FCC News Brief - February 6, 2018

Jim Turner reports for the News Service of Florida – “The Senate voted 37-0 on Wednesday to approve a proposal that would set aside at least $100 million a year for the Florida Forever program (SB 370) from money stemming from a 2014 constitutional amendment… [T]he Senate… is slated to take up a proposal (SB 204) that would boost funding for natural springs from $50 million to $75 million a year and provide $50 million a year for the restoration of the St. Johns River and other North Florida waterways. Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, called the Florida Forever funding a ‘significant step forward for the future of land conservation in Florida.’ But she added that eyes are now on the House… A House version of the Florida Forever funding bill (HB 1353) has not been heard in committees… Meanwhile, another House proposal (HB 7063),… sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell,… would give the… Florida Forever Trust Fund $57 million next fiscal year. The amount would gradually rise to… $200 million with the 2029-2030 budget… [T]he House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday voted to shift $25 million from the state’s springs funding to the Rural and Family Lands Preservation program. David Cullen, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, urged the committee to find another location to draw the money for the… program… Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who is running for governor, has sought $75 million for the Rural and Family Lands program, which has been a key part of conservation efforts in recent years. Gov. Rick Scott didn’t include the program in his proposed budget… Bradley has also proposed another $50 million for Florida Forever that would be one-time funding and separate from the recurring $100 million… The Florida Forever program, which in the past received as much as $300 million a year, has for nearly a decade fallen out of favor among lawmakers.” Read Senate signs off on Florida Forever funding

Roberta Kwok reports for Hakai Magazine – “The Apalachicola Bay fishery dates back to the 1800s and once provided 12 percent of the country’s eastern oysters. Its devastation has raised a host of questions about the source of its decline. Was the collapse caused by overharvesting, a lack of fresh water, low nutrients, poor habitat management, or all of the above? It’s a debate that has raged everywhere from the fishing docks to the US Supreme Court. In court proceedings…, Florida argues that neighboring Georgia is drawing too much water from the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River basin, depriving the bay of crucial fresh water… Georgia, in turn, is countering that Florida brought its fishery troubles upon itself by allowing unsustainable oyster harvesting… But six years after the Apalachicola Bay oyster fishery was wiped out, researchers still have yet to come to a consensus on the main culprit of the collapse. And as Florida takes on Georgia in the latest salvo of an interstate water fight that has spanned three decades, the public is looking to scientists for answers… if scientists agree on anything, it is that multiple factors contributed to the collapse. But figuring out how to weight each element’s importance is another matter – and one not likely to be resolved anytime soon. The court, meanwhile, is expected to release a decision by June.” Read Conducting Science at the Speed of Law

Dan Sweeney reports for the Sun Sentinel – “A controversial method of extracting natural gas would be banned statewide under a bill approved by a Senate panel Monday. But while the Senate is moving forward on a ban on fracking … it’s chances look slim in the House. Anti-fracking activists say the possibility of fracking fluids polluting groundwater is high in Florida, where slabs of limestone could make it easier for leaking chemicals from fracking sites to seep upward and pollute the aquifer that South Florida uses for drinking water… The bill appears to be dead on arrival in the House. Several members of House leadership, including House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues,… have come out against a full-scale ban, preferring a moratorium coupled with studies of fracking’s effects. No energy company is currently fracking in the state.” Read Senate committee approves statewide fracking ban

Darryl Fears reports for The Washington Post – “[S]tate attorneys general condemned the Trump administration’s plan to expand development of oil and gas in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as ‘outrageous’ and ‘reckless.’ Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, one of a dozen state attorneys general on the two coasts to co-sign a letter Thursday that called on Zinke to cancel the proposal, said, ‘We intend to sue if they go forward with this, unquestionably. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to stop it.’ Three state attorneys general interviewed by The Washington Post said they were irked by the deal Zinke struck with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, which exempted the state from the drilling plan. They said the agreement pointed to how arbitrary the drilling plan is, because the decision was made without the benefit of an analysis or clear process… The agreement with Florida… may be in danger… ‘It’s highly unusual for an agency head to announce a decision before the regulatory process is complete,’ said Alyson Craig Flournoy, a professor at the University of Florida law school. Florida’s exemption could be voided if Zinke is dismissed from his job… ‘Or he could change his mind tomorrow. What makes it a more vulnerable decision is that the courts look for reasoned decision-making based on records. If a decision-maker says I’ve already decided before hearing from the oil and gas industry and conservation groups about what the appropriate plan is, that’s a premature announcement,’ Flournoy said. ‘An opponent of the final plan can certainly raise that if Florida is excluded. They could say the decision was not based on science and data…’… The four state attorneys general who spoke with the Post said they are considering court actions that could seize on deficiencies in the Florida agreement if the administration’s proposal survives the lengthy, possibly year-long path to finalization.” Read State attorneys on drilling: ‘We intend to sue’

Eric Staats reports for the Naples Daily News – “A mother Florida panther and her kitten were found dead over two days along a road in eastern Hendry County… The two discoveries… bring this year’s panther road kill toll to six, with two in Collier and four in Hendry...” Read Florida panther mother, kitten found dead over two days on same Hendry County road

The Associated Press reports – “A report says 35 manatees across Florida have died as a result of cold stress syndrome in January.” Read Cold snap killed 35 manatees in Florida in January

Alex Harris reports for the Miami Herald – “In a small Key Largo neighborhood, the tide came in – and didn’t go out for almost a month. Residents sloshed through more than a foot of saltwater that lapped at their front yards, knocked over their trashcans, created a mosquito breeding ground and made their roads nearly impassible… Officials want to elevate the lowest, most flood-prone road in the Twin Lakes Community of Key Largo and in the low-lying Sands neighborhood of Big Pine Key… The county will start accepting design proposals in the coming weeks, and money for construction could be available in October… It won’t be cheap… The unique geography of the Keys plays a big part in why drainage solutions common in other areas won’t work on the South Florida islands. Underneath the dirt on each island is porous limestone rock. Sometimes, when water levels get high, that sponge-like rock is filled with groundwater. It can degrade the materials used to form the base of the county’s roads and crack asphalt. Water that close to the surface doesn’t leave much room to dig or build underground. High groundwater also means engineers can’t count on the ground to absorb runoff water, so they’ll have to turn to pumps to send the water elsewhere, as Miami Beach does… Unlike Miami Beach though, Monroe wants to clean the water they’re pumping back into the ocean. Miami Beach filters the water for large objects such as plastic bottles, but studies have shown the pumps pick up fecal matter from the roads and wash the pollution straight into the bay… Treatment is pricey… Pumps also require backup generators in case of emergencies, which require extra land… Even with these millions of dollars in reconstruction, there isn’t a guarantee that these roads will stay totally dry… [T]he new roads should still see an average of seven days of flooding a year, depending on which sea level rise prediction comes true.” Read Keys to raise roads before climate change puts them underwater. It’ll be expensive

Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt paid a quiet visit to Florida last week, but avoided the biggest environmental issues in the state… Pruitt wanted to talk about his effort to get rid of regulations on pollution and how that helps the economy. ‘The Sunshine State is a vital provider of American agriculture, energy and manufacturing, and it’s essential we hear directly from rural Floridians,’ Pruitt said in a news release… Pruitt heard from more than just farmers. In a roundtable discussion…, Pruitt met with representatives of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Electric Cooperatives Association, and the Manufacturers Association of Florida, in addition to the Florida Farm Bureau… No one from any of Florida’s environmental groups was in attendance… Pruitt talked about how he was delaying enforcement of an Obama-era rule on protecting wetlands from being destroyed, as well as the Trump administration’s rollback of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which was the EPA’s biggest tool in fighting climate change.” Read EPA administrator Scott Pruitt visits Florida, avoids biggest environmental issues in state




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Another Gulf is Possible

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Upcoming Environmental Events    


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. If you would like a free ride from Pensacola to Tallahassee for this meeting, please contact Christian Wagley with the Gulf Restoration Network at Christian@healthygulf.org or (850) 687 – 9968.

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 resourcewisdom@gmail.com.

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.


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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.  

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