Quote of the Day: "Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Read Everglades restoration projects get full $200 million from House Appropriations Committee- “Full funding for Everglades restoration projects, including the reservoir to cut harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges, is one step closer to happening. The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted Tuesday to spend $200 million in federal funds to fully match state funding of the project. The vote was 31-21, mostly along party lines. The appropriation means "the federal government is finally living up to its part of the agreement," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat representing parts of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, referring to the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan authorized by Congress in 2000. The state and federal governments agreed to split the cost of restoration 50-50, said Wasserman Schultz, a member of the committee, "but Florida has consistently outspent the federal government ... two-to-one. That ends today."...The appropriation had been recommended by environmental groups, members of the Florida congressional delegation and, most recently, President Donald Trump. The money for the Army Corps of Engineers is part of this year’s Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which is expected to go to the full House in June for consideration either on its own or as part of a larger appropriation. It also has to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president to become law…” Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Read How to stop oil drilling in the Everglades- “Florida failed in its first effort to stop Everglades oil drilling. Others, however, still could succeed. Ideally, Kanter Real Estate never would have advanced this far in its plan to drill in far southwest Broward County. But the Florida Department of Environmental Protection — under former Gov. Rick Scott — gave Kanter an advantage at the start that opponents couldn’t overcome. Matthew Schwartz is executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, which filed a brief in support of the legal challenge to the well. He told the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board that while DEP refused to give Kanter a drilling permit, the agency did issue an environmental use permit. By doing so, Schwartz said, DEP made the argument about only “a hole in the ground,” and not potential damage to the Everglades. That’s the main reason why Broward County and the city of Miramar this month declined to take their case to the Florida Supreme Court. In February, a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal overruled the state’s denial of the drilling permit and refused to give opponents — including the county and the city — a rehearing before the entire court. Even if the county and city had persuaded the Florida Supreme Court to take the case, the chances of stopping the well were slim. Fortunately, Kanter won’t be drilling soon. The company must obtain other approvals from several agencies, which presents new opportunities for lawsuits...But the best option for stopping the well could be the approval Kanter needs from the Army Corps of Engineers. Kanter requires a dredge-and-fill permit because the company intends to destroy wetlands. Kanter must create enough space for the well itself and all support operations. Schwartz points out that the 20,000-acre site is between two canals in a strategic part of the Everglades. Under the federal-state Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), water managers want to connect two conservation areas that are part of southern Florida’s hydrological system…” From the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board.
Read The Florida Legislature sells out (again) to developers - “While the lack of affordable housing is a top issue in urban areas from South Florida to Tampa Bay, the Florida Legislature is trying to make it harder for local governments to meet the demand. They have once again sided with well-heeled developers, making it more expensive for counties and cities to add affordable housing and for citizens who want to challenge a development decision in court. This double whammy would curtail innovation and muzzle residents, and Gov. Ron DeSantis should veto it. The legislation, HB 7103, was once even worse until Senate leaders stepped in. Originally, House leaders wanted to ban local governments from creating zoning that required developers to set aside units for low-income residents. The revised bill that passed allows the zoning, but it requires local governments to cover developers’ associated costs. In other words, cities and counties would be forced to pay up, likely by waiving fees or offering bonuses or other financial incentives...Locally elected officials should set the community’s development priorities, not state legislators too often influenced more by strict ideology and campaign contributions than by common sense. If local residents don’t like the results, they can vote for someone else in the next election. But many residents understand that local officials need to try different ways to promote construction of affordable housing. What works in one city might not in another, but they should be left to figure out their own best path. That’s how innovation works. Instead, this law would handcuff local leaders…” From the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board
Read DeSantis should have vetoed toll roads bill- “When he was elected, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would be on a “war footing” to protect the state’s fragile and endangered water resources, cleaning up sources of filth and protecting lagoons, springs and the vast underground aquifer that supplies the state with drinking water. For months, he’s been quietly impressing environmentalists with his steadfast adherence to his own declared battle stance. On Friday, DeSantis turned and opened fire on his own troops. There’s just no other way to put it. In a closed-door event, the governor signed legislation that will eventually drive hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of asphalt through some of the state’s most valuable remaining spring- and water-recharge area. Three new toll roads will open millions of acres of farmland and forest to profiteering development, further intensifying the demand on the aquifer while crippling its ability to heal itself from the depredations of fertilizer and other pollutants that follow humans wherever they go. A broad coalition of environmental and civic groups called the legislation the worst threat to Florida’s environment in decades. Despite the fact that this legislation was a top priority for some of Florida’s power elite, most notably Senate President Bill Galvano, a veto would have been an easy win for the governor. That’s because these roads are not needed. They will do almost nothing to relieve traffic pressure points...The roads would make it much easier to access currently undeveloped land, including property owned by some of the state’s biggest farming businesses and more than a half-million acres owned by Florida’s richest man, Thomas Peterffy, who is a major Republican donor. (Peterffy also owns a 32,000-acre tract in Highlands County that could be along the Polk-Collier road’s route). In announcing the signing, Galvano described several task forces that will ostensibly work to minimize the impact on the environment, and suggests the roads won’t be built until the studies are complete. But a close reading of the legislation reveals that the skids are already greased; construction on the roads is required to begin by 2022…” From the Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial board
Read Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried asks supporters to sign petition against FL DEP over Everglades oil drilling- “...In an email from a Political Action Committee called “Florida Consumers First,” Fried – Florida’s only statewide elected Democrat – urges supporters to pressure the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to block Kanter Real Estate’s plans to drill for oil on the edge of the Everglades. The Florida DEP denied the company’s plans to drill exploratory wells in South Florida, but stopped fighting after a key court decision upheld the company’s right to drill. “Tell the Florida DEP that we will not sit by and watch them destroy our water, our wildlife, our homes,” Fried writes. “Sign this petition now to protect Florida from reckless drilling.” According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, local governments in Broward County and Miramar also dropped a legal fight to get the Florida Supreme Court to hear the case, saying they didn’t receive enough cooperation from the state DEP. Kanter Real Estate needs local approvals before proceeding with any exploratory drilling. (The Kanter permit is different from another one that’s generated controversy in the Big Cypress area near the Everglades. Oil drilling leases have been active in Big Cypress for decades.)...” Julie Hauserman reports for the Florida Phoenix.
Read Solar power would bring more jobs than toll roads- “Now that Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed the toll road bill, SB 7068, Suwannee Riverkeeper — which was among the 90 organizations throughout Florida that asked him to veto it — continues to oppose that boondoggle and propose actual benefits to Florida’s economy and waters. One of these three unneeded turnpikes would have to cross the Suwannee River, plowing through counties where we have many members. All this very poorly written bill says about its route is: “Suncoast Connector, extending from Citrus County to 164 Jefferson County.” Apparently that means from Crystal River to Monticello, and on to Thomasville, Georgia, through farms, forests and swamps. If this toll road builds its bypasses, bye-bye local businesses in Chiefland, Fanning Springs, Old Town and Cross City. Yes, the turnpike bill has a “project development phase” for $45 million and increasing each year, with a “local government official from each local government within a proposed corridor.” But the Legislature also passed HB 7103, which would limit local government comprehensive planning, which is the real local government counter to encroaching construction projects. The governor should veto HB 7103...The same Florida legislative session passed no water conservation laws at all, not even Sen. Bill Montford’s SB 1100 for testing water wells. For $45 million I bet Florida could do weekly water quality testing for sewage bacteria and fertilizer nitrates up and down every river in Florida. Knowing when the rivers and springs are clean and when to stay off the water would contribute to rural river ecotourism much more than would four-lane highways. As 90 organizations, including Suwannee Riverkeeper, pointed out in a letter to the governor, the Florida Department of Transportation I-75 Relief Task Force in 2016 concluded expanding existing highways makes more sense than building new ones. The letter also notes that more shelters are a better method of hurricane preparedness than more evacuation roads…” John S. Quarterman writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.
Read Lenders scolded for climate ignorance in ‘insane’ Florida real estate deals- “Hurricane Michael killed seven people and caused more than $6 billion in damage in Florida in October, a toll compounded by warmer, higher seas and wetter air, the signs of climate change scientists have long warned about. But investors have yet to pay any kind of meaningful attention, buying up long-dated debt and financing real estate decades into the future. That kind of market neglect means the Florida economy can be expected to “go to hell,” warned Spencer Glendon, a senior fellow at the Woods Hole Research Center and a former partner and director of investment research at Wellington Management. “No one should be lending for 30 years in most of Florida,” he said at an investment conference in New York last week. “During that time frame, insurance will disappear and terminal values” -- future resale income -- “will shrink. I tell my parents that it’s fine to rent in Florida, but it’s insane to own or to lend.”... The risks of climate change have begun to pop up in prospectuses and credit-analysis, to little effect. Ahead of a new debt offering last month, Miami Beach told potential investors that officials are “keenly aware of the risk from hurricanes and sea-level rise.” Miami Beach successfully raised its $162 million, with a 20-year maturity pricing at the same yield as a similar April offering by Charlotte, North Carolina, an inland city with much less climate risk. Both issues had the same call provisions, coupons and ratings from Moody’s and S&P. Comparisons are difficult, but if markets were acknowledging the scale of Florida-specific climate risk, Florida’s bonds should sell at a discount, relative to similarly structured bonds sold elsewhere…” Danielle Moran, Katia Porzecanski and Eric Roston report for Bloomberg.
Read As the climate crisis worsens, cities turn to parks- “City parks have long been a place for urban residents surrounded by the gray of asphalt and concrete to get a small dose of green. As cities increasingly feel the impacts of rising seas and temperatures, city planners are rethinking the roles of urban parks. “There’s been a quiet and profound move to use parks to help cities adapt to the realities of climate change,” says Diane Regas, CEO of The Trust for Public Land, an organization that works to create neighborhood and national parks. Each year the trust publishes their ParkScore Index, which ranks the top 100 largest U.S. cities by parks. The 2019 rankings will be released on Wednesday; Minneapolis won the highest ranking in 2018. The trust looks at size, convenience, amenities, and financial investment to compile its list. While amenities like basketball hoops and playgrounds have long been assets that bumped cities into top spots, increasingly, Regas says, the trust is seeing cities build parks that can alleviate climate change effects like intense heat, flooding, and poor air quality. And it's more than shade trees that are helping fight climate change. The trust says parks can help mitigate coastal flooding, capture carbon, and foster a sense of community among those that will be affected by extreme weather…”Sarah Gibbens reports for National Geographic.
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events:
May 29, 6:30pm-8:30pm - Film Screening & Environmental Panel: The Human Element - (Jacksonville) - Hurricane season officially starts June 1 and we need to activate our community and our leaders. Join St. Johns Riverkeeper, Groundwork Jacksonville, and local experts for a special screening of The Human Element. A new documentary from the producers of RACING EXTINCTION, THE COVE and CHASING ICE, you’ll travel with environmental photographer James Balog as he captures the lives of everyday Americans on the front lines of climate change. Immediately following the film, environmental and community experts will be on hand to discuss the impact of rising waters in our community and how you can help create a more resilient Jacksonville. Sun-Ray Cinema, 1028 Park Street, Jacksonville FL 32204. Visit the St. Johns Riverkeeper’s site here to get your tickets.
June 10-14, June 24-28- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
June 12, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Orange Park) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: Orange Park Town Hall, 2042 Park Ave, Orange Park, FL 32073.
June 13, 6:00pm - Know your GREEN - (Palatka) - The St. Johns Riverkeeper is already getting several reports of algal blooms across the Lower Basin of the St. Johns River from Palatka to Jacksonville. Read WJCT’s recent news story covering the issue. Now’s the time to take action and help us raise awareness to get the GREEN out! Join St. Johns Riverkeeper staff for this evening presentation to learn what causes these blue-green algal blooms and why they’re harmful for you and our River. We’ll also teach you ways to help us reduce algal blooms by living a more River Friendly lifestyle. You’ll also learn: What happened on nutrient pollution bills in the 2019 Legislative Session, How to report algal blooms when you see them, and Upcoming algal bloom outreach events, summer volunteer opportunities, and more! Light snacks and drinks provided. RSVP here. Location: St. Johns River Center, 102 N 1st St, Palatka, FL 32177.
July 11, 7:00pm - Toxic Puzzle Screening & Environmental Panel - (Orange Park)- TOXIC PUZZLE is a medical and environmental detective story where documentary filmmaker Bo Landin follows ethnobotanist Dr Paul Alan Cox and his scientific team around the world in a hunt for the hidden killer. The pieces come together in a toxic puzzle where cyanobacteria in our waters become the culprit. Are these organisms, fed by human pollution and climate change, staging nature’s revenge by claiming human lives? Join the St. Johns Riverkeeper at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Arts in Clay County (283 College Dr, Orange Park FL 32065) for a live screening and panel discussion on the issue of toxic algae blooms and the serious short and long-term health effects it’s having on our communities, wildlife, and habitats of our River and what YOU can do to help.
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