FCC News Brief - February 15, 2018

Mark Collins reports for News 4 Jax – “One out of every five acres in Florida has been developed. This is a concern for former Senator and Governor Bob Graham… The time to conserve is now as Florida’s population continues to grow. Graham, speaking at the North Florida Land Trust’s annual meeting feels the ‘State needs to step up to the challenge. Government should think 20 to 30 years ahead to keep up.’… Water demands could double in the next 50 years and the costs for not protecting land will outweigh gains… Bob Graham is encouraged by… [a] bill by North Florida Republican Senate Chairman Rob Bradley [which] will dedicate $100 million each year to the Florida Forever Trust Fund.” Read Protecting land in North Florida

The Citrus County Chronicle Editorial Board writes – “Time is running out for Florida’s legislators to come to an agreement on how they want to fund conservation and environmental protection going forward… At issue is the gap between plans by the state Senate and House of Representatives – or more precisely, the failure by the House to commit to funding the environment in the way the Senate is… Florida Forever funding stabilized at around $300 million a year until 2008, when the Great Recession forced legislatures across the nation to cut spending and Florida Forever was gutted. The cause has struggled to win over lawmakers since… [I]t’s good to see the Senate committing to Florida Forever again, even if it’s at a lower level than many citizens who voted for Amendment 1 would like… The House, meanwhile, has plans that could be characterized as ill-formed at best… [T]he House Appropriations Committee has outlined its own plan for funding Florida Forever, which would earmark just $8 million for land acquisition and shift $35 million from springs funding to the Rural and Family Lands Preservation Program… It should… be clear just how disparate the funding commitments are…, and how unacceptably low the House’s [proposals] are… [W]e urge House members to take up HB 1353 and restore environmental funding at the level the Senate is proposing for the coming year, and we urge lawmakers in both chambers to get serious about environmental funding in the years to come. Voters made their will clear in approving Amendment 1, and they can continue to make their will clear at the ballot box if lawmakers continue to misappropriate their intent.” Read House plans hang state lands, and Citrus, out to dry

Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Florida regulators are withdrawing a set of controversial standards for how much pollution can be dumped into the state’s waterways. The standards drew strong opposition from environmental groups, local governments and Native American tribes. Now the Department of Environmental Protection says it will start over and work with one of those groups to produce new pollution standards… The pollution regulations that are being withdrawn marked the first update to the state’s water quality standards in 24 years. When they were first unveiled in 2016, critics said they would allow polluters to increase the level of toxic chemicals they dump into Florida bays, rivers and lakes. Those most at risk would be children and people who eat a lot of seafood… Once the DEP proposed the new rules, they had to be voted on by the state’s Environmental Regulation Commission. But at the time of the vote, there were two vacancies on the board, one intended for a representative of the environmental community and another for a representative of local government… Despite vocal opposition, the ERC approved the rules 3-2… [T]he new rules drew legal opposition from Broward County, the city of Miami and the Seminole tribe… [W]ith the DEP withdrawing the rules and starting over, the legal challenge is now moot.” Read DEP to drop controversial water pollution regulations and start over

John Kennedy reports for the Herald Tribune – “Sen. Greg Steube announced he was dropping his original bid to allow only the state to regulate tree removal or pruning. But new provisions the Sarasota Republican added to the bill (SB 574) drew even more fire from opponents, which include local governments and a host of environmental groups. The bill managed to clear the Senate Community Affairs Committee on a 3-2 vote. But Steube left the hearing vowing to work on cooling criticism as the measure advances in the legislative session’s closing three weeks… The environmental group 1000 Friends of Florida has been gathering petition signatures opposing Steube’s bill, and amid such hostility, the lawmaker dialed it back…. But he added a few new lines that would make local governments cover the cost of restoring power if utilities notified them that a tree… presented a risk. Rebecca O’Hara, a lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities, said that utilities are already exempt from needing permits to clear trees in a public right-of-way where power lines run. Steube’s approach, though, would take utilities off the hook for the cost of repairing any damage… ‘It’s the taxpayers that would have to pay for it. Especially if it’s an investor-owned utility, ratepayers already have to pay the cost of repairs, so they’d be paying twice,’ O’Hara said… Steube’s bill also would now allow single-family homeowners to remove any trees from their property – without permit – when a “state of emergency” is declared. But that ran into resistance when committee members pointed out that states of emergency are common. Florida has declared states of emergency for the Zika virus, the opioid crisis, and even the visit of white nationalist Richard Spencer… Sen. David Simmons… called that a ‘gaping hole’ that could be used by residents to ignore local regulations and tear down trees.” Read Tree bill runs into Senate opposition

Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “Whether the proposed reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges will be enlarged appears to be up to Alfonso and J. Pepe Fanjul. The Fanjul brothers own Florida Crystals, which owns the land that most logically could be used to expand the project’s footprint… The Fanjuls were among 14 landowners with large holdings south of Lake Okeechobee who signed a letter to the district stating they ‘are not willing sellers of our farmland to the government.’ The state law creating the (reservoir) project also allows for swapping state-owned land either south of Lake Okeechobee or elsewhere for land adjacent to the reservoir site. Florida Crystals has swapped land with the district before, and environmentalists are hoping the company might get an offer the Fanjuls can’t refuse… The PRIDE land is just as valuable as Florida Crystals’ land north of the reservoir site…” Read Uncooperative Florida Crystals holds key to Lake Okeechobee reservoir expansion

Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “After considering five options for a reservoir to cut harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges, the water district will proceed with the smaller of the two… Staff will seek board approval next month, just before the district is scheduled to submit a final report to the Army Corps of Engineers… The proposal for a 10,100-acre, 23-foot deep reservoir and a 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area provides ‘some really good benefits,’ Matt Morrison, the district’s head of federal policy and coordination, [said.]… Combined with other water projects under construction and in the planning stage, the proposed reservoir will cut the volume of Lake O discharges by about 56 percent and the number of discharge events by 63 percent, according to a district analysis. The project also will send more than 120 billion gallons of water south to the Everglades and beyond to Florida Bay. Whether the water will be clean enough to enter Everglades National Park is in dispute… The project will send some water to an existing stormwater treatment area that isn’t meeting water quality goals… As part of the ‘optimization’ of the plan, district engineers made the reservoir ‘multipurpose,’ meaning water would be available to area farms. That was another concern for Capp (of the National Parks Conservation Association): ‘We want to make sure there’s enough water flowing south.’… The project will cost $1.34 billion, under the $1.8 billion cost estimated in the law the Legislature approved last year.” Read SFWMD picks smaller reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges; water quality questioned

Maggie Astor reports for The New York Times – “[W]hile few, if any, studies have examined how large a role climate change plays in people’s childbearing decisions, it loomed large in interviews with more than a dozen people ages 18 to 43… Some worry about the quality of life children born today will have as shorelines flood, wildfires rage and extreme weather becomes more common. Others are acutely aware that having a child is one of the costliest actions they can take environmentally.” Read No Children Because of Climate Change? Some People are Considering It

Jason Samenow reports for The Washington Post – “[A] new study finds that in recent decades, the pace of sea-level rise has picked up and coastal real estate could be under water faster and faster in the coming decades. That has important implications for the coasts: It is much harder to plan for and adapt to accelerating sea-level rise than it is for seas rising at a constant rate… If… acceleration is extrapolated into the future…, it equates to an increase in average sea level of roughly 26 inches by 2100… By 2100, the rate of sea-level rise would be double what it is now… These projections could even be too low. A huge wild card in predicting future sea-level rise is how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will respond to rising temperatures in the coming decades… The rather steady sea-level rise observed to date, just starting to accelerate, has already proven disruptive in many U.S. coastal areas.” Read Study: Sea-level rise is accelerating, and its rate could double in next century




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Upcoming Environmental Events    


February 15, 7:00 pm – Attend “Shorebirds of the Apalachicola System” with Jennifer Manis and Paula Muellner of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Tallahassee. For more information, click here.

February 22, 6:00 pm – Attend 350 Pensacola’s Chasing Coral Event at the West Florida Public Library (239 N. Spring St.) in Pensacola. The event will feature the award-winning film, Chasing Coral, which allows viewers to join divers, photographers, and scientists as they set out to discover why coral reefs are disappearing. After the film, there will be a panel discussion with experts on the plight of the world’s reefs and what we can do to save them. For more information, email 350pensacola@gmail.com.

March 3 – 4, 10:00 am – Attend Florida Springsfest in Silver Springs. Enjoy music, art, mermaids, Glass Bottom Boat rides, environmental presentations, and more. For more information, click here.

March 8, 6:30 pm – Attend Newts of the Apalachicola National Forest in Tallahassee. Rebecca and Ryan Means will discuss the plight of the endangered newts of the Apalachicola Forest. For more information, click here.

March 14-16, 8:30 am – Attend The Endangered Apalachicola Conference in Tallahassee. The Apalachicola ecosystem has incredible biodiversity and once provided for a booming oyster industry. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is now struggling to survive due to a lack of fresh water. The problem is so dire, Florida is suing Georgia over its water use! The Florida Conservation Coalition invites you to come learn more about this endangered ecosystem. After Thursday’s overview of challenges facing the Apalachicola, FCC Chair and former Florida Governor, Bob Graham, will host a special keynote dinner. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.


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