FCC News Brief - February 5, 2019

Read Open letter to Gov. DeSantis please for environment attention ‘west of Tallahassee’ - “Dear Governor DeSantis: Honestly, we didn't vote for you nor did many of our rapidly growing 400+ grass roots community advocates that make up and are Save Our Soundside, But everyone we know noticed and complemented your articulated environmental positions: Restore the Everglades, Stop Toxic Algae Discharges, Send Clean Water South, Protect our Beaches, Expand and Protect our Water Supply and Protect our State Lands, Parks, Springs, and Air…and specifically, your support for a fracking ban; blaming the source polluters for toxic pollutants damaging Florida’s waters, your push for fewer politically obligated and more science-driven state board members particularly at Florida’s Water Management Districts and Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection and your support for Amendment 1, the 2014 state voter-approved ballot initiative that provides $20 billion or more for water and land conservation. We agree with you on these stated environmental matters with hesitant caution. Why our hesitant caution? First, we have a terrible “Rick Scott Hangover” distilled from eight years of dictatorial environmental policy. Policies for the paying developers by the paying developers and not in the best interests of Florida’s people, visitors, small businesses, long-term economic vitality, and environment...The threat to water quality is neither regional nor political. Tuesday’s toxic algae bloom off Sanibel may be Friday’s toxic algae bloom off Pensacola Beach…time, tides, and currents being what they are.  A Florida Panhandle’s developers’ eradication of wetlands and resultant stormwater run-off pollution is Florida’s pollution…” Save our Soundside writes Guest Column for the Pensacola News Journal.

Read Water quality practices making progress, but there’s a long road ahead - “When viewed in the proper context, Florida’s Agricultural Best Management Practices are producing tangible water quality results. That’s according to Rich Budell, who delivered a presentation to the Senate Agriculture Committee Monday afternoon. The longtime Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employee who now runs Budell Water Group told the panel that, in aggregate, Florida’s agriculture industry is ahead of schedule in reducing the amount of nutrients it pumps into Florida’s water supply. “They’re removing, on average, 54 percent of the load. They’re only required to remove 25 percent,” he said. The “in aggregate” caveat is important, however, as differing planting and fertilizing dates as well as weather can throw a good deal of variability into measurements...Budell’s presentation followed another by Rod Clouser, the associate chair of the University of Florida’s Food and Resource Economics Department. Research in recent years has pinned the blame for blooms on aging septic tanks and inadequate sewer infrastructure for properties near waterways flowing toward Lake Okeechobee. They are certainly a factor, Clouser said, but there are many others…” Drew Wilson reports for Florida Politics.  

Read Sludge Bill- “Amid rising concerns about pollution in the headwaters of the St. Johns River, a Treasure Coast lawmaker has filed a bill that could prohibit ranch owners in Indian River, Osceola and Brevard counties from using treated human wastewater as a cheap source of fertilizer.  The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, a Republican attorney from Vero Beach, would prohibit state regulators from issuing permits to spread Class B biosolids – the most lightly treated form of wastewater, commonly referred to as sludge – in the upper basin of the St. Johns River unless they can prove that doing so would not add to nutrient loadings in the watershed.  The upper basin of the St. Johns – which flows northward for more than 300 miles, emptying into the ocean at Jacksonville – has become the favored dumping ground for biosolids. Cities and counties around the state pay private haulers to take the materials, who in turn obtain permits from the state to spread it as a fertilizer on ranches. But biosolids contain large amounts of phosphorous, which, if washed into rivers and lakes, feeds the growth of algae.  About a decade ago, after biosolids were identified as a culprit in nutrient pollution in Lake Okeechobee, the Florida Legislature banned the spread of biosolids in that watershed. The problem moved north to Indian River, Osceola and Brevard counties – which comprise the St. Johns’ upper basin – because the region is closest to the major population centers in south Florida and has ample pastureland, the only kind of farming for which the biosolids can be used as fertilizer…” Jason Garcia reports for Florida Trend.

Read Is Tampa sewage polluting the bay? No, says city. Yes, says environmental group - “An environmental group is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step in to correct what it says is the state’s failure to fix repeated violations at Tampa’s wastewater system. Tampa officials are vigorously contesting the group’s findings, saying it took data out of context and misrepresented the city’s wastewater spills. They also question the timing of the complaint, saying it might be aimed at sabotaging the city’s drive to persuade Tampa Bay Water to allow the city to convert highly-treated wastewater to drinking water. The state chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which made the complaint, is requesting that Mary Walker, the EPA’s regional administrator, take over the city’s permit and begin civil enforcement proceedings. The group says the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has failed to adequately police the city “egregious records of environmental noncompliance…” Charlie Frago reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Owner plans to sell land for conservation following St. Augustine Community Outcry - “The long and winding saga of Fish Island’s fate may have entered its final chapter Monday night. Our WUSF news partner reports St. Augustine City Manager John Regan waited until the end of the City Commission meeting last week to make one final announcement. For some in attendance, it was the most important. A Fish Island property owner told Regan they intended to sell the 72 acres of land to the North Florida Land Trust for conservation, he said. The owner’s representatives gave Regan permission to make the public announcement at the meeting. Fish Island is located off State Road 312 on Anastasia Island, east of St. Augustine. This announcement comes months after local activism, outreach and an intense social media campaign raised the debate about conserving Fish Island for ecological and historical purposes. D.R. Horton, the largest homebuilder in America, in July 2018 announced plans to develop the peninsula into single-family housing units…” Max Chesnes reports for WUSF.

Read Banning the ban? New bills aim to prevent cities from outlawing plastic straws - “One thing is clear: the Florida Legislature wants to address plastic straws. But that's where the clarity ends. Several bills floating around in the weeks before the 2019 legislative session take different tacks: One seeks to take the baton from cities like St. Petersburg and ban plastic straws and carryout bags altogether at the state level. Two others hope to ban bans — that is, prevent cities from taking up measures to regulate plastic straws. The tug-of-war has cities like St. Petersburg caught in the middle. Last year the City Council voted to move toward a single-use plastic straw ban, becoming one of the first cities in Florida to do it and taking a posture that is becoming more popular across the country. Any state law on straws could render the city's ordinance moot…” Josh Solomon reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read In Florida’s suburbs, the coyote next door is here to stay - “It was too big to be a fox and too agile to be a dog. It definitely didn’t belong in the pasture, where Anna Angel had become well acquainted with the herd of grazing cows and their tottering offspring while waiting for the traffic light to change at Brooker and S. Valrico roads. So when Angel spotted the strange grey animal just after 7:30 a.m. on a Monday, and then another and another, Angel parked her car along the pasture’s rusty wire fence for a closer look. Coyotes. At least three and possibly more waiting in the nearby wood, creeping toward the unsuspecting cattle...Angel was one of about 40 residents who came on a Wednesday night to the Bloomingdale Public Library to get more information from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about why coyotes would want to move to their sprawling suburb — and what to do to keep them out...In 2018, the commission’s Wildlife Assistance Program received about 1,000 calls statewide. That’s about 200 more calls than in 2017 and about 300 more than in 2015 and 2016 officials said. The highest volume of calls has come from Pinellas County for several years, Scotten said, though Hillsborough and Pasco counties aren’t far behind…” Anastasia Dawson reports for the Tampa Bay Times.


From Our Readers

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

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) 

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

Help Save Our Panthers

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

Stop Development on Fish Island along the Matanzas River * Learn more about the plight of Fish Island in this WUFT News & UF College of Journalism and Communication publication.

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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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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