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SBEP reminds residents to use slow-release fertilizer in spring, no fertilizer in summer

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SARASOTA – In accordance with Sarasota and Manatee County urban fertilizer ordinances, the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) reminds residents to use fertilizers with a minimum of 50 percent slow-release nitrogen if they fertilize their lawn or flower beds during the spring. Slow-release products (also called controlled release or timed release) feed lawns and plants gradually and for a longer period of time. They are more easily absorbed by the plants and less likely to become stormwater runoff after heavy rains.

The SBEP also reminds residents that local ordinances prohibit fertilizer application in the summer months from June 1 through September 30. Using too much fertilizer has an adverse impact on water quality and aquatic life because of the high amount of nitrogen and phosphorus. Learn more by visiting the Be Floridian website or the SBEP website at www.sarasotabay.org.

Want to know more? Watch this video from Be Floridian:


Long-term prognosis for Florida manatees improves

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2012 analysis shows reduced estimates of long-term risk, but mortality events since then raise questions.

The risk of extinction for the endangered Florida manatee appears to be lower, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey led study.

Based on the data available in 2012, the long-term probability of the species surviving has increased compared to a 2007 analysis, as a result of higher aerial survey estimates of population size, improved methods of tracking survival rates, and better estimates of the availability of warm-water refuges. USGS scientists, working with colleagues from several other agencies and universities, used the manatee Core Biological Model to analyze the long-term viability of the manatee population in Florida, and to evaluate the threats it faces. A similar analysis completed in 2007 was used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of its 5-year Review of the status of manatees. “Our analysis using data from 2007 estimated that there was nearly a nine percent chance of Florida manatee numbers falling below 250 adults over the next 100 years on either the Atlantic or Gulf Coast,” said Michael Runge, a USGS research ecologist and lead author of the study. “The current analysis, using data available in 2012, has the estimate dropping to a fraction of one percent, but we need to be cautious in our conclusion, because the analysis did not include several mortality events that have occurred since then.

The mortality events Runge was referencing were cold winters, loss of seagrass in prime habitat, and a red tide event, all of which affected the population.

“Although the estimated status in 2012 was better than in 2007, questions still remain about the population effects of the more recent cold-related mortality events in the winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11,” Runge said. “The 2012 analysis also does not account for the extensive loss of seagrass habitat in Indian River Lagoon in 2011 and 2012 nor the severe red tide event in the Southwest region of Florida in 2013.”

The potential effects of these events will be analyzed in the next update of the Core Biological Model, which is underway in collaboration with Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory, and is expected to be complete within the next year.

The major threats to long-term survival of Florida manatees remain boat-related deaths and loss of warm-water winter habitat. In the Southwest region, an increasing frequency of red-tide deaths also warrants concern.

USGS news release continues »


Public invited to workshops on regional water supply plan

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold three public workshops about the draft 2015 Regional Water Supply Plan (RWSP) and one public workshop for agricultural stakeholders. 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. Most workshops will be accessible via interactive webcasts accessed remotely via conference call and online through Cisco WebEx meetings.

Public Information Workshop – Hernando County
May 28 from 4:30–7:30 p.m.
District Headquarters, 2379 Broad St. in Brooksville.
To join the workshop online at 5:30 p.m. go to: SWFWMD.webex.com and enter meeting number: 735 758 973. For audio, dial toll free 1-888-670-3525, and enter the participant code 9502752119#.

Agriculture Public Workshop – Hillsborough County
June 18, from 5:00–7:00 p.m.
Tampa Service Office, 7601 US Hwy. 301 in Tampa.
To join the workshop online at 5:00 p.m. go to: SWFWMD.webex.com and enter meeting number: 736 652 717. For audio, dial toll free 1-888-670-3525, and enter the participant code 9502752119#.

Public Information Workshop – Hillsborough County
June 30, from 4:30–7:30 p.m.
Tampa Service Office, 7601 US Hwy. 301 in Tampa.
To join the workshop online at 5:30 p.m. go to: SWFWMD.webex.com and enter meeting number: 734 632 656. For audio, dial toll free 1-888-670-3525, and enter the participant code 9502752119#.

Public Information Workshop – Citrus County
July 23, from 4:30–7:30 p.m.
Cornerstone Baptist Church, 1100 W. Highland Blvd in Inverness.

The Public Information Workshops will start with an open house from 4:30–5:30 p.m., a presentation and discussion starting at 5:30 p.m., and the open house will continue until 7:30 p.m. The June 18 workshop will be geared for the agricultural community and provide a presentation about agricultural demand projections starting at 5 p.m., followed by a public comment period.

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.

Regional Water Supply Plan webpage »


Sarasota County Wins 2015 AWA Best Tasting Drinking Water contest

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SARASOTA COUNTY – In order to promote water resources and the importance of safe, clean drinking water, Region X of the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association (FS/AWWA) recently held its annual Best Tasting Drinking Water contest. Region X of FS/AWWA represents the four county area including Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota Counties.

Twelve public water suppliers within the region competed for the honor of being selected as this year's best tasting drinking water. Sarasota County was selected as the winner of this year's contest and was also the 2014 winner. The first week of May was also recognized as National Drinking Water Week by the American Water Works Association.

In addition to Sarasota County, the participants included the following public water systems:
• Charlotte County
• DeSoto County
• Manatee County
• Sarasota County
• City of Bradenton
• City of Sarasota
• City of Punta Gorda
• City of North Port
• Englewood Water District
• Little Gasparilla Water Utility
• Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority

The Judges included:
• Tara Poulton - SWFWMD Governmental Affairs Liaison
• Commissioner Betsy Benac - Manatee County
• Lindsey Marten - Chair Local FWEA Chapter
• Kyle Kellogg - Chair Region X AWWA
• Kwamena Sankah - Chair Local ASCE Chapter

For more information, call 941-861-5000.


9th Annual Nokomis Beach Youth Fishing Tournament set for May 16

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources is happy to announce the return of the Nokomis Beach Youth Fishing Tournament, now entering its ninth year.

The event is aimed at children 14 and under, with an entry fee of $1 per child and required parental supervision. You must bring your own fishing rod and reel, but bait is provided. Raffle prizes, refreshments and awards will follow the catch-and-release tournament.

Pre-registration is preferred by calling Laurel Park at 941-486-2753, but registration will also be available the morning of the tournament from 8-8:30 a.m.


WHAT: 9th Annual Nokomis Beach Youth Fishing Tournament
WHEN: Saturday, May 16, 8:30-10:30 a.m.
WHERE: Nokomis Beach, 901 Casey Key Road, Nokomis

For more information about the fishing tournament call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 or visit http://www.scgov.net.


How to help nesting sea turtles stay safe

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SARASOTA COUNTY – With sea turtle nesting season beginning May 1, Sarasota County reminds residents and visitors there are some simple steps they can take to ensure the safety of these unique animals.

"Every May through October, our beaches become a crucial habitat for the largest congregation of sea turtles nesting on Florida's Gulf Coast," said Keri Ferenc-Nelson, a wildlife specialist with the Sarasota County Environmental Protection Division. "All species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered, and our federal, state and local regulations can only do so much to protect them. All of us need to do our part."

Here are some ways you can help protect sea turtles and their habitat and be in compliance with the law:

  • Each night, remove all furniture and recreational items from the beach and store them in an area free of sand and dune vegetation.
  • Properly dispose of trash and discarded fishing gear. Sea turtles ingest plastic bags and wrappers, mistaking them for jellyfish, and they can become entangled in old nets and line.
  • Knock down sand sculptures and fill in holes before you leave the beach so turtles have direct access into and out of the water. A turtle that falls into a hole cannot get out.
  • Only use flashlights to safely enter and exit the beach at night. Fishing lanterns should be used only as necessary to set, bait, and remove hooks from fish, and not be illuminated the entire time you are fishing.
  • Conduct a lighting inspection of your property to make sure exterior lighting is minimized and not directly visible from any direction on the beach.
Property owners must replace white incandescent, fluorescent and high-intensity lighting with amber or red light-emitting diodes (LED) or low-pressure sodium vapor (LPS) fixtures or yellow, bug-type bulbs. All fixtures emitting light visible from the beach must be shielded or angled so the light is directed down and away from the beach. Each year, thousands of turtle hatchlings die from predation, exhaustion and starvation due to the disorientation caused by bright lights.

Have questions or need assistance with adjusting the lighting on your property? Contact the Sea Turtle Protection Program at 941-861-5000 or visit www.scgov.net and enter the keywords "sea turtle."

To report an injured or dead sea turtle, contact the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Learn more about how you can help sea turtles »


Survey a chance to give input on future of Sarasota County's parks and preserves

SARASOTA COUNTY – Residents still have a chance to have their say about the future of parks, preserves and recreation services in Sarasota County over the next five, 10 and 20 years.

In addition to public workshops, focus groups and citizen interviews, Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources is conducting a Community Interest and Opinion Survey to better understand our residents' priorities for parks, beach areas, trails, preserves, sports and recreation facilities, programs and services within the community.

The survey is part of a larger effort to develop a Master Plan that will provide a framework for enhancing the parks system, and community input is crucial.

The survey can be taken online at www.scgov.net/ParkProjects. It will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

"The time you invest in completing this survey will aid us in taking a resident-driven approach to making decisions that will enrich the future of our community and positively affect the lives of its residents" said Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Director Carolyn Brown.

For more information or questions about the survey, contact Tricia Wisner at (941) 861-5000.


“Managing Florida’s aquifers” will be topic of fall professional conference

For the second year, the American Ground Water Trust is presenting a conference on groundwater management in Florida.This year's event will be on September 21-22 in Orlando.

Selection of presenters and presentations is in progress, but topics covered will include:

• Updates on Florida's Aquifer Storage Recovery projects
• Aquifer Recharge as a feasible antidote to climate change effects
• New USGS Assessment of Floridan Aquifer
• Minimum Flows and Levels: Rule-making and Legislation
• Groundwater management priorities of the State's five Water Management Districts
• How serious is the threat to Florida's groundwater from Oil & Gas well stimulation?
• Does aquifer recharge have a future in managing Everglades environmental flows and water quality issues?

Water managers, engineers, geologists, hydrogeologists, planners, utility operators, water re-use and aquifer recharge consultants, water treatment specialists, water well contractors, groundwater end-users, city & county government, regulatory authorities, environmental NGOs, water attorneys and interested citizens.

More information and online registration »


USGS issues revised framework for hydrogeology of Floridan Aquifer

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USGS scientists have updated the hydrogeologic framework for the Floridan aquifer system that underlies Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.

The Floridan aquifer system is the principal source of freshwater for agricultural irrigation, industrial, mining, commercial, and public supply in Florida and southeast Georgia. The extensive underground reservoir currently supplies drinking water to about 10 million people residing across the area as well as 50% of the water that is used for agricultural irrigation in the region.

By describing the hydrologic and geologic setting of an aquifer, a hydrogeologic framework enables appropriate authorities and resource managers to monitor an aquifer more accurately, improving their ability to protect these critical resources and determine the near- and long-term availability of groundwater.

As the first update of the framework for the aquifer in over 30 years, the revision incorporates new borehole data into a detailed conceptual model that describes the major and minor units and zones of the system. Its increased accuracy is made possible by data collected in the intervening years by the USGS; the Geological Surveys of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina; the South Florida, Southwest Florida, St Johns River, Suwannee River, and Northwest Florida Water Management Districts; and numerous other state and local agencies.

The USGS is releasing two reports as part of its current assessment of groundwater availability of the Floridan aquifer system.

The first report documents the revised framework.

The second report provides datasets that describe the surfaces and thicknesses of selected hydrogeologic units of the Floridan aquifer system. The data depict the top and base of the aquifer system, its major and minor hydrogeologic units and zones, geophysical marker horizons, and the altitude of the 10,000-milligram-per-liter total dissolved solids boundary that defines the approximate fresh and saline parts of the aquifer system.

Source: US Geological Survey news release »


FEMA Flood Map Modernization process continues with submission of appeals

​SARASOTA COUNTY – As part of the on-going FEMA Flood Map Modernization project, Sarasota County and the municipalities are preparing to submit a summary report following a review of the agency's preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps. The report will include more than 800 comments, six of which will address major concerns. In addition, there will be eight major, scientifically supported appeals.

Sarasota County has been working with its consultant, Amec Foster Wheeler, to conduct the detailed review of all 110 of FEMA's digital maps of the unincorporated county, the cities of Sarasota, Venice and North Port, and the Town of Longboat Key. The appeals are related to specific areas and county-wide concerns and are intended to refine the floodplain mapping and better reflect the community's flood risks. County staff worked with residents and homeowners' groups in the affected areas to discuss the comments and appeals process.

Before the preliminary FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps can be finalized, FEMA is required to review and address all comments and appeals submitted. The comments and appeals are due by April 30, and FEMA anticipates the review period will take between six to eight months.

The maps were produced using state-of-the-art technology and advanced engineering to increase the quality, reliability and availability of flood hazard maps and data. In addition to providing more accurate and up-to-date flood hazard information, the Map Modernization program enhances community officials' and citizens' decision-making and their ability to manage potential flood risks and other issues locally. The program is a presidential initiative funded by Congress.

Residents and property owners can call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 for assistance with flood risk concerns.

Learn more about the flood map modernization process »

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