Steve Patterson reports for the Florida Times Union – “The St. Johns River Water Management District’s governing board on Tuesday approved a water-withdrawal permit near Silver Springs in Marion County that conservationists spent a year fighting in legal challenges… Falling output from the springs have troubled environmental advocates for years, and a fight over increasing water-withdrawal around Silver Springs drew attention from people far removed from North central Florida’s farm fields. Silver Springs feed the Silver River, a tributary of the St. Johns… The new permit allows Sleepy Creek to take an additional 1.2 million gallons of water daily only through 2023. The company has to reduce its water use after that or find some alternate water source, because a study by the management district projects that water demand after that will become too heavy to justify the increased withdrawals.” Read Permit OK’d for much-debated water withdrawal around Silver Springs
Jim Gross writes for The Gainesville Sun – “The Stronach permit was pending in late 2014 during the run-up to Gov. Rick Scott’s bid for reelection. At that time, the St. Johns River Water Management District issued a notice of intent to deny the permit. The district had concluded that the flow of Silver Springs was already below the proposed minimum flow, and pumping more groundwater would make the situation worse. However, after Scott won reelection, the district changed its mind. If you are suspicious about the timing, you may be more suspicious of the district’s arguments for changing its mind. The district relied on three principal arguments for issuing the permit. First, it claimed that reduced flow at Silver Springs is largely due to a long-term decline in rainfall. Second, it claimed that water use is declining, so reduced flow at silver Springs will not be a problem. Third, the district claimed that groundwater pumping has caused flow at Silver Springs to decline by a mere 3 percent… It turns out that all three [arguments] are faulty… It is now possible to justify issuing permits with no valid scientific information whatsoever. This is a sad commentary on the status of Florida environmental safeguards, but not unlike what we have seen for the past seven years… You may want to be mindful of such tricks as you weigh your choices among the candidates.” Read Water permitting decision has no legs to stand on
The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “Floridians should be skeptical of the Trump administration’s announcement that oil drilling near our coast is ‘off the table.’ The Interior Department spent eight months developing its drilling plan after President Trump demanded the expansion. Yet supposedly it took just a 20-minute chat on Tuesday with Gov. Rick Scott for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to exempt Florida… Though we support protection for the beaches that are vital to Florida’s tourism industry, we have three worries about Zinke’s announcement: There’s no guarantee that the exemption for Florida would be permanent, exempting only Florida still would leave the state at risk, and the state can’t trust Scott on this issue. If Zinke can take Florida ‘off the table’ in January 2018, he could put Florida back on the table in January 2019, after the election. Congressional action to extend the moratorium until 2027 would be much more reassuring… If Trump and Zinke believe that Florida deserves special protection, they will support it. A carve-out for Florida… would not remove the threat from drilling… [T]he BP spill in 2010 happened roughly 40 miles off the Louisiana coast… In addition, Trump still wants to weaken or eliminate safety rules that arose from an investigation of the BP spill… Walter Shaub, who ran the U.S. Office of Government Ethics… said the administration is ‘exempting the state that is home to the… conflict of interest that the administration likes to call the “Winter White House” and none of the other affected states.’ Those states could challenge the Florida exemption. Sierra club Executive Director Michael Brune told The Washington Post that federal law prohibits regulatory decisions from being ‘arbitrary and capricious.’ Claiming that… only Florida’s coastlines are unique, Brune said, ‘seems to be the definition of arbitrary and capricious.’” Read Don’t let Florida get played on oil drilling
Kimberly Miller reports for my Palm Beach Post – “South Florida water managers complained… the Army Corps of Engineers is dodging their requests to work together on a touted reservoir… Its budget, originally estimated at $1.6 billion, also comes with a tight timeline that included a Tuesday submission to the state recommendations on where and how to build the massive holding tank. The reservoir requires changes to the federal Central Everglades Planning Project, which means the South Florida Water Management District needs approval from the Corps on how to shoehorn it into the overarching plan… But district Executive Director Ernie Marks said in a Dec. 22 letter to the acting assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works in Washington, D.c. that it has been a ‘very slow and disappointing experience trying to reach agreement with the (Corps).’… Because of the tight timeframe required in state law, the district chose to plan the reservoir using a special section of the Water Resources Development Act that allows non-federal agencies to conduct feasibility studies for submission directly to the Secretary of the Army. Corps spokesman John Campbell said the ‘little-used’ section of the act puts limitations on the Corps’ input. ‘Before the state embarked on this effort, we had communicated our interest in fully participating in the State-Corps feasibility report for a Southern storage option, which admittedly didn’t meet the timelines envisioned by (the Senate bill),’ Campbell said.” Read Water managers feel rebuffed by Corps in reservoir planning
Gimleteye writes for Eye on Miami – “Basically, [the Legislature and Gov. Scott] agreed to create the largest man-made structure in Florida: a mini-Lake Okeechobee south of the of the 500,000 acres where sugarcane is grown. They want to do it on public land to clean up private industry’s pollution because – well – that’s how we roll in Florida… Rod Tirrell… was an Everglades warrior. He passed away this week… Rod argued strongly that Sierra Club should NOT support the [Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan] because it failed to include a way to store and treat enough of Big Sugar’s pollution to solve the problem of dirty water contaminating the Everglades and Florida Bay. That’s the same problem we face today. Back in the mid-1990’s, most mainstream environmental groups, led by Audubon, said: this is the best we are going to get. Senator Bob Graham and Floridian, then EPA administrator Carol Browner said, this is the best you are going to get… Sierra Club was persuaded by its allies; ‘Let’s take this now and live to fight another day.’… Today, the same environmental groups are in a crisis over the Negron plan which started with best intentions and turned into a lemon… Although district scientists pledge it will work, remember Rod Tirrell: two decades after governmental agencies all agreed that 10 parts per billion phosphorous pollution must be achieved for the Everglades to survive, it still hasn’t happened… The fix would require stripping from the current law the provisions that prohibit eminent domain… and the provision for the C51 reservoir that awarded one billionaire family, the Fanjuls, a path to use their land to sell dirty rainwater/ flood runoff to Floridians for water supply… It costs nothing to tell the truth about a piece of legislation. Rod Tirrell wouldn’t have it any other way, and that is why he was a real Everglades warrior.” Read What Senate President Joe Negron Should Do About the Lemon Reservoir Plan
Joshua Rhett Miller reports for New York Post – “A Florida man says he’s just ‘happy to be alive’ after being mauled by a 4-foot black bear while letting his dog out for a late-night walk – the first reported attack in the area in four decades… Parrish (an FWC spokesperson) said [FWC] received 13 calls regarding human-bear interactions in the area… since October, ranging from complaints that bears were rummaging through trash to bears being spotted in back yards… One of Meunier’s neighbors said he’s seen a female bear and her cubs roaming around the apartment complex recently.” Read Bear mauls man in south Florida
Jamie Ducharme reports for TIME – “Many of the rhesus macaque monkeys at a Florida state park carry a dangerous herpes virus that could potentially spread to humans through their excrement, according to a new study. As a result, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has said it plans to remove the monkeys, which are native to South and Central Asia, from the park.” Read Florida Vows to Remove Monkeys from State Park after Report They carry Deadly Herpes
Carl Zimmer reports for the New York Times – “By burning fossil fuels, we have already raised the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 40 percent, and we’re on track to increase it by much more. Some of that gas may mix into the world’s inland waters, and recent studies hint that this may have profound effects on the species that live in them… [Water fleas]… filter algae and microbes from water. They are devoured in turn by small fish, which are eaten by bigger fish… Water fleas… can sense chemicals given off by fish in their vicinity, and in response they make themselves harder to eat. Some species grow a massive crest on their head, while others sprout spikes. Dr. Weiss and her colleagues found that high levels of carbon dioxide caused water fleas to make smaller crests and shorter spikes… Dr. Weiss hypothesized that carbon dioxide interferes with the nervous system of the water fleas, blunting their ability to look out for predators… These sorts of changes may send ripples out across entire freshwater ecosystems.” Read Climate Change Is Altering Lakes and Streams, Study Suggests
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Upcoming Environmental Events
January 15-16 – Participate in Florida Coasts & Ocean Citizen Advocacy Day in Tallahassee. This is your opportunity to speak out for clean water and healthy beaches. Citizens will support the plastic bag ban bills, water quality monitoring, beach access, and more. They will receive free training and food. For more information and to register, click here.
January 18, 7:00 pm – Attend The Islands at Apalachicola with Jeff Chanton & Susan Cerulean in Tallahassee. Experts will discuss how the Apalachicola River’s flow affects the configuration of St. Vincent Island and its wildlife. There is a social at 7:00 pm and the program begins at 7:30 pm. For more information, click here.
January 20, 9:00 am – Participate in the annual Newnan’s Lake Cleanup in Gainesville. Volunteers will meet at Earl P. Powers Park (5910 SE Hawthorne Rd) on the southwest edge of the lake. Current Problems will provide cleanup supplies such as bags, grabbers, gloves, nets, and scales. There will be snacks and drinks for volunteers. For more information, contact Megan Black at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 30-31 – Participate in the Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All Advocacy Day in Tallahassee. Citizens will gather together to support climate action and land conservation funding. They will receive free advocacy training and may receive free lodging. For more information, click here.
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