FDOT Withdraws Northern Turnpike Extension Plan

There will be no more roads to ruin for now in Florida it seems.

The Florida Department of Transportation has announced it will drop plans for four potential routes to link the Florida Turnpike to U.S. 19 and instead focus on improving Interstate 75, according to news reports.

This was the last of a group of controversial road projects opposed by Sierra Club because of their potential to encourage urban sprawl in rural areas that would threaten rural residents’ serenity and security and fragment wildlife habitat.

In addition, there was never any real need for these roads for anyone but the development and road-building lobbies.

Ancient Islands Sierra members in Sumter County and their neighbors had packed recent County Commission meetings to urge commissioners to support the “no build” option which is now what has become state policy.

Elected officials and residents in surrounding counties had actively objected to the project as well.

Ancient Islands Sierra members in Polk actively campaigned against an earlier project to build a new toll road between Polk and the Fort Myers area. Plans for that project have been shelved.

Remaining alert for proposals for unwise or unnecessary road projects is an ongoing task for Sierra, which also opposed an unrelated road project at the edge of the Everglades in Miami-Dade County and has spoken out about some so-called priority road projects in Polk County in the Green Swamp Area of Critical State Concern and the Everglades Headwaters.


Hot, Dry July Is Local Climate Story

All of the figures are not in yet for the final days of July, but perhaps Winter Haven will have to do for an example of our summer of higher energy bills.

It was the hottest July on record from the period that began in 1941 and fifth driest, which means there was little moderation in the temperature from afternoon showers.

Weather in Lakeland may be in the running for one of the 10 warmest Julys, but data from the final few days is still unavailable. Rainfall was on the dry side of the scale there, too.

Bartow Municipal Airport’s weather was not record-setting, but was warm and dry, too.

Weather records for Wauchula show the same heat wave, moderated by more rain.

But the real takeaway was that the bulk of the highest temperatures in the area generally occurred in the last 10 to 20 years.

The heat is definitely on.



Despite Claims, Polk’s Fertilizer Ordinance Falls Short

Following a presentation by Dave Carter, chair of Polk County’s Stormwater Technical Advisory Committee, at the Aug. 2 County Commission meeting, Commissioner Bill Braswell asked whether Polk County had looked at fertilizer application limits to prevent pollution.

Braswell has an extensive background in agriculture and said many fellow farmers are reducing fertilizer use because it is unnecessary.

Natural Resources staff said Polk has a fertilizer ordinance, but probably could improve outreach to let the public know how to avoid causing pollution.

As it turns out, that’s not the whole story.

Many Florida counties have strict fertilizer ordinances that prohibit spreading fertilizer on lawns from June to September, which is peninsular Florida’s typical rainy season..

Polk County’s fertilizer ordinance is weaker.

The only outright prohibition involves applying fertilizer within 10 feet of a water body or wetland area.

Instead of a summer rainy season ban, Polk’s ordinance reads:

No fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus shall be applied to urban landscapes during a period for which the National Weather Service has issued any of the following advisories for any portion of Polk County: a severe thunderstorm warning or watch, flood warning or watch, tropical storm warning or watch, hurricane warning or watch, or heavy rain is likely to exceed two (2) inches in a twenty-four-hour period.

You get the picture.

The reason behind tougher fertilizer restrictions, which were fought by commercial interests who have a financial interest in selling homeowners high-input lawn care, is to reduce the amount of phosphorous and nitrogen that will run off the land and end up in the nearest water body. Those nutrients feed algae growth that reduces water clarity and can sometimes cause fish kills if the water body is badly polluted

This is an important point because as Carter’s presentation to the commission made clear, it will cost tens of millions of dollars to fix the past pollution problems to some extent by removing phosphorous and nitrogen contaminated sediments, designing wetlands treatment areas to remove pollutants before they reach lakes and rivers and do a better job of collecting tons of these and other pollutants through such programs as aggressive street sweeping before they reach water bodies.

The one thing everyone agrees on is preventing pollution in the first place is far cheaper for taxpayers than trying to fix the damage—if it is even technically or financially feasible to do so in the first place.

The challenge for Polk County to strengthen is fertilizer ordinance is that state law was amended in response to the local summer fertilizer bans (and lobbying from the turf industry and their allies) that require any county that wants to go beyond milquetoast state model ordinance to conduct a whole bunch of expensive scientific studies to prove to the satisfaction of the people who oppose fertilizer bans that the tougher restrictions are necessary.

That underscores why public outreach may be a more cost-effective approach, though the challenge is similar to the challenges to educate the people about smart lawn irrigation techniques.

I was thinking about that as I drove by a lakefront home in my neighborhood where the sprinklers were going full blast despite the lawn’s having received 2 inches of rain the night before and despite the fact that modern irrigation systems are supposed to have rain sensors to prevent such waste.

I have no idea how much fertilizer washed into the lake.