Water-Related News

Florida wants to control wetlands permitting. Critics say it isn’t equipped to do the job

Florida’s bid to take over wetlands permitting across the state will undergo two virtual federal hearings beginning Wednesday.

The Clean Water Act requires federal permitting to preserve vanishing wetlands, which protect drinking water supplies, blunt damage from storms and hurricanes, and provide habitat for wildlife. Up until now, the permitting job has fallen on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

But in August, the state applied to take over, alarming environmentalists who fear Florida’s smaller Department of Environmental Protection won’t be equipped to do the work.

Only two other states oversee their own wetlands permitting, Michigan and New Jersey, said Earthjustice attorney Tania Galloni.

“Those states also spent millions and millions of dollars to create their programs,” she said. “Florida is saying it could do it without asking the legislature for a single penny.”

Environmentalists worry the move will increase the loss of wetlands to development at a moment when Florida, already threatened by sea rise, can least afford it. In addition to recharging the state's aquifers, wetlands suck up huge amounts of carbon — between $2 and $3.4 billion worth just in Everglades National Park mangroves.

“This whole thing is about shortcuts,” Galloni said. “It's about shortcutting the time for consideration and the level of review. We need checks and balances.”

In its application, Florida says it intends to have its existing staff of 229 employees, who now handle environmental permitting across the state, take over the duties. The state says the its own environmental permitting overlaps with wetland permitting, so the additional permitting duties should only generate about 15 percent more work.

Florida also intends to re-assign 18 employees who earn about $35,000 a year to do the permitting, according to an analysis submitted with the application.

Exploring the widespread impacts of ongoing nitrogen pollution

The release of reactive nitrogen into the environment is having severe and ongoing ecosystem, economic, and human health impacts. How can we reduce our nitrogen footprint?

Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients in the environment, but its natural cycling has been significantly altered by human activities, specifically the release of excessive and harmful amounts of nitrogen from various sources including fertilizers, animal and human wastes, fossil fuel combustion, and mining.

Nitrogen Overload: Environmental Degradation, Ramifications, and Economic Costs, a new book recently published by AGU (American Geophysical Union), seeks to improve our understanding of the negative impacts of so much excess reactive nitrogen in the environment.

Visit the link below for a summary of content from the book. In the article the author, Brian G. Katz, a scientist who has spent the past four decades investigating the transport and fate of nitrogen in groundwater, springs, surface waters, and the atmosphere, gives an overview of the main issues.

Polk County partners with FWC on restoration project at Lake Walk-in-Water

Planting for the future at Lake Walk-in-Water

Lake Weohyakapka, more commonly known as Lake Walk-In-Water, is a popular resource near Lake Wales for crappie and bass anglers alike. Recently, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) partnered with Polk County Parks and Natural Resources on a habitat restoration project designed to establish Illinois pondweed, a type of native submerged aquatic vegetation commonly referred to as “peppergrass,” in Lake Walk-In-Water.

Another FWC habitat restoration project, a drawdown on East Lake Tohopekaliga in Osceola County, presented an opportunity for biologists to sustainably harvest pondweed for transplant into the lake. More than 5,000 mature Illinois pondweed plants were hand collected from East Lake Tohopekaliga and replanted in two locations along the northern shoreline of Lake Walk-In-Water. Biologists will continue to monitor the transplant sites and are optimistic that these mature plants will become established.

Illinois pondweed can provide important refuge and spawning habitat for fish, improve fishing opportunities and benefit other native wildlife species while protecting the lake bottom and shoreline from the effects of storms and hurricanes.

The planting complements an earlier project conducted on the lake following the 2004 hurricane season, which severely impacted this resource and its plant communities. In the years following, the FWC successfully completed habitat restoration projects focusing primarily on an aquatic plant known as bulrush.

Once the Illinois pondweed becomes established, the lake will offer abundant emergent and submergent vegetation for fish and wildlife habitat.

For more information on additional FWC aquatic habitat and conservation efforts, visit Source: MyFWC.com »

Lake Hatchineha canals to receive spray treatment

BARTOW – Spraying for invasive aquatic weeds in Lake Hatchineha’s canals will begin the week of Sept. 28, as weather allows, by Polk County’s Parks and Natural Resources division.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has approved a treatment plan for the invasive floating plants, which include water lettuce and water hyacinth. Floating plants have historically been managed under the FWC Invasive Plant Management program conducted by Polk County. The approved treatment plan instructs Polk County crews to treat the Hatchineha canals where water lettuce and water hyacinths are present.

These are invasive aquatic species that can cause navigation issues and serves as a breeding site for mosquitoes. For more information please contact Polk County Parks & Natural Resources at 863-534-7377.