Read Red tide and green slime: Florida faces epic statewide fight with algae - “We may smell it first, warned environmentalist Rae Ann Wessel. She was right. Along a wall of mangroves, the stench last week advertised of something to be buried. It was a greeting to Fort Myers’ algae horrors. ‘It’s worth than anything I’ve seen in 40 years,’ said Wessel, a Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation staffer. Green slime and red tide are invading the Fort Myers region’s inshore and offshore waters, slaughtering marine life and threatening a more sinister outcome: Toxins produced by a green slime variety may link to neurodegenerative illnesses, say some scientists who are investigating. The algae outbreak has gotten headlines across the country, but water woes in Florida are nothing new. For decades, Florida’s watery environment has been sickened by pollution from septic and sewer systems, storm water and fertilizer from landscaping and agriculture. That ‘nutrient’ pollution, with nitrogen and phosphorous flavors, is an unnatural feast for a bewildering array of naturally occurring algae. Different types have exploded in growth, smothering and poisoning Florida’s aquatic gems. It hasn’t been without warning. In 1981, Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition had Christie Brinkley posing at sunset on Captiva Island. A few pages later was a long, grisly report on Florida waters: ‘There’s Trouble in Paradise.’ In 1980, the Orlando Sentinel printed at 12-page section titled: ‘Florida’s water: Clean it or kill it.’ In 1976, Florida officials published an investigation on the filling of Lake Okeechobee with nutrients. ‘No amount of work would be too great to protect the health’ of Okeechobee,’ concluded top scientists from four decades ago. If what is happening at Fort Myers is a shock to anyone, it only reminds Wessel and other environmentalists that the state’s algae plague is profound and worsening. ‘There are not enough resources or a big enough regulatory stick,’ said Lisa Rinaman of the St. Johns Riverkeeper environmental group. ‘If you look at the additional stress of growth in Florida, we are fighting a losing battle.’ A tour of algae destruction from Orlando to Fort Myers and beyond tells this story: it is indisputably a monster killing the state’s most treasured waters…” Kevin Spear reports for the Orlando Sentinel.
Read We have the resources to save Florida’s dying coral reefs. Now, we just need the will- “Florida’s coral reef system is the third-largest living reef on the planet and the only barrier reef system in the continental United States. It supports more than 70,000 local jobs, draws $6.3 billion into Florida’s economy and buffers our coasts from wave energy and storm surge in our hurricane prone region. The fact that our reefs, despite their severely diminished condition, are capable of providing Floridians so many benefits is a testament to their importance and an indication of the enormous value restored reefs could deliver. While much of the attention on Florida environmental issues- including our own- has rightly been focused on harmful algal blooms, an ecological catastrophe has been unfolding on our reefs. During the last four decades, Florida’s indigenous corals have declined in some areas by more than 90 percent, with some species losing more than 97 percent of their populations...Corals growing in good water quality conditions typically are more resistant to disease. And it was recognized decades ago that to save the Florida reef tract, drastic action to improve water quality was required. Critical efforts currently are under way to restore the Everglades to enhance freshwater flows and salinity levels in Florida and Biscayne Bays, complete the Florida Keys Water Quality Improvement Program, and reduce wastewater discharges through ocean outfalls. These infrastructure projects will all augment nearshore water quality and habitat for reef species. Mote Marine Laboratory, a Florida-based, independent, nonprofit, global marine research institution, has developed innovative coral reef restoration technologies focused on growing threatened and reef-building coral species for replanting on degraded sections of reefs...With philanthropic support, Mote has built a new state-of-the-art marine science laboratory in Summerland Key to serve as a base of operations for its proposed Florida Keys Coral Disease Response & Restoration Initiative to dramatically scale up restoration efforts along the Florida reef tract...In spite of the urgency with which restoration solutions need to be implemented, some in the science community may prefer to fully “study the problem” before intervening, while bureaucrats in regulatory agencies are likely to demand unequivocal (and unrealistic) guarantees of outcomes before initiating any action. But, the conventional approach will only make the challenges before us more daunting. We cannot wait for the current disease epidemic to run its course before employing our best option for restoring Florida’s reefs. We have the knowledge, tools and resources necessary to begin to restore Florida’s reefs. Mote’s scientifically rigorous and environmentally strategic Florida Keys Coral Disease Response & Restoration Initiative, implemented in concert with federal, state, and nonprofit partners, will provide a framework to significantly address an ongoing ecological emergency and stem a potential economic disaster for our state. All that’s needed now is the will, and an opportunity, to try.” Marco Rubio and Michael P. Crosby write for the Miami Herald.
Read Estero residents turn out in support of $24.5M Corkscrew Road land buy - “Estero’s potential purchase of 62 acres along the Estero River drew an overwhelmingly supportive crowd at the village’s first public workshop on the land buy Wednesday evening. Village Partners LLC owns the property, on the northeast corner of U.S. 41 and Corkscrew Road. Estero is considering parcels that are bordered by U.S. 41 to the west and railroad tracks to the east. The Estero River also runs through the property. The workshop Wednesday evening was the first opportunity for members of the public to voice opinions about Estero’s possible $24.5 million land buy, which could be the south Lee County community’s first land acquisition since forming in 2014. If approved by the Village Council, Estero would take on debt to buy the property. Statements of support Wednesday night came from village residents dressed in shades of green, who lauded Estero officials for pursuing the opportunity, and from representatives of Southwest Florida environmental groups who expressed support for the land’s conservation...Plans are speculative right now, Sarkozy said, but the village is looking at increasing setbacks along the Estero River to 200 feet for conservation, creating recreation opportunities, pursuing connections to Koreshan State Park, which is on the other side of U.S. 41, and for allowing development of activities in Estero’s future village center. Estero’s village center — a plan for a walkable, mixed-use, social downtown for residents and businesses — stretches from near Coconut Road to just north of Broadway...A dozen people spoke in favor of Estero purchasing the Village Partners property Wednesday. Rob Moher, president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, urged the council to protect as much of the land as possible for conservation. ‘I can’t tell you what a legacy project this is. This is saving a piece of Old Florida that you can’t get anywhere,’ Moher said. The land buy would impact future citizens of the village, said Estero residents. “I feel like this is a golden opportunity for Estero. All of our future generations will enjoy it,” said Susan Prock, a resident of Bella Terra and an environmental committee member of the Estero Council of Community Leaders.But Ray Rezner, a resident of Shadow Wood at The Brooks, said he thought the purchase would send the village in the wrong direction.If Estero wants to control development, the village should do so through zoning laws, Rezner said. He argued that Estero should have a concrete plan for the property before any purchase is made. “Any of us in our personal life or any of us in our business life wouldn’t spend $26 million to get a piece of property that maybe we could do some great things with, but we don’t know exactly what we are going to do with it,” Rezner said. Ray Judah, a former Lee County commissioner, suggested Estero seek funding from Conservation 20/20, the county's program for buying and conserving open land. "That money is available," Judah said. At a public meeting Thursday, Sept. 20, the Village Council is expected to vote on whether to purchase the property…” Brittany Carloni reports for Naples Daily News.
Read Is FWC feeding Lake Okeechobee algae blooms with Roundup and other glyphosate herbicides?- “Is the effort to control invasive plants on Lake Okeechobee causing blue-green algae blooms that end up in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers? The answer depends on who you ask. A Florida Gulf Coast University Professor quoted in recent media reports says it does, but the effect is minimal, according to experts at Florida Audubon and the University of Florida, and Florida Fish and Wildlife COnservation Commission data TCPalm crunched. FWC sprays herbicides on Lake O mostly to control floating water hyacinth and water lettuce, according to agency spokeswoman Susan Neel. That practice is feeding the lake’s algae blooms in two ways, said James Douglass, a marine and ecological science professor at FGCU in Fort Myers: ‘When the sprayed plants die, they release the nutrients they’re holding, particularly phosphorous, into the water. Glyphosate-based herbicides, such as the brand Roundup, contain phosphorus; and when the herbicides break down, they release it into the water.’ Calculating the amount of phosphorous the dead sprayed plants release is almost impossible, however. ‘You’d have to know the biomass of all the dead plants,’ Douglass said, ‘and you’d have to know the amount of phosphorous in those plants. I don’t think the state accounts for all of that.’ Letting the plants grow would be worse for the lake and the algae bloom, Neel countered. ‘Actively growing invasive plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce continually shed old and damaged leaves,’ she said in an email. Spraying herbicides on exotic plants is ‘clearly not’ a major cause of the algae bloom on the lake, said Paul Gray, who’s worked on the lake for decades as Audubon’s Lake O science coordinator. ‘I can see where the spraying could cause a small, temporary bloom back up in the marshes,’ Gray said, ‘but the amount of spraying they’re doing now isn’t causing the big bloom in the lake’s open water.’ Here’s what FWC sprayed on Lake O in 2017, according to its annual report: 20,688 pounds of pesticides, about the weight of a garbage truck, which included 12,263 pounds of glyphosate-based herbicides, about the weight of a school bus, which included 11,658 pounds, about the weight of a monster truck, of RoundUp...Gray and Douglass agreed the FWC should not stop spraying herbicides altogether. The state banned the practice in the 1980s and it was a disaster. Water hyacinth on Lake O exploded from 200 acres to about 20,000 acres. Getting rid of it took two years and $2 million. ‘The FWC has a very legitimate need to control these plants,’ Gray said. ‘I agree with a lot of people that the FWC sprays too much on the lake, but they can’t quit spraying entirely or bad things will happen.’ Douglass said finding the right balance is key. ‘I’m not saying don’t spray,’ he said. ‘But there’s an important balance between controlling invasive plants in the lake and considering the downstream effects of all those dead plants, and I don’t think that’s being considered adequately.”...Tyler Treadway reports for the Treasure Coast Newspapers.
Read FPL parent announces new goal for carbon dioxide emissions- “NextEra Energy, parent company of Florida Power & Light Co., on Thursday announced its plans to reduce its rate of carbon dioxide emissions by more than 65 percent by 2021. The Juno Beach-based energy and electric utility company said the target is part of an ongoing goal to ‘create a sustainable energy future, said NextEra Energy Chairman and CEO Jim Robo. The company has been reducing emissions through development of renewable energy and modernization of its equipment, Robo said. NextEra said it has reduced its CO2 emissions rate by 52 percent since 2001. In 2017, NextEra Energy recorded its lowest-ever emissions rates of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide-rates that were substantially better than the U.S. electric sector averages, according to the company...FPL has been shifting away from coal and toward natural gas power plants. FPL demolished its 1960s-era units at Port Everglades to make way for a more fuel-efficient plant that runs on natural gas. This spring, the Florida Public Service Commission approved a new $888 million natural gas power plant to be built in Dania Beach; operation is expected by 2022. But some environmental organizations oppose new power plants fueled by natural gas. ‘NextEra simply isn’t walking the talk in Florida,’ said Susannah Randolph, representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Florida. ‘On the one hand, this announcement seems to show they understand that renewable energy is not only clean but cost-competitive. Yet at the same time, they’re pushing the umpeenth climate-disrupting fracked gas plant in [Dania Beach]...’ The Sierra Club has opposed the new Dania Beach plant...FPL operates 14 solar power plants and is building four more that are scheduled to be in service next year. NextEra Energy had 2017 revenues of 17.2 billion. FPL has more than 5 million customer account sin Florida, representing about 10 million people.” Marcia Heroux Pounds reports for the South Florida Sun Sentinel .
Read Toxic algal bloom continues to suffocate Florida’s Gulf Coast - “Florida in the United States of America recently declared a state of emergency as a red tide of toxic algae bloomed along its western coastline killing marine animals, disrupting tourism and causing respiratory problems. Algal blooms, their toxic emissions and the oxygen-starved dead zones they leave in their wake are not new to Florida, nor are they specific to the United States. They are a global phenomenon, and increasingly a global problem. Coastal algal blooms are often the result of land-based pollution, commonly associated with runoff from fertilizer applications on croplands, or emissions from livestock or human wastewater. Inefficient use of fertilizer is a major problem: more than half of the synthetic fertilizer ever applied to the world’s fields has been applied in the past 30 years, reports environmental journalist Fred Pearce in an editorial for chinadialogue ocean. Less than half of this fertilizer reaches the crops it’s intended for. The rest runs off into the wider environment and eventually into the ocean…’No wonder dead zones are a growing global phenomenon. More than 500 have been mapped from the East China Sea to the Baltic and the Black Sea to the Gulf of Mexico. Since 1950, their extent in coastal waters has increased tenfold,’ says Pearce. Fertilizer contains nitrogen and phosphorus – vital elements for crops on land and for algae in water. With large influxes of these nutrients, algal blooms can become extensive, and some species – such as the one currently affecting Florida – emit harmful toxins. As they die and decompose, they starve the water of oxygen in the process, with severe impacts on aquatic life forms. Algal blooms are a natural phenomenon. But since about the 1950s, their frequency, duration and geographical scope have increased, largely in response to fertilizer runoff and sewage discharge associated with population growth, and human-induced climate change…" Christopher Cox writes for the UN Environment
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
September 12, 6:00pm- 350 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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
September 17, 6:00 pm - Earth Ethics presents #Don'tSuck short film (Pensacola) - Join Earth Ethics at Pensacola's Downtown Library, 239 N Spring Street, Pensacola, FL 32502 for the viewing of a short video on straws and their impacts. Join the #Don’tSuck movement to get straws the heck out of here! Learn how you can help as an individual, get restaurants and stores motivated to kick the straw habit. Be prepared to be part of the social media blitz. Let us know if you plan to join us. Get your ticket by visiting the EventBrite link here , and for more information visit the Facebook page here.
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 (High Springs): 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.
September 25, 6:00 PM - Free showing of the Sierra Club film 'Reinventing Power' (Destin) - Sierra Club Emerald Coast, League of Women Voters of Okaloosa & Walton County, and Earth Ethics, Inc. present Reinventing Power: America’s Renewal Energy Boom. The movie takes us across the country to hear directly from the people making our clean energy future achievable. These individuals are working to rebuild what’s broken, rethink what’s possible, and revitalize communities. These stories are proof that America does not need to choose between keeping our lights on and protecting our communities. Critically, Reinventing Power underscores the notion that we don’t have to sacrifice jobs for a clean environment. Over the film’s 50 minutes, you’ll meet people in eight states whose lives were changed by the renewable energy industry while exploring various aspects of the clean energy industry from innovation to installation. Register with EventBrite here
October 2, 6:30-8:30 pm - Water Voices Program: Clear Choices for Clean Water (Lake City): 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
October 2, 12:00 pm - Free showing of the Sierra Club film 'Reinventing Power' (Pensacola) - Sierra Club Emerald Coast, League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area, and Earth Ethics, Inc. present Reinventing Power: America’s Renewal Energy Boom. The movie takes us across the country to hear directly from the people making our clean energy future achievable. These individuals are working to rebuild what’s broken, rethink what’s possible, and revitalize communities. These stories are proof that America does not need to choose between keeping our lights on and protecting our communities. Critically, Reinventing Power underscores the notion that we don’t have to sacrifice jobs for a clean environment. Over the film’s 50 minutes, you’ll meet people in eight states whose lives were changed by the renewable energy industry while exploring various aspects of the clean energy industry from innovation to installation. Register with EventBrite here.
October 5, 9:00 a.m.-4:45 p.m. - Palm Beach County 2070 Workshop: What does the future hold for Palm Beach County? Can the county accommodate the more than 750,000 new residents anticipated by 2070 and still maintain its quality of life and natural lands? Join 1000 Friends of Florida in exploring how Palm Beach County should grow with experts on conservation, planning, urban development, economic development and citizen engagement. What can we do today to plan for a better tomorrow in Palm Beach County? This day-long workshop is being hosted by 1000 Friends of Florida at the Vista Center in West Palm Beach. The cost is $20 per attendee and professional certification credits have been approved for planners (7 AICP CM #221015), Certified Foodplain Managers, and Florida Environmental Health Professionals and are being sought for Florida attorneys and others. Find out more and register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/pbco2070.
October 12, 9 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. – Martin County 2070 Workshop: Martin County is expected to grow by about 30% by 2070. How can the County accommodate new residents and still maintain its quality of life and natural areas? A team of conservationists, planners, developers and others will explore how to lay the foundation now for a more sustainable future for Martin County. This day-long workshop is being hosted by 1000 Friends of Florida and The Guardians of Martin County and is being held in Stuart. Registration is $20 per attendee and includes lunch. Professional certification credits have been approved for planners (5.75 AICP CM) and are being sought for Florida attorneys and others. We hope you’ll join us! Find out more and register at /www.1000friendsofflorida.org/martin-county-2070/.
November 1, 12:00 noon to 1:30 p.m. -- FREE Sustainable Landscaping Principles and Practices Webinar: This free webinar will explore best practices, trends and market opportunities for sustainable landscaping in the State of Florida. Sustainable Landscaping is a set of landscaping principles and practices which minimize environmental degradation and make more efficient use of energy, water and other natural resources. This course will review the latest research and present current best practices for designing, building and maintaining sustainable landscapes. Project case studies will be used to discuss a framework for how to promote sustainable landscaping on large scale commercial projects working with multiple stakeholders through conceptual planning through implementation and long-term maintenance. The instructors are Pierce Jones, Ph.D., the University of Florida Extension Program Leader for Energy Programs, and Timothee Sallin, president of Cherrylake, an integrated landscape company. This event has been approved for credits for planners, Certified Floodplain Manger and Florida Environmental Health Professionals and are being sought for Florida attorneys and others. Register at www.1000friendsofflorida.org/webinar.
November 1-4 - The Florida Springs Restoration Summit (Ocala) - 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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