FCC News Brief - January 30, 2019

Read Gov. Ron DeSantis environmental budget offers $625M for water projects - “Gov. Ron DeSantis continued his rollout of environmental priorities Tuesday, announcing what he called a historic $625 million for water resources projects, including Everglades restoration. More than half of the funding would go toward completing reservoirs and other projects that, along with federal action, will “significantly reduce the need for discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” DeSantis said. The budget announcement at a stop in Naples comes on the heels of an executive order he issued the day after his inauguration creating a blue-green algae task force, creating chief science officer position, phasing out septic tanks and creating an office to coordinate a response to rising sea levels. “This is the first of four steps to get to the $2.5 billion that I committed to in my executive order,” DeSantis said. “And that will be a $1 billion increase over the previous four-year investment in water and Everglades.”...The budget recommendations, which he said will be published Friday, include: $360 million for Everglades restoration projects, $150 Million for targeted water quality improvements, $50 Million to restore Florida’s springs, $25 Million to improve water quality and combat harmful algal blooms, $40 Million for alternative water supply development… DeSantis announced Tuesday his first appointments to the water board: Sanibel City Councilman Chauncey Goss and former Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission member Ron Bergeron.” Patrick Riley reports for the Naples Daily News.

Read Land and water money considered in storm recovery - “Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried indicated Monday she could back a legislative proposal to use money voters designated for land and water projects to help recovery efforts from Hurricane Michael. More than three months after the storm struck the Panhandle, the city of Marianna still looks like a war zone. Tarp-covered roofs dot the landscape, debris litters the ground and some structures are in total ruin. "It's our jobs to come here, see and bear witness to what's happening here," Fried said.  After reviewing agricultural damages Monday, Fried said at Chipola College in Marianna that her office was looking into a proposal (SB 376) by Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, that would designate at least $50 million a year from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to counties that sustained damage in the October hurricane. She added, “I do believe that Amendment 1 funding is something that can be utilized to help in this recovery” effort. The trust fund receives money under a 2014 constitutional amendment that required setting aside a portion of documentary-stamp taxes for land and water conservation. The state already uses portions of the trust fund for such things as Everglades restoration, Lake Apopka restoration, the construction of a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area and springs restoration. Montford, who represents some of the hardest-hit counties in the Oct. 10 hurricane, filed the bill for consideration during the legislative session that starts March 5…” Jake Stofan reports for The News Service of Florida.

Read Will BP money get tapped to pay for Hurricane Michael? - “Calls are growing to use BP oil spill money to bolster Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, potentially reducing the financial burden on local and state budgets. Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, last week indicated he could support the idea of pumping settlement money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster into building and replacing infrastructure in communities reeling from the deadly Oct. 10 hurricane. “I don’t see why those need to be separated out,” Bradley told reporters at the Capitol. “I don’t think there should be money used only for oil spill and another pot for Hurricane Michael concerns. So, the idea that we would utilize Triumph (Gulf Coast) both for its bonding capacity and real dollars to help address things in the Panhandle, I think that’s a serious discussion we need to have in his building.” Created by the Legislature, the non-profit agency Triumph Gulf Coast was created to distribute to Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla and Walton counties three-quarters of the $2 billion the state will get over the next 12 years through the BP settlement. As part of its charge from the Legislature, Triumph is expected to direct money to regional projects that have wide impacts rather than directly to individual businesses. State lawmakers are expected during the legislative session that begins March 5 to consider spending millions of dollars to aid Hurricane Michael recovery efforts, though they have not specified an amount. The state got some relief when Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last week that President Donald Trump’s administration expanded the number of days Florida and local governments would receive full reimbursement for debris cleanup from five to 45…” From the News Service of Florida.

Read Voters approved billions to save land and fix the Everglades. Then things got messy - “A 2014 Florida constitutional amendment that was supposed to take politics out of state environmental spending has had an unintended consequence: dividing the state’s powerful environmental groups. Amendment 1 set aside billions over the next two decades to save disappearing wild lands, fix the Everglades and protect increasingly polluted water. Instead, it sparked a legal fight that is playing out in Tallahassee, with sides squared off over how the money should be spent. This summer, three years after environmentalists sued to stop lawmakers from paying for salaries, maintenance and other projects they said defied voters’ wishes, a judge seemingly awarded a victory to all environmentalists. Leon County Judge Charles Dodson agreed that lawmakers had indeed failed to buy and restore land. He then went on to define the purpose of the amendment. “The clear intent was to create a trust fund to purchase new conservation lands and take care of them,” he wrote. That simple sentence, Everglades advocates say, now stands to derail one of the biggest restoration projects on the horizon: a 17,000-acre deepwater reservoir on state-owned land aimed at reducing polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee that regularly foul the coasts with slimy algae blooms. The project is expected to cost the state close to $1 billion and would be paid for with up to $264 million a year slated for Everglades work from the trust. But for other environmentalists, who believe too many high-tech plumbing projects have taken the place of buying and restoring more marshes and other disappearing lands, the ruling better protects their mission. It also keeps the trust from being raided for money to fix leaky septic tanks, aging wastewater treatment plants or other projects with a tenuous environmental connection…” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Lake Okeechobee levels have some concerned, others hopeful - “Farmers are praying. Environmentalists are hoping. And Lake Okeechobee levels are dropping as the heart of the dry season approaches. The lake is lower at this point in the year than it's been since 2011, and it's getting people's attention. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers protocols say the surface of the lake should be kept between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level to ensure flood protection, to protect the dike surrounding the lake and to supply water to millions of Floridians and large farms.  "It’s roughly 3 feet lower than it was last year," said John Campbell, spokesman for the Army Corps' Jacksonville office. "We were down in this range last in 2011”...The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is calling for above-average chances of above-average rainfall between now and June. Levels Monday were 12.4 feet above sea level. Despite heavy rains Sunday (which set a record in Fort Myers at 3.7 inches), Southwest Florida and most of the 16-county water management district is below average rainfall for this point in the dry season.  Environmental groups, however, want to see the lake drop to about 11 feet above sea level so sunlight can reach submerged vegetation that helps improve water quality and provides wildlife habitat. Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said the government is responsible for ensuring the natural system has the freshwater it needs. "We see it, that the estuary is entitled to the water, and we know the Corps has to manage the schedule to meet all intended uses," Cassani said. "But we’ve had the short end of the stick for so long that we feel the Corps should defer to fish and wildlife…” Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read After toxic beaches and waterways, Florida eyes septic tank upgrades- “When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave his inaugural speech earlier this month, he channeled Winston Churchill to rally Floridians to join the fight for clean water. “I will lead the efforts to save our waterways,” the Republican governor vowed, citing a long list of natural disasters that have plagued Florida’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters, many just in the last year. Floridians have recently had to contend with red tide in the Gulf of Mexico, toxic and slimy blue-green algae in the state's rivers, and brown sargassum seaweed off the Atlantic Coast...But the fight that DeSantis promised, despite its lofty rhetoric, will not be fought in the skies or the streets or the fields or the hills. Much of it will be fought in the dirt, with septic tanks, the underground sewage disposal networks, as the key targets. Brian LaPointe, a professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, has been warning Florida residents of the dangers of septic systems to the state’s fragile aquatic environments since the Carter administration. But his message has gained traction in the last few years, especially since the Florida Chamber of Commerce started promoting it…” Daniel C. Vock reports for Governing Magazine.

Read County, ACT buy 578 acres for conservation- “The $1.3 million deal closed on Jan. 15, and is expected to help protect the wildlife and water systems in the area. Both public and private monies were used for the purchase. A 578-acre parcel of land within the Lochloosa Forest Project area has been jointly purchased by Alachua County and environmental protection nonprofit Alachua Conservation Trust to protect the wildlife in the area. The Fox Pen tract, near the southeastern Alachua and Putnam county border, was bought for $1,321,177. The county used $876,492 to buy most of the land using the voter-approved Wild Spaces Public Places sales tax. The initiative passed in 2016 with the funds meant to conserve land and maintain recreational facilities. The Alachua Conservation Trust pitched in $444,685 for 194 acres using private funds. The nonprofit plans to open walking paths, two trailheads, install bike racks, information kiosks, benches and parking lots. The deal closed on Jan. 15, and is expected to help protect the wildlife and water systems in the area. The land has a gamut of ecosystems, including sandhill, flatwoods and mesic hammock. The purchase also protects the habitat for animals that call the Fox Pen tract home, including the gopher tortoise, indigo snake and the Florida black bear…” Sarah Nelson reports for the Gainesville Sun.

Read After community outcry in St. Augustine, Fish Island property owner plans to sell land for conservation - “The long and winding saga of Fish Island’s fate may have entered its final chapter Monday night. St. Augustine City Manager John Regan waited until the end of the City Commission meeting to make one final announcement. For some in attendance, it was the most important. A Fish Island property owner told Regan they intended to sell the 72 acres of land to the North Florida Land Trust for conservation, he said. This announcement comes months after local activism, outreach, and an intense social media campaign raised the debate about conserving Fish Island for ecological and historical purposes. D.R. Horton, the largest homebuilder in America, in July 2018 announced plans to develop the peninsula into single-family housing units...Jen Lomberk, the Matanzas Riverkeeper, said she watched the city commission meeting from home Monday night. “I was cautiously optimistic that this announcement was going to come and I was thrilled, excited and relieved to see it happen,” Lomberk said. “Everybody seems to have this overwhelming feeling of hope that I think as kind of been absent in the community for a while”...The next step in Fish Island’s road to conservation will be a physical contract signed between the Young Land Group and the North Florida Land Trust that lays out the parameters of the sale, Lomberk said. Lomberk said she hopes to see the land turned into an area for passive recreation, including walking trails and designated spots for wildlife viewing. Regardless, she is thrilled to see the intent announced for the land’s conservation.” Max Chesnes reports for WUFT. *North Florida Land Trust is accepting donations to save Fish Island here.


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Upcoming Environmental Events:

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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Petitions

Help Save Our Panthers

End collection & removal of tropical marine life from Phil Foster Park

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.

Thinking of going electric? Nextcar Pledge

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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