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Wetland Permitting, State Budget, IRNA Lunch, and more

February 17, 2024 Weekly Newsletter


Why a Court Ruling Protects Florida's Wetlands and Endangered Species: A Win for the Environment


Good news for Florida's precious wetlands and endangered species! A recent court ruling has overturned the state's takeover of Clean Water Act wetland permitting, a decision hailed by environmental groups as a vital step in protecting vulnerable ecosystems and wildlife.


Here's why this ruling is a positive development:

  • Stronger safeguards for endangered species: The ruling ensures that endangered species like the Florida panther receive rigorous evaluation under the Endangered Species Act before any development impacting their habitat is approved. This reinforces essential protections for the state's most vulnerable wildlife.

  • Protecting vital wetlands: Wetlands are essential for filtering water, preventing floods, and providing habitat. This ruling safeguards these wetlands and the numerous benefits they provide.

  • Ensuring proper review: The court determined the state's previous review process lacked sufficient rigor. This ruling reinforces adherence to federal environmental laws, mandating comprehensive assessments of potential impacts on wetlands and endangered species.

  • Upholding environmental standards: This decision demonstrates that states cannot bypass federal environmental protections when taking over permitting programs.


While some development projects may face delays, this ruling prioritizes responsible development that respects Florida's delicate ecosystems and endangered species. Protecting our wildlife and natural resources is crucial for both present and future generations, and this court ruling marks a significant step in ensuring healthy environments within Florida.


 

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Together, we are planting seeds of change, nurturing a vision of a vibrant, sustainable Indian River County. Your support is the water that will help these seeds grow and blossom. Your contribution today is more than a donation—it's a commitment to our community's future. Thank you for being the lifeblood of our mission. Join us, as we turn ripples of change into waves of progress.



 


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IRNA Luncheon Featuring County Administrator John Titkanich


The Indian River Neighborhood Association is delighted to invite you to what is sure to be a sold out luncheon with County Administrator John Titkanich as our esteemed guest speaker. This is a unique opportunity to hear from Mr. Titkanich about his approach to leadership, his aspirations for Indian River County, and to participate in a Q&A session on issues that matter to you.


Event Information:

  • Date: Wednesday, February 28th Time: 12:00 PM Venue: Big Shots, 3456 US-1, Vero Beach, FL 32960 (The Loft – upstairs, elevator access provided)

  • Cost: $30 per person (inclusive of tax, gratuity, and a delightful meal) - Payment in cash or check at the door.

  • Menu: A Fiesta Buffet with options of Chicken or Vegetarian dishes, served with Rice, Black Beans, Tortillas, Chips, Salsa, and Cookies for dessert.

  • Capacity: Space is limited so please RSVP to ensure your participation. To reserve your place, please email info@indianriverna.com.


This gathering is an excellent occasion to engage, acquire knowledge, and converse about the critical issues and prospects facing our county. Whether you are passionate about local governance, community progress, or simply wish to savor a delicious meal with fellow community members, this luncheon promises to be an enriching experience.


Don't miss out on this chance to be part of a dialogue that will shape our community's future.


 

In honor of Valentine's Day this month, enjoy a cute video of Manatee's 'kissing.' Love isn't just in the air, it's also underwater


 

There's a way to slow Treasure Coast's growth, but it has a price tag (TCPalm) - Purchasing land for conservation could be Martin County's solution to slowing rampant development and protecting the environment, preserving its unique character.


No Brightline quiet zones in Indian River County for safety concerns (TCPalm) - The Indian River County Commission decided against implementing train horn quiet zones, prioritizing safety concerns over the potential noise disruption for residents.


Brightline station proposals neat, but is government involvement wise? (TCPalm) - The three proposals for a Treasure Coast Brightline station each have their strengths and potential taxpayer risks, with Fort Pierce offering the most central location and ambitious development vision.


Vero village will strive for happy, harmonic lifestyle (VeroNews.com) - Mandala Village will be a new Indian River County subdivision blending modern New Urbanism design with ancient architectural principles to create a harmonious, walkable community with a focus on resident wellbeing and low-impact development.


Vero City Council rejects motion to include members on Three Corners Selection Committee (VeroNews.com) - The Vero Beach City Council voted to proceed with the current Three Corners Selection Committee rather than expanding it to include council members.


County to move on preserving environmentally sensitive lands (Indian River Guardian) - Indian River County will begin accepting nominations on March 1st for the purchase of environmentally sensitive land, utilizing $50M in voter-approved funding to help restore the Indian River Lagoon and protect natural resources. More info to come on this issue!


Forecasters unveil new hurricane forecast cone (Miami Herald) - The National Hurricane Center will debut a new, more comprehensive version of its hurricane forecast cone this year, adding inland storm warnings, wind field depictions, and more Spanish-language advisories to enhance public understanding of storm threats.


 

Florida's 2024 Budget: Environmental Funding Needs More Green


Florida's lawmakers are finalizing the 2024 budget, and while some progress has been made, environmental programs still need significantly more support. Here's a breakdown of where things stand:


The Good News:

  • Florida Forever: Both legislative chambers propose increases for land acquisition, with the House offering $158 million and the Senate $116.3 million.

  • Everglades Restoration: There's a commitment to stronger funding in both proposals, ranging from $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion. This includes much-needed boosts for water quality improvements.

  • Resilient Florida: This critical program focuses on protecting communities from climate change impacts. Funding proposals range from $120 million to $220 million, representing a substantial investment.


The Needs Improvement Zone:

  • Indian River Lagoon: Advocates must push for more! The Senate's $100 million commitment matches Governor DeSantis' pledge, but the House falls short with a woefully inadequate $25 million. Increased funding is vital for saving this precious ecosystem.

  • Rural and Family Lands Protection Program: A stark disparity exists here. The Senate's proposed $300 million far exceeds the House's $33 million. This program safeguards Florida's natural areas and supports rural economies – it deserves robust funding.


Compromise is Key:

The Florida Senate and House have very different visions for environmental spending. It's crucial that lawmakers listen to their constituents and find middle ground that truly secures the health of our natural resources.


Take Action:

Contact your legislators TODAY and insist on these priorities:

  • Fully fund Governor DeSantis' $100 million pledge (or increase it!) for the Indian River Lagoon.

  • Significantly boost funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.

  • Show your support for a strong statewide commitment to conservation and climate resilience in the budget.


Your Voice Matters! Help ensure Florida's budget invests in protecting the environment for the health and enjoyment of generations to come.


Contact Information:

Sen. Erin Grall

Phone: 850-487-5025

Address: 3209 Virginia Avenue, Suite A149, Fort Pierce, FL 34981


Rep. Robbie Brackett

Phone: 772-778-5005

Address: Suite B2-203, 1801 27th Street, Vero Beach, FL 32960


 

Army Corps blames El Niño on Lake O discharges to St. Lucie in Stuart (TCPalm) - Lake Okeechobee water releases into the St. Lucie River began Saturday due to high levels caused according to the ACOE by El Niño rainfall, with the goal of lowering the lake before summer rains arrive.


Five long years: Lake O plan taking longer than anyone expected (TCPalm) - Five years after it began, the Army Corps of Engineers has yet to finalize its new Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) plan, causing delays in critical water management decisions and leaving the region vulnerable to harmful discharges.


Bacteria alert: DOH issues health advisory for St. Lucie River (TCPalm) - The Florida Department of Health issued an avoid-water advisory for two St. Lucie River locations (Leighton Park and Roosevelt Bridge) due to high levels of enteric bacteria, which can cause health problems if ingested or touched.


Treasure Coast residents rail against Lake O discharges (TCPalm) - Angry Treasure Coast residents voiced their strong opposition to the ongoing Lake Okeechobee discharges at a Rivers Coalition meeting, demanding zero discharges and the prioritization of sending water south to the Everglades.


Where are our champions? What are elected officials doing to stop these discharges? (VoteWater.org) - Elected officials are being urged to take a more active leadership role and apply pressure on water managers to find immediate solutions to mitigate the ongoing harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges impacting the Caloosahatchee, St. Lucie, and Lake Worth Lagoon.


Algae spotted in Martin County days after Lake Okeechobee discharges begin (WPTV) - Algae resembling harmful blue-green algae was spotted in Martin County less than a week after Lake Okeechobee discharges began, raising concerns about water quality impacts, and highlighting the need for improved water management solutions.


Preemption of local government hiring preferences on public works projects advances in Senate (Florida Politics) - A Senate committee advanced a bill preempting local governments from requiring contractors to hire local workers for public works projects, drawing criticism that it would suppress wages and limit opportunities in rural areas.


 

Florida’s annual 60-day legislative session is more than half over, and big decisions are looming. Legislators are bargaining, bills are moving, and the future of Florida’s water and green spaces hangs in the balance. What does it all mean? Check out this Friends of the Everglades broadcast for the latest on the good, the bad, and the ugly moving through Tallahassee.


 

Lawsuit Launched Over EPA’s Oversight Failure on Dangerous Phosphate Mining Waste (Center for Biological Diversity) - Environmental groups filed a lawsuit notice against the EPA for failing to respond to a petition demanding increased regulation of toxic, radioactive phosphate mining waste, arguing it poses a threat to public health and the environment.


Earleaf acacia trees are invasive species spreading throughout Florida (TCPalm) - Invasive earleaf acacia trees are rapidly spreading throughout Florida, threatening native habitats and the Everglades; scientists plan to combat the trees by releasing insects that damage them and are encouraging residents to remove the trees.


Judge rules to allow Arrowhead Spring bottler to continue taking water from San Bernardino mountains (KVCR News) - A judge temporarily paused the California water board's cease and desist order against BlueTriton Brands, allowing them to continue extracting water from the San Bernardino National Forest, prompting activists to call on the Forest Service to intervene.


O2O: The Ocala to Osceola conservation initiative (Clay Today) - The North Florida Land Trust is working to preserve the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor, a critical 100-mile passageway connecting two national forests that allows for free movement of animal species and protects biodiversity.


Find the manatee: New AI model spots sea cows from images (Mongabay) - Engineers at Florida Atlantic University created a new AI model using deep learning to count manatees in camera images, a promising tool for conservation efforts aimed at understanding manatee demographics and designing rules for boaters.


The growing popularity of degrowth (Grist) - Degrowth, a movement emphasizing social well-being over economic growth, is gaining popularity as people seek alternatives to the current capitalist system, which drives inequality and the climate crisis; degrowth policies could include shorter work weeks, free basic services, and limits on excessive consumption.


Even very low levels of pesticide exposure can affect fish for generations (ScienceDaily) - A recent study found that even brief, low-level pesticide exposure in fish can cause lasting behavioral changes and affect subsequent generations, raising concerns for the health of aquatic organisms and potentially humans as well.


 

  • Speaker: Heather Stapleton

  • Date: March 5, 2024, at 7:00 p.m.

  • Location: The Emerson Center, 1590 27th Ave, Vero Beach, FL


Explore the Indian River Lagoon's transition from a seagrass-rich ecosystem to an algae-dominated system. Understand our impact and learn strategies to restore its health. Heather Stapleton, with a background in Environmental Studies, Political Science, and French, and experience in community engagement, will lead the discussion. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Admission is free, with a suggested $10 donation. Join us for this important event in the E-Series lectures at the Emerson Center. Don't forget to mark your calendar for the next E-Series event on March 12!


 

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