Cold War sub would sink off Jupiter, become Florida’s first sub artificial reef

(USS Clamagore Preservation & Memorial Assn)
(USS Clamagore Preservation & Memorial Assn)

For decades, a 320-foot Cold War-era submarine has been a floating tourist attraction in downtown Charleston S.C. Now a group hopes to sink it off Jupiter, perhaps as early as this summer, as part of Palm Beach County’s renowned 150-plus piece artificial reef program and as an “underwater museum.” Organizers said it would be the first sub ever turned into a reef in Florida.

Palm Beach County plans to sink the USS Clamagore, the “Gray Ghost of the Florida Coast,” in about 100 feet, according to a memo for Tuesday’s county commission meeting.

County Commissioners would vote to approve paying a Miami firm $1 million. The money will come from a vessel registration fee trust fund.

The diesel-powered Clamagore, built in 1945, just after the end of World War II, ran up and down the Atlantic coast from Key West to Charleston and trained sailors to track Soviet nuclear subs. It was retired in 1975 and since 1981 has been docked since at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Charleston.

According to the memo for Tuesday’s commission meeting, while the sub has been a popular draw, it has “structural fatigue” so extensive it’s not practical to repair it enough for tourists to safely tour it. Several groups had suggested new homes for the sub but couldn’t come up with the money.

The museum decided the sub deserved a better fate than a scrapyard and signed a deal last spring with Artificial Reefs International-Clamagore, a subsidiary of Miami-based CRB Geological and Environmental Services, to find a home for it somewhere in the ocean, ARI principal Joe Weatherby said Tuesday.

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581-acre chunk of Ag Reserve could be up for sale

The South Florida Water Management District has designed a 581-acre piece of Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve to be surplus and available for sale, increasing the prospect of more development in a farming zone some fear is being gobbled up by builders.

The district co-owns the 581 acres with Palm Beach County. A majority of the seven-member county commission would have to agree to a sale.

Last year, when the district first began discussing the idea of declaring the land surplus and taking bids on it, Commissioners Paulette Burdick and Melissa McKinlay opposed private ownership of the land, which is part of a 624-acre tract purchased with public money in 2000.

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Commission approves comprehensive plan changes for Indian Trails Grove

Palm Beach County commissioners voted 6-1 Thursday in favor of comprehensive plan changes GL Homes sought for its Indian Trails Grove project west of The Acreage.

Commissioners had given preliminary approval of those changes in April. Zoning changes for the 3,900-home project will be addressed early next year.

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map of Indian Trails Grove project
map of Indian Trails Grove project


County to consider Wawa application amid strong opposition

Palm Beach County commissioners on Thursday will consider an application to allow a Wawa gas station/eatery to be built at Hypoluxo Road and High Ridge Road.

The gas station project has generated intense opposition from some in the area. Backup material provided to commissioners notes that county staff members received 648 calls opposing the project and 66 in favor of it.

Supporters have touted Wawa’s reputation and community involvement. Opponents have said they fear the station will increase traffic, crime and pollution.

The Palm Beach County Zoning Commission voted in favor of the project at its meeting on September 1.

The gas station project is on the zoning agenda county commissioners will take up at 9:30 a.m. Thursday on the sixth floor of the Weisman Governmental Center located at 301 N. Olive Ave. in West Palm Beach.

Residents opposed to a proposed gas station on a lot at High Ridge and Hypoluxo hold signs expressing their opposition Monday, April 11, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Residents opposed to a proposed gas station on a lot at High Ridge and Hypoluxo hold signs expressing their opposition Monday, April 11, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Groups that opposed pro-Minto changes ordered to pay attorneys fees

Two Loxahatchee area residents and a pair of preservation groups were ordered to pay attorneys fees after their effort to block changes to Palm Beach County’s comprehensive plan failed.

In a ruling issued earlier this week, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele said Robert Schutzer, Karen Schutzer, 1000 Friends of Florida and ALERTS of Palm Beach County “knew or should have known” that the changes – approved by the county so the giant Minto West development project could move forward – were permissible.

The Schutzers and the two groups had sued Minto and the county to block the changes. They and others opposed the development project, arguing that it would generate sprawl, gobble up open space and increase traffic.

Minto and the county have won a string of rulings in the case, and the development project – now known as Westlake – is moving forward.

Ryan Smart, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, said his organization has appealed the ruling that cleared the comprehensive plan changes. He said the organization is also seeking a re-hearing on Hafele’s order regarding attorneys fees.

“We strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling, and we will be filing a motion for a re-hearing,” Smart said.

Minto's Westlake Community Center sits empty on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Minto’s Westlake Community Center sits empty on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Environmental lawyer blasts SFWMD for public records response

Lisa Interlandi, a senior attorney for the Everglades Law Center, says the South Florida Water Management District retaliated against her for submitting a public records request.

Interlandi submitted a request for the district’s email list earlier this month after the district told those on the list that, “Audubon Florida wants to raise your taxes to pay for the federal government’s failure to control invasive plants that are destroying the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.”

Lisa Interlandi, senior attorney for Everglades Law Center, at a Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting in 2015. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

The district sent that blast email after Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper urged district board members not to roll back tax rates so the district would have more money for program work.

“I wanted to know who was receiving those communications,” Interlandi said, adding that the district’s emails were, in her view, “increasingly negative and were calling out people by name.”

Interlandi offered examples of the district’s communications. In one from May, the district told email recipients that “former Lee County Commissioner Ray Judah inaccurately alleged flawed scientific modeling was used in Everglades restoration planning.”

In another, also from May, the Caloosahatchee River Watch came in for criticism.

“Today, the Caloosahatchee River Watch group is holding what was advertised as a public forum to discuss the C-43 Reservoir project,” the email state. “However, this ‘forum’ will consist solely of one-sided detractors in pursuit of an agenda without facts to support it.”

Many government agencies do keep email lists to provide media members and others information about upcoming events and summaries of agency actions.

After the district said Audubon Florida wants to raise taxes, Interlandi asked for the district’s mailing list. The district complied. But it also sent out another email, this one letting recipients know their email addresses had been sought.

Under the heading “Your Privacy,” the district wrote:

“The South Florida Water Management District has received a public records request from a party associated with the email address – – seeking more than 5,000 email addresses contained in SFWMD’s electronic mailing list. This agency is legally obligated under Chapter 119 of Florida State Statutes to fulfill this demand and provide these email addresses.

“As you may know, such email lists and addresses are commercial commodities that are often bought and sold.  The law prohibits SFWMD from asking about the intended use for the information. Any concern you may have about a potential invasion of privacy is understandable.

“SFWMD maintains email lists with the intention of keeping the public informed about the agency’s work. These email lists represents a wide range of interested parties, including individuals who requested SFWMD information, elected officials, environmental groups, businesses, scientific communities and the media.

“You may receive unwanted solicitations or correspondence as a result of this public records request.”

Interlandi said she would never sell the email list, which is a public record. She said she views the SFWMD email as retaliation for asking for the district’s email list.”They retaliated by publishing my email address,” Interlandi said. “What other purpose is served by publishing my email address? I believe it was retaliation for requesting the list.”

District Spokesman Randy Smith said those on the email list were warned of Interlandi’s request “in an abundance of caution.”

“When faced with a mass public record demand for private and other email addresses, SFWMD, in an abundance of caution, chose to notify the persons affected of this fact,” Smith wrote in an email to The Palm Beach Post. Smith said the district “has never received a mass public records demand for an email address list. The requester did not ask for communication or specific emails but rather an entire email address list, which was completely out of the ordinary.”

The district, Smith said, does not know how the list will be used and believes those on the list “have every right to know that their information has been obtained by a third party without their consent.”

As for telling email recipients who had requested the list, Smith said the district “never mentioned the requester by name. SFWMD never assumes an identity of an individual solely based off an email address.”


County staff drafting ordinance to establish PACE program

Palm Beach County staff members are drafting an ordinance establishing a program to help residents finance energy-efficient improvements to their property.

County commissioners directed staff to write an ordinance establishing the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which would allow qualified residential or commercial property owners to voluntarily finance improvements and repay through a non-property tax assessment that is repaid through their annual tax bill.

Contractors doing the work would have to be certified with the county’s Contractors Certification Division.


Good ship Ana Cecelia to be sunk Wednesday off Palm Beach County coast

(El Nuevo Herald)
(El Nuevo Herald)

Weather permitting, the Ana Cecelia, a ship that saw both charity and crime will be sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean this morning.

The county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management has set today to drop the 170-foot, 629-ton freighter 75 to 90 feet down off the Port of Palm Beach, making it one of the county’s 150 artificial reefs and the southernmost in a line of 11. It ran humanitarian goods to Cuba but later was seized after drugs were found on it.

When the Ana Cecilia sinks, plaques on it will honor 14-year-olds Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, who were lost at sea after their 19-foot boat left the Jupiter Inlet on July 24. A third plaque honors Palm Beach County sheriff’s corrections officer Fernandez Jones, his 70-year-old stepfather, Willis Bell, and Jones’ 9-year-old son, Jaden. The three drowned when their boat capsized off Martin County on April 10. A cousin, Robert Stewart, survived.

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Expert weighs in on what happens when algae dies — and it isn’t pretty

As bad as the massive algae bloom on the Treasure Coast is now, sometime in the coming days or weeks or months, it’s going to die. And when it does, the impact on flora and fauna will make the current disaster look like a tipped bait bucket by comparison.

That’s the prediction from a local professor who says even now the bloom already is blocking life-giving sunlight in the Indian River Lagoon and sending toxins up the food chain at a rate of as much as 10-fold per dinner.

Widespread algae chokes the St. Lucie River (Photo by Dorothy Dicks)
Widespread algae chokes the St. Lucie River (Photo by Dorothy Dicks)

» RELATED: Complete coverage of the algae bloom

The blanket of algae right now actually is generating oxygen, Bill Louda, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s chemistry department, said Thursday morning from Boca Raton.

But, he said, it also is blocking sunlight from reaching the entire water column. That kills algae and sea grass at the bottom. They rot. That makes them inedible to small marine animals, fish, turtles and manatees.

Read the full story on how the algae bloom’s death will impact marine life.

McKinlay seeks emergency regulatory discussion on algae bloom

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay wants the 16-county Coalition for the Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee to hold an emergency meeting to discuss health and environmental concerns stemming algae blooms in area waters.

“Health concerns are my first priority,” McKinlay said in a statement. “Residents need to know what precautions they should take in the interim while this issue is being investigated and solutions are identified.”

McKinlay wants the coalition to meet with the South Florida Water Management District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the agricultural industry.

“I have offered to host the meeting wherever necessary and as soon as possible,” McKinlay said.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay