FCC News Brief - May 7, 2019

Quote of the Day: “In amnesiac reverie it is also easy to overlook the services the ecosystems provide humanity. They enrich the soil and create the very air we breathe. Without these amenities, the remaining tenure of the human race would be nasty and brief.” - E. O. Wilson

Read Bill could cripple Florida’s growth management plans- “State lawmakers over the weekend passed a bill that would restrict local governments from requiring new developments to have units set aside for affordable housing. It would also mean anyone challenging a development being approved that's inconsistent with the existing growth plan would have to pay the other side's attorney's fees if they lose. Thomas Hawkins, of the environmental group 1,000 Friends of Florida, says the fear of having to pay potentially huge fees would essentially mean comprehensive plans could be gutted. "Effectively, this will prevent any enforcement action of local government comprehensive plans," he said. "The result will be local governments will not have to adhere to their own development plans." Hawkins said that could mean outside political influence and money dictating where - and how fast - Florida would grow. "So anytime somebody - and it could be a landowner, could be a developer, could be a neighborhood association - anytime somebody sees a city or a county breaking its own land development rules," he said, "before they decide whether they want to take legal action to get the city to do what it's supposed to do, they have to figure in the risk of losing and paying the city's attorney's fees. Which can be very, very expensive." The bill is now in the hands of Gov. Ron DeSantis.” Steve Newborn reports for WUSF.

Read Governor must veto toll roads - “This is a moment of truth for Governor Ron DeSantis. With limited public debate, Senate President Bill Galvano has maneuvered his pet project through the Legislature. SB7068 authorizes the construction of three massive toll roads, stretching from Naples to the Florida-Georgia line. However, as nearly 100 business and civic organizations noted this week, the plan is remarkably flawed and must be vetoed. First, there is no transportation study to warrant the largest expansion of Florida’s highway system since the 1950s. This is highly unusual, and irresponsible, for a project that will tie up billions of public dollars in construction and ongoing maintenance.  To the contrary, a 2016 FDOT task force study recommended against new highways in favor of improving existing corridors. Second, there is no mechanism for local input into the siting of highways or interchanges; amendments to address this problem were voted down. Developers and road-builders will benefit from the incursion of sprawl deeper into Florida…” Sean Sellers writes for SRQ Daily

Read Republican lawmakers pass bill to make it harder to amend Florida’s constitution - “A bill to limit citizen-driven ballot initiatives — like those from the 2018 election that expanded medical marijuana and sought to give ex-felons the right to vote — was nearly dead. Until it wasn’t. In a move characteristic of the final days of the 2019 legislative session, the bill language was thrown onto the lifeboat of a different, unrelated bill in a last-ditch effort to pass the proposal. Rep. Jamie Grant’s bill was tacked onto a tax-cut bill as an amendment while he was on the floor explaining a controversial bill to implement Amendment 4...Grant’s amendment, which passed in both chambers late Friday night, makes the bill active upon being signed into law. It will be in effect for 2020, a crucial presidential election year in which other groups hope to get amendments before voters to ban assault weapons and require Medicaid expansion. Republican lawmakers have steadily made it more difficult to amend Florida’s constitution, including limiting the amount of time a group has to collect signatures and raising the threshold for an amendment’s passage to 60 percent…” Samantha J. Gross reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Mullet with missing scales and lesions prompt investigation on St. Johns River- “State officials are investigating reports of lesions and ulcers in mullet and other fish in springs along the St. Johns River and whether the lesions are related to blue-green algae blooms in the river. Jason Cruz of Deltona was snorkeling at Blue Spring State Park on last week when he was surprised to notice ailing mullet in the spring run. He took a few photos and a video and then reported it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and posted photos on social media. His report was one of a series of reports that began April 18, said Catalina Brown, coordinator of the wildlife commission’s fish kill hotline. “We have received 15 reports, either reports of fish kills or abnormal looking fish or information requests” for an area including Lake George, and two springs on its western shores, Salt Springs and Silver Glen Springs, Brown said. “Citizens were describing mullet with scales off, red skin and lesions.” Simultaneously, a blue-green algae bloom is underway in the St. Johns River, in Lake George and the two springs. Another blue-green algae bloom is underway to the south, in the river’s headwaters near Fellsmere. The bloom was first reported in Lake George on April 10. It originated in Lake George, then moved northward in the river as far north as County Road 214 between St. Augustine and Palatka, said Dave Whiting, deputy director of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s environmental assessment and restoration division...Last week, officials with the department and the water district toured the river with the St. Johns Riverkeeper. The Riverkeeper, an advocacy group devoted to protecting and restoring the river, has expressed concerns about the toxic blue-green algae blooms that periodically show up in the river, but the concern this year is how early the bloom appeared…” Dinah Voyles Pulver reports for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Read The St. Johns is in distress, and it’s not alone- “...YUK! Look at my river today. First time I’ve seen the entire river green. Driving over the Palatka bridge is scary...Hey Gov. DeSantis we need to do something.” That Facebook post was made last week by Sam Carr, who lives on the river south of Palatka. In a follow up post a few days later, Carr added, “The river is still sick...I have come to the conclusion that the dumping of sludge on the headwaters of the SJR is the major difference …Carr knows the St. Johns like an old friend. He fishes it almost daily and has explored its length, tracing the journeys of his hero, William Bartram, the Quaker naturalist whose popular writings and drawings introduced the St. Johns to the rest of the world. And Carr’s criticism of now U.S. Sen. Scott is not misplaced. During his time as governor, Scott gutted funding and staffing for Florida’s water management districts. And he turned the Department of Environmental Protection from a watchdog to a lap dog. In the meantime, South Florida was running out of places to dump its sewage sludge. So in the past decade nearly 90,000 tons of the stuff has been trucked north and spread on agricultural lands around the headwaters of the St. Johns. “What happens, when you dump it in the headwaters, it all flows this direction,” Lisa Rinaman, of St. Johns Riverkeepers, said in a recent PBS interview. “And then there’s more pollution added on to it due to septic tanks in areas, agricultural runoff, urban fertilizers ...” Unfortunately the St. Johns is not alone in its environmental distress. Every time there’s a raw sewage spill in Valdosta, Ga. — which occurs with distressing frequency— the Suwannee River gets a little sicker. The mighty Apalachicola is being robbed of the fresh water it needs to keep its celebrated oyster beds healthy. The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers are poisoned whenever the cesspool formerly known as Lake Okeechobee is lowered to keep its levies from bursting. The Ocklawaha, once a major source of fresh water for the St. Johns, is impounded for the enjoyment of bass fisherman…” Ron Cunningham writes Opinion for the Gainesville Sun.

Read Downed Boeing 737-800 leaking fuel in St. Johns River- “An unknown amount of jet fuel is leaking into the St. Johns River from a Boeing 737-800 charter passenger plane that skidded off the runway Friday night at Naval Air Station Jacksonville resulting in minor injuries to 22 of the 143 passengers and crew on board. “I’m just so happy the crash wasn’t worse,” St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said Saturday. Rinaman said members of the nonprofit’s river patrol took a boat out Saturday morning to investigate. They didn’t see any visual signs of oil slicks or lost fuel near the crash site. But there was a strong stench, she said. “They could smell it. There was a strong gasoline smell,” Rinaman said. They plan to reinspect the area, she said. Rinaman said U.S. Coast Guard and city of Jacksonville sources told her the leak has been contained to the immediate area around the downed aircraft and that recovery efforts are underway. So far, they’ve not heard of any fish kills or other impact on marine or wildlife due to the leak, she said...“Any pollution in the river gives us concern. You have concerns with the acute toxicity to any marine life that comes in contact with spilled fuel,” Rinaman said. “Then also you have potential long-term impacts to habitat.” Currently, there are a lot of dolphins in the river. With the dredging going on, there is some concern they are father upstream than normal. They could be coming into contact with it, Rinaman said…” Teresa Stepzinski reports for The Florida Times-Union

Read Florida drinking water ranks among nation’s worst, study finds- “More Floridians are exposed to unsafe drinking water than just about anywhere in the country, according to a new study of violations. The state ranked second in the number of people impacted by violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act based on the most recent data available from 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council said. Nationally, 77 million people were exposed to unsafe water, with violations including high levels or toxic arsenic, lead and other chemicals, as well as failure to test or report contamination. The study, a follow-up to an examination of the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, comes as the Trump administration considers drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces the law...Altogether, 7.5 million Floridians received water from utilities that violated standards. Among the state’s top violations was failing to provide its citizens with a required annual water quality report. Other major problems violated rules on cancer-causing disinfectants, high levels of coliform from human waste, and lead and copper that exceeded safe limits…” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Humans are speeding extinction and altering the natural world at an ‘unprecedented’ pace - “Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded. The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year. Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history…” Brad Plumer reports for the New York Times.

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 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.


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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