TARPON SPRINGS — Veteran inspectors from the state Department of Environmental Protection had never seen anything like it.
Near the northern tip of Anclote Key Preserve State Park, in about 1 ½ feet of water, someone was building a traditional thatched-roof Seminole Indian chickee hut — but on stilts.
The owner, Indian Rocks architect Stephen J. Spencer, hadn't applied for any state or federal permits, either....
11/28/16 Global Warming
GAINESVILLE — In a lush garden planted outside the Florida Museum of Natural History, more than 1,000 butterflies and moths flutter from plant to plant, occasionally landing on delighted tourists. There are owl butterflies whose wings look like unblinking eyes, vivid blue morpho butterflies that turn a dull brown when they light on a leaf, and swallowtails and monarchs galore.
Beyond the museum's 6,400-square foot butterfly rainforest, though, is the real treasure. Inside the museum are 80,000 glass-topped drawers of butterfly and moth specimens. ...
Nobody has been as vocal about Florida panthers killing cattle as state wildlife commissioner Liesa Priddy, whose family has owned the JB Ranch in Immokalee for decades.
On Wednesday, during a meeting of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in St. Petersburg, Priddy spent about 20 minutes going on about how much the endangered cats cost ranchers in lost calves, even though ranchers "are providing the best panther habitat in Florida." She complained about how slowly scientists are responding to her request for new population estimates....
ST. PETERSBURG — State wildlife commissioners on Wednesday approved creating new "critical wildlife areas" off-limits to humans or expanding existing ones in 13 areas.
These designated areas protect places where wildlife congregates to breed, nest, roost and feed. In the Tampa Bay area, new critical wildlife areas are the Dot-Dash-Dit Islands at the mouth of the Braden River in Manatee county, home to the bay area's only coastal colony of wood storks, and six caves in the Withlacoochee State Forest in Citrus County that are home to several species of bats. ...
For the first time in more than 40 years, a female Florida panther has been spotted north of the Caloosahatchee River, long regarded as the northern limit for the sole remaining population of the endangered state animal.
"This is a big deal for panther conservation," said Kipp Frohlich, deputy director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's habitat and species conservation division. "An expansion of the panther's breeding range should improve the prospects for recovery."...
The seabirds began dying soon after the sewage began flowing.
The culprit may be some very nasty bacteria in the water.
In all, 48 fledgling black skimmers died in September after two Pinellas County cities dumped sewage into Boca Ciega Bay, according to Elizabeth Forys, an Eckerd College professor studying the birds.
Official laboratory tests on the cause of those deaths are still under way, but one of the birds was confirmed to have died of salmonella, she said. The salmonella appears to have resulted from bacteria found in the water after St. Petersburg and Gulfport dumped sewage in the bay, she said....
In September, a week after fertilizer giant Mosaic finally revealed to the public that a sinkhole at its Mulberry plant dropped 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the aquifer below, three of the plant's neighbors filed suit against the company.
Suing Mosaic takes some patience. Just ask St. Petersburg native Howard Curd.
Curd, 69, is the lead plaintiff in another lawsuit against Mosaic that also involves a massive spill of polluted water. Curd and his fellow fishermen alleged in the lawsuit that the acidic water destroyed the marine habitat in Hillsborough Bay that their livelihoods depended on....
11/02/16 Human Interest
You, as a Florida voter, hold the fate of the world in your hands.
If you've lived here for a while, you're probably used to this terrible responsibility. Every four years, the rest of the nation gives us the side-eye, wondering how we wound up holding so much power and how we'll drop the ball.
Thanks to our explosive population growth, we now control 29 electoral votes. Both major-party presidential candidates have said we're a must-win. The two of them have visited here so much, they now qualify for the Florida resident discount at Disney World....
MULBERRY — The first sign something had gone wrong at Mosaic's phosphate plant happened on a Saturday. Workers on Aug. 27 checked the water level in a 78-acre pond of polluted water sitting atop a 190-foot phosphogypsum stack and discovered it had dropped by more than a foot.
At first, records show, they believed it was just the wind blowing the water around. But around 11 a.m. Sunday, they realized the level had now dropped 3 feet....
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced late Monday that it had worked out a consent order with Mosaic requiring a cleanup at the massive sinkhole that opened at its facility in Mulberry this summer.
To guarantee its cooperation, the order says, Mosaic is required to put up $40 million in financial assurances — something usually posted as a performance bond. And if it fails to follow through on the entire order, the company will face fines of up to $10,000 per day....
Mosaic, the world's largest phosphate company, now knows exactly how big the sinkhole at its Mulberry plant is, company officials said Monday. It's 152 feet across at its widest, and 220 feet deep — making it one of the deepest sinkholes in the state.
And so far, phosphate company officials say, testing has found no indication that the 215 million gallons of contaminated water that poured down the hole when it opened in August have spread through the aquifer to taint the drinking water of their neighbors. Three wells have turned up with somewhat elevated levels of pollutants, but those pollutants do not match anything from Mosaic....
ST. AUGUSTINE — Every year, more than 6 million tourists fill the streets of St. Augustine, oohing and aaahing at the historic artifacts and attractions of the nation's oldest continuously occupied city.
On Friday, instead of tourists, those streets were filled with surging water pushed ashore by Hurricane Matthew.
"There are houses that will probably not ever be the same again or not even be there," St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver lamented during a televised news conference Saturday....
You can't blame climate change for creating Hurricane Matthew. But two Florida scientists say you can blame a warmer world for making the storm get so strong so fast.
Hurricanes and tropical storms gain their power from absorbing the heat of warm water. That's why hurricane season runs from June to November, when the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico are at their warmest....
Every time a major hurricane threatens South Florida, one of the big questions is: What about the dike?
A 143-mile-long earthen dike named for former President Herbert Hoover surrounds Lake Okeechobee, the second largest freshwater lake in the United States. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the lake level, trying to keep it between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet. The higher the level, the greater the risk of the dike collapsing, sending a massive wave of floodwaters into towns around its edge....
On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a new system for reporting chemical spills. No more waiting for weeks to see if it spreads beyond the landowner's property line before telling the neighbors. Instead, the public must be alerted within 24 hours, he said.
By week's end, the new system was put to a test — by the same company that spurred the change, Mosaic, the world's largest phosphate company....