FCC News Brief - July 10, 2019

Read Stormwater pumps continue to pollute Biscayne Bay - “For years, environmentalists have complained the pumps Miami Beach uses to keep streets from flooding are polluting Biscayne Bay. Photos and videos from residents show plumes of dirty runoff being discharged into the water — and in one case, swallowed by a manatee. Mike Alvarez, who served as both Miami Beach infrastructure and assistant public works director, says the problem is the design of the city's stormwater pumps. Although they filter out large pieces of trash, they pretty much expel water from the streets directly into the bay — depositing oil, dirt, debris, dog feces, pesticides, and other runoff into the water.  While Alvarez and activists have urged city officials to update the pump system, emails recently obtained by New Times show Miami-Dade's Department of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) is also concerned about Miami Beach's stormwater pumps. Following an April 25 meeting, DERM directed the city to "submit a design for a system that can meet County and State water quality criteria." "DERM noted that the ...system is only intended to collect plastics and larger particulates and not bacteriological or nutrient inputs that impact water quality," county officials wrote. "This is an issue that requires immediate attention…” Jessica Lipscomb reports for the Miami New Times

Read Avoid another summer of slime - “Nature is telling us something, but we’re still not listening. During last year’s “summer of slime,” toxic blue-green algae blooms befouled Lake Okeechobee and rivers across South Florida. A lingering red tide crept up both of the state’s coasts, killing marine life and sickening beach-goers. The condition of North Florida’s natural springs continued their long decline due to algae growth and reduced flows. Gov. Ron DeSantis was elected in November on the promise of being a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist” who would better protect the environment than his predecessor. Given the dreadful record of Rick Scott, who shredded environmental regulations and the agencies tasked with enforcing them during his eight years as governor, there was huge room for improvement. DeSantis struck the right tone with early moves such as establishing a Blue-Green Algae Task Force and selecting the state’s first chief science officer, Tom Frazer, from the University of Florida’s ranks. But the state legislative session and subsequent moves by the DeSantis administration suggest more of the costly restoration projects and endless studies that fail to stop the pollution fueling algae blooms...The state continues to spend big to make up for the mistakes of polluters while dedicating too little money to the most promising solutions. Lawmakers again shortchanged the Florida Forever land-conservation program, ignoring the will of voters who passed an amendment requiring otherwise…” From the Gainesville Sun Editorial Board

Read All Mississippi beaches close as toxic algae bloom blankets state’s coast - “All of Mississippi's Gulf Coast beaches have been closed for swimming as the expanding bloom of toxic blue-green algae blankets the state's waters. On Sunday, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality announced the closures of Pascagoula Beach West and Pascagoula Beach East, the final two state beaches that were open for swimming. All of Mississippi's 21 beaches have been closed. Closures don't prevent the use of beaches for sun bathing or recreation, but people and pets shouldn't swim in the water. The agency also advises anyone exposed to wash with soap and water and to refrain from eating fish or any other seafood taken from affected areas. The algal bloom, or rapid growth, was caused in part by the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway in Louisiana, which introduced an excessive amount of freshwater to the coastline. The blue-green algae is technically not an algae, but cyanobacteria, which is known to produce toxins. Exposure can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting…” Greg Hilburn reports for the Monroe News Star

Read FGCU researchers look to viruses as a new way to combat toxic blue-green algae - “Researchers at Florida Gulf Coast University are pitting one microorganism against another in the battle for cleaner water. The goal is to better control cyanobacteria, also called blue-green algae, the nasty, sometimes toxic stuff that periodically slimes Southwest Florida waterways. That happened dramatically last summer, when along with saltwater red tide, inland cyanobacteria blooms in the Caloosahatchee and nearby canals ingsome 16 months, devastating wildlife, trigger a state of emergency and raising concerns about impacts on human health. Renowned virologist professor Sharon Isern is working to isolate a naturally occurring bacteria-killing virus known as phage (from an ancient Latin verb “to eat”). The most diverse and abundant organism on earth, phages number in the 10 to the 31st power, Isern said – "an impossibly large number that translates into approximately a trillion phages for every grain of sand in the world," writes Eric Keen in the scholarly paper, "A century of phage research: Bacteriophages and the shaping of modern biology." The trick is to find the specific virus – or phage – that affects the troublesome cyanobacteria and release it into an incipient bloom. “When you see a patch, you treat that patch instead of waiting for it to be a problem,” Isern said. Using phage (rhymes with sage) to combat bacteria is nothing new, but the therapy was upstaged early in the 20th century by the development of antibiotics. If not for antibiotics’ smashing success, phages might be much more well-known, because like antibiotics, they kill bacteria...Because bacteria change and evolve, she said, some have developed resistance to antibiotics. “So people have come back full circle after phage was just this little novelty,” she said. Now, “all of a sudden, it’s ‘Let’s take a look at phage,’ because this is what they do for a living: They infect bacteria." So far, Isern said, some human trials with phage therapy have yielded promising results: Why not explore its potential for curing environmental ills as well?...University of Miami professor and algae scientist Larry Brand says the steep challenge of ridding waterways of algae helps make such research into novel solutions appealing. "In reality however, there seems to be enough genetic diversity in blooms to keep the phages from killing off blooms. In my view it is an attractive idea that has simply not worked after many decades of research.” But, Brand adds, there is a solution, although it comes with the bitter pill of controlling human behavior: “We know stopping nutrients before they are released into water bodies does work…”  Amy Bennett Williams reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Red-cockaded woodpecker makes comeback in Florida - “A red-cockaded woodpecker captured at Camp Blanding in Clay County is evidence that a project led by North Florida Land Trust to preserve land within the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) wildlife corridor is working. The capture of that species of bird isn’t unexpected; the birds are known to live on the military installation. The unusual thing about this particular bird is where it came from, the Osceola National Forest 27 miles away. The bird captured at Camp Blanding was the first time this endangered species had moved between one of the national forests and the military installation since they began banding and recording the birds over 25 years ago.  Red-cockaded woodpeckers (RCW) are a federally endangered species that were once common across the southeast but now are restricted to certain pockets where the last stands of their forest habitat remain. The birds are reliant on old-growth longleaf pine to survive, which was once common but now only exists across three percent of its original range. As the old-growth forests were cut down, the birds retreated to those few pockets of forest left, in places like the Osceola and Ocala National Forests, and Camp Blanding… The O2O project is a more than 100-mile long wildlife corridor NFLT and their partners are creating to connect wildlife in Ocala National Forest in Central Florida to Osceola National Forest in North Florida by way of existing protected areas like Camp Blanding. The creation of this wildlife corridor has been a group effort with now more than 18 conservation agencies and nonprofits participating, including groups like the National Forest Service, Florida National Guard and USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service…” Roxy Tyler reports for News4Jax

Read Sargassum seaweed stretches from Gulf of Mexico to Africa, Harbor Branch scientist says - “Think there's a lot of Sargassum seaweed on Treasure Coast beaches this Fourth of July weekend? You ain't seen nuthin' like the “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt." A team of scientists including  Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce, have discovered a mass the stuff stretching from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico. What they've dubbed the “Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt” is the world's largest algae bloom (Seaweed is a macroalgae,) extending 5,500 miles and weighing more than 20 million tons. The massive bloom and the Sargassum covered beaches may become the “new normal,” according to a study the team published in the journal Science. Earlier this week Lapointe told TCPalm Sargassum, the seaweed with small air-filled "berries" that floats in island-like masses on the ocean and has been washing up on Treasure Coast beaches, emits hydrogen sulfide and can contain high levels of arsenic and heavy metals...Normal amounts of Sargassum are a boon to many types of sea life, providing food and habitat for numerous species of fish and resting sites for baby sea turtles. But huge mats of Sargassum can cause problems for marine life, blocking sunlight sea grass needs to grow and, when the seaweed dies and sinks to the ocean floor, smothering sea grasses and corals...To figure out why, they analyzed fertilizer consumption patterns in Brazil, Amazon deforestation rates, Amazon River discharges and nitrogen and phosphorus measurements from the western parts of the central Atlantic Ocean near the Amazon outflow. The data suggested a combination of natural causes, exacerbated by human activities. In the spring and summer, Amazon River discharges add nutrients to the ocean. Those nutrients may have increased in recent years because of more deforestation and fertilizer use in the Amazon basin…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers

Read New leadership, panthers and more: 5 things to know about Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary - “The heart of the swamp hearkens back to ancient Florida, to a wild, subtropical peninsula that early explorers said wasn't fit for man or beast. But it's here, about a half hour's drive from Naples, that man and beast intersect, mostly on an elevated boardwalk that stretches through the cypress trees and seasonal ponds. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary draws more than 100,000 visitors annually. It's home to black bears, alligators, a plethora of nesting and foraging wading birds, bobcats, raptors and, of course, the Florida panther.  More than 13,000 acres in size, the swamp gives visitors a chance to see a natural Everglades ecosystem that's still thriving in a region beset by urban sprawl..Lisa Korte took over as sanctuary director in April, becoming only the third leader of the sanctuary since 1983. A former Peace Corps volunteer in equatorial Africa, Korte earned her master's degree in wildlife conservation and ecology from the University of Florida and her doctorate from Michigan State University. Korte said her main focus is to continue to manage the sanctuary while studying the interaction between wild spaces and human activities. "I think that’s kind of a common theme: how do you manage your natural resources taking into account both wildlife populations and the impacts to human populations in that ecosystem," Korte said. "How are we going to be a model of goodwill and management so we can share our lessons with our neighbors? How do we set an example of good wetland management as well as helping decision makers?...” Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read As floods keep coming, cities pay residents to move - “ Jonna Laidlaw was terrorized by rain. Her house, with its lovely screened-in back porch, had flooded some 20 times since 2001, from a few inches to six feet. She and her husband would do their repairs with help from their flood insurance, but before long it would flood again. “Every time it sprinkled I got terrified,” she said. When city officials offered to buy the house last year, she and her husband gladly said yes. They have since moved to higher ground. Nashville is trying to move people like the Laidlaws away from flood-prone areas. The voluntary program uses a combination of federal, state and local funds to offer market value for their homes. If the owners accept the offer, they move out, the city razes the house and prohibits future development. The acquired land becomes an absorbent creekside buffer, much of it serving as parks with playgrounds and walking paths. Climate change is increasing the program’s urgency. While a number of cities around the country have similar relocation projects to address increased flooding, disaster mitigation experts consider Nashville’s a model that other communities would be wise to learn from: The United States spends far more on helping people rebuild after disasters than preventing problems…The costs of flooding continue to climb, but only 20 percent of the money that the Federal Emergency Management Agency distributes in disaster grants is earmarked for pre-disaster work, even though research shows that a dollar spent on mitigation before a disaster strikes results in at least six dollars in savings.” John Schwartz reports for the New York Times.

From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Community Outreach Coordinator - Alachua Conservation Trust

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 9, 7:00pm-9:00pm - Climate Justice membership meeting - (Miami) - 350 South Florida is focusing on incredible battles across the region. From stopping fossil fuel projects, increasing climate justice literacy, to advocating for sustainable initiatives in the transportation and energy sector. Who is 350 South Florida? Every day residents from communities across Palm Beach, Broward and Miami Dade County who decide to step up, learn about Climate Justice, and volunteer their time to help the environmental movement grow. JOIN US, and get more meaningfully engaged with 350 South Florida. We depend on people like you to stand with us. Where: 7411 NW 36th St, Miami, FL 33166. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here, or email 350SouthFlorida@gmail.com.

July 10, 6:00pm-7:30pm - Silver Springs Alliance July Meeting- (Ocala) - Join the Silver Springs Alliance for their monthly meeting for discussion and action plans for the preservation and restoration of Silver Springs. All interested parties are welcome. Ocala Police Headquarters, 402 S Pine Ave, Ocala FL 34471. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here.

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.

July 13 - 8:30am-11:30am - Blue Spring Clean Up for Manatees - (Maitland)- Trash and debris is a huge problem for manatees and other wildlife. Many manatees ingest trash which can harm or even kill them. Una is a Blue Spring manatee, so let's help her and her friends and clean up some trash! Join Save the Manatee on Saturday July 13th, 2019 at 8:30 a.m. at Blue Spring State Park. We will meet on the lawn in front of the Thursby House by the lower parking lot. This is a CleanUp event in collaboration with Volusia County, Blue Spring State Park and Central FL Recon. You can help on land, by snorkeling or by kayak, however the most trash will be found on land (any trash from land can easily blow into the water and become a problem for manatees!) We will provide buckets, gloves and trashpickers, but feel free to bring your own. Visit the Facebook page here for more information. Register here.

July 15-19 - Living Lagoon Summer Camp - (Vero Beach) - ORCA's free summer camps focus on improving the health of the Indian River Lagoon through hands-on activities designed to promote teamwork and environmental stewardship. The camps include peer-to-peer mentoring and are open to Indian River County Exceptional Student Education student mentees and general education student mentors ages 14-18. Activities include habitat restoration, fishing, seining, gardening, cooking with native plants, eco-art activities and much more! To learn more and register, contact Retta Rohm, Education Coordinator at 772-467-1600 or rrohm@teamorca.org

July 18, 5:30pm - 7:30pm - Conservation on Tap: Orlando - (Orlando) - Do you love Florida? Do you enjoy the outdoors? Are you passionate about conservation, wildlife, or Florida's environment? If you answered yes to any of the above, join Conservation Florida! Conservation on Tap is an opportunity to drink a beer, learn about conservation, and meet the Conservation Florida team. For more information, visit the Facebook event page here. Ivanhoe Park Brewing Company, 1300 Alden Road, Orlando FL 32803.

July 20- 9:00am-4:30pm - Rights of Nature Workshop - (Fort Myers) - This one-day workshop will provide an overview of the movement in the United States and abroad to recognize legally enforceable rights for ecosystems. The workshop will focus on four main areas – (1) the failure of conventional environmental regulatory law to protect the natural environment; (2) the growth of the “community rights” movement in the U.S. in over three hundred communities to recognize rights to sustainability; (3) the theoretical and legal basis for the recognition of legally enforceable rights of ecosystems, where those laws have been adopted, and how they are being enforced; and (4) the application of the rights of nature to counties and municipalities in Florida, including an exploration of next steps in Lee County. The workshop will be led by Thomas Linzey, Esq., Senior Counsel for the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) (www.celdf.org). A short curriculum and lunch will be provided to participants. Attendance is limited to thirty individuals who should have a history of community activism. Please email info.cwn2019@gmail.com to preregister for this ticketed event. For more information, visit the EventBrite page here.

July 23rd - 6:00pm-7:30pm - Escambia-Santa Rosa Solar & Storage Info Session - (Pensacola) - Live in Escambia or Santa Rosa County and want to go solar? Now's your chance! Neighbors across the area have formed the Escambia-Santa Rosa Solar + Storage Co-op with the help of Solar United Neighbors to make it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels and storage solutions, while building a community of local solar supporters. Join us for a free information session to learn about solar energy, battery back-up, as well as how the co-op simplifies the process of going solar while providing a discount through its bulk purchasing power. RSVP for this free event here. Address: Pensacola Library, 239 N Spring St, Pensacola, FL 32502 .

July 25-28 - Springs Field School - (Ocala) - Join the Florida Springs Institute for an in-depth course on Florida springs for all backgrounds. Held from July 25th-28th in Ocala, the Springs Field School explores topics on springs ecology, water use, pollution impacts, and environmental management. Florida’s artesian (deep groundwater) springs are an important natural resource, providing the basis for extensive wildlife support and human recreation. These springs and the Floridan Aquifer that feeds them are under increasing threats from human activities, including flow reductions, nutrient increases, aquatic weed management activities, recreational impacts, and a variety of water resource development projects. A growing awareness of these problems is leading to a rapid increase in demand for knowledge about the basic chemistry, biology, and ecology of springs to be used for improved resource management. This course provides an overview of the current understanding of how springs are a product of their environmental surroundings and how they respond to management decisions. For more information and to register, click here.

August 5th - 5:30pm - 8:30pm - Calusa Waterkeeper Town Hall - (Fort Myers) - Participate in the premiere of Calusa Waterkeeper’s new documentary, “Troubled Waters.” This short film will feature expert scientists and doctors as they explore the human health impacts of cyanotoxins and BMMA in South Florida. An extended Q&A session with an all-star panel of experts will follow the video screening. Tickets and more information is available here. Address: Broadway Palm Dinner Theater, 1380 Colonial Blvd, Fort Myers FL 33907.

August 10th - 8:00am-11:00am - Brevard County Clean Up for Manatees - (Cocoa Beach)- In collaboration with Keep Brevard Beautiful, Save the Manatee is organizing a Beach CleanUp this summer! Trash in our environment is a big problem for manatees and other wildlife. Manatees can ingest trash or get entangled in it, which can lead to injuries or even death. Any piece of trash on land can easily blow into the water and become a hazard for manatees. During the summer months, manatees can be found in shallow coastal areas and can sometimes even be observed from the beach, so we want to help them and clean up!
We'll meet on Saturday, August 10th, 2019 at 8 a.m. at Lori Wilson Park (1500 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931). Parking is available and supplies (buckets, gloves, trash pickers) will be provided. This is a family-friendly event and everyone is welcome! Visit the Facebook page for more information, and register here.

August 12th - 6:00pm-7:30pm - Escambia-Santa Rosa Solar & Storage Co-op - (Pensacola) - Hosted by Solar United Neighbors and the League of Women Voters, neighbors across Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties can join the Escambia-Santa Rosa Solar + Storage Co-op! Co-op participants work with the help of Solar United Neighbors to make it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels, while building a community of local solar supporters. Join us for a free information session to learn about solar energy, as well as how the co-op simplifies the process of going solar while providing a discount through its bulk purchasing power. Attend this free event by RSVPing here. Address: Ever'man Education Center, 327 W Garden St, Pensacola, FL 32502.

August 19th - 7:30pm-8:30pm - Agriculture & Conservation Easements workshop - (Callahan) - Conservation easements can be a profitable way of preserving farms and forestlands, while keeping them in production and in the family. However, there are dozens of easement programs out there, with difficult enrollment procedures and confusing rules for property owners. The UF/IFAS Nassau County Extension office has partnered with the North Florida Land Trust (NFLT) to offer a workshop on understanding how conservation easements work. NFLT's Land Protection Director, Marc Hudson will present their pros and cons, how they preserve agriculture and natural resources and how your property might qualify for one. We'll also give an overview of the various financial incentive programs available.  For further questions, please call the Nassau County Extension office at 904-530-6353 or email jdacey@ufl.edu.  Refreshments and snacks will be provided. To register (free) click here. UF/IFAS Nassau County Extension, 543350 US Highway 1, Callahan, FL 32011.

August 27th-28th -Florida Panhandle Forests & Drinking Water Workshop - (Apalachicola) - Join the Florida Forest Service & Workshop Planning Team for a tour and workshop of the Apalachicola Estuary and Tate’s Hell State Forest to learn about the connection between healthy forests and clean water. The tours begin at 1pm on the 27th, starting at Tate’s Hell State Forest, and ending with a boat tour of the Apalachicola Estuary. The workshop begins Wednesday August 28th at 8:00am at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center in Eastpoint. The workshop agenda includes both presentations and group discussion sessions. The primary goal is for participants to leave the meeting with tangible “next steps” to accelerate community-based watershed stewardship and protection throughout the Florida Panhandle. Lunch will be included at the August 28th Workshop. For additional information and registration, visit the Eventbrite site 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.

October 10 - 6:30pm-8:30pm - Follow the Ichetucknee - (Lake City) - Mark your calendars now for an informal celebration of the Ichetucknee at Halpatter Brewing Company, 264 NE Hernando Avenue, Lake City, Florida 32055. Admission is free! You'll enjoy: Viewing new and newly scored videos about the Ichetucknee by collaborators Eric Flagg and Michael Amish; Meeting directors and members of the Ichetucknee Alliance; Socializing with people who love the Ichetucknee; Tasting craft beer and munching on pizza; Exploring our interconnections with the aquifer, the Ichetucknee, and each other; Finding out what you can do to help restore, protect and preserve the Ichetucknee. We are thrilled that the generous proprietors of Halpatter have offered their venue for this event. Please share this information with anyone you know who might be interested. There's also information about this event on our Facebook page 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.


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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.  

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