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8/4/2015

CHNEP Retreat: Friday, Sept. 11

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) invites everyone with an interest in driving actions that protect the natural environment of southwest Florida to participate in a retreat to help plan the future of the program. Attendees are asked to please register online and complete a one-question survey: www.EventBrite.com.

The retreat will be an opportunity to discuss how to implement CHNEP's Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, changes that should be made to the current plan, and to identify qualities required of the next CHNEP director. (Current director Lisa Beever will be retiring in October, 2016.) The Charlotte Harbor Events and Conference Center has been reserved for September 11, 2015 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. NOAA Certified Professional Facilitator Ann Weaver has agreed to assist.

By characterizing the direction that the Management Conference wants to take the CHNEP, a better consideration of CHNEP director candidates can take place, as well as overall staff workload commitments. The workshop result should be a characterization of CHNEP's existing roles (what makes us great?), all potential future roles (where could we go?), primary future roles (where will we go?), and what are the most practical ways to get there related to current and potential staff capacity.

CHNEP invites everyone with an interest in guiding its future activities to participate in the retreat, and to invite others who may have an interest in participating.

Thank you for helping to protect the natural environment of southwest Florida!

7/31/2015

SWFWMD approves plan to protect Peace River flow

Work to allow water managers to raise the level of Lake Hancock is completed, which means some landowners along the lake's shore and along Saddle Creek can now expect more standing water and the Peace River will be getting more water during dry periods.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District Governing Board on Tuesday also approved plans to resume formal rulemaking to make sure future water supply projects don't undo the effects of the Lake Hancock project to restore minimum flows in the river.

"We're protecting what we've done," said board member Paul Senft of Haines City.

The Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority is the only utility that withdraws water from the river, but Polk County officials have discussed tapping the river as part of an overall plan to supplement future water supplies.

Polk County Utilities Director Marjorie Craig said the new rules will give her and her staff an idea of what the limits would be on future withdrawals.

Swiftmud officials set minimum flows for the river at Bartow, Fort Meade and Zolfo Springs in 2002, but held off on completing formal rulemaking begun in 2006 until the Lake Hancock project was completed, said Randy Smith, program manager of the agency's Surface Water Improvement and Management program.

The new rules are expected to be in place by December.

Continued in The Ledger »

7/31/2015

DEP provides $500,000 to Longboat Key for beach renourishment

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LONGBOAT KEY – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has awarded $500,000 in grant funding for a beach stabilization project that also provides recreational opportunities at the North Shore Public Beach Access to residents and visitors of the town of Longboat Key.

As a part of the Beach Management Funding Assistance Program, DEP reimbursed Longboat Key for a portion of the renourishment project, which was completed in June. Approximately 13,000 tons of compatible beach sand was brought in to renourish the degrading area, and provide critical nesting habitat for sea turtles. The project also included construction of two permeable adjustable groins, which are structures built to protect the beach from coastal erosion.

“We thank the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for their funding assistance,” said Longboat Key’s Public Works & Utilities Director Juan J. Florensa. “This project meets the town’s comprehensive plan objective to manage and control the effects of shoreline erosion, enhance storm protection, protect developed upland properties and public infrastructure while enhancing habitat for marine turtles and shorebirds.”

Since the project’s completion, two turtle nests have been spotted and marked for protection. Previously, the beach was subject to frequent breaching during storms that threatened the critical habitat for nesting sea turtles.

Florida's beach and dune system acts as the first line of defense during hurricane season. Beach renourishment reduces the impacts of storm surge and provides wave attenuation, reducing potential for structural damage. Since 1999, Florida has invested almost $659 million to restore and maintain more than 227 miles of Florida beaches.

Photo source: Wikimedia, user Ebayabe

Learn more about the state’s beach and coastal protection efforts

7/30/2015

Love for the lowly shellfish

Can a shellfish create jobs while resuscitating our Southwest Florida bays?

“If we had those filter feeders back — the clams, oysters, scallops, pen shells — they are the worker bees of the bay," said Larry Stults of Sarasota Bay Watch. His small navy of volunteers assists in two projects aimed at restoring Sarasota Bay's once abundant scallop beds.

"They are filtering water 24-7, they are eating plankton and they are helping remove sediment," Stults said. “The end result is the water is clearer, the sun gets down further so you can have more sea grass, and more of those filter feeders.

“I keep calling it a virtuous cycle. If you start at the base, everything is happier all the way up.”

Among the 25 groups competing for the Gulf Coast Community Foundation's $400,000 Blue Economy Challenge grant, a couple revolve around shellfish.

Gulf Coast Pearls is a group headed by Matt Gamel, who grew up in the Englewood area and is living on a vintage 35-foot sailboat off Captiva Island while working on his master's degree at Florida Gulf State University.

Then there is the complex but promising BioMop project, which would harness the water-filtering power of the lowly oyster to clean the heavily polluted and cloudy water that enters the bays from our yards, parking lots and marinas.

Another is the Sunray Venus clam project proposed by Curtis Hemmel, founder of the Bay Shellfish Co. in northern Manatee County.

Hemmel originally planned to submit a proposal for the Gulf Coast grant, for which the foundation will announce five finalists Friday, but he was too busy keeping his clams alive. Known as Florida's "clam king," Hemmel produces roughly 300 million baby clams each year at his Terra Ceia hatchery.

Continued in The Herald-Tribune »

7/29/2015

District Approves Proposed Millage Rate

The Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) adopted a proposed FY2015-16 millage rate of 0.3488 mill, 4.6 percent lower than the current fiscal year. For the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption, the District tax would be $34.88 a year, or about $2.91 per month. The fiscal year runs from Oct. 1, 2015, through Sept. 30, 2016. The total FY2015-16 proposed budget for the District is $183.4 million.

The budget reflects the District’s commitment to protect Florida’s water resources and to improve Florida’s economic vitality. All programs and projects advance the core mission of the District and are designed to provide the highest quality service to residents within the District.

The proposed budget includes more than $109 million for Cooperative Funding Initiatives and District projects. The District funds are leveraged with its partners’ resulting in a total investment of more than $150 million for water resource management projects.

The District will hold a tentative budget hearing on Sept.15 at 5:01 p.m. at the Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301.The Governing Board will vote on the final budget on Sept. 29 at 5:01 p.m., at the Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301.

Click here to view original source

7/29/2015

Florida leads nation in property at risk from climate change

Florida has more private property at risk from flooding linked to climate change than any other state, an amount that could double in the next four decades, according to a new report by the Risky Business Project.

By 2030, $69 billion in coastal property in Florida could flood at high tide that is not at risk today, the report found. That amount is projected to climb to $152 billion by 2050.

While projections for rising seas are not new, for the first time researchers tried to quantify the economic damage wrought by climate change by better understanding the risks to business and a rebounding economy. Growth in manufacturing and energy production have created a mini boom in the Southeast and Texas, the report said. But climate change threatens to undo that progress and cause widespread damage to the region’s economic pillars: manufacturing, agriculture and energy.

For Florida, the blows are significant and not only for property. Higher temperatures and rising seas could slow labor productivity, stress the energy industry and dry up cash pumped into the state by tourists.

“The sea-rise numbers are out there. The heat numbers are out there. What this study has done for the first time is really look at this from a business perspective,” former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who co-chaired the project, said in an interview with the Miami Herald.

Continued in The Miami Herald »

7/29/2015

USF Researchers find reasons behind increases in urban flooding

Scientists at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science investigating the increasing risk of ‘compound flooding’ for major U.S. cities have found that flooding risk is greatest for cities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts when strong storm surge and high rainfall amounts occur together. While rising sea levels are the main driver for increasing flood risk, storm surges caused by weather patterns that favor high precipitation exacerbates flood potential.

The paper describing their research on the causes of compound flooding in urban areas of the U.S will appear in Nature Climate Change (Vol. 5, August, 2015) and is now available online.

“Nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population resides in coastal counties,” said study lead author Thomas Wahl of the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and the University of Siegen in Germany. “Flooding can have devastating impacts for these low-lying, densely populated and heavily developed regions and have wide-ranging social, economic and environmental consequences.”

Their analysis focused on the joint occurrence of the two distinct flooding sources in coastal regions – storm surge and high precipitation – that can result in direct run-off (pluvial) and increased river discharge (fluvial).

The research team also identified three key compound flooding mechanisms: elevated water levels in estuarine regions; storm surge flooding that worsens with heavy rainfall and; moderate storm surge that blocks or slows down drainage.

They concluded that “the complex interplay between storm surge and precipitation can lead to, or exacerbate, the impacts of flooding in coastal zones through multiple mechanisms.”

Continued on Florida Water Daily

Click here to read the original study

7/27/2015

Swiftmud backs down from move of headquarters to Tampa from Brooksville

Facing pressure from government and civic leaders in Hernando County, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, also known as Swiftmud, has decided to drop its effort to move its district headquarters from Brooksville to Tampa.

In a memo to Swiftmud employees on Friday, executive director Robert Beltran wrote: "Local officials and community leaders made clear the importance they place on the Brooksville campus, its value to the community and the proud heritage associated with the District's history. The District also received letters and resolutions from local governments and members of the community opposing the relocation of the District's headquarters.''

Beltran noted that the rest of the business plan that suggested the headquarters move had been upheld by Swiftmud's governing board, but he said keeping the headquarters in Brooksville would not hinder the agency from its purpose.

"Staff agrees the District can continue to meet its priorities and core mission to manage water and related natural resources to ensure their continued availability while maximizing the benefits to the public,'' he wrote. "Therefore, staff is recommending that the Board take no further action on this issue.''

Friday's announcement does not affect any staffing decisions, neither does it mean that regulatory and other officials moved to Tampa from Brooksville will return.

Continued in the Tampa Bay Times »

7/27/2015

Free storm spotter training class

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Sarasota County Emergency Management, the National Weather Service and the Glenridge on Palmer Ranch are teaming up to offer a free storm spotter training class on Friday, Aug. 7.

The class, which will be held at Glenridge Performing Arts Center, is an opportunity for the community to learn how to help protect life and property by observing and reporting the weather.

"This is a great opportunity for members of the community to become better educated about severe weather and learn how to use that training to help their neighborhoods," said Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane.

The two hour session will be lead by Dan Noah of the National Weather Service, who will teach volunteer storm spotters basic severe weather safety, the fundamentals of thunderstorm development and storm structure, how to identify potential severe weather features, what information to report and how to report it.

Advance registration is required for the class. To register, call The Glenridge on Palmer Ranch, who is hosting the event, at 941-552-5325, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The Glenridge Performing Arts Center is located at 733 Scotland Way, Sarasota, 34238.

For more information, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000, or visit www.scgov.net.

7/24/2015

Save the Date: 5th Annual Scallopallooza will be Oct. 3, 2015

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Scallopalooza is an annual fundraiser for scallop restoration in Sarasota Bay. This fun-filled event is sold out every year and hosted by the Sarasota Yacht Club. Each year the funds raised at the event pay for multiple scallop releases throughout the subsequent year, thereby sustaining our scallop restoration initiative and increases our chances for success.

Scallop restoration is a core program of Sarasota Bay Watch. The scallop population in Sarasota Bay has been drastically reduced over the years. Florida Fish and Wildlife experts believe that by raising scallops in shellfish hatcheries and releasing the larvae into our local seagrass beds that a multi-year release program could result in a self-perpetuating local population.

This year the event falls on October 3rd, 2015 at the Sarasota Yacht Club.

Click here for more information »

7/24/2015

Registration now open for 8th Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search

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What: 8th Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search
When: Saturday, August 29th, 2015, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Why: Help to monitor annually the number of scallops in Sarasota Bay waters and support scientists at the Florida Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI).
Where: Mar Vista Restaurant
Registration:    Required and opens July 24 (link below).
What to bring:   Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses, mask, snorkel and water shoes

The Scallop Search is Sarasota Bay Watch’s signature event. It launches from the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant, 760 Broadway Street, North Longboat Key. Lunch is provided for participants by Mar Vista Restaurant. This water-based family event fills to capacity every year!

HISTORY: Scallops have been largely absent from Sarasota Bay waters since the 1960s due to dredging and land development (the Florida Land Rush), the accompanying population boom and associated water quality issues. Today there have been improvements in water quality and a resurgence of seagrass beds to levels that may once again support these important bivalves in Sarasota Bay.

In 2008 Sarasota Bay Watch was launched with its first scallop search in Sarasota Bay waters. Since that time SBW has held an annual scallop search every August. The search benefits scientists, environmental organizations, local businesses and the citizens of Sarasota and Manatee Counties by documenting the health of the Bay through the presence of scallops. Our annual Scallop Search is one component of a community-lead restoration project to re-establish scallops in Sarasota Bay.

Reservations are required to participate in the event (see below). Space is limited, Boats limited to 50, kayaks welcome! No boat? Sign on as a crew member. Participants will be equipped and trained on how to search for scallops in seagrass. Experts from the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) will be on hand to answer questions and there will be a touch tank on display.

* * * * NOTE: THIS IS A NO HARVEST EVENT * * * *

Register online »

7/16/2015

Workshops set for gopher tortoise conservation

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is holding regional workshops to present information on opportunities for local governments to help conserve gopher tortoises in Florida.

The goal of these workshops is to identify ways cities and counties can participate in protecting one of Florida’s threatened species.

“Partnerships involving cities, counties and the FWC have led to wonderful projects to conserve gopher tortoises and their habitats,” said Alex Kalfin, Local Government Coordinator for the FWC’s Gopher Tortoise Management Program. “We look forward every year to our regional workshops, where representatives of local governments can find out how to get involved in gopher tortoise conservation.”

Two workshops are scheduled in southwest Florida. Representatives from local governments in nearby counties are encouraged to attend.

Sarasota County

Monday, July 20
9 a.m. – noon
Morgan Family Community Center
6207 West Price Blvd. North Port, FL 34291

Manatee County

Tuesday, July 21
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Kendrick Auditorium
Manatee County Cooperative Extension Service
1303 17th St., West Palmetto, FL 34221

The workshops are free, but registration is required, as space is limited. To register, please send your name and the name of your organization to Alex.Kalfin@MyFWC.com.

For more information, and to download the Gopher Tortoise Management Plan, visit MyFWC.com/GopherTortoise and click on “Management Plan.”

Contact Information
Lisa Thompson, Media Contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
phone: 727-896-8626.
7/16/2015

Sarasota Lionfish Derby Takes Bite Out of Invasive Species

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Divers and snorkelers removed 456 invasive lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico during the second annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby, which culminated today, July 12.

The Derby was hosted by Mote Marine Laboratory, a world-class marine science institution, in cooperation with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion and sanctions official Lionfish Derbies, and ZooKeeper, the Sarasota-based manufacturer of the leading lionfish containment unit used throughout invaded areas. The Derby was presented by Capt. Eddie’s Seafood.

Eight teams of 27 divers and snorkelers from Sarasota, Venice, Tallahassee, Fort Pierce, Palmetto, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Vero Beach and Boca Raton, Fla., and from Dallas, Texas, vied to catch the most lionfish, the largest lionfish and the smallest lionfish in Gulf waters ranging from Collier to Escambia County. The Derby lasted from the evening of July 10 through early afternoon on July 12, when cash prizes were awarded to first, second and third place winners in each category. Additional event proceeds will help support science and education programs by Mote and REEF.

Lionfish are venomous, fast-reproducing fish that have spread along the eastern Atlantic coast, through the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, posing a major threat to Florida’s native species and ecosystems. They consume more than 70 different species of fish and crustaceans, and in heavily invaded areas they have reduced fish populations by up to 90 percent and continue to consume native fishes at unsustainable rates.

The only controlling predators of invasive lionfish in Florida are humans — and the fish are delicious to eat. Lionfish Derbies are an important way to harvest large numbers of this invasive species, train more people to safely remove them, encourage restaurants and the public to cook and eat lionfish and support scientific studies of the invasion.

For full article continue on MOTE’s website here »

7/16/2015

FWC Enlists Gulf Reef Fish Anglers to Provide Data

As part of its goal of working with anglers to improve data collection and management of fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking for anglers’ assistance through participation in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. This new data collection program will improve how recreational catch is monitored and provide information needed to ensure sustainable fisheries in Florida.

As of April 1, 2015, saltwater recreational anglers fishing from private boats off Florida’s Gulf coast (excluding Monroe County) are required to sign up for the survey if they intend to harvest, attempt to harvest or possess any of the following reef fish species: red snapper, vermilion snapper, black and red grouper, gag, gray triggerfish, banded rudderfish, almaco jack, lesser amberjack, and greater amberjack. Anglers enrolled in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey may be selected to receive a questionnaire in the mail to report information about their recent recreational fishing trips. Additionally, FWC biologists will meet anglers at marinas and boat ramps to collect information about their catch that day.

Anglers’ participation in this focused survey will help improve estimates of recreational fishing efforts and catch for use in management decisions specifically for reef fish. The information gained from this monitoring program will assist state and regional fisheries management agencies in their mission to ensure a healthy and sustainable resource and to maximize recreational fishing opportunities in Florida. Participants who are contacted by FWC and agree to provide information will be entered into a drawing to win an annual, 5-year or lifetime recreational saltwater fishing license.

“The success of this new data collection program not only depends on anglers signing up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey, but also, if selected, responding to questionnaires and dockside interviews,” said Beverly Sauls, research scientist with FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “Without reliable information on all fishing activities, managers are often forced to take conservative measures to ensure overfishing does not occur. Information collected from the Gulf Reef Fish Survey will help managers provide optimum recreational fishing opportunities in Florida”.

For more information about the Gulf Reef Fish Survey and specific species covered, visit MyFWC.com/research, click on “Saltwater” and select “Gulf Reef Fish Survey” under “Commercial and Recreational Fisheries.”

For more information about who is required to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey and how to get started, visit MyFWC.com/fishing, and click on “Saltwater Fishing,” then “Recreational Regulations” and “Gulf Reef Fish Survey.”

7/14/2015

Presentation Explains SBEP Programs, Projects and Priorities

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Area schools, social service groups and other businesses and clubs can learn about the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) mission and programs by inviting SBEP to present its Power Point presentation. Inquires are welcome at info@sarasotabay.org.

SBEP is dedicated to restoring Sarasota Bay by improving water quality, increasing habitat and enhancing the bay’s natural resources. Working with its local government partners in Sarasota and Manatee County, SBEP has supported efforts to restore the bay’s vital ecosystem for 26 years.

The presentation covers the history, progress and challenges involved with the SBEP mission and its ongoing collaboration with Sarasota County, Manatee County, City of Sarasota, City of Bradenton, Town of Longboat Key, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It also focuses on local issues such as stormwater pollution and the loss of habitat including seagrass and hard bottom substrate.

The SBEP public outreach programs showcased in the presentation include the Bay Partners Grant Program, Bay Wise Kayak Tour Program, Bay Guardians Volunteer Program, PIER Environmental Education Program, Blue Dolphin Awards Program, and the Creative Expression Photo and Art Gallery. The Sarasota Bay Water Festival is also promoted.

A two-year Economic Valuation Study of Sarasota Bay funded and managed by SBEP found the total value of Sarasota Bay to be $11.8 Billon. The study results were released in early 2014. According to the study, 21,000 jobs representing $731 Million in earnings had a direct or indirect connection to Sarasota Bay.

7/14/2015

Entries sought for CHNEP song contest

Have you written an original composition that captures the beauty or issues of the natural environment of southwest Florida (as defined by the CHNEP)? The CHNEP would like you to submit your songs for use on the CHNEP Citizens Academy and elsewhere. Prizes up to $600 will be awarded.

The rules are simple. Each person may submit up to three entries by Aug. 1, 2015. Complete an online entry form at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/songcontest and submit the digitized audio performance and lyric or sheet music either electronically to maran@chnep.org or by mail to CHNEP Songs, 326 W. Marion Ave, Punta Gorda FL 33950.

There is no fee to enter. This contest is open to amateur and professional songwriters of any age. You retain ownership of the songs submitted. By entering this contest, you are allowing the CHNEP to use the songs in its materials and at events and allow others to perform your song for CHNEP purposes. You will be asked to perform at select events.

The songs must be original but can be of any genre and must be no more than three minutes long. An entry consists of an
1) Anonymous digitized audio performance
2) A lyric sheet or sheet music and
3) An entry form available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/songcontest

A music video may be submitted but is not required to participate. The song writer can have others perform the song. There is no requirement as to when the song was written or recorded.

The winning entries will be selected by the CHNEP Citizens Advisory Committee in August. Submissions will be judged on lyrics, likeability, creativity, originality, melody and arrangement. Production/recording quality and vocal ability may also considered.

The CHNEP will email all entrants to confirm their entry was received and to announce the entries selected for recognition.

7/13/2015

Public Invited to Workshop on Regional Water Supply Plan

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold a public workshop in Sarasota about the draft 2015 Regional Water Supply Plan (RWSP.) The plan presents the projected water demands across the District and all water use sectors for a 20-year planning period as well as identifies water supply sources and potential water supply project options. The workshop will be accessible via interactive webcast accessed remotely via conference call and online through Cisco WebEx meetings.

Public Information Workshop – Sarasota County July 21, from 2:30–5:30 p.m. Sarasota Service Office, 6750 Fruitville Rd., Sarasota To join the workshop online at 3:30 p.m., use this webcast link. For audio, dial toll free 1-888-670-3525, and enter participant code 9502752119#.

The draft RWSP is available for public review and comment at WaterMatters.org/RWSP through July 31, 2015. Please note that the same information will be presented at each of the Public Information Workshops.

For more details about the public workshops, please call George Schlutermann, P.G. at the District Headquarters at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4212.

7/13/2015

CHNEP Citizens Advisory Committee Meeting: August 12, 2015

The CHNEP CitizensAdvisory Committee agenda packet for the next meeting is now available. The meeting will be held Wednesday, August 12, 2015, at the Charlotte Community Foundation Education Center (227 Sullivan St, Punta Gorda).

Please arrive for the meeting by 9:30 to allow time for networking. The meeting will begin at 10:00. If you are unable to review the entire packet prior to the meeting, please read the summary pages. Immediately following the meeting, lunch will be provided (contributions will be requested). We'll review entries for the song contest during lunch then the meeting to further the development of the 2016 calendar will begin once everyone is settled. In the past the committee has met for up to 4 hours to discuss the calendar and review images so the meeting hasn't ended until 4 p.m. More details about the song contest and calendar will be provided at the meeting.

Among other things, the meeting agenda includes:

  • CHNEP Visioning Retreat
  • 2015 Research Needs Inventory
  • Water Quality Functional Assessment Method Project
  • CHNEP Oyster Restoration Priority Sites
  • CHNEP Program updates
  • Review of entries to CHNEP song contest
  • Review images submitted for the CHNEP 2016 calendar


The WQFAM for Filter Marshes Plant Identification Guide, produced as part of the Water Quality Functional Assessment Methods project (agenda item 4), is a useful, beautiful photographic guide to plants. Because of its size, the guide is provided as a separate PDF file. The project report is not yet available.

7/10/2015

PIER Program Provides Environmental Education to 1,266 Students

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SARASOTA, FL – The PIER Program engaged 1,266 students the past school year in 32 field trips to explore the Sarasota Bay watershed. There were also 179 adults who learned with the students. PIER field trips are organized by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) in partnership with Around the Bend Nature Tours.

PIER is an acronym for Protection, Involvement, Education and Restoration. The field trips provide hands-on learning focused on water sampling, water quality testing, conservation, and the identification of plant and animal species. Some of the field trip destinations include: Ken Thompson Park, Oscar Scherer State Park, Emerson Point Preserve, Joan Durante Park, and Osprey’s Bay Preserve in cooperation with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

SBEP launched PIER in 2003. The program has engaged more than 38,000 students in public and private schools as well as home schooled students throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties. PIER also includes full day science teacher training workshops at New College of Florida. The workshops are led by Sandra Gilchrist, PhD and focus on three areas: Introduction to Estuaries, Endangered Coasts and Waves and Currents.

Since its inception 26 years ago, SBEP has taken an active role in environmental education by publishing reports, developing curricula for schools and initiating hands-on activities that engage adults and students of all ages.

7/10/2015

Blue crab trap closure in South-S.W. Florida starts Friday

Recreational and commercial blue crab traps in state waters from the Palm Beach-Broward county line to the Pasco-Hernando county line must be removed from the water before Friday, July 10, the first day of a 10-day trap closure.

These closures will give groups authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water.

Closures may be reduced in duration if it is determined that the number of lost and abandoned traps in the region will take less time to remove.

Until trap season reopens, blue crabs may be harvested with other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps. Blue crab harvesters may also use standard blue crab traps during the closure if the traps are attached to a dock or other private property.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps are a problem in the blue crab fishery, because they can continue to trap crabs and fish when left in the water. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.

The closure is one of three regional, 10-day blue crab trap closures that will occur in 2015. Coastal waters from Hernando through Wakulla counties, including all waters of the Ochlockonee River and Bay, will close to traps July 20-29 (see map below). There are six regional closures total: three in even-numbered years on the east coast and three in odd-numbered years on the west coast.

Click here for more information »

7/10/2015

FWC seeks video from Anna Maria businesses showing destruction of sea turtle nests, skimmer chicks



Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators are asking businesses on Anna Maria Island to check video surveillance records for any sign of an all-terrain vehicle that destroyed five sea turtle nests and killed three black skimmer chicks on the night of June 27.

Specifically, investigators are interested in surveillance video taken in the area between State Road 64 and Cortez Road, between 10 p.m. and midnight, showing an all-terrain vehicle. Anyone having video or other information about the incident is urged to report it to the Wildlife Alert reward program anytime, day or night, by texting or emailing Tip@MyFWC.com or calling 888-404-3922. Those reporting wildlife and fisheries law violations may remain anonymous and be may eligible for a reward upon the conviction of a violator.

Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach police departments are also investigating, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sea turtles, their eggs and their nests are protected under state and federal law. Under state law, destroying a sea turtle nest or eggs is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and/or five years in prison. Black skimmers are listed by the state as a Species of Special Concern.

For information on imperiled species and efforts to protect them, visit myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/imperiled/ or call the FWC regional office in Lakeland at 863-648-3200.

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