Tuesday, November 25, 2014

State agency delivers sugar city smackdown

A state agency released a blistering 24-page rebuke of a proposed massive city in the Everglades while environmentalists renewed calls for the state to purchase sugar land to send water south.
More than 5,000 protest dirty water, not sent south,
but to the Indian River Lagoon in the summer of 2013.

www.tcpalm.com/videos/detail/indian-river-lagoon-rally/  

Among 34 major objections to the project, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO) report called U.S Sugar’s proposal “vague,” with “no assurances of natural resource protection,” and puts “significant urban development” in an area without flood protection.

The proposed 67-square-mile city called “Sugar Hill” includes 18,000 residential units and more than 25 million square feet of commercial development southwest of Lake Okeechobee on land vital to Everglades Restoration.

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/photo/business/
sugar-hill-plan-rejected-landowners-to-try-again/pCStRL/
The FDEO report comes on top of two also highly-critical responses from state environmental agencies. The South Florida Water Management District recommended against the plan saying it threatened Everglades Restoration, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection wrote it “does not adequately protect against adverse impacts to important state resources, including the Florida Everglades.”

The report was surprising because the FDEO is essentially an economic development agency that Governor Scott created to replace the Department of Community Affairs, the growth management agency he dismantled. The report also comes amid news reports that U.S Sugar has been taking Florida politicians, including the Governor Scott, on hunting trips to the King Ranch in Texas.

The Sugar Hill project has been widely condemned by the environmental community. Sierra Club and allies held simultaneous rallies and press conferences opposing the city and urging the state to buy sugar land instead.

Environmentalists want land bought now

The proposed city reinforces the need to buy sugar land now. The U.S Sugar land purchase of 2010 enabled 26,000 acres to be purchased with an option for the remaining 153,000 acres. The next deadline of October 2015, allows a block of 46,800 acres to be purchased at market prices. Much of the land lies within the Sugar Hill proposal. If Sugar Hill were approved, the land would be immediately more valuable as land slated for development rather than agricultural uses, making it more difficult for the public to acquire.

Governor Rick Scott has repeatedly ignored deadlines to buy sugar land. Last year he allowed the state’s exclusive rights to buy US Sugar land to expire. He opposed U.S. Sugar’s purchase as a candidate in 2010.

The enormity and grave consequences of this sprawling city cannot be overstated. It would wall off the Everglades from half of its overland water source – Lake Okeechobee. It would also end efforts to purchase the next parcel of sugar land for restoration – either for direct use or through swaps with other sugar lands farther east.

The final rejection of this city will serve as a wakeup call.  A restored Everglades and healthy estuaries require more sugar land. Governor Scott and his appointees at South Florida Water Management District should lay the groundwork for the purchase now.


U.S. Sugar has until May 1, 2015, to revise and resubmit the Sugar Hill city plan. The deadline to purchase 48,600 acres is Oct. 12, 2015.

Sierra Club Objects to Osceola County North Ranch Sector Plan

The Sierra Club Central Florida Group presented comments on the Deseret Ranches North Sector Plan.  The Sierra Club believes this monstrous plan fails to facilitate protection of regionally significant resources, including, but not limited to, regionally significant water courses and wildlife corridors, as outlined in Section 163.3245 of Florida Statutes. We requested that the Osceola County Board of County Commissioners and its Planning Commission decide not to transmit the plan to the Florida State Department of Economic Opportunity.

We question how the County and the North Ranch will sustain the viability of natural resources and wildlife corridors of the North Ranch to the planning horizon of 2060-2080, while the Ranch operates as a working ranch consisting of cattle ranching, farming, hunting, and citrus production. Our objections to the plan are as follows:

Transportation: Establishment of new transportation corridors through conservation lands and rural/agricultural lands potentially diverts state and federal transportation funding from a more integrated transportation network to serve existing/approved development areas. Additionally, proposed expressways, such as the new Pineda Causeway link crossing the St. Johns River, will fragment sensitive ecosystems and intrude into public conservation lands of Brevard County. Alternatively, the Sierra Club recommends using existing bridge alignments at SR 520 and US 192.



        Source:  North Ranch Sector Plan, page ES-7

Reservoir Resources:  The plan states - These water resources, in addition to providing valuable water supply, provide benefits to fish and wildlife resources, and add a lentic habitat type to the Environmental Plan.  ["Lentic" habitat is characterized by standing or slow moving water]

The Sierra Club objects to:
·      The proposed expansion of the Taylor Creek Reservoir (7,104 acres) and the creation of the Pennywash/Wolf Creek Reservoir. 
·      Creating the decommissioned Pennywash/Wolf Creek Reservoir (5,548 acres) that will flood and destroy thousands of acres of freshwater forested wetlands.  A similar plan proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1970’s was finally rejected by the State of Florida, as noted in the Final Environmental Impact Statement of 1986. 
·      Upon receipt of authorization for construction, Pennywash/Wolf Creek acreage will be counted in the required agricultural land preservation requirement.
·      The Sierra Club objects to these long-term water reservations, as they potentially impact the already stressed St. Johns River.


        Source:  North Ranch Sector Plan, page ES-5

POLICY 6.5: CONVERSION RATIO FOR CONSERVATION EASEMENTS AND AGRICULTURAL RESTRICTIONS

Proposed “sprawl-like” development, including new transportation facilities, will fragment conservation lands and wildlife habitat. For every acre of land within a CMP/DSAP [Conceptual Master Plan/Detailed Specific Area Plan], a ratio of 0.508 conservation acres for every acre of developable land area and 0.238 acres of Agricultural Lands for every acre of developable land area, as identified in Map 5 (North Ranch Planning Area Environmental Plan), must be placed into a conservation easement or agricultural covenantThe Sierra Club recommends a greater ratio of conservation lands for every acre of developable land and objects to the inclusion of the proposed Pennywash/Wolf Creek Reservoir into the agricultural land preservation requirement. 

The North Ranch includes portions of sensitive headwaters of the Upper Kissimmee River Basin, Econlockhatchee River Basin and the St. Johns River Basin.  While the plan proposes to protect the Econlockhatchee River 100-year floodplain, there are no protections for developing within the St. Johns and Upper Kissimmee River 100-year floodplains. The proposed intensity of the North Ranch Sector Plan has the potential to significantly fragment and impact these natural resources as well as the sensitive ecosystems of Orange and Brevard Counties. The proposed North Ranch Sector Plan needs more scrutiny, including stakeholder input.

The Sierra Club respectfully requests the Osceola County Planning Commission consider the Sierra Club’s recommendations not to transmit.  

--Marjorie Holt
Chair/Conservation Chair

Sierra Club Central Florida Group

Thankful for Panthers!


With the holidays approaching, Sierra Club is thankful for all the hard work so many people put toward protecting the Florida Panther.

This last year has been a turbulent one, but so many good things have come out of the hard work that numerous volunteers and organizations have dedicated to protecting Florida's wild places.

Through the combined efforts of Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Stonecrab Alliance, Preserve our Paradise, and numerous volunteers, we were able to stop an exploratory oil well in panther habitat. The Dan A Hughes Company was kicked out of Florida, and their leases to 115,00 acres were rescinded

Panther numbers are also officially up - from 160 as the maximum to 180 as the new current. Coming from an estimate of 20-30 individuals in the 1990's, this a great success toward the robustness of the panther population. 

The Sierra Club, along with other environmental groups settled a litigation case involving secondary off-road vehicle trails in the Big Cypress National Preserve. One hundred and forty-six miles of disputed secondary trails have been closed in the Preserve, bringing the ORV trail system to within the limits of the 2000 ORV-Management Plan. The trails will remain closed until environmental impacts to panther and other endangered species can be completed.

Finally, the Sierra Club would like to thank all of its dedicated volunteers, who without their tireless work, these accomplishment wouldn't be possible. To all of those who attended rallies and press conferences, testified at County Commission hearings, who wrote to their elected officials and signed our petitions, and so much more - Thank You! You are the reason why we do what we do, and give the panther a fighting chance!

Remember this holiday season, to drive safely and slow down for panthers!
Happy Holidays!

Gratitude and Solidarity Fish


If you haven’t seen any of the Solidarity Fish “swimming” around Florida in the last year you have been missing out.  What began as an artist’s (several artists actually) response to the overwhelming public outcry over the ecological collapse of the Indian River Lagoon in 2013 has become a far-reaching phenomenon. They have been from the Everglades to Washington, D.C., from the steps of the Capitol Building in Tallahassee to the cover of major Florida newspapers and in the New York Times.  But what is really spectacular about these fish is that regular folks, old and young, are the creators of these beautifully powerful images.



The recipe is simple:  a thin wooden fish is blank on one side while the other side is white skeletal remains on a black background.  Enter the volunteers who turn the blank side into a vividly painted, one of a kind masterpiece.  When they are displayed together they become a monumental public art installation that connects participants and passers-by in a most powerful way.  These two-sided “turn it around” fish display both what is lost and what can be found again if the state comes together to solve our water quality crises.

The fish have been formally mounted outside the Blake Library (Martin County), the Elliot Museum, the Stuart News building, and the Florida Oceanographic Society (to name a few), and inside Stuart City Hall.  They have been waved in parades and carried or displayed at nearly every grassroots action focused on protecting the estuaries of the Greater Everglades in the past year.  

The fish have become a single image that says it all for activists working on Everglades restoration: 
"Stop the harm
Buy the land
Send water south
Fund it now
Save the estuaries
Save the Everglades"

But they are not only a message for South Florida.
  When activists from all over the state gathered at the Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration Campaign first annual We Want Clean Water Rally last February, the fish spoke for all of Florida’s imperiled waters as they bejeweled the Historic Capitol steps under the feet of the state’s most devout clean water activists.  And when President’s Park in Washington D.C. is alight this December with Christmas trees representing every state in the nation, Florida’s tree will be covered in Solidarity Fish labeled with the names of our most iconic, but endangered, waterways.

You can find more photos, news clips and videos on the Solidarity Art Facebook page and the Solidarity Fish website

If you want to be a part of a campaign to bring Solidarity Fish Projects to other parts (your part!) of Florida please email cris.costello@sierraclub.org

Artist and illustrator Janeen Mason, the muscle behind the Solidarity Fish Project, would love to work with anyone interested in spreading the "fish"!  


You can't help but be thankful for Solidarity Fish!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Crist-Scott environmental side-by-side comparison


Charlie Crist
Rick Scott


Clean water

Charlie Crist supports the right of local governments to protect their local waters by adopting strong fertilizer regulations.  He is opposed to preemptive state legislation and rule-making that would weaken local environmental laws, but he would lead a comprehensive state approach to reducing nutrient pollution and harmful algae blooms.  He also supports making consumptive use permits contingent on maintaining minimum flows and levels for Florida waters.  Crist also opposes fracking for natural gas in Florida and offshore oil drilling as threats to clean water.




Rick Scott fought EPA’s proposed rules for Florida’s waters that would have stopped pollution at its source.  His administration repeatedly sacrificed Florida’s water resources to the profits of corporate polluters. He failed to address the crisis of over-pumped and polluted Florida springs until they were near death this year.  His recent funding for springs restoration did not go far enough toward solving the springs' most basic problems from over-pumping of the aquifer and pollution from fertilizer use, septic tanks, cattle farms and other sources.

Climate change & renewable energy

Charlie Crist made combating climate change a central theme of his administration. He held climate summits, created a framework for renewable energy through his appointees to the Public Service Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental protection. His administration sought a 40 percent reduction in statewide greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, required state agencies to prioritize energy efficiency and asked state utilities to produce 20 percent of its power from renewables.




Rick Scott came into office as a climate change denier, and currently responds to media questions on whether human activity impacted climate by saying, “I’m not a scientist.” He has failed to address or plan for rising sea levels. He stacked the Florida Public Service Commission with utility-friendly Commissioners who repeatedly allowed power companies to charge customers in advance for expensive nuclear power plants that might never be built.

Growth management

Charlie Crist placed Tom Pelham as director of the Department of Community Affairs whose leadership turned the agency into a major champion of growth management.  Crist supports Amendment One, the Florida Water and Lands Legacy Amendment.



Rick Scott dismantled the Department of Community Affairs and replaced it with the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) under rules that allow unfettered inappropriate growth. To raise money to buy environmental land, the Scott Administration's solution was to sell public lands already owned and protected. Scott took no position on Amendment One.



Everglades restoration

Charlie Crist has been a strong champion of protecting the Everglades and coastal estuaries. As Governor, he negotiated an agreement with US Sugar Corporation that provides the State with the option to buy all 187,000 acres of land owned by US Sugar that would allow us to move excess Lake Okeechobee water south to the Everglades.



Rick Scott sabotaged our best chance of restoring the Everglades and protecting the Indian River Lagoon and Charlotte Harbor estuaries when he publicly rejected Charlie Crist’s contract with US Sugar. He cut funding for the South Florida Water Management District forcing it to eliminate vital environmental staff and programs.  To his credit, Scott funded several important Everglades projects including bridging for Tamiami Trail, but those projects will fail to restore the Everglades without the US Sugar purchase.


Enforcement of environmental laws

Charlie Crist pledges to appoint a strong Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection who will diligently enforce environmental laws.



Rick Scott crippled enforcement of environmental rules and appointed industry officials in top regulatory positions.  Florida DEP attorneys and regulators were instructed to avoid sanctioning businesses for circumventing environmental laws, and they were reprimanded or suspended when they did not follow orders.


Mass transit and clean cars

Charlie Crist would provide incentives for fuel efficient motor vehicles and would support the development of clean public mass transit.  He would invest in electric vehicle infrastructure needed to increase adoption of clean, electric cars and trucks, and he is an advocate for adding zero emission electric buses to public fleets.




Rick Scott single-handedly killed high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando.  Federal funds for the line were approved and ready to be spent to build the line, but Scott turned down the funds.  It was a tremendous setback for efforts to bring clean, modern transit to the State.

Solar energy

Charlie Crist would remove the monopoly that big utility companies like FPL and Duke have on energy supply, and let smaller companies that specialize in solar energy compete.  He would make it easier and cheaper for Floridians to put solar on our homes and businesses – as well as encourage investment in solar and wind fields.  We agree with his conclusion that a conversion to solar energy will create new high paying jobs.




Rick Scott failed to do anything to help grow the solar industry in the sunshine state which lags far behind the rest of the country.

Pd Pol Adv paid for and approved by the Florida Sierra Club PAC, 1990 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33712. This message is not approved by any candidate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Sierra Club endorses Charlie Crist for Governor

(October 14, 2014) Sierra Club, the country’s largest grassroots environmental organization, enthusiastically endorsed Charlie Crist for Governor today.

“Charlie Crist is committed to build on his excellent record and to reverse the damage done to environmental protection in Florida by our current Governor Rick Scott.” said Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Staff Director.

“The choice is clear:  Charlie Crist understands our state’s environmental challenges and will work to lead Florida on a path toward conservation, sustainability and environmental restoration,” said Sierra Club Florida Political Chair Cecilia Height.

Sierra Club noted four major environmental accomplishments during his tenure as Governor from 2007-2010:

1. Crist advised the Florida Public Service Commission to reject new coal plants in Florida which led to the cancellation of six massive coal-fired power plants that Florida utilities had proposed.
2. Crist took a strong leadership position recognizing the impact climate change will have on Florida and put the state on the path to set strong renewable energy goals, an action that was later reversed by the Florida Legislature.
3. Crist negotiated an agreement with US Sugar Corporation that provides the State with the option to buy all 187,000 acres of land owned by US Sugar in the Everglades.
4. Crist appointed Tom Pelham as the director of the Department of Community Affairs, who turned DCA into a major champion of growth management. (Scott eliminated the Department when he took office.)

Sierra Club Florida said it expected Crist would be a leader in the following areas: protecting wild Florida, stopping new fracking and drilling, combating climate change, expanding solar energy, growing mass transit and electric vehicles, cleaning up Florida’s polluted waters, restoring the Everglades, and enforcing environmental laws.  (A comparison between Crist and Scott follows.)

For press inquiries, contact, Frank Jackalone at 727-824-8813 x302

###


Comparing Charlie Crist to Rick Scott on the environment

Clean water
Charlie Crist supports the right of local governments to protect their local waters by adopting strong fertilizer regulations.  He is opposed to preemptive state legislation and rule-making that would weaken local environmental laws, but he would lead a comprehensive state approach to reducing nutrient pollution and harmful algae blooms.  He also supports making consumptive use permits contingent on maintaining minimum flows and levels for Florida waters.  Crist also opposes fracking for natural gas in Florida and offshore oil drilling as threats to clean water.

Rick Scott fought EPA’s proposed rules for Florida’s waters that would have stopped pollution at its source.  His administration repeatedly sacrificed Florida’s water resources to the profits of corporate polluters. He failed to address the crisis of over-pumped and polluted Florida springs until they were near death this year.  His recent funding for springs restoration did not go far enough toward solving the springs' most basic problems from over-pumping of the aquifer and pollution from fertilizer use, septic tanks, cattle farms and other sources.

Climate change and renewable energy
Charlie Crist made combating climate change a central theme of his administration. He held climate summits, created a framework for renewable energy through his appointees to the Public Service Commission and the Florida Department of Environmental protection. His administration sought a 40 percent reduction in statewide greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, required state agencies to prioritize energy efficiency and asked state utilities to produce 20 percent of its power from renewables.

Rick Scott came into office as a climate change denier, and currently responds to media questions on whether human activity impacted climate by saying, “I’m not a scientist.” He has failed to address or plan for rising sea levels. He stacked the Florida Public Service Commission with utility-friendly Commissioners who repeatedly allowed power companies to charge customers in advance for expensive nuclear power plants that might never be built.

Growth management and natural lands protection
Charlie Crist placed Tom Pelham as director of the Department of Community Affairs whose leadership turned the agency into a major champion of growth management.  Crist supports Amendment One, the Florida Water and Lands Legacy Amendment.

Rick Scott dismantled the Department of Community Affairs and replaced it with the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) under rules that allow unfettered inappropriate growth. Scott’s DEO and FDOT proposed several new transportation corridors that would create new cities with millions of people from the Georgia border to Alligator Alley.  If Scott puts this plan in place during a second term, it would eliminate much of Florida’s rural farmland and threaten wildlife habitat for the Florida panther and other endangered species.  Scott didn’t defend the Florida Forever program for purchase of environmentally-significant lands when the Legislature slashed funding.  To raise money to buy environmental land, the Scott Administration's solution was to sell public lands already owned and protected.  Scott took no position on Amendment One.

Everglades restoration and coastal estuaries protection
Charlie Crist has been a strong champion of protecting the Everglades and coastal estuaries. As Governor, he negotiated an agreement with US Sugar Corporation that provides the State with the option to buy all 187,000 acres of land owned by US Sugar that would allow us to move excess Lake Okeechobee water south to the Everglades.

Rick Scott sabotaged our best chance of restoring the Everglades and protecting the Indian River Lagoon and Charlotte Harbor estuaries when he publicly rejected Charlie Crist’s contract with US Sugar. He cut funding for the South Florida Water Management District forcing it to eliminate vital environmental staff and programs.  To his credit, Scott funded several important Everglades projects including bridging for Tamiami Trail, but those projects will fail to restore the Everglades without the US Sugar purchase.

Enforcement of environmental laws
Charlie Crist pledges to appoint a strong Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection who will diligently enforce environmental laws.

Rick Scott crippled enforcement of environmental rules and appointed industry officials in top regulatory positions.  Florida DEP attorneys and regulators were instructed to avoid sanctioning businesses for circumventing environmental laws, and they were reprimanded or suspended when they did not follow orders.

Mass transit and clean cars
Charlie Crist would provide incentives for fuel efficient motor vehicles and would support the development of clean public mass transit.  He would invest in electric vehicle infrastructure needed to increase adoption of clean, electric cars and trucks, and he is an advocate for adding zero emission electric buses to public fleets.

Rick Scott single-handedly killed high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando.  Federal funds for the line were approved and ready to be spent to build the line, but Scott turned down the funds.  It was a tremendous setback for efforts to bring clean, modern transit to the State.

Solar energy
Charlie Crist would remove the monopoly that big utility companies like FPL and Duke have on energy supply, and let smaller companies that specialize in solar energy compete.  He would make it easier and cheaper for Floridians to put solar on our homes and businesses – as well as encourage investment in solar and wind fields.  We agree with his conclusion that a conversion to solar energy will create new high paying jobs.

Rick Scott failed to do anything to help grow the solar industry in the sunshine state which lags far behind the rest of the country. 

Pd Pol Avd paid for and approved by the Florida Sierra Club PAC, 1990 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg, FL 33712.  This message is not approved by any candidate.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sierra Club groups hold conference on ocean threats and opportunities in South Florida

By Drew Martin, Conservation Chair, Loxahatchee Group 

Three Sierra Club groups joined forces to hold a South Florida conference on ocean health. More than 100 people attended the all-day event sponsored by the Broward, Loxahatchee and Miami groups at the City of Hallandale Beach Community Center.

"We want to try our best to educate the public as to what's going on," said Stan Pannaman, conservation chairman of the Sierra Club group. "I'm hoping for people to become ambassadors to their local government and take action."

Six major presenters included:

-- Sarah Whelen of the American Littoral Society.  Sarah spoke on the importance of having a National Oceans Policy.  This policy was established by executive order by Barack Obama and sets up working groups around the country to resolve ocean issues and protect oceans.  Unfortunately while the President has done many positive things for our oceans, he just approved the opening of seismic blasting off our East Coast to map oil deposits for off-shore oil drilling off the South Eastern United States.  These blasts are 100 times louder than a jet engine and are expected to kill up to 11,000 sea animals.  Many sea animals rely upon their hearing to mate, search for food and communicate with their pods.

-- Scott Stripling of the Miami Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.  He discussed a beach restoration project that he worked on in Miami Beach.  He also discussed the Surfrider Foundation Campaign against plastic litter in the oceans. Plastic is so prevalent in oceans that it kills over 100,000 sea animals each year. He is part of a group restoring beach dunes in the Miami Beach area.  He emphasized the importance of planting beach vegetation to hold beach sand.  He also emphasized the damage sea walls do in causing beaches to erode.

-- Cameron Jaggard of the Pew Charitable Trust.  He is focusing his efforts on the protection of forage fish.  Forage fish are fish that are small fish fed upon by larger fish.  Recently they have been fished for sale overseas.  Loss of forage fish impacts our sports fishing and commercial fishing industry.  It also impacts our shore birds.  Forage fish are essential to the survival of many popular species such as Snook, Sail Fish, and Wahoo.  Forage fish also require healthy sea grass environments to survive.

-- James Byrne of the Nature Conservancy.  He spoke about reefs and reef health.  He shared examples of how Marine Protected Areas led to healthier reefs.  He also discussed the factors impacting reef health, in particular fertilizers, nutrients and pesticides from land.

Incoming Florida House of Representatives
Minority Leader Mark Pafford
-- Representative Mark Pafford who is the incoming Democratic leader of the Florida House of Representatives.  He gave a lively discussion on how to use the tracking system provided by the state legislature to track bills and discussed some negative environmental bills and who voted for them.  He also took a number of questions from the audience.

-- Dr. Harold Wanless, Geology Professor from the University of Miami and one of the ten scientists who met with Governor Rick Scott to try to convince him that Global Climate Change is real and is happening.  He shared a power point presentation on sea level rise and how it will impact Florida.  He showed how glaciers are melting much faster in Greenland than predicted.  His presentation was sobering news prior to the large demonstrations around the globe the next day to demand action on Climate Change.  Particularly, the photos that demonstrate the level of flooding on clear days as a result of high tides in South Florida.

"It was a wonderful educational event in an ideal location," Scott Sheckman, event co-organizer told the Sun-Sentinel. "Hallandale has really been behind [the event]."

Press coverage: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/hallandale/fl-cn-sierra-1005-20141002-story.html

Helpful links: www.nationaloceanpolicy.org