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4/28/2016

Red Tide Status: April 22nd, 2016

A bloom of the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists along Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte counties in Southwest Florida.

Over the past week, K. brevis was observed at background to low concentrations in 4 samples collected from Pinellas County; background to very low concentrations in 16 samples collected from Manatee County; background to low concentrations in 21 samples collected from Sarasota County; background to low concentrations in 4 samples collected from Charlotte County; and background to very low concentrations in 5 samples collected from Lee County.

Additional samples collected throughout Florida this week did not contain K. brevis.

Respiratory irritation was reported last week at multiple Pinellas County coastal beaches, with the most recent report at Redington Beach on 4/13. The most recent fish kill was reported several miles offshore of Madeira Beach on 4/14.

Forecasts for Southwest Florida by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show southern movement of surface waters and southern onshore movement of bottom waters between Pinellas and Lee counties over the next 3 days.

Map of the Statewide K. brevis concentrations

Click here to view original article »

4/26/2016

The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act

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 »

4/26/2016

Sixth Circuit Will Not Rehear Venue Question in Clean Water Act Rule Dispute

On April 21, 2016 the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied several petitions for rehearing en banc a Sixth Circuit panel decision that looked at which courts (federal district court or federal courts of appeal) have original jurisdiction to hear challenges to the EPA’s Clean Water Rule. This recent ruling leaves in place the Sixth Circuit panel ruling holding that jurisdiction lies at the appeals court level.

EPA’s Clean Water Rule has already sparked a long and complicated history of litigation. As a refresher, here are some of the highlights:

  • June 29, 2015: EPA publishes final “Clean Water Rule” setting out a new definition of “Waters of the United States.” 80 Fed. Reg. 37054 (Jun. 29, 2015). Soon after, multiple petitions are filed challenging the rule in federal district courts and in federal circuit courts.

  • July 28, 2015: The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidates the pending circuit court actions in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • August 27, 2015: The federal District Court for the District of North Dakota concludes that jurisdiction is proper in the district courts and enjoins enforcement of the Clean Water Rule in the 13 States that are parties to the lawsuit in front of the court.

  • October 9, 2015: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issues a nationwide stay of the Clean Water Rule. In Re: Environmental Protection Agency and Dep’t of Defense Final Rule “Clean Water Rule”, Nos. 15-3799/3822/3853/3877, 803 F.3d 804 (6th Cir. 2015).

  • February 22, 2016: A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that the circuit courts have jurisdiction to hear the challenges to the Clean Water Rule.

  • March 3rd, 2016: The Federal defendants file a Motion to Dismiss the North Dakota District Court case in light of the Sixth Circuit’s decision from February 22nd.

  • March -April 2016: Several Parties file petitions to the Sixth Circuit for rehearing en banc the panel decision on jurisdiction from February 22nd.

  • April 21, 2016: The Sixth Circuit denies the en banc petitions, leaving the February 22nd decision in place.


We will have to wait and see if the States and industry groups challenging jurisdiction in the Sixth Circuit will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, there are still parallel proceedings questioning jurisdiction at the North Dakota district court and the Eleventh Circuit (on appeal from the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia). The Sixth Circuit’s denial of rehearing makes it more likely that the Clean Water Rule will ultimately be reviewed in the circuit courts, specifically, the Sixth Circuit. However, the order has no immediate substantive effect on the regulated community because it leaves in place the nationwide stay of the Clean Water Rule.

Click here to view original article »

4/20/2016

Six years after Deepwater Horizon oil spill, USF Researchers see path forward

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Four important "lessons learned" will help future responders and researchers.

TAMPA – On April 20, 2010, millions of gallons of crude oil began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico following an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The explosion killed 11 workers and oil spewed from the damaged, one mile deep well head for 87 days. Response efforts added almost two million gallons of dispersants to the Gulf. Through ongoing studies, scientific researchers from the University of South Florida continue to learn more about how both oil and dispersants have impacted marine life. Six years later, many lessons have been learned about response and recovery, especially about the impacts on marine life. However, scientists continue to seek more answers.

Researchers from USF’s College of Marine Science, the lead institution for the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis (C-IMAGE), an international research consortium created to study the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, have outlined their research and provided four important lessons learned since 2010.

Lesson 1: The need for baseline data throughout the oceans to determine a disaster’s effects
Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), established after the 1989 Alaska Exxon Valdez spill, the responsible party is required to pay for damage. OPA90’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment regulation requires quantifying damage and ecosystem restoration to pre-spill or “baseline” condition. With the Gulf vastly understudied before 2010, having a complete picture of the Gulf’s “before” condition was impossible. Strong baseline could have provided an invaluable assessment and also could have even influenced how responders did risk assessments.

Lesson 2: Oil sinks to the bottom
Marine “snow” is a term used to describe the particulate matter (dead and dying plankton) falling to the seafloor and is a pathway through which oil can be deposited on the seafloor. Crude oil is made of thousands of different arrangements of carbon that become more toxic after burning. These toxic compounds can be trapped in marine snow and cover the seabed, harming marine life.

Lesson 3: Dispersants may not as useful as once believed, particularly in the deep-sea
Over two million gallons of dispersants were released during relief efforts at the surface and at the well-head. Dispersants break larger droplets into smaller ones for increased bacterial degradation. Studies have shown that dispersants did not stimulate bacterial growth and may have inhibited bacterial growth (full study here).

“Up to 10 percent of the sea floor in the area is covered with oil,” said Dr. David Hollander of USF’s College of Marine Science and chief scientist of C-IMAGE. “We want to relate what we see on the cores to the condition of the fish. We will also distribute the cores to various scientific groups for research.”

Lesson 4: Prolonged oil toxicity in fish continues
Fish communities exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can severely impact fish health, behavior, and reproduction. Since 2010, USF researchers have studied the extent of exposure over time and evaluated fish muscle and liver tissue for PAH. Tissue samples from both shallow and deep water fish communities show that PAH concentrations in deep water fish increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2011, while the increase in PAH content in shallow water fish increased 20-fold.

Since 2011, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has provided $353 million in research dollars funding consortia – like C-IMAGE – and grants to study spill impacts on coastal, surface, and deep-sea environments, impacts on human health, and properties of oil droplets and dispersants in the ocean. In 2015, USF was awarded $20.2 million to continue C-IMAGE research.

To coincide with the sixth anniversary of the spill, a screening of the film “Dispatches From the Gulf,” the story of the recovery efforts, will be broadcast via live stream on April 20, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., at:

www.youtube.com/c/ScreenscopeJ2PE/live

The film will also be aired on local television station WEDU+ in the Tampa Bay area, at 8 p.m. on April 20.

The documentary highlights research in the Gulf following the oil spill, in particular, researchers from the C-IMAGE consortium, and is narrated by Matt Damon.

Learn more about the film and view a trailer »

4/19/2016

Vegetables irrigated with treated wastewater expose consumers to drugs


A new study shows that eating vegetables and fruits grown in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater exposes consumers to minute quantities of carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater effluents.

A new study by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical Center shows that eating vegetables and fruits grown in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater exposes consumers to minute quantities of carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater effluents.

Fresh water scarcity worldwide has led to increased use of reclaimed wastewater, as an alternative source for crop irrigation. But the ubiquity of pharmaceuticals in treated effluents has raised concerns over the potential exposure for consumers to drug contaminants via treated wastewater.

"Israel is a pioneer and world leader in reuse of reclaimed wastewater in the agriculture sector, providing an excellent platform to conduct such a unique study," said research co-author Prof. Benny Chefetz from the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University and the Director of the Hebrew University Center of Excellence in Agriculture and Environmental Health. The study is the first to directly address exposure to such pharmaceutical contaminants in healthy humans. It was recently published in Environmental Science and Technology.

"In a randomized controlled trial we have demonstrated that healthy individuals consuming reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce excreted carbamazepine and its metabolites in their urine, while subjects consuming fresh water-irrigated produce excreted undetectable or significantly lower levels of carbamazepine," said Prof. Ora Paltiel, Director of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, who led the research.

The study followed 34 men and women divided into two groups. The first group was given reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce for the first week, and freshwater-irrigated vegetables in the following week. The second group consumed the produce in reverse order.

Continued in Science Daily »

4/19/2016

Celebrate Earth Day by volunteering at Oscar Scherer State Park this Saturday

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Join the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program at Oscar Scherer State Park's 27th Annual Earth Day celebration this Saturday! The park is looking for volunteers to assist with planting thousands of plants in the park's lake and wetland restoration areas. Volunteers for the planting may arrive as early as 10 a.m., but the planting will be ongoing throughout the festival.

Bay Guardians, wear your t-shirts and come by to say hello to SBEP staff at our outreach table!

Visit Friends of Oscar Scherer State Park to learn more about the event.

When: Saturday, April 23rd, 2016 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
Where: Oscar Scherer State Park, 1843 S Tamiami Trail, Osprey, FL 34229 Map »

4/15/2016

Public meeting focuses on future of North Port’s Little Salt Spring

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At 7 p.m. on April 19th, the Friends of Little Salt Spring will host a public meeting at the Jockey Club Clubhouse in North Port. The meeting will be a discussion with Florida Senator Nancy Detert, who will be sharing her vision for Little Salt Spring, followed by a question and answer session. Sen. Detert will be addressing Little Salt Spring's history, its present situation, and the future outlook for the site.

Little Salt Spring is a 74-meter diameter, brackish water-filled pond in the City of North Port, in Sarasota County. Little Salt Spring lies within a 112-acre parcel of land that, in 1982, was donated to the University of Miami as an archaeological preserve to be held in perpetuity for scientific and educational purposes.

Friends of Little Salt Spring membership meetings are held three times a year at the Jockey Club Clubhouse. The Jockey Club is a southerly neighbor to Little Salt Spring and the spring discharge flows along the border on its way to the Myakkahatchee Creek.

The Jockey Club Clubhouse is at 3050 Pan American Blvd., at the corner of Pan American Blvd. and Appomattox Drive.

Friends of Little Salt Spring website »

4/14/2016

F.I.S.H. Preserve’s salty habitat passes environmental muster

Good news from state environmental regulators came as a godsend to the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (F.I.S.H.).

“We’re done. We’re done. We’re done,” director Jane von Hahmann said at a March 7 FISH board meeting.

Six years after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ordered FISH to restore an acre of mangroves destroyed by salty spoil or face $10,000 a day in fines, the DEP decided to close the file. The DEP had determined the property was transformed into a “rare and valuable” saltern marsh.

The environmental problem arose in May 2005 after FISH allowed the West Coast Inland Navigation District to create a spoil site in a western area of the FISH Preserve for material from a nearby dredge project.

WCIND had assured FISH a berm would control salt leaching on the preserve located on 95 acres east of 119th Street on the south side of Cortez Road. WCIND finished dumping the spoil at the site and the dredge project in 2007. In 2008, volunteers reported mangroves dying south of the bermed site near an outfall pipe.

FISH attempted to plant mangroves and marsh grass that didn’t take hold. DEP testing determined “it was the addition of the soil itself that caused the problem,” wrote DEP spokeswoman Shannon Herbon in a March 17 email.

Then, in December 2015, testing indicated the area had transformed into a natural saltern — barren flat feeding grounds with a high salinity, fertile territory for wading birds.

FISH environmental consultant Diane Rosensweig of Scheda Ecological Associates of Sarasota brought the saltern to DEP’s attention in a January memo. Rosensweig reported on the salinity where the mangroves had once grown, concluding the saltern community “is more productive and ecologically sound” than another acre of mangroves in a 30-acre mangrove forest. Salterns are disappearing from the coastal landscape and considered rare, as well as a target for restoration by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, according to Rosensweig.

“Now they’ve got something that’s even better,” she said, referring to FISH’s property.

The DEP considers the transformation a “positive outcome” because salterns provide “a viable ecological function for birds and young fish,” Herbon wrote. With the saltern marsh identified, the agency concluded FISH had taken corrective actions, restoration was complete and no fine would be assessed. At the March FISH meeting, von Hahmann exclaimed, “Hallelujah, hallelujah. Praise the Lord.”

Click here to view original article »

4/14/2016

Longboat Key explores dredging inlet to Beer Can Island


North Shore Road residents are organizing in support of a wider opening for the north-end lagoon.

Twenty-year Longboat Key resident Maureen Merrigan noticed something troubling during the last full moon as tides flowed out of the Beer Can Island lagoon: It looked almost landlocked.

“You could almost see the land all the way to the dock at near Lands End Drive,” said Merrigan, who lives on North Shore Road and grew up on Bradenton Beach.

Fortunately for Merrigan and the more than 25 residents she has rallied to action, the town has contracted with coastal engineering firm Taylor Engineering to study the feasibility of dredging island waterways. While the company has focused on the Key’s 60 canals, it is also planning to analyze that channel as part of a roughly $90,000 contract in the next three months.

Contined on YourObserver.com »

4/14/2016

Sarasota County hosting Earth Day clean-up at Ted Sperling Nature Park April 22

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Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources is inviting the community to celebrate Earth Day by hosting a clean-up at Ted Sperling Nature Park, 11 a.m. - 2 p.m., Friday, April 22.

The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, inspiring millions of Americans from all walks of life to take responsibility for the environment and their community.That first Earth Day celebration is widely credited for launching the modern environmental movement, and now more than a billion people participate in Earth Day celebrations annually, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

"We're encouraging the community to take part in this clean-up, and help keep Ted Sperling Park clean and beautiful," said Sarasota County Volunteer and Partnership Coordinator Brenda Canales. "Come out and be one of the billion people world-wide who are celebrating Earth Day."

Ted Sperling Nature Park is located at 190 Taft Drive, Lido Key.

To register for the clean-up, contact Brenda Canales at 941-861-5868, or bcanales@scgov.net.

Ted Sperling Nature Park Information »

4/14/2016

Public invited to Environmental Park Connector Celebration on April 30


The North Port community is invited to a celebration on Saturday, April 30, 2016 to kick off a project that will connect the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park to the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve.

The celebration will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. with a groundbreaking ceremony scheduled to start at 10 a.m. at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park, 6968 Reisterstown Road. The event will include light refreshments, free prizes, 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.

Source: City of North Port news release »

4/14/2016

Sarasota Bay preservation effort becomes model for others

Jon Thaxton grew up in Sarasota and has seen the health of the waters go through several shifts and changes. Perhaps the most memorable, was a dramatic decline in water quality in the 90s.

"Within a short 10 to 20 year period, the Bay just took a nose dive," said Thaxton. "A lot of the sea grass just started to die off, and that's what really inspired us in the 90s and the early 2000s to do something about it."

That's when Thaxton and his fellow County Commissioners took action, putting into place several ordinances to remove nitrogen from the water and protect Sarasota Bay from collapse.

Now, nearly a decade after those ordinances were put in place, their impact can be felt. The bay is healthy and sea grass levels are up.

"There are more sea grasses here today then there were when we took the very first aerial photograph of Sarasota Bay back in the 1940s," said Thaxton, "so the program I believe can clearly be demonstrated as a success."

Meanwhile, on the East Coast of Florida, Indian River is struggling. In the last few months, the bay has seen major fish kills all due to brown tide. Those from Indian River are now looking to Sarasota Bay as a model to keep Indian River from collapse.

"We followed the Tampa model actually, and now they're following us," said Mark Alderson of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. Alderson met with those from Indian River a few months ago.

"They're having huge fish kills, huge marine mammal deaths, and their canals are full of dead fish," said Alderson of Indian River. "It's been quite a sight."

In his 20 years the Estuary Program, Alderson says he's seen serious improvements to local waters, and he says that's largely due to a commitment in local government to aggressively protect the Bay.

"It's been very gradual and very slow," said Alderson, "but over time there's just been a great improvement in the Bay."

Click here to view original article »

4/14/2016

Wetland mitigation plan questioned

When developers of a proposed Whole Foods commercial center sought Sarasota County's approval to build on a protected wetland, they identified a similar wetland in nearby Manatee County whose purchase they said could mitigate the loss.

Describing the Manatee County wetland as “highly vulnerable to development considering it is prime waterfront real estate,” the group said its plan would save this threatened ecosystem and contribute a net increase in the conservation of valuable swampland overall.

The developers said their mitigation plan far exceeds the legal requirements for such a project, and demonstrated the company's environmental commitment.

The pitch convinced Sarasota County's planning board and County Commission to strip longstanding protection from the targeted wetland, essentially green-lighting the commercial construction at the busy southwest corner of Honore Avenue and University Parkway. The developers acknowledged they wanted to build on as much of the land as possible to maximize profit.

But a closer look at the Manatee County mitigation site shows that because of flooding, it carried limited chance of development beyond, perhaps, a house. The wetland also already benefits from local, state and federal protection. Nevertheless, the developers bought the Manatee County wetland months ahead of the votes by the Sarasota County planning board in December and the County Commission in January.

The purchase raises a key question: If the Manatee County wetland already was protected, and the parcel in which it sits faces significant development hurdles, does it mitigate the loss of the Honore-University wetland?

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

4/14/2016

Longboat Key to dig into $25M beach renourishment project

Longboat Key kicked off a multimillion-dollar beach renourishment project Wednesday to restore new sand to several eroded stretches of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.

The project has three major components, said Town Manager Dave Bullock.

"The first one is we're hauling some sand in by truck. ... putting sand down in the central part of the island and hitting those eroded areas that are more or less in the center of the island," he said. "The other two phases will occur probably starting in July."

In an interview with the Bradenton Herald, Longboat Key Mayor Jack Duncan said the project costs about $25 million, funded via a referendum passed a few years ago.

Additional phases of sand placement are scheduled through the fall and will include sand dredged from New Pass and Longboat Pass, as well as additional trucked-in sand for a small portion at the south end of Longboat Key.

Bullock said 60 to 100 trucks hauling sand are expected to travel daily to Longboat Key, coming from Bradenton Beach and St. Armands Circle in Sarasota.

"We'll probably be hauling sand up into September," the town manager said. "We wanted to wait until the worst of the traffic is behind us. Generally, spring and summer have lower traffic, certainly, than March."

Upon completion of the first segment, Longboat Key officials said truck haul operations will shift to the Atlas Street access area to place an estimated 20,000 cubic yards along the beach segment from Westchester to Casa del Mar (4621 to 4825 Gulf of Mexico Drive).

Operations, a release states, will then shift to the Gulfshore/Buttonwood Cove access area to place 85,000 cubic yards of sand from Gulfshore northward to Pelican Harbour (3710 to 4241 Gulf of Mexico Drive).

The central project will conclude with the placement of another 60,000 cubic yards from Buttonwood Cove southward to the Veinte Condominium (3710 to 2675 Gulf of Mexico Drive).

Continued in the Bradenton Herald »

4/13/2016

Sarasota’s Canals subject of Mote Marine Lab fish survey

SARASOTA — In a canal that runs between Circus Boulevard and the Bobby Jones Golf Club, Mote Marine Laboratory researchers pulled up a seine net and peered in to see what they’d found.

“Well, we got a bass,” said Dr. Nate Brennan on Tuesday morning. “We caught a largemouth — two largemouth bass. Who’d have guessed, huh?”

Mote researchers are conducting the first scientific survey of fish in the canals of Sarasota. The question is how these drainage ditches, which were built for flood control, might be enhanced to benefit fisheries and add to the natural beauty of Sarasota County.

“That’s the value of this,” said Dr. James Locascio, manager of the Fisheries Habitat Ecology Program at Mote. “What is the value of these ecosystems and what can we do to enhance that value?”

Recommendations for the canal system could include everything from building small pools to adding marshy plants and shade trees.

The canal survey, funded by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, began a month ago and will take another month to complete.

There are more than 100 miles of canals that drain into Phillippi Creek and Sarasota Bay. Tidal waters are an important habitat for sport fish such as snook.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

4/7/2016

Sinkhole insurance may expand to cover more than catastrophic loss

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott has until Wednesday to sign a sinkhole insurance bill before it automatically becomes law.

The bill, SB 1274, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, would allow insurance companies to offer more comprehensive sinkhole damage coverage to homeowners than current state law permits.

“It would allow them to set up a line of business to offer sinkhole insurance as a specialized line,” Latvala said. It would not be offered in conjunction with a homeowner’s regular insurance like it used to be, he added, “so people who are in sinkhole prone areas could buy extra protection.”

Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties are especially prone to sinkholes and sinkhole damage, with more than two-thirds of all sinkholes occurring in the region known as “sinkhole alley.”

Latvala said he’s heard nothing to make him think Gov. Scott had a problem with the bill. “I’ve got to believe that it’s fine or I would have heard something,” he said.

The Governor’s Office said the bill was under review.

State lawmakers in 2011 approved a measure to limit coverage of sinkhole damage to homes and businesses with “catastrophic ground cover collapse” as a way to cut down on the rising cost and number of claims and costs during the previous five years.

A home had to fall into a sinkhole to qualify for insurance coverage, Latvala has said. And it didn’t cover repairs to sinking floors and cracks in walls.

Continued in the Suncast News »

4/7/2016

How Many Straws?

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Water officials say that, added up, the impact of private irrigation wells may be significant in Florida. Lack of data keeps them from knowing for sure, and may be skewing the state’s rosy water-conservation numbers.

In the Turnberry Lake development near Jonesville, private irrigation wells are a familiar sight in the backyards of many homes. When prospective residents come to view the neighborhood, they are given the option to add an irrigation well to their home site, alongside options like low-flow shower heads and LED light fixtures.

Turnberry Lake, known for its sandy soil and grassy landscapes, consumed the most water out of 28 neighborhoods surveyed in the 2014 Envision Alachua report. While it’s landscaped with drought-tolerant Zoysia grass and many native plants and trees, a single-family Turnberry home averaged 538 gallons per day; that’s 73 percent higher than the county average of 308 gallons per day.

With high water consumption comes higher water bills from the local utility — a factor that prompts some homeowners to seek alternatives for landscape irrigation. Private irrigation wells are one option. But water officials are beginning to worry about the impact private wells may have on water resources. Every well drilled into the Floridan Aquifer is like poking another straw into a drink; scientists say the cumulative sips contribute to the decline of the region’s springs and rivers.

“If you have a really high water bill, but you still really want that green lawn, one alternative you have is to put in an irrigation well,” said Stacie Greco, Alachua County water conservation coordinator.

Floridians use about 6.4 billion gallons of freshwater every day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, a number that has dropped in recent years amid increasing efficiency, awareness and prices. In the city of Gainesville, water use has dropped 22 percent since 2007 despite population growth.

Continued on WUFT.org »

4/7/2016

USDA Seeks Partner Proposals to Protect and Restore Critical Wetlands

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of $15 million to help eligible conservation partners leverage local investments to provide technical assistance and financial resources for wetlands protection and improvements on private and Tribal agricultural land nationwide.

The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) is one way state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and Tribal governments collaborate with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to increase the number of voluntary conservation projects for targeted, high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement. Local and regional WREP partners match federal funding and technical assistance to increase the assistance they can provide to eligible private landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements. WREP is a special enrollment option under USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. The voluntary nature of NRCS easement programs allows effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to their communities.

USDA is now accepting proposals for funding. Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by May 16, 2016. More information is available on the NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program webpage.

Full text of USDA news release »

4/7/2016

New pipelines shore up region’s water supply coverage

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Twenty-five years ago, when they acquired General Development Utilities' water treatment plant on the Peace River, the counties of Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte stepped up their long-range effort to connect their water systems.

Hundreds of miles of pipelines throughout the region are now linked, with more to come.

On Wednesday, the board of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority — which is comprised of a county commissioner from each member county — received updates on more than $82 million in projects that will extend pipelines throughout the area by another almost 30 miles.

By forming its partnership and making such connections, the authority has ensured a shared and diverse portfolio of water sources for the region to tap into, a combination of reservoirs, wellfields and aquifer storage systems. Their pact has enabled them to avoid the political feuds over water rights that have occurred elsewhere in the nation.

Most importantly, their network of linked pipelines and the authority's underground storage of 6 billion gallons that can be available during dry seasons provides backup supplies during times of drought. And those interconnections could also be essential in emergencies, such as when authority customer North Port provided water to Charlotte during the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

4/5/2016

Catch nonnative freshwater fish, get the chance to win prizes

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Want the opportunity to win prizes while helping to document and remove nonnative freshwater fish from Florida’s waters? Consider participating in the second statewide Nonnative Fish Catch, Click and Report Contest, coordinated by the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partners. The 2016 contest kicks off at 6 a.m. on April 1 and runs until midnight on April 30.

Participating is easy — anglers simply take a photo, enter detailed catch location or GPS coordinates, and report nonnative freshwater fish catches to IveGot1.org during the contest sample period. Catches can also be reported by downloading the IveGot1 app, by calling 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), or by posting photos and catch data to your Instagram acount.

“Florida is home to at least 34 species of reproducing exotic fish and new species continue to be found, which can impact native fish communities,” said FWC biologist Kelly Gestring. “By removing and reporting nonnative fish, anglers help manage populations of exotic species and help conserve our state’s precious natural resources.”

The contest is part of a continuing effort to raise awareness of nonnative fish species and encourage anglers to target nonnative fish for consumption by the FWC and partners, including the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Florida Invasive Species Partnership, University of Georgia and Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area. Partners plan to hold the event annually with the help of anglers acting as citizen scientists.

The Nonnative Fish Catch, Click and Report Contest is open to all licensed or legally exempt anglers in Florida. There is no entry fee and prizes will be awarded. Entries can be submitted throughout the contest period and final submissions must be made by midnight on Saturday, April 30. For more information on the contest rules, regulations and prizes, go to FloridaInvasives.org/CatchClickReport. To register and start submitting reports visit IveGot1.org or download the free reporting app for your smartphone by searching for IveGot1 in the app store. You can also report your catch by posting your photos and catch data to your Instagram account — be sure to tag #ivegot1. You may also enter by calling the Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681) and informing the operator that you are participating in the contest.

More information on nonnative freshwater fish and other exotic species can be found at MyFWC.com/nonnatives.

4/5/2016

North Port joins Great American Cleanup!

The City of North Port will be taking part in the Great American Cleanup on Saturday, April 16, 2016. City employees along with local residents will join forces to help keep our community beautiful!

The Great American Cleanup (GAC) is the country's largest community improvement program that kicks off in more than 20,000 communities each spring. This national program engages 4 million volunteers who take action in their communities to create positive change and lasting impact. This year's Great American Cleanup in North Port will focus on two main types of areas:

• Our local school bus stops
• Creeks located under I-75

You're invited to join the mission too! Residents interested in attending the Cleanup should meet at North Port City Hall (4970 City Hall Boulevard) at 8 a.m. on April 16. The cleanup effort is anticipated to take place from 8 a.m. to noon.

The Great American Cleanup is part of Keep Sarasota County Beautiful (KSCB), a county-wide beautification program that initiates community cleanup projects to help keep our community free of debris. The organization is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful Inc., a national, non-profit, public education organization dedicated to improving waste handling practices in American communities.

Locally, our mission is “to enhance and promote public interest and participation in the general improvement of the environment throughout Sarasota County” which is done through education, cleanup programs, recycling and other methods of reducing solid waste.

If you or someone you know would like to help out by volunteering for the Great American Cleanup, please contact North Port Parks and Recreation at 941-429-PARK (7275) or the Department of Public Works at 941-240-8050.

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