Bill Maxwell reports for the Tampa Bay Times – “From October to April or May, the (sugar) companies ignite huge fires in their fields to burn off… the outer leaves of the cane stalks, before harvesting. The fires send billows of smoke and stench into the air. Ash rains down over four counties… Steve Messam, 35,... an associate pastor at Glades Covenant Community Church…, was born in Belle Glade. He grew up taking his heavy breathing and allergy flare-ups for granted. Many neighbors and schoolmates had the same symptoms… Today, his wife and 4-year-old son have similar problems. His son uses a breathing machine during the burn season… ‘There’s nothing like opening your door and being greeted by ash rushing into your home and over your body or going outside and seeing your car covered with it,’ he said. ‘I have to pressure clean my doors and porch at least once a year.’ His home air conditioner filters should last three months or more, but he changes them monthly during the burn season… ‘I had two students who would wear garbage bags over their heads to get to the school bus because of the burnings,’ [Mariya Feldman, a teacher] said. ‘… Some days, it was unbearable for me to go from my car to the school because the smell from the burning would give me cramps in my lungs.’” Read Homeowners Protest Big Sugar’s burning of cane fields
Chad Gillis reports for News-Press – “Disagreements between the federal and state governments could slow the planning and approval of a reservoir project expected to reduce releases to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers… The state is hoping to get the project moved through the Department of the Army in a proposed Water Resources Development Act, or WRDA, of 2018. This round of projects has passed committees but is still awaiting authorization by Congress. The South Florida Water Management District submitted its plans for the reservoir to the Army Corps of Engineers for review earlier this year and found out a few days ago that additional work may be needed to keep the reservoir on pace. ‘The significant concerns are related to a high cost risk associated with required dam safety design criteria, a high risk of non-compliance with water quality standards, a high risk that project benefits may not be achieved,’ reads a review from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army… ‘Removal of nutrient loads in excess of water quality standards is not a responsibility of the federal government,’ the report reads. ‘Further, it also is not in the interest of federal entities to shift pollutants loads from one area (northern estuaries) to another area (Everglades) within the State of Florida.’ But district officials say the issue is more about communication than a lack of solid planning… The EAA reservoir went through a process that didn’t include the back-and-forth input the Corps and district typically share before the report is released, said Eva Velez, the district’s director of Everglades policy. ‘That’s a three-year process,’ Velez said of the typical approval route… ‘The only way we could have met the requirements of Senate Bill 10 was to do this process,’ Velez said.” Read Everglades reservoir that would help Caloosahatchee discharges may be in jeopardy
Tyler Treadway reports for the TC Palm – “The U.S. House voted… to authorize water projects throughout the nation, including the reservoir designed to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges. The 2018 Water Resources Development Act the House approved… includes a “placeholder” for the reservoir. Once the Army Corps of Engineers signs off on the project, the placeholder will be replaced by language authorizing the reservoir. The Senate is expected to take up its version of the legislation, which also contains a placeholder for the reservoir, this summer. The bill also will have to be signed by President Trump. A White House statement… said the House bill ‘could be improved,’ noting a large backlog of projects that have been authorized but not started or completed. New projects, the statement reads, ‘should be limited to those most likely to provide high economic or environmental returns to the nation.’ Separate legislation will be needed to appropriate the federal government’s half share of the $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion project… The House bill also includes an amendment by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast… authorizing a five-year, $15 million program for the Corps to develop a large-scale water filtration system to detect, prevent and manage harmful algal blooms.” Read House Oks reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges; awaits Senate vote, Trump OK
Kim Leoffler reports for Bay News 9 – “The Florida Forest Service and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission… created a program where (Red-Cockaded) woodpeckers are brought from other areas and put into pairs for breeding. They now say that they have almost reached their population goal for Hernando and Citrus County… Experts also say managing the forests for the woodpeckers also helps other species like the gopher tortoises and Sherman’s Fox Squirrels.” Read The Endangered Red-Cockaded Wood-Pecker Population is Growing
The News Service of Florida reports – “Local governments have until Aug. 1 to apply for grants intended to reduce bear-human conflicts. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is making $500,000 in grants available for communities, with a preference going to those that have enacted “BearWise” ordinances requiring residents and businesses to bear-proof trash containers.” Read State to provide more ‘BearWise’ money
Mike Hoffman writes for the TC Palm – “I was very pleased to see the editorial about South Florida Water Management District’s actions to hide its private meeting transcripts about the Lake Point rock pit… [The district] sued their constituents who asked for the public records. Adding insult to injury, the district hired a half dozen lawyers and spending probably $100,000 of our tax money attacking its constituents. Is the state attorney investigating this?” Read Someone needs to investigate water district’s actions
Ali Schmitz reports for the TC Palm – “The state’s two largest sugar companies – U.S. Sugar Corp. of Clewiston and Florida Crystals Corp. of West Palm Beach – have long supported Adam Putnam and the farmer-friendly policies he’s supported as agriculture commissioner since 2010. Sugar companies and executives have pumped at least $525,000 into Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign so far. The industry also funnels untraceable amounts through business PACs such as Associated Industries of Florida and Florida Prosperity Fund. Meanwhile, the industry stopped donating to U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis after he opposed policies that inflate sugar prices with import quotas, loans and bailouts. He’s made his opposition to sugar price supports part of his campaign against Putnam. DeSantis claims the industry went a step further and helped fund a $1.8 million-plus ‘misinformation campaign’ against him with a series of TV and radio attack ads… South Florida clean-water activist group Bullsugar backs DeSantis because he backs reforming sugar policy, curbing Lake Okeechobee discharges and building a larger reservoir than the one being planned for the Everglades Agricultural Area… Putnam initially declined to support the reservoir Senate President Joe Negron… championed in 2017… Putnam supported a 2016 bill that gutted water-quality regulations and opposed a 2008 deal then-Gov. Charlie Crist struck with U.S. Sugar to buy all its Clewiston holdings for $1.75 billion.” Read Sugar industry aims to influence Florida governor’s race with donations to Adam Putnam
Mary Reynolds writes for The Hill – “A little over two years ago, you could count on one hand the number of Republicans in the House who publicly acknowledged that human-caused climate change is occurring and that congress needs to come up with solutions. There are currently 39 who share that conviction, and they’re willing to talk to colleagues across the aisle about it… The solution most likely to find favor in both camps (Republican and Democrat) has to be market-based and revenue-neutral, and a fee on carbon with proceeds returned to households meets those requirements. Such a fee will provide the economic incentive to speed the transition to clean energy and reduce carbon emissions. A study from Regional Economic Models, Inc., examined such an approach with a fee on the carbon dioxide content of fuels that increases each year by $10 per ton. The REMI study concluded that after 20 years, emissions would drop 50 percent below 1990 levels and that 2.8 million jobs would be added, dispelling the notion that any price on carbon would be bad for the economy… On June 12, 1,200 citizens from around the nation, many of them the people who convinced Republicans to join the Climate Solutions Caucus, will be on Capitol Hill with a mission to narrow the political divide on climate change. Based on past achievements, I’m confident they will succeed, because I’m confident our democracy will eventually overcome any obstacle that stands in the way of doing the right thing.” Read Don’t laugh, we’re closer to a bipartisan solution on climate change than you realize
From Our Readers
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Upcoming Environmental Events
June 8- June 10 – Attend Give Springs a Break in High Springs. Give Springs a Break is an educational retreat for students and young professionals. Along with creative skill workshops and fun activities, students will have the opportunity to learn from leading environmental scientists and advocates about freshwater and Florida’s springs. Admission to the event includes camping, kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, tubing, spring-side yoga, meals, and a reusable event bag. For more information and to buy your tickets, click here.
June 16, 10:00 am – Join the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute on a paddle outing exploring the Weeki Wachee River and Springs. Kayak/canoe rental with shuttle is $35 and shuttle only is $20. A boat launch fee of $6 will also apply. For more information and to register, contact Adventure Outpost at (386) 454 – 0611.
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