3 To Know: Community Foundation provides grant to Everglades City, more

Danny Cox stakes newly planted orange geiger tree.

1. Community Foundation provides grant to Everglades City

The Community Foundation of Collier County (CFCC) provided a $67,000 grant for a tree-planting project in Everglades City in partnership with Naples Botanical Garden to address Hurricane Irma recovery and the continued effort to prepare the area for the next natural disaster. This grant is part of the Foundation's countywide focus to invest $500,000 to reforest Collier as a part of its Your passion, your Collier initiative.

“Trees are a number one issue locally and throughout Florida,” said CFCC President and CEO Eileen Connolly-Keesler. “People here during Hurricane Irma in 2017 saw how many we lost and how it continues to impact our environment. We will continue these tree projects in partnership with Naples Botanical Garden to spread throughout Collier and its municipalities.”

“Everglades City is a town created for people to interact with the water, but now the water is taking over,” said Vice President of Horticulture Brian Galligan, noting rising sea levels and sinking infrastructure. “Our challenge was to find trees that could handle the conditions.”

His team surveyed the city for trees that were thriving as a starting point; consulted with experts in Miami, who had adapted their landscapes for a changing climate; brought in hardy, salt-tolerant coastal trees like pigeon plum; and also introduced numerous flowering specimens, such as tabebuias and poincianas, befitting the town's unique history and charm.

“We are proud to be able to work with the Community Foundation to beautify the city,” Galligan said.

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2. Pile driving begins Thursday on Marco Island

Beginning Thursday, pile driving for the new bandshell and restroom facility will begin at Veterans’ Community Park, according to a press release from the city.

Pile driving will take place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and will last approximately two weeks.

Pile driving uses large equipment and can be very loud. Residents are advised not to enter the park at any time, as it is an active construction zone.

“We understand this phase of construction will be disruptive to residents and businesses in the area, and we thank you for your patience and cooperation during the reconstruction of Veterans’ Community Park,” according to the press release.

3. Florida sugar growers sue US over proposed reservoir water levels

Sugar growers in Florida are suing the U.S, Army Corps of Engineers over proposed reservoir water levels they say will be far too low.

The federal lawsuits filed last week by Florida Crystals’ Okeelanta Corp., U.S. Sugar and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative say the current Corps plan won’t supply enough water for their fields.

“Farmers need a secure supply of water, and all farmers need certainty as we plan and manage our planting schedules and crop rotation,” said Jaime Vega, vice president of agriculture at Florida Crystals.

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Jacksonville Commander Col. Andrew Kelly defended the Corps’ work, saying the agency will balance water supply for both the environment and farmers.

“We go through a very, very deliberate process, not only with our (environmental) analysis, but with all of the analysis it takes to figure out the best infrastructure to be put in the ground in the right place,” he said. “So, we’re pretty confident that the infrastructure plan that we have going forward is a good one.”

The project in question is the Everglades Agricultural Area reservoir intended to cleanse tainted water so more can flow south as crucially needed toward Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

In the lawsuits, Sugar Growers say the still-under-construction reservoir should be kept at higher water levels than what is currently envisioned in a Corps of Engineers plan.

Everglades restoration advocates say the growers are simply putting their priorities ahead of others.

“They have always been at the front of the line and now they are not happy with how the lake and the reservoir will be operated in a more equitable way,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation. – Associated Press

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