Tag Archives: land purchase

President Negron’s Memorandum to the Florida Senate, Senate Bill 10,”Protecting Coastal Counties from Polluted Discharges” SLR/IRL

For me this memorandum, perhaps more than other work published, helps the everyday person understand Senate Bill 10. Thus I share today. Thank you Senate President Joe Negron, “Champion of champions,” for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon!

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THE FLORIDA SENATE

SENATOR JOE NEGRON President

MEMORANDUM

SUITE 409, THE CAPITOL, 404 SOUTH MONROE STREET ▪ TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA 32399-1100 ▪ TELEPHONE (850) 487-5229 Senate’s Website: http://www.flsenate.gov

TO: All Senators

FROM: Joe Negron, President

SUBJECT: Protecting Coastal Counties from Polluted Discharges DATE: January 26, 2017

I greatly appreciate the support many of you have provided over the last several years as my home community and others across our state have been flooded with billions of gallons of polluted water that destroys our estuaries and harms our local economies. Today Senator Bradley filed Senate Bill 10, an act relating to water resources, to begin the formal process of purchasing land to increase water storage south of Lake Okeechobee. This legislation provides a clear plan to address this plague on our communities in a manner that respects the interests of the agricultural community and private land owners. While I have had the opportunity to discuss this critical issue with each of you, I wanted to provide a brief summary of how we arrived at this solution as well as a summary of Senator Bradley’s legislation.

Background: Record rainfall this past year resulted in unseasonably high water levels in Lake Okeechobee, which threatened the integrity of the Herbert Hoover Dike. To maintain safe water levels, the Army Corps of Engineers authorized the release of billions of gallons of water from the Lake to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers. Such freshwater discharges cause significant environmental damage by lowering the salinity levels of the estuaries and introducing pollutants into coastal waters. Due to the discharges this summer, massive amounts of toxic algae that originated in Lake Okeechobee were sent to the estuaries and coastal waterways.

The extent and severity of the blooms resulted in Governor Scott declaring a state of emergency in four Florida counties.

These algal blooms have occurred before and will occur again unless high volume discharges from Lake Okeechobee are stopped and pollution in the Lake Okeechobee basin is abated. Algal blooms are not simply an unsightly nuisance for residents and tourists. They bring real health risks to humans and wildlife and result in severe economic damage to local businesses.

January 26, 2017 Page 2

As a result of the high volume discharges, coastal communities experienced enormous harmful algal blooms with devastating impacts not only to the ecology of local waterways, but also to residents, fishermen, and local businesses.

Despite the sincere efforts of our state and federal government to plan and fund long-term solutions to address rising water levels and pollution in Lake Okeechobee, year after year as the Lake levels rise, the solution is to flood my community and many others across our state with billions of gallons of polluted water.

From Governor Jeb Bush’s historic support of the bipartisan Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) in 2000 to the recent University of Florida Water Institute study commissioned by the Senate and completed in 2015, for nearly two decades, there has been scientific consensus and recognition by state leaders that additional water storage south of Lake Okeechobee is necessary to stop this ongoing problem. This sentiment was reiterated as speaker after speaker addressed our Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources calling for increased storage south of the Lake.

Senate Bill 10 authorizes bonding a portion of proceeds from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund, set aside by the voter-approved Water and Land Conservation Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014), to purchase land and construct a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

Senate Bill 10 Summary: Senate Bill 10 authorizes the issuance of bonds to raise over a billion dollars to acquire 60,000 acres of land and build a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.The reservoir is expected to hold 120 billion gallons of water, approximately as much water as was discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary between January and May of 2016. The creation of significant storage capacity south of the Lake will help manage Lake levels in anticipation of periods of high rainfall like this year’s predicted El Nino weather pattern. Storing water during the wet season provides the additional benefit of allowing water to be sent south to hydrate the Everglades and Florida Bay, or for agricultural use, during the dry season.

The estimated cost of a reservoir on 60,000 acres of land providing 120 billion gallons of storage in the area south of Lake Okeechobee is roughly $2.4 billion. With the federal government paying at least half of the cost of such a reservoir, the state’s commitment would be $1.2 billion. The bill authorizes the use of approximately $100 million of documentary stamp tax revenue set aside by the Water and Land Conservation  Amendment (Amendment 1, 2014) annually over the next 20 years to finance land acquisition and construction of the reservoir.

January 26, 2017 Page 3

The bill directs the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to begin the formal process of purchasing land from willing sellers. The project is subject to Congressional approval to secure the 50/50 cost sharing agreement authorized for other CERP projects.

If the SFWMD is unable to identify sellers of land appropriate for a reservoir through an open solicitation by the end of 2017, the legislation authorizes the Board of Trustees to exercise the option with U.S. Sugar entered into in 2010 to buy 153,000 acres of land in the Everglades Agricultural Area, for the purpose of securing the 60,000 acres necessary for the reservoir and to begin planning the construction of the reservoir.

If the state is ultimately unable to purchase land for the reservoir by November 30, 2018, the legislation increases the ongoing Legacy Florida appropriation by an additional $50 million for the CERP, which includes a reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area as a key component. This is in addition to Legacy Florida’s existing commitment of $200 million. Legacy Florida also requires preference among these projects to be given to projects that reduce the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee Estuaries.

As we move forward, I have a personal mission to work with the agricultural community, to work with Florida’s best scientists, and to work with every member of the Legislature, to protect our estuaries, to protect our lagoons, and to put the harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee that destroy our environment and harm our economy into the past pages of history instead of the daily front pages of newspapers. I appreciate your consideration of this proposal and look forward to discussing it further in the days and weeks ahead.

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(For a full copy of Senate Bill 10, go to http://www.flsenate.gov/ and put 10 into “Bill” section at top of page.)
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“Playing Dead” Like an Opossum–SFWMD, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Opossum plays dead to ward off attackers. As soon as attackers leave the area, the opossum will walk safely away. (Public photo)
Opossum plays dead to ward off attackers. This is where the expression “to play opossum” comes from. As soon as attackers leave the area, the opossum will walk safely away. Most animals will not pursue carrion. This seemed to be the strategy of the SFWMD Governing Board at yesterday’s meeting in West Palm Beach. (Public photo.)
2015 board of the SFWMD. The board did not respond to the public's request for the purchase of US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 3-12-15.)
2015 board of the SFWMD. The board did not respond to the public’s request for the purchase of US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee. (Photo JTL, 3-12-15.)
Governing Board, SFWMD, 2015.
Governing Board, SFWMD, 2015.

There are really just a couple of things you can do when you are “attacked” or “think you are  being attacked.” You can fight back, or you can “play opossum–play dead.”

Sometimes, the game is over faster if you “play opossum,” and simply don’t respond.

This happens in my yard a lot with my dogs and opossums here in the Town of Sewall’s Point, and it in my opinion, it happened yesterday at the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board Meeting in West Palm Beach.

Opossum in a tree in my mother's yard. (Photo Sandy Thurlow.)
Opossum in a tree in my parents’ yard. (Photo Sandy Thurlow.)
Opossum pretending it is dead in our ferns. (Photo JTL, 2011.)
Opossum pretending it is dead in our ferns. (Photo JTL, 2011.)
Opossum feigning death...(Public photo)
Opossum feigning death…(Public photo)

Although the front page of the SFWMD’s agenda read:

“The Governing Board may take official action at the is meeting on any item appearing on the agenda and on any item that is added to this agenda as a result of a change to the agenda approved by the presiding officer of the meeting pursuant to Section 120.525, Florida Statutes.”

—no action, not even a comment in response to the 80 public speakers was given at the end of “public comment.” The board remained quiet and simply “moved on…”.

Yes, approximately one hundred members of the public: housewives, grandmothers, activists, veterans, a River Kid, scientists, “River Warriors,” government employees, and politicians from many different counties, (but mostly from Martin and St Lucie Counties), made the long drive to come before the District, a board appointed by our governor…to speak, to exercise their right to speak, and to plead for the life of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and Calooshatchee by asking the board to exercise the right to purchase US Sugar option lands south of Lake Okeechobee, or at least to “allow discussion of this item on the agenda.”

This was not achieved….

Thankfully though, Board Chairman, Dan O’Keefe, did allow the public to speak, however, they were told if they clapped, or were disruptive they would be “removed by a deputy….” The public, for the most part, followed the rules, and was “allowed to” raise their hands to show support for each other….Mr O’Keefe empathetically noting hands raised….

It was excruciating…

As a public official myself, who has led and sat through many meetings with an angry public, my eyes actually teared up at one point. Watching the American process in action as the foot of authority stood on their neck…

The underdog in this scenario is certainly “Team David,” of the Indian River Lagoon whose river, the St Lucie, flows with the gushing putrid water of altered area canals and the redirected waters of Lake Okeechobee….

Perhaps the board felt the people weren’t “thankful enough” for all that has been done recently…

It is hard to be thankful when you’re dying….C-44 Reservoir monies and Senator Joe Negron’s Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin, yes, these state “wins” have been bonanzas of cash in one small area, our county…

We are thankful…

….unfortunately, so much water comes into the SLR/IRL system, the public is educated and knows that more land for storage is needed for all that water or “death is immanent.”

Yesterday, the river movement of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon chose not to play opossum, giving it their best fight…the government on the other hand, simply rolled over….

Even baby opossums "play opossum," it is genetically wired...(Public photo/real experience.)
Even baby opossums “play opossum,” it is genetically wired…(Public photo/real experience.)
In front of the SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
In front of the SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
SFWMD 3-12-15. (Photo JTL.)
Skeleton mermaid of the  SLR/IRL, Linda Curtis. (Photo 3-12-15.)
Skeleton mermaid of the SLR/IRL, Linda Curtiss. (Photo 3-12-15.)
80 members of the public signed up to speak before the governing board. (Photo 3-12-15.)
80 members of the public signed up to speak before the governing board. (Photo 3-12-15.)
People held signs before the SFWMD. (3-12-15, JTL)
People held homemade signs before the SFWMD. (3-12-15, JTL)
Hannah, a River Kid, from St Lucie County, read her "speech" to the Governing Board." She did receive positive reinforcement for her efforts from board Chair, Dan O'keefe. (Photo JTL)
Hannah, a River Kid, from St Lucie County, read her “speech” to the Governing Board.” She did receive positive reinforcement for her efforts from board Chair, Dan O’keefe. (Photo JTL)
Hannah's speech.
Hannah’s speech.
Sign
Sign: BUY THE LAND.
Sign
Sign, WATER IS LIFE.

BBC Special on how animals “play dead” to survive:(http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00z2mcb

Governor appointed, Governing Board SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/governing%20board)

SFWMD: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page)

Go here to watch the video of the SFWMD Governing Board meeting; it should be posted within 48 hours of 3-12-15: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xweb%20about%20us/gb%20application)

What are Our Options for “Sending it South?” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

 

Chronology of Water Management Changes map. Reconstructed pre-drainage landscapes, source, McVoyet al., 2011. Presentation of Robert Johnson with words added: "Water Started Flowing South 2014."
“Chronology of Water Management Changes” map. Reconstructed pre-drainage landscapes, source, McVoyet al., 2011. Presentation of Robert Johnson, Director of South Florida Natural Resources Center at Everglades National Park,Everglades Coalition, 2015. (With words added: “Water Started Flowing South 2014, JTL”.)

After the horrendous “Lost Summer of 2013,” and public outcry, more water has been sent south to the Everglades by the Army Corp of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District in 2014/15 than in the past ten years. But we are still drowning…

Hanging over our heads is the fact that Lake Okeechobee is at 15.04 feet today, and chances are that to prepare the lake for a predicted El Nino rainy winter/spring, the ACOE is going to “have to” start releasing water soon. Although it’s being worked on right now, the system is not even close to being able to hold the ocean of overflow-lake water and “send it south….” plus we are handcuffed by 10 parts per billion phosphorus goals.(http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/xrepository/sfwmd_repository_pdf/derivation_wqbel_stas_toc_4-20-10.pdf)

With this in mind, the Everglades Coalition’s 30th Annual Conference (http://evergladescoalition.orgwas a whirlwind; its theme “Send it South: Water for America’s Everglades.”

Let’s begin, by looking at some water/land maps and think about the big picture.

The image below is a “simplified chronology of water management changes,” and shows the canals and structures that waste water to the ocean destroying our precious estuaries. This map was shared by Robert Johnson during the coalition meeting. It made a big impression on me, because it gives historical perspective, is simple, and is clear.

Chronology of Water Management Changes map. Reconstructed pre-drainage landscapes, source, McVoyet al., 2011. Presentation of Robert Johnson with words added: "Water Started Flowing South 2014."
Map again from above to review.

The red lines are canals that drain lake Okeechobee. We know them well: the Caloosahatchee (C-43); the Miami: the North New River: the Hillsboro: the West Palm Beach; and our own St Lucie (C-44). The grey shows the Herbert Hoover Dike built around Lake Okeechobee in the 1930s after the terrible hurricanes of the late 1920s; the Eastern Protective Levee is also in grey, on the far right, and basically is like a giant underground wall between the Everglades and eastern coastal development; the Everglades Agricultural Area Levee System, which I think is the grey line depicting a structure built south and almost around the Everglades Agricultural area; the Water Conservation Area Levees (WCAs-areas where water slowly travels south after being cleaned in Storm Water Treatment Areas (STAs) above them) are the grey lines around the WCAs; and last on this chart, the South Dade Conveyance System…

There are other canals as well. Thousands of miles of them….

These canals make our lives a living hell along the Indian River Lagoon, and must be re-plumed, but we must note that they also have allowed South Florida to rise above the poverty of our ancestors, and to develop some of the world’s most “productive” sugar and vegetable farms. Too bad they had to build their riches south of Lake Okeechobee blocking the flow of the lake! Also, much of this drainage system has allowed  development of the east coast of south Florida, inside the Everglades’ boundary which is in yellow on the map above and red below.

The red line, shows were development has “crept into the Everglades.”  This is obviously a problem for sending water south. Therefore, whatever is created to “send more water south,” must be created so as to avoid destroying lives or property.

West of the red lines shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Surveyors, 2014.)
West of the red lines shows the edge of what was once the Everglades in South Florida. Development has crept and continues to creep over this edge. (Photo/map courtesy of Chappy Young,/GCY Surveyors, 2014.)

So narrowing this down to “our” needs, how does one build a way to send more water south? And aren’t we already doing that? Let’s look at the projects being built first before we conclude our goals for more storage.

There are many projects on the books to help with sending water south: some include CERP (http://www.evergladesplan.org/about/about_cerp_brief.aspx) and CEPP…(http://www.evergladesplan.org/docs/fs_cepp_jan_2013.pdf), in fact parts of the Tamiami Trail are being raised right now, but according to many experts at the coalition, one thing is missing, enormous amounts of LAND. Land would help these projects come into being. There must be land to hold some of the tremendous amounts of water, and to clean it. Also realistically, the above projects will take generations to complete. Land purchase or no land purchase. 

One thing  is for sure, more land south of the lake would help the situation tremendously. As even a five year old can see, lack of lands south of the lake is the true disconnect. But where is there that much land and what are our options?

Below is a map of “Option 1,” and “Option 2”, lands in the Everglades Agricultural Area, lands that US Sugar agreed to sell in 2008. These lands remain for sale.

Perhaps US Sugar rather not sell these lands anymore. In 2008 they were going broke, but today, ironically after an infusion of cash from the South Florida Water Management District that was given to buy the paired down 26,800 acres  purchased, and since the economy has improved since, US Sugar is thriving again.

But a “contract is a contract,” and thus there remains a contract allowing for the state of Florida to buy the option lands.

General consensus for many  at the Everglades Coalition meeting was “buy the lands” with the new Amendment 1  (http://ballotpedia.org/Florida_Water_and_Land_Conservation_Initiative,_Amendment_1_%282014%29monies starting with Option 1 because it is less expensive than Option 2, and can be traded for other lands, and because the option expires in October of 2015. The second option expires around 2020.

Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass
Option Lands Map SFWMD River of Grass

Would purchasing these slow everyone down even more, taking moneys  and energy away from other projects?

Hmmmm? Maybe, but according to some very seasoned River/Everglades Warriors, it is worth it.

At the Everglades Coalition meeting Nathaniel Reed, Maggie Hurchalla, Mary Barely,  former governor Bob Graham, and Mark Perry gave the group a “call to action” to purchase these option lands. It is a lofty goal and one that would change the game forever.

But there is not much time, and the legislature is in committee meetings “now.” (January through Feburary) and convenes (starts) March 3, 2015,  and then ends in May! A rabbit race!

There is not a second to spare.

So long story short, there may be options as far a purchasing the sugar lands, but there is no option when it comes to advocating for such. Should this be your goal, you must start today! Start writing and calling below and thank you for being a part of history!

Governor Rick Scott: (http://www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/email-the-governor/0)

House of Representatives: (http://www.myfloridahouse.gov)

Florida Senate: (http://www.flsenate.gov)

Senate site for future Amt 1 lands purchasing: (http://www.flsenate.gov/Media/PressReleases/Show/2159)