An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Archaeologist hopes to prompt discussion on solutions to problem of rising sea levels

SARASOTA — Uzi Baram decided it was time to start speaking out on the impact of rising sea levels after Hurricane Irma hit Florida last September.

“After Hurricane Irma, I have teenagers, they’re out of school for a week and a half, New College closed for a week and a half, damage was pretty severe, considering it was really far away from us,” said Baram, a professor of anthropology and director of the New College Public Archaeology Lab.

People have been dealing with and adapting to changing sea levels for millennia, Baram said Wednesday evening, shortly after his talk “Archaeology and Rising Sea Levels: Global Perspectives and Local Concerns,” to a crowd of almost 50 people at the May meeting of the Time Sifters Archaeology Society in the Geldbart Auditorium at Selby Library.

“This is the first draft of what I can say for this sort of public audience about these issues,” said Baram, who acknowledged that the presentation was essentially a literature review of available research.

Baram, a lifetime member of Time Sifters, plans to give a more refined version of his talk during the third annual Tidally United Summit, set for Aug. 9-11 at venues including the Mildred Sainer Pavilion at New College on Aug. 9, Payne Park Auditorium Aug. 10 and Historic Spanish Point Aug. 11.

Challenger students experience Florida wetlands without leaving school

SPRING HILL — Mouths dropped as students walked through the door and were immersed in an underwater cave of the Florida aquifer, looking up at the mouth of a natural spring.

Beyond the aquifer model was an equally impressive diaroma of the Florida wetlands, and a variety of hands-on environmental education exhibits and games, all in a 53-foot tractor-trailer transformed into WaterVentures, Florida’s Learning Lab. There were lots of buttons to push, knobs to turn and giant screens that oozed with environmental facts.

The mobile learning lab recently visited Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics two times: on April 11 for fourth-graders, and on April 26 for fifth-graders.

"It’s really cool," said fifth-grade student Grace Bartolomeo. "I feel like I can learn a lot in here."

"I liked learning about the water cycle," said fifth-grader Joseph Rozsa. "It was cool to see how it evaporates ... The aquifer was my favorite."

WaterVentures is a free resource through Crystal Springs Foundation that visits schools, fairs and other events throughout Florida, providing an innovative, hands-on experience on Florida’s watersheds, water conservation and recycling.

Regional water agency envisions third reservoir for future demand

As the area’s population expands, a regional water authority with a network of pipelines that cross county lines says it must do the same.

“Right now, we’re meeting everybody’s water needs,” Patrick Lehman, executive director of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, said. “Everybody’s satisfied.”

For planning purposes, however, the authority continues to think decades again about how to keep its customers’ thirsts quenched.

On May 22, the authority will ask the board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District to again be its partner as it seeks to increase the amount of water it withdraws from the Peace River during the rainy season.

The authority and the district already have partnered in more than $370 million in infrastructure for water storage and treatment capacity as well as a regional transmission system. That association is likely, over the course of several years, to invest in another $200 million expansion.

The authority wants to draw additional water from the Peace River, expand its treatment plant in southwest DeSoto County and create a third, yet-to-be-built reservoir.

Majorities see government efforts to protect the environment as insufficient

Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to protect key aspects of the environment including water (69%) and air quality (64%). And two-thirds of Americans (67%) say the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. These findings come after a year of change in climate and energy regulatory policies under the Trump administration.

Majorities of U.S. adults say federal government is not doing enough to protect environment in these waysAt the same time, Americans are closely divided (52% to 48%) over whether or not it is possible to cut back on regulations while still effectively protecting air and water quality. There are wide political divides on this issue, with roughly three-quarters of Republicans (74%, including independents who lean Republican) convinced this is possible but 64% of Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) convinced it is not possible.

The national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted March 27-April 9 among 2,541 adults, finds pockets of partisan agreement over expanding solar and wind power, though wide political divides remain over increasing fossil fuels through such methods as coal mining, hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, a pattern consistent with a 2016 Pew Research Center survey.

Water permit delayed after Polk files petition

BARTOW — A vote to approve a 50-year permit that would more than double the amount of water the Manasota regional water authority can withdraw has been delayed.

Officials with the Southwest Water Management District said the May 22 vote by the governing board was suspended after the Polk Regional Water Cooperative and the cities of Lakeland and Winter Haven filed a petition challenging the permit.

The regional water authority owned by Manatee, Charlotte, DeSoto and Sarasota counties wants to increase the amount of water it withdraws from 120 million gallons to 258 million gallons per day. Polk officials fear the permit increase, and its requested 50-year term, would make it harder for Polk County municipalities to take from the same source in the future.

Polk officials have said they weren’t aware of the permit until it came up during a Southwest Florida Management District meeting in late February when Manasota officials made a presentation about building a reservoir. Swiftmud received the permit application Oct. 2.

EPA releases 5-year review of Recreational Water Quality Criteria

The EPA has released its Five-year Review of the 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC), as required by the BEACH Act amendments to the Clean Water Act (CWA). The review report describes the state of the science since the release of the 2012 RWQC, related to the protection of human health in water bodies designated for primary contact recreation (e.g., swimming) in these areas:

  • Health studies;
  • Indicators and performance of qPCR methods;
  • Microbial source tracking;
  • RWQC implementation tools; and
  • Criteria adoption by states, territories and authorized tribes.
  • Based on the EPA’s review of the existing criteria and developments in the available science, and consistent with CWA Section 304(a)(9)(B), the EPA has decided not to revise the 2012 Recreational Water Criteria during this review cycle. The Agency believes, however, that further research and analysis as identified in this report will contribute to EPA's future review of the 2012 RWQC. The EPA will work with the environmental public health community as it moves forward with its research efforts. The use of qPCR and ongoing research in methods and indicators continue to strengthen and augment the tools available to support the current criteria.

    $4 million purchase will help protect Myakka River State Park

    EAST MANATEE – A large land transaction in East Manatee often means more rooftops are coming.

    Not in this case.

    The U.S. government recently paid nearly $4 million for a conservation easement for 1,481.6 acres at Blackbeard's Ranch, located off Coker Gully Road. The easement allows the federal government to restore the property to protect area waterways and provide a buffer to Myakka River State Park. Waters from the wetlands at Blackbeard's Ranch feed into Deer Prairie Slough, which in turn feed into the Myakka River and Charlotte Harbor. In addition to restoring the habitat at Blackbeard's Ranch, the easement ensures the area never becomes more residential development.

    The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation contributed $4.28 million in its agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service to fund acquisition and future restoration, said Rob Blumenthal of the NFWF.

    "The wetland reserve easement on Blackbeard’s Ranch provided the opportunity to conserve significant acreage of wetlands that were a high priority for several partners, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission," Blumenthal said.

    The easement does not cover all of Blackbeard's Ranch.

    Sarasota Bay Watch looks to bring clams back to Sarasota Bay

    SARASOTA — Sarasota Bay Watch Inc., the area nonprofit that already introduced millions of scallop larvae into Sarasota Bay, is starting an ambitious program to release more than 175,000 southern hard shell clams into the estuary.

    About 3,000 clams were placed in the New Pass area on April 20, as a test case.

    The hope is to bring the species, one of which can filter almost 50 gallons of water per day, back to Sarasota Bay.

    Rusty Chinnis, chairman emeritus and one of the founding members of Sarasota Bay Watch, noted that clams have a lifespan of almost 30 years.

    That, in one way, makes clams a more cost-efficient species than scallops for the 11-year-old nonprofit to concentrate on in its all-volunteer effort to both maintain and improve the quality of Sarasota Bay.

    The first large-scale introduction of clams into the waters of Sarasota Bay is scheduled for May 12. As many as three more trips are planned in June and a total of eight through the summer.

    The hope is that eventually southern hard shell clams will reproduce and thrive in Sarasota Bay — helping to clean the water, as well as contribute to the food chain.

    Sister Keys refreshed by Sarasota Bay Watch on April 28th

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    The gorgeous nature preserve of Longboat Key – Sister Keys - was revitalized by Sarasota Bay Watch and friends on April 28, 2018. Over 75 hardy volunteers paddled and were shuttled to the Keys to remove trash, tear out invasive plants and have a good time together on a perfect Saturday morning.

    Special Thanks to Larry Beggs of Reef Innovations who brought a gigantic barge to shuttle people to and from the island and haul a 1,300- pound mountain of debris back to land. There was also an additional 800 pounds of recyclables captured. Town Manager, Tom Harmer and his delightful wife Dee Dee came by to take part in the activities.

    Ronda Ryan and Tracy Sweat built a mermaid from marine debris and brought it to the event. Many a selfie was taken posed next to our nasty lady of the sea. Thanks to LBK marine officer Nick Reno who kept passerby boat speeds safe and slow. James Linkogle and the guys from Public Works also did a lot of legwork to make this special event happen.

    For more about this event, including photographs, visit the link below.

    Suburb approved for city-owned land in Bradenton

    The city intends to sell the property that is near Ward Lake, a public reservoir

    MANATEE COUNTY — A proposal for a gated, 600-home subdivision on land the city of Bradenton intends to sell near its reservoir and water treatment plant received the Manatee County Commission’s approval Thursday.

    Commissioners Vanessa Baugh and Robin DiSabatino dissented in the 5-2 vote. Both said they cannot justify adding more traffic to often-congested Honore Avenue.

    The homebuilding firm Taylor Morrison is considering a mix of single-family homes, villas, condominiums and townhouses on the 200-acre property 1,350 feet east of Lockwood Ridge Road, north of Honore Avenue and west of Ward Lake (also known as Evers Reservoir).

    The exact combination of residential types will depend on market demand, said Darenda Marvin, a land-use planner with the Grimes Goebel law firm representing Taylor Morrison.

    Plans include a community pool, clubhouse and passive park.

    Planners compared the project to Taylor Morrison’s Esplanade community in Lakewood Ranch, which offers single-family homes and attached townhomes.

    Two entrances will have access from Honore Avenue.

    Road impact fees paid for those new homes can go toward improvements on Honore Avenue, Marvin noted.

    Yet Baugh expressed concerns that no such improvements are in the county’s capital improvements plan because road impact fees collected in the area are already pledged to the ongoing eastward extension of 44th Avenue East.

    Stormwater runoff from the development will drain into retention ponds and then Ward Lake, the city’s reservoir on the Braden River — and not into Rattlesnake Slough or a ditch in the nearby Silver Lake neighborhood that residents say flood after heavy rains, county stormwater engineer Thomas Gerstenberger said.

    Longboat Key residents push for higher seawalls

    Proposed new rules would allow barriers a foot and a half higher than allowed now.

    Ned Jewitt remembers the first time he saw a seawall fail: “I’ll never forget it,” he said.

    An old seawall at the end of a canal that abuts his home had been undercut by a dredge, Jewitt said, causing the bottom of the shoreline structure to fall into the channel.

    The former Navy engineer said he’s maintained his seawall ever since, filling cracks, installing vents and plugging leaks, all on his own in the waist-deep water, just a few yards from his back door.

    And for that reason, Jewitt’s 50-year-old barrier is in good shape. But there are others the Country Club Shores resident has seen in his neighborhood that are not.

    “There are a lot of seawalls in the 50- to 60-year age when they have a need to be repaired or replaced,” said Planning, Zoning and Building Director Allen Parsons.

    The Longboat Key Planning, Zoning and Building Department receives between five and 10 applications for rebuilding seawalls each month, according to the department. And many of those proposals to rebuild or repair a seawall include requests for increased height and or extension into the water, Parsons said.

    It’s with that in mind that the department has proposed loosening its restrictions on seawall repairs and rebuilds to allow barriers a foot and a half higher than allowed now and an additional six inches of extension into the water.

    Senator Bill Nelson files bill to provide loans to coastal communities impacted by climate change

    Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson wants to help shore up Florida’s coastal areas expected to suffer the most from climate change.

    The legislation would make federal funds available for communities who need to brace themselves for climate change-related events. In an emailed statement, Nelson calls Florida “ground zero for sea-level rise.”

    Coastal communities could upgrade their infrastructure to prepare for tidal flooding, beach erosion or saltwater intrusion. The loans would come from a state-run revolving loan program funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

    NOAA predicts a possible sea level rise of more than three feet by the year 2050 at two Northeast Florida locations: Mayport and Fernandina Beach.

    The city of Miami Beach is already trying to lessen the impact of climate change; spending 500 million dollars to install water pumps, build higher roads and sea walls.

    In red tide blooms, peril for stone crabs

    Mote research finds the algal blooms can make juveniles and young adults more vulnerable to predators, or even kill them

    SARASOTA — Red tide toxins can threaten and possibly kill stone crabs, according to preliminary research conducted by scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory in conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

    The tests were conducted on adult stone crabs with claws too small to harvest.

    The study was inspired by stone crab fishermen at a state advisory panel meeting who wanted to know why their traps were relatively empty during six months of red tide.

    Phil Gravinese, a postdoctoral research fellow at Mote Marine, noted that the fishermen also reported catching crabs that looked lethargic. Gravinese was first author on the research, which was published in the scientific journal “Marine Environmental Research.”

    At the least, stone crabs affected by the toxic red tide algae become more vulnerable to predators, while prolonged exposure to higher levels of the kill them outright.

    Gravinese noted that other research suggests that sublegal and juvenile stone crabs can’t travel far enough to escape a red tide bloom that may be several miles long, 40 feet deep and last several months.

    Adult crabs are more mobile and one mark-and-recapture study conducted by other scientists found that adult crabs may be able to travel quickly enough to escape the effects of a bloom.

    Gravinese characterized this study as a first step of a more lengthy research process. “The primary goal was to basically see if there is something there worth investigating,” he said.

    Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1st

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    Some of the first sea turtle nests of 2018 are already being discovered by Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Patrol. That’s right. The turtles are coming.

    But it isn’t unusual for sea turtle nesting season to begin early, which officially runs May 1 to Oct. 31.

    “The season doesn’t officially begin until May 1, but the turtles don’t read the calendar, so they sort of show up around then,” said Melissa Bernhard, senior biologist at Mote’s sea turtle conservation and research program.

    The first two nests found on Longboat Key— one in Sarasota County and one in Manatee County portion — were laid by loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species. Loggerheads are the most common species in southwest Florida, followed by green sea turtles, which are also threatened.

    Florida one of the most important nesting grounds for loggerhead turtles, Bernhard said.

    Irma report: Devastation – and a huge warning sign

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    The forecasters got Hurricane Irma mostly right. At least compared to the predictions of past storms. That’s one of the conclusions from a National Hurricane Center report on the big storm that hit Florida last September.

    John Cangialosi is the lead author of the center’s report on Irma.

    “We’re not trying to brag here in any sense, but the Irma forecasts we had were really successful. That was very, very low errors that we made for track prediction,” Cangialosi said.

    In the future, they won’t always be so successful, he said — that’s why hurricane forecasters and emergency managers keep telling the public not to focus on the exact forecast track or even the wider cone.

    “Try to look at what might happen in your area and don’t be overly deterministic if I’m in the cone or out of the cone,” he said. “Every storm will be different, so let’s take these one at a time and please don’t compare systems over time like say, ‘Oh I survived Irma, I’ll be OK with the next one.’ They really are very different.”

    Longboat Key sewers leak from the outside in

    Water leaking into the Longboat Key’s sewer system is part of the reason for the difference between what customers produce and the overall total.

    Longboat Key’s wastewater system, in theory, is sealed and contained within itself.

    In reality, said Longboat Key Utilities Manager Burt Warner, it’s not.

    “This has been going on for years, from my understanding,” Warner said.

    The issue raised questions a few weeks ago when, at a meeting with the Town Commission, Public Works Director Isaac Brownman told commissioners that the island pays to treat about 39% more wastewater than residents and businesses produce.

    “Really, overall, we do know that the amount of wastewater that [Longboat Key] returns to us has seen fluctuation,” said Amy Pilson, spokeswoman for Manatee County Utilities System.

    And that fluctuation comes from many factors, Warner said. Inflow and infiltration, or the amount of water that penetrates the wastewater system through cracks in old pipes or loose joints between sewer ducts, is one.

    For example, in September, Hurricane Irma dumped a significant amount of stormwater on the island, much of which was absorbed into the ground.

    Some of that ended up in the sewer system, resulting in about 10 million more gallons of wastewater than island customers produced. The cost of this excess is built into the wastewater cost to ratepayers, said Sue Smith, finance director.

    Pulitzer winner paints optimistic picture of Gulf of Mexico

    Author of “The Gulf: Making of an American Sea” delivers keynote at Sarasota environmental summit

    SARASOTA — Dr. Jack Davis painted a lush portrait of the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday evening with his keynote speech at the opening reception for the 2018 Environmental Summit.

    He started by describing a majestic vision of 19th-century era painter Winslow Homer’s experiences fishing among the marshlands of the Homosassa River, then discussed the Gulf’s formation and its impact on human existence.

    Davis, who won a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for his book “The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea,” had been doing researching for the book prior to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He said he wanted to show the rest of America that the Gulf of Mexico is more than an oil spill and sunny beaches.

    Davis, a history professor at the University of Florida, said he wanted to reveal “the Gulf that I knew and that I wanted Americans to know.”

    Mote Marine Lab studying Florida mullet fishery

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    In southwest Florida, cured mullet roe called bottarga fetches higher prices than the fish producing it, and sometimes unused fish are left after bottarga is sold. Now, Mote Marine Laboratory scientists are investigating how to turn excess mullet into food for fish farms, to benefit mullet fishermen along with the fish farming, or aquaculture, industry.

    Mote is launching the second phase of this study now, with help from a generous supporter, Ed Chiles, CEO and owner of the Chiles Restaurant Group, which includes Sandbar, Beach House and Mar Vista Restaurants, whose menus and features showcase mullet, bottarga and other local underutilized species.

    The Chiles Restaurant Group worked with fishermen based in Cortez, Florida, to procure and donate 600 pounds of frozen mullet to Mote scientists on April 17.

    During the project’s first phase in 2015-2017, Mote scientists and the research arm of Zeigler Brothers, a commercial aquatic feeds company, formulated and tested their first mullet-based feed with freshwater sturgeon raised at Mote Aquaculture Research Park in Sarasota County.

    Photo: Robert Baugh, Chiles Group COO, helps deliver mullet to Mote Aquaculture Research Park. Credit: Conor Goulding/Mote Marine Laboratory

    Hillsborough County EPC offers scenic wetland tours in May

    May is American Wetlands Month, and the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County (EPC) is celebrating by offering tours of four of Hillsborough County's most scenic wetlands with guides from the EPC. Learn more about the true value of wetlands to our community by joining these tours.

    On each tour, participants will explore a unique Hillsborough County wetland to discuss and learn the importance of wetlands in our community. Natural wetlands serve as habitat for many wildlife species, provide numerous recreational opportunities, filter our drinking water and protect us from flooding.

    Dates and locations:

    • Saturday, May 5 – Lettuce Lake Conservation Park
    • Friday, May 11 – Upper Tampa Bay Trail-Lutz Lake Fern
    • Saturday, May 19 – Alderman Ford Conservation Park
    • Friday, May 25 – Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park

    Things to know

    • Cost: Free
    • There is a $2 park entry fee per vehicle for up to 8 people
    • Under 18 must be accompanied by adult
    • Walking/Hiking information: ~1 to 2 miles
    • Maximum amount of participants: 40

    Things to bring

    • Water in refillable container
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Bug spray

    For more information please email or call either of the following people:

  • Jackie Jordan – (813) 627-2600 ext. 1358 –
  • Kim Tapley – (813) 627-2600 ext. 1359 –
  • Mosaic seeks revisions to approved phosphate mining plans

    The Manatee County Commission will vote on May 24 to determine whether the requests are approved.

    MANATEE COUNTY — Mosaic Fertilizer wants to amend plans for two phosphate mines in the Myakka-Duette area. The changes involve extending deadlines for the 3,028-acre Wingate Creek Mine and the continued use of clay settling areas at the 2,508-acre Southeast Tract.

    In a series of 5-0 votes Monday, Manatee County’s Planning Commission recommended the revisions to both master mining plans.

    The company, which converts phosphate into an ingredient for fertilizer, will seek the County Commission’s approval on May 24.

    The changes partly involve transferring requirements in previous “developments of regional impact” approvals into Mosaic’s master mine plans for the properties. In 2015, the state dismantled the DRI process of getting regional approvals of major developments that could have impacts across county lines.