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DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Polk and Sumter counties of Florida

   

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May 2003 Newsletter Articles

Drawdown Woes in the Kissimmee
Legislative High Points to Date
Green Swamp Exhibit
Date Change for Green Swamp Road Clean-Up
Kissimmee River Clean-Up
Salt in the Wound
Alien Invaders - More Nasty Trees, Fourth of a Series

Drawdown Woes in the Kissimmee

The problems emphasized by this year's failed drawdown and the local and downstream environmental damages and political hostilities can be and should be avoided in the future. One problem was exacerbated by the pressure on the Fish and Wildlife Commission (F&W) to spend allocated money now or lose it. This problem can be reduced by arranging to have monies and permits associated with weather dependent projects, such as major drawdowns, specifically tied to the project and not to the year of the project's commencement. That way a decision to discontinue in the face of notably risky weather is much easier to make. F&W worries that the predictability and accuracy regarding El Ninos is lacking. I have suggested that we can do much better than guess at these weather patterns or ignore the risk they pose. There is a recent book written on this issue, Prediction - Science, Decision Making, and the Future of Nature which includes applicable methods for looking at the weather predictions of El Nino events and utilizes Taylor-Russell Diagrams. Applications of these Taylor-Russell Diagrams specific to North, Central and South Florida and El Nino events can be seen on the web at http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mlb/enso/enso-rainfall.html. Please notice that they are under the heading, "Predictability and Accuracy for Decision Makers." These diagrams can utilize downstream water levels (Lake Okeechobee) and weather criteria (El Nino historic data in Central Florida) to clearly depict the probabilities of a successful drawdown or another blunder; these probability calculations are based on "real time" conditions and are specific to Central Florida.

This year's experience also underscored another process that could have been used to reduce or avoid the economic and environmental damages in the Kissimmee Lower Chain of Lakes. The process is the lake-level-operations-decision tree process. We all understand that "ramping up" and "ramping down" the rates of flow from S65 and other structures is necessary under normal operating conditions. However, when presented with both unusual operations such as a drawdown and extremes of weather such as predicted and experienced this year with the El Nino, alternative lock operations were obviously needed. The restoration areas on the Kissimmee River below S65 were receiving high volumes of water both from S65 and adjacent watersheds all along the river. Because of the adjacent basin flow, the restored river did not need the usual "ramping down" of flows from S65 in order to protect wildlife. Unfortunately, the chain of command utilized by the operations decision tree was either unaware of or insensitive to the conditions present. According to responsible sources in Okeechobee, the decision tree existed in denial of its ongoing operations until the political pressures were extreme. Battles were being fought in Executive Director Dean's office over what he was being told by the WMD and what Okeechobee interests could read from the Corps' real time computer showing the current actual release rates from S65. This decision tree process leading to the controlling decision maker, in this case Col. May in the Corps' Jacksonville office, needs to be improved. Not to make substantial improvements within this decision tree process would be irresponsible and begs a repeat of past mistakes or worse and increases the risk to property and lives during similar operations in the future.
...Richard Coleman

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Legislative High Points to Date

There have been a few rays of sunshine coming out of the black hole we call the Florida legislative process. The State budget now includes funding for the Tenoroc Fish Management Area so it will remain open for another year. We were able to generate enough protests from environmentalists and sportsmen to restore its funding. Many good projects die because no one fights for them in time of trouble. Calls to legislators and letters to newspapers do work. Trust me.

Another victory has occurred with the new severance tax that phosphate companies have imposed on themselves to help pay for the Mulberry Phosphate disaster. You remember that when the company went bankrupt a few years back, $164 million was required to clean up the mess that was left behind. The money was removed from the State of Florida's "old mined lands" trust fund which was really intended to help clean up phosphate lands mined before 1975 and left as moonscape. Most of this land was in Polk County. The deal breaker was that $10 million that had formerly gone annually into the Forever Florida Environmental Lands trust fund was no longer included. I hear now that this roadblock has been removed and the $10 million has been restored. We can all breath a little easier. It's not over but we can hope.
...Charles Geanangel

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Green Swamp Exhibit

Sierra volunteers (Marian Ryan, Karen Tiano and Cynthia Raulerson, respectively pictured on right) manned the Sierra Club exhibit at the Winter Haven Home & Garden Show which was held at the Winter Haven Citrus Dome on March 28-30th. The exhibit featured the importance of the Green Swamp for water resources and wildlife habitat and corridors. Visitors to the booth were treated to Friends of the Green Swamp buttons, children made their own butterfly buttons and literature was available on a wide variety of topics.
...Marian Ryan


picture Copyright © 2003, John Ryan, All Rights Reserved

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Date Change for Green Swamp Road Clean-Up

The date for the clean-up of our adopted highway has been changed to May 18 due to scheduling conflicts. We will meet at Jennifer Rader's house at 8:30am. We will enjoy a lunchtime cookout at Jennifer's afterwards. Please contact Marian at 293-6961 if you plan to attend - we need a headcount for the cookout. To reach Jennifer's house in North Lakeland, take I-4 to Exit #38, FL-33 N/Lakeland Hills BLVD and head north. Travel 4/10 mi. and take left turn (NW) onto Tomkow Rd. Tomkow deadends into Old Polk City Rd. Turn left onto Old Polk City Rd. and travel to Moore Rd. - turn right and go to 9716 Moore Rd. (house is on the left, set back from the road). Bring a hat and gloves and don't forget sunscreen......everything else will be provided.
...Marian Ryan

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Kissimmee River Clean-Up


picture Copyright © 2003, Frances H. Coleman, All Rights Reserved

Conservationists from Sierra (Florida Chapter and Polk) and Audubon (Ridge and Lake Region) joined the Kissimmee River Valley Sportsman Association (KRVSA) and worked out of airboats to clean-up several river bank sites. Richard and Frances Coleman, Cynthia Raulerson, Gail Bond, Dwight Graham and Martha Sehi alone picked up over 135 pounds of trash. Join us at our May meeting for a more complete picture of what was accomplished when Phil Griner of the KRVSA presents our program.
...Frances H. Coleman

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Salt in the Wound

Sierra protested vehemently and often to the Department of Transportation's plans to fill in the edge of Lake Roy as part of their widening of Hwy 540 in the Winter Haven area. We were assured it was a minor intrusion into the littoral zone. Well, the project is complete and the lake has returned to an approximately average level (after several years of very low rainfall). A recent boat trip to the retaining wall at the edge of the highway showed a water depth of nine feet - that is some littoral zone!

Lesson learned: never accept DOT's assurances and monitor the mitigation process (mitigation in this case was performed far away from the chain of lakes.)
...Frances H. Coleman

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Alien Invaders-More Nasty Trees, Fourth of a Series

Both of the trees in this month's installment are found in profusion in our Bone Valley Region. The melaleuca is a Category I invasive; this means it has formed such dense stands in central and south Florida that native plants important to wildlife have been almost totally displaced. It represents a severe fire hazard because of the oils contained within its leaves. The lead tree is listed as a Category II invasive by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (www.fleppc.org) which indicates its abundance state-wide has not yet reached a certain threshold of ecological damage. However, so many lead trees are found in our region, that it made our noxious-to-be-eradicated list.

Melaleuca


picture Copyright © 2003, Richard Coleman, All Rights Reserved

The melaleuca is often referred to as the punk, bottlebrush or paperbark tree. Its most distinctive feature is its papery brownish white bark. Leaves are lance shaped and grayish green; flowers are white to pink bottlebrush spikes; tiny seeds are contained in fruit capsules.

 

Lead Tree


picture Copyright © 2003, Richard Coleman, All Rights Reserved

The lead tree often grows to 30 feet. It has mimosa-like leaves with oblong leaflets. The flowers are round puffs, yellow to white in color. The bean pods are flat, long and usually red-brown; they hang in clusters.

...Frances Coleman

   

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masthead picture: , published with permission
Copyright © 2003, Richard Coleman, All Rights Reserved

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