Latest Florida Chamber of Commerce Water Education Video Highlights Kissimmee River and Science-Based Research Solutions To Securing Florida’s Water Future

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (April 17, 2018) – Building on efforts to secure Florida’s water future, the Florida Chamber of Commerce today is releasing the latest in a series of water education videos that demonstrate the importance of following science-based research solutions.

Securing Florida’s Water Future: Kissimmee River features research produced by Florida Atlantic University – Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor Dr. Brian LaPointe. The Kissimmee River basin extends south from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee and encompasses thousands of square miles.

 

“Drainage projects, along with other human activities, have altered the quantity and quality of water flowing south to Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and the downstream estuaries,” said Dr. Brian LaPointe, Research Professor at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. “This video series allows us to share information on the Kissimmee River restoration, as well as other strategies that are underway to protect these important water resources for future generations.”

Securing Florida’s Water Future: Kissimmee River features water and environmental leaders, including:

  • Jeff Couch,S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Paul Gray, Ph.D., Okeechobee Science Coordinator, Audubon Florida
  • David Childs, Partner, Hopping, Green & Sams, P.A.
  • Ernie Barnett, Executive Director, Florida Land Council
  • Drew Bartlett, Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
  • Bob Butler, Butler Oaks Farm

 

The Kissimmee River once meandered for 103 miles from Orlando to Lake Okeechobee. Following severe flooding in 1947, Congress authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to deepen, straighten and widen it.

Did You Know?

  • The Kissimmee Channelization Project destroyed much of the floodplain-dependent ecosystem, and had downstream impacts on water quality in Lake Okeechobee.
  • The Kissimmee Restoration Project will return flow to 44 miles of the historic channel and restore about 40 square miles of the river/floodplain ecosystem.
  • The watershed is also a highly urbanized developing area, and the very north end –closer to the Orlando area – a lot of communities are on septic tank systems. That remains one of the larger challenges, this source of nitrogen and phosphorus that leaches into waterways from septic tank systems.

 

“When it comes to securing Florida’s future, there are few issues more important than water,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “With six million more people expected to call Florida home by 2030, science-based data is key to meeting the challenges Florida faces.”

 

This is the Seventh in a Series of Water Research Education Videos. The Series Includes:

  • Kissimmee River & Tributaries North of Lake Okeechobee
  • St. Lucie Estuary
  • Springs
  • Southwest Florida
  • The Florida Keys
  • Indian River Lagoon

Click here to view the complete series or visit www.FloridaChamber.com/WaterVideos.

 

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

Florida Chamber of Commerce Unveils Latest Water Research Educational Video

Video Addresses Discharges from Kissimmee River & Tributaries North of Lake Okeechobee and Science-Based Water Solutions

TALLAHASSEE, FL. (February 8, 2018) – The Florida Chamber of Commerce today released its sixth in a series of water research educational videos further demonstrating why following science-based research is important to securing Florida’s water future. The latest video addresses discharges from the Kissimmee River and other tributaries north of Lake Okeechobee, and the science-based solutions that policy makers are considering to mitigate these problems in the future.

 

The educational video highlights research produced by Florida Atlantic University – Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor Dr. Brian LaPointe.

“I’ve spent my career studying water quality throughout the state of Florida, and this educational collaboration sheds light on the high water levels and alga blooms that followed the unusually heavy rainfalls in the winter and spring of 2016,” said Dr. LaPointe.

 

According to Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, there are few issues more important than water. “With six million more people expected to call Florida home by 2030, science-based solutions are the only way to ensure Florida’s water future is sustainable and provides the quality of life Floridians and our visitors deserve,” Wilson said.

Lake Okeechobee is the second largest lake in the continental United States. World-class fishing has helped spur tourism around the lake in recent decades. The lake is fed by the Kissimmee River and northern tributaries, which drain nutrient-rich fresh water from a 5,000-square mile basin extending south from Orlando.

The Latest Research Educational Video Includes Interviews With Environmental Leaders, Including:

  • Drew Bartlett, Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
  • Ernie Barnett, Executive Director, Florida Land Council
  • Paul Gray, Ph.D., Okeechobee Science Coordinator, Audubon Florida
  • Scott Martin, Professional Angler and TV Host
  • Larry Wright and Tom Mann, Jr., Professional Bass Fishing Guide
  • Mary Ann Martin, Roland Martin’s Marina and Fishing Resort

 

This is the Sixth in a Series of Water Research Educational Videos. Previous Videos Include:

  •  St. Lucie Estuary
  • Springs
  • Southwest Florida
  • The Florida Keys
  • Indian River Lagoon

 

Click here to see the complete series, or visit www.FloridaChamber.com/WaterVideos.

 

 

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The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Florida Legislature Votes to Enhance Florida’s Competitiveness

 

Download Legislative Summary   Read Our Letter to Legislators

 

Thanks to your tireless advocacy, the Florida Legislature today voted to make Florida more competitive and sent a strong signal nationwide that Florida remains open for business.

Prior to the start of this week’s Special Session, Florida Chamber President and CEO Mark Wilson urged legislative leaders to fully fund VISIT FLORIDA’s proven, high-yield tourism marketing efforts with at least $76 million, to provide operational funding for Enterprise Florida, Inc., and to invest at least $85 million in targeted economic development efforts such as infrastructure investment and job training.

 

“Florida’s taxpayers were the big winners of Special Session. By passing Florida Chamber-backed pro-jobs, pro-business legislation, lawmakers today made the most of their opportunity to protect and enhance Florida’s competitiveness, and sent a signal to the country that Florida remains open for business. Lawmaking isn’t always pretty, but just as business owners focus on achieving desired outcomes, not inputs, the outcome here was worth the wait,” said Frank Walker, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Florida Chamber.

 

Legislation Passed on June 9 Includes:

  • Economic Development: Creates and funds at $85 million the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund program for targeted economic development investments, and provides base operation funding necessary for Enterprise Florida, Inc. to continue their work creating jobs and diversifying our economy,
  • Tourism Marketing: Allocates $76 million to fully fund VISIT FLORIDA’s proven tourism marketing efforts with necessary accountability to taxpayers,
  • Drug Free Workplace: Includes Florida Chamber-backed language in the medical marijuana implementation bill preserving employers’ right to insist on a Drug Free Workplace,
  • Education: Increases public education funding by $215 million, and
  • Herbert Hoover Dike: Provides $50 million for overdue repair of the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee to enhance water storage and quality.

For a more in-depth look at legislation passed during this week’s Special Legislative Session, as well as a reminder of Florida Chamber-backed legislation that passed during the Regular Legislative Session, click here.

The Florida Chamber looks forward to future opportunities to work with lawmakers to stomp out the ‘Homeowners Fraud Tax’ associated with Assignment of Benefit fraud and abuse, to lower workers’ comp rates facing employers, and continued efforts to fully repeal the Florida-only business rent tax.

U.S. Army Corps Continues Restoration Efforts

By Jason Kirk, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Ft. Myers News-Press, November 1, 2016

 

The fiscal year for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District ended on Sept. 30 and it was a year in which our Team of Professionals, alongside our partners, achieved on-the-ground benefits to restore America’s Everglades.

The $127 million federal investment in fiscal year 2016 towards Everglades restoration provided essential funding to award critical construction contracts and to design and plan for future increments of restoration.  For construction efforts alone, we invested $96.5 million in our Everglades projects.

The entire Everglades ecosystem operates as a whole; progress made in each respective areas builds off each other to deliver essential benefits to America’s Everglades. This connectivity starts north of Lake Okeechobee, the liquid heart of the Everglades, and moves all the way south to Florida Bay.

North of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will improve conditions north of —and within — the lake.  We awarded one of three remaining construction contracts for Kissimmee River Restoration this past year.  This project will restore approximately 44 miles of the historic Kissimmee River, restore more than 40 square miles of floodplain, and slow the flow of water into Lake Okeechobee.  We also initiated the Lake Okeechobee Watershed project, which will further improve conditions north of the lake and enhance system-wide operational flexibility.

East and west of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will improve conditions in coastal estuaries and tributaries.  Construction of much-needed storage is underway at the Indian River Lagoon-South C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area project on the east coast and the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir project on the west coast.  This past year, we broke ground on the largest component of the C-44 project, the 3,400-acre reservoir. As a result of our essential partnership with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), all the C-44 project components are currently under construction or complete. This partnership also enabled the SFWMD to initiate the first phase of construction on the C-43 Reservoir project. Together, these projects will provide over 220,000 acre-feet of water storage.

Progress continues on developing the final report for the Loxahatchee River Watershed Restoration project, which will improve conditions in the Loxahatchee River’s northwest fork.  We also initiated the Western Everglades Restoration Project, which aims to restore the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water within the western Everglades.

Currently pending congressional authorization, the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) will construct conveyance features needed to send additional water south from Lake Okeechobee.  It will also deliver more than 200,000 acre-feet of water south from the lake into Everglades National Park.  Congressional authorization will make CEPP eligible for congressional appropriations.

South of Lake Okeechobee, ongoing efforts will send additional water south to Everglades National Park, Florida Bay and Biscayne Bay. This past year we awarded two of three remaining construction contracts for the C-111 South Dade project.  We’re also finishing construction on the Modified Water Deliveries project. Combined, these projects put the necessary infrastructure in place to send larger quantities of water south on a long-term basis. We awarded one of three remaining contracts for the Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands project, which will deliver much-needed freshwater to Biscayne Bay.  Additionally, the emergency deviation implemented this past year helped to alleviate high water levels within the system and deliver additional water to the Park.

We will keep momentum going in fiscal year 2017.  We started this year with a visit from our Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite who appreciates the important collaborative work we’re doing to restore this complex ecosystem and recognizes our strong federal-state partnership is critical to maintaining momentum. We applaud our partners’ efforts, including the Department of the Interior breaking ground on additional Tamiami Trail bridging and SFWMD’s continued progress on Restoration Strategies.  Alongside our partners, with valuable input from multiple stakeholders, we developed the Integrated Delivery Schedule (IDS).  It’s our Everglades restoration roadmap—a living document with flexibility to adjust as conditions change.

We are encouraged by the progress made to date and our Corps team is absolutely committed to maintaining momentum on our important work to restore and preserve America’s Everglades for future generations.

Col. Jason Kirk is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District Commander.

Rep. Gayle Harrell Discusses Florida’s Environment

“We are devastated by the releases from Lake Okeechobee.”

-Representative Gayle Harrell

Florida’s precious natural resources are just one reason why six million more people will call our state home between now and 2030. In the latest edition of The Florida Chamber’s Bottom Line, Rep. Gayle Harrell address Legacy Florida, a bill that helps preserve the Everglades, as well as the impact runoff and septic tanks have on our environment, businesses and economy.

“We are devastated by the releases from Lake Okeechobee…it is just devastating to our economy and our small business people.”

Learn what the Florida Chamber’s partnership with FAU to educate Floridians on the impact of septic tanks:

For 21st Consecutive Year, Everglades Farmers Exceed Phosphorus Reduction Requirements

By Nancy Smith, Sunshine State News
August 12, 2016

Despite the challenge of “an insanely wet ‘dry season'” — 10 inches in January alone — Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) farmers were able to keep their 20-year hot streak alive.

Pamela Wade, in charge of Everglades regulation for the South Florida Water Management District, delivered the good news to the District’s governing board Thursday: Farmers again exceeded phosphorus reduction requirements for water flowing from their farms to the Everglades, making this the 21st consecutive year they have met the state’s water-quality standard south of Lake Okeechobee.

Wade said phosphorus was reduced 27 percent in the 477,000-acre farming region south of Lake Okeechobee for the 12 months ended April 30. Florida’s Everglades Forever Act, enacted in 1994, requires the amount of phosphorus leaving the EAA to be 25 percent less than before the reduction efforts began, Wade said. It is not a year-to-year comparison.

During the previous 20 years, the EAA averaged a 56 percent reduction in phosphorus, she said.

But she added, this year was particularly challenging — in fact in an earlier statement Governing Board member Melanie Peterson called it an “astounding accomplishment” — considering the high water levels from record rainfall. The EAA experienced the wettest January since record keeping began in 1932.

“There’s always a greater runoff response when we see such unprecedented rainfall and significant flooding in the basin,” Wade said.

During a year of El Nino rainfall — at times more than 350 percent above average — the growers’ science-based “best management” farming practices, such as on-farm erosion controls and more precise fertilizer application methods, pulled them through.

Since 1996, Wade said during a slide presentation, those measures have prevented more than 3,055 metric tons of phosphorus, including 51 metric tons in the most recent period, from leaving the EAA.

Nevertheless, environmental organizations — for example, Audubon Florida — claim meeting the 25 percent phosphorus reduction is keeping the bar too low. It’s an easy threshold to reach, Audubon Executive Director Eric Draper has said. Draper was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Agriculture is a powerful economic driver for the state of Florida. In the 700,000-acre EAA, the primary crop is sugar cane, but other crops such as winter vegetables, sod and rice are grown there, too. In fact, the EAA is known as “the nation’s salad bowl.”

“The Everglades Agricultural Area is a uniquely productive farming basin, unlike any other in the nation,” said EAA grower Paul Orsenigo of Pahokee-based Grower’s Management, the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s incoming chairman. “Not only does the EAA provide abundant supplies of rice, sugar cane and vegetables — including enough lettuce for 3 billion salads — but EAA farmers are also essential partners in the success of one of the world’s largest environmental preservation efforts.”

Said John Scott Hundley of Hundley Farms in Belle Glade,“Hearing these results makes all of the hard work and long hours we put in during this tough year even more worthwhile. I’ve been working on our family’s farm for 26 years, and I can’t remember a tougher year managing water, outside of a major storm.  I’m proud of these results because they exemplify the expertise of the growers who were able to manage their farms in a way that protected local food supply and continued to provide water-quality performance for the Everglades.”

District officials said South Florida’s water, especially water the district moves into Everglades National Park, is cleaner than it has been in generations and meets stringent water quality requirements.