A tree worth preserving
Tough, tolerant, inexpensive and somewhat idiosyncratic, Southwest Florida’s bald cypress are at the heart of a fast-disappearing ecosystem.  Cypress trees dot Everglades National Park, which is more than 1 million acres and encompasses less than 20 percent of the Everglades original extent.      

October 05, 2003    

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News Focus:
Hon. William Hoeveler
Hon. Federico Moreno


November  2003             September 2003

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Environmental News Network



Can sugar and water mix?
© Stuart
While discharges from Lake Okeechobee continue to flow into the St. Lucie Estuary, top sugar executives met with an editorial board representing Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers on Thursday to discuss a wide range of environmental issues, including making a commitment to lobby for local river restoration efforts. In a two-hour meeting, U.S. Sugar Corp. Vice President Robert Coker talked frankly about his reaction to criticism of the industry's water policies and responded to such controversial plans as buying the agricultural area south of the lake for preservation Read more

Swiftmud Purchases Old Florida Plantation Tract
© Tampa Tribune
BARTOW - The Southwest Florida Water Management District's governing board has approved the $30.5 million purchase of the Old Florida Plantation property on the southern and eastern shoreline of Lake Hancock. The 3,536 acres were destined to become a giant development in northeast Bartow with 4,797 residences and a population of about 12,088. The water district wanted the land to restore Lake Hancock, one of the most polluted lakes in the state, which flows into the headwaters of the Peace River. Read more

SFWMD draft Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan to be presented at Nov. 4 public meeting
By Missie Barletto
South Florida Water Management District
A public meeting to receive comments concerning the initial Draft Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan (LOPP) for reaching compliance with the mandated Lake Okeechobee Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for phosphorus will be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2003 at Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Que in Clewiston. The presentation of the draft Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan will begin at 6 p.m. The initial Draft Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan is available for public review on the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) website at    
Read more

Environmentalists hope oversight of 'Glades cleanup will intensify
By Neil Santaniello, Staff Writer
© Sun-Sentinel
Granted their wish for a special master, environmentalists said Thursday that the Everglades cleanup might now enter a period of greater federal court supervision and scrutiny. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, the federal court's cleanup monitor, decided Wednesday to appoint another cleanup overseer to aid him. He said that an environmental expert would supervise government agencies and other parties involved in the 11-year-old cleanup, monitor their compliance with court cleanup orders and report back to him on technical and scientific disputes. "Not only is the court not going to go away, but it is going to step into a more direct and forceful role," ventured Charles Lee, Audubon of Florida's senior vice president. Read more


Expert to monitor cleanup
© Miami Herald
A federal judge in Miami agreed with environmental groups and an Indian tribe Wednesday to appoint an expert to monitor Everglades pollution cleanup, in a defeat for the Bush administrations in Washington and in Tallahassee. Government agencies and politically powerful sugar growers vigorously objected to the appointment of a special master to consider whether an 11-year-old Everglades restoration pact is being violated or will be soon. ''To delay action would be irresponsible,'' U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said in an order issued after business hours. The special master ``will offer additional assurance that the Everglades cleanup will proceed in a timely and efficient fashion.'' Read more

>> Read Judge Moreno's order granting appointment of special master [1mb pdf file]

In this together
Letter to the Editor By: Kathy Prosser/President and CEO, The Conservancy of Southwest Florida
© Naples Daily News
Hats off to the Naples Daily News for its special report "Deep Trouble: The Gulf in Peril." The comprehensive report enlightened readers of the major threats to the health of the Gulf of Mexico. More importantly, it recommended solutions to protect, maintain and restore the Gulf. As this exhaustive series made clear, the problems are challenging and the solutions are difficult. The Naples Daily News has taken the first step. We need an informed, involved public. Forty years ago a small band of local people banded together, stopped "the road to nowhere" and saved Rookery Bay. Read more

Port St. Lucie's fine mess
© Palm Beach Post
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection was correct to fine Port St. Lucie's utility system for two spills in the past month -- including one when a city official ignored an alarm signaling a broken pump that sent 192,000 gallons of raw sewage into residential streets. But under the Environmental Litigation Reform Act, the utility has "options," DEP Administrator John Mitnik said. Fines could have been as high as $10,000 per day for the spills, but the legislation provides a complex formula for calculating penalties. The DEP continues to allow the perpetrators plenty of wiggle room. The agency fined the utility $10,000 for the mishap at the lift station that the neighbors call "Old Stinky," and $5,000 for another, smaller spill. The utility can negotiate with state regulators either to lower the fines or plan a $22,500 project to improve the utility or the community instead. Read more

Everglades Judge Will Appoint Everglades Clean-up “Special Master”
Expert will monitor state’s compliance with Everglades clean-up requirements
© Earthjustice
Tallahassee, FL-- U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno announced he will appoint a special master to assist him in deciding whether Florida is violating a legal settlement to clean up the Everglades. The South Florida Water Management District and the state are bound by a 1991 settlement agreement to reduce fertilizer running off sugar farms into the Everglades. The appointment of the special master was an idea first raised when U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler presided over the case. After overseeing the issue since 1988, Judge Hoeveler was removed from the case earlier this year after lawyers for the sugar industry sought his removal. Appointment of the special master brings a technical expert to aid the federal judge in determining compliance with requirements to reduce the amount of fertilizers that are dumped into the Everglades by the sugar farms.  Read more

  Judge Moreno's Special Master appointment order [1mb pdf file]


Districts seek solutions to water woes
By Bruce Ritchie
© Tallahassee Democrat
Florida needs more water by 2020, and the state's water-management districts say they are helping local utilities find it. The Northwest Florida Water Management District has identified Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties together as the only area facing water-supply problems through 2020. The Floridan Aquifer remains plentiful in the Tallahassee area and will continue to provide water for the city's future growth, said Tyler Macmillan, the district's director of resource planning. Continued use of the aquifer in coastal areas will cause sea water to seep in, so utilities in those counties are planning for new groundwater well fields farther inland. Read more

Former dairy home to native birds
By Pete Gawda
© Okeechobee News
Waste Management, the company that operates the Okeechobee County regional landfill, has made a commitment to protect the environment. Of the 4,300 acres owned by the regional landfill, 2,400 acres are devoted to wetland mitigation. In 1998 they began a wetland mitigation program. There are two areas of emphasis for this program — the Southwest Swamp located east of Berman Road and north of S.R. 70, and the former Posey Dairy, south of S.R. 70. On Wednesday, Pete Wallace, a biologist with Applied Technology & Management, conducted a photo presentation and a tour of the Waste Management property to show off the company’s conservation practices. Read more


Expansion of C.R. 951 into Lee County facing uphill battle
© Naples Daily News
The environmental movement to kill a proposed extension of Collier Boulevard is growing so strong that Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta fears the project will never happen. In recent weeks, environmental groups have fired off letters to federal agencies and officials criticizing the planning process under way to study the road extension, saying it does not take into account enough factors. Routes being considered would take the boulevard, otherwise known as County Road 951, from where it now ends at Immokalee Road to as far north as Alico Road in Lee County. Coletta said no matter what happens, he wants the extension at the very least completed in Collier County and to continue northward up to Bonita Beach Road. Read more

Southern Golden Gate Estates Hydrologic Restoration - The Prairie Canal Project
Project Description: This project includes a combination of spreader channels, canal plugs, road removal and pump stations in the Western Basin and Big Cypress, Collier County, south of I-75 and north of U.S. 41 between the Belle Meade Area and the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve. The purpose of this project is to restore and enhance the wetlands in Golden Gate Estates and in adjacent public lands by reducing over- drainage. Implementation of the restoration plan would also improve the water quality of coastal estuaries by moderating the large salinity fluctuations caused by freshwater point discharge of the Fahka Union Canal. The plan would also aid in protecting the City of Naples? eastern Golden Gate wellfield by improving groundwater recharge. Read more


Growing wood stork population find new Fla. habitats
© Daytona Beach News-Journal

This wood stork flies along the edge of a wooded area near LPGA Boulevard on Tuesday. In the past, these birds rarely took up residence this far north and to date no nesting pairs have been found in this area, but in recent years they have become a much more common sight.
Photo by: David Tucker

Prehistoric may be the word most often used by novice birders describing wood storks, the big white birds with the funny black heads that bob and hover over roadside ditches. "There is a bit of the pterodactyl in them," agrees Mary Jean Rogers, an avid birder with the West Volusia Audubon. The birds are still a new sight for many locals and visitors in North Central Florida. Slowly but surely, however, they are becoming more common, so much so that within a few years, their status on the U.S. Endangered Species list could be moved from endangered to threatened. Read more

The Environment
© Naples Daily News
Runaway growth reigns as protections slip. A story in last Sunday's editions chronicled the experience of Bruce Boler, a federal environmental regulator who impressed public advocates when he came to Southwest Florida in 2001. His assignment: get a grip on growth run amok. He gained a reputation for doing his job quite aggressively and well. He enforced laws written and passed to protect the wildlife that attracted us here and will sustain our water supply. He had the ears and eyes of higher-ups. Then, according to Sunday's enterprise report, the development industry fought back -- even producing new evidence that natural wetlands are polluters and altered systems are superior. Whether he was nudged, pushed or left the Environmental Protection Agency of his own volition is open for debate. First he said he was pushed to find a new job, at Everglades National Park. Now he says he left on his own. Read more

Special districts could shape rural Collier's future
© Naples Daily News
Few people ever venture through the patchwork of farm fields, cypress strands and marsh that stretches across much of eastern Collier County. Those distant reaches are coming into sharper focus, though, as two of the county's largest landowners push the idea of creating two special districts that will play an important part in shaping the way growth comes to thousands of rural acres south of Immokalee. The proposals by Collier Enterprises and Barron Collier Cos. are set for review by county commissioners Tuesday. Before the districts could be created, the state Legislature would have to pass a bill allowing them and Gov. Jeb Bush would have to sign it. That could happen next spring. Read more


Attack on sugar misstates facts
Letter to the Editor By: Robert E. Coker
© Sun-Sentinel
Apparently columnist Stephen Goldstein's computer does not have a "fact check" program. His attack on sugar contains the same lies and innuendos that have been parroted by our critics for years. Check the 2002 Farm Bill. There are no subsidies to sugar farmers. Sugar is one of the few commodity programs designed to operate at "no cost" to the federal government. While critics continue to point to the rare sugar forfeitures in 1999, the government has since sold that sugar at a profit. Check the price of sugar. American consumers have been paying less than $2 for a 5-pound bag of sugar for as long as anyone can remember. That's 30 percent less than consumers in most other developed countries, including those who import foreign, subsidized "dumped" sugar. Read more


Resignation Statement of Bruce Boler
R. Bruce Boler
In 1999, the Estero Bay Agency For Bay Management (ABM) began sending letters to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting the assignment of an EPA representative to Southwest Florida (Lee and Collier counties). The ABM, a private/public partnership formed to protect the Estero Bay watershed, was concerned hundreds of permit applications with impacts to thousands of acres of wetlands were being processed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) each year, even in the midst of an ongoing Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). EPA had no permanent position to assign to this region; however, EPA signed an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) whereby EPA would fund a FWS position that would work for EPA. I was hired to fill this 3 to 4 year position in January 2001. Read more

To help St. Lucie River, postpone lake drawdown
© Palm Beach Post
Oblivious to the harm that high water is causing Lake Okeechobee, deaf to those who want to protect the St. Lucie River, the state is moving forward with plans to lower a Central Florida lake. That water will move south, boost Lake Okeechobee's unseasonably high levels and force the release of more water into the river. Neither the lake nor the river can take such a battering right now. At 16.7 feet, the lake is almost 1 1/2 feet higher than normal for this time of year -- even by the questionable standards the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers have set. More than 17,000 acres of underwater plants, which provide shelter and breeding grounds for game fish, have been lost to high water this year. Critics want the lake lowered to at least 12 feet, so marsh grasses can recover and regenerate. For years, environmentalists have urged the district to let water levels get no higher than 15.5 feet. Read more

Error in sugar letter made 'bad guy' of a 'good guy'
Letter to the Editor By: Kevin Henderson
© Stuart News
We apologize to Friends of the Everglades for an error in our letter published in the News Monday, Oct. 20 ("Sugar is principal 'bad guy' in delay of vital IRL Plan"). The glossy brochure mailed to voters by sugar interests was published and mailed by "Everglades Forever Partnership Inc." We accidentally did exactly what the sugar industry intended: we confused them with a real environmental organization. Read more

Road to ruin: America is killing itself
© Guardian Unlimited

A dead fish lies on salt sediment at the edge of the Salton sea, in southern California, where salinity levels are 25% higher than those of ocean water. Photograph: Damian Dovarganes/AP

On the map of the United States, just below halfway down the east coast, you can see a series of islets, in the shape of a hooked nose. These are the Outer Banks, barrier islands - sun-kissed in summer, storm-tossed in winter - that stretch for 100 miles and more, protecting the main coastline of the state of North Carolina. They are built, quite literally, on shifting sands. Twenty years ago, these were, by all accounts, magical places, hard to reach and discovered only by the adventurous and discerning. They are still fairly magical, at least the seemingly endless stretch of unspoiled beach is. It is the lure of that which causes the traffic jams on the only two bridges every Saturday throughout the summer. Read more

Some Scripps land may go underwater
By Joel Engelhardt and Nirvi Shah, Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
© Palm Beach Post
Half of the nearly 2,000-acre Scripps Research Institute site in northern Palm Beach County could end up as swampland instead of a sprawling biotech business park. The county would still meet its commitment to provide 500 acres to Scripps even if it must set aside much of the site for water storage, County Commission Chairwoman Karen Marcus said Thursday. Marcus said she told Scripps general counsel Douglas Bingham that nearly 1,000 acres might be under water and he had no problem with the concept. "They prefer a natural setting," she said. Read more

Caloosahatchee reservoirs to be built earlier
© The News-Press (Ft. Myers)
Relief for the Caloosahatchee River — ailing from years of excess fresh water from Lake Okeechobee — is getting a jump start. The South Florida Water Management District on Thursday announced a fast-track plan to get three reservoirs built ahead of schedule: one just east of the Lee County line commonly called the Berry Reservoir, one on the St. Lucie River east of Lake Okeechobee and one south of the lake. The reservoirs are to hold excess water that is now flushed down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, damaging valuable estuaries that act like nurseries for the sea. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this month reduced flow of that fresh water after summer-long heavy releases. Read more


Tab to clean Lake O-bound water costly
Robert P. King, Staff Writer
© Palm Beach Post
State taxpayers could spend $1.6 billion during the next 12 years to capture and clean pollution upstream of Lake Okeechobee, water managers estimated Monday. That's the potential cost for a detailed, small-scale pollution cleanup stretching across a 5,400-square-mile region as far north as the Orlando suburbs. It includes the expense of digging retention ponds, carving swales and installing drainage filters to treat runoff from dairies, ranches, cities and neighborhoods. And that's on top of the $8.4 billion the state and federal governments already plan to spend restoring the Everglades. That project includes an estimated $456 million for huge reservoirs, treatment marshes and other steps to lessen the lake's pollution. Read more

Actions and policies discredit U.N.
© Hampshire Gazette, MA
United Nations Day, which marks the founding of the internationalist organization, is celebrated Oct. 24. Composed of 191 member states, the United Nations was established after World War II in 1945 with the goal of maintaining ''international peace and security.'' The institution is also famous for championing ''universal respect for and observance of human rights.'' Fifty-eight years later, however, it's mostly save-the-planet globalists and members of the Big Media who buy the spin. Merely looking at the United Nations flag, which flies in front of the Amherst Town Hall, causes my conservative friends to blow a gasket. To them, that light-blue banner symbolizes a cabal of unethical anti-American elites . They're hardly alone in drawing that conclusion. Read more

Hialeah gets county approval to expand
© Miami Herald
It's a boundary change, to be sure, but for Hialeah, a city long known as a hodgepodge of zoning irregularities, it is something much larger: A clean slate. Hialeah on Tuesday took control of nearly four square miles of undeveloped land in far northwestern Miami-Dade -- an area the city says will become an upscale suburban enclave. At least several thousand homes are likely to be built there in the coming years. Hialeah officials hope a well-planned development will attract the young professionals currently flocking to Southwest Broward cities such as Pembroke Pines. In some cases, those professionals left Hialeah, citing reasons such as the city's densely packed neighborhoods and traffic congestion. Read more


Lake plan meeting slated
By Pete Gawda
© Okeechobee news
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has spent a lot of time this year working on the Lake Okeechobee Protection Plan (LOPP), which is scheduled to cleanup a 54,000-square-mile area of Central Florida. The area covered by this plan extends south from Orlando and includes all areas where water flows into Lake Okeechobee. The plan is currently estimated to cost $16.1 billion, and has been refined by several public meetings. One more public meeting is scheduled for Nov. 4 in Clewiston. Then, the plan will go before SFWMD's governing board in December. By that time Dr. Susan Gray of SFWMD predicts the cost should be reduced. In January the plan will be presented to the state legislature. Read more

Biologist leaves EPA position for ’Glades
© The News-Press (Ft. Myers)
Southwest Florida lost a federal environmental watchdog less than three years after the EPA hired him to look after wetlands permitting here. Environmental Protection Agency officials say ecologist and biologist R. Bruce Boler left voluntarily, taking a more secure job with Everglades National Park. But others say he was forced out. Boler recommended that many of the permit applications involving wetlands impacts be denied. “Developers were upset with EPA and complained vehemently to the state and the COE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) that we did not have the authority to raise these objections,” Boler wrote in a letter provided by Ann Hauck, an environmentalist and friend of Boler. Read more

Purchase clears way for project
© The News-Press (Ft. Myers)
The state of Florida and Gov. Jeb Bush deserved to be taking bows recently at groundbreaking ceremonies for an Everglades restoration project in southern Collier County. The state accelerated the purchase of Southern Golden Gate Estates, a huge, largely empty subdivision conjured up out of the swamp 40 years ago in the fashion of several other huge communities in Southwest Florida. This purchase gets almost all of the nearly 94 square miles into public ownership in time to make the project the first part of the $8 billion Everglades restoration to get officially under way. Read more

It had to happen
© Naples Daily News
Finally the seemingly inevitable has occurred as the Collier County Commission capitulated to political pressure from the state of Florida and gave away 300 miles of its citizens' roads. I'm sure each commissioner had some sound reason to vote as he or she did. I would like to commend Jim Coletta for his courage and fortitude that enabled him to vote "no" to this. This man is truly a leader who doesn't allow others to intimidate him or those he represents. Commissioner Tom Henning also deserves support and thanks for at least expressing his displeasure at the way the county's citizens have been abused by the "little big brother" and members of the Florida Cabinet in Tallahassee Read more


Keep water in public hands
Letter to the Editor By: M. Estelle Spike, Weston
© Sun-Sentinel
With respect to the privatization of water in Florida, first I strongly believe that water is a public resource and only the public has the right to decide how the water should be managed. Decisions regarding public water should not be made by appointed boards and businessmen behind closed doors. Typically, scheming businessmen are free to glean huge profits, free from any responsibility to the public, at the expense of all and especially the poor. Atlanta, for example, recently ended its failed water-privatizaton deal. Read more

Toxic dilemma [Studies show that restoration of marshes and other wetlands can intensify problems with mercury]
By Stuart Leavenworth, Bee Staff Writer
© Sacramento Bee
An ambitious plan to restore wetlands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is getting bogged down in a toxic swamp: Scientists say new wetlands could seriously worsen mercury contamination in the Delta and San Francisco Bay, endangering thousands of people who eat fish from those waters. Since 1996, a consortium of state and federal agencies called Cal-Fed has spent more than $50 million buying up farmland in the Delta. It's the first step in a restoration scheme that ultimately could convert more than 140 square miles of farmland back into wetlands and wildlife habitat. But according to more than a dozen scientists interviewed by The Bee, state and federal officials acted hastily in purchasing some of that land. Eager to get on with the job of restoration, Cal-Fed officials overlooked studies showing that marshes and other wetlands can intensify problems with mercury, a potent neurotoxin that can cause brain damage. Read more

Sugar is principal 'bad guy' in delay of vital IRL Plan
Letter to the Editor By: F.D. Bud Jordan
© Stuart News
The recent letter to the News from U.S. Sugar Vice President Robert Coker attacking local river advocates in general and Nat Reed in particular is typical of the duplicitous tactics used by the sugar industry. We trust readers are not so gullible. The sugar industry secretly attacked the Indian River Lagoon Restoration Plan last November, months after public comment was closed. Edward Dickey, a former high-ranking Army Corps employee-turned-Sugar-lobbyist, hand-delivered a letter critical of the IRL Plan to the secretary of the Army. A couple of valid criticisms in that letter, which could have been brought forward and addressed easily at any time, were embedded within speculative and erroneous statements that could not withstand the light of day. Read more

Flesh-Eating Infection Strikes Fishermen, Surfer In Volusia
© Local 6 News
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Several fishermen and at least one surfer in Volusia County, Fla., have reportedly contracted a mysterious infection that eats at their flesh, according to a Local 6 News report. Doctor Jeff Parks, an Ormond Beach dermatologist, said he has treated eight patients, including two who were hospitalized, in the last two months with the painful and contagious crater-like lesions. Parks says the disease has been found in patients who had been in the ocean. Bacterial infections are common among commercial fishermen and others who handle fish. Read more

Williamson Cattle Co. to be honored by FDACS
© Okeechobee News
Williamson Cattle Company of Okeechobee will be honored for its environmental practices Friday by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, according to a press release from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). "The Ag-Environmental Leadership Award program spotlights the environmentally innovative farming practices of our state's growers and ranchers," Commissioner Bronson said. The 2003 Commissioner's Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Awards will be presented at the Florida Farm Bureau Federation's 62nd Annual meeting in Daytona Beach on Friday, Oct. 24, according to the FDACS press release. Read more

Lake Trafford restoration project remains stalled in the slow lane
© Naples Daily News

From left: Jan and Tony Lewis, visiting from England; and Sey Nelson from El Paso, Texas, slowly pass an alligator as they return to dock at the Lake Trafford Marina in a boat piloted by Gator Benedict from Airboats & Alligators on Friday morning. The South Florida Water Management District has scaled back plans to restore Lake Trafford as part of the Everglades restoration project. The idea now is to dredge only muck out of the lake, not a lower layer of clay that would have been taken out under the original plan. David Ahntholz/Staff

In 1997, lovers of Lake Trafford were riding high, but their joy has turned to disappointment. Back then, in the wake of a devastating fish kill, a restoration project to dredge muck from the bottom of the favorite fishing spot west of Immokalee was moving up a list of South Florida projects in line for a share of $75 million in federal dollars. Now, as the restoration has bogged down, other projects have beaten Lake Trafford to the pot of federal money lake boosters were counting on to pay for half of what was estimated to be a $17 million project. Read more


EPA water quality expert for Lee, Collier loses his job
By CHAD GILLIS                      
© Naples Daily News

In 2001, amid growing worries that development was destroying too much of Southwest Florida's vital wetlands, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency brought in Bruce Boler and gave him the task of safeguarding the area's water quality. While other EPA scientists review entire states, Boler was assigned to scrutinize wetlands permits in just two fast-growing counties -- Lee and Collier. His job was to enforce the federal Clean Water Act and ensure that developments were not polluting protected waterways. Less than three years later, Boler has lost his job. His last day with the EPA was Friday. Boler, who is now working at Everglades National Park, said he was forced out of his position as the federal government's top wetlands scientist for this region. His bosses in Atlanta, however, say he left on his own accord. Read more

Lake O's water level root of conflict
By Suzanne Wentley           
© Stuart News
Local elected officials and activists said water managers must improve their balancing of different needs. For St. Lucie River advocates, the bad news just keeps coming: •"Pulse-style" releases are predicted to continue flowing into the St. Lucie Estuary for the next four to six months. •A Central Florida lake restoration project that could add seven inches to Lake Okeechobee is scheduled to begin in two weeks. •With the rainy season at an end, Lake Okeechobee is high — dangerously high for life in and around it. Verging on livid, St. Lucie Estuary advocates are finished shaking their heads. Instead, local elected officials and activists said water managers must improve the way they balance the different areas and needs throughout the state. Read more

Water plan looks leaky
© Palm Beach Post
Lawmakers took the Florida Council of 100's plan to create a statewide water authority out for a test drive last week -- and found that the customers don't like it. At a Senate Natural Resources Committee meeting in Boca Raton, speakers vehemently opposed the council's proposal for changing Florida's three-decades-old policy on allocating water. The Council of 100, made up of business and development executives, wants the state board to oversee Florida's five water management districts. This governor-appointed commission would study the idea of moving water from "water-rich" to "water-poor" counties, a plan Gov. Bush first proposed during his unsuccessful 1994 campaign for governor. The council also wants private industries to become part of a water market. Read more



Keep water in public hands
By Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
© Palm Beach Post
For Palm Beach County's citrus growers, development of their land isn't a matter of if, but when. The planned transformation of Mecca Farms' north county grove into a biomedical research park is one more step in the decline and the eventual end of the county's commercial citrus business. On Wednesday, Scripps Research Institute President Richard Lerner said Mecca's 1,920-acre grove is the site the La Jolla, Calif.-based research center has chosen for its expansion into South Florida. The county is buying the property for $57.6 million -- $30,000 an acre. Palm Beach County's commercial citrus acreage has declined from its 17,566-acre peak in 1970 to 7,964 acres of fruit-producing groves in 2002, according to the Florida Agricultural Statistics Service in Orlando. Read more


Dealing with water disputes
© St. Petersburg Times
The owners of Crystal Springs, which feeds the Hillsborough River, have struck a deal with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, allowing the bottling of as much as 756,000 gallons of water a day in return for cutting back on irrigation at their nearby Two Rivers Ranch. Testing and monitoring will continue for the six years of the deal, and during droughts a certain minimum of water must be kept flowing into the river. A deal is certainly more in the public interest than the acrimonious and hugely costly litigation that has been the Tampa Bay region's way of dealing with water disputes. Crystal Springs is only one of many unused or underused agricultural pumping permits, and the underlying truth remains: Water controls development, and development means huge wealth to landowners. It is no exaggeration to say that control of water means control of the future shape of Tampa Bay's communities. Read more


Everglades restoration project starts today
© Miami Herald
Everglades restoration -- the part that involves the physical moving of dirt -- officially starts today with work to restore 55,000 acres of a long-defunct development outside Naples called Southern Golden Gate Estates. Gov. Jeb Bush will take part in a groundbreaking for the first of 68 projects planned as part of the $8 billion state-federal restoration effort that will span several decades. In this first project, canals will be filled and roads will be removed to revive wetlands and restore the natural flow of water to the Ten Thousand Islands at the western edge of Everglades National Park. Read more

Everglades work wins lawyer a 'Sammie'
By Reid R. Frazier
© TRIBUNE-REVIEW - Pittsburgh, PA
Army lawyers usually aren't associated with preserving wildlife habitats or restoring millions of acres of wetlands, but Earl Stockdale, an O'Hara native, was honored Wednesday for doing just that. Although drafting legislation, writing regulations and deciphering a steady stream of complicated litigation is far from glamorous work, Stockdale, the deputy general counsel for the Army for civil works and environment, was one of nine public servants honored yesterday at the annual Service to America Awards ceremony, or Sammies. The ceremony was at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Read more

Donna Taylor: Florida Wildlife Federation's 2003 Conservation Educator of the Year
© Palm Beach Post
Each year students in Donna Taylor’s class at Okeeheelee Middle School in Palm Beach County select a project that will benefit their community’s environment. In 2002-2003, Donna Taylor’s students decided to create a wetland on the edge of a retention pond in Green Acres Freedom Park, a city park neighboring their school. When they saw trees being cleared across the street from their school for a county park, they realized that homes, food and shelter were needed for the wildlife being displaced by such projects. Creating a wetland was no small undertaking, but Donna felt it was important for her students to recognize the vital role wetlands play in our ecosystems. A proposal was written and experts were consulted for development of a design plan. Students solicited over $4,000 in in-kind donations, including native plants. After completion of 1,811 community service hours and a tremendous amount of work by Donna, her students and other volunteers, the wetland development was completed. N/A Online.

Garbage men, like teachers, earn every penny they make
Letter to the Editor By: Tania Olsen
© Stuart News
I am writing in response to the letter that was published Oct. 3, "St. Lucie waste hauler makes more than a teacher." While I agree most definitely that most of the time our teachers are underpaid, I also believe they're not appreciated nearly enough. They work hard. The statement that was made about teachers holding the future of our nation in their hands is also fair. Going to school, taking the time and effort to educate themselves, is something that should be commended not only through better pay, but also with more parents being involved to make their life just a little easier. Now I am speaking as the wife of a "trash man." I have watched my husband for the last 10 years wake at 4 a.m., leaving by 4:30, and not returning home many times until after 6 p.m. This is six days a week, not five. When he returns home he is most of the time physically and mentally beat. Read more

30-year Everglades restoration begins
© NBC2 News - WBBH-TV, Fort Myers, FL
GOLDEN GATE ESTATES, October 16, 2003 — The long-anticipated Everglades restoration project broke ground Thursday. Governor Jeb Bush was in town to kick off the $8 billion job, billed as the biggest environmental restoration project in world history. It's a day many people, both for and against the project, have been waiting for. Some say it's a necessary project that will provide for people generations to come – but others are being forced from their homes to make way. The goal is to restore the natural flow of water to a large portion of the Everglades. The first phase of the project got underway in Golden Gate Estates, east of Naples, in Collier County, when 55,000 acres will be returned to the "River of Grass." Read more


Water-use plan faces opposition
© Miami Herald
The problem isn't too little water, it's too many people. That was one of the big messages delivered Tuesday as state lawmakers sought public reaction to a plan from a powerful business group that sees the solution to South Florida's water worries in the deep underground reserves of the rural north. ''We can talk about water supply, water quality, conservation until the cows come home,'' said Elisabeth Falcone, a teacher at Wilton Manors Elementary School. ``The bottom line is: too many people.'' The hearing at Florida Atlantic University's campus in Boca Raton drew more than 75 people, including many from environmental groups who branded the plan a blueprint for unchecked growth. Read more

USGS to put center on NSU Davie campus
© South Florida Business Journal
Three Florida universities - two of which are based in South Florida - said the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has tentatively selected them to host a portion of the Florida Interdisciplinary Science Center (FISC). While the schools said the selection process will be validated after final details are agreed upon during the next few weeks, Nova Southeastern University (NSU), the University of Florida (UF) and Florida Atlantic University (FAU) said they would put the Florida Interdisciplinary Science Center (FISC) on NSU's Davie campus. The center, the schools added, will be a key contributor to the $8.5 billion Everglades Restoration Project, the largest public works project in the United States. Read more

Wildlife federation’s pressure welcome
© The News-Press (Ft. Myers)
The Florida Wildlife Federation has added a welcome voice to those calling for a re-thinking of the water management strategy that has inundated the Caloosahatchee River estuary with fresh water in this and recent years. The excess water disrupts conditions in the river and the estuary, a nursery for marine life. For too long, the Caloosahatchee River and the St. Lucie River on the east coast have been used as dumping grounds for excess fresh water in the summer. This year’s heavy rains in the Kissimmee River-Lake Okeechobee system no doubt require heavier-than-normal releases by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But people linked to the health of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries need to know that the pain is being shared fairly. Martin County on the east coast is considering legal action. If the issue goes to court, Lee County needs to be involved, too. Read more

Sewage spill mishandled
© Palm Beach Post
In Florida, sewage treatment facilities and water plants -- utilities that have the potential to pollute -- are supposed to regulate themselves. Utility officials inspect their own plants, test water and wastewater, monitor and report breakdowns and pollution spills to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. This self-regulation is cheap, but it isn't always effective, as a 192,000-gallon spill of raw sewage proved last week in Port St. Lucie. This spill, from a faulty utility pump on the city's south side that neighborhood residents call "Old Stinky," may have been leaking for as long as two days before the trouble was discovered Thursday evening. The spill, at a lift station at Melaleuca Boulevard and Camden Street, flowed into a residential area and a drainage canal east of U.S. 1 that empties into Howard Creek and the St. Lucie River's North Fork. Read mor

Farm workers' continued plight
© St. Petersburg Times
They work day after day in the withering Florida sun to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to America's table. Their thanks is benign neglect at best and exploitation at worst. The plight of Florida's farm workers has never really captured the concern of politicians. If it had, growers would no longer be allowed to charge farm workers absurdly high rents to stay in squalid company-owned trailers or shacks, and they wouldn't still be paying tomato pickers 40 cents for every 32-pound bucket - the same rate as 30 years ago. So it comes as no surprise that the bulk of a fund set up by the Florida Legislature to provide for the retraining of farm workers displaced when the farms around Lake Apopka were closed never got to its intended target. Read more


Water district touts `largest' filter marsh
By Neil Santaniello, Staff Writer
© Sun-Sentinel
To some critics, the largest piece of the state's man-made water filter for the Everglades is well behind schedule and a sign of serious glitches in the effort to curb pollution fouling South Florida's famous wetlands. But Gary Goforth, a chief consulting engineer on the project, looks at the 16,500-acre stormwater treatment area taking shape in far western Palm Beach County and paints a picture of success. The filter marsh is being built by the South Florida Water Management District to draw phosphorus out of farm water from the Everglades Agricultural Area and other sources. The $168.6 million marsh, on the west side of U.S. 27 just north of Broward County, is in hinterlands blanketed by thick fields of sugar cane and Everglades saw grass. It will become the world's largest filter marsh, a title now held by the water district's 6,670-acre treatment area west of Wellington. Read more

Water plan splits state in two
© Miami Herald
An influential business group is suggesting one way to quench South Florida's thirst for water: allow the booming region to siphon water from the resource-rich rural North. The proposal by the Florida Council of 100, which advises Gov. Jeb Bush, has touched off a political firestorm as the group strives to persuade state officials to focus on what it calls the state's ''crisis-driven'' water system -- or face a spate of water shortages. But the report has alarmed environmentalists, who charge it will fuel unchecked development, and incensed northern lawmakers, who fear populous South Florida will tap streams and aquifers in the water-rich north until they're dry. Read more

Sugar harvest begins
By Susan Salisbury
© Palm Beach Post
Florida's sugar cane harvest is scheduled to begin today, and by April, the state's growers could bring in a record 2.135 million tons of sugar. That's the U.S. Department of Agriculture's projection as the season begins. Sugar cane is grown on 441,000 acres in Palm Beach, Martin, Hendry and Glades counties, with the bulk of the production in western Palm Beach County. In the 2002-03 season, Florida produced 2.127 million tons of sugar. The biggest crop was in 1998-99, with 2.132 million tons, according to the USDA. Read more


Lee explores idea of diverting lake water to leased agriculture fields
By Chad Gillis
© Naples Daily News
The continuing battle over water flow problems from Lake Okeechobee releases has taken a new twist lately after a Lee County official proposed the idea of leasing out agriculture fields in rural areas and flooding them during the wet season. Wayne Daltry, director of Lee County Smart Growth, recently suggested that Everglades restoration funds tabbed for the U.S. Department of Agriculture be used to lease thousands of acres near the lake. The idea is to divert water that now flows down the Caloosahatchee River in large volumes during summer months to nearby farming fields that were drained decades ago. By using the fields to store excess water that comes from the lake, estuaries as far away as Estero Bay would be spared the brunt of the freshwater flows. Estuaries need a brackish mixture to thrive. Offsetting that balance often destroys sea grass beds, which are the feeding and nursery grounds for various marine species.  Read more

Local Everglades pilot project nears start
By Libby Wells        
© Palm Beach Post
Amid all the bad news about the decline in water quality in the St. Lucie and Indian rivers, there is something good about to happen: Ten Mile Creek, a small Everglades restoration pilot project, is just a few weeks from the start of construction. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month awarded a $25.5 million contract to Atlantic Skanska Inc. of Atlanta. Groundbreaking on the 13-month job is scheduled for early November. Construction was supposed to begin last fall, but the last-minute discovery of ancient Indian artifacts at the site put a kink in the schedule. "I'm thrilled this is going forward," said project supervisor Denise Arrieta of the South Florida Water Management District, the corps' partner. "It gives us a good chance to work out any bugs and apply them to the big picture." Read more

Panel nixes drawdown
By Pete Gawda
© Okeechobee News
Members of the County Coalition for Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee and St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and Lake Worth Lagoon once again passed a resolution urging postponement of the drawdown of Lake Tohopekaliga. Membership in the coalition is made up of county commissioners from Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Martin, Lee, Palm Beach, Hendry, Glades, Highlands and Osceola counties. As he did at last month's meeting, Osceola County Commissioner Chuck Dunnick again cast the lone dissenting vote at Monday morning's meeting at the Okeechobee County Courthouse. Read more


This State Doesn't Need An Authoritarian Water Board
© Tampa Tribune
The Florida Council of 100 wants Gov. Jeb Bush and the Legislature to create a water board that would determine water policies throughout the state. The council's influential business leaders, who are also major campaign contributors, command attention. You can be sure legislation will be offered to pursue its proposed water policies. The council's stated goal is to ensure an adequate water supply for future growth. It recommends developing a statewide water supply strategy that would include developing new sources and diverting water from rural counties to urban areas.  Read more

Everglades expert
Ted Levine has spent more than 40 years visiting, studying and writing about the Everglades. He remains optimistic that damage to the River of Grass can be reversed.
By Mark Marymont
© The News-Press (Ft. Myers)
Ted Levin discovered the Everglades when he was in the first grade. Now 54, he’s turned that interest into a wide-ranging look at the vast swamp in “Liquid Land: A Journey Through The Florida Everglades.” Published by the University of Georgia Press, the book deals with damage to the unique body of slowly drifting water that has been reduced from a 14,000-square-mile expanse to half that size. Drawing on his wandering and exploring the Everglades as both a student and teacher, Levin deals with the sometimes contentious efforts to clean up the Everglades in a $8.4 billion reclamation project. “My mom and dad lived on Long Island and we used to vacation in Miami and they would always take me to the Everglades for a day or two,” says Levin from his home in Thetford, Vt. “It was quite a contrast to Miami and different from anything I had ever seen.”  Read more

Deep Trouble: Profiles on the Gulf
© Naples Daily News
Frankie Broz Location: Lillian, Alabama Gulf connection: Marina manager, Miss Kitty's Marina Fast fact: Sees water quality improving, oysters returning around local bays. n "There's a lot of people in Florida that don't want International Paper (industrial plant) and don't want oil rigs in the Gulf. But I don't see one of them that don't use gas to drive their cars and don't use toilet paper ... Big business has got to be here. I'm all for the environment. But all you got to do is smack their (IP's) hands." Read more


Water district's job may just be too huge to be done effectively
Letter to the Editor by David Reiner, President of the Friends of the Everglades, Miami
© Palm Beach Post
After years of watching it struggle with management and environmental issues, including the repeated destruction of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, I have concluded that the South Florida Water Management District may simply be doing the best it can. Overseeing such a large area with such diverse competing interests obviously is taking its toll. The
district, in spite of a brave effort to project an agency undergoing dynamic change, leading legal battles to optimize the use of public resources in the midst of the "greatest environmental restoration project in the history of the world," is simply struggling for direction, while hemorrhaging talent and expertise ("Water managers' operations chief going," Sept. 23) and seeking dialogue with its critics only through litigation.  Read more

Biggest orange crop ever
By Susan Salisbury
© Palm Beach Post
Florida's upcoming orange crop will be the biggest in state history, agricultural statisticians said Friday in their first forecast of the season. The predicted record-breaking haul of 252 million 90-pound boxes, the result of abundant and well-timed rains, might sound like good news, but growers said they watched and worried as prices fell for oranges sold for juice processing. The estimate from the Florida Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, would be 24 percent above last season's total of 203 million boxes. The current record is held by the 1997-98 orange crop, at 244 million boxes. This year, trees are laden with 28 percent more fruit per tree than last year, reflecting a heavy bloom period and excellent weather, the forecast said.  Read more

Experts Look Into Solving Irrigation Issue
By Yvette C. Hammett
© Tampa Tribune
BALM - Even before the official groundbreaking for an agricultural research center here, the University of Florida is using a fragment of its 450-acre tract off Balm Road for important water conservation research. Within three years, Sudeep Vyapari, a professor of environmental horticulture at UF's Plant City satellite campus, will know how much water
it takes to establish new landscaping.
With water regulations growing ever tighter in Florida as the population continues to expand, growers, landscapers and others dependent on water
for their businesses need to know the answer.
And so do the state's water managers, who are forking over about $800,000 to fund the research. ``We need this to determine what the real bottom line is,'' said Michael Molligan, a spokesman for the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud. ``We also need it to educate the public on the best and
most efficient ways to irrigate.''  Read more

Deep Trouble: Saving the Glades
© Naples Daily News
Eight billion dollars. Spending a dollar every second, 250 years would go by before you spent $8 billion. But Everglades restorers will hand out that much money over the next 30 years on 50-some projects to keep this unique and stunningly diverse wilderness from slipping away. The Everglades is dying, but it isn't dead. The ecosystem begins at the headwaters of the Kissimmee River, traverses South Florida and takes in Florida Bay and the Keys. Read more

Deep Trouble: What exactly is Everglades restoration?
© Naples Daily News
At $8.4 billion and rising, the 30-year plan to restore the Everglades is the country's costliest environmental cleanup project ever. Annual operating and maintenance costs alone are estimated at $172 million. The price tag for the effort, a 50-50 partnership between federal and state governments, increases daily because of project delays, inflation and spiraling land prices in South Florida. Thirty of the projects outlined below have yet to win Congressional approval, making them subject to future changes in the political landscape. With just a few exceptions, cost estimates are in 1999 dollars and represent the most recent figures available, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is handling the federal portion of the restoration effort. Read more

Deep Trouble: Carving a community
© Naples Daily News
MIAMI — Out on the western fringes of this teeming South Florida megalopolis, where strawberry fields and cattle ranches still outnumber cookie-cutter subdivisions, where paved roads are as rare as car-sized potholes are common, a group of displaced Cuban campesinos gathered on a gloomy spring afternoon to celebrate. Decked out in crisply starched blue jeans covered by leather chaps, boot spurs gleaming and white cowboy hats pointing skyward, the working-class men of a community once known as East Everglades gathered to sing, eat, drink and dance at El Festival de Maiz — the annual Corn Festival, a celebration of the spring crops. Read more


Miccosukee Tribe Stands Its Ground In Everglades Case
Motion asks Court to appoint special master and provide aggressive judicial oversight
Press Release
For More Information, Contact
Dexter Lehtinen 305-279-3353
Today the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, whose members have lived in the Everglades for generations, stood its ground in its long struggle to protect its  homeland from pollution.  The Tribe  renewed its request for a special master in a motion filed today in federal court before Judge Moreno, who was recently assigned to the1988 landmark Everglades case (Case No.
88-1886-CIV-MORENO). The Tribe has a special status in the case that the United States
brought against the state to stop pollution of the Everglades.  It can seek enforcement of the Settlement Agreement and Consent Decree entered in the case in 1992. The Tribe told the Judge in its motion that the current political realignment makes it more important than ever that the federal court oversee the Consent Decree deadlines, so that the Tribal Everglades will be protected. According to Dexter Lehtinen, the former U.S. Attorney who filed the
original 1988 lawsuit and  now represents the Miccosukee Tribe, " The Tribe has shown in its motion, that there are direct violations of the Consent Decree as it stands today.  The Tribe hopes the Judge will take notice and provide aggressive judicial oversight. It is concerned that the current political realignment might cause the federal and state entities to attempt to use
the Miccosukee Tribal Everglades as a dumping ground for pollution to serve their narrow
interests." In its motion for a special master, the Tribe highlights the complexity of the issues and calls the Court's attention to conditions that violate, or threaten imminent violation, of the Consent Decree.  These include: a failure to meet the phosphorous load reduction to the Everglades; water quality violations in Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge; and the failure to meet the October 2003 deadline for STA 3/4.  The motion also contends that the 2003
Everglades Forever Act (EFA) and the state's Phosphorous Rule and Long Term Plan conflict with the Consent Decree.  It refers to the Technical Oversight Committee (TOC), as the "United Nations of the Everglades," claiming it has become ineffective in light of changing political realities. Additionally, the motion contends that disingenuous assertions that "everything is fine" are deliberately designed to avoid the task of determining causes and seeking solutions, and claims this is an appropriate area for a special master to aid the Court. Says Lehtinen, "The Tribe's motion asks the Court to take judicial notice that it is not in the interests of either the United States, or the State parties, to admit that the Consent Decree is not being met, especially if the negative consequences of such failures are visited primarily upon Miccosukee Tribe and its lands.  Its asks the Court to recognize the unique role and interests of the Miccosukee Tribe in this case and to ensure compliance with the
Consent Decree deadlines to protect its Everglades homeland from pollution."

Florida Donates Land For Expansion Of Everglades National Park
State partners with National Park Service to increase protection for national treasure
Press Release
© Department of Environmental Protection
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK - In another milestone for restoration of America’s Everglades, Florida today donated the last parcel of state-owned property needed to complete the massive expansion of Everglades National Park launched by President George H. W. Bush in 1989. A total of 42,000 acres of state land was donated to the federal government to accomplish plans to grow the park by 109,000 acres - a move necessary to restore the natural flow, habitat and wildlife of the famed River of Grass. “More than fifty years ago, Florida donated land to the federal government to create the Everglades National Park,” said Governor Jeb Bush. “More than 1 million acres later, Florida’s commitment to the restoration and protection of this natural treasure remains steadfast.” In 1946, Florida invested $2 million to acquire privately-owned land in the Everglades. The following year, President Harry S Truman established Everglades National Park on 460,000 acres of land donated by Florida, including a donation by the State Federation of Women’s Clubs of the
nearly 3700-acre Royal Palm State Park.  Read more

Public lacks a partner
© Palm Beach Post
If someone wanted to drag out the Everglades cleanup, you'd suspect that he's a polluter or someone who is paying for the cleanup. But if the Everglades Forever Partnership advocates a law by using glossy pictures of wading birds, you might think it has the Everglades' best interest at heart. In fact, the partnership was sugar growers pressuring lawmakers to add 10 years to the cleanup deadline. How much sugar, and whoever else, stirred the "partnership" money pot forever shall remain a mystery to voters. And lobbies aren't the only interests with more angles than a Stealth fighter. Floridians for a Brighter Future -- who can be against that? -- is state Sen. Ken Pruitt, R-Port St. Lucie. He has raised more than $600,000, The St. Petersburg Times counted, from various interests, including $50,000 from the Florida
Academy of Trial Lawyers, which was fighting a cap on malpractice awards at the time.  Read more

Why not turn canal into St. Lucie filter marsh?
Letter to the Editor By Val Martin
© Palm Beach Post
With the budget deficit approaching a half-trillion dollars, Congress is going to be hard-pressed to appropriate money (despite earlier commitments to do so) to public works projects across South Florida. Taking on new, unproven schemes such as the proposed above-ground, deep-water reservoirs where none ever has existed naturally and whose purpose is not entirely clear -- water for people, agriculture or the environment? -- may not be
where Congress wishes to embarrass itself in the public eye during tough times.
If there is any money for South Florida water projects, what better place to invest in the long-term environment than in converting the St. Lucie Canal from a Central Florida sewer outfall ditch to a 25-mile-long, flow-through filtration marsh and linear public park, with a narrow, serpentine, small-craft channel employing the lock system as the only regulated spillway to mimic historic stormwater runoff?  Read more

State adds 329 acres to Everglades park
By Robert P. King
© Palm Beach Post
With one final gift, the state is helping the federal government come close to finishing a 14-year effort to expand Everglades National Park. In a ceremony today, state officials will turn over the deed to 329 acres of marsh, a Manalapan-size territory scattered throughout the park's northeast corner. That will be the final piece of 42,000 acres the state has donated for the park's expansion since 1989. To finish the job, the park still must finish buying 300 privately owned acres that include radio towers, three airboat tour operators and two holdout residents' homes. The expansion, totaling 109,000 acres just south of Tamiami Trail, is
meant to help the 1.5 million-acre park replenish the Shark River Slough and other vital areas of the marsh.
It also will allow the park to improve enforcement of laws against trespassing and poaching, park spokesman Rick Cook said Thursday.  Read more

Top leadership in Everglades effort
Letter to the Editor by Sharon Arnold, WERC coordinator
© The News-Press (Ft. Myers)
This is written on behalf of the members of the Water Enhancement & Restoration Coalition, an organization formed to improve the water quality of Southwest Florida, to thank the South Florida Water Management District for its efforts in restoring the Everglades. As a result of its hard work, the 55,000 acres of South Golden Gate Estates are ready for an early return to the fabled “River of Grass.” WERC is grateful for the leadership of Henry Dean, the district’s
executive director, Trudi K. Williams and her fellow members on the SFWMD governing board. They are to be commended for their guidance and tenacity in working with all regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Department of the Interior, Florida Division of Forestry, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, environmental groups and the public to ensure that the first phase of this monumental effort becomes a reality.  Read more

Deep Trouble:  The Gulf In Peril
© Naples News
The Gulf of Mexico is a major drawing card in Southwest Florida, just as it is in five states. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the Gulf the dirtiest coastal body of water in America. Just how bad off is the Gulf of Mexico? What are the environmental problems confronting the Gulf Coast? And what can be done about it? During the past 15 months, a team of Daily News reporters and photojournalists has researched the issues in the five Gulf-rim states and Mexico. The findings were compiled in this 15-day series.  Read more

Let nothing divide us on overall goals of CERP
Letter to the Editor By: Nathaniel P. Reed
© Stuart News
Thirty years ago, Florida politics was dominated by a group of very powerful men who literally "ran" Florida! They met and decided which candidates for the Legislature would be supported and which bills would be passed. They played the "political game" — the insider's game — with a toughness and precision that is now an interesting historical footnote. Only the proven vast power of the subsidized sugar-industry barons comes close to the closed set of "Florida bosses" who managed Florida in the era of the 1950s to 1970s. The most powerful member of the clique was Ed Ball, the old curmudgeon who ran the St. Joe Company — Florida's largest landowner — the Florida East Coast Railroad, Talisman Sugar Company, and hundreds of additional investments statewide. His most famous advice to his partners was "confusion to the enemy!" Read more


Sea of voices urge no water rerouting
At a public hearing on the Council of 100's report, a lone supporter from Pinellas is heard.
By Craig Pittman
© St. Petersburg Times
LAKELAND - Farmers, politicians and utility executives turned out Wednesday to argue against several proposed changes in the way Florida's water supply is divvied up. In the first of five public hearings, about 100 people crowded into Lakeland City Hall to tell five state senators what they thought about a report recently unveiled by the Council of 100, a group of business leaders who advise Gov. Jeb Bush. The senators conducting the hearing, chaired by Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, seemed sympathetic to the crowd's complaints. Lawson called the Council of 100 "out of touch." Sen. Nancy Argenziano, R-Dunnellon, said the Council of 100 report reads like a bid by developers to feed growth at all costs.  Read more

Reservoir will get 961-acre buffer
By Robert P. King
© Palm Beach Post
KEY LARGO -- Water managers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay a total of $2.8 million to add 961 acres to a planned reservoir centered on the Allapattah Ranch in Martin County. The board of the South Florida Water Management District voted 9-0
Wednesday to buy the tract just north of the ranch, which it intends to use to store water, replenish marshes and cleanse the Indian River Lagoon as part of the $8.4 billion Everglades restoration.
The purchase price is 23 percent above the district's appraised value for the 961-acre tract, owned by Steele's Properties Inc. But district managers called it a bargain compared with what it would cost to condemn the land, saying juries in some recent cases have awarded payments of more than double their offering price.  Read more

Postcard push demands end to Lake O releases
By Robert P. King
© Palm Beach Post
KEY LARGO -- The stack of postcards stood a foot high, bearing more than 1,200 signatures and one simple message: "Attention Water Managers -- Stop Polluting Our River!" Board members of the South Florida Water Management District said Wednesday they've gotten the message. But it still was unclear when they will stop dumping water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River, which has devastated oysters and sea grasses while outraging residents on the Treasure Coast. The heavy-volume, around-the-clock discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries will taper off this week, but nutrient-laden water will continue to flow into both rivers.  Read more

Deep Trouble: The Gulf in Peril
© Naples Daily News
The Gulf of Mexico is a major drawing card in Southwest Florida, just as it is in five states. Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency called the Gulf the dirtiest coastal body of water in America. Just how bad off is the Gulf of Mexico? What are the environmental problems confronting the Gulf Coast? And what can be done about it? During the past 15 months, a team of Daily News reporters and photojournalists has researched the issues in the five Gulf-rim states and Mexico. The findings were compiled in this 15-day series. Read more


Everglades Protection Plan Reworks Water
The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Everglades Forever
Act will have both costs and benefits for South Florida agriculture.

By Michael Allen
© Florida Grower
The biggest cost to EAA farmers, however, has been the price they have paid in public perception. The years leading up to the passage of the 1994 Everglades Forever Act, as well as the years following, were filed with finger pointing and bad press for the sugar farmers and other growers in the EAA. the debate then resurfaced last month with the passage of a
newly amended Everglades Forever Act -- a bill that established a longer plan for improving water quality flowing into the Everglades, according to Miedema.
"the amendment lays out a plan, process, and funding mechanism for the second phase of meeting water-quality standards." she says.  Read more

Farm workers displaced, then forgotten
By Bill Maxwell
© St. Petersburg Times
On June 30, 1998, the St. Johns River Water Management District and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service shut down the muck farms on Lake Apopka's shores. This action was taken to clean up the lake, which had become a pea-green broth as a result of more than 50 years of vegetable farming. Growers were paid a whopping $91-million for the 13,000 acres they had farmed. They also were paid an appraised value of $29-million for equipment acquired during the buy-out. After the farms closed, approximately 2,500 farm workers, most of them poor and Hispanic, lost their jobs. Many lived in labor camps in the impacted area, and some owned their homes.  Read more

Adjust Lake O policy; it harms public more than cane growers
Letter to the Editor By: Paul Parks
© Palm Beach Post
The St. Lucie River's problem is the direct consequence of a policy chosen by water managers. Lake Okeechobee is filled to the brim. When more rains come, the excess must be dumped, lest the surrounding dike fail. The cycle of fill-and-dump repeats whenever rains are sufficient. This policy does yield a huge volume of sugar-cane irrigation water to hold in reserve for a drought. But the reserve is sized for a drought so severe that it never happens. Its size makes dumping a necessity. Because severe droughts are rare relative to water dumping, public users of the ecosystem take the hit, but growers never have.  Read more

Family revisits oil drilling in preserve
By Cory Reiss
© Sarasota Herald-Tribune
WASHINGTON -- Florida's Collier family could revive plans to drill for oil in the Big Cypress National Preserve if Congress doesn't approve $40 million to buy the family's mineral rights, a spokesman said Tuesday. Both the House and Senate have rejected an initial installment on the $120 million that the Bush administration agreed to pay to protect the preserve on the western edge of the Everglades. That makes it unlikely that the first of three payments will be in a final 2004 spending bill for the Interior Department. The odds became even more remote after the Interior Department informed lawmakers last week that its inspector general has launched an independent inquiry into how the administration came to value the mineral rights at $120 million.  Read more



Big Sugar vs. Environmentalists: Fresh new referee, same old fight
A humorous new judge takes first tentative steps toward resolving endless cleanup debate.
By Curtis Morgan
© Miami Herald
About midway through his first slog into the thick legal muck surrounding Everglades cleanup, U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno held up a white mug and asked, ``Is there a conflict if I do take sugar in my coffee?'' The courtroom cracked up. It was, after all, a charge of conflict from the sugar industry against fellow Judge William Hoeveler that landed one of Florida's most complex and contentious environmental cases in Moreno's courtroom. Moreno made no rulings during an initial ''status hearing'' Monday but he quickly put his imprint on the landmark 1992 federal settlement that forced Florida to reduce pollution flowing from farms and suburbs into the River of Grass by 2006. The judge cracked jokes, quoted Shakespeare and Emerson and made it abundantly clear he didn't have Hoeveler's patience for long-winded lawyers. He also pledged to put on the fast track a case that has dragged on for 15 years and numerous disputes -- the latest over Florida's controversial rewrite of cleanup standards.  Read more

Judge to consider special master for Everglades cleanup lawsuit
By Neil Santaniello
© Sun-Sentinel
Launching right into a potentially daunting new task, U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno said Monday he would quickly consider whether to appoint a special master to help him monitor the state's efforts to follow a court-ordered Everglades cleanup. The three-hour hearing in Miami was Moreno's first courtroom introduction to the 15-year-old lawsuit over Everglades pollution he inherited last month, replacing another federal judge ordered off the
Moreno made it clear he intends to promptly deal with disputes and issues arising out of a 9-year-old state plan, the 1994 Everglades Forever Act, to protect water quality in the Everglades.  Read more

  Judge Moreno's Special Master appointment order [1mb pdf file]

New judge considers Everglades overseer
By Robert P. King
© Palm Beach Post
MIAMI -- At least one thing become clear in federal court Monday: This was not your father's Everglades judge. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno peppered his courtroom with wit,
interruptions and a plain impatience with endless argument as he took command of a landmark 15-year-old pollution lawsuit, handed to him last month by the removal of the grandfatherly Judge William Hoeveler.
He also promised a ruling within 18 days on the question that helped propel Hoeveler from the case: whether to appoint a federal overseer to
monitor the state's progress in the $1 billion-plus cleanup of sugar farm and suburban runoff.
Moreno made note of the many potential land mines in the case, which landed in his lap after sugar industry lawyers successfully argued that Hoeveler had shown bias against them. Holding aloft a white coffee cup, Moreno asked: "Is there a conflict if I do take sugar in my coffee?"  Read more

  Judge Moreno's Special Master appointment order [1mb pdf file]

Martin's future shouldn't be province of just a few
Letter to the Editor By: John M. Lieber
© Stuart News
OK, that is it! A group called "The Guardians of the Martin County Comprehensive Plan"? If I remember correctly, the founders of this great country had enormous confidence in the ability of the citizens of the United States — that means Florida, too — to govern themselves. It is the voters of Martin County who are the guardians of Martin County. Whether it is to the liking of either side of the spectrum in development, to this point the voters of Martin County have done a good job in projecting their will as to how Martin County will grow or not grow. We do not need, and should be wary of, any self-serving group that claims to be a guardian of our best interests. Read more

Judge to expedite Everglades case
© Tallahassee Democrat
MIAMI - A judge newly assigned to a 15-year-old Everglades pollution lawsuit said Monday that he would put disputes on a fast track. "From now on, what I want is action and reaction," said U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno. He started by reopening the issue of appointing a special master to eliminate a potential appeal of a decision made by U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler. He was removed two weeks ago after the politically powerful sugar industry accused him of bias. Papers are due by Friday if Miccosukee Indians and environmentalists still want someone to evaluate state compliance with a 1994 settlement on pollution reduction. Tribal attorney Dexter Lehtinen said after the three-hour hearing that he was undecided on a special master but plans to pursue other avenues for compliance. Read more

  Judge Moreno's Special Master appointment order [1mb pdf file]



Everglades campaign money still a mystery
By Robert P. King
© Palm Beach Post
Somebody spent a ton of money last spring to convince Florida residents that state lawmakers should postpone deadlines for cleaning the Everglades. But don't bother asking who. Under state and federal law, it's none of your business. Six months later, the public has no idea how much money the sugar industry gave to the Everglades Forever Partnership, a not-for-profit corporation that blanketed the airwaves and stuffed voters' mailboxes to support the legislation. And the partnership is not alone. Not-for-profit groups with similarly populist or eco-friendly names have become an increasing part of public debate on legislation.  Read more

Bad mix- Florida Bay researcher questions official pollution
By Julien Gorbach
© Key West Citizen
MIAMI -- It's been a couple of months since the last time University of Miami maintenance men hauled more of Larry Brand's laboratory equipment away from him. All they took this time was a centrifuge and a freeze dryer, tossing them in with the rest of the smashed equipment that's jumbled together in four shipping containers -- Dumpsters, really -- on Dodge Island. But by now, there isn't all that much more to take. The Larry Brand operation has essentially been shut down. Brand is a tenured professor at the university's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, hired as a phytoplankton ecologist in 1981. In 1995, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, a federal agency that is a major source of funding for environmental research, provided Brand and two other scientists with a $184,000 grant for a two-year study of the algae blooms that have turned the once gin-clear waters of Florida Bay a gazpacho green  Read more

Mercury changes have netted results for fish
By Byron Stout
© The News-Press (Ft. Myers)
Even as much of the country frets over the dangers of smokestacks emitting mercury, Southwest Floridians have reason to breathe easier over that issue. Mercury in fish — the main source of toxic mercury in human diets — appears to be on the wane in fresh waters across the state’s southern tier. Most of the mercury that ends up in freshwater fish has been shown to fall from the sky as a result of emissions from incinerators and power plants. That is why environmentalists are roundly condemning President Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative, now being pushed hard by the administration. Clear Skies is designed to encourage the continued use of coal as power plant fuel, by allowing companies that burn it to purchase mitigation credits from those that have gone to cleaner fuels.  Read more



Everglades cleanup suit passes to 'quick, fair' judge
Lawyers say Judge Federico Moreno's lack of experience in environmental law won't hamper justice in the Everglades cleanup lawsuit.
By Gail Epstein Nieves
© Miami Herald
Traditions die hard around U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno. Just watch him walk, black-robed and deliberate, into his 10th-floor courtroom every day. First he high-fives a Notre Dame University stadium banner tacked to the corridor wall. The banner -- he's a Notre Dame alum -- was a special gift from a group of Moreno's law clerks. Their photos, 13 years' worth, line another wall in federal court. Now Moreno, 51, has suddenly been handed the long-running Everglades cleanup lawsuit. Lawyers who know him say his chambers reflect the virtues he brings to the case: lengthy experience, respect for history and the law, an amiable temperament. ''Irrespective of the issues, the guy's going to handle the case swiftly and follow the law,'' said Manny Kadre, Moreno's law clerk in 1990-91. ``He's certainly not afraid to make a decision no matter who is involved in the case or what special interest groups are on any side.''  Read more

A tree worth preserving
Tough, tolerant, inexpensive and somewhat idiosyncratic, Southwest Florida’s bald cypress are at the heart of a fast-disappearing ecosystem.
By Amy Bennet Williams
© The News-Press (Ft. Myers)

Cypress trees dot Everglades National Park, which is more than 1 million acres and
encompasses less than 20 percent of the Everglades original extent.

Want to hear a wood connoisseur scream? Ask how to fill up all those holes in a piece of pecky cypress. Those pits, pocks, scars and streaks are supposed to be there. The stippled wood is hungrily sought after by wood aficionados, who bug lumberyards about it and bid greedily for it at online auction sites. Want to hear a conservationist scream? Ask if cypress should be ground into mulch. Those chips come from trees that can live more than a millennium, can grow more than 100 feet tall and that are the cornerstone of a complex, beautiful and fast-disappearing ecosystem: the cypress swamp.  Read more



Everglades restoration ready to begin
By Neil Santaniello
© Sun-Sentinel
Developers broke ground there decades ago but never got to finish the job. Now water managers will dig into the same area to erase what the builders left behind: remnants of a subdivision called Southern Golden Gate Estates that never got further than roads and canals and empty lots. The South Florida Water Management District is touting this as the first
time it will turn dirt for the $8.4 billion Everglades restoration, a sprawling blueprint of wetland plumbing, water storage and pollution-removal.
The ceremonial groundbreaking is at 10 a.m. Oct. 16, with more than 250 invitations sent for the start of work to reclaim for nature the
subdivided but still wild area locals call the "South Blocks." It lies south of Interstate 75 and north of the Tamiami Trail, west of the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve.  Read more

UM wins marine research center
The Pew Charitable Trusts is pledging $3 million annually to the Rosenstiel school for the study of conservation and fishery issues.
By Curtis Morgan
© Miami Herald
The University of Miami's marine school is about to gain a new research center and with it the potential to become a leading voice in the national debate over what to do about staggering declines in ocean life caused by fishing pressure and pollution. On Wednesday, UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science will announce it has reached a $3 million annual agreement with the Pew Charitable Trusts, one of the largest private sponsors of environmental and marine research, to open a center devoted to the study of marine conservation and fishery issues. Rosenstiel's dean, Otis Brown, said the new center, to be called the Pew Institute for Ocean Science at the University of Miami, should produce
important new science and raise the school's profile with the public and policy makers.
''This is a very, very big deal,'' Brown said.  Read more


Everglades Cleanup Exposes Environmentalists
By Steven Milloy
© Fox News
The Florida Everglades (search) are experiencing an overgrowth of cattails that crowd out the sawgrass and reduce the habitat for wading birds, alligators and other indigenous species. The cattail growth is fueled in part by run-off from farms and cities that is overly rich in phosphorus, a nutrient essential for plant growth. By the early 1990s, cattails were overtaking the Everglades at a rate of more than six acres per day. Thanks to an $8 billion federal-state partnership started in 1994 and implemented by the South Florida Water Management District (search), the rate of cattail growth has been reduced to about two acres per day. Read more


Western Everglades At Risk From Development

Press Release
Washington, DC — A coalition of national and Florida-based groups is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to veto ten wetlands development permits in Southwest Florida, arguing that the permits would violate the Clean Water Act. The ten projects are located in Lee and Collier Counties and represent the leading wave of plans to pave over a significant portion of the remaining undeveloped lands in the area outside of Naples known as the Western Everglades. The ten projects would destroy nearly 2,000 acres of wetlands and impact thousands more acres of undeveloped uplands. The projects include five golf course developments, as well as new commercial and residential centers and a six-lane highway. A number of other mega-projects on the drawing board, including a new law school and associated city, are expected to follow if these ten projects are approved. Read more
     Related links:   Road to Ruin report


Wedgworth family honored
 © Okeechobee News
This year's recipient of the Palm Beach County Farm Family of the Year award, George Wedgworth, is an institution in the Glades. It can easily be said that successful farming in the Glades is a direct result of this family's efforts and leadership in the fields of research,
engineering, marketing and cooperation among the many agricultural entities.
Although his parents set the stage for farming in the Glades, this year's recipient has earned this honor in his own right. His greatest accomplishments have been through his unselfish dedication to the betterment of farming in South Florida. As a young man, he worked the land developing the un-chartered sawgrass into viable, productive farmland. After graduating from Michigan State University with honors, he returned to the rich muckland to carry on the family's farming operation.  Read more


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Revised:  01/21/04

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