FCC News Brief - September 4, 2018

Read Still work to be done in preserving natural habitats - “Florida has accomplished much in the past 30 years in protecting some of our state’s remaining natural habitat and wide-open spaces from the onslaught of bulldozers. Its Florida Forever program once set a national standard because it was responsible for the acquisition of about 1.8 million acres to preserve native wildlife habitat, protect water bodies and provide public recreation. Florida’s Acquisition and Restoration Council, the body that makes recommendations on the purchases and management of state conservation lands, met recently in Lakeland. Its recommendations go to the governor and Florida cabinet sitting as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund. It was clear from a long list of projects that remain on ARC’s agenda that the work to preserve Florida’s natural heritage is far from complete. It is also clear that one of the main obstacles to completing many of the projects is the Florida Legislature’s refusal to honor the 2014 voter mandate to appropriate one-third of state documentary tax revenue for 20 years to finish what previous administrations started. The issue is in court. With any luck, the issue will be resolved before the 2019 legislative session as we marvel why it takes five years to get the environment what it’s owed...Now that the primary elections are completed and the winners are headed for the November general election, don’t be shy about asking candidates for the Florida Legislature or other positions in state government about their positions on the implementation of the voters’ intent on the Florida Land and Water Legacy Amendment. Florida’s environmental future depends on it.” Tom Palmer writes for the News Chief

Read Public must ask tough questions to protect environment - “The current water crisis has illustrated in a painful manner the inextricable connection between the health of our environment to our economic viability as a region and to the health of our families and our community. With a risk of stating the obvious, the upcoming election is pivotal to our future well-being. Voters should be prepared to ask candidates tough questions about which policies will be embraced in a new state administration. It is not enough to allow candidates to issue broad statements like “I’m for protecting the environment” or “I support Everglades restoration.” We must go deeper to extract specific policy statements to which the public can hold a candidate accountable after the election, if we hope to see meaningful change. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida believes the following should be asked of each candidate: 1. Will you support a statewide ban on fracking and other unconventional oil well stimulation treatments? These industrial processes use massive amounts of Florida’s precious freshwater resources for one-time use, before the contaminated water is injected deep underground. Large-scale seismic testing for future oil extraction, perhaps even fracking-like operations, is being conducted in the Big Cypress Preserve in Collier County. 2. What is your plan for improving state laws and expanding state involvement in local planning to better direct and more appropriately shape growth and development? In the past decade, state regulations and oversight for managing growth have been significantly reduced. Research clearly indicates that the rate of development and conversion of natural lands can negatively affect the flow and quality of downstream waters while also affecting native wildlife and increasing pressure on coastal resources. 3. In light of significant public opposition, would you be willing to support abandoning Florida’s efforts to assume the federal Clean Water Act 404 program?Florida is pursuing taking over federal wetlands permitting. Our region has seen the permitted destruction of extensive wetlands. Wetlands hold back water and purify it. Given the current water crisis and the threat of future water issues, we must protect existing wetlands to help address water quality and flooding issues. Federal oversight, while imperfect, provides a vital nexus to important protections, and has demonstrated stronger wetland protection than the state of Florida.” Rob Moher writes for the Palm Beach Post.

Read Sen. Marco Rubio: Lake Okeechobee discharges, toxic algae could ‘fundamentally’ alter Florida - “If Lake Okeechobee discharges and the algae blooms they cause are allowed to ‘continue unabated,’ Florida could be ‘fundamentally altered,’ U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday. Like Rust Belt cities that lost the auto industry, Florida communities rely on clean water to promote the tourism industry and keep up property values, Rubio said. ‘It could take a generation for those communities to come back,’ the Republican senator told TCPalm after meeting privately with public officials and local environmental leaders at the St. Lucie Lock and Dam Thursday morning. At the dam, about 1.4 billion gallons of water are pouring into the St. Lucie River daily. An algae bloom sampled there Aug. 23 was nearly 50 times more toxic than the acceptable level for recreational contact. The bloom had mostly subsided by Thursday. Rubio said he's ‘cautiously optimistic’ the Senate will approve legislation this fall authorizing a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to cut discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. The U.S. House approved the bill, called the Water Resources Development Act, in June. Rubio said ‘a single senator,’ North Carolina Republican Richard M. Burr, is holding up the Senate vote. Burr won't allow a vote on the water bill until he gets a commitment for a vote on his own legislation to permanently reauthorize a program to protect national parks, water resources and wildlife areas, according to Roll Call, a Washington, D.C., newspaper and website published when Congress is in session…” Tyler Treadway reports for Treasure Coast Newspapers

Read Saltwater invasion: can $460 million plan restore Loxahatchee River?- “ The cypress slowed their retreat, holding a line with their fat trunks planted like fists into sand against a slow creep of mangroves. Assailed by unnatural saltwater surges deep into the Loxahatchee River’s northwest fork, the towering conifers that once held dominion have been pushed back into the blackwater twists of the river. Squat tangles of salinity-loving mangroves now jam the upstream waterway in Jonathan Dickinson State Park — a raid triggered by man’s reroute of the natural flow of the northern Everglades. While the mangroves’ forward march has eased in the Loxahatchee with tens of millions of dollars in restoration projects, further habitat repair could come from a long-delayed, $460 million plan to reconnect northern creeks and provide fresh water to the river from the south. The proposal, a third attempt by the South Florida Water Management District, is as far along as proponents have seen in a decade. It needs a go-ahead from the Army Corps of Engineers this fall before it can be brought up for public comment. Support for the effort is far-reaching, and includes Martin County, the Loxahatchee River District and the Loxahatchee River Management Coordination Council...According to the district, the proposed Loxahatchee restoration plan will meet 91 percent of the ideal flow level to the river during the dry season. Currently, about 60 percent of the flow is met. But some groups want the plan tweaked when it comes to using the embattled Mecca Farms property near Palm Beach Gardens for an 8-foot-deep, above ground reservoir for the river. They’d prefer water flow naturally over the property once slated for the Scripps Research Institute — a move Sustainable Palm Beach County said can achieve the same success as a reservoir and at a cheaper price…” Kimberly Miller reports for the Palm Beach Post

Read Deep-sea coral reef discovered off US coast -  If you think Charleston, South Carolina, has plenty of history within its pre-Colonial grounds, just look at what's been hiding 160 miles off the city's coast for thousands of years: a giant deep-sea coral reef system. The chief scientist who helped make the discovery called it unbelievable.Little is known about the natural resources of the deep ocean off the United States' Southeast coast from Virginia to Georgia, so Deep Search 2018 was created to learn more by exploring the deep sea ecosystems. The project, consisting of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the US Geological Survey, is nearing the end of its 15-day voyage aboard the research vessel Atlantis.A pair of dives in a submersible called Alvin confirmed the existence of the coral reef on Thursday, and based on observations, researchers estimate the reef is at least 85 miles long. ‘This is a huge feature,’ expedition chief scientist Dr. Erik Cordes told HuffPost. ‘It's incredible that it stayed hidden off the US East Coast for so long.’..the discovery of this Atlantic reef comes as the Trump administration is proposing to roll back a ban on offshore drilling, which would reinstate drilling leases in Pacific and Atlantic waters. More than 140 municipalities have publicly opposed offshore drilling activities in the Atlantic, according to the environmental group Oceana. Environmental groups call the plan dirty and dangerous.A Bureau of Ocean Energy Management spokeswoman said it funds this type of research to identify resources that must be protected should there be future energy activity off the coast, and new information from this reef study ‘could be useful in pre-leasing or post-leasing [oil and gas] decisions, such as those affecting sensitive habitats that are the focus of this study.’ Cordes also told HuffPost this coral habitat must be protected from oil and gas development, and believes it is critical for the productivity of regional fisheries.” -CNN Wire

Read Take action to protect waters from pollution - “There is an epic tragedy unfolding in South Florida, as our fellow Floridians suffer through a disaster that has clogged their favorite waters with toxic blue green algae, and is believed by many scientists to be linked to a red tide on the Gulf coast that has killed 452 sea turtles, almost 100 manatees, 11 dolphins and millions of fish. While this disaster may seem to be a long way from North Florida, nearly every river, lake, and waterway in Florida is at-risk. That’s because our elected officials continue to avoid taking meaningful action to protect our waters from pollution. They’ve weakened environmental laws, dramatically cut back on enforcement of the laws we do have, and failed to respond to years of degradation of the waters that Floridians depend on for fishing, swimming, wildlife-watching, drinking water, and more. All of this has come despite the fact that these explosions of destructive algae have happened multiple times before, and the cause is well-known: excess nitrogen and phosphorus from agriculture and development. Rather than fixing the problem, our governor and legislators have made it more likely that additional waterways around the state will suffer from water pollution. In 2012 they repealed legislation requiring septic tank inspections, meaning that there’s no formal way to know which ones are failing or to get them fixed. They’ve refused to carry-out the citizen mandate for land preservation passed by almost 75% of Florida voters in 2014, denying us the new state parks and forests we need as vital watershed filters for clean water. They’ve also avoided placing mandatory controls to prevent runoff of animal waste and fertilizers from farms, which are blamed for much of the algae crisis in South Florida...If we ever want there to be oystering in West Bay again, or to continue to fish the grassbeds of East Bay and wade safely in the water along Beach Dr., we must push elected officials to enforce existing clean water laws and to create better laws and programs that protect and restore the waters we love. In a region that is intimately dependent on clean water and beaches, our economy and way-of-life are at stake.” Christian Wagley writes for the Panama City News Herald

Read Pope: Pray, act to protect clean water, guarantee access to it - “ Water is a gift of God that makes life possible and yet millions of people do not have access to safe drinking water, and rivers, seas and oceans continue to be polluted, Pope Francis said. ‘Care for water sources and water basins is an urgent imperative,’ the pope said in a message Sept. 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, an observance begun by the Orthodox Church and now celebrated by many Christians. With the world day 2018 focused on water, Pope Francis drew special attention to the more than 600 million people who do not have regular access to clean drinking water. ‘Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights,’ he said, quoting from his encyclical "Laudato Si" on the environment...Believers have an obligation to thank God for the gift of water and ‘to praise him for covering the earth with the oceans,’ Pope Francis said. But they also have an obligation to work together to keep the oceans clean instead of allowing them to be ‘littered by endless fields of floating plastic.’... Pope Francis also offered prayers for people who fish and others who earn their livings at sea, for those who minister to them and for all the scientists and public policy experts who help the public recognize the treasures of the sea and work to protect them. And, as the Catholic Church prepares for a world Synod of Bishops on young people, he urged Christians to educate and pray for the young ‘that they may grow in knowledge and respect for our common home and in the desire to care for the essential good of water, for the benefit of all."  Cindy Wooden writes for the Catholic News Service.

Read Trump’s proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan endangers public health and the world’s climate - “ In his first 19 months in office, Donald Trump has repeatedly defied established presidential norms — so flagrantly that it almost obscures the many ways he’s changed national policies for the worse. But despite all the scandals and mean-spirited tweets, it’s likely that his most enduring impact will be his administration’s systematic, reckless dismantling of ongoing efforts to curtail human-caused climate change. The miseries of global climate disruption are already upon us. During the current decade, the world has experienced record heat waves, as well as intermittent periods of extraordinary cold, devastating floods, prolonged droughts, dangerous wildfires and large and powerful hurricanes. Despite these alarm bells and urgent warnings from scientists around the globe, the volume of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by human activity has continued to rise each year. One clear example of the administration’s gross irresponsibility on climate change is the so-called “Affordable Clean Energy Rule,” recently proposed by Trump’s Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. A little study shows the rule is neither affordable nor clean...The cost-benefit analysis that accompanies the proposed rule fails to compare the paltry benefits of the Trump administration proposal with those that could have been achieved under the Clean Power Plan. It also declines to take into account the new plan’s costly impacts on human health, wildlife and overall environmental quality. But one impact stands out: By EPA’s own calculations, it will cause as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually because of the increased pollution it will permit…” Joel A. Mintz writes for The Revelator.


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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 19, 12:00 noon – 1:30 p.m. – FREE Trouble in Paradise Webinar:  This project was spearheaded by the late Nathaniel Pryor Reed to educate candidates for office and citizens on key environmental issues facing our state and strategies to address them.  Attend this free webinar to learn more and gain insights on how to advocate for change.  Trouble in Paradise was produced by 1000 Friends of Florida, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Florida Springs Council, Florida Springs Institute, Florida Wildlife Corridor, Florida Wildlife Federation and League of Women Voters of Florida. The webinar has been approved for professional certification credits for planners, Florida attorneys, and certified environmental health professionals.  The full report and registration information are available at http://www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar/

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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