FCC News Brief - January 25, 2019

Read Florida must reinvent the way it manages growth - “...That's how it works in Florida. Our waters don't recognize political boundaries; reckless water and development policies on one side can wreck ecosystems and investments on the other. Inconsistent county-by-county regulations are inherently unfit to preserve the larger, interconnected health of Florida’s crucial waterways. Yet the authority to manage growth largely rests with individual counties and municipalities. The result has been haphazard growth; and as development pressures intensify, so do the impacts on our lands and water. In recent years, Florida has seen red tide and blue-green algae devastate coastal communities and local economies, the blooms fed by nutrients from fertilizer and other sources running off pavement and agricultural lands. In a recent report, half of Florida's most important springs were deemed to be in poor condition, with significant loss of ecological health. And the conservation group 1000 Friends of Florida estimates that if current development patterns persist, by 2070 more than one-third of Florida's lands will be developed, water demands will double and water quality could further deteriorate. Gov. Ron DeSantis now faces the same quandary as his predecessors: How do we balance growth and preservation? How can we continue to accommodate some 1,000 newcomers per day — a city of Tampa added to Florida every year — without inflicting further damage upon our natural environment?...In its recent "Trouble in Paradise" report, 1000 Friends of Florida reached a similar, more detailed conclusion. "To protect the state's economy and water supply, Florida must once again take a meaningful role in managing growth," the report asserts. This, the organization wrote, should include reestablishing a "department-level land management agency and strengthening the ability of the department and citizens to enforce growth management laws…” From the USA Today Florida Editorial Boards “Turning the Toxic Tide” series.

Read Algal blooms cost Florida $17.3 million in emergency funding last year- “State officials provided an update on algae to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee. The toxic trouble created political turmoil in 2018 as blue-green algae blooms prompted then-Gov. Rick Scott to call a state of emergency in July. Then red tide prompted another emergency declaration in August. The crisis prompted the state to budget an extra $19 million to research and response efforts. The bulk of the funding, $14.6 million went to cleaning up areas plagued by red tide, mostly removing redfish piled on shores. Millions more went to sampling and sucking blue-green algae that took over the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie rivers and connected water systems. In total, about $17.3 million was spent in 12 counties from the now-expired executive orders. Another $1.7 million was left untouched, but remains available for use if needed. McRae said the red tide blooms in Florida remain ongoing, though as of now the only reported blooms include patches off the coast in Charlotte County. Subcommittee chair Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican, asked about impacts, particularly on crab populations. McCrae confirmed that last year was a poor one for stone crab harvesting, and scientists believe red tide played a role… Jacob Ogles reports for Florida Politics.

Read Red tide, algae blooms: Reducing nutrients is best way to prevent pollution, say DEP, FWC - “Limiting nutrient pollution into waterways is the best way to prevent toxic red tide and blue-green algae blooms, two state agencies told Florida lawmakers Wednesday.  However, they didn't address the primary sources or suggest specific solutions, only said they're working on the issue with other state and federal agencies. Some scientists, politicians and environmentalists blame Lake Okeechobee discharges and the agricultural industry, specifically sugar. Others blame coastal development, lawn fertilizer and leaky septic tanks...Lawmakers so far haven't filed any bills limiting nutrient pollution for the 2019 legislative session that begins in March. Instead, they've taken a narrower approach, focusing on septic-to-sewer conversions and funding for water restoration and monitoring projects. “We need to make sure we have solutions in place that are scientific-based and properly funded,” said Rep. Holly Raschein, a Key Largo Republican who chairs the subcommittee. “We’ve got to address agriculture issues, we’ve got to address septic-to-sewer conversions, we have to address that there is a large population south of Lake Okeechobee and the human impacts on this whole thing...”  Ali Schmitz reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Pomp, circumstance and trust fund pilfering- “Next time around, there are two things a candidate for Florida’s governor should campaign on. One is nixing the pomp & circumstance of all the inauguration hoopla. The other is vowing to challenge legislators to make good on the people’s will, in terms of constitutional amendments. We believe most of us can agree that two of Florida’s more pressing problems are growth at the cost of the environment and the affordability of housing for working class residents. Neither problem has easy answers. And neither has anywhere near the funding they should. That’s not the newspaper saying that. That was you. In 2014, voters approved Constitutional Amendment 1. It set aside a third of the revenue from a state tax on documentary stamps annually for 20 years in order to fund water and land conservation...The money was allocated for the first several years. The big sweep came in 2001 when the dollars were looted to cover general revenue expenses. Since that time more than $2.2 billion has be diverted from the trust fund. The agency that administers the fund say those stolen funds would have subsidized the cost of nearly 177,000 homes. About $182 million will be “swept” from the fund this budget year…” From the St. Augustine Record Editorial board.

Read Class B biosolids: DEP discusses water pollution from  human waste spread on farmland- “n advisory committee suggested Wednesday several tweaks to how the state regulates spreading Class B biosolids on farmland, but suggested no dramatic changes. The panel assembled by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection did not, for example, support expanding a ban on using partially treated human waste, also commonly called sewage sludge, in South Florida to the St. Johns River watershed. The point of the panel, said Drew Bartlett, DEP's deputy secretary for ecosystem restoration, "is to get to the point where we provide the level of protection to the rest of the state" the ban provides to South Florida. Panel members agreed biosolids sites that threaten nearby lakes and streams need to be monitored to see if they cause pollution. Current regulations require detailed data on the amounts of biosolids applied on land and how much phosphorus it contains, but there are no requirements to keep track of how much phosphorus comes off...Although no one said it, the consensus seemed to be the responsibility seemed to fall on the companies that are paid by sewage treatment plants to haul away the biosolids. Ultimately, the treatment plant the biosolids come from will end up paying, said member Michael Hudkins, manager of the Orange County Utilities Water Reclamation Division, because haulers will pass on any expense they get to the treatment plant...DEP will compile suggestions made by the panel, Bartlett said, "and figure out how best to execute them. It could be with regulations, it could be with investments in new projects or it could be with suggesting new laws to the Florida Legislature." Any suggested new laws should be ready to submit in this year's legislative session, which begins in March. The panel's work is important but doesn't go far enough, said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman. "They don't seem to be looking for robust solutions," Rinaman said. "They seem to be pretty comfortable with the status quo." The protections Bartlett promised, she said, aren't the same as an all-out ban… Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Republican lawmaker wants money and science for Florida’s water woes- “The new chair of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee is eagerly waiting to see how much Gov. Ron DeSantis is willing to spend to get rid of Florida's plague of red tide and algae blooms...State environmental experts briefed lawmakers Wednesday about an outbreak that peaked in August with high concentrations of algae reported in 37 counties, taking in North Florida springs and all three coasts. Callers phoned in 1,065 foul-smelling blooms between June and December to a hotline for algae and red tide outbreaks. The peak was in August with 376 infestations. The blooms turned South Florida rivers day-glow green, chased wildlife away from springs and littered beaches with dead turtles and dolphins. The crisis led then-Gov. Rick Scott to issue six executive orders that, among other things, made $19 million available to clear the dead sea life from the shoreline, study the blooms and come up with control techniques. All but $1.7 million has been spent and there are still more than five months left in the fiscal year. Raschein said if the agencies run out of money before the new fiscal year begins in July, she expects DeSantis will make more available, given his “passion” for water. Since he’s taken office, DeSantis has directed the Department of Environmental Protection to spend billions to build a reservoir to clean water flowing toward the Everglades, feuded with the local water management district about the project and created a task force to study algae outbreaks...” James Call reports for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Read DEP Acquires Critical Acreage for Florida Forever and Florida Keys Ecosystem Project - “The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced a 38-acre addition to the Florida Keys Wildlife and Environmental Area on Middle Torch Key in Monroe County. The property is located within the Florida Keys Ecosystem Florida Forever project, ranked No.1 in the Florida Forever Climate Change Lands project category. This acquisition helps protect the outstanding waters and reefs of the Florida Keys, enhance recreational and commercial fisheries, and provide residents and visitors more areas of natural beauty to enjoy. “This acquisition represents another step forward in protecting the Florida Keys unique and critical ecosystem,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “We continue to prioritize those projects that will help us achieve more now for Florida’s environment and address the impacts of coastal climate change.”...The parcel contains ponds and wetlands important to a variety of wildlife species dependent on a year-round source of fresh water, including Lower Keys marsh rabbit, striped mud turtle, ribbon snake, Key deer and numerous other indigenous species. Many local birds such as the white-crowned pigeon depend on larger intact hammocks for food and nesting areas. In addition, native fruiting trees and shrubs in these hammocks provide food and shelter for great numbers of migratory birds. Florida Forever is the state's conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserve our natural and cultural heritage. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Division of State Lands is Florida’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship.” From the DEP Press Office.

Read Mega-development would threaten the Florida panther’s very survival - “With some of the most powerful back legs of all the world’s big cats, Florida panthers can cover an astonishing 45 feet in a single bound when chasing prey or avoiding danger. But those remarkable skills are no match for the panther’s chief predator and cause of premature death: automobiles. In 2018 alone, 26 of these beautiful animals — considered to be among the world’s most endangered mammals — were run down while trying to cross the state’s choked roads. An analysis of 175 Florida panther deaths between 2014 and 2018 indicated that 101 of the big cats were killed in Collier County, the majority by vehicles. That’s why a proposal from large landowners in eastern Collier County to plop a mega-development right in the middle of some of the panther’s most important remaining habitat is so insane. Landowners seek to convert 45,000 acres of habitat — land that scientists have said is critical to the Florida panther’s survival — into a sprawling development that by 2050 will attract up to 300,000 new residents and generate an additional million vehicle trips a day…” Jacyln Lopez writes Opinion for the Miami Herald.

Read As Climate Warms, Plants Will Absorb Less CO2, Study Finds - “The last time the atmosphere contained as much carbon dioxide as it does now, dinosaurs roamed what was then a verdant landscape. The earth’s lushness was at least partly caused by the abundance of CO₂, which plants use for photosynthesis. That has led to the idea that more CO₂ in the atmosphere could create a literally greener planet. Today, plants and soil around the world absorb roughly a quarter of the greenhouse gases that humans release into the atmosphere, helping the Earth avoid some of the worst effects of climate change. In an ideal situation, as levels of carbon dioxide increased, plants would soak up more of these emissions, helping to fuel their growth. But in a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers found that under a warming climate, rather than absorbing more greenhouse gas emissions, plants and soil may start absorbing less, accelerating the rate of change…” Kendra Pierre-Louis reports for the New York Times.


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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 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 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 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/.

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