Read Water quality top priority in 2019- “Our environment is our economy. It’s the reason Southwest Florida’s founding families first settled here. And more than a century later, it’s the reason why seasonal residents flock to our shores, businesses relocate or expand here, and why our population continues to grow year after year. But over the past few years, Southwest Florida has experienced a string of environmental setbacks – from red tide off our beaches to blue-green algae clogging our waterways – that have impacted our region’s pristine reputation as a premiere place to live, work and visit. It has taken a toll on our local economies, significantly impacting the tourism and hospitality industries that help keep our communities afloat. The economic impact is just one reason why the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce has identified water quality as a top public policy priority in 2019. We understand the devasting impact the blue-green algae and red tide events had on businesses in Collier and Lee counties and are committed to working toward sensible solutions to our water quality concerns. To do that, the Naples Chamber has joined forces with several Lee County chambers to form the Southwest Florida Alliance of Chambers. The alliance is committed to working with our elected leaders to improve water quality and mitigate the devasting impacts algal blooms can have on the economy…” Michael Dalby, President and CEO of The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce writes Opinion for Naples Daily News.
Read Growth management, water pollution not new concerns - “You have to understand that growth, water consumption and water pollution regulations were being debated back then and were not really new concerns...What was new was that legislators finally decided to do something significant to address the issues, bolstered by the recommendations of a blue-ribbon committee appointed to examine these issues...The Florida Legislature, whose leaders included a bloc of progressives, in the 1970s passed what was considered landmark legislation that for the first time restricted development of wetlands, required anyone who pumped a significant amount of water out of the aquifer to get a permit and required local governments to draft growth plans. The growth regulations were strengthened over the next decade after some local governments, including the Polk County Commission, ignored the original law’s intent and did little meaningful planning. Florida was considered one of the national leaders in dealing with growth management and environmental regulation in those days…[This legislative session] there doesn’t seem to be any impulse to toughen growth management regulation — the trend to erase regulations on all kinds of things continues — and one proposal has the potential to set back growth management efforts. That is the proposal by Senate President Bill Galvano to fast-track planning and construction of new toll roads that would run deeply into rural, sparsely developed areas of Florida…” Tom Palmer writes for The Ledger.
Read Local delegation at forefront on environment - “There may be no legislative delegation in the state that is more attuned to the water quality issue than the lawmakers representing Sarasota and Manatee counties, who have filed multiple bills aimed at fighting red tide and the blue-green algae problem. State Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, and state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, have been out front on the issue, sponsoring a bill that would require septic tanks to be inspected every five years to ensure they are not failing and leaching algae-feeding nutrients into waterways. Last week state Rep. Margaret Good, D-Siesta Key, became the latest local lawmaker to submit legislation aimed at cleaning up Florida waterways. Good already had filed water quality legislation in February. Her earlier bill would offer incentives for reducing the amount of herbicides — which create a lot of dead plant matter that can feed algae blooms — that are sprayed to control nonnative aquatic plants. But she wanted to do more. Among the ideas that Good researched was improving how communities handle stormwater runoff, which can be loaded with lawn fertilizers and other nutrient sources. The cities of Venice, Sarasota and North Port all have passed resolutions asking state officials to adopt the rule. Former Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton also highlighted the rule in an op-ed published by the Herald-Tribune last year. “The new standards, if adopted, would have reduced the land-based pollutants that exacerbate harmful algae blooms and bacteria-related beach closures,” Thaxton wrote. Good’s bill (HB 1343) would restart the stormwater rulemaking process at DEP and the water management districts and make the rule’s adoption mandatory…” Zac Anderson reports for the Herald-Tribune.
Read Lake Okeechobee proposal steps up South Florida water battle - “Who will win this battle for clean water? .S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, has proposed lowering the water level of Lake Okeechobee to 10.5 feet above sea level during the early summer rainy season. The proposal seeks to lessen the harmful discharges that have created toxic algae blooms in Martin County to the lake’s east and Lee County to the west. South Florida officials believe this proposal is “horribly dangerous,” as Broward Commissioner Steve Geller put it. The lake serves as South Florida’s backup water supply. They fear even a short-term lowering of the lake from the current recommended range of 12.5 to 15.5 feet would create a host of problems, including well field damage, inability to deliver fresh water, crop destruction and restrictions on water use...The lake serves as a backup water supply to South Florida’s cities, which mostly depend on underground aquifers, in case of drought. In 2011, the lake dipped below 10 feet, forcing water restrictions in West Palm Beach and the town of Palm Beach. Mast’s recommendation arrives as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking a new look at Lake Okeechobee’s water levels, part of a review of its 2008 lake operating manual. The analysis isn’t expected to be completed until 2022…” Lois K. Solomon writes for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Read Bills filed to commit Florida to transition to renewable energy - “A pair of bills have been filed in the Florida legislature that would mandate the state transition to renewable energy in the next thirty years. This is the first time such a requirement has come before state lawmakers. The bills were filed by Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando; and state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami. They would direct the state's Office of Energy to create a plan to generate all of Florida's energy from renewable sources by 2050…” Steve Newborn reports for WUSF Public Media.
Read Florida Legislature’s latest preemption frenzy would sabotage plastic straw ban - “Sen. Travis Hutson hails from Elkton in the northwest reaches of Florida, four miles down Highway 207 from Spuds, nine miles south of Molasses Junction and a far piece from Fort Lauderdale, whether you measure the distance in miles or culture or politics. Yet, Sen. Hutson has no compunction about meddling in our local affairs. He’s offended that Fort Lauderdale and a few other cities far to the south of the Elkton-Spuds-Molasses Junction metropolitan area have adopted ordinances designed to lessen the deluge of plastic straws fouling local beaches, parks and waterways, endangering birds and marine creatures and, according to Scientific America, introducing toxic microparticles of degraded plastic into our food chain. None of those towns are located anywhere near Hutson’s state Senate district, where his constituents apparently are untroubled by environmental degradation. But Hutson told the Miami Herald that he was concerned with government “overreach,” so naturally the senator is reaching 300 miles south to smack down local government initiatives. Hutson’s SB 588, approved Monday by the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, is among the latest batch of “preemption” bills designed to emasculate home rule, that quaint concept memorialized in the 1968 state constitutional revision that grants cities and counties “governmental, corporate and proprietary powers” to deal with local issues…” Fred Grimm writes Opinion for the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Read Southwest Florida needs a water quality plan-now - “ It is time for a state law that establishes water quality standards that protect Lee County and all of Southwest Florida….The key parts of my plan are: Work with our state legislative delegation to introduce legislation that will require SFWMD to reduce pollution in the water that flows downstream to us. I would propose that the standards should mirror the Clean Water Act standards that the SFWMD has fought against. There should be a firm timeline with a deadline of 10 years to meet these standards...It would be great if it was as easy as the Lee County Commission passing a county ordinance to prohibit dumping polluted water into our waterways but that is actually illegal. The Water Resources Act of 1972 gives the state power to regulate all of Florida's waterways and prohibits local governments, city or county, from enforcing or passing any ordinance regarding waterways. So as a commission we have no direct authority…” Larry Kiker writes Opinion for the Cape Coral Daily Breeze.
Read Mosaic to cut phosphate production in spring at Louisiana, Florida facilities - “Fertilizer maker The Mosaic Co. said it will cut phosphate production by 300,000 tons for the spring season, a move that will affect its Louisiana and Florida facilities. The company said it is cutting production because of "continued weather concerns across key U.S. growing regions," as well as higher than normal inventory levels carried over from the fall. In recent weeks, the company has scrambled to prevent an endangered lake of acidic process water from breaking through a barrier and flooding nearby waterways. That lake is on top of a mountainous pile of waste gypsum at the Uncle Sam plant near Convent. The gypsum, which encases the lake, is a byproduct of Mosaic's production process and has little ability to be reused…” From the Advocate Staff Report.
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events:
March 11 - 6:00 PM-7:30 PM - ‘Environmental Justice: What, Why, You’ discussion - (Pensacola) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc. in welcoming Wilma Subra, environmental scientist and advocate, guest speaker for Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series for March. Ms. Subra will discuss Environmental Justice issues in our community and across the state and nation. Subra served for seven years as vice-chair of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, for six years on the EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and for five years on the National Advisory Committee of the US Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She appeared in the 2010 documentary Gasland. The event is being held at Ever’ man Educational Center, 327 W Garden Street, Pensacola, FL. RSVP on Facebook here, or get your free event ticket from EventBrite here. Light refreshments will be served.
March 13 - 10:00 AM-4:00 PM - Reclaiming Florida’s Future For All: Clean Water, Clean Air, Clean Energy - (Tallahassee) - Rethink Energy Florida is hosting an advocacy day at the Florida State Capitol (400 Monroe Street, Tallahassee FL 32301)! We are advocating to protect Florida’s clean water, support renewable energy, and BAN Fracking! We will be talking with our legislators about these critical issues. This event is co-sponsored by Floridians Against Fracking, Sierra Club Florida, Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida, Environment Florida, ReThink Energy Action Fund, Food and Water Watch Florida, Center for Biological Diversity, Ignite Change, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. RSVP here or check out the Facebook event for more information.
March 13 - 7:30AM-6:00PM - Ride the Bus for Clean Water! - (Jacksonville-Tallahassee) - St. Johns Riverkeeper and fellow river advocates are joining partners on March 13th for Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All Advocacy Day at the Statehouse in Tallahassee. During our bus ride from Jacksonville, St. Johns Riverkeeper staff will provide training and talking points to help bus riders become effective advocates. At the Capitol, you will have the opportunity to meet your state legislators and ask them to protect all of St. Johns River’s waterways, including its springs and tributaries. Bring family and friends with you to support water conservation efforts. 2019 is off to a clean start for our state’s waters, but we need to ensure the St. Johns River is not forgotten! Bus Meeting Location: Lowe’s, 5155 Lenox Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32205. For more information and to register (FREE), visit the website here. Register by Friday, March 8, 2019. Registration is FREE but seating is limited.
March 13 - 1:30 PM- 2:45PM - Villages Environmental Discussions Group (VEDG) - The Villages) - The Villages Environmental Discussions Group will host speaker Steve Hendrickson from a Villages Lifestyle Club, Citizens Climate Lobby. Steve will address the topic ‘Solving the Climate Challenge.’ He will describe the 2019 Climate Action Conference held in February at USF in Tampa, and the bi-partisan federal bill HR 763. Bring your questions, comments, and a friend or two. If you have a question, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Belvedere Library, 325 Belvedere Blvd., The Villages, FL 32162).
March 27 - 12:00 PM -1:30 PM - Free 2019 Florida Legislative Update Webinar - This free webinar is scheduled for a little more than three weeks into the 2019 Florida Legislative Session. The actions taken during the session likely will have significant public policy impacts for planning, conservation, transportation, community design and other issues of concern to many Floridians with myriad impacts for concerned citizens, professionals, local elected officials and others. 1000 Friends President Paul Owens, Policy and Planning Director Thomas Hawkins, and Board Member Emeritus and Past Chairman Lester Abberger will discuss key growth management, design, conservation and related bills including budget recommendations that are being considered during the 2019 Florida Legislative Session and other legislation that may surface as the session progresses. This event has been approved for 1.5 AICP CM LEGAL CREDITS for planners (#9162194). 1000 Friends has applied for professional certification credits for Certified Floodplain Managers, Florida attorneys, Florida Environmental Health Professionals, and Florida DBPR Landscape Architecture but cannot guarantee credits will be approved. Register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar/.
April 8 & 9 - Everglades Action Day - ( Tallahassee) - The Everglades Coalition is hosting an advocacy day at the Florida State Capitol (400 Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301). !Join fellow advocates from all corners of the state and meet with legislators to discuss the importance of a healthy Everglades ecosystem for a clean water supply and for a strong economy. Your voice on Everglades Action Day ensures that the famed ecosystem remains a top priority for elected officials! New to advocacy? No problem. Training and materials will be provided. Register to save your spot, see you in Tallahassee! Follow this link to register: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/T83FL2D. The Everglades Coalition will sponsor group transportation to make it easy for all to get to Tallahassee (we have an east coast and a west coast bus). We reserved a block of hotel rooms at a discounted rate of $109 at the Wyndham Garden Tallahassee Capitol (hotel booking link forthcoming). We will also be offering a limited number of scholarships to cover lodging for students and other individuals. Please email email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
April 12-13 - 10th Annual Florida Wildflower Symposium - (Gainesville) - The Florida Wildflower Foundation’s signature annual event, focusing exclusively on the state’s native wildflowers and their ecosystems. The purpose of the event is to immerse participants in an educational experience that exposes them to the reality of Florida’s environmental challenges while giving them the tools to affect change. The symposium will offer field trips to local natural areas, hands-on workshops, and educational presentations by experts on planting and growing native wildflowers, creating habitat for pollinators, and much more. Straughn UF/IFAS Extension Professional Development Center 2142 Shealy Dr, Gainesville, FL 32608. For more information and registration, visit the website here.
April 13 - 11:00AM-3:00PM - Earth Day Celebration - (Fort Walton Beach) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc. for an Earth Day Celebration at Liza Jackson Park, 338 Miracle Strip Parkway SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548. The theme for Earth Day 2019 is "to protect our species”. We will have vendors that will support the theme, but others will include recycling, hybrid vehicles, solar energy, water education, plastic pollution, and more! This year Earth Day FWB is partnering with Drive Electric Earth Day website. Interested in being a vendor? Click here. Interested in being a sponsor? Click here. Stay up to date on the event’s activities at the Facebook event site here, and website here.
April 13 - 9:30 AM-4:00 PM - Recognizing the Rights of Nature in Florida Law - (Apopka) - Speak Up Wekiva has organized a workshop featuring the Executive Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to discuss a campaign to bring Rights of Nature to Florida’s charter counties. This particular meeting is for community organizers who have an understanding about the Rights of Nature movement and are ready to take action in Florida. Space is limited-please email ChuckforFlorida@gmail.com to RSVP and ask for more information.
April 27 - 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM - The Water Festival - (Deland) - The Volusia Water Alliance invites one and all to a street party celebrating water with a day of fun activities and performances in historic downtown DeLand. The festival will feature live mermaids, sidewalk chalk artists, dance and musical performances, a Blessing of the Waters (a Native American tradition), children’s games and activities, a Dog Zone, educational displays, and vendor booths. Visit VolusiaWater.org for more information. Admission is FREE. A few sponsorships and vendor spaces are still available. (West Indiana Avenue, DeLand, FL 32720)
May 16-19 - 39th Annual Florida Native Plant Society Conference - (Crystal River)- Our theme this year "Transitions" is pertinent to the Nature Coast region of Florida in a number of ways - sea level rise, migrations of ecosystems due to climate change, and the transition zone between north and south Florida. You will be delighted by mind-expanding experiences, tempted by sumptuous meals (including vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free) and amazed by the networking and social opportunities. As always, we will offer an abundance of presentations and workshops. 9301 West Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429 . Click here for attendee and vendor registration.
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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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