FCC News Brief - August 23, 2018

Laurel Firestone and Susana De Anda write for the New York Times- “ In 2007, the small town of Lanare in California’s Central Valley finally got what it had desperately needed for years — a treatment plant to remove high levels of arsenic in the drinking water. But the victory was short-lived. Just months after the $1.3 million federally funded plant began running, the town was forced to shut it down because it ran out of money to operate and maintain it. More than a decade later, the plant remains closed and Lanare’s tap water is still contaminated — as is the drinking water piped to about a million other Californians around the state. The common barrier to solving the problem is that communities lack access to government financing to run their water treatment systems. Now, for the first time, a solution is within reach in California. State lawmakers are expected to vote this month to establish reliable funding sources to help ensure, for the first time, that all state residents have access to safe and affordable drinking water. It could be a model for other states...This is not just a problem in California. As the recent study in the National Academy of Sciences journal found, ‘regulatory compliance’ with drinking water regulations ‘can be a challenge for rural systems due to limited financial resources and technical expertise.’ The study also noted that small systems ‘face restricted access to loans and outside financing.’ Now a solution may be at hand in California. After more than a decade of intense community activism, negotiations and studies, a plan to help communities tackle drinking water problems has won the support not only of environmental justice and public health advocates but also of leaders from business, agriculture, labor and many local governments and water suppliers, though not all. The bipartisan proposal would establish a Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund financed by fees assessed on dairy producers and fertilizer manufacturers, and by voluntary, 95-cent-per-month contributions by water customers through their water bills. The agricultural fee revenues would be targeted to address nitrate contamination from fertilizers, a common problem in farming areas. Money raised by the voluntary contributions, which would be collected from water customers unless they opt out, would be directed to disadvantaged communities suffering from water contamination caused by a range of pollutants, such as arsenic and uranium. Together, these sources are expected to raise $100 million or more a year…” Read Safe Drinking Water for All.

Jessica Clark reports for FirstCoast News- “The development of St. Johns County has turned a once sleepy corner of the state into a boom town. And there’s a push to keep construction off of one of the biggest undeveloped plots of land left in St. Augustine’s city limits. ‘I recently had an epic day of fly fishing in the flats not far from Fish Island,’ Patty Scott said. She is a fisherwoman and says the fishing off Fish Island in St. Augustine is great. Fish Island is the area of land on the eastern base of the 312 Bridge in St. Augustine. She likes it and the Matanzas River it sits on so much, she started a petition to stop development on Fish Island along the Matanzas River. ‘I would like to see it become a park,’  Scott noted. So would many other people, including Matanzas Riverkeeper Jen Lomberk. ‘Making it into a park would definitely be the best case scenario,’ Lomberk said. She is advocating that some entity, such as a land trust, buy the land and preserve it. ‘It's got two bald eagles nests on it,’ Lomberk said, ‘which shows the environmental values it has. It has direct water access which is something people look for in recreation areas. It's also vulnerable to sea level rise and climate change and flooding because of its proximity to the water. So developing the land would add liability to the city in terms of having residents in more vulnerable places.’ It also is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of Native American artifacts and ruins of a 1700s plantation. There could be some hurdles for turning this land into a park. For one, it's zoned for development. Also, the owner has to want to sell. And there could be a big price tag. Also, according to the Riverkeeper, the land is already under contract with the developer. The developer is D.R. Horton. It wants to build approximately 170 homes on the 72 acres of waterfront property. The project was unanimously denied by the St. Augustine's planning and zoning board this month, but the developer has 30 days to appeal the decision. Sept. 6 is the deadline. First Coast News has reached out to the developer and the owner, Fish Island Development L.L.C., for comment, and we have not heard from them. Jim McCarthy with the North Florida Land Trust tells First Coast News that the land trust would like to buy the land and preserve, it if becomes available. But the price tag may be hefty. How much is it? ‘That is the million-dollar or $10 million or $15 million question,’ Lomberk said.” Read Could Fish Island become a park instead of a development?

Robin McAulay writes for the Herald-Tribune - “On April 20, 2010, the BP oil spill was an industrial disaster that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven workers were killed on the Deepwater Horizon rig. The blast unleashed the nation’s worst offshore environmental catastrophe. Estimates vary between 134 million to 200 million gallons of crude oil was pumped into the Gulf of Mexico for a total of 87 days. The well was declared sealed although reports in early 2012 suggest that the well site was still leaking. The oil contaminated 1,300 miles of shoreline in five states. Scientists concluded that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed thousands of marine mammals and sea turtles and contaminated their habitats. Studies of its effects demonstrated that the oil was toxic to a wide range of organisms including plankton, invertebrates, fish, birds and sea mammals, causing an array of adverse effects such as reduced growth, disease, impaired reproduction, impaired physiological health and mortality. Studies show that oil spread both in deep waters (1,100 to 1,300 meter depth) and at the surface. Only a minor part of the released oil (less than 15 percent and possibly as little as 4 percent) made landfall along the coast. The average price to build an offshore oil-drilling rig is approximately $650 million as of Feb. 27. Florida Wildlife Federation was the originator of the idea to put this important issue on the ballot for 2018. The proposal to ban oil drilling will be listed as Amendment 9. I am a native Floridian, and I feel we have only one ocean encircling us. We, as Floridians, should be its caretaker. Please support Amendment 9, the proposal to ban oil drilling, on the 2018 ballot…” Read Opinion: Vote to ban oil drilling in Florida.

Bill Smith reports for the Fort Myers News-Press- “Lee County commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to set new criteria for purchase of land for the popular Conservation 20/20 program, but stopped short of agreeing to align land acquisition decisions with the county budget cycle. A series of public speakers spoke in support of retaining the current criteria for picking properties for inclusion in Conservation 20/20 and the application process that has been used. The commission approved a scoring matrix to compare potential conservation purchases. It gives projects considered ‘significant for water resources’ the most weight. Board members did not vote on the administration’s plan to require new 20/20 purchases to be submitted by October, when the county budget year begins. The Conservation 20/20 money comes from property taxes and is used to purchase environmentally sensitive land. The program was first adopted in July 1996. Both proposed changes were sharply criticized by residents who took three-minute turns addressing commissioners during an hour-and-a-half public comment session. Several criticized the new 100-point 20/20 scorecard planned for determining priorities in proposed water projects. Broadly defined water projects would be eligible for up to 50 out of 100 points on the scorecard. In contrast, designation as a wildlife or plant habitat adds a maximum of 22 points to a score. ‘The current ranking system does not need to be modified,’ said Meredith Barnard, Southwest Florida field representative for Florida Wildlife Coalition. ‘It could really undervalue applications that have unique upland habitats or that will be outside of the areas that are identified with water quality issues,’ Dick Anderson, an unsuccessful candidate for Lee County commissioner two years ago, told the commission the change does not advance the environmental enhancements he and others had in mind when starting the drive to start 20/20 more than 20 years ago…” Read Lee Commission sets new guidelines for 20/20 land purchases, backs off on limited application period.

Tom Hayden writes for the News-Press- “The Florida Department of Health is failing residents and tourists on many fronts when it comes to massive blue-green algal blooms and the spread of red tide. The agency- along with the Lee County Health Department which failed to return the News-Press phone calls starting July 27- waited too long to answer specific questions about the potential short-term and long-term impacts of the toxic algae and red tide. When the health department finally did say something on August 10, its bets statement was there is no evidence that acute exposure to the toxins have long-term health impacts. Health department spokesman Brad Dalton said in an email: ‘There is no evidence that acute exposures to these toxins have long-term health impacts. Chronic exposures are not a concern with these blooms due to limited exposure potential.’ It was an ignorant statement, which has fired up environmentalists, educators and scientists who said the health department is flat wrong. There is research over 20 years to suggest exposure to the blue-green algae could lead to death. There may be no definitive evidence, but there is information to suggest a possibility, like: A recent local screening of a documentary, called ‘Toxic Puzzle,’ explored a possible link between the algal blooms and ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. An Ohio State study found people living in areas with prolonged exposure to significant algal blooms can develop a liver disease. Earlier this month, a British journal concluded a 2016 study of a Florida east coast bloom exposed residents to a lifetime risk of liver cancer...People near or in the water have complained about burning eyes, sore throats and the inability to breath in the most severe conditions. Florida Poison Control is getting three times as many calls than it did last year about red tide and almost five times as many calls about the algae…” Read Editorial: Health Department ignorant to water crisis.

Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald - “Now it seems improbable: an oil refinery in Biscayne Bay. But at the time Jim Redford and a determined band of environmentalists waged a battle to stop the project during booming 1960s Florida, what seemed more impossible was turning the pristine bay into a national park, protected for generations to come. Redford, who would later become a Miami-Dade county commissioner for 14 years from 1974 to 1988, went on to fight environmental foes big and small, from developers intent on dumping sewage offshore to a Pepsi bottling plant. Last Wednesday, he died in his sleep at the Coconut Grove home where he’d lived for 58 years. He was 97. ‘They worked together on the battle so the bay didn’t get to be another Miami Beach,’ said Dottie Miller, whose husband Lloyd, now 98 and unable to comment, is the last in the gang that helped create the park, including, among others, reporter Juanita Greene, who died in September, and former Interior Department assistant secretary Nathaniel Reed, who died in July. “They were major players,” said Redford’s son, Matthew. ‘They got a national park established through grass roots and they were able to bring a lot of very conservative Republicans into the game.”... Read Jim Redford, protector of Biscayne Bay and former Miami-Dade commissioner, dies.

Dale White reports for the Herald-Tribune- “ As contracted crews cleared dead fish from neighborhood canals and county employees continued to work to keep the beaches clear, Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker told county commissioners on Tuesday that no one can predict how long the red tide outbreak that started about two weeks ago may last and what the recovery effort may eventually cost. ‘We have no idea how long this problem will persist,’ Hunzeker said.  ‘... This is an ongoing challenge. This is a marathon.’ Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said that, unlike the debris removal effort that followed Hurricane Irma last fall, the fish kill problem caused by red tide algae blooms can be recurring. A beach or canal cleared of dead fish could, days later, become inundated again. The commission allocated $750,000 from reserves for the ongoing clean-up of canals by the Boca Raton-based emergency response firm Aptim. It also authorized an agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to get reimbursed by the state for that expense….” Read Florida to reimburse Manatee County for red tide cleanup.

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Upcoming Environmental Events    

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.

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Florida Solar Bill of Rights

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