Ron Littlepage writes for The Florida Times Union – “In the ultimate insult to the 75 percent of the state’s voters who approved Amendment 1 in 2014, the Legislature didn’t provide any money for purchasing conservation land through the Florida Forever program. That’s right, zero dollars. For the third consecutive year, legislators failed to do what voters told them to do. Clearly we need different legislators.” Read Lawmakers were specialists in failure during the session
Bruce Ritchie reports for Politico Florida – “It was a weeklong roller coaster ride for environmentalists that ended in a crash… Sen. Jack Latvala,… the Senate appropriations committee chairman,… said he was disappointed. But he defended the budget for allowing other environmental spending priorities from both chambers. Those include $64 million provided through Senate Bill 10 for an Everglades water storage reservoir… ‘I believe you’re probably going to find there is more money in the environment for the budget than we’ve had in a long time,’ Latvala said, while cautioning that he didn’t want to be fact-checked on the claim. ‘If buying raw land suffers for a year, so be it...’ Latvala also won $50 million for beach renourishment projects along with $13.3 million for emergency projects dealing with hurricane beach erosion. The budget also includes $50 million for springs restoration, $2 million for Lake Apopka restoration and $13.3 million for St. Johns River and Keystone Heights lake region projects… (Sen.) Bradley… offered hope to environmentalists on Tuesday when he said he was confident Florida Forever would receive funding in the budget… On Wednesday he said he was referring to the [Rural and Family Lands] program, which is one of 10 programs that received funding until 2010 under the Florida Forever formula… The budget deal also includes $13.3 million for the Florida Keys wastewater projects.” Read Hopes dashed – again – for funding Florida Forever conservation lands program
Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “The budget that legislative leaders have approved… calls for spending zero dollars on the Florida Forever program to buy up environmentally sensitive land. That’s not what the voters had in mind when they approved Amendment 1… ‘I am terribly disappointed that the will of the voters has been ignored by our elected legislative body,’ said Nat Reed, founder of 1,000 Friends of Florida. ‘Every year that there is no funding for Florida Forever is a lost year for Floridians.’… Latvala said, ‘Next year I’ll try to fix that.’ But ‘wait till next year’ has become a familiar refrain for Florida Forever. Legislators have repeatedly stripped money out of the program and spent it on other purposes. That’s the reason why environmental advocates came up with Amendment 1, explained Will Abberger of the Trust for Public Land, who headed the group that pushed for the amendment’s passage in 2014… [G]roups such as the Florida Defenders of the Environment, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club sued the state to overturn [Amendment 1] spending decisions… Abberger pointed out that, just as when the Florida Forever program started, Florida underwent a building boom. With no money for Florida Forever, that renewed development will probably swallow up some of the 2 million acres now included as priority acquisitions on the (Florida Forever) list… ‘Once that’s developed, it’s gone,’ Abberger said. ‘We’re spending billions of dollars to undo past mistakes in the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee. Why can’t we get money set aside to make sure we don’t make similar mistakes elsewhere?’” Read Florida Forever? More like Florida Never after Legislature spends zero dollars on land-buying program
Isadora Rangel reports for the USA Today Network – “The House voted nearly unanimously Tuesday to secure future funding for the Florida Forever land conservation program – starting next year. House Bill 7119… would carve out a fund for Florida Forever through 2035, beginning with the 2018-19 fiscal year. State Rep. Matt Caldwell’s bill would ensure Florida Forever receives $57 million in the first year and progressively more funding until it reaches $200 million in 2035. Caldwell touted his bill as an attempt to live up to the 2014 voter-approved Amendment 1… Some environmentalists say the bill shortchanges the environment. They want 25 percent of Amendment 1 proceeds to go to Florida Forever, but Caldwell’s bill would range from 7 percent to 14 percent over the years. The bill also changes how money allocated to Florida Forever is used, to focus only on land acquisition… Caldwell wants the money to be split among these purposes: 40 percent: For the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program… Caldwell… is running for agriculture commissioner in 2018 and would oversee the program if elected. 35 percent: Acquiring properties on Florida Forever’s priority conservation list. 25 percent: Helping local governments and nonprofits build parks through Florida Communities Trust… State Rep. Ben Diamond… cast the sole vote against the bill. He called it a ‘good start,’ but said it gives too much money to Rural and Family Lands. He noted the program has fewer properties waiting for conservation than the Florida Forever list: 300,000 acres vs. 2 million… Many lawmakers acknowledged the bill isn’t perfect, but said it’s better than what the Legislature has done since voters passed Amendment 1.” Read House passes bill to fund Florida Forever, starting in 2018
Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics – “Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham spent a good part of Wednesday installing solar panels on roofs in Orlando, while vowing she’ll do all she can to make the Sunshine State a solar energy leader… Graham… said Florida must change its law that prevents third-party owners… Solar energy is only part of her environmental… platform… She said she supports repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike… but said that project stands alone [from] efforts to clean up… Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Graham also said Republican Senate President Joe Negron’s plan is a good start, albeit a ‘very small’ one… One difference she has with Negron... is she does not think there should be a prohibition on Florida using eminent domain to address Everglades cleanup. ‘We don’t want to be limiting the state of Florida in terms of what we need to be doing with our environment,’ she said. ‘We have a long way to go to get our environment back to a healthy state. Clearly, the last six years have been the worst in our environment’s history.’” Read Gwen Graham vows to push for solar while installing panels
Sean Kinane reports for WMNF – “A Hillsborough County company is asking the county for permission to spread tons of human sewage waste over its property along the Manatee River system; but environmental activist Mariella Smith is fighting back against the proposal by Chris’s Plumbing Service. She calls it a ‘sludge farm.’ ‘…Chris’s Plumbing Service has applied for a special use permit to spread 50,000 gallons a day – 600 tons a year – of ‘biosolids & sludge’ across an 80-acre site that sits on the Little Manatee River wetlands system. About a quarter of the site is wetlands that flow right into the river.’” Read Environmentalist slams proposed “sludge farm” along Little Manatee River
Matt Soergel reports for The Florida Times Union – “Gibson (UNF dolphin expert) worries about the lengthy and massive dredging operation proposed for the port. It could have grave consequences for the river dolphins, given that a study in Scotland showed dolphins left the area while a port there underwent a major expansion that lasted five weeks. ‘Fiver weeks is nothing. We’re talking years for this particular operation, so if you create enough noise, enough disturbance to make the dolphins leave for that long a period of time, are they coming back? We don’t know,’ Gibson said. ‘And they’re changing the habitat while they’re gone, so it may not be suitable for them when they return.’” Read For St. Johns River dolphins, it’s a noisy, noisy world
Jerry Iannelli reports for Miami New Times – “For the past seven years, Florida Power & Light has battled environmentalists over its plans to build two new reactors and inject their radioactive waste 3,000 feet underground, just below the aquifers where South Florida gets its drinking water. Environmentalists have vigorously argued that science shows the dangerous waste could leech upward into Miami’s drinking water… [T]hose green activists finally earned a hearing before the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)… ‘The NRC is not required to look at every potential environmental impact and does not have to consider worst-case scenarios,’ an FPL representative said before the NRC board… [N]ew government studies, including one comprehensive 2015 study from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), warn that fluid injected into the Boulder Zone could leak into the Biscayne Aquifer and other federally protected drinking-water sources. To move forward, the NRC must approve FPL’s “Environmental Impact Statement.”… The NRC will likely take weeks, or perhaps months, to issue a ruling.” Read City of Miami Slams FPL’s Plan to Inject Nuclear Waste Below Dade’s Drinking Water
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