Read Red tide likely to return if we don’t take action now - “...In Northwest Florida, our incumbent politicians are attempting to calm concerns. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, for example, explains that red tides are ‘natural’ and date back to Native American days. Still, the typical Beach visitor is unaccustomed to seeing an endless line of dead fish along the shore, as has been the case some days earlier this month. And, difficulty breathing and the rotten smell are not good for tourism or property values. In certain areas, Karenia brevis has dominated the Gulf environment to the point where the levels of neurotoxins it releases are fatal to the fish. Are the red tide blooms more frequent or pernicious? Record keeping was less rigorous before the 1990s and virtually nonexistent in the early part of the 20th century, so it is hard for scientists to compare. But a look at the FWC website shows more reports of fish kills from red tide in recent years. In Bay County, fish kills occurred in 2015....Fertilizer and waste runoff from the Mississippi River basin has created a low-oxygen dead zone in the Gulf that approximates the size of Connecticut. In 2017, scientists measured the hypoxic zone at over 8,776 square miles, its largest size ever. Fish and shellfish cannot survive on the low oxygen. Algae blooms, however, prosper in the nitrogen and phosphorous rich environment. Just as everybody with an “Open East Pass” bumper sticker knows, marine environments are healthier with a steady water exchange...What shall we do? Act sooner, not later. Most problems are more efficiently solved with earlier intervention. Insist that policy makers be guided by science. Most climate change deniers or minimalists are Republicans. Voters need to hold them accountable for the damage they are doing to our present and future environment or convince them to work on solutions. Work together across state and national lines. A flood in Houston or fertilizer runoff in the Mississippi River basin washes in nutrients that can kill fish in Florida. States and the federal government have to prioritize effective conservation. The Farm bill touted by Congressman Neal Dunn needs to strengthen the provisions for preventing fertilizer and animal waste runoff not weaken them. The Paris Climate Accord is an example of international climate cooperation. Sadly, under President Trump the United States is now the only nation to have announced its intent to not participate. Through rigorous federal restrictions, the Red Snapper population has seemingly recovered. So, citizens and our representatives can make a difference…” Alvin Peters writes Opinion for the Panama City News Herald.
Read Fort Myers still eyes Crystal River for sludge - “ The city of Fort Myers is not budging from plans to transport about 30,000 tons of toxic sludge from a city neighborhood to a limestone quarry north of Crystal River, where it will be processed for barge transport to Alabama. The city released on Friday what it said was its latest transportation and reuse work plan provided to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It is identical — albeit more detailed — to the plan PPM Consultants provided to the DEP just a week ago. The new plan was provided to DEP on Thursday, city reports show. The DEP is looking at the plan, agency spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said. ‘The department is conducting an initial review to make sure this information is sufficient for the department to conduct a proper evaluation for compliance with Florida’s environmental laws,’ she said in an email late Friday afternoon to the Chronicle. Citrus County Administrator Randy Oliver on Thursday sent a letter to DEP asking for assurances that the material doesn’t pose harm to Citrus County, either in the truck transport or processing at the LafargeHolcim site north of Crystal River. Oliver said he didn’t get a response Friday. The consultant’s plan states that the company is communicating with both the county and state every step of the way. ‘The LafargeHolcim environmental team is working closely with the County Engineering Department and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) authorities to ensure the beneficial use of this material in the cement process is in full compliance with the external and internal regulations and guidelines’ it reads. Oliver, however, said Friday no one from his staff has had any contact with anyone from Fort Myers, LafargeHolcim or the consultant about the materials...City documents show that that recent tests reveal no detectable levels of arsenic on grass or trees at the site, which is city-owned property in the Dunbar community of Fort Myers. City officials say the material is harmless and they are removing the sludge voluntarily. DEP reports, however, show the state wants the site excavated…” Mike Wright reports for the Citrus County Chronicle.
Read A closer look at Florida Constitutional Amendment 9 - “Amendment 9 has two different topics – a ban on offshore oil drilling and a ban on “vaping” (puffing on e-cigarettes) in workplaces and public places. Voters will have to cast a single yes or no vote for both. Amendment 9 is also currently under review by the Florida Supreme Court. A lower court ruled that it and two other amendments should be thrown out because they deal with more than one subject and that could confuse voters. Amendment 9 would: Enshrine an offshore oil drilling ban into the state Constitution. Supporters of the amendment were spurred on by attempts in the state Legislature and by the Trump administration to push for oil and gas drilling rigs closer to Florida’s shore. An existing moratorium on putting drilling rigs near Florida’s coastlines expires in 2022. But oil and gas lobbyists have begun a new push to allow exploration off Florida, emboldened by the Trump administration’s announcement that it would open nearly all U.S. waters to drilling. President Donald Trump’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Florida would be exempt, but that’s only a statement – not an official policy or a law. Putting Amendment 9 in the state Constitution would insulate it from year-to-year politics. Amendment 9 would prohibit drilling in waters that belong to the state – up to nine miles off Florida’s Gulf coast and three miles out into the Atlantic. [Amendment 9 would:] Ban people from “vaping” (puffing on e-cigarettes) in indoor workplaces and most indoor public places. Florida banned tobacco smoking in workplaces and in most indoor public places in 2002. This would add vaping to that ban. Vaping would still be allowed in locations that allow cigarette smoking, such as bars, some retail establishments, and “smoking” hotel rooms. The amendment requires the state Legislature to pass vaping restrictions to go into effect on July 1, 2019...The offshore oil drilling ban only applies to state waters. It would not ban drilling or oil and gas exploration in federal waters, which extend past three miles from shore on the Atlantic side and past nine miles on the Gulf side. Amendment 9 needs 60 percent approval to pass.” Julie Hauserman reports for the Florida Phoenix.
Read Miami-Dade approves new 836 expressway to Kendall, past the urban development line - “Miami-Dade commissioners on Thursday approved a new 13-mile expressway into Kendall, citing traffic congestion in the suburbs and rejecting warnings from environmentalists that allowing the road to cross the county’s western development boundary would bring sprawl that endangers water supplies and the Everglades. The proposed $1 billion ‘Kendall Parkway’ would go through undeveloped farms and wetlands to connect the existing State Road 836 expressway to South Dade, crossing the county’s Urban Development Boundary, which was designed to separate intense residential and commercial development from the Everglades. The 9-4 vote was a loss to the ‘Hold the Line’ coalition of environmental groups that fight western development and a victory for West Kendall residents who have urged Miami-Dade to provide relief from traffic in an area not served by the county’s Metrorail system. The main source of conflict in the debate, the Urban Development Boundary, remains in place after the County Commission’s vote. The board granted changes in land-use rules sought by the independent Miami-Dade Expressway Authority to allow construction of the new toll road. The MDX toll board would build the highway, and pay for it with tolls collected on the existing system and on the new extension. It still must secure federal, state and local regulatory approvals, including another approval by the County Commission for permits to build on and over wetlands. But Thursday’s vote was seen as the last significant showdown before elected officials. ‘Big, big mistake,’ said Laura Reynolds, a consultant for the Friends of the Everglades. ‘This is a bait-and-switch.’...Gimenez pitched the 836 extension as a boon to the federal government’s multi-decade Everglades restoration effort, since MDX plans to purchase acreage sought by Washington for preservation projects west of the expressway route. That land would be swapped for federal land east of the extension for a wetlands preserve outside of the urban development zone. MDX must purchase wetlands to compensate for wetlands the highway project will destroy, and the toll agency estimates it needs to acquire at least 1,000 acres to comply with regulations. That’s well short of the roughly 2,000 acres sought by Washington for its Everglades restoration project. That gap could prove problematic if U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sticks with his demand that MDX purchase all the acreage that Washington needs for its long-stalled Everglades project west of the extension. Rubio said he would ask federal agencies to oppose the extension without the Everglades help, and his office said Thursday that Miami-Dade understood the requirement remains…” Douglas Hanks and Jenny Staletovich report for the Miami Herald.
Read Advocates cheer ‘significant wins’ for resilience efforts in Miami-Dade’s new budget - “Miami-Dade commissioners last week approved a budget that many community groups say is a good step for making the county more resilient against climate change and other quality-of-life challenges. David McDougal, who led the Miami Climate Alliance’s advocacy on the county budget, says he's happy that commissioners funded new positions in the Office of Resilience and set aside money to study access to social services. ‘This time we actually felt like there were significant wins,’ he said. Another victory, McDougal said, is that commissioners raised the county’s unusually low water bill rates. Miami-Dade needs to upgrade its stormwater system to harden it against sea-level rise and keep sewage from flowing into the ocean. That will likely cost at least $11 billion dollars over the next decade. To help cover the expense, Miami-Dade residents will now pay $2.80 more each month on their water bills.” Kate Stein reports for WJCT.
Read Exploratory oil wells proposed in Calhoun County - “ In late August, permit applications for six exploratory oil wells, on four platforms, were submitted to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) by Cholla Petroleum of Dallas, Texas. Cholla Petroleum previously conducted seismic testing in Calhoun County in 2016. The Cholla drilling sites, if approved by FDEP, would be in the 100-year floodplain between the Apalachicola River, Chipola River and the Dead Lakes in Calhoun County. Calhoun County allows for oil and gas exploration. The County must approve a land use permit before drilling occurs. Earlier this year, Spooner Petroleum’s exploratory oil well in Calhoun County came up dry. Cholla Petroleum proposes to drill 12,900 feet down, punching through the Floridan aquifer, the source of drinking water for much of Florida. Both surface and groundwater serve as primary sources of water to Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico in our region. Protection of these water sources is of tremendous importance to the human health, wellbeing, culture and economy of the Apalachicola River region. The development of oil and gas in this area threatens the basic quality of life due to the high risk of pollution of the surface and groundwater, subsidence of coastal plain, air quality, and community character. More than 40 species of amphibians and 80 species of reptiles live within the Apalachicola River basin, the highest diversity of amphibians and reptiles in the United States and Canada. More than 1,300 species of plants, including 103 that are threatened or endangered, are also found in the Apalachicola basin. Exploratory wells bring the risk of releasing harmful chemicals into the wetlands and rivers. A period of heavy rain could be disastrous if it carries toxins into the river system. Oil wells also require thousands of gallons of water per day, water that would otherwise support flows to the already thirsty and depleted river, floodplain and bay. Public comments can be directed to local officials and the DEP. Apalachicola Riverkeeper and many others have been working steadfastly to help restore a healthy flow of water to our river and bay…” Georgia Ackerman writes for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Read How fishing captains are saving the Everglades - ““This is what’s at risk,’ Captain Chris Wittman tells me. ‘This is what we are fighting for.’ He doesn’t need to point to what he’s referring to. Open waters and islands dense with mangroves unfurl in every direction. We’ve run a Hell’s Bay poling skiff through skinny water outside Everglades City, Florida, for a morning of hunting tarpon. This is primal country, without the blemish of a single human-built structure. Untouched, or so it seems...As a founding director of Captains for Clean Water, a nonprofit that advocates for the restoration of Florida’s estuaries and the Everglades, Wittman is helping channel into action a rising tide of anger over the state’s catastrophic water pollution. He and another Fort Myers charter captain, Daniel Andrews, formed the group in February 2016, after contaminated water from Lake Okeechobee flowed into the Caloosahatchee River and then into the fish-rich estuary where they have guided for decades. The toxic sludge wiped out grass beds and oyster reefs. Fish and horse conchs fled the contamination to die on white-sand beaches. The stench drove tourists out of their hotels. Fishing bookings, Wittman said, fell by 80 percent. Captains in the area had seen this before. Florida’s waterways have been re-plumbed over the last century, and water no longer flows where nature intended. Instead of filtering slowly from Okeechobee through the Everglades, water polluted by municipal and agricultural sources shunts from the lake through a system of locks and canals into the St. Lucie River on the east coast and the Caloosahatchee to the west. Wet years had brought high flows of tainted freshwater, but the winter deluge in 2016 was the worst ever. ‘The straw that broke the camel’s back,; Andrews says. The two captains coined a name for their grassroots effort, put up a Facebook page calling for a meeting at the Fort Myers Bass Pro Shops, and wondered if they could get a few dozen irate captains to show…” T. Edward Nickels writes for Garden & Gun.
Read Can Keys development really stop in 2023? - “In a little more than five years, new development will come to a grinding halt in the Florida Keys. At least, that is what the State of Florida has decreed for the islands it has designated an “Area of Critical Concern.” Beginning in 2023, it will no longer issue new building permits for Keys municipalities. None. Zilch. Zip. Nada. If this comes to pass, what happens next? Will landowners sue because the state (and local governments) is gutting the value of their investment by preventing them from building their dream home on their vacant lot? Will that raise taxes? What will happen to real estate values? Will builders be out of business? The ramifications are wide and far-reaching. The future starts now. Back in 1972, Florida initiated a statewide planning and growth management law that required each county to create a ‘Comprehensive Plan’ for land use management and to accommodate the fast population growth Florida was experiencing. Because of the Keys’ unique environment, and the risk to America’s only living reef, environmental organizations such as Friends of the Everglades, 1000 Friends of Florida and local activists such as George and Mary Barley in Islamorada lobbied the state to do more to protect the Keys from overdevelopment and inadequate governance....The state and the county began cooperating in land use decisions, and the state slowly transferred more responsibility to local government but retained overall control over development in the Keys. For example, in order to build, a developer must meet a number of state-mandated requirements regarding open space, size of the building, etc. However, the state Department of Economic Opportunity must still approve changes to the comprehensive plan. (Under Gov. Rick Scott, the Department of Community Affairs morphed into the Department of Economic Opportunity.)...In the mid-’80s, the Keys became a guinea pig of growth management, required to come up with a growth management plan long before it was required of other counties. Now, in 2023, the Keys will once again be first to test the “no new development” waters…” Frank Greenman and Sara Matthis report for the Keys Weekly.
From Our Readers
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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.
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