FCC News Brief - July 2, 2018

David Ovalle for the Miami Herald reports -  “As a newspaper writer and columnist, Rob Hiaasen relished exploring the everyday absurdities and joys of life: choosing a spirit animal, calling his mother in Florida on Sundays, the small pleasures of ignoring the headlines while in the barber chair. Hiaasen, who had deep family and journalism roots in South Florida, was a rare voice in the media — warm, witty, often comforting. It was silenced on Thursday when he was murdered along with four other staffers in the newsroom of a Maryland newspaper...Hiaasen, 59, had worked as a columnist and editor for the Capital Gazette in Annapolis since 2010. But his connections to South Florida were lifelong. He grew up with his brother, Miami Herald columnist and author Carl Hiaasen, in the Fort Lauderdale area and worked at the Palm Beach Post in the 1990s… ‘He loved the mission of journalism and he loved the idea of working at a paper like the Gazette, doing hometown news, which is the core and the heart of our business,’ Carl Hiaasen said on Thursday night. ‘He was a remarkable brother and a remarkable man.’...In 2003, [Robb] Hiaasen won a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. He also taught journalism at the University of Maryland. He and his wife have three children. He is also the uncle of Scott Hiaasen, Carl's son and a former Herald investigative journalist who is now an attorney in Miami.”  Read Rob Hiaasen, journalist killed in Maryland newsroom shooting, had deep South Florida ties.

Jenny Staletovich reports for the Miami Herald- “Lake Okeechobee, Florida's liquid heart, is once again exploding with a massive algae bloom, a deepening crisis that threatens to slime both coasts in what has become a recurring summer nightmare...While state testing has so far confirmed only low amounts of toxic cyanobacteria, Calusa Waterkeeper, a nonprofit Fort Myers river watch group, posted sample results recently showing levels hundreds of times above what is considered the safe limits for human exposure in some of the hardest hit areas...If it continues, the summer of slime could have wide-ranging implications, from politics to business. Gov. Rick Scott, who consistently cut funding to the state's environmental regulators, issued emergency orders to state water managers to try to stop the spread of a nasty green wave that looms as a potential stain for his ongoing campaign for the U.S. senate… ‘So the $64,000 question is why? Why?’ said biologist John Cassani, director of Calusa Waterkeeper. ‘Those of us who’ve been following political decisions, the false narratives, the half truths, the broken promises to address nutrient over-enrichment, this is a manifestation of that. So to us who have been following it for decades, it's like damn. Why do we keep getting all these diversions and deceptions. It just gets worse.’...Over the years, the lake also filled up with nutrients, mostly from farm and ranch run-off in the beginning, but now the polluted inflow includes a mix of urban stormwater and pollution from leaky septic tanks”. Read Massive and toxic algae bloom threatens Florida coasts with another lost summer.

Katrina Elsken reports for the Okeechobee News - Plans for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee continue to move forward. The public had another chance to ask questions and comment on the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir project June 27 at a meeting in Clewiston sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Similar meetings took place June 26 in LeHigh and June 28 in Stuart. Celeste De Palma of Audubon Florida spoke in favor of the project. ‘We have been trying to push water away for a really long time, and we’re living with the consequences,’ she said. ‘Everglades restoration puts the water back where it belongs.’ ‘We urge the corps to make sure Congress gets to review this project and consider it for this year’s Water Resources Development Act,’ said Ms. De Palma...A lot of people still question whether the project will meet the water quality standards required for water entering Everglades National Park, Ms. Pipes explained. She added that she is confident the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers will make the project work and that it will meet water quality standards. She said more public outreach and education about the project may be necessary to assure people that water entering the Everglades will meet the required water quality standards.Marci Jackson of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explained that the EAA reservoir is proposed as a change to the already approved Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP)....Comments are being accepted through July 24.”Read Public invited to comment on EAA reservoir plan.

Nick Bowman reports for the Gainesville Times- “Supreme Court justices say there are five questions left to answer in the water way between Georgia and Florida, and one side is already declaring victory. In its 5-4 decision released on Wednesday, June 27, the Supreme Court returned the case to its special master, the attorney who has adjudicated most of the case between the two states. That gives Florida another chance to make its case that Georgia water use has caused harm to Florida residents and that a court-ordered consumption cap in the Peach State is the solution...Now the states and the taxpayers funding the multimillion-dollar legal battles are girding for months more time working with a special master to make their cases while answering these five questions posed by justices in a decision written by Justice Stephen Breyer:... ‘would an equity-based cap on Georgia’s use of the Flint River lead to a significant increase in streamflow from the Flint River into Florida’s Apalachicola River?’ ...In Washington, D.C., Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, told The Times that the Wednesday decision wasn’t a win for either side and that the Supreme Court has decided. ‘There’s going to be another several years of very expensive litigation. We’ll see where it goes from there. I believe we’ll still prevail.’ The decision should have been hashed out between the states, Collins said, Georgia has done “all of the legwork on conservation” while leaders in Alabama and Florida have “abdicated” their responsibilities to their states. ‘Alabama and Florida wouldn’t have heard of conservation if somebody came up and yelled it at them,’ he said.”  Read Why there’s no end in sight for water fight after Supreme Court ruling.

James Call reports for the Tallahassee Democrat -“Friday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection signed so-called Basin Management Action Plans to protect the Wakulla and 23 other north and central Florida springs. The BMAPS are required by the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act of 2016. It sets up a 20-year goal for DEP to reduce the amount of nitrate that flows into the springs. Jim Stevenson, former Department of Environmental Protection biologist, is a member of the Wakulla Springs Alliance. The volunteer group of scientists, retired academics, state officials and other residents have a host of concerns about the Wakulla plan.  Locally and statewide, springs advocates say the BMAPs are filled with loopholes that allow nitrates to continue to pollute what the state has designated as outstanding Florida waters. The Alliance wrote DEP in May and June about the lack of clarity in the plan and included recommendations to help DEP improve water quality. The Alliance never heard back.”  Read Advocates say plan to protect Wakulla Springs lacks enforcement.

From the Herald-Tribune Editorials - “ In a recent ruling, a circuit court judge effectively advised the Florida Legislature that it cannot implement a constitutional amendment any way that its members see fit. Good for the judge. Good for Floridians — in this case, the overwhelming majority of voters who in 2014 supported Amendment 1, which was simply titled ‘Water and Land Conservation — Dedicates funds to acquire and restore Florida conservation and recreation lands.’ Environmental groups challenged the Legislature’s implementation of the amendment, which was endorsed by 75 percent (4.2 million) of those who voted on the measure. Amendment 1 was approved by 78 percent of voters in Sarasota County and 76 percent in Manatee County. In other words, the water and land  conservation amendment won in a landslide...Circuit Judge Charles Dodson, based in Leon County (home to Tallahassee, the state capital), clearly agreed with the plaintiffs’ arguments. He noted that proposed amendments to the state constitution are reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court for, among other things, clarity. An appeal is likely, unfortunately. Perhaps Dodson’s ruling will be reversed. But this much is clear for now: At least one judge agreed that the implementation of Amendment One was mishandled, a view likely consistent with that of the 4.2 million Floridians who voted in favor of the measure.” Read Judge backs voters on land conservation.

Alex Leary reports for the Tampa Bay Times- “[Washington] The Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill on Thursday and didn’t even take up an amendment that would have curbed government subsidies the industry receives and protection from foreign competition. ‘Today is a great day for America’s sugar farmers,’ Rick Gerstenberger, a sugarbeet grower in Michigan and president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, said in an industry group release. ‘Prices are low, the rural economy is struggling, and foreign governments continue to manipulate markets, but at least we’ve got a chance to survive with a strong sugar policy in place.’ The Senate Farm Bill bill now moves to conference with the House, but its version also keeps sugar policy as is. Environmental groups have tried to rally support for reforms in part by citing the effect on Florida's environment. ‘While there are certainly other factors in play, mass production of sugarcane in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) south of Lake Okeechobee remains a great impediment to efforts by federal and state agencies to restore the Everglades through implementation of the congressionally authorized Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP),’ read a March letter in support of the Shaheen-Toomey legislation, and the defeated House version.’ Working around sugar interests has come at a much greater expense of both time and taxpayers' money. We are not advocating for the removal of sugarcane in the EAA. Rather, we ask that balance be restored to give the Everglades and our coastal estuaries a fighting chance.’ Read Big Sugar survives another reform effort in Washington.


From Our Readers

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Job Openings

Governmental Affairs and Political Director for Sierra Club Florida

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

Environmental Scientist for the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute

Operations Manager for the Everglades Law Center


Upcoming Environmental Events    

July 3, 12:00 pm - Attend Springs Academy - Class 4: Springs Biology at the North Florida Environmental Center in High Springs, FL. This Springs Academy class will be taught by Dr. Bob Knight, Executive Director of the Florida Springs Institute. Dr. Knight will be presenting an in-depth overview of Florida springs biology, covering topics such as springs algae, plants, and wildlife. For more information please email info@floridaspringsinstitute.org or click here.

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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Another Gulf is Possible

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

Florida Solar Bill of Rights

Tell Congress to Stop Attacking Protections for Dolphins and Whales

Save Endangered Sea Turtles from Drowning in Shrimp Trawls

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


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