Carl Hiaasen writes for the Miami Herald – “Cautious praise for the compromise passage of Senate Bill 10 is deserved. Celebration would be foolish… The $1.6 billion reservoir… would hold about 78 billion gallons of water that would turn over a few times a year – a total substantially less than what’s dumped from Lake O during heavy rainy seasons. But…, a 14,460-acre reservoir is better than no reservoir. The project is many years from getting done… In theory it would cleanse the dirty lake water before sending it south to the Everglades, but first the lake water needs a dedicated route through the farm fields to the reservoir… Floridians should be wary of getting their hopes up. While state polls show overwhelming public support for land and water conservation, Tallahassee has shown overwhelming indifference. This year not a single dollar has been budgeted for Florida Forever… [G]enerations of legislators have been stripping Florida Forever year by year… What happened to all that (Amendment One) money? Excellent question. With a casual disdain for the words on the ballot and the will of the voters, the Legislature has been bleeding Amendment 1 to buy state vehicles, pay salaries, and cover other expenses that normally come from general revenue. A lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of several environmental groups alleges that the state wrongly diverted about $308 million of the $713 million available for land-buying and conservation in fiscal 2015-2016. The case is headed for trial, and probably the state Supreme Court. Those high hopes that so many Floridians once had for Amendment 1 have faded bitterly, and now provide a lesson for how we should react to Senate Bill 10. Don’t celebrate. Keep the heat on those sneaky bastards.” Read Help for the Everglades is on the way - maybe
Isadora Rangel reports for the TC Palm – “Gov. Rick Scott will sign a bill to fund a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to curb harmful discharges to coastal estuaries… His signature will make Senate Bill 10 final after the Legislature passed it Tuesday, but other hurdles remain. The South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers need to plan it and Congress needs to approve and fund it.” Read Gov. Rick Scott will approve reservoir to reduce Lake Okeechobee discharges
Diane Roberts writes for the Tampa Bay Times – “The Apalachicola is one of the last ecosystems in North America to retain such an abundance of flora and fauna: 40 species of amphibians, 50 species of mammals, 80 species of reptiles, 131 species of fish, 360 species of marine mollusks, 1,300 species of plants, and birds… Florida cultivates an image of itself as a place of beaches, but Florida is really a place of rivers – rivers are our history, our first highways. Look at a map of the state: there are so many rivers, streams, sloughs, and creeks it looks like veins in a body. The rivers remind us that Florida is barely land: a scrape of soil on an eggshell layer of limestone perched on top of ancient waters… As the for the Army Cops of Engineers, the dredge-and-dam happy federal behemoth still stuck in the era of barge traffic, the Corps is the big, clanging monkey wrench in the works of the Apalachicola ecosystem, refusing to recognize that the three rivers, from the foothills of the Smokey Mountains, the surrounding streams, the marshes, the flood plain, the estuary and the near-shore gulf down to Tampa Bay, are botanically, biologically, hydrologically, geologically interdependent… Veteran environmental lawyer David Guest, who has tangled with the Corps in the past, [said]: ‘The Corps regards rivers as giant sewage pipes. So why didn’t the state of Florida sue the Corps while it was taking Georgia to court? The attorney general says they couldn’t: The Corps has ‘sovereign immunity’ in this instance. They..., like Georgia, favor consumption over conservation… The Apalachicola’s best hope now is that the U.S. Supreme Court will order the Corps to do the right thing by the Apalachicola.” Read A trip down the Apalachicola shows a natural river fighting for its life in a war over water
The Associated Press reports – “The most biologically diverse waterway in American is seriously ill. The Indian River Lagoon is repeatedly being choked with oxygen-robbing algae, its surface increasingly dotted with thousands of dead fish, manatees, birds and other creatures. The culprits: farm runoff and a huge influx of people that has sent lawn fertilizer and other pollutants into the lagoon… Although the federal and state governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to heal the lagoon in recent years, an Associated Press examination found that pollution spiked, algae blooms spread and fish kills worsened over the past decade and a half as central Florida’s population swelled faster than that of anywhere else in the state… Since 2000,…[m]ore than 500,000 new homes were built in [the Orlando-area]… Paved-over expanses such as roads, driveways and parking lots have allowed runoff to make its way into the lagoon more easily… The housing boom was made possible by state water agencies and other state and local authorities that permitted development and allowed the filling in of wetlands. ‘Going forward, our permits aren’t going to repeat mistakes of the past,’ Jacoby (a water scientist with the St. Johns River Water Management District) said. ‘If you build something, you have to hold water on that property… so it doesn’t just flow everywhere.’… In Brevard County… the fish kill in March 2016 prompted voters to approve a sales tax to raise more than $300 million over 10 years for cleanup efforts, including upgrading wastewater treatment plants and removing thousands of old septic tanks. Florida environmental officials say they are pitching in $24 million in grants. Local governments and universities are trying to restore mangroves to help filter the water and reduce erosion. And authorities are considering constructing several reservoirs that would hold polluted overflow water from Lake Okeechobee… ” Read Florida’s building boom threatens wildlife-rich lagoon
Kevin Wadlow reports for FL Keys News – “An $83 billion state budget package given preliminary approval Wednesday includes $13.3 million for Florida Keys environmental projects… If the… allocation stands, Monroe County municipalities and the county would split the water projects funding – things like wastewater treatment, stormwater runoff and canal restoration are eligible – according to an interlocal agreement signed in 2013. Monroe County would decide how to spend about $4 million… while Marathon and Islamorada each would receive about $2.3 million… The Key Largo Wastewater District would be allocated… $3.3 million, and Key West expects to receive $1 million.” Read Legislature pencils $13.3 million for Keys into budget
Cleveland Tinker reports for The Gainesville Sun – “Property owners who replace high-irrigation landscaping with a less-thirsty version can get up to a $2,000 rebate from Alachua County. The county’s Environmental Protection Department received a $300,000 grant from the St. Johns River Water Management District to reduce outdoor water use with the goal of restoring water flow to local springs.” Read Rebate available for those willing to lose thirsty lawns
Jon Greenberg reports for Politifact – “President Donald Trump marked the week leading up to his 100th day in office by signing an executive order to reconsider the protected status of… national monuments. The move prompted Sen. Tom Udall… to tweet, ‘The President doesn’t have the legal authority to rescind a national monument designation.’ Some legal scholars dispute the claim, while others think it’s dead on. About the only point everyone agrees on is that the courts have never decided this exact issue. We’ll walk you through some of the leading arguments on both sides.” Read Can Donald Trump get rid of national monument protections?
Juston Worland reports for TIME – “Momentum is building in the Trump administration to leave the Paris Agreement on climate change… The Paris Agreement relies on voluntary non-binding commitments, and countries face no explicit penalty for failing to meet them, but lawyers in the Trump administration disagree about whether the countries can weaken their commitments. Some Trump administration officials believe it’s better to withdraw than to be stuck with commitments that conflict with Trump’s energy plans, since falling short of commitments without formally exiting the deal could leave the federal government vulnerable to legal challenges… The debate over whether the target can be weakened under the terms of the Paris Agreement centers on a single sentence: ‘A party may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition.’… State Department lawyers have said that the U.S. faces few legal obligations under the agreement and can revise commitments downward. White House counsel Don McGahn reportedly believes otherwise… The Sierra Club argued in a leaked memo that it would be ‘extremely difficult’ to challenge a move to weaken U.S. commitments in court. Former French climate change envoy Laurence Tubiana, a key framer of the Paris Agreement, said in a tweet that ‘of course US government CAN legally downsize its contribution but SHOULD Not.’” Read This is the Pivotal Moment in the Fight Against Climate Change
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