Local News

Restoration of Historic Loxahatchee River Dam Nears Completion

Restoration of Historic Loxahatchee River Dam Nears Completion

Access to paddle over the Lainhart Dam will be restricted starting in mid-July but temporary access for paddlers to portage boats around the dam will remain open

Jupiter, FL – Restoration of the historic Masten Dam on the Loxahatchee River in northern Palm Beach County is nearly complete and work will soon begin to restore the Lainhart Dam, another historic dam on the Wild and Scenic River.

The dams, first built in the 1930s by local families, control and regulate upstream flow stages of the Northwest Fork of the river and maintain the hydrology of the riverine floodplain ecosystem. Modeling has shown that without the two dams in place, the upstream water levels would be about 1.5 feet lower, draining the freshwater swamp and encouraging saltwater intrusion.

“One of SFWMD’s primary missions is the protection of natural systems and these dam renovations are crucial to ensuring the future of the Loxahatchee River, Florida’s first designated wild and scenic river,” said Governing Board Vice Chairman Jim Moran, a lifelong Palm Beach County resident. “These dams are not only living parts of Palm Beach County’s history, but they also play a crucial role in protecting the cypress swamp floodplain that makes the Loxahatchee so unique.”

In February, the SFWMD Governing Board approved $2.5 million worth of restoration work to the two historic dams. The repairs, which came after extensive public input and thorough review, were designed to minimize any impact to the river’s natural resources and historical integrity of the dams. Areas of the dam that have decayed or where the water is no longer being held back will be repaired and stabilized, and soil under and around the dams will be stabilized to reduce seepage.

In addition to protecting the unique river ecosystem of the Loxahatchee River, the dam restoration work also included reconstructing the canoe and kayak portages to improve recreational access for all users.

Access for paddlers to portage boats around the Masten Dam remained open during the renovations of the dam over the past several months even as access to paddle over the dam itself was temporarily restricted. When work restoring the Lainhart Dam begins in mid-July, access to paddling over the dam will be restricted. Temporary “portage” access to carry boats around the dam will be open while crews build new permanent portage structures. The repairs are scheduled to be completed by July 2018.


Charles Murphy News 7/5

News Cast for July 5th:

Glades County is considering a 15.6-million-dollar county budget. Merit raises for county employees are on the table along with a new contract for County Manager Paul Carlisle. The amount of property taxes collected could rise by 2 percent but land values are expected to be up close to 3 percent this year.

The budget includes 36 thousand for the economic development council, 16 thousand dollars for the county agriculture agent, 79 thousand for the library, 142 thousand for planning and zoning and 167 thousand for maintenance.

The Sheriff expects support for a 3.3 million dollar budget this year.

David Hardin says the county has been big supporters of law enforcement. Polk county prosecutors dropped a charge of first degree grand theft against 19 year old Adam Lee of Fort Drum.  He’d been arrested in Okeechobee last month on a warrant which alleged he had stolen a coin collection worth 27 thousand dollars in Lake Wales.

A circuit judge threw out of court a local marijuana grow house case suppressing evidence at a recent hearing.

31 year old Magdielis Nunez-Mojena and 39 year old Jorge Luis Pellicer Pantoja were released from custody.

They had been arrested in July of 2 thousand 14 after the discovery of the grow house with 27 plants in a shed, worth about 69 thousand dollars at 20320 North West 2 hundred and 58th Street..  Some 10 thousand dollars in electric was also stolen.

The Judge found narcotics officers were not in pursuit of a search warrant when they illegally searched the property violating the sanctity of the home protected in the 4th amendment.

Sports Cast for July 5th:

Lady Brahman soccer Coach Eric Swant says he was proud to be apart of the best season in school history. Coach Swant says the wins were a bonus to the girls having a good time. Swant said a few the girls played other sports to stay in shape and some play travel ball. He said he also wants the girls to focus on conditioning and ways to improve their leg strength. A solid group of girls return to the team in 2017.

Swant was also named District Coach of the year for the Treasure Coast and Palm Beach County.


LABELLE MAN ARRESTED ON DRUG CHARGES

LABELLE MAN ARRESTED ON DRUG CHARGES

On June 28, 2017, after being made aware of drugs in the home, Hendry County Sheriff’s Office Deputies responded to a residence on Kissimmee Ave. in LaBelle with a search warrant.

Upon arrival to the residence deputies made contact with the occupants of the home, which included 28 year old, Tavares Simmons.  Deputies searched the home and located 25.1 grams of crack cocaine cookie pieces and 22.8 grams of marijuana “Honey Oil”.

The suspect Simmons was arrested on charges of Cocaine Possession with Intent to Sell, MFG, or Deliver, Marijuana Possession with Intent to Sell, MGF, or Deliver, and Drug Equipment Possession and or Use.

Simmons was arrested and transported to the Hendry County Jail on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 and released with a $14,500 bond.


Sara Zeng Crowned 2017 Miss Florida

Sara Zeng Crowned 2017 Miss Florida

LAKELAND – Displaying not only a mastery of the piano but also stunning the crowd in a her white open backed evening gown, Sara Zeng of Palm Coast was crowned the 2017 Miss Florida Saturday night.

Zeng won the 82nd Annual Miss Florida Pageant in front of more than 2,000 people in the Youkey Theatre at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.

On stage following the pageant, Zeng, a music education major at Florida State University, got her crown, sash and a bouquet of red roses from the 2016 Miss Florida, Courtney Sexton. Zeng receives a $20,000 scholarship for claiming the title.

The crowning moment followed three days of preliminary competitions also held in the Youkey Theatre, at which contestants were judged in fitness and talent as well as an evening gown competition, on-stage question, and a private interview with the judges.

Hosts David Lang and Laura Rutledge kept the pageant moving with back-and-forth quips. Rutledge, an ESPN reporter and host, was Miss Florida 2012.

Zeng now goes on to the 2018 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., in September.


Beware of Credit Card Skimmers at the Pump This Holiday Weekend

Beware of Credit Card Skimmers at the Pump This Holiday Weekend

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Ahead of projected record-breaking travel this Independence Day, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam is providing simple tips to help Floridians and visitors avoid credit card skimmers at the gas pump. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has found and removed 276 credit card skimmers from gas pumps so far this year.

“Identity theft is the last thing Floridians and visitors want to deal with while traveling,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam. “An educated consumer is the best defense, and I encourage travelers to follow these simple tips to avoid skimmers this holiday weekend.”

Travelers can take the following steps to avoid skimmers at gas stations:

  • Pay in cash inside the store to ensure credit card information stays safe.
  • Check to make sure the gas pump dispenser cabinet is closed and has not been tampered with.
  • Use a gas pump closer to the front of the store. Thieves often place skimmers at the gas pumps farther away from the store.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards have better fraud protection, and the money is not deducted immediately from an account.
  • If using a debit card at the pump, choose to run it as a credit card instead of putting a PIN number in. That way, the PIN number is safe.
  • Monitor bank accounts regularly to spot any unauthorized charges.
  • Consumers who suspect their credit card number has been compromised should report it immediately to authorities and their credit card company.

Commissioner Putnam worked with the Florida Legislature last year to change Florida law to better protect consumers from identity theft at gas station pumps by:

  • Requiring self-service fuel dispensers to use certain security measures to prevent theft of consumer financial information;
  • Increasing enforcement authority against those who possess or traffic fraudulent credit cards;
  • Reclassifying the crime of unlawful conveyance of fuel, which increases the maximum sentence; and
  • Increasing the offense level of the crime, which affects sentencing guidelines.

Consumers who suspect that a gas pump has been tampered with should contact the gas station manager, local law enforcement or the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or, for Spanish speakers, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832).

The department regularly inspects gas stations and analyzes samples of petroleum products to ensure consumers are being offered quality products at a fair measure. For more information, visit FreshFromFlorida.com.


Charles Murphy News 6/30

News Cast for June 30th:

28 year old Brittany Osceola was charged with being part of a conspiracy to keep a mother from her two month old son. She was charged with giving false information about a missing child.

The investigation went back to April, and included the childs father arrested for drug trafficking charges in Kansas, and the missing child being placed on the national registry.  The child was in Okeechobee all along.  It was turned over to authorities safe and sound

A two year old nearly drowns in a home on south east 5th street when it wanted to go swimming and clogged a bath tub drain with a wash rag. Okeechobee deputies say the grandmother was talking to a DCF case worker and left the bathroom for 3 to 4 minutes and found the child face down in the tub.

Okeechobee could have two livestock markets. The Okeechobee County Planning Board approved a special exception for 1 hundred acres at 1869 North West 160th Street for the Cattlemens Livestock market. The board did not approve a restaurant the developer wanted to serve people that use the auction because it is agriculture zoning. Residents complained of noise, traffic and lighting impacts to the rural neighborhood.

A litigation filed against the Okeechobee sheriffs office for a traffic crash on October 24 of 2015.

Deputy Timothy Miller was cited for failure to yield for passing on the left a vehicle turning left driven by Janene Sigismondi on route 70.  He later paid a 133 dollar fine.

The lawsuit main claim is negligence and asks for damages for pain and suffering, medical bills and lost earnings.

Okeechobee schools remained a C this year.  Seminole, Everglades, and Central were ranked among the bottom 3 hundred schools in the state and will require additional reading instruction.  South Elementary was the best performing school in the Heartland region with an A.  Osceola Middle and Central dropped from a B to a C.  Yearling remained a C. Glades Schools were also a C.  Moore Haven elementary was ranked in the bottom 3 hundred.  West Glades improved to a B, Pemayetv Emahakv was a C and Pemayetv Emahakv Middle was a B school.

Sports Cast for June 30th:

Jajuan Cherry choose the University of South Florida to play college football in 2018..

The Brahman defensive back had offers from 15 schools including Penn State, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, and several mid majors. He says in the end, being close to home, Coach Charlie Strong, and his chance to play won out over the others. Cherry made several recruiting visits across the country in the past several months. He says he feels like he can play right away for the Bulls. He could also contribute on special teams.

Cherry is a three star athlete among national scouting services and is ranked number five among all Treasure Coast football players.


A bewitching end to Miss Florida preliminaries

A bewitching end to Miss Florida preliminaries…

You could say her singing was bewitching. Kalea Leverette, Miss River City of Jacksonville, soared thanks to rendition of the Broadway musical song “Defying Gravity,” winning the talent portion of Thursday night’s last preliminary. Taking the lifestyle, fitness and swimsuit category was Miss Kissimmee, Anastasia Lusnia.

While winning the preliminaries in their divisions doesn’t guarantee them entry into the top-10 only tiara round on Saturday, it does ensure the winners $300 in scholarship funds. This is the 82nd year for the Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant and its second year in Lakeland. The winner of the pageant will go on to represent Florida in the Miss America Pageant.

Tomorrow night, the next generation of Miss America hopefuls will take to the stage when the Miss Florida’s Outstanding Teen Scholarship Pageant preliminary event takes over the Youkey Theatre. Thirty young ladies from around the state of Florida will compete for the title held last year by Anjelica Jones. The event starts at 4 p.m.

On Saturday, the top contestants from the teen pageant as well as the Miss Florida pageant compete for the title. The teen finals start at 4 p.m., while the crowning evening for the Miss Florida Scholarship Pageant starts at 7:30 p.m.


FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL TO CONDUCT DUI WOLFPACK DETAIL

FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL TO CONDUCT DUI WOLFPACK DETAIL

Bradenton, Florida – The Florida Highway Patrol will hold a DUI Wolfpack Operation beginning at 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, 2017, until 5:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 2, 2017.  The Wolfpack Operation will take place in the counties of Desoto, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee and Sarasota.  The Wolfpack Operation will focus on Interstate 75 and major state and county roadways. The Florida Highway Patrol organizes such details to proactively remove impaired drivers from the roadways and ultimately enhance the safety of the motoring public. Troopers conducting the detail will be mobile while monitoring traffic to maximize their visibility and effectiveness in removing impaired drivers from the roadways.

Driving impaired from alcohol or drugs put everyone on the roadways in danger.  Florida law considers a driver with .08 or higher Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) to be impaired.  Drivers under the age of 21 with a BAC of .02 or higher are also in violation of Florida law.

The Florida Highway Patrol would like to remind everyone that *FHP (*347) dialed from any cell phone contacts FHP should you need to report an impaired driver or require roadside assistance.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education and enforcement. The Department is leading the way to a safer Florida through the efficient and professional execution of its core mission: the issuance of driver licenses, vehicle tags and titles and operation of the Florida Highway Patrol. To learn more about DHSMV and the services offered, visit www.flhsmv.gov, follow us on Twitter @FLHSMV or find us on Facebook.


Charles Murphy News 6/29

News Cast for June 29th:

A Country Hills Estates homeowner arrived home to find his home ransacked and the burglar still there Tuesday night. He grabbed a shotgun and fired two rounds as the suspect ran out the back door. A sheriffs K-9 searched the area to no avail.   The suspect was described as a Hispanic or white male, bald, wearing tan shorts and a black hoodie.

A group of six kids ages 16 and under stole a Porsche, guns and 2 hundred thousand dollars from the safe of a Ft. Pierce residence in recently weeks. 15 year old Rural Scott was arrested in Okeechobee in May on  a St. Lucie warrant for violation of probation.  He says he served as the lookout man for the April 27th burglary in Fort Pierce.  He had nine previous arrests. The group apparently flaunted the thefts with the purchase of an 80 thousand dollar Dodge Challenger, a 25 thousand dollar Mercedes Benz, gold chains and bracelets and gold teeth.

Highlands county deputies closed out the shooting investigation of 54 year old Jeffrey Pinkston of Port St. Lucie. The coroner ruled it was a suicide. Pinkston was found shot to death near his motorcycle on route 721 at Sky road in January of 2 thousand 15.

A Palm Beach judge ruled developer Anthony Pugliese owes the estate of Subway Founder Fred DeLuca nearly 13 million dollars for the failed city of destiny in Yeehaw Junction. Circuit Judge Donald Hafele ruled Pugliese must pay 4 million for breach of contract and 8.7 million for civil theft.  The city would have been environmentally friendly and covered 41 thousand acres. Appeals are already in the works.  Pugliese pled no contest to criminal charges for conspiracy to commit an organized scheme to defraud for sending DeLuca phony invoices and funneling money into dummy bank accounts.  He served four months in jail and repaid DeLuca 1.2 million dollars.

Sports Cast for June 29th:

Brahman football has had a busy off season with three camps this month. Coach Chris Branham says he wants to build off the 8-2 record his team compiled last year. Branham said each day was a joy because he had a hard working group that wanted to work and improve.  The team hopes to bring back 20 varsity players this fall.

He says sustaining success year after year and a district title are his main goals for the future.


SFWMD And USACE Take Emergency Action To Protect Wildlife From High Water 

SFWMD And USACE Take Emergency Action To Protect Wildlife From High Water 

District’s ongoing actions and Corps’ latest temporary regulation deviations are reducing water levels in water conservation areas to protect the Everglades ecosystem from further harm

West Palm Beach, FL – Heavy June rainfall throughout South Florida, with some areas receiving more than 2.5 times the average, has led to dangerously-high water levels in Water Conservation Area 3A in western Miami-Dade and Broward counties. With approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is using structures not previously available as well as taking several other steps to send as much water possible to tide to protect wildlife in the conservation areas.

High water levels in the conservation areas pose a significant hazard to wildlife. If high water levels persist beyond 60 days, survival of animal species is put at risk.  If high water levels persist beyond 90 days, survival of plant species, including tree islands, is put at risk. These risks prompted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to close Water Conservation Area 3A from recreational use and Florida Department of Environmental Protection to issue an Emergency Order last week to protect wildlife from flooding.

“Given the enormity of the ongoing emergency situation in Water Conservation Area 3, the District and our federal partners have responded with emergency deviations to protect wildlife,” said South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Dan O’Keefe. “Whether federal or state, it is each water managers’ responsibility to do everything in their power to lower the water levels and protect this area from further harm.”

The emergency deviations approved by the Corps in response to this emergency allow SFWMD to send more water to tide using the S-197 structure in Miami-Dade County, as well as increasing pumping at the S-332D pump station and allowing the use of the S-343A and B and S-344 structures to move more water out of the conservation areas to Everglades National Park and the Big Cypress National Preserve.

In addition to the emergency deviations approved by the Corps, SFWMD is also taking several other actions to lower water levels and reduce the risk of flooding during this emergency including:

  • Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 1 to tide through the Hillsboro Canal in Palm Beach County.
  • Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 2A to tide through the C-14 Canal in Broward County.
  • Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 2A to tide through the North New River Canal in Broward County.
  • Maximizing discharges from Water Conservation Area 3A to tide through the Miami Canal in Dade County.
  • Maximizing discharges through the S-333 structure at the southern end of Water Conservation Area 3A to Everglades National Park.
  • Releasing water through S-334 structure to the South Dade Conveyance System where it is being sent to tide.
  • Using gravity to send water that would otherwise be pumped into Water Conservation Area 3A to tide. The S-13 Pump Station is also being used to pump water during high tide when it would be impossible to use gravity.
  • Moving water from the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin in Palm Beach County to Lake Okeechobee through the North New River Canal.
  • Moving water from Stormwater Treatment Area 2 to Lake Okeechobee through the North New River Canal.
  • Moving water from Water Conservation Area 1 in Palm Beach County to tide through the C-51 Canal.
  • Moving water from Water Conservation Area 1 in Palm Beach County to Lake Okeechobee through the L-8 Canal.
  • Maximizing flows out of Water Conservation Area 3A through the  S-344, S-343A and 343B structures.
  • Constraints removed from S-199, S-200  and S-737 structures, moving water into Everglades National Park from the C-111 Canal.

The Corps also plans to implement several actions in response to the high water emergency including:

  • Reducing flows from Water Conservation Area 1 into Water Conservation Area 2A.
  • Opening structures S-12A and B, increasing the amount of water released from Water Conservation Area 3A into Everglades National Park.

Additionally, SFWMD has begun daily inspections along the stretch of the L-37 Levee, bordering Water Conservation Area 3A in Broward County between Interstate 75 and Griffin Road, to ensure its integrity. SFWMD safety and operating procedures require checks of the levee when water levels exceed 11.48 feet. High water levels in the conservation area can put pressure on the levee and must be monitored. In 2014, SFWMD reinforced several sections of the Broward East Coast Protective Levee, including the L-37 Levee, by installing a filter berm that used sand to minimize the impact of seepage on the levee.

View a map of the actions being taken to address the high water emergency.

View correspondence between SFWMD and the Corps regarding actions to address the high water emergency.

View video footage of the flooding in the conservation area.

Learn more about SFWMD’s flood protection system.


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