Lee Constantine writes for the Orlando Sentinel – “[I]mproving Florida’s economy long term is not well served by destroying the very reason people live here. No one ever moved to Florida because we have the best strip malls. It’s Florida: It’s the idea of living in a perceived paradise with beautiful rivers, springs, beaches and precious green spaces. During my four decades of public service, I’ve worked to forge a business environment… I have a lifetime rating of 100 percent from the Associated builders and Contractors, and received numerous awards from Associated Industries of Florida. I have seen the combined population of Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties grow from 700,000 to more than 2 million people. But I have also worked to balance that growth with common-sense conservative solutions to protect the environment, improve the quality of life of my constituents and maintain Central Florida’s unmatched desirability as a place for families from around the world to visit and call home. I… serve as the vice-chairman of the Florida Conservation Coalition in a bipartisan effort with former Gov. Bob Graham and Republican environmental legend Nathaniel Reed. In 1999, during my final term in the Florida House of Representatives, I sponsored legislation creating the Florida Forever Program to ensure that our state had the resources, policy and process necessary to protect Florida’s most important environmental, agricultural and recreational landscapes. I was joined in this successful endeavor by state Sen. Jack Latvala, who sponsored the bill in the Florida Senate, and Gov. Jeb Bush who signed the bill into law… The more our state grows, the more we need to protect. We cannot afford to let our efforts to conserve Florida’s environment stall any more than we can afford to let our efforts to grow Florida’s economy fail… Let’s ensure that our children and grandchildren do not have to pay tomorrow for our mistakes today. I urge my Republican brethren in the Florida Legislature to continue Florida’s legacy of environmental stewardship by restoring Florida Forever funding to a minimum of $160 million this year.” Read Restore Florida Forever funds, fellow Republicans
Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “Lawmakers… tentatively agreed to defund the state’s main land conservation program…On the chopping block is Florida Forever… That’s not final until the Legislature passes a state budget by the May 5 end of session, and things still could change, state Sen. Rob Bradley said. The decision by House and Senate committees in charge of negotiating environmental spending comes less than three years after more than 75 percent of voters passed constitutional Amendment 1 in 2014 to set aside money for land and water preservation. Florida Forever is taking a back seat to Senate President Joe Negron’s push to borrow up to $1.2 billion to build the reservoir to reduce harmful discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, key lawmakers said… Environmental groups aren’t having it. They have long argued lawmakers could pay for all environmental programs if they didn’t use Amendment 1 proceeds to pay for routine operating expenses such as salaries and vehicle purchases. The House and Senate earlier this session proposed cutting a program that pays ranchers not to develop their lands. They tentatively agreed to allocate $14.5 million to buy land for parks. ‘When 75 percent of voters said ‘yes’ to the Water and Land Conservation Amendment…, they expected more funding for parks, waterways and protected wildlife habitat – not less, and certainly not zero,’ said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters… State Rep. Matt Caldwell said he’s pushing for more Florida Forever funding. Yet he cautioned that’s a ‘very difficult negotiation’ as Negron’s reservoir is the focus of the environmental budget this year… ” Read Legislature cuts all funds for Florida Forever land conservation program – TAKE ACTION NOW
Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “A Senate spokeswoman… confirmed that the Senate offered Thursday to zero out the $15.2 million provided in the Senate budget for Florida Forever land conservation program… State Rep. Loranne Ausley… objected after the meeting to the lack of explanation being provided at the conference subcommittee meetings. She said she didn’t know whether she could support the agreement because of the lack of details being provided… Ausley told reporters… that other conference subcommittees are explaining their offers unlike the natural resources appropriations subcommittee. ‘I’ve been here before – this is not the way it’s been done in the past,’ Ausley said. ‘The speaker started this session saying this was going to be the most transparent session ever. This process to be is not transparent.’” Read House, Senate zero out conservation lands program but Caldwell says talks continue
Karl Etters reports for the Tallahassee Democrat – “Earthjustice… filed a lawsuit… on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation, Florida Wildlife Federation and the Apalachicola Riverkeeper claiming the Army Corps failed to properly protect the [Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin] ecosystem in the development of its revised manual dictating the control of water flow. The manual was last updated in 1958. For decades, Florida, Georgia and Alabama have been at odds over how much fresh water is allowed to flow downstream from north Georgia to the Apalachicola Bay. A lack of freshwater has imperiled the Apalachicola River and its namesake bay, wrecking havoc on the area’s fragile environment and coastal community economies… [The Army Corps’] master plan… could continue to starve Apalachicola Bay. [The lawsuit] asks the court to order the Army Corps to revise the plan to address what it says are violations of several federal environmental laws. ‘The bottom line is that the Army Corps is failing to protect one of the most significant ecosystems in the Western hemisphere,’ said Melissa Samet, senior water resources counsel for NWF… ” Read Lawsuit challenges Army Corps of ACF Update
Gimleteye writes for Eye on Miami – “FPL has a state-mandated, guaranteed rate of return of 10%.... Florida legislators bend over routinely, as they are doing in this session of the state legislature, to give FPL even more… Without getting into detail: FPL lobbyists have “persuaded” the legislature to work around two court decisions against its interests… FPL, through its parent company NextEra Energy, pays NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX at all. The corporation received, instead, over a 7 year period…a credit… Put another way: FPL executives and top shareholders – through the state legislature and lax environmental enforcement the legislature implicitly OK’s – are both being funded by ratepayers and also being REFUNDED by taxpayers hundreds of millions for defying taxpayers, for defying the courts,… for destroying drinking water aquifers, and “taking” by subversive eminent domain the natural resources of one of the nation’s most threatened national parks.” Read Florida voters to Legislators: No, you can’t do that! Legislators to Florida voters: pound dirt!
Ryan Van Valzer reports for the Sun Sentinel – “Over the decades, billions of gallons of partially treated sewage have flushed their way from South Florida toilets to the Atlantic Ocean… Environmental concerns spurred lawmakers into action and in 2008 the state enacted a law to end regular use of the pipes by 2025. Nearly a decade later, all of the treatment plants are on track to meet the deadline… Already, two pipes have almost entirely stopped flowing in Palm Beach County, were conservationists say they’ve begun to see an improvement… To reduce flows ahead of the deadline, cities and counties are building new plants, drilling deep underground wells and upgrading treatment systems to reuse more freshwater… Large service populations, saltwater intrusion and aging sewer systems have made it… difficult and expensive to end use of the pipes. Miami-Dade estimates it will cost about $5.7 billion to comply with the legislation… Complying with the regulations is a balancing act between meeting requirements and hiking utility rates… The legislation allows plants to keep using [the outfall pipes], as needed, for emergencies. Despite ending regular use in 2009, the Delray/Boynton Beach outfall pipe most recently discharged 12.2 million gallons into the ocean in March… Plants can discharge for [several] reasons… including excess flows from heavy rains.” Read South Florida dumps partially treated human waste offshore, but it’s cleaning up its act
Drew Martin writes for the Sun Sentinel – “We have reengineered the entire drainage system in South Florida… [W]e are completely dependent upon sea level remaining below canal level. This can be exasperated by storm surge which can suddenly raise sea level by 10 or 20 feet. Water may then be driven back into the center of the state. Because we have blocked the River of Grass flowing to the Everglades, the water could become trapped along the western edge of the coastal ridge. If we protect open space areas like the Ag Reserve in Palm Beach County, the water can sit on these open areas and percolate back into the aquifer. The same is true of protecting areas in the western parts of Palm Beach County. But right now these areas are being developed with no thought as to what could happen. The first impact if we continue these developments would be to see a possible rise in flood insurance rates… ” Read Accepting climate change first step to protecting Florida land
Ledyard King reports for USA Today – “The congressional lawmaker doggedly pursuing federal aid for Everglades restoration acknowledges the daunting challenge he’s facing to get the money. But Rep. Francis Rooney said he remains optimistic… despite President Trump’s initial proposal last month to cut money for water projects by $1 billion… The federal government has appropriated a total of $737 million over previous years for the Central Everglades Restoration Plan. The state, which has contributed about $1.4 billion of its share, is counting on another $4.2 billion from Washington. [Florida]… got an important assist when the head of the Jacksonville District of the Army Corps of Engineers – Col. Jason A. Kirk – told Rooney he would request that the agency’s budget include $190 million in 2018 and another $150 million in 2019 for the project… [Trump promised]… that the Corps of Engineers will provide the money necessary to fully upgrade the Herbert Hoover Dike… by 2022 – three years earlier than current funding allows… To meet that 2022 goal, the Jacksonville District is recommending funding for the dike double to about $200 million in each of 2018 and 2019… At the same time, the president’s budget… proposed cutting the Corps of Engineers annual budget from $6 billion this year to $5 billion next year. Rooney acknowledged a bump in funding for the dike at a time when the overall Corps budget is being slashed could make it more difficult to find the money for Everglades restoration. That’s especially true given the multitude of requests from lawmakers elsewhere pushing their own water project priorities.” Read Push for Everglades funding progressing despite challenges
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Upcoming Environmental Events
April 29, 12:00 pm – Participate in the People’s Climate March in Tallahassee. For more information, click here.
April 29, 1:00 pm – Participate in the People’s Climate March in Orlando. Tim Canova, and U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch will speak. For more information, click here.
April 29, 1:00 pm – Participate in the People’s Climate March for Jacksonville. For more information, click here.
April 29, 2:00 pm – Participate in the People’s Climate March for Broward County. For more information and to sign up, click here.
April 29, 2:00 pm – Participate in the People’s Climate March for Southwest Florida in Fort Myers. For more information, click here.
April 29, 3:00 pm – Participate in the People’s Climate March for Gainesville. 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.
May 21, 3:00 pm – Attend a free “Solar Co-op Information Meeting” for the Alachua County Solar Co-op at the Alachua Library Branch (14913 NW 140 Street) in Alachua. For more information and to RSVP, click here.
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