Alerts

Florida Conservation Coalition Response to Governor’s Budget Signing

 

By signing the FY 2015 budget Governor Rick Scott may attempt to take credit for providing historic levels of funding for Florida’s springs and the Everglades.  In doing so, however, he will ignore the massive budget cuts to water protection agencies and land conservation projects brought on by his administration and the Legislature.

Governor Scott was elected on the idea of reducing the size and cost of government. This focus has been evident since the Governor signed his first budget in 2011, in which he vetoed the entire $305 million annual appropriation for Florida Forever and bragged of cutting $700 million more from Florida’s five water management districts.

Cuts to the Suwanee River and Northwest Florida Water Management District budgets resulted in those two agencies postponing setting minimum flows for springs. Cuts to the South Florida Water Management District, exceeding $200 million, caused the agency to reconsider investments in the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs and other Everglades clean-up work. These are the very same projects that the current administration and Legislature are now funding in this year’s budget, after several years of needless delay.

Unfortunately, in light of these actions, claims that our freshwater springs and the renowned Everglades are being saved by this budget may appropriately be viewed as election year efforts to make voters forget the effects that previous budget cuts and staff reductions have had on the programs and agencies responsible for the health of our waters and protection of our natural lands.

To judge the current administration’s commitment to environmental protection, recent spending claims have to be weighed against past actions: Florida’s FY 2008 budget included $200 million for the Everglades and the Northern Everglades, in addition to the more than $100 million spent that year on Everglades projects by the South Florida Water Management District from its own budget. Additionally, during the previous administration, the South Florida Water Management District spent more than $500 million in one year buying land that will be used in a program to expand water treatment and storage. 

Along with cutting water management district budgets, Governor Scott has consistently refused to propose anything but minimal funding for the state’s land acquisition programs which include projects to protect Florida’s springs and buy at-risk wetlands and panther habitat in the Everglades. Previously, in a single year, the Florida Forever program spent approximately $70 million on protecting land that recharges Silver Springs, more than the entire statewide appropriation for Florida Forever this year.

Prior to 2011, thirty percent of Florida Forever program funds were allocated to the water management districts to purchase land to recharge water supplies, store and treat floodwaters and protect our most vulnerable springs and rivers.  This year, however, Florida Forever allocations to water management districts to protect water resources were not included in the Governor’s budget.  Instead the districts were allocated $20 million in previously appropriated funds for land conservation.

Compared to previous budgets by this administration, this one shows modest increases in conservation funding. That said, it pales in comparison to the funding and commitments to Florida’s water and land resources of past administrations.     


5/1/2013

FCC Members,

We need your help. The terrible “environmental train” we wrote you about earlier this week has gotten even worse. These Bills, moving quickly through the House and Senate, seek to change over 25 environmental regulations affecting water management, air quality, environmental resource permitting, development permitting and more.

This week, not only was Senate Bill 1684 amended to incorporate many of the worst parts of House Bill 999, including a new amendment that strikes a major blow against sound resource management and water conservation. 

· This new amendment to the Senate Bill, eliminates the existing authority of water management districts and the Department of Environmental Protection to reduce groundwater allocations because of the availability of water from a drought resistance source (such as desalination, reclaimed water, aquifer storage and recovery, etc.) ; unwisely restricting their ability to review and modify permits to assure that water continues to be used in the public interest. The result would allow those wealthier counties and landowners who can afford to build desalination plants or reservoirs to "bank" natural sources of water and become the major suppliers in their areas.  Conservation of precious groundwater continues to be ignored. The FCC will continue to vigorously protest these blatant attempts at privatization. These changes go against the result of months of work by stakeholder groups on related subjects during the Department of Environmental Protections Consumptive Use rulemaking. We have heard that the Department is trying to "negotiate" this one.  We must also let them know that this will not due, they should hold their ground.                                                                     

Take 60 seconds to call or email Senator Latvala, (850) 487 5020 or (727) 793 2797 who introduced the Senate version of the amendment, and tell him you oppose this amendment as bad public policy and bad for the State of Florida. Your water and environment are on the line.


Another of the most harmful of the many special interest giveaways in these bills is a section restricting the ability of the Department of Environmental Protection to regulate waters courses and wetlands as part of environmental resource permitting.

· By defining “mean annual flood line” in a way that excludes currently regulated areas this section, being pushed by a major phosphate mining company, would reduce the area covered under environmental resource permits, leading to unmitigated habitat damage in and around our precious wetlands.

Unfortunately, as more and more gifts to special interests get stacked onto these bills they gain momentum and become harder to stop. We must act now and let the politicians in Tallahassee know that the people of Florida won’t stand by idly as our waters and lands are given away to special interests. FCC volunteers are working hard to stop these bad bills, but we can’t do it alone.

Please take 60 seconds to 
call your Representative and Senator and ask them to vote against House Bill 999 and Senate Bill 1684. Tell them you oppose these massive special interest giveaways and the harm they will do to the places you love.

Then email the members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Agriculture Committee
Tell them you oppose these bills as bad policy and they should be temporarily postponed until the interests of the public have been fully addressed.

Even if you have never called or written your elected officials before today, now is the time to act. Only together can we stand up to special interests and protect the best of Florida.

Sincerely,

FCC                             

  Ask Your Representative to Vote No on HB 7065
 

HB 7065, which we informed you about last week, is headed towards a final vote in the Florida House. This bill jeopardizes the health and recovery of America’s Everglades by capriciously capping the amount large polluters must pay to restore the Everglades, despite the Constitutional requirement that those causing the pollution pay their fair share. It also restricts enforcement of pollution discharge permits in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Take Action

Take action to protect the Everglades Today. Contact your representative today by phone and email and ask them to VOTE NO on HB 7065 *. It is essential that House Members from across the state know that voters are watching their actions on this bill and will not accept further damage to our Everglades. You can use the FCC's prepared email (just add your Representative's email address and your name and address) or draft your own.

Bill Specifics

·      Caps the amount of money sugar growers pay to build and operate projects to clean up the polluted waters coming off their fields; shifting the burden of paying for Everglades restoration from the polluters to you, the taxpayer. This is in direct conflict with the will of the voters of Florida. In 1996 Floridians overwhelming passed the “Polluter Pays” amendment to the Florida Constitution stating “those in the Everglades Agricultural Area who cause water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution.”

·       Prohibits discharges from being deemed to cause or contribute to any violation of water quality standards in the Everglades Protection area if the polluter has a permit, weakening the ability of our state agencies and environmental groups to enforce current regulations to protect the Everglades from further harm.

Take Action

Many Representatives, including legislative leaders, have already signaled their support for this bill. At this point only your voice can help protect the Everglades and assure that polluters pay their fair share for Everglades Restoration. The FCC supports SB 0768, filed by Senator Simpson, as it merely brings Florida statutes in line with the recent agreement between Florida and the federal government on Everglades restoration. We are hopeful that with your help the House will amend this bad bill to resemble Senator Simpson’s legislation.

Take action to protect the Everglades Today. Contact your representative today by phone and email and ask the to VOTE NO on HB 7065 *. It is essential that House Members from across the state know that voters are watching their actions on this bill and will not accept further damage to our Everglades. You can use the FCC's prepared email (just add your Representative's email address and your name and address) or draft your own.

It's your voice that counts.

Read the recent Tampa Bay Times Editorial opposing HB 7065.

Thank You.


Florida Conservation Coalition                     

                       THE EVERGLADES NEEDS YOUR HELP - OPPOSE HB 7065


America’s Everglades is under assault from 
HB 7065 which would capriciously cap the liability of large polluters and restrict enforcement of pollution discharge permits in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The bill is scheduled for a vote in the important House Appropriations Committee tomorrow, Thursday, March 14th. This will most likely be the last committee to hear the bill before it is brought before the entire House. Many environmental organizations oppose this bad bill and are working hard to protect your Everglades.

Take Action

Take action to protect the Everglades Today. Contact members of the House Approrpriations Committee with a message in your own words, or you may use this prepared and addressed email* (just make sure you add your name and address at the bottom).

Bill Specifics

·      Caps the amount of money sugar growers pay to build and operate projects to clean up the polluted waters coming off their fields; shifting the burden of paying for Everglades restoration from the polluters to you, the taxpayer.. This is in direct conflict with the will of the voters of Florida. In 1996 Floridians overwhelming passed the “Polluter Pays” amendment to the Florida Constitution stating “those in the Everglades Agricultural Area who cause water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution.”

·       Prohibits discharges from being deemed to cause or contribute to any violation of water quality standards in the Everglades Protection area if the polluter has a permit, weakening the ability of our state agencies and environmental groups to enforce current regulations to protect the Everglades from further harm.

Take Action

Unfortunately, many House Appropriation Committee Members have signaled they plan to support this terrible bill at the expense of the Everglades and Florida taxpayers. It is up to you, concerned citizens and voters, to demand that Big Sugar be held responsible for their current actions and pay their share for the damage they have caused.

Take action to protect the Everglades Today. Contact members of the House Approrpriations Committee with a message in your own words, or you may use this prepared and addressed email* (just make sure you add your name and address at the bottom).

It's your voice that counts.

Read more about the economic impact of big sugar subsidies in this 
Wall Street Journal article.

Thank You.

Florida Conservation Coalition

Action Alert SB 948 Grimsley

March 6,  2013

This is an urgent alert on a bill which, if passed in its current form, places major agriculture corporations in a privileged position to the detriment of wise and fair water planning in our state.  Senate Bill 948, proposed by Senator Grimsley, was drafted, and is being strongly pushed, by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). The Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee will consider the bill this Thursday, March 7th. It is of great importance to our state’s environment and economy that SB 948 is set aside until amended to address the serious concerns detailed below.

Take Action

We ask that you contact Commissioner Putnam, Senator Grimsley and the other members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee with a message in your own words, or you may use this prepared and addressed email* (just make sure you add your name at the bottom). The time to stand up for our water resources is now – ACT TODAY!

Bill Description

The bill, as written, would effectively set the stage for granting new water rights to agricultural users during periods of drought and promote irrigation over other uses during water shortages. 

It increases the likelihood that water flowing to springs and pooling in lakes and wetlands will be used for industrial level irrigation, and increases power of other self-supplier industrial users in the planning process.

It does nothing to advance the cause of conservation and efficient water use or help our springs. 

Bill Specifics

1. The bill empowers DACS to set agricultural water supply need estimates which would become the presumptive standard for water management district planning. Water Supply plans are intended to serve the interests of all of the citizens of Florida. Until now no government agency has seen its role as advocating on behalf of the private sector in this process. Placing a private interest in a position of privilege to determine water supply planning is without precedent and against the best interest of all Floridians and our environment. Agricultural self-suppliers of water would be greatly benefited resulting in a loss to the rest of Florida’s water users.  

2.  Any other entities with this advocacy privilege are agencies of local elected officials.  This is a deliberate decision by the legislature who recognized, in the statute, that planning for public water supply is essential.

3.  DACS, in preparing water supply need estimates, is not required to consider water conservation measures, the only sustainable way of assuring low cost, clean, water to the citizens and businesses of our state.  

4.  In developing these estimates, DACS is not required to be consistent with local government comprehensive plans; effectively stripping power away from local governments and locally elected officials and the Governor and Cabinet’s oversight of planning for important state resources.

5.  The planning period which DACS would use is not consistent with current adopted plans to manage Lake Okeechobee for environmental restoration and does nothing to ensure that in periods of drought water shortages would be shared equally among consumptive uses, potentially jeopardizing the health and recovery of America’s Everglades.    

6.  It sets up a new water planning group within DACS that infringes on the duty of Florida’s five water management districts to manage our state’s water resources.

In Summary

It is reasonable that DACS assist the districts with their knowledge about agriculture.  It is not reasonable to assume that their estimates should have a special place in state water planning to protect agriculture above other interests. DACS officials have indicated a willingness to improve this bill, and Senator Grimsley has suggested a meeting on Monday, March  11. 

We trust that Commissioner Putnam, Senator Grimsley, and Members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee have no desire to be responsible for further damage to our waters, economy, and the Everglades. However, this bill is moving ahead quickly and will be considered by the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee this Thursday. It is up to you to let them know that the people of Florida are watching and refuse to accept the takeover of water supply planning by agricultural mega-corporations.

(note:There are no specific House Companions, but portions are contained in HB 1063 Hutson and HB 999 Patronis)

Take Action

We ask that you contact Commissioner Putnam, Senator Grimsley and the other members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee with a message in your own words, or you may use this prepared and addressed email* (just make sure you add your name at the bottom). The time to stand up for our water resources is now – ACT TODAY!

It’s your voice that counts.

Thank you. 

Florida Conservation Coalition  

Action Alert - Protect America's Everglades
March 6, 2013


This is an urgent alert calling on all Floridians to stand up for our River of Grass, send a letter to legislators right now.

The Sugar Industry has launched an effort to further weaken Everglades cleanup efforts, load more of the expenses on the taxpayers, and have the Legislature attempt to nullify an important part of Florida’s Constitution. Your voice is needed right now to protect the Everglades. 

Take Action

Tell your elected representative you favor the approach to Everglades Restoration supported by Governor Scott, the Department of Environmental Protection, and South Florida Water Management District, which is contained in SB 768. Ask them to reject “Sugar’s poison pill” PCB SAC 13-01. 

We ask that you contact members of the House State Affairs Committee with a message in your own words, or you may use this prepared and addressed email* (just make sure you add your name at the bottom). The time to stand up for the Everglades is now – ACT TODAY!

Bill Specifics

The House State Affairs Committee will act Thursday, March 7 on PCS SAC 13-01 the Sugar industry has drafted. This bad bill attempts to insulate Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) farmers from having to do anything more to pay for or clean up their own pollution by codifying in law a dubious claim that Best management Practices (BMPs) are effectively reducing phosphorus pollution. If the bill passes, the Everglades loses and you lose. 

Even today, the flawed BMPs in the EAA allow individual farmers to discharge massive amounts of phosphorus – sometimes 500, 700, or even more than 1,000 parts per billion (PPB) phosphorus when the state water quality standard is only 10 ppb. Nearly 3000 tons of phosphorus fertilizer is used in the EAA annually, and this massive use of fertilizer is a major cause of Everglades pollution. 

Another provision of the Sugar Industry’s bill removes from law a longstanding legal requirement that farms take extra steps to control pollution if the water coming off their land causes or contributes to violations of water quality standards.  

Under current law, “…no permittee’s discharge shall cause or contribute to any violation of water quality standards in the Everglades Protection Area…” regardless of the fact that a farmer is operating under a permit. The new provision proposed by the Sugar Industry causes existing permits to become a shield preventing any additional requirements for cleanup, no matter how bad water quality gets. 

In addition to insulating themselves from responsibility for preventing pollution of the Everglades, the Sugar industry seeks to continue passing on to taxpayer the cost of cleaning up their pollution. The small “Agriculture Privilege Tax” currently paid by EAA farmers currently provides only $11 million per year toward the billions of dollars needed for Everglades cleanup. That is not even enough money to pay interest on the money required to build cleanup projects.

Leaving you the taxpayer with the check appears to be the sugar industries' main goal. The bill falsely declares that the sugar industry, which has been found to cause 2/3rds of the pollution in the Everglades, complies with the Florida Constitution’s polluter pay requirement, which says those who create pollution in the Everglades be “primarily responsible” for cleanup costs. 

This very bad Sugar Industry bill will be offered in the State Affairs Committee this Thursday is a response by the industry to a good bill proposed by Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. That bill, SB 768, would codify the recent agreement between the State of Florida and EPA on a new cleanup plan in law and help to facilitate its completion. 

The Governor’s bill contains none of the harmful language proposed by the Sugar Industry in the draft bill to be proposed in the State Affairs Committee.

Take Action

Tell your elected representative you favor the approach to Everglades Restoration supported by Governor Scott, the Department of Environmental Protection, and South Florida Water Management District, which is contained in SB 768. Ask them to reject “Sugar’s poison pill”. 

We ask that you contact members of the House State Affairs Committee with a message in your own words, or you may use this prepared and addressed email* (just make sure you add your name at the bottom). The time to stand up for the Everglades is now – ACT TODAY!

It's your voice that counts.

Thank You.

Florida Conservation Coalition

FCC Action Alert - Support Florida Forever - Stop Senate Bill 584

Senate Bill 584 by Senator Hays states “The State may purchase land for conservation purposes only if an equal amount of public property not being held in conservation is returned or sold at fair market value to the private sector”.   This provision would also apply to counties and municipalities.  The bill would end Florida Forever and curtail conservation land acquisition in Florida. 

While this bill reflects Senator Hay’s view of government, more worrisome is that it conveys the view of legions of legislators who agree with him.  Since he is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government that decides state environmental spending, the challenge is to persuade him to put funds in the budget for Florida Forever.  An equally difficult challenge is to find allies in the legislature who will tell the leadership that land conservation is a spending priority.  

Just a few years ago most legislators were friends of land conservation.  Florida Forever and its successful predecessor Preservation 2000 were popular programs at home and in the Capitol.  Most of those friends are long gone from Tallahassee, and their seats are now occupied by new members of the House and Senate who feel that they were elected to solve economic, not environmental problems. 

So, now we must find new friends and remind former allies that conservation is important.  Senators Thad Altman and Jack Latvala are champions.  But other Senators, who have been friends before, need to know that we care.  THAT will take serious local effort – linking need and constituencies with decision-makers.  

Harsh criticism of Senator Hays may do more harm than good, and could even result in no appropriation of funds for Florida Forever.  A better strategy is to enlist new legislative friends and reinvigorate old ones to give land conservation the juice it used to have. 

SB 584 offers an opportunity, not just to dissuade such an ill-conceived proposal, but, to make a persuasive argument for funding Florida Forever.

We ask that you contact Senator Hays and the  the members of the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee with a message in your own words or you may use this prepared and addressed email* written by the FCC.

By all means, Florida Forever, the State’s nationally acclaimed land acquisition program is crucial to Florida’s future. 

It’s your voice that counts.

Thank you. 

Florida Conservation Coalition  

*Unfortunately, the "one-click" email option above is not compatible with all email clients. If the above link does not work, 
click here for a downloadable and printable version that can be copied and pasted into your email.


FCC Action Alert - Contact Your Legislator Today!

“We now face one of the greatest emergencies in Florida’s modern history. Our prized and supposedly well-protected rivers and springs are "sick" from pollution and in need of restoration and protection by our state agencies and a Legislature that shares our citizens' concerns and determination to correct the current abuses of negligence.” These are the words of Nathaniel Reed and myself in a recent 
guest column in the Orlando Sentinel and in the Tampa Bay Times. As Florida Conservation Coalition (FCC) members, members of affiliate organizations, and concerned citizens of Florida we need your help to remind our representatives in Tallahassee that Florida’s water and natural resources sustain our economy and quality of life and define who we are as Floridians.

The upcoming 2013 legislative session will be a critical juncture in the movement to protect and restore our natural resources. Already, many bills that will define the future of Florida’s environment have been written. Our State legislators will more likely act to protect our environment if they know that concerned Floridians are paying attention to how they perform and will hold them accountable.

The FCC is comprised of over 50 environmental organizations and over 1,000 dedicated individuals.  There is no membership fee to join and the FCC has never solicited a donation. 

The FCC has asked little, but we are asking you now to contribute to our mutual mission by contacting your local legislators and sharing with themyour passion and concern for protecting Florida’s environment.  Attached for your information and use (and to leave with legislators, if you wish) are8 key FCC principles for environmental stewardship.  Please give us a summary of your visit with legislators and their comments and concerns.     

The legislative session starts March 5, so now is the time to act.

If you have any questions or need any assistance, feel free to contact Ryan Smart, Director of Operations, at rsmart@floridaconservationcoalition.org.

Best regards,

Bob Graham

FCC Chairman

Hot off the Press March 8, 2012 by Estus Whitfield

Status: Water Management District Legislation (SB 1986)

The House and Senate Conference Committee has reached agreement on SB 1986.  It will now go to the House and Senate floors for final vote, which is expected tomorrow.  The votes will be up or down.
 
The Governor's Office and DEP held a briefing this morning with environmental groups to pass out and explain the final version of the bill.... The bill is now, very much like the House offer which tracked the Governor's amendments.  The bill removes the revenue caps, and gives the Legislature the authority to review and comment on wmd budgets and to set millage rates if they are dissatisfied with the preliminary budgets (this is allowed under current law, and would require an act of the Legislature).  The Legislative budget commission is authorized to reject: (1) single land purchases over $10 million; (2) accumulative land purchases of over $50 million in one year; (3) issuance of debt; (4) expenditures for outreach or management and admin. in excess of 15% of total budget; and (5) individual variances in wmds tentative budgets in excess of 25% from the preliminary budgets.
 
The Bird Drive amendment has been removed.
 
In summary, this legislation will largely place wmd budget oversight and mgt. back under the Governor, as it has existed for the past several years.  It does not remove legislative influence (a political impossibility since wmd creation), but it does remove legislative command and control and micro management.  The bill will take the state back much closer to 2011 than existed with SB 2142 (2011).
 
We didn't achieve total victory, but we gained a lot of ground.

"Thank you" to all the Florida Conservation Coalition members who joined in this effort.  Together, we have made a difference.

Estus Whitfield



FCC Legislative Alert February 29, 2012 - Last Call for Florida Forever

Alert, Florida Forever and Everglades Funding. The conferees have been named and are meeting. The "good news" is that the Senate has now informally accepted the House's position on the Everglades, that is funding of 30 million for next year. The bad news is that this is 10 million short of even Governor's Scott's request.  There is zero money set aside for Florida Forever! I am sure we all agree that the whole state needs funding desperately for environmental and community natural resource acquisition. The Governor has 15 million requested for Florida Forever.  Please, let's work together once more to ask for funding for these programs! 

Click here for a message addressed to conferees on saving conservation funding. 

Downloadable text version:

Click here
 for the alternative method to send your message if the first one does not work on your computer. 



February 27, 2012, Urgent: FCC Alert and Update on Water Management (SB1986)

Alert, SB 1986.  This morning, the Florida House of Representatives refused to concur with SB 1986 as it passed the Senate, and agreed to send this legislation to conference.  The House had no bill on these issues, so they are not locked into a particular position. But this is one of many items that will be considered in conference, and we need to single this one out. Folks, I cannot tell you how important an opportunity we have now to get a Water Management Bill that meets the FCC goals, and takes us close to the way things were in 2010.  We must write the House conferees (who are not yet named, but will be chosen from the list below), and tell them that we support passage of SB 1986 (or its successor) as amended by the Governor's proposal which would:

1. Make it possible to restore a more reasonable level of funding for the Water Management Districts.
2. Place the budgetary and operational decisions  of the Water Management Districts back in the Executive Branch and the Regional Water Boards.
3. Remove the legislative caps on water management district spending set by the 2011 Legislature.

** The Florida Conservation Coalition has included a “one-click option” to help those who want a convenient way to reach those who need to be contacted, but it is technically impossible to make this function with all email clients. There will also be a downloadable and printable text version that can be copied into your email, but you will have to also place the addresses individually.  We are sorry for the additional time that this second option might require but that is the state of current technology.**

  If you click here, there will be a message addressed to the Chairman Grimsley, Speaker Cannon and Speaker-Elect Weatherford as well as the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriation Subcommittee, please simply modify your message to suit your views.

Downloadable text version:

If you click here, there will be a downloadable and printable message addressed to key House members to that can be copied into you email but again you will have to place the email addresses individually.

We can make a difference!  Vicki Tschinkel


FCC Legislative Alert, February 23, 2012 

Urgent Important Progress on Water Management, We Need your help
 

Background. Senate. Today, the Senate passed SB 1986, with amendments, which do not resolve the biggest problem left over from last year’s debacle. It leaves out our most important goal: empowering the Water Management Districts’ Governing Boards to write their own budgets. As amended, the bill does remove the ad valorem caps on Water Management District spending, which is especially important for Everglades Restoration and takes the regulatory functions out of the punitive "review session" of the bill, but leaves budgetary control and spending squarely in the hands of the Legislature. So, it is a small step in the right direction and the major work is still to be done to return Water Management Districts to the local people and the Executive Branch, in other words, to make SB 1986 acceptable and meet the FCC's stated goals. SB 1986 will now move to the House for amendment, approval or a down vote. 
 
                 House. House members are not sold on SB 1986. They are passing around some excellent amendments that would return control of the Water Management Districts' budgets and management authority to the Districts in conjunction with the Executive Branch,not legislative micromanagement. This would place control of your ad valorem tax dollars right in the hands of your regional Water Management Districts and the Governor's office, just as it was in 2010, and allow for adequate funding of the Districts. This is, and has been, the FCC's main goal for the session. 

We are asking you to write the Governor, and key House members, as well as your own legislators, and ask them to support amending SB 1986 to return control of Florida's Water Management Districts and their budgets to local and regional control.

** The Florida Conservation Coalition has included a “one-click option” to help those who want a convenient way to reach those who need to be contacted, but it is technically impossible to make this function with all email clients. There will also be a downloadable and printable text version that can be copied into your email, but you will have to also place the addresses individually.  We are sorry for the additional time that this second option might require but that is the state of current technology.**

  If you click here, there will be a message addressed to the Governor, please simply modify your message to suit your views. If you click here, there will be a message addressed to key House members simply add your own elected officials to the addressees and modify your message to suit your views.

Downloadable text version:

Click here
 to access the downloadable and printable text version of the message addressed to the Governor. If you click here, there will be a downloadable and printable message addressed to key House members to that can be copied into you email but again you will have to place the email addresses individually. 

We are counting on you!

Vicki Tschinkel and Estus Whitfield
 

FCC Update Legislative Alert February 17, 2012, Water Management Takeover

Friends,

SPB 7092, the legislative takeover of water management districts, passed the Senate Budget Committee last week. This is the reincarnated bill giving the coup de grace to the water management districts.  It had been pulled from the Senate Environmental Preservations and Conservation Committee earlier, because it likely would not have passed the substantive committee.  This is clearly a very high priority of the Senate Leadership.  

SPB 7092 has now been renumbered SB 1986 (a stand alone budget conforming bill.)  So, it is now in its third incarnation of the session, making it next to impossible for a normal citizen to follow. It is on second reading in the Senate, can be amended on the Senate floor (not likely), but it is unlikely that the House will pass this bill as it is, and the Senate recognizes this. What this means is that the fate of regional water management will probably be decided in fairly smoky rooms during conference, within one week or so. Therefore, one of the most important public policy questions to all Floridians is going to be decided behind closed doors, outside the democratic process.

Please write the Governor, Speaker of the House, the Senate President and the Chairman and Subcommittee Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, as well as your local House and Senate members.  It is very, very important to include your members at this stage. If you click here, there will be a message addressed to the Governor, the Speaker, the Senate President and the House Appropriations Chair and Sbucommittee Chair, please simply add your own elected officials to the addressees and modify your message to suit your views.

We are counting on you!

Vicki Tschinkel and Estus Whitfield


FCC Legislative Alert February 15, 2012, Easy Click email on WMD centralization, Please write now!

February 14, 2012-Water Management Districts

Click here to urge the appropriate legislators and Governor Scott to (1) remove the current revenue caps and restore the proper ad valorum millage rates to allow the districts to do their jobs; (2) restore oversight of district budgets exclusively to the Governor’s Office; and (3) avoid legislative involvement in the "core missions", regulatory functions, administration outreach and management of the water management districtsIn other words restore the districts to their status in 2010.   (feel free to add your local representative and senator to the email addresses you will find when you "click"!)


Urgent. We hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but just as we predicted, the new "improved SB 1834" has been reincarnated as SPB 7092.  It is very similar to 1834, but, to avoid appropriate public viewing and normal procedures, it is coming up in the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday, February 15.  Let's be clear about this, it would not likely have passed the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. This is a clear political move by those who feel they can control the Senate Budget Committee, and they are the same people who want to take over our Water Management Districts.

Briefly:
1. The legislature assumes full authority over the Water Management District Budgets. (The Governor's Office only has control over the final submissions to the Legislature.)  The process is complex, and utltimately could result in a sort of appellate review by the Legislative Budget Commission, who only has to give 7 days notice of its actions, but through legislative channels which vary. The budget can be altered in any way by the legislature under proposed provision 373.535(3)(b), line 272 of proposed bill. This is the end of regional water management.  Period.

2.  There are two separate tracks for funding. The one for the "core missions" is heavily oriented towards funding water supply and alternative water supply. The other track includes regulation.  The bill does not consider regulation to be a core mission or essential to implementing core missions.  In reality regulation is bedrock for protecting water supplies, water quality and natural systems (Core Missions).  In this bill it is placed in a separate funding category and is subject to not being funded at all. (373.503(3)(a) and (b), line 126 of proposed bill. ) 
  How regulation (which includes the setting of Minimum Flows and Levels (MFL's)), which is contained in three titles of seven in Chapter 373 , is not a core mission, shows where some of these legislators are.  Either, they want to intimidate regulators,  slow down the setting of MFL's, or they are setting the stage for moving consumptive use permitting to Tallahassee to a State Water Board or DEP. All are unacceptable.

3. As to funding, in the proposed committee bill, the legislature would set by statute the millage rate for the "core missions" and set a separate millage rate for administration, regulation, outreach and management on an annual basis.  This would provide a way to retaliate against the district on an annual basis.  The Legislature will then set the maximum ad valorem millage rates in keeping with the budgets they approve, therefore the caps as imposed last year would no longer be "needed". For FY2012, some rates are "restored" from last year's bill, but Southwest Florida and Northwest Florida Water Management Districts are actually reduced.

FCC Legislative Alert February 13, 2012, Its Happening, the Legislature is Taking over the Water Management Districts

Urgent. We hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but just as we predicted, the new "improved SB 1834" has been reincarnated as SPB 7092.  It is very similar to 1834, but, to avoid appropriate public viewing and normal procedures, it is coming up in the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday, February 15.  Let's be clear about this, it would not likely have passed the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. This is a clear political move by those who feel they can control the Senate Budget Committee, and they are the same people who want to take over our Water Management Districts. 

Briefly:
1. The legislature assumes full authority over the Water Management District Budgets. (The Governor's Office only has control over the final submissions to the Legislature.)  The process is complex, and utltimately could result in a sort of appellate review by the Legislative Budget Commission, who only has to give 7 days notice of its actions, but through legislative channels which vary. The budget can be altered in any way by the legislature under proposed provision 373.535(3)(b), line 272 of proposed bill. This is the end of regionalwater management.  Period.

2.  There are two separate tracks for funding. The one for the "core missions" is heavily oriented towards funding water supply and alternative water supply. The other track includes regulation.  The bill does not consider regulation to be a core mission or essential to implementing core missions.  In reality regulation is bedrock for protecting water supplies, water quality and natural systems (Core Missions).  In this bill it is placed in a separate funding category and is subject to not being funded at all. (373.503(3)(a) and (b), line 126 of proposed bill. ) 
  How regulation (which includes the setting of Minimum Flows and Levels (MFL's)), which is contained in three titles of seven in Chapter 373 , is not a core mission, shows where some of these legislators are.  Either, they want to intimidate regulators,  slow down the setting of MFL's, or they are setting the stage for moving consumptive use permitting to Tallahassee to a State Water Board or DEP. All are unacceptable.

3. As to funding, in the proposed committee bill, the legislature would set by statute the millage rate for the "core missions" and set a separate millage rate for administration, regulation, outreach and management on an annual basis.  This would provide a way to retaliate against the district on an annual basis.  The Legislature will then set the maximum ad valorem millage rates in keeping with the budgets they approve, therefore the caps as imposed last year would no longer be "needed". For FY2012, some rates are "restored" from last year's bill, but Southwest Florida and Northwest Florida Water Management Districts are actually reduced.

Write or call
 Governor Scott and ask him to fight to regain his constitutional authority to oversee water management district budgets and to resist legislative intrusion into executive branch (his) affairs.  Ask him to fight to remove the caps on revenue that will allow the districts to resume the collection of sufficient ad valorem taxes to do the work Florida so desperately needs, and to keep regulatory issues out of politics and at the regional level.

Write or call Senate President  HaridopolosPresident-elect GaetzSpeaker of the House CannonSpeaker-designate Weatherford
Chair, Senate Budget Committee
,Senator JD Alexander (R)Vice Chair: Senator Joe Negron (R)Chair: Senate Budget Sub-Committee on General Government Appropriations, Senator Alan Hays (R)Vice Chair: Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R)and members:Senator Oscar Braynon, II (D)Senator Larcenia J. Bullard (D)Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R),Senator Audrey Gibson (D)Senator Dennis L. Jones D.C. (R), and Senator Jack Latvala (R) and your local representative and senator.

Urge them to (1) remove the current revenue caps and restore maximum millage rates; (2) restore oversight of district budgets exclusively to the Governor’s Office; and (3) avoid legislative involvement in the "core missions", regulatory functions, administration outreach and management of the water management districtsIn other words restore the districts to their status in 2010. 

Vicki Tschinkel, Estus Whitfield, Pam McVety


Alert, February 10, 2012 Florida Forever

Alert – Florida Forever Needs Urgent Help

Florida Forever, Florida’s conservation land acquisition program is threatened for the second year in a row with no funding.  The Governor recommended $15 million in his legislative budget for next year.  However the House Appropriations Bill does not include any funds for the program.  The Senate Appropriation Bill has not yet been released.  Unless the Senate bill includes funds for Florida Forever, there is no chance of any funding again next year.  If the Senate includes funds in its appropriations bill, then a final decision on funding for the program will be made in conference between the House and Senate.  Therefore, it is critical that the Senate include funding in its appropriations bill.

The Governor also recommended $40 million for Everglades Restoration.  The House Appropriations Bill includes $30 million for the program.  It is important that the Senate include funds for the program in its appropriations bill to assure funding.
 
Florida Forever has been the most successful and highly acclaimed conservation land acquisition in the Nation.  We need to do all we can to keep it alive and funded.

It is crucial that you contact members of the Senate Budget Committee and urge them to include $15 million in its budget for Florida Forever, as the Governor recommended.  Also urge them to include $40 million for Everglades Restoration, as the Governor recommended. 

Please contact the following senators: Chair, Senate Budget Committee,Senator JD Alexander (R)Vice Chair: Senator Joe Negron (R)Chair: Senate Budget Sub-Committee on General Government Appropriations, Senator Alan Hays (R)Vice Chair: Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R)and members:Senator Oscar Braynon, II (D)Senator Larcenia J. Bullard (D)Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R),Senator Audrey Gibson (D)Senator Dennis L. Jones D.C. (R), and Senator Jack Latvala (R).

Estus Whitfield

Amended Alert, February 9, 2012 Water Management

 Very urgent action needed:

 Regional Water Management in Perilous State

The Florida Conservation Coalition decided that the future of the Water Management Districts would be its first priority this session.  We now know that last year’s legislative takeover of the districts was just a beginning. 

Background: Water management districts were created in Chapter 373, Florida Statutes based on the principle that water resources should to be managed on a regional watershed basis, and that they should be governed by boards appointed by the Governor consisting of (informed) lay citizens residing within the districts.  This provision was made to ensure that important water resource management and financing decisions of districts are made by people who represent the regions/districts - the governing boards. By careful study and vitally important public involvement the district boards crafted strategy to protect and manage their areas water supplies and with carefully designed, environmentally sound measures produce effective drainage from extreme rainfall events.

Chapter 373 also gave the Governor budget oversight and gave the Department of Environmental Protection general supervisory authority over the districts.  This changed in 2011.  SB 2142 (2011) placed WMD budget oversight largely in the legislative branch, including the setting of revenue caps and budget approval.  District budgets were cut by over $700 million (39.6%) and resulted in the loss of over 590 jobs and positions.   As a result, Florida's water management districts now do not have a sustainable level of funding to meet the State's core water management goals of water supply, flood protection, water quality and natural systems.  It should be noted that districts' regulatory programs are integral and essential to the accomplishment of the core mission/goals.  While the legislative aim was to force administrative efficiencies within the districts, the overall results were far more profound, in that governing board and executive branch oversight authority was largely overridden by the legislature.  This conflicting legislative control and revenue caps placed on the districts' budgets have jeopardized Florida's water management system.  SB 2142 needs to be rescinded.

Urgent Action NeededThe 2012 bill, SB 1834 would not only further tighten legislative control over district budgets, but would involve the Legislature in all aspects of district activities - operations, programs, and projects.  This is unacceptable.  SB 1834 also contains a provision which needs to be enacted.  It removes the revenue caps imposed on the districts by SB 2142, which needs to be done - this is all that needs to be done!  There should be no more legislative involvement in the districts’ already extremely difficult mission, or further take away district oversight authority from the Governor.

Taken together, SB 2142 and SB 1834 will render regional water management and regionally appointed governing boards moot.  Water management in Florida will become far more politicized and far less effective.

SB 1834 has not been introduced in the House and has not been heard in any Senate committee.  But to assume that this bill is going nowhere would be a mistake.  Even with such an important issue, Florida’s legislature could bypass virtually all committees and public scrutiny.  It could likely appear very late in the session in the appropriations bill or some other legislation.

This is an extremely important issue – it’s our water, your water.  How it is managed and by whom is critical.  Consider this: Do you prefer legislative control of water management, whereby legislators from the opposite end of the state “call the shots” on your water and your tax dollars?  Or do you prefer that water resources be managed on a regional basis by people in your area?  If you prefer the latter, then write or call Governor Scott and ask him to fight to regain his constitutional authority to oversee water management district budgets and to resist further legislative intrusion into executive branch (his) affairs.  Ask him to fight to remove the caps on revenue that will allow the districts to resume the levy of sufficient ad valorem taxes to do the work Florida so desperately needs.

Write or call Senate President  HaridopolosPresident-elect GaetzSpeaker of the House CannonSpeaker-designate Weatherford, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Alexander and urge them to (1) remove the current revenue caps; (2) restore oversight of district budgets in the Governor’s Office; and (3) avoid further legislative involvement in the operations of the water management districts

Write or call or visit your Senator and Representative and ask them to do likewise.

Estus Whitfield and Vicki Tschinkel

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Footnote: Since October 2011, thirteen county commissions have adopted resolutions directed at water management.  Each resolution contains these three statements: (1) Supports the water management structure and functions as listed in Chapter 373, F.S; (2) supports adequate funding for water management districts, such that they may accomplish their lawful missions of managing and protecting regional and local water resources; and (3) opposes the centralization - command and control of regional and local water resources within the executive and/or legislative branches of government, or by a statewide board or authority.  These counties are: Broward, Citrus, Gadsden, Jefferson, Lee, Leon, Martin, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Polk, Sarasota, Taylor, and Wakulla.  Additionally, representatives of the nine counties of the County Coalition for the Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries, and Lake Worth Lagoon approved the resolution, and representatives of all 16 counties in the South Florida Water Management District watershed were expected to bring the resolution before their respective county commissions.
    Alert, February 8, 2012 Water Management          

  Very urgent action needed:
  Regional Water Management in Perilous State

The Florida Conservation Coalition decided that the future of the Water Management Districts would be its first priority this session.  We now know that last year’s legislative takeover of the districts was just a beginning. 

Background: Water management districts were created in Chapter 373, Florida Statutes based on the principle that water resources should to be managed on a regional watershed basis, and that they should be governed by boards appointed by the Governor consisting of (informed) lay citizens residing within the districts.  This provision was made to ensure that important water resource management and financing decisions of districts are made by people who represent the regions/districts - the governing boards. By careful study and vitally important public involvement the district boards crafted strategy to protect and manage their areas water supplies and with carefully designed, environmentally sound measures produce effective drainage from extreme rainfall events.

Chapter 373 also gave the Governor budget oversight and gave the Department of Environmental Protection general supervisory authority over the districts.  This changed in 2011.  SB 2142 (2011) placed WMD budget oversight largely in the legislative branch, including the setting of revenue caps and budget approval.  District budgets were cut by over $700 million (39.6%) and resulted in the loss of over 590 jobs and positions.   As a result, Florida's water management districts now do not have a sustainable level of funding to meet the State's core water management goals of water supply, flood protection, water quality and natural systems. It should be noted that districts' regulatory programs are integral and essential to the accomplishment of the core mission/goals.  While the legislative aim was to force administrative efficiencies within the districts, the overall results were far more profound, in that governing board and executive branch oversight authority was largely overridden by the legislature.  This conflicting legislative control and revenue caps placed on the districts' budgets have jeopardized Florida's water management system.  SB 2142 needs to be rescinded.

Urgent Action NeededThe 2012 bill, SB 1834 would not only further tighten legislative control over district budgets, but would involve the Legislature in all aspects of district activities - operations, programs, and projects.  This is unacceptable.  SB 1834 also contains provisions which need to be enacted.  It removes the revenue caps imposed on the districts by SB 2142 and reestablishes maximum ad valorem taxing millage rates, both of which need to be done - this is all that needs to be done!  There should be no more legislative involvement in the districts’ already extremely difficult mission, or further take away district oversight authority from the Governor.

Taken together, SB 2142 and SB 1834 will render regional water management and regionally appointed governing boards moot.  Water management in Florida will become far more politicized and far less effective.

SB 1834 has not been introduced in the House and has not been heard in any Senate committee.  But to assume that this bill is going nowhere would be a mistake.  Even with such an important issue,Florida’s legislature could bypass virtually all committees and public scrutiny. It could likely appear very late in the session in the appropriations bill or some other legislation.

This is an extremely important issue – it’s our water, your water.  How it is managed and by whom is critical.  Consider this: Do you prefer legislative control water management, whereby legislators from the opposite end of the state “call the shots” on your water and your tax dollars?  Or do you prefer that water resources be managed on a regional basis by people in your area?  If you prefer the latter, then write or call Governor Scott and ask him to fight to regain his constitutional authority to oversee water management district budgets and to resist further legislative intrusion into executive branch (his) affairs.  Ask him to fight to remove the caps on revenue and reestablish ad valorem tax ceilings that will allow the districts to resume the levy of sufficient ad valorem taxes do the work Florida so desperately needs.

Write or call Senate President HaridopolosPresident-elect GaetzSpeaker of the House Cannon,Speaker-designate Weatherford, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Alexander and urge them to (1) remove the current revenue caps; (2) restore oversight of district budgets in the Governor’s Office; and (3) avoid further legislative involvement in the operations of the water management districts. 

Write or call or visit your Senator and Representative and ask them to do likewise.

Estus Whitfield and Vicki Tschinkel

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Footnote: Since October 2011, thirteen county commissions have adopted resolutions directed at water management.  Each resolution contains these three statements: (1) Supports the water management structure and functions as listed in Chapter 373, F.S; (2) supports adequate funding for water management districts, such that they may accomplish their lawful missions of managing and protecting regional and local water resources; and (3) opposes the centralization - command and control of regional and local water resources within the executive and/or legislative branches of government, or by a statewide board or authority.  These counties are: Broward, Citrus, Gadsden, Jefferson, Lee, Leon, Martin, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Polk, Sarasota, Taylor, and Wakulla.  Additionally, representatives of the 16 counties in the South Florida Water Management District watershed approved a resolution that included these three statements



February 7, 2012 

2012 Florida Forever Day at the Capitol


Dear FCC members,

Florida Forever Day will be held on Wednesday, February 15, 2012. The event is in the Capitol at the Plaza Level Rotunda between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Florida Forever Day will allow those who attend  to learn about land conservation and meet with their legislators. This event is sponsored by the Florida Forever Coalition and The Nature Conservancy. 

-Laura Daley 

FCC Legislative Alert February 5, 2012, by Estus Whitfield

DEGRADING PUBLIC LANDS

HB 695 (SB 1158) and CS/HB 181 (SB 268)

If you believe that our public state lands –state parks, preserves, forests, wildlife management areas, and greenways and trails- should be protected against degradation and defacement, then you should take notice and pay careful attention to these bills.

CS/HB 695 (Ford and Smith) and it Senate companion SB 1185 (Evers) would allow the state to authorize exploration, development, and production of oil and gas on any onshore state land regardless of whether it is a park preserve, or forest, or environmentally valuable and sensitive.  This is presented as a potential state revenue producer. 

CS/HB 695 is now in the Appropriations Committee and has another referral to the State Affairs Committee.  SB 1185 has referrals to the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, and Budget Committee. 

 
CS/HB 181 (Slosberg) and its Senate companion CS/CS/ SB 268 (Wise) would allow the DEP to enter concession agreements with a private business or a not-for-profit for naming rights of state greenway and trail facilities or property, or for commercial sponsorship to be displayed on the facilities or property.  Signs or displays for advertising and public relations may be placed at trailheads, trail intersections, directional or distance markers, interpretative exhibits and parking areas.  One has to ask – will this bill enhance my outdoor, nature experience?  Will it even bolster the sale of walking shoes? The bill, if it passes, will be known as the “John Anthony Wilson Bicycle Safety Act”. 

CS/HB 181 is now in the Appropriations Committee and has a referral to the State Affairs Committee.  CS/CS/ SB 268 is ON THE AGENDA of the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee for Feb. 6, 3:00 P.M. (This is the last committee.) 

Please contact the following senators: CS/CS/SB 268 Sponsor: Senator Steven Wise (R), Committee Chair: Senator Charles S. "Charlie" Dean, Sr. (R), Vice Chair: Senator Steve Oelrich (R), Members: Senator Nancy C. Detert (R)Senator Dennis L. Jones, D.C. (R)Senator Jack Latvala (R),Senator Nan H. Rich (D)Senator Eleanor Sobel (D). 
   
 

Estus Whitfield           


FCC Legislative Alert February 4, 2012, by Estus Whitfield

PUBLIC LAND GIVAWAY – HB 1103 AND SB 1362

The ordinary high water line (OHWL) is the boundary line along Florida’s freshwater rivers, lakes, and streams that separates lands owned by the public from lands owned by private interests. Lands lying waterward of the OHWL belongs to the public and lands lying landward of the OHWL is largely in private ownership. The OHWL has long been defined as the ordinary or normal reach of water during the high water season. HB 1103 (Goodson) and its Senate companion bill, SB 1362 (Hays) would change the definition of OHWL to the highest reach of a water body as it usually exists when in its ordinary condition and is not the highest reach during the high water season.

This change in the definition would result in a lowering of the OHWL, thus moving it waterward. As a result, hundreds of thousands of acres of now public land could be shifted to private ownership. Public lands now being used for a variety of outdoor purposes such as hunting, fishing, hiking and the enjoyment of nature could become private property from which the public may be excluded or even charged with trespassing.

These bills have created massive outpourings of opposition from conservation and similarly concerned organizations and citizens from throughout the state. Florida Conservation Coalition member organizations and individuals created powerful opposition to these bills and pressure on members of the Legislature with phone calls, emails, blogs, media contact, and personal visits. It is this sort of coordinated effort that has brought these bills to a standstill.

HB 1103 has been in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee since January 17 and if it makes it out of that committee, it will then go to the State Affairs Committee. Indications are that this bill is in trouble and its future is gloomy. The prospects for SB 1362 look even gloomier, since it has moved nowhere in the Senate and has referrals to the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee and Budget Committee.

But, we should not rest and assume that all is well. Bills often appear dead, only to reappear towards the very end of the Legislative session as amendments to other bills. We must stay watchful.

Estus Whitfield

Good Alert HB639! February 1, 2011


HB639 - Dana Young - If you look at previous alerts, you will remember that this is the bill which took treated domestic wastewater water out of the definition of Waters in the State, a very bad precedent as  every other type of discharger would want to be taken out of the definition. It  would also have made it unlikely that  the State and Water Management would involve the generators of this resource in water use planning.  But we do support reuse.

A very large and persistent contingent  of lobbyists for the conservation groups (including all the FCC Charter organizations), coupled by the strong support from all of you and your emails helped us get Representative Dana Young's personal attention.  So did the Editorials and news articles. As she listened to the specific concerns, she asked for another set of amendments. These were produced, and carefully vetted with all the conservation groups involved. We are grateful to Representative Young for accepting these and for getting this done.

Section 1 of the bill, which removed domestic wastewater from the definition of Waters of the State, our biggest concern, was deleted from the bill, entirely.

The bill now clearly states that those who are involved in reuse are to be part of all the water management districts planning and water supply plans. This includes the District Water Management Plan which encompasses water supply and environmental issues.

Currently the districts do not require permits for the use of reclaimed water, this codifies that into law.  We don't love that, of course, but we felt that it might enhance the use of reclaimed water as the proponents felt, and that the specific inclusion of this resource in the District plans was a pretty good way to go. The bill passed out of committee today with our amendments.

This could not have been accomplished without your strong efforts and constant willingness to take action and get involved.  We are much stronger when we all take action together and focus on the important issues!

Vicki Tschinkel 

FCC Legislative Alert January 28, 2012, by Pam McVety and Vicki Tschinkel

Good news: House budget has Everglades funding.

  For Everglades Restoration $35 million total, $15 million General Revenue—Provides funding for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the implementation of the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Program, and hybrid wetland/chemical treatment projects. Not everything we want or need, and $5 million less than Governor Scott asked for, but it will certainly help at the conference.

Alert January 27 2012, Zero Dollars for Florida Forever in House Budget 

   The Governor’s budget has $15 million for Florida Forever, which is good news because he zeroed it out last year, but the house budget which was released today, has zero funding for it. Land acquisition, with a proud history going back to the early 1970's, has been Florida’s most powerful and effective tool in protecting our most environmentally sensitive and valuable lands. Our record is unmatched anywhere in the world.  Our acquisitions have accomplished a great deal, but much remains to be done to save the very best of our beautiful state.  Our continued commitment to conservation will ensure that future generations can enjoy the “Real Florida”.
  
   The budget will be taken up by the Appropriations Committee on Wednesday February 1, 2012.   The budget bill reference is   PCB APC 12-01. Please contact the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee Denise Grimsley and other members of the committee, listed below to let them know that Florida Forever must be funded.   

 Please note that there will likely be a conference committee, and some of these folks may serve on that:
  Dorworth, Chris [R]  Vice Chair,Chestnut IV, Charles S. "Chuck" [D]  Democratic Ranking MemberAubuchon, Gary [R], Bembry, Leonard L. [D]Coley, Marti [R]Glorioso, Richard "Rich" [R]Hooper Ed [R]Horner, Mike [R]Hudson, Matt [R]Hukill, Dorothy L. [R]Jones, Mia L. [D]Kiar, Martin David "Marty" [D]Kreegel, Paige [R] McKeel, Seth [R], O'Toole, H. Marlene [R], Porth, Ari Abraham [D]Proctor, William L. "Bill" [R], Rouson, Darryl Ervin [D]Sands, Franklin [D],Saunders, Ron [D]Schenck, Robert C. "Rob" [R]Snyder, William D. [R]  and Williams, Trudi K. [R].


Alert January 27, 2012 HB639

   Privatization of Reclaimed Water (HB 639 Representative Young): This bill excludes reclaimed water from being managed as waters of the state.  It removes a slice of the water pie from the public domain, putting it under the sole discretion of a utility.  When this water is needed for other uses such as in times of a drought, it would not be available.  Environmental groups have met repeatedly with the bill sponsorRepresentative Young to try to amend the bill.  Another meeting with the environmental lobbyists is scheduled for Monday. Your letters and phone calls are needed to remind Representative Young that she works for all Floridians, not just the City of Tampa.  Please let her know that you do not want a slice of the public water pie removed and given to utilities. Water belongs to all of us. See previous alerts for more information.  



Alert, January 28, 2012, SB 2142

 

   Legislative Approval of Water Management Budgets (HB 1834 Senator Hays): Under Florida’s Constitution, voted on by the people, each district’s operations are funded by local ad valorem taxes and since the creation of the districts (until last year) their budgets had review by the executive branch followed by approval of the governing board.  The Board Members are people who live and work in the district boundaries.  The districts work hard to balance all their functions from finding water for industries, cities and farms, to protecting the water needs of natural systems to prevent flooding, and maintain the water supply.
 

   Last Year SB 2142 severely cut water management district funding, handicapping the ability of the districts to function. It was so bad that some in the legislature would like to change or repeal it. Unfortunately, this year's fix makes it worse in many respects.  Although it purposes to raise the millage cap for the districts, and raise the dollars cap which was put on them last year, Senator Hays proposes to require detailed legislative approval of water management budgets. (This may be akin to the legislature having approval over school board budgets). If the legislature fails to take action on the administrative part of their budget, which oddly contains regulatory funding, the district’s operations will be shut down.  So the incentive for the WMD's to approve only properly vetted permits as they should, now is disincentivized.  If they make someone angry, well, the administrative budget can be cut so they can't function at all.

    In the real world, it is impossible for the legislature to replace the functions of the governing boards in reviewing and approving district budgets.  These people know their regions and the people who live and work there, and their water needs.  It is their region's money that the districts are spending.   Their job is complicated and time consuming. Politicizing water management funding by moving it to the legislature is a very bad idea.  Natural systems don’t have a strong voice these days in Tallahassee.  Special interest lobbyists will control water where the water goes and there will be a push towards water supply over all other functions of the districts.  
  
    The only bill needed is a complete repeal of all the damaging language in last year’s SB 2142.  It is the Governor’s job to review the water management district budgets and he has the Department of Environmental Protection to assist in the budget review and to monitor the districts’ activities throughout the year.  We understand the Governor’s Office is interested in and needs support for either repealing or substantially improving last year’s SB 2142 that did so much damage to the water management district. Please contact Governor Rick Scott (850) 488-7146) and ask that he support (1) removing the caps on millage rates so that the water management districts can do their missions; and (2) allowing no further legislative involvement in the water management budgeting process.
 

Please contact Senators Hays and Alexander (Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and advocate for this bill) and let them know that HB 1834 is a bad idea and that last year’s SB 2142 should be repealed in its entirety. 

 Alert January 27, 2012 
  
   Privatization of Public Lands (HB 1103 Representative Goodson and SB 1362 Senator Hays):  Representative Goodson states that this bill does not change the boundary between public and private ownership in favor of the upland owner.  He is WRONG.  This bill moves the ownership of public waters on freshwater bodies from the ordinary high water line to the ordinary water line which is the lower level.  This is only a clarification according to the bill sponsor,  but in reality the experts say that it will give upland owners a windfall of up to half a million acres. This is land used by you to hunt, fish, picnic and camp.  Your traditional uses of shorelines and portions of water which are open a good part of the year along Florida lakes and rivers might get you arrested for trespassing if this bill passes. 
  
We all owe the Florida Wildlife Federation “a big" thanks for alerting outdoor recreational users about this bill.  These users have been enthusiastically responding. Please keep it up.  The house bill goes to the Civil Justice Subcommittee next and although the agenda is not available yet, the committee meets this coming Tuesday, January 31 at 8:00.  The chair is Representative Eric Eisnaugle from Orlando. He needs to hear from you as do the other committee members:
Metz, Larry [R]  Vice ChairSteinberg, Richard L. [D]  Democratic RankingAbruzzo, Joseph [D], Bernard, Mack [D]Gaetz, Matt [R],Hager, Bill [R]Harrison, Shawn [R]Kiar, Martin David "Marty" [D]Oliva, Jose R. [R]Passidomo, Kathleen C. [R]Plakon, Scott [R]Soto, Darren [D]Stargel, Kelli [R],and Weinstein, Michael B. "Mike" [R]


FCC Legislative Alert January 26, 2012, by Vicki Tschinkel, Estus Whitfield and Martha Musgrove

Alert, January 26, 2012 Everglades Funding

  Seven million people living in South Florida depend on the Everglades for their drinking water. Water is vital to life, commerce and agriculture. The Everglades are visited by tourists from around the world for its many natural wonders. Florida is defined by its water resources, and its environment and economy depend on sound management of its fresh and salt-water resources. Please support the Governor's request for $40 million for Everglades restoration in the FY 12-13 state budget.

   The Everglades needs your help.  State funding to continue the restoration of the Everglades rests in the State Legislature. Governor Scott has pledged his support for the Everglades and put $40 in his budget.  But now it is up to the legislature, and a few are talking about even more, although any funding is difficult this year. Please call or write members of the Senate Subcommittee on General Government Appropriations, express your interest and ask them to approve the generous and appropriate funding for Everglades restoration.  If you live in south Florida, this should be of extra interest to you. The subcommittee members include: Alan HaysLizbeth BenaquistoOscar BraynonLarcenia BullardMiguel Diaz de la PortillaAudrey GibsonDennis Jones, and Jack Latvala. Also contact Senator J.D. Alexander

  These funds will be used to help complete projects that provide a clean water supply for south Florida.  This funding will show the State’s commitment to moving forward with Everglades restoration and assist in strengthening the partnership with the federal government to complete restoration projects and secure Florida’s water supply.

   The Everglades is unique – a magnificent mosaic of intricately connected ecosystems.  Because it is a natural treasure, the federal government has committed to pay half the costs of restoration.  No other state has such a good deal.  Congress appropriated $143 million for Everglades restoration in its FY 2012 budget. 

   The State Legislature unanimously adopted the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000; the plan is a state/federal partnership.  The plan is designed to increase storage of water during south Florida’s rainy season for use during the dry season and to capture and use 1.7 billion gallons of water a day that is needlessly drained to sea.  The plan guarantees that existing flood protection will be maintained, as well as existing water supplies for urban, agricultural, and commercial uses.

   Because of the size, scope, and comprehensiveness of the plan, it will cost $11 billion and span a 30- year implementation period.  After all, it took 30 years to drain the Everglades.  Former Governor and then Senator Bob Graham compared it to heart surgery – “you don’t want to start and not complete it.”

   Republican Governor Jeb Bush designated the South Florida Water Management District to be the implementing agency; at that time he committed the State to spending $100 million annually and District taxpayers to $100 million annually. Times have changed and the budget has been reduced restoration projects. The District’s proposed budget this year contains more than $52 million for restoration projects. Last year’s Legislature cut the District’s budget by 48 percent, so it more important than ever for the State to pay its share. 

Significant progress has been made and you can read about it here.

   Dramatic reductions in funding and year- to- year shifts in direction are the greatest threats to Everglades restoration and management of Florida’s water resources.  Water issues are extremely complex and require deliberate and long-term planning based on facts.  These issues are serious, and the Legislature should take them seriously. 

   We have previously called to your attention in urgent alerts regarding SB 1362 and HB 639.  Please see previous alerts for these as they and SB1184, which we have not completely reviewed, would adversely affect Everglades Restoration as well.

 

 January 22, 2012, by Pam McVety and Vicki Tschinkel

FCC UPDATED Alert  - January 22, 2012.  We now know that HB 639 is rushing its way through the house, propelled by its sponsor, Dana Young.  It is scheduled Tuesday for the Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee at 2:00PM. The chair is Representative Chris Dorworth (R) a real estate investor from Lake Mary and his phone number is 850/488-5843.  Here are the other members Ray Lake  Jacksonville, Barbara Watson  Miami Gardens, Frank Artiles  Miami, Jeff Brandes  St. Petersburg, Brad Drake  Defuniak, Matt Gaetz   Shalimar, Tom Goodson  Titusville, Matt Hudson  Naples, Jimmy Patronis  Panama City,  Scott Randolph  Orlando, Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda  Tallahassee, Hazelle Rogers  Lauderhill,  Patrick Rooney Palm Beach Gardens,  Franklin Sands  Palm Beach Gardens. Your urgent assistance is needed to contact the chair and members of the Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee. 

The Bill: Even though all the waters in Florida are a public resource, HB 639 would put reclaimed waters under the exclusive control of utilities with no oversight by the water management districts. Twelve members on the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee voted for this bill and only two legislators, Representatives Vasilinda Rehwinkel and Garcia voted against this bill. Its next stop is the Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee. No meeting is currently scheduled. Unfortunately key legislators, support this bill, and the South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker supports the concept if not the specific language. The City of Tampa is the prime mover behind this bill. Conservation groups are working hard to stop it, but it is moving quickly through the committee process.

FCC Legislative Alert January 22, 2012, by Pam McVety and Vicki Tschinkel

These are the two most urgent bills to keep working on.  Legislators are noticing the email and telephone traffic.  So, please write and call all the highlighted folks, below.  There are two more bills about which we need to report but we are awaiting further news.  We have also found recently that the local reporters are not up to date on these things anymore.  They just do not have the time with all the budget cuts.  Please call or email those whom you know and help keep them informed.  This is also easy to do and very, very effective.  Most of the worst bills go unnoticed and unreported and that is way the folks here like it as the promotors of the bills work for very specific sectors, and the Administration is playing virtually no role in working on these bills.  So it is up to us!

I want to assure you that Audubon of Florida, the Wildlife Federation, Everglades Foundation, 1000 Friends of Florida and The Nature Conservancy are working very, very hard every day on these bills.  But there is little "respect" on the part of  most legislative members for the organized Conservation Community any more, so we just need to get regular folks protesting. We have been fortunate to be working closely with the fishing, hunting, boating community on HB 1103, and other groups as well.

HB 639: Alert, January 22. The sponsor, Dana Young still continues to refuse to make even the slightest change to this damaging and precedent -creating legislation despite numerous attempts by the conservation community to offer specific changes.  These would  assist in the bill's stated goals to make it easier to use reclaimed water, but continues jusrisdiction of this water as Water in the State. She has called a meeting with us for Monday at 3PM.  Please write her, even again ASAP to take our amendments. 

Even though all the waters in Florida are a public resource, HB 639 would put reclaimed waters under the exclusive control of utilities with no oversight by the water management districts. Twelve members on the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee voted for this bill and only two legislators, Representatives Vasilinda Rehwinkel and Garcia voted against this bill. Its next stop is the Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee. No meeting is currently scheduled. Unfortunately key legislators, support this bill, and the South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker supports the concept if not the specific language. The City of Tampa is the prime mover behind this bill. Conservation groups are working hard to stop it, but it is moving quickly through the committee process. Your urgent assistance is needed to contact the chair and members of the Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee. The chair is Representative Chris Dorworth (R) a real estate investor from Lake Mary and his phone number is 850/488-5843. To see the names and contact information for the other committee members go to www
.myfloridahouse.gov and click on committees and then click on the representatives names. 

HB 1103: Alert, January 22.  This is perhaps the most detrimental bill of the session so far.  This bill proposes to remove half a million acres of public land and put it in private ownership by changing the definition of ordinary high water line to the low water line. The bill's sponsor Tom Goodson  of Titusville is the Bill's sponsor.  He has been putting out a long complicated response to the many negative emails he has been getting. We are providing a longer analysis of the bill and a shorter one which makes it pretty clear that Mr. Goodson's arguments are not correct.  Feel free to use these in response to him. In  essence, this bill will make it illegal for you to hunt, fish, camp or picnic along Florida’s freshwater bodies where these activities have traditionally taken place. Nine members on the House Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee voted for this bill and four voted against it. The four who voted against this bill are Representative Vasilinda Rehwinkel, Sands, Perman and Bullard. The next stop for this bill is the Civil Justice Subcommittee. It is not on its agenda today (January 19) and its next meeting is not scheduled. This bill is also moving quickly through the process in spite of the valiant efforts of the different environmental groups. The chair is Eric Eisnaugle(R) an attorney from Orlando and his phone number is 850/488-9770. His hobby is wildlife watching. Other members of the committee vice chair Clay Ford from Pensacola, Richard Steinberg from Miami Beach,Bernard Mack from West Palm Beach, Matt Gaetz 
from Shalimar, Bill Hager  from Boca Raton, Shawn Harrison  from Temple Terrace, Marty Kiar  Temple Terrace,Larry Metz  Eustis, Kathleen Passidomo  Naples, Darren Soto  Orlando, Cynthia Stafford  Miami, Kelli Stargel  Lakeland, Gregory Steube  Sarasota, Michael Weinstein  . Please write or call as many of these members as you can.

Florida House Legislative Update from Pam McVety, January 18, 2012

We have been asked for rapid feedback on bills of high concern to us.  As you can see HB 639 and HB 1103 continue to move along, albeit with some modest opposition now.  Especially on HB 1103, we are being joined by boaters, hunters and fishers in opposition.  Preston Robertson of the Wildlife Federation on 1103 and Eric Draper of Audubon of Florida (on 639) did outstanding jobs representing the environmental community. We need to keep letting our representatives know how we feel about these two bills as well as the leadership and the sponsors.


HB 639: Alert Even though all the waters in Florida are a public resource, HB 639 would put reclaimed waters under the exclusive control of utilities with no oversight by the water management districts.  Twelve members voted for this bill and only two legislators, Representatives Vasilinda Rehwinkel and Garcia voted against this bill.  Its next stop is the Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee.  No meeting is currently scheduled.  Unfortunately key legislators support this bill, and the South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker supports the concept if not the specific language. The City of Tampa is the prime mover behind this bill. Environmental groups are working hard to stop it, but it is moving quickly through the committee process.  Your urgent assistance is needed to contact the chair and members of the Rulemaking and Regulation Subcommittee.  The chair is Representative Chris Dorworth (R) a real estate investor from Lake Mary and his phone number is 850/488-5843.   To see the names and contact information for the other committee members go to  and click on committees and then click on the representatives names. 
  
HB 1103:  Alert This bill proposes to remove half a million acres of public land and put it in private ownership by changing the definition of ordinary high water line to the low water line.  This in essence will make it illegal for you to hunt, fish, camp or picnic along Florida’s freshwater bodies where these activities have traditionally taken place.  Nine members voted for this bill and four voted against it.  The four who voted against this bill are Representative Vasilinda Rehwinkel, Sands, Perman and Bullard.  The next stop for this bill is the Civil Justice Subcommittee.  It is not on its agenda today (January 18) and its next meeting is not scheduled. This bill is also moving quickly through the process in spite of the valiant efforts of the different environmental groups. The chair is Eric Eisnaugle(R) an attorney from Orlando and his phone number is 850/488-9770.  His hobby is wildlife watching. 
 
PCB SCWP 12-01:  This committee bill was heard today by the Select Committee on Water Policy.  It increases the consumptive use permit length for alternative water sources to 30 years in order to coincide with bond expiration of a utility.  The problem is that the length of consumptive permits keeps getting longer.  This can be good for the applicant, but in water scarce areas it reduces the flexibility of the water management districts to meet the needs of all users.  If harm occurs to the natural systems it is very difficult to revoke a permit and thirty years is a long time to wait for the permit to expire. Currently, a utility could get a permit for up to 20 years.  The good news is that this is only for permits for alternative water supplies.  This means salt water; brackish surface and groundwater, reclaimed water and any water that is designated nontraditional.  If HB 639 passes, the effects on permitting of reclaimed water would not be there. This is a proposed committee bill.  The chair of the Select committee on Water Policy is Representative Trudi Williams (R),a civil engineer from Fort Myers and a governing board member from the South Florida Water Management District. Her phone number is 488-2047.  

FCC Legislative Alert II, HB 1103 and Senate Bill 1362

Users of Florida's Waterways Beware:  Legislation to privatize state submerged land

HB 1101 by Representative Goodson and its companion bill SB 1362 by Senator Hays must be strongly opposed.  These bills redefine the present boundary line between privately owned land and public land in and along the State's rivers, lakes and streams.  This boundary line is known as the "Ordinary High Water Line". The effect of this legislation would be a lowering of the elevation of the Ordinary High Water Line, thus moving the ownership boundary of private lands further towards or into the water and shrinkage of acreage currently in public ownership.  This would result in huge transfers of publicly owned land along the State's rivers, lakes and streams into private ownership and amount to the loss of thousands of acres of land that now belong to all the people of Florida.

These bills are not in the best interest of ordinary Floridians or visitors to our State.  If you are a sport fisherman, hunter, birdwatcher, kayaker or airboat enthusiast, it would mean that someday soon when headed to your favorite place you may encounter a barbed wire fence and "No Trespassing" sign blocking your way. Your ability to travel on our rivers and lakes in Florida may be limited to the main channel of the river or the most open water part of the lake.  In the future you may see roof tops, strip malls and parking lots where deer, ducks and wading birds used to live.

Representative Goodson and Senator Hays need to be contacted Right Now and urged to drop these speciial-interest bills that trade the beauty and health of our public lands for potentially hazardous development.  This is privatization of Florida's public lands, rivers and lakes, pure and simple.  If these bills win passage, you lose part of Florida.

FCC Legislative Alert I, HB 639

As you know, our initial priority, here at the FCC is to protect regional water management in Florida, its funding, local sources first, and to maintain Florida's water as a public resource to be allocated by the Water Management Districts on behalf of all Floridians in a manner prescribed by the statute, 373.  HB 379 allows holders of Consumptive Use Permits, (without regard as to who they are) to send their cleaned up domestic wastewater to whomever they want at whatever price they can negotiate.  These can be private or public holders of permits and treatment plants. Several years ago we all made fun of ENRON's desire to buy up water in Florida and said that could never happen here.  This is the toe in the door. Although conservationists have always supported the reuse of treated wastewater and we support making that as unbureaucratic as possible, we cannot be party to any legislation that allows the buying and selling of water in our state. The City of Tampa is at the heart of this damaging legislation.  Please write Representative Dana Young  at once and let her know that her bill, HB 639 needs amending to take away the privitization provision of her legislation.  Here is some more information on the bill.

** The Florida Conservation Coalition has included a “one-click option” to help those who want a convenient way to reach those who need to be contacted, but it is technically impossible to make this function with all email clients. There will also be a downloadable and printable text version that can be copied into your email, but you will have to also place the addresses individually.  We are sorry for the additional time that this second option might require but that is the state of current technology.**


Florida Conservation Coalition

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