FCC News Brief - June 14, 2019

Read Seminole County goes on land-buying spree, purchases 13 acres near Yankee Lake, old Rosenwald school property - “...The Rosenwald school campus, a few blocks north of busy State Road 436 and east of Ronald Reagan Boulevard, was one of two land purchases from the School Board that county commissioners unanimously approved on Tuesday. Seminole leaders also agreed to buy nearly 13 acres of old Florida woods just north of State Road 46 and east of Yankee Lake Road for $1.2 million to preserve it from development. But it was the old Rosenwald campus — a relic of the school segregation era — and surrounding 13 acres near Lake Mobile that drew the most attention, mostly from East Altamonte residents. “It’s been a long time coming,” said Jerrod Blackshear, a minister of Apostolic Church of Jesus on Ford Drive. County officials will now develop a plan for the property in the heart of the mostly low-income community and likely raze the 15 buildings. When Rosenwald closed eight years ago, East Altamonte residents said the property would be an ideal place for a community center that offers after-school programs, a food pantry, health department services, adult education classes, meeting rooms and a Sheriff’s substation. Regarding the purchase of the Yankee Lake property, the land is adjacent to a Seminole wastewater treatment plant… It’s also near 50,000 acres of protected and environmentally-sensitive land — including the Seminole State Forest, the Black Bear Wilderness Area, Rock Springs Run State Preserve and the Wekiwa Springs State Park. The area is home to the Florida black bear and the endangered Florida scrub-jay. The School Board acquired the land in March 1988 from Seminole County with plans to build an elementary school to keep up with projected growth along S.R. 46 west of Interstate 4. County officials said if Seminole didn’t acquire the land, it could be turned into homes or apartments. Katrina Shadix, a Geneva resident and wildlife advocate, urged commissioners to buy the land and keep it as woods, rather than use it to expand the wastewater treatment plant. “I would like to see it preserved,” she said…” Martin E. Comas reports for the Orlando Sentinel

Read Environmentalists: Offshore drilling rule changes dangerous  - “Ten environmental groups are suing to challenge what they view as the Trump administration's decision to weaken critical safety rules created after the nation's worst offshore drilling disaster. The rule changes announced in March will make oil and gas exploration and development off the Pacific, Atlantic, Alaska, and Gulf coasts "significantly more dangerous," according to the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by national groups including the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife, and groups on the Gulf and Carolina coasts. "Rolling back safety standards while trying to aggressively expand offshore drilling just boggles the mind. So we're asking the court to step in to protect workers, wildlife, coastal communities and our climate," Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, another plaintiff, said in a news release. Tiffany Gray, spokeswoman for the Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, said in an email that the agency cannot comment about pending litigation. The rules were imposed six years after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 workers as BP PLC executives celebrated the project's safety record at the rig on April 20, 2010. Over the next 87 days, the well nearly a mile (1.6 kilometers) deep in the Gulf of Mexico spewed out an estimated 130 million gallons (493 million liters) of oil. Scientists estimate the oil killed or seriously hurt "billions, if not trillions" of animals, the lawsuit said. The government declared a fisheries disaster. BP says its costs have topped $60 billion. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in March that the changes would eliminate unnecessary regulation while keeping safety and environmental protection…” Janet McConnaughey reports for the Associated Press.

Read ‘Don’t drain our rivers,’ citizens tell water district - “Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) officials got the message loud and clear Tuesday night: Leave the rivers alone. About 80 people showed up at SWFWMD-sponsored workshop in Lecanto to urge the district not to increase withdrawals from the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers. Specifically, the district is recommending allowing up to an 8% flow reduction for the Chassahowitzka and a 5% reduction for Homosassa. The public was even more upset because those levels have been set at 3% since 2013. Why tamper with them again, asked several people gathered at the workshop at the College of Central Florida. Minimum flows and levels (MFLs) are defined by state statute as "the limit at which further withdrawals would be significantly harmful to the water resources or ecology of the area." Water districts use them in water-supply planning and in determining water-use permitting and environmental resource regulation… Brad Rimbey, who sits on the Homosassa River Alliance and Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration boards, said he is not optimistic that the current water district board will heed the concerns of the public. Board members, he said, are more concerned about serving real estate and agricultural interests. The evidence, he said, is clear from the recommended withdrawal increases and previous actions involving Crystal River, King’s Bay and the Rainbow River. “I’m pretty pessimistic about the future of our coastal rivers,” said Rimbey, also vice president of the Florida Springs Council…” Michael D. Bates reports for the Citrus County Chronicle.

Read Lowering Lake O levels replaces one disaster with another - “For the last several months, I’ve had the opportunity to travel throughout the tri-county area and help raise awareness about the critical water issues that impact ordinary residents. From town halls to more intimate settings, I’ve engaged with citizens, business owners, and elected officials on these issues to help set the foundation for forging partnerships among these groups going forward. Regardless of who I’m speaking to, one constant theme remains – protect our water. Such a concept has not arrived suddenly; rather, it is an issue that South Florida has had to wrestle with for some time. Here in Palm Beach County, it is particularly relevant. From our coastal towns to as far west as the communities in the Glades, water remains at the forefront of everyone’s concerns, particularly as we approach the warm summer months, when the fear of a drought continually threatens our water supply. From last year until now, there has been a vigorous debate about what to do with the water levels in Lake Okeechobee. U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, whose district represents a portion of northern Palm Beach County, has proposed lowering lake levels to 10.5 feet in advance of our wetter months, with the expectation that a rainy season will refill the lake naturally, thus eliminating the need for excess discharges that many claim are responsible for the algae bloom crisis that occurred on our Florida coasts last year. This solution, however, is problematic for reasons that are obvious. No one is doubting the need to address the algae bloom crisis, but you don’t fight a disaster by creating another disaster. It has merely been a clever soundbite designed to score cheap political points. In reality, it has placed two areas of our state at odds with one another – favoring the needs of one community, while neglecting the needs of another… There are other more natural dangers, as well. Consider the prospect of salt-water intrusion, which has become a more serious threat as sea levels continue to rise, potentially polluting our aquifers and contaminating our fresh water supply. The Everglades, whose fresh water supply could also be compromised by salt-water intrusion, depends on Lake Okeechobee as a way to keep that water fresh. Lowering the lake would starve our most important ecological prize…” Ryan Rossi writes Opinion for the Palm Beach Post.

Read Where are the algae blooms? The answer’s ecologically simple - but politically complicated - “Last year at this time we were seeing the first blue-green algae blooms along the South Fork of the St. Lucie River in Martin County. It only got worse from there. By August we were reporting the blooms were 10 times too toxic to touch; several local dogs that ingested the green gunk died — and everyone began to wonder what the foul goo might be doing to them. Fast forward to this year. A blue-green algae bloom covers parts of Lake Okeechobee, and earlier this week reports came in showing it was toxic. But so far we haven't seen any blue-green algae blooms on the St. Lucie, So here comes my stupid question: Why? There's an obvious answer: The gates at the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam have been closed for months. "We haven't had large devastating lake discharges (from Lake Okeechobee) that carry toxic algae biomass and high nutrient loads (into the river) and lower the salinity to a range that the toxic algae can flourish, said Dr. Gary Goforth, a Stuart-based environmental engineer with more than three decades of experience in water resource management in Florida. So, duh. No discharges, no algae. But wait. How can that be? aybe that's another stupid question. But in recent years we've been admonished time and again that the nightmarish algae blooms in recent years were homegrown problems. That is, some have latched onto research showing local pollutants such as farm runoff and above all leaky septic systems were the "cause" of these algae crises. It's not the lake, went this line of "reasoning" — it's us. Curious, that. Because if it was truly the case that homegrown pollution was causing the blooms — well, where are they? Shouldn't we be seeing blooms on the St. Lucie at this very moment, regardless of whether discharges are happening? That we're not tells us something both ecological — and political. As you're well aware, there's been a big debate going on in recent months over how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should best manage the water level in Lake O. On one side are we "coastal elites" (ahem) who want to keep the lake level lower in order to reduce the need for summer discharges...So the likes of Glades Lives Matter and others who talk about the need for storage north of the lake have a point. There needs to be a holistic solution to our sick waters, whether they're rushing down the canal headed our way or sitting, coagulating, on the Lake in years when there are no discharges. This issue is bigger than we "coastal elites"; it's bigger than the folks who live around the lake. It's bigger, even, than the sugar interests which work so hard and spend so much money to defend their prerogatives and sometimes thwart progress. And yet, when our coastal community has been hit by three algae crises in six years,  when you've got dogs dying and toxins in the algae linked to maladies like ALS and Alzheimers, the problem becomes a little more acute. Yes, we need long-term fixes. But we need short-term solutions too…” Gil Smart writes Opinion for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Can Burmese pythons be eradicated from the Everglades? Judas snake program shows promise - “The uninvited denizens of South Florida's wildlands, woodlands, marshlands and swamplands have left an indelible — and possibly irreversible — mark on the ecosystem. First identified in Everglades National Park in 2000, the Southeast Asian apex predator quickly put a stranglehold on Florida's wildlife. To a python, Florida's rich biodiversity of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians is a veritable smorgasbord of delicacies. According to the USGS, a 2012 study in Everglades National Park revealed pythons have contributed to these population declines: 99.3% fewer raccoons, 98.9% fewer opossums, 87.5% fewer bobcats. Foxes and marsh and cottontail rabbits have "effectively disappeared," the study says. As pythons eat their way across the Sunshine State's landscape, there is strong evidence Florida's bird, native snake and iconic alligator populations are also suffering. A fundamental problem in keeping up with the python's assault on Florida is the snake's ability to remain out of sight, said Matthew McCollister, a resource manager with the National Park Service based at Big Cypress National Preserve in Ochopee. "The tools that exist today are not sufficient" to locate pythons, he said. "We have got to invest in developing and improving tools." The key is finding and removing breeding females, he said...When males are discovered crossing a road or slithering along a canal dike, they are caught and taken to a Zoo Miami lab where veterinarian Frank Ridgely, donating his time and facilities, surgically inserts a radio transmitter.  The pythons are released back into the wild to act as spies, hence their nickname "Judas snakes." During the December-through-April breeding season, the males lead researchers to the females. "The radio transmitter allows you to follow it wherever it goes," Josimovich said. "It emits a pulsating beep. We can go to our animal and potentially remove several other individuals" found in breeding populations called "breeding balls…” Ed Killer reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read For one rare bird, flight from South Florida’s changing climate sparks a surprising revival - “When Craig Watson moved to South Carolina 30 years ago, the appearance of a roseate spoonbill would draw people from hundreds of miles away hoping to get a glimpse of the exotic bird. Today, spoonbills are a daily sight among the herons and egrets in the coastal marshes where Watson works as a state migratory bird biologist. “They’re here every month of the year,’’ he said. “It’s been pretty remarkable to watch.’’ Changes in habitat and climate are threatening birds all across the country. But in a twist that surprises and impresses researchers, the very forces working against many species have helped push the number of spoonbills in the Southeast to their highest levels in modern times... As the roseate spoonbills move north and inland, they are abandoning their historic breeding grounds in Florida Bay and the coastal Everglades... “They are an ancient race of birds, so they’ve been through this before,” said Dr. Jerry Lorenz, state research director for the Florida Audubon Society and Florida’s preeminent expert on spoonbills. “They’ve always had to adapt to sea levels. The thing is, they’re smarter than human beings. They know how to get out of the way of rising water.”...Researchers predict that tougher times are coming for all kinds of birds with the accumulated impacts of habitat loss, pollution and the spread of threats such as glass buildings and windmills. A recent United Nations report on the environment warned that climate change could lead to a new wave of mass extinctions merely decades from now. Conservationists hope these mounting troubles will lead to stronger policies to set up preserves, push education and toughen laws protecting threatened species. “We already know many of the things we can do,’’ said Parr of the American Bird Conservancy. “We should be acting on it, slowing and mitigating these forces.’’ Lorenz has similar thoughts when it comes to the future of the spoonbill. He still holds out hope that the restoration of the Everglades could supply enough clean water to restore the Florida Bay as a primary breeding ground…” Anders Gyllenhaal reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Praise song for the unloved animals - “Sing, O muse, of the lumbering opossum, of the nearsighted, stumbling opossum, whose only defenses are a hiss, a hideous scowl and a rank scent emitted in terror. Let us rejoice in the pink-nosed, pink-fingered opossum, her silvery pouch full of babies, each no bigger than a honeybee. May your young thrive to ride upon your back. May they fatten and grow large and stumble off on their own to devour cockroaches and carrion and venomous snakes. May their snuffling root out all the ticks in our yards and all the snails in our flower beds. When they faint in the face of marauding dogs, we call back our baying hounds and wait for them to wake. We cheer when they rise and shake themselves. We send them with our blessings as they blunder back into the night...World, world, forgive our ignorance and our foolish fears. Absolve us of our anger and our error. In your boundless gift for renewal, disregard our undeserving. For no reason but the hope that one day we will know the beauty of unloved things, stoop to accept our unuttered thanks…” Margaret Renkl writes Opinion for the New York Times.

From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Policy and Planning Director - 1000 Friends of Florida

Organizing Representative, Wildlands Campaign - Gainesville - Sierra Club

Organizing Representative, Wildlands Campaign - Ft. Myers/Naples - Sierra Club

Staff Attorney - Everglades Law Center

Upcoming Environmental Events:

June 18, 5:30pm - 7:30pm - FDOT Public Meeting for the Central Polk Parkway - (Bartow) - "The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Florida's Turnpike Enterprise will hold a Public Information Meeting to present the design of Central Polk Parkway, a new tolled Roadway from Polk Parkway (SR 570) at Winter Lake Road (SR 540) to US 17 (SR 35) in Polk County, Florida (Financial Project Identification Number 440897-2, Efficient Transportation Decision Making Number: 8487). There will be no formal presentation. This meeting will allow interested persons an opportunity to learn about the project and provide comments. During the open house, project information will include displays that describe the proposed improvements and opportunities to provide comments. Information about right-of-way needs, and potential environmental impacts will be on display. Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise representatives will be available to discuss the project and answer questions. For more information contact Pam Nagot at pamela.nagot@dot.state.fl.us or 407-264-3043. Visit FDOT’s website for more information.

June 18, 9:30am - Citrus County Board of County Commissioners public workshop - (Inverness) - The Citrus County Board of County Commissioners will hold a public Workshop on June 18, 2019 at 9:30am at the Citrus County Courthouse, 110 North Apopka Avenue, Inverness, Florida to launch the new Citrus County Economic Development Website and receive a presentation by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) on the Suncoast Parkway 2 Transportation Corridor Land Use Study. For more information, please call 352-527-5537 or visit Citrus County online here.

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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