May 2016
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General Meeting

Friday May 6th 

The Forgotten Coast: Return to Wild Florida.

Doors at 7:00pm, Presentation begins at 7:30pm

At the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

4225 NW 34th St, Gainesville, FL 32605

Free and Open to the Public

Events

May 6th - General Meeting

May 14-15th - Jekyll Island, GA Hiking, Biking and Kayaking

May 21st - Hike Downtown Jacksonville


For information on more events, see our meetup site or full state outings listing here.
 

Fundraiser Rolls with Less Than Two Months to Get Tickets 

Suwannee-St. Johns Sierra Club’s online drawing for thousands of dollars in prizes at http://ssjsierraclub.eventbrite.com is halfway to its goal with just under two months to go. June 10 is the deadline for ticket sales for prizes donated by area merchants.

“Tickets are still available in all categories, including the top prize of a 3-day, 4-night July 4th weekend holiday in beautiful, fully furnished cabin on the Withlacoochee River in Dunnellon,” said Whitey Markle, SSJ Fundraising Chair.
Each ticket sold in the 3 prize bundles has an extremely high chance of winning due to the limited number of tickets to be sold in each. The fabulous Fourth of July Weekend for 5 on the Withlacoochee River donated by Dwight Porter Riverfront Properties also includes use of kayaks/canoes, 10 pounds of smoked mullet for dinner on the dock, and a ride on either the Rainbow River or Withlacoochee Rivers donated by Florida Glass-Bottomed Boats.

“Top-selling prize category so far of 3 different prize bundles is the Outdoor Nature Attractions package which includes free boat trips on the Rainbow, Withlacoochee, Ocklawaha and Crystal Rivers, nature park outings, a free personal health assessment and hundreds of dollars in gift certificates,” Markle states.
 
Tickets cost from $2.00 to $25.00 and sales are limited, increasing individual chances of winning.
     
Prize donors include: Rainbow River Canoe & Kayak; Birds Underwater; Rainbow River Glass Bottom Boats; Aardvarks Kayak Co.; Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park; Singing River tours; NorthStar Adventures; Bubbaques Restaurant; Leonardo’s 706 Restaurant; Front Porch Restaurant; The Ivy House Restaurant; The Pizza Joint; Dr. Zimmer’s Holistic Health Care;  The “Southwind” boat tours; Sweet Potatoes Restaurant; All About Nature Gifts; Just a Cupcake Café; Terry’s Shear Envy Hair Salon; children’s book author Jan Hitchcock, non-fiction book author and recording artist Kathryn Taubert, recording artist and Florida Smoked-Mullet Ambassador Whitey Markle, Dwight Porter Riverside Properties, and more!
 
More than 90% of all donations raised go directly to Sierra's important programs. Proceeds of this event will help fund environmental educational programs such as the highly acclaimed "Water Works: Stand Up and Act Now! “& "Seven Wonders." Also under development are programs focusing on "Solar Energy: The Way to Energy Independence;" and "Smart Growth for Environmentally Sensitive Development in Your Community," as well as an important Economic Study of the Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers.
 
Ticket sales end on June 10, 2016. Winners of the drawing will be announced by email or telephone on or about June 24 and on our website: SSJSIERRA.ORG. Log on to http://ssjsierraclub.eventbrite.com to get your tickets now!

Get Involved

Unique among environmental organizations, the Sierra Club is run by and for volunteers.  We are truly a grassroots group of citizen activists committed to environmental stewardship and protecting our environment today and for future generations.  There are so many fun and meaningful ways to get involved in the Suwannee St. Johns (SSJ) Group's vital work. Please visit http://ssjsierra.org/get-involved/  for more information. 

Here are a few things we will be needing help with soon:

 

News From the Chair

By Maryvonne Devensky

This month we had an excellent presentation by Dr. Wendell Porter at our general meeting. He is a UF Professor and an expert on renewable energy.  He was quite positive that we are on our way to clean and safe renewable energy production – solar and wind production are  making leaps and bounds worldwide…So that was great news. The sad part is that Florida (the Sunshine State, remember) may be the last one to join the bandwagon. To get more information on renewable energy, please go to the websites of www.greenforall.org www.greenamerica.org, or www.resilience.org to name a few sites with some good information.

At the same meeting, Dr. Porter was preceded by Johanna deGraffenreid, Advocate with the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN), who gave us a short but informative update on the Sabal Trail Pipeline project.  Remember that this project is Not a Done Deal!
 
Following that meeting, we were involved this past week with various events to oppose the Sabal Trail pipeline. On April 19, the Marion County Commission had the Sabal Trail pipeline on their Agenda (See Whitey Markle’s article). After Whitey Markle and other Sierra members spoke up about the risks involved, the commissioners decided to ask their staff to give them more information on the geology of Marion County along the route of the projected Sabal Trail pipeline. With that information, the Commission will decide what to write to the Army Corps of Engineers …Their next meeting is on Tuesday, May 3rd.

So the Sabal Trail pipeline project is NOT a done deal (See my article in Gainesville Sun on Sunday April 24th “Pipeline can still be reconsidered”).

On Wednesday April 20, some Sierrans, Spectrabusters, and WWALS Watershed Coalition members met at the RiverOak Technical College in Live Oak to hand out a flyer (written by John Quarterman, President of  the WWALS watersherd coalition) to contractors, students and the public as well. We were not a large group to protest the pipeline, but we were able to contact many people, and to hear students saying “No Fracking”. One contractor told us: “Thank you for being here…Really!”. Thank you to everyone who attended these meetings and who are speaking up against a project that has so many flaws and is not needed to Floridians.

We had two ICO outings: one to Old Town, with the Gainesville Job Corps to clean up trails on a beautiful property, followed by a picnic and a swim at the Manatee Spring State Park.

The students had fun working on the trails, removing dead branches, and later swimming in the clear water of the spring. Thank you to Sheila Payne for assisting in that outing.

On April 19, we took the elementary aged group from Cone Park Library Center to Ring Park, and they had a good time walking and running along the creek there….Such a beautiful park in the center of Gainesville. See the photos of the ‘children in the woods’…  The main reason to have such a program!!! Thank you Nancy Starrett and Destiny Henderson for assisting on that outing.
 
Last but not least, we had an Earth Day luncheon at the Thomas Center on Friday, April 22.
A fun event mixing nature lovers, environmentalists, and activists with artists whose poetry, music and dance are inspired by nature.  Indeed they inspired us all…

Thank you to all who came and especially Jim Gross, new Executive Director of the Florida Defenders of the Environment, and Pat Harden with the Protect Paynes Prairie Coalition who gave us an update on the work of their groups.
Let’s celebrate the beauty of the Earth on this Earth Day month and let’s oppose any project that has the potential to damage or ruin what is ours to enjoy!

 

Tri-County Working Group Update

The consensus that humans are causing recent global warming is shared by 90%–100% of publishing climate scientists according to six independent studies, according to a report sent to us by Dr. Stephen Mulkey. Dr. Mulkey accepted our invitation to speak to a small group of Tri-county Working Group members on April 21 in Dunnellon. He got our group up to date on the current thinking about climate change and how it should be dealt with in the future. 
   
Dr. Mulkey's presentation was very convincing and based on scientific facts.    As the Washington Post wrote recently (April 20, 2016),

"The first three months of 2016 have been the hottest ever recorded, and by a large margin. Greenland’s massive ice sheet melted more this spring than researchers have ever seen. Warming seas are turning once-majestic coral reefs into ghostly underwater graveyards. And scientists are warning that sea levels could rise far faster than anyone expected by the end of the century, with severe impacts for coastal communities around the globe.

That grim drumbeat of news will loom over the United Nations on Friday — Earth Day — when officials from more than 150 countries gather to sign a landmark agreement aimed at slashing global greenhouse gas emissions and slowing the warming of the planet. It simultaneously will be a moment of understandable celebration and sobering reality.

The agreement, forged late last year after intense negotiations in a Paris suburb, has been hailed as a crucial milestone in putting the world’s nations on course to reduce reliance on fossil fuels in favor of cleaner, more sustainable forms of energy. But in the four months since that rare moment of global accord, the near-constant reminders about shifts in the Earth’s climate have underscored that staving off the worst consequences of global warming may require increasingly ambitious actions."


Dr. Mulkey is the president emeritus of Unity College in Maine where he worked from 2011 until 2015.   He has returned to Gainesville, Florida since his resignation there December, 2015.    He taught in the past at University of Florida.   He is an environmental scientist with outstanding knowledge and credentials. Dr. Mulkey got right into a discussion of things we need to do in Florida. 

There are three primary areas of concern that need to be addressed in the near term, according to Dr. Mulkey:

(1) The frequency of coastal flooding is increasing and the economic damage from this can be expected to multiply rapidly. Efforts to control coastal flooding should not attempt to permanently forestall flooding or provide a long term infrastructure fix. Such efforts are futile in the face of such accelerating sea level rise. Instead we should begin the first stages of strategic retreat from the shoreline, moving those homes and businesses that are most vulnerable to coastal flooding first.

(2) Because of rapidly rising seas, amplification of storm surge is more of a looming threat from hurricanes. Hurricanes are generally projected to be stronger, but perhaps less frequent under the influence of warming seas and shifting trade winds. Regardless, we can expect a few very big Atlantic storms to hit Florida this century. Again, we should formally assess the engineering aspects of coastal infrastructure for resistance to amplified storm surge, and begin strategic retreat as soon as possible. Potential loss of life should be a serious consideration in such planning. Many coastal areas of Florida are occupied by aging populations that are largely dependent on public transportation.   

(3) Coastal property values will tank in the relatively near term. Although it is impossible to know precisely when this will occur, because of this new science, it will almost certainly happen sooner than previously anticipated. Certain properties will be more likely to drop in value sooner than others depending on exposure to coastal flooding. Reclassification of properties by FEMA, which is likely, could have a profound impact on property values throughout coastal Florida. My estimate is that property values will begin to selectively change within five years, and large scale changes will follow once the details of strategic planning become public knowledge. 

We were urged to get involved and ask questions at the local level.  How are our leaders and our state planning for the next 50 years?   What should we do to plan ahead for the future? 

Dr. Mulkey concluded his talk with us by emphasizing his belief that we are interdependent and need each other.  He said,  "We need each other. It is a fact that we all live in the shelter of each other, and this is simply not negotiable. The breakthrough last week in Paris on climate change makes it clear that we must work together on a global scale in order to preserve civilization." 

***For more information about Dr. Stephen Mulkey, go to http://en.gravatar.com/stephenmulkey


 

Pipeline Can Still Be Reconsidered

By Maryvonne Devensky 

The Sabal Trail pipeline project is not a done deal. Since January 2016, there has been a momentum in Georgia and Florida to oppose this project from citizens, county officials and groups because of very serious concerns.

Members of the Suwannee St Johns Sierra Club and Withlacoochee, Willacoochee, Alapaha, Little and Upper Suwannee River Watershed Coalition led a hike in the Suwannee River State Park to show how the area tagged for construction is full of sinkholes and how the Sabal Trail documentation is flawed. Besides, Johanna deGraffenreid, wetlands advocate with the Gulf Restoration Network, is coordinating efforts to make sure the public and our elected officials have the right information on the Sabal Trail project.

Included among our concerns, which we have cited with federal and state agencies, are risks to our Floridan Aquifer — which provides 60 percent of Florida’s drinking water. This pipeline is proposed to go over, through and under the karst geology that surrounds our water.

Independent geologists have shown that there are numerous sinkholes and water systems along the proposed route that are not in Sabal Trail documents. We have tried to add these to the record and to bring them to the attention of the company, with little success.

While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has approved the project, that agency is facing six separate legal challenges to it. Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers permit — which is the most important — has not been issued yet.

Both Suwannee and Hamilton county commissioners have requested additional study from the Corps of Engineers before the pipeline is allowed to proceed with construction. Recently, Marion County commissioners directed county staff to research the issue so they can write a letter to the Corps asking specific questions. Moreover, the water management districts also have to issue water usage permits before construction starts.

Several organizations, including Sierra Club, wrote a letter to the Land Water Conservation Fund this month insisting that the Sabal Trail project is not be allowed to threaten public parks and recreation areas. The Georgia House had an historic vote against the Sabal Trail river-drilling easements (34 in favor and 128 against) thanks to the combined efforts of organizations like Flint Riverkeeper, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, WWALS and Greenlaw. 

That is a major setback for Sabal Trail project. Where will the pipeline go if it cannot cross Georgia?

Spectra Energy, one of the primary companies behind the pipeline, has numerous safety and environment incidents on record, including a pipeline blowing up under the Arkansas River in Little Rock last May.

Suwannee County passed a resolution asking Sabal Trail to move its proposed Hildreth compressor station. Cancer, nosebleeds and cardiovascular problems have been linked to “fugitive methane” close to compressor stations. 

Sabal Trail is suing local landowners for eminent domain to force them to give up pipeline easements. Why should your neighbors have to cut down trees and put up with pipeline encroachment forever in exchange for a paltry one-time payment?

If construction is allowed, there could be irreparable loss of habitat to several wildlife species. One example, in Dunnellon ,the Southwest Florida Water Management District has an important scrub jay preserve that is near the site of the proposed compressor station. Scrub jays are unique to Florida and are a listed species. Other species threatened are burrowing owls, Sherman’s fox squirrels, gopher tortoises and gopher frogs — all reported living on the proposed trail pipeline.

Last but not least, renewable energies such as solar and wind are growing leaps and bounds every day, creating new jobs and also creating energy that do not present any risk to our health and our environment as do oil and gas. Solar needs no eminent domain, no drilling and no water, and produces no exhaust.

So, if you feel the Sabal Trail project has too many risks and you want to support renewable energy in Florida, write to our state elected officials – or call them - and let them know what you think: The Sabal Trail Pipeline project is not a done deal and it should be reconsidered, if not simply abandoned.
 

Sable Pipeline Protest 

Need a speaker for your group?


The Tri-County Working Group, in conjunction with the Sierra Club Educational Committee, is embarking upon an educational tour, offering a slide show and accompanying discussion to acquaint interested groups in our area with the main environmental issues that Sierra Club is concerned with. The hope is that this education program motivates people to practice both good conservation habits as well as the will to press our government officials to seek more effective solutions.   If anyone knows of any type of group, club or home owners association that might be interested, contact Education Chair Jon Brainard…..(407) 491-8158 or jonbrainard@gmail.com.    
 
 
CONTACT US: See a list of the SSJ Executive Committee HERE

 
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