DISCONTINUED in 2017 - news clips selection and presentation, this is the last sheet :
170101-a Calls to 'drain the swamp' insult swamps
Reflector.com – by Adam Rosenblatt
January 1, 2017
As an ecologist, I've been dismayed recently by politicians using "swamp" as a derogatory term for our nation's capital and what goes on there. My extensive experience working in and studying swamps allows me to see just how terrible the analogy is. Given the sea of misinformation we currently find ourselves swimming in, I feel this is as good a time as any to clarify what swamps actually are and why they should be regarded as wonderful and valuable parts of nature rather than objects of derision and hatred.
A swamp, at its most basic, is a forested wetland that contains standing water year-round or at least seasonally. However, most people will commonly use "swamp" to refer to non-forested wetlands as well, like marshes, bogs and fens. Throughout history, different societies have viewed swamps negatively because standing water can be a source of disease-carrying mosquitoes, and because the water prevented people from cultivating the submerged land for agriculture or developing it into commercial centers.
But swamp-draining can also cause serious problems for people and the environment, and nowhere is this truer than in the Florida Everglades. Land reclamation began in earnest in the second half of the 19th century. If people could divert water away from the river of grass, the thinking went, then farmers would be able to profit from the rich peat underneath.
It didn't exactly turn out that way. The first part of the plan was largely successful: An impressive labyrinth of canals, levees and dikes was constructed in the northern Everglades, and huge volumes of water were successfully diverted, allowing cultivation of the newly exposed land. But the rich peat that was revealed was mostly fool's gold. The nutrients in the peat were quickly depleted by intensive agriculture and within a relatively short period of time, large portions of the northern Everglades had become comparatively barren and dry.
Also, South Florida's aquifers, which supply most of the region with drinking water, are recharged by the surface water of the Everglades, so "draining the swamp" led to groundwater depletion and subsequent seawater intrusion into coastal wells. Conservationists and ecosystem managers have worked for decades to restore the Everglades but the damage has not been easily reversible.
Beyond recharging groundwater supplies, swamps provide numerous ecosystem services for people. They can absorb excess water during heavy rains, acting as natural flood-control systems, and coastal swamps such as mangrove forests can protect inland areas from dangerous storm surges. Indeed, during the 1999 super cyclone that ravaged the eastern coast of India, villages that were protected by wide stretches of mangrove forest experienced significantly fewer deaths than villages without such extensive protection.
Swamps are also natural water-treatment areas, with plants acting as filters and purifiers. In addition, swamps support an impressive array of plant and animal species, including orchids, fish, reptiles, mammals, birds, amphibians and shellfish. Many of these species are commercially valuable, but they're also aesthetically pleasing in their own right. Last, swamps are very good at capturing and storing carbon, with about 15 percent of soil carbon stored in wetland peat deposits. Thus swamps are an important piece of the effort to mitigate the ongoing effects of climate change.
It is clear, then, that swamps do not deserve their reputation as useless ecosystems, nor do they deserve to be co-opted as a lazy, inept political metaphor. In fact, it would serve us well to conserve and actually expand swamp lands in many areas. The next time you hear a politician or pundit talk about "draining the swamp," remember that swamps can be sources of resource abundance and protection from natural disasters, which are exactly some of the functions a responsible government should promote. Related: Commentary: 'Drain the swamp?' — it's an insult to swamps Santa Fe New Mexican Bad things happen when the swamp is drained Chicago Tribune Please, no more calls to 'drain the swamp.' It's an insult to swamps. Albuquerque Journal
170101-b Senators ready to wade into Lake Okeechobee issues
Naples Herald - by NH Staff
January 1, 2017
Focusing on a priority of Senate President Joe Negron, a Senate panel in January will receive a series of presentations about polluted water discharges from Lake Okeechobee and efforts to restore the Everglades.
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee on Jan. 11 will hear presentations by agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District, along with presentations by environmental advocates and agricultural landowners, according to an agenda posted online.
The state and residents have repeatedly grappled with polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee into waterways on the Treasure Coast and in Southwest Florida.
Negron, R-Stuart, has made a priority of addressing the issue and has proposed a plan to use conservation money to buy farmland south of the lake for water storage.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017 !
161231-a Biennial water review shows insufficient storage
News-Press.com – by John Cassani, the Calusa Waterkeeper for the greater Caloosahatchee River watershed. Calusa Waterkeeper is a Waterkeeper Alliance member organization
December 31, 2016
The just released Sixth Biennial Review of Everglades restoration by the National Academies of Science corroborates much of what local activists have been saying about the C-43 Reservoir plan for more than a decade.
The review states that Everglades restoration projects, also known as CERP, may have underestimated the water storage necessary to meet restoration targets. This finding may also apply to the C-43 Reservoir project, where estimated storage needed may have been significantly underestimated by using rainfall from a relatively dry period.
A similar finding from earlier research also indicates that the dry season minimum flow needed for a healthy estuary is significantly higher than what is indicated in the SFWMD’s Minimum Flow Rule adopted in 2001. The SFWMD has continually delayed revising the minimum flow rule which may be more about promoting the C-43 Reservoir as a fix to the problem, especially as some have called into question its cost-effectiveness and ecological relevance.
Aggravating this long-standing issue of inadequate flow is the over allocation of water to consumptive uses in Florida. The Florida Legislature apparently saw this train wreck coming as the state’s population is booming again. Instead of progressively addressing the issue they passed legislation in 2016 that prevents the South Florida Water Management District from denying a consumptive use permit even when the water is from a public waterbody that is in recovery from inadequate supply.
An examination of USDA agricultural harvest records for Big Sugar and other corporate agriculture in south Florida indicates no significant loss of harvest even during periods of historic drought, indicating very little adversity from lack of water supply over past decades, contrasted to the almost yearly harm occurring to the Caloosahatchee estuary.
A key finding of the biennial report is that both federal and state agencies have not adequately incorporated significant new findings of science since 1999, that if ignored, could seriously reduce Everglades restoration progress. In the case of the C-43 Reservoir, the initial purpose was water supply to the estuary and agriculture but over the past decade water quality has declined to the point where it may now be a more important and limiting issue.
Local activists saw this issue coming long ago and have requested, to no avail, a water quality component to be integrated into the C-43 project to deal with the predicted growth of harmful algal blooms in the reservoir. The lack of timely progress on other water quality treatment options has contributed to the issue such as a Glades County project initiated by SFWMD in 2007 with $10 million from Lee County tax payers.
The SFWMD was recently quoted as saying the biennial report “strays from science” and is “irresponsible.” Critical pronouncements by SFWMD and other state officials of independent Everglades restoration reviews, like the recent University of Florida Water Institute report and now the National Academies of Science, is becoming a pattern.
Let’s hope that Everglades restoration can keep pace with the new and growing challenges of population growth and climate change because they are not going away anytime soon.
161231-b Natural resources need protection in 2017
Naples Daily News - by Editorial Board
December 31, 2016
Beachgoers circulate near a rock weirs at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park (formerly known as John U. Lloyd Beach State Park) in October 2015. The state park is located to the south of the Port Everglades inlet in Broward County where it is suffering from critical erosion issues caused by the inlet's blockage of the natural north-to-south flow of sand along Florida's coastlines. (Photo: David Albers/Naples Daily News)Buy Photo
While there were some signs of growth slowing a bit as the books closed on 2016, construction remains vibrant and long-term planning for future development remains a work in progress in Southwest Florida as the new year arrives.
So 2017 will be a critical year for safeguarding our natural resources. That’s why the Naples Daily News editorial board has identified protection of natural resources as one issue community leaders should consider a high priority in the year ahead.
Into that general concern, we include preserving our future water supply; harnessing tainted stormwater that threatens preserved land and waterways; reversing trends that are seeing record deaths in some iconic Florida species; acquiring more conservation lands, and identifying resources to better protect our beaches. Easing up ?
Although the December numbers aren’t yet added to complete year-end totals, several building-related statistics in Collier and Lee counties for the first 11 months of 2016 lead us to suggest a slight easing on growth.
For example, Collier building statistics show new construction permits issued in November at the lowest number since December 2014. In October and November, the dollar value of new home construction permits in Collier was at its lowest level since summer 2015. In November in Lee, the number of new home permits hit its lowest monthly total in 2016, significantly so.
Before anyone puts away the hammer and nails, however, “easing” of growth isn’t the same as “ending” it. Construction added 2,800 jobs to the labor force in Collier and Lee counties in November compared with the same month of 2015, so there’s still plenty going on.
Time will tell which data is an anomaly or a trend. Regardless, the sustained level of growth over the past two years will take a toll on natural resources. Protection needed
What needs attention in 2017 ?
● Water. As noted in a guest commentary Saturday, a November report “Water 2070” by 1000 Friends of Florida, the University of Florida and the state Department of Agriculture raised concerns about unsustainable trends in water consumption. “Now is the time to move forward on serious water conservation efforts before it is too costly, or too late,” the report concludes.
● Stormwater. While high water levels have dropped and the alarm over Lake Okeechobee releases has quieted, the Legislature will make a key decision in 2017 about acquiring more water storage south of the lake. The sides are getting entrenched for and against the proposal by Senate President Joe Negon, R-Stuart, to acquire 60,000 acres while bonding some $2.4 billion to reduce discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
● The focus has been on preserved land and waterways, but there were records set in 2016 for Florida panther and manatee deaths. A state website as of Thursday listed 42 panther deaths in 2016, including a dozen that were about a year old or younger. A record number of panthers died in collisions with vehicles in 2016. Substitute “manatees” and “boats” into that sentence and the same holds true; about 100 manatees died in collisions with watercraft in 2016, surpassing the 2009 record of 97, according to the Save the Manatee Club.
● Lee commissioners received 83 percent voter support in 2016 to continue pursuing the acquisition and maintenance of lands through the Conservation 20/20 tax. Commissioners and state Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, want to put together a financial package to acquire and protect Edison Farms, a wetland-rich, 4,000-acre tract east of Interstate 75 between Corkscrew and Bonita Beach roads. Collier commissioners are considering renewing the tax-supported Conservation Collier program.
● The recent “Shrinking Shores” series by the Naples Daily News documented that half of Florida's 825 miles of coast is critically eroded, with too little state money budgeted to solve the problem. Collier commissioners are considering whether to renew efforts to do longer-term dredging projects rather than hauling sand by truck. We’d also advocate discussion in 2017 of a coordinated regional Collier-Lee approach to beach renourishment projects to save money.
This is the first of a weeklong series on 2017 priorities of the Naples Daily News editorial board.
161231-c Stronach's 14-billion-gallon water grab
Ocala.com - by Bob Knight Special to the Star-Banner, director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute
December 31, 2016
In late 2011, Frank Stronach, Austrian/Canadian billionaire, made quite a name for himself by simultaneously donating $1.5 million to the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) and applying for a 13.2 million-gallon-per-day water permit for a cattle ranch in Marion County. Lured to the idea of profiting by producing "grass-fed beef" by staff at the IFAS Citra Research Center, Stronach named his 30,000-acre cattle farm Adena Springs Ranch and filed for the use of more groundwater per day to grow his grass than is extracted by the entire City of Ocala.
In true Southern fashion, the good folks of Marion County (specifically excluding the water management district Governing Board and the county and city boards) united against this plan and turned out in record numbers in 2012 to oppose the water use permit and the idea of putting 17,000 more cattle in the springshed of local natural wonder, Silver Springs.
Confidence in the power of the people to thwart the ambitions of the rich and famous was high when Adena reduced their permit request to 5.3 million gallons per day in 2013 and changed their name to Sleepy Creek Lands.
After finally withdrawing their revised permit application, Sleepy Creek hired a new lawyer and various lobbyists who worked out of the public view to seal the deal with state agencies for a series of bite-size permit requests, starting with 1.46 million gallons of groundwater per day.
Following a noble David vs. Goliath administrative challenge by the public against their state government, this permit was approved, granting a 20-year groundwater extraction of about 10.7 billion gallons of water that otherwise would have flowed out of Silver Springs.
Last week we found out that Frank Stronach's team of hired guns is back for the inevitable next bite at our region's water supply. On Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, the St. Johns River Water Management District is primed to grant Sleepy Creek Lands the next installment in their plan to tie up the public's water, specifically 1.22 million gallons per day more through 2023 (another 3 billion gallons of groundwater allocation).
The Governing Board's decision to consider this permit tramples science into the mud by reversing their technical staff's recommendation not to issue the same permit in 2014. District staff, several of whom were promptly fired after the release of the negative technical staff report, concluded that significant harm would occur to the natural environment at Silver Springs if the district gave away more groundwater. In fact, they concluded that this additional permitted withdrawal, in combination with all other water use permits, would reduce Silver Springs flow by about 50 million gallons per day, causing adverse harm to the spring-fed river and surrounding floodplain wetlands.
Nearly 14 billion gallons of Florida's most precious resource - fresh groundwater - has been or soon will be allocated to Mr. Stronach for his personal financial gain. The market price for bottled water from Florida's springs is about $1 per gallon. So, these two consumptive use permits translate into a possible $18 billion-dollar gross profit for Mr. Stronach.
Grass in Marion County, the same grass that supports Ocala's renowned thoroughbred horses, grows just fine with rainfall and without irrigation. The St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board should side with the original recommendations of its technical staff, with the public will, and with iconic Silver Springs, and not issue another groundwater extraction permit to this billionaire or to any other applicant.
Consider attending the district's Governing Board meeting in Palatka on Jan. 10. You will have a chance to speak directly to the board members who may approve this fiasco. Their names are John Miklos (chairman), Fred Roberts Jr., Charles Drake, Ron Howse, Douglas Bournique, John Browning Jr., Douglas Burnett, Maryam Ghyabi, and Carla Yetter. These people are the face of Florida's government who are sacrificing Florida's sustainable water future for the interest of short-term profits. They are the ones who ultimately will be required to answer when Silver Springs stops flowing. Be sure to bring your children and grandchildren to Palatka to witness first-hand how government decisions are made. It will be a real lesson in citizenship.
161230-a Drainage system may have been a good idea at the time, but was it?
OkeechobeeNews.net - by Katrina Elsken
December 30, 2016
OKEECHOBEE — The manmade system of canals and channelized waterway tell the history of the State of Florida.
While some early Florida settlers sought to “drain the swamp” — with the encourage of the federal government — waterways were also dug, straightened or deepened for navigation, transportation and most critically, for flood control.
Those man-made systems are more efficient in transporting water than the winding rivers and vast flood plains created by nature. That means north of the Big O, water flows faster than nature intended from the Kissimmee River basin into Lake Okeechobee, faster than it can be released, even with all of the water control structures open.
It’s a complicated system with a complicated history, and no easy solutions to the water quality and quantity problems. Navigation channels
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers records, in the early 1900s, Congress instructed the Corps to investigate sites for an inland route, which became part of a larger project to provide a protected waterway between Boston and the Rio Grande.
The recommended route was approved by Congress in the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1927. In 1937, a completed Okeechobee Waterway provided an all-water route across Florida, linking the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the Gulf Coast Intracoastal Waterway.
The interior waterway proved valuable during World War II, when German submarines sunk countless merchant ships along the Atlantic coast.
After World War II, east coast waterways were deepened and widened to improve the state’s transportation network.
Then came the Great South Florida Flood. Flood control
In 1947, after several years of drought, Florida was deluged by rainfall that averaged 100 inches along the lower east coast, nearly twice the normal rainfall, according to the South Florida Water Management District records.
Next came the storms. In September and October two hurricanes and a tropical storm battered the ‘Sunshine’ state, leaving most of the state from Orlando south submerged. Roads and streets were flooded.
Cattle drowned, as did deer and other wildlife that could not find high ground.
Much of the ground had already been saturated before two hurricanes hit the state late in the year, and flooding throughout the region was devastating.
According to records in the University of Florida/IFAS library, in 1947 flood water inundated outlying suburban areas of West Palm Beach, and 30 percent of the city of Fort Lauderdale, including the business district, railroads, industrial and residential sections. Large areas in the western part of Miami and the outlying communities of Miami Springs and Hialeah were under water.
The flood damaged roads, utilities, railroads and airports in the coastal area.
Newspaper articles from 1947 and 1948 tell the story. The Sept. 19, 1947 edition of the Okeechobee News, called the Sept. 17 hurricane “the worst since 1928” and noted the heavy rainfall that came with the hurricane lasted more than a week.
“.. the town and most neighboring sections were flooded with water and the cattle pastures were most of them almost completely under water,” the article states.
The Oct. 17, 1947, edition of the Okeechobee News relates “storm and flood damage over weekend was serious.”
“Thousands of residents of lowland areas were forced to seek refuge elsewhere,” the newspaper story continues. Throughout South Florida, thousands of refugees from the flooding were housed in schools and other public buildings.
The people of South Florida cried out for flood control, newspaper stories explain.
The State of Florida asked the federal government for a master plan to tame nature’s excesses.
In 1948, the U.S. Congress adopted legislation creating the Central and Southern Florida (C&SF) Project, the largest civil works project in the country. Construction began the next year and continued over 20 years as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the massive flood control plumbing system stretching from just south of Orlando to Florida Bay, according to the SFWMD archives.
In 1948, the Florida Legislature created the Central and Southern Florida Flood Control District, the predecessor to the South Florida Water Management District, to manage the C&SF Project. Project divided Everglades It seemed like a good idea at the time.
“The Central and Southern Florida Flood Control Project, Five Years of Progress,” published in 1954 states: “As a pioneer in this type of cooperative enterprise, this worthwhile project is dependent upon participation by all branches of government from the local to the Federal level, equally with participation by individual landowners; an objective which is being achieved without the onus of socialization or the sacrifice of any rights, individual, county, state or Federal, but operating to the ultimate benefit of all.”
The document explains that major features in the east coast area are protective levees.
“A major levee running down the length of the coastal area from Lake Okeechobee past Miami was one of the priority projects included in the plan and is basically completed at present. Further flood protection will be provided by improvement of coastal canals,” the 1954 document states.
According to the Duke University Wetlands Center, “The C&SF Project had three main components. First, it established a perimeter levee through the eastern portion of the Everglades, blocking sheet flow so that lands farther east would be protected from direct Everglades flooding. This levee severed the eastern 16 percent of the Everglades from its interior. Second, the C&SF Project designed a large area of northern Everglades, south of Lake Okeechobee, to be managed for agriculture. Named the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA), it encompassed about 27 percent of the historic Everglades and was a major factor in the economic justification of the C&SF Project. Third, water conservation became the primary designated use for most of the remaining Everglades between the EAA and Everglades National Park, limited on the east by the eastern perimeter levee and on the west by an incomplete levee bordering the Big Cypress Swamp.”
The plan to set aside some Everglades land for urban development and some for farming was key to obtaining the funding for the flood control project. The state and the federal governments wanted to see some economic return on the investment of tax dollars.
The dike around Lake Okeechobee was also increased in size, to allow for more water storage in the lake.
The flood control project did what it was designed to do. The massive network of canals, levees and water conservation areas blocked the sheetflow that would have otherwise flooded the expanding urban areas in the wet season, provided more water for urban and agricultural use in dry season use and helped create a thriving farming industry just south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
But the flood control measures had unintended results and environmental changes were exacerbated by the rapidly growing human population. Fish species began to decline. Wading birds started to disappear. Seagrass in Florida Bay died.
Environmentalists fought for changes to restore as much as possible of the natural system.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), submitted to Congress in 1999, is composed of a series of projects designed to address four major characteristics of water flow: quantity, quality, timing and distribution.
The plan was authorized by Congress in 2000. The federal government and the state of Florida entered into a 50/50 partnership to restore, protect and preserve water resources in central and southern Florida.
It was originally expected to take about 30 years. According to recent reports, that original estimate could be doubled.
Much of the delay has to do with funding. When it comes to Congress, there’s a big difference between an authorization and an appropriation. As of the 2016 CERP report, only about 16-18 percent of required funding had been allocated.
SOURCES: Sources for this article included records and reports from the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Environmental Projection, the Duke University Wetlands Center, SFWMD, USACE, FDEP, University of Florida Water Institute and “Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades, Sixth Biennial Review.”
161230-b Environmental activists spreading wrong water information
News-Press.com – by Judy Clayton Sanchez, the Senior Director for Corporate Communications and Public Affairs for U.S. Sugar. She resides in Belle Glade
December 30, 2016
In their never-ending quest to drive sugarcane and vegetable farming from the Glades region, special interest activists have completely lost touch with reality.
A spate of recent propaganda claims that America’s Everglades are “collapsing from lack of clean freshwater.” Have they been living in a cave? The agency in charge of restoration (South Florida Water Management District) has shown that 100% of Everglades National Park is already meeting the stringent 10 part per billion water quality standard. In other words, CLEAN. During the 10 months of Lake O discharges, the Everglades were well above flood stage due to excessive rainfall throughout the region. There’s no lack of water anywhere when the lake is so high that discharges are required.
Their “solution” of building a reservoir on currently productive farmland south of the lake because “the Everglades remains too dry in all but the wettest years” is utter fantasy. It’s only in these wettest years that large lake releases are made to the estuaries, and the Everglades cannot take any water that might be funneled to the proposed reservoir. During the dry years when the Everglades may need water, a reservoir would not be used since any water that is available would be sent directly to the Everglades. Putting water in a reservoir upstream of the Everglades in a dry year is a waste of water.
Apparently, their upcoming Everglades Coalition Conference needs to include a refresher course in basic reasoning and basic math. Consider the 2013 and 2016 excess water discharges to the coastal estuaries as a simple math/reason equation:
5000 square miles watershed North of Lake Okeechobee drains into a 730 square-mile lake.
Water enters the lake six times faster than it can be discharged. With a fragile dike, the Army Corps of Engineers discharges water east and west as the flood control system was designed.
In 2013, 4.5 million acre-feet of water was discharged to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, and more than 5 million acre-feet was discharged in 2016.
A 60,000 acre reservoir south of the lake could hold 200,000-300,000 acre-feet of water. During both years, the Everglades to the south was also flooded and could not take any more water when lake releases are made. So the proposed reservoir fills up and still over 4.2 million acre-feet of water would be discharged to the estuaries.
Obviously, a reservoir south of the lake does not solve the two east/west estuary problems.
As for Florida Bay, scientific data shows that its average annual water need is only another 100,000 acre feet or so. So you cannot “re-direct” any significant amount of water currently discharged to the east and west to Florida Bay during these wet events either. Water from the farming area does not feed Florida Bay, rainfall in Miami-Dade does. “One solution for 3 estuaries.” Not.
Another popular fiction these activist spread is that the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) required the purchase of 60,000 acres. In fact, when Congress passed CERP in 2000, the state had already purchased over 60,000 acres of the former Talisman Sugar operations for water storage and treatment south of Lake Okeechobee. The map showing the lands purchased is actually in the final 1999 document. Water projects on this land are engineered, approved and underway. If more water storage is needed, you can tweak the design and store more on the same land already in public ownership.
Perhaps the most appalling bit of fiction is that the Everglades was drained for sugarcane farmers (there was little sugarcane at the time of the major flood control and drainage projects) and that farmers and farming communities south of Lake Okeechobee are “in the way” of water flowing the way it did historically. The dike around Lake Okeechobee as well as the dikes protecting the suburban areas of western Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties and the myriad canals that drain urban neighborhoods to the ocean are part of the same regional flood control system. No one is seriously considering taking down these dikes and drainage and letting south Florida return to swamp. Farming communities as well as urban and suburban neighborhoods and businesses all deserve the same consideration.
When the Everglades Foundation and their cronies push for a “solution” that is more about punishing farmers than solving water issues and advocate sending massive amounts of phosphorus rich lake water into a flooded Everglades that is finally meeting water quality standards, it’s time for the media to take a closer look at their propaganda and expose it for what it is.
161230-c Massive South Florida reservoir back in spotlight at conference
Miami Herald - by Jenny Staletovich
December 30, 2016
A massive South Florida reservoir that is key to fixing the Everglades’ faulty plumbing, and has divided water managers and environmentalists, will once again take center stage at an annual meeting on restoration next weekend. Drawing conservationists, politicians and scientists from across the state and Washington, the Fort Myers conference, titled “Three Estuaries, One Solution,” comes about midway through restoration efforts, with the work well behind schedule — less than 18 percent of the $16 billion effort has been funded, according to the National Academies of Sciences’ most recent update.
While not a new issue, the contentious stand-off on the reservoir has grown testier this year, with incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron vowing to push for purchasing 60,000 acres of sugar land south of Lake Okeechobee in the upcoming legislative session. No leadership from the South Florida Water Management District would take part in the conference, organizers said. And earlier this month, a resolution by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava to support the reservoir dissolved in a dispute over jobs, even though sugar farming is now largely mechanized.
“There was a time years ago when the water management district actuallysponsored the conference with a large financial contribution,” said National Parks Conservation Association Everglades program manager and conference chair Cara Capp. “So different times.”
Over the last year, district officials have also fought aggressively in press releases, editorials and an info graphic to instead direct efforts away from sugar land, north of the lake.
“They are spending a lot of time on public relations and trying to make the case that this is not an urgent need, but we know from virtually every scientist and our senate president how urgent it is,” Levine Cava said. “We can’t afford to put that part of Everglades restoration on a shelf.”
In his letter to commissioners, district executive director Pete Antonacci called the focus on the reservoir “myopic,” saying it does “little to contribute to restoration success.” Antonacci did not respond to a request for comment. But district spokesman Randy Smith said the governing board simply wants to stick to a schedule laid out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that slates work for 2021, even though the Corps said in July it was willing to move up planning.
Smith said the board has not taken a position on the proposal by Negron, who over the summer met with environmentalists and farmers before concluding that the reservoir was the best fix for stopping dirty lake discharges and moving fresh water to Florida Bay. Over the last year, releases from the lake fouled both the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, leaving the Treasure Coast coated with toxic algae for months. At least 25 miles of seagrass began dying in the
bay in 2015.
It is well-recognized that more storage is needed system-wide, however, the myopic focus on land acquisition south of Lake Okeechobee does little to contribute to restoration success.
South Florida Water Management District executive director Pete Antonacci
Antonacci has said buying the land now would postpone other work. But environmentalists say Amendment 1, overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2014, has provided more than enough money.
District officials have also said storing water north makes more sense because it keeps pollution from entering the lake, where phosphorus remains high from years of fertilizer run-off. In the info graphic, they say a University of Floridas study called for a million acre-feet of water storage north and south of the lake, “with three-quarters of that storage or up to 750,000 acre-feet needed north of the lake.” 132,000 to 507,000
The amount of storage in acre feet University of Florida scientists say is needed south of Lake Okeechobee
But the graphic failed to include UF’s recommendation for more storage south — up to 507,000 acre feet — because routing water from the north takes too long and would not “be as effective as southern storage in meeting timing and distribution objectives.”
The sugar industry and local farmers have also pitched the reservoir as an attack on a way of life. Hendry County Commissioner Janet Taylor created the Glades Lives Matter nonprofit in July with a Facebook page that echoes many of the sugar industry's complaints.
While restoration has frequently been contentious, environmentalists worry that the district’s strategy ignores science.
Not having more storage south, according to the NAS report, threatens to derail ecological progress on the handful of projects under way. With design changes and revised rules on water levels in Lake Okeechobee since the original restoration plan was created, about a million acre-feet of storage have been lost that now need to be accounted for, the report said.
“The past year almost perfectly exemplifies the problem, where you have one problem going on in the estuaries to the north and south suffering from excess water and the harmful effects from that, and at the exact same time you’re seeing the opposite problem at the south end where seagrass is dying off,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon Florida’s director of Everglades policy. “In the natural Everglades that didn’t happen.”
The Negron proposal seemed to bridge the divide, she said.
“We left that meeting and he said, I’ll announce a plan that makes the most sense in eight weeks, and two days later he held a press conference,” she said.
“Lo and behold what he took away from all those people was, hey, guess what? We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We need to do what was in the plan in the first place.”
161230-d New year holds promise for our waterways
TCPalm.com - by the Editorial Board
December 30, 2016
At the risk of stating the obvious, 2016 was an AWFUL year for Treasure Coast waterways.
Few of us ever thought we'd see anything worse than "The Lost Summer" of 2013, when 136.1 billion gallons of polluted water were discharged over 166 days from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
Boy, were we wrong.
The discharges in 2016 stretched over 279 days and dumped 237 billion gallons into the river and lagoon. Here are a handful of the lowlights: Blue-green algae fouled waters where we fish, kayak, paddleboard and swim.
Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for counties affected by the discharges — in February! The governor issued a second, more substantive emergency declaration in June.
Water-related businesses suffered economic hardships.
Not until November did the Florida Health Department in Martin and St. Lucie counties lift health warnings to avoid contact with water in sections of the St. Lucie River.
When the discharges finally ended in November, 2016 tallied the seventh-highest volume of water released into the river in a calendar year.
Good riddance, 2016.
The new year begins with promise for our waterways.
"The time to talk is over. It's now time to act."
So said state Sen. Joe Negron on Nov. 22, the day he officially became president of the Florida Senate. Negron made the statement in reference to the perennial problems plaguing our waterways — and his plan to curtail Lake O discharges.
Negron, R-Stuart, is advocating a proposal to buy land south of the lake for water storage and treatment. The goal? To move more water south of the lake, thereby reducing discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The proposal comes with a hefty price tag — $2 billion — but there is revenue to pay for it if lawmakers have the gumption to endorse the measure.
The money for the proposal would come from a bill Scott signed into law in April that creates a dedicated fund for Everglades restoration. The law gives priority to projects that reduce discharges east and west of the lake. Sponsored by Negron and Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, it mandates at least $200 million or 25 percent of Amendment 1 dollars — whichever is less — be used for such purposes. Voters approved Amendment 1 in 2014 to set aside money for land and water conservation.
Negron is no rank-and-file legislator. Along with Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, he is one of the three most powerful people in state government.
Yes, Negron faces an uphill battle to persuade a majority of his colleagues, as well as the governor, to embrace his proposal.
That said, we've never been closer to real, substantive change.
Happy New Year!
Let's hope 2017 is a historic year for our local waterways, which deserve so much more respect and play such a pivotal role in enhancing our quality of life.
161230-e Tsunami in South Florida? You can't rule it out
Sun Sentinel – by David Fleshler
December 30, 2016
Everyone in South Florida accepts the risk of hurricanes. But tsunamis ?
A new study from the University of Miami found that South Florida faces a small but real risk of tsunamis generated by landslides on the undersea slopes west of the Bahamas. Such landslides have occurred in the distant past, presumably causing tsunamis then, and they are likely to occur again, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
In the worst-case scenario, the largest possible quantity of mud and sand would plunge to the ocean floor from Great Bahama Bank, displacing enough water to slam South Florida with a 15-foot tsunami. While a wave of that height may not sound impressive, it represents something far more powerful than an ordinary 15-foot wave, since a tsunami is a wall of water that carries a vast amount of water behind it.
But there's no reason to flee to higher ground yet. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rates the tsunami risk for the east coast of Florida as low, compared to "very low" for the Gulf coast and "high to very high" for the Pacific coast. The authors of the study say there's no reason to revise that assessment.
"We're still low risk," said," said Jara Schnyder, lead author of the study and a graduate student at UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
She said the frequency of such events could be measured in the hundreds of thousands of years. Read the study on the tsunami risk to South FloridaOpen link
"Even if we have an earthquake that might trigger this, it would have to trigger a landslide with a big enough mass and fast enough propagation to generate a tsunami. That's why we call these low-probability but high- impact events."
Working with her were other scientists from UM, as well as scientists from the University of Delaware, Université de Bordeaux in France and University of Bremen in Germany.
In the most likely scenario, an earthquake off the Cuban coast would generate the landslide, although landslides could also occur spontaneously.
Gregor Eberli, professor of marine geosciences at UM and senior author of the study, said it would take a powerful earthquake, one scoring 5.5 on the Richter scale or higher, to generate a big enough landslide to cause a tsunami, and those are rare.
The area at risk would depend on the location of the landslide. The study looked at Great Bahama Bank, one of the geologic platforms that supports the islands of the Bahamas. If the landslide took place there, the area at risk would range from Cuba to the Keys to Miami Beach. If the landslide took place at the Little Bahama Bank, the at-risk area would extend up the Florida coast to southern St. Lucie County, Eberli said.
And there are scenarios that fall short of the worst-case. The size of the tsunami would depend on the amount and velocity of the mud and sand sliding to the ocean floor. At best, it might be barely noticeable or generate severe rip currents.
Other scenarios call for significant tsunamis, but ones smaller than a house-smashing 15-footer. Facing far more devastation would be Cuba. The worst-case for that island would be a tsunami reaching a catastrophic 31feet.
Tsunamis are most common in the Pacific Ocean, where continental plate boundaries that rim the Pacific generate the string of volcanoes and earthquake zones known as the Ring of Fire. But while earthquake-generated tsunamis are the most common, there have been tsunamis in which undersea landslides, often caused by earthquakes, played the largest role in generating the giant waves.
A rare Atlantic tsunami took place in 1929, when an earthquake off Newfoundland created an undersea landslide that caused a tsunami that killed more than two dozen people. In the Pacific, a 1998 earthquake caused an undersea landslide that generated a 23-foot tsunami that destroyed coastal villages and killed more than 2,000 people.
Eberli said a tsunami hitting Florida would be unlikely to be that devastating, although he said it could be a cause of concern for the Turkey Point nuclear power plant.
"The tsunami risk is not great enough to make damage like what they have in Japan," he said. "It could be quite devastating for coastal buildings. But it will not be like tens of thousands of people will drown. It's not that kind of event."
161230-f Water remains foremost issue for SW Florida
Naples Daily News – Commentary by Rob Moher, President and CEO, Conservancy of Southwest Florida
December 30, 2016
Leonardo da Vinci famously said, “Water is the driving force of all nature.”
Undeniably, water was a driving force of environmental and economic discussions in 2016, and will continue to take center stage in 2017.
At the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, we look forward to 2017 as a year in which water remains at the forefront of public concern and legislative action.
Consider the following:
+ A new report issued by the 1000 Friends of Florida, the University of Florida and the state Department of Agriculture shows alarming and unsustainable trends for water availability for Florida by 2070. And this report did not factor in the possible use of millions of gallons of fresh drinking water for fracking and other forms of enhanced well-stimulation techniques.
+ In 2016, Lee County was under a state of emergency for months due to polluted water discharges into the Caloosahatchee River, resulting in blue-green algae blooms, devastating impacts on the estuary’s ecosystem, and negative economic consequences for those whose livelihoods depend on the health of our estuaries and beaches.
+ A 2015 study by the Florida Realtors’ Association links the relationship of poor water quality to deteriorating home values. In fact, it was estimated that poor water quality in the Caloosahatchee River could be linked to a decrease in property values in Lee County by more than a half-billion dollars from 2010-13.
The failure of state leaders to adequately protect our most vital economic resource in the face of a rapidly growing population should not immobilize us. In fact, there is stronger pressure from more Floridians than ever before to advance solutions to the problems.
Incoming Senate President Joe Negron’s proposal to acquire 60,000 acres of lands south of Lake Okeechobee for water storage, treatment and conveyance is one example of positive movement. It is a vital missing piece of the restoration puzzle and was validated last week by the independent and nonpartisan National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee in their biannual evaluation of Everglades restoration efforts that stressed the need for additional water storage.
We also note the progress to authorize ongoing Everglades restoration with more than 60 projects that are vital to restoring the River of Grass, including the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), a $1.9 billion component of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).
This requires our federally elected officials to secure funding through the next critical phase of appropriations.
Equally important are the state Senate and House efforts to address fracking and fracking-like techniques. News reports indicate that a “ban and study” bill is proposed and would permanently end attempts to use risky well-stimulation techniques in Florida. These practices pose adverse impacts to surface and ground waters, given Florida’s unique hydrology and geology.
Florida accounts for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of known national reserves, and the crude oil in our region is poor quality and would not contribute to America’s goal of achieving energy independence. The use of these enhanced techniques involves permitting millions of gallons of fresh drinking water to be used for private benefit at the expense of a valuable public resource. This is wasteful in the face of projected water shortages in Florida.
In 2017, we hope to work with legislators to ban fracking and similar techniques, and to engage a scientific study to reinforce prohibition.
In addition to defeating the solar amendment, the passage in November of Lee County’s conservation land-acquisition and stewardship program, Conservation 20/20, with more than 83 percent voter approval, demonstrates that voters understand the need to protect our water, land and wildlife. This gives us hope for 2017.
From fishermen to local business owners to concerned residents, let’s join our voices to declare that water is the lifeblood of our quality of life, and our economic well-being. We must seize the opportunity to protect it and support those leaders who champion the will of Floridians.
161229-a Coal-fired generators poison Everglades dolphins with record-high mercury
TCPalm.com – by Tyler Treadway
December 29, 2016
Dolphins in the Everglades and the Indian River Lagoon are sending us a warning about how mercury accumulates in their bodies and ours.
A study Florida International University scientists published in the scientific journal Environmental Pollution in October found bottlenose dolphins in the Everglades, particularly along the northeastern shore of Florida Bay, had the highest levels of mercury concentration ever recorded: an average of 11 parts per million. That's like a pinch of salt in 20 pounds of potato chips.
The discovery echoed research by scientists at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in 2012 that found mercury levels in Indian River Lagoon dolphins that weren't much lower.
"We had levels of 7.0 (parts per million)," said Adam Schaefer, a Harbor Branch research professor who studies diseases in wildlife. "The Everglades is a primary location for mercury accumulation, and the conditions in the lagoon are very similar. So it makes sense our mercury levels are comparable."
Dolphins are a "sentinel species," Schaefer said. "High levels of mercury in dolphins shows that there are high levels of mercury in animals throughout the food chain. Dolphins are telling us there is mercury throughout lagoon species and throughout Everglades species."
ANOTHER MERCURY STUDY
The Harbor Branch researchers followed their dolphin study in 2014 by finding high levels of mercury in people who live along the Indian River Lagoon and eat fish from there. Hair samples from 135 residents showed those who ate seafood three times a week were three times as likely to have more than 1 part per million of mercury in their systems, the limit the federal Environmental Protection Agency recommends for human health. People who had seafood daily were four times as likely to exceed the threshold, researchers found.
The mercury typically doesn't kill dolphins or humans, said Jeremy Kiszka, an FIU marine scientist who co-authored that school's study, but it can affect their livers, kidneys, immune systems and their ability to reproduce.
"It doesn't kill on its own so much as make you susceptible to diseases that you normally could fight off," Schaefer agreed.
Where does mercury come from? It literally falls from the sky.
Smokestacks at coal-fired generators send mercury into the sky, where it accumulates in clouds and falls back to earth in rain hundreds or thousands of miles away.
"Because of prevailing weather patterns, a lot of mercury falls on South Florida," Schaefer said.
At sites like the lagoon and the Everglades, the mercury finds favorable conditions to accumulate.
A 2011 study by Melodie Naja of the Everglades Foundation found the use of sulfates as a fungicide and fertilizer enhancer in fields north of the Everglades boosted mercury growth in the Everglades.
The mercury also accumulates naturally, Kiszka said. Water in mangrove ecosystems, such as the Everglades and Indian River Lagoon, contains a lot of organic matter that promotes the growth of bacteria that absorb and hold the mercury.
The FIU study found pesticides and other compounds in dolphins from the Everglades to the lower Florida Keys, but mercury levels were much lower in dolphins in the Keys, which don't have agricultural runoff.
"We know the mercury has both human-induced and natural sources, as well as a combination of the two," Kiszka said. "We can hypothesize that (the high mercury levels) are the result of long-term agriculture, but the specific sources are still unknown. That would take a lot more investigation."
The FIU research team, which also 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, plans to expand the study to examine mercury contamination in sharks, alligators, fish and other animals
161229-b Give Sen. Negron’s plan a chance
Florida Today – by Maggy Hurchalla, a former Martin County commissioner for 20 years and is a member of the Everglades Hall of Fame
December 29, 2016
A statewide campaign to discredit Sen. Joe Negron’s effort to “Buy the land to send the water south” is now underway.
Opponents quote U.S. Sugar’s full-page ads that say we don’t need to send water south because 90 percent of the dirty water flowing into Lake Okeechobee comes from the north.
Besides attacking the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and Negron, personally, because his law firm represents U.S. Sugar, opponents have attacked river advocates for wanting to send dirty water south to the Everglades.
For those who don’t understand Florida’s complex water system and CERP, which is supposed to fix it, the arguments sound plausible.
In what was supposed to be a news story, the Palm Beach Post asserted that it was unfair to blame sugar because “the hundreds of thousands of septic tanks draining into the St Lucie Estuary” were the real problem.
There are hundreds of thousands of septic tanks from Palm Beach County through Brevard County. Most of them are in Brevard and Volusia counties. There are 25,000 septic tanks in all of Martin County. In the area that surrounds the estuary, which is served by Martin County Utilities, there are 16,000 septic systems.
Last summer, Negron — after considerable study of the problem and listening to all sides — suggested the only reasonable solution. He accepted the information from CERP, the U.S. Department of the Interior, 200 Everglades scientists and the University of Florida Water Institute that said CERP can’t work unless we have land south of Lake Okeechobee to store, treat and move water south.
CERP is about getting enough clean water going south from the lake to restore Florida Bay, protect Miami’s water supply and save the coastal estuaries from destruction by massive dumping of water from Lake Okeechobee.
It’s about the Everglades, Stupid !
If Florida wasn’t promising to restore the Everglades, the federal government would not be involved in providing 50 percent of the funding.
Stopping pollution from the north is a good idea, but it won’t send clean water south and it shouldn’t be financed by taxpayers. If Negron’s opponents were serious about their alternative, they would have introduced legislation for immediate, mandatory water-quality standards for all of the watersheds draining into the lake.
Storing water north of the lake will provide water supply for agriculture in that area. It won’t send water south and it won’t significantly help our estuary. As long as the system depends on keeping the lake full to meet sugar’s dry season irrigation needs, it won’t work for the rest of us.
Every time they increase discharges, they insist it’s because of the weather. It is and it isn’t. Florida weather varies from drought to flood on a regular basis. If you keep the lake full for sugar and we have above-average rainfall, massive dumping has to occur. If sugar doesn’t need the water at the end of the dry season, two feet of water on a 600,000 acre-lake needs to go somewhere fast to get ready for hurricane season.
It can’t go south because sugar fields are in the way and the stormwater treatment areas taxpayers have built are all filled with runoff from sugar fields.
CERP is designed to fix the flawed system. It has always depended on purchasing land south of the lake to store, treat and move clean water south throughout the year so we don’t have the dumping dilemma.
Negron asked for time to negotiate a fair deal that didn’t favor one sugar company over the other and didn’t put sugar out of business. It’s an attempt at peaceful coexistence.
In Martin County, there are still a few folks at the Economic Council who don’t think we need to send water south. There are still cynics among river advocates who don’t believe Negron is serious. There are still a few who believe that if dirty water gets dumped on us, it ought to get dumped equally on everyone else.
At this point, I would urge everyone in Martin County to get together and give Joe a chance.
If we don’t, besides what will happen to the rest of South Florida, our estuary will be irrevocably destroyed.
161229-c Lake O needs new release schedule
TCPalm.com - Guest column by Kevin Henderson, president of Evergreen Engineering, co-founder of the St. Lucie River Initiative and Rivers Coalition, and a former mayor of Stuart
December 29, 2016
At the recent board meeting of the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, I opined the single most important thing that could help the estuaries right now is a new Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule.
Why ? The current lake schedule is based on providing irrigation to the Everglades Agricultural Area first and last. Everything else is mostly undesirable side effects.
The Herbert Hoover Dike is threatened by high lake levels allowed by the 2008 release schedule. So the Army Corps sends more water out of the lake to the coasts sooner than the schedule requires. Thus, the irrigation supply in the Everglades Agricultural Area is 100 percent preserved by the Corps' adaptive management program.
This results in massive and extended discharges to the coasts, which in 2016 went from really bad environmental damage to toxic. Even our governor, firmly in the pockets of sugar interests, declared an emergency in 2016. Toxic public waters are the newest and now most dangerous example of sugar domination of water management.
Last week, in its biennial Everglades Report, the National Academy of Sciences opined we need a new Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule right now. The South Florida Water Management District immediately rejected the idea, reporting it would halt ongoing projects and delay restoration. Since it was established, the water management district has never been more the governor’s mouthpiece than it is now.
A new schedule could run the lake at a lower average elevation. It could call for regular lake releases south through the stormwater treatment areas we built for runoff in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The water management district has proven the stormwater treatment areas clean up Lake O water better than they clean up EAA drainage. So we can provide the Everglades more clean water throughout the year.
Developing a new schedule would not halt any projects that are really useful to the Everglades. If anything, it would clarify the benefits of water storage south of the Everglades Agricultural Area vs. north of Lake O.
Depending on whose modeling you believe, the water management district has already shown storage south of Lake O is three times as effective as northern storage at reducing estuarine dumps. The Everglades Foundation’s modeling says southern storage is eight times as effective as northern storage.
The Army Corps does not object to a new LORS as long as it makes the lake safer. River, Everglades and Lake O advocates want a schedule that runs the lake at lower average levels, with the excess water going south to the Everglades.
Who is holding us hostage to dangerous lake levels and toxic algae dumps? Who opposes a new Lake O regulation schedule ? The sugar industry and its spokespersons — our governor and his South Florida Water Management District.
If Sen. Joe Negron’s proposal to build more storage south of the Everglades Agricultural Area is going to have half a chance, we must heed the National Science Foundation’s recommendation. Start a new schedule now and let science show how we can avoid a toxic future while spending our tax money wisely on environmental restoration.
161229-d Toughen the Everglades Forever Act
Sun Sentinel – by Editorial Board
December 29, 2016
If the Legislature doesn't update the Everglades Forever Act, it will take forever to save what remains of the Everglades.
The Sun Sentinel's Andy Reid reported recently that between 2011 and 2015, two Palm Beach County sugar farms totaling 1,200 acres discharged runoff that far exceeded limits for protecting the Everglades from pollution. The farms' landlord is the state.
The Everglades Forever Act, which the Legislature passed in 1994, is supposed to make runoff from farms south of Lake Okeechobee clean enough that it doesn't damage the "River of Grass." A major source of pollution is phosphorous, the main ingredient in fertilizer. The state supposedly monitors compliance with the law.
Unfortunately, the law sets only a system-wide target for water quality. The state cannot single out individual farms for enforcement unless the system fails to meet the goal. So the farmers can meet that collective target while the goal of preserving the Everglades remains unmet.
Apparently, the state is fine with that. The South Florida Water Management District, which owns one of the high-polluting parcels, defends the current system and has not suggested that the Legislature strengthen the Everglades Forever Act. Nor has Gov. Rick Scott, whose "Restoration Strategies" became the state's latest version of Everglades policy in 2013.
"The way the law is written," said Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, "the state doesn't hold people accountable. The (annual) target is so easy to hit that it's like a basketball player just dropping the ball into the basket."
Indeed, the water management district and the sugar farmers annually celebrate continued success in meeting the goal. Since 2003, however, the state twice has pushed back the deadline for meeting the final, toughest standard that would protect the roughly 50 percent of the Everglades that remains. Imagine the Everglades as a patient who gets better every year, but never will get well.
As Reid's article explained, those annual water-quality decreases look good in large part just by comparison. The target is based on pollution levels between 1978 and 1988, which were very high because the state had no serious program to make farmers clean their runoff.
In 1988, U.S. Attorney Dexter Lehtinen sued the South Florida Water Management District, alleging that the state was allowing polluted water to threaten Everglades National Park and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. In 1991, newly elected Gov. Lawton Chiles went to the federal courthouse in Miami and told a judge: "We want to surrender. We want to plead that the water is dirty."
Out of that "surrender" came a settlement agreement and the Everglades Forever Act, which has governed Everglades restoration for the last 22 years. It imposes taxes, through the water management district, on farmers and all other property owners within the 16-county district to create a system of marshes that hold and treat runoff before it reaches the Everglades. It also requires farmers to implement so-called Best Management Practices to reduce pollution on their own.
As Draper noted, however, the law amounted to "an unhappy compromise" with the sugar industry. For all the state's pledges on behalf of the Everglades, the state has made restoration work around the needs of the industry, to the detriment of the Everglades.
For example, Draper said, the state can't control how much fertilizer farmers use. The more fertilizer, the bigger the cane. The state doesn't know how well those Best Management Practices are working. Tougher rules could force farmers to take more land out of production, which also would cut their revenue.
The two farms at issue produce sugar for Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp. Responding to Reid's article, U.S. Sugar's Judy Sanchez correctly stated that Audubon Florida lost a lawsuit in which the group asked for added Best Management Practices. An appeals court ruled that the focus instead should be on improving and adding those filter marshes.
The public, though, pays for those marshes — the overall restoration tab is $3.2 billion and counting — thus subsidizing sugar farmers. Recent legislation did extend the cleanup tax on farmers, but fixed the tax at a comparatively low rate. The public subsidy of pollution continues.
For its time, the Everglades Forever Act represented progress. Without an update to give the state more authority, the sugar farmers can continue to claim victory as they run out the clock on the Everglades.
161228-a Feds create ‘Super Weed’ epidemic across midwest
Lifezette.com - by Jim Stinson
December 28, 2016
In misguided effort to help bees, government spawns farmland infestation crisis
In an attempt to produce more habitats for bees and wildlife, the federal government inadvertently planted “super weeds” across the Midwest, potentially threatening tens of thousands of acres of farmland.
The federal government, contracting the work through a private company, accidentally mixed in weed seeds with native grass and flower seeds, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Wednesday morning.
“It’s almost chainsaw material; it’s that strong.”
The seeds include Palmer amaranth, “one of the most prolific and devastating weeds in the country for corn, soybeans and other row crops,” the Star Tribune reported.
The weed has been spotted in at least 13 properties in two counties in Minnesota.
The Palmer super weed has never before been spotted in Minnesota.
So why is that a big problem? Like invasive fish and reptile species in U.S. rivers and the Everglades, the weed is strong and has evolved to reproduce quickly. And like pythons finding a new home in the Everglades, the new habitats are somewhat similar to its old habitats.
The Palmer weed comes from the Southwest.
A single female Palmer amaranth plant produces more than 250,000 seeds, grows to a height of 6-8 feet and has a woody stem thick enough to damage combine cutter bars and other farm equipment that try to mow it down, the Star Tribune reported.
“It’s almost chainsaw material; it’s that strong,” said University of Minnesota Extension weed scientist Jeff Gunsolus.
It can take over whole farm fields in three years if left untreated, the paper reports.
The anticipated costs to farmers and taxpayers will be a double whammy. Crop losses will start to occur, of course — but farmers will also have to pay for aggressive herbicide programs.
The Palmer weed issue is yet another case of the federal government rushing in with a solution that is worse than the original problem.
And in the case of bees, the much-feared "extinction" of bees was never going to happen.
Beginning some time last decade, many on the Left and in government feared honeybees were dying off, and, in fact, they were.
"Colony collapse disorder" was happening. But no one knew why. Was it the cellphones? The genetically modified crops ? Pesticides and herbicides ?
The Left usually blamed its favorite targets: Genetically modified foods and pesticides.
Bees dying is a problem. The bees pollinate food crops. They touch about a third of the food we eat. The estimate losses to U.S farmers would be between $5 billion and $15 billion.
But the "beecopalypse" never happened.
National Review reported in June 2015 that bee colonies were back to a 20-year high. Honey production hit a 10-year high.
The problem took care of itself and the bee-killing theories didn't pan out. It was likely not true that mankind and his farming methods were killing the bees.
Yet today, the methods used by the federal government to create more "pollinator habitats" instead created a serious threat to Midwestern farmers. The Palmer super weed is doing damage to farms in Arkansas and Tennessee, and threatens valuable farmland in Illinois, Iowa, and more.
It isn't the first time that federal do-gooders tried to "re-balance" nature, to the detriment of farmers and the land itself.
In 1995, the federal government began reintroducing wolves into various areas in the West, including Yellowstone National Park. Wolves died out in the park around 1926.
In 2003, the federal government boasted the damage to livestock in the West was "much less than expected": only 256 sheep and 41 cattle.
Farmers were still angry. Costly attacks continued.
In 2011, farmer Dean B. Peterson of Montana told The New York Times that the decision to repopulate wolves, using wolves from Canada, was "shoved down our throat with a plunger."
Peterson said he once lost 12 calves in wolf attacks, and the government responded by killing only one wolf. Wolf hunters charge farmers about $350 per hour for fuel, The Times reported.
The law of unintended consequences is the one law the federal government often imposes. But this time, the damage could be much bigger than 50 cattle in the Rocky Mountains.
If Midwest farmland is further affected by the Palmer super weed, consumers can expect skyrocketing costs for corn and other crops, and taxpayers can expect more government spending. But worst of all, the bread basket of the world has been threatened with serious damage — by its own government's programs.
161228-b South Florida tidal floods could occur 10 times per year by 2040
Palm Beach Post - by Kimberly Miller, Staff Writer
December 28, 2016
Each fall’s highest king tide, a sunny-day flood of brackish Intracoastal water that overtakes aging sea walls and gurgles up through South Florida storm drains, could occur upwards of five times each year by 2030 as seas swell with climate change.
By 2040, South Florida’s streets could experience significant tidal flooding 10 times per year, according to a new study published this month by the American Meteorological Society. Check The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map.
The study, titled “In Tide’s Way: Southeast Florida’s September 2015 Sunny-Day Flood,” was released as part of a package of peer-reviewed research papers that examined global extreme weather events and their relation to climate change. It is the fifth report of its kind.
“After five years of the report, we’re seeing mounting evidence that climate change is making heat waves more extreme in many regions of the world,” said Stephanie Herring, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information. “As we get better at distinguishing the influence of climate change from natural variability, the local significance and impacts of this global phenomenon are becoming clearer.”
While some events researched in the report, such as 2015’s unusually cold winter in the Northeast U.S., were not linked to man-made climate change, others, such as Alaskan wildfires, record-low Arctic sea ice measurements and South Florida’s tidal floods were found to be tied to a changing climate. William Sweet, a NOAA oceanographer and lead author of the tidal flooding report, said the probabilities of a flooding event such as the one in September 2015 have increased 500 percent in South Florida since 1994 when measurements began at Virginia Key.
“These tide gauges are unbiased observers in time that tell us what the ocean levels have been doing. They have no agenda,” Sweet said. “We don’t know exactly what will happen in the future, but the data speaks for itself about past trends and patterns.”
Sweet said the Sept. 27, 2015, tidal flooding in South Florida was the sixth-highest flood event measured over a 20-year period. The five higher events occurred during hurricanes, including 2005’s Hurricane Wilma. While tidal flooding usually occurs September through November, Sweet’s research focused on the Sept. 27 date. So when he estimates that could repeat itself 10 times per year, he means at the extreme Sept. 27 level of nearly two feet above the mean high water level.
For Iris Frohman, the tidal flooding events mean putting sandbags at her front door and her furniture up on blocks.
Frohman lives in Delray Beach on Marine Way — a street that fronts the Intracoastal and is notorious for flooding during higher-than-normal tides.
“Last month it made it into the foyer and we were bucketing out water,” Frohman said in a November interview with The Post. “I have my upholstered dining room chairs up on my table and my furniture on railroad ties.” Watch time-lapse of high tide flooding in Delray Beach.
Part of Sweet’s study included parsing out the impact the supermoon had on the 2015 flooding. The moon, which was in perigee and pulling extra hard on the tides, was blamed for exacerbating the flooding.
But Sweet said the so-called supermoon explained less than half of the water level rise.
“It was important, but it wasn’t the whole story,” he said.
The American Meteorological Society report was released the same day, Dec. 15, as a World Resources Institute paper on how local, state and federal governments can help create and retrofit communities so they are more resilient to climate change impacts. According to the paper, coastal flooding in the contiguous U.S. has increased between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s.
It suggests increasing incentives for communities planning resilience measures – such as raising sidewalks – improving coordination between federal and state agencies, and requiring new infrastructure and building projects include climate-related risks.
Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason, who participated in a media call about the World Resources Institute report, said there are areas in his city that people will have to “retreat from” as sea levels rise.
“We have $15 billion worth of property in our community where elevations are from 0 to 4 feet,” Cason said. “Our most affluent communities are along the water and at some point they may have to make a decision on whether they are going to move out, and we will have to decide whether we are going to continue to provide services.”
Cason, a Republican, said while President-elect Donald Trump may question man’s contribution to climate change, some cities are already struggling to deal with the impacts.
“We are hopeful that in this environment reasonable voices, combined with the facts on the ground, will come together to protect our communities,” Cason said.
161228-c States await decision on water war
LakesideNews.com - by Jane Harrison
December 28, 2016
As the final days of 2016 neared, Georgia and Florida water warriors awaited words from the Solomon tasked with deciding how much of the life sustaining flow each should get. Special Master Ralph Lancaster wrapped up more than 80 hours of testimony in a Maine federal courtroom Dec. 1 with his usual admonition: “Please settle this blasted thing.”
The Supreme Court appointee told Florida and Georgia attorneys the recommendations he would ponder “over Christmas” could make them both blue: “I can guarantee you that at least one of you is going to be unhappy with my recommendation, and perhaps both of you. You can’t both be winners. You can both be losers.”
The court is expected to lean on Lancaster’s rationale before eventually ruling on the 2013 Florida lawsuit that accuses Georgia of over consuming water on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system shared by the two states. Lake Lanier is the ACF’s largest reservoir. Georgia river watchdogs attending portions of the evidentiary hearing observed a battle of hydrologists and environmentalists.
“I think (Florida) has a tough road,” said Chattahoochee Riverkeeper staff attorney Kevin Jeselnik, who heard Florida testimony the first week of the month-long trial. Florida must prove that Georgia’s alleged overuse of water caused environmental and ecological damage downstream and that capping Georgia’s consumption would end its water woes. He said that despite Florida’s attempts to prove that Georgia caused the collapse of Apalachicola’s oyster industry in 2012, Georgia countered “at every turn” with evidence of problems with Florida water practices. “Georgia would point back to Florida and say, ‘you had a role in this too, you’re hands aren’t clean.’ ”
Florida struggled under a high burden to make its case, Jeselnik said, “but, Georgia certainly didn’t come away looking totally innocent.” Evidence suggested Georgia lacks oversight in agricultural water withdrawals and that it can conserve more. “I don’t think (the special master) will let Georgia off the hook,” Jeselnik speculated. Chris Manganiello, CRK water policy director, noted Florida focused much of its attack on Georgia farm irrigation along the Flint River. Florida accused Georgia of allowing illegal irrigation on 90,000 acres and utilizing wasteful irrigation practices. Manganiello mentioned that during the trial, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal suddenly created a task force on irrigation compliance, an attempt he speculated to “get the house in order.”
The Special Master will also peruse a U.S. Justice Department brief on the Corps of Engineers ACF Water Control Manual. States, U.S. summarize key points Among Florida’s claims:
Georgia has ignored the need for more aggressive conservation for decades.
Georgia’s water consumption has altered the ACF hydrology and ecosystem and damaged community economies.
Eliminating illegal irrigation on 90,000 acres and prohibiting wasteful irrigational practices along Flint River would increase water to Florida.
Fixing municipal and industrial leaks and restricting outdoor watering would reduce Georgia’s consumption.
Amendments to Georgia’s irrigation practices, leak repairs, and more aggressive conservation in drought would not cost Georgia billions of dollars or cause the “nightmare scenario” as Georgia predicts. Among Georgia’s claims:
Increased flows on the Flint River do not lead the U.S. Corps of Engineers to release more water into Florida.
A consumption cap would not lead to greater flow to Florida in drought.
Georgia water use did not cause oyster industry collapse.
Florida’s proposed remedies would impose “staggering costs” on Georgia without solving Florida’s woes. The cost could total more than $800 million per year, including lost economic activity and agricultural-related jobs, plus perhaps billions of dollars for new wastewater infrastructure. From U.S. Department of Justice post trial brief in reference to the ACF Water Control Manual:
A cap on Georgia’s consumption, particularly on the Flint River, unregulated by the Corps, might plausibly increase the amount of water flowing into Florida when the Corps is operating to match basin inflows. It is plausible that increased flow during wet times would provide a cushion during low-flow periods to possibly maintain a specified greater flow rate for a longer period of time without any alteration of the Corps’ operations.
Reductions in consumption on the Flint River would not be likely to adversely affect the Corps’ operations, and could – depending on the amount – have beneficial impacts on the system by making more water available for various purposes during times of low flow.
The United States takes no position on whether Florida has proved that a consumption cap would produce enough additional basin inflow at the right times to redress Florida’s alleged harm and justify the cost of imposing a consumption cap in this case.
(Note: The U.S. is not a party to the lawsuit and submitted its amicus brief for the Special Master’s consideration.)
161228-d Truth about Lake Okeechobee too complicated for a slogan
Okeechobee News - by Katrina Elsken
December 28, 2016 ·
This is the first of a series of articles about Lake Okeechobee with the purpose of exploring the truth about the lake, its problems and proposed solutions.
OKEECHOBEE — Lake Okeechobee needs a better publicist.
In early December, the Weather Channel posted an online video labeled “Toxic Lake: The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee,” putting the blame for the 2016 algal blooms on Lake Okeechobee.
The reporter refers to the lake as “toxic” and “polluted” and calls the water “fertilizer-infused.” She labeled our beautiful lake as “the source of the slime.”
Local community leaders, bass fishermen and even a U.S. Congressman have called the Weather Channel out over the unfair, untrue and malicious statements in that video. The video clips shown have also been criticized as misleading.
The backlash against the slanted and simplified coverage of an incredibly complicated issue has gotten almost as much public attention as the original video.
But the Weather Channel wasn’t alone in the bashing of Lake Okeechobee.
The “blame the lake” mentality is common on the coast and often reflected in the television media. Print publications on the coast are usually better at explaining some of the many factors that cause the summer’s algae blooms along the coast. But television and internet videos are all about sound bites.
And, as Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner commented at the Love the Lake rally in Clewiston in November, the truth is too complicated for a sound bite.
How did the lake get such an unfair, poor reputation ? Google “Lake Okeechobee” and you find plenty of Big O bashing going on, often repeating the same misinformation. The South Florida Water Management District even started putting out “Myths vs. Facts” bulletins. For example: Myth: Lake Okeechobee is the sole contributor to the blue-green algae blooms. Fact: The nutrients and freshwater that can fuel growth of naturally occurring blue-green algae also come from local stormwater runoff and septic tanks. Algal blooms have occurred in past years such as 2014 when there were NO lake releases. Myth: The algae bloom seen this summer in South Florida is an unusual occurrence. Fact: Blue green algae naturally occurs in water bodies all over the world.
Large blooms have also occurred in South Florida in the past.
The problems with excess phosphorus loading into Lake Okeechobee from the Kissimmee River basin, the aging earthen dike, and the damage caused by releasing too much freshwater into the coastal estuaries are nothing new.
These issues have been studied, researched and discussed for decades.
This series of articles will take a look at the history of the watershed, the environmental problems faced and the solutions proposed.
It’s the responsibility of the press to provide readers with the information they need to form their own opinions. That’s the goal of this series. We give you the facts. You form your own opinions.
Everyone can do their part in getting their views about the lake into the public discussion. In face of the bad publicity about the Big O, the Okeechobee Tourism Development Council started the #LakeOkeechobee social media campaign, asking everyone who boats, fishes, hikes, bikes or otherwise finds themselves in the Lake Okeechobee area to take photos and post them online on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the tag #LakeOkeechobee. Post what you see — whatever you see on the lake — online. That’s one way to show the truth about Lake Okeechobee.
161227-a Florida Bay tops Everglades conference
FLkeysNews.com – by Kevin Wadlow
December 27, 2016
Florida Bay desperately needs more fresh water while two coastal estuaries suffer from too much, Everglades advocates contend.
“The common-sense solution for all three estuaries would be to take the fresh water that is inundating the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and send it south to Florida Bay, which is starved for fresh water,” Cara Capp, national co-chairwoman of the Everglades Coalition, said Tuesday.
“Three Estuaries, One Solution” serves as the theme of the Annual Everglades Coalition Conference, taking place Jan. 5 to 8 in Fort Myers. Florida Bay is the third estuary.
Representatives from more than 60 groups and agencies will “engage in meaningful discussions about restoring America's Everglades and Florida’s estuaries,” says a summary.
“We cannot continue to live with a dying Florida Bay,” said Monroe County Mayor George Neugent, who is scheduled to join other notables at the event, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and former sentator and governor Bob Graham.
“Neither can the people dealing with the estuaries on the east and west coasts,” Neugent said Tuesday. “The whole South Florida region recognizes that our resources are much too valuable to be lost.”
“There needs to be a solution, funding and uninterrupted progress,” Neugent said. “It’s an ongoing battle to persuade the decision makers in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., to continue moving forward on restoration.”
Capp, who works with the National Parks Conservation Association, will lead a major conference session Jan. 6 on “The Estuary Solution: Send Clean Water South.” Tom Van Lent, a Key Largo scientist who serves as an Everglades Foundation vice president, will take part in the panel.
Brigadier Gen. C. David Turner, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Atlantic Division that covers all or parts of eight states, is scheduled to attend. The Corps South Atlantic Division, says an agency statement, “has a growing environmental-restoration workload including the largest single environmental-restoration project in the world, the Everglades Restoration in South Florida.”
More than a dozen panel discussions on the region’s marine environment, invasive species and energy concerns are scheduled.
The creation of a large reservoir of at least 50,000 acres to store and treat fresh water south of Lake Okeechobee is expected to be a recurring topic at the conference, which features .
Several other pending projects affecting the water flow to Florida Bay also will be discussed.
For registration information, go to www.evergladescoalition.org/conference.
161227-b The water is going the wrong way
Palm Beach Post – Point of View by Kimberly Mitchell, executive director of The Everglades Trust
December 27, 2016
For many, the discussion of Everglades restoration can get a bit overwhelming. The complex, man-made water management problems we face involve not just water quality, but also water quantity, timing and distribution.
Today, America’s Everglades are collapsing from a lack of clean freshwater. Sugar growers Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp. are literally and politically blocking the path and, therefore, the solution to this sobering fact.
The Weather Channel recently released an investigative documentary exposing the significant flaws in South Florida’s water management system. While the story largely focused on this year’s toxic algae crisis and Lake Okeechobee, it brought national attention to an intractable water management problem that has devastated Florida’s water resources and the Everglades for decades.
During times of high rainfall, tremendous volumes of freshwater are discharged to saltwater estuaries on the east and west coasts of Florida causing significant environmental and economic harm. Even if Lake Okeechobee water was as pure as the driven snow, discharging massive quantities of freshwater to estuaries results in a dramatic drop in salinity and devastates everything in its path.
At the same time, most of the Everglades remains too dry in all but the wettest of years and Florida Bay, the headwaters of the Florida Keys, is dying from a lack of freshwater.
For nearly two decades, experts have understood the need for additional storage south of Lake Okeechobee to help solve the issues of quantity, timing and distribution. From the National Academy of Sciences, to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 1999, the River of Grass Planning Process in 2009 and the University of Florida Water Institute Independent Technical Review in 2015, the solution has been clear.
The sugar industry, once a supporter of additional storage south of the lake when it involved a government buyout of their land during tough economic times, is now opposed to selling any additional land for water storage. They now claim that pollution north of the lake is the culprit to our water woes and that storage there is the answer.
It is in their own self-interest to continue to point in other directions. For the Everglades, it doesn’t matter who is responsible for the pollution. What matters is that we get clean water moving in the right direction.
Efforts by Big Sugar to distract from real solutions should not deter Florida legislators from doing the right thing: buying land south of Lake Okeechobee to build additional water storage as called for and agreed to 16 years ago.
Now is the time for Floridians to support Senate President Joe Negron’s plan to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee for water storage. In his words, “It is not a radical idea. It is not a new idea. The time has come to stop talking about it and do it.”
If in doubt, go review the too-many-to-count past efforts identifying additional storage south of Lake Okeechobee. Most importantly, do not be distracted by finger-pointing and red herrings.
For the Everglades, it doesn’t matter who is responsible for the pollution. What matters is that we get clean water moving in the right direction.
161227-c Water bill a ‘WIIN’ for U.S. coastlines
December 27, 2016
On Dec. 10, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed S.612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act” or the “WIIN Act” (also known as the Water Resource Development Act [WRDA]), which includes provisions to help protect, restore, and increase the resilience of U.S. coastlines. The bill passed the House 360-61 and the Senate 78-21.
“Sediment is a critical resource for building and restoring protective beach and dune systems and restoring coastal environments. S.612 establishes an important pilot program that would allow coastal communities, states and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to beneficially use dredged sediment,” said Derek Brockbank, executive director of American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA).
“Supporting regional sediment management is just one way the WIIN Act helps coastal communities prepare for hurricanes and coastal storms. The WIIN also supports coastal resilience and sea level rise planning and tells the Corps of Engineers to assess the ability of natural and nature-based features – such as beaches, dunes and wetlands – to reduce flood risk.”
“The Coastal States Organization commends Congress for acting in bipartisan fashion to address the country’s coastal challenges,” noted Bradley Watson, Director of Coastal Resilience at the Coastal States Organization (CSO). “It is important that water resources legislation is considered and acted on and each Congress is given its potential to address immediate and long term challenges facing our nation’s coasts” he concludes.
This WRDA authorized water infrastructure projects – including seven hurricane and storm damage risk reduction projects on the coasts of South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Louisiana and California – as well as other coastal and inland flood risk reduction and environmental restoration projects.
In addition to authorizing projects, WRDA also establishes a number of policies and authorizes studies to help improve coastal resilience across the country. They include: Section 1122 – Beneficial Use of Dredged Material. Establishes a pilot program for the beneficial use of dredged sediment by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) without being constrained by the Federal Standard. The placement of dredged sand and other sediment on beaches, dunes, and coastal wetlands can serve multiple benefits, including flood and storm risk reduction, ecological restoration, and adaptation to sea level rise. As sediment sources become increasingly scarce, managing sediment as a resource is essential for the USACE to achieve its multiple missions. This provision would allow the USACE to choose 10 project areas to beneficially use sediment with a federal cost-share (rather than being paid for entirely by local sponsors). It also allows states that are doing regional sediment management projects to more effectively use sediment dredged from both federally and non-federally authorized navigation projects. Section 1183 – Coastal Engineering. Directs USACE to prioritize feasibility studies for coastal projects, including “shoreline restoration, tidal marsh restoration, [and] dunal habitats to protect coastal infrastructure,” from rising sea levels. It also authorizes “regional assessments of coastal and back bay protection and of Federal and State policies and programs related to coastal water resources.” Flood risk and coastal hazards do not follow state or USACE District lines and neither should their solutions. Furthermore, many branches of government have overlapping jurisdiction in promoting resilience to coastal hazards. This section will promote interstate, intergovernmental collaboration so that the states can have an increased role in developing solutions that are tailored to their region and federal agencies are coordinating with states and each other. Section 1184 – Consideration of Measures. Directs the USACE to consider, as appropriate, all measures for coastal risk reduction, including natural, nature-based, nonstructural, and structural measures, when developing projects for coastal risk reduction. Sections 1128 &1129 – Multistate Activities & Planning Assistance to States. Allows states to jointly apply for planning and technical assistance from the USACE for coordinated interstate efforts with regional and national importance. Section 1129 includes a cost-share waiver up to $200,000 for all studies and projects for Island Territories. Section 1204 – South Atlantic Coastal Study. Directs the USACE to conduct a study of the coastal areas located within the geographic boundaries of the South Atlantic Division of USACE (North Carolina to Alabama) to identify the risks and vulnerabilities of those areas to increased hurricane and storm damage as a result of sea level rise. This study will also include a focus on sediment resources and coastal erosion issues.
Founded in 1926, the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA) is a nonprofit that advocates for healthy coastlines by promoting the integration of science, policies and actions that maintain, protect and enhance the coasts of America. For more information on ASBPA, go to www.asbpa.org.
Read more: San Diego Community News Group - Water bill a WIIN for U S coastlines
161226-a Coordination critical to restore Everglades
Naples Daily News - Commentary by Mark Generales, Water Resources Advisory Commission (an advisory board to the South Florida Water Management District)
December 26, 2016
Vehicular tours, over-simplified slogans and the opportunistic cherry-picking of details in guest commentaries have become the foundation of advocacy groups and their mission to dim Florida’s environmental enlightenment.
A recent guest commentary by an activist attempted to rewrite history and trot out only part of the story. The commentary relies on one point that conveniently fits the argument for sinking all available funding into a single project, a massive new storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, at the expense of all other vetted and environmentally beneficial projects. It self-servingly ignored the historical record.
The author cites this interesting tidbit — “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).” This may sound quite convincing as a silver bullet solution in theory. However, it is less than convincing when you understand the full scope. The reservoir was simply one of 10 initially authorized projects at the outset of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Congress, understanding the need for storage on all sides of Lake Okeechobee, expedited several CERP opportunities.
Furthermore, the original authorization calls for a $233 million reservoir and funding many other necessary projects, not the massive $2.4 billion purchase of viable agricultural land and construction of a reservoir that would-be environmental advocates are pushing. This carelessness with the taxpayers’ checkbook eliminates funding for other necessary projects.
Their argument that an EAA reservoir is the one true solution ignores the fact that additional initially authorized projects by Congress called for water storage and water quality treatment in the Taylor Creek and Nubbin Slough area north of Lake Okeechobee.
The historical reality is that even back then Congress recognized the benefits of regional storage north of the lake. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) built part of this project, Lakeside Ranch Stormwater Treatment Area. What the SFWMD is focusing on accomplishing now through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Lake Okeechobee Watershed Planning Project is to identify additional storage north of the lake to fulfill some of that northern storage need initially authorized by Congress.
Also conveniently forgotten in this revisionist’s history is the fact that the SFWMD tried to build that specific reservoir, but some of the same groups now advocating for this reservoir opposed it. This is hypocrisy in its truest form.
The SFWMD began building a 12.5-foot deep storage reservoir on land the state owns in Palm Beach County in 2006. A year later, environmental groups sued, halting the project and eventually causing it to be abandoned. While certain environmental groups might present themselves as ardent protectors of nature, the dismantling of this project left their hands unclean.
Projects authorized by Congress that will affect real progress for Everglades restoration are all part of the Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS). This schedule was created through a public process undertaken between the SFWMD, Corps and interested parties. It schedules projects in a specific order to maximize the benefit of each for the environment and leverage the benefit of taxpayer dollars. The Lake Okeechobee Watershed Plan focuses on creating more storage north, maximizing operational flexibility to convey water throughout the system, including south of the lake to Everglades National Park. This takes advantage of the 310,000 acre-feet of storage the SFWMD has built or planned. Building more storage south of the lake before building storage north of the lake, and improving conveyance, simply creates a reservoir that cannot be operated consistent with state and federal law, rendering it useless for reducing lake releases.
Great effort went into creating the IDS and working with appropriators to fund the projects it contains. The public deserves to see the schedule carried out to the benefit of Florida taxpayers. Getting distracted by a shiny new object based on revisionist history defeats progress.
The public deserves more than half the story. Taxpayers deserves better than seeing years of planning by scientists, federal and state government agencies and the public destroyed to satisfy a narrow political agenda.
161226-b Florida scientists send letter on climate change
December 26, 2016
Rising sea levels continue to plague South Florida especially in Delray Beach.
"We're getting it seven months out of the year," says Clair Johnson on Marine Way.
Flooding is something they have to deal with it every year.
This is Murray Kantor's first year on the Intracoastal.
"Anybody who lives on the water should be concerned.
A group of Florida scientists including two from FAU say homeowners should be more than concerned.
They say sea levels could rise two feet by 2060 at a worst case scenario.
They're taking advantage of the President-Elect staying at Mar-a-Lago for the holidays. They sent a letter warning him his South Florida home could be in jeopardy from the sea levels.
In the letter they propose discussing clean energy solutions.
Murry and his family hope he listens.
"I love it here and I'd like to stay for as long as possible," said Murry.
161226-c Health risks from fracking mean it should be banned in Florida
TCPalm.com – by Karen Hudon, Stuart, FL
December 26, 2016
There are many reasons to ban fracking in Florida. It’s not just about climate change.
For the past three years, doctors from the Nobel-Prize-winning group Physicians for Social Responsibility have presented at Florida’s legislative meetings imploring lawmakers to ban fracking. We need to ban fracking in Florida, not regulate it. Regulation doesn’t make fracking safe.
Concerned Health Professionals of New York and Physicians for Social Responsibility have issued a Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating the Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction). The Compendium can be found online and contains at least 900 studies.
The Florida Legislature has done us a disservice by not having proposed legislation evaluated by a health committee, since human health risks are the thrust of almost all of the objections to fracking. Your health is being put at risk because of industrial operations. On July 26, the Environmental Regulation Commission, a division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, voted to allow dangerous and carcinogenic chemicals into Florida’s water supply. Among those are various chemicals used in fracking. Fracking contaminates both water and air, so studies that isolate risks only to water are only telling part of the story. Fracking is linked to high risks of cancer and many other serious illnesses including high risk pregnancies and birth defects such as neural tube defects. At the heart of all the concerns expressed by physicians, scientists, environmentalists and other professionals is your health.
Fossil fuels are not a cheap source of energy when you factor in health care increases and many other costs to society. Contact your Florida state legislators and tell them to ban fracking in Florida.
161226-d Palm Beach updating plan for growth
PB Daily News - by William Kelly - Staff Writer
December 26, 2016
Amendments eye growth in Lake Worth, West Palm; neighborhood districts.
Palm Beach is moving ahead with an update of its comprehensive plan, which is due to be handed over for state review by April 1. Richard Cannone, planning administrator with town consultant Calvin, Giordano & Associates, led the Town Council last week through proposed amendments recommended in November by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Comprehensive plans are the bedrock for municipal planning policies and zoning law, and the state requires local governments to update them every seven years, officials said. The state reviews them to ensure the plans are consistent with state law.
“Most of the changes were to revise and eliminate out-of-date text and data,” Cannone said.
In Palm Beach, the comprehensive plan frequently is cited as a safeguard against unwanted increases in residential density, commercial intensity and traffic, which residents and officials often say are a threat to its small-town character and way of life.
Among the proposed amendments are references to the development going on in downtown West Palm Beach and concerns about how it will affect the town, and an acknowledgement of the “built-out” nature of the town. The updated plan also would cite growth in Lake Worth as a potential concern.
Another amendment would acknowledge the existence of neighborhood improvement districts, which have been approved by the council and administered by town staff.
One example of the latter would be a neighborhood conversion to underground utilities, such as those on Everglades Island and at Lake Towers, and the project that has begun at Nightingale Trail/La Puerta Way.
Another example would be if two or three residential blocks joined forces and sought council permission to obtain a beach easement or establish a beach house, council President Michael Pucillo said.
“We’re not mandating anything, but opening the door to neighborhood improvements if they come forward in the future,” said John Page, director of the Planning, Zoning and Building Department.
Town Manager Tom Bradford said business districts could do the same. “Think of it as tools in your toolbox,” Bradford said. “That’s really all it is.”
Other new language cites the need to keep existing town-serving businesses vital while discouraging region-serving businesses — and the increased traffic that they attract — from setting up in town.
The town goal to bury all utility lines in the next 10 years also has been incorporated, Cannone said.
The plan would state that submerged lands cannot be filled and that only docks and accessory structures would be allowed over them, Zoning Administrator Paul Castro said.
The plan’s language is still being refined and will be brought back to the council for more review on Jan. 10.
161225-a 3 GOP leaders, 3 divergent visions
News-Press.com – by James Call, USA Today Network
December 25, 2016
The Florida House of Representatives has issued a resolution calling Sunday Founders Day in Fort Myers in honor of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Fort Myers community by Captain Manuel A. Gonzalez.(Photo: news-press.com)
The Republican Party has a firm grip on the Florida Statehouse but voters could be disappointed if they expect the 2017 legislative session to hum along like a finely-tuned sports car.
Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, may enjoy comfortable margins in their chambers but the two subscribe to different strands of Republicanism.
Along with Gov. Rick Scott, they shape and direct the flow of policy making in Tallahassee. Scott arrived on the scene six years ago after he engineered a hostile takeover of the state party; defeating establishment-anointed Bill McCollum for the GOP nomination. Scott: A lame duck, a laser focus on new jobs
It’s a unified government but not one with a monolithic creed.
“They all speak of a minimalist government but want to expand government in a certain area, except for Corcoran; he’s pretty much a let’s control government (type),” said Dominic Calabro, CEO of Florida Taxwatch, a business advocacy group.
The 2017 legislative session begins in March and Corcoran, Negron and Scott are slowly unveiling their agenda for when lawmakers convene.
Scott wants millions of dollars for business incentives and more money for schools and cops. Negron wants billions for clean water and Everglades restoration. Corcoran says Florida has a spending problem that will be addressed. Corcoran: ‘We are not dancing’
University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett said today’s circumstances mirror those of the middle of the last century when Democrats were the power party in Tallahassee. He points to the opening chapter of V.O Key’s 1949 book “Southern Politics.”
The chapter on Florida was titled “Florida: Every Man for Himself.” It opens with this line, “Florida’s political structure, an incredible complex melange of amorphous factions, only confirms the impression of diversity within the Democratic Party of the South.” Negron: A moderate on a mission
A Republican version of that diversity goes on display starting this week when committee meetings for the spring session begin. Then we’ll know what kind of policy making machine Florida purchased with its votes last month – a Legislature that functions like a finely tuned sports car or two locomotives headed for a collision in the rotunda between the House and Senate chambers.
161225-b Fires planned for Lake Okeechobee to help spur new growth
Sun Sentinel - by Andy Reid
December 25, 2016
Torches fired from airboats and helicopters dropping tiny balls filled with fire-starting chemicals could help ignite new life in Lake Okeechobee.
With the lake level dropping, state officials plan to burn away dead plants to make way for new ones on exposed lake bed and in dried-out marshes rimming the lake.
Odd as it may seem to see smoke rising from Lake Okeechobee, the burning can eventually produce good results for fish and fishermen alike.
The state's "prescribed burns" simulate lightning strikes and wildfires that Florida's landscape has always relied on to get rid of dead brush, recharge the soil with nutrients and spur new growth.
That new growth in the lake helps clean up water pollution while providing breeding and feeding grounds for fish, wading birds and other wildlife.
"It's good for the lake," said Paul Gray, a scientist for the environmental group Audubon Florida. "Florida's ecosystems are all fire dependent, marshes too, even though that surprises people."
An airboat crew for the South Florida Water Management District in December 2015 starts a prescribed burn intended to thin out cattails growing in the northwestern portion of Lake Okeechobee.
But weather conditions have to be just right to attempt the prescribed burns. If the wind is blowing the wrong way it can spread smoke and ash over South Florida communities all the way to the coast.
Rains stopped an initial round of prescribed burns planned in December. State officials plan to try again in January, if the winds cooperate.
"Timing of burns is ... unpredictable," said Katie Purcell, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. She said the agency, which coordinates the burns, will wait for wind patterns that "minimize the impact of smoke on surrounding communities and roadways."
Lake Okeechobee for much of 2016 had been on the rise, triggering months of draining toward the east and west coasts to lessen South Florida flooding risks.
Officials try to keep the lake level between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level, but this year it peaked at 16.4 feet. That threatened the stability of the lake's dike - a 30-foot-tall mound of rock, shell and sand that is considered one of the country's most at risk of a breach.
The lake draining reduced the strain on the 143-mile-long dike, but hurt coastal waterways. The influx of lake water and the polluted sediment it carried clouded rivers, damaged coastal fishing grounds and fueled toxic algae blooms that scared away tourists.
An early start to South Florida's winter-to-spring dry season now has the once-swollen lake receding, dropping below 14.50 feet as 2016 comes to an end. That receding water line creates the opportunity for the state to start burning.
The burning targets shallow-water portions of the lake around the edges, which usually dry out as the water level drops. Fire gets rid of dead plants that would otherwise settle to the bottom of the lake to decompose, covering the naturally sandy bottom and making it harder for new aquatic plants to grow.
In addition to exposed lake bottom, fire is also used in still-submerged areas to thin out fast-spreading cattails poking above the surface. Burning the cattails enables more sunlight to reach the lake bottom, allowing the spread of a more diverse mix of plants on the lake.
The burning doesn't get rid of the polluted muck that has settled into the middle of the lake during decades of draining. When that muck gets churned up, it can cause pollution problems on the lake that spread to the coasts when lake water gets drained out to sea for flood control.
But prescribed burns around the edges of the lake can help create a more desirable habitat for spawning bass and other game fish in the marshes, as well as provide a home for birds such as the endangered Everglades snail kite.
Using prescribed burns to get rid of overgrown brush also reduces the risk of fast-moving wildfires that can spring up on the lake during droughts, threatening the lives and property of those living near the lake, according to the conservation commission.
Wildfires that burn too long, or even prescribed burns that get out of control, run the risk of turning into muck fires - long-smoldering, sub-surface fires that can spew smoke and ash for weeks until rains return. Muck fires sprung up on the lake bed during the 2008 drought.
This year's burning targets 40,000 acres of marshes, mostly on the northwestern portion of the lake.
While high lake levels during the past year hampered wading bird nesting on Lake Okeechobee, the recent decline in lake level offers the opportunity for burns that should improve habitat for the next nesting season, said Terrie Bates, the South Florida Water Management District's director of water resources.
"Burn, baby, burn," Bates joked.
161225-c Red tide bloom lingering in Southwest Florida
ABC-7.com - by Risa Morris, Collier County Reporter
December 25, 2016
NAPLES, FL -
Many people in Southwest Florida enjoy a different kind of white Christmas on the beaches. However, red tide continues to linger throughout the area.
Many tourists are trading the snow for the sand.
“It's amazing,” Sasha Katz said. “Who wouldn't want to be here ? Why would I want to be in the freezing cold ?”
Katz, a visitor from Chicago, saw the negative temperatures that awaited her on Christmas morning and decided to catch some sun and sand instead.
“Recharge, refresh and spend it here on the beach,” Katz said.
But while people choose the beach over snow, visitors need to know about the red tide plaguing the area.
There is a bloom that persists from Pinellas County and goes all the way down to Collier County.
“It definitely affects me,” said Suzanne Lamb from Naples. “I can tell when it's really heavy out. I have a hard time breathing.” Ed Boaz, who goes from a weekly swim in the Gulf, said he knows what to look out for when he comes down.
“If there’s a cough, I don’t get in the water,” said Boaz. “I don’t know if there’s a bacteria level. Maybe it’s just an algae bloom but I don’t like to be coughing when I’m swimming.”
Another group is getting ready for their weekly swim in the gulf.
FWC reported no respiratory irritation in Collier County with this latest algae bloom, but it has been reported as far south as Charlotte County.
In the last week, fish kills were discovered in both Collier and Charlotte counties.
161225-d WIIN Act Provides $10B For Water Projects
smCorridorNews.com - by Priscilla Loebenberg
December 25, 2016
The president signed into law on Friday legislation that will authorize about $10 billion in federal investment in water projects.
The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act provides for stormwater management projects and more than 330 port, levee and dam projects. It also funds initiatives to develop alternative water supplies in drought areas.
“The WIIN Act invests in critical water infrastructure, including waterways, flood protection and other resources, in a commonsense, bipartisan way. These important projects will bring vitality to our economy and support needed improvements in communities across the country,” said U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.
The passage of the act will help fund a $445 million project to rehabilitate dams with a high hazard potential. Capito’s home state of West Virginia is home to 422 dams that may be included in the project. Also in West Virginia, the Kanawha River Basin will be studied for possible flood control and water resource projects.
Up to $170 million will be used to aid Flint, Mich., in recovering from a drinking water emergency. Funds will be used to replace pipes to households with lead-contaminated water as well as provide other aid.
“This is a very long, hard-fought victory,” said Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow. “This agreement achieves what we set out to accomplish from the beginning – pass urgently needed funding to help repair and replace drinking water infrastructure in Flint and other communities, and address the health care needs of children and families.”
The WIIN Act includes $558 million for drought relief in California.
The funding includes water projects to promote water storage and supply, flood control, desalination and water recycling.
In Florida, the legislation will fund more than $1.5 billion in projects. About $976 million will be used for the Central Everglades Planning Project. The Picayune Strand restoration project will receive $308 million. The Port Everglades Dredging project will receive $220 million.
161224-a Another Perspective: Saving Florida's precious water supply
Dec 24, 2016
Drop by drop. Gallon by gallon. Spring by spring. River by river. Florida's water is becoming scarcer, dirtier, more costly.
The slow degradation threatens the vibrant natural beauty that is the heart of Florida - and also imperils the state's economic future.
These truths are harder to remember on hot summer afternoons when rain pours down from the sky, but easier to appreciate under current conditions, with North Central Florida tinder-dry after one of the driest Novembers on record, and across the region, fears of a busy wildfire season are growing.
But the real repercussions could echo for generations. A new report predicts that by 2070, an additional 15 million people will have settled in Florida, increasing the demand for water by 50 percent. The water those people will use is only half the problem.
More people mean more houses, schools, shopping centers. And that means more of Florida covered with asphalt, and less land open for rainwater to seep back into the ground and replenish the vast underground caverns that hold the state's main freshwater supply.
As much as one-third of the state's land area could be paved over by 2070, according to "Florida 2070," the joint report by the University of Florida, the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and 1000 Friends of Florida.
Give Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam credit for taking the lead on the thankless task of sounding the alarm over Florida's growing water woes. That concern makes sense, and unfortuantely has not been echoed by legislative leaders or the governor. In fact, they have been silent.
Florida's economic engine runs on growth, but unchecked, thoughtless sprawl is a direct threat to the state's two largest industries, tourism and agriculture, both uniquely tied to the health of the state's water supply. Fortunately, there's still time -- but not much -- to reshape the state's future land use in a way that guides growth but doesn't strangle economic expansion. Establishing strong protections for natural areas, preserving space for agriculture and encouraging development in more compact, well-planned municipal areas could help Florida build a more sustainable future.
The Florida 2070 plan predicts such planning could have a major impact on the water supply. Left unchecked, development along currently established patterns is likely to see another 5 million acres of conservation or agricultural land developed for urban and residential purposes. And the impacts of that unchecked growth are showing as well. For example, Silver and Rainbow springs in Marion County, once two of the world's largest springs, both show decreased spring flow and increased bacteria count, both directly tied to decades of development in their watersheds.
Redirecting growth to infill areas that are already developed, and increasing densities in those urban areas by a livable 20 percent, could spare an estimated 1.8 million acres from development, preserve more ecologically sensitive land and protect more of the state's agricultural lands (including vast reaches of managed forest that serve as valuable habitat as well as income-producing timber operations), the Florida 2070 report projects.
But are the right people listening in Tallahassee?
Managing growth has never been an easy task for Florida officials, and it won't be enough on its own: The state must also invest in sustainable alternative water sources, including desalination and surface-water storage, and tackle perils like aging septic tanks. But the Florida 2070 report presents stark evidence that Florida's water -- its lifeblood -- is in peril, and offers hope that there's still time to protect it. This editorial first appeared in the Ocala Star-Banner, which is one of The Ledger's sister publications.
161224- The environment and the economy are inseparable
TCPalm.com – Letter by Felicia Bruce, Fort Pierce, FL
December 24, 2016
Farming and food issues unite people across the globe; water and health are inextricably bound together for all living things; clean air is essential to all. Not to recognize these links is to deny life. Whether people reside in rural or urban settings here or around the globe, they know they cannot survive without clean air, drinkable water and unpolluted land.
The economy and the environment are inseparable even though seeing that link is not as obvious. If the environment wins, our economy thrives … if the environment loses, more than jobs will be lost. Policies and programs based on sound science and sound economics are essential to the success of both our economy and the environment. For example, research on soil health and erosion is designed to improve water quality, rebuild soil carbon and tackle climate change while simultaneously helping farmers prosper. Helping farmers adopt better practices requires experimentation and innovation and calls for improved tools.
This link is clear here in Florida: when our water is polluted and unsafe, our economy declines. As the Sunshine State we must take a stewardship role and lead the way in ensuring clean water, air and land. Dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency will have harmful effects on our nation and be disastrous for Florida.
Looking forward to the development of renewable energy sources rather than a reliance on fossil fuels puts our country in the running with the other superpowers, China and Russia. If we ignore this opportunity, we do so at our own peril because clearly, they are prepared to underwrite the cost , whatever it is, to grow their economies and dominate the world stage. Wherever we step back, whether politically, environmentally or economically, they are willing to step in.
161223-a Environmentalists say too much water in Everglades National Park jeopardizes endangered sparrow
WMFE.org – by Amy Green
December 23, 2916
Environmentalists are calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control flooding in Everglades National Park that they say is jeopardizing an endangered sparrow.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other scientists say flooding in the western Everglades National Park is threatening the Cape Sable seaside sparrow with extinction.
Stuart Pimm of Duke University says the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should move more water east and maintain a dry period of the sparrow’s habitat during nesting season.
“My colleagues and I feel very strongly that an organization like the Army Corps ought not to be driving a species to extinction in the middle of one of our national parks.”
Pimm says the flooding has cut the sparrow’s population in half. Some 2,500 remain.
An Army Corps spokeswoman says the agency is working to balance the needs of the Cape Sable seaside sparrow with those of the Everglades and other species living there.
161223-b Science without Google: Public climate information may be threatened under Donald Trump
Climate Central – by Bobby Magill
December 23, 2016
Federal government climate change websites may be at risk in the Trump administration
Google “climate change” and the top two hits are websites that are part of NASA’s online climate portal, followed by a Wikipedia entry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s climate website.
Websites maintained by the federal government are among the first online stops for the general public — from students, local policymakers and everyone else — to learn about climate change. There is rising concern among scientists and climate communications experts that those websites may be among the first to be deleted, politicized or degraded with inaccurate climate information after President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January, all of which would impact the public’s understanding of the science and urgency of climate change.
Trump is populating his cabinet with appointees who reject established climate science and have pledged to overturn nearly all of the government’s climate regulations and pull the United States out of the Paris climate pact.
EPA administrator nominee Scott Pruitt has falsely said that scientists disagree about the human connection to global warming, and debate about it should be encouraged. Pruitt, currently Oklahoma’s attorney general, says on his official website that he is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”
Trump’s NASA transition team leader, Chris Shank, has said he wonders if scientists’ “rhetoric” about carbon dioxide emissions — the chief driver of climate change — is “really about some neo-Malthusian discussion on population control.”
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whom Trump has tapped to run the U.S. Department of Energy, which conducts extensive climate research, said in 2014 that calling carbon dioxide a pollutant is a “disservice to the country.”
Scientists worry that the Trump administration will neglect or delete critical climate data on government websites, and researchers are scrambling to download the data to ensure it is preserved. But there is fear that Trump’s cabinet officials will also remove or distort basic climate information that the general public often relies on for its understanding of global warming.
“The first indications we’ve seen are you’re putting a transition team in place that have spent their career attacking the science, dismissing this information and spreading misinformation,” said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “There’s a real risk they’ll push aside and hide that information.”
The climate change doubters and denialists in Trump’s transition team and cabinet have significant authority within the agencies they lead, strongly suggesting that the climate information the public sees on federal websites is at risk, said Susan Hassol, one of the co-writers of the three U.S. national climate assessments and now the director of Climate Communication, a nonprofit climate science outreach organization.
“If we are to take their public statements and writings at their word, the threat is acute,” she said.
In addition to maintaining critical — and continuous — datasets on weather and climate, federal agencies provide a trove of basic information designed to educate the general public about climate change.
Websites such as Globalchange.gov and NASA’s “Vital Signs for the Planet” offer basic facts and data on global warming for a mass audience. The EPA’s website is full of basic information about U.S. and global greenhouse gas emissions. The National Park Service has a website that can answer questions about why climate change is melting Glacier National Park’s namesake glaciers and the role of global warming in threatening the Everglades.
“Many of these sites have been developed to provide clear and concise expressions of the evidence and their uncertainties,” said Rachael Shwom, a Rutgers University sociologist who studies how people make sense of and respond to climate change. “These sites are used in classrooms and by citizens searching to answer their questions and talk to others in an informed way.”
Americans could be misled about the world’s scientific consensus on climate change if the information on government websites is removed, watered down or distorted, she said. People looking for basic information could seek it from sources that may not be as vigilant about the accuracy of the information they present. Kathleen Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said federal government websites providing basic information on climate change serve as primary sources of information for the general public. They are also used by journalists to find climate facts when federal agencies such as NASA or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration make major announcements about alarming climate trends.
Policymakers also rely on federal government websites focusing on climate change, she said.
“When a topic comes into news or policy debates, policymakers know there’s a trusted source,” Jamieson said. “Take those down, and you lose the ability to inform policymakers about those issues. You diminish the issue of its importance.”
There is precedent for government officials who disagree with the importance or accuracy of established climate science removing politically inconvenient information from government websites, Hassol said.
“In the past, some of this government information has been altered by partisan actors to serve their agenda,” Hassol said. “An example is oil industry lobbyist Philip Cooney who was hired by the George W. Bush administration. Cooney changed the language in government science reports, altering them to exaggerate the uncertainties and downplay the risks and the scientific consensus.”
When this was exposed by a whistleblower, Rick Piltz, Cooney resigned and secured a job with ExxonMobil, according to the New York Times.
“It would be very disturbing to see the purveying of this kind of misinformation to the public again, especially on government websites that are known as trusted sources of objective information,” Hassol said.
Any Trump administration effort to reduce the quality of climate information available to the public on federal websites could have other consequences, Rosenberg said.
“I would worry that if the Trump administration starts to do this, then some other states will start to take similar action,” he said. “If the worst comes to pass and there is a concerted attack and removal of material, the public loses in terms of its trust in government.”
161223-c Sugar industry outspent supporters of Lake Okeechobee plan 20-1 in 2016 elections
TCPalm.com – by Isadora Rangel
December 23, 2016
The sugar industry has an edge over supporters of a plan to buy land to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges, at least when it comes to the money both sides spent in political contributions in the 2016 election cycle.
Florida's sugar growers gave more than $11.5 million to campaigns and political committees since the end of 2014. Compare that to $561,000 from board members and top employees at the Everglades Foundation and Everglades Trust, the two main nonprofits pushing for a massive land buy to store excess lake water. Both sides invested heavily in Republican lawmakers, who make up the majority of Florida's elected officials, and conservative committees.
The difference in giving isn't surprising — private companies have a lot more cash available to make political donations than nonprofits do — but the cash sugar giants Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp. pour into elections depicts the industry's influence in
"It is vital that South Florida farmers have a voice in local, state and national governments that can greatly impact our businesses," U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said via email. "We will always oppose those intentionally pitting coastal interests against our farming communities and seeking to fix their problems at our expense."
Environmentalists fear sugar will use its political capital to stall GOP Senate President Joe Negron's plan to buy 60,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee and build a reservoir to store excess water that today gets discharged into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, causing environmental havoc. Florida Crystals owns most of the acres Negron has identified so far.
"The problem is you have the sugar industry lobbying on the other side of it and they have come up with phony counter arguments," Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said. Wealthy environmentalists
The Everglades Foundation board of directors is made up by power players, including CEOs, attorneys as well singer Jimmy Buffett, most of whom are political donors. Co-founder and billionaire Paul Tudor Jones II has been the largest contributor, giving $349,000 in the 2016 election cycle, state and federal campaign finance records show. The lion's share of that money, $100,000, went to a political committee controlled by Negron: the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, dedicated to electing Republicans to the state Senate.
Jones, a hedge fund manager, gave another $50,000 to a super PAC that supported the unsuccessful congressional candidacy of Negron's wife, Rebecca. Another top recipient was a political committee affiliated with Senate budget chairman Jack Latvala, who will oversee Negron's pitch to finance $1.2 billion for his proposal. The Everglades Foundation does not comment on its members' political donations, spokeswoman Liz Amore said.
Support from state and federal lawmakers is crucial for proponents of Negron's plan. The plan calls for a $2.4 billion 50-50 partnership between the state and federal governments to purchase the land. More details will become available when a bill is filed ahead of the 2017 legislative session, which Negron will help oversee as Senate president. The Everglades Foundation has launched a campaign to push the Legislature to buy the land next year and organized a bus tour across Central and South Florida to raise public support. U.S. Sugar ran a counter campaign to argue the state shouldn't buy additional land, saying the focus should be on storing water before it enters the lake from the north and strengthening the Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding the lake. Sugar farms stand in the way of water flowing from the lake into the Everglades, as it naturally happened until lake water was diverted into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. Sugar connections
The sugar industry has funneled $2.5 million into political committees affiliated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Florida. The chamber is looking "forward to hearing more on the specifics surrounding" Negron's plan, a spokeswoman said. Associated Industries has been more critical of the plan.
"We share concern that buying more agricultural land for the purpose of building a storage reservoir is an extremely costly endeavor and not scientifically proven to reduce Lake Okeechobee’s discharges in a meaningful way," said Associated Industries of Florida top lobbyist Brewster Bevis via email. U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals also donated almost $1 million to support Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in the presidential primary.
The industry has long supported the careers of the Republicans and both have supported legislation that benefited sugar, such as a 2003 law that delayed an Everglades cleanup deadline. Bush used his relationship with sugar companies to bring them to the table to negotiate the 2000 Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program, a 68-project initiative to restore the river of grass.
Rubio has close ties to the Fanjul family, which owns Florida Crystals, and is against Negron's plan. He's also a staunch supporter of a price support program that artificially inflates the price of sugar with tariffs on imports and loans, among other measures. Bush has said he supports phasing out the program.
Draper of Audubon Florida said U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals have maintained the price support program through political donations.
"Sugar farming is extremely profitable right now," Draper said, "and the two big companies are the ones who tend to run the policy on this."
Sanchez of U.S. Sugar said environmentalists are unfair in how they depict one of the largest industries in Florida.
"Sugarcane farmers are constantly under attack by special interest groups seeking to publicly vilify Glades farmers so that reasonable people will agree to do very unreasonable things," she said. Top sugar recipients
$1.4 MILLION: Political committees affiliated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce
$1.19 million: Committees affiliated with the Associated Industries of Florida $901,000: Republican Party of Florida
$505,000: Right to Rise (pro Jeb Bush super PAC)
$463,000: Marco Rubio and pro-Rubio super PAC Conservative Solutions
$458,000: Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Top pro-land buy recipients
$100,000: Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (controlled by Senate President Joe Negron)
$60,000: Florida Leadership Committee (affiliated with state Senate budget chairman Jack Latvala)
$50,000: Conservative Congress Now! (pro-Rebecca Negron super PAC)
$36,485: Hillary Victory Fund
$25,000: Florida Democratic Party
$25,000: The Conservative political committee (SOURCE: State Division of Elections; Federal Election Commission) Everglades Foundation and Everglades Trust member donations
$100,000: Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (controlled by Senate President Joe Negron)
$60,000: Florida Leadership Committee (affiliated with state Senate budget chairman Jack Latvala)
$50,000: Conservative Congress Now! (pro-Rebecca Negron super PAC)
$36,485: Hillary Victory Fund
$25,000: Florida Democratic Party
$25,000: The Conservative political committee
Sugar industry donations top recipients
$1.4 million: Political committees affiliated with the Florida Chamber of Commerce
$1.19 million: Committees affiliated with the Associated Industries of Florida
$901,000: Republican Party of Florida
$505,000: Right to Rise (pro-Jeb Bush super PAC)
$463,000: Marco Rubio and Conservative Solutions, a super PAC created to support his presidential bid
$458,000: Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee
TCPalm.com –by Lori Griffith, Special to The Courier Newsweekly (160825)
December 22, 2016
An environmental disaster has been brewing for years in South Florida, recently drawing international attention and local outrage with a community outcry of "Buy the land and send the water south!"
Scientists, environmentalists, politicians and celebrities have expressed outrage over the devastation Lake Okeechobee releases are having on Florida's fragile ecosystem,Not to mention the killing of numerous marine life, plant life and disrupting clean drinking water supplies.
One such grassroots organization attempting to make a difference by putting pressure on Tallahassee is Bull Sugar, (bullsugar.org).
Founder Kenny Hinkle Jr. is a self-described military brat whose father, Lt. Colonel Hinkle, served in the Army Special Forces for 25 years and taught ROTC at Jupiter High School for 19 years.
His family resided in many places from Alaska to Israel, but put down permanent roots in south Florida many years ago. Looming environmental crisis & nothing ever changed
An avid fisherman and waterman, Kenny Hinkle Jr., along with a few close friends were concerned about the water issues in 2013, prompting a collection of citizens (self-named the River Warriors) to attend Congressman Patrick Murphy's hearing on the lake discharges in Washington D.C.
A large contingency of congressmen and senators also attended, showing their support for the looming environmental crisis, yet ultimately nothing ever changed.
The following year, working with Chris Mahoney and Kenan Siegal, the trio formed BullSugar.org.
"We knew it wasn't a science, engineering or hydrology problem, we knew it was political and so created bullsugar.org, southern slang for bs and plays on sugar and their corruption and how they own the politicians both on a state and federal level.
"We want to fix the plumbing problem for eight million Floridians," Hinkle Jr. said.
"We want to stop the discharges and send clean water to the Everglades where they need the water. We want to stop the damaging Lake Okeechobee discharges from going east to the St. Lucie River and west to the Caloosahatchee River. "We need to get that fresh water south.”
Water was never intended to go east or west
According to bullsugar.org, land south of Lake Okeechobee should be purchased in order for the water to flow as nature intended and slowly filtrate.
However, when lake levels get too high, officials fear a breach of the dike and release fresh water east through the C44 canal and into the St. Lucie and west into the Caloosahatchee estuaries.
Hinkle Jr. said the water was never intended to go east or west.
"It has always flowed south," he said.
"Fresh water is going to kill a salt water estuary. If you put 180 billion gallons of clean water into a salt water estuary, you are going to kill the sea grasses, the oysters and all the marine life that depend on those grasses."
With the releases came the devastating algae bloom, which according to Hinkle Jr., began in Lake Okeechobee.
"It started out as fresh water but as the temperatures warmed up in the lake, the lake started to have this massive bloom due to the phosphorous and nitrogen that comes off farms into Lake Okeechobee, which in turn feeds the bloom. When they released all this water from the lake, it just pumped right down the C44 canal. It is also coming into Lake Worth through the C51 canal."
Now or Never - glades Declaration created
Bullsugar.org has taken the approach of going directly to the politicians, in hopes the public will vote in those politicians concerned with the environment and conversely vote out those who are opposed.
Working in tandem and with the support of the Sierra Club, Everglades Trust, Everglades Foundation and Captains for Clean Water, the Now or Neverglades Declaration was created.
Hinkle Jr. said the Water Management District doesn't want to discuss purchasing land until 2021 "conveniently right after the contract with U.S. Sugar runs out.
"Army Corps said they are willing to move up discussion, yet the Chief of South Florida Water Management replied it would be harmful to move up the schedule and disrupt anything they already have planned. It's ironic that the Governing Board of South Florida Water Management District are all hand-picked by Gov. Rick Scott - they were not elected."
LITMUS TEST ...
The Now or Neverglades Declaration is a litmus test.
With major corporations (including Patagonia, Erin Brokovich, Costa, Yo-zuri, Orvis, Nautilus, FL Sport Fisherman), hundreds of scientists, and over 25,000 citizens, this declaration is gaining ground.
Locally, Amy Lane is leading the charge in conjunction with bullsugar.org.
This mother of three small children has a degree in Social Ecology and has led previous campaigns for clean water worldwide.
Lane says she is honored to be working alongside Hinkle Jr, Sierra Club, Everglades Trust, Everglades Foundation and Captains for Clean Water — and wants to get "Palm Beach County on board because it's now being sent through the C51 canal and that affects our drinking water," she said.
"That's 8 million people in South Florida being affected by these discharges and their drinking water. Without clean water we are causing cancer related diseases in our community, which is evidenced by the document showing cancer clusters in south Florida."
social media campaign ...
Lane began a social media campaign, Palm Beach County Clean Water Defenders, Okeechobee discharges.
She has been petitioning local council members of Jupiter to sign the Now or Neverglades Declaration, as other towns across Florida have done.
To date, only three members have supported sending the water south.
"It's very discouraging to see that our Mayor (Todd Wodraska) and Vice Mayor (Ilan Kaufer) have not signed. However, the declaration has been signed by Jim Kuretski, Wayne Posner and Ron Delaney," she said.
According to Hinkle Jr., "The politics behind this are that politicians are afraid to say "buy the land" because U.S. Sugar is a powerful lobby that owns the land.
"They can make or break a person's political career."
Lane is encouraging everyone to educate themselves on this issue, which is not solely a Martin County or Lee County problem.
"Just because it isn't in our backyard and we don't see the blue/green algae, people tend to think it's not our problem. The scariest thing about it coming here is because it's not seen - people don't know that it's affecting our ground water via the water tables. I urge everyone to read the document showing where the cancer clusters are in South Florida. One in three Floridians depend on the Everglades for their drinking water." Political problem requires a political solution
Both Hinkle Jr. and Lane say this is a political problem that requires a political solution, and they encourage everyone to act now.
"We need politicians to get on board or get out of the way and we need people to VOTE."
The Now or Neverglades Declaration can be signed at bullsugar.org.
"I support the 200-plus Everglades scientists who believe that increased storage, treatment and conveyance of water south of Lake Okeechobee is essential to stop the damaging discharges to the coastal estuaries; to restore the flow of clean, fresh water to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and the Florida Keys; to improve the health of Lake Okeechobee; and to protect the drinking water for 8 million Floridians living in Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
"Using Amendment 1 and other funds, we must identify and secure land south of the lake without delay, before development in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) or other uncertainties condemn our waters to irrevocable destruction."
Three nationally vital estuaries are in long-term collapse due to the damming, diking and draining of the River of Grass. The Herbert Hoover Dike that contains Lake Okeechobee prevents fresh water from following its historic path southward through the Everglades. Reservoir constantly at risk of overflow
Today, Lake Okeechobee is treated as an impounding reservoir constantly at risk of overflow.
To manage lake levels, too much untreated fresh water is discharged into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries. Consequently, the lack of fresh water flow through the Everglades makes Florida Bay, the largest contiguous seagrass meadow in the world and crown jewel of Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys, too salty.
The resulting salinity imbalances in all three estuaries cause seagrass die-offs, dangerous algal blooms, multi-year ecosystem collapse and economic hardship.
Florida's $9.7 billion fishing industry (129,000 jobs), $10.4 billion boating industry (83,000 jobs) and $89.1 billion tourism industry (1.1 million jobs) need healthy estuaries.
Additionally, sending water south would improve the water supply for 8 million people (one in three Floridians) by reducing the threat of saltwater intrusion into drinking wells and the Everglades.
The solution to all these problems is stated simply in a petition signed by 207 respected Everglades scientists on March 12, 2015:
"As a scientist working in the Everglades, it is my scientific opinion that increased storage and treatment of fresh water south of Lake Okeechobee, and additional flow from the lake southward, is essential to restoring the Everglades, Florida Bay, and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries."
Estimates of land required are approximately 15 percent of the EAA, neither eliminating farming nor harming Glades communities. This amount is less than half of the acreage that U.S. Sugar has offered to sell to the State of Florida, in an agreement that remains in effect until October 11, 2020. Best option to reduce the damaging releases
Water storage, treatment and conveyance in the EAA is said to be the best option to reduce the damaging releases to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, and to improve the water flow south.
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 given top priority over planning for other new Everglades restoration projects.
We can't keep kicking the can down the road. The costs and risks of further delay are staggering.
Development plans in the EAA threaten to change the region, permanently severing the link between Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay.
The science is settled.
The money is available — thanks to 75 percent of Floridians who, in 2014, voted for Amendment 1.
Identify and secure the land.
It's now or never.
161222-b Local reps hope Trump doesn’t drain this swamp — the Everglades
Palm Beach Post - by George Bennett, Staff Writer
December 22, 2016
WEST PALM BEACH —
Everglades advocates and members of Congress voiced hope Wednesday that President-elect Donald Trump will support billions of dollars’ worth of projects to restore Florida’s “River of Grass,” which supplies drinking water to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and more than 7 million people.
While campaigning in Florida, Trump expressed support for restoring “the beautiful Everglades” and for repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.
Three Palm Beach County members of Congress and Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg said at a Wednesday news conference they hope Trump’s campaign pledge means he’ll back the recently approved Central Everglades Planning Project.
The Central Everglades project — to be financed by $1 billion in federal money and $1 billion from the state over 10 years — is a collection of engineering projects to store, clean and move water south of Lake Okeechobee. It was authorized as part of a water bill that President Barack Obama signed last week, but it requires future congressional appropriations to become a reality.
Overall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates, more than $14 billion is needed to fully restore the Everglades, with the federal and state governments splitting the cost.
More than $2 billion has been spent since 2000 on Everglades projects, which have traditionally won support from Republicans and Democrats alike in Florida.
“It’s always been a bipartisan issue and we would certainly hope that the president-elect would understand why it’s so important, especially to this state that, it looks like, may be home to the Southern White House,” said U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton.
“This isn’t just about the environment. It’s about our economy as well. There is a direct correlation – I think that point will probably resononate more than anything else with the president-elect,” said Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who is leaving office after losing a bid for U.S. Senate.
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, said Trump has a personal stake in the Everglades.
“He has a few properties in Florida, so hopefully this will be on his radar,” Frankel said.
Eikenberg joked that the Everglades should not be part of Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interests in Washington.
“Nearly 8 million Floridians rely on this swamp for their drinking water. And if there’s any swamp not to drain, it’s this one,” Eikenberg said.
“The president-elect has talked about infrastructure around the nation. He talks about LaGuardia Airport being a third world airport. I will say that this is infrastructure. These Everglades projects are water infrastructure,” Eikenberg said.
Trump brought up the Everglades during several Florida campaign appearances, including an Oct. 23 rally in Naples.
“A Trump administration will also work alongside you to restore and protect the beautiful Everglades, which I just flew over,” Trump said at the Naples event.
161222-c The "willpower and commitment" behind protecting Florida's Everglades
December 22, 2016
Our ongoing series, “America the Beautiful,” celebrates 100 years of the National Park Service. In this installment, we take you to the Everglades. The Southern Florida swamp is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor visited the national park to learn about a moment that almost destroyed the natural wonder, how it survived and the threats to its future.
Florida would look a lot different if this never happened. It was a timeless bond over an ancient place, and it proved that a couple committed souls could change the course of history, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor.
“Do people worry about the gators and the snakes?” Glor asked.
“Well, they do for a while,” photographer Clyde Butcher said.
Butcher’s stark prints of American landscapes have made him famous. On a swamp in the Everglades, Butcher showed us why this part of Florida – the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, a river of grass, full of sun and cypress – is so special.
“It’s a living, breathing organism. This is primeval,” Butcher said. “You get out and this – you lose all touch of reality. That is reality out there. There’s no road. There’s no trails. You just go.”
But this almost wasn’t so. In the mid-1960s, plans were aggressively underway to build the world’s largest airport in South Central Florida – a complex that would have been five times as big as the one in Miami.
One runway was already built, until Joe Browder got involved.
“If they can just drag this thing out for a while, then eventually, they’ll get everything they want out there anyway,” Browder said.
Browder, a former local TV reporter in Miami, hooked up with Nathaniel Reed, a powerful environmental voice in Florida politics.
“You had a chemistry that said, ‘We need to save this area,’” Glor said.
“It’s vital. This is the beginning of the end. If this goes forward… kiss the Keys goodbye, kiss Florida Bay goodbye,” Reed said. “Kiss South Florida goodbye.”
Browder talked about the challenges he and Reed faced during a 2008 interview.
“These were people with not a lot of money who invested in a few hundred acres here or a few thousand acres there. They had enormous visions of wealth pouring into their land if it could only be drained,” Browder said.
Despite a murderous bounty being put on both of their heads, Browder and Reed took the fight all the way to President Nixon’s Oval Office. It was a time, Reed said, when politicians on both sides of the aisle were looking to earn their “green spurs.”
Nixon cancelled the massive jetport project, and its lone runway was limited to training flights.
This September, nearly 50 years after that fight, Browder died after a sudden illness. Last month, we met up with his wife, Louise, on her first trip back since her husband’s passing. It was her first time seeing Nathaniel Reed in years.
“What is it like for you to be here now again?” Glor asked.
“Oh well, it’s beautiful. I feel him everywhere,” said Louise Dunlap, who is an environmentalist.
“Everybody that I’ve talked to says if Joe Browder weren’t around, South Florida would look completely different,” Glor said.
“It would. He understood the human ecosystem of coalition building the way he understood ecosystems of big cypress in the Everglades,” Dunlap said. “He understood the different roles everybody could play.”
Wading through the Everglades with Clyde Butcher, Glor began to ask, “If Nat and Joe hadn’t been around, what would this...”
“We’d probably be in Walmart right now. Imagine this being Walmart? Gosh darn,” Butcher said.
But the fight to save the Everglades didn’t end with the fight over the jetport. Decades of new damage has slowed the natural flow of water from north to south. In 2000, the U.S. Senate – by a vote of 85-1 – passed $7.8 billion to restore the Everglades for the next century. But the status of that project remains murky.
Butcher is pessimistic. He thinks the Everglades could be gone in 50 years. But Nat Reed remains hopeful.
“You’re in the middle of a totally unique ecosystem that is not found anywhere else on Earth. It’s been butchered, it’s been drained it’s been diked in, it’s been polluted, and it’s still alive,” Reed said. “And we have every opportunity in your lifetime, not mine, but in your lifetime of seeing a highly functioning Everglades system. If the American people say they want it, it’s all doable.”
“Just takes willpower,” Glor said.
“It takes willpower and commitment,” Reed said.
Reversing the existing damage in the Everglades will take time and money – by one estimate, about $3 billion and at least 15 years.
161221- $2 Billion for Everglades not a silver bullet for toxic algae
CBS12.com - by Jana Eschbach
December 21st 2016
STUART (CBS12) — The President signed off on $2 billion Everglades restoration project this week, but will the money continue to flow south from Washington with the new President-elect?
The funding took on a new sense of urgency this year when a toxic algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee poured into Martin and St Lucie Counties this year when the Port Myacca Locks opened up to drain Lake Okeechobee.
At its peak in June, the toxic algae spanned 42 miles along the Okeechobee waterway into the Ocean, closing even public beaches, causing commissioners and the Governor to declare multiple states of emergency. Local chambers estimate a $50 million dollar loss to the region from the toxic waterways.
Why does this have to happen?
"When Lake Okeechobee fills up, the only option is to open the floodgates and have billions of gallions of water dump east and west," said Eric Eikenberg, CEO Everglades Foundation, an advocate for Everglades restoration, and sending water south, as it once was.
"We avoid the wildfires. We avoid the drought. We avoid not having the abundance of fresh water that we need. This Central Everglades Project allows water to flow south ultimately getting to the Florida Keys," Eikenberg said, “Everglades Restoration is all about water storage. You have to have a significant amount of water on the peninsula instead of wasting the billions of gallons of water we saw this past summer."
Florida U.S. Congressmen and women helped push through a $2 billion approval to fund the Central Everglades Restoration Project (CEPP).
"It’s going to matter to the public directly because they will rely on it for drinking water, and as this goes forward we are going to help in the Treasure Coast area as well,” said Rep. Ted Deutch, US Congress (D) district 21, "2 billion dollars to finally move forward on the federal obligation to make sure the water flows south in the direction it is supposed to."
The water bill authorizes $1.95 billion for the Central Everglades Planning Project as well as money for several other Florida projects including $113 million for the Picayune Strand Restoration Project in Collier County and $323 million to dredge Port Everglades in Broward County. The projects to redirect as much as 67 billion gallons of water per year, would also improve water quality in Southwest Florida where runoff from Lake Okechobee is discharged into the Caloosahatchee River.
For details: https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/nature/cerp.htm
The project includes multiple infrastructure projects designed to help clean drinking water for 8 million people. It means they will construct water storage to filter out toxins south of the Lake, and lifting roadways with bridges to allow more water to flow south.
Also, a new president has to continue funding the infrastructure, promised since 2000.
"He does spend a lot of time in Florida. He understands the beauty of Florida," Deutch said.
Scientists caution the $2 billion in funding is not a silver bullet, nor will it stop another toxic bloom in 2017.
Even with continued federal funding, the restoration will take 2 decades to complete.
That means we could see it get worse here again before we get relief. Also, $2 billion will get many projects underway, but this entire project will cost upwards of $15 billion to complete.
President-elect Trump has yet to weigh in on if he supports Everglades Restoration infrastructure funding.
161220-a Lee County sets focus on water quality, land conservation in 2017
News-Press.com – by Cody Dulaney
December 20, 2016
Commissioners unanimously adopted, without discussion, the federal and state legislative platforms for 2017, and most of the state agenda deals with water quality and land conservation.
The county has had some issues with water quality in the past, Commission Chairman John Manning said, and a 100-year storm event in January seemed to exacerbate the situation.
Manning said the county set its sights there because water quality is a "tourism ingredient," and land conservation will provide a balanced approach as the county continues to focus on growth management.
The state legislative session begins March 7 and is scheduled to end on May 5. Here are the three main topics the county plans to focus on with state legislators: 1. Water Quality
The issue of water quality is big in Southwest Florida, and it's only getting bigger. The county plans to ask the state for $1.38 million in funding for water quality projects, with the county willing to match more than $2 million.
That money would be spread out to cover four projects: plugging wells to maintain healthy aquifers, canal rehabilitation for the Caloosahatchee River, water treatment at Lakes Park and hydrological restoration at Wild Turkey Strand Preserve.
The county also plans to ask for continued, dedicated state funding for the Caloosahatchee reservoir, and funding to complete a water quality treatment testing facility on property purchase jointly by the county and the South Florida Water Management District. 2. Land conservation
County officials asked if people wanted them to continue buying property for conservation, and the voters answered. In November, 84 percent voted in favor of Lee County's Conservation 20/20 program.
And now, county officials want the state to help keep it going. The county wants the state to allocate money for county land conservation and management programs, as officials turn to their focus to acquiring the environmentally sensitive property on Edison Farms in Southeast Lee.
Lee County's 20/20 program has spent more than $300 million to acquire about 25,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands for restoration and preservation, according to documents prepared by the county. 3. Justice, mental health, substance abuse
Bob Janes Triage Center, on Ortiz Avenue, has a proven track record of enhancing public safety and reducing criminal justice expenditures, according to the documents prepared by the county.
The county plans to ask legislators to increase funding for the criminal justice, mental health and substance abuse local matching grant program, which would help facilities like the triage center.
The main goal is to reduce the number of individuals with known mental illness or substance abuse disorders who were arrested and taken to the county jail for low-level offenses, according to the triage center's website.
FL Ag Commissioner
161220-b Movers and Shakers: Florida Commissioner of Agriculture selected to speak at Argus Foundation’s annual meeting
December 20, 2016
SARASOTA – The Argus Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to joining business leaders from diverse industries and leveraging their talents and experience to benefit the community, has selected Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam to speak at its 2017 Annual Meeting.
During the event on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Sarasota Yacht Club, new 2017 officers will also be installed, including new President Jeff Charlotte, First Vice President Jack Cox and Second Vice President Keith Mercier.
Commissioner Putnam oversees the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and serves as a member of Florida’s Cabinet. During the event, the fifth-generation Floridian will address how far Florida has come in the last few years, his long-term vision for the state and the challenges he would like to tackle, including water, education, infrastructure and others.
“I look forward to joining the Argus Foundation’s annual meeting in January,” said Commissioner Putnam. “These business and community leaders of Sarasota clearly care about the future of their community and the long-term prosperity of our state. Working together, we can tackle the challenges that come our way, whether it is ensuring we have an adequate supply of water to meet our future needs or providing the educational and training opportunities our children and young adults need to succeed in this increasingly competitive global economy.”
The Argus Foundation aims to educate and stimulate with informative guest speakers who discuss the important issues impacting the community, state and world.
Tickets are $40 for members and $45 for non-members. They are available for purchase here. About The Argus Foundation Established in Sarasota in 1983, The Argus Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to joining business leaders from diverse industries and leveraging their talents and experience to benefit the community. The organization, which seeks to facilitate communications between the public and private sectors, has more than 170 members from 50 different industries. For more information, visit ArgusFoundation.org. About Commissioner Adam Putnam Adam Putnam was elected to serve a second term as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture on Nov. 4, 2014, and was sworn into office on Jan. 6, 2015. In this capacity, he oversees the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and serves as a member of Florida’s Cabinet. Previously, Commissioner Putnam served five terms as Congressman for Florida’s 12th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was recognized as a leader on a variety of issues, including water, energy and government transparency and efficiency. Commissioner Putnam was acknowledged for his efforts to bring comprehensive restoration to the Everglades, reform food safety laws, modernize programs to ensure Florida agriculture remains a leader throughout the nation, and increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables to counter childhood obesity.
While in Congress, the fifth-generation Floridian was elected by his peers to serve as the Republican Policy Chairman during the 109th Congress and Chairman of the House Republican Conference for the 110th Congress, the highest elected leadership position any Floridian of either party has held in Washington. Commissioner Putnam also served as a member of the House Committees on Government Reform, Agriculture, Rules and Financial Services. Before he was elected to Congress, Commissioner Putnam served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1996 to 2000. He graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Science in food and resource economics.
161219-a Billions of dollars later, Everglades water quality nearly up to standards
WMFE.org - by Amy Green
December 19, 2016
After more than two decades of work to restore water quality in the Florida Everglades it’s now nearing federal and state standards.
The milestone comes after the federal government and the state invested billions of dollars in manmade wetlands and improved farming techniques aimed at limiting the amount of phosphorous flowing into the Everglades. Julie Hill-Gabriel of Audubon Florida says the efforts are meant to protect the river of grass from nutrients like phosphorous found in fertilizers and urban run-off.
“The Everglades is just a very subtle source of life. But because of those low levels of nutrients, that’s what really made this a unique ecosystem with species that can be found nowhere else in the world.”
But she says the summer’s toxic algae blooms demonstrate that more work is needed. Stuart Van Horn of the South Florida Water Management District says the standards are aimed at nutrients like phosphorous that help non-native vegetation like cattails flourish.
“One of the things that we’ve been able to see with the reduction of phosphorous is that the spread or the advancement of those cattail stands that used to go unchecked because of the high phosphorous levels, they’ve pretty much stopped growing.”
There’s also a 30-year, $17 billion restoration of the Everglades that’s about halfway done. The ecosystem supports the drinking water for more than a third of Floridians.
161219-b Continuing protections for manatees, panthers
Tampa Bay Times - Editorial
December 19, 2016 (update)
This year has not been kind to two of Florida’s most treasured animals. Florida panthers and manatees have been killed in record numbers in 2016.
This year has not been kind to two of Florida's most treasured animals. Florida panthers and manatees have been killed in record numbers in 2016, with a couple of weeks still to go. These grim milestones are a reminder that wildlife managers must follow sensible measures to protect these vulnerable species and Floridians must be cautious not to add to the death toll even as the numbers of panthers and manatees are on the rise.
On Dec. 2, a manatee was found dead in Fort Lauderdale's Stranahan River, the 98th fatality this year, breaking the record set in 2009. The 10-foot-long female died from boat propeller wounds, which is not the typical cause of death for manatees in Florida. Most die from boat strikes that shatter their bones and drive shards into their heart and lungs. Regardless, both types of injuries reinforce the critical need for boaters to abide by low-wake zones. Speeding through shallow manatee habitats poses mortal danger to these gentle animals, which have been on the U.S. endangered species list since the list's inception in 1967. That endangered status, however, is in doubt even as boat-related fatalities climb. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in 2014 that it was considering changing the manatee's status from "endangered" to "threatened," a lower level of protection. The downgrade, based on computer modeling that tries to predict population levels, is not justified. Manatees weren't put on the endangered list because of their numbers. They were given the special protection because of threats to their habitat from pollution and development, as well as boat collisions — all threats that remain today. One bright spot for the sea cow: More than 6,000 manatees were counted in the latest aerial count of the state's waters. That's a healthy figure that has bounced back after a precipitous die-off in 2013.
Panthers' numbers have rebounded as well, but their survival hopes remain precarious. The state estimates the panther population at between 100 and 180 adults, a big jump from the mid 1990s, when there were no more than 30 roaming Florida. But rapid development in southwest Florida is encroaching on panther habitat and resulting in deadly interactions. This year, a record 32 cats have been struck and killed by cars. The latest, a 4-month-old kitten, was found this month near the Fort Myers airport.
The best hope for saving the Florida panther, which is also on the endangered species list, is protection of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, 16 million acres of public and private lands that provide wildlife habitat stretching from the Everglades to Georgia and Alabama. The corridor includes private ranches that are vulnerable to being sold for development as the state's agriculture industry struggles to remain competitive and land values rise. But their preservation is critical to the panther's survival. How critical? For the first time since 1973, a Florida panther was spotted on a former ranch north of the Caloosahatchee River in November. For decades the river was thought to be the northern boundary of the panther's breeding ground.
The female was photographed on Babcock Ranch, a former private cattle and timber ranch between Punta Gorda and Lake Okeechobee. The ranch was sold to the state in 2006 and is now preserved as part of the wildlife corridor. For private ranches still in operation, conservation easements enable ranchers to keep working their land while protecting it from eventual development. In those deals, a state or county government buys the development rights, essentially taking the land off the market forever. The federal government also has a program that compensates ranchers for livestock that are killed by panthers — a significant problem in southwest Florida. Both the easements and the livestock program are reasonable policies that can help save Florida's state animal.
Florida has made important progress in protecting manatees and panthers. But the work of defending vulnerable species is never done. Even as their numbers increase, record deaths this year of both animals due to interactions with humans are a clear sign that this is no time to pull back protections.
161219-c Scientists call for re-evaluation of $16 billion Everglades restoration
WMFE.org - by Amy Green
December 19, 2016
committee of scientists is recommending a re-evaluation of a $16 billion restoration of the Florida Everglades, the largest in American history.
The committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in a report to Congress called for the re-evaluation as the effort approaches its 17th year. Julie Hill-Gabriel of Audubon of Florida says the committee wants the re-evaluation as scientific understanding of the Everglades evolves and sea level rise poses a greater concern.
“If you go back even six or seven years ago there was still a lot of uncertainty about Everglades restoration and would it work, could we ever build such large-scale projects with the goal of helping an ecosystem. And now that things are underway we really are charting the path and showing that it can be done.”
The state agency charged with administering the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan calls such a recommendation “irresponsible.”
The South Florida Water Management District says a re-evaluation “undermines the remarkable progress” achieved as part of the restoration.
“The Committee’s recommendation is saturated in self-interest,” the water management district asserted in a statement. “It solely benefits the Committee’s agenda to order more studies, when South Florida is in need of serious action.”
The scientists say the effort requires such re-evaluations every five years but that they have not been routinely conducted.
They also say a lack of funding is poised to push the restoration’s completion from 2030 to 2060.
161218- Experts advocate for Everglades restoration at the Four Arts
Palm Beach Daily News - by Jan Sjostrom, Arts Editor
December 18, 2016
The Everglades can and should be saved. That was the message delivered Tuesday to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 during a symposium about the challenges facing Florida’s River of Grass at The Society of the Four Arts.
“Tell your legislators to get on with it,” resident Garrison Lickle said during his introduction. “It’s time to restore the Everglades to a healthy state. It’s now or neverglades.” Lickle serves on the board of The Everglades Foundation.
The event began with a panel of experts consisting of Paul Cox, director of Brain Chemistry Labs at The Institute for EthnoMedicine; Stephen Davis, wetland ecologist for The Everglades Foundation; Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, vice president of strategic development and business relations for Lykes Brothers; and Len Lindahl, assistant executive director of the South Florida Water Management District. Resident and documentary filmmaker Katie Carpenter moderated the panel. Focus on the Everglades
A talk by environmental photographer Mac Stone followed. Stone, a Gainesville native, ventured where few would care to go to photograph for his book Everglades: America’s Wetland.
While displaying panoramic photographs of Everglades landscapes and closeups of inhabitants such as roseate spoonbills, snail kites and alligators, Stone explained why he’s willing to wade up to his armpits in water or wait hidden in the swamp for hours to capture his image
“My job is to bring these places to the public, because what we have here is incredible,” he said.
During the panel, facts, figures and provocative photos whipped by at the speed of an endangered snail kite snatching up an apple snail, its only food source. Such as:
* The Everglades ecosystem, which originally spanned more than 8 million acres, is one of the world’s largest estuaries. It’s home to 73 threatened and protected species. It’s also the primary water source for one in three Floridians.
* Because of development the Everglades has shrunk to less than half its original size.
* A restoration plan authorized by Congress in 2000 will cost more and take longer than anticipated. The plan originally was supposed to cost $7.8 billion and take 35 years to complete. A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report released Friday states that the cost has risen to $16.4 billion and, unless investment speeds up, the project won’t be completed until well beyond 2060. Real estate fallout
The fallout from the Everglades’ decline doesn’t strike only endangered species, the panelists said. A Florida Realtors study reported that property values for single-family homes in Lee and Martin counties took a $1 billion hit from 2010 to 2014 whenever polluted water from Lake Okeechobee was discharged into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
Cox’s institute sent a research team to Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River estuary in July to study the effects of the toxic algae blooms triggered by polluted water releases from the lake. They found high levels of neurotoxins and liver toxins.
“What came down that river exceeded World Health Organization levels for drinking water by 300 to 400 times,” he said. No health warning signs were posted in the parts of the lake the team studied, he said. Seeking a solution
If the Everglades system functioned as nature intended, water would flow from the Kissimmee River south to Florida Bay. But humanity has wreaked havoc with nature by building farms, towns and ill-advised water control systems, the experts said. Meanwhile, the population of Florida is expected to grow from 20 million today to 33 million by 2070.
What can be done to save the Everglades? “Storage is the prosthesis for fixing the water management problem in South Florida,” Davis said.
Several projects that capture polluted water, cleanse it of contaminants and send it south prove that the decay can be reversed, the experts said. The state’s approval this year of $200 million in annual funding for Everglades, Lake Apopka and springs restoration through 2024 should help.
But it will take more than money to heal the Everglades, panelists said.
“We have the money,” Davis said. “What’s lacking is the political will and the land.”
161217- UF leads on water science, others set policy
Florida Today – by Michael Dukes, Ph.D. Guest columnist, professor in the UF Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and the director of the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology
December 16, 2016
Protecting the water we’ll need for the 15 million additional residents projected to live here in 50 years calls for us to start right now by getting today’s 20 million Floridians on board with a conservation ethic.
The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a special responsibility as the state’s leading public institution providing the science to make this happen. After decades of work and significant accomplishments, we can see that so much still needs to be done.
That’s why we believe John Moran, the gifted nature photographer and defender of springs, performed an important public service with his Nov. 28 column that highlighted the importance of water in Florida (“UF scientists should support sprinkler-free yards”). We need people with his passion and his talent for communicating. UF scientists should support sprinkler-free yards
Although UF/IFAS leads the way on water science in Florida, we do not have a monopoly on the topic.
UF/IFAS is on the cutting edge of water-saving science with technologies such as phone apps and high tech irrigation controllers that tap into soil moisture data and weather forecasts to tell people when to water, and, equally importantly, when not to. They can cut your water usage by 20 percent without browning your lawn.
We have extension agents in every county to familiarize homeowners and growers with these kinds of tools. These agents also work with builders and developers, a number of whom are building these technologies into their new communities. And they work with homeowners’ associations to educate them about water-conserving practices and to encourage them to adopt new ideas. If all new homes followed suit, we estimate that we’d save 1.8 billion gallons a year – enough to provide 30,000 homes in Florida with water for a year of indoor consumption.
The UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, which I lead, provides easy-to-understand information on wise water use through its Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program that serves all Floridians. Some, like Moran, choose no water or fertilizer for their landscapes. Others are obligated to maintain their landscapes by the rules of homeowners’ associations.
We’re not in the business of telling people to have a lawn or not. Instead, using the best available science, we inform all kinds of property owners who want to know how much to water and to fertilize. Natural resource protection and financial savings often go hand in hand.
UF/IFAS has recently invested further by hiring five regional specialized water extension agents, each based in one of the five state water management districts. In addition, UF/IFAS is hiring four faculty to join a team in what we call environmentally resilient, resource-efficient land use. This team will focus on further understanding patterns of water use and water quality threats from development and seek ways to address those threats. Florida's water demand for development could double by 2070
The public hungers – dare I say “thirsts?” – for such information. Recently, a UF/IFAS survey indicated that residents would like more information on how to conserve water and that they would respond to incentives such as rebates to adopt new technologies such as smart irrigation controllers.
Getting this information out will be critical to protecting the natural resources that make Florida such a special place.
Moran’s opinion is that “…we’d do just fine without lawn sprinklers andfertilizer. And Florida would be a better place.” Yet many others enjoy gardening that requires irrigated landscapes. Much of the development in recent decades has occurred through subdivisions with homeowners’ associations where landscaping is required.
UF/IFAS does not make public policy. We believe an educated public is the most direct path to positive change. We appreciate the efforts of Moran and other activists who seek to influence public policy, because their efforts can give our science a boost by raising awareness about a resource that can go unnoticed until a crisis such as an algae bloom.
We at UF/IFAS are proud of our work on water quality and conservation. For example, UF/IFAS work on developing guidelines for agricultural practices has contributed to a 79 percent reduction in the amount of phosphorus – a main element in fertilizer – in farm water flowing into the Everglades.
But we must do more – a lot more – together.
161216-a Lakefront Palm Beachers donate thousands for lagoon dredge project
PalmBeachDailyNews.com - by Aleese Kopf, Staff Writer
December 16, 2016
After three years of planning and permitting, a project to dredge channels from the Intracoastal Waterway to Palm Beachers’ docks is finally nearing construction.
Town Council accepted $1.2 million in donations Tuesday from lakefront residents to pay for a contract with Coston Marine Services to perform the dredging. Residents already gave the town $120,000 in 2013 to begin the engineering services.
The company will dredge three waterways in the Lake Worth Lagoon from Midtown to the South End of the island. The north channel is located between Everglades Island and the Southern Boulevard Causeway, the central one is south of the causeway to Widener’s Curve and the south waterway is south of Widener’s to north of Sloan’s Curve.
Palm Beach Intracoastal Neighbors, a non-profit formed by residents living along the lagoon, began the public-private project three years ago so large boats could reach private docks at low tide.
“Instead of the 2 feet of water that I have at low tide, I will now have 6 feet at low tide, and so will the residents in each of these three areas,” said John Scarpa, chairman of the neighborhood group. “This project has become very special to all of us who utilize the Intracoastal and want access to the Intracoastal. We’re very excited about it.”
Other residents in the group include Terry Allen Kramer, Joel Pashcow, William Koch, Charles B. Johnson, Nasser Kazeminy, Martin Gruss, Mary Ourisman, Earle Mack, Geoffrey Caraboolad and Anna Murdoch-Mann.
161216-b One of the hardest parts of dealing with sea-level rise will be the uncertainty
Vox.com – by Brad Plumer
December 16, 2016
By far one of the most important impacts of global warming in the coming decades will be sea-level rise. As the Earth heats up and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica melt, ocean levels will creep upward, flooding coastal cities and forcing large-scale relocations around the world.
But there’s a troubling asterisk here: We still don’t know exactly how high oceans will rise this century. Studies have suggested it could be anywhere from 1 to 6 feet, on average — with recent evidence leaning toward the higher end, depending on how rapidly parts of the large ice sheet in West Antarctica collapse. Worse, climate scientists probably won’t be able to pin down an exact number anytime soon, because getting a handle on ice-sheet dynamics is inherently tricky.
That’s not reason for complacency, though. It actually makes preparation more difficult, because coastal cities will have to start mounting defenses in the face of considerable uncertainty. This map, for instance, shows how different levels of sea-level rise could put different parts of New York City underwater.
That means, as climate scientists Michael Oppenheimer and Richard Alley explain in a new paper in Science, that coastal areas will have to learn to master the art of flexibility — developing sea walls and other defenses that can evolve over time — and be ready for a wide array of plausible outcomes. Meanwhile, scientists themselves need to get much better at conveying the “deep uncertainties” around ice sheets and sea levels.
“The response can’t just be to wait until the science clears up,” says Oppenheimer, a climate and geosciences expert at Princeton University. “Because it’s unlikely we’re going to get a sharp answer anytime soon. And if policymakers sit around waiting for a definitive answer, they could find it’s too late to avoid disastrous levels of change.” Why it’s so hard to figure out how high sea levels will rise
Global warming has a few big effects on the oceans. As water gets warmer, it expands. And as glaciers and ice sheets in places like Greenland and Antarctica melt, they add water to the ocean. That all causes sea levels to go up around the world.
This process is already underway: On average, global sea levels have risen 7.5 inches since 1900 after 2,000 years of relatively little change. And the rate of sea-level rise has continued to increase in recent decades.
The tricky part comes in forecasting future change — mainly due to those massive ice sheets that sit atop Greenland and Antarctica.
For thousands of years, these ice sheets were roughly stable. Ice would flow gradually at the edges of the sheets into the oceans, where they formed ice shelves that floated on water and eventually broke off into icebergs. This process was all counterbalanced by snow that was falling back on top of the sheets, replenishing them. On net, there was little change in mass:
But now, thanks to global warming, these massive sheets are losing more ice than they’re gaining. Warmer ocean water is thinning the shelves and speeding up the rate at which ice flows into the sea. On net, Antarctica is losing 147 billion tons of ice each year, mainly from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Greenland is losing about 269 billion tons of ice per year. Because this ice isn’t replaced, ocean levels are rising even faster.
How this process evolves and speeds up going forward is tricky to model. Earlier projections in the 1990s and 2000s assumed that ice shelf friction would slow the rate of overall ice loss — which meant that global sea levels would likely rise less than 3 feet this century, even in high emissions scenarios.
Yet newer research has suggested that ice sheets could lose mass much faster than this. Evidence from the distant past, when the Earth wasn’t much warmer than it is today, suggests that sea levels were 20 to 30 feet higher — which can only be explained by very rapid collapse of ice sheets. What’s more, scientists are increasingly seeing rapid change in Antarctica and Greenland, as ice shelfs crumble and glaciers retreat far more rapidly than expected. Researchers have found that meltwater on the surface of the ice sheets can open up crevasses that break apart ice shelves entirely, causing further destabilization and even faster ice flow into the ocean.
Newer studies that put all that evidence together suggest we could see as much as 6 feet of rise this century in high-emissions scenarios — with ocean levels continuing to rise after 2100. Here is a chart from Oppenheimer and Alley showing the evolution of forecasts over time. Recent work has favored higher sea-level rise, but there’s still a considerable range:
“The big uncertainty is how fast the ice sheets will shed their ice as the world warms,” Oppenheimer says. “And if you try to narrow down on where something big and fast is most likely to occur, you focus on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, because it has a history of fast changes in both directions. But we don’t actually know whether these processes happen in a couple hundred years or a couple thousand years. The models lately have been favoring the possibility of relatively rapid loss from West Antarctica. And on top of that, we can see that parts of Antarctica are now responding quickly. But we’re still not 100 percent sure how much of that is due to past recent warming or just general instability in the system. And we really need a research program to narrow that down quickly.”
Scientists are racing to better understand West Antarctica. In October, US and British scientific agencies announced a multimillion-dollar mission to study Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, a glacier the size of Pennsylvania that is thought to be the most likely place that unexpectedly large ice loss could occur in the near future.
Unfortunately, says Oppenheimer, even with these efforts, it’s unlikely that this will add up to a single definitive prediction for sea-level rise anytime soon. One obstacle here is that collecting data on Antarctica is just plain hard: “Antarctica is too remote, too cold, too expensive, and too complicated to have the kind of detailed observing program that we really need,” Oppenheimer says. That hinders accurate modeling of ice sheet behavior. And, the authors note in the Science paper, there are “numerical challenges” in solving the full fluid dynamic equations for ice flow.
Making things even more complicated, sea level rise won’t be uniform around the world. Strong wind and ocean currents can warp the waters and affect local sea levels. The melting of the giant ice caps will also have odd gravitational effects that are still being explored. Broadly, scientists know that sea levels will rise more along the Atlantic Coast than the West Coast of the United States, but there are still some questions here.
That means policymakers need to accept that they probably won’t get a definitive answer anytime soon — at best, they’ll get a range of possible outcomes that changes over time as research improves. So they’ll have to plan accordingly. Coastal cities will have to plan for uncertainty
Whatever the exact number, it’s a safe bet that sea-level rise will menace cities along the coast throughout the century. We’re already seeing some of those effects now, as high tides have increasingly led to “nuisance flooding” in places like Annapolis, Maryland; Norfolk, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Miami, Florida. This will only get worse in the future — and some areas, like Miami Beach, could eventually find themselves underwater if sea levels rise 3 feet or more.
There are a three main ways that coastal areas can respond. First, they can build dikes, sand dunes, or other defenses to fend off the rising oceans. Second, they can elevate some of their coastal infrastructure (like roads). Third, they can retreat inland, abandoning some areas to the sea.
But these actions take time. Oppenheimer and Alley note that both the Thames storm surge barrier in England and the Netherlands’ sea defenses took nearly 30 years of negotiating, planning, and building after a catastrophic 1953 storm and flood. That means many cities will need to start planning today for whatever sea-level rise can be expected by mid-century.
Uncertainty around ice sheets will make this more challenging, but not impossible. In their paper, Oppenheimer and Alley point out that the Netherlands has built flexible dikes and sand dunes that can be augmented over time, as forecasts evolve. If a city is building a surge barrier or seawall, it might want to make the base big enough so that it can grow over time as science evolves.
The authors also recommend that local governments rethink policies like flood insurance or zoning so that they’re not continuing to build in areas that could soon be underwater.
Meanwhile, the authors note that the climate science community needs to get better at conveying the wide range of possible sea level rise. This would entail “presenting policy-makers with projections that are as fully probabilistic as possible, while also characterizing deep uncertainties, rather than just handing the worst-case or most-likely estimates.”
In an interview, Oppenheimer says that it would be helpful to have some entity that was continually assessing and synthesizing the fast-moving science around ice sheets and sea-level rise, so that cities could plan. Right now, the IPCC only comes out every six to seven years, which is too infrequent to be useful. The UN panel could possibly issue special reports that come out every year or two — so that local planners don’t have to sift through every new study on Antarctica and try to figure out what to expect.
Further reading: Should we try to fight rising sea levels — or abandon the coasts?
161216-c Watch “Toxic Lake: The untold story of Lake Okeechobee”
SouthForidaReporter.com - by Mark Young
December 16, 2016
During this past summer you couldn’t miss hearing about the massive toxic algae bloom attacking the east coast of Florida.
By now, wrote the Washington Post, you may have seen pictures of the foul-smelling, tourist-repelling, guacamole-thick algae that has been spreading along some South Florida waterways, including along the state’s “Treasure Coast.” The Washington Post added pictures taken by NASA showing the massive size of the bloom.
It became so bad, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency. “Slimy Green Beaches May Be Florida’s New Normal” said a National Geographic headline. A Miami Herald editorial said this disaster was decades in the making and placed part of the blame on Gov. Scott and the Florida legislature, saying:
Since taking office in 2011, Gov. Scott has repeatedly assailed federal clean-water standards. He blocked a plan championed by environmentalists — and by his predecessor, Charlie Crist — to buy sugar industry land south of Lake O for water storage. And it was this governor, together with the Legislature, who agreed to a sneaky plan that diverts funding approved by voters to buy land that could be used for water storage to other, non-environmental projects.
Every major newspaper and television news network covered the crisis. The algae problem didn’t go away – the media did.
Earlier this week, The Weather Channel’s digital team took a look at the situation, how it began and where it stands now. They posted their report online and are allowing the SouthFloridaReporter to post that report. In addition to the video report, Pulitzer prize-winning author Marcus Stern with Kait Parker and Spencer Wilking documented their findings. You can read that report here. The report includes additional videos.
See the original story and VIDEO:
“Toxic Lake: The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee” reported by meteorologist Kait Parker.
161215-a Everglades' water at risk from sea-level rise, scientists say
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
December 15, 2016
Climate change and other hurdles mean it will take more water — and potentially more taxpayer money — to save the Everglades, according to new scientific findings released Thursday.
The report to Congress warns that rising seas and warming temperatures are threatening to worsen damage already done by decades of drainage and pollution, caused by development and farming overtaking the Everglades.
Taxpayers since 2000 have spent about $3.2 billion on what's expected to grow to a $16 billion investment in cleaning up water pollution and restoring more water flows to Florida's famed River of Grass. The goal is both to preserve what remains of the Everglades and to boost South Florida's drinking-water supply.
But delivering on those goals is expected to get harder as sea-level rise pushes more saltwater into the Everglades and rising temperatures accelerate evaporation of water supplies during prolonged droughts.
To compensate, more water-storage alternatives should be added to Everglades restoration plans, according to a team of independent scientists that reports to Congress every two years about Everglades restoration progress.
That could mean building additional reservoirs, such as a $2.4 billion proposal from Florida Senate President Joe Negron to store water on farmland south of Lake Okeechobee.
It also could mean trying to hold more water in Lake Okeechobee, instead of draining as much out to sea for flood control.
Sea-level rise and other effects of climate change "will need to be part of the planning and (have) not been taken into account," said David B. Ashley, University of Southern California engineering professor who led the Everglades restoration review committee for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
The report comes after Congress last week agreed to move ahead with the Central Everglades project – a nearly $2 billion effort aimed at getting more Lake Okeechobee water flowing south to the Everglades.
The Central Everglades plan calls for removing portions of South Florida levees, filling in canals and increasing pumping to redirect more Lake Okeechobee water south toward Everglades National Park.
That should help deliver "large-scale" help to more of the Everglades ecosystem after years of restoration efforts that targeted the periphery, according to the scientific committee.
Beyond factoring in climate change, the report calls for the state and federal government to speed up construction of other slow-moving Everglades restoration projects.
It supports getting more consistent government funding to avoid additional delays, which at this pace threaten to add decades to what is already expected to be at least a 30-year odyssey.
Even with those changes, the committee warns that the looming effects of sea-level rise and climate change may require a re-examination of long-term Everglades restoration goals.
For example, the committee suggested that sea level rising 2 feet by 2100 would bring more saltwater that changes what lives and grows on the southern end of the Everglades.
"It may be that there's no amount of water that can keep the southern end of the Everglades the way that it is now," said University of Florida professor Karl Havens, who served on the scientific review committee.
The report's call for more water storage is already adding to a political fight over Negron's reservoir proposal. He's pushing for the Florida Legislature this spring to support building a 60,000-acre reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.
The sugar industry and farming communities oppose taking more agricultural land out of production to store water south of Lake Okeechobee. Gov. Rick Scott and other state leaders have favored storing water on land north of the lake.
But environmental groups and coastal communities support the reservoir as a way to lessen the amount of lake water drained out to sea, with damaging consequences on coastal waterways. Sending water south instead could get more water flowing to the Everglades.
"We have enough reports," said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO. "We've had plenty of groupthink. What the people of Florida want now is action. Senate President Negron's plan to buy land for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee is the key to getting restoration back on track."
The South Florida Water Management District, which leads Everglades restoration for the state, on Thursday released a statement saying the committee's conclusion "strays from science" and is "irresponsible."
The district warned that the committee's call for an analysis of more water storage options threatened to lead to delays that could undermine "the remarkable progress being made."
This is the sixth Everglades restoration progress report issued by the committee from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent analysis and advice to help guide national decisions involving science, technology, and medicine.
161215-b New report calls for forward-looking analysis and a review of restoration goals for the Everglades
EurekAlert.org – by National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
December 15, 2016
WASHINGTON - To ensure the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) is responsive to changing environmental conditions like climate change and sea-level rise, as well as to changes in water management, a new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine calls for a re-examination of the program's original restoration goals and recommends a forward-looking, systemwide analysis of Everglades restoration outcomes across a range of scenarios.
This report is the sixth biennial assessment of the CERP, a multibillion-dollar effort between the state of Florida and federal government launched in 2000 to reverse the decline of the Everglades. A large and diverse aquatic ecosystem, the Everglades has been dramatically transformed over the past century owing to the diversion of its waters for urban and agricultural uses. The resulting large-scale changes to the landscape have diminished the natural resources and impacted vegetation and wildlife populations.
The broad goals of the CERP are to re-establish the natural hydrologic characteristics of the Everglades, where feasible, and to create a water system that serves both the ecological needs of South Florida and the needs of its residents. Since the goals of this program were established, the scientific community has gained substantial new knowledge on pre-drainage hydrology, climate change, and sea-level rise that have important implications for the restoration plan. For example, climate change analyses highlight a need for increased water storage under scenarios of increased or decreased future precipitation.
Additionally, based on new understanding of project feasibility and changes to Lake Okeechobee's water management rules, surface water storage capacity could be reduced by over 1 million acre feet. Reduced water storage could have serious ecological consequences in both the northern estuaries and the Everglades ecosystem if this shortfall is not addressed. Furthermore, estimated feasible underground storage has been reduced by approximately 60 percent of the storage originally envisioned in the CERP, reducing the benefits provided by the CERP in multiyear droughts.
Forward-looking analysis should consider various scenarios for environmental changes and water storage, and study the implications on the ecosystem, the report says. Establishing the alternative future scenarios will better inform decision makers and stakeholders of the effects of short- and long-term decisions. The report states that such analyses should not slow the pace of restoration progress and that implementation of authorized projects should continue.
"Despite important progress on CERP implementation, there has been insufficient attention on refining long-term systemwide goals and objectives and on the need to adapt CERP to radically changing system and planning constraints," said David B. Ashley, professor of engineering practice at the University of Southern California and chair of the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report. "Forward-looking analysis, in conjunction with adaptive management, will ensure that the CERP is based on the latest scientific and engineering knowledge and is robust enough to handle changing conditions."
Since the CERP was launched, a scientific consensus has developed that the Everglades ecosystem contained much more water historically than previously thought, which means recreating that level of hydrology will require more new water and have different ecological outcomes than first anticipated in the planning. The committee highlighted this information as a pathway to explore new issues and opportunities that need to be considered in future CERP design options. Revised goals would also need to reflect the dynamic nature of the system and developing constraints imposed by climate change and sea-level rise.
Although improved reporting of ecosystem restoration benefits is needed, several CERP projects are starting to show ecosystem benefits, especially in terms of water conditions that are increasingly similar to circumstances prior to building drainage systems. For example, there has been considerable progress in constructing the Picayune Strand Restoration Project, including canal plugging, road removal, and construction of pump stations. The Picayune Strand, the first CERP project under construction, is an area in Southwest Florida that was substantially disordered by a real estate development project, which disrupted the flow into the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, altered regional groundwater flows in surrounding natural areas, and drained a large expanse of wetland habitat. Overall, the documented hydrologic improvements from the CERP to date involve a small proportion of the overall CERP footprint and are located on the periphery of the remnant Everglades. However, the large-scale Central Everglades restoration project was recently authorized by Congress. Additionally, according to the report, three major non-CERP projects that are essential to CERP progress are nearing completion in the next five years and are anticipated to provide large-scale benefits.
Even though the restoration funding outlook has improved modestly in the last two years, the report finds that the funding pace remains slower and the project costs are greater than originally envisioned by the CERP, which could delay the completion of the program. In the first 16 years of the restoration project, originally planned for approximately 40 years, only 16 percent to 18 percent of the estimated total CERP cost has been funded, suggesting that substantial additional investment is needed to complete the project as envisioned.
The study was sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Department of the Interior, and South Florida Water Management District. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org. A roster follows.
Riya V. Anandwala, Media Relations Officer
Rebecca Ray, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail email@example.com national-academies.org/newsroom
Follow us on Twitter @theNASEM
Copies of Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Sixth Biennial Review, 2016 are available at http://www.nap.edu or by calling 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242.
Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).
161215-c Rising sea levels “an existential issue:” Coral Gables Mayor James Cason
TheRealDeal.com - by Joseph A. Mann Jr.
December 15, 2016
Residents' grandchildren "will be up to their waists in water"
Despite President-elect Donald Trump’s skepticism toward climate change, Coral Gables Mayor James C. Cason, whose city is one of the South Florida municipalities on the front line of rising sea levels, said he hopes that “Trump, as a businessman, will want to protect the value of private investment” and government facilities threatened by climate impacts once he’s in office. In Coral Gables alone, there are about $15 billion in investments, and the city’s elevation ranges between zero to 4 feet above sea level, Cason said during a phone conference for the media on Wednesday sponsored by the Washington-based World Resources Institute, a global research organization that works on climate and other critical issues affecting the environment and development.
The city of 52,000 has about 47 miles of coastline and waterways and has already felt the effects of higher tides. Coral Gables has 301 boats that need to pass under bridges to reach the ocean, but many can’t get out until a low tide, Cason said. And next year, the situation may get worse.
“We see the octopus in the room,” the mayor said, referring to the octopus that was trapped in a Miami Beach parking garage after a high tide. In Coral Gables, fish were swimming in a parking lot and salt water is entering the city from below, which will affect the aquifers.
The city is already investing in a variety of initiatives: vulnerability studies and planning for rising sea levels; joining 26 municipalities in four counties to coordinate mitigation actions; developing a 10-year sustainable master plan; collecting data on critical infrastructure, plus other programs. It has already published a document for the public discussing legal considerations and financial options as sea levels invade land.
But Coral Gables and other cities will still require substantial financial help from the state and federal governments.
“This is an existential issue for a city like Coral Gables,” Cason said. But “The governor doesn’t even want to talk about sea level rise.”
In addition to the many South Florida communities threatened by rising seas, the federal government has tens of billions of dollars in facilities in the region, including Homestead Air Reserve Base (about 2.9 feet above sea level) and other military installations that are at risk, the mayor said.
Also participating in the WRI panel were Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, who is a Democrat; C. Forbes Tomkins, a research analyst at the WTI, and Christina De Concini, the WTI’s director of government affairs. The discussion was to show that mayors from both political parties run cities that are affected by climate change and are working together to raise awareness of the issue and call for federal and state action.
Cason, who is a Republican and served as a diplomat before becoming the mayor of Coral Gables, discussed several key issues impacting city and responded to reporters’ questions.
Some of his other main points:
● Only about 23 percent of Coral Gables’ businesses and residents have federal flood insurance. “It’s very expensive for homes along the waterfront because the risk is so great,” he said. “We’re built out and most of the people living along the waterfront are taking the [insurance] risk themselves.” It may not be long before people in the city will not be able to obtain 30-year mortgages, he added.
● Some residents along the waterfront will eventually have to decide whether to move out, and the city will have to decide if it will be able to provide services in the affected areas. The city has published a study on the legal ramifications of “an eventual retreat,” but the issue of possibly leaving areas “is like cancer … people don’t want to talk about it,” Cason said. Residents, though, are worried about how the phenomenon will affect their grandchildren. “Their grandchildren will be up to their waists in water.”
● Coral Gables is also spending money on detailed maps of vulnerable areas, and needs more buoys and tidal gauges to show people what is actually happening.
● The city government is not receiving a lot of emails from residents asking about rising sea levels and what needs to be done, the mayor said. “But residents are receptive to our taking a leadership position on what they and their grandchildren can expect. We talk to them about risk levels,” but it’s essential to prepare for a rise in sea levels.
● Both Cason and Hoboken’s Mayor Zimmer concurred on the issues, stressing that more federal money is needed to make coastal communities more resilient before conditions worsen. “The federal and state governments will jump in when you’ve been slammed by something,” Cason said. “After the event, they come to help rebuild. We haven’t had any evidence of state or federal interest” to invest in building more resilient communities.
● Rising sea levels also are impacting the Caribbean. At some point, millions of people my leave the islands and will likely come to South Florida.
Cason nonetheless was optimistic about efforts to find solutions. Students and faculty at local universities – like Florida International University, the University of Miami and Florida Atlantic University – are interested in learning about climate change and are seeking technological solutions, he said. Related: Florida City Prepares for Rising Seas Yale Climate Connections King Tides Are Down In December -- But That May Not Last WUSF News
161215-d St. Lucie Property Appraiser lobbied Florida government for sugar giant
TCPalm.com – by George Andreassi
December 15, 2016
Florida Crystals has paid St. Lucie County Property Appraiser Ken Pruitt’s private lobbying firm at least $150,000 since 2012 to advocate for the sugar industry giant’s causes in the state Capitol Story Highlights
● St. Lucie County Property Appraiser Ken Pruitt's lobbying firm works for Florida Crystals.
● Dozens of sugar-related entities contributed to Pruitt’s political campaigns and committees.
● The sugar money casts doubt on Pruitt’s commitment to ending Lake O discharges into the estuary
(Editor's Note: This story was originally published on Feb. 23, 2014)
FORT PIERCE — Florida Crystals paid St. Lucie County Property Appraiser Ken Pruitt’s private lobbying firm at least $150,000 since 2012 to advocate for the sugar industry giant’s causes in the state capital.
In 2013, TCPalm and Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers launched an ongoing investigation into St. Lucie County Property Appraiser Ken Pruitt. The result was a series of investigative, in-depth stories surrounding his private and public practices, which are outlined below.
But the lobbying fees are only one aspect of the financial relationships the former Florida Senate president has forged with players in Florida’s sugar industry. Dozens of companies and people involved in sugar-related businesses have contributed a total of at least $76,700 to Pruitt’s political campaigns and committees.
The sugar-related lobbying fees and political contributions cast doubt on Pruitt’s stated commitment to protecting the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon from discharges of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee, several environmental activists said. That’s because large sugar companies, which own hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland south of the lake, are seen as blocking proposals to send the lake water south to the Everglades instead of east into the St. Lucie Canal and ultimately to the river and the lagoon.
Several Treasure Coast and South Florida environmental activists said the lobbying fees and the campaign contributions Pruitt received from sugar companies show how the powerful industry can sway state and federal officials to maintain the status quo regarding the management of Lake Okeechobee and the flow of polluted water into the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon.
Big Sugar’s relationship with Ken Pruitt dates back to at least 1996. A two-month investigation into the financial links between Pruitt and the sugar industry found:
Florida Crystals paid Pruitt’s lobbying firm, The P5 Group, between $150,000 and $249,990 from Oct. 1, 2012 through Dec. 31.
Companies and people associated with the sugar industry contributed a total of $42,500 to Pruitt’s campaigns for property appraiser in 2010, Florida Senate in 2000 and Florida House of Representatives in 1998 and 1996.
Those contributions included a total of at least $13,425 from Florida Crystals and affiliates.
The campaign contributions also included a total of at least $11,000 from U.S. Sugar Corp. and affiliates.
Companies involved in sugar production contributed a total of $34,200 Pruitt’s Floridians for a Brighter Future political committee.
“I was surprised and disappointed last year — when we began working on the bill to amend the Everglades Forever Act — that former Senator Pruitt was working for Florida Crystals on the other side of the issue,” said Eric Draper, the executive director and lead lobbyist for the Audubon Florida environmental group. “Ken Pruitt is very influential. He’s a former Senate president with a lot of longterm relationships with people who are currently serving in the Florida Senate. That’s pretty darn valuable. He would be a good choice if you’re trying to get your point across and make sure your views were expressed.”
Pruitt, who spent nearly two decades in the state Legislature, has repeatedly declined to respond to questions about his private business activities during a 10-month investigation by Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers.
However, in an interview last March, Pruitt said, “I’ve got a long history regarding water issues dating back to my days of sponsoring the Lake Okeechobee Protection Act, and also my other work on the St. Lucie River, as well as my work on best management practices.”
The polluted lake discharges were blamed for toxic algae blooms and unhealthy water quality last summer in the river and lagoon. The environmental disaster energized conservationists, river advocates, waterfront property owners and water sports enthusiasts to ramp up calls for the state and local governments to find a way to permanently halt the lake discharges.
The crisis also attracted attention from national media such as CBS News and The New York Times, and prompted prominent politicians such as Republican Gov. Rick Scott and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Melbourne, to visit the river and the lagoon. State Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, held a special hearing aimed at finding ways to quickly resolve the issue of toxic lake discharges.
But the sugar industry’s big money looms large in national, state and local politics.
Florida Crystals alone has paid more than $1.2 million to 15 lobbying firms in the past two years to push its agenda in Tallahassee, state records show. Florida Crystals already has contributed more than $1 million to state political candidates, committees and parties in the 2014 election cycle.
Nationally, the sugar cane and sugar beet industry contributed more than $3.8 million to members of Congress in 2011 and 2012, according to an analysis of OpenSecrets.org data by MapLight, a nonpartisan research group that tracks money in politics.
Pruitt has long benefitted from the Florida sugar industry’s largesse while pursuing his political ambitions, including his 2010 run for St. Lucie County property appraiser.
The newspaper’s recent investigation into Pruitt’s financial dealings with the sugar industry found Florida Crystals paid Pruitt’s lobbying firm, The P5 Group, between $150,001 and $249,990 since Oct. 1, 2012 to work for its benefit in the state capital. People and companies associated with the sugar industry contributed a total of $42,500 to Pruitt’s political campaigns and a total of $34,200 to Pruitt’s “Floridians for a Brighter Future” political committee.
Representatives of Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar did not respond to emailed questions and telephone messages about the companies’ financial dealings with Pruitt.
The P5 Group’s website described the firm’s lobbying work in 2013 on behalf of Florida Crystals as successfully advocating for the passage of Senate Bill 768, a landmark agreement which has brought together farmers, environmentalists and policymakers “to ensure continued revenue for the protection of the Florida Everglades.”
The legislation includes an appropriation of $32 million per year for water quality improvement projects in the Everglades and the gradual phase out of the tax on farmers — including Florida Crystals — in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Several environmental questioned the wisdom of eventually requiring taxpayers to cover the costs of cleaning up the pollution flowing from the farmland into the Everglades.
“Armed with a minimum of 70 lobbyists, the sugar industry managed to keep their ridiculously low annul tax ... at low levels and even pulled off an additional coup by having the ‘Privilege Tax’ reduced over time and finally ended, leaving the taxpayers in south Florida the total bill for water management in the EAA,” said Nathaniel “Nat” Reed, a Jupiter Island resident who serves as vice chairman of the Everglades Coalition.
Reed praised Pruitt’s environmental record in the Legislature and expressed surprise Pruitt started lobbying for Florida Crystals, which is owned by the politically powerful Fanjul family.
“It never crossed my mind that he would stoop for a role to assist the Fanjul family delay and thwart Everglades restoration,” Reed said. “Big Sugar’s sins include polluting the Everglades and polluting the political system of our state. Ken Pruitt is just one example of double dealing that is an ethical problem that confronts Florida and the hope for a clean government. I believe that the problem of campaign donations by Big Sugar to prevent any movement forward on Everglades restoration, including the needed land acquisition, is one of the sorriest examples of corruption in our state’s long history.”
Some longtime river advocates like Sewall’s Point Town Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch still believe Pruitt wants to help the environment.“I think honestly that Mr. Pruitt cares about the water quality in the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie and Indian River Lagoon,” Thurlow-Lippisch said. “I have spoken to him at length — he cares. Look at his record in his early career. I think he also sees no conflict in what he is doing now, thinking that one has ‘to work within the system’ to get anywhere. This type of rationalization seems to happen to many lifelong politicians. I think the public will make Mr. Pruitt answer for his private lobbying activities when they vote.” Draper, the Audubon Florida leader who has known Pruitt since he was first elected to the state House, described Pruitt as “good for the environment.”
“He was a champion for Lake Okeechobee and my organization gave him an award for that. ”
But Karl Wickstrom, the founder of Florida Sportsman magazine and a longtime leader of the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, said Pruitt’s financial relationship with the sugar industry nullifies his environmental credentials.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt the public is outraged by Pruitt’s financial dealings with Big Sugar,” Wickstrom said. “Pruitt’s situation is especially unconscionable as he collects sugar money while serving full time as St. Lucie County’s (property) appraiser.”
161214-a Water quality speakers come together to discuss ‘Have we missed the boat?’
Captiva Current, Island Reporter, Sanibel-Captiva Islander – by Ashley Goodman
December 14, 2016
For the finale of "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society's "Soak-It-In Speaker Series" Dec. 2, a panel of local water quality pros examined the history of Southwest Florida's water issues and discussed steps of what can be done help clear up the state's water quality woes. Cara Capp, Everglades Coalition restoration program manager, discussed the history of the Everglades and said that the area was actually once a lot larger than its current state.
"Everglades National Park is just a small portion of the ecosystem that once was. The historic Everglades was bigger than the state of New Jersey. It started north of what is now Disney World in the meandering Kissimmee River, it would deposit into Lake Okeechobee, the liquid heart of our state, and gently spill over the entire southern border. This historic flow was the perfect nature purification system for the water. As it traveled south to the southern Everglades and out from Florida Bay, the plants would remove any nutrients from the water so that every single drop that entered the Florida Bay down in the Keys was pristine. That's why our ecosystem is so biodiverse. There is no other Everglades in the world because this system was developed over many years by nature, " Capp said.
This historic flow system worked great for nature but many settlers who came to Florida saw the land as a money-maker. Throughout the years, 50 percent of the Everglades was lost due to development.
"The Everglades was seen as the next frontier. Leaders in our state thought that we could drain and develop the lands and that it would be a new prosperous region to be celebrated throughout the country. Two of our earliest governors, Gov. Jennings and Gov. Broward sought to do just that and indeed were quite successful," Capp said.
Eventually, part of the Everglades was drained which made way for more housing and development. After land was cleared and houses were built, the flow of Lake Okeechobee was permanently changed.
"The changed flow created new outlets to the Caloosahatchee and the St. Lucie estuaries," she said. "Not only did the water change but the landscape of our state and community changed," she said.
Ernest Coe and Marjory Stoneman Douglas were two of the key players who pushed for the Everglades to be preserved. Decades after their efforts, President Truman designated what is left of the Everglades as a state park.
Capp says that even though there has been long-term efforts to restore the Everglades, we are still dealing with a water system that is quite wrong.
"A tremendous amount of water is discharged from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries each year. At the same time, Florida Bay and Everglades National Park remain starved for fresh water. There are a few goals for restoring the Everglades. The first is to redirect water from the coastal estuaries, the second is to clean the water to exceptional levels. We have a bit of a chicken and egg in the Everglades. We need to flow water south but it needs to be clean. There's always this trade-off between water quality and water quantity," Capp said. Dr. Jerry Lorenz, state research director for Audubon Florida, notes that many of the points made by Capp were correct. He said the restoration of the Everglades is of global interest and it is of importance to our economy. Lorenz, who has lived in the Keys since 1989, said that we cannot fix the things that are wrong in Florida Bay until the Everglades are fixed.
"If we can restore Florida Bay, then we have by definition restored not only the Everglades but the Caloosahatchee and the St. Lucie Estuaries as well," Lorenz said.
He also said that unfortunately it's catastrophic events like this that gets people together.
"We've got to get the freshwater flow stopped moving east and west and we've got to get it moved south. That's what Everglades restoration is all about," Lorenz said.
The other key speaker, Rae Ann Wessel, SCCF natural resource policy director, said that the Caloosahatchee was never historically directly connected as a navigable channel to Lake Okeechobee.
"In the 1880s, that changed. For 13 years, there was an effort to channelize and create a navigable connections so that we could take steamships from the Gulf of Mexico up to Kissimmee, otherwise you couldn't get there from here. The channelization went right through that marsh and the four lakes to join up to Lake Okeechobee," Wessel said.
As a result of building more channels, the smaller communities on the west side of the lake experienced flooding. To solve this problem, the Army Corps of Engineers built locks and dams to help protect the communities surrounding the lake. The issue with that now is that more storage is needed once the dams reach their maximum capacity.
"The problem with too much water is that we need more infrastructure to store that water, first to treat it then slow it down so it can come in more natural pulses to the estuaries. The problem with too little water is a policy decision which is something the water management district is often making a call about when we have water shortages. This is one where a certain amount of storage is needed but really, a lot of those decisions are policy driven," she said.
Wessel believes the only solution is to add more storage north and south of the lake. Wessel says that the water management district has begun constructing a project called the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir. The C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir will provide 170,000 acres of storage and will deliver water during the dry season. The project is set to begin in four years but Wessel is hoping to start it sooner than that. She is also working on getting storage north and south of the lake as well. According to Wessel, a project adding storage north of the lake is under way, which will also help with storage during the dry seasons. Mitch Hutchcraft, governing board member of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, agrees with Wessel that more storage around the lake is needed.
"The vast majority of impacts that we see in Southwest Florida is what Rae Ann talked about are the drier periods. A lot of the attention on C-43 is to build a reservoir that will provide a constant flow of water to make sure we have an adequate water supply for the Caloosahatchee and the bays around Sanibel. That one project alone address 75 percent of those drought conditions," Hutchcraft said.
Hutchcraft said that there is a list of projects called the Integrated Delivery Schedule that are in the works to provide more storage to the lake.
"This has been developed over decades with the federal partners, state partners and with stake holders. All of the projects have been talked about, reviewed and designed. Most of them are permitted and authorized. I think everyone would agree that this list of projects has to be done in order to see the progress that we want to see," Hutchcraft said.
161214-b Weather Channel calls Big Lake ‘toxic’
OkeechobeeNews.net – by Katrina Elsken, Editor
Deember 14, 2016
OKEECHOBEE — An online video posted by the Weather Channel on Dec. 8, headlined “Toxic Lake: The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee,” left many Lake Okeechobee area residents upset with and disappointed in the Weather Channel.
In the video, reporter Kait Parker, who says she spent 8 months researching the issues, calls the lake “toxic” and “polluted” and puts the blame for the summer’s Treasure Coast algal bloom on the Lake Okeechobee releases.
“It’s a story that involves a polluted lake,” Ms. Parker states at the beginning of the video.
“I’ve come to the source of the slime, Lake Okeechobee,” she states.
The video fails to include the fact that the lake’s part in the algae bloom was primarily in the disruption of the salinity levels. High salinity discourages algae. The freshwater from the lake lowered the salinity levels making conditions more conducive to algal growth.
Instead, the video puts the blame for the phosphorus load that fed the algae blooms on the lake releases, which is contrary to the scientific research by the University of Florida and South Florida Water Management District. The researchers found that most of the nutrient loading into the St. Lucie waterway comes from the watershed in the coastal counties.
The video ignores those studies and also ignores the data which shows the water from Lake Okeechobee is as clean or cleaner than the water entering the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie from basin runoff.
According to SFWMD data — which is backed up with data from University of Florida Water Institute — local basin runoff accounts for 79 percent of the water and 87 percent of the phosphorus load to the St. Lucie Estuary. That means the water from the lake is cleaner than the water from the basin. Only 21 percent of the water and 13 percent of the phosphorus entering the St. Lucie River comes from Lake Okeechobee.
According to the scientists who study the Big O and fishermen who are out on the water every day, the lake is far from toxic. It’s a healthy ecosystem with thriving fisheries and a variety of abundant wildlife including manatees, wading birds, alligators, turtles and even bald eagles.
The nearly half a million online viewers who had watched the video between Dec. 8 and Dec. 13 wouldn’t know that from watching the video.
“From the north the phosphorus in manure from commercial dairies and cattle ranches flows into the lake,” the reporter states. The reporter gives no source for that claim and did not respond to a request from this newspaper for the source of this statement.
The video shows little images of cows popping up all over a map of the Kissimmee basin as a reddish brown stain flows into the lake.
But in reality, there is no manure from dairy farms in the waterways that feed Lake Okeechobee.
Before 1985, there were 50 dairy farms in the watershed. In 1986, thanks to the Department of Environmental Regulation Dairy Rule, all but 19 of those farms closed because they could not meet the strict standards imposed to limit phosphorus in the runoff. The dairies closed. The cows were shipped out of the watershed — most went out of state. The local dairy workers lost their jobs.
That was 30 years ago.
The remaining dairies went to considerable expense to follow strict regulations that require to them to use retention ponds to keep runoff from the barns on site and recycle the water onto spray fields. They aren’t allowed to have runoff.
Now consider cattle ranches in the Kissimmee River watershed. Florida cattle operations are “cow-calf” operations. Calves are born on Florida ranches, and are shipped north to the feed lots out of state. The premise is that it’s cheaper to ship the calves to the grain than to ship the grain to the calves. All of the phosphorus in the grass that the cows and calves eat on the Florida ranches does not go into the manure. The grass also provides the nutrition to build bone, muscle and fat, and for the cow to make milk to feed her calf. When the annual crop of calves goes to market, some of the phosphorus they have consumed goes with them — out of the watershed. The cattle population of the ranch stays fairly constant, with a new crop of calves born to replace those that were shipped north.
While there are large ranches throughout the watershed, you don’t count the number of cows per acre — you have to count the number of acres per cow.
And ranchers must follow Best Management Practices (BMPs) to limit phosphorus in runoff.
Studies do show a significant percentage of the phosphorus entering the Kissimmee River comes from land that is used for agriculture, including cattle ranches. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean the phosphorus is coming from cow manure. According to the UF water study, there is a lot of natural phosphorus in the soil in Florida, including areas in the Kissimmee River watershed.
The video also states “water from fertilized sugar fields gets pumped into the lake.” Again, no source for that information given. This claim is also problematic.
Backpumping from the sugar cane fields was banned years ago thanks to an EarthJutice lawsuit. The only backpumping that is allowed into Lake Okeechobee is done by municipalities to prevent flooding in homes and businesses in the towns on the south end of the lake. If they have to backpump, it’s stormwater. This doesn’t happen often, but does happen in particularly wet years. Even, so it’s a tiny fraction of the water entering the lake and an even smaller fraction of the phosphorus.
In addition, sugarcane fields south of the lake don’t need to be fertilized with phosphorus. The muck soil of the Everglades Agricultural Area is naturally high in phosphorus. The fertilizer used on those fields does not contain phosphorus.
“While it is true that most sugarcane fields do not need additional applications of phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer because of the naturally occurring amounts in our organic peat soils, there are some nutrients that a sugarcane plant requires that are not supplied in sufficient quantity, mainly specific micronutrients like copper and zinc,” explained Judy Sanchez with U.S. Sugar. “Also, we grow sugarcane on sand lands west of the lake, and even some types of peat soils that do require some amounts of additional phosphorus and nitrogen because they do not have “muck” soils to provide that naturally. The one factor that IS constant is that the sugarcane crop takes up 100+ percent of any nutrients added to the fields in that, it uses all the nutrients added plus it uptakes additional nutrients from the soil and water.”
The video states that “billions of gallons of foul water,” flow east and west.
Billions of gallons of freshwater did flow east and west from the Big Lake during the very wet summer, according to the Corps of Engineers statistics.
But the water was no more “foul” than the water from the Indian River’s own watershed, according to the UF water study. In fact, according to the University of Florida, Harbor Branch and South Florida Water Management District scientists, the lake water had lower concentrations of phosphorus than the water entering that system from the basin runoff. And yet the video doesn’t even mention the runoff from the septic tanks and golf courses.
“The fertilizer in these waters could be making people sick,” the reporter speculates, before interviewing the mother of a young child who became ill after swimming in the ocean. But there is another health consideration the reporter doesn’t mention. The 2015 Watershed to Reef study conducted by Harbor Branch — and paid for by Martin County — found septic tanks to blame not only for excess nutrient loading into the waterways but also for fecal coliform bacteria in the water. Could it be possible that the bacteria from the leaking septic tanks was responsible for water-related illness? The video didn’t even broach that question.
The video mostly ignores the septic tank issue, despite all of the scientific documentation that has show this is a contributing factor to the Treasure Coast algal blooms and to poor water quality on the coast.
The video also ignores the proposals to clean the water before it enters Lake Okeechobee, focusing instead on the “send it south” campaign.
The documentary gives a lot of airtime to people who promote the proposal to buy 60,000 acres of land south of the lake for water storage. But the Weather Channel video fails to go into any detail on the Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). The SFWMD, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DEP, have been working on CERP for about 30 years, and have already obtained about 120,000 acres south of the lake (former sugar cane land) to be used to help clean the water and restore more of the flow from the lake to the Everglades.
“We need some connection between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades and they don’t want to give one acre,” Mark Perry of the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center, states on the video. The reporter does not challenge this statement, even though the state has already obtained 120,000 acres of former sugarcane fields, and even though the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), recently funded by Congress, includes plans to send more water south to the Everglades, using land that is already in state ownership.
While the video points out that water naturally flowed south through the lake and into the Everglades, it fails to address the problem that due to the channelization of the Kissimmee River for flood control, water enters the lake much faster than it did in the natural system. DEP studies have shown the only way to reduce the phosphorus loading into the lake is to slow the flow of water into the lake.
Slowing the flow, storing water north of the lake and cleaning the water before it goes into the lake are all elements of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Plan (LOWP) which the reporter does not include in the video.
At the end of the 10-minute video, the reporter states that nothing is being done except continuing to spend money repairing the dike.
“There is no end in sight for the environmental disaster,” the reporter states.
“The lake’s water will still be pushed to the coast, fouling beaches and potentially destroying people’s health.”
And yet, SFWMD, the Corps of Engineers and DEP have been working on plans and projects to address these environmental problems for 30 years. The Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) includes projects to store and move more water south from the lake. Some of those projects are already funded.
The Kissimmee River Restoration Project was authorized by Congress in 1992.
Some segments of the project have been completed. According to the Corps, when restoration is completed in 2020, more than 40 square miles of river-floodplain ecosystem will be restored, including almost 20,000 acres of wetlands and 44 miles of historic river channel.
Some lake area residents posted their views on the reporter’s Facebook page.
“What about the million plus people living in Orlando the area the contributes the largest freshwater flows to Lake Okeechobee? No phosphorus used up there? No phosphorus used in neighborhoods and golf courses?” wrote Gary Ritter.
“Who did you get all your info from, Bullsugar.org?” asked Brittany Meeks. (Some of those who speak on the video are not identified but wear “BullSugar.org” t-shirts.) “Maybe you should spend the day with a cane farmer and see how things are done the correct way. Farmers love the environment just as much as you coasties. It’s how they provide for their family, and feed the world.”
“Sad that given an audience to challenge and stimulate solutions, this article was more of the same divisive rhetoric,” wrote Jennifer Earnest.
Fisherman Scott Martin posted his own video on Youtube to answer the Weather Channel.
“I live here on this lake, I spend more time on Lake Okeechobee than just about anybody. This lake is not a toxic lake,” he stated. “It’s not a bubbling cesspool of bluegreen algae.
“Unfortunately the media has kind of slanted the views against the lake in an unfavorable way,” he said.
“The term ‘toxic’ and the pictures that are being painted with the media bother me,” said the champion fisherman.
“I spend my life on this lake,” he continued.
“It’s an awesome lake. It’s an awesome fishery.
“Lake Okeechobee is a beautiful lake. It’s alive and well,” said Mr. Martin.
The Weather Channel did not respond to requests that they give their sources for the statements made in the video.
161213-a Group assesses water-projects bill after Senate approval
December 13, 2016
The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive maritime infrastructure bill during the weekend that drew a mixed reaction from the recreational fishing industry.
The Senate passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements to the Nation Act, which the House of Representatives approved earlier in the week. The bill goes to President Obama for his signature.
The American Sportfishing Association, the trade association for the recreational fishing industry, said it supported many elements in the bill, including the Water Resources Development Act.
From the ASA’s perspective, the WIIN Act contains many positive, important authorizations ranging from habitat restoration projects to marine transportation infrastructure.
Important to the recreational fishing industry is a $1.95 billion authorization for the Central Everglades Planning Project and $113 million for Picayune Strand water flow restoration. The ASA said the CEPP is a critical step toward facilitating the flow and treatment of water south of Lake Okeechobee in Florida into the Everglades, providing relief for the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuary systems by reducing substantial freshwater releases that have caused significant habitat and fisheries damage and algal blooms.
“In particular our thanks go to Sens. Nelson and Rubio, and the Florida House delegation, for recognizing how important Everglades restoration and waterway access is to the state and the recreational fishing industry,” ASA Florida fishery policy director Kellie Ralston said.
“The Central Everglades Planning Project and the restoration of Picayune Strand contain key strategies that will help restore the Everglades’ historic southerly flow of water, which will, in turn, improve Florida fisheries and wildlife habitat.”
The ASA said that during later-stage negotiations in the House, a provision intended to address ongoing drought problems in California was attached that would weaken protections for salmon and other fish. Working with the state and its state and national partner organizations, ASA organized a major push to defeat the inclusion of this language, but ultimately it passed as part of the larger bill.
“We are deeply disappointed that language was added to the bill that diverts water away from fisheries that are already struggling, puts wild salmon in jeopardy of extinction and targets other sportfish for eradication,” said Scott Gudes, the ASA’s vice president of government affairs.
“Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and all the Northwest U.S. senators are to be commended for their efforts to defeat this last-minute water grab, which redirects water to agriculture and undercuts environmental protection for fisheries. Unfortunately its passage creates a significant threat to fishing communities, anglers and the sportfishing industry in the state.”
161213-b Mining threatens water quality
Bradenton Herald – by Sandra Ripberger, Bradenton
December 13, 2016
The Bradenton Herald’s editorial on the recent “Florida 1070” study emphasized the risks of water shortages on the horizon when our population is expected to increase by 15 million residents.
Avoiding sprawl and conserving land are essential to water conservation. Pollution of our lakes and coasts kills aquatic life and discourages tourism. Weakened state environmental policies fail to protect our waterways.
A major water user, and abuser, left out of the Florida 1070 study — phosphate mining — consumes as much water each day as one of five Manatee County residents.
And, as happened with the recent sinkhole and gypstack leak in Mulberry, waste storage from the mining process contaminates the Floridan aquifer, our major source of drinking water for current and future residents. A significant portion of the water used in the mining process is for “blending” toxic waste so it can be dumped back into streams, allowed by the low standards set for this discharge.
It is time for Manatee County to take a critical look at the potential impact of new phosphate mining on the future we want for ourselves and new residents.
Do we want to rezone productive agricultural land to extraction and remove it from any possibility of safe farming or residential use in the future? Do we want to have clay slime ponds in the Manatee River watershed that could threaten our future water supply?
Do we want to destroy almost 700 acres of high-quality wetlands in the Peace and Myakka River watersheds, removing their crucial services for water storage and quality?
The Manatee County Commission will decide when the application for the Wingate East mine comes before them on Jan. 26. Everyone concerned about our water should be there.
161212-a Legislature must play fair on Amendment 1
Miami Herald - Editorial
December 12, 2916
Recently, the environmental advocacy organizations serving as plaintiffs in two lawsuits over state spending on land and water conservation and preservation agreed to consolidate their cases, a judicious move that hopefully will lead to a quicker court ruling — before the Legislature once again violates the people’s intent on Amendment 1’s mandates.
The successful citizens’ petition drive and subsequent overwhelming voter approval of the Water and Land Legacy Amendment in 2014 failed to convince the state Legislature to play fair.
The amendment requires that a third of the documentary stamp revenue, generated from real estate sales, be spent “to acquire, restore, improve and manage conservation lands,” forests, wetlands, fish and wildlife habitat and the protection of water quality and resources.
But in 2015 the Legislature misspent some of the money, distorting the amendment’s directives by allocating almost half of the $740 million in revenue for salaries and operations of the agencies directed with implementing the mandates, the lawsuits state.
A repeat this year should not occur, but only a favorable ruling will ensure that.
Seventy-five percent of voters approved Amendment 1 in retribution for the demolition of Florida Forever, the state’s popular land conservation program that had preserved 2.5 million acres while receiving some $300 million annually.
Lawmakers began slashing its budget in 2008 and spending fell to only a miniscule fraction of the once potent allocation — down to $20 million in 2013.
One of the lawsuits takes aim at the Legislature, and the other targets state agencies charged with implementing the amendment’s mandates, including the Department of Environmental Protection and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The plaintiffs include the Florida Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida.
The Legislature proposed merging the lawsuits since they focused on many identical issues and facts, and the plaintiffs have signaled agreement.
Legislative leaders defended the spending shift to offset recurring agency costs by claiming vague Amendment 1 language allowed leeway, though this clearly violates the intent of the 4.2 million voters who approved the measure, a landslide victory by a 75 percent margin.
Back then, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, asserted that it was up to lawmakers to “interpret the intent” of the amendment.
We think this follows an arrogant pattern by the Legislature.
In 2010, 63 percent of voters passed the two Fair Districts amendments, which barred lawmakers from drawing congressional and legislative districts favorable to particular candidates or parties.
But they did anyway, resulting in judicial decisions forcing the boundaries for state Senate and Congress to be redrawn.
Once again, the only remedy for citizens is judicial interpretation about how restrictive an amendment’s language is.
The unified Water and Land Legacy Amendment case will be argued next year with Floridians best served by a decision in the plaintiff’s favor before the Legislature finalizes the 2017-2018 budget.
161212-c Public willing to pay to reduce toxic algae, but maybe not enough
December 12, 2016
Scientists have found good strategies for curbing the toxic algae blooms that have threatened some of the nation's water supplies. Farmers are willing to adopt these strategies. The American public is willing to help pay for them.
Problem solved ? Not exactly.
A collaboration of universities and government agencies has identified three key agricultural management plans for curtailing harmful algal blooms.
They have also identified a looming funding gap for enacting those plans.
Researchers announced their first results this week, both at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) fall meeting and in a special issue of the Journal of Great Lakes Research. Jay Martin, director of the Field to Faucet water quality program at The Ohio State University, leads the unusual project, which maps both the physical causes of toxic algae and the social landscape around the problem.
He and his team took as their starting point the recent binational agreement between the United States and Canada to cut phosphorus discharge into Lake Erie by 40 percent. They surveyed farmers and the public and built watershed models to explore different ways to keep phosphorus from reaching the lake, where it feeds toxic algae.
"The big question now is, can we reach our goal of 40 percent reduction, and how do we do it?" Martin said. "The hopeful news that we have found is that there are multiple ways to get there, and farmers are already adopting the very same agricultural practices that we found to be most promising. If they can continue to adopt these practices and even accelerate their adoption, we can reach the 40 percent reduction we need to have safe levels of algal blooms in Lake Erie, while preserving agricultural production."
The researchers have identified three key farming practices that could reduce algae levels: subsurface application of fertilizer and the use of cover crops and buffer strips. Cover crops are grown in fields that would otherwise go fallow to keep rain from washing phosphorus-laden fertilizer into the lake. Buffer strips are non-crop plants that surround fields and serve the same kind of purpose.
In their surveys of farmers in the Lake Erie watershed, the researchers found that 39 percent were already applying fertilizer below the soil surface; 22 percent were already growing cover crops; and 35 percent were already using buffer strips.
Each of those numbers, while encouraging, falls at least 20 percent short of where they need to be to reach phosphorus reduction goals, the study found.
Also encouraging: researchers found that Ohio residents were willing to help farmers pay for these practices. In the first survey of its kind, they asked residents to put a monetary value on reducing toxic algae in Lake Erie.
For example, they asked people how much reducing algae by 10 percent was worth. The answer that came back was quite specific: $150 million. And the answer was consistent, in that when researchers asked about reducing algae by 20 percent or 30 percent, respondents placed a $150 million value on every additional 10 percent. A 20 percent reduction was worth $300 million, and so on. People said they were willing to pay slightly higher food prices, or even a special income tax or sales tax that would benefit farmers to make the changes happen.
Reducing algae would likely carry a higher price tag, however: "While it looks like the reduction is possible, it will be a heavy lift," Martin said.
In fact, $150 million was the preliminary estimate that Ohio State researchers made in a study with the Nature Conservancy earlier this year -- but for annual mitigation of phosphorus runoff in only the most critical areas. That project was led by Stuart Ludsin, an associate professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology and co-director of Ohio State's Aquatic Ecology Laboratory.
Still, the payoff for reducing phosphorus goes beyond Lake Erie, Ludsin said.
"If done correctly, agricultural conservation practices aimed at improving water quality in Lake Erie can also boost the health of stream-fish communities throughout the watershed," he added.
Lake Erie is at the center of toxic algae research today, because it contains 50 percent of all the fish in the Great Lakes, supports a $1.7 billion tourism industry and provides drinking water for 11 million people. But the same problems are beginning to plague areas of the Mississippi Valley and coastal Florida, as well as coastlines around the world.
Martin and his team are presenting their findings at the AGU session "New Frontiers in Water Resources: Achieving Water Resource Security in Times of Climate Change, Urbanization, and Agricultural Expansion" co-organized by Noel Aloysius, who is also involved in the study. The session also highlights some of the promising strategies being used elsewhere.
Among them: Michele Reba, a hydrologist with USDA, is testing ways for farmers in the Mississippi Valley to capture and reuse their irrigation water, which keeps fertilizer nutrients on the farm.
Restoring lost wetlands -- or creating new ones -- is another strategy that is proving successful in the Florida Everglades. There, William Mitsch, director of Everglades Wetland Research Park at Florida Gulf Coast University, has found that tuning the plant and soil composition of wetlands can nearly eliminate all phosphorus runoff into surrounding waters.
In its special issue on Lake Erie, the Journal of Great Lakes Research explores these and other topics, including the roles of sediment, plankton, and climate change in promoting algae. More than a dozen papers are available as open access content online. Story Source: Materials provided by Ohio State University. Original written by Pam Frost Gorder. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
161212-d Record 98 manatees killed by Florida boaters
News Talk Florida
December 12, 2016
A record 98 manatees have died this year, and the year isn’t even over yet. In 2009, boaters killed 97 manatees in Florida, that was the record until now.
On December 2nd the 98th manatee, an adult female, was found dead in Fort Lauderdale’s Stranahan River.
Majority of these manatees killed by boats are hit by the skeg, which shatters their bones. Some of the shattered shards of bone can be drove into their heart and lungs. However, this female manatee, that was more than 10 feet long, was killed by “acute trauma by a propeller,” said Martine de Wit, the veterinarian who heads the state’s Marine Mammal Pathology Laboratory in St. Petersburg.
She told the Tampa Bay Times, “this was the less common type of trauma.”
The death comes as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been considering taking manatees off its endangered list and classifying them as “threatened.”
“Watercraft collisions are the major threat to the manatee, long-term,” de Wit said to the Times.
A federal study said 12 manatee deaths by boat would mark the most deaths caused by humans that Florida manatees could tolerate without risking extinction, but this year’s 98 deaths exceed that.
So far this year’s boat-related deaths are 11 more than last year’s toll and beyond higher than the 69 in 2014.
Some of Florida’s coastlines have posted more deaths than other coastlines this year. Lee County posted 18 casualties while Volusia has 12 and Monroe has 10. In Tampa there were seven manatees killed by boats in Hillsborough County waters and two deaths in Pinellas.
De Wit said one reason for the high number of deaths is that there are more manatees now than there used to be. An aerial survey obtained by the Times showed a record 6,250 swimming in the state’s waterways.
Patrick Rose, executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, and de Wit said the economy is another contributor. With lower gas prices there are more boats out on the water. Waterfront developments also push manatees out of living areas and put more boats in those same areas.
161211-a An inappropriate use of taxpayers' dollars
Ocala.com – by Paula Dockery, a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland
December 11, 2016
Florida's new legislative leaders - Senate President Joe Negron and Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran - are gearing up for the 2017 legislative session. Their most difficult task is crafting a spending plan that addresses the state's most pressing needs while keeping an eye on future goals and preparing for emergencies.
We're fortunate that Florida's economy continues to improve and we have enjoyed a healthy revenue stream. Tourism is flourishing and people are moving into our state and bringing more dollars. But with that growth and influx of visitors comes the need for more infrastructure and services.
We need more roads, schools, and hospitals. There's a greater demand on our water resources, our sewer systems and our energy capacity and distribution. We'll need to add more facilities and improve and repair our existing ones.
We need more people to provide government services - teachers, judges, law enforcement and first responders, to name a few.
This gets to the philosophic core of the role of government. What should government do and how much should it tax to do it?
Regardless of your political ideology, most reasonable persons can agree that in states like Florida where you are required to balance the budget, you can't spend more than you have so you must prioritize spending.
Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office, so there's general agreement on no new taxes and some tax breaks. Beyond that, their priorities vary.
Negron wants to increase funding for higher education and provide money for a new reservoir to reduce environmental damage to the Indian River Lagoon. Both are worthy causes that will benefit Floridians.
Gov. Rick Scott has asked for a 5 percent salary increase for law enforcement. His request is likely to be honored at some amount.
But Scott is going back to the well for funding he was denied last year. Scott's requesting tens of millions of dollars in economic incentive funding that he says he needs to lure businesses to the state and to expand existing businesses.
Corcoran, a small government proponent, is not a fan.
Referring to the job incentive money, Corcoran has repeatedly said that hundreds of millions of tax dollars are wasted on corporate welfare and that legislators have lost sight of their conservative principles. Last session Corcoran played a key role in killing Scott's job incentive funding. And it appears it is in jeopardy again this year.
Corcoran believes that government should not be picking the winners and losers through these business deals. I agree.
This is not the proper role of government. Government should not tax those who are struggling to give to wealthy corporations in the hope that it will create jobs and sustain them. That is corporate welfare and it's on the backs of hard-working folks.
It's not the best use of our limited dollars. We have pressing needs that have gone unfunded while year after year huge sums of money get thrown at businesses to relocate here. We can't fix our roads, yet we create a greater need for them using the money we could have spent on them.
Why not invest in retraining workers to provide companies what they really need - a ready workforce? Our investment would be a win-win by also benefiting Floridians who would become more employable.
The results of throwing money at businesses are not impressive. We occasionally hear about a high-profile case that went bust like Digital Domain or that underperformed like Sanford Burnham, but the failure of many incentive deals goes unnoticed.
When the deal is struck there's great fanfare - press conferences, groundbreakings, ribbon-cuttings - to allow elected officials to take a victory lap. Because of the secrecy surrounding the deals we don't know if the taxpayers were well served. Since there is considerable lag time for the promised jobs to materialize, by then few are paying attention.
Fortunately, Integrity Florida, a respected government watchdog, was.
Integrity Florida teamed with Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political group, to research these economic development efforts. Their 2013 report found that Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development agency, had failed to meet its job creation objective: "In 1992, the Florida Legislature created Enterprise Florida with an initial objective of creating 200,000 high-wage jobs by 2005. After twenty years and despite negotiating more than 1,600 transactions worth more than $1.7 billion, Enterprise Florida reports only 103,544 jobs have been delivered since 1995 - half of their original target and eight years beyond its original target date."
That $1.7 billion could have been put to much better use. I'm with Speaker Corcoran on this one.
161211-b Everglades plan to move Lake Okeechobee discharges south
USA Today Network, Florida – by Tyler Treadway
December 11, 2016
Congress finally approved the Water Resources Development Act early Saturday — after much ado.
That means the Central Everglades Planning Project is a go, but don’t look for water to start flowing south anytime soon.
CEPP, which was envisioned as a way to fast-track sending some excess Lake Okeechobee water south instead of to the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River estuaries by building a project on land already in public hands, won’t be finished until at least 2030.
And its effect on Lake O discharges will be limited. CEPP is designed to store, treat and send south about 65.2 billion gallons of water. More than 720 billion gallons of Lake O water was discharged this year: 220 east to the St. Lucie and 500-plus west to the Caloosahatchee.
Construction on the joint project by the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers probably won’t begin until “the 2020-2021 time frame,” said Howard Gonzales, chief of the corps’ ecosystem branch in Florida. No cash in hand
Congress’s approval of the water development act authorizes CEPP, but it doesn’t appropriate the money to pay for it.
“Basically, what Congress did was say, ‘We think (CEPP) is something worth spending money on,’ ” said Ernie Marks, the district’s director of Everglades policy. “They still have to actually give the Corps the money.”
Ideally, Congress will make annual appropriations to the corps to pay for each step of the work. Meanwhile, the water district will be asking the state Legislature to pay the state share
Getting money through the federal pipeline usually takes about two years, Marks said. Getting state money takes about a year. The first step, Gonzales said, will be a “validation study to more specifically define CEPP’s scope and cost.” That is expected to take place in fiscal year 2018. Designing and engineering the project will take a couple more years.
Construction will begin in the south with removing obstacles to water flow such as old levees and roadways just north of Everglades National Park.
“If we’re going to send more water from the north,” Marks said, “we have to open up the southern part of the system to let it through.”
The final phase will be building a shallow reservoir to hold water before sending it to the park. Related: Congress approves Everglades project aimed at bringing water south Miami Herald Senate passes water bill with Everglades money The News-Press Central Everglades Plan Headed To President Obama WLRN Murphy votes to authorize CEPP, calls on Senate to ... RealEstateRama (press release) Diaz-Balart Supports Legislation to Invest in Everglades Funding ... RealEstateRama (press release) Congress includes help for Everglades, beaches in major bill WJHG-TV Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) funding approved by ... Okeechobee News Water bill passes US Senate Saturday Tallahassee.com U.S. Senate OKs $2 billion for Everglades flow, $74 million to fix ... Naples Daily News, Dec 10, 2016 State fights feds over Everglades protection Daily Commercial
161211-c Keep fracking out of Florida
USA Today Network, Florida - Editorial
December 11, 2016
State needs ban like Brevard County’s on violent, potentially toxic underground process To frack or not to frack ?
That is the question Florida lawmakers will confront, again, when they convene in March for the upcoming legislative session.
And, given recent developments, there may be more pressure this time around to approve this controversial drilling practice.
The decision last month by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut output almost certainly will spur efforts nationwide to increase domestic oil production. Additionally, President-elect Donald Trump favors the expansion of domestic drilling.
The battle lines already are being drawn nationwide.
Expect Florida to be one of many states where the conflict is waged.
Hydraulic fracturing — also known as “fracking” — is the process of injecting highly pressurized fluids and materials deep into the ground to fracture shale for the purpose of releasing, and extracting, oil and natural gas. The process uses unknown chemicals and an enormous amount of water — a precious commodity in the Sunshine State.
In Florida, fracking opponents successfully defeated two companion bills during the 2016 Legislature that would have opened the door to fracking. FLORIDA TODAY condemned them in a February editorial because of provisions that would have let wildcatters keep secret the chemicals they blast into the earth. Beyond the chemicals, fracking is a terrible idea in a state where millions depend on a maze of underground limestone aquifers for drinking water. Florida already suffers sinkholes – and insurance nightmares – where such rock formations have been drained or destabilized.
Another troubling element in both state bills was language “pre-empting” all local fracking rules and regulations, giving all power to Tallahassee.
In Brevard County, commissioners voted unanimously in March to ban oil and gas exploration or production within the county’s borders, “including hydraulic fracturing, acidizing and acid fracturing.” The ordinance also bans any “well stimulation” techniques originating outside Brevard “that in any way enters onto, into or under the ground within the boundaries of Brevard County.”
In a hopeful sign, new Florida Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, opposed the 2016 state legislation.
“I voted against last year’s fracking bill because I did not think it adequately protected the environment,” Negron said. “My guiding principle on fracking legislation is to protect the environment and safeguard our water resources.”
Now, in advance of any pro-fracking legislation, two Florida lawmakers — Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach — have filed bills that would ban hydraulic fracturing. Farmer has titled his legislation the “Stop Fracking Act.”
State Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, has said she also plans to propose a statewide fracking ban.
Lawmakers who support fracking — or who may be undecided on the issue — should take their cues from dozens of Florida counties and municipalities. A whopping 74 local governments in the Sunshine State have passed resolutions opposing hydraulic fracturing in their jurisdictions. The number has grown by more than 30 in just the past 12 months.
Florida lawmakers also should consider what has transpired in Oklahoma in recent years. A March report by the U.S. Geological Survey laid the blame for the increasing number of earthquakes in the state on hydraulic fracturing. A major quake in September “spurred state regulators in Oklahoma to order 37 disposal wells, which are used by frackers, to shut down over a 725-square-mile area,” according to a report by CNNMoney.com.
Fracking comes with a host of potential problems: contamination of water supplies, air pollution and consumption of water resources, to name three. Keep fracking out of Florida. Related: We Are Fracking Up the Earth: Why You Should Care About the ... Uloop News
161211-d Sugar-cane growing on state land misses pollution-cleanup goal, records show
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid, Reporter
December 11, 2016
Pollution levels keep rising from two state properties, records show, despite Everglades cleanup goals.
Two sugar cane farms repeatedly failing to meet Everglades pollution-cleanup goals remain in business thanks to an accommodating landlord — the state of Florida.
The two farms, leasing a combined 1,200 acres of publicly owned land in Palm Beach County, generate large spikes in water pollution, state records show, at a time when taxpayers are spending billions to clean up the Everglades.
Phosphorus-laden water that pollutes the Everglades comes from fertilizer, animal waste, sewage and the natural decay of soils, washing off land and into waterways when it rains.
Each year, farmers south of Lake Okeechobee are supposed to reduce the amount of phosphorus coming off the land at least 25 percent below a state-set target aimed at curbing pollution.
Yet from 2011 to 2015, the average phosphorus level for a sugar cane farm on state property northwest of Wellington was about four times greater than the targeted level. The farm there averaged a 210 percent increase in phosphorus over the five-year period, according to a review of annual water quality records.
And in southwestern Palm Beach County, the average phosphorus level for South Florida Water Management District land growing sugar cane was about three times above the targeted level during that five-year time period. It averaged a 141 percent yearly increase in phosphorus, the records show.
From 2013 to 2015, these two publicly owned properties had some of the steepest spikes in phosphorus among the dozen or more farms where pollution numbers were still on the rise.
Those spikes in phosphorus levels are allowed to continue because the Florida law that calls for a 25 percent reduction prioritizes regional success over individual farm results.
As a result, farms that fail to hit the pollution-fighting benchmark don't face repercussions as long as the farming region as a whole reduces phosphorus by at least 25 percent.
State officials and sugar cane growers say improved Everglades water quality results show that the regional approach is working — even though each year there are still individual farms, like the two state properties, where phosphorus levels are going up instead of decreasing.
Environmental groups argue that the state's 25 percent phosphorus reduction standard was intentionally set too low, making it easy for the influential sugar industry to meet the water pollution cleanup rule — and allowing pollution "hot spots" to remain.
The state should at least hold farmers using public land to a higher pollution-cleanup standard, according to Charles Lee, of the environmental group Audubon Florida.
"You would think the state of Florida would want to take its land out of the cycle of causing the problem," Lee said. "Phosphorus is threatening the Everglades. ... Use that land for part of the solution, not to generate more of the problem." A push to improve Everglades
Decades of draining South Florida to make way for farming and development shrunk the Everglades to half its original size. Now rain water washing phosphorus off farms and lawns threatens what remains of the shrunken River of Grass.
Taxpayers since 2000 have spent $3.2 billion on a state and federal Everglades restoration plan intended to get more water to the Everglades, while also cleaning up water pollution. That's meant to both save the Everglades and boost the water supply for South Florida's growing communities.
To make that cleanup easier, the state imposed an annual phosphorus reduction requirement on farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area — which covers nearly 500,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee.
That requirement calls for farmers to reduce phosphorus levels 25 percent below levels during a 10-year period between 1978 and 1988, before pollution-fighting efforts began.
To reduce pollution, farmers are required to take steps such as using less fertilizer, changing irrigation techniques, cleaning out drainage ditches and other measures aimed at limiting the phosphorus that drains off farmland and into the Everglades.
During the past 21 years, South Florida's growers have outperformed the regional phosphorus cleanup standard — averaging a 55 percent reduction, according to the South Florida Water Management District.
If growers weren't meeting that regional standard, then the state could require farmers who miss the 25 percent mark to add more pollution-control measures to reduce phosphorus draining off the land. While that's potentially good for the Everglades, it adds to farming costs.
A few "bad years" of phosphorus levels from individual properties doesn't affect the success of the regional pollution cleanup effort, said Pamela Wade, the South Florida Water Management District's Everglades restoration bureau chief.
Tests show that 90 percent of the Everglades now meets the phosphorus-level water quality standard, according to the district.
"As long as the (agricultural area) as a whole is in compliance then it's working as it was designed to work," Wade said.
State agencies have long leased land, with no immediate plans for public use, to farmers as a cost-savings measure.
State officials say that allowing farming avoids maintenance costs that would otherwise be required to keep Melaleuca, Brazilian pepper and other invading foreign plants — which are also a threat to the Everglades — from overtaking property. Leases benefit Big Sugar
The sugar cane grown from the two state properties with increases in phosphorus goes to Florida's two biggest sugar producers, Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp.
The South Florida Water Management District leases 634 acres in southwestern Palm Beach County, along Miami Canal Road, to the Sugar Farms Co-op, which is part of Florida Crystals.
There was a 141 percent average annual increase in phosphorus from water draining off the district's land between 2011 and 2015, according to a review of annual water quality records in the district's South Florida Environmental Report.
While the property was performing well in 2011, its phosphorus numbers started to rise in 2012 and were followed by a big spike during 2013. That's when heavy summer storms dumped nearly 9 inches of rain and led to two weeks of draining, according to the district.
Year-to-year spikes in phosphorus coming from individual farms are "irrelevant" if the farming region as a whole continues to meet its pollution-reduction requirements, Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens said.
"Phosphorus levels vary each year for every farm based on weather patterns and crop type, among other factors," Cantens said.
The district in 1999 acquired the land from Florida Crystals as part of a $2.3 million deal for nearly 900 acres targeted for a future Everglades restoration reservoir.
Since then, Florida Crystals has been paying about $54,000 — or about $63 per acre — each year to lease back the nearly 900 acres. The lease is set to expire in 2019, according to the district.
The other publicly owned land showing spikes in phosphorus runoff includes 594 acres along U.S. 98 and the West Palm Beach Canal, northwest of Wellington.
The state is leasing these 594 acres to PRIDE Enterprises, an inmate training company that uses the land to grow sugar cane for U.S. Sugar.
PRIDE pays a $300 annual administrative fee to use the state land to grow sugar cane, but pays no rent on its lease that extends through 2052.
Between 2011 and 2015, there was a 210 percent average annual increase in phosphorus from that property where sugar cane along with rotations of sweet corn are grown.
Poor practices for discharging water from some fields there — as well as questions about monitoring equipment used to sample water quality — may have affected the reported phosphorus levels, according to the district. Opposing tighter rules
PRIDE uses state-required measures to reduce phosphorus, such as following drainage limits, sediment controls and fertilizer spill prevention efforts, said Dee Kiminki, PRIDE's chief administrative officer.
Despite those measures, she said the property's water-quality results can be affected by phosphorus-loaded water seeping in from other areas, the topography of the land and size of the farm as well as conditions of the land that preceded sugar cane farming. For example, the land was used as a dairy farm prior to growing sugar cane.
The differing factors that can lead to boosts in phosphorus levels are a big reason why the state should use a regional standard when regulating pollution control results, instead of going farm by farm, according to Jose "Pepe" Lopez, U.S. Sugar's director of water compliance.
"Individually, it would be very difficult," Lopez said about trying to gauge each farm's ability to reach the 25 percent reduction standard. "That would be a nightmare to comply with."
While sugar cane growers face pollution cleanup requirements, they argue that much of the pollution problem threatening the Everglades comes from phosphorus that flows into Lake Okeechobee from Central Florida — before that water even makes it to South Florida's sugar cane fields.
There is no scientific justification for "ratcheting down on individual farmers" if the goal of getting cleaner water to the Everglades is being met, U.S. Sugar spokeswoman Judy Sanchez said. 'A missed opportunity'
Environmental groups say the state should be doing more to ensure that sugar cane farming — especially on publicly owned property — isn't adding to Everglades water pollution problems.
The state's regional phosphorus reduction requirement is so easily met that it shields repeat polluters from having to do more to clean up pollutants, according to Melodie Naja, the Everglades Foundation's chief scientist.
"The rule needs to be updated, but of course no one wants to go there," Naja.
"You need to check property by property to see where are the high levels of phosphorus and to target those farms."
Using state land to grow sugar cane is "a missed opportunity" at a time when Florida needs more places to store and clean up water for the Everglades, said Cara Capp, Everglades Coalition co-chair.
"We should look for opportunities to make changes immediately," Capp said, "even if that means breaking a lease."
161210-a Congress includes help for Everglades, beaches in major water bill
December 10, 2016
TALLAHASSEE — Congress is including millions to help with Everglades restoration in a wide-ranging water bill being sent to President Barack Obama.
Congress approved the $10 billion bill early Saturday morning.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said the Everglades restoration funding included in the bill will eventually help reduce the amount of discharges from Lake Okeechobee that has caused algae blooms along Florida's coasts. The bill also includes $121 million for a restoration project in Collier County that is intended to increase water flow.
"The toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee are devastating our waterways and doing real damage to our local economies," Nelson said in a statement on his website. "We've been fighting for a long time to get this project approved, and once it's complete we'll be able to send more water south as nature intended and provide more relief to the communities along the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers."
The bill includes a $31.6 million beach renourishment project for Flagler Beach intended to help protect scenic State Road A1A, which is the only north-south hurricane evacuation route for communities along Florida's east coast.
The measure also provides $337 million to deepen the main shipping channels at Port Everglades from 42 feet to 48 feet.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio praised the legislation in a statement on his website: "The passage of this water projects bill is great news, because we now have the opportunity to make real progress in restoring the Everglades and combatting the toxic algae threatening the livelihoods of thousands of Florida families and businesses.''
The bill includes $170 million to address lead in Flint, Mich.'s drinking water and $558 million to provide relief to drought-stricken California. Related: Congress OKs bill with Everglades plan to move Lake Okeechobee ... St. Augustine Record Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) funding approved by ... Okeechobee News U.S. Senate OKs $2 billion for Everglades flow, $74 million to fix ... Naples Daily News Senate passes water bill with Everglades money The News-Press Water bill passes that authorizes $2 billion for Everglades TCPalm Senate sends Oklahoma Indian water rights agreement to president NewsOK.com
161210-b Fight over everglades Refuge pits Florida against feds
December 10, 2016
LOXAHATCHEE (CBSMiami/AP) — South Florida water officials have threatened to cancel a lease with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over management of a 144,000-acre wildlife refuge in the Everglades.
The South Florida Water Management District owns the land occupied by the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, but the federal agency operates the refuge, reports CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
State water officials claim the federal agency has done a lousy job of maintaining the refuge, especially when it comes to controlling a fern that has spread throughout the Everglades.
But supporters of the refuge say the threat is more about politics than anything.
They say state water officials just want to end federal meddling in the refuge, and that would give them more control over setting water quality standards.
There is a federal court order to limit the amount of phosphorus from fertilizers flowing into Everglades National Park. If the land is no longer a refuge, water district officials could argue that the limit no longer applies and also change that limit in state standards too, said Martha Musgrove, regional director for Florida Wildlife Federation, a conservation group.
“They want to set their own water quality standards and not have a federal court looking over their shoulder,” Musgrove said.
Water district officials have vowed to protect plants and wildlife in the refuge, as well as scientific research and public use, but federal wildlife officials say the land will be managed without wildlife as its focus if it’s not a refuge.
“A small group of men who are out of step with everyone in this room have made a decision to cancel the lease,” Nathaniel Reed, a former assistant Secretary of the Inerior told a meeting of refuge supporters this month. “They are totally out of step with all of us.”
Water district officials said they can no longer tolerate how the refuge is being managed, especially when it comes to controlling the Old World climbing fern, which has infested huge swaths of the Everglades. District executive director Pete Antonacci said district officials, out of frustration, invited Department of Interior officials to see the damage caused by the fern three years ago.
“The Department of Interior came down and saw the damage and did nothing,” Antonacci said. Related: Fight over exotic fern threatens future of South Florida wildlife refuge Miami Herald
161209-a Florida’s congressional delegation scores big WIIN, funding Everglades, water projects
SaintPetersBlog.com – by Peter Schorsch
December 9, 2016 0
Florida’s Congressional delegation scored a win this week with the passage of a bill that will fund major water projects in Florida, including the Central Everglades Planning Project.
Four Florida congressmen put out press releases Thursday touting their votes for The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act of 2016, which passed the House with a 360-61 vote.
WIIN would provide more than $1.5 billion in funding for Florida projects, including $976 million for Central Everglades Planning Project, $308 million for the Picayune Strand restoration project and $220 million for Port Everglades Dredging.
Republican Rep. Thomas Rooney put out a press release touting the bill’s CEPP provisions, which will significantly improve the water flows through the northern estuaries, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
“With Congressman Tom Rooney’s continued stewardship, we have seen significant progress toward restoring the Everglades,” said South Florida Water Management District Chairman Daniel O’Keefe in the press release. “Approval of the federal water bill by the full Congress, followed by appropriating funding, is vital to complete the Central Everglades Planning Project.”
Fellow Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart also joined in with a press release on WIIN, congratulating Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair and Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bill Shuster for the bill’s passage.
“By investing in our nation’s ports, dams and drinking water services, we are not only helping the local economy, but also the families across the country that rely on having easy access to safe drinking water,” Diaz-Balart said. “The legislation also focuses on reducing the backlog of projects the Army Corps of Engineers have, saving taxpayer dollars and allowing the most important and necessary projects to be prioritized.”
Democratic Reps. Ted Deutch and Patrick Murphy also joined in with statements on the bill, though their feelings on the bill were somewhat mixed despite praise for provisions which will bring more business and jobs to South Florida.
“This bill is not perfect, and I’m disappointed that the Republican leadership included offensive provisions at the last minute putting water resources at risk in drought-afflicted California,” Deutch said. “As we begin the 115th Congress in January, I will continue to work tirelessly in Washington to fight for the interests of South Florida.”
Murphy added that while he was “disappointed to see partisan riders included in the WIIN Act instead of a bipartisan WRDA conference bill, Floridians should not have to wait another year for this project to be authorized.”
161209-b Keys’ economy depends of proper canal restoration
FLkeysNews.com - by Monica Camacho, raised in Key Largo and is an environmental engineering student at the University of Florida
December 9, 2016
Imagine you have a swimming pool with 100 water pipes discharging into it. Sixty-seven of the pipes constantly release rotten seaweed and fish carcasses into your pool. You hire someone to fix the problem, and he only repairs two of the pipes.
Would you be content with the water quality of your pool? If pipes continue bringing dirty water into your pool, it will never be fully clean or healthy for you to enjoy. This is the case in the Florida Keys, where two-thirds of the canals have “impaired” water quality.
Currently, only six of the 335 impaired canals in the Florida Keys are being ameliorated. The Florida Keys’ Canal Restoration Program should be considered a higher priority for state and federal government agencies that control county funding for projects. However, to illustrate the significance of this issue at the state and federal level, we must realize its importance as a community, first.
A combination of septic tanks, accumulation of organics (e.g. fish carcasses and seagrass), and the shoddy physical construction of canals (long, deep, and dead-ends) has contributed to the poor quality of water in canals today. For instance, a deeper canal has much less water movement, leaving most of the water stagnant so that organics remain in one place to decay. This also fosters a mosquito breeding ground. A canal with “impaired” water usually emits foul smells, is murky and has low oxygen levels. These conditions are unsafe for human health, and can become toxic to most aquatic organisms.
The Florida Keys is home to a National Marine Sanctuary that is famous for having the only living coral reef in the continental U.S. The problem is that all canals discharge into this pristine environment. As a result, these unique ecosystems with high biodiversity and productivity are being spoiled. Canals discharging unhealthy water harms not only the environment, but also the economy, since the community depends on fishing and tourists as its main sources of income.
People come from around the world to see the waters and marine life of the Florida Keys, bringing income to the region. Furthermore, clean canals increase the property values of homes on the water. Remediating these canals will ensure a good economy for the Keys, a healthier environment and an increase in water-related social and recreational activities.
Some common methods to improve canal water quality include weed gates, culvert connections, removal of accumulated organics, backfilling deep canals and pumping. Residents believe that some of the methods are too invasive and will cause greater harm to the environment, such as backfilling because it can cover benthic (living on the ocean floor) organisms.
However, these methods will eventually improve conditions so that more organisms can thrive in these environments. Also, some residents are against having surveys and remediation projects done on their property. Although these projects are inconvenient for a short period, the benefits far outweigh the costs over time. We need the compliance and patience of Florida Keys’ residents to engender a more productive and biodiverse aquatic community.
Another limitation to restoration efforts is a lack of funding from the state and federal level. Keys’ residents can help with this issue. Once we all see the importance of this issue, we can unite and share our thoughts with agencies controlling local funding. Monroe County Sustainability Program Manager Rhonda Haag, says that we need more community outreach and involvement, because as this increases, so do their funding sources.
One way you can get involved is by going online to www.monroecounty-fl.gov and looking under “Canal Restoration.” This site lists the dates of subcommittee meetings where you can voice your opinion and find out more ways to get involved in remediation efforts. You can also send letters and petitions to our representatives, Florida officials and the Department of Environmental Protection, to give personal accounts on the severity of the issue, strengthening the case for more funding.
None of us want to swim in a dirty pool, so let us get off our tanning chairs and do something about it.
161209-c Perspective: The path of the panther
Tampa Bay Times - by Carlton Ward, Jr., an eighth-generation Floridian and National Geographic Explorer focused on the story of the Florida panther
December 9, 2016 11:00am
It's an hour after sunset on the first of November. Stars are starting to show in the moonless twilight as a female Florida panther follows a game trail through wiregrass and palmettos beneath an open canopy of pines. She doesn't notice the invisible infrared flash from a tree to her left as she continues down the trail past the tracks of deer, turkeys, raccoons and hogs. Leaving her own tracks in the sand, she descends from the flatwoods toward an oak hammock studded with cabbage palms near a vast cypress swamp drying by the week but still wet from summer rains.
Two days later, biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission returned to the site to check on their motion-sensing game cameras. They knew they had something special when the graceful feline took shape on their computer screen. Then they found her tracks nearby and made plaster casts to corroborate the first evidence of a female Florida panther found north of the Caloosahatchee River since 1973.
For the past four decades, the Caloosahatchee has been the northern boundary to the known breeding range of the Florida panther — our state animal and the only puma species surviving east of the Mississippi. In that time, the panther population has rebounded from as few as 30 adults to nearly 200 today. But the requirements for the species to recover from its Endangered Species status include establishing additional breeding populations of similar size in areas the panther formerly occupied north of the Caloosahatchee.
The first female panther documented there gives new hope to her species, and she couldn't have picked a better place for her new home. Babcock Ranch is a 70,000-acre state preserve that protects a diversity of habitats, deep woods for cover and abundant game to eat. Babcock is also part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor, 16 million acres of public and private lands that make up a statewide network of connected wildlife habitat stretching from the Everglades to Georgia and Alabama.
Protecting the panther gained urgency last week with the discovery of the 31st and 32nd killed by vehicles, breaking the annual record yet again. A breeding age female was found dead in Collier County on State Road 29 and a 4-month-old kitten was killed near the Fort Myers airport. The rising toll shows there are both more panthers and more people in South Florida and reminds us of the need to save more habitat throughout the panther's range.
Earlier this year, I received a grant from the National Geographic Society to explore the story of the Florida panther and I've spent the past six months based out of Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge near Naples, managing a group of custom-made camera traps there and on nearby cattle ranches. I was ecstatic when I heard of the female panther at Babcock Ranch and went there early this month with FWC biologists to deploy a camera of my own.
The last time I had visited Babcock Ranch was 2012, during the first Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition, a 100-day, 1,000-mile trek tracing the best remaining connected habitat from Everglades National Park in South Florida to the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia. We had arrived at Babcock on Day 25 after paddling up Telegraph Cypress Creek from the Caloosahatchee River. Two days before, we had started paddling east of La Belle at a place known as a panther crossing — one of the last stretches where there was undeveloped land on both sides of the river.
The fate of property south of the river was then unknown, but later that year the Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, FWC and other partners orchestrated a crucial deal that saved the land from foreclosure — and likely development — and sold it to a neighboring cattle rancher with the permanent protection of a conservation easement. There's no way to know whether the female swam the river at that spot, but it's encouraging to know she could have.
The part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor that overlaps the Greater Everglades (think Orlando south) consists primarily of public conservation lands and working cattle ranches, with groves and other forms of agriculture mixed in.
The path of our 2012 expedition approximates the path panthers will follow to expand into their historic territory. The path begins from South Florida public lands like Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, all at risk of being cut off from the rest of the state and needing lifelines north to the Caloosahatchee and beyond, where the fabric of the corridor consists largely of private ranches interspersed with state and federal preserves. The ranches interest me the most because their futures aren't secure, yet without them the corridor would not exist. During the expedition, we hiked across or camped on nearly 30 ranches whose owners were interested in conservation easements as alternatives to development.
On Day 16, we traveled from Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to JB Ranch, owned by Aliese and Russell Priddy. Theirs was the first private ranch of the trek, positioned just north of 4 million acres of contiguous public land. Aliese Priddy is also an FWC commissioner. When I asked her about the function of ranches in panther recovery, she said, "Florida cattle ranches provide exceptional wildlife habitat throughout the state, not just for panthers but for all wildlife. Without ranches, panther recovery would not have progressed as quickly as it has. Ranchers are experienced land managers, and it is through their stewardship that these private lands are able to support their livestock in addition to native species."
The Priddys have lost cattle to panthers and their experiences have helped shape federal programs that have partially compensated them for their losses and will reduce the burden for other ranchers who continue supporting the panther's recovery.
For the past 12 years, the conservation of Florida ranches has been the unifying theme of my photography. It is from this perspective that I came to focus on the Everglades headwaters, Florida black bears, the Florida Wildlife Corridor and most recently the Florida panther.
The more time I spend thinking about the panthers and ranches, the more I see how their futures depend on one another. I called other ranchers who hosted our team during the 2012 expedition, starting with legendary cattleman Alto "Bud" Adams Jr, 90. We camped at his family's ranch in the Everglades Headwaters on Day 47. Bud told me, "I would like to have panthers on my place if it wasn't too costly," alluding to the potential for panthers to eat calves.
I described the new program that recently paid the Priddys for livestock lost to panthers, to which he replied, "Good. If we had a resident population of panther, we would be of greater importance to saving the wildlife of Florida, and there's certainly something in there for everybody." When I brought up the news of a female panther at Babcock, he said, "If the panther's north of the river, I would say he has pretty good prospects of it covering the peninsula. There's nothing else to stop him."
He's right, at least for now, because the Florida Wildlife Corridor is still connected. But that could change quickly as ranchers like him are pressured by estate taxes and growing families to sell their land, paving the way for roads and development to push further inland.
My next chat was with Cary Lightsey, who is 64. We paddled to his family's Lake Kissimmee ranch on Day 48 of the expedition. The Lightseys have ranched in central Florida since the 1850s and have protected nearly 90 percent of their land with conservation easements. I asked Cary about the female panther north of the Caloosahatchee. He said, "The panther is going to have to help us save Florida," adding, "people understand panthers need to have big areas to live in and if we develop these areas and lose them, we're going to lose the panther too. I feel like the panther can help us keep these big tracts."
I had last seen Cary in Bartow at the September meeting at the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. He recalled that day, saying, "I had three different people tell me either their sister or brother or stepmother is going to make them sell the ranch to the developer so they'd have enough money to pay the other person off. And all three of these people said, 'Well, if you give me a chance to do an easement I'm going to pay your part of it off and keep the land like it is.' It shows you how close a lot of these ranches get to being lost."
The more I look and listen, the more clearly I see how much ranchers and panthers have in common, facing the same common threat — the rapid sprawling development that is consuming lands on which they both depend.
Florida 2070, a new study by 1000 Friends of Florida, the Florida Department of Agriculture and University of Florida, projects that Florida's population will grow from 20 million today to nearly 35 million by the year 2070. Their Trend 2070 model shows that if development follows current trends it will consume 5 million acres of natural and agricultural lands. The study also presents Alternative 2070, which shows that by protecting the Florida Wildlife Corridor we can accommodate the 15 million new residents while preserving 5 million acres of wildlife habitat and a future for Florida agriculture.
Looking at the 2070 maps, we can see how ranchers and panthers need each other. Panthers need ranchers because the species cannot recover without their land. Ranchers need panthers because in the face of relentless development, the only way to ensure a future for ranching is to move policy makers to adequately fund conservation of ranchlands.
The biggest barrier to recovery for the panther is insufficient funding for land protection, and the biggest impediment to funding has been Tallahassee, where lawmakers continue to resist the will of the people to protect more land. In 2014, Floridians voted with a 75 percent majority to pass the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, designed to invest one-third of real estate transaction taxes into land conservation. Based on the current economy, the amount should be $800 million per year. But lawmakers have chosen to divert most of these funds into existing agency budgets and land management rather than protecting new land.
Take Florida Forever, our state's hallmark land conservation program. It received $300 million per year starting in 1990 under the leadership of governors from Bob Martinez to Jeb Bush but has never received more than $20 million per year during the Scott administration. We have similar problems in Washington. The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund should receive nearly $1 billion annually from taxes on oil and gas leases. But those funds often flow to general revenue rather than their intended purpose for projects like the Everglades Headwaters National Conservation Area or potential expansion of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
The Florida Department of Agriculture's Rural and Family Lands Protection Program (RFLPP) is excellent and provides tremendous opportunity. At the September meeting where I had seen Cary Lightsey, there were dozens of other ranchers making presentations to join a list of more than 100 properties prioritized for conservation easements. Conservation easements strip away the development value of the land to ensure the land will always remain a working farm or ranch. JB Ranch and the Adams Ranch have recently participated in the program, and my family filed an application for our Hardee County ranch earlier this year.
The last rancher I saw at the meeting was Derek Hendrie, 27, who completed agricultural studies at the University of Florida and is working with his grandfather Jim Hendrie continuing the heritage at their Highlands County ranch. Derek included in his slideshow a photo of a male panther captured on his property by one of my camera traps. He said, "As the panther population and territory continues to grow and expand to other parts of the state, ranchers and biologists need to work together now more than ever to create and implement a management plan to ensure that not only the Florida panther can continue to grow and thrive, but also so that Florida cattle ranches can thrive, profit and continue to provide essential habitat to all species of Florida wildlife."
RFLPP has $30 million in this year's budget, which allows meaningful progress. But we need to invest 10 times that much in easements annually to balance the 175,000 acres per year, or 20 acres per hour, we lose to development.
The female panther at Babcock Ranch calls us to make a choice about the future of Florida. Do we want to bulldoze and develop what's left beyond the boundaries of our parks? Or do we want to save the Florida Wildlife Corridor and provide a future for panthers, cattle ranches, hunting and fishing, the Everglades, our water supply and the state's $120 billion agricultural economy? If lawmakers will honor the will of voters and fully invest in conservation, we can follow the path of the panther and example of the rancher to help save wild Florida. Related: Death of kitten makes 2016 tied for deadliest year for panthers Naples Daily News-Dec 8, 2016 Florida's conservation of the state's natural beauty will be our ... Orlando Sentinel
161209-d Treasure Coast stars in Lake O documentary
TCPalm.com – by Caryn Shaffer
December 9, 2016
The Weather Channel's digital team, led by correspondent Kait Parker, takes a closer look at the history of Lake Okeechobee and the future implications of this toxic algae pollution in “Toxic Lake: The Untold Story of Lake Okeechobee.”
The Weather Channel recently produced a short documentary about the complex political and environmental issues surrounding the Lake Okeechobee discharges that gave Indian River Lagoon water the consistency of guacamole this past summer.
In "Toxic Lake," The Weather Channel's digital team, led by correspondent Kait Parker, discussed the history of Lake O, the agriculture that contributes to algae blooms and the businesses and public health affected by the discharges. "Altering the natural flow of Florida's water has caused an environmental crisis," the documentary asserts.
“Toxic Lake” is the latest endeavor by The Weather Channel to explore the intersection of weather, the environment and social justice, according to the video's description on YouTube.
161209-e Will dry conditions in South Florida lead to lawn-watering restrictions ?
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
December 9, 2016
Historically dry November raises drought concerns for South Florida.
Your dried-out, brown lawn could be a sign of water-supply strains to come this winter, South Florida officials warned Thursday.
Above-normal temperatures and below-normal rainfall are forecast to continue through February. And after the driest November on record, water managers are preparing for the possibility that a few dry weeks could turn into a drought.
It could lead to tougher lawn watering limits for South Florida residents so accustomed to running their sprinklers.
"I'm not quite willing to press the 'drought' button. ... We are not quite there yet," said John Mitnik, the South Florida Water Management District's chief engineer. "We will see what Mother Nature brings us."
The drier conditions already have the district trying to hold onto more rainfall, which during the soggy summer and fall had been drained out to sea to protect neighborhoods from flooding.
An average of just .14 inches of rain fell from Orlando to the Keys during November, the lowest November total since record-keeping began in 1932, according to the district.
Also in November, Lake Okeechobee — South Florida's backup water supply — dropped nearly a foot. That followed 10 months of high-lake levels that triggered draining billions of gallons of lake water out to sea each day to avoid flooding threats for lakeside towns.
On Thursday, the lake was 14.70 feet above sea level, considered normal for this time of year.
Yet drier conditions have the lake dropping faster than expected.
In November, water district projections showed just a 10 percent chance that the lake level would drop low enough to trigger water shortage concerns before summer rains bring relief. On Thursday that projection increased to a 20 percent chance — still low but on the rise.
"Things have dried up dramatically," said Terrie Bates, the water management district's director of water resources.
Landscape watering accounts for about half of public water use and cutting back on sprinkling is a primary target of conservation efforts, especially during droughts.
South Florida has year-round lawn watering rules aimed to boost conservation, though enforcement has been lax. Tougher landscape irrigation limits can still be imposed during droughts.
Lawn watering rules can vary city to city. For most of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, lawn watering is currently limited to two days a week. For most of Palm Beach County, lawn watering is limited to three times per week.
Despite the historically dry weather, current water supplies from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades remain in good shape, according to the water management district.
Lake water is being moved south to boost South Florida supplies. And portions of the Everglades stretching through western Broward and Palm Beach County still have enough water to help restock community drinking water supplies, according to the district.
"We are being cautious about how we (drain) water out of the system," Mitnik said.
161208-a Florida delegation praises House's passage of Critical Water Infrastructure Bill
SunshineState News – by Nancy Smith
December 8, 2016
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation to address the needs of the country’s water resources -- the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act -- a bill particularly critical for priorities in the Sunshine State.
Notably for Florida, the WIIN act contains much of the language originally passed in the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016, which was critical to restoring the Everglades and is supported by more than 60 member organizations of the Everglades Coalition. WRDA passed through both the House and Senate by overwhelming margins and the WIIN Act is the product of the resulting bicameral negotiations.
South Florida Water Management District Chairman Daniel O’Keefe in particular praised Congressman Tom Rooney for Thursday's success in the House.
"... (With) Rooney's continued stewardship, we have seen significant progress toward restoring the Everglades," O'Keefe said. "Approval of the federal water bill by the full Congress, followed by appropriating funding, is vital to complete the Central Everglades Planning Project.”
Title one of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act authorizes important flood protection projects, hurricane damage reduction programs, shoreline protection projects and environmental restoration projects. The bill also specifically authorizes the Central Everglades Planning Project which will improve the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water flows to the northern estuaries, central Everglades National Park and Florida Bay, while increasing water supply for municipalities, industry and agricultural users.
Directly impacting South Florida are these budget items:
● $976 million for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP), a part of the Central Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
● $308 million for Picayune Strand restoration project water flow upgrades
● $220 million for Port Everglades dredging
The WIIN Act also would authorize the Port Everglades project to alleviate algae blooms in the region, and conduct an assessment of oyster bed recovery in the Gulf damaged by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
But there were other provisions in the bill important to Florida, and after most House members bolted when the vote was in, the Florida delegation weighed in on their personal priorities: Republican Gus Bilirakis: “This past year, our community was hit by heavy flooding yet again. Much of the damage caused to homes, properties, and infrastructure could be avoided in the future if the Anclote River dredging project were completed. The WIIN Act we passed will promote public-private partnerships for dredging projects, which will help the Army Corps successfully finish them at lower costs and pave the way for completing the Anclote River project in Tarpon Springs.” Republican Mario Diaz-Balart: "The bill contains several provisions that positively impact our southern Florida waterways and Everglades National Park. By investing in our nation’s ports, dams, and drinking water services, we are not only helping the local economy, but also the families across the country that rely on having easy access to safe drinking water." Democrat Patrick Murphy: "The continued congressional support for CEPP authorization is a testament to the dedication and advocacy of our state's delegation and our entire community as to the importance of restoring the Everglades to send more clean water south. While I am disappointed to see partisan riders included in the WIIN Act instead of a bipartisan WRDA conference bill, Floridians should not have to wait another year for this project to be authorized. Our communities and waterways have suffered long enough, which is why I am calling on my colleagues in the Senate to act on this authorization before the 114th Congress adjourns. It's beyond time to get this done." Democrat Ted Deutch: “After years of hard work, these water projects that are so impactful to our region will finally get the federal authorizations they desperately need. Port Everglades can now move forward with expansion plans, which will help bring more business and jobs to South Florida and make Fort Lauderdale an even larger point of entry for global shipments. Plans for restoring the Everglades can also proceed, fulfilling the moral responsibility on all of us to return our beautiful ecosystems to their natural state. This bill is not perfect, and I’m disappointed that the Republican leadership included offensive provisions at the last minute putting water resources at risk in drought-afflicted California. ..." Republican Tom Rooney: "The bill also authorizes much needed investments in ports, channels, locks and dams that support our maritime transportation system, strengthening our competitiveness and ensuring our transportation system remains attractive to private sector job creation. Most importantly, the bill accomplishes these goals and many others in a fiscally responsible manner, off-setting new authorizations by allowing the authorizations of inactive projects to sunset."
Rooney said the WIIN Act also OKs programs to improve drinking water infrastructure across the nation, address control of coal combustion residuals, improve water storage and delivery for drought-stricken communities and improve environmental conservation and management. Click here to get a better picture of the whole bill.
The bill now goes to the Senate and if passed, to the president's desk to be signed into law.
161208-b Negron on right track for Everglades restoration
Palm Beach Post – Point of View by Maggy Hurchala, Stuart, FL
December 8, 2016
Someone needs to point out that former Pahokee Mayor J.P. Sasser’s view of Everglades Restoration is a mythological beast.
As noted in his Nov. 29 Point of View piece, his plot goes like this:
Environmentalists don’t care about the Everglades. They hate the people that live south of Lake Okeechobee and want to destroy their livelihood. In the beginning, environmentalists opposed a storage reservoir south of the Lake even though we all know it was badly needed. Now environmentalists support a reservoir south of Lake O even though everyone knows it was never part of CERP (Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan) and is not needed. State Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, is working to get the state to buy land south of the lake for a reservoir because U.S. Sugar is a client of his law firm. Here are the facts:
CERP, or Everglades restoration, has always required buying a large amount of land south of Lake O. Without that land for storage, treatment and conveyance, Everglades’ restoration won’t work, Miami’s water supply will more rapidly go salt, and Florida Bay and the coastal estuaries will be irrevocably destroyed.
The unfinished reservoir where millions were wasted was a part of the state Accer8 program. It was designed to give most of the stored water to sugar growers, and less water to the Everglades than CERP called for. It did not include water quality treatment. It was an expensive mistake in the wrong place.
The land acquired earlier with state and federal funds has been used to meet the state responsibility for water quality ordered by the federal court.
The purchase of 60,000 acres of land in the 470,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area will not destroy agriculture south of the lake. It is the amount of land required by CERP. Because of sugar’s huge requirements for irrigation in the dry season and for treatment of stormwater runoff, it is the only way we can have peaceful coexistence between the environment and the sugar industry.
Negron’s proposal to buy 60,000 acres does not favor U.S. Sugar. It has equal impact on the two big sugar companies.
CERP is not about alligators out in the swamp. It is about the future of South Florida. The continued insistence of sugar company supporters that water doesn’t have to go south and can’t go south will have unbearable consequences for all of us.
Negron has taken a leadership role in trying to negotiate what is right, fair and will work. We all need to get behind him.
161208-c New lake-level plan draws comments aplenty
Democrat&Chronicle- by Steve Orr
December 8, 2016
The new regulatory plan for Lake Ontario water levels, adopted Thursday by a U.S.-Canada treaty organization after 16 long years of study and debate, quickly drew a barrage of comments.
► "Historic achievement." "Plan 2014 represents the largest wetlands restoration effort in the United States outside of the Florida Everglades, and taps the forces of nature to restore 64,000 acres — 100 square miles — of valuable wetlands. The product of decades of research, analysis and public input, the plan balances the needs of shoreline property owners, the environment, the shipping industry, tourists, sportsmen, businesses and more, ensuring every stakeholder will see benefits from this historic achievement." — Support Plan 2014 Coalition.
►"May leave our lake shore vulnerable." “With the approval of Plan 2014 comes great risk to many of our community’s home and business owners. Under Plan 2014, the higher lake levels may leave our lake shore vulnerable to substantial flooding and increased erosion, resulting in significant damages to both private properties and public infrastructure. Relying on the last fifty years of lake-level standards, homeowners and businesses along the shore of Lake Ontario
have invested their time and money into protecting their properties and Plan 2014 jeopardizes those investments.” — Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo.
►"Potential to endanger." "This plan has extreme potential to endanger the homes and livelihood of the thousands of residents within the Town of Greece. I fear for our residents and businesses along the Lake Shore not only in Greece but along the entire shoreline. Since the introduction of the proposed Plan 2014 I have been outspoken against its passage." — Greece Town Supervisor Bill Reilich.
►"This doesn't seem fair." "They made this decision without our input and now they're happy with it, but it's for the environment and not the people. They're going to be causing flooding on the south shore, forcing the lake to be higher and that will cause us to be flooded. This doesn't seem fair, it's not fair at all. Isn't our government supposed to protect us? How can anyone with a conscience do this?" — Cheryl Stevens, lakeshore homeowner in Hamlin.
►"Absolutely do harm." “I’m very disappointed in our state and federal representatives and our senators for allowing this to happen. This will absolutely do harm to five or six of the counties on the south shore of Lake Ontario at some point. And doing harm to any stakeholder … was specifically prohibited by the IJC charter." — Dave McDowell, president of Save Our Sodus.
►"Best available science." "Plan 2014’s sustainable water level management plan represents a truly historic opportunity to incorporate the best available science to restore over 60,000 acres of wetland habitat for the benefit of birds and wildlife, including state and federally listed endangered species like the Black Tern and Piping Plover, while improving economic opportunities and shoreline resiliency in both New York and Canada. — Erin Crotty, executive director of Audubon New York
►"Bureaucratic disaster." “If the International Joint Commission thinks for a second that Plan 2014 will ever be fully implemented, they are sorely mistaken. I can guarantee you that I will do everything in my power to protect the taxpayers, homeowners and small businesses along the Lake Ontario shoreline that are set to be devastated by this bureaucratic disaster.” — U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, Erie County.
► "Incredibly disappointed." “I am incredibly disappointed with today’s announcement that Plan 2014 will move forward. Despite the last-ditch actions taken by the administration today, I will continue to work with all levels of government — including the incoming administration — as well as stakeholders and community members to pursue every possible course to ensure that our shoreline is protected and to mitigate the impact of this decision.” — U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-Camillus, Onondaga County.
►"Revitalize our environment." “Plan 2014 will protect and preserve some of upstate New York’s greatest assets — Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River and hundreds of miles of shoreline. We are grateful for this international, bipartisan decision to revitalize our environment and enhance the quality of life for all the people who live along the lake and river.” — Jim Howe, director, Nature Conservancy of Western and Central New York.
► "Critical to our economic growth." “Plan 2014 is critical to our local economic growth in addition to good environmental policy, and I applaud this important decision. Better regulating the water levels of the St. Lawrence will ensure that users — from boaters to commercial fisherman — can continue to enjoy the river. Lowering the impact of invasive species will ensure that outdoor recreationists can enjoy the river for decades to come. — U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, Essex County.
►"Immense benefits." “Today we say goodbye to the antiquated plan from last century, and welcome a modern, balanced plan that will provide immense benefits to the health of the lake and river and the people that depend upon them. Plan 2014 is a historic achievement that will provide unparalleled environmental benefits to the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River watershed. We applaud the U.S. and Canadian governments for seizing this once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore the health of our lake and river.” — Brian Smith, associate executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Related: Plan 2014: Controversial plan to regulate Lake Ontario water levels ... Syracuse.com 16 years in the making: new water levels plan better for St ... North Country Public Radio
161208-d Southern Florida: The driest November on record
December 8, 2016
Southern Florida is enduring the driest November ever recorded for the state. Its' called the dry season there but residents think this is going too far. Much of the region saw virtually no rainfall last month, leading to the driest November from Orlando to the Florida Keys since record-keeping began in 1932.
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) officials reported only 0.14 inches fell Districtwide, representing 6% of average, or 2.15 inches below average. All SFWMD basins recorded below-average rainfall.
Hurricane Matthew in early October was the last time the region had any significant rain. The ensuing dry weather resulted in rainfall totals as low as 0.04 inches on the Southwest Coast and 0.03 inches in the Everglades Agricultural Area during November.
161207-a Plan to foster sea life gets to root of problem
University of Kansas
December 7, 2016
Reef walls may restore mangrove-like productivity in sea wall areas
LAWRENCE -- Can a university professor from the middle of the country help restore some of the coastal habitat Florida is losing to human commercial development ?
That's the idea behind the "Reef Wall" experiment that University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design & Planning Assistant Professor Keith Van De Riet is undertaking at Weston's WannaB Inn in Englewood, Florida.
Van de Riet became interested in the possibility of replicating at least some of the environmentally beneficial effects of seaside mangrove forests while teaching at Florida Atlantic University. He continued that work after joining the KU faculty in 2015.
The idea, Van de Riet said, is to "mitigate the impact of development" by "creating life" along concrete seawalls that - mainly during the 20th century - replaced mangrove forests. Mangroves have any number of beneficial effects, from preventing shoreline erosion and filtering runoff to serving as the basis for a food chain topped by fish, birds and humans. And yet one-third of the world's mangrove forests have been lost to human development, Van de Riet said.
His idea is to mimic the shape of mangrove roots - including the nooks and crannies fish like to swim within - in concrete panels that can be attached to otherwise blank seawalls or cast directly into new seawalls. The process started with digital 3-D modeling of actual plants, translating that geometry into rubber molds, and finally casting panels using high-strength concrete with crushed oyster shell as aggregate. The hope is that the oyster-shell mixture will help attract sea life.
The experiment is funded by a grant from The Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation.
Van de Riet and helpers installed a 20-foot-long section of panels on a seawall at the WannaB Inn during an October visit that was nearly skunked by Hurricane Matthew and a red-tide event. The 80-room resort on Manasota Key, a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, prides itself on its retro style and oceanside fauna. The inn gave Van de Riet money matching his grant funds to complete his experiment.
With the help of FAU doctoral student Jessene Aquino-Thomas in Florida, Van de Riet plans to monitor the hoped-for advent of creatures like oysters, crabs and fish on and around the panels. After just a couple of weeks in the water, there are already hopeful signs. If the experiment is successful, Van de Riet said, he can imagine commercializing the Reef Wall system on a large scale (he's working to patent the design) or perhaps seeing them become integral to permitting when seawalls are installed or renovated.
Van de Riet said current regulations "are generally about the mitigation of human activities, that is, limiting impact. We need to think about the possibility for regeneration."
"If we want to eat fish, if we want clean water, we need to get to the root of the problem."
The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. The university's mission is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world. The KU News Service is the central public relations office for the Lawrence campus.
161207-b UI researchers win first phase of $10 million Everglades clean water science prize
December 7, 2016
MOSCOW, Idaho —A University of Idaho research team has won the first phase of a scientific challenge to save the Florida Everglades and other freshwater resources facing critical pollution challenges.
The UI researchers of Team blueXgreen created a proposal to adapt its new wastewater treatment technology that removes phosphorus and nitrogen. The proposal won The Everglades Foundation’s opening phase of the George Barley Water Prize — a four-year, $10 million competition. There were 61 international teams in the global competition’s first phase.
Environmental chemist Greg Moller, soil scientist Daniel Strawn and engineer Martin Baker, all of UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, submitted the winning proposal. It was based on the UI-developed N-E-W Tech water treatment process that can reduce phosphorus concentrations in wastewater to far below regulatory requirements.
“We are pleased to win the first round,” Moller said. “We are confident that our process offers a new, sustainable path forward in dealing with a serious pollution problem that leads to major environmental and human health problems across the U.S. and around the world.”
The UI researchers were awarded $487,000 in grants in 2015 from the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) to develop a prototype of the process on a high-tech trailer. Through testing on campus, at the UI research dairy and at Moscow’s and Troy’s water treatment plants, the team has conducted large-scale trials with promising results.
A wastewater treatment company based in the United Kingdom has signed an option to license the technology for the European Union, and a U.S. company is currently reviewing licensing opportunities. Their process expands the focus of earlier UI-patented water treatment technologies developed by Moller that are in use in Korea, England and the U.S.
The foundation announced the winners of the opening phases during an event today, Dec. 7, on Biscayne Bay in Miami.
The UI team won $5,000 for the first phase, which focused on ideas, and qualified the UI team’s entry for the next round and a $25,000 prize.
The Everglades Foundation’s George Barley Water Prize seeks a solution to the pollution that promotes algae growth in the Everglades, which damages fish and wildlife there and along Florida’s coast. Last summer Florida officials declared states of emergency in four counties because of the toxic goo.
The N-E-W Tech process adds biochar — tiny bits of activated charcoal — to wastewater to capture nitrogen and phosphorus, which are both valuable agricultural fertilizers. The team is working with Colorado-based biochar manufacturer CoolPlanet to enhance the product’s fertilizer value. The UI process also adds ozone to break down toxic compounds and disease agents, including viruses and bacteria.
The wastewater treatment binds the charcoal with the soil, enhancing its fertility and making the process climate-friendly and carbon-negative, Moller said.
The competition includes four stages, beginning with the idea phase. Next up for the teams is laboratory and pilot-scale testing. The contest concludes with the construction of a large-scale plant in Florida. The ultimate winner is scheduled to be chosen in late 2020.
“This international award recognizes UI researchers’ efforts to make a difference in Idaho, the nation and the world through technology development,” said Janet Nelson, UI’s vice president for research and economic development. “Team blueXgreen’s dedication to innovation will benefit them not only as this competition goes forward, but also as they continue to expand the possibilities for reducing pollution using N-E-W Tech.”
The UI research team’s entry includes a video on the Barley Prize website, www.barleyprize.com , at www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2Q3D0asJRA Related: First Finalists Named In $10 Million Competition Targeting Nutrient ... WMFE
161206-a Algae give freshwater clues in the face of sea level rise
News.FIU.edu - by Evelyn S. Gonzalez
December 6, 2016
Sea level rise is a monumental threat, but one FIU biologist is tracking levels using one of the Florida Everglades’ tiniest residents. Viviana Mazzei is examining communities of algae to help resource managers pinpoint which areas need freshwater most. Known as diatoms, these microscopic algae are a great indicator of environmental changes, including increased salinity and concentrations of phosphorous brought on by sea level rise.
“There are ways to map that now, with aerial photography, for example, but it takes a while to see the effects of saltwater that way,” Mazzei said. “The turnover rate for micro-organisms is so fast that we will be able to see the changes happening in the environment more quickly.”
Mazzei is conducing her research as part of FIU’s Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (FCE LTER) Program which is dedicated to understanding how water, climate and people impact the Everglades. Her research project is funded by Everglades Foundation’s FIU ForEverglades Scholarship.
The Florida Everglades is a wetland made up of different ecosystems, including swamps, hardwood hammocks, mangrove forests, pine rocklands and sawgrass marshes. Their interconnectivity makes them especially vulnerable to changes in the environment. In 2000, the U.S. Congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan to restore, preserve and protect the water resources of the Florida Everglades. While attempts are being made to restore and redirect freshwater flow in the Everglades, Mazzei says early indicators of environment changes are needed to focus and expedite these restoration efforts.
161206-b Everglades Foundation starts 4-year $10-million Prize for algae bloom solution search
December 6, 2016
US - In a bold effort to find a solution to one of the world's most challenging environmental problems, The Everglades Foundation will officially kick off its four-year, $10-million George Barley Water Prize at an event on Wednesday, December 7, 2016, at the Miami Science Barge.
The event, "Tapping Innovation: Breakthrough Thinking, Action & Awards" - sponsored by the Knight Foundation, will feature a distinguished group of water experts discussing the problem of excess nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrogen, causing toxic algae blooms, which foul drinking water, drive delicate ecosystems toward collapse, and annually cost the United States between $2.2 billion and $4.6 billion.
The Foundation will also provide attendees a tour of the Miami Science Barge, a floating environmental innovation lab.
The prize competition, named in honor of the late Florida environmentalist George Barley, is designed to incentivize free-market solutions to the increasingly urgent algae bloom problem, which impacted about 15,000 water bodies worldwide in 2016, including those in at least 20 US states. The George Barley Water Prize marks the largest cash award ever offered in the field of water stewardship and has already attracted 147 teams from around the world, each striving to discover an innovative and cost-effective solution to remove phosphorus from our lakes, rivers and major freshwater bodies.
At the December 7 event, The Foundation will reveal the winners of the first two phases of Stage 1 of the competition - whose technological innovations, thus far only tested on a small scale, could perhaps go on to win the larger prize and ultimately provide the world with a solution that could reverse the environmental damage done to water bodies as large as Lake Erie.
"We are excited to officially kick off this unique opportunity for global impact," said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Foundation.
"The world badly needs a solution to this problem. It has eluded governments and private industry, but we know there are some incredibly inventive entrepreneurs out there who want to apply their expertise to this issue. The competition's four-year timetable allows for the development, testing and production of a phosphorus-removal technology that's ready to solve a local-to-global environmental problem. The first two phases of Stage 1 brought many compelling and innovative ideas to the table and we look forward to seeing what the next stage ushers in as the competition progresses."
161206-c Miss Florida talks Everglades restoration with students
Clay Today – by Jesse Hollett
December 6, 2016
ORANGE PARK – Clay Virtual Academy students received a lesson on the Florida Everglades Tuesday morning from the state’s newly crowned Miss Florida.
Courtney Sexton, the Kingsley Lake native elevated to stardom in July when she won the state’s most prominent beauty pageant, gave students all the knowledge they would need to save the Everglades.
Human interaction through pollution, redirection of water flow and de-habitation has resulted in the destruction of half of the Everglades.
Invasive species, such as the Burmese Python, have also contributed to loss of wildlife. There are currently more than 60 threatened or endangered species currently living in the Everglades.
Congress authorized the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000 as a plan to “restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection.”
“The Everglades needs us because of threats,” Sexton said to the children. “Things that are hurting the environment, we could talk for hours on end about it.”
Winners of the Miss Florida pageant settle into their role knowing they will eventually volunteer much of their next year educating children on one cause or another. For the last six years, the Miss Florida Organization has collaborated with The Everglades Foundation to raise awareness about the problems facing the Everglades to classrooms all over the state.
It appears to work as well – the students are more engaged once “someone with a crown” walks into the room.
“I think this was pretty engaging for them, there was a lot of interaction,” said Gayle Weaver,
distance learning specialist with Clay Virtual Academy. “You could see hands going up, they wanted to answer they wanted to have that engagement.”
For students, this was a chance to not only learn about the newly-crowned Miss Florida, but to learn about the most pressing issues facing a precious Florida landmark. For Weaver, however, the lesson was a bit of a reunion. Weaver taught Sexton 6th grade math in Bradford County.
Sexton’s goal is speak to 20 classes and she’s booked more than 20 schools already.
“I’ve learned as I do one presentation, a teacher or a parent shares about what the kids learned and how much fun they had and then another school books me. It’s a great cause and I think that’s why it’s easy to book the teachers and the parents and the school.”
Sexton will also assist Congressional representatives and senators in lobbying for further expansion of Everglades restoration. It’s personal to her now, as well. She attended a 12-day bus tour with the Everglades Foundation to familiarize herself with the terrain and the problems affecting the region.
161206-d Peaceful protest moves pipeline: Can it move Florida to clean local waterways ?
CBS12.com - by Jana Eschbach
December 6, 2016
STUART (CBS12) — The US Army Corps of Engineers decision this week to re-route the pipeline in the Dakotas is firing up those fighting to save water quality here at home.
To date, it is a major win for those at Standing Rock #NODAPL, so now activists locally say if peaceful protests can move pipelines, residents can unite to get action to clean the Indian River Lagoon, and send water from Lake Okeechobee south to the Everglades.
"We have to keep going on, we have to keep protesting," said Gayle Ryan, a retired Stuart resident turned activist, now a River Warrior, fighting for local water quality.
Ryan says says she is energized after seeing thousands get results in the Dakotas.
While the protests have grown in numbers in Stuart, to more than 10,000 residents this year, no candidates from the water movement won their races during the election. The water quality problem has grown for 60 years in Florida. Once the locks from Lake Okeechobee open, pollution pours in.
This year, the toxic water sent the entire region into a 6-month long state of emergency.
“The water needs to go south. The State needs to listen to Senate President Joe Negron, and buy the land and send it south,“ said River Warrior Ryan, "We have toxic algae blooms poisoning our ecosystem. We have pollution coming down from Orlando which is horrible form the straightening of the Kissimmee river. We have all kinds of septic sewer problems- but they should not be allowed to send it to us."
The Dakota Access Pipeline protest lasted 6 months to get results. The US Army Corps of Engineers agreed this week to reroute the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through the Native Americans’ water supplies.
"A win in the Dakotas gives me energy. But we can’t stop really. What happens if we lose? The entire State of Florida loses,” Ryan said.
But here in Florida, it’s not a simple fix to reduce flows from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River. The US Army Corps of Engineers who manage the spillway in Martin and into Lee counties, can't shut down the flows without sending the water somewhere else, or face a dike breach.
The Corps doesn't have control over all the canals on the south side of the lake. South Florida Water Managers do. Of course, the millions living in Boca, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale don't want dirty water dumped on them either.
Instead, River Warriors, along with most state scientists and marine biologists, want the state to do a massive land buy to send water south to the Everglades. That plan puts them in a stand-off with the sugar industry who owns the land, and many living in the Glades region, who fear they will be relocated, although the plans do not call for that.
"We do have to protest and get people involved." Ryan said, “There is still hope here, like there [at Standing Rock], that one day, with solidarity, a resolution will come.”
The WRDA Bill in Congress that would fund major projects around the Lake goes up for a vote in Washington this month.
A State bill in Tallahassee, The Negron Plan, would fund the purchase of land south, but South Florida Water Managers must approve it as well. So far they voted against all southern flow projects.
That is why, true to the River Warriors promise to keep fighting, they plan yet another protest on Thursday at 11 a.m. at South Florida water Management in West Palm Beach, to fight for clean water.
“The destruction of our rivers by our government is outrageous. If half the oyster population is gone, consider the acres of seagrass and the fish spawn that won’t make it to sea because politicians have allowed 279 billion gallons of filthy polluted water to be dumped on a “protected” estuary.” Ryan said.
Ryan is also joining forces to fight a pipeline from coming through Okeechobee county as well: https://www.facebook.com/events/1772908586293214/
161205-a County to decide whether Ag Reserve land goes up for sale
Palm Beach Post - by Wayne Washington, Staff Writer
December 5, 2016
Caught between angry preservationists and a South Florida Water Management District threatening legal action, Palm Beach County commissioners are expected to decide Tuesday whether to sell a 571-acre chunk of the Agricultural Reserve that was purchased with public money in 2000.
The decision could have far-reaching impacts for the Agricultural Reserve, a 22,000-acre farming zone located west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. There is also the prospect of the public losing millions on a sale.
When the district’s governing board declared the land surplus and available for sale, it set a minimum price of $10 million — $13 million less than the county and the water management district paid in 2000 for a slightly bigger piece of land that includes the 571 acres. District officials said that minimum price was based on an old appraisal and that the official minimum price is likely to be closer to $15 million.
Even a sale at that price, however, would be a loss for taxpayers.
Appraisals of the property, located west of State Road 7, have come in at $15.4 million and $14.7 million. County staff members, providing commissioners with background information as they consider the issue, say the appraisal figures are lower than the 2000 price tag $23 million because some of the original 627 acres have been sold and because development rights tied to the remaining land has been retired, making it less valuable to someone who would quickly seek to build upon it.
Because the property is jointly owned, the county has to sign off on a sale. Five of the seven-member commission would have to agree to proceed with a sale of the property. Two commissioners — new County Mayor Paulette Burdick and Commissioner Melissa McKinlay — have said they believe land purchased with public money for agriculture and preservation should remain in public hands.
The county’s staff is recommending that commissioners proceed with a sale. Staff members notes that, if the county refuses to go along with a sale, the water management district is likely to sue to force a sale. Larry Tolchinsky of Sackrin and Tolchinsky, a Broward County firm specializing in real estate law, said state law does allow for such a suit.
Speaking in general terms and not specifically on a possible dispute between Palm Beach County and the water management district, Tolchinsky said: “One party can seek partition and ask the court to force the sale of the property.”
Selling under those circumstances, staff members say, could increase the very development prospects preservationists and environmentalists fear, for the county would have rejected a district-county plan to place restrictions on the property limiting its use to agriculture.
Environmentalists and preservationists, however, argue that such limits, known as conservation easements, can be lifted. Indeed, when the water management district’s governing board meets on Thursday, one of the items on its agenda is a request to lift conservation easements on a three and a half acre piece of land in Lee County.
“Conservation easements can be undone, and they are undone as a matter of course,” said Lisa Interlandi, senior attorney for the Everglades Law Center. “It is wholly unprotective for the long term. It provides zero public protection.”
Tuesday’s vote could be the latest change for a piece of property with a long history in the county. The county’s staff and the staff of the water management district have used slightly different acreage figures in detailing some of that history.
According to a background report compiled by county staff members, the water management and the county — using some of the $150 million in bond money approved by voters in 1999 — bought a 627-acre tract known as McMurrain Farms in 2000 for $23 million.
The Pero farming family, which leases the land for its operations, asked about buying a chunk and the water management district, looking to build a reservoir to aid in Everglades restoration, wanted to control another piece of it.
The water management district paid the county $13.7 million for a 61 percent stake in 571 acres of the McMurrain property. Pero bought a 57-acre piece of it for just over $1 million and is expected to be a bidder for the 571 acres if the county agrees with the district’s plan to sell them.
The district no longer wants to use the McMurrain property as the site of a reservoir after determining that a site in Martin County is more suitable. Now, the district wants to recoup what it paid for its stake in the property, known alternatively as the McMurrain tract or the Pero Farms tract.
County documents indicate the county gets just under $119,000 per year in lease revenue from the property.
If the property is sold for $15.4 million, those documents state, the county’s share would be $6.1 million, with the water management district getting $9.3 million.
“Staff believes that a sale of the property subject to conservation easements is a practical solution which allows SFWMD to recoup its investment while providing maximum protection against future change in use of the property,” the county staff report states.
Interlandi does not share that assessment. On a variety of fronts, she said, selling the land is a bad idea.
“The county selling this land would be a horrible deal for Palm Beach County taxpayers,” Interlandi said. “This would be the worst assault on the Ag Reserve by an order of many magnitudes.”
161205-b Environmentalists push to keep federal oversight of Loxahatchee refuge
Sun Sentinel – by Andy Reid
December 5, 2016
State leaders' push to evict the federal government from running the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge threatens to weaken protections for the Everglades, environmentalists warned Monday.
Environmental groups and community leaders are voicing concerns about the state proposal to oust the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from overseeing the refuge in Palm Beach County, which includes 144,000 acres of the northern reaches of the Everglades.
The South Florida Water Management District has called for the Feds to step aside because they have failed to stop fast-spreading trees and vines that are at risk of overwhelming the refuge and its remaining Everglades habitat.
But environmental advocates, who held a community meeting near West Palm Beach on Monday night, counter that losing federal oversight could result in the state easing Everglades water pollution cleanup requirements, which could benefit the sugar industry.
Opponents to the change have also raised concerns about potentially losing public access to the wildlife refuge, for everyone from tourists to students on field trips.
"A small group of men who are out of step ... have made a decision to cancel the lease," former water district board member and long-time Everglades advocate Nathaniel Reed said. "If it goes understate control, there's no guarantee that (water pollution standards) will be maintained..
The South Florida Water Management District board in August called for taking control of the state-owned refuge away from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in order to give the state more control over combating exotic plants such as melaleuca trees and Old World Climbing Fern.
That was the first step in what could stretch into a nine-month-long process for the state to end its operating agreement with the federal agency overseeing the refuge.
Last month, the South Florida Water Management District released a "statement of principles" aimed at easing concerns about the state potentially severing its agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for operation of the refuge.
But booting the feds could leave state taxpayers picking up a $25 million bill just to get started tackling fast-spreading...
That statement lists the district's intent to combat the spread of invading plants, keep the land open to the public and to "protect the refuge's ecosystem for plants, wildlife and public use and enjoyment."
Also, the district maintains that the federal government could continue refuge operations on more than 1,000 acres of federally owned land, even if the state lease for the majority of the refuge ends. That federal land includes a visitor center and nature trails.
But losing the state lease could mean federal budget and staffing cuts at the Loxahatchee refuge, which could lead to ceasing operations that cater to the public, Kathy Burchett of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday.
"We are going to have to analyze all options," Burchett said.
The Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, west of State Road 7, extends north from Palm Beach County's southern boundary to Wellington. It separates suburban areas west of Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach from the sea of sugar cane in western Palm Beach County.
The refuge includes a mix of sawgrass, tree islands and marshes that serve as both as wildlife habitat and a water conservation area – holding water to avoid flooding and to restock community drinking water as well as other portions of the Everglades.
A deal that started in 1951 allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to use the district's land as a wildlife refuge. Part of the federal responsibility is to control the spread of exotic plants such as Melaleuca trees and Old World Climbing Fern, or lygodium.
Those plants, once planted throughout the region to help dry up soggy South Florida, can grow out of control because they have no natural enemies here.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last year acknowledged that its efforts to spray herbicides and yank out the fast-spreading plants by hand won't be enough to meet a 2017 deadline to control their advance.
The South Florida Water Management District estimates it will cost $25 million over five years to control the spread of invading plants in the refuge, followed by another $4 million a year to keep them in check.
A state takeover of refuge operations could leave Florida taxpayers shouldering that cost, instead of spreading the expense among federal taxpayers.
161205-c State can take action to fix Caloosahatchee ills
Naples Daily News - Commentary by Gaylene Vasaturo, Naples/Retired U.S. EPA
December 5, 2016
In a Naples Daily News article, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) blamed the Endangered Species Act for the harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
SFWMD laments that the act prevents it from releasing Lake Okeechobee’s polluted water south into the Everglades during rainy season to protect the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow. This sparrow is only found in South Florida and nests just 6 inches off the ground. Increased water discharges during rainy season would drown the chicks and eggs in a nest. SFWMD seeks changes to the act which, in effect, would eliminate protections for this sparrow.
Congress enacted the act in 1973 with bipartisan support. Congress recognized the importance of preventing extinction of native plants and animals, stating that our rich natural heritage is of “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational and scientific value to our nation and its people.”
The 2016 election didn’t provide any mandate for gutting the act. Quite the opposite — Florida voters overwhelmingly supported preservation of our wildlife and their habitat. In 2014, 75 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 1, which directed the state to dedicate funds to acquire and restore conservation lands. In 2016, Lee voters approved extending Conservation 20/20 to acquire and manage environmental lands.
Instead of calling for elimination of protections for the Cape Sable seaside sparrow and other endangered species, SFWMD and the state should look within.
The state has authority to take action that could significantly reduce excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) flowing into South Florida inland waters and Lake Okeechobee, yet it’s failed to seriously tackle the sources of excess nutrients flowing into these waters. Excess nutrients in storm water runoff from urban areas and farm fields are a major cause of the algal blooms and toxic algae that coated the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers this year.
The state can and should take administrative actions such as requiring better stormwater management and treatment, and developing regulations to protect waters flowing into South Florida from stormwater runoff. Currently the state requires the sources of nutrients in runoff to develop best management practices (BMPs) to reduce their contribution of nutrients. However, the algae problem in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie are testament to the fact that the BMPs are not effective enough. The state needs to improve and enforce BMPs. The state should also ensure that there are enforceable phosphorus and nitrogen limits in all point source discharge permits, such as permits for wastewater treatment plants.
Second, SFWMD should immediately begin planning for a large water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee in the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA). Sixteen years ago, the federal government and Florida signed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) with bipartisan support. CERP called for construction of a reservoir in the EAA (60,000 acres), and the federal government agreed to fund 50 percent.
According to Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO: “The EAA reservoir is needed to store additional water from the lake so it can be slowly fed into the man-made wetlands. ... (The reservoir) will open a new outlet from Lake Okeechobee southward, allowing a dramatic reduction in damaging discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.” (Daily News, Nov. 19)
In the face of the massive algae problem in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, the Army Corps of Engineers is urging Florida to expedite the reservoir project. Yet, SFWMD states it cannot begin planning for the reservoir until 2021.
SFWMD should recommend the state immediately buy at least 60,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee in the EAA for this reservoir. The state still has an option to buy EAA land, and Amendment 1 specifically provides funds for acquiring EAA land for restoring the Everglades. The reservoir project provides the best option to reduce releases of polluted water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.
These actions, if taken by the state and SFWMD, would be a big step forward in addressing the Caloosahatchee ills. Using the federal Endangered Species Act as yet another excuse for state and SFWMD inaction on solving our water crisis is a disservice to all Florida citizens.
161204-a Director of FGCU’s Everglades Wetland Research Park to study water in Naples
EagleNews.org - by Travis Brown
December 4, 2016
Many gathered at Freedom Park in Naples on Thursday, Nov. 17. The event was held in honor of a new coalition between Collier County and FGCU for future park research. Bill Mitsch, along with his team of researchers and graduate students have begun a journey of discovery. Mitsch and his team are embarking on a two year, $50,000 study of Fred W. Coyle Freedom Park located in Naples.
Many invited guests, faculty and city officials came out in support of Mitsch, the director of FGCU’s Everglades Wetland Research Park and Assistant Director Li Zhang.
The wetlands were originally designed to filter storm water as it makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Now Mitsch, a wetlands expert, is going to determine whether or not it is truly effective at its job.
Along with monitoring water levels and vegetation in the area, they are also going to be assessing the phosphorus and nitrogen content in order to make proper recommendations for the future of the park.
Introduced to FGCU in 2012, Mitsch was lured by its proximity to the large populations of wetlands in the area.
“These wetland parks provide recreational opportunities for local residents, but also clean water, prevent downstream flooding and enhance biodiversity — all known now as ‘ecosystem services,’” Mitsch told FGCU360. “This is potentially one of the great wetland parks in the United States.”
Mitsch’s expertise expands into four books published in the field of marsh research.
Along with celebrations for the upcoming project, Mitsch revealed that funding is also being requested for another project to recycle all that which is filtered out by the wetlands.
161204-b LOST access points to be closed for years
OkeechobeeNews.net - by Tom Timmons
December 4, 2016
OKEECHOBEE — From a bicyclist or hikers view, the use of much of the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) is pretty well over, especially on the south end of the lake.
The Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) has undertaken multiple improvement projects in the last few years, starting with the “cut off wall” construction for some 21 miles from Port Mayaca south to Belle Glade beginning in 2007, and now has undertaken a multi-year project to replace a number of culverts that pass through the dike itself.
The culverts in question were installed when the dike was built in the 1930s and have started to deteriorate. To replace a culvert is an 18-to-24 month project.
First cofferdams are installed on the lakeside and landside of the dike and then a large portion of the dike is removed to provide access to the culvert, the old concrete structure is broken up and removed and a new one is formed up and cast in its place, and finally, the dike is rebuilt around the new culvert and the cofferdams are removed. According to John H Campbell, Public Affairs Specialist for the Jacksonville District of the Army Corps of Engineers they are “currently focusing on 32 water control structures (a/k/a “culverts”) that provide local access to water/drainage. Of the 32 targeted structures one has been removed and four others replaced and 19 more are currently under contract in various stages of replacement.”
In a recent trip around the lake, I was paying particular attention to access to the LOST with the idea of perhaps trying to ride some on the south side of the lake. What I encountered was GRIM to say the least. Nearly all the LOST trail access points, identified on the map provided by the ACOE, are closed.
According to the ACOE and John H Campbell, “Our policy has been to close portions of the trail between trailheads when construction is occurring that impacts the users ability to use 100 percent of the path between the access points. With some stretches of the trail having multiple culverts to replace, it wouldn’t be surprising to see certain portions closed for five years.”
Other than the portion of the LOST from Nubbin Slough to Port Mayaca, there are not many places to ride or walk anymore.
Some residents of Clewiston have taken exception to the extended loss of access to the LOST and the Florida National Scenic Trail, which follows the LOST around the lake and held a series of meetings with the ACOE. They claimed that the loss of access was impacting their health as it removed a recreational area, and impacted the town with a loss of revenue caused by the impact to the tourist industry due to the closures.
Clewiston resident Terry Gardner can see some of the construction from his back yard. Through meetings with the ACOE, they were finally provided an access to the LOST, past the local construction in the form of a path along a construction road, fenced on both sides, and mostly of sand. Their current issue with this access is that the fence is covered privacy fabric and blocks any breeze from the lake, as well as water views and is nearly a mile in length making for a very hot transit to the small open portion of the path in the warmer months. They have contacted the ACOE and cannot get the fabric removed, or even changed to a more open weave, which would allow some of the breeze through.
Additionally, the news from the ACOE in regards the path on the south side of the lake is very bad.
“In 2017, we plan to resume the installation of the cutoff wall west of Belle Glade. It is our intent to install 35 additional miles of cutoff wall through Lake Harbor, Clewiston, Moore Haven and Lakeport. Our current expectation is that the work will run until the mid-2020s, possibly near to the year 2025,” said Mr. Campbell. The only good news he had to share was that: “Our contractors are instructed to return the trail to its pre-construction condition.
Thus, any portions of the trail that were paved before the construction began will have the pavement replaced.”
161203-a 2016 rough year for water but time to build on solutions
News-Press.com – by Daniel Andrews Daniel Andrews is founder of Captains for Clean Water
December 3, 2016
As the rain subsides and our waters begin to clear, many Southwest Florida residents will breathe a sigh of relief. But for those of us who make our living on the water, we will continue to suffer from the lasting effects of the man-made Lake Okeechobee discharges into our estuaries.
The lower Caloosahatchee estuary suffered immensely this year. Large areas of seagrass and oyster beds died as a result of sustained, high volume freshwater discharges into the estuary. To many folks, seagrass and oysters may not be a glamorous subject, but they are the foundation of our estuary and yield an immense economic benefit to southwest Florida’s economy. All of our marine species, from the fish we eat to the dolphins and birds that attract tourists and entertain our residents, depend on healthy estuaries. Unfortunately, these oyster and seagrass beds do not regrow overnight- it takes years of proper management to repair the damage inflicted by mere weeks of high volume freshwater discharges.
In the words of a good friend, Magnus Gunnarson, “Nature is resilient- but we have to give it opportunities.” Magnus is the VP of Mustad Hooks - the largest fishing hook manufacturer in the world. Mustad, along with dozens of other multi-million dollar companies who make a substantial amount of money as a result of a healthy marine environment are very concerned about the issues facing Florida’s waterways. Our state's estuaries have been in a long term decline, threatening Florida’s $9.3 billion fishing industry. Mustad is not alone, dozens of leading outdoor corporations have joined the fight, including YETI, Costa Sunglasses, Orvis, Simms, Patagonia, Seadek and many others.
Incoming Florida Senate President Joe Negron has made it his priority for the next legislative session to plan and fund additional water storage projects south of Lake Okeechobee. This is the opportunity our estuaries need to rebound from decades of mismanagement. Negron has proposed buying approximately 60,000 acres of agricultural land south of the lake to create a reservoir that would be used to store excess water so that it can be cleaned and conveyed south into the Everglades and Florida Bay where it is desperately needed.
The restoration of the Everglades is a multifaceted effort, and increased storage, treatment and southern conveyance of water from Lake Okeechobee is essential to alleviating the harmful discharges into the coastal estuaries. There are many projects south of the lake at various stages of completion, including the Central Everglades Planning Process (CEPP), restoration strategies, modified water deliveries to Everglades National Park, and increased bridging of the Tamiami Trail. These projects are designed to overcome the current obstacles to sending water south, and will not be utilized to their full potential unless we have sufficient water storage, such as through Senator Negron's proposed reservoir, in the Everglades Agricultural Area, to provide a constant supply of freshwater to Florida Bay.
Sadly, 2016 was a rough year for water in Florida. Florida Bay experienced a massive seagrass die-off due to lack of freshwater flow, while the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers experienced damaging discharges killing seagrass and oysters due to excessive freshwater flows. People are outraged, and now Senator Negron is giving us an opportunity to be part of a science based solution to help save the Florida that we all know and love. Science, common sense, and a duty to our children tell us that we need to restore the flow of clean, freshwater to the Everglades where it belongs. We are excited and optimistic that our policymakers will listen to the indisputable science and do what’s best for Florida and our economy.
Visit captainsforcleanwater.org to sign the #NowOrNeverglades Declaration and become a member of our organization. The fishing industry represents only a fraction of the affected businesses in Florida. If you care about the future of Florida should consider joining Captains for Clean Water. We need your support today to fight for clean water and healthy estuaries.
161203-b After 46 years, EPA will see HUGE changes under Trump
BPR Wire - by Michael Bastasch
December 3, 2016 |
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began operating 46 years ago, after former President Richard Nixon proposed it as
a way to address mounting pollution concerns across the country.
EPA celebrated its 46th anniversary Friday, just weeks before President-elect Donald Trump likely takes the agency in a totally different direction compared to the last eight years under President Barack Obama, focusing on clean air and quality instead of global warming.
Not only is Trump looking to roll back Obama-era regulations, the incoming administration reportedly has plans to fundamentally reform major decades-old environmental laws: The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.
No doubt, Trump will work to repeal the "waters of the United States" rule and the Clean Power Plan rule for power plants. But his handlers suggested the new administration would work with Congress to pursue major legislative changes to stop regulatory overreach.
"We have to get into the weeds so that we can determine definitively what is and what is not a pollutant," North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer, Trump's energy policy adviser, recently told reporters.
"Have a more prescriptive and clearly defined directions rather than these broad authorities, authorizations, that give too much flexibility to the bureaucracy," he said.
To do this, Trump has put together an EPA transition team to come up with a plan to figure out which regulations to roll back and what candidates would be good fits for agency positions.
Heading up that team is Myron Ebell, the director of environmental policy at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute and a longtime critic of EPA regulations. Environmentalists railed against Ebell being on the team, calling him a "climate criminal."
Activists even started a White House petition to have Ebell removed from the transition team, but the petition was removed from the "We The People" website for violating its terms of participation.
Trump's not likely going to listen to environmentalists. He's more focused on clean air and "crystal clean water" going forward, and says most regulations can be cut because they hamper U.S. competitiveness.
One of Trump's main campaign messages was putting coal miners back to work by repealing global warming regulations that make it nearly impossible to build new coal plants. Trump also wants to roll back other environmental regulations holding back oil and natural gas production.
Trump's appeal to coal miners helped swing Ohio and Pennsylvania his way in the election. Jobs, energy independence and basic environmental protections are Trump's main energy goals.
Ebell shares Trump's goals.
"I have dedicated my career to fighting for the best policies to promote energy affordability and protect both our environment and our climate," Ebell wrote in a November blog post.
"I have been frustrated by the leadership of the modern environmental movement," Ebell wrote, adding "the leaders of these groups are more concerned with concentrating power in Washington than in improving the environment outside the Beltway." So who will head a Trump EPA?
That remains to be seen. So far, Trump has interviewed two candidates for the job, but has not yet made his choice.
Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas regulator and senior-fellow-in-residence at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, is one choice. White recently met with the president-elect in Trump Tower and had this to say to The Houston Chronicle:
He wants the EPA to run more carefully, to use stronger science and be unabashedly conscientious to the effect of more and more rules on existing employment and job creation," White said. "I have no desire to put words in his mouth. But as he is in other areas, he likes a good deal.
The other candidate, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, made a name for himself challenging EPA regulations in the court system, including the Clean Power Plan.
"I think the vision is for a very different EPA if either of these candidates is nominated," said Scott Segal, an energy lobbyist at Bracewell, told E&E News.
"They have taken the major statutes they've been entrusted with to places that Congress never intended," Segall said. "I think any of these appointees would be a signal that that kind of activity will no longer be tolerated."
Prof. W. MITSCH
161203-c Carleton University hosts lecture on “Wetlands: The Kidneys of our Planet”
Stittsville Central – by Staff
December 3, 2016
(Editor’s note: This isn’t specific to Stittsville, but the topic is certainly relevant to our area. We’ve written a ton about wetlands over the last two years and this looks like a great lecture on this important subject.)
Carleton University will host Prof. William Mitsch and his presentation Wetlands: The Kidneys of our Planet as the keynote for the 2016 Herzberg Lecture. When: Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Where: Second Level Residence Commons, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Info: This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.
The world is faced with unprecedented threats to our aquatic ecosystems from excessive nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, caused by agricultural and urban runoff and discharges. In addition, carbon is increasing in our atmosphere, leading to climate shifts and rising sea levels. It has been estimated that we have lost half of our global wetlands, most of that loss in the 20th century.
In this lecture, Mitsch will propose an increase in wetland resources worldwide, not only to protect habitat, but also to minimize excessive phosphorous and nitrogen in rivers, streams and estuaries and sequestering carbon in the atmosphere. About William Mitsch Mitsch is an eminent scholar and director, Everglades Wetland Research Park and Juliet C. Sproul chair for Southwest Florida Habitat Restoration at Florida Gulf Coast University in Naples, Florida. His research and teaching have focused on wetland ecology and biogeochemistry, wetland creation and restoration, as well as ecological engineering. He has given over 450 invited lectures around the United States and the world in the past 30 years and has been awarded Fulbright Fellowships to Denmark, Botswana, and Poland.
161203-d National Park Service will adopt U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers' plan to improve water flows to Everglades
Nat. Parks Traveler - by NPT Staff
December 3, 2016
The National Park Service will adopt, with refinements, a plan devised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to improve water flows along the "river of grass" through Everglades National Park in Florida.
The Corps back in July 2014 released its Central Everglades Planning Project Final Environmental Impact Statement. It proposes broad actions that would optimize the use of public lands to deliver 210,000 acre-feet of water from Lake Okeechobee to the central Everglades, Everglades National Park, and Florida Bay each year, Everglades Superintendent Pedro Ramos said in a release.
"The Selected Plan, Alternative 4R2, includes features to store, treat, and deliver water as sheet flow at the top of Water Conservation Area 3A and calls for removal of barriers to sheet flow between WCA-3A, WCA 3B, and Everglades National Park," he wrote:
“The removal of Old Tamiami Trial within ENP is one of multiple CEPP projects proposed to increase conveyance capacity, enhance sheet flow to the south, and alleviate high water conditions in Water Conservation Area 3A. The FEIS analyzed the impacts associated with removing 5.7 miles of the Old Tamiami Trail to improve hydrologic sheet flow. The FEIS determined that the removal of the 5.7-mile section of Old Tamiami Trail in its entirety would result in significant long-term impacts to this historic road. While the FEIS included a sufficient level of detail at the programmatic level, additional data analysis and consideration of a wider range of viable alternatives will be included in the next phase of the project. The NPS intends to adopt the direction contained in the CEPP selected plan, refine the direction in more focused environmental reviews, and provide site specific impact analysis prior to implementation of actions proposed in the selected plan.”
You can find the CEPP FEIS and supporting documents at this Park Service website.
You may provide comments on the proposed adoption by e-mail or U.S. mail to the project contact below. At the end of the 30-day period, the NPS will issue a Record of Decision to adopt the CEPP EIS and its Selected Plan. The ROD will be posted on the PEPC website.
Following completion of the ROD, Everglades National Park will prepare an Environmental Assessment of potential modifications to Old Tamiami Trail that will tier off of the CEPP FEIS. The EA will analyze the site-specific effects on hydrologic sheet flow, the Old Tamiami Trail, and other resources that could result from removing different amounts of roadway. The EA will be available for a 30-day public comment period that will be announced to the public by press release, posting on this website, and by electronic mail to the ENP mailing list.
For further information, contact Robert Johnson, director of the South Florida Natural Resources Center, at 305-224-4240 or by email at Robert_Johnson@nps.gov.
161202-a Captains for Clean Water fighting nutrient runoff from Lake O
BocaBeacon.com - Letter to Editor by Deborah Moore, Boca Grande, FL
December 2, 2016
Our Thanksgiving arrival brought a change I had feared since my first visit to the Everglades some 30+ years ago: The high-nutrient waters being released at Lake Okeechobee from the agricultural lands had brought a visible green slime to our bayou.
An organization known as Captains for Clean Water has a clear solution, and suggests that we need only to express our desire to the elected officials of the state to focus on this problem. The solution is known and the funds are provided by Amendment 1 to purchase land in the Everglades Agricultural Area to store, treat and convey water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay.
I hope that anyone reading this checks the website (https://captainsforcleanwater.org) to see for yourself. The website is informative and important to all of us. I have been visiting the island annually for over 30 years, and my husband over 60. We have seen many changes, and we appreciate the consistent preservation and improvement work by the GICIA.
Thank you for reading this.
161202-b Everglades dolphins have highest level of mercury ever
EcoWatch.com – by Lorraine Chow
December 2, 2016
Researchers have discovered that bottlenose dolphins residing off the Florida Everglades have higher concentrations of mercury contamination than any other population of the mammals in the world.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, examined the levels of mercury and other toxins in the sea creatures. According to the research, mercury concentrations in the skin of Florida Coastal Everglades dolphins (median 9314 ng g−1 dw) were about three times higher than Lower Florida Keys dolphins (median 2941 ng g−1 dw).
"These concentrations are the highest recorded in bottlenose dolphins in the southeastern USA, and may be explained, at least partially, by the biogeochemistry of the Everglades and mangrove sedimentary habitats that create favorable conditions for the retention of mercury and make it available at high concentrations for aquatic predators," the study abstract states.
The research team includes scientists from Florida International University (FIU), the University of Liège in Belgium, the University of Gronigen in the Netherlands and the Tropical Dolphin Research Foundation in the U.S.
It is unclear where exactly the mercury comes from but the scientists suspect it might stem from smoke stacks, nearby farming operations or from the area's numerous mangroves in Everglades National Park. As FIU News explained, when mangrove leaves drop into the water, mercury from the mangroves mixes with bacteria and is turned into methylmercury. Methylmercury is highly toxic and can travel up the food chain, as it collects in animal tissue in larger and larger amounts. (That's why predators like dolphins, swordfish and tuna have troubling levels of mercury.)
Dolphins that live in the Amazon and other mangrove forests also have elevated mercury levels, but the researchers were surprised to find that the mercury levels in Everglades dolphins were even higher.
"I couldn't believe those levels because that's the highest ever recorded," FIU marine scientist Jeremy Kiszka, a co-author of the study, told the Miami Herald. "It raises a lot of other questions."
The study is important because dolphins are a vital "sentinel species," meaning they shed light on oceanic and human health. So if a dolphin is swimming in contaminated waters, a person living by the same coastal waters might also be exposed to the same contamination. As the Miami Herald noted, researchers discovered last year that Indian River Lagoon dolphins had elevated mercury levels, reflecting the high levels of mercury in the nearby human population.
Similarly, since dolphins and humans eat the same kind of seafood, if a dolphin gets sick from eating toxic fish, a person who eats the same toxic fish might get sick too.
For humans, mercury can have a whole host of terrifying problems. As for what effects mercury has on dolphins, FIU News explained that the chemical can disrupt the animal's immune system and reproduction, making them more vulnerable to infection and disease.
"Mercury is one of the most neurotoxic elements in the universe," World Mercury Project president Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who was not involved in the study, explained to EcoWatch. "The destruction of these extraordinary creatures is part of the cost of our deadly addiction to coal and chemicals. We shouldn't forget that these dolphins are accumulating these horrifying brain poisons from the same fish that our children eat."
The scientists are now trying to expand their study on other marine animals.
"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," Kiszka told FIU News. "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." Related: Bottlenose dolphins found with record-high levels of mercury Miami Herald - Nov 30, Mercury contamination found in Everglades dolphins Phys.Org - Nov 29, 2016
161202-c Invasive pythons starting to migrate north
CBS12.com - by Jana Eschbach
December 2, 2016
JUPITER (CBS12) — Bigger and bolder than ever. The Burmese Python population is exploding and they are on the move north.
Yes, scientists say the pythons are adapting and moving into residential areas, no longer confined to the Everglades more and more are being caught with pets inside.
They were once a rare sight in the Everglades, but now they are estimated to be in 10’s of thousands.
"At this point I don't think we will see the end of pythons in the Everglades," Busch Wildlife Sanctuary’s David Hitzig said,”now you have a non-native species which is truly taking over the habitat."
Hitzig says the habitat is past the tipping point now- pythons are the king predator.
So numerous in the Everglades, pythons are being tracked moving north to find prey. And they can eat a lot in one meal. A photo from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows a python caught as it digests three deer.
"Believe it or not their skin is very elastic, so they can swallow something that is 3 times around bigger than they are, sometimes even bigger than that depending on the size of the snake," Hitzig said.
Once a temperature below freezing, 32 degrees, would kill the invasive python- but scientists say the snakes are evolving, and adapting to the cold snaps. Now they are becoming common finds for residents near conservation areas in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
They will eat whatever they can find, often when they are near residential areas, pets become the prey.
"We had a python in Martin County brought into us and during the transportation of that animal to us regergitated an adult cat and a younger cat," Hitzig said,”and looking at that snake, you could not imagine that was even possible. They crush their prey before eating them so that is how they can eat so much.”
Not one, but two cats were found inside one python.
And the longer they are in the wild, Hitzig said, the more aggressive they become.
In the Everglades, pythons knock out prey for the endangered Florida panther, and can even potentially eat the panther’s young pups.
Burmese pythons are large constrictor snakes that can grow to 26 ft. in length. They are native to India, China, the Malay Peninsula, and some islands of the East Indies. Burmese pythons have been reported in extreme south Florida since the 1980s, and an established population is now located mainly within the bounds of Everglades National Park, but are migrating north.
"Both the State and Federal governments have looked at this and said we have got to do something," Hitzig said.
But many scientists say with 2 decades of breeding, it may be too little too late.
With multiple python hunting contests sponsored by the state in 2013 and in 2016, trying to capture the snake that can grow to 26 feet in length, it wasn't enough- now state and federal governments are trying with hunting dogs to capture the invasive snake, before it migrates farther north and east.
Can grow up to 20 feet in length.
Average size removed in Florida: 8-10 feet.
Native to South Asia.
In cool months, active during the day. In warm months, seen at night on roads.
Females lay about 30-40 eggs per year.
Can live past 20 years in captivity.
Skin pattern provides effective camouflage in landscape, making snakes difficult to see in the wild.
“Sit and wait” predators that prey on birds, mammals and reptiles.
In Florida they can no longer be acquired as personal pets.
Federal law prohibits transport across state lines or import into the country without a federal permit.
How to report a sighting:
1. Call the Exotic Species Hotline: 888-Ive-Got1 (888-483-4681)
2. Report online: www.IveGot1.org
3. Download the IveGot1 app. Free for smart phones and tablets
If you live near affected areas, you can make your yard less attractive to Burmese pythons by removing excess debris and maintaining. Related: Massive 16-foot python caught in the Florida everglades after eating ... Daily Mail
161202-d There are ways to help solve Florida’s water crisis — but is there the will to pursue them?
Jacksonville.com - by Ron Littlepage
December 2, 2016
The talk about Florida’s water, water is everywhere, but there’s not a real solution in sight.
There have been more studies than you can shake a stick at.
The Floridan aquifer, our main source of drinking water, is overburdened. The next stop: saltwater intrusion.
Our springs are polluted and in some cases are drying up or have already disappeared.
Climate change is not going to be Florida’s friend.
The 1000 Friends of Florida, a nonprofit that promotes smart growth, delivered the latest stream of bad news last month.
The report, done in conjunction with the University of Florida and the Florida Department of Agriculture, said the state’s population could grow by 15 million by 2070.
That would mean 34 million people would be living on this fragile peninsula, which is surrounded by saltwater but running low on freshwater.
The report predicts that the demand for that freshwater could increase by 50 percent to 8 billion gallons per day.
There are steps that could be taken to lessen that demand.
The report, just like another released recently outlining a water supply plan for the Suwannee River and St. Johns River water management districts, calls for more conservation.
How many times have you heard talk about conservation?
Yet Florida continues to use 50 percent of the water drawn from the aquifer to keep grass green and landscaping alive.
And when the Legislature does pass water laws, as it did during the last session, the language may sound strong, but one of the biggest users, agriculture, continues to get a pass when it comes to enforcing how much water is used for irrigation.
Another often touted step toward reducing water usage is using more compact development as the state’s population burgeons.
That does help, but Florida no longer has strong growth management laws thanks to Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature.
Developers in Florida have a long history of being in the business of making money now and not considering the impact on the future.
A prime example of that is evident in South and Central Florida and the devastation done to the Everglades.
And Central Florida, which is already so desperate for water that it’s eying taking 160 million gallons of water per day out of the St. Johns River, is where much of that growth in population will happen.
The report by 1000 Friends of Florida projects that the demand for water there could increase from the current 2.1 billion gallons per day to 3.25 billion gallons.
Sprawl is where the money is, and people want homes with big lawns and nearby golf courses. Developers aren’t the only ones not thinking about the future.
To write there is “no real solution in sight,” as I did, is an exaggeration.
We could get serious about conservation and ban St. Augustine grass and homeowner association rules that require water use.
We could have growth management laws that say no to such developments as the one being planned for the Deseret Ranch that will create a new city of 500,000 people in Central Florida.
But none of those things will happen until there is a new governor and new legislators in Tallahassee who understand like previous people who occupied those offices did that Florida’s future depends on water.
And those replacements must give more than lip service to that idea because it’s the truth and will sometimes require painful actions.
For now, talk, talk.
Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.
161201-a Evicting LNWR would hurt Everglades restoration
Palm Beach Post - Point of View by CaraCap and Mike Baldwin, Hollywood, FL, national and state co-chairs of the Everglades Coalition, respectively
December 1, 2016
Florida is home to America’s first national wildlife refuge, and may also be the first state to lose one. Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has taken steps to evict the federal government from the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, a decision that could have devastating impacts on both the ecological and political future of America’s Everglades.
As one of the largest publicly owned parcels of remaining Everglades lands, the refuge protects 144,000 acres of wetlands and cypress swamp and serves as water supply to the region. The land is owned by the state, and has been leased to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1951 to be managed within the network of federally protected lands and waters that make up the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The debate over this land is about its lease requirements for invasive plant management. Old-World climbing fern is a formidable opponent for refuge managers, overtaking native habitat. Its thick, leafy branches “re-sprout” almost anywhere, making eradication arduous and expensive.
If the state is successful in taking back these 144,000 acres, the land will be operated as “Water Conservation Area 1” with a very different mission than that of a national wildlife refuge.
While the recent statement of principles from the South Florida Water Management District indicates the agency will allow free public access, its commitment to conservation is sparse. There is virtually no mention of wildlife or water quality protection. The Governing Board says it will devote “sufficient resources” to control invasive plants, with no information about how an agency that has revoked a number of financial commitments in recent months will find these resources.
Perhaps more importantly, eviction could change the dynamic of the federal-state partnership that has long been the cornerstone of Everglades restoration. Given the state’s recent efforts to circumvent the need for land acquisition in the Everglades Agricultural Area to provide storage, treatment, and flow of water south to Everglades National Park, it would likely push to instead use this land to store polluted agricultural runoff.
161201-b Florida faces bleak water future without intervention
ChronicleOnline.com – Registration access only
December 1, 2016
THE ISSUE: Water 2070 report shows impact sprawl will have on Florida’s water.
OUR OPINION: Call to action should happen now.
Smart-growth advocacy group 1000 Friends of Florida last month issued its Water 2070 report, which paints a bleak future for Florida if nothing is done to stem sprawl.
Florida growth projections hazardous for land, water use
NavarrePress.com -by Jamie Gentry. (Registration access only)
December 1, 2016
A recent report by state agencies paints a disconcerting picture of the future land and water use in Florida by the year 2070.
Created by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 1000 Friends of Florida, and University of Florida GeoPlan Center “Florida 2070” and “Water 2070” indicates that current population growth trends in the state could potentially eat up millions of acres of natural and agricultural land for development as an additional 15 million residents flock to the state.
Read the full article in the Dec. 1 issue of Navarre Press. Click here to subscribe online for as little as $38 per year.
161201-c Mosaic announces new water well testing program
TheLedger.com - by Kevin Bouffard
December 2, 2016
Mosaic will also provide free bottled water to participants for up to 30 days after the return of the test results.
LAKELAND — The Mosaic Co. on Thursday announced a new, limited water well testing program in an effort to reassure Polk and Hillsborough county residents about the safety of their drinking water following a major environmental accident in September.
The company has sent out letters to more than 200 residents near its New Wales fertilizer manufacturing plant with an offer to test their wells every three months next year and twice in 2018, said spokeswoman Callie Neslund.
As of Thursday, Mosaic has tested 1,329 wells in the immediate area of the New Wales gypsum stack that collapsed Sept. 5, sending an estimated 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridan Aquifer, she said. None has shown signs of contamination related to the accident, which would include high levels of sulfate and salt, and slight radioactivity.
The company will offer testing only to the neighbors within a 4-mile radius of the sinkhole, Neslund said. It will no longer test wells outside the 4-mile perimeter on requests received after Thursday.
Mosaic has been providing free bottled water to testing participants until they receive results. It has provided bottled water to more than 800 residences through Thursday.
It will continue providing bottled water for new requests within the 4-mile limit, Neslund said.
Mosaic is taking the action to reassure local residents about the safety of their drinking water, Herschel Morris, vice president of operations, told The Ledger.
The company hired an independent Florida company, ECT Environmental Consulting & Technology, to do the well water testing, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has also taken samples and reviewed ECT’s results.
Mosaic has honored requests to test wells in the immediate area but did not set a distance limit. It has tested wells as far as 40 miles away from the sinkhole into northern Hardee and Manatee counties, Neslund said.
The 4-mile limit will encompass only residences in southwestern Polk, including the Nichols and Bradley Junction communities, and southeastern Hillsborough, she said.
Morris would not say whether the testing program will extend beyond 2018.
“We’ll follow the science, and based on the data it provides, we’ll continue or not,” he said. “After testing more than 1,300 wells, we have good assurance there’s been no off-site impact.”
The company will continue pumping up water from monitor wells near the gypsum stack for several years until tests show water quality back to normal.
Mosaic experienced a public relations firestorm after delaying public notification of the accident. It immediately notified DEP, which also faced heavy criticism for not informing the public right away.
The controversy led to Gov. Rick Scott’s Sept. 27 visit to the New Wales plant. He used the event to announce a new state regulation requiring Florida companies and local governments to immediately notify the public in the event of an environmental accident.
Scott said he would work with the Legislature next year to enact the requirement in law.
Earlier Morris and Walt Precourt, chief executive for Mosaic’s Florida phosphate operations, apologized to the Polk County Commission for the delay in public notification.
Commissioner Melony Bell, who represents the Southwest Polk phosphate area, joined her colleagues in criticizing the company.
On Thursday, Bell said she was satisfied with Mosaic’s record since then.
“Since the story broke, they have been very up front with the public,” Bell said. “I think they learned from their mistake. They should have notified the public right away.”
To date, however, Bell said she has received no calls from residents of the area expressing concerns about well water contamination.
“I have relatives in that area, and believe me, I would be hearing from them if there were problems,” Bell said.
The water came from a pond sitting on top of a gypsum stack near the New Wales plant.
Gypsum is a byproduct of phosphate fertilizer manufacturing. Because of environmental issues, including contaminants such as salt, sulfate and radium, which is slightly radioactive, gypsum must be stored and controlled in mounds that reach dozens of feet above ground.
A Mosaic technician monitoring the stack noticed a substantial drop of about 2 feet in the pond level Aug. 27, according to Mosaic officials. Investigators determined water was leaking into the aquifer from a small sinkhole that had opened under the stack, a diagnosis that was confirmed Sept. 5 when a 45-foot-wide sinkhole opened up, draining the pond.
Work continues on filling in the sinkhole, which extends more than 200 feet from the top of the gypsum stack and about 40 feet below ground level, Morris said. At the bottom of the sinkhole are large chunks of hardened gypsum blocks, forming channels allowing water to seep into the aquifer.
The plan calls for pouring a concrete-like grout onto the bottom of the sinkhole, sealing off the leakage, he said.
The cleanup effort will cost $50 million to $60 million.
Mosaic will begin a series of community forums to talk with residents about issues related to the sinkhole mishap, Morris and Neslund said. The first one is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday at Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Bradley Junction.
“I think the more we talk with people, the more they’re reassured, the more their fears are diminished, and they have a better understanding that they don’t have anything to worry about,” Morris said. “We are working really, really hard to make this right.”
161201- 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
1612dd 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