Palm Beach County hosts 5th annual “Dark Sky” festival Saturday

A photo taken at the Pine Glades Natural Area, west of Jupiter Farms. (Photo: Tania Melendez)
A photo taken at the Pine Glades Natural Area, west of Jupiter Farms. (Photo: Tania Melendez)

The fifth annual Dark Sky Festival is set for 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4 at Okeeheelee Nature Center, in Okeeheelee Park, 7715 Forest Hill Blvd., one mile west of Jog Road.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is organized by the county’s Environmental Resources Management and Parks & Recreation departments, to “celebrate the night and turn down the lights” by exposing people to astronomy and the importance of protecting dark skies for the benefit of both people and wildlife.

The festival will include stargazing with local astronomers, nighttime photography lectures, exhibits, vendors, nature walks, a children’s activity area, food trucks, a campfire and more.

For more, call 561-233-1400 or visit the event’s Facebook page.

Palm Beach County ethics panel sets first-ever full hearing

Hughes
Hughes

The first-ever full-blown public hearing for someone cited by the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics has been set for March 2.

The commission set the date for the 4-hour hearing at its monthly meeting on Thursday.

In November, the commission cited Rowan Hughes, a ethics logoformer analyst for Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management, alleging he tried to intimidate a Riviera Beach auto repair shop into giving him a discount.

 

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com

Palm Beach County OKs $1mm toward making Cold War-era sub a reef

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

The Cold War-era submarineUSS Clamagore is one step closer to a final resting place off Juno Beach as Florida’s only submarine artificial reef.

Palm Beach County Commissioners voted 7-0 at Tuesday’s meeting to pay a Miami firm $1 million to coordinate the sinking off the “Gray Ghost of the Florida Coast” in about 90 feet about 1½ miles off the Juno Beach Pier.

It would be the newest addition to the county’s renowned 150-plus piece artificial reef program.

The money will come from a trust fund fed by vessel registration fees. The state kicks back about $500,000 a year to the county’s Department of Environmental Management.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

The Clamagore: A photo gallery www.mypalmbeachpost.com/clamagore

 

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.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

Palm Beach County ethics panel cites county worker, two Delray Beach staff

ethics logoA former analyst for Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management faces ethics charges for allegedly trying to intimidate a business owner into giving him an auto repair discount, and two Delray Beach employees received “letters of instruction” for incidents in that city, in rulings Thursday by the county’s Commission on Ethics.

The charges against analyst Rowan Hughes stem from a November 2015 report by the Palm Beach County Office of Inspector General that said he “threatened or intimidated members of the public by falsely identifying himself as a well field inspector and making statements that he would have to conduct a well field inspection following a business’ refusal to reduce the price of repairs to his personal vehicle.”

The county fired Hughes Dec. 21, 2015, after he admitted driving the county vehicle for personal use, ethics commission documents show.

The panel also ruled Thursday that Joseph Lang, a firefighter paramedic and a rescue driver, was paid $10,834 from the city in 2014 and 2015 for an outside business he owned that supplied and serviced automatic external defibrillators for city buildings and fire-rescue trucks.

And the panel ruled Rashod Smith, a supervisor for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, let Tennille Decoste, the city’s Human Resources administrator, hold a Thanksgiving Day dinner for her family and friends after hours in the city’s Pompey Park Recreation Center.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

“Nature Awaits’ starts back up next month

022814 ERM nature photo class 5The third season of Palm Beach County’s “Adventure Awaits” series starts up next month. It features, through November, 15 events and a family-friendly festival.

Naturalists from Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management will lead cycling and paddling tours, “a swamp tromp,” nature photography classes, butterfly encounters, and more, including the popular stargazing event.

Events are free but space is limited and advance registration is required. Adventures vary in challenge from “beginner” to “advanced.”

To see the schedule, visit www.facebook.com/PBCERM/events. To reserve your spot, visit www.pbcerm.eventbrite.com.

For more, call (561) 233-2400 or visit www.pbcgov.com/erm/

Palm Beach County: We’ve distributed 240,000 Zika info flyers

ERMZika

zika2Even as the state Friday revealed two new travel-related cases of the Zika virus in Palm Beach County, the county already has distributed nearly a quarter million flyers educating people about the crisis, County Administrator Verdenia Baker said Friday in an update sent to commissioners and staff.

“We are monitoring this very fluid situation and will take further actions, if necessary. Our goal is to keep our residents and visitors safe,” Baker said in sending the update.

Also Friday. Gov. Rick Scott said that, of 20,000 mosquitoes tested across Florida , not a one has tested positive for the Zika virus, this as the state and its federal partners continue to reduce the danger zone in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.

Baker said Friday that Palm Beach County now has four 2-person crews applying chemicals on the ground, searching for and emptying water containers, and educating residents, and has a person on call in the Glades. She said workers will be armed with “newer, lighter and more effective backpack sprayers and hand foggers.”

Baker also said the county’s mosquito control hotline has received an “unprecedented” volume of calls. She said the county’s health department has begun training local medical professionals to conduct educational seminars with homeowner associations. And she said, several agencies have stepped efforts to find and get rid of illegally-dumped waste tires, which fill with water and become prime mosquito breeder sites.

Baker
Baker

 

Baker said some 240,000 flyers have been distributed. They’re being put in county water bills and sent to county libraries and other county locations as well as Palm Beach International Airport and the Port of Palm Beach. She said the county’s working with local cities and utilities to distribute the materials as well. The flyers include one from Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management (left).

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

 

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.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

 

 

Palm Beach County: We closed Peanut Island, then reopened it when algae bloom vanished

Widespread algae chokes the St. Lucie River (Photo by Dorothy Dicks)
Widespread algae chokes the St. Lucie River (Photo by Dorothy Dicks)
A man who was hit over the head with a bottle and was cut on his upper arm is helped onto a Palm Beach County Sheriff's boat after he was involved in a fight during Memorial Day weekend at Peanut Island, May 26, 2013. It's not known if the man is Jefferson Guiste (staff photo/Gary Coronado)
 (staff photo/Gary Coronado)

In the immortal movie Jaws, local businesses pressure the mayor and police chief of the fictional Amity Island not to close the beaches on Independence Day weekend, the biggest tourism weekend of the year. Everyone knows how that worked out.

On Friday, a similar dilemma briefly threatened Palm Beach County.

Lifeguards had reported an algae bloom similar to one that already, in much larger volume, had turned Treasure Coast waterways into a green, sticky, stinky mess.

This Palm Beach County bloom wasn’t just anywhere. It was around Peanut Island, the spoil island in the Palm Beach Inlet that every holiday weekend is jammed bikini-bottom-to-bikini-bottom with partiers.

Later on Friday, based on a Florida Department of Environmental Protection recommendation, county Parks and Recreation Director Eric Call made the call to close Peanut Island to swimming for the weekend.

On Friday, just after dusk, DEP people came to take samples and “couldn’t find the bloom,” Rob Robbins, head of Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management, said Tuesday. “Looks like the wind shifted it and moved it off.”

On Saturday morning, Robbins said, parks workers came to the spot and couldn’t find the bloom either. So Call reversed himself.

“The no swim advisory has been lifted,” County Administrator Verdenia Baker texted county commissioners around 8:45 a.m. Saturday.

Call said Tuesday this never would have been comparable to the Jaws situation because the closure affected only Peanut Island, not all the county’s beaches. But, he said, while he works closely with tourism officials and area businesses, “we always want to err on the side of caution.”

Palm Beach County delays sinking of freighter for artificial reef

(El Nuevo Herald)
(El Nuevo Herald)
 Blu Stephanos hugs Fernandia Jones at the conclusion of a dedication ceremony at Manatee Lagoon in Riviera Beach Monday, June 27, 2016. Plaques honoring 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 — and Palm Beach County Sheriff's corrections officer Fernandez Jones, his stepfather Willis Bell, and Jones' son Jaden — who drowned when their boat capsized off Martin County on April 10 — were presented during the ceremony. The plaques will be affixed to the 170-foot freighter Ana Cecilia when it sinks to the bottom of the ocen to become an artificial re
Blu Stephanos hugs Fernandia Jones at the conclusion of a dedication ceremony, June 27, 2016. (Bruce Bennett/Post)

The sinking of the Ana Cecelia, to become an artificial reef and a monument to five lost mariners, has been delayed by at least a week.

The county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management had set July 6 to drop the ship 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.

But ERM Director Rob Robbins said Tuesday that delays emerged in the work to punch holes in the ship, in preparation for sinking, and to remove all hazardous materials and schedule a final inspection by the U.S. Coast Guard.

He said a tentative date has been set for July 13.

When the freighter sinks, separate plaques on it will honor 14-year-olds Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, lost at sea after their 19-foot boat left the Jupiter Inlet on July 24A third plaque will feature 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.