Conservation Report

By Whitey Markle

See Floridians for Solar Choice, Inc. has a wonderful website that explains clearly the circumstances and implications of the “smart” solar amendment (A-1) that will be the first ballot initiative voters will see on November 8th. The Florida legislature wisely put Amendment 4 on the primary ballot in August, leaving the choice of tax exemptions for businesses and industries when investing in renewable energy devices in Florida. That ballot initiative amendment was a “no-brainer” in that both the industries involved in the energy business and the citizens and environmental organizations agreed on its wisdom. The utility-backed supporters of Amendment 4 were quick to thank us for supporting them within hours of the August vote….and suggest that we continue to support the next (DUMB) amendment for solar in November.  According to Floridians for Solar Choice:

“Amendment 1 is funded by Florida’s big utilities to protect their monopoly markets and limit customer-owned solar. Follow the money: Florida Power & Light (FPL), Duke Energy and other big power companies want to maintain their monopoly control on profits from electricity sales and limit customer-owned solar. Solar power is poised to grow in the Sunshine State, which would allow customers to generate their own power and buy less from the electric utilities. To date, the monopoly utilities have contributed the majority of the $20 million collected to promote this Amendment to protect their power sales all the while claiming they are “pro-solar.” In reality, utilities only support limited amounts of solar power they own and from which they can profit. No non-utility solar company supports Amendment 1.”

Floridians for Solar Choice (FSC) say also that:

“Amendment 1 paves the way for barriers that would penalize solar customers.
The utility-backed Amendment 1 would add to the State Constitution the false
assumption that solar customers are “subsidized” by non-solar customers & that non-solar customers are in need of additional protections. In fact, reputable studies in 10 states show that solar customers provide a net-benefit for the utility and all electricity customers.

The large monopoly utilities are looking for ways to limit customer-owned solar and will use this false claim as a justification to implement unfair fees and discriminatory penalties for solar customers. Restrictions and unfair fees would make solar more expensive, limit the expansion of solar, & hurt consumers by denying a cost effective way to lower power bills.” This type of misleading publicity is what Floridians sued for last year when they tried to get this phony amendment removed from the ballot. Obviously, as is so typical in Florida courts, good reason did  not prevail, so this “dumb” amendment is here before us. And finally, FSC says

“Amendment 1 misleads Florida voters by promising rights and protections that Florida citizens already have.”

The monopoly utilities wrote Amendment 1 to sound good by promising that it would add new solar rights and consumer protections. Floridians already have the right to purchase or lease solar equipment and are already fully protected under Florida’s existing consumer protection laws. The false promises of additional rights are designed to gain support for the Amendment, not to grow the solar market in Florida.” This is a very important point. The idea is to get us away from burning fossil fuels and the infrastructure that plagues us with burdensome maintenance, costs, and pollution. And only a totally free market can allow this eventual outcome. Ideally, all citizens will eventually own the renewable energy devices, either individually or communally. Therefore, there is no need for a constitutional amendment that will protect the existing energy establishment. The energy companies “get it”.  There is immense cost savings in the renewable investment. So why not just let the citizens enjoy those savings rather than continue to sell energy at the same cost?  In this energy revolution, the infrastructure won’t have to be subsidized by the taxpayers and ratepayers as were the railroads and the electric lines. BY voting NO on Amendment 1, you will be allowing for less government intervention into the Florida energy sector……..and the air will be much cleaner.

If you are associated with or know of a homeowners’ organization, a business, or a municipality that would like to see our new Powerpoint presentation, SOLAR, UNLIMITED ENERGY FOR THE SUNSHINE STATE, contact me, Whitey Markle, at or at 352-595-3012.  We would love to present this program (30 minutes) to as many folks as possible before the November 8 election.

SSJ Sierra Club, the Florida Sierra Club, the Silver Springs Alliance, the Florida Defenders of the Environment, the Putnam County Environmental Council, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, and the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District have agreed with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) to proceed with Phase II of the Economic Impact Study of the Silver and Ocklawaha Rivers. The second (and last) phase should begin in February and run through March. Phase I produced solid evidence that contradicts opponents of the Rodman Dam’s erroneous propaganda.  We hoe to eventually use the results of this study to persuade our leaders to breach the old dam and let the old river run her natural course and level again.

There is no financial nor factual reason to keep the dam its present form.  It was called “the biggest unfinished public works project in history” and “one of the greatest boondoggles ever perpetuated” in an article in the Audubon magazine.  The water that is held back by the dam becomes more and more putrid as it bakes in the sun. The vast majority of the vegetation and wildlife that normally exist in the old river are gone…..some can’t migrate in and out and can’t reproduce, and some have disappeared because of water pollution and oxygen reduction.  Dr. Robin Lewis of the Putnam County Environmental Council has stated, “There has been a 92% decline in fish biomass at Silver Springs due to blockage of fish passage by the Kirkpatrick Dam.”  The head pressure that covers the 20 springs along the flooded impoundment prevents them from emitting the millions of gallons of fresh water that would be emitted if the dam didn’t exist.

The thousands of acres of watershed that accompany the old river have been flooded for the forty-some years since the dam was built, denying the watershed its capability of cleansing the water that would filter through it if it weren’t flooded, and the natural watershed’s vegetation is literally drowning. Below the dam, the floodplain is being denied its natural amount of water because of the dam and it is dying of thirst.   Subsequently, there is very little of the natural wildlife left in the impoundment.

Jim Gross, Executive Director of Florida Defenders of the Environment, said in June: “Restoring a free-flowing Ocklawaha River is a win-win proposition for all Floridians. Restoration will benefit both the environment and the economy. Many of the communities in the vicinity of the river are urgently in need of economic revitalization. Communities near the river will benefit significantly as new opportunities for recreation and ecotourism emerge. The impounded pool of water behind the Kirkpatrick dam serves no public interest for flood control or commercial navigation. The water supply potential of the impoundment is insignificant. Sport fishing opportunities have steadily declined in the dammed river. The costs for operation and maintenance of an antiquated and ill-conceived civil works project can be eliminated, providing significant cost savings to Florida taxpayers. Let’s do what’s right for Florida.” Dr. Katie Tripp, Executive Director of  Save the Manatee, Inc., has asked for the breach of the dam in view of the recent Manatee kill in the Caloosahatchee and Indian Rivers as the result of the dumping of billions of gallons of nutrient-laden water from the sugar industry. Dr. Tripp pointed to the available Manatee habitat and breeding ground in the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers. Our friend, Paul Nosca, has an encyclopedia of facts and figures on the old Ocklawaha River. He is known as the “Paddling Ocklawaha Man” on Facebook. He recently gathered nearly 2000 petitions requesting the breach. Each of these grassroots efforts is another step toward our goal of breaching the dam. There is no doubt left here for us.  All local governments, politicians, and government agencies, as well as environmental and civic organizations, should be demanding the breach of the Rodman dam as soon as possible. The legislature set $50m aside for Springs protection this year (and $1 BILLION for springs protection over the next 20 years). The governor says he is willing to spend the dollars on “shovel-ready” projects. We think breaching the Rodman Dam is definitely a “shovel-ready” project.  Please write or call your leaders and tell them to breach the dam (with Amendment 1 funds), and be sure to grill your political candidates on this issue.

Rodam Dam

Rodam Dam

The Florida Springs Council will host the Florida Springs restoration Summit at the College of Central Florida, Klein Center on September 30-October 2. Friday’s keynote speaker will be photographer John Moran, and Saturday’s keynote speaker will be Gwen Graham (potential candidate for Governor in 2018). The Florida Springs Restoration Summit 2016 will bring together scientists, policy makers, academics, and citizens to develop a statewide roadmap for springs restoration and protection.

Plenary sessions on the first day will provide the latest news on springs science and management. Day 2 will include panel/audience discussions to explore and map out a plan for meaningful springs restoration and long-term protection.
A poster session and reception will be held the first evening and a keynote dinner on the second evening. Half-day field trips to Silver and Rainbow Springs will be offered on the third day (Oct. 2nd) of the summit. The Florida Springs Restoration Summit is supported through funds from a Protect Florida Springs License Plate grant.
For More info and to register, visit

On August 11, 2016, the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), Flint Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its issuance of three Clean Water Act permits that would allow construction of the 515-mile Florida Southeast Market Pipelines Project, including the Sabal Trail pipeline. This project would transport fracked gas across 699 waterbodies, lakes, rivers, and streams and harm 1,958 wetland systems in three states: Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

In addition, the project would include five compressor stations contributing significant amounts of air pollution. That station would rest in the midst of a predominantly African-American neighborhood, which includes two large subdivisions, a mobile home park, schools, recreational facilities, and a church. Despite widespread local opposition to the project, state and federal agencies are continuing to proceed.

If built, the fracked gas pipeline would extend throughout Florida and southern Georgia over an area that provides drinking water to approximately 10 million people. Pipeline construction alone poses a threat to local water resources as the process threatens to release hazardous materials and drilling mud into the aquifer, polluting the drinking water, and resulting in rapid transmission of drilling mud over great distances.

GRN, Flint Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club alleges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to provide proper notice and public participation. The lawsuit further charges that the planned pipeline fails to avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse environmental impacts. Proponents contend Sabal Trail will supply gas for future gas plants proposed in Florida, including the Duke Energy Citrus Combined-Cycle Plant and the Florida Power & Light Martin Energy Center. Yet groups question the purpose and need for this pipeline for gas plants and other potential uses.  More fracked gas infrastructure is unnecessary in light of alternative sources of clean, low cost, low risk energy like wind and solar.

“Communities in Florida and Georgia have clearly stated that they do not want this dangerous fracked-gas pipeline polluting their water or their neighborhoods. We have collected 25,000 signatures in opposition to the pipeline, but the Army Corps is just not listening,” said Johanna DeGraffenreid with Gulf Restoration Network. “The public has continually been left out of the decision making process for this project and that is unacceptable. Our water and communities are too important to risk for an unnecessary pipeline.”

As stated by Steve Caley, Legal Director at GreenLaw, “the Floridan Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world which supplies drinking water to millions of people in the southeastern United States, has a close connection to the water bodies and wetlands that will be negatively impacted or destroyed by the Southeast Market Pipelines Project.  Given the threats this Project poses to this critical water supply, the Corps’ failure to follow clearly established law by transparently evaluating and disclosing for public review and comment how those negative effects will be mitigated is particularly egregious.”

“The Corps robbed the public of their right to comment by not making the mitigation plan available for review during the public comment period,” said Jim Hecker, Environmental Enforcement Director at Public Justice, which is representing the groups.  “The Corps assumed that mitigation can offset all of the project’s impacts, but that key assumption was never scrutinized during the permit review process.”

“Essentially what happened is the Corps stated FERC addressed mitigation while FERC stated the Corps would do it. As a result, neither agency analyzed the issue and the public had no chance to review and comment on it,” said Eric Huber, managing attorney for the Sierra Club. “To make matters worse, the Corps was aware of several less damaging routes but did not choose them, causing unnecessary destruction to wetlands through the heart of southern Georgia and Florida.”

“Florida does not need more fracked gas infrastructure or gas plants,” said Frank Jackalone, Director of Sierra Club Florida. “The state already has the worst gas over-reliance problem in the country. It’s time to solve that problem by capturing the tremendous economic and environmental benefits of clean energy including energy efficiency, solar, wind, and battery storage.”  GRN, Flint Riverkeeper and Sierra Club are represented by Jim Hecker at Public Justice in Washington, DC and Steve Caley at Greenlaw in Atlanta, Georgia. Hopefully we will see the courts work the way they should.

September 16, 2016 Sierra Club Calls Out Army Corps Permitting on Mosaic Gypstack Sinkhole.

A massive sinkhole that opened up three weeks ago underneath a gypsum stack at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry has dumped at least 215 millions of gallons of contaminated water into the Floridan Aquifer.  The Floridan Aquifer provides drinking water for 60 percent of Florida residents.

“This new sinkhole demonstrates that the waste disposal methods of Mosaic’s fertilizer processing plants and gypstack disposal systems can be dangerous to the environment and the health of our community,” said Beverly Griffiths, Chair of Sierra Club Florida’s Phosphate Committee.

“The Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Florida need to pause before approving Mosaic’s requested permits for new mines in Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties,” said Griffiths.  “The Army Corps needs to add a Supplement to its Areawide Environmental Impact Statement that considers impacts of fertilizer processing plants and gypstacks on our aquifer, drinking water, and natural environment.”


Phosphate gypstack – Fort Meade photo by Harvey Henkelman

The Sierra Club Florida Phosphate Committee has a long history of monitoring Mosaic’s impacts on the environment and was an active participant throughout the Area-wide Environmental Impact Statement (AEIS) process, submitting extensive comments at every stage of the process.  During that time, Sierra Club Florida called on the Army Corps of Engineers to include the environmental impacts of fertilizer processing plants and gypstacks operated by the phosphate mining industry in the study. The Corps declined to discuss or consider these impacts stating that fertilizer processing was unrelated.

This is the kind of destruction the citizens of Bradford and union County can certainly look forward to if plans to start mining in those counties goes forward . It is a shame that our environmental protection agencies, both state and federal are so financially depleted and so politically affected that we get very little service from them. Fundamental changes have to be made in our Florida government and the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission is cranking up now and is to be finished by 2020. ALL citizens need to get involved and stay involved in this major issue.