FCC News Brief - May 31, 2019

Read Citing threat to Everglades, 44 groups ask Gov. DeSantis to veto bill - “Forty-four organizations – including all the heavyweight Florida environmental groups – are urging Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill – HB 7103 – saying it would hurt efforts to clean up Florida waterways, especially the ongoing, multi-billion-dollar Everglades restoration. Former Gov. Bob Graham has also urged DeSantis to veto the bill. “This bill has several provisions that could negatively impact the full restoration of the Greater Everglades ecosystem,” the groups said in a letter sent to DeSantis Wednesday, “including efforts to reduce nutrient pollution in our waterways; the worst of which were quietly amended onto the bill in the final hours of the legislative session and adopted without public input, meaningful discussion or debate in committee hearings, without any legislative staff analysis, and without any public testimony.”... “A critical tool that is used to ensure that Everglades restoration efforts are not further hindered, and that helps protect what is left of this ecosystem, is the local comprehensive plan,” the groups wrote DeSantis in urging a veto.”Local comprehensive plans include elements that address important issues relevant to our Everglades efforts, such as water quality, flood protection, drainage, waste management, water resource protection, aquifer recharge, water supply, conservation of open space, wetlands and other ecologically sensitive habitats, coastal management, urban development boundaries, agricultural buffers, and intergovernmental coordination…” Julie Hauserman reports for the Florida Phoenix.

Read What three new toll roads could mean for Florida’s environment - “Governor Ron DeSantis has been welcomed by environmental advocates for his commitment to everglades restoration.  But now a bill signed by the governor giving the green light to a trio of new toll roads is raising the alarm. The roads span 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. But what are the chances they’ll actually get built?  Audubon of Florida’s Charles Lee joins Intersection to talk about the impact these new toll roads could have on the environment, and the process for getting them built. “Any time a major road is built, it has negative environmental implications, and we’ve been dealing with that a lot in Central Florida,” says Lee, who says there can be risks to endangered species like the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. “You also have the broader concern about roads opening up areas to a spurt of development that local governments do not have the capability to control.” In the case of the Wekiva Parkway, says Lee, “we ended up with a environmentally superior design. We ended up with a design that to a large extent, did not put in a new road at all but rather relied upon the refurbishment of an existing road, State Road 46.” Lee says the environmental planning for the Wekiva Parkway is a good model for designing future toll roads. “If they are going to look at building these three roads, that’s certainly the way they should do it…” Matthew Peddie reports for WMFE .

Read Santa Fe, Ichetucknee suffering death by a thousand cuts - “Recently as I was reading The Sun, a small note on the classified page shouted out to me: “Public Notice – The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) intends to issue a Water Use Permit for a maximum of 150,000 gallons per day in Alachua County for row crops and cattle watering. Affected parties can obtain a copy of the Technical Staff Report by writing the District.” Having recently compiled a list of well permits issued over the past four years, I was acutely aware of the district’s unrelenting approval of water-use permits and the detrimental impact of those groundwater withdrawals on our area’s springs….In the Santa Fe springshed, 2,100 new well permits have been issued since 2015 when the district and DEP acknowledged significant harm had already occurred to the area’s springs and rivers. Four years ago, the environmental agencies assured the public that we had entered a “prevention and recovery” period for these water bodies. But based on district estimates, the new well permits collectively authorize an additional 10 billion gallons of groundwater extraction over the next 20 years. Based on typical water and fertilizer use rates in the Santa Fe springshed, those permitted uses will also contribute an estimated 65,000 pounds of additional nitrate nitrogen to the waters of the Santa Fe River....The science is clear — the aesthetic and economic health of our local rivers and springs is being stolen as groundwater withdrawals and fertilizer inputs increase, one gallon and one pound at a time. A line must be drawn in the sand: No new wells should be permitted until a greater volume of existing groundwater use is reduced or revoked. The best way to curb excessive groundwater extraction is to meter all uses and to charge fees so this precious resource will not be wasted. Florida’s local governmental leaders need to join forces and take this message to state legislators.” Robert Knight writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.

Read DeSantis goes wrong way on environment with ‘toll road to nowhere’ - “Well, the Teddy Roosevelt thing didn’t last long. Florida’s new governor, Ron DeSantis, it turns out, isn’t such an environmentalist after all. On May 17, DeSantis signed a detestable bill authorizing three new toll expressways to slice through rural Florida. They could cost more than $10 billion and no one has proven the need. Previous governors, including Democrat Bob Graham and then-Republican Charlie Crist, rejected similar proposals. An array of environmental groups roared in protest, foreseeing miles of pristine lands turned to subdivisions and fast-food-swelling interchanges. But business interests, represented by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the road-builders’ group The Florida Transportation Builders Association, pushed for it, and donated to the political action committee of the powerful Senate president, Bill Galvano. The Republican from Bradenton made the bill his top priority...None of these massive projects holds much benefit for South Florida, but we’ll get stuck with lots of the costs. Just to plan the tollways, the law signed by DeSantis will divert millions of dollars from general revenue -- money that could have been used for education or health care. The state will take out debt to actually build the roads, and if tolls don’t cover the payments, Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise can make up any shortfalls by taking money from its other toll roads. That means that Palm Beach County drivers could pay for years for these distant boondoggles…” From the Palm Beach Post Editorial Board.

Read Hit-or-miss hauls end another unpredictable Florida stone crab season - “It was a strange boom-or-bust season for stone crabbers on Florida’s west coast, and to an extent, for the consumers who yearn for that sweet, flaky and oh-so-pricey claw meat. The effects of a long-lasting red tide that persisted since the previous season left crab traps woefully uncrowded from Marco Island north to Tampa Bay, said Ryan Gandy, research scientist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The red tide finally cleared in February, but no one knows when or to what extent the crabs will return to the waters off southwest Florida. They certainly didn’t seem to bounce back before the 2018-2019 season ended May 16....“We knew guys who were fishing 500 traps and would catch less than six or seven pounds,” Gandy said. “Lots of (crabbers) just didn’t do it this year.” Meanwhile, those crabbing to the north, from around New Port Richey to the panhandle, saw some giant hauls, especially early in the season, which started in October. The director of one commercial fishing association described Florida’s season overall as “pretty disastrous,” unless you were between Hudson and Crystal River where “they were breaking records.” “What’s crazy is the rest of the world had a horrible crab season,” said seafood wholesaler Jason Delacruz, “but (in that northwest Florida region) prices were through the roof, because nobody else had them.”... What happened? Scientists, wholesalers and crabbers believe the crabs scurried north to escape the red tide as it was sucking the oxygen out of the water… Overall, it was a tough year for the industry with a lower number of claws harvested statewide, said Bill Kelley, director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishing Association.” Christopher Spata reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read A new co-op will help Escambia and Santa Rosa families get affordable solar power - “An organization is hosting a workshop to teach everyday citizens how they can work together to bring affordable solar energy to their community. And if that's not enough, the event will also give attendees an opportunity to support and sample a local solar-powered brewery. Solar United Neighbors of Florida and around a half dozen local partners are launching a new Escambia-Santa Rosa Storage + Solar Cooperative. Solar co-ops help groups of homeowners buy and install solar panels at reduced rates by purchasing in bulk, and the new co-op is open to all homeowners who reside in Escambia or Santa Rosa counties. As part of a solar co-op, citizens will receive education about the laws and logistics of using rooftop solar. Each member of the co-op will be able to sign their own contract with the installer, while still benefiting from group pricing…” Kevin Robinson reports for the Pensacola News Journal.

Read Straw ban only part of solution - “A ban on plastic straws would send a positive message about our community, but it would do relatively little to reduce the waste we produce. That will require significant changes to our behavior as well as new local outlets for reusing waste now that China has stopped accepting most recyclable materials. Gainesville city commissioners are set to vote next month on whether to ban plastic straws and coffee stirrers. The vote comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have preempted cities and counties in Florida from approving such bans. The City Commission previously voted to ban plastic bags and Styrofoam containers, but later delayed the ban so that it now takes effect Jan. 1. The Alachua County Commission is expected to consider a similar measure Tuesday. Such measures send a message about the pollution caused by single-use plastics, which persist for hundreds of years in the environment and have damaging effects on water bodies and wildlife. Plastic bags are the fifth-most common items found in coastal cleanups worldwide, and plastic straws are seventh, according to the Ocean Conservancy...Banning single-use plastics helps move suppliers away from such products and creates a bigger market for alternative materials. At least 32 countries worldwide have banned plastic bags, and a number of them also ban other single-use plastics, while two U.S. states and a growing number of cities also do so. But such materials make up a small fraction of plastic waste — less than 1% for straws, by one estimate — so banning them has limited impact on reducing that waste. The public also needs to be better informed about ways to cut waste and recycling options. With China’s decision last year to ban the import of most recyclable materials from Western countries, recycling is being less economically viable in the United States…” From the Gainesville Sun Editorial Board.

Read Thousands of seabirds starved to death in the Bering Sea- and scientists see evidence of climate change - “For months beginning in October 2016, carcasses of tufted puffins turned up one after another on the shores of St. Paul Island, a tiny Alaskan outpost in the southern Bering Sea. “It was very apparent that something strange was happening. They just keep washing in and washing in,” said Lauren Divine, director of the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Ecosystem Conservation Office, who helped oversee the birds’ collection. “Every person in our community knew something was wrong.” The odd-looking seabirds — with their rounded heads, golden head plumes and distinctive bright orange bills — typically migrate south to warmer waters that late in the year, so having any puffins wash ashore was rare enough. But the arrival of hundreds of emaciated puffin carcasses, as well as of a second species known as the Crested auklet, alarmed and astonished local residents and scientists...The mass die-off of the widely beloved birds off coastal Alaska — one of a growing number of “mass mortality events” affecting seabirds recently — was anything but normal. Parrish and a group of colleagues used weather data to estimate that between 3,150 and 8,500 birds probably died, most likely from starvation. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, the authors theorize the die-off is at least partially attributable to the changing climate. “This mortality event represents one of multiple seabird mortality events that have occurred in the Northeast Pacific from 2014 to 2018, cumulatively suggestive of broad-scale ecosystem change,” they write. Such episodes, they add, “are indicators of a changing world, and particularly of climate warming…” Brady Dennis 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

Upcoming Environmental Events:

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.

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

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