Read DeSantis wants state on ‘war footing’ in water fight- but lawmakers may settle for skirmish - “ Gov. Ron DeSantis used his opening week in office to underscore a campaign pledge to tackle Florida’s deepening environmental problems, with the former Navy lawyer saying he wanted the state on a “war footing.” But signs are emerging that fellow Republicans in the state Legislature may be considering a more narrow approach – one some critics dismiss as a mere skirmish against the enemies of red tide and toxic algae that fouled both coasts. “The public wants us to take on the entire problem and that’s what we should be doing,” said Rep. Thad Altman, R-Merritt Island, whose Brevard County district was plagued by “brown tide” last spring and summer, an algae bloom that caused massive fish kills. “Blaming one thing for these problems and saying that’s all we have to do is wrong. It’s a diversion,” he added. The day after DeSantis was sworn in as governor, a state Senate panel heard a presentation from Florida Atlantic University research scientist Brian Lapointe, who attributes much of the state’s water woes to the 2.6 million septic tanks in use. Lapointe’s research, backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, downplays the impact of nutrient runoff from agriculture — particularly the sugar industry near Lake Okeechobee — as a source of water pollution. Like the sugar industry, Lapointe also isn’t a fan of state efforts underway to build a reservoir south of the lake to ease algae problems stemming from flood-control discharges into nearby waterways. He told senators that was a “distraction.” Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, a citrus grower, endorsed Lapointe’s focus and praised Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, for bringing it before the budget panel on Agriculture, Environment and General Government that she chairs…” John Kennedy reports for GateHouse Capital Bureau.
Read Florida has so far failed to fix the Everglades, feds say in legal fight over water - “Florida should not be able to pull out of a landmark legal settlement ensuring clean water reaches the Everglades before work is done and in the midst of the state’s ongoing algae crises, attorneys said this week. In filings opposing a move by the South Florida Water Management District in November to end federal oversight of Everglades work, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Miccosukee Tribe and environmental groups claimed the settlement may be the one thing that has kept southern marshes free of the pollution that has ravaged other parts of the state. As work progresses in the decades-long effort to repair damage from flood control and send more water south, the settlement is needed even more, they said. “The consent decree is not the enemy,” attorneys Alisa Coe and Anna Upton argued for environmentalists. “It is actually the only thing that has effectively protected the Everglades from destruction…” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.
Read Naples City Council pushes forward with septic tank removal program - “The Naples City Council wants all homes in the city's utilities service district to switch from septic tanks to city sewer within the next eight years in an effort to improve water quality. Scientists have identified leaky septic tanks as a contributor to environmental disasters like blue-green algae outbreaks and red tide that plagued Southwest Florida waters last year. A 2006 report identified seven areas in the city's utilities service district that are on septic tanks. The city has already connected one of those areas — 50 properties east of Goodlette-Frank Road, north of Bembury Drive and south of 14th Avenue North — to its sewer system and is connecting the Rosemary Heights and Gulf Acres communities to the sewer system, as well...The council's decision to move forward with the septic tank removal program comes at a time when septic tanks are receiving attention at the state level. Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who recently proposed banning smoking on public beaches, has introduced a bill that, among other things, would: Require inspections of septic systems at least once every five years, Require owners to repair or pump out failing systems, Update the state’s database of septic systems, Develop minimum state standards for a functional system, Develop a 10-year county-by-county implementation plan giving priority to areas where water quality is especially vulnerable. The Legislature passed a law in 2010 requiring septic tank owners to get an inspection every five years to ensure they weren’t polluting, but legislators repealed the inspections two years later after pushback from homeowners with septic tanks..” Lisa Conley reports for the Naples Daily News.
Read Shutdown chokes nonprofit support for parks and wildlife refuges - “People are continuing to visit national parks, forests and wildlife refuges despite a federal government shutdown, but they're not buying T-shirts and souvenirs because gift stores are closed. That’s cost the nonprofits that run those shops more than $2 million in revenue from lost sales and visitor programs, according to a survey from the Public Lands Alliance. More than 400 nonprofit employees have been laid off, furloughed or forced to accept leave without pay...At the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast, the visitor center has been closed since Dec. 24, a shutdown that’s cost $15,000 in sales, said Susan Cason, president of the volunteer group that runs the shop. Profits from the store are used for wildlife and educational programs, including hiring buses to ferry school children to the refuge...Those tourists risk missing out on a glimpse of the rare American flamingo or the vermilion flycatcher, which have delighted visitors in recent weeks. They also can’t go inside the St. Marks lighthouse on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. "This is so crazy," Cason said of the government shutdown. "It is beyond reason we're closed…” Bruce Ritchie reports for POLITICO.
Read SFWMD mulls Sunbreak permit to spread human waste on farm connected to Indian River Lagoon - “The South Florida Water Management District has more questions about how Sunbreak Farms would keep partially treated human waste out of canals leading to the Indian River Lagoon, once again delaying a ruling on the company's permit request. Noting the "high pollutant potential" from spreading so-called "biosolids" on cornfields, the SFWMD asked Sunbreak engineers for more assurances heavy rains won't flush polluted stormwater into nearby canals, according to a Jan. 11 letter. The district also asked for a better sewage-sludge monitoring system to show "pollution abatement practices proposed in the design are functioning properly." Sunbreak, a New York-based company, has 90 days to answer the district's question..Sunbreak says it wants to fertilize its crops with the compost mixture — 60,000 tons of yard and agricultural waste and 20,000 tons of Class B biosolids. The partially treated sewage sludge can contain high levels of bacteria, heavy metals and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can spark toxic algae blooms. A primary concern is whether heavy rains would cause sewage-tainted stormwater to run into the adjacent C-25 Canal, which drains 10 miles downstream into Taylor Creek and the Indian River Lagoon in northern Fort Pierce...The Florida Department of Environmental Protection already has granted a permit to Sunbreak Farms...State law prohibits spreading Class B biosolids on farmland in the Lake Okeechobee and St. Lucie River watersheds, which includes St. Lucie and Martin counties. That shifted the practice north…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Read Fish Island falls into foreclosure, future uncertain - “ A pristine piece of land in St. Augustine that has been at the center of a debate about development is in financial trouble. The Fish Island property is up for foreclosure, so what does this mean for the property's future? Fish Island sits on the Matanzas River in St. Augustine. It's not an island at all. The 30-plus acres are on Anastasia Island, on the eastern base of the 312 Bridge. Susan Hill opposes development of that land. She said, "The people who live here recognize the value of that property." The people who have packed government meetings and voiced concerns about developing Fish Island just learned this week that the bank has reopened a foreclosure case against the landowner: Fish Island Development LLC. Documents say the bank claims it is owed $6.5 million from the landowner. It's waiting for a judge's ruling. Could the land be sold for less? The prime real estate is attractive to both developers and conservationists. St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver would not comment if the city is interesting in buying the land, but she said this interesting turn of events gives people who would like to see the land preserved an opportunity to purchase it. First Coast News broke the news about the Fish Island foreclosure to Jim McCarthy, the director of the North Florida Land Trust, a group which buys land to preserve it. McCarthy said, "If the property becomes available we would certainly move very quickly to obtain this property…” Jessica Clark reports for FirstCoast News.
Read Manatee club challenges Blue Spring clean up plan - “A half-dozen of the new state action plans approved last year for improving water quality in Florida springs will remain on hold a while longer, including the one for Blue Spring in Orange City. Seven environmental groups met an early January deadline to protest the action plans from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, saying they fall short of protecting the springs. That includes Save the Manatee Club, which filed the challenge over Blue Spring, a winter warm water refuge for manatees in the St. Johns River. With no new challenges filed for Gemini Springs or DeLeon Springs, the action plans for those springs are now considered official. State and county officials were conducting conference calls to discuss implementation of those plans. One of the first steps to protect those springs will be a new requirement that any home additions or new homes built on lots less than one acre in size inside the priority focus areas for the two springs must include additional nitrogen-reducing equipment to septic tanks, said Laura Kramer, who oversees septic tanks for the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County...Late last week, Ryan Smart, executive director of the Florida Springs Council, lauded the groups that stepped forward to file the latest challenges to the basin management action plans — also known as BMAPS — for Blue Spring and five other springs. “All we’re really asking for is better plans. At this point, we’re planning for failure,” said Smart. “We think there’s no reason why DEP won’t just craft BMAPS that restore the water quality. It seems like a reasonable ask.” Dinah Voyles Pulver reports for the Daily Commercial.
Read Florida conservationist Manley Fuller leaving state for new job - “ One of Florida’s best known environmental leaders, Florida Wildlife Federation Executive Director Manley Fuller, is leaving Florida for a new job in North Carolina. Fuller has headed the Florida Widlife Federation for 32 years, and been at the forefront of most every Florida environmental battle to preserve the state’s natural resources, including fighting offshore oil drilling and fracking, passing the conservation land-buying initiatives, protecting endangered species like the Florida panther, and promoting wildlife crossings to prevent animals from being killed on highways. His organization often took to the courts to enforce environmental laws. Fuller will return to his native North Carolina, where he will be Vice President for Conservation for the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “Together, we helped expand and link many outstanding conservation and recreational properties statewide,” Fuller wrote in a letter to supporters. “including the Big Cypress National Preserve, Osceola National Forest, St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla and other iconic springs across the state, North Key Largo and Topsail Hill State Parks, Tate’s Hell and Point Washington State Forests, and a number of State Wildlife Management Areas. FWF has been a consistent defender of public conservation properties when threatened by developmental political pressures…” Julie Hauserman reports for the Florida Phoenix.
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.
Upcoming Environmental Events:
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 - 5:00PM - 10:00PM - 2nd Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival - (Gainesville)- Join the Florida Trail Association for an outdoor screening of environmental and adventure films that illustrate the Earth’s beauty. There will be 14 films, live music, guest speakers, exciting raffle items, beverages including a special one-night-only Florida Trail Ale (courtesy of Swamp Head Brewery), and food vendors. Folks will also have the chance to interact with organizations dedicated to supporting outdoor recreation and environmental conservation. Purchase tickets here, and visit the Facebook event page here for more information. All proceeds go to support the Florida Trail Association. Come learn about the Florida Trail and discover how you can get involved with us! (Swamphead Brewery, 3650 SW 42nd AVE, Gainesville, Florida 32608)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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/.
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.
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.
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.
Please send all suggestions, comments, and criticism to Haley Burger at WeAreFCC@gmail.com
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.
For more information, visit https://www.wearefcc.org/