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Marine Animals Continue to Die of Mysterious Cause in Indian River Lagoon – October 10, 2013

Scientists perplexed over record dolphin, manatee, and pelican deaths in “distressed” estuary

The mysterious die-offs of marine life in parts of the 156-mile Indian River Lagoon have perplexed scientists, alarmed environmentalists, and angered local citizens. Over the past year, record numbers of dolphins, manatees and pelicans have been found dead in the estuary that runs along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The lagoon is a unique subtropical ecosystem that is home to 4,300 species of wildlife, including more than 40 threatened or endangered species. The interconnected lacelike system of rivers, wetlands, and coastal marshes stretches south along the Atlantic from Volusia County to Martin County, passing Cape Canaveral midway.

Indian River Lagoon, Floridaphoto by Howcheng, U.S. Fish and… more

by: Eleanor K. Sommer

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Supreme Court Ruling in Florida Wetlands Case Not Quite the Win Developers Claim – August 27, 2013

Decision might lead state agencies to just say “no” to wetland development rather than risk a lawsuit, say experts

Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court ruled on a 16-year-old Florida case that didn’t make too many headlines but is bound to have long-term implications for how state land-use agencies decide to hand out development permits on environmentally critical lands.

wetlands in Orlando, FLPhoto by Rickymar PhotographyAs many Florida land buyers discovered in the 1950s and 1960s, wetlands are not always under water. At certain times of the year or during drought periods, these lands can look enticingly buildable.

In a 5 to 4 decision the court sided with a Florida landowner who challenged terms for a state-issued permit for developing wetlands. The ruling… more

by: Eleanor K. Sommer

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Reduced Freshwater Inflow to Florida Panhandle to Blame for Oyster Die-off – January 18, 2013

Low catch adds to woes of oyestermen struggling to stay afloat in a tough economy

When oystermen in Apalachicola Bay pulled up bags from their winter harvest grounds last year, 95 percent of the oysters were already dead. The discovery sent shockwaves through the oyster-fishing community in Franklin County, FL.

Apalachicola Bay Photo by Nolan WilliamsonIn Apalachicola you either work for the government or the prisons or you work in oysters, says sociologist Brian Mayer.

Apalachicola Bay, an area of about 208 square miles on Florida's northwest coast, is one of the most productive estuarine systems in the Northern hemisphere. The bay is home to an incredible variety of plants, animals, birds, and marine life. But most of all,… more

by: Eleanor K. Sommer

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Despite Heavy Rain, Drought Continues to Affect Florida Springs and Rivers – July 30, 2012

Continued draining of wetlands, lakes, and the aquifer for public utilities, agriculture, and industry are making conditions worse

The summers have been dry for years. And quiet. No chorus of frogs. No dragonflies. No mosquitoes. No rain. Mowers have been silent. The grass brittle and brown. Leaves crunched underfoot as I walked along our creek near Gainesville, FL. No water—only a bed of sand gleaming under the scorching sun.

drying river Photo by Eleanor K. SommerFlorida’s historical average annual rainfall used to be 59 inches, but the past six years has seen that
rate drop, on average, by 10 inches.

Long-term drought has parched northern Florida’s normally verdant summer landscape for nearly a decade. The past few years have been the driest. Lakes and… more

by: Eleanor K. Sommer

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Fountains of Life in Peril – July 2, 2012

Florida’s Famed Springs Threatened by Unsustainable Groundwater Extraction

There are more than one thousand artesian springs in Florida – prehistoric, beautiful, world-famous – and endangered from drought, pollutants, overconsumption, and overuse.

Due to its unique geology, north-central Florida has one of the highest concentrations of freshwater springs in the world, as well as the largest number of “1st magnitude” springs – spring with a flow rate of more than 100 cubic feet of water per second. Wakulla Springs, for instance, just outside Tallahassee, claims the distinction of being the largest and deepest spring on the planet.

The springs draw thousands of visitors and millions of dollars to the state every year. On weekends, especially during the summer, the… more

by: Eleanor K. Sommer

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