Friday, December 18, 2020

Free the Ocklawaha River! Take Action Now

Please join us in urging Governor DeSantis to restore the Great Florida Riverway. It is time to save the Ocklawaha, Silver, and St. Johns Rivers, as well as historic Silver Springs. 

Take action here!

The Great Florida Riverway is one of Florida’s environmental and economic treasures — and it needs your help.

This vast, 217-mile river system reaches from the Green Swamp in Central Florida all the way to the Atlantic Ocean via the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers. The Great Florida Riverway is home to 50 freshwater springs: 25 at historic Silver Springs, 20 on the Ocklawaha River, and five in the Harris Chain of Lakes. Like the Everglades to the south, restoring the Great Florida Riverway is vital to improving the ecosystem and economic health of North and Central Florida.

The Ocklawaha, the heart of the Great Florida Riverway, was dammed in 1968. Constructed for a canal that was never completed, the dam flooded over 7,500 acres of forested wetlands, 20 springs, and 16 miles of the Ocklawaha River. The continued decline of water quality, spring flow, wetland forests, fish, wildlife, and recreation has led American Rivers to designate the Ocklawaha River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2020.

Restoring the Great Florida Riverway by breaching this dam will re-establish access to essential habitat for manatees, bring back migratory fish, connect three river ecosystems, historic Silver Springs, and restore a lost riverway for anglers and paddlers from Ocklawaha’s Harris Chain of Lakes to the Atlantic. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis has prioritized protecting and improving the state’s waterways, creating a historic opportunity to save the Great Florida Riverway.

Learn more here 

Go here to send the letter below.  

To: Governor DeSantis

As Florida's governor, I am asking you to reaffirm your commitment to Florida waterways by reuniting four ecosystems that create the Great Florida Riverway: the Ocklawaha River, Silver Springs, the St. Johns River and the South Atlantic. Like the Everglades to the South, restoring the Great Florida Riverway is vital to improving overall ecological and economic health for North and Central Florida. The Great Florida Riverway is a vast, 217-mile system of rivers and springs that flows north from the Green Swamp near Lake Apopka, is fed by Silver Springs, and continues past Palatka to the Lower St. Johns River estuary on the Atlantic Ocean. The Riverway is home to fifty springs: 25 at historic Silver Springs, 20 on the Ocklawaha River, and five in the Harris Chain of Lakes.

Over 50 years ago, the Great Florida Riverway was harmed when the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam was built as part of the misguided Cross Florida Barge Canal project, severing the Ocklawaha’s connection to the rest of the Riverway. The dam flooded over 7,500 acres of thriving forested wetlands, 20 springs, and 16 miles of the Ocklawaha River. Every day the dam is in place, it causes harm to this special place and all the fish and wildlife that depend on these waterways.

The continued decline of water quality, spring flow, wetland forests, fish and wildlife has led American Rivers to designate the Ocklawaha River — the heart of the Great Florida Riverway — as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2020. The environmental toll has reduced recreational use and negatively impacted the economy of Putnam and Marion Counties. These declines have also threatened the environmental and economic resiliency of downstream counties, including Duval County. As Florida’s Governor, you can restore this historic Riverway and radically improve the health of these important ecosystems.

By restoring the Great Florida Riverway by breaching the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam, you can restore a lost riverway for anglers, boaters and paddlers from the Atlantic Ocean to the Harris Chain of Lakes; attract more federal funding, create new jobs, boost the northeast Florida economy, bring back migratory fish, connect three river ecosystems, and provide access to essential habitat for manatees. During these challenging times, outdoor recreation is growing, and enhancing this riverway will benefit our communities, all Floridians and out-of-area visitors.

We urge you to restore the Great Florida Riverway in accordance with Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway Unit Management Plan. Your leadership can provide a legacy of improving the health and resiliency of three river systems and the economic vitality of northeast Florida.

Thank you for your engagement on so many environmental challenges. We know we can count on you to save the Great Florida Riverway, which in turn will revitalize the Ocklawaha, Silver and St. Johns Rivers, as well as historic Silver Springs.

 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

FLORIDA WETLANDS IMPERILED BY REMOVAL OF FEDERAL OVERSIGHT


For Immediate Release                          

December 17, 2020

Contact: Deborah Foote, 850.727.4039, deborah.foote@sierraclub.org  


 **PRESS RELEASE**

FLORIDA WETLANDS IMPERILED BY REMOVAL OF FEDERAL OVERSIGHT

TALLAHASSEE, FL-- Today the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has granted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) the authority to oversee dredge and fill permits. This authority will allow the state to formally take over the longstanding federal program that protects marshes, cypress forests, ponds and other wetlands under the Clean Water Act.  

The stated purpose of this change is to give the DEP the ability to fast-track the filling (destruction) of Florida’s wetlands. The Trump Administration has proven again that it serves developers’ interests over the water resources upon which Floridians depend. 

Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director said: "Today's decision by the Trump EPA will lead to the destruction of many of Florida's remaining wetlands and will harm the state's wildlife and fisheries dependent on those wetlands for survival.  Delegating the power to grant wetland dredge and fill permits to the State of Florida is a dream come true for the developers, miners, and road builders who spend lavishly to elect, influence, and control Florida politicians.  The developers will get more permits to build massive housing developments over wetlands, the rock miners will get more permits to extract limestone under Florida's natural landscape, and the road builders will get more permits to pave over the ponds, lakes, rivers, and swamps in Florida's paradise.  The big losers will be millions of Florida residents whose quality of life will be greatly diminished." 

Diana Umpierre, Everglades Restoration Campaign Organizing Representative, stated: “This is an act of hypocrisy by an administration that claimed to care about America's Everglades. The Sierra Club and the Everglades Coalition have made it clear why allowing Florida to permit wetland dredge and fill applications is diametrically opposed to the restoration of the Greater Everglades—an ecosystem largely composed of wetlands. It will be the proverbial fox guarding the hen house. The Army Corps’ involvement has provided the only meaningful public participation and federal reviews for Florida’s massive and costly Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) projects; Florida does not have a state law that parallels what is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  With this change the state is poised to fast-track permits requested by powerful interests that love ribbon cutting ceremonies and claiming victories, even for projects that fall woefully short of adequately cleaning our waters, restoring wetlands, or protecting wildlife.”

“It was madness to speed through the public comment and hearing processes in the midst of a pandemic -- when Floridians have been focused on protecting their families and their jobs -- but there was method to the madness. This is one more instance of the DeSantis Administration claiming it is “green” but acting in the interest of developers to the peril of the state’s most valuable resources,” stated Cris Costello, Sierra Club Senior Organizing Manager.

“The Florida Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t have the capacity to take over the wetlands permitting that has been run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for decades. It can’t even manage to enforce the environmental laws already under its purview,” said Deborah Foote, Deputy Chapter Director for Sierra Club Florida. “To believe it can take this over with no additional financial resources is a pipe dream.” 

BACKGROUND:

Environmental organizations across the state, including the Everglades Coalition and the Florida Conservation Coalition, have been ardently opposed to the granting of 404 permitting authority -- find here examples of our collectively submitted comments:

https://05f26a35-5b6b-410a-9bb4-2a2484fa59fc.filesusr.com/ugd/599879_4dc6bf6c4d914191bb776892e7007a31.pdf

https://05f26a35-5b6b-410a-9bb4-2a2484fa59fc.filesusr.com/ugd/599879_4074a71ce6c748ff8fd529d28bada00e.pdf

https://05f26a35-5b6b-410a-9bb4-2a2484fa59fc.filesusr.com/ugd/599879_1752fad35df74c18a139fb2b5f03aae0.pdf  

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XH0NNqkkRo-TArr5PMRF0jnT8bzdMX9D/view?usp=sharing 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hZq1vmLwwqwnpSd0wXnUDybbaKMYjJ-a/view?usp=sharing 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1S09o4uTaIF97kyLIEF90SaIvRz1KRSMS/view?usp=sharing 

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