FCC News Brief - July 9, 2019

Read Florida may adopt limits on amount of toxins from blue-green algae blooms allowed in waterways - “Blue-green algae is popping up all over Florida this summer. It's in the canals of Gulfport and the Intracoastal Waterway in Treasure Island. In Bradenton, the Manatee River has turned green from the stuff, which the mayor of Holmes Beach calls "gumbo." In Lake Okeechobee, toxins have hit a level three times what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems safe. Meanwhile state officials have convened a Blue-Green Algae Task Force to figure out how to prevent such blooms in the future. So far they have concluded only that the state's current regulations, which rely largely on voluntary anti-pollution measures, don't work very well. Amid fears of another summer of toxic algae afflicting the state and hurting its economy, officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection say they are considering new regulations on how much of the natural toxins are allowed in the state's waterways. "The state would be a clear national leader if it set clear numeric limits on these toxins," said Jason Totoiu, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. "These standards could be used to identify which waters are impaired ... and we feel they would provide" specific steps for stopping practices that fuel the blooms. However, according to Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller, the state would use the new limits to determine when and where to declare a public health emergency — not as a tool to try to prevent such emergencies...So far the state's primary tools for reducing the pollution from nutrients — excess fertilizer and leaks from septic tanks and sewer lines — involves voluntary efforts called "Best Management Practices." Although state law requires it, members of the state Blue-Green Algae Task Force recently noted that just 75 percent of agriculture businesses in the state have adopted best management practices to reduce the nutrients in their runoff…” Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times

Read Florida’s water crisis has sport fishing on the brink of collapse - “Capt. Billy Rotne is quietly freaking out. He’s stabbed his finger on the sharp dorsal fin of a redfish that bucked just as he released it. Now he’s bleeding. It’s not much, maybe a drip every five seconds, but as Rotne rummages through the forward hold of his flats boat for his first-aid kit, his urgency elevates this from a garden-variety fishing prick into something more critical. He finds his medical kit, but the Neosporin, in a squeeze packet that looks like takeout mustard, expired last year. “Better than nothing,” Rotne says as he slathers his finger with the medicinal ointment. “I know this seems silly, but I don’t mess around with the chance of infection. Who knows what’s in this water.” If anybody should know, it’s Rotne. For the past 14 years, he’s worked as a registered fishing captain, guiding anglers around northern Florida’s premier inshore destinations. His favorite place—and method—is poling redfish anglers around Mosquito Lagoon, putting them on the biggest bull reds of their lives...he reality is that over the past couple of years, Rotne has struggled to put fish in the boat. His go-to spots have changed. Fish have relocated. Even the appearance of the water is different. “We should be seeing a dark bottom of sea grass,” Rotne says as he poles me around Mosquito Lagoon, the skeletal towers of Kennedy Space Center hulking a few miles to our south. “But it’s almost uniformly white. The sea grass is disappearing, which sucks for gamefish like seatrout, because when they’re juveniles, they use the grass to hide from pinfish and other predators. But it also sucks for water quality. If you don’t have sea grass holding the bottom, then every time the wind blows, sediment gets stirred up. The more sediment, the darker the water. The darker the water, the more heat it absorbs. The warmer the water, the more chemically reactive it becomes.” The catalyst for chemical reactions here—and the reason Rotne is so worried about his bleeding finger—is hundreds of thousands of gallons of fecal matter that have washed into the lagoon from leaking septic tanks across rural Brevard County…” Andrew McKean reports for Outdoor Life.

Read Carrabelle, Apalachicola and Mexico Beach receive state funding to combat rising sea level - “ On Monday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced funding for coastal cities to combat rising sea levels.  Carrabelle, Apalachicola and Mexico Beach were among 30 cities that received nearly $1.6 million in grant funds...Apalachicola city planner Cindy Clark said the city has known for a couple days that they received $52,500 toward two of their flood plan management projects. “We have a lot of drainage issues and this will help us as we move forward,” she said. The city wants to create a map and “neighborhood resilience guide” to identify “our most problematic drainage basins,” Clark said. She added that they also want to finish projects that would help qualify them for a FEMA program to help reduce flood insurance premiums. Hurricane-torn Mexico Beach received $75,000 toward a vulnerability assessment and resilient redevelopment plan. Thirteen Florida cities received $75,000 toward their projects, which was the highest amount awarded…” CD Davidson-Hiers reports for the Tallahassee Democrat

Read Sandy soil and rising seas spell septic tank disaster in Florida - “Communities across Florida are already grappling with aging septic tanks, which leak into groundwater and are considered a leading cause of toxic algae blooms. As sea level rise is expected to worsen that situation, the state and cities are beginning to tackle the expensive task of converting septic systems to sewer or newer septic technologies.  It’s no small challenge. Floridians are estimated to be using 2.6 million septic systems, most of them the conventional variety with two parts: a tank in the ground close to the home and a “drainfield.”... Bacteria inside the tank perform the first stage of treatment by breaking down waste. The resulting liquid, called “effluent,” then flows out of the tank and into the drainfield, most often a patch of soil. This serves to filter out some pollutants and contaminants before the effluent reaches groundwater. Mary Lusk, an assistant professor in the University of Florida Soil and Water Sciences Department, said this plain old technology is generally effective when it comes to public health protection. “They do a very good job of removing bacteria and viruses and any other pathogenic organisms as that wastewater interacts with the soil,” she explained. “Our problem in Florida is that the basic conventional system was never designed to remove nitrogen, and nitrogen is ever present in the human waste stream…” Brendan Rivers writes for Adapt

Read FPL wanted to punish disloyal customers by withholding solar. Then that changed. - “By adding 20 solar power plants and 1,490 megawatts of power over the next two years, Florida Power and Light’s “SolarTogether” program invites customers to participate in a groundbreaking solar program aimed at lowering costs and investing in highly sought clean energy. The proposal projects long-term savings of $139 million because the increased use of solar would allow it to avoid costs related to other types of power generation. Most customers would be able to voluntarily participate by paying a premium each month and later receiving credits for savings produced by the program. But there was a catch. The original proposal, filed March 13, included an exclusionary penalty for customers who do not support the “continuity of the program,” specifically those who support deregulation efforts like the Citizens for Energy Choices ballot initiative, according to Public Service Commission documents and video recordings of a public meeting obtained by the Miami Herald...After questioning from PSC staff and inquiries by the Miami Herald on how this exclusionary rule would be enforced and who would be excluded, FPL deleted the clause from its proposal...Katie Chiles, the southeast director of Vote Solar, has been critical of the SolarTogether program for reasons mainly related to its lack of accommodations for low-income customers (customers who opt in must pay a premium for seven years before saving on their electricity bill). She said shutting out even more people, like those who support deregulation, would not be in the public interest. “It is troubling to me that any utility would make a policy requirement for accessing clean energy programs, voluntary or not,” she said. “That in and of itself is sufficient reason for having a conversation about whether this program is in the public interest.”... Not all energy groups oppose the program. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has signed on in support and has also come out against the Energy Choice Amendment ballot language. Its main argument is based on the fear that bringing retail and wholesale solar markets to Florida would derail solar projects, delay progress and end net metering for solar systems…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Miami Herald

Read Turtle power: Record nesting season expected in Southwest Florida - “Sea turtles in Southwest Florida have faced challenges over the last couple years, from storms to red tide, but now experts say a record nesting season could be a boon to the species. s you stroll the beaches in Southwest Florida, you’ll see marked off areas that signal a turtle’s nest is buried below. Oftentimes, a single nest can hold more than 100 eggs. Official nesting season runs from May 1 through October 31, and this year has been promising with a good May and June, and the numbers are continuing to rise as we get further into the hatching season. On the barrier island of Keewaydin, just south of Naples, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida operates one of the longest running sea turtle research programs in the country. Senior biologist Dave Addison has led the loggerhead turtle research at the Conservancy for 30 years. He says after the many deaths last year, and the year before with Hurricane Irma, he’s expecting a strong season this year…” Teri Evans and Lincoln Saunders report for Wink News

Read For years, auto collisions have been the leading cause of death of endangered Florida panthers - “Within the past six years, the cause of death for most Florida panthers hasn't been a natural one.  Since 2014, 190 panthers have died in Florida -- and 147 of those died because they were struck by a vehicle, according to the latest statistics by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This means roughly only 23 percent have died from natural causes or after fighting among their species. So far in 2019, according to FWC, there have been a total of 12 panther deaths in the state: 9 died after they were hit by a car, one died from an unknown cause, and another died following intraspecific aggression, meaning it was killed by another panther.  The most recent fatal collision involved a 1-year-old male panther. Its remains were found in May in Lee County near Wild Turkey Strand Preserve… The majority of those fatal collisions occurred in Collier County. Out of the 147 panther deaths caused by vehicle collisions since 2014, 81 occurred in that Florida county… Over a century ago, Florida panthers roamed most of southeast U.S. and they were breeding among puma populations at a healthy rate.  That all changed starting with early European colonization and through the 19th Century. FWC said the panther population started to decline and became geographically isolated from other puma populations. The result led to inbreeding in panthers which had a negative impact on genetic variation, and, ultimately, their survival rate and fitness levels.  They were listed as an endangered species on the federal level in 1967. Now, the species is "restricted to less than five percent of its historic range in a single breeding population in southern Florida," according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service… Wildlife officials believe there could be anywhere between 120 to 230 adult panthers in the Sunshine State.” Fox 13 News staff report.

Read St. Augustine Beach City Commission passes bans on sale and distribution of plastic bags, straws, and styrofoam- “The St. Augustine Beach City Commission has passed bans on the sale and distribution of plastic straws, plastic bags, and Styrofoam, becoming one of the first cities in Northeast Florida to do away with some single-use plastic items. The city says on its Facebook page, the first ordinance (19-03) prohibits the sale and distribution of Styorofam containers and plastic straws, while the second ordinance (19-04) prohibits the sale and distribution of single-use plastic bags by retail establishments. St. Augustine Beach Mayor Undine George tells WOKV, this push really started about two years ago. "I think it was June of 2017, the idea of the plastic bag ban was first brought to our city. And at that period of time, we, as a city, decided to use it as an opportunity to bring out awareness and education of the issues of single-use plastics, [including] creating a negative environmental impact, particularly on marine life. So, we just adopted a voluntary plastic bag ban for the month," George explains. Flash forward to this year, she says the issue was brought up again by the community, but this time with the idea of expanding to also include bans on plastic straws and Styrofoam…” Sarah Thompson reports for WOKV.

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 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.

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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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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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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