Currently, FL fresh
water is polluted and
wasted with huge
negative impact on both
inland and coastal
161130-a Clean Lake O water, don’t move it around
Naples Daily News - Commentary by Tania Galloni, Miami, Florida managing attorney, Earthjustice
November 30, 2016
The Army Corps of Engineers recently announced that it is slowing down the massive water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee River.
For more than nine months, scientists have been taking samples at the river’s estuary and recording dead oysters, low salinities and the nasty algae that’s fueled by the sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff in the lake water. Seagrasses, which we know are the building blocks of the sport fishing and seafood industries, struggle to survive.
During the environmental nightmare this past year, the appearance of green, slimy algae outbreaks on the coast woke many people up to what we’ve all been sadly witnessing here for years. And now, it is spawning the political finger-pointing that shows little sign of stopping.
Some people support the plan by state Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, to build a huge reservoir to send polluted Lake Okeechobee water southward, instead of out to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie river estuaries. But now there’s a mysterious group of political operatives saying the reservoir idea takes too big a share of state land-buying money that should be used elsewhere.
When the Florida Legislature convenes this spring, we’re likely to see a fight that once again misses a critical point: We need to clean the water up, not just keep moving the pollution around.
The citizens who are fighting for our waterways understand this. But polluters hold sway over too many of our leaders and our environmental agencies, and they muddy the waters, both literally and figuratively, year after year.
At Earthjustice, we have been representing citizens trying to stop this pollution at its source for many years. We fought to set a maximum daily limit for phosphorus allowed into Lake Okeechobee, but that limit continues to be exceeded every year. We challenged the backpumping of agricultural wastewater into Lake Okeechobee – the wrongheaded practice where agricultural operations would take water out of the lake, irrigate fields, then pump the now-polluted water back into public waters.
We filed a challenge to stop government water managers from using taxpayer-funded pumps, pipes and canals to transfer polluted water from one place to another, and the case is on appeal. We are also in litigation with the Army Corps of Engineers to enforce water quality standards on the Caloosahatchee. That case is also being appealed.
Fighting for the lake and the rivers is often slow going. And, as the citizens who have taken to social media to spread photos and stories of the pollution know too well, it can be very frustrating.
It was heartbreaking, for example, to read in the Naples Daily News the words of 35-year-old Jason Erwin, who lives in Alva, along the Caloosahatchee.
“I grew up on the river, swimming in it, jumping off the bridge, boating in it,” he told reporter Amy Bennett Williams in September. “But now, the water’s green. It stinks. It’s slimed.”
That’s the truth, on the ground.
We’re not going to make any real progress until we insist that our leaders make polluters clean up their messes, and not just keep moving this swill from one place to another.
161130-b Everglades restoration principals freezing out Glades
Palm Beach Post - Point of View by J.P. Sasser, Pahokee, FL
Nov. 30, 2016
When the Everglades Reservoir and restoration were originally designed, permitted and funded almost 20 years ago, the first to oppose the reservoir were the environmental groups. Their reasoning was that it would be more of an aid to the sugar industry than it would benefit restoration. In addition, a critical part of the plan was to have land swaps that would allow agricultural interests to swap good farmland for less productive land that could be used for restoration. Again, this was opposed by the environmentalists. This option was later removed from the deal when announced by then-Vice President Al Gore.
Then the environmentalists pushed for the construction of the reservoir to be halted immediately, and the money be used to purchase U.S. Sugar Corp. Their actual goal ? Certainly not Everglades restoration. The former head of the Everglades Trust is even quoted in an article stating the “reservoir is useless and too expensive … it is better to use the money to purchase the (U.S. Sugar) land.”
Then the Miccosukee Tribe sued the state to continue with the construction of the reservoir because in their opinion the U.S. Sugar deal was not going to happen, and actual Everglades restoration would be delayed for decades. Clearly, the Miccosukee Tribe is the more intelligent group involved in this issue.
So construction of the reservoir was halted after hundreds of millions of tax dollars were spent. And now we are back to spending more billions for a reservoir that oddly is no longer “useless” or “too expensive.”
Now, along comes state Sen. Joe Negron — newly elected president of the Florida Senate and member of the Gunster law firm, which lists U.S. Sugar as one of its clients. Negron draws two circles on a map of Florida for purchasing land in the name of Everglades restoration. Both circles contain very little U.S. Sugar land. Conflict of interest maybe?
What is the real plan here ? Is this an attempt to distract everyone that the state already purchased U.S. Sugar land ? That some oppose the execution of this contract as being too expensive, yet in turn are willing to spend billions on purchasing more land in the Glades region under the guise of Everglades restoration ? Really ?
The fact that none of our elected officials supporting this in Tallahassee nor any of the environmental groups have engaged the Glades communities in meaningful dialogue to reach a solution makes one thing perfectly clear — it is more about an agenda of killing agriculture south of the lake than it is about stopping the discharges and restoring the Everglades. This issue is too serious and too complicated to simply be reduced to a bumper sticker.
161130-c On the Water: Red tide still lingering in Southwest Florida waters
Pine Island Eagle - by Capt. Bill Russell ,
November 30, 2016
Over the past week, red tide again played a factor in fishing as anglers continued to express concerns over dead fish, an itchy throat and a slow bite. Red tide is a naturally-occurring, higher-than-normal concentration of the toxic microscopic algae Karenia brevis. In some areas I fished near Bokeelia and in Charlotte Harbor, bait would die instantly in the live well, but less than a mile away bait stayed alive and fishing was decent.
Many anglers report better fishing in the southern portion of Pine Island Sound. Sea trout to 18 inches were caught over grass flats in 4 to 6-foot depths. Also mixed in were ladyfish, jack crevalle and a few Spanish mackerel. Live shrimp suspended under popping corks were the bait of choice.
As the water warmed after Thanksgiving, snook were caught along shorelines near Galt Island and north of Demere Key, plus several redfish to 28 inches were hooked on the higher tide fishing mangrove shorelines with cut bait or gold spoons. Several redfish ranging from 17-24 inches were caught along islands and oyster bars between the Punta Rasa boat ramp and St. James. Ken Gunderson of South Fort Myers won the battle with this hard-fighting 33-inch redfish. The red was caught and released in south Matlacha Pass while fishing with Capt. Bill Russell.
Sheepshead are beginning to make their inshore presence as fish to 4 pounds were caught around oyster bars and docks in south Matlacha Pass, around St. James and in the sound from Blind to Redfish passes. Live or cut shrimp was the bait of choice. Look for sheepshead fishing to get better and better over the next month.
Good numbers of undersized gag grouper plus a couple keepers measuring over 24 inches were caught around Captiva Pass while drifting live pinfish over the deeper holes of the Pass.
In gulf waters, tripletail were sighted along Sanibel's idle buoys and stone crab trap lines from Bowman's Beach and to the south. Live shrimp and flies mimicking small crabs were top baits.
Gag grouper to 30 inches were taken while trolling deep-diving lures in 30 to 40-foot depths off Sanibel with red and white the top producing colors. Gag grouper were also reported west of Captiva in depths from 45 to 60 feet along with a mix of red grouper, mangrove snapper and grunts. A few king mackerel to 20 pounds were also taken either while trolling or with a live bait on a flat line while fishing structure.
Our weather's been fantastic with sunny mild days with light winds, if we could just get that toxic algae to clear up everything would be great. With the great weather many anglers are opting to run offshore with good results. If you are fishing inshore and you feel like your fishing in an area is being affected by the red tide, pick up and run a little distance, keep moving until you find unaffected areas. That's where you'll find the hungry fish.
If you have a fishing report or for charter information, please contact us at 239-283-7960, on the Web at www.fishpine-island.com or email: email@example.com
Have a safe week and good fishin'.
161130-d Ravenous 14-foot python caught with 3 Deer in its gut
LiveScience.com - by Laura Geggel, Senior Writer
November 30, 2016
A Burmese python in the Everglades with a penchant for venison gulped down three whole deer — one doe and two fawns — before wildlife officials captured and euthanized it, a new study reveals.
The gustatory feat sets a record: It's the first invasive Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) caught with three deer in its gut, said study co-lead author Scott Boback, an associate professor of biology at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.
The python probably attacked and ate the deer at different times over a 90-day period, Boback said. That time span may seem long, but it's actually quite surprising that a snake would eat three enormous meals in a relatively short window, Boback told Live Science. [Photos: This Invasive Python Ate Three Wild Deer]
"If a python is capable of eating three deer in three months," what else are they eating that we don't know about, he asked. "We don't even know how many of them are out there [in the Everglades]."
Burmese pythons are native to Southeast Asia, but for reasons still shrouded in mystery, they became established in the Everglades during the 1990s. The snakes can grow to be up to 18 feet (5.5 meters) long in the Everglades (and up to 26 feet, or 8 m, long in Southeast Asia). They use their strong muscles to wrap around prey, obstructing their victims' blood flow until circulation stops. Deer trio
It's unclear how the python attacked the deer, but the snake may have hid in the water, waiting for the deer to stop for a drink. That would have left the deer within striking distance of the snake, Boback said.
The 15.6-foot-long (4.8 m) female snake was almost done digesting its three massive meals when officials caught and euthanized it on June 3, 2013. A necropsy, or animal autopsy, revealed an empty stomach but intestines packed with poop.
The fecal matter was immense: more than 14 lbs. (6.5 kilograms), or 13 percent of the snake's body mass, Boback said. Study co-researchers Teresa Hsu and Suzanne Peurach, scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, sieved through the excrement and found mats of fur and several undigested hooves, bones and teeth, indicating that the python had eaten white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) — and not just one, Boback said.
It's no surprise that the fur, hooves and teeth were undigested, as pythons can't break down keratin or enamel, Boback said. However, they can digest bone, which would explain why the researchers found only fragments of bone in the dung, he said.
After sifting through the snake poop, the researchers found 12 white-tailed deer hooves and 10 dewclaws — the upper part of the deer's toes.
The size and shape of the hooves — as well as the presence of a deciduous, or baby, tooth — indicated that the adult doe was at least 1 year old and about 99 lbs. (45 kg), one fawn was about 1 month old and 37 lbs. (17 kg) and the other fawn was about 2 weeks old and 29 lbs. (13 kg), the researchers wrote in the study. [In Images: Hungry Python Eats Porcupine Whole] Python invasion
Pythons are ravenous eaters, and they've been wreaking havoc on the Everglades ecosystem, Boback said. The hungry snakes hunt the region's native animals, including birds, mammals and at least one reptile — the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), the researchers wrote in the study.
Although other Everglades studies have shown correlations between the presence of pythons and a drop in mammals — such as raccoons, opossums, bobcats and rabbits — the new report shows concrete evidence that pythons can eat more than one deer within a short period of time, Boback said.
"It just begs the question, 'How often are they eating these things?'" he said.
The study was published in the November issue of the journal BioInvasions Records.
Original article on Live Science.
161130-e South Florida activists prepare for life under Trump
Miami New Times - by Lauren Angueira
November 30, 2016
A few friends, some oysters, and a lot of Ketel One were Rand Hoch's day-after-election hangover remedy.
But the president and founder of Palm Beach County Human Rights Council was back at work the next day. Aiming to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, he quickly planned a meeting with Army veteran and newly elected Republican Rep. Brian Mast, who represents the Treasure Coast.
In fact, the more he thought about it, the more Donald Trump's election galvanized Hoch's plans to make a local impact.
“Since the LGBTQ community cannot expect much progress on the national level and, for that matter, on the state level, we must focus our attention at the county and municipal levels," he says. “Ultimately, Washington, D.C., will see what is happening on the local level on civil rights and perhaps finally get around to enacting legislation.”
From Palm Beach to the Keys, activists working on LGBT issues, social rights, and economic justice have quickly traveled through all five stages of grief in the wake of Trump's election. New Times spoke to some of them to find out how they've coped — and how they plan to continue fighting under Trump. Keep Protesting Krystal Ball is a senior media fellow at the New Leaders Council, a national nonprofit with a Miami chapter that aims to turn passion into concrete action, whether that be running for office, leading nonprofits, or starting new business.
Ball says the election should spark action, not depression.
“Protest built our country. This rush to sweep the election under the rug is very disconcerting," she says. "March for what you believe in, but also band together and work on a serious and thoughtful agenda so others will join in the voting booth next election.”
Next summer, the New Leaders Council will release the Millennial Compact With America — a policy agenda written for and by millennials. “Now more than ever, we’ve got to have bold new ideas for democracy, social justice, and making sure that the economy works for all," Ball says.
What will Trump's administration mean for that plan?
“It is impossible to say," she says. "I don’t think Trump even knows what he’s going to do. We know, though, that he ran a divisive and reactionary campaign with no respect for the norms of our democracy, so until I see otherwise, I assume that’s the kind of president he will be as well. We’ve got to offer a real policy alternative that is bold enough for the task at hand.”
Like Hoch, she says a focus on local action will be key to making progress in the next four years.
“We can only figure out what to do next, and the answer is almost always more love and compassion for a our flawed brothers and sisters who were desperate enough to fall for the tricks of a con artist,” she says. Prevention
Did you know that at current rates, it will be three decades before American women earn the same as men? That’s a fact, according to Janet Altman, board chair of the Miami-Dade Women’s Fund. The local nonprofit advocates for women’s rights in the community to create policy change.
Trump's election doesn't raise many hopes of changing that fact anytime soon.
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“Many of us are still processing our emotions,” Altman says. “We’re worried about the Supreme Court, the risks to reproductive rights and health-care access. We’re more concerned than ever about economic security for working-class single moms and protection for immigrants and their children.”
The Women’s Fund will be a voice for women and girls at the county and local levels, Altman says. She believes hope and strength can come from working together. Over the next few months, the organization will reach out to the community to define issues and programming.
“Complacency is no longer an option for many in our community. I expect more Miamians to contribute their resources — whether it’s time, talent, or funding — to help make things better at home,” Altman says. Exercise
“Roll up your sleeves and get to work," says Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. The association concentrates on protecting wildlife and habitats, including combating oil drilling, in the Everglades.
Schwartz and his team worry about the effects of Trump’s policy on the environment, specifically South Florida’s ecosystem. According to Schwartz, the president-elect has already created a website for his incoming administration where he has promised to get rid of restrictions on the extraction of fossil fuels.
“For South Florida, that likely means quicker and more streamlined reviews of future oil drillings. There has been speculation for years about the amount of oil that exists under the Everglades as well as offshore," Schwartz says. “Development and habitat are incompatible, at least at the level that we are destroying habitat in Florida.”
Schwartz says work will come through demonstrations, lobbying, and public education, no matter what the White House prioritizes.
“We expect to hold rallies, conduct letter-writing campaigns, attend public meetings (and encourage others to join us), produce educational materials to spread the word, increase our use of social media, create videos, and conduct other activities," he says. "We are convinced that the majority of Floridians are with us on this issue." Millennial Power
Engage Miami concentrates on creating a culture of civic participation by shattering the myth that millennials are apathetic. Young voters are increasingly more involved in donating and volunteering with organizations, says Rob Biskupic-Knight, the group's executive director.
Just look at the group of Palmetto High School students who the day after Trump’s victory walked out of school in protest. Biskupic-Knight and his team hope to capitalize on this momentum.
“The issue is that traditional methods of engaging civically are outdated or aren’t user-friendly. We’re focused on creating new and expanded pathways to participate and speak up. We aspire to be the architects of civic engagement in the 21st Century in Miami,” Biskupic-Knight says.
Take Action Gihan Perera, cofounder and executive director of the New Florida Majority, has a cure-all plan for post-Trump hangovers: “Drink a lot of water and get some rest. If you have a headache or anxiety, there is no other way to fix that without getting your body in motion. Take action and do something.”
The New Florida Majority is a locally operated independent racial justice political organization focused on community empowerment. You might know it best for commissioning the Pigs Can Fly mural formerly on Biscayne Boulevard. The mural, recently removed following pressure from the building’s landlord, was what Perera describes as an absurd expression of the election. Many people believed Trump would be elected “when pigs could fly” — and then pigs flew, Perera says. The mural said it all.
As for the organization’s future plans: “You don’t sit there in fear. You take action," Perera says. He and the New Florida Majority are more committed than ever to building political power and participation in the community.
“Miami-Dade really turned out,” says Perera, who argues that Miami needs to continue engaging in order to hold national leaders accountable. One of the major initiatives of the New Florida Majority will be criminal justice reform, specifically the reversal of legislation that bars ex-cons from voting. Perera believes that for democracy to work, every American should have that constitutional right.
“These types of moments are formative even if we don’t know it. There’s a generation of conscious activists being formed just by what they are seeing in place,” Perera says.
In fact, in a too-familiar post-Election Day conversation. Perera’s 11-year-old son asked his father if he would be deported. “This is really about their future — that is what we are fighting for,” Perera says.
161130-f Take refuge: Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge faces an uncertain future in Florida
DefendersBlog.org - by Haley McKey
November 30, 2016 Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last remaining protected remnants of the northern Everglades left in Florida.
It’s a national treasure, providing ideal feeding and nesting habitat for more than 250 species of birds, including the largest colony of wading birds in the Everglades. Acting as a natural filter, the refuge also provides clean water for communities in South Florida. But now it’s in danger of being lost forever.
Loxahatchee isn’t like most other refuges. It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) through a lease agreement with the South Florida Water Management District, which manages drinking water supplies and flood control in south Florida. Now the water management district wants to rescind the lease from the federal government, effectively closing the refuge for good.
The District contends that FWS has done a poor job at raising funds from Congress to manage invasive plant species on the refuge, as stipulated in the lease agreement. These non-native plants, such as melaleuca trees and Old World climbing fern, damage the dwindling Everglades habitat. Yet the state has done a poor job itself of controlling invasive species in its surrounding Water Management District Areas. In fact, Loxahatchee became infested with Old World climbing fern from surrounding state-owned lands. Revoking the lease agreement will not solve this regional invasive species problem.
Many believe that the state’s true interest is to regain control of the refuge to manage it for water control and storage, turning it into a designated Water Conservation Area (WCA). Florida would then be free to pump more water into or out of the area and send it downstream for development or agricultural use.
As a national wildlife refuge, Loxahatchee is maintained first and foremost to protect birds and other wildlife and their habitats. In contrast, protection is not guaranteed for wildlife in a WCA. If too much water is transferred into the area, the wetlands could become deeper — too deep to be useful habitat for wading birds that need shallow water to hunt. If too much water is drained out of the area, it could kill plants that birds depend on for shelter, and the mollusks and fish that the birds need to survive.
The Everglades, so named by early explorers for the grassy area (glades) that seemingly extended forever into the horizon, was once a massive network of forests, prairies and wetlands, a “river of grass” that flowed from the middle of Florida near Orlando, all the way down to the southern tip of Florida Bay. Today, while much of this ecosystem has been lost, the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is an island unto itself of protected Everglades habitat. We can’t risk losing this precious part of an ecosystem that is so vital to Florida’s natural heritage. That’s why we are asking you to contact Florida Governor Rick Scott and tell him to keep Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge exactly that – a refuge for the wildlife that depend on it.
The attempted takeover of Loxahatchee is just one more attack on our public lands systems. Great places like the Everglades belong to all Americans and should be protected for current and future generations. Now, more than ever, we must act to ensure that public lands remain in public hands.
161129-a A Trump presidency could be good news for the Everglades
WLRN.org - by Christine DiMattei
November 29, 2016
Two weeks before Election Day, Donald Trump made a campaign promise during a rally in Collier County that Floridians have been hearing from politicians for years:
"A Trump administration will also work alongside you to restore and protect the beautiful Everglades,” said Trump.
The Everglades restoration isn't the only environmental issue facing Florida. Sea-level rise also remains a serious threat here.
Last week, during a meeting with the New York Times, President-Elect Trump admitted there is “some” connectivity between human activity and climate change – despite his past statements dismissing the latter as a hoax created by the Chinese government. And after pledging on the campaign trail to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump told the Times he will now keep an “open mind” about it.
WLRN Anchor Christine DiMattei talked with the Miami Herald Environmental Reporter Jenny Staletovich about how a Trump presidency might affect Florida's environment. Here are some highlights of the conversation:
WLRN's Christine DiMattei interviews Miami Herald reporter Jenny Staletovich on how Donald Trump's environmental strategy could affect Florida. WLRN: The restoration of the Everglades is the largest environmental project of its kind that the country has ever taken on. Do we have any details yet on what Trump plans to do differently than people who have dedicated decades to restoring the Glades? Staletovich: During that campaign, Trump emphasized how important he thought infrastructure work was . I think a lot of the Everglades advocates are arguing that Everglades restoration is basically just a big infrastructure project and that it's something that he'll sign on to. He seems to want to get things done quickly. He's certainly prove that he can move aggressively on issues.
Everglades Restoration has gotten bogged down because a it's a massive project or projects and it takes the cooperation of Congress and the White House. So we'll see if he can make it happen any faster than it is. WLRN: In a recent video address, Trump has also vowed to remove what he calls “job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy.” And that’s been raising fears for environmentalists that there will be more on-shore and off-shore drilling in Florida. How likely is it that that will happen? Staletovich: I think that he's been very clear in how he wants to ease restrictions. He's gotten support from the oil industry. So I don't think there's any reason to believe that he's not going to push forward on that. But it's more complicated than that. There are market factors. Natural gas is very cheap. Are we going to need more oil production? Is there that much oil in Florida any way? There are lot of factors that are going to go into determining whether or not that actually happens. Related: South Florida Activists Prepare for Life Under Trump Miami New Times
161129-b Mercury contamination found in Everglades dolphins
Phys.org - by Joann Adkins
November 29, 2016
FIU scientists examined dolphins from the lower Florida Keys, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, looking for mercury and organic pollutants in their skin and blubber. Not only did they find high mercury levels in the coastal Everglades dolphins, but they found the highest levels of concentration ever recorded. Potential sources of mercury are both natural and from man-made sources. The finding raises concerns about potential impacts on the health of local populations.
During the past several decades, a variety of marine mammal species from all across the world have experienced unusual die-offs, including bottlenose dolphins along the East coast of the United States. Some scientists believe toxic algae and toxic pollutants like mercury are the primary culprit. Mercury can disrupt the immune system and reproduction of dolphins, making the animals more vulnerable to infection and disease.
Mangroves are thought to be the primary source of the mercury. When leaves are dropped into brackish swamp waters, the mercury from the mangroves interacts with bacteria and is converted to highly toxic methylmercury.
"Understanding the impact of pollutants on marine ecosystems, including from natural sources, is critical for conservation and management. Results obtained on bottlenose dolphins from the Everglades were surprising, but we now need to assess the effect of mercury on the health of dolphins and other species from the Everglades," said FIU marine scientist Jeremy Kiszka, who co-authored the study. "This is a critical question for understanding the effects of pollutants on aquatic ecosystems, but also on humans, since we are also part of these ecosystems."
Additional organic pollutants were examined as part of the study, including pesticides and other compounds. Some were found in the various populations of bottlenose dolphins throughout the southern tip of Florida, but mercury was found in much more alarming concentrations in the waters of the Everglades.
The research team plans to expand the study to examine mercury contamination in other species including sharks, alligators, fish and more. In addition to FIU, the research team includes scientists from the University of Liège in Belgium, the University of Gronigen in the Netherlands and the Tropical Dolphin Research Foundation in the United States. The findings were published in Environmental Pollution.
Explore further: Groundbreaking study links levels of mercury in dolphins to exposure in humans More information: France Damseaux et al, Spatial variation in the accumulation of POPs and mercury in bottlenose dolphins of the Lower Florida Keys and the coastal Everglades (South Florida), Environmental Pollution (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2016.10.005
161128-a Florida’s latest invasive plant species moves into central Florida after spawning National Refuge dispute
WMFE.org - by Amy Green
November 28, 2016
A fern at the heart of a dispute threatening a national wildlife refuge in the Florida Everglades is poised to become the state’s latest and greatest invasive plant species.
The Old World Climbing Fern now is spreading into central Florida.
The Old World Climbing Fern’s impact could surpass that of invasive plant species like the melaleuca and Brazilian peppertree.
Stephen Enloe of the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants says the fast-growing fern smothers everything in its path, including trees.
“It also burns very nicely, and so it can act as a fire ladder up into trees as it burns, and that is a major, major problem.”
In the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge just west of Delray Beach the state claims the federal government is failing to control the fern.
Now the fern is appearing for the first time as far north as Jacksonville. Related: Dispute Over Invasive Fern Threatens National Wildlife Refuge
An invasive fern is at the heart of a dispute threatening a national wildlife refuge in the Florida Everglades, October 26, 2016 (In "Environment")
161128-b Inside Frank Stronach’s plan to put a grass-fed steak on every plate
Canadian Business – by Alexandra Bosanac
November 28, 2016
The Magna founder is already a business legend. His new project, Adena Farms, has another audacious goal: shaking up the cattle-ranching business
Florida is home to many wonders, both natural (the Everglades) and man-made (Disney World). Adena Farms fits each category. It’s a burgeoning grass-fed cattle farm and production facility in Florida operated by Frank Stronach, the 83-year-old Canadian billionaire. But because this is Florida, which has a reputation for being, well, a little strange, there is something odd about Adena, too: Stronach, the aspiring beef magnate, is predominantly vegetarian. Don’t get hung up on that apparent contradiction, though. There is money to be made.
That explains why, on this sweltering August afternoon, Stronach is plodding through a grassy pasture and dodging cow patties while searching for a spot to be photographed for this article. He’s left the top two buttons of his shirt undone, which does little to combat the heat, and a dark patch spreads across his chest. Stronach removes a wad of $20 bills from his breast pocket and stuffs it into his jeans for safekeeping. A herd of cattle resting in the shade under a tree lumbers in his direction and forms a receiving line before him. He looks upon his subjects and smiles. Stronach was in a crabby mood earlier, when the photographer suggested he pose next to a fence. “No, no, no, I’m not doing that,” he protested. Fences might undercut the pastoral, open-range, cow-friendly image he is crafting for Adena. (“He’s a happy guy when he gets what he wants,” Eric Anderson, the ranch’s assistant manager, quips later that afternoon.)
It’s understandable why image would be on Stronach’s mind. He has spent hundreds of millions in the past few years on his beef production operation, having purchased 95,000 acres of land across four counties in north central Florida. Whether his grass-fed steaks are to gain any traction will depend largely on the strength of the Adena brand, which is little known today. A Stronach steak has to be everything it purports to be: environmentally friendly, humane and tasty.
But more than that, Stronach isn’t content to be known as just the man behind Magna International. He had an acrimonious break with the auto parts company he founded, and a success with his new venture could help that event fade further from view. Stronach is setting aggressive targets. A typical grass-fed ranch might process 200 cattle in a year. Stronach aims to slaughter roughly that many per week. He also wants to start a dairy farm and grow fruits and vegetables. For now, Stronach beef is only available at the handful of golf courses, racetracks and restaurants he operates in Florida. Soon, however, Stronach will open a supermarket chain, tentatively named Adena Farm Shops, to carry his bounty. Three locations are set to launch in Florida next year, with another planned for Ontario, and each one will feature a built-in restaurant. The end goal, he says, is to prove sustainable farming can be done on a large scale.
It will take time, money and considerable focus—which has not always been Stronach’s strong suit. (While still at Magna, he floated the idea of starting an airline and an amusement park, to the chagrin of shareholders.) And then there’s Stronach’s knack for courting controversy. Adena has already raised the ire of environmentalists in Florida and has become embroiled in a spat with a local high school. But then what’s a Frank Stronach venture without conflict?In November 2012, Stronach stepped down from his honorary chairmanship position at Magna. It was a heart-wrenching experience for him. “I built up a most powerful company from scratch—from a garage,” he says. “There’s an attachment when you build something from scratch.” His exit was hardly smooth, either. Some shareholders had long decried Magna’s dual-class structure, which they felt gave Stronach undue control. The issue had come to a head two years prior; in a contentious deal, Magna paid Stronach close to $900 million to give up his dual-class shares, effectively ceding control of the company. The terms of the agreement allowed him to stay on as a consultant, netting $38 million in 2011 and $47 million in 2012. (The Ontario Securities Commission found the process that put the proposal before shareholders was “fundamentally flawed,” but did not intervene.)
Unmoored from Magna but flush with cash, Stronach endured a period of “soul-searching,” as he puts it, about his next move. It didn’t take too long, apparently. Stronach already owned land in Florida (he started a horse-breeding operation there in the 1990s), and he started buying up even more plots in four counties, including Marion and Putnam, to accelerate his farming plans. Still, it’s difficult for Stronach to articulate exactly why he settled on cattle ranching. It boils down to a contention that agriculture, particularly the move toward sustainable practices, is relatively immune from the forces of globalization. “You take Canada and the United States, you take big department stores, you hardly see any products made in America. So the signs are there that unemployment will rise and, most of all, we lose the technology base. So, I had a great concern. I said to myself, I’m not going to be dragged down,” says Stronach. “I said, Look, if governments don’t listen, I’ll just go into agriculture and know the Chinese won’t be able to compete with me. There’s an angle to it.”
And he’s clearly motivated. His plans call for growing his herd from 8,000 cattle to about 15,000 over the next few years. Responsibility for achieving that goal falls to Rick Moyer, Adena’s manager. In a spotless paisley shirt and crisp blue jeans, he doesn’t look like a typical rancher. But he’s worked for one of the largest cattle operations in the United States, Deseret Ranches, also in Florida. On the drive to tour Adena’s abattoir, much of the land we pass is owned by Stronach. By raising his cattle solely on grass, Stronach seems determined to do things the hard way. Only a few breeds can fatten up on this kind of diet, and it has to be specific types of grass—which must be meticulously maintained. Ranchers also have to wait longer before sending cattle to slaughter: up to 24 months, compared with 14 to 16 months in an industrial operation.
The abattoir is located in the rural community of Fort McCoy, whose major intersection hosts a Dollar General and a Subway. There’s nothing remarkable about the white rectangular building from the outside, but Stronach has gone to great lengths to ensure it fits his vision. “I want no pain to the animal, no stress, no hormones, no antibiotics,” he says. “We give the animal the most natural environment.”
The ramp the livestock climb to enter the plant was designed by Temple Grandin, professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University and a renowned proponent of humane agricultural practices. The winding gate supposedly calms cattle by limiting their peripheral vision and only allowing them to see the animal directly ahead. Stronach also commissioned a specially insulated roof for the entrance that keeps the cattle cool and eliminates outside noise. “It can be storming outside, but under the roof, it’s completely silent,” Moyer says.
Stronach’s plant, which started operating in 2012 under the name FM Meat Products, is equipped to process up to 300 cattle a day, a fraction of the 4,000 head a conventional slaughterhouse handles. “It’s what we’d call boutique-size,” explains Moyer. Right now, though, they’re slaughtering far fewer than capacity, between 50 and 100 per week. (That number will increase once the hybrid grocery-restaurant chain is running.) Inside, workers in white lab coats emblazoned with the Adena logo hack away at carcasses, transforming them into salable cuts of meat. Upon closer inspection, Moyer realizes the carcasses are not from Stronach’s farm but belong to another producer hired by Adena as a subcontractor.
That’s how Stronach is generating revenue until he builds his grocery chain to sell his own beef cuts. There are signs all around the facility that there’s plenty of room to grow. The freezer where finished cuts of meat are stored contains ample shelf space. Most boxes are stamped with the logos of other companies. A few bear the Adena nameplate, and others are branded as Frank’s Meat, a line of steaks Stronach says he sells at three supermarkets in the state. It’s an early effort to introduce the farm’s products to consumers. Stronach declines to share specifics, but insists Frank’s Meat is selling well.
The biggest purchaser of Stronach’s beef today is, in fact, Stronach himself. Adena Farms sells cattle to FM Meats, which in turn sells steaks to Stronach’s golf courses, racetracks and, eventually, his grocery stores. The advantage of operating the entire supply chain is that Stronach gets to exercise strict control over quality, not to mention costs. He’s always looking for ways to squeeze more out of his operations. Since he has to clear cut land to make way for grass pastures, Stronach formed a new company to sell timber, for example. Still, he can only bankroll the insular operation for so long.
Tour completed, Moyer drives out of the plant and zips past a police SUV heading in the opposite direction. The police vehicle flips on its lights and pulls us over for speeding. Moyer mutters that he doesn’t have his licence as a heavy-set officer ambles up to his window. “I know my licence number by heart, and I’m driving my employer’s car today,” Moyer says.
“Who’s your employer?” asks the officer.
“Frank Stronach, sir.”
The deputy issues Moyer a written warning. “Maybe he was being nice,” Moyer says as he pulls away. “Maybe he knows how many jobs Frank has created.”Stronach is a well-known figure in the area, and some locals credit his land-buying spree with saving many small farmers from foreclosure. Mickey Acree, who works at the local Caterpillar dealership in Marion County’s Ocala, recalls how hard the town was hit during the recession. The dealership axed more than half its employees, but in 2009, Stronach ordered 20 pieces of equipment to clear-cut land. The grand total came up to well over a million dollars, preventing future job losses. “You just don’t see people who can do that,” Acree says.
Not everyone is happy with the Canadian billionaire. Local environmentalists galvanized after Stronach applied for a permit to pump 13 million gallons of water a day from the Silver Springs basin to serve the slaughterhouse and the surrounding pastures. Stronach whittled down his application and was granted a permit for 1.35 million gallons, but two groups—the Florida Defenders of the Environment and the St. Johns Riverkeeper—filed an appeal to have the permit reduced to 300,000 gallons per day. (Stronach’s lawyers are contesting it.)
Stronach allows the original amount requested was excessive. “I was surprised by that number,” he says. “[My advisers] asked for too much water, which was not necessary.” Still, he doesn’t think there’s an issue. “There’s no problem with water in Florida. It’s just the management of water that’s hard to handle, right? There’s too much water, right? You can just take a shovel and it doesn’t take you long to hit water. Many times things are so flooded with water.”
The environmentalists say that’s oversimplifying the matter. Jim Gross, the executive director of the Florida Defenders, says decades of unfettered development have depleted freshwater flows by 30%. That’s led to water-quality problems, such as increased nutrients and algae growth, which can harm aquatic life. The immediate concern is whether the springs can still be used for recreation, says Marcy LaHart, a lawyer representing the environmental groups. “You don’t drink that water, but you want to know you can eat fish and swim in it without getting sick,” she says.
A run-in with environmentalists is not unexpected. But clashing with a local high school is a little more unusual. In 2014, a former employee of the Stronach Group told the school board in Marion County that the company would finance a $15-million athletic complex for North Marion High School, according to the Gainesville Sun. Renderings were even presented to the board, showing a new track, field houses, a concession stand and a video scoreboard. School officials in the cash-strapped district were thrilled. “It is like a dream,” board member Nancy Stacy told the newspaper. “I am getting emotional right now.” At the time, Stronach had yet to receive approval for the water permit.
By August 2015—after the permit was granted—the school board had been told by the company that it never approved or authorized the financing of the project, according to the Ocala Star Banner. By that time, contractors had already started work on the new complex, racking up more than $390,000. The school had torn out all of the bathroom fixtures and the sound system from its existing facility, which had to be reinstalled at its own expense. Given the timing in relation to the permit, some in the community were suspicious. “Obviously he got what he wanted, but we’re sure not getting what we were promised,” a Marion County football coach told the local ABC affiliate. In the end, the Stronach Group cut the school a cheque for $125,000 and issued a press release characterizing the debacle as an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”
Beth, a waitress at a local restaurant who asked her last name not be used, has two sons on the football team. Their training has been impacted, she says, as the school tossed out equipment in preparation for the new facility. “They literally cleared out the weight room,” she says. “It’s kind of like a knife to the back.”
Stronach blames the situation on a “con artist” who no longer works for his company, who tried to “scam” him for money. He declines to identify the alleged perpetrator but says the incident was reported to local police. As to what this person’s motives might have been? “You’d have to ask him. He got rich in criminal charges.” (There’s no indication anyone has been charged.)
Stronach’s employees, however, don’t seem to pay much mind to these issues. They’re familiar with Stronach’s life story through his 2012 autobiography, The Magna Man. (It’s required reading.) Stacey Rollins, director of operations at Stronach’s Adena Golf and Country Club, says, “If there’s anything negative in his past or anything negative written about him, I just tune it out.”Stronach arrives at the Ocala airport in his private jet, toting a few bags of pumpkin seeds, flour and a box containing copies of his autobiography. The supplies are for a baker he’s flown in from his hometown of Weiz, Austria; Stronach’s considering hiring the Austrian to make a specific kind of rye bread for his restaurants and grocery stores. No detail is too small for Stronach, who flies south to Florida roughly every other week. “I want to have quality, quality, quality and a brand name,” he says.
Stronach is hesitant to talk about how much all of this is costing him, but there are indications that the issue is never far from the surface; in a conference room at Moyer’s office, someone has scribbled “War on Costs!!!” on a whiteboard. Not everything has gone according to plan, either. In 2012, one of Stronach’s companies spent $7.1 million to purchase land in Ocala to build an upscale steak house. It never opened. “We weren’t sure if the economics of the deal, of opening a steak house given the state of Ocala, made a lot of sense,” said a person close to the sale. Indeed, the demographic that buys grass-fed and organic meat is, primarily, well-heeled urbanites—not necessarily small-town Floridians. (In Marion County, the unemployment rate stands at 6.1%, higher than Florida’s average.)
While Stronach’s goals are ambitious, they’re not unrealistic. Processing 300 grass-fed cattle per week, which exceeds that of a typical grass-fed farm, is likely achievable, according to Mick Price, a professor of agriculture at the University of Alberta. Stronach has ample access to two things most smaller farms do not: land and financing. “The challenge is getting grass of a sufficient quality,” Price says. “You need higher levels of protein than you’ll find in typical grass.”
Whether the steaks are a hit with consumers is another matter. Certainly grass-fed meat is gaining popularity, even if beef consumption as a whole is dipping. “For grass-fed beef, the share of total beef consumption is growing fairly consistently over the years, and that’s coming from a perception that it’s more natural,” says Ellen Goddard, a professor of agricultural marketing at the U of A. But the market is competitive. A report from private equity firm Wellspring Capital Management found that the number of grass-fed brands in the U.S. jumped by more than 50% over the past two years. That’s why a strong brand is necessary. If Stronach doesn’t project the right image, it could be the downfall of his venture, Goddard says. And if the environmental groups keep challenging Stronach on the water issue, he’ll have a harder time convincing consumers about the benefits of Adena. He’s not worried, however. “I will have quite a brand name that’s associated with being very conscientious about the land, the animals and what we sell,” he says.
On my last night in Ocala, I have the chance to try a Stronach steak at the Adena Golf and Country Club, which opened last year. Stronach is dining with a few of his senior managers, and his nutritionist, Cynthia Mitchell. She’s consulting on the nutritional value of the food to be served in Stronach’s stores, having previously worked on Magna’s employee wellness program. Stronach orders for the table. When the steak arrives, he focuses on me but seems less interested in my reaction than in delivering a monologue about the health benefits of Stronach beef, namely that it’s lower in fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Mitchell nods along in agreement. The meat itself is a little leaner and slightly chewier than the usual cut, placing it a few notches above The Keg.
Later, Stronach holds court and reveals that in addition to being mostly vegetarian, he hopes the world stops eating meat one day because of its environmental impact. He is thinking very, very long-term, however—500 years, to be more specific. “My philosophy was, I’m going to produce food, and I think people will eat meat for quite a few generations to come,” he says. So he’s not building a cattle ranch to cement his legacy; he has faith that the Stronach family will continue to be powerful and influential for generations, with or without grass-fed beef. It’s the rest of us he’s worried about.
“Meat should be something you eat once or twice a week. You’ve got to look down the road. The world is a relatively small piece of real estate, so you have to be very careful to create a [healthy] environment or else we all disappear. Not overnight, but over thousands of years,” he says. “Thousands of years is not that long in man’s history.”
161128-c Jo-Ellen Darcy nears finish after marathon run at helm
EENews – by Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter
November 28, 2016
No one's run the Army's civil works program longer than Jo-Ellen Darcy.
"I'm also the most sued," she deadpanned.
For those keeping track: 42 lawsuits in seven years, court dockets say.
Darcy's sense of humor has served her well in the time she's overseen the Army Corps of Engineers. During her tenure, the corps has partnered with U.S. EPA in a heavily litigated rulemaking on the regulation of wetlands and waterways, had its policies overhauled by Congress, and been at the center of a storm over permitting of an oil pipeline project near lands held sacred by Native Americans in North Dakota.
"It's been challenging at times, but so rewarding," the assistant Army secretary for public works said in a recent interview in her Pentagon office. Sitting in a gold-and-cream-striped armchair, Darcy, 65, listed the highlights of her time as assistant secretary of the Army — from her efforts to slash the backlog of projects to teaching children an appreciation for the outdoors.
She also joked about her age, talked baseball and discussed television shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Downton Abbey."
She was less candid with her thoughts on President-elect Donald Trump. Darcy declined to comment on the incoming administration, saying she echoed President Obama in wishing Trump well in the election's wake. Trump promised during the campaign to roll back many of Obama's environmental achievements, including the Clean Water Rule spearheaded by the Army Corps and EPA.
The Army's civil works program, whose annual budget is nearly $6 billion, builds and maintains infrastructure for inland shipping and flood control, oversees Clean Water Act permitting for wetlands, and designs and oversees ecosystem restorations, notably the massive effort in the Everglades.
The Army Corps is complicated. Though a military organization, the corps has been overseen since the 1970s by civilians who work for the Army. The agency's mostly civilian workforce is led by a general. Executive decisions are made in Washington, but most of the work is done by 38 districts and eight divisions across the country.
The corps also serves as an environmental watchdog in the Clean Water Act wetlands program and a restorer of watersheds that its own flood and navigation projects have played a role in destroying. The Everglades restoration, for example, involves in part dismantling flood control infrastructure built by the Army Corps a half-century ago to help drain the massive wetland for farming and development.
As a staffer to former Montana Sen. Max Baucus, Darcy was involved with writing and negotiating Water Resource Development Acts, or WRDAs, legislation that authorizes the corps to go forward on its public works projects. As the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's ranking Democrat, Baucus played a key role in 2000 in getting the then-$7.8 billion Everglades restoration plan passed in WRDA.
Close observers of the Army Corps say Darcy has prioritized ecological restoration funding more than her predecessors. That's earned her praise — and pans.
"Those habitat restorations are going to pay long-term dividends," said Mike Toohey, president of the Waterways Council Inc., a trade group for inland-navigation interests. "She's been a real agent of change in advancing one of the corps' chief missions."
But those investments have trade-offs, Toohey said. One of his frustrations is the Army Corps' laggard effort on the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP), a $4 billion project authorized by Congress in 2007 to repair and expand seven aging locks on the Upper Mississippi and Illinois rivers to facilitate barge traffic. The program would also pay for needed river restoration.
Under Obama, funding for NESP's engineering and design has fallen to nearly nothing. The White House Office of Management and Budget had said the project doesn't meet the minimum cost-benefit ratio to move forward. 'Wise sage'
Darcy was born in Fitchburg, Mass., one of five children in a Catholic household. Her mother was a census worker, her father a police officer.
After graduating from Boston College with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and sociology, she worked as an elementary school teacher for five years. She quit before she was eligible for tenure, opting instead to visit her sister in Washington and test the waters for a career in politics.
That was 1980, the year Ronald Reagan won the presidency in a landslide against Jimmy Carter and the GOP reclaimed the Senate for the first time in 26 years. Many of her Democratic contacts were losing their jobs on Capitol Hill, but Darcy found a position as a research assistant on a House committee.
"From there, I caught the bug," she said.
She later earned a master's degree in 1987 in resource development from Michigan State University and was hired by then-Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard's (D) office to work on environment and transportation issues. She still roots for Michigan State's Spartans.
Darcy joined the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 1995. She stayed for 12 years, honing her skills as an expert in environmental matters and a negotiator across the aisle.
"I sort of relied on her as sort of the wise sage for a whole host of advice," said Ken Connolly, former staff director for the late Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), who chaired the Environment and Public Works panel in 2001.
She helped write the Everglades restoration title in the 2000 WRDA. That legislation authorized the federal government to split the cost of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan with the state of Florida. The 30-year project is now expected to cost more than $16 billion.
The Army Corps is working to reverse damage to the Everglades by restoring a semblance of natural water flows through the heart of the "River of Grass."
Since Darcy's appointment, the Obama administration has set aside $2.2 billion to restore the Everglades — more than under any other president.
Darcy disagrees with critics who say the ecosystem restoration portion is overemphasized. The Army Corps has a "balanced program" for funding the different mission areas.
"I think it's unfortunate that most of our budget in recent years has been spent on operations and maintenance, larger than any environmental restoration budget," she said. "The resources necessary to be able to bring all of those up to speed are outside of anyone's realm for being able to write a check for."
The Army Corps collects money from the inland-shipping industry in trust funds designed to help pay for crumbling locks, dams and ports. But those funds still don't cover the cost of repairs and modernization, she said. One solution is to encourage private investors to partner with public agencies.
"Our needs are in the billions," she said. 'Not a grandstander'
Though it belongs in the executive branch, the Army Corps' work is closely aligned with Capitol Hill.
For years, lawmakers have depended on corps projects — beach restorations, flood control structures, reservoirs, navigation locks and dams — to stimulate jobs and bring business to their districts.
This can put the assistant secretary of civil works in a tough spot of both answering to the president and representing the agency.
It cost one assistant secretary his job. President George W. Bush appointee Michael Parker was forced to resign after publicly disagreeing with the levels the administration set for the Army Corps in the proposed budget.
Darcy faces many of the same conflicts between the branches of government, say those familiar with the Army Corps. She answers to both the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Office of Management and Budget and routinely deals with Cabinet-level agencies with more clout.
"She kind of punches above her weight a little bit," said Steve Stockton, a former director of civil works who recently retired after 40 years with the Army Corps.
While Darcy is well-regarded as a shrewd negotiator, her reserved nature doesn't give off the appearance of a fighter, leading some to believe she may have caved to more powerful entities in high-stakes battles.
"She's not a grandstander, she's not a big speaker," said Jim Walker, director of navigation policy with the American Association of Port Authorities. "You don't get the impression that she's an arguer."
Some see this disconnect in how Darcy handled the controversy over the Obama administration's hot-button Clean Water Rule. The rule, which redefines which streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act, was written to clarify which waters are covered after two Supreme Court decisions muddied the limits of federal jurisdiction.
The rule was contentious in its development, remains tied up in litigation and is seen as likely to be torpedoed by the incoming Trump administration.
Opponents of the rule — industry, business and states — saw the move as government overreach, and some environmentalists say the rule isn't protective enough.
Last year, internal Army Corps memos on the Clean Water Rule were made public, showing that top career officials criticized the measure as Darcy stood by the regulation, also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule, or WOTUS.
Nevertheless, Darcy stands by her efforts on behalf of the rule.
"Sometimes you have to make decisions based on your best judgment and what is best for the overall outcome," she said.
The corps and EPA, she said, "had to look together at what was the best thing ultimately for the protection of the water." Ballroom dancing
Darcy's strengths lie in dealing with the often complicated details of water policy, AAPA's Walker said. His group worked with Darcy to develop recommendations for speeding up the process for feasibility studies of potential port projects, an endeavor that can take decades.
A lot of those recommendations were incorporated in the 2014 WRDA, which includes major reforms to cut the time and money needed to build projects.
Darcy is "not necessarily out there with a fireworks display and bands playing about what is getting done," Walker said.
Though outsiders often view her as quiet or introverted, those who have worked with Darcy closely say she has a great sense of humor.
"She's really fun, really dynamic, amazingly smart," said Connolly, now a vice president of government affairs at Goldman Sachs.
A die-hard fan of New England sports teams, Darcy was known to goad former civil and emergency operations chief Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh for his allegiance to the New York Yankees baseball team.
Walsh also remembers a moment when Darcy showed her ballroom dancing moves during a work trip, a skill, as he recalled, she learned from her father. It was a rare glimpse into the background of someone who Walsh describes as a "pretty close-to-the-vest person."
Darcy sees herself retiring from public service after her term ends in January but isn't sure what will come next.
Her to-do list for once she leaves her post is modest. A long vacation somewhere warm. Adopting a dog. Spending more time with her friends and family on Cape Cod and taking advantage of her kayak, which is often strapped to the roof of her car.
"I try to think back seven years ago and think, 'What was I thinking ?' Was I thinking I would be here this long, was I thinking one term?" she said. "Every day, there's still just lots to be done, and I still want to be in this job, be here to turn the lights out."
161127- FWC approves historic plan to conserve imperiled species
The Bradenton Times
November 27, 2016
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is moving forward with a groundbreaking attempt to achieve conservation success with dozens of imperiled species throughout the state. At its meeting in St. Petersburg, the FWC approved the Imperiled Species Management Plan, a capstone on five years of work developing the plan, and over a decade of revising the listing process. In the plan, the details of conserving each of Florida’s 57 imperiled species are coupled with the broader approach of restoring habitats and addressing other large-scale issues essential to the long-term survival of multiple fish and wildlife species.
"Our charismatic species get a lot of attention, but the animals covered by this Imperiled Species Management Plan need attention too," said Commissioner Chuck Roberts. "All of these species are very important to long-term resource management here in Florida."
After adopting a new conservation model in 2010 that requires a management plan for imperiled species, the FWC embarked upon a process of collaboration with stakeholders and the public. Three drafts of the plan were presented for review, generating hundreds of comments on each draft, and leading to changes in the plan. Experts from outside the FWC also participated in Biological Status Reviews that evaluated which fish and wildlife species should be designated as imperiled.
"The Imperiled Species Management Plan addresses a diversity of imperiled species, from the reddish egret to the Florida bog frog, Barbour’s map turtle and bluenose shiner," said Brad Gruver, who leads the agency’s Species Conservation Planning section. "In the past, we successfully used management plans for individual species like the bald eagle and manatee. With this plan, we take into account what imperiled species have in common, such as the need for us to improve what we know about them and to better coordinate how we manage multiple species."
While the biologists who developed this 10-year plan are responsible for its implementation, the public is encouraged to step into key roles. Citizen-scientists can volunteer to help survey wildlife and collect data. Private landowners can conserve imperiled species on their property. Schools, businesses, organizations and individuals can become informal educators on imperiled wildlife.
"We have been involved in the effort to revise Florida’s imperiled species listing process and management system since the very beginning," said Elizabeth Fleming, Senior Florida Representative, Defenders of Wildlife. "We are extremely pleased to see the adoption of a comprehensive imperiled species management plan and associated rules. Now the important work of implementing these important conservation measures can begin."
Important things to know about the Imperiled Species Management Plan:
It includes one-page summaries for each species, including a map of its range in Florida and online links to Species Action Plans. The 49 Species Action Plans contain specific conservation goals, objectives and actions for all 57 imperiled species.
It also has Integrated Conservation Strategies that benefit multiple species and their habitats, and focus implementation of the plan on areas and issues that yield the greatest conservation benefit for the greatest number of species.
It highlights conservation success with 15 species that are being removed from the list of imperiled species but are still being monitored and conserved under the plan.
What are the 57 fish and wildlife species in the plan?
Eight mammals: Big Cypress fox squirrel, eastern chipmunk*, Everglades mink, Florida mouse*, Homosassa shrew, Sanibel rice rat, Sherman’s fox squirrel and Sherman’s short-tailed shrew.
Twenty-one birds: American oystercatcher, black skimmer, brown pelican*, Florida burrowing owl, Florida sandhill crane, least tern, limpkin*, little blue heron, Marian’s marsh wren, osprey (Monroe County population), reddish egret, roseate spoonbill, Scott’s seaside sparrow, snowy egret*, snowy plover, southeastern American kestrel, tricolored heron, Wakulla seaside sparrow, white ibis*, white-crowned pigeon and Worthington’s marsh wren.
Twelve reptiles: alligator snapping turtle, Barbour’s map turtle, Florida brown snake (Lower Keys population), Florida Keys mole skink, Florida pine snake, Key ringneck snake, peninsula ribbon snake* (Lower Keys population), red rat snake* (Lower Keys population), rim rock crowned snake, short-tailed snake, striped mud turtle* (Lower Keys population) and Suwannee cooter*.
Four amphibians: Florida bog frog, Georgia blind salamander; gopher frog* and Pine Barrens treefrog*.
Nine fish: blackmouth shiner, bluenose shiner, crystal darter, harlequin darter, Lake Eustis pupfish*, key silverside, mangrove rivulus*, saltmarsh topminnow and southeastern tessellated darter.
Three invertebrates: Black Creek crayfish, Florida tree snail* and Santa Fe crayfish
As to the listing status of all the plan’s 57 species, 14 were listed as state Threatened prior to the plan and will remain listed as state Threatened; 23 will change listing from Species of Special Concern to state Threatened; five will remain Species of Special Concern; and 15 will be removed from the imperiled species list (* indicates a species coming off the imperiled list but still being conserved).
Rule changes associated with implementing the plan are anticipated to take effect in December 2016.
Learn more about the plan at MyFWC.com/Imperiled.
161126-a Thumb up: Negron becomes Senate president
TCPalm -by Editorial Board
November 26, 2016
It's official. On Tuesday, Joe Negron formally became president of the Florida Senate.
Negron, R-Stuart, used his 15-minute acceptance speech to outline his legislative priorities. These include improving Florida's higher-education system and cleaning waterways east and west of Lake Okeechobee by moving more water south of the lake. To accomplish the latter, Negron has proposed buying more land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to increase water storage.
"We've been talking about a southern reservoir for 20 years," Negron said. "The time for talk is over, it's time to act. I believe within our $82 billion budget we can fund the priorities of today, instead of just duplicating the decisions of yesterday."
Yes, President Negron, the time for talk is over. We wish you success on this front
161126-b Understanding the Trump effect
USA Today Network – Florida - by Ledyard King
November 26, 2016
WASHINGTON - Donald Trump calls Florida his second home. He’s tight with Gov. Rick Scott. And many of the themes he espoused on the campaign trail — revamping Veterans Affairs, reviving the space program, reinvesting in the military — could be boons to the Sunshine State.
But his promise to expand off-shore drilling, plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and call for deporting millions of undocumented immigrants has some in the state worried his policies could be bad news for many Floridians.
Trump is expected to reverse many of President Barack Obama’s policies, while maintaining the status quo on others.
Florida has never produced a president. But Tallahassee lobbyist Bill Helmich said Trump comes close — “he lives here, has property here, does business here” — and that’s a plus.
“He understands what Florida is and how policies affect a state as diverse as we are.” said Helmich, a Trump supporter whose clients include businesses and veteran service organizations in the state. “It’s definitely to our advantage to have a president familiar with our state.”
But Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon Florida, worries that Trump’s single-minded focus on job creation — similar to the approach Scott has taken as governor — could come at a high cost to Florida.
“When you have an orientation which is less government, less regulation and less spending, the environment becomes the first victim of that triad of changes,” he said.
It’s hard to get a read on Trump. Many of his promises he made on the stump were broad, often laid out without great detail. And lately, he’s begun dialing back a bit on some of them. Monday the president-elect laid out his broad agenda for the first 100 days of his administration.
He’ll have the assistance from Congress on many of these issues because Republicans control the House and Senate. But he’ll still have to bring along some Democrats in the Senate who may use filibuster rules to try and block some of his agenda.
Here’s how Florida might fare under a Trump presidency: Affordable Care Act
Trump’s insistence during the campaign that the Affordable Care Act be completely replaced has since been amended by the president-elect. He now says he’d like to at least keep the provisions barring denial of coverage to people based on pre-existing medical conditions and allowing children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plan.
About 1.7 million Floridians, who aren’t eligible for employer-based or government-sponsored health insurance, have obtained coverage through the ACA health care exchange site, an online marketplace.
A lack of competition as insurers pull out of the state has contributed to a 14-19 percent projected spike in premiums consumers are facing next year, though Obama administration officials say those out-of-pocket expenses will be offset by tax credits for nine of 10 Floridians on the exchange.
Trump has called for the law to be replaced with several elements designed to help people keep coverage and keep costs down such as health savings accounts and the ability to buy insurance across state lines though it’s not clear how that would affect Floridians.
He’s also promising to work with Congress “to create a patient-centered health care system that promotes choice, quality, and affordability,” and to work with states to establish high-risk pools for those who lack coverage. Climate change
One Obama initiative Trump has made clear he wants to derail is the effort to combat climate change. The man who in June called global warming a hoax invented by the Chinese, repeatedly said he would back out of the Paris Accord where industrialized nations including the United States agreed to limits on greenhouse gas emissions.
Tampa and Miami have been identified as among the world’s cities most at risk to rising sea levels. Flooding is already commonplace in Miami Beach on a regular basis. And the state’s coastal communities face increasing threats from rising ocean temperatures that are projected to increase the strength and size of tropical storms. Cuba
Trump has made it clear that he would undo the steps Obama has taken to normalize relations with the communist island nation only 90 miles off Key West.
“The people of Cuba have struggled too long. Will reverse Obama’s Executive Orders and concessions towards Cuba until freedoms are restored,” he tweeted last month.
Though he criticized Obama for giving up much more than he got in return on human rights and other concessions, Trump seemed to hint during a GOP presidential debate in March that he agreed with the president in principle that a new chapter with Cuba has to be written.
“After 50 years, it’s enough time, folks,” Trump said, adding that any agreement with Cuba would have to be “a strong, solid, good deal.” The Everglades
Trump has mentioned the need to protect the Everglades during campaign stops in Florida.
But apart from vague promises of preserving the famed River of Grass, he’s not done much to lay out specifics beyond protecting drinking water supplies and repairing the deteriorating Herbert Hoover Dike built to contain overflows from Lake Okeechobee.
Draper said he expects the work already underway to restore the Everglades and reduce harmful water flows from Lake Okeechobee to continue under a Trump administration. Much of the funding for the Corps of Engineers-funded projects enjoy bipartisan support so there’s little reason to think that momentum would slow under the new president, he said. Fishing regulations
The recreational fishing industry (big business in Florida) often has clashed with the Obama administration on catch limits, especially in the Gulf of Mexico. Anglers generally want more access to than they’ve been given in recent years as government efforts to rebuild once-depleted stocks have restricted access.
Industry advocates expect the change in leadership will mean happier times.
“Donald Trump will give fishermen and our recreational industry a chance to prosper,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “I’m sure President Trump’s administration will allow us to bring our grievances forward so we can fix the current law so we have access, rebuilding and conservation. All three can be achieved.” Immigrants
On the campaign trail. Trump said he would deport all undocumented immigrants. Estimates peg that number nationally at between 11 million and 12 million. About 1 million of those are believed to live in Florida.
Lately, he’s talked about deporting only those who have committed crimes. He says that’s between 2 million and 3 million though experts say the number is substantially lower. It’s also not clear how many Floridians fall into that category.
What’s easier to measure is the number of Floridians who would face deportation if Trump, as he has repeatedly promised, does away with Obama’s executive order on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals. DACA protects hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the United States as children.
The number of immigrants who have temporary deportation relief through DACA between 2012 and March 2016 includes 49,138 in Florida, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Because it’s an executive order, Trump can tear it up without needing congressional say-so.
Trump has vowed to increase military spending and has been specific on what he wants: increase the size of the Army to 540,000 active duty soldiers (now about 471,000), rebuild the Navy toward a goal of 350 ships (now at 272), provide the Air Force with an additional 1,200 fighter aircraft (above the current inventory of roughly 6,000), and grow the Marine Corps to 36 battalions from about 24 now.
All those would be important to Florida which has more than a dozen major installations scattered around the state.
Doing so would require lifting the budget restrictions known as the sequester. Most lawmakers want to eliminate the sequester, which was reluctantly agreed to in 2011 and affects most federal agencies.
But Congress remains divided largely along partisan lines on how much extra spending should be allowed. Democrats are willing to lift the sequester on Defense spending if it’s also lifted for other parts of the government. If they’re unhappy and block efforts to curb sequestration, it will be harder for Trump to beef up the military. Off-shore drilling
Trump has vowed to “unleash” America’s untapped energy reserves, including oil and gas. Doing so would create up to 400,000 new jobs per year nationally, his campaign web site says.
It’s unclear how aggressively the new president would pursue drilling off Florida’s coast. He’d have some allies in Congress who would be interested in loosening of the ban off the coast of the Sunshine State. He’s also got a potentially personal stake: Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach resort that doubles as a second home, is near the water.
Even if Trump wanted to expand drilling, it won’t be easy to get Congress to relax the ban. A less threatening move to expand drilling royalties to Florida’s neighboring states was defeated in the Senate last week. Those efforts were led by Florida Democrat Bill Nelson who said a repeat of the 2010 BP Deep Horizon oil spill would devastate Florida’s tourism-based economy.
Draper is not optimistic that the ban will remain with Trump in the White House. Although recent efforts to incentivize drilling have died in Congress, he believes lawmakers might feel more empowered to do so knowing the new president won’t veto such a move.
“It’s unlikely that there will be enough votes in the Congress alone to keep them from opening Florida’s waters to off-shore oil drilling,” he said. Sanctuary cities
Trump has promised to defund “sanctuary cities,” local governments that are openly declining to cooperate with federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants.
Because some groups identify those localities in different ways, it’s hard to get an exact count. But the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for stricter border enforcement, list the following counties: Broward, Hernando, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
Defunding these and dozens of others is a tall order for a couple of reasons: there’s disagreement on what exactly qualifies as one and many of these areas have bipartisan representation. That said, there may be more surgical ways a Trump administration can persuade or coerce localities to go along. Space
If Trump wants to “make American great again,” the space program seems like an obvious place to start. The U.S. dominance in space has ebbed a bit lately following the abandonment of the moon, the mothballing of the space shuttle, and emerging space programs of other ambitious countries, notably China.
It’s not clear exactly what the incoming president will do when it comes to exploration or even whether a change in direction would affect activity at the Kennedy Space Center or nearly Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In a recent speeches this year in Florida, Trump has promised “major investments in space exploration ... This means launching and operating major space assets, right here, that employ thousands and spur innovation and fuel economic growth.”
The president-elect has talked about the need to expand public-private partnerships, which sounds like he’d continue the direction NASA took under Obama with programs teaming up with private partners like SpaceX and Boeing to develop a replacement for the shuttle.
Mars remains the ultimate goal and that won’t change under Trump. But he could diverge from NASA’s current plan to use an asteroid as a stepping stone to the Red Planet and instead shoot for the moon as George W. Bush had wanted. That would prove much more expensive than an asteroid (a big reason Obama scrapped a return) but there are also potential business partnerships a lunar visit and potential colony would engender. Veterans
Some of the biggest cheers Trump drew on the campaign trail centered around his pledge to “clean up” the Department of Veterans Affairs, which has been slammed in recent years by charges of substandard care, long appointment backlogs and deceptive practices at the same time that top managers received bonuses.
Steps are being taken to improve care for the nation’s more than 21 million veterans though many question the effectiveness of those measures. Florida has about 1.5 million veterans, half of whom are 65 and over.
But the Sunshine State would get special attention if Trump picks Northwest Florida congressman Jeff Miller as the next VA secretary. Miller, a relatively early Trump supporter who did not run for re-election, said he would seriously consider the job if he were nominated.
Miller, who chairs the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, has pounded on the agency for mismanagement and was a driving force behind legislation making it easier to discipline and fire senior administrators. As head of the VA, Miller would also be able to direct more resources to the state, such as opening up more clinics.
161125-a Dry weather turns Lake Okeechobee from flooding threat to water supply backup
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
November 25, 2016
Lake Okeechobee draining that hurts east coast waterways stopped Friday, thanks to the lake's declining water level reducing South Florida flooding threats.Concerns about the rising lake in January triggered increased draining to the east and west to reduce the risk of the lake flooding South Florida.
Lake Okeechobee draining that hurts east coast waterways stopped Friday, thanks
to the lake's declining water level reducing South Florida flooding threats.
Concerns about the rising lake in January triggered increased draining to the
east and west to reduce the risk of the lake flooding South Florida.
But decades of draining to allow the spread of development and farming turned Lake Okeechobee into South Florida's massive retention pond. Rainfall that once flowed south now gets held in the lake to avoid flooding.
During South Florida's dry season, canals siphon out lake water to irrigate farmland and restock drinking water well fields.
Lowering the lake had been a priority for most of this year. Rising waters that peaked at 16.4 feet threatened the stability of the lake's dike — a 30-foot-tall, erosion-prone mound of rock, shell and sand that is considered one of the country's dikes most at risk of a breach.
In January, the Army Corps of Engineers started draining billions of gallons of lake water each day east toward Stuart and west toward Fort Myers.
While that draining eased the strain on the lake's 143-mile-long dike, the deluge of lake water and the polluted sediment it carried clouded rivers, damaged coastal fishing grounds and fueled toxic algae blooms that scared away tourists.
As the lake level started to drop, the Army Corps in November stopped the lake draining to the east and has since significantly reduced draining to the west.
While lake draining can hurt coastal waterways, prolonged high water levels in the lake can also pose an environmental risk within the lake.
Rising lake waters submerge more of the marshes rimming the northern and western portions of the lake. That can drown breeding and feeding grounds for fish and wading birds. Those grasses also help water quality by filtering out nutrient-rich pollutants that drain into the lake.
There was a 45 percent decline in that vital lake habitat between August 2015 and August 2016, according to the water management district.
"When they are gone you just have really dirty water," Gray said. "They are really important to ... the sport fishing. That's where the bass live."
Fishing conditions on the lake have been good throughout the year but are improving as the water level declines, according to Mary Ann Martin, owner of a marina in Clewiston.
Lake algae blooms that caused water quality problems over the summer have dissipated, and Hurricane Matthew helped wash away tufts of dead vegetation that had blocked boat access in some areas, Martin said.
"You hear the birds. You see the fish. You see the alligators," Martin said. "This lake is alive and well. It's kicking butt."
State officials and environmental advocates alike bill Everglades restoration as the long-term answer to lake drainage woes.
Taxpayers have already invested more than $3 billion in efforts to store, clean up and send south more of the water now drained out to sea.
The Florida Legislature in the spring is expected to consider Senate President Joe Negron's proposal to build a $2.4 billion, 120-billion-gallon reservoir on farmland south of the lake that could create another lake drainage alternative.
The lake's dike remains in the midst of a slow-moving rehab, expected to last until 2025.
161125-b Focus restoration efforts north of Lake Okeechobee — not south
Tampa Bay Times – column by Samuel E. Pool III, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer, served as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District from 1994 to 1999
November 25, 2016
I agree with everything in Erik Eikenberg's column concerning Everglades restoration except his priority of treating Lake Okeechobee's nutrient problems after they enter the lake. Our first priority must be stopping the nutrients from entering the lake.
Lake Okeechobee receives about five times the 105 tons of phosphorus per year limit, and nearly all of that phosphorus enters the lake with stormwater from suburban and agricultural development as far north as Orlando. My more than 40 years of experience addressing environmental consequences of development in Florida has taught me that complicated engineering projects are seldom the best response to the unanticipated problems created by complicated engineering projects. Filling in the channel dug through the Kissimmee River is the most successful environmental restoration project in the United States. The takeaway is that undoing mistakes is often more effective than building and maintaining another project to treat the mistake.
For Lake Okeechobee, this means going upstream as close to the source of the stormwater runoff as possible. This also means working with the owners of roughly 1 million acres of undeveloped land remaining in the watershed to undo the drainage ditches and canals sending water to Lake Okeechobee and to hold and clean up stormwater on their land. Using a market-based system known as a fee for environmental services, landowners are compensated based on their effectiveness in holding and treating stormwater.
Regulation alone has not prevented damage to our lakes, rivers, bays and aquifers. Supplementing our regulatory system with a fee for environmental services approach is a rational alternative to more big engineering solutions.
This approach is not new to Florida. The Florida Ranchlands Environmental Services Project proved the concept in the Lake Okeechobee watershed. Although the program lost leadership and focus with cuts in the South Florida Water Management District budgets, it still exists.
Cost comparisons between government purchasing thousands of acres of land; designing, permitting and constructing; and then maintaining, operating and making corrective modifications to big engineering systems in perpetuity, and paying private landowners to produce clean water crops continue to evolve. It is clear that service payments to landowners will need to make the business of dispersed water management competitive with other uses of land, including agriculture and development. In its mature form, fee for services could allow a mix of uses on small and light footprints, with the majority of the landscape available for water storage and treatment.
Five points are clear when comparing another big engineering fix south of Lake Okeechobee and fee for services water storage and treatment north of Lake Okeechobee:
• Dispersed storage and treatment can be scaled up and have immediate impacts.
• Design, permitting and construction of a 60,000-acre storage and treatment system will take years before it's fully operational.
• Holding and treating stormwater north of the lake will help the estuaries and allow the lake to begin recovery, including cycling out the legacy nutrients in lake sediments.
• Storing and treating stormwater south of the lake will help the estuaries but allow Lake Okeechobee to continue to receive very high nutrient loads.
• If the storage and treatment capacity of the lake's watershed is restored, the important reconnection of Lake Okeechobee with the sawgrass Everglades would be a different project — more like a natural flow way and less like a new lake south of Lake Okeechobee.
Finally, holding stormwater for aquifer recharge instead of dumping it into the estuaries could ease Central Florida's concern about future water supplies. I have experienced too many big engineering fixes to believe that "this time we will get it right."
161125-c Study shows multi-billion-dollar value of carbon storage in mangroves
Nat.Parks Traveler - by NPT Staff
November 25, 2016
When it comes to storing carbon, scientists have put a price tag on the value of mangroves in Everglades National Park, and it’s in the billions.
Based on a scientific cost estimate, the stored carbon is worth between $2 billion and $3.4 billion, the researchers found. It is a relatively small price when considering the cost to society if the carbon currently stored in these mangroves were ever released into the atmosphere, according to the researchers at Florida International University who co-authored the study.
“Although the Everglades National Park is a protected national treasure, the National Park Service doesn’t have much control over freshwater flowing into the park,” said Mahadev Bhat, co-author of the study and professor in the Department of Earth and Environment. “If there isn’t enough freshwater flowing through the Everglades, we may eventually lose some of the mangroves. And once you let stored carbon out, that same carbon can lead to increased global warming and cost society a lot more.”
In addition to removing excess carbon dioxide from the air, mangroves provide a variety of other benefits, including flood control, storm protection and maintaining water quality. The billion-dollar price tag reflects the cost to preserve the park’s mangroves and their ability to hold organic carbon intact by restoring freshwater flow to the areas that need it the most.
The study was published in the journal of Environmental Science and Policy. It was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Water, Sustainability and Climate program and the Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research program.
“This finding is an excellent example of how research at long-term ecological research sites can inform management and policy decisions and help in making wise choices, in this case, how to mitigate the effects of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said David Garrison, Long Term Ecological Research program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences.
The mangrove forests of Everglades National Park are the largest in the continental United States. Although protected, the Everglades is affected by sea-level rise, hurricanes, changes in water flow, and other environmental events. Decreased funding for Everglades restoration is also a problem.
“While our understanding of the Everglades is strengthened by this study, we need to remember that threats to this valued resource come from both saltwater intrusion and sea-level rise,” said Tom Torgersen, director of the National Science Foundation’s Water Sustainability and Climate program. “Management and policy decisions need to reflect the value of the Everglades, as well as the issues facing Florida.”
According to the researchers, preventing the loss of stored carbon in mangroves could become a critical component of the nation’s climate change mitigation strategies.
“Having an inventory of the stored organic carbon and its potential economic value is key to designing such strategies that secure funding to warrant their conservation and research work,” said Meenakshi Jerath, the lead author of the study and researcher in FIU’s Extreme Events Institute. “It could, more importantly, further awaken the public interest and understanding of the mangroves’ socioeconomic importance.”
The study was done in collaboration with researchers at Louisiana State University and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“This research is a reminder of the valuable services Everglades mangroves provide, and the global benefits that can come from restoring and preserving them,” said John Schade, Long Term Ecological Research program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology.
161124- Huger reduction in African dust plume impacted climate 11,000 years ago
Tasnim News Agency
November 24, 2016
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Scientists have discovered a huge reduction in an African dust plume that led to more Saharan monsoons 11,000 years ago, suggests a new report.
Every year, trade winds over the Sahara Desert sweep up huge plumes of mineral dust, transporting hundreds of teragrams -- enough to fill 10 million dump trucks -- across North Africa and over the Atlantic Ocean. This dust can be blown for thousands of kilometers and settle in places as far away as Florida and the Bahamas.
The Sahara is the largest source of windblown dust to Earth's atmosphere. But researchers from MIT, Yale University, and elsewhere now report that the African plume was far less dusty between 5,000 and 11,000 years ago, containing only half the amount of dust that is transported today.
In a paper published on Wednesday in Science Advances, the researchers have reconstructed the African dust plume over the last 23,000 years and observed a dramatic reduction in dust beginning around 11,000 years ago. They say this weakened plume may have allowed more sunlight to reach the ocean, increasing its temperature by 0.15 degrees Celsius -- a small but significant spike that likely helped whip up monsoons over North Africa, where climate at the time was far more temperate and hospitable than it is today.
"In the tropical ocean, fractions of a degree can cause big differences in precipitation patterns and winds," says co-author David McGee, the Kerr-McGee Career Development Assistant Professor in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. "It does seem like dust variations may have large enough effects that it's important to know how big those impacts were in past and future climates."
McGee's co-authors include lead author Ross Williams, a former graduate student at MIT; along with Christopher Kinsley, Irit Tal, and David Ridley from MIT; Shineng Hu and Alexey Fedorov from Yale University; Richard Murray from Boston University; and Peter deMenocal from Columbia University. A wet Sahara
Around 11,000 years ago, Earth had just emerged from the last ice age and was beginning a new, interglacial epoch known as the Holocene. Geologists and archaeologists have found evidence that during this period the Sahara was much greener, wetter, and more livable than it is today.
"There was also extensive human settlement throughout the Sahara, with lifestyles that would never be possible today," McGee says. "Researchers at archaeological sites have found fish hooks and spears in the middle of the Sahara, in places that would be completely uninhabitable today. So there was clearly much more water and precipitation over the Sahara."
This evidence of wet conditions shows that the region experienced regular monsoon rains during the early Holocene. This was primarily due to the slow wobbling of Earth's axis, which exposed the Northern Hemisphere to more sunlight during summer; this, in turn, warmed the land and ocean and drew more water vapor -- and precipitation -- over North Africa. Increased vegetation in the Sahara may have also played a role, absorbing sunlight and heating the surface, drawing more moisture over the land.
"The mysterious thing is, if you try to simulate all these changes in these early and mid-Holocene climates, the models intensify the monsoons, but nowhere near the amounts suggested by the paleodata," McGee says. "One of the things not factored into these simulations is changes in windblown dust." Tracking a dust plume
In their results published on Wednesday, McGee and colleagues propose a reduction in African dust may indeed have contributed to increasing monsoon rains in the region. The researchers came to their conclusion after estimating the amount of long-range windblown dust emitted from Africa over the last 23,000 years, from the end of the last ice age to today.
They focused on dust transported long distances, as these particles are small and light enough to be lifted and carried through the atmosphere for days before settling thousands of kilometers away from their source. This fine-grained dust scatters incoming solar radiation, cooling the ocean's surface and potentially affecting precipitation patterns, depending on how much dust is in the air.
To estimate how the African dust plume has changed over thousands of years, the team looked for places where dust should accumulate rapidly. Dust can sink to the floor of open ocean, but there layers of sediment build up very slowly, at a rate of 1 centimeter every 1,000 years.
Places like the Bahamas, by contrast, accumulate sediment much more quickly, making it easier for scientists to determine the ages of particular sediment layers. What's more, it's been shown that most of the windblown dust that has accumulated in the Bahamas originated not from local regions such as the US, but from the Sahara. Dust's climate role
McGee and his colleagues obtained sediment core samples from the Bahamas that were collected in the 1980s by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. They brought the samples back to the lab and analyzed their chemical composition, including isotopes of thorium -- an element that exists in windblown dust worldwide, at known concentrations.
They determined how much dust was in each sediment layer by measuring the primary isotope of thorium, and determined how fast it was accumulating by measuring the amount of a rare thorium isotope in each layer.
In this way, the team analyzed sediment layers from the last 23,000 years, and showed that around 16,000 years ago, toward the end of the last ice age, the dust plume was at its highest, lofting at least twice the amount of dust over the Atlantic, compared to today. However, between 5,000 and 11,000 years ago, this plume weakened significantly, with just half the amount of today's windblown dust.
Colleagues at Yale University then plugged their estimates into a climate model to see how such changes in the African dust plume would affect both ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic and overall climate in North Africa. The simulations showed that a drop in long-range windblown dust would raise sea surface temperatures by 0.15 degrees Celsius, drawing more water vapor over the Sahara, which would have helped to drive more intense monsoon rains in the region.
"The modeling showed that if dust had even relatively small impacts on sea surface temperatures, this could have pronounced impacts on precipitation and winds both in the north Atlantic and over North Africa," McGee says. Noting that the next key step is to reduce uncertainties in the modeling of dust's climate impacts, he adds: "We're not saying, the expansion of monsoon rains into the Sahara was caused solely by dust impacts. We're saying we need to figure out how big those dust impacts are, to understand both past and future climates."
161123-a Florida's water reality
Ocala.com - Editorial
November 23, 2016
Take a look around Florida, from North Florida’s springs to the Everglades, and the signs are everywhere. Our water supply is threatened. From disappearing lakes and dried up wells to slow-flowing springs and salt water intrusion, Florida is teetering on a water crisis unless major steps are taken — and soon.
The call to action grew louder earlier this month with the release of a new water study by the smart growth group 1000 Friends of Florida. Called “Water 2070,” the report was done in collaboration with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida, and looked at the state’s water needs 50 years out. Water 2070 specifically examined the impact a projected 15 million new residents who are expected over the next half century will have on our water supply. The findings were hardly surprising but nonetheless unnerving.
“We’re concerned that the future looks very dire for Florida, but we have an array of solutions that’s available for us,” said Cori Hermle, a environmental consultant with the FDACA.
“If we don’t change the way we are developing, more than one-third of Florida will be paved over,” added Peggy Carr, a professor at UF’s GeoPlan Center who worked on the analysis.
While there have been dozens of studies done on Florida’s water future, Water 2070 was a follow-up to another 1000 Friends study called Florida 2070, which looked at population growth and development patterns over the next 50 years. What the groups found was that not only do Floridians have to start conserving more water — a lot more — but local and state governments have to start regulating development in a way that slows sprawl.
In terms of growth, the study recommends that new development be more compact, meaning smaller yards and less need for irrigation, the source of about half of all household water use. At the same time, more compact development done in areas already developed will reduce the paving over of our state. At current development rates and patterns, the study projects that one-third of Florida will be built over by 2070. Adopting regulations that force more compact development could save more than 5 million acres of conservation land and more than 1 million acres of farmland, both critical as water recharge areas.
Without changes, the study’s authors predict water use will increase more than 50 percent, while combining compact development strategies with intensive conservation measures would only require 30 percent more water.
Of course, 30 percent more water consumption is still going to strain the state’s water supply, especially in Central Florida which is expected to see the most growth over the next 50 years.
The study made a list of conservation recommendations, none of them particularly new — Florida-friendly landscaping, low-flow irrigation systems, water-saving faucets and toilets and, importantly, widespread implementation of reclaimed water systems. As Hermle noted, we know how to conserve, we just have not done enough of it.
The Legislature is gathering in Tallahassee this week for its organizational meetings. 1000 Friends and its partners have given lawmakers an insightful blueprint for preparing for what’s to come over the next 50 years regarding Florida’s water. The Legislature should take a bite at a time — say, reclaimed water, then compact development, then residential and agriculture conservation mandates — because we have seen the difficulty in passing omnibus water bills in the past. But this issue can no longer be ignored if Florida 2070 and Water 2070 are anywhere near accurate.
Water 2070 should be required reading for every member of that body, as well as out local governing boards. We know what to do, and it is way past time to do it.
161123-b Greed and politics are destroying the Everglades
Miami Herald – by Mary Barley, chairman and president of the Everglades Trust
November 23, 2016
We heard a lot this political season about government corruption. While not all corruption is illegal, every instance of it is certainly unethical. Americans just showed they are willing to take extreme measures to combat corruption, and our local officials would do well to take heed, for a dangerous corruption is on open display here in Florida, and by any means legal and possible we will eradicate it. Indeed, we must.
Every day in Tallahassee, Gov. Rick Scott subverts the public interest and does the bidding of Big Sugar in exchange for campaign cash. Big Sugar, in this instance, is U.S. Sugar Corp., whose president and CEO is Robert Buker, Jr., and Florida Crystals, owned and operated by the Fanjul family. The result is that the Everglades are in peril and therefore so, too, is the future of South Florida and its residents.
In order to survive, the Everglades needs a steady supply of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee. But even if that water could reach the Everglades and ultimately the Florida Keys, it is heavily polluted with nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff. That’s the reason past summers have seen such toxic waters and algae blooms along the coasts, decimating the fishing, small businesses and tourism.
Incidentally, much of the pollution in Lake Okeechobee is from previous decades of Big Sugar backpumping toxic water from its land to the south directly into the lake. Such polluting is routine; U.S. Sugar Corp. has been convicted of knowingly dumping hazardous wastes into the Everglades.
There is a solution that is incredibly simple and scientifically sound. Water from Lake Okeechobee can be stored in land just south of the lake, where it can be cleaned, keeping toxic water out of the St. Lucie, Caloosahatchee, Atlantic and Gulf and providing water for the Everglades and the Florida Keys in the dry season and staving off saltwater intrusion. It could also provide South Florida all the drinking water it needs. Again, very simple and backed by hard science. Enter politics.
Big Sugar owns that land just south of the lake. In 2010, U.S. Sugar signed a contract finalizing the sale of up to 153,000 acres by October 2020. As for the money to buy it, the voters of Florida indicated where that should come from — themselves. In the election of 2014, 75 percent of them, an astonishing majority in politics, approved the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment, which provided the state the money it needed to complete this purchase, among other projects.
But U.S. Sugar decided, in the end, it didn’t really want to sell. How was it so easily able to thwart the overwhelming will of the people? Money. And lots of it. In the past 10 years, Big Sugar has given upwards of $60 million and more just for statewide elections. That doesn’t count federal elections, and even that number is likely to be too low since the Citizens United ruling has made it easy for corporations to hide just how much money they’re donating to politics.
want to sell this land: greed. It really does come down to more big houses and more shiny cars for a handful of them at the expense of drinking water, a healthy Everglades, and safe oceans for millions of us. That greed is so short-sighted, for it’s their drinking water, their Everglades and their oceans, too.
Less clear is Gov. Scott’s lack of courage to uphold his duty to defend Florida’s Constitution and enact the will of its people, unless he’s planning a further career in politics, for which there is that unending need of campaign money. But if he continues to bend to the will of Big Sugar, it is not hyperbole to say that the fate of South Florida and, therefore, Florida, hangs in the balance.
But again, there’s another simple solution. In 2000, Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), part of which called for Big Sugar to sell the acreage below Lake Okeechobee needed for restoration. Big Sugar is on record as supporting CERP. Some of its top officials were active participants in the meetings that created the legislation. All it would take is for Big Sugar to identify 60,000 acres it would sell to the state as a reservoir below Lake Okeechobee. Failing that, the governor could put public interest ahead of private gain and use eminent domain to acquire those acres.
The solution is simple; the way forward clear. As citizens we are stewards, and if we shirk that responsibility, this land of South Florida that we call home will someday be unable to sustain us, all of us, including Governor Scott and those rare few atop Big Sugar. Their deed can become our salvation as we work truly together to help our neighbors and preserve our unique natural heritage.
161123-c Loxahatchee battle a dispute over money...and maybe more
TCPalm – by Gil Smart
November 23, 2016 Flying over the Everglades in a helicopter a few months ago, I saw it.
Great clumps of bright green were everywhere, engulfing tree islands. This was Lygodium, or "Old World Fern," said Kevin Powers, vice chairman of the South Florida Water Management District board, who had invited me along for the ride. The invasive plant is taking over huge swaths of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County.
That's a big environmental problem. But it also has become a big political problem, one that could have implications for the Treasure Coast.
The shorthand version is that the state owns the land, the last remaining intact portion of the original northern Everglades. But the 144,000-acre refuge, which is used as one of the state's three water conservation areas, is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And the state — that is, the South Florida Water Management District — said the feds have been falling down on the job.
Uncontrolled, Lygodium could trigger the collapse of the tree islands, devastating wildlife habitat. But controlling it costs big bucks. Over the past five years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has spent an average of $2.3 million annually on the task.
But the water management district said the feds are contractually obligated to control the fern whatever the cost. The district wants the feds to spend $5 million annually.
And if the feds don't pony up, the contract will be torn up — and the state will manage the refuge itself.
District spokesman Randy Smith characterized this as a sort of negotiating tactic, though he didn't frame it that way.
"We have been asking, 'What is your plan to secure funding, and what is your scientific plan'" to control the fern, he said.
Not only has there been no response, Smith said, U.S. Fish and Wildlife hasn't even asked for additional funding.
"You’re not going to get any money if you don’t ask for it," Smith said. Rolf Olson, project manager for the refuge, said there are more than 560 national wildlife refuges nationwide, yet the Lox gets 14 percent of all federal dollars earmarked for controlling exotic plants.
"I don't know how we can expect to get more than that," Olson said.
Smith said the district's threat (my words, not his) was intended as a wake-up call.
"The bottom line is that we don't want to see this contract end," he said.
But if the feds can't come up with more money, the water management district will have no other option. And that, Smith said, is the entirety of the story.
But if you know anything about Florida water politics, you'll know there are plenty of people who doubt that.
Environmental groups suspect the state's real motive is to evade clean-water standards imposed by federal consent decree that limits phosphorus levels in the Everglades to their natural levels, no higher than 10 parts per billion. In fact, 90 percent of the Everglades now meet that standard.
But if the feds are evicted, said Celeste De Palma, Everglades policy associate for Audubon Florida, controls could be relaxed. More phosphorus, some of it from water draining off agricultural lands, could be permitted into the refuge. Certain plants, particularly cattails, thrive in higher-phosphorus environments, driving out other native plants, which in turn diminishes wildlife habitat.
"Look at where (the refuge) is located; it's really important for migratory birds," De Palma said. "We need to make sure this refuge remains part of the National Wildlife Refuge system."
Critics also note that in a "Statement of Principles" drafted by the SFWMD on the Loxahatchee dispute, the term "water quality" is conspicuously absent.
Then there's this, from a recent Palm Beach Post editorial — and here's where the Treasure Coast comes into the picture:
"Relaxing the phosphorus standard could be very useful to a district that is desperate for solutions to the Lake Okeechobee discharges of polluted water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and the algae blooms that stank up Treasure Coast communities last summer. The district is under great pressure to find ways to send lake water south — and if it can do that without taking land from sugar growers and other farmers, all the better."
For the record, SFWMD's Smith denies this has ever been part of the conversation.
"We've never considered that," he said. "Our interest is saving the refuge."
But Olson, the refuge's project manager, said the district could keep more water on the land than the feds do. That could pose a threat to wading birds.
"They're very sensitive," Olson said. "Just an inch or two (of water) makes a difference between whether they'll nest or not, or if they're already nesting and the water comes up, whether they'll abandon their chicks on the nest."
No one wants that, obviously. But it's hard to know, really, exactly who wants what and why.
The water management district is right that U.S. Fish and Wildlife could at least ask for more money, though it's highly unlikely that an even bigger percentage of all federal funds for invasive plant control will be devoted to the Lox.
By the same token, if the feds are evicted, it will be up to the state to pay the entire bill itself. And how does the taxpayer-funded water management district, which has constantly reiterated its commitment to keep a lid on taxes, think it's going to pay for this?
The federal contribution could be insufficient. But something's better than nothing, isn't it?
"There's a lot of misinformation out there," Smith said. "The governing board has great fears about the future of the refuge, and the status quo is no longer acceptable."
Though as environmentalists might note, one could take that statement in more ways than one.
161122-a Army Corps urged to move quickly with plan to restore Everglades, save endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow
November 22, 2016
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Dr. Stuart Pimm, and former Park Service Scientist Sonny Bass today sent the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers a letter urging it to take steps proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to benefit Everglades restoration and recovery of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. For years the flooding of western Everglades National Park has threatened the endangered sparrow with extinction. A new Service proposal calls for action to move more water to the east along its historic path in northeast Shark River Slough — a primary goal of Everglades restoration.
“This new proposal provides a clear path forward for both Everglades restoration and the survival of this endangered bird,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center. “Getting the water right for the sparrow means getting the water right for the Everglades.”
The Service’s proposal resulted from Endangered Species Act consultation over the Corps’ implementation of the Everglades Restoration Transition Plan. For the past few decades, the Corps has annually flooded extensive areas of western Everglades National Park during the sparrow’s breeding season. These releases do not follow the natural, historic flow and have resulted in loss of more than half the sparrow’s population.
The proposal highlights measures to protect the sparrow, including maximizing flows in the eastern most structures draining WCA 3A into Everglades National Park, lengthening closures on these structures during the breeding season and diverting more water to northeast Shark River Slough through the L-29 Borrow Canal under the One-Mile Bridge. These measures both meet the overarching goal of moving more water to the east and maintaining the right dry and wet periods for the survival and recovery of the sparrow.
“We will be monitoring the Corps’ implementation of the Service’s proposal closely. It is the best hope for Everglades restoration and the Cape Sable seaside sparrow,” said Bass.
161122-b With Army Corps willingness, reservoir chances improve
Palm Beach Post - Editorial
November 22, 2016
Here’s some good news about the Everglades: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it’s ready to speed up its timetable to build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, as soon as the state is ready to act.
And here’s another bit: Stuart Republican Joe Negron has taken the reins this week as Florida Senate president. Negron has pledged to buy the land such a reservoir would need: 60,000 acres, largely in western Palm Beach County.
Negron will face all kinds of opposition, some from the sugar industry, some from conservative legislators who will look askance at the expected $1.2 billion Florida will have to cough up, just as state government faces a budget shortfall.
But Negron says he’s up to the challenge. It’s important that he follow through.
The Army Corps is scheduled to begin planning for a reservoir south of the lake in 2021. But the Corps has told U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, that “the Army is prepared to initiate this study quickly, once a nonfederal sponsor for the study is identified.” Translation: as soon as Florida antes up.
There’s little time to waste. As we saw with the fetid algae blooms that stunk up Treasure Coast communities this year, Florida’s water system is in dire need of a fix. And fast.
Yet even after the project is green-lighted, it can take five or six years for the planning, approvals and appropriations to come through and for the land to be acquired.
Ever since Lake Okeechobee was dammed up by the Hoover Dike in the 1960s, it’s been collecting pollution-laden water pouring in from the Kissimmee River to the north. When that water gets too high for the dike, the Army Corps of Engineers sends it east through the St. Lucie Canal or west to the Caloosahatchee River.
That’s clearly inadequate.
Building a southern reservoir is not a new idea, although opponents have taken to criticizing it as something new and crazy. “Storage north, south, east and west of the lake are all critical components that have been part of the concept for Everglades restoration since its inception,” the Corps’ Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds recently told NPR.
Back in 2006, the Corps warned what would happen if we didn’t build a reservoir south of the lake: The “harmful” discharges of lake water to the east and west will “continue to decrease salinity in the estuaries and increase inflows of nutrients and other contaminants … resulting in elevated turbidity levels, algal plankton blooms, loss of normal sea grass cover, and declines in the diversity and abundance of natural populations of invertebrates, fishes and other estuarine-dependent species.”
That’s an eerily accurate prediction of what we’ve seen twice in the past three years. We’ll see it again in future high-rain seasons — unless we act.
“We’ve been talking about a southern reservoir for 20 years,” Negron said Tuesday. “The time for talk is over, it’s time to act.”
Negron’s plan is to buy enough acreage to hold 120 billion gallons of water. He is eyeing parcels close to existing canals and marshes that would clean and transport the water south.
Florida would pay its $1.2 billion share of the project’s cost at $100 million annually over 20 years, using Amendment 1 money that produces more than $700 million a year for conservation. (The federal government would pay the other $1.2 billion; that’s a fight for another day.)
To stop the fouling of Lake Okeechobee water, much must be done. We need to stop polluted runoff upstream from getting into the lake in the first place. We need to eliminate septic tanks from sensitive areas.
And we need to move clean lake water south. With the Army Corps more willing to move faster and Negron assuming a leadership role in the state Legislature, the south reservoir has the political clout it needs.
As we saw (and smelled) with the fetid algae blooms this year, Florida’s water system is in dire need of a fix. And fast.
161121- Insight welcome on Florida agriculture’s state of the industry
GrowingProduce.com - by Lisa Lochridge
November 21, 2016
More than 400 people attended FFVA’s 73rd annual convention in late September to hear an array of agriculture leaders and industry experts discuss key issues. Attendees also had a chance to catch up with colleagues and network with dozens of sponsors.
Always a favorite at the convention is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s state of the industry address. And this year was no exception. In his wide-ranging talk, Putnam discussed both opportunities and challenges for Florida agriculture.
His message to the audience was clear: “We are a $100 billion economic driver for Florida that cannot be replaced. While we face numerous risks every day, the biggest threat is still poorly thought-out government policies that prevent Florida farmers and ranchers from feeding a hungry world.”
In a turbulent year for Florida, the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services continues to guard the health of crops and people, he said.
Asked for his thoughts on the coming year, Putnam said that Republicans and Democrats in Washington must find a way to work together. “The new Congress has to function,” he said. “Otherwise, we can expect more agency regulations and overzealous executive action.”
Another risk to the state is opposition to science-based pest control actions, Putnam said, citing the Miami-Dade outbreak of the Zika virus. He said the Department’s aerial mosquito-spraying program was effective in the Wynwood neighborhood but ran into headwinds in Miami Beach, where some residents alleged that Zika was a hoax. Others felt that spraying was more dangerous than the virus without any evidence to support their position.
Meanwhile, Putnam’s Department continues to fight giant African land snails, which are being gradually brought under control. “We have to manage multiple outbreaks that threaten our livelihood,” he added.
The Weight Of Water
Turning to the state’s water resources, Putnam said problems like the algae bloom on the Treasure Coast are likely to continue without investments in better water control infrastructure. “We accept the cost of road improvement projects, but we have neglected wastewater management in many parts of the state,” he said. “We also need to follow the Everglades conservation plan and find alternatives to using Lake Okeechobee for storage, such as deep-well injection.”
Noting that the state legislature passed a strong water management plan last year, Putnam said, “Clean water is the key to our state’s growth, tourism, and agriculture. We are all in this together.”
Marketing For The Masses
Putnam also discussed a new initiative Fresh From Florida is undertaking.
“We’re also seeing a clear trend from commoditized to value-add agriculture,” he said. “To capitalize on the growing consumer interest in the sources of food, the Department will launch a new Fresh From Florida initiative called ‘I grow this.’ Farmers will be videotaped in the fields talking about their crops, their families, and their values. We will make those videos available to retailers to help consumers make connection to you and reinforce the concept of quality Florida agriculture.”
At the convention, FFVA announced several annual awards. Sen. Travis Hutson and Rep. Matt Caldwell were named Legislators of the Year. Hutson (R-Palm Coast) sponsored the Farm Vehicle legislation (SB 1046) and the Ag Industry bill (SB 1310/HG749), both of which benefited Florida’s growers. Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres) is a second-time recipient of the award, which he also received in 2013. Caldwell sponsored the Water Resources bill (HB 7005) and the State Lands bill (HB 1075). Both were signed into law.
Dr. Jim Graham, Professor of Soil Microbiology at the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, was named Researcher of the Year.
And finally, IPC Subway was named Customer of the Year for its work with producers to promote Florida products
161120- How the Army Corps is helping environment
Florida Today – Guest column by Col. Jason Kirk, US-ACE, Jacksonville, FL
November 18, 2016
As commander of the Jacksonville District’s 780-member team of professionals, I want to share information about our efforts to restore the environment and to help our nation face the challenges posed by rising sea levels.
I am honored to lead a team working to restore America’s Everglades, an ecosystem unlike any other. Together with the state of Florida, the U.S. Department of the Interior and other government agencies, we’re seeing momentum to “get the water right” in terms of quantity, quality, timing and distribution.
The federal-state partnership is the strength of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, an unparalleled ecosystem restoration effort. The corps and Florida have each invested more than a billion dollars to date in this vital effort.
Restoration of this treasure will improve 2.4 million acres of South Florida’s ecosystem, including Everglades National Park. To a degree, it will help reduce large discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the estuaries. It will improve water deliveries to the Florida and Biscayne bays, reducing saltwater intrusion accelerated by sea level rises into aquifers.
We already see restoration benefits in stretches of the now meandering Kissimmee River north of Lake Okeechobee as well as in restored sheet flow in the Picayune Strand area in the southwest corner of the Everglades system. Both the corps and the state are working to construct new reservoirs to capture water that would otherwise flow directly to the tide via the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
We’re also planning for future restoration, with the ongoing Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration Project study and with two new planning efforts that we’ll start this year for the Lake Okeechobee Watershed and Western Everglades projects.
The corps integrates the potential effects of sea level rise into our studies, which is an increasing threat to coastal communities and economic productivity. Miami-Dade County is one of the nation’s most densely populated coastal areas and is vulnerable to coastal flooding. The ocean has risen several inches since the Central and Southern Florida flood control system was designed in the 1950s.
Higher water already is causing loss of flow capacity throughout South Florida.
The Interagency Flood Risk Management Project Study will develop adaptive strategies to address coastal storm surge and reduce the risk of flood damage associated with sea level rise in Miami-Dade County.
The corps also is developing the South Atlantic Regional Systems Management Strategy, a comprehensive assessment to address coastal storm and flood risks along the south Atlantic coastline now and into the future. More than 3 million people live in high-risk areas in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Property in this area is worth more than $616 trillion. Pre-disaster planning can save communities about 75 percent of post-storm costs.
Public participation is a key element of reducing risk and increasing resiliency. We encourage public involvement and will maintain open dialogue as we move forward in efforts to restore the Everglades and address sea level rise.
The latest information on our Everglades restoration efforts is available at http://bit.ly/EvergladesRestoration
The stakes are high, but the Army Corps of Engineers, alongside state, federal and local partners, have the knowledge and capability to collaboratively engineer solutions that overcome challenges.
161119-a Election outcome - America’s Everglades must be restored
Naples Daily News - Commentary by Rob Moher, President and CEO, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Naples
November 19, 2016
As we prepare for a transition of power at the federal level, one thing is abundantly clear – our community must speak with a unified voice to accelerate efforts to restore the Everglades and to address the ongoing water quality crisis in our region’s waters.
Regardless of politics, we can all agree that this is America’s Everglades, an iconic and unique landscape unlike any other in the world – the famed River of Grass.
For all of us on the west coast, we enjoy the immense expanse, beauty and productivity of the Big Cypress swamp, the Ten Thousand Islands with its mangrove forests and historically famous fishing grounds, and the 47 threatened and endangered species that call the western Everglades home.
We have seen as a community how a water management system terribly out of balance has resulted in massive fish kills, a state of emergency for multiple counties in South Florida, and economic hardship for businesses dependent on healthy waters and estuaries.
There are no simple solutions to our water woes. We do know that by addressing the many pieces of the puzzle – including the need for additional lands south of Lake Okeechobee to store, treat and convey waters to the Everglades; accelerated funding of existing Everglades restoration projects including the C-43 reservoir in Lee County; planning for an additional water quality component as part of the C-43; and creating stronger incentives and regulations to reduce pollution at its source -- that we can create lasting solutions for our water, our economy and our quality of life. This will take leadership at the local, state and federal levels to accomplish.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has been and will remain engaged working alongside our elected officials, concerned citizens, the business communities, government agencies and partner organizations to advance these solutions. We have been working to protect the western Everglades for more than five decades, including playing a key role in facilitating the acquisition of lands where we are now seeing Everglades restoration actually occurring right here in Collier County in the Picayune Strand State Forest.
We have boots on the ground with our science team conducting baseline research to gauge the impacts of restoration on our wildlife and water quality. We have dedicated educators who each year reach thousands of local students with formal and informal programs including immersing students in the wonders of our Everglades and on site at the Conservancy Nature Center. We are designing and executing strategies with our partners to remove invasive species such as the Burmese pythons, which are consuming many of the historical species that call the Everglades home.
We see the solutions. They are within reach.
We are grateful to political leaders such as retiring Rep. Curt Clawson, incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron and state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, who have responded to the frustrations and hopes of the people of Florida by providing bold vision, and used their political capital to advance difficult but much-needed actions to restore America’s Everglades.
Every citizen in Southwest Florida should take action today. Visit www.conservancy.org to learn more about how to be part of the solution, including signing the Now or Neverglades declaration.
161119-b Florida's loony-tunes political parties; Trump's promise for the Everglades
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
November 19, 2016
This column is a vehicle for a number of items in a bits-and-pieces, strictly opinion, sometimes irreverent format. Look for "Just Sayin'" to run once a week in this spot. FDP, RPOF Polar Opposites Even in Craziness
Both major political parties in Florida are crazier than a fruit bat, if you ask me. They could both use a shrink.
The Democrats keep their party chair two years too long, then freak out when they realize what a pickle they're in.
The Republicans win it all, president to dog catcher, and immediately the titular head of the party, Gov. Rick Scott, allegedly orchestrates a challenge to replace Chairman Blaise Ingoglia. Huh?
With the Democrats, I get it. They're in shock. On Nov. 7, they were poised to win it all. A day later, nothing. Fizzle. There were no Hillary Clinton coattails and few happy surprises. So Allison Tant quits -- and here comes the real chaos: More than half a dozen hands go up to replace Tant. That's a lot of people who want to get behind the wheel before they've got a road map. Expect the ride to get bumpier before FDP leadership is resolved.
The Republican craziness is a different story. Now, I'm not about to knock Christian Ziegler. By all accounts this young fellow from the Gulf Coast opposing Ingoglia is an able fellow. But I have to ask ... who dumps their party chairman after he delivers the state a president, a U.S. senator, 25 state senators and 79 representatives in a 120-member state House? Even if those good works weren't all the party chairman's doing, what am I missing?
I hope Ziegler doesn't take offense. I said the same thing in a column Dec. 3, 2014, only then I was defending the good work of Leslie Dougher: "Why does the chair of the Republican Party of Florida, who only helped her party to one of the nation's biggest avalanches in last month's national GOP blizzard, have to claw her way through a brutal, insider election to stay out of the unemployment line?"
The Democrats delude themselves, the Republicans mess with success. I guess after all these years, I still don't entirely understand the intricacies of the game. Trump and the Environment: All We Can Do Is Wait and See
Donald Trump, the first developer to occupy the White House, might actually mean what he says when he promises to prioritize Everglades restoration. Certainly Trump and Gov. Rick Scott are on the same page on many policy issues, and Scott is pushing heavily for the feds to honor their commitment to Florida's water needs and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
Trump told a Collier County rally in late October, “A Trump administration will work alongside you to restore and protect the beautiful Everglades ..."
The soon-to-be 45th president of the United States assured the large crowd he would safeguard the dwindling water supplies in Florida, where he owns three golf courses.
“Our plan will also help you upgrade water and wastewater," he said. "And you know you have a huge problem with wastewater -- so that the Florida aquifer is pure and safe from pollution. We have to do it. We will also repair the Herbert Hoover dike in Lake Okeechobee, a lake I’m very familiar with.”
As the Bradenton Herald said Friday, "Everglades restoration, the largest environmental project undertaken in the nation’s history, is essentially a giant infrastructure job." Refreshing existing and building new infrastructure, remember, has been high on Trump's to-do list from the beginning.
On the down side -- and there's plenty of it, particularly for environmentalists -- Trump calls climate change a giant hoax created by the Chinese. He has said he will pull out of the Paris Agreement that committed the U.S. to reducing the nation’s greenhouse gases by up to 28 percent over the next decade. He has promised to slash environmental regulations, revive the sagging coal industry and increase drilling.
Also, expect wholesale gutting at the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump chose Myron Ebell to lead the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency, a move that infuriated climate advocates who collected 88,000 signatures on a Whitehouse.gov petition. Ebell works for a Libertarian think tank "that pushes skepticism on climate change and is backed by the oil and coal industry."
Whether Trump means what he said about elevating Everglades restoration during his administration remains to be seen. All we can do now is help keep it on his radar.
161118-a Army Corps says it's prepared to move faster on Everglades reservoir -- with funding
WGCU.org - by Amy Green
November 18, 2016
Planning for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee is scheduled to begin in 2021. The reservoir is crucial to restoring the Everglades, and the project could get started sooner if funding were available.
The reservoir is aimed at restoring a more natural flow of water to the Everglades. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will work with the state on the project.
“We know that storage north, south, east and west of the lake are all critical components that have been part of the concept for Everglades restoration since its inception, and the storage south of the lake is the next major planning effort,” says Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Incoming Senate President Joe Negron has proposed putting state conservation funding toward buying land for a reservoir.
Proponents say the reservoir also would help alleviate discharges of excess polluted water from Lake Okeechobee to coastal estuaries, but critics say the state should focus on other projects.
Reynolds also says bipartisan support for Everglades restoration is unlikely to waver under President-elect Donald Trump.
“We anticipate that there will be some changes, and we will move through those,” she says. “We don’t anticipate there to be significant changes in support for the Everglades restoration projects.” A $17 billion restoration is underway in the Everglades, the largest in the world.
Trump has called climate change a hoax and appears poised to roll back an array of environmental policies but has said he is committed to protecting the Everglades.
161118-b Making progress on reviving the vitality of the Everglades
Miami Herald – by Col. Jason Kirk, US-ACE, Jacksonville, FL
November 18, 2016
September 30 marked the end of fiscal year 2016 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District — a year in which our team, alongside our partners, achieved on-the-ground benefits to restore America’s Everglades.
The $127 million federal investment in fiscal year 2016 towards Everglades restoration provided essential funding to award critical construction contracts and to design and plan for future increments of restoration. For construction efforts alone, we invested $96.5 million in our Everglades projects.
The entire Everglades ecosystem operates as a whole; progress made in each area builds off others to deliver essential benefits to America’s Everglades. This connectivity starts north of Lake Okeechobee, the liquid heart of the Everglades, and moves all the way south to Florida Bay.
North of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will improve conditions north of — and within — the lake. We awarded one of three remaining construction contracts for Kissimmee River Restoration this past year. This project will restore approximately 44 miles of the historic Kissimmee River, restore more than 40 square miles of floodplain, and slow the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee. We also initiated the Lake Okeechobee Watershed project, which will further improve conditions north of the lake and enhance system-wide operational flexibility.
East and west of Lake Okeechobee, our work will improve conditions in coastal estuaries and tributaries. Construction of much-needed storage is underway at the Indian River Lagoon-South C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area project on the east coast and the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir project on the west coast. This past year, we broke ground on the largest component of the C-44 project, the 3,400-acre reservoir. As a result of our essential partnership with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), all the C-44 project components are currently under construction or complete. This partnership also enabled the SFWMD to initiate the first phase of construction on the C-43 Reservoir project. Together, these projects will provide over 220,000 acre-feet of water storage.
Progress continues on developing the final report for the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration project, which will improve conditions in the Loxahatchee River’s northwest fork. We also initiated the Western Everglades Restoration Project, which aims to restore the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water within the western Everglades.
Currently pending congressional authorization, the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) will construct conveyance features needed to send additional water south from Lake Okeechobee. It will also deliver more than 200,000 acre-feet of water south from the lake into Everglades National Park. Congressional authorization will make CEPP eligible for congressional appropriations.
South of Lake Okeechobee, our efforts will send additional water south to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay. This past year we awarded two of three remaining construction contracts for the C-111 South Dade project. We’re also finishing construction on the Modified Water Deliveries project. Combined, these projects put the necessary infrastructure in place to send larger quantities of water south on a long-term basis. We awarded one of three remaining contracts for the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project, which will deliver much-needed freshwater to Biscayne Bay. Additionally, the emergency deviation implemented this past year helped to alleviate high water levels within the system and deliver additional water to the park.
We will keep momentum going in fiscal year 2017. We started this year with a visit from our Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, who appreciates the important collaborative work we’re doing to restore this complex ecosystem and recognizes our strong federal-state partnership is critical to maintaining momentum.
We applaud our partners’ efforts, including the Department of the Interior breaking ground on additional Tamiami Trail bridging and SFWMD’s continued progress on Restoration Strategies. Alongside our partners, with valuable input from multiple stakeholders, we developed the Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS).
It’s our Everglades restoration roadmap — a living document with flexibility to adjust as conditions change. We are encouraged by the progress made to date and our Corps team is absolutely committed to maintaining momentum on our important work to restore and preserve America's Everglades for future generations.
161118-c Reservoir critical to Everglades restoration
Naples Daily News - Commentary by Eric Eikenberg, CEO, The Everglades Foundation
November 18, 2016
Former Gov. Reuben Askew once joked that if Florida doesn’t stop wasting the precious freshwater we are flushing out to sea, it will become “the world’s first and only desert which gets 60 inches of annual rainfall.”
Restoring the natural southerly flow of the freshwater we are squandering is the most ambitious environmental reconstruction ever undertaken. Sixteen years ago, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) identified 68 separate projects that together will take decades to complete and require federal and state investments of billions of dollars.
Make no mistake, we are making progress, but now the real work must begin.
In 2012, Gov. Rick Scott reached a 13-year, $880 million water quality settlement with the Obama administration to expand man-made wetlands south of Lake Okeechobee.
These man-made wetlands act as Florida’s “kidneys,” filtering out the phosphorus and nitrogen that are poisonous to the delicate ecology of the Everglades.
Two years later, Scott was at the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers and announced the state’s willingness to build the next 2.6 miles of bridge along U.S. 41 East, connecting Tampa and Miami.
U.S. 41 impedes the southerly flow of water just as effectively as if it were a concrete dam. The new bridge, in addition to a 1-mile span already in place, will act as a conduit that will allow partial resumption of the flow.
Meanwhile, in Washington, both chambers of Congress have approved the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), a $1.2 billion investment to remove dams and levees so that an additional 200,000 acre-feet of water can flow south.
The measure, which Scott lobbied for, is part of the federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) now awaiting a House-Senate conference to resolve minor differences unrelated to the Everglades issues; the president is expected to sign it.
For all this progress, however, much remains to be done — as anyone familiar with this summer’s outbreaks of toxic algae can testify.
Not all Everglades restoration projects are of equal importance. When Congress laid out the 68-piece jigsaw called CERP, one segment was so important it was specifically authorized at the outset: the 60,000-acre water storage reservoir to be located south of Lake Okeechobee, within the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).
If the man-made wetlands now under construction within the EAA are the “kidneys” of Florida’s restored water system, Lake Okeechobee is its heart. The EAA reservoir is needed to store additional water from the lake so it can be slowly fed into the man-made wetlands. Only by increasing the system’s capacity can we provide adequate freshwater to supply the Everglades and meet the growing needs of South Florida.
The reservoir will add 120 billion gallons to South Florida’s water supply, equivalent to about 10 inches of extra water in Lake Okeechobee. More importantly, it will open a new outlet from Lake Okeechobee southward, allowing a dramatic reduction in damaging discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
On April 7, Everglades Day, Scott signed the Legacy Florida legislation that dedicates $200 million annually from the Florida Land and Water Conservation Act (Amendment 1, approved by voters in 2014) specifically for projects that reduce the Lake Okeechobee discharges, so funds are available for the project.
Yet as vital as the reservoir is to the ultimate success of Everglades restoration, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has deferred even the planning process until 2021. To continue progress on this, Scott should direct the SFWMD to expedite the plans, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has suggested.
Despite our progress, we have touched only the periphery. It is time, now, to move on to the real job at hand: increasing the capacity of the system. Only by doing so can we stop wasting the billions of gallons of freshwater we are now being forced to flush into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
If we fail, Askew’s quip may some day come to sound like a prediction. The Everglades Foundation embarked on a 12-day, 22-city bus tour on Oct. 26 to build public support for the EAA reservoir. More than 33,000 Floridians have supported the project by signing the “#NowOrNeverglades Declaration.” The full declaration is available at Everglades Foundation.org/NoworNeverglades-Declaration.
161118-d What will a Trump presidency mean for Florida’s environment ?
Bradenton Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
November 18, 2016
At a rally in Collier County at the end of October, a day after he unveiled his “contract” with America, then-candidate Donald Trump rallied his supporters with talk of crooked Hillary, a rigged election system and the “real group of losers” running the country. Then, in the middle of 47-minute speech, he turned to a teleprompter and devoted just over a minute to Florida’s longest-running and most frustrating environmental conflict: Everglades restoration.
“A Trump administration will also work alongside you to restore and protect the beautiful Everglades, which I just flew over. I just flew over and let me tell you when you fly over the Everglades and you look at those gators and you look at those water moccasins, you say I better have a good helicopter.”
The soon-to-be 45th president of the United States went on to assure the crowd that dwindling water supplies in Florida, where he owns three golf courses, would be protected.
“Our plan will also help you upgrade water and wastewater — and you know you have a huge problem with wastewater — so that the Florida aquifer is pure and safe from pollution. We have to do it. We will also repair the Herbert Hoover dike in Lake Okeechobee, a lake I’m very familiar with.”
To weary Floridians, he was far from the first politician to make such promises. Thirty years after Lawton Chiles vowed to clean up the marshes, the Everglades remain as threatened as ever, going from too wet to too dry, the coasts repeatedly hammered by algae outbreaks and Florida Bay slammed by massive seagrass die-offs. Water quality and quantity in the state face increasing pressure from sea rise and growing demand.
But Trump is the first developer to occupy the White House. Everglades restoration, the largest environmental project ever undertaken in the nation’s history, is essentially a giant infrastructure job. And many of the solutions to climate change in South Florida come down to construction: raising roads, fortifying coastlines and updating flood controls.
Could Trump finally be the solution ?
“This is water infrastructure,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. “It costs billions and employs thousands of jobs, just like the infrastructure he’s talking about.”
But what Trump didn’t mention, and what alarms scientists and other environmental advocates, are broader policies on climate change and energy production that would derail the progress Florida has made to protect its fragile resources. Trump has vowed to slash environmental regulations, revive the sagging coal industry and increase drilling — moves that could make Everglades restoration a moot point. They worry Trump’s macro policies could undo his micro promises.
The Miami Herald asked scientists, policy analysts and government staffers — who combined have spent decades fighting to preserve Florida’s unique ecosystems — what a Trump presidency will mean for the state. Most expressed concern. Some are taking a wait-and-see position. Whatever comes, they’re expecting a bumpy, fossil-fueled ride. Climate Change
Sea rise is probably Florida’s biggest challenge. The state is already battling its impacts — routine flooding from seasonal tides amplified by sea level rise, coral reefs and seagrass beds sickened by higher ocean temperatures and the risk of more intense hurricanes — so the issue is more than theoretical.
Miami Beach plans on spending about a half billion dollars on pumps over the coming years. Fort Lauderdale raised the height limit for new seawalls. Other South Florida governments have banded together in a regional compact to work together on coordinating infrastructure needs likely to cost billions. Even the National Hurricane Center, recognizing that most hurricane deaths are caused by flooding that will probably get worse, has started issuing storm-surge warnings.
Trump, on the other hand, has called climate change a hoax created by the Chinese and said he plans on pulling out of the Paris Agreement that committed the U.S. to reducing the nation’s greenhouse gases by up to 28 percent over the next decade.
He’s not alone in thinking it’s a hoax. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who said last week he talks to Trump often — and could play a role in appointments — has danced around climate change. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, another state with a vulnerable coastline, is looking forward to “regulations we can roll back, whether it’s EPA-related, the overtime rules, Obamacare.”
Whether Trump means what he says remains to be seen. In 2009, he was among 55 CEOs and prominent people to back a full-page New York Times ad urging Obama and Congress to act on climate change, according to The Atlantic and Grist.
In one of his first moves, Trump chose Myron Ebell to lead the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency, infuriating climate advocates who collected 88,000 signatures on a Whitehouse.gov petition before it was removed Tuesday. Ebell works for a Libertarian think tank that pushes skepticism on climate change and is backed by the oil and coal industry.
Ebell, who personally called climate change a “silly” issue, wants to derail power plant regulations and has said Obama usurped his power in signing the Paris Agreement. He also called Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change “leftist drivel” and said the pope supports a liberation theology, repeating an unsubstantiated claim that the KGB started the movement to spread communism in South America.
His appointment suggests sweeping changes for the agency.
“The entire upper management of the EPA will be swept out. There is no doubt. That is a 99-percenter,” said a staff member who spoke on condition that he not be named. The agency declined to comment on changes.
If Trump derails attempts to curb carbon emissions, which have already caused an irreversible 10 inches of sea rise over the next 15 years, future work to deal with flooding in South Florida could become more costly. Scientists also worry much of the critical monitoring required to track problems tied to the spike in carbon emissions could be doomed.
“The state of the ocean, it’s an expensive enterprise,” said University of Miami climate scientist Ben Kirtman, a lead author on the U.N.’s 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment.
Kirtman, however, was hopeful that research would continue and, if framed as jobs-generating work, projects would move forward.
“People can chose to deny the facts of climate change but when faced with the reality of having to respond to the challenges on the ground, the denial is thin,” he said.
A regional coalition of county governments, universities and advocates that has sprung up in recent years to push the issue can also probably survive a Trump presidency, scientists say. But a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris accord sends a damaging message to the rest of the world.
“There’s been some level of hope that the federal government would play some role in helping to support the investments that we need in South Florida to adapt to sea level rise. I’m not as optimistic about that now,” said Tiffany Troxler, director of Florida International University’s Sea Level Solutions Center.
Trump has also vowed to do away with Obama’s Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emission, which Ebell called “the Costly Power Plan or the Skyrocketing Rates Power Plan,” even though the EPA projects an 8 percent drop in rates. Twenty-seven states, including Florida, are now fighting the plan in court.
“No matter what happens in terms of the U.S.’s ability to pull out of the Paris Agreement and how the courts decide the Clean Power Plan, for all practical purposes they’re not going to be implemented in the Trump administration,” said Julie Dick, an environmental lawyer and former staff attorney at the Everglades Law Center. “Losing these two significant signs of progress in climate action will hurt the Everglades ecosystem eventually because we’re failing to reduce greenhouse gases.” Everglades Restoration
Trump was clear in his commitment to fix the marshes, which also have a well-placed advocate: billionaire hedge fund manager and passionate fly fisherman Paul Tudor Jones II, chief backer of the Everglades Foundation. The Foundation held several of its annual Palm Beach fundraisers at Trump’s Mar A Lago Club and in February Jones told Bloomberg News that he’d sent a package to Trump on Everglades efforts.
However, that doesn’t mean restoration won’t change.
In his speech, Trump vowed to finish repairs on Lake Okeechobee’s aging dike. Once the dike is finished, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will undertake a study to see if water levels can be raised, an idea supported by some members of the South Florida Water Management District governing board. This week, district executive director Pete Antonacci said in the past water levels were held much higher and were lowered simply to address safety, not environmental, concerns. But the Corps fashioned the rules to replicate the lake’s natural cycles. Environmental advocates say raising water could wipe out valuable habitat at the lake’s edges where, pre-dike, water was historically low.
Trump also appointed David Bernhardt to oversee the transition of the Interior Department. Bernhardt had been the department’s solicitor under the Bush administration but now represents drilling and mining interests fighting the government on endangered species protections and environmental regulations.
Still, Bernhardt knows how the agency operates.
“I don’t subscribe to the doom and gloom,” said attorney Don Jodrey, a senior policy adviser who handled Everglades restoration for the Interior Department during both Democratic and Republican administrations and is now teaching at Wake Forest University. “Trump says he wants to do infrastructure. The Everglades is all about infrastructure.”
With a weakened EPA, water quality enforcement could also change.
“Everybody is hoping for the best, but if we take Donald Trump at his word, what he’s been saying is incredibly troubling,” said Tania Galloni, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Florida office. “Right now he seems to be wanting to be a friend of business at the expense of the environment.” Energy
When it comes to energy, Trump has promised to make the U.S. energy independent by easing regulations. In his first 100 days, he’s vowed to pave the way for drilling on federal lands by lifting restrictions. But in Florida, he faces stiff opposition. Activists bitterly opposed oil exploration in the state. This week, the state rejected a request to drill in the Everglades, finding that Kanter Oil failed to prove enough oil existed to warrant drilling. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, in a defeat to increase incentives to states that allow offshore drilling, also vowed to fight the new administration.
“If the new administration and if the oil industry wants to have a fight on this issue, well, they certainly have one,” Nelson said on the Senate floor this week. “This senator is going to continue to try to keep the oil rigs off the state of Florida with everything that I have.”
In his energy plan, Trump makes no mention of renewable sources like solar, a supply that pitted Florida advocates and utilities in a fierce fight over the last two years. In November, voters rejected a utility-backed amendment that would have made it more difficult for solar companies to operate in the state. Advocates say if the new president is sincere about creating jobs, renewable energy could be a big supplier.
“We need to be moving away from harmful fuels,” Galloni said. “We need to be making decisions based on fact, based on science, on reliable sources. We cannot be making decisions on conspiracy theories. We have evidence-based approaches to so many things and this? It’s Big Tobacco all over again. What, this caused cancer?”
161117-a Florida says no to Everglades drilling near Miramar site
Miami Herald – by Jenny Staletovich
November 17, 2016
A South Florida family that made its fortune in real estate and asked to drill in Everglades marshes has been turned down by state environmental regulators.
In a notice Wednesday, the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation said Kanter Real Estate failed to prove the likelihood of enough oil to merit exploratory drilling. Kanter submitted an application to drill in marshes about six miles west of Miramar more than a year ago, the easternmost bid to find oil in the Sunniland trend, a 20-mile wide, 150-mile long field that stretches from Fort Myers to Miami.
The request quickly triggered objections from nearby cities, Broward County and environmentalists, who applauded Wednesday’s decision.
“The risks to wildlife, to the Everglades, and to the Biscayne Aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for millions of Floridians, made this project seem unimaginable,” Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association said in an email. “We're also glad to see DEP taking its role as a regulatory agency serious — and hope this is something we'll see more of in the future.”
Company president John Kanter told the Sun Sentinel the family had not yet decided whether to appeal the decision.
“We are disappointed by this decision after engaging in a rigorous application process and must now carefully evaluate how best to proceed, if at all,” he told the paper.
For years, oil has been pumped from a part of the trend in the Big Cypress National Preserve. About 40 wells are now active. Earlier this year, the National Park Service cleared the way for a Texas company to use massive thumper trucks for additional exploration. While less invasive than drilling, environmentalists still worry the exploration would harm wildlife. The park service disagreed, concluding in May that exploration would have no significant impacts.
161117-b How many more people will live in Florida by 2030? Here’s a forecast.
Palm Beach Post – by Susan Salisbury
November 17, 2016
Every day, Florida uses 7 billion gallons of water, and by 2030 with a projected increase of 6 million people, the state will need 9 billion gallons of water each day.
Florida Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Mark Wilson provided the projections to about 325 attendees Wednesday at a Farm City Luncheon at the South Florida Fair’s Expo Center. The event was hosted by the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, the Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau and the South Florida Fair.
Wilson emphasized that science-based data needs to be used to make decisions about Florida’s water future.
“Water is just as essential to growing our economy as education and transportation,” Wilson said.
California, he said, spent billions on political solutions to its water problem that just made it worse.
The solution isn’t, as some have suggested, to try to keep 6 million more residents from moving here, but to manage the next 6 million better than the last 6 million increase, he said.
“We are growing by 6 million people. We need more water. We have to protect that water. We have to make sure it is enough and start making smarter decisions,” Wilson said.
Toxic algae blooms in the Indian River Lagoon were publicized nationally this year, but Wilson said there are details you won’t hear on the “nightly news,” such as the estimated 250,000 to 600,000 septic tanks that drain into Lake Okeechobee from north of the lake.
“There was a time when science said that was the best thing to do. Now it is not the smartest thing to do,
” Wilson said, adding that it has been suggested that as many septic systems as possible be converted to public sewage systems. John Mitnik, director for Operations, Engineering & Construction, South Florida Water Management District, told the group that the current management system was built in the 1950s through the 1970s and there are a number of constraints on moving water from Lake Okeechobee south into Florida Bay. Those include the endangered species act which requires control structures to be closed from November through late July Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, said that this past summer’s harmful algal blooms in the Indian River Lagoon and elsewhere are part of a long-term trend that has been happening in other parts of the country as well due to increased nutrient loading of lakes, rivers, estuaries and coastal waters.
This year’s blooms in the lagoon actually started following record rainfall in January. Fertilizers, sewage, and fossil fuels which increase the concentration of nitrous oxides in the atmosphere all contribute to such blooms.
However, the blooms in the northern Indian River Lagoon were not driven by Lake Okeechobee discharges because they are not connected at all, Lapointe said.
Lapointe said researchers used stable nitrogen isotopes to identify the source of the lagoon’s algal blooms, and sewage and septic tanks were found to be the biggest single contributors.
“This stuff doesn’t lie. It is what it is,” Lapointe said. “It changed our thinking. We need to educate the public about their contributions from their septic tanks.” Barbara Miedema, vice president public affairs and communications, Florida Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, said protecting the environment is a priority for farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area as well as those in the rest of Florida.
For the last 20 years Glades area growers have used best management practices resulting in the removal of more than 3,000 metric tons of phosphorous before water is discharged from Lake Okeechobee, a 55 percent reduction, Miedema said.
Farmers are taxed at $25 an acre for the privilege of growing food such as sweet corn, green beans, lettuces and rice and the fees have generated more than $200 million to help construct and operate the man-made filter marshes the SFWMD operates, Miedema said.
Tests show that at least 90 percent of the Everglades now meets the required standard for levels of phosphorous of 10 parts per billion or less, according to the SFWMD.
161117-c The Everglades Foundation partners with SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment to save the Everglades through literacy
November 17, 2016
SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and The Everglades Foundation, Inc. announced a new partnership focused on educating young Floridians about the importance of saving America’s Everglades. Through the Everglades Literacy Curriculum, teachers help students understand the immeasurable ecological and economic impact of the Everglades ecosystem and why saving this national treasure is important to all Floridians and more than 70 threatened and endangered species that call it home.
The Everglades Literacy Program is a vital part of The Everglades Foundation’s mission to preserve and restore “America’s Everglades” – the source of drinking water for almost 8 million Floridians. Over 1,500 teachers and approximately 60,000 students from 11 counties in Florida have completed the coursework and are implementing the Everglades Literacy Program in their classrooms.
“I think it is pivotal for teachers to be educated on such a precious resource like the Everglades so we can enlighten and empower our students to make changes to benefit the Everglades,” shares Josh Pederson, a teacher at SunRidge Elementary in the Orange County Public School System. Pederson was one of more than 40 teachers from Orange County who recently attended an Everglades Literacy Teacher Training workshop hosted at SeaWorld Orlando. Teachers who attended received information about the Everglades Literacy Program, materials to share in their classroom and activities to engage their students in hands-on learning.
“We are excited to join forces with SeaWorld on this important endeavor,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation. “We know many of these children will grow up and live in Florida and we want them to become better stewards of this natural resource today and especially in the future.” The Everglades Foundation launched the Everglades Literacy Program to not only educate students, but to help motivate them to become advocates for conservation and knowledgeable stewards of Florida.
“At SeaWorld, we inspire people every day to explore nature and to find ways they can become better stewards of the natural resources they share with millions of animals,” said Brandon Tidwell, Director of Corporate Responsibility for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “Because the Everglades begin here in Orlando, at Shingle Creek, we thought it was critical to partner with the Foundation to educate and inspire our youth to protect, preserve and repair this valuable ecosystem for the benefit of the citizens of Florida and the animals who call it home.”
SeaWorld not only hosted the recent literacy training, but also provided participating teachers with an exclusive backstage tour of their animal rescue operations. “The training was a wonderful combination of content and hands on experiences,” said Tara Stokes from Citrus Elementary. “I loved the behind the scenes tour of the conservation and rehabilitation areas.” The Everglades Foundation
The Everglades Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to leading efforts to restore and protect the greater Everglades ecosystem. Since its founding in 1993 by a group of local outdoor enthusiasts, the Foundation has become a respected and important advocate for the sustainability of one of the world’s most unique ecosystems.
America’s Everglades is prominent among our nation’s environmental treasures. In addition to providing nearly eight million Floridians with clean and plentiful drinking water for nearly 8 million Floridians, the Everglades is home to no fewer than 70 threatened or endangered species of plant and animal life. From an economic point of view, nearly 400,000 jobs in tourism, recreation, boating, fishing, agriculture, real estate and numerous other sectors depend upon - and benefit from - a healthy Everglades.
Funds raised by the Foundation are used for scientific research, advancing understanding of the Greater Everglades ecosystem and to provide grants to our conservation partners. Through environmental leadership, scientific expertise and policy experience, The Everglades Foundation works to protect and restore America’s Everglades.
The Everglades curriculum introduces students to key aspects of the Everglades ecosystem including its watershed, endangered species, water conservation and other topics. Learn more at www.evergladesfoundation.org.
The risks to wildlife, to
the Everglades, and to
the Biscayne Aquifer, the sole source of
drinking water for
millions of Floridians, made this project seem
unimaginable.— Matthew Schwartz,
161116-a State rejects plan to drill for oil in Everglades near Miramar
Sun Sentinel – by David Fleshler
November 16, 2016
controversial proposal to drill for oil in the Everglades about six miles west of Miramar was rejected Wednesday by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which cited the project's location as a reason for the denial.
Kanter Real Estate LLC had submitted an application to drill an exploratory well in five acres of Everglades in western Broward County. The proposal generated intense opposition among environmentalists and city governments, which passed resolutions against it.
"We're relieved that the state has rejected this application, which caused great concern for the city of Miramar for the risk to the Everglades and our drinking water supplies," Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam said. "We hope that it will put to rest what I think is the unconscionable prospect of oil exploration in a precious resource for our natural environment and our water supplies."
The company has the right to appeal the denial. John Kanter, president of Kanter Real Estate, said no decision has been made.
"As South Floridians who call this community our home, our focus has and always will be to act responsibly and in accordance with the law,” he said in a written statement. “We are disappointed by this decision after engaging in a rigorous application process and must now carefully evaluate how best to proceed, if at all."
In denying the application, the state agency said the company failed to show that enough oil was there to justify a project at that location.
"The applicant's information did not show a balance in favor of issuance when considering the nature, character and location of the lands involved; the nature, type and extent of ownership of the applicant; and the proven or indicated likelihood of the presence of oil in such quantities as to warrant the exploration and extraction of such products on a commercially profitable basis," the denial stated.
The family's patriarch Joseph Kanter, a Miami banker and builder, had been among the pioneering real estate developers of South Florida, playing a major role in the creation of Lauderhill and other communities. He had accumulated 20,000 acres in the Everglades for a town that was never built, and today the South Florida Water Management District manages the land.
The company had proposed to drill an exploratory well about 11,800 feet below the surface, at a site about five miles west of U.S. 27 and 10 miles south of Alligator Alley. Matthew Schwartz, executive director of South Florida Wildlands Association, who had rallied much of the opposition, said he was "delighted" with the decision.
"We were stunned to learn the news back in the summer of 2015 that oil drilling in the Broward Everglades was even being contemplated," he said. "The risks to wildlife, to the Everglades, and to the Biscayne Aquifer, the sole source of drinking water for millions of Floridians, made this project seem unimaginable."
"We, along with the many activists, citizens and elected officials of Broward County who worked so hard against this project are celebrating the fact that this time common sense and the will of the South Florida community prevailed," he said.
161116-b Trump threat to abolish EPA could affect Indian River Lagoon
TCPalm – by Tyler Treadway
November 16, 2016
Treasure Coast environmentalists hope campaign promise won't become presidential action
Candidate Donald Trump made statements, including a threat to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, that could be detrimental to the Indian River Lagoon.
Treasure Coast environmentalists are waiting to see if President Donald Trump will follow through.
Trump told "Fox News Sunday" in October 2015 the EPA should be abolished because "every week they come out with new regulations."
The Indian River Lagoon Council, established last year to oversee lagoon research and restoration projects as the local participant in the National Estuary Program, received $625,000 from the EPA for the current fiscal year.
“"Clean water is not just an environmental issue. In Florida, it's an economic imperative."” Duane E. De Freese, Indian River Lagoon Council
"It's a little too early to see where things are headed," said lagoon council Executive Director Duane E. De Freese. "So far, all we've heard is campaign rhetoric. We'll have to watch and see what the new vision for the EPA will be. But I can't imagine a nation without clean water and clean air regulations at some level."
De Freese noted the estuary program doesn't issue regulations and has "gotten strong bipartisan support over the years."
The council also receives money from the South Florida and St. Johns River water management districts, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the sale of Indian River Lagoon state license plates, four of the counties along the lagoon (Martin, St. Lucie, Brevard and Volusia) and the Indian River County Lagoon Coalition of Fellsmere, Sebastian and Vero Beach.
If worse comes to worse, the lagoon council could survive without federal funding, De Freese said.
"No question about it," he said. "There's strong local and statewide support for clean water. The local communities understand that you can't have a thriving economy with dirty water. First of all, it's a human health threat. Plus, clean water attracts people; dirty water repels them. In Florida, we can't afford to squander the value of clean water."
CUT, NOT KILLED
"The EPA isn't going to be abolished," said Nathaniel P. "Nat" Reed of Jupiter Island, a longtime Treasure Coast environmentalist and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. "But its efforts to combat climate change could be subject to intense review."
In a Nov. 6, 2012, Twitter post, Trump wrote, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." Trump has named Myron Bell, an outspoken climate change denier, to lead the transition team for the EPA.
Trump could try to "cut the hell out of the EPA's budget," Reed said, "but he'll need Congress to go along. Even though both chambers are now held by Republicans, the number of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate is really close. I don't think any radical change in the agencies is going to happen."
However, work toward combating climate change "is going to have to wait until a different group comes into office," Reed said.
Agencies involved with environmental restoration need to emphasize how their projects benefit the country's infrastructure, Reed said.
For example: Projects to increase the flow of water to the Everglades and reduce the flow of polluted water to the St. Lucie River will help replenish the aquifers South Florida depends on for drinking water.
"The president-elect is well aware of the need for freshwater for a growing Florida," Reed said, "and the only way to do that is to reconnect Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. So I'm confident those projects will move ahead."
At the core of that effort is the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a suite of about 60 projects designed to restore and protect water bodies throughout South Florida over several decades at a cost of more than $10 billion.
A CERP project of particular interest to the Treasure Coast section of the lagoon is the C-44 Canal Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area being built to capture stormwater runoff in western Martin County, reducing the amount and improving the quality of the water flowing to the St. Lucie River Estuary.
The project has been "fully authorized," said Jennifer S. "Jenn" Miller, corps spokeswoman, but money has to be allocated by Congress each fiscal year.
The corps currently is building the project's reservoir with money allocated for fiscal year 2016. Another $59.5 million authorized for fiscal year 2017, which began Oct. 1, has not been allocated.
Four more years of allocations will be needed before work on the project is finished and two years of testing are conducted.
"Right now we're still planning, designing and constructing projects," Miller said. "I can't speculate as to what will happen in the future."
FIND BUSINESS ANGLE
The Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce has been receiving between $80,000 to $90,000 a year for the last 10 years from the Army Corps of Engineers to monitor aquatic life in the St. Lucie River as part of CERP
"We don't get a lot of federal money," said station director and lead scientist Valerie Paul.
However, the station's mother ship, Washington-based Smithsonian Institution, relies heavily on federal appropriations: 60 percent of the institution's nearly $1.3 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2015, the last year for which an annual report is available.
It's too early to say what federal appropriations under the Trump administration will be "until we start seeing some specific policies," Paul said, adding the president-elect has "said he supports research and development."
Environmentally friendly projects will have a better chance of "getting a green light" if they're pitched as job-creating public works programs, Reed said.
In fact, when Trump was asked who would protect the environment if the EPA was abolished, he replied, "We'll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can't destroy businesses."
All environmental groups seeking federal funding are going to have to do a better job showing their projects' return on investment, De Freese said.
"Clean water is not just an environmental issue," he said. "In Florida, it's an economic imperative."
161116-c Water summit helps identify solutions
News-Press.com – by Mitch Hutchcraft, Governing Board Member for theSouth Florida Water Management District.
November 16, 2016
I want to thank The News-Press for hosting the “Save Our Water Market Watch Summit” on Oct. 26 in Fort Myers and bringing together agencies and interested parties who share my passion for getting the water right in our region.
Water is the most valuable natural resource for the 8.1 million residents served by the South Florida Water Management District. We need to listen more to each other and focus on the science rather than getting drawn into slogan fueled political battles and finger pointing.
It was gratifying to be able to share details with those attending the summit about the district’s key restoration projects that will soon bring meaningful benefits to the Caloosahatchee Estuary and the entire west coast. We are well underway to build the C-43 Reservoir that will hold 170,000 acre feet of water to reduce Lake Okeechobee releases during wet times and ensure the ecosystem has plenty of fresh water during drier times.
The district is also hard at work building the C-43 Water Quality Treatment and Testing Facility that will develop new and effective large-scale techniques for cleaning nitrogen from the river. We have invested in the science and will follow it forward for future water quality restoration results.
These measures to store and clean water and restore natural systems are based on sound scientific analysis. They take into consideration the challenges of the entire system and make cost-effective use of your precious tax dollars. Despite this progress, which was acknowledged by most speakers, it was still disappointing to witness a few speakers continue to fall back on misinformation, slogans and false promises of a quick fix. Their arguments were political, not scientific, with one single-minded result: to redirect momentum and public investment from approved and scheduled projects, in pursuit of a flawed promise of a massive reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.
One community activist called the well-established scientific link between septic tanks and high levels of nutrients in our estuaries a “red herring.” Conversely, this well-established fact is backed up by more than a decade of research by Dr. Brian LaPointe of the Harbor Branch Research Center who gave an in-depth presentation explaining the harmful impact of septic tanks on the estuaries at the summit.
Similar claims were also made about the need to invest in more water storage north of Lake Okeechobee, by casting aside scientific research and simply suggesting that storage south of the lake was the only thing that mattered. This misrepresentation was based on quoted figures of the impact on lake releases from northern and southern storage that were not only blatantly incorrect, but also unmoored to any real approved project or planning effort.
This conclusion dismissed the potential benefits of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Planning Project, which will identify 200,000 acre-feet of storage opportunities north of the lake. Additionally, it ignored the fact that the District has already invested billions of dollars to create 300,000 acre feet of storage south of the lake as well as invested in creating storage east and west of the lake in the estuaries. Storage north of the lake is now the missing piece in the regional storage puzzle and necessary to make all the other pieces work effectively.
Slogan shouting and politically-motivated bus tours making false promises is unserious and distracting from real progress in restoring our natural system. The time for making progress on restoration projects publicly and scientifically vetted, such as the C-43 Reservoir and the Central Everglades Planning Project, is upon us. The time for planning northern storage based on science and public input is now. That is how we will ensure our estuaries and the Everglades will be here for our descendants.
161115-a Did we just lose the fight against climate change ?
Complex.com - by Catie Keck
November 15, 2016
As the sobering reality that Donald Trump has managed to secure president-elect has set in, the social, economic, and environmental threats bellowed somewhat belligerently throughout his campaign have come sharply into focus. We knew that a Trump presidency would mean unimaginable social regression and danger for women, POC, individuals who identify as LGBTQ, and other marginalized groups. And we knew there would be domestic and foreign fallout from Trump’s promise to dismantle President Obama’s executive orders. But, while it was certainly a topic of concern, one very important policy point was criminally overlooked in discourse leading up to election night: climate change.
In September, Trump tweeted one of many radical denier comments that he’s since openly denied. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,” he wrote. This bizarre conspiracy theory is likely a convolution of renewable energy technologies being sourced from overseas, particularly from China, which is now a global leader in clean energy. Importation, in part, is what has made renewable energies viable as an affordable alternative to fossil fuels. A recent report from the International Energy Agency stated that “renewables accounted for more than half of the increase in power capacity” globally, according to BBC. And with energy sources that included wind, solar, and hydro, the IEA reported that clean energy had effectively overtaken coal. But Trump’s proposed tariffs to minimize imports—a divisive trade policy even within the GOP that House Speaker Paul Ryan said would cause "collateral damage on the economy”—would make clean energy financially burdensome. And that doesn’t even touch on the increased costs of all the other stuff we important, half of which comes from China. You think your iPhone is expensive now? Brace yourselves.
Trump’s promise to end the war on coal has been one of the most resounding talking points of his campaign (almost as loud and asinine as his promises to deport undocumented immigrants and implement surveillance of Muslim communities). Oil, gas, and coal stocks skyrocketed after Trump’s election victory, and NPR notes that Trump’s campaign breathed new life into coal country states like Wyoming, where markets have been declining in the face of cheaper renewable alternatives. Low markets mean less jobs, and Trump’s tariffs were music to the ears for folks in areas where miners and power plant workers had been laid off. But as NPR points out, Trump has also proposed an increase in fracking. Natural gas is a direct competitor to the coal industry, and these contractions seem to be lost on workers looking to secure jobs in their respective trades. Natural gas emits significantly less carbon dioxide than coal (by roughly half) and is increasingly the more favorable of fossil fuels.
Either way, the long-term effects of increased greenhouse gas emissions would be devastating. In December of 2015, nearly 200 countries made history at the United Nations Climate Summit with the Paris Agreement, a global agreement to net zero emissions sometime between 2050 and 2100, keep temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius and help developing countries transition to cleaner energy. However, the president-elect has vowed to pull the United States out of its legal obligations to the accord as one of his many first orders of business. If this were to happen, we would need to rely on other countries to lead the fight. This is especially troubling if the United States were to increase its greenhouse emissions under a Trump presidency, as the US and China alone are responsible for nearly half of the world’s emissions.
Some scientists speculate that we’re nearing 1.5-degree Celsius tipping point and that we will have surpassed a dangerous 2-degree Celsius temperature before mid-century. Others claim that if we continue as we have been, we’ll have far exceeded 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. According to the Independent, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change posits that “the Earth’s average temperature will rise by between 2.6 and 4.8 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2100” if we don’t make significant changes globally. Trump’s refusal to acknowledge climate change coupled with his enthusiasm for fossil fuels could fast track turning our earth into a dystopian hellfire wasteland—which isn’t great.
But perhaps most concerning of all, Trump is arming himself with a staff of high profile climate deniers. According to the Guardian, he president-elect is reportedly eyeing Sarah Palin for an interior secretary position, which would put Palin “in charge of America’s public lands, including prized national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Everglades.” As the Guardian points out, Palin has her eye on Department of Energy with the intent to dismantle it. Trump’s also reportedly considering oil baron Forrest Lucas for internal secretary. Lastly, Trump has appointed Myron Ebell to head the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency for which both Ebell and Trump have expressed contempt. According to the Washington Post, “Ebell has argued for opening up more federal lands for logging, oil and gas exploration and coal mining, and for turning over more permitting authority to the states.” Which is, of course, the antithesis of protecting our environment.
So, what do we do?
The EPA has suggested small ways that you can lessen your carbon footprint at home, at the office, and throughout your day. Making a conscious effort to waste less energy is an immediate way to help on an individual level. We must now, more than ever, contact legislators who have the power to enact change on our behalf. We must protest, we must actively reach out to those who don’t understand the significant dangers we face as extreme weather patterns only worsen, and we must continue to find ways to live more sustainably in our day-to-day lives. More than ever, activism is paramount.
161115-b FIU's environmental research expands
FIUSM - by Diego Rodriguez
November 16, 2016
FIU will expand its scientific environmental research capabilities by joining a new venture with the Rookery Bay Reserve in Collier County.
As part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve, the project will be responsible for habitat mapping and the monitoring and research of avian ecology, water quality and weather, according to Rookery Bay Reserve Director Keith Laakkonen. James Fourqurean, director of the FIU Marine Education and Research Initiative in the Florida Keys, pointed out that the partnership is attributed to the University’s academic background in collaborating with similar programs such as the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
“Our scientists have been conducting research and monitoring activities in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary since its inception in 1990,” said Fourqurean.
According to Fourqurean, half of the people who work at the sanctuary are University employees.
“Jim and I were very excited that each of our institutions were very supportive of this concept. We developed a vision for this partnership, both in the short- and long-term, that we look forward to implementing, and increasing collaboration between Rookery Bay Research Reserve and FIU,” said Laakkonen.
According to Laakkonen, 11 FIU staff research and education positions have been created for this program as well as a maximum of five internships per year.
“We typically offer seasonal internships for sea turtle, beach-nesting bird and water-quality monitoring in our research department, as well as communications internships. We plan to also offer environmental education internships,” said Laakkonen.
For more information about these opportunities: http://www.rookerybay.org/careers
The project, funded through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in collaboration with National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, will offer graduate research opportunities by constructing a joint educational support facility alongside the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center.
Laakkonen believes this construction will help ongoing research programs and attract new research focus and educational opportunities for local students in the local area.
“There are interesting needs to understand not just the natural sciences but also the social sciences of living in a coastal zone,” Fourqurean said.
Fourqurean points out that depending on the needs of the program, new internship positions may open up for other disciplines such as landscape architecture, engineering and environmental law.
During a press release announcing this partnership, Laakkonen emphasized the importance of developing academic plans that will enhance environmental understanding.
“Current watershed-level restoration projects, such as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, make this a critical time for long-term research, education and stewardship in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.”
CERP is a conjunction between the state and federal governments intended to improve and protect south Florida ecosystems, as well as providing water supply and flood protection.
In total, the CERP plan costs over $10 billion, funding 60 projects that will take more than 30 years to complete. The 2016-2017 Florida First budget signed by Governor Scott provides $100 million for CERP projects, says Laakkonen.
One of the largest components of the CERP plan is The Picayune Strand State Forest; it is located within the reserve’s watershed, and according to Laakkonen, after its completion, freshwater flow is expected to be more evenly distributed between the three bays, therefore allowing a diversity of plants and animals to survive in each bay.
“The reserve and FIU staff are directly involved in estuarine monitoring to demonstrate the success of the project and our data is the official estuarine performance measure for this project,” said Laakkonen.
Furthermore, the University now operates the Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment, which specializes in training students and scientists to measure the transport of pollution and contaminants to the environment.
“Our focus is to observe how chemicals move through the everglades out to the mangroves and the Gulf of Mexico, and we have designated Rookery Bay as one of the end points along that transport process”, said Fourqurean.
This project will bring FIU closer to Collier County, but the main goal is to build the research facility at the reserve with FIU faculty and students. That would require fund raising efforts and support from the university as well, says Fourqurean.
161115-c 'Unfortunately, we live in paradise:' With king tides, waterfront residents take the bad with the good
Sun Sentinel – by Brett Clarkson
November 15, 2016
King tides continue to bring flooding to South Florida's coastal areas
Thanks to the supermoon and the king tides, one unlucky fish was on his way to becoming fish tacos.
Standing on the bridge on Riviera Isle Drive at Solar Plaza Drive, at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jason Maynard, 26, threw a line into the rising canal waters that wind through the Las Olas isles and snagged a jack crevalle fish that he and Rachel Kane, 25, eyeballed to have been at least six pounds, possibly eight.
"I knew the tides would affect the fishing so I figured I'd come out in the morning and give it a shot, and it was pretty successful," Maynard said.
Kane said the catch, or at least some of it, would likely be eaten as fish tacos, and Maynard said he tempers the strong fishy taste with blackening seasoning. You wouldn't normally see such a fish in the canals, he said. But the tide does interesting things.
"If you come into the canals during the high tides, you usually see some fish that don't normally frequent the canals," he said. "So I always watch for the changing tides."
All around them, water several inches to a foot deep covered large portions of their neighborhood's streets. It poured out over the sea wall at Riviera Isle and Hibiscus Place, and spiraled upward out of the overwhelmed storm drains. Sandbags also lined the bottoms of residents' driveways and businesses on East Las Olas Blvd. King tides in Fort Lauderdale
A time-lapse video shows rising king tides along Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, Tuesday.
Because the water rises and recedes with the tide, such flooding is temporary, and lasts a few hours before it subsides. Tuesday morning's high tide was at 8:23 a.m. at Port Everglades, while Tuesday night's high tide there was set to occur at 8:35 p.m.
Tuesday morning's inundation, the result of more flooding from the supermoon-fueled king tides, was definitely worse than Monday's, but still not quite as bad as the last round of tidal flooding in mid-October, when mullet fish were in the street.
King tides are the seasonal higher than normal tides that bring flooding to low-lying coastal areas, and in South Florida, flooding often affects many of the communities near the ocean and Intracoastal Waterway in the fall. Miami Beach, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach are usually impacted. Catching fish in the king tides
Brett Clarkson, Sun Sentinel Jason Maynard, 26, of Fort Lauderdale, displays the 6-pound jack fish he caught in the rising waters of the canal at Riviera Isle Drive and SE 5th St. in Fort Lauderdale just before 9 a.m. on Nov. 15, 2016.
Residents and officials say the flooding has been getting worse the past few years, with scientists and experts pointing to climate change and sea level rise as a contributing factor. They also highlight the need for updated infrastructure, like higher sea walls and drainage systems that are better able to keep the water off the streets. Katie Fitzgerald, who lives on Riviera Isle, indicated Tuesday morning that residents there basically take the bad with the good.
"Unfortunately, we live in paradise," she said, after walking to the end of her driveway in shin-high water to put some cardboard in her recycling bin. She said the flooding this year has been "pretty bad" but not so much of an inconvenience that she would consider moving. But another neighbor down the street, fed up with the floods, did move, she said.
"When it's not like this, it is great," Fitzgerald said. "It's wonderful to live in an area where you can walk to the beach."
In Delray Beach, a city official said Tuesday morning's tidal flooding was worse than it had been the day before, and that they were expecting it to be even worse on Tuesday night.
"The moon will be pulling on the tide tonight," said John Morgan, the city's director of environmental services.
Morgan said the most impacted areas were Veterans Park, the city's marina, and Marine Way, which are all near where Atlantic Avenue crosses the Intracoastal Waterway.
"Anything that's adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway is subject to this kind of flooding because the water can either overtop the sea walls or back up through the storm drains," Morgan said.
A coastal flood advisory for the entire South Florida coast was still in effect through 4 p.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service's Miami-South Florida forecast office said.
The tides rise about every 12 hours. Tuesday morning's high tides occurred between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., and Tuesday night's high tides would be between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Wednesday's high tide at Fort Lauderdale Beach will be at 9:39 a.m. and 9:51 p.m., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Tides and Currents website. In Palm Beach County, high tides in Boynton Beach will occur at 10:49 a.m. and 11:01 p.m. Wednesday.
Forecasters said tidal flooding would still be a possibility into Wednesday, but that the risk will diminish as the week goes on.
"Minor tidal inundation will be possible around times of high tide, with tidal levels running about a foot above predicted due to the occurrence of the super moon," said a forecast discussion posted on the National Weather Service website. "The threat for coastal flooding is expected to begin decreasing towards the end of the work week as we move away from the full moon."
Meanwhile, the Wednesday forecast for the Fort Lauderdale area called for a high near 78 with mostly sunny conditions and winds reaching between 6 and 14 mph, with some gusts up to 18 mph. Wednesday night was expected to be clear, with the temperature dropping to a low of around 62, according to the National Weather Service. Similar conditions were expected for Palm Beach County.
161115-d Water district should drop its beef with feds on Lox Refuge
Palm Beach Post - Editorial
Nov. 15, 2016
How nice of the South Florida Water Management District to pledge to maintain public access to the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, the northernmost remnant of the original Everglades.
How swell of them to let us know that the fight they’ve picked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the refuge’s steward for 65 years, isn’t meant to threaten the public’s enjoyment of this 225 square-mile, state-owned treasure in the heart of Palm Beach County.
But the water district created this threat in the first place. And the district board is doing little to ease it by continuing its contract dispute with Fish and Wildlife over the service’s alleged failure to meet its obligations in eradicating invasive plant species.
“The service’s failure to protect this taxpayer-owned property cannot be tolerated,” the board said in a “statement of principles” at a meeting last week.
In August, the state agency sent the U.S. Interior Department a notice of default on their decades-old agreement on grounds that the feds haven’t eradicated invasive plants, especially lygodium. The feds say the target date, mid-2017, is impossible.
Old World Climbing Fern blankets a tree island and dead Melaleuca trees are shown in the northern boundaries of the Everglades in Palm Beach County. The South Florida Water Management District owns the land and leases it to United States Fish and Wildlife Service. USFW operates the area Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The operating agreement dates to the 1950s. SFWMD recently voted to send a letter of non-compliance to the federal agency, citing USFW’s contractual obligation to eradicate invasive species from the ecosystem. USFW has until 2017 to remove the fern that suffocate tree islands and destroys natural habitat.
The infestation, which is choking tree islands in the watery wilderness, is an extremely serious problem. But booting out the Fish and Wildlife Service, as the SFWMD seems intent on doing, is hardly in the public interest.
The spread of these plants is too relentless for any one agency to handle by itself. It’s best that the state and feds work together, as they have since the early 1950s.
Looking deeper, if the lease is terminated, so, too, will be the “federal interest” in the refuge’s water quality. A consent decree that settled a 1988 Everglades protection lawsuit would be moot as far as the refuge is concerned. That agreement established the only water-quality standards in Florida that cannot be changed solely by state action.
By ending the lease, the state would be free to ignore the consent decree’s limit on phosphorus for the refuge: 10 parts per billion.
Relaxing the phosphorus standard could be very useful to a district that is desperate for solutions to the Lake Okeechobee discharges of polluted water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and the algae blooms that stank up Treasure Coast communities last summer. The district is under great pressure to find ways to send lake water south — and if it can do that without taking land from sugar growers and other farmers, all the better.
As Rolf Olson, the refuge’s project leader, told Post reporter Kimberly Miller: “We’re managing for wildlife. Their mission (the water district’s) is to manage for water. With us out of the way, it would give them more flexibility …”
District board members say such speculation is nonsense, and that the dispute with Fish and Wildlife is simple: The feds had an obligation to wipe out the invasive plants. They haven’t done it. Ergo, the contract can be voided.
But the agreement states that Fish and Wildlife will make “adequate provisions” for “removing invasive or exotic plant and animal species … to the best of its capabilities.” It so happens that Congress isn’t allocating enough money to adequately tackle the job. That’s hardly Fish and Wildlife’s fault.
The agreement also states that the state and feds should undertake management of the refuge “in a spirit of cooperation and partnership.”
That’s still the best policy for the refuge. The water district should drop the threats, sit down with its federal partners and come up with a cooperative, realistic plan to attack those pernicious plants — without creating a potential new threat from polluted water.
161115-e Will Florida have enough water by 2070?
Miami Herald – by Jenny Staletovich
November 15, 2016
During the next half century, urban sprawl across Florida could double the water consumption of cities and suburbs, according to a new study released Tuesday.
It’s a thirst the state will be hard pressed to quench without putting natural resources at risk or making big improvements in conservation, water reuse technology and landscaping practices.
“We’re concerned the future looks very dark for water in Florida, but I want to point out we have an array of solutions available to us,” said Cori Hermle, an environmental consultant with the state agriculture department, in a briefing. “It’s implementation of those solutions [that] is vital.”
At the current rate of growth, the state’s population is expected to reach 34 million by 2070. To understand what that means for the state’s fragile water supply, researchers compared urban to rural water consumption and calculated how much green space would be gobbled by development. Because houses and malls drink a lot more water than farms and forests, what they found was eye-opening: A dramatic, and currently unsustainable, demand in the state’s most heavily populated areas, including South and Central Florida.
“If we put this many more straws into the aquifer to remove water, it’s going to increase the stress,” said Margaret “Peggy” Carr, a University of Florida landscape architect.
The study is the second in a partnership between UF, the Florida Department of Agriculture and the smart-growth group 1000 Friends of Florida that looks at the future of Florida as its population swells. In a September report, the group found the state stands to lose 15 percent of its green space to development over the next half century. This report followed up those findings by examining the risk to water supplies, a priceless resource threatened by growing demand, flood-control measures and saltwater intrusion worsened by sea-level rise.
If we put this many more straws into the aquifer to remove water, it’s going to increase the stress.
Margaret “Peggy” Carr, University of Florida landscape architecture professor
According to the study, development across the state accounts for about 3.1 billion gallons of water used per day. Agriculture consumes another 2.1 billion gallons. The study did not even include water used by mining, industrial or power companies, nor did it factor in the water needed for natural systems like water set aside for Everglades restoration.
Based on a UF study that looked at water use in Alachua County, the team calculated that rural and suburban areas use three times as much water as densely packed urban areas where at least 2,000 people live in a square mile. The team then compared consumption, based on calculation from the U.S. Geological Survey, to changing development.
If the pace and pattern of growth continues across the state, by 2070 consumption by development is expected to increase to about 6.5 billion while agricultural uses will drop to 1.6 billion.
In South Florida, coastal utilities are already taking steps to deal with longtime sources that have been compromised. The city of Hallandale has already moved wellfields to avoid contamination from saltwater and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority is also considering moving its wellfield farther west. In the region, water demand overall is expected to jump 40 percent, with the thirst of development climbing 107 percent. 107 percent
The increase in South Florida water consumption by development by 2070
In Central Florida, the fastest growing part of the state, overall demand increases 55 percent, with development use climbing by 112 percent and agriculture use dropping by 31 percent.
The team did not have the money or resources to look at how to develop new supplies, a more complicated projection, or to calculate just how much water the state’s aquifers can ultimately provide, Carr said. “It’s not difficult to project rainfall, but other pieces are challenging,” she said. But based on existing shortages, they concluded the rising demand was unsustainable in parts of the state.
Some simple but politically challenging fixes could reduce consumption — more compact development and stricter conservation measures that include changes in building codes to require water-saving features and better reporting by big-water users. But even under an alternative projection water demand still rises 27 percent.
By controlling sprawl, the study found the state could save 1.8 million acres of land from development, protect another 5.8 million acres of conservation land and keep 1.1 million acres in farming. Protecting more green spaces already slated for preservation in the Florida Forever and Florida Ecological Greenways Network, which help store and clean water, could also offset increasing demand.
“The situation does look dire, but I take good hope in the fact that there’s relatively simple things we can do as Floridians to dig us out of this hole,” said Ryan Smart, president of 1000 Friends of Florida. But, he added, “take much more commitment from the legislature and proactive government action.”
That water released from Lake Okeechobee
should really flow South !
161114-a End stench and sludge. Save the Everglades: #NowOrNeverglades
Associated Press – by Richard Graulich
November 14, 2016
Build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to protect the coasts and nourish the Everglades.
A week ago, while most Floridians were preoccupied by a certain approaching news event, a 12-day bus tour concluded in a campaign to highlight an issue whose impact — at least for Florida —could linger well beyond the results from Election Day.
Sponsored by the Everglades Foundation, the "Road to Restoration" tour — whose stops included Orlando — was intended to rally support for a plan to buy land and build a massive new reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The plan, whose $2.4 billion tab would be split between state and federal governments, comes from incoming Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican. His district includes coastal areas devastated this year by toxic algae blooms fueled by releases of water from the lake.
The plan already is under attack from opponents, even though its formal introduction in next year's legislative session is still months away. On Monday, we published a guest column from a governing board member of the South Florida Water Management District, the public agency responsible for taking the lead in Everglades Restoration, who dismissed the idea of building a new reservoir south of the lake as ineffective, too expensive and "agenda-driven." It's easy to find flaws in a proposal that is so ambitious when it still has blanks to fill in. But leaders would be more responsible to try to make it work. Ecological havoc
The alternative, stretching far into the future, are environmental crises like this year's, triggered when the Army Corps of Engineers released billions of gallons of water to alleviate pressure from rain-swollen Lake Okeechobee on the aging dike that surrounds it. There's insufficient storage for runoff south of the lake, so the corps flushes the water east to the St. Lucie River and west to the Caloosahatchee River, where it wreaks ecological havoc. A similar crisis was brought on by lake-water releases in 2013.
Algae blooms aren't just deadly for fish and other wildlife in the affected areas. They aren't just catastrophic for local businesses that rely on fishermen and other visitors, and coastal real estate whose value depends on a clean environment. News coverage of bright green, guacamole-thick water washing up on beaches damages Florida's brand with tourists across the country and around the world. It's a blow to the entire state's economy.
Congress passed a landmark Everglades restoration law in 2000 that included authorization for the southern reservoir. The project has stalled amid funding shortages and opposition from the sugar industry, which operates on the land where the reservoir would be built. Sugar, a $2 billion industry, would take a hit. But recreational fishing is worth more than $9 billion. Coastal real estate, and tourism, are worth far more. Critics' weak arguments
Critics argue that a new reservoir is needed north of Okeechobee to store and treat water, including nutrient-polluted runoff from Metro Orlando, before it enters the lake. But while a northern reservoir also is worth building, it won't eliminate the need to release water into the two rivers when the lake level gets too high. The Everglades Foundation says a northern reservoir would only reduce discharges by 6 percent, while a southern reservoir would reduce discharges by almost half.
A southern reservoir also would help restore the natural flow of water, artificially disrupted by farming and development, to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. And it would help replenish the aquifer that provides drinking water for millions of people in South Florida.
Of particular interest to Central Floridians, some critics contend the cost of the reservoir would leave too few dollars for other environmental priorities around the state, including restoring natural springs. Critics also pit the southern reservoir against other Everglades restoration projects already underway. These are false choices.
In 2014, Floridians voted overwhelmingly to set aside a share of real-estate tax revenues for water and land conservation for the next 20 years. This year's share will exceed $700 million, and the total will grow in the future. There are enough dollars to finance the state's half of the reservoir, keep up with a $50-million-a-year commitment to springs, and complete other projects — if lawmakers don't divert the money.
A chance to stop the spin cycle of crises from Lake Okeechobee is definitely worth pursuing for Florida's leaders.
161114-b Everglades mangroves' carbon storage capacity worth billions
November 14, 2016
Scientists say preserving mangroves worth the cost.
The following is part 24 in a series on the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. Visit parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23 in this series.
This is also part 20 in a series on NSF's geosciences risk and resilience interest area. Please see parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19.
When it comes to storing carbon, scientists have put a price tag on the value of mangroves in South Florida's Everglades -- and it's in the billions.
Mangrove forests absorb carbon dioxide, and much of that carbon remains trapped in the trees' biomass. Based on a scientific cost estimate, the stored carbon is worth between U.S. $2 billion and $3.4 billion. The billion-dollar price tag reflects the cost of restoring freshwater flow to areas that need it most, preserving the Everglades' mangroves.
That's a relatively small price when considering the cost to society if, rather than being stored, the carbon were released into the atmosphere, according to researchers at Florida International University (FIU).
Their results are published in the journal Environmental Science and Policy. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Water, Sustainability and Climate Program and the NSF Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site.
"If there isn't enough freshwater flowing through the Everglades, we may eventually lose some of the mangroves," said Mahadev Bhat, a scientist at FIU and co-author of the journal paper. "Once you let stored carbon out, that same carbon can lead to increased global warming and cost society a lot more."
In addition to removing excess carbon dioxide from the air, mangroves provide other benefits, including flood control, storm protection and good water quality.
"This finding is an excellent example of how research at long-term ecological research sites can inform management and policy decisions and help in making wise choices, in this case, how to mitigate the effects of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," said David Garrison, LTER program director in NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences.
The mangrove forests of the Everglades are the largest in the continental United States. Although protected, Everglades mangroves are affected by sea level rise, hurricanes, alterations in water flow and other changes.
"While our understanding of the Everglades is strengthened by this study, we need to remember that threats to this valued resource come from both saltwater intrusion and sea level rise," said Tom Torgersen, director of NSF's Water Sustainability and Climate program. "Management and policy decisions need to reflect the value of the Everglades, as well as the issues facing Florida."
According to the FIU researchers, preventing the loss of stored carbon in mangroves could become a critical component of the nation's climate change mitigation strategies.
"Having an inventory of the stored organic carbon and its potential economic value is key to designing strategies that secure funding for conservation and research work," said Meenakshi Jerath, lead author of the paper and a researcher at FIU's Extreme Events Institute. "It could, more importantly, further awaken public interest in and understanding of mangroves' socioeconomic importance."
Added John Schade, LTER program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology: "This research is a reminder of the valuable services mangroves provide, and the global benefits that can come from restoring and preserving them."
The study was conducted in collaboration with researchers at Louisiana State University and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
161114-c Everglades restoration must be accelerated
Sun Sentinel - Opinion by Rob Moher
November 14, 2016
As we prepare for a transition of power at the federal level, one thing is abundantly clear — our community must speak with a unified voice to accelerate efforts to restore the Everglades and to address the ongoing water quality crisis in our region's waters.
Regardless of politics, we can all agree that this is America's Everglades, an iconic and unique landscape unlike any other in the world — the famed River of Grass. For all of us on the west coast, we enjoy the immense expanse, beauty and productivity of the Big Cypress, the Ten Thousand Islands with its mangrove forests and historically famous fishing grounds, and the 47 threatened and endangered species that call the Western Everglades home.
We have seen as a community how a water management system terribly out of balance has resulted in massive fish kills, a state of emergency for multiple counties in South Florida, and economic hardship for businesses dependent on healthy waters and estuaries.
There are no simple solutions to our water woes. We do know that by addressing the many "pieces of the puzzle' — including the need for additional lands south of Lake Okeechobee to store, treat and convey waters to the Everglades, accelerate funding of existing Everglades Restoration projects including the C-43 reservoir in Lee County, planning for an additional water quality component as part of the C-43, and creating stronger incentives and regulations to reduce pollution at its source — that we can create lasting solutions for our water, our economy and our quality of life. This will take leadership at the local, state and federal levels to accomplish.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has been and will remain engaged working alongside our elected officials, concerned citizens, the business communities, government agencies and partner organizations to advance these solutions. We have been working to protect the Western Everglades for over five decades, including playing a key role in facilitating the acquisition of lands where we are now seeing Everglades Restoration actually occurring in Collier County in the Picayune Strand State Forest. We have "boots on the ground" with our science team conducting baseline research to gauge the impacts of restoration on our wildlife and water quality.
We have dedicated educators who each year reach thousands of local students with formal and informal programs including immersing students in the wonders of our Everglades and on site at the Conservancy Nature Center. We are designing and executing strategies with our partners to remove invasive species such as the Burmese Pythons which are consuming many of the historical species that call the Everglades home.
We see the solutions. They are within reach. We are grateful to political leaders such as retiring Congressman Curt Clawson, incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron, and Representative Heather Fitzenhagen, who have responded to the frustrations and hopes of the people of Florida by providing bold vision, and used their political capital to advance difficult but much needed actions to restore America's Everglades. Every citizen in Southwest Florida should take action today.
Visit www.conservancy.org to learn more about how to be part of the solution, including signing the Now or Neverglades declaration.
161114-d Groups hope to prevent nuclear power plant expansion next to Biscayne, Everglades National Parks
Nat.Parks Trveler - by Kurt Repanshek
November 14, 2016
Florida Power & Light, which earlier this year had to deal with water pollution from its Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant near Biscayne and Everglades national parks, is proposing to add two units to the facility. A review of the plans by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cited various adverse environmental impacts that could occur, but didn't view any as calamitous.
Among the "unavoidable" environmental impacts the NRC identified in its final Environmental Impact Statement, but which it considered to be "small," were:
Cooling-tower drift deposition of small amounts of chemical contaminants on portions of Biscayne Bay;
Transmission lines in urban areas and near the Everglades National Park could conflict with existing land uses. Onsite facilities would be in close proximity to Biscayne National Park.
Permanent loss of mangroves and other wetland habitats and pine rockland and other upland habitats, habitat fragmentation by pipelines and transmission lines, and increased mortality risk to certain listed species. Rights-of-way maintenance activities in or near wetlands and proposed critical habitat. Increased vehicle collision risk mortality to the Florida panther, vegetation-control effects on listed plants, and transmission system impacts on wood storks and Everglade snail kites.
Permanent loss of some onsite aquatic environments, some disturbance, and possible disturbance of manatees, Smalltooth Sawfish, Nassau Grouper, and sea turtles. 270 acres of permanent critical habitat loss and 211 acres that would be adversely affected for resident American crocodiles. During limited radial collector well operation, there would not be noticeable increases in salinity above normal background variation. Additional crocodile takes may occur, and cooling-tower drift deposition effects are expected to be minor.
At the National Parks Conservation Association, officials say the proposal "threatens our national parks, endangered wildlife, Everglades restoration and the health of park water resources. According to the NRC’s own standards, 'sites adjacent to lands devoted to public use may be considered unsuitable,' and unacceptable impacts are 'most apt to arise in areas adjacent to natural-resource-oriented areas.' Therefore, Turkey Point should not expand their operations because of its possible impacts to the ecological health and economic viability of surrounding protected areas."
“We have serious concerns about the expansion proposal for Turkey Point, especially considering the widespread contamination the plant’s operations has already caused in nearby water resources," said Caroline McLaughlin, NPCA's Biscayne program manager. "If the expansion moves forward, it would double the number of nuclear towers, all located on the shores of the nation’s largest marine national park.
“You couldn’t pick a worse location to put a nuclear power plant than between two national parks and an area already vulnerable to storm surge and sea level rise. Biscayne and Everglades National Parks are home to threatened species like the wood stork, snail kite and West Indian manatee, and offer amazing recreational opportunities like boating, fishing, scuba diving and exploring," she added in a prepared statement. "Both parks are key components of the ongoing, multibillion-dollar Everglades restoration investment. Collectively they welcome more than 1.5 million visitors that spend around $135 million annually, invigorating South Florida’s local economy." Back in March, studies commissioned by the state of Florida confirmed that waters discharged from the Turkey Point nuclear power plant were contaminating Biscayne Bay and posed a threat to Biscayne National Park.
At the time, acting-Superintendent Bill Cox said there had not been any measurable impacts to the park, but there was concern that the pollutants could drive algal blooms that would impact the marine life and seagrass beds.
"We don’t have a full picture of what that actually means to the park. We all know what it could mean, in terms of algal blooms," he told the Traveler during a phone call.
As explained by the superintendent, the problems appear to stem from recent drought conditions in South Florida that have forced FP&L to augment the saltwater in its 168 miles of cooling canals with freshwater. That freshwater is forcing the underlying layer of saltwater, which is rich in phosphorous and ammonia, down into the porous karst geology that in turn funnels the pollutants east into Biscayne Bay and west towards public drinking water wells.
While levels of tritium, a radioactive isotope that occurs naturally and also is linked to nuclear reactors, have increased in sampling of the bay waters, reaching 4,000 picocuries per liter in one sample, they are not a great concern, said Superintendent Cox, as they are well below EPA-allowed levels of 20,000 picicuries per liter.
Officials for Florida Power and Light told the Traveler last spring that the situation was under control and not a threat to either the public's drinking water or the national park.
"NPCA, along with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and other individuals are challenging FPL's application for a federal license for the two new reactors and are awaiting next steps within the legal process," Ms. McLaughlin said after the NRC issued its EIS. "We will continue to do all that we can to preserve Biscayne and Everglades national parks, their natural resources and our drinking water.”
161113- Water managers ready to keep wildlife refuge open even if feds evicted
Palm Beach Post - by Kimberly Miller, Staff Writer
November 13, 2016
The last remaining intact piece of the northern Everglades in Palm Beach County will be protected and remain open to the public, despite a contract battle over an invasive fern that may mean the eviction of the federal government from the property.
South Florida Water Management District board members made a vow Thursday to maintain access to what’s left of the great river
of grass in Palm Beach County, approving a pledge they hope will ease public angst over their intentions for the popular Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
The pledge includes removing entrance fees and continuing to support scientific research on the property, even if a 65-year relationship between the district and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the refuge, ends in divorce.
And like many divorces, money is at the root of the divide.
The South Florida Water Management District owns the land and leases it to United States Fish and Wildlife Service. USFW operates the area Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The operating agreement dates to the 1950s. SFWMD recently voted to send a letter of non-compliance to the federal agency, citing USFW’s contractual obligation to eradicate invasive species from the ecosystem. USFW has until 2017 to remove the fern that suffocate tree islands and destroys natural habitat
The district says millions of additional dollars per year are needed to wipe out lygodium, a flowerless climbing fern that is choking out tree islands vital to the survival of the unique ridge and slough habitat. The fish and wildlife service says it doesn’t have it.
“The service’s failure to protect this taxpayer-owned property cannot be tolerated,” the district said in the “statement of principles” approved Thursday.
The federal government has leased the 144,000-acre refuge for decades from the district, but it was sent a notice of default in August saying it has failed to eradicate the invasive fern — a task required by mid-2017 and one the service has said it cannot fulfill.
Old World climbing fern (lygodium) is infesting large portions of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Palm Beach County. Significant federal funding is needed for years to come to reverse the spread of the fern and keep it under control.
Both sides met in late August, but the letter that followed from the U.S. Department of the Interior said the district’s eviction threat has “chilled” the dealings between the two agencies “in a way that has impacted ongoing cooperative projects,” and that the so-called “lease” isn’t a true contract.
“It’s a license agreement, but we never looked at it as a landlord-tenant relationship or a contract. We looked at it like a partnering document,” said Rolf Olson, project leader for the refuge. “Our lawyers look at the deadlines as an objective to try to meet, so there is a difference of opinion there.”
Water management district attorney Brian Accardo said the district is waiting for the fish and wildlife service to present a plan of action on how it will attack the lygodium problem. It’s a task Accardo said could be reasonably completed in 90 days.
A flight over the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge reveals the devastation that the Old World climbing fern, Lygodium, is causing to ecologically sensitive land. The bright green is the Lygodium, an exotic species, which has climbed up the dark green trees of this island in the refuge and smothered them, cauisng them to die and collapse from a loss of sunlight.
Olson said he’s never been asked for a plan and questions, along with some environmental agencies, if the lygodium standoff isn’t a maneuver to end federal involvement in the refuge.
The refuge is at the heart of a years-old lawsuit that requires the state to ensure clean water is flowing into that land. Olson said that effort has been successful, and at Thursday’s meeting, it was announced that 75 percent of measuring stations in the refuge are in compliance with state phosphorous levels.
But to protect refuge ecosystems, the land, which is a designated water catchment area, can only store limited amounts of Lake Okeechobee water and acts as barrier to sending lake water south, Olson said. The district is under great pressure to find ways to send lake water to parched areas of Everglades Park and Florida Bay, instead of having to release into the fragile St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
“We’re managing for wildlife. Their mission is to manage for water,” Olson said about the district. “With us out of the way, it would give them more flexibility and less people they have to coordinate with and less trouble in managing water the way they want to manage water.”
The refuge has maintained about 45,700 tree islands, according to Audubon Florida. In two other water catchment areas without federal management, the tree islands have dwindled to three from 40 in one area, and to 577 from 1,241 in another.
“That’s because those areas are managed differently,” said Celeste De Palma, Everglades policy associate for Audubon Florida, who is concerned that while state-level phosphorous levels are being met, a consent decree’s goal is not.
“Without Fish and Wildlife managing the land as a refuge, the state no longer has to comply with meeting the 7 parts per billion target,” De Palma said. “We lose enforcement of higher water-quality standards.”
District board members reject the idea of an ulterior motive, saying it is a straight-up contract dispute.
“I’m absolutely hopeful we can continue our partnership, but that being said, if this was a lease with a private entity and they did not live up to their contractual obligations, we wouldn’t even have this discussion,” said water district board member Melanie Peterson. “It is absolutely our responsibility to make certain this property doesn’t fall by the wayside because of lack of action.”
The agreement between the district and the fish and wildlife service was first penned in 1951 and renegotiated for another 50 years in 2002. The hefty paperwork lays out 13 responsibilities of the fish and wildlife service, which includes things as innocuous as holding an annual Everglades Day and as formidable as cleansing the refuge of exotic plants.
Olson points to myriad contributions the fish and wildlife service has made since the 2002 contract renegotiation, including managing prescribed burns, handling more than 4.8 million visits, hosting 56 fishing tournaments, conducting workshops for more than 8,500 teachers, starting a new alligator hunt and opening 47 miles of new trails.
In addition, since 2002, about $32 million in federal money has been spent on exotic plant control and treatment of more than 421,000 acres, Olson said. State agencies have invested nearly $12 million since 1999 to combat invasive plants, according to the water management district.
But the district notes that over the past 20 years, the spread of old world climbing fern in the refuge has increased by 600 percent.
Since the August default notice, the fish and wildlife service is looking for money that doesn’t need congressional approval, including grants from the Office of Wildland Fire, another part of the Department of the Interior.
“Our action has spurred action, and that’s what we were hoping for,” said water management board member Jim Moran. “If we hadn’t done it, we wouldn’t be getting this kind of attention and results.”
161112- An Everglades bestiary: Native and exotic populations of the ’Glades
News-Press.com – by Lance Shearer, Correspondent
November 12, 2016
Early map makers had to deal with large stretches of territory that had never been explored. The empty areas on their maps, labeled “terra incognita,” or unknown lands, often bore an additional inscription: “Here be dragons.”
This would be an appropriate and really quite accurate label to add to current maps of the Everglades, except that now we know those dragons as alligators. The American alligator, or alligator missipiensis (a name which seems a real slight to Florida), could also be considered a dinosaur, as they have survived essentially unchanged since the Cretaceous era, and been a part of the North American landscape for over 8,000,000 years.
The alligator is the animal most associated with the Florida Everglades, a primitive but perfectly evolved and efficient killing machine that ruled the swamps for millennia, before being nearly wiped out by an even more ferocious predator, homosapiens, aka man. Alligators were placed on the endangered list in 1967 under a precursor to the the Endangered Species Act, but with a little respite from unbridled hunting their numbers once again swelled, to the point where they are common, sometimes too common.
Over one million are estimated to live in Florida, and any body of fresh water in the state must be considered as a likely refuge for an alligator.
Alligators are the original native Floridians, although another species might dispute their claim – the mosquito, jokingly referred to as Florida’s state bird. Mosquitoes’ numbers dwarf that ofalligators, and certainly the human population, with admittedly rough estimates guessing at 10 million to as many as 100 million mosquitoes for every person. That would be where there are people; in much of the Everglades, there are essentially none, so it can seem as though all 10 million are swarming up to get a closer look, and perhaps a taste of blood, from you when you show up. Mosquitoes have had more press than alligators recently, as carriers of the dreaded Zika virus, particularly the Aedes aegypti species.
Short shrift is often given to the local fauna, so this is an attempt to tell a little of its story. The Everglades is teeming with wildlife, which can be sorted in various ways.
It can be separated into land animals, fish, and birds, along with those insects. It could begrouped by warm-blooded mammals such as the panther, otter, black bear, versus the cold-blooded reptiles and amphibians. You could divide it into the mythical – the swamp ape – versus everything else. But one important distinction is between the native species and the exotics.
Alligators belong in the Everglades, more than we do. Ditto the bobcat, the raccoon, the gar, the ibis and the heron. But exotic or invasive species, most of them introduced through human action, have found a hospitable ground, often with no natural predators, and spread rapidly throughout the ecosystem.
There are scores of exotic plant species, such as hydrilla, Brazilian pepper, acacia and melaleuca trees. There are exotic amphibians such as the cane toad and Cuban tree frog, which crowd out the native species. But perhaps the most impactful, and fearsome, is the Burmese python. These snakes, an apex predator in their native Southeast Asia, at the top of the food chain, are ideally suited to life in the Everglades, where they have been introduced by pet owners who could no longer manage “Cuddles” once he reached 8-feet long, or through accidental escapes.
Virtually undetectable in the wild, impossible to track through heat-sensing technology due to being cold-blooded, the pythons have decimated the small animal populations in the Everglades, and even been caught on video subduing and eating alligators. Recent python “roundups” have netted small numbers of the snakes, but estimates of their numbers in South Florida by wildlife biologists range from at least 30,000 to over 300,000. One 14-foot specimen was captured by Rookery Bay interpretative naturalist Fred Allen, and a 140-pound, 16-foot Burmese python, the record, was taken this January during the roundup in Collier County. There is no record of any attacks on humans by pythons in the wild, but a quick YouTube look at how they take their prey should make anyone eager not to be the first.
The native Florida panther, meanwhile, is hanging on by its claws, with population reduced to approximately 180, according to the Florida Panther Net, and only reaching those numbers due to importation of breeding stock from Texas. With their habitat pressured by human development, they fall victim to humans when crossing roads, which is why you are not allowed to exceed 60 mph at night heading to Miami on the Tamiami Trail.
There are brighter areas in the endangered species picture. Ospreys, along with other birdlife, have made a marked comeback since pesticides such as DDT were banned in the wake of publication of “Silent Spring,” Rachel Carson’s classic work on the danger of chemicals in nature.
But one of the most important species in the Everglades – along with the mosquito, which is a vital link in the food chain, meaning that when you get bitten by one, you are also a vital link in the food chain – is the oyster. This simple mollusk, besides providing food for centuries of Calusa Indians, who piled up their shells into mounds which are still the highest land in South Florida, and helping sales of hot sauce and horseradish to raw bars, are the natural building block of our coast.
According to Michael Savarese, Ph.D., of Florida Gulf Coast University, a marine scientist who has done substantial primary research on what rising sea level could mean for this area, climate change locally could come down to a race between water level and oysters. The growth or accretion of oyster beds, which provide areas for mangrove propagules to take hold, becomes impossible when the water level rises faster than the mollusks can rise up from the sea floor, resulting in “drowned mangroves,” and barrier islands start to disappear or migrate inland. The result, he said in a talk on Marco Island, could be the Gulf of Mexico literally lapping at the roadbed of the Tamiami Trail in coming decades. Cape Romano, the barrier island system just south of Marco, has been steadily fragmenting into smaller islands in recent years.
And back to alligators – they are not the only long, scaly reptile inhabiting the Everglades. In more brackish watery areas, the American crocodile coexists in the Glades with the alligator, the only place in the world that is true. A nest of crocodiles can be seen right past the end of the runway at the Marco Executive Airport, something to think about next time you fly out.
161111-a Don't hold your breath trying to sue Mosaic over the massive Mulberry sinkhole; it takes a while
Tampa Bay Times – by Craig Pittman, Staff Writer
November 11, 2016
In September, a week after fertilizer giant Mosaic finally revealed to the public that a sinkhole at its Mulberry plant dropped 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the aquifer below, three of the plant's neighbors filed suit against the company.
Suing Mosaic takes some patience. Just ask St. Petersburg native Howard Curd.
Curd, 69, is the lead plaintiff in another lawsuit against Mosaic that also involves a massive spill of polluted water. Curd and his fellow fishermen alleged in the lawsuit that the acidic water destroyed the marine habitat in Hillsborough Bay that their livelihoods depended on.
They filed suit in 2004.
Twelve years ago.
The case has still not gone to trial.
Two of Curd's fellow plaintiffs have since died.
So he has a word of advice for the Mulberry residents seeking their day in court against Mosaic:
"Don't hold your breath," he said, "or you'll be called blue boy."
• • •
Just like the Mulberry sinkhole that opened in August, the 2004 case also started with a pond of wastewater atop one of Florida's humongous phosphogypsum stacks, where phosphate plants pile up the acidic, slightly radioactive waste they can't get rid of any other way.
In September 2004, Hurricane Frances became the second of four hurricanes to slam into Florida. When Frances' winds whipped across Hillsborough County, big waves churned up on the pond atop a 180-foot high gypsum stack at a phosphate plant in Riverview.
The waves bashed a big hole in the dike around the pond, sending 150 million gallons of polluted water cascading down the stack's side. The contamination flowed into a stormwater ditch that runs around its 400-acre base and threatened to overflow the sides.
At that point the Riverview facility's owner, a company then called Cargill, opened a valve that released the water from the ditch into Archie Creek. The company took that step after consulting with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Cargill workers were also spraying a neutralizing agent called caustic soda on the acidic water to lessen its impact — but then they ran out and couldn't get any more for a while.
They weren't sure how much ran into the creek, initially pegging it at 18,000 gallons. Then the estimate went up — way up. They raised it to 65 million gallons.
"It's a serious spill," a Cargill vice president told reporters at the time.
• • •
Archie Creek flows into Hillsborough Bay, up near the top of Tampa Bay. Measurements of the creek's pH level show it turned acidic because of the pollution. The contaminated water also carried nitrogen and ammonia, which can spur algae blooms.
The spill didn't threaten human life, but an acid spill can quickly lay waste to marine life. For example, in 1997, the same Mulberry phosphate plant dumped 50 million gallons of untreated acidic water into the Alafia River, killing millions of fish.
So back in 2004, when that acidic water hit Hillsborough Bay, it took a major toll on commercial fishermen like Curd, who has been fishing around Tampa Bay since the 1950s, and Tampa native Albert Darlington Jr.
Darlington, 61, who started fishing full-time in 1988, said Mosaic's pollution ate the galvanized zinc off his crab traps and drove the crabs to flee the bay. Curd said his traps turned black. Both said that instead of collecting their catch close to home, they had to take their boats much further north, to Hudson and even Homosassa Springs.
Another plaintiff, 59-year-old Mac Nipper of Clearwater, dove down to inspect the bay bottom. He compared what he saw to visiting what had been the site of a lush, green forest after a devastating fire.
"I walked the bottom for sponges and marine life and it was a void," said Nipper, 59. "It was like it was burned out to nothing."
• • •
The DEP had warned Cargill that the dike might give way. After the spill, it fined the company $270,000. By then a merger with IMC-Agrico had turned it into Mosaic.
The fishermen sued three weeks after the spill, demanding to be repaid various amounts of money to cover their financial losses. They sought class action status, which would mean the case would cover about 130 people. But 12 years later, the case is still unresolved.
"Mosaic has raised every conceivable objection they could," said their attorney, Wallace Pope of Clearwater.
For instance, Mosaic's attorneys argued that the fishermen had no standing to sue because they did not own the marine life hurt by the spill. That argument convinced the trial court and an appeals court.
But in 2010, the Florida Supreme Court ruled for the fishermen.
"Mosaic's business involved the storage of pollutants and hazardous contaminants," the high court wrote. "It was foreseeable that, were these materials released into the public waters, they would cause damage to marine and plant life as well as to human activity."
By storing contaminants on its site, the court said, the company "created an appreciable zone of risk within which Mosaic was obligated to protect those who were exposed to harm." And that included the fishermen who depended on the bay for their livelihood.
Other issues required appeals court rulings too, leading to further delays. According to Mosaic, that's what's delayed the case.
"Since the time that plaintiffs' lawyers sued, we have won in court three times and their lawyers have appealed all three times," company spokeswoman Jackie Barron said. "That has taken time."
Last year the two sides went to mediation, Nipper said, and reached a settlement — or so it seemed.
"Within 30 days we were supposed to get paid," he said. "The 30 days came and went, and then our attorney said, 'They're not paying.' So here we go back at it."
The fishermen are frustrated at how long they have had to pursue Mosaic for damages, particularly given how much they believe the company is spending on attorney's fees.
"Their attorneys are making a fortune off of it, and we're just the poor little guys that don't matter," Darlington said. "They treat us like we're a bunch of scum(my) fishermen.
"But we weren't doing anything wrong. We were just going to work. They're the ones who caused the problem."
161111-b Everglades Trust's election night dud ... They call it 'growing momentum'
SunshineStateNews.com - by Nancy Smith
November 11, 2016 - 6:00am
With the election in the rear view mirror, hype-happy Everglades Trust is doing its best to put a positive spin on what looks to me like a dud of an election-campaign stunt.
I'm talking about the South Florida environmental "501(c)(4) corporation of non-elected board appointees" that dispatched a gas-guzzling bus (the stunt) to travel around Florida enlisting support for its No. 1 agenda item -- "buy the land, move the water south." Along the way, they circulated a #NowOrNeverglades petition and cheered for citizens to vote for the candidates they endorsed.
How did their candidates do ? I'm glad you asked.
In a TCPalm.com story posted Thursday evening, new Everglades Trust Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell claims election results show "growing momentum" for Joe Negron's plan to buy 60,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee and build a reservoir there. This is the plan the incoming Senate president says will cost $2.4 billion, to be split evenly by the state and the federal government."
"Growing momentum"? How do you get that, Kimberly ?
The trust endorsed 14 candidates for legislative seats and seven won their races. That's half.
I'm sorry, but half doesn't add up to "growing momentum" to me. I could walk up to a roulette table blindfolded, place a chip 14 times on red or black and come up with seven winners. That's not "growing momentum," it's the law of averages.
“Though not on the ballot as a single question," Mitchell told TCPalm, "this year’s election, especially in South Florida, was most certainly about the Everglades and clean, plentiful water.”
Really ? If this election was about the Everglades and clean, plentiful water, poor, shortchanged South Florida.
In all, the Everglades Trust signed up 54 candidates willing to follow their lead. Here's a list of all of them and how they fared Tuesday. What it shows is a whopping 74.5 percent of the folks who signed the #NowOrNeverglades Declaration actually lost. Yes, I said lost:
Candidates who signed the #NowOrNevergladesDeclaration and the General Election Result
CANDIDATE NAME PARTY RUNNING FOR ELECTION RESULTS
Tim Langer DEM Citrus County Commissioner District 3 Lost
Ivette Gonzalez Petkovich DEM Florida House District 103 Lost
Carlos A. Puentes Sr. DEM Florida House District 110 Lost
Rosa Maria “Rosy” Palomino REP Florida House District 112 Lost
Jeffrey Doc Solomon DEM Florida House District 115 Lost
Dan Horton DEM Florida House District 120 Lost
Joe Snodgrass DEM Florida House District 19 Lost
Ray Guillory DEM Florida House District 2 Lost
Adam Morley DEM Florida House District 24 Lost
Noel Cheryl Bickford DEM Florida House District 25 Lost
Bob Doyel DEM Florida House District 41 Lost
Benny Valentin DEM Florida House District 42 Lost
Carlos Guillermo Smith DEM Florida House District 49 Won
Sean Ashby DEM Florida House District 50 Lost
David Anthony Kearns DEM Florida House District 53 Lost
Bernard “Bernie” Fensterwald DEM Florida House District 65 Lost
David Vogel DEM Florida House District 67 Lost
Charles Messina NPA Florida House District 76 Lost
John Scott DEM Florida House District 79 Lost
Mary Westcott Higgins DEM Florida House District 82 Lost
Crystal Lucas DEM Florida House District 83 Lost
Gayle Harrell REP Florida House District 83 Won
Robert Simeone DEM Florida House District 85 Lost
Laurel Bennett REP Florida House District 86 Lost
Lori Berman DEM Florida House District 90 Won
Ken Keechl DEM Florida House District 93 Lost
Linda Stewart DEM Florida Senate District 13 Won
Dean Asher REP Florida Senate District 13 Lost
Amy Tidd DEM Florida Senate District 17 Lost
Bob Buesing DEM Florida Senate District 18 Lost
Joe Redner NPA Florida Senate District 18 Lost
Frank Alcock III DEM Florida Senate District 23 Lost
Joe Negron REP Florida Senate District 25 Won
Bruno Moore DEM Florida Senate District 25 Lost
Jose Javier Rodriguez DEM Florida Senate District 37 Won
Debbie Mucarsel-Powell DEM Florida Senate District 39 Lost
Anitere Flores REP Florida Senate District 39 Won
David Purdo REP Islamorada Village Council Seat 2 Lost
Cheryl Meads REP Islamorada Village Council Seat 2 Won
Mike Forster NPA Islamorada Village Council Seat 5 Won
Jill Zima-Borski DEM Islamorada Village Council Seat 5 Lost
Robert Pryor INT Martin County Sheriff Lost
Bill Snyder REP Martin County Sheriff Won
Tony Bennett DEM Palm Beach County Commission District 1 Lost
Dave Kerner DEM Palm Beach County Commission District 3 Won
Taniel Shant REP Palm Beach County Commission District 5 Lost
Ed Young NPA Seminole County Soil & Water Conservation District Group 4 Won
April Freeman DEM U.S. House District 17 Lost
Brain Mast REP U.S. House District 18 Won
Alina Valdes DEM U.S. House District 25 Lost
Joe Garcia DEM U.S. House District 26 Lost
Carlos Curbelo REP U.S. House District 26 Won
Scott Fuhrman DEM U.S. House District 27 Lost
Corry Westbrook DEM U.S. House District 8 Lost
Patrick Murphy DEM U.S. Senate Lost
The Everglades Trust ... this is the same bunch, remember, who launched an attack mailer campaign in 2015 against three smart, accomplished woman lawmakers -- Katie Edwards, Heather Fitzenhagen and Kristin Jacobs. Total backfire -- year's biggest botched lobbying job.
But back to 2016. If I'd donated even a penny for Kimberly Mitchell's "momentous" bus tour, I'd demand my money back. Such a sham.
And by the way, the TCPalm story makes it crystal clear Negron is ready to strongarm his 25 Republicans in the 40-member Senate to help him push through his proposal. And I'm sure he'll try. I expect him to make all kinds of deals -- not all of them seemly -- not only in the Senate, but to win over House leaders. This is a legacy dream for the next Senate president and he looks pretty determined to git 'er done.
I would just feel better about it if Negron had ever -- even once -- sat down with water managers and engineers at the South Florida Water Management District to talk about the efficacy of his proposal. I mean, he wants to spend $2.4 billion on a massive maverick plumbing project in the middle of underfunded Everglades restoration and he hasn't bothered to check in with the SFWMD? But this is a story for another day. Stay tuned. We'll get there.
161110-a 581-acre piece of Ag Reserve, bought with public money, could be sold
Palm Beach Post - by Wayne Washington, Staff Writer
November 10, 2016
The South Florida Water Management District has designated a 581-acre piece of Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve as “surplus” and available for sale, increasing fears of more development in a farming zone that some believe is being gobbled up by builders.
Environmentalists and preservationists who oppose the district’s decision say taxpayers could get stiffed on a sale, as the district has set a minimum sale price of $10 million — less than the $13.7 million the district paid for a 61 percent stake in the property in 2006 and less than the $23.5 million the county paid in 2000 when it bought a slightly larger piece of land that includes the 581 acres.
District spokesman Randy Smith said the $10 million minimum sales price is based on a 2015 appraisal. A new appraisal will be completed soon, he said, and the minimum price is likely to rise to somewhere around $15 million.
Even at $15 million, however, the new purchaser — possibly the Pero farming family that currently leases the property — would be getting a deal in comparison to what the county paid 16 years ago.
The county, using some of the $150 million in bond money approved by voters in 1999, bought 624 acres at $37,660 per acre. At that per-acre value, the 581-acre tract would cost $21.9 million.
If the land is sold for $15 million, the buyer would have paid $25,818 per acre, a bargain of nearly $12,000 per acre.
Because the land is still jointly owned by the district and the county, a majority of the seven-member county commission would have to approve the sale.
At least two commissioners, Paulette Burdick and Melissa McKinlay, oppose the sale, arguing that Ag Reserve land purchased with public funds should remain in public ownership.
That’s also the view of Lisa Interlandi, senior attorney for the Everglades Law Center.
“When voters approved the bond referendum, the promise was that that the land would be preserved forever,” Interlandi said. “Selling our preserve land undermines the agricultural reserve and is a bad deal for taxpayers.”
District Executive Director Peter Antonacci told the district’s board of governors Thursday that the district no longer has a public use for the land, which should be sold.
The district used money from the U.S. Department of the Interior to purchase its stake in the land. Plans at that time called for the land to be the site of a reservoir that would be part of the district’s Everglades restoration efforts.
But the district has identified a site in Martin County as more suitable and now wants to recoup the money spent on the Pero farms tract.
“We need the money to buy land for other projects,” Antonacci told district board members. “There’s nothing nefarious about it. It’s just something that needs to be done. There is a large sum of dead money that’s on your books that should be put to the purpose of Everglades restoration.”
In a nod to the county’s initial intent in purchasing the land, the district is working on a conservation easement that would restrict the land’s use to agriculture.
“I don’t anticipate anyone wanting this land for anything other than agriculture,” board member Melanie Peterson said.
The board unanimously approved its staff’s recommendation to declare the land surplus and available for sale.
Commissioners are expected to discuss the issue early next month.
Environmentalists and preservationists worry that an easement restricting the land’s use to agriculture won’t be enough to keep it from being developed at some later point.
Future political office-holders could approve a request to lift those restrictions, they said.
“There is no way to put any land in Palm Beach County in agriculture permanently,” said Martha Musgrove of the Florida Wildlife Federation, one of three groups that urged district board members not to designate the Pero tract as surplus.
District board members, however, stuck to their plans to have the land declared surplus.
“There is no reason for the district to own land that it doesn’t need for public purposes,” Kevin Powers, the board’s vice chairman said in a release announcing its decision. “That is why we declared this property surplus. While this sale benefits all residents, it also provides double the assurance the public is looking for that this land will never be developed. This is good for conservation, good for the environment and good for taxpayers.”
161110-b Bullsugar should be sweeter on transparency
TCPalm - Editorial
November 10, 2016
If Bullsugar.org didn't exist, someone would have to invent it.
The group was formed in 2013, but it came to prominence this past summer as blue-green algae choked our waterways. While there are a plethora of environmental groups fighting for clean water, Bullsugar fought differently. It's bare-knuckled approach eschewed politesse, and seemed to epitomize the anger that gripped area residents as the crisis worsened.
Along with other activists, Bullsugar turned up the heat on lawmakers, endorsed candidates and stumped for the #NowOrNeverglades Declaration, which advocates buying land south of Lake Okeechobee for water storage. Clearly, Bullsugar sees an opportunity to become a bigger player in Florida politics and perhaps serve as a counterweight to the sugar industry, which the group blames for blocking reforms that could help our waters.
But in recent weeks, the targets of Bullsugar's activism have begun to return fire. The sugar industry and some lawmakers note that while Bullsugar criticizes "Big Sugar's" political expenditures, Bullsugar itself is being less than transparent about where its own money comes from.
Bullsugar has organized as a 501(c)(4) group. In IRS terminology, such groups are "social welfare" organizations and must spend less than half their money on political activities. But in political circles, they're also known as "dark money" groups because they don't have to reveal the names of donors or provide many details about how they spend their money.
Describing how such groups have proliferated in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision, The Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org notes that "a 501(c)(4) is an inefficient way to spend money politically — unless there is a high premium on keeping the identity of donors secret." Judy Sanchez, spokeswoman for Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar, suggests it's because Bullsugar and other Everglades environmental groups are working in tandem, likely all funded by the same "out-of-state hedge fund billionaire" (Paul Tudor Jones II) in an effort to push their "anti-farming, anti-rural communities agenda.
"We believe that these groups should receive the same close scrutiny as every pro-farming group endures from the media and the public," Sanchez said.
Bullsugar has denied that Jones is a donor, and co-founder Kenan Siegel has said he and other founders provided the group's seed money. Bullsugar decided to incorporate as a 501(c)(4), he said, "for several reasons, but mostly because ... we are allowed to do substantially more political advocacy work than other types of nonprofits."
He noted that an affiliate group, the Bullsugar Alliance, is registered as a 501(c)(3) charity, which must disclose donors on federal tax forms.
When Politico Florida asked for a list of donors, Bullsugar replied with a letter denying the request, but stated "we're not being funded by giant PACs or powerful individuals." The letter also noted most individual donations in recent months have been small, between $5 and $1,000.
In one sense, where Bullsugar gets its money is beside the point. So long as it's complying with federal law, and members and leaders are allowed to structure the group as they like.
And its critics are complaining, we suspect, because Bullsugar has drawn rhetorical blood in its criticism and its activism.
Nonetheless, the secrecy doesn't reflect well on Bullsugar's cause. Given the severity of this summer's algae crisis, it might have been tempting to fight fire with fire, to counter the sugar industry's political donations funneled through myriad PACs, "grass roots" organizations and, yes, "dark money" groups with similar tactics.
Yet if the fight for clean water is more than a mere political battle — if it's a moral one, too — then the groups waging that war must demonstrate, as best they can, that they're above reproach, that they're not using the same low tactics and justifying it by claiming a higher purpose.
To the extent Bullsugar has been successful in bringing more attention to the Treasure Coast's water problems and the need for more water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, its work — its message — is valuable.
But the messenger must err on the side of transparency lest Bullsugar become as tainted as its targets.
161110-c Now or Neverglades tour stops in Sanibel
CaptivaSanibel.com - by Ashley Goodman, Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander
November 10, 2016
The Now or Neverglades bus made its way to Sanibel last Wednesday to garner support for the construction of the proposed EAA Reservoir project. The reservoir will treat the water and send it south, thus reducing discharges that have caused the toxic blue-green algae that has appeared on both coasts.
Before stopping at the Sanibel Chamber of Commerce, the bus made a pit-stop at Florida Gulf Coast University to collect signatures for their Now or Neverglades Declaration.
"The tour is to let people know that there is a plan that needs to be implemented. There are projects within the plan that are now 16 years old. The projects that are really going to make a difference in this community and to the businesses that reside in this community is to store and send the water south. This is not some new concept that was created, it's a plan that we all want to see implemented," said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation. "We can't be the only voice of this. It has to be a whole diversity of people from all parts of Florida, all walks of life. We want to fix it. That's the goal of this, to build an army of supporters to end the chronic challenges of polluted water."
Sanibel Council Member Chauncey Goss came out to the chamber of commerce to show his full-fledged support of the petition.
"Now or Neverglades is a great idea because it takes what's in the Sanibel white papers and makes it not so daunting and easy for people to understand," Goss said. Jason Maughan, a lawyer on Sanibel who also ran for District 27 of the Florida State Senate made an appearance as well and endorses the petition along with Goss. He agrees that the water needs to be moved south.
"Anybody who is going to assist us in moving the water south of Lake Okeechobee instead of moving it down to this county, I'll support and help and certainly speak to. There's no way for us to work on us cleaning up any local pollution issues if they're going to dump stuff down on top of it. This county's lifeline, it's artery is the Caloosahatchee River. Until we stop outsiders polluting it, we're never going to have a solution to our own local pollution issues," Maughan said.
Eikenberg said that the tour has gone very well. Last Wednesday marked day eight of a 12-day bus tour. Before arriving in Sanibel and Fort Myers, the group stopped in 13 other cities across Florida. The last two stops were Ft. Lauderdale and the Keys.
"The enthusiasm that has come out of this bus tour has been extraordinary. This is an issue, this is a quality of life. This is a water supply for eight million people and they want it to be fixed. We have the money due to Amendment 1 so there's no need to worry about how we're going to pay for this. The beauty of it is when the state puts its share in and Washington matches it. It's a 50/50 cost-share. As I said the other day, what we need now is guts to do it," Eikenberg said.
To sign the petition, go to gladesdeclaration.org.
161109-a Florida Bay tour recruits ‘restoration army’
FLkeysNew.com – by Keynoter Staff
November 9, 2016
The “Road Trip to Restoration” ended Sunday in Islamorada, having collected about 7,700 petition signatures from Everglades and Florida Bay advocates.
Hosted by the Everglades Foundation, the statewide bus tour traveled 1,976 miles with 22 stops to raise awareness about efforts to send more fresh water to Florida Bay through the Everglades system.
“Everywhere we went on this tour, from Orlando to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, Floridians told us they want clean water and to save America’s Everglades,” said Eric Eikenberg, chief executive of the Everglades Foundation. “They’re tired of the foot-dragging in Tallahassee and Washington.”
The primary goal of the tour was collecting support on the Now or Neverglades petition for a proposed water-storage area in the Everglades Agricultural Area, south of Lake Okeechobee.
Advocates say the area could store and clean water needed by the bay and Everglades and prevent damaging discharges into Florida coastal estuaries when the lake exceeds its capacity.
“More than 50,000 acres of seagrass – about 80 square miles – have been killed because the bay is starved of fresh water,” according to the Everglades Foundation.
“We are recruiting an ‘Everglades Restoration Army’ that will stand shoulder to shoulder with incoming [state] Senate President Joe Negron when the Florida Legislature takes up his proposal to buy land for the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee,” Eikenberg said.
The Now or Neverglades tour garnered support from Florida conservationists including marine artist Guy Harvey and nature photographer Clyde Butcher. With other allied groups, more than 40,000 signatures reportedly have been collected.
The nonprofit Everglades Foundation was established in 1995 by Islamorada residents George and Mary Barley, along with part-time Islamorada resident Paul Tudor Jones II.
161109-b Joe Negron: Elections will help plan to stop Lake Okeechobee discharges
TCPalm.com – by Tyler Treadway
November 9, 2016
State Sen. Joe Negron hosted a public meeting regarding the toxic Lake Okeechobee discharges, at the Flagler Center in Stuart on Aug. 9, 2016
Tuesday's legislative elections throughout the state should be good for the Indian River Lagoon and a plan to end the destructive discharges to the St. Lucie River. So says the author of the plan and an environmental group supporting it.
Incoming Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he has "a strong foundation of support" with 25 Republicans in the 40-member Senate to help him push his proposal to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee as part of a system to move excess lake water south rather than east to the St. Lucie River and west to the Caloosahatchee River.
Negron's plan to buy 60,000 acres and build a reservoir would cost $2.4 billion, split evenly by the state and the federal government.
That "foundation" is one GOP senator short of the 26 in the 2016 session, but because of redistricting, Republicans could have lost more seats in five new Democratic-leaning districts.
Negron considers taking four of the five a major coup. The four winners were incumbent Anitere Flores and Frank Artiles of Miami, Dana Young of Tampa and Keith Perry of Gainesville. Incumbent state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla of Miami lost his seat.
Before Tuesday's elections, Negron called getting the Legislature to approve $1.2 billion for the project "will be difficult and challenging." On Wednesday, he said, "I'm very optimistic about our prospects."
Negron will count on a couple of old friends in the House to help carry the water, so to speak. One is Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, who won re-election Tuesday against Crystal Lucas, a Stuart Democrat and ardent St. Lucie River advocate.
"Harrell has got to go to the speaker and say, 'I've got to have this for my district,'" Draper said. "I think she's got the passion for the Everglades and for the lagoon to do it. Plus, this will be her last term in the House, so she'll want it to be her legacy."
The other is Thad Altman, a former Brevard County Republican state senator who Tuesday was elected to the House District 52 seat. Negron called Altman "a good friend and an ally. His voice will be heard."
It's also significant, Draper said, that Brevard County voters overwhelmingly approved a half-cent sales tax designed to raise $302 million for a 10-year plan to clean up the Indian River Lagoon.
"It shows legislators that voters are willing to tax themselves for the sake of the lagoon," he said.
The Everglades Trust said Democrats and Republicans elected to the state Legislature on Tuesday showed "growing momentum" for Negron's plan. The trust endorsed 14 candidates for legislative seats, and seven won their races:
● Incumbent Sen. Anitere Flores (R), District 39 in Miami-Dade County
● Sen.-elect Linda Stewart (D), District 13 in Orange County
● Rep.-elect Carlos Guillermo Smith (D), District 49 in Orange County
● Incumbent Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R), District 78 in Lee County
● Incumbent Rep. Larry Lee Jr. (D), District 84 in St. Lucie County
“Though not on the ballot as a single question," Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell said, "this year’s election, especially in South Florida, was most certainly about the Everglades and clean, plentiful water.”
161109-c Presidential election spine chilling for Florida climate experts
WUSF.usf.edu – by Jim Ash
November 9, 2016
President-elect Donald Trump is on record as a climate change denier, and that’s bad news for the Sunshine State, experts say.
In Miami, streets are flooding on sunny days. And researchers at Florida Atlantic University are worried about how changing rainfall patterns will affect the Everglades and surrounding cities.
But Donald Trump isn’t sold. Here’s what he told Fox News last December.
“I believe strongly in clean water and clean air but I don’t believe in what they say. I think it’s a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money.”
Trump has vowed to pull the United States out of international agreements limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
But FAU’s Center for Environmental Studies director Colin Polsky says it would be a mistake, and set back years of bi-partisan negotiations.
“It takes a long time to get such momentum and to lose it based on a claim that the science is a hoax, an invention of the Chinese, would be a real shame.
Trump called President Barack Obama’s trip to Paris last year to attend an international summit on limiting greenhouse gas emissions a waste of time.
161109-d Trump presidency will impact tourism, environment, agriculture
FOX 13 News - by: Lloyd Sowers
November 9, 2016
TAMPA (FOX 13) - The election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land could have direct impacts on Florida due to his past dealings here, and his plans for the future.
President-elect Trump is a part-time Florida resident and he could impact some critical Florida issues.
He's going to get rid of people who aren't doing their job," says 68-year-old Vietnam veteran, Wes Thompson.
Thompson needs a kidney transplant and believes Mr. Trump can fix issues with the VA.
"I think he's going to open it up so that a vet can go to an independent doctor outside the VA and get service," Thompson said, hopeful.
MacDill Air Force Base and other Florida bases could grow under Mr. Trump's promise to "rebuild our depleted military."
Tourism is Florida's largest industry. Hotel executive Keith Overton believes Mr. Trump knows what service industry businesses need.
"We hope there's a rollback of this over-regulation," says Overton, president of Tradewinds Island Resort on St. Pete Beach. "It's all kinds of issues related to labor, to the Federal Trade Commission. It would be incredible if that could be rolled back quickly and efficiently."
It's not clear yet how the president-elect's "Build a Wall" immigration stance may affect Florida agriculture. It's the state's second largest industry and depends heavily on migrant labor.
In Ybor City immigrants held hands and prayed after the election was called.
"I just want to let you know that as an undocumented woman in this country, I'm with you," said a young woman to group of about a dozen.
In a state where the environment is critical, activists worry Mr. Trump will stall efforts to restore the Everglades and pull out of international climate change agreements.
"What he said about the environment and clean energy was horrible," says Frank Jackalone of the Sierra Club.
Jackalone makes a list of what he sees as Trump's weaknesses on the environment, but others welcome a changing tide in Trump's Florida back yard.
161109-e Water summit delivers solutions, but are things really changing?
News-Press.com – by Paul Reynolds, a citizen member of The News-Press editorial board
November 9, 2016
Much thanks to The News-Press for hosting the recent Market Watch Save Our Water summit and to the 400 folks motivated to attend. For some, like me, it was an opportunity to catch up with activists and stakeholders, to reflect on plan implementations and to measure progress. Unfortunately some things seem to be changing, but they really are not.
The purpose for our once treasured Lake Okeechobee, rivers and the Everglades was changed. The lake became a storage reservoir and the connected rivers became drainage canals, so that an agricultural industry might flourish to the south.
The industry became legendary and even celebrated in movie, name (Big Sugar) and political impact. Its product is damaging to land and air and is so inefficient
to deliver that it requires massive price support from American taxpayers. Now, thanks to the Agricultural Act of 2014, it even drives user companies out of the country.
Thanks to the misplaced generosity of taxpayers, the industry has a huge discretionary income to fulfill their every water need. From stored irrigation reserves, to thousands of acres to send water when there is too much, or blast it down the rivers where it redefines coastal lifestyles and industries. What the industry can’t influence through contribution, its campaign budget creates fear for politicians who might dissent. It has stacked governing agencies, like the South Florida Water Management District, and now that the infrastructure is in place, the industry portrays itself as victims, eager to join efforts to fix the system and make it fair. Don't you believe it.
The path we’re on is to spend huge sums on ancillary projects that have little influence on the core problems as pollution flows unimpeded from the north and is discharged east and west when too much accumulates. The current “solutions” are ridiculous. Chief among them are plans to create several junior Lake O reservoirs around the state with the accompanying algae farm and danger to surrounding communities. It's even suggested that we should pipe this precious, though contaminated, commodity deep into the ground.
Here's the emergency. If we don't implement, at this very moment, a marsh filtered flow to the south, we will continue to create lifeless rivers, estuaries, coastal beaches inundated with dead fish from red tide and red drift algae. The smoking gun that follows is that the farming use of the land will slowly go away but may be replaced by housing developments. It will make New Orleans look like the safest community in America if there is no flow way discharge system in place to send water south.
161108- What can residents do to stop Okeechobee pollution ?
Orlando Sentinel – Letter by Lisa Moore, Orlando
November 8, 2016
As a stout believer in the role we play in the world's environmental crisis, I have been following the Lake Okeechobee water crisis for more than a year. I have yet to read what steps we, as Florida residents, can take to prevent further pollution.
Orlando Sentinel articles in the past year focus on what falls on the state's, agencies' and governor's shoulders to fix this problem, but that doesn't address what we, the residents of Florida, need to know in order to help prevent this environmental crisis from continuing.
The algae didn't just appear. It is an effect of pollutants running into the watershed that feeds into Lake Okeechobee — a watershed that connects to Orlando. What a perfect time for the media to educate us on what causes this pollution and what role we all play.
If I knew that using certain chemicals in my yard contributed to the death of ecosystems, I would take time to consider my alternatives.
Or if I knew that Florida farmers had only voluntary rules to follow when their farms contribute to the majority of the pollutants that flow into Lake Okeechobee, I would make sure to spread the word in hopes to cause change.
Media have a chance to not only report but to really educate and make a difference.
161107- Pollution notification plan continues to draw objections
News4jax.com - by Ryan Ray, The News Service of Florida
November 7, 2016
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Despite some changes to reassure the business community, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection continued to hear objections Monday to a pollution-notification rule proposed in the wake of high-profile incidents in Pinellas and Polk counties that raised questions about state environmental regulations.
The proposed rule, ordered by Gov. Rick Scott, would require any business, county or city government responsible for a pollution incident to notify the public within 24 hours. It was developed after a major St. Petersburg sewage spill and after a sinkhole at a phosphate plant south of Lakeland sent toxins into the Floridan Aquifer and threatened drinking water.
Some revisions to the rule were released Friday after members of the public --- primarily advocates for utility companies --- testified at a series of workshops about concerns the proposal would saddle them with undue regulatory burdens and substantial new compliance costs.
Within 24 hours after the initial public notification, according to the revised language released Friday, the responsible parties would have another day to release specifics of the pollution's likely effects.
The revisions also specify exactly how the news media would have to be notified: at least one local newspaper, by email or hand-delivered notice, and at least one local network television station, also by email or written correspondence.
The department also released a statement of economic impact to the affected industries.
The proposal "will not have a direct or indirect adverse impact on economic growth, private-sector job creation or employment, or private-sector investment of $1 million" over five years, according to the department.
But that prediction did not quell the worries of industry groups, which said business or local government in-house press shops were ill-equipped to handle the public notification aspect of the new rule.
"This is, I think, an undue burden on these companies. … We feel like notifying DEP and letting DEP notify the local governments would be the best course of action," said Tisha Keller of the Florida Trucking Association. David Childs, representing the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Water Environment Association Utility Council, stressed that the department should notify the public, as it has "toxicologists, biologists and communications staff, as well as the bully pulpit of the executive branch of state government," unlike businesses and small local governments that might not have the resources to provide the notice.
Another consistent complaint from municipal and industry interests was that the rule had simply moved too quickly. Scott ordered the rule's drafting in September.
Despite the ongoing concerns, the department has indicated it will continue according to its plan to begin finalizing the rule immediately after 5 p.m. Wednesday, when a public comment period formally ends.
"We certainly will take the comments that were previously provided, as well as those today, and the department will make a final decision on what the final rule will look like," said Robert Williams, chief deputy general counsel at the department.
161106-a A closer look into Florida’s phosphate mining industry
TechFeatured.com - by Avinash Pudota
November 6, 2016
Phosphate is a natural, non-renewable resource that is obtained by mining phosphate-containing minerals. Florida’s phosphate rock deposits are believed to have originated when conditions in the seawater caused dissolved phosphorus to solidify and form the sediment that is mined today (1). Sea life also played a big part in forming the sediment deposits.
An Army Corps of Engineers’ (5) captain first discovered River Pebble Phosphate along the Peace River, Florida in the late nineteenth century. Mining the phosphate began soon after. The Florida miners had no mechanized excavation equipment. That means early mining was by hand using wheelbarrows, wagons, picks and shovels. The chore of mining was slow and labor intensive, but the phosphate pebble did show promise. Interest in this pebble increases and the phosphate industry was born. The early twentieth century brought mechanized excavation equipment like steam shovels to the Florida phosphate mines, but steam shovels didn’t last long.
Draglines were first introduced in the 1920s and increased in usage since. Dragline technology continued to advance, leading miners to move from the river-pebble to the land-pebble and hard-rock phosphates, and then to mining the finer-grained “phosphate matrix”.
Phosphate matrix deposits (4) occur over a wide area of west-central Florida known as the “Bone Valley”. In 1900 it took 3 to 4 years to mine 15 acres with picks and shovels. In the early days of the small draglines, about 5 acres were mined in a year. As draglines grew in size, they were able to mine 500 to 600 acres a year. Conservatively, today’s draglines are able to completely destroy 50 acres a month.
Phosphate Mining Process Florida’s phosphate ore (matrix) is found some 40 feet below the earth’s surface. The matrix lies intertwined with one of Florida’s real treasures, aquifer systems. Phosphate rock is mined and then manufactured through the fertilizer manufacturing process. A typical Florida phosphate mine gets about 9,000 tons of phosphate rock per acre of land. Huge draglines are brought in and can remove the Florida earth from the surface down 100 feet in order to remove the entire matrix “field”.
The phosphate industry refers the removed earth as “overburden”. The rest of us call it orange groves, cattle pastures, the old swimming hole, watersheds, aquifer systems, rivers, natural springs, etc.
Once the overburden is removed, the draglines can then “strip” out the matrix, which consists of equal parts of phosphate rock, clay and sand. The matrix (2) is then dumped in huge slurry pits where literally untold volumes of fresh clean aquifer water are used.
The water comes from the newly crushed aquifers under the mighty dragline. Billions of gallons of Florida’s fresh water are released and used in high-pressure water cannons to create a slurry that can then be pumped to the beneficiation plant, which can be up to 10 miles away.
At the beneficiation plant the phosphate is separated from the sand and clay. Then the toxic sludge is stored in huge clay settling ponds until untold amounts of aquifer water evaporate.
One by-product, called phosphogypsum, is slightly radioactive so it cannot be easily disposed. The only thing the miners can do with it is stack it in mountainous piles next to the processing plants. Florida is such a flat state that the 150-foot-tall “gyp stacks” are usually the highest point in the landscape for miles around. They contain large pools that can be as large as one square mile of highly acidic wastewater.
Not surprising, mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector. (4) Reducing environmental impacts from large fertilizer manufacturers operations is a national priority for EPA.
The United States produces the most phosphate (2) in the world, while Morocco and China rank second and third, respectively. Phosphate reserves are found in Central Florida, North Carolina, Utah, and Idaho. Florida is presently providing approximately 75 percent of the nation’s supply of phosphate fertilizer and about 25 percent of the world supply. Follow the Money Florida’s phosphate deposits today are the basis of an $85 billion industry supplying the lion’s share of the phosphate consumed in the United States. Out of the $85 billion value of the industry, only a few million dollars is spent on the local communities where the mines are located. Some have called this a boon for the local communities. However, the phosphate industry seems to be a bad neighbor. This is because they are “allowed” to leave their environmental catastrophes behind for those local citizens to pay for. Interestingly, the Central Florida phosphate mines are now referred to as “Bone Valley”.
This $85 billion phosphate production area is located in the middle of one of Florida’s greatest natural treasures called aquifer systems or “water tables”. These aquifer systems can be compared to bee hives, where the aquifer system is the hive and the water replaces the honey.
Aquifer systems are considered a basis for Florida’s entire clean fresh water source. Today, this Central Florida Phosphate Region (3) consists of Hillsborough, Polk, Hardee, DeSoto, and Manatee Counties. These same counties also contain huge watersheds including the Alafia River Watershed, the Peace River Watershed, the Manatee River Watershed, the Little Manatee River Watershed and the Myakka River Watershed.
As of this article, the phosphate industry continues to purchase more land earmarked to strip mine the valuable phosphate in the watersheds mentioned above. The Florida phosphate dilemma continues to escalate, causing more extensive irreparable environmental damage daily. Resource Information
1. Florida Institute of Phosphate Research (FIPR)
2. Florida DEP Mining and Minerals Regulation
3. Watershed Data
4. Peace River Cumulative Impact Study
5. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Jacksonville District
161106-b Fort Myers business, activist group: 'Save our waters now'
November 6, 2016
FORT MYERS - The Army Corps of Engineers announced they're scaling back water releases from Lake Okeechobee, which is expected to dramatically improve water quality in the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico.
But one Southwest Florida group is pushing for more to be done about Florida's waterways in the long-term.
Captains for Clean Water teamed up with Fort Myers Brewing Company Sunday for a day of craft beer, good food, and a message to pushing to save clear our waters.
It's not all fun and games at the inaugural Craft Beers for Clean Water Festival as there's a serious tone.
"It's important to be able to support the cause and now you're making a difference when you're donating," said Tami Tassler of Fort Myers.
Hundreds of people attended which brought in money that will go towards educating Floridians about the quality of water in the state – particularly estuaries and Lake Okeechobee.
Captains for Clean Water wants the state to buy land south of Lake O to protect waters.
"Right now, the state doesn't even want to start planning this project until 2021, and we're saying we want this done now because our estuaries can't wait and our economy can't wait," said Daniel Andrews, a representative of the group.
"Currently it's not killing business, but people are concerned with everything on the media. They're asking if it's safe to go," said Coastal Captain Alex Ambazis.
The brewing company says teaming up to spread the message is important because poor water quality impacts all business.
"When you come to Florida, you want the sunshine and the great beaches. With discharges, it's not making Florida what it is," said Kaitlin Griffin.
Captains for Clean Water asked people to sign the "Now or Neverglades" declaration – a pledge to push for better water quality in Florida.
161105- Expert: Fracking and Florida don't mix
News-Press.com – by Chad Gillis
November 2, 2016
All the easy oil's gone, and modern extraction practices aren't good for Florida anyway.
Those were two arguments made by an Ivy League engineer Wednesday in front of a group of about 200 people at the Florida Fracking Summit at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Fracking ruins drinking water supplies and increases the amount of methane in the atmosphere, said Anthony Ingraffea, with Cornell University's civil and environmental engineering department.
"As usual, a few folks will get rich, everybody else will get negatively impacted, and the state will get left holding the environmental bag, and, finally, we will have killed the Everglades," Ingraffea said.
There's still time to fend off controversial oil extraction methods, he said, but Floridians need to unite and get better educated about the dangers of forcing hundreds of chemicals beneath drinking water aquifers.
Oil exploration started in Florida before the 1940s, but people today are concerned that modern drilling and pumping practices could forever damage drinking water supplies while releasing methane gasses into the atmosphere.
The issue has hit Southwest Florida in recent years as multiple oil companies have sought permits for exploration in Big Cypress National Preserve, a massive swath of the historic Everglades that is protected under the National Park Service.
Extracting oil is bad for the environment on two levels: the product adds emissions to the atmosphere and often requires that trees (which absorb some harmful gasses) be removed from large areas to make room for the platform's footprint.
The impacts are widespread.
"Since the oil and gas is everywhere, you drill everywhere," Ingraffea said.
"They’ve learned to go back and redevelop old fields and new fields. You don’t just drill one well here. You drill six or seven and then go one kilometer and drill six of seven more."
Still, fracturing has many supporters.
ExxonMobil's Ken Cohen, who was not at the summit, says fracking is safer than many people believe.
"Some critics like to say too little is known about the practice of hydraulic fracturing for society to permit its use," Cohen wrote in a column. "The truth is that most government officials at the federal and state levels know quite a bit about the track record of fracking for oil and natural gas because the practice has been used safely for decades. Many government officials have come to encourage its application because of its proven economic and environmental benefits."
Actor Mark Ruffalo, who plays the alter ego of the Incredible Hulk in the Avengers movies, senta video message for the summit.
"When this industry comes into a state, first they buy off the state legislators and then they buy off local legislators and the next thing you know people have no voice in what they’re destiny is going to be," Ruffalo said. "And we’ve seen this time and time again."
Ruffalo started the non-profit Water Defense, based in New York, and sent Scott Smith, a technology officer and investigator at Water Defense, to represent his group.
Smith said he's monitored 60 oil disasters since 2013.
Oil extraction is already poisoning Floridians, he said, and allowing companies to pump more will only lead to more damage.
"You see the same thing over and over and over again," Smith said. "You can change the name and you can change the faces, but 90 percent of solving a problem is admitting that there is one."
He warned that Florida could fall prey to this facet of the energy industry, especially if the industry is allowed to regulate itself.
"It’s coming into your home every day, especially with organic produce," Smith said. "Every day oil-based water is being used to irrigate crops that end up on everyone’s dinner table every night. (And) You can’t rely on the companies that create that problem to solve it. When the responsible party is doing the water testing, the water is always going to be clean." Houston Cypress, a member of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, came from the Miami area to learn more about fracking and its impacts to the environment.
"I want to understand the threats better and see how we can build a coalition to take action to curtail and stop fracking," Cypress said. "As a member of an indigenous community in South Florida, there are serious environmental concerns that impact my way of life, and it impacts my cultural practices and my spiritual practices." Dave Urich of Fort Myers said Ingaraffea's presentation was impressive, and that "I just hope people listen."
161104-a Good News: Everglades water quality up from better to almost best
SunshineStateNews - by Nancy Smith
November 4, 2016
Let's hope lawmakers whose heads are turned by the Everglades Foundation's "buy the land" bus tour and petition drive also saw Thursday's South Florida Water Management District news.
It dispels virtually every claim the Foundation is making.
Without science to back up their claims, the Foundation folks are traveling across Florida crying that the state needs more land south of Lake Okeechobee to help "Save the Everglades." Not even close. The Water Management District just released updated facts, they have the science to back them up, and it's about the best environmental news we've heard in some time. (See the comparison maps at the bottom of this page.)
Read "Florida Achieving Everglades Water Quality Goals" by clicking this link. Not only are the Everglades healthy, they are remarkably so:
Tests show at least 90 percent of the Everglades, top to bottom, now meets ultra-clean water quality standards for levels of phosphorus of 10 parts per billion (ppb) or less as required by a federal consent decree and established under state law.
Not only that, but 100 percent of Everglades National Park is below 8 ppb. Actually, 86 percent of the total Everglades is at 8 ppb.
I'm just pleading for a little perspective here. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports more than one-third of the nation's lakes and rivers, except at their headwaters, registers a phosphorus level above 25 ppb.
James Moran, SFWMD Governing Board member, is justifiably proud of the Everglades water data released Thursday. "The water quality targets needed for America's Everglades to thrive are being met thanks to our dedication and use of sound science over the past two decades," Moran said. "With the work already under way through Gov. Rick Scott's Restoration Strategies, we will restore water quality in the Everglades."
No matter what you hear from the alarmists on the bus, progress on Everglades restoration is undeniable:
Before the Florida Legislature passed the Everglades Forever Act in 1994, water flowing south out of the sprawling Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) contained an average of 173 parts per billion (ppb) of phosphorus.
For the past five years, phosphorus levels in Everglades-bound water have averaged 20 parts per billion after being filtered through the District's network of constructed treatment wetlands, known as Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs).
And now it's even cleaner. Much cleaner. I know the Everglades Foundation people don't want to admit it, but over the 20-year history of the Best Management Practices (BMP) program, phosphorus levels in water leaving the EAA dropped by an annual average of 55 percent compared to initial conditions -- more than twice the improvement required under the Everglades Forever Act.
The BMP program has prevented approximately 3,055 metric tons of phosphorus from entering the Everglades.
But I also realize clean water and a restored Everglades has little to do with the Foundation's motives for their lavish, con-job-of-a-pre-election bus tour. Nor is it about saving the Treasure Coast folks from damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges.
This is all about buying land, taking land out of agriculture production.
“Buying the land” will NOT allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to send more water south. Didn't we see in 2013 and again from late January to November 2016 that Everglades National Park won't take lake water when the land is already so wet? Neither will the water conservation areas (WCAs). They are and have been above their federal flood regulation schedules all year.
As engineers repeat and repeat, storage to the south only marginally helps the Everglades and WCAs when they can't take any more water. Southern water storage never was intended to reduce coastal estuary discharges. The solution to deal with the large volume of water coming from the North and from local basins draining into the rivers was determined to be north, east, west regional storage and deep well sites.
In their NowOrNever petition the Foundation folks claim, “Especially considering the recent devastation to the coastal estuaries and ongoing massive seagrass die-off in Everglades National Park, planning for EAA projects must be expedited and be given top priority over planning for other new Everglades restoration projects.”
Just another part of their campaign of misinformation.
Click on the attachment below, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Fact Sheet on CEPP. You will see the planning, engineering and Chief’s Report have been completed, and both the U.S. House and Senate have approved CEPP as part of the current Water Resources Advisory Act.
What I want you to see in the Corps document is that CEPP already contains the EAA storage reservoir. After Restoration Strategies is built, and it's proved that CEPP can move more CLEAN water south -- we're talking 2021 -- the integrated delivery system calls for looking at the next increment of storage, if needed, south of the lake -- same as it says in the University of Florida water study.
The A-1 and A-2 reservoirs have already been designed with a built-in footprint that could accommodate holding water 12 feet deep if there's the need and the funds to build that much storage -- with NO additional land acquisition costs.
Florida lawmakers, please stay the course, keep the federal government focused on CEPP and let the the Foundation's bus leave without you.
Thanks, SFWMD, for the good news: The Everglades isn't dying, it's thriving. Every water body in America should have to show such progress.
161104-b Lake Okeechobee draining reduced as South Florida flooding threats lessen
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
November 4, 2016
Lake Okeechobee’s declining water levels poses less of a flooding risk to South Florida, which has stopped lake draining that hurts east coast waterways.
Lake Okeechobee draining that hurts east coast waterways stopped Friday, thanks to the lake's declining water level reducing South Florida flooding threats.
Concerns about the rising lake in January triggered increased draining to the east and west to reduce the risk of the lake flooding South Florida.
That draining eases the strain on the lake's troubled dike — a 30-foot-tall mound of rock, dirt and shell that is considered one of the country's most at-risk of failing.
But sending a prolonged deluge of polluted lake water flowing to the east and west fouls waterways near Stuart and Fort Myers – clouding rivers, damaging fishing grounds and fueling toxic algae blooms that scare away tourists.
On Friday, the lake level had dropped to 15.38 feet above sea level. That's still slightly above normal, but within the 12.5- to 15.5-foot range targeted to keep from overwhelming the lake's shaky dike.
"Drier weather has taken hold and the lake continues to recede," said Candida Bronson, the Army Corps of Engineers acting operations division chief for Florida. The Army Corps oversees lake flood control. "Barring an unexpected heavy rain event, we expect the (lake's) recession to continue."
As the lake level drops, the Army Corps is reducing the amount of lake water flowing west into the Caloosahatchee River toward Fort Myers.
The Army Corps is stopping the lake draining to the east through the St. Lucie River, allowing the delicate estuary near Stuart to start recovering from more than 270 days of serving as the lake's dumping grounds.
Now it could take more than a year for those coastal waterways — home to game fish, dolphin, wading birds and manatees — to return to normal.
"It's about time they cut it off," Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, said about the lake draining to the east. "We're hopeful that the estuary can recover."
Lake Okeechobee's water used to naturally flow south and replenish the Everglades. But decades of draining for South Florida development and farming led to re-routing the lake's flow to guard against flooding.
Now when the water level climbs too high on the 143-mile-long dike that surrounds the lake, the Army Corps starts draining lake water east and west.
El Niño-driven rains this year pushed the lake to a peak of 16.4 feet. That at times triggered maximum level draining that dumped billions of gallons of lake water each day into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
That gush of sediment-loaded, freshwater from the lake into usually clear and salty estuaries kills sea grass and oyster beds that are spawning grounds for Snook, redfish, trout and other fish prized by fishermen.
After an increased influx of lake draining, bright-green, foul-smelling toxic algae in July spread throughout waterways near Stuart — making the water unsafe for fishing and swimming and scaring away customers for coastal businesses.
While drier conditions have allowed a drainage reprieve, Florida's next rainy season could bring more problems for the east coast.
Lake Okeechobee's dike is undergoing a slow-moving rehab that limits how much water can be held in the lake. The work to build a wall through the middle of the dike and make other improvements is expected to last until 2025.
State officials say Everglades restoration efforts, aimed at cleaning up water drained out to sea and moving it south, will eventually reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges to the east and west.
To create another drainage alternative, state Sen. Joe Negron proposes building a $2.4 billion, 120-billion-gallon reservoir on farmland south of the lake.
The sugar industry has opposed parting with land for a reservoir and communities south of the lake have objected to taking land out of agricultural production.
161103-a Harmful Lake Okeechobee flows into St. Lucie Estuary will end tomorrow
Palm Beach Post – by Kimberly Miller
November 3, 2016
The harmful Lake Okeechobee water dumps into the St. Lucie Estuary will end tomorrow, following drier weather that allowed lake levels to slip to 15.4 feet above sea level.
The discharges, which have been ongoing since February when an unusually rainy dry season filled the lake to uncomfortable levels, are blamed for a widespread algae outbreak last summer that filled coves and inlets with thick smelly green algae.
Lake Okeechobee is surrounded by an earthen dam vulnerable to leakage if the lake gets too high. The dam protects communities around the lake from flooding.
“Drier weather has taken hold and the lake continues to recede,” said Candida Bronson, actiong operations division chief for the Jacksonville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Barring an unexpected heavy-rain event, we expect the recession to continue.”
While discharges into the St. Lucie are ending, the Caloosahatchee River will continue to receive 4.2 million gallons of lake water per day. That’s a 76 percent reduction from last week.
The National Weather Service in Miami said the dry season began in South Florida on Oct. 17.
What to do with excess Lake Okeechobee water is a decades-long debate, a problem caused when humans rerouted Florida’s natural plumbing system to build homes, roads and farms. The St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries bear the brunt of disposing of lake water as they open to the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
The toll it takes on those brackish-water ecosystems is tremendous. In June, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency because of the algae outbreak, which is believed to be “seeded” by the Lake Okeechobee discharges.
While projects are underway to alleviate the problem, such as bridging the Tamiami Trail so that water can flow under the road and south into drought-stricken Florida Bay, the algae outbreak renewed a call for immediate action.
In August, Sen. Joe Negron, floated an ambitious plan to buy land south of bloated Lake Okeechobee for water storage. The $2.4 billion proposal is expected to be discussed during the upcoming legislative session.
161103-b Pull the plug and get water flowing south
News-Press.com – by Dave Urich, member of the Responsible Growth Management Coalition and a member of the SWFL Clean Water Movement
November 3, 2016
On Oct. 26, approximately 400 people attended The News-Press Market Watch Save Our Water event. This was a well-done discussion by The News-Press. This was a well-done discussion of Lake Okeechobee's massive discharges to both rivers. That discharge result has been an ecological disaster causing dead sea grass and marine life.
The discharges are also driving away tourists and upsetting residents. Many feel that the long term solution will require a new EAA Reservoir to control flows and try to mimic nature. While the discussion covered many great plans - most of them are 10 years into the future.
However, today is when we have these massive discharges in both rivers. There are some today who believe modest costs actions would allow some needed current flow from the Water Conservation Areas, via Taylor Sough down to the Florida Bay. Due to the fact that the WCAs are full most of the time, the Lake O south discharge gates are mainly closed.
Also, there needs to be controlled flow from the WCA 3A to the WCA 3B to provide water to drain the WCA system under Tamiami Trail at the One Mile Bridge - now. Two problems are in the way - the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow and the mandate phosphorous 10 parts per billion level. It would see both issues can be solved by mediation.
The sparrow is an endangered species and it has lost about two-thirds of its remaining population in the last few years. The factors causing this radical decline are complex. Clearly, water levels in the nesting period are critical. The snakes and other predators int he Everglades also are an issue. However, there are several nesting cluster and water flow can be directed to avoid the larger nesting areas. The dialog with the advocates for the sparrow would very likely be productive. We must try to save the sparrows.
Regarding phosphorous levels, there needs to be a wavier issued for emergency events to allow reasonable variances. For example, there was a recent incident when there was an objection to flow which was below the mandated level. At one end of the canal, the test showed 6 parts per billion and a few miles lower the test was eight. While below the maximum level of 10, it was said the water was degraded. We must seek to use reason. When Florida Bay is dying, it needs water.
Please pull the plug and let significant waters flow today from the WCAs to Florida Bay.
161103-c Turkey Point project clears NRC environmental impact review
November 3, 2016
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said Thursday that it had approved of the environmental impact conditions presented by Florida Power and Light's two-unit proposed Turkey Point expansion project in Florida. Staff had concluded there were no environmental issued that prevented the agency from issuing a Combined Licenses to build the plant at a site 20 miles south of Miami, the agency said.
However, other reviews and a legal challenge to the project are pending.
The NRC said it developed the Turkey Point project's Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) jointly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District. The Corps will use the document's information in considering its federal permit decision in accordance with the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the agency said.
The EIS is part of the overall licensing review. The NRC staff continues to work on the project's final safety evaluation report, which wil include a review by the NRC's Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, an independent group of nuclear safety experts.
The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board is conducting a legal hearing on a challenge to the application. When the technical review is completed, the NRC’s Commissioners will conduct a separate mandatory hearing regarding the application and the staff’s review. All of these steps must be completed before the NRC can reach a final decision on the Turkey Point application.
Florida Power and Light (FPL) submitted a Combined License application on June 30, 2009, seeking permission to construct and operate two AP1000 reactors at the site, near Homestead, Fla., which already houses two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors (PWR), which were commissioned in July 1972 and April 1973, respectively.
The NRC certified the AP1000 design for U.S. use in December 2011.
161102-a Everglades Foundation bus tour stops in Palm Beach
Palm Beach Daily News - by David Rogers, Staff Writer
November 2, 2016
Stop us if you’ve heard this story before.
A visitor drives into Palm Beach, can’t find parking in Town Square after a few swings around and starts to leave.
In this case, the visitor was The Everglades Foundation, though, and it was not a casual trip. Foundation representatives came to Town Hall Monday morning promoting its #NowOrNeverGlades campaign to muster support for creating a large water reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee that would protect local estuaries from algae-producing discharges.
Luckily for the group, board member Gary duPont Lickle stepped in when the bus couldn’t find a place to park. Lickle is the chief executive officer of Chilton Trust Co., which has an office on Royal Palm Way, just a few blocks north of Town Hall.
The Palm Beacher directed the foundation’s big blue charter bus to Chilton’s parking lot, where he and others spent more than an hour answering questions about the 12-day bus tour. Its aim is to persuade Floridians to sign the foundation’s #NoworNeverglades declaration (EvergladesFoundation.org), which urges state and federal officials to build the reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Fertilizer runoff is a key pollutant of water in Lake O and estuaries to the east and west. Discharges of nutrient-rich waters from Lake Okeechobee, initiated when the water level gets too high, are the main cause of algae blooms that damage estuaries to the east and west of the 730-square-mile lake, according to the foundation.
These discharges threaten the supply of drinking water for 8 million Floridians, the foundation says. Collecting water south of Lake O, treating it and sending it south — instead of east and west — would restore the flow of fresh water that historically fed Florida’s River of Grass.
“The foundation has demonstrated that we can reduce by over 50 percent the discharges to the east and the west if we get this southern (water) storage in place,” Lickle said.
While stormwater treatment systems immediately south of Lake O would reduce the levels of phosphorus in discharged water, the restored flow of freshwater through miles and miles of water-filtering plants would further reduce phosphorus levels, Lickle said. The correction in water flow and removal of pollutants also would renourish the 850-square mile Florida Bay, which starts at the southern tip of the Florida mainland and continues through the Keys, according to the foundation.
“The whole idea is (to) get the water flowing south again as it was in the original days of the River of Grass — clean it up in the process instead of doing emergency discharges to the east and west, which are damaging and ruining our estuaries,” Lickle said.
Lickle isn’t the only resident on the Everglades Foundation’s board. Others include public/private partnership authority Diana Barrett, the wife of home restoration expert Bob Vila; singer/entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett; and the foundation’s co-founder, hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones II.
Conservationist Elizabeth Dowdle of Palm Beach attended the bus stop in town.
She is coordinating a foundation symposium called “Your Everglades and Clean Water: How do we balance nature, commerce and human health for all” scheduled for 2 p.m. Dec. 13 at The Society of the Four Arts. Naturalists, scientists and farming experts will participate. Photographer Mac Stone, author of “Everglades: America’s Wetland” will be the keynote speaker.
“I think it’s wonderful anytime we can raise awareness about the plight of The Everglades and what we all need to do together,” Dowdle said. “Because we live here and it’s very important to our water quality, our property values — everything that we care about. Everything that makes Florida what it is, is the Everglades. What they are doing is critically important.”
161102-b National parks group: Nuclear plant expansion threatens Everglades
A proposal to expand Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant in South Florida would threaten Everglades restoration and the national park, according to a conservation group dedicated to protecting federal parks.
Florida Power & Light wants to add two new nuclear units, making Turkey Point one of the largest nuclear power facilities in the country.
This week, with the release of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s environmental impact statement on the proposal, the National Parks Conservation Association is challenging the project, saying it threatens the national park system, wildlife and Everglades restoration in Florida.
The NPCA says the proposal goes against the NRC’s own standards, which state, “Sites adjacent to lands devoted to public use may be considered unsuitable” and unacceptable impacts are “most apt to arise in areas adjacent to natural-resource-oriented areas.”
Therefore, the NPCA said, Turkey Point should not expand its operations because of its possible impacts to the ecological health and economic viability of surrounding protected areas.
Caroline McLaughlin, Biscayne program manager for NPCA, issued this statement to the press: “We have serious concerns about the expansion proposal for Turkey Point, especially considering the widespread contamination the plant’s operations has already caused in nearby water resources. If the expansion moves forward, it would double the number of nuclear towers, all located on the shores of the nation’s largest marine national park.
“You couldn’t pick a worse location to put a nuclear power plant than between two national parks and an area already vulnerable to storm surge and sea level rise. Biscayne and Everglades National Parks are home to threatened species like the wood stork, snail kite and West Indian manatee, and offer amazing recreational opportunities like boating, fishing, scuba diving and exploring. Both parks are key components of the ongoing, multibillion-dollar Everglades restoration investment. Collectively they welcome more than 1.5 million visitors that spend around $135 million annually, invigorating South Florida’s local economy.
“The amount of water required to operate the two new reactors, compounded with the current water quality and quantity concerns, puts Biscayne National Park in jeopardy. FPL would be allowed to draw fresh water from under Biscayne National Park, at the same time that we are trying to reestablish an increased amount of fresh water to the park through Everglades Restoration. The Turkey Point cooling canals are already contaminating Biscayne Bay and the Biscayne Aquifer. Adding two new reactors could exacerbate existing water quality problems. The wastewater injected underground from the new reactors could potentially pollute South Florida’s underground water supply. FPL’s mitigation plan to address the loss of wetlands due to the expansion is also inadequate, and therefore the Army Corps must conduct their own environmental analysis of the proposal and its impacts.
“NPCA, along with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and other individuals are challenging FPL’s application for a federal license for the two new reactors and are awaiting next steps within the legal process. We will continue to do all that we can to preserve Biscayne and Everglades National Parks, its natural resources and our drinking water.”
161102-c ‘Now or Neverglades’ tour hits Naples
Naples Herald - by RJ Roan
November 2, 2016
At first glance, one could be forgiven if they thought the black bus was another political campaign bus, making another campaign stop in an election cycle that’s felt at times like a scene out of Groundhog Day.
But the bus sitting in front of the Naples Zoo on Tuesday, while it was campaigning, wasn’t trying to get votes, or win an election.
It was for the Everglades.
“It’s a unifying issue, this is not a divisive topic,” Everglades Foundation CEO Erik Eikenberg said. “It’s our water, it’s our economy, it’s our way of life, it’s the habitat we enjoy, the outdoors. This is what Teddy Roosevelt wanted to preserve 100 years ago when he started the National Park System.”
The Everglades Foundation visited Naples as part of a 12-day tour promoting their “Now or Neverglades” pledge, one which asks lawmakers to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee to restore natural water flows, and reduce ecologically damaging fresh water discharges down estuaries.
Eikenberg cited a series of plans and policies that have come and gone with this goal. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, passed in 2000, as one of them, past attempts to buy land owned by U.S. Sugar in the last decade, and 2014’s passage of an amendment diverting document stamp funds to pay for restoration projects the most recent.
The tenor of the argument, and public support, he says, has grown as the effects reach the coast more and more often.
“Florida has been under a state of emergency over 200 days this year,” Eikenberg said. “A water crisis anywhere in Florida is a water crisis everywhere in Florida. It’s not an isolated issue. Sure, there are localized areas that are experiencing that smell and that guacamole-looking algae but were all impacted by this we all need to rally around this. That’s what this tour is about.”
Environmental groups have made their most recent push to convince the state to purchase 60,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area with the purpose of restoring the water flow and cleaning polluted water before sending it southward to the Florida Bay.
The state has seen opposition and pushback over purchasing land south of the lake. A 184,000-acre deal was scuttled by the recession, a current option on the table exists to buy 150,000 acres.
Agriculture is a major employer in communities along the southern half of Lake Okeechobee, such as Belle Glade and Clewiston. The fear is that taking this land, and turning it into restoration would devastate their local economies.
Earlier this year, a grassroots campaign called Glades Lives Matter starting organization against the land buys. Hendry County Commissioner Janet Taylor is the chair of that organization.
“ To us, “buy the land” means destroying jobs,” Taylor wrote in a September piece in the Huffington Post. “For every acre of farmland that is lost, our jobs are lost in the fields, in the factories and in the numerous professions that support farming communities.”
Taylor and others have said that the issue is cleaning the polluted water before it enters the lake, mostly by agricultural runoff through the Kissimmee River. Eikenberg says that solution, while important, doesn’t fix the underlying problem.
“Take pollution off the table, say this is pristine water, the issue is the volume of water,” Eikenberg said. “If you don’t have an outlet to flow it south and you still have to dump millions of gallons of clean, fresh water, the estuaries are still ravaged. They are a delicate mix of salt and fresh water.”
“Everglades restoration is water storage, that’s the beauty of it. It’s keeping water on the peninsula instead of wasting billions of gallons. More fresh water on the peninsula recharges the aquifers.”
Eikenberg said that a compromise can be reached, that the state can have restoration without crippling communities. He added that creating a reservoir could bring new jobs to the area, as other stormwater treatment areas have seen development in areas of sportfishing and eco-tourism.
“It’s not an either-or and it shouldn’t be,” he said. “Somehow this is turning into a ‘them vs. us.’ No, we’re all Floridians. They’re as proud of their communities as we are of ours. We’re in this together. Let’s fix the environment and figure out an economic development plan that keeps people in the area and have a good earning wage.”
The tour continues with stops in Fort Myers and Sanibel on Wednesday, before going to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday. It ends in the Keys on Sunday.
See the full “Now or Neverglades” Declaration here. Related: 'Now or Neverglades' bus tour swings through Southwest Florida Fox 4-Nov 1, 2016
161102-d Some Lake Okeechobee locals damning reservoir
WFSU.org - by Jim Ash
November 2, 2016
A non-profit group is launching what it calls a grass-roots campaign to fight incoming Senate President Joe Negron’s 2.4 billion-dollar plan for a massive reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.
The Port St. Lucie Republican says it’s necessary to fight water pollution, but the Lake Okeechobee Business Alliance says it will destroy the local economy.
Alliance founder Julia du Plooy describes herself as a stay-at-home mother of an 8-month-old daughter and a concerned citizen. U.S. Sugar opposes the plan, but du Plooy insists her non-profit group is not an industry front.
“It’s mom and pop farmers that farm there, that’s their livelihood that he’s looking to purchase. Yeah, it’s owned by a large company, but these small farmers are who farm there and who makes a living there.”
She says hundreds of jobs and a way of life are at stake. The group is kicking off the opposition campaign with a protest rally this weekend at Civic Park in Clewiston.
The protest comes as the Everglades Foundation mounts a 12-day bus tour promoting the reservoir. Proponents hope the storage area will divert phosphorous-laden water that is causing toxic algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee and Port St. Lucie estuaries.
161101-a As polluted water disappeared in sinkhole, Mosaic avoided saying the 's-word'
TampaBay.com – by Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer
November 1, 2016 5:30am
In late August a sinkhole 45 feet wide and 220 feet deep opened up beneath a 190-foot phosphogypsum stack at Mosaic's phosphate plant in Mulberry. That's how 215 million gallons of contaminated water drained into the aquifer below. During the crisis, it took 10 days for Mosaic officials to use the word "sinkhole" in its officials reports, and 19 days to tell the public. But officials told the Tampa Bay Times the company should have known right away what it was dealing with.
MULBERRY — The first sign something had gone wrong at Mosaic's phosphate plant happened on a Saturday. Workers on Aug. 27 checked the water level in a 78-acre pond of polluted water sitting atop a 190-foot phosphogypsum stack and discovered it had dropped by more than a foot.
At first, records show, they believed it was just the wind blowing the water around. But around 11 a.m. Sunday, they realized the level had now dropped 3 feet.
How could that happen? How could a pool of acidic water on top of a massive gypsum stack suddenly start draining away?
The answer: A sinkhole 45 feet wide and 220 feet deep had opened up beneath the stack. Down went 215 million gallons of contaminated water, gurgling into the aquifer that supplies the region's drinking water.
Although geologists say the reason should have been obvious, state records show that it took 10 days before Mosaic officials used the word "sinkhole."
As contaminated water continued pouring down into the aquifer, Mosaic and state officials both avoided using the "s-word." No Mosaic reports included it until Sept. 9. The public didn't find out until Sept. 15 — that's 19 days after the crisis started.
The Tampa Bay Times used state records to piece together a timeline of what Mosaic told — and did not tell — state and local officials about the millions of gallons of contaminated water that suddenly started disappearing into the earth, an incident that has set off legal and political waves across Florida.
Even the state's top environmental regulator said he didn't know it was a sinkhole. That's why he didn't tell Gov. Rick Scott about it until Sept. 16, the day after it hit the news.
"I knew at the time in late August that there was a water loss incident," Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jon Steverson told reporters last week. "I was not aware of the sinkhole until a much later point in time."
• • •
On Aug. 28, seven hours after the company spotted the water loss, Mosaic officials called Steverson's agency. They did not use the word "sinkhole."
"Caller is reporting a release of phosphoric acid process water from a fertilizer manufacturing facility," the DEP noted. "The amount released and the cause are unknown and under investigation."
Phosphoric acid process water, stored in a pond atop the gyp stack, is a by-product of turning phosphate into fertilizer. It is a pollutant, but records show that at no point did anyone suggest notifying those who lived near the phosphate plant. State law does not require doing so until the pollution is detected beyond the polluter's property — a law the governor later declared "stupid" and vowed to change.
Two hours later, company officials emailed a written report to the DEP. Once again, no mention of the word "sinkhole." The acid process water spill wasn't mentioned either.
Instead, the email focused on an apparent tear in the gyp stack's polyethylene liner, installed beneath the stack to keep pollution from seeping into the aquifer.
"During routine inspections on August 28, 2016, Mosaic observed and confirmed a steady decline of water level in the West Cell of the South Gypsum Stack," the Mosaic report said. "This observation indicates potential damage to the Liner system in the West Cell."
Company officials estimated that 35 million gallons were pouring out of the pond each day. But they later noted there was "no visual feature/indication noted" that would tell them why.
Should Mosaic, the world's largest phosphate company, have known right away that the problem was a sinkhole?
• • • Robert Brinkmann, who literally wrote the book on Florida sinkholes, said yes. Despite not being able to see the sinkhole, Mosaic should have immediately known what it was dealing with, he said.
"If they knew there was a tear in the liner, they knew there was something draining that water down into the aquifer," said Brinkmann, a Hofstra University geology professor who wrote Florida Sinkholes: Science and Policy.
The answer also seemed obvious to George Veni, executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute in New Mexico.
"It's a sinkhole!" Veni said. "By definition it's a natural depression in the surface and water that gets poured into it goes down to the bottom. It's a big hole in the ground."
Longtime Florida sinkhole expert N.S. "Sandy" Nettles laughed when he heard about Mosaic's reluctance to use the "s-word." Nettles, who used to work in the phosphate industry, said it's not uncommon for insurance companies to avoid the term too.
"That's just ridiculous," said Nettles, a Palm Harbor geologist frequently called as an expert witness in insurance cases. "I don't know who came up with the idea that if you don't call it a sinkhole, it's not a sinkhole. Things are still going down into the aquifer."
The fact that the liner tore, he added, "means it was probably leaking for a very long time."
• • •
The experts said there's another reason Mosaic should have known it was a sinkhole: history.
Florida's limestone geology, known as karst, is so susceptible to crumbling that the state leads the United States in sinkholes.
One of the most notorious Florida sinkholes opened in 1994 at a Mulberry phosphate facility — the very same facility where the Aug. 28 sinkhole opened. That sinkhole — 160 feet wide and plunging 200 feet — also sucked the pond from a gyp stack into the aquifer, like water draining out of a bathtub.
That sinkhole opened 1¼-miles from the new sinkhole.
There have been other problems at that site. In 2004 and 2013, Mosaic "identified and then repaired … sub-surface erosion features" in its gyp stacks, Mosaic spokeswoman Jackie Barron said. In the 2004 case, a leaking pipeline caused erosion that could have caused another sinkhole.
That kind of history, the experts told the Times, should have made it clear to everyone working on the "water loss incident" what they were dealing with.
But even the DEP avoided using the "s-word."
• • •
State inspectors arrived at the Mulberry plant within 24 hours of Mosaic's call. In an Aug. 29 report, the inspectors said they told Mosaic to hurry and build a well to pump out any polluted water that might have gone into the aquifer, to ensure it "would be captured and contained onsite." The well didn't start pumping until Sept. 10.
That means DEP inspectors were also aware the pond was draining into the aquifer, yet "sinkhole" does not appear in their report.
Mosaic workers began trying to pump water from the pond to another spot, but their pumps couldn't keep up with how fast it was pouring into the aquifer. By Sept. 1, the pond level had dropped by 11 feet. Meanwhile a Sept. 3 report to Mosaic and DEP by Mosaic consultant Ardaman & Associates also avoided using "sinkhole."
Instead, the consultant said the pond's disappearance "may have been caused by an anomaly likely connected to the Floridan aquifer system." Both Mosaic and DEP officials were officially calling it "the 2016 Water Loss Incident."
At last, on Sept. 6, more than a week after they first discovered the water drain, enough had disappeared that Mosaic officials spotted what they called "a fissure." That afternoon, all of the water was gone.
"Mosaic generally began referring to this as a sinkhole on Sept. 6 when we could see the hole," said Barron, the Mosaic spokeswoman. Nevertheless, a Mosaic letter dated Sept. 7 still called it the "water loss incident."
Mosaic finally used the word "sinkhole" in a Sept. 9 letter to the DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA needed to know because, just last year, it fined Mosaic nearly $2 billion over mishandling hazardous waste at eight Mosaic sites.
One of those sites was the Mulberry plant.
• • •
The day after Mosaic first told the DEP about the mysterious leak, Mosiac sent a letter notifying Polk County officials about the problem. Mosaic, however, did not tell Hillsborough County officials, even though the Mulberry plant sits near the county line.
A Polk official later told the Lakeland Ledger that the way Mosaic worded the notice it "didn't seem serious."
Hillsborough officials were finally notified Sept. 7 — but they didn't tell the public either.
Finally, on Sept. 15, a WFLA-Ch. 8 reporter called Mosaic and the DEP to ask about rumors regarding the sinkhole. Only then did Mosaic make it public, and later apologized for keeping it quiet.
So far, more than 1,000 neighbors have demanded that their wells be tested for pollution.
Last week, Steverson told the Cabinet about a consent order his agency had worked out to guarantee Mosaic would clean up the pollution and fill the sinkhole.
He said he'd seen no signs of negligence, but if that changed, "we're going to protect the citizens and the resources of this state." Timeline: Mosaic's Mulberry sinkhole
1994: Sinkhole opens at Mulberry phosphate plant gyp stack, swallows polluted water.
2004: "Sub-surface erosion features" at gyp stack require repair before it becomes sinkhole.
2013: Mosaic deals with another "sub-surface erosion" problem at gyp stack.
Aug. 27: Mosaic officials notice gyp stack pond level drop more than 1 foot.
Aug. 28: Pond water drops 3 feet. Mosaic notifies the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Estimate says 35 million gallons of polluted water are draining into the aquifer each day.
Aug. 29: DEP inspectors show up, order Mosaic to pump contaminated water out. Polk County is notified about the leak.
Sept. 1: Pond level has now dropped 11 feet.
Sept. 3: Mosaic consultant issues report; no mention of "sinkhole."
Sept. 6: Last of water drains from pond, exposing "fissure."
Sept. 7: Mosaic notifies Hillsborough County about the incident.
Sept. 9: Mosaic uses the word "sinkhole" for the first time in reports to the DEP and the EPA.
Sept. 15: WFLA-Ch. 8 reporter calls Mosaic and the DEP about rumors. Mosaic finally tells public about the sinkhole and the missing contaminated water.
Sept. 16: The DEP tells Gov. Rick Scott about the sinkhole.
Sept. 20: Mosaic officials apologize to the Polk County Commission for not telling the public about the sinkhole.
Sept. 26: Scott announces a rule change: The public must be informed within 24 hours of a pollution incident.
Oct. 24: The DEP announces consent order with Mosaic to clean up polluted water and seal the sinkhole.
161101-b Ghost forests: How rising seas are killing southern U.S. woodlands
Environment360 – Yale.edu – by Roger Real Drouin
November 1, 2016
A steady increase in sea levels is pushing saltwater into U.S. wetlands, killing trees from Florida to as far north as New Jersey. But with sea level projected to rise by as much as six feet this century, the destruction of coastal forests is expected to become a worsening problem worldwide.
On a recent afternoon, University of Florida watershed ecologist David Kaplan and Ph.D. candidate Katie Glodzik hiked through the Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, on the Big Bend coast of northwestern Florida.
Not long ago, red cedar, live oaks, and cabbage palms grew in profusion on the raised “hammock island” forests set amid the preserve’s wetlands. But as the researchers walked through thigh-high marsh grass, the barren trunks of dead cedars were silhouetted against passing clouds.Dead snag cabbage palms stood like toothpicks snapped at the top. Other trees and shrubs, such as wax myrtle, had long been replaced by more salt-tolerant black needlerush marsh grass.
Saltwater, flowing into this swampy, freshwater-dependent ecosystem as a result of rising sea levels, is turning these stands of hardwoods into “ghost forests” of dead and dying trees.
“The loss of these islands changes the landscape from a mosaic to one dominated by a single habitat — salt marsh,” said Kaplan, noting that the change means reduced habitat for some species of wading and migratory birds, as well as for turtles and snakes.
A similar transformation is occurring in coastal floodplains across the southeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, representing what scientists say is the leading edge of climate change in what were once largely freshwater ecosystems. From Florida’s hammock islands to North Carolina’s swamp forests, rising sea levels, often compounded by regional water management practices, continue to push saline water further inland, wiping out swampy woodlands.
“Ghost forests are a dramatic expression of climate change,” says Gregory Noe, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey who has been studying the impacts of dying cypress in the iconic swamps along the Savannah River, which forms much of the border between Georgia and South Carolina.
In addition to killing off bottomland forests, saltwater intrusion is affecting wetland habitats in places along the U.S. East Coast like the Delaware Bay estuary, where encroaching sea levels are inundating the salt marsh and killing a line of forest fringing the coast — allowing a non-native, invasive strain of reed to colonize.
While many of the ecological consequences of saltwater intrusion are still unknown, important swampy habitats for threatened species, such as the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, are in peril, according to Marcelo Ardón, assistant professor of ecosystem ecology at North Carolina State University. Fisheries for species such as drum and catfish that are dependent on healthy wetland forests are being affected, as well.
Because of the low elevation and flat or gently sloping characteristics of the southern U.S and mid-Atlantic coastal forests, these regions are among the most vulnerable globally to saltwater intrusion, experts say. But other wetland and estuarine ecosystems are threatened worldwide by increasing salinity. China’s Pearl River estuary on the South China Sea is experiencing the agricultural and ecological effects of saltwater intrusion. Drought and rising sea levels are allowing saltwater to spread as far as 50 miles into Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, affecting ecosystems and rice production.
The rate of global sea level rise has increased significantly over the past several decades, a trend linked to climate change. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, during most of the 20th century sea levels were rising at 0.6 inches per decade. Since 1992, however, sea level has been rising at 1.2 inches per decade. Experts predict, for example, that by 2100, global warming will cause sea level to rise by as much as four to six feet worldwide, including from 3.3 to 6.6 feet along Florida’s Big Bend coast .
Before bottomland hardwood forests disappear, the subtle signs of saltwater intrusion take place in the soil. Plant growth halts, trees and plants produce fewer seeds, and the seeds that do drop to the ground have a harder time germinating. “Even with relatively low levels of salinity, trees slow their growth,” Ardón says of swamp trees such as water tupelo and pond pine. Cypress trees are often the last to die, since they are among the most salt-tolerant of coastal forest trees.
Saltwater also begins breaking down peat — partially decomposed vegetation — faster, which can have drastic consequences in places like North Carolina’s Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula, where elevation on average is only two feet or less above sea level. The loss of peat causes land to subside, enabling saltwater to move farther inland. Forest habitat can then transition to marsh and, eventually, open water.
In Florida’s 413-acre Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve, Kaplan says there has been a steady decline in the raised hammock island forests, demonstrating how sea level rise is dynamically “re-shaping the coastal landscape in this region.” The cabbage palms and cedars rooted atop the flat, limestone substrate are resilient to occasional periods of salt exposure during storms. However, recent annual rates of sea level rise have upped the duration and intensity of salt-water exposure — the two factors that trigger tree die-off, says Kaplan, an assistant professor in the University of Florida’s Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences.
Kaplan and his colleagues categorize the hammock island forests of the preserve into three groups: “healthy,” “stressed,” and “remnant” (or relic) stands. The forests, says Kaplan, are increasingly grouped in the latter two categories.
On my recent visit to the Withlacoochee preserve, I pointed to a forested hammock island that appeared to be healthy. But Kaplan prompted me to take a closer look; barren cedar branches and an understory choked with marsh elder and other salt marsh shrubs became visible within the stand. “I would group it in ‘stressed,’” he says.
Along the Savannah River, the coastal floodplain swamp is beginning to lose a footrace with rising seas. As mineral sediment combines with dead plants and roots to form peat, wetland forest soils build annually at the rate of about tenth of an inch, says Noe, the research ecologist with the USGS. This is a natural accretion that typically takes place in some southern swamps. But the accretion is not fast enough to keep up with recent annual sea level rise.
Noe says that scientists and land managers are especially concerned about the appearance of ghost forests within the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and other wildlife refuges, including preserves in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.
Although factors such as recent port dredging and local drought have accelerated the recent conversion of swamp to ghost forest along the Savannah River, Noe cites sea level rise as the main cause of the change. “We know sea level rise is happening, and we have confidence it will continue to keep happening,” Noe says. “These swamps are bellwethers of change.”
Both Kaplan and Ardón are investigating possible practices to stem the proliferation of ghost forests and are seeking to expand awareness among land managers and policy makers of the complex interactions that threaten coastal habitats. Kaplan believes that strategic land preservation could help slow the loss of imperiled coastal areas, allowing some wetland forests to migrate inland as sea levels rise, Kaplan explains.
As part of a National Science Foundation-funded, $1.5 million collaborative project among North Carolina universities, researchers are working on mapping a vulnerability index for ecosystems prone to saltwater intrusion. Ardón, a member of the research team, hopes the maps will raise awareness among residents, water management planners, and local officials about how regional decisions can alter the ecosystem in the 2,300-square-mile Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula and pinpoint areas that will be most threatened. “We hope these tools can be adapted to use in other areas,” Ardón says.
At the Palmetto-Peartree Preserve, on the tip of the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula, however, the forests continue to die. “There are a good number of places where the forest has gone to marsh and other areas where the forests have been replaced with open water,” says Ardón.
Ardón and Emily Bernhardt, a biogeochemist at Duke University, have already discovered that wetlands that normally improve water quality by retaining nutrients in soil — thus acting as a nitrogen sink —
Along the Delaware Bay coast, there is historic evidence of coastal forest boundaries shifting slowly, going back thousands of years, says Beth Watson, assistant professor of wetlands science at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Recent accelerations in the rate of sea level rise, however, now have the potential to drown both marsh and coastal forest habitats. “I’ve seen a lot of these dying forests,” says Watson, adding that in some areas “there are bands, about a kilometer wide, of dead trees.”
Over the past several decades, in places such as Cumberland and Cape May counties in southern New Jersey, encroaching sea levels have been inundating salt marsh and killing forest flora such as tupelo, Atlantic white cedar, and shrubs fringing the coast. In some instances, a non-native, invasive strain of a reed, Phragmites australis, is taking root — thus preventing the marsh from retreating inland, according to a 2013 study. The transition to ghost forest here “creates an opportunity for colonization of these vacant areas by Phragmites, which is better adapted to the resulting brackish conditions,” reports ecologist Joseph A. M. Smith. Carol Collier, senior advisor for watershed management and policy at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, worries about the impacts of shifting coastal wetlands on the region’s fisheries, water supply — and perhaps most vexing for coastal populations — the ability to buffer storms. Marshes and bottomland forest provide natural buffering against storm surge.
“Climate change is having a major impact on the region, with sea level rise and the intensity of storms,” said Collier, the former executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission.
In the coming century, as sea level rises dramatically and human impacts on coastal ecosystems increase, scientists say the toll on wetland forested areas and bottomland hardwoods will be severe. “What little research has been done in forested coastal wetlands suggests that they will not be able to keep up with sea level rise,” says Ardón.
161101-c Tegu lizards are taking over the Everglades
Miami New Times - by Jessica Lipscomb
November 1, 2016
With his trusty German shepherd in tow, Rodney Irwin drives past a state mental hospital at the edge of the Everglades and pulls into the brush. A machete rests on the floorboard beneath his feet, and a gallon of his favorite drink — Walmart-brand black-cherry soda mixed with orange Gatorade powder — sloshes around in the back of his bright-blue, beat-up Dodge four-by-four.
Sweat soaks Irwin's long-sleeved shirt, and bugs fly through the open window. A small fan plugged into the lighter is his only reprieve from the heat. Hopping out of his SUV, he pushes through sawgrass and spots his prize: a two-foot-long lizard thrashing around in his wire trap.
Irwin, a goateed 62-year-old with the twang of a third-generation Homestead resident, grabs the reptile with his gloved hands.
"Ah, you little brat," he says, tossing it headfirst into a cloth bag.
Irwin has spent the past four years relentlessly hunting tegus, a black-and-white lizard native to Central and South America. By his tally, 1,600 have made the mistake of wandering into one of his traps to eat the chicken eggs he leaves as bait.
It's backbreaking work dodging venomous snakes, poisonous plants, and the cruel Florida sun during the hottest months of the year. But Irwin loves it. There's satisfaction in making a small dent in a huge problem threatening an environment he's treasured his whole life, plus it beats the alternative.
"If not, I'd have to get a real job," says Irwin, a former IT worker.
"I am 100 percent sure that I'm not catching one out of every 20."
He isn't the only one trying to catch South Florida's tegus. As concerns rise that the hearty reptiles are primed to wreck our delicate ecosystem, a small army of researchers, trappers, and park rangers is on the hunt. Because tegus devour eggs, biologists fear the lizards could destroy generations of rare native species such as the American crocodile and the roseate spoonbill.
No one knows how many tegus are running wild in the Everglades today, but Irwin believes the number could be in the tens of thousands. Female tegus can lay up to 30 eggs at a time, so if even half make it to maturation, the population is growing rapidly.
"I am 100 percent sure that I'm not catching one out of every 20," Irwin says. "I figure there's an absolute minimum population of 20,000, and that's in a six-mile radius."
Tegus are just the latest foreign animal to threaten South Florida's unique ecosystem, where the warm, wet weather and multiple ports of trade have made it an epicenter for runaway invasive species. Dozens of types of creatures that arrived via the exotic pet trade have found a new home here, from the Cuban tree frog to the Nile crocodile to the infamous Burmese python, which is now so pervasive the state sponsors an annual hunt for the giant snakes.
But no case better illustrates the state's persistent invasive species problem than the tegu. The untold backstory of how one man's recklessness likely created this ravenous lizard epidemic casts a harsh light onto just how delicate Florida's environmental health is — and just how little the state is doing to protect it.
"Pythons are big, sexy animals, and TV cameras love 'em," Irwin says. "But we've got a small python problem and a really big tegu problem. We have never had a threat on this level."
As a kid growing up in the '50s, Irwin found Homestead untamed and seemingly infinite.
His father worked in construction, and his mother stayed home to look after him and his older brother. He and his friends roamed rock pits, canals, and the woods for hours after school, sometimes walking miles to his grandmother's house for her homemade cookies. He remembers neighbors going out to watch in wonder when the first stoplight was installed on Card Sound Road.
Today, as he passes strip malls and Starbucks, the whole place can sometimes seem foreign. "Homestead turned into Kendall," Irwin grumbles. "I hate Kendall."
Irwin's great-grandfather Cyrus came to Florida from Texas in a covered wagon in 1892. Along the way, Cyrus and his wife Sarah had three sons, and in 1893, Irwin's grandfather Frank was born in Tampa as the family made its way south. Cyrus was a brick-maker in search of white clay he'd heard was plentiful in Miami, but when the family finally arrived, he was disappointed to see the ground was actually made of a muddy marl. It ended up not mattering — the Irwins liked the area so much they settled in Cape Sable, at the southernmost point of the Everglades.
From a young age, Irwin was at home in South Florida's unique environment, cruising through the sawgrass on a three-wheeled Honda ATC and heading to Biscayne Bay in his dad's station wagon to go fishing for snapper.
Miami-Dade has been ground zero for invasives, from the green iguana to the Asian swamp eel.
Even if it seemed unspoiled to him, though, the fact is that even then the delicate ecosystem was at war with invasive species.
The first known to land in Florida came in 1863, when the greenhouse frog emerged in the southern part of the state after stowing away on a Cuban cargo ship. The common brown lizard, which is now seen all over Florida, arrived the same way in 1887. They've now nearly wiped out the native population of green lizards.
Miami-Dade County has frequently been ground zero for invasives, from the green iguana to the Asian swamp eel, which both arrived via the pet trade. In 1966, a Miami boy returning from a Hawaiian vacation brought back three giant African land snails as souvenirs. The boy's grandmother released the snails into her garden, where they multiplied to more than 18,000 in seven years. It took a decade and $1 million — about $5.4 million in today's dollars — to eradicate the problem.
The exotic pet fad exploded in the '70s as amateur backyard breeding operations began trafficking in wildlife and advertising in newspapers and comic books. The same pet trade is now responsible for more than 84 percent of the state's invasive reptiles, a 2011 University of Florida study showed.
It's easy for captive animals to escape but nearly impossible to rein them in once they're loose. There are now 137 nonnative reptile and amphibian species in Florida, 56 of which have begun reproducing in the wild.
That's a big problem — those new species undermine the natural checks and balances of an ecosystem, forcing animals to compete with one another for resources. They can damage crops, carry disease, and threaten already-endangered natives. The United States spends $120 billion per year trying to manage the problem by some estimates.
Yet Florida has never had more than a patchwork approach to preventing such catastrophes; while the federal government regulates exotic animal imports, it's up to the state to regulate them once they're here. The Sunshine State's rules have always varied wildly depending upon the animal and how dangerous it's deemed. Critics say the state has been too slow to react; it wasn't until 2008, for example, that people with captive wildlife had to provide a written plan for securing their animals during disasters like hurricanes.
The Burmese python has become the national poster child for the problem. The snakes were first spotted in the wild as early as the 1980s, but many observers believe the current crop haunting the Everglades was tossed into the area during Hurricane Andrew. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Pat Reynolds was on the wildlife beat in 1992 when the Category 5 storm tore through South Florida, killing ten people and destroying 63,000 homes. After the hurricane, Reynolds went to check on an animal importer in the area who was known for his faulty cages.
Inside a greenhouse near Homestead General Airport, the two owners had been using shelves meant for growing orchids to store their animals, including pricey pythons.
"They put all of their reptiles on there in these Dixie cup things," says Reynolds, who retired in 2011. "There were little baby pythons — real colorful when they're that young — and they could stuff 'em in a little container and put the top on it."
When the storm whipped through, off went the snakes.
"Andrew comes, blew that place apart. All of those containers just flew out like Frisbees," Reynolds says. "The direction of the wind was into Everglades National Park — the park boundaries were less than a half-mile from there. So all these animals blew in there. That's where the pythons came from."
Native populations of raccoons, white-tailed deer, and bobcats have plummeted as the snakes have taken over. In 2005, one of the deadly pythons famously exploded while trying to eat a six-foot alligator, and in 2009, a pet Burmese strangled a 2-year-old girl in Central Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) soon began sponsoring the annual Python Challenge, handing out a $5,000 prize to the team that could catch the most. This year's winning team nabbed 33 during the contest, now in its fourth year.
Irwin never would have predicted he'd become a warrior in the struggle against invasives. After teaching himself about computers, he moved to California and worked on mainframes for a while but eventually moved back to Florida. In the late '90s, he started Alligator Associates, which took gators to trade shows to attract visitors to businesses' booths.
In 2013, an FWC officer he knew from his gator business invited Irwin to participate in the first python hunt. But by the end of the week, and with nothing to show for it, he had to admit the idea seemed futile.
"For probably 90 percent of the people who do it, it's a macho thing," he says. "They go out and march around out there, but unless they put in 100 hours, 200 hours, chances are they're not going to even see one."
Instead of getting worked up about pythons, Irwin found himself transfixed by another invasive creature.
At a recent underwater demolition job, he had emerged from a rock pit and stared directly into the eyes of a huge lizard. It scuttled away, but the experience sent Irwin on a months-long quest to learn more about the exotic reptile.
"I'd spent 20 years working with alligators, and to see something that is alligator-like but not an alligator — that kind of set me on the course," he says. "I just started looking into it, asking questions, and as soon as I identified what it was, I wanted to know why is it there, how did it get there, and how many of them are there?"
With each answer, a new question arose. Who was to blame for their release ? Had it been an accident? And most important: What could be done?
On a sunny day in 2003, Officer Reynolds pulled up to a familiar property on SW 192nd Avenue in Florida City. Slamming the door of his green patrol SUV, he stepped past a chainlink fence and up to a one-story home with metal awnings. A boyish-looking animal importer in a khaki T-shirt and gold chain answered the door. Kalam Azad seemed excited to show off his new reptile enclosures, but when he ushered Reynolds into his shed out back, the wildlife officer was stunned. The walls were lined with ramshackle wooden cages fitted with sharp mesh wiring meant for installing stucco. Seeing Reynolds' alarm, the 36-year-old did his best to reassure the officer.
"Nothing ever escapes there," Azad promised.
Suddenly, Reynolds sensed something move above them. As he looked up, he found himself face-to-face with a black-and-white tegu.
"Why is this guy loose on the shelf up here ?" Reynolds asked. Then he noticed an even bigger problem.
"Up here in the roof is a hole, goes right to the outside," he said, pointing. "I mean, he could easily get on this second shelf and go right outside."
The encounter was captured by a British TV crew producing a season of Miami Animal Police, an Animal Planet show that aired from 2004 to 2010. The clip is an amazing archive in the annals of invasive species research — perhaps the exact moment when a huge threat to Florida's ecosystem was released into the wild. And the fact that the likely culprit got off with just a small fine illustrates exactly how bad Florida is at protecting its own environment.
Azad came to Florida from his native Bangladesh in the late '90s, settling in Homestead, where some friends hooked him up with a job at a gas station. It was there he met his future wife Aline, whom he married in 1999.
The couple ran a business importing exotic reptiles from Aline's father, a wildlife broker in Madagascar. Reynolds frequently saw Azad at the airport, where the young importer picked up shipments of animals, sometimes selling them on the spot to other dealers.
"He was very personable," Reynolds says. "He didn't know a lot about our rules and regulations, but he started to learn quite a bit."
"He used to sell tegus... and now there are tegus. It's obvious that's where these animals came from."
Much of that instruction came directly from Reynolds, who made frequent visits to the couple's home. The backyard enclosures where they kept their reptiles often weren't up to code, but Reynolds says he tried to be understanding of their financial situation.
"They were working on bare bones," Reynolds says. "He was placing the animals in these makeshift cages, and I'm like, 'Oh, my God.' I really felt sorry for Aline. They had a couch, they had a bed, an old rundown car, and they're renting the place... So I said, 'Look, fix these cages — I don't want these things getting out.'?"
Around that time, Azad began importing Argentine black-and-white tegus, a breed coveted by exotic-pet owners across the U.S. for their intelligence. The stunningly patterned reptiles were smart enough to use a litter box and walk on a leash and often were as affectionate as a dog.
In the Miami Animal Police episode, Reynolds issued Azad a written warning; sometime after that, he says he formally cited Azad and took him to court for improper caging.
"You go in and pay your little fine, and it's over and done with. It's a misdemeanor; it's nothing," Reynolds says, adding that Azad's wife wasn't found at fault. "He's the one who was totally the irresponsible party."
The business continued operating until 2006, according to state records. Azad says business woes turned into marital tension, and the next year, the couple called it quits. Their landlord, Robert Moehling — owner of the nearby fruit stand Robert Is Here — says they left behind a slew of cages and garbage when they moved out.
"They paid rent, but they made such a big mess that I finally kicked 'em out," Moehling says. "Took over six months to clean it out. We gutted the whole house."
Today Azad's name is often invoked as patient zero in the tegu epidemic. His business address is listed in academic reports, and several wildlife officials, neighbors, and biologists told New Times they believe he was responsible for the release of the invasive lizards.
"We know others escaped with that crappy caging there," Reynolds says. "Put two and two together — he's the only guy who had those." Joe Wasilewski, a wildlife biologist, agrees that Azad is the most likely culprit.
"It's something I don't know can legally be proven in a court of law, but let's face it: Before this guy came along, there were no tegus," Wasilewski says. "He used to sell tegus, he left, and now there are tegus. It's obvious that's where these animals came from."
Researchers can often determine with a reasonable amount of certainty the source of invasive species. That's because a species isn't able to establish a new population unless many of them escape or are let loose from the same place.
"You need a big number in a confined area so they can find each other, breed, and reproduce," Wasilewski says. "That's what happened here with the tegus."
But identifying responsible parties and formally charging them are two separate things — and proving that someone is at fault for the introduction of an invasive species remains almost impossible.
"Such an act would have to be witnessed by FWC law enforcement in order for a possible conviction," UF herpetologist Kenneth Krysko wrote in a 2011 paper. "Because current state and federal laws have not been effective at curtailing the ever-increasing number of illegal introductions, laws need to be modified and made enforceable."
Azad, who moved back to Bangladesh before returning to the States to work labor jobs in rural Georgia, has always denied responsibility. In fact, he doesn't think any of his competitors are to blame either.
"Everybody had those tegus, not just me," he says. "Any of the importers, nobody wants them to get loose. It costs money."
Azad instead believes irresponsible pet owners have caused the problem. "People buying those as pets buy the baby, and when it gets bigger and they cannot take care of it, they can't handle it and they let it go," he asserts. "That's what I think is happening."
Some of those now fighting the problem, though, say that scenario is unlikely.
"The common assumption is that this problem was caused by people releasing their pets in the Everglades or near the Everglades," Irwin says. "And it's absolutely 100 percent incorrect bullshit."
After Irwin's up-close encounter with a tegu at the rock pit, he stopped at nothing to learn more about the exotic creature. His quest sent him down rabbit holes on the internet and led to conversations with experts like Bob Freer, another Homestead resident, who runs a wildlife sanctuary called the Everglades Outpost.
The more Irwin learned, the more worried he became.
"I come from pioneer roots, and it really bothers me to see those lizards taking out the very animals that I grew up with, that my father and my grandfather all grew up with," he says.
In early 2013, Irwin scavenged a friend's junkyard and built himself a handful of homemade traps. When those didn't work as well as hoped, he bought some Chinese traps online and jerry-rigged them to his liking. It was trial by error, one sweaty, backbreaking day after another.
"At that time, I didn't have a clue," he says.
Although a half-dozen entities are desperately trying to rid the Everglades of tegus, Irwin's unusual approach has set him apart. While researchers and state agencies trap to kill, Irwin has instead set up shop online, selling the tegus he catches for up to $225 a pop.
Irwin stores tegus in his bathtub, scooting them to the side while he showers.
A bachelor with no kids, Irwin lives alone in a small 1950s-era house in Homestead. Both his parents are gone now, and he's estranged from his older brother. His loyal companion is a German shepherd he adopted from a friend, though he rarely uses the dog's given name, Troy, preferring instead to signal him using noises and commands like "Hut!"
"I really wish I could get a clone of him," says Irwin, who almost lost the gentle canine in an alligator attack while the two were running traps earlier this year. "He is just the absolute perfect dog."
Irwin's tegus, sometimes up to 200 of them, live outside his house in large wooden crates padded with pine shavings amid a whole yard of curiosities, from an inoperable refrigerator and oven to a large red boat he inherited from a friend who used to do drug runs back in the Cocaine Cowboys era. Irwin runs his business, Tegus Only, from a laptop in his living room and stores a handful of tegus in his bathtub, simply scooting them to the side while he showers so they don't block the drain.
His approach of removing for resale is not without controversy — groups such as the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida and politicians like Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa have called for an outright ban on selling tegus.
"I think the sale without any kind of protection is dangerous, proven that they can hurt our own native species," Sosa says. "Now that we're facing that problem and spending a lot of money, we have to take extreme precautions and action."
But Irwin says he sees only three ways to address the problem.
"One is to kill them, which is happening," he says. "The second is to let the situation continue and do nothing about it, which is completely unacceptable. The other is me: I capture tegus, rehome 'em with people who have made a conscious decision they want one."
Although he says his goal is reducing the number of wild tegus, Irwin does breed one type of them, the highly desired "firebelly," which has a reddish stomach.
"I would feel a lot weirder if I were breeding snakes or other nuisance animals," he says. "Tegu people are on a different level — they would sooner abandon their human child in the Everglades than their tegu."
As of now, the major players in the trapping game are the University of Florida, the FWC, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Park Service. Altogether, though, just $192,700 is allocated each year to address the tegu problem, according to the federal Everglades Restoration office.
Much of that comes from FWC, which has budgeted $130,000 for tegu management this year. Staffers are actively trapping tegus, as well as responding to reports that come in through their exotic-species hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1. The agency also contracts tegu removal and research through UF, which has 120 traps scattered throughout the Florida City area.
Though Irwin lets his catches live, tegus caught by researchers and state agencies are nearly always killed humanely, except for a few that are fitted with geotracking devices.
"Any of these organizations are pretty much obligated to euthanize if there's no other use for the animal," says Mike Martin, a wildlife biologist at UF.
Understanding the looming threat tegus pose doesn't necessarily make that task easier, though. "There are definitely times I want to take one home in my pocket," says Emily Gati, a biological intern who works with Martin.
Even Irwin feels torn between the affection he has developed for the lizards and the concern he feels about their ever-growing population. But the way he sees it, the tegus didn't ask to be here.
"It's not their fault," he says, "but since they are here, we've got to deal with it one way or another."
On an afternoon in early October, Martin and Gati headed from their office in Davie down to Florida City, where they spend five days a week conducting fieldwork on tegus. Gati paced the area in hiking boots and a long-sleeved mosquito shirt while holding a device with a long antenna attached.
"We've got a signal !" she shouted.
For the past several years, the UF team has accounted for each lizard caught in its traps, logging where it was found, about how old it is, and in which type of trap it was caught. For the tegus tagged with geomonitoring devices, the researchers must pick up the signal and try to identify how far the lizards have moved over time.
There's still a lot that researchers here don't know about tegus in Florida, and unless they can find more funding, they may never know. It's still unclear how long tegus can live, how many years the females remain fertile, or even how many are out in the wild.
"If we did what we did with the Burmese pythons... then it's too late."
Biologists also aren't certain just how harmful tegus are to native species. Although they've captured videos of a tegu scarfing down a nest of alligator eggs, there's little hard data on how their rise has affected other animal populations.
"You absolutely cannot wait to answer that question," says Frank Mazzotti, the lead researcher at UF. "If we did what we did with the Burmese pythons, which is wait to see if we can tell if there's any impacts, then it's too late."
Mazzotti expects his team's research to last two to three more years. "If we can demonstrate that we're having an effect on the population in containing and reducing them, that's one of the reasons that people would invest," he says.
This year, tegu season has already wound down. Trappers call it quits each year around Halloween, which begins a four-month period of reptile hibernation called brumation. Around March, the lizards will begin to stir; by then, Irwin will be working for UF as a contractor.
"It's basically the same thing as what I do now, but I'll be moving existing traps into old areas I normally wouldn't trap in," he says.
For years, Irwin has hammered the state, saying he could seriously ramp up his efforts with just a bit of funding to buy some more traps and maybe hire an assistant.
"Give me $100,000 and, by God, I'll put the tegus away," says Irwin, whose upcoming contract doesn't come close to touching that number. "But so much of it comes down to the research end of it. There's lots of money for research and little money for removal. That's the problem that I have with all of it."
That kind of money doesn't fall out of the sky — Irwin knows his colleagues at UF have to play the game, so to speak, to get the financial backing.
"I know they need to show research to get more money, but wouldn't that money be better off spent removing tegus from the habitat?" he says. "At some point, we're really going to have to stop researching and start trapping."
There's evidence to his point that trapping early can prevent a looming crisis. After a reptile broker in Panama City Beach abandoned his cache of tegus in 2013, FWC launched a criminal investigation and began trying to catch the escapees. Wildlife officials eventually rounded up 34 emaciated and dehydrated tegus in a residential neighborhood; four more were found dead.
The case proved that stopping an invasive species is possible, provided wildlife officials are notified on time and jump into gear quickly. But it also highlights the lax system under which Florida animal dealers operate. Even after identifying the tegu owner, Bobby Hill, FWC officials charged him with only two misdemeanors related to animal cruelty. Three years later, the case is still pending in Bay County.
Critics say the state could be doing more to hold those sloppy breeders accountable. Krysko, the author of UF's paper on invasive reptiles, says anyone responsible for releasing nonnatives should be fined by the state for the cost of getting rid of them. An existing law in Florida requires anyone with a sea snake to file a "letter of credit" with FWC for $1 million in case of an escape — why not expand that idea to other kinds of creatures?
As of now, tegus are still one step behind the Burmese python on a chart called the invasion curve. The lizards are at the edge of Level 3, where there's still the possibility of containment, and inching toward Level 4, the stage at which they can no longer be eradicated. At that point, wildlife officials must figure out how to live with and manage the species.
Instead of seeing job security, though, Irwin instead sees bureaucracy once again slowing down the process. There's a problem, there's a solution, yet "the situation is growing in leaps and bounds."
"It's kind of an interesting ongoing tragedy," Irwin says. "I just don't see an easy way out."
161101-d U.S. Army Corps continues restoration efforts
News-Press.com – by Col. Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander
November 1, 2016
The fiscal year for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District ended on Sept. 30 and it was a year in which our Team of Professionals, alongside our partners, achieved on-the-ground benefits to restore America’s Everglades.
The $127 million federal investment in fiscal year 2016 towards Everglades restoration provided essential funding to award critical construction contracts and to design and plan for future increments of restoration. For construction efforts alone, we invested $96.5 million in our Everglades projects.
The entire Everglades ecosystem operates as a whole; progress made in each respective areas builds off each other to deliver essential benefits to America’s Everglades. This connectivity starts north of Lake Okeechobee, the liquid heart of the Everglades, and moves all the way south to Florida Bay.
North of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will improve conditions north of —and within — the lake. We awarded one of three remaining construction contracts for Kissimmee River Restoration this past year. This project will restore approximately 44 miles of the historic Kissimmee River, restore more than 40 square miles of floodplain, and slow the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee. We also initiated the Lake Okeechobee Watershed project, which will further improve conditions north of the lake and enhance system-wide operational flexibility.
East and west of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will improve conditions in coastal estuaries and tributaries. Construction of much-needed storage is underway at the Indian River LagoonSouth C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area project on the east coast and the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir project on the west coast. This past year, we broke ground on the largest component of the C-44 project, the 3,400-acre reservoir. As a result of our essential partnership with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), all the C-44 project components are currently under construction or complete. This partnership also enabled the SFWMD to initiate the first phase of construction on the C-43 Reservoir project. Together, these projects will provide over 220,000 acre-feet of water storage.
Progress continues on developing the final report for the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration project, which will improve conditions in the Loxahatchee River’s northwest fork. We also initiated the Western Everglades Restoration Project, which aims to restore the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water within the western Everglades.
Currently pending congressional authorization, the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) will construct conveyance features needed to send additional water south from Lake Okeechobee. It will also deliver more than 200,000 acre-feet of water south from the lake into Everglades National Park. Congressional authorization will make CEPP eligible for congressional appropriations.
South of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will send additional water south to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay. This past year we awarded two of three remaining construction contracts for the C-111 South Dade project. We’re also finishing construction on the Modified Water Deliveries project. Combined, these projects put the necessary infrastructure in place to send larger quantities of water south on a long-term basis. We awarded one of three remaining contracts for the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project, which will deliver much-needed freshwater to Biscayne Bay. Additionally, the emergency deviation implemented this past year helped to alleviate high water levels within the system and deliver additional water to the Park.
We will keep momentum going in fiscal year 2017. We started this year with a visit from our Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite who appreciates the important collaborative work we’re doing to restore this complex ecosystem and recognizes our strong federal-state partnership is critical to maintaining momentum. We applaud our partners’ efforts, including the Department of the Interior breaking ground on additional Tamiami Trail bridging and SFWMD’s continued progress on Restoration Strategies. Alongside our partners, with valuable input from multiple stakeholders, we developed the Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS). It’s our Everglades restoration roadmap—a living document with flexibility to adjust as conditions change.
We are encouraged by the progress made to date and our Corps team is absolutely committed to maintaining momentum on our important work to restore and preserve America's Everglades for future generations.
161101- DEP'S daily update on Lake Okeechobee
FL-DEP News Releases
November 1, 2016
As the Army Corps of Engineer’s monitoring instruments are currently down, much of the Lake Okeechobee data is unavailable today. DEP will provide an update of this information once it becomes available. 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.
On Oct. 27, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee. The target flow for the Caloosahatchee is 2,800 cubic feet per second (cfs) and the target flow for the St. Lucie is 800 cfs. Click here for more information.
For more information about the State of Florida's actions on Lake Okeechobee, click here.
For more information about the State of Florida's actions on Lake Okeechobee, click here. Lake Conditions - NOVEMBER 1, 2016:
Current Lake Level
Historical Lake Level Average
+1,730 cfs cubic feet per sec.
(by structures operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
-6,075 cfs cubic feet per second
Evapotranspiration/Rainfall over the Lake
-The Corps has announced that they will no longer be providing this data.
-4,345 cfs cubic feet per second
Lake level variation from a week ago
Lake Conditions - SEPTEMBER 1, 2016:
Current Lake Level
Historical Lake Level Average
+3,300 cubic feet per second
(by structures operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)
-1,130 cubic feet per second
Evapotranspiration/Rainfall over the Lake
-1,860 cubic feet per second
-2,1700 cubic feet per second
Lake level variation from a week ago then
1611dd Title - Source - Author - Date - Text
The main past event that influences and expedites THIS year Everglades restoration activities
The main Everglades
started in 2013 by a storm of public eco-
activity from the Indian
River Lagoon area:
WHY NOT "Move it South" ? Meaning "dirty" water from Lake Okeechobee - and instead of disastrous releases into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers, move it where it used to flow - South. Is it possible ? Would the bridge on US-41 do the trick ?
Good Question: Why not send more Lake O water south ?
ABC-7.com - by Chad Oliver, Reporter GLADES COUNTY - "Move it south! Move it south!"
That was the chant I heard last week in Stuart during Governor Rick Scott's visit to the St. Lucie Lock.
He was there to discuss solutions to water releases from Lake Okeechobee that are damaging water quality in Southwest Florida.
It led Terry in Punta Gorda to ask the Good Question:
"Why can't more Lake O water be discharged through the Everglades instead of the Caloosahatchee River?"
Historically, water from Lake Okeechobee did flow south. It slowly moved into the Everglades.
Two things happened to stop that, the Herbert Hoover Dike was built to protect people from flooding. Then came the Tamiami Trail, which is also a man-made structure that basically acts as a dam.
There is a plan in the works to lift part of Tamiami Trail so that more water flows underneath toward the Everglades. This week, Governor Scott announced his intention to allocate $90 million over three years for the project in Miami-Dade.
The original ABC-7 video with Chad Oliver disappeared from the web - it is replaced here by this 25-WBPF report
Despite the current obstacles, I got a rare view of how water is still flowing south.
As a member of the Governing Board for South Florida Water Management, it's a Good Question that Mitch Hutchcraft has heard often.
"Part of the answer is we now have seven million more people than we used to in a natural condition. We have roads, we have communities. Everglades National Park is half the size it used to be," he said.
Water managers are required by a federal court order to clean what they send south to the Everglades.
"Just moving water south without the water quality component is not beneficial," Hutchcraft said. They're now using former farmland to build basins and treatment areas south of Lake Okeechobee. The dark, polluted water is naturally cleaned as it flows over land.
Our pilot mentioned that it works like a great big Brita water filter."
To the question of why not put more water south, if we put more water in this basin, then the vegetation no longer has the capacity to clean it the way that we do," Hutchcraft explained.
South of Lake Okeechobee, we see field after field of sugar cane.
The State of Florida has the option to buy an additional 180,000 acres of farmland.
That deal expires in October. Proponents of the deal say it would provide more space to send water south. Opponents say it would kill their way of life and cost too much money.
As for Hutchcraft ? He doesn't see the need for more land; his focus is on completing projects already in the pipeline.
"So we could send more water south, but if we don't make those other project improvements, there's nowhere for it to go," he said.
It's a Good Question that's neither easy nor inexpensive