FCC News Brief - August 30, 2017

Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “For the past six months, a battle has raged over a proposal to allow oil and gas companies to perform seismic testing to search for deposits of petroleum off the nation’s Atlantic coast. What many may not realize is that the controversial testing technique involving underwater blasts from airguns has been used for decades in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s still going on, too. The government issued 22 permits for seismic tests in the gulf last year. So far this year it has issued 11. This month, a federal agency finally produced an environmental impact statement on the practice: It says the blasts of sound used to detect the presence of oil and gas have likely been harming whales and dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico all this time – causing loss of hearing, disrupting mating and feeding habits and forcing the mammals to abandon their natural habitats. Seismic testing can even be fatal… The final version of the report… found that… seismic tests could hurt millions of whales, dolphins and other creatures in the gulf – but that its impact could be blunted by implementing safety measures. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is expected to release a final decision on whether to continue issuing the permits… as soon as September… [E]nvironmental groups contend the new measures being proposed aren’t sufficient to make up for the damage…” Read Study: Seismic blasting in Gulf of Mexico hurts dolphins, whales

Jacqueline Savitz writes for the Tallahassee Democrat – “Now only two states actively being considered for Atlantic offshore oil and gas exploration have governors who remain mute on the issue: Georgia and Florida… I urge Gov. Scott to protect the vibrant, growing tourist economy that is sustained by… (Florida’s) natural beauty… Join Gov. McAuliffe (VA), and Govs. Hogan (MD) and McMaster (SC), along with three other governors of Atlantic coast states… by opposing special oil interests.” Read And then there were two still silent on offshore drilling

Mark Bickel reports for News Press – “Only four short months ago, Cape Coral residents and businesses were dealing with a strict watering schedule as a result of some of the severest drought conditions to hit Southwest Florida in recent years. Lawns were brown and water levels in canals were at historic lows… Fast forward to the last three days and it has been a far different story for Cape Coral and all of Southwest Florida as a tropical disturbance has dumped as much as 10 inches of water in some locations… Some residents were kayaking and swimming in their front yards.” Read Cape Coral’s water woes: From famine to flooding in only four months

Lidia Dinkova reports for the TC Palm – “By an overwhelming 63 percent, voters rejected [Martin County’s] request to increase the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent… The county promised at least 35 percent of the money from the new tax, $230 million over 10 years, would be spent on water quality, including septic-to-sewer conversions and drainage improvements. Tuesday was the second time in three years the county tried to hike the sales tax to chip away at its mounting maintenance backlog for roads, drainage and public buildings… Stuart resident Joe Andrew Simpson, for one, said he has no trust in the commission. ‘They won’t do what they say they are going to do,’ said the 75-year-old, who was voting Tuesday… [S]ales-tax opponents have said the $10 million spent on Sailfish Splash Waterpark was not in the spirit of the 2006 sales-tax for land acquisition, park improvements and conservation land.” Read Martin County sales-tax increase fails despite vow to clean St. Lucie River with funds

Maggy Hurchalla writes for the TC Palm – “-[Martin County] needs to identify funding for extending sewers to high-priority neighborhoods. These are the areas that can least afford it. – We need to keep the barn door closed and not continue to approve development that will require expensive future conversion from septic to sewer. The Commission’s recent vote to allow extra-large high-risk septic systems throughout the rural area is worse than a step backwards… -We need to make the state find a better way to deal with sewage sludge. Currently they are allowing big city sludge to be renamed “biosolids” and spread all over western Martin County. – The state needs to make best management practices for agriculture mandatory instead of voluntary… -All of us need to do our part to cut down on fertilizer use. Those on septic need to make sure their systems are regularly pumped, inspected and updated… Demand that the state take action to make sure polluters pay to deal with the problems they cause.” Read Don’t believe myth about septic tanks

Isabella Gomes reports for the Miami New Times – “While building a new outlet (in 2006)…, Walmart had destroyed the homes of dozens of gopher tortoises, a threatened species that lives in burrows deep underground… The state of Florida simply required Walmart to pay… $11,409 in extra costs to level the animals’ habitat. ‘I couldn’t sleep for several days,’ Kent says. ‘I kept having this vision of a gopher tortoise being buried alive and trying to climb its way out… Because of their slow metabolisms, it can take gopher tortoises up to 12 months to die.’… To purchase an (incidental take) permit, developers had to hire environmental consultants to survey at least 15 percent of their property, count the number of gopher tortoises there, and then extrapolate the total number over the entire plot. The final number would then be factored into the permit’s cost… Developers and consultants could easily cherry-pick which section of the property was surveyed… Deborah Burr, the FWC’s gopher tortoise program coordinator, says… ‘All the money that was collected from issuing permits was used to purchase… public land for gopher tortoise habitat conservation.’ Within 14 years, the state brought in $47 million in permit fees and purchased 22,000 acres of gopher tortoise habitat. But at least 74,000 tortoises were killed in the process… (In 2007) FWC adopted a proposal to end the… ITP program and replace it with… permits that forced property owners to relocate gopher tortoises. However, all ITPs that has been secured before July 31, 2007 were grandfathered in… Today there are 21 sites with active ITPs across Broward and Palm Beach Counties where 525 registered gopher tortoises live. Unfortunately, with the expenses for relocation ranging from $200 to $1,200 per tortoise, developers with valid ITPs often find little financial incentive to move tortoises off their properties… ‘Gopher tortoises don’t reach sexual maturity until they’re about 10 years old, so in the last two decades, they’ve been breeding’ Gledhill (of the Florida Wildlife Federation) says. ‘As a result, there may be many more tortoises on [ITP sites] than the developers originally thought.’… Kent has partnered with Gledhill and the FWF to scout out ITP permit-holders and offer relocation services free of charge.” Read Florida Environmentalists Race to Save Threatened Gopher Tortoises from Developers

Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “State taxpayers may have to pay more than half the cost of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee…, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast said Friday. The state legislation authorizing the reservoir calls for Florida and the Army Corps of Engineers to each pay $800 million toward the cost of the projected $1.6 billion project. But because the state is asking for the project, which will require the Corps to repurpose a project Congress already authorized, ‘how much the federal government picks up the tab’ might have to be reconsidered, Mast said…” Read U.S. Rep. Brian Mast: Florida might have to pay more for Lake Okeechobee reservoir

Eric Holthaus reports for Politico – “In all of U.S. history, there’s never been a storm like Hurricane Harvey… We knew this would happen, decades ago. We knew this would happen, and we didn’t care. Now is the time to say it as loudly as possible: Harvey is what climate change looks like. More specifically, Harvey is what climate change looks like in a world that has decided, over and over, that it doesn’t want to take climate change seriously. Houston has been sprawling out into the swamp for decades, largely unplanned and unzoned. Now, all that pavement has transformed the bayous into surging torrents and shunted Harvey’s floodwaters toward homes and businesses. Individually, each of these subdivisions or strip malls might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but in aggregate, they’ve converted the metro area into a flood factory… Harvey is the third 500-year flood to hit the Houston area in the past three years…” Read Harvey is what Climate Change Looks Like





From Our Readers

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Organizing Representative in Miami for Sierra Club Florida

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Tell Congress to Stop Sabal Trail

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Ask County Commissions to Pass Bear-Friendly Trash Ordinances

Stop the Port Canaveral Rail Extension Project

Paynes Prairie in danger

Help Florida Become a “Pay for Shade” state


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 22-23, 9:00 AM – Attend the Florida Wildflower Symposium in Orlando. This is Florida’s only event focusing exclusively on native wildflowers and the wildlife depending on them. The event features field trips; garden walks; presentations on conservation issues, bees, butterflies and other wildlife; and hands-on workshops on propagation and wildflower meadow installation. For more information, click here.

September 22, 9:00 AM – Attend a Conservation Lands Workshop in Punta Gorda. For more information and to register, 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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