Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “For 20 years, the regional water supply agency known as Tampa Bay Water has provided the state with an example of how local governments can cooperate to provide a vital resource to a large metro region. Now a pair of bills in the Legislature may dismantle the whole thing – and they’re being backed by the City of Tampa. The fight is over millions of gallons of highly-treated reclaimed water… which Tampa wants to use in its drinking water supply… The bills… call for giving each city or county that is a part of Tampa Bay Water ‘the absolute right’ to use its… reclaimed water as a drinking supply that it can either use or sell to the other members. Although the bills say they’re not intended to mess up the interlocal agreement that formed Tampa Bay Water two decades ago, that’s exactly what it could do… Tampa Bay Water… was born of the contentious water wars of the 1980s, when bay area governments spent millions on lawyers’ fees battling each other over the water in the aquifer… With financial help from Swiftmud, Tampa Bay Water built a desalination plant, the state’s largest reservoir and a large surface-water treatment plant. Those alternative supply sources enabled the agency to reduce what’s being pumped out of the ground and restore dwindling lakes and drying wetlands. The pursuit of alternative water sources has now turned to the use of reclaimed water… But last fall, Tampa Bay Water officials questioned whether Tampa has the ability within the interlocal agreement that created the agency to create a source of potable water for itself or other member governments independent of the utility.” Read Water wars redux: Could Tampa-backed bills doom Tampa Bay Water?
Ryan Benk reports for WJCT – “A federal judge… rejected attempts by the St. Johns Riverkeeper to temporarily halt JAXPORT’s proposed deepening of a section of the St. Johns River… The Riverkeeper’s overall environmental challenge to the port dredging as planned will continue…” Read Judge rejects Riverkeeper motion to halt first phase of dredging
Gary Fineout reports for the Associated Press – “Florida has worked out a deal to cap the amount of money that will be paid to law firms hired to help the state in its long-running water war with Georgia. Some Republican legislators last year complained about the escalating costs… and initially refused to sign off on any additional payments. And then last fall, the Florida legislature quietly signed off on a proposal paring back the cost owed to one of the law firms by about $4 million. Their action will bring the total spent since 2014 on fees and expenses to more than $57 million.” Read Florida Quietly Worked Out Deal to Cap Fees in Water Wars
Jason Kirk writes for the TC Palm – “[T]he team of professionals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District continues to make progress hand-in-hand with our partners from the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Department of the Interior and many other agencies implementing the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration program.” Read Army Corps hits restoration milestones for South Florida ecosystem
WJHG reports – “Congressman Neal Dunn and Senator Marco Rubio… [have] sent a letter, signed by all 29 Florida lawmakers, to Defense Secretary James Mattis…. Representative Dunn says the [Gulf test and training range] is a unique asset for the military to train in, and that it needs to be protected beyond the moratorium [which ends in 2022]. ‘…[T]he entire Florida delegation signed onto the letter to help James Mattis… get to the point where he’s actually encouraging the president to [extend the moratorium],’ Representative Dunn said… Representative Dunn says the next step is for Secretary Mattis to write a letter to the White House.” Read Rep. Dunn, Florida Delegation send letter to Sec. Mattis on offshore drilling
Kevin Robinson reports for the Pensacola News Journal – “A host of advocates, including former U.S. senator and Florida governor Bob Graham, are urging citizens to fight the proposed five-year offshore drilling plan… [T]he plan coincides with an effort to decrease regulations on existing drilling platforms. ‘We are backing off some fundamental safety measures that were not theoretical. They were based on real-life experience with the BP oil spill,’ Graham said… In December, Scott Angelle, director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, announced the bureau could reduce the offshore drilling industry’s compliance burdens by at least $228 million over 10 years through the elimination of certain drilling regulations… Graham served as co-chair of the National Commission on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, the body convened to investigate the circumstances of the oil spill and propose relevant improvements to federal laws, regulations and industry practices… [T]he committee wrote the mistakes made during the (BP) oil spill revealed such ‘systematic failures in risk management that they place in doubt the safety culture of the entire industry.’… ‘Complying (with regulations) does add some cost, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the profit (oil companies) are making and the risks they’re creating,’ Wagley (of the Gulf Restoration Network) said. Graham challenged Pensacola residents to become a primary hub for activism against the proposed drilling… Escambia County received 97 percent of the oil that washed ashore in Florida (from the BP oil spill). ‘This community probably has as much at stake in this as any other place in America,’ Graham said.” Read Bob Graham urges Pensacola to fight offshore drilling plan
Alex Leary reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is defending a decision to remove Florida from an offshore oil drilling plan, saying it was the ‘right move’ given widespread political opposition and a current moratorium that lasts until 2022.” Read ‘Florida is different,’ Interior Secretary Zinke says, defending oil drilling exemption
Ledyard King reports for News Press – “Two-thirds of Florida voters believe the Electoral College should be scrapped and that presidents should be chosen based on the popular vote, a new poll suggests. ‘The findings of this survey are consistent with other polls conducted over the past 50 years which have found the majority of Americans believe the President and Vice President should be chosen directly by the American people,’ said Kevin Wagner, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University… The (electoral college) system tends to give voters in smaller states more weight than bigger ones, such as Florida.” Read Florida voters: Dump the Electoral College, let popular vote decide presidency
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
January 26, 11:00 am – Attend a meeting of the Legislative Committee of the Constitutional Revision Commission in Tallahassee. A proposal to dedicate funds in the LATF to the Florida Forever Trust Fund will be considered. For more information, click here.
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.
February 6, 12:00 pm – Attend Springs Academy Tuesday in High Springs. This talk will be focused on springs stresses such as groundwater pumping, fertilizers, wastewater disposal, and recreation. For more information, click here.
February 8, 3:00 pm – Attend the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s public meeting regarding their proposed offshore drilling plan in Tallahassee. This is the only meeting scheduled in Florida as part of the mandatory public comment period for the plan. For more information, click here.
February 14, 12:45 pm – Attend the Villages Environmental Discussions Group to hear presentations by Marty Mesh, Mike Archer, and Jody Woodson-Swartzman at the Belvedere Library (325 Belvedere Blvd.) in The Villages. Marty Mesh is the founder and executive director of Florida Organic Growers. He will speak about the importance of organic agriculture and accomplishments of the 2017 Inaugural Food & Farming Summit. Mike Archer and Jody Woodson-Swartzman will discuss their efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags. They have a no-sew method of converting a t-shirt into a shopping bag. For more information and to RSVP, contact Mary Hampton at email@example.com.
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