Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sierra Club Applauds Governor Scott’s Financial Commitment to Tamiami Trail Bridging

Statement of Jonathan Ullman, Everglades Senior Representative:

“Governor Scott’s commitment of $90 million for Tamiami Trail bridging is a major step toward the restoration of America’s Everglades. His announcement of $30 million per year over 3 years is a major step toward the goal of building a series of bridges to restore water flow into Everglades National Park. It means we will soon have the funds needed to start construction of the next span – a 2.6 mile bridge. It will fulfill the requirement for matching funds requested by Congress under the Obama Administration’s $30 million request for 2014. Ultimately, the 6.5 miles of bridges will provide water to restore clean, natural water flow to the Everglades helping to restore wetlands and provide a buffer against climate change and sea level rise. Sierra Club joined by environmental and community allies have been calling for bridging of Tamiami Trail almost two decades, and today is a day to celebrate. Governor Scott’s announcement is the kind of state-federal partnership and cooperation that Floridians and Americans deserve.”


Friday, August 23, 2013

Governor Scott's "Band-Aid" for Indian River Lagoon is Not Enough

Environmental Groups hold press conference and rally
A coalition of environmental and citizens groups rallied on Thursday in front of a State Senate hearing in Stuart, Florida saying government must act now to stop the devastating toxic algae outbreaks that are making people sick, and killing hundreds of manatees, dolphins and birds in the Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River.  

The event preceded an eight-hour Select State Senate Committee meeting headed by Senator Joe Negron to come up with solutions to end the environmental crisis that has occurred as hundreds of billions of gallons of polluted fresh water are released from Lake Okeechobee through the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers to the coastal estuaries.

The groups called Governor Rick Scott’s announcement this week to propose $40 million to fund a regional water storage project a “Band-Aid” that does not store and clean up enough water to the Everglades and fails to regulate the bulk of the damaging pollution from sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff.

“This is an emergency,” said Sierra Club Florida Staff Director Frank Jackalone. “We need a statewide emergency management plan to deal with it.”

St. Lucie River water collected the week of August 19
Hundreds of residents attended the meeting, which featured panels of scientists, agricultural representatives, government officials and environmental advocates.

Leaders of the Sierra Club, Florida Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, the Florida Oceanographic Society and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said state officials have known about pollution problems for 30 years, but refuse to stop the problem at its source. They said Governor Scott’s Administration has been allowing polluter lobbyists to write their own loophole-ridden rules that have led to outbreaks.

“Both the state and federal governments have slime on their hands,” said Earthjustice attorney Monica Reimer at the rally. “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible because it is not fixing a failing 80-year-old reservoir system that’s operated at the behest of Big Sugar, instead of for the citizens of this state. The state is responsible because it is sending filthy water into Lake Okeechobee and refusing to control the pollution at its source. Taxpayers end up paying for the cleanup because government isn’t doing its job to prevent this.”
Sierra Club Florida staff director wears an arm band for the Lagoon

“On the west coast, we have dead oyster beds and algae outbreaks off Sanibel Island and the Caloosahatchee River,” said Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “The fact is, the state is not protecting the public. Every citizen deserves clean water and the appropriate measures are not in place to protect our waters and tourist-driven economy.”    

The groups demanded the following:

·         Ensure planned water storage projects are operation by the next rainy season.
·         Acquire remaining lands from the U.S. Sugar Purchase
·         Fund Tamiami Trail bridging
·         Ensure CEPP, C-43 Reservoir and other critical project authorization in the next Water Resources Development Act.
·         Regulate septic tanks and upgrade wastewater treatment systems.
·         Increase stormwater treatment standards for new development
·         Protect local governments’ right to regulate urban fertilizer
·         Regulate agricultural pollution, requiring more on-site storage and treatment.
·         Fully fund Florida Forever to buy more lands for natural water storage and treatment.
·         Set measurable enforceable nutrient pollution limits so waters are safe for swimming and fishing.

The groups were joined by representatives of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, Indian Riverkeeper, Expedition 500, Marine Resources Council, Martin County Conservation Alliance, the Rivers Coalition, Conservation Alliance of Ft. Lucie County and other water quality advocates and local residents.

“We know how to prevent this pollution and we need to start doing it,” said Jackalone.

Transit Plan Gets the Greenlight to Move Forward in Pinellas

After a summer of close examination and public meetings, the Greenlight Pinellas transportation plan was approved on August 22 by the Greenlight Civic Committee and Business Committee. These volunteers, average citizens and business leaders alike, voted overwhelmingly to move the plan forward to the next level of review.
WHAT IS GREENLIGHT PINELLAS? Pinellas County and Tampa Bay lag far behind other cities in the U.S. in public transit and cyclist and pedestrian safety. Concerned that our lack of transportation options other than cars results in tailpipe emissions generating more smog here than power plants, Sierra Club organized the huge demonstrations of public support needed for the County to move forward with its new transit plan, and has partnered with PSTA (Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) in the Greenlight Pinellas education campaign.
The Greenlight plan advocates we reduce Tampa Bay's main source of air pollution by improving bus service, doubling the current fleet so that buses run earlier, later, and more often 7 days a week. Soon buses will get riders to work, school or play within half an hour, vs. today’s typical ride of two hours or more. A few years later, PSTA would begin running light rail service between the county’s major employment centers where 100,000+ now work in downtown Clearwater, Gateway/Carillion, and downtown St. Pete, with a clear path across the bay to Tampa.
At the Civic Committee’s final meeting, votes were cast (26-1) to approve the plan. Citizens also prioritized the many benefits of investing in a modern transportation system:

 Former Sierra organizer Darden Rice reviews votes of the Greenlight Pinellas Civic Committee approving the plan and prioritizing its benefits. Ms. Rice represents St. Petersburg on the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. 
      ·         Growing our economy by creating and attracting new jobs
·         Investing in our future generations
·         Protecting our environment
·         Creating livable communities (the top choice), or
·         Expanding transportation choices.
At the Greenlight Business Committee’s final meeting, the county’s top business leaders were asked if they agreed this project is worth doing; is it worth the effort to work for in the next year? The answer was yes!  Leaders agreed that Greenlight is a viable, credible plan that’s both transparent and inclusive, a plan that makes sense for Florida’s most densely populated county.
The business leaders also committed to support a campaign that will go neighborhood by neighborhood to explain to all residents what’s in it for anyone, regardless of where they live, go to work or school, or their stage in life.
Next stop is a vote by the Greenlight Government Committee (Advisory Committee for Pinellas Transportation) at its meeting Monday 9/9, 1:00 pm, at PSTA, 3201 Scherer Dr., St. Pete, 33716. The public is welcome to attend to show support for this great plan.
Sierra Club’s Florida Healthy Air Campaign says THANKS to our Suncoast Sierra Club members who served as members of the Greenlight Civic Committee: our Suncoast Chair Lisa Hinton, Cathy Harrelson, Suzanne Zeller, our Young Professionals Team: Savanna DeLuca, Heather Atwell, Megan Proctor Burford and Jennifer Winter, along with our great allies from Awake Pinellas and FCAN!

Get all the info on the Greenlight Pinellas plan here

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tampa Bay Times: Here Comes the Sun -- At Last

Historically, the Florida has lagged behind other, less sunny states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey in solar energy production. However, we are on the cusp of significant change: instead of sending as much as $50 billion out of state every year to pay for the coal, natural gas, and gasoline we rely on to run Florida's power plants and cars, we soon could be benefiting from a natural, clean and abundant source of homegrown energy. As Ivan Penn writes in his August 18, 2013 article in the Tampa Bay Times, solar energy is on the verge of becoming an integral part of the Sunshine State's energy mix.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Polluted Lake Okeechobee water dump sparks coastal protests

The Indian River Lagoon is turning black and green and tempers are flaring red.

Source: TC Palm
Thousands of people have demonstrated in Martin County for two consecutive weeks as our government dumps a daily chemical stew of phosphorus and nitrogen from Lake Okeechobee into the Indian River Lagoon.

Source: WPTV
The Corps of Engineers says it has to dump the lake's polluted water because of high levels caused by a rainier than usual summer and a weak levee, but coastal residents are outraged.

This problem is not going away unless we set protective numeric limits on pollution and approve plans to restore water flow through the Everglades.

Our state and federal governments need to:

-- Approve the Central Everglades restoration plan and raise Tamiami Trail. The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board can vote this week to endorse the Central Everglades Restoration plan to help restore flow to the Everglades.

 --  Set protective numeric standards for all canals, intermittent streams, tidal creeks, all flowing waters and waters of the estuary.

Take Action now!

Contact the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board and tell them to vote for the Central Everglades restoration plan at their Thursday, August 15 meeting!

Board members' emails: (copy and paste):

Subject line (copy and paste): 

Vote for the Central Everglades restoration plan.

Message (copy and paste):

Dear Governing Board member:

Time is running out for the Everglades and our coastal estuaries . Please vote to approve the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) on Thursday, August 15. Florida can’t wait any longer!


[Your name here]

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

CEPP it up!

Some are calling the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) the last, best hope for restoring the Everglades.  It’s no hyperbole.

After a century of ditching, diking and damming the Everglades, the Federal Government and the State of Florida have in front of them a plan that could restore fresh water flow to millions of acres.

Dredging an Everglades Canal
State Archives of Florida, 
Florida Memory,
The Central Everglades plan rips out more than 25 miles of canals and levees. It eliminates much of the Miami Canal and creates a path of sheet flow across the L-67 canals toward a 2.6 mile bridge over Tamiami Trail.  It removes a massive clog in the River of Grass. As the Everglades nears ecological collapse accelerated by climate change, we have no other option.

But this summer, the state and the federal government have been fighting over who pays for water quality improvements in the plan, and it has already caused the Corps to miss a key deadline. If this deadly game of chicken continues any longer, restoration may be stalled for another decade or more.

Take Action!

Contact the South Florida Water Management District Governing Board now and tell them to CEPP it up!

Board members' emails: (copy and paste):

Subject line (copy and paste): 

We need to CEPP it up!

Message (copy and paste):

Dear Governing Board member:

Time is running out for the Everglades. Please vote to approve the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) at your August meeting. We’ve already wasted too much time. Act now before it’s too late.


[Your name here]

The Central Everglades Restoration Plan - Source:

Read more about CEPP:

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