Environmental Roundup June 18, 2021
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.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has proposed new plans for Lake Okeechobee, all six of which would raise the lake by at least a 1.5 feet for parts of the year. WLRN's Jenny Staletovich reports, that’s raising concerns with conservationists and wildlife managers. Conservationists and wildlife managers say prolonged high water is bad for lake health. The Army Corps wants to select a preferred alternative by August 4. See below for dates and times of upcoming, public USACOE meetings.
The Florida Department of Health in Lee County continues to urge people and their pets to stay out of the Caloosahatchee river near the Franklin Lock and Dam due to the continued presence of harmful blue-green algae, despite the repeated application of a product intended to kill cyanobacteria, promoted earlier this month by Governor Ron DeSantis. The News Press reports the hydrogen-peroxide product Lake Guard Oxy was funded through a $750,000 pilot partnership between the state Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District. The product is labeled a pesticide, and water quality advocates note that in addition to harming birds and beneficial insects, the product does not address the root cause of the blooms: nutrients in the water.
Harmful red tide continues to impact Southwest Florida, from Tampa Bay South along the Gulf coast. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports red tide has been especially high in Pinellas County this past week, and was also found in Collier, Charlotte, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties. Suspected red tide related fish kills were reported in Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties, and suspected red tide-related respiratory irritation was reported in Pinellas County. FWC recommends people visit visitbeaches.org for the most up-to-date information before heading to the beach. Those sensitive to red tide, may want to wear a mask to reduce the risk of respiratory irritation.
Florida Power & Light, on Wednesday, imploded a chimney stack at its last coal-fired generating plant north of West Palm Beach. The AP reports, demolition of the 495 foot-high chimney stack is being hailed as a milestone in the utility's transition to clean energy sources. FPL plans to tear down the remainder of the plant later this year and convert the site into a solar energy facility. FPL shut down the plant more than two years ago. More than 170 pounds of explosives were used to bring down the stack and an adjoining conveyor building.
ICYMI, the U.S. South is witnessing unprecedented rainfall and crippling floods--and the hurricanes haven’t even started yet. In coastal Louisiana, the flooding and rising water is especially profound. Oil companies are already leaving in anticipation of the next storm. Yet some family companies are staying and doing their best to be civic and environmentally minded. The AP reports the family that makes Tabasco Sauce are doing what they can to restore Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and hold their ground, despite the coming highwater.
Bad news for cosmetics lovers: More than50% of the cosmetics sold in the U.S. and Canada contain toxic chemicals that are known to cause cancer and low birth weight. Many of the products, especially waterproof mascaras and long-lasting lipsticks, contained fluorine, an indicator of PFAS, the same chemicals found in nonstick frying pans. Only one of the 230 cosmetics tested listed the toxic chemicals on their label. Read more from the Associated Press.
The Washington Post reports new research from NASA and NOAA shows that the planet traps twice as much heat as it did in 2005, meaning hotter oceans, land, and air. Researchers point to “decreases in cloud cover and sea ice, which reflect solar energy back into space, and an increase in greenhouse gases emitted by humans, such as methane and carbon dioxide, as well as water vapor, which trap more heat in the Earth,” among other factors.
And yes, it’s hot in Florida, but the Southwest is even hotter.
Do & Learn
- Watch the Naples Botanical Garden’s LIVE Earthcam.
- Want to learn to fish but don’t know where to start? FWC has a ton of resources on their website.
- Bay scallop season started June 15 between the Fenholloway and Suwannee rivers. Learn more with this video from FWC.
- The Florida Python Challenge starts July 9. If you’ve ever wanted to protect the Everglades and the animals that live there from invasive pythons, this is your chance. The challenges runs through July 18 and includes cash prizes. Learn more and register.
- The FWC is encouraging people to hunt wild hogs this summer. Learn more at MyFWC.com/hunting/wild-hog.
- 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.
- A new exhibit at the Collier Museum, Swamp Angels: A History of Mosquitoes and Mosquito Control, might just be a must-see. Running now through August 28 at the county government complex in Naples.
Want to influence your local environment? There’s probably a public meeting for that.
Check out Collier County’s full public calendar here.
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. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, has announced a Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) Technical Workshops on Tuesday, June 22 and Wednesday, June 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Members of the public are welcome. The data sets for the Iteration 2 Alternative Array of the six balanced schedules are available at this link: ftp://ftppub.sfwmd.gov/outgoing/LOSOM/Iteration_2/ Frequently Asked Questions on how to access the data are available at: www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/. There will be designated opportunities for public comment during the PDT meeting and technical workshops. If you would like to provide public comment, in addition to your initial check-in, USACOE requests that you wait to add your name to the chat to provide public comment until the public comment period is announced, and then provide your full name and affiliation to everyone on the chat again at that time to reserve your opportunity to provide public comment. This will make it easier for everyone to track who will be next up to provide public comment. For those who cannot attend the online PDT meeting or technical workshops, but wish to provide a comment, please send those comments by email to LakeOComments@usace.army.mil. Additional information is available at: www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/
LOSOM Iteration 2 Evaluation Technical Workshop, Tuesday, June 22, 2021, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. https://usace1.webex.com/meet/lisa.e.aley
+1-844-800-2712 US Toll Free
+1-669-234-1177 US Toll
Access code: 199 737 9512
LOSOM Iteration 2 Evaluation Technical Workshop, Wednesday, June 30, 2021, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. https://usace1.webex.com/meet/lisa.e.aley
+1-844-800-2712 US Toll Free
+1-669-234-1177 US Toll
Access code: 199 737 9512
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.stml
South Florida Water Management has the following upcoming meetings:
Loxahatchee River - National Wild & Scenic River Management Plan Workshop: June 28 at 12:30 p.m.
Loxahatchee River Management Coordinating Council: June 28 at 2 p.m.
Governing Board Workshop: June 29 at 10 a.m.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) Internal Investigations Section is undergoing assessment to retain accreditation by the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA). The assessment, which is required every three years, will review the OIG’s compliance with approximately 40 standards. The general public is invited to offer comments to the assessment team. For more information regarding CFA or for persons wishing to offer written comments about the DEP Office of Inspector General’s ability to meet the standards of accreditation, please write: CFA, P.O. Box 1489, Tallahassee, FL 32302, or email info@FLAccreditation.org.
Got an environment story or tip to share? Email Valerie Vande Panne at Vvandepanne@wgcu.org.