Craig Pittman reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “The U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 Wednesday to kick the decision on the Florida-Georgia-Alabama water wars case back to a special master who heard the case last year. The special master had recommended the high court rule for Georgia, but the majority of the justices said today that he should try again. The decision said he applied too strict a standard in requiring Florida to prove that limiting Georgia’s water consumption would improve the flow of the Apalachicola River during a drought. The ruling says Florida will be entitled to a decree in its favor only if it is shown that ‘the benefits of the (apportioning the water flow) substantially outweigh the harm that might result.’…Franklin County Commission Chairman Joseph ‘Smokey’ Parrish, who represents Apalachicola, said he was hopeful the ruling would encourage the special master to change his mind about siding with Georgia, explaining, ‘I think they’re laying the groundwork for getting a better recommendation before the Supreme Court.’ Read the text of the Supreme Court’s ruling here. Read Supreme Court finally rules on Florida’s 30-year water war with Georgia. And it’s not over.
Cindy Swirko reports for the Gainesville Sun – “For decades the Rodman Reservoir in Marion and Putnam counties has been fought over like an angler trying to land a bass and a fish that keeps thrashing to throw the hook...The reservoir was created by damming the Ocklawaha River. When the [ill-advised and eventually cancelled Cross Florida Barge Canal] was stopped in 1971, the dam remained. Environmental groups have been trying since then to remove the dam and let the Ocklawaha flow freely into the St. Johns River. This week, the Florida Defenders of the Environment, is sponsoring an exercise to develop a broad-based vision of the Ocklawaha of the future, said Executive Director Jim Gross. ‘We are hoping to forge a consensus statement even if some of it is only at the level of shared values. It may not be a statement about the dam itself,’ Gross said. ‘We are really trying to make this neutral as possible and invited as broad a variety of stakeholders as we can possibly find.’. Many supporters [of the reservoir] are anglers who believe the environment is best served by maintaining it. ‘It’s not about the dam…[The reservoir] has over 9,000 acres of wetlands that have 21 billion gallons of fresh water. To me, that’s the important story that needs to be told,’ Said Larry Harvey, Executive Director of Save Rodman Reservoir…The American Assembly on the Future of the Ocklawaha will include a public information session from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Valhalla Hall at St. Johns River State College in Palatka… Read Ocklawaha River future debated.
Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald - “Miami-Dade County transportation planners want to extend the Dolphin Expressway about 14 miles across wetlands just north of the Tamiami Trail and then south through the Bird Drive Basin and about 2,000 feet west of Southwest 157th Avenue across wetlands that include land set aside for Everglades restoration...In the waning days of the Obama administration, Department of the Interior issues a rare letter warning Miami-Dade County that extending the Dolphin Expressway could block part of the $16 billion, decades long effort to restore the ailing Everglades...The Trump administration, now in charge of Everglades restoration, has signaled it’s far more open to the prospect of paving protected wetlands...A policy U-turn on wetlands and Everglades protection would seem to conflict with an earlier promise by candidate Donald Trump, who promised Florida voters to ‘work alongside you to restore and protect the beautiful Everglades.’…Opponents worry that the project, which sits outside the Urban Development Boundary, could lead to more congestion. They also say it could jeopardize a county drinking water wellfield that relies on the wetlands to recharge the aquifer… If the DOI agrees to free up land for the highway, it would be an unprecedented move. The agency has only once before agreed to lift restrictions on land set aside for restoration, and that occurred earlier this year in a deal that allowed the state to finish treatment marshes need to provide the Everglades with clean water.” Read Trump signals U-turn on Obama opposition to highway across Everglades wetlands
Barbara Behrendt reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “The Hernando County Commission’s plans for a beach and park in the Weekiwachee Preserve near Hernando Beach are too ambitious. They don’t take enough stakeholders into account, fail to address conservation requirements of the sensitive lands and are too premature to even consider asking for a referendum vote. The director of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, also known as Swiftmud, sent those strong messages in a letter to the county late Tuesday. Swiftmud owns the 11,206-acre preserve… In a letter to county administrator Len Sossamon, Brian Armstrong, executive director of Swiftmud, made it clear that the preserve belongs to them, was bought for conservation purposes and must maintain that focus…Swiftmud has no interest in a park entrance on Osowaw Boulevard, he said, which would impact a black bear corridor…Public opposition also ended plans for a beach and recreation area in 2014, when the county was trying to site a state-and county-funded education and tourism center, something Sossamon remembers well… ‘Groups such as the Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, Native Plant Society and Gulf Coast Conservancy, to name a few, are informed and engaged stakeholders,’’ Armstrong wrote. "The district values being a good neighbor. The district would expect the county to engage with our various stakeholders for input and feedback both at present and in the future, should the proposed project proceed.’ Read Plans for beach park in Hernando Beach too ambitious for preserve lands, warns water management district.
Timothy Cama reports for The Hill – “In an agency memo released Wednesday, EPA head Scott Pruitt formally asked the EPA’s water office to propose a regulation under which officials wouldn’t be able to block a permit before it had been applied for or after the Army Corps of Engineers has issued the permit. EPA staff in regional offices would have to get approval from headquarters before trying to block a water permit, and officials would have to provide a period for public comment before blocking permits. The regulation would likely be the most significant change to how the EPA enforces the Clean Water Act’s restrictions on dredging or filling waterways in four decades…The Army Corps has authority to issue or deny permits, but the EPA has the power to veto permits if it determines that they would be unacceptably harmful. The EPA has rarely blocked the permits pre-emptively or retroactively, but previous administrations have defended their ability to do so. Republicans and industries that often rely on the permits argue that both actions are improper uses of the Clean Water Act….Pruitt wrote in the memo: ‘This long-overdue update to the regulations has the promise of increasing certainty for landowners, investors, businesses and entrepreneurs to make investment decisions while preserving the EPA’s authority to restrict discharges of dredge or fill material that will have an unacceptable adverse effect on water supplies, recreation, fisheries and wildlife.’ Read Pruitt seeks to limit EPA’s authority to block water pollution permits.
Chris Marr reports for Bloomberg BNA- “Much of Florida’s agriculture industry will have to follow best management practices for irrigation and fertilizer use or conduct water quality monitoring under new regulations taking effect July 1. Many Florida farms probably already comply, as certain regions of the state and industry segments rolled out best practices years earlier, said Ron Hamel, executive vice president at the Gulf Citrus Growers Association in Fort Myers, Fla. ‘I think some of the smaller folks are going to feel the pinch,’ said Jaime Weisinger, an executive and fourth-generation family member at Lipman Family Farms, a major tomato grower based in Immokalee, Fla. Weisinger is also a member of the governing board for the South Florida Water Management District. ‘It’s important for those guys to get up to par,’ he told Bloomberg Environment June 25. He said Lipman and other major farm operations already follow best practices and aren’t likely to feel much impact from the new state requirements. The same is true for U.S. Sugar Corp., a major grower of sugarcane, corn, and citrus fruit in Florida, according to Judy Sanchez, the company’s spokeswoman. Farmers in southern Florida’s Everglades Agricultural Area, including U.S. Sugar, have been required to follow best management practices since the passage of the state’s Everglades Forever Act in 1994, she said. The Florida Department of Environment Protection recently finalized rules for nonpoint source dischargers that cover farms, construction sites, municipal stormwater systems, and other sources of runoff pollution. The rules coincide with the department’s drafting of new basin management action plans for many regions of the state. Read Smaller Florida farms could find fertilizer, water rules daunting.
Chad Gillis reports for the Fort Myers News-Press – “As the Treasure Coast continues to monitor algae blooms, problems have prompted a beach closure on the West Coast. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed a swimming beach along the Caloosahatchee River Monday because of algae. ‘It looks like there was algae upstream of the beach,’ said Army Corps spokesman John Campbell. An algae bloom sprang up on the Caloosahatchee River over the past week, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection took at least one water quality sample along the river on Monday, according to DEP records. The testing should confirm whether or not the algae is producing toxins. Algae has been reported form the State Road 31 bridge east to Lake Okeechobee. Flows in the Caloosahatchee River are coming mostly from the river’s watershed- the lands to the north and south that drain into the Caloosahatchee. Twenty-seven percent of the water flowing Monday was coming from Lake Okeechobee, according to Army Corps records. Read Algae bloom prompts Army Corps to close swimming beach along Caloosahatchee River.
Brendan Farrington reports for the AP – “Along a stretch of white, sandy shoreline in Florida’s Panhandle, a simple question has led to profanity-laden arguments, private security guards and calls to law enforcement: Who owns the beach? In one coastal county, a new state law is set to rekindle that uproar just in time for the July 4th holiday. As of July 1, Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson said his deputies will have to start arresting people who put their beach blankets down in front of private homes and refuse to leave. ‘We will start enforcing private property rights, which is up to including removing people from the beach,’ Adkinson said. ‘We are required by law to treat the beach as if it’s somebody’s front yard.’ To county residents like Dave Rauschkolb, a surfer and restaurant owner, that’s just wrong. ‘Beach access should be sacrosanct for all. The notion of a private beach is an oxymoron,’ he said. ‘After this goes into effect, people can be physically removed from specific beaches, like bouncers at a bar, and to me that’s despicable.’ Many Florida beachfront homes own the sand down to the average high-water line. Yet in some counties, like Walton, local ordinances allow the public to put out towels and umbrellas, fish and hang out if it’s shown that those beaches have been open to the public for decades…Read New Florida law reignites beach access fight in Panhandle.
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June 29, 12:00 pm – Attend River Rising: Town Hall Series in Jacksonville to learn about rising waters in the St. Johns, how decades of dredging has increased water levels and storm surge, and what Jacksonville and coastal communities need to do to become more resilient. For more information, click here.
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July 11, 6:00 pm – Attend River Rising: Town Hall Series in Jacksonville to learn about rising waters in the St. Johns, how decades of dredging has increased water levels and storm surge, and what Jacksonville and coastal communities need to do to become more resilient. For more information, click here.
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