Current News Items (within the last 30 days)
County encourages residents to have fun this summer and skip lawn maintenance
Sarasota County officials are encouraging residents to get out and enjoy living in paradise this summer and skip some of the yard work!|
This summer county officials are urging residents to protect the bay by not using fertilizer products containing nitrogen and phosphorus. Stormwater washes excess fertilizer into storm drains, transporting the nitrogen and phosphorus into the bay. Nitrogen and phosphorus can fuel excessive growth of algae, which smother natural vegetation. Nitrogen and phosphorus can also cause invasive weeds to flourish, changing Florida's natural plant communities.
"People should be able to enjoy their summer by heading to the beach, going fishing or boating," said Sarasota County Environmental Specialist Amanda Dominguez. "No one wants to be doing yard work in the summer and the great news is you don't need to use fertilizer in order to have a healthy yard."
Beginning June 1 through Sept. 30, no fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorous may be used on lawns or
plants in unincorporated Sarasota County. Homeowners should follow these tips to maintain a healthy lawn while protecting the bay:
For more information, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000 or visit www.scgov.net keyword search "fertilizer."
mow grass as high as possible with a mulching mower
don't over-water turf and plants
install a soil moisture sensor to determine when to water
keep fertilizer at least 10 feet from any water's edge
create a low-maintenance zone of landscape plants near the water's edge to prevent fertilizer runoff
Learn more about Sarasota County's fertilizer ordinance
Florida Geological Survey receives national grant to map in NE Florida
Grant will increase knowledge of geology, which helps improve land-use planning in northeastern area of Florida
TALLAHASSEE – The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Geological Survey has been awarded $193,183 by the U.S Geological Survey to produce a detailed geologic map of a portion of northeast Florida. The STATEMAP grant is the fourth-highest award amount distributed nationwide this year for work that will begin in September and is expected to be publicly available for digital download by December 2014.
“The funding provided by the USGS allows us to produce a geologic map in support of the societal, economic and scientific welfare needs of Florida,” said STATEMAP Project Manager Rick Green. “Our goal is to make these findings readily available and accessible to the public.”
The benefits of this type of mapping include a more comprehensive understanding of the distribution of rock, mineral and groundwater resources, including vulnerability of aquifers to contamination. These maps are also important in providing shallow subsurface geological information that can be used in understanding sinkholes and other geologic hazards.
The mapping effort involves extensive field work over a 12 month period, including visits to accessible rock and sediment exposures in mines and other excavated areas, as well as natural exposures in rivers, streams, sinkholes and springs. To better understand the underlying geologic units, project staff inspect rock and sediment samples from hundreds of wells, including new wells drilled in support of the project to fill data gaps. Extensive data management and map making in a geographic information system platform is also involved.
This work is conducted under the STATEMAP component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, which serves to create a national geologic database that is accessible to the public. The STATEMAP Advisory Council, which is comprised of geologists and engineers in Florida, prioritized the St. Augustine quadrangle as the primary focus for this year’s work.
The approximately 2,000 square mile area was approved due to its location adjacent to current project mapping underway in the Daytona Beach area, as well as an additional project being conducted along the northeast coast of Florida funded by the National Park Service and Florida Geological Survey. This will allow the Florida Geological Survey to maximize its resources and expand upon existing data.
Since its inception in 1994, this component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program has funded more than $4.6 million in support of mapping to benefit Florida’s residents and environment, covering an area of more than 13,000 square miles.
Data gathered by the STATEMAP program is also used by other agencies in Florida. The Florida Department of Transportation used information from mapped STATEMAP projects for an assessment of strategic aggregate reserves in the state and to develop a better understanding of the geology in support of projects, such as the Florida Future Corridors program.
The maps are published annually and released in segments online.
Source: Florida DEP news release
Decades-old nitrate found to affect stream water quality
U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hydrologic researchers have found that the movement of nitrate through groundwater to streams can take decades to occur. This long lag time means that changes in the use of nitrogen-based fertilizer (the typical source of nitrate) — whether the change is initiation, adjustment, or cessation — may take decades to be fully observed in streams, according to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
Water quality experts have been noting in recent years that nitrate trends in streams and rivers do not match their expectations based on reduced regional use of nitrogen-based fertilizer. The long travel times of groundwater discharge, like those documented in this study, have previously been suggested as the likely factor responsible for these observations.
"This study provides direct evidence that nitrate can take decades to travel from recharge at the land surface to discharge in streams," said Jerad Bales, acting USGS Associate Director for Water. "This is an important finding because long travel times will delay direct observation of the full effect of nutrient management strategies on stream quality."
Rivers and streams are fed by both groundwater held in underground aquifers and surface water from precipitation runoff. In low streamflow conditions, groundwater sources take a larger role.
In this study, USGS scientists closely examined surface and ground waters at seven study sites from across the nation to determine the portion of stream nitrate derived from groundwater. They found that most of the nitrate observed in streams located in groundwater-dominated watersheds was derived from groundwater sources. To determine the time it takes groundwater to reach a stream in a groundwater-dominated watershed, an age dating tracer study was conducted in the Tomorrow River in central Wisconsin. The findings indicated that decades-old nitrate-laden water was currently discharging to this stream. Consequently, base flow nitrate concentrations in this stream may be sustained for decades to come, regardless of current and future practices.
The slow release of groundwater nitrate to streams may also affect the water quality of large rivers. For example, increases in nitrate concentrations during low and moderate flows in large rivers in the Mississippi River Basin have been observed to be greater than or comparable to increases in nitrate concentrations during high flows. (See USGS website, Nitrate in the Mississippi River and its tributaries, 1980 to 2008.) These findings also suggest that increasing nitrate concentrations in groundwater are having a substantial effect on nitrate concentrations in rivers and nitrate transport to the Gulf of Mexico. Because nitrate moves slowly through groundwater to rivers, the full effect of management strategies designed to reduce nitrate movement to these rivers may not be seen for many years.
Learn more about the nitrate study on USGS.gov
Bay Guardian volunteers plant 3,500 plants at Perico Preserve
SARASOTA – A group of 49 adult and student Bay Guardian volunteers with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) planted 3,500 Florida native plants at a shoreline area on Perico Preserve Saturday, May 4. The plants were donated by Manatee County Natural Resources and FWC Redfish Hatchery at Port Manatee. Other project partners included Around the Bend Nature Tours and Martha B. King Middle School in Bradenton. King Middle School was honored with an SBEP Blue Dolphin Award in 2012 to acknowledge the school’s commitment to supporting local environmental projects.
Bay Guardian volunteers did a planting previously at Perico Preserve in October 2012. Perico Preserve is the newest preserve in Manatee County. The 176-acre property was originally farmland and the extensive mangrove fringe is currently undergoing restoration to become another natural habitat within Manatee County’s coastal preserve system. Plans include the construction of a lagoon to support seagrass growth and a bird rookery island. During construction, public access is only permitted through sneak peek tours hosted by Manatee County Natural Resources or volunteer workdays.
The recent planting at Perico Preserve was the fourth Bay Guardian volunteer outing this year. Prior outings were held at Baywalk Creek near New College of Florida, Jiggs Landing in Manatee County, and Bowlees Creek Island Bird Sanctuary near the mouth of Bowlees Creek.
The Bay Guardians are the largest and most active volunteer organization in the region focused on the welfare of Sarasota Bay. Hundreds of local volunteers invest thousands of hours each year supporting projects focused on planting Florida native plants and removing exotic plants as well as trash and debris. The SBEP manages the volunteer program in partnership with Around the Bend Nature Tours. New volunteers receive a blue tee shirt featuring the Bay Guardians logo. The SBEP also provides a picnic lunch following the morning project.
Join the Bay Guardians for a single project or as an ongoing commitment. Local civic, school, scout, and church groups interested in volunteering can contact Stephanie Sherman with the SBEP.
Volunteer with the Bay Guardians
Sherri Swanson joins the SBEP Citizens Advisory Committee
SARASOTA – Sherri Swanson was approved for membership by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) on Monday. Sherri has worked as a Senior Environmental Scientist for HDR since 2006. HDR is a global employee-owned firm providing architecture, engineering, environmental, and construction related services. She worked previously as a Project Scientist for Sarasota County from 2003 to 2006. Sherri lives in Sarasota with her husband Andy.
The 28-member CAC provides public input to support SBEP planning and promotes the SBEP mission and its various programs in Sarasota and Manatee County. Current members include parents, grandparents, educators, former elected representatives, business owners, scientists, environmental advocates, ecologists, realtors, and engineers.
Sherri is close to completing a Masters of Art Degree in Global Sustainability with a focus on Water from the University of South Florida. She completed a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental, Soil and Water Science from the University of Arkansas in 2000. Sherri is a Certified Professional Wetland Scientist. She’s also the sustainability manager with the Sarasota Bay Water Festival and a key volunteer leader. HDR is the Host Sponsor of the festival for 2013.
Learn more about the SBEP Citizens Advisory Committee
Register now for Sister Keys Clean Up on May 11th
Join the 5th Annual Sister Keys Clean Up on Saturday, May 11. You can register online (link below) or sign up the day of the event starting at 8:00 am at the Mar Vista Dockside restaurant, 760 Broadway Street, Longboat Key. Participants limited to 75.
The Clean Up starts at 9:00 am and ends at 11:30 am with a complimentary lunch following at the Mar Vista Dockside restaurant. NOTE: the boat ramp adjacent to the Mar Vista will be closed for repairs.
Purpose of event: To clean trash from the Sister Keys, the largest undeveloped islands from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor. The Sister Keys are Sarasota Bay Watch "Adopted Islands".
What to bring: Sunscreen, insect repellent, hat, gloves, glasses, water shoes. Kayaks and boats are welcome! No boat? Sign on as a crew member!
Participants without a boat or kayak will get a ride to the Sister Keys aboard the Kathleen D, a sailing catamaran. Bags will be provided for trash pick up and the Town of Longboat Key will collect the trash. By car, park on the streets in Longboat Key Village where parking is allowed. Please try not to park in the restaurant parking lot and please park considerately in the village.
For questions about the event, please call 941-918-2700 or 941-232-2363.
Up to 375 USGS flood gauges to turn off because of fund cuts
Just in time for the spring flood season, the federal sequester is threatening to shut off funding for hundreds of stream gauges used by the U.S. Geological Survey to predict and monitor flood levels across the country.
"The USGS will discontinue operation of up to 375 stream gauges nationwide due to budget cuts as a result of sequestration," the USGS notes on its website. Additional stream gauges may be affected if USGS partners at state and local agencies reduce their funding support.
USGS is quick to point out, though, they won't take out of service the gauges now being used to monitor the heavy floods soaking the Midwest. Robert Mason, deputy chief of the USGS Office of Surface Water, says the USGS plans to prioritize those gauges that are used by the National Weather Service for forecasting, so that the impact of the cuts is minimized.
In all, a total of 682 gauges have some level of funding issues (some of the gauges may not be shut off entirely). The USGS, which operates about 95% of the gauges, is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Continued in USA Today online...
Warm Mineral Springs' rebirth
By Eric Ernst
At Warm Mineral Springs, "Water is the real deal".
NORTH PORT – Cypress Lending called Gene Vaccaro in 2009 to inspect one of their delinquent accounts. The national company, based in Dallas, knew of Vaccaro's work with distressed properties, and management wanted to know what they'd have on their hands if they foreclosed a property called Warm Mineral Springs.
So, Vaccaro and his wife, Elaine, threw their swimsuits and towels in the car and headed from Naples to North Port.
What they found at the springs shocked them, he says. Employees were smoking behind the counter. Yellow tape encircled the restrooms, which were out of order. The gift shop was empty. The cafe was closed. (“Thank God it was closed,” he says.) Small waterways at the entrance were clogged with algae. The fountains did not run. Rusted-out handrails led bathers to the spring-fed sinkhole.
Continued at HeraldTribune.com...
Legislators prepare for potential ‘fracking’ in Florida
By Mary Ellen Klas and Curtis Morgan
TALLAHASSEE – No one knows if Florida is going to be the next frontier for the new generation of oil and gas drilling known as fracking, but state legislators say — just in case — it’s time to write rules to require disclosure of the controversial technology.
The Florida House on Wednesday is expected to pass a bill that will require companies to disclose what chemicals they use when they explore for oil and gas using the controversial extraction process.
Fracking uses hydraulic fracturing technology to inject water, sand and chemicals underground to create fractures in rock formations. Oil and gas is released through the fissures and is captured by wells, built at the sites. Environmentalists warn that the chemical makeup of the fluid that is pumped into the ground could contaminate groundwater and release harmful pollutants, such as methane, into the air.
Continued in the Bradenton Herald online...
Coast Guard Auxiliary will demo boating safety at spring nautical expo
At the West Marine Nautical Expo on May 4th and 5th, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary will conduct a demonstration of on-the-water assistance procedures, utilizing one boat acting as distressed and the other responding to help. The boat assistance drill will take place on the water at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. A speaker will provide a description of the interaction between the distressed boat and the USCG responder boat.
This demonstration will show the proper steps that a boater in distress should take when the Coast Guard responds. Two types of tow for the distressed boat will be demonstrated. The correct way to tow from either the stern or onside will be shown and described. The USCG Auxiliary will also demonstrate the proper use of flares and other visual distress signals and the proper selection and wearing of personal flotation devices (PFDs or life vests). Free annual vessel examinations will be conducted at a location in the marina or you can arrange for the inspection at another time and at your boat's location. Boaters can sign up to attend the ABS (About Boating Safety) course conducted monthly by the USCG Auxiliary. If you are new to boating or if family or friends need a basic boating course this is the one to take!
The West Marine Nautical Expo will be held at Regatta Point Marina, 1005 Riverside Drive, in Palmetto.
More information about the West Marine Nautical Expo
New College invites public to free film about seal level rise
The Island President
a film by John Shenk
WEDU's Community Cinema takes Sea Level Rise out of the headlines and makes it personal. President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives is a man with a bigger problem than any other world leader has ever faced — the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. After bringing democracy to the Maldives, he must now ensure that his tiny country doesn’t disappear under rising sea-levels.
WHEN: April 30th at 6:30 pm, followed by discussion
WHERE: The Mildred Sainer Pavilion at New College of Florida. 5313 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota
WHO: Presented by ITVS, Community Cinema, WEDU, and New College of Florida
RSVP: Free, but seating is limited.
Make your reservation
Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Announces 2013 Blue Dolphin Award Winners
SARASOTA – The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) has announced the 2013 winners of Blue Dolphin Awards. The awards acknowledge local champions of Sarasota Bay. The 2013 recipients include Don and Denise Elliott with Sunbow Bay Condominium Association on Anna Maria Island, Sean Russell with the Stow It Don’t Throw It Project, and Lee Fox with Save Our Seabirds, Inc.
The Elliotts are being acknowledged for their efforts to create a Bay-friendly demonstration garden at Sunbow Bay located on Anna Maria Island. SBEP provided Bay Partner Grants to support the multi-year project. Sean Russell of Sarasota, who currently attends the University of Florida, has helped raise awareness about preventing marine debris and supporting ocean conservation through the Stow It Don’t Throw It Project, a non-profit organization he formed. Sean also provides leadership to organize the annual Youth Ocean Conservation Summit held at Mote Marine Laboratory. Lee Fox manages the popular bird hospital for Save Our Seabirds located in Sarasota.
The SBEP Blue Dolphin Awards were launched in 2012. The inaugural winners included Jack Merriam, the former environmental manager for Sarasota County, Martha B. King Middle School in Bradenton, AMI Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, Raindrop Cisterns, a company focused on rainwater harvesting, and Charles Edwards, a long-term volunteer with the SBEP Citizens Advisory Committee.
Members of the SBEP Policy Board presented the first Blue Dolphin Awards last year at an awards program held at Powel Crosley Estate in Manatee County. The program attracted more than 150 local professionals focused on the welfare of Sarasota Bay. This year’s awards will be presented throughout the year. The first 2013 Blue Dolphin Award will be presented to Don and Denise Elliott next week at the SBEP Citizens Advisory Committee meeting.
Learn more about the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program
Register for May 1st webcast on "Using Social Indicators in Watershed Management Projects"
The US Environmental Protection Agency is offering a webcast on May 1, 2013 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm EDT. The topic will be "Using Social Indicators in Watershed Management Projects."
Working with landowners and managers to find effective and practical solutions to water quality problems is crucial to achieving environmental goals. Social indicators provide information about the social context, awareness, attitudes, capacities, constraints, and behaviors in a watershed or project area. Using social indicators can help resource managers and conservation professionals understand target audiences, select effective interventions, and evaluate their impacts.
At the end of this webcast, participants will understand some basic concepts of behavior change and have the tools to use a framework for using social indicators in nonpoint source management work.
To register for this Watershed Academy Webcast, please visit the link below. The webcast presentation will be posted in advance at this URL. Webcast participants are eligible to receive a certificate for their attendance.
More information, flyer, additional resources, online registration