FCC News Brief - October 30, 2018

Read North Florida Land Trust has acquired thousands of acres in critical wildlife corridor - “North Florida Land Trust has acquired another important piece of property within a critical wildlife corridor surrounding Camp Blanding. The land conservation organization took possession of 2,300 acres located near Lawtey that connects Camp Blanding to Jennings State Forest. It is located within the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) wildlife corridor; a critical wildlife corridor that stretches from the Ocala National Forest to the Osceola National Forest. 'This is our largest upland acquisition to date and important to protect for both its ecosystem benefits and for the buffer it provides for Camp Blanding,' said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. 'We have been working in partnership with Camp Blanding for a number of years to protect lands that provide crucial habitat for plants and wildlife and allow critical training for active and reserve troops and emergency responders. Since 2016, we have protected nearly 6,000 acres in partnership with the military.' The 2,300 acres is comprised mostly of pine stands of various ages, hardwood forests and scattered mature pines along with excellent native groundcover. It is home to a variety of species including the threatened gopher tortoise, quail and other ground nesting birds. It also contains Boggy Branch, one of the headwater tributaries of the Black Creek watershed. NFLT will manage the property for forestry and wildlife, and practices such as prescribed burns will benefit populations of fire-dependent species like the gopher tortoise and Bachman’s sparrow. NFLT has been focused on preserving land within the O2O corridor, which provides an important habitat for the Florida Black Bear and numerous endangered species including the red-cockaded woodpecker, indigo snakes and gopher tortoises. The organization is leading the O2O Wildlife Corridor Partnership, which is comprised of public and private organizations focused on improving land management and conservation within the O2O. The 80,000-acre Camp Blanding Joint Training Center is central to the O2O landscape and partnership. NFLT worked closely with the St. Johns River Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Division of State Lands on this transaction. Funding was provided by the Army National Guard.” Kelly White from NFLT Press Release.

Read Flagler Beach hikes water, sewer fees 25 percent - “Homeowners and businesses that use city utilities will be paying 25 percent more in monthly base fees for water and sewer services beginning with the Nov. 30 billing. The Flagler Beach City Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to approve the hike, citing insufficient funds to perform $2 million in capital improvements during the coming year and make an annual payment of $465,750 on a $3.5-million loan that funded construction of the city’s water treatment plant. The increase in base fees — the amount customers must pay even before one drop of water is used — is the highest ever approved in the city. Between 2005 and 2018, the fees increased by only $23.46. For residential customers, the base fees and a 14.6 percent increase in the stormwater fee will collectively cost an additional $10.53 per month. Rates for commercial customers vary depending upon the meter size. In addition, the city will impose a new monthly fee of about $27 on meters used for outdoor watering and irrigation. There are 351 such meters in the city. The fee will generate more than $115,000 in revenue...Flagler Beach is not alone when it comes to utility rate increases. In September, the Palm Coast City Council approved $56.6-million worth of stormwater drainage improvements that will increase residents’ storm water bills by $11.65 to $23.95 each month. The city also approved a 21 percent water and wastewater rate hike. In addition, Palm Coast is considering an electric tax to fund a $21.8-million reconstruction of its public works yard. If enacted, that tax could add as much as $8.27 per month to the average electric bill. The increase to Flagler Beach’s base fees is necessary to meet objectives of the city’s five-year capital improvement plan, which will require about $13 million. That plan includes construction of a reclaimed water plant by 2027, a mandate of the St. Johns River Water Management District that would ultimately save the city money and also help protect the aquifer. It also includes improvements to the city’s aging wastewater treatment plant. Beyond that, Flagler Beach officials also want to address maintenance of the city’s water and sewer lines, which have received minimal attention in the past dozen years.Utility customers will also see a 1.75 percent increase in what they pay for water used. This is not related to funding shortfalls but rather to a fluctuation in the Gross Domestic Product Implicit Price Deflator, which measures changes in money value arising from changes in prices. Its use for determining rates was adopted by the state Public Service Commission. These water-use funds are dedicated to the daily operations of the water and wastewater plants.” Shaun Ryan reports for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Read Make your votes count for the environment- “Don’t forget the environment when you vote this year. There are issues at every level of government... At the state level, let’s begin with the governor. Who the winner appoints to head or oversee key agencies is one major issue. There has not been anyone from the environmental community on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in years, the latest appointees’ qualifications seemed to have been their political ties to the Republican Party, not protection of Florida’s fish and wildlife. The governor also picks the head of the Department of Environmental Protection. In recent years state environmental agencies’ historical duties have been weakened as politics have trumped environmental protection. It is time for that to change. One issue that affects every Floridian is water policy. The governor appoints members of the water management district boards and oversees their budgets. One issue that affects every Floridian is water policy. It is going to take some serious money to deal with measures to increase conservation and to develop sustainable alternative water supplies. The state cannot be effectively led by someone who is obsessed more with tax rates than with getting the job done. The governor’s office could also exercise some leadership in stopping potentially costly and protected political and legal fights over water supply allocation. Another important part of the water policy debate involves water quality. In recent years the governor and members of the Florida Cabinet have fought tougher water pollution standards and sided with the Florida Legislature to extend deadlines for reducing pollution in the Everglades area. Everyone should be aware of the role pollution streaming to the sea from rivers plays in exacerbating coastal problems ranging from blue-green algae to red tide. Scientists have discussed this for decades. Stronger, earlier action on pollution-control measures could have lessened the impacts, but the current crop of state officials failed and it’s important to look at the records of their would-be successors to determine whether we’ll get change or more of the same...Cabinet members play a major role in environmental policy through their actions on land and conservation easement purchases and submerged land leases for marinas. That includes failed attempts to surplus previously acquired conservation lands for no good reason. This brings me to the Florida Legislature. For many of us, the recurring top priority is to honor the voters’ desire to restore funding for the Florida Forever program to finish the job of land conservation in this state while the land is still available. Instead of funding conservation land purchases, legislators have diverted the money to cover general expenses or suggested spending the money for local pork barrel public works projects to promote development..” Tom Palmer writes for The Ledger.  

Read With Trump’s signature, EAA Reservoir becomes law- but relief remains far off- “Eighteen months ago, we published a jubilant editorial under this headline: 'Together, we made a difference for the Indian River Lagoon.' Gov. Rick Scott had just signed a bill authorizing a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, and though the project was scaled way back from a proposal originally pitched by state Senate President Joe Negron, our editorial board was compelled to cheer the action. For decades, fed-up residents of our community had written letters, rallied and demanded Florida's leaders find somewhere to send excess water from Lake Okeechobee — other than to the St. Lucie River, where it triggers toxic algae blooms.  The Everglades need more freshwater. The brackish St. Lucie River and its western counterpart, the Caloosahatchee River, are getting far too much of it. The reservoir was the long-awaited fix. Or, at least, part of the fix. As we wrote in that March 2017 editorial: 'Your efforts — and ours — have at long last paid off.' Then we waited. Waited for state agencies to configure and sign off on the project, officially known as the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. Waited for the Army Corps of Engineers to review it and send it to Congress. Waited for both houses of Congress to approve the reservoir in the Water Resources Development Act. Waited for President Donald Trump to sign WRDA, including the reservoir, into law. Trump did so on Tuesday.  But we needn't pop the bubbly just yet. The waiting ain't over. The WRDA legislation authorizes the reservoir — but it doesn't actually allocate money for the federal government's half of the estimated $1.6 billion cost. That will take another couple of years. Even with 'consistent funding,' it will take nine to 10 years to complete the 16,600-acre project, a spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District told TCPalm's environmental reporter Tyler Treadway. With congressional earmarks banned, and Washington politics erratic as ever, we'd be fools to count on consistent anything. Meanwhile, the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers continue to suffer. Toxic algae got so bad this summer that Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency for seven counties harmed by it.   When the reservoir project and its included filtration marshes are completed, it will send an average of about 120.6 billion gallons of clean water south to the Everglades and Florida Bay each year. It's expected to reduce the number of damaging discharge events from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers by 63 percent (in conjunction with other existing and planned restoration projects). Sixty-three percent fewer discharge events is significant. An editorial we published last March summed it up this way: 'Reservoir plan could have been so much more, but something's better than nothing.' Now that our 'something' is law, we hope it's paid for and built as expediently as possible.” The Treasure Coast Newspapers Editorial Board writes Opinion.

Read Lee mayors battle water managers over Caloosahatchee river rule - “An administrative judge heard arguments Monday for and against a water flow rule that some say will do too little to help the ailing Caloosahatchee River. Several cities in Lee County filed an administrative challenge against the South Florida Water Management District over what’s called a minimum flow level for the river and its estuary. Setting a minimum level of water is designed to protect the river from further harm but may not do enough to provide freshwater during the dry season, critics say. 'Everything that flows down the Caloosahatchee or doesn’t flow down the Caloosahatchee effects Captiva,' said David Mintz, with the Captiva Community Panel. 'And our understanding is that the tape grasses, the organisms that live in tape grasses and the fish that grow into adults in the tape grasses, and the birds that rely on the organisms that rely on the tape grass all affect the waters surrounding Captiva.' But this fight is over flow to the river during the dry season, when the system needs water from Lake Okeechobee to properly balance the estuary's delicate salinity balance. The mayors of Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, Sanibel and Bonita Springs joined forces earlier this year to file a challenge to the district's proposal.  The current rule says harm to the river occurs when less than 300 cubic feet per second flows through the Franklin Lock and Dam, the upstream edge of the estuary. South Florida Water Management District officials are in the process of raising that minimum to 400 cubic feet per second, which would provide more water to the river during dry times. District officials say raising the minimum flow level will help protect the estuary. Opponents want the additional water, but they say 400 cubic feet per second is simply not enough. 'We’re here because we’re concerned about water management,' Mintz said. 'The water flow during the dry season, the minimum flow levels that are being proposed are insufficient to protect the environment and the tape grasses during the dry season.' The Caloosahatchee River was artificially connected to Lake Okeechobee to drain the Everglades for farming and development. Lands that once drained slowly off the landscape now flows as quickly to the Gulf of Mexico as possible, so there’s not enough water to naturally feed the river during the dry season…” Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News Press.

Read Critics say water quality problems could have been avoided - “Some of the water quality issues South Florida has been plagued with the past three years could have been avoided if the federal government had funded its share of Everglades restoration projects.  That's what critics of federal spending say, that the blue-green algae and red tide that have gripped much of the state this year may have been prevented if the federal government wasn't about $1 billion behind on Everglades funding.  'If funding had been provided as outlined in the Everglades restoration plan back (in the late 1990s), a lot of these water issues would have been addressed already,' said Aaron Adams, with the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. 'And not putting adequate money in the system now continues to hinder progress.' The South Florida Water Management District built a web page devoted to the spending gap. It shows that the state has spent more than $200 million on the Caloosahatchee reservoir, a project designed to capture, store and release about 55 billion gallons of water. Water from the reservoir will be released during dry times to help meet regulations designed to protect the river and its estuary.  The federal government, by comparison, has spent just under $38 million on the same project. With Florida lawmakers setting aside $146 million for the reservoir in the upcoming year, the project would nearly be funded now if the federal government had matched the state's $200 million. Recent water quality issues sprouted in the winter of 2016, when heavy El Niño rains dumped more than a foot of water across much of the state during the middle of the dry season.  Those rains led to algae blooms in the historic Everglades, which stretches from just south of Orlando to the Florida Keys. Hurricane Irma hit in September 2017 and stirred up nutrients in the system that have fed both the blue green and red tide outbreaks. This year a double-whammy of blue-green algae and red tide have smothered the Southwest coast, killing off millions of pounds of marine wildlife and tanking the local tourism-driven economy...Adams said the projects are well worth the costs, both for the environment and the economy.  'One of the complaints is the restoration is going to cost a lot of money, but just the recreational fishing in the Everglades area exceeds $1 billion a year,' Adams said. 'If someone told me I could invest $1 billion or $2 billion and I’d get 1 billion in return every year, that would be a pretty good investment." Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Local leaders must act on climate change when Trump refuses - “The effects of climate change are coming harder and faster, according to a recent report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, a child born today — if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t cut nearly in half before she’s a teen — will live in a world on track to irreversible damage. That catastrophe would begin just as that same child is graduating from college in 2040, far sooner than previously expected, and at a lower increase in global temperature than earlier thought. Stalling is no longer a viable strategy. The report’s authors say if greenhouse gases continue to pollute at the rate they do now, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels in a generation. That would swamp coastlines, ruin crops, worsen droughts and increase the severity of hurricanes and wildfires. The report shows two things should happen: Renewable sources of energy would have to provide up to two-thirds of the world’s electricity, and coal would have to fade from roughly 40 percent today to almost nothing by 2050. “There is no way to mitigate climate change without getting rid of coal,” said Drew Shindell, an author of the report and a climate scientist at Duke University. Unfortunately, President Donald Trump mocks climate change — and as recently as his 60 Minutes interview this month, said he doubts people cause it — while planning to expand the use of coal and withdrawing from the Paris climate accords. While combatting climate change requires global leadership, local leaders are doing what they can in its absence. Two dozen local governments, stretching from Citrus to Manatee counties, have formed the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition, to plan for and fight climate change. This is wise, as a 2014 federal report said Tampa Bay is one of the areas of Florida most vulnerable to rising seas. Officials will deal with real-world implications of changing climate and rising water. For example, how high must a bridge be built to be usable in 70 years? Should it be built at all? Where can seawalls stem the tide of rising water? The Nobel co-winner, Paul Romer of New York University, has done research showing how governments can foster innovation. “Many people think that dealing with protecting the environment will be so costly and so hard that they just want to ignore the problem,” he said. ‘They want to deny it exists; they can’t deal with it.’ He is exactly right that it is time for governments at every level to step up. Solving the problem won’t be cheap or easy, but it is possible. That child born today shouldn’t be handed a past-due bill when she reaches adulthood. The price will only get higher the longer officials wait to act. Start paying now, or be prepared to pay a crushing price later.” From the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.

Read Florida is ‘poster child’ for challenges - “The state of conservation in Florida — and the U.S., as well as the entire world — is complicated and intertwined, says biologist, conservationist and TV personality Jeff Corwin. Speaking with reporters at an evening reception at Loggerhead Marinelife Center — before his keynote speech for at the 10th annual Go Blue Awards held at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach — Corwin said it is hard to address one issue with out addressing the other. That includes problems like climate change, habitat loss and pollution — but also successes like reintroducing nesting populations to an area after a century. “Florida is the poster child for conservation challenges because everyone feels Florida will always be Florida,' Corwin said. But, he added, if you don’t pay attention now to the long-term effects of overpopulation, rising seas or algal blooms, it might be too late to save it. Friday’s event recognizes individuals and a business for successfully promoting marine conservation. This was his first time visiting the Juno Beach turtle hospital and education center, during a meet-and-greet reception Thursday evening. Sea turtles, for example, are a conservation success. Managing light pollution on Florida’s shores during nesting season means hatchlings emerging from their nests will be more likely to crawl toward the ocean rather than a streetlight. Promoting education and conservation of these keystone species has ripple effects. Corwin said nesting sea turtles have returned to Italian shores for the first time in 100 years. 'When you’re saving sea turtles, you’re not only protecting your regional natural legacy and heritage, it’s a global contribution and you’re embodying that whole ecosystem,' he said. The direst conservation problem in the world right now, whether it’s in congested parts of the world or the most remote, is plastic pollution, he said. The problem is 'pervasive.' 'I’ve gone to the bottom of the earth in the ocean, hundreds of feet in search of a new species of fish,' he said. 'We didn’t find the fish, but we found plastics.' 'We are at a moment where we’re pulling the bootstraps up and snapping our suspenders...That may not be a bad thing,' he said. Corwin was once one of those children. Growing up in Boston, his only experience with nature was at the Franklin Park Zoo. He grew to love snakes, telling the magazine for his grad school alma mater, the University of Massachusetts, in 2017 that they’re the reason for where he is today. At the Thursday reception, Corwin even sported a black and gray T-shirt that was screen-printed with a Bothrops asper, also known as a fer-de-lance, which is a venomous viper found in southern Mexico and South America. Corwin had just returned from a trip to Australia to film the world’s largest shark sanctuary. While he has the great fortune of traveling to all corners of the earth, Corwin takes pride in teaching someone to be less afraid of the creatures, like snakes, that may be less inviting than a sea turtle or manatee. 'You cannot protect what you do not love,' Corwin said. 'You’ll never get to love it if you don’t get to meet it and learn about it.” Hannah Morse reports for the Palm Beach Post.

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Executive Director - Friends of Gumbo Limbo

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Upcoming Environmental Events:

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 13th - 5:30 pm - Recycling, recycling and more recycling (Fort Walton Beach)–. Join Earth Ethics, Inc as Jim Reece, Recycling Coordinator for Okaloosa County, talks to us about what can and can't be recycled, how to reduce, refuse, and reuse. Megan Betancourt Founder and Director of Coastal Community Clean up will discuss how they got started, what they do, and how you can get involved. Where: Enlightened Studios – 142 Miracle Strip Parkway – Fort Walton Beach – 32548. Let us know if you plan to join us. Get your ticket by visiting the link here, or check it out on Facebook here.

November 14 - 5:30pm-7:30pm - Walton Solar Co-Op Information Sessions (Santa Rosa Beach) - Join Earth Ethics, Inc to learn more about how you can go solar! Meeting at the Coastal Branch Library, 437 Greenway Trail, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459. Learn more here , or contact Mary Gutierrez at earthethicsaction@gmail.com

November 14 - 12:45pm-2:45pm - Villages Environmental Discussions Group (The Villages) - Villages Environmental Discussions Group will hold its next meeting Wednesday, Nov. 14. at the Belvedere Library, 325 Belvedere Blvd., The Villages, FL. Two fabulous guest speakers will be visiting us: Melissa Hill of Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT) will describe the work of this organization who recently celebrated its 30th Anniversary! Melissa will also describe the work she performs as project coordinator of Nesting Sea Turtle Conservancy. Our next speaker will travel to The Villages from St. Augustine, FL. Maia McGuire, Ph.D., UF/IFAS Sea Grant Extension Agent, will give an update on the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project. This program is FREE and open to the public.  Bring along a friend. Please send an r.s.v.p. to  resourcewisdom@gmail.com.

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.

November 27 from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. – FREE WORKSHOP -- Palm Beach County 2070:  What’s Next?  (Palm Beach Gardens) - Join 1000 Friends of Florida and the North County Neighborhood Coalition on Tuesday, November 27 to identify the steps needed now to promote a more sustainable future for Palm Beach County. We want to hear from you about what you think the biggest obstacles are to sustainability and what needs to be done, both short- and long-term, to overcome them.   The workshop is at Nova’s Palm Beach Campus, 11501 North Military Trail, Palm Beach Gardens.  This event is free, no registration is required, and light refreshments will be served.  Visit  www.1000friendsofflorida.org/pbco2070plan to find out more.

November 28 from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. – FREE WORKSHOP – Martin County 2070:  What’s Next? (Stuart) - Join 1000 Friends and The Guardians of Martin County on Wednesday, November 28 to share your thoughts on steps needed now to promote a more sustainable future for Martin County. We want to hear from you about what you think are the biggest obstacles to sustainability in Martin County and what needs to be done, both short- and long-term, to overcome them.  The workshop is at the Susan H. Johnson Auditorium, Wolf High-Technology Center, 2400 SE Salerno Road, Stuart.  This event is free, no registration is required, and light refreshments will be served.  Visit www.1000friendsofflorida.org/mco2070plan to find out more.

December 1, 12:00pm-4:00pm - NFLT J.J. Grey Concert- (Jacksonville) - The North Florida Land Trust presents Jacksonville-hailing J.J. Grey, singer and songwriter described by his fans as ‘the North Florida sage and soul-bent swamp rocker’ who has gained worldwide acclaim with his band, JJ Grey and Mofro. This December’s concert brings Grey back home to his beloved roots and will feature JJ Grey in a solo performance. Grey shares a commitment to the land of his north Florida home that fits perfectly with North Florida Land Trust’s mission to protect special places in the region. Grey often sings about the changing landscape in northern Florida and his soulfulness and deep beliefs come through in his music. The concert will be held at Congaree and Penn Farm & Mills: 11830 Old Kings Road, Jacksonville, FL 32219. For more information and tickets, visit the NFLT site here.

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.


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

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

Tell Congress to Stop Sabal Trail

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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