FCC News Brief - April 12, 2019

Quote of the Day: “If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in water.” - Loren Eiseley

Read County limits lawn fertilization to March-June- “Fertilizer can no longer be used for eight months of the year in Alachua County, starting in early October. Tuesday night, county commissioners approved an eight-month ban on the grass treatment, a decision that came after an overflow crowd of lawn care industry members approached the board with a torrent of criticism about the proposed blackout period. Before, fertilizer was only banned the winter months of December through February. The board unanimously agreed to pass the ordinance, which takes effect Oct. 1. Business representatives asked the county to exempt lawn professionals from the fertilizer blackout period, saying landscape treatments aren’t to blame for increased pollution in area waters. “We’re not funding research to go out there and pollute, we’re going out to find out ways to not pollute,” said Andy Jorgensen, president of the Lakeland-based Florida Turfgrass Association. The ordinance limits fertilizer usage from March to June, and insists that it be the slower-release variety, eliminating the chance that grass is saturated too quickly. The county’s environmental protection department said grass gets the most rain in the summer, so applying fertilizer then increases the chance of fertilizer runoff that bleeds into the county’s waterways... As one audience member said, the argument was not pro-water or anti-water, but rather, disagreements over ways to alleviate the glut of nitrogen and algae in the county’s waters…” Sarah Nelson reports for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Blue-green algae: the public health crisis facing Florida - “Hats off to Congressman Francis Rooney for pressing the Centers for Disease Control to report what it knows about the threat of toxic blue-green algae. The dead fish that piled up on beaches last year demonstrated the environmental impact of red tide and blue-green algae and the consequences for tourism, businesses and real estate values. But, finally, the focus is on our public health crisis...It is not alarmist to say that the people of Florida -- especially people who contact the infested waters, consume fish and shrimp or breathe the air nearby are being slowly poisoned.  Liver cancer, Alzheimer’s and ALS are terminal diseases; the toxins in blue-green algae kill people...We need strategies that “prevent pollution at its source,” as the Florida Conservation Coalition urges.  Because most of the water in Lake Okeechobee comes from the north and west, we need to focus not only on the waters that contaminate salt-water estuaries, but on the pollution dumped into Lake Okeechobee that feed the blue-green algae – especially run-offs of phosphate and nitrogen fertilizers from dairy and cattle farms and human waste from failed septic tanks. That requires political will to impose regulations on powerful interests.  But, as the mounting scientific evidence tells us, failure to do so is slowly poisoning the people of Florida…” Howard Simon, Ph.D. writes Opinion for the News-Press.

Read Restrictions on petition gatherers for amendments moves forward in Senate- “Legislation putting significant requirements on signature gatherers for Florida ballot initiatives advanced in the state Senate Tuesday. Sen. David Simmons said his bill (SB 7096) aims to prevent bad actors from toying with the electoral process. “This addresses multiple problems of the failure of the process,” the Longwood Republican said. “This is to assure there is no improper conduct or as little improper conduct as possible.” Critics say the bill seeks to further block an already obstacle-laden path for grassroots movements to affect policy in Florida. Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, suggested the effort came in response to recent constitutional amendments. Notable ones include legalizing medical cannabis and restoring voting rights for ex-felons. Thurston noted advocates of those measures turned to the ballot only when the Legislature failed to act: “When all of these initiatives pass, even with our roadblocks, it tells us we are doing this wrong.”... Individuals involved in past movements to amend the state Constitution say the new restrictions will only hinder citizen initiatives. Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, said the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, passed as Amendment 1 in 2014, could not have made the ballot under new restrictions. She said that grassroots effort eventually had to resort to paid signature gatherers to get across the finish line because requirements are already so strict…” Jacob Ogles reports for Florida Politics.

Read Florida legislature must get serious about nutrient pollution in the water - “So far, the Florida legislative session has not adequately addressed the nutrient pollution time bomb that leads to harmful algal blooms (HABs). Great sums of public dollars have been promised and budgeted but without substantive regulatory reform, the problem will only continue and become more expensive.  Stormwater runoff, the single largest source of nutrient pollution, is currently addressed by state statute that implements regulations for development. These rules require each new development to treat stormwater so that less additional nutrients are discharged into waters of the state. Runoff from agriculture land use is largely addressed by voluntary compliance with Best Management Practices. The problem with the current situation is that the presumed compliance criteria just doesn’t work for reducing nutrients as intended, especially for nitrogen. This policy failure is evidenced by rampant nutrient impairment of the state’s waters resulting in widespread HABs that cause public health and economic crises. Sadly, even the highest value waters in the state with a non-degradation standard, designated as Outstanding Florida Waters, have become impaired from excess nutrients at a rapidly growing rate…” John Cassani writes Opinion for the News Press.

Read The river is getting just right- “One of the best parts of living in Suwannee County is the natural beauty that can be found all around us. The Suwannee River is at the heart of what makes this area unique. If you look at a map of Florida’s springs, the cluster of springs in and around Suwannee County are far more numerous than in other parts of our state. Florida has more artesian springs than any other place on the planet; more than a thousand have been cataloged so far. Our area has the highest concentration of those springs. If you have never visited one of these springs, now is the perfect time to go. After a particularly wet fall and winter that flooded parts of the Suwannee River Basin, the rain has slowed down enough to allow the river level to fall into what I consider its normal range. The river is back down to the level that allows the clear, cool water from the springs to flow into the darker river water...Seeing our beautiful springs this weekend reminded me why it is important that we get a full and complete fracking ban passed in Florida. Fracking uses an almost unfathomable amount of water, and once this water is used for fracking it is no longer fit for human consumption. Both the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and the Eagle Ford formation in Texas require more than 4 million gallons of water for each well. Where do you think all of that water would come from? Florida needs the water in our aquifer for drinking and for agriculture, not for hydraulic fracturing. I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy the springs in our area while the conditions are optimal. It only takes a few heavy rainstorms to bring the level too high to truly enjoy them. Let your state representatives know that you expect them to work towards a fracking ban in Florida, so that future generations will be able to experience the natural beauty we all take for granted now…” Eric Anthony Rodriguez writes Opinion for the Suwannnee Democrat.

Read Legislature unlikely to pass true fracking ban - “The history of fracking bills in the Florida Legislature offers a better understanding of what’s happening this legislative session. Since at least 2013, the Florida Legislature has proposed legislation dealing with the use of fracking in oil and gas drilling. Its efforts have morphed over the years. The 2013 bills tried to allow fracking. In 2015 those efforts continued to permit fracking but were packaged as fracking regulation. Then in 2016 the fracking-friendly Legislature tried a different tactic: Study it. By 2017, the Florida Senate outwardly sought to ban fracking, knowing that the bill would go nowhere in the state House. In 2018 the Senate did pass the fracking ban, but it was never heard in the House. And here we are in 2019 with competing fracking bills in the Senate...The two-page Montford bill creates a new section of law that prohibits both high-pressure well stimulation and matrix acidization and limits the ban to only oil and gas wells. The six-page, controversial Albritton bill allows matrix acidization and sets some requirements, including impact studies and increased bonding requirements that are unnecessary if the method is banned...There are several possible outcomes, but sadly the likely one is no ban on fracking again this year. If Gov. Ron DeSantis really wants to be the environmental governor, he should step up and urge the leaders of his party to pass the true fracking ban…” Paula Dockery writes Guest Column for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read ‘Mr. Key West’ quietly donated his private island to a nature refuge for research - “ The southernmost private island in the United States, owned since the 1970s by the late Key West philanthropist and visionary David Wolkowsky, will be preserved as part of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge under an agreement struck after decades of negotiations. Wolkowsky, who died in September at 99, agreed last summer to donate the tiny gem of an island through a complicated two-part transaction that gave it initially to The Nature Conservancy and then to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The two groups will co-manage the island for marine and coastal research and education, while preserving its natural resources, including critical habitat for sea turtles, birds, butterflies and fish. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working to rename the island, from Ballast Key to “David Wolkowsky Key,” a five-year process. It was much sought-after because it was the last remaining privately held island in the wildlife refuge, the “final piece” of the 375-square-mile expanse of crystalline blue waters that includes the Marquesas and 13 other keys. The refuge was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt as a preserve and breeding ground for nesting wading birds and other wildlife…” Amy Driscoll reports for the Miami Herald.

Read From ruined bridges to dirty air, EPA scientists price out the cost of climate change- “By the end of the century, the manifold consequences of unchecked climate change will cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars per year, according to a new study by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency...Experts called the report the most comprehensive analysis yet of the staggering diversity of societal impacts that climate change will have on the American economy. What sets the new study apart, she said, is its astonishing level of detail. It explores how 22 different impacts of climate change — from rising sea levels to longer pollen seasons to the economic prospects of ski resorts — will play out across the nation...Some of the results came out in the Fourth National Climate Assessment, released last year. Among them were the sobering projections that damage to coastal property, primarily on the Gulf and East coasts, will reach $120 billion per year by 2090; lost labor productivity due to hotter temperatures, particularly in the South and Midwest, will cost $155 billion per year; and deaths from extreme heat waves and cold snaps will equal $140 billion per year…” Julia Rosen reports for the Los Angeles Times.

From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Sustainability Administrator - City of Fort Lauderdale

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Education Specialist - Nature’s Academy

Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

Upcoming Environmental Events:

April 12-13 - 10th Annual Florida Wildflower Symposium - (Gainesville) - The Florida Wildflower Foundation’s signature annual event, focusing exclusively on the state’s native wildflowers and their ecosystems. The purpose of the event is to immerse participants in an educational experience that exposes them to the reality of Florida’s environmental challenges while giving them the tools to affect change. The symposium will offer field trips to local natural areas, hands-on workshops, and educational presentations by experts on planting and growing native wildflowers, creating habitat for pollinators, and much more. Straughn UF/IFAS Extension Professional Development Center 2142 Shealy Dr, Gainesville, FL 32608. For more information and registration, visit the website here.

April 13 - 11:00AM-3:00PM - Earth Day Celebration - (Fort Walton Beach) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc. for an Earth Day Celebration at Liza Jackson Park, 338 Miracle Strip Parkway SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548. The theme for Earth Day 2019 is  "to protect our species”. We will have vendors that will support the theme, but others will include recycling, hybrid vehicles, solar energy, water education, plastic pollution, and more! This year Earth Day FWB is partnering with Drive Electric Earth Day website. Interested in being a vendor? Click here. Interested in being a sponsor? Click here. Stay up to date on the event’s activities at the Facebook event site here,   and website here.

April 13 - 9:30 AM-4:00 PM - Recognizing the Rights of Nature in Florida Law - (Apopka) - Speak Up Wekiva has organized a workshop featuring the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to discuss a campaign to bring Rights of Nature to Florida’s charter counties. This particular meeting is for community organizers who have an understanding about the Rights of Nature movement and are ready to take action in Florida.  Space is limited-please email ChuckforFlorida@gmail.com to RSVP and ask for more information.

April 20 - 6:30 PM - Film screening of “Woman at War” - (Pensacola)- Join Earth Ethics, Inc, in partnership with Pensacola Cinema Art, for a viewing of “Woman at War”. This is a foreign Indie film based in Iceland that conveys a global message relatable to all Earth Warriors. “Woman at War is confronting some of the heaviest dilemmas of our time (e.g. how do we bring new life into a broken world).” Although fantastical, the climate change theme and how we deal with these issues is prominently displayed throughout the film.Join us at Studer Community Institute, 220 W. Garden Street (former Sun Trust building), Pensacola, FL. You must RSVP through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/woman-at-war-movie-viewing-tickets-58810076522 in order to reserve your seating. Seating is limited to 30 spots. Tickets, to paid at the door, are $7 and includes free popcorn, wine or water, and light refreshments. There is free off-street parking for attendees. Contact Mary at earthethicsaction@gmail.com for more information.

April 27 - 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM - The Water Festival - (Deland) - The Volusia Water Alliance invites one and all to a street party celebrating water with a day of fun activities and performances in historic downtown DeLand. The festival will feature live mermaids, sidewalk chalk artists, dance and musical performances, a Blessing of the Waters (a Native American tradition), children’s games and activities, a Dog Zone, educational displays, and vendor booths. Visit VolusiaWater.org for more information. Admission is FREE. A few sponsorships and vendor spaces are still available. (West Indiana Avenue, DeLand, FL 32720) 

April 27 - 12:00pm - The League of Women Voters Broward County Annual Luncheon featuring former Governor Bob Graham - (Margate) - Members and non-members alike are invited to join the Broward County chapter of the League of Women Voters on Saturday, April 27 at the Carolina Golf Club (3011 Rock Island Road, Margate, FL). Keynote speaker Bob Graham, former Florida Governor and US Senator, founder of the Save the Everglades movement, and a beloved figure in Florida politics, will speak about how and why we should participate in our democracy today. Reserve your tickets by April 19 by visiting this link: Order tickets here. Send questions or special needs to info@lwvbroward.org.

May 16-19 - 39th Annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference - (Crystal River)- Our theme this year "Transitions" is pertinent to the Nature Coast region of Florida in a number of ways - sea level rise, migrations of ecosystems due to climate change, and the transition zone between north and south Florida.  You will be delighted by mind-expanding experiences, tempted by sumptuous meals (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free) and amazed by the networking and social opportunities. As always, we will offer an abundance of presentations and workshops. 9301 West Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 . Click here for attendee and vendor registration.

June 10-14, June 24-28, 2019 - Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest - (Gainesville) - Is your 6th-9th grade child looking for fun adventure this summer?  Consider Camp Kids in the Woods! Campers will conduct various field explorations led by local scientists from forestry, wildlife, and water resources. Highlights include: fishing, handling wildlife, exploring local ecosystems, a trip to a local spring, camping out one night at the Austin Cary Forest, building wildlife nesting boxes, and participating in games and scavenger hunts. After a week of fun in the forest, campers gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of their natural world and what is required to be a good steward of the environment. Camp Kids in the Woods summer program is a collaborative effort between the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. Session 1: June 10-14, 2019; Session 2: June 24-28, 2019. For more information and to register visit: www.campkidsinthewoods.org , or contact the Camp Director, Molly Disabb at kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

Do you know of an upcoming environmental event or meeting you would like to include in the FCC News Brief? Send us a quick e-mail and we will include it for you.


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