Local News

Charles Murphy News 5/17

News Cast for May 17th:

Wooden, Marquis Jamar

Wooden, Marquis Jamar

Hendry county deputies say they interrupted a burglary to a tractor trailer and arrested a Glades County man in the process.  22 year old Michael Villarreal faces possession of burglary tools and methamphetamine.

A lawsuit blames the State Department of Transportation for the deadly church van crash near Moore Haven in 2015. The crash killed 8 people and injured 10 more at US 27 and State Route 78. Attorney Scott Smith said the intersection had been neglected and lacked basic safety measures to keep drivers safe. He said the families and the Fort Pierce church were hit hard by the tragedy. The church group was returning home from a revival in Ft. Myers when the driver 58-year-old Volsaint Marsaille drove through the stop sign and the 15 passenger van plunged into a canal. Smith alleges the

Jackson, Malcolm Kristopher

Jackson, Malcolm Kristopher

stop sign was not visible to the driver.

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In the courts, 26-year-old Kaytlyn Stevens of Okeechobee received two years in prison and two years’ probation for possession of 160 grams of flakka while she rode her bicycle near Central Elementary school.

6 teenagers executed a plan to escape the G 4 S boys school in Okeechobee late Saturday.  They broke out a bathroom window and were able to place a sheet on the fence and scale it in under nine minutes just before midnight.  They then ran south to Superior Water Works and stole a pickup truck.  The group was located in Orange County when they attempted to steal another vehicle.

Press News Release Three More Arrests in Avon Park Shooting

Press News Release Public Assistance Requested

Press Release Lake Placid shooting

Sports Cast for May 17th:

OHS Baseball Junior Boys

OHS Baseball Junior Boys

Fred Bradley was named the Brahman Award winner for the boys’ basketball team this year. The senior said he tried to be a good example and work hard this year.

Bradley said the team met expectations this year and he felt the Brahmans belonged in the post season. He said he represented his school the way an athlete should.

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Bradley also was named to play in the Treasure Coast All-Star game for seniors.

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He said he was honored to play in that game. He is trying to continue his athletic career in football.


Governor Rick Scott: Florida Tourism Breaks Another Record

Governor Rick Scott: Florida Tourism Breaks Another Record

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida welcomed the highest number of visitors during the first quarter of the year with 29.8 million tourists who came to Florida. This is an increase of 4.8 percent over the same period last year and exceeds the previous high of 28.5 million in the first quarter of 2015. The average number of direct travel-related jobs in the first quarter of 2016 was also a record high, with 1,231,100 Floridians employed in the tourism industry – up 3.8 percent from the same period in 2015. The Florida First budget Governor Scott signed in March invested $76 million for VISIT FLORIDA to attract even more tourists to the Sunshine State.

Governor Rick Scott said, “I’m thrilled that Florida continues to break records in the amount of tourists visiting our state. Nearly 30 million visitors have enjoyed our beautiful beaches and attractions so far this year, and a record high of more than 1.2 million Floridians are employed in the tourism industry – which is great news. Last year, we exceeded our goal of an historic 105 million visitors because of Florida’s unique national treasures, and I look forward to smashing our record again this year by welcoming 115 million visitors to the Sunshine State.”

Will Seccombe, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA, said, “Given the challenges our industry is facing – the strong dollar’s impact on Canada and issues in Brazil – this record quarter for Florida tourism is even more exciting.  It’s further proof that tourism marketing works. Our strategy of showcasing both the familiar and off-the-beaten-path travel opportunities remind potential visitors that, while Florida is filled with destinations they know and can trust, there is always more to discover.”

Senate President Andy Gardiner said, “Florida’s growing tourism industry creates important jobs and introduces visitors to our incredible state. I am excited that Florida is kicking off 2016 with yet another tourism record and I look forward to seeing another historic year.”

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said, “With so many tourist attractions in Florida, it’s easy to see why the Sunshine State is a top choice for families and visitors from across the globe. We will keep working to support VISIT FLORIDA so we can welcome even more people to our great state.”

Senator Jack Latvala said, “It is great news that nearly 30 million visitors have already come to Florida this year. We want Florida to be the number one travel destination worldwide, and we will continue to support our tourism industry in order to meet that goal.”

Representative Clay Ingram said, “Florida is a travel destination for visitors across the world because of our beautiful waters and other attractions. Tourism is an important economic driver for our state and has added more than 1 million jobs for Florida families. I am proud to join Governor Scott in celebrating this accomplishment.”

VISIT FLORIDA estimates that a record 25.6 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in the first quarter of 2016, which is a 6.6 percent increase over the same period last year. Total enplanements at Florida’s 18 major airports in Q1 2016 equaled 22.3 million, an increase of 1.5 million or 7.0 percent from over the same period last year.

John Tomlin, Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors, said, “Experiencing the largest quarter for tourism in our state’s history – not just visitation, but jobs as well – shows the vital role our industry plays in Florida’s economic growth.  These records would not be possible without the strong industry alignment between VISIT FLORIDA and our tourism Partners, and their continued investment in strengthening Florida’s incredible tourism product.”

To view additional Florida visitor data, go to the Research page on VISIT FLORIDA’s media website.

*Preliminary estimates are issued 45 days after the end of each calendar quarter. Final estimates are released when final data are received for all estimates in the report.


Charles Murphy News 5/16

News Cast for May 16th:

Watson, Jaquarius Nagee

Watson, Jaquarius Nagee

In the courts, 28-year-old John Whitmire of Riviera Beach was sentenced to 30 months in jail for a bomb threat hoax and domestic disturbance at the Murphy Oil Gas Station last December. Whitmire pled no contest to charges like burglary to a vehicle, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and grand theft.  Charges he sent illicit photos of himself to a teenager were dropped. City cops say he punched a window to the victim’s vehicle, puncture her tires, made verbal threats and stole her 9-hundred-dollar cell phone.

Among arrests, two Palmdale men were behind bars after a verbal squabble led to guns being brandished.  Glades County Deputies say 35-year-old James Bailey was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  He allegedly wrestled a handgun away from 46 year old Daniel Boone after Boone asked him to leave his property. Boone was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Tim Stanley retired from the Glades County commission at the end of April, but is still on the ballot to run for the office in November. Stanley had to retire to collect his pension benefits from his full time job now South Florida Water Management.  He said if elected he will be a full time commissioner.

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Joshua Virway of South elementary school was named the Okeechobee schools elementary reader of the year.  Other students in the running this year were Amber Cook of North, Diana Rodriguez Gomez of Central, Riley Russell of Everglades, and James Thomas of Seminole.

The Okeechobee high school and Osceola Middle School FFA meat judging teams were state champions this year.  The middle school team included Kevin Dryden, Patrick Lehman, Kaitlyn Williams and the top performing student in the state, Aubrey Pearce.

The high school team included Maria Carrillo, Evan Soto, Cady McGehee and Kelvin Ford.

05 15 2015 Press News Release One Arrest in Avon Park Shooting

St. Lucie Fatal 5-14-16 I-95 and mm 125

Highlands Co SR 66 Fatal 5-13-16

Sports Cast for May 16th:

WOKC sports OHS banquet photo of freshmenMercedes Washington was the most valuable player for the Brahman weight lifting team this year. She earned four year awards for weight lifting. She finished third in districts and was able to qualify for the regionals this year. She finished in the top five at regional.  She said she had a good performance that day

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She plans to attend Florida State University and study to be an athletic trainer. She ran track and also played flag football for OHS this year.

Washington 2


U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students

U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance today to help provide educators the information they need to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.

Recently, questions have arisen from school districts, colleges and universities, and others about transgender students and how to best ensure these students, and non-transgender students, can all enjoy a safe and discrimination-free environment.

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status. The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX.

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “This guidance further clarifies what we’ve said repeatedly – that gender identity is protected under Title IX. Educators want to do the right thing for students, and many have reached out to us for guidance on how to follow the law. We must ensure that our young people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to get a great education in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

“There is no room in our schools for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transgender students on the basis of their sex,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “This guidance gives administrators, teachers, and parents the tools they need to protect transgender students from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust school policies. I look forward to continuing our work with the Department of Education – and with schools across the country – to create classroom environments that are safe, nurturing, and inclusive for all of our young people.”

“Our federal civil rights law guarantees all students, including transgender students, the opportunity to participate equally in school programs and activities without sex discrimination as a core civil right,” said Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “This guidance answers questions schools have been asking, with a goal to ensure that all students are treated equally consistent with their gender identity.  We look forward to continuing to work with schools and school communities to satisfy Congress’ promise of equality for all.”

“Every child deserves to attend school in a safe, supportive environment that allows them to thrive and grow. And we know that teachers and administrators care deeply about all of their students and want them to succeed in school and life,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our guidance sends a clear message to transgender students across the country: here in America, you are safe, you are protected and you belong – just as you are.  We look forward to working with school officials to make the promise of equal opportunity a reality for all of our children.”

The guidance explains that when students or their parents, as appropriate, notify a school that a student is transgender, the school must treat the student consistent with the student’s gender identity. A school may not require transgender students to have a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment, or produce a birth certificate or other identification document before treating them consistent with their gender identity.

The guidance also explains schools’ obligations to:

  • Respond promptly and effectively to sex-based harassment of all students, including harassment based on a student’s actual or perceived gender identity, transgender status, or gender transition;
  • Treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex;
  • Allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity; and
  • Protect students’ privacy related to their transgender status under Title IX and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

 

At the same time, the guidance makes clear that schools can provide additional privacy options to any student for any reason. The guidance does not require any student to use shared bathrooms or changing spaces, when, for example, there are other appropriate options available; and schools can also take steps to increase privacy within shared facilities.

 

In addition to the Departments’ joint Title IX guidance, the Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education also released Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices for Supporting Transgender Students, a compilation of policies and practices that schools across the country are already using to support transgender students. The document shares some common questions on topics such as school records, privacy, and terminology, and then explains how some state and school district policies have answered these questions, which may be useful for other states and school districts that are considering these issues. In this document, the Education Department does not endorse any particular policy, but offers examples from actual policies to help educators develop policies and practices for their own schools.

 

Many parents, schools, and districts have raised questions about this area of civil rights law. Together, these documents will help navigate what may be a new terrain for some.

 

The mission of ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001. Additional information about OCR is available here.

 

The mission of ED’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) is to promote academic excellence, enhance educational opportunities and equity for all of America’s children and families, and to improve the quality of teaching and learning by providing leadership, technical assistance, and financial support. Additional information about OESE is available here.

 

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, created in 1957 by the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society.  The division enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available here


Red Larson Recognized By Florida Kiwanis Foundation

Red Larson Recognized By Florida Kiwanis Foundation

Caption: Courtney Moyett, Greg Thogerson, Red Larson and Kathy Cooley

Caption: Courtney Moyett, Greg Thogerson, Red Larson and Kathy Cooley

Long time Okeechobee resident Louis “Red” Larson was recognized by both the Florida Kiwanis Foundation and the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee for his many years of service.

Mr. Larson has been involved with Kiwanis clubs and activities since 1949 and was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee back in 1971.

Larson was presented a plaque and then spoke to the club on his Kiwanis experience.

Larson’s Plaque reads: The Officers and Trustees of the Florida Kiwanis Foundation and the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee Proudly Recognize Louis E. “Red” Larson in Recognition of His Commitment and Dedication to the Objects of Kiwanis since 1949

The Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee is a service organization that works to improve the lives of the youth of Okeechobee County. The club meets every Thursday at noon at Cowboys Restaurant. If you would like more information about the club, contact any club member or look up the Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee Facebook Page


Charles Murphy News 5/13

News Cast for May 13th:

Residents were split in their comments about the Okeechobee music festival. 16.4 million in economic impacts and an average of 32,500 visitors per day attended the inaugural event. Event promoter Cliff Rosen said they produced one of the best first year festivals in the world.

Rosen 1

Noise, litter, traffic jams and trespassing on private property were the biggest complaints. Commissioners suggested they might not allow 24-hour music at the next festival. Bryan Holden said commissioners failed the neighbors.

Holden 1

Holden 2

Charlene Dennis said the music upset her animals, and prevented her from sleeping for four days

Dennis 1

Dennis 2

 

Okeechobee deputies say a man was killed and his girlfriend shot in Douglas Park Thursday at 3pm. They were actively looking for the alleged shooter Thursday night.

Among arrests, 37 year old Willie Joe Harris was charged with possession of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and resisting arrest after he tried to run and swim away from deputies Wednesday night on South East 32nd Street.  He was caught by a K-9 unit nearby.

Drug Abuse Symposium

OCSB 2016 Summer Food Service Program Announcement

05 12 2016 Press News Release Scams

Sports Cast for May 13th:

Bubba Fludd had two long touchdown runs and Boo Boo Stallworth added two touchdowns as Okeechobee defeated John Carroll 45-26 in their spring game last night.

Devante Luellman and Lamar Williams added touchdown runs for the Brahmans and Gage Ingram added a 23-yard field goal for the Brahmans. Assistant Coach Tyrone Smith said it was a good night for the Brahmans overall. Smith said they must do better against the run.  John Carrolls Zakk Montoya rushed for over 100 yards in the game.

Smith 1

Stallworth caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Kysell Richardson in the second quarter and intercepted a pass for a 25-yard touchdown early in the third quarter. He said he did what a defensive back is supposed to do.

Stallworth 1

John Carroll also returned an interception 96 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the game.

Okeechobee plays a Purple White scrimmage next Friday.


Fumigation Company and Two Individuals Sentenced in Connection with Illegal Pesticide Application Resulting in Injuries to a Minor

Fumigation Company and Two Individuals Sentenced in Connection with Illegal Pesticide Application Resulting in Injuries to a Minor

Sunland Pest Control Services, Inc. (Sunland), Grenale Williams, 53, of South Bay, and Canarie Deon Curry, 40, of Riviera Beach, were sentenced today in federal court in Fort Pierce before United States District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez in connection with the illegal application of a pesticide that resulted in injuries to a minor child.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Andy Castro, Acting Special Agent in Charge, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Criminal Investigation Division, Atlanta Area Office, made the announcement.

Sunland was senetenced to five years of probation.  Williams and Curry were sentenced to one year in prison.

Sunland, Williams, and Curry, previously pled guilty for their involvement in the illegal application of sulfuryl fluoride (a pesticide), contrary to the label’s safety requirements, in violation of Title 7, United States Code, Section 136i(b)(1)(B).  Sunland also pled guilty to making false statements in connection with the investigation, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001.

According to court documents, the federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) regulates the use of pesticides, including those designated for restricted use due to their potential adverse effects, including serious injury.  Application of restricted use pesticides is limited to certified applicators or those under the direct supervision of certified applicators.  Sulfuryl fluoride, a commonly used antimicrobial in structural fumigations for termites, is one such restricted use pesticide that is registered with the EPA.  At the heart of the safe use of such pesticides is compliance with the product label, which includes the written, printed, or graphic matter associated with the pesticide.  Under FIFRA, the label is the law, and strict compliance with it is critical to the safe application of the restricted use pesticide.  Federal law also prohibits the making of material false statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the EPA.

Court records and a joint factual statement indicate that in June 2015 residents contracted with Terminix for a home fumigation for termites under an existing warranty.  Terminix, without warning or approval, subcontracted the job to Sunland.  The fumigation occurred over a weekend and the residents returned to their home on Sunday, August 16, 2015 to find a clearance tag on the front door indicating that it was safe to enter.  During the evening several family members became ill, and medical attention was sought for their nine year old son.  It was determined that the family’s symptoms were consistent with pesticide poisoning.

A subsequent investigation revealed that contrary to the label requirements for use of the potentially deadly gas, the defendants failed, among other violations, to: provide the Fact Sheet for the pesticide being used; have the required number of properly trained personnel on site following the application of the pesticide; properly aerate the fumigated space; and conduct clearance testing with an approved and calibrated Low Fumigant Level Detection Device.  In addition, a clearance tag was left at the premises indicating it was safe to enter when in fact the requisite procedures had not been completed.  The family was falsely assured by Terminix and Sunland that the aeration and clearance requirements had been met.  Additionally, Sunland representatives misrepresented the specific brand of pesticide that was used and indicated that the fumigation, aeration, and clearance of the home was in accordance with the law when in truth and fact, the defendants were not in compliance.

United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Today’s sentencing sends an important message to both corporations and civilians regarding the importance of federal pesticide regulation compliance and the criminal penalties that will be imposed upon the violators.  Everyone must abide by established safety protocol in order to protect the public from potential harm.”

“We have environmental laws in place to ensure that pesticides are applied safely and responsibly,” said Andy Castro, Acting Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Florida.  “When a fumigant is applied illegally, families can become victims of a serious and preventable crime. EPA continues to work in close partnership with the Justice Department to bring cases against those that knowingly threaten the health and safety of the American public.”

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the EPA, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bureau of Pesticide and Incident Response, and the Florida Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement.  The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald of the Economic & Environmental Crimes Section.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.


Former Stuart Youth Pastor Sentenced to 45 Years for Production and Distribution of Child Pornography

Former Stuart Youth Pastor Sentenced to 45 Years for Production and Distribution of Child Pornography

A former youth pastor was sentenced today to 45 years in prison for the production and distribution of child pornography by U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez in Ft. Pierce, Florida.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and William Snyder, Sheriff, Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), made the announcement.

On March 10, 2016, Jeffrey Brian Mobley, 24 of Ocala, formerly of Stuart, Florida pled guilty to an indictment, charging four counts of production of visual depictions of sexual exploitation of minors, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2251(a) and (e) and two counts of distribution of visual depictions of sexual exploitation of minors, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1).

According to the court record, in September 2015, a suspicious conduct report was made to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office concerning a youth pastor, Jeffrey Brian Mobley, and a minor who was under his trust and care through a religious based youth program in Stuart, Florida.  During the course of the investigation, law enforcement learned that Mobley, while the youth pastor, engaged in sexual intercourse, separately, with two female minors that were participants in the church’s youth program.  Using various forms of electronic communication, while in Stuart Florida, Mobley induced one of the minors to engage in sexual activity and produced sexually explicit images of their illicit relationship at several locations.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.  For more information about the Project Safe Childhood initiative and for information regarding Internet safety, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and Martin County Sheriff’s Office for their work on this case.  Mr. Ferrer also thanked the members of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida for their assistance with this matter.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Carmen Lineberger.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.


First Captive-Bred Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Chicks Hatched

First Captive-Bred Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Chicks Hatched

Among North America’s Most Endangered Birds

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Conservation history was made May 9 when the first captive-bred Florida grasshopper sparrow chicks hatched at the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (RSCF) in Loxahatchee, Fla.–a major breakthrough for one of North America’s most endangered birds.

“This bird is teetering on the brink of extinction.  There are probably less than 150 left. We’re working with our partners–including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)–to save it.  This is a huge milestone in those ongoing efforts,” said Larry Williams, State Ecological Services Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This is truly a collaborative effort with the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Working Group and other partners.  Kudos to Dr. Paul Reillo and his team at RSCF for the outstanding work they’re doing on this captive-breedingprogram that the Service is funding,” said Williams.  “Also to be congratulated are Mary Peterson and Sandra Sneckenberger, the Service’s lead biologists on this recovery effort, and Dr. Erin Ragheb, FWC’s research scientist who coordinates and leads all of the field work.”

Ragheb said, “This is one of many important steps for the recovery of the Florida grasshopper sparrow. We hope that FWC’s demographic and nest predator field research will continue to provide valuable recommendations on how to protect the remaining wild birds as the captive program develops. Knowing that Florida grasshopper sparrows are capable of hatching young in captivity is an encouraging step forward.”

A State of the Birds grant awarded to the Service’s South Florida Ecological Services Office in 2013 funded preliminary work necessary to initiate a captive-propagation program for this critically endangered sparrow.  In 2015, this species was brought into captivity for the first time.  Five nestlings from two different clutches and two independent juvenile birds were collected from the wild and taken to RSCF.

“We had two situations where a monitored nest was predicted to fail (one from flooding and one from the loss of the brooding female).  Both of those clutches were collected and brought to RSCF, where they were successfully hand-reared to independence,” said Peterson.  “Because of concern of starting a captive-breeding program with strictly naïve birds, and because we believed that hand-reared birds would benefit from a ‘tutor’ bird, we also brought in two independent parent-reared, juvenilebirds.”

Pairs were established in April 2016 when birds began exhibiting breeding behaviors.

Although the first nest attempt by one of the females was unsuccessful, a second brooding female began hatching a clutch of four eggs on May 9, 2016.  As of May 11, the female appears to be properly caring for and feeding her four nestlings.  If things continue to go well, the chicks will leave the nest and start trying to fly about nine days after they hatched.  They should be fully independent about three weeks after they hatched.

Williams acknowledges that the Service and its partners implemented captive breeding because this is an extremely urgent situation.  “This captive-breeding program might buy us time to unravel the compounding factors causing the sparrows to decline so rapidly.  We seem to have good habitat that’s not being used.  That makes us think the population levels may have dropped so low that they’ve lost the power to recover,” he said. “Below certain population thresholds there can be combinations of predation, disease, genetic inbreeding, and gaps in social behaviors that make it difficult for a species to rebound.”

This promising news in the captive-breeding efforts is welcome, particularly considering preliminary numbers for the 2016 season are looking very bleak.  Biologists are expecting a steep decline from the previous two years’ low, but somewhat stable, counts.

“This breakthrough is great news because the Florida grasshopper sparrow couldn’t be more vulnerable,” said Sneckenberger.  “Unfortunately, last week’s storms flooded most of the wild birds’ first nest attempts of the season.  That brought the need for this captive-breeding program into even sharper focus.  The four hatchlings are hopeful signs that bode well for producing options for recovery.”

Next week, the working group–made up of members from the Service, FWC, RSCF, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Archbold Biological Station, Avon Park Air Force Range, the University of Maryland- Baltimore County, White Oak Conservation Center and Tall Timbers Research Station–is scheduled to discuss a collection strategy for the 2016 season.

Timberline Fisheries is supplying all the insects being fed to the birds and Dyson, Inc. provided the fans being used to keep the sparrow breeding facilities cool


SFWMD Governing Board Set to Revitalize Project to Protect St. Lucie River and Estuary

SFWMD Governing Board Set to Revitalize Project to Protect St. Lucie River and Estuary

The Ten Mile Creek facility will store and clean excess stormwater

West Palm Beach, FL – The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board today signed an agreement that will transform the Ten Mile Creek Water Preserve Area into a functional water storage and water quality improvement project for the St. Lucie River and Estuary.

Taking control of the project from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allows SFWMD to make repairs to fill the long idle federal reservoir with four feet of excess stormwater that would otherwise flow to the St. Lucie River. A wetland at the site in St. Lucie County will clean that water before it reaches the river.

“Today’s action literally required an act of Congress, and significant credit goes to South Florida’s Congressional delegation and St. Lucie County officials for their steadfast efforts,” said SFWMD Governing Board Vice Chairman Kevin Powers. “We will now work without further delay to repair and operate the 10 Mile Creek project to finally provide tangible benefits for the St. Lucie River and Estuary and Treasure Coast families.”

Construction bid requests are scheduled to go out in July, with a contract award in September and project completion in June 2017. Once complete, the reservoir will be able to hold 2,500 acre-feet of water.

Background:

The Ten Mile Creek Water Preserve Area is located at the outlet of the 30,682-acre Ten Mile Creek Basin in St. Lucie County, situated immediately south of State Road 70 (Okeechobee Road) and west of the I-95-Florida Turnpike intersection. The project was designed by the Corps to improve the timing and volume of water deliveries to the North Fork of the St. Lucie River by capturing, storing and treating stormwater runoff from the Ten Mile Creek Basin.

Secondary benefits of the project included reduction of fine sediment and nutrients flowing to the St. Lucie River, increased freshwater recharge into the aquifer and capability to make releases back to Ten Mile Creek for water supply when needed.

Timeline:

  • 1996: Project was authorized by Congress as a joint effort between SFWMD and the Corps budgeted to cost up to $50 million.
  • 2006: Construction was completed by the Corps.
    • During operational testing, design and construction deficiencies were identified that rendered the project unsafe for operation.
    • The project remained non-operational for several years while court proceedings took place. Eventually, the Corps settled the case and received money from the contractor who built the project.
  • August 2014: SFWMD requested to take control of the facility and make repairs so that the project could start providing benefits to the river and estuary.
  • June 2015: SFWMD was authorized by the Corps to make improvements to store one foot of water at the site to provide benefits while the request to take over the project was pending in Congress.
  • December 2015: Following Congressional action, the president signed into law a bill that allowed the SFWMD to take control of the project. The District already owned the land.

May 2016: SFWMD Governing Board formally took over the project and is moving forward with work to make it operational


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