
They did not want to pressure the governor. Instead, they want you to vote to tax yourselves to pay for the Lagoon woes.
None of the other Indian River Lagoon counties are proposing taxing their residents to pay for the cleanup and restoration of the Lagoon. This measure would create another special tax district targeting property owners based on their property values.
This is a state and federal responsibility, not just a local issue. What other water body that transcends multiple counties and jurisdictions relies on the property owners in one county to foot the bill ?
The current methodology employed by the Brevard County Commissioners is first we tax you, then we fail to prioritize and budget the spending, finally we tax you even more. Until this county commission buckles down and makes the daunting budget decisions and prioritizes spending, I will remain steadfast in my commitment to the citizens who elected me – no new taxes or tax increases until waste is cut and the priority list has been created.
Over the last few years you have been hit with a roughly 30 percent increase in your property tax rate, 78 percent increase in your storm water taxes, a sales tax increase for schools, and likely increases in many of your living expenses. We dodged the gas-tax bullet, but must remain vigilant in knowing the infrastructure sales tax issue is still looming.
So where should the funding come from to clean the lagoon? I believe the general fund of tax money already collects enough to support our contribution to restore the lagoon. However, right now Brevard County government is giving millions of dollars to a billionaire to locate his company here; committed to giving millions of dollars to a developer to rebuild a mall in Titusville; and several million to build a “spec” building in north Brevard, even though no tenant has stated they would want the building.
These are choices that must be factored into the solution equation before reaching deeper into taxpayers’ wallets. When will the lagoon become the priority over corporate welfare?
The commissioners claim we should “let the voters decide.” The voters have already spoken by placing their trust in their elected officials who campaigned on lower taxes, efficient government and prioritized spending. Newly seated commissioners are reminded this was the single biggest reason people voted for them was to stop raising taxes the way their predecessors had.
The suggestion to create another tax district is another effort to circumvent the SAVE OUR HOMES protections we currently have in place. A Charter Amendment referendum prevents your tax bill from increasing by the lower of 3 percent or CPI, excluding taxes implemented due to voter referendum.
How much of an increase in property taxes can your budget endure before you lose your home to the county for failure to pay your property taxes?
For the record – FLORIDA TODAY’s article titled “Lagoon Scorecard: Brevard County Commissioners’ Reactions” was improperly titled. This is because Commissioners were asked to explain the reasons for their votes on the Lagoon. We were not asked to react to the story and respond to the FLORIDA TODAY scorecard. Some Lagoon related votes were not included in the scoring..
Related:           Brevard County Commissioner Responds To FLORIDA TODAY'S ...       Brevard Times


Florida Bay seagrass dying at historically high rate
TheRealDeal – by
May 1, 2016
The bay, part of Everglades National Park, supports a $1.2 billion sport fishing industry
Reduced fresh-water flows into Everglades National Park have contributed to an ongoing die-off of seagrass that so far has spread to 40,000 acres of Florida Bay.
The bay constitutes the southern part of the Everglades park, better known for its swamp land, and seagrass supports both marine life and a recreational fishing industry that generates $1.2 billion in annual spending, the Everglades Foundation reports.
Florida Bay is home to an array of marine life from dolphins, manatees and sea turtles to lobsters, spotted seatrout and shrimp.
The massive seagrass die-off there began in mid-2015 and has achieved historic scale. The last major seagrass die-off in Florida Bay, from 1987 to the early 1990s, generated momentum to restore the Everglades.
Florida International University marine scientist James Fourqurean told the Washington Post the current die-off might worsen before it recedes: “In the ’80s, it continued to get worse for three years.”
Drought last year may have triggered the current seagrass die-off, but Fourqurean and other scientists say the main culprit is real estate development that impedes the flow of fresh water.
According to the Washington Post, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell recently visited Everglades National Park, plucked dead seagrass from Florida Bay, and told reporters, “This is what we get when we don’t take care of Florida Bay.” [The Washington Post] — Mike Seemuth


Rising seas

Sea level rise swamping Florida's Everglades
May 1, 2016 (Oct. 17, 2015)
Rising sea levels are transforming the Florida Everglades, a new study shows. Plant communities that thrive in salt water are expanding along the coast, leaving less room for plants that depend on fresh water.
Salt-loving mangroves in the Everglades have marched inland in the past decade, while freshwater plants — such as saw grass, spike rush and tropical hardwood trees — lost ground, according to a study published in the October 2013 issue of the journal Wetlands.
9 Popular Cities Losing War with Rising Seas
The findings, which come from an analysis of satellite imagery from 2001 through 2010, match long-term trends tracked on the ground for the past 70 years, said lead study author Douglas Fuller, a geographer at the University of Miami.
"I was very surprised at how well the results matched our understanding of long-term trends and field data," Fuller said in a statement. "Normally, we don't see such clear patterns."
Satellite imagery of the southern Everglades — a region that includes Florida City, Key Largo and the upper Keys — revealed large patches of freshwater vegetation loss within 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) of the coast. Only freshwater plants in the interior, about 5 miles inland (8 km), showed growth trends, the researchers found.
NEWS: Rising Sea Level Puts East Coast At Risk
Tracking growth and plant loss is an important part of ongoing restoration efforts in the Everglades. Changes in water management, such as the implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, may help offset the potential effects of saltwater intrusion, the researchers said. "However, restoration may not suffice if sea level rise accelerates in the coming decades," Fuller said.
The Everglades are one of the largest wetlands in the world. Water flows from north to south through a sea of grass underlain by cavernous limestone. In the past 200 years, about half of the original wetlands have disappeared.
Original article on LiveScience.

1605dd-z        upward

1605dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text                        upward                         MAY 2016                             upward

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


1605dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text


1605dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text


2009-2019, Boya Volesky