THE EVERGLADES WILDLIFE ALLIANCE

POLITICS

The Mission of the Everglades Wildlife Alliance (E-W-A) is to protect the native wildlife in the Everglades from invasive species and any other threats.  The invasive species threat is real and getting more serious daily. Unfortunately for the native animals in the Everglades there is an even bigger threat to their quality of life and very existance.  Everglades restoration has had some success but is in danger of failing on many fronts if continued infighting between the main groups involved is not ended.The political battles have raged for years. The E-W-A will report on the maneuvering and resulting outcomes as they affect the local wildlife we represent.  For additional information on this topic go to www.evergladeshub.com.
 
 


IMPACT OF TAMIAMI TRAIL BRIDGE "WILL BE HUGE" SAYS CONSERVATIONALIST

 
Provided by Everglades Hub & WLRN's Tricia Woolfenden 3-25-2012


ENVIRONMENTALISTS, FARMERS STRIKE DEAL ON THE EVERGLADES

Provided by Everglades Hub & Sunshine State News- Brandon Larabee 3-22-2013
 



State officials, local dignitaries, and conservationalists gathered last Tuesday to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the Tamiami Trail bridge project. The plan took more than two decades to achieve and is part of a larger effort to restore fresh water flow to the Everglades.
The Miami Herald summarized the project as a "one-mile-long bridge designed to begin healing the ecological wounds inflicted by a road that has blocked the flow of the Everglades for nearly 90 years." The newspaper wrote:
The $81 million bridge, scheduled to open to daily traffic in a few weeks, ranks among the most significant Everglades projects to date. It sets the stage for the first breach later this year of a historic road that has been far more than just a lime rock-and-asphalt barrier to reviving the shrunken, struggling River of Grass.
The bridge, which took four years to build and roughly 20 years to get off the ground, is "the first span of what will ultimately be a six-and-a-half mile Everglades Skyway, a series of bridges over Shark River Slough," said Jonathan Ullman, the South Florida/Everglades senior field organizer for the Sierra Club.
"The impact will be huge," Ullman said. "In the short term, the one-mile bridge will have some benefits to flow and wildlife, but its greatest advantage is that it has spurred further bridging."
Ullman said the bridging, combined with levee elimination projects and cleanup of "
Big Sugar's effluent," all will work to "restore fresh water flow into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay." Ullman said this also is an important first step in the process of fortifying the Everglades against the threat of climate change related sea level rise.
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Scientists tell us that the Park, which is less than three feet in most areas, has been sinking," Ullman said. "It's sinking because the land is not getting enough water and the organic peats and soils are disappearing at an alarming rate."
Restoring "historic fresh water flow" to the region will help rehydrate the aquifer, provide fresh water pressure southward, and "build up the land," Ullman said.
The Tamiami Trail bridging project will be included as a field trip destination for the upcoming meeting of the Congressionally-mandated
Committee on Independent Scientific Review of the Everglades Restoration Progress. The field trip, planned for Wednesday, March 27, is part of a three-day, science-based exploration of issues relevant to the Everglades' health.
This spring's meeting -- held in the Marriott Airport Hotel in Miami -- will include an open session dedicated to climate change, including predicted climate scenarios for South Florida, impact on water supplies, coastal ecosystems, and restoration plans. The climate change session is Thursday and is open to the public. Find a full schedule of events
here. For a registration form, click here.

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The fight over the Everglades in the 2013 legislative session ended up being relatively short-lived, as the agricultural industry, environmentalists and lawmakers struck a deal to move ahead with the latest version of the plan to restore the "River of Grass."
The deal, which unanimously passed a key Senate committee Thursday and is poised to pass the House on Friday, defuses what could have turned into a contentious battle over who pays for the $880 million project and how much responsibility agricultural permit holders bear.
"Clearly this is one of the defining moments for our state and our nation, to have the Everglades restored," said Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, who sponsored the measure. "This is one step in that process."
Under the new plan, a $25-per-acre tax on farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area, near the northern edge of the marsh, would be extended to 2026 instead of expiring in 2017. The House bill (
HB 7065) would have extended the tax to 2024.
And the compromise would phase the tax out more gradually; it wouldn't fall to $10 an acre until 2036, 11 years later than under the House bill. The law would also clearly connect the revenue from the tax to restoring the Everglades.
"Everything about this amendment is good," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. "Everything about the underlying bill is good."
"This bill is exactly what is needed to move the restoration plan to this final phase," said Brian Hughes, a spokesman for the sugar farmers who dominate Everglades agriculture.
The new version also drops House language that would have essentially said permit holders would not be considered to be contributing to the pollution in the Everglades if they followed their permits; environmentalists contend that those permits are often too weak.
For several, the agreement was a surprise.
"Senator Simpson, you are nothing short of a miracle worker," said Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg. "I would have never thought that I would have lived long enough to see all these disparate groups stand up in a meeting and all agree to one set of law here."
Hours later, the House changed its bill -- the one that had most concerned environmentalists -- to follow the agreement.
"While it's not exactly everything everyone wanted to get, it is something everyone can agree to," said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres.
Draper said legislative leaders in both chambers had pushed the two sides to work together. But the agreement didn't come together until the bill was scheduled for a vote on the House floor, which is expected to come Friday.
He also said that environmentalists and the agricultural industry also plan to work together in the future.
"The fact is, at this point, our hope and I think that the industry's hope is that we find a way to work together for the future to persuade both the Legislature and Congress to fund the broader Everglades restoration plan," Draper said.


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A GOOD MOVE FOR THE EVERGLADES

Provided by Everglades Hub & TBO.com – by Editorial Staff
March 21, 2013

It is encouraging to see a Florida House that has been notoriously unfriendly to environmental concerns in recent years work to transform a
polluter-friendly Everglades bill into a reasonable cleanup plan.
Speaker Will Weatherford and his team deserve credit for working with environmentalists.
Originally, House Bill 7065, which was aimed at codifying the $880 million Everglades cleanup settlement reached by Gov. Rick Scott and Washington,
 included several slippery measures aimed at benefiting the influential sugar industry.
The initial proposal would have limited the industry's financial responsibility to far below the actual costs of cleaning up the mess it created. That would
 have directly contradicted a 1996 "polluters pay" constitutional amendment that passed with nearly 70 percent of the vote.
The initial legislation would have extended a $25-per-acre special cleanup tax on agriculture until 2024, when it would drop to $10 an acre and then
essentially cap the sugar industry's liability.
This would have left taxpayers on the hook for the overwhelming bulk of the costs of building the water storage and treatment systems needed to
restore a measure of health to the badly abused Everglades.
The bill also would have dictated that operations with permits must be found in compliance with water quality standards, regardless of how harmful their
 discharges, providing the polluters a free pass.
At first it appeared House leadership would force the legislation through. It passed a committee with only one legislator daring to oppose it.
But environmentalists fought hard, and the House leaders, rather than simply dismissing their objections, approved thoughtful changes.
Wednesday, the House amended the bill to extend the $25 tax to 2026, when it would be set at $20 per acre until 2029. Then it would be reduced
 to $15 until 2035, when it would finally drop to $10 per acre.
Holding the sugar industry more accountable will add more than $100 million to the cleanup effort.
Equally important, the House dropped the language giving permit-holders a pass for any polluted discharges.
Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, says the legislation changed from being a environmental threat to "a reliable funding source for the
 Everglades cleanup."
The Senate bill to codify the Everglades agreement, sponsored by Pasco Sen. Wilton Simpson, has never included any special interest machinations,
 so the odds look good that this Legislature will have at least one notable environmental achievement.
Considering the disregard for natural Florida exhibited by the last few Legislatures, that is good news indeed.


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WHO WILL GET SOUTH FLORIDA WATER MANAGEMENT DISTRICT POST?

 Provided by Everglades Hub & News-Press.com
March 24, 2013

Three of the most powerful unelected, unpaid government seats in South Florida are vacant as of this month, and Gov. Rick Scott is expected to soon
 announce which of the 11 candidates will fill those voids.
The South Florida Water Management District is a $567 million regulatory arm that issues permits for water usage, guides Everglades restoration
 projects and is responsible for flood control in 16 counties and for nearly 8 million people. The nine-member board currently has six members. Two
 of the appointments are set to expire this month. Former governing board member Dan DeLisi resigned from the district last month to take a chief of
 staff position at the district days later.
The seat DeLisi vacated is the only one designated strictly for Southwest Florida interests. The other two open seats represent agriculture and rural
 communities and municipalities along the East Coast.
Notable names who’ve applied to represent this area include former governing board member Charles Dauray of Estero; land planner Mitch Hutchcraft
 of Fort Myers; Big Cypress Basin Board members Kevin Powers and David Farmer; and former Conservation 2020 board chairman Rick Barber, who
 is also on the Big Cypress board. Joel Pusateri, Cape Coral; and Paul Reynolds, Fort Myers, also applied, according to Scott’s office.
Hutchcraft works for King Ranch, the largest juice orange producer in the state, and has the support of environmental groups such as the Florida
 Wildlife Federation.
“I think there’s a huge amount of common agreement,” Hutchcraft said. “The difficulty is how you go about implement that common agreement. Let’s
 get away from hyperbole and trying to place blame and focus on the facts and then agree on how we work together to make it happen.”
Hutchcraft said his top concerns for Southwest Florida are polluted water flows from Lake Okeechobee and area Everglades restoration projects such
 as the Caloosahatchee reservoir, a planned, man-made project that’s designed to take excess water from the river, store that water and the release it
 during drought conditions.
The river and its estuary suffer yearly from either too much water flow or too little from Lake Okeechobee, which was connected to the Caloosahatchee
 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a way to drain South Florida for farming and development.
Barber currently serves as a member of the Big Cypress Basin, a non-regulatory arm of the Water Management District that deals almost exclusively
 with water quality and flood control issues in much of Collier County.
Like Hutchcraft, Barber has worked in the private sectors as a planning and development consultant. Barber said water quality and flows are high on
 his priority list as well.
“It’s a changed system,” Barber said. “People talk about how we need to revert to the way things were 100 years ago but that’s just not possible. You
 can’t change the fact that we get a lot of outflow from Lake Okeechobee. We have to deal with the system we have and understand how it works and
 what the limitations.”
Barber’s right as far as the limitations of the system. An act of Congress would literally be needed to stop polluted waters from flowing down the
 Caloosahatchee.
Nancy Payton with the Florida Wildlife Federation said her groups supports Hutchcraft and Farmer.
“We’ve worked with (Hutchcraft) on a number of projects,” Payton said. “He’s been very help with panther conservation. And I think he can provide that
 bridge between conservation groups and development interests.”



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FCC LEGISLATIVE UPDATE MARCH 18-22

Provided by Everglades Hub & Florida Conservation Coalition - Founder and Chairman, Bob Graham; Vice-Chairman, Nathaniel Pryor Reed
March 23, 2013

Note: These are the Bills the FCC is following according to the FCC priorities of Water Policy and Management, and Public Lands. Please see many of our charter and affiliate members' sites for details on other important pieces of legislation.
HB 33 - Allows individual and corporate private land owners to exchange state owned land for conservation easements over their private land holdings. This bill removes the state lands from public management, placing them back into the hands of private land owners for farming, grazing, timber and other private uses. Since the alteration of the original state lands for these new agricultural uses would be relatively irreversible, and since there is no requirement in the bills for the conservation easements to be permanent, this does not seem fair to Florida's taxpayers. This bill is opposed by the United Water Fowlers of Florida, Audubon Florida, and other conservation groups. The bills are still awaiting committee hearings in the House and Senate.
HB 901 - Prohibits the purchase of public conservation lands by any governmental entity unless an equal amount of public property is returned to private ownership, effectively killing the acquisition of conservation land in Florida. (In fact, since much of the public lands have been purchased with bonds requiring the land to remain in conservation, it could be interpreted that the bill is really a prohibition against acquiring new public conservation lands) This bill is opposed by the FCC. See the previous FCC ACTION ALERT. The House and Senate versions have been referred to 4 Committees in each chamber. The FCC will keep you updated on these bills as and if they are heard by the Committees.
HB 1063 - Places the Department of Agriculture and Consumer services in a powerful role in advocating for agriculture in the water management Regional Water Supply planning process. A new group within DACS would be established just for the purpose of providing estimates to the Water Management Districts, which they must consider. Certain provisions conflict with needs for protection from drought or recognition of environmental restoration priorities. The bill increases the power of other "self-suppliers" in the water supply planning process; and does nothing to advance the cause of conservation and efficient water use or help our springs.On March 7th this bill received a favorable vote by the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. The bill has yet to be heard by any House Committees. This bill, in current form, is opposed by the FCC.
Senator Grimsley, (the sponsor) has met with us twice in the last two weeks. She very graciously temporarily postponed her bill, which has the effect of giving us one more week to further work things out. The signs are good that this will happen following a two hour meeting with the Senator and DACS staff on Monday. However, we have not seen the second set of amendments, yet. The House Bill is being conformed with the Senate Bill in real time as amendments have been accepted by the groups. In the meantime, Senator Bullard has helped by preparing and submitting amendments to meet our concerns in case negotiations break down. The next stop will be a later meeting of the Senate Agricultural Committee. We are hoping for a bill that provides DACS specific ability to participate in the water planning process under the conditions that all data is available, the local planning process is recognized, conservation is specifically part of the DACS planning, and the effects of adding the self-suppliers to the planning and contracting process is clarified and made appropriate. If there is a need for a further alert, we will let you know.
HB 7065 - As a result of persistent negotiations by conservationists, many, but not all, of our member organizations now support Everglades legislation moving forward this session. It is hard to estimate how difficult this session has been for the environmental lobbyists in Tallahassee. That, considered, the compromise reached is understandable.
This legislation, HB 7065 and SB 768, has been modified under this compromise and is moving rapidly towards adoption. Two of the most unacceptable provisions in the House Bill have been removed. The "Principles" for Everglades restoration have been restored, which set forth many of the most important policy parameters for restoration, including contemplated sources of funds and percentage contributions. The attempt by the sugar industry to be deemed in compliance with water quality standards (the "cause or contribute issue"), automatically, if they install best management practices (BMP), was also removed from the House bill. The third positive aspect of the bill lies in extending payments by the industry for Everglades restoration. For those for whom restoration of the Everglades is the top priority, the inclusion of "appropriations" for the next 10 years is also a good thing. However, the automatic transfer of $20 million/year from the Water Management Lands Fund for Everglades Restoration will make distribution from the Trust Fund even more political, and other Districts may be affected by this because the Trust Funds are no longer being managed in the way originally envisioned by the Legislature. Also, unfortunately, language still remains which exists in the current statute (and was arguably strengthened in this change), to "deem" the (now extended) sugar payments (plus, now the BMP's) to meet the Florida Constitutional requirements that the polluter pay for its share of the clean-up costs. It is probable that we really still do not know what the total bill for restoration will be.
The bill has been amended and the amended version passed the
house 114-0 yesterday. Senate Bill 768 by Senator Simpson has been amended to align it with
HB 7065 and has been approved by the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation.
HB 789 - Requires each Water Management District to identify first and second magnitude springs with declining flow levels and create a 5 year plan to restore these impaired water bodies. The FCC supports the efforts of Rep. Stewart and Sen. Soto to restore Florida's springs.
The House version has been referred to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, Rulemaking Oversight and Repeal Subcommittee, and State Affairs Committee. The Senate version has been referred to the Environmental Preservation and Conservation, Community Affairs, and Rules Committees. The FCC will keep you updated on these bills as they are heard by the Committees.
HB 109 - Extends the duration of Consumptive Use Permits for Development of Alternative Water Supplies from 20 to 30 years and prevents the quantity of alternative water allocated to be reduced, unless the reduction is needed to address harm to water resources or to existing legal users. The FCC opposed similar language during recent Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Rulemaking, but with the recent change by Representative Young addressing environmental harm, we are not opposing this bill.
Last week, HB 109 and SB 364 passed through their referring committees. Both bills await second readings in their respective chambers.
HB 999 - This bill creates, amendments and revises provisions relating to: development permit applications; marinas, boatyards, & marine retailers; general permits for special events; well permits; exemptions from permits, fees & related environmental requirements & regulation; regional water supply planning; agricultural water supply demand projections; major sources of air pollution; water quality testing, sampling, collection, & analysis; & restoration of seawalls. Unfortunately, and despite meeting with all the stakeholders, the environmental lobbyists who have been working with Representative Patronis have not yet been presented with the version of the bill likely to be heard in committee next week. You may see an alert on this bill in the next couple of days.
HB 7 - Requires Water Management Districts (WMD) to include certain water bodies in priority lists and schedules, provides for adoption of certain reservations and minimum flows by DEP, and requires WMD to apply, without rule adoption, certain reservations, minimum flows and levels, and recovery and prevention strategies. Enables WMD to enter into interagency agreements to promote interagency coordination where boundaries overlap.
HB 7 is awaiting a hearing in the House Rulemaking Oversight & Repeal Subcommittee. SB 244 is scheduled for a second reading on March 27th.
HB 319 - This problematic growth management bill restricts mobility plans and fees, which many local governments have adopted instead of transportation concurrency. Developers want to place the same restrictions on those plans regarding credits, proportionate share and prohibiting operating and maintenance costs. 1000 Friends of Florida met with stakeholders to voice concerns about the bill. After reviewing the amendments made, serious concerns remain. It did pass the first committee this week, and could be at the second committee stop next week. We believe the bill unnecessarily restricts local government flexibility regarding mobility plans and mobility fees even though it appears to protect existing programs. The Florida Association of Counties has expressed concerns about the bill. Currently, there is no Senate companion.
HB321 - Prohibits any local government from applying school and transportation concurrency, including proportionate share contributions, through July 1, 2017, unless 2/3 of elected officials vote to do so. This bill would over-ride existing local government authority which already exists to suspend concurrency and/or impact fees, and interfere with local home rule authority.

Florida Forever and Everglades restoration Appropriations - As part of the compromise on
HB 7065, $32 million has been allocated for Everglades restoration. This includes $12 million in general revenue fund and a $20 million transfer from the Water Management Lands Trust Fund. The FCC will continue to monitor Florida Forever and Everglades funding as specific budget proposals come out of the relevant House and Senate Appropriation Committees.
Ryan Smart



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