Rob Moher writes for the Naples Daily News – “The extensive mangrove forests of Southwest Florida were essential in protecting portions of the coast from more extensive storm damage… [W]etlands, when healthy and intact, can store up to 1.5 million gallons of water – per acre. Not only do wetlands store water, but equally important is that they treat water by cleaning it before it flows into other bodies of water. So, in the midst of… post-Irma recovery, the news that Lee County commissioners are finalizing a deal for the purchase of Edison Farms is great news for all of us… Southwest Florida’s rapidly increasing development and conversion of natural lands to hard surfaces have come at a price, including contributing to extensive flooding in local communities… The Conservancy of Southwest Florida recently released its Estuaries Report Card for the region. One of its key findings is that the quality of our estuaries, and the species that depend on them, is greatly impacted by upstream development patterns. The more lands are converted from natural habitat to development, the more we open ourselves to further degradation of our already stressed estuaries… There are two immediate opportunities to further strengthen natural systems as a defense against future storms, enhance estuary health and protect wildlife habitat: + We urgently appeal to Collier County commissioners to revive the Conservation Collier program and to move forward with a Conservation Collier-specific referendum for the public to approve in fall 2018… + Our local elected state representatives should take a leadership role… by dedicating the largest share of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to the state’s conservation land acquisition and conservation easement programs.” Read Post-Irma, conservation agenda more vital than ever
Dennis Maley writes for The Bradenton Times – “In a vacuum, it makes sense to build up elevations for new construction in order to remove the threat of floods. However, when you take vacant land that has historically soaked up water from surrounding areas, build it up, and pave over most of the soil, the runoff will inevitably flow to and collect at lower elevations. Suddenly, people who have made their homes in neighborhoods that were never flood prone find themselves swimming or kayaking to safety… Aqua by the Bay, a 2,900 unit, waterfront development… would elevate the development site with several feet of fill dirt. A massive 12-foot high wall would then be constructed along nearly two miles of the water. Such walls are known to reflect water to neighboring developments… Aqua by the Bay developer Carlos Beruff is also intent upon dredging a large canal that would cut off the area’s environmentally-critical mangrove forest from the mainland, restricting its ability to migrate with rising sea levels. Many experts have told county commissioners that this would be a death sentence for the mangroves, drastically reducing the natural wetland buffer that currently exists. The development would also put thousands of additional people and cars into a coastal high hazard area with very limited existing evacuation routes… On… October 3, the board will make its final decision. Let’s hope that recent events give commissioners the fortitude to remember that the fate of citizens inhabiting the county decades from now in many ways rests on decisions they make today.” Read Hurricane Warning
Susan Salisbury reports for the Palm Beach Post – “The Sierra Club filed a challenge… with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to Florida Southeast Connection’s request for fast-track authorization to extend the fracked gas Sabal Trail Pipeline… The project would supply a massive new gas-burning power plant that FSC’s affiliate, [FP&L] wants to put in to serve in Okeechobee County in 2019. The Sierra Club contends that the D.C. Circuit’s decision in the momentous Sabal Trail case effectively bars the use of FERC’s fast-tracking procedures. The procedures only apply to extensions of pipelines with valid certificates. But the court invalidated the certificates for Sabal Trail and FSC’s connected pipelines, instructing FERC to evaluate the climate effects of burning the gas via pipelines when determining if they were necessary and appropriate projects… The Sierra Club argues that FERC should consider together the greenhouse gas emissions and climate effects of FPL’s new gas plant, the Okeechobee lateral, Sabal Trail, and other connected pipelines.” Read Sierra Club challenges Sabal Trail Okeechobee pipeline extension
David Bauerlein reports for the Florida Times Union – “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects to start dredging the St. Johns River in December after awarding a $22.8 million contract for the first phase of the harbor deepening project… The opening phase will take two years to deepen the river from the ocean to just west of the St. Johns River Ferry landing in Mayport… The dredging will move forward while a lawsuit filed by the St. Johns Riverkeeper organization is pending in federal court. The Riverkeeper lawsuit seeks to stop the dredging, contending the Corps’ environmental impact statement fails to fully account for harm to the river and falls short of proving economic justification for deepening the 40-foot channel to 47 feet.” Read Army Corps awards contract to start dredging St. Johns River
Omri Ben-Shahar writes for Forbes – “Hurricane Irma devastated large portions of the Florida Keys… It is estimated that 25 percent of the 50,000 homes in the Keys were destroyed, and 65 percent sustained major damage. In the coming weeks,… [t]hose lucky enough to have insurance will likely begin rebuilding. The unlucky uninsured might sell their land and leave, and wealthier entrants are sure to jump on the opportunity to buy beachfront property on this coveted strip. There is just one problem in this zeal to redevelop the islands: The Next Storm. The Keys… have been ravaged in the past by major storms, and will be flattened again with greater frequency in the future. They are not meant to be an axle of human habitation. In short, the Keys should not be rebuilt… Both federal and state programs use taxpayers’ money to make it artificially cheap to continue to live in the Keys… All the evidence suggests that if insurance were to reflect the true risk of living in the path of storms, most people would not live there. Wealthy proprietors might be willing to pay to own homes (mostly second homes) on the water. But ordinary people cannot afford such insurance price tags… We can desperately cling to these strips: construct water barriers, raise the elevation of homes, or keep rebuilding. Or, we can begin a gradual hundred-year process of migration inland.” Read Don’t Rebuild the Florida Keys
Martin E. Comas reports for the Orlando Sentinel – “Seminole County commissioners voted… to mount a court challenge to the Public Service Commission’s recent approval of drastic water and wastewater rate hikes for tens of thousands of Central Florida homeowners.” Read Seminole will appeal sky-high water rate increases approved by Public Utilities Commission
Brett Hartl writes for The Hill – “Which SHARE Act provisions actually benefit hunters and fishermen? Is it Title I, which prohibits the entire federal government from addressing lead poisoning caused by ammunition or fishing tackle? Even though waterfowl hunters switched to non-toxic ammunition decades ago, and even though lead poisons people and wildlife alike, and even though there are non-toxic alternatives, this legislation would forever preclude the government from taking action… The SHARE Act undermines the Endangered Species Act by legislatively delisting wolves in the Midwest despite two federal court decisions that wolves still need protections. It also would eliminate restrictions on killing bears and wolves in their dens on Alaska National Preserve lands. And it undermines the Marine Mammal Protection Act by opening a loophole on polar bear hunting.” Read Gun lobby co-opts sportsmen’s agenda with SHARE Act
Julie Turkewitz reports for The New York Times – “[A] Denver lawyer and a far-left environmental group are asking a judge to recognize the Colorado River as a person. If successful, it could upend environmental law, possibly allowing the redwood forests, the Rocky Mountains or the deserts of Nevada to sue individuals, corporations and governments over resource pollution or depletion… If a corporation has rights, the authors argue, so, too, should an ancient waterway that has sustained human life for as long as it has existed in the Western United States. The lawsuit claims the state violated the river’s right to flourish by polluting and draining it and threatening endangered species. The claim cites several nations whose courts or governments have recognized some rights for natural entities.” Read Corporations Have Rights. Why not Rivers?
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
September 29, 2:00 pm – Attend or view a live stream of FSU’s Environmental College of Law Fall 2017 Environmental Forum: “The Psychology of Climate Change: Why do People Believe What they Believe?” For more information, click here.
October 3, 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. October’s lecture is a Springs Overview – Past, Present, and Future with FSI Executive Director, Dr. Robert Knight. All lectures are free and open to the public. A recommended donation of $5 is appreciated. For more information, click here or call (386) 454- 2427.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 $50. For more information and to buy tickets, click here.
October 19, 6:30 pm – Attend “Natural Treasures of the Florida Panhandle,” a presentation by Bruce Means, Coastal Plains Institute, at The King Life Sciences Building, FSU, in Tallahassee.
October 28, 11:30 am – Join the Silver Springs Alliance for a scavenger hunt as you paddle this iconic waterway in Silver Springs. Channel the spirits of Florida's river past by dressing up in a costume that reflects Florida's cultural heritage: Spanish conquistadors, pioneers, steamboat travelers, or movie characters from the Spring's film legacy! Be creative and win a prize in our costume contest! All ages are welcome! Proceeds from this event will support the Silver Springs Alliance’s efforts to protect Silver Springs and River. For more information and to register, click here.
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