Tag Archives: protection

Environmental Provisions in Florida’s State Constitution/Getting Your Issues in Front of the CRC, SLR/IRL

Indian River Lagoon, John Whiticar

Part #4 in a series about the Constitution Revision Commission, (CRC) and how to get involved, by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch

Environmental Provisions in Florida’s State Constitution/Getting Your Issues in Front of the CRC (https://www.flcrc.gov)
The Florida constitution….(http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?submenu=3)

It is amazing to realize how much of the Florida Constitution ensures protections of the environment, and yet we see the continued degradation of the natural resources of our state. It’s time we learn our constitution by heart, make sure it’s followed, and take action to see if something need be added.

Today, I am going to list the areas of the constitution that have to do with the environment for easy reference. You can click the links below to see the full amendments.

In 1968, “ardent environmentalist” and respected state representative, John Robert Middlemas, of Panama City, insisted that words of support for environmental policy were placed in the historic constitutional revision that same year.

In his honor, I ask that all fellow environmentalists review below, and ask oneself how to make these words take on a new sense of urgency as our springs, rivers, and natural lands need our voice. At the end of this article, and after reviewing our state constitution, if so inspired, please feel free to enter your own constitutional proposal or improve one that’s simply being ignored.

The CRC is considering September 22nd as the deadline for public proposals so please submit soon!

As an aside, it is my honor to serve as the Chair of the CRC’s General Provisions Committee, which is charged with examining Article II of the Florida Constitution. If you have comments or thoughts regarding Article II (or other provisions relating to the environment), please email me at Jacqui.Lippisch@flcrc.gov.

Here is the list of current environmental provisions in the Florida Constitution:

 

  • General Provisions (Article II): Section 7, Natural Resources & Scenic Beauty/Everglades Agricultural Area
  • Executive (Article IV): Section 4 (f), cabinet/Internal Improvement Fund/Land Acquisition Trust Fund; Section 9, Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Finance and Taxation (Article VII): Section 3 (f), conservation easements/ taxes -exemptions; Section 4 (b) taxation-assessments ; Section 9 (a), special districts/water management; Section 11 (e) state/revenue bonds; Section (14) bonds-pollution control
  • Miscellaneous (Article X): Section 11, sovereignty lands; Section 16, limiting marine net fishing; Section 17, Everglades Trust Fund; Section 18, disposition of conservation lands; Section 28, Land Acquisition Trust Fund, (Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, 2014.)

  To enter your own proposal or idea regarding the environment:

                 

Adams Ranch, Bud Adams/Photographer
  • Go to gov/Proposals/Submit to create a free account and submit your proposed change to the Florida constitution. The online tool allows you to create your proposal using legal language by redacting or adding language. Remember to keep it simple and clear.

 

  • Using the same program, submit your proposal to the Constitution Revision Commission and sign up for the alert emails. Commissioners will review proposals and determine which proposals should be placed on Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot.

 

*Proposals can also be emailed to the commission at admin@flcrc.gov, or sent in the mail to: Constitution Revision Commission, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399. Thank you so much for conserving and protecting the great state of Florida!

Manatee, Paul Nicklen, King’s Bay, FL
Mangroves, John Whiticar
Kids swimming/Florida springs, John Moran
Blue Springs, Madison, FL Sandra Henderson Thurlow
We especially must conserve and protect our environment for the future! (My niece, Evie, co-founder of River Kidz http://riverscoalition.org/riverkidz/ photo, Jenny Flaugh)

 

 

 

 

Spreading Refined Human Waste on the Lands, “Biosolids,” St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Miami Dade waster water report, 2014.
Miami-Dade sewage treatment report, photo 2014.
Sign in Polk County, public photo.
Sign in Polk County, public photo.

Years ago when I started trying to learn about the issues facing the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, Gary Roderick, who worked for Martin County, started educating me. One of the first things he shared was the term “biosolids,” or “residuals,” which I  learned were other words for “treated sewage leftovers….” or as the state used to call it: “domestic wastewater residuals.”

The state of Florida actually changed the name it used with the public beginning in 2010. Why? Probably because the state would prefer the public doesn’t wish to engage in a conversation about “how it is being fertilized,” and how its waters are being poisoned  by  the public’s own “poop.”

Perhaps I am exaggerating, but it is worth thinking about….talk about “one big circle!”

From DEP report 2014.
From DEP report 2010.

(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/docs/new-biosolids-rule-overview.pdf)

To make a long story short, prior to the 1970s, in many cities and counties, sewage went directly into the water–rivers, lakes, and the ocean. In some places this still occurs….However, in the 1970s the federal government passed laws requiring this practice to halt, and states had to change their ways. This is good. But the outcome of this, many years of biosolids’ land application, may have reached a saturation point we can no longer tolerate—- as our waters receive too much nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants as it is.

The other question to seriously consider is: “Does the pressure to get rid of human waste, and any money being made in transportation and application, incentivize the process or skew the law?

Yes, we know the Florida Department of Environmental Protection “checks” this and laws are slowly getting tougher, but  does the Dept of Agriculture and DEP really have the good of our state waters at heart or are they more motivated by business?

Internet photo, public. Sewage treatment plant.
Internet photo, public. Sewage treatment plant.
Public photo biosolids land application.
Public photo biosolids’ land application.

EPA (EPA http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/wastewater/treatment/biosolids/genqa.cfm)
So that is what happened.

To repeat myself, in case your jaw has dropped, after the EPA’s 1970s requirement, state water treatment plants started beginning the expensive process of adapting their plants, refining the sewage, and creating “fertilizer.” This comes in different forms like AA, and A, and B but that is too confusing to go into right now.

DEP biosolids:(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/reshome.htm)

What is important, is that this refined sludge was/is produced, and “cleaned,” (although many metals and prescription drug residuals cannot be removed) and then shipped in trucks to various counties throughout Florida. Sometimes we buy biosolids from other states—then these biosolids, almost 100,000 dry tons a year, are spread on the land to “enrich the soil.”

In fact from what I’m told sometimes land owners are paid to put it on their land. Hmmmm?

I guess we have to get rid of it. This is true. And it is a problem. So much and growning! But where does it go after it is spread on the land? During rain events, it flows right back into our waterways. From Orlando to Lake Okeechobee to us…Kind of a disgusting thought, isn’t it?

Thankfully, since 2013 there is a special protection zone for the watersheds of the St Lucie River/IRL and Lake Okeechobee, but from what I have read, the practice of applying “biosolids” or refined human waste sludge, has not stopped completely. Our waterways are still impacted from upstream by this practice.

DEP report including SLR/IRL/ LO: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/legal/Rules/wastewater/62-640.pdf)

So when I really ponder all of this on a personal level, it means I worked tremendously hard with the commission in the Town of Sewall’s Point to pass a fertilizer ordinance in 2010 to protect our rivers, and all the while, the  (blank) is just flowing right back in…..

 

2009 map, the last year made available, DEP where biosolids are distributed and manufactured.
2009 map, the last year made available. Where Class AA biosolids are distributed and manufactured. Key below.(via Gary Roderick, source Biosolids in Fl 2009, DEP 2010.)
Key to above.
Key to above.
DEP chart breakdown 2014.
DEP chart breakdown 2014.
Public photo.
Public photo of sewage treatment for biosolids.

____________________________________________

Various sites and excerpts:

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/legal/Rules/wastewater/62-640.pdf

(7) For application sites located in geographic areas that have been identified by statute or rule of the Department as being subject to restrictions on phosphorus loadings (such as the Everglades Protection Area as set forth in Section 373.4592, F.S., the Lake Okeechobee watershed as set forth in Section 373.4595, F.S., Lake Apopka as set forth in Section 373.461, F.S., and the Green Swamp Area as set forth in Section 380.0551, F.S.), the NMP shall:
(a) Base application rates on the phosphorus needs of the crop; and
(b) Address measures that will be used to minimize or prevent water quality impacts that could result from biosolids application areas to surface waters.
The NMP for a proposed site located within the Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie River, or Caloosahatchee River watersheds, shall also include the demonstration required by subsections 62-640.400(11) and (12), F.A.C., as applicable. Any permit issued based on such a demonstration shall require monitoring and record keeping to ensure that the demonstration continues to be valid for the duration of the permit. Documentation of compliance with the demonstration shall be submitted as part of the site annual summary submitted under paragraph 62-640.650(5)(d), F.A.C.

http://www.miamidade.gov/water/library/bioslide-memo.pdf

http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/docs/new-biosolids-rule-overview.pdf

2014 summary https://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wastewater/dom/docs/BiosolidsFlorida-2013-Summary.pdf

Summary of Biosolids Use and Disposal
In 2013, approximately 178,511 dry tons of Class AA biosolids products were distributed and marketed in Florida, approximately 97,880 dry tons of Class B biosolids were land applied to sites in Florida, and an estimated 111,923 dry tons of biosolids were disposed of in landfills. Compared to 2012, this represents a 16 percent decrease in Class AA biosolids products distributed and marketed, a 10 percent decrease in land application, and no change in the quantity of biosolids sent to landfills. Although it would appear there was a decrease in biosolids generated in Florida in 2013, these estimated quantities of biosolids and biosolids products used or disposed by Florida and out-of-state facilities differ from the estimated quantities of raw biosolids generated by Florida facilities. Charts are provided in this report to illustrate these differences. There is no indication the quantity of raw biosolids generated by Florida facilities decreased in 2013.
EPA http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/wastewater/treatment/biosolids/genqa.cfm

3) Why do we have biosolids?
We have biosolids as a result of the wastewater treatment process. Water treatment technology has made our water safer for recreation and seafood harvesting. Thirty years ago, thousands of American cities dumped their raw sewage directly into the nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays. Through regulation of this dumping, local governments now required to treat wastewater and to make the decision whether to recycle biosolids as fertilizer, incinerate it, or bury it in a landfill.

http://www.schwingbioset.com/our-blog/bid/38055/Class-A-Biosolids-vs-Class-B-in-Plain-English

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sewage_sludge

The Comeback of the Snowy Egret and its Inspiration for the Comeback of the Indian River Lagoon

This snowy egret was visiting the retention pond across form Indialucie in Sewall's Point. This plume bird was the most hunted during the 1800s and lost up to 95 percent of its population. They have made a comeback. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, 2014.)
This snowy egret was visiting the retention pond, across from Indialucie, in Sewall’s Point. The bird exhibits some of the most excessive foraging behaviors and has what is considered the most  beautiful mating plumage of any wading bird and bright yellow feet!  It hunts in wetland habitats.  Plume hunters decimated its population by up to 95% but since protected, the birds have made a comeback. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, 2014.)

Every day, I look to nature for inspiration, hoping for a model of success to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

One of the “greats” is the little snowy egret. All wading birds were almost hunted to the point of extinction during the feathered ladies hat craze of the late 1800s and early 1900s, and because the snowy egret was the most desired of all birds for its beautiful nuptial plumes, it, more than any other wading bird, was hunted.

There was great motivation to hunt birds as at the time, their feathers were worth more than gold.

It is well documented that the plume hunters shot birds by the thousands in rookeries through out Florida, especially the Everglades, during breeding season when the birds’  feathers were most beautiful.  The birds were shot right off their nests with the baby birds left to die. Entire rookeries disappeared.

After witnessing such, many hunters reported feeling sick at the “sight of thousands of little hanging necks over the nests” and “repented,” refusing to go back after being part of such cold blooded carnage.

But times were tough and there were alway more men behind them to take their place. In the late 1890s the Ornithologists’ Union estimated that five million birds of all kinds were killed annually.

Snowy egret family. Parents in full plumage. (Public photo.)
“Little Snowy” was most hunted for its “nuptial feathers” that grow during mating and baby bird season. During the late 1800s and early 1900s the birds were commonly shot off their nests. (Public photo.)

The story of what birds remain and have rebounded is  yet another story of American inspiration though everyday people demanding more of their government.

In 1886, Forest and Stream editor, George Bird Grinnell, was “appalled by the negligent mass slaughter of birds.” Based on studies of painter John James Audubon from Ornithological Biography, he created an organization devoted to the protection of wild birds and their eggs. Within a year the the Audubon Society had over  39,000  members including very prominent figures of the day and eventually a US  president. Their numbers and financial support grew and the organization evolved throughout many states. Letter writing campaigns ensured, many from churches, state laws were passed starting in New York, banning the sale of plumes, and by 1920 similar laws were passed in other states. In 1918 US Audubon lobbied for the Federal “Migratory Bird Treaty Act” and convinced the US government to support the National Wildlife Refuge system, the first being Sebastian, Florida’s “Pelican Island.” Today migrating and resident birds are protected, or at minimum, regulated, by hunting license in all communities.

 

Snowy egret in breeding plumage and colors. (Public    "wallpaper" photo.)
Snowy egret in breeding plumage and colors. (Public “wallpaper” photo.)

So again, the stories are many of mankind’s propensity to kill the world around “him,” and then to pull back from the brink of total destruction by the intervention of a small group of people.

The story of the Indian River Lagoon will hopefully be a similar tale to tell. So when you are around town and see a little snowy egret, feel inspired!

__________________________________________________________________________

US Federal Migratory Bird Act: (http://www.fws.gov/laws/lawsdigest/migtrea.html)

FWC 2011 Report Snowy Egret: (http://www.myfwc.com/media/2273400/Snowy-Egret-BSR.pdf )

FWC Bird Regulations: (http://m.myfwc.com/hunting/regulations/birds/)

Birds of North America/Snowy Egret:(http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/489/articles/introduction)

Wikipedia’s History of Plume Hunting in the US: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plume_hunting)

Bird Island/Indian River Lagoon, One of Florida’s Most Important Avian Breeding Grounds

Bird Island is one of the most productive breeding grounds for more than 15 species of birds and a rookery/visiting grounds to even more species. The island is owned by the state of Florida and managed by Martin County. It is located 400 feet from the Town of Sewall’s Point. (Most photos by Greg Braun, Sustainable Ecosystems International, story below.)

IMG_2346_3 IMG_2350 IMG_2353_2

Wood stork w nestling at MC-2 - GBraun OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Wood Stork w nesting material near MC-2 Braun

Just over three years ago, I was going through I guess a kind of mid-life crisis where I really was questioning what I was doing with my life. When I couldn’t seem to get it together, I decided to spend some time going back to “my roots,” to the things that made me happy as a kid. I called up family friend Nancy Beaver of Sunshine Wildlife Tours in Port Salerno, and asked her if I could volunteer on her boat a couple of times a week. She obliged, and slowly, I felt my passion for life return while being surrounded by the animals and birds in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The highlight of every tour was “Bird Island,” located off my “very own” Sewall’s Point, as I was mayor of the town at the time.

I had seen the birds from far away, but to see the beautifully colored birds, especially their babies, through binoculars up close was incredible.

Bird Island, located in the Indian River Lagoon, just 400 feet off of the Sewall’s Point’s Archipelago is one of the most valuable nesting bird habitats along Florida’s east coast, really in all of Florida. Rarely are so many different kinds of birds in one location, breeding…

A wonder of nature, birds of all kinds fill the island, over 40 types visiting or roosting and at least 15 species of birds simultaneouly raising young.  At any time of late fall through spring hundreds of birds sometimes over a thousand, some say more, fill the island.

Greg Braun, of Sustainable Ecosystems International, was hired by Martin County for avian monitoring September 2011 thorough August 2012 and he documented observing 240  pairs of birds of 15 species nesting including the Wood Stork; Brown Pelican; Double-crested  Cormorant; Great Egret; Cattle Egret; Anhinga; Tri-colored Heron; Snowy Egret; Great Blue Heron; Litle Blue Heron; Black-crowned Night Heron; Great White Heron; Roseate Spoonbill; Black Vulture; Oystercatcher; and suspected White Ibis and a couple of  invasive Egyptian Geese.

So why this island? There are plenty of others to choose from in the area. Maybe it is for protection? Maybe its the eastern sandbar that keeps boaters at bay and gives the chicks a place to practice swimming and flying and the older birds can just hang out? Maybe its the nearby western seagrasses with its rich production of fish.

Nobody really knows but obviously the birds like it. Originally Bird Island, more scientifically known as “MC-2” was created in the 1940s as a by-product of dredging the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, (Braun, Avian Monitoring). My mother, historian, Sandra Thurlow, says there are verbal accounts of birds nesting on the island since the 60s and 70s, but again nobody is really sure when it began…

Man’s involvement remains controversial with the removal of tall Australian Pines a few years  back that the amazing Frigate Birds sat on, and then the building of a $600,000, 400 foot long rip-rap on the island’s northern side by Martin County to offset documented erosion. Now in the process is the Florida Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) possible creation of a  CWA or Critical Wildlife Area so that trespassing onto or very near the island would be a crime.

Personally, I think the  bird’s habitat should be very protected as the importance of the island is obvious and it is a rare thing. As far as the CRA status, the County is working through issues with local fishermen who use the area for bait catching, and other users of the area surrounding the island. I do hope some higher level of protection can be met.

Right now, signs surround the island in hopes of giving the birds the privacy they need to  raise their chicks, but curious kayakers and others often go very close flushing the birds off their nest, with masses of crows waiting  close by, putting the chicks at risk.  Sun exposure can also kill the young chicks. People don’t mean to but they often do disturb the island.

Another common problem is fishing line. Nancy Beaver and the FWC when in the area often see birds entangled in monofilament caught in the mangroves. Many birds are taken to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center and saved; but many more are euthanized due to emaciation.

Bird Island was definitely affected by last year’s putrid release water from Lake Okeechobee and the other canals as is visible in an aerial photograph included in this blog.  During the releases, 85 percent of seagrasses died last summer according  to Florida Oceanographic Society. The bird’s feeding was/is certainly affected by such loss.

In the end, I do believe everyone agrees that Bird Island is an amazing place. Let’s get along like the many birds do and protect it! And if you have not seen it, maybe put it on your list of things to do!

___________________________________

Sunshine Wildlife Tours: (http://sunshinewildlifetours.com)

Audubon Martin County: (http://audubonmartincounty.org/index.php/home/item/51-bird-island-martin-countys-special-place)

Sustainable Ecosystems International: (http://sustainableecosystemsinternational.com)bird island releases

Bird Island, Greg Braun OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA MC-2 GBraun Oystercatcher on beach - GBraun OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Green heron -GBraun Little Blue Heron - GBraun Frigatebirds at MC-2 GBraun greg, mike and pelican OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_1092 IMG_1166 susan Bird Island DSC_9203e OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA MC2 CWA Revised Boundary 5-20-13