FCC News Brief - October 5, 2018

Read Florida confirms toxic red tide spreading along Atlantic coast - “Dozens of dead fish littered a Palm Beach County beach Wednesday as a toxic red tide appeared to spread along Florida’s Atlantic coast. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials confirmed Wednesday that low to moderate amounts of the algae that cause red tide have now turned up off three counties along the state’s more densely populated east coast. Blooms were confirmed in Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties, marking the first appearance of red tide along Atlantic shores in more than a decade. Wildlife officials are also testing Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Results for Broward were expected on Wednesday. But no mention of the county was made in an update posted online. In an email to the Herald, FWC spokeswoman Susan Neel said more results would be provided Friday. Since the weekend, beach goers have complained about coughing, itchy eyes and other symptoms linked to red tide. Gerare Rimesso, a neurology researcher at the University of Miami, said he and his wife fled Fort Lauderdale beach after about an hour of coughing and runny noses Saturday morning. Dead fish began washing ashore in MacArthur State Park in Palm Beach County on Wednesday where amounts of Karenia brevis, the algae that cause red tide, have been detected at amounts high enough to cause fish kills and respiratory distress. State biologists were sent to investigate the kills. County beaches have been closed since the weekend...The Atlantic coast rarely sees red tide because the algae that cause it live off the Gulf coast at the bottom of the Florida shelf. Over the summer and fall, blooms ravaged Gulf shores, shutting down beaches and crippling businesses. Fish kills continue to be reported between Pinellas and Collier counties. The Gulf gets blooms seasonally between the spring and fall and has had one every year since 1994. A bloom also appeared off the Panhandle last month. While the blooms form naturally offshore, scientists say coastal pollution feeds them and make them worse. That’s helped make this year’s bloom, along with a massive blue-green algae bloom on Lake Okeechobee, a contentious political issue and a referendum on Gov. Rick Scott’s environmental record…” Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald.

Read Florida and Georgia renew water wars - “Florida and Georgia have renewed their fight over the impact of Georgia’s water consumption on the Apalachicola River system.After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in late June that Florida be given another chance to prove its case that Georgia’s overconsumption of water is damaging the Apalachicola region, the states filed a joint legal pleading this week before a federal appellate judge who will act as a special master in the case. Not surprisingly, the two states --- which have spent years and millions of dollars litigating the issue --- can’t agree “on how this case should proceed,” according to a memorandum filed Tuesday. Georgia maintains there is enough evidence generated by the proceedings before a prior special master to move forward. Georgia wants to hold a “summary-judgment-style proceeding,” in which the states would file briefs responding to the questions raised by the Supreme Court when it sent the case back to a special master earlier this year. “Those briefs would rely on testimony and evidence that is already in the record,” the Georgia lawyers said, citing the five-week trial, 7.2 million pages of documents, reports from 28 experts and 69 depositions that were part of the prior proceeding. “The existing record refutes Florida’s allegations of harm and fails to provide the clear and convincing evidence necessary to justify the extraordinary remedy of an equitable apportionment (of water). Florida therefore wants a second bite at the apple,” Georgia said in its portion of the memo. The Supreme Court’s opinion “did not provide a license to re-litigate this entire case, years after the parties have already spent significant time and tens of millions of dollars developing a record,” Georgia’s lawyers argued. In Florida's portion of the memo, the state's lawyers said the existing record is sufficient on a number of issues, including Florida's contention that Georgia’s overconsumption of water is harming the Apalachicola system. But Florida said there needs to be more evidence-gathering on key issues, including the role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates a series of dams in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. The river system starts in Georgia and flows south to Florida. “Florida believes that additional evidentiary hearings are unavoidable regarding the timing and extent of additional flows into the Apalachicola that reduced consumption in Georgia would produce,” the state argued…” David Huffman reports for MyPanhandle News.

Read Lee County mayors going to court over South Florida water crisis - “Lee County mayors are taking the South Florida Water Management District to court in the never ending battle against the Southwest Florida water crisis. Bob P. of Port Charlotte said it’s nice to see action being taken...Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane leads the effort to nearly double water releases from Lake Okeechobee during the dry season. Ruane says the lower lake levels are by the next rainy season, the less red tide and algae blooms to deal with. ‘Send me more water during the dry season and then you won’t have to send me as much water during the wet season,’ Ruane said. The mayors teamed up with the Department of Environmental Protection and numerous local scientist and monitored our estuaries. They say we need at least 720 cubic yards per second released from Lake Okeechobee to keep our waterways healthy. But the South Florida Water Management District says they have some of the greatest scientist in the world saying 400 minimum is plenty. ‘Their actual scientific evaluation was done in a modeling situation hypothetical situation ours was actually done with real life data,’ Ruane said.” Brandon Leslie reports for WINK News.

Read Businesses air issues at water panel - “Nearly 20 business owners, chamber of commerce presidents and city council members from throughout Southwest Florida gathered at the Sanibel Marriott Resort Tuesday afternoon to meet with Casey DeSantis, gubernatorial Republican candidate Ron DeSantis' wife, along with Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass, to give a first hand account of how their businesses and communities are suffering from water quality issues...She stated to those who attended that her husband, if elected, will continue to have water quality be a top priority during his term...The tales told from local entities were not great ones, though, as DeSantis mentioned, the passion was certainly there. Business owners have seen drastic drop offs in profit margins, bookings, reservations and staffing capabilities. A big concern of theirs was what to tell patrons about the conditions and the potential health impacts, as they are not clear cut. Another topic brought up was how loans are available at low interest rates, but skyrocket after 6 months-some even require the establishment to have costly flood insurance to be considered. Businesses are having to dig into their own pockets to keep up with expenses, and to pay their employees, who are also losing time and money…[Pendergrass] said the funding for projects north and south of Lake Okeechobee are a top priority. ‘We don't need any more water. We've got to keep it from coming to our estuaries and our bays, and they need to send the water south to storage there.’ As for what the business owners and community leaders had to say, Pendergrass said it's something he, unfortunately, hears every day…” From the Fort Myers Beach Bulletin.

Read Some of Florida’s biggest counties transitioning to electric buses - “This week, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted unanimously to transition its transit fleet to 50 percent electric vehicles by 2035. Meanwhile in neighboring Broward County, environmental activists say they expect lawmakers there to officially support moving to a 100 percent electric transit fleet within the next week. And Pinellas County’s transit system will begin running its first two electric transit buses beginning next week in downtown St. Petersburg. At a press conference in front of City Hall in St. Petersburg today, Congressman Charlie Crist announced that for the second year in a row, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Trust Administration is issuing a $1 million low-emission federal grant to Pinellas. Transportation authorities plan to have six electric buses running by 2020. The push for Florida transit agencies to convert their buses to electric has been strongly advocated by the Sierra Club. ‘Choosing zero emission, battery-electric buses eliminates the 1,690 tons of carbon dioxide, 10 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 350 pounds of diesel particulate matter that a traditional bus emits over 12 years,’ says Emily Gorman, an organizing representative with the Miami-Dade Sierra Club. The City of Tallahassee earlier this year also received a $1 million federal grant for its transit agency, StarMetro to replace its aging diesel buses with 15 new electric buses. Electric buses are more expensive than diesel buses, but advocates say that those costs may be offset in the long run. Gorman says for Miami-Dade County’s fleet of 800 buses, a 50 percent zero emission bus commitment is projected to save the county about $80 million over 12 years…” Mitch Perry writes for the Florida Phoenix

Read Deep injection wells: replacing one wasteful water management practice with another - “At the South Florida Water Management District's recent governing board meeting, the district promoted a new idea for dealing with the water quality woes stemming from the mass discharges of polluted water down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. This proposal would pump water during high-flow events 3,000 feet underground using Deep Injection Wells (DIWs), or as the District has recently rebranded them, "emergency estuary protection wells". There are a number of problems with this idea...Recently, drought conditions have occurred more often than not, and pursuing any plan that would permanently remove freshwater from the system is not an appropriate way to expend taxpayer dollars or agency resources. In fact, the comprehensive report on Florida's water future entitled "Water 2070," prepared by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, 1000 Friends of Florida and the GeoPlan Center at the University of Florida, clearly indicates that Florida is on an unsustainable path for water supply. Florida needs all of its freshwater if we are to support a growing population, agricultural needs, and water for the natural system, including the Caloosahatchee and the Everglades. This is not a quick or cheap proposal to implement either. The capacity of the Boulder Zone is not understood, so test wells will need to be drilled and full implementation is estimated at approximately seven years at a cost of approximately $300 million.  So instead of wasting our most valuable resource, at taxpayer expense, by injecting it underground, let's concentrate on maximizing surface storage throughout our watersheds and fund and expedite Everglades Restoration projects with demonstrated ecological benefits. These projects will provide hydrologic restoration, cleanse the water, and reduce the damaging high-volume discharges to the estuaries, including the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir and the Central Everglades Project...No matter how the South Florida Water Management District "rebrands" it, deep injection wells are not in the best interests of the state of Florida and its residents, today or in the future…” Nicole Johnson, director of environmental policy at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida writes for the Lehigh Acres Citizen.

Read Senate panel moves to renew expired park conservation fund - “A Senate committee voted Tuesday to revive a popular funding mechanism for parks and conservation, days after its legal authority expired. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in a 16-7 vote approved a bill to indefinitely renew the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), setting the legislation up for a potential vote in the full Senate. The fund has strong bipartisan support and has put billions of dollars into federal, state, local and even private parks and other places over the last 53 years. Under the bill sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), the committee’s top Democrat, 1.5 percent of the fund's payouts must help improve access to lands for recreation. Cantwell said the LWCF ‘has pumped billions of dollars into the outdoor economy and has provided for millions of good jobs.’ ‘Protecting our public lands is good for the environment, it’s good for the economy and it’s good for the health and welfare of our people,’ she said.’The Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of the most important programs we have. I believe it is the crown jewel of our conservation programs,’ said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). The panel rejected a series of amendments from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to put restrictions on the program, like renewing it for only 10 years and requiring that it spend more money on public lands maintenance than on the government buying new land. The House will have to take action before any legislation can be sent to the White House, and there are important differences between the bill moving through the Senate and legislation in the House...Because Congress has not renewed the LWCF, it can no longer collect revenue from offshore oil and natural gas drilling. That money goes into the general federal treasury instead. The LWCF still has billions of dollars in its coffers, which it can use to fund parks and conservation. The Senate committee also passed Tuesday, by a vote of 19 to 4, a bill to create a new fund that could pump billions of dollars into the National Park Service.The Restore Our Parks Act would take half of the money the federal government gets from energy production offshore and on federal land and that hasn’t been dedicated to another purposes and put it toward the Park Service’s nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog...” Timothy Cama reports for The Hill.

Read Wildlife corridors help reduce deaths from habitat fragmentation - “Driving past a wild animal carcass is a sad yet inevitable part of many drives throughout the United States. As human expansion continues, we are increasingly encroaching on animal habitats resulting in human-wildlife conflicts and casualties. But wildlife corridors use an innovative approach to help mitigate the effects of habitat fragmentation and protect wild animals. Wildlife corridors are structures which link two or more wildlife habitats... Habitat loss adversely affects wildlife in many ways, such as reducing their access to resources, making them easier targets for poaching, decreasing genetic fitness and pushing them closer to humans. Exacerbating the effects of habitat loss is the issue of habitat fragmentation. Not only are animals’ habitats becoming smaller, but the animals are also more likely to live in patches of land, isolated from others by roads, cities and farmland. To help address the issue of habitat fragmentation, wildlife corridors are increasingly being built across the world. Wildlife corridors can be found in countries such as India, Nepal, Canada and Germany. The United States is home to multiple wildlife corridors including over 40 structures, both overpasses and underpasses, along Highway 93 in Montana. Just this week, a section of a wildlife corridor in Seattle opened up and deer have already been seen using it despite the fact that the crossing isn’t even fully constructed yet. U.S Representative Don Beyer hopes to see more wildlife corridors across the United States. He introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act in 2016, which would establish a national system of corridors to help diminish the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation. While the bill is not currently being considered this session, The Wildlands Network states that they anticipate the bill will be reintroduced this year. A system of wildlife corridors could be hugely beneficial for wildlife, especially for species with a large range such as bears, mountain lions and panthers…” Brianna Grant writes for Earth.Com.


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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.

Petitions

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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