Will Legislature Allow Plastic Straw Bans?

This plastic waste was photographed along a trail in the Green Swamp recently

One of the issues that will be before the Florida Legislature in the upcoming session that begins next month is whether to allow local governments to ban or restrict the use plastic straws, plastic bags and other single-use items that are increasingly littering our land and water.

Florida Sierra opposes any legislation that would pre-empt city or county officials from enacting restrictions in response to documented problems and citizen concerns.

This issue can also provide teaching moments to provide people with information on the role microplastics, the small bits caused by the breakdown of plastic waste, in marine and freshwater ecosystems and the food we eat.

It could also reverse the decades-old trend toward being a throwaway society in the name of “convenience.”

This growing accumulation of plastic waste in the environment is not convenient for the planet.


More Solar Farms Proposed For Polk

Polk County’s vast tracts of vacant land, particularly in some of the areas mined and reclaimed by the phosphate industry, are attracting interest of investors interested in developing new solar farms.

The latest potential entrant is San Francisco-based Ecoplexus, which is considering a 463-acre site near the intersection of State Road 37 and Doc Durrance Road near the Bradley community south of Mulberry.

This not far from where a scaled-back solar farm proposed by Tampa Electric was approved in the Chicora area last year.

Other projects have been proposed elsewhere in the Bone Valley area.

Meanwhile, Tampa Electric is actively constructing some solar farms in the Bartow area and another solar farm is under construction in the Fort Lonesome area just outside of Polk County.

This is making Polk County one of the centers for sustainable green energy generation in Florida.

Why Water Conservation Education, Enforcement Matters

Friday morning the Polk County Commission heard that water conservation education is being included in local school curricula to reduce increased water demand and to delay the need for enormously expensive so-called alternative water supply projects.

Local governments are poised to spend tens of millions of dollars on these projects in coming years unless demand subsides.

In mid-Friday afternoon I was driving down a street in Winter Haven near Lake Howard and noticed a yard with sprinklers going full blast about 2:45 p.m. a time when lawn watering is prohibited all over Polk County. Violators can face fines if they are caught, but I’ve never heard much indication that any active enforcement occurs.

While I stopped to snap a photo, a neighbor asked me what I was doing. I told him I was documenting unpermitted water use. He told me I ought to mind my own business. I replied this is my business.

In fact, protecting natural resources is everyone’s business, a point we should constantly make to anyone we meet.

Lawn irrigation is an important issue because it is the largest user of public utility water supplies, which are becoming the largest component in total water consumption in the area.

Before we build the first reverse osmosis plant to treat the water coming from deep wells in outlying areas of the county and piping that treated water to new customers and injecting the brine deep into the earth, we need to have second thoughts about our landscaping practices.

Break the habit of heavy water use and other intensive landscape management practices. They waste water and contaminate the environment.

These are practices we can live without.

Polk Commissioners Back Galvano Toll Road Plan

The Polk County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to support a proposal by Senate President Bill Galvano to extend toll roads into rural areas of Florida

Galvano has proposed working to find funding to extend existing toll roads into rural areas and to build new roads, claiming it will aid economic development in rural areas of the state, an area he claims has been neglected by such projects.

These road projects have generated criticism in the past from rural residents because they would bring urban noise and traffic to relatively peaceful sections of the state. Most of the push for the new roads is coming from business interests hoping to profit from the projects or their spinoff effects.

Polk’s main interest involves getting funds to advance the Central Polk Parkway.

The first phase, which would connect the CSX freight terminal in Winter Haven to the Polk Parkway, is being designed. A second phase, which would run through rural areas of northeast Polk near extensive conservation areas, is on hold because an analysis showed it was not financially feasible. The second phase has drawn criticism from rural residents and is mainly being championed by business interests in the Winter Haven-Haines City area, who view as an economic development project.

In the letter signed by Commission Chairman George Lindsey, local officials repeat the often-used claim that the need for hurricane evacuation routes justifies the project, adding completion of the Polk toll road could provide an important link for a larger toll route that would run southwest toward the Gulf Coast through rural and conservation lands.

Meanwhile, when commissioners meet in their annual retreat later this week is scheduled to include a presentation on the claimed need for other road projects to relieve traffic congestion, primarily in northeast Polk County. That congestion is partly the result of the approval of thousands of new homes in an area with little infrastructure to handle it and little planning to deal with it before the new growth was approved.

The congestion-related projects commissioners will hear about will be competing with these toll roads for limited transportation dollars.

Meanwhile, road impact fees are less than they should be. If new development generates the need for these road projects, that’s where the money should come from, but probably will not.