FCC News Brief - July 8, 2019

Read Want to fight growth? Better have deep pockets as lawmakers stack deck against challenges - “Developers win — the war is all but over. Lovers of Florida who fight the wearying battles to keep development from overwhelming roads, schools and the springs thought they had been buried when former Gov. Rick Scott all but killed the state’s growth management and environmental agencies. One tiny sliver of redress remained: Anyone who wanted to force a government to stick with its growth plan could sue. And now, even that less-than-ideal solution has become impossible for all but the ultra-rich because of a last-minute amendment — passed on a voice vote without any analysis or public comment — that says the loser of any such suit must pay the government’s legal bills. Thank you, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, for the amendment that strikes a death knell for reasonable growth management and could pave the way for new toll roads that would open big swaths of Florida that now are rural to development. But what does the St. Petersburg Republican care? Brandes can afford to sue anyone who might try to put, say, a homeless shelter next door to his half-acre. He lists his job as managing his family’s fortune, which came principally from his grandfather’s sale of a of string of lumber yards that became the Home Depot chain...This situation, however, is even more sinister. But first, a little background. Every local government in Florida is required to write, approve and follow a growth plan. These plans serve as a lighthouse for residents on where they can expect to find a new 7-Eleven and where they can step onto the porch in the morning and sniff horse manure...Here is why Brandes’ amendment is so insidious. Add it up: His colleague Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, made it his priority to get approval for new toll roads. The first would extend the Suncoast Parkway north to the Georgia state line, the second would build Florida’s Turnpike, likely from its Wildwood terminus, west to connect with the Parkway, and the third would add a toll road from Polk County to Collier County. Galvano dropped that little baby, which literally would change the face of Florida, into the Legislature from out of the blue. And he got it passed. Then, Brandes casually inserted his “loser pay” amendment in another bill. Are these two events coincidence?...” Lauren Ritchie writes Opinion for the Orlando Sentinel

Read Blue-Green algae warning signs coming - “The Florida Department of Health plans to post caution signs at the boat ramp on the Braden River at State Road 64 warning people, “Blue-green algae may be in these waters. There may be toxins.” While toxins were not detected in water samples taken in the area by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday, July 2, the signs are necessary “to help educate folks utilizing the county facilities of the current algae bloom and steps they can take to assure they are not impacted from this event,” Tom Larkin, environmental manager for the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County, wrote Charlie Hunsicker, head of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department in an email today. The signs advise people to avoid swimming and eating shellfish from the area, to keep water out of their eyes, nose and mouth, and to keep pets away from the water, Hunsicker said, noting the irony that the tests show no toxins...Blue-green algae can be blue, green, brown or red and emit a foul, rotten egg odor caused by the production of hydrogen sulfide gas, according to DEP, which advises staying out of water where algae are visible as specks, mats or water is discolored pea-green, blue-green or brownish-red. Additionally, pets or livestock should not come into contact with the algal bloom-impacted water, or the algal bloom material or fish on the shoreline…” Cindy Lane reports for the Anna Maria Island Sun

Read Florida, the Sunshine State, is slow to adopt rooftop solar power - “Florida calls itself the Sunshine State. But when it comes to the use of solar power, it trails 19 states, including not-so-sunny Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Maryland. Solar experts and environmentalists blame the state’s utilities. The utilities have hindered potential rivals seeking to offer residential solar power. They have spent tens of millions of dollars on lobbying, ad campaigns and political contributions. And when homeowners purchase solar equipment, the utilities have delayed connecting the systems for months...In Florida, utilities make money on virtually all aspects of the electricity system — producing the power, transmitting it, selling it and delivering it. And critics say the companies have much at stake in preserving that control...The state’s utilities have been expanding their own production of solar power. But Florida is one of eight states that prohibit the sale of solar electricity directly to consumers unless the provider is a utility. There is also a state rule, enforced by the utilities, requiring expensive insurance policies for big solar arrays on houses...Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg — the site of Duke Energy’s Florida headquarters — has argued for changing the way utilities are regulated so they would embrace more energy efficiency, residential solar power and energy storage. The companies essentially see the solar-equipped homeowner as a competitor, not a customer, he said…” Ivan Penn reports for the New York Times

Read Submerged springs among dam’s casualties- “Florida’s stunning springs should create a sense of respect for nature. Unfortunately, treasuring springs is not a societal standard throughout Florida. One hour southeast of Gainesville is the Eureka West Boat Ramp on the Ocklawaha River. This state-owned property is leased to the Marion County Commission. Here you may begin your voyage to Cannon Springs. The Ocklawaha River is hauntingly beautiful but deeply scarred — a clogged artery between Silver Springs and the St. Johns River. Obstructed by the Kirkpatrick Dam, Rodman Reservoir and its labyrinth of dead tree stumps, the river’s sandy shores are submerged by the artificially high water, which also causes Cannon Springs, one of 20 springs, to be stagnant. During the drawdown, the ephemeral Cannon Springs will make you feel like Leonardo Dicaprio when he discovered that secluded paradise in the movie “The Beach.” I cannonballed off the boat into the water fully clothed to immerse myself in a turquoise state of suspended animation. The last time Cannon Springs was allowed to flow was during a drawdown of Rodman Reservoir three years ago. Drawdowns aren’t done every few years to reveal mother nature’s aqueous gems, but because it is the mechanical alternative to herbicide...The perception of Rodman Reservoir needs to be saved from itself by dispelling the idea that this forcibly closed ecosystem provides more value to society than it does open. Why continue this socioeconomic marginalization of limiting boatless people to fish from a confined recreation area while the rest of the river shore, which is public property, is flooded up into the woods? Why is letting 35 million gallons of freshwater evaporate into thin air from Rodman Reservoir, per day, allowed instead of infusing the St. Johns River? Will beloved Silver Springs State Park, where fish biomass declined by 92% over the last half century, continue to be snuffed out? Will the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s glass-bottom boats be tinted to hide the embarrassing misuse of Florida’s natural resources? The time for resiliency is now…” Jennifer Carr writes Special to the Ocala Star Banner

Read Algae blooms. Iguanas headed north. That’s climate change - “It’s been a tough week for anyone who cares about Florida’s environment and the effects of climate change. First, we learned that blue-green algae is infecting waterways in Treasure Island and Gulfport. There’s no way to know exactly what caused the most recent outbreak of the foul smelling ooze, but it’s a good bet we brought this on ourselves, or at least helped make it worse. Whether it’s leaky septic tanks, runoff from our lawns or too much farm waste flowing into waterways, we’ve created conditions ripe for algae to take hold. And don’t forget that a 2014 Climate Assessment Report predicted more blooms in Florida as the globe warms. Algae blooms can happen naturally, without human help. But there’s growing evidence that we are providing fuel for more blooms that grow larger and stick around longer. We shouldn’t think of that as a new normal, another reality of living in Florida that we can’t do anything about. We can and we should. Gov. Ron DeSantis took a good first step recently by creating the Blue-Green Algae Task Force. But it can’t be window dressing. The task force needs to come up with practical solutions. This is not the time for partisan bickering. This week we also learned how roseate spoonbills have adapted to the changing climate by migrating away from South Florida and into central and north Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. While the spoonbills have so-far thrived, the same article reiterated that 40 percent of the Earth’s 10,000 bird species are in decline, thanks in large part to human interference…” From the Tampa Bay Times editorials

Read DEP acquires vital acres along Ichetucknee Trace - “The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has purchased an additional 160 acres in Columbia County within the Ichetucknee Trace Florida Forever project. The property is along a dry valley known as the Ichetucknee Trace, which marks the route of a major underground conduit supplying the first-magnitude Ichetucknee Springs with clear water. Ownership of this property will protect lands directly atop and adjacent to the Trace, including channels conveying ground water south to the springs in Ichetucknee Springs State Park...“The Ichetucknee River and its springs are world-renowned, crown jewels of water resources in North Florida,” said Suwannee River Water Management District Executive Director Hugh Thomas. “We admire the foresight of all of our partners in working together to ensure the long-term health of this magnificent resource.” The 2,669-acre Ichetucknee Springs State Park features spring-fed rivers, lush canopies and cool swimming holes enjoyed by visitors year-round. The trails host 15 distinct natural communities, from flatwoods to hammock, sandhills to sinkholes, upland hardwoods, streams and caves. The park’s wildlife includes several imperiled species, including gopher tortoise, Sherman’s fox squirrel, eastern indigo snakes and the American kestrel. Florida Forever is the state's conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving our natural resources and renewing our commitment to conserve our natural and cultural heritage…” From DEP press release

Read Join Young Leaders in opposing mine - “...North Florida’s waterways are the lifeblood of its vibrant communities. Ninety percent of Floridians are reliant on an untainted aquifer for their drinking water. The Santa Fe River provides the citizens of Gainesville (and all those who live on, near or downstream of its banks) with recreation and livelihood. We splash in the crystal-blue waters of freshwater springs, the harsh summer daylight illuminating the grins that tug like fishing line at the corners of our lips. We paddle canoes down the wine-dark Santa Fe River in pairs, the mid-morning sun beating down on sweat-streaked shoulders and dancing waters. We wade knee-deep in the temperate waves of the Gulf, beckoned by the salty breeze and the gentle lull of the tide. Our enriching — life giving — relationship with water is dependent on the health of Florida springs, rivers and estuaries. Our shared love of Florida has brought us to confront the potential destruction of Florida’s well-being. HPS II is an enterprise composed of four landowning families in Bradford and Union counties. It is the desire of this company to transform the shared landscape of the New River — a tributary of the Santa Fe that borders Bradford and Union counties to the north and south, respectively — and develop 7,400 acres of idyllic rural countryside into an industrial phosphate mining complex. Phosphate that is extrapolated from the mine is exported and refined for use in agricultural fertilizers. HPS II claims that the proposed mine will provide a booster-shot to the local economy, generating employment and commercial enterprise to the area. In actuality, HPS II’s appeal to mine phosphate recklessly threatens our beloved waterways and subjects our springs, rivers and beaches to risk of careless management...We feel blessed to live in the county where nature and culture meet. We urge Alachua County locals to speak up and protect our neighbors in Bradford County, and show support for our own commissioners in their endeavor against HPS II. We are the future leaders of Florida. We are the spokesmen of local ecosystems. We are lovers of clean water. It is our responsibility to care for Florida’s freshwater and preserve a sacred relationship with wild Florida for ourselves, our neighbors, and our future generations…” Emma Turner writes Opinion for the Florida Times-Union

Read Climate change might weaken wind barrier protecting Florida from hurricanes- “If you live in, say, Maine or Oregon, you likely don't spend a ton of time thinking about the meteorological concept of wind shear. But for Floridians, the concept becomes immediately important from June 1 through November 30 every year. In layman's terms, strong vertical wind shear — that is, a strong difference in wind speeds at various heights in the atmosphere — chops up hurricanes and makes it more difficult for them to form. In a postmortem recap, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) said Hurricane Irma in 2017 "strengthened rapidly in environmental conditions of low vertical wind shear," among other conditions. Well, a new study has some good news for hurricane chasers and bad news for basically everyone else who lives in a storm zone: Researchers from NOAA and Columbia University released a study at the end of last month warning that climate change will likely weaken overall wind shear along the East Coast...According to the paper, which was published May 24 in Nature's peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports, a strong wind shear acts as a barrier between the States and many hurricanes that form in the Atlantic Ocean. But greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere are likely to weaken this natural wall — some models predict Americans could begin to see the effects by 2050…” Jerry Iannelli reports for the Miami New Times.

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

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 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 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 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.

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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