FCC News Brief - August 28, 2018

Read Southwest Florida’s lost summer? Don’t just get angry, do something - “It’s hard to see dead fish littering Southwest Florida’s beaches as far as the eye can see. Even if you close your eyes, the smell won’t let you forget. Images of dying manatees and sea turtles and fuzzy black skimmer chicks starving on our beaches make even the most cheerful among us angry. I’ve heard a lot of blame thrown around recently, especially faulting long-suffering Lake Okeechobee for Southwest Florida’s coastal woes. The lake does need real help. Its flow is constrained to the south, and the lake is overburdened by nutrients. The nutrients and blue-green algae coming down the Caloosahatchee River have terrible impacts on the areas where they meet the Gulf. But they aren’t fueling the red tide as far away as Naples and St. Petersburg. The bad news is other nutrient sources are contributing to this broader red tide problem. The good news is there are many things we can do to address these problems and reduce the likelihood of this becoming a regular summer occurrence. This is a terrible red tide. Yes, it is naturally occurring, but this year's geographic extent and duration are both extraordinary. We know warmer water temperatures and nutrient-laden nearshore waters create the perfect conditions for red tides; the conditions are ripe this summer. If you're heartsick like I am over the tragedy unfolding on our coasts, let’s take ownership of the causes and fix them instead of just laying blame. People have a role in causing this and a responsibility to fix it. Some of the sources of nutrients driving the blooms are the result of choices we make. How we can help:….While people have contributed to this tragedy, we also have the opportunity to be the solution. Florida deserves leaders who nurture our economy by protecting our environmental health and citizens who do their part to defend this vulnerable paradise.” Julie Wraithmell writes for the Naples Daily News.

Read How Lake Apopka went from Florida’s most polluted lake to the most promising- “When Joe Dunn, acting president of the advocacy group Friends of Lake Apopka, built his home on the south end of Lake Apopka three years ago, the water did not look good. ‘People who’d lived here for their entire lives stopped coming to the lake to fish, swim and boat because it had turned pea green,’ Dunn said.  Al Capone and Clark Gable were some of the famous fisherman drawn to Lake Apopka for its plentiful bass, according to Friends of Lake Apopka. Fish camps and hotels popped up to accommodate fisherman from all over the world. Lake Apopka, once the bass-fishing capital of the Eastern United States, according to Dunn, had turned into a dead body of water. Friends of Lake Apopka and the St. John's River Water Management District (SJRWMD) blame the farms. In the early 1900s, farmers cleared 20,000 acres of wetlands, said lead scientist Dr. Dean Dobberfuhl. ‘Perfectly flat, perfectly barren dirt,’ Dobberfuhl said. ‘Very daunting to go from that to functioning wetlands.’ Farmers built levees to keep the lake water from flooding their farms but pumped in water for irrigation. They then pumped the phosphorus-filled, pesticide-packed wastewater back into Lake Apopka. Dunn said in the 1970s, the detrimental effects became obvious. The phosphorus, in particular, spawned algae blooms that covered the surface. Everything below died. ‘The farms were never going to self-police, so getting that fertilizer and pesticide flow to stop was absolutely pivotal to the recovery, and that's exactly when the lake started to recover,’ Dunn said. In 1998, the state of Florida completed the purchase of all farmland along Lake Apopka. ‘The pivot point was buying the farms,’ Dunn said. That's when the restoration began that still continues today. SJRWMD began replanting the farmland with native vegetation and removing invasive plants. Biologists began removing bottom-feeding gizzard shad fish and replaced them with 1.5 million bass. Gizzard shad eat the phosphorus so removing the shad also removes the phosphorus, Dobberfuhl said. Crews also cut channels, called ‘flow-ways,’ into the man-made levees to allow the lake water to flow freely into the marshy areas...Friends of Lake Apopka said the north shore of Lake Apopka now has the greatest diversity of bird species in inland North America, according to the Audubon Society…” Erik von Ancken reports for Click Orlando.

Read DEP grants over $6 million to Hillsborough, Lake and Indian River Counties for Land Acquisition - “The Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Florida Communities Trust (FCT) awarded Hillsborough, Lake and Indian River counties with more than $6 million in grant funding to help acquire 720 acres of land across the state for conservation and outdoor recreation. ‘The collaborative efforts between FCT and our local stakeholders are represented through these projects,’ said David Clark, DEP Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation. ‘I thank our partners for continued commitment to achieve land acquisitions that promote conservation and protection of Florida.’ Hillsborough County: The acquisition of Phase II of Lake Dan Preserve, encompassing 1,100 acres, will protect and preserve natural resources that provide recreation such as hiking, wildlife viewing and equestrian trail riding. Lake County: The acquisition of 136 acres at the Lake May Reserve will provide hiking trails, picnic areas, outdoor education facilities, an observation platform and floating canoe/kayak launch. Indian River County: The acquisition of the 163-acre Sebastian Harbor Preserve protects key wildlife habitats, including those of nesting bald eagles, ospreys, Florida scrub-jays and sandhill cranes, and provides economic benefits to the community as a readily accessible ecotourism destination. Funded by the Florida Forever Program, Florida Communities Trust assists communities in protecting important natural resources, providing recreational opportunities, and preserving Florida's traditional working waterfronts. This preservation works through the competitive criteria in the Parks and Open Space Florida Forever Grant Program and the Stan Mayfield Working Waterfronts Florida Forever Grant Program. These grant programs provide funding to local governments and eligible nonprofit organizations to acquire land for parks, open space, greenways, and projects supporting Florida's seafood harvesting and aquaculture industries…” From the DEP Press Office.

Read Is FWC spraying of invasive plants the culprit behind the algae crisis? - “Boaters and fishermen are reporting what they say is an increasingly frequent sight – contractors working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission spraying herbicide on invasive water plants around Lake Okeechobee. They believe it’s happening more often, in larger areas, and could be the culprit behind the toxic algae explosion. ‘I think this herbicide spraying is one of the things that is likely to be contributing to this algae bloom,’ said Dr. James Douglass, a marine ecology professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. Douglass said there are two reasons he thinks killing aquatic plants in Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee basin could be to blame. ‘One is the simple fact when plants die they decompose and release nutrients and nutrients fuel the growth of algae,’ said Douglass. ‘And the other is the herbicide itself. When the chemical breaks down, it’s a form of phosphate that can actually be a nutrient that fuels the growth of the algae, so it’s like we're fertilizing the harmful algae with the very chemical we're using to kill these supposed nuisance plants.’ But some observers said they’ve seen spraying increased to up to six days a week, and the result has not only killed the invasives, but also wiped out native seagrasses and reduced fish populations.’ “They have wiped out hundreds of square miles of natural lake vegetation resulting in a more limited ability for these lakes to filter themselves,’ said longtime resident Scott Wilson. Dr. Douglass said the obvious answer for now is to just stop spraying: “It seems like a no brainer to stop every source of nutrient pollution that we can until we get a handle on this algae problem.” Terri Parker reports for WPBF News.

Read Cancer-causing compounds found in alligators, dolphins, wildlife at Kennedy Space Center - “Greg Bossart finds them in dolphins in the Indian River. Russ Lowers encounters them in the blood of the alligators he snares at Kennedy Space Center. And, perhaps, it is no surprise that they also lurk in the fish that dolphins and gators eat like the mullet Doug Adams nets nearby. All three biologists and their colleagues are independently discovering that the toxic compounds from once-widely used firefighting foams are present throughout the local food chain. Apex predators — those at the top of the chain, like dolphins and gators — store them in their bodies at higher concentrations with worrying implications. These are the same substances recently found in groundwater in Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach; the same chemicals that worry many who live, work or go to school near Patrick Air Force Base and Kennedy Space Center. What scientists say they are uncovering in dolphins, mullet and alligators could be key to determining whether the compounds — known as fluorinated chemicals — are behind a spike of various cancers that have been cropping up on the Space Coast barrier islands for nearly five decades. What Bossart and other scientists have been gradually unraveling is a complex ecological detective story. Their research follows frightening clues that indicate human health also is imperiled by the chemical waste from the Space Race and U.S. military training exercises. It is the unintended health and ecological fallout from America's dominance in space and on the battlefield that threatens more than just wildlife.  ‘It is disturbing what we're seeing. I think we've known about it for years,’ said Bossart, who studied lagoon dolphin at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce before becoming chief veterinary officer at Georgia Aquarium. ‘This is a very complex problem in a very complex ecosystem….” Jim Waymer reports for Florida Today.

Read US Government failing to provide recovery plans for some endangered species - “The number of endangered species that the United States government has no recovery plans for has grown steadily over the past decade, according to an analysis published this month in Conservation Letters. The plans detail the specific threats against a species as well as the ‘nuts and bolts’ strategies that will help the species recover. They are also mandated under the Endangered Species Act, the country’s key conservation law. Researchers used publicly available data from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agencies tasked with developing recovery plans, to determine how many species lacked such safeguards and how that has changed since 1978. They found that of 1,548 species eligible for a plan, 24.5% were currently still without. Furthermore, the analysis showed that the number of recovery plans has always lagged behind the number of species listed, but that the gap between the two has widened since 2009, when the rate of species listings increased (See 'Endangered Plans'). ‘There isn’t enough funding for the services to close that gap,’ says lead author Jacob Malcom, a conservation biologist at the Defenders of Wildlife in Washington DC. And without the plans, he says, people won't know what threatens a species and may be unwittingly preventing their recovery…” Jeremy Rehm reports for Nature.


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Upcoming Environmental Events

September 8, 5:00pmRise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice: The 350 Pensacola and Sierra Club Emerald Coast Chapter are rallying against dirty and dangerous fossil fuels, and in support of clean energy, for new jobs in the clean energy economy, and for a just transition ensuring all have access to the power and hope of clean energy. At the Plaza de Luna, 900 S Palafox St, Pensacola, there will be live music, local speakers, and a path for climate action. Here in Pensacola we are pushing to see our community act on the recommendations from the City's climate task force and to transition to 100% renewable energy. For more information, see the Facebook event link here or email 350pensacola@gmail.com .

September 12, 6:00pm350 Pensacola and Sierra Club Emerald Coast present 'The Burden'- The Burden is  an epic film about the struggle of the US military to provide energy to its troops in battle--and the sometimes tragic consequences of that struggle. It's also about the amazing clean energy innovations the military is advancing, helping to save lives on the battlefield and moving our nation toward its inevitable future of clean energy. Following the film we will host a discussion about the military's role in advancing clean energy. The presentation is part of a monthly speaker series on climate change, and is co sponsored by 350 Pensacola and Sierra Club Emerald Coast chapter. For more information, email 350pensacola@gmail.com .

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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Petitions

Stop the spraying of glyphosate herbicide in Florida waters

Stop Development on Fish Island along the Matanzas River

Thinking of going electric? Nextcar Pledge

Rezoning 5-acres in Palm Harbor

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Tell Congress to Stop Sabal Trail

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

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