FCC News Brief - May 20, 2019

Quote of the Day: “It is our collective and individual responsibility … to preserve and tend to the world in which we all live.” —Dalai Lama

Read Bucking environmentalists, Florida governor signs toll road bill - “Gov. Ron DeSantis has tried to build a reputation as the “green governor” as he works to tackle the state’s water quality problems, but that image could be diminished after DeSantis signed a toll road bill Friday that is loathed by environmentalists. Dubbed by one environmental advocate as the worst piece of legislation in decades, the toll road bill was the top priority of Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who argues the three new highways are needed to address the state’s growth. DeSantis sided with Galvano over the environmental community Friday, saying he believes Florida’s road network needs to expand...Polls show DeSantis is popular and much of that popularity stems from his eagerness to champion bipartisan ideas, including protecting the environment. But the toll road bill had some powerful backers, and DeSantis risked straining his relationship with Galvano and groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce if he opposed the legislation...A Sierra Club email sent out Friday morning slammed the road project. “The urban sprawl that would accompany the new toll roads would be deadly, devouring hundreds of thousands of acres of rural and natural lands, fragmenting wildlife habitat, and polluting rivers, springs, lakes and coastal waters,” according to the email. It will be years before construction begins on the new roads. First, transportation planners will assemble a series of task forces to study the exact routes that the roads should take and analyze other issues, including how to mitigate environmental concerns. Galvano is proposing a road that would run 150 miles through the center of the state, connecting the Lakeland region with the Naples area. He also wants to extend the Suncoast Parkway from its current terminus north of Tampa another 150 miles to the Georgia border. A third road would extend Florida’s Turnpike to connect with the expanded Suncoast.” Zac Anderson reports for the Herald-Tribune

Read Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019 introduced in Congress with bi-partisan support following UN report on global biodiversity crisis - “Marking the most significant step toward national wildlife conservation in decades, the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019 was introduced today in both houses of Congress. Led by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), the bill was co-sponsored in the Senate by Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D- NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Jon Tester (D-MT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressmen Don Beyer (D-VA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL). This bi-partisan introduction comes just weeks after the United Nations released a harrowing report detailing the threats facing global biodiversity, including wildlife native to America. If passed, the Act will restore habitat and protect America’s native wildlife by establishing a National Wildlife Corridors Program that facilitates the designation of wildlife corridors on federal lands and provides grants to maintain wildlife corridors on non-federal lands. Fragmentation of wildlife habitat has been identified as a significant threat to wildlife across America... The Act grants authority to key federal agencies to create a National Wildlife Corridor system on federal public land and creates a Wildlife Movement Grant Program to incentivize the protection of wildlife corridors by state and tribal agencies, as well as interested private landowners, on non-federal lands. It also establishes Regional Wildlife Movement Councils and a National Coordination Committee to identify, prioritize and fund on-the-ground projects supported by state agencies, tribes and local stakeholders...Wildlife corridors are critically important habitat areas that allow animals to move between areas of habitat, facilitating migration, range expansion, and mating. Protecting wildlife corridors also increases potential resiliency of animal populations in the face of changing landscapes and climate. The bill is supported by nationally recognized scientists, including Harvard’s  Dr. E.O. Wilson, and over 220 prominent  NGO s nationwide…” From Defenders of Wildlife press release.

Read On key issues, the Florida Legislature barely eked out average grades - “At the start of the Florida legislative session in March, the Editorial Board of Treasure Coast Newspapers focused readers' attention on four key issues: environment, education, medical marijuana and home rule.  Our board tracked these issues through the 60-day session, which closed May 4. Here's how lawmakers performed, in our opinion, on these critical issues… Environment: Grade: C. Things were looking up in January. Fresh off his inauguration, Gov. Ron DeSantis aggressively applied his executive powers to restructure state agencies and curtail pollution of Florida’s waters.At the same time, state lawmakers filed environmentally friendly bills to regulate septic tanks, stormwater runoff, residential fertilizer use and biosolids (another term for partially treated human waste). As it turns out, none of those bills passed. Among the legislation that died was a proposed ban on biosolids filed by Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach. The bill would have prohibited the Department of Environmental Protection from authorizing disposal of the gunk near the upper St. Johns River, in Indian River and Brevard counties. Biosolids have been linked to toxic blue-green algae blooms, including in Blue Cypress Lake…” From the Treasure Coast Newspapers Editorial Board.  

Read This place matters: Slice of old Florida on Estero River should be preserved, advocates say - “If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you might recall me mentioning a movement called “This place matters.” The idea originated more than a decade ago as a campaign by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that “encourages people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities … to encourage and inspire an ongoing dialogue about the importance of place and preservation in all of our lives (and) shine a spotlight on all the special places that are important to you.”...But it’s not just buildings that people want preserved – the campaign has expanded to include wild places such as the Cape Coral lots that are home to burrowing owl communities and cypress heads within the Fort Myers city limits where native orchids thrive. Last month, my attention was directed to another spot advocates would like set aside for future generations: River Oaks Preserve, 10 acres of old Florida in Estero. Owned by a Chicago-based company, Old Town Preservation and Management, Inc., it’s a slice of wild green sandwiched between developed neighborhoods. Spearheaded by the nonprofit Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, a group of citizens are working to buy the property, which is for sale, and they have until September, when a lease agreement with the owner that gives them a purchase option expires. In 2003, the parcel sold for $1 million, according to the Lee County Property Appraiser's website...It's easy to see why advocates want to preserve it. It's the kind of spot my kids -  or any kids - would spend many happy hours scrambling through the scrub, or where a harried journalist might do some quiet breathing under bromeliad-spangled live oaks. Not to mention the benefits wetlands provide to the surrounding communities. One acre of wetlands stores and purifies 1,600 gallons of water, Conservancy of Southwest Florida president Rob Moher recently told a roundtable convened by U.S. Rep Francis Rooney…” Amy Bennett Williams writes for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Florida’s dirty water tops list of woes for new Chief Science Officer - “Florida's ongoing water woes tops the list of problems to be tackled by the state's new chief science officer. In his first press briefing Friday, Tom Frazer, an aquatic ecologist and director of the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Florida, said he plans on convening a new blue green algae task force in early June. Armed with money newly approved by lawmakers, the group plans to find smaller projects that might have a more immediate fix for water quality issues in and around Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. "We do have a number of available funds to implement projects in [drainage basins] and we need to prioritize those and move forward on the best ones possible," Frazer said. In April, Gov. Ron DeSantis named Frazer the state's first chief science officer to help address spiraling environmental issues. Algae blooms now regularly foul the Treasure Coast and Caloosahatchee estuary, and pollution has worsened water quality in Central Florida springs and South Florida's Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay. DeSantis has pledged to spend $2.5 billion over the next four years to improve water and earlier this month, lawmakers approved a budget that included $682 million in spending over the next year...While Everglades restoration is aimed at addressing South Florida's problems in the longterm, Frazer and his boss, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein, said next year's budget will allow them to start smaller projects in the region's numerous drainage districts that could provide more short-term relief. "We want to address anything from stormwater [issues] to wetland restoration," Valentstein said. "We have not had the level of funding needed to ramp up that program until this year…” Jenny Staletovich reports for WLRN.

Read Florida waters are killing people- I was almost one of them - “My wife and I were paddle-boarding in a mangrove cove near the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River, a few miles east of Sanibel Island, when I spotted the slightly submerged oyster bed just a few yards ahead. I braced, but the collision was hard and sent me soaring. Not the first time I’d been catapulted while paddle-boarding — ah, the joys of Florida’s shoal waters — but in this instance I crash-landed on mud-encrusted shells that sliced and diced me from one end to the other, a particularly gnarly gash in my left knee...After a couple of days, the doctors cautiously advised that I probably would not lose my leg. Still, it took a week in the hospital before they identified the microscopic monsters that caused the damage — vibrio vulnificus. Often called a “flesh-eating bacteria,” it’s something you can contract from an open wound in the water or occasionally from eating oysters...During the previous year 45 people had contracted vibrio vulnificus and 14 had died. This happened almost three years ago, July 2016. It was during one of those blue-green algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee that prompts the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dump water into the Caloosahatchee and the Gulf of Mexico. To the east it flows out the St. Lucie River to the Atlantic. The blooms have been getting worse, dovetailing with an epic red tide along the Gulf in 2018. And they are spreading, with recent reports of algae blooms near the source of the St. Johns River in Brevard County and 120 miles upriver in Lake George...The blame is on all of us who live on this sandy spit of land. Whether you play golf on a course that needs perfect green grass, raise cattle, grow corn or sugar cane or ornamental plants, fertilize your lawn, flush a toilet — we human beings are the problem…” Bob Morris writes Opinion for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read Oil spill seeping into Gulf of Mexico contained after 14 years, Coast Guard says - “An ongoing oil spill that has been leaking into the Gulf of Mexico for more than 14 years is finally being contained, the U.S. Coast Guard announced on Thursday.  The Taylor Energy oil spill began after Hurricane Ivan triggered an underwater mudslide in 2004 that caused the company's oil platform to topple and sink. The New Orleans-based company managed to cap some of the 25 broken pipes leading to the leak, but many were left unplugged. Environmental groups subsequently sued the company in federal court in 2012.  Since then it's been a slew of legal battles, with Taylor Energy playing down the magnitude and environmental impact of the leak. Most recently, Taylor Energy tried to block the Coast Guard from moving ahead with plans to stem the constant flow. The company argued it is not possible to completely eliminate the constant oil slicks that often stretch for miles on the surface of the water and that to try to stop it could make the leak worse.  But in a status report filed on Tuesday, lawyers with the Coast Guard and Department of Justice say workers have made tremendous strides in containing and collecting the ooze after moving ahead with plans…” Vanessa Romo reports for NPR.


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:

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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Petitions

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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