FCC News Brief - February 19, 2019

Read ‘It’s just not enough’: Residents, SRWMD board express concerns with ongoing sewage spills - “Moving to the area three years ago, Jim McBrayer had his well near the Suwannee River in Hamilton County tested. It came back positive for E coli, leading McBrayer to have a water infiltration system installed. That system didn’t last either, failing following a wastewater spill from the City of Valdosta just a week later. After replacing it with another system, McBrayer wasn’t in the mood to hear a Suwannee River Water Management District board member ask a Valdosta representative at a Jan. 12 board meeting just how bad the spills are...Still, while appreciative of the efforts Valdosta is putting into addressing the issues — Muse said the city has spent $170 million on its wastewater system the past 15 years — board member Virginia Sanchez expressed concern with those long-term fixes. She noted the city’s current pace of fixing the system’s piping would take nearly 300 years to complete as well as another 180-plus years to complete the manhole cover repairs. “It’s just not enough,” Sanchez said of those efforts, adding the city has had approximately 100 spills the past three years according to Muse. “To be quite frank, if you were a private company, you would be shut down. With this type of track record, you would be shut down and out of business because you couldn’t afford the fines and the penalties that the state would put on you...John Quarterman, the Suwannee Riverkeeper and President of the WWALS Watershed Coalition, said while other cities do have spills, Valdosta had more spill locations in December than the rest of the state of Georgia combined, according to data from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. “Valdosta, being the largest city in the entire Suwannee River basin by far, it also has the largest responsibility to fix its problems,” Quarterman said…” Jamie Wachter reports for the Suwannee Democrat.

Read Gopher tortoise preservation spurs profitable cottage industry - “...With development booming statewide and suitable habitat at a premium, finding a new residence for a single gopher tortoise can cost builders $750 to $1,250 in today’s market....The gopher tortoise became a threatened species in Florida in 2007. Before that, developers could legally entomb them in their burrows, leaving them to starve to death over as much as a month’s time or suffocate in the dark...It’s a business spawned by enhanced protections enacted in 2008 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The rules include strict oversight of moving the long-lived reptiles from construction projects where once they could be buried alive for a fee. “It’s definitely profitable if you know what you are doing,” said Deborah Burr, FWC’s gopher tortoise program coordinator. “The private business side just grew organically and there are landowners who are very happy with having another revenue stream.” In 2005, the Walmart in Lake Park paid $11,409 for a permit that allowed it to bury five tortoises alive. FWC records show as many as 105,000 so-called “incidental take permits” were granted statewide since the mid-1990s with fees totaling an estimated $82 million. Money collected was used to buy new gopher tortoise habitat, but Burr noted the records are incomplete and weren’t updated, meaning some of the permits may not have been used or fees collected...Avenir’s environmental consultant Ed Weinberg, president of Stuart-based EW Consultants, said the land is a little too wet for gopher tortoises but surveys are conducted regularly as development commences. “The program monetizes a protected species and that may seem a little questionable at first to the uninitiated,” Weinberg said. “But it’s achieving protections for the tortoise by creating a market for preservation, and when that happens, I think it’s pretty neat…” Kimberly Miller reports for the Palm Beach Post.

Read Was climate change a factor in Hurricane Michael’s strength? The answer is complicated - “In 2016 John Ackerman and other climate experts predicted warmer waters and storm surge from climate change would lead to stronger storms, setting off negative consequences for Bay County and other low-lying areas. Those predictions arguably came true in the worst way with Hurricane Michael and other devastating hurricanes like Harvey and Irma, Ackerman and other experts say. “Without a doubt I think it is,” said Ackerman, who lives in West Bay and teaches environmental policy at Ashford University, said when asked if climate change was a factor in Hurricane Michael. “While the classic statement is you cannot place the blame of climate change on one singular event, you can do studies that indicate how much of a difference increases in temperature made on that particular event. It’s been done with Harvey and Irma. The data will come out to show, more than likely, that the increased water temperatures in the northeastern part of the Gulf (of Mexico) had a huge effect on the intensification of the storm, the speed of the storm.” While some scientists are hesitant to say climate change directly cause individual hurricanes, others such as Michael Mann, a professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, agree with Ackerman that climate change played a role in Hurricane Michael. “I don’t think it’s purely a coincidence that Michael was the strongest U.S. landfalling hurricane on record so late in the year,” Mann wrote in an email. “The maximum potential intensity of a hurricane is a function of sea surface temperature. As the oceans warm, larger parts of the Gulf, Caribbean and Atlantic remain warmer later into the year. This is of course part of a larger trend toward more intense hurricanes, which is linked to human-caused climate change…” Collin Breaux reports for the Panama City News Herald.

Read Wanted? $76 million. Why? To fight Florida’s negative publicity about hurricanes, red tide - “Florida’s new tourism czar, former Sen. Dana Young, is pitching lawmakers to continue setting aside $76 million a year for Visit Florida and is promoting the agency’s ability to overcome negative publicity while drawing record numbers of visitors. Young, a Tampa Republican tapped by Gov. Ron DeSantis to run the public-private tourism agency, said this week that an expected eighth consecutive year of record tourism will be announced before the end of February, even with the problems of red tide outbreaks and Hurricane Michael in 2018. Constant news coverage of damage in the Panhandle from the October hurricane, including scenes of flattened beach communities, created the equivalent of $35 million in negative media, Young said. Stories about Florida’s waters being filled with red tide accounted for an additional $22 million in negative media…” Jim Turner and Dara Kam report for the News Service of Florida.

Read Green-lighting Everglades oil drilling a troubling sign - “The Sunshine State is blessed with one of the world’s most biodiverse and scenic natural wonders: the Florida Everglades, which spans more than 730 square miles in South Florida and draws nearly one million visitors each year. I join the generations of public servants who recognize the need to preserve this state treasure through increased funding for restoration projects, protections for wildlife such as wading birds and Florida panthers, as well as smart restrictions on development near sensitive Everglades habitats...With so much time and taxpayer dollars invested into saving the Everglades, it’s disappointing that our courts -- so-called “protectors” of the Everglades -- have seemingly turned a blind eye to one of the greatest threats it has experienced in our lifetime: oil and natural gas drilling. Recently, drilling on a site in the Everglades was given the go-ahead by a three-judge panel in the 1st District Court of Appeal. We need to call on Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature to step in and vehemently oppose this decision. Florida leaders on both sides of the aisle have strongly rejected offshore drilling, because we all recognize the risk it poses to our beaches and economy. Florida’s environment and our economy go hand-in-hand. Without a clean and healthy environment, Florida wouldn’t be a desirable place to live, work, retire and vacation. If our beaches are important enough to protect from drilling, why aren’t our Everglades?...” Melissa McKinlay writes Opinion for the Palm Beach Post.

Read Lee County is growing so fast, and we are losing the quality of life - “Rampant development is increasing traffic and impacting our schools.  Lee Health tries, but can’t seem to keep up with our growing population, resources for early childhood learning are limited, and there is minimal funding for mental health treatment.  Clean water appears to be a thing of the past. Increasingly, Lee County is becoming unlivable. So how do you define livability? According to AARP, “a livable community is one that is safe and secure, has affordable and appropriate housing and transportation options, and offers supportive community features and services.”   When you bike on our roads, do you feel safe? Can you walk to your local Publix without having to dodge cars? When you take your child to the school bus stop, are there sidewalks, lighting?...The fact is that Lee is growing so fast, we are losing the quality of life we have enjoyed and until we get the situation under control, it is not going to get any better.   This is not a partisan issue; it doesn’t matter one’s political party. We all seek a good and healthful way of life no matter how we vote. Nobody is calling for a halt to development, which is an important part of our economy.  But unfortunately, development is the tail wagging the dog and negatively impacting our quality of life in so many ways. For example, in Lee, we have a plan called Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource (DR/GR) which originally was aimed at controlling overdevelopment in southeast Lee County due to the potential for wetlands destruction and the demands on our water resources from increased housing density.  Time and again, the DR/GR plan is either simply ignored or cast aside by those charged with county zoning…” Charlotte Newton writes Opinion for the News-Press.

Read It’s official: Trump’s policies deter EPA staff from enforcing the law - “The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released an annual report Feb. 8 on its enforcement activities in fiscal 2018. After wading through a bushel full of cherry-picked case studies and a basket of bureaucratic happy talk, the report paints a dismal picture of decline in a crucially important EPA program. EPA’s data indicate that it initiated and concluded approximately 1,800 civil judicial enforcement cases in 2018 — fewer than half the number it handled in fiscal 2008, the last year of the George W. Bush administration. The agency required violators to invest $3.95 billion to control their excessive pollution last year, a far cry from the $21.3 billion in pollution control expenditures that resulted from EPA enforcement in 2011...While EPA enforcement is not completely moribund, it now appears to be limping along at far lower levels, and with less overall impact, than was true prior to the Trump administration. Given these ongoing failings, now is the time for Congress to conduct thorough and vigorous oversight of the agency’s steeply declining enforcement efforts…” Joel A. Mintz writes Opinion for The Hill.


From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Communications Coordinator - Florida Sea Grant

Pinellas County Sustainability & Resiliency Coordinator

Education Specialist - Nature’s Academy

Gulf Research Program’s Science Policy Fellowship

Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

Upcoming Environmental Events:

February 19 - 11:00AM- 12:00 PM - Sierra Club Florida Press Advisory: Stop Kanter Real Estate Exploratory Oil Drilling in the Everglades - (Fort Lauderdale) - Sierra Club Florida is holding a press conference where local elected leaders, Everglades restoration and clean energy advocates, and concerned citizens will express their fierce, collective opposition to the Kanter Real Estate oil drilling proposal and call on the Governor, the legislature, and the public to support the efforts to stop Kanter’s plan. The Broward League of Cities will be represented, as will organizations dedicated to the restoration of the Everglades and a 100% clean renewable energy future for Florida.  The public is invited to attend. For more information, visit Sierra Club’s website here.

February 22 - 6:30PM - 9:30PM - Lectures on the Lawn: The Florida Wildlife Corridor’s ‘The Forgotten Coast’ - (Odessa) - Pasco County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources is hosting part two of a cultural event in the Lectures on the Lawn series. Join us Friday, February 22, 2019, at the newly-developed Starkey Ranch District Park for a special screening of The Florida Wildlife Corridor’s “The Forgotten Coast.” The keynote presentation for this free event will feature Mallory Dimmitt, a seventh-generation Floridian and expedition team member, who is working to raise awareness for statewide conservation. “The Forgotten Coast” is a documentary film showcasing Florida’s wildlife corridor stretching from the Everglades to the northernmost part of the Florida Gulf Coast. The lawn-seating event also features live music, so bring your chairs, blankets and a picnic. For a printable flyer with complete details, including on-site food truck and local brewery offerings, click here: bit.ly/2Nb4PmC. Starkey Ranch District Park
11880 Lake Blanche Drive, Odessa, FL 33556

February 27 - 12:00PM-1:00PM - “What the Frack” - (Hialeah) - Communities across Florida have already made it clear they want fracking banned, passing 90 local measures against fracking in cities and counties that represent over 70% of the state population. It's time the Legislature stepped up and passed a statewide ban. Join Rethink Energy Florida, the Institute for Civic Engagement, YES! Club, Earth Ethics Institute and hear from knowledgeable panelists to discuss the impacts of FRACKING on our health, local economic development and communities. Miami Dade College -Hialeah Campus; 1780 West 49th Street, Hialeah FL 33012. For questions or more information contact Salome at 786-387-5111 or SaGarcia@fwwatch.org , stay updated on the event’s facebook page here.

March 2nd & 3rd - Florida SpringsFest 2019 - (Ocala) - Since 2000, Florida SpringsFest has been educating visitors about the importance of Florida’s springs. In 2019, Florida SpringsFest will be held on Saturday March 2 and Sunday March 3, at Silver Springs State Park, with the theme sustainability. This two-day event will feature everything that Silver Springs has to offer- Glass Bottom Boat tours, canoe, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard rentals, interactive education center, ranger programs, and trails through beautiful gardens, overlooking the crystal-clear spring. In addition, SpringsFest includes environmental speakers, educational displays, artists, crafters, demonstrators, food vendors, live entertainment, a student art show, a silent auction, and more! Join us for this two-day event to learn about Florida Springs! History, science, fun, music, food, and friends- all for $2/person park admission! Glass bottom boat rides are not included with your park entry, but will be HALF-OFF all weekend! Follow the Florida Springsfest Facebook for more information!

March 11 - 6:00 PM-7:30 PM - ‘Environmental Justice: What, Why, You’ discussion - (Pensacola) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc. in welcoming Wilma Subra, environmental scientist and advocate, guest speaker for Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series for March. Ms. Subra will discuss Environmental Justice issues in our community and across the state and nation. Subra served for seven years as vice-chair of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, for six years on the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and for five years on the National Advisory Committee of the US Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She appeared in the 2010 documentary Gasland. The event is being held at Ever’ man Educational Center, 327 W Garden Street, Pensacola, FL. RSVP on Facebook here, or get your free event ticket from EventBrite here. Light refreshments will be served.

March 13 - 10:00 AM-4:00 PM - Reclaiming Florida’s Future For All: Clean Water, Clean Air, Clean Energy - (Tallahassee) - Rethink Energy Florida is hosting an advocacy day at the Florida State Capitol (400 Monroe Street, Tallahassee FL 32301)! We are advocating to protect Florida’s clean water, support renewable energy, and BAN Fracking! We will be talking with our legislators about these critical issues. This event is co-sponsored by Floridians Against Fracking, Sierra Club Florida, Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida, Environment Florida, ReThink Energy Action Fund, Food and Water Watch Florida, Center for Biological Diversity, Ignite Change, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. RSVP here or check out the Facebook event for more information.

March 13 - 7:30AM-6:00PM - Ride the Bus for Clean Water! - (Jacksonville-Tallahassee) - St. Johns Riverkeeper and fellow river advocates are joining partners on March 13th for Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All Advocacy Day at the Statehouse in Tallahassee. During our bus ride from Jacksonville, St. Johns Riverkeeper staff will provide training and talking points to help bus riders become effective advocates. At the Capitol, you will have the opportunity to meet your state legislators and ask them to protect all of St. Johns River’s waterways, including its springs and tributaries. Bring family and friends with you to support water conservation efforts. 2019 is off to a clean start for our state’s waters, but we need to ensure the St. Johns River is not forgotten! Bus Meeting Location: Lowe’s, 5155 Lenox Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32205. For more information and to register (FREE), visit the website here.

Register by Friday, March 8, 2019. Registration is FREE but seating is limited.

March 27 - 12:00 PM -1:30 PM - Free 2019 Florida Legislative Update Webinar - This free webinar is scheduled for a little more than three weeks into the 2019 Florida Legislative Session. The actions taken during the session likely will have significant public policy impacts for planning, conservation, transportation, community design and other issues of concern to many Floridians with myriad impacts for concerned citizens, professionals, local elected officials and others. 1000 Friends President Paul Owens, Policy and Planning Director Thomas Hawkins, and Board Member Emeritus and Past Chairman Lester Abberger will discuss key growth management, design, conservation and related bills including budget recommendations that are being considered during the 2019 Florida Legislative Session and other legislation that may surface as the session progresses. This event has been approved for 1.5 AICP CM LEGAL CREDITS for planners (#9162194). 1000 Friends has applied for professional certification credits for Certified Floodplain Managers, Florida attorneys, Florida Environmental Health Professionals, and Florida DBPR Landscape Architecture but cannot guarantee credits will be approved. Register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar/.

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) 

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.

Petitions

Save the Heritage Trees at Martin Luther King Jr. Park - Winter Park

No Fracked Gas in Tampa Bay

Help Save Our Panthers

End collection & removal of tropical marine life from Phil Foster Park

Thinking of going electric? Nextcar Pledge

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.

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