WLRN: Water Managers Renew Sugar Company's Lease On Land Slated For Everglades Reservoir Project

WLRN: Written by Kate Stein. November 12, 2018.

Environmental groups and state water managers are sparring over land for an Everglades restoration project to help with Florida’s algae blooms, following a controversial vote last week by the governing board of the South Florida Water Management District.

On Thursday, officials with the district approved extending a lease for sugar farmers on land that has been slated for a water storage reservoir. The reservoir is intended to reduce the need for water discharges from Lake Okeechobee, which contribute to algae blooms on Florida's coasts.

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NBC 2: Environmentalists upset about leases extended to sugar farmers

NBC 2: Written by Jaclyn Bevis. November 9, 2018.

More concerns were reported after the South Florida Water Management District approved a new lease with sugar farms for land in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

The district noted a requirement in Senate Bill 10 to continue the lease, but one of the bill's co-sponsors in the Florida House said that's not the case.

"I would question whether Senate Bill 10 would have been the motivator for this lease," Representative Heather Fitzenhagen said. "Why the urgency at the last minute to put it on the agenda? And why not have shorter lease terms so we can have more flexibility as a state to begin work on one of the most important pieces of legislation that's come across the state of Florida in years."

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Bradenton Herald: Why won’t red tide go away? After Hurricane Michael, toxic algae has again spread

Bradenton Herald: Written by Jenny Staletovich. November 7, 2018.

Just before Hurricane Michael made landfall last month, a ferocious red tide that had scoured Florida’s Gulf Coast for a year, depositing countless dead sea turtles, dolphin and other marine life on beaches before spreading to the Atlantic coast, had finally started to wane.

In most places, with the wet season winding down and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers easing up on releasing polluted water from Lake Okeechobee, the toxic algae that had become a key election year campaign issue had dropped to relatively low levels. Fish kills were down and so were the coughing fits among beach-goers.

But in the weeks following the storm, red tide that is already considered the worst in a decade has roared back.

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NEWS PRESS: Recount ordered in race for agriculture commissioner

News Press: Written by Bill Smith. November 10, 2018.

A recount has been ordered in the election for Florida agriculture commissioner, with Democrat Nikki Fried holding a lead of .06 percent over Republican candidate Matt Caldwell.

According to the state elections website this afternoon, Fried had 50.03 percent of the vote and Caldwell had 49.97 percent, reflecting a difference of 5,326 voted, with more than 8 million cast. Automatic recounts are required when returns show a margin of a half a percentage point or less.

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NEWS PRESS: Everglades reservoir: critics question timing, legality of agriculture lease

News Press: Written by Chad Gillis. November 9, 2018.

Some environmental watchdog groups and politicians are still fuming over a state water district's decision Thursday to extend a Florida Crystals lease on land designated for an Everglades restoration project.

The South Florida Water Management District governing board approved an agriculture lease through 2027 for about 16,000 acres in the Everglades Agriculture Area, or EAA.

While the old lease wasn't set to expire until March, district officials pushed the lease through in less than 24 hours.

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LENS MAGAZINE: Getting the Water Right

Lens Magazine: Written by Jessica Cattelino and Adam Nadel. October 6, 2018.

The Florida Everglades is an iconic national treasure and an imperiled natural wonder. Is it also a home, a workplace, a cultural landscape, and inextricably human. At only 5,000 years old, the Everglades ecosystem has never existed without people. There is no better place than the Everglades to see the destructive effects of artificially separating nature from culture in science, politics, and everyday life.

As is true with other wetlands across the globe, people living their day-to-day lives — whether as real estate developers or water managers, farmers or urban dwellers, tourists or migrant workers — have transformed the Everglades. Since the late 1800s, the slow-moving, watery Everglades ecosystem has shrunk to half its size, as have global wetlands as a whole.

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MIAMI HERALD: Nikki Fried pulls ahead in race for Florida’s agriculture commissioner

Miami Herald: Written by Samantha Gross. November 8, 2018.

TALLAHASSEE

Nicole “Nikki” Fried may have a fighting chance at being the Democrat’s last hope for a statewide seat.

The Fort Lauderdale attorney and lobbyist is leading Republican challenger Rep. Matt Caldwell by a mere 2,914 votes as of 8:20 p.m. Thursday, according to the Division of Elections. At the start of the day, she trailed Caldwell by about 4,000 votes.

It is almost certain that a manual recount is in store: the threshold is 0.25 points. But unofficial statewide results have to be reported to the state elections office before a recount can be officially ordered. The deadline for counties to report unofficial results is Saturday at noon.

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MIAMI HERALD: Last-minute state deal with sugar growers sets up potential political fight

Miami Herald: Written by Jenny Staletovich. November 9, 2018.

South Florida water managers on Thursday hastily agreed to let sugar farmers continue leasing land targeted for an Everglades restoration reservoir, angering environmentalists and potentially setting up a power play with the state’s would-be new governor.

In a series of morning tweets, Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg claimed “the public deception is underway” as a South Florida Water Management District government board meeting started in Miami. Eikenberg accused officials of trying to derail the project by tying up the land for two more years and failing to give adequate notice for the decision.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast echoed those concerns during public comment, saying Ron DeSantis, the Republican who has railed against the sugar industry and maintains a narrow lead in a state governor race facing a recount, asked him to deliver a message: Postpone the vote.

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TC PALM: EAA reservoir: Water district board OKs leasing project's land to sugar grower

TC Palm: Written by Tyler Treadway. November 8, 2018.

Over the objections of a congressman and the governor-elect, the South Florida Water Management District extended the lease on land to be used for the reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

The lease with New Hope Sugar Co., a subsidiary of Florida Crystals, that would have expired at the end of March now will extend until March 31, 2027. But provisions allow the district to take parts or all of the land back, with four months notice, for construction of the reservoir.

Noting the extension proposal was not announced until Wednesday night, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, told board members he and Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis wanted to be briefed on the proposal before its approval "to make sure we're not adding additional hurdles to the project."

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WINK NEWS: Blue-green algae makes an unwelcome return in SWFL

WINK News: Written by Michael Mora. November 5, 2018.

An uninvited guest has made a return to Milinda May’s backyard.

“When it was bad it was really bad,” May said, referring to blue-green algae. “We had it for several weeks. It was thick. Stinky.”

Blue-green algae has been floating on parts of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Denaud, directly through May’s backyard.

“The way it creeps in,” May said. “It’s like a monster the way it creeps in.”

May isn’t alone. Other neighbors, like Rich Williams, are being haunted by blue-green algae when just a few weeks ago they thought they were done with the environmental disaster.

“I don’t ever remember it running this long,” Williams said.

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