FCC News Brief - June 7, 2019

Read 700 people attend Sarasota Water Quality Summit - “Residents of Sarasota County and beyond came together Wednesday afternoon to discuss one of the area’s most pressing yet recurring questions: How do we protect Florida’s most important natural resource? Few easy answers were unveiled during Sarasota County’s Water Quality Summit, which saw 700 people show up at the Riverview High School Auditorium to hear from experts about how to keep waterways clean. More than 30 panelists were featured, including representatives from the Florida Legislature, state agencies, Mote Marine Laboratory, University of Florida, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Southwest Florida Water Management District, Sarasota County and local municipalities...The summit, proposed by Sarasota County Commissioner Christian Ziegler, followed one of the longest and most devastating red tide events in recent history, which killed nearly 600 tons of marine life in Sarasota and Manatee counties while at one point spanning 150 miles from St. Petersburg to Key West. It also comes in the wake of a controversy that saw environmental groups suing the county for dumping more than 800 million gallons of treated wastewater since 2013 despite officials’ awareness that there was a need to increase storage capacity at the Bee Ridge Reclamation Facility. While nitrogen, phosphorous and fertilizers as pollutants were discussed heavily throughout the day, the majority of audience questions focused on two things: red tide and wastewater. But panelists emphasized that there are no simple fixes when it comes to improving water quality and that a multi-pronged approach is best for tackling what is ultimately a complex issue. Still, panelists and audience members in attendance alike seemed to agree that something needs to be done…” Michael Moore Jr. reports for the Herald-Tribune.

Read Florida needs to stop recycling a ‘serious nutrient problem’ - “While the state Legislature mostly agreed with Gov. Ron DeSantis' request for funding to address Florida's water problems, it failed miserably about keeping the problems from getting worse.  A significant amount of the nutrient load to Lake Okeechobee and our estuary comes from the unregulated spreading of sludge in rural watersheds. "Biosolids" is the polite name for sewage sludge. The urban sewer plants around Florida produce massive amounts and they have to get rid of the stuff one way or another. Martin County banned sludge spreading through a local ordinance some time ago when it became evident the Florida Department of Environmental Protection did not have the resources to enforce its rules. Back then, you could smell the problem if you drove slowly west on State Road 714. Then, about 10 years ago, the state "reformed" its sludge rules. Now we have two classes of sludge. Class B is the kind Martin County banned. It contains heavy metals and bacteria, but meets current Environmental Protection Agency standards for land spreading. It is supposed to be tracked and monitored, but the recent toxic algae bloom up at Blue Cypress Lake showed the rules aren't working….The remaining 140,000 tons of biosolids get composted with vegetation and produce 240,000 tons of sludge called Class AA biosolids. They are treated to remove bacteria and heavy metals. They can be spread anywhere and everywhere without permits. Their destination is not tracked or monitored in any way. Most of it is spread on rural pastures. Local governments are not allowed to ban or regulate Class AA biosolids. So what's wrong with using a good "organic" fertilizer? Lots of things. Nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizer should be balanced to meet the needs of the soil and the crop. Bahia grass pasture in Florida does not need any phosphorus. Ranchers choose Class AA biosolids instead of balanced fertilizer because they are cheap. That's  because they have to be continuously disposed of. The phosphorus in the biosolid fertilizer on rural pastures ends up in our waterways or as legacy phosphorus in the soil that will keep polluting waterways for years to come…” Maggy Hurchalla writes Opinion for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Group working on feasibility study on water quality for Caloosahatchee reservoir - “A long-awaited Everglades restoration project should be operational four years from now, but experts say it's not going to solve the water quality problems plaguing the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary. A group of scientists, government agencies, water quality experts and advocates met Wednesday in Fort Myers to talk about the Caloosahatchee reservoir, often called C-43.  The largest Everglades project for Lee County, the $600 million, 55 billion-gallon, water-storage project was designed to capture water from the river during the wet season, store and treat that water and then release it during the dry season. “We have too much and too little and this is really focused on the too little side," said Jennifer Hecker, director of the Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership, formerly known as the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. "It’s an important piece to fixing our river and water quality.” Lake Okeechobee now supplies the freshwater needed during the dry season to balance the delicate estuary.  The big lake, often called the liquid heart of the Everglades, was artificially connected to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers in order to drain the Everglades. Lands north and south of the river make up the Caloosahatchee River watershed, which is only partially functional because much of it has been ditched and drained for farming and development…” Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Visible blue-green algae on Lake O escalates lake concerns - “A budding spread of blue-green algae has been spotted on Lake Okeechobee as the potential for harmful blooms intensifies with higher temperatures and lingering daylight. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said in a weekly report that visible algae is consistently showing up on satellite images of the lake shared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. According to a June 2 photo, the highest potential for growth is in the lake’s north and western reaches, but areas vulnerable to a bloom have shifted since the cyanobacteria was first detected in late May...Although blue-green algae blooms are a common summer phenomenon on Lake Okeechobee, scientists are debating whether the lower lake level this year will exacerbate the growth or minimize it. Blue-green algae needs heat, sunlight and high nitrogen levels to flourish. “The lower the lake, the more the light penetrates,” said J. William Louda, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s department of chemistry. “At the same token, the lower the lake, the easier it is for wind to disturb the bottom and stir up the water so that it’s very dark.” While the Army Corps has tried to keep lake levels between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level in the recent past, it agreed to allow it to go lower this year to give submerged grasses a chance to recover from years of chronic high water…” Kimberly Miller reports for the Palm Beach Post.

Read Go green: Don’t fertilize this summer - “It is time for Southwest Floridians who have been demanding action to improve water quality in our canals, river and gulf to step up and take part. Literally. Fertilizer restrictions throughout much of Lee County begin June 1, prohibiting, through the rainy season, the use of chemical additives to green up lawns and landscaping. The "blackout" ordinances in Lee County, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Beach are not new nor is the one on Sanibel, where the prohibition goes into effect on July 1. All ban the use of fertilizers through September to keep additional nitrogen and, especially, phosphorous, out of area waterbodies where the chemicals can "feed" algae, naturally occurring or not, and so foster noxious algal blooms. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida states the purpose behind the annual ban well: ... "Excess nutrients in the water can result in blooms of algae that use up the available oxygen in the water, killing fish and other aquatic organisms. "Some algae blooms can also be toxic, affecting human health, our seafood industry, and the health of our environment. Red tide is one such type of algae and it has been documented that the presence of excess nutrients and other nutrient-fed algae blooms can intensify and lengthen red tide blooms. "Algae blooms fed by human sources of nutrient pollution can create an imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem, smothering and killing seagrasses; which are a nursery and food source for many fish and wildlife species, sometimes injuring or killing several hundred individuals during just one event…” From the Fort Myers Beach Observer Editorial Board.

Read Lawsuit alleges BP ignored, undersold health risks for workers cleaning up oil spill- “Workers who helped clean up the Gulf of Mexico after the 2010 BP spill claim they were exposed to harmful chemicals that gave them chronic illnesses, and BP did almost nothing to warn or protect them. Thousands of people who removed tar from beaches, wetlands and open water along the Gulf Coast have joined in a "back-end litigation option" lawsuit against BP. The main lawsuit was filed in New Orleans, but small batches of cases are being handled in U.S. district courts all over the South. About 100 cases involving area residents will be litigated here in Pensacola. The specifics of the individual suits vary slightly, but the core of the cases are the same. For weeks at a time, the cleanup workers spent full working days working in and around toxic substances, not knowing they risked long-term harm to their health…” Kevin Robinson reports for Pensacola News Journal.

Read DNC opts against climate change debate, Inslee says - “Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday the Democratic National Committee informed him it will not dedicate one of its presidential primary debates to the issue of climate change. The decision comes despite a furious push from progressive and environmental advocates for a climate change debate, as well as strong support across the Democratic ideological spectrum. At least half a dozen Democratic candidates, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and former Obama cabinet official Julián Castro, have backed the idea. Inslee, who led the push among presidential candidates and has made climate change the centerpiece of his campaign, called the decision “deeply disappointing” and out of step with Democratic primary voters. He also said the organization threatened not to invite him to future debates if he participated in any other climate change debate. “The DNC is silencing the voices of Democratic activists, many of our progressive partner organizations, and nearly half of the Democratic presidential field who want to debate the existential crisis of our time,” Inslee said in a statement. “The climate crisis merits a full discussion of our plans, not a short exchange of talking points.”...In a statement, the DNC said climate change would remain a top priority during the debates but that it hoped to ensure “vigorous discussion” on all important issues to voters like the economy, climate change and health care...The Sierra Club and Tom Steyer’s NextGen America also urged the DNC to reconsider. “This is a deeply disappointing decision,” the Sierra Club said in a tweet. “Democratic candidates are offering strong, bold climate plans that contrast sharply with Trump’s inaction & the public deserves to hear them discussed in depth.” Anthony Adragna reports for Politico.

Read 84 environmental rules on the way out under Trump- “President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses. Our list represents two types of policy changes: rules that were officially reversed and rollbacks still in progress. The Trump administration has released an aggressive schedule to try to finalize many of these rollbacks this year. The Trump administration has often used a “one-two punch” when rolling back environmental rules, said Caitlin McCoy, a fellow in the Environmental and Energy Law Program at Harvard Law School who tracks regulatory rollbacks. “First a delay rule to buy some time, and then a final substantive rule.” But the process of rolling back regulations has not always been smooth. In some cases, the administration has failed to provide a strong legal argument in favor of proposed changes or agencies have skipped key steps in the rulemaking process, like notifying the public and asking for comment. In several cases, courts have ordered agencies to enforce their own rules. Several environmental rules — summarized at the bottom of this page — were rolled back and then later reinstated, often following legal challenges. Other rollbacks remain mired in court. All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year, according to a recent report prepared by New York University Law School's State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. Here are the details for each of the policies targeted by the administration so far…” Nadja Popovich, Livia Albeck-Ripka, and Kendra Pierre-Louis report for the New York Times.


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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.

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