FCC News Brief - February 16, 2018

The Tampa Bay Tribune Editorial Board writes – “There is only one reason for allowing Florida to take over the job of issuing federal permits to fill in wetland areas: To make it faster, easier and cheaper for developers to build in some of the most sensitive areas of the state. Any public purpose served by streamlining the process is more than counter-balanced by the environmental risks of a regulatory rush job. State lawmakers should put the public interest first and reject this legislation (SB 1402 and HB 7043).” Read Don’t let Florida take over wetlands permitting

Chuck Ballaro reports for the North Fort Myers Neighbor – “[D]rivers along now-rural State Road 31 and visitors to developing Babcock Ranch have a similar question: How will traffic issues already beginning to appear be addressed – and when?... Zachary Burch, government affairs and communications manager for the Florida Department of Transportation, said widening the road is coming, but every project has its own set of challenges. For SR 31, those challenges are going to be environmental… The FDOT does a Project Development and Environment study where the agency looks at if they need to widen the road and if so, what’s the best way… Then you have to look at environmental concerns, such as habitat, endangered species such as panthers or eagles. Are there wetlands to accommodate drainage, as there are more impervious surfaces? For 31, it’s a good question, considering that road has a tendency to flood in the rainy season. Burch said that’s part of the federal process they follow, which takes time. But then comes the decision to either build or not to build… Once all that is completed and the project is given the green light, it goes through the design stage, the land that’s needed or the road is purchased, and construction takes place. Burch said each phase takes about two years.” Read State Road 31 future looks at expansion

Lisa Broadt reports for the TC Palm – “[J]urors found Maggy Hurchalla liable of interfering in government contracts and ordered her to pay nearly $4.4 million in damages to the owners of Lake Point, a mining and water treatment project near Lake Okeechobee.  The six jurors in the case agreed with Lake Point’s claims that directives Hurchalla gave to county commissioners amounted to sabotage of Lake Point’s project and cost the company millions of dollars in lost business… [Hurchalla’s] defense team throughout the seven-day trial said Hurchalla’s comments were First Amendment-protected free speech and were, in fact, truthful. The… team suggested that a ruling in Lake Point’s favor could have a chilling effect on citizens’ participation in local government and communications with elected officials… ‘If she is influential, yay for her. Isn’t that what we want for citizens?’ [Hurchalla’s lawyer] asked. ‘We need more Maggy Hurchallas, not fewer.’” Read Maggy Hurchalla found liable, ordered to pay $4.4 million in damages to Lake Point

Anne Harvey Holbrook writes for News-Press – “Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgraded the West Indian manatee’s status from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Save the Manatee Club is concerned that down listing will further slow efforts to secure key habitat protections needed for the species’ longevity in Florida… Historically, manatees sheltered in Florida’s natural freshwater springs, with their constant 70+ degree temperatures and nearby aquatic vegetation upon which they could feed. However, as spring flows declined from excessive groundwater pumping and hydrologic projects impeded access to some historic habitat, approximately two-thirds of Florida’s manatees learned to rely on warm water effluent from industrial discharges. This reliance has altered manatee migration in recent decades. Looking to the future, power companies are changing how power is generated in order to meet environmental standards and move towards sustainability. As a result of these much-needed improvements, protecting and restoring springs and travel corridors connecting these vital sites will be imperative for manatee survival, as will a strategy to transition manatees to these alternative sites. One viable starting point would be to breach the Rodman Dam on the Ocklawaha River… in order to restore manatee access to numerous springs whose flow is impeded by large volumes of impounded water. The federal and state governments have long acknowledged the need to restore the river, but the project remains stagnant in the absence of political will and agency leadership.” Read We need to restore warm water habitats for manatees

The Treasure Coast Newspapers Editorial Board writes – “[W]e have a suggestion for Scott, a way in which he can prove to citizens and voters that he’s indeed a true friend of the environment. Get behind the reservoir project with the same fervor he’s backed repairs to the dike… [T]he South Florida Water Management District staff recommended the smaller of two proposed configurations for the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir. But it’s farm from a done deal; the governor has the power to insist upon more land, which could store more water… [W]hile other elected officials, notably Palm City Republican Rep. Brian Mast, have specifically asked Trump to help fund the reservoir project, there’s no evidence Scott has done the same. By doing so, he could help ensure the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state’s federal partner in the project, both green-lights and funds its portion of the project sooner.” Read C’mon, Gov. Scott – be a hero for the Everglades reservoir

Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The developer of a Hobe Sound golf course partially owned by basketball legend Michael Jordan will be fined more than $8,000 for polluting the South Fork of the St. Lucie River.” Read Michael Jordan golf course developer fined $8,000 for polluting St. Lucie River

Kirby Wilson reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Paying legislators so little for so much work poses ethical challenges… The meager salary can encourage elected officials to – as Lee put it – ‘monetize’ the lawmaking experience… ‘It’s supposed to be service, but it’s not possible for everybody to do it,’ noted Braynon… Worse still, some argued, a Tallahassee available only to a certain type of elite has lost touch with the needs of the average Floridian.” Read Why doesn’t Florida’s Legislature look anything like Florida’s workforce?

Jeremy Hodges reports for Bloomberg – “Fewer than half the world’s biggest banks are doing enough to forestall climate change… Even the strongest banks in the survey, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., still struggle to define a climate strategy at the heart of their business… Goldman Sachs was cited as a leader in the report after the investment bank set a 2025 target of $150 billion in clean energy financing and investing… Almost half of the groups have put in place climate risk assessments and 61 percent haven’t restricted the financing of coal. The global banking sector provided $600 billion in financing for the top 120 coal plant developers between 2014 and September 2017… Boston Common called for all banks to… set clear targets to promote low carbon products and publish strategy reports aligned with the Paris Agreement… About $12 trillion of renewable energy investments are needed by 2030 as countries that signed the Paris Agreement transition to low-carbon economies. This shift presents a ‘remarkable opportunity’ for the world’s banks, said Lauren Compere, managing director at Boston Common Asset Management.” Read Banks Told They’re Lagging on Response to Climate Risks



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Upcoming Environmental Events    


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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