Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson convened a… hearing in West Palm Beach… [to] target the Trump administration’s attack on climate science. ‘There are people trying to muzzle scientists. I’ve seen it in Washington. I’ve seen it here in the state of Florida,’ said Nelson,… the state’s former insurance commissioner. Southeast Florida is often considered a model for planning for climate change… But progress has been slow, in part because South Florida has often been at odds with a Republican-led state and the administration of Gov. Rick Scott, who reportedly banned the term climate change… Nelson said he has met with supervisors in federal agencies who say the (Trump) administration has issued the same ban. Worse,… the administration has proposed scaling back agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Environmental Protection Agency, that provide critical research… [D]ata becomes even more important as climate-related problems – sea rise, more intense hurricanes and drought – become a reality. Much of the research also helps forecast hurricanes, rainfall, drought and other weather events… Nelson, who last month introduced a bill to keep politics out of federal research, said he has also met twice with Vice President Mike Pence in recent weeks to discuss an infrastructure bill to address climate needs.” Read Nelson, near Trump’s Palm Beach resort, calls for end to attacks on climate science
Leyard King reports for USA Today – “Fore more than 20 years, the little-known South Florida Geographic Initiative has been monitoring the threat of phosphorus, mercury and other damaging nutrients seeping into the ecologically fragile [Everglades] – sometimes with dramatic results. The data it collected for the Environmental Protection Agency and Florida agencies was key to a massive court-ordered settlement in 2012 to protect the River of Grass from encroaching pollution. The initiative is now among more than 50 EPA programs the (Trump) administration has proposed eliminating in an effort to return ‘the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities…, ‘ according to Trump’s budget outline… Tom Van Lent, director of programs at the Everglades Foundation [said eliminating] the initiative ‘would cripple the federal government’s role in maintaining water quality for the Everglades and basically blind us to what’s going on out there.’… The EPA lists a number of accomplishments achieved through South Florida Geographic Initiative… including identifying new water quality treatment projects, partnering with other agencies to replace 25,000 ineffective septic tanks, 4000 cesspits, and 900 shallow wells, and improving the overall quality of the region’s water.” Read Donald Trump’s budget would eliminate key program testing Everglades water
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The federal government should clean up the mess it makes, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast said… That’s why he’s filing a bill to hold the feds responsible for the environmental and economic damage Lake Okeechobee discharges do to the St. Lucie River, he said. ‘We get that the discharges are part of flood control,’ the Palm City Republican said, ‘but you can’t just do something that helps some people when it hurts other people… The intent of this bill is to get the federal government – the (Army) Corps of Engineer – to acknowledge that what they are doing with these discharges is harmful, and that they should clean up their mess.’… His bill would authorize the president to declare a federal emergency when discharges lead to damaging harmful algae blooms and would provide federal assistance for cleanup.” Read U.S. Rep. Brian Mast: Hold feds responsible for Lake Okeechobee discharges
Jim Turner reports for the News Service of Florida – “Plans for a $1.5 billion reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee… received overwhelming Senate approval… Wednesday… The Senate vote came after a series of Democratic amendments were rejected.” Read Fla. Senate Oks 1.5B reservoir plan to lessen algae
Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “Gazing from a beach that no longer has water across the mostly dry lake bed of Lake Geneva, Webb Farber of the Save Our Lakes Organization says… legal groundwater pumping in the region by utilities – mostly Jacksonville’s water and electric utility, called JEA [is the culprit]… Group members and other local officials hope legislation moving through the Senate would provide funding to pipe water from a tributary of the St. Johns River to Keystone Heights to replenish lakes… Senate Bill 234, by Republican Sen. Rob Bradley…, would provide $45 million per year for St. Johns River and Keystone Heights lakes region projects. But that amount likely will be reduced this week to $20 million per year, the amount provided in the Senate proposed budget… The St. Johns Riverkeeper environmental group said it has a scientist who is studying the proposal to ensure there are no unexpected consequences… [T]he House companion bill, HB 847, hasn’t been heard in its first committee stop and the funding is not included in the House’s proposed budget. Rep. Ben Albritton, who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees environmental spending, told POLITICO Florida… he is ‘open minded’ about the Senate’s priorities, such as funding for the Keystone Heights lakes, as he expects Senate leaders to be about House priorities.” Read Keystone Heights residents see hope in Senate proposal to restore dry lakes
Eric Draper writes for The Gainesville Sun – “[T]he Suwannee River Water Management District is taking bold steps to protect and recover our water resources to make sure we have enough water for the region’s future needs. One of the best examples is the district’s investment in buying land and designing a project to treat stormwater that is currently adding pollutants to the aquifer. The Mill Creek Sink Water Quality Improvement Project in Alachua will reduce nitrogen pollution by 70 percent.” Read District taking steps to protect water resources
Susan Salisbury reports for the Palm Beach Post – “Florida’s iconic manatee population is… likely to endure for the next 100 years, so long as wildlife managers continue to protect the marine mammals and their habitat, a new study by the US Geological Survey and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute has found. The new study follows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s downlisting of the manatees’ status to threatened from endangered on March 30… ‘Today the Florida manatees’ numbers are high. Adult manatees’ longevity is good, and the state has available habitat to support a population that is continuing to grow,’ said USGS research ecologist Michael C. Runge, lead author of the USGS report… Florida’s manatee population is likely to gradually double over the next 50 years and then level off, the research team concluded. Over time, environmental and habitat changes will probably cause manatees to become less abundant in South Florida and more numerous in North Florida, but the population as a whole will remain high… The biggest threats will continue to be fatal collisions with watercraft and the loss of warm-water habitats that provide them with refuge during the winter… The new analysis projects that mortality due to red tide will become an equally significant threat… ” Read Florida’s manatees likely to be around for next 100 years, new study finds
Chris Bentley writes for The Architect’s Newspaper – “The rate of sea-level rise (in South Florida) has tripled over the last decade, according to a recent study from the University of Miami, bringing with it more frequent coastal flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects that Miami-Dade County will see about 15 inches of sea-level rise by 2045. And because South Florida sits on porous limestone bedrock, saltwater is not just encroaching on coastal communities, but gurgling up from below… The Urban Land Institute is drafting a plan for the Arch Creek Basin, a mostly low-lying area straddling 2,800 acres and four municipalities, as well as unincorporated Dade County… Primarily poor people of color, the residents of Arch Creek face a severe threat from sea-level rise – one that could eventually force them to abandon the area. The development would be flood-resistant and transit-oriented, dense with mixed-use buildings and affordable housing, but also with a health clinic, backup generators, and other resources that could come in handy during disasters. In the long run, South Florida’s scarcity of higher ground could also make its elevated areas more valuable as waters rise. That could exacerbate gentrification in minority neighborhoods with relatively high elevations like Liberty City and Little Havana… A law passed last year (in Miami Beach) requires the owners of buildings larger than 7,000 square feet to pay a fee if they don’t get certified as at least LEED Gold. The builders of properties that don’t get LEED certified at all get slapped with a fee equal to 5 percent of their construction costs. That could help raise money for future infrastructure investments. Miami Beach also requires new buildings to be at least one foot above the base flood elevation of six feet above sea level.” Read Facing rising sea levels and greater insurance risk, Southern Florida braces for relocations, new flood design standards, and more
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Upcoming Environmental Events
April 18, 5:00 pm – Attend the Suncoast Climate Change Symposium at USFSM’s Selby Auditorium (8350 N. Tamiami Trail) in Sarasota. The symposium will host presentations on climate change and its consequences for Florida, featuring Dr. Harold Wanless of the University of Miami, noted geologist and sea-level rise expert. The sustainability manager for the City of Sarasota will also discuss Sarasota’s “Climate Adaptation Plan.” Tickets are $15 for the general public, and free for students. To purchase tickets, click here. To watch a promotional video, click here.
April 18, 5:30 pm - Attend a free "Solar Co-op Information Meeting" for the Sarasota County Solar Co-op at the North Sarasota Library (2801 Newtown Blvd) in Sarasota. To register, click here.
April 21, 9:30 am – Attend a celebration of Sierra Club Founder John Muir’s Birthday in Brooksville. There will be a guided trail walk and a picnic luncheon featuring Jerry Cowling as John Muir. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
April 22, 7:30 am – Attend Clermont Earth Day & Lake Clean-Up 2017 at the Lake Hiawatha Preserve (450 N. 12 St./SR 561) (West of the roundabout) in Clermont. To register for the Lake Clean Up, click here. Several prizes will be given to volunteers for most weight, youngest participant, oldest participant, oddest object found, etc. Pre-registrants will be given T-shirts. After the clean up, there will be environmental education, an earth kids zone, DJ music and entertainment, food vendors, prizes, and more! For more information, email email@example.com or call (352) 394 – 3500.
April 25, 5:30 pm - Attend a free "Solar Co-op Information Meeting" for the East Broward County Solar Co-op and the West Broward County Solar Co-op at the Northwest Regional Library (3151 N. University Drive) in Coral Springs. To register, click here.
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