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7/27/2016

ERC signs off on controversial water standards

Despite vehement opposition from environmental groups, state regulators signed off Tuesday on new standards for Florida's rivers, lakes and coastal waters that include less stringent requirements for certain toxic chemicals.

The Environmental Regulation Commission approved the new human health criteria for surface waters in a 3-2 vote. The decision came after hours of emotional testimony from concerned citizens, who said the new standards will increase chances Floridians will get cancer from eating seafood and drinking water.

Linda Young, executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network, which led the fight against the new standards, called the decision “beyond outrageous.”

“This is a wholesale denial in Florida of the value of our lives,” she said. “This is our governor — who is the person who’s driving this — saying Floridians’ lives don’t matter. What matters are our industries, our corporations, making more money. And they can do that by putting more pollution in our waters.”

Continued in the Tallahassee Democrat »

7/27/2016

Mote scientists awarded SBEP grants to promote student involvement in environmental education

Two Mote Marine Laboratory scientists were recently awarded Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Bay Partners grants to promote environmental education, awareness, community involvement and stewardship to improve the overall quality of Sarasota Bay and its tributaries.

Mote scientists received two of the nine total awards given in 2016.

Dr. Emily Hall, Mote staff scientist and adjunct professor at Ringling College of Art and Design, received $1,500 to build upon an existing partnership with Ringling College to create new outreach materials about impacts of climate change and the related issue of ocean acidification on Sarasota Bay. Mote and Ringling College have established a program named "The Art of Marine Science” utilizing the creativity of Ringling students in the translation of Mote research to the public.

Dr. Jordon Beckler, Mote staff scientist, received $1,500 to contribute to Mote’s new Ocean Technology Club – a program that will allow Sarasota- and Manatee-county high school students and teachers to learn and apply science and technology skills through the mentorship of marine researchers at Mote.

Read more details in Mote Marine Laboratory’s news release »

7/25/2016

Snook Haven boat ramp to close for construction

​SARASOTA COUNTY - The Snook Haven motorized boat ramp, along with the canoe and kayak launch, will close Monday, July 25, for the start of an improvement project.

The project, which is tentatively scheduled to run through November, includes the construction of three new docks, a new canoe and kayak launch, installation of native vegetation along the shoreline, and removal of a failing wooden bulkhead.

In addition, the Snook Haven restaurant will have different operating hours during the construction project. It will be open Thursday through Sunday, and closed Monday through Wednesday. The restaurant's new operating schedule took effect the week of July 18.

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

7/21/2016

Public meetings scheduled to consider Critical Wildlife Areas (CWAs)

Critical Wildlife Areas (CWAs) are established by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) under the Florida Administrative Code to protect important wildlife concentrations from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as nesting or migration. The landowner must support the CWA designation before a site can be considered for establishment. For each CWA, the boundaries and periods of time when portions of the area may be posted are defined in the CWA establishment order. Public access is restricted within CWAs only if posted, "Closed to public access." Dogs, vehicles and vessels are also prohibited from posted areas. The boundary of a CWA may be larger than the posted area because the areas suitable for wildlife may shift. This also allows for only those areas important for wildlife to be posted at any given time. Thus, the area closed within the CWA boundary each year may change.

If you are not able to attend one of the meetings listed below, you can provide comment by emailing CWAcomments@MyFWC.com. Please include the specific CWA name in the subject line.

Public Workshop Schedule

The FWC is working on a statewide effort to conserve Florida's most vulnerable wildlife by creating and modifying Critical Wildlife Areas throughout the state. Visit the link below to learn about the CWA public workshops and how you can be part of the discussion.

Workshops in southwest Florida:

Myakka River (Sarasota County)
5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 19, 2016
North Port Public Library
13800 S. Tamiami Trail, North Port, FL 34287
More information »

Roberts Bay Islands(Sarasota County)
6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Celery Fields Nature Center, Sarasota Audubon Society
999 Center Rd. Sarasota, FL 34240
More information »

Dot-Dash-Dit Islands (Manatee County)
6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21, 2016 Rescheduled to August 11th, same time.
Manatee County Library
6750 US Highway 301 North, Ellenton, FL 34222-3030

Pine Island Sound (Lee County)
6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Ding Darling Education Center
1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957

Estero Bay (Lee County)
5:30 - 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Fort Myers Regional Library, Meeting Room AB
2450 First St, Fort Myers, FL 33901

Two CWAs are already in place in southwest Florida: Myakka River and LIttle Estero Island.

More information from FWC about CWAs »

7/21/2016

Why can’t Longboat dredge its sandbars?

There’s a treasure trove of sand less than 100 yards from the shores of Longboat Key. So why don’t officials see sand source potential?

At a Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key meeting earlier this month, Public Works Director Juan Florensa presented an update on the island’s sand situation.

The big question from attendees: Why can’t the town dredge the sandbars and shoals along Key shorelines?

And it’s not just those in attendance who are wondering.

“Certainly the technology is there, and certainly the entities that do it exist,” said Steve Madva, president of the Country Club Shores Association and a Planning and Zoning Board member, in a phone interview with the Longboat Observer. “I think it should be looked at.”

There’s so much sand on the south shoal — a sandbar near inlets between Lido and Longboat keys — that Florensa can’t even estimate the number of cubic yards. Further south, another large shoal is located at the tip of Big Pass, and has more than 23 million cubic yards of sand.

As for why all that sand can’t be used, the answer is: It’s complicated — a product of regulations, potential litigation and undulation (i.e. wave action).

Continued on YourObserver.com »

7/21/2016

Local Working Group meeting set to discuss resource concerns

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The Sarasota Soil and Water Conservation District (SSWCD) in cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will convene a local working group public meeting to provide guidance and discuss local resource conservation concerns and NRCS programs in Sarasota County.

The SSWCD local working group will meet at the Sarasota Fairgrounds-Ken Clark Auditorium, 3000 Ringling Boulevard on Wednesday August 17th at 6:30 pm.

The local working group includes representatives from cooperating federal, state and local agencies, conservation organizations, and the public to provide local information on natural resources priorities in Sarasota County.

Local farmers, forestland owners and other land users are encouraged to attend and assist with identifying resource concerns and future direction of our conservation efforts. This prioritization will become the foundation on which our future plans and projects can be based.

SSWCD serves as a local coordinator of technical and financial assistance for natural resource problems from all levels of government to private landowners and land users. This meeting is an important step in helping us carry out our mission. Results will be sent to the NRCS state office for consideration in funding and ranking decisions.

For more information contact NRCS District Conservationist Israel Vega. Reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities is provided, to request special accommodation(s) contact Israel Vega at least 10 days prior to the date of the meeting.

Learn more about NRCS programs, in Florida and elsewhere »

Contact Information
Israel Vega, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Israel.Vega-Marrero@fl.usda.gov
phone: (941) 444-3143.
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/
7/21/2016

Register now for 9th Annual Great Bay Scallop Search!

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When: Saturday, August 13, 2016
Why: To annually monitor our bay scallop populations and to support the scientific study of scallops
Where: Sarasota Sailing Squadron, 1717 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, FL 34236
What To Bring: Able-bodied swimmers with sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, dive gloves, mask, snorkel, fins, and water shoes. Weight belt optional, but recommended.

BOATERS....we need you! Non-boaters will be placed on boats as space permits*. Sign Up Today!

Boaters interested in searching the northern bay can pick up equipment at Coquina Beach, 1800 Gulf Dr N, Bradenton Beach, FL prior to the event, Sarasota Bay Watch will announce date.

Schedule:

• Captains' meeting is at 8:30 a.m.
• Scallop search begins at 9:00 a.m. sharp and ends around 12:30 p.m.
• Complimentary lunch following search, 12:30 p.m.

***This is a NO HARVEST event***

*We will attempt to get those without boats onto vessels, space permitting.

PRE-REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED! This event fills to capacity every year. Register now!

Reservations are required to participate in the event. Space is limited, Boats limited to 50, kayaks welcome! No boat? Sign on as a crew member and you will be placed on a boat, space permitting. 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.

HISTORY: Scallops have been largely absent from Sarasota Bay waters since the 1960s due to dredging and land development (See: 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.

Space is limited – Register today! »

7/19/2016

UF/IFAS conducting Charlotte County water quality survey

PUNTA GORDA – The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is conducting a survey throughout Charlotte County to address people’s biggest concerns as it relates to water quality. The survey will inform the development of educational programs in the county.

Take the survey »

7/19/2016

Study: More homes at risk of storm surge in Southwest Florida

More than 340,000 homes in Southwest Florida are at risk of hurricane storm surge, with a potential rebuilding cost topping $65 billion.

The Sarasota-Bradenton area ranked eighth among major U.S. metro areas for storm surge risk, according to an annual study by data provider CoreLogic.

Florida, surrounded by water, remains the state with the most homes at risk of a storm surge and with the highest reconstruction cost in the U.S.

Seven weeks into the 2016 hurricane season, CoreLogic says it has used more advanced data than in previous years to measure the potential damage that could be caused by a major storm.

That has added 20,500 Southwest Florida homes since last year to the list of properties that could be affected by a storm surge.

"Using more granular-level data has given us an even clearer picture of which homes are at risk of storm-surge damage," said Tom Jeffery, senior hazard risk scientist for CoreLogic.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

7/15/2016

Civil Engineers: State Infrastructure Is Mediocre, But Improving

A new report card released by Florida's civil engineers shows the state's infrastructure is mediocre, but making some gains.

Engineers are giving the state a C grade overall. That’s an improvement over that state's C - grade released in 2012. The rating comes from the Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The group analyzed a number of categories including drinking water, energy and transit. The state’s aviation, bridges and ports get the highest ratings, all in the B range. But coastal areas, school facilities and storm water management need improvements; they all land in the D range. The group’s president, Jose Acosta, says the report can help policymakers prioritize the state’s needs.

“Really it’s about creating a dialog about what are needs are proactively,” he said.

The engineers are calling for increased investment at the state and local level, to prepare for a growing population, rising sea levels and tropical storms.

“Because of population growth and the various needs throughout our state, from the Keys and Miami, all the way up Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville, we need to have a stronger commitment to funding our infrastructure and having the collaboration and coordination needed to get there,” he said.

According to a separate analysis by the group, infrastructure inefficiencies cost American households $3,400 each year.

7/14/2016

Environmental groups visiting DC to press for purchase of Lake O ag lands

Environmental groups are sending a contingent to Washington, D.C., this week in hopes the federal government will put pressure on the state to buy agriculture lands south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration projects.

Under the Charlie Crist administration, the state was prepared to buy out all of U.S. Sugar and turn those lands into a storage and conveyance system that would take water flows from the lake and deliver them to the Everglades and Florida Bay, where the water naturally belongs.

Jennifer Hecker, with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, collected dead sea grass from local beaches, along with a container of water filled at the Centennial Park boat ramp in downtown Fort Myers.

"We’re getting a mass of sea grass where it’s all washing up on the beaches and basically the scientists believe that the color of the water is so dark, that it is tricking the sea grasses into shedding their leaves," Hecker said Wednesday morning. "They’re not certain whether this will cause it to permanently die-off but they’re monitoring the situation and the beaches of Sanibel are coated now with this grass."

Continued in the News-Press »

7/13/2016

“Living shorelines” will get fast track to combat sea level rise

Wetlands, sand dunes and mangroves could protect shorelines more inexpensively than walls and bulkheads. Permits to build living shorelines could be issued in as few as 45 days, instead of 215.

As sea levels rise along U.S. coasts, it may soon get easier for people and local governments to obtain federal permits to build what are known as “living shorelines,” natural or nature-based structures designed to protect communities and infrastructure from extreme storms and flooding even as they protect habitat.

The Army Corps of Engineers is considering a new category to its nationwide permits that would allow speedier approval of living shorelines, which include wetlands with sea and marsh grasses, sand dunes, mangroves, and coral reefs.

Currently, it’s much faster for property owners in many parts of the country to get a permit for sea walls, bulkheads and other so-called gray infrastructure than it is to get a permit for construction of nature-based systems. If the corps moves forward with the new category, though, permits to build living shorelines could be issued in as few as 45 days, instead of 215, a spokesman for the agency said.

“The living shoreline piece is a part of what we’re pushing as a nonstructural, nature-based method that is a lot less costly,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, who ushered in the proposed permit during his time as chief of the Army Corps of Engineers, before his retirement last week. “It helps us with our environmental focus; it helps us with the endangered species, perhaps. All of that is a natural way that we can reclaim some of our land and take the focus off of expensive infrastructure.”

The move toward more natural coastline protection comes as federal agencies, state governments, and local and business leaders focus increasingly on the concept of resilience as they plan for how communities will adapt to climate change.

Continued in Scientific American »

7/12/2016

Derby removes 429 invasive lionfish from Sarasota's Gulf waters

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Divers removed 429 invasive lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico during the third annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby, which drew more than 300 visitors to its culminating event today, July 10, at Mote Marine Laboratory.

The Sarasota, Florida-based derby was a partnership effort among Mote, a world-class marine science institution, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion and sanctions official Lionfish Derbies, and ZooKeeper, the leader in lionfish containment throughout invaded areas. This was the first derby in the 2016 Summer Lionfish Derby Series coordinated by REEF. Three upcoming derbies are accepting registrations at: www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies.

During the Sarasota derby from July 8-10, six teams of 19 Florida divers vied to catch the most lionfish, the largest lionfish and the smallest lionfish in Gulf of Mexico waters ranging from Collier to Escambia County.

On July 10, more than $3,500 in total cash prizes were awarded to first, second and third place winners in each category during an awards ceremony that filled Mote’s WAVE Center to capacity. Leading up to the ceremony, top local chefs from Indigenous Restaurant, Mattison’s Restaurants & Catering, Seafood Shack and Beach House prepared tasty lionfish dishes for the public.

More about lionfish, and a list of winners of the derby »

7/11/2016

Citizen scientists create DIY floating islands

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By Ernesto Lasso de la Vega

Citizens of the Venice Garden Civic Association Lakes Group (aka The Lakes Group) have taken upon themselves to beautify the stormwater pond in their Southwest Florida neighborhood. With the help of a FLMS Love Your Lakes Shoreline Grant Program, the residents were able to purchase plants to protect the shoreline in places where erosion and lack of vegetation has jeopardized their shore properties.

In addition, plants and materials were also used to construct a prototype “do-it-yourself” floating island. This island will work as a filtration unit for the excess nutrients present in the water and will generate more plants as they overpopulate the island. These plants will then find their place as new shoreline plantings where homeowners have accepted the responsibility and desire to enhance their littoral zone.

The civic association has invested over 63 hours of work, showing other communities that their efforts have paid off. Birds have been spotted nesting in these areas, flowering plants have beautified the shore and the community is expecting the water quality to improve. Citizen scientists will continue to monitor the pond with measurements of turbidity in the water using a Secchi disc.

Editor’s note: Ernesto Lasso de la Vega, Pond Watch Coordinator for the Lee County Hyacinth Control District, continues to work with the homeowners, providing education and guidance for their project. He will be creating a short video at the end of the project. Stay tuned!

Source: Florida Lake Management Society newsletter »

7/11/2016

Friends of Red Bug Slough do the heavy lifting to remove trash, invasives

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On Saturday morning, July 9th, the Friends worked together to keep Red Bug Slough Preserve such a special and beautiful place. Bags of trash and recyclables were pulled out of the woods and lake. Exotic plants like potato vines were also cleaned up. Chris kicked butt moving heavy concrete rubble out. Others retrieved some old lumber and a long-abandoned mattress. Ronda pulled fishing line from the shrubs around the lake. It was a wonderful day, the weather was warm but the Friends were done and home before the rain started around 10:30.

See photos from the event »

7/8/2016

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 »

7/8/2016

Environmentalists object to Sarasota comp plan changes

The Sarasota County Comprehensive Plan is being updated and some environmentalists are concerned that at the same time protections of the public interest will be eroded. Commissioners approved changes to the comp plan Wednesday.

Before their vote Sarasota attorney Dan Lobeck used two examples to tell Commissioners that comp plan protections should stay in place. Lobeck is president of Control Growth Now and referenced a proposed grocery development on wetlands as well as a case where the county is considering giving away a beachfront public road to private landowners.

During public comment on the Comprehensive Plan changes, Cathy Antunes with Citizens for Sarasota, accused Commissioners of being in the pocket of a handful of developers, including one that’s running for U.S. Senate, Republican Carlos Beruff.

Environmentalists are concerned that the changes to Sarasota County’s comp plan could make development easier. In a phone interview during a break in the meeting Andy Mele, vice chair of the Manatee-Sarasota Sierra Club group, gives an example of 4.5 acres of wetlands where Whole Foods wants to build a grocery store on the southwest corner of University Parkway and Honore Avenue.

Continued on WMNF.org »

7/8/2016

Big Pass plans set stage for legal battle

As a Siesta Key group ramps up its preparation for a lawsuit, Lido Key residents are urging the city to get ready for a potential showdown.

For years, it seemed clear that Siesta Key residents would do whatever it took to prevent the city of Sarasota from dredging Big Pass to renourish Lido Key.

Now, the group is formally organizing support to take legal action against the city and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

In 2014, Save our Siesta Sand 2 retained Carlton Fields Jorden Burt attorney Don Hemke to represent the group, formed in opposition to the Big Pass dredge. As the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proceeded with the Lido renourishment, SOSS2 has repeatedly signaled its intent to file a lawsuit over the project if necessary.

SOSS2 Chairman Peter van Roekens said he is waiting for the Army Corps to acquire the necessary permits to move forward with dredging before he files suit on behalf of his organization.

For now, he is partnering with other island organizations, such as the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and Siesta Key Village Association, to help cover what he estimates is about $200,000 in impending legal fees. SOSS2 has raised about $62,000 and hopes to raise an additional $150,000 by encouraging Siesta stakeholders to contribute.

Continued on YourObserver.com »

7/8/2016

Tidy up with Pinecraft/Sarasota Springs and Southgate Community Cleanup

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Keep your home looking spiffy by taking part in the Pinecraft/Sarasota Springs and Southgate Community Cleanup, 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday, July 16.

The cleanup gives residents the opportunity to discard household items, yard waste, tree trimmings, junk and other garbage or refuse. Free dumpsters will be available for your convenience at the following locations:

  • Main site: Bahia Vista Mennonite Church, 4041 Bahia Vista St.
  • Southgate Community Center, 3145 Southgate Circle.
  • Southside Christian Church, 4111 Webber St.

Electronics, TVs and computers will be accepted at the main site only. Appliances and tires no larger than 25x16 will also only be accepted at the main site. A maximum of five tires will be accepted.

7/8/2016

Sarasota County seeks to strengthen volunteer base as hurricane season continues

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County Health and Human Services is continuing to recruit a team of volunteers to manage and run Volunteer Reception Centers (VRCs) during a time of disaster. The VRCs are community locations where people who step forward to help during a time of disaster register and get their volunteer duty assignments. This is part of Sarasota County’s effort to strengthen the volunteer base for the hurricane season which continues through the end of November.

Those interested in volunteering can attend a VRC Recruitment and Training Workshop. The training will occur on Friday, July 29 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Morgan Family Community Center, 6207 W. Price Boulevard in North Port. Participants will gain “hands on” practice in setting up and running a Volunteer Reception Center.

Officials say it is a challenge to register everyone who volunteers following a disaster. Sarasota County has adopted VRCs as a best-practice model to help ensure volunteers work in meaningful and constructive roles during the disaster response and recovery process.

“We look forward to strengthening our community’s capabilities in placing volunteers during a time of disaster,” said William Freitas, Human Services Strategic Planner. “This training workshop provides disaster volunteers an opportunity to practice the process while training new volunteers who will serve on the Volunteer Reception Center Team.”

“The VRC would open at the direction of officials after the ‘all clear’ notice has been given,” says Sarasota County Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane.

To reserve your place at the workshop, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/VRC-Training or call Mindi Rohan, Project Consultant at 941-313-5821 for more information.

Those who are unable to attend the training session can register to become a HS-Disaster Recovery Team member through www.scgov.net/Volunteer/Pages/.

Information is also available at the Welcome Center at Sarasota County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd. in Sarasota.

7/8/2016

Turtle nesting breaks record midway through season

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Just two months into sea turtle nesting season, Mote Marine Laboratory scientists are happy to announce a record-breaking number of nests along Mote-monitored beaches from Longboat Key through Venice. The first nests of the season are also starting to hatch.

“We are excited to announce that we have broken the 35-year annual record for sea turtle nests along our area’s beaches with a total of 2,638 confirmed nests so far and we are only halfway through the nesting season,” said Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program.

Mote’s Sea Turtle Patrol — a group of scientists, interns and volunteers who monitor local nesting beaches daily from May 1-Oct. 31 — report that this year's 2,638 nests have already surpassed the previous record, the entire season total from 2015, by 163 nests.

Longboat Key broke its record of 698 nests on Thursday, June 30 with 716 nests and Casey Key broke its record of 1,174 nests on Saturday, July 2 with 1,184 nests. Lido Beach (record of 98 nests in 2014) and Venice (record of 424 in 2012) aren't far behind their past local records. So far there have been 86 nests documented in Lido Beach and 383 nests in Venice.

The first nest to hatch on Mote-monitored beaches was found Sunday, June 26 on Venice Beach.

Continued on Mote Marine Laboratory’s website »

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 »

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