FCC News Brief - August 16, 2018

From 1000 Friends of Florida - “Florida's environment is the foundation of our quality of life and our economy. It's a treasured asset for longtime residents and a magnet for new Floridians and tourists, both arriving in huge numbers. But Florida's environment faces serious risks. It's critical that all of our state's elected leaders are aware of these risks and ready to face them with decisive action. Time is of the essence. Moving decisively on these issues now is essential to avoid disaster. Today, August 15, a coalition of environmental and public interest organizations in Florida are releasing a report entitled ‘Trouble in Paradise,’ available at http://troubleinparadiseflorida.org/.  This report outlines six major statewide issues threatening our state's environment and our residents' quality of life. The report also identifies four of Florida's many natural resource areas that are at risk and deserve special attention from state leaders. It was spearheaded by the late Nathaniel Pryor Reed, who founded 1000 Friends of Florida and continued to serve as its Chairman Emeritus until his passing. ‘Trouble in Paradise’ doesn't just spotlight environmental problems. It also lays out a path to solutions by naming six essential policy goals. To achieve them, the next governor will need to appoint committed, capable leaders to key state and regional agencies. Legislators will need to provide the necessary legislation and funding, and local leaders will need to tackle these issues in their communities and regions…” Read Trouble in Paradise.

Danny McAuliffe reports for Florida Politics - “The Florida Cabinet is moving forward with the purchase of a large parcel of land in Highlands County to ensure its preservation. On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott and Cabinet members Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam authorized the $5,528,250 buy of the specified 2,457 acres of ranchland, known as the Sandy Gully property. Funding from the state Rural and Family Lands Protection program will be used to cover the cost of the purchase. Known as a conservation easement, the buy allows agricultural operations to continue on the Sandy Gully property but restricts future development. A potential federal grant totaling $3,312,500 could help offset that cost. Species of black bear and gopher tortoise — both considered rare — have been present on the property. In the past, the owners of the land also have identified sightings of sandhill cranes, bald eagles, Sherman’s fox squirrels, eastern indigo snakes, gopher tortoises and Florida panthers…” Read Cabinet approves latest conservation easement.

Martin E. Comas reports for the Orlando Sentinel- “In a chamber packed with hundreds of residents, Seminole County commissioners Tuesday unanimously rejected plans for a mega-development of hundreds of homes in the county’s rural area just east of the Econlockhatchee River. Known as River Cross and proposed by former state legislator Chris Dorworth, the proposed development calls for 600 single-family homes, 270 townhouses, 500 apartments and 1.5 million square feet for shops, eateries and offices – within towers up to nearly 8-stories high – on 291 acres west of County Road 491 and north of the Orange County line. Dorworth’s request was to change the land zoning to allow the project to move forward. But commissioners said no, calling the application incomplete and the development inappropriate for the area. ‘This development is not necessary,’ Commissioner Lee Constantine said. After the meeting, Dorworth said he would file a lawsuit in federal court as early as next week challenging the commission’s decision, saying Seminole’s rural boundary violates the Fair Housing Act. Hundreds of residents — many wearing lime green shirts that read: ‘Keep Seminole Rural’ — attended the meeting that ran for nearly 8 hours. And dozens of them spoke out against the project calling it urban sprawl and saying it would put too many houses and townhouses in an area that is zoned for one home per 5 acres…” Read Seminole commissioners unanimously reject controversial River Cross project.

Tohan, Rothenstein, Szalay, and Macfarlan for the National Law Review- “On June 26, 2018, in one of his final acts as Administrator of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt issued a memorandum that has set in motion a process to amend the regulations that govern the agency’s exercise of its ‘veto’ authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act.  The memo directs EPA staff to prepare a proposal, within six months, that would potentially curtail EPA’s authority to effectively bar development projects that require a Section 404 dredge-and-fill permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As background, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act authorizes the Corps (and state agencies with delegated permitting authority) to issue permits authorizing the discharge of dredged or fill material into regulated waters at ‘specified disposal sites.’ However, the statute provides EPA the authority to ‘prohibit’ or ‘withdrawal’ the specification of any area as a disposal site when it determines that a proposed discharge will have an unacceptable adverse effect on water supplies, fisheries, wildlife, or recreational areas. This is commonly known as EPA’s ‘veto’ authority because the EPA can effectively veto a project that would otherwise be authorized under Clean Water Act permits issued by the Corps by prohibiting construction in areas for which there is no reasonably available alternative disposal site. EPA currently administers its veto authority through regulations that were last amended nearly four decades ago, in 1979. To date, EPA has used its final veto authority only 13 times. The new memo grows out of concerns surrounding EPA’s prior use of its veto authority before a Section 404 permit application had been filed—i.e., a ‘preemptive’ veto—or after a permit had already been issued—i.e., a ‘retroactive’ veto—rather than in the midst of the permitting process….” Read EPA to ‘veto’ its own veto authority under the Clean Water Act?

Joel Achenbach, Kate Furby, and Alex Horton report for the Washington Post - “Florida’s governor this week made official what residents of southwest Florida already knew: The bloom of toxic algae that has darkened gulf waters is an emergency. The red tide has made breathing difficult for locals, scared away tourists, and strewn popular beaches with the stinking carcasses of fish, eels, porpoises, turtles, manatees and one 26-foot whale shark. Gov. Rick Scott (R) late Monday declared a state of emergency in seven counties stretching from Tampa Bay south to the fringe of the Everglades. Scott promised $1.5 million in emergency funding. The governor is facing Sen. Bill Nelson (D) this fall at the ballot box in a contest for the senate seat Nelson has held for three terms. Each man has accused the other of failing to tackle the red-tide calamity and the simultaneous bloom of a different type of algae that is clogging rivers and canals and putting a scum on top of Lake Okeechobee...The algae is found in marine environments for most of the year, but the past two months have produced high concentrations, said Kelly Richmond, a spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The duration of blooms can be affected by sunlight, nutrient and salinity content, she said. Scientists are trying to figure out why, exactly, the current red tide along the Gulf Coast has been so protracted and deadly. State officials and scientists point out that, at base, this is a natural phenomenon. Fish die-offs were noted by Spanish explorers in the 1500s and have been well documented since the 1840s. But the incidences of red tides seem to have increased since the 1950s and 1960s. Climate change could be a factor; warmer waters, up to a certain point, are congenial to algal growth. The Gulf of Mexico’s surface temperature has warmed by about two degrees Fahrenheit since 1977. There’s a more direct human handprint on the current crisis: Florida’s landscape and the flow of water have been radically altered by agriculture, canals, ditches, dikes, levees and the sprawling housing developments that have sprouted as the state’s population has boomed. Bartleson said Lee County used to be 50 percent wetlands and is now about 10 percent wetlands…” Read Florida declares state of emergency as red tide kills animals and disrupts tourism.

Tyler Treadway reports for the TCPalm  - “ How high and how low can Lake Okeechobee go? Or is the better question: How high and how low should Lake Okeechobee go? To help prevent toxic algae blooms like the one the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers are now suffering, there are proposals to: 1) Drain the lake down as much as possible during the dry season so it can hold more water during the summer wet season, 2) Hold more water in the lake during the wet season once repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around it are complete. Every extra foot of water that’s taken off the lake during the dry season or added to the lake during the wet season equals about 152.2 billion gallons of water that won’t have to be discharged to the estuaries...The Corps says managing Lake O is a delicate balancing act: Making sure there’s enough water during the dry season for those who need it-not including farmers, Indian reservations, and municipalities, all south of the lake- but not too much when summer rains and possibly hurricanes can threaten a dike failure that could lead to lost lives and property…” Read Preventing Lake Okeechobee discharges, algae blooms: How high, how low should you go?  

From Our Readers

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Job Openings

Florida Springs Council Executive Director

Organizing Representative for Sierra Club Florida’s Clean Energy for All Campaign

Upcoming Environmental Events    

August 17, 4:30 pm- 6:30 pm (CST) - Apalachicola Riverkeeper Meet & Greet: Learn more about Apalachicola Riverkeeper’s current and upcoming projects, including this year’s RiverTrek launch. Enjoy Wine & Beer, Tea & Soda along with light snacks. There will be door prizes! Event will be at the W.T. Neal Civic Center in Blountstown.

September 24, 7:00-9:00 pm - Water Voices Program: Clear Choices for Clean Water: The Ichetucknee Alliance resumes its popular Water Voices speaker series this fall with a program designed to inspire people to take action to solve the problems that plague the Ichetucknee River and its associated springs. This free event will feature a talk by Dr. Robert L. Knight, Executive Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute (FSI), and the premiere of three new videos, Ichetucknee:  Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow, edited by award-winning documentary filmmaker Eric Flagg. Knight will also describe FSI’s newest project, a Blue Water Audit, as well as his idea for an Aquifer Protection Fee. See this press release for more information. High Springs New Century Woman’s Club, 23674 U.S. Highway 27, High Springs, FL 32643.

October 2, 6:30-8:30 pm - Water Voices Program: Clear Choices for Clean Water: The Ichetucknee Alliance resumes its popular Water Voices speaker series this fall with a program designed to inspire people to take action to solve the problems that plague the Ichetucknee River and its associated springs. This free event will feature a talk by Dr. Robert L. Knight, Executive Director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute (FSI), and the premiere of three new videos, Ichetucknee:  Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow, edited by award-winning documentary filmmaker Eric Flagg. Knight will also describe FSI’s newest project, a Blue Water Audit, as well as his idea for an Aquifer Protection Fee. See this press release for more information.  Columbia County Public Library – Main, 308 NW Columbia Ave., Lake City, FL  32055

November 1-4 - The Florida Springs Restoration Summit - 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.

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.


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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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