Read Fact or Fake: Will new Florida highways be like the environmentally friendly Wekiva Parkway? - “Environmentalists celebrated when the deal to build the Wekiva Parkway was finally sealed 15 years ago. It was hailed as an example of how to simultaneously build a highway and protect natural resources. When Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill authorizing three new toll roads in Florida, he said they would be modeled after the Wekiva Parkway...In a statement, the Sierra Club’s Tim Martin warned, “By building these toll roads, Florida stands to lose critical habitat for Florida panthers and black bears; protected lands and wildlife corridors risk being fragmented; and the roads and resultant development are likely to increase pollution — impacting Florida’s rivers and springs and increasing red tide and blue green algae outbreaks."...First, some background on the Wekiva Parkway...The idea for the road was controversial because it would pass through a state-protected basin that’s crucial to the health of the Wekiva River, a crystal-clear, spring-fed waterway that originates in Seminole County and empties into the St. Johns River. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush formed a task force whose recommendations became part of the 2004 law that authorized the parkway’s construction. Those recommendations were numerous but included buying public land; restricting the number of interchanges, which limits the opportunity to develop nearby land; and elevating much of the road so wildlife could safely cross beneath…[SB 7068] has some similarities to the Wekiva model, but also some differences: That is mission impossible,” Charles Lee, advocacy director for the Florida Audubon Society, said of the timeline. He predicted the Legislature would have to pass what he called a “glitch bill” to change such an unrealistic construction date. He also thinks the cost estimates are a bit out of whack. However, Lee, who was part of the Wekiva Parkway task force, said the Galvano highways are tracking fairly closely to the process for getting the Wekiva Parkway built. Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine, a former legislator who headed the Wekiva Task Force, sees some parallels but said it’s too early to make comparisons. He said much depends on whether recommendations from the new task forces become part of the law, which would give them teeth. "It’s about leadership and follow through, Constantine said…” Mike Lafferty reports for the Orlando Sentinel.
Read Save Florida’s shred of growth control - “When Gov. Ron DeSantis put his signature on a bill authorizing three unnecessary, ridiculously expensive “toll roads to nowhere” that would plow across millions of acres of undisturbed land at Florida’s heart, he put his self-claimed reputation as a champion of the state’s fragile, threatened environment in jeopardy. Now, he faces an even tougher challenge. Within the next few weeks, legislation will land on his desk that will gut Florida’s already-weak oversight of rampant, irresponsible development. Like the toll roads, these bills were mostly concocted in secret through last-minute, legislative machinations. The state’s most respected smart-growth groups are aiming most of their firepower at the blandly titled HB 7103, “Community Development and Housing.” This would be the last nail in the coffin for Florida’s once-innovative comprehensive planning laws enacted in the 1980s. These laws require each community to enact blueprints for growth, making sure new developments meet minimum standards for flood protection, infrastructure and the like. The plan becomes local government’s guidebook: every development decision must be consistent with the plan. Once upon a time, there was a state agency to review development proposals, the Department of Community Affairs. But in 2011, Gov. Rick Scott got rid of the “job killer,” as he called it, and folded its remaining duties into the Department of Economic Opportunity. Scott and the Republican-led Legislature also crippled the concept of concurrency – a requirement that schools, parks and adequate roads be in place before development is completed. And they starved the state’s 11 regional planning councils of money. There was one safeguard left. Citizens had the right go to court and challenge a bad decision by their local government: a condo tower that exceeds a height limit, an apartment complex in a neighborhood of single-family homes…” From the Palm Beach Post Editorial Board.
Read Septic systems wreaking havoc on Florida springs - “If finding out what’s causing the demise of Florida’s springs worked like a TV crime show, a researcher could pull a cup of water from any one of Florida’s springs and within minutes pinpoint the source of contamination. But springs restoration isn’t TV science. Pinpointing the source of the troubles is “not like CSI,” said Tom Frick, director of environmental assessment and restoration for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. “We don’t have that technology yet.” Long-time Floridians mourn for the springs of their youth, with crystal clear water, abundant eel grass, fish and crustaceans swimming in the springs. Today, the springs are often clouded, plants are sparse or covered with green slimy algae, and there are fewer fish and other marine life...The DEP knew going in that nitrogen was the biggest culprit in the decline of Florida’s springs. Even though the springs still hold stunning beauty for newcomers seeing them for the first time, nitrogen levels have been increasing for years, feeding algae blooms that coat plants and rocks in the springs with green slime, upsetting the ecosystems...In the 108-square mile basin for Blue Spring in Orange City, the department concluded the primary cause of the nitrogen — 54 percent — is coming from human wastewater flowing from more than 23,000 densely clustered septic tank systems in DeLand, DeBary, Deltona and Orange City. “Septic tanks were never designed for that kind of density,” said Clay Henderson, executive director of Stetson University’s Institute of Water and Environmental Resilience. “We know now for certain more than half the nutrients in Blue Spring are caused by septic tanks and it should be no surprise because of the high concentration of tanks…” Dinah Voyles Pulver writes for the Gainesville Sun.
Read Threat of offshore drilling in Florida still alive; leaders should insist Trump kill it - “In Florida, as in many coastal states, opposition to offshore drilling is bipartisan. Former Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, was as outspoken as any Democrat when President Trump announced he would open nearly all U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. Scott's opposition helped convince Trump to exclude Florida's coasts. Then it came out that a new five-year plan for federally owned waters might open portions of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic off Florida's coasts to drilling after all. Current Gov. Ron DeSantis downplayed the potential, saying Trump understands Florida's concerns. "We're just not a state for that," DeSantis said after an appearance at the Tampa Bay Christian Academy. "I think for other states there may be a different calculation. But for us, you know our entire state is coastline. You have a mishap; it has a cascading effect. Whatever jobs would be created (by drilling) could be undercut by chilling tourism." DeSantis might want to rethink his confidence in the White House. The Trump administration is taking steps to weaken the ability of every coastal state to weigh in on federal decisions about offshore drilling. The administration has proposed "streamlining" regulations under the Coastal Zone Management Act. The act now recognizes the legal right of coastal states to restrict activities along their coastlines. States can raise objections if federal offshore plans are inconsistent with their own coastal management plans. Under the changes, that ability would be curtailed…” From the Miami Herald Editorial Board.
Read Reel Time: The elephant in the bay - “It’s not with any pleasure that I sit down and write an outdoors column on water quality issues and red tide at one of my favorite times of the year. I’d rather be spending this time talking about tarpon, snook, redfish, trout and the plethora of other fish that swim area waters. Unfortunately, there’s an elephant in the bay. Although area waters are clear again and the red tide is currently absent, we don’t seem to have made any significant progress in addressing the problems that plagued us last year and pose a threat into the future. It’s hard to fathom that after last year’s unprecedented killing field event that featured daily images of dead fish, dolphin, turtles and manatees, policymakers failed to act to address the core problem...If there’s a bright spot in this bleak session, it’s another record year for Everglades funding and other associated water quality projects up and down the coasts, funding made possible by the voter-approved 2014 Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment One). Unfortunately, the Legislature once again severely underfunded the state’s most important suite of land conservation programs, commonly referred to as Florida Forever. The leadership decided to spend only $33 million on a program that had received $300 million for decades. We as citizens of a barrier island surrounded by water cannot afford to let this become yet another out of sight, out of mind event. Legislators are touting the $3 million a year that was allocated to study red tide for the next five years. Those familiar with the causes and effects know that the real answer is to limit the nutrients that fuel severe and extended blooms…” Rusty Chinnis writes for the Anna Maria Island Sun.
Read Saving the Florida sabal palm, an icon that defines our skyline - “The sabal palm is everywhere, but if you blink you might miss it, since you’re often passing it at 70 miles per hour. It’s the tower that puts you in the tropics on your freeway drive. Our state tree needs help. Too many are dying. That’s costing you both in aesthetics and in tax dollars spent on buying, planting, removing, and replacing our roadside palms...Brian Bahder of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in Fort Lauderdale believes he will someday be able to pick the murderer out of a lineup of bugs. As an ornamental insect vector ecologist, he’s a forensics guy who tries to figure out what kind of bug kills a plant and how it happens...It’s only because of public support that Bahder is employed in the service of Florida’s residents, tourists, state agencies, and nursery and landscape professionals… Agricultural science helps with something more. A population soaring toward 22 million has made lawns and houses a couple of the state’s fastest-growing crops. Pressure for citrus growers or tree nursery operators to sell their land to developers is increasing. When they sell, we lose more of what makes Florida special. Agricultural scientists are determined that you won’t have to rely on other nations to eat. Once it becomes so much more profitable to build than to farm, there’s no going back. I don’t know of a single mall that’s been converted into a strawberry field or a pine plantation. The sabal palm represents another part of our past worth preserving. If agricultural science doesn’t keep up with the disease that’s killing it, we’ll notice a slow die-off of iconic scenery. Until, one day, it’s gone in a blink…” Jack Payne writes Opinion for the Palm Beach Post.
Read Does it make sense to rebuild Mexico Beach? - “...Last year we had to cancel our tour because Hurricane Michael got there first, leaving much of the Forgotten Coast disheveled and almost all of Mexico Beach in ruins. And today, eight months later, Mexico Beach is still mostly rubble. Many of its residents continue to live in wretched conditions as they wait for vindictive members of Congress to stop playing games with a long-delayed disaster relief bill. Politicians from the president on down have promised to put things back the way they were. But you really can’t put Mexico Beach back the way it was. When rebuilding begins in earnest, the ubiquitous condos, towers and cookie-cutter chains will inevitably replace the modest beach houses and mom-and-pop motels that gave the town its charm...Given what we know about the inevitability of sea level rise. About climate change generating ever more extreme hurricanes. About the corrosive march of coastal erosion despite our best efforts to armor against it...Which is not to say that disaster victims should be abandoned. A saner policy would make displaced residents whole again by giving them the means to rebuild — just not in the same place. In return for that compensation, coastal and floodplain properties would revert to conservation, never to be built upon again...A so-called “managed retreat” policy would, over time, not only move residents inland and out of harm’s way, but also enable coastal areas to “heal themselves,” as it were. Construction being a main cause of coastal erosion...Mexico Beach was a true Florida treasure. But we know from bitter experience that it is possible to love our Florida treasures to death…” Ron Cunningham writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.
Read Naples proposes nearly $9.5m for water quality improvement projects - “Some Naples City Council members questioned during a Monday budget workshop whether they're putting enough focus on projects aimed at improving water quality. Gregg Strakaluse, the city's streets and stormwater director, requested approximately $9.5 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year of which nearly $8 million would go toward beach restoration and stormwater outfall removal and improvement. Stormwater outfalls are large pipes that dot the beaches of Naples and stretch from the sand into the water, dumping debris and high levels of bacteria into the Gulf of Mexico...Some council members questioned whether the city is taking the right steps to improve water quality. "Rather than monitoring the bay, we should be monitoring the sources that lead to the bay and try to pinpoint what is responsible for the poor quality of the bay," said Councilwoman Ellen Seigel. Strakaluse said his department has tried to do some source tracking, but he said it's both difficult and expensive, at least when it comes to biological pollutants…” Lisa Conley reports for Naples Daily News.
From Our Readers
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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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.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.
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