Read Red tide on Florida’s Gulf Coast has been a huge hit to tourism- “The Saturday of Labor Day weekend in Siesta Key, just off Sarasota on Florida’s Gulf Coast, was a scorcher, with bright blue skies offering the perfect send-off for summer. John Fabian, a charter boat captain, was ready for it, offering two-hour, $400 sightseeing tours of the Intracoastal Waterway, the aquatic freeway that runs parallel to the coast. Mr. Fabian said he typically brings in $15,000 during Labor Day weekend with his tours, which books up with tourists and snowbirds weeks in advance. But this holiday weekend was different. He’s had no calls, no bookings. This weekend, he had only one client: me. ‘This is the worst I’ve ever seen in my entire life,’ Mr. Fabian said. ‘We normally get 15 to 20 calls a day, and we normally send our clients out on water excursions with the stand-up paddle boards and inner tubes. But I’ve been canceling the trip. I don’t want to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. I don’t want them jumping in the water and then leaving me a negative review.’ Although Labor Day weekend usually marks the last summer spike in tourism along this coast, an unusually persistent red tide — the longest in the area since 2006 — has driven away would-be visitors, turning a survey of the Intracoastal Waterway, which would normally be buzzing with boats, into a quiet nature tour, despite bright blue skies and a cool breeze. Even the police boats seemed at loose ends, patrolling for B.U.I. (boating under the influence) violations during this would-be party weekend, and finally idling under a bridge, where the officers checked their cellphones in the shade…” Cristobal Herrera reports for the New York Times.
Read What’s smaller than a python but just as bad for South Florida? Invasive fish - “Out in the Big Cypress swamp, across the street from the country’s smallest post office in a wilderness the size of Rhode Island, a canal is teeming with something unexpected: aquarium fish usually found in a pet shop. Orange-striped Mayan cichlids dart among boldly spotted tilapia and ruby-colored African jewelfish. The exotic fish, originally dumped by pet owners or escaped from fish farms, are now as likely to be found in remote sloughs and canals crisscrossing the Everglades as weed-choked urban canals. The fish have not grabbed headlines, or the public imagination, like pythons as they stake out more and more territory. But they are no less insidious: They gobble up food, tolerate more extreme conditions, and reproduce at a faster and younger rate than native freshwater fish. Some even hunt in packs, devouring the small crayfish that form the base of the local food chain. ‘They are biological pollution for sure,’ said Pam Schofield, a U.S. Geological Survey fishery biologist who has been supervising yearly surveys across the state since 2013. ‘Every one of those fish is eating something or taking up space.’ And they don’t appear to be losing steam. In a check of the Big Cypress done this week, scientists discovered two new invaders for the first time: the prehistoric-looking armored catfish and the Nile tilapia. At least 200 exotic fish have been found statewide, Schofield said. About three dozen have taken up residence. And while the invasion has been documented for decades, efforts to stop it appear hampered by the same problems plaguing the spread of other exotic species: lack of money and lack of manpower. The last time the Big Cypress was surveyed for invasive fish was in 2003, by William Loftus, a retired USGS biologist based at Everglades National Park... To combat the problem, agencies say they need to lean heavily on the public. Both state and federal agencies have created ways to report sightings, including the Florida’s IveGot1 app and website and USGS’ website. They also need pet owners to realize the full damage caused when animals, including little fish, are released into the wild, where populations of tropical exotics can quickly mushroom and spread. As silly as it may sound, Loftus said, fish owners should take advantage of the same pet amnesty day offered to python and tegu owners to get rid of unwanted animals. More effort also needs to be made on control efforts, scientists say. Electro-shocking canals is more effective at looking for new species than driving down numbers. And there has been public resistance to using toxins that kill invasive fish. ‘Our toolbox for dealing with these nonnative fish is pretty empty,’ Loftus said. ‘We really need a lot of research into ways we can eradicate and more safely control these animals once they’re out there.” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.
Read City of Naples weakend a seasonal ban on fertilizer as red tide bloom was forming - “The Naples City Council revised — critics say weakened — its fertilizer ordinance last October to allow more use of nutrients that can exacerbate red tides like the one that has plagued the west coast of Florida for nearly a year. The revised ordinance did away with a June 1 to Sept. 30 blackout period, which had prohibited the use of nitrogen- and phosphorus-based fertilizers during rainy season, when the chemicals are more likely to end up in waterways. Instead, the ordinance now prohibits fertilizer application ‘when soils are saturated, heavy rain is likely, or during a storm or flood watch/warning.’ Collier County has a similar standard. ‘We went from no fertilizer during the wet season to now if we get a prediction of rain, there is to be no fertilization. Well, that’s not enforceable,’ said Councilwoman Linda Penniman, who voted against removing the blackout period. ‘It weakened our ordinance.’ Stephanie Molloy, the city's natural resources manager, said the city removed the fertilizer blackout period based on the recommendations of ‘local experts.’ ‘Local experts indicated that plants should be fertilized only when they are actively growing,’ she wrote in an Aug. 28 email. ‘Plants not fertilized properly during the growing season do not develop a healthy root system, and this limits their ability to absorb nutrients.’...Grassroots organization Collier Clean Water is collecting signatures on two petitions that ask the city and the county to pass ‘common-sense fertilizer ordinances with higher standards than the state's model and with standards higher than the current ordinance(s).’ One of those higher standards is a blackout period during rainy season. Rena Anders, who organized the Naples Hands Along the Water event and founded Collier Clean Water, said the group is focused on bringing about change rather than just complaining. While Naples repealed its blackout period, other cities throughout the state implemented one. The Marco Island City Council passed a fertilizer ordinance that included a June 1 through Sept. 30 blackout period in 2016. Like Clean Water Collier's proposed blackout period, it specifically applies to fertilizers that contain nitrogen and phosphorous. Rhonda Watkins, Collier County's principal environmental specialist, said nitrogen and phosphorous can be especially problematic for the fish population...The city of Sanibel, which has been greatly impacted by red tide, has had a strong fertilizer ordinance since 2007. Its blackout period is July through September, and fertilizer cannot be applied within 25 feet of waterbodies. In Collier County and Naples, the restriction is 10 feet. James Evans, Sanibel's director of natural resources, said the city has conducted a comprehensive nutrient management plan that has measured water quality since 2001. Evans said the study shows that water quality has improved since 2007. ‘Inorganic nitrogen and orthophosphorus were both significantly reduced as a result of the fertilizer ordinance,’ Evans said. Sarasota County has a fertilizer blackout period from June 1 to Sept. 30, but Venice Vice Mayor Bob Daniels wants to take it one step further and completely ban the use of fertilizer within city limits. The Venice City Council will vote on his proposal Tuesday. If approved, it will go into effect Oct. 1. Anders said Collier County and Naples can look to Venice as an example of putting the well-being of the environment above aesthetics. ‘Venice decided that having pretty plants is not as important as keeping contaminants out of the Gulf,’ she said. ‘I don't see Naples sending the same message. I'm not saying Naples can’t fertilize,’ she continued. ‘What I'm saying is fertilize intelligently, fertilize at the right time and use fertilizers when it’s not going to pollute our waterways as much.” Lisa Conley reports for the Naples Daily News.
Read Lagoon, Lake O future in ‘our hands,’ group says - “Toxic algae fouling the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. Melting, unstable ice near the poles and rising seas. Unsustainable land use patterns. A panel of scientists, resource managers and activists warned of those local, regional and global ecological collapses that could happen if we don’t take matters into our own hands. ‘We have a beautiful river here behind us, and it's in trouble,’ Phil Stasik, president of the Space Coast Progressive Alliance told the crowd of about 100 Thursday at Front Street Civic Center in Melbourne. The alliance held the forum entitled, "Mother Earth: the Future is in Our Hands," to discuss how to clean up the lagoon and Lake Okeechobee, and what they think is wrong with government water and climate policy. They talked of taking actions in our own back yards, such as emphasizing proper fertilizing, or no fertilizing. Some urged to push for better federal efforts to combat climate change. Others encouraged people to register to vote and to choose candidates who will support environmental issues...Climate change impacts to the lagoon could include more acidic waters, more saltwater intrusion and storm impacts, Lazarus said, adding that many uncertainties remain about ecological impacts. ‘Are we playing with fire?’ Lazarus said. The event comes in the wake of a red tide killing fish on the Gulf Coast, a toxic algae bloom triggered by releases of water from Lake Okeechobee and patchy algae blooms blunting seagrass recovery in the lagoon. ‘We have changing baselines that we still can't predict,’ said Duane DeFreese, executive director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. ‘So we all know we've got a problem here.’ DeFreese said one of the biggest challenges is getting five counties and dozens of cities along the lagoon to speak with one voice on lagoon restoration to state and federal lawmakers. ‘It's about infrastructure: wastewater, stormwater, septic-to-sewer conversion,’ DeFreese said…” Jim Waymer reports for Florida Today.
Read Rooney: We must get rid of excess nitrogen in our water - “In the 20 months I have served as your Congressman, improving our water quality has been my top priority. We have achieved more tangible results in building the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects and the Herbert Hoover Dike than in all of the preceding 18 years since the CERP was enacted in 2000. Congress and the administration have supported our requests to fund the infrastructure necessary to clean up the Okeechobee Watershed and reduce harmful discharges into the river. This includes $247.8 million in overall funding last year, and an additional $514.2 million this year in supplemental funding to speed up completion of the repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike by 2022 instead of 2025. This savings of 3 years or more is the best means we have, in the short term, of alleviating harmful discharges...Later this year, Congress will likely approve the changes to the Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) reservoir, also known as the "A-2" or "Negron Plan" reservoir, which will enlarge the original footprint and permit much more water to be stored there, prior to sending it south through the cleansing marshes of the Everglades and into the Florida Bay. However, these infrastructure projects are only one piece of the puzzle. They deal primarily with phosphorus-laden water from Lake Okeechobee. High levels of nitrogen in the river present an entirely different threat and call for different remediation strategies. This aspect of our water quality challenges is often ignored in the public debate about what to do about the watershed. Excessive nitrogen discharges into the river lower dissolved oxygen levels and can lead to hypoxic conditions which kill fish and increase algal growth. According to both a 2016 study prepared by the City of Sanibel, titled Caloosahatchee Watershed Regional Water Management Issues, and a 2017 study by the South Florida Water Management District, Water Flow and Nutrient Loads to Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries in Water Years 2013-2017, over 60% of the nitrogen polluting the Caloosahatchee enters the river from sources west of Lake Okeechobee. This overabundance of nitrogen occurs from wastewater plant discharges, septic tank leaks, and other agriculture along the Caloosahatchee. In fact, there are many days in which our municipalities discharge overflow volumes of partially treated wastewater into the river. The harmful runoff from these sources must be addressed in order to solve the root causes of the algal blooms. Some remediation of these sources is underway, but there is a great deal of work left to do – and the sooner the better. Without action to address all components of the causes of the environmental disasters plaguing our Southwest Florida community, damage will continue. The health of our people, and of our economic livelihoods, are at stake.” Francis Rooney writes Opinion for the News-Press.
Read Recycling grows in The Villages, Sumter County- “Fewer tons of trash from Sumter County made it to the landfill last year. Villagers and area residents seem to recycle at higher numbers than ever, new data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows. About 217,000 tons of municipal solid waste collected in the county was recycled in 2017, an increase of about 57,000 tons from 2016, DEP stated. That brought the county’s recycling rate up to 72 percent — three points shy of reaching the rate that state leaders hope to achieve for the state overall. Perhaps the dedication of environmentally conscious Villagers like Sally King helped make it possible. The Village of Pennecamp resident trashes as little as possible, stacking piles of newspapers and empty cereal boxes and containers for recycling pickup. King recycles because she’s concerned that disposable materials are so abundant in people’s lifestyles that landfills will fill with more waste than they can handle. ‘There won’t be anywhere else for it to go (once it’s full),’ she said. Sumter now ties Charlotte County for the state’s highest traditional recycling rate, the data showed. Last year, Sumter was No. 2 behind Charlotte. Recycling in Sumter grew amid a statewide decrease in recycling. Florida’s rate was 52 percent in 2017, down four percentage points from the year prior, DEP data showed. The agency determines the rate based on traditional recycling of municipal solid waste, plus credits for renewable energy. However, the current rate is well above 2011’s, when statewide recycling participation was only 30 percent, DEP spokeswoman Elyssa Finkelstein said. She attributed this growth to improved outreach among recycling coordinators in each county. ‘The counties are able to assist DEP in tracking recycling, community engagement and education and continuing efforts to reach the statewide goal of 75 percent,’ Finkelstein said. ‘County recycling coordinators also provide a resource for local organizations and individuals to help increase recycling opportunities." Michael Salerno reports for The Villages Daily Sun.
Read Toxic red tide algae moves north near Tampa Bay, killing hundreds of thousands of fish - “The toxic algae bloom that has carved a trail of dead animals and triggered a putrid stench along western Florida's coastline has drifted further north, killing hundreds of thousands of fish in the Tampa Bay region. The legions of dead fish were reported in a 20-mile stretch of coastline from Clearwater to St. Petersburg, environmental officials with Pinellas County told the Tampa Bay Times on Saturday. County workers roamed beaches and trawled offshore to collect the fish carcasses to head off decomposition as some beachgoers turned back. Rotting fish and the strong odor of the algae has previously repelled locals and imperiled Florida's vital tourism sector for much of the summer. The toxic algae has claimed countless fish, hundreds of sea turtles, dozens of bottlenose dolphins and even a 26-foot whale shark in the past few months. The toxic algae stretches in varied density for about 120 miles of coastline, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said...Until this past week, the red tide lurked south of Tampa Bay, the Times reported. But samples of high concentration of the algae have been found in waters near Clearwater Beach in the past few days. The sudden approach of the algal bloom and dead fish washing ashore surprised beachgoers on Saturday. Andres and Veronica Bernal told the Times that they had checked county websites for alerts before leaving Tampa in the afternoon…” Alex Horton reports for the Washington Post.
Read Can the law that protects the quality of the nation’s waters seep into groundwater below the surface? - “Can the law that protects the quality of the nation's waters seep into groundwater below the surface? According to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which includes North Carolina in its jurisdiction, it may have that reach... At its core, the Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants from any point source into navigable waters. The Act defines the term ‘discharge of pollutants’ as ‘any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source.’ To comply with the Act, parties typically obtain permits allowing the discharges, within limits, through the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program. Traditionally, "navigable waters" meant navigable in fact, at the very least navigable enough to paddle a kayak downstream. Through the course of legislative amendments, administrative rulemaking, and judicial decisions, it was clarified to mean ‘waters of the United States, including the territorial seas’ – essentially any surface water body that could be conceived to involve interstate commerce. Years of muddled interpretations frustrated the regulated public as the EPA, United States Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps"), and the United States Supreme Court tried to agree on what qualifies as a "water of the United States" subject to the Act. The 2006 split decision of the United States Supreme Court in Rapanos v. United States resulted in the agencies' case-by-case application of now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy's lone opinion. His "significant nexus" test extended the application of the Act to bodies of water and wetlands, some seasonally dry, which alone, or in combination, significantly contribute to the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of traditional navigable waters. Years of unpredictability from application of the "significant nexus" test led the EPA and Corps to replace multiple guidance documents with the Clean Water Rule (the "Rule") in 2015...In 2018, two federal appellate court decisions separately held that point source discharges to groundwater that ultimately reached surface waters could be subject to the Act. In in Upstate Forever v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, the Fourth Circuit held that a direct discharge from a point source into navigable waters is not required to constitute a violation of the Act if there is an allegation of a direct hydrological connection between the navigable waters and the intervening groundwater. In doing so, it joined the Ninth Circuit which, in the case of Hawaii Wildlife Fund v. County of Maui, held that a direct discharge to surface water is not required to apply the Act... As the Clean Water Rule awaits its facelift, groundwater pass-through cases proceed. The issue soon may find its way to a United States Supreme Court sitting with Justice Kennedy's successor because the County of Maui just filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit's Hawaii Wildlife Fund decision since it conflicts with decisions in other federal courts of appeals throughout the country. Where the Act is concerned, only one thing is clear – continued uncertainty for regulated parties…” Amy P. Wang writes for Ward and Smith.
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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