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Good news for the St. Lucie Estuary

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Christine Stapleton

Good news for the St. Lucie Estuary came from Washington today: Deep in the 2015 budget proposed by President Obama is a line-item in the budget for the Army Corps of engineers that sets aside about $35 million for the C-44 Project.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy announced the proposed funding at a press conference this afternoon.

U.S. Congressman Patrick Murphy holds up sample of contaminated water during a Senate Select Committee Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin Hearing at the Charles and Rae Kane center in Stuart on August 22, 2013. (Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post)

“This isn’t a guarantee that the full amount wil be there but it’s a really good indication,” Murphy said. “To get a line item – something specific in the Army Corps work plan is a big deal.”

The project in western Martin County got underway in 2011 is intended to clean runoff before sending it to the St. Lucie Estuary. The Corps is responsible for building the $225 million-plus project, which includes a 3,400-acre reservoir. The completion date is 2020.

Water quality and quantity in the C-44 Canal – which runs from Lake Okeechobee to the coast – grabbed headlines last summer when record-setting rains forced the Army Corps to release water from the lake to prevent a breach in its ailing dike. The water from the lake coupled with runoff from local roads, farms and yards, caused an ecological disaster in the estuary.

The ecological crisis turned political in August when Gov. Rick Scott, fed up with the Corps’ pace on the project, announced that rather than waiting for the corps to come up with $30 million for its share of the project, Florida will pay the entire cost.

However, just because the $35 million line item is in the President’s budget does not mean the money is guaranteed, Murphy said. The budget must now make its way through committees during  budget appropriation process, Murphy added.

Land and Water Legacy is now Amendment 1 for November

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by John Kennedy

Florida voters will get a chance to steer as much as $10 billion toward environmental efforts over the next two decades through a ballot measure officially set Thursday for the November ballot.

The Water and Land Legacy campaign’s proposal was officially designated as Amendment 1 by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

“We are pleased to be slated as Amendment 1 on the ballot because water and land conservation deserves to be a top priority for our state,” said Will Abberger, the campaign’s chair and director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land.

“Florida is home to one-of-a-kind natural waters and lands and voters now have an opportunity to make a commitment to conservation that will last for generations of Floridians to come.”

The campaign topped the 683,149 valid signatures from Florida registered voters to secure a place on the ballot. Another active ballot campaign aimed at asking voters to approve medical marijuana is near the valid number of signatures, with 654,330 on hand Thursday.

But organizers say that thousands more petition signatures still await certification by the Feb. 1 deadline.

The Water and Land effort faced no challenge before the Florida Supreme Court. But state Republican leaders are seeking to have the marijuana initiative barred from the ballot because they claim the proposed amendment misleads voters. Justices have not yet ruled.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, who was Florida governor from 1979-87, helped launch the Water and Land campaign, which is backed by the Trust for Public Land, Audubon Florida, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club and others.

The amendment would earmark one-third of the state’s documentary stamp tax dollars, drawn from real-estate transactions, for conservation, management and restoration of Florida’s water and land for 20 years, beginning in July 2015.

The measure so far hasn’t drawn overt opposition. But the Florida Chamber of Commerce is warning the proposal ties the “hands of our elected representatives.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, a Republican, also has criticized the proposed amendment. Putnam, who is attempting to take a leading role in developing a statewide water policy, takes issue with the constitutional approach.

Scott proposes almost doubling Everglades spending

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott proposed spending $130 million on Everglades restoration Wednesday, almost doubling what the state is currently putting into water treatment and other projects across South and Central Florida.

The Republican governor also managed to fire a shot at the Obama administration, for reducing an $80 million expenditure on the Everglades to $46 million this year — saying it’s the lowest amount spent by the federal government in two decades on the fabled river of grass.

But he said the state is doing its share.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on the Everglades,” Scott said Wednesday at a Cabinet meeting in Kissimmee.

Scott’s proposal would sharply increase the $70 million currently spent on Everglades work. He announced the budget recommendation following an update on work currently going on in the region made by state and federal officials and representatives of environmental groups.

Dan Kimball, supervisor of Everglades National Park, told Scott and the Cabinet the wide-ranging efforts are aimed at a seemingly simple goal.

“We will ensure that the water entering the Everglades is clean,” Kimball said.

About $30 million of the money recommended Wednesday by Scott will go toward continuing work on a bridge along the Tamiami Trail. The bridge will help fix a road that has acted for decades as a dam, blocking the flow of fresh water to the southern Everglades and help ease water flowing from Lake Okeechobee that has fouled the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

Kimball said the federal government will match the state’s three-year, $90 million commitment to the Tamiami Trail work. Eric Eikenberg, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, said the project “will uncork the southern end of the Everglades,” and improve the entire system.

On the northern end of the Everglades, Scott’s budget proposal also would continue the state’s 25-year effort to restore the Kissimmee River basin and continue water storage and treatment projects from the Lake Okeechobee area to South Miami-Dade County.

Scott’s Everglades announcement came only a day after he unveiled plans to increase spending on restoring Florida’s springs. Scott said he wants to spend $55 million on the work this election year, up from $10 million currently.

As a first-year governor in 2011, Scott dramatically cut property taxes going to water management districts – forcing wholesale layoffs and limiting state oversight. The same year, he signed into law legislation that eliminated most of the state’s 25-year-old growth management laws.

But Scott now defends his environmental record, citing the Everglades commitment as a key example.

Scott is helped this year by a budget surplus of about $1.1 billion and has already proposed increases in transportation and tourism, and a pledge to reduce taxes and fees by $500 million. He is expected to unveil his full budget proposal to the Legislature next week.


Everglades fundraiser planned for The Breakers

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The ninth annual ForEverglades Benefit, which usually raises a couple million dollars for work aimed at restoring the fabled grass sea, will feature Grammy Award-winners the Zac Brown Band, organizers announced Wednesday.

The event is planned for Feb. 15 at The Breakers in Palm Beach. It also will mark the 20th anniversary of the Everglades Foundation.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Zac Brown Band kick off our 20th anniversary celebration,” said Eric Eikenberg, Everglades Foundation CEO. “Restoring and protecting America’s Everglades is very important to all of us and having Zac bring attention to this cause means a lot to the entire organization and its supporters.”

The ForEverglades Benefit raises cash to support the science, policy, communications, and education programs of the Everglades Foundation.

Vinyard says despite fed shutdown, Fla parks still going strong

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 by John Kennedy

When the federal door closes, a state door opens — or at least Florida’s state parks are sensing an opening when attracting visitors.

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard sent out email Tuesday reminding Floridians that the state’s 171 parks are going strong, even as the National Park Service shutters its greenspace because of the federal shutdown.

“While the national parks are being shut down because of instability in Washington, Florida’s award-winning parks, greenways and trails are available for all to enjoy,”  Vinyard said.


High court asked to settle Georgia-Florida water war

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi said Tuesday they have filed suit with the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to resolve Florida’s water war with Georgia.

Justices are being asked to take up the rare state versus state case that is the culmination of two decades of regulatory and lower court wrangling over Georgia’s water consumption in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins. A recent court ruling involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers favored Georgia’s side in the clash, sending Scott looking to the U.S. Supreme Court for the next round of action.

“Georgia has refused to fairly share the waters that flow between our two states, so to stop Georgia’s unmitigated consumption of water we have brought the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court. Georgia’s over-consumption of water threatens the existence of Apalachicola Bay and the future economic development of the region,” Scott said.

Georgia’s water consumption, driven mostly by demands in the Atlanta area, have reduced fresh water flow into Florida’s Apalachicola Bay, dramatically reducing the region’s important oyster harvest.

Historically low water levels stemming from Georgia’s consumption have caused oysters to die because of higher salinity in the bay and increased disease and predator intrusion. Oysters in the Bay account for 90 percent of Florida’s oyster supply and 10 percent of the nation’s oyster supply, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Scott’s fellow Republican, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, last month called Florida’s plan to bring the case to the nation’s highest court a “frivolous waste of time and money.” Deal said Georgia has taken strides in the past year to conserve water and hinted that Scott’s move was aimed at appealing to voters in next year’s elections.

Justices OK land and water ballot measure

Thursday, September 26th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The Florida Supreme Court approved the first proposed constitutional amendment slated for next year’s ballot — a water and land conservation measure that could set aside $10 billion over the next two decades for environmental efforts.

The Florida Land and Water Legacy, the organization sponsoring the effort, is more than halfway to the 683,149 petition signatures needed to get on the November ballot, an amount representing 8 percent of all registered voters who cast ballots in the last general election.

“This is monumental step as we continue gathering petitions to place this important measure on the ballot,” said Will Abberger, the campaign’s chairman and director of conservation finance for The Trust for Public Land. ”Our campaign is proving that Floridians care deeply about our state’s natural heritage and want to safeguard it for future generations.”

The amendment would earmark one-third of the state’s documentary stamp tax dollars, drawn from real-estate transactions, for conservation, management, and restoration of Florida’s water and land for 20 years, beginning in July 2015.



Scott invites Obama to Lake O — but with an edge

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott sent a letter inviting President Obama to tour the Lake Okeechobee area — but the message carried plenty of edge.

Scott has been railing against the Army Corps of Engineers, accusing the federal agency of failing to meet its obligation on efforts to improve water quality in the region and maintain the dike surrounding the big lake.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, chairman of a select committee examining water issues in the region, added to the heat Tuesday, saying the Corps has too much power and is in the position of ”judge, jury and executioner” of water policy.

Scott offered his own take in his letter to the White House. The letter begins:

“I am writing on behalf of the millions of Florida families who are being impacted by the Corps’ discharges of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee,” Scott wrote, adding, “After a tour, you will no doubt make Lake Okeechobee enhancements more of a priority than what is currently reflected in your budget reductions.”


Lake O water’s southerly shift helps troubled rivers, officials say

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Environmental managers have sent 10 billion gallons of water south from Lake Okeechobee since August 1 to ease the flow of nutrient-polluted water into the troubled St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers, a Senate select committee was told Tuesday.

Ernie Barnett, director of the South Florida Water Management District, said the amount of southerly flowing water from the lake that is still brimming near flood stage is certain to increase in coming months.

The move has been helped by almost $2.8 million in improvements to pumping stations and water storage approved earlier this month by state lawmakers, Barnett said.

While the 10 billion gallons has helped, officials said, the select committee heard from a range of local elected leaders and activists urging swifter action to stem the region’s vast water woes.

Nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee has been flowing into the rivers, killing oysters and sea grass and causing a toxic algae outbreak  that has forced Martin County health officials to warn residents against coming into contact with the water.

Gov. Rick Scott, who in his first year as chief executive, sharply cut the budgets of state water management districts and eliminated the state’s lead growth management agency, is now trying to ease the problem.

Scott, seeking re-election next year, said last month that he wants state lawmakers to pick up the
entire $60 million tab for building a wetland needed to reduce releases from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie.

Scott blasted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to do its share of the project.

On Tuesday, Select Committee Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, also said the Army Corps was in the position of “judge, jury and executioner” when it comes to water management issues.

The corps is intent on keeping water levels lower in Lake Okeechobee to avoid the risk of flood, making the surrounding region deal with the outflow of dirty water, he said.

Instead, Negron said it’s time for Congress to revisit the role of the “monolithic federal bureaucracy,” represented by the corps.

Lawmakers poised to pour more money into fight to save rivers

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A legislative panel is poised to approve spending almost $2.8 million more in coming months to improve pump stations vital to stemming the flow of polluted water to the troubled St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

The state’s Legislative Budget Commission is expected Thursday to give state environmental regulators and the South Florida Water Management District authority to spend the money for what the agencies call “short-term policies.”

Nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee has been flowing into the rivers, killing oysters and sea grass and causing a toxic algae outbreak that has forced Martin County health officials to warn residents against coming into contact with the water.

Environmental officials say that improving the pumping stations and storing water on public lands across the region should ease the flow of dirty water into the rivers. The project also could more safely divert Lake Okeechobee water south into the Everglades National Park and out into Florida Bay, officials said.

A heavy rainy season has forced state and federal officials to struggle to keep Lake Okeechobee water levels low to avoid adding pressure to an aged, 143-mile dike that separates the big lake from surrounding farms and residences.

Bonus program approved, despite concern it costs Florida’s environment

Friday, June 28th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection was authorized Friday to distribute almost $600,000 in bonuses to 269 employees as a reward for improving efficiency and saving$8.8 million in taxpayer money over the past year.

But Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, derided the bonus system as flawed, warning it effectively rewarded state regulators for approving environmental permits more quickly — comprosing the underlying mission of the agency.

“These types of bonuses may impact decision-making when we are putting in incentives to speed up the approval process,” Pafford told the Legislative Budget Commission.

Pafford said the bonus program is troubling given Gov. Rick Scott’s environmental record, which he said favors job-creating industries over protecting water bodies and greenways.

Since taking office in 2011, Scott has signed legislation which cut water management district budgets, resulting in the wholesale layoff of regulators. Scott also eliminated the state’s Department of Community Affairs and sharply scaled back growth management standards, undoing many that had been in place since 1985.

Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, defended the department’s approach. Negron said DEP was seeking approval to use an existing state agency incentive and savings program that had nothing to do with hurrying-up permits.

Negron said DEP had successfully taken steps to assure regulatory actions were taken “in a timely manner.” He pointed out that he, too, would share Pafford’s concerns if improving efficiency meant reducing department standards.

“The way this is drafted, it will not create incentives for specific outcomes,” Negron said.

The measure was approved by the budget commission, an arm of the Legislature, with Pafford the lone vote against the proposal.

DEP deputy secretary Jeff Littlejohn said that 269 employees out of 1,600 in the agency are eligible for the bonuses, which will range from just under $1,000 to about $5,000. The checks are likely to be distributed in August, Littlejohn said.


Everglades plan clears the House

Friday, March 22nd, 2013 by John Kennedy

A measure aimed at enacting an $880 million Everglades plan cleared the Florida House 114-0 Friday, after the sugar industry and environmentalists reached a truce on the complex clean-up effort.

Conservation groups fought an earlier House proposal, claiming it favored sugar growers and putting the burden on South Florida taxpayers to build stormwater treatment and storage areas over the next decade to improve water quality across the region.

But negotiations between the two sides led to Friday’s compromise, which is expected to win Senate approval in coming days. Gov. Rick Scott has indicated he would sign the legislation.

“This is an accomplishment for all of us,” said Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, sponsor of the measure (CS/HB 7065.

The legislation extends a $25-per-acre tax growers pay through 2026, which raises about $11 million annually for clean-up. The sugar industry had sought a two years’ shorter extension of the $25 standard before the rate begins to reduce. It reaches its lowest mark of $10-per-acre in 2036 — 20 years beyond when it was slated to kick-in under current law.

The measure would assure financing of the Everglades work: with $32 million annually coming from state dollars, $11 million from the sugar industry, and another $30 million from South Florida property taxpayers.

Sugar wins first round of cleanup fight

Thursday, March 7th, 2013 by John Kennedy

A House committee unanimously approved legislation Thursday backed by the powerful sugar industry that extends a $25-per-acre tax on growers for Everglades restoration, but which environmentalists say puts the largest share of cleanup costs on South Florida taxpayers.

The measure (PCB 13-01) cleared the State Affairs Committee on a 17-0 vote. Sugar lobbyists told the panel the legislation sets the stage for completing an $880 million Everglades effort advanced by Gov. Rick Scott — with growers paying their fair share.

“We are optimistic this plan is going to be successful,” Phil Parsons, representing the Florida Sugar Cane League, told the committee.

Scott, however, supports a Senate bill that doesn’t readdress the Everglades Agricultural Privilege Tax. The $25-per-acre levy has been paid by growers since 1994, but is slated to fall to $10-per-acre in 2016.

Sugar growers say the legislation makes them pay an extra $6.6 million to the South Florida Water Management District — and that’s an appropriate amount.

Environmental organizations, however, want to shelve the House bill. They point to research which shows 60 percent of the pollution in waterways feeding the Everglades stems from farms in the region around Lake Okeechobee.

Setting the new tax rate now — rather than reviewing it later, before it expires in 2016 — will prove a good deal for the sugar industry. They fear it will shut off any discussion of whether sugar it paying its proper share.

Meanwhile, the bulk of the $880 million cleanup project will fall on taxpayers, said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation.

“That’s an inequity that should be addressed,” Eikenberg said.


Rising sea levels more than just South Florida’s costly problem, officials say

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 by John Kennedy

South Florida lawmakers got a stark look Wednesday at how rising sea levels could dramatically change Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade counties and the Keys in coming years, leading to calls for more state aid to stem the tide.

County planners and water managers from officials presented an 84-page action plan to regional legislators that was compiled last fall. While climate change has caused sea level to climb nine inches over the past century, that rate is accelerating and could advance an at least an additional nine inches over the next 50 years, analysts have concluded.

Evidence of the changes are already being seen across South Florida, where regional flooding and saltwater intrusion is becoming common in area canals and waterways. Several lawmakers said a goal for this spring’s legislative session should be to convince more of their colleagues that South Florida’s problems have a statewide impact.

“We’ve got to convince the rest of the state that this is an economic disaster,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. “We can’t wait for sea levels to keep rising. We’ve got to plan for the future.”

Making more funding available for the region is a likely push, said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, chairman of the Palm Beach County legislative delegation, who organized Wednesday’s hearing. “This demands our attention,” he said.

Officials speaking at Wednesday’s hearing offered plenty of anecdotes about South Florida’s changing coastline. In Broward County, several waterside neighborhoods commonly flood during high tides; on Stock Island, in the Keys, Monroe County officials are elevating the ground floor of a new fire station, in anticipation of future flooding, officials said. Roads, sewer systems and development decisions will all be affected by the changing water line across the region, officials said.

In Palm Beach County, Everglades restoration efforts could be slowed by rising saltwater intrusion, hurting water management efforts, said Ernie Barnett of the South Florida Water Management District.

“You can fight water with water,” Barnett said. “We need to push more water through the Everglades toward the coast.”

The report by local officials included some sobering conclusions about the impact of rising water on the area.

The report found, “The upper estimate of current taxable property values in Monroe, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties vulnerable in the one-foot scenario is $4 billion with values rising to more than $31 billion at the three-foot scenario. The greater values reflected in the financial impacts are coastal residential properties with ocean access and high taxable value.”

But Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, offered a darker view. He said lawmakers and county officials will have a challenging time convincing many Florida leaders to direct dollars toward fighting what he said was an inevitable change.

“We can do this stuff,” Hager said. “But inevitably, the cycles of the earth will overcome whatever we do.”

Former Crist aide named new Everglades Foundation CEO

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 by John Kennedy

A former top aide to ex-Gov. Charlie Crist has been named the Everglades Foundation’s new chief executive officer.

Eric Eikenberg, who was chief-of-staff for Crist and, earlier, for former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, will lead the environmental advocacy organization beginning July 1. He succeeds Kirk Fordham, who announced last month he was leaving the Miami-based nonprofit to take a job as executive director of the Gill Action Fund, a leading gay rights advocacy organization.

“Eric impressed us from the first moment we met. He has a deep understanding of what it takes to achieve success both in Washington and Tallahassee and he has the leadership skills that will help the Foundation continue to be at the forefront of Everglades restoration,” said Paul Tudor Jones, II, Everglades Foundation chairman. 

Since leaving Crist’s office, Eikenberg has been a senior policy advisor for the law firm, Holland & Knight. During his time in the governor’s office, Eikenberg was a central negotiator in forging a deal to buy 187,000 acres of land owned by U.S. Sugar, part of a plan to sharply reduce sugar production in the region and use the property for Everglades restoration.

Crist’s successor, Gov. Rick Scott, opposed the sale, and the South Florida Water Management District went forward with a scaled-back plan by acquiring 27,000 of sugar land. Scott last fall unveiled his own plan for moving forward with Everglades work. Environmentalists expect Scott to offer more refinements to his proposal in coming weeks.

“I am honored to join the Everglades Foundation as its next chief executive officer,” Eikenberg said. “The mission is simple:  Save the Everglades. It is the source of water for more than 7 million Floridians and a driver of our economy. What we do now, will determine whether our generation leaves future generations with a vibrant, healthy, River of Grass.”


DeGrove, father of Florida growth management, dead at 87

Monday, April 16th, 2012 by John Kennedy

John DeGrove, considered the father of growth management laws in Florida, has died at age 87.

DeGrove for many years directed the Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems at Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University. He also an eminent scholar chair named for him in growth management and development at FAU, where he also taught political science.

As Florida’s secretary of the Department of Community Affairs from 1983 to 1985, DeGrove spearheaded the development and legislative approval of the landmark 1985 Growth Management Act and the State Comprehensive Plan. A fifth-generation Floridian, DeGrove also was one of the founding members of the state’s 1,000 Friends of Florida advocacy organization.

In 2001, on the 15th anniversary of 1,000 Friends’ founding,  then-Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida Cabinet issued a resolution honoring DeGrove for his “decades of outstanding work on behalf of the people and natural resources of Florida.”

Then-U.S. Sen. Bob Graham at the time said of DeGrove, “I cannot imagine what problems would be facing our state today without your many years of wise counsel to several generations of planners and public policy leaders. There are few people in this state who have impacted each and every Floridian on a daily basis with such positive force as you.” 

The growth management laws enacted during DeGrove’s time in Florida government shaped the state until last year.

 Gov. Rick Scott, who campaigned against many of the state’s planning restrictions, signed into law legislation which eliminated state oversight of local planning, except when proposals with statewide impact are involved.

Standards for citizens challenging development projects also were toughened, giving builders more leeway to go ahead with projects they can prove will have some positive economic impact.

The legislation capped preceding three years of lawmakers chipping away at growth management provisions. Critics said the laws were overly burdensome and blunt the state’s ability to bounce back from an economic slump caused — paradoxically — by what many agree was overbuilding.

The legislation last year also eliminated the Department of Community Affairs, the main regulatory agency over development.

Everglades Foundation CEO to leave

Thursday, March 1st, 2012 by John Kennedy

The Everglades Foundation’s chief executive officer, Kirk Fordham, is leaving the Miami-based nonprofit to take a job as executive director of the Gill Action Fund, a leading gay rights advocacy organization.

Fordham has been with the Everglades Foundation for four years, leading state and federal efforts to maintain funding for Everglades restoration. Fordham’s announcement comes a day after state House and Senate budget-writers agreed to steer $30 million in restoration this year, $10 million less than what Gov. Rick Scott is seeking for continuing the long-delayed clean-up.

“Making the decision to move was not easy.  I enjoy every day of my work at the Everglades Foundation – which employs an enormously talented staff and a growing list of supporters across Florida and the nation,” said Fordham, who will stay with the foundation until mid-April.

Gill Action is Denver-based. Founded by Tim Gill, a computer software entrepreneur, the organization has helped lead anti-discrimination legislation in several states while also helping finance LGBT candidates in state and federal races.

Fordham had served 14 years as a chief of staff and senior legislative advisor on Capitol Hill, working for three members of Congress, including former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley of Lake Worth. Fordham also was finance director for former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez.



Senate agrees to another round of Everglades cash

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Senate budget negotiators sided Wednesday with the House and agreed to steer $30 million toward Everglades restoration this year, drawing praise from advocates for the longterm cleanup effort.

Kirk Fordham, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation, even held out the possibility that more cash could emerge as lawmakers continue to wrangle on a roughly $70 billion state spending plan.

“As Senate and House budget conferees continue to negotiate, with strong support from Gov. Scott, we are confident the state will begin to shift back to the historic levels of investment in Everglades restoration made during the Jeb Bush years,” Fordham said.  “Every dollar we invest on Everglades is an enormous benefit for Floridians who depend on this natural resource for their livelihoods.”

Scott has unveiled wide-ranging plans to build reservoirs, unblock flow ways, control seepage and expand man-made wetlands by 2022, as part of the restoration effort. He sought $40 million in state cash for the coming year.

Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, had indicated a few weeks ago that his side planned to come up to House levels of Everglades funding, after zeroing out spending in its budget plan. The House had recommended $35 million for Everglades restoration and other work.

Graham tries to fire-up enviros before session begins

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham has sent out an end-of-year call from the newly created Florida Conservation Coalition, urging environmental activists to buttonhole their legislators before the Jan. 10 session begins.

The coalition was unveiled last month, with plans to lobby Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led Legislature to revive state funding for water quality programs, the Florida Forever land-buying program and Everglades restoration, which supporters say have been staggered by budget cuts since 2007.

In his email blast to activists, Graham condemns last spring’s policy changes and spending reductions.

“In three short months of 2011, the Governor and Legislature set Florida’s once proud conservation laws and programs back four decades. In so doing they have handed us a very heavy lift. But what choices do we have? We surrender, or we fight back,”  Graham said.

He concluded, “Our immediate job is to convince the Legislature that they went too far and must correct and reverse its misguided actions of 2011.”

The coalition includes Audubon of Florida, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Nature Conservancy, Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Trust for Public Land and League of Women Voters.


Everglades Foundation to host Tallahassee summit

Monday, December 12th, 2011 by John Kennedy

With Gov. Rick Scott emerging for many environmentalists as a surprising defender of Everglades restoration, one of the issue’s biggest advocates is taking its case to the state Capitol next month.

The Everglades Foundation announced Monday that it will host a two-day water supply summit in Tallahassee, Jan. 17-18, hosted by NBC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd.

 The state capital summit comes on the heels of last year’s America’s Everglades Summit in Washington, D.C. That huddle featured state and federal leaders, supporters of the Everglades, and had former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw hosting a discussion on the challenges facing Everglades restoration.

 ”Anytime you can bring together people who care deeply about Florida’s economy, the Everglades and the future of our water supply, you create an opportunity to find answers that will work,” said Paul Tudor Jones, the hedge fund millionaire and Everglades Foundation chairman.

Scott proposed spending $40 million for Everglades clean-up work in the budget proposal released last week.  The money would be steered toward the effort Scott unveiled in October plans to build reservoirs, unblock flow ways, control seepage and expand man-made wetlands by 2022.

The governor’s proposal stretches the already stalled clean-up plan another two years. But it was designed to answer federal environmental officials critical of the state’s slow action on the project, which once was scheduled to be completed by 2006.

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