FCC News Brief - April 19, 2017

Lee Constantine writes for the Orlando Sentinel – “With the assault on the environment by the Legislature, nothing is more blatant than its disregard of Florida Forever… In 2014, Floridians, to reverse the cuts, overwhelmingly voted for Amendment 1. As the sponsor of the last two Florida Forever bills, I am disgusted that the Legislature budgeted practically nothing this year. The Florida Conservation Coalition advocates a modest 25 percent of Amendment 1 dollars go to Florida Forever. This sensible approach is the least the Legislature should do. When are legislators going to start listening to the people?” Read Florida Forever – Forever. Looking ahead.

The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “Gov. Rick Scott has been barnstorming Florida to defend the state’s tourism marketing agency, Visit Florida, against plans from state House leaders to gut the agency’s budget. ‘Tourism is a big deal – it creates 1.4 million jobs in our state,’ Scott declared… Ironically… one of Florida’s iconic natural attractions four tourists is ailing – and decisions from a different agency overseen by Scott’s appointees are threatening its recovery. Silver Springs... became world famous for its crystal-clear water and glass-bottomed boat rides decades before Central Florida’s theme parks opened… But… the spring’s flow has fallen significantly from historic levels. Environmental advocates blame the drop on too much pumping from the aquifer… Yet this week governing board members of the St. Johns River Water Management District… unanimously voted to accept a further reduction in the spring’s flow… The board’s vote helps clear the way for it to approve a request from billionaire… Frank Stronach to pump an addition 1.2 million gallons of groundwater a day… All that water for… cows is enough to meet the daily household needs of 12,000 people… The combination of the water he has and the water he’s requesting would amount to almost a billion free gallons from the aquifer per year. House leaders who have been carping about ‘corporate welfare’ must not be paying attention… A coalition of environmental groups – more committed than the district to fulfilling its mission to protect the region’s water resources – filed a legal challenge in January against the recommendation. An administrative law judge held hearings this week to consider arguments from both sides but didn’t issue a ruling.” Read Save Silver Springs. Pull the plug on risky water pumping

Dinah Voyles Pulver reports for The Daytona Beach News-Journal – “Regional water management officials are rushing to meet the state’s July 1 deadline to adopt a minimum flow standard for Gemini Springs in DeBary. But springs advocates… think the St. Johns River Water Management District might be moving a little too fast. In a draft report released last week, district scientists concluded water flow from the pair of springs in the Volusia County park could drop another 15 percent – about 388,000 gallons per day – without causing significant harm. As a result, the district concluded no action is necessary to try to restore the spring’s long-term water flow… A public meeting on the proposal is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the district’s headquarters in Palatka… DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia said he’d like to see the spring flow restored to historic levels, not reduced even further. Among other questions raised Tuesday were why the district didn’t use the spring’s long-term historic flow as the standard for setting the allowable reduction and why the district didn’t consider returning swimming to the park as one of its criteria.” Read Local officials question proposal to allow decreases in Gemini Springs water flow

Tim Croft reports for The Star – “Maybe by the time federal agencies have signed off on it, the county’s proposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) will have its admirers. As currently crafted, however, nobody seems a fan… Before the plan gets [to the US FWS],… Defenders of wildlife would like to see changes… [T]he organization weighed in with five pages of criticism and recommendations for the plan as currently crafted… The key language of the HCP provided for the county to enforce the provisions of the Endangered Species Act rather than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service… It provides for a set amount of habitat that can be lost along the coast, from St. Joe Beach to St. Joseph Peninsula, due to development over a 30-year period… Defenders contended the county’s estimations of future loss, which are based on past development, are flawed and the county is not adhering to mandates to minimize and mitigate impacts to achieve ‘no net loss’ of critical habitat… Defenders wrote that the mitigation measures are too broad and lack species-specific steps to be taken. The organization also takes the county to task for proposing to assume the burden of coastal permitting while not providing additional funding for enforcement, monitoring or coordination… Further, the mitigation strategy hinges on landowners voluntarily granting conservation easements to protect critical habitat, ‘but lacks incentives or requirements for landowners to do so.’… The report is particularly critical of the county’s reliance on a coming beach restoration project as long-term mitigation for the taking of critical habitat… Sand from prior restoration efforts has already washed away any temporary gain in habitat and the constantly-moving shoreline, even without hurricanes for a decade, renders it ‘shortsighted’ to consider the restoration project long-term mitigation.” Read Wildlife organization criticizes conservation plan

Camella Guiol writes for Creative Loafing – “Ray Kemble… knows firsthand how fracking affects water quality. Armed with plastic bottles containing contaminated water from his private well, he travels around the county educating legislators and the public about the dangers of the process… The (fracking ban) bill may have bipartisan support – a rare phenomenon in the current polarized political climate – but oil and gas industry forces are employing a full-court press in Tallahassee to block the bill’s passage… There are, Keble said, 27 different chemicals in the water sample, many of them deadly: four types of uranium, barium, arsenic, formaldehyde – to name a few. Where he lives in northern Pennsylvania, his property is surrounded by 10 of the highest-producing fracking wells in the country… Earlier this month, Kemble was diagnosed with cancer. He also suffers from silicosis of the lungs from breathing in silica dust… Although SB 442 is getting a lot of press, it is currently sitting idle in the Appropriations subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources, of which Republican State Senator Rob Bradley is the chair; he has yet to put it on the agenda. The bill’s House companion, HB 451, has not been seen by its first committee.” Read Despite clear bipartisan support for a ban, the state may be paving the way for fracking

Jim Ross reports for the Ocala Star Banner – “Right now, some bald eagles are the most prominent residents of a huge, open land mass on Marion County’s southern border. But if an Arizona-based developer gets its way, that land eventually could hold 5,400 single-family detached homes, some commercial property, lots of recreational amenities, and perhaps two golf courses – all part of a massive, active adult community called Ocala Ranch… The western portion of the site, about 60 percent of the land… has access from State Road 200 and will be developed. The eastern portion, about 40 percent of the land, is forested and holds various water bodies. It would be left as permanent open space… [which brushes] up against the Ross Prairie State Forest and the Gum Swamp/Slough/Spring network… Ocala Ranch… would be a logical extension of the residential development along the SR 200 corridor… Alisha Lewis, who has lived in the Florida Highlands the past five years or so… fears groundwater pumping for all that development will have a negative effect on the aquifer…. Lewis… notes that the Ocala Ranch land currently serves as a major recharge area; even with the land set aside for conservation, she fears runoff into the Withlacoochee and a general negative effect on the environment.” Read A huge development

Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “On the eve of a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting where bears are on the agenda, the federal wildlife agency has weighed in with an announcement that Florida’s bears do not qualify as endangered… Although the news release says the agency’s finding is based on ‘a robust investigation’ into the status of the bear, the news release cites no information about it other than the computer modeling previously done by the state agency declaring that there were 4,000 adult bears – at least, before the bear hunt there were… [E]xecutive director (of FWC) Nick Wiley says the staff is not recommending another bear hunt at this point.” Read Feds say Florida bears are not endangered

Carol Mosley writes for Industry Tap – “Florida’s geology makes it a prime locale for sinkholes as well as phosphate mining… Today’s mining operations range in size from about 5,000 acres to 100,000 acres, with approximately 40% of the product going overseas. But, the waste and mishaps remain the problem of the state and its residents. Some of the by-products that surface are known carcinogens, such as radioactive uranium and radon gas. It is getting harder to squeeze more phosphate out of the barren landscape of current mines, so moving to new and untapped areas, like “Pacman” gobbling up wetlands and polluting rivers and lakes, is Mosaic’s current strategy for survival. They have set their sights on Florida’s vast rural and agricultural areas. When county commissioners have attempted to enact moratoriums or refuse to provide a special exemption from agricultural zoning, Mosaic, and their land-owning cohorts, threaten to sue cash-strapped local governments who dare to interfere with their ability to make money. Such intimidation has a chilling effect on small rural communities, who don’t have the legal resources to put up a fight.” Read Phosphate Mining Brings a ‘Mosaic’ of Destruction to Florida Including Sinkholes & Radioactive Waste





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Upcoming Environmental Events


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 mrivera@clermontfl.org or call (352) 394 – 3500.

April 22, 10:00 am – Attend an Central Florida Earth Day in Orlando. Earth Day is a family-friendly, dog-friendly, vegan, alcohol-free, and smoke-free event. Enjoy speakers, food, environmental education, a kidz zone, artist corner, animal haven, music, and more! For more information, click here.

April 22, 10:00 am – Participate in Orlando’s March for Science. There will be a pre-march rally at the North East corner of Central Florida Earth Day in Lake Eola Park at 10:00 AM. The march will begin at 11:00 AM. For more information, click here.

April 22, 11:00 am – Participate in Tallahassee’s March for Science. Participants will gather at 11:00 am at Anita Favors Thompson Plaza (124 West Van Buren St.) and begin marching to the Capitol at noon. For more information, click here.

April 22, 12:00 pm – Attend the Green Earth vs Phosphate Pot-Luck & Discussion at the Sustainable Living Center (10665 SW 89th Ave.) in Hampton. A phosphate mine is proposed for Bradford and Union counties! For more information, call (352) 283- 5536.

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.

April 29, 10:00 am – Participate in the People’s Climate March in Pensacola. The march will start at Long Hollow Park (1001 N. Guillemard St.). For more information click here or email sladamsphd@flgrn.com.

April 29, 1:00 pm – Participate in the People’s Climate March in Orlando. For more information, click here.

April 30, 3:00 pm Attend a free "Solar Co-op Information Meeting" for the Alachua County Solar Co-op at the Alachua County Library Headquarters (401 East University Ave.) in Gainesville.  For more information and to RSVP click here.






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