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090831-1



090831-1
Is Python Hunt Working?
Few Snakes Captured Since State-Sponsored Python Hunt Began
Post-Newsweek Stations
August 30, 2009
MIAMI -- It's been over a month since the state-sponsored python hunt kicked off, but only a handful of the reptiles have been caught. Local 10 went along to find out firsthand what hunters face in their search for the invasive reptile.
Hunter Josh Zarmati showed Local 10’s Jonathan Vigliotti how he hunts in the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area. The two ventured into the Everglades on Wednesday night.
"I do this because I love the Everglades and I hate to see them destroyed, whether it be by liter or invasive species," Zarmati told Vigliotti as they off-roaded in a pickup truck.
Zarmati grew up near the Everglades. He said in the past two decades he witnessed the python population grow from zero to an estimated 150,000.
"They don't belong here. The Burmese is eating anything it can get its mouth on: alligators, rabbits, foxes, you name it. They are throwing off the balance here."
About 10 miles into the drive, Zarmati pulled off the side of a road to search a tree.
"I've seen pythons around here before," Zarmati explained.
A 10-minute search produced nothing. The journey continued.
It's believed pet owners introduced the python to the Everglades by dumping the snake there when they grew too big.
On July 15, Gov. Charlie Crist and Florida Fish and Wildlife announced the first ever state-sponsored python hunt, an effort to eradicate the invasive species from the Everglades.
Zarmati is one of only 13 licensed hunters permitted to do this on a volunteer basis. The results have been mediocre at best. Only 14 snakes have been caught since the hunt began. Of those, Zarmati said he caught six.
After a 15-mile drive Zarmati, along with Vigliotti, set off on foot using a flashlight to survey trees, bushes, rocks and swamp.
"It feels like you're trying to find a needle in a haystack. I'm looking for their shiny skin," Zarmati said.
Zarmati said hunters don't get paid for catching the snakes. The FWC requires hunters to kill snakes on site and record the location where they were found.
"We're allowed to to sell the skin but they don't go for much. I do this because I love it," he said.
After three hours on foot, Zarmati spotted a raccoon, which he called a good sign.
"Him being in the tree makes me wonder if there's a python in on the bottom. I'm going to check it out," he said.
Zarmati used his flashlight to expose leaves and vegetation near the base of the tree. Again, no python. During the four-mile hike Zarmati found a corn snake, even a baby aligator, but not one python.
"It's hit or miss. Sometimes you find them. Sometimes you don't," Zarmati said.
He called it a quits at 1 a.m.
He did the math on the way back. 150,000 snakes. 13 hunters. Only 14 pythons have been caught. And after four hours of hunting, he found zero.
These statistics raise a number of questions. Is the state-sponsored hunt really just a so-called snake and pony show? Is all this hunting in vain? Are pythons here to stay forever? Not if Zarmati can help it.
"We need more qualified hunters to help. I'll be back out here tomorrow looking for snakes."
Officials say the pilot program is giving them a better understanding of what it will take to eradicate the python. The FWC will meet on Oct. 31 to reasses the program. They said changes will likely be made.

090831-2



090831-2
Oil companies step up push to drill in Florida water - Push for drilling off Florida's coast is well-oiled
Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau - Mary Ellen Klas
August 31, 2009
TALLAHASSEE — A secretive group of powerful legislators, business groups and Texas oil companies has been laying the groundwork since December to win legislative approval to open Florida waters to oil exploration and end the 20-year drilling moratorium.
Florida Energy Associates, which identifies itself only by saying it is financed by a group of independent oil producers, has hired lobbyists, public relations experts, a financial consultant and a pollster to help advocate for the sale of drilling leases in state waters between the shore and 10 miles off Florida's Gulf Coast.
And the group has influential friends: Associated Industries of Florida, the Association of Builders and Contractors, and several petroleum companies.
Between the start of April and the end of July, the group spent as much as $234,000 on legal work and lobbying to push a bill through the Legislature last session. The measure passed the House, 70-43, but died in the Senate.
Supporters say defeat won't happen again.
"I predict we'll pass the bill and the governor will sign it," boasted Barney Bishop, president of Associated Industries of Florida.
But he declined to say which members of his group are backing the effort. "With the nature of public discourse today, they don't want to have a target on their backs," he said.
Bishop has reason to feel confident. The group has heft: Florida Energy Associates has contributed $55,000 to political parties — $35,000 to Republicans and $20,000 to Democrats — since May.
The group has sponsored legislative leadership dinners and has recruited two of the most powerful state lawmakers to sponsor the oil-drilling bill in 2010: Sen. Mike Haridopolos, a Melbourne Republican slated to become Senate president in 2010, and Rep. Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican set to become House speaker in 2010.
The group's cash contributions go beyond politics: Florida Energy Associates has offered to donate to the St. Johns River Alliance, the Apalachicola Riverkeeper and other environmental organizations in exchange for their support for oil drilling.
Cannon and Haridopolos say they'll earmark the revenue raised by oil and gas to programs such as the Everglades cleanup, conservation land-buying, renewable energy development and children's health care.
"I think it's smart economic policy, and it's the way to fund environmental protection and preservation," Cannon said.
And the group's aim appears to have some public support. An April poll by Mason-Dixon research, commissioned by the group, found that 59 percent of Floridians would support drilling off Florida's coasts and 88 percent would support it if they can be sure it will not harm the environment. A July poll by the Tarrance Group, also for Florida Energy Associates, found that 65 percent of Floridians favor drilling off state beaches and 29 percent oppose it.
But the biggest enticement for Florida is the promise of cash. Orlando economist Hank Fishkind, hired by the group, estimated that the state could earn as much as $2.3 billion in oil and gas revenues a year from oil leases and taxes.
That promise and the polling numbers have softened Gov. Charlie Crist's opposition — he now says oil drilling should be an option for Florida.
"Now we have another shot at it. We have the time to do it, and we have the facts on our side," said Doug Daniels, a Daytona Beach lawyer representing Florida Energy Associates.
Lining up on the other side: environmentalists, including Audubon of Florida, which says it has fewer resources but strong public support.
Susan Glickman of the Natural Resources Defense Council calls it "a David and Goliath situation."
"Funders with deep pockets are coming to our state trying to ram down a drastic policy that the public will reject," she said, dismissing the polling data as inaccurate.
"When people have the ability to look at the real facts in this situation, Florida will reject off-shore drilling as they have for decades."
Cannon, who sponsored the previous House proposal, said he has revamped it to "raise the bar'' for oil companies.
His first plan would have allowed drilling as close as 3 miles from shore. This one, he said, will require staying at least 5 miles away and will include stronger provisions to make sure beachgoers can't see drilling rigs from shore.
He also wants to raise the entry fee for obtaining a lease for exploratory drilling from $1 million in the previous proposal to as much as $5 million, he said.
Daniels, the Florida Energy Associates attorney, said the technology has changed to make drilling less visible and intrusive.
Drilling platforms would be easily set up in 60 feet of water, he said, "no closer than 6 nautical miles and out of sight," and remain for as long as six months so they could drill multiple wells.
Pipelines would then be tethered from production rigs or onshore platforms that extract the oil and gas. The oil would be piped onshore to production facilities in Florida or Alabama. No transport tankers would be used, he said. The oil and gas would be stored onshore.
"It can be done safely, and it can be done virtually out of sight," Daniels said.
Eric Draper of Audubon of Florida welcomes the debate as a chance to examine the numbers that proponents are using. For example, he challenges whether lawmakers could bank on the $2 billion revenue estimates any time soon, since it could take years to get permits and start drilling.
"They are throwing out a lot of assumptions that are not testable assumptions, which is shifting the debate," he said.
Haridopolos said the supporters will have to be forthcoming about who is behind them and how the technology works.
"We want to have a full vetting of the issue, and they're not going to get something passed until they fully disclose who the players are and their technologies as well," he said.
Daniels said that the group has kept a low profile because "the independent oil and gas business is pretty competitive, and they just don't want people to know what it is they're doing."
Cannon is less concerned.
"I don't know who was funding the proposal or the opposition's testimony and, frankly, that's irrelevant," he said. "I'm concerned and focused on getting the policy right."

090831-3



090831-3
On continent's boggy Arctic fringe, scientists search for signs of future climate calamity
Chicago Tribune - ES J. HANLEY
August 31, 2009
MACKENZIE RIVER DELTA, Northwest Territories (AP) — Only a squawk from a sandhill crane broke the Arctic silence — and a low gurgle of bubbles, a watery whisper of trouble repeated in countless spots around the polar world.
 "On a calm day, you can see 20 or more 'seeps' out across this lake," said Canadian researcher Rob Bowen, sidling his small rubber boat up beside one of them. A tossed match would have set it ablaze.
 "It's essentially pure methane."
Pure methane, gas bubbling up from underwater vents, escaping into northern skies, adds to the global-warming gases accumulating in the atmosphere. And pure methane escaping in the massive amounts known to be locked in the Arctic permafrost and seabed would spell a climate catastrophe.
Is such an unlocking under way?
Researchers say air temperatures here in northwest Canada, in Siberia and elsewhere in the Arctic have risen more than 2.5 C (4.5 F) since 1970 — much faster than the global average. The summer thaw is reaching deeper into frozen soil, at a rate of 4 centimeters (1.5 inches) a year, and a further 7 C (13 F) temperature rise is possible this century, says the authoritative, U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In 2007, air monitors detected a rise in methane concentrations in the atmosphere, apparently from far northern sources. Russian researchers in Siberia expressed alarm, warning of a potential surge in the powerful greenhouse gas, additional warming of several degrees, and unpredictable consequences for Earth's climate.
Others say massive seeps of methane might take centuries. But the Russian scenario is disturbing enough to have led six U.S. national laboratories last year to launch a joint investigation of rapid methane release. And IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri in July asked his scientific network to focus on "abrupt, irreversible climate change" from thawing permafrost.
The data will come from teams like one led by Scott Dallimore, who with Bowen and others pitched tents here on the remote, boggy fringe of North America, 2,200 kilometers (1,400 miles) from the North Pole, to learn more about seeps in the 25,000 lakes of this vast river delta.
A "puzzle," Dallimore calls it.
"Many factors are poorly studied, so we're really doing frontier science here," the Geological Survey of Canada scientist said. "There is a very large storehouse of greenhouse gases within the permafrost, and if that storehouse of greenhouse gases is fluxing to the surface, that's important to know. And it's important to know if that flux will change with time."
Permafrost, tundra soil frozen year-round and covering almost one-fifth of Earth's land surface, runs anywhere from 50 to 600 meters (160 to 2,000 feet) deep in this region. Entombed in that freezer is carbon — plant and animal matter accumulated through millennia.
As the soil thaws, these ancient deposits finally decompose, attacked by microbes, producing carbon dioxide and — if in water — methane. Both are greenhouse gases, but methane is many times more powerful in warming the atmosphere.
Researchers led by the University of Florida's Ted Schuur last year calculated that the top 3 meters (10 feet) of permafrost alone contain more carbon than is currently in the atmosphere.
"It's safe to say the surface permafrost, 3 to 5 meters, is at risk of thawing in the next 100 years," Schuur said by telephone from an Alaska research site. "It can't stay intact."
Methane also is present in another form, as hydrates — ice-like formations deep underground and under the seabed in which methane molecules are trapped within crystals of frozen water. If warmed, the methane will escape.
Dallimore, who has long researched hydrates as energy sources, believes a breakdown of such huge undersea formations may have produced conical "hills" found offshore in the Beaufort Sea bed, some of them 40 meters (more than 100 feet) high.
With underwater robots, he detected methane gas leaking from these seabed features, which resemble the strange hills ashore here that the Inuvialuit, or Eskimos, call "pingos." And because the coastal plain is subsiding and seas are rising from warming, more permafrost is being inundated, exposed to water warmer than the air.
The methane seeps that the Canadians were studying in the Mackenzie Delta, amid grassy islands, steel-gray lakes and summertime temperatures well above freezing, are saucer-like indentations just 10 meters (30 feet) or so down on the lake bed.
The ultimate source of that gas — hydrates, decomposition or older natural gas deposits — is unclear, but Dallimore's immediate goal is quantifying the known emissions and finding the unknown.
With tent-like, instrument-laden enclosures they positioned over two seeps, each several meters (yards) wide, the researchers have determined they are emitting methane at a rate of up to 0.6 cubic meters (almost 1 cubic yard) per minute.
Dallimore's team is also monitoring the seeps with underwater listening devices, to assess whether seasonal change — warming — affects the emissions rate.
Even if the lake seeps are centuries old, Bowen said, the question is, "Will they be accelerated by recent changes?"
A second question: Are more seeps developing?
To begin answering that, Dallimore is working with German and Canadian specialists in aerial surveying, teams that will fly over swaths of Arctic terrain to detect methane "hot spots" via spectrometric imagery, instruments identifying chemicals by their signatures on the light spectrum.
Research crews are hard at work elsewhere, too, to get a handle on this possible planetary threat.
"I and others are trying to take field observations and get it scaled up to global models," said Alaska researcher Schuur. From some 400 boreholes drilled deep into the tundra worldwide, "we see historic warming of permafrost. Much of it is now around 2 below zero (28 F)," Schuur said.
A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft is overflying Alaska this summer with instruments sampling the air for methane and carbon dioxide. In parts of Alaska, scientists believe the number of "thermokarst" lakes — formed when terrain collapses over thawing permafrost and fills with meltwater — may have doubled in the past three decades. Those lakes then expand, thawing more permafrost on their edges, exposing more carbon.
Off Norway's Arctic archipelago of Svalbard last September, British scientists reported finding 250 methane plumes rising from the shallow seabed. They're probably old, scientists said, but only further research can assess whether they're stable. In March, Norwegian officials did say methane levels had risen on Svalbard.
Afloat above the huge, shallow continental shelf north of Siberia, Russian researchers have detected seabed "methane chimneys" sending gas bubbling up to the surface, possibly from hydrates.
Reporting to the European Geophysical Union last year, the scientists, affiliated with the University of Alaska and the Russian Academy of Sciences, cited "extreme" saturation of methane in surface waters and in the air above. They said up to 10 percent of the undersea permafrost area had melted, and it was "highly possible" that this would open the way to abrupt release of an estimated 50 billion tons of methane.
Depending on how much dissolved in the sea, that might multiply methane in the atmosphere several-fold, boosting temperatures enough to cause "catastrophic greenhouse warming," as the Russians called it. It would be self-perpetuating, melting more permafrost, emitting more methane.
Some might label that alarmism. And Stockholm University researcher Orjan Gustafsson, a partner in the Russians' field work, acknowledged that "the scientific community is quite split on how fast the permafrost can thaw."
But there's no doubt the north contains enough potential methane and carbon dioxide to cause abrupt climate change, Gustafsson said by telephone from Sweden.
Canada's pre-eminent permafrost expert, Chris Burn, has trekked to lonely locations in these high latitudes for almost three decades, meticulously chronicling the changes in the tundra.
On a stopover at the Aurora Research Institute in the Mackenzie Delta town of Inuvik, the Carleton University scientist agreed "we need many, many more field observations." But his teams have found the frozen ground warming down to about 80 meters, and he believes the world is courting disaster in failing to curb warming by curbing greenhouse emissions.
"If we lost just 1 percent of the carbon in permafrost today, we'd be close to a year's contributions from industrial sources," he said. "I don't think policymakers have woken up to this. It's not in their risk assessments."
How likely is a major release?
"I don't think it's a case of likelihood," he said. "I think we are playing with fire."

090831-4



090831-4
Riverkeeper looking out for Indian River Lagoon
TC PALM - Michael Goforth
August 29, 2009
 “I can assure you the problems with the river and its resources will, if not corrected soon, have a very painful and long-term effect on the economy and quality of life in this area. ... Decisions based on political agendas, and the short-term economics of uncontrolled growth have us to the brink of ecological genocide.”
That’s part of George L. Jones’ response to my column a few weeks ago on the Indian River Lagoon. Like me and many others, Jones has a passion for the health of the lagoon. His passion, however, is also his job. About a year ago, Jones came out of retirement after 34 years, ultimately serving as bureau chief for the state Department of Environmental Protection’s state parks division, to become the Indian River Lagoon Riverkeeper.
The Riverkeeper program is a nonprofit citizen advocate organization dedicated to enforcement of the Clean Water Act. As such, Jones is a watchdog and advocate for the health of the Indian River Lagoon and its potential impacts on human health.
And, he said in an interview, the health of the lagoon is “not great right now” and potentially could become much worse. Part of the reason, he said, is that we’ve been looking in the wrong places in trying to improve the quality of the waterway.
Public focus has largely been on the massive discharges from Lake Okeechobee, which have been blamed for fish kills, wildlife illnesses and algae blooms. But, he said, most of the “dirty water” going into the lagoon actually comes regularly from the C-23 and c-24 canals. While there are plans in place to build a reservoir to improve the quality of water coming into those canals, funding has been directed more toward Lake Okeechobee and the cleanup of the Everglades.
The South Florida Water Management District, he said, has pushed back the project to clean up the two canals to 2020. And, the pollution keeps pouring in.
“At some point, we going to reach a tipping point and then we can’t get back what we’ll lose,” he said.
Jones has also been talking to St. Lucie County officials about concerns for pollution originating on agriculture land. The county, he said, permits land application of sewage sludge from waste treatment plants. While that use can be beneficial to soil and can save farmers from higher costs for fertilizer, major concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen, the major sources of pollution in the lagoon, are degrading the water quality, which can lead to destruction of seagrasses and other environmental problems.
Not only does St. Lucie County accept sludge for land application, it accepts it from most counties to the south, all the way to Miami-Dade, which sends its waste sludge to St. Lucie to be spread on agricultural land.
Jones said he would like for the county to stop taking sludge from other counties and eventually halt the practice altogether.
“They’re going to have to stop at some time,” he said.
In his e-mail to me, Jones said, “The public needs to demand better from our political and agency leadership and start using the enforcement laws on the books to force them to do their jobs.”
In addition to cajoling and lobbying officials along the Treasure Coast, Jones is attempting to educate the public about what is occurring and what is not occurring in regard to protecting the invaluable resource that is the Indian River Lagoon. With more of the public demanding protection of the water, officials are more likely to take actions needed.
The status quo is unacceptable when it comes to the Indian River Lagoon. It’s heartening to know that George Jones knows that and is fighting for the lagoon and for all of those who are directly or indirectly impacted by it.

090831-5



090831-5
South Florida coral makes comeback, activists battle over protection
The Palm Beach Post - Paul Quinlan
August 31, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH - About a quarter-mile off the condo-lined beaches just north of Port Everglades, a rare and delicate species of coral thought to be nearing extinction just a few years ago now covers an area of ocean floor the size of a city block.
 In fact, against all odds, staghorn coral is thriving all along South Florida's coastline from Palm Beach to Miami-Dade counties.
 The thickets of studded, white-tipped bronze coral branches form nurseries for than 6,000 marine species, as well as the skeletal foundations of more elaborate reef formations.
Now the federal government has ordered protections for staghorn coral in a vast swath of ocean floor, bounded on the north by the Boynton Inlet.
 But efforts to extend that zone farther north to the Lake Worth Inlet are running into opposition from the Town of Palm Beach, which says the extended zone could interfere with plans to rebuild its eroded beaches.
 "It's flourishing up here," Ed Tichenor, director of the conservation group Palm Beach County Reef Rescue, said of the staghorn coral. He estimates the coral population has increased fivefold since 2006, after the last damaging hurricane season had wiped out much of what was left.
The stakes are high. South Florida's reefs sustain an estimated 61,000 jobs and generate more than $5.7 billion in sales and income, mostly for the fishing, diving and tourism industries, the state Department of Environmental Protection says.
 The staghorn's resurgence marks a sharp turnaround from the 97 percent decline it had experienced since the late 1970s across South Florida, the Keys and the Caribbean.
Its unlikely return comes despite a near-constant barrage of abuses from humans. Among them, treated sewage from millions of South Floridians pours into the ocean through giant pipelines, while weekend boaters occasionally ground out or drag anchors on the ocean hard bottom.
"I'm not going to speculate on why this is happening," Audra Livergood, of the National Marine Fisheries Service, said of the coral renaissance. "The staghorn coral is increasing in number."
Under a law that took effect in July, boaters who damage the coral face penalties as high as $1,000 per square meter.
 In November, the fisheries service designated "critical habitat" for the staghorn coral from the Dry Tortugas north to the Boynton Inlet.
 The protections essentially create an extra layer of review for local governments, such as the Town of Palm Beach, that wish to pump sand onto their beaches. It forces them to prove that such projects not only would avoid harming existing coral but also would not affect its habitat - the hard bottom that could give rise to new growth, Tichenor said.
 Within weeks of the feds' decision to cut off the zone at the Boynton Inlet, Tichenor's group dispatched divers offshore from the Bath & Tennis Club in Palm Beach to photograph croppings of staghorn coral. The group petitioned to extend the protection zone to Lake Worth Inlet, making the case that significant coral growth occurs there.
 The fisheries service could issue a decision in December, Tichenor said. The City of Lake Worth also has voiced support for the extension.
 The town objected to Reef Rescue's petition, maintaining that the fisheries service did a "comprehensive, deliberate and thoughtful" job in placing the northern boundary of the protection zone.
The town's objection argues that staghorn colonies are "small and uncommon" in the waters north of central Broward County and that the coral "reaches its northern limit based on ecological/environmental factors in Palm Beach County."
 Tichenor disagrees, citing the evidence his group has found.
 When Reef Rescue started actively looking for the coral in Palm Beach County in 2006, it would rarely find small outcroppings about 6 inches across, Tichenor said.
 "There were not a lot of them. They were very difficult to find," he said. "Now when we go out, it's easy to find, because they're three to four times as big as they were in 2006."

090831-6



090831-6
Watershed moment for the Everglades
Palm Beach Post Editorial:Palm Beach Post Editorial Board COMMENTARY
August 30, 2009
For the Florida Everglades, 2009 is the year everything is coming together.
It started in 2008, with Gov. Crist's game-changing proposal to buy U.S. Sugar. Last week, Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Donald Hafele ruled that the South Florida Water Management District could issue $650 million in bonds to buy 73,000 acres. The deal could close by the end of the year.
There's good news in Washington, too. Until now, the water district has been putting far more money into Everglades restoration than its 50-50 partner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Under the Democratic Congress, money promised in 2000 is beginning to flow.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said on an Everglades tour that if his department restarts a land-buying program, the Everglades will be on the list. When asked how much was needed, water district Chairman Eric Buermann said $800 million. Mr. Salazar asked, Is that million with an "m" or billion with a "b?" Finally, a federal official who understands that Everglades restoration isn't much in the massive federal budget.
The new brigadier general in the corps' Atlanta regional office, Todd Semonite, knows and likes the new colonel in the Jacksonville office, Al Pantano. Also, Col. Pantano wrote his Army War College thesis this year on Everglades restoration. Overseeing it all is former Everglades restoration program director, Rock Salt, now deputy assistant secretary of the Army.
"There's a change in attitude up there," Mr. Buermann told The Post Editorial Board. "I really think they've got the fire in the belly." Said district Executive Director Carol Wehle, "If we can't do it now, we'll never be able to do it." The state can't waste this opportunity. Saving the Everglades is a game-changer.

090830-



090830-
Rare Insect Lands In Miami; Raises Concerns
Experts Uncertain If It Would Pose A Threat To Local Eco System
CBS4 - Jasmine Kripalani
August 30, 2009
A small insect found in a shipment of cut flowers from South Africa is opening up much debate among stumped experts who say this is the first time they see the bug in the United States.
It entered Miami International Airport on August 20th, but officials made the announcement of the bug's existence Friday.
Experts told CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald that not much is known and it's unclear if it hungers for South Florida's native plants and vegetation.
"We really don't know," U.S Customs and Border Protection spokesman Chief Jose Castellano told The Herald. "Whenever you have an insect that is not native, there is really no way to tell how much damage it can do until it actually gets out and starts to eat."
The bug is only found in South Africa, Castellano added.
But now, at least one bug's trip to South Florida ended at the USDA Miami Plant Inspection Station where experts identified it as Uttaris pallidipennis Stal, a species of the Hemiptera order.
The fear among scientists is that because it feeds off grass, it could threaten the Everglades' sawgrass.
Waldemar Klassen, an entomologist with the University of Florida's Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, said it's too soon to know how the bug would impact local vegetation.
"It would be very premature to say anything about it in terms of being a threat," Klassen said.

090828-1



090828-1
Victory for the Everglades - EDITORIAL
Palm Beach Post Editorial
August 27, 2009
Both sides declared victory after Wednesday's ruling that the South Florida Water Management District can issue bonds to buy a large portion of U.S. Sugar's land.
One side is wrong. It's not the water district.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele's decision is a clear legal victory for the district. The judge found that the district has a public purpose in buying 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar - the step the district is prepared to take immediately - but that the district did not prove a public purpose to buy the rest of the land, which amounts to 107,000 acres.
The Miccosukee Tribe and rival sugar grower Florida Crystals argued that the district is buying the land with no plan or money to do anything with it. Therefore, U.S. Sugar will keep farming the land, and the effect will be to slow ongoing efforts to restore the Everglades. The tribe claimed that it has saved taxpayers $1.5 billion because the judge limited the district to issuing $650 million in bonds, not the requested $2.2 billion.
The district needs the $650 million by March 10 - or sooner if all legal challenges are over - to close the deal. The district has 10 years to find a way to pay for the remaining 107,000 acres. In a teleconference after the ruling, Executive Director Carol Wehle said the district may rely on land swaps, not borrowed money, to reduce the cost of the rest of the land. Fourteen months ago, the district had planned to buy the entire company. Then the deal was just for all the land. The final compromise was the split purchase, necessitated because of declining tax revenues from the recession.
The last remaining hurdle is the Miccosukee Tribe's promised appeal, which goes directly to the Florida Supreme Court. Judge Hafele, relying on Supreme Court precedent, undermined the tribe's case. "First, defendants' arguments notwithstanding, the court finds that the district does have plans for the use of the 73,000 initially acquired acres," Judge Hafele wrote. "The law is clear that specific, detailed plans are not required in order to find that a valid public purpose exists."
After listing the potential projects, including reducing the amount of polluted Lake Okeechobee water discharged to the St. Lucie River, Ms. Wehle and district board Chairman Eric Buermann proclaimed victory. "When is the last time," Ms. Wehle asked, "any acquisition could deliver that much water resource protection to the citizens of Florida?" And as Ms. Wehle noted, the validation of the public purpose may mean that the district eventually can reach the $2.2 billion total.
The purchase, championed by Gov. Crist, carries a high price tag, but the price does not outweigh the benefits. The ruling puts the district well on its way to proving to taxpayers that the land purchase is worthwhile.

090828-2



090828-2
Owner of coal-fired power plants accused of violating Clean Air Act
Chicago Tribune – Michael Hawthorne
August 28, 2009
CHICAGO -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Thursday sued the owner of six coal-fired power plants that are some of the biggest contributors to dirty air in the Chicago area.
In a 75-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, the federal and state governments accused Midwest Generation of extending the life of its aging power plants without installing pollution controls required under the federal Clean Air Act.
The agency also alleges the company releases too much soot, microscopic air pollution that can trigger asthma attacks and cause lung disease, heart problems and early deaths.
Coal plants are major sources of soot and other pollutants that create smog, which lingers over the Chicago area during the summer. The lawsuit cites the company's two plants in Chicago (in Pilsen and Little Village), two in Will County (in Joliet and Romeoville), one in Waukegan and one outside Peoria.
"The excess illegal emissions resulting from the violations alleged in the complaint are sufficient to cause serious harm to human health and the environment," said John C. Cruden, acting assistant attorney general for the U.S. Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of California-based Edison International, bought the plants in 1999 from ComEd, which was not cited in the complaint.
Targeted repeatedly by neighborhood activists and environmental groups, the coal plants have avoided anti-pollution regulations for years, in part because federal regulators assumed decades ago that the aging generators would have been scuttled by now.
"I am very concerned about the negative health effects that these aging plants have on the people who live in the communities where the Midwest Gen facilities are located," Madigan said.
Midwest Generation is the latest power company to face tougher scrutiny from the EPA. The agency gradually realized that many older coal plants across the nation had been modified and expanded so many times that they should be considered new plants and forced to comply with modern pollution standards.
The Fisk plant in Pilsen began operating in 1903. The other plants cited in the lawsuit date back to the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
The federal EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice already have brokered settlements with several other companies that agreed to spend millions on new pollution controls. A coalition of environmental groups last month threatened to go to court to force the EPA to take similar action against Midwest Generation.
Under a deal with the Illinois EPA, company officials already have agreed to clean up or close the six coal plants by 2018. The federal lawsuit could force the company to upgrade or shutter its plants faster.
In a statement, the company called its agreement with the state "as tough or tougher than settlements other companies have reached with the federal government on the claims set out in this suit." It said new equipment upgrades will cut smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent by 2012; toxic mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2015; and emissions of sulfur dioxide, an ingredient in smog and acid rain, by 84 percent by 2018.
"While we remain open to exploring settlement of this complaint, we have a progressive record of environmental performance and leadership that we will be prepared to vigorously present and defend," the company's statement said.
Critics have grumbled that the state deal gave Midwest Generation too long to clean up its plants. In 2005, Madigan documented thousands of pollution violations at the power plants, but the Illinois EPA agreed with company officials who argued that occasional bursts of soot were normal and nothing to worry about.
The Illinois EPA is not a party to the lawsuit filed Thursday.
Federal EPA officials in Chicago have been investigating the power plants for years. Thursday's lawsuit involves a provision of the Clean Air Act known as New Source Review, which requires upgraded pollution controls when power plants undergo major modifications.
The Bush administration tried several times to gut that section of the law. By contrast, President Barack Obama promised during his campaign last fall to press forward with additional complaints if warranted.

090828-3



090828-3
Coast Guard proposes limits on invasive species released by ships in US ports
Associated Press - DENNIS CONRAD, Writer
August 28, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Coast Guard on Thursday proposed national standards for regulating the release in port of ships' ballast water, which can introduce new, sometimes detrimental species to U.S. ecosystems.
The plan would establish a limit on the number of invasive organisms that can be released along with a vessel's ballast water while the ship is in port. That limit would initially follow a formula used by the International Maritime Commission — a standard adopted by some states, but considered weak by many environmentalists.
The goal is to establish by 2016 a national standard similar to California's, which is considered 1,000 times more stringent than the limits set by the international commission's formula.
Ballast water helps keep ships stable while they take on or unload cargo. Vessels can acquire ballast water in home ports or elsewhere, taking in microrganisms and fish along with it and carrying them to new places. Efforts to fix environmental damage caused by organisms that travel along with ballast water can prove quite costly — an estimated $200 million a year for the Great Lakes alone.
For years, environmentalists, particularly in the Great Lakes region, battled for tougher restrictions. They increasingly relied on individual states to adopt standards of their own, a complicating factor for shippers and less effective in fighting off unwanted species.
Legislation that would impose a national ballast water standard 100 times stronger than the international standard has been repeatedly blocked. A GOP-sponsored bill currently in a House committee has gone nowhere. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., did not include the provision in a measure he had previously sponsored, after environmentalists asked him to drop it.
A federal court ruled during the Bush administration that EPA is empowered under the Clean Water Act to establish ballast standards. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson directed staff earlier this year to review the issue.
Some senators wrote the Obama administration last month urging the EPA and the Coast Guard to work together to develop a single, strict standard. EPA's position is if the Coast Guard and EPA propose different standards, the stronger one would be followed.
The proposal is to be published Friday in the Federal Register and followed by a 90-day public comment period.

090828-4



090828-4
ACOE, SFWMD 'embarassed' area
Jim Harter of Palm City
 August 28, 2009
Through misguided policy and bureaucracy, The South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers once again have devastated the Martin County ecosystem and embarrassed us in front of the nation's top outdoor writers.
During the past week, a local lure company, D.O.A. Lures sponsored its annual Outdoors Writers Festival, hosting 36 outdoor writers from around the U.S. into Jensen Beach to fish the St. Lucie and Indian River. Eighteen local guides took these writers fishing for three days, showcasing the Martin County waterways. It was very embarrassing to continuously have to explain that the North Fork, South Fork and St. Lucie river had almost no fish in them.
A few guides tried the old haunts in the North Fork, down the South Fork and where the two confluences meet at the Roosevelt Bridge. Almost no fish were caught. A couple of Snook were taken and released at the Evans Cary Bridge but 95% of the fish were caught up the Indian River. Even the Snook that should be spawning at the St. Lucie Inlet were not there. The Tarpon normally feeding in the North Fork were gone. These latest releases from agricultural drainage canals have been devastating. Faced with the pollution, fish either swim away, or perish. The reputation of Martin County having the largest number of big Snook is in peril. These latest releases of fresh polluted water have made the estuary dirty brown with no water visibility and no salinity. These releases come at a time when the Snook should be spawning at the St. Lucie Inlet. Thanks to the Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers we may lose our Snook and the Tarpon will pass us by. I wonder what these writers are going to write about when they go back to their respective news papers and magazines? It certainly won't be about the beauty of the waters or the great fishing like we used to have. The discharges protect profits for a few while hurting the great majority.
Jim Harter

090828-5



090828-5
All Fish Caught in U.S. Streams Contain Mercury
Gannett News Service
August 20, 2009
Sports fishermen take heed: A government test of fish pulled from nearly 300 streams in the United States found every one of them contaminated with some level of mercury.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s research marks its most comprehensive examination of mercury contamination in stream fish. The study found that 27 percent of the fish had mercury levels high enough to exceed what the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe for the average fish eater, those who eat fish twice a week.
But the findings in wild-caught fish underscore how widespread mercury contamination in the nation’s waterways has become. Previous research has found levels of concern in ocean and lake fish.
“This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation’s waterways and protect the public from potential health dangers,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
Mercury is a neurotoxin especially dangerous to neurological development in infants and fetuses.
Most mercury in water comes from particles from the atmosphere, the EPA said, fed largely by coal-fired power plants, trash burning and concrete plants nationally and internationally, the EPA said.
The USGS study examined mercury in 291 U.S. streams from 1998 to 2005.
One surprising fact was that mercury levels were lower in streams in urban areas and higher in coastal plain streams fed by wetlands and forests, especially in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana.
Those areas are biologically rich in the microbes that transform inorganic mercury in the atmosphere into the dangerous organic form called methyl mercury, said the USGS’s Barbara Scudder, lead author on the paper.
The highest mercury levels were found in largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. The lowest were found in brown, rainbow-cutthroat trout and channel catfish.
Though the EPA emphasizes that fish are an important part of a healthful diet, some contaminated species, especially from lakes and streams, may be unsuitable for women of childbearing age and children.
David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom said in a statement, “Study after study has shown that the known health advantages from eating seafood far outweigh any hypothetical health risk.”
Gavin Gibbons of the National Fisheries Institute cautioned: “It’s important that consumers know that this does not relate to the normal seafood that they find in restaurants or supermarkets. This is only recreational fish; this is not fish caught in the ocean or raised via aquaculture.”
Forty-eight states have fish consumption advisories in place for certain species. A full list of such warnings is available at www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/advisories.

090828-6



090828-6
Florida court OKs sale of some Everglades debt
REUTERS - Michael Connor
August 28, 2009
MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida judge cleared the way for a state authority to issue $650 million of debt to finance the purchase of Everglades land now owned by a big sugar company under an effort to preserve the vast wetlands, a government spokesman said on Thursday.
In a written ruling, Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Donald Hafale gave the South Florida Water Management District power to sell as much as $650 million of certificates of participation for the purchase of 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp, America's biggest sugar-cane grower.
Another sugar company, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Tribe oppose the deal championed by Florida Governor Charlie Crist as a major conservation project and had filed suit in state court to block it.
The opponents call the plan a waste of taxpayers' money that will actually slow restoration of the Everglades wetlands, a distinctive ecosystem that is home to 68 endangered species.
Crist, a Republican, and leaders of the district that oversees canals, levees and other water operations in 16 counties, welcomed the ruling as a victory.
But the judge's decision approved only a third of the $2.2 billion in debt authority sought for Everglades land purchases. Lawyers for the district had not shown a clear public benefit from the planned second round of purchases totaling an additional 110,000 acres, Hafale said in his ruling issued on Wednesday.
An appeal of the ruling was expected, a spokesman for the water district said on Thursday.

090828-7



090828-7
Everglades restoration clears hurdle
South Florida Business Journal - Paul Brinkmann
August 28, 2009
A Palm Beach County judge approved $650 million in bonds to pay for the purchase of 73,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land for Everglades restoration.
Circuit Judge Don Hafele’s ruling limited the South Florida Water Management District to that amount for bonding, even though the district originally requested for authorization to acquire an additional 107,000 acres.
“The district’s witnesses outlined, parcel by parcel, the immediate and future benefits to be gained by the 73,000 acre acquisition,” Hafele wrote in his ruling. “Among the benefits to be achieved are storage and treatment of water before it is pumped into Lake Okeechobee, additional storage and treatment facilities …. In contrast, however, the record is essentially devoid of any information discussing how the remaining 107,000 acres (if acquired) would be utilized.”
The ruling comes over the objection of sugar rival Florida Crystals Corp. and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida.
The bond is expected to cover the $536 million cost of land, plus additional fees and costs.
Mike Sole, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Eric Buermann, chairman of the water management district’s governing board, said the state was happy with the ruling. State and district officials said they could not say if bond validation would need to be sought for future purchases of land beyond the 73,000 acres.
“This allows us to at least make the first step in that plan to restore the Everglades,” Buermann said in a press conference. “It allows us to move forward. Obviously we would have liked validation of all the bonds, but I think we will be successful there as well.”
Gov. Charlie Crist announced the original plan to buy all of U.S. Sugar’s property last summer – originally 181,000 acres for $1.34 billion. But, the economy and political pressure forced the governor and water management district to downsize the plan.
In a news release, the tribe indicated it may appeal the ruling, but “claimed a partial victory for itself and the taxpayers by convincing a judge not to validate the full $2.2 billion in bonds.”
Dexter Lehtinen, the attorney for the Miccosukees, said the tribe was proud of its challenge to the higher bonding amount.
“While we are pleased that the court recognized the district had no comprehensive plan, and we saved the taxpayers money, we are disappointed that it did allow $650 million to purchase 73,000 acres of land when the district has no money to build projects on it,” he said in the release. “The tribe, whose goal is to save the Everglades, is likely to pursue legal action in the form of a motion for rehearing or an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.”
Carol Wehle, executive director of the water management district, said the water managers are “very excited” about the ruling and the purchase of the first 73,000 acres will mean huge advances in restoration.
U.S. Sugar Corp. issued a statement praising Wednesday’s ruling.
“We are very pleased with the court decision today that validates the district’s authority to finance the $650 million needed to complete this critical River of Grass land acquisition so that Everglades restoration can move forward,” said Robert Coker, senior vice president of public affairs, in a news release. “There was little doubt as to the public benefit of acquiring this land.”
One major backer of the restoration plan also praised the ruling.
“Everglades restoration cleared a significant hurdle today,” said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. “The foundation believes that now is the time for all stakeholders to respect the court’s decision and channel efforts to work collaboratively to advance the restoration process.”

090827-1



090827-1
Everglades Restoration Land Purchase Approved
CBS4.com Top Stories
   August 27, 2009
A plan to restore the Everglade can move forward , a Palm Beach County judge ruled Wednesday.
The judge decided that the state can move ahead with a planned $536 million deal to buy land from U.S. Sugar Corp.
South Florida water managers plan to buy 73,000 acres of farmland from the company to construct reservoirs and water treatment marshes. The deal also leaves open the option for the state to purchase more land from the nation's largest cane sugar producer.
District Judge Donald Hafele said in his order that the South Florida Water Management District proved the proposal has a "valid public purpose."
U.S. Sugar's main rival, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Indians had argued the deal was an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and could further delay Everglades restoration efforts.

090827-2



090827-2
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission missing some screws
Howard L. Goldstock, Boca Raton
August 27, 2009
Somewhere there is a screw missing in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Thus far, the rules established have had 13 specialists killing 14 pythons in two months. If it is the intention of the state to rid the Everglades of pythons, there is something wrong with that picture.
Now regular hunters can kill pythons only if they report the kill and use muzzleloaders in that season. If Florida wants to rid the Everglades of pythons, it should place a bounty on the snakes and allow them to be killed by the weapon of the hunter's choosing. The missing screw will be found, and the picture will be straightened.

090827-3



090827-3
Florida-U.S. Sugar deal OK'd with limits
Miami Herald – CURTIS MORGAN          cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com
August 27, 2009
A judge signed off on water managers' plans to borrow money to buy U.S. Sugar lands for Everglades projects, but he capped the amount.
Water managers won crucial judicial approval Wednesday to borrow up to $650 million for the first phase of Gov. Charlie Crist's land deal with U.S. Sugar.
But Palm Beach Circuit Judge Donald Hafele balked at extending the credit line as far as the South Florida Water Management District had sought -- up to $2.2 billion.
He whacked the district's bonding request by two-thirds. That cap at the least could complicate, and potentially jeopardize, plans to purchase the sugar giant's remaining acres and build the Everglades restoration reservoirs and treatment marshes.
The decision, almost certain to be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, keeps the controversial land deal alive and on track -- a significant legal and political win for the district and the governor who has championed it.
Carol Wehle, the district's executive director, said water managers were elated they had cleared a major hurdle toward closing on the $536 million purchase of 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar.
She said no other previous acquisition would do as much to help resolve water supply and quality problems that have affected not just the Everglades, but Lake Okeechobee and coastal estuaries as well, for decades.
``The most exciting thing about this is keeping our ability to buy this land,'' she said.
PARTIAL VICTORY
Still, the 36-page ruling was enough of a split decision that the Miccosukee Tribe and U.S. Sugar rival Florida Crystals Corp., who challenged the deal as a multibillion-dollar boondoggle for taxpayers, claimed partial victory.
``The district can't possibly think this is a victory. You can't go in and ask for $2.2 billion and walk out with $650 million and claim that,'' Crystals attorney Joe Klock said.
Klock and Miccosukee attorney Dexter Lehtinen argued the district doesn't have the money to build anything on the land or purchase the company's remaining 107,000 acres -- a three-year option that is costing the district $50 million -- and that the deal will siphon money from other projects and delay Everglades restoration by decades.
DISTRICT AUTHORITY
In his ruling, Hafele rejected many of the technical challenges to the district's financing plan, finding the district was within its authority to issue bonds -- at least for the initial land purchase that he wrote would clearly benefit the public by helping restore the Everglades.
But he rejected additional dollars for the remaining, larger chuck of U.S. Sugar land -- 107,000 acres that, under the terms of the option, would cost the district another $790 million.
``The record is essentially devoid of any information discussing how the remaining 107,000 acres (if acquired) would be utilized,'' Hafele wrote. ``While detailed, specific plans are unnecessary, this is not to say that the District may seek bond validations with ideas so nebulous that the court cannot determine their legality.''
The judge also acknowledged ``strong arguments'' that the deal might be ``economically impossible,'' but said that legal precedents blocked him from considering economic considerations.
``I think he went as far as he thought he could go,'' Klock said.
DOWNSIZED
The district's $2.2 billion request reflected the cost of the original deal proposed more than a year ago by Crist, which was for all of U.S. Sugar's 180,000-plus acres, its mill, railroad and other assests. It has been downsized twice since.
FINANCING
Hafele approved $650 million, which would cover the initial 73,000 acres, a first year of debt and assorted legal and financing fees. The district, which hopes to close the deal by next year, still needs to secure financing in a still-shaky credit market.
Wehle and district Chairman Eric Buermann said the purchase would improve restoration efforts with or without the remaining U.S. Sugar land. But they also said they also had other options to acquire it in the future -- through additional bonds, land swaps or other deals with third parties or new revenues if the economy turns around.
``I really think the rest of it will fall into place as we move forward,'' said Buermann. ``Two or three years is an eternity when it comes to the economy and financing.''
Though they hope to someday acquire all of U.S. Sugar's lands, environmentalists still hailed the rulings as a key step.
``This is a substantial piece of property that we need to go forward,'' said Thom Rumberger, chairman of the Everglades Trust.

090827-4



090827-4
Tracking local history
Florida Sunshine Sentinel, Forum Publishing Group
August 27, 2009
Our local history isn't confined within Coral Springs' borders. Places outside our city limits played significant roles in our development.
In the 1920s, when Bud Lyons bought 4,000 acres in the Everglades, he planted green beans. His office was in Pompano ("Beach" was added later) near his packinghouse at the F.E.C. Railroad depot. The beans from the fields that became Coral Springs helped feed his packers who were employed throughout the Great Depression.
Broward County Historical Commissioner James Bradley worked for Arthur Galt and recalls that in 1946 he sold 2,400 acres of Fort Lauderdale property to a fledgling company owned by James Hunt — Coral Ridge Properties. Hunt and Stephen Calder (Calder Race Course) paid a record $19,389,000 for the property, the largest private land transaction in United States' history up to that time. The beachfront is still called the Galt Ocean Mile. The parcel of land between the Intracoastal and Middle River became the Coral Ridge section of Fort Lauderdale. When Hunt began to run out of property to develop in 1960, this experience motivated him to look for enough land to build an entire city. At the same time, the Lyons acreage became available. He bought the primary parcel for a mere $1 million in 1962. The first Coral Springs land sale on July 22, 1964 was at the Galt Ocean Mile Hotel and attracted 1,500 brokers.
James Hunt envisioned Coral Springs as a graceful Southern city. To inspire his staff, he took them on a bus trip to Athens, Ga., so they could see an example of antebellum urban planning. It emphasized the use of brick, columns and shutters, but Coral Ridge Properties' architectural engineer George Hodapp was impressed by the landscape and required generous landscaping in all Coral Springs' plan approvals. He designed most of the early brick and columned buildings along Sample Road, including City Hall, where he used reclaimed bricks from pre-Civil War Atlanta. But many on the Coral Ridge staff preferred the architecture of the Southwest with tile roofs and stucco walls, as reflected in later subdivisions.
By 1966, Coral Ridge Properties was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Westinghouse, which used the city as its urban laboratory. Some of the domestic inventions developed in Pittsburgh and tested in Coral Springs included motion-activated lighting, dimmer switches, solar heating, smoke detectors, intercoms, self-cleaning ovens, food-waste disposal units in the sink, a console that controlled all lights, locks and drapes, and an electric car. All but the car have become commonplace, so far.

090826-0



090826-0
Cabinet Approves Florida Forever List, Calls For More Oversight
The Jacksonville Observer - News Service of Florida –
August 26, 2009
Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet approved the state’s environmental land buying priority list on Tuesday but not before ordering agency officials to explore legislation to give the Cabinet more say over which projects get funded.
Following up on a recommendation from Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson, the panel asked Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole to seek legislation Bronson said was needed to give the panel more authority in determining how to spend millions in state funds set aside for the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands. .
Bronson’s motion asked DEP “to work legislatively to make sure that the Board of Trustees has the final approval based on what the what the board feels is the (best) way to approach land acquisition.”
Specifically, Bronson said the panel may opt to choose to purchase more property at less than market value by allowing landowners continued but restricted use of their property while providing public access.
The agriculture commissioner has repeatedly raised concerns over the state’s growing environmental portfolio, which costs money to manage. Bronson has advocated for allowing farmers, ranchers and other landowners to keep working the land in a lease situation.
Under existing law, the Florida Forever list is submitted to the Cabinet, but panel approval is not necessary to implement the recommendations.
Bronson’s proposal could be construed as requiring the board to sign off on individual projects. Sole told reporters after the vote that he is not worried that the Cabinet would try to wrest control of land buying from DEP.
“I don’t interpret it that way,” Sole said of Bronson’s motives. “I think (Bronson) wanted to see the work plan and provide, as the Cabinet, any guidance specific to the priorities that we’re moving toward as we implement the Florida Forever list. I think that is reasonable.”
The Florida Forever priority list approved Tuesday includes more than 100 projects and millions of acres worth more than $20 billion. Lawmakers chose earlier this year not to fund the state’s marquee land buying program for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, diverting the $300 million to other programs, including $50 million for Everglades clean up.

090826-1



090826-1
Court: State can buy land from U.S. Sugar for Everglades
The Associated Press
August 26, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH - A Palm Beach County judge has ruled that the state can move ahead with a planned $536 million deal to buy land from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration.
District Judge Donald Hafele says in his order Wednesday that the South Florida Water Management District proved the proposal has a "valid public purpose."
South Florida water managers plan to buy 73,000 acres of farmland from the company to construct reservoirs and water treatment marshes. The deal also leaves open the option for the state to purchase more land from the nation's largest cane sugar producer.
But U.S. Sugar's main rival, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Indians had argued the deal was an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and could further delay Everglades restoration efforts.

090826-2



090826-2
EPA water clean-up deal overdue
Miami Herald - Editorials
August 26, 2009
OUR OPINION: The EPA finally agrees to put limits on state's water polluters
Sometimes it pays to get mad. In 2008, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported that half of the state's rivers and more than half its lakes had poor water quality.
But the agency had been foot-dragging for years on setting limits on the nutrient runoff from agriculture and sprawling cities with fertilized landscaping and septic systems. So when it looked like the DEP wasn't going to react responsibly to its own report, it was the last straw for five environmental groups.
They sued the DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency in the Northern District of Florida. Now comes a consent decree from the EPA in a court settlement. The EPA agreed to define the limits for nutrient poisoning that triggers huge algae blooms that choke off all marine life in lakes, rivers and estuaries. The final deadline for the EPA to offer the numeric limits is October 2010. The DEP will have to enforce those limits.
These waterways aren't just for fishing and recreation. Some are also sources for drinking water. Disinfectants like chlorine and chloramine are used to make water potable. When they mix with the dissolved nutrients, water can be contaminated by dangerous chemical byproducts. Such contamination forced a water-treatment plant to shut down in 2008 in Southwest Florida.
Originally, the EPA gave Florida a 2004 deadline to set pollution limits, but the DEP didn't comply. Then the EPA backed off, telling states they could formulate pollution plans without any deadlines. That's when the environmental groups acted, to their credit.
Industries are not the only polluters. Urban runoff is just as harmful as that from other sources. There is no worst example of this dual pollution than the Everglades' headwaters, Lake Okeechobee -- a compelling reason why the EPA must limit the damage.

090826-3



090826-3
In the Florida Keys, staghorn, elkhorn coral making a comeback
The Miami Herald - CURTIS MORGAN                 cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com
August 26, 2009
After the discovery of a `farm-raised' coral spawn, researchers have hope of reversing the decline of two reef-building species.
Every August or September on nights following a full moon, divers descend into the dark, warm waters off the Florida Keys to watch group sex -- a fascinating reproductive eruption known as the annual coral spawn.
It's akin to an underwater snow flurry as colonies of polyps -- flowerlike creatures that live inside hard coral -- cast small white sacs into the sea on the slim chance that sperm will drift into a genetically suitable egg, hook up, settle down and someday grow into healthy little corals of their own.
This year's spawn was particularly thrilling for scientists working to restore two important and vanishing species, staghorn and elkhorn coral, which formed the foundation of barrier reefs from Florida to the Caribbean until massive and mysterious die-offs over the last 30 years.
For the first time, stands of ``farm-raised'' staghorn transplanted to Molasses Reef off Key Largo were caught in the act, providing critical proof that corals cultivated in underwater nurseries can not only survive but do the wild thing.
For researchers, it has raised optimism that they might actually have a shot at slowing, maybe even reversing, decades of staggering loss. Staghorn and elkhorn -- large and spectacular branching corals that once grew in sprawling forests -- have declined by as much as 97 percent along a reef tract stretching from Palm Beach to the Dry Tortugas.
``This is the future of reef restoration,'' said marine biologist Ken Nedimyer, who helped pioneer coral cultivation in two nurseries he tends off the Upper Keys.
``We've had good luck planting corals, but we have no hope of replanting the whole Keys,'' said Nedimyer, who placed the Molasses corals two years ago. ``If we can get these coral to spawn, then we can let them do it themselves.''
The fecund coral -- observed two weeks ago by a student group from Tampa, SCUBAnauts International, working with reef scientists -- isn't a breakthrough on the level of cloning Dolly the sheep.
Staghorn and elkhorn reproduce through the once-a-year spawn but more routinely replicate sans sex -- the antler-shaped branches break away, then bud to start and spread new colonies. Researchers have grown offspring from fragments for more than a decade, but it was unclear if, and how long, it might take for them to hit sexual maturity.
It took only two years for Nedimyer's transplants -- easily twice as fast as anyone had expected or hoped.
``It validates that nurseries and the restocking can lead to fully functioning reef populations,'' said Margaret Miller, an ecologist with the National Marine Fisheries Services in Virginia Key, who has led research on elkhorn and staghorn.
RECOVERY PLAN
In 2006, the two corals were the first to be designated as federally threatened. Under a recovery plan still being written, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration recently gave $4 million in stimulus funding to expand fledgling underwater nurseries off Broward County, in Biscayne National Park, the Keys and the Virgin Islands.
Even with major money by the meager standards of marine funding, decimated reefs will never see the sort of massive engineering or restoration efforts employed in mangrove forests or Everglades wetlands.
That's why getting farm-raised corals to reproduce is such an important milestone, said Diego Lirman, an assistant professor at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
``Even if we spend years and millions of dollars, our footprint will be very small,'' said Lirman, who is managing a nursery in Biscayne National Park.
``The only way for large-scale recovery to happen is through establishing sexually productive corals,'' he said. ``They spawn. The gametes [sperm-and-egg bundles] are broadcast into the water column. They can travel for miles and miles and settle on faraway habitats.''
Because there are so few surviving corals on reefs and they're widely scattered, the current odds of sexual success are long.
Staghorns may look much the same to humans but they're not -- at least 50 different genotypes have been identified in Nedimyer's nurseries -- and drifting eggs and sperm are encoded to block inbreeding.
One strategy, already used by Nedimyer, will be to plant genetically diverse colonies near each other, which could greatly enhance the outcome of annual spawns.
``This has very practical implications,'' Miller said.
Because corals vary in vulnerability to an array of increasing assaults -- diseases, pollution, maladies linked to climate change from rising temperatures, coral bleaching and ocean acidification -- it eventually may also be possible to selectively breed the fittest varieties.
Like many discoveries, this one was accidental.
``Quite honestly, it's really by luck we were at that site,'' said David Palandro, a research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Research Institute in St. Petersburg who heads the SCUBAnauts education program.
The high schoolers, there to help collect gametes for lab research, were originally bound for a nearby reef but a missing mooring ball sent them instead to Molasses, one of the Keys' most popular snorkeling reefs.
While selecting corals to monitor, Palandro spotted tags on the staghorn identifying them as transplants. The crew, diving half-hour shifts during the night, watched for action until, ``One of the kids jumped to the surface, yelling at the top of his lungs, `Spawn, spawn, spawn!' '' he said.
For Nedimyer, president of the Coral Restoration Foundation, the moment brought scientific and personal pride.
GROWING CORAL
He got into growing coral as a sideline to his business of selling tropical fish and live rock to the aquarium trade, when staghorn began growing naturally on his live rock nursery in 1996.
Those little larvae were the source of the softball-size colonies he finally planted near Buoy 11 at Molasses in July 2007. Now they're the size of laundry baskets and he's preparing to close shop on the aquarium trade and focus full-time on restocking the natural reef with nursery corals.
``I like to say I'm a grandfather now because my babies had babies,'' Nedimyer joked.

090826-4



090826-4
Judge approves financing of Florida plan to buy US Sugar land for Everglades restoration
Associated Press
August 26, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A Florida judge has ruled that the state can move ahead with a $536 million plan to buy land from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration.
Palm Beach County District Judge Donald Hafele says in his order Wednesday that the South Florida Water Management District proved the proposal has a "valid public purpose."
South Florida water managers plan to buy 73,000 acres of farmland from the company to construct reservoirs and water treatment marshes.
The deal also leaves open the option for the state to purchase more land from the nation's largest cane sugar producer.
But U.S. Sugar's main rival, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Indians had argued the deal was an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and could further delay Everglades restoration efforts.
Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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090826-5
Judge: Water managers can borrow $650 million for U.S. Sugar deal
Palm Beach Post - TONY DORIS, Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH — Water managers' plans to buy a vast swath of sugar cane land for Everglades restoration got a boost today when a judge cleared them to borrow $650 million for the initial purchase.
The amount, enough to buy 73,000 acres, was far less than the $2.2 billion in bonding authority that the South Florida Water Management District had requested.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele ruled that the district failed to show how it would use the remaining 107,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. land that it has said it may purchase eventually.
District leaders nonetheless called the decision a boon for their efforts to filter runoff and restore one of the nation's great ecological landmarks.
"Obviously we would have liked validation of all of the bonds, but I think we'll ultimately be successful there as well," district board Chairman Eric Buermann said. "It's a great day."
In a statement, Gov. Charlie Crist said: "Today represents another step forward in achieving this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for achieving restoration of the River of Grass."
Opponents Florida Crystals Corp. and the Miccosukee Indian tribe contend that the acquisition would waste taxpayers' money and drain resources from Everglades restoration projects more likely to be completed. They indicated they would consider appeals to the Florida Supreme Court.
"They're now in a situation where all they'll have is land and there's not any money to improve it," said Joe Klock Jr., attorney for sugar grower Florida Crystals. "If this were their money, they'd never do it, but it's OPM - other people's money."
Crist announced the mammoth U.S. Sugar purchase in June 2008, originally spelling out a $1.75 billion proposal to buy out the company and its roughly 180,000 acres.
The cash-strapped water district has since downsized the deal twice, settling on a $536 million purchase of 73,000 acres. The deal also includes options to purchase the remaining acreage within the next 10 years.
The judge found the district within its rights to issue the bond-like certificates of participation, and he said plans for the initial 73,000 acres were sufficiently detailed to demonstrate a "valid public purpose," the main criterion under his consideration.
District Executive Director Carol Wehle said planning will move ahead on the initial purchase. The district can later decide how to finance the remainder, or to ask the state legislature to help.
The ruling moves the district toward improving water quality in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, reducing pressure on the aging Herbert Hoover Dike and helping treat water that flows through the Everglades into Florida Bay, she said.
"When is the last time any acquisition could do that?" she said.

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090826-6
Judge oks financing so Fla. can buy US Sugar land
Associated Press - BRIAN SKOLOFF, Writer
August 26, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida water managers can move ahead with financing plans for a historic $536 million deal to buy land from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The order allows the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees restoration efforts for the state, to move forward with plans to buy 73,000 acres of farmland from the company to build reservoirs and water treatment marshes intended to clean water and restore natural flow through the Everglades. The deal also leaves open the option for the state to buy more land from the nation's largest cane sugar producer.
Total restoration of the Everglades is estimated to cost billions.
Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele noted in his order that the district proved the proposal has a "valid public purpose."
The wetlands have been damaged after years of dikes, dams and diversions to make way for farms and development, and the region is now polluted with urban runoff and fertilizers.
U.S. Sugar's main rival, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Indians, who live in the Everglades, had argued the deal was an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and could further delay Everglades restoration. They sought to stop financing for bonds the water district wants to issue to pay for the deal.
"I'm obviously excited about the judge's ruling," said Michael Sole, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. "Without question, this is going to allow us to move forward with the historic acquisition."
The Miccosukee Tribe said it would likely appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. However, the tribe also called it a "partial victory" because the judge did not approve financing of $2.2 billion the water district was actually seeking. The district wanted approval for the additional funds to give it future flexibility to purchase the additional land.
The case began and ended with the water district seeking approval for financing of $2.2 billion in bonds since the original plan announced by Gov. Charlie Crist in June 2008 called for a $1.75 billion purchase of all U.S. Sugar's land and assets in the Everglades.
However, the land deal has changed several times and has since been scaled back because of the economic downturn. The new deal now seeks to buy just the 73,000 acres.
The judge only gave the district authority to move ahead with financing about $650 million, the amount needed for the 73,000 acres. Still, the water district said it would consider other financing options later if it chooses to purchase the additional property.
The tribe also contends that such a purchase should require a voter referendum.
"Allowing the district to use taxpayer money to pay the debt to buy land now, and then raise taxes to pay for construction on it later, is contrary to the Florida Constitution," tribe attorney Dexter Lehtinen said.
Florida Crystals said it was considering an appeal.
"Everyone says sugar farmers are destroying the Everglades and they don't want restoration," said Florida Crystals Vice President Gaston Cantens. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
Cantens said sugar farmers have spent millions of dollars cleaning up their operations and removing additional pollutants that flow onto their land from the north.
The company also claims this deal will give an unfair business advantage to its competitor, because U.S. Sugar can lease back the land at a nominal rate for a number of years until the water district's restoration projects are under way.
Regardless, overall Everglades restoration has a long way to go.
In 2000, the estimated cost for a joint deal between the state and federal government to fix the Everglades was about $7.8 billion. Delays have now ballooned that price tag because of inflation and other factors, putting the cost anywhere from $12.5 billion to more than $22 billion.

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090826-7
Putting bite on Season of Snakes
The Tampa Tribune - TOM JACKSON      tjackson@tampatrib.com
August 26, 2009
With less than a couple of weeks remaining before Labor Day and the symbolic end of summer, it seems safe to declare that this has been the Season of the Snake.
Serpents are out and about, slithering into downspouts, lurking in gardens, sunning on doorsteps and generally stirring trouble. Not that the snakes would see it that way, of course. Their ancestors were here eons before bipeds made a track on Florida's swamps and woodlands and, well, blah, blah, blah.
If snakes want to defend their activities this summer - especially this summer, when bites by pygmy rattlers have become commonplace - let them get their own column.
According to This Space, snakes are untrustworthy, unpredictable, scary, creepy and generally worthy of the ill-repute assigned them in Genesis.
Not that we advocate the routine dispatching of snakes on sight. Such a philosophy results in the wholesale slaying of snakes who provide service - devouring pests and vermin - balancing nature and benefiting humankind.
Footwear, reconsidered
Nonetheless, it can hardly be disputed that, confined to the same space, snakes and humans are incompatible. In August alone, three of our neighbors just across the county line have been struck by pygmy rattlers, bringing to nine the number of venomous snakebites treated at University Community Hospital's main campus this summer.
Not that all the humans involved acted with the clearest of heads. A landscape maintenance worker nipped on the foot the other day in Lutz broke rule No. 1 of lawn-mowing: He wore flip-flops. Flip-flops also played a role earlier this month in the episode of the New Tampa man bitten strolling his driveway in minimalist footwear.
Let that be a lesson to us. Fewer flip-flops; more high-top Chucks.
As for the Hunter's Green octogenarian who strangled the pygmy rattler that bit her finger when she attempted to shoo it off her steps with her hand, the advice in this case is self-evident.
Ornery, omnipresent
Not that it should make us feel any better, but snakebite activity is not confined to the Tampa Bay area. News reports cite a woman bitten on the big toe by a water moccasin hiding in her Gainesville garage, and a Comcast worker being struck by a green mamba as he laid cable in Hollywood.
Meanwhile, trappers prowl the Everglades, applying their skills against the redoubtable survival instincts of exotic Burmese pythons and a shrinking window of opportunity: state permits expire on Halloween.
And Tuesday, the other shoe dropped in the July death of a Sumter County 2-year-old suffocated by an 8-foot python kept by Jaren Ashley Hare, 19, and her 32-year-old boyfriend, Charles Jason Darnell. Authorities charged each with manslaughter, third-degree murder and child abuse.
The Season of the Snake, indeed. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish who's wearing the ssssssscales.
Keyword: The Jax Files for Tom Jackson's bonus musings

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090826-8
US Sugar, Everglades land deal to move forward
Palm Beach Post Editorial
August 26, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A Florida judge has ruled that the state can move ahead with a $536 million plan to buy land from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration.
Palm Beach County District Judge Donald Hafele says in his order Wednesday that the South Florida Water Management District proved the proposal has a "valid public purpose."
South Florida water managers plan to buy 73,000 acres of farmland from the company to construct reservoirs and water treatment marshes.
The deal also leaves open the option for the state to purchase more land from the nation's largest cane sugar producer.
But U.S. Sugar's main rival, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Indians had argued the deal was an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and could further delay Everglades restoration efforts.

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090825-1
Baby-killing python case: Sumter County mom, boyfriend charged with murder, manslaughter
Orlando Sentinel - ANTHONY COLAROSSI, Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The mother of a 2-year-old Sumter County girl asphyxiated by a Burmese python and the woman's live-in boyfriend were charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with the death, officials said Monday.
Jaren Ashley Hare, 19, and Charles Jason Darnell, 32, also face child-abuse counts, according to the Sumter County Sheriff's Office. The charges come nearly two months after the July 1 the death of little Shaiunna Hare, who was killed by the snake in her crib.
The mother turned herself into the Wildwood Police Department Monday after a warrant was issued by the 5th Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office.  Darnell, who was already incarcerated at the Sumter County Jail on unrelated narcotics charges, was notified of the three new charges late Monday.
The attack in the rural community about 60 miles northwest of Orlando was believed to be the state's first case of a nonvenomous constrictor killing a child. Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway said the manslaughter by culpable negligence charges reflect a "reckless disregard" that is criminal. The third-degree felony murder charge indicates "the death was not intended. You didn't set out to kill somebody, but it was the result of your behavior."
Individuals can be charged with both counts and go to trial on both counts, but if they're found guilty of both, the court would have to dismiss one of the charges and convict on the other, Ridgway said.
The murder and manslaughter counts carry maximum sentences of 15 years in prison; the child-abuse charge carries a five-year maximum.
Both were held on $35,000 bond each in connection with the charges, which stem from the escape of an albino Burmese python from a glass container inside the couple's home in Oxford. The snake was later found wrapped around the child's lifeless body.
Darnell, who was not Shaiunna's father, discovered the child that morning. Sobbing during a 911 call, he said, "The baby's dead! Our stupid snake got out in the middle of the night and strangled the baby!"
The 8 1/2-foot reptile had escaped its enclosure earlier. Darnell said he had put it inside a bag and placed it back into the glass tank. He also put a quilt over the container, tying down the ends. But the python escaped again and headed for the young child's crib.
State wildlife officials said the snake was not properly secured and not registered as required by state law. The python is considered a "reptile of concern."
During an interview with the Orlando Sentinel just about a month after the attack, Darnell said he and Hare were still grieving the death of the child. He called the snake attack a "terrible, awful accident."
"It's not guilt," Darnell said at the time. "It's remorse and grief. I'll never have another one [a snake]."
Darnell said the child's death - and the international publicity surrounding the case - made him a "monster" in the eyes of many. But he also said he had been around the reptiles much of his life.
"Some people are bird people. Some people are cat people. And some people are snake people," Darnell said during the interview.
The attack on the child was followed up by state and federal efforts to hunt Burmese pythons in and around the Everglades in South Florida, where the snakes have thrived, reproduced and become dominant predators of native wildlife.
Hare has since given birth to another baby fathered by Darnell.

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090825-2
Palm Beach County commissioners endorse 'inland port' on Florida Crystals' site near South Bay
Palm Beach Post - JENNIFER SORENTRUE, Staff Writer
August 25, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH — Palm Beach County commissioners signed off this morning on a proposal that could allow an "inland port" to rise on about 318 acres south of Lake Okeechobee.
The commission voted 6-1 for changes to the county's long-term growth plan that could allow the warehouse and distribution facility to be built along U.S. 27 on land owned by sugar giant Florida Crystals.
The location is one of a handful of sites under consideration by the Port of Palm Beach. Ultimately, port officials will decide where the project is built.
Supporters of the project say it will bring much-needed jobs to the Glades, where unemployment rates spiked to as much as 42 percent in June. Dozens of Glades residents at today's meeting wore T-shirts that said: "Save Our Jobs, Save Our Community."
"This is a solution to a problem that we have been facing in Palm Beach County, which is supposed to be the richest county in the state," Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said. "You have individuals in an area that are suffering."
Under the plan, the warehousing and distribution center would serve as a landlocked extension of South, Southwest and Central Florida's seaside ports.
But environmental groups, including 1000 Friends of Florida, have objected to the Florida Crystals site, saying it could interfere with Everglades restoration. More analysis must be done, they said.
"This isn't a question of jobs," said environmental activist Rosa Durando. "It is a question of maintaining the life support system of the county. There is a lot more at stake than unemployment."
The commission's approval will be sent to state planners for review. Environmentalists are expected to wage a legal battle to try to block industrial development on the site.
County planners said it would be more than a year before construction permits could be issued for the project. In addition to today's approval, Florida Crystals must also apply to change the site's zoning designation, planners said.
Commissioners have vowed to stop the project if it interferes with efforts to restore the Everglades.
But Commissioner Karen Marcus, who cast the sole dissenting vote, said the Florida Crystals site has too many environmental and legal problems. The county should look for other sites in the Glade region that can be built on now, she said.
"These people need jobs today," Marcus said. "We are picking a site that we know is going to get litigated."
Meanwhile, commissioners unanimously agreed to kill a change to the county's long-term growth plan that would have made it easier for the inland port project to be placed anywhere within a 100,000-acre area near the Glades cities.
The change, they said, would have been meaningless because the Port of Palm Beach has already sought proposals for the project. Florida Crystals was the only landowner in the Glades region that expressed interest.

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090825-3
Palm Beach County gives Big Sugar, new industry a boost in Glades
South Florida Sun Sentinel - Andy Reid
August 25, 2009
Environmental groups warn of threats to Everglades restoration
WEST PALM BEACH - By opening more former Everglades land to new industry, Palm Beach County commissioners Tuesday decided the lure of jobs was worth a likely legal fight with environmentalists.
The commission voted to change its development rules and allow industrial uses on 318 acres south of South Bay owned by sugar giant Florida Crystals. The land is part of hundreds of thousands of acres of former Everglades that was drained to make way for agriculture.
Commissioners contend they are angling to provide opportunities for new jobs in Glades communities plagued with unemployment. Florida Crystals envisions warehouses, manufacturing and shipping goods to and from the site.
"The faster we get it done, the more people we can put to work," Commissioner Burt Aaronson said.
Environmental groups counter that the industrial center threatens to open the door to more development and get in the way of Everglades restoration.
There are other properties that could be used to attract new businesses that benefit Glades residents, said Joanne Davis, of the growth watchdog group 1000 Friends of Florida.
"This is the wrong site," Davis said. "This has sort of unraveled into a typical land use that goes on and on in the history of Florida."
Florida Crystals is vying to become the site of a proposed "inland port" -- an industrial distribution center that would link coastal ports from Miami to Palm Beach County, delivering cargo to and from the coast via truck routes and rail lines crisscrossing the state and linking with routes to the rest of the country.
At least six South Florida sites are vying for the center.
Palm Beach County backs Florida Crystals' plan to put the center on 318 acres of farmland near the company's Okeelanta power plant and U.S. 27 in western Palm Beach County.
Tuesday, the county's approval went further by allowing industrial development on the land, even if the project goes elsewhere. The county did require that future development there be planned in coordination with the South Florida Water Management District in an attempt to ensure that it doesn't get in the way of Everglades restoration.
Starting construction and generating jobs would still be years away.
State regulators, who have already raised concerns about moving more industry into the agricultural area, must still sign off on the proposal.
Environmental groups, including the Everglades Coalition and 1000 Friends of Florida, object to the location and could file legal challenges that delay moving forward.
Everglades restoration plans call for South Florida taxpayers to invest half a billion dollars to buy 73,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp. farmland south of Lake Okeechobee. An industrial center at Florida Crystals doesn't fit in with the plans to build reservoirs and treatment areas to restore flows of water to the Everglades, according to the Everglades Coalition.
Backing the Florida Crystals site is similar to the county's ill-fated decision to try to build a home for The Scripps Research Institute in rural Loxahatchee, said Lisa Interlandi of the Everglades Law Center. Environmentalists' legal challenge to the Scripps project stalled construction and ultimately prompted the county to move the biotech headquarters to Jupiter.
"This is a mistake," Interlandi said about the Florida Crystals plan. "There are better opportunities."
Opening the door to new industry on land likely to trigger a legal fight means delaying potential job creation, said Commissioner Karen Marcus, who cast the only vote against the deal.
"We are picking a site we know is going to get litigated," Marcus said. "This isn't an inland port anymore. This is [another] industrial park."
Even without legal challenges, it would still take about a year for the project to move through the other county zoning approvals needed to allow Florida Crystals to start construction.
"The need for these jobs is now," Commissioner Jess Santamaria said.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.

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090824-1
Florida books: What to read to get a flavor of the sunshine state
The Miami Herald
August 24, 2009
What constitutes a classic Florida book ?
An author's passion for sabal palms, hurricane warnings, mildew, mojitos and the ability to pluck nuggets of truth from our rich and sometimes ugly history?
A wicked sense of humor about the subtropical oddities -- flying cucarachas, copulating iguanas, six-toed cats, swamp-eating developers -- skittering through our everyday lives?
We like to think that the theme that sets true South Florida literary classics apart from books spawned elsewhere is their unerring sense of the place and the people who constitute Florida's bizarre mixture of paradise and hell.
"Florida was to Americans what America had always been to the rest of the world -- a fresh, free, unspoiled start,'' writes Susan Orlean in The Orchid Thief. To us, though, Florida is something else: home. Here are some of the timeless classics that capture life in the Sunshine State:
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston: Published in 1937 and set in Eatonville near Orlando, this gorgeous novel about an African-American woman's journey of self-discovery was once snubbed by intellectuals for its use of dialect and its refusal to frame the rural black experience within the context of the white world. But Hurston's exquisite rendering of Janie -- who ``saw her life like a great tree in leaf with things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches'' -- outlasted criticism to become one of the great American novels of all time.
Killing Mr. Watson, Peter Matthiessen: Now seamlessly melded with Lost Man's River and Bone by Bone into the National Book Award-winning Shadow Country, the trilogy's cornerstone reimagines the life and death of a Florida pioneer at the turn of the century. Set in Chokoloskee and the Ten Thousand Islands and based on the life of one Edgar J. Watson who, legend says, gunned down Belle Starr, Mr. Watson opens with a murder and winds inexorably back in time, painting a picture of a lawless and violent world.
The Everglades: River of Grass, Marjory Stoneman Douglas: This Bible of the Everglades, published in 1947, painstakingly reconstructs the history and makeup of what was once considered a vast, useless, mosquito-infested swamp and was instrumental in spurring efforts to preserve the area. ``There are no other Everglades in the world,'' Douglas wrote, and she dedicated a big chunk of her 108 years to helping preserve them.
The Yearling, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings: Readers most remember with dismay this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel's tragic conclusion, but had we lived in a tiny rural town not far from Gainesville in the 1930s, we'd have realized that Jody's pet deer Flag was doomed from the start. In this memorable coming-of-age story, Rawlings also sharply evokes a time, a people and a place, much as she did in her nonfiction Cross Creek.
The Deep Blue Good-by, John D. MacDonald: His later novels -- The Empty Copper Sea and The Green Ripper, say -- are better and less dated. But with this mystery involving the first in a (seemingly endless) series of young women in desperate need of a knight in shining armor, MacDonald kicked off a trend that influenced more Florida crime writers than crime did. ``Salvage consultant'' Travis McGee, who resides on the houseboat Busted Flush in Slip F-18 at Fort Lauderdale's Bahia Mar Marina, is a self-described beach bum, spiritual and smart and not above the occasional bout of violence. His stoic heroism paved the way for tough-guy private eyes such as Randy Wayne White's violence-prone Doc Ford and James W. Hall's resourceful Thorn.
The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession, Susan Orlean: Few of us knew flowers could be sexy until Orlean delved into the weird, wonderful world of the obsessed. Front and center of her riveting bestseller, set largely in southwest Florida's Fakahatchee Strand, is John Laroche, the colorful and felonious horticulture consultant who dreams of making a fortune by cloning the rare ghost orchid. Orlean's story is so compelling you almost can see yourself dodging alligators as you traipse through the swamp. Almost.
The Corpse Had a Familiar Face: Covering Miami, America's Hottest Beat, Edna Buchanan: In her first book, The Miami Herald's Pulitzer-Prize winning crime reporter shares true tales about a stunning variety of deplorable acts, reminding us that no matter how creative you are, you just can't make up this stuff. Buchanan went on to write the Britt Montero suspense series, and her celebrity inspired Calvin Trillin to write, ``In Miami, a few figures are regularly discussed by first name among people they have never actually met. One of them is Fidel. Another is Edna.''
Miami Blues, Charles Willeford: Detective Hoke Moseley can't even hang onto his teeth in Willeford's novel, but he's nonetheless dogged enough to track down a bad guy and his hooker girlfriend. Willeford, who died in 1988, highlighted the dirt and decadence of Miami long before they became fashionable, in an entertaining four-book series we only wish had gone on longer.
Tourist Season, Carl Hiaasen: At some point while reading this darkly comic suspense novel about a whacked-out newspaper columnist who kills off tourists -- ostensibly to return Florida to its pristine state -- every native thinks: ``Say, this is kind of a good idea. . . . '' Hiaasen went on to savage other important aspects of Florida life: bass fishing (Double Whammy); cosmetic surgery (Skin Tight); strip clubs (Strip Tease) and hurricanes (Stormy Weather, allegedly a novel, but one that reads like pure fact to anyone who lived here in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew).
Rum Punch, Elmore Leonard: Leonard unleashed his trademark ruffians -- who fit in quite well here -- in this story about a stewardess, a bail bondsman, and a dangerous gun runner in Palm Beach County. Quentin Tarantino liked it so much he relocated the story to Los Angeles and turned white Jackie Burke into Jackie Brown. Long live Pam Grier! Leonard also used our subtropical backdrop in such novels as La Brava (in which a former Secret Service agent becomes messily involved with a fading movie star); Maximum Bob (about a Palm Beach County judge) and Out of Sight (based on the prisoner escape at Glades Correctional). The film adaptation helped kick off J-Lo's stardom.
Miami, Joan Didion: "Miami seemed not a city at all but a tale, a romance of the tropics, a kind of waking dream in which any possibility could and would be accommodated,'' writes Didion, who goes on to describe Miami as a sort of Latin American capital in a subtropical, tip-of-the-U.S. paradise bathed in sunshine but awash in all sorts of shadowy deals. Aimed mostly at outsiders, Miami explores the history of the Cuban exiles and what Didion views as their betrayal by the U.S. government.
To Have and Have Not, Ernest Hemingway: It will never be mistaken for Papa's best work (we are fond of The Sun Also Rises, although impassioned arguments can and will be made for The Old Man and the Sea). But fishing boat captain Harry Morgan, desperate in the heart of the Great Depression, makes a fateful decision to smuggle contraband from Cuba to Florida. Confused? That's because you're thinking of the Bogart/Bacall film, which had almost nothing but its title in common with Hemingway's novel.
Continental Drift, Russell Banks: Through the eyes of an unlucky blue-collar worker from New Hampshire and an impoverished Haitian immigrant, Florida -- Miami in particular -- shines like a welcoming beacon. No cold winters or poverty or terror in this land of plenty, they think, and make their separate hazardous journeys. And then they learn the truth. The novel, perhaps Banks' best, comes to its shattering conclusion in Little Haiti.
The Paper Boy, Pete Dexter: Dexter (Paris Trout) delves into Southern-style journalism and thorny family ties with this novel about two brothers -- one a newspaper deliveryman in North Florida, the other a Miami reporter -- who join forces to investigate the death of a small-town sheriff.
Brother, I'm Dying, Edwidge Danticat: The immigrant's story is Florida's story, and Danticat reveals its ugly side. This sobering memoir about her father and her uncle, brothers separated for 30 years, winds through two places deeply connected to South Florida: New York and Haiti. Danticat lived in Haiti with her uncle, a minister, when her parents emigrated to the United States; later she joined them in New York. Worried about increasing violence at home, her uncle eventually fled to Miami, where he was promptly imprisoned by Homeland Security and, even as his niece tried to navigate a bureaucratic hell and free him, fell ill and died at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
In Cuba I Was A German Shepherd, Ana Menendez: All the stories in the debut collection evoke longing and discontent. But none is so powerfully melancholic as the title story, in which four men gather in Little Havana to play dominoes, tell jokes and dream of a homeland lost to them forever.
Ninety-two in the Shade, Thomas McGuane: This novel's opening lines echo a painfully relevant truth: ``Nobody knows, from sea to shining sea, why we are having all this trouble with our republic.'' Still don't know; never will. But like many a traveler in fiction, Thomas Skelton thinks he can flee trouble by returning home to Key West. Remember the old adage ``You can't go home again''? Skelton should have heeded it. He hopes to make a living as a fishing guide but instead meets his nemesis, the murderous skiff guide Nichol Dance.
Fiskadoro, Denis Johnson: In his second novel, National Book Award winner Johnson (Tree of Smoke) conjures a post-apocalyptic fever dream about nuclear war survivors in the Keys. Young Fiskadoro remembers no life before the war, but his elders try to reconcile past and future and separate true memories from false.
Just about anything by Harry Crews: We jest, of course; some of Crews' best work (Feast of Snakes, say) isn't even set in Florida. But plenty of the books by this master of the Southern Gothic novel have a connection to the Sunshine State. Where better to set such strange mayhem? The martial-arts obsessed cast of Karate is a Thing of the Spirit practices kicks and punches in an abandoned pool in Broward County. All We Need of Hell satirizes campus antics in Gainesville, and Body's bodybuilders head to Miami for a final showdown. The gritty memoir A Childhood: The Biography of a Place winds from backwoods Georgia to Jacksonville, also the setting of Crews' novel Car, in which a guy decides to eat a Ford Maverick on national TV. Having briefly owned a Maverick, I can tell you that eating one is certainly more pleasurable than driving one.

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090824-2
Port dream a pipe dream ?
Palm Beach Post Editorial
August 24, 2009
A reality check for those who believe that an inland port would produce jobs to save the Glades communities comes in the state's objections to a proposal by Florida Crystals.
The West Palm Beach-based, family-owned company wants Palm Beach County to alter its growth plan on Tuesday to allow the inland port - a warehousing and distribution hub - on 318 acres next to Florida Crystals' Okeelanta sugar mill near South Bay. But the state's growth management agency, the Department of Community Affairs, objects, in part because the need for an inland port has not been demonstrated.
Citing two state studies, the DCA dispels the talking points with its rebuttal: The inland port is unlikely to participate in the Asian import trade; export possibilities to the Caribbean appear limited; the inland port would do little to enhance the hemmed-in Port of Palm Beach; the inland port's success depends on offering low costs. The county, which submitted the proposal for state review this year, countered by citing the same reports to say that an inland port is justified and the best location is the Okeelanta property.
The Crystals site is among six, two of them in Palm Beach County, pitched to the Port of Palm Beach for designation as an inland port that would take, store and distribute cargo by truck or rail from the three South Florida ports. The Port of Palm Beach insists that its five elected commissioners will make the final selection.
But the politics of Gov. Crist's U.S. Sugar purchase may change that. Hendry County, which has two entries in the inland port sweepstakes, wants the inland port there, to offset job losses as Hendry-based U.S. Sugar sells its land. Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos held a meeting 11 days ago in Belle Glade that may have been the first step in wresting control from the Port of Palm Beach.
The state's studies say that the inland port must have the participation of Port Everglades in Broward County and the Port of Miami. But the Port of Miami is investigating an inland port at the Florida East Coast Railway yards in Hialeah, Miami Today reported last week.
The Florida Crystals site also faces legitimate opposition from environmental groups, which worry that it would block Everglades restoration options for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee. Florida Crystals counters that restoration must go around its site, which is dominated by sugar-processing facilities.
For Port of Palm Beach commissioners, the idea of an inland port taking jobs and an industrial tax base anywhere but Palm Beach County is anathema. But they will do themselves and the county no favor if they remain blind to political and market realities.

090823-



090823-
Water and snakes: Two looming but preventable mistakes
Chicago Tribune – Opinion: Jane Healy
August 23, 2009
Feet to the Fire
Florida has made a lot of mistakes over the years but two currently in the making are easily preventable.
Obvious mistake No. 1: Blindly rushing to suck water from our rivers.
Unfortunately this problem seems to be getting worse rather than better. The latest is a push by Orange County and six Central Florida cities — Casselberry, Deltona, Maitland, Oviedo, Sanford and Winter Springs — that is making even the St. Johns River Water Management District look good.
The district in April agreed to let Seminole County suck 5 million gallons a day from the St. Johns even though it may hurt the river and its wildlife. Rather than seeing the perils of this move, these other governments have agreed to spend $3.5 million to come up with a plan to draw a whopping 55 million gallons a day from the river. The governments want to do this to feed growth after 2013, when no more additional water will be able to be taken from the underground aquifers.
This new water grab is too much even for water management district director Kirby Green to fall for. He balked when the governments asked the district to contribute another $1.5 million for studies and design work. Green said he wanted more time to understand the potential for damage from river withdrawals.
But does Kirby Green really have any standing to complain here? It's his district, after all, that whetted these governments' appetites when it agreed to the Seminole County withdrawal. Now that arrangement is mired in costly legal fights with North Florida interests and environmental groups. Indeed, Seminole County is spending big dollars on this fight even though its budget woes have it talking about closing libraries and such.
Here's what doesn't make sense about all this: Why in the world are these governments salivating over the river water — which will be much more expensive for residents, by the way — rather than coming up with conservation measures?
The most obvious one being ignored is the use of moisture sensors for irrigation systems. At least half of all Central Florida water use is for lawns. But that number could easily be cut in half by using sensors, which cost no more than $150 even when installed by a professional. And that cost is easily made up in lower water and sewer bills, which continue to rise.
Missing as much as common sense here is leadership. Now that Orange County is the big dog in this fight, who's going to take the lead in stopping the water rush?
Is that silence we hear ?
Obvious mistake No. 2: Continuing to allow Burmese pythons in Florida
This is an issue that doesn't require any more study, though Florida wildlife officials say they probably won't ban the species this year. Does there really need to be any more proof that these snakes need to be banned after one suffocated a 2-year-old in her crib in Sumter County last month?
It's not as if Florida can't move quickly to ban a species. To protect its agriculture industry, Florida prohibits the importation of invasive plants at the first sign of trouble. And it should. Why allow things in Florida that can hurt what's already here. As a result, hundreds of plants aren't allowed in Florida.
And a state banning dangerous snakes isn't new either. In fact, Hawaii bans virtually all snakes because they aren't native to the state.
Simply requiring a permit for the pythons as Florida does now obviously doesn't work, despite weak arguments from the exotic pet industry. The owner of the python that killed the little girl didn't have one, and who knew? It's an unenforceable law.
Fortunately, state Sen. Lee Constantine and state Rep. Darren Soto aren't going to sit around and wait for the wildlife folks to act by themselves. They will push legislation to ban such reptiles.
Even this is late in coming since the python already has infiltrated the Everglades and is a big threat to wading birds, among other native species.
Let's protect at least something in Florida.
Contact Jane Healy at janehealy49@gmail.com. She'd like to hear about public officials who need their feet kept to the fire.

090822-



090822-
Dangerous green mamba snake still on the loose in Hollywood
Sun Sentinel - Alexia Campbell and Rafael A. Olmeda
August 22, 2009
Alex Hernandez knows what he's going to do if he spots the Eastern green mamba snake that bit a cable company worker in his Hollywood neighborhood.
"I'm gonna try to catch it; see if I get a reward or something," said Hernandez, 23.
That would not be smart, said Capt. Ernie Jillson, head of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's Venom Response Unit. "Leave it up to the professionals," said Jillson, who with other officials went door to door in the neighborhood surrounding the apartment building where the bite took place, warning residents that a poisonous snake was on the loose.
The bite victim, a 44-year-old Comcast worker whose name has not been released, is expected to recover and will likely leave Memorial Regional Hospital on Saturday, Jillson said. The venomous snake bite briefly paralyzed the right side of the worker's body. The antivenin reversed the bite's effects.
The snake attacked while the employee was installing underground cable outside an apartment building in the 2300 block of Taylor Street on Thursday. Officials searched the lush area behind the building and neighboring yards early Friday morning and late Friday afternoon, figuring the green and yellow snake would spend the hottest daytime hours hidden in a tree, Jillson said.
The odds of finding it are slim, he said, as are the chances of finding out exactly where it came from.
All people licensed to own or sell green mambas in the area have their snakes accounted for, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Jorge Pino said. That includes several licensed owners who live within a few miles of the attack. He did not know the exact number in the area.
Wildlife officials suspect the snake that bit the worker was an escaped pet that wasn't reported.
Allowing a venomous reptile to escape is a second-degree misdemeanor, Pino said. If a venomous reptile is missing, its owner is required by law to report it to wildlife officials, he said.
Unlike Burmese pythons, notorious for establishing a breeding population in the Everglades, there is no evidence of green mambas populating South Florida, said Henry Cabbage, another Fish and Wildlife spokesman.
The Eastern green mamba, also known as the "common mamba," is the least toxic of the mamba species, but its bite is still potentially lethal, said Jillson. The cable worker probably experienced a defensive bite, less venomous than if the reptile had been searching for food, Jillson said.
According to a Sun Sentinel analysis of data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, there have been 187 live common mambas imported into the United States for commercial purposes since 2004. All were shipped through Miami, and at least 126 were brought in by importers who had Florida addresses.
Of the Florida snakes, 37 were brought in by Strictly Reptiles in Hollywood, 30 went to Plantation, 30 to Miami, 24 to Port St. Lucie and five to Bushnell. At Strictly Reptiles, spokesman Mark Lucas said the incident was difficult to believe because venomous snake-bite victims are usually handlers or their families. "It's very rare for an innocent person to get bitten by an escaped snake," he said.
The company hasn't had green mambas in its inventory for several months, Lucas said.
Anyone who sees the snake should not approach it, but should call the Venom Response Unit at 786-331-4443 or 4444, Jillson said.
Staff writers David Fleshler and Dana Williams contributed to this report.
090821-1



090821-1
Gators can help clean Everglades
August 21, 2009
In the interest of protecting the Everglades from invading foreign species, we have to ask ourselves this question: Wouldn't the alligator be our first line of defense in this battle? With maybe over 100,000 pythons estimated to live in the area, we could use their help. Training gators to appreciate the taste of pythons might be more efficient than hunters looking for needles in haystacks.
John McPhail, Lighthouse Point
090821-2

090821-2
Tracking animal ethics - COLUMN
Palm Beach Post – Editorial, Jac Wilder VerSteeg, Deputy Editor
August 21, 2009
Quota permits no longer transferable
In Palm Beach County's Riverbend Park near Jupiter, I have seen a fawn, a doe, wild turkeys, fish, a coral snake, ducks, woodpeckers, an armadillo, raccoons, rabbits, squirrels, turtles, alligators, horses, spiders and every insect from a butterfly to a mosquito.
So which ones can I kill?
Of course, unless it's in self-defense (killer rabbits!) I can't kill any of them inside the park. Except the arachnids and insects. Oh, and the fish. People fish in the park.
So right away, as you see, there are different rules for different animals. I bring this up because Florida is a hotbed of discussions about animal rights. Is it OK to kill iguanas? Are they tasty? What about horses? Should they be sold for food ?  We also have the usual collection of creeps in trouble for more run-of-the-mill animal cruelty such as killing cats.
Last month Post staffer Andrew Marra reported on Florida's vague animal cruelty law that makes it a misdemeanor to "unnecessarily" torment, mutilate or kill "any animal" and a felony to intentionally inflict "cruel death" or "excessive" pain on "any animal." The statute, though, doesn't distinguish among animals and leaves open the question of when it is "unnecessary" to kill one.
Human beings, on the other hand, do make distinctions about which animals deserve special consideration and what activities inflict unnecessary pain. Unfortunately for those who like their ethics tidy, humans don't agree which actions toward which animals are "unnecessary."
Lots of people don't think that it ever could be "necessary" to shoot a doe like the one I saw in Riverbend Park. The law favors those who think it's OK, but hunting regulations have their own ethical ambiguities. For example, a hunter can shoot the doe while she's standing there but must hold his fire if she jumps into a pond and is swimming away.
And it's OK to shoot a fawn, but not the one I saw because it still had spots. The hunter can shoot turkeys, but not if he found them using dogs. Many such restrictions have more to do with sportsmanship than with cruelty.
You'd expect people to agree that intentional infliction of unnecessary pain is evidence of a dangerous and sick human being who needs more severe punishment. Even there, however, things aren't as clear as you'd like. If a bow hunter shoots a deer through the lungs and trails the animal until it bleeds to death, he is intentionally inflicting suffering on it. But some restrictions based on sportsmanship actually can increase animal suffering.
The bow hunter, for example, is in trouble if he uses an exploding arrow, which would end the animal's suffering more quickly. Neither is he allowed to use a "drug injecting" arrow. In fact, no hunter is allowed to anesthetize an animal in any way before shooting it. So much for reducing pain.
There's just as much disagreement about which animals it's most important to protect from pain. PETA says fish are as precious as kittens. Some people love the pythons the state hopes to hunt to extinction in the Everglades. One man's bunny wabbit is another man's stew.
Florida law is vague because the field of animal ethics is crowded with competing ideas and emotions with no objective way to sort them out. One of the most interesting approaches is offered by ethicist Peter Singer. He argues that animals should be accorded greater or fewer protections based on how much they, as sentient beings, can feel pain and/or enjoy life. In his view, the animal's perspective is more important than its utility to humans or its human-judged cuddliness.
Makes sense ?  Yes, but as his critics note, Mr. Singer also creates a slippery slope leading to the conclusion that it's more "ethical" to kill an extremely low-functioning infant than to put that doe's head on my wall.
Even if humans don't agree on how to treat animals, the fact that we keep looking for answers helps humans grow as ethical animals. So keep hunting. For answers, at least.

The caucus is also pushing for the creating of an "economic transition and support" plan to map out how the Glades region would recover from the state's purchase of thousands of acres of U.S. Sugar land. The sale, aimed at restoring the Everglades, would leave many in the Glades region without work.
"The economic impact is inarguable," said Mangonia Park Mayor William Albury, the group's president.
The push came four months after former County Commissioner Addie Greene was hired as the group's executive director.
Greene, who retired from her county commission seat earlier this year, founded the caucus in 2000. After stepping down, she promised to give the group a higher profile in county politics.
"This is the first time we have ever done a resolution to support anything," Greene said today.

090821-3



090821-3
EPA sets legal limits for water pollution in Florida
The Associated Press - Mitch Stacy
August 21, 2009
CLEARWATER, FLA. - Environmental groups on Friday lauded long-awaited action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set legal limits for farm and urban runoff that is polluting Florida's waterways.
A consent decree signed Wednesday settled a lawsuit filed last year by the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and others against the EPA seeking to get the federal agency to set numeric standards for nutrient runoff. Florida and most other states currently have only vague limits on waste and fertilizer pollution.
The groups say rain sends the runoff, which includes fertilizers and animal waste, into rivers and lakes, contaminating waterways and nourishing algae blooms that poison the ecosystems. The runoff can also contaminate drinking water supplies and sicken or kill people.
Earthjustice attorney Colin Adams said the agreement means "real protection for Florida's waters." The public interest law firm had filed the suit in federal court on behalf of the environmental groups.
"For the first time, EPA will begin the process to address massive fertilizer and human and animal waste pollution problems that increase dead zone areas along practically every U.S. coastline," Adams said at a news conference in Tampa.
He said numeric limits are still to be determined, but will also make it easier for the government to go after major polluters and help farmers regulate agricultural runoff.
The groups credited President Barack Obama's administration with quick action on the matter after years of what they called "foot-dragging" by the Bush administration.
The EPA acknowledged in a statement Friday that standards are necessary "to protect Florida waters from the impacts of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution."
The statement said the agency will work closely with scientists from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop "scientifically defensible" water quality standards.
Under the settlement, the EPA has until Jan. 14 to propose the new pollution limits for Florida's lakes, rivers and creeks, and until October 2010 to finalize the rules.
The Sierra Club's Cris Costello believes the agreement will move the EPA to set similar standards in other states.
"We believe this should and will be held up by the EPA as a model," she said.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement Friday that it has been working for years to establish its own guidelines for nutrient runoff that address "the complexity of Florida's ecosystems."
"To ensure that there is no duplication of work, we will continue to work with EPA in the same manner they have worked with us as they develop the criteria," the statement said.
The EPA acknowledged more than 10 years ago that Florida needed to promptly develop runoff standards to meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in 1972 "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters."
The agency noted then that "nutrient pollution is the leading cause of impairment in lakes and coastal waterways." At the time, the agency also said the nutrients in runoff had been linked to so-called "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico.
In a 2008 report, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection concluded that half of the state's rivers and more than half of its lakes had poor water quality.
"Floridians around the state will be breathing a sigh of relief with the EPA's new commitment to finally take action," said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. "The delays on the part of the state and federal governments have been unbelievable."

090821-4



090821-4
Environmental groups laud EPA setting limits for nutrient runoff polluting Florida waters
Associated Press Writer - MITCH STACY
August 21, 2009
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Environmental groups on Friday lauded long-awaited action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set legal limits for farm and urban runoff polluting Florida's waterways, limits that could serve as a model for other states.
A consent decree signed Wednesday settled a lawsuit filed last year by the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation and others against the EPA seeking to get the federal agency to set numeric standards for runoff such as fertilizers and animal waste.
The settlement marks the first time the EPA has forced numeric limits on so-called nutrient runoff on a state. A handful of other states, at the urging of the EPA, have already acted to set their own standards. The rest have only vague limits on waste and fertilizer pollution, but many of those are in the process of developing numeric limits.
Environmentalists say rain sends the runoff into rivers and lakes, nourishing algae blooms that poison the ecosystems.
The agreement means "real protection for Florida's waters," said Earthjustice attorney Colin Adams, speaking at a news conference in Tampa. The public interest law firm had filed the suit in federal court on behalf of the environmental groups.
"For the first time, EPA will begin the process to address massive fertilizer and human and animal waste pollution problems that increase dead zone areas along practically every U.S. coastline," Adams said.
He said numeric limits, which still have to be determined, will make it easier for the government to go after major polluters and help farmers regulate agricultural runoff.
The groups credited President Barack Obama's administration with quick action on the matter after years of what they called "foot-dragging" by the Bush administration.
The EPA acknowledged in a statement Friday that standards are necessary "to protect Florida waters from the impacts of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution."
The statement said the agency will work closely with scientists from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop "scientifically defensible" water quality standards.
Under the settlement, the EPA has until Jan. 14 to propose the new pollution limits for Florida's lakes, rivers and creeks, and until October 2010 to finalize the rules.
The Sierra Club's Cris Costello said the agreement was expected to move the EPA to set similar standards in other states.
"We believe this should and will be held up by the EPA as a model," she said.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement Friday that it has been working for years to establish its own guidelines for such runoff. In a 2008 report, the department concluded that half of the state's rivers and more than half of its lakes had poor water quality.
"To ensure that there is no duplication of work, we will continue to work with EPA in the same manner they have worked with us," the statement said.
The EPA acknowledged more than 10 years ago that Florida needed to promptly develop runoff standards to meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in 1972 "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters."
The agency noted then that "nutrient pollution is the leading cause of impairment in lakes and coastal waterways." The agency also said the nutrients in runoff had been linked to so-called "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico.

090820-1



090820-1
Black officials' group headed by former Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie Greene supports 'inland port' for the Glades
Palm Beach Post - JENNIFER SORENTRUE, Staff Writer
August 20, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH — A coalition of black elected officials is using its political muscle to push a controversial plan to build an "inland port" in the Glades.
For the first time in its nine-year history, the Palm Beach County Caucus of Black Elected Officials has formally taken a position on a countywide issue.

 

The 42-member group passed a resolution last month supporting plans that would put the rail-linked warehouse and distribution center in western Palm Beach County, despite objections from environmentalists who say it would interfere with Everglades restoration. Members plan to speak in favor of the project at meetings on the issue.
The caucus is also pushing for the creating of an "economic transition and support" plan to map out how the Glades region would recover from the state's purchase of thousands of acres of U.S. Sugar land. The sale, aimed at restoring the Everglades, would leave many in the Glades region without work.
"The economic impact is inarguable," said Mangonia Park Mayor William Albury, the group's president.
The push came four months after former County Commissioner Addie Greene was hired as the group's executive director.
Greene, who retired from her county commission seat earlier this year, founded the caucus in 2000. After stepping down, she promised to give the group a higher profile in county politics.
"This is the first time we have ever done a resolution to support anything," Greene said today.
More than a dozen caucus members gathered outside the county's downtown governmental center to show their support for the inland port project.
The caucus has not endorsed a specific location in the Glades region for the inland port, Albury said.
The Port of Palm Beach will ultimately decide where the project is built.
Sugar grower Florida Crystals Corp. has submitted plans to build the port on 318 acres it owns near Lake Okeechobee. It is the only Palm Beach County site near the lake that is under consideration by port commissioners.

090820-2



090820-2
Federal Study Shows Mercury in Fish Widespread
The New York Times - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
August 20, 2009
WASHINGTON (AP) -- No fish can escape mercury pollution. That's the take-home message from a federal study of mercury contamination released Wednesday that tested fish from nearly 300 streams across the country.
The toxic substance was found in every fish sampled, a finding that underscores how widespread mercury pollution has become.
But while all fish had traces of contamination, only about a quarter had mercury levels exceeding what the Environmental Protection Agency says is safe for people eating average amounts of fish.
The study by the U.S. Geological Survey is the most comprehensive look to date at mercury in the nation's streams. From 1998 to 2005, scientists collected and tested more than a thousand fish, including bass, trout and catfish, from 291 streams nationwide.
''This science sends a clear message that our country must continue to confront pollution, restore our nation's waterways, and protect the public from potential health dangers,'' Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
Mercury consumed by eating fish can damage the nervous system and cause learning disabilities in developing fetuses and young children. The main source of mercury to most of the streams tested, according to the researchers, is emissions from coal-fired power plants. The mercury released from smokestacks here and abroad rains down into waterways, where natural processes convert it into methylmercury -- a form that allows the toxin to wind its way up the food chain into fish.
Some of the highest levels in fish were detected in the remote blackwater streams along the coasts of the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, where bacteria in surrounding forests and wetlands help in the conversion. The second-highest concentration of mercury was detected in largemouth bass from the North Fork of the Edisto River near Fairview Crossroads, S.C.
''Unfortunately, it's the case that almost any fish you test will have mercury now,'' said Andrew Rypel, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Mississippi who has studied mercury contamination in fish throughout the Southeast. He said other research has shown mercury in fish from isolated areas of Alaska and Canada, and species that live in the deep ocean.
Mercury was also found in high concentrations in western streams that drain areas mined for mercury and gold. The most contaminated sample came from smallmouth bass collected from the Carson River at Dayton, Nev., an area tainted with mercury from gold mining. At 58 other streams, mostly in the West, the acidic conditions created by mining could also be contributing to the mercury levels, the researchers said.
''Some ecosystems are more sensitive than others,'' said Barbara Scudder, the lead USGS scientist on the study.
All but two states -- Alaska and Wyoming -- have issued fish-consumption advisories because of mercury contamination. Some of the streams studied already had warnings.
''This is showing that the problem is much more widespread,'' said Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, which has pushed for stronger advisories on consumption of mercury-laden fish and controls on the sources of mercury pollution. ''If you are living in an area that doesn't have a mercury advisory, you should use caution.''
Earlier this year, the Obama administration said it would begin crafting a new regulations to control mercury emissions from power plants after a federal appeals court threw out plans drafted by the Bush administration and favored by industry. The Bush rule would have allowed power plants to buy and sell pollution credits, instead of requiring each plant to install equipment to reduce mercury pollution.
The EPA also has also proposed a new regulation to clamp down on emissions of mercury from cement plants.

090820-3



090820-3
Fla. environmentalist Eric Draper leaves ag race
Associated Press - BRENT KALLESTAD Writer
August 20, 2009
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Prominent environmental lobbyist Eric Draper is leaving the race for agriculture commissioner.
Pointing to his long-standing commitment as the state policy director for Audubon of Florida, Draper said Monday he had chosen to stay in that job instead of running for the Democratic nomination.
"Keeping our state staff and volunteer leaders focused on protecting the environment is very important to me and is ultimately important for all Floridians who want strong advocates for our environment," Draper said. "We face serious challenges — from proposed coastal oil drilling to keeping Florida Forever and Everglades restoration going."
A conservationist who pushed for land preservation, clean energy and clean water, Draper called for more cooperation between farmers, urban interests and environmentalists on water sharing and stronger control of invasive species during his brief campaign.
Although well known in Capitol circles, Draper lacked the statewide name recognition often needed in Florida to attract enough cash to fuel a successful campaign.
He is the second announced candidate to withdraw from the contest. Former state Rep. Marty Bowen, a Haines City citrus grower, announced in April she was abandoning her bid to win the Republican nomination to focus on business issues.
U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, a former state legislator from Bartow, and state Sen. Carey Baker are the GOP candidates still in the race. Putnam has built an early advantage raising money over the Mount Dora gun shop owner.
Former Tallahassee mayor and state Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox and former state Rep. Rick Minton of Fort Pierce are seeking the Democratic nomination. Maddox is making his third bid for statewide office.
The current commissioner of the agency formerly named the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is Republican Charles Bronson, who is precluded by Florida's term limits law from seeking re-election a second time.
Bronson, the state's 10th ag commissioner since the department's creation in 1885, oversees an agency of 3,700 employees. They are responsible for a wide-ranging array of duties from inspecting gasoline pumps at service stations, controlling and eradicating pests as well as plant and animal disease, issuing concealed weapons licenses to qualified citizens and ensuring that the food supply is safe.
Florida voters will also be choosing a new governor, U.S. senator, attorney general and chief financial officer in the 2010 election cycle in addition to state legislators and local officials.

090820-4



090820-4
Gov. Crist, make the right pick for vacant Senate seat
The Orlando Sentinel - OPINION
August 20, 2009
http://www.bradenton.com/442/story/1650407.html
It’s ridiculous to suggest that Gov. Charlie Crist isn’t considering politics as he selects a successor to U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who’s quitting his post with almost a year-and-a-half left in his six-year term.
Yet according to TheHill.com, state Republican Party chairman and close Crist-ally Jim Greer recently offered up that very scenario for public consumption. Please. We’d sooner expect the governor to appear in public with a hair or two out of place than to believe he’s not contemplating former U.S. Attorney Bob Martinez, at least in part, as a way to shore up his support among the state’s Hispanic voters.
Or to think that he’s not weighing former state Sen. Dan Webster partly to win back conservative voters.
But it isn’t too much for Floridians to ask that Mr. Crist first and foremost select a senator who can capably represent their interests on a host of critical legislative matters sure to cross his or her desk.
Whomever Mr. Crist appoints simply won’t have the luxury of doing nothing till the governor, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek or someone else wins the seat outright in the November 2010 election. The successor to Mr. Martinez likely will vote on landmark health-care and energy legislation; help determine if oil rigs line our coastline and NASA goes to the moon or Mars; and influence whether Florida gets more federal funding for rail and road projects, the Everglades restoration and alternative-energy initiatives, and support it needs to better survive hurricanes and prevent terrorist attacks.
That’s no job for a bench-warmer. Florida’s next senator needs a clear understanding of the issues and of what Florida needs, and should possess a special ability to get things done on its behalf. Any considerations by Mr. Crist of the political boost his appointment might give him because of that person’s heritage or connections had better come second.
Florida’s a leader among states whose residents – including its children – lack health insurance. Our next senator could work to change that, or sit still.
Global warming puts Florida at greater risk than most other states because it would increase coastal erosion, crop losses and hurricane ferocity. Our next senator could help check it by working for legislation that caps dangerous emissions.
Florida’s next senator will consider, with Sen. Bill Nelson and others, proposals to expand drilling off the state’s Gulf coast. Only three years ago, Congress agreed to open another 8.3 million acres to drilling. But several politicians including Mr. Crist now talk about how more drilling might help solve the nation’s energy problems. Experts at the U.S. Department of Energy say it wouldn’t. But it could endanger the state’s beaches and economy.
Mr. Nelson also needs help fighting for NASA’s future. Its manned space-flight program, thousands of jobs along the Space Coast – even its ability to honor a federal mandate tracking asteroids that could hit the Earth – all are in jeopardy.
So are the state’s chances for hosting expanded rail projects. U.S. Rep. John Mica remains confident he can secure more funding for SunRail. But Florida could be in a far stronger position to get funding for high-speed rail if it could count on more active support for the project in the Senate.
It also could fare better after hurricanes if Florida’s next senator were to help get his or her chamber to follow the House’s example by passing a bill that would lessen Florida’s burden after disasters. The bill spreads risk among states susceptible to catastrophic losses.
Mr. Martinez’s successor even could get Washington to shake loose more money to help Florida fight terrorism. A couple of years ago, Orlando got nothing.
There’s so much Florida’s next senator can do, if only Mr. Crist picks the right person for the job.

090820-5



090820-5
New grass plagues Southwest Florida waterways
NewsPress - kevin lollar • klollar@news-press.com
August 20, 2009
Will South Florida's newest non-native weed become the curse of the Caloosahatchee?
Luziola subintegra, an aggressive aquatic grass from Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean, was discovered in Lake Okeechobee in 2007 and showed up in the Caloosahatchee River in early August.
"I think this is not going to be a good one," said Rae Ann Wessel, natural resources policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. "We're going to need to look very closely at it. It's important to try to keep it from gaining a hold in the river."
In early December 2007, Mike Bodle of the South Florida Water Management District's Division of Aquatic Plants was the first to document Luziola in the United States, when he found something he couldn't identify along the northwestern shore of Lake Okeechobee.
"I'd never seen anything like it," Bodle said. "It was a monster. The first population I saw of it was a 100-acre blob: It was covering over water hyacinth, our No. 1 worst aquatic weed. That blew my mind."
Bodle sent a specimen to the University of South Florida, where it was officially identified as Luziola subintegra.
By the end of December 2007, Luziola had created a 5-acre mat east of Harney Pond Canal and a 198-acre mat west of the canal.
"We started trying to treat for it, but the first mixture wasn't effective," Bodle said. "We finally got an effective control, but in the meantime, it had spread through a large part of Fisheating Bay, and we ended up treating 2,000 acres."
Earlier this month, Bodle spotted Luziola in the Caloosahatchee between Lake Hicpochee and Lake Okeechobee during an aerial survey.
Apparently, Luziola seeds in Okeechobee's rim canal found their way into the river.
"It was really quite close to Okeechobee, and it's been treated," Bodle said. "There was quite a lot scattered in the rim canal. I tend to patrol the main body of the lake, and I hadn't been to the rim in months. But it got in there and germinated. It's a very prolific, fast-growing plant."

090820-6



090820-6
Purchase of U.S. Sugar irresponsible
TC Palm.com - Opinion: Letter by Michael Collins
 August 19, 2009
http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2009/aug/19/purchase-of-us-sugar-irresponsible/
My colleague, Eric Buermann, recently pointed out in a letter to your newspaper that many environmentalists have called the purchase of U.S. Sugar’s land “fresh hope” for the Everglades.
I find it extremely sad that hope is all we have after all the years of hard work to produce actual benefits to the Everglades and estuaries. This past week the South Florida Water Management District requested court approval for massive public debt to fill a bottomless environmental “hope” chest with no reasonable expectation of ever realizing any meaningful public benefit from it.
It is likely, as the state attorney has opined, that the $2.2 billion requested cannot be authorized under state law. That means the district will not have the money for existing authorized projects. Those of us who oppose the structure of this deal do not oppose Everglades restoration.
Quite the opposite is true. There is no denying the urgent need for storage and treatment. There also is no denying the district’s admission in court that much of this land will be unavailable for 20 years and that other projects already authorized, funded and designed on land we already own will not go forward as a consequence of this purchase.
This point is critical and often missed in the debate. Twenty years is a long time.
What’s more. it is entirely likely that the A-1 Reservoir, already authorized, funded, under construction and now out of court, could be finished in three years. It also is likely it would hold more water than any project built on the U.S. Sugar land.
Proponents of the deal constantly refer to their “vision.” Visions are cheap, projects are expensive, and delaying restoration for obscure, undefined and illusive visions is irresponsible.
Michael Collins, Islamorada
Collins is a member of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board.

090820-7



090820-7
Snail Kites & Pacific Garbage Patch
Michigan Environmental Issues - Lester Graham, Environment Report
August 20, 2009
Saving the snail kite. Rebecca Williams visited the Florida Everglades to find out what scientists are doing to try to keep snail kites from dying out... and why the scientists need to watch their backs when they work. And…. the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Lester talks with a team of researchers out on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They're studying a swirling vortex of trash that has accumulated out in the water.
And... the supply that never stops, even when demand drops. The paper and cardboard we recycle are bought by companies that use them in packaging. Amy Standen looks at how the price for these recyclables crashed with the economy.

090820-8



090820-8
Which is it ?  Pollute or clean Everglades?
A Times Editorial - DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD
August 20, 2009
While billions are spent to restore the Florida Everglades, pollutants are still allowed to be pumped in.
Taxpayers in Florida and across the nation are spending billions of dollars to restore the Everglades. At the same time, the state and federal governments are spending additional time and money to legalize pollution there. This is crazy public policy and the Obama administration needs to put an end to it.
The latest damage came in June from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A three-judge panel reversed a Miami district court ruling in 2006 that found South Florida water managers had violated the Clean Water Act by failing to obtain the federal permits to pump polluted water into Lake Okeechobee.
For decades, the South Florida Water Management District has pumped water from canals along sugar-farming areas near the shoreline into Lake Okeechobee, both to prevent flooding and to boost levels in a lake that feeds South Florida’s drinking water supply. Environmentalists sued the district in 2002. They allege the pumping amounts to the “discharge of a pollutant” that under the Clean Water Act requires a federal permit.
The appeals court decided in the district’s favor, but the ruling itself is a damning indictment of a practice that harms both the lake and the larger Everglades cleanup plan. Writing for the court, Circuit Judge Ed Carnes noted that “nearly all water flow in South Florida is controlled by a complex system of gates, dikes, canals and pump stations.” That is important to establish for the record. Introducing polluted water into the lake impacts the entire basin. The court also noted that the canals collect rainwater runoff not only from farms but from the surrounding industrial and residential areas. The runoff contains what Carnes called “a loathsome concoction of chemical contaminants” that includes nitrogen, phosphorous, un-ionized ammonia and various solids.
The appeals court also found the pertinent point: The polluted water from the lower levels of the canals would not flow upstream into the lake “if the (district’s) pumps did not move it there.”
The court ruled in the district’s favor on a narrow issue: Whether the Clean Water Act was ambiguous enough to allow the district to back-pump without a permit. And the court’s hands were tied by the Bush administration, which in its waning months, as the case was under appeal, changed the rules to clarify that the practice did not require a permit. There is the context to the court victory: The very district that is spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to restore the Everglades can continue contaminating the watershed thanks to the Bush administration’s parting break to environmental polluters.
This ruinous practice helps nobody. It certainly makes no environmental or economic sense. At full bore, the pumps can move 400,000 gallons of dirty water per minute into a 9-foot-deep lake where excessive nutrients from agriculture and other development have already harmed water quality, aquatic plants and fish and wildlife. (The district says the pumps operate only during heavy rains and at nowhere near capacity.)
The Obama administration should change the Bush-era EPA rule and require federal permits to pump. The district should work with environmentalists to resolve the lawsuit. Both sides can craft a reasonable solution for reducing contaminants in the canals and for filtering what flows into the watershed. The state’s purchase of U.S. Sugar lands for Everglades restoration could absorb some of the loads now being pumped into the lake. The district is confident that it can curb pumping further. That needs to be the goal.

090819-1



090819-1
Make the right pick for vacant Senate seat - OPINION
Orlando Sentinel
August 19, 2009
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/orl-edped-martinez-successor-081909081909aug19,0,2185588.story
It's ridiculous to suggest that Gov. Charlie Crist isn't considering politics as he selects a successor to U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, who's quitting his post with almost a year-and-a-half left in his six-year term.
Yet according to TheHill.com, state Republican Party chairman and close Crist-ally Jim Greer recently offered up that very scenario for public consumption. Please. We'd sooner expect the governor to appear in public with a hair or two out of place than to believe he's not contemplating former U.S. Attorney Bob Martinez, at least in part, as a way to shore up his support among the state's Hispanic voters.
Or to think that he's not weighing former state Sen. Dan Webster partly to win back conservative voters.
But it isn't too much for Floridians to ask that Mr. Crist first and foremost select a senator who can capably represent their interests on a host of critical legislative matters sure to cross his or her desk.
Whomever Mr. Crist appoints simply won't have the luxury of doing nothing till the governor, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek or someone else wins the seat outright in the November 2010 election. The successor to Mr. Martinez likely will vote on landmark health-care and energy legislation; help determine if oil rigs line our coastline and NASA goes to the moon or Mars; and influence whether Florida gets more federal funding for rail and road projects, the Everglades restoration and alternative-energy initiatives, and support it needs to better survive hurricanes and prevent terrorist attacks.
That's no job for a bench-warmer. Florida's next senator needs a clear understanding of the issues and of what Florida needs, and should possess a special ability to get things done on its behalf. Any considerations by Mr. Crist of the political boost his appointment might give him because of that person's heritage or connections had better come second.
Florida's a leader among states whose residents — including its children — lack health insurance. Our next senator could work to change that, or sit still.
Global warming puts Florida at greater risk than most other states because it would increase coastal erosion, crop losses and hurricane ferocity. Our next senator could help check it by working for legislation that caps dangerous emissions.
Florida's next senator will consider, with Sen. Bill Nelson and others, proposals to expand drilling off the state's Gulf coast. Only three years ago, Congress agreed to open another 8.3 million acres to drilling. But several politicians including Mr. Crist now talk about how more drilling might help solve the nation's energy problems. Experts at the U.S. Department of Energy say it wouldn't. But it could endanger the state's beaches and economy.
Mr. Nelson also needs help fighting for NASA's future. Its manned space-flight program, thousands of jobs along the Space Coast — even its ability to honor a federal mandate tracking asteroids that could hit the Earth — all are in jeopardy.
So are the state's chances for hosting expanded rail projects. U.S. Rep. John Mica remains confident he can secure more funding for SunRail. But Florida could be in a far stronger position to get funding for high-speed rail if it could count on more active support for the project in the Senate.
It also could fare better after hurricanes if Florida's next senator were to help get his or her chamber to follow the House's example by passing a bill that would lessen Florida's burden after disasters. The bill spreads risk among states susceptible to catastrophic losses.
Mr. Martinez's successor even could get Washington to shake loose more money to help Florida fight terrorism. A couple of years ago, Orlando got nothing.
There's so much Florida's next senator can do, if only Mr. Crist picks the right person for the job.

090819-2



090819-2
Miami-Dade to hold public meetings over FP&L plans:
County managers have scheduled two chances for people to learn about a controversial plan to add new power lines in Miami-Dade
The Miami Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX
Aug 19, 2009
Miami-Dade County managers announced Wednesday they will host two public meetings to give people a chance to learn more about Florida Power & Light Co.'s plan to install four high-voltage transmission lines within the county by 2012.
The overhead power lines -- three in western Miami-Dade and one in eastern Miami-Dade -- are part of FPL's plan to add two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point by 2020. If approved, the lines would enable the utility to distribute power and meet the growing energy demands of its customers.
By August 2010, Gov. Charlie Crist and his cabinet, in their role as the Siting Board, will decide where the power lines will go. The board has the final word on the placement of transmission lines.
FPL already has hosted nine "open houses" for consumers to learn about the proposed power lines, as well as several public meetings.
The upcoming meetings -- scheduled for Aug. 31 and Sept. 2 -- will give more people the opportunity to ask questions about the project. Representatives from FPL and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which is reviewing the application, will attend.
Local governments and other groups can learn more about the certification process and how to offer formal comments at certification hearings next March.
Municipalities including Pinecrest, South Miami and Cutler Bay have said they would prefer to have the power lines buried, though it would be more expensive. In eastern Miami-Dade, the lines are planned along 18 miles of U.S. 1 from Palmetto Bay to downtown Miami
Opponents say the transmission lines are ugly. They fear electromagnetic fields generated by the lines could cause health problems. Another worry: the power lines would hinder future redevelopment along the congested U.S. 1 corridor, opponents say.
Several politicians have demanded to know why the utility chose South Dixie Highway for the lines when alternatives, such as expressways, had been suggested.
Meanwhile, environmentalists oppose FPL's plan to place three high voltage power lines on FPL land inside Everglades National Park. They worry that poles, roads and other structures could disrupt a huge restoration effort -- bridging Tamiami Trail to allow more water to flow down the Northeast Shark River Slough, the park's historic and long parched headwaters.
FPL and the National Park Service are considering a land swap that would shift the power line corridor east of the park's existing boundaries.
The first meeting will be held Monday, Aug. 31 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Homestead City Hall Council Chambers, 790 N. Homestead Blvd., Homestead.
The second meeting will be held Wednesday, Sept. 2 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the University of Miami Bank United Center in Hurricane 100 Room, 1245 Dauer Dr., Coral Gables.
For more information, call Miami-Dade County's Department of Planning and Zoning at 305-375-2835. Or visit the South Florida Regional Planning Council website at http://www.sfrpc.com/TurkeyPointExpansion.htm.

090819-3



090819-3
My Word: We are protecting water resources - OPINION
Orlando Sentinel - Jerry Montgomery
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/opinion/orl-edpmyword-water-restrictions-08081909aug19,0,789963.story
A recent Orlando Sentinel editorial regarding water restrictions by the South Florida Water Management District narrowly focused only on the number of days that residents water their lawns. The editorial missed the key point that limits on outdoor irrigation are only one part of using water efficiently and protecting water resources.
Safeguarding the water supply for more than 7.5 million residents from Orlando to the Florida Keys requires a multifaceted strategy. The South Florida Water Management District has achieved this by adopting a comprehensive water-conservation program, which is designed to reduce water use while building a lasting water-conservation ethic throughout the region.
Many significant district efforts, not mentioned by the Sentinel, support this goal.
In 2007, the district adopted the landmark Regional Water Availability Rule. This prevents any new water withdrawals from having a harmful impact on the Everglades and the Loxahatchee River. The rule requires cities and developers needing additional water to seek alternative sources that are not dependent on the Everglades. The rule is now a principal requirement in the district's consumptive-use permitting program.
Education is also a key component of any program to reduce water use. The district held 28 workshops in 2008 with 556 teachers, reaching nearly 13,000 students as part of "The Great Water Odyssey" educational program. In addition, the district regularly hosts water-conservation workshops for homeowners associations and community groups. A district Web site, savewaterfl.com, provides a plethora of water-saving resources.
The district is also partnering with the St. Johns River Water Management District in the Florida Water Star program, which encourages residents to install water-efficient appliances, plumbing fixtures, irrigation systems and landscapes.
In our state's Water Resources Act, the Florida Legislature this year agreed that "smart" irrigation systems using soil-moisture sensors can save more water than conventional time-controlled irrigation systems. To deliver water-saving benefits, these systems do not need to be subject to specific day-of-the-week watering restrictions.
The district is committed to building consensus among stakeholders for a year-round landscape-irrigation rule that achieves meaningful water-use efficiency and savings. Such a rule could account for the varying climate, landscapes and hydrology of diverse watersheds within the 16-county district.
The Orlando Sentinel editorial does point out that irrigation restrictions allowing twice-weekly watering remain in place throughout most of South Florida. Yet it is the complement of this and our other longer-term measures that will truly protect water resources into the future.
Jerry Montgomery is vice chair of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board.
Copyright © 2009, Orlando Sentinel

090818-1



090818-1
Florida has a tough time balancing water supply, flood control demands
South Florida Sun-Sentinel - Bob Weisman
August 16, 2009
Trying to balance drinking supply, flood control, and getting soaked
"Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."
Samuel Coleridge was referring to the ocean in his 1906 rhyme, but you could say the same thing about South Florida's water situation today. Drought, Water restrictions, media and governmental hype that "we are running out of water"— this is what you experience living here.
But what's the truth? How can anyone who has suffered through the downpours this summer say we don't have enough water?
It's a tricky question.The problem is, we don't save the excess water that falls almost every summer, and there is too much demand for the readily available quality water during our annual dry season and periodic droughts.
The result is an almost paradoxical quandary. South Florida is one of the most water-rich areas in the world. Most years, there is plenty of rain, and the main problem is draining the water to the ocean quickly enough to prevent flooding. But that abundance battles against an infrastructure that is still ill-equipped to capture and retain adequate amounts of rain to sustain drinking supplies.
There lies the answer to our conundrum. We need more reservoir space.
Lake Okeechobee is really one of South Florida's few reservoirs, but it can't hold as much water as it could because the dike around it is weak and because high water levels are not good for water quality. Droughts only exacerbate the problem. For the past few years, we have had less than normal rainfall and the lake has been at historically low levels. Because Florida is flat, it is difficult to build useful reservoirs, and with our high temperatures, large-area but shallow reservoirs like Lake Okeechobee lose much of their water through evaporation.
Our other major water source is in the ground. When it rains, the surface aquifer rapidly recharges. When it doesn't rain, you slowly run out of water. The problem is that there is a limit to how much water the ground can hold. When you reach that limit, the water runs out to the ocean and is wasted.
To understand the predicament we're in, and how to resolve it, it is important to understand where our water goes. Besides loss to the ocean, public and agricultural use is significant. There is a relatively new "use," however, and it is has been given priority over the others: water for environmental enhancement.
Historic Florida water policy ignored the environment. More recent policy called for equal treatment of agriculture, the public and the environment. Water policy is now centered upon improving water quality and quantity for enhancing natural areas, most notably "restoring the Everglades."
An example: Water Conservation Area #1 (a wetland reservoir better known as the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge) sits west of State Road 7, from Wellington to West Boca. New rules now dictate that several feet of water (billions of gallons) that accumulates there during the rainy season, historically used to supplement drinking water and agricultural needs in southern Palm Beach County during the dry season, must now be held within the conservation area to minimize the refuge's dry season effects.
The South Florida public hasn't heard much about these rules and decisions because they are "good for the environment" and don't attract much attention. While local government utilities have sometimes challenged or at least questioned them on the public's behalf, such positions are often viewed as politically incorrect.
But these rules and policies deserve vigorous debate when appropriate. There may be huge resulting costs and unclear, unproven or only minor benefits. The result of all this is that it is either going to cost the public more for water, or conservation will be mandated because there is going to be less available for public use. And this is true even without new growth in population, but it will surely be worse with new development, which is sure to come.
What are the alternatives to deal with this new reality ?  Besides reducing water usage, there are two other alternatives: treating recycled or poorer quality water from deeper in the ground, or finding a way to store rain water before it runs off into the ocean — both at greater expense.
Conservation sounds good, but typical household water use isn't very high here, except for one area: irrigation of lawns. Year-round two-day-per-week watering is the current regulatory mantra, even when there is no drought.
Utilities object to that limit during normal rainfall periods because it reduces usage and revenues and the "saved" water just runs off into the ocean. The public also gets hit by paying more for less water to make up for the shortfall in revenues.
We need to accept and live with reduced watering, but local government should not be asked to enforce these regulations when there is no public benefit other than getting people used to the conduct. There is a way to create a public benefit. How ?  By saving rainy-season water for dry periods.
Construction of storage, difficult as it is, has been a part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan for years, but little has happened. One of the primary ideas — storing good water deep in the ground and pumping it out when needed — has run into its own environmental questions and is expensive. A large, costly pit west of Wellington that can store huge water volumes sits unused. The South Florida Water Management District needs to prioritize storage as a current need, not something for far in the future.
The other alternative — treating poorer quality water, whether from deep in the ground or from recycling wastewater — is very viable and is being practiced by our local utilities right now, but is more expensive. If all of our water came from these sources, bills to users would be much higher.
And there is an environmental negative: Water produced is more costly because it takes much more energy to get the good quality mandated for public usage. Same is true for handling water in storage. So we will be buffeted by two opposing environmental forces — increasing our carbon footprint to save water for the environment.
So clearly, there are no easy, or cheap, solutions.
The bottom line: Government at all levels needs to cooperate to come up with common sense, well-balanced water resource plans that make sense over the long term, minimize public cost, deliver a reasonable level of service, and accomplish worthwhile environmental goals. We are not there now.
What will it take? One step could be the South Florida Water Management District designating an advocate for enhancing public water resources — to be there in the trenches arguing for the public side, but also providing realistic feedback to and coordinating with the water utilities as to what can be accomplished. Keeping these issues and funding needs in front of the district board and management, and the utilities, is necessary if sound resource-enhancing projects and resource-limiting regulations are the future.
Bob Weisman is the county administrator and the former water utilities director for Palm Beach County.
090818-2



090818-2
Draper Pulls Plug on Agriculture Commissioner Campaign
The Jacksonville Observer
 August 18, 2009
Saying it was too difficult to divide his attention between an underdog campaign for Agriculture Commissioner and his day job at one of the state’s most influential environmental groups, Democrat Eric Draper said Monday he was dropping out of the race.
Draper, deputy director of Audubon Florida, said the same values that led him to work for the outspoken conservation group for 14 years led him to the campaign he was now ending.
 “When launching my campaign, I planned to divide my time between my work with Audubon of Florida and the work of campaigning - raising money, traveling and connecting with supporters,” Draper said in an E-mail to supporters. “Now, after nearly three months I’ve concluded that a choice must be made between the job of running a statewide race and the equally challenging job of leading Audubon’s policy work on Everglades restoration and land and water conservation.”
Draper was never a likely candidate for a job usually filled by farmers. The current commissioner, Charlie Bronson, is a central Florida cattle rancher, as are candidates U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, and former state Rep. Rick Minton, D-Fort Pierce. Another candidate in the race, state Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis, is a gun shop owner who frequently touts his rural roots.
With Draper now leaving the race, the only capital-based candidate is former Tallahassee Mayor Scott Maddox, a Democrat. Maddox notes he grew up on a farm in Homestead before moving north.
Draper said he was proud of the brief campaign he ran and confident he had influenced the agenda that will now have to be dealt with by the remaining candidates.
 “The past three months have been both exciting and encouraging,” Draper wrote to his supporters. “I am confident that constituencies for clean water, safe food, green energy and saving farmland will help to redefine the role of Commissioner of Agriculture.”
But Draper said that with a push in the state House to drill for oil off Florida’s Gulf Coast and the Everglades restoration project ongoing, Audubon Florida needed his focus more than the race for Agriculture Commissioner. Unmentioned in his E-mail was the proposed renewable energy standard for power companies, which also was supported by Draper and other environmentalists, that stalled in the Legislature this year.
 “We face serious challenges…..and all non-profit organizations are facing unprecedented financial times,” Draper’s E-mail said. “I am especially grateful to the many people who gave money, time and advice and rallied to help me in this effort. I had thought these manageable challenges but now find they require my full efforts. It is my hope that you and others who supported my campaign will realize that the same values that led me to run - my deep commitment to protecting Florida’s land and water - now lead me to recommit to conservation.”
The tough financial times and quixotic-background for the Ag Commissioner position likely played a role in Draper’s fundraising of $36,000. By comparison, U.S. Rep. Putnam led the field with about $750,000 in the first half of 2009.
Draper tried to put a positive face on the fundraising disparity when the numbers were released last month, but the gap was one of the reasons given by former state Democratic Party chairman Maddox when he entered the race mid-July.
Maddox praised Draper Monday, saying he has “done great things for Florida through the years advancing concern for the environment and will continue to do great things.” Maddox added that he did not think Draper’s campaign sputtered because it was not born on a farm.
 “This position does an awful lot,” Maddox said in a telephone interview. “You have the agricultural end, but there is also the consumer protection side, which is vitally important, and you have the fact that it’s a Cabinet seat, so you vote on everything from land acquisitions to the location of nuclear plants.”
But Maddox did concede that Draper being out of the race could make his path to the position easier. “It certainly helps people who have known both of us,” Maddox said. “A lot of them are no longer conflicted.”
However, most observers think the race could be an uphill battle for Maddox or any of the other candidates as long as the field includes the well-financed Putnam, who has groomed himself for an Agriculture Commissioner run for years.

090818-3



090818-3
End sugar's sweet deal
OrlandoSentinel.com
August 18, 2009
A food fight has flared up again between U.S. sugar growers and food manufacturers. The manufacturers have had their fill of restrictions on lower-priced sugar imports. And it's hard to blame them.
The Sweetener Users Association — which includes companies such as Kraft Foods, General Mills and ConAgra Foods — recently wrote the U.S. Agriculture Department to ask it to raise limits on sugar imports. The association warned that the nation might otherwise run short of sugar, which would jack up food prices and put jobs at their companies at risk.
Nonsense, say U.S. growers. There's plenty of sugar to go around.
Each side has trotted out its own analysts to back up its position. But some facts aren't in question.
The federal government has been propping up U.S. sugar prices for decades, mainly through import limits. The government sets a quota and slaps a hefty tariff on imports that exceed it, though imports from Mexico are no longer included. Most years, this policy has forced U.S. food makers to pay for U.S. sugar at about double the world price. And that higher cost has been passed through to consumers.
The Bush administration, which tried in vain to scale back sugar's sweet deal, estimated that U.S. consumers paid $1.5 billion more for food in 2004 because of the program. The Commerce Department under Mr. Bush reported that the program had cost more jobs than it had saved by spurring U.S. food makers to move abroad for cheaper sugar.
The price of U.S. refined sugar is now near historic highs. This week the Agriculture Department forecast that U.S. sugar supplies would drop over the next year by 43 percent, which would put further upward pressure on prices.
The sugar growers counter that the world price also has shot up lately. Once transportation costs are added, foreign sugar won't be a bargain for U.S. buyers, they say. Even if it is, they add, there's no guarantee that food makers will pass the savings on to consumers.
These self-serving arguments ignore the fundamental problem with U.S. sugar policy: It mocks the American economic principles of free markets and free trade. It is pure protectionism.
Big Sugar has helped to sustain this policy with campaign contributions. Consider it protection money.
"Sugar growers are the most generous donors in the crop-production industry," according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions. Growers have given more than $31 million since 1990 to federal candidates and political parties. Barack Obama, who voted for the 2008 bill that renewed the sugar policy, took in $30,300 from the industry for his presidential campaign. John McCain, who voted against it, received just $5,300.
Big Sugar also has plowed millions more into lobbying — at least $7 million last year alone.
And the industry has had enough cash left over to pump additional millions into Florida campaigns. Recipients have included secretive "electioneering communication organizations," which often are the source of stealth political attacks.
We're grateful that the sugar industry provides jobs and pays taxes in Florida — among the points Big Sugar makes when anyone questions its sweetheart treatment. But other industries do the same without government protection. And unlike Big Sugar, they didn't do decades worth of environmental damage to the Everglades that will require billions in taxpayer dollars for restoration.
The Obama administration shouldn't just heed the request for higher import limits; it should propose a plan to phase them out completely. That'd be one good way for the president to answer critics who have questioned his commitment to free markets.
Copyright © 2009, Orlando Sentinel

090817-1



090817-1
Back on Everglades track
Palm Beach Post Editorial
August 17, 2009
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/opinion/content/opinion/epaper/2009/08/17/a10a_everglades_leadedit_0818.html
When it comes to restoring the Everglades, an agreement on science may be only as good as an agreement on finances.
For years, Florida and the federal government had agreed on the science. They agreed to split the cost of restoring the Everglades, now estimated to be a $10.9 billion project. But they had not agreed on how to account for who pays what. Last month, the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District was shocked to learn that a pending agreement had been dynamited by "another set of eyes," required by bureaucrats in Washington.
Fortunately, head-to-head meetings over two days resolved issues that could have sunk eight years of preparation. Last week, the district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that they officially have worked out their differences.
The cooperation is especially timely, because for the first time in years Congress has agreed to uphold its end of the financial bargain and send money toward the Everglades. The paper differences could have delayed $41 million toward the $438 million Picayune Strand project in Collier County.
This month marks another milestone in state-federal relations: Lake Okeechobee is getting better. The corps manages the lake level, with input from the district. In recent years, it has been hard to get the level right. Too much water from the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005 led to higher lake levels, damaging fishing and stressing the Herbert Hoover Dike. That resulted in a $980 million plan to strengthen the dike. Too little water during the drought of 2007-08 resulted in a record-low level, and a lake bottom so parched that arsonists were able to torch it.
Entering the peak of this year's hurricane season, the lake levels appear to be just right. One mark of improvement, as The Post's Paul Quinlan reported Sunday, is the healthier size of the winning catch in a recent bass fishing tournament. What's good for the lake could be good for the economy of the lake communities, where unemployment is as high as 42 percent in South Bay. Fishing means tourism, and tourism means jobs.
All this good, of course, can be undone by one wet hurricane. To relieve pressure on the dike if the levels rise, water managers would have to dump polluted lake water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, harming delicate estuaries.
That's where the district's proposed $536 million purchase of U.S. Sugar land comes in. Buy that land and more water can go south, giving lake managers new options. The cooperation levels are good between federal and state water managers, but they can get better. How they incorporate the U.S. Sugar deal into existing agreements is the next test.

090817-2



090817-2
Despite beauty, Florida Bay is 'on last dying breath'
The Associated Press - BRIAN SKOLOFF
August 17, 2009
ISLAMORADA - Boat captain Tad Burke looks out over Florida Bay and sees an ecosystem that's dying as politicians, landowners and environmentalists bicker.
He's been plying these waters for nearly 25 years, and has seen the declines in shrimp and lobster that use the bay as a nursery, and less of the coveted species such as bonefish that draw recreational sportsmen from around the world.
"Bonefish used to be very prevalent, and now we don't see a 10th of the amount that we used to find in the bay, and even around the Keys because the habitat no longer supports the population," says Burke, head of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association.
Experts fear a collapse of the entire ecosystem, threatening not only some of the nation's most popular tourism destinations - Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys - but a commercial and recreational fishery worth millions of dollars.
Florida Bay is a sprawling estuary at the state's southern tip, covering nearly three times the area of New York City.
The headwaters of the Everglades - starting some 300 miles north of Florida Bay near Orlando - used to end up here after flowing south in a shallow sheet, filtering through miles of muck, marsh and saw grass.
Historically, the bay thrived on that perfect mix of freshwater from the Everglades and saltwater from the adjacent Gulf of Mexico. It was a virtual Garden of Eden, home to a bounty of wading birds, fish, seagrasses and sponges.
But to the north of the bay, man's push to develop South Florida has left the land dissected by roads, dikes and flood-control canals that make way for homes and farms, choking off the freshwater flow and slowly killing the bay.
The ill effects extend even across the Florida Keys to the shallow coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean. Popular commercial fish such as grouper and snapper begin their lives in the bay before migrating into the ocean to the reefs.
"If Florida Bay heads south and there's a lot less fish in there, well, when that's done, it's all over down here," Burke says. "When that goes, your reefs are going to go, too, and it'll just be a chain reaction.
"You could argue that the bay has already collapsed."
Algal blooms block life-giving sunlight from penetrating the water's surface. Seagrasses that filter the water and provide habitat for the food chain are dying. Some migratory birds aren't returning.
"The health of Florida Bay is very much tied to the state of the Everglades, and the Everglades isn't improving either," says Tom Van Lent, senior scientist with the Everglades Foundation. "Their fates are one and the same."
For decades, the state has struggled to find a way to restore natural flow through the Everglades and curb the pollution caused by runoff from sugar farms, cow pastures and urban sprawl. It is the largest such wetlands restoration effort ever.
"Having that water coming down from the Everglades is key," says Rob Clift of the National Parks Conservation Association. "It has to be restored."
Attempts to fix the Everglades by constructing water-treatment marshes and reservoirs, among other things, have been dogged by politics, funding shortfalls and contentious, litigation-filled disagreements over the best solutions.
Name an environmental group, and the South Florida Water Management District, the state agency overseeing Everglades restoration, has been sued by them.
"There are a handful of people that choose not to participate in this process and instead use litigation, and who is losing? The environment is losing," executive director Carol Wehle says.
The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, who call the Everglades their ancestral home, have sued the water district repeatedly. It's the tribe and a few others who now have the district back in court as part of an effort to block the state's planned $536 million purchase of land in the Everglades from U.S. Sugar Corp.
Tribe spokeswoman Joette Lorion says the deal could end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars, leaving little money to pay for projects, and will create more delays as officials figure out exactly what to do with all the new land.
The water district says the deal is a historic opportunity to take sugar out of production and provide land to build reservoirs and treatment areas to clean and store water.
Back on Florida Bay, Burke just wants something done before it's too late. To the casual onlooker, the area is stunning.
Burke knows better.
"In a lot of ways it's still pristine and beautiful down here, but it's also on its last dying breath," he says.

090817-3



090817-3
Fla. Governor's Moves Scrutinized for Clues to U.S. Climate Debate
New York Times - ALEX KAPLUN
August 17, 2009
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is getting intense heat from his party's right wing over his support of climate legislation, fueling speculation that the popular politician may move away from "pro-green" positions that have been praised by top Democrats and environmentalists.
The pressure is rising as Crist launches his U.S. Senate campaign, trying to replace the retiring Republican one-term Sen. Mel Martinez. Though Crist remains a solid front-runner to win the nomination and the seat, some environmentalists say attacks from a conservative challenger and sharp criticism from GOP activists have forced the governor to move to the right on environmental issues.
"Many in the environmental movement think that Charlie Crist has gone from hero to villain in the last six months," said Frank Jackalone, the Sierra Club's Florida Staff Director. "His shift has been extremely disappointing."
Republican pressure on Crist and his response to it may be significant beyond Florida. Crist has become a national figure in Republican politics and is seen by some as a future party leader.
Crist's main challenger for his party's Senate nomination is former state House Speaker Marco Rubio. At the moment, Crist remains the overwhelming favorite, as he holds a sizable lead in both the polls and campaign funds.
But there are signs of trouble for him. The Volusia County Republican Party recently censured Crist, and a vote on a similar censure resolution deadlocked in Palm Beach County. Crist has also lost to Rubio in straw polls of GOP committee members in several other counties, and a handful of prominent conservatives both in Florida and across the country are backing the former state lawmaker.
The opposition to Crist has to do with a number of issues -- among them, his support for President Obama's economic stimulus package and a number of state appointments that have angered conservatives. But Rubio and others on the right have also gone after Crist for his support of cap-and-trade legislation, a position that has drawn vehement opposition from conservatives across the country.
"The political circumstances have changed," Rubio told the Palm Beach Post last week. "I guarantee you, he won't be touting the work he did with Sheryl Crow as part of his primary platform."
Rubio's mention of Crow, a pop singer and crusading environmentalist, reminds Republicans that Crist has been a favorite Republican among environmentalists since his election as governor in 2006. His gubernatorial campaign strongly favored action on climate and restoration of the Everglades.
And even his critics on the left acknowledge that there are a number of environmental issues on which Crist remains highly committed, with Everglades restoration sitting at the top of the list. At the same time, they say that as Crist has become more of a national figure, he has shifted away from some environmental commitments.
The most recent example of a shift: his cancellation of a high-profile state climate summit -- an event that was expected to bring climate activists from across the country. Crist cited cost as the reason for the summit's cancellation, though the anticipated event was also the subject of heavy criticism from Rubio and other conservatives.
Jackalone of the Sierra Club said scuttling the summit was only the most recent of several actions by Crist that suggested a change in the governor's environmental positions.
Last summer, when Crist was mentioned as a potential running mate to Republican presidential nominee John McCain, the Florida governor said he would be open to some oil and gas drilling off Florida, a shift from his earlier position. And some environmentalists are angry at Crist's signing of a law that they say will cripple growth-management regulations and his failure to push through the Legislature a measure that would have implemented more stringent vehicle-emission regulations.
"I think there certainly has to be some looking back and thinking, was there enough lift from the governor's office to get something passed?" said Eric Draper, deputy director of the Florida office of the National Audubon Society and a Democratic candidate for state agriculture commissioner.
Still, Draper said it is hard to tell if there was anything the governor could have done to push legislation through a state House engulfed in political scandal, with the Republican House speaker, Ray Sansom, resigning earlier this year and potentially facing a prison sentence over accusations that he received a high-paying job from a college after steering millions of dollars to that school. And Draper said he has seen few signs that Crist has changed his positions on any key issue.
"The contrast that concerns people is that there was so much hope during the first and second climate summits and so little has been actually accomplished," Draper said. "What concerns us is not that he's changing positions but that all that promise that we saw hasn't come true."
Adding, "I think Gov. Crist is really committed to the issues having to do with climate change solutions; he understands, and he is committed to them."
National implications?
Crist's potential shift on environmental issues could be significant beyond Florida, as the governor may be a major player in this year's climate debate on Capitol Hill.
President Obama and other top Democrats have often pointed to Crist and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as prominent Republicans who support regulation of carbon emissions. They use the two to make the claim that cap and trade is not a partisan issue and hope they can reach out to others in the GOP.
Crist has not jettisoned his support of regulations on emissions, but he did recently give a nod to GOP claims that climate legislation represents a major tax on industry. When asked about the claim, Crist told the Miami Herald, "Well, it may be [a tax]. That may be accurate."
Draper of Audubon said that kind of statement may hint at cooling from Crist toward the specific climate bill currently being considered in Washington, though he still believes that Crist generally supports action on climate change. "He seems like he's moved on the federal climate bill," he said. "It seemed to be an attempt to kind of distance himself from the current legislative proposal and to say Florida would not benefit as much as it should from any legislative proposal."
Also, Crist is tasked with appointing a replacement for Martinez, who announced he would resign from the Senate before the end of the August recess. The individual named by Crist is expected to serve as a "placeholder" until the 2010 election.
But whoever fills that post could also cast a key vote on the climate bill that Democratic leaders hope to bring to the Senate floor this year.
Though Martinez had not been active in the climate debate this year, he did vote for cloture on a climate bill last summer and was viewed as one of the few potential Republican "yes" votes on cap and trade. The Florida Sierra Club has already launched a campaign to pressure Crist to appoint a replacement who "upholds essential clean energy values." The appointment will be likely seen as reflecting Crist's own positions on the climate.
"I'm concerned we may find ourselves with a Florida senator who will be fine with offshore drilling and join the Republican filibuster on climate change," said Jackalone of the Sierra Club. "It's going to be a major litmus test for Governor Crist.
"Whoever he picks is clearly going to be working on instructions from Governor Crist, because it's going to be one of his people."
Lasting change?
Even as Crist attempts to appease his party's base, some say it remains to be seen if some of his recent moves represent a true shift in his views or are simply a temporary effort to placate the right wing of his party.
And some argue that even though Crist may have toned down some of his previous advocacy for cap-and-trade regulation as he campaigns for the Republican nomination, there is little evidence that he has significantly altered his positions.
"He's going to have to make sure that at least in the primary, he appeals in the Republican electorate -- it's a balancing act," said Jim DiPeso of Republicans for Environmental Protection. "It's going to be a bit of a tightrope for him, but Governor Crist is a pretty smart politician, and he's going to be able to achieve that balancing act.
"But we're not concerned that he's going to step off the reservation and start acting like James Inhofe."
And pundits point out that one of Crist's major political traits -- one that has been viewed as a strength by some and a weakness by others -- is an ability to read the political climate and adjust his positions accordingly.
"If there's an accusation that's stuck to Governor Crist, it's the accusation that his policy choices are driven by political concerns," said Kevin Wagner, a state politics expert at Florida Atlantic University.
Wagner also said that while Crist is certainly taking some pre-emptive measures to cut off GOP criticism, he also does not believe that Rubio represents a major challenge to Crist, pointing to the fact that many in the party understand that you generally need a moderate candidate to win in the Sunshine state.
And Wagner argued that perhaps more than in other parts of the country, Florida voters can at times place a premium on personality -- and Crist has certainly demonstrated the political skill and charisma to reach voters of different stripes, regardless of his view on the issue.
"There are politicians that the state just seems to like, and ideology and politics just doesn't seem to dent them," Wagner said. "Charlie Crist is just another example of that kind of politician."
Still, some are not as convinced that once Crist moves past the primary challenge -- and potentially goes on to represent Florida in the Senate -- he will be able or willing to reclaim his positions on environmental issues.
"Right now, I think he's catering to his political advisers," said Jackalone. "My question is, if Charlie Crist is going to be so calculated in his decisions and caters to what is political expedient at the moment, then he's going to have a hard time reasserting himself as an environmentalist if he gets to the U.S. Senate.
"Because his party is going to pressure him just as hard as they pressured Mel Martinez. He's going to have a hard time getting along with the Republican leadership if he tries to reassess himself as Charlie Crist, environmental champion."

090817-4



090817-4
Obama appointee helps end Everglades funding flap
Miami Herald - CURTIS MORGAN
August 17, 2009
Dispute over Everglades funding finally settled
After eight years of bickering, the state and the federal government have finally shaken hands on how to split the massive bill to restore the Everglades.
The dispute was more than a mere bureaucratic snit. It shut the spigot on something the struggling River of Grass needs almost as much as water: federal funds to start building stalled projects.
The agreement, confirmed in letters the South Florida Water Management District received Friday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, means nearly a half-billion dollars pledged by the Obama administration over the next two years can begin to flow -- starting with a $41 million shot to begin turning a failed Southwest Florida subdivision back into wetlands.
It's good to have friends in high places -- particularly when big federal bucks are involved. Latest evidence: Terrence `Rock' Salt, seasoned veteran of Everglades restoration efforts, appointed to a key White House job earlier this year.
Salt spent 18 years overseeing Everglades restoration efforts. As deputy assistant secretary of the Army, he now oversees the Corps.
For the Glades, a pinch of Salt seems to have made a big difference:
Federal money trickled out of Washington during the Bush administration. The Obama administration has pledged record amounts so far -- nearly a half-billion over two years.
For years, the South Florida Water Management District and Corps have argued over how to split the increasingly expensive restoration tab. About seven months after Salt's appointment, the dispute has finally been resolved, with the feds accepting a change that will shift as much as a half-billion dollars in costs to the Corps.

090817-5



090817-5
Climate-Change Report: From Bad to Worse
Time - Bryan Walsh
June 17, 2009
Even as Congress belatedly tackles legislation that would cut U.S. carbon emissions and international negotiators bickered over a global climate deal in Bonn, Germany, a new report by several federal agencies underscores the truths that too often risk getting lost in politics: global warming is real, it's happening now, and if we don't act soon, the consequences are likely to be catastrophic.
Scientists and officials working with the U.S. Global Change Research Program released on June 16 the first climate-change assessment to be completed during Barack Obama's presidency. The assessment, which is required periodically by Congress, breaks down the predicted effects of global warming in the U.S. by region and sector; it contains no new research, but it paints a detailed and worrying picture of what a warmer America will be like 10, 50 and 100 years from today. "It is clear that climate change is happening now," says Jerry Melillo, a lead author of the report and an ecologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. "The observed climate changes we report are not opinions to be debated. They are facts to be reported." (See pictures of the effects of global warming.)
Produced by 13 federal agencies and several major universities and research centers, the climate report found that if carbon emissions continued growing unabated, the mainland U.S. would heat up anywhere from 7 degrees Fahrenheit to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2090, with some margin of error. That's similar to the predictions found in the 2007 report by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but the real value of the new assessment is found in its detailed breakdown of the different effects warming will have in various regions of the U.S. — in a country as geographically vast and diverse as the U.S., climate change won't be felt monolithically.
Here are a few of the report's highlights:
Water Woes. Precipitation will generally become heavier in northern areas, and will tend to fall in severe downpours, leading to more widespread flooding. Meanwhile, the South — and especially the Southwest — will become drier. That's alarming because the Southwest and Southeast, where populations are growing faster than in any other U.S. region, are already struggling with drought.
Heat Index. Get used to sweating. Under a business-as-usual course, by the end of the century, Washington, D.C., could average as many as 90 to 100 days a year above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, up from around 30 to 40 days now. Southern Florida and southern Texas could see more than 160 days a year above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Polar Thaw. Climate change is being felt first in the Arctic regions, which explains why Alaska is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the country, and could warm by as much as 13 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 50 years. That will melt sea ice and severely affect already endangered species like the polar bear and the walrus. And warming could ruin the state's valuable fisheries — as sea temperatures warm, the habitat for cold-water fish like salmon and trout could all but disappear in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
Northeastern Exposure. Warming will make skiing, ice-skating and snowmobiling pastimes of the past in many areas of the Northeast, decimating the multibillion-dollar winter-sports industry. The center of maple-syrup production will shift from New England to Canada, and production of apples and other produce that depend on cooler winters will decline.
Early Deaths. All those heat waves will take a serious toll on human health, with a significant increase in deaths due to high temperatures. The poor and the young will be most vulnerable.
The predictions, based on unchecked growth in carbon emissions over the next several decades, are scary. Equally scary is what has already happened. The assessment shows that over the past few decades, winters in the Midwest have warmed by a few degrees, and the number of winter days without frost has increased by about a week. Sea levels have already risen by 8 inches or more in some coastal areas of the U.S., and under the business-as-usual scenario, they could rise 3 to 4 feet by the end of the century — enough to put much of Florida, including the Everglades and the Keys, under water. "Much of the foot-dragging on addressing climate change reflects the perception that it is way down the road and only affects remote parts of the planet," says Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which contributed to the study. "This report demonstrates that climate change is happening now and in our backyard."
The timing of the new report is perfect. A bill to cap U.S. carbon emissions, sponsored by Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, is making its way through Congress and could be up for a vote in the House of Representatives as soon as next week. Although the bill has the support of the White House and has been watered down considerably to earn centrist and conservative votes, it will still struggle to become law. Opponents argue that cap and trade will ruin the U.S. economy by raising energy prices. But while there are arguments to be made against cap and trade, what's increasingly certain with every new scientific report is that the time for empty talk has expired.
Negotiating a solution — among members of Congress and the nations of the world — won't be simple, but as the environmental author Bill McKibben wrote in a June 11 review in the New York Review of Books, that might be the easy part: "The real negotiation is between humans on the one hand and chemistry and physics on the other. And chemistry and physics, unfortunately, don't bargain." Facts are facts.

090817-6



090817-6
National Park superlatives among the spectacular favorites and not so favorites from America’s Best idea.
Orange County Register - GARY A. WARNER
August 17, 2009
I've been visiting the National Parks for almost 50 years, first as a child in the back of my parents' 1960s Buick station wagons, more lately with my own children rediscovering favorites from decades ago. Here's my favorite (and least favorite) spots among the 58 National Parks.
FAVORITE NATIONAL PARK: Yosemite. "Breathtaking" is a hackneyed phrase, but bursting into daylight after passing through the last tunnel on Highway 41 and seeing Yosemite Valley below draws audible gasps from first-time visitors. The compact, gray rock walled valley, gushing waterfalls and distant knob of Half Dome are a foolproof photo for even the most amateur shooter. The crowds in Yosemite can be crushing - 95 percent of the people who visit the park never get beyond the 5 percent of the park that encompasses the valley. But the shear vertical nature of Yosemite makes the crowds bearable in a way they aren't at Yellowstone or even Grand Canyon. The eye is always drawn up, and away, from fellow travelers. Visits in early spring, autumn and even winter are preferable to the population explosion of summer.
LEAST FAVORITE NATIONAL PARK: Great Smoky Mountains. Getting out on the trails is probably the only way to really enjoy a visit to what is by far the most visited park. With 9.2 million annual visitors, it draws more than twice the visitors of No. 2, Grand Canyon. I've been three times and endured crowded packed roads and pretty but, for a lifelong Westerner, relatively unspectacular scenery. Gateway towns like Cherokee and Gatlinburg are filled with tourist traps and casinos. Air quality has suffered in recent years. It's the No. 1 exhibit of a National Park that has been loved (nearly) to death.
NATIONAL PARK I'D MOST LIKE TO VISIT: Wrangell-St. Elias. There are 55 million acres of parkland in Alaska and I've been to more than most people - including the rarely visited Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley. But I've never gone southeast of Anchorage to the place the park service calls "The Mountain Kingdom of North America." It has more glaciers and mountains over 16,000 feet than anywhere in the country.
NATIONAL PARK I'D MOST LIKE TO RE-VISIT: North Rim of Grand Canyon. When I was a kid, my father hated the crowds of the South Rim. So we always made the long drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I've been back to the Grand Canyon many times, but when I am elbow to elbow with crowds outside the El Tovar lodge, I wish for the relative solitude and almost equally spectacular views across the canyon.
FAVORITE WILDLIFE: Everglades. I've seen buffalo in Yellowstone and grizzlies in Kobuk Valley. But my most memorable meeting with nature was the half dozen alligators sunning themselves on a mud flat along the Anhinga Trail in the Everglades. A yawn from these snoozing sawtoothed monsters will give you the chills, especially as they slip silently into the brown water, just their tiny eyes above the surface.
COULD BE A NATIONAL PARK: Monument Valley. The red-hued monoliths are a great symbol of the West. The background for many John Ford films, the area straddling Utah and Arizona is part of the Navajo reservation. Its sovereign status means it will never be a national park. If it were, it would be one of my favorites.
SHOULDN'T BE A NATIONAL PARK: Hot Springs. I loved the Arkansas spa town and had an old-time rubdown routine on Bathhouse Row. A National Historic Site, sure. But a national park? No way. Federal land since 1832 - 40 years before Yellowstone - it was grandfathered in when the National Park Service was created in 1916. Once in the club, it's next to impossible to get out.
BEST INTERNATIONAL TWO-FER: Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park.
The 49th parallel invisibly slices the mountains and streams in two. To the south is Montana and Glacier National Park. To the north, Canada and Waterton Lakes. Together they make up an international "peace park." One of my favorite stops is the faux tudor Prince of Wales Hotel on the Canadian side, with it's oh-so-British Empire era tea hour.
FAVORITE NATIONAL PARK LODGE: Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone. If the Art Deco-meets-Paul Bunyan Timberline Lodge on Oregon's Mount Hood qualified, it would win. But Mount Hood is in a national forest, not a national park.
So my nod goes to the rustic template for all lodges, the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone. The rooms are better at the El Tovar at Grand Canyon or the luxurious Ahwahnee in Yosemite, but the epic scale and warm golden feel of the wood timbered lobby are every national park visitor's fantasy. Enjoy the early mornings and late evenings, before the place fills up with daytrippers - it's as popular as the nearby Old Faithful geyser.
FAVORITE NATIONAL PARK LODGING: Peace of Selby, Gates of the Arctic. You have to take a three-hour floatplane ride from Fairbanks to reach this lodge by Selby Lake in one of the least visited parks in the system.
There's a beautiful lakeside lodge with an open floor plan. I stayed in a small "sourdough cabin" with a picture window a short walk from the lodge. There's fishing, berry picking, hiking, canoeing and the peace of being in a true wilderness. We saw grizzly bears during our stay.
Friendly and comfortable while offering a true off-the-track experience.
LEAST FAVORITE NATIONAL PARK LODGE: Volcano House, Hawaii Volcanoes. The utilitarian 1941 lodge is the anti-climax of the drive up from Hilo or the Kona Coast. Better to stay in the nearby town of Volcano, where the Kilauea Lodge, a former YMCA camp building, has a national park lodge feel and better food.
FUN BY ERIE FEELING: Theodore Roosevelt. Driving near sunset through the southern unit of the park in North Dakota, I had the road to myself. I pulled over at a turnoff and took a short stroll. Suddenly. Pop, pop, pop. Up came dozens of little heads. I realized I was surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands, of prairie dogs. I had hit a metropolis among the prairie dog towns. I come in peace!
FAVORITE NON-PC THING I MISS: Feeding the bears at Yellowstone. I know, it was unhealthy and unnatural for the bears and led to possible danger for visitors. But after the long, long drive from California, what a payoff to enter the park and right away have bears on the roadside. We would roll down the window of the Buick station wagon a crack and swivel a piece of Wonder Bread out to the waiting maw. What a story to tell when you got home. Did I mention I also miss Lion Country Safari?

090816-



090816-
Once-in-a-lifetime chance to restore Everglades
Special To The Tampa Tribune – Commentary by ERIC BUERMANN
August 16, 2009
http://www2.tbo.com/content/2009/aug/16/co-once-in-a-lifetime-chance-to-restore-everglades/news-opinion-commentary/
There is no mistaking the groundswell of support for the South Florida Water Management District's purchase of land from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration. Leaders in national, state and local governments have publicly endorsed the acquisition, calling it, in the words of the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, "an historic turning point for the largest watershed restoration project in the world."
Environmental groups, the watchdogs of restoration progress, have proclaimed this an important step forward, a "priceless, breathtaking opportunity." And newspapers from Miami to Pensacola, as well as others across the nation, agree with our view: that this is "fresh hope" - in the opinion of The New York Times - for protecting and restoring America's Everglades.
This makes the legal challenge by a small minority of interests who oppose the land acquisition a frustrating step along the path to progress. To be clear, their challenge does not oppose environmental improvements. It does not question the need for more water storage and treatment. Instead, the challengers are using the procedural step of court validation of the water management district's bonds for financing the acquisition as an attempt to simply block the deal.
Let me remind the naysayers where this land purchase will take us. Owning vast acreage south of Lake Okeechobee presents an unprecedented opportunity for water storage and treatment - the very backbone of restoration success. More reservoirs will mean fewer freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and their fragile estuaries. More treatment marshes will improve delivery of cleaner water to the water conservation areas and Everglades National Park. And the once-common practice of "backpumping" water into Lake Okeechobee will become a thing of the past.
These environmental benefits are important to South Florida's future, and we stand on the brink of acquiring the land to achieve them.
At no other time in recent history - including when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was developed in the 1990s - has acreage of this magnitude been made available to the public to serve our collective needs. Indeed, if such acreage had been available when CERP was being designed, the framework of projects for Everglades restoration would have turned out very differently.
In negotiating this exceptional purchase, we at the district have prudently modified the contract terms to reflect changing fiscal realities.
We have identified key parcels for the initial acquisition.
And we have moved steadily forward with a public planning process to put the best project ideas on the table.
When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this arises, it takes vision and resolve to move forward despite attempts by a vocal minority to throw down roadblocks.
I can assure you that we see the vision.
And we are resolved to build a healthier environment for South Florida.
Now is the time to make this happen.
Eric Buermann is chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board.

090815-1



090815-1
Buzzards' Danger to Helicopters a New Concern for Proposed Landfill: Site Would Be in Palm Beach County
South Florida Sun-Sentinel,  Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, FL - Andy Reid
August 15, 2009
Aug. 15--WEST PALM BEACH -- Plans to build a landfill next to a treatment area that cleans water headed for the Everglades has already raised environmental alarm bells.
The prospect of buzzards -- lured by landfill dining -- create a potential hazard for helicopters and a new obstacle for Palm Beach County's long-stalled trash disposal plans.
Officials at the South Florida Water Management District this week announced they had serious concerns about one of the two competing sites under consideration for a new landfill. The site raising questions is 1,500 acres of farmland north of Southern Boulevard, near a stormwater treatment area that borders the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.
The district manages the treatment area and uses helicopters to collect water samples for environmental testing. Helicopters and an influx of buzzards don't mix, according to the district.
"We do have a major concern," the district's Executive Director Carol Wehle said Thursday. "This is an extremely important issue for us."
The district's concerns "surprised" county Solid Waste Authority Executive Director Mark Hammond. The potential landfill sites have been under consideration since last fall and the stormwater treatment area is an almost 7,000-acre, man-made wetland teeming with birds.
"We believe we can operate a landfill safely and effectively next to the storm water treatment area," Hammond said.
Environmental concerns in 2007 stalled long-held plans to build a new landfill in sugar cane country on the west side of the national refuge.
Two alternative sites now under consideration west of Royal Palm Beach include the Hundley Farms land near the treatment area, as well as about 1,700 acres farther north at the northwest intersection of State Road 80 and U.S. 98.
Glades business leaders oppose putting a landfill at the S.R. 80-U.S. 98 intersection, the stretch of road they consider the gateway to their towns.
But environmental advocates are fighting the site next to the stormwater treatment area.
Putting a landfill so close to the treatment area threatens to "undermine" the effectiveness of the pollution-filtering marsh, said Jacquie Weisblum, of Audubon of Florida.
The authority estimates that long-term it would be about $137 million less expensive to acquire, develop and operate a landfill on the Hundley Farms site.
County commissioners since last fall have delayed deciding where to build the new landfill. They plan to take up the topic again in October.
The buzzard problem does not necessarily disqualify the location beside the treatment area as a site for a landfill, but it could trigger expensive efforts to limit the influx of big birds, Wehle said.
County officials are scheduled to meet with district representatives later this month to talk about potential land swaps for other alternative landfill sites.
The county's existing landfill west of West Palm Beach is projected to reach capacity by 2021. The plan was to get a new landfill opened by 2015.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.

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090815-2
Neither dry nor drowned, Lake Okeechobee's ecosystem is sound for the first time in years
Palm Beach Post,  PAUL QUINLAN, Staff Writer
August 15, 2009
From the deck of an airboat floating atop Lake Okeechobee, Paul Gray can see all the way to the bottom, through 5 feet of crystalline water where bass, crappie and swarms of minnows dart through a wavy lattice of lush hydrilla.
"This is just gorgeous - it's what you hope the lake looks like," said Gray, a soft-spoken scientist from Audubon of Florida.

 

All too often, the state's largest lake is either too full or too empty, encircled as it is by a three-story-tall dike beneath Florida's fitful, drought-or-downpour skies. High water renders the lake a choppy, murky mess. Drought can turn its shallow western fisheries into weed-choked prairies.
This may be short-lived, but Lake Okeechobee is in rare form today. It has rebounded perfectly from the 2004 hurricanes and the record-breaking, two-year drought that began in 2006.
"This is the second time in 15 years it's been this nice," Gray said.
In the northwestern shallows, American lotus sprout flowers as big as softballs and floppy green leaves the size of sombreros. Tiny white apple-snail eggs cluster on the green stems of needle rush and bulrush.
Dark green clumps of periphyton algae float on the glassy surface like cooked spinach, forming the base of a teeming food chain that has made the lake one of the best fishing destinations in the United States. It is also the last stop for more than 270 species of migratory birds on their way to the Caribbean and South America.
"The lake's probably in better shape than it's been in 10 years," said Harlan Griggs, who manages the marine center at the Roland Martin Marina in Clewiston and took third in last weekend's Xtreme Bass Fishing Series tournament.
The tournament's winner hauled in a nearly 28-pound catch - almost three times as much as last August's champ and almost twice as much as the 17-pound win in 2007.
"If you can catch 15, 16, 17 pounds of fish, you're doing good," Griggs said. "But when you start catching 20 or 25 pounds of fish, that's a testament."
During a recent visit to a swath of shallow lake marsh called Indian Prairie, hundreds of birds took off at the sound of an airboat, forming the only cloud in the sky - herons, ibises, egrets, the pink-feathered spoonbills and black-necked stilts. Sandpipers scooted across a crop of water lilies.
"For a couple years, this was bone dry," said Gray, stepping out of the boat to wade barefoot through the 6 inches of bathtub-temperature water.
Nearby, two small channels ran parallel into the distance - tire tracks from a truck that drove out here during the drought, when arsonists, at times, set fire to what is now lake bottom.
"It burned like crazy," Gray said.
Lake Okeechobee, the historic heart of the Everglades, once overflowed like a giant saucer to send broad sheets of water south into the giant marsh.
But like the rest of the Everglades, it teeters on the brink of collapse, thanks to 19th- and 20th-century efforts to open surrounding lands for farming and development.
After World War II, the Army Corps of Engineers straightened the Kissimmee River, which flows from the north, and finished walling off the lake behind the 140-mile Herbert Hoover Dike. Those projects turned Lake Okeechobee, which also serves as South Florida's backup water supply, into a polluted rain barrel.
Some call the lake Central Florida's toilet bowl. But unlike a toilet, it's impossible to flush. Phosphorus, an ingredient in manure and fertilizer that is the scourge of the Everglades ecosystem, now pours in from farms in huge quantities through the Kissimmee River.
So much phosphorus has accumulated that it would take centuries to eliminate it all at the current rate of removal.
Meanwhile, the same South Florida water managers in charge of cleaning the lake are consumed with another mammoth task, Gov. Charlie Crist's $536 million land deal with U.S. Sugar, aimed at restoring Everglades to the south.
The greatest short-term threat to the lake is the wild fluctuation of its water levels.
After the busy hurricane season of 2004, which added 6 feet to the lake and sprung leaks in the dike, "everything you see here was gone," said Gray, pointing across Cody's Cove. "This was just open, dirty water."
Today, a reddish water fern called an azolla graces the lake's surface like a blush.
The corps strives to keep the lake's water levels lower today than it did in years past - between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level - with the aim of protecting the Herbert Hoover Dike and the health of the lake.
Holding water levels within that range is "a lot to ask for the lake today," said Paul McCormick, the chief Lake Okeechobee scientist for the South Florida Water Management District.
Last fall, Tropical Storm Fay raised the lake 4 feet, making up more than half of the 7-foot plunge it had experienced during the 2007-08 drought.
When the lake gets too full, water stirs up sediments that block sunlight from reaching underwater vegetation, which quickly dies off. Even the shallowest parts of the lake were so murky after the 2004 hurricanes that Gray said he could not see his hand in 6 inches of water. When the lake rises, wading birds can't reach deep enough to snag fish.
Years of abnormally high water also eroded the aging dike, which now awaits $980 million in repairs that won't be coming any time soon.
Under the corps' newly preferred water levels, the lake will reach about 15.5 feet in January and recede over the course of the dry season to 12.5 feet in June. That's essentially what happened in the past year.
But the rain rarely cooperates so well.
"For years, it was just dirty - no plants, no chance of plants," Gray said. "The best news of all is that the lake is very resilient."

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090814-1
Water managers, feds sign agreement to split Everglades costs
Palm Beach Post - PAUL QUINLAN, Staff Writer
August 13, 2009
Following eight years of wrangling, state and federal officials signed off today on a revised pact to split the cost of Everglades restoration 50-50.
The so-called "master agreement" will clear the way for Washington to provide the nearly half-billion dollars that the Obama administration has pledged for the Everglades over the next two years. The signing took place at the suburban West Palm Beach headquarters of the South Florida Water Management District.
Leaders praised it as a first step in jump-starting Washington's stalled commitment to the Everglades. The spending impasse was the latest in a series of disputes that have snarled the state-federal restoration project since Congress approved it in 2000.
"Nobody's going to care about the details of what we've signed and approved here," said Terrence "Rock" Salt, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, who flew down from Washington for the signing. "They are going to care about what we accomplish."

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090814-2
Everglades agreement includes money for Treasure Coast projects
TC Palm (AP)
August 14, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH — The agreement signed Thursday to get money flowing into Everglades restoration projects includes work to be done on the Treasure Coast.
The pact between the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determines how state and federal governments will divvy up the multibillion-dollar cost of replumbing the flow of water from north of Lake Okeechobee through the Everglades. That drainage system includes the C-44 Canal, also known as the St. Lucie Canal, running from Port Mayaca on the east side of Lake Okeechobee eastward to the St. Lucie River estuary, which collects water from large portions of Martin and St. Lucie counties.
“The master agreement signed (Thursday) includes templates for individual project agreements between the district and the Corps, such as the C-44 project,” said Ken Ammon, the district’s deputy executive director for Everglades restoration and capital projects. “So this over-arching agreement allows us to define the conditions of that specific agreement.”
Ammon said he expects the C-44 project agreement to be hammered out by the end of the year and for the Corps to begin work soon after that.
“It’s supposed to be a 50-50 project,” he said. “The district did the design and bought the land, and we believe that takes care of our 50 percent. The Corps’ 50 percent will be taking the lead on construction.”
The project includes construction of a 3,000-acre reservoir and two stormwater treatment areas totalling about 6,000 acres.
“The reservoir is designed to capture local runoff, mostly from agriculture areas, that now is going untreated into the estuary,” Ammon said. “The water then flows, very slowly, through the (storm treatment areas), where the goal is to clean up at least 78 percent of it, mostly by removing phosphorus and nitrogen, before releasing it into the canal.”
The project does not address the problem of periodic releases of nutrient-laden freshwater from Lake Okeechobee through the canal into the St. Lucie estuary. The influx upsets the balance of fresh and salt water in the estuary, killing plants and animals that depend on brackish water

090814-3



090814-3
Everglades Restoration Could Begin Soon
The Associated Press
August 14, 2009
Deal could jumpstart things
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - South Florida water managers and federal officials have reached a deal that promises to jumpstart stalled Everglades restoration.
The agreement reached Thursday ends years of dispute over how to split the costs of the restoration project - expected to top $22 billion - and clears the way for construction to begin.
The "master agreement" spells out how the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will share costs and duties for projects intended to restore water flows to the Everglades.
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP, was originally estimated to cost about $7.8 billion and take 30 years to complete. The price tag has since ballooned due to rising costs. Congress has appropriated several hundred million dollars.

090814-4



090814-4
South Florida water managers agree to hold off on selling public land
South Florida Sun-Sentinel - Andy Reid
August 12, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH - Environmental concerns and questions about the transparency of real estate deals prompted South Florida water managers Wednesday to hold off on selling thousands of acres of taxpayer-owned land.
The South Florida Water Management District in June approved plans to unload 3,000 acres of "surplus" properties, even as it was pushing a half-billion-dollar deal to buy more land for water storage.
Environmentalists, led by Audubon of Florida, objected to the surplus sales and the district's board Wednesday agreed to a delay. Additionally, the district agreed to create a new public process for deciding how to dispose of land the agency contends it no longer needs.
More sales of surplus land are expected as the district embarks on its proposed 73,000-acre purchase from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration.
The U.S. Sugar farmland would be used to build reservoirs and treatment areas, but those projects have yet to be designed. After designs are complete portions of property may not be needed and should be sold to recoup costs, said Ruth Clements, agency director of land acquisition and management.
The initial 3,000 acres of "surplus" properties, spread from north of the lake down to Palm Beach County, once were intended for water storage and treatment efforts, but no longer fit into the district's plans, Clements said.
Proceeds from selling surplus land could be used to buy more land or help pay for a backlog of environmental restoration projects.
The district paid about $26 million for the collection of properties and estimates it could make about $30 million to $40 million by selling the land.
"It can be put back on the tax rolls and used," Clements said.
The district manages water supplies from Orlando to the Keys and owns 1.3 million acres across South Florida.
The proposed deal with U.S. Sugar calls for the agency to purchase 73,000 acres for $536 million. It includes an option to buy another 107,000 acres if the district can raise the money. If the initial deal closes as scheduled in 2010, the U.S. Sugar land would be used to restore water flows from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades.
As the district's land holdings expand, the agency now plans to start a periodic review of its land holdings to look for properties it no longer needs and can be sold.
The district Wednesday agreed to hold a public workshop with its Water Resources Advisory Commission to come up with recommendations for how to identify and dispose of surplus land. Those proposals would go before the district's governing board for, appointed by the governor, for approval.
The district's board also would have to approve all land sales.
"Once you get rid of it, it's gone forever," District Chairman Eric Buermann said. "It should require greater scrutiny by the board."
Audubon's Jacquie Weisblum said the district needs a "transparent public process" for handling surplus land to ensure that environmental restoration efforts are not diminished.
One of the smallest, but potentially most valuable, properties on the surplus list is 3 acres in Palm Beach County near the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge west of Wellington. While the district owns the refuge, the agency determined it couldn't incorporate the 3 acres because it is separated from the refuge by a canal.
The land on the surplus list include two 1,000-acre properties, one north of Lake Okeechobee and the other near Indiantown in Martin County, once planned for water storage.
District officials initially said they dropped those plans for the properties because the land was within 2 miles of small airports and the Federal Aviation Administration recommended against building bird-attracting water control structures near runways.
One Wednesday, Clements said the airport concerns were a factor, but that new designs for water storage and treatment areas made the land unnecessary for the projects.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504.

090814-5



090814-5
Florida, feds agree on big Everglades plan
Times of the Internet (UPI) - Miami
Aug. 14, 2009
Florida and federal officials say they finally have reached a deal that promises much-needed money for a massive Everglades restoration project.
The agreement, confirmed Friday in letters from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ends at least eight years of bickering over how to split a ballooning bill, expected to top $22 billion, and presumably clears the way to quickly begin long-stalled construction work, The Miami Herald reported.
The plan details how the South Florida Water Management District and the Corps of Engineers will share costs and duties for 68 projects Congress approved in 2000 to restore the natural flow of the River of Grass.
The agreement means nearly a half-billion dollars pledged by the Obama administration over the next two years can begin to flow.

090814-6



090814-6
Reminder: Microchips required for pythons
The Tampa Tribune - Hernando Today
August 14, 2009
A 17-foot, 2-inch Burmese python was caught and destroyed on private property in Okeechobee County in late July. The male snake weighed 207 pounds and measured 26 inches in diameter. Its stomach contents were examined, but nothing identifiable was found inside.
Officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) scanned the python but did not find a microchip. As a Reptile of Concern, Burmese pythons must be licensed by the FWC's Captive Wildlife Section and implanted with a microchip to be kept as a pet.
The FWC worked with the Florida Legislature and the reptile industry to establish and implement tighter restrictions in 2007 to help prevent the escape or release of this exotic species.
The new rule requires an annual $100 license and mandatory caging requirements.
In addition, Burmese pythons more than 2 inches in diameter must be implanted with a microchip that identifies the origin of the animal. This rule applies to all Reptiles of Concern, which include Burmese pythons, Indian pythons, reticulated pythons, African rock pythons, amethystine or scrub pythons, green anacondas and Nile monitor lizards.
It is unlawful to allow one to escape or to release one into the wild.
"The capture of this large python shows us how well these snakes can thrive in the wild and create a dangerous situation after illegal release or escape," said FWC Chairman Rodney Barreto.
"It also illustrates why the FWC is partnering with other agencies to implement python-control measures in South Florida. We will continue to push for additional measures to control the spread of Burmese pythons in the Everglades, where they are reproducing in large numbers."
On July 17, the FWC launched a permit program that allows reptile experts to capture and euthanize Burmese pythons on state-managed lands around the Everglades.
To date, seven permits have been issued and five pythons have been captured.
Several more permits will be issued in the coming weeks. The permit holders must collect data on captured pythons and submit that information to the FWC.
The program continues until Oct. 31, at which time the FWC will analyze the data and determine if the program should be extended or expanded.

090814-7



090814-7
U.S., Florida reach Everglades restoration deal
Miami Herald - CURTIS MORGAN           cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com
August 14, 2009
After years of negotiations, water managers and the White House reached a deal that will finally have federal money flowing to Everglades projects.
Water managers and the White House signed a crucial contract Thursday that promises a much-needed infusion of federal dollars for the Everglades.
The agreement ends years of dispute over splitting up a ballooning restoration bill, which is expected to top $22 billion, and clears the way to quickly -- and finally -- begin long-stalled construction work.
The ``master agreement'' details how the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers will share costs and duties for 68 projects Congress approved in 2000 to restore the natural flow of the River of Grass.
Both sides hailed the agreement -- reached when the Obama administration relented in a dispute over land values likely to shift as much as a half-billion dollars onto the federal ledger -- as a breakthrough that should move restoration from talk to action.
``This is not just a boring, silly administrative milestone,'' said Shannon Estenoz, a member of the water district's governing board. ``This is the place where we pick up speed. I want to get out my boots and hard hat and start attending ground-breakings.''
Terrence ``Rock'' Salt, a deputy assistant secretary of the Army who oversees the Corps, said construction could begin within months, starting with reclamation of 55,000 acres in the Picayune Strand, site of a Southwest Florida development that flopped decades ago. The Corps has $41 million in stimulus funding for that job.
``We now have the agreements in place that will support Everglades projects that were, only a decade ago, little more than hopes and dreams,'' said Salt, who signed the document for the White House.
Over the next two years, the Obama administration has budgeted or is seeking congressional approval for almost a half-billion dollars to begin restoration projects, including ones to restore freshwater flows to Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands, overhaul the C-111 canal to keep more water in Everglades National Park and build a reservoir to bolster Broward County's water supply and limit seepage from adjacent Everglades marshes.
Down the road, the agreement also could potentially open the door for federal help to complete Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial $536 million deal to buy 73,000 acres from the U.S. Sugar Corp. and convert them to massive reservoirs and pollution-treatment marshes.
In a court challenge, the Miccosukee Tribe and rival grower Florida Crystals Corp. have argued the land deal would delay cleanup, possibly by decades, because the district doesn't have money to build anything on the land. Estimates for conceptual designs range as high as $17 billion.
In past years, the Corps firmly opposed bankrolling projects primarily intended to clean up farm pollution, calling that a state responsibility. Both sides signaled that stance has been relaxed.
Salt said the Corps would decide whether to help pay for water-quality projects on a case-by-case basis, and he expected to discuss plans for the land with the district.
Board Chairman Eric Buermann said there already have been preliminary discussions about sharing costs for future projects. He also argued that the land deal would send a message to congressional critics of the so-far-sluggish restoration effort, underscoring Florida's commitment to getting the job done. ``This is a state that is bellying up to the bar,'' he said.
The restoration plan calls for splitting costs 50-50, with the district covering its half with land purchases and the Corps footing most construction costs. But setting land value has proved to be a major source of friction.
The Corps normally values land a state contributes at market prices. But for the Everglades effort, the state initially agreed to use original, and often cheaper, purchase prices. With delays sending construction estimates soaring, water managers -- outspending the federal government six-to-one in the Glades -- pressed to change the terms.
White House budget managers, concerned about hundreds of millions of dollars added to federal costs, balked. But take-it-or-leave-it letters the district board sent to the White House last month sparked a flurry of high-level negotiations , with the Corps agreeing to calculate land at market prices for most projects.

090813-1



090813-1
Florida, federal officials reach deal for Everglades restoration.
McClatchy Newspapers - CURTIS MORGAN
August 13, 2009
MIAMI -- Water managers and the White House signed a crucial contract Thursday that promises a much-needed infusion of federal dollars for the Everglades.
The agreement ends years of dispute over splitting up a ballooning restoration bill, which is expected to top $22 billion, and clears the way to quickly - and finally - begin long-stalled construction work.
The "master agreement" details how the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers will share costs and duties for 68 projects Congress approved in 2000 to restore the natural flow of the River of Grass.
Both sides hailed the agreement - reached when the Obama administration relented in a dispute over land values likely to shift as much as a half-billion dollars onto the federal ledger - as a breakthrough that should move restoration from talk to action.
"This is not just a boring, silly administrative milestone," said Shannon Estenoz, a member of the water district's governing board. "This is the place where we pick up speed. I want to get out my boots and hard hat and start attending ground-breakings."
Terrence "Rock" Salt, a deputy assistant secretary of the Army who oversees the Corps, said construction could begin within months, starting with reclamation of 55,000 acres in the Picayune Strand, site of a Southwest Florida development that flopped decades ago. The Corps has $41 million in stimulus funding for that job.
"We now have the agreements in place that will support Everglades projects that were, only a decade ago, little more than hopes and dreams," said Salt, who signed the document for the White House.
Over the next two years, the Obama administration has budgeted or is seeking congressional approval for almost a half-billion dollars to begin restoration projects, including ones to restore freshwater flows to Biscayne Bay coastal wetlands, overhaul the C-111 canal to keep more water in Everglades National Park and build a reservoir to bolster Broward County's water supply and limit seepage from adjacent Everglades marshes.
Down the road, the agreement also could potentially open the door for federal help to complete Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's controversial $536 million deal to buy 73,000 acres from the U.S. Sugar Corp. and convert them to massive reservoirs and pollution-treatment marshes.
In a court challenge, the Miccosukee Tribe and rival grower Florida Crystals Corp. have argued the land deal would delay cleanup, possibly by decades, because the district doesn't have money to build anything on the land. Estimates for conceptual designs range as high as $17 billion.
MIAMI -- In past years, the Corps firmly opposed bankrolling projects primarily intended to clean up farm pollution, calling that a state responsibility. Both sides signaled that stance has been relaxed.
Salt said the Corps would decide whether to help pay for water-quality projects on a case-by-case basis, and he expected to discuss plans for the land with the district.
Board Chairman Eric Buermann said there already have been preliminary discussions about sharing costs for future projects. He also argued that the land deal would send a message to congressional critics of the so-far-sluggish restoration effort, underscoring Florida's commitment to getting the job done. "This is a state that is bellying up to the bar," he said.
The restoration plan calls for splitting costs 50-50, with the district covering its half with land purchases and the Corps footing most construction costs. But setting land value has proved to be a major source of friction.
The Corps normally values land a state contributes at market prices. But for the Everglades effort, the state initially agreed to use original, and often cheaper, purchase prices. With delays sending construction estimates soaring, water managers - outspending the federal government six-to-one in the Glades - pressed to change the terms.
White House budget managers, concerned about hundreds of millions of dollars added to federal costs, balked. But take-it-or-leave-it letters the district board sent to the White House last month sparked a flurry of high-level negotiations, with the Corps agreeing to calculate land at market prices for most projects.

090813-2



090813-2
Farmers south of Lake O beat Everglades cleanup goal again
Palm Beach Post - PAUL QUINLAN, Staff Writer
August 13, 2009
Farms in the sugar-growing region south of Lake Okeechobee beat their state-imposed goals for reducing pollution flowing toward the Everglades, while their counterparts farther west fell far short.
The South Florida Water Management District reviews progress each year in limiting the runoff of phosphorus, a key ingredient in fertilizer and muck that can wreak havoc on the Everglades' food chain and fuel the growth of unwanted cattails.

 

The review found that farmers in the 500,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area reduced their phosphorus runoff by 68 percent below what would have flowed had they failed to reform their watering and fertilizing practices.
That beats the state's 25 percent goal and also bests the EAA farms' average annual reduction of 54 percent, measured over the 14-year life of the program.
"The region's agricultural community has continually strengthened its commitment to protecting and improving South Florida's ecosystems," said district board Chairman Eric Buermann.
But farmers missed pollution targets in a 170,000-acre area to the west of the EAA known as the C-139 basin, a patchwork of vegetable, citrus and pasture lands.
Farms there released 52.3 metric tons of phosphorus — more than double the upper limit of 24.6 metric tons and almost four times the goal of 13.7 metric tons. The C-139 basin has been out of compliance for six of the past seven years.
The failing grade came even though the area is held to lesser standards because of its sandy soils and drainage issues. Unlike the EAA, which must reduce pollution 25 percent, the C-139 must only maintain historic pollution levels.
The state invested $1.8 billion to improve Everglades water quality since 1994, chiefly in construction of more than 52,000 acres of artificial marshes designed to filter pollution from water flowing south into the Everglades. The marshes are also known as "stormwater treatment areas," or STAs.
"Operating the STAs has been a learning experience," said district board member and environmentalist Shannon Estenoz. "Performance has been mixed."
The marshes and improvements in farming practices have helped stop 3,200 metric tons of phosphorus from reaching the Everglades, according to the district, although they have failed to consistently achieve targets.
District leaders hope that a $47.5 million, 4,700-acre expansion of one filter marsh in Hendry County combined with improvements to an existing 8,000-acre marsh there will improve cleanup efforts.
The district also expects to use the 73,000 acres that Gov. Charlie Crist wants to purchase from U.S. Sugar Corp. for $536 million to better clean water for the Everglades.

090812-1



090812-1
Florida, federal government declare truce in Everglades money war
Palm Beach Post - PAUL QUINLAN, Staff Writer
August 12, 2009
After eight years of wrangling, the state and federal government have come to terms on how to split the multibillion-dollar cost of restoring the Everglades, clearing the way for the money that President Obama has pledged to the effort.
The consensus, which officials and environmentalists cheered as landmark, takes the form of eight agreements expected to be approved Thursday by the board of the South Florida Water Management District, the agency charged with overseeing Everglades restoration for the state.
"This is a huge moment," said district board member Jerry Montgomery. "I wish I had a bottle of champagne to crack open right now."
The dispute centered on details of how to account for much of the $3 billion spent thus far on the $10.9 billion Everglades restoration plan that Congress and the state agreed in 2000 to split 50-50.
To date, Florida has outspent its federal partners 6 to 1, contributing $2.6 billion to Washington's $444 million. Obama, who pledged to jump-start the feds' stalled commitment during his campaign, wants to spend nearly a half billion dollars on the Everglades over the next two years, a record amount.
But differences over terms in the so-called "master agreement" between the district and the agency's federal partner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, threatened to get in the way.
Numerous letters and conference calls led recently to two days of face-to-face talks, during which officials hashed out differences — in particular, over how to value land purchased for restoration.
According to the 2000 restoration plan, the state was expected to buy much of the land necessary to fulfill its half of the bargain. The state had agreed to allow land to be valued at its purchase price in the 50-50 calculus.
But as early as 2004, as land values began to soar and the corps fell behind on construction, state officials began pushing for a change. They wanted the corps to value land at its market value, in accordance with the corps' usual policy, so as to allow the state to take advantage of the rise in land values.
After much negotiation, the corps agreed. But White House budget-writers refused to sign off, blocking $41 million in funding to the Picayune Strand, a $438 million project to turn a failed housing development in rural Collier County back into wetlands.
Water managers, who thought the issue all but resolved, bristled in July when they received a new draft of the agreement filled with unexpected corrections and revisions. Board member and environmentalist Shannon Estenoz blasted the "nameless, faceless" bureaucrats who seemed empowered to stop Obama for getting money to the Everglades.
Today, she praised all involved for settling the bookkeeping dispute.
"I had felt like all of us had been stuck in the quicksand for a long time," Estenoz said. "Like I tell my children, just cause I'm screaming at you doesn't mean I don't love you very much."
Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham gushed in a statement that striking the agreement was "like hitting the sweet spot on a tennis racquet and delivering an ace."
"Without a master agreement in place, Everglades restoration would have come to a halt, jeopardizing hundreds of millions of dollars that are now flowing for job-creating projects," Fordham said.
But it's not yet clear that this agreement will fundamentally alter the bureaucratic infighting and inertia that have bogged down Everglades restoration since the creation of the state-federal restoration plan
Paul Warner, the district's chief scientist for Everglades restoration, assured board members of the significance today.
"A lot has come together," said Warner. "Stars are starting to align."

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090812-2
Lake Okeechobee Dumping Stops, but Future Discharges Expected
South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, FL - Andy Reid
August 12, 2009
Aug. 12--PALM BEACH COUNTY -- Water managers stopped draining Lake Okeechobee water out to sea, but the dumping from South Florida's back-up water supply will likely resume to ease flooding concerns, the Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday.
Summer rains boosted lake levels and prompted the corps on July 23 to start releasing lake water west through the Caloosahatchee River to the Gulf of Mexico and east to St. Lucie River and the Atlantic Ocean.
Those releases, which ended Aug. 3, ease the strain on the aging dike that protects lakeside communities from flooding. But they waste water that could be needed during times of drought. The releases can also damage the mix of fresh and saltwater in coastal estuaries, which can lead to fish kills.
With the lake not rising as steadily as past weeks and concerns about other stormwater runoff draining into the sensitive estuaries, the corps Tuesday announced that it would hold off on another round of lake releases.
However, it is "unlikely" that the corps will be able to avoid more lake releases in the coming months, according to Col. Al Pantano, the Corps' new commander for the Florida district.
"We are still at the point in the hurricane season where we have a great deal of concern about rainfall yet to come. We want to ensure we have capacity in the lake should a high rainfall event occur," Pantano said in a written release.
Tuesday the lake measured 13.82 feet above sea level, more than two feet higher than this time last year. The lake was about 13.44 feet when the releases began.
The corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet.
The corps drained more than a foot of water out of Lake Okeechobee during the weeks following Tropical Storm Fay a year ago. The storm's dousing helped the lake rebound from back-to-back years of record drought. Water levels now reach into the marshes inside the lake's dike.
In addition to threatening the dike, extended periods of high water levels in the lake can suffocate the grasses that provide fish habitat. The lake's grasses are doing well now, said Audubon scientist Paul Gray.
"We just don't want [the lake] to fill up too fast," Gray said. "One storm can put two to four feet of water in the lake."
Work to strengthen the lake's dike remains decades from completion.
To guard against flooding, Lake Okeechobee decades ago was essentially turned into a giant reservoir -- surrounded by a 140-mile-long dike to contain water that once naturally overflowed its banks and replenished the Everglades.
But what was good for flood protection was bad for the environment. Now the state and federal government are bogged down in a multibillion-dollar plan to build reservoirs and treatment areas to re-create water flows to what remains of the Everglades.
Andy Reid can be reached at abreid@SunSentinel.com or 561-228-5504

090812-3



090812-3
Cement plant to cut mercury emissions
Baltimore Sun Reporter - Timothy B. Wheeler
August 11, 2009
Lehigh reaches voluntary agreement with state
A cement plant in Carroll County that is one of the state's top mercury polluters has agreed to slash its emissions of that highly toxic metal and of harmful particle pollution as well, state officials announced yesterday.
Lehigh Cement Co.'s Union Bridge plant has voluntarily agreed to reduce its mercury emissions 80 percent by March 2012, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment. That would be a year earlier than the plant would have had to make reductions under new federal pollution regulations proposed earlier this year.
Ingesting mercury can harm the brain, nervous system and other organs, and it can build up in fish. Maryland warns women and children to limit their consumption of certain fish because they may have low levels of methylmercury, one form of the toxic metal.
Mercury releases from cement kilns are not currently regulated, but the Environmental Protection Agency in April proposed industrywide limits that would take effect in March 2013.
Cement industry officials had complained that EPA's proposal to slash mercury emissions was "excessively stringent" and could force U.S. plants to shut down. But Kent Martin, the Lehigh plant manager, said his company believes the reductions can be achieved cost-effectively at the Union Bridge plant. He expects to begin testing later this month on how to keep mercury from escaping into the air, he said, by injecting carbon into the cement manufacturing process. Those tests should lead to an 80 percent reduction by 2012, he said.
Meanwhile, the company has vowed to reduce mercury emissions by 30 percent to 40 percent this year, using another control technique. In return, the state will permit the cement plant to burn either dry fertilizer or pelletized sewage sludge as long as it takes steps to ensure that the new fuel does not increase mercury emissions.
Environmentalists, who had urged state and federal action to reduce mercury pollution from cement plants, praised the agreement.
Lehigh also agreed to pay a $202,500 penalty to settle allegations made by the state that the plant violated its limits on particle air pollution in 2007. As part of a consent decree entered in Baltimore City Circuit Court, the company pledged to test and repair its particle pollution controls. Particle pollution can aggravate asthma and bronchitis, cause heart and lung problems and even premature death.

090811-1



090811-1
Risky reptiles ban possible
Tampa Bay Online - CATHERINE DOLINSKI        cdolinski@tampatrib.com
August 11, 2009
TALLAHASSEE - Lawmakers may force the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to ban sales of Burmese pythons and other dangerous reptiles if the agency fails to act on its own.
Officials at the wildlife agency are weighing the prospect of banning the sale and trafficking of exotic pets on the state's list of , who plans this week to file legislation that would prevent the sale and importation of such animals for private ownership.
"Sometimes it takes the Fish and Wildlife Commission a little too long to jump on an issue. They may have information we don't have; on the other hand, sometimes an issue is so outrageous that you can't just sit back and say, let's weigh the positives and negatives," said Sobel, D-Hollywood.
Concerns about dangerous reptiles spiked in June after a captive Burmese python in Sumter County escaped its terrarium and killed a sleeping toddler. Gov. Charlie Crist called for a statewide Burmese python hunt, which has resulted so far in the capture of at least six of the snakes.
With pythons loose in the Everglades and surrounding areas, the hunt is "too little, too late," said Jennifer Hobgood, Florida director of the Humane Society of the United States. "It's really incongruous to send people to hunt these snakes without stopping the influx of them into the state."
Monday, Hobgood wrote to Fish and Wildlife Commission Chairman Rodney L. Barreto urging a ban on all reptiles of concern in Florida. Banning one species is not enough, she wrote, because the trade in exotic animals simply shifts to another species.
Wildlife commission spokeswoman Pat Behnke said the prospect of a ban is "complicated." Among the concerns: how to treat pet owners who have gone through the state's permitting process. Florida requires a $100 annual permit to own a reptile of concern.
Even if the state grandfathers in existing pet owners, banning animals could cause pet shop owners, breeders and importers to kill or dump large numbers into the wild, warned Marshall Meyers, CEO and general counsel of the Washington, D.C.-based Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.
Meyers said a ban would undermine the permitting system the state has established for responsible pet ownership. Hobgood said the Sumter County case illustrates that the current system is "inadequate."
The state could boost the penalties for illegal ownership, Meyers suggested. "If the penalty is severe enough, it's amazing how people will come into compliance."
Reporter Catherine Dolinski can be reached at (850) 222-8382.

090811-2



090811-2
Corps suspends releases from Lake Okeechobee as estuaries receive fresh water from local rainfall
Lake Okeechobee Watch (US-ACE)
August 11, 2009
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ended pulse releases from Lake Okeechobee Aug. 3. At this time the Corps is not making releases from Lake Okeechobee because the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries continue to receive fresh water from local rainfall and runoff. Today’s lake level is at 13.82 feet (NGVD).
Last week the Corps reassessed conditions and suspended future releases until further notice. The Corps based its decision on a number of factors including low (poor) salinity levels in the lower Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, a slowing in the rise of Lake Okeechobee, and continued good conditions within the lake.
“We asked for input from the South Florida Water Management District, coastal counties and other experts around the region. The estuaries and other areas of south Florida were already receiving so much fresh water from rainfall in their basins that conditions were poor for more releases. We don’t want to add to the challenge,” said Col. Al Pantano, the Corps’ Jacksonville District commander. “Because the lake’s rate of rise had slowed, the Corps decided to suspend releases. It’s unlikely, however, that we’ll be able to make it all the way through the rainy season without reinitiating releases.”
The Corps strives to maintain a balance within the regional water management system. The functions of the system are numerous and often at odds. Providing both flood damage reduction and water supply entails relying on Lake Okeechobee for storage, but doing so can harm the lake’s ecology, and high water levels increase concerns over Herbert Hoover Dike stability. Protecting the dike and the lake’s plants and wildlife may mean releasing water through the dike’s major outlets – the St. Lucie Canal and Caloosahatchee River. However, the Corps recognizes too much fresh water can damage estuarine organisms such as oysters and sea grasses.
“We are still at the point in the hurricane season where we have a great deal of concern about rainfall yet to come. We want to ensure we have capacity in the lake should a high rainfall event occur. Because water can flow into the lake much faster than we can release it, we need to watch changing conditions closely. We don’t want to have a situation where water levels get too high. That’s riskier for the dike – and therefore public safety – and can also lead to the kinds of releases that do the most harm to the estuaries and the lake ecology.”
Should conditions change in upcoming days, the Corps could initiate releases to allow up to 3,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) to the west and up to 1,170 cfs to the east. If the Corps makes releases, they will take into account the water that is flowing from the basins along the Caloosahatchee and the St. Lucie. This is why the Corps takes measurements of flow to the estuaries at the S-79 on the west and the S-80 on the east, well downstream from the lake. If the lake level continues to increase, however, the Corps may begin taking release measurements on the Caloosahatchee at S-77, which is closer to the lake and may allow releases up to 4,000 cfs to the west.
For more information, please call Nanciann Regalado at 904-232-3904 or (cell) 904-334-8954.
Water level data and flows for Lake Okeechobee and the Central and Southern Florida Project are located on the Jacksonville District water management web page.

090810-1



090810-1
Ask more questions before buying U.S. Sugar land
Miami Herald
August 10, 2009
Judge to decide next step for U.S. Sugar land deal
Water managers once hoped their plan to borrow as much as $2.2 billion for Gov. Charlie Crist's land deal with U.S. Sugar would breeze through judicial approval, setting aside just three hours for the hearing seven months ago.
On Thursday, the arguments finally ended in what turned out to be a months-long legal battle mounted by the Miccosukee Tribe and U.S. Sugar rival Florida Crystals Corp. Their challenge leaves the South Florida Water Management District plan to bankroll the $536 million land-buy with bonds -- and perhaps the fate of the controversial Everglades restoration deal -- in the hands of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele.
Afterward, Eric Buermann, a Miami attorney who chairs the district's governing board, sounded confident that Hafele would approve a financing plan crucial to closing the purchase -- though he admitted there was uncertainty about the full amount, largely because of a debt cap the Florida Legislature passed this year.
BY SAM POOLE           SPoole@bergersingerman.com
Your Aug. 7 editorial “Life or death?”  states, “Time's running short for the Everglades and Florida Bay.'' Amen.
One cannot overstate the decline of the Everglades, Florida Bay and Lake Okeechobee. Congress' failure to fund the 50-percent federal share of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP) approved in 2000 put restoration efforts eight years behind schedule. The only successful restoration effort to date is phosphorus removal from the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) flows into the Everglades.
No one questions the urgent need to get restoration under way. The question is whether the unilateral decision to purchase U.S. Sugar lands advances restoration. We are all tempted by once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Responsible people ask: ``Do I need what is offered? What must I give up? Should I check with my partners?''
Is this land needed? Florida Crystals asked the leading Everglades restoration design firm to prepare a proposal for a cost-shared amendment to CERP to meet updated flow targets for the Everglades, Florida Bay and the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie Estuaries. The Burns & McDonnell plan greatly improves the performance of CERP, at an additional cost of $2-$3 billion. The plan converts about 62,000 acres of sugar cane land to store and treat polluted Lake Okeechobee water and send the clean water south to restore the Everglades and Florida Bay. Only a small part of the US Sugar lands are in the Burns & McDonnell plan. Nearly half of the initial 73,000-acre purchase has no use in Everglades restoration.
Rational thinking requires that we first ask, What land is needed for restoration? rather than purchasing 180,000 acres that are not a part of any plan and then asking, Can we use this land for restoration? When one spends dearly to buy land in advance of planning, the plan will inevitably be shaped by the purchase, rather than what is best for environmental restoration.
Nowhere is this principle more evident than the plans for the U.S. Sugar transaction presented to the south Florida water Management District Governing Board last October. Science-based restoration plans to save Lake Okeechobee, several years in preparation, called for storing and treating stormwater runoff from developments between Orlando and Lake Okeechobee before the water entered the lake. The plans presented in October eliminated most storage north of the lake and sent this stormwater from Orlando through the lake to be stored in the EAA.
``What is the cost/What must I give up?'' CERP is now estimated to cost $12 billion. Even with 50-percent federal funding, South Florida taxpayers face a large tax bill. Constructing newly proposed reservoirs on the U.S. Sugar land will cost $14 billion to $17 billion. Add in $200-$400 million per year to maintain and operate the reservoirs, plus land cost, all funded 100 percent by South Florida taxpayers, and the financial resources of the District are more than exhausted.
Florida Crystals' concern, as a long-term partner in Everglades restoration, is that construction of critically needed projects will be deferred or eliminated in order to buy land for unaffordable projects that are not part of any restoration plan agreed to by the restoration partnership.
``Should I check with my partners?'' Unilateral decisions on major issues strain partnerships. Restoration will be a 40-year team effort of public, tribal, landowner and nongovernment interests. Trust among these partners that decisions are rational, science-based and transparent is fundamental to success. The U.S. Sugar transaction is a trust buster.
We have lost more than a year of restoration debating the U.S. Sugar transaction. Restoration would be better served by deferring the purchase, ending the media campaigns and convening a public discussion among all restoration partners focused on getting restoration back on track and what role a U.S. Sugar transaction might play in that effort.
Sam Poole is a shareholder with the Florida business law firm of Berger Singerman, which represents Florida Crystals Corp. He was executive director of the South Florida Water Management District from 1994-99 and is a past chair of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force Working Group.

090810-2



090810-2
Postcard from The Everglades
TIME - Tim Padgett
August 10, 2009
This is the everglades that they put in brochures. Summer rains have raised the waters, and lily pads blooming in the searing sun give the sprawling wetlands a Monet mood. But as his airboat glides through the saw grass 30 miles west of Fort Lauderdale, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) commissioner Ron Bergeron is looking for the worst invasive menace to threaten the River of Grass since sugarcane and the Army Corps of Engineers. "They like to sneak onto islands like this one," says Bergeron, 65, a self-described "glades cracker" who has spent almost as much of his life out here as most alligators have. "They know birds and animals take refuge on them."
Bergeron is a smart gladesman. He pulls up to the tree-covered hummock, and almost as soon as herpetologists Shawn Heflick and Greg Graziani hop off the airboat armed with snake hooks, they find a 10-foot Burmese python slithering through the mud. Graziani swoops down and grabs the angry serpent's tail while Heflick goes for the other end. After a brief struggle, during which Heflick gets his hand bloodied by a sharp snake tooth, they pull the python's head, with its camouflage-like design, into their clutches. "It was trying to cool off deep down there in the slime in this heat," says Heflick, lifting the python like a trophy as it coils around his forearm and flashes its forked tongue. "Makes it harder to find them this time of year." When they get back to dry land, the men will kill it.
So begins Day One for Florida's first officially designated python posse. The population of the voracious nonnative snakes has exploded so frighteningly in the past decade--as many as 150,000 are estimated to be crawling through the Everglades--that the state has launched a hunting offensive to eradicate them before they wipe out the endangered species native to the region, like wood storks and white-tailed deer. Or before they become a human threat: in early July, a 2-year-old girl was strangled to death in her crib by a nearly 9-foot python illegally kept as a pet in her house outside Orlando.
Since then, Florida officials like Bergeron and Senator Bill Nelson have ramped up the python-purge campaign. On July 17, FWC chairman Rodney Barreto issued the first snake-hunting permits for state lands, and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar did likewise for Big Cypress National Preserve. (Hunting is banned in Everglades National Park, but Salazar is considering allowing it in this case.) Researchers are even developing a python drone, a small remote-controlled airplane that can detect the constrictors. For now, only reptile experts like Graziani and Heflick have permission to hunt the serpents. (Using firearms against the reptiles is still prohibited.) But given how prolifically the pythons breed and how big they get--a 13-footer ate a 6-foot alligator a few years ago--Bergeron expects skilled gladesmen armed with traps, bows and guns to be recruited for bounty-hunting soon. "These monsters are challenging the top of the food chain out here," he says, "and it's not natural."
In large part, Floridians have created their own mess. The Sunshine State loves exotic pets, and sales of pythons, most imported from Southeast Asia, reached $10 million in the state last year. But too many buyers, after discovering what a large and expensive chore caring for these snakes can be, simply get rid of them. And because there aren't a lot of adopt-a-python agencies, the reptiles are often dumped in the wild. As a result, Florida in 2008 instituted new ownership requirements, such as $100 annual permits, proof of snake-handling skills and implantation of microchips in pythons' hides to keep tabs on the snakes.
After the posse euthanizes the morning's catch by swiftly severing its brain stem, the men examine its entrails. "She was eating well out there," says Graziani, noting the large fatty deposits and the animal fur in its stool. But with everyone from politicians to glades crackers pledging to stop the python invasion, the snakes are now the prey.

090810-3



090810-3
Oyster reef restoration project under way
TC Palm - staff report
August 10, 2009
STUART — Truckloads of cultchfossilized shells, coral and other biogenic materials used to make oyster beds are making their way to Martin County this week.
The Oyster Reef Restoration Project will restore oyster reef habitat in the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee estuaries.
The project, funded through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, takes a significant step toward the fulfillment of one of the goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and will be implemented by Martin County’s Water Quality and Coastal Divisions.
“We are thrilled to have secured federal stimulus funds that will be used to provide many environmental and economic benefits to the citizens of Martin and Palm Beach counties,” Martin County Coastal Engineer Kathy FitzPatrick said.
Oyster habitat is critical to the health of estuaries, effectively filtering nutrients, fine sediments and toxins from the water. Just one adult oyster can filter between 20 and 50 gallons of water per day. The newly constructed reef habitat, when fully populated with oysters, could filter the total volume of the St Lucie Estuary in about a month. Oyster reefs also provide essential habitat structure for other species including shrimp, clams, crabs, snails and many species of fish.
“The Oyster Reef Restoration Project will improve water quality and create and improve oyster habitat that is vital to the overall health of the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee Rivers,” Martin County Water Quality Chief Gary Roderick said.
This project will provide over 100 jobs ranging from marine construction to scientific research.
One of the first steps in the project is to secure the materials necessary to construct more than 1,200 oyster reefs. Monday, trucks were on the road delivering cultch from Punta Gorda to the project’s staging area northwest of the old Roosevelt Bridge.
Employees from CSA International, the environmental consulting firm managing the restoration project, will also be out on the water surveying areas in the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie rivers to continue gathering data to firm up locations for the oyster beds.
Construction is scheduled to begin in the St. Lucie Estuary during the week of Aug. 17. McCulley Marine Services will be operating the barge and tug. Ecological Associates Inc. of Jensen Beach will be conducting turbidity monitoring in the areas where the activities are occurring.
Martin County will provide more information about the project during an open house scheduled Sept. 2, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Stuart Recreation Center on Flagler Street. For more information, contact Martin County’s Engineering Department at (772) 219-4930.

090810-4



090810-4
U.S. Sugar deal would divert resources from projects that will save the Everglades
TC Palm - OPINION: Gaston Cantens:
August 10, 2009
http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2009/aug/10/gaston-cantens-us-sugar-deal-would-divert-from/
Florida Crystals supports true Everglades restoration. As the first Everglades Agricultural Area farmer to sign off on the historic Everglades Settlement Agreement nearly 15 years ago, we have wholeheartedly supported restoration; we recognize it is crucial to the long-term survival of South Florida’s sustainable agriculture. With other EAA farmers, we have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars and given tens of thousands of acres of fertile farmland for restoration.
As an advocate for the construction of Everglades projects, we were compelled to challenge the South Florida Water Management District’s bond validation to finance its purchase of U.S. Sugar’s lands. It is a gross misuse of public funds and a departure from the Everglades restoration plan the state and federal governments and all other interested stakeholders, including farmers, have been working toward for more than a decade. The proposed deal is a roadblock to the construction of projects that would have meaningful restoration results. In fact, a massive project was under way and canceled because of this deal.
While often spoken of in platitudes about “historic opportunity” and presented as some vague, grander “vision” for restoration, the unfortunate reality of this deal is it will divert all available funding — dollars that would have gone to planned, ready-to-go projects — to purposeless land acquisition. District witnesses confirmed this in court by admitting that after incurring the purchase debt, they will have no financial ability to do anything with the land.
District officials tout their “vision” of water supply and quality resulting from this purchase, but the district’s executive director admitted in court none of these benefits will flow naturally from the purchase. All require construction, operation and maintenance of massive public projects the district has no ability to undertake.
Buzzwords like “historic opportunity” and “reduced price” are used to divert attention from the fact the projects upon which the benefits are premised would, according to the district’s chief engineer, cost between $14 billion to $17 billion to build and $387 million to $452 million annually to operate. The district has no plan to approach paying for this. In a time of economic strife, the public will needlessly have $550 million to $650 million more in debt (after issuance costs), and U.S. Sugar will continue to farm the land it “sold”. This land buy will merely cancel projects that could provide meaningful restoration.
Florida Crystals has exhaustively participated in the district’s public planning process and publicly proposed alternatives requiring far less land at a fraction of the total cost and providing better benefits to the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee, which is dying from severe nutrient overloads from northern basins.
We hope, regardless of the outcome of the court proceedings, the district will go back to craft a realistic and fiscally prudent plan that can actually be implemented and provide real benefits like the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan from which we have deviated as a result of this latest “silver bullet.”
Cantens, a former state representative is a vice president of Florida Crystals Corp.

090810-5



090810-5
U.S. Sugar deal:  Good to go
Palm Beach Post Editorial - EDITORIAL:
August 10, 2009
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/opinion/content/opinion/epaper/2009/08/10/a12a_everglades_leadedit_0810.html
Parties challenging the purchase of U.S. Sugar land had to prove that buying swaths of farmland in the historic path of the Everglades has no public purpose. They failed.
In closing arguments last week before Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele, the challengers argued that the South Florida Water Management District has no plan for the land and no money for the projects that would go on the land. Therefore, the only possible use for the land is the continued cultivation of sugar and citrus, which doesn't amount to the public purpose necessary to issue bonds to buy the land.
Yes, it's complicated. But here's how the case breaks down:
The water district wants permission from Judge Hafele to issue $650 million in certificates of participation (COP) bonds, which don't require voter consent, to buy 73,000 acres from U.S. Sugar. West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals, the other large Everglades sugar grower, wants to sidetrack a deal that it believes is too generous to its competitor. The Miccosukee Tribe claims that the lack of a defined Everglades restoration plan created by using the U.S. Sugar land would harm the tribe's ancestral home.
But water district attorneys Christine Lamia and Fred Springer, aided by Audubon of Florida attorney Thom Rumberger, rebutted those arguments. They noted that the U.S. Sugar land is extraordinarily well-suited for Everglades restoration. The Miccosukees are working off the earlier restoration plan, which was written in the 1990s with no conception that the cane fields ever could be publicly owned. Barring incompetence or negligence bordering on the criminal, Everglades restoration will be enhanced, not harmed, if the plan is amended to include the U.S. Sugar land.
The district admits that it hasn't gone through the years of planning to say exactly what it would do with the land, what the work would cost and where the money would come from. The tribe's attorney, Dexter Lehtinen, and Florida Crystals' attorney, Joseph Klock, argued that the district will spend so much money buying the land that there won't be money to do anything with it, much less continue existing restoration efforts. So U.S. Sugar would have to keep farming it, and there would be no public benefit.
In fact, district officials know that they will use the land to store and cleanse water on its way to the Everglades. It will take time to work out the details. The district never will have enough money to do everything, but it would be correct to expect the federal government, the district's 50-50 restoration partner, to contribute.
The Palm Beach County state attorney, a party to the lawsuit and representing all the state attorneys in the water district's 16-county area, announced Thursday that the district had met its public purpose test.
Judge Hafele is being asked to apply the law to an argument that is more political than legal. The challengers are determined to block the best hope for Everglades restoration, no matter the public cost. Their politics don't belong in the courtroom.

090809-1



090809-1
Florida not practicing what it preaches
Times Herald - EDITORIAL
http://www.times-herald.com/opinion/Florida-not-practicing-what-it-preaches-826058
Throughout the nearly two-decade-old water war between Georgia, Florida and Alabama, our two neighboring states say the problem is Georgia -- more specifically, the metro Atlanta area, which is taking water from Lake Lanier and the Chattahoochee River basin to support development.
Florida and Alabama say that's wrong. Their two states need the water to come on down the river basin to suit the needs of their states. Specifically, Florida contends that Atlanta is siphoning water that threatens to deplete the flow into Florida's Apalachicola Bay, which could critically injure the state's $70 million oyster industry.
While Florida has made that argument for years, the Sunshine state merely talks the talk. Florida is not practicing what it is preaching to Georgia in the water war.
An Associated Press news report in recent days has clearly chronicled how growth and development in central Florida threatens the entire ecosystem in South Florida, including Everglades National Park, the Florida Keys and commercial and recreational fisheries worth millions of dollars.
According to the AP story, "Man's unforgiving push to develop South Florida has left the land dissected with roads, dikes and miles of flood control canals to make way for homes and farms, choking off the freshwater flow and slowly killing the bay."
If Florida is so concerned about the Apalachicola oyster beds in North Florida, why is the state not concerned about the "entire ecosystem" in South Florida?
Last week, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue again increased the political rhetoric. He said he's ready to play hardball with our neighbors. He noted that Florida "doesn't necessarily have a stellar environmental reputation either."
He's right.
After nearly two decades of the three states warring over water -- and with the courts involved -- very little has been done to resolve this conflict. It's past time for the leadership of these three states to lead. We need solutions and not more talk and finger-pointing. We've had enough of that from all three states.

090809-2



090809-2
Fresh hope for 'Glades in Sugar sale
FLORIDA VOICE Editorial - ERIC BUERMANN
August 09, 2009
http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/Opinion/Editorials/opnOPN24080909.htm
There is no mistaking the groundswell of support for the South Florida Water Management District's purchase of land from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration. Leaders in national, state and local governments have publicly endorsed the acquisition, calling it, in the words of the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, "an historic turning point for the largest watershed restoration project in the world." Environmental groups, the watchdogs of restoration progress, have proclaimed this an important step forward, a "priceless, breathtaking opportunity." And newspapers from Miami to Pensacola, as well as others across the nation, agree with our view: that this is fresh hope for protecting and restoring America's Everglades.
This makes the legal challenge by a small minority of interests who oppose the land acquisition a frustrating step along the path to progress. To be clear, their challenge does not oppose environmental improvements. It does not question the need for more water storage and treatment. Instead, the challengers are using the procedural step of court validation of the District's bonds for financing the acquisition as an attempt to simply block the deal.
Let me remind the naysayers where this land purchase will take us. Owning vast acreage south of Lake Okeechobee presents an unprecedented opportunity for water storage and treatment -- the very backbone of restoration success. More reservoirs will mean fewer freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and their fragile estuaries. More treatment marshes will improve delivery of cleaner water to the water conservation areas and Everglades National Park. And the once-common practice of "backpumping" water into Lake Okeechobee will become a thing of the past.
These environmental benefits are important to Florida's future, and we stand on the brink of acquiring the land to achieve them. At no other time in recent history -- including when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was developed in the 1990s -- has acreage of this magnitude been made available to the public to serve our collective needs. Indeed, if such acreage had been available when CERP was being designed, the framework of projects for Everglades restoration would have turned out very differently.
In negotiating this exceptional purchase, we at the district have prudently modified the contract terms to reflect changing fiscal realities. We have identified key parcels for the initial acquisition. And we have moved steadily forward with a public planning process to put the best project ideas on the table. When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this arises, it takes vision and resolve to move forward despite attempts by a vocal minority to throw down roadblocks. I can assure you that we see the vision. And we are resolved to build a healthier environment for South Florida. Now is the time to make this happen.
Buermann is chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board.

090809-3



090809-3
Lehigh Acres: Florida's lesson in unregulated growth
TampaBay.com – Kris Hundley
August 09, 2009
Hoping to jump start the economy, Florida lawmakers have eased the rules on developers. Many won't have to pay for their projects' impact on roads. It will be easier to get approval to destroy wetlands. Next up: a study of whether developers should have to prove there's a need for new homes before revving up the bulldozers.
As lawmakers undo Florida's growth management regulations, it's useful to look back to a time when government didn't get in a developer's way.
Back when Art Deco was new, sun, women and opportunity drew Gerald Gould from his native New York to Miami.
A high school dropout who had served in the Navy, Gould fast-talked his way into a job with an ad agency. Soon he was hanging out with a major client, millionaire Lee Ratner.
Riding horses together on Ratner's ranch east of Fort Myers, the two weekend cowboys talked about ways Ratner could dodge taxes on his Florida retreat.
Gould, with ambition but no money, pitched the idea of slicing up the scrub and swampland like a checkerboard and selling it to Northern retirees.
Ratner, who had made millions with d-CON rodent killer, figured if he could sell rat poison, he could sell real estate.
On a flight to New York to line up financing, the men ripped open a barf bag and sketched out their advertising slogan:
"You can own a full 1/2 acre in fabulous Florida! Only $10 down and $10 a month."
The year was 1954. Lehigh Acres was born.
The ad would run in Friday's paper in Akron or Ann Arbor, and by Tuesday the promoters' desks in Miami would be awash in $10 bills. The money poured in so fast, they had to stash mail in trash baskets.
Starting with Ratner's 18,000-acre Lucky Lee ranch, the men hired an engineer to stamp out a grid pattern — over and over and over again — across what would become a 100-square mile expanse.
Forget about setting aside space for parks or retail or industry. Ignore the natural contours of the land. As the $10 bills kept coming, the founders of Lehigh needed more lots to sell.
"We gave so much thought to selling the land that the normal reservations for commercial properties, schools, all the ancillary things you need in a community, weren't made," said Gould, now 85. "We even had canals that ran uphill. I don't know any mistake you could make that we didn't make."
In Lee County, population 40,000, Ratner, Gould and two other partners in Lehigh Acres Development filed plans for 150,000 building lots.
The first year, they sold more than 12,000 parcels. The cheapest lot was $495, but the deed wasn't handed over until final payment. If a lot owner's monthly checks stopped, the property was resold. Gould estimates that a quarter-million sales were made as lots were recycled to new owners. Most buyers had never set foot in Florida, much less visited their site.
"They would have had to go down a dirt road and across an airfield to get there," Gould said of the remote chunk of land. "We painted arrows on the airstrip so people could find us."
Gould lives in South Miami now, the last surviving member of the Lehigh Acres partnership. He is candid about the damage the developers inflicted on the environment even as he reminisces about the go-go days.
Lehigh is where Gould learned how to spin dreams from Ratner, a master marketer who figured out that farmers would pay twice as much for rat poison if it came in a plain brown wrapper.
"I loved Lee Ratner," Gould said of the man who would leave nothing less than a $5 tip, even for a cup of coffee. "He had the uncanny ability to figure out what to say to a prospective buyer. He knew price was not the deciding factor."
At Lehigh, Ratner schooled his protégé on the art of the sale, tacking a color-coded map on the wall and opening the phone lines. That was the extent of the planning.
"It was just a great marketing concept," Gould said, noting that neither man had real estate experience. "We had no concept of people coming to live there. That's the last thing we thought about."
Reality smacked them in the face when folks from up North actually expected homes on their lots.
Gould remembers the first guy, Oran Gibbs of Detroit. He sent a check for $14,000, along with orders for a house he had seen in Gould's brochures — but which did not exist anywhere in Lehigh. Three months later, Gibbs showed up with a truckload of furniture, looking for his home.
"I told the project manager to put him up in a motel in Fort Myers and build him the damn house," Gould said. The house is still on Leeland Heights Boulevard, a run-down green bungalow surrounded by gas stations and strip centers.
By 1960, about 500 families were living in Lehigh and "it started growing like topsy," Gould said. Wife and kids in tow, he relocated from Miami to try to make the slapdash community work.
Living in a company-owned home on David Avenue, named after one of his sons, Gould's attitude toward Lehigh was one of noblesse oblige. "They called me the Baron.''
When Gould's kids and others needed schools, the developer's corporation cobbled classrooms out of three homes. Another house became a sheriff's substation. A motel and timeshare condos were built for prospective buyers. Next door was a golf course and auditorium where Liberace and Guy Lombardo played.
Trying to cluster development, Gould's salesmen enticed buyers to trade their lots in Lehigh's hinterlands for a home site near the few water and sewer lines in the center of town.
"We tried to do the right thing," Gould said. "Maybe it was a little late. Maybe it was a lame effort. But we tried."
Marketing efforts were ratcheted up to compete with places like Cape Coral, which had gulf access. Lehigh had canals that went nowhere and trucked-in sand on a pond teeming with gators.
Gould's marketers hauled a model home and bikini-clad models to Ohio in winter, showing them off under heat lamps surrounded by snowbanks. At a sales rally in Milwaukee, retirees were told to hold $10 bills in the air. Plucking the cash from their hands, Lehigh's pitchmen would congratulate them on owning a little piece of paradise.
The developers paraded elephants around Midwestern towns, bearing banners with the catch phrase, "Fly to Florida for peanuts!" Chartered jets brought hundreds of pale Northerners to gawk at Lehigh's Polynesian Garden and "Charmed Circle" of model homes.
Through the 1960s, Lehigh's population grew tenfold, with business as nonstop as the partying at the company's El Toro lounge. But the founders were racing to keep their heads above water.
New "truth-in-advertising" rules were forcing developers to play by the book or pay fines. (Gould says Lehigh was "pristine pure.'') New York started forcing developers to put money in escrow to pay for utilities and roads for lots sold to their residents. Gould's belated efforts to put money into infrastructure left a constant cash crunch.
"We made over $13-million on paper, but we didn't have sufficient cash flow to cover the tax bill," he said.
In 1969, the partners sold to Scientific Resources Corp. in an all-stock deal. The buyer went bust two years later, leaving Lehigh's founders with worthless paper.
"I worked 17 years for nothing," said Gould, who left Lehigh in 1972.
The IRS came after him for expensing everything to the company while he lived in Lehigh. "They said I owed $1.35 million, which was a little more than I had in my pocket," he said. Gould battled the tax man for a decade, eventually settling for $60,000.
Lehigh Acres, created by two guys as a way to skirt taxes and get rich, ended up doing neither. But 10,000 people called the community home, and more were on the way. Thousands of deeds still sat in sock drawers in Dayton and Detroit. Dad's retirement dream became his heirs' hopes for a Florida windfall. In the late 1990s, those wild wishes started coming true.
Richard Anglickis, who joined Gould's company in 1962 and still lives in Lehigh, watched a lot purchased for $800 sell for $2,500, then $4,500, and during the recent real estate frenzy, for an unbelievable $55,000.
"It went insane, driven by greed," he said. "But compared to other places, we became the affordable community."
Populated mostly by Midwestern retirees, Lehigh began attracting younger, blue-collar workers from Immokalee and people who cashed out of higher-priced waterfront communities.
From 2004 to 2006, more than 13,000 homes were built, nearly doubling Lehigh's total stock from 2000. Homes that had gone for $60,000 were selling for four to five times that amount.
When the real estate bubble burst nationwide, Lehigh was decimated. Property values dropped nearly 50 percent this year, on top of a 25 percent decline a year ago. About one in three homes are in some stage of foreclosure. Town boosters put the population at 70,000 permanent residents, but a recent University of Florida study estimated 55,000. That's less than 1 person per acre, in a space the size of Orlando.
An unincorporated area, Lehigh is a stepchild of Lee County, noticed only at election time.
With its population scattered so widely, public transit is stretched thin. Charlotte Rae Nicely, head of Lehigh Community Services, said a woman recently walked 18 miles to get free food from her charity. "I gave her a ride home," Nicely said.
Under a huge summer sky, the sprawling community appears overexposed and abandoned. The main drag offers an endless loop of failed businesses and vacant strip centers, the only relief coming from the landscaping in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
Turn off onto any of the cookie-cutter side streets and it's post-Apocalyptic America. Empty lot here, half-finished concrete shell of a house there, run down duplex for rent down the block. Unfinished condos have been torn down or boarded up by county crews. A new, eight-unit townhome project has two tenants, their homes the only ones with glass instead of wood where the windows should be.
Code violation notices — 2,300 in one neighborhood last month — are plastered on garage doors. Realtors say properties are moving, but at bargain-basement prices. A real estate office advertises, "Foreclosures from $25,000."
Gary Patten, a locksmith and window installer, races around Lehigh's far-flung neighborhoods, securing foreclosed homes for banks and replacing shattered glass. Joey Seda-Morales started a crime watch in his neighborhood after a rental behind his home turned out to be a marijuana grow house. In mid-July, there was a triple shooting one block over.
Nature is overtaking the more than 70 percent of Lehigh that was never developed. Teens on ATVs tear through sandy ruts where side yards should be. A black bear was Dumpster-diving behind a laundromat in the town center.
More than a half-century on, residents are still paying for the developer's shortsightedness. Yards flood, septic tanks back up, well water turns dishes and laundry brown. About $1.5-million in federal stimulus money was recently set aside to address overflowing of the Orange River, exacerbated by the developer's poor engineering work.
Resident Cathy Petersen said she has learned to put her car in second gear and keep moving through water that rushes against her floorboards after rainstorms. "I always wonder, 'What the hell were those developers thinking?' " Petersen said.
Having lived the dream and the nightmare, Anglickis said Lehigh started going down the drain when it lost the benevolent dictatorship and direction of Gould and the other founders.
"They were interested in building the city of tomorrow," Anglickis said as he steered his SUV through an area he called "little Baghdad" for its bombed-out appearance. "The next guys were just interested in cashing a check."
Driving past the weed-filled lot that was once the Charmed Circle of model homes, Anglickis, a native of suburban Chicago, explained why he never left Lehigh. "There were incredible opportunities here for a young kid," he said. "There's so much good here."
• • •
Building on his experience in Lehigh, Gould pursued a career in real estate. In Pinellas, he and Ratner overcame years of lawsuits to push through the huge fill project that created the Pinellas Bayway, connecting St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach. In Hillsborough, Gould joined with Jim Walter to buy and build out Sun City Center.
After 60 years of making and losing millions, Gould says his goal was simple: Make money. "I'm an opportunist," he said with a shrug.
When he was on the make, the last thing Gould wanted was for government to get in his way. But time and advancing years have given him a new perspective.
"One thing I've learned is that the state government plays an important role in development and it can't walk away from that responsibility," said the man who never had to convince a government official of the need for Lehigh Acres. "They can't leave it up to local governments because local officials often don't understand development and have too narrow a perspective."
Now marketing environmentally friendly building products to Africa, Gould understands the urgency to kick start the Florida real estate market. But he considers the new laws that loosen regulations a dangerous, backward step.
One change consolidates the power to issue permits for wetlands destruction and water consumption in the hands of Florida's five water management district directors. Previously, developer's permits had to be approved by a district's entire nine-member board, which voted in a public meeting, after citizen comment.
Another new law exempts developers in eight counties and more than 200 municipalities from a state mandate that they pay fees for the traffic impact of their projects.
Gould said it took 20 years for developers to pave Lehigh's 11,000 miles of roads. Lee County has determined that 70 percent of those roads are substandard. Cost to the public to resurface? $70-million.
"Though concurrency is a headache, it's a necessary headache," Gould said of the impact fees levied on developers. "It doesn't serve the public interest to get rid of them. All it's doing is creating more problems."
Gould has experienced the thrill of raking in the dough, selling dirt with nothing more than a marketing slogan. But when he drives over from Miami to visit old friends in Lehigh, he can't escape his legacy,
"It's heartbreaking," he said. "Lehigh is almost a model of the real estate disaster in the U.S."
Times researchers Shirl Kennedy and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Kris Hundley can be reached at khundley@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2996.

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090808-
Restoring Florida’s Everglades has Impacts across the Nation
Black PR Wire - Press Release
August 8, 2009
Deep in the heart of Florida’s Everglades, you may think nothing has changed in 100 years. Some 2 million acres of famous saw grass prairies and tree islands still exist. Wading and migratory birds still flock to shallow freshwater wetlands, but in vastly smaller numbers than many years ago. Alligators quietly glide through inland waters and panthers roam uplands, often in protected preserves.
But looks can be deceiving. America’s most famous wetland has changed tremendously in the past century. Efforts to develop south Florida and protect early residents from deadly hurricanes and droughts have taken a huge toll on the natural environment. Half the Everglades’ wetlands are gone forever, replaced by cities and farms. The remainder suffers from too much or too little fresh water, usually not clean.
In 2000, Congress passed an ambitious plan to restore the Everglades. The $10.5 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan will “get the water right” in the remaining ecosystem. Over 30 years, projects will be built to store, clean, and ultimately deliver essential fresh water – the Everglades’ lifeblood – to the ecosystem when and where needed. Native plants and animals will return in greater numbers. Non-native plants will diminish. Many other natural characteristics of the historic Everglades will return as the remaining ecosystem becomes stronger and more resilient.
But, if you never put foot in Florida, why would restoring a remote and often-inhospitable swamp be important?
First, the Everglades is a very large ecosystem. Scientists are learning more and more about the complexities and importance of large ecosystems. The Everglades covers 16 counties stretching from Orlando to the Florida Keys. But, across the United States there are many other large watersheds, too. The Chesapeake Bay watershed includes six states, for example. Lessons we learn today about collaborative relationships to restore the Everglades can be applied to other large ecosystem restorations around the country.
Second, we are all biologically connected. As we start losing species of animals and plants in the Everglades, repercussions can be felt hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away.
Third, the Everglades is an important resting place for migrating waterfowl and other birds. As we start losing these critical migratory stops, we affect bird populations across the nation and continents.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas put it this way more than 50 years ago: “Restoring the Everglades is a test. If we pass, we may get to keep the Planet.”
In south Florida today, scores of scientists, planners, engineers and others are working on many diverse and interesting projects to better capture, store and deliver fresh water to the Everglades. If you never visit the Everglades, their work and a restored ecosystem may have an impact on your life and community, too. To learn more, please visit www.evergladesplan.org.
The content and opinions expressed within this press release are those of the author(s) and/or represented companies, and are not necessarily shared by Black PR Wire. The author(s) and/or represented companies are solely responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the content of this Press release. Black PR Wire reserves the right to reject a press release if, in the view of Black PR Wire, the content of the release is unsuitable for distribution.

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090807-1
Crist Defends Everglades Plan
The Jacksonville Observer - Austin Cassidy,
August 7, 2009
Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday defended a $536 million plan with U.S. Sugar Corp. to purchase 73,000 acres in the Everglades as critics wrapped up arguments in their effort to overturn the deal.
As the governor touted the program, competitor Florida Crystals and the Miccosukee Indian Tribe were scheduled to offer closing statements in a West Palm Beach court room in their attempt to scuttle the plan that calls for the South Florida Water Management District to purchase the land with an option for an additional 107,000 acres.
Florida Crystals says the proposal, reduced in scope from its original footprint in response to a tightened state budget, is still too expensive and will not have the intended effect. The case is being heard in circuit court.
Speaking to reporters in Tallahassee, Crist said he hoped the court would uphold the proposed purchase, a much smaller endeavor than the $1.3 billion proposal first aired more than a year ago.
“It’s important that we do whatever we can to preserve the Everglades, that’s why we pushed so hard in this administration to do so,” Crist said. “I’m very grateful for the progress that has been made… and I’m optimistic about the court case.”
The plan calls for using the U.S. Sugar purchase to help connect Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. The tract is part of a multi-billion project to build reservoirs and treatment areas to restore water flow to the River of Grass.
To pay for it, the water management district agreed to sell bonds and repay the debt through taxes levied on property owners in the 16-county district.
The original plan called for spending $1.34 billion to purchase 180,000 acres. In December, the water management board on a 4-3 vote approved the purchase of the parcel, a 300-square mile region.
The original plan drew criticism from a number of fronts, including local officials in Clewiston and Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who tried unsuccessfully to block the water management board’s ability to purchase land without local voter approval.
In response to such criticism and the state’s tight budget, the project was retooled and reduced to include what state environmental officials said were the most critical acres needed to connect water sources with lands farther south.

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090807-2
Gov. Charlie Crist may cancel summit on climate change
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau - MARC CAPUTO
August 7, 2009
Gov. Charlie Crist said he wasn't sure if he would host another climate-change summit and is backing away from his cap-and-trade energy policy.
Republican backlash brews
A Republican backlash is brewing against the state and national party as they anoint Gov. Charlie Crist's U.S. Senate campaign -- thereby dissing that of his rival, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.
From South Florida to Tampa Bay, a few county Republican parties are discussing or passing resolutions telling the state party to butt out of the Senate race or any other primary.
If the state party presses forward, Crist's election could be rockier than expected and his hand-picked Republican Party of Florida chairman, Jim Greer, could find it tougher to hold on to power.
TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Charlie Crist is cooling to global warming.
Under mounting criticism from fellow Republicans, Crist looks ready to cancel his climate-change summit and is backing away from advocating a ``cap-and-trade'' energy policy.
At his well-publicized climate summit last summer, Crist pushed a number of energy plans to encourage renewable energy development and establish a cap-and-trade market that would penalize fossil-fuel use.
But Crist's plans were shredded by the Republican Legislature and his cap-and-trade proposal has been bashed as a ``tax'' by his Republican U.S. Senate opponent, Marco Rubio, who has been ardently courting the GOP's conservative wing.
``Well, it may be [a tax]. That may be accurate,'' Crist, who recently signed an anti-tax pledge, said Thursday.
He would not say whether he stills backs his own plan or similar versions in Congress.
Crist was even more tight-lipped about hosting another annual ``Serve to Preserve Florida Summit on Global Climate Change,'' which for two years attracted international media coverage and large, enthusiastic crowds to a downtown Miami hotel. Crist and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger basked in the glow and vowed sweeping reforms to combat global warming.
Asked Thursday about the summit's fate, Crist said he had not decided yet and cited the ``cost'' to potential sponsors.
Florida Power & Light, a major sponsor of last year's summit, gave at least $26,600 to Crist's record-setting, $4.3 million campaign account in the past three months.
An FPL spokesman would not comment on whether the company would contribute to another summit.
Another previous sponsor, the Everglades Foundation, was prepared to donate $10,000 to another summit, said spokesman Kirk Fordham. The foundation's chief, investor Paul Tudor Jones, is a Crist fishing pal and contributed $9,600 to his campaign.
Other top sponsors -- Environmental Defense Fund and the Energy5.0 solar company -- could not be reached for comment.
Rubio said the governor is retreating from his positions on climate change to placate members of his own party, though Crist denies it. Crist broke with the GOP political establishment earlier this year by campaigning alongside President Barack Obama for his economic stimulus plan.
``It's hard to be a reliable check and balance to the Barack Obama administration when he has embraced its policies, whether it's energy or his support of the president's stimulus plan,'' Rubio said.
``Luckily, the Legislature stopped his energy tax,'' Rubio, a former Florida House Speaker from West Miami, said. ``Republicans care about this.''
Crist, the state's best-known politician, is widely expected to beat Rubio in the 2010 primary. But there are signs that scattered Republican activists have turned against him. Rubio dominated straw polls held by local Republican parties in Pasco, Lee and Highlands counties. The Volusia County Republican Executive Committee cast an extraordinary vote Saturday to censure Crist for supporting Democrats, and Palm Beach County's GOP is preparing to vote on a similar measure.
Crist said he has thought ``not much'' about the Volusia vote and would wait until Election Day to comment more.
Touring Tallahassee-based Danfoss Turbocor, a manufacturer of eco-friendly industrial air-conditioning compressors, Crist talked Thursday about the need to turn to green energy. At a news conference, the company's President and CEO Ricardo Schneider noted Crist's support of climate-change legislation.
But when asked afterward about the legislation, Crist sounded a more cautious note: ``As with anything, any proposal, you want to try to do it right and not be over oppressive, if you will, as it relates to how you implement things.''
Some environmentalists are ``a little worried'' about Crist's apparent shift, said Eric Draper, a lobbyist for Florida Audubon and a Democratic candidate for state agriculture commissioner.
While noting the disappointment in Crist's decision to endorse off-shore oil-drilling last year, Draper and other environmentalists credit Crist for moving the agenda dramatically.
``He got the conversation going. It was not happening before,'' Draper said. ``But it has stalled. And we need to finish the job.''
Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com.
Miami Herald staff writer Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.

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090807-3
Is Gov Crist ending commitment to Climate Summits listen
WMNF Evening News Friday - Seán Kinane
Florida Governor Charlie Crist says he doesn't know if he will hold another Climate Summit.
Charlie Crist said yesterday that he has not yet decided whether to hold another Climate Summit this year. In his first two summers as Florida’s Governor, Crist was applauded by environmentalists for holding what was supposed to be an annual “Serve to Preserve Florida Summit on Global Climate Change.”
Two years ago, during Crist’s first Climate Summit, the Governor released three executive orders that environmentalists hoped would signal a greener future for Florida. But an article in Friday’s Miami Herald signaled that Crist is uncertain whether he will hold a summit this year. Kirk Fordham of the Everglades Foundation says he hopes Crist will continue holding the summit.
During the first summit in 2007, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined Crist to announce efforts to reduce Florida’s greenhouse gas emissions. Fordham thinks the environmental advances of the first two Climate Summits make them worth continuing.
In a Friday afternoon press conference outside of MacDill Air Force Base about the resignation of Senator Mel Martinez, WMNF asked Crist whether he would hold a climate summit this summer. He did not answer on tape. Minutes later we asked again and he said, “I don’t know.” He did not answer a follow-up question and instead got into his SUV.
He told the Herald his indecision was based on the cost of the summit. But Fordham, whose Everglades Foundation contributed $10,000 to last year’s summit, says they would be happy to contribute again.
Many activists on the right have criticized Crist for not being conservative enough. They cite his endorsement of President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill and the Governor’s environmental record. Some people have speculated that Crist is moving some of his positions to the right in order to appeal to conservatives who might be inclined to support his opponent in next year’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio. But Fordham doesn’t see it that way.
The president of Sunshine Solar Services of Fort Lauderdale, Ed Strobel, assumes that the Climate Summit may just be a victim of Crist’s busy schedule, rather than the governor reconsidering his political capital after his legislation on renewable energy failed in the Legislature.
Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham says the Governor can support the environment and still appeal to conservatives.

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090807-4
Message from U.S. Senator Mel Martinez
Press Release
August 7, 2009
Because you’re a friend, I wanted you to know first about the decision I will announce today to step down from public office.
Twelve years ago I offered myself as a candidate for public office in Florida out of a deep sense of appreciation for what America and the people of Florida did for me as a young immigrant to this country.
In 1997, Kitty and I decided it was time to give back and we entered the public arena, first as Mayor of Orange County, then as a Member of the President’s cabinet and now as a United States Senator. Through those experiences I have gained the greatest respect for the people of Florida and have enjoyed serving their interests.
When I began my term as Senator, I promised I wouldn’t simply warm a seat; I promised to take on the difficult issues and work to make a difference. Keeping that promise has meant pressing for help and assistance for families struggling to keep their homes, their jobs, and their confidence that our country is safe.
And on that note, I am especially grateful to the men and women of our military and their families whom I have had the distinct honor of representing in Washington and I thank them for their service to our country.
As a US Senator, I have also had a platform to speak against the oppression of the Cuban regime and my hope for a better future for the people of Cuba. I will continue that lifelong passion in the next phase of my life. I will always be grateful to the people of Florida for bestowing on me the singular honor of representing them in the United States Senate.
My priorities have always been my faith, my family and my country and at this stage in my life, and after nearly twelve years of public service in Florida and Washington, it’s time I return to Florida and my family.
So today I am announcing my decision to step down from public office, effective on a successor taking office to fill out the remainder of my term.
I have enjoyed my time in the Senate and have the utmost respect for my colleagues and the institution. I especially thank Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for his guidance and insight.
I look forward to continuing to be an active and constructive voice on issues vital to Florida and our nation, and being an active member of Florida’s Republican Party.
Lastly, Kitty and I would like to thank you for all your support. You have been helpful in countless ways. As I begin this new chapter in my life, I look forward to seeing more of you and your family.

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090807-5
Sources: Sen. Mel Martinez to step down
Miami Herald,  LESLEY CLARK AND MARC CAPUTO     lclark@miamiherald.com
Aug. 07, 2009
Though he has persistently denied the ``rumor'' that he'll step down, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez might announce as early as Friday that he'll leave office early, according to a number of sources in the state and nation's capitals.
``It's a deeply personal decision that he will expand on later today. He decided it's time to move to another stage of his life,'' said a source familiar with the situation.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running to replace Martinez, will appoint a fill-in. Crist could even appoint himself.
When asked about the rumor July 28, Crist downplayed it.
``Anything's possible. I don't think that's something he [Martinez] really is considering,'' said Crist, a friend and early supporter of Martinez.
Asked about two potential candidates -- former Sen. Connie Mack and lobbyist and former Florida Secretary of State Jim Smith -- Crist demurred as well.
``Those are both great Floridians, there's no doubt about that,'' Crist said. ``But that might be putting the cart before the horse at this time.''
When asked why he was so certain that Martinez will stay in office, Crist said, ``I just have a sense that he will. I could be wrong. But time will tell.''
Martinez won office in 2004, swept in on the coattails of President George Bush's reelection and a bare-knuckle campaign style that framed Republican rival Bill McCollum as a ``darling of the radical homosexual lobby'' and Democrat Betty Castor as soft on terrorism.
As soon as he got in office, Martinez was caught in an embarrassing situation involving the political benefits of harnessing social conservatives as they rallied around Terri Schiavo, a comatose woman who ultimately died after strange battles in the state Legislature and Congress.
Martinez then led the national Republican Party as it lost its footing, was fined $99,000 for questionable campaign contributions from his 2004 race and became the face of the failed effort to reform immigration.

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090807-6
Time's running short for Everglades and Florida Bay
Miami Herald - Editorial Opinion
April 7.2009
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/editorials/story/1175210.html
OUR OPINION: Key decisions on Glades cleanup will affect Florida Bay, too
New Everglades land deal could ease restoration
If water managers approve the smaller, cheaper version of Gov. Charlie Crist's Big Sugar land deal Wednesday, they won't be done dealing.
New tweaks in the $536 million offer to buy 73,000 acres from the U.S. Sugar Corp. would give water managers more time and flexibility to cut follow-up land deals -- most likely with rival grower Florida Crystals -- to improve Everglades restoration projects.
''This puts us in a much better bargaining position in any future negotiations,'' said Carol Ann Wehle, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.
Florida Bay is one of the most tranquil places in the Sunshine State. And in a state that boasts multiple sparkling bays dotted with idyllic islands, great pine forests where eagles nest, vast swamps teeming with life and tobacco-tinted rivers with lazy currents and gentle banks, that's saying something.
Fed by water from the Everglades, the Bay is a magical mix of salt and fresh water in an estuary that nurtures shrimp, lobster, bonefish and other marine species in its platinum-colored shallows. But the fate of Florida Bay is inextricably tied to that of the Everglades, and until recently, neither of their futures looked very hopeful despite years of promises to fix the great River of Grass and its southern neighbor.
Today, the Bay is choked by algae blooms, polluted by runoff from urban sprawl and agriculture and clogged by dying sea grass that once filtered the water and sheltered marine life. Its ecosystem is collapsing. When the Bay goes so does a big chunk of the state's lucrative commercial and recreational fisheries, along with a slice of the tourism industry.
Federal funding blocked
Two decisions this month by the South Florida Water Management District's governing board can begin to stem the Bay's collapse. The board should approve an agreement between the district and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on how they will calculate costs and share responsibilities for projects to replumb the Everglades to bring more clean water into the national park and Florida Bay. Approval will clear a huge obstacle that has blocked federal funding for the massive replumbing project for eight years.
In 2000, Congress passed the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, an ambitious 20-year project to restore the Everglades' sheet flow while safeguarding South Florida's drinking-water supply. CERP is jointly funded by Florida and the federal government. But a mixture of bureaucratic infighting, a plethora of lawsuits by various groups and political shenanigans by the Florida Legislature that angered Congress has held up federal funding.
Meanwhile, the state invested millions of dollars in building water storage reservoirs and buying land for the replumbing project. The logjam finally broke this year when the Obama administration included $279 million for Glades restoration in the federal stimulus bill. But then a dispute erupted between the feds and the district over how to calculate shared costs. The agreement the district's board of governors will take up Aug. 13 resolves that dispute. Once the board approves it, the first federal stimulus money -- $41 million to reclaim 55,000 acres in the Picayune Strand in Southwest Florida -- will be freed up.
Awaiting court ruling
The second decision involving the district's board is a vote to spend $536 million to buy 283,000 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp. for the restoration. But first, a judge is expected to rule Friday on a lawsuit brought by the Miccosukee Tribe and others challenging the financing of the land deal. The tribe has concerns that this land purchase might cost taxpayers too much and not leave enough money to pay for other restoration projects.
The tribe's concerns are well taken, as are other issues such as the impact on communities dependent on the sugar industry. But they are overridden by this one-time opportunity to take nearly 300,000 acres out of sugar production. Those acres would become water storage areas that would cut the problematic fresh-water discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, reduce back-pumping of dirty water into Lake Okeechobee and prevent tons of phosphorus from entering the Glades. Gov. Charlie Crist, who engineered the deal, has added economic incentives and other aid for workers losing jobs once the land is out of commission, which wouldn't happen for several years.
If the judge rules against the district, the board should seek other funding for the land purchase. Time is running short for the Everglades and Florida Bay. Years of unkept promises are strangling these ecosystems. It's time for action, or else the marvelous tranquility of the Bay's placid waters will take on an ominous interpretation. It will be the stillness of death.

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090806-1
$536 million Everglades restoration plan up for debate in Palm Beach County court today
Palm Beach Post – Paul Quinlan, Staff Writer
August 6, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH — Closing arguments are set for this afternoon in a high-stakes legal challenge to Gov. Charlie Crist's proposed $536 million land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp. aimed at restoring the Everglades.
Attorneys for the South Florida Water Management District, the state agency Crist tapped to finance the deal, are expected to go first at today's 2:30 p.m. hearing at the Palm Beach County Courthouse, according to district spokesman Randy Smith.
Agency attorneys will argue why the district should be allowed to finance what would be the state's most expensive conservation land purchase.
Crist and environmentalists say the 73,000-acre deal, which includes an option to purchase more land later, will allow them to re-establish the historic, flowing connection between Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
The debt would be repaid with property taxes collected in 16 central and south Florida counties over the next 30 years.
But attorneys for U.S. Sugar's chief competitor, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Indian tribe, whose members live in the Everglades, have asked Circuit Judge Donald W. Hafele to block the financing, saying the state has only sketchy plans for how the land will be used and has failed to demonstrate that a deal would serve a public purpose.
Regardless of the ruling, which could come today, the case is expected to be appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

090806-2



090806-2
Everglades land deal lawsuit set for closings
Mysuncoast.com, Associated Press
August 6, 2009 4:24 AM ET
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Closing arguments begin in a lawsuit that could undo Florida's historic planned $536 million deal to buy land from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration.
South Florida water managers plan to buy 73,000 acres of farmland from the company to construct reservoirs and water treatment marshes. The deal also leaves open the option for the state to purchase more land from the nation's largest cane sugar producer.
But U.S. Sugar's main rival, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Indians have sued over the deal. Closing arguments are set for Thursday. They claim it is an irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and could further delay Everglades restoration efforts.
The water district says the deal is a historic opportunity to get more land for restoration.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

090806-3



090806-3
Florida Crystals Supports True Everglades Restoration
Sun Herald – Press Release
SOURCE Florida Crystals Corporation
August 6, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla./PRNewswire/ -- Florida Crystals has supported and continues to support true Everglades restoration. We recognize that restoration of the Everglades is critical for long-term sustainable agriculture in South Florida.
As an advocate for true Everglades restoration, we were compelled to challenge, along with the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, the proposed bond validation to finance the acquisition of U.S. Sugar lands, because it is a gross misuse of public funds and a departure from the Everglades restoration plan the state and federal governments and all other interested stakeholders, including farmers, have been working toward for more than a decade. The proposed deal is a substantial road block to the implementation of projects that would have a meaningful impact on restoration.
The District's proposed acquisition will essentially divert all available funding to a land purchase without a purpose. District witnesses admitted in Court that, after incurring the purchase debt, the District will have no financial ability to do anything with the land.
Many proponents of this deal have claimed it will benefit water supply, estuary relief and water quality, but the District's Executive Director admitted under cross examination that none of these benefits will result naturally from this land purchase. All would require the planning, construction, operation and maintenance of massive public infrastructure that the District has no ability to undertake and no plan to build or finance. The land purchase, therefore, serves no purpose except to terminate or indefinitely postpone decades of planned projects that could provide meaningful restoration.
Florida Crystals has participated fully and exhaustively in the District's public planning process for Everglades restoration. Florida Crystals has publicly proposed alternatives that would require far less land, have a fraction of the total cost and provide better benefits to both the Everglades and to Lake Okeechobee, which is suffering from severe nutrient enrichment problems from northern basins.
We are hopeful that, regardless of the outcome of the current court proceedings, the District will go back to the drawing board to craft a realistic and fiscally prudent plan that can actually be implemented and provide real benefits.
Contact:  Joseph Klock, Jr. - 305.476.7100          Gaston Cantens - 561.248.1953

090806-4



090806-4
Judge to decide next step for U.S. Sugar land deal
Miami Herald - CURTIS MORGAN           cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com
August 6, 2009
The Miccosukee Tribe and Florida Crystals delivered a blistering attack on the governor's $536 million land deal with U.S. Sugar.
Water managers once hoped their plan to borrow as much as $2.2 billion for Gov. Charlie Crist's land deal with U.S. Sugar would breeze through judicial approval, setting aside just three hours for the hearing seven months ago.
On Thursday, the arguments finally ended in what turned out to be a months-long legal battle mounted by the Miccosukee Tribe and U.S. Sugar rival Florida Crystals Corp. Their challenge leaves the South Florida Water Management District plan to bankroll the $536 million land-buy with bonds -- and perhaps the fate of the controversial Everglades restoration deal -- in the hands of Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele.
Afterward, Eric Buermann, a Miami attorney who chairs the district's governing board, sounded confident that Hafele would approve a financing plan crucial to closing the purchase -- though he admitted there was uncertainty about the full amount, largely because of a debt cap the Florida Legislature passed this year.
Buermann also dismissed blistering attacks from tribe attorney Dexter Lehtinen and Crystals counsel Joe Klock, who both contended that the board had been misled by an executive staff -- under pressure from Tallahassee -- about the staggering costs of building reservoirs and pollution-treatment marshes envisioned for the land.
District documents introduced in court put some of the restoration schemes as high as $17 billion, a figure water managers dismissed as distorted because much of the ongoing planning is only conceptual.
`SILLY NONSENSE'
Buermann dismissed much of the criticism as ``silly nonsense'' from opponents standing on thin legal ground. ``It's huffing and puffing to try to distract the judge from the job he has to do,'' he said.
Still, the two attorneys used the bond-validation hearings, usually cut-and-dry proceedings, to launch a broad attack on board oversight and a deal that the governor downsized three times as the state's economy and tax revenues plunged.
The bond issued amount reflects the cost of the original deal, which was for all of U.S. Sugar's 180,000-plus acres, its mill, railroad and other assests.
That has since been downsized to $536 million for 73,000 acres of sugar fields and citrus groves, which includes a $50 million fee for a 10-year option to purchase the remaining land.
The district, however, is still pursuing the full $2.2 billion as a ceiling for the bonds.
`SHOULD BE KILLED'
Klock and Lehtinen argued the deal was driven by a governor looking to enhance his green image for political reasons, and that it would siphon funds from existing projects, push broader restoration efforts back decades and pile billions more in debt onto the plate of an agency already grappling with declining revenues.
``If the Everglades is to survive, this deal should be killed because it has nothing to do with Everglades restoration,'' Lehtinen said.
At one point, Lehtinen dropped in the word ``corrupt'' in describing the deal, drawing a quick response from the judge that no evidence supported that charge. Lehtinen clarified the comment, calling the approval process ``generically corrupted.''
Klock singled out Ken Ammon, a district deputy in charge of Everglades restoration, mocking his efforts to justify how some of the far-flung parcels would be used to help the Everglades -- even as the terms and scope of the deal repeatedly shifted.
``He can make the argument that maybe even something two or three miles off shore can be valuable to Everglades restoration,'' Klock said.
Water managers and environmentalists dismissed many of the charges as disinformation or distortion.
Though the board didn't publicly delve much, if at all, into project costs, Buermann said he and other members were privately briefed on projections that ran into the billions -- though he not heard any estimates as high as $17 billion.
`THE BENEFITS'
The deal, he told reporters after, was worth it and would help resolve water supply and quality problems affecting not just the Everglades but Lake Okeechobee, rivers and city well fields. ``Nobody has asked about the benefits. What about the benefits?''
Chris Lamia and Fred Springer, two Tallahassee attorneys the district hired for the bond hearing, repeatedly told the judge that legal precedent dictated he should defer to the judgment of the district's board and rule on narrow legal questions: Was the district authorized to issue bond-like instruments called certificates of participation; would the project be for a public purpose; did the board do anything patently erroneous?
``I think you're trying to be maneuvered into a position that is improper,'' Springer told the judge. Their argument was bolstered by Maureen Hackett, an assistant Palm Beach County state attorney, who said the bond issue had been signed off on by the state attorneys representing all 16 counties where the district collects property taxes.
`REAL CONCERN'
She said the bond met all legal hurdles but there was ``real concern'' about whether the full $2.2 billion would violate the new debt cap ordered by the Legislature.
Hafele said he would issue a ruling ``with all dispatch,'' possibly within two weeks.

090806-5



090806-5
Sugar deal sound package
The Tampa Tribune - ANDREW D.W. HILL
August 6, 2009
Today, a decision in a West Palm Beach courthouse could determine how the state of Florida moves forward with obtaining land that many believe is vital to sustain the environment and the economy.
The acquisition of U.S. Sugar Corp. property by the state has been viewed favorably by most conservation-minded organizations, yet there has been limited analysis of the financial benefits of the transaction. There is no better opportunity to apply "eco-economics" theories and engage in an objective cost-benefit analysis to demonstrate how this acquisition makes perfect sense.
The estimated cost to acquire the initial 73,000 acres is $536 million. While it is a significant investment, it pales in magnitude to the economic value of eco-tourism and sport fishing in the Everglades region.
According to a recently published report on the economic value of the Everglades by Florida Atlantic University, the total annual impact of ecotourism in 2007 was $1.8 billion. In addition, the total annual expenditures of sport fishing in Florida are estimated to be between $3.4 billion and $5.6 billion.
With approximately 70 percent of the state's population residing near the Everglades region, sport fishing in the Everglades appears to be at least a $2 billion annual business.
Just looking at the estimated annual expenditures associated with ecotourism and sport fishing - a combined $4 billion - the initial acquisition cost of U.S. Sugar Corp. properties of $536 million appears to be an economically justified investment. With the initial acquisition representing only 13 percent of the annual economic benefit of just two industries, the investment to improve the long-term health of this sustainable resource appears to be of sound judgment.
The long-term environmental benefits of re-establishing water flows from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay also include minimizing unnatural water discharges, and the acquisition also mitigates other potential expenses.
The red tide problems experienced a few years ago caused dramatic environmental and economic damage to the tourist business on the East and West coasts of Florida. Further, tourists who experienced nauseating fish kills and respiratory problems are unlikely to return to Florida. In addition, re-establishing a portion of the natural southern water flow will avoid some of the cost of expensive and unproven engineering techniques.
The U.S. Sugar acquisition will help ensure that we have a sustainable natural resource that is integral to the economy of the Everglades region. While the cost to finance the acquisition is significant - relative to the economic benefits derived from the Everglades region - the investment is a sound business decision that will pay dividends in improving the quality of life and economic opportunity for Florida residents for generations to come.
Andrew Hill serves as vice chair of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and is past chair of the Red Snook Fishing Tournament with Roland Martin, an International Game Fish Association-sanctioned event.

090806-6



090806-6
Months of hearings end with no ruling on water managers' $2.2 billion borrowing plan for U.S. Sugar deal
Palm Beach Post - PAUL QUINLAN, Staff Writer
August 06, 2009
WEST PALM BEACH- — Lawyers expect a judge to pare down the state's request to issue $2.2 billion in bonds to finance Gov. Charlie Crist's land deal with U.S. Sugar Corp.
The question: By how much?

 

Palm Beach Circuit Judge Donald Hafele is expected to rule in the next two weeks after months of hearings closed today over whether the South Florida Water Management District can borrow the money to pay for the land and related projects to aid the Everglades.
The district is the state-created agency responsible for financing Crist's $536 million, 73,000-acre deal with U.S. Sugar.
As the economy tumbled, Crist downsized the land deal from the original version he announced last summer, which would have been a $1.75 billion buyout of U.S. Sugar. Now the deal calls for the district to buy less than half the company's farmland, with an option to buy the remaining 107,000 acres later.
But the state never trimmed the size of the bond issue it has asked the court to approve.
Today, the judge questioned whether it would be "less than prudent" to approve more than $650 million of borrowing. That's the minimum necessary to pay for the land, the option, the first year's debt payment and associated fees, according to district lawyers.
The judge could also choose to validate only $1.1 billion in bonds, the maximum allowed under a new state law passed this year in response to the proposed U.S. Sugar deal. The law limits water management districts' borrowing to a portion of their property tax income.
The district intends to repay any bonds using property taxes collected in its 16 South and Central Florida counties.
"I think he very well may limit it," Thom Rumberger, general counsel for the Everglades Foundation, said afterward.
District board Chairman Eric Buermann agreed. "I personally think he will validate," said Buermann. "I don't know about $2.2 billion."
Regardless of the outcome, the case is expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Crist and his environmental allies want to use the land to restore the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee to the parched Everglades. But attorneys for U.S. Sugar's chief competitor, Florida Crystals, and the Miccosukee Indian tribe, whose members live in the Everglades, argued that the plans were too vague and driven too much by politics to justify the taxpayer expense.
"If the Everglades is to survive, this deal needs to be killed, because this deal doesn't have anything to do with Everglades restoration," said Miccosukee attorney Dexter Lehtinen.

090805-1



090805-1
Don't block historic chance to restore Everglades
Palm Beach Post Letters to the Editor, Opinion
August 05, 2009
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/opinion/content/opinion/epaper/2009/08/05/wednesdaywebletters0805.html
Former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne called the South Florida Water Management District's purchase of land from U.S. Sugar Corp. for Everglades restoration a "historic turning point for the largest watershed restoration project in the world." Environmental groups and newspapers from Miami to Pensacola, as well as others across the nation, agree that this is "fresh hope"- in the opinion of The New York Times - for protecting and restoring America's Everglades.
This makes the legal challenge by a small minority of interests that oppose the land acquisition a frustrating step along the path to progress. Their challenge does not oppose environmental improvements. It does not question the need for more water storage and treatment. Instead, the challengers are using the procedural step of court validation of the district's bonds for financing the acquisition as an attempt to block the deal. Closing arguments take place in Palm Beach County on Thursday.
Owning vast acreage south of Lake Okeechobee presents an unprecedented opportunity for water storage and treatment, the backbone of restoration success. More reservoirs will mean fewer discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and their fragile estuaries. More treatment marshes will improve delivery of cleaner water to the remnant Everglades and Everglades National Park. The once-common practice of "backpumping" water into Lake Okeechobee will become a thing of the past. These benefits clearly serve a public purpose.
At no other time, including when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was developed in the late 1990s, has acreage of this magnitude been made available to the public. Indeed, if such acreage had been available when CERP was being designed, the framework of projects for Everglades restoration would have turned out differently.
In negotiating this purchase, we at the district have modified the contract terms to reflect changing fiscal realities. We have identified key parcels for the initial acquisition. And we have used a public planning process to evaluate restoration opportunities. When a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity arises, it takes vision and resolve to move forward, despite attempts by a vocal minority to throw up roadblocks. We see the vision. We are resolved to build a healthier environment for South Florida. Now is the time to make this happen.
ERIC BUERMANN, Chairman - South Florida Water Management District Governing Board,  West Palm Beach

090805-2



090805-2
Everglades land buy good deal for Florida economy: Andrew Hill

News-Press.com,  Andrew Hill – Guest Opinion
August 5, 2009
http://www.news-press.com/article/20090805/OPINION/908050349/1015
The acquisition of U.S. Sugar Corp. property by the state of Florida has been viewed favorably by most conservation-minded organizations, yet there has been limited analysis of the financial benefits of the transaction. There is no better opportunity to apply "eco-economics" theories and engage in an objective cost-benefit analysis to demonstrate how this acquisition makes perfect sense.
The estimated cost to acquire the initial 73,000 acres is $536 million. While it is a significant investment, it pales in magnitude compared to the economic value of eco-tourism and sport fishing in the Everglades. According to a recently published report on the economic value of the Everglades by Florida Atlantic University, the total annual impact of eco-tourism in 2007 was $1.8 billion. In addition, the total annual expenditures of sport fishing in Florida are estimated to be between $3.4 billion and $5.6 billion.
With approximately 70 percent of the state's population residing near the Everglades region, sport fishing in the Everglades appears to be at least a $2 billion annual business. Just looking at the estimated annual expenditures associated with eco-tourism and sport fishing, (a combined $4 billion), the initial acquisition cost of U.S. Sugar Corp. properties of $536 million appears to be an economically justified investment. With the initial acquisition representing only 13 percent of the annual economic benefit of just two industries, the investment to improve the long-term health of this sustainable resource appears to be of sound judgment.
The long-term environmental benefits of re-establishing water flows from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay also includes minimizing unnatural water discharges, and the acquisition also mitigates other potential expenses. The red tide problems experienced a few years ago caused dramatic environmental and economic damage to the tourist business on the east and west coasts of Florida. Further, tourists who experienced nauseating fish kills and respiratory problems are unlikely to return to Florida. In addition, re-establishing a portion of the natural southern water flow will avoid some of the cost of expensive and unproven engineering techniques.
In summary, the U.S. Sugar Corp. acquisition will help ensure that we have a sustainable natural resource that is integral to the economy of the Everglades region. While the cost to finance the acquisition is significant - relative to the economic benefits derived from the Everglades region - the investment is a sound business decision that will pay dividends in the form of improving the quality of life and economic opportunity for Florida residents for generations to come.
- Andrew D.W. Hill, C.F.A., is a senior portfolio manager with Comerica Asset Management. He is vice chair of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and past chair of the RedSnook Fishing Tournament with Roland Martin, an International Game Fish Association-sanctioned event.

090805-3



090805-3
Florida Bay's ecology on the brink of collapse
The Associated Press,  Knoe-TV
August 5, 2009
ISLAMORADA, Fla. (AP) - Boat captain Tad Burke looks out over Florida Bay and sees an ecosystem that's dying as politicians, land owners and environmentalists bicker.
He's been plying these waters for nearly 25 years, and has seen the declines in shrimp and lobster that use the bay as a nursery, and less of the coveted species like bonefish that draw recreational sportsmen from around the world.
"Bonefish used to be very prevalent, and now we don't see a tenth of the amount that we used to find in the bay, and even around the Keys because the habitat no longer supports the population," says Burke, head of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association.
Experts fear a collapse of the entire ecosystem, threatening not only some of the nation's most popular tourism destinations - Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys - but a commercial and recreational fishery worth millions of dollars.
Florida Bay is a sprawling estuary at the state's southern tip, covering nearly three times the area of New York City.
The headwaters of the Everglades - starting some 300 miles north near Orlando - used to end up here after flowing south in a shallow sheet like and broad, slow-moving river, filtering through miles of muck, marsh and sawgrass.
Historically, the bay thrived on that perfect mix of freshwater from the Everglades and saltwater from the adjacent Gulf of Mexico. It was a virtual Garden of Eden, home to a bounty of wading birds, fish, sea grasses and sponges.
But to the north of the bay, man's unforgiving push to develop South Florida has left the land dissected with roads, dikes and miles of flood control canals to make way for homes and farms, choking off the freshwater flow and slowly killing the bay.
The ill effects extend even across the narrow spit of land that makes up the Florida Keys to the shallow coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean. Many popular commercial fish like grouper and snapper begin their lives in the bay before migrating into the ocean to the reefs.
"If Florida Bay heads south and there's a lot less fish in there, well, when that's done, it's all over down here," Burke says. "When that goes, your reefs are going to go, too, and it'll just be a chain reaction.
"You could argue that the bay has already collapsed," he adds.
Algae blooms block life-giving sunlight from penetrating the water's surface. Sea grasses that filter the water and provide habitat for the food chain are dying. And some migratory birds aren't returning.
"The health of Florida Bay is very much tied to the state of the Everglades, and the Everglades isn't improving either," says Tom Van Lent, senior scientist with the not-for-profit Everglades Foundation. "Their fates are one and the same."
For decades, the state has struggled to find a way to restore natural flow through the Everglades and curb the pollution caused by runoff from sugar farms, cow pastures and urban sprawl. It is the largest such wetlands restoration effort ever.
"Having that water coming down from the Everglades is key," says Rob Clift of the National Parks Conservation Association. "It has to be restored."
Attempts to fix the Everglades by constructing water treatment marshes and reservoirs, among other things, have been dogged by politics, funding shortfalls, and contentious, litigation-filled disagreements over the best solutions. And while land has been purchased and some projects completed, key restoration components are undone.
"It's really aggravating," Burke says. "We've seen very little, if any, really ground breaking projects that would help change the flow into Florida Bay."
A litany of lawsuits filed by parties favoring one solution over another are partly to blame, says Carol Wehle, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, the state agency overseeing Everglades restoration.
Name an environmental group, and the agency has been sued by them.
Wehle calls them "obstructionists." Her agency heads back to court Aug. 6 for closing arguments in yet another lawsuit.
"There are a handful of people that choose not to participate in this process and instead use litigation, and who is losing? The environment is losing," Wehle says.
The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, who call the Everglades their ancestral home, have sued the water district repeatedly. It's the tribe and a few others who now have the district back in court as part of an effort to block the state's planned $536 million purchase of land in the Everglades from U.S. Sugar Corp.
Tribe spokeswoman Joette Lorion says the deal could end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars, leaving little money to pay for actual projects, and will create more delays as officials figure out exactly what to do with all the new land.
"Meeting upon meeting, and the Everglades continues to die," Lorion says.
The water district says the deal is a historic opportunity to take sugar out of production and provide land to build much-needed reservoirs and treatment areas to clean and store water.
Back on Florida Bay, Burke just wants something done before it's too late. To the casual onlooker, the area is stunning even today. But Burke knows better.
"In a lot of ways," he says, "it's still pristine and beautiful down here, but it's also on its last dying breath."

090805-4



090805-4
In the flow on St. Johns — don't let the river run dry
TCPalm.com - Editorial
August 5, 2009
http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2009/aug/05/editorial-in-the-flow-on-st-johns-8212-dont-let/              
For the first time, regional managers warn that groundwater supplies will not meet demand.
That may seem hard to believe, given the torrential downpours that waterlog Florida on an almost daily basis this time of year, But, all too often, storm water simply cascades into the Indian River Lagoon. Then the dry months hit, and everything goes brown.
St. Johns River Water Management District officials say they have a plan to correct this deluge-drought cycle.
First, they’re creating and expanding inland reservoirs to contain water that otherwise would be “released to tide.” Some 140,000 acres of flood plain has been restored. This is particularly crucial in Indian River County, which sits at the headwaters of the St. Johns River.
Second, tighter water-conservation rules are now in effect. Sprinkling is limited to two days a week during Daylight Saving Time and once a week during Standard Time. Enforcement is being ramped up to ensure compliance.
In each case, the water district appears to be doing a better job than its southern neighbor, the South Florida Water Management District, where 250 billion gallons of fresh water from canals in Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties poured into the sea during last year’s hurricane season. That environmentally disruptive flow is a tragic waste of resources.
The South Florida district recently compounded the problem by easing its recently implemented watering restrictions. That’s something St. Johns vows not to do.
Doug Bournique, Indian River County’s representative on the St. Johns board and a citrus industry executive, says this region’s agricultural community is committed to better managing east-west water flows and moving them north and south as appropriate. Such big-picture thinking is a welcome change from the balkanized behavior that has thwarted interjurisdictional solutions for too long.
Similarly, local governments must be part of the solution.
While the St. Johns district does not have any formal authority to manage growth — its charge from the state is to supply the water — growth is the X-factor in any water equation. No matter how well designed or enforced, the district’s conservation efforts will be paddling upstream as long as local governments persist in approving water-guzzling projects.
St. Johns has made multimillion-dollar commitments to improve groundwater sources and to staunch runoff into the sea. City councils and county commissions up and down the river can assist by ensuring that sprawling growth does not undo those initiative. They also should resist the temptation to overprice re-use water. Raising costs merely invites more private well-drilling, which further lowers the water table.
At the grass-roots level, citizens must conscientiously follow the watering schedules established by the district. After all, conservation is far cheaper than engineering alternate sources, such as energy-intensive desalination plants and massive pipelines that suck the river dry.
Save money, save water, save the environment — that should be everyone’s agenda.
WATER FEATURES
The St. Johns River, Florida’s longest at 310 miles, begins its northward journey in western Indian River County. To improve its health and flow, the St. Johns River Water Management District is:
Restoring 160,000 acres of marshes at the headwaters.
Curtailing storm-water discharges into the Indian River Lagoon by 70 percent.
Building more than 20,000 acres of reservoirs.
Plugging canals to prevent over-drainage of wetlands.

090805-5



090805-5
Leatherback Sea Turtle Nest on Sanibel -- First Ever Documented in Lee & Collier Counties
SCCF Newsletter
August 5, 2009
On the night of August 2, a nest of leatherback sea turtles hatched on Sanibel’s East End; this is the first known documented leatherback nest in Lee and Collier counties.
Volunteer Linda Gornick, a walker in SCCF’s Sea Turtle Research & Monitoring Program, found the nest on June 3. Gornick notified permittee Tom Krekel, who quickly determined it was not a loggerhead crawl. It was identified as a probable green sea turtle nest but the very large crawl and body pit raised the possibility that it was a leatherback nest. Photos of both the nest and crawl were provided to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and confirmation was received that it was probably a green.
SCCF Sea Turtle Coordinator Amanda Bryant (photo left and below) with Herpetologist Chris Lechowicz (photo below) dug the nest on the morning of August 3. There were 90 empty eggshells and four live leatherback hatchlings were recovered. The hatchlings were released that night. Hatched nests are normally dug after three days but the nest was dug early because it was in immediate danger of predation (a ghost crab was already digging in the nest when Bryant arrived). Leatherbacks very rarely nest in Southwest Florida; one leatherback nest was documented in Sarasota County. Leatherbacks do nest along the Florida panhandle and the east coast; a few leatherback hatchlings from the east coast were released by Charles LeBuff on Sanibel in the ‘70s as part of an experiment.
The crawls of loggerheads are easily distinguished from those of greens and leatherbacks because loggerheads alternate the front flippers when they crawl on land. Greens and leatherbacks use both left and right flippers at the same time, creating a parallel crawl. The June 3 crawl was wider than a loggerhead crawl, there was a very large body pit and a large mound of sand camouflaging the nest area.
NBC-2 came out and interviewed Amanda on August 3, click here for link to the clip on their web site.  To learn more about leatherback sea turtles, National Geographic has some excellent information; click here for link. See below for photo of an adult leatherback.
SCCF coordinates over 100 volunteers who monitor sea turtle nesting on the islands each season, from May through October.

090804-1



090804-1
Is ban on pet pythons next ?
Sentinel - Anthony Colarossi, Staff Writer
August 6, 2009
Florida wildlife officials are considering a ban on Burmese pythons and other exotic reptiles after a pet python killed a 2-year-old Sumter County girl last month.
Col. Julie Jones, director of law enforcement for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told Gov. Charlie Crist on Wednesday that her agency is studying the option.
However, commission officials later said that the wording and implementation of a ban likely will not come this year.
"The colonel's point is that we are considering all things, and that [a ban] is certainly one of them," said Pat Behnke, agency spokeswoman in Tallahassee.
Non-native snakes have gained statewide attention after a python escaped its enclosure in rural Oxford on July 1 and suffocated 2-year-old Shaiunna Hare as she slept in her crib. Tens of thousands of the constrictors may be thriving in the Everglades, state officials say.
Any ban probably would cover Burmese pythons and other designated "reptiles of concern," including four python types, the green anaconda and the Nile monitor, Behnke said. Such reptiles might be barred as pets but allowed in educational displays.
Andrew Wyatt, president of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, said talk of a state ban on Burmese pythons amounts to little more than political grandstanding, given that people who have the snakes legally already must have permits, pay annual fees and keep the snakes in secure containers.
The owner of the snake responsible for the child's death did not have the state license to keep the reptile.
"Whoever is legally keeping Burmese pythons is stepping up to professional standards," Wyatt said. "We're coming up on an election year, and this Burmese python issue won't go away. All these Florida politicians want their little piece of the pie. Everybody wants to be perceived as being on top of the issue and leading the way."
Wyatt predicted that wildlife officials ultimately won't change much. Florida lacks the resources to have "snake police" checking to see whether people are in compliance.
"The animals are already here. They're already in Florida," Wyatt said. "If you make them worthless and totally illegal, then what are their owners going to do?"
Meanwhile, state Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, questioned whether the wildlife commission has authority to ban problem reptiles without legislative authorization. He said state Sen. Lee Constantine, R- Altamonte Springs, proposed a ban on importation of "reptiles of concern" during a discussion he and Soto had with Jones and others this week.
Soto said he and Constantine have been planning to introduce legislation that would deal with the issue. He said he was surprised that Jones went public with the idea at this point.
"The Senator and I dispute the fact that the measures would not call for legislative action as the FWC does not currently possess legislatively delegated authority to enact bans," Soto wrote in an e-mail.
Beyond the ownership issue, the child's death and the enormous growth of Burmese python populations in and around the Everglades have prompted state and federal officials to organize python hunts in South Florida.
Pythons can grow to 26 feet and more than 200 pounds. Female Burmese can lay 50 to 100 eggs at a time.
Although a ban on the reptiles may be months away, the issue promises to remain key for state wildlife officials. During a September wildlife commission meeting, Tim Breault, director of FWC's Division of Habitat and Species Conservation, plans to give an extended presentation on the Burmese python situation.
On Wednesday, Breault said 110,000 Burmese pythons have been imported to the state since 1990, and tens of thousands may be loose on state and federal lands in South Florida. Some suspect that pet owners who could no longer care for the animals dumped the pythons in the wild. Others attribute the spread of the snakes to the damage from Hurricane Andrew.
Pythons and other reptiles of concern, he said, can threaten endangered native species, such as the Key Largo wood rat and nesting water birds.
"The unflighted young could be easy victims, and it's kind of a smorgasbord, literally," Breault said. "It's just an open bar for these kind of snakes. And they're big enough they could consume lots and lots of young birds."
No humans have been killed by the snakes in the wild, but Jones said aggressive eradication is needed to prevent that from happening.
Crist agreed. "We had a duty to take action to protect the people. We'll continue to do whatever we need to protect them," he said.
This week, wildlife commission Chairman Rodney Barreto wrote an editorial stating, "It is unlawful to allow these exotic pets to escape or to release them into the wild."
He noted that the agency puts on "Non-native Pet Amnesty Days" during the year. People who can no longer keep or care for non-native pets can bring them in during those events to be adopted by people licensed to handle the snakes.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. Anthony Colarossi can be reached
at acolarossi@orlandosentinel.com  or 352-742-5934.

090804-2



090804-2
Salazar again urges climate action in Senate
Interior secretary promises to revitalize Everglades
Miami Herald, The Associated Press
August 4, 2009
Saying the federal government had ''not kept its end of the bargain,'' the Obama administration on Thursday promised to pay its fair share of an Everglades restoration effort now estimated to reach $22.5 billion and to make long-stalled projects a top priority.
''We are committed to it. We will get it done,'' said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the highest ranking White House executive to visit the Everglades since President Barack Obama took office four months ago.
Salazar, a former Colorado senator who spent nearly two hours aboard an airboat flanked by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, was struck momentarily verb-less after his foray across the shimmering marshes of Broward. He called the experience: ``Awesome! Crown jewel! Natural wonder!''
LONGMONT, Colo. -- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is talking climate change on a trip to a solar energy factory in his home state of Colorado.
While health care dominates debate in Washington, President Barack Obama's top environmental and energy officials continue to urge the Senate to move on legislation to tackle global warming.
Salazar will talk about the climate bill pending in the Senate on a trip to the Abound Solar plant in Longmont on Tuesday.
Earlier this summer the House narrowly voted to impose the first limits on greenhouse gases, eventually leading to an 80 percent reduction by mid-century by putting a price on each ton of climate-altering pollution.

090903-



090803-
Property to be protected with Tamiami project
Miami Herald - Letter to the Editor
Monday, August 3, 2009
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/letters/story/1168766.html
As my tour of duty with the Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District draws to a close, I am thankful for the enduring support of South Floridians for Everglades restoration. I can assure you that -- referring to an analogy made famous by Marjory Stoneman Douglas -- restoring the Everglades is a ``test'' the Corps aims to pass, and we will work side by side with our many partners to do so.
Complications we've faced together have been daunting. Not only is the science of wetlands restoration a young field, but because restoration relies on a limited water supply, many stakeholders hold a false perception that if there are winners, there must be losers. That is, for the environment to receive more water, someone or something must lose, whether it's loss of water supply or loss of flood protection. We have worked hard to make everyone a winner when the Everglades is restored. With so much of the Everglades located adjacent to Miami-Dade County, the support of county residents, special-interest groups and elected officials is extremely important to us.
Restoring fresh water flows to the Everglades is urgently needed, and we are on the verge of a major advance with construction of a one-mile bridge on the Tamiami Trail. Decades of work have gone into this project. We understand that some residents on the western edge of the county may be concerned that restored flows will cause local flooding east of Everglades National Park. This will not happen.
When Congress told the Corps to restore flows, it also mandated that we counter the effects of those flows on property outside the park. All of the needed infrastructure will be in place before flows under Tamiami Trail are increased.
The Everglades is a resource we must restore and protect now, or its beauty and benefits will be forever lost. You can be confident that when we -- the Corps and our restoration partners -- begin construction on the Tamiami Trail this fall, we will all be one step closer to realizing Douglas' precious dream.
Col. PAUL GROSSKRUGER, Commander, Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville

090802-1



090802-1
Charlie Crist, 'plump turkey'
Pittsburgh Tribune Review – Opinion by Carl Hiaasen
Sunday, August 2, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/s_636240.html
Unlike Sarah Palin, Charlie Crist has chosen not to quit his governorship early. Florida's own one-term wonder is using his remaining time to ingratiate himself with as many deep-pocket interest groups as possible.
The governor's unseemly burst of groveling is directly connected to his upcoming run for the U.S. Senate. Sucking up to the National Rifle Association and the Christian right, Crist declared his opposition to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, whose confirmation is a done deal.
Many of Crist's longtime supporters were surprised. But they shouldn't have been. Charlie has no problem with timely pandering.
Take Senate Bill 360, which he signed into law in June. Authored by lobbyists for developers, it's one of the worst pieces of legislation to come out of one of the country's most buyable legislatures.
The law emaciates Florida's Growth Management Act by removing state oversight of massive residential and commercial projects known as Developments of Regional Impact, which put enormous stress on neighboring communities.
More outrageously, the new law will stick taxpayers -- not developers -- with most of the high costs for roads and other infrastructure that housing subdivisions require.
It's a recipe for more reckless sprawl -- which is the last thing Florida needs -- and the last thing a self-baptized environmentalist like Crist should be endorsing.
Lobbyists for the building industry say SB 360 will jump-start many stalled construction projects, a dubious claim in a state with a pandemic housing glut and practically zero demand for new units. The real motive is to gut land-use regulations before the next boom.
Republican lawmakers who lovingly embraced the bill named it the "Community Renewal Act," which is more digestible than the "Developers' Relief Act." Here's all you really need to know: The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Association of Realtors love it.
Guess who doesn't: cash-strapped cities and counties that will be saddled with the fiscal burden of supporting the new projects. They say the law wrongly restricts a local community's ability to plan and regulate its own development.
Crist was well aware how strongly local governments opposed it. Officials from Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and several other counties urged the governor to use his veto. His own growth-management guru, Tom Pelham, thought the bill was lousy.
At least 16 municipalities have joined a lawsuit seeking to have SB 360 declared unconstitutional.
Lawyers for Homestead, Weston, Miami Gardens, Key Biscayne and other cities say the measure is an "unfunded mandate" that unlawfully heaps costs on local governments without providing necessary sources of revenue.
They also contend that the bill, which is cluttered with provisions unrelated to development, violates a constitutional requirement that statutes must deal with a single subject.
Like his stance against Sotomayor, Crist's unexpected support for the lax development law disappointed those still clinging to the notion that he's a different breed.
The same fellow who fancies himself a crusader for the Everglades has -- if SB 360 is allowed to stand -- essentially guaranteed that the remaining wetlands of western Miami-Dade will be paved, dooming any hope for reviving the Everglades.
Only as craven political strategy does Crist's latest cave-in makes sense. You can't win a U.S. Senate seat without a war chest, and developers, builders and banks are among Florida's most prolific campaign donors.
As of mid-July, the governor had already raised $4.3 million for his 2010 Senate race, a record-breaking sum. He seems in no hurry to reveal who gave what. He won't even identify his "bundlers" -- the major players who solicit and collect campaign checks on his behalf.
Late last month, the Federal Election Commission began posting Crist's donor information. Nobody will be shocked when big money starts rolling in from those who stand to benefit from the Developers' Relief Act.
Obviously Charlie would rather be a plump turkey than a lame duck.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald.

090802-2



090802-2
EPA calls for denial of rock mining permits near Everglades
The Miami Herald - Curtis Morgan
August 2, 2009
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has waded in against the rock mining industry's plans to expand into 6,800 acres of wetlands bordering Everglades National Park and Miami-Dade County's biggest source of drinking water.
The EPA, in a letter sent last week to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recommends denying nine requests for new mining permits, saying the rock pits would destroy wildlife habitat, drain water from adjacent Everglades marshes and potentially degrade water quality in a swath of Northwest Miami-Dade that the industry has dubbed the Lake Belt.
The letter echoes concerns raised by Senior U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler, who in February reinstated an earlier overturned order that halted mining in hundreds of acres surrounding a well field that supplies more than 1 million people.
Davina Marraccini, an EPA spokeswoman in Atlanta, stressed the agency ''is not proposing to halt rock mining in the Lake Belt.'' The EPA, in fact, states that it wants to work with miners and the Corps to ``enable continued mining while protecting South Florida's environment.''

090802-3



090802-3
Everglades outposts struggle to keep 'swamp culture' alive
The last Gladesmen: Survival, they say, hinges on historical, recreational renewal
South Florida Sun-Sentinel - Mike Clary
August 2, 2009
Two miles down the levee, where the bumpy gravel road gives way to sawgrass, sits the last outpost in Southeast Florida of an Everglades world almost forgotten.
Here, going for a swim means plunging into the canal from a rope swing. Travel is by airboat. And alligators swim right up to the back door.
"I call this one Elvis," said Keith Jones of the 9-foot reptile whose snout touched the wooden planks of his deck. "Known him since he was small."
Located just four miles south of Pines Boulevard, Mack's Fishing Camp is one of the most remote, least-known settlements in Broward County, a 70-year-old family-owned swamp community and one of the few places where Gladesmen folk culture remains as vibrant as a cloud of mosquitoes, and as thick as the heat.
In recent years, Mack's often has been threatened with extinction by wildfire, high water and bureaucratic neglect. Now a federal study commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recommended the colorful collection of ramshackle homes and a general store be listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Traditional Cultural Property.
That designation would give Jones, 30, his twin brother Marshall and other descendants of the founding family a protective recognition and a loud voice in Everglades restoration projects that could affect recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, camping and airboating.
Decades ago, the men and women now known as Gladesmen often depended on the natural Everglades ecosystem for their livelihood. They fished, hunted alligators and deer, and lived in or near the historic wetlands and uplands, according to the study.
Today, Gladesmen largely use the Everglades for recreational activities including fishing, hunting, camping and canoeing.
"We have lost so much of the quirky culture related to Everglades," said Laura Ogden, a Florida International University anthropologist and Gladesmen expert. "We need to celebrate what is unique about the Everglades and support local tourism."
The Jones brothers and their families are among the few descendants of those pioneers who still live in the Glades. And an historic designation for the only home they have ever known could provide them the impetus to jump start a tourism business that has been in decline since the death 10 years ago of the brothers' grandmother, Nell Jones.
Known as the Queen of the Everglades, Nell Jones dispensed bait, fishing tackle and down-home homilies from the general store, carrying on a business and a tradition begun by her husband's father, Mack Jones Sr., in the 1940s. She also raised Keith and Marshall Jones after her 24-year-old daughter DaNell, the boys' mother, committed suicide when they were just three.
After inheriting the property, the Jones twins prospered for several years when Mack's became a popular destination for airboats, ATVers, fishermen and hunters. Weekend parties could attract 1,000 or more visitors and the take from selling beer, ice and food often reached $2,500, according to Nicole Jones, Marshall's wife.
But those revenues evaporated like a mid-summer raindrop when the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission last year banned ATVs from nearby management areas. The family's chief income now comes from rentals at a 40-unit trailer park the brothers own on Krome Avenue.
The future, say the twins, is in the revival of their homestead as both a recreational hub and historic site in which the general store is expanded into a museum. The handful of rundown trailers now on the property — which are not designated historic — would be replaced by modern cabins.
Meantime, the extended Jones family continues to live what can seem a Huck Finn existence on the levee, a daily outdoor adventure. "We had something of a fairy tale childhood out here, and we are able to pass along that family heritage to our children," said Marshall Jones.
That heritage includes swimming, fishing, and riding around on bikes, airboats and jet skis, an appreciation for the power and wonder of thunderstorms and lightning, and a healthy respect for the abundant population of alligators and snakes.
"I like being able to let the kids run around and not have to worry about traffic," said Nicole Jones, who was raised in Hollywood.
Keith's daughter Breanna, 8, said classmates at Chapel Trail Elementary in Pembroke Pines sometimes don't believe that she lives in the Everglades.
After they come for a visit, however, they not only believe, they want to stay. "They always say, 'Can I spend the night?'" said Breanna.
The family is growing. In June, Nicole Jones gave birth to Mack Williams, and Keith's partner, Betty Jean Johnson, gave birth to another boy, named Gator. There are now nine children age 10 or younger at the camp.
"Our grandmother always told us, 'Someday you'll realize how different you are from other kids,'" said Keith Jones. "We did come to realize that. This is our lifestyle, the only one we know."
Mike Clary can be reached at mclary@SunSentinel.com or 305-810-5007.

090802-4



090802-4
Land deal could aid Everglades restoration
United Press International
August 2, 2009
MIAMI, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- A land deal proposed by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist could potentially help water managers find better ways to restore the Florida Everglades, an official says.
Carol Ann Wehle, South Florida Water Management District executive director, said if the state's offer to purchase 73,000 acres from the U.S. Sugar Corp. is approved next week, it could pave the way for additional land deals, The Miami Herald reported Saturday.
"This puts us in a much better bargaining position in any future negotiations,'' Wehle said of the $536 million deal.
The proposal to purchase sugar fields and citrus groves in Florida includes plans to turn the lands into pollution treatment marshes and reservoirs. Such changes should help bring cleaner water to the Everglades, the Herald said.
The land deal represents a significantly cheaper proposal than a prior plan to purchase 180,000 acres of land for $1.34 billion.
Jacquie Weisblum, the Audubon of Florida's Everglades coordinator, praised the new deal, but remained cautious about its possible passage next Wednesday.
"For me, that is great news," Weisblum told the Herald. "But I want to see it signed."

090802-5



090902-5
Listen and listen good
Tampa Tribune - Jeff Houck         jhouck@tampatrib.com
August 2, 2009
Things have been busy on the Table Conversations podcast. Highlights from recent shows include:
•Writer, cookbook author and food stylist Susan Spungen talking about her work getting the food just right for the movie "Julie & Julia," which opens in theaters Friday.
The film weaves together the stories of Julia Child's development into a chef and blogger Julie Powell's effort to find an identity through Child's cooking.
Spungen had the daunting task of interpreting the food of a budding legend as well as a neophyte cook.
"It's important to read the source material and script and think about not only how you would do them but also how the character would," Spungen told me.
She also shared her secret for browning the cheese topping for French onion soup shown during a montage segment: a heat gun used for removing paint.
•"Top Chef" winner Stephanie Izard talking about the concept for her new Chicago restaurant, The Drunken Goat, which will include charcuterie and cheese. The restaurant, scheduled to open in January, will have "a big sausage program" and feature products made from the entire animal, not just the prime cuts.
"We just got in 150 pounds of goat to play with," she told me.
I recorded the interview prior to Izard's appearance at the American Culinary Federation's annual convention in Orlando, where she was representing Le Cordon Bleu cooking schools. Izard graduated from the school's Scottsdale, Ariz., location.
•Food critic Gael Greene discussing everything from her career as a critic to how being a judge on Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" series has affected her ability to review a restaurant incognito.
"I try to be anonymous, but after 40 years of being a restaurant critic, I'm going to be recognized."
Greene also confessed that writing in her 2006 memoir, "Insatiable: Tales From a Life of Delicious Excess," about an afternoon dalliance with Elvis Presley in the early 1950s may have colored her legacy.
"I can just see my obituary: 'Sensuous restaurant critic, who slept with Elvis, dead at 103,'" Greene said. "I don't think I will ever escape it."
A grand whole reopening
This weekend marks the relaunch of the Tampa Whole Foods Market at 1548 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.
Among the renovated store's new features:
•A gluten-free section;
•A selection of all-natural baby foods;
•Close to three dozen in-house, handmade sausages, kabobs and gourmet burgers;
•A cooler of smoked meats, including uncured bacons and nitrate-free hot dogs.
For more details about the store, go online to www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/tampa/.
Snakes on a plate?
Florida's got a python problem.
Python owners have been releasing them in the Everglades, where the snakes have been having a little reptile party and multiplying faster than the ecosystem can snuff them out.
The state has started giving python hunting permits to trappers similar to those issued annually to keep the state's abundant alligator population in check.
Which made me wonder: What will they do with all those dead pythons?
Turns out that after being euthanized and studied by scientists, the python meat can then be sold by the trappers.
Mmmmmm, python.
I was very glad they would be turned into a consumable. If only more nuisances were legally edible, the world would be a better place.
The python news reminded me of a blog post by a U.K.-based writer who had a goal of eating 52 species in 52 weeks, including python. He wrote about the experience on the blog Beast Feaster ( www.beastfeaster.co.uk). The python, it turns out, was the last of his 52-course adventure.
"The python itself was very chewy," he wrote. "It gave off a popcorn-like aroma but a rather more moody taste, a bit like evil bacon. But the taste itself wasn't evil, it was rather good!"
It's unclear whether the Glades snakes will be edible, considering all the mercury in the Glades food chain.

090802-6



090802-6
Offshore drilling risks offset rewards
Gainesville Sun,  The Associated Press:  Opinion by Roland Loog
August 2, 2009
http://www.gainesville.com/article/20090802/OPINION03/907319941/-1/OPINION?Title=Roland-Loog-Offshore-drilling-risks-offset-rewards
Blobs of oil are seen on the beach at South Padre Island, Texas, Thursday, July 23, 2009. Officials are working to determine the source of the oil that began appearing on the beach Wednesday. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) Summary
With our economy facing many challenges, offshore oil drilling has become an increasingly important topic for Floridians.
Supporters of offshore drilling claim the potential economic benefits of offshore drilling are significant. Energy Information Administration estimates projected total recoverable oil off Florida’s coasts could generate billions in royalty revenue for Florida.
However, that royalty money must be used to counteract the negative effects from drilling.
In the words of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, “the fact is, oil money won’t build schools, or roads or pay teachers. It’ll just “mitigate” (slow down) the oil industry’s ruination of the fourth-largest state’s economy and environment.”
The Energy Information Administration has debunked the notion that Americans would get quick relief from high gas prices if lawmakers lift the congressional moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Any oil produced from those areas wouldn’t hit the market for up to a decade. The EIA projects the oil from waters now off-limits to drilling would meet just 1.4 percent of total U.S. demand in 2025.
Opponents of offshore drilling, like Dr. Enid Sisskin, of Gulf Coast Environmental Defense, believe that it would take years to “reap any economic benefits, increased supply of oil and natural gas, lower prices at the gas pump, smaller utility bills and new energy-related jobs.”
Historically, coastal states have resisted new offshore drilling, citing concerns about the impact of oil spills on tourism and coastal industries and the “visual and noise pollution” of oil rigs looming off the coast.
Environmental organizations argue that offshore oil and gas operations have detrimental effects onshore because their operations require roads, pipelines, storage, docks, trucking and processing facilities on Florida’s beaches, wetlands and coastal areas.
David Mica, director of the Florida Petroleum Council, was asked by the St. Pete Times about offshore drilling safety. His response was: “There are no guarantees.”
Dr. Sisskin, of Gulf Coast Environmental Defense, says, “They make it sound as though there are no more accidents, but the truth is in 2006, there were 133 fires and explosions in the Gulf of Mexico.”
The oil industry claims “not a drop of oil” was spilled offshore during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Facts prove otherwise. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) issued a news release in May 2006, stating that as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita together, the number of pipelines damaged was 457 and the number of offshore platforms destroyed was 113.
At that time, the MMS reported that six spills of 1,000 barrels or greater were reported; the largest of these was 3,625 barrels.
In 2002, the Mobile Press-Register tested grouper and other fish caught around Alabama’s offshore rigs and found they were so contaminated with mercury that they would not be acceptable for sale to the public.
The mercury in drilling muds is in concentrations as high as that found at Superfund sites on land.
The largest spill ever came from the Ixtoc well in the Gulf of Mexico, which caused tar balls to wash up on Texas beaches. The result was a 60 percent decline in hotel sales.
In May 1992, Chevron USA pleaded guilty to 65 violations of the Clean Water Act and paid $8 million in fines for illegal discharges from the company’s production platform of the California coast.
It was fined $1.2 million for operating a well off the coast of Ventura with a broken anti-blowout valve, a key environmental protection device.
The Florida Energy Associates has hired prominent lobbyists to push, so far unsuccessfully, a bill allowing offshore drilling as close as 3 miles from shore.
Tourism leaders from around the state met in Destin, one of the finest beaches in the world, to discuss the advantages and risks of offshore drilling. The question arose: Should we place our pristine beaches at risk in order to feed our fossil fuel dependence?
Tourism is all about product, and in Florida the product is pristine beaches and clean water.
As an inland county, Alachua County has a lot less to lose than coastal counties. But I worry that a knee-jerk reaction to our energy problem may leave a legacy of ruin on Florida’s beaches, marshlands and coastal communities.
Our advocacy includes putting a value on our natural, cultural and man-made assets, and there is no asset greater in Florida than our beaches.
It is ironic that much of fossil fuel comes from dinosaurs, and it is dinosaur thinking that will keep us stuck with fossil fuels. So let’s not start another 35 years of addictive behavior.
Roland Loog is director of tourist development for the Alachua County Visitors and Convention Bureau.

090801-1



090801-1
Federal-state bickering over Everglades money resolved after eight years
The Miami Herald - Curtis Morgan
August 1, 2009
After eight years of bickering, the state and the federal government have finally shaken hands on how to split the massive bill to restore the Everglades.
The dispute was more than a mere bureaucratic snit. It shut the spigot on something the struggling River of Grass needs almost as much as water: federal funds to start building stalled projects.
The agreement, confirmed in letters the South Florida Water Management District received Friday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, means nearly a half-billion dollars pledged by the Obama administration over the next two years can begin to flow -- starting with a $41 million shot to begin turning a failed Southwest Florida subdivision back into wetlands.
It also should ease friction between the district and the Corps of Engineers, two agencies charged with managing and splitting the cost of replumbing the Everglades, an ambitious but so-far sluggish undertaking now projected to run at least $22.5 billion.
`MAJOR ADVANCE'
Both sides called ``the master agreement'' -- a contract spelling out how each side will calculate costs and share duties in dozens of projects -- crucial to finally turning dirt in the Everglades.
``This approval represents a major advance,'' said Stu Appelbaum, the Corps' district deputy for Everglades restoration.
Environmentalists agreed.
``This is a pretty huge breakthrough,'' said Kirk Fordham, chief executive of the Everglades Foundation.
``For me, that is great news,'' said Jacquie Weisblum, Everglades coordinator for Audubon of Florida. ``But I want to see it signed.
That is now expected to happen when the district's governing board meets Aug. 13 -- though it seemed unlikely last month when years of squabbling boiled over.
The board fired off take-it-or-leave-it letters to the Obama administration, and some members publicly vented frustrations about Corps red tape, repeated revisions to the agreement and ``faceless bureaucrats'' in the White House's Office of Management and Budget holding up stimulus money for the Picayune Strand project in Southwest Florida.
That sparked a flurry of high-level negotiations that resolved the most serious dispute -- calculating the value of land. The stakes were high, potentially passing hundreds of millions in costs to one side of the ledger or the other.
When Congress approved the joint restoration with the state in 2000, the water district was supposed to cover most of its costs by buying land for some 60 projects.
The Corps' normal national policy in cost-sharing agreements is to value land a state contributes at market prices. But for the Everglades effort, the state informally agreed to value land at the original, and often much cheaper, purchase price. That was in part because the federal government already had contributed tens of millions of dollars to some of the older, larger and much less expensive land buys.
But in August 2007, water managers -- already outspending the federal government six-to-one in the Glades -- began pressing to change the terms. Land prices were soaring, the Corps had ruled out paying for any water-quality work and delays were radically increasing construction cost estimates.
The Corps, after long negotiations, agreed to give water managers the same deal it gives everyone else: market value on all but three projects already approved by Congress.
But the president's budget monitors balked at the new provision in the master agreement, concerned the change would add hundreds of millions of dollars to the federal government's share.
MONEY BLOCKED
The Office of Management and Budget blocked stimulus money designated for the first in a line of restoration projects -- reclamation of 55,000 acres in the Picayune Strand, site of a Southwest Florida development that flopped decades ago.
Because the paperwork has to be signed before the projects can start, the cost-sharing dispute effectively held up federal funds for every other project as well.
In two letters he sent Thursday to the district, Terrence ``Rock'' Salt, an acting assistant secretary of the Army who oversees the Corps, said the issues had been resolved.
In a nod to mending rifts between the agencies, he thanked the district's chair, Eric Buermann, and executive director, Carol Wehle, for ``patience'' and ``strong support.'' He also pledged the Corps would ``help ensure that this national treasure is alive and well for future generations.''
Fordham likened the long cost-sharing negotiations to a courtship between two partners who weren't always sure they wanted to live together.
``They've had a lot of fairly tumultuous breakups,'' he said. Now, he said, the hope was for ``a long and harmonious marriage.''

090801-2



090801-2
Senate confirm's Sam Hamilton as Director of USFWS
KAIT 8
August 1, 2009
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today praised the Senate's confirmation of Sam D. Hamilton as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Sam is a veteran manager, innovative leader, and strong advocate for sound science," Salazar said. "His three decades of experience with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's mission, responsibilities and programs will enable him to firmly guide the agency in its critical work conserving our nation's wildlife and its habitat and addressing the impacts of climate change."
A career senior biologist and manager with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hamilton had been director of the agency's Southeast Region in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was responsible for the oversight and management of more than 350 federally listed threatened and endangered species and 128 national wildlife refuges. As senior operating executive, he had full strategic planning and management responsibility for a $484 million budget and a 1,500-person work-force that operates in 10 states and the Caribbean.
Hamilton's leadership fostered creative solutions and innovation that led to the establishment of a carbon sequestration program that has helped biologists in the Southeast restore roughly 80,000 acres of wildlife habitat. His emphasis on partnership bolstered the Service's fisheries program and helped establish the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership to restore vital aquatic habitats across the region. This partnership is a key piece of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.
Hamilton provided leadership and oversight to the department's restoration work in the Everglades, the largest ecosystem restoration project in the country, and oversaw recovery and restoration work following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which devastated coastal wetlands, wildlife refuges, and other wildlife habitat along the Gulf of Mexico.
Prior to becoming regional director, Hamilton served as assistant regional director of the ecological services in Atlanta and the Service's Texas state administrator in Austin.
Hamilton graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1977.

090801-3



090801-3
State, feds reach a truce on Everglades spending
Palm Beach Post Blog  -  Bob King
August 1, 2009
http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/seeinggreen/2009/08/01/state-feds-reach-a-truce-on-everglades-spending/
Have Florida and the federal government ended their long-running squabble-fest on how to pay for the multi-gazillion-dollar Everglades restoration plan? Looks like it, according to this article from The Miami Herald:
After eight years of bickering, the state and the federal government have finally shaken hands on how to split the massive bill to restore the Everglades.
… The agreement, confirmed in letters the South Florida Water Management District received Friday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, means nearly a half-billion dollars pledged by the Obama administration over the next two years can begin to flow — starting with a $41 million shot to begin turning a failed Southwest Florida subdivision back into wetlands.
It also should ease friction between the district and the Corps of Engineers, two agencies charged with managing and splitting the cost of replumbing the Everglades, an ambitious but so-far sluggish undertaking now projected to run at least $22.5 billion.
Both sides called “the master agreement” — a contract spelling out how each side will calculate costs and share duties in dozens of projects — crucial to finally turning dirt in the Everglades.
… “This is a pretty huge breakthrough,” said Kirk Fordham, chief executive of the Everglades Foundation.
A few weeks ago, as my colleague Paul Quinlan reported, water district board member Shannon Estenoz launched an extended tirade against the faceless Beltway drones who were blocking the promised money from D.C. She said she was “spitting nails.”
But don’t break out the party hats just yet.
For one thing, it’s not unclear if this new agreement changes the dynamics that have hindered the restoration plan during the decade since Al Gore flew down to West Palm Beach for its official unveiling. It’s basically gone like this:
Florida and the feds agree to a plan. Everybody’s happy.
Florida spends a lot more money than the feds on the plan (check out the so-called “cross cut budget” in PDF form here).
To get things moving, Florida decides to spend a lot more money, but also begins making unilateral decisions about which projects get done when, which irks the feds and many of the environmental groups.
This culminates in the state’s mega-expansive U.S. Sugar land deal, which might end up costing as much as $17 billion to work into the Everglades restoration project. And to date, there’s no state-federal agreement about sharing those costs.
Now, maybe this agreement could be different, and maybe there will be a lot more cooperation between Washington and Tallahassee on getting the Everglades rescue going again. In fact, check out this White House news release:
“This agreement solidifies the unique 50/50 partnership between the federal government and the State of Florida to restore the Everglades and the south Florida ecosystem, and it reinforces the important roles of the Department of the Interior, the Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Florida in the restoration effort.”
Oops — wrong White House. That was an agreement between President George W. Bush and Gov. Jeb Bush. In 2002.
Again, maybe it will be different this time.
Tags: Everglades, Everglades Foundation, Everglades restoration, Money, Shannon Estenoz, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Sugar, White House

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2009-2014, Boya Volesky
E-mail: evergladeshub@gmail.com