Jim Turner reports for the News Service of Florida – “The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously backed a proposal (SB 370) to designate $100 million a year for Florida Forever. Also, it approved a bill (SB 204) that would increase annual funding for springs projects from $50 million to $75 million and set aside $50 million a year for the restoration of the St. Johns River, its tributaries and the Keystone Heights lake region in North Florida. Both proposals are sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley… who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will hear the bills next… Money for both Senate bills would come from the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund… Lawmakers in the past have carved up part of the annual funding so at least $200 million goes for Everglades projects, another $64 million goes for a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee and $5 million goes to… the restoration of Lake Apopka. But they have also used the money to cover agency expenses, which backers of the 2014 constitutional amendment contend is not allowed. Bradley has said a review needs to be done to determine how much of the trust fund goes into agency overhead. Sen. Linda Stewart… said she was ‘proud’ to be able to vote for the Florida Forever bill, which would use the money ‘the way the voters had hoped to see it funded.’” Read Florida Forever, St. Johns proposals get Senate backing
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “Federal wildlife managers on Tuesday cleared the way for a Walmart-anchored strip mall in one of the world’s rarest forests, a tract of vanishing pine rockland inhabited by butterflies, bats, snakes and fragile wildflowers found no place else. In approving a conservation plan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said they do not expect the sprawling box store and mall, a parking lot or 900 apartments to threaten the survival of more than 20 endangered plants and animals… The approved plan divides what was once about 90 acres of forest scattered across 138 acres near Zoo Miami into two 20-plus acre preserves connected by a pathway, with the mall and apartments at the center… [C]onservationists and neighbors say that… the decision disregarded the Act’s aim to provide a safety net for imperiled plants and animals. ‘It’s got to be one of the greatest derelictions of duty by the Service in South Florida and that’s because there’s so many endangered species,’ said Jaclyn Lopez, a senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. The Service also allowed developer Peter Cummings and his environmental consultant to develop their own formula to calculate damage caused by the project. ‘They used this completely novel, untested, unscientific valuation matrix to cover the loss of these species which are already on the brink of extinction,’ Lopez said… Nearby residents have also sued to stop the project, claiming they weren’t properly notified.” Read Federal wildlife managers clear way for Walmart in vanishing South Florida forest
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “Water managers planning a massive Everglades reservoir to help end polluted releases from Lake Okeechobee… unveiled early drafts of the project Tuesday… Because the size is limited, the reservoir will likely need to be deep, increasing the need for treatment to meet water quality standards. And that’s raised questions over how engineers will meet the challenge. Polluted water is now treated in shallow basins south of the lake where underwater plants can grow and help scrub phosphorus… Environmentalists now worry deepening that reservoir could hamper clean-up. And if water is too dirty to be moved south, South Florida could wind up with ‘a Lake O mini me,’ said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. Environmentalists also worry that district officials aren’t looking hard enough to find more available land to expand the size of the project. ‘The deeper it is, the ecological benefits are gone,’ said Diana Umpierre of the Sierra Club. ‘All of that is good reason for them to really make a bigger effort to increase the footprint.’… On Tuesday, district officials presented four scenarios: two plans providing the 240,000 acre-feet of storage and two allowing 360,000 acre-feet. Each scenario includes treatment areas to scrub phosphorus from water, but models have yet to determine exactly how they’ll work. Engineers had hoped to present those models Tuesday but now expect to present them Dec. 13, said lead engineer Walter Wilcox.” Read New Everglades reservoir is being planned. Some worry it won’t be big enough
David Fleshler reports for the Sun Sentinel – “A fight over oil drilling in the Everglades resumed Tuesday, when a Miami family that owns thousands of acres in western Broward County appealed the state’s rejection of its application for an exploratory well… ‘We are committed in our resolve to move forward with this project,’ said John Kanter… ‘We’ve worked diligently to assure that our application met and exceeded all requirements for our permits.’… Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam, whose city has joined the legal fight, said he and his colleagues are no less determined to stop the project.” Read Everglades oil drilling fight resumes
Jim Tatum writes for The Gainesville Sun – “It is now documented that fracking, which uses huge amounts of water, has been known to contaminate drinking water resources. In North Florida, where our springs are being depleted, we should not be giving away water to the oil and gas industries when we could be using solar instead. Recently, state Rep. Kathleen Peters… filed HB 237 to ban fracking, and state Sen. Dana Young of Tampa filed the Senate companion bill SB 462. These bills are identical in language to those filed last year, but didn’t make it through, even though they had bipartisan support from nearly one half the Senate and one third of the House. Two common arguments used to oppose the bills heard last year are completely unfounded – the idea we should ‘study it more’ and claim the legislation violates property rights. Stalling under the guise of further study fools no one… The bills speak only to… well stimulation and no other mineral rights… Florida’s Bert J. Harris Act of 1995 has no application to fracking… Documents addressing the act, written by prominent lawyers Randall Denker… and Paul Boudreaux of Stetson University College of Law more than adequately show the ineffectiveness and inappropriateness of this act in regard to fracking… We can all do our small part by contacting our representatives in Tallahassee and urging them to support HB 237 and SB 462. Passing these bills will give us just a bit more protection from further degradation of our state.” Read It’s time to boot fracking from Florida for good
Dale White reports for the Herald Tribune – “As Long Bar Pointe LLP,… developers filed for a DEP permit to create and maintain a “mitigation bank” along two miles of shoreline. A mitigation bank is a site where a developer can receive credits for enhancing or restoring the environment. The credits can then be sold, typically for $100,000 or more each, to offset, or mitigate, wetlands impacts elsewhere in the region… The application to the DEP calls for removing invasive Brazilian peppers from marshes, uplands and mangroves; planting native vegetation; and… [installing] buoy markers in state waters outside the bank cautioning boaters to stay out of the seagrasses… The developers would also reserve the right to apply for a separate DEP permit to trim more than 36 acres of mangroves to a height of 12 feet… The DEP filed a notice of its plan to award slightly more than 18 mitigation credits… Suncoast Waterkeeper, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and former Manatee County commissioner Joe McClash petitioned to block the permit. They contend the conditions imposed in the permit could harm rather than protect vital fisheries, seagrasses and mangroves. Testifying Wednesday, environmental consultant H. Clark Hull Jr. said that, according to his analysis, the developers’ mitigation bank application should have scored slightly more than four credits… When he worked as an environmental scientist for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, Hull served on the state’s “rule development team” that wrote the manual for how the DEP is to determine mitigation bank credits… For more than three hours, Hull, who inspected the aqua property in a kayak, answered questions and dissected the DEP’s assessments, explaining why he would have scored the project lower. For example, he criticized the agency for awarding credits for the potential installation of the buoys, saying the signs would do ‘little, if anything, to prevent prop scarring in the shallow areas of the bank.’… Hull also criticized the agency for not taking fully into account the bank’s proximity to the future developed uplands of Aqua by the Bay and the effect that could have on properly maintaining the area.” Read Aqua by the Bay judge hears conflicting testimony about wetlands permit
Amy Green reports for WMFE – “A Port Orange island that is among the most important breeding grounds for birds on Florida’s east coast is getting new protection. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to designate the island as a Critical Wildlife Area, closing it for part of the year… The island is home to brown pelicans and threatened species like the American oystercatcher and tricolored heron.” Read New Protection for Important Port Orange Island Where Birds Nest
Chad Gillis reports for News Press – “Although the Florida panther population is growing, the number of overall documented deaths may be down this year for the first time in years… Darrell Land, a panther biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission… [said,] ‘(But) one year doesn’t make a long-term trend.’” Read Panther deaths down in 2017; signs point to rebound
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
December 7-8 – Attend the Annual Florida Remediation Conference in Orlando. The Conference includes two days of technical sessions on soil and groundwater cleanup, over 90 exhibitors, and a charity golf event. For more information, click here.
December 10, 2:00 pm – Attend “Leaving an Environmental Legacy” in Sanford. Aliki Moncrief will explain how funds from the Water and Land Conservation Amendment are being spent and how you can help ensure that policy makers are doing the right thing for our environment. For more information, click here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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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