FCC News Brief - October 15, 2018


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Hurricane Michael’s fury will have longstanding environmental impact - “While the human toll of Hurricane Michael is still being tallied, the environmental impact from the monster storm is expected to ripple across the the Panhandle, experts are predicting, and the entire state might see fallout from the storm for years to come. ‘I think the impact from Hurricane Michael is still unknown at this point,’ Kelly Richmond, a spokeswoman for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said. ‘With storms, there can be animals that become displaced or stranded, and we also get reports of fish kills after a storm.’ As of Friday, there were no reported dead fish in Florida's Panhandle region, according FWC's fish-kill database. There were, however, increased fish-kill reports from Pinellas County, Richmond said. ‘Some reports are saying that they are newly-dead fish as opposed to decaying fish that got pushed onshore from the storm,’ she added. It's still to early to say whether Michael broke up the toxic red tide algae bloom that has slammed many areas throughout the state. But a big fish kill could be imminent. The hurricane hit hard on the back of another ecological nightmare: Coastal Florida residents from the Gulf to Stuart have endured one of the worst red tides in recent memory. Before Michael, the toxic fish-killing algae had already peaked, and hopes are high that if there's a silver lining to Michael it's that the surge and wind and torrential rains might have broken up the blight. But it's also possible that the organism responsible for the outbreak could be recharged by the nutrients washing back into the Gulf, spreading its deadly impact over an even wider area. Much depends on water temperature, currents, and the release of nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater, yard fertilizers and other sources during and after the storm, biologists say. ‘This may very well break up what remains of that red tide,’ said Duane DeFreese, executive director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. ‘The question is what happens in the aftermath.’  ‘Most of our coastal waters in Florida are suffering from nutrient impacts at various levels. We're all fighting the same fight,’ DeFreese added…” Jim Waymer reports for Florida Today.

Read How red and green slime (really) could swing Florida’s senate race - “John Moran is a Florida nature photographer, but lately he sees himself as a Florida crime photographer. The crime, he likes to say, is the slime.  Moran has chronicled the blooms of toxic algae that have shrouded the peninsula in recent months — the neon guacamole glop that ravaged Lake Okeechobee and the sparkling estuaries of the east coast before oozing its way to the west coast, as well as the rust-colored red tide that massacred millions of fish along the white-sand beaches of the west coast before arriving last week on the east coast...But one of Moran’s most popular images, a grinning man relaxing on a pink inner tube with his feet slathered in algae, is considerably less artsy. The man’s face is a crudely Photoshopped Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida, with a speech bubble that reads: “Come on in. The water’s fine!”...In surveys, Americans rarely cite the environment as a top priority, even though most voters support strict environmental regulations. But nature is so intimately connected to Florida’s economy and culture that green issues can tilt elections here. In 1994, Jeb Bush ran for governor as a “head-banging conservative,” vowing to take back Florida from eco-radicals, and he narrowly lost despite a national Republican wave that put his younger brother George on a path to the White House. Jeb ran again in 1998 as a green Republican in a Democratic year, and he won in a landslide... The activist Erin Brockovich was in Fort Myers last week to raise awareness about the crisis. Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor, attracted an astonishing crowd of more than 1,200 to an environmental rally in Stuart over the weekend, promising to ‘put the word ‘protection’ back into the Department of Environmental Protection.’ His opponent, Congressman Ron DeSantis, has been a reliable vote for the House Republican war on environmental regulation, but he’s running as a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist; his first general-election ad touted his determination to take on Big Sugar and save the Everglades.  The news is packed with reminders that something has gone terribly wrong in Florida. Florida Sportsman magazine, after publishing an article on the algae crisis titled “Dead in the Water,” had to close its office by an algae-infested canal in Stuart near the St. Lucie River because its staff was suffering from nausea, headaches and dizziness. The area’s schools pulled their students out of an educational Day in the Life of the Indian River Lagoon event because red tide was detected in the lagoon. A blob of black water washed up in Boca Grande on the west coast last week, and no one is sure what it was. Nearby, Fort Myers Beach restaurants are serving Fishkill Cocktails to raise awareness about clean water. ‘Republicans, Democrats, purple people-eaters, it doesn’t matter: We’ve all had enough of this,’ says Chris Peterson, owner of Hell’s Bay Boatworks…” Michael Grunwald reports for Politico.  

Read Protecting wetlands helps communities reduce damage from hurricanes and storms- “2017 was the worst year on record for hurricane damage in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean from Harvey, Irma, and Maria. We had hoped for a reprieve this year, but less than a month after Hurricane Florence devastated communities across the Carolinas, Hurricane Michael has struck Florida. Coastlines are being developed rapidly and intensely in the United States and worldwide. The population of central and south Florida, for example, has grown by 6 million since 1990. Many of these cities and towns face the brunt of damage from hurricanes. In addition, rapid coastal development is destroying natural ecosystems like marshes, mangroves, oyster reefs and coral reefs – resources that help protect us from catastrophes. Although there is a broad understanding that wetlands can protect coastlines, researchers have not explicitly measured how and where these benefits translate into dollar values in terms of reduced risks to people and property. To answer this question, our group worked with experts who understand risk best: insurers and risk modelers. Using the industry’s storm surge models, we compared the flooding and property damages that occurred with wetlands present during Hurricane Sandy to the damages that would have occurred if these wetlands were lost...Even after suffering years of damage, Florida’s mangrove wetlands and coral reefs play crucial roles in protecting the state from hurricane surges and waves. And yet, over the last six decades, urban development has eliminated half of Florida’s historic mangrove habitat. Losses are still occurring across the state from the Keys to Tampa Bay and Miami. Protecting and nurturing these natural first lines of defense could help Florida homeowners reduce property damage during future storms. In the past two years, our team has worked with the private sector and government agencies to help translate these risk reduction benefits into action for rebuilding natural defenses…” Siddharth Narayan and Michael Beck report for The Apopka Voice.

Read A month before election, Florida voters are sick about the environment- literally - “We’re a month away from choosing a new governor in Florida. While we’ve seen lots of breathless prognosticating about a possible ‘blue wave’ or ‘red wave’ in the impending midterms, some far more tangible forces are affecting Florida politics in these final weeks of election season: Red tide and blue-green algae. Florida's environment is now enduring a full-peninsula assault. And voters are sick about it, literally.  Let's review the conditions: The year-old red tide bloom off Southwest Florida has killed upwards of 400 sea turtles, 67 manatees (with 105 more deaths suspected), and washed ashore so many millions of pounds of dead fish that Lee County's landfill has been used to burn the carcasses... Since May, I've been traveling the state with my photojournalist colleague Leah Voss, interviewing Floridians for the Florida Voices project. Our goal in each of these interviews is straightforward: to listen closely and document what issues each subject cares about this election year. The environment is a recurring, dominant concern... The almost two dozen Floridians we've interviewed for this project come from diverse backgrounds, but they are unified in their alarm about Florida's natural environment. How could any Floridian not be worried? Ninety percent of Lake Okeechobee was covered with toxic algae in July. Florida's freshwater springs are in failing health. The Everglades are ever-imperiled. Is it any wonder Florida's environment has emerged as a top-tier election issue as the state prepares to elect a new governor Nov. 6? ‘For a while I think it was just the environmentalists that were concerned, and yelling so loud about what’s going on,’ said Palm City resident Lisa Davis, whom we interviewed last month for Florida Voices.  ‘Now I think the general public is starting to become aware, with deterioration of our natural resources and watching our water just get worse and worse.’...Meanwhile, the state's Visit Florida site continues to tout Florida's beaches — including those where death has washed ashore: ‘Aside from the stunningly gorgeous sunsets, the best Gulf Coast beaches are said to have the softest sand, the clearest waters, the most fun nature trails and the best fishing.’ No mention of the epic red tide bloom. That head-in-the-soiled-sand attitude is not sitting well with voters. No politician can claim they didn't see this coming. But every voter I've talked to sees it clearly now.” Eve Samples reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read The drip, drip, drip of a pending water fight in Tampa Bay - “Twenty years later, it is still one of the best deals ever consummated around here. Surrounded by bickering and teetering on conflict, three counties (Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas) joined three cities (New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa) to form one utility company (Tampa Bay Water) that ended hostilities when it came to the market’s water supply. The deal was efficient, dependable and peaceful. Until now, that is. Tampa has negotiated a side agreement with Tampa Bay Water that it says will benefit the entire region for decades to come, but that has St. Petersburg officials worried it might eventually tear the entire partnership apart. ‘My fear is that we are unraveling the foundation of the (agreement) and letting Tampa essentially divorce itself from Tampa Bay Water,’ said St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice, who is the city’s representative on the nine-person board of directors for Tampa Bay Water. ‘I’m concerned the board is not aware of the complications that … could end the era of regional cooperation.’  The deal is heading toward a showdown on Monday when Tampa Bay Water’s board will be asked to approve a memo of understanding that essentially allows Tampa to begin an ambitious program that could make reclaimed water drinkable through a purification process. Now it’s important to understand that Tampa had less reason to join Tampa Bay Water than the other governments back in 1998. While everyone else relied mostly on underground wells that they pooled together for water, Tampa had plenty of surface water from rivers and springs. So Tampa used a majority of water from its own supply and relied on the utility only as an emergency backup. In other words, folks in Pasco and Pinellas needed Tampa Bay Water. People in Tampa? Not so much. And now this new Tampa Augmentation Project theoretically means Tampa will have more water at its disposal, and even less reason to share with its longtime partners. And, right on cue for the conspiracy-minded, Tampa is talking about a new water supply deal with Polk County. Thus, the question of trust. Tampa officials say everyone will benefit because there will be more water to spread around. But the deal essentially means the rich will get richer in terms of water supply, and that makes some people nervous across the bay. ‘If anyone is worried that we’re trying to tear Tampa Bay Water apart, the truth is anything but,’ said Brad Baird, Tampa’s administrator of public works…” John Romano reports for the Tampa Bay Times.

Read Red tide remnants: Where do dead fish end up? -  “The decision in South Florida, which began experiencing the effects of red tide two weeks ago, has been to put them in landfills where they can rest in [smelly] pieces. The solution seemed fine, since landfills aren’t known for their pleasant aromas, but there were still concerns the fish stench might be a bit too much even at a dump. Broward Commissioner Mark Bogen didn’t want any residents complaining about a fishy smell coming from the landfill commonly known as Mount Trashmore in Coconut Creek in his district. Officials say they got Waste Management to agree that any more fish brought to the landfill near Florida’s Turnpike will be taken to another one in Okeechobee as their final resting place. Clean-up crews are double-bagging the fish, too, in Broward County, to prevent leakage and curb any smells. And the carcasses in Palm Beach County have to be brought directly to the landfill and not dropped off at a transfer station, said Willie Puz, spokesman for the county’s Solid Waste Authority that operates a landfill near West Palm Beach. Landfill crews in Palm Beach and Broward counties waste no time burying the carcasses as soon as they arrive, rather than waiting until the end of the day as is done with most other garbage. ‘With this waste, we’ll dig a separate hole and cover it immediately,’  said Waste Management spokeswoman Dawn McCormick...The Palm Beach County landfill estimates it has received one ton of fish related to red tide, Puz said. Waste Management originally told Broward County it could handle up to 40 tons a day of fish at its Coconut Creek landfill, but the actual amount taken there has been far less: two loads totaling 500 pounds from Fort Lauderdale were buried there, McCormick said, prior to the new arrangement to send out the carcasses to Okeechobee. McCormick had no reports of any additional loads being brought to Monarch Hill. Where the fish go depend on where the cities have disposal contracts. In Hollywood, for instance, where up to 1,700 fish washed up recently, the city uses Waste Connections. City officials said the company will be transporting the carcasses to a landfill in Central Florida.” Larry Barszewski reports for the Sun Sentinel.

Read Two Florida panther kittens killed on Hendry County road - “A few deaths in the past week increased the number of Florida panthers found dead this year to 24. Two 4-month-old panthers — a male and a female — were found dead Wednesday, Oct. 10, on a Hendry County road, said Mark Lotz, a panther biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The kittens were walking along State Road 846, bordered in parts by canals, and likely were using the road to get to a spot where they could go back into the woods with their mother, Lotz said. Multiple Florida panthers in the same family getting killed at the same time is uncommon, Lotz said. ‘When they’re moving around, going from one place to another, they’re traveling together as a family group,’ Lotz said. Although the kittens were found near each other, it’s impossible to know whether they were hit at the same time or whether one was hit and the other stuck around and was hit separately , Lotz said.A third dead panther was found Sunday, Oct. 7. The 5-year-old male panther died after it was struck by a vehicle on State Road 29 north of Immokalee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported…” Andrew Atkins reports for Naples Daily News.

Read Aging Florida sewage systems pose threat to health-and tourism, real estate - “Many Florida utilities rely on aging sewage systems that have not been upgraded in some cases since the 1950s. Florida’s fragile ecosystems and economies should not be threatened by the inevitable spills and breakdowns that occur in these systems. Florida should take a comprehensive and a forward-looking approach to upgrading Florida’s domestic wastewater infrastructures. Few of Florida’s systems have the capacity to handle existing responsibilities much less address Florida’s rapid population growth and development. Obviously, dumping raw sewage into vulnerable ecosystems such as the Indian River Lagoon or Tampa Bay is not the answer, nor is passing off nutrient-laden, partially treated sewage as irrigation water. Perhaps must unacceptable is the way Miami/Dade and Broward counties dump partially treated sewage offshore via discharge pipes onto dying coral reefs. Instead, wastewater should be viewed as a resource that, with reasonable investments, can be cleansed sufficiently and reused responsibly. We have the technologies and the means to implement them. In order to protect and improve Florida waters, and to ensure adequate water supplies in a rapidly growing state, we must look beyond the costs to individual municipalities and their utilities and consider the threats that Florida’s aging sewage systems now pose to the integrity of our tourism- and real estate-based economies. Florida’s water woes have made national headlines. It’s going to take years to clean up our beaches, waters and fisheries, as well as our reputation as a great place to live and visit. Floridians are well aware of the causes of these crises, and are rightfully outraged. Citizens groups are pushing for sewage fixes around the state, because nutrient pollution from septic tanks and stormwater runoff are problems. That’s something our team realized as we researched our award-winning documentary, St Pete Unfiltered. St Petersburg’s sewage treatment system failures, which cause millions of gallons of raw sewage spills annually, are problems shared by many Florida wastewater agencies. Our city failed to address — even covered up — the weaknesses of our sewage infrastructure and its regular enormous spills. I sincerely hope that elected officials in other Florida cities and counties will spare their citizens the pitched battles we’ve endured against the officials we mistakenly trusted with our health, natural resources and economy. As Floridians, we need to admit our problems and work together toward the ways and means to remedy them…”Brandon D. Shuler writes Opinion for the Orlando Sentinel.


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Upcoming Environmental Events:

October 12-November 16 - Save our Springs & Rivers Academy (Volusia County)- Want to become a Blue Spring advocate and help spread the word about solutions to water pollution? Attend this FREE adult education courses that includes classroom and field trip experiences, guest speakers, hands-on, feet-wet learning to provide the ultimate citizen engagement experience. Those participating in the six-week course will gain valuable knowledge and will pledge to educate others on behalf of Volusia Blue Spring. For more information or to register, visit www.greenvolusia.org or call 386-736-5927. View course dates and locations here.

October 20, 10:00am-4:00pm - Miami Waterkeeper’s 4th Annual Bay Day (Coconut Grove): Join the Miami Waterkeeper’s annual ‘Bay Day’, celebrating Biscayne Bay at Shake-A-Leg in Coconut Grove. Tickets for this family-friendly event include: Lunch from SALT waterfront restaurant, 2 Veza Sur Brewing beers, kayaking, boat rides, sailing, arts & crafts, music, yoga, native plant and book sales, visits to Shake-A-Leg’s eco-island, and more! For tickets and more information, click here.

October 20-21 – Into the Springs Music Festival (Alachua):  Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute for its second annual Into the Springs Music Festival at Deep Spring Farm. Enjoy a weekend full of live music, camping, organic farming workshops, yoga, and community in support of Florida springs! To learn more and purchase tickets, visit https://floridaspringsinstitute.org/event/intothesprings/. Funding for this event was provided in part by Visit Gainesville/Alachua County. Address: Deep Springs Farm,  16419 W County Rd 1491, Alachua, FL 32615.

October 26, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. - Water Symposium: The State of our Water (DeLand): The Volusia Water Alliance hosts a series of short presentations on the water problems we face and possible solutions by leaders and experts, focused on Volusia County and applicable statewide. This free event features keynote speaker Dr. Jason Evans, Faculty Director of the Institute for Water & Environmental Resilience, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Studies at Stetson University, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Environmental Management. His topic is "Reclaiming the Future: Science, Engagement, and Hope in Our State of Watery Peril.” Seating is limited; please register online at VolusiaWater.org. Optional catered lunch from DeLand Natural Market (wrap, chips, water, and a brownie) is available for $12 with registration. Visit VolusiaWater.org for more information. Sponsorships are available. Wayne G. Sanborn Activity Center - 815 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand, FL 32724

November 1, 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m. -- FREE Sustainable Landscaping Principles and Practices Webinar:  This free webinar will explore best practices, trends and market opportunities for sustainable landscaping in the State of Florida. Sustainable Landscaping is a set of landscaping principles and practices which minimize environmental degradation and make more efficient use of energy, water and other natural resources. This course will review the latest research and present current best practices for designing, building and maintaining sustainable landscapes. Project case studies will be used to discuss a framework for how to promote sustainable landscaping on large scale commercial projects working with multiple stakeholders through conceptual planning through implementation and long-term maintenance. The instructors are Pierce Jones, Ph.D., the University of Florida Extension Program Leader for Energy Programs, and Timothee Sallin, president of Cherrylake, an integrated landscape company.  This event has been approved for credits for planners, Certified Floodplain Manger and Florida Environmental Health Professionals and are being sought for Florida attorneys and others.  Register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar.

November 1-4 - The Florida Springs Restoration Summit (Ocala) - Join the Florida Springs Council in Ocala to learn from state leaders and experts on how we can make meaningful springs restoration a reality. The Florida Springs Restoration Summit brings together scientists, academics, advocates, reporters, policy makers, and other citizens to discuss the status of springs health and steps needed for meaningful springs restoration and long-term protection. The cost to attend the Springs Summit is kept low to encourage participation by members of the public and nonprofit organizations. To learn more about the 2018 Springs Restoration Summit and register, see the Summit website.

November 17 - 9:00am-4:00pm - Highlands County Master Gardeners Festival (Sebring) - Join the Highlands County Master Gardeners for the inaugural Garden Festival. Kicked off at 9:00am by Shannon Reed singing the National Anthem, there will be live music, vendors, food, a kids zone, and plant classes. Where: Bert J Harris Agricultural Civic Center in Sebring: 4509 George Blvd.

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.

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

Stop the spraying of glyphosate herbicide in Florida waters

Stop Development on Fish Island along the Matanzas River

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Another Gulf is Possible

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Florida Solar Bill of Rights

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Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

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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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