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Environmental Roundup May 28, 2021

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By Jean-Lou Justine - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33791229
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Loggerhead Turtle Track on Sanibel Island

We are all connected by the environment we share. The Earth is our home. This is the space where we share the environmental stories that caught our attention this week in Florida and beyond.

FLORIDA:

It’s sea turtle nesting season! If you’re spending the Memorial Day weekend at the beach, be sure to share the beach. Remember to leave their nests alone, and don’t shine light on the beach --that means avoid using your cell phone and flashlight. This is what the nests will look like on the beach:

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Courtesy FWC Flickr
Green turtle nest marked in Sanibel Island. Although green sea turtles are more common on the east coast, some areas on the west coast hold important rookeries for this species.

On Wednesday June 2, City of Sanibel residents may safely and responsibly dispose of household chemical waste (HCW) including leftover paints, cleaners, herbicides, pesticides, automotive fluids, and pool chemicals. Lee County Solid Waste will collect the household chemical waste from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the parking lot in front of the Sanibel Library located at 770 Dunlop Road. People will be able to drop off the unwanted chemicals in a drive-through process available to Sanibel residents at no charge.

Members of the Venice City Council are voicing concerns about possible environmental impacts posed by an aquaculture demonstration project planned for the Gulf of Mexico South of Sarasota County. The Herald-Tribune reports, the aquaculture company, Ocean Era, proposes a year of monitoring the smaller-scale demonstration project before undertaking a larger aquaculture operation at a different location. Ocean Era is looking to raise about 20,000 pounds of Almaco jack spawned at Mote Marine Laboratory's inland Aquaculture Park in Sarasota. The fish would be raised in a pen in the Gulf, that would produce about 80,000 pounds of waste.

The Imperial river and Spring Creek waterways used for swimming, kayaking and other recreation are testing positive for fecal contamination, and Bonita Springs city leaders are looking to address the problem. The Naples Daily News reports, a Florida Gulf Coast University study presented to city council members showed traces of E. coli and enterococcus in water samples. Presence of these bacteria could mean dangerous diseases like cholera or typhoid fever could be in the water as well. Earlier this month, another report had similar results for the Estero River. More in-depth research is needed to pinpoint the source of the contamination, but it could be leaking sewage pipes and failing septic systems. The Estero Village Council has already approved the start of a multi-million dollar effort to remove nearly all septic systems from the village.

Collier County Commissioners have postponed taking a vote on two proposed residential developments, Bellmar and Longwater, in rural eastern portions of the county. Collier Enterprises is looking to construct three villages and the Town of Big Cypress on land the company owns that's largely composed of farmland. Collier Commissioners have already approved development of a village called Rivergrass. Environmental advocacy groups are split on the proposed developments. Groups like the Conservancy of Southwest Florida are opposed, noting that the land is prime habitat for the critically endangered Florida panther. They also say the cost of extending infrastructure services to the rural sites, such as EMS, fire, and schools is being grossly underestimated and will leave taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars. Collier Commissioners will revisit the proposed developments at their next commission meeting June 8.

Our friends at Jacksonville's WJCT Public Media have an interesting look at what Florida can learn from Nashville's adaptations for climate change.

We know glyphosate is contributing to the crisis currently facing manatees. The manufacturer, Bayer, is in its own crisis mode hoping to prevent lawsuits over the health risks posed by their product, which is manufactured by Monsanto. Learn more about the issue in WGCU’s interview with Carey Gillam, author of the Monsanto Papers, and read the latest update on the issue by Gillam in Environmental Health News.

And, a young woman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida considers next steps in a lawsuit against Governor Ron DeSantis and state Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried over climate change, while blue-green algae and red tide continue to plague Southwest Florida.

BEYOND:

The Biden Administration is defending a large-scale Trump-approved Alaskan ConocoPhilips Oil drilling project. While the Biden White House has had the U.S. rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and insists the U.S. must turn away from fossil fuels, this particular project, now approved by both Trump and Biden, has a planned production of more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day, every day, for 30 years. The New York Times reports “ConocoPhillips also plans to install “chillers” into the permafrost — which is fast melting because of climate change — to keep it solid enough to support the equipment to drill for oil, the burning of which will continue to worsen ice melt.”

Environmental Health News reports on the importance of removing the nation’s highways--for both equity and environmental reasons.

The South American nation of Chile has banned single-use plastics and disposable plastics in cafes, restaurants and delivery services. Eating establishments selling takeout are able to provide disposables made from other materials, including aluminum, paper, and cardboard. The ban includes plastic and poly paper cups, cutlery, stirrers, straws, plates, and packets. Some plastics will become certified for specific use. Supermarkets and grocery stores will need to offer plastic bottle recycling, and only those bottles containing recycled materials will be allowed. The law is set to go into effect in November.

Learn about all this and more, including regular updates on blue-green algae and red tide, on our website, WGCU.org.

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Courtesy Naples Botanical Garden
Naples Botanical Garden is free for essential workers and their families this summer.

Do & Learn

  • Snook, amberjack, and gray triggerfish season is ending June 1 while gag grouper begins June 1. Find a place to fish using Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Florida Fishing Pier Finder, an interactive map that allows anglers to find publicly-accessed fishing piers, jetties and fishing-specific bridges in freshwater and saltwater locations throughout the state. Visit MyFWC.com/PierFinder to search for a location by county.
  • Captains for Clean Water has a short educational video about blue-green algae.
  • Naples Botanical Garden invites essential workers and their families to visit the Garden on a complimentary basis through September 30, 2021.

Want to influence your local environment? There’s probably a public meeting for that.

Check out Collier County’s full public calendar here. Eastern Collier County developments Bellmar, Longwater, and the planned town agreement went to the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, May 25, and the RLSA amendments will go to the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday, June 8.

Multiple area non-profits are organizing to influence the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers future plans for Lake Okeechobee. These include the Everglades Trust, Captains for Clean Water, and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce.

Charlotte County still has several committee vacancies to fill and many have something to do with the environment. Learn more at https://www.charlottecountyfl.gov/news/charlotte-county-committee-vacancies.stmlGot an environment story or tip to share? Email Valerie Vande Panne at Vvandepanne@wgcu.org.