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Audubon Florida
The Advocate
The third week of the 2022 Florida Legislative Session saw activity on bills relating to wastewater, Everglades and coastal construction, best management practices for golf courses, and more. Congratulations also to our advocates and staff in Collier County, who made their voices heard for land protection through the Conservation Collier program.
Sunset with a pier and beach silhouette.
Bill Expands Areas That Need Sea-Level Impact Projection Studies
Current law requires publicly-financed projects and infrastructure to undertake a Sea-Level Impact Projection Study prior to construction. SB 1434, filed by Sen. Rodriguez (R-Doral), expands the types of projects and infrastructure subject to this requirement by including "potentially at-risk" projects defined as "at risk due to sea-level rise" in an area that extends beyond the coastal building zone. The bill adds a requirement that public-financed constructors provide a list of flood mitigation strategies that were evaluated as part of the design of the potentially at-risk structure or infrastructure and identify the flood mitigation strategies that have been implemented or are being considered as part of the structure or infrastructure design.The bill passed the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee chaired by Sen. Brodeur (R-Sanford) on Monday with 6 yeas and 0 nays. The House companion HB 1077 filed by Rep. Hunschovsky (D-Parkland) unanimously passed the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee on Tuesday.As sea level rise as well as storm intensity and frequency increase, designing new construction to withstand these hazards will be critical inland as well as at the coast.
Tampa Bay.
American Oystercatcher standing on a beach. Photo: Walker Golder/Audubon.
Bill Aims to Keep Harmful Oils and Fats from Florida's Sewers
Restaurants, cafeterias, and fast-food establishments are sources for large amounts of fats, oils, and grease and – if not properly disposed of – can collect inside sewers. Over time, they harden to a concrete-like material that restricts the flow of wastewater through pipes. Cities and counties are known to spend thousands of dollars on plumbing emergencies each year to deal with grease blockages and pump out grease traps and interceptors.SB 1110, filed by Sen. Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), creates regulations for grease waste removal and disposal. The bill requires haulers to dispose of grease waste at a disposal facility and prevents them from returning grease waste or graywater to a grease interceptor or trap. The bill provides for compliance inspections, penalties for failure to provide or retain a service manifest, failure to clean a grease interceptor or grease trap, and unlawful disposal of grease. The bill directs fines to the Water Quality Assurance Trust Fund and requires the Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules to implement the new regulations in the bill (which must provide for a local government to receive reports of violations and to collect fines and impose license actions).The bill does not prohibit a local government from adopting or enforcing an ordinance or rule to regulate the removal and disposal of grease waste that is more strict or extensive than what the bill provides. The bill favorably passed the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee this week and is referred to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government. The House companion, HB 1177, filed by Rep. Chaney (R-St. Pete Beach), passed favorably in the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee on Tuesday.Appropriate collection, tracking, and disposal of grease will decrease blockages, backups, and overflows of wastewater infrastructure, further reducing raw sewage overflows and bacterial impairments in waterbodies.
American Oystercatcher. Photo: Walker Golder/Audubon.
Golf course with fountain spraying water from a pond.
Best Management Practices Program for Golf Courses to Reduce Nutrient Runoff
SB 1556 filed by Sen Gruters (R-Sarasota) and its House companion HB 967 filed by Rep. Truenow (R- Tavares) would direct the Department of Environmental Protection to create a best management practices (BMP) certification program for fertilizer application on golf courses in coordination with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences program, and to provide and approve training and testing programs.Golf courses are amongst the heaviest users of fertilizer and water for irrigation and stormwater runoff from urban landscapes and golf courses are a major source of nutrients contributing to algae blooms and water quality impairments in Florida.While introducing BMPs for golf course is a good thing, unfortunately a golf course managed by a professional certified under this section is exempt from additional golf course fertilizer application testing and from local water use and fertilizer application restrictions, such as fertilizer blackout periods. Blackout periods are a protective measure included in local government fertilizer ordinances.  Providing an exemption to golf courses hurts water quality.SB 1556 bill passed the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Sen. Brodeur (R-Sanford), on Monday.
Sun sets over the silhouettes of bald cypress trees in the Everglades.
Everglades Protection Area Would Create New Review for Construction Near the Everglades
HB 729,Everglades Protection Area, filed by Rep. Avila (R-Miami), would create a protective review process under the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for all proposed projects within two miles of the Everglades.The Everglades Forever Act was passed more than 25 years ago, creating the Everglades Protection Area and putting into place goals for Everglades restoration and protection. It more or less functions like an “Area of Critical Concern” by specifically inserting a state review function in the local government land use process for a specific area.The bill will require DEP to make a recommendation on any land use plan amendment within two miles of the boundary of the Everglades Protection Area. Audubon supports this bill, which was unanimously passed by the House Environmental, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee this week.Close to $9 billion in state and federal funds have been invested in Everglades restoration to date and it is in the state’s best interests to ensure that any development proximal to the environmental protection area is done in a way that does not negatively or adversely impact those efforts. The Senate companion SB 932  was filed by Sen. Rodriguez (R-Doral) but has not been heard yet in committee.
The water of Silver Springs State Park with trees in the background.
Florida State Parks Update Showcases Importance of these Landscapes for Environment and Economy
At the meeting of the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Tomkow (R-Auburndale), Interim Chief of Staff of DEP Justin Wolfe provided an update on State Park projects from this past year. Florida’s four-time national gold-medal winner state parks system was established in 1935, and currently includes 175 state parks, trails, and historic sites. Our parks provided $4.4 billion in direct economic impact to local economies during FY 2020-21, with average attendance in the range of 25-30 million visitors annually.Management of resources in Florida State Parks encompasses natural resources such as forests, springs, seagrass beds, beach dunes, and cultural treasures such as Native American burial sites and historic forts. Regular, active management of these resources include requiring prescribed burns, removal of invasive exotic plants, and restoration of hydrologic flow. Additionally, the parks’ infrastructure also requires a variety of construction and maintenance activities that include repair and maintenance of roads, buildings, campgrounds and other infrastructure, constructing new facilities, and ensuring that park structures are safe and ADA-accessible.DEP Chief of Staff Wolfe highlighted work completed this year at eight state parks, including Torreya State Park, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, and Little Manatee State Park. Annual funding from the legislature is put to good use each year. Our state parks need to be a priority to preserve these pristine resources for generations of Floridians.
Silver Springs State Park. Photo/Erika Zambello.
Burrowing Owl in flight over a field. Photo: Petter Brannon/Audubon Photography Awards.
Conservation Success in Collier County
Last week, we asked Audubon advocates in Collier County to speak up to ask the Collier County Board of County Commissioners to approve pursuing acquisition of ecologically and archaeologically important lands through the Conservation Collier program.Thanks to their voice, the Commission voted to add 1,100 acres of conservation lands to the 750 acres on the original list – including the Agua Colina parcel on Marco!  That’s an outstanding result! It was clear the outpouring of support for pursuing these land buys was an important factor in this vote.  Audubon will follow the negotiation process on each parcel as they return for final contract approvals in coming weeks.Audubon input is critical in helping ensure the County Commissioners make wise choices in their effort to acquire, protect, restore, and manage environmentally sensitive lands for the benefit of present and future generations. Thank you to our advocates!
Burrowing Owl. Photo: Peter Brannon/Audubon Photography Awards.
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