FCC News Brief - December 11, 2017

Nathaniel Reed writes for the TC Palm – “Thank you for the Dec. 1 editorial supporting the right to a clean environment! The “usual suspects” are opposing the constitutional amendment proposed by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, which would receive strong support from the vast majority of Florida voters, just as they quietly opposed Amendment 1. The fact that the Department of Environmental Protection and the Everglades Foundation have at last identified every polluter in the vast Okeehchobee headwaters is an astonishing feat… The failure to enforce the possibly unenforceable standard (best management practices) shines through the research as testament to the carelessness of our state governmental agencies about enforcing strict water quality standards within the watershed. There is not a lake, river nor estuary in Florida that is not adversely impacted by agricultural pollution. As one of the authors of the 1973 Clean Water Act, I attempted late in the process to include agricultural pollution in the bill, but the major congressional supporters of the pending bill felt that by adding controls on agricultural pollution the bill would fail. Now, 54 years later, fertilizer and dairy wastes are the main contributors to the pollution of the waters of the nation. Algal blooms are all too common even on the Great Lakes. The “usual suspects” may defeat Thurlow-Lippisch’s brave effort, but you are right: The issues won’t go away!” Read Proposed amendment a brave effort to ensure a clean environment

The Nature Conservancy shares – “A new report prepared by The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with TD Bank Group presents useful evidence on the significant benefits and value of forests for people and their communities in the United States… Of the forest properties evaluated in this report, the dollar value of the services provided that would be lost absent their protection averages to an estimated $4,028 per acre, per year. Remove a forest and those costs are paid by local communities and society at large.” Read Report Measures the Economic Value of Forests in the Eastern United States

Jamie Smith Hopkins and Kristen Lombardi write for Florida Today – “The Sunshine State taps the sun for less than half a percent of its electricity while making two-thirds with natural gas – a fuel that Florida must pipe in from other states… A coastal state already suffering punishing effects of global warming shouldn’t keep building power plants that pump even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the Sierra Club warned… As far back as a dozen years ago, when gas supplied less than 40 percent of the state’s electricity, then-Gov. Jeb Bush said utilities needed to stop depending so heavily on it. Florida’s power providers and their state regulators… [are] doubling down… More gas-fired electricity generation is under construction or planned in this state than in all but four others… The new construction follows a 15-year surge in gas-fueled electricity production in Florida that topped the nation, outstripping even major gas producers such as Texas and Pennsylvania… Now, even as they’re finally accelerating solar development, Florida’s electric utilities still expect to construct more than twice as many new megawatts powered by gas in the next decade as by the sun… The state wouldn’t need so much gas if it prioritized energy efficiency to avoid expensive new power plants. But energy conservation costs Florida utilities money because they sell less power. Three years ago, the Public Service Commission cut conservation goals by 90 percent after the utilities argued they were no longer economical. This year, a national energy-efficiency nonprofit, comparing the largest electric utilities on conservation efforts, ranked Florida’s among the worst. Rooftop solar is another alternative. The state could offset nearly half its electricity needs this way… But that too would threaten utilities’ profits because they don’t own those panels or the resulting power – their customers do. In 2013, the companies convinced the Public Service Commission to ax the state’s solar rebate program… What upsets critics isn’t the shift to gas, but the extent of it – and that FPL and other Florida utilities are still adding gas plants. The electric grid covering most of the state is on track by 2012 to have the largest share of gas generation among all the U.S. and Canadian regional grids overseen by the North American Electric Reliability Corp….” Read Sunshine State lags on solar power, doubles down on natural gas

Skyler Swisher reports for the Sun Sentinel – “A controversial plan to build thousands of homes in a protected farming region west of Delray Beach and Boynton Beach has been postponed amid a flurry of opposition from environmental and neighborhood groups. The proposal was scheduled for its first hearing…, but developer GL Homes withdrew the plan so it could rally more support, according to a letter sent Thursday to Palm Beach County officials. ‘We believe more time is needed so that we can continue to work with staff and others in outlining the merits and community benefits this proposal provides,’ GL Homes vice president Kevin Ratterree wrote. Under the proposal, GL Homes would build 2,420 homes in the Agricultural Reserve… In exchange, the developer would agree to build fewer homes on farmland in Loxahatchee.” Read GL Homes postpones Ag Reserve development plan

Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The latest round of discharges that started Sept. 15 are wreaking havoc on the ecosystems of the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon. But the longer the water stays in Lake O, the more environmental damage It does there. Because of the high water levels, the lake could lose from 60 to 70 square miles of submerged vegetation, said Paul Gray, Audubon Florida’s Lake O expert… This is the area of the lake where the game fish, particularly bass and speckled perch, live, Gray said, ‘and when the habitat dies, the fish disappear. And when the fishing crashes, that’s real bad for tourism.’… ‘Green plants need sunlight. When the water is too deep, especially when it’s dirty brown like the lake is now, the plants are shaded out and die.’… [T]he lake’s grasses need shallow water, in the 11-foot elevation range, to germinate and grow. And the lake gets that shallow only during droughts. ‘So basically we’ll have to wait for the next drought for the grass to come back, and wait for the grass to come back for the fish to come back,’ Gray said.” Read Stopping Lake Okeechobee discharges would be good for St. Lucie River, bad four tourism

Eliot Kleinberg reports for the Palm Beach Post – “His murder in 1905 helped curb a trade in egret feathers that almost drove the white birds to extinction. And it helped spark a movement that led to the establishment of Everglades National Park 50 years ago…” Read Everglades 70th Anniversary: The story of the park’s beginning

Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Plam – “Up to 3.1 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into Bethel Creek from a broken wastewater pipe… from Nov. 12 to 17. Water samples taken immediately after the break was fixed found extremely high counts of enteric bacteria, a form of fecal pollution that can cause illness, infections and rashes. On Tuesday, the bacteria counts at five sites along the creek and in the nearby lagoon finally dropped to safe levels… Grant Gilmore, a Vero Beach marine biologist who’s studied the lagoon for decades, told TCPalm Bethel Creek was ‘about the worst place in Indian River County to have a sewage spill. Stuff that gets in the water there is going to stay there awhile. Some of it may be there forever.’ Although called a creek, Bethel is actually a dead-end arm of the lagoon where the water has very little tidal movement because it’s so far from the Fort Pierce Inlet to the south and the Sebastian Inlet to the north… Much of the sewage will stay suspended in the water and eventually wash out, Gilmore said, while some of the chemicals and any heavy metals in it will sink to the bottom and stay embedded in the muck.” Read Is Indian River Lagoon’s Bethel Creek clean 3 weeks after 3 million-gallon sewage spill?

The Jackson County Floridan reports – “Enviva, the company that operates a wood pellet plant in the Cottondale area, is in a new multi-year partnership with the American Forest Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and others to help private landowners… engage in practices that lead toward certification that their forests are sustainably managed and which help restore longleaf pine forests as well as improve overall wildlife habitats on their lands… The efforts will concentrate on 16 counties across the Florida panhandle… Company officials say the effort was launched in response to a report released by AFF last year indicating that 87 percent of family forest owners… say that protecting and improving wildlife habitat is a key reason why they own land. The report also indicated that 73 percent said they wanted to do more about meeting those goals in the future… ‘Landowners want to do right by the land…,’ said Tom Martin, president and CEO of AFF. ‘But not all landowners have the expertise or the funds to implement the practices needed to create healthy forest habitat. But when these barriers are removed – when we provide technical assistance through projects like this, or when they have the needed funds, whether from cost-share assistance or from markets for wood, such as Enviva has created – we see a significant increase in the landowners taking an active role in their forests and in creating the needed habitat for wildlife.’… The harvesting of lower-value trees in the proper manner can promote growth of high-grade trees because doing so leaves more resources available to the more valuable trees… [O]vergrowth shades out the plant community on the forest floor and reduces habitat value… Enviva can benefit because planned thinning puts more small-diameter and low-value wood in the marketplace (needed for pellets). Landowners can use the income generated by selling their… wood to help pay the management costs associated with carrying out their habitat sustainability philosophies.” Read Enviva, others partner to assist land owners




From Our Readers

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Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Solar in Jacksonville      

Tell Congress to Stop Attacking Protections for Dolphins and Whales

Save Endangered Sea Turtles from Drowning in Shrimp Trawls

Defend Attacks on the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

 Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Tell Congress to Stop Sabal Trail

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

Ask County Commissions to Pass Bear-Friendly Trash Ordinances


Upcoming Environmental Events    

December 11, 5:30 pm – Attend the Escambia County Delegation meeting at the Pensacola State college Jean and Paul Performance Studio (1000 College Boulevard) in Pensacola. Tell your Delegation that you want the LARGEST SHARE of Amendment One funds, approximately $300 million next year, to be dedicated annually to land conservation programs. For more information, contact floridaconservationcoalition@gmail.com.

December 13, 8:00 am – Attend a meeting of the Legislative Committee of the Constitutional Revision Commission in Tallahassee. A proposal to dedicate funds in the LATF to the Florida Forever Trust Fund will be considered. For more information, click here.

December 13, 12:45 pm – Attend the next Villages Environmental Discussions Group meeting at the Belvedere Library Community Room (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in the Villages. Speakers include Sam Wartinbee who will discuss Villages Water-Related issues and Ranger Craig Littauer who will discuss opportunities at Silver Springs State Park. For more information and to RSVP, email resourcewisdom@gmail.com.

December 15, 10:00 AM - Attend the Miami-Dade County Delegation meeting at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center, Miami-Dade County Board of County Commission Chambers (111 NW 1st Street, 2nd Floor) in Miami. Tell your Delegation that you want the LARGEST SHARE of Amendment One funds, approximately $300 million next year, to be dedicated annually to land conservation programs. For more information, contact floridaconservationcoalition@gmail.com.


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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.  

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