Read Lawmakers chip away at land preservation money - “Lawmakers are pushing forward with plans to continue carving up millions of dollars voters more than four years ago directed to be spent on land and water protection, despite environmentalists’ concerns about the way the money is being used to help the Indian River Lagoon and Apalachicola Bay. Backers of the 2014 Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, who continue to challenge how lawmakers have used the money in the past, contend that some of the projects outlined in bills advanced by the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday “chip away” at the intent of the constitutional amendment. Aliki Moncrief,executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, said the septic-to-sewer conversion outlined in a measure to protect the Indian River Lagoon (SB 368) is needed. But the proposal goes beyond what voters approved, she argued. “There are natural solutions and there are engineered solutions,” Moncrief said. “And the Water and Land Conservation amendment, absolutely voters who stood up for that expected the natural solutions, like buying buffer lands to protect water bodies, that those natural solutions take priority when it comes to this specific pot of money.” Sen. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican who sponsored the bill, argued the ballot initiative, known as Amendment 1, didn’t explicitly prohibit septic-to-sewer conversion…” Jim Turner reports for the News Service of Florida.
Read Environmental regulation bills start moving in Florida Legislature after algae troubles - “A pair of environmental bills aimed at boosting water quality regulations began moving in the Florida Legislature with bipartisan support Tuesday as lawmakers work to address the algae problems that have plagued the state. One bill would result in fines for municipalities after sewage spills, while the other would increase regulations on the spreading of biosolids, or human waste left over from the municipal sewage treatment process. The nutrients found in human waste can feed algae blooms such as toxic red tide, brown tide and blue-green algae. All three types of algae impacted Florida in 2018, killing fish, fouling waterways and hurting local economies. Gov. Ron DeSantis has made water quality a top priority, and lawmakers from some of the affected regions have filed a slew of environmental regulation and funding bills. Environmental advocates said the two measures dealing with municipal sewage are the first major algae-related water quality regulation bills to gain traction in the 2019 legislative session, which began last week. The sewage spill measure sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, would fine municipalities $1 for every gallon spilled. To avoid paying the fine a utility provider could also “spend $2 for each gallon (spilled) to upgrade or remediate the problems that gave rise to the unlawful discharge,” according to the legislation…” Zac Anderson reports for the Herald Tribune.
Read Trump budget falls short on Everglades work and omits planning for a new reservoir - “President Donald Trump’s proposed budget slashes spending by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by 31 percent and fails to include money for an Everglades reservoir aimed at reducing polluted water flushed from Lake Okeechobee to coastal estuaries. In a Washington press conference on Tuesday, R.D. James, Assistant Secretary of the Army for civil works, and Corps commanders said the proposal includes $63 million to help restore Florida’s wetlands and other ecosystems. That includes completing two small reservoirs east and west of Lake Okeechobee, and restoring winding bends in the Kissimmee River. But that’s well short of the $200 million Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers requested for Everglades work…” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.
Read Florida House committee amends biosolids bill to strengthen state biosolid regulations - “A Florida House committee has amended a bill that would have banned biosolids in the upper St. Johns River watershed to only require regulations for biosolids management throughout the state to be specified statewide. The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee amended House Bill 405 to say that it's the "best interest of the state" to: Regulate biosolids management statewide to minimize nutrient pollution in waterways, speed up the implementation of any recommendations made by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's biosolids technical advisory committee, speed up the implementation of any "innovative technologies" that process biosolids. Biosolids are partially treated human sewage sludge used as fertilizer. DEP's biosolids technical advisory committee recommended earlier this year that the department should modify its current permitting rules to minimize nutrient pollution in Florida waterways…” Ali Schmitz reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Read Sea level rise bill advances in Florida Senate - “The bill (SB 78) mandates that any coastal construction project that receives state funds get a “sea level impact projection” study before commencing. The idea is to ensure infrastructure projects are built to withstand the impacts of sea level rise. Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, the Miami Democrat sponsoring the bill, worked to move past the politically charged debate over reducing carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, and frame the issue in economic terms. Rodriguez implied that the state’s economy could be hurt by increased insurance and lending costs if those markets believe Florida is a risky bet because sea level rise is not being taken into account. “I think when we’re talking about climate change and sea level rise, it’s often looked at as an environmental issue; in this context, it’s also an economic issue,” Rodriguez said. “We are being watched as a state — reinsurers, credit markets — and we need to show that we’re leading and looking forward, and that is the primary motivation for trying to require this planning when we’re talking about coastal building…” Zac Anderson reports for the Herald-Tribune.
Read Pledge or not, Jax water on rise - “When the St. Johns Riverkeeper announced plans for a bus trip to Tallahassee during the Legislative session, enough people signed up to fill every seat and create a waiting list. The local citizens who will board a bus early Wednesday and head to the state capital have reason to feel like the trip will be worth their while, that state legislators will listen to them and others and maybe even make some dramatic changes to how we treat our waterways. After all that happened last year in Florida — red tide, green algae, Hurricane Michael, mid-term elections — things like water quality and resiliency have become a higher priority in Tallahassee. But when the bus returns to Jacksonville and the citizens get off, they will have reason to wonder if their local leaders will listen to them and make the same things a local priority. The Riverkeeper asked candidates for our March 19 election to sign a pledge that states: “I, (name), pledge to support a City-led analysis of flood risk and public infrastructure vulnerability, and the implementation of an action plan to protect our waterways and citizens from property damage and rising waters....” Mark Woods writes for the Florida Times-Union.
Read As wetland credits dry up, developers push bill that worries environmentalists- “For decades, developers of housing, shopping malls and hotels have been able to build on Florida's wetlands by either helping to restore or clean up wetlands at a different location. But those wetland mitigation banks, used to offset the adverse impact of development, are drying up across the state, especially in south Florida. Legislation introduced in both houses this session seeks to remedy that pending crisis by opening the gates for local governments to allow developers to restore local public lands bought for conservation if no state or federal mitigation bank credits are available...[Aliki Moncrief] also said the crisis at hand raises the larger issue of whether wetland mitigation is actually working, adding there has not been a Department of Environmental Protection study on mitigation since 2007. Wetlands mitigation is an ongoing concern for environmentalists, said Brad Cornell of Audubon Florida, especially when studies have shown it hasn’t been effective. “We have reports from Audubon science staff and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff and NOAA, that we’ve continued to lose wetlands,” said Cornell, who is based in Naples. “We are not doing a good job compensating for wetland destruction.” The problem is state policy that allows developers to use uplands and the clearing of invasive species to count as mitigation, he said, strategies that don’t really preserve the function of wetlands to filter and store water. “If you lose actual acreage of wetlands through a permit and allow uplands or exotic clearings to replace those wetlands, you have lost ability to store and clean water on the land,” he said…” Jeffrey Schweers reports for the Tallahassee Democrats
Read Male sea turtle babies back, researcher says - “The boys are back in town. After more than a dozen years of nearly every sea turtle born on Florida beaches being female, a small but significant number of males were born last year, said Jeanette Wyneken, a biological sciences professor at Florida Atlantic University. Wyneken hasn’t finished her research on the 2 018 hatchlings, but current data points to about 20 percent of them being male. “It’s not a lot, but it’s better than nothing,” she said. And for the past couple of years, nothing has been the norm. Wyneken studies mostly loggerhead sea turtles, by far the most prevalent species nesting on Florida beaches. In the past 13 years, there have been seven years with no male loggerhead hatchlings found at test beaches on the state’s Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Wyneken said…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events:
March 14 - 8:00AM-5:00PM - Conserving Biodiversity: Red Tide Impacts in the Gulf - (Fort Myers) - Florida Gulf Coast University is hosting a Biodiversity Conference on Thursday, March 14th. This free conference is an opportunity for the public, researchers and community leaders to share their findings and have in-depth discussions about how to address the environmental issues plaguing our state. The focus of this year's conference is impacts of red tide on Florida’s species and ecosystems. The morning panel will discuss the short and long term impacts of red tide in Florida. The afternoon workshops will encourage audience participation in exploring science, policy, and education-based solutions. All conference activities will take place on 2nd floor of FGCU’s Cohen Center, 10501 FGCU Blvd. S., Fort Myers, FL 33965. The conference is free but please RSVP here ( https://fgcubiodiversity.weebly.com/rsvp.html) to help us with planning refreshments.
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/.
March 30 - 7:00 PM - Films for the Sea - (Pensacola) - Join Healthy Gulf for their Films for the Sea screenings related to the environment, surfing, and the health of our oceans. We’ll watch films that take us around the world to beautiful coastal places and the people who love them, from British Columbia and Hawaii to the Gulf of Mexico and Pensacola Beach. The work of local photographer and filmmaker Sean Mullins is included. Before and after the films there will be plenty of educational information on how citizens can take action to help to protect the Gulf of Mexico and local waterways. Beverages and food from Café Single Fin will be available. For much more information about Films for the sea please visit Healthy Gulf on Facebook or call 850-687-9968 or firstname.lastname@example.org (Waterboyz, 380 N. Ninth Ave., Pensacola).
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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