Friday, December 23, 2011

President Obama signs legislation authorizing Everglades Skyway

Sierra Club says “Let the water flow!”
Applauds Congress and President for Green-lighting the Everglades Skyway

     Debbie Matthews, Chair of the Sierra Club Miami Group 

(Friday, December 23, 2011) -- Today President Barack Obama signed Congressional authorization within the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (Omnibus), H.R. 2055, to bridge 5.5 miles of Tamiami Trail (U.S. highway 41) to restore fresh water flow through America’s Everglades and into Florida Bay. The new bridges will join a one-mile bridge already under construction.

The Everglades Skyway, a term coined to describe the 6.5 miles of bridges along Tamiami Trail, is now supported by Congress, the President of the United States, and a strong coalition of Florida municipalities, civic and business organizations.

Besides restoring Everglades water flow, the project will create thousands of jobs, increase tourism and help to protect South Florida from the ravages of climate change. The cumulative 6.5-mile Skyway will also serve as a visible symbol of Everglades restoration.

Jonathan Ullman, South Florida/Everglades Senior Representative, Sierra Club:

The thousands of activists and allies who have brought us to this day must be commended. Additional thanks go Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Congressional Representatives Bill Young (R-Seminole) and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fort Lauderdale), and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson who supported this noble endeavor. (See Senator Nelson’s letter of support here.)

Our challenge however is not yet complete. Now that the project has Congressional authorization, it must also receive funding by Congress before construction can begin.

Nonethess, today is an historic day. After 83 years, Congress has moved to restore flow across the Tamiami Trail.

Today is the  kind of day that Ernest Coe, the Father of Everglades National Park and Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of the River of Grass, would hold a toast!

For more information: visit

Thursday, December 1, 2011

SB 604 - Fertilizer Preemption bill to be heard in Senate Ag on Monday

Sen. Charles S. "Charlie"Dean, Sr.'s S 604  Fertilizer Use on Urban Landscapes will be heard in the Senate Agriculture committee Monday, Dec. 5, 2011 at 12:30 p.m.
Please call the committee members and urge them to vote NO on this bill which would exempt lawn workers holding “limited certification” from any restrictions on fertilizer application.  The only urban turf fertilizer restrictions in Florida are those that have been adopted by localities.  This bill preempts them and will leave local governments and taxpayers defenseless against nutrient pollution from lawn applicators who apply fertilizer as part of their daily work every day. 

Fertilizer is a potent source of nitrogen and phosphorous which cause harmful algal blooms that threaten public health, lower property values, and damage the ecosystems necessary for Florida’s water based economic activities such as commercial and recreational fishing, and tourism.

A person-to-person communication is best (visit or phone call).  Be sure to ask the name of the person you speak to.  More talking points are below the contact information for committee members.

If you send an email be sure to include “Please vote NO on SB 604” or similar language in the subject line. Contact information is below for all committee members.  They will be in their district offices today and tomorrow (Friday).  If you call the Capitol office on Monday morning, be

Earthjustice Files Suit to Protect Floridians’ Right to Clean Water

State Department of Environmental Protection Weakening Pollution Limits

Dec 1, 2011

CONTACT:  David Guest, 850-681-0031

TALLAHASSEE – Earthjustice today filed a legal challenge against Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) because the state agency is failing to protect residents and tourists from nauseating -- and dangerous -- toxic algae outbreaks.

2011 Suwanee River:  dense algae mats spoil iconic waterway
 “Toxic algae outbreaks are a public health threat and they also affect Florida’s bottom line,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “These outbreaks can cause rashes, breathing problems, stomach disorders, and worse. Health authorities have had to shut down drinking water plants, beaches and swimming areas. Toxic algae can kill fish, livestock and pets, and we need to be cleaning it up.

“The state DEP rule was basically written by lobbyists for corporate polluters,” Guest said. “Polluters know it is cheaper for them to use our public waters as their private sewers, and the state is giving them the green light to keep doing it.”

“The DEP’s decision to weaken pollution standards is an economic slap in the face to the thousands of Floridians who work in the tourism industry,” said St. Johns Riverkeeper Neil Armingeon, who has watched businesses suffer as the St. Johns gets covered with repeated toxic slime outbreaks. “This pollution hurts people who work in restaurants, hotels, beach concessions, the fishing industry, the boating industry, the dive industry, and the real estate sales and rental markets.”

After years of seeing toxic algae outbreaks on Florida tourist beaches like Sanibel Island and at fishing destinations like the St. Johns River, Earthjustice filed a Clean Water Act federal lawsuit in 2008 in the Northern District of Florida on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club.  In 2009, the EPA set numeric limits for the phosphorus and nitrogen that comes from sewage, fertilizer and manure in Florida waters.

The rule that the EPA set for Florida was a “speed limit sign” that gave everyone fair notice of what specific level of pollution would be allowed in a particular water body. If the speed limit was exceeded, regulators could take action to prevent toxic algae outbreaks and green slime. But the DEP’s rule doesn’t provide that certainty, and it won’t protect public health. 

“The DEP rule basically says: ‘Well, there could be a speed limit sign here, but we need to do a study first and then we’ll decide.’ Under the state DEP rule, by the time the state takes action, a waterway is already slimed. The whole point is to clean it up before it gets that bad,” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

The Sierra Club offered photographic proof today of the dire need for immediate cleanup action. The Club unveiled an interactive map of Florida’s slimed waterways, which stretch from South Florida to the Panhandle. 

“With the help of local citizens and clean water watchdogs all over the state, the Sierra Club has compiled photos of the red and green muck that plagues too many of the springs, rivers, lakes and bays of our state.  This map lets you take a photographic ‘slime tour’ of Florida – and it is not a pretty picture,” said Craig Diamond, Executive Committee, Sierra Club Florida Chapter. 

Earthjustice filed today’s administrative challenge in the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

“We have a massive fish kill in Estero Bay right now, and it is happening because the state has delayed acting to solve this major pollution problem for the past 15 years. The DEP’s weak rule is just going to delay cleanup further. The DEP is just kicking the can down the road another 15 years, and that’s not fair to the citizens. We all deserve clean water,” said Jennifer Hecker, policy director for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.  

Link to interactive map "Florida Slime Crime Tracker"