Wild oyster harvest from Apalachicola Bay has been suspended for 5 years

Did you know North Florida’s oyster fisheries dates back to the 1800s and at one point produced 90 percent of Florida’s oysters and 10 percent of the nation’s oysters?

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has unanimously approved a plan to suspend commercial and recreational harvest of wild oysters from Apalachicola Bay for five years. The rule will go into effect on Aug. 1. Under the new rule, on-the-water possession of wild oyster harvesting equipment, such as hand tongs, would also be prohibited through December 31, 2025.

The rules only apply to wild oysters and do not apply to oyster aquaculture operations. Staff will return for a final public hearing at the October Commission meeting. FWC’s large-scale restoration project will be ongoing on for five years and the largest portion of funding, nearly $17 million, will go directly toward forming 1,000 acres of oyster reef habitat.


Plastic Free July

Earlier this month, this blog featured a piece on the Plastic Free July movement. However, working towards eliminating plastic in your life when living in a rural community can seem especially daunting. Below is a short list of changes you can make living here in the Panhandle to reduce the presence of chemically harmful plastic in your life.
1. Swap goods and services with neighbors! Need a new blender but don’t want to buy a plastic wrapped monstrosity from Walmart? Check in with your neighbors to see if anyone has a spare in their storage or are finally ready to admit they just don’t like smoothies and pass their blender on to you. If you’re on Facebook, consider joining or creating a Zero Waste Swap group in your area. Oftentimes people are willing to give up items for FREE! How great is that? You don’t have to pay for something you need, someone else keeps from throwing that something into the waste stream, AND there’s no new waste introduced by your purchasing a new item. Saving plastic all around!
2. Stick to the basics! This includes using shopping totes, fabric produce bags, reusable water bottles and coffee containers, foregoing plastic straws unless you need them medically, packing a lunch instead of a store packaged one, and so on. While simple, these actions add up. Additionally, it is safe to use reusable shopping bags despite COVID-19 – just sanitize between uses. Cloth bags are the best because you can just toss them in your wash.
3. Create the means to be the change! This is related to the step above. If you notice a need in your community, fill it. For example, if you are in need of cloth bags, create them. You can sustainably source material from thrift stores in the form of curtains, sheets, mismatched pillowcases, and more. Then bring them home, sanitize them, and get to sewing! Pass the bags out for free to family and friends or make a small profit by selling them cheap outside grocery stores or farmers’ markets. This is just one example of how you can help reduce your communities reliance on plastic while you’re largely stuck at home during quarantine.
This article was largely sourced from the following blog, please check it out! It has a lot of great additional information and is a very moving piece on rural community: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2019/4/8/1848735/-Thinking-Outside-the-Plastic-Box-Going-Plastic-Free-in-Rural-America

Purchase a brick for a Veteran

Sandra McDaniel Causby posted on her FB page that she was contacted by Carolyn Watson regarding the Veterans Park in Wewahitchka. They are offering bricks with engraved names of veterans for the park. If you have a member of your family who is a veteran and would like to purchase one, please contact her. She’s with the Women’s Club and the contact number is 850-340-1984.

Florida laws took effect July 1st

Some of Florida’s newest laws officially went into effect on July 1st. After several months of fighting a pandemic, this year’s legislative session feels like it wrapped up forever ago. Quick recap — lawmakers filed about 3,500 bills. They passed 191 of those. Here’s a few of them that took effect on the 1st~

State sets aside $400 million to raise the minimum base pay for full-time classroom teachers to at least $47,500. Another $100 million will be used to raise the salaries of Florida’s veteran teachers and other instructional personnel who did not receive a salary increase or who received an increase of less than two percent.

Girls under 18 will need a parent’s consent before having an abortion. Previous law only required minors to inform a parent or legal guardian of their decision.

The bill is designed to protect children from abuse in the state’s welfare system by reducing the workload for caseworkers; meaning the maximum caseload would be no more than 15 children, if possible. The bill also requires caseworkers to receive training developed on the recognition of and response to head trauma and brain injury in children under six years old. Additionally, caseworkers and law enforcement would share data collected more optimally to help children stay away from violent caregivers.

CS/CS/HB 971 – ELECTRIC BIKES  The bill creates regulations governing the operation of e-bikes in the state of Florida, allowing them on streets, highways, roadways, shoulders, bicycle lanes, and bicycle or multi-use paths. Local governments still maintain authority to limit their use.

The bill expands access to the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) Program, the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) Scholarship Program, and the Hope Scholarship Program (HSP) which provide financial assistance to families seeking private education. Bill also establishes a dual enrollment funding incentive for school districts.

The legislation aims to crack down on the abuse of emotional support animal certifications. It allows housing providers to prohibit use in situations where the animal poses a direct threat to the safety, health, or property of others. Property owners can also request written proof of the support animal’s certification from federal, state, and local government agencies or specified health care providers.

Legislation preempting local government’s ability to ban the sale of over-the-counter proprietary drugs and cosmetics, which include sunscreen. The law comes after Key West limited the sale of certain types of sunscreen fearing it was destroying coral reefs in the area.

Penalties increase for taking or possessing a freshly killed bear during the closed season. Those in violation face a first-degree misdemeanor for the first offense and forfeit any other Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) license or permit for three years. A subsequent offense leads to permanent ineligibility of any future FWC license or permit. A person who possesses for sale or sells an illegally-taken bear commits a third-degree felony.

Creates teams in each of the state’s judicial districts to review closed cases of elder fatalities caused by abuse or neglect. After reviews, teams will make policy recommendations to help prevent future abuse-related fatalities.

Creates a drug donation repository and distribution program for unused medication in the state. Bill changes current law requiring the destruction of many drugs despite being unopened and safe for use.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or Florida Forest Service can use drones to manage or eradicate invasive exotic plants or animals on public lands. Also to suppress or mitigate wildfire threats.

Authorizes that courts can include pets in temporary restraining orders for survivors of domestic violence.


Marianna has a new Fire Chief

Marianna City Manager Jim Dean has appointed William Michael Hall Jr. as the Marianna Fire Department’s (MFR) new Fire Chief. Fire Chief Hall began his new role as the leader of the department on June 22. The appointment follows the departure of Nakeya Lovett, who had served as fire chief since 2012.

Michael Hall was formerly a fire protection specialist with the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office prior to his appointment. Hall began his fire service career in 2011 as a firefighter at Marianna Fire Department. He is a Jackson County native and graduated from Cottondale High School in 2009. Hall attended Chipola College, where he earned an associate degree (2010), firefighter I and II certification, EMT certification, law enforcement certification, and several others. He also attended Florida State Fire College, where he took multiple advanced fire courses. Hall holds state and national certifications as a firefighter, EMT, fire inspector, fire officer, plans examiner, and more. He is also a member of the Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association and Florida Fire Chiefs Association.

Hall will lead 23 members of Marianna Fire Department, which consists of six auxiliary firefighters, six firefighters, five driver/operators, three captains, one fire marshal/training officer, one administrative assistant, and the chief, operating out of two stations.

Leave No Trace ordinance in Bay County

The “Leave No Trace” ordinance created several years ago was meant to keep the beaches clean, but this summer It’s taken on a new meaning. This year‘s “Leave No Trace” brochure was revealed at Tuesday’s Bay County Tourist Development Council meeting on June 9th. As in year’s past, it includes the beach flag warning system and reminds visitors to remove personal items off the sand at night, but this year’s brochure also has an entire side devoted to COVID-19. It reminds visitors of important things like social distancing and keeping hand sanitizer with them. The brochures will be given to beach goers by beach ambassadors, but there’s also talk of placing them in hotel and motel guest rooms.

The Leave No Trace ordinance in Panama City Beach prohibits tents and personal property on the beach at night and anything left unattended will be removed by authorities. Nightly patrols have started to make sure people are not leaving their items unattended. Panama City Beach mayor Mark Sheldon said items will be thrown away if they are left on the beach. “Leave No Trace is a very important thing on Panama City Beach, it’s the way that we can make sure our beaches get cleaned every night, it’s the way that we can rake the beaches for the next day, we have that ordinance out there, in place to make sure we have the prettiest beaches in northwest Florida,” said Mayor Sheldon. Authorities will be patrolling the beach from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and this is currently in effect and active year-round.

Revising Your Emergency Plan Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

It is hurricane season and again and we have already had 3 named storms. This is a brief how to on revising your emergency plan amid the Coronavirus Pandemic. Mother Nature doesn’t always check the calendar—or pay attention to the news. Before hurricane season officially kicked off, we already had two named storms, Arthur and Bertha, off the southeastern coast. Add to that devastating floods in Michigan, wildfires in the Florida panhandle, and a turbulent tornado season in the Midwest, and summer 2020 is off to a rough start.

By all accounts, the Atlantic hurricane season is going to be busier than usual. The major forecasters—including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—are predicting 13 to 19 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), including three to six major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5). That’s concerning enough in normal times, but with the coronavirus pandemic still unfolding, evacuating during a natural disaster becomes even more fraught—and logistically complicated—by the added worry of potential exposure to infection.

The Red Cross recommends gathering your supplies now, because they may become less available once a storm is predicted or approaching. If you dipped into your emergency stash—canned food, bottled water, and other nonperishables—during the quarantine, make sure to replenish the supplies you used. 👉🏼 It’s also a good time to check with hotels, motels, and campgrounds to see whether they’ve opened. And find out whether your local emergency management agency has adapted its sheltering plans, based on any stay-at-home orders or loosening quarantine restrictions.

The Red Cross and FEMA are also revising their normal emergency procedures. Because of the need for social distancing, large congregant shelters like school gymnasiums are no longer the first option, though in the event of a large-scale evacuation they may become necessary: Instead of opening large shelters, they are prioritizing individual hotel rooms or dormitory-style rooms to make sure people have a safe place to stay if they can’t return home after a disaster.

Red Cross’ Gustafson recommends putting together two emergency supply kits—one for sheltering at home and another for evacuating. In both cases, plan on assembling a one-month supply of the prescription and over-the-counter medications you depend on. Keep your meds in a separate bag so that you can easily grab them no matter where you go. Here’s what the Red Cross recommends for each scenario.

Stay-at-Home Kit (2 Weeks of Supplies)
Gather everything you need to stay at home for at least two weeks, including food, water, household cleaning and disinfectant supplies, soap, paper products, and personal hygiene items. Don’t forget to stock up on face masks, something we didn’t have to think about in previous years.

Even if you don’t have to evacuate, you may be without power for an extended time. If you have a portable generator, make sure it’s in good working order and that you have a supply of gas on hand (gas stations may not be operational if they lose power, too). And make sure your carbon monoxide detector is in working order. If you don’t have a portable generator, now is a good time to consider buying one. A portable generator can keep four to six appliances and electronic devices running—refrigerator, window air conditioner, TV, phones. Always place the generator at a minimum of 20 feet from your house, with the exhaust vent directed away from any windows or doors.

Evacuation Kit (3 Days of Supplies)
Your to-go kit should be a lightweight, smaller version of your stay-at-home kit that you can take with you if you must leave your home quickly. Include everything you need to be on your own for three days, such as food, water, personal hygiene items, and cleaning and disinfectant supplies that you can use on the go (tissues, hand sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol, and disinfecting wipes). Make sure that you have enough face masks for everyone in your household.

Be prepared and stay safe!


LED lighting ~ energy savings

Widespread use of LED lighting has the greatest potential impact on energy savings in the United States. By 2027, the widespread use of LEDs could save about 348 TWh (compared to no LED use) of electricity: This is the equivalent annual electrical output of 44 large electric power plants (1000 megawatts each), and a total savings of more than $30 billion at today’s electricity prices. West Florida Electric Cooperative posted about this and even gave a link which you can click at the bottom to learn more.

LED lighting is very different from other lighting sources such as incandescent bulbs and CFLs. Key differences include the following:
Light Source: LEDs are the size of a fleck of pepper, and a mix of red, green, and blue LEDs is typically used to make white light.
Direction: LEDs emit light in a specific direction, reducing the need for reflectors and diffusers that can trap light. This feature makes LEDs more efficient for many uses such as recessed downlights and task lighting. With other types of lighting, the light must be reflected to the desired direction and more than half of the light may never leave the fixture.
Heat: LEDs emit very little heat. In comparison, incandescent bulbs release 90% of their energy as heat and CFLs release about 80% of their energy as heat.


Red Snapper Season started June 1st

Federally permitted red snapper season began yesterday and runs through August 1. Snapper are managed differently in the Gulf versus the Atlantic and in state versus federal waters. Gulf state waters are from shore to 9 nautical miles. Atlantic state waters are from shore to 3 nautical miles. The southeastern United States is home to the largest concentration of saltwater recreational fishing in America. Whether seeking iconic fish to catch for sport or for sustenance, recreational fishing in the Southeast generates more than $15 billion in sales annually for more than 4.5 million fishermen taking more than 36 million fishing trips every year.

The Gulf season for federally-permitted for-hire operations is June 1-Aug. 1. The 2020 Gulf red snapper season for anglers fishing from private recreational vessels will be June 11- July 25 (45 days).

Medicare information

This is an unbiased, free, and confidential place to go for help with Medicare. Shine is a grant program of the federal administration for community living and is administered by the Florida Department of Elder Affairs in partnership with the state’s elven Aging and Disability Resource Centers. You can call 1-800-963-5337 for more information.