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5/27/2016

Wildflower Preserve project to enhance Lemon Bay


By Elaine Allen-Emrich, Community News Editor

ENGLEWOOD – Once land is cleared of invasive plants and another estuary is created, the Wildflower Preserve will serve as a filtration system for cleaning water before it reaches Lemon Bay.

The preserve will also help restore diminishing habitats for juvenile tarpon and snook. Through two grants of more than $1 million, the Lemon Bay Conservancy, which oversees the preserve, is moving forward with a huge habitat restoration project.

Located at an abandoned 80-acre golf course now known as Wildflower Preserve, the project will also enhance the existing freshwater and estuarine wetlands. It will add 14 acres of estuarine wetlands and five acres of freshwater wetlands, and add native wetland and coastal upland plantings.

“It will take about two months to take out about 50 acres of exotic vegetation including Brazilian pepper trees, and Australian pines and melaleuca,” said Eva Furner, chair of the Wildflower Preserve Planning committee, board member and volunteer. "It is scheduled at the end of next week. Once the acreage is cleared, we will use herbicides to stop the regrowth of the invasive plants and maintain it.

“After a year, we will go back in and plant about 3,000 pine trees and a variety of other natural species,” she said.

Another important part of the project is adding new wetlands by digging up a portion of the golf course which will take in water that flows into the property from nearby communities.

The nutrient-rich water will flow through the wetland and treat it naturally.

“Reducing excess nutrients that go into Lemon Bay is very important because it helps prevent algae, which blocks out seagrassess and causes problems in the natural communities,” Furner said.

Some of the new brackish water created by digging out the course will be part of the estuary. It will provide an important area for native fish to develop.

“Snook is hatched in the Gulf and then migrate to backwater creeks," Furner said. “By having these creeks, we will have an area where a lot of young fish like tarpon and snook develop for about a year and a half. Then they make their way back to the Gulf.”

The project will not only improve the quality of water entering into the bay but increase the resilience of neighboring communities to the potential impacts of climate change—flooding and storm protection.

Jim Cooper, president of the Conservancy, said it’s exciting to see the project move along after several years of planning and coordination with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, both of which gave grants for the renovations.

“It's not just moving forward as a vision, but now as a reality,” Cooper said. “We will need volunteers to help in the fall with lots of different things that are directly and indirectly involved with this ongoing project.”

Source: Englewood Sun »

5/27/2016

Sarasota Bay to continue receiving funds for conservation


President Obama signs funding reauthorization for National Estuary Program

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – On a sun-kissed afternoon at the outskirts of Leffis Key, the mangrove forest shuts out the sun from reaching its roots. Fiddler crabs disperse at the sound of humans into their hiding places carved out from dark brown dirt. Sarasota Bay, which stretches from the tip of Anna Maria Island down to Lido Key, is where boaters glide across its surface and manatees cruise among the grass beds.

Sunbathers and sea creatures alike can continue to enjoy the bay’s benefits following the reauthorization of the National Estuary Program, signed May 21 by President Barack Obama.

The program allocates $26.5 million per year to the 28 estuary programs in 17 states and territories. Florida has the most estuary programs, with Tampa Bay, Charlotte Harbor, Indian River Lagoon and Sarasota Bay to each receive $770,000 for conservation and maintenance programs. Although there was a technical delay in the program from 2010 to 2016, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program still received $600,000 each year.

The priority of Sarasota’s program, said Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Executive Director Mark Alderson, is to improve water quality. The program does that by emphasizing tidal creeks, tributaries, living shorelines and public outreach. Two of the program’s success stories include creating an artificial reef and lowering nutrient amounts in the water, which is a contributing factor to red tide blooms.

Continued in the Bradenton Herald »

5/26/2016

NOAA to debut storm surge alarm system in time for hurricane season

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Photo: "Coyote" drone, courtesy NOAA

WASHINGTON — Picture the possibility: a weather warning system so accurate it pinpoints the reach and intensity of a storm surge from an impending hurricane days before the flooding hits.

After years of planning and testing, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is rolling out such a system for the 2016 hurricane season that officially begins Wednesday for the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. A more detailed version is expected to come online next year that could predict storm surges even before a system forms.

The technology is one of two milestone projects being deployed on a wide scale this year. Government forecasters hope it not only will save lives, but give the public more confidence that an evacuation order should be taken seriously.

"The goal is to increase the chances that when people are instructed by their emergency managers to evacuate, they go," Richard Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, told a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee Wednesday.

The other project is a disposable drone known as the Coyote. It was first dropped into the eye of Hurricane Edouard off the Atlantic coast in 2014, providing scientists an unprecedented trove of data on the movement and intensity of the storm.

That experiment was so successful that NOAA plans to use a small fleet of the Raytheon-made aircraft (weighing 13 pounds and sporting a 58-inch wingspan) for the 2016 hurricane season that officially kicks off June 1.

Continued on TCPalm.com »

5/25/2016

Deal would preserve ranch near Myakka River

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A 1,088-acre property in Manatee County that touches nearly three miles of the Myakka River is one step closer to being placed into permanent conservation after Southwest Florida Water Management District officials earmarked $2 million Tuesday for an easement on the land. The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast has been negotiating for months to preserve the Triangle Ranch, which sits just north of the Sarasota County line and borders Myakka River State Park.

More than 100 species of birds have been spotted on the ranch. Protecting and restoring the property's marsh habitat also will benefit water quality and help with flood management efforts downriver.

Triangle Ranch's owners – a family that has held the land for a century – want to sell the property outright, but many state leaders are wary of purchasing more public land.

Knowing the political climate, the foundation opted to seek funding for a conservation easement that protects the property from development but keeps it in private hands. A private conservation buyer – Bradenton philanthropist Elizabeth Moore – is negotiating to purchase Triangle Ranch and has agreed to the perpetual easement.

“We've had to find very creative ways to save land,” said foundation president Christine Johnson.

The complex transaction has yet to be finalized, but Johnson is optimistic the deal will go through now that the easement has received preliminary approval.

The purchase price for the 1,088 acres is $4.8 million. Moore also is purchasing another 55 adjacent acres that will not have a conservation easement but will be deed restricted to limit development, Johnson said.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

5/24/2016

Suncoast Reef Rovers clean Venice Pier

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A truly impressive amount of marine debris was cleaned from the Venice Fishing Pier on May 21, 2016 by the Suncoast Reef Rovers. The Suncoast Reef Rovers of Venice, Florida is a dive-enthusiast club dedicated to organized dive trips and coastal stewardship. They have been cleaning this location since 1998. Imagine what a positive difference this group has made over the last 18 years!

More than a dozen people assisted the 8 divers who cut, dug and yanked crab traps, buoys, line, fishing line, lures, knives, rods & reels, anchors and hooks that were wrapped around the pilings. This is a job for skilled divers who can work safely in an environment where the divers themselves are at risk for getting tangled.

The waste material was hauled up to the pier and also gathered onto a boat. The area cleaned was the seaward end of the fishing pier located at 1600 Harbor Drive South at Brohard Park, near Sharkey’s restaurant. Recycled or reused materials included thirty pounds of lead weights, anchors, hooks, and leaders. Waste remaining after usable materials were removed was more than could be held by three large trash cans! The Rovers report that there is more debris down there that will be cleaned up at some other time.

Three members of Sarasota Bay Watch participated in the event. They brought a boat and helped hoist materials from the water. The Rovers welcomed efforts by Sarasota Bay Watch to gather data about marine debris that can be used by scientists to understand problem areas, commonly found debris, fishing impacts and marine life entanglement.

SBW will measure the fishing line, nets and rope. Mote interns and high school volunteers will get community service hours for measuring, counting and weighing the waste that was gathered. Plastic waste will be recycled. The data will be shared with the NOAA Marine Debris Working Group.

The City of Venice closed the pier to fishing during this annual event. Venice Marine Patrol and the Florida Fish and Wildlife officers patrolled the area and ensured the diver’s protection from boaters. Sharkey’s on the Pier provided delicious, discounted lunches for the volunteers.

The Suncoast Reef Rovers will be conducting three more dive cleanups this year at the Venice Jetties. Sarasota Bay Watch enthusiastically recommends that skilled divers or other volunteers help the Suncoast Reef Rovers to continue their important work in keeping our marine waters healthy for aquatic life.

Full report on the event, with photos »

Visit the Suncoast Reef Rovers website »

5/23/2016

Sarasota County’s 2015 Water Quality report now available

​SARASOTA COUNTY – The 2015 Sarasota County Drinking Water Report is now available online. The report details the high quality of Sarasota County's water. Included is a summary for our customers giving information about where our water comes from, what it contains and how it compares to the standards set by regulatory agencies.

Sarasota County Public Utilities was recently awarded best tasting drinking water for consistently meeting or exceeding state and federal standards for drinking water. The 2015 Water Quality report gives customers the chance to learn more about their local water supply.

"Earning the distinction of best tasting drinking water, combined with the results of the water quality report, reflects the dedication from Public Utilities as we provide high-quality and reliable drinking water to our customers," said Sarasota County Public Utilities Manager Dave Cash.

The report can be viewed online at www.scgov.net/waterqualityreport. A hard copy of the report can be mailed per request by emailing waterquality@scgov.net or calling the water quality services at 941-861-5000.

View the report online »

5/23/2016

Sarasota County to consider $500,000 in waterway grants to Longboat Key

The West Coast Inland Navigation District is slated to provide the town of Longboat Key nearly $500,000 in funding for waterway projects.

While the town of Longboat Key prepares to break ground on the new an improved Bayfront Park next month, Sarasota County commissioners will consider nearly $400,000 in grant money for the project next week.

The County Commission on Tuesday will consider $1.6 million in West Coast Inland Navigation District grants, of which Longboat is eligible for nearly $500,000.

The Bayfront Park grant is for the project’s living seawall, which involves the creation of boardwalks and bridges along mangroves, a kayak launch and storage, restrooms, a pavilion, fishing piers and parking.

“It is expected the residents, boaters and visitors who access the park either by land or water will have the opportunity to use all park amenities, learn about the importance of mangroves as fish nursery, characteristics of water quality and protecting the environment through safe and proper use for boating activities and the role they play in protecting our shorelines,” according to the grant application.

The four-county navigable waterways district has also earmarked $70,000 for the Longboat Key Police Department’s marine unit, $11,000 to upgrade the fire department’s vessel and another $10,000 to support the removal of derelict boats. In total, that’s more than triple the $128,000 county commissioners approved last year.

Source: YourObserver.com »

5/16/2016

Public blasts DEP over new water toxics limits

The state of Florida wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals that can be discharged into its rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is in the process of revising limits on toxic chemicals that can be released into surface waters, something it’s supposed to do from time to time under the Clean Water Act but hasn’t since the early 1990s.

The agency is updating human-health criteria for 43 dangerous chemical compounds it currently regulates and adopting standards for the first time for another 39.

Of the 82 various toxic substances, the vast majority would have lower standards than recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency. And of the 43 chemicals now regulated, about a couple dozen would see limits increased beyond those currently allowed.

DEP officials say the new standards — based on risk and factors like seafood consumption — would let Floridians safely eat Florida fish and drink local tap water their entire lives. They say the concentration of pollutants in the water wouldn’t pose a significant risk to the average Floridian’s health.

But environmental groups and concerned doctors say the new standards would increase chances people will get sick or develop cancer from the contamination in seafood and water. The proposal drew fire last week during a DEP workshop in Tallahassee, one of only three held around the state.

Continued in the Tallahassee Democrat »

5/16/2016

Learn about “Florida’s Maritime Past” this summer

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The Florida Maritime Museum in Cortez is working with Lifelong Learning Academy (LLA) to present a four-week course on "Florida’s Maritime Past". Water has shaped daily life throughout Florida’s history. This course traces that influence through more than 500 years, highlighting important events and figures and looking at how these weave together to created the state’s rich history and maritime heritage.

Presented chronologically, classes will cover the Calusa (Native Americans of Florida’s southwest coast whose culture was based on fishing), Florida from the 1500s to the present, boatbuilding and shipwrecks, and marine archaeology.

Classes will meet on Thursdays from 4 to 6:30 p.m., beginning July 7th. Cost of the 4-week course is $54 for LLA members, $60 for non-members. Seating is limited. To register please contact the Lifelong Learning Academy at (941) 359- 4296 or visit LLA's website:

More information »

5/16/2016

Phillippi Creek property owners, you can help Mote with fishery research

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Property owners along Phillippi Creek: You can help Mote Marine Laboratory scientists study your underwater “neighbors,” snook of the Sarasota Bay fishery.

Mote scientists are seeking waterfront access and logistical support as they study which habitat types juvenile snook prefer along Phillippi Creek. They will release hatchery-raised, common snook to document whether the fish prefer natural shoreline such as mangrove and marsh habitat, clear areas of human-made seawall, seawall with aquatic plants or a mosaic of all three types. Results will help reveal how well the creek supports native fishes and how resource managers might enhance its benefits.

This research is funded through Mote’s Fisheries Conservation and Enhancement Initiative, which has received tremendous support from philanthropists Carol and Barney Barnett, leadership donors to Mote’s Oceans of Opportunity campaign.

With the permission and assistance of waterfront property owners, Mote scientists aim to investigate the following questions, starting in approximately the next month:

  • Do snook disperse more rapidly when released along seawall?
  • Does survival differ among release habitats?
  • When snook are in a given stretch of creek, what proportion of time do they spend along these habitat types?

Faster dispersal from a given habitat, less time spent there or lower survival rates could mean that the habitat has room for improvement.

How creek-side residents can help

Mote will monitor how released snook move through the environment by tagging the fish with passive integrated transponders, or PIT tags, similar to the microchips for cats and dogs. At select sites onshore, Mote researchers will place special antenna arrays that detect any tagged snook passing within range.

Mote is seeking waterfront access and assistance from residents in the following locations along Phillippi Creek:

  • Upper creek sites, location 1: area around Mineola Drive, including Jaffa Drive, Valencia Drive and Orchid Oaks Drive.
  • Upper creek sites, location 2: area around River Ridge Drive, including Brink Avenue, Hyde Park Street and Tanglewood Drive.
  • Lower creek sites, location 1: area around Admiral Place and Way, Riverwood Avenue and the waterfront portions of Riverbluff Parkway, Ashton Road, Burlington Lane, Portland Street and Marblehead Drive.
  • Lower creek sites, location 2: Palos Verdes Drive, Wason Road, Michele Drive, Montclair Place and America Drive.

(Residents along other parts of the creek are also welcome to contact Mote for consideration in future projects.)

Mote scientists will ask interested homeowners for contact information and details about their shoreline habitat, and if appropriate, they will schedule a visit to discuss the project.

What homeowners can expect if their backyard is selected:

  • Placement of an antenna/antenna array near the water. This requires several square feet of space onshore for the duration of the study. Duration of study is at least one year, but it can extend as long as homeowners are wiling to cooperate.
  • Temporary acclimation cage in the water to hold released fish for about three days. This allows the fish to get used to their new habitat.
  • Mote scientists will visit the site briefly, approximately every month, to download data and maintain antennas.
  • Mote scientists will need water or land access to the antenna.

Residents will be asked to:
  • Record any large disturbances (e.g. storms) on a datasheet provided by Mote.
  • Dissuade anyone from tampering with the equipment, and notify Mote researchers immediately if tampering occurs.

Interested homeowners should contact Dr. Ryan Schloesser at: rschloesser@mote.org

The South Gate Community Association has already stepped up to help by highlighting this opportunity through a special edition of its newsletter. "Our board was excited about the prospect of Mote research occurring in our neighborhood," said Virginia Miller, a member of the Association's board who has volunteered with Mote for more than 19 years. "We are pleased that the creek in our community is receiving this positive attention as an important place for research that aims to keep Sarasota Bay fisheries healthy."

Mote scientists plan to share their results with residents who help out, and ultimately with the broader community. In particular, they will communicate with organizations such as Sarasota County’s Stormwater Environmental Utility and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, which carry out related and complementary efforts designed to improve conditions in Phillippi Creek and other local water bodies.

Said Schloesser: “We want the community to be interested and involved because the findings of this research apply to the community as a whole.”

Source: Mote Marine Laboratory news release »

5/13/2016

Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act now adopted

The 2016 Florida Legislature adopted SB 552, a long-awaited, comprehensive water bill that tackled issues from Everglades restoration to water supply and created the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act (the Springs Protection Act or the Act), which is now Part VIII of Chapter 373, Florida Statutes. See Ch. 2016-1, § 22 et seq., Laws of Fla.

The Springs Protection Act is aimed at protecting Florida springs fed by the Floridan Aquifer, one of two aquifer systems which underlie the majority of the state (the other is the Biscayne Aquifer, located in an area stretching from Boca Raton to the Florida Keys) and one of the most productive aquifers in the world. As the legislature recognized, the “[w]ater quality of springs is an indicator of local conditions of the Floridan Aquifer,” and these springs are threatened by polluted runoff, discharges resulting from inadequate wastewater and stormwater management practices, and reduced water levels of the Floridan Aquifer from withdrawals. The Act focuses on the water quantity and quality of Florida’s springs.

The Springs Protection Act builds on existing law, including the Florida Water Resources Act and the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act, and requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to adopt:

  • recovery and prevention strategies to ensure that water levels at Florida’s springs do not fall below established Minimum Levels; and
  • basin management action plans (BMAPs) to ensure that pollutant levels in Florida’s springs are below established Total Maximum Daily Loads.

Continued on jdsupra.com »

5/13/2016

Study: Efficient fixtures have cut U.S. indoor water use 22% since 1999

Indoor household water use in the United States decreased 22 percent between 1999 and 2016, according to the most rigorous analysis to date of how water is used in U.S. homes.

Even more encouraging for conservationists is that indoor water use could drop another 35 percent or more if all homes installed the most water-efficient fixtures and appliances on the market.

The decline in water use — from 670 liters (177 gallons) per household per day to 522 liters (138 gallons) — is not due to a green wave of environmentalism breaking over the suburbs. U.S. households accomplished the feat without a significant change in behavior, according to William DeOreo, lead author of the study. Household size was roughly equal in the two studies (2.7 people in 1999 versus 2.6 today). Minutes per shower remained constant. Toilet flushes did not budge. Neither did faucet use. The reason households are using less water: better equipment.

“It’s almost all attributable to fixtures,” DeOreo told Circle of Blue, talking about toilets, faucets, clothes washers, dishwashers, and other appliances. “It’s not like people’s habits changed. Better technology really drove the reduction. And there’s room for more improvement if we adopt the best technology out there today.”

The study’s findings are consistent with broader water use patterns in the United States. Water withdrawals peaked in 1980, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. In addition, many cities, while confronting limits to water supply, are seeing persistent downward trends in consumption. Fort Worth, Texas, for instance, cut residential water use by 18 percent between 2006 and 2013. And Seattle uses about 30 percent less water today than in the late 1980s.

Continued on the website Circle of Blue »

5/13/2016

The fertilizer industry insider who’s credited with helping Sarasota Bay

Michael Juchnowicz has been called a traitor, a deserter and a double-crosser by his peers. He thinks of himself more as a maverick.

It has been nearly a decade since the founder of Gardenmasters of S.W. Florida Inc. broke with the fertilizer industry by pushing for stricter nitrogen-control laws — a proposal many fertilization services believed at the time to be a threat to their industry.

He testified before legislators, welcomed county commissioners into his private headquarters and worked with university researchers — fighting the powerful lobbyists his own industry had hired.

But now that restrictions have been in place for several years — banning the use of fertilizer in Sarasota and Manatee counties from June 1 through Sept. 30 — Juchnowicz says he has an established system, while many others are still scrambling to keep their lawns green during the peak summer months.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

5/12/2016

Paradise lost, found in Southwest Florida seagrass

By Mark Alderson, Lisa Beever and Holly Greening, Guest Columnists for the Herald-Tribune

In the early 1900s, bay waters from Tampa to Charlotte Harbor teemed with sea life. Old-timers wistfully recall collecting scallops, clams and oysters by the bucketful. Snook, spotted sea trout and red drum were plentiful.

That rich natural abundance was nurtured, in part, by vast seagrass meadows, one of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Seagrasses provide food and shelter for 70 percent of our local fishery species. They trap sediments, stabilize bay bottoms and store carbon. Because they need sunlight for photosynthesis, seagrasses require clear water to survive and grow.

Over the decades, intense residential and commercial development took a toll on water quality and seagrasses in Southwest Florida. Marshes were drained. Dredging removed seagrass habitat, and associated suspended sediments smothered neighboring seagrass beds.

Canals and drainage pipes accelerated the rush of stormwater from impervious roads and buildings to the bay, carrying with it nitrogen from fertilizers and pet waste. Mangrove fringe and coastal marsh, which previously filtered runoff, were replaced with seawalls. Wastewater discharges and leaky septic fields flushed bacteria and nitrogen into waterways.

Nitrogen pollution fueled algal blooms, which clouded the water. Deprived of sunlight, seagrasses died; and, as algae died and decayed, they robbed waters of life-sustaining oxygen, killing fish and other sea life.

In less than a century, once vast seagrass meadows and their abundant sea life had literally become a shadow of their former glory. Threats to public health, quality of life and the tourism-based economy, together with a new environmental understanding and ethic, motivated Southwest Florida communities to restore their bays.

In the 1990s, three national estuary programs (NEPs) were created on Florida’s Gulf Coast to protect and restore our three Estuaries of National Significance: Sarasota Bay (established 1989), Tampa Bay (established 1991) and Charlotte Harbor (established 1995). No other coastline in the nation has three NEPs providing contiguous management leadership for its protection and restoration.

Partnerships are the key to NEP success, including local, state and federal agencies, local policy, citizen and technical advisers, nonprofit organizations, business partners and thousands of volunteers.

Together, we collaborate to reduce nutrient pollution by improving municipal wastewater and stormwater practices, promoting habitat conservation and restoration, and developing educational outreach to homeowners and businesses. Forward thinking city and county leaders are instrumental to providing the financing and political will to translate best-science and planning into successful action.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

5/3/2016

Public invited to Environmental Park Connector Celebration on May 6

The North Port community is invited to a celebration on Friday, May 6, 2016 to celebrate a project that will connect the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park to the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve.

The celebration will take place from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. with a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled to start at 10 a.m. at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, 6968 Reisterstown Road. The date and time of the event was changed due to scheduling conflicts.

The event will include light refreshments,giveaways, and activities. Guided walking tours will take place to bring residents to where the City of North Port and Sarasota County are building a pedestrian and equestrian bridge over the R-36 canal to connect the two environmental parks.

The City of North Port is home to the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, a 16-acre nature park with nature trails, gazebos, and bridges ideal for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, birdwatching, and other outdoor activities. The pedestrian and equestrian bridge, when completed, will link the North Port park to 25,000 acres that make up the Carlton Reserve, which features more than 80 miles of hiking trails. The Carlton Reserve also connects to the 12 mile Myakka Island Wilderness Trail, which connects to the Myakka River State Park.

The connector bridge’s construction is a joint venture between the City of North Port and Sarasota County, which are both funding $285,000 toward the project. The contractor for the project is TAMRIO, LLC. The bridge was designed by Charlotte Engineering & Surveying, Inc. and American Consulting Professionals, LLC.

The project is expected to be completed before the end of the 2016 calendar year.

For more information, contact Neighborhood Development Services at (941) 429-7044 or Sarasota County at (941) 861-5000.

Click here to view original article »

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