FCC News Brief - April 23, 2019

Quote of the Day: “We should preserve every scrap of biodiversity as priceless while we learn to use it and come to understand what it means to humanity.” E. O. Wilson

Read Florida environmental groups battle highway expansion bill - “Calling it the most environmentally damaging bill to advance in the Florida Legislature in 20 years, environmental advocates used Earth Day to draw attention to toll road legislation that critics contend would spark massive suburban sprawl. The highway expansion is being pushed by Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, as a way to alleviate congestion on existing roads and bring economic development to rural areas. It is poised for a final vote in both the House and Senate and seems likely to pass...For critics, the plan represents an outdated way of thinking about transportation and development, and one that would have devastating environmental consequences for the state. “Do not pollute and destroy the natural areas and the rural areas that are remaining in the rest of the state,” Frank Jackalone, the director of the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club, said during a news conference Monday at the group’s office in St. Petersburg...“The corridors designated for each roadway put a bull’s eye on some of the last, best natural, conservation and agricultural land in Florida,” said 1000 Friends of Florida President Paul Owens. It’s “ironic” that lawmakers are advancing the roadway plan at the same time they are preparing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on environmental remediation efforts aimed at cleaning up waterways fouled by algae blooms, Owens added, saying the roadways “raise the likelihood of huge restoration costs in the future.” That’s because lawn fertilizers, leaky septic tanks, broken sewer pipes and other pollution sources are byproducts of development, and the toll roads – which also would bring sewer and broadband Internet infrastructure to rural parts of the state - are partially aimed at spurring more development…” Zac Anderson reports for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Environment will suffer with new highways - “The Florida Legislature is looking to build new toll roads that would carve three huge corridors through Florida’s remaining largely undeveloped areas. “Southwest-Central Florida Connector” extending from Collier County to Polk County; a previous version of this route was called the Heartland Parkway “Suncoast Connector” extending from Citrus County to Jefferson County “Northern Turnpike Connector” extending from the northern terminus of the Florida Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway Building these roads will be massively expensive! The funding would grow from $45 million next fiscal year to $90 million in the 2020-2021 fiscal year and keep climbing. And that’s just for planning. Think of how many dollars that will take away from education, health care, state parks and infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater and maintenance of existing roads and bridges. These ill-conceived projects will impact remaining wildlife corridors, wetlands and aquifer recharge areas even though they would not serve an identified transportation purpose…” Marian Ryan writes Opinion for The Ledger.

Read Failing septic tanks are damaging Florida’s environment and will cost billions of dollars to replace - “Florida has roughly 2.6 million septic tanks and they are a growing threat to the state’s environment. People don’t see the hazard, “because it is underground, it is out of sight, out of mind,” said Dr. Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University, Lapointe launched his first septic-tank study in the mid-1980s in the Florida Keys. More and more nutrients were seeping into the water and killing the coral reefs. Sewage was a major contributor. The growing levels of nitrogen and phosphorus fed algae that suffocated the coral, consuming oxygen and causing a “dead zone.” The state ordered central sewage collection and treatment in the Keys. Yet, here we are more than 20 years later still addressing the problem except it’s spread to many other parts of the state. Septic tanks have become increasingly harmful partly because of sea-level rise and increased rainfall…” Benita Goldstein writes for “The Invading Sea” collaboration between the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Miami Herald, Palm Beach Post and WLRN Public Media

Read 1st algae blooms of season reported in St. Johns River- “St. Johns Riverkeeper is sharing reports of significant algal blooms in the lower basin of the river, including the areas of East Palatka, Welaka and Satsuma. Minor algae blooms have also been reported in Jacksonville, along the Riverwalk and in the Arlington River. The Riverkeeper's concern is the blooms potentially get much worse as temperatures heat up. "This is also the time of year when homeowners are fertilizing their yards, which leads to more nutrient loading in our waterways," Riverkeeper spokesman Jimmy Orth wrote in a release. "Nitrogen and phosphorous are what fuel the algal growth that leads to the blooms." The Riverkeeper said it would notify the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Monday and urge it to take more samples and test for toxins and potential health risks…” Steve Patrick reports for News4Jax.

Read Florida lawmakers offer bill to ban drilling off state’s coast - “A bipartisan group of Florida legislators introduced a bill Monday that would ban offshore drilling along Florida’s coast. Spearheaded by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the legislation comes ahead of a new five-year plan from the Trump administration that is expected to expand offshore drilling along the Atlantic Coast. Oil and gas industry sources have said those plans include Florida, despite a much publicized exception for the Sunshine State from former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “The Sunshine State’s coasts provide abundant marine life habitat and a destination for beach-lovers worldwide. They are an irreplaceable treasure and ecological necessity – risking our coasts for dangerous oil and gas drilling is unacceptable,” Wasserman Schultz said in a release.  Offshore drilling is deeply unpopular among Florida politicians of both parties, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who often aligns himself with President Trump, and Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) have agreed to co-sponsor the bill…” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.

Read Earth Day is really about education- “...The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act came within a few years of the first Earth Day. This was also around the time the Florida Legislature approved the first real laws regulating water pollution and wetlands destruction and setting up the system of water management districts with the intent of better managing and protecting the state’s and the public’s natural resources. None of this came without strong debate, a debate that continues today as politicians continue to work to try to dismantle the legacy of Earth Day under the guise of regulatory reform and the claim that the regulations are unnecessary because the market will take care of the problem. I recall listening to a talk by a conservative a few years ago who discussed one of the seminal events that led to tougher regulations, which was the fire on the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. He correctly pointed that the often published news photo depicting the fire that drew national attention was actually a picture of an earlier fire on the river. The latter fire that captured the headlines didn’t draw local press coverage. He went on to argue that the free market would have taken care of the pollution problem eventually out of self-interest. He didn’t say how long that would have taken. My thought afterward was that there is something wrong with our environmental consciousness when the surface of a river catching fire because of unregulated pollution is treated as business as usual…In Tallahassee legislators are debating the question of whether they should try to regulate surface water discharges that might aggravate red tide outbreaks when they reach near shore or cause massive algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee that float into coastal areas... Meanwhile legislators are pushing for a new system of toll roads that threatens to spread urban air and water pollution to rural areas, create barriers to endangered species such as the Florida panther and make fire management more difficult for a number of endangered plant species. And while they’re pushing for more funding for pet road projects, they still refuse to spend the money approved by voters to buy more conservation land, some of which lies in the path of these highway projects...” Tom Palmer writes for The Ledger.

Read Brian Mast blasts Army Corps’s Lake O discharge policy - “Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast blasted the Army Corps of Engineers policy governing discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee as “a total and absolute disaster” and called on the corps to strongly take into account the impacts on the coasts as it develops its new policy. Mast, of Palm City, submitted comments as the corps goes through the process of replacing its Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule. That LORS policy governs when, why and how much water is discharged from the lake into rivers to make its way to the east and west coasts. The corps is formulating the new policy, dubbed the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, and accepting public comment, because of a section Mast got included last year in Water Resources and Development Act, Senate Bill 3021.“LORS has been a total and absolute disaster. Under the false pretense of ‘shared adversity,’ the entire system was designed to benefit certain water users at the severe detriment of the east and west coasts of Florida,” Mast wrote in the comments submitted to Ann Hodgson at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District. Mast was referring to the algae blooms that ravaged both coasts in each of the past two years, fed in large part by the nutrient-rich waters  diverted from the lake, through the rivers, to the coasts, leading to massive algae growth, marine animal die-offs, public health crises, and hard hits to the tourism and fishing economies…” Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics.

Read How climate change could trigger the next financial crisis- “It’s only a matter of time before the Federal Reserve hires a chief climatologist. After all, despite Wall Street humor about weather being a poor excuse for weak economic data, the pace of climate change is now clearly rapid enough to begin affecting economic forecasts. How long until forecasting gross domestic product depends crucially, fundamentally, on expected weather patterns? Officials are already thinking about these issues. Several government and private institutions have tried to model the effects of climate change on economic growth. “Many central banks already include climate change in their assessments of future economic and financial risks when setting monetary and financial supervisory policy,” writes Glenn Rudebusch, senior policy adviser and executive vice president at the San Francisco Fed. The Bank of England published an open letter last week on climate-related financial risks considered by the Network for Greening of the Financial System, formed in 2017 and consisting of 34 central banks and supervisors from around the world, including “half of global greenhouse-gas emissions and the supervision of two-thirds of the global systemically important banks and insurers.” “As long as temperatures and sea levels continue to rise and with them climate-related financial risks, central banks, supervisors and financial institutions will continue to raise the bar to address these climate-related risks and to ‘green’ the financial system,” the letter says…” Pedro Nicolaci da Costa writes for MarketWatch.

From Our Readers

The information in this section is forwarded to you at the request of some of our readers. Inclusion in this section does not necessarily constitute endorsement by the FCC.

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 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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