Friday, May 31, 2013

UPDATE: On today's Everglades story, WLRN is factually incorrect ... by gimleteye

May 28, NOTE: I posted the following before realizing the WLRN/ Miami Herald radio segment on the Everglades was generated by a news feed/ service. I did not know the source of the report, but wrote, "it would be interesting to know." It would be interesting to know, because the entire segment seemed to have originated by either the office of Gov. Rick Scott or the sugar industry: one in the same in my opinion.

May 31: Two days later, a correction appeared on the news.

The erroneous news report originated with public radio in Orlando. A correction was broadcast by WLRN. The damage was done.  The correction only applied to the claim that for "the first time" a pollution standard was in effect for the Everglades. 

The correction did not address the broadcast's assertion that the $880 million deal was the result of "an unusual collaboration". Read, below. Of course, retracting that part of the complaint would have required more explanation, for which the reviewers and correctors apparently had no appetite.

Listening to WLRN public radio's factually incorrect news report this morning, my jaw would have dropped, if I had any jaw left to drop after the serial indignities passing for Everglades restoration.

Two assertions, among others, that are wrong. The reporter stated that the $880 million dollar commitment by state government was the "first time" for a water pollution standard in the Everglades. Wrong. The ten parts per billion water pollution standard was established by a federal court nearly twenty years ago. The sugar industry has successfully fought that standard through changes to state law, also judged to be illegal in the 2000's. 

The reporter also stated that the $880 million was the result of an "unusual collaboration" between the state, federal government, and sugar industry. Also wrong. The money was not a "victory" for Gov. Scott in any sense except that his administration succeeded in arm-twisting the federal EPA down from its original assessment that the cost would require $1.5 billion. 

The $880 million was hardly a collaboration. It was the result of litigation brought by the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians and the organization I represent, as president of the board of directors, Friends of the Everglades. That litigation took many years and a significant investment by our small group of volunteers. 

In key respects, the negotiation between the state and federal government on the details of the $880 million plan has omitted environmental organizations with the capacity to track complex science. That's a collaboration?

A spokesperson from Florida Audubon, Eric Draper, put a bright face on the investment while noting, for the generalist audience, that a key requirement of restoration -- getting water into the central part of the Everglades -- remains to be implemented. He didn't add, Big Sugar is fighting tooth and nail at every step of the way. Audubon might have mentioned, but didn't, that it is deeply mired in its own administrative court proceeding against Big Sugar for the industry's failure to adopt strict best management practices. The bottom line is that Big Sugar still calls the shots. Anyhow, THAT is the story that deserves to be told, although it can't be told in twenty seconds.

WLRN does a great disservice cramming this issue into a sound bite for listeners, who are lead to believe exactly what Big Sugar wants: everything will be fine in the Everglades if the industry is just left to its devices.


Anonymous said...

From Sierra Club:

How much time do we have to restore the Everglades?

That question has been difficult to answer until recently. According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, by the time today's child sees middle age, at least one-fourth to one-half of Everglades National Park's land mass will have vanished. Many geoscientists, like Dr. Harold Wanless of the University of Miami, project an even greater rate of sea-level rise this century. Sea-level rise is no joke, and it's particularly serious for the Everglades with elevation generally measured in the single digits.

At the Everglades Coalition conference in January, Ernie Barnett, the South Florida Water Management District's point person on Everglades Restoration, said that restoring the Everglades fresh water flow would "mitigate the effects of sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion." But what does mitigation mean? Can we keep the Everglades from sinking into the sea?

The answer rests in a complex set of circumstances: maintaining a freshwater aquifer and a hydrological head (the pressure of freshwater flowing south), and reversing soil subsidence (the sinking of the land due to drought), in concert with a world that has reduced carbon emissions.

What is clear is that doing nothing or doing it too slowly will result in the loss of the southern Everglades in less than five decades. What we can and must do is to let nature resume control of water flow by removing barriers like the Tamiami Trail, the Miami Canal and the L-67 canals, while cleaning up Big Sugar's effluent to Everglades standards.

There has been some progress:

* A new federal project seeks to eliminate many barriers to flow in the Central Everglades and restore sheet flow by eliminating canals. It's not a panacea, but it's a solid first step.
* A federally-funded mile-long bridge over Tamiami Trail to restore water flow is slated to open this spring and another 5.5 miles of bridging is planned. The next 2.6-mile span is now being designed by the National Park Service.
* The Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge has a foothold and now can be expanded to protect critical ranch lands surrounding the Kissimmee River.

There have also been some setbacks:

* Although the state of Florida and the federal government agreed to a plan to clean up Big Sugar's water, it takes too long and doesn't use enough land.
* The state just issued 30-year sugar lease extensions on land most likely needed for cleanup.
* The state has been trying to sell off land needed for Everglades restoration.
* The state wants to resume the backpumping of sugar effluent into Lake Okeechobee instead of treating it and sending it south for the Everglades.
* Florida Power and Light continues to seek permission for two nuclear reactors (added to two existing reactors) in an area most vulnerable to sea-level rise and requiring towering transmission lines through wetlands.

In the end, the Everglades restoration timetable has to beat the physics of sea-level rise. Rapidly restoring natural, clean fresh water flow will preserve the Everglades as long as possible. Whether we can win the battle or sustain a century-long retreat is not yet clear, but we must do everything possible to let natural processes take over. It's our only hope.

- Jonathan Ullman, South Florida/Everglades Senior Representative, Sierra Club

Anonymous said...

To Friends of the Everglades and to the Sierra Club,

Please continue to educate all decision makers, the Media and the public.

Without your efforts people like Gov. Rick Scott and the Fanjul sugar barons would be paving the Everglades.

Thank you,

A citizen

Anonymous said...

Audubon fights water district, Big Sugar, on Everglades pollution

By Christine Stapleton - Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Dozens of lawyers armed with over 125 boxes of files, maps, charts and transcripts descended on a makeshift hearing room at the Supervisor of Elections office for the start of case brought by Audubon Florida against Big Sugar and the South Florida Water Management District, over farm pollution in the Everglades.
Audubon contends that the district should not renew permits to sugar growers in the Everglades agricultural area south of Lake Okeechobee without requiring the growers to use more best management practices - called BMPs - to reduce pollution that Audubon says runs off the farms and into the Everglades.
Kirk Burns, an attorney for the district said the growers had consistently met legal requirements to reduce phosphorus and that there is no reason to refuse to renew the permits. Also, there is no proof or research proving that additional BMPs would further reduce pollution limits, he said.
An attorney for the sugar industry said, by filing the administrative complaint, Audubon was trying to put the district's BMP program on trial. Audubon's case is built on a "snapshot" of farm conditions from "a one-day visit to 2 percent of the farms," the attorney said.
Audubon attorney Michael Tanner countered, saying the 1994 Everglades Forever Act gave the district the power to impose BMPs but that power is not discretionary when additional BMPs would reduce pollution. BMPs are farming methods that promote optimum plant growth and minimize adverse environmental effects.
The industry rallied an army of attorneys and support personnel, who moved into the hearing room on Monday with over 100 boxes of support material. The entire Audubon team occupied one table.
"I think the industry is over-defending this," said Eric Draper, Executive Director of Audubon Florida. "This won't affect permits on adjacent lands. These are the six dirtiest farms."
At stake for the industry is the fate of three permits for six farms that allow sugar to be grown on 235,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area. The permits regulate BMPs to be used on the land. Examples include cleaning canals, controlling aquatic weeds, levelling fields and preventing fertilizer spills.
Administrative Judge Bram D.E. Canter halted the hearing after the attorneys delivered their opening statements, citing the lack of audio in the room - making it difficult for the public to hear. Although speakers hung on the walls above the attorneys, there were no microphones.
"A hearing with this many people, we have to have mikes," Canter said.
Moving the hearing to the auditorium at the district headquarters - less than a mile away - was not well-received by attorneys for Audubon.
"I hate to be the fly in the ointment," said Audubon attorney Thomas Bishop. "It is a matter of neutral ground."
But Audubon relented and the metal roof in the in the hearing room rattled as the wind blew. There was also the matter of raising and lowering a garage door to access the hearing room.
The hearing, expected to last 2 weeks, will resume Wednesday at the South Florida Water Management District.

Anonymous said...

WLRN is trying to cover more environmental issues but does get things wrong sometimes. Please send a copy of this blog post and comments to the editor and reporter so they can become better educated.

Geniusofdespair said...

I am surprised Audubon is doing lawsuit. They always seemed content with kissing up.

Anonymous said...

Not WLRN but NPR. A Diane Rehm story a few weeks ago when the fertilizer supplier blowed up in Texas. One of the guests said that ammonium nitrate would not detonate under fire conditions alone. That was patently incorrect. NH4NO3 will indeed detonate when exposed to HIGH heat and fire.

Did you call WLRN and tell them they were wrong?

Gimleteye said...

Yes I did send the post to WLRN and re=posted on an Everglades listserve monitored by reporters.

Anonymous said...

Who signed this plan into law? Oh yeah, Rick Scott, not Graham, Chiles, Bush, turncoat flip-flopper Crist but Rick Scott.
Alan you can do better. Stop your whining and go after big corn which is doing a hell of a lot more damage to the environment and people.