FCC News Brief - June 27, 2019

Read Planned toll roads would bypass Marion and Alachua - “The latest plan to extend toll roads in Florida bypasses Marion and Alachua counties after a previous plan for one of the roads had it cutting a swath across hundreds of acres of wetlands and horse farms, drawing outrage from residents and environmentalists. Last week, the Florida Department of Transportation released a presentation online detailing the latest plan for the Multi-use Corridors of Regional Significance Program (M-CORES). The new plan includes proposed study areas to extend the Suncoast Parkway 150 miles north to the state line, the Florida Turnpike 40 miles northwest to connect with the Suncoast Parkway, and a new 140-mile Southwest-Central Florida Connector from Interstate 75 in Collier County to Interstate 4 in Polk County. The plan comes after the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a law earlier this year to develop the corridors that would include multiple modes of transportation and infrastructure improvements including broadband and sewer access. Proponents argue the corridors would improve hurricane evacuation, reduce congestion and improve trade...Last week, the Marion County Commission put the final touches on an amendment to its comprehensive plan that it hopes will give it and other local governments more say in future state road planning. The M-CORES plan would now extend the Suncoast from Citrus through Levy County and north to Georgia. The turnpike extension, which for years eyed a potential path thorough southwest Marion, would continue through Sumter County into Citrus and possibly Levy, where it would connect with the proposed Suncoast Parkway extension, according to the DOT presentation. “I couldn’t be more proud of everyone that came together to protect the Farmland Preservation Area and Marion County, in general, to protect what’s so special about us, the springs and the fact that we’re the Horse Capital of the World,” Agricola said. While some opposed any new major highway coming through the county, others including Commission Vice Charmian David Moore; Kevin Sheilley, CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP); and representatives from On Top of the World, argued that while the Coastal Connector was probably not the best plan, the county should not close its doors to future transportation projects…” Carlos E. Medina reports for the Gainesville Sun

Read DEP working to get Caloosahatchee River pollution plan to feds by 2022 - “The state is moving forward with a plan to clean up pollution in the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary nearly a decade after the standards were adopted.  Florida Department of Environmental Protection program managers met with local government agencies, agriculture interests and environmental groups Tuesday to talk about what are called Basin Management Action Plans, or BMAPs.  BMAPs are basically blueprints for restoring polluted waterways. "We’re trying to get all the pieces we need to make sure we can do this properly," said Sara Davis, with DEP. Maximum pollution levels were set by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the Caloosahatchee River in 2009, and the BMAP was adopted in 2012.  The goal is to reduce the overall nitrogen load by 23%. An updated version of the Caloosahatchee River BMAP is due to the federal government by 2022. Governments like Lee County, Fort Myers and Cape Coral, as well as the agriculture industry, have been assigned nitrogen load reduction targets to help reach the acceptable level for the Caloosahatchee River.  Dissolved oxygen and fecal coliform are also problematic in many of the tributaries that feed the freshwater portion of the river, which is upstream from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam in Alva, according to DEP records...The Clean Water Act mandates that each state report polluted waters and work to clean those waters to acceptable standards. Part of the problem here is that nutrients from farms and developed areas in the historic Everglades — which extends from just south of Orlando to the Florida Keys and includes 16 counties — feed blue-green algae blooms and red tide outbreaks like the ones that raged this past summer. But some critics say the land-use categories for the watershed should be updated to reflect the tremendous growth that's happened in the Lee County area over the past 15 years.  "The controversy is that the whole reduction targets are compared against 2004 land-use loading so all the additional loading that's occurred since then is not incorporated in the load reduction target," said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani before the meeting. "That's why we're so frustrated to see the concentrations at many water quality stations show the nitrogen contributions are going up…” Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News-Press

Read ‘Young Leaders’ battle against Bradford mining plan- “A neighboring county’s proposal to allow phosphate mining near the Santa Fe River has caught the attention of some of Alachua County’s youngest environmentalists. So much so that the group of students lobbied against the proposal at the county’s commission meeting. The teens, all part of a summer program called Young Leaders for Wild Florida, are hoping Bradford County officials will consider the harmful effects that mining could have on local waterways and block it from happening. Fifteen students attended the Bradford County Commission meeting on June 20 in hopes of persuading the board to stop the company HPS II Enterprise from establishing a phosphate mine. The students detailed the event at Tuesday’s Alachua County Commission meeting, saying the Bradford community seems to support halting the mining, and applauded the Alachua County board for its environmental protection efforts...The students shared that mining could bring forth a flurry of environmental problems to the region, such as contributing to high levels of phosphorous in nearby waters and contaminating drinking water. “It represents a serious risk to all North Central Florida and it’s most keenly and critically felt by those of us who are reliant on the Santa Fe River,” said Emma Turner. HPS II’s has approached various county officials over the years in its attempt to obtain special-use permits that would allow mining. The establishment is looking to mine on both sides of the New River, spanning in both Bradford and Union counties, which feeds into Santa Fe River. The water then trails into the Suwannee River. Students added that strip mining for phosphate can contribute to algal blooms, due to the use of fertilizer throughout the process, a frequent polluter and contributor to algae growth. Any decision to mine in Union County has been postponed for more than three years…” Sarah Nelson reports for the Gainesville Sun

Read NSB leaders agree to pay $9 million for 152 acres of preservation land - “ By this time in September, New Smyrna Beach residents could be the new owners of 152 acres of park land off Pioneer Trail. City commissioners on Tuesday unanimously agreed to pay $8.94 million for the vacant property along Turnbull Creek, south of Pioneer Trail and east of Otter Boulevard that is known as the Turnbull Trace property. Atlanta-based developer David Aiken, under the name Turnbull Land LLC, bought the parcels in 2016 for $2.25 million and had been making plans for a 293-lot residential subdivision with roughly 117 piers stretching out into the historic and ecologically sensitive creek since that time. But Aiken put his plans on indefinite hold after voters passed the bond issue. Of the total purchase price, $5.4 million will come out of residents’ property taxes over time, an agreement voters made when they overwhelmingly passed a $15 million bond referendum last November to allow the city to capture land along the historically and culturally significant Turnbull Creek for preservation...Mayor Russ Owen provided a scenario that weighed heavily on his decision to agree to the land deal. “I’ve had people reach out to me (and tell me) we’re overpaying for swamp land,” said Owen. “But if we weren’t doing this ... let’s say instead of this the agenda item was approving 293 or 250 or even 200 homes with docks sticking out into the Turnbull Bay, on septic probably which we wouldn’t be able to stop ... this room would be full of people begging us to vote no on that project. The Trust for Public Land, which has been negotiating a selling price for the property on behalf of the city, is expected to close on the land deal within the next 60 days. Part of the purchase price will come from a $3.6 million Florida Communities Trust grant the city applied for to acquire the property last year. The Trust awards money for preservation through the Florida Forever grant program. The grant application estimated purchase price for Aiken’s property as $9.05 million at that time. The group of parcels will be the very first to be purchased with bond money once the city applied for the general obligation bond, but first the city is expected to take out a short-term loan to handle the purchase price. Leaders are expected to discuss the bond issue July 23…” Casmira Harrison reports for the Daytona Beach News-Journal

Read Florida’s flood, storm risk shows value of programs like PACE- “Earlier this month, CoreLogic released its 2019 Storm Surge Report— a sobering collection of data detailing the incredible threat that storm surge poses to Florida and a reminder of the immediate need to get prepared and invest in resiliency. According to the report, more than 7.3 million homes in the U.S. along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts have the potential for storm surge damage, with Florida bearing the most exposure with more than 2.9 million homes at risk and the highest reconstruction cost value at more than $603 billion. With devastating storms nearly guaranteed to impact Florida in the coming years, CoreLogic’s report makes clear the essential value of resiliency-focused options, like the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, for families to strengthen their homes...If Florida and other vulnerable states are to break the cycle and avoid future massive damage and losses such as those calculated by CoreLogic, access to affordable financing for resiliency-focused home improvements through programs like PACE is critical. Families deserve every possible option to safely and affordably prepare their homes, and PACE is an essential policy that every community can make available…” Mike Lemyre writes Opinion for the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Read Gov. DeSantis says Florida is working on a plan to remove pythons from the Everglades - “Governor Ron DeSantis stopped at the Corkscrew Wildlife Sanctuary in Collier County Tuesday to announce major funding approved by state lawmakers for environmental protection, including $400 million to restore the Everglades. And he isn't shy about how he feels about the invasive Burmese pythons that are decimating wildlife populations in the Glades. "I hate these pythons," he said. "We're spending all this money to revive the Everglades, and we're just going to let these big pythons eat everything? We don't want to do that." The invasive snakes - which can grow to more than fifteen feet long - have been eating their way through native wildlife for years. "To grow to fifteen feet, it's consuming a lot of biomass," said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. "Everything from ibis to small rabbits and mammals, all the way up to alligator and deer." Python hunters have had success finding and removing pythons by using radio trackers implanted on male pythons to lead the hunters to breeding females and other males. But Moher thinks there needs to be a coordinated effort between state and federal agencies to remove more of the pythons. "There's no one agency that alone can get this problem under control," he said. Fox 4 asked DeSantis if a multi-agency python task force is in the works. "I hope to have something, an announcement...shortly," DeSantis said. "There's different agencies involved, so we're working through that right now." Moher said Burmese pythons are great at hiding deep in hard-to-access areas in the Everglades, and that several universities are researching more ways to find the pythons, and slow down their impact on the wildlife populations in the Glades. "The best tool in the tool kit may not yet be in our tool kit, but the way will be (found through) good scientific knowledge, good data and good resource sharing," Moher said…” Karl Fortier reports for Fox 4.

Read Florida oceans and coasts strategic plan to be developed- “A half-million dollar state grant will be used to develop a strategic plan for the Sunshine State’s oceans and coasts, the Florida Ocean Alliance announced Wednesday. The alliance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan partnership of private industry, trade, academic, and environmental organizations, aims to bring awareness to the ocean’s importance to the economy and environment of Florida. “The project addresses both legislative and public concerns over Florida’s recent water crisis,” Stan Payne, chair of the Florida Ocean Alliance and director of the Seaport and Airport in St. Lucie County, stated in a news release issued by the alliance. “We will offer resilience solutions to these problems as the state strives to cope with these issues.” The effort originally was outlined in legislation pushed by state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican, and state Rep. Chris Latvala, a Clearwater Republican. Eventually, key language of their bills was rolled into the state budget bill. The alliance intends to host public hearings across the state before drafting a strategic plan to address conservation and management of the state’s estuaries, bays and oceans. The alliance is to work closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The study is to be prepared within a year…”Scott Powers reports for Florida Politics

Read The US recycling system is garbage - “For nearly three decades your recycling bin contained a dirty secret: Half the plastic and much of the paper you put into it did not go to your local recycling center. Instead, it was stuffed onto giant container ships and sold to China. Around 1992, US cities and trash companies started offshoring their most contaminated, least valuable "recyclables" to a China that was desperate for raw materials. There, the dirty bales of mixed paper and plastic were processed under the laxest of environmental controls. Much of it was simply dumped, washing down rivers to feed the crisis of ocean plastic pollution. Meanwhile, America's once-robust capability to sort, clean, and recycle its own waste deteriorated. Why invest in expensive technology and labor when the mess could easily be bundled off to China? Then in 2018, as part of a domestic crackdown on pollution, China banned imports of dirty foreign garbage. In the United States, the move was depicted almost as an act of aggression. (It didn't help that the Chinese name for the crackdown translated as National Sword.) Massive amounts of poor-quality recyclables began piling up at US ports and warehouses. Cities and towns started hiking trash-collection fees or curtailing recycling programs, and headlines asserted the "death of recycling" and a "recycling crisis." But a funny thing happened on recycling's road to the graveyard. China's decision to stop serving as the world's trash compactor forced a long-overdue day of reckoning—and sparked a movement to fix a dysfunctional industry. "The whole crisis narrative has been wrong," says Steve Alexander, president of the Association of Plastic Recyclers. "China didn't break recycling. It has given us the opportunity to begin investing in the infrastructure we need in order to do it better…” Edward Humes writes for Sierra

Read For the first time, renewables surpass coal in U.S. power mix- “For the clearest sign yet that renewable energy has gone mainstream, consider this: Clean-energy resources supplied more of America’s electricity than coal for the first time ever in April. Hydroelectric dams, solar panels and wind turbines generated almost 68.5 million megawatt-hours of power in April, eclipsing the 60 million that coal produced that month, Energy Information Administration data released late Tuesday show. That’s the most clean power the U.S. has ever made -- and the least coal it has burned for power in years. The shift comes as power plants fueled by cheap natural gas are crushing the economics of coal. But it’s also a testament to the rapid development of solar and wind farms across the country. The two forms of power have become so cheap to build that BloombergNEF is projecting that half the world’s power may come from renewable energy by 2050. The onslaught of clean power is coming largely at the expense of coal, which only a decade ago supplied more electricity in the U.S. than anything else. The mining industry is collapsing even as President Donald Trump works to restore coal to its former glory by gutting environmental rules…” Chris Martin writes for Bloomberg.


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Upcoming Environmental Events:

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 1, 9:00am-3:00pm - DEP Blue Green Algae Task Force meeting - (Fort Myers)- The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is hosting the second meeting of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, which will play an important role in expediting water quality improvements in the next five years. The key focus of the Task Force is to support funding and restoration initiatives, such as prioritizing solutions and making recommendations to expedite nutrient reductions in Lake Okeechobee and the downstream estuaries. During the second meeting, the Task Force will continue covering the Lake Okeechobee BMAP and begin discussing innovative technologies. The agenda is available on the Blue-Green Algae Task Force website. All members of the public are welcome to attend. (Lee County School Board, 2855 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33966.)

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.

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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Stop Giving Away Florida’s Water

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Tell Florida Lawmakers: Stop Destructive Tollway Bills

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Help Save Our Panthers

End collection & removal of tropical marine life from Phil Foster Park

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Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.

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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.  

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