Water-Related News

Trump's move to redefine water rule threatens wetlands banks

GAINESVILLE — A private firm is making big money selling promises about some gator-infested Florida swampland.

The Panther Island Mitigation Bank isn't another land boondoggle, but part of a federal system designed to restore wetlands across the United States. Panther Island's owners preserved one of the nation's last stands of virgin bald cypress, 4 square miles (10 square kilometers) on the western edge of the Everglades where they cleared away invasive plants and welcomed back wood storks, otters and other native flora and fauna.

Banks like this sell "wetlands mitigation credits" to developers for up to $300,000 apiece, offsetting the destruction of marshes by construction projects elsewhere. It's a billion-dollar industry that has slowed the loss of U.S. wetlands, half of which are already gone.

This uniquely American mix of conservation and capitalism has been supported by every president since George H.W. Bush pledged a goal of "no net loss" of wetlands, growing a market for mitigation credits from about 40 banks in the early 1990s to nearly 1,500 today. Investors include Chevron and Wall Street firms, working alongside the Audubon Society and other environmental groups.

Now the market is at risk.

Administrator Scott Pruitt's Environmental Protection Agency has completed a proposal for implementing President Donald Trump's executive order to replace the Waters of the United States rule, or WOTUS, with a much more limited definition of what constitutes a protected federal waterway.

Study: Anatartica's ice is rapidly melting, threatening coastal communities worldwide

OSLO – An accelerating thaw of Antarctica has pushed up world sea levels by almost a centimeter since the early 1990s in a risk for coasts from Pacific islands to Florida, an international team of scientists said on Thursday.

Antarctica has enough ice to raise seas by 190 feet if it ever all melted, dwarfing frozen stores in places from Greenland to the Himalayas and making its future the biggest uncertainty in understanding global warming and ocean levels.

The frozen continent lost almost 3 trillion tons of ice between 1992 and 2017, the 84 scientists said in what they called the most complete overview of Antarctic ice to date.

The thaw, tracked by satellite data and other measurements, contributed 0.3 inches to sea level rise since 1992, they wrote in the journal Nature.

And the ice losses quickened to 219 billion tons a year since 2012, from 76 billion previously. "The sharp increase … is a big surprise," professor Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds and a leader of the report, told Reuters.

Mulberry sinkhole filled, trust issues linger for Mosaic

NEW WALES – A massive sinkhole that swallowed millions of gallons of radioactive water and threatened nearby wells in Mulberry is finally filled.

Mosaic says it took nearly two years and 20,000 cubic yards of grout to fill the void at the New Wales fertilizer plant.

The sinkhole cratered beneath a gypsum stack in late August 2016.

It flushed 215 million gallons of slightly radioactive contaminated water used in the fertilizer process into the aquifer.

Mosaic contends it is capturing that water with an aggressive pumping effort.

But after a less than forthcoming beginning, neighbors aren't so sure.

"It sounds good, I reckon, but I don't believe it. Nobody else does either. I don't think they do," said neighbor Eddie Tuten.

Our investigation found that in late August 2016, Mosaic employees saw an alarming dip in the water level in the gypsum stack.

The company alerted the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP kept it quiet for nearly three weeks, failing to notify neighbors who were on well water.

Padgett Estates customers soon switching to Polk County water supply

BARTOW — Polk County Utilities (PCU) will soon be switching water supply from the City of Lakeland to Polk County’s water supply for residents in the Padgett Estates development in northwest Lakeland.

This will affect about 70 customers in Padgett Estates, including those who live on Padgett Place North, Padgett Place South and Padgett Drive. This will not affect billing; these residents are already Polk County Utilities customers.

“New development in this area provided PCU the opportunity to extend its water mains in this area,” said Utilities Community Investment Program Manager Mark Addison.

Addison said that these residents may notice a difference in taste and/or appearance of their water when the switch is made to the County water system but that the water will be absolutely safe for drinking, bathing and other normal household uses.

The switch to the County’s water supply is expected to occur within the next week.

Public hearing on TMDLs for Peace River Basin to be held June 22nd in Tallahassee

The public is invited to a June 29th, 2018, public hearing on the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) rules, and their allocations, for certain waters impaired for nutrients in the Peace River Basin (62-304.625).

Furthermore, in accordance with paragraph 62-302.531(2)(a), F.A.C., the nutrient TMDLs for Lake Haines, Lake Rochelle, Lake Conine, Lake Alfred, Lake Blue, Lake Marianna, Lake Ariana, Eagle Lake, and Lake Hollingsworth will constitute site specific numeric interpretations of the narrative nutrient criterion set forth in paragraph 62-302.530(48)(b), F.A.C., that will supersede the otherwise applicable numeric nutrient criteria in subsection 62-302.531(2), F.A.C., for these surface water segments.

Written comments should be directed to: Erin Rasnake, Program Administrator, Water Quality Evaluation and TMDL Program, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Mail Station #3555, 2600 Blair Stone Road, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400 via post or email: Erin.Rasnake@dep.state.fl.us

Polk County interests want potential impacts of Peace River utility project studied

Government water managers on Tuesday postponed a vote on a four-county utility’s permit to pump and store more water from the Peace River until several challenges to the proposal can be reviewed.

Seven challenges, primarily from Polk County, were filed early last week against the Peace River-Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority’s proposed permit that would increase the amount of water it pumps from the Peace River to 258 million gallons per day. It would also allow for the authority to supply up to 80 million gallons of water to its Southwest Florida customers every day in coming years.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District had been set to consider the permit Tuesday.

Currently, the authority’s permit from the water management district allows the authority to store 120 million gallons of water per day during the summer rainy season, when river flows are typically highest.

A new permit would allow the authority to pursue bigger plans: to build a third reservoir. This would allow the authority to store more than 18 billion gallons of water in the dry spring season from November to May to use for drinking water, while taking less water from the river to maintain fresh water flows downstream to Charlotte Harbor, the state’s second-largest estuary.

Along with the reservoir, the authority plans a bigger water treatment plant. The expansion could cost about $200 million.

The authority is run jointly by Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties. It supplies millions of gallons of drinking water per day, primarily to customers in Charlotte and Sarasota counties and the city of North Port.

Majorities see government efforts to protect the environment as insufficient

Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to protect key aspects of the environment including water (69%) and air quality (64%). And two-thirds of Americans (67%) say the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. These findings come after a year of change in climate and energy regulatory policies under the Trump administration.

Majorities of U.S. adults say federal government is not doing enough to protect environment in these waysAt the same time, Americans are closely divided (52% to 48%) over whether or not it is possible to cut back on regulations while still effectively protecting air and water quality. There are wide political divides on this issue, with roughly three-quarters of Republicans (74%, including independents who lean Republican) convinced this is possible but 64% of Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) convinced it is not possible.

The national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted March 27-April 9 among 2,541 adults, finds pockets of partisan agreement over expanding solar and wind power, though wide political divides remain over increasing fossil fuels through such methods as coal mining, hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, a pattern consistent with a 2016 Pew Research Center survey.