FCC News Brief - October 4, 2018

Read SFWMD could cut Lake Okeechobee discharges by a third with deep injection wells - “Is the best way to give the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers relief from Lake Okeechobee discharges to go deep? The South Florida Water Management District is considering using deep injection wells to dispose of water that otherwise would pollute the estuaries and has even renamed them Emergency Estuary Protection Wells….Opponents worry the wells could direct time and money away from efforts to bring about long-term solutions to the discharges — namely the reservoirs north, south, east and west of Lake O and projects designed to move water to the Everglades. Daniel Andrews of Fort Myers, executive director of the Captains for Clean Water, called the wells the latest ‘bright, shiny, object’ at a water forum Saturday sponsored by the Stuart-Sunrise Rotary Club. If the wells succeed in diverting water from the estuaries ‘people are going to argue that the problem is solved,’ said Shannon Estenoz, chief operating officer and vice president of policy and programs at the Everglades Foundation. ‘Well, it won't be. The problem won't be solved for the Everglades and Florida Bay.’ The estuaries might not survive the wait for those projects, countered Brandon Tucker of Palm City, a South Florida Water Management District board member. Tucker said completing all the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects will cost $16 billion and, with current funding levels from the state and federal governments, take more than 50 years to complete. In seven years, from 30 to 60 deep injection wells could be in the ground and providing relief to the estuaries, Tucker said. But all the CERP projects don't have to be online for the estuaries to get relief. Those designed to store excess Lake O water and send it south are scheduled to be completed by 2030. The wells' fans and critics agree not much is known about where water will go once it's sent 3,000 feet underground. ‘The water you put down there is going to move around to where you don't want it,’ said Harold R. Wanless, geography professor at the University of Miami. Some of the water, Wanless said, will "migrate" up into the aquifers where some Floridians get their drinking water. ‘The problem is you're pumping freshwater into an area that's saltwater," Wanless said. ‘Freshwater is less dense than saltwater, so it's going to find a way back up into the limestone that separates the boulder zone and the upper aquifer.’ The limestone has "plenty of cracks and fissures and holes to allow the water you pump down to come back up," Wanless said…” Tyler Treadway reports for Treasure Coast Newspapers.

Read St. Johns County solar homeowners will show off their power savings this weekend- “A co-operative in St. Johns County is hosting open houses Saturday and Sunday to show off the group’s solar powered homes. Forty-nine homeowners in St. Johns County installed solar panels at a cost savings of about 30 percent thanks to a co-op put together with the help of Solar United Neighbors, Compassionate St. Augustine and the environmental initiative of the Florida League of Women Voters. About 200 hundred homeowners originally joined the co-op, allowing them to negotiate lower solar panel cost and installation prices. Once the bids were received, the winning contractor was selected and the 49 homeowners moved forward with installations. Warren Clark is one of the co-op's organizers. He estimates his installation of 24 solar panels will pay for itself in about six years thanks in part to also buying a plug-in hybrid 2017 Toyota Prius Prime... Sales of plugin cars are steadily growing in the U.S. InsideEVs.com estimates more than 230,000 plug-in vehicles have been have been sold so far this year, topping 199,826 for all of 2017.  Clark also points out that adding solar adds to the equity of a home. Solar United Neighbors Florida Program Director Angela DeMonbreun said her group planned to start a co-op in Jacksonville but then JEA rolled back its net metering reimbursement rate to homeowners. JEA’s board voted earlier this year to cut the rate the utility pays solar users for excess power from 10 cents a kilowatt hour to 3 cents. ‘We hope to continue to push JEA to pull back the new solar policy that they put into place,’ said DeMonbreun. DeMonbreun said the new policy makes the solar investment payback period too long for many to consider. JEA countered by saying it has introduced an incentive that offers rebates for storage batteries, allowing solar homes to store their own power. But DeMonbreun said that technology isn’t far enough along yet to be cost effective for most. JEA is offering a rebate of up to $4,000 per home or business on the purchase of a qualifying battery storage system. Utility spokeswoman Gerri Boyce told WJCT News in April that JEA will reevaluate the program after the first 50 rebates are awarded before deciding how to proceed next. Although the co-op idea was put on hold in Jacksonville, DeMonbreun said one could still be put together if there’s enough interest…” Bill Bortzfield reports for WJCT.

Read Mote, Governor at odds with environmentalists on red tide - “Environmentalists are questioning Gov. Rick Scott’s priorities in the wake of his $2.2 million budget reallocation to Mote Marine Laboratory aimed at technology to fight red tide. Mote president and CEO Michael Crosby, as well as top officials with the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Protection, heralded the new initiative during a Sept. 24 news conference at Mote’s Keating Marine Education Center in Sarasota. Scott, in a news release, stated, ‘As our state continues to battle naturally-occurring red tide along our Gulf Coast, we will stop at nothing to help our communities deal with this issue.’ The Republican governor directed $2,178,000 to test technologies to fight red tide, including clay experiments and improvements to Mote’s ozone treatment system. ‘We got involved with using and testing clay as a potential many, many years ago. And it didn’t pan out at that time,’ Crosby said after the news conference. ‘As technology advances, it’s worth looking at it again’ to determine if clay in small amounts could become more of an attractant to the algae without negative impacts, he said. Technology holds promise, Crosby said, but the studies must be done carefully, with limited pilot experiments in the environment “so it doesn’t do more harm than good.’ He expects results in six months. Radioactive phosphate clay didn’t work against the red tide in past Mote trials, according to Larry Brand, a University of Miami researcher, who studied more than 50 years of red tide data and published in the journal of Harmful Algae as ‘Long-term Increase in Karenia brevis Abundance Along the Southwest Florida Coast.’ Some environmentalists fear that clay can accumulate on the ocean floor, disrupt the food web and smother habitat. ‘I don’t think (Scott’s) priorities are straight,’ said Justin Bloom, founder of Suncoast Waterkeeper, a nonprofit with a mission to protect Sarasota and Manatee counties’ waters. ‘While he thinks there are positive optics, it’s continuing a disturbing trend of a failure to address the underlying problems of red tide … the human-caused pollutants fueling red tide,’ he added. Bloom suggested Scott focus on getting to the ‘root of the problem,’ strengthen environmental enforcement and rehire hundreds of DEP staff the governor dismissed early in his administration. Brand agreed. With public pressure on the red tide issue and Scott running for U.S. Senate, he said the current administration ‘apparently needs to be seen doing something.’ Brand’s research concluded that red tide is 15 times worse than 50 years ago. While technology might provide a short-term solution for some localized issues, he said it wouldn’t help with the current 1,000 square miles of red tide. ‘What obviously has increased is us,’ Brand said, referring to population growth, fertilizer discharges and their impact the water. ‘It’s much more abundant today,’ he added.” Kathy Prucnell writes for the Islander Online.

Read In Sarasota campaign stop, Gillum says he has a plan for taking on red tide - “Democratic gubernatorial Andrew Gillum outlined a three-point plan to address red tide ruing a Tuesday afternoon campaign stop in Sarasota. The Tallahassee mayor echoed the sentiment of scientific research directed at solving Florida’s algae bloom problem when he said the issue won’t be fixed overnight. However, he said bringing scientists to the table in Tallahassee, properly handling Florida’s growth and holding large corporations accountable for their pollution are key factors. ‘Through that, and over the course of time with some important infrastructural investments around pollution mitigation — reducing the level of nitrates and phosphorous that’s contributing to a lot of these contaminants — I believe we’ll be able to wrangle this issue and hopefully when we’re talking about this issue several years from now, we’re not dealing with the kind of environmental degradation we’ve seen prevail over these last 20-plus years,’ Gillum said. Gillum said his Republican opponent Ron DeSantis and Gov. Rick Scott have voted for or enacted policies that stripped away regulations protecting Florida’s water. Their recent individual calls for more funding and more regulation, he said, are too little, too late. ‘We cannot allow Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis to become election year environmentalists,’ he said to a crowd of about 300 supporters. ‘We’re not interested in that. They have had the opportunity, in my opponent’s case, for years to do right by the state of Florida. In the case of Gov. Rick Scott, he’s had eight years.’...DeSantis revealed his own environmental plan three weeks ago, which includes forming a red tide task force dedicated to studying the algae bloom that now exists on all of Florida’s Gulf coast and along part of Atlantic coast; and banning fracking in his early days as governor. While DeSantis was lambasted by Big Sugar corporations during the primary, his congressional voting record includes voting with fellow Republicans to cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s funding by $108 million and cosponsoring a legislation that prevented federal oversight of waterways. In his speech, Gillum emphasized the strong link between Florida’s economy and the environment. ‘The future of this state very much so depends on what we do to protect our green environment,’ Gillum said. ‘It depends on the businesses that have sprung up all around this area that depend on the tourism and the eco-tourism that helps to power the state of Florida.’...” Ryan Callihan reports for the Bradenton Herald.

Read Escambia planning board rejects change to loosen regulation on rural growth- “The Escambia County Planning Board voted unanimously Monday against recommending a change to the county’s comprehensive plan that would loosen regulation on rural growth. The change would remove protections for agricultural and silvicultural (forestry) lands from new rural communities. The portion of the comprehensive plan under review for removal states,’ To protect silviculture, agriculture, and agriculture-related activities Escambia County will not support the establishment of new rural communities.’ Removing this provision in the comprehensive  plan to protect agriculture and silviculture lands in Escambia County, and increase density of previous farm land, may contribute to a cascading loss of available land to farm, less wildlife corridors, and recreational opportunities for the citizens, along with an increased cost of building and maintaining infrastructure far away from existing population density and county facilities,’ Escambia County resident Jacqueline Rogers said. She addressed the Escambia County Planning Board Monday. The planning board’s recommended denial will go the the Board of County Commissioners for final action. If the BOCC does not concur with the planning board and approves the change, it would still be subject to state scrutiny. Silviculture is the art and science of controlling the establishment, growth, composition, health, and quality of forests and woodlands to meet the diverse needs and values of landowners and society such as wildlife habitat, timber, water resources, restoration, and recreation on a sustainable basis, according to the U.S. Forest Service.” From NorthEscambia Online News.

Read Siesta Key group planning to sue the feds over Lido Beach renourishment project- “A citizens group fiercely opposed to a dredging project to renourish critically eroded Lido Beach has notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of its intent to sue the federal agency for allegedly breaking the law by failing to conduct a key study to examine the project’s potentially devastating effects to Siesta Key. Save Our Siesta Sands 2 on Friday formally provided the federal agency a required 60-day notice of its intent to sue after the Corps ignored a request from the group to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement to address economic and environmental concerns about the plan to dredge Big Pass and rebuild Lido Beach. The notice initiates a two-month period in which the Corps can remedy the issue raised by the group or face litigation if it refuses. Before signing off on the project, the federal agency conducted a Final Environmental Assessment, which is not as comprehensive as an Environmental Impact Statement, according to the group’s St. Augustine-based land-use and environmental attorney Jane West. The group cited concerns about the impact of taking sand from nearby sources, or “borrow areas,” that it says are needed to protect Siesta Key. ‘The Environmental Assessment failed to analyze the economic impacts of the dredging and also wholly failed to even consider red tide issues,’ West said in an email to the Herald-Tribune. If the Corps ‘conducts an EIS that more comprehensively considers other borrow areas as alternatives, and opts for a borrow area that doesn’t impact Big Pass Shoal, then yes, Save Our Siesta Sands 2 would refrain from pursuing litigation.’ West also argues the project breaks several federal laws. ‘The project violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, which in turn affects numerous violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and is notably completely silent on how the project may exacerbate red tide conditions and the local economy,’ she said in a statement on Friday. The group previously challenged the issuance of the permits for the project in court, but ultimately lost. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection in June granted the city of Sarasota a permit to dredge up to 1.3 million cubic yards of sand from Big Pass to rebuild parts of the disappearing Lido Beach shoreline. A final order from DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein followed recommendations issued in May by administrative law Judge Bram D.E. Canter, who ruled the city and Corps should be issued the necessary permits for the project. Both Canter and Valenstein dismissed claims by Save Our Siesta Sands 2 and another opposing group, Siesta Key Association, that the project would negatively affect navigation and cause harmful erosion to Siesta Key…” Nicole Rodriguez reports for the Herald-Tribune.

 Read Fifty-six years later, Fort Myers prepares to remove toxic sludge - “Half a century after the City of Fort Myers dumped lime sludge from its water treatment plant on South Street -- sludge tainted with arsenic that became the playground for a developing African American community -- work crews on Tuesday began undoing the damage. The tasks are anything but remarkable. While day laborers cleared morning glory vines from the fence and hung a protective dust barrier on it, a contractor bushwhacked shrubs so the Australian pines dappling the 4-acre property can be felled and mulched. But the significance wasn't lost on 84-year-old Clarence Mitchell, a former city employee, sitting on his porch two blocks away. ‘There was a white fella who dug out that field and sold the dirt to a builder,’ Mitchell remembers the man who sold the property to the city in the early 1960s, when he began running truckloads of sludge to dump there. The pit, filled with water, was alive with bream, gar and alligators. ‘He wanted to sell it, and they were only too glad to have a place to dump it,’ Mitchell said. ‘They thought they would have it easy, but it didn’t turn out that way.’ In Florida and across the country, the Environmental Protection Agency maps thousands of contaminated sites; more than are ever remediated, many but not all in minority communities like the South Street neighborhood,  Lee County has at least six brown fields and many more undesignated sites besides the sludge dump whose hazards are being monitored, often for decades, before they are cleaned up. In the same way, the city’s sludge dump was moth-balled with assurances its arsenic was disappearing. Tests as recently as September show otherwise. Six out of 10 wells tested above the EPA’s safe standard for arsenic, on and off site...Watch for these milestones in the coming weeks and months: October 15 (approximate): Excavation of some 30,000 tons of lime sludge begins. Groundwater monitoring will continue throughout the process. Soil samples will be tested to assure the excavation is complete. December 27 (approximate): Dump trucks bearing sludge will roll to a Crystal River limestone quarry, pending DEP and Citrus County approval. There the sludge will be mixed in 10 percent batches with native limestone. From there, the limestone blend will be barged to a LafargeHolcim cement plant in Theodore, Alabama and put to commercial use….” Patricia Borns reports for the Fort Myers News-Press.

 Read Pressure candidates on the environment- “Some happenings in our state are so stunning that they immediately capture everyone’s attention and prompt flurries of activity. Other issues are insidious, proceeding in a mostly inconspicuous way but actually with grave effect. That’s practically the definition of environmental challenges — they present ongoing threats to Floridians that quietly compromise our way of life and can rob us of health as well as wealth, and potentially life. It’s hard for most folks to get very excited about “the environment” even though it’s in the news one way or another almost daily. Maybe it’s because environmental threats aren’t immediately meaningful, or maybe because they’re “someone else’s problem” — think red tide in Southwest Florida, salt water intrusion to wells in Cedar Key or clear-day flooding in Miami Beach. Not here, not us. It’s hard to get your mind around something as big as ‘the environment’ but we really need to do it. Now there’s a guidebook of sorts, titled ‘Trouble in Paradise -– Six Key Issues to Tackle Florida’s Environmental Challenges.’ It was developed by an impressive partnership of state and national organizations that includes 1000 Friends of Florida, Apalachicola Riverkeeper, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Defenders of the Environment, Florida Springs Council, Florida Springs Institute, Florida Wildlife Corridor, League of Women Voters and Florida Wildlife Federation. We print that long list to underscore that there’s expert brainpower behind this 40-page booklet that clearly outlines our environmental challenges and makes recommendations for action. The six key statewide environmental priorities are: Conserving natural lands, Safeguarding water supply, Promoting water conservation, Protecting and restoring water quality., Managing growth, Addressing climate change and community resilience. Leadership in the policy arena is required. We agree with the Trouble in Paradise partners that these priorities require immediate and decisive focus by Florida’s new leaders on the regional, state and national levels. They need to be aware of and willing to act on recommendations. Voters have a major role, too. Each of us needs to read the report. It explains complex environmental issues in easily understandable terms. Talk about it with your friends. Link to it on social media. Write letters and make phone calls. Ask those who want to be our leaders whether they understand the gravity of the situation and will commit to action. Then hold our elected leaders accountable. It matters to us today and to our children tomorrow. As Trouble in Paradise says, “Our quality of life and Florida’s very economy depend on it.” From the Citrus County Chronicle editorial board.

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Executive Director- Florida Wildlife Corridor

Organizing Representative for Sierra Club Florida’s Clean Energy for All Campaign

Upcoming Environmental Events

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 resourcewisdom@gmail.com.

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.

November 17 - 9:00am-4:00pm - Highlands County Master Gardeners Festival (Sebring) - Join the Highlands County Master Gardeners for the inaugural Garden Festival. Kicked off at 9:00am by Shannon Reed singing the National Anthem, there will be live music, vendors, food, a kids zone, and plant classes. Where: Bert J Harris Agricultural Civic Center in Sebring: 4509 George Blvd.

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.


Stop the spraying of glyphosate herbicide in Florida waters

Stop Development on Fish Island along the Matanzas River

Thinking of going electric? Nextcar Pledge

Rezoning 5-acres in Palm Harbor

Another Gulf is Possible

Save the Serenova Tract in Pasco – Say NO to the Ridge Road Extension

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Protect Florida’s Gulf Coast from Offshore Drilling

Protect Weeki Wachee Springs; Stop the 7 Diamonds Mine in Pasco County

Tell Congress to Stop Sabal Trail

Stop New Phosphate Strip Mining in Florida

We hope you enjoy this service and find it valuable. Our goal is to provide you with the latest and most relevant environmental news for Floridians. Our hope is that you will use this information to more effectively and frequently contact your elected representatives, and add your voice to the growing chorus of Floridians concerned about the condition of our environment and the recent direction of environmental policies.

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About the FCC: The Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) is composed of over 80 conservation-minded organizations and over two thousand individuals devoted to protecting and conserving Florida’s land, fish and wildlife, and water resources.  

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