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

Water-Related News

2019-2020 Bay Wise Kayak Tour Schedule Announced

Join SBEP for sustainable kayak eco-tours throughout the Sarasota Bay watershed and discover the habitats and wildlife that make Sarasota Bay an Estuary of National Significance.

Eco-tours run from November through April with professional guide Brad Tanner. The trips are free, but participants need to bring their own kayak and gear or rent from the many outfitters throughout Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Each trip lasts two to three hours. Space is limited to 15 individuals per outing.

Registration for upcoming tours begins one month in advance of each tour date.

MOTE-FWC red tide initiative announces new applied research grant opportunity at national conference

Mote Marine Laboratory announced the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative’s first competitive grant opportunity for scientists working to fight red tide impacts on Nov. 7 during the 10th U.S. Symposium on Harmful Algae in Orange Beach, Alabama.

The Initiative is a partnership between Mote—a 64-year nonprofit leader of independent and entrepreneurial marine science including decades of red tide research and monitoring—and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC’s) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute—the primary state-government entity focused on Florida red tide. Florida red tides are harmful algal blooms caused by higher-than-normal concentrations of Karenia brevis, microscopic algae native to the Gulf of Mexico. Florida red tide toxins can cause widespread mortality of fish and marine wildlife and cause respiratory irritation in people. The Initiative establishes an independent, coordinated effort among public and private research entities to develop prevention, control and mitigation technologies and approaches that will decrease Florida red tide impacts on the environment, economy and quality of life in Florida.

The new Initiative, 379.2273 Florida Statutes, was signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in June 2019 and provides a $3-million appropriation for six years ($18-million total). There will be six opportunities for scientists to submit competitive grant proposals from 2019–2025, and applicants have the opportunity to partner with Mote scientists and utilize Mote facilities, infrastructure and technology.

Appeals court ruling OKs Mosaic mining expansion in Central Florida

An appeals court panel voted 2-1 this week to reject the arguments of environmental groups trying to overturn a federal permit that would allow Mosaic phosphate company to proceed with mining on more than 50,000 acres of Central Florida.

“In simple terms, we lost,” said Jacki Lopez of the Center for Biological Diversity, which joined with the People for Protecting Peace River, ManaSota-88 and Suncoast Waterkeeper in suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She said the four groups are now considering whether to appeal Monday’s ruling.

The Mosaic permits cover parts of Hillsborough, Hardee, Manatee, and Polk counties. Mosaic spokeswoman Jackie Barron said the company was pleased with the ruling, which “demonstrates the strength and validity of our ... permit and the robust environmental review that accompanied it.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issued the permit, did not respond to a request for comment.

DeSantis rolls out water quality website

With the state of the water a paramount issue in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis was at Lover's Key State Park on Fort Myers Beach Tuesday to tout a new website that folks can check to see the latest news on the safety of their water.

The website is ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov and it is up and running. It provides updates on water quality issues from red tide to algal bloom and health notifications.

The website currently focuses on three bodies of water, the Caloosahatchee River, Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River. Eventually, it will include all of Florida's waterways, DeSantis said.

Southwest Florida residents can check the red tide along the Caloosahatchee River from here to Sanibel and Boca Grande. Currently, the map on Fort Myers Beach has a caution sign which states, "Red Tide Algae may be in these waters. Avoid this beach if you have chronic respiratory problems. Keep pets away from water and dead fish. Do not swim near or touch dead fish."

Red Tide back but not as bad -- so far

A Red Tide algae bloom that began off Collier County’s beaches in late September has been inching its way up the coast during October, killing fish and choking beachgoers. On Wednesday, state scientists said the algae was detected in “very low concentrations” off of Pinellas County.

The most recent tests show that the higher concentrations that constitute a bloom have reached an area near Venice, south of Sarasota.

“Bloom concentrations ... were observed in five samples from Sarasota County, two samples from Charlotte County, seven samples from and offshore of Lee County and nine samples from and offshore of Collier County,” the latest Red Tide report from the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.

Reports of fish kills have come in from Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties, and people have reported breathing problems from the beaches in Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.

District awards grants to schools in Hillsborough County for water resources education projects

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) awarded $119,000 in grants to 65 schools within the District as part of the Splash! school grant program. The program provides up to $3,000 per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources in grades K-12.

Splash! grants encourage hands-on student learning through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities as well as engagement of the greater school community through awareness campaigns. Each school district allocates a portion of their annual youth education funding provided by the District to support the Splash! grants in their county.

The District awarded grants to the following schools/teachers in Hillsborough County:

  • Colson Elementary - Jackie MacLean
  • Community Charter School of Excellence - Debra Gwyn
  • Dowdell Middle Magnet School - Candice LaRussa
  • Dr. Carter G. Woodson PK-8 - Candace Johnson Thornton
  • Dr. Carter G. Woodson PK-8 - Maria Carvalho
  • East Bay High School - Michelle Laycock
  • George M. Steinbrenner High School - Timothy B Harris
  • Heritage Elementary School - Susan Hopper
  • Inez Doby Elementary School - Pamela Vasquez
  • Jackson Elementary School - Elizabeth Damsel
  • Lawton Chiles Elementary - Linda Rosen
  • Learning Gate Community School - Adam Wolford
  • Pizzo K-8 School - Alyssa Mormon
  • Pride Elementary School - Lindsay Green
  • Robinson High School - Tiffany Oliver
  • South County Career Center - Ryan Lerch
  • Sulphur Springs K-8 Community School - Michael Wiggs
  • Terrace Community Middle School - Elizabeth Mila
  • Turner Bartels K-8 - Jennifer Cogan

Grants are available for freshwater resources field studies, water-conserving garden projects, community

How Southwest Florida' s business community got woke about water

For too long in Florida, environmental advocacy was viewed as the domain of tree-huggers and eco-nuts.

Full-time environmentalists carried the torch for cleaner water and more open spaces, occasionally scoring a policy win — but more often losing ground as armies of industry lobbyists shaped the legislative agenda in Tallahassee.

Then, in 2018, thousands of businesses in Southwest Florida banded together to push for clean water.

Spurred by a deadly confluence of red tide and toxic blue-green algae blooms, they educated themselves on water quality. They found a unified voice to push for stricter pollution limits.

As the kids say, they got woke.

And it had a tangible impact on Florida politics.  

Petitioners challenge Cortez Bridge decision

Opponents of the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) plans for the replacement of the Cortez Bridge have filed a petition for a formal administrative hearing before the State of Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings.

The petition is in response to FDOT’s written announcement on Oct. 10 that stated FDOT’s Office of Environmental Management granted location and design concept acceptance for the bridge replacement project that calls for a 65-foot-tall fixed-span bridge to someday replace the aging drawbridge on Cortez Road.

The FDOT acceptance signaled the end of the Project, Design and Environment (PD&E) study phase and allows the project to move into the design phase. Filed in accordance with Florida Statutes, the petition challenges that FDOT acceptance.

Former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash is serving as the qualified representative for the petitioners – a group that also includes former County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, Cortez residents Linda Molto and Joe Kane, the ManaSota-88 organization, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and the Cortez Village Historical Society.

Von Hahmann signed and verified the notarized petition on Oct. 23.

Mote launches stone crab research, education project with new grant

Mote Marine Laboratory is launching a new research and education project aimed at examining which coastal habitats might help stone crabs—a $30-million seafood staple in Florida—survive the growing threat of ocean acidification, thanks to a new grant from Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund.

The $70,000 grant will be matched by Mote and support the latest of several Mote studies to shed light on the 30% decrease in Florida’s yearly stone crab catch since 2000. So far, Mote’s controlled lab studies point out that ocean acidification and high levels of Florida red tide can each have significant impacts on stone crabs throughout different stages of their life cycle.

Female stone crabs brood their eggs—carry them until hatching—in coastal environments vulnerable to ocean acidification (OA), a worldwide decrease in ocean water pH driven by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Some coastal habitats in Florida are experiencing seasonal declines in pH estimated to be three times faster than the rate of OA anticipated for global oceans by the end of the century due to nutrient-rich runoff, a potential threat for sensitive coastal species.

Scallopalooza early-bird pricing available until Dec. 20th

Sarasota Bay Watch invites you to Scallopalooza, It's Clamtastic!

Early Bird pricing is in effect now through Dec. 20th.

This event will celebrate and support our community-driven shellfish restoration. Sarasota Bay Watch is working to clear and clean our waters utilizing hardshell clams. These shellfish resist the effects of red tide while naturally filtering nutrients and algae from our waters. If you love the water and appreciate its importance for this area, this is the event for you. Please, join us!

Location::
The Hyatt Regency Sarasota
1000 Blvd of the Arts, Sarasota, FL

Date/Time: February 15, 2020 6 PM

Go to www.sarasotabaywatch.org for tickets

Individual tickets: $90
Tables for 10: $850

Sponsorship Opportunities are Available
Show your support for local restoration!
Go to www.sarasotabaywatch.org to become a sponsor.

Need to contact event organizers? rondaryan@sarasotabaywatch.org or 941-232-2363

Sarasota Bay Watch believes that "A Healthy Bay is Everybody's Business". Please, make it your business too!

Pinellas County bans water horses

PALMA SOLA CAUSEWAY – Pinellas County commissioners have banned horses from aquatic preserves in the county, impacting a popular tourism business that also rents horses at Palma Sola causeway in Manatee County.

C Ponies offers rides in an aquatic preserve in Tampa Bay near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Pinellas County, and in Palma Sola Bay and along its narrow causeway beach in Manatee County. Activities include beach rides, water rides and “horse surfing,” standing on horses while they swim. Other horse rental businesses in Pinellas County also are affected.

“We only have one body of water to protect. We only have one planet to save. Once it’s destroyed, it’s destroyed,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, a former competitive horseback rider.

The commission pinned its 5-1 decision Tuesday on evidence – including aerial photos – that horses trample fragile seagrass in the aquatic preserve, and that horse manure and urine pose a risk to human health.

Citing support for the ordinance from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and the City of St. Petersburg, the commission also prohibited the unpermitted damage of seagrass in aquatic preserves.

SWFWMD seeking volunteers for seagrass/water clarity observations

At the most recent meeting of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program's Technical Advisory Committee, Dr. Chris Anastasiou announced that the Southwest Florida Water Management District will begin conducting aerial seagrass surveys for the gulf coast (Levy to Charlotte counties) beginning this November.

Volunteer observers are needed to provide water clarity observations. Observers must be available on potential flight days to take a photo and report on water clarity conditions (>2m necessary) using a secchi disk or visual estimate. Observations should be taken every day and shared with the SWFWMD via web upload by 0830AM.

Please share within your networks and contact Chris with any questions if you are interested in helping with this important effort:

Cell: (813) 310-6809
Office: (813) 985-7481 x2029
Chris.anastasiou@swfwmd.state.fl

Anna Maria Island beach renourishment coming in 2020

An endless battle with Mother Nature continues: Sand in, sand out along Anna Maria Island’s shorelines.

Manatee County commissioners voted earlier this month to approve agreements advancing two beach renourishment projects in 2020 stretching on the shoreline from Holmes Beach to Bradenton Beach, then to Longboat Pass.

The county is partnering with the Army Corps of Engineering as the non-federal sponsor of the projects.

The so-called “central beach project” will stretch from 78th Street North in Holmes Beach to about Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach. Federal funding from the Corps will pay 59.05% of the cost and the remaining 40.95% will be split between the state and county.

The southern renourishment will begin at Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach and end at Longboat Pass. The cost for this phase will be split 50/50 between the state and county.

Most of the funds for the two projects — they will be combined to save money — will come from federal and state governments, but Manatee County’s tourist development tax is the local funding source.

Holmes Beach says ‘time will tell’ for Spring Lake improvement

Spring Lake in Holmes Beach is showing signs of improvement.

Minnows swam Oct. 10 near the surface of the lake and, though the water was brown, it no longer strongly smelled of sulfur. An aeration system was activated Sept. 17 to circulate stagnant water and infuse the lake with oxygen.

Upon activation of the system, the lake, surrounded by homes between 68th and 70th streets, became murky, smelly and more than 1,000 fish died, prompting complaints from lakeside residents and property owners.

Eran Wasserman, the city’s director of development services, said the city started running the aeration system around the clock Oct. 10, compared with six hours nightly for several weeks prior.

Wasserman said the city would test water quality at the end of the month and again in January.

However, he said the first test might be premature, as the lake requires time to recover.

“It just takes time to tell if it’s working,” Wasserman said. “We just have to wait and see.”

Manatee County Announces stormwater updates for 2020

MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County Administrator Cheri Coryea today announced a revised plan for stormwater improvements and funding for the coming year.

"By February we will bring to the Board our recommendations for immediate steps to address the most severely impacted areas to ensure we're doing what we can to avoid flooding and enhance water quality," Coryea told County Commissioners today. "At that time we'll also bring you our data-gathering plan and report completion for 2020 to fully address the common concerns we've heard so far. By first quarter 2021 the Board will have a comprehensive stormwater report and a list of appropriate projects to make a strong decision on the most appropriate stormwater rate."

Five upcoming informational meetings with the public have been canceled as County staff prepare a detailed plan that will be presented to County Commissioners in February. The canceled meetings were scheduled for Nov. 8, 12, 25 and 26 for each County Commissioner to speak to residents about the proposed fee.

"We’ve been listening to the public and many of the outstanding questions they have about how will agricultural lands be handled, potential incentives for homeowner associations and community development districts that pay a stormwater fee for privately owned stormwater systems and more," Coryea said. "In coming months, County staff will continue working with our stormwater consultant to resolve or address many of the public concerns."

Coryea said the extra time will also give non-profit and commercial owners more time to budget for a stormwater fee in 2021. Commissioners agree that more is needed to improve stormwater maintenance throughout the County but they have not yet taken a position on what a stormwater fee should be.

In September Commissioners were presented with two proposed stormwater rates, most homeowners would pay $58.16 annually and allow the County to double its stormwater maintenance efforts to address both water quantity and water quality. A proposed higher rate -- $88.10 per year for most homeowners -- would also improve efficiency and enable the County to improve water quality and the countywide system to address areas that flood most frequently.

For many years, Manatee County residents have looked to County leaders for help with local flooding conditions and standing waters on roads after heavy rains. An extensive, efficient stormwater drainage system is the County’s best way to address local flooding. Environmental leaders say stormwater maintenance enhancements will also improve water quality conditions and help prevent harmful nutrients reaching water bodies to feed red tide and blue-green algae.

For more information on Manatee County's stormwater system visit www.mymanatee.org/stormwater. A related County website details how the County's stormwater program currently operates.

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

Blue-Green Algae Task Force approves 1st recommendations

Task Force comes to consensus on first set of water quality improvement recommendations

TALLAHASSEE – This week, the Blue-Green Algae Task Force met and approved its first set of recommendations to address water quality and harmful algal blooms.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force is an advisory body, appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis, to aid the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in fulfilling its mission to protect, conserve and manage the state’s natural resources and enforce its environmental laws. The task force, through its discussion and deliberations, provides guidance and specific, science-based recommendations with the goal of expediting improvements and restoration of Florida’s water bodies that have been adversely affected by blue-green algae blooms.

“I appreciate the time the task force members and the public have invested in these important discussions. This commitment is a testament to the passion these leading scientists and residents of our state have for the protection of our natural resources,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. ”I look forward to utilizing these recommendations to identify regulatory and management strategies to expedite water quality improvements.”

“The recommendations released by the task force are the result of a deliberative and transparent process and reflect DEP’s commitment as a state agency to science-based decision making. These recommendations will undoubtedly be used to inform viable and effective policy,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazer. “The task force will continue to meet and will delve even more deeply into a broader suite of issues related to water quality and algal blooms moving forward.”

A copy of the consensus document can be found on the Blue-Green Algae Task Force website.