Audubon Florida News

Topic: Everglades,Water Issues



C-44 Reservoir & Stormwater Treatment Area Groundbreaking

posted on December 8, 2015 in Everglades,Water Issues

Groundbreaking at C-44On November 20, Audubon Florida’s Eric Draper, Tabitha Cale, and Celeste De Palma attended the groundbreaking of the C-44 Reservoir & Stormwater Treatment Area (STA). This project is the first component of the Indian River Lagoon-South project (IRL-S) in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

The C-44 Reservoir is a key storage component of the entire Indian River Lagoon-South and a major step towards increasing storage of local basin runoff and improving ecological conditions in the St. Lucie Estuary and Indian River Lagoon. Both ecosystems have suffered from altered water flow patterns and degraded water quality due to excessive water discharges from Lake Okeechobee and large volumes of stormwater runoff during the heavy rains experienced in the years past.

Audubon's Tabitha Cale and Celeste De Palma with Representative Patrick MurphyOnce completed, the C-44 Reservoir & STA will capture, store, and treat local runoff from the C-44 basin, providing clean water to the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon, helping to restore the delicate balance of fresh and saltwater in these ecosystems. This project will provide 3,600 acres of new wetlands and reduce average nutrient loads, significantly improving water quality in the lagoon and the estuary.

This is a major step towards restoring key habitat for birds and bringing back America’s Everglades.

Update: SFWMD Vote to Reduce Millage Rate Means Less Money for Everglades

posted on August 5, 2015 in Everglades,Water Issues

An Everglade Snail Kite surrounded by eggs from an exotic apple snail.Thank you to all our Audubon Advocates for making your voices heard on behalf of the Everglades. On Friday, Audubon Florida joined representatives from the Audubon Society of the Everglades, South Florida Audubon,Tropical Audubon Society, Emerge Miami, and Engage Miami to support Everglades funding at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).

Unfortunately, in an 8-1 result, the Governing Board voted against maintaining the tax millage rate from last year. This was the second time the Governing Board voted on this issue in the past month. Friday’s vote reversed a courageous decision from earlier in July when members elected to keep the tax millage rate the same.

Despite calls from prestigious organizations such as National Academy of Sciences to increase the rate of restoration, Friday’s vote means that the SFWMD will collect $21 million less for Everglades work this year. This year marks the fifth year in a row of millage rate reductions even as the need for stable and consistent funding grows more urgent.

Thank you again to everyone who spoke for our birds and wildlife. Only together will we be successful in our shared mission to protect and restore America’s Everglades.

Everglades Funding at Stake in SFWMD Board Vote

posted on July 30, 2015 in Everglades,State Government,Water Issues

The deeper parts of Okeechobee’s marsh are in wonderful condition for fish and wildlife, including Everglades Snail Kites.On July 16, the Governing Board of the South Florida Water Management District (the agency responsible for managing the state’s Everglades restoration effort) did the courageous thing and voted to keep their tax rate the same as last year. Click here to read our latest fact sheet on this issue.

Thank you to our chapter partners for joining us at the public meeting to advocate for the funding to keep Everglades restoration on track. By keeping the tax rate the same, the District will gain an additional $21 million in revenue that can be used towards protecting imperiled habitat and the wildlife that live there.

Now the Governing Board is under pressure from Tallahassee to undo their vote and cut the tax rate instead of keeping it the same.

This Friday, July 31, the board will vote to either keep the tax rate the same or cut the rate to a lower level and Audubon will be there. If the board votes for the cut, the savings would be small but the costs to the environment would be high. The owner of a $200,000 home would save less than $6.00 a year and would come at the price of defunding already slow restoration efforts.

Click here to read a recent Sun Sentinel editorial.

Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Everglade Snail Kites, and other iconic Florida birds depend on the Everglades ecosystem for survival. Restoration projects designed to repair this important habitat need funding to stay on track.

Click here to take action and ask the SFWMD Governing Board to hold the tax rate and protect Everglades funding.

UPDATE: 

BREAKING: The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has reversed a previous vote to maintain millage rate at same level as last year — now District will collect $21 million LESS for Everglades restoration work this year.

THANK YOU to our inspiring Everglades Advocates for emailing the SFWMD Governing Board about this issues AND to our Chapters and Allies for attending today’s meeting and making public comment. Your voices are vital to the Everglades restoration process.

Audubon Florida Decries Florida’s Challenge of Wetland Protections

posted on July 7, 2015 in Water Issues

Wetlands by Chad JohnsonAudubon Florida is disappointed at the June 30 action by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi joining 26 other states suing the Obama Administration over a new rule clarifying which wetlands and streams are protected under the federal Clean Water Act. Their complaints assert the new U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers rule usurps the states’ authority to protect and manage their own waters.

Audubon Florida strongly supports the new rule which was made necessary by two muddled Supreme Court cases on wetlands in 2001 and 2006.  Audubon and other agencies have clearly documented the alarming acceleration of wetland destruction – the first since the 1980’s – since those earlier Court rulings confused the issue of what is a federally protected wetland or water resource.

Florida has now lost over half its wetlands, so it makes no sense for the State to challenge a necessary, science-based wetland clarification while it is also spending hundreds of millions of dollars on restoring wetland ecosystems like the Everglades.

Wetland destruction is why over 90% of the Everglades’ wading birds have vanished – from an estimated 2.5 million birds in 1900 to less than 100,000 today. Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s iconic Wood Stork rookery has only produced chicks in only 2 of the last 8 years.  Without protection and restoration of wetland ecosystems that these and many other wildlife species depend on, these dire trends will continue.

Audubon Florida will continue to vigorously support this reasonable new rule and hope it survives these short-sighted legal challenges.

Audubon Advocates Keep Pressure on the Army Corps to Protect the Southern Everglades

posted on June 16, 2015 in Everglades,Florida Bay,Water Issues

spoonbill_bill_swindamanThree vital restoration projects in the Southern Everglades – Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park, C-111 South Dade, and the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project – are nearly complete. How these projects are operated will determine how they impact the ecosystem. Operations that move freshwater to the right places at the right time of year will help revive Everglades National Park, improve conditions in Florida Bay, and bring back birds, fish, and other wildlife that depend on these special places.

The Army Corps of Engineers is conducting a series of incremental tests. During these tests, freshwater will be moved through restoration projects and into the Everglades. Data will be collected to determine the final operations plan for the Southern Everglades. The goal of these projects are to restore the flow of water that will in turn restore habitats in the Southern Everglades and Florida Bay.

The first increment of testing will start this summer and will slightly increase water flowing into Shark River Slough in Everglades National Park. In order to satisfy the vocal agricultural community worried about the impacts of restoration on their land, this test will also allow some water to be diverted away from Taylor Slough and Florida Bay which will reduce ecological benefits in those areas.

Audubon will continue working with the agencies responsible for Everglades restoration to stress that restoration projects achieve the promised ecological benefits for birds and other wildlife.

Nicodemus Slough Project Now Online

posted on May 28, 2015 in Everglades,Water Issues

nicodemus2_nrThis may be the fastest startup ever for an Everglades related water management project. Nicodemus Slough is now storing water from Lake Okeechobee, providing relief from high-water discharges and now discharging water at the right time to help the river and estuary.

This 16,000 acre project can store and dispense around 34,000 acre feet of water and was online in about 3 years from proposal. It will cost the South Florida Water Management District $28 million if its full term lease is utilized, just a tiny fraction of the cost big reservoirs under engineering or construction on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River.

Built by Lykes Brothers Ranch on their own land with the company taking the risk, Lykes has stepped out in front with a real winner here. Ten years from now, when the government-built reservoirs are just starting operation, this project will already have a decade of performance behind it. This shows what private-public partnerships can do.

Audubon Florida is proud to have had a role as an advocate of this great project.

For more information, please click here.

Audubon Rallies for Amendment 1 at the Capitol

posted on March 2, 2015 in State Government,Volunteering,Water Issues

rally_image_feb15Audubon Intern Brittney Deoliveira submitted this recap of her experience helping with the Rally for Amendment 1 & Clean Water on February 18. Thanks to Brittney joining the team that helped organize over 400 people in support of this very important issue. Enjoy!

On February 18, hundreds of Floridians gathered on the steps of the Old Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee to rally in support of clean water and Amendment 1, which 75% of Florida voted for on the 2014 election ballot.

As one of the many college students attending the rally on that cold, yet clear day, it encouraged me to see all ages peacefully united together at the Capitol. While volunteering at the Florida’s Water & Land Legacy tent and assisting rally attendees, I had the opportunity to speak with numerous constituents, many of whom traveled miles for this specific Capitol Day. A lot of networking occurred on the lawn, as well reencounters of past acquaintances.

Vehicles and trucks honked their horns as they passed by at the intersection of Monroe Street and Apalachee Parkway. The signs held at the rally not only showed creativity, but they each sent a certain message: “Save Our Springs,” “Buy The Land, Send It South,” and “Don’t Frack Florida”, amongst others.

After witnessing the optimistic passion of everyone, it became clear to me the motivation behind their presence at the rally and meeting with Senators later that day. Whether the interests were for Florida’s tourist economy, agriculture, the environment, or our children’s future, the preservation and conservation of Florida’s resources remains of essence in the hearts of Floridians, and they made it clear once again at the Capitol.

Good Water Management is Good for Northern Everglades Birds and Wildlife

Lake Okeechobee by Tabitha Cale

As the wet season is wrapping up, we are breathing a sigh of relief for the birds and wildlife in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuary ecosystems. Due to thoughtful water level management amongst the state and federal agencies this season, (and just the right amount of rain), our ecosystems are in a solid place as we enter the winter months.

During the wet season between May and October, Lake Okeechobee received slightly more than average rain.  Thanks to new management approaches and patience from the agencies, there were minimal summer discharges from the Lake to the St. Lucie, and mostly beneficial releases to Caloosahatchee Estuaries, allowing these delicate ecosystems to continue to recover from the devastation from last summer. Lake Okeechobee’s levels reached 16 feet in October, which is the considered threshold for harm. But with levels now dropping, lake levels are within the ideal zone for the end of the rainy season.

Lake Okeechobee’s ideal water level range is between 12.5 to 15.5 feet over the course of the year.  If the Lake is over 16 feet for too long, damage to the marsh occurs. The 50,000‐acre submerged marsh community is in deep enough water that plants begin dying from wave action and from the loss of light in the deep, turbid, water. Prolonged deep water eliminates the wildlife rich wet prairie communities from the Lake, areas needed to support wading bird foraging. Rapidly rising water can drown alligator and bird nests (including Everglade Snail Kites) across the marsh. Click here to learn more about the effect of lake levels on the wildlife of Lake Okeechobee.

An Everglade Snail Kite surrounded by eggs from an exotic apple snail.

Managing Lake Okeechobee’s water levels is not easy. One wet tropical storm can raise Lake levels several feet –  levels harmful to the marsh and perilous for Hoover Dike safety.  The Corps cannot lower the Lake as fast as it can rise so they must make proactive releases to avoid harmful levels.   The management plan for the Lake allowed Lake releases to the estuaries virtually all summer, but the Corps decided to minimize releases to the estuaries.  This approach prevented harmful Lake discharges.  Note that the estuaries did receive some water from polluted local basin runoff, but it was not nearly as harmful as the previous year.

Very importantly, the SFWMD experimented with new operations to flow over 200,000 acre feet of water (about 5 inches of Lake level) south to the Everglades- water that otherwise would have been released to the estuaries.

The Corps and SFWMD’s approach over the summer came with some risk, but Audubon supported it based on climate patterns and lake level trends during the summer.  Almost weekly, the Corps hosts “Periodic Scientist” calls to get input from scientists from myriad agencies and interests, including Audubon, on day-to-day system conditions from throughout the system.  This information is then used to guide weekly decisions on Lake management.

We commend the Corps and SFWMD for innovative lake management this season and look forward to a healthy spring drawdown.

Audubon Society of the Everglades Celebrates BIG Amendment 1 Victory

posted on November 10, 2014 in Land Conservation,Water Issues

Amendment1_YES_photo_smallThe Audubon Society of the Everglades members are taking great pride in the results of the vote on Amendment One because they were part of making it happen.  It began in early June when they met for their annual planning retreat.   They made “Vote YES on 1” their number one goal and devised a strategy focusing their efforts on the 3 months leading up to the November 4 vote.

August was a month for educating members and voters. For their August program they invited Audubon Florida’s Tabitha Cale to speak on the importance of passage of Amendment 1 for the future of Florida. Eighty members attended, had plenty of time for questions, and left really excited about Florida’s Water and Land Legacy Campaign.  The chapter bought several hundred “Vote YES on 1” buttons that were distributed that evening to members who agreed to wear them every day until the election.  70 went out that night and people were good to their word, they started appearing around town.

September was a month to get the word out.  The September KITE newsletter devoted one full page to the campaign which was reprinted by a number of other organizations.  They took advantage of local festivals to hand out literature and of course, buttons!  Even a casual conversation at the market or gas station often resulted in the exchange of information and the gift of a button.  The buttons prompted people to approach the wearers, and it was an easy sell.

In October, County Commissioner Paulette Burdick came to ASE general meeting and encouraged everyone to vote for the Amendment.  The group loved having their picture taken signaling “Vote Yes on 1” with the Commissioner and used it form their continued promotion of the Amendment.

During a congratulatory call to Audubon Society of the Everglades, President Paton White shared her excitement. “Our campaign was easy, fun and united our members in a common cause!”   While Audubon Society of the Everglades may not have been solely responsible for Palm Beach County’s astounding 85% support there is no doubt that their efforts paid off.

They have a great deal to be proud of.

EPA and Army Corps to Clarify Muddy Definitions of Wetlands and Water

posted on November 7, 2014 in Everglades,Water Issues,Wildlife

Audubon_WOTUS_FactSheet_CoverThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency have proposed a new rule clarifying Clean Water Act protections for many streams, wetlands, and other waters critical to Florida’s and the nation’s water resources, wildlife and economy.  Because of confusion created by two Supreme Court cases in 2001 and 2006 over what waters are protected or not, many have been at increased risk of pollution and destruction for more than a decade.  The sad result is wetland losses have been increasing nationwide for the first time since the 1980’s.  Just as sad is a torrent of misinformed objections to this very reasonable, science-based rule from development interests who want to keep this confused status quo.

Audubon Florida summarizes this important habitat and resource issue in a new “Clean Water Act Rule” Fact Sheet – click here to read itTo read a two-page EPA summary of the proposed rule’s clarifications of what water resources are protected by the Clean Water Act, click here.

Clean drinking water, flood protection, downstream fisheries, wildlife habitat and everyone’s local economy depend on clear standards and rules leading to healthier water and wetlands. Please send a letter of support for this proposed rule to EPA before the end of the public comment period on November 14, 2014.  If the rule is not approved, wetland losses and degradation of water will continue to accelerate in Florida and across the United States.

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