FCC News Brief - May 30, 2019

Read Discussion isn’t over on new toll roads - “The debate over the proposed new toll roads through some of the last large undeveloped sections of Florida is about a lot more than transportation infrastructure. It is a debate over competing visions about what Florida should become and for whose benefit public funds should be appropriated. Despite the fact that Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation pushed by Senate President Bill Galvano and the road-building lobby, this discussion isn’t over. Study commissions will be appointed and public meetings will be scheduled, though none of the details has been announced. I hope a lot of people show up to express their views. The main problem I had and still have with the idea is that it conflates two really unrelated issues. Backers say the roads are needed to deal with Florida’s growing population, but the roads are planned to cut through areas where little population growth is projected. For all the talk about so-called “smart growth,” it seems like the same old line...Meanwhile, many of us are still trying to get the last great green spaces that may lie in the paths of these roads in Florida protected. However, those efforts were thwarted again this year when more money went to this half-baked road scheme than to finishing the purchase of a list of conservation acquisitions that have been studied and vetted for years and are just waiting for adequate funding. We thought the funding problem was solved when we voted in 2014 for a constitutional amendment to restore funding to the Florida Forever program. Legislators thought different and spent the money elsewhere. In response to criticism of their lack of diligence in carrying out the voters’ wishes, they regularly ask land-acquisition advocates how much is enough. Many of us in the environmental community have the same question about development, especially in the context of these proposed toll roads…” Tom Palmer writes for The Ledger.

Read FPL preaches major solar expansion. But only under its control, documents show - “When FPL announced earlier this year that it set a massive goal of 30 million solar panels by 2030, the announcement was made with fanfare. Television advertisements and social media campaigns boasted the large commitment, and the “SolarTogether” program is now aiming to build 20 solar power plants over the next two years. But is the commitment to clean energy just a smokescreen? Yes and no. Documents filed ahead of this summer’s Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, or FEECA, proceedings reveal an interesting dichotomy in FPL’s commitment to renewable energy. According to the filings for the once-in-a-decade conference, FPL said “none of the demand-side renewable energy system measures proved cost-effective.” In other words, solar is cost-effective for the company when it is the one building the plant and generating the power...The filings on the Public Service Commission dockets show that while FPL is making commitments to supply-side renewable energy, it is less supportive of demand-side, or “customer,” renewable energy products. Demand-side renewable energy can mean smaller scale, single-home rooftop solar or even moderately sized community solar projects like the one planned for South Miami…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Rooney roundtable on water quality: A view from the outside - “The roundtable convened by Rep. Francis Rooney with federal, state and local officials about the public health consequences of Harmful Algae Blooms left many scratching their heads. But despite frustration over closing the discussion to the public and the slow pace by which government agencies are putting programs in place to mitigate or prevent algae blooms, Congressman Rooney deserves credit for bringing folks together.  This is more progress than we have seen in years. Recent initiatives – the appointment of a new South Florida Water Management District Board that will give greater priority to water quality and public health, the appointment of the state Chief Science Officer, securing $200 million in the budget for water quality, and the resuscitation of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force that Former Gov. Rick Scott had left dormant – are huge improvements from where we were...But the lack of information coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) was puzzling and disappointing.  Were they muzzled or did agency scientists choose to be silent?...Any strategy addressing the public health crisis presented by toxins released by algae blooms should start with a threat-level warning. Ultimately, this is about both prevention and equipping people with information they need to make informed decisions about how to protect their health and how much risk they are willing to incur…” John Cassani, Linda Penniman, Howard Simon write Opinion for the News-Press.

Read No word from feds on Tampa sewage spat - “Back in February, a Tallahassee environmental group made a front-page splash with a federal complaint charging Tampa with polluting the bay with inadequately treated discharges from its Howard F. Curren sewage plant. The city pushed back, saying Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the environmental group, had its facts wrong.  Is Tampa really "the poster child for Florida's clean water crisis," as the group alleged when it asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to intervene? Or was the group off-base in its criticism? The federal agency invited to settle the dispute has been silent. Jerry Phillips, the attorney who prepared the complaint for the environmental group, said the group hasn’t given up, but it hasn’t heard a peep from the federal government. That's not unusual since President Donald Trump took office, Phillips said. The group has only received an acknowledgement of receipt for two of the dozen or so complaints the organization has filed. According to the group, there have been 288 sewage overflows in Tampa since 2012 and 95 since the latest permit was issued in 2015. The Curren sewage plant releases wastewater with too many nutrients into Tampa Bay, the group says, and has been in non-compliance with its permit for half of the last three years and in serious non-compliance for two quarters during that period…” Charlie Frago reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read A ‘Noah’s Ark’ project for corals: Scientists race to save Florida Reef from killer disease - “The operation is part of what scientists describe as a “Noah’s Ark” mission to save corals from extinction as a mysterious disease ravages mile after mile of the Florida Reef Tract. Since first being spotted in 2014, the disease has killed colonies already weakened by impacts from climate change, including frequent rounds of bleaching and rising ocean acidification. During one trip earlier this month, researchers spent six days diving in the Lower Keys to collect corals that haven’t yet been touched by the epidemic of what is called stony coral tissue loss disease. Their mission, as the “Ark” reference suggests, is to preserve healthy examples of species that can be cultivated in labs, then later transplanted back to the barrier reef that parallels much of the Southeast Florida coastline. “It’s a Herculean effort, but we need to do everything we can to help corals survive,’’ said Richard Dodge, dean of Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, as he watched university staff and volunteers place the 341 corals in holding tanks on the university dock across from Port Everglades...The challenges to the survival of Florida’s reefs are immense. More than half of the corals have disappeared over the past 250 years, hammered by development, pollution, boat anchors and groundings, frequent bleaching events and, recently, climate change. Warmer sea temperatures, sea level rise and changes in storm intensity are all concerns, but the out-of-control stony coral tissue loss outbreak in recent years brought new urgency to coral rescue efforts.  If Florida’s reefs disappear, it would wipe out economically valuable destinations that draw boaters and divers but that are even more important to the biological health of South Florida’s offshore waters. Coral reefs create habitats that provide shelter and food for hundreds of species, from fishes to lobster. The reef also serves as a buffer that protects coastal areas against hurricanes and storm surge…” Adriana Brasileiro reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Don’t let Florida’s destructive history repeat itself - “Did we learn anything from the Cross Florida Barge Canal project? The new toll roads that are planned are the same boondoggle, the same “ditch of dreams” nightmare — only this time, running vertically through Florida instead of horizontally. If only I could call up President Donald Trump the way my grandmother called up President Richard Nixon and tell him to put a stop to it, but this time before it gets started. We have to learn from the mistakes of our past. Florida’s rivers and forests are still suffering the consequences of the canceled canal 50 years later because of a man-made structure (part of which trespasses into the Ocala National Forest: the Rodman Dam) intentionally kept in place to this day. The Ocklawaha River is a clogged artery. Former Gov. Rick Scott did such a bad job with Florida’s water quality that any governor could have come along after him and done a better job and called himself an environmentalist. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ half-hearted attempts at promoting water quality give me waves of acid reflux that only a holistic remedy can cure. Environmentalism is not a hat the governor gets to take off when billionaires cozy up. Environmentalism is more like skin that protects and doesn’t come off…” Jennifer Carr writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.

Read $10 million more to fight Red Tide in Florida is just a start - “Red Tide is a plague on our environment and economy. It causes eye and respiratory irritation in humans, and, for some vulnerable populations, even worse. It sickens and kills manatees, dolphins, sea turtles and birds. And it leaves our beautiful oceans and waterways discolored and clogged with rotting fish. Despite this being a naturally occurring phenomenon, outbreaks seem to be getting worse. And yet, there is no consensus as to why that’s the case... Conservative estimates put the recent economic damage at approximately $130.6 million in just 12 of Florida’s 67 counties. Business owners were the hardest hit, losing at least $90 million and forcing layoffs of at least 300 hard-working Floridians. This is no longer just a seasonal nuisance, it’s a crisis. Listening to scientists, economists, and local business owners working on this issue, the one thing I hear over and over again is that we need more science. To that end, I just secured a $10 million appropriation within NOAA to address harmful algae blooms such as Red Tide. This is a 100 percent increase from previous funds set aside to understand and fight algae blooms...Florida is the most susceptible state in the union to so many environmental threats, including Red Tide, rising sea levels, global warming and climate change. Many of us have been on the front lines of these battles for decades. And the one thing all experts agree on is that inaction is the worst action. We can’t simply ignore these problems and expect everything will work itself out. We are called to be good stewards of our environment. I will continue to fight for more funding, research, and solutions, but I can’t do it alone. I need each and every Floridian serious about protecting our treasured environment and economy to do their part — make sure local, state and federal leaders hear your voices and see your dedication to making sure that the next generation inherits the Florida that makes our state the most beautiful in the world…” Charlie Crist writes Special to the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Fish Island: The fat lady ain’t sang - “The news that The North Florida Land Trust has entered into a contract to purchase Fish Island is clearly good news, but there’s are some hurdles to jump and pitfalls to avoid before that historic piece of St. Augustine is safely out of the hands of possible development and into the embrace of the state and subsequent preservation. In short, it’s not over yet. There are two concerns. First, part of the reason the deal worked, is the land is in foreclosure. The principals needed out. While it is in foreclosure, it has not been foreclosed on. Should that occur, the lender would “own” Fish Island and could do what it pleases, because our deal would then be with the former owners. Jim McCarthy is president of the North Florida Land Trust. He says that’s an unlikely scenario, but possible all the same. The second hurdle may be Florida Cabinet’s approval. McCarthy says this has nothing to do with money. There are Florida Forever funds “obligated” for the purchase...The burden falls on the Land Trust staff to make the pitch to the Division of State Lands at the Department of Environmental Protection who, in turn, brief to Cabinet staff. They will take recommendations to their bosses, who make the final decision. It should be made at a July 23 Cabinet meeting...Bottom line, this is not the time for wait-and-see. The Fish Island deal got noticed because of residents like you, who stood up to its development and for its future. You raised hell. So raise it again. Call or write Cabinet members and the governor. Tell them why it’s important. Tell them what it is, and what it so nearly became…” From the St. Augustine Record Editorials.


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Upcoming Environmental Events:

May 30, 4:00pm - Solar and Suds Launch, Happy Hour - (Pensacola) - Join Solar United Neighbors, Earth Action, Inc. and others at A Little Madness Brewing Company (9838 N Davis Hwy, Pensacola, Florida 32514) for a free Hoppy Hour to learn about the launch of the Escambia – Santa Rosa Solar & Storage Co-op, as well as how a local brewery is using the power of the sun to make sustainable beer! They are competing in this year's Brews from the Sun competition to be crowned America's favorite solar-powered craft brewery! Learn more and cast your vote here. Learn more about the co-op at solarunitedneighbors.org/escambia-santarosa. Check out the Facebook event at this link for more information.

June 10. 6:00pm -June Earth Ethics Environmental Education Series- (Pensacola)- Join us at Ever'man Educational Center located at 327 W Garden Street. This month we welcome Mr. Vernon Compton. Mr. Compton works for The Longleaf Alliance as Director of the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership.  The Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership is a voluntary public/private landowner partnership formed in 1996 that now sustains over 1.3 million acres of diverse habitat in northwest Florida and south Alabama.  The partnership allows the partners to combine their expertise and resources to more effectively manage their individual properties and to meet the challenges of restoring and sustaining the larger longleaf ecosystem.  Vernon has a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from LSU and prior to joining The Longleaf Alliance in 2010 worked for the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Forest Service at Blackwater River State Forest.  Mr. Compton will discuss "The Importance of Trees." Check out the Eventbrite page here, and Facebook event here. For more information, email earthethicsaction@gmail.com

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 kidsinthewoods@ifas.ufl.edu

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 8, 6:00pm - July Earth Ethics Environmental Educational Series - (Pensacola) -Join us at Ever'man Educational Center located at 327 W Garden Street. We will be viewing A PLASTIC OCEAN.  A PLASTIC OCEAN begins when journalist Craig Leeson, searching for the elusive blue whale, discovers plastic waste in what should be pristine ocean. In this adventure documentary, Craig teams up with free diver Tanya Streeter and an international team of scientists and researchers, and they travel to twenty locations around the world over the next four years to explore the fragile state of our oceans, uncover alarming truths about plastic pollution, and reveal working solutions that can be put into immediate effect. We'll discuss what you can do to help reduce your use of plastics! One lucky winner will receive a giftset to jump start a plastic reduced life. Check out the Eventbrite page here, and Facebook Event here. For more information, email earthethicsaction@gmail.com

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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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

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End collection & removal of tropical marine life from Phil Foster Park

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Florida Solar Bill of Rights

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