Read County acquires more conservation land - “Since voters gave the nod to the Wild Spaces and Public Places sales tax two years ago, Alachua county officials have kept busy, working to acquire more conservation land. The county’s latest acquisition comes with the help of the city of Gainesville, at a price of more than $4 million, in what some say could be a key to helping preserve local water quality. Earlier this week, the two parties bought the Four Creeks Preserve, a 715-acre property, located between U.S. 441 and Northwest 43rd Street. ‘We’ve been working for the past year and a half ever since the voters approved this round of Wild Spaces funding to get land acquisition geared up,’ said Charlie Houder, the county’s parks and conservation lands director. ‘We feel the program’s in full swing at this point.’ The Wild Spaces and Public Places half-cent sales tax was approved by voters in November, paving the way for the county and its cities to use millions of dollars in tax revenue to buy conservation land and upgrade recreational facilities. The tax ends in 2024. Since its approval, city officials have spent much of the city’s share on parks and facility upgrades, while the county has consistently focused on buying land. The property, previously owned by Arthur Weiss, of Boca Raton, had been poised to become a residential development. The county coughed up nearly $2.9 million for 470.5 acres. The city contributed about $1.5 million, most from its tree mitigation fund. Four Creeks Preserve, also known as the Weiss property, connects to four other creeks — Blues, Hogtown, Possum and Turkey…In December, county officials expect to close on two purchases worth a combined $4.6 million. Fox Pen, owned by real estate investment trust company Weyerhaeuser, is a 597-acre property located south of Hawthorne near Holden Park Road. The county had a contract to buy the property along with the Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT). The county will buy 400 acres for $915,000 with Wild Spaces money, while ACT will buy 197 acres for $450,000. The other property is located at Serenola Forest, just north of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The joint purchase is also with ACT. The county plans to buy 103 acres for about $3 million and the trust plans to buy 7.7 acres for $225,000. Houder said the purchase is important to the county because it allows for a bigger protective buffer around Paynes Prairie. ‘Each property has importance and environmental values,’ he said…” Andrew Caplan reports for the Gainesville Sun.
Read Red tide, take warning - “During my 50 years on this coast, I’ve experienced four killer algae blooms as a fishing guide (1972, ’82, ’96 and 2004). As a novelist, I’ve researched the subject, yet my understanding lacks the certainty of those newly acquainted with these blooms. Every 10 to 15 years after a rainy winter or hurricane, acres of bloated fish wash ashore, as well as bottlenose dolphins and manatees. On the heels of public outrage come theories. Biologists squabble, environmental groups debate. Learjet conquistadors swoop in, aspirant politicians who see Florida as an untethered plum and who buy their way into office with big bucks and bumper-sticker cures. If one faction disagrees, there are charges of collusion or worse. Finger-pointing ensues, and the usual suspects have not changed: the state’s sprawling sugar cane industry, south of Lake Okeechobee, which accounts for almost half of the nation’s sugar cane production; and phosphate mining north of the lake that supplies three-fourths of the phosphate used in the country. It makes sense. Fertilizer causes organisms to grow, right? A few disasters ago, I would have joined in lock step behind this theory, but recent events and a quick and unsavory review of history have caused me to reassess...But people either forgot or were unaware that these blooms were happening long before those industries arrived. All of which underscores the complexities of the phenomenon. In 1947, as reported by The St. Petersburg Times, there was a red tide so horrific that Navy warships were summoned to “disperse a putrid fish kill along 35 miles” of coast....All this on a peninsula that has been accurately described as a waterscape elevated by porous limestone and fragile karst geology. You can’t spit near Disney World without your DNA ending up in Lake Okeechobee or, more likely, the Gulf of Mexico, if the Army Corps of Engineers is involved. For decades, the corps has invited disaster by conveying most of Lake Okeechobee’s discharge west to the gulf, the birthplace of nearly all killer red tides. Which brings us back to this summer’s disaster. It was, according to Brian Lapointe, a research professor at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, a rare collision between disparate blooms that were, inaccurately, portrayed as one: a marine-borne red tide, and a freshwater infestation of blue-green algae... In Florida, however, the cause of the blue-green algae has been directly linked to septic tanks, according to the Harbor Branch Institute. The severity of this event should change the way we think. We are the usual suspects. This disaster, in fact, could be a blessing, for it has rallied Floridians via images of dead turtles and dolphins that might remain fresh in the mind beyond the November election. Fishing guides have organized under the banner of Captains for Clean Water. And communities are addressing backyard threats: septic tanks and fertilizer-curried lawns that seem benign until a blue-green effluvium bubbles up and sends residents packing — not unlike a long-gone interloper in 1521.” Opinion by Randy Wayne White for the New York Times.
Read Hunters and anglers keep their eyes on the Senate as Land and Water Conservation Fund expire - “371 Florida sportsmen and women delivered a letter to members of Florida’s congressional delegation today calling on them to support full-funding and reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The letter highlighted LWCF’s support for projects like land acquisition providing public access for hunting and fishing, and preserving essential wildlife habitat and migration corridors in Florida. The 54-year-old conservation program expired yesterday. ‘Congress has made a huge mistake by allowing this successful conservation program to expire,’ said Manley Fuller, President of Florida Wildlife Federation. ‘Hunters and anglers throughout Florida have benefitted from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Our state has received over $1 billion in support from this and Congress needs to fix this blunder.’ Legislation is moving through the senate that Senator Rubio and Senator Nelson may have a chance to vote on. ‘Sportsmen and women in Florida will be watching closely to see which way our Senators vote when given the chance,’ added Franklin Adams, board member of the Florida Wildlife Federation. ‘I hope our Senators make the choice to stand with Floridians and support the full-funding and reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.’ From Florida Wildlife Federation press release.
Read Rare red tide found in Palm Beach County, but beaches open soon - “Palm Beach County’s coastal waters are tainted with a rare toxic red tide bloom likely carried on natural currents from Florida’s west coast, authorities confirmed Monday. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said water samples taken after beachgoers complained of scratchy throats, coughing and skin irritations this past weekend tested positive for low-to-medium concentrations of red tide and the single-cell algae Karenia brevis that causes it. t’s an unusual stain on the state’s east coast that hasn’t happened in more than a decade, and one that is hitting a region previously unscathed by the poisonous algae blooms plaguing other parts of the state. ‘The bloom on the west coast was so big this year and has been there for so long, I was surprised it hadn’t made it over here sooner,’ said J. William Louda, a research professor for Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. ‘That it could be here in enough amount to cause irritations is distressing to say the least.’ Widespread beach closures followed Saturday’s reports of health concerns. Palm Beach County’s beaches will reopen Wednesday. Cities make their own decisions on beach closures...Red tides are naturally occurring and have been observed in the Gulf of Mexico since the 1800s. The bloom can reach the east coast if it gets caught in the Gulf of Mexico’s loop current and travels through the Florida Straits into the Gulf Stream — a north-moving river of warm water that skims the Palm Beach County coastline. Once in the Gulf Stream, waves can force the toxin produced by the Karenia brevis to be dispersed in the air, which is then carried by east winds to the beaches…’It’s unusual, but it’s not unheard of for it to end up on the east coast,’ said Richard Stumpf, a NOAA oceanographer who studies harmful algae blooms and their movement. ‘The reason it’s rare is you have to have the bloom and an east wind. It’s a combination of things that have to happen.’ Stumpf said he’s monitoring satellite images of the state and doesn’t see any clear evidence of red tide on the east coast. High concentrations of red tide can appear brown in the water. ‘There’s nothing I can pin down and say, ‘Oh, there it is,’’ Stumpf said. ‘Our best guess is it’s piled along the edge of the Gulf Stream and it’s really hard to see that…” Kimberly Miller, Alexandra Seltzer, and Jodie Wagner report for the Palm Beach Post.
Read DEP announces Septic Upgrade Incentive Program- “The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is announcing a Septic Upgrade Incentive Program to improve water quality and protect Florida's outstanding springs. The incentive program encourages homeowners to enhance conventional septic systems by adding advanced features to reduce nitrogen pollution. This Septic Upgrade Incentive Program is designed to offset homeowner costs by providing certified installers and licensed plumbers with up to $10,000 after the installation of enhanced nitrogen-reducing features to existing septic systems located in targeted areas within eligible counties. This incentive effectively reduces the costs to the homeowner for the septic system upgrades. Designated areas are identified and delineated by DEP as Priority Focus Areas in Citrus, Hernando, Leon, Marion, Orange, Pasco, Seminole, Volusia and Wakulla counties. View the Priority Focus Area map to see if a home location is in an eligible area. ‘We encourage homeowners in these Priority Focus Areas to take advantage of this new Septic Upgrade Incentive Program,’ said Trina Vielhauer, director of DEP's Division of Water Restoration Assistance. ‘Every homeowner who does their part to upgrade a septic system brings us one step closer to our goal of significantly lowering nutrients in Florida's springs.’ Eligible enhancements include retrofitting septic tanks with advanced pre-treatment, recirculating aerobic treatment units, or replacing traditional septic tanks with upgraded nutrient-reducing technology. Visit the Florida Department of Health's webpage for more information about onsite treatment and disposal systems. The incentives are available for payment directly to septic system installers and licensed plumbers retained by homeowners to update existing systems, and must be pre-approved by the department prior to the commencement of work…” From the FDEP Press Office.
Read Water issues have a long history - “You can see it, smell it and feel the frustration mounting. Every day one of my constituents asks me what I am doing to help with the effects of red tide...While I understand the urgency, our water issues were decades in the making and the course correction will take time and sustained effort. We cannot move forward until we have looked back and analyzed what brought us to this point. Here is some of the harmful environmental legislation passed and decisions made in the last eight years: In 2011, the Legislature passed the Community Planning Act (HB 7207), which minimized state oversight of local governments’ comprehensive planning, essentially abandoning state oversight of land-development decisions. The Legislature that year also passed SB 2142, which limits the amount of revenue water management districts can collect through property taxes, crippling their budgets and resources. This undermined state monitoring of our water quality and our water supply...In 2012 the DEP laid off 58 employees, making enforcement of regulations more difficult. In 2010, the DEP had handled 2,289 environmental enforcement cases; that number plummeted to 799 in 2012. Also in 2012, the Legislature repealed SB 1738, a 2010 bill that required septic tank owners to have their tanks inspected every five years to prevent sewage leaks. In 2013 the legislature passed HB 999, which ratified the governor’s decision to continue 30-year leases of public lands in the Everglades to sugar companies. The bill also prohibited local governments from banning fertilizers, accelerated permitting for gas pipelines, and forbid environmental groups from suing to overturn the Everglades leases. In 2015 the Legislature passed SB 552, The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act. Don’t be fooled by its name. This bill eliminates many regulatory checks by allowing agricultural operations to self-monitor using ‘best management practices.’ This bill also made it difficult for water management districts to deny consumptive-use permits. In 2015 the governor instructed the DEP and other agencies to avoid the term “climate change.” More important, the South Florida Water Management District’s board voted against a deal to purchase almost 47,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land critical to Everglades restoration. Had the deal gone through, that land would have been used to store additional water from Lake Okeechobee....We must support septic-to-sewer programs, better regulate pesticides and fertilizers, fully staff inspection agencies and fund land preservation. Moving forward, we must make better choices and forge a path that prioritizes our land and water. We do this by holding our elected officials accountable — at the ballot box.” Margaret Good (D-Siesta Key) writes Opinion for the Herald-Tribune.
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 11, 12:45pm - 2:45pm - Villages Environmental Discussions Group kick-off event (The Villages): Our guest speakers will include Jaret Daniels, Ph.D., associate curator and program director at the Florida Museum of Natural History, who will discuss Florida native butterflies. Other guest speakers include Mike Archer and Jody Woodson-Swartzman, of Green Party Lake County, who will discuss their project to inspire others to reduce the use of plastic shopping bags. They will even show how to revise an old t-shirt into a usable shopping bag. Please send an RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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