FCC News Brief - September 16, 2017

Faith Karimi, Jason Hanna and Steve Almasy report for CNN – “Frustrations grew Wednesday along a two-lane stretch of highway through the Florida Keys as disappointed residents were told it wasn’t safe enough for them to return home… [E]ight nursing home patients died in the wake of Hurricane Irma…The fatalities should spur everyone to check up on senior citizens, who are among the more vulnerable to Florida’s stifling heat, exacerbated by power outages that might extend into next week, Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said… In Green Cove Springs, on the St. John’s River…, many families need a canoe to get to their front doors. Sharmaine and Todd Moldenhauer went back to their home Wednesday for the first time since the storm hit… It took only a few seconds to learn their home had suffered catastrophic damage. Their house is among the 1,000 homes in the county that have been damaged or destroyed. Waters have receded from the high point of 6 feet in the structure but continue to flow through the house about shin deep… At least 33 storm-related deaths have already been reported on the US mainland… Florida has reported 26 deaths…” Read Hurricane Irma: Keys residents line up at checkpoint

Jennifer A Dlouhy and Ari Natter report for Bloomberg – “Millions of gallons of poorly treated wastewater and raw sewage flowed into the bays, canals and city streets of Florida… More than 9 million gallons of releases tied to Irma have been reported as of late Tuesday as inundated plants were submerged, forced to bypass treatment or lost power. Such overflows, which can spread disease-causing pathogens, are happening more often, as population shifts and increasingly strong storms strain the capacity of plants and decades-old infrastructure… ‘There’s no sewer system in the world that can be built that’s completely leak proof,’ said Nathan Gardner-Andrews, chief advocacy officer for the National Association of Clean Water Agencies. Plants generally are designed to handle twice their normal capacity, but ‘when you get some of these rain events and you’re talking four to six to eight inches of rain in an hour, the engineering is such that you cannot build a system to hold that capacity.’ A treatment facility in Clearwater… discharged 1.6 million gallons of wastewater into a creek… [E]lectrical outages caused lift station pumps to stop running in St. Petersburg and Orlando, prompting at least 500,000 gallons of overflows. A pipeline broke in Miramar… sending sewage spilling across a parkway… [O]perators of a Miami-area wastewater treatment plant blamed a power outage for 6 million gallons of sewage released into Biscayne Bay… Some solutions may lie… beyond the treatment plants themselves. Cities constructed of impermeable concrete and pavement can encourage more ecologically sustainable development…” Read Cities Swimming in Raw Sewage as Hurricanes Overwhelm Systems

Eric Staats reports for the Naples Daily News – “Since Irma made landfall Sunday, raw sewage has been bubbling up through manholes on streets all over Collier County… A combination of flooding from Irma and no power at almost all of the county’s 800 pump stations has caused sewage to back up into streets, homes and businesses instead of being pumped to sewage treatment plants… County officials could not say how many gallons of sewage had spilled… Fiddler’s Creek residents Charles and Debbie Nail returned to their Mahogany Bend Drive home… and saw what they thought was mud from storm surge on the street… A manhole cover was ajar and surrounded by piles of waste; farther along, the street had buckled, pushing up chunks of pavement. A sharp smell of sewage hung in the air… Collier County issued a plea for water conservation to limit the stress on the sewer system, raising the possibility that the county would turn off the county’s water supply temporarily if the sewer situation did not improve… The county advisory said residents ‘under no circumstances’ should use dishwashers or clothes washers and should limit toilet flushes and showers. The Florida Department of Health recommended keeping children and pets away from sewage overflows.” Read Hurricane Irma: Sewage backing up into Collier streets, homes, businesses

Jenny Staletovich and Glenn Garvin report for the Miami Herald – “Juanita Greene, a former Miami Herald reporter who slugged it out first with male journalists who didn’t see a need for women in the newsroom and later with corporations and government officials who didn’t see a need for environmental protections, died… She was 93… Greene was the Miami Herald’s first environmental writer, a beat she bullied the newspaper’s publishers into creating in 1969. And many of the reporters who held the job later considered her the best, churning out stories on everything from backdoor political deals to disappearing wood rats… Greene’s ferocious approach to the beat sometimes bordered on activism – she sometimes even wrote Herald editorials on environmental issues, unusual for a reporter… She helped lead Friends of the Everglades… and encouraged it to file lawsuits when the state began altering the terms of a plan to restore the Everglades. The legal action finally forced a settlement that resulted years later in Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to spend $880 million cleaning up the Everglades. She was also a driving force behind the creation of Biscayne National Park.” Read Juanita Greene, pioneering environmental reporter and activist, dies at 93

Gil Smart writes for the TCPalm – “[T]he [SFWMD] allowed U.S. Sugar Corp. lobbyist Irene Quincey – a former SFWMD attorney – to dictate edits to a 2015 annual report that paved the way for toothless water-quality regulations that take polluters at their word rather than setting enforceable limits. This occurred after the public comment period had ended, after district officials specifically asked Quincey for a ‘list of edits,’ allocated six staffers to address her concerns, permitted her to do a final review and proposed a list of “guillotine words” in future reports to avoid “public outcry.”… This is a well-known phenomenon… It’s called “regulatory capture,”… which describes how government agencies, which are supposed to act in the public interest, wind up being dominated by the very industries they’re supposed to regulate. Often, it involves a revolving door between the regulatory agency and the industries regulated; key people – like Quincey – go from the agency to the industry or vice versa… Michael Smallberg of the Project on Government Oversight… described the danger of this: ‘When you have so many people going back and forth from a regulatory agency to the regulated industry, it can shape the mindset of people throughout the agency and make them more sympathetic to the viewpoints of industry groups, sometimes at the expense of people with a stake in the agency’s mission… In some cases, people who used to work at the agency have connections to people who are still there. They can take advantage of that access to obtain favors for their clients…’… [D]istrict scientists debated their colleagues suggestions and challenged one another’s position. Quincey’s “edits” received no such scrutiny… All this report does is validate critics’ contention that the… district is a political agency…” Read Why did sugar have so much influence on water management district rules?

Marc Caputo reports for Politico Florida – “Gov. Rick Scott is… weathering criticism over global warming in the wake of Hurricane Irma… ‘Clearly our environment changes all the time, and whether that’s cycles we’re going through or whether that’s man-made, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one it is,’ Scott said… ‘But I can tell you this: We ought to go solve problems. I know we have beach renourishment issues. I know we have flood-mitigation issues.’” Read Florida governor remains unsure about climate change after Hurricane Irma

Eve Samples writes for the TC Palm – “Almost every storm season, two beachfront homes on a skinny strip of Martin County’s Hutchinson Island come perilously close to collapsing into the Atlantic Ocean… [L]ast weekend, as Hurricane Irma lashed Florida, emergency responders showed up at [one of the houses], fearing the whole structure was about to collapse. The brick driveway had detached from the house on MacArthur Boulevard, and much of the sand washed out beneath it… Is it time for a conversation about better regulating coastal construction in Florida?... About a quarter-mile north of the two storm-battered houses, two new homes are under construction on an even narrower strip of the barrier island… Why do we continue to allow new construction in such vulnerable areas?... ‘I think the time is now to talk very seriously about where is it appropriate to build in Florida, where is it sustainable?’ said Vivian Young, communications director for 1000 Friends of Florida… ‘Is there a way to keep property owners whole, but not continue subsidizing this kind of development? Young asked.” Read After Irma, is it time to talk about limiting coastal construction in Florida?

Miyuki Hino, Katharine J. Mach, and Christopher B. Field write for Vox – “As we stare at the aftermath of two devastating hurricanes, it’s clear that our development choices contributed to the staggering damages of these extreme weather events. It’s easy to lament Houston’s paved-over floodplains and Tampa Bay’s waterfront high-rises… on a good day… One solution is strategic retreat… [M]oving to safer ground can be an attractive option for many reasons: It protects livelihoods, restores coastal ecosystems, and reduces damages from extreme weather. But the potential of strategic retreat remains largely untapped, even though sea level rise threatens to inundate 4 million to 13 million Americans this century. Florida alone is home to 1,601 “severe repetitive loss properties” – properties that, on average, flood every two to three years and have been rebuilt five times with the help of taxpayer money… Analysts have already called for the government to purchase homes flooded by… Irma and restore those properties to open space… Local governments – especially in states with no income tax, like Florida – rely heavily on property taxes. That creates a strong motivation to let development occur with as little governmental interference as possible. Then when disaster strikes, it is the federal government that foots most of the recovery and relief bill… With support from FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, hundreds of communities have spent tens of millions of dollars each year to purchase flood-prone properties from willing sellers… The program’s current capacity doesn’t meet existing demand from homeowners… What’s more, some people who’d like to make use of the program cannot, because the amount they’d receive for their current home wouldn’t be enough for them to move anywhere else nearby… Communities can start by taking a close look at the most egregious of the repetitive loss properties mentioned earlier. For Florida, a recent analysis identified about 530 such properties across the state in communities with high social vulnerability, significant flood exposure, and high potential for habitat conservation.” Read Abandon Florida? Not quite. But it’s time for a retreat from flood zones





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Upcoming Environmental Events    


September 18, 6:00 pm – Attend the Northern Miami-Dade Solar Co-op Information Session in Miami Shores. For more information and to register, click here.

September 20, 6:00 pm – Attend the Volusia County Solar Co-op Information Session in DeLand. For more information and to register, click here.

September 20, 7:00 pm – Attend the premiere of the “Hidden Secrets of Florida Springs” documentary in Winter Park. For tickets and 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).

September 26, 6:00 pm – Attend “Is Pensacola a Strong Town? – An Evening with Chuck Marohn” in Pensacola. Chuck will discuss how communities in northwest Florida can become more fiscally responsible, manage growth more responsibly and protect taxpayers from long-term expenses. For more information, and to register, click here.

October 7, 9:00 am – Attend the 2017 Everglades Symposium: Citizen Empowerment in Miami. For more information and to register, click here.

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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