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6/30/2016

CHNEP receives FWF Conservation Organization of the Year award

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The Florida Wildlife Federation has named the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program among 10 outstanding Florida conservationists that are being recognized for their conservation achievements.

Conservation award winners are chosen from nominations made to the Federation’s board of directors based on their accomplishments on behalf of Florida’s fish, wildlife and native habitats.

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program received the Conservation Organization of the Year Award for 2016. Established in 1995, the program encompasses 4,700 square miles from Bonita Springs north to Venice and east to Winter Haven. It is one of only 28 estuary programs across the United States.

The estuarine conservation program is commended for the collegial partnership of citizens, elected officials, resource managers, and commercial and recreational resource users. Using sound science to build consensus, the partnership effectively acts as a single voice for the Charlotte Harbor watershed.

However, it was the estuary program’s outreach to elementary school students through its Adventures in the Charlotte Harbor Watershed that caught and held Florida Wildlife Federation’s attention. The educational program, financially supported by the Federation, includes not only the coastal schools, but also the often overlooked “upstream” and rural schools.

By engaging local schools and communities, the program is strengthening the land-water connection and building a multi-generational appreciation of the Charlotte Harbor estuarine watershed.

Source: Florida Weekly »

6/29/2016

Register now through Aug. 30th for free Conservation Lands Workshop

The CHNEP Conservation Lands Workshop is an opportunity for those who work with and are concerned about conservation lands to network, collaborate and learn about solutions to issues facing these lands in southwest Florida. The next workshop will be Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center (75 Taylor St., Punta Gorda). Confirmed presentations are listed below.

Conservation lands increase the quality of life and enhance the tax base of the adjacent private lands. They provide essential habitat for native species, allow water to flow naturally on the surface and to aquifers -- cleansing and storing water as it moves -- and they protect human development, as the mangroves did during Hurricane Charley. Land can be conserved through purchase and by conservation easements by citizens, jurisdictions, agencies, land trusts and others.

The CHNEP thanks the speakers who are donating their time and expertise and the sponsors, as of June 24, including Mosaic, Janet and Bruce Bunch, GE Foundation, Jelks Family Foundation, Charlotte County, Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center and the Friends of Charlotte Harbor Estuary, Inc. The CHNEP is still seeking sponsors.

To learn more and to register for this workshop, go to www.EventBrite.com. There is no fee to participate but we do ask that you register by 5 p.m. on Aug. 30. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. You may register after Aug. 30 but lunch may not be provided. Donations are accepted to help defray expenses. (Lunch and refreshments for each person cost approximately $25.) Any donation of $100 or more will be acknowledged as a sponsor. Please invite others to attend.

We anticipate the Sept. 7 program will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude by 4 p.m., but the doors will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The agenda and additional details will be sent by email to all who register.

After the workshop, PDF files of the presentations and videos (PDF of presentation and audio) will be posted at www.CHNEP.org. Presentations from annual workshops since 2012 will also available from this site soon.

Register online on EventBrite.com »

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/
6/29/2016

City of Sarasota plans $15M in utilities projects

SARASOTA — City administrators have planned $15 million in water and sewer capital improvement projects over the next year, including the first steps in the thorny and long-delayed Lift Station 87 project.

But after more than a decade of annual utility rate increases, including back-to-back years of 6 percent hikes, city water and sewer customers will not see an increase in their rates this year, Utilities Director Mitt Tidwell announced Tuesday.

"That's the first time we've sat here and said 'No rate increase' since 2005," Tidwell said, pointing to a smiley face on his budget slide. "Yeah, I'm happy about that."

Holding the rate steady is expected to keep the average city water and sewer bill, assuming 4,000 gallons of usage, at about $80 per month, according to city estimates.

The city utility can fund more than 20 capital projects and six new hires next year with current rates and $677,000 in extra annual revenue from a new contract to sell treated water to the Braden River Utilities in Lakewood Ranch, Tidwell said.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

6/29/2016

Mote Marine Lab reminds area residents to be kind to Marine Life this Independence Day

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As you enjoy Southwest Florida's coastal waters this July 4 weekend, Mote Marine Laboratory, a nonprofit research and education institution, the Sarasota Police Department, and Suncoast Charities for Children, would like to remind boaters to follow Coast Guard-approved safe boating guidelines and use vigilance to avoid striking sea turtles, manatees and dolphins.

Keeping local waters and beaches safe will be especially important during the July 4 weekend, when local waters and beaches will be busy for the holiday, and during the Sarasota Powerboat Grand Prix on July 2 and 3 off Lido Beach.

Mote&srquo;s tips for beachgoers and boaters »

6/27/2016

Longboat Key reaches for federal beach money

For the first time in its history, the town may get help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to renourish its beaches.

In 1984, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined the town of Longboat Key was eligible for federal renourishment funding for about two-and-half miles of beach near the county line. More than 30 years later, the town hasn’t received any federal funds.

But this year, the federal agency requested $1.5 million in funding to study the feasibility of undertaking a shoreline restoration on the Key, which Town Manager Dave Bullock said the municipality will match. If the study ultimately leads to a beach project for the island, the town will lock down federal funding for 50 years.

“I think we've gotten farther now in the last couple of months than we have in the years I’ve been here,” said Bullock, just minutes before speaking with Army Corps project manager Brandon Burch Thursday morning.

During the call, Burch outlined plans to include the town in its fiscal year 2018 budget. Despite the agency identifying at least two miles of shoreline worthy of federal money three decades ago, it’s still uncertain whether the town currently has shorelines that qualify for enough support from the Army Corps for the town to accept federal dollars.

Continued in the Longboat Key Observer »

6/23/2016

Tropical Storm Colin displaces Longboat Key sand


Although dry beaches on Longboat Key lost about 20 feet of sand on average due to Tropical Storm Colin, town officials say there’s still plenty of sand in the coastal system.

Last Wednesday [June 15th], Town Manager Dave Bullock was scouting the damage to beaches following the storm near the North Shore Road beach access, and he noticed something peculiar.

A man was fishing about 80 feet from the shore, from a newly formed sandbar, and dozens of beachgoers were wading through a freshly carved channel near two groins built last year.

Bullock said the scene showed that while Tropical Storm Colin may have washed away

chunks of dry beach along the island’s shorelines, the sand is still in the overall shore system. In fact, after Tropical Storm Debby in 2012, a similar sand shift occurred, and in several months, the shoal had drifted back to the mainland.

“Storms take away beach, there’s no question about that,” Bullock said. “But you always want to be a little patient after a storm and give nature time to redistribute the sand.”

Tropical Storm Colin traveled through the Gulf of Mexico June 6, creating at least 4 feet of storm surge that flooded dozens of streets in Longbeach Village and on the north end. With the town in the midst of the $10 million mid-Key truck haul, the rough surf churned up the newly placed sand.

“This was a light storm,” Bullock said. “We had pretty heavy wave action, and it was kinda fun looking at it, but it wasn’t Category 3 winds and 7-foot storm surge and all of that.”

Public Works Director Juan Florensa trudged along the same beach Friday, informally surveying the loss of sand.

“You can’t throw a frisbee there, you can’t play with your kids there, and you can’t play volleyball there,” Florensa said, motioning toward the new sandbar. “And you certainly can’t lay a towel there.”

Continued on YourObserver.com »

6/23/2016

Sand Storm: Should Army Corps replenish Lido Key with sand from Big Pass?


lip on a pair of swim goggles, duck underwater at Big Pass, and you’ll see what appears to be a barren planet with a bleached-white surface. At first glance, it looks just like any other sandy bottom along Florida’s coasts, but the sand on this seafloor is one of nature’s rarest creations and a geological marvel.

It’s the same sand that blankets nearby Siesta Public Beach and is beloved by beachgoers, the same sand that has brought international recognition and millions of dollars to Sarasota County. Immense quantities of it lie at the bottom of Big Pass, comprising a hidden treasure of immeasurable value, one that sparks passion and determination in those who wish to possess it.

That glittery white powder has touched off a fierce fight, pitting key versus key, city versus county, resident against resident, the federal government against dissenting citizens; and it may soon enlist lawyers as well. The combatants are armed with geological surveys, scientific studies, financial reports, propaganda and furious conviction.

In the simplest terms, their struggle is about where that precious sand will go. But to know where it might go, one must understand how it got here.

Continued in Sarasota Magazine »

6/21/2016

App in the works to forecast red tide in the Gulf of Mexico

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Mote Marine Laboratory will be collaborating on this project with GCOOS

Red tides caused by Karenia brevis (K. brevis) in the Gulf of Mexico can have a devastating effect on coastal communities, where severe blooms can cause millions of dollars in tourism losses and send people with chronic respiratory diseases to their local emergency rooms.

Now, a three-year $1.1 million grant from NASA is helping several organizations fine-tune current red tide forecasts with the goal of offering public health managers, coastal residents and visitors a forecast that better reflects coastal conditions on more localized scales. Improved models and forecasts for red tide conditions will help people make healthy choices about where to spend recreation time, increasing protections for public health and coastal economies.

Forecasts for Karenia brevis red tides in the Gulf of Mexico have come a long way over the last decade. But one key to providing forecasts for every beach, every day is the development of a new smartphone application that will use facial-recognition software to identify K. brevis in water samples right on the beach. In the image above, Dr. Wayne Litaker works with a prototype that connects a smartphone to a microscope. In the top left image, Litaker pinches the image to zoom in on the water sample under the microscope. The top right image shows a close up of K. brevis in the water sample.

Currently, there are several reporting systems to alert the public about red tides in the Gulf of Mexico, and each has its own limitations.

"Our forecast abilities have come a long way since the early 2000s," said Dr. Richard Stumpf, Oceanographer with the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and lead investigator on the project. "When we initially created our forecast models, our goal was to help aquaculture officials know when to close shellfish harvesting areas to protect the public from neurotoxic shellfish poisoning, which is caused by eating seafood containing red tide toxins. But later research showed that the airborne toxins are not only a nuisance, but also a human health risk. So we knew we needed to protect the public from that risk as well. Today, our forecasts provide information about where red tides are and where they're going on a county level. But red tide blooms are patchy and the effects can vary greatly from beach to beach -- even when the beaches are right next door to each other. By bringing in new technology, this project will get us much closer to the goal of a forecast for every beach, every day."

Key to improving the forecast is the development of a smartphone application (app) by Robert Currier, Research Specialist and Product Developer for the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS). The app will allow trained beach observers with special low-cost smart-phone microscopes to collect videos of water samples that can be uploaded to a cloud-based server for automated evaluation. This system will then provide a real-time response on the presence or absence of K. brevis, along with information about whether the quantities are enough to warrant a health concern.

Results and improved forecasts will be available to government and research institutions focused on public health and natural resources, with the ultimate goal of enhancing public information through NOAA's HAB-OFS and Mote's Beach Conditions Reporting System.

News release continues on Mote Marine Lab’s website »

6/7/2016

Sarasota County hosting open houses for FEMA flood map changes

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County is hosting six open houses starting Monday, June 20, to address changes to FEMA floodplain maps, which take effect Nov. 4.

The open houses, which will be held in multiple locations and feature staff members from both the county and the municipalities, are an opportunity to ask questions about potential changes to the flood zone.

The digitized flood maps are now available and can indicate whether properties' flood risk has changed. If there's a risk zone changed, flood insurance may be required by homeowner's lender when the new flood maps become effective on Nov. 4.

Open houses will be held from 4-7 p.m., at each of the following locations:
  • June 20, Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave., Venice.
  • June 21, Englewood Sports Complex, 1300 S. River Road, Englewood.
  • June 23, Morgan Family Community Center, 6207 W. Price Blvd., North Port.
  • June 27, Southgate Community Center, 3145 Southgate Circle, Sarasota.
  • June 28, Nokomis Community Park, 234 Nippino Trail E., Nokomis.
  • June 29, Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
To view individual property parcels, visit www.scgov.net/floodmaps.

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

Sarasota County Preliminary FEMA Flood Zone Locator Map »

6/3/2016

Fertilizer restricted season kicks off June 1

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County reminds residents to "Be Floridian" and refrain from applying fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus from June 1 to Sept. 30.

Sarasota County code prohibits the use of these lawn or landscape fertilizers during the rainy season because they can get washed into our ponds and bays, harming our environment.

The good news is there are lots of ways to keep your lawn looking great while keeping algae-feeding nitrogen and phosphorus out of our waterways. According to experts with Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension, using the following tips can help keep our waterways healthy:

  • Use "summer safe" yard products that contain iron or other micronutrients to green up your lawn during the summer.
  • Improve your dirt: Give your garden a boost by adding compost or other soil amendments.
  • Choose better plants: Florida-friendly landscaping needs less fertilizer, water and overall care.

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

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