Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sierra Club Response to DeSantis' $625 Million Everglades/Water Budget

For Immediate Release:  January 29, 2019
Contact Frank Jackalone 727-804-1317; frank.jackalone@sierraclub.org


Sierra Club Responds to Governor DeSantis’ $625 Million Budget Proposal 
for Everglades Restoration & Water Quality Protection


Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone released the following statement today:

"Sierra Club Florida is pleased that Governor DeSantis has made Everglades restoration and protection of Florida's waters a major budget priority.  But the devil is in the details -- most of which he hasn't provided yet.   Based on a quick review of the six major priorities Governor Desantis released today in Naples, we have some praise, some criticism, and lots of questions: 

1)   "$360 Million for Everglades Restoration"   
  • What is the source of funding for this large allocation for Everglades Restoration?  
  • What are the 20 Everglades projects that would be funded?  
  • From the text, it appears that Governor DeSantis wants to speed up construction of  the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir based on the current design which is highly flawed;  it is too high at 23 feet and doesn't have the land needed to clean the reservoir's water before it is released to the Everglades.  He should ask water managers to pause to redesign it, which would allow for the use of Amendment 1 funds to acquire and manage land needed to build a shallower, less expensive reservoir.  
  • We are concerned from the comments on reducing discharges and updating the Lake Okeechobee Release Schedule (LORS) that the Governor may be looking towards a higher water level which would be harmful to the Lake's ecology.
  • We are happy that Governor DeSantis wants to speed up construction of Tamiami Trail bridging.   
2)   "$150 Million for Targeted Water Quality Improvements"
  • We like the $150 million from General Revenue for targeted water quality improvements.  However, the current system of Basin Management Action Plans, TMDLs, and MFLs is not working the way it could and should.  
  • We need more stringent, more protective BMAPs, TMDLs, and MFLs.  
  • Where is the regulation we were promised to stop pollution at its source?
3)   "$50 Million to Restore Florida’s World-Renowned Springs" 
  • Springs have already been getting a measly $50 million since the 2016 Legacy Act. 
  • $360 million vs. $50 million is an unfair split.    
  • Springshed protection is drinking water protection to and deserves a higher level of attention.   
  • Sierra Club calls for equal spending of land acquisition funds between South Florida, including the Everglades, and North Florida, including our Springs.  
4)   "$25 Million to Improve Water Quality and Combat Harmful Algal Blooms"
  • Governor DeSantis would be wise to avoid Red Tide Rick Scott's folly of funding studies, control and mitigation AFTER the algae blooms wreak havoc.  
  • We support increased harmful algae monitoring, but hope that his mitigation funding for innovative technologies isn’t the same as Scott’s plan to spread Chinese clay on the Gulf.  

5)   "$40 Million for Alternative Water Supply Development"
  • More details are needed on the Governor's alternative water supply line item.  
  • It is good to see the $40 million proposed for alternative water supply would come from general revenue funds. 
  • Where is the conservation of water supply?  Until consumptive use is more strictly monitored, regulated, and reduced Florida will remain in water supply jeopardy.

6)   "Transfer of 19 Positions from FWC to DEP"
  • Sierra Club Florida needs to study Governor DeSantis' proposal to transfer environmental crimes enforcement to DEP and has no comment at this time.

Finally, we need to ask:   Will there be any funds left over for the Florida Forever and Rural Family Lands programs?   We hope to learn the answer to those questions when the Governor releases his full environmental budget on Friday.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Sierra Club Highlights: 2019 Everglades Coalition Conference

Sierra Club highlights at the
2019 Everglades Coalition Conference

Sierra Club staff, volunteers, and invited guests made important contributions to the 2019 Everglades Coalition Conference. The theme this year was “Everglades Rescue: Send the Water South.

Sierra Club FL Chapter Director Frank Jackalone addresses the crowd / Photo: Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
On Friday morning, Sierra Club FL Chapter Director Frank Jackalone gave opening remarks that introduced Sierra Club staff and volunteers in attendance and gave an overview of both our vision for restoring the Everglades and our response to Governor DeSantis’ executive order on water policy reforms that was announced the previous day (check out our press release here).  He also introduced our invited keynote speaker, Dr. Jaeson Clayborn.

Dr. Clayborn, an enthusiastic biologist who recently earned his PhD from Florida International University, described his work to restore habitat for the federally endangered Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly within Biscayne National Park and his research on threats from the red imported fire ant. He also gave us a preview of a fun interactive game he’s developing to motivate young people to care for endangered butterflies and recognize the threats to their existence in South Florida . He did a terrific job teaching us all how to tell the difference between butterflies, moths, and skippers! To learn more about his work, including his STEM outreach, visit his website.

Dr. Jaeson Clayborn providing his keynote remarks / Photo: Alyssa Cadwalader
Sierra Club FL Chapter’s state lobbyist Dave Cullen moderated the lively plenary “Managing Growth Before It’s Too Late” which was organized by our Everglades Restoration Organizing Representative, Diana Umpierre.  The plenary brought to light the urgency of strengthening the state’s oversight role as well as local and regional land use coordination and citizen participation. Panelists shared their perspectives on why this is important and the ways to improve state planning law to make it a meaningful state priority program that facilitates restoration and ensures that continued development is sustainable. The panelists included: FL Senator José Javier Rodríguez, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor and Thomas Hawkins, Policy & Planning Director with 1000 Friends of Florida.

Dave Cullen presented & moderated plenary on growth management / Photo: Stephen Mahoney
Diana Umpierre also served as a panelist on the breakout session titled “Buy the Land: How will Florida Spend the Constitutional Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF) Money?” The panel discussed the 2018 decision by Judge Dodson that ruled that monies from the 2014 Constitutional Amendment 1 may only be spent on acquisition and restoration of conservation lands. The session was moderated by attorney Alisa Coe (Earthjustice) and other panelists included: David Guest (environmental attorney), Jim Gross (FL Defenders of the Environment) and Shannon Estenoz (Everglades Foundation).  Diana shared examples of where LATF funds should be used to advance Everglades restoration and protect critical natural lands and wildlife corridors within the Greater Everglades ecosystem. Examples discussed included land in the EAA (long established as essential), north of Lake Okeechobee, within the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, and in the Florida Forever Priority List.

Diana Umpierre shares where LATF should be used to buy land to restore & protect the Greater Everglades /
Photo: Stephen Mahoney
Patrick Ferguson, Organizing Representative for the Stop Sugar Field Burning Campaign, moderated a breakout session titled “Green Jobs and Restoration in the EAA: A Match Made in Heaven.” Panelists discussed the opportunities for family-sustaining green jobs that can support the Glades’ local economy and the environment, by replacing pre-harvest sugar field burning with green harvesting within and around the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). The panelists included South Bay activist Kina Phillips, Larry Williams, Jr., Labor & Coal Coordinator, Sierra Club Labor Program, Andrew Martino, Category Manager - Sugar & Sweeteners for Global Organics Ltd. Dr. Isabel Lima, a research chemist with the USDA Sugar and Energy Project, was unable to attend the conference due to the partial government shutdown but her presentation was shared with the audience. The topic of a just transition from the status quo to a greener and more equitable post-restoration economy was for the first time ever explored at the conference and the discussion will be the jumping off spot for much more to come.

Panelists for the "Green Jobs and Restoration in the EAA" breakout session
(from left to right: Andrew Martino, Kina Phillips, Patrick Ferguson, Larry Williams, Jr) / Photo: Kil'Mari Phillips
Sierra Club also brought voices together from North and South Florida on a session titled “Everglades and Florida’s Springs: Common Ground, Common Cause”. The session was moderated by Sierra Club's Our Wild America Florida Organizing Manager Cris Costello. Panelists discussed how nutrient pollution and decades of mismanaged water resources, absence of protective regulation, and defunding of water protection agencies have negatively impacted not just the Everglades, but also Florida’s freshwater springs, lakes, rivers and coastal communities in Central and North Florida. Panelists spoke regarding the need to join forces to protect these precious water resources and identified common ground and collaborative actions they would like to take to address shared interests. Panelists included: Ronstance Pittman (Jackson County NAACP), Dr. Robert L. Knight (Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute), Lisa Rinaman (St. Johns Riverkeeper) and Rae Ann Wessel (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation).

Panelists for the "Everglades & Florida's Springs" breakout session
(from left to right: Ronstance Pittman, Lisa Rinaman / Photo: Gayle Ryan)
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"Green Jobs and Restoration in the EAA" breakout session / Photo: Diana Umpierre

Dr. Jaeson Clayborn demonstrates a skipper antennae / Photo:  Diana Umpierre

Sierra Club staff/volunteers with FL Senator José Javier Rodríguez
Photo: Stephen Mahoney

Sierra staff (Frank Jackalone and Diana Umpierre) with US Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
Photo: Diana Umpierre 

"Building Glades Power" Lego art on Sierra Club table / Photo: Jessica Lewis

Some of the Sierra staff/volunteers attending conference
(from left to right: Larry Williams, Jr., Jessica Lewis, Diana Umpierre, Ingrid Ayala)
Photo: Jessica Lewis)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Sierra Club Responds to Governor DeSantis’ Water Policy Reforms

For Immediate Release:  January 10, 2019
Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club, 727-804-1317

Sierra Club Responds to Governor DeSantis’ Water Policy Reforms

Sierra Club Florida is pleased that Governor DeSantis is tackling Florida's water crisis as an immediate, top priority in his administration.  We like his emphasis on reducing nutrient pollution, but have a few questions and concerns about the details of his announcement:

We support:
  • Focus on nutrient pollution.
  • Creation of a science office at DEP.
  • Expediting Everglades restoration projects.
  • Septic conversion program.
  • Commitment to enforce environmental regulations.
  • Additional stormwater treatment for the C-43 reservoir.
  • Commitment to protect Apalachicola River and to stop State of Georgia's harmful water withdrawals affecting Florida.

Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director said “In his first week in office, Governor DeSantis has done more to address Florida’s water quality crisis than Governor Rick Scott did in eight years.

Major concerns:
  • We oppose immediate work on the poorly designed Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir. It first needs to be redesigned to include a shallower, wider reservoir with a major land purchase to provide for the necessary treatment of water from the reservoir before it is released south to the Everglades.
  • There is no mention of the need to work with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to address agricultural pollution.
  • There is no mention of the need to combat climate change which is making Florida's waters warmer and intensifying harmful algae blooms.
  • Like Governor Scott, Governor DeSantis opposes offshore drilling off Florida's coasts without also opposing new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico which is the oil industry's real target, or the expansion of inland oil drilling within the Greater Everglades.
  • Governor DeSantis needs to oppose acid matrix limestone fracturing which is how the oil and gas industries do fracking in Florida. We are disappointed that he singles out "hydraulic fracturing" which isn't the form of fracking that is done in Florida.  Last year's bipartisan bills banning fracking recognized this distinction.
  • Nutrient pollution feeds/fuels both blue green algae and Red Tide.  Nutrient reduction strategies and regulation should also be focused on preventing Red Tide that threatens coastal communities.  Just studying Red Tide is not enough.
  • The failure to make a commitment to the reinstatement of strong statewide and regional land use planning.  Governor Rick Scott dismantled the Department of Community Affairs, which had overseen large-scale developments impacting Florida’s natural resources for over three decades; Governor DeSantis can and must compensate for the last eight years.

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Everglades National Park/ Photo by: Aaron Umpierre