Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “The state House and Senate reached an… agreement to pay for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to curb discharges Tuesday – clearing the first of many hurdles before the proposal can come to fruition… The deal is part of a compromise on an $83 billion state budget and a slew of priorities Negron and Corcoran vowed to accomplish… With big-ticket items resolved, lawmakers will hammer out other expenditures before passing a final budget by May 5… The House still needs to pass the bill to enact the plan. A hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet, but Tuesday’s budget agreement signals the House might be close to doing so. The bill calls for $64 million in the first year and borrowing money in later years. Corcoran has opposed borrowing, and it’s unclear whether he and Negron cut a deal to pay cash and what other changes could be underway… Also unclear is whether Negron and Corcoran agreed to fund Gov. Rick Scott’s $200 million request to help the federal government strengthen the dike… after lawmakers snubbed the proposal last week.” Read Legislature agrees to fund Lake Okeechobee reservoir to curb discharges
Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “Legislative leaders… threw cold water on the governor’s request to front the federal government for Lake Okeechobee dike repair costs… Corcoran has been trying to cut the state budget to avoid future shortfalls and said he doesn’t believe the legislature has the $200 million… Scott stopped short of endorsing Senate Bill 10 to build the reservoir, saying the bill will continue to change before the May 5 end of the legislative session. Even Negron, who for years has called on the Corps to fix the dike faster, gave a tepid response to Scott’s request. He said he will consider it, but pointed out dike repairs are intended to protect surrounding communities from a potential breach and not to hold more water in the lake. Negron also said he’s concerned the federal government won’t reimburse the state.” Read House snubs Gov. Rick Scott request for Lake Okeechobee dike repair funds
Governor Bob Martinez and Dominic M. Calabro write for the Tampa Bay Times – “Florida’s Everglades is an American iconic national park known and revered throughout the world for its biodiversity… Unhealthy and unsightly estuaries discourage tourists from visiting Florida. Unhealthy waterways hurt commercial fishers, which affects other businesses in their supply chain. All of these reduced economic activities result in less tax revenue… We are at a tipping point where we don’t have the luxury of time to wait for the perfect solution… A recent Florida TaxWatch report… finds that ‘each day Florida waits to solve the problem, the solution becomes more expensive. While the price tag to address the issues… may be a shock to the system, the cost of inaction could be far more devastating to the state of Florida… ” Read Protecting the Everglades with the reservoir plan will help all of us in Florida
The News Service of Florida reports – “Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida… released a statement… walking back concerns about a House measure that would alter the distribution of money for land conservation. Draper said he was wrong… to link [the] House bill… to a controversial plan (SB 10) for a $1.5 billion reservoir south of Lake Okeechobeee that has been approved by the Senate. ‘In an initial reading of [the bill] I erred by speculating that the bill would limit Florida Forever bonds for the reservoir allowed in SB 10… I was mistaken, there is no connection. I regret that my statements misrepresented Rep. Matt Caldwell’s intention and his efforts to advance land conservation.’” Read Lobbyist Backs Away from Florida Forever Comments
Jim Gross writes for the Ocala Star Banner – “Pursuant to recent legislation, Florida is now establishing “emergency” MFLs… The old MFL for Silver Springs led the St. Johns River Water Management District to tell Frank Stronach he couldn’t have a permit for his cattle operation. That was just three years ago. The new MFL allows Stronach’s increased withdrawals and more. The district’s explanation for this about-face is part mumbo jumbo and part shell game… The shell game can likely be found within arcane elements of the district’s groundwater flow model. But the district is not letting us see all the details, because a portion of their model code is proprietary. So much for transparency in government. The district technical staff report for Stronach’s permit admits that the proposed emergency MFL for Silver Springs cannot be achieved with withdrawals the district has already permitted. With or without Stronach’s permit, the MFLs bust in 2024, just seven years from now. The public water supply utilities with permits before Stronach are not going to be happy when they lose portions of their permitted quantities of groundwater… The districts justify this nonsense by declaring they will create “a prevention strategy,” or if needed, “a recovery strategy.” Look around the state for examples of how well these strategies are doing. It’s not a pretty picture. We are setting ourselves up for intense competition for water supplies. We are headed for water wars, perhaps on an unprecedented scale. The Water Resources Act was designed to avoid this very thing. We need to return to the original intent of the 1972 legislation.” Read Water wars? Delaying real action is reckless policy
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald – “A federal judge cleared the way for a Texas company to expand oil exploration in the Big Cypress National Preserve Monday when he rejected environmentalists claim that the park service failed to assess damage to fragile habitat… U.S. Judge John Steele… pointed out that under environmental rules, ‘even a capricious substantive decision will not violate [the act] because [it] ‘merely prohibits uninformed – rather than unwise – agency action.’’” Read Florida judge clears way for Big Cypress oil exploration
Bob Palmer writes for The Gainesville Sun – “The [Basin Management Action Plan area for the Lower and Middle Suwannee River] contains 62 first- and second-magnitude springs, including seven… Outstanding Florida Springs designated for special protection by Florida law. All of these springs, and the Suwannee River itself, are severely degraded by nitrogen pollution… The BMAP process is designed to identify the sources of this pollution and to lay out a 20-year plan for reducing nitrogen inputs and restoring the springs to health… The major sources of nitrate in the BMAP area are agricultural – farm fertilizer, dairies, cattle operations and poultry waste…. For the Withlacoochee portion of the BMAP, nitrogen would have to be reduced by 83 percent; for the Middle Suwannee, 84 percent; and for the Lower Suwannee, 93 percent. The total amount of needed reduction is a staggering 6 million pounds of nitrogen per year… It is obvious that agriculture as currently practiced in the basin is inconsistent with recovery of the springs. Unfortunately, no Suwannee Basin farmer would concede that he or she could farm those depauperate soils and survive financially if fertilizer applications had to be cut by over 80 percent. I see… different ways in which this impasse could play out… First, the state could help Suwannee Basin farmers adopt practices that release far less nitrogen to the groundwater. Best management practices could be implemented and enforced. In areas where nutrients are easily leached into the groundwater, which unfortunately is most of the BMAP area, the state could underwrite a shift toward crops (e.g. pine trees) that are not dependent upon heavy inputs of fertilizer. This is clearly the preferred option… Alternatively, one can imagine a second path where the state kicks the can down the road. Targets would be set for the required… milestones… Then… milestones would conveniently not be met, and new milestones would be set. This could go on indefinitely, with no measurable progress.” Read Can agriculture and healthy springs coexist?
Aileen Mack reports for The Gainesville Sun – “Florida Solar United Neighborhoods is partnering with the Florida League of Women Voters to create a solar cooperative in [Alaucha County]… Alachua County is the ninth co-op in the state program…” Read Solar co-op coming to county
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