Dear Friends of Florida’s Waters:
I have quite a bit of good news for you this week.
The first good news is that I just accidentally deleted two days of work on this newsletter and it seems to be gone for good. This is good because the email was way, way too long and I have promised to make them shorter this year. I tried to ignore that promise but since I accidentally deleted my broken promise, now you will get a much shorter email this week.
Here’s what you will find below:
UPDATE ON LAWSUIT OVER MIXING ZONES AND THE PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE PENSACOLA BEACH WWTP
LAKE O DISCHARGES – 10 YEAR PLAN?
GULF POWER TO BUILD THREE SOLAR POWER PLANTS IN THE PANHANDLE
1. UPDATE ON LAWSUIT OVER MIXING ZONES AND THE PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE – Hopefully you remember from previous newsletters that for the past couple of years Florida Clean Water Network and several other groups and individuals have been fighting in court to make the Governor and Cabinet fulfill their state constitutional responsibilities under the Public Trust Doctrine. Specifically we sued the Board of Trustees (Gov. and cabinet) for allowing Florida DEP to grant mixing zones to polluters such as Georgia-Pacific/Koch Brothers without getting the Board’s approval as the Public Trust Doctrine requires. These mixing zones allow solids to smother the bottom of state lands such as the St Johns River and the Fenholloway River, etc. which belong to us – all of us. The Public Trust Doctrine says that the Board must decide if the taking of state lands is contrary to public interest or not. If they find that it is not, then the discharger must pay for the use of our land on the bottom of the river.
Our attorney Steven Medina just filed our final appellate brief for this case. Georgia-Pacific is teamed up with the FL DEP, who is representing the Board. It will likely be several more months before we get an answer. We will keep you posted on this important case.
One side note on this issue is that I find it interesting that Rick Scott is now under investigation for ignoring the state constitutional requirement that the entire cabinet should have been involved in the decision-making regarding the firing of the FDLE Commissioner. Just as in our case, Scott ignored the requirements of the state constitution and made a unilateral decision to fire Commissioner Bailey, purportedly for political reasons. In our case, Scott allowed FL DEP to unilaterally grant Georgia-Pacific sole use of sovereign submerged lands without getting the votes of the full Board of Trustees (the Cabinet). And gave these lands away to GP for free!!! Hmmm . . . do we see a pattern here?
2. PENSACOLA BEACH WWTP – the community effort by citizens and groups in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties is moving forward quickly and gaining momentum. A proposed resolution has been drafted by the group to present to the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority for its consideration. The resolution calls for ECUA to remove the sewage discharge from Santa Rosa Sound within two years and to modify their application now pending before FL DEP to reflect this change in plans. The League of Women Voters will hold a public meeting on January 27th at the Pensacola downtown library beginning at 5:30 pm to discuss the proposed permit and why it is important to get the sewage out of Pensacola’s favorite swimming hole. The public is invited and encouraged to attend, ask questions and get involved.
3. LAKE O DISCHARGES – 10 YEAR PLAN? As many of you have read, the Corps of Engineers began discharging from Lake O into the St Lucie River again a few days ago. When these discharges take place into the St Lucie or the Caloosahatchee, it is devastating to the rivers and downstream estuaries and it is devastating to the morale and hearts of the communities that must live with the consequences of this disgusting polluted water flowing through their lives. Now DEP is touting their 10 year plan to “clean up Lake O”. Really? I wouldn’t count on it. DEP says the plan will reduce phosphorus by 30%. They claimed their cleanup plans would reduce nutrients in the St Johns River too, but that hasn’t happened after more than 5 years. They claimed their plan for the Caloosahatchee would reduce nutrients in that river, but nutrient levels have risen. DEP’s BMAPs are a cruel joke and as we have suggested before, we should not put much stock in them. Most of them are hideous on reading but even the ones that sort of seem like maybe they would help some – actually don’t result in any improvements. This is because DEP is more interested in creating the illusion of doing something than in actually doing something that will result in progress. They are hoping that the public will finally give up on having clean water and just let the polluters do their polluting in peace and prosperity. It’s what we call: socializing pollution and privatizing profits.
The 10-year plan is 173 pages long and I’ve only scanned the first few dozen pages. I see nothing about curtailing the pure, untreated raw sewage from the industrial dairies that is being dumped into the groundwater, sloughs, creeks and eventually Lake O. I do see a lot of places where it talks about “if and when funding is available”. Other points of interest that I noticed:
- None of the NPDES permits in the watershed contained waste load allocations;
- The entire BMAP seems to rely on estimated reductions from BMPs (best management practices) while further research is being done;
- Benefits from specific nutrient reduction projects will also be guesstimates based on subjective calculations made by DEP.
- AND remember, according to Florida statutes, anytime an agricultural or storm water polluter is using DEP’s approved BMPs, then there is a PRESUMPTION of compliance and no actual monitoring is required.
And that is a large reason that we don’t see any improvements in our waters after years of purported regulations and “projects”. It is all smoke and mirrors. If this sounds like a jaded person writing this, you are correct, but just because I’m jaded doesn’t mean I haven’t figured out their scam.
A problem like the Lake O situation is enormous. If your polluted water problems are located elsewhere, there is a lot you can do by working with your local governments to solve these problems. Even in Lee County, local governments are working together to do what they can to remediate the terrible pollution that invades their river and estuary every year from Lake O. Hold on to your dreams of clean water, but don’t let them rest on anything, ANYTHING that is being done by the FL DEP (Don’t Expect Protection).
4. GULF POWER TO BUILD THREE SOLAR POWER PLANTS IN THE PANHANDLE – Here’s a ray of sunshine after the depressing news on Lake O. On Thursday, January 22nd, Gulf Power announced that an application has been submitted to the FL PSC to build three solar power plants in the Panhandle. This will be a joint project between Gulf Power, the US Navy, the Air Force and Heliosage. Gulf Power says this will be the largest solar project in Florida.
This is great news and we applaud this partnership and the US military’s commitment to meet 25% of its energy needs by 2025 with renewables.
5. AMENDMENT 1 – Have you contacted your state representative and state senator yet to let them know how you think the Amendment 1 moneys should be spent? Now is the time to speak up because there are lots of hands out – wanting a piece of that pie and many of them are not thinking about preserving/protecting Florida’s natural resources for the future. They are wanting corporate welfare and personal gain. So speak out now and let your elected officials know how you feel about the direction that Florida will take with this new mandate.
6. SOLAR CHOICES – Here’s another ray of sunshine. Conservative tea-party activists and environmental groups have teamed up with a proposed constitutional amendment that will give Floridians more economic freedom with their solar energy systems. The groups are currently gathering signatures to get the issue on the 2016 ballot. If you want to read more about this effort go to the website: www.flsolarchoice.org
There you will find more info and a link to the petition, which you can sign, and mail. If you are really enthusiastic, and you should be, make 10 copies to give to your friends and encourage them to do the same. Right now, Florida gives all the power (pun intended) to the electric power companies. Take back your rights. Florida is only one of a handful of states that don’t allow citizens to sell their solar energy to other individuals. Let’s change that.
I will close this for now and try to write again soon. Have a safe weekend and know that all of your efforts to protect and preserve Florida’s waters are not only appreciated, but they are part of a greater effort by your fellow Floridians. Together we are making a difference and the future will be better because of our efforts.
For all of Florida’s waters,
Linda Young, Executive Director
Florida Clean Water Network
PO Box 5124
Navarre, FL 32566
Your tax-deductible donations are welcome and very helpful to our work. Thank you in advance for your generosity!!!