An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Sarasota County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

New primer to “living shorelines” published

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A synthesis of recent thinking and results from practitioners and researchers of Living Shorelines just hit the stands. “Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-Based Coastal Protection,” details many aspects of the shoreline stabilization approach, and specifically includes: (1) background: history and evolution; (2) management, policy, and design; (3) synthesis of Living Shoreline science: physical and biological aspects; and (4) summary and future guidance. Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science participated in the project.

Carolyn Currin, Jenny Davis, and Amit Malhotra contributed a chapter entitled "Response of Salt Marshes to Wave Energy Provides Guidance for Successful Living Shoreline Implementation". The multi-faceted chapter provides information pertaining to the: energetic determinants of marsh habitat distribution; relationship between shoreline wave energy and marsh erosion rates; and the ability of fringing marshes to attenuate waves and trap sediments. The chapter also describes the results of a case study of natural and stabilized fringing salt marsh from central North Carolina and combines these results with those from the literature review to provide guidance on the physical settings in which fringing marsh and hybrid living shorelines can be considered.

Coastal ecosystem functions have diminished as estuarine and coastal shorelines have been managed mostly to support human infrastructure and economic benefits. Coastal management has evolved to include the use of nature-based shoreline erosion control approaches. Living Shorelines are intended to restore natural shoreline functions in estuarine, marine, and aquatic systems.

Charlotte County Utilities wins regional best-tasting drinking water contest

Charlotte County Utilities Department won the annual Best Tasting Drinking Water Contest in Region X held by the Florida Section of the American Water Works Association. The contest was held during a FSAWWA luncheon at the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Sarasota Service Center earlier this month. Charlotte County’s water sample won the best tasting out of the nine utilities that entered the contest.

Region X represents drinking water utilities in a five-county region: Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota. Charlotte County will compete for the statewide tasting competition later in April, and potentially the national competition in June if it receives Florida’s top honor.

All Region X water utilities were invited to submit a gallon sample of their drinking water to be tested by a panel of five impartial judges. Each utility’s sample was collected from their distribution system no more than 24 hours prior to the test. The annual competition is held throughout the country and is intended to educate consumers about water-related issues and raise awareness about water conservation.

Charlotte County purchases 95 percent of its water supply from the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, which uses the Peace River as its source of supply. The Charlotte County public drinking water system distributes this potable water to more than 55,000 customers and maintains a large system of approximately 1,400 miles of water main lines, four booster stations and 4,500 fire hydrants.

Florida Senate unanimously supports pollution notification rules change

The Florida Senate unanimously approved legislation Tuesday requiring the Department of Environmental Protection to inform the public within 24 hours after a spill occurs.

Senators passed SB 532 on its third and final reading.

Sponsored by Manatee County Republican Bill Galvano, the bill was filed in the wake of Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for new public notification rules and legislation to ensure the public is kept informed of incidents of pollution that may cause a threat to public health and Florida’s air and water resources. The push came after a sewage spill last fall in St. Petersburg and Mosaic’s sinkhole in Mulberry that sent toxins in the drinking water supply.

The DEP filed suit, issuing an emergency rule requiring those responsible to notify the public within 24 hours. After business groups had challenged the rule, an administrative law judge rejected the rule, saying the department exceeded its rule-making authority.

SB 532 also requires DEP to develop and publish a list of substances that “pose a substantial risk to public health, safety or welfare.” If any company fails to notify the Department of an incident involving one of the published substances, it could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day.

“People have a right to know, and it’s at the heart of public safety,” Galvano said.

All eyes are now focused on the legislation is being carried in the House (HB 1065) by Pasadena Republican Kathleen Peters. If it passes there, it goes to Scott’s desk.

Warning from SWFWMD: Additional water restrictions are possible

A water shortage order could be in the future for 16 Florida counties due to the ongoing drought.

The governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, will discuss a vote on a staff-recommended phase 1 water shortage order for their 16 counties, including Manatee and Sarasota.

The order won’t be final until the board votes to approve it at their next meeting on April 25 in Haines City.

If approved, this phase won’t change current watering conservation schedules. It only would be a first step to warn residents that stricter water restrictions could be coming, said Swiftmud public information officer Susanna Martinez Tarokh.

The order will require more frequent and detailed reporting to Swiftmud on the utilities’ ends, said Manatee County water division manager Mark Simpson. The county will also have to review its enforcement policies.

Since April 2017 was proclaimed Water Conservation Month by the board of county commissioners, Simpson said residents will get notifications about ways to conserve water. But even with the potential of a water shortage order, he said Manatee County’s water supply is still safe, with current levels at Lake Manatee Reservoir able to fuel water needs through September.

Residents should be mindful of year-long county water restrictions set Swiftmud and try to find ways to save water where they can.

As the drought is expected to continue until rains begin in June, the prevalence of wildfires across the state is on the rise. According to the Florida Forest Service’s fire danger index, Manatee County continues to have a very high fire risk. The Myakka River District is still restricting burns to citrus piles only.

New Mote app analyzes microscopic red tide data

SARASOTA — The future of red tide data collection is here — in cellphone application form.

Scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System have teamed up to create a NASA-funded cellphone microscope app, the “HABscope,” that can, within minutes, analyze the concentration of cells of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, in any given water sample extracted from the shore.

Volunteers place drops of the water sample from a pipette onto a microscope slide and take a video of the sample. Once they file the video of the sample, the app calculates the cells per liter, which in turn determines the level of red tide in the water. The app has an algorithm that can identify Karenia brevis based on its swimming pattern.

Sarasota County considers Manasota Key beach renourishment

VENICE — The beach ball is in Sarasota County’s court.

If it wants to partner with Charlotte County to extend a planned beach renourishment project on Manasota Key north of the county line, Sarasota leaders must act relatively quickly to sign on to the joint coastal permitting process that is about to begin.

That move would almost certainly save millions of dollars for both counties’ projects, and help speed much-needed renourishment to some severely eroded areas on the Sarasota County side of the key.

But Sarasota County is months behind Charlotte’s study of its beach project, as Sarasota staff tries to determine if there is enough support to pursue and help fund extending the nourishment among the swath of of homes nearest the county line on the Sarasota side.

Sarasota County commissioners hope to act decisively next week on whether to join the permitting process, they indicated at a joint meeting of the two local governments Wednesday.

Wildfire emergency shuts down all SWFWMD campgrounds

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) has closed all District managed campgrounds throughout our 16-county region during Florida’s wildfire emergency event.

The following District managed campgrounds are closed until further notice:

• Cypress Creek Preserve
• Deep Creek Preserve
• Flying Eagle Preserve
• Green Swamp – East Tract
• Green Swamp – Hampton Tract
• Green Swamp – West Tract
• Lake Panasofkee
• Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve
• Potts Preserve
• Starkey Wilderness Preserve – Serenova Tract
• Upper Hillsborough Preserve – Alston Tract
• Upper Hillsborough Preserve – Upper Hillsborough Tract

Additional information about District properties closed due to wildfires can be found on the District’s website at WaterMatters.org. As a reminder, you can find the latest information on Twitter.com/SWFWMD

(Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region [CC BY 2.0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority proposes policy model

BRADENTON — The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority presented their future strategic plan to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners at Tuesday's meeting. Supply lines are expanding and securing water for the future will be expensive and PRMRWSA officials have a plan.

John Scheer, from Scheer Consulting, started his presentation with the PRMRWSA Mission Statement: "The Authority is to provide the region with a sufficient, high quality, safe drinking water supply that is reliable, sustainable and protective of our natural resources."

Scheer said, "Through cooperation and collaboration the Authority and its members shall create, maintain and explain a sustainable interconnected regional water supply system." PRMRWSA's partners—DeSoto, Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte —have avoided "water wars" because of the strong spirit of cooperation they share, he said.

Today, Manatee County isn't purchasing any water from PRMRWSA; in fact, Manatee County sells Sarasota County 4.4 million gallons a day (MGD), and exports 3.3 MGD to the City of Bradenton and to Longboat Key.

Rep. Buchanan sends letter to Congressional panel asking for help in preserving estuaries

BRADENTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key) announced Friday that he has written a letter to a congressional panel requesting assistance in preserving 28 ecosystems formally recognized by Congress as "estuaries of national significance," including Sarasota Bay.

The letter, which was sent to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies from Buchanan and other Congressional lawmakers, asking IERA Chairman, Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Cali.) to "invest directly in the stewardship of our nation's coasts by ensuring that each of the 28 NEPs in the field receives full funding in FY2018."

Estuaries are coastal bodies of water that are a mix of freshwater and saltwater from the sea, serving as connections between rivers and oceans. The National Estuary Program gives funding to restore and protect the quality of the 28 estuaries of the United States. According to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Sarasota Bay is estimated to hold more than 1,400 native species and is responsible for a yearly influx of almost $1.8 billion into Florida's economy.

City prepares for water main project

Next month, the city will begin a $9.1 million water main replacement project that extends from Payne Park to the Arlington Park neighborhood.

The project, scheduled for completion in late 2018, is designed to replace more than 20,000 feet of aging pipes. The city is contracting with Jon F. Swift Construction and Atkins Engineering to complete the project, which cost $1.2 million to design.

The water mains in question are more than 50 years old, and much of the infrastructure is made from asbestos cement.

More than 100 Florida wildfires scorch state, a sign of how dry we are

Last year Florida was waterlogged. This year Florida is on fire.

More than 100 active wildfires are burning across the state right now, according to the Florida Forest Service. Twenty-five of them are scorching more than 100 acres each.

"We're usually not this active this early in the season," the service's assistant fire chief, Ralph Crawford, said Monday.

Since February, wildfires have swept across 68,000 acres of the state, Crawford said, noting that that amount is higher than the average acreage burned over the past five years.

"And we're just barely into April," he added. "Usually May is our busiest month."

Heavy rains north of Gainesville last week helped tamp down the wildfire threat in North Florida, said Florida's state climatologist, David Zierden. But south of Gainesville remains so dry that most of the peninsula is classified as being in a moderate drought, while southwest Florida is classified as facing extreme drought conditions.

With no rain forecast for at least another week, "it's going to get worse before it gets better," Zierden predicted.

Supreme Court will not pause Obama WOTUS rule

The Supreme Court will not pause a case concerning the Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. Rule in a blow to the Trump administration. The justices’ decision came with no explanation.

The White House opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers’ rule and asked the court to hold off on the case while the agencies formally consider repealing it.

The Supreme Court case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, does not concern the merits of the controversial regulation.

Instead, the industry groups opposed to the rule want the high court to overturn the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s opinion that it has the primary jurisdiction over the case. The Sixth Circuit decision had consolidated cases filed in dozens of other federal circuit and district courts.

Supporters of the WOTUS rule, including environmental groups and some Democratic states, want the case to stay consolidated at the Sixth Circuit. They also asked the Supreme Court not to delay its case.

President Trump formally asked the EPA and Army Corps to reconsider the rule in February, calling it “a horrible, horrible rule.” The agencies began reconsideration process shortly after Trump signed an executive order.

The Supreme Court has asked litigants to submit their first briefs later this month. The justices have not scheduled oral arguments.

Some observers say the best way to deal with this is via legislation, where the outlook for such action is good in the House, but Senate Democrats in the past have not given support to anti-WOTUS rule legislation.

Seagrasses in World Heritage Site not recovered years after heat wave

Massive seagrass beds in Western Australia’s Shark Bay — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — haven’t recovered much from the devastating heat wave of 2011, according to a new study demonstrating how certain vital ecosystems may change drastically in a warming climate.

The peer-reviewed study, published recently in Marine Ecology Progress Series, was led by Dr. Rob Nowicki, a Mote Marine Laboratory Postdoctoral Research Fellow who conducted the fieldwork while earning his doctorate from Florida International University (FIU). Dr. Michael Heithaus, Dean of FIU’s College of Arts & Sciences, and colleagues from multiple institutions have studied Shark Bay’s ecosystem for more than 20 years. The current study included partners from FIU, Deakin University in Australia and Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Shark Bay earned its World Heritage status, in part, because of its 1,853 square miles (4,800 square kilometers) of seagrass beds, which UNESCO’s website calls the “richest in the world.” This vast, subtropical ecosystem hosts thousands of large sharks, other fish, sea turtles, bottlenose dolphins and a critical population of dugongs, plant-eating mammals related to manatees.