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There have been many people who have been involved with the FPL Cooling Canal issues over the past several years. We would like to occasionally highlight some of those that work so hard to protect our environment. Below is an interview with Bonnie Rippingille Schoedinger, a former Judge and a Florida Attorney and Mediator who resides in Ocean Reef Club and is a member of ORPAC. 

How did you become involved in the Turkey Point issues at Ocean Reef?

I became interested in the Turkey Point issues in 2015 after reading articles in the Miami Herald and other publications. Because of this interest, my husband Steven and I attended the first information session on Turkey Point sponsored by Cindy Swenson, an Ocean Reef resident, in May 2016. We made a connection with Dr. Stephen Smith, the executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), and I offered my assistance as a volunteer in Ocean Reef. As a lawyer and former judge, I was asked to write a comprehensive summary of the history, the legal issues, evidence of violations and the proposed “cooling towers” solution in connection with the contamination of our water supply by FPL in the operation of its Turkey Point nuclear power plant, which I completed in 2016. I then asked our friend and OR Member James Leenhouts to review the paper and to write the foreword in which he strongly endorsed my position. I distributed the paper to the ORCA and ORC Board and the Environmental Committee. The position paper has also been provided to county officials, elected officials, clubs within the club presidents and residents in order to garner support for the closure of the cooling canals and implementation of the cooling towers solution. Please take the time to read the paper, which can be accessed here.


What is your role now? 

I am now acting as the ORCA community liaison for David Ritz and SACE and am working with the ORCA-SACE consultant, Laura Reynolds, a well-known environmental leader and biologist, and former Executive Director of Tropical Audubon Society and Board Member of the Everglades Coalition. I am setting up meetings with local, state and federal organizations and also setting up meetings with the presidents of the clubs within the Club at OR and meetings with elected officials and community leaders in Miami Dade County to obtain support for the closure of the canals and the construction of cooling towers.

Under the direction of David Ritz, we recently obtained a unanimous passing vote on a resolution from the Monroe County Commission demanding cooling towers and asking for closure of the cooling canals as soon as possible. Our efforts are focused on uniting the community and our elected officials to get FPL to act as a responsible corporate citizen and partner and agree to do the environmentally and proven thing: the implementation of the cooling towers and the closure of the canals. Find the Monroe Co. Resolution here


What role does Miami Dade play in all of this?

We need the support of Miami Dade County and have mounted a marketing campaign in Miami Dade County to obtain the support of the County Commission and elected officials as well as other groups. Miami Dade County needs to continue collecting important data and information on the health of Biscayne Bay. Most people do not know that our Monroe County water well and well fields are located in Miami Dade west of Florida City. Some Miami Dade wells are slated to be closed this year or have already been closed due to the possibility of salt water intrusion into their drinking water caused by the operation of the FPL’s Turkey Point cooling canals and the rapid advancement of the saltwater front. We are very fortunate to have David Ritz leading us in our efforts because of his expertise in water and water quality and his contacts from many years of service in this area. He also serves on the board of the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority. 


How can Ocean Reef residents assist?

Many Ocean Reef members have called with ideas and have made connections for us. Ocean Reef has a wealth of talented and successful people that are members of this community and we ask you to share your ideas and connections if you support our campaign to get FPL to do the right thing and protect our water supply, Card Sound and Biscayne Bay.

We are very pleased to announce that we now have the support of the Commodore Chris Streit and Board of the Card Sound Sailing Club, which is a user of Card Sound and Biscayne Bay with standing to demand that FPL comply with its permit and not discharge pollution into the Bay, close the canals and implement the cooling towers solution. I am working to obtain the support of other clubs within the Ocean Reef Club as well as book clubs and condo and homeowners associations. Please contact me at 305-323-1243 if you are interested in supporting our efforts and disseminating our information to your members.


Is there really a solution to these issues?

Thankfully there is a proven tested permanent solution to these issues. No other nuclear facilities in the world use this type of cooling canal system and and scientists agree that the implementation of the cooling towers and closing of the canals is a win-win for all of us compared to the band-aid approach proposed by FPL and agreed to by Miami Dade County that will take at least ten years to implement and may not work. In 2010, FPL’s own scientists said that the extraction well plan would not work to pull the contaminated hypersaline plume back into the property as they are required to do under their permit.  FPL’s current plan may actually cause more harm than good and does not address the root cause of the pollution, which is the leaking cooling canals. You have an opportunity to hear from an expert hydrologist on this issue at the informational planned on March 16, 2017 at at 4:00 at Carysfort Hall.   

 FPL needs to build the cooling towers now and decommission the leaking cooling canals thereafter. If they started now it would be a permanent, tested-and-proven solution that could take about four years to complete.

There is a tremendous lobbying effort taking place now with national, state and county officials by ORCA, ORC, SACE, Monroe County, environmental groups and concerned citizens to bring FPL to the table. We need to join them in their efforts by putting on the pressure and convincing our elected officials, regulators and FPL that we will hold them accountable for the destruction of our water supply, bays and wildlife. We are asking you to write, call and email your elected officials. You can also write to U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson urging them to push for closure of the cooling canals, making sure to copy our Governor. We cannot afford to wait for the lawsuit to make its way through the courts we must act now. Together we can make this a win-win for Ocean Reef and our members and leave a legacy to our children and grandchildren. We hope that we can count on your support. 


Is there going to be an informational meeting on the FPL Turkey Point issues at Ocean Reef this season? 

Yes, a panel of experts will present new information and offer an extensive Q&A session with the attendees on March, 16 at 4:00p.m. at Carysfort Hall. Panelists will include: Stephen Smith, Director of SACE; Laura Reynolds, biologist and ORCA-SACE consultant; William Nuttle, hydrologist and former expert on the region’s water budget and I will be moderating the discussion. 

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