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

Water-Related News

Treating nutrients with algae blooms

By Betty Staugler, Charlotte County extension agent for the Florida Sea Grant Program

No, there’s not a typo in my headline. In fact, this technology is so cool, you really should continue to read. With all the bad press about algae, we often forget that it really can be beneficial. In fact, algae are responsible for much of the air we breathe, and they form the base of the food web upon which all life depends.

I suspect most readers are aware that algal blooms often occur when too many nutrients enter our waterbodies. With this understanding, a novel approach to remove nutrients from a waterway was developed and patented in 1980s by Dr. Walter Adey at the National Museum of History: The algae turf scrubber, or ATS.

The basic idea: Run the water across a shallow trough or raceway, upon which attached filamentous algae are allowed to grow. The algae treat the water by taking up nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, as they grow.

Where does the algae come from? Provide the right conditions — sunlight, water and nutrients — and algae will establish naturally. What grows is the same green filamentous algae we often see attached to rocks and seagrass in shallow areas. Only in this case, instead of being a nuisance, it’s beneficial.

Report: Red tide and aftermath killed 174 dolphins

Scores of dolphins have died along Florida’s southwest coast due to the red tide bloom in the past year, federal researchers said.

Figures released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed 174 dolphins were stranded in a mass die-off between last July and last week.

Fish, sea turtles and manatees also have died from the red tide bloom, which plagued the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast from November 2017 through January of this year.

While red tide has diminished and the rate of dolphin deaths off Florida’s southwest coast has slowed down, researchers in recent months have seen deaths from the secondary effects of red tide.

Those include dolphins consuming fishing gear because the red tide fish kill reduced the supply of the dolphin’s usual diet of mullet and trout, forcing them to search for food in atypical places, Blair Mase, NOAA’s stranding response program coordinator, said July 5.

Researchers in recent months also have found unusual food in the dolphins’ stomachs, such as crabs and eels.

“We’re also seeing underweight animals,” Mase said.

Red tides happen naturally and have appeared sporadically off the state’s coast for ages, but many believe humans have made the problem worse. This past year’s bloom caused respiratory irritations in people near Southwest Florida beaches.

Scientists discover the biggest seaweed bloom in the world

The record-breaking belt of brown algae stretches from West Africa to the Gulf of Mexico—and it’s likely here to stay, says a team led by the USF College of Marine Science.

ST. PETERSBURG – Scientists led by the USF College of Marine Science used NASA satellite observations to discover the largest bloom of macroalgae in the world called the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt (GASB), as reported in Science.

They confirmed that the belt of brown macroalgae called Sargassum forms its shape in response to ocean currents, based on numerical simulations. It can grow so large that it blankets the surface of the tropical Atlantic Ocean from the west coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico. This happened last year when more than 20 million tons of it – heavier than 200 fully loaded aircraft carriers – floated in surface waters and some of which wreaked havoc on shorelines lining the tropical Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and east coast of Florida.

The team also used environmental and field data to suggest that the belt forms seasonally in response to two key nutrient inputs: one human-derived, and one natural.

In the spring and summer, Amazon River discharge adds nutrients to the ocean, and such discharged nutrients may have increased in recent years due to increased deforestation and fertilizer use. In the winter, upwelling off the West African coast delivers nutrients from deep waters to the ocean surface where the Sargassum grows.

“The evidence for nutrient enrichment is preliminary and based on limited field data and other environmental data, and we need more research to confirm this hypothesis,” said Dr. Chuanmin Hu of the USF College of Marine Science, who led the study and has studied Sargassum using satellites since 2006. “On the other hand, based on the last 20 years of data, I can say that the belt is very likely to be a new normal,” said Hu.

Hu spearheaded the work with first author Dr. Mengqiu Wang, a postdoctoral scholar in his Optical Oceanography Lab at USF. The team included others from USF, Florida Atlantic University, and Georgia Institute of Technology. The data they analyzed from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) between 2000-2018 indicates a possible regime shift in Sargassum blooms since 2011.

Sarasota Dept. Health Officials advise of wastewater contamination

Health officials in Sarasota County advse of wastewater contamination in Grand Canal on Siesta Key, possible impacts from wastewater overflow.

The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County (DOH-Sarasota) today issued a health advisory to residents and visitors near Grand Canal on Siesta Key. Sarasota County Utilities has reported a spill of 36,000 gallons of untreated sewage that has entered Grand Canal near 5200 Oakmont Place. Approximately 14,700 gallons of the released sewage was recovered via pumping.

People in the area are urged to take precautions when in contact with the waters of Grand Canal. Sarasota County Utilities will be conducting water testing in Grand Canal at locations upstream and downstream of the spill location. Water testing will continue until bacteria levels return to normal.

Water contaminated with wastewater overflow presents several health risks to humans. Untreated human sewage with microbes could cause gastrointestinal issues and other conditions.

Anyone who comes into contact with Grand Canal should wash thoroughly, especially before eating or drinking. Children and older adults, as well as people with weakened immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to disease so every precaution should be taken if in contact with the waters of Grand Canal.

For more information about the potential health effects of wastewater overflow, Floridians are encouraged to contact DOH-Sarasota at (941) 861-6133.

For information about DOH-Sarasota, go to

Gulf Coast states see similarities to Southwest Florida blue-green algae

The same type of algae that plagued our waterways, causing a water crisis last year is now devastating the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Tampa Bay Area is also having problems.

Mike Parsons, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University who also serves on the Florida Blue-Green Algae Task Force, said the microcystins found in Mississippi is the same as what we saw in Southwest Florida last summer. Mississippi coastal waters have a Cyanobacteria bloom that may be from the Mississippi River.

In response to the algae, all of the beaches on the Mississippi Gulf Coast have been shut down. The Tampa Bay Area is having a bloom of its own.

“The similarities I think between what we saw and what Mississippi is experiencing are high levels of nutrients,” Parsons said. “Tampa is experiencing a different kind of blue-green algae bloom. It’s what we commonly call ‘lyngbya.'”

Scientists go microscopic to find answer to prevent blue-green algae

Scientists with U.S. Geological Survey’s southeast region and Caribbean Florida Water Science Center believe they can make a positive impact on the Southwest Florida water crisis and find an answer to prevent blue-green algae from returning.

Scientists will look at water in Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River and the life cycle of the algae that lives in that water.

“Scientists are collecting different water samples, some of which they’ll leave untreated,” said Dr. Barry Rosen with the scientific agency. “But others, they’ll add nutrients to, to see if any of those nutrients will have an impact on the life cycle of harmful algal blooms.”

It takes more than one mind to make this experiment a success.

“This definitely requires many different types of scientists and their expertise,” said Dr. Joe Lopez at Nova Southeastern University.

Inland flooding passes storm surge as #1 killer during hurricanes

If you live in Florida long enough, you learn storm surge is generally the number-one danger when it comes to hurricanes.

"We've seen a very large public outreach campaign over the past few years to educate people on the dangers of storm surge and people are responding. They're getting out of the way of these storms,” said Bryan Moraska, National Weather Service Meteorologist.

Now, the biggest killer related to water during hurricanes is inland flooding.

One devastating example -- Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

"We have seen a shift,” said Moraska.

From 2016 to 2018, out of all water-related hurricane fatalities, only 4 percent were blamed on storm surge. The rest, the large majority, are from drenching rainfall and flooding.

Florida may adopt limits on amount of toxins from blue-green algae blooms allowed in waterways

Blue-green algae is popping up all over Florida this summer.

It's in the canals of Gulfport and the Intracoastal Waterway in Treasure Island. In Bradenton, the Manatee River has turned green from the stuff, which the mayor of Holmes Beach calls "gumbo." In Lake Okeechobee, toxins have hit a level three times what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deems safe. Meanwhile state officials have convened a Blue-Green Algae Task Force to figure out how to prevent such blooms in the future. So far they have concluded only that the state's current regulations, which rely largely on voluntary anti-pollution measures, don't work very well.

Amid fears of another summer of toxic algae afflicting the state and hurting its economy, officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection say they are considering new regulations on how much of the natural toxins are allowed in the state's waterways.

Armoring coast against sea level rise could cost big money in Sarasota and Manatee

Rising sea levels will create the need for more than $3 billion in new sea walls in Sarasota and Manatee counties by 2040, according to a new report that highlights the fiscal threat climate change poses to Southwest Florida.

The data compiled by the Center for Climate Integrity, an environmental activist group, raises questions about how communities will afford the enormous costs of climate change.

As a low-lying peninsula, Florida is especially susceptible to the effects of rising seas. Florida has more coastline than any state other than Alaska, and armoring much of it to protect against sea level rise will be hugely expensive, costing roughly $76 billion statewide by 2040, according to the report.

Florida’s price tag for sea wall construction is nearly double the cost faced by Louisiana, the state that will need the next-highest amount of coastal armoring by 2040.

Those expenses — which will be spread among private individuals seeking to protect their own properties and local governments trying to safeguard public infrastructure — will be difficult for communities to absorb.

“The real question here is ... what are we going to do with the very small communities that have very large costs? How are we going to pay for that and who’s going to make those decisions?” asked Paul Chinowsky, one of the lead scientists who worked on the report and the CEO of Resilient Analytics, the firm that analyzed the data for the report.

Sarasota County to implement new FOG ordinance in effort to stem sanitary sewage spills

Commissioners unanimously approved of a new fats, oils and grease management program ordinance Tuesday morning aimed at reducing sewage spills.

“Sewer mains are similar to arteries,” said Mike Mylett, the interim director of Sarasota County Public Utilities. “You have to watch your diet and reduce your lipids because it clogs your arteries. That’s the same thing that’s happening with FOG in our system — It congeals around our collection system and reduces the volume that can move through the system.”

According to Mylett, Sarasota County is one of the last governmental bodies in the region to adopt a “FOG ordinance.” Surrounding counties — such as Hillsborough, Manatee, Charlotte and more — have already adopted countywide ordinances or implemented tighter regulations.

According to county documents, "grease disposed of by restaurants, homes and industrial sources to the sanitary sewer system" cause 47% of reported blockages that contribute to sanitary sewage overflow.

Plans afoot to renew/replace City of Sarasota’s aging infrastructure

SARASOTA — A $298.5 million Utilities Master Plan drafted by City of Sarasota officials to replace aging pipes and other infrastructure may raise the rates on residents’ utility bills by around 50%.

The plan consists of 135 proposed projects, most of which include replacing and renewing water pipes and structures that are 30 to 100 years old. The projects would take place over 11 years at around $27 million a year.

There are two proposed payment options: pay as you go, and finance.

The first option would mean a 53% increase in monthly water and sewer bills for the average customer over 11 years. The finance option would be a 46% increase.

In the pay-as-you-go option, average rates would rise from the current $80.05 to $122.66 in fiscal year 2030. If the city were to borrow to finance the work, rates would go up to $116.87.

At the end of 11 years, the first option would result in a $3,778 total out-of-pocket increase per average customer, and the finance option results in $2,499 total out-of-pocket increase per average customer.

The pros of the pay-as-you-go route are that there would be no debt and no debt service. But it would require current rate payers to pay 100% for improvements, and there is a possibility for delay if money isn’t available.

The finance option spreads costs of the facilities to both current and future customers and leverages available funds to accomplish more in less time. One drawback is that the revenue must be used to pay interest and financing costs.

Warm temperatures bring cyanobacteria blooms to Sarasota Bay

Cyanobacteria FAQs from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program:

It’s hard not to notice some strange stuff surfacing in many areas around our bays this summer. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Algae Bloom Monitoring and Response team identified Lyngbya majuscula, a type of cyanobacterium, in many bays between Anna Maria Island and Venice in May and June. Many of those blooms are still visible as they decompose. Another species of cyanobacteria, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, was detected in the freshwater reaches of the Manatee River in early July. FDEP is working to identify other samples taken around the region. (Click here to see sampling locations and results in an interactive map.)

What is Lyngbya majuscula?
Lyngbya majuscula is a type of cyanobacterium, meaning that it is part of a group of bacteria that obtain energy through photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria are commonly known as “blue-green algae.” While some cyanobacteria cause harmful algae blooms (HABs), most are beneficial. Their ranks include Prochlorococcus, a genus of tiny marine cyanobacteria that are some of the most important oxygen-producers on Earth.

Lyngbya species are found in coastal tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. L. majuscula is only one of several species of Lyngbya found in central and southern Florida waters.

How do Lyngbya mats form?
Lyngbya blooms have been tied to water temperature increases and to pulses of nutrient sources including nitrogen, iron, and phosphorus. Lyngbya majuscula blooms form in sedi

Four green sea turtles tagged amid nesting increase in southwest Florida

Four nesting female green sea turtles were tagged with satellite transmitters by Mote Marine Laboratory scientists in the past few weeks on Casey Key, with the goal of tracking this threatened species whose nests counts are increasing on southwest Florida beaches.

“Amelia” was tagged June 21, “Freda” was tagged on June 17, “June” was tagged June 16 and “Thalia” was tagged May 29. Mote scientists are monitoring their locations in near-real time, and the public can follow along by viewing the “nesting female green sea turtles” map at

Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program monitors sea turtle nesting on 35 miles of Sarasota County beaches — Longboat Key through Venice — during each day of nesting season, May 1-Oct. 31. From the end of May through July 31, Mote scientists conduct nighttime patrols to encounter, tag and learn about nesting turtles on an individual level. Most local nests are laid by loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta), but nest counts from green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) have increased notably since Mote detected the first local green nest in its 37-year monitoring history, in 1994. Green nests are historically more common along southeast Florida, and their counts increased slowly in southwest Florida for a time but truly ramped up within the past decade. In 2017, Mote counted a record 79 green nests locally, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported a statewide record count.

“In recent years the numbers of green nests have increased exponentially,” said Mote Senior Biologist Kristen Mazzarella. “For our 99% loggerhead nesting beach, having so many green nests is very exciting.”

Southwest Florida blue crab trap closure starts July 10, followed by Big Bend trap closure

Recreational and commercial blue crab traps in state waters from the Palm Beach-Broward county line to the Pasco-Hernando county line must be removed from the water before July 10, the first day of a 10-day trap closure. This closure will give groups authorized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) the opportunity to identify and retrieve lost and abandoned blue crab traps from the water.

Traps may be placed back in the water in this area starting on July 20. Until then, blue crabs may be harvested with other gear, such as dip nets and fold-up traps. Blue crab harvesters may also use standard blue crab traps during the closure if the traps are attached to a dock or other private property.

Lost and abandoned blue crab traps are a problem in the blue crab fishery because they can continue to trap crabs and fish when left in the water. They can also be unsightly in the marine environment, damage sensitive habitats and pose navigational hazards to boaters on the water.

DEP announces support to help communities prepare for sea level rise

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Resilient Coastlines Program announces that nearly $1.6 million in grant funding has been awarded for fiscal year 2019-20 to strengthen resilience initiatives for 30 coastal communities in 17 coastal counties in Florida.

“These grants are incredibly important to the sustainability and protection of our natural resources and Florida’s coastal communities,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “I am proud of the work we are doing around the state to prepare for the impacts of sea level rise, and I know we will continue to protect Florida together.”

Grants are provided through the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection’s Florida Resilient Coastlines Program, and are specifically designed to assist local governments with resilience planning and funding assistance to implement those plans. Resilience Planning Grants (RPG) provide financial assistance to aid Florida communities in promoting resilience planning; developing vulnerability assessments, adaptation plans, comprehensive plan goals, objectives and policies; and regional coordination.

Algae blooms plague waterways, inch toward AMI

The mats of Lyngbya wollei, also known as brown “gumbo” algae, were so thick in the waters in Robinson Preserve June 27 that wading birds stood on them.

That’s the report Michael Elswick, manager of the natural resources division of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, forwarded his boss, Charlie Hunsicker.

Mats as thick as 12 inches and as large as two-tenths of an acre clogged the waterways at the preserve, preventing kayakers from passing through and “stopping a jon boat cold,” Elswick wrote in the email.

Lyngbya “gumbo” algae is a type of cyanobacteria or blue-green algae common in the spring-summer months around Anna Maria Island. It forms thick mats that resemble clumps of grass and sewage at the water surface, mostly in backwaters and bays.

Land management rangers and supervisors from the county natural resources department moved the brown algae, dragging large clumps to the mouth of the Manatee River and into its current.

All aspects of Florida water quality discussed at task force meeting

The people working to keep nuisance, green muck out of our waterways are digging into every aspect of what leads to it and how to prevent it from coming back. And they brought the conversation to Southwest Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Blue-Green Algae Task Force met at the Lee County School Board chambers in Fort Myers Monday to discuss the water crisis centered around Lake Okeechobee.

“The focus of the task force here isn’t on what pot of money we have to spend,” said Dr. Tom Frazer, Florida’s chief science officer. “It’s can we identify solutions.”

Discussions focused on the technology and agricultural aspects involved in Florida’s water quality as well as laying out a road map for improving the quality of water on our coast and statewide.

“Today, we hit pretty hard on agricultural [best management practices],” Frazer said. “But next time, we’re going to deal with septic systems, right? We’re going to talk more about these innovative technologies after we talk about some of the criteria we want to develop to evaluate them today.”

During discussions, Frazer explained the role agriculture plays in our water quality.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis signs bill to change environmental enforcement

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law Tuesday a measure that will shift 19 law enforcement officers focused on environmental crimes from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to the Department of Environmental Protection.

The bill (HB 5401) is part of a series of environmental proposals DeSantis rolled out in January, including increased funding for Everglades restoration and water projects.

DeSantis said during a bill-signing ceremony Tuesday at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center in Stuart that shifting the law-enforcement officers should make enforcement of environmental laws more effective.

The creation of the Division of Law Enforcement within the Department of Environmental Protection will take effect Monday.

DeSantis noted that it was pitched by his transition team as he took office in January.

Great Bay Scallop & Hard Clam Search scheduled for August 10th

* * * * THIS IS A NO HARVEST EVENT * * * *

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – Join Florida Sea Grant and the University of Florida IFAS Extension Charlotte County, by participating in the Great Bay Scallop & Hard Clam Search on August 10, 2019. The search is a resource-monitoring program where volunteers snorkel, looking for bay scallops and hard clams in select seagrass areas. The purpose of this program is to monitor and document the health and status of these important bivalve species.

About 40 shallow draft boats are needed with up to 150 participants. Canoes and Kayaks are also welcome. Snorkelers without boats are welcome, however boat space is limited. Volunteer searchers will meet at 8:30am at Cape Haze Marina to receive survey equipment and instructions for the monitoring event. Lunch will be provided once you return to shore.

Volunteers need to bring: a mask, snorkel and gloves and be able to snorkel/swim 50 meters (about 150 feet)—fins and weight belt are optional.

Reservations are required and survey sites and equipment are limited. This Search promises to be a popular event—so sign up early!

Registration is online at:

Contact the organizer Betty Staugler via email at or by calling 941-764-4346.

City, Conservation Foundation of Gulf Coast explore partnership for Bobby Jones Golf Club

Sarasota, FL: The City of Sarasota and the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast have begun to discuss ways to preserve the 300-acre Bobby Jones Golf Club property in perpetuity for golf, recreation and as natural lands.

The City and Conservation Foundation are exploring the possibility of placing a permanent conservation easement upon the entire property that may be held, monitored and enforced by the Foundation, a nationally accredited conservation organization that has permanently protected more than 11,000 acres of critical lands.

This would ensure the permanent conservation of this green space and allow compatible future uses, which would be limited to golf, light recreation, natural resource restoration and protection as parkland or open space. The property would be endowed with adequate funding so that it can be maintained for decades to come.

Sea turtle patrol starts early on Sarasota area beaches

It's just after sunrise on Sarasota's Lido Beach and the start of sea turtle patrol for Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium Senior Biologist Melissa Bernhard.

“We have a report of a possible nest a couple hundred feet down,” she said on a recent morning. ”We're just going to walk down to it and see if it is a nest and take some data on it, regardless."

It’s common this time of year to see wooden stakes blocking off sea turtle nests on area beaches.

Nest marking materials are protected under the U. S. Endangered Species Act and Florida State Law. Bernhard says nesting numbers have grown over the past decade but sea turtles still face a host of obstacles. 

Florida oceans and coasts strategic plan to be developed

A half-million dollar state grant will be used to develop a strategic plan for the Sunshine State’s oceans and coasts, the Florida Ocean Alliance announced Wednesday.

The alliance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan partnership of private industry, trade, academic, and environmental organizations, aims to bring awareness to the ocean’s importance to the economy and environment of Florida.

“The project addresses both legislative and public concerns over Florida’s recent water crisis,” Stan Payne, chair of the Florida Ocean Alliance and director of the Seaport and Airport in St. Lucie County, stated in a news release issued by the alliance. “We will offer resilience solutions to these problems as the state strives to cope with these issues.”

The effort originally was outlined in legislation pushed by state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican, and state Rep. Chris Latvala, a Clearwater Republican. Eventually, the key language of their bills was rolled into the state budget bill.

The alliance intends to host public hearings across the state before drafting a strategic plan to address conservation and management of the state’s estuaries, bays and oceans.

Report: Rising seas could cost Florida $75 billion over 20 years

A new national study concludes that rising sea levels could cost U.S. states more than $400 billion over the next 20 years. And Florida has the highest price tag.

The report is by the environmental advocacy group Center for Climate Integrity. It says Florida would have to pay around $75 billion to build new seawalls to defend against a two-foot sea level rise by 2040.

The report uses seawalls as a common metric that can be used nationwide. But seawalls aren't environmentally friendly, and they are impractical for places like the Florida Keys, which are islands. The report says there are other ways to protect coastlines, including beach renourishment, raising roads and infrastructure and improving drainage.

Center director Richard Wiles says in an era of exploding federal debt, getting funding help from Washington is more difficult. He says so-called "polluters" should pay for rising seas, similar to the way tobacco companies were sued for health risks.

"The entirety of the fossil fuel community, if you will, industry, needs to be responsible for literally bailing out those communities and making sure they have a future where people can live where they've always lived," he said.

Mote and boys and girls clubs starts new ocean guardians program

Seven outstanding teens from Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County were selected to participate in the Ocean Guardians Program at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium this summer. After successfully completing a competitive application and panel interview process, the following Boys & Girls Clubs members were accepted into this 9-week program:

Lei’Asha Battle, junior at Riverview High School;

Jordan Blake, a junior at Sarasota High School;

Gabriel Burger, a sophomore at North Port High School;

Angelo Gutierrez, a senior at Sarasota Military Academy;

Desmen Lee, a sophomore at Booker High School;

Woodrow Stewart, a junior at Suncoast Polytechnical High School; and

Cooper Zigmond, a junior at Sarasota Military Academy.

Opening ceremony highlights new living shoreline along boulevard of the arts in Sarasota

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein joined local officials for an opening ceremony at the Boulevard of the Arts living shoreline restoration project in Sarasota.

“This is an exciting time for the state of Florida in addressing coastal resiliency,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “I am happy to be here to celebrate this important project that will protect water quality and increase shoreline resiliency along Sarasota Bay."

The city of Sarasota has 328 feet of bayfront shoreline that has severe erosion, resulting in significant loss of public property and threatening to affect a nearby private property.

DEP’s Florida Resilient Coastlines Program (FRCP) is specifically designed to assist local governments with resilience planning and funding assistance to implement those plans. Resilience Planning Grants provide financial assistance to aid Florida communities in preparing for current and future effects of rising sea levels, including coastal flooding, erosion and ecosystem changes. 

Venice ban on shark fishing will be coming

New state rules restricting shore-based shark fishing go into effect July 1. Not long after that the Venice City Council will consider an ordinance banning it from city beaches and the Venice Municipal Pier.

The Venice City Council had discussed shark fishing several times previously without authorizing City Attorney Kelly Fernandez to draft an ordinance of any kind.

She had, however, advised that the city has the authority under state law to impose stiffer regulations than the state has — including a ban — in the interest of public health and safety.

The Council had shied away from doing that in the face of opposition from local anglers but revisited the topic yet again as part of an effort to have new city rules in place when the pier reopens after reconstruction, in August.

Those rules make a ban the appropriate action, according to Mayor John Holic.

They include a requirement that if a prohibited shark species is caught, it remain in the water and be immediately released. That means someone catching a shark at the far end of the pier, which is considered an extension of the shore, would have to walk all the way off it and down onto the beach to cut the fish loose.

“I don’t see any way to fish [for sharks] off the pier,” he said.

Council Member Chuck Newsom suggested including a buffer area around the pier. Council Member Bob Daniels extended it to no shark fishing from the beach or the pier.

“We’re waiting for an accident to happen,” Daniels said.

Fernandez said the ban needs to be imposed by ordinance so it will be enforceable with penalties. With only one meeting left before the Council’s summer break, the earliest an ordinance could go to second reading would be Aug. 27.

You can view the video of the meeting at Veni

NASA helps warn of harmful algal blooms in lakes, reservoirs

Harmful algal blooms can cause big problems in coastal areas and lakes across the United States. When toxin-containing aquatic organisms multiply and form a bloom, it can sicken people and pets, contaminate drinking water, and force closures at boating and swimming sites.

With limited resources to monitor these often-unpredictable blooms, water managers are turning to new technologies from NASA and its partners to detect and keep track of potential hazards. This is particularly critical in lakes and reservoirs that people use for both recreation and water supply.

A new app for Android mobile devices, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and now available on Google play, will alert officials and members of the public when a harmful algal bloom could be forming, depending on specific changes in the color of the water observed by satellites. The app is a product of the multi-agency Cyanobacteria Assessment Network, or CyAN.

“The interest is to use remote sensing as an eye-in-the-sky, early warning system to get a picture of harmful cyanobacteria in U.S. inland lakes,” said Jeremy Werdell, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center lead for CyAN, which also includes the EPA, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Beach re-nourishment scheduled for this fall in Englewood

What to expect…here are common questions & answers:

Q: What are the dates of the project?

A: It is expected that some equipment will be staged on/around the beach immediately following the end of Turtle Season (Oct. 31st). Actually work on the beach will not commence until the conclusion of the WaterFest Boat Races which are scheduled for Nov. 22nd – 24th. The completion date is March 31, 2020.

Q: Will the Beach be closed?

A: No. Beach access will permitted in areas not occupied by the construction crews. Those constructions zones will be designated with orange fencing. Once a construction zone is completed, there will be a large pipe left in place that will cause some inconvenience. Provisions will be made to navigate around/over the pipe, but the pipe will be on the beach until the entire project is completed. 

Advanced wastewater treatment could be coming to Sarasota County

Sarasota County leaders have agreed in principle to dramatically upgrade a faulty wastewater treatment plant east of Interstate 75, blamed for spilling millions of gallons of polluted water and potentially contributing to area water quality problems for years.

The County Commission unanimously agreed at a budget workshop Wednesday to develop plans for converting the Bee Ridge Wastewater Reclamation Facility to have advanced wastewater treatment capability, a move the county’s critics on the issue have long sought. The public utilities staff, commissioners decided, will report to the commission in August with a timeline and cost projections for upgrading the 12-million-gallon-per-day facility on Lorraine Road to an 18-million-gallon advanced facility. The transformation would significantly reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in treated water — two key pollutants that can fuel harmful algae growth in waterways. Officials cited a ballpark cost of $65 million to $100 million for the project.

Advanced wastewater treatment was a hot topic earlier this month at the county’s Water Quality Summit, where science-based solutions were discussed by experts and members of the community alike in an effort to improve the area’s water quality. While some county officials seemed receptive to the idea despite the high projected cost, others leaned toward transferring as many people from septic systems to central sewers for wastewater disposal as the most effective way to combat water quality problems.

Gov. DeSantis signs bill giving Sarasota’s Mote $18 million to fight red tide

The laboratory will develop technologies that can fight the toxic algae.

SARASOTA — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Thursday that will put Mote Marine Laboratory at the forefront of efforts to combat red tide in Florida.

The bill, which was championed by Senate President Bill Galvano, allocates $18 million over six years for Mote to develop technologies that can fight red tide blooms.

Lawmakers crafted the measure in response to last year’s devastating bloom that killed sea life in Southwest Florida, fouled the air and water and hurt the region’s tourism industry.

“If we don’t do all that we can to maintain our natural resources, you will see our economy suffer,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis and legislative leaders are touting the measure as a major step toward reducing the harmful effects of red tide, even as some environmental advocates argue lawmakers have not done enough to tackle nutrient pollution that can feed the toxic algae blooms.

Red tide blooms start offshore and are naturally occurring. But when the blooms move near shore they can feed on nutrients that leach into the water from sources such as fertilizer runoff, leaky septic tanks and sewage spills.

Senate Bill 1552 — dubbed the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative — does not address the problem of excessive nutrients in coastal waterways. Instead of trying to cut off the algae’s food source, the legislation - which was sponsored by State Sen. Joe Gruters and state Rep. Michael Grant - seeks to fight the blooms through technology.

June 23-29 is Mosquito Awareness Week

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Next week is Mosquito Control Awareness Week! Now that it’s mosquito season, it is the perfect time to look in and around your home for ways to control mosquitoes that can carry viruses like Zika and West Nile.

Here are some simple steps that citizens can take to help control mosquito populations:

  • Empty water from any item that can hold water.
    Examples: flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, boat tarps, old tires and buckets.
  • Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
  • Flush ornamental bromeliads or treat with BTI, a biological larvicide available at home stores.
  • Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water.
  • Change the water in outdoor pet dishes regularly.
  • Keep pools and spas chlorinated and filtered.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.
  • Cover rain barrels with screening.
  • Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioning unit drip areas, around septic tanks and heat pumps.
  • Take steps to eliminate standing water, improve drainage and prevent future puddling.

“It’s important for residents to remember the three Ds of mosquito prevention,” said Brian Lawton, program manager for Pinellas County Vegetation Management and Mosquito Control. “Dress wisely, defend with a good mosquito repellent, and drain standing water.”