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2/8/2016

Bill Nelson blasts proposal to allow offshore drilling near Florida coast

WASHINGTON – Sen. Bill Nelson took to the Senate floor Wednesday (Feb. 3rd) to launch a fierce assault against a legislative initiative to expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico by providing states huge financial incentives to increase energy exploration.

Displaying a large map of the gulf, Nelson accused Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, of offering a “secret amendment” to a broad energy bill that would boost revenue-sharing for states that allow offshore oil and natural gas production.

The amendment would provide $1.5 billion over 15 years to Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama for increased energy production. It would also create new revenue-sharing streams for Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alaska.

“Off of Louisiana there are not many beaches,” Nelson said. “Off of Mississippi there are not many beaches. Off of Alabama — not many beaches. But what do you think Florida is known for? Its pristine beaches all the way from the Perdido River, which is the Florida-Alabama line, all the way down the coast, all the way to Naples and then not only to the Keys, but up the East Coast of Florida.”

Continued in the Star-Telegram »

2/5/2016

Registration now open for annual Orlando Wetlands Park Festival

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ORLANDO – Come and enjoy the Orlando Wetlands Festival on Saturday, February 20, 2016, from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. at Fort Christmas Historical Park. The Orlando Wetlands Festival is an opportunity to celebrate the Orlando Wetlands Park, the City-s 1,650-acre wetland oasis. Admission and parking are free, but registration is requested.

The event is sponsored by:
 • City of Orlando
 • Orange Audubon Society
 • Orange County Parks and Recreation

Hikes
Experience this unique wetland treatment system with the entire family! Orange Audubon Society will lead guided bird-watching excursions, the Florida Native Plant Society will lead native plant identification hikes, and the Florida Trail Association will be providing wilderness hikes. Or bring your camera and join a guided photo hike led by professional photographers.

Children's Activities
There will be many interactive children's activities (like Out-On-A-Limb kids' tree climbing), bounce houses and much more! So bring the whole family and invite your friends and neighbors to this fun, free educational festival.

Tours
For those who like to sit and ride, guided bus tours will travel along the wetland berms, giving riders a chance to experience firsthand Florida's wild wetlands. Hay rides will also give riders a chance to relax and take in the scenery. In addition to the numerous guided tours, there will be bird-banding and mist-netting demonstrations, as well as, live music by Homer Stiles.

Wildlife
Featured in the various wildlife shows, many different live animals will be present such as alligators, snakes, birds and many others.

Tree Giveaway
The City's Families, Parks and Recreation Department will be giving away free backyard trees in celebration of Arbor Day.

Directions
To get to the Park, take S.R. 50 to Christmas, Florida. Turn north onto 420, Ft. Christmas Rd. Continue north 1.8 miles. Fort Christmas Park will be on your left. Free parking will be located on your right across from Fort Christmas Park. The address is 1300 North Fort Christmas Road, Christmas, FL 32709.

More Information
 • Please leave your pets at home; there are wild animals.
 • Food will be available for purchase.
 • Free admission and free door prizes!
 • For more information: call Orlando Wetlands Park 407-568-1706, or visit the event website: http://www.cityoforlando.net/wetlands/.
 • We are also on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/OrlandoWetlands.

Register online (FREE!) »

Contact Information
2/3/2016

Sunrise walks return Feb. 3 to Siesta and Nokomis beaches

Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources' popular Sunrise Beach Walks return to Siesta Beach and Nokomis Beach every Wednesday, beginning Feb. 3 through March 30.

A one-time registration fee of $5 includes an event T-shirt and punch card. Check in before or after your minimum one-mile walk between 8-9:30 a.m. to have your card punched.

After completing four walks, registrants will receive a drawstring sport pack filled with goodies for your active lifestyle. Complete eight walks to earn another incentive.

Join Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources and Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County to exercise, energize and enjoy our beautiful beaches!

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

2/3/2016

Save the Date: 2016 NALMS monitoring conference

Join the NWQMC on May 2-6, 2016 in Tampa, Florida for the National Water Quality Monitoring Council’s (NWQMC) 10th National Monitoring Conference – Working Together for Clean Water. This conference provides many opportunities for water stakeholders – federal, state, tribal and local water professionals, non-profits, academia, and volunteer citizen scientists – to network, develop new skills and partnerships, and exchange information.

The city’s rich history and modern landscape offer visitors a wide variety of attractions. Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest open water estuary and home to an impressive variety of wildlife, including manatees, wading birds, and prized sport fish.

Attendees will network, develop partnerships and new skills, and exchange information and technology related to all water resources, including rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters and estuaries, groundwater, and processed water. Conference themes attract professional papers and posters addressing a variety of topics ranging from monitoring and assessment to protection and restoration, as well as cutting-edge technologies and methods.

The NWQMC is requesting abstracts for oral presentations, posters, workshops, panels, short courses, and Round Table discussions that cover topics related to rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters and estuaries, groundwater, and drinking water. Abstracts are due September 18, 2015.

Abstracts are welcome on any of the following conference themes:

  • Monitoring Designs for the 21st Century
  • Connecting Coasts, Estuaries, and Freshwater Ecosystems
  • Innovations in Monitoring and Assessment
  • Identifying and Assessing Emerging Risks
  • Measuring Effectiveness of Water Management Actions
  • Managing, Sharing, Communicating, and Mining Data
  • Building Monitoring Collaborations
  • Assessing Trends in Water Resources


  • Click here to register

    Click here to view the event flyer for more details

2/3/2016

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces over $20 Million in Grants to Conserve Coastal Wetlands

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced over $20 million will be provided to 28 projects in 12 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.

State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute over $20 million in additional funds to these projects, which acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Wetlands Grants provide critical funding in the effort to protect some of our most fragile and at-risk wildlife habitats, said Service Director Dan Ashe. “With rising ocean levels eating away at coastal wetlands from one side and development claiming more and more acres on the other, our coastal wetlands are being squeezed into an ever thinner sliver of land. Never before has it been so important to protect these places.”

The program, funded in part through taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters, creates significant benefits for other recreationists and the American public. The billions of dollars generated through recreational angling, boating, waterfowl hunting and bird watching benefit communities in the vicinity of wetlands restoration projects.

States and territories receiving funds are California, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. Click here for the complete list of projects funded by the 2016 grant program.

Click here to view original article »

2/1/2016

Register now for coastal climate adaptation workshop Feb. 23-25

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) invites you to the Climate Adaptation for Coastal Communities Workshop on Feb. 23-25, 2016, at Lemon Bay Park (570 Bay Park Blvd, Englewood, 941/861-5000). We are delighted that NOAA Office for Coastal Management is offering this workshop to CHNEP, a partnership working to protect the natural environment from Venice to Bonita Springs to Winter Haven.

This three-day instructor-led workshop will give you a thorough grounding in the topic of adaptation – and time in class to apply what you’ve learned to your own adaptation projects. The workshop covers these essentials: understanding climate science and impacts; determining community vulnerabilities; communicating effectively; identifying adaptation strategies; and finding mechanisms to implement those strategies. Opportunities for local collaboration and next steps for adaptation planning and implementation are emphasized through discussion, participant activities, and incorporation of local speakers and examples.

After completing this workshop, participants will be able to:
  • Recognize the changes and variability in climate and climate’s influence on coastal communities
  • Identify opportunities to leverage a range of governance mechanisms to integrate adaptation strategies into their existing efforts
  • Examine methods for conducting hazard, vulnerability, and risk assessment as it relates to climate change
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of adaptation strategies
  • Apply climate communication research concepts and findings to enable effective communication with target audiences

There is a registration fee of $75 with refreshments and lunch provided.

Please register by noon on Monday, Feb. 8. Registration is via EventBrite at the link below:

Register now »

Contact Information
Maran Hilgendorf, Communications Manager, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, maran@chnep.org, 326 West Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda, FL. 33950
phone: (941) 575-3374.
http://www.chnep.org/
1/29/2016

Save the date for 2016 Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program invites you to help celebrate the splendor of the natural environment of Southwest Florida by sponsoring, exhibiting, volunteering and promoting the 17th annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival.

The festival is firmly established as an annual community event that will continue to grow and enrich the lives of our citizens. We have scheduled the next annual festival for Saturday, November 19, 2016. It will again be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Charlotte County Sports Complex located at 2300 El Jobean Rd/SR 776 in Port Charlotte. (There is no rain date.)

We look forward to seeing you Nov. 19 but there's no need to register to attend as a visitor unless you wish to receive updates. Register for updates on EventBrite.com.

The Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival is a regional family-friendly celebration where people can learn about topics affecting the natural environment of southwest Florida. This is accomplished through a wide variety of activities for both adults and children, which include guided walks in Tippecanoe Environmental Park, hands-on activities, exhibits and vendors, music, a Children's Discovery Zone and more. A committee of volunteers, who represent a diverse group of organizations, is dedicated to making this Festival exciting and informative. Admission and parking are both free. To learn more, watch the short videos of past festivals that the CHNEP has posted on YouTube:

We hope that you will participate as a sponsor, exhibitor, volunteer or promoter of the 17th annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival, making it bigger and better than ever. Thank you for considering these requests.

For information about sponsorships or exhibit spaces, please visit the link below.

Download flyer with more information »

Contact Information
Maran Hilgendorf, Communications Manager, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, maran@chnep.org, 326 West Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda, FL. 33950
phone: (941) 575-3374.
http://www.chnep.org/
1/28/2016

Florida mayors to Rubio: We’re going under, take climate change seriously

A group of mayors from communities in south Florida has released an open letter to one of their senators, Marco Rubio, in which they call for a meeting to discuss the challenges posed by climate change. The mayors, from communities like Key Biscayne, Miami, and West Palm Beach, say that the challenge of climate change requires a strong presidential commitment to action, one they argue Rubio is lacking.

"As mayors representing municipalities across Florida, we call on you to acknowledge the reality and urgency of climate change and to address the upcoming crisis it presents our communities," the letter reads. "Our cities and towns are already coping with the impacts of climate change today." Flooding at high tides, severe storm surges, and the intrusion of saltwater into municipal water supplies are all problems these cities face.

Those issues come thanks to 20cm of sea-level rise over the previous century. Studies project that the area could see up to another 30cm rise by 2050, which the mayors say "could wipe out as much as $4 billion in taxable real estate in the four-county region of Southeast Florida." If those projections are low, things get bad quickly; a 90cm rise takes out $31 billion and leaves cities and the Everglades decisively under water.

Rubio is considered one of the leading establishment candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, although that position leaves him well behind both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. But his past political history in the Florida legislature included the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

Continued online in Ars Technica »

1/28/2016

CHNEP's Mosaic Phosphate Reclamation Tour: Register now

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) Citizens Advisory Committee asked for a tour of phosphate reclamation efforts in the CHNEP watershed to better understand the techniques and outcomes. Thanks to Mosaic, a tour will be held Wednesday, March 30, 2016, leaving from the Turner Agri-Civic Center (2250 NE Roan St, Arcadia) by 8:30 a.m. and returning by 2:30 p.m. Participants will learn about Mosaic's phosphate mine reclamation and visit a variety of reclamation sites that may include uplands, wetlands and streams. This full-day tour will include transportation, lunch and snacks.

While this tour is offered free of charge, registration is required. Please complete the registration form at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/chnep-mosaic-reclamation-tour-2016-tickets-20059206627?aff=es2. (If this link does not work for you, go to www.EventBrite.com, search for CHNEP but change the location to Florida.)The bus tour is limited to the first 40 who register. If 40 have registered, please do still register to be placed on the wait list. An email will be sent approximately a week before the tour with additional details. On the day of the tour, please be sure to arrive early so the bus is loaded and ready to leave at 8:30 a.m.

Per Mosaic's visitor policy, attendees should be capable of walking and boarding vehicles throughout the day. Everyone must wear long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Guests should be in physical condition capable of walking unaided on uneven soft ground; going up and down high steps; and boarding/unboarding vehicles unaided throughout the day. Attendees may also travel in 15-passenger vans.

1/28/2016

New water law will affect everyone who uses water in Florida

On January 14, 2016, the officers of the Legislature presented CS/CS/SB 552 to Governor Scott for signature. More famously known as the "Water Bill," this 134-page page marvel of compromise proves that it is still possible to pass controversial legislation in Florida today, even if it takes two years to do so. And, indeed, there is something in the law of interest to every homeowner, land developer, institutional user, farmer, utility, governmental unit and environmentalist, including plans for the allocation of limited water resources, development of new water projects, protection of Florida springs and regulation of discharges to impaired waters.

Origins

To understand the Water Bill, one needs to know the origin of much of it. Simply put, significant portions of Florida do not have enough water reserves from traditional groundwater sources to sustain continued growth. This dilemma has sparked the need to promote or even require development of alternative water supplies and to adopt additional limitations on withdrawals from traditional groundwater sources. Alternative water supplies include innovative solutions that do not involve withdrawal of water from traditional groundwater sources. Such solutions include implementation of graywater, stormwater and brackish water projects to augment existing sources.

In addition to the threat of diminishing water supplies, continued concern for Florida's premier springs brought about the creation of a new regulatory category to afford them special protection, together with associated development limitations and remediation plans. Additional protections have also been afforded to help remediate impaired water bodies throughout the state, but particularly the ecosystems in south Florida.

Finally, the Bill addresses the multiple existing programs for protection of the South Florida natural environment, some quite outdated, to clarify who's on first and what's on second by creating lead agency responsibility for various regulatory programs and identifying Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) as the definitive tool for problem solving and regulation to protect/restore impaired waters. Key Elements

Set forth below is a compilation of the key provisions of the Bill:

Continued on JDSupra.com »

1/28/2016

NCCOS research transitions GrouperChek to commercialization

Is this really grouper that I am eating? In order to answer this question, the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) sponsored scientists at the University of South Florida (USF) developed and patented a quick identification device for commercially important grouper species. A technological offshoot from a portable red tide detection sensor, the apparatus checks for mislabeled “grouper” fish sold at restaurants and seafood markets.

NCCOS sponsored scientist Dr. John Paul (center) received a University of South Florida (USF) Excellence in Innovation Award for exceptional achievement in innovation and research at the 7th annual meeting and luncheon of the USF Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors, held August 31, 2015 at the Galleria in the USF Research Park on the university's Tampa campus.

The device, called “GrouperChek,” attaches to a laptop and is likened to a “tricorder,” the fictional Star Trek life forms detector. GrouperChek uses molecular genetic technology called Nucleic Acid Sequence-Based Amplification (NASBA) that measures and fluorescently highlights specific RNA nucleic acids that signal the presence and abundance of the targeted organism gene, which is species specific. The work is based on NCCOS ECOHAB red tide identification research initiated in 2001.

The project lead scientist, John H. Paul, is a Distinguished University Professor of biological oceanography at USF. In 2014 he launched a new company, PureMolecular LLC, to produce his patented portable tricorder device. His business group uses their experience in measuring messenger RNA as a surrogate for microbial gene expression in the design of hand-held and autonomous sensors for the detection of noxious microorganisms in coastal environments.

Dr. Paul’s collaborative work has led to a new publication, a successful proposal to the USF Seed Capital Accelerator Program that received funding from the Florida High Tech Corridor Council in 2014, and a successful proposal to NCCOS PCMHAB Program (2015) to use his patent to detect the onset of red tides.

For more information, contact Quay Dortch.

Source: NOAA/NCCOS news release »

1/26/2016

Where is the oil in the Gulf?


A Florida State University researcher and his team have developed a comprehensive analysis of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and determined how much of it occurs naturally and how much came from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.

And more importantly, their data creates a map, showing where the active natural oil seeps are located.

The research was recently released online by the Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans and is also the basis for a paper with researchers at Columbia University published today in Nature Geoscience.

In total, 4.3 million barrels were released into the Gulf from the oil spill versus an annual release of 160,000 to 600,000 barrels per year from naturally occurring seeps, according to the new results.

“This information gives us context for the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said FSU Professor of Oceanography Ian MacDonald. “Although natural seeps are significant over time, the spill was vastly more concentrated in time and space, which is why its impact was so severe.”

Among the findings was that dispersants were able to eliminate about 21 percent the oil that floated on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the spill, but at the cost of spreading the remaining oil over a 49 percent larger area.

FSU news release continues »

1/25/2016

Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides more than $375M in loans to Florida communities


Loans are designed to improve wastewater treatment facilities

TALLAHASSEE — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has recently awarded more than $375 million in low-interest loans and loan increases to eight Florida communities for new or existing wastewater treatment facilities through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF).

“Investments in water infrastructure projects offer numerous benefits to Florida’s communities, including protecting water quality, supporting our state’s growing population and ensuring the protection of public health and the environment,” said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson. “DEP is proud to partner with communities to make vital investments.”

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund program provides low-interest loans for planning, designing and constructing water pollution control facilities. Recent award recipients include the following communities:

View the list of loan recipients »

1/22/2016

Calling All Juvenile Tarpon Anglers!

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From the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust:

We need your help to identify juvenile tarpon habitats in your area. BTT has begun mapping juvenile tarpon habitat to 1) determine the habitat characteristics that are best for juvenile tarpon and 2) protect healthy habitats and identify other areas for habitat restoration. BTT has already been involved with three juvenile habitat restoration projects and we will use this data to expand the restoration and protection effort.

If you are aware of any locations that hold juvenile tarpon that are 12 inches long or less, please contact JoEllen Wilson. You will be asked for an exact location to better assess the habitat characteristics for that spot. Don't worry, all information is strictly confidential and WILL NOT be disseminated to the public in any way.

Loss and degradation of juvenile habitat is the single biggest threat to tarpon populations worldwide, and they have been classified as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, meaning there has been at least a 30 percent decrease in the population in the recent past. Protecting and restoring critical juvenile habitat is the best way to preserve tarpon populations for the future.

We appreciate your assistance in protecting the future of the tarpon fishery.

Contact Information
JoEllen Wilson, Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Program Manager, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, jwilson@bonefishtarpontrust.org, 24 Dockside Lane PMB 83, Key Largo, FL. 33037
phone: 321-674-7758.
https://www.bonefishtarpontrust.org/
1/21/2016

Judge clears way for dredging to alleviate U.S. 41 flooding

A long-awaited dredging project to alleviate flooding along U.S. 41 could soon proceed after a circuit judge granted the city and Sarasota County access to submerged land near the Ritz-Carlton claimed by SRQUS LLC. The company has blocked the dredging project for years over concerns it will tarnish water quality and forever block the public from one of downtown's few remaining access points to the bay.

But Circuit Judge Rochelle Curley ruled last week that the company doesn't, in fact, own the ditch segment eyed by the city and county and that the government bodies rightly acquired the easement needed to complete the project.

Both governments are involved because Sarasota County builds and maintains drainage projects for the city of Sarasota.

The order was signed Jan. 13, and SRQUS has 30 days in which to file an appeal. If it doesn't, the project can proceed.

“We will be appealing that decision, very likely,” said Erika Ginsberg-Klemmt, who owns SRQUS along with her husband, Achim. The couple had bought the underwater property in dispute five years ago with plans to turn it into a mooring field for up to nine boats.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

1/21/2016

Sarasota looks at restoring utility impact fees

Water and sewer impact fees could return to the city after a nearly five-year hiatus.

City commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to set a public hearing on the matter after a plea from Public Utilities Director Mitt Tidwell, who lamented the loss the revenues that could have funded major projects.

The hearing will be held at the commission's regular meeting on Feb. 16.

The city has completed $13 million worth of utilities projects since impact fee collection stopped, Tidwell said.

“If we had been collecting impact fees and had sufficient funding, about $3 million could have been used for those projects because they're growth-related,” he told commissioners. “That's about 25 percent of those costs.”

An estimated $65 million in new utilities projects appear on the horizon, Tidwell said. If the city resumes water and sewer impact fees now, it could generate some $16 million to help offset those future costs.

“We need to do this,” said Vice Mayor Suzanne Atwell.

According to city code, the fees start at $3,477 and climb as high as $278,160, depending on the new development's meter size. City Manager Tom Barwin said those fees wouldn't change if the city resumes collection.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

1/21/2016

Obama vetoes GOP attempt to block water rule

President Obama on Tuesday rejected an attempt by congressional Republicans to overturn his landmark regulation asserting federal power over small bodies of water.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule, dubbed the Clean Water Rule or “waters of the United States,” would ensure that water used for drinking, recreation, economic development and other purposes is kept safe, Obama said in a message to Congress late Tuesday.

“We must protect the waters that are vital for the health of our communities and the success of our businesses, agriculture, and energy development,” Obama wrote in his veto message.

“Because this resolution seeks to block the progress represented by this rule and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water, I cannot support it.”

The House passed the resolution last week under the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers a streamlined process to disapprove of regulation, blocking it and any similar rules. The Senate passed it in November.

The EPA wrote the rule with the Army Corps of Engineers, saying it essential to clarify that small waterways like ponds, streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Obama said in his veto message that the rule responded to requests from Congress and industry, and is in line with Supreme Court rulings.

But the GOP made it a priority to block the rule. Republicans and business advocates say it extends federal reach over puddles, wet areas and other water and land that was never meant to have federal control.

Farmers, developers and other land users say that the rule would require federal permits for simple, everyday tasks like digging ditches and spraying pesticides.

The EPA is currently prohibited from enforcing the rule. A federal court blocked it last year to allow the court system to review whether it is legal.

It’s the second time Obama has vetoed a congressional attempt to overturn a major environmental rule in just over a month.

In December, he rejected the GOP’s resolution to stop his landmark climate rules for power plants.

Click here to view original article »

1/20/2016

2016 Water Oral History Project to debut new videos Jan. 28th

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SARASOTA COUNTY — The public is invited to join representatives from Sarasota County and New College in taking a step back in time with a screening of videos showcasing oral histories as told by local residents.

These oral histories were created in a collaborative project involving New College of Florida students, who also served as interns at Sarasota County Government.

There will be a reception on Jan. 28 at 6 p.m., followed by a screening at 6:30 p.m. at the Mildred Sainer Pavilion, located at New College of Florida, 5313 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. Refreshments will be served

Meet the 2016 Water Oral History Participants:

Dr. Ed James: Dr. James has been a steadfast advocate for improvements in the Newtown community and has inspired others through his work. He has been the producer and host of the “Black Almanac” television program for 38 years and was a writer and associate producer of the television program “Positively Black.” Dr. James also worked as a columnist and governmental reporter for the Sarasota Journal and the New York Post. Dr. James was interviewed by Haley Jordan.

Laurel Kaiser: Kaiser was born in Sarasota where she has lived all of her life. In her 20s, she fell in love with the sport of windsurfing. Since the late 1980s, Kaiser has taught windsurfing and kiteboarding to Sarasota residents and visitors alike. She is an advocate for environmental awareness and water access, and is passionate about encouraging others to enjoy the water.Ms. Kaiser was interviewed by Jordan Kearschner.

Shelia Cassundra Hammond Atkins: Atkins was born in Manatee County in 1952 but has lived in Sarasota County for most of her life. Her parents were employed by Ralph and Ellen Caples. She grew up in the Newtown community, where she attended high school during integration. She currently works as a paraprofessional aide at Alta Vista Elementary. Atkins and her husband, former Sarasota mayor Fredd “Glossie” Atkins, still live in the Newtown area. Mrs. Atkins was interviewed by Kaylie Stokes.

Wade Harvin, Jr.: Harvin was born in Crescent City, Fla., and moved to Sarasota in 1940 when he was 5 years old. He was one of the first black bankers in Sarasota and brought Salvation Army bellringing to the Newtown community. He has lived in both the Newtown and Overtown communities, and he attends Bethlehem Baptist Church, which is the oldest African-American church in Sarasota. Mr. Harvin was interviewed by Flannery French.

Sarasota County prohibits discrimination in all services, programs or activities. View the complete policy at www.scgov.net/ADA/Pages/.

View oral histories from past years »

Contact Information
Ashley Melton, Environmental Specialist II, Sarasota County Government, amelton@scgov.net, Public Utilities - Stormwater, Sarasota, FL. 34240
phone: (941) 275-6118.
1/20/2016

Save the date for the First Annual SeagrassFest!

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This Spring is the time to celebrate seagrass in Sarasota Bay!

The SBEP is teaming up with Sarasota County on April 30, 2016 at Ken Thompson Park to bring SeagrassFest to Bay area residents and visitors. While Sarasota County’s staff will be conducting its annual volunteer seagrass survey at Ken Thompson Park the same morning, the SBEP will collaborate with all of its partners to offer fun, family-friendly education and water-based activities highlighting the importance of seagrass to the Bay. Attendees will also hear from our partner representatives about the ongoing efforts to restore, maintain, and enhance seagrass throughout Sarasota Bay. Mark your calendars!

To volunteer for SeagrassFest, email info@sarasotabay.org with the subject line “SeagrassFest Volunteering”. Sarasota County is also seeking volunteers for the seagrass survey for the early morning of April 30 at Ken Thompson Park. Seagrass survey volunteers must be able-bodied and have their own snorkel equipment. Volunteers with motorized vessels are especially needed. If you are interested in volunteering for the survey and meet the requirements, please contact Ashley Melton at amelton@scgov.net.

1/20/2016

Register now for Feb. 23rd Mangrove Symposium

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The University of Florida/IFAS Extension Charlotte County and Florida Sea Grant are pleased to announce their upcoming program, a 2016 Mangrove Symposium, which will be held on February 23rd, 2016 at the Charlotte County Eastport Environmental Campus, 25550 Harborview Road, Port Charlotte, FL 33980 from 8:30am – 3:30pm.

Symposium speakers will discuss the role and value of mangroves; rules and laws that govern mangrove trimming; and mangrove pruning techniques. The cost to attend is $20 with lunch included. Registration is online at the link below. Space is limited so pre-registration is required. For more information, please contact Betty Staugler at (941) 764-4346 or by email.

Continued Education Units: 4.25 ISA and 4 FNGLA CEUs are being offered for professional mangrove trimmers who attend the symposium.

Online registration »

1/20/2016

Florida DEP to hold public meetings on water quality assessments


Basin assessments identify waters not attaining water quality standards

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Beginning Jan. 20, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will kick off a series of five meetings around Florida to take public input on the draft assessment lists for the Group 3 basins. The meetings will be held in Sarasota, Palm Bay, Boynton Beach, Fort Myers and Panama City.

“Because our programs can’t succeed without stakeholder cooperation and action, we are committed to taking advantage of local perspectives and priorities to better inform our watershed work plans,” said Tom Frick, director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration.

To restore and protect Florida’s surface waters, the department collects water-quality data through its own monitoring programs and with the help of other agencies. The department uses this data to assess approximately 20 percent of Florida’s watersheds each year to identify waterbodies that do not meet water-quality standards (“impaired waters”), which are then placed on a “Verified List” to guide restoration priorities. Other potentially impaired waters, where more data is needed, are listed for further investigation. The upcoming meetings will provide an opportunity for the department to present these assessment lists and findings for the Group 3 basins.

At the public meetings, department staff will explain the results of draft basin-specific assessments for waters in the Choctawhatchee - St. Andrews, Sarasota Bay – Peace – Myakka, Upper St. Johns, Lake Worth Lagoon – Palm Beach Coast, and Caloosahatchee basins.

For each impaired waterbody or group of related waters, the department develops and adopts a scientifically derived restoration target, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load. Based on the target, a restoration plan is implemented to return the waterbody to health.

A complete list of workshop dates and locations can be found at the link below.

Public meeting schedule »

1/20/2016

Districts extend deadline to submit applications for $4 million in cost-share funding

The deadline to apply for cost-share funding for water conservation projects that benefit springs has been extended to Feb. 17, 2016, to allow additional time for completing the application process.

Local governments and public entities are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to receive part of the $4 million in state funding for projects in the Central Florida Water Initiative region and the North Florida Regional Water Supply Partnership region.

Projects to be considered focus on creating sustainable water resources, enhanced conservation efforts and improved efficiency of use. Details of the cost-share program are available at floridaswater.com/funding.

The St. Johns River Water Management District is administering the program, in partnership with the Suwannee River Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, South Florida Water Management District and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Contact Information
Teresa Monson, St. Johns River Water Management District, tmonson@sjrwmd.com
phone: (904) 730-6258.
1/20/2016

Environmental groups want Scott to veto water bill

Sweeping bills to address concerns over Florida’s imperiled water supplies were rushed through the Legislature this week and should be rejected by Gov. Rick Scott, environmental groups said in a press briefing Friday.

The twin bills, which have been in the works for nearly two years , were overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers with the support of the agriculture industry as well as the Department of Environmental Protection. Scott has said he plans to sign the bills next Thursday.

But critics, including more than 100 groups and businesses, say the measure fails to accomplish much-needed reforms that would help regulate water use and pollution and also strips control from local water management districts. The legislation also weakens water pollution controls in the Northern Everglades and fails to protect sensitive lands around springs. Instead, critics say the bills largely set up a shell game of commissions and reports.

Continued on the Miami Herald »

1/20/2016

City considers restoring water and sewer impact fees

On Tuesday, the City Commission will discuss reinstating a fee on developers that officials believe could lighten the load of new construction on water and sewer infrastructure.

At its next meeting, the commission is scheduled to consider restoring water and sewer impact fees, which have been suspended in the city since 2011. At the last meeting, Commissioner Susan Chapman and Mayor Willie Shaw both expressed an interest in revisiting the city’s impact fee policies as a response to the ongoing level of construction.

The fees were halted during a fallow period for building. A report from a city consultant at the time stated suspending the fees would have a minimal impact on the city’s utility system. The commission voted to suspend the collection of impact fees until January 2022, though the ordinance has a provision for resuming the charge before that date.

If the impact fees were in place in 2015, the city would have collected approximately $1 million, according to documents included with Tuesday’s meeting agenda. That revenue could be used on restoring water and wastewater mains or rehabilitating lift stations, staff wrote.

The fee schedule currently in place dates back to 2005. The charge for connecting to the city’s water and sewer systems ranges between $3,477 for a 5/8-inch meter and $278,160 for an 8-inch meter, depending on the size of the development. According to staff, the largest current connection in the city is a 6-inch meter for Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Continued on YourObserver.com »

1/20/2016

Feel the heat at 2016 Fire Fest, coming Jan. 30 to Carlton Reserve

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SARASOTA COUNTY — Join Sarasota County at the 2016 Fire Fest on Saturday, Jan. 30, at T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve, where attendees will have a chance to see firsthand how prescribed burns protect our communities from wildfire and maintain Florida's natural ecosystems.

This year's event is a culmination of Prescribed Fire Awareness Week, Jan. 24-30, and is a fun opportunity for the whole family to learn how fire is used carefully and effectively on Sarasota County's natural lands, and how fire actually benefits the plants and animals that inhabit these areas.

Activities at Fire Fest include:
  • Prescribed burn demonstrations
  • Helicopter water drops
  • Games for kids
  • Guided nature walks
  • A special guest speaker
  • Free food and more

This fun and free family event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Carlton Reserve, 1800 Mabry Carlton Parkway, Venice.

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

1/19/2016

Helping fisheries in Sarasota Bay

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Sarasota philanthropists Carol and Barney Barnett donated $3 million as a part of the Campaign to help Mote implement its Fisheries Conservation and Enhancement Initiative to protect and restore fisheries in Sarasota Bay, with an expectation that others in our community will step up to provide support for to this initiative as well.

Snook are a focus of this initiative and one of the most sought after catches in Florida’s saltwater recreational fishing industry. According to the American Sportfishing Association, Florida is the top-ranked state in economic output from recreational fishing, which draws more than $8 billion to the economy annually. Saltwater fishing alone generates about 80 percent — more than $6 billion — of that income.

In 2015, Mote scientists and Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) scientists placed about 400 tagged, hatchery-reared juvenile snook into Sarasota Bay as part of an ongoing research project focused on finding the most effective methods to replenish and enhance wild snook populations. That experiment was a prelude to experiments planned for summer 2016, when over 15,000 hatchery snook will be tagged and released. This research is evaluating which natural snook nursery habitats are most important in producing adult snook in Sarasota Bay to provide critical knowledge for sustaining the local snook population.

“We are very fortunate and thankful to have this Fisheries Conservation and Enhancement Initiative,” said Dr. Kenneth Leber, Associate Vice President for Mote’s Directorate for Fisheries and Aquaculture. “In the coming years, it is our goal not only to release thousands of snook into the Bay to help replenish snook when they are reduced by cold winters or red tides, but also to help our community by enabling citizens and agencies to make more informed choices about habitat protection and restoration made possible because of this Initiative.”

Mote welcomed Dr. Ryan Schloesser in September 2015, a postdoctoral scientist who, enabled by the Barnett’s donation, joined the Fisheries Ecology and Enhancement Program to help further develop and test responsible stock enhancement technology for restoring depleted snook and to advance knowledge about wild snook.

Also as part of the Initiative, scheduled for April 8-9, Mote will be hosting the William R. Mote Memorial Snook Shindig honoring Captain Scotty Moore – a catch, sample and release tournament targeting snook released by scientists from Mote’s Fisheries Ecology and Enhancement Program and our colleagues at Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Photo: Carole L. Neidig, Mote Staff Scientist, brings hatchery-reared snook to acclimation enclosures before they are released into Sarasota Bay as part of the Lab's Fisheries Conservation and Enhancement Initiative. Credit: Mote Marine Laboratory.

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1/13/2016

Tangerine Woods: A Brazilian Pepper Success Story

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Tangerine Woods, an over 55 community in Englewood Florida, has a successful Brazilian Pepper story to tell!

What started out in 2003 as a project to eradicate Brazilian Pepper is now a project to enhance the natural beauty of the Nature Trail area. The development of the Nature Trail could well be an example of a transformation. It is also a good example of support by governmental agencies. As a result of the joint efforts of the Tangerine Woods Owners Association Board, the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, the Florida Native Plant Society, the Waste Management Corporation, and the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, the Tangerine Woods community is now in the early stages of having a well-kept nature area including a meadow with two flower beds of attractive native flowers. A recent development in 2014 was the Owner’s Board designating a “Nature Trail Preservation Committee” to oversee the development of the Nature Trail.

The Nature Trail, which is ½ mile in length, was always there but was seldom if ever used. It had the reputation of being an area filled with overgrown vegetation and many wild critters. We are pleased to report that the Nature Trail has become a favorite route for our many daily walkers. A key to the development of the Nature Trail has been the Lazy Daze Men’s work group. This is a group of some 80 men volunteers who make up 17 different crews that gather every Monday morning to take on the responsibility of acting as the Tangerine Woods maintenance department. One of these crews is the “Brazilian Pepper Eradication Crew”.

In 2006 the Brazilian Pepper Eradication Crew decided to move into the Nature Trail area that was overgrown with Brazilian Pepper. A breakthrough occurred in 2011 when as a result of removing Brazilian Pepper a beautiful vista appeared at the west end of one of our lakes. A bench was installed to allow residents to take in the beautiful, peaceful scene.

Two years later with the removal of more Brazilian Pepper a meadow appeared and it became clear that the Nature Trail area was worthy of development. The Tangerine Woods Owners Board agreed, and established a Nature Trail Preservation Committee. This committee has been very active. Its first objective was to determine if there was community interest in the development of the Nature Trail. To make that determination several meetings and Nature Trail walks were scheduled. The turnout at all meetings was gratifying and thus the committee went into the research and planning mode. We are now in the development mode thus the recent purchase of benches and native flowers.

What is presented here is only “the tip of the iceberg”. Anyone interested in more detail of what was involved in our success story should feel free to contact me at (941) 474-5476 or by email.

— Neil Sheehan

Full story with before and after photos »

1/13/2016

Donations needed for upcoming Roadways and Waterways Community Celebration in February

The City of North Port is seeking individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in getting involved in a Roadways and Waterways Community Celebration to recognize a Road Bond Project and a Blueways Project. Donations are needed for prizes, food and drinks. The City is also looking for entertainment and those organizations and businesses interested in hosting information tables.

The City will be hosting the celebration from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, February 27, 2016 at McKibben Park, 5500 Trekell Street. The celebration will include a ribbon cutting and groundbreaking to recognize two major projects that will enhance the quality of life for North Port residents. Entertainment, food, beverages, information tables, prizes and giveaways are planned for the celebration.

The City’s Road Bond Project Phases 4, 5, and 6 will officially kick off construction with a groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. during the event. Immediately following the groundbreaking, the City will conduct a ribbon cutting to celebrate the end of construction of Phase I of its Blueways Project, which will open up a portion of the City’s canals to canoeing and kayaking.

“Both of these projects make a huge difference in the quality of life for our residents, and we are hoping that the community will help us to host the celebration,” said Community Outreach Manager Erin Bryce. “We are looking for individuals, businesses, and organizations interested in helping to contribute food, drinks, prizes, and giveaways. We also are seeking any nonprofit or businesses interested in hosting information tables.”

Those who are interested should contact Community Outreach Manager Erin Bryce at (941) 429-7165 or at ebryce@cityofnorthport.com.

The City’s Road Bond Project is one of the biggest road resurfacing projects in the City’s history. Phases 4, 5 and 6 consist of roadways in neighborhoods along the Sumter Boulevard corridor, Cranberry Boulevard corridor and South Haberland Boulevard. Many of the roadways defined in Phases 4, 5, and 6 will either be resurfaced as part of the Road Bond or receive necessary routine maintenance. Drainage work is also part of the project. Work is anticipated to be finished by late 2016.

This is the third of several neighborhood Road Bond celebrations. The Road Bond Project, which began in 2014, includes the rehabilitation of 266 miles of substandard neighborhood roads throughout the 104.1-square-mile city. The project, which spans the City, was split into eight construction phases. Phase 1 and 2 encompassed the North Port Estates and finished in 2014. Phase 3, which encompassed more than 7,000 homes along Biscayne Drive, finished earlier this year.

The City of North Port also will be celebrating the completion of Phase I of the Blueways project. The project is currently under construction. When completed, residents will be able to navigate between four parks by canoe, kayak, or any other non-motorized boat. The parks include Butler Park, Dallas White Park, McKibben Park, and Blue Ridge Park. The project includes portages around water control structures that will allow users to traverse 6 miles of waterways. Each portage has a platform for users to dock, walk their vessels around the structure and re-launch. This is the first phase of several that are planned to open up the City’s waterways for more recreational use.

“We hope the community will join us in celebrating these two major projects. This is a great opportunity for individuals, organizations and businesses to make a difference and get involved in these two projects,” Bryce said.

For questions about the Road Bond Project, contact the Department of Public Works at (941) 240-8050. For questions about the Blueways Project, contact Parks and Recreation at (941) 429-7275. For information about the celebration or to donate to the celebration, contact Community Outreach at (941) 429-7165.

Click here to view original article »

1/12/2016

Could future development hurt North Port's drinking water?

The peaceful flow of the Myakkahatchee Creek has supplied the people of North Port with drinking water for quite some time, and for just as long the City has been trying to make sure no one builds on the over 500 lots alongside the creek.

"We started trying to think of innovative ways to obtain those properties. Some people just didn't want to sell them," said North Port Assistant City Manager, Danny Schult.

The City has been acquiring these lands slowly since the late 90's. Now, they're down to the last 60 or so lots. Convincing people to sell has proved a challenge, so they've resorted to a trade.

"Property owners could exchange their lots along the Myakkahatchee Creek for other lots that the City owns," says Schult.

Some environmentalists fear the mass grab of land is to add new developments. "Development is definitely possible next to the Myakkahatchee Creek. It's a very desirable area to build in," said Manasota 88' Director Glenn Compton.

There are 12 homes already built along the river - but if more were to be built, it could harm the ecosystem and therefore have a devastating impact on the water supply.

We asked how important the creek is. "Depends how important drinking water is to people. It's extremely important. Not only for public health but also for environmental resources," said Compton. For now, the City says the land is being acquired to ensure the longevity of the drinking water supply.

"It is not to build on. It is to keep it as a conservation area and preserve it so there is no building in the area," said Schult.

"There may not be residential development pressures within it now, that can certainly change," said Compton.

In a meeting on Tuesday North Port City Commissioners will make the final decision whether they want to acquire the remaining pieces of land along the Myakkahatchee Creek.

Click here to view original article »

1/11/2016

Feel the heat at 2016 Fire Fest, coming Jan. 30 to Carlton Reserve

Join Sarasota County at the 2016 Fire Fest on Saturday, Jan. 30, at T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve, where attendees will have a chance to see firsthand how prescribed burns protect our communities from wildfire and maintain Florida's natural ecosystems.

This year's event is a culmination of Prescribed Fire Awareness Week, Jan. 24-30, and is a fun opportunity for the whole family to learn how fire is used carefully and effectively on Sarasota County's natural lands, and how fire actually benefits the plants and animals that inhabit these areas.

Activities at Fire Fest include:

  • Prescribed burn demonstrations
  • Helicopter water drops
  • Games for kids
  • Guided nature walks
  • A special guest speaker
  • Free food and more


This fun and free family event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Carlton Reserve, 1800 Mabry Carlton Parkway, Venice.

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

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