FCC News Brief - March 16, 2018

WTXL reports – “Several organizations are holding a conference on the Apalachicola River. According to organizers, the conference will bring renewed attention to ecological, cultural and economic importance to the river, floodplain, and bay. ‘The nutrients that come through this river supports the entire eastern gulf,’ said one organizer, Joe Crozier. ‘Which is billions of dollars of fishing industry… This provides a huge importance not only to… local species but also the economy.’ The conference is being held Wednesday[, Thursday, and Friday] at Florida State University. Hosts include the Florida Conservation Coalition, [Apalachicola Riverkeeper,] Tall Timbers, and the Florida Wildlife Federation among others.” Read Conference being held at FSU on the Apalachicola River

The News Service of Florida reports – “Even if the U.S. Supreme Court gives Florida a favorable ruling in its lawsuit against Georgia… , the decision likely would result in more litigation and new legal challenges involving the decades-old water war between the states. Those were the observations of five legal experts who on Thursday addressed a conference… on the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay system. The conference was put together by the Florida Conservation Coalition, a group headed by former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham… Although the lawyers on Thursday’s panel and Florida officials have expressed optimism about the case based on the tone of justices’ questions during oral arguments, Jonathan Williams, a former deputy solicitor general for the state, said he was taking a cautious view. ‘Oral arguments are often not great predictors of what the ultimate outcome is going to be, particularly in cases that are as complicated as this one is,’ said Williams, who was involved in the case while he was with the Attorney General’s Office. He is now in private practice with the firm Lash & Goldberg. Although the arguments ‘went well,’ Williams said, ‘there are a lot of unsettled issues in this case right now... the special master will have to work through in the event the case gets remanded to him.’ If the case continues, a key issue in developing an ‘equitable apportionment’ of water in the river system would be weighing the benefits to Florida against the cost to Georgia. Florida has said a diminished water flow has harmed the Apalachicola ecosystem as well as the seafood industry, while Georgia has said a consumption cap could hurt the economic growth of the Atlanta region and impact a multibillion-dollar agriculture industry in Southwest Georgia. Richard Hamann, a retired law professor from the University of Florida, said he is ‘pretty optimistic’ about Florida’s case… But if Florida winds the current case, he likened it to ‘the dog chasing the car.’ ‘When you catch it, what do you get?’ he asked. He said it may be difficult developing an accurate mechanism to measure a consumption cap… [T]here are relatively few water cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court to give a clear indication of the outcome of the Florida-Georgia case… Melissa Samet, a lawyer with the National Wildlife Federation, described a related lawsuit challenging a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water-management plan for the river basin issued last year… She said the water control manual, as well as the environmental statement, failed to adequately assess the impact of the diminished water flow into the Apalachicola system, including its impact on plant and animal life, and did not explore ‘reasonable’ alternatives. ‘The fundamental goal of our lawsuit is really to ensure that the Corps is using the legal tools that it has available to it, to issue a revised water control manual that restores a more natural flow pattern to the Apalachicola,’ she said.” Read ‘Water War’ Could Keep Rolling Along

Tom Flanigan reports for WFSU – “A three-day conference on the Apalachicola River basin and its ecosystem is underway at Florida State University. The first day of the event (Wednesday, 3/14) focused on the many natural wonders unique to the area. Speakers included botanists, zoologists and hydrologists. All describing a delicately interlocked system of animals, plants and geology that can’t be found anywhere else. Tommy Thompson, a paddle sportsman who knows the Apalachicola well, was still impressed by what he heard. ‘We just have to be aware of how important this entire ecosystem is for the region, not just the river…’ he remarked… The conference wraps up Friday with an extended discussion of old and new threats to that ecosystem that might be reduced by better decisions on the part of both the public and private sector.” Read FSU Hosts Apalachicola River Conference

Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “Florida legislators agreed to spend $100 million to revive the state’s popular environmental land-buying program. But legislators also cleared the way for issuing quicker permits to destroy wetlands and allowing more dumping of treated sewage in the state’s primary drinking water source. The $100.8 million that legislators approved for Florida Forever… is ‘better than last year,’ said Manley Fuller of the Florida Wildlife Federation, noting that last year’s total was zero. ‘But it’s far short of what we’re seeking through legal action.’… Meanwhile,… the Legislature approved a bill – HB 1149 – that would encourage pumping treated sewage into the state’s aquifer to offset increased withdrawals of fresh water. By injecting the effluent, the state could continue approving new water-use permits for developers as new residents continue flooding into the state… [D]rinking water standards… don’t require screening out antibiotics, antidepressants and other drugs that routinely wind up in the sewer system because they’re carried in human waste… A second bill that drew strong objections from environmental groups, HB 7043, also passed just before session’s end. It would allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to take over issuing federal wetlands destruction permits from the federal Army Corps of Engineers instead of making developers seek permits from two different agencies… DEP officials assured legislators they could take over issuing thousands of federal permits without increasing their budget or hiring more people. However, since Scott took office in 2011, the size of the DEP has shrunk by more than 600 employees, dropping from about 4,500 to 2,900. He slashed funding for the state’s water management districts, which also issue some wetland permits, and vetoed funding for the regional planning councils that helped guide growth… DEP supported the wetlands permitting bill, but Scott has not indicated whether he will sign it.” Read Legislature funds Florida Forever but allows sewage into aquifer

Laura Ruane reports for News Press – “[T]he Sanibel Island rice rat [is] strongly suspected of being a distinctive subspecies that lives only on the island. This critter’s on the state’s threatened species list and is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. How rare? Still anyone’s guess… What is known is that the rat seems to favor grassy wetlands – a habitat that’s shrunk considerably on the island over the past 80 years… Boone’s delighted that refuge managers are launching a program to make a section of the tract more like the freshwater marsh it was before Lee County Mosquito Control in the 1950s dug ponds and canals to drain the land. This includes filling in Ani Pond and taking out nearby trees, chiefly buttonwoods and willows. The trees, some 20 feet tall, crowd out swaths of cordgrass where the rats seem to hang out.” Read Rare and reclusive Sanibel Island rice rat becomes focal point for marshland makeovers

Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The South Florida Water Management District board… unanimously approved a design for the (reservoir) project developed over the last several months by district scientists and engineers. The project’s plans are to be given to Ryan Fisher, who heads the Corps as acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, by March 30. The Corps is scheduled to review and forward the plans to Congress for inclusion in the upcoming Water Resources and Development Act by Oct. 1… U.S. Rep. Brian Mast… has requested a “placeholder” for the project in the WRDA to make sure it’s included. Otherwise, the project would have to wait two more years for the 2020 legislation.” Read Lake Okeechobee reservoir to cut discharges approved by SFWMD; heads to Army Corps

Danielle Muoio and Marie J. French report for Politico Florida – “The Trump administration may have the power to control what happens in federal waters, but state leaders are vowing to make it as difficult as possible for the White House to advance its offshore drilling plan.” Read States vow to fight offshore drilling by any means at their disposal

Chris Mooney reports for The Washington Post – “The country’s top independent scientific advisory body has largely approved a major climate report being prepared by scientists within the Trump administration… The document, which is in its fourth installment, closely surveys how a changing climate is affecting individual U.S. states, regions, and economic and industrial sectors. The final version is expected later this year… The report… says U.S. temperatures will rise markedly in coming decades… It predicts that Northeastern fisheries will be stressed by warmer ocean waters, that the Southeast will suffer from worsening water shortages, that worse extreme-weather events will tax water and other types of infrastructure, and far more… ‘Coastal ecosystems are being transformed, degraded, or lost due to climate change impacts, particularly sea level rise and higher numbers of extreme weather events,’ the document states. ‘As the pace of coastal flooding and erosion accelerates, climate impacts along our coasts are exacerbating preexisting social inequities as communities face difficult questions on determining who will pay for current and future adaptation strategies and if, how, or when to relocate vulnerable communities,’ it continues. Regarding agricultural communities, the draft states that ‘reduced crop yields, intensifying wildfire on rangelands, depletion of surface water supplies, and acceleration of aquifer depletion are anticipated with increased frequency and duration of drought.’” Read The government is nearly done with a major report on climate change. Trump isn’t going to like it.





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Upcoming Environmental Events    


March 14-16, 8:30 am – Attend The Endangered Apalachicola Conference in Tallahassee. The Apalachicola ecosystem has incredible biodiversity and once provided for a booming oyster industry. Unfortunately, this ecosystem is now struggling to survive due to a lack of fresh water. The problem is so dire, Florida is suing Georgia over its water use! The Florida Conservation Coalition invites you to come learn more about this endangered ecosystem. After Thursday’s overview of challenges facing the Apalachicola, FCC Chair and former Florida Governor, Bob Graham, will host a special keynote dinner. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

March 17, 9:00 am – Participate in St. Johns River Clean Up & Celebration: Goodbys Creek Paddle & Clean Up in Jacksonville. For more information, click here.

March 17 – April 17 – Solar United Neighbors is hosting several solar co-op information sessions around Florida throughout the next few months. Attendees will learn about solar equipment, financing, and the benefits of joining a solar co-op. For a complete list of sessions, click here.

March 24, 8:30 pm – Participate in Earth Hour 2018. Each year, millions of people, businesses, and landmarks set aside an hour to host events, switch off their lights, and generally make noise to shine a light on the need for climate action. For more information, click here or contact Mary Gutierrez at eartheathicsaction@gmail.com.

March 26, 6:00 pm – Attend a talk by Maya van Rossum, Delaware Riverkeeper, on The Green Amendment: Our Right to a Healthy Environment at the Working Food Community Center (219 NW 10th Avenue) in Gainesville. Doors open at 5:30 PM.

April 5, 6:30 pm – Attend the Sierra Club Adventure Coast Committee’s meeting at the Harvey Martin Democratic Center (3432 Deltona Boulevard) in Spring Hill. The meeting will feature the founder and national president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Lynn Ringenberg. Social begins at 6:30, followed by the meeting at 7. For more information, email sierraadventurecoastcc@gmail.com or call (352) 277 – 3330.

April 14, 11:00 am – Attend the Last Straw Campaign Kickoff in Pensacola. Learn how you can modify your lifestyle to say no to straws and what you can do to get others on board. For more information, click here or contact Mary Gutierrez at earthethicsaction@gmail.com.


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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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