Ed Killer reports for Treasure Coast Newspaper - “Every day without rain is a good day. At least that is how some South Floridians and water managers are thinking. The Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday announced several steps it took over the weekend to address high water levels in conservation areas west of Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The goal was to create more potential storage space for excess water to be moved out of Lake Okeechobee and south toward the Everglades, instead of east to the St. Lucie River and west to the Caloosahatchee River. Discharges caused a toxic blue-green bloom in both rivers, as well as a red tide that’s been killing fish and manatees in the Caloosahatchee. The Corps on Sunday increased the maximum allowable level in the L-29 Canal (called the Tamiami Canal) by a half-foot, to an elevation of 8 feet. That will increase flows under the 1-mile Tamiami Trail bridge built by the Corps, and make it possible to move more water from Water Conservation Area 3, north of the canal. That would allow the Corps to move 258.5 million gallons of water per day along the 15-mile-long east-west canal, according to an email the Corps sent TCPalm last week…’This is a significant accomplishment that has been years in the making," Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville district commander, said of the Tamiami Trail opening. ‘We have wanted to raise this water level since heavy rains affected South Florida in late May, but we recognized that we needed to progress further on construction of key features along the eastern edge of Everglades National Park...The South Florida Water Management District has been working to honor the executive order Gov. Rick Scott issued June 20 to to provide some relief to the coastal estuaries and ‘send more water south.’ Read Army Corps of Engineers: Raising L-29 canal will help move water south.
Katrina Elsken reports for Okeechobee News - “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will raise the water level in the L-29 Canal (along the Tamiami Trail) and will move more water to Everglades National Park, but don’t expect water from Lake Okeechobee to flow south anytime soon. The Water Conservation Areas (WCAs) north of the Tamiamai Trail are all above their regulation schedules. Moving more water under the Tamiamai Trail will help the WCAs, but is unlikely to free up enough capacity in the WCAs to take water from the Big O… ‘Storing more water in Conservation Area 2 helps reduce inflows into Conservation Area 3,’ said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander...The corps has been coordinating with tribal, state and other federal agencies to minimize the impact of these operational adjustments to nearby communities... ‘We are finally doing exactly what Everglades restoration envisioned,’ said Celeste De Palma, director of Everglades policy at Audubon Florida. ‘High water events in South Florida are testing water managers’ ability to move water yet again. The move to flow more water under the Tamiami Trail bridge will give water managers even more flexibility to provide relief to the bloated Water Conservation Areas to the north and puts water back into the northeast corner of Everglades National Park without putting all of the burden on sensitive upland wildlife habitat for species like the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow... ‘Pushing water away is the old way of doing business in Florida; that’s why Everglades restoration focuses on recapturing water, cleaning it, and rerouting it to mimic the historic freshwater flows that support our ecosystems and our way of life in the Sunshine State. It’s all about putting the watershed back in equilibrium,’ concluded Ms. De Palma.” Read Increased flow under Tamiami Trail helps Everglades, but won’t move Lake Okeechobee water south.
James Call reports for the Tallahassee Democrat - “A group of scientists, biologists and retirees is marshalling its forces for a regulatory fight. The Wakulla Springs Alliance has scheduled three meetings over the next 10 days to talk about how to fight a Department of Environmental Protection plan to restore the iconic spring 17 miles south of Tallahassee. And they’ll try to figure out how to pay for it if they do. Critics say the Basin Management Action Plan the Legislature ordered DEP to write to reduce the flow of nitrates into the spring is narrow ins cope and weak on enforcement. They have 21 days to decide whether to go to court to get a new plan. ‘We are going through a supposed restoration, and we had comments for the BMAP, which could have fixed the restoration,’ said Sean McGlynn, who chairs the WSA...DEP never responded. ‘The BMAPs include new wastewater management requirements...and lay out a methodical planning process for local governments to address pollution sources such as urban fertilizer, wastewater and existing septic tanks,’ said the DEP’s Dee Ann Miller in an email exchange about WSA’s recommendations. On Friday, the WSA and other spring groups from across the state will hold a conference call to discuss the feasibility of challenging any of the 13 BMAPS for the 34 springs identified in the 2016 Springs Protection Act. McGlynn and others say the plans need to clarify which government agency is responsible for enforcement, expand the area the plans cover and rethink how to wean more homes from septic systems to a centralized sewer system.” Read Local environmentalists marshaling forces to challenge Wakulla Springs protection plan.
Seán Kinane reports for WMNF - “Old Tampa Bay; it’s the most northerly section of the Bay and furthest from the mouth – where the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is located – so that leads to the water there being the most stagnant. The executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program told a St. Petersburg City Council committee this month that means there’s poor water quality, inconsistent seagrass recovery and summertime algae blooms by a genus called Pyrodinium, which is different from the red tide alga. But Ed Sherwood, Executive Director of Tampa Bay Estuary Program, says there’s a way to improve the water quality in Old Tampa Bay – by constructing more pathways for water by breaching bridge causeways, thereby restoring water flow. “These causeways are impeding circulation and could be contributing to the poor water quality conditions in Old Tampa Bay. And we’ve been working with the Florida Department of Transportation [DOT] since about 2015 to get them to think about breaching these causeways as they’re doing these bridge replacement projects...What we’re trying to achieve is basically that picture of what the Bay looked like prior to a lot of these bridges being constructed. Recreating the circulation patterns of the tide coming in and going out and not being obstructed by these causeways. Part of the reason why that particular algal species blooms in this portion of Old Tampa Bay is because the tidal circulation pattern goes up and creates a gyre. And the water just sits there and provides nutrient sources to that particular algal species and that persists through the summertime, until we get flushing rains and the Bay turns over, so to speak. What we’re trying to get DOT to consider is re-establishing some of those circulation patterns through those causeway breaches.” Read Tampa Bay Estuary Program: create breaches in causeways.
Capt. Zach Zacharias corresponds for the Herald-Tribune - “Much has been said about water quality issues lately from across the state. The Herald-Tribune reprinted an editorial from the Daytona Beach-News Journal addressing ongoing problems with local, once-pristine, springs. Several letters to the editor have opined over the horrible situation occurring once again this year in Lake Okeechobee. The massive bloom of blue-green algae is festering in the Big O and will once again cause devastating effects once the summer rains really set in. The foul mess has eventually made it to both coasts for several years, causing unbelievable damage to ecosystems and the economies of those relying on healthy, productive rivers and estuaries all along the way. The same nutrient overload causing the algae blooms is also exacerbating red tide once it reaches the coast. Of greatest concern locally is the discharge from the lake into the Caloosahatchee River which winds west to Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island sound. The estuary there has barely recovered from last year’s episode and it is set to begin again…In the meantime problems continue to fester and the citizens of this state need to demand action on water quality issues. Clear springs, a pristine aquifer and healthy surface water is the lifeblood of Florida and is nothing to trifle with. Please, if you agree with this premise, contact your elected representatives at all levels of government and demand action to correct these issues. There is so much at stake here. The upcoming mid-term elections are sure to be a watershed event which could go either way. Let your elected officials know that the health of Florida’s water wealth is far more essential than any one political ideology.” Read Outdoors: State of state’s water a concern.
Emily Mahoney reports for the Tampa Bay Times - “ The major candidates to be Florida’s next governor have found common ground, underground: they all oppose fracking. Congressman Ron DeSantis confirmed to an environmental advocacy group, the Food & Water Action Fund, on Monday that he was against the practice. ‘Thank you so much for supporting the ban on drilling offshore," said Ginger Goepper, a volunteer with the group, who spoke to DeSantis after Monday's campaign event with Sean Hannity in Tampa. ‘Do you also support a ban on fracking in Florida?’ ‘Yes,’ DeSantis replied emphatically.Previous statements to both news media and the advocacy group have put the other major candidates for governor also on the record as being against fracking, including the five top Democrats and DeSantis's Republican opponent, Adam Putnam. ‘We don't need to be fracking in Florida,’ Putnam said in an earlier videoed conversation with Goepper, also after a campaign event. Putnam added that he is also against offshore drilling because Florida needs to ‘to protect our beaches.’ The Florida Legislature has considered fracking bans in the past but they have never had enough support to pass into law. Fracking, technically called ‘hydraulic fracturing,’ is the practice of drilling underground and then injecting pressurized liquid into the rock to force it to release oil and gas, which has worried environmentalists over its potential to contaminate groundwater. - Read Florida’s next governor will most likely oppose fracking.
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