3/18/2017 – Protection of our Rural Areas

Vulnerabilty Assessment for Floridian Aquifer

I try not to deviate from traffic issues but today I have to make an exception and ask for your help and attendance at a very important meeting on March 31st regarding protection of our rural area.

Your attendance and support is needed at the Charter Review Commission (CRC) meeting downtown at the Orange County Chambers on 3/31/2016 at 4 pm.  The address is 201 S Rosalind Ave, Orlando, FL 32801.  The chambers are on the first floor.

Even though this site is about fixing our roadways, as I learn more about our infrastructure, I find myself being pulled into advocating for the protection of our very fragile eco-system.  Increases in traffic lead back to increases in development which in turn lead back to harmful effects to our eco-system.  It is only natural that I would end up here.

I don’t consider myself an environmentalist but I am becoming a survivalist and caring for our natural resources with the most precious being water has become very important to me.  Without this most valuable natural resource life cannot be sustained.

In brief, here is our request of the Charter Review Commission (CRC).  We are asking that a referendum be placed on the ballot this year that will allow Orange County citizens to vote on this issue.  “We want a unanimous vote of the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) for any re-zoning between the Econ River and the St. Johns River”.

red rose in a bed of yellow tulips

The reason is to ensure that any development in this area is met with the strictest scrutiny and is truly compatible with the area and the utmost care taken to preserve our eco-system.  I heard a gentleman say recently, “A red rose in a bed of yellow tulips is a weed”.  The rose is a beautiful suburban development but should not be placed in the tulip bed which is the rural area.  Do “Smart Development” all you want but grow tulips, not roses.

Despite huge support from the citizens, the Protection of the Rural Boundary Work Group has decided this is NOT worthy enough to be place on the ballot and has issued a report to the CRC that will be approved or disapproved on March 31st.  We do not want this decision approved.  We want the CRC to instruct the work group to take another look at the issue and find a way to get it on the ballot.

There are three reason the work group came to this decision as I perceive them.  Please understand that no explanation is given in this report:  2016-03-16 – PRB Work Group Final Report and Exhibits.  Also know that the work group consisted of only 3 members of which one was in favor of this referendum while the other 2 were not.  There is a very good chance with enough citizen support to have the CRC overturn this decision and ask the work group to review it again.  The reasons:

  • The work group had an issue with the unanimous vote citing a rogue commissioner from the 80s always voted one way.
    I have to trust the commissioners to work on behalf of the citizens but if this is even an issue then if not unanimous, then what about 6-1 or 5-2.  This option was not even considered
  • This is project specific (speaking of Lake Pickett South).
    Not true:  We want protection of the entire area.  There are very serious reasons cited below.
  • Only one county has adopted something like this.
    We are not other counties, we are Orange County.  Other counties should not impact this decision.

In my estimation, these reasons are weak at best.

Here is my public comment on this subject:

Our aquifer is being depleted.

Here is a quote directly from the Orlando Sentinel:
“Using the most advanced databases and computing methodology yet developed for such a task, a consortium of state water managers and local utilities have calculated that the current amount of water pumped from the underground aquifer each day can be increased by only about 6 percent — which means the region is already exploiting the huge, life-sustaining aquifer for nearly every drop it can safely offer.  For the past several years, Central Florida’s demand for aquifer water by all users — homes, businesses and agriculture — has averaged 800 million gallons a day. But that demand is expected to rise during three decades to 1.1 billion gallons a day. The problem is, pumping more than 850 million gallons a day from the aquifer will inflict a significant amount of damage to wetlands, springs and rivers.”  Read the article here

When we talk about Smart Development, we aren’t kidding.  Development as usual must change or we won’t sustain our way of life or even our lives.  Rain water seeps into the ground at a certain rate.  If developments are built and this ground is concreted, less water seeps into the ground and more water goes into the storm water system reducing the level of the aquifer even farther.  The increase in runoff comes at the expense of groundwater recharge.

street run off

The rivers are being polluted by pesticide and fertilizer runoff.

When a large development is built, homes have yards with lush green grass.  The grass has to be fertilized and the excess nutrients from all the fertilizer we use runs off into our waterways which causes algae blooms sometimes big enough to make waterways impassable. When the algae die, they sink to the bottom and decompose in a process that removes oxygen from the water. Fish and other aquatic species can’t survive in these so-called “dead zones” and so they die or move on to greener underwater pastures.  I recently experienced this first hand when I went fishing.  The owner of the bait shop was telling me how fishing has become harder and the captains of charter boats are having a harder time finding fish.

By shear coincidence a Facebook friend posted this video showing fish being poisoned by something.   We don’t want this to happen to the Econ here as the Econ flows up through Seminole County into the St. Johns which flows all the way to Jacksonville.  Polluting the water here will affect more than just the people in Orange County, it will affect everyone downstream.

Our pets contribute waste that washes off lawns along with the fertilizers and pesticides we apply. Lesser sources include driveway coating, metal roof gutters and downspouts, and car washing.  All of these pollutants wash-off into nearby waterways with each storm that produces runoff.  As a result, runoff from our homes, streets and lawns contain a tremendous amount of pollution.

Governor Scott loosened the reins on development in 2011 when he disbanded the Department of Community Affairs (read here).  DRIs are dead.  Developments of a certain scale (otherwise known as DRIs or Developments of Regional Impact) have impacts that reach far beyond the communities they serve: environmental impacts, transportation related impacts and level of service impacts. Development comes at a cost, a cost that the taxpayer invariably shoulders in terms of supporting added infrastructure, added water management and public works.  And the cost of losing the most precious asset of all–what the land had to offer in its natural state: Its ecological character whether for wildlife habitat, water recharge or just for the value of its native beauty–wild vistas lost forever to hideous strip malls or thousand’s of acres of barrel-tile roofed homes replicated on the landscape like industrial output.

Because this protection has been stripped from us, we must take matters into our own hands to protect our most precious of all resources.

Some quotes to consider:

“There is likely no other source of aquatic resource degradation that robs more U.S. citizens of recreational opportunities than development related impacts.”

“Converting forest and farms to houses, streets, shopping centers and parking lots can greatly increase the volume of stormwater runoff as well as the quantity of pollutants entrained in runoff. Most of the impact comes from sealing the earth with impervious surfaces: asphalt, concrete, rooftops, etc. “

“During the construction phase soil erosion and mud pollution can increase by ten- to a hundred-fold. “

“Converting a forest-covered watershed to homes on ¼-acre lots can cause floodwater volumes to recur annually which were seen but once a century before development. This change threatens streamside homes, bridges and other structures. The increase in floodwater flows also causes extensive stream channel erosion.”

“An asphalt parking lot can heat to 120F° on a sunny afternoon.  Runoff from the lot absorbs a large amount of this heat to reach a temperature in excess of 90°F.   The heated runoff can then abruptly increase stream temperature by 12°F. “

“Some of our most important game fish, like trout and other salmonids, perish at a temperature in excess of 72°F.  It is not unusual for trout stream to have a temperature is the mid- to upper-60°F range.  A 12°F increase would be lethal at that time.”


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Posted in Charter Review Committee.