FCC News Brief - June 13, 2019

Read DeSantis prepares to sign budget, issue vetoes - “Gov. Ron DeSantis hopes to sign a state budget and issue vetoes next week, with the spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year expected to arrive on his desk Friday. Appearing Tuesday at a bill-signing event in The Villages, DeSantis said he and his staff have completed a “first glance” at the line items in the $91.1 billion, 448-page document for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The governor has line-item veto power. Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, intends to formally send the budget (SB 2500) to DeSantis on Friday morning, Katie Betta, Galvano’s spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday. Once the budget lands on his desk, DeSantis will have 15 days to act. DeSantis said he’s still reaching out to lawmakers to get their justification for projects that made it into the budget. “We’re in the middle of that process,” DeSantis said. “I hope that we’ll have everything signed sometime next week…” Jim Turner reports for WJCT.

Read To protect the Everglades, Gov. Ron DeSantis should veto House Bill 7103 - “Since taking office as Florida’s new governor in January, Ron  DeSantis has made Everglades restoration and water quality a top priority. He committed to increasing state investments in those categories by $1 billion over his first term, and the Legislature went on to exceed his first year’s funding request... Citing these and other initiatives in his first State of the State address in March, DeSantis declared, “We are repositioning our water policy to meet the needs of our citizens.” And yet a pernicious piece of legislation that would take away a primary tool for Floridians to protect the Everglades and the state’s waterways will soon be transmitted to Gov. DeSantis. To build on, rather than undercut, his strong start on environmental protection, he must veto House Bill 7103. Under Florida law, every local government must adopt and maintain a comprehensive plan — its own blueprint for growth. With growth in Florida approaching its historic high of 1,000 new residents a day, such planning is more important than ever. Comprehensive plans can address a broad range of issues that affect water quality, including preservation of wetlands and other ecologically sensitive habitats, aquifer recharge, water supply, conservation of open space, drainage, flood protection, coastal management and agricultural buffers. Local governments are required to make development decisions that are consistent with their plans. But the only way to enforce this requirement is for citizens to take legal action, known as consistency challenges. In the final days of this year’s legislative session, a provision withdrawn from consideration in committee due to opposition from 1000 Friends of Florida was quietly added to HB 7103 on the Senate floor with an amendment that would effectively eliminate consistency challenges. The amendment was not previously introduced or debated by legislators in committee, or subjected to public testimony, or analyzed by staff. There was never a meaningful discussion of its serious consequences. As amended, HB 7103 would force citizens challenging comprehensive plan amendments to fight in an expedited proceeding, denying them the benefit of a full hearing. Even worse, it would make the losing party in these challenges pay the prevailing party’s attorney fees....” Victoria Tschinkel writes Opinion for the Miami Herald.

Read Blue-Green Algae Task Force holds first meeting, gets rundown on existing water quality regs - “The first meeting of the state’s Blue-green Algae Task Force was dominated by an overview of the role state and federal agencies play in regulating water quality and responding to algal blooms and whether those regulations are effective. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein kicked off the day-long meeting with a reminder of the governor’s priority to improve water quality and an admonition to not settle for the status quo. Valenstein expected the task force to question rules, regulations, and consider everything from process improvements to statutory changes. “Let’s get used to asking those questions,” he said… The charge to the task force is to focus on “expediting progress toward reducing the adverse impacts of blue-green algae blooms over the next five years,” said Tom Frazer, director of the University of Florida School of Natural Resources and Environment whom DeSantis appointed as the state’s chief science officer. That includes supporting key funding and restoration projects to reduce nutrients in Lake Okeechobee and its downstream estuaries. It also should identify projects based on scientific data and based on Basin Management Action Plans. Frazer acknowledged that most of the task force’s focus would be on Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie River basins. “But we are interested in wherever blue-green algae is a problem,” he said… The afternoon session was spent fielding task force member questions about septic tanks, sewer conversions, biosolid regulations, groundwater monitoring, the role of agriculture in nutrient discharge, and other issues related to water quality. "If we’re looking at nutrient reduction strategies, and agriculture is responsible for 78 percent of phosphorous production, that seems like the best place to start," said Michael Parsons, a marine science professor at Florida Gulf Coast University... Haley Burger, administrator for the Florida Conservation Coalition, said that the task force should consider acquiring land as the most effective way to preserve the environment. "The best way to protect our waterways from nutrient run off and algae bloom is to protect the land around them," Burger said during the brief public comment period at the end of the meeting, where about six people spoke...Julie Wraithmell, executive director of Audubon Florida, said the problems are well understood. "The issue is prioritizing then mobilizing to implement what we know needs to be done," Wraithmell said…” Jeffrey Schweers reports for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Read Paving paradise - “Grinning and glad-handing from one building industry association party to the next, four of five Lee County commissioners have created a blueprint of what not to do in a coastal county of 1,212 square miles. Lee faces a future of increased flooding, toxic water, more people and failing infrastructure, at least in the bipartisan consensus of most observers. The county includes about 785 square miles of dry or not-so-dry land — that’s just over half-a-million land acres, significant portions of it now covered in sprawling communities. But as Lee’s population approaches 750,000, paving paradise continues in a bull-economy frenzy. County commissioners are largely the reason. With one exception, Frank Mann, commissioners consistently ignored the impending consequences of a warming climate and many more people to aggressively promote development. And now more than ever...Earlier this year, those commissioners proposed a giant leap backward for Lee County. They asked the state Department of Economic Opportunity, established by former Gov. Rick Scott, to let them amend the county’s comprehensive development plan that protects wetlands by opening wetlands to industrial and commercial development...The commissioners’ wetland development plan, meanwhile, works like this. The county has a comprehensive land use plan approved by the state. Wetlands are identified in that plan and on the future land use map, since they’re key to our survival. The state allows property owners to destroy those wetlands in many places, but only after inspecting them, determining where development would have the least impact (on uplands), and only if owners agree to mitigate offsite. It’s the county’s job — not the state’s — to decide density or use on such wetlands. Since the Lee plan greatly restricts residential development to one house or dwelling per 20 acres on crucial wetlands — or one house per 10 acres on some uplands — residential development could be unappealing there, suggests Richard Grosso, a widely known land use and environmental law attorney and professor at the Shepard Broad College of Law at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale…” Roger Williams writes for the Fort Myers Florida Weekly.

Read Collier moves ahead with stricter rules on fertilizers, stops short of blackout period - “In the wake of devastating red tide spells and algae blooms that fouled shores, canals and beaches across Southwest Florida last summer, Collier County is contemplating stricter fertilizer rules. Collier commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to move ahead with a revamped fertilizer ordinance that, among other things, will include a year-round phosphorus ban — unless a soil test indicates the nutrient is needed — and require fertilizers to have a minimum of 50% slow-release nitrogen content — bumping up the requirement from the current 30% threshold. The proposed ordinance, which is expected to come back before commissioners later this year for final approval, is more stringent than the state model ordinance and Collier’s existing ordinance. It includes: Accounting for nutrients in reclaimed water when applying fertilizer, including a requirement that the utilities provide that information to reclaimed water users, Keeping fertilizer at least 10 feet away from a water body, lake, wetland or storm drain, even when using a deflector shield that had allowed application 3 feet away, Requiring that grass clippings and fertilizer applied on impervious surfaces are completely cleaned up...But some environmental groups disagreed with county staff and Unruh, urging commissioners to put in place a rainy season ban. A rainy season blackout period and capping the amount of nitrogen applied to turf “are not only effective measures to improve water quality,” but also don’t lead to the “supposed unintended consequences opponents of a strong ordinance suggest are possible,” said Kelly McNab, environmental planning specialist for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  The group sent a letter to commissioners laying out its recommendations, including scientific resources and case studies... Despite the urging from some environmental groups to implement a blackout period, Commissioner Burt Saunders said the county should follow the recommendations laid out by Unruh…” Patrick Riley reports for Naples Daily News.

Read Commission briefs: Fish Island approved - “St. Augustine commissioners unanimously supported managing Fish Island if the state agrees to buy the land in July. The site is about 57 acres of land south of the State Road 312 bridge and on the east side of the Matanzas River. The North Florida Land Trust has been negotiating the sale to preserve the property, which was used as a citrus plantation in the 1700s. Commissioners expressed their feelings about the project at Monday’s meeting. “This is the most important thing going on in the city right now, for me,” Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman said…” Sheldon Gardner reports for the St. Augustine Record.

Read Early outbreak of algae blooms detected in St. Johns River, Doctors Lake, Black Creek -  “Pockets of blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria, were spotted and tested in multiple areas of Clay County’s large section of the St. Johns River. The most common areas are Doctors Lake, near Black Creek and the Shands Bridge. St. Johns River Water Management District officials are monitoring the outbreak. Christine Mundy, bureau chief of Water Resource Information, called the algae prevalent. When the District finds a bloom, it’s sampled and sent to a laboratory, Mundy said. An analysis shows staff what the dominant species of algae is, and the District can identify any toxins. The state Department of Environmental Protection’s Algae Bloom dashboard lists six algae blooms near Doctors Lake, two near Black Creek and two near the Shands Bridge… he cause of algae blooms is multifaceted. Agricultural runoff, fertilizer overuse and human wastewater or septic tanks in the river are factors. The blooms feed on nitrogen and phosphorus. St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said the algae headlines that South Florida garners doesn’t diminish the problems Northeast Florida faces with pollution and algae. Trucks from South Florida dumping sewage in the basin of the St. Johns River was widely reported last year. Palatka and Lake George have seen the most blooms. Rinaman said when those blooms die off their nutrients can flow north. “In turn, it makes it more likely for an algae bloom downstream, basically a domino effect,” Rinaman said. “When we see something like that, we’re highly concerned about what is in Clay County’s future in regards to harmful algae blooms…” Nick Blank reports for Clay Today.

Read Oyster Bar Marsh Conservation Area boardwalk gets money from Indian River County - “New boardwalks and observation piers soon will improve visitor access to Oyster Bar Marsh Conservation Area trails. The $194,650 proposal to build the boardwalks and piers was approved unanimously Tuesday by county commissioners. Summerlin's Marine Construction of Fort Pierce is expected to begin construction within the next three months..."We've made a commitment here in the last couple of years to really move forward on some of our conservation land and putting in public amenities," said Commission Vice Chairman Peter O'Bryan. "We look forward to its completion." Money for the project comes from a 2018 Florida Inland Navigation Waterways Assistance Program grant and sales-tax revenue.  Oyster Bar is a 155-acre conservation area just north of Round Island Riverside Park, between State Road A1A and the Indian River Lagoon. Public-access improvement is part of a joint effort between the Indian River Land Trust and county…” Colleen Wixon reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.


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Upcoming Environmental Events:

June 10-14, June 24-28- Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest - (Gainesville) - Is your 6th-9th grade child looking for fun adventure this summer?  Consider Camp Kids in the Woods! Campers will conduct various field explorations led by local scientists from forestry, wildlife, and water resources. Highlights include: fishing, handling wildlife, exploring local ecosystems, a trip to a local spring, camping out one night at the Austin Cary Forest, building wildlife nesting boxes, and participating in games and scavenger hunts. After a week of fun in the forest, campers gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of their natural world and what is required to be a good steward of the environment. Camp Kids in the Woods summer program is a collaborative effort between the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. Session 1: June 10-14, 2019; Session 2: June 24-28, 2019. For more information and to register visit: www.campkidsinthewoods.org , or contact the Camp Director, Molly Disabb at kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

June 12, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Orange Park) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: Orange Park Town Hall, 2042 Park Ave, Orange Park, FL 32073.

June 13, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Palatka) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: St. Johns River Center, 102 N 1st St, Palatka, FL 32177.

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

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

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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