FCC News Brief - June 25, 2019

Read Frog calls tell researchers about the health of wetlands- “The mysterious sounds of Florida’s wetlands may be intimidating for some, but the moonlight serenade is music to Taylor Hancock's ears. "Coming out here hearing these frogs that means that our ecosystem is working," Hancock said. "These wetlands are working and if the wetlands are working it means i have fresh clean drinking water." He's part of a team monitoring the health of wetlands by listening for frog calls. "The metaphor I think about is you go to the doctor, every time you go they listen to your heart," FGCU professor Win Everham said. "We come out to the wetlands and listen to the frog calls. It’s sort of the beating heart of the wetlands." Volunteers monitor 23 different routes in Southwest Florida. Each time they're listening to see how many species of frogs they can hear. "It’s an effort to try to see what’s happening to frog populations through time largely as the land develops," Everham said. They've been visiting the same locations for 20 years. Part of this study is to see where invasive species are going and which species disappears when they arrive. Hancock said the invasive species like developed areas. That's why monitoring this long term data is so important as our area continues to grow. "If the frogs can't persist you have to ask yourself what else are we mismanaging," Everham said…” Devon Turk reports for NBC 2.

Read Tampa’s ‘toilet-to-tap’ plan faces indefinite postponement- “It was supposed to be a routine discussion about money. Tampa Bay Water's board was voting on an agreement to give Tampa $1.6 million last week to study the feasibility of a controversial plan to use reclaimed water to augment the city's drinking water supply. The deadline for getting that done would be next year — but then Tampa officials sought an extension to 2021. As soon as eight of the board members cast their vote, though, the ninth member, Tampa City Councilman Charlie Miranda, made an announcement: He was pulling the plug on the whole thing. "I'd like to ease all minds," Miranda said June 17th. "The city of Tampa would like to withdraw from further consideration the pending … memorandum of understanding and agreement." The city will proceed with its studies alone, he said. Once its plans are 60 percent complete "then the city of Tampa will return" to seek Tampa Bay Water's input. The Tampa Augmentation Project, or TAP for short, was a top priority for former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who left office in May. Tampa officials have said the whole region would benefit from their plan to inject up to 50 million gallons a day of treated wastewater into the underground water table to provide an added layer of cleansing before it is pumped back up into reservoirs and, eventually, faucets and showers. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said this is not the end of the program, just a delay. "We are absolutely still doing TAP — we have studied this process for years and we believe it is in the best interest of our entire region," she said Friday. "However, we will continue to evaluate this project against other options as we proceed." Critics have dubbed the $350 million project — expected to come online in 2027 — “toilet to tap.” It has faced a string of delays over unanswered questions about whether it would work and whether it would cause harm to the environment. Leaders of local chapters of the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters have strongly objected to Tampa's proposal. They complained about a lack of transparency, a lack of scientific study of the potential effects and what they perceive as a rush to gain approval…” Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change - “The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists. The studies range from a groundbreaking discovery that rice loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment — a potentially serious health concern for the 600 million people world-wide whose diet consists mostly of rice — to a finding that climate change could exacerbate allergy seasons to a warning to farmers about the reduction in quality of grasses important for raising cattle. All of these studies were peer-reviewed by scientists and cleared through the non-partisan Agricultural Research Service, one of the world’s leading sources of scientific information for farmers and consumers...The administration, researchers said, appears to be trying to limit the circulation of evidence of climate change and avoid press coverage that may raise questions about the administration’s stance on the issue...However, a POLITICO investigation revealed a persistent pattern in which the Trump administration refused to draw attention to findings that show the potential dangers and consequences of climate change, covering dozens of separate studies. The administration’s moves flout decades of department practice of promoting its research in the spirit of educating farmers and consumers around the world, according to an analysis of USDA communications under previous administrations. The lack of promotion means research from scores of government scientists receives less public attention. Climate-related studies are still being published without fanfare in scientific journals, but they can be very difficult to find…” Helena Bottemiller Evich reports for Politico.

Read The U.S. government has studied the longest oil spill in history - 14 days after the leak began- “The federal government’s first study of the nearly 15-year-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico estimates that up to 108 barrels per day — more than 4,500 gallons — is flowing from a site where an oil company’s platform and wells were destroyed during a hurricane. Monday’s report, by two scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a Florida State University professor, joined several others in disputing the company’s claim that only one drop of oil per minute is being released from a small area covered in mud, amounting to less than three gallons each day. “The results of this study contradict these conclusions by the Taylor Energy Company,” the authors said. The government’s findings also differ from those of three studies last year that said the flow of oil from the site was substantially higher. Geoscientist Oscar Garcia-Pineda estimated that between 250 and 700 barrels per day — up to 29,000 gallons — are flowing into the gulf. University of South Florida marine scientist Shaojie Sun determined that between 50 and 1,700 barrels per day — up to 71,400 gallons — were pouring from the site. Even one of the federal report’s authors — Ian MacDonald, the Florida State professor — estimated that nearly 150 barrels, about 6,300 gallons, spilled from the site that Taylor Energy once leased in an underwater canyon 12 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The other authors were NOAA scientists Andrew L. Mason and J. Christopher Taylor...The next step, according to a NOAA statement that announced the study, is to conduct a Natural Resource Damage Assessment that “assesses injuries to natural resources and then determines the best methods to rehabilitate, replace” the benefits those resources provided. NOAA and its federal partners are in the early stages of the process to assess damages “to determine if public natural resources have been harmed by the oil and gas release.” An assessment of harm related to the BP oil spill in 2010 led to fines. Hurricane Ivan caused 80-foot waves that led to the walls of the canyon giving way, resulting in a mudslide that chopped down Taylor Energy’s oil platform in 2004. The event buried the broken wells under more than 100 feet of sediment…” Darryl Fears reports for the Washington Post.

Read After sea turtle deaths throughout Panhandle in recent days, experts urge vigilance - “Two more sea turtles have been found dead in the Florida Panhandle, bringing the number of turtles killed in the area by human interaction to at least four over the past week. Brittany Baldrica of the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge said her organization responded to two dead sea turtles in recent days. Both were in the Destin area. "The first was a green sea turtle," she said. "It was severely entangled in monofilament line. The line, as well as hooks, were wrapped around its neck, the line was still attached to the pole and all of it was attached to an American flag."  Baldrica said it was a good example of how turtles can become trapped in marine debris. "And we are seeing higher numbers of these cases," said Baldrica, who attributed the increase to the turtles being nearshore for nesting season and to humans being careless with fishing line and other debris. Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge also responded to a deceased Kemp's ridley sea turtle in recent days. Baldrica said that turtle, also found in the Destin area, was killed from a boat strike...Sea turtle experts say people like Walker are critical in helping to combat a recent string of sea turtle deaths along the Panhandle. They are urging boaters and beach visitors to be extra vigilant to protect the threatened sea turtles during nesting season. Cathy Holmes, a longtime sea turtle watch volunteer from Navarre who helps operate the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, said anyone who spends time at the beach or on the water can help save sea turtles by picking up trash and fishing line.  "Fishing line, hooks, nets, plastic bags, all of that is deadly not just to turtles but to a lot of other animals like shorebirds and dolphins. Everything that is tossed or discarded from a boat can be a problem," she said. "Across the board, think of how you are disposing of these items because it can have a big impact." Melissa Nelson Gabriel reports for the Pensacola News Journal.

Read With more storms and rising seas, which U.S. cities should be saved first? - “ As disaster costs keep rising nationwide, a troubling new debate has become urgent: If there’s not enough money to protect every coastal community from the effects of human-caused global warming, how should we decide which ones to save first? After three years of brutal flooding and hurricanes in the United States, there is growing consensus among policymakers and scientists that coastal areas will require significant spending to ride out future storms and rising sea levels — not in decades, but now and in the very near future. There is also a growing realization that some communities, even sizable ones, will be left behind. New research offers one way to look at the enormity of the cost as policymakers consider how to choose winners and losers in the race to adapt to climate change. By 2040, simply providing basic storm-surge protection in the form of sea walls for all coastal cities with more than 25,000 residents will require at least $42 billion, according to new estimates from the Center for Climate Integrity, an environmental advocacy group. Expanding the list to include communities smaller than 25,000 people would increase that cost to more than $400 billion. “Once you get into it, you realize we’re just not going to protect a lot of these places,” said Richard Wiles, executive director of the group, which wants oil and gas companies to pay some of the cost of climate adaptation. “This is the next wave of climate denial — denying the costs that we’re all facing…” Christopher Flavelle reports for the New York Times.

Read FGCU wetlands researcher starts experiment at Freedom Park in Collier- “With much of wetlands science focused on restoring agricultural land to its natural state, Florida Gulf Coast University researcher Bill Mitsch is looking in another direction. Mitsch, who has spent his career studying wetlands primarily at The Ohio State University and FGCU, has begun a 10-year experiment that aims to find out how fertile soil becomes after years of filtering nitrogen and phosphorous from agricultural runoff. His expectation is that the soil will prove to be valuable farmland. If that's the case, Mitsch believes the knowledge could be used as another tool to help further Everglades restoration and, in the Midwest, speed up efforts to restore natural marshes and swampland around the Great Lakes… The idea would be to allow swaths of participating agricultural land or sugar cane fields to be flooded and restored to wetlands for a time. After a period of a few years, the waters would be temporarily drained again. Sugar cane would be replanted and harvested for a season or two. Then the fields would be reflooded. The proposal could prove to be a hard sell among both environmentalists and growers. Environmental groups, which have long sought the complete restoration of the natural waterflow into the Everglades, would have to be convinced that it would be worthwhile to allow draining and farming every few years on certain land. Meanwhile, it would have to make financial sense for the agriculture industry to give up farming that land for several years at a time…” Greg Stanley reports for Naples Daily News.

Read Central Polk Parkway route raises concerns - “Myra Bell regularly takes her 23-year-old Paso Fino gelding horse, Dandy, out for a ride at Marshall Hampton Reserve, a verdant tract on the east side of Lake Hancock. Bell, a Bartow resident, said the roughly 5-mile trail system is popular with fellow members of the Florida Sport Horse Club, partly because it provides glimpses of alligators, bald eagles and other wildlife, along with scenic views of Lake Hancock. Bell and fellow equestrians worry that their access to the reserve will disappear. The planned route of the Central Polk Parkway goes through the parking area at the entrance to the Marshall Hampton Reserve, also the access point for the Panther Point Trail. Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise held a public meeting Tuesday night in Bartow to share the preliminary design for the Central Polk Parkway. The toll road will cover about six miles, looping from the Polk Parkway near the C.R. 540 exit to connect with Interstate 4 north of Davenport. Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, a division of the Florida Department of Transportation, has been studying possible routes of the four-lane highway for years. Design of the project began in early 2018 and is ongoing...Tom Palmer, group chair of the Ancient Islands Sierra Club, expressed concern about the potential effect of the highway on Marshall Hampton Reserve. “That’s our main issue is to make sure this access issue gets resolved in a good way, and also not only access but some places for parking and everything else,” said Palmer, a retired Ledger reporter who writes a weekly column. “In the whole scope of the project, what we’re asking is kind of nickel-and-dime stuff. I don’t know why they’re having a problem with it, but we haven’t got a firm commitment.” Palmer said the Sierra Club group is more keenly concerned about the eastern section of the Central Polk Parkway, which he said will likely intrude on conservation lands. The group also opposes a planned toll road extending from Polk County to Collier County, one of three highways planned through a bill passed in the recent Florida Legislature session. “Our opposition is to the eastern leg that runs through the rural area east of Haines City and the extension south to Naples,” Palmer said. “We’re definitely opposed to that. We don’t think it’s necessary. It’s mostly under the guise of (addressing) transportation problems, but it’s really just an economic development project.” Gary White reports for The Ledger.

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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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