FCC News Brief - January 22, 2019

Read Next up for DeSantis: Right the Legislature’s land-buying wrong - “The instincts of Florida’s new governor were right on target when he told the Legislature on Thursday to abide by the will of voters who overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana in 2016...How refreshing. A governor who respects decisions made by Floridians at the voting booth. In the case of the constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, 71 percent of voting Floridians said yes. You know what got even more support from voters than medical marijuana? That would be Amendment 1, a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2014 mandating the state spend one-third of the money it collects from a tax on documents — largely real estate transactions — on buying and maintaining land...In the same way DeSantis told lawmakers to obey the voters on medical marijuana, he needs to tell them to also do what three in every four voters wanted when they approved the land-buying amendment. In doing so, DeSantis will demonstrate his devotion to the will of the voters is absolute, not limited. He’ll also free up millions upon millions of dollars to acquire land the state needs to restore the Everglades. Here in Central Florida, where the health and water flow of springs is declining because of pollution and development, money would become available to buy land around gems like Wekiwa Springs, Rock Springs and Blue Spring…” From the Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board.

Read Treasure Coast officials hope Legislature will help fund water projects in 2019 session - “Cities and counties throughout the Treasure Coast want additional state funding and support for projects to improve water quality and, hopefully, reduce algae blooms.  In delegation meetings with state legislators this week, local officials asked the Treasure Coast's lawmakers to support bills to reduce stormwater runoff and treat dirty water. They include septic-to-sewer conversions, treatment areas and cleanup projects. The Treasure Coast's state legislators are expected to file funding bills for the projects, but communities will have to compete with areas across the state, just months after dueling blue-green algae and red tide crises affected the Treasure Coast,Southwest Florida and portions of the Panhandle.  Port St. Lucie Mayor Greg Oravec said water has become the greatest priority for the city because of the state's water woes. He said despite cities' and counties' best efforts, the state's water quality continues to deteriorate...Newly elected Rep. Delores Hogan-Johnson is the highest ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. She told officials during the St. Lucie delegation meeting that she plans to use her position on the committee to address the area's water woes. Both Martin and Indian River counties are seeking millions in funding for septic-to-sewer conversions.  While discharges from Lake Okeechobee cause algal blooms in the St. Lucie River, nitrogen from leaky septic tanks help feed the blooms and nearshore red tide blooms. Each county supports dedicated funding for the projects. Currently, cities and counties can get the projects funded only on a case-by-case basis, but Harrell's bill and a similar one in the House would create a pool of dedicated funding for the projects…” Ali Schmitz reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read DeSantis plan: Move wildlife cops to agency not known for enforcing rules - “The sweeping list of environmental programs and promises that new Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled last week included a lot of the usual targets: Clean up water pollution, end toxic algae blooms, restore the Everglades. But there was one that wasn’t usual at all: Move “environmental crimes law enforcement” from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the state Department of Environmental Protection. “We’re going to do some reorganization to be more effective protecting the environment,” DeSantis said during a Thursday news conference announcing his plans. A swap such as the one the governor has proposed is unusual, in part because the two agencies’ approach to enforcing environmental laws could not be more different...Susan Neel of the wildlife agency said Thursday, “We support Governor DeSantis’ direction and will work closely with his office and DEP to ensure a smooth transition. This won’t impact our ability to enforce fish and wildlife regulations." “Further details regarding implementation of the executive order will be shared as they become available,” Sarah Shellabarger, a spokeswoman for the environmental agency, said Thursday. After repeated questions by the Tampa Bay Times, the environmental agency's new communications director, Mara Gambineri, said in an email Tuesday, "it is the environmental crimes unit that will transition, not FWC law enforcement as a whole." She did not respond to questions about what that meant…” Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Miami-Dade’s septic tanks are failing due to sea rise - “Miami-Dade has tens of thousands of septic tanks, and a new report reveals most are already malfunctioning — the smelly and unhealthy evidence of which often ends up in people’s yards and homes. It’s a billion-dollar problem that climate change is making worse. As sea level rise encroaches on South Florida, the Miami-Dade County study shows that thousands more residents may be at risk — and soon. By 2040, 64 percent of county septic tanks (more than 67,000) could have issues every year, affecting not only the people who rely on them for sewage treatment, but the region’s water supply and the health of anyone who wades through floodwaters...Septic tanks require a layer of dirt underneath to do the final filtration work and return the liquid waste back to the aquifer. Older rules required one foot of soil, but newer regulations call for double that. In South Florida, there’s not that much dirt between the homes above ground and the water below. “All those regulations were based on the premise the elevation of groundwater was going to be stable over time, which we now know is not correct,” said Doug Yoder, deputy director of Miami-Dade County’s Water and Sewer Department. “Now we find ourselves in a situation where we know sea level has risen and continues to rise…” Alex Harris reports for the Associated Press.

Read Florida pulls Keys’ ospreys from endangered animals list as numbers climb statewide- “State wildlife officials announced Monday that a rare resident population of the migratory birds in Monroe County had been removed from the list in December after a yearlong review found the number of birds rising statewide. While some have argued the Keys’ clan should be classified as their own subspecies, state wildlife officials said there’s no evidence that the ospreys are genetically distinct. It’s still illegal to kill the birds, but the designation means fewer rules for developers. Conservationists welcomed the reported increase. Three decades ago after a seagrass die-off created a 100-square mile dead zone across Florida Bay oozing pea-green algae, the population plummeted. But they worry about stripping protections while the bay’s health remains fragile following a similar seagrass die-off just three years ago. “The scary thing is we just had a big seagrass die-off followed by algae blooms. This is the same process that led to the declines of the osprey in the eighties and nineties,” said Jerry Lorenz, state research director for Audubon Florida. “So I’m going to remain optimistic, but I’m also going to say let’s wait and see…” Jenny Staletovich report for the Miami Herald.

Read ‘One of the worst we’ve ever seen’: Farmers reeling after record rain in 2018 destroys crops - “...Like almost all farmers in the northern ends of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, 2018 was one for the record books, and not in a good way. The Pensacola area saw just over 90 inches of rain total last year, which is 2 feet more than it normally does. Mickey Diamond, a cotton and peanut farmer in Jay, said his town saw over 100 inches of rain. The rain was relentless, farmers said. It didn't just come in a handful of big weather events like it usually does. Instead, the rain came just about once a week, every week, during the fall and winter, drenching crops, fields and equipment and giving nothing a chance to dry...A normal amount of yearly rainfall for the extreme western Panhandle region is about 65 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama.  Of the 90 inches of rain logged in Pensacola in 2018, 16.55 inches came just in the month of December, hampering farmers' last-ditch efforts to get all of their crop out of the ground before the new year. Agriculture is big business in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Census study from 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, Escambia and Santa Rosa counties sold more than $100 million worth of agriculture products, including peanuts, cotton, soybeans and watermelon, in 2012. The counties also consistently lead the state of Florida in cotton and peanut production…” Annie Blanks reports for the Pensacola News-Journal.

Read Developers, not farmers, get biggest hit from wetlands rule - “ President Donald Trump often points to farmers as among the biggest winners from the administration’s proposed rollback of federal protections for wetlands and waterways across the country. But under longstanding federal law and rules, farmers and farmland already are exempt from most of the regulatory hurdles on behalf of wetlands that the Trump administration is targeting. Because of that, environmental groups long have argued that builders, oil and gas drillers and other industry owners would be the big winners if the government adopts the pending rollback, making it easier to fill in bogs, creeks and streams for plowing, drilling, mining or building. Government numbers released last month support that argument. Real estate developers and those in other business sectors take out substantially more permits than farmers for projects impinging on wetlands, creeks, and streams, and who stand to reap the biggest regulatory and financial relief from the Trump administration’s rollback of wetlands protections. But Trump and his administration put farmers front and center as beneficiaries of the proposed rollback because of the strong regard Americans historically hold for farming, opponents say. Trump was scheduled to speak Monday to a national farm convention...The administration’s proposal greatly narrows what kind of wetlands and streams fall under federal protection. If it is formally adopts it after a public comment period, it would change how the federal government enforces the landmark 1972 Clean Water Act and scale back a 2015 Obama administration rule on what waterways are protected. Environmental groups say millions of miles of streams and wetlands would lose protection. Trump signed an order in February 2017 directing the rollback. With farmers as well as homebuilders by his side, Trump called the waterways protections then in force a “massive power grab” targeting “nearly every puddle or every ditch on a farmer’s land.” The farm bloc has been one of the most loyal to Trump, despite farmers’ complaints that the administration has favored oil and gas producers over corn ethanol farmers, and their worries over a trade war with China…” Ellen Knickmeyer reports for the Associated Press.

Read Red tide sullied shorelines and business in Sarasota-Manatee - “The economic damage red tide caused may be hard to calculate — a single, definitive source is lacking — but informal local and state studies show the environmental disaster caused by the harmful algae inflicted millions of dollars in damages to Sarasota and Manatee businesses, and took a toll on Florida’s tourism. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, 107 businesses in Sarasota and Manatee County voluntarily submitted surveys to the site FloridaDisaster.org, detailing losses suffered by their business. Just those restaurants, real estate agents, vacation rentals, marine-based businesses and other establishments reported about $9 million in losses from May to October. They had $14.2 million in estimated damages from red tide…” Carlos R. Munoz reports for the Herald-Tribune.

Read Central Florida 100: Commissioner Lee Constantine, Seminole County - “We Floridians have come from all over seeking a better quality of life. Most of us have little knowledge of the fabric of Florida’s history and culture. Many have never explored the diversity that makes our state unique. Although Disney and other attractions are exciting, nothing beats the natural splendor of Silver Springs, Siesta Key or a Key West sunset. Florida is a peninsula floating on an underground river. We are more susceptible to the changes in nature than probably any other place on Earth. Floridians, get to know your state. A good beginning would be to watch PBS’ special "American Experience: The Swamp," available on the PBS website.” Lee Constantine writes for the Orlando Sentinel.


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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 23 - 7:00PM - GLADESMEN: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys - (Miami) - Come see the award-winning film, GLADESMEN, at MDC’s Tower Theater (1508 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33135). It could be the film’s final public screening in the city! See more about the film at www.gladesmenfilm.com. Tickets available here.

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 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 – 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 – 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.

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 13 - 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 - 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.

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