FCC News Brief - August 25, 2017

Eric Staats reports for the Naples Daily News – “[T]he most environmentally sensitive 3,300 acres of the Collier side of the (Half Circle L) ranch is up for review by the Conservation Collier program… The offer raises the stakes of ongoing discussions about the future of the county’s voter-approved land preservation program. This summer, county commissioners refused to levy a new tax for Conservation Collier acquisitions but said they plan to put it to voters again in November 2018. It is unclear how commissioners might treat Conservation Collier in the upcoming budget… Earlier this week, the Conservation Collier advisory board voted unanimously to move forward the Half Circle L Ranch offer after it met initial screening criteria for purchase… The land is part of the Okaloacoochee Slough that feeds the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve and the Big Cypress National Preserve, and it is prime habitat for a diverse mix of species, including the endangered Florida panther. It also includes two Seminole Indian burial grounds… In 2003, the ranch was added to the state’s Florida Forever list…” Read Prime acreage: Scofield family offers part of pioneer Half Circle L Ranch to Conservation Collier

The Gainesville Sun Editorial Board writes – “The state of Florida should focus on protecting Poe Springs before its problems get even more difficult and expensive to fix. Alachua County commissioners unanimously voted last week to ask the [DEP] to designate Poe Springs as a “priority focus area.” A 2016 state law allows such designations for places where groundwater is vulnerable to pollution that causes the impairment of springs, opening up the possibility of increased protection and restoration efforts in those areas… County officials argue that Poe Springs’ elevated nitrate levels, lack of aquatic vegetation and presence of nuisance algae are indications of it being impaired, even if it doesn’t meet the state’s technical definition of impairment… Natural springs across the region and state have experienced decreased flows and increased pollution due to intensive agriculture and development. Lax enforcement of environmental laws and permitting of excessive groundwater pumping have harmed springs and the aquifer, so now the state is trying to make up for the damage with new designations and funding… Septic tanks in the area are one likely problem… In addition, High Springs operates a municipal wastewater treatment facility about three miles away that includes a traditional spray field for disposing of effluent… Better enforcement of environmental laws and using Amendment 1 money for its intended purpose of conserving environmentally sensitive land [are] even more cost effective ways of protecting and restoring springs.” Read Make protection of Poe Springs a priority

Steven Lemongello reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “The Orange County Commission decided… not to vote on rescinding its approval of the controversial Lake Pickett South project, choosing instead to let the appeal process play out… The decision disappointed East Orange… activists, who were coming off a major win when an administrative court judge ruled… that the county broke its own growth rules in approving the 2,000-home project last year… (Commissioner) Jacobs argued Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Van Wyk’s ruling was only a recommendation, similar to a planning and zoning board decision, which does not necessarily bind the commission to follow it. Dwight Saathoff, developer of the project, said the ruling has been sent to Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet, which has 90 days… to make a final decision… East Orange Commissioner Emily Bonilla wanted a new vote placed on the agenda for next week… But no one seconded her attempt to prompt a discussion about the project next week... Jacobs did ask (County Attorney) Newton whether the county could choose to not challenge the judge’s ruling, in effect letting the developer fight it on his own. Newton advised against it, warning if the Cabinet ended up making a more sweeping decision, the commission would be defenseless against it if it waived its right to respond.” Read Orange County leaders won’t vote on rescinding 2,000-home Lake Pickett project

Cindy Swirko reports for the Ocala Star Banner – “A bill to increase money for the preservation of North Florida springs and the St. Johns River has been filed by state Sen. Rob Bradley… Bob Knight, executive director of the… Florida Springs Institute, said that additional money could be helpful but added he is skeptical of the use of the money that has been distributed so far. Knight said he has been unable to get information from the state Department of Environmental Protection and from water management districts on how restoration projects are prioritized and how the money is allocated. ‘… They have shown no interest in following the money to see how it is spent and whether or not there is any benefit to the spring,’ Knight said. ‘They take no input from the public… They are just sending the money to the water management districts and trusting them to use it for what they said it would be used for.’ The Sun tried unsuccessfully to get a response from DEP…” Read State bill requests $125 million to help springs, St. Johns River

The Chipley Paper reports – “The Northwest Florida Water Management District celebrated… the re-opening of Cotton Landing, a popular recreation site... along Holmes Creek in Washington County. Cotton Landing had been closed since January as workers restored and stabilized 125 feet of shoreline as well as provide stormwater treatment. Boardwalks and access points were also installed to prevent future impacts on water quality and habitat while also improving public access and public parking. Governor Rick Scott, the Florida Legislature, and the Department of Environmental Protection provided $190,000 for the Cotton Landing project as part of the governor’s springs restoration funding. The District provided an additional $125,000 to complete the $315,000 project… Holmes Creek is home to no fewer than 57 springs, including several second magnitude springs… Representative Brad Drake… [said, ‘]The springs in northwest Florida are not just a source of great pride for our residents but they play a tremendous role in our economy and our way of life.’” Read Community heralds re-opening of Cotton Landing

Danielle Avitable reports for Action News Jax – “A plan to help the local water supply is causing controversy among neighbors. The plan calls for (10) millions of gallons (of water per day) to be pumped out of Black Creek (during high water periods) to help replenish a local aquifer. ‘I don’t want them to pump it at all, I don’t want them to do anything to the creek,’ neighbor Sean Morgan said… However, Executive Director Ann Shortelle with the St. Johns River Water Management District said the Black Creek Water Resource Development Project is… going to be beneficial for everyone… [The] water will be sent to the Keystone Heights area and discharged to an aquifer recharge system. ‘The idea is to get more water into the aquifer, it disperses out and then it’s available for water uses throughout the area,’ Shortelle said… She also believes it could help with flooding in the area, but neighbors are concerned with the salinity of the creek. ‘It’s going to bring brackish water in from the St. Johns River. It can completely destroy the ecosystem out here,’ Morgan said. [He]… created a petition… to save the creek and stop the project… [I]n less than a week, more than 1,600 people have signed… Vivian Katz, the president of the Save Our Lakes Organization, sent Action News Jax the following statement…: ‘The Black Creek Project is a win-win for northeast Florida… The project as I understand it will only take excess water that would flow into Black Creek… excess is the operative word here. Black Creek is known to have flooding issues… [T]he Black Creek project will have a positive impact on Black Creek, the Keystone lakes and the Floridan Aquifer.’” Read Plan to replenish aquifer using water from Black Creek causing controversy

Zac Anderson reports for the Herald Tribune – “U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan is calling on federal wildlife officials to maintain the highest level of protection for the Florida panther under the Endangered Species Act… The Florida panther was one of the original 14 mammals named to the endangered species list in 1967, [and] critical habitat for the big cats has never been established, ‘even though one is required by the Endangered Species Act,’ Buchanan noted.” Read Buchanan urges feds not to downgrade panther protections

Rob Jordan reports for the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment – “Jacobson and 26 coauthors have produced roadmaps for 139 countries, representing 99 percent of worldwide emissions, to transition to all clean, renewable energy by 2050. Previously, Jacobson and colleagues had produced detailed roadmaps for all 50 U.S. states to transition to 100-percent clean, renewable energy without fossil fuels, nuclear power or biofuels by 2050… ‘The beautiful part is that such a transition will also create over 20 million more permanent full-time jobs than lost worldwide, save consumers money and avoid over 3 percent of each country’s GDP in air pollution health costs alone[,’ Jacobs said.]… The upfront cost of the changes worldwide would be significant – about $124.7 trillion. However, because wind and sunlight are free, the overall cost spread over time, including for operation, maintenance, transmission and storage, would be roughly equal to the direct price of the fossil fuel infrastructure. Overall, the cost of the clean energy system would be much less because it eliminates hidden health and climate costs of fossil fuels. Additionally, the authors argue that switching to all renewable energy could lessen conflict by creating energy independence, reduce power disruptions and increase access to energy by decentralizing power… People will need to select leaders who will implement strong policies, reduce barriers and confront entrenched interests...” Read Roadmaps for an All-Renewable Energy World





From Our Readers

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Upcoming Environmental Events    

August 31, 6:30 pm – Attend the “Get the Dirt Out Workshop” in Jacksonville. Become a water watershed protector when you join this program designed to educate citizens about Duval County’s “dirt laws” and train them to be watchdogs in their neighborhoods to keep dirt out of our waterways. For more information, click here. To register, click here.

September 5, 12:00 pm – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute at the North Florida Springs Environmental Center in High Springs for Springs Academy Tuesdays; a lunchtime lecture series on Florida’s springs. September’s lecture is on Springs Advocacy with guest speaker Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director of Florida Conservation Voters Education Fund. All lectures are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. More information is available here or by calling (386) 454 - 2427.

September 12, 6:30 pm – Attend a screening of “Troubled Waters,” in Orlando followed by a panel discussion featuring Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine, St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman, and Professor James C. Adamski. For more information and to register, click here.

September 12, 7:00 pm – Attend in Algal Bloom Awareness Presentation in Orange Park. Aquatic ecologist Robert Storm Burks will explain what causes blue-green algal blooms and why they may be toxic. Learn how to report algae occurrences using Water Rangers, a new web-based app. For more information, click here.

September 16, 9:00 AM – Participate in the Big Talbot Island Cleanup. For more information, click here.

September 23, 9:00 AM – Attend “Solar Rocks for the Equinox” at Rum 138 (2070 SW County Road 138) in Fort White. The event will feature solar experts and exhibitors to showcase affordable solar energy solutions. The event is free and open to the public. Live music and local food options will be available. For more information, contact Chris Mericle (cjmericle@gmail.com, (386) 855 – 5096) or Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson (merrillee.malwitz-jipson@sierraclub.org, (352) 222 – 8893).

October 11, 12:45 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussions Group meeting at the Belvedere Library Community Room in The Villages. Gary Kuhl and Amy Giannotti will be speaking. Gary Kuhl is a former Executive Director of the SWFWMD and Amy Giannotti is the Water & Lakes Manager in Winter Park, FL. For more information and to RSVP, email resourcewisdom@gmail.com.

October 11, 7:00 pm – Attend “Losing the Grand Canyon: FAF Presents an Unforgettable Evening with Kevin Fedarko” in Orlando. Kevin is one of 24 who have hiked the entire 800-mile journey through the Canyon. What he learned along the way should concern all of us in Florida who love our environmental treasures. The evening will be moderated by Diane Roberts and tickets are $100. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.



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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.  

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