FCC News Brief - February 1, 2019

Read Water spending is only part of solution - “Florida’s new governor is proposing big spending on water projects, but he also needs to prevent the pollution that is driving up those costs. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he will ask the Legislature to spend $625 million this year on water projects. The proposal is part of his plan to spend $2.5 billion on such projects over the next four years, a $1 billion increase from the past four years. His early focus on protecting the environment is a welcome change from his predecessor, Rick Scott, who slashed environmental and growth management regulations. But his plan disproportionately spends on the Everglades and South Florida water bodies, while neglecting to similarly address the decline of North Florida’s natural springs. The proposal seeks $360 million for Everglades restoration while dedicating $50 million to restoring springs, with the latter being the same as the current level of state spending. As Sierra Club Florida put it, springshed protection is also drinking water protection and deserves a higher level of attention. The group rightly calls for equal spending on land conservation between South and North Florida. Voters approved a state constitutional amendment in 2014 to dedicate funding to land conservation, but the Legislature has diverted much of the money to other costs. DeSantis should push lawmakers to honor the will of the voters and spend the money on its intended purpose. Preventing pollution at its source is a more effective — and less costly — approach than spending later to clean up springs and other water bodies. The state would cut the cost of expensive, taxpayer-funded water projects if it better regulated nitrate pollution and stopped permitting excessive groundwater pumping…” From the Gainesville Sun Editorial Board.

Read DeSantis wants to lower Lake O to deal with toxic algae. Is that a good thing? - “Should Lake Okeechobee, a lake half the size of Rhode Island and usually at the center of South Florida’s water woes, be kept lower? That’s the question that rebounded Wednesday, a day after the state’s new governor said he’d asked President Donald Trump in a Jan. 4 letter to order the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, already in the midst of a major overhaul of the lake’s operations, to keep the water level lower. Gov. Ron DeSantis said levels should be reduced to 10.5 feet, about two feet lower than a management plan put in place in 2008 after Hurricane Katrina forced engineers to revisit aging flood control structures across the country. Lowering the lake could help reduce rainy season discharges that often bomb the coasts with too much fresh water or leave the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers slimed with algae blooms from the polluted water. But environmentalists have often warned that lowering the lake could damage its fringes, prime hunting grounds for bass fisherman and home to protected snail kites. Farmers and utilities also worry that lower winter levels could hurt water supplies. As Everglades restoration projects are completed, a lower lake might also impede efforts to send more water south to wilting marshes., according to a 2018 University of Florida report that looked at differing lake levels.For those reasons, the Corps planned a more measured series of meetings around South Florida to gather input as they revise lake operations. The agency moved up the planning work so the new schedule could be in place by 2022 when it expects to complete $1.7 billion in repair work to the Herbert Hoover dike, a 143-mile mostly dirt dike built just before, during and after World War II that cut off water to Everglades marshes…” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Atlantic Beach takes steps to begin addressing sea level rise - “The sea level along the coast of Florida has risen about six inches in 30 years with scientific projections forecasting another eight inches of sea level rise in the next 20 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” Mayor Ellen Glasser told the Atlantic Beach City Commission Monday, reading from Resolution No. 19-02 which was filed on her behalf...While the resolution serves to acknowledge the significance of sea level rise and flooding, as well as the need for the research and funding of resiliency efforts, Glasser admitted it’s just a first step. “This is going to be symbolic,” she said. “It's something we can talk about in our efforts to play a leadership role with the environment in our community.” The resolution passed with unanimous support. Also during Monday’s meeting, the City Commission unanimously authorized Mayor Glasser to sign Agreement R1821, a grant agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP selected the City of Atlantic Beach to take part in the Florida Resilient Coastlines Program, through which the state aims to help coastal communities deal with the effects of flooding, erosion and habitat shifts. The $40,000 grant awarded to Atlantic Beach through the program will allow the city to hire a consultant to analyze threats posed by sea level rise and to propose possible resiliency measures…” Brendan Rivers reports for WJCT.

Read Historic American Beach looks to a future that would leave septic tanks in the past - “The Nassau Board of County Commissioners has made historic American Beach’s conversion from septic tanks to general sewer a priority and they’re lobbying the state government for financial aid. “I was retained by the Board of County Commissioners to assist with working with our legislative delegation and with our legislature, with the governor’s office and the Department of Environmental Protection to see what we could do to help locate some opportunities to help finance and to help pay for the septic tank to sewer conversion project at American Beach,” said Mark Anderson, Lobbyist for the Nassau County Board of Commissioners...Now American Beach is trying to preserve its environmental assets - as are communities across Florida - by getting off of septic and onto general sewage...Researchers say septic tanks are a major factor behind recent spikes in harmful algal blooms, but they cause other problems as well. During Hurricane Irma, cities were flooded with raw sewage as septic systems were inundated with water. Additionally, septic systems leak nitrogen into ground waters and the nitrogen enrichment of the planet is considered a strong contributor to global warming. There are more than 2.6 million septic tanks in Florida. Anderson said the conversion project in American Beach would target about 300 units, and that alone could cost more than $7 million. “It’s expensive no matter how you square it,” he said. “Everywhere in the state, this is a big, big cost driver and local governments just can’t do it themselves. That’s why the legislature is setting up a means of helping local governments pay for this.” Brendan Rivers reports for WJCT.

Read SFWMD: Brandon Tucker, Jaime Weisinger, Federico Fernandez resign as DeSantis asked- “The entire South Florida Water Management District board will be newly appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis by March, after three resignations late Tuesday and Wednesday. The most recent resignation, effective Feb. 15, came from Brandon Tucker of Palm City, who in a letter to former Gov. Rick Scott said he was at peace with his decision.  "It is my sincere prayer and hope that the man or woman chosen to replace me will remove all preconceived notions they may have and start day one with an open mind, not swayed by any special interest, sincerely seeking the truth that comes from sound science and common sense," Tucker wrote. Hours before that, Jaime Weisinger of Collier County resigned effective immediately. In his letter to DeSantis, he said he respects the governor's decision to ask for a new board and is excited about his "resolute commitment" to environmental issues...Two board members, James Moran, who represents Palm Beach County, and Sam Accursio, who represents Miami-Dade County, still had refused to resign as of Tuesday, but both will be off the board when their terms end in March. The resignations by Tucker, Weisinger and Fernandez came after DeSantis said Tuesday "time is going to run out" before he takes further action against them. He stopped short of saying he'll suspend them, but that would be the next step in a protracted process that ultimately requires the Florida Senate to remove them....” Ali Schmitz reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Red tide still clinging to northern Lee, Charlotte counties as end of season approaches - “It just won't go away.  A red tide that's been plaguing the Southwest Florida coast for more than a year still has a grip on the Gulf of Mexico.  "The bloom is not as bad as it was, that’s for sure," said Tracy Fanara, a red tide expert at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota. "But it's still not gone. We’re still getting reports of breathing irritation (in the Sarasota area) and I see a little bit in northern Lee and Charlotte County." But measurements as high as 77 million cells per liter were recorded earlier this month in Collier about 20 miles west of Keewaydin Island, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission records.  Fish kills and breathing irritation in humans and marine mammals can start once levels reach 10,000 cells per liter, according to FWC. This outbreak was first documented by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in October 2017 and is the longest in more than a decade. The bloom has varied in intensity, with the worst of the toxic conditions hitting this past summer. Hundreds of sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and even a whale shark have washed up on local beaches since June, and millions of pounds of dead wildlife have been collected from local beaches.” Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Joshua Trees destroyed in National Park shutdown may take centuries to regrow - “The partial government shutdown ended last week after 35 days, but conservationists have warned that its impact may be felt for hundreds of years in at least one part of the country: Joshua Tree National Park. The Southern California park, which is larger than Rhode Island and famed for its dramatic rock formations and the spiky-leafed Joshua trees from which it takes it name, had only a skeleton crew of workers during the shutdown. With most of its park rangers furloughed, vandals and inconsiderate guests ran amok. Gates and posts were toppled, new roads carved through the desert by unauthorized off-road drivers, and a small number of the park’s thousands of Joshua trees were outright destroyed, conservationists said. Pictures posted to social media showed trees that were chopped down or that appeared to have been driven over by cars. The sensitive ecosystem of desert and craggy rock formations that surrounds them was littered with garbage and other telltale signs of illegal camping…” Liam Stack reports for the New York Times

From Our Readers

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February 2 - 8:00 AM - 2nd Annual Conference: “Transforming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future” - (Vero Beach) - Join the Pelican Island Audubon for their 2nd Annual conference to learn how to enhance your yard with native plants and protect our waterways from lawn and roadway run-off. Conference will include a variety of expert speakers, nurseries with native plants for purchase, food vendors, and demonstrations of native plant landscaping. Visit the event website here for more information and a schedule of events. Registration $10 in advance, $15 at the door. (Indian River County Fairgrounds, 7955 58th Street, Vero Beach FL 32967)

February 4 - 6:00PM - Pensacola Confronts the Climate Crisis - (Pensacola) - Hotter temperatures, stronger storms and flooding, rising seas and more. Can Pensacola survive the crisis of climate change? Join 350 Pensacola as we welcome Elaine Sargent, chair of the City of Pensacola’s Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Task Force, as she leads us through recommendations for how Pensacola can confront the global climate crisis. 350 Pensacola board members will join Elaine to outline plans to push Pensacola to climate action in 2019. Please join us for an interactive presentation and discussion! The presentation is part of a monthly speaker series on climate change and related issues sponsored by 350 Pensacola. For more information: 350pensacola@gmail.com. Event held at the Pensacola Public Library, 239 N. Spring St., Pensacola.

February 5 - 6:00 PM - Blue Revolution: A Water Ethic for Florida and America - (Sebring) - Join water author Cynthia Barnett at Highlands Hammock State Park for her program Blue Revolution: A Water Ethic for Florida and America. For the first time since the vaunted environmental laws of the early 1970s, Florida's children are not inheriting water as clean and abundant as their parents enjoyed. Barnett, author of the water books Mirage, Blue Revolution and Rain, will talk about the need for a new water ethic: Coming together to use less, pollute less and live with water today in ways that don't jeopardize fresh, clean water for our children, ecosystems and businesses tomorrow. Sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council and Friends of Highlands Hammock State Park. Mingle and book sale at 6 p.m., the formal program will begin at 7 p.m.

February 11 - 6:00PM-7:30PM CST - “The Problem with Plastics” screening & discussion - (Pensacola) - Join Dr. Enid Sisskin Chair of the Natural Resource Committee for the League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area, as she discusses the “The Problem with Plastics”. The presentation is part of Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series on Monday, February 11th beginning at 6 p.m.at Ever’man Educational Center, 327 W Garden Street, Pensacola, FL. Stay up to date on the event or to RSVP at the Facebook event here. Or get your free event tickets from Eventbrite here. Light refreshments will be served.

February 13- 12:45PM-2:45PM - Villages Environmental Discussions Group meeting - (The Villages) -Villages Environmental Discussions Group (VEDG) will host its next meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 13, from 12:45 to 2:45 p.m., at the Belvedere Library, 325 Belvedere Blvd., The Villages, FL. Our guest speaker will be Lisa Sanderson, Sumter County UF/IFAS Residential Horticulture Extension Agent II and Master Gardener Coordinator. Lisa will discuss simple home vegetable gardens. She will also describe plants that can be used to attract pollinators. Beginning gardeners and Master Gardeners are welcome to this FREE program. Questions? Email:  raivedg@gmail.com

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 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) 

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