FCC News Brief - July 11, 2018

Ryan Dailey for WFSU Public Media - “ Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection is applying to take over duties from the federal government related to protecting its wetlands. But some environmental advocates are hoping the agency will pump the breaks. The federal Clean Water Act’s 404 permitting program makes sure any actions by a person or entity that could potentially harm wetlands are mitigated. And environmentalists aren’t sure that would happen under state control. Chris Farrell, Audubon’s Northeast Florida Policy Associate, says he’s not fully convinced it will be a smooth transition. For that reason, Audubon is asking for more time and discussion before the move.’For the state to take over this process is a big endeavor. One they’ve considered doing in the past and declined because of the size of the effort involved,’ Farrell said. ‘And they weren’t sure if they could replace everything the federal government does when they review these permits.’ Farrell says Audubon recently sent a letter to the DEP in an effort to make sure all the right questions have been asked before proceeding…” Read Environmental group wants more time, discussion before state takes over federal wetlands protection.

Victoria Ballard reports for the Sun Sentinel - “ The order issued Monday covers Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Glades, Hendry, Lee, and Okeechobee counties. It allows the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to waive some restrictions to store water in additional areas south of the lake. The water district was instructed to explore options to move lake water through the Hillsboro, North New River and Miami canals. Scott ordered the DEP and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to spend more staff time on water testing. The governor also told the DEP to set up a grant program to help local governments pay for clean-up services...Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg used the state of emergency to announce a new effort to urge the White House to back the planned reservoir, which would also require Senate approval. ‘If we miss this opportunity, the Army Corps goes back to a planning process, which will take three years, which will be more summers of toxic algae, more summers of closed beaches, impact to tourism jobs, let alone human health,’ Eikenberg told reporters during a conference call Monday afternoon…” Read Gov. Scott declares state of emergency over algae bloom.

Patrick Riley reports for Naples Daily News - “Collier County commissioners will meet Tuesday to discuss a host of issues at the board’s last meeting before its summer break, including Conservation Collier’s future land acquisition priorities and an agreement with state officials to improve the county’s water and sewer system following issues after Hurricane Irma. Commissioners in April voted to buy 180 acres of old growth Florida and ancient cypress trees in Golden Gate Estates, known as the Gore property, as well as 28 acres of mangroves — the only mangroves left on the north side of Haldeman Creek in East Naples...The trust was created through a voter-approved special tax to earn enough interest to pay for annual maintenance and exotic vegetation removal costs of the more than 4,000 acres of preserve already created through the conservation program. It was meant to last forever…” Read Collier County commissioners to decide next steps with land conservation program.

Zac Anderson reports for the Ocala Star Banner - “ Environmental protection quickly is becoming a big issue in the 2018 election as more toxic algae blooms slime estuaries, kill sea life and choke coastal Florida communities with foul air. Florida’s tourism-driven economy depends on clean water, and candidates are under pressure to offer solutions for a problem that is so bad it led the governor to declare a state of emergency Monday in seven counties...Investing in clean-up measures has become a popular campaign promise among candidates in both parties, and there is increasing talk of cracking down on polluters, something many GOP leaders in Florida have been reluctant to do over the years. Environmental advocates say state and local officials have not gone far enough to curtail nutrient pollution that feeds algae blooms and — in some cases — actually have taken steps backward in recent years, with critics pointing to everything from legislation repealing septic tank inspections to cutting environmental agencies’ budgets…” Read Algae problems impacting election-year politics.

Nicole Rodriguez writes for the Herald Tribune - “Save Our Siesta Sands 2 argues that permits issued to conduct the long-contested project violate several federal laws, and it has hired a lawyer to try to prove it. The group — which challenged the issuance of the permits in court, but ultimately lost — has hired St. Augustine-based land-use and environmental attorney Jane West to find flaws in the permitting process. West believes the project violates several federal laws, including the Clean Water Act, she said Monday. ‘There are numerous federal statutes that have potentially been violated as a result of the issuance of the permit for this dredging,’ West said. ‘First and foremost would be the Federal Endangered Species Act ... there was only an Environmental Assessment that was conducted, not a full blown Environmental Impact Statement.’ ‘We also have concerns with possible violations of the Clean Water Act and the Magnuson Stevens Act, which protects essential fish habitat,’ West added, saying high turbidity levels caused by the future dredging would violate the Clean Water Act…” Read Siesta Key group lawyers up to fight Lido Beach renourishment project.

Abha Bhattari for The Washington Post- “Starbucks, which doles out more than 1 billion straws a year, says it will phase out single-use plastic straws from its stores by 2020. The coffee giant – the largest retailer to commit to eliminating single-use plastic straws – said Monday that it will replace the ubiquitous plastic straw with recyclable “strawless lids,” as well as straws made from biodegradable materials, as part of a no-plastic-straws movement that has gained momentum in recent years...The no-straw movement, which had already been brewing in certain communities and beach towns, gained mainstream traction three years ago after a video showing a sea turtle with a plastic straw wedged in its nose went viral. Plastic straws never completely decompose and can be harmful, even fatal, to animals that ingest them…” Read Starbucks will stop handing out plastic straws by 2020.

Adam Friedman writes for Naple Daily News - “Screeching and swooping with its 19-inch wingspan, a black skimmer tries to ward off any animal or person that gets too close to its nesting colony and its newly hatched chicks. The skimmer is normally a calm bird, but after thousands of black skimmer eggs were eaten by crows in 2015, things have changed. ‘They’ve hardened because they’ve had an experience,’ said Audubon shorebird monitoring leader Adam DiNuovo. Every April and May, the largest least tern and black skimmer colonies in Florida settle onto beaches in Southwest Florida — and now their eggs are starting to hatch. This year there are roughly 400 black skimmer nesting pairs and 200 least tern pairs, DiNuovo estimated. In 2017 there were 400 to 500 pairs of skimmers and 200 to 300 pairs of terns, according to state figures. Florida has designated both bird species as threatened. But the Marco Island population has remained steady and might have increased slightly over the past two decades, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regional biologist Ricardo Zambrano… Read This is crucial time of year for two threatened species of shorebirds in Florida.

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 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.

July 11, 6:00 pm - Live in Sarasota County and want to go solar? Now's your chance! Neighbors across the area have formed the Sarasota Solar Co-op with the help of Solar United Neighbors of Florida to make it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels, while building a community of local solar supporters. RSVP for free information session here. 

July 14, 10:30 am - Live in Miami-Dade County and want to go solar? Now's your chance! Neighbors across the area have formed the Miami Summer Solar Co-op with the help of Solar United Neighbors to make it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels, while building a community of local solar supporters. RSVP for free information session here

July 15, 8:00 am - Attend a Beach Ecology Walk hosted by Gulf Restoration Network at Pensacola Beach Walkover 27B at 1865 Via De Luna Dr. You'll learn where beach sand comes from, where it’s going, and what shapes our beaches and dunes. Along the way we’ll explore tracks in the sand and catch a few critters as we investigate life in and on the sand and shallow waters. The walk is one hour long at a slow and meandering pace, and is suitable for children. To learn more visit the event page here, or email christian@healthygulf.org

July 19, 6:00 pm - Live in Pinellas County, south of State Road 60 and want to go solar? Now's your chance! Neighbors across the area have formed the St. Pete Summer Solar Co-op with the help of Solar United Neighbors of Florida to make it easier to save money on the purchase of solar panels, while building a community of local solar supporters. RSVP for free information session here.

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.



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