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Items filtered by date: June 2015

The use of the legal system by those who control and legislate it to intrude and limit fair access for common citizens continues unabated. The state of Georgia has just sued Carl Malamud, a former ABS Journal Legal Rebel who operates a non-profit for the purposes of providing free access to public records online, for publishing Georgia's Annotated Legal Statutes.

Published in Politics

Estero Boulevard will be seeing the first of many upcoming construction projects at the end of July, as construction starts to replaces the waterlines beneath Fort Myers Beach main thoroughfare between July 27th and 31st. The reFRESH Waterlines Project will begin by installing the new water mains on the beach side of the Boulevard over the month of August. This construction will occur from Times Square to the Red Coconut RV Park.

The next leg of the project is projected to begin in September, with the construction of waterlines between Times Square and Crescent Street. After these lines are tested, individual properties will be connected to the new water system.

During construction, residents and visitors will need to be aware of both planned and emergency water shut-offs. While the participating governments and businesses hope to keep these events minimized, everyone in the affected area will need to watch for flyers announcing the planned shut-offs. Keeping bottled water on hand is suggested for any unplanned disruption to the water service on the island.

Active construction will take place during weekdays from 7 am to 7pm, with lane closures on the Boulevard expected. Weekend and nighttime construction will take place as deemed necessary. People commuting to and from Fort Myers Beach should be prepared for Traffic pattern changes and disruptions throughout the next few months.

Current planned changed to traffic include lane closures as lane stripes are removed and replaced on the Boulevard. This will take place during the evenings of July 27th and 28th, from 6 pm to 6 am. Wednesday, July 29th, closures are to be expected as asphalt is milled and temporary drainage is constructed. This will take place during the day, from 7 am to 7 pm.

From August 3rd onward, two work zones will be set up as two crews work on the Boulevard simultaneously to install water mains. The first crew will be working between Crescent Street and Carolina Avenue, and the other will be located between Pearl Street and Gulf Beach Road. The southbound lane of the Boulevard will be closed off during this time, and delays are expected as all traffic is routed into the northbound lane, with flaggers alternating and managing the flow of vehicles.

Following the completion of this project, the Estero Boulevard Improvements Project will begin sometime in the fall of this year.

Published in Outdoor

One of the largest Pythons ever captured in Florida measure 18-feet, 3 inches and was caught in the Everglades National Park on a road in Shark Valley. The Burmese Python was the second largest snake ever taken in Florida; five inches less that a 18 foot, 8-inch Burmese Python caught in Miami in 2013.
Park officials plan to remove the snake from the wild following its long-standing program to remove non-native species from the Park. "We want to protect our native fauna and maintain our natural diversity," said Park officials.

National Park Service and U.S. Geological Survey interns, who are doing the "hands-on" work on controlling invasive species held the snake to help instill confidence and gain experience handling Burmese pythons, a species that has been increasing its presence in South Florida since......

The python was "humanely euthanized" according to Linda Friar, an Everglades Park official who spoke to the media about the process. She also said the snake was a female, had not reproduced in this season and that its stomach was empty.

Removing pythons is the responsibility of the Burmese Python Removal Program operated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who was charged with the task of "controlling the populations of the invasive snake" which was first found in the wild lands of South Florida in the early 1980's. The program took on higher priority when Burmese pythons were officially recognized as reproducing naturally in the habitat. Sighting have since become far more frequent and has resulted in an exponential explosion in python numbers.

Officials use traps, live captures, "pet amnesty days" and respond to reported sightings calls to try and reduce snake populations but so far, the successes have been few. The "amnesty days" program was created to get people who have pythons as pets to turn them in rather than release them in the wild; the method most believe is how the species got its start in Florida habitat.

Federal law prohibits the "importation and interstate sale" of the species and Florida law specifically makes it illegal to "possess or sell" pythons as pets.
There are currently an estimated 50-200,000 Burmese pythons in South Florida and from the data collected and studied over the past ten years the population continues to grow.

Fast Facts: Courtesy of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Fast Facts - Burmese pythons in the wild in Florida
 Approximately 112,000 of these Asian snakes have been imported into the United States since 1990.
 Everglades National Park has been the site of suspected releases of these exotic pets. The National Park Service reported the removal of 311 Burmese pythons from the Everglades in 2008.

Published in Outdoor

It’s still 13 months until the Republican Primary in Lee County. Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane is getting an early start in his effort to unseat Commissioner John Manning.

He’s off to a flying start. He declared his candidacy on June 3. By the end of the month his campaign had banked over $96,000.

Published in Politics

It’s not in the Caloosahatchee – yet – but toxic blue-green algae has public health warning signs lining the eastern shores of Lake Okeechobee.

The Martin County Health Department posted the signs July 24 when officials from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District tested the water at Port Myaca at the mouth of the St. Lucie Canal on Lake Okeechobee.

Published in Environment
Wednesday, 29 July 2015 13:46

Four Angle for Beach Attorney Job

The applicants to be the new attorney for the Town of Fort Myers Beach are no strangers.

In addition to incumbent Derek Rooney of the GrayRobinson firm of Naples there are two former Lee County attorneys and the woman who was the Beach town manager for the first decade of its existence.

Published in Politics

Four Collier County men were arrested Saturday, July 18 when Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers boarded their fishing boats off Naples. FWC Wildlife Officer and spokesman Jorge Pino said the agency was tipped to the illegal business about 18 months ago.

“We worked the case for a year-and-a-half,” Pino said. “Obviously these individuals were professionals.”

Published in Outdoor

On July 16 the Board of Governors of the South Florida Water Management District ignored the recommendations of its staff – and of Tallahassee – and voted to keep its property tax rate the same instead of rolling it back.

Environmentalists lauded what they called a bold move, choosing to fly in the face of Gov. Rick Scott’s promise to cut taxes wherever he can. Every one of the eight board members – there is a vacancy – was appointed by Scott.

Published in Environment

The city of Bonita Springs is considering asking the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission to ban chumming within 1,000 feet of residential areas.

The move comes after a spate of sightings in Hickory Pass very near the docks and decks of condo residents on the northern end of Little Hickory Island, including by one man who posted video of what he said was an 8 to 9-foot bull shark swimming inches off his seawall and dock.

City council members were getting emails every day from frightened and concerned residents.

“In the estuary there are lots of little fish,” said city attorney Audrey Vance. That means bigger fish.”

And that means sharks.

Published in Environment
Sunday, 26 July 2015 15:14

Bonita Bans Fracking

The Bonita Springs city council looked perhaps the richest and most influential family in southwest Florida straight in the eye on July 15 and didn't blink.

Facing the promise of lawsuits from Collier Resources, one of the companies owned by the billionaire progeny of Baron Collier himself, the council voted unanimously to prohibit oil and gas well stimulation like fracking inside city limits. Collier family attorneys and a lobbyist for the oil industry warned council lawsuits are in the offing.

Fracking is the practice of injecting water and chemicals down a well under pressure to force oil or gas to the wellhead. The practice has breathed life into wells across the country even as it's been blamed for everything from groundwater contamination to earthquakes.

Fracking came to the local forefront when Texas-based wildcat driller Dan A. Hughes Company used it at a well south of Lake Trafford leased from Collier Resources. The company initially denied it, but the state ordered a halt and subsequent reports confirmed it had. Nearby residents still fear contamination of the land and the groundwater.

The Colliers are estimated to own the mineral rights for three quarters of their namesake county, a ratio officials speculate is true in south Lee County , too. Attorney Ron Weaver told the city council during two public hearings that the family owns the rights to potentially billions of dollars worth of oil and gas beneath the city.

Weaver said the city would be taking away rights the Colliers have to extract those resources. He cited an opinion from the Lee County attorney's office that fracking regulation is pre-empted by state authority, and urged the city council to protect "the Colliers and hundreds of mineral owner victims."

Weaver urged the council to at least delay the ban, actually an amendment of the city land development code, to allow further discussion. He said the ban would be illegal on multiple fronts and the city was certain to face expensive lawsuits.

Weaver was by no means the only lawyer in the room, however. David Guest, managing attorney for the Florida office of Earthjustice, the largest non-profit environmental law firm in America , said his group stands ready to join the fight.

"We are here to support you," said Guest. "We have lawyers who have won in other states, and we will represent you if necessary."

"We will be there to fight," he said.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club, the Responsible Growth Management Coalition, the Stone Crab Alliance, Pave Our Paradise, the Coastal & Ocean Coalition and other groups urged the council forward.

"We would be an intervenor (in a lawsuit)," said the Conservancy natural policy director Jennifer Hecker.

Coastal & Ocean Coalition director and former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah said that it would be foolish of the locals to trust the state to deal with the issue. In fact bills that dies in the most recent legislative session would have made it easier, not harder, to frack.

"When I hear 'leave it up to the state' I'm reminded of the last several years in which the Legislature and the Governor have obliterated all our landmark growth management legislation, the same Governor and Legislature that gutted the budget of the South Florida Water Management District and all the districts, the same Legislature that's so dysfunctional it couldn't even come up with a budget, that ignored the will of the voters and used Amendment 1 money to balance the budget. No, I don't think it would be wise to rely on the Legislature and the Governor."

The Colliers did have their supporters, albeit paid lobbyists. David Mica is executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council and the brother of U.S. Rep. John Mica, R – Winter Park , the only Florida representative who supports offshore drilling.

"We as Floridians use an awful lot of my industry's product," David Mica said.

Southwest Florida's Sunniland Trend alone has produced 120 million barrels of oil, Mica said, enough for 5 billion gallons of fuel. Mica said Florida uses 28 million gallons of fuel every day, Mica said.

"We have experienced a significant renaissance because of changes in technology and engineering," he said. "Energy security begins in places like Bonita Springs ."

The council wasn't buying it. Councilwoman Janet Martin, who initially proposed the ban, made the motion.

"Our duty is to protect our citizens and our wildlife," she said.

Published in Politics
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