FCC News Brief - May 17, 2019

Quote of the Day: “A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.” - John James Audubon 

Read Governor, please veto two bad bills- “Gov. Ron DeSantis has gotten off to a good start in representing Florida as he has focused on our water crisis. His efforts on behalf of the Everglades have been noteworthy. We must act now to keep our state the beautiful one that residents enjoy and jobs-creating tourists expect. Unfortunately, two bad bills recently passed by the Florida Legislature have now passed for review by the governor. Senate Bill 7068 will create three new massive toll roads through the remaining rural portions of the peninsula. These roads will not only serve to spread unregulated sprawl over the countryside, degrade and further pollute our water supply and decimate wildlife habitat, but shackle the taxpayer with years of costly expenses. The money that will go towards SB 7068 would be much better spent on expanding existing roadways, which is what the Department of Transportation has recommended. Additionally, it could be used to improve our educational system, build public transit or for other worthy purposes. The other bill which passed, House Bill 7103, essentially stops public challenges of growth management decisions by making challengers pay attorney fees and costs if they do not prevail in court, even if they had a sound basis for the litigation. This bill will stymie participation as the public will be in fear of bankruptcy if the courts do not see it their way. The governor has shown himself to be the governor of all the people, not monied special interests, and will secure that reputation by stopping these bad bills from becoming law.” Preston Robertson writes Opinion for NWF Daily News.

Read Costumed protestors warn against toll roads plan - “Butterflies and birds happily fluttered about on a hot Gainesville afternoon. Before getting paved over by corrupt billionaires to construct new toll roads. That was the picture the Florida Sierra Club and other protesters painted at Bo Diddley Plaza on Wednesday during their protest of SB 7068, which would begin the building or expansion of three toll roads across the state. The protest — one of three similar protests held around the state Wednesday — featured stuffed animals strewn about in front of the plaza’s stage while some protesters dressed up as butterflies, plants and birds. Others portrayed a costumed construction crew that began to “kill” the animals to make room for the new toll roads. More protesters were dressed like rich businessmen cheering on the new development as others threw money to pay for the tolls and littered to show the effect the toll roads could have on the environment. The protest ended with protesters holding car-shaped cutouts that spelled out “Keep Toll Roads Out Of The Rural Lane.” The bill, which awaits a signature from Gov. Ron DeSantis, calls for the Suncoast Parkway to extend from the Tampa Bay area to the Georgia border, connect the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway and the creation of a new corridor that includes a toll road from Polk to Collier counties…” Brendan Farrell reports for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Is this the death of growth management in Florida?- “On paper, the idea of “loser pays” in civil lawsuits sounds pretty good. If some crank sues you over nothing, and you win, you shouldn’t have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of defending your legal rights. And there’s nothing wrong with making potential plaintiffs have some skin in the game before they start to harass their city or county officials with endless, petty litigation over their own wacky notions of how things should be...A bill on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk – what they call a legislative “train,” actually – deserves a veto for a few reasons. It started as an affordable-housing bill but, as so often happens late in a session, it picked up amendments on new and different topics with scant relation to its original intent. That’s another thing legislators ought to stamp out, but won’t. There are rules requiring an amendment to be “germane” to the central purpose of a bill...The second thing wrong with this particular amendment by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, is that it hopped aboard on the next-to-last day of the legislative session. It got no scrutiny in committees and was adopted by a voice vote. That’s not an uncommon way of doing things in the closing crush of a session – more’s the pity. Local governments and environmentalist groups have decried the Brandes amendment, which they say will effectively end growth management. About 30 years ago, the state started requiring local governments to adopt comprehensive plans – which went against their own interests. Cities and counties like the property tax revenue that comes from development…And so, worst case scenario, if a perpetually revenue-hungry local government winks at its own comprehensive plan, and lets builders pave another parking lot over another piece of paradise, citizens have to go to court to stop the bulldozers. If the Brandes amendment becomes law, those citizens had better have substantial financial backing. If they lose, they can find themselves billed for the legal fees of the local government they’re suing. Presumably, as taxpayers, they’re already paying the salaries and office expenses of their city attorney and courthouse staff... But when local officials ignore their own laws, citizens shouldn’t have to gamble on making them do right. “It would mark the death knell for growth management in Florida, even as the state’s population is projected to grow by more than 12 million people over the next half-century,” said 1000 Friends of Florida, one of the state’s most respected advocates for sustainable communities, calling for a veto.” Bill Cotterell writes Opinion for the Tallahassee Democrat.

Read First signs of algae that cause red tide found off Florida’s Gulf Coast - “Red tide isn’t likely to ruin anyone’s weekend, but state measurements taken in the last week have found small concentrations of the algae that cause it off Florida’s Gulf Coast. The measurements taken by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission between May 2-9 found the presence of the microscopic red-tide causing phytoplankton, Karenia brevis, in low concentrations in waters in both Sarasota and Charlotte counties...Red tide took its toll on the state in 2018, with what the state calls a naturally occurring algae bloom that can starve coastal waters of oxygen resulting in massive fish kills and pungent air that is a detriment to the state’s tourism industry. The Gulf Coast dealt with it for most of 2018, and often has outbreaks year to year. More rare, though, was its presence last year on the East Coast, with blooms making their way up through Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and farther up into Brevard County in October and November…” Richard Tribou reports for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read Naples City Council move forward with summer fertilizer ban- “The Naples City Council unanimously agreed to move forward with an ordinance that would ban people from using fertilizer this summer. The ban would be put in place during certain days. During Wednesday’s meeting, the council heard from both sides of the issue. Those for the ban said using phosphorus and nitrogen-based fertilizers during the rainy season would harm our waterways. They believe the fertilizer sitting on lawns and plants could be washed up into our water and could cause algae blooms. “Including the rainy season ban is really essential,” Nicole Johnson, a supporter for the ban, said. “It isn’t going to solve all the problems, but it’s easy to enforce and a cost effective way to ensure that we’re not contributing to water quality problems.”  People including Mac Carraway, representing the Environmental Research and Education Foundation, said there is not enough evidence that shows fertilizer is harming our waterways. “We feel that the science does not support those blackouts," Carraway said. "They’re not supported by the Florida department of environmental protection, Florida department of agriculture or University of Florida."...The Naples City Council will revisit the fertilizer ordinance for a second reading June 5th, before implementing the ordinance.” Edna Ruiz reports for NBC 2.

Read Banner nesting season for Everglades wading birds; scientists cautiously optimistic - “After precipitous declines, wading bird nests in the Everglades have increased for the second year in a row, according to an annual report the South Florida Water Management District released Thursday morning. Birds like roseate spoonbill, ibis and wood storks, who hunt by feel, showed some of the biggest increases. Almost 139,000 wading birds made nests during the last season, from December 2017 to July 2018. That’s the largest annual nesting effort recorded since comprehensive counts in the region began in in 1995. It's “comparable with reports of large nesting events from the 1940s,” according to the report. “It surpasses the previous banner nesting season of 2009 by 51,270 nests and is approximately 3.5 times the 5-year (39,965.2 nests) and 10-year (39,850.6 nests) averages.” 2017 was the worst year for nesting birds in almost a decade, but things turned around sharply last year, and the upward trajectory continues. Success for the birds signals success for restoration efforts, said district avian ecologist Mark Cook. “Wading birds are an ultimate reflection of the health of the Everglades,” Cook said. “We’ve really seen that we can get these birds back again if we get the water right again … We can use them to help teach us how to restore the Everglades…” Amy Bennett Williams reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Puerto Rico got rid of its coal ash pits. Now the company responsible is moving them to Florida - “This past January, Itiba De Jesus moved to St. Cloud, in Osceola County, Florida, in search of affordable housing and land to expand her sustainable agriculture project. She has lived in Florida for 17 years but grew up in Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria wiped out crops across Puerto Rico, she co-founded a community garden to help groups on the island and nearby Orlando grow their own food. Then she got word that thousands of tons of ash containing toxic metals from Puerto Rico’s Guayama coal plant were headed for her new home. Seeing the same source of contamination travel from one of the places she calls home to another “felt like a double whammy,” said De Jesus. Osceola County in central Florida is home to the second fastest-growing Puerto Rican community in the country. Many of the transplants living there today were still finding their footing after the devastation of Hurricane Maria when the county broke the news earlier this year that it would be taking on thousands of tons of coal ash relocated from the U.S territory. The coal ash is a byproduct of a power plant operating in Guayama, Puerto Rico, which provides 17 percent of the island’s electricity. For years, residents near the Guayama plant have called for the plant’s operator, the Virginia-based Fortune 500 Company AES Corporation, to clean up its act, as the heavy metal-laden ash can contaminate local soil and water. In Puerto Rico, the coal ash pits contributed to unsafe levels of boron, lithium, molybdenum, selenium, and sulfate in groundwater, according to a recent analysis by the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. Puerto Rico banned the dumping of coal ash in 2017, so AES needed to find somewhere else to send its waste. This spring, the JED landfill — located in a rural area of Osceola County — agreed to take that coal ash for $2 a ton. Around 44,000 tons have already been delivered and a total of 200,000 could arrive by the end of the year, according to a white paper distributed to the media by the County Commissioner of Osceola, Fred Hawkins…” Justine Calma reports for Grist.

Read Coral reefs save us from flooding. We must save them from destruction - “The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is almost upon us; the last two hurricane seasons were devastating to Florida. The race is on to recover and build resilience ahead of the next storms. And we need to invest in one of Florida’s most valuable and underrated defenses — its reefs. Most people have no idea how valuable coral reefs are for coastal defense. Now we do. Reefs act as submerged breakwaters, they “break” waves and dissipate their energy offshore. Working together, the U.S. Geological Survey, The Nature Conservancy and the University of California Santa Cruz, have shown just how valuable reefs are using state-of-the-art flood-risk tools. Across the United States, reefs provide more than $1.8 billion in flood-protection benefits every year. In Florida alone, reefs provide more than $675 million in flood-protection benefits to people, property and jobs every year...The new Respect Our Reef campaign encourages protection of the reefs by the fishermen and divers who know and love them best. And it is not just coral reefs in the United States; marshes, mangroves and oyster reefs all provide cost-effective benefits for flood reduction. And coral reefs provide benefits to people in more than 60 nations. If we can get reef protection and restoration right in Florida, we can offer lessons learned to help protect people across the country and around the world…” Michael W. Beck writes Opinion for the Miami Herald.

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 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

We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.

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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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