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Craig Pittman, Times Staff Writer

Craig Pittman

Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman is a native Floridian. He graduated from Troy State University in Alabama, where his muckraking work for the student paper prompted an agitated dean to label him "the most destructive force on campus." Since then he has covered a variety of newspaper beats and quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and the Florida Legislature. Since 1998 he has reported on environmental issues for the Times. He is a four-time winner of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida and a series of stories on Florida's vanishing wetlands that he wrote with Matthew Waite won the top investigative reporting award in both 2006 and 2007 from the Society of Environmental Journalists. He is the author of four books: "The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid" (2012); "Manatee Insanity: Inside the War Over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species," (2010); and, co-written with Waite, "Paving Paradise: Florida's Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss," (2009). His new book, < a href="http://www.amazon.com/Oh-Florida-Americas-Weirdest-Influences-ebook/dp/B019CB3UNQ"> "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country,"hits stores in July 2016. He lives in St. Petersburg with his wife and two children.

Phone: (727) 893-8530

Email: craig@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CraigTimes

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  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The 13-mile, four-lane extension of the Suncoast Parkway has been dubbed by critics as "the road to nowhere" because it ends in the middle of Citrus County. It doesn't bend west toward U.S. 19, or east toward Interstate 75, and there are no firm plans to extend it....

    A 2011 aerial photo of development along the Pasco-Hernando border at the intersection of County Line Road and the Suncoast Parkway. This view is looking north and the road in the center is the Suncoast.  For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [WILL VRAGOVIC, Times]
  2. Can this device warn manatees about boats? Scientists doubt it (w/video)

    Wildlife

    For 40 years, the state has protected manatees by setting up slow speed zones for boaters.

    The logic behind it was the same as speed zones around schools: Make people slow down and they're less likely to hit something.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Florida boaters kill record 98 manatees this year, but 2016 isn't over yet...

    Edmund Gerstein of Florida Atlantic University says he developed his $120 Manatee Acoustic Device, or MAD, to warn manatees about approaching boats. The device is based on research that he said shows manatees can hear fast-moving boats better than slow-moving boats because ?&#128;&#156;they just don?&#128;&#153;t have low frequency hearing.?&#128;&#157; His conclusion was embraced by groups opposed to boat speed zone regulations that protect manatees. But other scientists have cast doubt on his work, saying manatees can hear all boats just fine. Some also remain suspicious of Gerstein because of a 1991 incident in which he claimed he had a master's degree from the University of West Florida that he had not actually earned. [Courtesy of Florida Atlantic University]
  3. Shark protection laws not deterring anglers from catching sharks illegally, study finds

    Blog

    A viral video of Florida anglers dragging a shark behind their boat drew suggestions from both Gov. Rick Scott and state Rep. Alexandra "Alex" Miller, R-Sarasota, that the laws might need to be changed to discourage this kind of animal cruelty....

    Video of the shark-dragging incident went viral
  4. As Hurricane Andrew anniversary approaches, will Florida's building codes remain strong?

    Blog

    Aug. 24 marks the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, the last Category 5 hurricane to slam into Florida and,one of the most expensive such disaster in U.S. history. In the wake of the hurricane's devastation, Florida created much stronger building codes designed to better withstand a future storm of equal might....

    Hurricane Andrew approaching Florida 25 years ago
  5. Pulp mills get major water permits with no deliberation

    Blog

    Two Florida pulp mills just got major water permits approved by the St. Johns River Water Management District  governining board-- with no deliberation whatsoever, reports the Orlando Sentinel

    The permis allow the WestRock CP LLC mill to pump 21.9 million gallons daily and the Rayonier Performance Fibers LLC mill -- both in Fernandina Beach -- to pump 16.8 million gallons a day, which the newspaper noted is "nearly half as much Floridan Aquifer water as used by the city of Orlando." ...

    Rayonier's Fernandina Beach plant
  6. Florida national parks may be breeding ground for sexual harassment

    Blog

    The national parks in Florida are a major draw for tourists who want to watch birds, view wildlife and camp under the stars. They are also, apparently, a major hotbed for sexual harassment, a problem that has been plaguing the service as a whole in recent years.

    The Washington Post reported today that the supervisor of the De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, after being cited for sexually harassing his staff, got a bonus and a promotion. This despite the fact that an investigation found that he had made unwanted advances to a woman he supervised  -- hugs, lingering handshakes, inappropriate comments about her appearance, and sitting or lying on her desk as she tried to work....

    DeSoto National Memorial
  7. National parks in Florida hotbed for sexual harassment?

    Blog

    The national parks in Florida are a major draw for tourists who want to watch birds, view wildlife and camp under the stars. They are also, apparently, a major hotbed for sexual harassment, a problem that has been plaguing the service as a whole in recent years.

    The Washington Post reported today that the supervisor of the De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, after being cited for sexually harassing his staff, got a bonus and a promotion. This despite the fact that an investigation found that he had made unwanted advances to a woman he supervised  -- hugs, lingering handshakes, inappropriate comments about her appearance, and sitting or lying on her desk as she tried to work....

    DeSoto National Memorial
  8. Judge celebrates 87th b-day by swimming from Alacatraz to San Francisco

    Blog

    Senior Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Robert "Bob" Beach celebrated his 87th birthday last week in his usually unusual fashion -- he swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco. He became the oldest person to ever make that tough swim. 

    Beach navigated the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay with ease, finishing the 1.25 mile disstance in 46 minutes and 29 seconds.. ...

    Retired Judge Robert Beach
  9. Epilogue: Snooty, 69, a breed apart from other manatees (w/video)

    Wildlife

    New York City has the Statue of Liberty. San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge. St. Louis has the Arch.

    And for 68 years, Bradenton had Snooty.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Snooty, world's oldest captive manatee, dies in accident at Bradenton's South Florida Museum (w/video)...

    Aquarium curator Carol Audette touches noses with Snooty the manatee in 2001 at the South Florida Museum. Snooty was 53 then. [Times 2001]
  10. Rick Kriseman's administration lashed in St. Pete sewage report

    Water

    ST. PETERSBURG — A state report places much of the blame for the city's 200-million gallon sewage spill crisis on the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman.

    The 7-page draft report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which was obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, does not name Kriseman or any of his staff. It also starts with the long view, blaming two decades of city leadership for setting the stage for St. Petersburg's massive sewage problems....

    Signs at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg warn people in September 2016 to stay out of the water due to contamination from partially treated sewage from the city's overwhelmed sewer system. St. Petersburg dumped up to 200 million gallons of sewage over 13 months from 2015-16. A new state report blames much of the crisis on mistakes made by the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman, but also critcizes past administrations. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  11. In Florida, nation's only lightning center closes after DARPA cuts funding (w/video)

    Environment

    University of Florida professor Martin Uman usually spends much of his summer at an old Army base about an hour northeast of Gainesville, shooting rockets at thunderclouds, then measuring the bright flashes of lightning that follow.

    First comes the countdown — 3, 2, 1 — then the loud fwoooooooosh! of the rocket climbing into the darkened sky towing a copper wire. If it works as planned, Uman said, what follows is "a bright flash of light and a hell of a bang."...

    Rocket-and-wire triggered lightning at the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing. A rocket trailing a grounded wire is launched toward an active thunderstorm at the ICLRT. One launch is from a tower, one from ground. When the wire is about as high as the Empire State Building, lightning is induced to strike the top of the wire, much as it strikes tall objects like the ESB. Interestingly, the cloud charge source is about 3 miles high, so a 300 yard-long wire can cause a 3 mile or more long lightning. The straight luminous section is the wire burning up. [Photo by Dr. Dustin Hill]
  12. A reliable Rick Scott ally, Pete Antonacci, named CEO of Enterprise Florida

    State Roundup

    Pete Antonacci, who last week made headlines when he advised scientists to stay in their lane rather than criticize his water agency's work on Everglades restoration, is getting a new job.

    After less than two turbulent years as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, he's been tapped to take over Florida's beleaguered business-recruitment agency, Enterprise Florida....

    Pete Antonacci, an attorney seen here in 2009, has served many roles for Gov. Rick Scott: general counsel, executive director of the South Florida Water Management District and now, CEO of Enterprise Florida.  [&#13;COLIN HACKLEY | Special to the Times]
  13. Water agency boss who bucked scientists put in charge of Enterprise Florida

    Blog

    Pete Antonacci, who last week made headlines telling scientists to stay in their lane rather than criticize his water agency's work on Everglades restoration, is getting a new job.

    After less than two turbulent years as executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, he's been tapped to take over Florida's beleaguered business-recruitment agency, Enterprise Florida....

    Pete Antonacci
  14. Everglades restoration project leader tells top scientists: Stay in your lane

    Wetlands

    The head of the state agency overseeing the multi-billion-dollar Everglades restoration project said this week he will no longer let his employees cooperate with the top scientists who are supposed to be advising the project.

    PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Dispute over snail kite puts Everglades restoration at risk...

    South Florida Water Management District executive director Pete Antonacci. [Courtesy of Miami Herald]
  15. Pinellas program for endangered sea turtles in disarray

    Wildlife

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County's program to protect sea turtle nests has fallen into disarray, creating what state wildlife officials call an unprecedented situation.

    The lone biologist licensed to oversee the marking of sea turtle nests on 22 miles of Pinellas County beaches was fired last month by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

    Laura Wright says she's still trying to do the job anyway....

    A loggerhead sea turtle hatchling makes its way into the gulf in Pinellas County. Sea turtles are a protected species.