FCC News Brief - June 3, 2019

Read More than 100 bills still up for Gov. Ron DeSantis approval or veto - “Gov. Ron DeSantis can look forward to reviewing 115 pieces of legislation upon his return from Israel, plus the three bills already on his desk as of Friday. Since the Florida Legislature adjourned on May 4, DeSantis has  signed 77 bills, and is waiting for the Legislature to send over 112 more. Those outstanding bills include some major legislation – the $91.1 billion state budget for the fiscal year beginning on July 1, for example. The governor is also waiting to review controversial legislation that sets up new hurdles for felons who were supposed to automatically get the right to vote under last fall’s Constitutional Amendment 4, a bill that environmental groups say threatens Everglades restoration, and a bill that would make it harder for citizens to put state constitutional amendments before voters. DeSantis has vetoed two bills so far  – HB 771, which would have overridden local authority to ban plastic straws, and HB 1417, to change a Brevard County water district’s threshold to set user fees, according to legislative records. ...Environmental organizations – 44 of them, plus former Gov. Bob Graham – have urged DeSantis to veto legislation (HB 7103) that would make it risky to sue to enforce local comprehensive growth plans and, the groups say, would threaten efforts to protect and restore the Everglades. The bill would require challengers, if they lose in court, to pay legal costs for litigants defending planning decisions…” Michael Moline reports for the Florida Phoenix.

Read Rooney pushes government to keep raising the Tamiami Trail to increase freshwater flow to the Everglades - “Francis Rooney is urging the federal government to pay for the next part of a project elevating the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades so water can flow south. Built in the 1920s, one of the unintended consequences of the cross-state highway is that it effectively dammed the natural flow of the River of Grass, the largest wilderness area in the eastern United States . (Farther north, the Naples-Miami portion of I-75 known as Alligator Alley was engineered to include culverts for water and wildlife.)...Earlier this week, he wrote to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao asking her to fund the $100 million project. Getting it done is key to Everglades restoration, which hinges on water from the north making its way into the Everglades and Florida Bay, “where it is desperately needed,” Rooney said. Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the nonprofit Florida Wildlands Association, seconds that. “The park is not doing well at all,” Schwartz said, because it’s water-starved. In the past year, Schwartz has witnessed alarming changes: Mangroves marching north from the coastal fringe into what had been marshland, tree islands dying and Florida Bay, into which the Everglades should flow, instead turning an opaque, pea-soupy green...Marisa Carrozzo, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida's environmental policy manager, agrees. "One of the critical elements of Everglades restoration is removing barriers to freshwater flowing south ... in conjunction with other storage and conveyance projects like the Central Everglades Planning Project and Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir," she wrote in an email...In the past, federal and state agencies have been under court order to make sure water entering the park met stringent quality standards of 10 parts per billion of phosphorus, a fertilizer that can cause nuisance plants to take over. Schwartz said it’s time to rethink that. “At this point, our feelings about that are, the park is in such bad shape hydrologically, they’ve got to lighten up on the water quality standards … You need fresh water. It’s got to happen. You can’t starve the park for water and say, ‘No we don’t have exactly the right parts per billion phosphorous.’ No. The water has to get into the park as soon as possible.” Amy Williams reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Pilot Lake Okeechobee project proposed: Harvest invasives, dredge muck - “ Hendry County Commissioner Karson Turner, allied with several other South Florida county leaders, is calling for a pilot project on part of Lake Okeechobee to mimic the successful restoration of Lake Trafford in Collier County…As president of the Florida Association of Counties, he stood at the meeting Thursday of the Lake Okeechobee Aquatic Plant Management Interagency Task Force (or ITF) to speak on behalf of the group’s Water Policy Committee... Mr. Turner talked about proposals to implement mechanical harvesting of invasive vegetation more extensively than it has been done, coupled with shallow-water dredging to remove and dispose of accumulated muck. Commissioner Turner said: “I think that this is trying to take science that we know has been applied at Lake Trafford. We know it’s been applied at Lake Apopka. It’s been done in smaller areas like HOAs (neighborhoods controlled by homeowners associations). Don’t think that I’m so ignorant as to envision a 730-square-mile being demucked, or a 730-square-mile lake having the ability to be tweaked and managed like an HOA does with their pond out front. I get the magnitude of Lake Okeechobee. I’ve been out there a couple of times.” But he said it seemed to him that “we’re kind of doing the definition of insanity. That peat muck, and all of that vegetation that’s being destroyed, or looped as I like to say, is just piling on top of itself. Dr. (Paul) Gray (of Florida Audubon) and I have had a number of conversations about this.”...Mr. Turner added: “[We] as a state are woefully missing the mark on providing these resources from a financial standpoint, and so the FAC is going to take this on. It’s something that we’re making a legislative request to do...“We’re missing the boat from a science standpoint on this battle out here. We’re not allowing science to drive the discussion.” He called for more communication among all parties.” Chris Felker reports for Lake Okeechobee News.

Read Florida invests millions to tackle invasive plant species - “Environmentalists say from Lake Okeechobee south, the climate provides ideal growing conditions which is great for farmers, but proving troublesome for native species being push out by invasive plants. “If we allow invasive plants to go unchecked there’s less habitat, there’s less places for them to live, to feed and to roost,” said Kristina Serbesoff-King.  Serbesoff-King works for the Nature Conservancy of Florida. She’s part of a recent study published at the University of Florida that digs deeper into what state officials are doing to fight back against invasive plant and animal species throughout the state. “It shows just how important it is to identify those species early on in the process of invasion,” said Luke Flory. Flory was instrumental in the recent research. He found that Florida spends $45 million annually in the battle against non-native plant species. A quarter of the budget is going to hydrilla, an aquatic plant known to block waterways and limit boat traffic. “And those things can actually take off pretty quickly and so one of the other things that we hope comes out of the study is the need for sustained and continued funding because it is really something that we would like to keep in check so that there is less impacts,” said Serbesoff-King. South Florida and Central Florida receive the most funding. Experts say these areas have more invasive plants compared to the rest of the state but also an ideal climate that make them grow at a faster rate…” Jillian Idle reports for WPTV.

Read Fertilizer ban impedes harmful nutrient runoff, takes effect in Cape Coral - “Preventing another water crisis could start in your front yard. On Saturday, restrictions begin on what you can put on your lawn. Fertilizer bans are taking effect all across Southwest Florida. The City of Cape Coral will ban their use of fertilizers until Sept. 30. The purpose is to keep the harmful nutrients found in fertilizer from washing into storm drains during the rainy months. Many areas in Southwest Florida have similar bans, including Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach. “It is not a cure-all,” said Kelly McNab, an environmental planning specialist at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “This isn’t going to solve our water quality crisis we’re facing in southwest Florida. What it is is it’s a very important piece of the puzzle.” Soon Naples will have its ban. Under the new ordinance, the city would prohibit the use of fertilizer from June 1 to Sept 30. The ordinance would also require lawn clippings to be removed from water drains. The purpose is to keep the harmful nutrients found in fertilizer from washing into drains, which was a big topic during last year’s water quality crisis...“There’s so many things that can be done to improve water quality that are out of the city Naples’ hands,” McNab said. “This is something that local residents can get involved in that our local officials can make changes on.” Michael Mora writes for Wink News.

Read Florida septic tank crisis - “Tens of thousands of Marion County residents flush toilets, take showers and wash clothes every day with little thought about all the waste flowing down the drains and into their septic tanks. But many of those septic tanks are too old, too close to each other, and too close to groundwater. Most were never designed to remove nitrogen. Statewide, nitrogen and other contaminants flowing into septic systems seep out through Florida’s porous sands and limestone and into groundwater aquifers, polluting springs and waterways. Out-of-sight septic systems — more than 120,000 of them in Marion County and an estimated 2.7 million in Florida — add to growing concerns about the rising tide of nitrogen and other pollution feeding algae blooms and killing fish and sea grasses...Septic systems are just one piece of an increasingly troublesome challenge of managing the more than 300 billion gallons of wastewater generated per year by the state’s more than 20 million residents. Aging, undersized city and county wastewater systems, storm water runoff from streets, sludge disposal, and fertilized lawns and farm fields all spew nitrogen and other contaminants into waterways and the layers of water underground that provide most of Florida’s drinking water...Septic tanks have been a politically divisive issue for years, with legislators, local officials, the industry and homeowners split over their contribution to pollution problems and how to get Floridians to maintain and repair the systems...Lapointe said the state needs a master wastewater plan, with state, federal and local funding, leaving as little burden as possible for homeowners. He and Denys were among many who pointed out the importance of improving water quality to keep the state’s tourism industry afloat. Noting the state receives an estimated $110 billion a year in tourism funding, Lapointe said it’s worth spending some of that to preserve water quality. “I’m not an economist, I’m a marine scientist,” he said. “But even to me, it makes economic sense that by investing in our environment the return on our investment is huge.” Dinah Voyles Pulver reports for the Ocala Star Banner.

Read Politicians at ‘war’ over highways; public wants high-speed rail - “The man behind the project, Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, calls the roads ‘corridors’ and said on The Florida Roundup that they would transport more than cars. Water, sewage and broadband connections would flow through these corridors as well.   "This has to happen if we are going to be able to sustain the growth that is occuring in Florida," he said on The Florida Roundup. ...But Frank Jackalone, president of the Sierra Club in Florida, says the project is a disaster in the making that would inevitably destroy wildlife habitats...What does all-out war look like?  The group plans on taking the legislation to court, using community organizers who don’t like the project; increasing lobbying efforts in Tallahassee, and launching an election campaign to oust the politicians who are in favor of the new roads...Jackalone argues that the state should instead invest in public transportation, like high-speed rail... Craig Pittman, a journalist at the Tampa Bay Times, said on the Florida Roundup that legislators are allergic to a public high-speed rail system even though the public seems to have a strong appetite for it,   Steve Newborn, a reporter for WUSF, said he was skeptical that the legislature would listen to Floridians who are opposed to the highway expansion project. "In this case, who is going to be louder, the voice of the people or the wallets of developers who might benefit the most from the expansion of these highways?" he said on The Florida Roundup.” Gerard Albert III reports for WJCT.

Read Meet Marjory Stoneman Douglas, champion and savior of the Everglades- “Just 10,000 people lived in Miami when Douglas first arrived to Florida in 1915. Though today over 2.7 million people inhabit the sprawling Miami-Dade County, the Everglades remain pristine— protected because of Marjory Stoneman Douglas...When Hervey Allen, editor of Rinehart and Company, invited her to write a book about the Miami River, Douglas counter-proposed: She was more interested in what she called the “river of grass,” a slow-moving stream that flowed through the sawgrass of the Everglades. After five years of research, she published “The Everglades: River of Grass” in 1947. It opened with a simple line: “There are no other Everglades in the world … nothing anywhere else is like them.” Douglas weaved history and science with evocative descriptions of the landscape. The result was compelling, having a similar effect in raising awareness for the Everglades as Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring’ had for banning pesticides. Four weeks after her book’s publication, Douglas shared the stage with President Harry Truman when he dedicated the Everglades as a National Park...In 1969, she started the non-profit organization, Friends of the Everglades, leading opposition to the airport. She raised money and created awareness to stimulate interest in protecting the park. In a 1981 NPR interview, she described the struggle to preserve the wetland as “an enormous battle between man’s intelligence and his stupidity—and I’m not at all sure that stupidity isn’t going to win out in the end.”...When Douglas arrived to Florida, the Everglades was considered a worthless swamp, full of unpleasant critters, disease, and death. But Douglas recognized the landscape’s value. A science communicator before the phrase existed, her writing helped others understand that the dynamic ecosystem of the Everglades hung in a fragile balance: water flowed ever soooo slooooowly from the Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee and south toward the ocean. This slow-moving river, sometimes just inches deep and 50 miles wide, was responsible for creating and nurturing a diverse landscape as it moved south, spawning a mystical landscape of marshes, mangroves, palms, and pineland forests, where the North American temperate zone merged with the tropical Caribbean.” Jenny Howard writes for Massive Science.


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Upcoming Environmental Events:

June 10. 6:00pm - June Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series- (Pensacola)- Join us at Ever'man Educational Center located at 327 W Garden Street. This month we welcome Mr. Vernon Compton. Mr. Compton works for The Longleaf Alliance as Director of the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership.  The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership is a voluntary public/private landowner partnership formed in 1996 that now sustains over 1.3 million acres of diverse habitat in northwest Florida and south Alabama.  The partnership allows the partners to combine their expertise and resources to more effectively manage their individual properties and to meet the challenges of restoring and sustaining the larger longleaf ecosystem.  Vernon has a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from LSU and prior to joining The Longleaf Alliance in 2010 worked for the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Forest Service at Blackwater River State Forest.  Mr. Compton will discuss "The Importance of Trees." Check out the Eventbrite page here, and Facebook event here. For more information, email earthethicsaction@gmail.com

June 10-14, June 24-28- Camp Kids in the Woods at the Austin Cary Forest - (Gainesville) - Is your 6th-9th grade child looking for fun adventure this summer?  Consider Camp Kids in the Woods! Campers will conduct various field explorations led by local scientists from forestry, wildlife, and water resources. Highlights include: fishing, handling wildlife, exploring local ecosystems, a trip to a local spring, camping out one night at the Austin Cary Forest, building wildlife nesting boxes, and participating in games and scavenger hunts. After a week of fun in the forest, campers gain a better understanding and deeper appreciation of their natural world and what is required to be a good steward of the environment. Camp Kids in the Woods summer program is a collaborative effort between the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the USDA Forest Service. Session 1: June 10-14, 2019; Session 2: June 24-28, 2019. For more information and to register visit: www.campkidsinthewoods.org , or contact the Camp Director, Molly Disabb at kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

June 12, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Orange Park) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: Orange Park Town Hall, 2042 Park Ave, Orange Park, FL 32073.

June 13, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Palatka) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: St. Johns River Center, 102 N 1st St, Palatka, FL 32177.

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.

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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Save Lake County-Say NO to the Round Lake Road Extension

Tell Florida Lawmakers: Stop Destructive Tollway Bills

Save the Heritage Trees at Martin Luther King Jr. Park - Winter Park

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

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Florida Solar Bill of Rights

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Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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