Local News

SFWMD Approves Investment in Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program

SFWMD Approves Investment in Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program

Revised program will increase community participation, opportunities

West Palm Beach, FL — With the goal of expanding opportunities and partnerships to restore and protect a unique Florida waterway, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board today approved a $500,000 investment in the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program (IRL NEP).

Just two days ago, the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board also approved a $500,000 investment in the program. These actions follow Governor Rick Scott’s direction to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to participate as well, by dedicating $250,000 a year in funding for the IRL NEP effort.

“The Indian River Lagoon helps define the quality of life along a vast stretch of Florida’s east coast, including Martin and St. Lucie counties,” said SFWMD Governing Board Vice-Chair Kevin Powers, a long-time resident of Martin County. “We are proud to join Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in dedicating funds to protect this valuable resource.”

SFWMD funding for the program comes a month after the Governing Board was briefed on proposed organizational changes designed to increase community participation and expand project opportunities. These enhancements include:

  • Reigniting community engagement,
  • Targeting the IRL for increased project funding at local, state and federal levels, and
  • Highlighting the importance of the IRL through outreach and education.

The IRL NEP was established in 1990 through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s designation of the IRL as an “estuary of national significance.” The IRL NEP provides a non-regulatory, stakeholder-driven, collaborative approach to coastal watershed restoration and protection.

The IRL is a diverse, shallow-water estuary stretching across 40 percent of Florida’s east coast from Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County to the southern boundary of Martin County. The lagoon is a critical water body in the state and has experienced excess nutrient pollution in addition to excess freshwater flows for many decades. Widespread algal blooms appeared in the lagoon in 2011 followed by brown tide blooms in 2012 and 2013. Approximately 47,000 acres of seagrasses were lost, a reduction of about 60 percent of the lagoon’s total seagrass coverage.

The lagoon supports a multitude of industries and activities, from fishing and recreation to tourism and agriculture. A study concluded that the economic benefits of the Indian River Lagoon totaled more than $3.7 billion in 2007 alone and accounts for 15,000 jobs.

Rooney Introduces Bill to Protect Christians under Attack by ISIS

Rooney Introduces Bill to Protect Christians under Attack by ISIS

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Tom Rooney (FL-17) introduced bipartisan legislation with Representative Juan Vargas (CA-51) to provide refugee status for Christians and other religious minorities under attack in Islamic State-held territories in Iraq and Syria.

“The Islamic State came into these towns, marked the homes of Christians with an ‘N’ for Nazareth, and told the families to convert or be killed. Hundreds of men, women and children were murdered, hundreds more enslaved, and thousands fled for their lives. They are on the run, they face death and persecution, but they have nowhere to go. We have to help them. We have to give them a safe haven,” Rooney said.

“Religious freedom is a founding principal of our great nation. As Americans, we cannot claim to be leaders of the free world and stand idly by while members of religious minority groups are being persecuted and killed for their religious beliefs,” said Rep. Vargas. “I am proud to introduce legislation that will bring these individuals and their families to our country, where they will be safe from terrorists and free to worship.”

The bipartisan Rooney-Vargas bill, HR 5430, would expedite the process for persecuted Christians and other religious minorities under attack by ISIS to receive asylum in the United States. It would allow individuals who are or were residents of a territory now controlled by the Islamic State to apply directly to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program as a refugee of special humanitarian concern, and provide the Administration with the authority to grant immediate removal of refugee applicants who face imminent danger.

The UN recognizes individuals as refugees only after they have crossed an international border. However, many refugees from the Mosul region were forced to flee without their personal effects, and have not been able to cross the border into neighboring countries without their official documents. The Rooney-Vargas bill would assist these victims by allowing individuals displaced by ISIS to apply and interview for refugee status in Iraq and through existing facilities in surrounding countries.



~ Approaching tropical system could bring heavy rain and flooding to area ~

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With a tropical wave forecast to move across South Florida this weekend, the Florida Highway Patrol urges motorists to use added caution over the next few days. The Florida Division of Emergency Management says the tropical system could bring heavy rain and possible flooding to parts of the area. Forecasts call for one to three inches of rain to fall across South Florida through the weekend. Localized rainfall amounts could reach as high as six inches.

The Florida Highway Patrol advises drivers to follow these safety tips that can save lives:

  • Stay Updated. — For real-time traffic and road condition reports, as well as maps and additional safety tips, FHP encourages motorists to visit www.flhsmv.gov/fhp/. Florida drivers also can call 511 on their cell phone or visit http://fl511.com/ for up-to-the-minute updates on traffic congestion, road construction, lane closures, severe weather and travel delays on interstates and major highways. Be sure to keep up with local weather forecasts.
  • Stay put. – Avoid driving in heavy storms. Often, injuries and deaths occur in the aftermath of storms. Sightseers impeding roadways cause obstacles for emergency personnel responding to those in need.
  • Slow down. – Roadways remain slick after storm so if you have to drive, decrease your speed to avoid hydroplaning.
  • Be cautious of high winds. – Windy conditions adversely affect all vehicles, particularly high profile vehicles, such as buses and trucks, as well as motorcycles. Gusty wind makes driving difficult, especially when it is rapidly changing speed and direction.
  • Pay attention. – You may come up on an intersection that is no longer controlled by a traffic control device. If a law enforcement officer is directing traffic, follow his directions. Otherwise, treat the intersection as you would treat an intersection governed by a four-way Stop sign.
  • Flooding safety. –Never drive into moving water. If you cannot see the roadway beneath the water, do not drive through it! The water may be deeper than it appears, and the road may be washed away.

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 or follow us on Twitter @FDHSMV.   You can find us on Facebook, too.

FWC offers hunter safety course in Glades County

FWC offers hunter safety course in Glades County

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will host a free hunter safety course on Sept. 20, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. in Glades County.

Participants must successfully complete the online portion of the course prior to attending and bring the final Web report to the FWC course on Sept. 20. The form does not have to be notarized.

Students will learn about several topics, including hunting laws, safe gun handling and hunter ethics/responsibility before taking the final test. The course also includes live-firing instruction on a shooting range.

The class will be held at the Glades County Sheriff’s Office Shooting Range in Moore Haven, Longitude and Latitude: 26.895664 – 81.122469.

Participants can sign up at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety or by calling the FWC’s South Region Office at 561-625-5122. A link to the online portion of the course and a statewide schedule of hunter safety classes is available at MyFWC.com/HunterSafety.

Parents or legal guardians must accompany children under 16 years of age to all classes. To participate in live-fire exercises, children under 18 years old must present a parental release form signed by a parent or legal guardian.

Anyone born on or after June 1, 1975, must pass an approved hunter safety course and have a hunting license to hunt alone (unsupervised).

Rooney Statement on 13th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

Rooney Statement on 13th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (FL-17) today issued the following statement on the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks:

“On this day 13 years ago, Tara and I were finishing up PT at Fort Hood, TX. Our first son, Tommy, was just five days old. Like all Americans, we were stunned and saddened as we saw the news of the horrific attacks against our nation.

“Americans will never forget where we were that day, and we will never forget the thousands of innocent lives that were lost in New York, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon. Today, across the country, we will gather together for moments of silence and reflection. We will remember the fallen and the families who mourn them. We will honor the first responders who rushed into Ground Zero, many not to return; our men and women in uniform, who have continued the fight to keep us safe; and our veterans, who served our nation with great courage.

“We remain resolved to do all we can to prevent a tragedy like this from ever occurring again. We will never forget.”

Charles Murphy News 9/11

News Cast for September 11th:

In the courts, 41 year old James Mullins received 12 years in prison for manslaughter and culpable negligence. He won two new trails after being convicted of the traffic death of 24 year old Anthony Gehle and had been sentenced to 30 years in prison. He reached a plea deal last week. He will also serve five years’ probation.

Glades County Commissioners approved a 7.4 million dollar general fund budget this week. It carries a millage rate of just over 9.1 mills. Property taxes will rise just under 1.5 percent.

The budget also includes a 9 hundred thousand dollar shortfall.

Chairman Donna Storter Long says sooner or later the shortfall will have to be dealt with.

Key expenses will be completion of the new county business park, a training center project and the new emergency operations center being funded with state dollars.

County employees did receive a 38 cent per hour raise.

Cell phone coverage should no longer be a problem in Buckhead Ridge. Glades County planners approved two new cell towers to be located off state road 78 west. Special exceptions were approved on August 12 for a 250 foot tower on Linda Road and on September 9th for a 306 foot tower on route 78.

Among arrests, 48 year old Wayne Rowe was charged with violation of parole from the state of Pennsylvania.

26 year old Chad Garner was charged with possession and sale of cocaine within 1 thousand feet of a park after an Okeechobee narcotics task force operation in Douglas Park. Bond was set at 2 hundred thousand dollars.

No charges will be filed after an altercation between two men involving a knife and one man parts of two fingers, deputies ruled the 51 year old man was the aggressor and the other man was only protecting himself Saturday outside the Shell Station in Treasure Island.

Sports Cast for September 11th:

OHS volleyball Moore Haven OHS defeated local rival Moore Haven in three straight games Wednesday.

OHS volleyball Moore Haven OHS defeated local rival Moore Haven in three straight games Wednesday.

Okeechobee defeated Moore Haven in three straight, 25-15,25-13 and 25-16 last night to improve to 4-1 on the season. Okeechobee also defeated Port St. Lucie in three straight games on Tuesday. Baylee Farless said the girls played well and were glad to defeat a rival school.

Baylee Farless on win over Moore Haven

OHS bowlers swept by Lincoln Park, the girls lost 7-0; Jessica Olney rolled the top game at 195. The boys fell 6-1. Brian Chapman had the high game of 202.

Boys’ golf defeated Port St. Lucie Tuesday by 28 strokes with a score of 180. Daniel Fulleda led the way with a 39. Jarred Morgan and Kyle Mullins shot 47. Wednesday the boys finished second in a four way match for 18 holes with south fork, Jensen beach and Fort Pierce central. Fulleda, Zack Hudson and Kyle Mullins all shot 83 to lead the Brahmans.

On the sports schedule today, Yearling volleyball and soccer host Sebastian River at 4:30 pm, Osceola soccer and volleyball host Gifford at 4:30 pm. OHS swimmers travel to Martin County. JV Football travels to Clewiston kickoff at 7 pm. OHS boys’ golf competes at John Carroll at the PGA golf and country club at 3:30 pm.

Highlands County assistant state attorney honored at FWC meeting

Highlands County assistant state attorney honored at FWC meeting

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recognized 10th Judicial Circuit Assistant State Attorney Gary Ellis with the FWC’s Prosecutor of the Year award at its Commission meeting in Kissimmee Wednesday.

“Ellis was nominated by FWC law enforcement staff in our Lakeland office because of his extra effort working with our officers to build as well as complete cases,” said Col. Calvin Adams, director of the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. “He has significantly contributed to the safety and quality of life for the people of Highlands County who pursue outdoor recreation.”

FWC staff praised Ellis’ knowledge of fish, wildlife and boating laws, his relationships with the county judge and his skills in the courtroom.

“He volunteers to handle all FWC cases in his judicial circuit and ensures that Florida’s natural resources are protected,” Adams said.

Ellis’ cases in 2013 included taking wildlife and fish by illegal methods, size violations, bag limit violations, taking in closed areas, taking during closed seasons, trespass and environmental violations.

To learn more about Wildlife Alert, go to MyFWC.com/WildlifeAlert.

Charles Murphy News 9/10

News Cast for September 10th:

Stephanie Quesinberry won the Frist Award at Raulerson hospital this year. The award honors hospital employees for dedication to their patients and their careers and their work to benefit the public. Quesinberry is the director of surgical services. She thanked her colleagues and family for their support. Quesinberry learned many of her medical skills in the US Navy. Video interview on the WOKC Facebook page, check us out by typing in “WOKC Okeechobee’s True Country” and click on photos.

Stephanie Quisenberry on First Award

Among arrests today, 38 year old Satena Loper of Moore Haven was charged with felony petit theft and possession of a controlled substance for allegedly stealing 2 hundred dollars in cash and several alprazolam pills from her boyfriend in Glades County.

35 year old Tommy Carter was charged with resisting arrest with violence and DUI after an alleged scuffle with deputies after a traffic stop on Tuesday morning.

24 year old Allen Broadwater was charged with lewd and lascivious exhibition of a child under 18. A city police warrant was served Monday for alleged incidents that occurred in 2009 and 2010.

40 year old Rafael Ortiz Gonzalez of Port St. Lucie was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under 16 in Okeechobee. Bond was half a million dollars. The alleged in appropriate touching occurred on August 24th.

37 year old Melissa Crews was charged with dealing in stolen property and giving false information to a pawn broker for alleged thefts of 18 hundred dollars’ worth of batteries

29 year old Dustin Werk was charged with grand theft and burglary in the city limits on North West 11th Street that occurred in mid-August.

YMS pounded Storm Grove 8-0 Monday.

YMS pounded Storm Grove 8-0 Monday.

Sports Cast for September 10th:

The boys cross country team opened their season with a 15th place finish at the Martin County under the lights invitational Friday. 23 teams competed. Daniel Shelley led the way with a time of 18:30 to finish in 52nd place. Josue Santibanez finished in 18:58 to finish 65th. Coach A.J Mayernik thinks the boys’ team has some real potential this year.

The girl’s team finished 18th out of 21 teams at the event. Alexis Muller led the way with a time of 24:03 good for 76th place. Charleigh Heater finished 94th with a time of 24:46.

Coach Mayernik said the girls are more of a long term project. Girls’ golf rolled past Lake Placid with a team score of 194 on Monday. Hannah Raulerson shot a 3 over par, 38 to lead Okeechobee.

AJ Mayernik on cross country season preview

On the sports schedule today, Okeechobee hosts Moore Haven for volleyball at 6:30 pm. OHS bowlers visit Lincoln Park at 3:30 pm; OHS boys’ golf has a tri match with Ft. Pierce, Jensen Beach and Martin County in Stuart. Girls’ golf travels to Clewiston at 3:30m.

Charles Murphy News 9/9

News Cast for September 9th:

Levi Lam with Pontoon boat

Levi Lam with Pontoon boat

Okeechobee was recently deemed a public health ready community. Health Department Director Erin Hess explains the significance of this designation. Hess said the department dealt with some budget cuts this year but still maintained services to the community. She also praised the county for creating more recreational facilities to help the community get in shape, noting the Ag civic center is available for exercise. She also reported 1.2 million was put into the community by the WIC program in the past year.

29 Erin Hess on health department report

Among arrests, 54 year old Ronze Cummings was charged with battery by strangulation and resisting arrest with violence after a brief struggle with city police after they witnessed the violence. He was treated for a head laceration at Raulerson hospital.

A 15 year old client at the Vision Quest program was charged with kicking a staff member in the head sending the man to the hospital Saturday morning.

A 58 year old Okeechobee man injured in a Michigan motorcycle accident.   Cass County deputies say another motorist pulled out in front of Robert Brusdahl, he was not wearing a helmet.

IR Fatal 9-8-14 SR-60 and CR 512

Sports Cast for September 9th:

Yearling volleyball outlasted Storm Grove 25-13 and 25-18 last night in a competitive match. The soccer team shut out Storm Grove 8-0 in a mercy rule match. The OYFL teams won two out of five games in Sebring Saturday. The Flag lost 25-6the Mighty Mites lost 40-0 and the senior team fell 14-13. The junior team prevailed 12-6 and the Pee Wee team won 18-7.

Girls’ volleyball swept past Clewiston on Friday, 25-5, 25-12, and 25-18.

Logan Laskey won the Midfielder of the year award for Brahman boys’ soccer last year. Laskey said he appreciated the award and thanked former Brahman and Florida Atlantic soccer player Hunter Pritchard for helping him do well in the position. He said the team has high hopes for this year.

Logan Laskey Midfield MVP

A busy day on the schedule today, Yearling volleyball visits Glades Day at 4:30, Osceola volleyball and soccer open up at Sebastian Middle at 4:30, boys golf takes on Port St. Lucie at the Saints Golf and Country Club, OHS volleyball will host Port St. Lucie at 5 and 6:30 pm, OHS swimming will host St. Lucie West Centennial at 5:30 pm.


AAA Foundation research reveals opportunities to produce smarter, safer drivers

TAMPA, Fla. (September 9, 2014 ) —  Although vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens, fewer new drivers are participating in what used to be considered a rite of passage – driver education.  State funding and requirements for these programs have declined over recent decades, leaving uneducated teen drivers vulnerable on America’s roads. New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that teens that skip this important step are involved in more crashes and receive more traffic convictions compared to their peers that participated in driver education.

“This research proves our teens are safer on the roadways when they participate in driver education,” said Sandy Maxwell, director of Driver Training Programs, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “New drivers should take part in this critical step of the learning-to-drive process because it makes a significant difference.”

This study assessed examples of U.S. and Canadian driver education programs using a variety of evaluation methods including surveys, driver’s licensing tests, driver simulators and the review of driving records. The results revealed that several key differences exist between teens who receive driver education and those who do not, including:

  • Driver education is associated with a lower incidence of both crashes and convictions – reducing crashes by 4.3 percent and convictions by nearly 40 percent.
  • Teens that completed driver education not only scored higher on the driving exam, they also demonstrated modest increases in knowledge over their peers who did not take any formal training.

“Overall, the findings suggest that driver education can make a difference, but there is still much room for improvement in most existing programs,” noted Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This underscores the need for states to adopt the NHTSA-supported Standards that are designed to enhance the scope and quality of driver education.”

AAA, a vocal advocate for teen driver safety for nearly 80 years, works at the state level to improve driver education programs and prioritizes five of the NHTSA-funded Novice Teen Driver Education and Training Administrative Standards, owned by the driver education community:

  1. Requiring a teen’s parent/guardian to attend an educational seminar
  2. Ensuring that classroom instruction is completed in no less than 30 days
  3. Requiring annual continuing education for driving instructors
  4. Ensuring standards are met by public and private driving schools
  5. Adopting a comprehensive graduated drivers licensing (GDL) system that integrates driver education

AAA and the AAA Foundation are committed to helping teens stay safe on the roads and have developed comprehensive resources including TeenDriving.AAA.com, a state-specific website to help parents navigate the learning-to-drive process, DriversZed, an interactive tool designed to teach teens how to react in various driving scenarios and the StartSmart Online Parent Session, a two-hour webinar that explains the licensing process and parents’ role, and demonstrates how to maximize the practice driving that parents/guardians are required to do with their teen.

About The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit www.aaafoundation.org for more information on this and other research.

About The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America.  ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services offerings to approximately 9 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana.  ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with nearly 55 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.

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