FCC News Brief - June 24, 2019

Read Ron DeSantis signs 2019-2020 budget, issues $131 million in line-item vetoes - “Gov. Ron DeSantis signed his first state budget Friday, one week after the Legislature sent it him for review. The $91.1 billion spending plan approved by the Legislature is the largest in state history. DeSantis’ gave it a trim before giving it the okay, vetoing $131 million in appropriations, but it still beats out last year’s budget by more than $2 billion. The budget (SB 2500) includes $682 million for the environment, a major priority of DeSantis’ heading into the 2019 Legislative Session. About $400 million of that cash will be used for Everglades restoration projects and another $100 million will be put toward springs restoration. Though DeSantis got his wish on environmental spending, lawmakers didn’t grant him the $100 million he wanted for Florida Forever, the state’s conservation land-buying fund. The program got $33 million this year. Money for Hurricane Michael the recovery effort was DeSantis’ other big ask this year, and the Legislature stepped up with $220 million for a wide array of projects in the Panhandle…” Drew Wilson reports for Florida Politics.

Read State of Florida dragging its feet on septic tank cleanup - “ Despite their toll on Florida’s waterways, the state is doing virtually nothing to encourage people and businesses to clean up leaking septic tanks. Of the more than 2.8 million septic tanks across Florida, at least 280,000—or 10 percent of them—are leaking, according to figures provided by the state Department of Health. Septic tanks are the second biggest polluter in the state, trailing only agriculture. But even though that’s the case, fewer than 20,000 were repaired in 2018. In Jacksonville, the city and JEA have already identified 1,600 septic tanks they want to phase out, likely in part because environmentalists say the runoff seeps into the St. Johns. "It’s antique technology that needs to go," said Bill Howell, a commissioner with the Leon County Soil and Water Conservation District. For about $2,000, there’s technology available that could turn septic tanks into miniature wastewater treatment plants, Howell said. Some tanks would require modernization. "It’s got bacteria in it and you pump air into it and the bacteria actually eats what’s in the septic tank," he said. "Digests it completely." The consequence of doing nothing about the problem can be seen in Wakulla County, where a glass-bottom boat used to run tours of the springs 30 to 40s out of the year. The last time they had such a tour was two years ago. As recently as 10 years ago, lawmakers required septic tank inspections. They passed a spring protection bill in 2010 mandating inspections every five years. But a year later, lawmakers got cold feet. They killed the plan in response to thousands of complaints over the inspections’ costs. Former State Sen. Lee Constantine was the bill’s sponsor.  "We would have been five years, minimum, closer to a solution," he said. "And by 2020, we would have inspected every single tank in the state of Florida." Mike Vasilinda reports for News4Jax.

Read Gov. DeSantis signs bill giving Sarasota’s Mote $18 million to fight red tide - “Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Thursday that will put Mote Marine Laboratory at the forefront of efforts to combat red tide in Florida. The bill, which was championed by Senate President Bill Galvano, allocates $18 million over six years for Mote to develop technologies that can fight red tide blooms. Lawmakers crafted the measure in response to last year’s devastating bloom that killed sea life in Southwest Florida, fouled the air and water and hurt the region’s tourism industry. “If we don’t do all that we can to maintain our natural resources, you will see our economy suffer,” DeSantis said. DeSantis and legislative leaders are touting the measure as a major step toward reducing the harmful effects of red tide, even as some environmental advocates argue lawmakers have not done enough to tackle nutrient pollution that can feed the toxic algae blooms...Senate Bill 1552 — dubbed the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative — does not address the problem of excessive nutrients in coastal waterways. Instead of trying to cut off the algae’s food source, the legislation - which was sponsored by State Sen. Joe Gruters and state Rep. Michael Grant - seeks to fight the blooms through technology…” Zac Anderson reports for the Herald-Tribune.

Read Florida will have to spend $76 billion to prepare for sea level rise - “Nowhere in the United States is more vulnerable to climate-change induced sea level rise than Florida, where $76 billion would have to be spent in the next 20 years just to build seawalls to standards to protect against routine 2040 storm surges, a new report declares. Washington-based Center for Climate Integrity has released the report on what it says is a first-ever study of its kind, “High Tide Tax: The Price to Protect Coastal Communities from Rising Seas”, declaring the national cost of seawalls in vulnerable, low-lying areas would be more than $400 billion. The report breaks down those costs by state and by county, and in some cases by individual communities. Numerous Florida counties are among the most impacted, with 22 facing more than $1 billion each in projected costs, according to the report. Florida is by far the most vulnerable state, facing roughly twice the costs of Louisiana to build seawalls along low-lying coastal areas...The report says Monroe County alone, home to the Florida Keys and some of the Everglades, faces $11 billion in seawall construction costs, second most in the nation to Suffolk County, N.Y., on Long Island. Collier, Franklin, Duval, Lee, Miami-Dade, and Pinellas counties all face costs of more than $3 billion apiece, according to the report. Levy, Hillsborough, Dixie, Volusia, Wakulla, Citrus, Manatee, Brevard, St. Johns, Pasco, Gulf, Charlotte, Bay, Sarasota, and Nassau counties also all face costs of more than $1 billion apiece, according to the study…” Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics.

Read EVE 2019: Lisa Rinaman puts focus on St. Johns River - “When Lisa Rinaman was 8, her grandmother took her to Silver Springs. “I fell in love with the magic of Florida waters,” the Forrest City, Ark., native said. “I knew someday I wanted to live here.” ...When she became the St. Johns Riverkeeper in 2012, her involvement took on a new dimension, from purely recreational use to overseer of its health. Since then, Rinaman has been on a mission to warn of salt water intrusion that damages wetlands and submerged grasses, rising water levels with their increased flood risk, toxic green algae, warmer waters that trigger algae bloom and other threats. For her efforts, she is an EVE Award recipient. “Hurricane Irma truly was a wake-up call,” Rinaman said. “Our river flooded in a way people hadn’t seen. People had a lot of questions and no answers. It was time to have a more robust conversation.” So in 2018, Rinaman organized and hosted nine town hall meetings in Duval, Clay and St. Johns counties that attracted almost 1,000 residents. Called the River Rising campaign, it encouraged leaders to act, said Barbara Ketchum, who nominated her for the award. “The success of the Town Hall meetings is due in large part to Lisa’s approach, which is always collaborative, well-informed and gracious in an era when these qualities of leadership are most appreciated,” Ketchum, an environmental volunteer and one of the founders of JaxPride, said in her nomination form. The meetings resulted in more than 900 postcards being mailed to elected leaders asking them to take action to protect against the next big storm. Almost 750 signatures were collected, urging the Northeast Florida legislative delegation and Mayor Lenny Curry to provide the resources to implement mitigation initiatives…” Sandy Strickland reports for the Florida Times-Union.  

Read Iguanas are worse than ever and we’re spending big bucks to get rid of them - “As packs of invasive green iguanas devour landscapes, damage roofs and poop in pools, desperate homeowners and condo associations are being forced to hire professionals to help keep the beasts at bay. They are worse than ever, wrecking landscaping, roofs, sea walls, patios, home foundations and levees, experts say… “Homeowner associations spend thousands of dollars on landscaping, and iguanas can go through that in a week,” says Perry Colato, co-owner of Redline Iguana Removal. “They also defecate by or in pools. Their feces carries salmonella, putting people at risk. They can lay up to 70 eggs a year and are now causing very serious issues."... “Right now iguanas are reproducing like crazy and they don’t have any predators. I’ve been catching iguanas since I was a little kid," Colato says. "At first it was fun. As I got older, I learned how detrimental to the environment and how much damage they cause to our homes and native plants and animals.”... “I’ve seen 40 to 50 percent growth in homeowner services across the board each year,” says Portuallo, of Parkland. “Iguanas are worse this year than they were last year. There has been a big uptick in services to homeowner associations. I tell corporate entities that you need to squeeze in another line item for iguana control, either using my company or another. Iguana mitigation is here to stay. At least until [there is] a deep freeze in South Florida.” Iguanas don’t just damage property. “They kick out endangered burrowing owls and eat their eggs," Colato says. "They eat flowering plants, and that is affecting the monarch and Miami Blue butterflies...” Doreen Christensen reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Read Climate change throws a wrench in Everglades Restoration - “Fishing captain Brett Greco has spent nearly half his life guiding anglers in pursuit of tarpon, bonefish, snook, redfish, permit and sea trout in the rich waters of Florida Bay. “You could go fishing 100 days for 100 different things here,” the 40-year-old says. But the bay’s fish population plummeted after a huge die-off of seagrass in 2015, taking a bite out of Florida Keys fishing businesses such as Greco’s for the better part of two years. The die-off was a symptom of the declining health of the bay, which lies between the Florida Keys and the mainland. It is part of the famed Everglades—a complex system of saw grass, mangroves and seagrass that is crucial to southern Florida’s water supplies, storm protection, fishing and tourism. Historically, fresh water flowed smoothly into the bay from the Everglades’ headwaters near present-day Orlando. But development and flood-protection canals have carved up this “river of grass,” causing drought conditions in some areas and flooding in others and contributing to repeated seagrass die-offs in the bay. To address this and other environmental concerns, in 2000 Congress and Florida’s state government launched the multibillion-dollar, multidecade Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which includes dozens of projects to improve water flow... But the restoration—which is far from complete and years behind schedule—faces growing threats from climate change: sea-level rise is pushing saltwater farther inland, and rainfall and temperatures are deviating from the historical patterns the initial plan was based on. The same challenge has emerged for other restoration projects around the world, from wetland preservation in Louisiana to river management and flood control in the Netherlands. Experts say it is crucial to closely monitor changing conditions and adapt plans along the way, or hard-won environmental gains could be lost. But the Everglades efforts are struggling to do so because of the complexity and cost involved and a fear that spending time and resources on an ecosystem-wide reassessment would slow progress on critical projects…” Kate Stein reports for Scientific American.

Read Profiteering or preservation? Wetlands mitigation law reopens debate about if program works - “A law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis this week to allow developers to dip into local conservation lands when state wetland mitigation banks run dry in their neighborhood has sparked renewed debate about whether the controversial banking program works...Kent Wimmer, senior Northwest Florida representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said the new law will not result in any new conservation. “You are not creating a net conservation benefit because the land has already been conserved,” Wimmer said. “Local governments are going to restore them anyway. It is not a conservation lift – a great enhancement to those lands already conserved and managed.”...“During session we had heard that the legislation was motivated by a particular situation in Miami-Dade County where somebody wanted a wetland construction permit, and wanted to use mitigation bank credits but the mitigation bank in that region hadn’t been certified and weren’t available,” said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters...The new law lifts a restriction put in place in 2012 prohibiting a local government from creating or providing mitigation for a project other than its own unless it used land that was not previously purchased for conservation and provided the same financial assurances as those required for private mitigation banks. The new law states that if state and federal mitigation credits are not available, a local government will be allowed to permit mitigation consisting of the restoration or enhancement of conservation lands purchased and owned by a local government. The bill specifies that such mitigation must conform to certain permitting requirements. It also gives local governments an opportunity to work with private developers on restoration rather than ask taxpayers for additional money… “They’ve potentially opened a Pandora’s Box for developers who don’t find space at a local mitigation partner,” [Moncrief] said. “They’re double-dipping, restoring low quality wetlands in exchange for destroying other wetlands.” What environmentalists are concerned most about is that the state is making sweeping changes to the wetland protection program without knowing where things stand, Moncrief said. No study has been conducted since 2007. Some organizations like Audubon Florida provide great restoration work, she said, but others are in it for the money…” Jeffrey Schweers reports for the Tallahassee Democrat.

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

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.

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.

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