FCC News Brief - January 29, 2019

Read Nikki Fried, new Ag Commissioner, vows to get tougher on water quality - “Complaining that "there has been no enforcement of best management practices," Florida’s new Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried has vowed to take a leadership role on water quality issues, including enforcement of agricultural water quality regulations. Fried — the only statewide elected Democrat and the first Democrat to serve on the elected Cabinet in eight years — told Politico her department has a "tremendous" impact on water quality. Her ascent to office comes on the heels of two huge water crises — the red tide that fouled much of the Gulf Coast for much of 2017-18; and the toxic algae blooms that once again choked the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries last summer. Controlling nutrient pollution is an absolute must if Florida is to turn the toxic tide. Here’s hoping Fried’s approach can make a real difference.” From the Treasure Coast Newspapers Editorial Board.

Read Rodman dam remains a lightning rod - “On Saturday, Jan. 19, a flotilla of canoes, kayaks and a pontoon boat gathered at the Rodman Reservoir dam on Florida’s historic Ocklawaha River to celebrate the 48th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s signing of an executive order halting further construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal. This project was an expensive boondoggle and a colossal waste of citizen tax dollars. The Rodman dam, an aging artifact of the canal project, remains a lightning rod that continues to divide fisherman Some see the dammed waters as a man-made ecosystem and fishing mecca. Some wish to restore the natural flow of the Ocklawaha and the diversity and migration of fish, manatee and other species of life that once thrived there before the dam was built. It was clear from conversations at the rally between restoration supporters and the few dam supporters who came to the event why attempts to reach a meeting of the minds has been so prolonged and frustrating. Many field scientists work in the river ecosystem collecting critical data, and are not, as one dam supporter claimed, a bunch of elitists who never see the sun. In the end, we may see a return to the conservative philosophy that once guided green-minded Republicans such as President Theodore Roosevelt. Conserving our natural resources, and saving tax dollars in the process, is a conservative value…” Steve Robitaille writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Shop for electricity? Florida voters could decide in 2020.  - “A petition for a ballot measure that could potentially reinvent Florida’s electric utility industry is headed to the Florida Supreme Court. The petition reached the threshold of 76,632 signatures required to be reviewed by Attorney General Ashley Moody and soon after, Florida’s highest court, according to Alex Patton, the chairman of Citizens for Energy Choices political committee. The proposal, put forward by the political committee, calls for the customer’s “right to choose” and would loosen the grip of private utility monopolies like Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power, Duke Energy and Tampa Electric Company. It would allow customers to pick their electricity providers from a competitive market or give them more options to produce solar energy themselves. The language aims to protect customers against deceptive or unfair practices and establish an independent market to make energy sales competitive, the Alachua-based committee says. The proposal says nothing in the language should be interpreted to affect the existing rights of utility companies or the state’s policies on energy. But utilities fear more competition and more rooftop solar means lower costs and therefore, lower bottom lines for the regulated monopolies… Opponents have also said the market changes would be complicated and that customers would not save much in costs. Associated Industries of Florida, a group that opposed the CRC proposal last year, said it is “staunchly opposed” to the ballot initiative. “We believe deregulation would have a detrimental impact on Florida’s businesses and citizens in the form of increased cost of electricity and market uncertainty,” said AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney. “Deregulating Florida’s electric utility industry would create inefficient and uneven services throughout the state, causing major chaos when a natural disaster strikes...” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Santa Rosa County tables plans for 284-lot subdivision in Midway, citing wetlands concerns - “In an unprecedented move, Santa Rosa County commissioners on Thursday declined to approve plans for a 284-lot subdivision in Midway that citizen activists say is located on top of environmentally critical wetlands.  Instead, commissioners voted 3-2 to table the plans for late February, and hire a biologist to go to the site and determine just how many acres of wetlands are located in the proposed land area. But at a rezoning meeting Thursday night, just six hours after the vote, commissioners walked back on their comments from earlier in the meeting, after indicating the property owner contacted the county and said he wouldn't allow a county environmental specialist on his property to examine the wetlands. Instead, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Northwest Florida Water Management District will examine the property.  The surprising move to table the vote on the plot came at the morning regular meeting after almost an hour-long discussion between the commissioners, the county attorney, the county engineer and a group of Gulf Breeze residents from the Save Our Soundside group, which convened last year to protest what they see as reckless over-development in the south end of the county…” Annie Blanks reports for the Pensacola News Journal.

Read Lowell water contamination effects not clear - “Miriam Flores just wants to know that she and her family will be OK. Right now, no one can say for sure, leaving her scared and frustrated. “When you hear contamination in your water and that it’s tied to cancer and other health problems, that shakes you up. I have a 5-year-old son. He’s grown up drinking and bathing in this water,” said Flores who lives just north of the Florida State Fire College near Lowell off of County Road 25A. For almost six years, she and her family, including three children, lived blissfully unaware that the water coming from their well contained more than 20 times the federally allowed level of compounds contained in fire-retardant foam used in fighting petroleum-based fires. The fire college trained using that foam for years. Those compounds, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), have ties to certain cancers and other maladies, but there are no direct links...Flores’ is one of five residential wells that tested above the maximum level allowed in drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency. Four other wells also have levels exceeding federal limits, including the fire college, a nearby mining operation, a transport company and a Marion County fire station. The issue began after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ordered the well at the fire college tested. Tests on the well in August and September showed elevated levels of the compounds, also referred to as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)...After the college well tested above the limits, the Florida Department of Health in Marion County began contacting nearby residents and businesses to ask for permission to test their wells. The DOH targeted a one-mile radius around the college that included 90 different parcels. As of this week, 64 wells have undergone testing. Results for 29 of those wells are pending…” Carlos E. Medina reports for the Ocala Star-Banner.

Read In Florida, a new governor shifts gears on environment, and maybe climate change - “Florida's new Republican governor has moved quickly on a number of environmental priorities, but so far, he has stopped short of any comprehensive plan to cut greenhouse gas pollution. That's a gaping hole, say environmental advocates, but they give him credit where they say it's due. Several of Gov. Ron DeSantis' early environmental directives are aimed at cleaning up water and helping Florida adapt to the effects of global warming, including more intense hurricanes and sea level rise that threatens to swallow parts of the state in the coming decades. He called for appointing chief science officer to coordinate scientific research, and he staked an opposition to fracking and offshore oil and gas activities.  But there's no clear call for reducing the pollution that causes global warming, and climate advocates are waiting to see who that chief science officer will be...Within a week of taking office this month, DeSantis signed an executive order that included measures aimed at improving water quality. But the order also went beyond water quality with its science and resilience directives, including telling Florida's Department of Environmental Protection to ensure its decisions are based on the best available science and ordering the creation of an Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help communities prepare for the effects of sea level rise…”It's too soon to pass judgment on the governor's environmental directives because nobody knows yet how they will be carried out,” said Frank Jackalone, director of the Sierra Club Florida. For example, Floridians are still waiting to find out who will be named as the state's chief scientist, a position charged with coordinating science policies across state government. "If it's someone who is in the minority of scientists who is a climate change denier, then it might not accomplish its purpose," Jackalone said. He said there's reason to be concerned, in part because of DeSantis's record on environmental legislation, which earned a League of Conservation Voters score of just 2 percent during his six years in Congress…” James Bruggers reports for Inside Climate News.

Read Florida needs a new state bird - “With a range covering most of the southern United States, the mockingbird is hardly unique. And, amusingly, Florida isn’t the only state that boasts the bird as its state symbol. (Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas all share in the same pleasure). The mockingbird is about as common in Florida as the infamous “snowbird,” always ready to chirp back at you on the streets. Our state symbols, whether a bird, flag or motto, should represent what it means to live in our naturally gorgeous state. We are in need of something special to portray the colorful, proud people of this peninsula. Something rare. Something endemic to our state and our state only. It’s time, without question, for a new state bird. And the perfect choice? The Florida scrub jay. The scrub jay is the only bird found exclusively within our state borders, with a striking blue tail and wings that mimic the likes of its relative, the Florida blue jay. This beautiful, entirely distinctive bird should be the new pride and joy of Floridians everywhere. Scrub jays are steadfast homebodies. They prefer natural oak scrub, about 6.5 feet in height (any higher or lower and the habitat becomes unlivable), and prefer nearby sand patches to accentuate their homes. These animals require extremely specific living conditions to nest, harvest food and raise their young. Sadly, their habitat specificity has caused problems in recent years, as encroaching development continues to threaten the scrub jay’s quaint slice of home. The species has an estimated breeding population of only 4,000 birds, and is federally listed as threatened. According to Partners in Flight, the Florida scrub jay has a Continental Concern Score of 20 out of 20 (with 20, of course, being the worst). Species with this score are worthy of the highest attention, and immediate action is required to ensure their protection…” Max Chesnes writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Environmental groups to walk around Lake Okeechobee to raise awareness about Florida’s waters - “Called the Lake Okeechobee Prayer Walk, prayers will start each morning at 7 a.m., and Betty Osceola, a Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida tribal member, wants the whole world to participate. "Our goal is to get someone from each part of the world to sign up for each day to lead a prayer at the same time we do our daily morning prayer," Osceola said.  Lake Okeechobee is often referred to as the liquid heart of the Everglades system. Historically the banks of the lake overflowed and fed the River and Grass and Florida Bay. But changes to the hydrology of the system have left behind a myriad of water quality problems. Last summer a blue-green algae bloom started on Lake Okeechobee and quickly spread to the Caloosahatchee River, which was artificially connected to the lake in order to drain the Everglades for farming and development. Holley Rauen, Pachamama Alliance of Southwest Florida, said 36 people have signed up for the walk. "People say prayer doesn't do any good we need action," Rauen said. "Yes, we need activism and  we need to change policy but this prayer work will be powerful." Rauen said the walk is not a protest but rather a gathering of Floridians to support each other through water quality issues that have plagued much of the state in recent years. "They're going to be quite silent much of the time," she said. "Their focus will be visualizing the lake and the water being clean and pure, but within that prayer is that everyone learns to get along for solutions for the water." Rauen said people living in cities and towns like Clewiston and Belle Glade need support, too, not just the people living with red tide and blue-green algae on the Southwest Florida coast. "It's really to heal our relationship with the lake and with others," Rauen said. "There's been a lot of finger pointing and we think there really needs to be some healing, especially for the people who live around the lake…” Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

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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 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) 

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