FCC News Brief - January 18, 2019

Read FAU researcher to Senators: Address septic systems over Everglades reservoir - “Should addressing Florida's septic systems take precedence in addressing water quality issues? A presentation made to the Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee told lawmakers "yes." Brian Lapointe, a researcher from Florida Atlantic University presented for nearly an hour to the committee Wednesday, explaining how septic systems provide primary treatment and are not designed to remove nutrients, bacteria, viruses or pharmaceuticals. After a long presentation of historical data and a video funded by the Florida Chamber (which initially opposed the Everglades reservoir), Lapointe made the point that a group within the Department of Environmental Protection needs to build a plan to combat septic systems from dumping huge nutrient loads into the waterways. Lapointe said the Everglades reservoir is "a distraction"  from the real problem of septic tanks, and added that curtailing toxic blue-green algae blooms in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers by sending Lake Okeechobee water south is a bad decision...Julie Wraithmell, the executive director of Audubon Florida, called Lapointe's presentation "completely disingenuous." She pointed out how his charts that suggest water flows have increased to the Everglades over time start in the 1940s, which is after the Everglades were drained. She also said the presentation didn't show how little water the Everglades is getting in dry season flows, which is when the most damage occurs. Wraithmell also added that she was "flummoxed" by the idea of blaming septic systems for the majority of nutrient dumps. "There is no smoking gun for our water quality issues and no silver bullet," she said. "It's unfortunate because while it's part of the science, it's not all of the science, and for decision-makers to make good decisions, they need all the information…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read When it comes to saving Florida’s environment, DeSantis gets it- so far  - “Gov. Ron DeSantis got lots of attention when he focused on the environment for a handful of paragraphs during his inauguration speech last week. The unusually optimistic reaction shows that Floridians who hope to preserve a few precious pieces of this remarkable place are starved for hope and desperate for leadership. DeSantis began his green passage with an understatement: “Our economic potential will be jeopardized if we do not solve the problems afflicting our environment and water resources.” In truth, Florida’s economy won’t merely be “jeopardized” if we don’t clean up our act; it will be strangled. Witness the crushing impact of the marathon red-tide outbreak and blue-green algae blooms upon businesses in coastal communities. That was a harrowing, nauseating, tourist-repelling glimpse of the future. But, unlike his predecessor, DeSantis seems to grasp that it’s a serious long-term challenge, not a fleeting scientific anomaly-turned-political inconvenience...Some wariness from the public would make sense, because this isn’t the first time we’ve heard such words from politicians who – in times of choking red tides or slime-covered rivers – become born-again environmentalists. The test, of course, is how hard (or if) the politicians back up their words after the campaign is over. DeSantis is wasting no time. On Thursday, he issued a head-spinning executive order calling for a $2.5 billion hike in environmental funding, including increased water-quality monitoring, a purge of septic tanks, and – hang on – a ban on fracking. This is a Republican, folks, one who apparently has heard of Theodore Roosevelt…” Carl Hiaasen writes Opinion for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Read DeSantis issues broad directive on water pollution, but something big is missing - “Gov. Ron DeSantis got headlines and photo opportunities Thursday for a major executive order he issued on the environment, but it’s missing a key component: preventing pollution at its source before it sparks green slime in the public’s waters. Instead, DeSantis directs his Department of Environmental Protection to use billions of taxpayer dollars (which must first be appropriated by the Legislature) for a series of ongoing engineering projects designed to clean up the sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff which comes off industrial agriculture operations around Lake Okeechobee and south of Orlando...  Under the law, the huge cattle operations, sugar fields and vegetable farms that sprawl over Florida’s inland areas are subject only to voluntary cleanup measures called “Best Management Practices.” Another contributor to the nutrient pollution: the state allows tons of “biosolids” – treated sewage – to be spread over vast tracts of land as fertilizer...Frank Jackalone, Director of the Sierra Club’s Florida Chapter, praised the wide sweep of DeSantis’s order, but said some key concepts critical to fixing Florida’s well-known environmental problems are missing. “In his first week in office, Governor DeSantis has done more to address Florida’s water quality crisis than Governor Rick Scott did in eight years,” Jackalone said, adding that the order has “no mention of the need to work with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to address agricultural pollution” and “There is no mention of the need to combat climate change which is making Florida’s waters warmer and intensifying harmful algae blooms.” Sierra Club also has concerns about the giant inland reservoir that Republicans have been pushing as a way to keep Lake Okeechobee’s pollution away from pricey communities along the coasts. Questions have been raised about whether the project will just shift the pollution problem from one place to another on the taxpayers’ dime…” Julie Hauserman reports for the Florida Phoenix.

Read Florida’s plan to save ailing springs including Wekiwa, Blue, Ichetucknee will fail, environmentalists say - “Florida’s chief strategy for rescuing beloved but ailing springs will fail because it is underfunded, poorly designed and powerless, according to a legal challenge from a coalition of seven environmental groups. Participants have filed a petition for a state judicial hearing, targeting a pending springs-cleanup initiative of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Such challenges have been widely viewed as desperate and costly long shots under rules stacked in the state’s favor...Central to the dispute is the state’s planned implementation of a Basin Management Action Plan, or BMAP, a program that aims to reduce spring pollution from sewage, runoff and fertilizers. Those pollutants have triggered invasions of unwanted algae smothering aquatic grasses, displacing fish and wildlife, and leaving dull slimes on once-shimmering, sandy bottoms. “If we let these BMAPs go, it will be the demise of these fantastic springs,” said John Thomas, a veteran environmental lawyer from the Tampa Bay area who will lead the legal challenge. “We can’t take a passive approach. We have to be very active, and the BMAP, in a nutshell, is an inventory and not a corrective tool.” Kevin Spear reports for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read Heather Fitzenhagen optimistic about fracking ban - “State Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen wants to see a ban on fracking before anyone starts drilling near the Everglades for natural gas. “It’s important given Florida’s delicate ecosystem,” said the Fort Myers Republican. “Fracking makes no sense in Florida.” Her new bill (HB 239) will ban drilling of wells to fracture rock formations and in order to recover oil or gas. Any such practice would be completely prohibited should the bill become law. It’s legislation that won praise from a host of environmental groups at the Lee County Legislative Delegation hearing in Fort Myers on Tuesday. Kelly McNab, an environmental planning specialist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said the language in Fitzenhagen’s bill and in companion legislation filed in the Florida Senate cover sensible prohibitions. “Our ecosystem serves as the bedrock of our tourism-based economy,” McNab said. Groups like Captains for Clean Water, Florida Commercial Watermen’s Conservation and the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation all sent representative to the Lee delegation meeting to voice support for a fracking ban. Fitzenhagen said she’s supported a fracking ban for years, even as the measure failed to move through the Florida Legislature. Former state Sen. Dana Young filed legislation the last two years to try and ban the practice. But last year, the bill stalled in the Senate in subcommittee. Still, advocates felt bolstered when Gov. Ron DeSantis, while announcing an order promising $2.5 billion in funding for water quality improvements, made known his support for a fracking ban…” Jacob Ogles reports for Florida Politics.

Read SFWMD should redesign EAA reservoir, Sierra Club says; other environmentalists disagree - “Change in Everglades restoration is afoot; but it's no time to stump your toe, say some environmental leaders. Despite a new governor and (possibly) a new South Florida Water Management District board, now is not the time to contemplate a new EAA reservoir, some, but not all environmental groups say. In response to Gov. Ron DeSantis' announcement of increased spending for Everglades restoration, Sierra Club Florida called for the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir to be "redesigned to include a shallower, wider reservoir with a major land purchase to provide for the necessary treatment of water from the reservoir before it is released south to the Everglades." Representatives from several environmental groups that fought hard to get a larger project to help cut Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers said Friday it's too late to redesign the reservoir. "That ship has sailed," Eric Eikenberg, executive director of the Everglades Foundation, said Friday. "The time for action is here, enough debating," Audubon Florida Executive Director Julie Wraithmell said via email…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read DeSantis (quietly) acknowledges threat sea-level rise poses to Florida. Well, it’s a start, a good one - “After eight years of Gov. Rick Scott degrading science and dismissing climate change, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he will appoint a chief science officer to deal with “current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.” This welcome turnaround came just two days after DeSantis’ swearing-in, in an executive order that also calls for $2.5 billion in Everglades restoration, creates a task force on blue-green toxic algae and instructs the South Florida Water Management District to immediately start the next phase of the reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee. In addition to the chief science officer’s remit to “coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis” on Florida’s environment, the order also creates an Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency charged with corralling scientific research and data “to ensure that all agency actions are aligned with key environmental priorities.”...Indeed, the order also created something else that Thursday’s press release does not mention. Far down the list of Executive Order 19-12 — in the 26th of 27 paragraphs — the governor directs the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to: “Create the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help prepare Florida’s coastal communities and habitats for impacts from sea level rise by providing funding, technical assistance and coordination among state, regional and local entities.” That’s right. “Climate change,” that taboo phrase in the Scott administration, gets its own office in the DeSantis administration…” The Miami Herald Editorial Board.

Read Florida’s springs are failing- but they don’t have to- “The H.T. Odum Florida Springs Institute recently published the first Florida Springs Conservation Plan, which summarizes historical and recent data for 32 “sentinel” springs from among Florida’s 1,000-plus artesian springs. This springs’ short list includes most of Florida’s publicly owned, large and economically important springs that serve as the canaries in the coal mine in terms of overall springs condition...Half of Florida’s most important springs received grades of D+ or lower, indicating degraded conditions with significant loss of ecological health and a high priority for restoration. Seventy-five percent of these sentinel springs were below a B-, indicating an unacceptable level of harm to at least one of the three health indicators. Some of Florida’s springs regions are in worse shape than others, such as springs in East Central Florida, Southwest Florida, and along the Suwannee/Santa Fe Rivers, and are most imperiled due to human activities...Based on this evaluation, the healthiest springs in Florida are Alexander (Lake County), the Wacissa Group (Jefferson County), and the Gainer Group (Bay County), all located amidst large tracts of protected forested lands. As Florida’s government accelerates funding and projects for springs recovery, this inventory of springs ecological health provides a solid basis for prioritizing springs protection efforts. Failing grades indicate that the primary spring functions are very low or absent, restoration is increasingly difficult, and the spring requires immediate and holistic intervention. As documented in more than 20 years of published reports, the state’s springs restoration and protection efforts to date have been insufficient to reverse the downward trend of springs health. Every day that efforts for springs recovery are delayed adds to the eventual high cost for the state’s taxpayers to protect the Floridan Aquifer and to save these invaluable springs. The new Florida Springs Conservation Plan outlines the steps that need to be taken to implement meaningful and lasting restoration of Florida’s iconic springs…” Robert Knight writes Opinion for the Ocala Star Banner.

Read A small but mighty win for conservation - “A property no bigger than a quarter of an acre could help turn the tides for an endangered Florida plant thanks to a joint effort by Conservation Florida, the Florida Native Plant Society, and the Putnam Land Conservancy. The vacant land, located in a subdivision about 18 miles southeast of Ocala and only 7 miles from The Villages, was acquired in late 2018 by Conservation Florida in support of its mission to protect natural and agricultural landscapes for future generations.   Though the parcel is small in size, it is critical habitat for the endangered Warea amplexifolia, or as it is commonly called, clasping warea. This flowering herb in the mustard family thrives in the sandy soil found on the property. It is native to Florida and is so rare that only eight populations remain…” From Conservation Florida press release.

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January 18, 2019 – 9:00AM-10:30AM– Okeechobee County Legislative Delegation– (Okeechobee) – Attend the Okeechobee County Delegation meeting at the Okeechobee County Government Center, Commission Chambers (304 NW 2nd Street Okeechobee, FL 34972). You are encouraged to speak on behalf of Florida’s land, wildlife and water resources! To submit a speaking request, contact Justin Morgan, justin.morgan@myfloridahouse.gov or (863) 462-5019 before January 10, 2019.

January 18, 2019 – 12:00PM-2:00PM– Highlands County Legislative Delegation– (Sebring) – Attend the Highlands County Delegation meeting at the Highlands County Government Center, Commission Chambers (600 S Commerce Ave Sebring, FL 33870). You are encouraged to speak on behalf of Florida’s land, wildlife and water resources! To submit a speaking request, please contact Maura Palmer, maura.palmer@myfloridahouse.gov or (863) 386-6000 if you have any questions before January 10, 2019.

January 19, 2019 - 10:00am-12:00pm - Rising Sea Levels- Are we losing our coastal cities? (Deerfield) - The Deerfield Progressive Forum will host Dr. Colin Polsky, Director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies and Professor of Geosciences at Florida Atlantic University, for a discussion of sea level rise and its impacts on Florida. For 39 years progressives in South Florida have been enlightened by a series of weekly talks presented by nationally distinguished speakers on provocative current issues. Lively discussion follows each talk. The Deerfield Progressive Forum meets every Saturday morning from December through March from 10:00 AM-noon in Century Village, Deerfield Beach. For more information, visit their site here.

January 22, 2019 - 12:00pm-1:30pm - Free 2019 Florida Legislative Preview Webinar - The 60-day 2019 Florida Legislative Session starts on March 5 and is scheduled to end on May 3 of 2019.  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 may be up for consideration during the 2019 Florida Legislative Session and will discuss how this could impact state and local governance and planning in Florida. This event has been approved for 1.5 AICP CM LEGAL CREDITS for planners (#9162191) and .15 CEUs for Florida Environmental Health Professionals. 1000 Friends has applied for professional certification credits for Certified Floodplain Managers, Florida attorneys, and Florida DBPR Landscape Architecture but cannot guarantee credits will be approved.  Register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar/.

January 26 - 10:00AM-3:00PM - Legislative Advocacy Workshop - (Jacksonville) - Join the Northeast Florida Sierra Club for a legislative training workshop where you can learn about the process of educating legislators, what are the important environmental bills, talking points on bills - all you need to know to be effective in influencing them. Lunch will be provided. Lakewood Presbyterian Church, 2001 University Blvd, Jacksonville, FL 32217. For more information, email Janet Stanko janestan@bellsouth.net.

January 26-27 -Safe Water for Walton: Operation Medicine Cabinet - (Defuniak Springs, Santa Rosa Beach, Freeport) - Protect our waterways by keeping powerful pharmaceuticals and all medicines out of our water supply. This prevents them from reaching the aquifer system underground through septic tanks and other means. Bring us your old and unused medicines FOR FREE. We’ll dispose of them anonymously. Visit Safe Water for Walton’s website here to learn more.

January 28, 2019 – 2:00PM-5:00PM– Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation– (Boynton Beach)– Attend the Palm Beach County Delegation meeting at Lakeside Medical Center, (39200 Hooker Highway, Belle Glade). You are encouraged to speak on behalf of Florida’s land, wildlife and water resources!  To participate in the delegation meeting, complete this form and return by mail or email to Christine Shaw, Cshaw1@pbcgov.org.

January 28, 2019 – 2:30PM-6:00PM– Orange County Legislative Delegation– (Orlando)– Attend the Orange County Delegation meeting at the Orange County Administration Center, Commission Chambers (201 South Rosalind Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801). You are encouraged to speak on behalf of Florida’s land, wildlife and water resources!  To participate in the delegation meeting, email LD@ocfl.net to request an appearance form.

March 13, 2019 - 10AM-4PM - 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, 2019 - 12:00pm-1:30pm - 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/.

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