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Water-Related News

Florida looks to increase number of wetland mitigation banks, credits available to developers

The state has 131 wetlands mitigation banks available today.

Mitigation credits for wetlands, while still controversial among conservationists, remain a high-demand service in Florida. Meanwhile, the state only has so much space in existing banks.

Water quality officials told Florida lawmakers they intend to open another 30 sites on top of the 131 mitigation banks already in operation in Florida. Mitigation banks today cover almost 227,500 acres of land around the state.

“The bankers are out there hustling,” said Christine Wentzel, a regulatory manager for the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Developers under Florida law may offset the impacts of projects on wetlands by buying and maintaining areas near wetlands that can be restored to serve the same ecological purpose. In a presentation to the House Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee, Wentzel discussed how credits are calculated and defended the value of the program to the state’s ecology.

The state looks to grow the available number of mitigation banks as state and federal environmental officials navigate a changing legal environment. The U.S. Supreme Court in May issued a ruling governing what waters fall under the full legal purview of the United States.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency last month issued new guidelines based on that, but officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) remain in communication about jurisdictional matters.

Island mayors question Palma Sola Causeway resiliency

Island mayors are raising questions about resiliency on the Palma Sola Causeway, which was closed to traffic due to flooding associated with Hurricane Idalia.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie asked Sept. 11 whether the Florida Department of Transportation or the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization plan to look at the viability of the causeway.

Chappie raised the issue during a meeting of the Island Transportation Planning Organization at Anna Maria City Hall.

The ITPO consists of the island mayors, who meet prior to a meeting of the MPO, a regional transportation group that was scheduled to convene Sept. 18 in Sarasota. The chair of the ITPO serves as a voting member of the MPO and, currently, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy is chair.

Idalia passed the region Aug. 29-30, coinciding with a king tide that brought flooding on many local roads and shut down the causeway.

“It exposed a real problem,” Chappie said, noting the causeway is one of three approaches to the island.

He asked whether plans exist to elevate or fortify the causeway, a low stretch of Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 on Palma Sola Bay.

“We’re seeing considerably more washout,” said Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth. “It looks like it’s time to get it on a schedule.”

MPO executive director David Hutchinson said the causeway, as a bridge approach, is a high priority — “one of a number of high priorities.”

Manatee County asks feds for beach nourishment post-Idalia

Idalia stole some sand.

Manatee County commissioners Sept. 12 authorized asking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for federal aid to rehab Anna Maria Island’s coastline in the wake of Hurricane Idalia.

The storm, passing about 100 miles west in the Gulf of Mexico Aug. 29-30, brought wind, rain and storm surge to the barrier islands. In parts of the island, people evacuated ahead of the storm and returned to find sand-covered streets and sea oats against the foundation of their homes.

In some AMI locations after Idalia, there was more Gulf beach but at other locations, including in Bradenton Beach at John Chappie Park and Coquina and Cortez beaches, many feet of beach — up to 150 feet — were lost.

Some of the erosion occurred in federal renourishment zones and some sand was lost in non-federal project zones.

The Corps has “federally authorized and constructed beach renourishment projects damaged and destroyed by wind, wave or water action other than ordinary nature,” according to a memo to commissioners from Charlie Hunsicker, director of the parks and natural resources department.

So the county moved to ask for federal help to restore sand in federal projects.

The letter to Army Corps Lt. Col. Matthew T. Miller in the Jacksonville District, reads, in part, “The Manatee County Shore Protection Project on Anna Maria Island received damages from Hurricane Idalia. We respectfully request that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers evaluate and repair the damage to this project.”

Biden administration restores the power of states and tribes to review projects to protect waterways

States and Native American tribes will have greater authority to block energy projects such as natural gas pipelines that could pollute rivers and streams under a final rule issued Thursday by the Biden administration.

The rule, which takes effect in November, reverses a Trump-era action that limited the ability of states and tribes to review pipelines, dams and other federally regulated projects within their borders. The Environmental Protection Agency says the new regulation will empower local authorities to protect rivers and streams while supporting infrastructure projects that create jobs.

“We actually think this is going to be great for the country,” said Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for water. “It’s going to allow us to balance the Biden administration goals of protecting our water resources and also supporting all kinds of infrastructure projects that this nation so desperately needs.”

But Fox acknowledged at a briefing that the water rule will be significantly slimmed down from an earlier proposal because of a Supreme Court ruling that weakened regulations protecting millions of acres of wetlands. That ruling, in a case known as Sackett v. EPA, sharply limited the federal government’s jurisdiction over wetlands, requiring that wetlands be more clearly connected to other waters such as oceans and rivers. Environmental advocates said the May decision would strip protections from tens of millions of acres of wetlands.

Researchers: Coastal ecosystems will drown if world warms above 2°C

After studying more than 1,500 coastal ecosystems, researchers say they will drown if we let the world warm above 2°C

Much of the world's natural coastline is protected by living habitats, most notably mangroves in warmer waters and tidal marshes closer to the poles. These ecosystems support fisheries and wildlife, absorb the impact of crashing waves and clean up pollutants. But these vital services are threatened by global warming and rising sea levels.

Recent research has shown wetlands can respond to sea level rise by building up their root systems, pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process. Growing recognition of the potential for this "blue" carbon sequestration is driving mangrove and tidal marsh restoration projects.

While the resilience of these ecosystems is impressive, it is not without limits. Defining the upper limits to mangrove and marsh resilience under accelerating sea level rise is a topic of great interest and considerable debate.

Our new research, published in the journal Nature, analyzes the vulnerability and exposure of mangroves, marshes and coral islands to sea level rise. The results underscore the critical importance of keeping global warming within 2 degrees of the pre-industrial baseline.

Longboat’s beaches withstood Idalia’s surge, but flooding still prevailed. How?

The beaches helped protect Longboat Key's gulf side, but bayfront properties don't share those same protections.

Walking onto the Gulfside Road beach access, a recently unearthed seawall stands out among a row of large rocks.

Before Hurricane Idalia, people may not have even realized there was a seawall buried there.

This was one of the most striking differences in the beach that Longboat Key resident Cyndi Seamon saw after the storm.

Seamon is also vice president of the Longboat Key Turtle Watch. She was on the beach before and after the storm conducting turtle patrols.

Near where she lives on the north end, Seamon said she noticed a lot of the beach was lower and sand moved to the dunes.

“We just noticed how much water the dune system held,” Seamon said. “It’s amazing how well they do.”

Further south, she noticed more of an escarpment, where sand steeply drops between the dune and beach face.

What impressed Seamon, though, was how well the beaches — and the vegetation — did the job of holding up against storm surge.

Mote Marine Lab hosts workshop on red tide mitigation tools

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Mote hosts workshop to discuss deployment of mitigation tools for Florida red tide

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium recently invited researchers from around the world to discuss mitigation tools and technologies for the harmful algal bloom (HAB) that affects many communities across the state – Florida red tide – as part of its Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative.

Mote hosted the workshop where Florida red tide mitigation scientists, engineers, and government agencies, gathered to review the current research being developed, discuss options for deployment technologies, understand the regulatory steps and agencies involved, and plan for intellectual property and commercialization issues that may arise.

Red tides are caused by higher-than-normal concentrations of Karenia brevis (microscopic algae native to the Gulf of Mexico), often discoloring the water in the ocean and coastal waters of southwest Florida. K. brevis produces toxins that can harm sea life, lead to massive fish kills, and cause respiratory irritation in people. Florida red tides can also have detrimental effects on shellfish, fishing and tourism industries.

The Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative, a partnership between Mote and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), was established by the Florida Legislature and signed by Governor DeSantis in 2019 to establish an independent and coordinated effort among public and private research entities to develop prevention, control and mitigation technologies that will decrease the impacts of Florida red tide on the environment, economy and quality of life in Florida.

"With support from the State of Florida for this initiative, researchers are empowered to present their solutions and collaborate through applied science and engineering to fight red tide while stimulating Florida’s economy through technology transfer that helps transform ecological challenge to economic opportunity,” said Mote President and CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “This cross-disciplinary team effort across many institutions is key to developing innovation solutions for communities acro

Bioluminescent algae bloom dazzles beachgoers on Anna Maria Island

MANATEE COUNTY – It comes as no surprise to locals that the waters surrounding Anna Maria Island in Manatee County hold a brilliant bluish-green hue even on a bad day. But not on this night.

Astrophotographer Tammy Fryer told she recently ventured out to the tip of the island community to capture photos of the Milky Way, something she does whenever the moon doesn’t light up the night sky.

“I’ve seen some spectacular things here, but this is definitely in the top five,” Fryer wrote on Facebook, accompanied by a series of mystifying photos. “No photo or video does it justice. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

Fryer caught herself in the midst of a bioluminescent algae bloom.

According to the Department for Environment and Water, a natural chemical process known as bioluminescence allows living things to produce light inside their bodies. Some fish, squid, tiny crustaceans, and algae produce bioluminescence to confuse predators, attract prey, or lure potential mates.

Humans, on the other hand, can witness the natural phenomenon when there is lots of bioluminescence in the water, usually from an algae bloom of plankton.

Manatee County’s Robinson Preserve is now part of the Great Florida Birding Trail

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When you want to know where to go in Florida to see native birds, butterflies and more, head for the Trail. Sites listed on the official Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail are selected for inclusion based on their unique wildlife viewing opportunities and ecological significance, educational opportunities, access for the public and resilience to recreational use. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has proudly selected 14 new sites to receive this distinction.

The Trail is a network of more than 500 premier wildlife viewing sites across the state. Every year, millions of people, residents and visitors alike, participate in wildlife viewing activities, contributing billions of dollars to Florida’s economy but the ultimate goal of the Trail is to encourage conservation of Florida’s native habitats and species.

Located in coastal northwest Bradenton, Robinson Preserve stretches from Lower Tampa Bay over to Palma Sola Bay. Numerous wading birds, shore birds, and migratory songbirds are routinely observed at the site. Watch for Wood Storks, White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Clapper Rails, Southeastern American Kestrels, Great Horned Owls, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Double-crested Cormorants and a variety of ducks, herons, egrets, sandpipers, plovers, gulls and terns. Find them while exploring over 13 miles of pedestrian and multi-use trails, several boardwalks and water overlooks and a 40-foot observation tower offering panoramic views of lower Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Island Egmont Key and more. Habitats represented include extensive mangrove swamps, high marsh, salt tern, coastal grasslands and developing hammocks. Two kayak launches provide access to extensive sheltered bayous with paddle access to Tampa Bay and Palma Sola Bay. The preserve is open nearly 365 days a year, closed only for high winds and a handful of special events.

Red tide sets manatee deaths along Florida’s west coast apart, experts say

Water quality and seagrass health play a big role in marine mammals’ survival anywhere in the state.

Red tide in the water and in the air contribute to manatee deaths on Florida’s west coast, setting the region’s waterways apart from other troubled areas of manatee mortality in Florida, researchers say.

In the long run, the loss of seagrass connects both coasts’ investigations into the marine mammals’ well-being, but, according to Dr. Thomas K. Frazer, dean and professor in the University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences, the reasons behind the decline in water quality can often be linked to different factors.

“The last several years have been very difficult for manatees, for a variety of reasons. Particularly on the east coast, and similarly, maybe to a lesser degree, on the west coast,” he said.

Seagrasses, which flourish in shallow water, are the bedrock of coastal marine life. They filter pollutants, act as a nursery to marine life and offer manatees and sea turtles their main food source.

Seagrasses also serve as a canary in the coal mine, their health and vitality an indicator of potential problems. Starting in 2016, seagrass numbers have generally declined around the state and specifically in Sarasota Bay; a warning of the decline of the delicate ecosystems along the Gulf of Mexico.

“One of the reasons why we’ve lost so many manatees in the last two and a half years is from starvation. Not boat strikes, but starving to death, due to the lapse in water quality in (Sarasota Bay), which affects their food source,” said Dr. Dave Tomasko, director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, adding the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast is the epicenter for seagrass loss and manatee deaths.

“It might be as high as 30 to 50 percent of the east coast manatee population basically starved to death in the last two and a half years,” said Tomasko.

‘No obvious culprit’: Questions remain after Port Manatee oil spill

PALMETTO – 8 On Your Side continues to push for answers about an oil spill that occurred last week at Port Manatee.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key) toured the area, and said he plans to make sure the government figures out who’s responsible.

“At this time there’s no smoking gun, no obvious culprit,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Michael Kahle said.

Without any answers, the Coast Guard is investigating how thousands of gallons of oil got into the water at Port Manatee.

“Got on scene [and] saw it looked like there was a heavy oil material in court,” Capt. Kahle said. “Fortunately, weather was on our side and it pushed the material and kept it contained within the walls of the port.”

So far, he said 97% of the material has been removed from the surface of the water.

Greer (Beer Can) Island accessible again via Canal 1A

First shorebirds and sea turtles caused delays, then an abandoned power line slowed work down.

Canal 1A on the north end of Longboat Key is traversable again.

The latest maintenance dredging of Longboat Key’s Greer Island Spit Management Project officially wrapped up on Sept. 7.

About 19,000 cubic yards of sand were dredged from the canal and relocated to the groin field toward the end of North Shore Road.

The now dredged canal also allows for boat owners to freely navigate to the Gulf and restores their riparian rights.

According to Public Works Program Manager Charlie Mopps, the project had just about wrapped up before Hurricane Idalia made its way towards Florida’s coast.

The crew was in the process of demobilization and doing some final surveys, which showed the dredging was near completion.

“Decline of Seagrasses in Tampa Bay” Story Map released by TBRPC

Seagrass meadows are thought to have covered 76,000 acres of Tampa Bay before the 1930s. 2018 marked a turning point in seagrass coverage and was the first year since 1988 where acreage declined. Since 2018, Tampa Bay has lost more than 30% of seagrass coverage.

Seagrasses are extremely vital for a healthy bay. They support thousands of marine species, store carbon, improve water quality, protect coastlines, cycle nutrients, and create habitat corridors between coral reefs and mangroves.

View Storymap »

Hurricane Idalia caused widespread pollution in Florida’s waterways

Wastewater, fuel and chemicals spilled in several parts of the state as the massive storm caused extensive flooding.

While Hurricane Idalia ravaged Florida’s Big Bend region, rain and wind from the massive storm also caused wastewater leaks, chemical dumps and fuel spills in Tampa Bay and other storm-struck parts of the state.

At least 26,000 gallons of wastewater spills, mostly raw sewage, were reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as of Friday.

In each instance, the flooding was so severe that officials said it’s not possible to tell exactly how much wastewater was released. Instead, estimates were provided.

In Tampa Bay and neighboring tributaries like the Manatee River and Boca Ciega Bay, winds and high seas toppled boats, sending their gasoline into the waters below. Hurricane Idalia’s floodwaters are also being blamed for a kerosene leak that sent flammable liquid into a St. Petersburg mobile home park.

The early snapshot of Idalia’s environmental impacts, gleaned from state and federal pollution reports, underscores the typical reality following a major hurricane’s landfall: Waterways under the storm’s crosshairs get stirred with human sewage, gas and whatever else may have mixed with storm surge.

Flesh-eating bacteria lurk in post-hurricane floodwaters. Here’s how to stay safe.

Cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection tend to rise after hurricanes mix fresh rainwater with salty seawater.

In the wake of Hurricane Idalia, health officials warned of a invisible threat in the lingering floodwaters: Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.

The warning comes as serious infections from the bacteria are on the rise, tied to warming coastal waters. On Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control issued an alert to health care providers to consider Vibrio as a possible cause of infected wounds, noting several severe and fatal cases in Connecticut, New York and North Carolina.

The rare and potentially deadly type of flesh-eating bacterium "shouldn't be taken lightly," Florida Health Department press secretary Jae Williams said. "It needs to be treated with proper respect — the same way we respect alligators and rattlesnakes."

Florida health officials started alerting residents of the potential for such bacterial infections "as soon as the state of emergency was declared," Williams said, referring to Hurricane Idalia.

Coastal areas of the state, as well as Georgia and the Carolinas, where Idalia's surges left behind standing water, were most at risk for Vibrio bacteria.

NASA scientists test new tool for tracking algal blooms

Harmful algae can endanger public health and coastal ecosystems and economies. Advances in satellite imaging are providing new ways to look at our living ocean.

By the time they were over, a series of massive algal blooms along the west coast of Florida in 2020 would be linked to some 2,000 tons of dead marine life around Tampa Bay. The human costs were stark, too, including a double-digit increase in asthma cases in Sarasota and Pinellas counties, and estimated losses of around $1 billion across economic sectors from tourism to fisheries.

Earth-orbiting satellites have been used for decades to detect algal blooms from space, enabling more frequent observations over broader areas than is possible by directly sampling the water. The most common observing technique relies on the visible spectrum to measure ocean color. However, this approach has been mostly restricted to clear sky conditions.

A recent study, led by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, has shown how one space-based instrument called TROPOMI, or TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument, was able to peer through thin clouds to uncover powerful clues about Karenia brevis (or K. brevis), the microscopic algae responsible for the 2020 blooms. TROPOMI’s enhanced ability to “see” and measure fine wavelengths of light could potentially help federal agencies and local communities better forecast and manage harmful outbreaks. (TROPOMI flies aboard the European Sentinel 5P spacecraft, which was launched in 2017.)

The scientists examined the West Florida Shelf, a stretch of continental crust arcing from the Panhandle to the Keys. From its origins in other parts of the Gulf of Mexico, K. brevis is carried toward the coastline on strong winds and ocean currents. Recent research has shown that western Florida, like many coastal communities, may be increasingly vulnerable to outbreaks because these algae flourish in nutrient-rich, warm conditions fueled by runoff, fertilizer, and climate change.

Carl Hiaasen to headline upcoming EcoSummit in Sarasota

Nature and culture set the stage for December events during the two-day expo.

Discussion of environmental issues and sustainability practices at December’s Green Living Expo and EcoSummit won’t be purely scientific, especially with Carl Hiaasen on hand.

The event will be run by the Science and Environment Council, a not-for-profit consortium of 40 science-based environmental organizations in Sarasota and Manatee counties.

The two-segment event kicks off with a free, two-day Green Living Expo on Dec. 2-3 at Sarasota’s Municipal Auditorium featuring green solutions for energy conservation, water protection, waste reduction and more. Entry is free with advanced registration, and $5 per group at the door.

The three-day EcoSummit opens from 5-8 p.m. Dec. 4 with a free screening of Australian filmmaker’s Damon Gameau’s documentary, “2040” at the Bay Park’s Nest.

On Dec. 5-6, the EcoSummit moves indoors to the VanWezel Performing Arts Hall.

Florida Stories with Carl Hiaasen is planned for 7-9 p.m. Dec. 5. The longtime author and Miami Herald columnist will be introduced by Craig Pittman, himself an award-winning Florida journalist. The two writers will be joined on stage by local storytellers and a musical guest.

EcoSummit ticket options range from $155 for the summit; $185 for premium, which includes the Hiaasen event; and $285, which includes a pre-show reception and premium seating. An early registration discount of $40, using the code HOTSALE40, is available through Sept. 30. Standalone tickets to see Hiaasen are $85 for general admission and $185, which includes pre-show reception and premium seating.

The EcoSummit will feature lectures, panel discussions, storytelling, and music. Dozens of national, regional, and local experts will share innovations on reducing environmental impacts and encouraging more sustainable practices.

“Over the past century in Florida, population growth and development patterns have increased pollution and decreased the environment’s capacity to process it,” said Dr. Jennifer Shafer, SEC’s co-executive director. “Our natural environment is the foundation of our economy and quality of life; by working together to educate and activate the community, we hope to bolster efforts to conserve and restore our treasured natural resources — and protect quality of life for generations to come.”

Other associated events include family-friendly Ever-GREEN Days at The Bay Sarasota, with a weeklong schedule of free interactive and eco-friendly experiences — such as guided tours, hands-on eco-education, family friendly activities and more – from Nov. 30-Dec. 6.

For information and tickets, visit the EcoSummit website.

Supply chain delays Anna Maria Island Bridge water main work

One step forward, two steps back.

Additional work to replace a temporary water main across the Anna Maria Island Bridge on Manatee Avenue was postponed by the county to late September or October due to delays in acquiring materials, according to a Sept. 1 news release.

The news came just over a week after an Aug. 23 announcement that Bradenton-based Lovin Contracting would begin work on the repairs Sept. 6, and take two-three weeks to complete.

The postponed work involves the temporary pipeline installed across the bridge in June to replace the failed 16-inch water main that carried potable water from the mainland to Holmes Beach.

The previous water main was installed in 1982 and collapsed into Anna Maria Sound in July due to corrosion and failing hangers on the east end.

After its collapse, Bradenton-based Woodruff & Sons installed a new pipeline across the bridge to carry potable water to Holmes Beach.

The postponed work will involve the installation of about 90 additional pipeline support hangers along the eastern half of the bridge, where the existing, original water main remains hanging along the bridge undercarriage.

The temporary pipeline is positioned on top of the western half of the bridge’s south sidewalk, where it will remain for about two years before a subaqueous pipeline is installed to replace the water main.

People can learn more on the county government’s website, or by calling 941-748-4501.

Oil spill at SeaPort Manatee prompts Coast Guard investigation

MANATEE COUNTY – SeaPort Manatee is under investigation by the Coast Guard after a crude oil leak.

The Coast Guard was notified of the contamination Friday morning by a member of their National Response Center.

Nicole Groll is the public information officer for the Coast Guard Tampa Bay and said crews immediately went into action after learning of the crude oil leak.

"Initially, about 1,400 feet of boom was deployed around the area, and then contractors were enlisted to help our on-scene responders," Groll said

Since Friday, Groll said nearly 15,000 gallons of the oil and water mixture have been recovered, and the oil has been contained to the facility..

Pollution responders are also working to clean off any ship hulls that were impacted by the oil.

Groll said the spill happened at Berth 9 near the parking lot area.

"The pollution cleanup folks, they will either vacuum it all up to either transport it to dispose of it safely," Groll said.

No-swim advisory issued for Palma Sola beach after countywide swim advisory lifted

MANATEE COUNTY – A no-swim advisory was issued for a Manatee County beach Sunday, the same day the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County lifted the countywide swim advisory for public beaches.

The no-swim advisory is for Palma Sola South, located along SR 64 near Palma Sola Bay. A no-swim advisory is issued when enterococci bacteria levels exceed federal guidelines for safe swimming.

The advisory will be in effect until the water meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety guidelines.

The swim advisory for Manatee County was issued Friday due to the potential effects on water quality related to Hurricane Idalia.

Other beaches in Manatee County, including Bayfront Park North, Manatee Public Beach, Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach (North and South), and Broadway Beach Access on Longboat Key, are not under advisory.

For updates, visit the Florida Healthy Beaches webpage for Manatee County.

Manatee County implements a wetland mitigation program

Establishment of a "mitigation bank" of land aims at keeping forced wetland improvements within Manatee County.

A week after Manatee County commissioners voted 6-1 to reduce wetland protections, the environment was back in the discussion Aug. 22 as commissioners heard a plan to establish a county wetland mitigation program.

Commissioner Jason Bearden called it a “no brainer,” and the program, which establishes a mitigation bank of land within Manatee County, passed with unanimous approval. Commissioners say the program is intended to save money, support the Capital Improvement Plan and keep restored wetlands within Manatee County.

Longboat Key resident Rusty Chinnis called the program “damage control,” by the commissioners. Chinnis attended the Aug. 17 land use meeting, where members of the public packed the chambers attempting to stop a transmission to the state legislature that would cut additional wetland protections out of the Comprehensive Plan.

If approved in October, county wetland buffers that currently must be between 30 and 50 feet will only need to meet the state standard of 15 feet.

The EPA removes federal protections for most of the country’s wetlands

The Environmental Protection Agency removed federal protections for a majority of the country's wetlands on Tuesday to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The EPA and Department of the Army announced a final rule amending the definition of protected "waters of the United States" in light of the decision in Sackett v. EPA in May, which narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act and the agency's power to regulate waterways and wetlands.

Developers and environmental groups have for decades argued about the scope of the 1972 Clean Water Act in protecting waterways and wetlands.

"While I am disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision in the Sackett case, EPA and Army have an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, Tribes, and partners," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

A 2006 Supreme Court decision determined that wetlands would be protected if they had a "significant nexus" to major waterways. This year's court decision undid that standard. The EPA's new rule "removes the significant nexus test from consideration when identifying tributaries and other waters as federally protected," the agency said.

In May, Justice Samuel Alito said the navigable U.S. waters regulated by the EPA under the Clean Water Act do not include many previously regulated wetlands. Writing the court's decision, he said the law includes only streams, oceans, rivers and lakes, and wetlands with a "continuous surface connection to those bodies."

What’s the connection between climate change and hurricanes?

Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida. Here are some ways climate change is reshaping tropical cyclones like it

It has been a summer of disasters–and many of them were made worse, or more intense, by human-caused climate change. Wildfires burned from coast to coast across Canada. Vermont was inundated by unprecedented floods. Phoenix's temperatures topped 100 ° F for a full month. And now Hurricane Idalia, the first major hurricane of the season, is ripping across Florida and into the Southeast.

Scientists know climate change influences hurricanes, but exactly how can be a little complicated. Here's a look at the links between a hotter world and big storms like Hurricane Idalia.

For answers to these questions, follow the link below:

  • Does climate change make hurricanes stronger?
  • Climate change makes them get bigger faster, right?
  • Does climate change make hurricanes happen more often?
  • What are some of the biggest risks from stronger hurricanes? Are those changing because of climate change?
  • Is hurricane season getting longer?
  • It has been pretty hot in the South and the Gulf region. How will that influence the rest of the season?

Derelict vessels are often a nuisance in Sarasota and Manatee waters

Police have a year-old old tool in which owners of decaying boats in peril can sign them over for rapid removal.

In a region associated with tropical weather and the boating lifestyle, dilapidated and wrecked vessels on Florida’s waterways often become part of the seascape when the two Sunshine State staples come together.

For owners, removing swamped and sunken craft can be a financial burden beyond reach.

For others on the water, there are dangers of collision or hazardous leaks.

And for law enforcement, the hours involved in tracking ownership and ultimately removing smelly, barnacle-encrusted hulls can add up to months or more. And yes, there can be legal consequences.

“Just a few weeks back, I sent a law enforcement officer up in Pennsylvania to an address ...” said Officer Michael Skinner of the Sarasota Police Department Marine Patrol, explaining a recent attempt to track the owner of decaying sailboat in city waters. “So we kind of go above and beyond (for a) misdemeanor investigation… At the end of the day, we want to do our due diligence to find that owner and make contact.”

How you can track derelict vessels

A map published online by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows hundreds of vessels reported to be derelict statewide, mostly along the coast but some on inland lakes and rivers. Among the four dozen or so marked from Port Manatee to near Englewood are a collection of power and sail craft, some listed since not long after Hurricane Ian passed through in September 2022.