Water-Related News

Red tide, fish kills confirmed near Longboat Key

The Florida Wildlife Commission and Mote Marine Laboratory officials confirmed it Tuesday morning.

Longboat Key turtle monitor Terri Driver said she was taking a lunch break on the beach when she “started smelling something unusual.”

“Then I looked out on the water and there were hundreds and hundreds (of dead fish),” she said.

Kelly Richmond, Florida Wildlife Commission communications director in St. Petersburg, said the FWC started receiving fish kill phone calls Monday. The FWC investigative team found a variety of different species of fish among the kills: Manhattan, eels, mullet, bait fish and one red drum.

“We do have a high concentration of red tide but it is patchy,” Richmond said.

FWC is doing weekly sampling and Mote is doing daily sampling along Sarasota Bay.

USDA describes $328M oil spill restoration plan for Gulf of Mexico

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it's focusing conservation programs along the Gulf of Mexico in a $328 million plan to help recovery from the 2010 oil spill.

Undersecretary Robert Bonnie says the agency will use that focus through 2018 as it helps coastal producers plan improvements to improve water quality and improve coastal ecosystems under several Farm Bill programs.

The oil spill tie-in is a new twist to existing programs and will bring in a broader audience, Louisiana State University AgCenter Associate Vice President Rogers Leonard said in an email. Gulf Coast farmers will be interested in the amount of money available, he said.

Bonnie described the plan Monday at a Mississippi timber plot where the owner has worked with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to help improve downstream water quality.

The money covers five programs: $129 million under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, $102.9 million through the Conservation Stewardship Program, $57.1 million from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, $29.6 million as Targeted Funding in Priority Watersheds and Landscapes, and $9.3 million under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

It includes $11.3 million to restore longleaf pine forests, $3.8 million to improve water quality and enhance habitat in Florida's Everglades, $3.2 million to reduce runoff in nine watersheds around the Gulf, and $460,000 to plant wildflowers and native grasses that would attract bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators in Alabama, Florida and Texas.

CHNEP announces new Executive Director

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The Estuary Program's Policy Committee hires Jennifer Hecker as CHNEP Executive Director.

Jennifer Hecker has worked for the governmental, business and environmental non-profit sectors for nearly two decades to protect Southwest Florida's exceptional natural resources. As the former Director of Natural Resources Policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida for twelve years, she worked at the local, state and federal levels to advance the organization's advocacy and lobbying priorities regarding water resources, listed species, everglades restoration, natural resource extraction, environmental lands acquisition, and natural resources legislation. Prior, she worked as a Project Ecologist for WilsonMiller, Inc. and as an Environmental Specialist for Hillsborough County, Fla. in their Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program.

Hecker has a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies from Prescott College and graduate degree in Tropical Biology and Conservation from the University of Missouri. Jennifer Hecker was selected by the Florida Weekly as a Southwest Florida "Power Woman" in 2011, is an alumnus of Leadership Collier and has served on various boards including the Florida Coastal and Oceans Coalition, National Great Waters Coalition, Southwest Florida Watershed Council, Everglades Coalition, and Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed Trust. She also was appointed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to their Statewide Stormwater Technical Advisory Committee and has been qualified as a water quality expert in a court of law.

Jennifer Hecker, as the Executive Director, is responsible for maintaining the strong partnerships developed through the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program Management Conference, continuing the implementation of the science-based Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, and being an effective advocate for the resource.

Water standards fight heads to appeals court

TALLAHASSEE — Moving quickly after a judge tossed out challenges to controversial new state water-quality standards, the city of Miami has signaled it will continue battling in an appeals court.

The city has given notice that it will appeal a ruling last week by Administrative Law Judge Bram D.E. Canter, who rejected the challenges by Miami, Martin County, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Florida Pulp and Paper Association Environmental Affairs, Inc.

Canter sided with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which argued that the challengers had missed a legal deadline in the cases.

Miami filed a notice of appeal Thursday in the 3rd District Court of Appeal, two days after Canter's ruling, court records show.

The water standards, which were developed by the Department of Environmental Protection and approved July 26 by the state Environmental Regulation Commission, have been highly controversial. They involve new and revised limits on chemicals in waterways, with the department saying the plan would allow it to regulate more chemicals while updating standards for others.

September is Microplastics Awareness Month

To raise citizens awareness of the environmental threat of microplastics, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension in Pinellas County has designated September as Microplastics Awareness Month. Pinellas County residents are encouraged to learn about microplastics and ways they can reduce contributions to problems microplastics may potentially cause.

There are several ways to participate in Microplastic Awareness Month:

  • Get involved with the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project at www.plasticaware.org.
  • Reduce consumption of one-use plastics like plastic bags, straws, water bottles, cups and utensils.
  • Take the Florida Microplastics Awareness Pledge at bit.ly/plasticpledge.
  • Follow the Florida Microplastics Awareness Project on Facebook and share posts from www.facebook.com/MicroplasticAwarenessProject.
  • Spread the word about microplastics on other social media platforms using hashtags, #plasticawareness month and #plasticaware.

Microplastics are defined as pieces of plastics that are smaller than 5 millimeters or 1/8th of an inch in size, and can be so small that they can only be seen with a microscope. They come from primary or secondary sources. Microplastics can be manufactured as pellets or microbeads in personal care products such as facial scrubs and deodorants. Secondary microplastics begin as larger plastic products and break down into smaller pieces over time from exposure to elements like sunlight.

Another major source of microplastic comes from synthetic clothing fibers, like polyester and nylon.

When washed, these fibers can shed into waste water from washing machines and into treatment facilities, eventually ending up in local water bodies. Current data has found an average of 7.6 pieces of plastic in a one-liter sample of ocean water, and based on this data it’s estimated that 90-percent of coastal water samples contain at least one piece of plastic.

Plastics have a tendency to last for long periods of time, so microplastics could potentially cause problems for Florida’s marine life. Total research has not come in on microplastics, but early findings warn of their possible effect on the environment. This plastic material is being found in oceans and is eaten by marine life.

It’s Pollution Prevention Week!

​SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County Commissioners have declared the week of Sept. 19-25 Pollution Prevention Week, and residents can celebrate by participating in a number of Sarasota County programs designed to protect and preserve the area's public lands and coastlines, promote sustainable communities and encourage green business practices.

"Pollution Prevention Week serves as a great reminder for all of us to get more involved in sustainable activities," said Laura Ammeson, Sarasota County environmental supervisor. "There are many simple decisions we all can make in our daily lives to help prevent pollution. Sarasota County recognizes that pollution prevention plays a key role in protecting our environment, and it's in keeping with our county goal of being an environmental steward."

A healthy environment, good air quality and clean water aren't just essential for public health - they also contribute to our quality of life and our long-term economic growth, Ammeson said.

From free and inexpensive classes offered by Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension to coastal cleanup events hosted by Keep Sarasota County Beautiful, there are a number of ways the public can get involved, not just during Pollution Prevention Week, but throughout the year. Some upcoming programs include:

  • "Solar in the Sunshine State: The Basics of Solar Energy for FL Homeowners," 4-5 p.m. Sept. 20 at Selby Public Library, 1331 First Street, Sarasota
  • "Growing Edibles Locally," 3:30-5 p.m. Sept. 21 at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota
  • "Waste Reduction in Your Business," 5-6 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Sarasota County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota
  • "Smart Commute: A Greener Way of Doing Business," noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 23, North Port Public Library, 13800 Tamiami Trail, North Port
  • "Ride and Glide to Safety: Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Tips," 10-11 a.m. Sept. 24, Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota
  • National Public Lands Day volunteer cleanup event, 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 24, Pinecraft Park, 1420 Gilbert Ave., Sarasota
  • 2016 International Coastal Cleanup, 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 17 and Oct. 22, various locations
  • 11th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 1, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida Event Center, 4740 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota

For more information about any of these programs or events, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

New method detects low-dose impacts of human-made chemicals in water

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A new study led by UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering professor Rafael Munoz-Carpena, has found a method that better detects low doses of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in waterways. “The end effect could be degradation of aquatic life,” said Muñoz-Carpena. Some pharmaceuticals that individually are typically not toxic at even high doses, can damage aquatic life at very low doses when present in complex mixtures often found in natural waters after wastewater finds its way there.

Such products -- known to scientists as PPCPs -- are widely released into the world's freshwaters and oceans, where they mix at low concentrations over long time periods and seep into diverse environmental pathways such as surface water, groundwater, drinking water or soil.

"The end effect could be degradation of aquatic life," said Rafael Muñoz-Carpena, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering and a lead author of a new UF/IFAS-led study. "Some pharmaceuticals that individually are typically not toxic at even high doses, can damage aquatic life at very low doses when present in complex mixtures often found in natural waters after wastewater finds its way there."

Most PPCPs have been found and analyzed in high concentrations individually, but a new test developed by the UF/IFAS-led team detects the effects of the chemicals in low-dose mixtures.

In the study, the team tested their method in a freshwater environment that they created in their lab. They selected PPCPs including antibiotics, caffeine, analgesics and psychiatric drugs. Researchers then mixed those 16 chemicals with blue algae engineered to produce light. They used changes in the light signal to gauge the toxicity of the different mixtures of chemicals in the bacteria.

Scientists found that a handful of the PPCPs in the mixtures, particularly antibiotics and other commonly used medicines, may impede processes such as growth, assimilation of nutrients, photosynthesis, reproduction and more, Muñoz-Carpena said.

Results from the study confirm that less-than-lethal effects from PPCPs mixtures make freshwater ecosystems more susceptible to later stresses such as light, temperature, nutrient availability and competition with other organisms, Muñoz-Carpena said.

"Our new method can be used not only to study impacts to aquatic systems of emerging chemicals, but also with human cells, biosensors and more," Muñoz-Carpena said. Despite the abundance of these chemicals, scientists still don't know the full effects of PPCPs on the environment, partly because they haven't found the right testing method. "This opens exciting opportunities for many life sciences, like medicine or cell biology, facing real world complex problems."

The new UF/IFAS-led study is published in the journal Science Advances.

Senate advances water bill with $1.9B for Everglades, Florida algae bloom projects

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate voted to move forward Monday on a $10 billion water projects bill that includes about $1.9 billion for projects to restore Florida's Everglades and combat algae blooms that have fouled the state's beaches and rivers.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a newspaper column last week that fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida had convinced him to back the project after years of opposition.

Rubio's Democratic opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, has accused Rubio and Republican Gov. Rick Scott of not doing enough to find a long-term solution for algae blooms caused by polluted water flowing from Lake Okeechobee.

The bill, which also includes $220 million in emergency funding for Flint, Mich., and other communities beset by lead-contaminated water, advanced the bill 90-1 on a procedural vote, with approval expected later this week. If approved by the Senate, the bill would go to the House.

The bipartisan measure would authorize 29 projects in 18 states for dredging, flood control and other projects overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Florida’s losses from a big hurricane could reach a mind-blowing $200 billion

Note: This article appeared on Sept. 1st, just before Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Florida Panhandle

Florida has had a remarkable run of gambler’s luck over the past decade. It’s been that long since a hurricane struck the state that usually gets them every two years.

Since Hurricane Wilma made landfall at Cape Romano near the pointy end of the state in 2005, about 20 hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic Ocean and hit other states, and more than 60 wobbled off to deep waters without harming the U.S. coast. But Florida’s string of good fortune might be at an end.

A storm is on the horizon, projected to hit the Florida Panhandle late Thursday or early Friday. Forecasters predicted that Tropical Storm Hermine would only gush rain, but they recently elevated it to hurricane status. Floridians have many reasons to worry. The sea level is rising faster than first predicted, and analysts who assess potential property damage say that contributes to Florida being more vulnerable to massive losses than any other state.

Hermine lacks the power to cause a worst-case scenario like hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, but even as a Category 1 storm, it will serve as a reminder of what could be. Mere nuisance flooding already causes drainage systems to bubble over in the Miami area, and strong winds can roil Tampa Bay until it’s level with sea walls that guard roads and homes.

Longboat Key studying options for canal dredging

The Longboat Key Town Commission will dig deep into canal issues this fall, deciding what canals should be dredged and who should pay for the project.

In 2003, the town dredged 47,000 cubic yards of sand and silt from its canals. It also picked up most of the $2.4 million tab for that project out of its general fund.

Next time, individual property owners might face higher individual assessments for such an undertaking.

Consultant Cliff Truitt, chief engineer of Taylor Engineering, has been studying the depth of the island’s canals and inlets, such as the channel under the Longboat Pass Bridge that extends to Beer Can Island.

Although waterways remain accessible to boats after 13 years, the town could decide it needs to dredge some of the areas near stormwater outpours and entrances to the bay.

Early-bird registration open for 11th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop

​SARASOTA COUNTY - Early-bird registration is now open for Sarasota County's 11th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop, to be held Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida Event and Conference Center, 4740 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota.

Expert speakers will focus on the workshop's "Paths to a Sustainable Future" theme, sharing the latest local strategies and best practices from other communities. Information-rich sessions will provide approaches to grow a sustainable community. Topics include:

  • Valuing Nature
  • Strategies for Smarter Growth
  • Building Community Resilience
  • Edible Innovations

The morning keynote speaker will be Tampa Bay Times reporter and native Floridian Craig Pittman. He is a four-time recipient of the Waldo Proffitt Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida, and twice has won the top investigative reporting award from the Society of Environmental Journalists. Ridhi D'Cruz, the associate director of the non-profit City Repair Project in Portland, Ore., will deliver the afternoon keynote address. Ridhi actively supports various community-building and neighborhood initiatives encompassing myriad issues, including diversity, cultural sustainability, homeless advocacy, social permaculture, and "Placemaking."

The Sustainable Communities Workshop brings together individuals, businesses, institutions and government agencies and organizations to learn and share community solutions on the environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability. Early-bird registration of $35 is available through Nov. 1, then increases to $45 from Nov. 2 to Dec. 1. Students can register for $20. All registrations include continental breakfast and lunch. Sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities also are available.

To register and for more information, visit www.scgov.net/SustainableCommunities or call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

FDEP extends deadline to issue Big Pass dredge permits

Lido and Siesta Key residents will have to wait until Oct. 1 to find out whether or not the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will grant permits for a City of Sarasota plan to dredge Big Pass to renourish Lido Key.

The FDEP filed the 30-day extension Friday.

The state agency has been reviewing the project's permit application since March 2015. Since then, the FDEP has filed two requests for additional information— one in April 2015 and then again in October of the same year.

This comes just weeks after the Sarasota County Commission voted to request an environmental impact statement from the Army Corps of Engineers at the Aug. 23 County Commission meeting. However, it is not clear whether or not that affected the FDEP’s decision to extend the review period.

"I think they're just doing their due diligence," City of Sarasota Engineer Alex DavisShaw said about the FDEP's decision.

The city of Sarasota is currently working with the FDEP to provide more information on a sea grass mitigation plan. Although the project is yet to be funded, DavisShaw believes funding will be easier to identify once permits have been secured.

Register by Sept. 27th for “Nonformal Environmental Education” workshop

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) is hosting the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) workshop Building Environmental Literacy Through Nonformal Environmental Education Programs. Since its beginning in 1971, NAAEE has served as the professional association, champion and backbone organization for the field of environmental education, working with a diverse group of educators.

The workshop will be held Friday, November 4, 2016, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Polk Nature Discovery Center at Circle B Bar Reserve (4399 Winter Lake Rd, Lakeland). Thanks to Polk County Parks and Natural Resources Division, an optional guided tram tour will be offered at 8:30 a.m.

Participants will be introduced to the nonformal environmental education program development cycle, including needs assessment, program design and delivery and evaluation. This workshop was designed for nonformal educators, rangers, interpreters and guides, education designers as well as those who work with schools and school districts.

This workshop introduces participants to Nonformal Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence. These guidelines comprise a set of recommendations for developing and administering high quality nonformal environmental education programs. These recommendations provide a tool that can be used to ensure a firm foundation for new programs or to trigger improvements in existing ones. The overall goal of these guidelines is to facilitate a superior educational process leading to the environmental quality that people desire. Each participant will receive a copy of these guidelines.

The term "environmental education program" is used in these guidelines to mean an integrated sequence of planned educational experiences and materials intended to reach a particular set of objectives. Programs, taken together, are the methods by which an organization's education goals are accomplished. The program can be small or large and can range from short-term, one-time events to long-term, community capacity-building efforts.

Workshop Objectives:

  • Participants identify the key characteristics of high quality environmental education programs.
  • Participants will use the K-12 environmental education framework to map environmental literacy in their programs.
  • Participants discuss the relationship between program design and program evaluation.
  • Participants will begin the process of developing a CHNEP literacy plan.
  • The CHNEP and the Friends of Charlotte Harbor Estuary, Inc. (aka CHNEP Friends) are underwriting the cost of this course. NAAEE will facilitate this workshop. Polk County Parks and Natural Resources Division is providing the facility and tram tour. Lunch will be provided but your time, travel and any other expenses incurred will not be covered.

    This is a two-step registration process. The first step is to complete the registration form for this event at https://chnep-naaee.eventbrite.com. The CHNEP will review requests received by Sept. 27 and then again on Oct. 27. Space is limited for this facilitated workshop and the CHNEP has a desire to update its plan and develop a literacy plan so the CHNEP will review details of those who register. Those accepted will receive an email message from maran@chnep.org (after Sept. 27 and Oct. 27) with guidance to confirm their participation. It is CHNEP's hope that the 40 places available will be taken by those who will commit to participating in the update of the CCMP and who will help develop an environmental literacy plan for the CHNEP.

    Remember, by completing the first step you are letting CHNEP know of your interest in attending this training. If accepted, you will be required to follow guidance received from CHNEP for step 2. Requests will be reviewed within a few days of Sept. 27 and Oct. 27.

    Contact Information

    Maran Hilgendorf

    Communications Manager,, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program

    326 West Marion Avenue
    Punta Gorda, FL - 33950

    (941) 575-3374

    SWFWMD governing board votes to fund conservation easement in Manatee County

    Today, the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) Governing Board approved the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement of more than 1,088 acres of Triangle Ranch in Manatee County, in the upper Myakka River watershed. This action will prevent future development on this property by securing $2 million toward the purchase of the conservation agreement, and is a key part in the permanent protection of this important piece of land.

    “The Board’s action today allows the District to spend tax payer dollars effectively, which contributes to our core mission of protecting water resources,” said Brian Armstrong, Executive Director. “This purchase increases the connectivity of conservation lands in the watershed.”

    The District partnered with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast on this acquisition. The Foundation works to save land in conjunction with landowners, businesses, and government to protect the character and natural integrity of the bays, beaches, barrier islands and their watersheds on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

    “Today we celebrate the power of many working together for a common goal, and kudos to District officials who recognize the impact of saving Triangle Ranch for the vitality of our community,” noted Christine Johnson, president of Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

    Protecting Triangle Ranch is integral to the environmental strength and economic vibrancy of our region. Triangle Ranch is listed on the Florida Forever list of crucial properties to protect in Florida, and is essential to the protection of the Myakka wetlands, the Myakka River’s water quality and biodiversity, as well as flood protection in our region. More than three miles of the Myakka River flows through Triangle Ranch and conserving the ranch protects and provides the opportunity to enhance the natural functions of the surrounding land, water and wetland systems.

    “I think the Board and the District staff have done a great job pulling this together, and we admire very much the land acquisition efforts that are occurring here at the Southwest Florida Water Management District,” said Charles Lee, Director of Advocacy for Audubon Florida.

    More than 120 species of birds and numerous animals from the endangered Florida panther to the threatened crested caracara call Triangle Ranch their home. In protecting the land and waters of Triangle Ranch, we ensure our natural areas, from beaches to prairie hammocks and woodlands, stay inviting to people and wildlife.

    SWFWMD public meeting on MFL priority list Sept. 1st

    District to Hold Public Meeting on Priority List and Schedule for the Establishment of Minimum Flows and Levels

    The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is soliciting stakeholder input on the annual update of the Priority List and Schedule for the Establishment of Minimum Flows and Levels. A public meeting will be held at the District’s Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301 North on Thursday, Sept. 1 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

    Minimum flows and levels (MFLs) are limits set by the District Governing Board for surface waters and groundwater. MFLs are intended to prevent significant harm to the water resources or ecology of an area that may be impacted by water withdrawals. Reservations set aside water from withdrawals for the protection of fish and wildlife or public health and safety. The Priority List identifies water bodies for which the District plans to establish minimum flows and levels and reservations.

    Written comments on the draft Priority List and Schedule may be submitted to Doug Leeper, MFLs Program Lead with the District’s Natural Systems and Restoration Bureau via email at doug.leeper@watermatters.org or by U.S. mail at 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, Florida, 34604-6899 no later than Oct. 7, 2016.

    The current Priority List and Schedule is posted on the District’s Minimum Flows and Levels (Environmental Flows) Documents and Reports web page (link below). The draft FY2016 Priority List and Schedule will be made available at the same web page on Aug. 31, 2016.

    Source: SWFWMD News Release