FCC News Brief - June 19, 2019

Read Blue-green algae recedes in the St. Johns River, may be cause of fish lesions - “Scientists continue to investigate what caused lesions and sores on fish in the St. Johns River this spring and suspect the funky fish issues were related to toxic algae blooms. Blue-green algae blooms were reported along much of the river between late April and early June, from Blue Spring State Park northward toward Green Cove Springs. However, the algae blooms seemed to have dissipated somewhat over the past week, said local paddlers and river users, possibly because of recent rains. But the blooms haven’t gone away entirely. A report released Friday by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection found the potential for algae blooms along 50 percent of the river, which flows 310 miles from Indian River County northward to Mayport, east of Jacksonville. The blooms are spurred by heat and nutrients in the water, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which come from sources such as human wastewater, storm water runoff and fertilizers. Fish health biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission hypothesize that cyanobacteria blooms in the St. Johns, its tributaries and certain springs along the river weakened the health of the fish found in the springs in late April, said Michelle Kerr, a spokeswoman for the agency’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The blooms promote infections by opportunistic pathogens. Algae blooms can lead to poor water quality and low dissolved oxygen and produce toxins that harm the fish, said Kerr…” Dinah Voyles Pulver reports for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Read Limerock mining could forever change the face of Lee County. We must protect our land - “A limerock mine may be mere steps away from your front door if the Lee County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approve the proposed changes to the existing Comprehensive Plan (Plan) pertaining to limerock mining at the June 19th adoption hearing. The current plan limits new and expanded limerock mines to only those areas identified on a map (known as Map 14). This ensures that limerock resources located in or near existing mines and/or disturbed areas will be more fully utilized and, therefore, it limits the spread of limerock mining impacts into less disturbed areas of the county. This not only protects natural resources and wildlife but also ensures that a limerock mine will not end up moving in next door to local residents. As you can imagine, limerock mining is unlike any other land use. It is extremely intensive, impactful, and by its very nature, forever changes the landscape. In layman’s terms, limerock mining blows up the earth and once the earth is blown up, there is no turning back.  The county initially created Map 14 to minimize negative impacts on valuable water resources, natural systems, residential areas, and road systems...The Florida Wildlife Federation, along with other environmental advocates, intervened in this case on behalf of Lee County, and the Administrative Judge ruled in the County’s favor. The County is now proposing repealing the very policies that the Judge’s ruling upheld. In addition to the natural resource impacts, the proposed changes will also seriously curtail public input. Currently, mining interests need to go through a comprehensive plan amendment process to be included in Map 14...In sum, the proposed amendment to delete Map 14 fundamentally eliminates protective measures Lee County has in place to determine whether and where new mines may be approved. This will certainly weaken the County’s protections against such a destructive land-use, undoubtedly impact our natural resources, and deprive the County’s residents of the ability to meaningfully interact with elected officials on this critical issue...” Meredith Budd writes Opinion for the News-Press.

Read Living shoreline replaces old seawall in Safety Harbor - “ A group of kids, adults and researchers helped plant and put the finishing touches on a living shoreline. The more than 200-foot-long living shoreline is located at the Safety Harbor Waterfront Park. It replaced a crumbling seawall. "[The Living Shoreline] is better for the environment, cleaner for the water, and better for the fish and birds. You don't have to replace it," said Ries, Vice President and SE Biological Services and Restoration Director at Environmental Science Associates. Ries is part of the team that worked with the City of Safety Harbor. He explains the seawall disrupted a natural process that the living shoreline will help bring back. "By putting the rocks back in, we have barnacles and oysters coming back," said Ries. "Then we will have fish and that brings birds. We will have a vibrant living community right here."  Bryan Flynn, a coastal engineer who also worked on the living shoreline project, explains that this type of shoreline will also breakup wave energy. "This is obviously more natural. It's on a slope, whereas a seawall is just vertical... As sea levels rise and we have storm surge and things like that, this shoreline is going to adapt. It's going to grow and get bigger," said Flynn. Research also shows living shorelines are more resilient in storms.” Lauren St. Germain reports for ABC Tampa Bay.  

Read As Florida’s septic tanks reach crisis, fix needed - “Citrus County is special, and we all know it. But the state has identified Citrus County as special in a way that’s not really so great. It’s one of just nine counties in the state that have been designated Priority Focus Areas — areas where the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) finds it necessary to impose special water quality protections, or where septic systems contribute more than 20 percent of the pollution load. The state adopted new rules aimed at improving Florida’s outstanding springs systems that are in peril. Citrus County has two on the list: Crystal River/Kings Bay and the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Springs groups. Effective last July, these two areas are covered by Basin Management Action Plans, or BMAPs, that provide a blueprint for restoring impaired waters by reducing pollutant loadings. Why is all this important to county residents? It’s because the rules address one of those necessary items that people mostly don’t think about — septic systems. There are tens of thousands of septic systems at Citrus County homes and businesses, many planted decades ago and generally ignored unless something goes wrong...If you have a conventional septic system, remember that it needs regular maintenance. Have the system inspected by a licensed septic system contractor every three years. Have it pumped out and cleaned as recommended. If it’s failing, contact the county’s Environmental Health office about having it permitted for repair, and use a contractor registered to participate in the Septic Upgrade Incentive Program. Don’t pour chemicals, pesticides, or poisons down the drain. Limit disposal of fats and grease, which can cause system failure. Local government should institute septic system inspection programs, and be prepared to enforce mitigation requirements and other regulations. Homeowners should encourage local governments to expand sewer service, which may carry a cost but will provide a universal benefit…” From the Citrus County Chronicle Editorial Board.

Read More than 250 dolphins have stranded themselves from Florida to Louisiana in 2019 - “It’s been a bad year for dolphin standings in the Gulf of Mexico. Since Feb. 1, 261 dolphins have stranded themselves along the beaches from Florida’s panhandle to Louisiana, according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The majority of these strandings are for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. The NOAA report said the number is three times higher than normal and has declared it an “Unusual Mortality Event” or UME. “It is too early to determine any potential causes of the UME,” the reports said. “Many of the dolphins recovered are very decomposed, limiting the ability to collect samples to determine cause of illness or death. In addition, a number of dolphins have stranded in remote locations, which limits the Stranding Network’s ability to examine or recover the carcass." Some of the stranded dolphins, though, have shown signs of skin lesions that could be from freshwater exposure, the report said…” Richard Tribou reports for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read Among rarest of sea turtles found in Indian River Lagoon - “Sea turtle researchers working in the Indian River Lagoon have encountered one of the rarest of all sea turtles, far away from where the turtles are normally seen. It’s only the second time that researchers with the University of Central Florida’s Marine Turtle Research Group have seen a hawksbill turtle in the lagoon during more than two decades of research. “We found the hawksbill just south of (Sebastian) Inlet,” said Kate Mansfield, associate professor and director of the turtle research group. She estimates they were about a mile south of the boat ramp at Sebastian Inlet State Park on the east side of the Lagoon. “Hawksbills are the rarest of all sea turtles that nest in Florida,” Luciano Soares, one of the lead sea turtle biologists for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, wrote in an email. The majority of the hawksbills lay their nests in the Florida Keys, said Soares. Only 54 nests have been documented since 1979, said Michelle Kerr, a spokeswoman for the commission. Over the past five years, seven nests have been recorded, six in the Keys and one in Palm Beach County…” Dinah Voyles Pulver reports for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Read Seminole looks to continue providing bear-proof trash cans despite lack of state funding - “Seminole County officials said they will look for ways to continue providing residents with bear-resistant trash cans at discounted rates after the Legislature decided to not include money for the “BearWise” grant program in this year’s state budget. Seminole has a waiting list of about 780 property owners who’ve asked for the special 64-gallon garbage bins with a special lock-top. “We need to find a way to continue this program, because it has been highly successful — both in results and in popularity,” County Commissioner Lee Constantine said. The special bins are considered especially crucial in the area west of Interstate 4 that state wildlife officials have called the state’s “epicenter of human and bear conflicts” because of the extraordinarily high number of the black, furry animals coming face-to-face with humans in residential neighborhoods...Last year, the Legislature appropriated $500,000 for the BearWise program to help local governments provide residents with the special trash cans and other implement other measures to reduce human-bear conflicts…” Martin E. Comas reports for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read A changing tide: Florida’s summer of slime turned its politics upside down - “Cyanobacteria filled Lake Okeechobee, Florida’s largest lake, while another pollution-induced environmental hazard, red tide, crept up both of Florida’s coasts, reaching as far north as Daytona Beach. Tourists questioned whether it was safe to take a dip in Florida’s waters. Governor Rick Scott eventually declared a state of emergency. In a few short months, the Sunshine State’s algae crisis went from a rumor residents shrugged off to a top campaign issue in the 2018 election…. Many in Florida blame then-Governor Scott — now the state’s junior senator — for pushing policies that put business first and the environment second, all with a blind eye to how clearly those two are intertwined in the Sunshine State. During his eight years in the governor’s mansion, Scott loosened a variety of protections, creating a recipe for the hell soup served up in the summer of 2018: He cut almost $700 million in funding meant to regulate and protect Florida’s waterways. He repealed a law that required septic tank inspections. He filled the state’s five water management boards with people more inclined toward catering to big business like the sugar industry and seemed to care little about safeguarding Florida’s waters...And even though his plans called for resilience strategies to prepare coastal cities for rising seas, DeSantis’ public stance stuck to the party line: His platform never mentioned the words “climate change.” Those two words are what Jason Evans, an assistant professor of environmental science at central Florida’s Stetson University, calls “the third rail of Republicanism.” Evans is an environmental policy expert who makes an effort to talk to Republican voters and politicians about green issues. “I have talked with Republicans privately who acknowledge the science of climate change but have also said pretty explicitly that they can’t talk about it, because their base voters have been conditioned to say that climate change is something that Republicans don’t believe in.”...With all the problems mucking up our water, the state of Florida sorely needs an environmental champion. It could very well be DeSantis, but maybe what it takes to change so many minds is a stubborn blonde woman and her feisty Pomeranian. After all, politicians have had their chances — at the state, national, and international levels. On the surface Becky Harris and, say, the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg who has set alight a movement of Generation Z-ers demanding climate action, have little in common. But it could be that, from now on, all our environmental heroes will be the unlikely ones.” Rebecca Renner writes for Grist.

From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

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:

June 19, 3:00pm-4:00pm - A Federal Price on Carbon - (webinar) - Join the Citizens Climate Lobby and Adele Morris, Senior Fellow and Policy Director of the Climate and Energy Economics Project at the Brookings Institution, and Daniel Richter, CCL’s Vice President of Government Affairs for a free webinar on the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. For more information and to register, click here.

June 19, 5:30pm-9:00pm - Clear Miami Training - (Miami) - Catalyst Miami is recruiting for their next cohort of CLEAR Miami, Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience. This is a free 10-week leadership training course around community organizing, social justice, and climate resilience specific to Miami-Dade County. The course will be starting on Wednesday, June 19th at Touching Miami with Love: West Homestead. The class is free of charge; dinner, a youth class, and translation are all provided. Apply now at: www.catalystmiami.org/clear-miami.

June 19, 6:00- 7:30pm - Hurricane Preparedness Workshop - (Miami) - The CLEO Institute, with support from Miami-Dade County and The Solutions Project, invites you to attend a free workshop where we will be discussing health, emergency preparedness, gentrification and displacement. Free dinner and refreshments are included, as well as preparedness giveaways. Spanish translation will be provided. Please RSVP here.

June 24-June 25 - Miami’s Feeling the Heat & Paying the Price - (Miami) - Pay Up Climate Polluters Miami in collaboration with muralist @MDOTBlake present Miami’s Feeling the Heat & Paying the Price on June 24th and 25th. Concerned about the rising costs of flooding, sea walls & extreme heat? Join us as we raise awareness about costs, industry deception & making polluters pay. June 24 / 10 am-4 pm/ Mural-Making in Allapattah & Little Havana. June 25 / 10 am-4 pm/ Mural-Making in Liberty City & Little Haiti. For more information, click here.

June 26 - 6:00pm-9:00pm - Climate Action: Inform & Empower - (Miami) - Take the future into your own hands and join us for a discussion and hands-on activities designed to inform and empower locals around climate action. The Miami chapter of the United Nations Association, The CLEO Institute and Vizcaya have come together for this very special evening. The night begins with a discussion among experts about the state of our climate, the urgency for climate action, and solutions. All guests are welcome to submit questions for the panel during registration as well as talk with experts one-on-one throughout the evening.
Vizcaya’s gardens will be open for visitors to enjoy along with snacks provided by Hungry Harvest and beer courtesy of Saltwater Brewery. Click here for more information.

June 27, 6:00pm-7:30pm - Underwater Climate Rally - (Miami) - The first democratic presidential debate is our opportunity to let the candidates - and the world - know that Floridians want lawmakers to offer solutions for the #ClimateEmergency. Climate has got to be a central platform for any serious Presidential candidate. Come to the “Underwater Climate Rally” and add your voice calling for action on climate. Wear Blue - to signify the “underwater” theme. Bring blue tarps, snorkel gear, paper towels, masks, rainboots or umbrellas - whatever you have handy to let everyone know you do not want to be "underwater" and signify you're ready for the candidates to #ActOnClimate. Gather: 6:00 p.m. Press Conference: 7:00 p.m. March to Debate: 7:30 p.m. (The debate airs from 9pm - 11 pm) For more information visit Facebook event 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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