FCC News Brief - July 12, 2019

Read The largest algae bloom in world history is now off the Florida coast - “The white-sand beaches and crystal waters of the Caribbean coast of Mexico are offering tourists and locals a surprise this month: the smell of rotting seaweed. There is so much Sargassum seaweed in the Atlantic right now that you can see it from space, and when it washes up on shore to decompose, it stinks. In a study published in Science on Thursday, researchers from the University of South Florida used satellite imagery to identify an area they call the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt (GASB) as largest macroalgal bloom in the world. As its peak, traveling its length would be equivalent to flying from LA to New York and back again. “This phenomenon is likely to be a new normal,” lead author Mengqiu Wang said. “I think we have a high chance to see [blooms] again in the coming years.” The researchers linked the GASB to human impacts—such as deforestation and fertilizer use in the Amazon, which has steadily increased nutrient runoff—as well as natural processes. When this macroalgae aggregates in coastal waters, it can deplete the oxygen levels, killing other life. When it dies, it sinks to the bottom and suffocate anything not fast enough to swim away. That, plus the rotten egg smell, sends tourists running and can disrupt local fisheries...Climate change may further impact the GASB. Higher sea surface temperature could slow the growth of these blooms, as happened in 2013, the only year since 2011 without a major bloom. Hu says that he thinks that ocean warming will happen too slowly to effectively control growth (and this would would devastate marine ecosystems in any case). However, climate affects precipitation patterns—which will affect the runoff from the Amazon—and natural factors like ocean upwelling patterns. Deforestation and fertilizer use, if they continue to worsen, will further pollute the oceans with excess nutrients, contributing to more algae growth…” Madeleine Gregory reports for Vice

Read Civic duty and springs protection - “A small group of private citizens gave their all last month for Rainbow Springs. Faced with a state-sanctioned plan to add additional harm to this beloved but impaired natural resource, five individuals penned their names to a legal petition challenging the state’s policy. They are the few and the brave who fought for the many. Following a week when America celebrates patriots who sacrificed their lives to fight tyranny, we all should thank the Rainbow Five for their heroic actions. Rainbow Springs currently has the highest average flow of any spring system in Florida and probably in the United States. While this distinction is noteworthy, it does not compensate for the fact that long-term average flows at Rainbow have already declined by about 20 percent, due largely to regional groundwater pumping...While the Southwest Florida Water Management District agrees that average flows at Rainbow Springs have declined by about 20 percent, they claim that groundwater use is only causing about 1 to 2 percent of the observed decline. This conclusion is based on the same flawed mathematical model that allowed the St. Johns River Water Management District to continue to issue new groundwater consumptive use permits near Silver Springs...Groundwater is literally the lifeblood of Florida’s artesian springs. The quantity of pure water flowing out of a spring is the most important factor affecting springs health. More flow correlates with higher aquatic plant productivity, greater wildlife habitat, and maximum recreational and aesthetic benefits for humans…” Robert Knight writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun

Read Adapting to climate change is going to cost Florida a lot. Who’s going to pay for it? “For the state of Florida, adapting to climate change is going to be complicated, revolutionary and very, very expensive. But so far at least, Tallahassee hasn’t invested much in protecting the most vulnerable state in the nation from rising seas. Gov. Ron DeSantis, who campaigned on a promise to address red tide and harmful algae blooms, has won initial praise from environmentalists for stepping above the low bar set by his fellow Republican predecessor, Rick Scott, a climate change skeptic who is now a U.S. senator. In the latest budget, DeSantis more than tripled the state’s investment in planning for sea rise through its Florida Resilient Coastlines Program. That sounds considerable but in hard dollars it only raised the Scott budget of $1.6 million to about $5.5 million. In a state that by one estimate needs to shell out $75 billion by 2040 just for seawalls, that’s pocket change...In the absence of significant investment from Florida lawmakers and governors, the tab so far has fallen mostly on local governments. In South Florida alone, local governments have already spent hundreds of millions on raising roads, flood pumps and elevating buildings. “There’s a strong economic case there to start investing now,” said Yoca Arditi-Rocha, head of Miami-based climate advocacy group CLEO. “The multi-billion dollar question is, where do we get the money?” Right now, South Florida climate projects in particular are funded by a mix of hiked-up fees, bond money or grants… One day — perhaps soon — most experts agree the region will have to get more creative. That could include a concept like insuring coral reefs that help protect the coastline from storm surge and generate tourism money, like one community in Mexico is already doing. Or perhaps a statewide fund, maybe based on taxes on property sales, that would be dedicated to helping communities cover the cost of adaptation…” Alex Harris reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Getting it wrong: Suncoast Parkway set to expand even as it fails to meet projections - “Before the Suncoast Parkway opened, a consultant predicted that it would be so full of cars its toll booths would rake in $150 million a year by 2014. That forecast wasn't close. Nor were the next two. The consultant eventually settled on a forecast of $38 million a year. But when 2014 rolled around, the road was so empty it collected a mere $22 million. Yet the Florida Department of Transportation now wants to spend $256.7 million to extend the Suncoast another 13 miles north through Citrus County. And the projections the DOT is relying on to justify what has been dubbed Suncoast 2 are from the same consultant that got the first phase so wrong. "They're building this highway for cars that don't exist yet," said Ralf Brooks, an attorney who's trying to get the route moved so it won't obliterate a historic site in the Withlachoochee State Forest. "Is this just a way to make money for the companies that build roads and donate to candidates? Or are they trying to bring traffic to the developers?... The firm's repeated miscalculations are troubling for Ken Wright, a land use attorney who serves on the Florida Transportation Committee, which oversees the DOT. He promised to bring it up at the commission's next meeting later this month…” Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times

Read Nearly 24 hours after Siesta Key sewage spill, officials issue health warning - “Almost 24 hours after 36,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into the Grand Canal that feeds the Gulf of Mexico at Siesta Key, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota has issued a water quality advisory. The DOH issued the release at about 4:20 p.m. on July 10, 23 hours after the spill was contained on the afternoon of July 9. “People are urged to take precautions when in contact with the waters of Grand Canal,” the press release states. “Sarasota County utilities will be conducting water testing in Grand Canal at locations upstream and downstream of the spill location. Water testing will continue until bacterial levels return to normal.” Health officials warn that, “water contaminated with wastewater overflow presents several health risks to humans. Untreated human sewage with microbes could cause gastrointestinal issues and other conditions.” Anyone who has come into contact with the waters associated with the Grand Canal should wash thoroughly, especially before eating and drinking. Children and older adults, as well as people with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to disease, so every precaution should be taken if in contact with the waters of the Grand Canal, officials said…” Mark Young reports for the Bradenton Herald.

Read Flesh-eating bacteria claims another life at Florida beach, family says - “A Florida Panhandle woman said her father died this week from a flesh-eating bacteria after swimming in the Gulf of Mexico in Destin, just two weeks after a 12-year-old girl contracted the bacteria in the same area. Tennessee resident Dave Bennett, 64, was visiting his daughter Cheryl who lives in Niceville last week. In a Facebook post that is circulating social media, Bennett said she was extra careful about her parents swimming in the gulf following recent media reports, especially about the girl who got infected at the same beach her parents wanted to go to. “My parents were coming down to stay with me in Florida about a week after the post about a 12-year-old girl contracting bacteria that turned into necrotizing fasiitis in Destin started circling around,” Bennett wrote. “I didn’t want to believe that ... Our county, Okaloosa County, posted an article titled “Rumor Control,” in response to the post which seemed to diffuse everyone’s fears.”...Bennett said she inspected her father’s skin for the smallest abrasions and even sealed up some smaller healed scratches she found on her father just in case. “We were taking precautions and we were good, so I thought,” Bennett wrote...“One person told (my mom) that the media had blown that out of proportion,” Bennett said. Bennett said medical staff assumed it was a staph infection and wouldn’t biopsy the wound, but started him on antibiotics. Less than 48 hours later, the bacteria, “destroyed him,” Bennett said, which led to organ failure and her father was dead. Bennett said she is sharing her story because officials refuse to post warning signs to the public that the bacteria is present on Florida beaches. “I would have never have taken my dad in the water if there as a bacteria advisory,” she said…” Mark Young reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Cornell Lab of Ornithology awards $20,000 grant to conservation foundation- “The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has awarded a $20,000 grant to the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast to conserve and restore habitat for the threatened Florida scrub jay. The restoration will occur on Conservation Foundation’s recently protected 38-acre Tatum Sawgrass Scrub Preserve in eastern Manatee County, a critical wildlife corridor that is experiencing rapid development. In partnership with Cornell’s ornithology lab, the Conservation Foundation will restore the land to create a scrub jay habitat, creating an essential stepping-stone between Sarasota County and Manatee County scrub jay populations. Trails will also be created for guided tours. The centerpiece of the Conservation Foundation’s current work is the creation of the Myakka Island Conservation Corridor, a conserved landscape of more than 110,000 acres. The corridor is essential for the protection of wildlife habitat, the recovery of the endangered Florida panther and the protection of clean coastal water…” Staff report from Sarasota Magazine

Read Environmentalism’s next frontier: giving nature legal rights - “In the summer of 2014, officials in Toledo, Ohio, announced that the city’s tap water was no longer safe to drink.  A toxic algae bloom caused by fertilizer runoff had poisoned Lake Erie, the primary water source for the area’s half-million residents, sickening more than 100 people. Stores emptied of bottled water within hours. For three days, “it was just total panic,” recalls Markie Miller. “People were fighting over it.” Miller joined Toledoans for Safe Water, a group of residents who had been trying to convince officials to clean up the lake, to no avail. Then, in late 2015, members of the group attended a presentation put on by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund about advancing the “rights of nature”—the idea that eco­systems, like humans, have legal rights. After the presentation, some Toledoans met in a pub and drafted the Lake Erie Bill of Rights. This past February, voters chose to amend the city charter to grant the lake the right to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.” The amendment allows any resident to sue governments or businesses that infringe upon the lake’s rights—for example, by polluting it with fertilizer...Rights-of-nature laws often work by appointing a guardian to advocate for a particular ecosystem or natural feature, much like a parent represents a child’s interests in court. The guardian can sue on the ecosystem’s behalf. If the ecosystem is awarded damages, the money might go into a trust dedicated to funding its restoration...But just look at the American legal system: Corporations and even ships have rights. “We’re human beings. We make laws,” says David Boyd, an associate law professor at the University of British Columbia and author of the 2017 book The Rights of Nature. “We have the capacity to recognize the rights of whomever and whatever we want. It’s just a matter of determining what’s important to us…” Jackie Flynn Mogensen reports for Mother Jones

Read How to erase 100 years of carbon emissions? Plant trees - lots of them - “An area the size of the United States could be restored as forests with the potential of erasing nearly 100 years of carbon emissions, according to the first ever study to determine how many trees the Earth could support. Published today in Science, "The global tree restoration potential” report found that there is enough suitable land to increase the world’s forest cover by one-third without affecting existing cities or agriculture. However, the amount of suitable land area diminishes as global temperatures rise. Even if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the area available for forest restoration could be reduced by a fifth by 2050 because it would be too warm for some tropical forests. “Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today,” said Tom Crowther, a researcher at ETH Zürich, and senior author of the study. That does not alter the vital importance of protecting existing forests and phasing out fossil fuels since new forests would take decades to mature, Crowther said in a statement…” Stephen Leahy writes for National Geographic


From Our Readers

The information in this section is forwarded to you at the request of some of our readers. Inclusion in this section does not necessarily constitute endorsement by the FCC.

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 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 1 - 9:00am - 3:00pm - Blue-Green Algae Task Force meeting - (Fort Pierce) - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is hosting the third 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. The agenda is forthcoming and will be made available on the Blue-Green Algae Task Force website. All members of the public are welcome to attend. The meeting will be streamed live online. The details of how to access this broadcast will be posted to the website as soon as they are available. Where: Florida Atlantic University, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Johnson Education Center, 5600 US 1 North, Fort Pierce, FL 34946.

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) - Join us for our August Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series as we welcome Julia Herbst with Florida Solar United Neighbors who will discuss and answer any questions with regards to the Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties Solar & Storage Co-op. Learn more about the co-op by visiting https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/co-ops/florida/escambia-santa-rosa-county-solar-co-op-2019/. Follow the Facebook event here.

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.

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

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

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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Please send all suggestions, comments, and criticism to Haley Burger at WeAreFCC@gmail.com

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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