New York Times DotEarth: Politics: Politics-Minded Marine Group Targets ‘Ocean Enemy #1’
September 1, 2014 11:56 am
This story is included with an NYT Opinion subscription.
Randy Olson, who shifted long ago from an academic career in marine biology to a focus on filmmaking, science communication and effective storytelling, offered this “Your Dot” contribution on Ocean Champions. This group has the simple – if daunting – goal of electing or re-electing lawmakers who fight for the oceans. Congressional politics is a rough-and-tumble arena and the group, as Olson describes in the context of a Florida race, is not afraid to play hard. Here’s his piece:

Ocean Champions:  Leading the Attack on Congressman Steve Southerland, “Ocean Enemy #1”
Long before Bill Maher introduced his “Flip a District” concept on his HBO show, the folks at Ocean Champions perfected the idea. Supporters of the group choose an “Ocean Enemy #1” – the member of Congress who does the most to harm the oceans – then the organization goes after the politician who receives the dubious title.

The organization, led by the marine biologist David Wilmot, is different than many other conservation groups in that it is a 501(c)(4) organization with a connected political action committee called Ocean Champions PAC. It does three main things – get good people elected, help develop sound ocean policy, and, what I think is the most fun (but that’s just me), they go after “Ocean Enemies.”

In 2006 they put the label on California congressman Richard Pombo and not only helped get him defeated, but kept him in their crosshairs – helping make sure he lost again in 2010 when he attempted another run.

Now Ocean Champions has identified Representative Steve Southerland of Florida as its current “Ocean Enemy #1.”  The latest poll commissioned by Ocean Champions shows the challenger, Gwen Graham, has taken a slight lead.  Ocean Champions made a nice TV commercial featuring a local fisherman speaking out against Southerland:

By November Southerland may be joining Pombo in Davy Jones’s locker.
The chair of the Ocean Champions board is my friend Samantha Campbell. I asked her a simple question – is it working?

She replied, “Absolutely. Just look at our record of accomplishments – we’ve backed 52 members who are now serving in the 113th Congress, we recently orchestrated a bipartisan effort to defeat legislative action that would have killed funding for a sustainable fishery program, and played a major role this summer in the passage of the first piece of freestanding ocean legislation this Congress – a bill to combat harmful algal blooms, hypoxia and dead zones.”

So let me offer a view that will probably offend some conservation folks. I sometimes look at paralysis on marine conservation issues and think, “Why doesn’t someone just go to D.C. and fix this?” Ocean Champions is one group I’ve seen over the past few decades that has really taken this sort of real-world philosophy and put it into action for the oceans.
I’m a big fan, and encourage you to support them so you can help sink the ship of Southerland on election night.

David Wilmot, a marine biologist, is the president of the organization Ocean Champions.
Ocean Champions

Miami New Times: Deep Dredge Silt Is Killing Our Coral After All, Admit State Inspectors


DEP divers examine coral crushed by improperly placed dredge waste.

For years, Deep Dredge proponents have promised that the $220 million project wouldn’t kill off Biscayne Bay wildlife. Coral would be removed from harm’s way, they claimed, and water quality would be closely monitored.Like the massive dredge barges themselves, however, those promises appear to be full of crap.

State inspectors released a study Monday showing that silt from the dredge has already killed many corals and had “profound” and “long-lasting” ecological effects on Biscayne Bay.

See also: Deep Dredge Critics Use Drones, Planes, and Satellites to Show Damage to Biscayne Bay

The report appears to confirm environmentalists’ worst nightmares.

In 2011, a coalition of activists filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, the government agency overseeing the project. The environmentalists argued that not enough was being done to protect Biscayne Bay wildlife from years of dredging and underwater dynamiting.

“Once we inflict enormous environmental damage on the bay, we can’t go back,” local boat captain Dan Kipnis said at the time. “This could be a permanent setback to the bay as we know it.”

Kipnis and others weren’t able to stop the dredge, of course, but they were able to obtain more money for mitigation and greater monitoring.


Palythoa caribaeorum, a normally robust coral, can be seen dying under dredge silt.

Last month, however, Kipnis and his coalition (which includes marine biologist Colin Foord, Biscayne Bay Waterkeeper, and the Tropical Audubon Society) filed a formal notice of their intent to sue the corps and its contractor once again — this time for improperly monitoring the dredge and for damaging the bay with its dirty plumes.They provided New Times with evidence that silt from the Deep Dredge had spread across Biscayne Bay, burying coral under a deadly layer of dirt, sand, and bacteria.

The day the group filed its motion, the dredge ships disappeared from Biscayne Bay. The corps claimed that its main ship was struck by lightning and that the stoppage has nothing to do with damage from the dredge.

Either way, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection used the pause in dredging to investigate. This Monday, they sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers outlining numerous violations.


A colony of Colpophyllia natans. The silt has killed the coral, turning blackish purple.

Silt from the dredge had spread far beyond the confines of the project. In some locations — including at least one artificial reef — corals were buried beneath up to 14 centimeters of dredge detritus.Even corals that weren’t buried were at risk because of how dirty the water had become from the dredge.

“During this diving inspection, significant impacts to hardbottom beyond those that were permitted were observed,” the letter said.

In the accompanying report, photos show the damage already done by the dredge: corals broken by boulders errantly dropped by dredge ships; corals covered in bacteria or buried under silt; once-vibrant ecosystems now reduced to rubble.


Dredge silt has turned the Biscayne Bay seafloor into a moonscape.

“The corps and [its contractor’s] continued manipulation, evasion, and total disregard for conditions defined in our settlement agreement and the DEP permit requirements is an affront to the citizens of South Florida,” Kipnis said of the study. “ACOE’s blatant bullying and suppression of calls by concerned citizens and environmental organizations for transparency and compliance during PortMiami’s Deep Dredge project borders on the criminal.”Foord, an expert in corals, said he was shocked by the DEP’s photos.

“It is, in fact, far worse than we thought,” he said. “State-protected sea fan gorgonians are also being smothered in silt and then subsequently overgrown with cyanobacteria.”


A measuring stick shows the accumulation of dredge silt atop once-thriving coral reefs.

Most troubling of all, Foord said, is that summer is corals reproductive period. Instead of a sea swimming with coral larvae, however, the DEP found that dredge silt had killed them all.”The bigger question now is just how far away this silt extends north of the channel,” Foord said. “It is possible that there will be no larval recruitment for miles around the channel.

“The ACOE should be held accountable,” he said. “They need to immediately rectify the methods they are using to dredge, abide by the coral monitoring reports, and adhere to the conditions of their permit. If anyone else besides the federal government was causing this much impact to Florida’s coral reefs, that individual or group would be facing huge fines and potentially imprisonment. This in conjunction with the fact they simply dumped the legally required ‘mitigation reef’ boulders directly onto the natural existing coral is a shameful (easily avoidable) act that demonstrates the low levels of professional/scientific conduct the project is operating on.


A Montastraea cavernosa colony broken into pieces by an improperly dumped dredge boulder.

The DEP study gives the Army Corps two weeks to respond. It ends on a halfway hopeful note: “A fast response to this issue may minimize long-lasting impacts.”Kipnis has a bleaker prognosis.

“If the corps and [its contractor] can stall, hem and haw long enough, they will get the project done,” he said. “We will be left holding the bag, as Miami-Dade County ultimately is responsible for the damages and remediation as per the contact agreement between PortMiami and the corps.

“Something is definitely wrong with this system.”

Send your tips to the author, or follow him on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

Special thank to Ralf Brookes

Environmental Action: Stop fracking in the Everglades

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Sign here to stand up to fracking in the Everglades with our friends at Progress Florida.

Tell DEP to stop illegal fracking in FloridaThe Texas oil company Dan Hughes Co. was caught illegally fracking near the Everglades last month and public outcry continues to grow. Our friends at Progress Florida need your help to ensure that Hughes Co. faces serious consequences for its actions, not just a slap on the wrist from Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

Join thousands of Floridians to demand that Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Herschel Vinyard revoke all drilling permits for Hughes Co. and set a strong example against fracking in Florida.

Since Progress Florida’s campaign launched last month, momentum has been building for Hughes Co. to be held accountable. The Collier County Commission unanimously approved a resolution calling on the DEP to revoke Hughes Co.’s permit1. Sen. Bill Nelson has called for federal investigators to look into the activities of Hughes Co2. It’s clear DEP is responding to the pressure by forcing Hughes Co. to shut down a second well close to where the first violation occurred3.

We can’t let Hughes Co. get away with what they’ve done. Join thousands of your fellow Floridians in demanding the DEP revoke the company’s drilling permit.

Thanks for standing up for our land and water.

For Florida,

Jesse and the team at Enviromental Action

1. “Collier County wants oil company’s permit revoked” Associated Press, 4/25/14.

2. “Sen. Nelson calls for federal review of Hughes Co. well drilling in Collier” Naples Daily News, 5/1/14.

3. “Oil drilling company ordered to shut down second Florida well pending tests” Tampa Bay Times, 5/2/14.

Dirty Fuel Opponents to Join Hands Across the Sand and Land: Worldwide May 17th 2014


For Immediate Release: May 12th, 2014



Dave Rauschkolb, Founder, (850) 865-1061;

Pete Stauffer, Surfrider Foundation, (503) 887-0514;

Nancy Pyne, Oceana, (202) 486-6406;

Chris Carnevale, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, (843)-225-2371;

Virginia Cramer, Sierra Club, (804) 225-9113 x 102;

Cathy Harrelson, Gulf Restoration Network, (727) 415-8805;




Across the nation, from Florida to Alaska, and in eight countries around the world, events will be held on Saturday, May 17, for the fifth annual “Hands Across the Sand and Land” event, to say no to dirty fossil fuel projects that endanger our local communities, and accelerate the shift to clean, renewable energy such as wind, solar and energy efficiency. The events are a strong show of support for clean energy at a time when a host of new dirty fuel proposals are under consideration.

A complete list of events can be found here:

Across the country communities are facing threats from coastal and offshore drilling, seismic blasting, the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands mining and transporting crude by rail, hydraulic fracturing and LNG export terminals, and mountain top removal coal mining. In addition to damaging our water, air and wildlife these projects also threaten to worsen climate disruption, which is already leading to rising sea levels, drought, forest fires, ocean acidification, crop loss and flooding. 

To counter these threats, Hands Across the Sand/Land participants, groups, and communities across the country will show leaders like President Obama the breadth of opposition to new fossil fuel exploitation and support for a clean energy economy rooted in energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy solutions, such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Hands Across the Sand/Land is sponsored by Oceana, Surfrider Foundation, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club,Center for a Sustainable Coast, Chart 411, Tar Sands Coalition, Urban Paradise Guild, and All things Healing. 

Group Quotes:

“Offshore drilling will never be safe. Expanding offshore oil drilling is not the answer; embracing clean energy is,”said Dave Rauschkolb, a Florida restaurateur who founded Hands Across the Sand in 2010. “We’re here to say NO to offshore drilling and dirty fuels, and YES to clean energy.”

“The massive participation in Hands Across the Sand shows that people oppose the risky practice of offshore drilling and understand that we need to seek real solutions to our energy crisis including increased efficiency, conservation and renewable alternatives,” said Pete Stauffer, Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Program Manager

“Dirty fuels should be kept in the ground,” said Dan Chu, Senior Director for Sierra Club’s Our Wild America Campaign. “We should be investing in clean energy solutions, like wind and solar, and expanding smart transportation choices, not moving ahead with destructive projects like Keystone XL, or opening up special places off our coasts, on public lands or in the Arctic to destructive mining, fracking or drilling.”

“Offshore drilling is dirty and dangerous, and events like Hands Across the Sand are crucial reminders to our decision makers that the time for clean energy is now,” said Nancy Pyne, Grassroots Manager for Oceana’s Climate and Energy Campaign.

“In the Southeast, the economics of offshore drilling just don’t make sense.  Coastal tourism and fishing generate billions of dollars every year and employ hundreds of thousands of people in our region.  Jeopardizing those industries for high-risk offshore drilling would be a grave mistake.  Offshore wind energy, on the other hand, could create thousands of jobs without the huge risks of drilling,” said Chris Carnevale, Coastal Climate and Energy Coordinator for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. 

“Our coastal and marine environments continue to be threatened by the exploration and drilling for fossil fuels.  Four years after the BP disaster, the effects of oil and dispersant are taking a toll on marine life and on the health and economy of coastal communities.  This is why we join hands – to hold the line against dirty fuels and call for clean energy now”, said Cathy Harrelson, Florida Organizer for the Gulf Restoration Network.

Photos from the events are available here:

For more information about the events and organizer contact information please visit  Special thanks to Richard Charter.

Earth Justice: Pumping Polluted Water Into Lake Okeechobee Must Stop, Judge Rules

 This is great news for Florida’s coral reefs as well.  When dirty agricultural water is released into Florida Bay from upstream runoff,   history shows it causes algal blooms and dead zones in Florida Bay. There is a net flow from Florida Bay,  throught the Keys to the offshore reefs, where it causes more algal blooms and sponsors disease on the coral reefs.   It is time for this to stop.  It has already resulted in catastrophic losses to Florida’s coral reefs from past discharges.  DV

March 28, 2014


Tallahassee, Fla.  —

 A major decision in federal court today will put an end to government-sanctioned pollution that’s been fouling Lake Okeechobee for more than three decades.

The case, first filed in 2002 by Earthjustice, challenged the practice of  “backpumping.” For years, South Florida sugar and vegetable growers have used the public’s waters, pumped out of giant Lake Okeechobee, to irrigate their fields. They wash the water over their industrial-sized crops, where it is contaminated with fertilizers and other pollutants. Then, they get taxpayers in the South Florida Water Management District to pay to pump the contaminated water back into Lake Okeechobee, where it pollutes public drinking water supplies. Lake Okeechobee provides drinking water for West Palm Beach, Fort Myers, and the entire Lower East Coast metropolitan area.

Earthjustice contended that the South Florida Water Management District was violating the Clean Water Act by allowing the agricultural companies to send fertilizer-laden water into public water supplies, instead of cleaning it up first.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Karas in the Southern District of New York ruled today that the water transfer practice does, indeed, violate the Clean Water Act.

The case ended up in New York because clean-water groups and several states also challenged the practice of allowing dirty water transfers into public water supplies without Clean Water Act protections. All the cases – including Earthjustice’s  Florida case – on behalf of Friends of the Everglades, Florida Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club – were  bundled together.

“It’s well established by now that a city can’t just dump sewage into a river – they’ve got to clean it first,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “The same principal applies here with water pumped from contaminated drainage canals.”

“This victory has been a long time coming,” said Florida Wildlife Federation president Manley Fuller. “Stopping pollution at the source is the key to cleaning up South Florida’s water pollution problems – the toxic green slime in the rivers, the dead wildlife washing up in the shores, the contaminated drinking water — and this decision will make that happen at long last.”

“Big sugar corporations have been illegally dumping dirty water into Lake Okeechobee for years.  They won’t be able to do that anymore, thanks to this very important decision by the federal courts,” said Sierra Club’s Florida Staff Director, Frank Jackalone.

Transfers of contaminated water have triggered numerous toxic algae outbreaks around the United States.  The algae growths can make people sick and sometimes kill livestock or pets that drink the water.  The drinking water supplies for millions of Americans across the country have been affected, including notable cases in Florida, Colorado, New Hampshire, and California. The dirty water is a health risk for pregnant women, and taxpayers are on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in additional treatment costs while polluters put more profits in their pockets.

“Instead of tightening protections and cleaning up the pollution, the EPA chose to legalize it,” said Albert Slap, attorney for Friends of the Everglades. “Now the courts have settled it – the South Florida Water Management District has to comply with the Clean Water Act.”

David Guest, Earthjustice, (850) 681-0031, ext. 7203