FCC News Brief - May 16, 2019

Quote of the Day: “We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.
– Henry David Thoreau  

Read Protestors to Gov. Ron DeSantis: Veto toll road bill- “About 100 people attended a protest Tuesday evening in Williams Park against two bills they said would do great damage to Florida's environment. Citizens, politicians and environmentalists urged Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto one bill that would build a toll road to Georgia and another that they say would make it more difficult for people to challenge development decisions in court. Some wore animal masks — foxes, owls and badgers dotted the crowd — while others waived neon signs with phrases like, "Don't pave me, bro" and "Animals don't walk on toll roads." Florida Senate President Bill Galvano unveiled his toll road plans in January, pushing a massive expansion of the Suncoast Parkway through the Senate. The bill now sits on the governor's desk, awaiting his signature. Galvano said building the roads through the state's rural, environmentally sensitive areas could boost the economy of small towns. But leaders in several of the counties in the path of the extended Suncoast Parkway have made it clear they want no toll roads slicing through and destroying farms that have been in the same families for generations. Environmental groups also have opposed the project, condemning it as a way to spread sprawl and destroy areas important to recharging the aquifer and providing habitat for imperiled species. State Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, voted against the bill and spoke at Tuesday's rally. He acknowledged that more people are moving to Florida and the state faces significant transportation issues, but said this project fails to address the real issues: congestion within urban communities. "I recognize that our state is growing, but come on," Diamond said. "This bill proposes all the wrong solutions to our problems…” Caitlin Johnston reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Legislature wants to pave paradise, put up toll roads - “Thirty years after the toll booths on the bridges came down, tolls have returned to Jacksonville. If you’re traveling on Interstate 295, passing through Mandarin toward the Buckman Bridge at rush hour, you now can choose to take some shiny new express lanes. Instead of booths and loose change, these toll lanes use automated sensors, SunPass transponders and fluctuating rates — and planners say that instead of creating backups, these tolls will improve traffic flow at peak times. Let’s hope they’re right. There are plenty of examples of places that illustrate a pavement paradox, with more lanes leading to more congestion. This much is certain: More tolls are on the way, locally and around the state. A lot more if Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill sitting on his desk. Senate Bill 7068 — the pet project of Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) — would be the state’s largest road project in a half century, building three new toll roads through rural Florida. While it’s tempting to think that because it’s not the rural Florida in our backyard — the three roads all are to the west and southwest — it doesn’t affect us. One of the reasons it does: Toll roads don’t pay for themselves. The bill will move hundreds of millions of dollars in general revenue into the state’s transportation trust fund. Add in the cost of borrowing money and the price tag could top $10 billion. That’s about $500 per person in the state today...One of the stated goals of the project is to create economic opportunities in the areas the roads will pass through. A simple rebuttal: Take a drive on Interstate 10. The interstate has been running across the state since 1978. It’s a valuable piece of the state’s transportation system, but if the goal was to transform the areas off the exit ramps, the results are mixed at best. In many ways, it has had negative impacts on the land and communities where U.S. 90 used to be the primary east-west route…” Mark Woods writes Opinion for the Florida Times-Union.

Read Another former FL governor advises DeSantis to veto multi-billion-dollar toll road scheme- “Another former Florida governor is advising Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the Legislature’s proposed multi-billion statewide toll road plan, amid protests around the state against what one longtime Florida environmentalist called “the worst environmental bill in twenty years.” Former Gov. – now U.S. Rep. – Charlie Crist, joins former Gov. (and former U.S. Sen.)  Bob Graham in calling for DeSantis to veto the toll road bill (SB 7068). “I vetoed a similar bill during my time as Governor because there are smarter ways to grow and develop our transportation infrastructure – investing in public transportation, updating our current road and bridge system, and prioritizing sustainable growth,” Crist said in a statement. “A prudent approach would be to invest this funding in the infrastructure of the future, rather than doubling down on the mistakes of the past. I hope Governor DeSantis vetoes this bill…” Julie Hauserman reports for the Florida Phoenix.

Read Toll road bill on Gov. DeSantis’ desk puts kids’ health at risk- “Kids in Florida deserve healthy lungs. We can all agree on that. No one wants to see more children with asthma or other respiratory diseases. No one wants to see more kids in the emergency room, or unable to go outside to run around and play. But a bill sitting on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk would put our kids’ health at risk by exposing them to higher levels of dangerous traffic fumes. The Transportation Corridors bill (SB 7068) would commit the state to spending billions of dollars to build three new tollways. Supporters claim the new tollways are necessary to reduce congestion and encourage economic development. But new highway construction isn’t an effective or sustainable way to accomplish either of those goals in the 21st century...Because of vehicle exhaust, the air near high-traffic roads often contains elevated levels of benzene, nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants. An alarming new report published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal earlier this month added to the growing evidence of the terrible impact that traffic air pollution has on young kids. The report found that as many as four million new cases of pediatric asthma occur every year because of exposure to traffic fumes, which can travel inside a child’s respiratory tract and cause serious health issues...If we also want to implement 21st century transportation solutions, several options are healthier, more effective and less costly. We could repair our existing transportation infrastructure, which would help cut down on travel times and alleviate the perceived need for new highway capacity. We could expand our public transit systems to give people more options for getting around without having to drive. We could make it safer and more convenient for people to walk and bike where they need to go. All these benefit communities, and none of them put our kids’ health at additional risk. The same can’t be said about building new tollways. No matter which way you look at it, the Transportation Corridors bill is bad for Florida. Gov. DeSantis should pump the brakes on this bill and, as a state, we should take a step back and reassess our priorities. To keep our kids healthy, this bill can’t be signed into law…” Jennifer Rubiello and Lynn Ringenberg write Opinion for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Read Stuart will urge businesses to drop or reduce single-use plastic straws and plastic foam- “ City commissioners are following in Martin County’s lead, unanimously urging businesses to stop or decrease the use of single-use plastic straws and polystyrene products such as Styrofoam. Their resolution, which mirrors one Martin County commissioners passed in April, seeks to reduce plastic pollution, in part through an outreach campaign to educate the public, students and businesses “regarding the harm created by plastics and polystyrene products to terrestrial and marine environments.” Commissioners on Monday also instructed City Manager David Dyess to schedule a public workshop to discuss pollution associated with single-use plastics and polystyrene that litters landfills, waterways and oceans. A goal is to help eliminate the nearly 9 million tons of plastic debris that flows into oceans each year, according to city records. The city’s effort to curb the use of plastics is about climate change and preserving the Earth, Commissioner Eula Clarke said...According to the Treasure Coast chapter of Surfrider Foundation, up to 500 million straws are used every day in the United States and make up about 2,000 tons of the ocean’s plastic waste. An estimated 100 billion single-use plastic bags are used annually nationwide. Stuart and Martin County are the first Treasure Coast government to pass a resolution designed to encourage restaurants and the public to go plastic-free.  Officials are creating regional partnership involving the Surfrider Foundation and other local environmental groups...The city’s options got a boost after Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have blocked local governments from banning plastic straws for five years while the state studied laws and regulations adopted by less than a dozen Florida cities. DeSantis, siding with environmental groups and local governments, vetoed the measure, House Bill 771, hours after formally receiving it from the Legislature earlier this month…” Melissa E. Holsman reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Affordable housing, better water quality will cost SW Florida- “...As much as we might hope that by building a few reservoirs and better managing fertilizer use we can avert a repeat of last year’s crisis, real solutions will likely involve much more...“The quality of water treatment has a huge amount to do with what the nutrient problems are,” said Dr. Edie Widder, founder of the Ocean Research & Conservation Association. "What we need to be talking about is not just water and sewer but advanced water treatment. We’re going to continue to have these types of problems until we bring water treatment into the 21st century." That won’t come cheap. “The investment level … to get state-of-the-art stormwater treatment, I think we’re talking billions of dollars,” Conservancy CEO Rob Moher told the group. That portends poorly for efforts to add affordable housing to the Collier County inventory. While urban infill — building units on under-utilized parcels west of Collier Boulevard, holds promise for affordable housing — new units on previously undeveloped tracts will be part of the mix as well. Central sewer systems in planned communities beat septic tanks at individual homes springing up on isolated lots, but if Widder is correct, that still might not be good enough. The costs of “21st century” wastewater treatment is almost certain to add significantly to the cost of construction. That in turn makes it ever more challenging to keep the cost down...Moher was blunt. Even after Hurricane Irma flooded the region and caused the existing sewer system to fail, Collier County couldn’t muster the political will to impose a stormwater utility fee. “We have to be talking about taxes at some point,” he said. "The public is going to have to pay for some of this." Southwest Florida is often referred to as a paradise. But when dealing with one critical issue exacerbates another critical issue, we’re reminded living in paradise comes at a cost…” From the Naples Daily News Editorial Board.

Read Are Lake Okeechobee algae blooms headed to the St. Lucie River? Experts’ summer forecast - “Like the return of summer rains — and in large part because of them — algae blooms are back in Lake Okeechobee. So far, the blooms have been small, short-lived and either not toxic or very slightly toxic. That could change over the course of the summer. But will it?...There's always blue-green algae — aka cyanobacteria — in the lake, as it is in most bodies of freshwater. The question is whether conditions will be right for the algae to form massive blooms: long, hot days and plenty of fresh water laden with nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizer runoff. You can pretty much bet on the long, hot days. The "X" factor is how much rain there'll be this summer to wash nutrients into the lake. Large blooms have become more frequent in recent years because of increased nutrient levels. That's "the new normal," said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart. But so far this year, nutrient levels are lower than in the past couple of years, Welch said, because of a relatively dry winter and the lack of a big, wet tropical storm — like Hurricane Irma in 2017 — to wash those nutrients into the lake. Several experts don't expect a huge bloom this summer like the one that covered 90 percent of the lake last summer. "Generally, the lower the lake gets in the winter and spring dry season, the less intense the blooms are in the summer wet season," said Paul Gray, an Audubon Florida scientist who's studied Lake O for a couple of decades. "So the theory is, there won't be a raging bloom this summer….” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read Citizens demand halt to coal ash shipments, but Osceola County’s hands may be tied- “Residents packed the Osceola County chambers Monday afternoon demanding local officials halt incoming shipments of coal ash from Puerto Rico to a private landfill. But with barges docked in Manatee Bay and more on the way, it may be too late. Coal ash controversy concerns united over two dozen people who delivered more than an hour of public comment Monday afternoon. Speakers spanned racial and cultural lines. Liberal environmentalists from Winter Park sat beside rural St. Cloud natives; Puerto Rican mothers and grandmothers spoke out in opposition alongside scientists and Congressional representatives…On April 1, Osceola County government gave a green light to Waste Connections – the private owner and operator of the JED Solid Waste Facility east of St. Cloud – to import an unlimited amount of coal ash from Puerto Rico between now and Dec. 31. The county stands to make $2 a ton from Waste Connections through the deal, officials said. It is unknown how much Waste Connections is receiving from Applied Energy Systems (AES) - the coal production company in Puerto Rico - because the company refuses to disclose numbers…Health and environmental concerns topped the list of talking points Monday, with residents rebuking claims that coal ash is non-toxic, despite JED’s status as a non-hazardous landfill. Others argued that importing coal ash might be legal, but not ethical. Even a representative from U.S. Congressman Darren Soto’s office gave comment in opposition to the decision, calling for a longer-term commitment from all elected officials to phase out coal-based energy production…” Rachel Christian reports for the Osceola News-Gazette.

Read Clean water isn’t a luxury- “Unfortunately, Sarasota County didn’t have the same foresight when it began welcoming a surge of newcomers over the past decade. Booming tourism and rampant development are great for the economy, and we’ve certainly taken advantage of our popularity to exploit both. But somewhere along the way we forgot to figure in the byproducts of all those extra bodies. And, after a long period of ignoring the strain on our systems, we’re getting a pretty good wake-up call. Last week, county officials delivered dire warnings about pollutants in area waterways and what could happen if the county’s three wastewater treatment plants aren’t upgraded soon. This came on the heels of the third major sewage spill in less than two weeks: nearly 800 gallons of raw sewage that leaked into a neighborhood east of I-75 on May 2; a lift station failure that caused more than 5,000 gallons to spill into a holding pond in Gulf Gate on May 5; and the 1,200 gallons discharged when a Sarasota County crew attempted to replace a deteriorated iron wastewater pipe near Venice on May 9...Meanwhile, since the repeal of a regulation in 2012, the plethora of homes in Sarasota County still on septic systems undergo no annual inspections to detect leaks and discharges. Nor is there any comprehensive plan underway to connect more of them to sewer lines...Sarasota, with its reputation as the best little (fill in the blank ... beach town, arts city, retirement paradise ...) on the Gulf Coast, ought to have the same discipline. If you’re going to welcome growth and development, it should come with the political will to insist necessities such as clean water and environmental preservation come before extras like rowing parks and golf courses…” Carrie Seidman writes Opinion for the Florida Times-Union.

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

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