Read Florida tourism industry sees resiliency tested in Hurricane Michael, water quality crises - “Devastating hurricanes, dead fish on the beaches and green slime in canals and rivers: Florida's No. 1 industry just can't catch a break. First came Hurricane Irma, which clobbered the Florida Keys and parts of Lee and Collier counties last September. hen came the toxic red tide and blue-green algae on both coasts. Now Hurricane Michael – a near-Cat 5 storm that pounded Panama City and reduced Mexico Beach to rubble – is again testing the state’s tourism industry. Can it recover? ‘I’m not sure if it’s because there have been more crises, but Visit Florida’s crisis response has stepped up,’ said Nerissa Okiye, Martin County’s tourism marketing manager. ‘The industry comes together when things like hurricanes happen, so experienced people from around the state help each other.’ Visit Florida is the state's public/private tourism promotion agency. Michael tore the roofs of hotels, smashed homes and businesses, washed out roads and mangled trees and power lines in a vast northeasterly path through the Panhandle. State tourism leaders are grieving with residents and businesses over the losses in human life and property. But they’re convinced the industry has the right stuff to rebound stronger than ever. They’re promoting parts of the state that are in good shape for visitors, and offering state grants for promoting areas that have emerged from weather or environmental crises. Also, individual counties are poised for their own marketing pushes, chipping in bed tax dollars for more marketing when all is well – and in some cases, for cleanup and repairs for public areas. The idea: lure visitors back soon, but not so soon they find dead fish on the beach. ‘At the right time, we can let the country and the world know they can come back to those areas,’ said Ken Lawson. He’s CEO of Visit Florida. A lot’s at stake. Tourism and hospitality, welcomed 118.5 million visitors in 2017. A recent Oxford Economics Research study said Florida visitors spent $112 billion here annually – and supported 1.4 million Florida jobs. Visit Florida has a standing crisis team ‘that listens and reaches out to industry partners before and after a crisis,’ Lawson said….In south Florida, red tide and blue-green algae have been tourism wreckers. Red tide has lingered for a year, killing or sickening hundreds of sea turtles, manatees and dolphins – even a whale shark washed ashore on Sanibel, nationally known for its bounty of seashells. The good news: cough-inducing red tide and toxic blue-green algae appear to be finally on the wane. Convention and visitor bureaus, hotels and others are using their websites and social media channels to update potential visitors on where the coast is clear. It’s no easy task because red tide moves around according to winds and waves…” Laura Ruane reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.
Read Region could use more of the unity that built Tampa Bay Water 20 years ago - “This week marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of Tampa Bay Water, one of the most successful regional initiatives in Florida, and perhaps in the nation, and one that ended more than 30 years of vexatious and costly water wars. The story of Tampa Bay Water is a testament to elected officials taking charge, creating a shared vision and doing the hard work of bringing the vision to reality. In a period of just three years, we went from dysfunction to order, from division to unity. Indeed, the final vote to approve Tampa Bay Water was 196-2, counting all the legislators, commissioners, mayors and city council members that had to approve it. Many hands built this agreement. To understand the magnitude of this accomplishment, we need to reset the stage. Twenty five years ago, our region was served by a patchwork of local water supply systems operated by six city and county governments. The supplies were connected by a pipeline system built and operated by a cooperative known as West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority. In this system, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County owned permitted wellfields in Hillsborough and Pasco counties and were the beneficiaries of cheap wellfield water supplies located outside their own boundaries. Fast-growing Hillsborough and Pasco counties carried the burden of the impacts to their lakes and wetlands from excessive groundwater pumping as well as the economic burden of developing new and more expensive water supplies. Compounding it all, the structure of the authority gave veto power to each member government for any new supply project with which it disagreed, so nothing got done...But we faced a problem. No one would agree to create a regional water utility, with real power, without knowing what it intended to do. There simply would be no blank checks here. As a consequence, we created a 20-year master water plan that included a new array of drought-proof water sources while significantly reducing wellfield pumping... Everything we dreamed of, and worked to create, has worked, albeit with a few hiccups. Tampa Bay has reliable drinking water supplies that are largely drought-proof and that minimize impacts to the environment, all at a cost that is fair and reasonable. Tampa Bay can proudly count this as a singular regional success. As we try to address our region’s other pressing issues, we might want to reflect on the lessons learned 20 years ago with Tampa Bay Water’s success…” Steve Seibert and Ed Turanchik write Opinion for the Tampa Bay Times.
Read Uncertainties exist when predicting sea level rise - “...In case you missed it, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report recently calling for radical reduction in the use of fossil fuels to prevent the average global temperature from increasing more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 degrees Fahrenheit ) by the middle of the century. Without the reductions necessary to moderate the temperature increase, the world’s population can expect a greater increase in sea level rise, the deaths of coral reefs and other ecological disasters, the report claimed. The most-discussed aspect of this phenomenon for Floridians is sea level rise. Predicting how much rise will occur, when it will occur and what the effects will be is much more complicated than you might expect if you read nothing but a few news reports...At various times in Florida’s history there were periods when all or most of the state lay beneath the sea’s surface and when beachfront property was about 100 miles west of Tampa. What complicates Florida’s situation and makes the current situation much different than changes that occurred in geologic history is the way in which much of the Florida coastline has been allowed to be developed in modern times, they write [Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options’ by Albert C. Hine, Don P. Chambers, Tonya D. Clayton, Mark R. Hafen and Gary T. Mitchum, 2016]. Dunes have been leveled, sea walls and other hard structures have been installed, all of it to protect a lot of very expensive real estate served by a system of roads and utility lines that also lie in the path of a rising sea...Of course, the central question many people have when they read about sea level rise in Florida is how to respond to the threat. That depends on where you are, the authors write, explaining adaptation may work in some coastal areas and in others the only option is to get out. The bigger issue is the need to rethink how we develop in coastal areas or whether to allow development at all. One option is to buy out developed property, raze it and restore the land to native coastal habitat to create a buffer to protect property farther inland, they write. Obviously in many parts of Florida that discussion should have occurred more than 50 years ago, but where it is feasible to develop some kind of plan for resilience through modifying building codes and development regulations, it will be worthwhile, the authors contend…” Tom Palmer writes Opinion for The Ledger.
Read For a struggling oyster town, Hurricane Michael may be one misery too many - “Calamity is familiar to Florida’s dwindling colony of oystermen, a rugged crew that has defiantly remained on Apalachicola Bay as its estuary has suffered the decimating effects of overharvesting, an oil spill, the loss of freshwater and, at times, stubborn drought. But the new ruin brought by Hurricane Michael felt like one misfortune too many in this postcard-perfect town where locals have only just begun to grapple with the extent of the storm’s damage to the industry that once drove the local economy, which had already been struggling to survive. ‘First you couldn’t get oysters,’ said Kevin Ward, 40, whose family’s wholesale seafood facility 13 miles out of town was partly destroyed by the storm. ‘Now we get hit by this.’ Before the hurricane was over on Wednesday, Mr. Ward and his brother, T.J. Ward, waded into another one of their properties by a dock on the Apalachicola River. They found nearly chest-level water, higher than ever before, in the space where they clean seafood, and also in the downtown market where they sell it. Later in the week, the storm surge had receded, and the magnitude of work before them had started to become apparent...The family had evacuated its larger, more lucrative shrimp on 18-wheelers before the storm, and its shrimping boats were safely upstream. But the smaller shrimp would be lost.’We’re going to lose thousands of dollars worth of shrimp,’ T.J. said. And don’t ask about the oysters. ‘The shrimp business is off and on, always,’ he said. ‘The oyster business has been really bad. Really bad.’ There are so few wild oysters left that the Wards turned to oyster farming two years ago. They did not yet know the status of their 750,000 to one million farmed oysters after the storm. ‘We never thought it would’ve been this bad,’ said Melanie Ward, T.J.’s wife. Downtown Apalachicola, with its neatly painted storefronts, counted itself lucky, despite the surge of seawater that left debris strewn everywhere. Shops that had been boarded up with plywood showed minimal damage — a shattered window here, a watermark there. A county hospital that closed before the storm had a damaged roof. The bridge leading into town, proudly named after John Gorrie, the native son who helped pioneer air-conditioning, had reopened, though parts of it were limited to one lane and a sign warned, ‘Drive at your own risk!’ Across the bay in Eastpoint, Apalachicola’s more modest neighbor, where the slogan is ‘Oysters since 1898,’ parts of scenic U.S. Highway 98 looked like a ghost town, the sand-swept road lined with mountains of wood where bayside shacks had stood before the storm. Eastpoint, at the foot of a state forest named Tate’s Hell, had already endured tragedy this year, when a wildfire caused by an out-of-control prescribed burn burned down 30 homes…” Patricia Mazzei reports for the New York Times.
Read Jupiter bans fertilizer, pesticide use during rainy season - “The Town of Jupiter is working to be proactive in addressing the algae crisis and protecting our environment. The council recently passed a ban on using fertilizers and pesticides during the rainy season. ‘We’ve been really fortunate where we don’t have the algae blooms right now on the river and we’d really like to keep it that way,’ said David Rotar, Utilities Services manager for the Town of Jupiter. Starting next year, pesticides and fertilizers will be banned from being used during the rainy season between June 1st through September 30. ‘People believe that over fertilizing is better for their lawns when it’s not,’ he said. Rotar said they started this ban to protect the river. ‘We have boating. We have people that are actually out on the sandbar doing barbeque on weekends so we’re really trying to protect the natural resource we have in the town of Jupiter,’ he said. Roatar explains what happens when people over fertilize or are reckless with it. ‘It will actually get washed into one of the drainage basins and that goes to the creeks and outfalls that eventually lead into the Loxahatchee River,’ he said. ‘You’re actually overfeeding the river with a pollutant.’ During the blackout season, only licensed and properly trained businesses and homeowners are allowed to use fertilizer or pesticides. For now, the town will be launching a massive educational campaign ahead of the ban officially launching in January 2019. The ban will take effect in June of that year. Training and licensing information will be included in that educational campaign effort. More information will be posted soon to the Town's website. For fertilizer, the only types permitted are slow release with no phosphorous. ‘Generally in this area, phosphorus is not needed. So if your fertilizer has a zero phosphorus listing on the back of the bag, it’s one of the better ones to use,’ said Rotar. There are exceptions for golf courses and ball fields. ‘Because they generally have people that are managed, know what’s going on and have their soils tested no a regular basis,’ Rotar said. Currently, the town is working with the DEP on nutrient reductions on the river. They were listed as having a couple of problem spots to address on a southwest fork of the river. ‘You have to start now with taking care of your natural resources,’ said Rotar.” Alanna Quillen reports for WPTV.
Read Businesses band together against offshore drilling - “The Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition is officially launching an alliance of coastal business owners and leaders opposed to offshore drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast. The group of businesses is formally announcing its partnership on October 16 at 10:30 a.m. at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach. The Coalition represents more than 2,000 businesses, chambers of commerce and other associations. The group hopes to create a unified voice against any new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and works to ensure no existing drilling moves any further inland. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is expected to speak at the group’s announcement. Robin Miller, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, and Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates will also speak. Efforts under the Trump administration to expand offshore drilling threaten more than 300,000 jobs and $17.5 billion in gross domestic product associated with Florida’s Gulf Coast Fishing, tourism and recreation, according to the Coalition. The Trump administration announced earlier this year its plans to open almost all U.S. waters to offshore drilling. The Department of the Interior’s a draft five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, the agency proposed the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever, the Coalition said. The group’s members include businesses and advocacy groups from the entire Gulf Coast. The announcement comes as Gulf Coast businesses battle a different problem — red tide. Statewide efforts are ongoing to mitigate the effects of this year’s algae bloom, which has been one of the worst in recent history. Fish kills and toxins in the air are keeping visitors away from beaches and nearby businesses. The state of Florida allocated $3 million for businesses affected by red tide and the federal government made small business loans available to help them recover. Researchers are also continuing work trying to understand why red tide occurs and how to prevent or mitigate it.” Janelle Irwin Taylor reports for Florida Politics.
Read Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act could make it harder for animals to qualify as endangered - “The Endangered Species Act of 1973 passed Congress almost unanimously, in the wake of environmental degradation and increasing numbers of extinctions causing damage to entire ecosystems. But Republicans now criticized many elements of the law, often citing big business’s inability to mine or drill on certain lands because of seemingly insignificant endangered species. The Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act would require any science used in determining an animal’s endangered species status be made public on the internet. However, the phrase ‘best scientific and commercial data available’ has no restrictions in the legislative text, to the point that the bill clarifies that all such data qualifies. Critics worry that this would allow for a plunge in the quality of the science behind the Endangered Species Act, leading fewer species to qualify — even ones who deserve the protection. It was introduced as bill H.R. 3608 in July 2017 by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA4). Supporters argue the bill will allow for better environmental decision making with increased openness. ‘The legislation will allow the American people to see the data that is being used to make Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing decisions,’ Rep. McClintock said in a press release. ‘This measure opens up the information so that the public can look at it, the science can be debated and challenged, and the best possible decision rendered.’ ‘Local governments, tribes and states often have a great deal of information on the local conditions and have simply been ignored during previous considerations of listing decisions.’ Opponents counter that the bill would undermine an existing piece of legislation which works by favoring business interests instead instead of providing for the protection of species which need it. ‘Under the guise of streamlining, H.R. 3608 would instead rip the process up in red tape,’ Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ3), ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said at a committee markup about a package of several bills including this one. ‘This bill would create more reporting requirements, divert agency resources for recovery efforts, and define the ‘best available science’ to include data that may or may not be best, may not be available, and may not even be science. This bill does not require data to be of a high quality or even a moderate quality. There is no standard at all.’ ‘If a county, state, ot tribe wanted to submit fraudulent or incomplete data intended to mislead, even that data would be considered as the best available, regardless of what the scientific experts have to say. Luckily, the ESA’s existing public notice and comment period… [is] there to provide transparency and hold the government accountable for using sound science to make determinations under the law…” Jesse Rifkin reports for GovTrack Insider.
From Our Readers
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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.
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