STAFF & WIRE REPORTS
Escambia County has been awarded a Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) “Resilient Florida” grant to develop a Resiliency Plan in FY2023.
The county’s Resiliency Program was established in 2022 and is operates out of the Department of Natural Resources Management. The program includes the county’s Brownfields Program, support for the Environmental Justice Committee, and project and grant management for environmental and resiliency projects within Escambia County.
As the oldest county in Florida, Escambia has a long history of weathering natural disasters and showcasing community resilience.
The county has already implemented programs such as Pensacola Beach Dune Restoration to restore damaged vegetation and the installation of living shorelines, replacing armoring with natural materials such as oyster reefs, emergent marsh vegetation, submerged aquatic vegetation, and sand or other substrate to mitigate the extent of hurricane impacts.
The new program will focus on four areas: sustainability, ecosystem restoration and enhancement, climate adaptation and mitigation, and community health.
Collier County slowly recovering from Hurricane Ian
Collier County Parks & Recreation Division announced two more beach access points, Clam Pass Park Beach Access located at 465 Seagate Drive., Naples; and Vanderbilt Beach Access and Parking Garage at 100 Vanderbilt Beach Road., Naples, are now open.
The county has restored and opened nine previously damaged access points but warns beach goers to exercise caution as dangers may still be present under water or sand, such as glass, metal, wood, or plastic.
Leon County offers residents free tire amnesty
Leon County and FDEP are hosting the county’s annual Tire Amnesty Days program.
Residents can drop off up to 25 passenger car tires for free at the county’s solid waste facilities at 7550 Apalachee Parkway or the Woodville, Fort Brandon, or Miccosukee rural waste centers.
Tires accepted until May 26, 2023.
The program helps reduce mosquito breeding grounds.
Leon County reminds citizens that just one tire improperly stored can become a breeding ground for thousands of mosquitoes which can carry diseases like Zika, West Nile, and Dengue Fever.
Last year Leon County’s Tire Amnesty Days collected more than 145 tons of tires, which were recycled and repurposed for playgrounds and other facilities.
State Parks, Duke Energy announce waste reduction, sustainability effort
The Florida State Parks Foundation and Duke Energy Florida collaborate to fund the installation of 121 water bottle refilling stations at 85 state parks.
The program is intended to broaden sustainability and resilience at state parks by decreasing the volume of single-use water bottles, reducing plastic litter along trails, at campsites, on beaches, and in waterways.
The water stations are in service throughout state parks from Destin to the Keys and can be found at campgrounds, trailheads, visitor centers, restrooms, and other locations.
Each station tracks the number of water bottles saved so visitors can measure their waste reduction impact.
“We are grateful to Duke Energy Florida for this collaboration that supports environmentally conscious practices at our treasured state parks and cultivates these values among visitors,” said Tammy Gustafson, President of the Florida State Parks Foundation. “This is truly a collective approach between state parks and visitors to create a greener future that preserves and protects Florida’s precious natural resources.”
The project received $200,000 from revenue generated by the State Parks Foundation’s “Explore Our State Parks” specialty license plate.
Duke Energy Florida provided a $175,000 grant to help with purchase and installation.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Florida State Parks Foundation and Duke Energy Florida to help make state parks greener,” said Chuck Hatcher, director of Florida State Parks. “Our visitors will be encouraged to use these bottle-filling stations to reduce waste and help us protect our natural resources from single-use plastics.”
FLHSMV announces new specialty license plates
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) is pleased to announce that the Gadsden Flag specialty license plate has been delivered to tax collector offices and license plate agencies statewide.
Floridians who purchased presale vouchers for the specialty plate are able to redeem them at their local tax collector office or license plate agency, and those who wish to purchase the new plate are advised to contact their local office prior to visiting to ensure stock is available.
The revenue collected annually from the sale of the Gadsden Flag specialty license plate will be distributed to the Florida Veterans Foundation, a direct-support organization of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, to be used to benefit veterans.
Floridians interested in purchasing one of the many specialty license plates offered in Florida are encouraged to visit their local tax collector or license plate agency. A complete list of Florida’s specialty license plates can be found on the department’s website.
Top Three Pre-Sales of Specialty Plates as of Jan. 23.
1. Gadsen Flag
2. Protect Marine Wildlife
3. Best Buddies
Noah Valenstein appointed to Biscayne Bay Commission
Former FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein was recently appointed to the Biscayne Bay Commission by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Valenstein resides in Tallahassee and is the founder of Brightwater Strategies and a Senior Advisor at the American Flood Coalition.
In addition to serving as FDEP’s Secretary he also served as the state’s Chief Resilience Officer. Valenstein earned his Bachelor’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Florida and his Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law.
Broward County earns ‘A’ from Carbon Disclosure Project
Broward County has been recognized by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) as one of 122 cities and counties across the globe that is taking bold leadership on environmental action and transparency. The recognition acknowledges the county’s Climate Change Action Plan.
The CDP is an international nonprofit that runs a global scoring system. More than 1,000 cities and counties received a rating for their climate action from CDP in 2022.
Broward County scored an ‘A’, earning a spot on The CDP’s Cities “A-List.” To score an ‘A’, the county had to disclose a community-wide emissions inventory, set a renewable energy target for the future, and publish a climate action plan.
Alachua County expands Lake Alto Preserve
Alachua County’s environmental land acquisition program, Alachua County Forever, has purchased 2.58 acres of land east of Waldo within the Florida Wildlife Corridor.
Conservation of the corridor is critical locally and statewide. The $11,000 purchase is part of a public-private partnership. Funding was provided by the Wild Spaces and Public Places one-half-cent sales tax approved by Alachua voters. The previously privately held parcel is located within the county’s 662-acre Lake Alto Preserve.
The Suwannee River Water Management District co-owns 120 acres of the Preserve.
Lake Alto has 5.2 miles of unpaved trails. Acquisition and protection of the property will strengthen habitat management and recreational opportunities in the preserve.
Alachua county is committed to protecting water resources and wildlife habitat. County staff observed a tree with claw marks from a Florida Black Bear during an early site visit to the property, which is primarily pine flatwood’s habitat.
The county’s Wild Spaces and Public Places program has protected more than 46,000 acres since its inception in 2000.
Pinellas County offers rebates for sewer pipe inspections, replacements
Pinellas County Utilities is offering eligible sewer customers who own single-family home properties a rebate to inspect and fully replace or rehabilitate their private sewer lateral (PSL).
Eligible sewer customers who follow the guidelines can receive 100%, up to $350 of the inspection cost and 50%, up to $3,500 of the replacement or rehabilitation cost.
The county launched the PSL Rebate Program to encourage property owners to fix the pipes carrying wastewater from their properties to the public sewer collection system.
The utility hopes to prevent sewer system overflows from heavy rains seeping into broken or cracked pipes within the overall system.
“Most people do not know that owning a home also means they own a part of the sewer system — their private sewer lateral,” said Megan Ross, Pinellas County Utilities director. “Just like a roof, that pipe only lasts for so long before it begins to leak and eventually fail, which could result in costly damage to their home. In the meantime, rainwater can get into the pipe and overwhelm our sewer systems.”
The county will award rebates on a first-come, first-served basis while funds are available.
To participate the applicant must get a closed-circuit television inspection with a plumbing contractor certified or registered with the Pinellas County Contractor Licensing Board. Registered plumbers are listed at PCCLB Contractor Search (pinellas.fl.us).
$20 million in federal funding set aside for Miami-Dade County resiliency
The Miami-Dade congressional delegation have successfully earmarked $20 million for Miami-Dade County resilience priorities including septic-to-sewer conversion, stormwater drainage improvements, and a Biscayne Bay assessment and monitoring regime.
The earmarks, formally known as “Community Project Funding requests,” are a part of the $1.7 trillion omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2023 approved by the Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in late December.
“This is a huge win for Miami-Dade County and a true investment in our local economy. We are grateful for the tireless work of our outstanding congressional delegation,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. “Miami-Dade is leading the nation in climate adaptation and resilience innovation. And with these dollars, we will work to secure a cleaner, more resilient future for our residents, visitors, and environment.”
Annual Hillsborough Hiking Spree medallion pays homage to sea oats
This year’s 2022-23 Hillsborough County Hiking Spree medallion is decorated with sea oats (Uniola paniculata).
Sea oats are an adaptable Florida native plant critical to stabilizing and protecting the state’s coasts.
Sea oats are so important to Florida coastal preservation they are protected by a Florida state statute prohibiting their harvest and collection.
Sea oats are a warm season, slow-growing perennial grass that can reach up to eight feet tall.
They are supported by a massive root system and are very hardy and resistant to wind, sand, and salt.
According to the Florida Wildflower Foundation, “You’ve got to be incredibly tough to not only survive but thrive in the harsh sand dune ecosystem, and sea oats are as hardy as they come.”
To obtain the Sea Oats Hiking Spree medallion registrants must complete eight or more hikes between Nov. 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023.
Rewards include either a medallion for their walking stick, a patch, or bandana for the hiker’s favorite four-legged hiking companion.
Many of the participating trails are pet friendly.
The county selected the resilient sea oat to serve as an iconic symbol of the 2022-23 Hillsborough County Hiking Spree, celebrating the strength of the community and promoting the conservation of one of the region’s most important environmental assets. It is an important reminder to appreciate and respect Florida’s natural habitat as you explore the trails.
Register and begin planning at
Volusia County Volusia Forever Funds acquiring Doan property
Volusia County is using Volusia Forever funds to purchase a 4-acre parcel, the Doan property, for $405,000.
The property is surrounded by the county-managed Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve in New Smyrna Beach. Volusia has considered the property a high-priority acquisition since 2009. Participants in the county’s 2022 ECHO Quality of Life Survey identified water access as a top priority.
The Doan property provides 650 feet of water-access along Murray Creek, a tributary of Spruce Creek. Planned amenities include a canoe/kayak launch, a wildlife observation area, and an outdoor classroom. The newly-acquired property also connects 52 acres of conservation land where a new trail and a disc golf course will be added for public enjoyment.
Resource Stewardship Director Bradley Burbaugh said of the purchase: “The County has been looking to purchase this property for more than a decade, and we are glad to see it come to fruition. This acquisition has ecological benefits and will enhance the quality of life for our residents by providing additional learning and recreational opportunities.”
FPL earns ReliabilityOne National Reliability Award once again
FPL has earned a ReliabilityOne National Reliability Award for the seventh time. The award highlights the company’s investments to make its energy grid more dependable and resilient for its nearly 5.8 million customers.
“We are once again honored to receive this prestigious national award for the most reliable energy company in the U.S,” said Eric Silagy, chairman and CEO of FPL. “Winning this award seven of the past eight years is an incredible accomplishment and reflects our employees’ steadfast commitment to deliver reliable electricity that our customers can count on in good weather and bad.”
The ReliabilityOne National Reliability Award is decided on statistics that measure frequency and duration of customer outages, along with other criteria.
The award is widely considered one of the most prestigious honors in the energy industry.
FPL has made significant investments to build a stronger, smarter, more storm-resilient energy grid since the historic hurricane seasons of 2004-2005.
Detailed assessments following Hurricane Ian confirmed the resiliency of FPL’s storm-hardened energy grid.
No significant structural damage occurred at any FPL power plant nor loss of a single transmission structure.
FPL’s efforts to systematically transition from above- to underground neighborhood power lines and install smart grid devices helped speed its restoration efforts and avoid more than 400,000 customer outages.
In addition to the National Reliability Award, FPL also won PA Consulting’s Outstanding Reliability Performance Award for the Southeast metropolitan region for the ninth consecutive year.
Duke Energy, Gainesville Chamber grant $160,000 to community projects
The Duke Energy Foundation awarded $160,000 in grants to support eight local community projects in Alachua County. The company worked with the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Foundation to identify local projects providing meaningful impacts to the communities.
“At Duke Energy Florida, we are committed to making a positive impact in the communities we serve,” said Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida state president. “By investing and collaborating with our local chambers, cities, and municipalities, we are honoring that commitment. We will continue to work together to create strong, vibrant communities where our customers, employees and neighbors live, work, and thrive.”
The grants will support initiatives ranging from park revitalization to signage projects as well as equipment others upgrades.
Communities selected to receive grants include Alachua, Archer, Hawthorne, High Springs, LaCrosse, Micanopy, Newberry, and Waldo.
The Foundation provides more than $30 million annually in philanthropic support to meet the needs of communities where Duke Energy customers live and work. The Foundation is funded by Duke Energy shareholders.●