Amy Bennett Williams reports for the Fort Meyers News-Press - “Why does the water from Lake O cause the algae blooms? Is Lake O polluted? Yes, Lake Okeechobee is polluted, and the fact that it's polluted with fertilizer only makes things worse for the Caloosahatchee River. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers steps up lake releases down the river, the Caloosahatchee gets huge doses of nitrogen and phosphorous in that extra water, and just as those elements can green up a lawn, so too with algae. When lake levels get too high, water managers send the excess down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, which can cause a variety of woes, including algae blooms. This year, Hurricane Irma's heavy rains have made things worse by washing extra nutrients into the 300,000-acre lake from developments and farm fields, "so the lake's been more or less freshly fertilized," said Paul Gray, Audubon Florida's Okeechobee science coordinator. ‘The reason we're having a bloom now (is) we had big gushes of water into the lake before summer that carried in a whole lot of nutrients,’ Gray said, ‘so now, when the summer sunlight and warmth get to it, that fertilizer takes off into an algae bloom.’ Even in years without extraordinary rainfalls, the water is polluted by mud on the lake’s bottom. This dark ooze contains a number of pollutants, and because the lake is so shallow, wind and waves keep that mud stirred up and suspended. To make matters worse, a giant algae bloom is flourishing in the lake itself. ‘The open water of the lake is like 300,000 acres (and) at least half of that is covered in algae,’ Gray said, ‘like 200 square miles.’ Fixing the problem will take a multi-faceted approach, Gray said, and one key component of that will be building a reservoir to hold excess lake water, which would take some of the pressure off the rivers and their estuaries.” Read Save Our Water question: Why does the water from Lake O cause algae blooms? Is the lake polluted?
Mike Roth’s Opinion piece in The Ocala Star Banner - “A growing recognition of the degradation of water quality nationwide led to federal legislation in 2002 to establish Total Maximum Daily Loads for waterways, representing the maximum quantity of pollutants that a waterway could safely integrate. The Florida Legislature directed the Department of Environmental Protection, in order to fairly allocate TMDLs among dischargers of pollutants, to create Basin Management Action Plans for various defined watershed basins. The Santa Fe River Basin BMAP was created in 2012, which documented the various pollution sources, set water-quality goals and provided a set of recommended guidelines as a planning tool to attain those goals. Agriculture, the biggest nitrogen polluter in the Santa Fe basin, was prescribed a set of best management practices that farms were asked to voluntarily follow. Other stakeholders (industry, lawn care/golf course denizens, power plant producers, etc.) were also asked through the BMAP to curtail their polluting by various means. No requirements were set and no penalties prescribed; this was to be a voluntary effort by all stakeholders (even though the legislative directive was for more forceful measures). No particular time frame was established in the BMAP and, in 2018, a study of waters in various areas in the Santa Fe River basin demonstrated that the nitrogen content was unchanged. The Legislature apparently realized earlier that progress was too slow and passed the Springs Restoration Act in 2016 that required the creation of ... Basin Management Action Plans by July 1, 2018. (Sound familiar?)...” Read State officials paying lip service to water quality.
Timothy Cama reports for The Hill- “ Senate Republicans are embarking on an ambitious effort to overhaul the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Draft legislation due to be released Monday by ENvironment and Public Works COmmittee CHairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) would give new powers and responsibilities for state officials to determine how animals and plants should be protected. The GOP contends that its goal is not to weakne the protections, but to take advantage of the experience of state regulators. ‘When it comes to the Endangered Species Act, the status quo is not good enough,’ Barrasso said in a statement to The Hill in advance of the unveiling. ‘We must do more than just keep listed species on life support- we need to see them recovered. This draft legislation will increase state and local input and improve transparency in the listing process.’ Conservationists, however, say the new bill represents the most significant threat in years to the 44-year-old law, which has been credited with rescuing the bald eagle, gray wolf, and grizzly bear from possible extinction. ‘It’s a bill which, on a broad basis, rewrites the ESA, with a whole host of consequences — as far as we can tell, almost entirely adverse consequences — for the protection of species,’ said Bob Dreher, senior vice president for conservation programs at Defenders of Wildlife...Dreher said states already play a strong role, and giving them more power would be counterproductive. ‘They’ve never played a particularly strong role in conservation of endangered species. Most states, in fact, lack adequate authority to conserve endangered species,’ he said. Barrasso plans to hold a hearing on the draft bill in the coming weeks. Read Senate GOP seeks overhaul of Endangered Species Act.
From the DEP Press Office - “The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced the permanent protection of the 56-acre Coral Creek Peninsula as an addition to Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. With the addition of of this conservation land, DEP will be able to better protect several of its already managed areas. ‘The Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park has been a land acquisition priority since 1972,’ said Callie DeHaven, Director of DEP Division of State Lands. ‘The Coral Creek Peninsula purchase is a great example of Florida Forever dollars being used to ensure the vitality and integrity of our spectacular state parks. We're proud that we were able to work with our partners to complete this important acquisition and look forward to continuing to build these types of partnerships to acquire additional rare and sensitive lands.’ This parcel is within the boundaries of the northern half of Charlotte Harbor. Adding this vital land to the park will ensure it is also managed for the health and diversity of its natural communities while benefiting the adjoining public lands and significant waterways. The 46,000-acre preserve buffers more than 100 miles of the shoreline of Charlotte Harbor National Estuary and over 80,000 acres of aquatic preserves. The variety of habitat supports more than 100 invertebrate species, 200 fish species, and 150 species of shore and wading birds. The Conservation Foundation worked with DEP to acquire the property through the Florida Forever program. The state’s acquisition will enhance management of the natural resources on both the land and the adjoining state park lands. With approximately 10 million acres managed for conservation in Florida, more than 2.5 million acres were purchased under the Florida Forever and P2000 programs. Since the inception of the Florida Forever program in July 2001, the state has purchased more than 770,279 acres of land with a little over $3 billion.” Read DEP Partners with Regional Land Trust to conserve 56-acre peninsula.
Zac Anderson reports for the Herald-Tribune - “More than 900 acres in eastern Manatee County will be preserved from development after state leaders agreed Wednesday to purchase a conservation easement on the Howze Ranch property. The $1.5 million deal was negotiated through the state’s Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. Howze Ranch encompasses 929 acres between State Road 70 and State Road 64. The ranch sits in the upper Myakka River watershed. Ogleby Creek, which flows into Flatford Swamp, crosses the ranch property. Sitting at the confluence of seven creeks, Flatford Swamp is considered the headwaters of the Myakka. ‘The Howze Ranch is important for the health of the Myakka River watershed, and the protection of the water quality and quantity of the Myakka River and Charlotte Harbor estuary,’ said Julie Morris, Florida manager for the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Morris worked with the landowner to submit the easement application. She recently helped secure an easement on another Manatee County property — Blackbeard’s Ranch — near Myakka River State Park. The National Resources Conservation Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, purchased the Blackbeard’s easement with help from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The NRCS also is expected to shoulder part of the cost of the Howze Ranch easement...Conservation experts say the preserved lands are important for protecting water quality, supporting large wildlife such as Florida panthers and black bears, creating outdoor recreation opportunities and maintaining the region’s agricultural heritage.” Read Conservation easement approved for Manatee County ranch.
Opinion: Ken Smith, Nature Conservancy, for the Naples Daily News - “Now is the time for Florida to make its “exemption” from offshore drilling more than just a political promise. It’s time to make the ban official. If Congress doesn’t act, the moratorium on exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico established in 2006 will expire in 2022. We’ll be risking our state’s 1,200 miles of sensitive coastline, world-class fishing and the livelihoods of millions of Floridians whose work depends on a healthy Gulf. Maybe you thought Florida’s exemption was already a done deal...We heard Gov. Rick Scott and Florida’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson denounce nearshore drilling in Florida. We saw Naples Republican Rep. Francis Rooney’s statement in support of the Department of Defense’s report that the eastern Gulf is an irreplaceable military asset that should be protected by a drilling moratorium. All good, but none of that makes a ban official. Florida is still at risk because the federal government hasn’t formalized the exemption. Powerful voices are pushing hard to make sure it doesn’t. The American Petroleum Institute just rolled out Explore Offshore, a coalition to support the plan to open protected parts of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf. It's focused on the eastern Gulf. A recent tweet from the coalition: ‘Energy exploration in the Gulf and off the coast of Florida could lead to more than 56,000 new jobs by 2035 and add $1 billion annually to the state revenue and $2.6 billion in private development.’ It’s a hollow argument. Florida’s economy is sustained by tourism, with 112 million visitors to the state in 2016 spending more than $110 billion. According to VisitFlorida, 1.4 million Floridians are employed in the tourism industry. This is an economy that depends on pristine beaches, healthy ecosystems and vibrant wildlife.” Read Drilling is not compatible with Florida’s environment.
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