FCC News Brief - May 15, 2019

Quote of the Day: “Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife are in fact plans to protect man.” —Stewart Udall  

Read DeSantis pushed to veto Florida’s major toll road expansion - “Protests are planned in three Florida cities this week and a letter-writing campaign is underway urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto legislation aimed at creating three new toll roads in the state... The bill was sent Monday to DeSantis by legislative leaders. He has 15 days to act on the measure. Environmentalists are also asking the governor to veto another bill (HB 7103) that would require anyone who loses when challenging a development order to pay the legal fees of the builder or local government. That legislation hasn’t gone to DeSantis yet. But the controversial provision was added in the closing hours of the Legislature to what is a wide-ranging community development and housing bill. The toll roads plan, however, has been a target for critics almost since Galvano unveiled the idea in January as a must-pass for the session. The plan would extend the 60-mile Suncoast Parkway another 150 miles to the Georgia border, build a new, 150-mile toll road from Lakeland to Naples and extend Florida’s Turnpike another 30 miles from Wildwood to meet the expanded Suncoast. The projects are backed by the road-building industry and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which recommended the initiative to Galvano as a way to meet the state’s anticipated population growth, while bringing jobs and development to overlooked rural areas...Among those seeking a veto is the Florida Conservation Coalition, whose members include 1,000 Friends of Florida, League of Women Voters and the Florida Wildlife Federation. A letter signed by the group’s chair, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, and vice-chair, former Republican state Sen. Lee Constantine, warned that the toll road projects would undermine DeSantis’ focus on easing the state’s toxic water problems. They concluded, “Florida’s environment will not improve if we only take one step forward, but two steps back. As proposed in SB 7069, these new transportation corridors will diminish the impact of the billions of dollars the state has committed to address water pollution and Everglades restoration, and threaten your administration’s environmental legacy.” John Kennedy reports for GateHouse Capital Bureau

Read White House changes course, backs push for $200M in Everglades funding- “After receiving letters and prodding by Florida’s state and federal lawmakers, President Donald Trump changed course Monday, announcing his support of a $200 million push to fund projects aimed at restoring Florida’s Everglades via Twitter. “Congress needs to help us complete the world’s largest intergovernmental watershed restoration project ASAP! Good for Florida and good for the environment,” he tweeted. The cost-share project was originally signed by former President Bill Clinton and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. It was expected to take 20 years and cost $8.7 billion. It was supposed to map out a way to re-plumb the Everglades with a system of pumps, levees, canals and wells that would help its flow mimic its original one. In March, Trump’s 2020 budget proposal slashed spending by the Army Corps of Engineers by 31 percent and failed to include money for an Everglades reservoir to reduce polluted water from being flushed from Lake Okeechobee to coastal estuaries. It was far short of the $200 million requested by Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida lawmakers for Everglades work and didn’t include a 17,000-acre reservoir on sugar fields south of the lake to help reduce the polluted runoff that contributed to last summer’s algae blooms and red tide that choked Florida’s coasts and waterways...Kimberly Mitchell, executive director of West Palm Beach nonprofit Everglades Trust, also said she was pleasantly surprised by the Trump tweet. She said, however, that she hopes the $200 million funding not only comes through but stays consistent. “You say ‘thank you’ for this $200 million but also recognize that this commitment needs to be there this year and the year after and the year later ... the longer things go, the more expensive they get,” she said. Frank Jackalone, director of Sierra Club Florida, was more skeptical of the commitment and wondered which projects Trump means for the $200 million to fund. The Sierra Club doesn’t support certain “restoration projects” like a reservoir south of the lake it deems too deep. He said he’d believe in a large financial commitment if he heard it from the Army Corps itself. “I find it difficult to trust any commitment that Trump is making on Twitter. Does he really have the authority to commit $200 million?” Jackalone asked Monday night. “Some people have been bugging Trump to say something about Everglades. But is it real? I doubt it…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Herald/Times Bureau.

Read A group of scientists just presented updated sea level rise projections to Tampa Bay politicians. Here’s what they say- “A group of local scientists has been working on and off for months to come up with Tampa Bay-area projections for sea level rise. Their verdict: the problem is getting worse. The Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel, a group of climate scientists that formed in 2014, presented its findings to a Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council committee Monday. They found that the region is likely to face between 1.9 and 8.5 feet of sea level rise by the year 2100. The projections are the group's second round of local sea level rise predictions. The current forecasts are 12 to 18 inches higher than their 2015 estimates on average...Sea level rise doesn’t happen uniformly across coastlines. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science projects that some areas, like the Gulf coast, are particularly vulnerable to rising oceans. But some parts of Alaska are actually seeing its land mass rise due to melting ice and shifting tectonic plates. Those areas are less threatened by sea level rise. The local differences in tidal patterns and land movement make regional sea level rise projections all the more important, Burke said. The Climate Science Advisory Panel recommends taking readings from local tide gauges so municipal planners can know the risks associated with approving long term infrastructure projects near the coasts. Janet Long, who chairs the Regional Planning Council-sponsored Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, was in the audience for Burke's presentation Monday. The Pinellas County Commissioner said local officials should heed the scientists’ projections. “Whether you believe in this data or you think it’s all a bunch of bunk, you have a responsibility to your citizens to become really educated about this,” Long said…” Kirby Wilson reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Florida school district to begin using environmentally-friendly lunch trays- “A Florida school district is making some environmentally-friendly changes. According to Fox 13, Pinellas County’s schools unveiled two new sustainable lunch containers that will go into use in the 2019-20 school year. One of the containers is made from Ohio prairie grass, while the other is made from Florida sugarcane. This is not the first effort by the school district to become more eco-friendly. Just last month, the district began replacing plastic straws with paper straws. District officials said they plan to introduce a new line of sustainable cups as well in August.” Johari Canty reports for Fox 13.

Read New plan for destroying South Florida’s pythons: targeting the females- “Pythons have been breeding and eating their way through the Everglades for two decades with a haphazard strike force in pursuit — a multitude tracking by plane, with dogs, on foot, carrying shotguns, laying traps and earning bounties. Yet the invasive snake advances, erasing furry Florida natives from Everglades National Park, challenging the American alligator, and eyeing wading bird rookeries. A group of federal, state and nonprofit officials recently gathered in Fort Lauderdale to launch an “Interagency Python Management Plan.” It’s hoped the blueprint for python control, which has been talked about since at least 2016, will increase agency coordination, share successes and expand mitigation to all of South Florida and it’s myriad landowners...Lead by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the python management planning group will meet four times a year with the expectation that a plan will be drafted in a year or two. While invasive lionfish, melaleuca and even a damaging climbing yam called the air potato have management plans, the python has so far escaped the extra scrutiny that outlines the species history, ecological and economic impacts, range, methods of control and how different agencies will work together… Kathy Worley, director of science at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said connecting land owners — private and public — is also key in trying to control the python spread. “Pythons don’t know boundaries and we can’t either,” Worley said. “Everyone has their little pieces of the pie. This plan will remove barriers and give us flexibility in management options too...” Kimberly Miller reports for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Read Stone crabs may be facing their worst season in 15 years- “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is predicting one of the worse stone crab seasons in the last 15 years. The landings will not be finalized until later this summer, but FWC said the '18/'19 season started off lower than average throughout the state.  "Given that October landings, which were below normal, are often a prediction of the year to come, landings for this year will likely be below last year’s landings and one of the lowest within the last 15 years," Michelle Kerr, with FWC's Research Institute, said. Many businesses in Collier County saw low numbers of stone crabs this season. Barbara Dunn, at Oakes Farms in Naples, said the market had to import its stone crabs from the Bahamas and the California coast this year. “We used to get them off of Pine Island, but that man just went out of business because of what went on with red tide," Dunn said. “That was a significant factor in the stone crab season. It affected everything this year.” Dunn said they had to rely on importing because local crabbers were not catching enough stone crabs. “The trappers were going out. They had like 100 traps, and they might’ve gotten 30 pounds when they should have gotten like 100 pounds," Dunn said…” From NBC 2 News.

Read Stalling on climate change action may cost investors over $1 trillion- “Delays in tackling climate change could cost companies about $1.2 trillion worldwide during the next 15 years, according to the United Nations. That’s the preliminary analysis of a UN Environment Finance Initiative project that brought together 20 global fund managers to measure the impact of climate change on 30,000 of the largest listed companies. The group has created a guide for investors to assess how their holdings would respond to different levels of global warming and policy making...Investors are playing an increased role to protect financial stability against climate change. The research work will enable them to better understand climate-related risks and opportunities, in line with the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, a part of the Financial Stability Board global regulator, the UN said…” Mathew Carr reports for Bloomberg.

From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Sustainability Administrator - City of Fort Lauderdale

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Upcoming Environmental Events:

May 16th - Clean Water Paddle Series - (Pensacola Beach) - Join the Healthy Gulf for the Clean Water Paddle Series every Thursday at 6 pm. Paddleboards, kayaks, canoes—all paddlecraft are welcome. Paddleboards will be available for rental. We’ll paddle around Little Sabine Bay for up to one hour, then enjoy the sunset from The Shaka Bar. Environmental education will be provided before, during, and after the paddle by Healthy Gulf and others. Learn about seagrass, clean water, marine life, and how you can help to protect it all. For more information about the Clean Water Paddle Series please visit Healthy Gulf on Facebook or call 850-687-9968 or christian@healthygulf.org. Meet at Aloha Wine and Liquor, 649 Pensacola Beach Blvd, Pensacola Beach.

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.

June 10-14, June 24-28, 2019 - 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

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.


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

No Fracked Gas in Tampa Bay

Help Save Our Panthers

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

Thinking of going electric? Nextcar Pledge

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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