FCC News Brief - June 17, 2019

Read Gov. DeSantis should stand up for ‘traditional’ Florida and veto harmful bill - “Florida is changing. The recession and real estate slump that ended the last decade is a faded memory. Residents of the rural and suburban areas surrounding our metropolitan areas see trees felled for houses and farmland forever lost to pavement and rooftops. 1000 Friends of Florida has long stood in support of growth management in line with community-derived plans for change. New development is necessary for a growing population. Change can bring economic prosperity and new opportunity. But these positive benefits are not automatic or guaranteed. A laissez-faire approach to real estate development costs Florida the agricultural productivity that undergirds our statewide economy and destroys the very environmental treasures that attracted so many of us to this special place. In exchange for that price, we get traffic gridlock stalled beside sprawl development that looks the same from Homestead to Pensacola. All of us have seen that side of Florida. None of us values it...With no state and regional agency considering the impacts of development, residents remained the only watchdogs over development. A system that leaves law enforcement to citizens probably isn’t the best, but in urban and regional planning in Florida today, that system is what we have, at least for now. The Legislature adopted House Bill 7103 bill this session to place new financial burdens on any landowners or community groups that enforce local plans for growth. If a resident challenges a city or a county approval of a development plan and loses, that resident will have to pay the attorney fees of the city or the county. This penalty will scare all but the most deep-pocketed landowners or citizens from standing up in support of growth management plans…” Jim Swann writes Opinion for Florida Today.

Read With Florida quality of life under siege, DeSantis must veto attempt by developers to crush citizen voices - “Clean water free of algae, livable neighborhoods, an efficient system of transportation that gets us where we need to go, protected natural lands and waters for recreation and wildlife. Almost all of us would agree that these are fundamental to our quality of life and, indeed, essential for a healthy economy. And these outcomes can only be achieved if communities throughout our region and state do a more effective job of planning for the impacts of growth and development. Currently, if we as citizens or representatives of concerned citizen groups like 1000 Friends of Florida attend our local city or county commission meeting and raise legitimate concerns about a planning or development proposal that we believe to be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan – our community’s adopted blueprint for growth – local governments and developers generally take notice in part because they know we are helping to establish our legal right to challenge that proposal. But in the waning hours of their 2019 session, our state legislators slipped damaging language into House Bill 7103 – without any public discussion -- that effectively neuters our ability to have a meaningful say in how our community develops. Among other things, HB 7103 includes a requirement that should our legal challenge fail, we are required to pay the local government’s attorney fees… Generations of Floridians will be paying the tab for poor planning and development decisions if HB 7103 becomes law. Once the Legislature transmits this damaging bill to Gov. DeSantis he can either sign or veto the bill or it automatically is enacted in 15 days. Florida citizens should contact the governor now and urge him to veto HB 7103 to protect Florida’s quality of life -- for us, our children and grandchildren. You may reach him at (850) 717-9337 or via email at www.flgov.com/email-the-governor…” F. Gregory Barnhart writes Opinion for the Palm Beach Post.

Read U.S. House approves red tide health research amendment- “A budget amendment approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday earmarks $6.25 million to study the impact of red tide and other algal blooms on human health. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, proposed the research funding as an amendment to a broader spending bill. “Scientists and researchers still do not know the full extent of red tide’s harmful effects on our health,” Buchanan said. “That has to change and my measure seeks to advance this important research.” Southwest Florida suffered through one of the worst red tide blooms in recorded history last year. The bloom lasted for 15 months, killing sea life and severely impacting the local economy. The toxins released by the red tide algae are known cause human respiratory problems and skin irritation, but little long-term research has been done on red tide’s impact on humans. “We need to know the long-term effects on people exposed to red tide,” Buchanan.” Zac Anderson reports for the Herald-Tribune.  

Read St. Johns Riverkeeper reacts to Blue Green Algae Task Force’s mission - “Gov. Ron DeSantis has chosen a group of scientists to tackle Florida's toxic algae outbreak, but days after their first meeting, concerns are growing that the state's new Blue Green Algae Task Force may only scratch the surface of this environmental crisis. "We really know how to resolve this problem. We really just have to stop pollution at its source. We know what the problem is. We know that there are too many nutrients going into our waterways. We just have to put the regulatory controls in place," said Jimmy Orth, St. Johns Riverkeeper executive director. The five-member Blue Green Algae Task Force is made up of scientists and researchers, and they will meet a few times every three to four weeks through August to "fine-tune" some of the state's existing regulations.  But Orth believes this short window will not allow for the development of stiffer restrictions and sweeping changes. "I'm worried at the same time they may just focus on trying to clean up the algae, which is addressing the symptoms and not addressing the source of the problem," said Orth. To get to the root cause of the issue, Orth said, the state should enact tighter restrictions on the release of agricultural wastes. He also wants the state to consider cleaning up septic tanks while also limiting the use of fertilizers. The nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers are known to lead to algae growth…” Jonathan Stacey reports for News4Jax.

Read Biosolids: Sunbreak Farms wants judge to grant permit to spread human waste on cornfields - “Sunbreak Farms owners want a judge to hear their case to build a biosolids processing site in St. Lucie and Indian River counties. The South Florida Water Management District last week denied a permit for the farm to fertilize crops, mostly corn, with a compost mixture containing tons of partially treated human waste. District officials said plans for the farm don't ensure heavy rains won't flush polluted stormwater into nearby canals leading to the Indian River Lagoon. The district also asked for a better sewage-sludge monitoring system to show "pollution abatement practices proposed in the design are functioning properly." Sunbreak officials say the design of the project is "dictated" by the permit they already have from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and they "are not at liberty to deviate" from what that permit requires...The farm, which is 90 percent in St. Lucie County and 10 percent in Indian River County, needs a district permit for its plan to place 80,000 tons of compost on 6,580 acres each year…” Tyler Treadway reports for Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Biosolids ban still a legislative priority, state Rep. Grall says - “Passing legislation to prohibit the spreading of Class B biosolids remains a high priority for state Rep. Erin Grall, despite bills failing to pass this year in the Legislature. Grall, R-Vero Beach, was the guest speaker Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the Taxpayers Association of Indian River County. State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, who was originally scheduled to speak, was unable to attend the luncheon due to a scheduling conflict. According to Grall, both she and Mayfield, worked hard to pass legislation to keep sewer sludge from being dumped on farmland and assist Indian River County in keeping the headwaters of the St. Johns River clean. The bills they introduced called for statewide regulations on the use of Class B biosolids along the lines of recommendations from a Department of Environmental Protection technical advisory committee. “Sen. Mayfield passed the bill in the Senate and I got the bill through two committees in the House,” said Grall. “And then there was an attempt to put together an omnibus water bill. Whenever you see that coming, you can also see the writing on the wall as to what the end result may be.”... “We are in the very beginning of this process,” said Grall. “Very much like the city of Vero Beach electric issue, it took a number of years to educate the folks in Tallahassee about how that issue was so important to our community. That fight was not won swiftly because it was complicated.” Despite the biosolid ban failing to pass statewide, Grall said, the moratorium in Indian River County remains in place until DEP is finished with its rulemaking process. There will be public hearings around the state beginning later this month about proposed rules that Grall believes would eliminate a number of sites where spreading biosolids is permitted...There are many special interests that weigh in on biosolids conversations; there are long-term contracts with waste haulers; cities and counties across the state have contracts for disposal of their waste products; and it’s much cheaper to have that waste hauled than it is to dispose of it in a wastewater facility, Grall said…” Janet Begley writes Special to the TCPalm.

Read Clean up septic tanks to protect springs - “Too many Floridians are flushing their waste right into our state’s springs and water supply. Perhaps that is an oversimplification of the problem, but not by much. Septic tanks are a major source of nitrate pollution in the aquifer, which supplies most of the state’s drinking water and the water that flows from its springs. As GateHouse Media’s Dinah Voyles Pulver recently reported, there are an estimated 2.7 million septic tanks in Florida. Many of them are too old, too close together and too close to groundwater, and were never designed to prevent nitrogen pollution. Nitrogen pollution is fueling algae growth in the formerly crystal-clear waters of springs such as Rainbow Springs, Silver Springs and the springs of the Santa Fe and Suwannee rivers. There are other contributors to the pollution, including agricultural operations and fertilizer applied to home lawns, but septic tanks are a problem that our region should be able to tackle with the state’s help...The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, passed by the Legislature in 2016, is supposed to begin reversing the damage to the state’s most significant springs. It requires septic tank remediation plans in areas near springs where septic tanks have been found to be causing at least 20 percent of the pollution. But several of the plans are being legally challenged by environmental groups. Those groups are right that the state has failed to go far enough in not only reducing pollution from septic tanks, but also in cutting the contributions from fertilizer use and livestock waste. To really save our springs, the state’s water management districts also need to stop issue massive groundwater withdrawal permits in spring basins. Cleaning up septic tanks is only part of the solution — albeit an important one that deserves increased attention in our region…” From the Gainesville Sun Editorial Board.

Read Climate change, South Florida sea level rise preparation could cost SFWMD $1 billion - “A 10-year program to prepare for sea level rise could cost the South Florida Water Management District more than $1 billion. A three-step program of assessing the problem, designing solutions and building those projects could begin next year, Akintunde Owosina, head of the Hydrology and Hydraulics Bureau, told district board members Thursday. By far the most expensive part of the program is construction, which Owosina said will cost from $30 million to $70 million a year, "depending on how aggressively we move forward." The district will post a job opening Friday for a chief of resiliency, said Executive Director Drew Bartlett. The chief will be responsible for making sure sea level rise is considered in all the district's activities, including permitting and project construction. The new position echoes an executive order Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Jan. 10, two days into his term, to create an Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection to help prepare Florida’s coastal communities and habitats for impacts from sea level rise by providing funding, technical assistance and coordination among state, regional and local entities. The Army Corps of Engineers hopes to get funding for a $16 million to $20 million study to see what improvements need to be made to the Central and Southern Florida Project. The Corps' "plumbing system" down the center of the state was designed in the 1950s and needs to be evaluated in light of climate change and population growth, Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, the deputy commander for Florida, told the district board. If the Corps' study answers questions the district planned to evaluate, Bartlett said, "we might not have to bring as much to the table…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

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:

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:

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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