Hearing To Reactivate Polk Gypsum Stack Set Wednesday In Bartow

Mosaic’s request to reopen an inactive gypsum stack at the former Farmland Industries site will come before the Polk County Planning Commission on Wednesday.

The 1.035-acre site is between Bartow and Mulberry north of County Road 640. The expansion, which will allow the stack to continue to operate until at least 2061, comes with a recommendation of approval from the county staff along with a long list of conditions that reflect concerns over recent incidents at other gypsum stacks in Polk County.

Gypsum stacks contain waste from the manufacturing of fertilizer. The material is slightly radioactive and contains a pool of highly acidic water at its summit.

Those conditions include requiring Mosaic to give Polk County and other relevant agencies notice within 24 hours of any sinkholes or other serious incident at or around the stack, which is projected to reach the height of 312 feet.

In addition, the proposed conditions require groundwater and surface water monitoring and gives Polk officials the discretion to seek a third-party review of data and reports Mosaic submits at Mosaic’s expense.

Following the Planning Commission hearing, the application will go before the County Commission on March 3.




Ancient Islands Leaders Press Swiftmud Board on Hampton Reserve Access

Chair Tom Palmer and Conservation Chair Marian Ryan traveled to Tampa today to press members of the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board to act expeditiously to preserve public access to the Marshall Hampton Reserve across Lake Hancock from Circle B Bar Reserve in Polk County.

Access to that property as well as to another parcel the agency purchased from a developer for the Lake Hancock project and plan to sell as surplus are affected by the planned route of the western leg of the Central Polk Parkway. This toll road will cross both parcels to connect U.S. 17 with the Polk Parkway near the intersection of Winter Lake Road and Thornhill Road, wiping out an oak hammock containing a heavily used trail system.

Palmer and Ryan emphasized the loss of public access to the property owned by Swiftmud and managed by Polk Country would affect hundreds of people who use the property and its trailhead to the Panther Point Trail for hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and nature observation.

Palmer added that it is important for Swiftmud officials to act while the project, which is scheduled for construction in 2023, is still in preliminary design phase. Once final design is completed, it will be too late to modify the project, he said.

Following the presentation, Brian Starford, director of the agency’s Operation, Lands and Resource Monitoring Division, said he and his staff would assemble a presentation for the board on the staff’s efforts to persuade state transportation officials to include acceptable access to the property in the project’s design.

Starford also forwarded a letter Swiftmud officials wrote last fall to the project’s consultants expressing concerns about the access issues.

Legislators’ Latest Local Government Pre-emption Attempt: Legal Rights For Natural Resources

This didn’t take long.

You may have read about a movement that began in this country last year when voters in Toledo, Ohio approved a charter amendment that conferred legal rights on Lake Erie in an effort to make it easier for citizens to fight agricultural and industrial pollution affecting the lake.

This, of course, did not sit well with business groups whose membership includes the polluters. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce secured a last-minute amendment to legislation being considered by the Ohio Legislature to invalidate the amendment, The Intercept reported in August.

Now that same impulse has arrived in the Florida Legislature, apparently in response to efforts in a handful of Florida counties to push for the passage of similar charter amendments.

One prominent target for protection is the Santa Fe River in north Florida where multinational Nestle is attempting to get a permit to pump more water from Ginnie Springs, which feeds the river, for its bottled water business.

The pre-emption is tucked into an otherwise environmentally friendly bill filed by Sen. Ben Albritton, whose district includes all of parts of Polk, Highlands, Hardee, DeSoto, Glades, Okeechobee, Charlotte and Lee counties. It will be discussed this week in a committee hearing.

It reads: ” A local government regulation, ordinance, code, rule, comprehensive plan, or charter may not recognize, grant, convey, or extend legal standing or legal rights, as those terms are generally construed, to a plant, an animal, a body of water, or any other part of the natural environment which is not a person or a political subdivision, as defined in s. 1.01(8), unless otherwise specifically authorized by state law or the State Constitution.”

The obvious workaround is to push for a constitutional amendment, but this year legislators are considering still more measures to beat down popular democracy by adding more obstacles to citizen initiatives to make the world safe for only legislative initiatives, since Tallahassee believes it knows best.



Darren Soto To Host Climate Change Town Hall Wednesday In Kissimmee

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, whose district includes part of Polk County, will host a Climate Change Town Hall at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, in the Osceola County Commission Chambers in downtown Kissimmee.

According the announcement, the focus of the town hall will be to provide information on the Clean Future Act, which is being discussed in the House Committee on Energy & Commerce.

The legislation’s intent is to reduce carbon emissions in power generation and transportation, improve energy efficiency in buildings and to come up with ways to protect communities affected by climate change and air pollution and to offer support to state and local governments to work toward meeting the carbon-reduction goals.

Heat Records Set, Nearly Broken in 2019 In Heartland

Temperature records continue to inch up in the interior of the state, according to the compilation prepared by Paul Close at the National Weather Service station in Ruskin, which keeps track of weather and climate trends in west central Florida.

It was the hottest year on record for Plant City and Winter Haven, the second hottest for Lakeland, the fifth hottest for Bartow, the seventh hottest for Arcadia and the ninth hottest for Wauchula. This based on records that began in 1892, 1941, 1915, 1892, 1899 and 1933 respectively.

Rainfall, meanwhile, didn’t set any records in this part of the state, either for the wettest or driest years.


Lake Istokpoga Management Plan Meeting Jan. 14

Review of a draft management plan for Lake Istokpoga in Highlands County will be held Tuesday from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agriculture Center, 4509 George Blvd., Sebring.

The plan was prepared by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in consultation with various stakeholder groups around the lake in response to concerns about declining environmental conditions in the lake and questions about current management activities.

The lake, which is the one of the largest in the state, has faced the same problems that are familiar on most other lakes in the state, such as declining wildlife, infestation by exotic vegetation and increased urban pollution. In addition, the FWC’s management activities—particularly seemingly poorly regulated herbicide spraying—has been an ongoing issue here and elsewhere in the state.

One of the proposals to emerge in the plan is for FWC to do a better job of communicating with the public and exercising more oversight over spraying operations.

Some other proposals include improving navigation within the lake and in its tributaries, revegetating near -shore areas with more desirable aquatic vegetation and working with lakefront homeowners to persuade them to use more environmentally-friendly practices on their property when it comes to lawn care and fertilizer use and aggressive removal of aquatic vegetation on the lakeside of their property.

A summary of the draft report is available at https://lakeistokpoga.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/hmp_summary.pdf .


More Green Energy Coming To Polk

Two more projects that will support green energy alternatives are being proposed in Polk County.

One is a new solar energy facility planned for a site off State Road 37 southwest of the Bradley community in southwest Polk. The applicant is Durrance Solar.

This is the latest in a series of solar energy facilities built or proposed to be constructed locally. The developers have been a mix of private and public electric utilities and some private entrepreneurs.

The other is a proposal to install electric car charging stations at the Pilot convenience center northwest of the intersection of Interstate 4 and U.S. 27 in northeast Polk County to serve two major travel routes and ina portion of the county that is not served.

Most of the electric car charging stations in Polk County are in the Lakeland area, though there are stations in Winter Haven, Lake Wales and Bartow.