FCC News Brief - May 3, 2019

Quote of the Day: “We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment“- Margaret Mead

Read Groundswell calls for veto of new toll roads in rural Florida- “Ninety conservation and civic groups are calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a measure that would make way for three toll roads across rural Florida. Opponents of the toll roads fear they will encourage sprawl. The toll roads would stretch from Collier County to Polk County, from Citrus County to Jefferson County and from the northern end of the Florida Turnpike to the Suncoast Parkway. The cost is projected to reach into the billions of dollars. In a letter the groups say the roads would not alleviate traffic but rather encourage sprawl across the state’s heartland, threatening habitat for protected species like the Florida panther. The letter is signed by an array of groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Farmworker Association of Florida. DeSantis’ office had no immediate comment. Lawmakers also approved a state budget putting $33 million toward land conservation, down from $300 million in decades past…” Amy Green reports for WMFE.

Read Sierra Club labels toll road plan a ‘declaration of war’- ““It is the worst bill for Florida’s environment we have seen in more than 20 years,” reads a statement from Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida director, and Timothy Martin, Sierra Club Florida conservation chair. The statement came out the same day the Florida House approved the plan (SB 7068). Organization leaders called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto the entire project. “The Governor should ask Legislators to take a second look at this concept next year and broaden it into a study on how to manage Florida’s growth, stop harmful pollution, transition to clean, renewable energy, and meet the Sunshine State’s transportation needs over the next several decades,” the statement reads. Sierra Club leaders invoked DeSantis’ description of himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt” Republican. “We remind the Governor that Roosevelt used his Presidential authority to establish 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game preserves, five national parks and 18 national monuments on over 230 million acres of public land,” the statement reads. “That’s quite a contrast to a Florida Legislature that just this year slashed spending for the Florida Forever program and passed a bill that would destroy much of the state’s rural and natural lands.” Perhaps most significantly, the environmental lobby promised to wage legal battle against the “ruinous roadways,” something that could delay construction for years. Building up the road network has been a top priority for Senate President Bill Galvano. The organization took the Bradenton Republican to task, calling this plan the “pet project” of a single lawmaker…” Jacob Ogles reports for Florida Politics.

Read Veto this $10 billion ‘boondoggle’ highway bill, Gov. DeSantis- “With cavalier disregard for the economic and environmental costs, Florida legislators have greenlighted the biggest expansion to the state’s highway network in more than half a century. Senate Bill 7068 directs the state Department of Transportation to blaze three new toll expressways through rural Florida – a project whose price tag could top $10 billion. Now, there might be only one person left to stop it – Gov. Ron DeSantis...This bill, now headed to the governor’s desk, takes dead aim at some of the best remaining natural and agricultural land in our state. Floridians who truly care about fiscal responsibility, public safety, the environment and the rural communities in the cross-hairs of these expressways should call the governor and implore him to veto this irredeemable legislation. SB 7068 would divert hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade from general revenue — reducing money available for education and health care — just to plan for the three expressways...If you think spending billions of dollars to send toll expressways through Florida’s rural and agricultural lands is a terrible idea, call Gov. DeSantis. Ask him to save taxpayer dollars, preserve natural Florida, and give drivers on South Florida toll roads a break. Tell him to veto this boondoggle…” Paul Owens writes Opinion for the South Florida Sun Sentinel

Read Is Florida running out of mitigation sites?- “Florida developers have long depended on the state's mitigation banking system — through which they can build on wetlands so long as they offset their impact by paying for wetlands to be improved on another site using mitigation credits. But lately, builders have been told by some mitigation banks that no credits are available, potentially delaying projects for months or years...Until now, developers have been essentially told, "Your impact will cost X number of credits. Here's the bill. Write me a check. Done," said Nelson, who chairs the Environmental Practice Group at Miami law firm Bilzin Sumberg. Nelson represented the Builders Association of South Florida and crafted a new law that will make more credits available by letting developers work on local governments' wetlands projects to meet their mitigation obligations. CS/HB521 passed the legislature Friday.  Florida developers have never let a little ecology get in their way. Much of South Florida is habitable only because the Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1900s built canals and rerouted rivers to transform what settlers considered a worthless swamp...While the new law will make more credits available to developers seeking to move projects along, environmentalists have questioned whether the mitigation process works at all. In the 2009 book "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," Tampa Bay Times reporters Craig Pittman and Matthew Waite wrote that mitigation is a myth and described instances where man-made projects collapsed because they failed to mimic nature’s complexity: “On paper, filled-in wetlands are being replaced and everything balances out," Pittman and Waite wrote. "In reality, they are swept aside by the works of man and nothing makes up for them. Development races across the land with all the speed and power of a hurricane hitting a beach, and the attempts to replace what it destroys usually result in expensive failures…” Deirdra Funcheon reports for Bisnow South Florida.

Read Task force embarking on a journey to stop toxic algae - “Early last June, it began. The first tendrils of fluorescent green cyanobacteria began to line up in windrows just off the eastern shoreline of Florida's largest lake. A month later, the bloom of toxic algae, harmful to humans and containing an amino acid linked to liver and motor-neuron diseases, nearly blanketed all of Lake Okeechobee's 730 square miles. Compounding the issue, the Army Corps of Engineers was forced to discharge lake water east and west into the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River to protect the safety of residents in the communities surrounding the lake's rim...The Blue-Green Algae Task Force consists of some of Florida's premier harmful algae bloom researchers and are connected to, or direct, five of the state's foremost research institutions...DeSantis said the task force will: Identify opportunities to fund priority projects with state, local and federal funding; Build on DEP's updated Basin Management Action Plans; View and provide the largest and most meaningful nutrient reductions in key waterways…” Ed Killer reports for Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read ‘I have no parts for these pumps.’ The anatomy of a sewage spill in Miami-Dade County - “Aroldo Hernandez supervises maintenance for Miami-Dade’s sewage plants, and he predicted a big mess in an email to his boss three months ago. “I have no parts for these pumps,” Hernandez wrote to Albert Galambos Jr. on Jan. 29 about a waterfront station in Sunny Isles Beach designed to safely pump millions of gallons of raw sewage from nearby condo towers and homes and businesses to a treatment plant about three miles away in North Miami Beach. Miami-Dade was already under a court order to replace the aging station with modern technology, and at the end of 2018 the county described the facility as being “beyond its useful life” due to constant exposure to the salt air of Biscayne Bay. Two of the station’s four pumps were out of service, and Hernandez hadn’t received the replacement parts he needed to fix them...Hernandez was right to worry. Three days later, on Feb. 1, the two working pumps at Station No. 301 became clogged with improperly flushed rags and other debris, leading to the complete failure the following morning that Hernandez had warned was looming. More than 700,000 gallons of sewage from pipes serving more than 20,000 people poured out of the station at 350 Sunny Isles Beach Blvd. and into a storm drain that connects with Biscayne Bay. The discharge was serious enough that the county warned the public against using the bay and ocean waters for a 30-block area that included Haulover Beach and the sands off Oleta River State Park…” Douglas Hanks reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Has a Longboat Key retiree solved the puzzle of red tide?  - “Since he retired to the key in 2002, after a long career at General Electric Aircraft Engines, Lenny Landau has earned a reputation for deep dives into complex issues affecting the region...He says he likes to reflect on his research and “put the puzzle together” while riding his bike along Gulf of Mexico Drive or walking his 160-pound English mastiff. The puzzle that has consumed Landau for the past several years is red tide….Some of Landau’s conclusions go beyond what most scientists have been willing to say. Scientists require definitive proof; but if he found enough evidence, Landau made some logical leaps about how one factor was affecting and intensifying others. For example, most scientists avoid saying that pollution makes red tide worse, insisting they just don’t know enough to draw that conclusion. But Landau says it’s clear that pollution plays a big role. He also believes that climate change is making outbreaks worse. Most important, he says, his research suggests how we can attack and subdue red tide. And that’s a battle we need to win...It’s essential we stop the pollution from fertilizers, septic systems and other sources that fuels red tide blooms near the shore, says Landau. “There is no downside to cleaning up the water,” he emphasizes. “It’s all good.”...History shows pollution can be reversed. Landau points to the clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay. Several decades ago, the bay was so filthy that most major marine species were dying off. A 15-year, $19 billion cleanup plan, directed by the Environmental Protection Agency and mandated by an executive order from President Obama in 2010, required six different states and the District of Columbia to limit pollution levels, improve wastewater treatment and reduce runoff—or risk severe fines.  It worked; the bay is now in its best shape in 30 years…” Pam Daniel writes for Sarasota Magazine.

Read Sound and fury: Trump administration pushes forward on seismic mapping in Atlantic - “The Trump administration is pressing ahead with processing permits that would allow companies to search for oil and gas deposits using potentially harmful seismic blasts in the Atlantic Ocean, despite its decision to delay an unprecedented plan to sell federal leases on nearly the entire U.S. outer continental shelf. Seven geology companies are vying for permits at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a division of the Interior Department, to map the ocean floor from New Jersey to Florida using seismic sound waves that, according to some scientists, harm fish and marine mammals, including the endangered North Atlantic right whale that relies on echo location to find food and mates and to keep in touch with its rare offspring. Bureau officials confirmed this week that permits are being considered regardless of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s decision to shelve its five-year leasing plan in federal waters on the outer continental shelf. The decision followed a ruling in March by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason that President Trump’s revocation of an Obama administration ban on oil and gas industry drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is illegal. Only Congress can undo the ban, the judge said…” Darryl Fears reports for the Washington Post.


From Our Readers

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Job Openings:

Sustainability Administrator - City of Fort Lauderdale

Marine Science Faculty Position- Florida Keys Community College

Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

Upcoming Environmental Events:

May 4th - 8:00am-4:00pm - Grand Opening of Bogey Creek Preserve - (Jacksonville) - After years of work to obtain and make improvements to the lands at Bogey Creek Preserve, North Florida Land Trust is pleased to be hosting grand opening events at their first public park. The property, located off Cedar Point Road in North Jacksonville, will officially open to the public on Saturday, May 4. Bogey Creek Preserve is a 75-acre scenic preserve consisting of a mix of maritime hammock forest, seep-fed cypress swamps and mixed pine-oak forest. The preserve neighbors Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and protects nearly one mile of critical marsh front on Clapboard and Bogey Creeks. Grand opening events at Bogey Creek Preserve will be held on Saturday, May 4. From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., guides will be leading a birdwatching trip through the preserve. Nature yoga and a hike will take place from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A naturalist tour will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., guests can participate in a botany hike. The events are free and open to the public, but space is limited. Guests must register at nflt.org/calendarofevents or email Stewardship Manager Emily Dunn at edunn@nflt.org. Parking is located at 6141 Cedar Point Rd., Jacksonville, FL, 32226. Starting Saturday, May 4, the park will be open to the public seven days a week from sunrise to sunset.

May 7th - 10:00 AM - Lake County Public Hearing - (Tavares) - Lake County will host a Public Hearing regarding transportation improvements to Round Lake Road at the Lake County Administration Building in the Board Chambers (2nd floor), located at 315 W. Main Street, Tavares, Florida 32778. The County Commission meeting will begin at 10:00am with the public hearing held after that time as determined by the meeting agenda. The Round Lake Road PD&E Study recommendations will be the focus of the public hearing. Click here to learn more about the Round Lake Road Extension Project.

May 9th - 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.

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

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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