FCC News Brief - September 28, 2018

Read No tax increase in water district budget, but opposition from unusual source - “The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board will give final consideration to its 2018-2019 budget, which includes no property tax increases for the eighth consecutive year. The tentative budget of $813.9 million reduces the tax rate for 15 of its 16 counties by about 5.3 percent to $29 per $100,000 of taxable property value. That reduction, called the ‘rollback rate’, ensures that even though property values have increased, residents will pay the same, or slightly less, than the previous year...The lone dissenter in the July vote, and subsequent budget discussions, was Jim Moran, who represents Palm Beach County on the board. Moran, who was appointed to the board by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, is a self-described ‘conservative tea party guy,’ and advocate of smaller government. But he said he can’t support an 8th year of reduced tax rates. We need more money, we’re broke’ Moran said in July. ‘When I first came on the board we had $400 to $500 million in what I call unrestricted reserves, but we’ve spent that down for restoration projects and other projects to what is now below $60 million and we are still only collecting the same amount we were eight to nine years ago.’...District staff said in July that even if money was no object for operations and maintenance, they couldn’t physically complete more projects or do more repairs and that the $3 million allocation was decided on after discussions with Chief Engineer John Mitnik...The district is in charge of about 760 culverts, weirs, spillways, locks and pump stations. It also maintains 2,100 miles of canals and 2,000 miles of levees in the 16-county region it oversees from Orlando to the Florida Keys. Moran resigned as chairman of the district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition in May after he had asked that the report be added to the coalition’s agenda, but was denied...Moran wasn’t the only person encouraging the board to keep the millage rate the same. He was joined by Nyla Pipes, a member of the district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition and executive director of One Florida Foundation, and Cara Capp, Everglades restoration program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. Both spoke at the July meeting. Pipes mentioned this summer’s algae plague on Lake Okeechobee and in both northern estuaries. ‘If you are looking at a rollback rate when all of us are advocating for projects we know we need, we are sending a very mixed message and I am confident Floridians want to get there on all of these projects and they want to get there faster,’ Pipes said. ‘Literally, at this moment, we have declarations of emergency in this state, and it’s time to recognize the economy is getting better and Floridians will stand behind you if you continue doing the good work you’re doing.’ Kimberly Miller reports for Palm Beach Post.

Read County commissioners back ban on new conventional septic systems beachside, near lagoon - “Brevard County commissioners unanimously backed a major overhaul of the county's septic tank rules in an effort to reduce the introduction of harmful nitrogen and phosphorus into the Indian River Lagoon.In the first of two required votes, commissioners on Tuesday night approved an ordinance to ban installation of new conventional septic tank systems throughout Brevard County's beachside barrier island areas and on Merritt Island, as well as on mainland areas that are near the lagoon. Under the plan, installation of new "nitrogen-reducing septic systems" that decrease nitrogen releases by at least 65 percent would be allowed in these areas. These systems cost thousands of dollars more than conventional systems, but better protect the environment. If commissioners approve the ordinance when it comes up for a final vote on Oct. 9, it will replace a 150-day moratorium with similar restrictions that was approved on May 22 and would expire on Oct. 19...The new rules would affect only the installations of new septic systems. Residents in the affected areas who already have conventional septic systems would not be required to upgrade them. During public comment before the County Commission vote, eight local residents spoke in favor of the ordinance, although some of them felt the ordinance didn't go far enough.  Merritt Island resident Alex Gorichky was among those who favored a countywide ban on new conventional septic systems, rather than having parts of the county affected and parts of the county not affected. ‘There's no reason this shouldn't be made countywide,’ said Gorichky, a fishing charter captain who owns Local Lines Guide Service. ‘It's time to get serious about it. We're still putting a Band-Aid’ on trying to clean up the lagoon. County commissioners agreed to revisit the provisions of the ordinance no later than August 2020, when Barker will have additional research completed on the impacts of septic tanks on the lagoon. Barker said septic systems are responsible for about 18.8 percent of the total nitrogen in the Indian River Lagoon, making it the second-largest source, behind muck, at 42.4 percent. Septic systems are responsible for about 32.7 percent of the new nitrogen entering the lagoon, ranking first in that category. Under current plans for use of a half-percent special sales tax for Indian River Lagoon restoration projects, the county would spend $68 million during a 10-year period to remove or retrofit 3,734 septic system. Yet, at the same time, the Florida Department of Health permits about 800 new septic systems a year, Barker said…” Dave Berman reports for Florida Today.

Read Could last minute deal on controversial Miami-Dade highway help the Everglades - “So this is ironic: A controversial plan to build a highway across protected wetlands could help a stalled Everglades restoration project in a last-minute deal struck by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Sen. Marco Rubio Wednesday. Or at least that’s the plan. The divisive, 13-mile extension to the 836/Dolphin Expressway comes before the County Commission Thursday and faces fierce opposition from environmentalists and smart growth advocates who say too many questions remain unanswered as the county fast-tracks approval. State regulators have also raised red flags, saying Miami-Dade has so far failed to assess the environmental damage caused by building a six-lane highway across what used to be part of the Everglades Shark River Slough, the main artery for marshes... In a letter to county staff Wednesday, Rubio said he’d be willing to drop his opposition if the county ensures the highway includes this major ask: Buy all the land south of the Tamiami Trail and east of Krome Avenue needed to buffer the Everglades project. His office said that amounts to about 2,200 acres...Gimenez, who has repeatedly said the highway would not harm restoration efforts while remaining vague on the details, agreed. Sort of. In his response, Gimenez said the county would buy land in the project footprint to trade for state and federally-owned land needed to construct the highway. What’s not specified is how much, or whether it totals what’s needed for the entire buffer zone....The Everglades project in question was originally planned as a four-foot deep reservoir to store water. But federal and state engineers abandoned the idea after determining South Florida’s porous limestone would leak. They instead came up with a concept for a canal and pumps that would recharge the basin while preventing water from leaking to the east. Disappearing wetlands have become increasingly critical to South Florida’s water supply in the face of rising sea levels and rising temperatures. The National Academies of Sciences has also said fixing the Everglades could require more water than originally calculated...In letters this week, the Foundation, along with Audubon Florida, the Sierra Club, 1000 Friends of Florida and half dozen more groups including developers asked commissioners to postpone their decision until details could be ironed out…” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.

Read FWC extends red tide catch-and-release ban, changes imperiled species list - “The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has extended the red tide-spurred catch-and-release rules for redfish and snook until next May and widened the restricted area to include Tampa Bay. Florida's Southwest Gulf Coast has been choked by a persistent red tide that started almost a year ago and has left literally tons of dead fish, sea turtles and marine mammals like manatee and dolphin. But if the restriction benefits the fishery, charter fishing captain Noah Stewart is all for it, because much of his business is catch-and-release anyway. ‘It's not like you’re going to Alaska and shipping back 20 pounds of fish," said Stewart, who's been guiding charters for 16 years. ‘All the biggest fish we have you can’t keep anyway, like tarpon and goliath grouper. ... It's the experience people remember —  the beautiful day on the water.’ At its meeting Wednesday, the commission also changed status and approved new guidelines for eight of the more than 50 animals on the state's imperiled species list. It added the Suwanee alligator snapping turtle to the state's threatened list and removed seven others, including two other species of snapping turtle, the eastern chipmunk, the Southern fox squirrel and Monroe County's osprey population. Those species, as well as the harlequin darter fish and the Homosassa shrew, no longer require the protections afforded by listing, the commission decided after a review process…” Amy Bennett Williams reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

Read Orange County launches site to help homeowners understand new septic rules in Wekiva Basin - “New rules for property owners in the Wekiva Basin became effective July 1. The 2016 Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to improve water quality in the aquifer that feeds the springs and develop plans to prevent and remove pollution. Some of those plans have been controversial- and could potentially be costly. State scientists and environmental groups contend that seepage from 60,000 residential septic tanks within the Wekiva River basin is a big contributor of nitrates- a pollutant- in both the river and the springs, which are popular venues for canoeing, swimming, tubing and other water sports. Only lawn and agricultural fertilizer account for more, they say. The new rules, enacted by the Florida Legislature, will require some Wekiva-area property owners with septic tanks to upgrade to more complex and expensive systems to treat nitrogen pollutants or connect to sanitary sewers if available. Conservation groups say damaging pollution percolates from residential septic systems and flows through the environmentally sensitive Wekiva River basin, imperiling the long-term health of the springs, the river and its tributaries. The site includes answers to frequently asked technical questions and helps explain a BMAP, the so-called ‘blueprint’ for restoring the impaired waters...another helpful site, The Sludge Report, which provides facts about pollution in the springs and monitors legislative actions, maintains that, while water quality issues are important to Florida’s future, ‘so are Florida’s residents, businesses, and communities’. “  Stephen Hudak reports for the Orlando Sentinel.

Read So WOTUS is legal. Now what? - “Last month, the Obama-era Clean Water Rule- which set out to clarify once and for all that the Clean Water Act also protects seasonal streams, lakes, and wetlands-unexpectedly became the law of the land when a federal district court judge decided that the Trump administration had overstepped its bounds by suspending the rule without taking public comment first. You only have to look at New York City to see the value of protecting wetlands; the drinking water for 9 million people is filtered almost entirely by the landscape of Upstate New York, instead of the water treatment plants that process most Americans’ water. So it’s not a huge surprise that the most ardent defenders of the Clean Water Rule, also known as WOTUS (short for Waters of the U.S.), has been conservation groups with ‘water’ in their names: the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, Charleston Waterkeeper, American Rivers, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, and Clean Water Action were just a few of the groups that sued the Trump administration’s EPA to stop suspending the rule...The question is, what’s going to happen to WOTUS—and to seasonal streams and wetlands—now that the Clean Water Rule is in effect. ‘Overall it's a giant mess,” says Holly Doremus, who teaches environmental law at UC Berkeley. “It’s in effect in some states. It's not in effect in others.’ Injunctions granted against the Clean Water Rule by district courts in North Dakota and Georgia means the rule doesn’t apply in 24 states but is now the law in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington...The Clean Water Rule at least partly owes its existence to a real estate developer named John Rapanos, who filled several acres of Michigan wetlands with sand in the late 1980s, in the hopes of attracting a shopping mall to build there. When the EPA sued him for not getting a permit first, the ensuing years of litigation over whether Rapanos had violated the Clean Water Act made it clear that the issue of what constituted ‘water’ was contentious enough that the Clean Water Act needed a more precise definition…”Heather Smith writes for SIERRA.

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Upcoming Environmental Events

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 2, 12:00-1:00 pm – Springs Academy Tuesday: Springs Overview (High Springs):  Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute for an hour-long presentation with Florida Springs Institute Executive Director, Dr. Robert Knight. During this class, Dr. Knight will be presenting an in-depth overview of springs and how they support our land and our daily lives! After each class, students get a chance to sit down for lunch with Dr. Knight and Florida Springs Institute staff to ask questions and find out more about how they can get involved in protecting these important natural resources. Registration for each class is not required; however, there is a $5 suggested donation for each class. Address: North Florida Springs Environmental Center, 99 NW 1st Avenue, High Springs, FL 32643.

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 6-7, 13th - National Solar Tour-Florida Open Houses (Statewide): In an effort to make solar visible in our communities and educate people about solar energy, Solar United Neighbors has organized a series of over 600 solar open houses in 48 states and over 100 in FL alone.  Interested in going solar? Sign up to visit a solar open house near you (October 6th and 7th, October 13th in Alachua County).

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/

October 12-November 16 - Save our Springs & Rivers Academy (Volusia County)- Want to become a Blue Spring advocate and help spread the word about solutions to water pollution? Attend this FREE adult education courses that includes classroom and field trip experiences, guest speakers, hands-on, feet-wet learning to provide the ultimate citizen engagement experience. Those participating in the six-week course will gain valuable knowledge and will pledge to educate others on behalf of Volusia Blue Spring. For more information or to register, visit www.greenvolusia.org or call 386-736-5927. View course dates and locations here.

October 13, 9:00am-3:00pm - Fall Wildflower Festival & Native Plant Sale (Parrish): The Serenoa Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program present the Fall Wildflower Festival and Native Plant Sale at Sweetbay Nursery, 10824 Erie Road, Parrish. Get all the latest information from conservation groups such as Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Audubon Society, Tampa Bay Watch, and more. Ray’s Vegan Soul food available for purchase. For more information, call 941-776-0501.

October 20-21 – Into the Springs Music Festival (Alachua):  Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute for its second annual Into the Springs Music Festival at Deep Spring Farm. Enjoy a weekend full of live music, camping, organic farming workshops, yoga, and community in support of Florida springs! To learn more and purchase tickets, visit https://floridaspringsinstitute.org/event/intothesprings/. Funding for this event was provided in part by Visit Gainesville/Alachua County. Address: Deep Springs Farm,  16419 W County Rd 1491, Alachua, FL 32615.

October 26, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. - Water Symposium: The State of our Water (DeLand): The Volusia Water Alliance hosts a series of short presentations on the water problems we face and possible solutions by leaders and experts, focused on Volusia County and applicable statewide. This free event features keynote speaker Dr. Jason Evans, Faculty Director of the Institute for Water & Environmental Resilience, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Studies at Stetson University, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Environmental Management. His topic is "Reclaiming the Future: Science, Engagement, and Hope in Our State of Watery Peril.” Seating is limited; please register online at VolusiaWater.org. Optional catered lunch from DeLand Natural Market (wrap, chips, water, and a brownie) is available for $12 with registration. Visit VolusiaWater.org for more information. Sponsorships are available. Wayne G. Sanborn Activity Center - 815 S. Alabama Ave., DeLand, FL 32724

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.

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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