Charlie Reed reports for the Osceola News-Gazette – “Osceola County Commission Chairman Fred Hawkins Jr. and other officials are meeting with the Florida Communities Trust… to discuss amending various interagency agreements that protect Split Oak Forest from development… Osceola County is exploring modifications that could allow the eastward extension of Osceola Parkway to go through the publicly owned conservation area. Hawkins also chairs the Central Florida Expressway Authority, the board that will ultimately decide the new road’s alignment. The Florida Communities Trust… awarded $5 million in loans to Osceola and Orange counties through a grant program… that helped the local governments purchase Split Oak. It stipulated that the land would forever remain a conservation area open to the public… Split Oak also was established in conjunction with the [FWC] and designed to mitigate the environmental impacts of the anticipated development in the once-rural area southeast of Orlando International Airport… The upcoming May 15 meeting… will not be open to the public… When considering modifications to state agreements, such as those who helped fund and establish Split Oak, the trust is bound by Florida Administrative Code 62-818… The code states that there must be ‘no reasonable alternatives’ to infringing upon the preservation site for linear facilities such as roads. The Osceola County Commission… agreed to work with Tavistock Development Company to ‘lead a public process to get the associated land in the Split Oak Forest released for right-of-way’ to extend Osecola Parkway… The county’s deal with Tavistock was negotiated by Hawkins in private meetings with the developer. He brought it to the County Commission during the last 30 minutes of the April 16 meeting reserved for commissioner comments. At that time, Hawkins presented the commission with a letter from Tavistock… that outlined the terms of the agreement while Charles Lee from Audubon Florida… gave a formal presentation that supported the deal. Hawkins sent Lee a copy of the Tavistock letter the Sunday before the meeting that asked him ‘not to go public,’ according to an email exchange between the two men obtained by the News-Gazette. Lee told Hawkins he would keep quiet… Hawkins also sent the Tavistock letter and his exchange with Lee to Mike Horner… Horner has worked as a lobbyist for various government agencies in Osceola in recent years. He is a former state representative and former president of the Kissimmee/Osceola Chamber of commerce, where he now serves as a board member.” Read Osceola officials exploring ways to amend protections on Split Oak Forest
Austin L. Miller reports for the Ocala Star Banner – “Dunnellon city leaders and other residents voiced opposition to the proposed Coastal Connector highway… Dunnellon Mayor Walt Green reasoned that, during an evacuation, motorists need to travel north, not east. He said there are other roads under the state’s control that can be improved, instead of building roads that would snake through the Dunnellon area. Councilman Rick Hancock said projects similar to the one being pushed by state officials continue to ‘take away from public lands’ and over time affect trails and other sensitive areas. Hancock said the new roads means new development… About 70 people attended the workshop… They had concerns about harming the environment and uprooting families, homes and traditions that have been around for decades.” Read Coastal Connector gets cold welcome in Dunnellon
News Service of Florida reports – “Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are expected next month to consider whether to spend nearly $11 million to help limit future development on four ranches and farms in four counties. The proposals would add 8,388 acres to the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, which through the use of “conservation easements” restricts future development but allows owners to continue using land for such things as agricultural operations.” Read Rick Scott, Cabinet eye land conservation projects
Ron Littlepage writes – “The recent investigative piece published in The Florida Times-Union, written by reporters Nate Monroe and Christopher Hong after months of research, clearly shows the harm that has been done to the St. Johns by JaxPort and its partner in decades of destruction, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The current dredge to deepen the channel from 40 feet to 47 feet will only worsen the damage… [A]s the Times-Union report illustrated, the flooding wrought by Hurricane Irma last year is likely a foreshadowing of what’s to come as the dredging has contributed to stronger tides and more intense storm surges… You should be angry that the decision to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to deepen the channel was made by unelected officials on the JaxPort board. You should be angry that elected officials in City Hall are doing nothing to stop this travesty while giving lip service in praise of the St. Johns as Jacksonville’s greatest natural resources. And you should be angry enough to pay heed to this paragraph in the Times-Union report: ‘Hard to defeat in the courts, wielding immense discretion over how it designs projects, experts said there is nonetheless one thing the Army Corps does tend to respond to: public pressure.’ Demand that elected officials and those seeking election this fall put a stop to this fool’s mission that cares more about dollars today than the future of the river. Flood the streets of Downtown with protest because the floods are coming if the dredge isn’t stopped and the damage of the past repaired.” Read The St. Johns be damned; it’s always been about the money
Caitie Switalski & Daniel Rivero report for WLRN – “[A]n April 20 letter to the state from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggested that Florida officials have been misinterpreting guidance of how and when to perform water quality tests… Corbin performed independent water tests… [O]ne test he sent out to National Testing Laboratories, an Ohio company certified to perform drinking water tests by the state of Florida, found that the water contained over six times the EPA limit for trihalomethanes, a class of chemicals that the EPA says can cause ‘liver, kidney or central nervous system problems’ and an ‘increased risk of cancer.’ The same test also found the water had more than triple EPA limits for haloacetic acids, which are also known to increase the risk of cancer… Corbin’s test was performed during what is known as a “chlorine burn,” when water systems use chlorine instead of chloramine as a secondary disinfectant. Fort Lauderdale typically does this during two five-week stretches per year. Trihalomethanes, which form when organic material reacts with chlorine, are known to spike during those periods… [T]he Department of Health in Broward County said that it does not test for trihalomethanes during chlorine burns, since the burns are considered ‘an abnormal operating condition.’ Since Fort Lauderdale typically dedicates 10 weeks a year to chlorine burns, that means no tirhalomethane tests are performed for nearly a fifth of the year, when levels might be highest… In 2016, the EPA cited Fort Lauderdale with four separate violations for failing to adequately monitor E. coli levels. It was previously hit with the same violation once in 2015 and twice in 2011... In 2014 and 2012 the EPA hit the city with health violations for having elevated levels of coliform in its drinking water… Fort Lauderdale came under fire last year when a Sun Sentinel report showed that the city had diverted $90.4 million from the water-sewer fund to pay for unrelated city services since 2012…” Read Florida May Not be Testing Drinking Water Correctly, Says Government Memo
Andy Reid writes for the Sun Sentinel – “[T]he entire mega mall proposed near the edge of the Everglades should be built in the shape of a giant, extended middle finger. That’s the real message this enormous retail folly sends. It’s a monument to the notion that we will build whatever we want, wherever we want, no matter the consequences… It was one thing to drain half of the Everglades through the decades to make way for farming and South Florida’s out-of-control development. At least we got food and places to live as a tradeoff for wrecking the River of Grass. But now we are going to take land that used to be part of the Everglades to build a mall complex big enough for an indoor ski slope… At a time when online shopping is shuttering other malls across the country, American Dream Miami developers say more people will flock to their mall each year than Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Seems like economic Fantasy Land… Developers will keep angling to use every bit of land left east of what remains of the Everglades, even as they keep trying to push that dividing line farther into the struggling swamp.” Read Proposed mega mall near the Everglades a monument to over-the-top development
The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board writes – “Congress must write a new farm bill this year, so Congress finally can reform the sugar program that enriches a few growers in Florida, but keeps prices artificially high for everyone else… Though the government is supposed to operate the sugar program at no cost to taxpayers, that doesn’t always happen. The Department of Agriculture must buy unused sugar – through price support loans – and in 2013 the department lost $280 million. More important is the cumulative harm from supporting sugarcane and sugar beet producers to such a degree. It begins with higher costs. The Congressional Research Service report included an estimate from the International Trade Commission that just ending import restrictions would have saved American consumers nearly $1.7 billion between 2012 and 2017. In Florida, the harm also is environmental… Not one member of the Florida congressional delegation is among the 78 co-sponsors of House Resolution 4265 – the Sugar Policy Modernization Act that is before Congress… U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, who represents many of Negron’s constituents, said last week that he would vote for the… Act. Still, reform will be tough. The House Agriculture Commission referred the farm bill without any changes to the sugar program. On balance, though, the evidence supports reform. Too many of the sugar program’s benefits go to the producers, not the public.” Read Help Florida, nation: Reform sugar program
Tom Palmer writes for the News Chief – “Morrison, who died in March at the age of 99, taught the first state-funded pilot environmental education class in Babson Park and elsewhere in Polk County… At one time her home… was a refuge for injured wildlife that people brought to her in hopes she could heal them so they could be returned to the wild… I recall calling the Morrison home often when I was working on various environmental stories over the years… Although Ken was the one who held the titles – editor of Audubon magazine, president of Florida Audubon… I suspected she was just as involved behind the scenes and sometimes on the front lines. The recollections at her memorial confirmed that… Her local efforts ranged from well-publicized campaigns such as the protection of the Green Swamp and Crooked Lake to opposing damaging rezoning proposals and educating people she met about the importance of recycling.” Read Helen Morrison was a force of nature
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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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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