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Water-Related News

Sea-level rise threatens several Tampa Bay area communities: report

A new report on sea-level rise by the Union of Concerned Scientists concludes that several Tampa Bay communities will see more and more sunny-day flooding over the next few decades; we also hear from two of the candidates running for Florida governor about climate change and sea-level rise.

Here’s how Republican Adam Putnam responded last May when WMNF News asked him about the major air pollutant causing climate change.

WMNF: If you’re Florida Governor, what do you think the Florida Governor should do about reducing carbon dioxide emissions?

Putnam: “Well, certainly any policy of that size should be federal in nature, so that we don’t put Florida jobs at risk vis a vis other states and other countries. I’m focused on making the launchpad for the American dream. We can be the magnet for talent from all over, for people to raise their families here, start their businesses here and grow their businesses here. And that is the focus that any governor should make their number one priority.”

WMNF: So if the federal government does nothing, you’re OK with that?

Putnam: “Let’s see what the federal government does.”

Mote, Secoora to co-host ‘Eyes on the Ocean’ forum

The public is invited to the forum “Eyes on the Ocean: Why monitoring the sea makes your life better” at 9:00 – 10:30 a.m. Jan. 26 at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. This forum is being held in conjunction with an upcoming Board Meeting for the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA).

SECOORA is one of 11 regional coastal observing systems that comprise the NOAA-led United States Integrated Ocean Observing System (U.S. IOOS).

“IOOS is essentially a weather service for the coastal oceans and Great Lakes, providing the ability to ‘see’ what is happening both above and below the surface,” said Debra Hernandez, Executive Director of SECOORA. “With this information we are able to create tools that support human populations, coastal economies and a healthy, sustainable environment.”

Attendees will learn more about why integrated, regional ocean observing systems, such as SECOORA, are critically important to improve weather forecasts, monitor climate change, understand marine resource dynamics, promote ecosystem and human health, promote maritime and public safety, and enable sustained use of ocean and natural resources.

A panel discussion with industry professionals and Mote scientists will illustrate the value of ocean observations to the economy, public safety and quality of life.

“Our dynamic group of panelists will provide a well-rounded discussion on how observing systems assist them in the vital work they are conducting and how ocean observing directly impacts our local community,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, President & CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory and Board Chairman of SECOORA. “Attendees will also hear more about how the community as a whole could benefit from advances in these types of technologies.”

Florida, Georgia water war reaches SCOTUS

A decades-long “water war” is now before the nation’s highest court – pitting Georgia’s use of water to supply its multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry and the booming Atlanta area, against the Sunshine State’s need for fresh water to revive its oyster business.

The case, still sitting with the Supreme Court, is centered around the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers. These freshwater sources start in Georgia, then join together and form the Apalachicola River near the Florida border, which flows into Apalachicola Bay.

There lies what once was a thriving oyster market. A decade ago farmers could harvest nearly 20, 60-pound bags of oysters on any given day in the bay of brackish water, according to Riverkeeper Dan Tonsmeire. Today, he says farmers struggle to bring home one to three bags because the salinity is too high.

Research: Oxygen levels continue dropping In world's waters

Scientists say that climate change is having an effect on the levels of the world’s oceans.

But it’s also apparently affecting the oxygen levels throughout the oceans, as well as our coastal waters including the Gulf of Mexico.

That’s according to a study published in the Jan. 4 issue of Science by a team of scientists from the Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE), a working group created by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

One of the group’s members is Brad Seibel, a professor of biological oceanography at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. He talked to University Beat about what they’ve discovered so far:

There’s two processes at work here – and mankind may be to blame for both.

Sewer line conflict assessment ends, dispute continues

The sewer-line dispute between Bradenton Beach, Manatee County and Shawn Kaleta is inching along — in court and now in a dispute resolution process.

Manatee County sued the city, Kaleta and two of his companies in August 2017, asking the 12th Circuit Court to declare an easement on Kaleta-owned land in Bradenton Beach where a sewer pipe is buried.

As a Jan. 10 conflict assessment meeting at a county administrative building concluded, Bradenton Beach officials told county and developer representatives they would bring their viewpoints to the city commission.

The parties sent attorneys and officials, including Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, to the meeting under a conflict resolution procedure the city invoked in November 2017.

State law provides for conflict assessment and joint meetings of governmental entities if a dispute leads to one entity suing another.

The lawsuit claims the city failed to properly vacate a street where three Kaleta-owned properties remain subject to the right of way.

Florida Forever bill heads to state Senate floor with amendment banning overhead costs

A bill seeking $100 million for Florida Forever is headed to the Senate floor with an amendment that prohibits the state from spending the money on general operations.

The state Senate budget committee passed Senate Bill 370 Thursday, the same day its chairman filed the amendment to protect the funding he seeks in the bill he filed in September.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, said he wants to make sure the state doesn't continue to spend money reserved for environmental land preservation on certain overhead costs. The amendment specifically prohibits providing the appropriation to:

  • Executive direction and support services, and technology and information services within the Department of Environmental Protection
  • Executive direction and support services, and technology services within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
  • Executive direction and administrative support services within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
  • Executive direction and support services within the Department of State
  • Finally, some good red tide news. But not everyone is so lucky

    There’s good news and bad news, depending on where you live.

    The bloom of red tide that had lingered on the Gulf Coast over the past few months has recently honed a laser focus on Charlotte and Lee counties, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s report released Friday.

    There was no presence of the Karenia brevis organism in water samples taken off Manatee County’s shores this week. Sarasota County shared that fortune except for a “very low” reading at Venice South Jetty, meaning that there were between 1,000 and 10,000 K. brevis cells per liter of water. A “very low” result can mean the possibility of respiratory irritation and can close shellfish harvesting at more than 5,000 cells per liter.

    Medium concentrations, which denotes the presence of 100,000 to 1 million cells per liter, were recorded at Sandfly Key and Bull Key in Charlotte County, and in several locations in Lee County from Cayo Pelau to Buck Key. A high concentration was found in a water sample at Jug Creek Point, according to the report.

    University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, which contributes to red tide forecasts, predicts a stronger bloom presence in Charlotte County.

    Mote Marine Laboratory’s daily beach report collects data on 29 beaches from Caladesi Island to Marco Island. On Friday, the only location that reported slight respiratory irritation was Manasota Beach in Venice. FWC also received reports of slight respiratory irritation in Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

    District asks homeowners to "Skip A Week" of irrigation this winter

    The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents who irrigate their lawns to “Skip a Week” or more of watering during the cooler months of January and February.

    According to research by the University of Florida, grass doesn’t need to be watered as often during the cooler months. One-half to three-quarters of an inch of water every 10–14 days is sufficient. In fact, if your lawn has received any significant rainfall, then you can turn off your irrigation system and operate it manually as needed.

    You can determine when your grass needs water when:
    • Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on at least one-third of your yard.
    • Grass blades appear blue-gray.
    • Grass blades do not spring back, leaving footprints on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it.

    Watering only every other week at most during the winter will help conserve drinking water supplies that the public needs for critical uses during the dry season.

    For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/SkipAWeek.

    Rick Scott and Trump administration strike deal: No drilling off Florida coast

    A hastily arranged airport rendezvous Tuesday ended with an announcement from President Donald Trump’s administration that the state of Florida is “off the table” for new offshore oil drilling, a declaration that brought both relief and protests of election-year politics.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott met with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at the airport in Tallahassee Tuesday afternoon. Both men emerged 20 minutes later to face waiting reporters, who had an hour’s notice of the meeting.

    “As a result of our interest in making sure that there’s no drilling here, Florida will be taken off the table,” Scott said.

    Zinke said the decision was a culmination of multiple meetings between Scott and Trump administration officials.

    “Florida is obviously unique,” Zinke said. “For Floridians, we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, and clearly the governor has expressed that it’s important.”

    High-risk underground fuel tanks in Florida await cleanup as state spends millions on easy fixes

    Scattered across Florida are 19,000 underground petroleum storage tanks that are no longer in use and may be leaking into the aquifer, the state’s drinking water supply.

    State records show that 738 of them are in Pinellas County, 792 in Hillsborough, 101 in Pasco and 61 in Hernando.

    Most people who live near them don’t even know they are there, or that they might be polluting their water. State law doesn’t require anyone to warn them.

    The state Department of Environmental Protection, in charge of cleaning up the mess, was originally supposed to work on the highest-priority sites first, those posing the greatest threat to human health.

    But at the direction of lawmakers and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, that’s no longer the case.

    Despite frigid Florida temperatures, water too warm to kill red tide, experts say

    The chill that is essentially freezing Floridians to the core probably won’t have a big effect one of the state’s least popular nautical residents: red tide.

    Despite this, the bloom that had been stinking up Southwest Florida shores since at least mid-November appears to be crawling north.

    According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s mid-week red tide report studying water samples taken from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2, the Karenia brevis organism was found in background concentrations in one sample near Pinellas County; in low concentrations in one sample in Manatee; and in background to high concentrations in the 16 samples in Sarasota.

    Some water samples in Charlotte and Lee counties also had high concentrations, which means there were more than 1 million K. brevis cells per liter of water. Fish kills and respiratory irritation were also reported between Sarasota and Lee counties.

    12-foot-long white shark pinged in Gulf near Tampa on New Year's Day

    A 12-foot 5-inch 1,668 pound female white shark named "Miss Costa" was pinged in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa on New Year's Day.

    "Miss Costa" was tagged on September 26, 2016 in Nantucket, Massachusetts by OCEARCH.ORG to gather scientific data and track her journey. She was named for their partner Costa Sunglasses. Costa has helped enable OCEARCH's work on the water.

    "Miss Costa" has traveled 5,639.237 miles and counting since being tagged. She has made her way from Massachusetts to as far south as Key West and as of January 1, 2018, she was hanging out in the waters off of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

    Approval sought for as many as 500 homes in flood-prone areas

    Two proposed developments that would offer as many as 501 units in areas known for flooding will be presented for approval during the Manatee County Planning Commission’s first meeting of the new year Thursday.

    The Villas at Lockwood Ridge will be requesting approval of a preliminary site plan for 84 townhouses clustered on 37.19 acres on the northwest corner of Lockwood Ridge Road and 63rd Avenue East. The site’s northwestern border is the Barrington Ridge subdivision, to the east is the Mandalay subdivision and to the south is the Cascades subdivision.

    The property, owned by Manatee Fruit Company, floods with rainfall, according to the staff report. The property is also within the Evers Reservoir Watershed Protection Overlay District, which requires special approval.

    Nearly half of the vacant lot is made up of wetlands but the applicant proposes no wetland impacts, the staff report states, although some of the lots will creep into portions of the 30-foot wetland buffer. These encroachments were considered “minimal” and to mitigate this issue the applicant requested a variable width buffer, which could be as little as 11.7 feet.

    The proposed development will also have one point of access on 63rd Avenue East and an emergency exit on 45th Street East.

    The rezone of second development that planning commissioners will consider is Braden River Shores, proposed on 140.47 acres directly south of Pine Island on the Braden River. The subdivision could offer up to 417 single-family homes on either side of 26th Avenue East, just east of Sugar Creek Country Club. Some potential amenities include a kayak launch, a pier, a cabana and passive recreation parking, according to the staff report.

    Owned by McClure Properties Ltd., the plot for Braden River Shores sits in evacuation zones A and C, and is said to be prone to flood from rainfall and from the river. Special approval will be required for constructions of homes within the 25-year floodplain, coastal high hazard area and coastal evacuation area.

    Coastal waters threaten Florida's historic resources

    DAYTONA BEACH — The Castillo de San Marcos withstood two sieges in 330 years and changed hands five times, but its latest invader — the rising Atlantic Ocean — threatens to erode the historic St. Augustine fortress. The coquina shell walls of the oldest masonry fort in the United States once absorbed cannonballs but will be susceptible to the buffetings of the sea.

    On the other side of the state, Egmont Key was named one of the state’s 11 most endangered places this year by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation because rising seas threaten to submerge the island. Just outside Tampa Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, the island holds sacred significance for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, as well as the ruins of another Spanish-American era fort, but its elevation is just six feet.

    “It’s the first project that we’ve placed on our annual endangered list because it’s endangered by sea level rise,” said Clay Henderson, president of the trust, when the key was added to the list earlier this year.

    Like the St. Augustine fort and Egmont Key, thousands of Florida’s heritage sites are vulnerable to rising seas, said Henderson, executive director of Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience. “Jupiter Lighthouse, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Fort Jefferson and Fort Pickens in Pensacola — all of these places are threatened.”

    “When you look at St. Augustine, the oldest city in existence in our country, and it’s flooded twice in the last year, these are real threats,” he said. “They’re no longer academic and off in the future. They’re in real time.”

    Growing concerns

    Similar concerns are growing across the state and country as experts begin to assess what could be damaged or lost and how soon that could happen. In some places, damage already is occurring.

    Federal scientists say seas in parts of Florida have risen at a rate of about a third of an inch a year over the past decade. Mid-range forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicate seas could rise anywhere from 13 to 39 inches in Florida by 2070 and as much as 72 inches by 2100.

    Red tide bloom spreading out along Southwest Florida coast

    DEC.29th » A red tide bloom that's been lingering along the Southwest Florida coast for the past two months has spread out and grown more dense in recent days.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reporting counts of 1 million cells per liter of Karenia brevis (the organism that causes red tides in this region) and higher in Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee counties.

    "I got 2 million cells per liter just south of Sanibel," said Rick Bartleson, a water quality scientists at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation who takes samples and reports them to fish and wildlife. "I also found 2 million cells per liter about a-mile-and-a-half south of Sanibel, and all of the samples I took (in other areas along the coast) had Karenia."

    Fish kills can happen when counts reach 10,000 cells per liter and have been reported in Lee, Charlotte and Sarasota, although Bartleson said the strongest part of the blooms is offshore.

    Karenia brevis is a natural part of the ecosystem but can bloom to high concentrations when conditions favor it.

    Blooms typically start off around Sarasota and work their way south toward Collier County and Marco Island.

    This bloom probably started in October as several cormorants with red tide poisoning were taken to the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, or CROW, on Sanibel then.

    Manatee County Marine Rescue named Florida's 2017 Beach Patrol of the Year

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    MANATEE COUNTY – The Florida Beach Patrol Chiefs Association recently awarded its most prestigious award, Beach Patrol of the Year to Manatee County Marine Rescue Division.

    The award goes to to the best agency in the industry in recognition of its elite public service to the community. The award will be presented in April at the 24th annual Florida State Surf Lifesaving awards banquet in Manatee County.

    Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Joe Westerman said every marine rescue agency in Florida provides top-notch service to the visitors of their beaches and every nominee could have won the award. Manatee County stands out from others this year, Westerman said, thanks to its innovative practices such as the county's new Marine Rescue Paramedic unit and Marine Rescue's role during Hurricane Irma. During that storm, beach lifeguards helped with traffic control, medical care, victim rescue and patient transport during the County's Level A evacuation.

    "I’m extremely proud of every lifeguard who works hard for this Division ensuring the beaches in Manatee County stay safe," Westerman said. "The dedication they show to their profession every day is the reason we succeed. Although the division received this award, this is an award for our entire County and the leaders who recognize the importance of what our beach lifeguards do every day protecting the citizens and patrons who visit our beaches."

    "Our Marine Rescue personnel work and train year round to ensure the citizens and visitors of Manatee County can enjoy our beaches and waterways safely and without worry," added Public Safety Director Bob Smith. "We’re very proud of Chief Westerman and the entire Marine Rescue team for earning this prestigious honor."

    Manatee County Marine Rescue consists of 16 full time lifeguards, including EMTs, paramedics, rescue divers, Coast Guard captains and one certified Dive Master. They patrol Manatee's public beaches atop eight lifeguard towers watching over nearly 2.7 million people who visited Manatee's public beaches last year. At a minimum, Manatee County Marine Rescue lifeguards must swim 500 meters in less than 10 minutes, run a half mile in less than three and a half minutes and be able to rescue a victim who's 100 yards offshore.

    On average, Manatee County lifeguards attend 150 medical emergencies, 80 water rescues and 2,800 "swimmer assist" actions each year. Marine Rescue also offers community educational events to promote beach and water safety, rip current awareness, marine life and hazardous weather conditions.

    The Florida Beach Patrol Chiefs Association (FBPCA) was organized in 1983 and is composed of all the division heads of 38 Ocean Rescue Agencies across the state of Florida.

    For more information on Manatee County Government, visit online at www.mymanatee.org or call (941) 748-4501. You can also follow Manatee County on Facebook at www.facebook.com/manatee.county.fl and on Twitter, @ManateeGov.