Bruce Ritchie reports in the Florida Current:State Senator Bill Galvano has filed a bill that would increase the number of cities and counties where large developments are exempted from state review. The proposed legislation would lower the threshold for "dense urban land area designation" from counties with populations of at least 900,000 or densities of 1,000 people per square mile, to counties with populations of 300,000 or densities of 400 people per square mile. 1,000 Friends of Florida president Charles Pattison expressed concern over the legislation. "It is simply not possible to suggest that 400 people per square mile is remotely dense or urban - that is only .63 people per acre," Pattison said.ReadBill would exempt state review of larger developments in 6 more counties.
Dara Kam reports in the Tallahassee Democrat: Andy Gardiner was formally designated as the Florida Senate's next president on Tuesday. Gardiner, who will officially become the Senate's top leader following the 2014 legislation session, expressed support for "a statewide policy for Florida's water and natural resources." Read thefull story here.
Kevin Spear reports in the Orlando Sentinel:A series of public meetings will be held throughout Central Florida to discuss a proposed natural gas pipeline which has raised concerns over potential environmental impacts and public safety threats. Read thefull story here.
Scott Maxwell writes in the Orlando Sentinel:Florida should be planning to reduce conflicts between black bears and people, and trying to relocate bears when conflict does emerge, not indiscriminately killing bears. Discussing two black bears recently killed following an attack by a single bear on a Longwood woman Maxwell writes "Obviously, at least one bear got the death penalty for a crime it didn't commit... All we know about these bears is they were caught with traps laced with doughnuts. Heck, you could probably catch me in a trap baited with doughnuts." ReadKilling bears that didn't attack - is it overkill?
The Gainesville Sun Editorial Board writes:Gainesville Regional Utilities should not join a possible challenge to minimum flow and level regulations for the lower Santa Fe and Ichetuknee Rivers. The board writes "Local officials should be pushing for stronger regulations to protect the region's springs and waterways, not weakening the overdue protections being proposed." ReadAgainst the flow.
Eric Pfahler reports in TCPalm:Local officials and landowners in sugar producing counties south of Lake Okeechobee fear the economic effects of losing sugar lands to restore Everglades flow and say land would be converted over to development and cattle if the sugar industry were to fold in Florida. Environmentalists stress that only key land tracts are necessary to meet environmental goals. Representatives from all sides hope continued dialogue can lead to greater cooperation in protecting the Everglades and the quality of life in sugar counties. ReadWhat would happen if the South Florida sugar industry disappeared?
Tom Palmer reports on Polk Outdoors: A coalition of environmental groups will hold a rally in front of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's regional office in Orlando. The groups will announce a clean water declaration calling for the protection of Florida's waters. ReadGroups plan Orlando rally Thursday for clean Florida water.
Ivan Penn reports in the Tampa Bay Times:Florida fell from 12th to 18th in solar energy installations in 2013. Unlike other states that have greatly expanded solar energy use in the past several years, Florida lacks policies to incentivize solar energy production. Penn writes "Solar proponents blame a lack of state leadership and elected officials who cater to the wishes of Florida's investor-owned utilities." Read thefull story here.
A poll in the Florida Current shows:69% of respondents prefer the outright purchase of public conservation lands over conservation easements that pay landowners to not develop private lands. ReadWhat's the best way to preserve open space?
Quote of the Day: "We're the Sunshine State, and we're hardly doing any solar energy production. We should be the global leader in solar energy." Charlie Crist
The Ocala Star Banner Editorial Board writes: State Senators David Simmons, Charlie Dean, Bill Montford, Wilton Simpson, and Alan Hays have begun holding monthly meetings to “map out both political and legislative strategies” for improving Florida water policy. Senator Dean is quoted, “What I really want to do is stop and recalibrate and try to do something that is doable and achievable to save our water.” The board writes "Doable and achievable. It's a good place to start the conversation. Let's hope Governor Rick Scott and the senator's fellow lawmakers join in and do and achieve" Read Action on water in the Senate.
Christopher Curry reports in the Gainesville Sun:Proposed minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for the Lower Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers face opposition from utilities - who say the rules are too stringent and costly - and environmentalists - who say the proposed rules do not go far enough. Facing a potential legal challenge by a group of utility companies, the Department of Environmental Protection agreed to delay adoption of the MFLs and conduct additional peer review on the MFL report. As Audubon Florida's Charles Lee points out "I think everybody from the environmental side is concerned (the MFLs) may not be strong enough. With that said, they are still the best game in town." ReadGRU might challenge protections for Lower Santa Fe, Ichetunkee.
Robert Ulanowicz writes in the Ocala Star Banner: Conservationists should be careful when trying to put an economic value on Florida’s springs. Because they continue to produce economic contributions, as long as they are not degraded, springs should be considered an endowment for Florida's future. Ulanowicz concludes "Natural Florida sustains and endows our very economy. Perhaps more importantly, encountering with others the natural wonders of the springs and all that surround them creates many of our most cherished memories. These latter remain intangible - and forever priceless. ReadCalculating the value of our springs goes far beyond dollars.
Pam McVety writes in the Tallahassee Democrat: Florida needs leadership and money to implement existing "best in the nation" state water policy. McVety writes "Republicans have hired nonprofessional and fired professional water managers, cut the water budget in the five water management districts, cut land acquisition, tried to weaken dredge-and-fill rules, and further politicized water management. I would say that this is a perfect storm of mismanagement that has helped us fuel the current crisis." She recommends Florida's political leaders consult with Jim Stevenson, Sonny Vergara, Estus Whitfield, Steve Leitman, and Tom Swihart if they want to "help put water management on a sustainable course and get Florida out of its current water mess." ReadWe already know how to protect our state's water.
The Associated Press reports:More dead bottlenose dolphins washed up on Florida’s northeast coast this week. Since July 1st, 936 dolphins have washed ashore between New York and Florida. In an average year the number of dolphins stranded during this time is only 113. ReadDead dolphins wash up on Florida beaches.
The Associated Press reports:The majority of the pilot whales who had become stuck in shallow water in Everglades National Park have moved into deeper water. Read35 pilot whales moving in deeper water.
Tom Swihart writes in the blog Watery Foundation:The Central Florida Water Initiative Regional Water Supply Plan is vague and "remarkably unambitious." ReadEarly and vague template.