Local News

SFWMD Improves Routine Monthly Maintenance For Lake Okeechobee Ecological Health

SFWMD Improves Routine Monthly Maintenance

For Lake Okeechobee Ecological Health

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will implement an improved process for crucial testing of diesel-powered engines and pumps at the S-2 and S-3 Pump Stations, located along the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee in Palm Beach County. Factoring in the health of the lake, SFWMD engineers developed an innovative method to service equipment essential for flood control, public health and safety. Unlike previous practices used for these purposes, water needed for testing will no longer be back pumped into Lake Okeechobee, but rather returned into the canals headed south.

“Performing regular maintenance checks throughout the year ensures these structures, and the entire system, operate as designed and are dependable when needed during emergencies to protect public health and safety,” said SFWMD Director of Operations, Engineering and Construction John Mitnik. “These new procedures eliminate back pumping at S-2 and S-3, even for maintenance purposes.”

This coordinated month-by-month effort will involve exercising ten pump engines. The average duration of the tests will be less than two hours. Tests will be implemented and adjusted based on current weather conditions, allowing for maximum flexibility to perform required maintenance consistent with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection regulatory permit.


UPDATE: SIX NEW TRAVEL-RELATED CASES

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH DAILY ZIKA

UPDATE: SIX NEW TRAVEL-RELATED CASES

Contact:
Communications Office
NewsMedia@flhealth.gov
850-245-4111

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – In an effort to keep Florida residents and visitors safe and aware about the status of the Zika virus, the Florida Department of Health will issue a Zika virus update each week day at 2 p.m. Updates will include a CDC-confirmed Zika case count by county and information to better keep Floridians prepared.

There are six new travel-related cases with two in Broward, one in Miami-Dade, one in Hillsborough, one in Orange and one involving a pregnant women. According to CDC, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days.

The department’s investigations into the possible non-travel related Zika virus cases in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are ongoing and the department will share more details as they become available.

Governor Rick Scott and State Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip are hosting a Zika roundtable this afternoon in Broward County to discuss with local leaders ongoing Zika preparedness and response needs.

Residents and visitors are urged to participate in requests for urine samples by the department in the areas of investigation. These results will help the department determine the number of people affected.

Zika prevention kits and repellent are being distributed in the areas of investigation, through local OBGYN offices and at both DOH-Broward and DOH-Miami-Dade.

CDC recommends that women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant postpone travel to Zika affected areas. According to CDC guidance, providers should consider testing all pregnant women with a history of travel to a Zika affected area for the virus. CDC recommends that a pregnant woman with a history of Zika virus and her provider should consider additional ultrasounds.

Florida has been monitoring pregnant women with evidence of Zika regardless of symptoms since January. The total number of pregnant women who have been monitored is 49, with 15 having met the previous CDC case definition.

The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists and CDC released a new case definition for Zika that now includes reporting both asymptomatic and symptomatic cases of Zika. Prior to this change, states reported only symptomatic non-pregnant cases and pregnant cases regardless of symptoms. This change comes as a result of increased availability for testing in commercial laboratories.

County Number of Cases (all travel related)
Alachua 5
Brevard 6
Broward 53
Charlotte 1
Citrus 2
Clay 3
Collier 4
Duval 6
Escambia 1
Highlands 1
Hillsborough 10
Lake 1
Lee 6
Manatee 1
Martin 1
Miami-Dade 96
Okaloosa 2
Okeechobee 1
Orange 38
Osceola 17
Palm Beach 15
Pasco 6
Pinellas 7
Polk 11
Santa Rosa 1
Seminole 11
St. Johns 3
St. Lucie 1
Volusia 5
Total cases not involving pregnant women 315
Cases involving pregnant women regardless of symptoms* 49

 

*Counties of pregnant women will not be shared.

On Feb. 12, Governor Scott directed the State Surgeon General to activate a Zika Virus Information Hotline for current Florida residents and visitors, as well as anyone planning on traveling to Florida in the near future. The hotline, managed by the Department of Health, has assisted 2,396 callers since it launched. The number for the Zika Virus Information Hotline is 1-855-622-6735.

All cases are travel-associated. There have been no locally-acquired cases of Zika in Florida. For more information on the Zika virus, click here.

The department urges Floridians to drain standing water weekly, no matter how seemingly small. A couple drops of water in a bottle cap can be a breeding location for mosquitoes. Residents and visitors also need to use repellents when enjoying the Florida outdoors.

More Information on DOH action on Zika:

  • On Feb. 3, Governor Scott directed the State Surgeon General to issue a Declaration of Public Health Emergency for the counties of residents with travel-associated cases of Zika.
    • There have been 29 counties included in the declaration– Alachua, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Duval, Escambia, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Santa Rosa, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia – and will be updated as needed.
  • DOH encourages Florida residents and visitors to protect themselves from all mosquito-borne illnesses by draining standing water; covering their skin with repellent and clothing; and covering windows with screens.
  • DOH has a robust mosquito-borne illness surveillance system and is working with CDC, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and local county mosquito control boards to ensure that the proper precautions are being taken to protect Florida residents and visitors.
  • On April 6, Governor Scott and Interim State Surgeon General Dr. Celeste Philip hosted a conference call with Florida Mosquito Control Districts to discuss ongoing preparations to fight the possible spread of the Zika virus in Florida. There were 74 attendees on the call.
  • On May 11, Governor Scott met with federal leaders on the importance of preparing for Zika as we would a hurricane. Governor Scott requested 5,000 Zika preparedness kits from HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell as well as a plan from FEMA on how resources will be allocated to states in the event an emergency is declared.
  • On June 1, Governor Scott requested for President Obama to provide preparedness items needed in order to increase Florida’s capacity to be ready when Zika becomes mosquito-borne in our state.
  • On June 9, Governor Scott spoke with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden on Zika preparedness and reiterated the requests that he has continued to make to the federal government to prepare for the Zika virus once it becomes mosquito-borne in Florida. Governor Scott also requested that the CDC provide an additional 1,300 Zika antibody tests to Florida to allow individuals, especially pregnant women and new mothers, to see if they ever had the Zika virus.
  • On June 23, Governor Scott announced that he will use his emergency executive authority to allocate $26.2 million in state funds for Zika preparedness, prevention and response in Florida.
  • On June 28, the department announced the first confirmed case of microcephaly in an infant born in Florida whose mother had a travel-related case of Zika. The mother of the infant contracted Zika while in Haiti. Following the confirmation of this case, Governor Scott called on CDC to host a call with Florida medical professionals, including OBGYNs and physicians specializing in family medicine, to discuss the neurological impacts of Zika and what precautions new and expecting mothers should take.
  • On July 1, CDC hosted a call with Florida medical professionals, including OBGYNs, pediatricians and physicians specializing in family medicine, to discuss the neurological impacts of Zika and what precautions new and expecting mothers should take. More than 120 clinicians participated.
  • Florida currently has the capacity to test 4,769 people for active Zika virus and 2,129 for Zika antibodies.

Federal Guidance on Zika:

  • According to CDC, Zika illness is generally mild with a rash, fever and joint pain. CDC researchers have concluded that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other birth defects.
  • The FDA released guidance regarding donor screening, deferral and product management to reduce the risk of transfusion-transmission of Zika virus. Additional information is available on the FDA website here.
  • CDC has put out guidance related to the sexual transmission of the Zika virus. This includes CDC recommendation that if you have traveled to a country with local transmission of Zika you should abstain from unprotected sex.

For more information on Zika virus, click here.


Okeechobee County Sheriff Deputy Part Of Special Day For Local Family (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Okeechobee County Sheriff Deputy Part Of Special Day For Local Family (AUDIO INCLUDED)

Okeechobee County Sheriff Officer Jessica Francis

Okeechobee County Sheriff Officer Jessica Francis

A family from Okeechobee was able to continue their family vacation at Sesame Place in Bucks County Pennsylvania thanks to the help of several good Samaritans,  one of which being Deputy Jessica Francis of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Department. Mary Sue Reece and her family were taking her daughter Maggie to Sesame Place. Maggie is severely autistic and her family was hopeful that the “fuzzy monsters” would help her development, plus Maggie is a big fan. When their car broke down and the repairs threatened not only the trip but how to get home, Reece called her friend Deputy Francis who happened to have a friend with the Bucks County Sheriff’s department. Through some collaboration, The Bucks County Sheriff’s department was able to help reduce the cost of their repairs, escort the family to Sesame Place where the park gave the family VIP treatment on what was  a special day for Maggie. Deputy Francis was happy to be a part of the story.

The Reece family with members of the Bucks County Sheriff Dept

The Reece family with members of the Bucks County Sheriff Dept

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW WITH DEPUTY JESSICA FRANCIS (RUN TIME 4:42)


Expediting Efforts To Send Water South To Florida Bay

Expediting Efforts To Send Water South To Florida Bay

Last week, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) submitted a request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to authorize the reconstruction of L-31West levee, along with the construction of a 500-foot long weir in Miami-Dade County. This request is part of SFWMD’s plan to restore essential flows and deliver additional water to Florida Bay.

Along with average annual rainfall, the expedited plan will double the flow of water directly into Taylor Slough by as much as 6.5 billion gallons more freshwater per year. This additional water will meet stringent water quality standards and serve the bay year-round. These actions will be the first steps to help save the bay by promoting the recovery of seagrasses killed during a severe drought in 2015.

Required features of the plan include:

  • Connecting two canals to directly deposit water through the L-31 West Canal into Taylor Slough.
  • Sending additional water through the S-328 structure into the L-31 West Canal directly to the headwaters of Taylor Slough.
  • Modifying a weir and adding plugs along the L-31 West Canal to encourage the flow of more water towards Taylor Slough and keeping more water in Everglades National Park.
  • Rebuilding a levee and removing flapgates at the S-332i Pump Station to promote more flow.

Supplemental features of the plan that will also help deliver water include:

  • Installing several plugs in the L-31 West Canal to reduce drainage from Everglades National Park and to promote overland flow of water into Taylor Slough.
  • Modifying a weir at the S-332D structure to promote overland flow of water to the detention area into headwaters of Taylor Slough.
  • Increasing the pumping capacity at S-199 and S-200 pump stations, which will send more water flowing towards Taylor Slough and Everglades National Park, ultimately reaching Florida Bay.
  • Removing vegetation to increase the quantity of water flowing through the detentions areas into Taylor Slough.

The proposed improvements will cost taxpayers less than $3.3 million and should be completed before the start of the next dry season in November if the Corps approves the necessary permits expeditiously.


Charles Murphy News 7/26

News Cast for July 26th:

 

The annual Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments and Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities Summer BBQ was held in Okeechobee on July 20, at the First United Methodist Church. The speaker for the event was Lindsay Cross, Executive Director of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Lindsay gave an overview of the two, 1000-mile expeditions taken by Carlton Ward, Jr, Joe Guthrie, and Mallory Lykes Dimmitt to demonstrate the need to connect and protect wild places in Florida. The first expedition began in the Everglades and ended in the Okefenokee Swamp in George; the second expedition traveled from central Florida northwest through the panhandle to the Florida/Alabama border. Creating a permanently protected network of connected lands and waters will provide habitat for species like the Florida black bear and Florida panther, enhance water supply, maintain rural and cultural heritage, and provide outdoor recreation and eco-tourism opportunities.  More information can be found at www.floridawildlifecorridor.org. Pictured are Richard Winger, Vero Beach Councilman and TCCLG Pres. and Lindsay Cross, Florida Wildlife Corridor.

In an effort to keep Florida residents and visitors safe and aware about the status of the Zika virus, the Florida Department of Health will issue a Zika virus update each week day at 2 p.m. Updates will include a CDC-confirmed Zika case count by county and information to better keep Floridians prepared.

Last week it was reported that Okeechobee was one of 19 new travel related cases of the Zika virus in Florida counties. Since Friday, 5 new cases have been identified, but no additional in Okeechobee.  According to CDC, symptoms associated with the Zika virus last between seven to 10 days.

  • According to CDC, Zika illness is generally mild with a rash, fever and joint pain. CDC researchers have concluded that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other birth defects.

With Okeechobee County Schools set to start after next week, Okeechobee schools still has 11 vacancies to fill. That number is down from over 70 at the beginning of the summer. Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy says that the teacher shortage is a state wide issue.


“Aaron Tippin Concert Ticket Song of the Day Contest on WOKC!”

“Aaron Tippin Concert Ticket Song of the Day Contest on WOKC!”

16-SCB-1799-_AT_CR_300x250_DigitalAds

Listen to the WOKC Morning Show for giveaway of Brighton Seminole Casino Aaron Tippin-Collin Raye Concert Prize Packs.

Concert is Thursday, August 11th,  2016, doors open at 6pm, show starts at 7pm.  Ticket value:  $30 each.

PRIZING:  Each of three winners will receive two Aaron Tippin Concert tickets and dinner for two at the Josiah Johns Restaurant. 

  • Contest will run Thursday through Wednesday, July 28th through August 3rd, 2016. 
  • Each weekday, Billy Dean will play the “Aaron Tippin Concert Ticket Song of the Day” during the WOKC morning show.
  • When the “Aaron Tippin Concert Ticket Song of the Day” is played between 8:30am-11am, the first five callers will be registered for a chance to win one of the three Aaron Tippin Prize Packs, two concert tickets and dinner for two, $100+prize value for each winner!
  • Random drawing on the WOKC morning show, for three winners out of all those who registered on Wednesday, 8-3-16 at 9:20am.   
  • No purchase necessary.  Must be 21 to play contest/attend concert event.

BRIGHTON


SFWMD: No Tax Increase for Sixth Consecutive Year

SFWMD: No Tax Increase for Sixth Consecutive Year

The District’s Governing Board reviews a $726.2 million tentative budget and locks in lower millage rates for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year

West Palm Beach, FL – The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board this month continued its commitment to reduce the tax burden on South Florida property owners for a sixth consecutive year. The Governing Board locked in lower “rolled-back” millage rates as staff presented the tentative budget for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year.

Estimated rolled-back millage rates are designed to generate the same level of ad valorem tax revenues as the prior year.

“The 8.1 million residents served by the South Florida Water Management District depend on us to manage and protect the water resources of the region by balancing and improving flood control, water supply, water quality and natural systems,” said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Daniel O’Keefe. “We are once again accomplishing those missions and making significant progress on key projects without raising taxes.”

The tentative budget will levy a total millage rate to property owners in the 15-county Okeechobee Basin of 0.3307 mills, lower than the 0.3551 mills levied last year. Property owners in the Big Cypress Basins in Collier County will pay 0.2695 mills, less than the 0.2888 mills levied last year.

The millage rates and budget details must still be officially reviewed and approved at two public hearings in September.

The $726.2 million tentative budget includes $47.8 million of additional monies appropriated by the Legislature to store water north of Lake Okeechobee, thereby reducing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ need to release water from the lake to the coastal estuaries for flood protection. The budget also includes $54.1 million next year to continue implementation of Gov. Rick Scott’s Restoration Strategies Plan to complete water quality restoration in the Everglades.

The District is proposing to spend $67.8 million to benefit the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, including continuing construction of the massive Caloosahatchee River (C-43) Reservoir to ensure enough water flow to the river during dry months. The District is also proposing to spend $88 million on Everglades restoration projects, including $60.3 million to continue construction of the C-44 stormwater treatment area and pump station allowing the storage and treatment of local runoff headed for the St. Lucie Estuary in Martin County


County Centennial Update Given To Kiwanis Club (AUDIO INCLUDED)

County Centennial Update Given To Kiwanis Club (AUDIO INCLUDED)

From Left to Right, Sharie Turgeon, Corey Wheeler and Jennifer Busbin

From Left to Right, Sharie Turgeon, Corey Wheeler and Jennifer Busbin

Members of the County Centennials spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee last Thursday at their weekly meeting. Jennifer Busbin and Shari Turgeon have been working with a committee to celebrate the County’s Centennial in 2017 and not duplicate much of the City Centennial which Okeechobee celebrated in 2015. The Centennial will have a kickoff event in January and a County birthday party and formal in December, but Busbin says throughout the year and activity called Amazing Okeechobee will be a highlight. Local businesses and citizens can still participate in the centennial planning by contacting Sharie Turgeon and the Tourist Development Council at 763-9353

CLICK THIS LINK TO LISTEN TO ENTIRE INTERVIEW (RUN TIME 2:25)


Wild animals in circuses and other traveling shows denied “life worth living”

Wild animals in circuses and other traveling shows denied “life worth living”

Expert review finds “all five of the ‘freedoms’” compromised and supports ban on wild animal acts

Animal Defenders International (ADI) calls for immediate action to end the suffering of wild animals in circuses in the US after a comprehensive and expert analysis of scientific evidence found “all five of the ‘freedoms’” are compromised in traveling animal shows. Experts said that circus life for animals is one not “worth living.”

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International, said: “This new report supports decades of reports and evidence that the welfare of wild animals is seriously compromised in circuses. Having time and again exposed the suffering and brutality of animals in circuses, Animal Defenders International calls for federal legislation to end wild animal acts.”

‘The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses’ report was commissioned by the Welsh government and undertaken by Professor Steven Harris, the 2nd Lord Dulverton Memorial Professor of Environmental Sciences at Bristol University, UK. The report summarizes: “The available scientific evidence indicates that captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements, as set out under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, and the evidence would therefore support a ban on using wild animals in travelling circuses and mobile zoos on animal welfare grounds.”

The Harris team consulted 658 experts and organizations around the world, including 138 animal trainers/circuses; 206 lawyers and veterinarians with expertise in wild animal welfare; 107 people working for NGOs; 144 biologists, researchers, behavioral, and species experts; 58 zoo and wild animal sanctuary staff; and relevant government officials and wildlife experts.

The views of the animal trainers and circuses were “very different to the other groups of experts” on several issues. The group “did not believe that frequent training is stressful for animals,” that the “frequency and duration of transport should be minimised to avoid unnecessary stress,” and “disagreed that the portable enclosures required for regular travel cannot meet the preconditions for good welfare” – in contrast to all other expert groups.

Findings of the 178-page report include:

  • “All five of the ‘freedoms’ are compromised in travelling circuses and mobile zoos”
  • “Most if not all of the twelve ‘welfare criteria’ used in the [European] ‘Welfare Quality project are compromised”
  • Life for wild animals in travelling circuses and mobile zoos does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’”
  • There is “No scientific evidence to suggest that some species of wild animals (vertebrates or invertebrates) are more suited to life in a travelling circus or mobile zoo”
  • Most animal performances “focus on tricks that do not reflect natural behaviours”
  • “Traditional animal training methods are coercive and based on force and aggression.” Circus trainers “have few or not recognised qualifications or formal training”
  • “Minimum recommended enclosure sizes for animals in circuses are on average 26.3% of the recommended enclosure size for animals in zoos”
  • There is “No scientific evidence that wild animals fully adapt to frequent transport”

The study included a review of 764 scientific reports and articles that had been peer-reviewed since 2007, following publication of a report by the UK Government on the subject. Harris’ report noted that there had since been “a substantial increase in the amount of information available.”

The continued use of wild animals in circuses is opposed by animal welfare experts, animal protection groups, politicians, and more than 2/3 of the American public. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe has concluded “there is by no means the possibility that their [wild mammals in traveling circuses’] physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.” A 2009 research paper co-authored by Professor Harris concluded “the species of non-domesticated animals commonly kept in circuses appear the least suited to a circus life.”

32 nations around the world have now banned either wild animals or all animals from traveling shows. It is time for the US to join this list.

Once a ban is in place, ADI has offered to assist with the relocation of circus animals should the need arise. ADI has just this year concluded an operation to enforce similar legislation in Peru, rescuing and relocating over 100 animals, with 33 lions airlifted to a sanctuary in South Africa.


Charles Murphy News 7/21

News Cast for July 21st:

The Okeechobee City Council held their July meeting Tuesday night with a large agenda. A few of the noteworthy items on the agenda were the rezoning of the north west addition at 1000 NW 7th Court from Holding to Industrial. That rezoning was requested by Jeremy LaRue of Total Roadside Services on behalf of property owners Dennis and Linda May Wilson. The motion was approved by the Council.

The Council voted in favor of allowing OUA to withdraw themselves from the City Pension plan with the intention of creating their own pension plan. Until now both City employees and OUA employees  shared the same plan.

The Council also voted in favor of beginning the process of funding 25% of the fire department budget through fire assessment and made clear by doing this, their intention was to lower the millage by the same percentage in order to offset the assessment.

Members of the County Centennials spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee last Thursday at their weekly meeting. Jennifer Busbin and Shari Turgeon have been working with a committee to celebrate the County’s Centennial in 2017 and not duplicate much of the City Centennial which Okeechobee celebrated in 2015. The Centennial will have a kickoff event in January and a County birthday party and formal in December, but Busbin says throughout the year and activity called Amazing Okeechobee will be a highlight. Local businesses and citizens can still participate in the centennial planning by contacting Sharie Turgeon and the Tourist Development Council at 763-9353


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