Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “State Sen. Rob Bradley said Tuesday he’s confident that a 2017-18 state budget will include money for the Florida Forever conservation lands program. Senate President Joe Negron said Tuesday he doesn’t expect budget work to be completed before the end of the legislative session on Friday. Environmental spending has been the focus of contention between the two chambers. ‘This is going to be a budget that those who care about the environment are going to be very proud of,’ Bradley… told reporters. He is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. He said the budget would include spending for Florida Forever, for Florida Keys wastewater projects, his proposed projects along the St. Johns River and Senate President Joe Negron’s proposed Everglades reservoir… Environmentalists’ requests for land conservation funding vary from $100 million to $200 million. Bradley indicated the amount for Florida Forever in the… budget, once it’s voted on by the Legislature, won’t be that high. ‘It’s probably going to be more than zero and less than $50 (million),’ he said.” Read Key senator says money will be in budget for land conservation
Stuart Korfhage reports for the St. Augustine Record – “Land in St. Johns County is being developed at a rapid pace as it becomes increasingly popular with home buyers and commercial interests, and one mechanism for curbing that activity is in danger of being rendered impotent in the coming fiscal year. Unless something is worked out this week, there is a chance the next state budget is going to include no funding for conservation and recreation lands acquisition program Florida Forever… With restored funding, McCarthy (executive director of the North Florida Land Trust) said his land trust could acquire sensitive land around Durbin Creek, Julington Creek, Six Mile Creek and Guana River… ‘We would be able to put (conservation) easements on some of the farm lands,’ McCarthy said. ‘It would reduce flooding if we can acquire more marshlands… It’s really about a quality of life in St. Johns County.’… Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, who represents much of St. Johns County, said she’s not optimistic about getting the funding despite the needs… Sen. Travis Hutson said he supports Florida Forever. ‘I am a big believer in the program, and I think it should be funded every year,’ he said… Former Gov. Bob Graham said… the state should allocate ‘at least $160 million for new investments in Florida Forever priority projects and the Florida Communities Trust program.’” Read Potential loss of Florida Forever funding has conservationists worried
Commissioner Bryan Desloge writes for the Tallahassee Democrat – “Past (Florida Forever) funding has helped protect lands around Wakulla Springs to protect its crystalline waters, and supported creation of a wildlife corridor along the Upper St. Marks River, connecting St. Marks State Park and Natural Bridge, to name just two initiatives… Leon County has several projects up for funding. These include additional lands to protect the watersheds of Wakulla Springs and the St. Marks and Ocklocknee Rivers, and conservation easements on northern Leon County pinelands that contribute to the protection of the Floridan aquifer, the source of drinking water for millions of Floridians… The protection of lands and waters enhances the quality of life for us all. In addition to providing abundant recreational opportunities for the residents of Leon County, these lands also bolster the economy and support local businesses through money spent by visiting tourists. They provide critical wildlife habitat while at the same time cleansing and filtering our drinking water and the air we breathe. In 2014 nearly 75 percent of Florida voters supported significant funding for Florida Forever for a 20-year period. Reflecting its strong commitment, last year Leon County worked with the Florida Conservation Coalition to pass a resolution asking for the allocation of $300 million annually for Florida Forever through 2034. Let’s make this the year Florida starts to allocate significant Florida Forever funding to protect our natural lands and waters.” Read It’s time to support Florida Forever
Diane Johnson writes for the Sun Sentinel – “This is the third year in a row the Florida Legislature has ignored the will of the voters. I am appalled at their arrogance… [O]ur current representatives are not respectful of those very people who put them in Tallahassee. By not funding Florida Forever… as required by Amendment 1, they are risking the very health of our people and our economy. Vote the bums out in 2018!” Read Legislature ignores voters’ will on water, land conservation
Jim Turner reports for The News Service of Florida – “Florida could bond up to $800 million… to speed construction of a reservoir intended to help clean South Florida waterways, under a compromise measure heading to Gov. Rick Scott. The governor’s office Tuesday noted his support for the water-storage plan…, but also that lawmakers haven’t approved his request for $200 million to speed repairs to the dike around Lake Okeechobee… The House, whose Republican leaders have opposed running up debt through bonding, voted 99-19 on Tuesday to approve a negotiated version of the bill (SB 10), a key priority of Senate President Joe Negron… The Senate voted 33-0 a short time later on the proposal… The proposal, which reflects a number of changes sought by the House and which anticipates the federal government agreeing to pay half the costs for the reservoir, also caps annual state funding at $64 million, down from a proposed $100 million… The proposal now seeks to accelerate plans for the C-51 reservoir… to clean water that can be sent toward Florida Bay.” Read Negron water priority going to Scott
Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “Sen. Bill Nelson… emphasized Pentagon opposition to Gulf oil drilling… Last week, President Donald Trump issued an executive order calling for a review of areas for possible new offshore oil drilling... Nelson said he received… an April 26 letter from a Pentagon official to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz raising concerns about the effect on training missions in the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida, where there is a moratorium on drilling and related activities. The letter was sent in response to a March 27 letter from Gaetz… and other members of the congressional delegation raising concerns about the threat of drilling to military missions. ‘The moratorium is essential for developing and sustaining our nation’s future combat capabilities,’ wrote A.M. Kurta, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness… Nelson said Florida can’t stand drilling off its coast because of the threat to military training for the F-35 fighter and to Florida’s tourism economy… Also Monday, U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Debbie Wasserman Schultz introduced legislation they said would extend by five years a ban on oil drilling off much of Florida’s gulf coast until 2027. That follows Nelson joining other senators last week in filing similar legislation.” Read Political, industry response to Trump oil drilling review focuses on Florida’s Gulf waters
The Herald Tribune Editorial Board writes – “Maintain existing limits on drilling, and exploring, for oil and gas in waters off Florida’s shores or expect a fight… Republicans and Democrats alike have recognized for decades what Trump and the drill-baby-drill crew do not – that exploration and drilling pose risks to Florida’s environment and economy that far outweigh the value of increasing fossil-fuel development off the coasts… ‘The Department of Defense cannot overstate the vital importance of maintaining’ the moratorium until 2022 and beyond, stated a letter sent by a Pentagon official to Congress. In fact, the department stated that additional area in the Gulf will be needed for testing exercises due to new forms of weaponry and equipment… Nelson noted that, in 1990, Congress designated the Florida Keys as a National Marine Sanctuary with the intent of providing additional protections for the 6,000 species of marine life and third-largest living coral barrier-reef system in the world. Yet Trump’s order directs the Interior and Commerce departments to identify oil and minerals contained in national marine sanctuaries, such as the one in the Keys – ‘presumably by using seismic air gun blasts in some of the most sensitive and important habitats in our ocean,’ Nelson wrote.” Read Keep moratorium on drilling off Florida
Jane Harrison reports for Lakeside News – “Florida’s 2013 lawsuit alleges Georgia hoards water on the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system and caused environmental and ecological harm downstream. Florida’s legal maneuver focused solely on Georgia’s water use, not the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the flow of water from five federal dams… [T]he Special Master ruled that Florida could not prove that limiting Georgia’s water use would increase flow into the Sunshine State. He indicated that regardless of what Georgia does upstream, the Corps controls the volume of flow. The Corps last month began implementing a new ACF water control manual that grants Georgia all the water it requested. Florida’s failure to target the Corps in its 2013 lawsuit hurt its strategy and resulted in Lancaster denying Florida’s please. Florida asked for and got an extension to file its objections to the report.” Read Court grants Florida extension to file exceptions to water war ruling
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