FCC News Brief - July 1, 2019

Read Gov. DeSantis signs destructive HB 7103 into law - “1000 Friends of Florida is deeply disappointed that Gov. DeSantis has chosen to sign House Bill 7103. This legislation could deal a mortal blow to growth management in Florida. With our state adding nearly 1,000 new residents a day, the timing couldn't be worse. There are several bad provisions in HB 7103, but the worst will force Floridians who challenge a development order and lose to pay the legal fees of the winners. These challenges from citizens are the only enforcement mechanism left to ensure that proposed developments are consistent with local comprehensive plans, the blueprints for growth in our communities in Florida. It's critical that communities abide by their comprehensive plans to protect our environment, economy and quality of life amid our state's rapid growth.  But the risk of getting slapped with the legal fees for both sides will scare most citizens away from exercising their right to go to court to challenge development orders and enforce comprehensive plans. There is no need for this provision; state law already gives judges the authority to require citizens who file frivolous consistency challenges to pay the other sides' legal fees. So HB 7103 really targets citizens with legitimate complaints about development orders. It will undermine, instead of support, the governor's emphasis on environmental protection. And this provision was added in the final days of this year's legislative session in a floor amendment that was never introduced or debated by legislators in committee, or subjected to public testimony, or analyzed by staff. There was never a meaningful discussion of its ruinous consequences. Now that HB 7103 has become law, a future of poor planning and development decisions looms in Florida - unless legislators have the good sense to fix this terrible mistake and resurrect growth management in the 2020 session.” From 1000 Friends of Florida press release

Read Words aren’t enough: activists want more specific plans to combat climate change - “U.S. Senator Kamala Harris referred to climate change as the “climate crisis” and “an existential threat to us as a species” when the subject came up during the second Democratic presidential debate in Miami. South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg said he supports a carbon tax. Former vice president Joe Biden boasted about the Obama administration brokering the Paris climate agreement. Overall, climate change received about 12 minutes of discussion in Thursday night’s debate, and a little more than seven minutes in Wednesday night’s debate. Though that’s about as much time given to many other major issues, environmental activists insist that’s not enough when it comes to the most important issue facing the planet. That was the sentiment of about 100 activists who convened two hours before the debate Thursday. They gathered at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami, which has been labeled as “Ground Zero” because of sunny day flooding and the threat of extreme heat, and walked a half-mile to the Arsht Center where the debate would take place. Activists called on Democrats to be more much more specific about what they would do to combat climate change. “Show us your plan!” demanded Frances Colon, a former deputy science and technology adviser to the State Department in the Obama administration. “It is the most critical national security issue in our country. And they need to tell us how they are going to confront this with us…” Mitch Perry reports for the Florida Phoenix

Read Ban biosolids use along upper St. Johns River, Indian River County administrator tells DEP - “Indian River County Administrator Jason Brown called Thursday for banning sewage sludge application on land in the upper St. Johns River watershed, which includes Indian River County. Speaking at a Florida Department of Environmental Protection workshop in West Palm Beach on proposed rule changes for the use of sewage sludge, known as biosolids, Brown noted the practice already is banned in South Florida watersheds, including the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. "We should be part of that club," he said. Florida's wastewater treatment plants produce about 350,000 dry tons of sewage sludge each year. Of that, about: 25% goes to landfills, 30% is partially treated and spread on land as Class B biosolids, 45% is combined with composted landscape material and chemically treated to produce 200,000 dry tons of Class AA biosolids, which is classified as "fertilizer" and can be used without regulation. Both Class B and Class AA contain about 5.5% nitrogen and 2.2% phosphorus. Combined, the two classes of biosolids produce about 4 million pounds of nitrogen and about 1.5 million pounds of phosphorus, nutrients that feed toxic algae blooms…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers

Read A sea turtle found with a spear through its head in Biscayne National Park - “A dead sea turtle with a spear shaft through its head was found in Biscayne National Park recently, according to the National Park Service. Federal investigators are seeking the public’s help in finding who’s responsible for killing the federally and state-protected animal. The turtle was spotted by anglers fishing the flats on the ocean side of Elliot Key Friday afternoon, said a park’s service law enforcement ranger, and it appears to be a green sea turtle. All species of sea turtles are considered threatened or endangered and are protected by the state of Florida and under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, according to a fact page on Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography’s website. Someone killing a sea turtle can be tried both criminally and civilly, according to the park ranger. If criminally convicted, the person faces up to one year in prison and/or a maximum fine of $100,000. The maximum civil penalty is a $10,000 fine. Biscayne National Park, encompassing coral reefs and islands, is off the southern end of Miami-Dade County and the northern part of the Florida Keys…” David Goodhue reports for the Miami Herald

Read No warning signs or action plan for dangerously dirty Estero River, but help may be on the way - “ Normally, summer camp at Estero’s Happehatchee Center would end with a splash party — canoe races and a water fight in the village’s namesake river. Not this year. “As a nurse, I am recommending that these kids don't go into the water at all,” said former board member Holley Rauen, who’s also a volunteer ranger with Calusa Waterkeeper. Happehatchee describes itself as an eco-spiritual nonprofit. Last week, a water sample pulled from the camp’s banks showed levels of dangerous fecal bacteria more than 10 times what would close a swimming beach. Exposure can cause gastrointestinal illness, rashes and infections. Those alarming counts are nothing new to the much-loved-yet-chronically troubled river, which flows to Estero Bay, the state’s first aquatic preserve. But unless a visitor had combed through hard-to-find online data, there’d be no way to know of the potential risk, because no agency has taken responsibility for issuing warnings or posting signs. The village doesn’t because “we’re not a primary point of entry,” said Estero Public Works Director David Willems, and the Department of Health in Florida won’t either, because the river’s primary use isn’t swimming."The Health Beaches Program is limited to public bathing beaches as defined in Florida Statue," said spokeswoman Tammmy Yzaguirre in an email...Yet though the river isn’t a beach, most canoers or kayakers, unless gauntleted and wrapped, are bound to contact the water as it drips from paddle to hand (never mind the neophytes who capsize).  “Horrendous,” unconscionable” and “awful” are words Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani uses to describe the chronic pollution of a river that’s a “Special Water” in the “Outstanding Florida Waters” program. More than 20 years of data collected by Lee County and incorporated into a Florida Department of Environmental Protection database upriver of the U.S. 41 bridge show an average bacterial count of 400 colony-forming units – more than five times the safety threshold of 70. “There’s tremendous usage there – not just from public boat ramps, but from all the private ones as well,” Cassani said. Day-trippers can follow its sinuous, oak-shaded course to Mound Key in Estero Bay, once home of the ancient Calusa. The river supports two liveries: Estero River Outfitters, which declined to comment for this story, and the Koreshan State Park, from which 929 boats have launched since August, 2017, according to park documents…” Amy Bennett Williams reports for the Fort Myers News-Press

Read A 12-year-old girl contracted a flesh-eating bacteria while on vacation in Florida- “A day at the beach has turned into weeks of pain and agony for an Indiana teenager after she contracted a flesh-eating disease in Florida. After a day spent frolicking on a beach, Kylei woke up with an awful pain in her lower leg. "Monday, we wake up to begin our day and Kylei wakes up and she has pain in her calf on her right leg," her mother Michelle Brown told CNN affiliate WKRG. Everyone just thought it was a charlie horse, Brown said, so the family continued on with their vacation. But the next day Kylei's pain was even worse… The family reached out to Kylei's doctor on the way back to Indiana. The doctor told Brown to take Kylei to the emergency room at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, and that's when the family found out that the infection behind her knee was necrotizing fascitis, a rare flesh-eating disease. It's fast moving and deadly, and 1 in 3 people who get it die, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says… Necrotizing fascitis can be caused by different kinds of bacteria, like Group A Strep or Vibrio vulnificus. The bacteria, often found in water, can enter the body through an open wound. Brown thinks Kylei had a wound on her lower leg after she hurt herself on a skateboard before the family left for Florida. The CDC recommends avoiding spending time in natural bodies of water, hot tubs or swimming pools if you have an open wound. The Florida Department of Health said it had not been contacted by the family or anyone who said they may have been exposed to this bacteria in the state. "We are taking this issue seriously and are working with the Alabama and Indiana departments of health to collect information on this case and determine if this was caused by a bacteria such as vibrio or any other reportable health condition, Emerson George, a spokesperson for the health department, said in a email…” Doug Criss and Carma Hassan report for CNN

Read Army Corps biologist to plead guilty to lying - “A former lead biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who managed the controversial dredging of PortMiami will plead guilty to lying, her attorney told a Miami federal judge on Tuesday. Terri Jordan-Sellers was charged in May with lying to investigators with the U.S. Department of Defense about working part-time with an environmental consultant hired for the project. Jordan-Sellers, a lead biologist in the agency's planning division working on projects in the Southeastern U.S., also oversaw environmental planning for the stalled Port Everglades dredge...The PortMiami dredge that began in 2014 drew criticism from other government agencies and environmentalists after divers found more dead and damaged coral than allowed under an environmental permit. The dredge deepened parts of the channel to 50 feet to allow bigger ships sailing through the Panama Canal. A Corps study blamed the damage on a new coral disease detected off Virginia Key in 2014. But biologists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the University of Miami and Miami Waterkeeper disputed the findings. A NOAA study later found the area was about 14 times larger than the permit allowed. The Corps later agreed to replant 10,000 coral to settle a lawsuit filed by Miami Waterkeeper, but the full scope of how much damage needs to be repaired remains undetermined. The reef tract stretches from the Keys to Palm Beach County and is the only inshore tract in the continental U.S. It helps draw tourists from around the world and, in the face of rising sea levels, is considered a valuable barrier for the coast. A study funded by the Defense Department earlier this year found the reef provides about $657 million in protection annually between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.” Jenny Staletovich reports for WLRN

Read Palm Beach becomes first county municipality to ban plastic bags, polystyrene containers - “The Town Council approved the prohibition this month, but it doesn’t take effect until Dec. 12. The six-month delay will give eateries and retail establishments time to use up their existing inventories of the bags and containers. Polystyrene containers and single-use carry out plastic bags are detrimental to the environment because they do not fully degrade. They overburden landfills, introduce unsafe chemicals into the environment, become litter and create hazards for land and aquatic animals that ingest them, the town ordinance says. They also impede waste reduction and recycling goals. Palm Beach is the first municipality in the county to adopt such a ban, Town Manager Kirk Blouin said, and the goal is to encourage residents to switch to reusable alternative bags and containers whenever possible. “The research has shown us these items are bad for the environment, particularly marine life, and it just makes sense to regulate it,” Blouin said. “We are all creatures of habit. Once we get used to a good habit, it becomes second nature to us.” The ordinance applies to restaurants, drug stores, grocery stores, gas stations and vending trucks or carts. It also applies to individuals or groups who hold a special permit for events on town property. It specifically bans polystyrene plates, bowls, cups, containers, lids, trays coolers, and ice chests…” William Kelly reports for the Palm Beach Post


From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Community Outreach Coordinator - Alachua Conservation Trust

Outreach Coordinator - Miami Waterkeeper

Executive Director - Current Problems

Policy and Planning Director - 1000 Friends of Florida

Organizing Representative, Red Tide & Wildlands Campaign - Gainesville - Sierra Club

Organizing Representative, Red Tide & Wildlands Campaign - Ft. Myers/Naples - Sierra Club

Staff Attorney - Everglades Law Center

Upcoming Environmental Events:

July 1, 9:00am-3:00pm - DEP Blue Green Algae Task Force meeting - (Fort Myers)- The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is hosting the second meeting of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, which will play an important role in expediting water quality improvements in the next five years. The key focus of the Task Force is to support funding and restoration initiatives, such as prioritizing solutions and making recommendations to expedite nutrient reductions in Lake Okeechobee and the downstream estuaries. During the second meeting, the Task Force will continue covering the Lake Okeechobee BMAP and begin discussing innovative technologies. The agenda is available on the Blue-Green Algae Task Force website. All members of the public are welcome to attend. (Lee County School Board, 2855 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33966.)

July 8, 6:00pm - July Earth Ethics Environmental Educational Series - (Pensacola) -Join us at Ever'man Educational Center located at 327 W Garden Street. We will be viewing A PLASTIC OCEAN.  A PLASTIC OCEAN begins when journalist Craig Leeson, searching for the elusive blue whale, discovers plastic waste in what should be pristine ocean. In this adventure documentary, Craig teams up with free diver Tanya Streeter and an international team of scientists and researchers, and they travel to twenty locations around the world over the next four years to explore the fragile state of our oceans, uncover alarming truths about plastic pollution, and reveal working solutions that can be put into immediate effect. We'll discuss what you can do to help reduce your use of plastics! One lucky winner will receive a giftset to jump start a plastic reduced life. Check out the Eventbrite page here, and Facebook Event here. For more information, email earthethicsaction@gmail.com

July 11, 7:00pm - Toxic Puzzle Screening & Environmental Panel - (Orange Park)- TOXIC PUZZLE is a medical and environmental detective story where documentary filmmaker Bo Landin follows ethnobotanist Dr Paul Alan Cox and his scientific team around the world in a hunt for the hidden killer. The pieces come together in a toxic puzzle where cyanobacteria in our waters become the culprit. Are these organisms, fed by human pollution and climate change, staging nature’s revenge by claiming human lives? Join the St. Johns Riverkeeper at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts in Clay County (283 College Dr, Orange Park FL 32065) for a live screening and panel discussion on the issue of toxic algae blooms and the serious short and long-term health effects it’s having on our communities, wildlife, and habitats of our River and what YOU can do to help. For more information and to register, click here.

September 30th - October 2nd- Public Land Acquisition & Management (PLAM) Partnership 2019 Conference - (St. Augustine) - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is proud to announce the Public Land Acquisition and Management (PLAM) Partnership Conference. This statewide conference focuses on public land acquisition and management issues in Florida. PLAM has typically been hosted on a rotating basis by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the five water management districts. The conference will be held at the World Golf Village Renaissance Resort (500 S Legacy Trail, St. Augustine, FL 32092). WHO SHOULD ATTEND: Local, regional, state, federal, non-profit and private land managers; Land acquisition specialists and agents; Water managers; Engineers, planners, attorneys, surveyors, appraisers, architects; Public officials; Non-profit groups; Consultants; Others interested in conservation land planning. Registration coming soon. For more information, click here.

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.

Petitions

Stop Giving Away Florida’s Water

Save Lake County-Say NO to the Round Lake Road Extension

Tell Florida Lawmakers: Stop Destructive Tollway Bills

Save the Heritage Trees at Martin Luther King Jr. Park - Winter Park

No Fracked Gas in Tampa Bay

Help Save Our Panthers

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

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

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

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Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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.

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