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UF survey: Floridians want to conserve water, but only if it doesn’t cost too much

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Floridians remain concerned about water and are willing to make changes to conserve it, at least until their efforts cramp their lifestyles, according to an annual University of Florida study on state residents’ attitudes about this precious resource.

For the second consecutive year, an annual online survey conducted by UF’s Center for Public Issues in Education shows that water ranks third on a list of 10 topics people consider important -- behind the economy and healthcare and ahead of public education and taxes. Eighty-three percent of 749 respondents indicated water is an important or extremely important issue.

Yet while three-quarters of them said they were likely to vote to support water conservation programs and nearly as many said they would support water restrictions issued by their local government, only 42 percent were willing to take action to conserve water if it meant their lawns would suffer.

”From our 900 miles of dazzling beaches to the crystal-clear cold waters of 700 named springs, water is all around us, and Floridians understand its importance,” said Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “But we must also help to educate them about protecting this natural resource.”

For full article continue on UF’s website here »


SBEP Offers Free Kayak Tour Trips in March and April

SARASOTA, FL – The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) has five free guided kayak excursions on Sarasota Bay remaining for this season. The next trips are to Blind Pass on Saturday, March 7 and 21, Philippi Creek on Sunday, March 29, and Lyons and Blackburn Bay Saturday, April 4 and 18. All of the SBEP kayak excursions require online registration at sarasotabay.org.

The SBEP Bay Wise Kayak Tour Program is a fun learning opportunity to discover the plants, animals, habitats, and restoration projects that distinguish Sarasota Bay. Brad Tanner, a professional guide and the School Programs Coordinator for Mote Marine Laboratory, is the kayak tour leader. Brad is also a member of the SBEP Citizens Advisory Committee.

Prior trips included Neal Preserve (12/6 and 12/20), Leffis and Jewfish Key (1/3 and 1/17) and the Lido Mangrove Tunnels (2/7 and 2/21). Additional information and online registration is available at sarasotabay.org. Participants are required to bring their own kayak and gear. Outfitters throughout the region rent kayaks and offer demonstrations and beginner classes.

The late Jack Taylor, a respected marine biologist and former member of the SBEP Citizens Advisory Committee, launched the kayak tour program in 2007 as part of a SBEP Bay Partners Grant. Jack earned a PhD in Marine Biology from the University of Florida. He was active with many conservation groups throughout the region and some of his poetry is also posted on the SBEP website at sarasotabay.org.

Contact Information
Sara Kane, Public Outreach Manager Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, sara@sarasotabay.org
phone: 941-955-8085 .

Deadline March 31st to apply for $6 Million in DEP Water Quality Restoration Grants

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is soliciting grant applications for projects that reduce or eliminate nonpoint source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution, such as stormwater runoff, is pollution that results from many widespread sources rather than a single distinct origin. The application window for these water quality restoration grants, also called 319 grants, is now open and ends March 31.

This call for new applicants follows the department’s recent awarding of more than $5.9 million in 319 grant funding to help local governments with several water quality restoration projects. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency annually awards each state a grant to protect and restore watersheds affected by nonpoint source pollution. The department in turn selects high-priority, local restoration projects to fund with these dollars.

“Florida expects to receive about $6 million from EPA in the upcoming cycle,” said Tom Frick, director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “Our grant programs provide local governments and other organizations the chance to leverage their own resources and improve water quality in their community.”

Eligible types of projects:

  • Urban stormwater projects;
  • Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMP) development, monitoring or evaluation;
  • Erosion/sediment control;
  • Low impact development;
  • Nonpoint source and BMP education;
  • Silviculture (forestry) BMPs; and
  • Septic tank pollution abatement.

Awards are targeted at projects designed to restore verified impaired springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries — those waterbodies that are known to not currently meet Florida’s water quality standards. The department ranks projects for funding based on estimated pollutant reductions.

Funds may be awarded for construction, project-related monitoring and project-related public education. Project design, engineering, land acquisition, activities that treat point source water and activities required by federal permit are not eligible for funding. Project sponsors must provide a minimum 40 percent non-federal match, and projects may be sponsored by state agencies, local governments, colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, public utilities and water management districts.

More information about the grants »


Important changes underway to flood hazard maps

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Important changes to Sarasota County's flood hazard maps are underway. Proposed floodplain boundaries, regulatory flood elevations and vertical datum changes have been received by your community officials and published in the Federal Registrar on Dec. 31, 2014. Proposed Draft FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps are scheduled for adoption in 2016.

An interactive map, the Sarasota County Flood Zone Risk interactive mapping application, is now available at two locations on the Sarasota County website.

The interactive map is located on the Flood Map Modernization page, which can be found here.

Flood risks and flood zone maps can be found here.

Fact sheets and other information including the upcoming Open House schedule is provided on the Flood Map Update home page.

The map application allows all interested parties to search for county parcels by address and determine if the parcel is intersected by a preliminary FEMA designated Flood Zone. High risk is associated with the blue hatched areas and moderate risks, or "X Zones", are indicated by dotted gray areas. Other areas of low risk have no indicators.

Both unincorporated and incorporated areas of Sarasota County are included in the interactive map, and a results window on the right side of the screen provides links for more flood information and to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser.

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 or email: floodmapupdate@scgov.net.

Sarasota Flood Map Modernization Information Page »


Join SBEP Bay Guardians at air potato round-up on Feb. 7th

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The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) will host a Bay Guardian volunteer event at North Water Tower Park on Saturday, February 7 starting at 9am. Volunteers will be removing air potato which is an invasive vine that covers and shades beneficial native plants. There will be a contest with prizes for the smallest, biggest, weirdest-looking, and most air potatoes collected. The park is located at 4700 Rilma Ave., Sarasota, FL 34234.

The volunteer event will also be the kickoff of a three-year restoration, stormwater improvement and environmental education project at North Water Tower Park. SBEP, Sarasota County, and the City of Sarasota are the managing partners of the project and will be available for questions from the media. The project was made possible from two grants. Funding was awarded to SBEP from the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program for community engagement and education, exotic species removal and beautification elements. Sarasota County was awarded a grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District for design and construction of the stormwater improvements.

The planned improvements are part of a proposed North Water Tower Park area Master Plan initiative within the City Commission’s adopted Fiscal Year 2014-2016 Strategic Plan. One of the goals is to improve park access for residents in the nearby Bayou Oaks Neighborhood, plus heighten natural surveillance within the park using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles.

The City’s Urban Design Studio recently conducted a comprehensive review of the neighborhoods that surround North Water Tower Park and identified them as a catalyst area which could experience zoning code changes using a new form-based code, prior to implementation in other areas of the City. Proposed form-based code concepts will be on display during the event and staff will be available to respond to questions.

Please contact Sara Kane at Sara@SarasotaBay.org to learn more about the project.

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is dedicated to restoring the area's greatest natural asset—Sarasota Bay. Its unique program strives to improve water quality, increase habitat and enhance the natural resources of the area for use and enjoyment by the public. Sarasota Bay is one of 28 estuaries in the United States that have been named by the U.S. Congress as an "estuary of national significance." Partners include Sarasota County, Manatee County, City of Sarasota, City of Bradenton, Town of Longboat Key, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Southwest Florida Water Management District, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Click here to register »


EPA Climate Ready Water Utilities Initiative releases storm surge inundation map and scenarios

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The Storm Surge Inundation Map is an interactive map that illustrates the current worst-case storm surge and inundation scenarios on the American Gulf and Atlantic coasts, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The map combines data layers from FEMA 100 and 500 year flood maps as well as NOAA's Sea, Lake, and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) and the National Hurricane Center's coastal county hurricane strike maps. Explore the map at: water.epa.gov.

The Scenario-Based Projected Changes Map is an online map that provides easy access to localized scenarios of projected changes in annual total precipitation, precipitation intensity, annual average temperature, 100-year storm events, and sea-level rise from EPA's Climate Resilience Evaluation and Awareness Tool. To explore local climate change projection data across the United States, simply zoom in on a location of interest or type a location into the search field of the map. Climate change projection data within this map is provided by grid cell, illustrated as a square grid with 1/2-degree resolution, approximately 32 x 32 miles, for the United States. Explore the map at: water.epa.gov.


Sunrise beach walks return Feb. 4th to Siesta and Nokomis Beaches

SARASOTA COUNTY - Sunrise Beach Walks are set to return Feb. 4 and will continue every Wednesday through March on Siesta and Nokomis Beaches.

A one-time event registration fee of $5 includes a t-shirt and punch card, and after completing four walks attendees will be entered into a weekly prize drawing for gift certificates from program sponsors.

Available sponsor gift certificates include New Balance Sarasota, Fleet Feet Sarasota, Molly's boutique, Village Cafe on Siesta Key and Buffalo Wild Wings. Complete eight walks and registrants will be entered twice to improve their chances of winning. A minimum of one mile must be walked to be eligible for the drawings, and check in is from 8 - 9:30 a.m.

According to Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Supervisor Diana Finnegan, Sunrise Beach Walks are the perfect way to combine exercise, nature and fun. And maybe win a prize along the way.

"Whether you decide to kick up your heart rate with a brisk walk or kick back and enjoy a leisurely stroll, the Sunrise Beach Walks are a great way to start your day," Finnegan added.

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

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