Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “This is a story about free speech, government secrecy and a fight over tens of millions in taxpayer funds… But the most important aspect of this story is about Florida’s water supply and how a lawsuit involving a company called Lake Point Restoration may upend a fundamental rule about Florida water – namely, that water belongs to the public, not wealthy businessmen… No one is allowed to sell water he or she happens to find, not without proving to state officials that doing so is in the public interest… But that, say water experts, may be changing, thanks in part to this case… Calling the operation Lake Point Restoration, Lindemann’s group wanted to dig up rocks to sell for building roads and other construction projects. The pits left by the mining would store water from Lake Okeechobee when the lake got too full, as well as clean its pollution… The state water agency, which is run by gubernatorial appointees, had been under fire for years for allowing the dumping of polluted lake water into sensitive estuaries… The agency wanted to buy the Lake Point property, too, but lacked the money. Lake Point and the agency signed an agreement in 2008 to work together… Lindemann says it was hailed as a template for future public-private partnerships for Everglades restoration… In 2011, Lake Point contacted the nation’s largest private utility company, American Water, about joining forces to launch a new business venture: selling the water in the pits… ‘The money they were going to pay us was for storage, cleaning and conveyance of the water,’ [Lindemann] said. ‘You’re not allowed to sell water in Florida.’ But that’s not the way others saw it, including the South Florida Water Management District. Lake Point hadn’t sought the permits that utilities are supposed to get… Vergara said, ‘over the last eight years everything has been evolving.’ For instance, he said, some Florida cities have been claiming that reclaimed water from their sewer plants belongs to them, not to the public, so they can sell it for a profit. Utilities have been pushing to bend the rules so they can supply water to paying customers they weren’t supposed to serve.” Read Only in Florida: Battle over water, free speech pits billionaire vs. activist
Teresa Stepzinski reports for The Florida Times Union – “The chicks signify the first time White Oak has successfully bred whooping cranes. The family of four ultimately will be released into the wild through a partnership with the International Crane Foundation… Hemlock and Grasshopper and their chicks are part of the Eastern Migratory Population, one of two experimental release programs that seek to protect the existence of the endangered wetland bird… [O]nly about 700 to 800 whooping cranes remain in North America because of hunting, power line collisions, habitat reduction and encroachment.” Read Whooping crane chicks hatch at White Oak in conservation milestone
Kathleen Sloan reports for Vero News – “County Commissioner Bob Salari raised the alarm last week about deteriorating conditions at Blue Cypress Lake, where increasing phosphorous levels have raised the specter of algae blooms that could kill off plant and animal life and be dangerous to boaters and fishermen. St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman attributes the surge in phosphorus to human sludge being used as fertilizer by farms in the watershed… The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has greatly increased the number of sludge land-application permits in this watershed since the legislature outlawed the practice in the Lake Okeechobee, Kissimmee River watersheds about five years ago because of nutrient pollution... Utility companies have to dispose of the sludge and pay farmers to take it off their hands.” Read Signs of increased pollution at Blue Cypress Lake reported
Dave Berman reports for Florida Today – “Brevard County commissioners are one step away from approving a five-month moratorium on the installation of conventional septic tank systems in much of the county… The measure is designed to reduce the amount of harmful nitrogen from entering the lagoon and other waterways… By a 3-2 vote, commissioners gave preliminary approval to the 150-day moratorium… The ordinance requires two readings, two hearings and two votes at two separate meetings… Barfield proposed the moratorium… as a prelude to a permanent county ordinance regulating septic tanks… Under the moratorium proposal, there would be a five-month ban on the permitting and installation of conventional septic systems on the beachside areas of Brevard County and on Merritt Island, as well as in mainland areas within 50 meters of the Indian River Lagoon system and its tributaries. Developers, builders and homeowners still would be able to install the more elaborate septic systems that are designed to remove 65 percent of the nitrogen content… The moratorium would affect installation of new and replacement septic tanks… The county also would consider the feasibility of extending county sewer service to ‘areas of high risk for septic pollution’ that currently don’t have sewer lines and how that would be paid for… The advisory Brevard County Local Planning Agency… unanimously voted against recommending the moratorium until the agency receives additional input.” Read Septic tank moratorium moved to final vote, Isnardi withdraws support
Devin Turk reports for NBC 2 – “The South Florida Water Management District just finished a $37 million plan to restore wetlands in Bonita Springs… Shaw’s Bonita Springs neighborhood was underwater for weeks after Hurricane Irma… That’s one of the reasons the South Florida Water Management District bought more than 400 acres of land for restoration… [T]he district just finished restoring the land, filling in… canals and grading the roads back to their natural state. ‘While it’s not designed for flood protection, we will be capturing and storing water on this property…,’ The project will also provide habitat for endangered species and refill aquifers. In the next two months, new walking trails will open up to the public.” Read Bonita Springs wetlands restored to prevent flooding
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “A U.S. Senate committee… called the Army Corps of Engineers to ‘expedite construction of a reservoir’ designed to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges. The project is included in the water resources bill… by the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee – six lines… as a ‘placeholder.’… If the Corps approves the project, the reservoir can be part of the Water Resources Development Act expected to go to Congress in fall. The proposed legislation doesn’t include any money for the reservoir because the project hasn’t gotten a green light from the Corps. The Florida legislation authorizing the project calls for the state and the federal government to each pay from $700 million to $800 million.” Read Reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges makes U.S. Senate panel’s WRDA water bill
Nicole Rodriguez reports for the Herald Tribune – “A state judge… rejected a challenge by Siesta Key residents attempting to block state permission for the dredging of Big Pass needed for the city to conduct a long-term beach renourishment project on severely eroded Lido Key.” Read Judge approves permit to renourish Lido Key
John Englander writes for the Sun Sentinel – “As an expert on sea-level rise, I am very aware of the growing concern about increased flooding in South Florida. First, it’s important to establish some facts and dispel some myths… Although South Florida is often thought of as being particularly exposed, we are not alone. Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, and the Panhandle are highly vulnerable, too… The rewards will go to those people, companies, and communities that plan for the future. What can we do? – Assess flood vulnerability… - Beyond your own property boundary, look at how flooding will affect roads, utilities, and infrastructure near you… - [D]ecide if and when it is time to relocate… I recommend that communities should begin planning for the first 3 feet of sea-level rise as soon as possible, and more when feasible.” Read Sea-level rise presents new opportunities for South Florida
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
May 16, 10:00 am – Attend a webinar, pass a test, and become a Certified Stormwater Volunteer. You’ll learn the federal, state, and local requirements for stormwater and how to report illicit violations. Annual (non-voting) membership with the Stormwater Compliance Center is $50 and includes additional webinar training, certificate, safety vest, handbook, & quarterly newsletter. For more information, call (888) 527 – 5404. To sign up, email Betty@npdes.com and include your name, address, and phone number in the email.
May 17-20 – Attend The Florida Native Plant Society’s 38th Annual Conference in Miami. For more information, click here.
May 19, 10:00 am – Participate in Hands Across the Sand at Pensacola Beach. Hands Across the Sand is an annual gathering of people who come together to express their opposition to dirty fossil fuels and to champion a new era of clean, renewable energy. There will be speeches, snacks, live music, and more. For more information, click here.
May 19, 11:00 am – Participate in Hands Across the Sand at Fort Walton Beach. Hands Across the Sand is an annual gathering of people who come together to express their opposition to dirty fossil fuels and to champion a new era of clean, renewable energy. For more information, click here.
May 22 – June 23 – 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.
May 23, 5:30 pm – Attend Before the Flood at the Pensacola Public Library (239 N. Spring St.) in Pensacola. Before the Flood is a film that follows actor Leonardo DiCaprio to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. Following the film, 350 Pensacola and Northwest Florida Move to Amend will discuss how the influence of corporate money in politics is delaying action on climate change and how the public can take action to free the political system of that influence. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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