Water-Related News

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

Legal Challenges Mount Over New Water Standards

After the Seminole Tribe of Florida launched a legal challenge earlier in the month, the city of Miami and a paper-mill industry group also are taking aim at controversial new state water-quality standards.

The city and the group Florida Pulp and Paper Association Environmental Affairs, Inc., filed separate challenges during the past week in the state Division of Administrative Hearings, records show. The challenges raise substantially different arguments in fighting the standards, which were developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and approved in July by the state Environmental Regulation Commission.

The standards, which are technically considered a proposed rule, involve new and revised limits on chemicals in waterways. The Department of Environmental Protection said the plan would allow it to regulate more chemicals while updating standards for others.

The Miami challenge, filed Friday, alleged that the “proposed rule is arbitrary and capricious — particularly because the rule loosens restrictions on permissible levels of carcinogens in Florida surface waters with absolutely no justification for the need for the increased levels of the toxins nor the increased health risks to Florida citizens.”

Meanwhile, the industry group, which includes Georgia-Pacific, International Paper Co., WestRock and Packaging Corporation of America, takes issue with scientific calculations and assumptions used in developing the standards.

Water Stewards Wanted for Sarasota County

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SARASOTA COUNTY — Help protect and preserve water resources by becoming a water steward in Sarasota County, with a new program offered by Sarasota County and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The Florida Waters Stewardship Program, launching Sept. 13, uses expert presentations, hands-on learning, field training, and communications exercises to give participants the tools needed to act as stewards of the area’s water resources.

Water is a key driver of our health, environment, and economy, and protecting our water resources is critical now and for the future. Water connects us all. We are connected to our streams and bays by our faucets and laundries, to our neighborhood ponds and lakes by our yards and streets, and to our regional and statewide neighbors by our surface and groundwater supplies.

This $89 course will explore those connections as we travel across the county to learn about local water quality and quantity issues. Seven sessions comprise this course:

  • September 13: Watershed Basics and Stewardship. Florida House Learning Center.
  • September 27: Water, Then and Now. Nokomis Park Community Center.
  • October 8: Water Supply and Demand. Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority.
  • October 18: Stormwater in Sarasota County. Audubon Nature Center / Celery Fields.
  • November 5: Field training. Twin Lakes Park.
  • November 15: Communicating Water Stewardship. Oscar Scherer State Park.
  • December 3: Graduation and Guided Kayak Tour. Historic Spanish Point.

Seating is limited for this public course, with a limited number of scholarships available. Learn more and register early at http://bit.ly/FlaWaterSteward to reserve your spot.

For more information about this course or available scholarships, please contact Water Agent Abbey Tyrna at atyrna@ulf.edu or 941-861-9818.

Brain-eating amoeba common in Florida; researchers race for cure

The deadly brain-eating amoeba that infected a swimmer in Broward County this month typically appears in the press as a rare, freakish germ.

"Brit families BEWARE," warns a headline in The Daily Express. "Fatal amoeba lurking in Florida holiday hotspot."

But while infections are infrequent, the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is common in southern states. If you cup your hands and scoop up water in any lake or stream in Florida during the summer, there's a good chance you've scooped up some of them.

"It's everywhere," said Dennis Kyle, a scientist at the University of South Florida in Tampa, whose laboratory is working on a cure for an illness that had almost invariably been a death sentence.

As a graduate student, Kyle found 20 to 50 of the microscopic creatures in every liter of water taken from South Carolina lakes. He said there was no reason to think Florida would be different since the amoebas live in warm, fresh water.

"Especially at this time of year, when it's warm, you'll find it all over the place," he said.

What makes infections rare is the amoeba's method of piercing the brain's defenses. It travels up the nose and through the openings for the olfactory nerves into the brain, where, true to its name, it starts to consume tissue. Death comes less from the amoeba itself than from the body's defenses, which cause a fatal swelling of the brain.

Registration now open for 2016 Cela Tega Conference on climate change

WHAT: 2016 Cela Tega Conference:Resiliency and Adaptations in the Estero Bay Region
WHEN: December 12–13, 2016
WHERE:Cohen Center Ballroom, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, FL 33965
PURPOSE: To identify and discuss resiliency and adaptation planning for climate change and sea level rise in the Estero Bay Region

The program is one which should be of interest to all residents of Southwest Florida, especially to our county and municipal officials and local businesses. We have long been concerned about climate change. There can be no doubt that the ocean is already rising. There are previously-dry places on Miami Beach and other seaside locations that are now reflecting the sunshine. The east coast is already dealing with the problem, because they must, but only two Gulf Coast communities have yet acted. Punta Gorda has a climate change adaptation plan and at present the community is successfully implementing it. Lee County has a Climate Change resiliency strategy, which they were implementing, until, unfortunately, the strategy was eliminated when the county’s reorganization plan included the closing of their Sustainability Program. Participants at the conference will get to hear speakers about vulnerability assessment, adaptation and resiliency plans and strategies, including those being implemented in Punta Gorda, and other national and international locations. The final session will be an examination of plan implementation and lessons learned.

There will be a half-day workshop modeled on how Punta Gorda was able to create their adaptation plan.

Contact Information

Nora Demers

(239) 590-7211

Sarasota County: More review needed for Lido beach renourishment

SARASOTA — Sarasota County officials will ask the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to undertake a second, more exhaustive environmental study before the controversial Lido Key beach renourishment project proceeds.

If the Army Corps accepts the county's recommendation, which it is not required to do, the decision could delay by years the project to rebuild more than 1.5 miles of eroded beachfront on Lido Key.

The long-planned renourishment project calls for dredging up to 1.2 million cubic yards of sand from several areas in Big Pass, the channel between Lido and Siesta keys.

But the plan has been under fire from Siesta residents, groups and businesses who fear changes to the channel could lead to more and faster erosion on Siesta Key's iconic beaches.

Citing those concerns, the Sarasota County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday morning to ask the Army Corps to reverse its environmental assessment's conclusion of “finding of no significant impact,” referred to in shorthand as a FONSI, and begin a more comprehensive review known as an “environmental impact statement,” dubbed an EIS.

Whole Foods lawsuit dismissed

SARASOTA — Opponents of a planned Whole Foods commercial center that would destroy a north Sarasota County wetland voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit after reaching a confidential settlement agreement.

The trial would have begun Monday [Aug. 22] in Sarasota County Circuit Court.

A two-page document filed Friday in court says that the plaintiffs, led by the environmental group ManaSota-88, were dropping their claims against the county and the developers. The dismissal is “with prejudice,” meaning the opponents waived their right to file another lawsuit with the same claims, which included arguments that the development violated the county's long-range growth management plan.

An attorney for the developers, Scott McLaren of Tampa, said the dismissal came after the parties reached the confidential settlement agreement.

August 31: Phillippi Creek Walk the Watershed Meeting at Florida House

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Sarasota County invites the public to a meeting about Phillippi Creek Water Quality at 6 p.m. on August 31 at the Florida House Institute, located at 4454 Beneva Road in Sarasota.

The Environmental Protection Agency has established Phillippi Creek as in need of a reduction in bacterial pollution. We are asking the public to share their knowledge of pollution sources at this collaborative, hands-on meeting. Participants will be guided through the process and will be asked to indicate possible bacteria (and nutrient) sources they know about on maps provided at the meeting. Later on, the problem locations will be investigated by a County-led interagency team. Walk the Watershed is a state of Florida process by which evidence and data is investigated in the field. The goal is to find the sources, and provide solutions for fixing the problems. In some cases there may be quick fixes, in others cases a longer term plan will be proposed, and in some cases public education may be the remedy.

Phillippi Creek highlights:

  • Largest watershed on the coast
  • 8,000 septic systems decommissioned and connected to modern sewer system
  • Celery Fields purifies 10% of the stormwater
  • 100 miles of waterways are fronted by 4,000 homes
  • Vibrant tidal creek is a nursery for snook, manatees, otters and wading birds

Clean Water comes from all of us doing our part. Arrive early (5:30 PM) for a tour of the Florida House led by FHI Executive Director John Lambie and see the green building, solar system, pervious pavement, cisterns, wildlife enclaves, Florida landscaping, and vegetable gardens that you can use at your own home.

The meeting is FREE, but space is limited to the first 50 people who register here: Phillippi Creek Maps on the Table Meeting. If there is sufficient interest, additional public meetings may be scheduled. Remember this is a participatory process and we are listening to YOU. For more information, call Mollie Holland, Neighborhood Environmental Stewardship Team Coordinator at 941-861-5000.

View Phillippi Creek water quality data, 2006-present »

Check out the video to learn more!

Register by Sept. 2nd for Sarasota Neighborhoods Conference for “early bird discount”

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From Sarasota County Neighborhood Services:

The time has finally arrived — registration for the 2016 Florida Neighborhoods Conference, hosted October 13-15 by Sarasota County in Venice, Florida — is now open! Register before September 2 and receive the "early bird" discount rate of $50. Basic registration includes a suite of neighborhood-oriented workshops, a continental breakfast, keynote lunch, anniversary celebration, awards breakfast, and your choice of tours. Did we mention you get all that for only $50??!

If you are looking for ways to show your neighborhood a little love, you don't want to miss this fantastic opportunity! Check out the Conference Guide, then register online.

Please also check out the volunteer and sponsorship opportunities posted on the Sarasota County Neighborhood Services webpage.

There's no question we've been working away to plan the conference — but there are tens of thousands of other people working and volunteering in Sarasota County, too! With Labor Day fast approaching, we'd be remiss if we didn't say "thank you!" to everyone for the part that you play in making Sarasota County a premier place to call home. Your efforts are appreciated!

Mosaic wants more mining in East Manatee County

The Manatee County Planning Commission will meet Thursday to consider the proposed rezoning of 3,595.99 acres of Mosaic’s Wingate East property to allow more phosphate mining near the company’s 11,000-acre Wingate Creek Mine.

The Manatee County Building and Development Services Department and Parks and Natural Resources will make their recommendations for the county commissioners during the meeting.

The request from Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC asks to change the general agriculture zoning to extraction zoning and to approve its Master Mining Plan. The proposal would also add on to the east side of the 645.9-acre Wingate Extension mining property and allow mining until Sept. 15, 2037.

The property borders the Winding Creek subdivision to the south and Duette Preserve to the north.

About 1,041 acres of wetlands are on the property. Under the Master Mining Plan, which reviewed environmental impacts, 12 percent of the wetlands are deemed high quality. Mosaic is proposing to offset the impact by enhancing 193 acres in the Myakka River watershed and donating $2.5 million to the Manatee Community Foundation to buy more land in the upper Myakka River watershed and grant it to Manatee County as a conservation easement.

Another negative aspect listed on the proposal is the noise and odor pollution from mining activities, but it is within compliance with noise regulations on all levels, according to the Master Mining Plan.

Register now for Scallopalooza — It’s Clamtastic!

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Scallopalooza is an annual fundraiser for scallop restoration by Sarasota Bay Watch. This fun-filled event is sold out every year and hosted by the Sarasota Yacht Club. Each year the funds raised at the event pay for multiple scallop releases throughout the subsequent year, thereby sustaining our scallop restoration initiative and increases our chances for success.

Scallop restoration is a core program of Sarasota Bay Watch. The scallop population in Sarasota Bay has been drastically reduced over the years. Florida Fish and Wildlife experts believe that by raising scallops in shellfish hatcheries and releasing the larvae into our local seagrass beds that a multi-year release program could result in a self-perpetuating local population. Learn more »

To maintain its vigorous level of restoration Sarasota Bay Watch needs funds to raise the clams and scallops that replenish natural populations in our local waters. Please, help us by supporting Scallopalooza, It’s Clamtastic!

Saturday, Sept. 24th, 6 p.m. cocktails (cash bar), 7 p.m. dinner

Sarasota Yacht Club, 1100 John Ringling Blvd, Sarasota, FL 34236

$100 per person, $800 table for 8, $1000 table for 10 (limited)
Tickets available online (see link below)

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Dress is coastal casual. Questions? Call Sarasota Bay Watch at (941) 232-2363

Audio Tour Spotlights Local Watersheds

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The Science and Environment Council’s Watershed Audio Tour is the first of its kind in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. By dialing (941) 926-6813 and entering a stop number, you can hear 32 different informative messages about Southwest Florida’s spectacular environment. From land conservation to living shorelines, from seagrass to salterns, the tour stops explain the importance of our watersheds and how to protect them.

While you can dial and listen to the messages free from anywhere, visiting the sites listed on the menu provides an up-close and personal experience. For example, discover why mangroves are so important to our ecosystem while strolling along the mangrove-lined boardwalk at Historic Spanish Point. By listening to these informative messages, you’ll discover diverse aspects of the watershed, learn interesting facts, and easy ways you can help protect the watershed. For instance, learn how litter and pollution affect sealife, understand the role of wetlands in preventing downstream flooding and pollution, and find out about green roofs, or learn to make your own rain barrel.

But just what is a watershed anyway? In a nutshell, it is the land area on which rain falls then drains into a network of creeks, rivers, lakes, and bays. Why should you care? Because it’s all connected, what we do on the land determines the quality of our water bodies, large and small. This in turn, affects the quality of life for residents and visitors. Everyone who lives, works, and plays in Southwest Florida can take simple steps to make a difference when it comes to protecting our watersheds.

To help create public awareness about the watershed and the importance of this natural system, the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida (SEC), with partial funding from the Florida Beverage Association and Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, developed the free audio tour. Thirty-two unique watershed-related topics are highlighted on the tour and narrated by staff scientists at some of SEC’s twenty-nine member organizations.

For a map of tour stop locations and to listen on the web, visit the link below. Or dial (941) 926-6813 and choose from one of the following tour stops:

Press Hear Press Hear Press Hear Press Hear
1 Wetlands at Sarasota County’s Celery Fields 9 Prescribed Burns at Oscar Scherer State Park 17 Water Preservation at Crowley Museum and Nature Center 25 Prehistoric Life on the River at Manatee County’s Emerson Point Preserve
2 Ecosystems at Crowley Museum and Nature Center 10 Exotic Plant Removal at Sarasota County’s Phillippi Estate Park 18 Florida Pines at Myakka State Forest 26 Footsteps of the Past at Manatee County’s Neal Preserve
3 Water Quality at GWIZ The Science Museum 11 Estuaries and Sarasota Bay Estuary Program 19 Stormwater Retention at Sarasota County’s Celery Fields 27 Living Shorelines and Sarasota Bay Estuary Program,
4 Mangroves at Historic Spanish Point 12 Land Conservation and Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast 20 Tidal Lagoons at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens 28 Land Conservation at the Lemur Conservation Foundation
5 Sea Grasses at Sarasota County’s Indian Mound Park at Lemon Bay 13 Green Roofs at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens 21 Rookeries at Venice Audubon Society 29 Red Bug Slough Preserve and Sarasota Environmental Lands
6 Marine Life at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium 14 Rain Barrels & Cisterns at Florida House Learning Institute 22 Manatee River Manatees at South Florida Museum 30 Life Between the Tides at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
7 Bay Neighbor Landscaping and New College of Florida 15 Water Quantity and Aquarian Quest 23 Sister Keys Restoration and Sarasota Bay Watch 31 Tidal Creeks at Alligator Creek at Woodmere Park
8 Tree Canopies at New College of Florida 16 Wild and Scenic River at Myakka River State Park 24 Salterns at Manatee County’s Robinson Preserve 32 Pet Waste at Brohard Paw Park

SEC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to promote science-based environmental education, conservation and policy. Meet our Members and learn about our work at www.ScienceAndEnvironment.org.

Venice well to be drilled along Intracostal Waterway

VENICE — Construction should start later this month on a drinking water well along the Intracoastal Waterway to replace one that has been out of service for more than a year.

The new well will be on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway, across from Venice High School. The 200-square-foot plot of land is near the east spur of the Venetian Waterway Trail, though the construction area should be clearly marked.

Drilling should start Aug. 22 and is scheduled to be completed March 7, 2017.

The well being replaced is about 25 feet north of the new one. It used to draw about 19,000 gallons a day. It’s one of 13 wells across the city that feed into Venice’s reverse-osmosis treatment plant to provide drinking water.

It became unusable more than a year ago, when the well pump casing was damaged while workers were attempting to rehabilitate it.

DEP Report: Half of Florida lakes’ surface have “elevated” algae levels

Florida waters are growing greener, saltier and more toxic in some parts, according to a new report on the state’s waters.

The report from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows a mixed bag for the state’s waters, with many trending toward more-frequent toxic algae blooms, fueled by rising nitrates from farm and residential fertilizers, sewage, pet waste and other human-related sources.

DEP’s new report, called the 2016 Integrated Water Quality Assessment for Florida, spells out why these kinds of toxic algae blooms keep happening, and why some Florida well water is turning saltier and less healthy to drink. The report outlines the overall condition of Florida’s surface and ground water from 2012 to 2014. The Clean Water Act requires states submit the reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency every two years, including which waters don’t meet pollution limits.

Key findings of Florida’s 2016 integrated report include:

  • One hallmark of algae is elevated in 50 percent of the state’s lake area.
  • Nitrates remain the biggest issue in surface waters that get significant inputs of groundwater, especially springs.
  • Increasing trends in salt-water intrusion and nitrate and nitrite in groundwater.
  • Almost 70 percent of the 2.9 million acres Florida’s lakes and estuaries DEP assessed were “impaired.”

“As far as water quality, much of it looks the same as it has in previous years,” said Julie Espy, program administrator for DEP’s water quality assessment program.

But the rise in nitrogen and phosphorus continues to worsen in many Florida waters, DEP’s report found, especially some of the smaller lakes that get less attention than Lake Okeechobee and other larger waterbodies.

Median levels of nitrate in Florida’s groundwater have increased to more than 1 milligram per liter, 5 times the levels prior to the 1970s, causing many to clog up with plants. As late as the 1980s, median nitrate levels in the state’s groundwater were only .05 milligrams per liter.

Farm and residential fertilizers, sewage and population growth have fed those increases.

Prescribed burns planned for Deer Prairie Creek Preserve and Schewe Tract

The Land Management Section of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns during the months of August and September on Deer Prairie Creek Preserve and neighboring Schewe Tract.

Deer Prairie Creek Preserve, which is jointly owned and managed by the District and Sarasota County, is located between Interstate 75 and US Highway 41.

The Schewe Tract, which is located south and north of Interstate 75 just north of Deer Prairie Creek, is fully owned and managed by the District. Both of these parcels are located west of North Port. Approximately 1200 acres will be burned in small manageable units.

According to Will VanGelder, the District’s land management manager, burns are implemented to mimic natural fire cycles under a controlled situation. The objective is to avert uncontrolled wildfires and enhance the area’s natural conditions by maintaining the ecological and wildlife habitat values. Prescribed burns are only conducted when weather conditions are optimal to meet the desired objectives and to minimize impacts to the public.

Although every effort will be made to assure that smoke does not affect homes or highways, vehicle operators should exercise caution if smoke reduces visibility on the area’s roads or highways.

Prescribed burns planned for Prairie/Shell Creek Preserve

The Land Management Section of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns during the months of August and September on the Prairie/Shell Creek Preserve in Charlotte County. The property is located to the west of US Highway 17, north of Shell Creek. Approximately 140 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

According to Will VanGelder, the District’s land management manager, burns are implemented to mimic natural fire cycles under a controlled situation. The objective is to avert uncontrolled wildfires and enhance the area’s natural conditions by maintaining the ecological and wildlife habitat values. Prescribed burns are only conducted when weather conditions are optimal to meet the desired objectives and to minimize impacts to the public.

Although every effort will be made to assure that smoke does not affect homes or highways, vehicle operators should exercise caution if smoke reduces visibility on the area’s roads or highways.

North Port, Sarasota County seeking vendors, sponsors for Myakkahatchee Creek Connector celebration

City, County seeking vendors, sponsors for the Myakkahatchee Creek Connector Celebration in September

The City of North Port and Sarasota County are seeking in-kind sponsors and vendors for a Myakkahatchee Creek Connector Celebration on Saturday, September 17, 2016.

The City of North Port and Sarasota County will be celebrating the completion of construction of a pedestrian and equestrian bridge that crosses the R36 canal (at the northern end of the City’s boundaries) and connects the City’s Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park to the County’s 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve. The celebration will start at 10 a.m. with a Ribbon Cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m.

In-kind sponsors are needed to provide food, games, activities, and fun during the event.

The City of North Port is the largest city in Sarasota County. Spanning 104.1-square-miles, the City is home to more than 62,000 residents. North Port’s unique natural environment is one of its attractions. Tucked beneath a thick oak and pine canopy, the City is home to Warm Mineral Springs and a lush landscape of Florida fauna and flora. Many of North Port’s residents already enjoy outdoor activities. Connecting North Port to the 25,000-acre Carlton Reserve further provides North Port residents with opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, bird watching and more. The Carlton Reserve offers 80 miles of nature trails. The community has been anticipating the completion of the pedestrian bridge for a number of years.

“We are hoping that there are community groups and businesses interested in getting involved in the Connector Celebration in September,” said Erin Bryce, Community Outreach Manager. “This bridge will enhance the quality of life for North Port residents. They no longer will have to drive out of the City limits to Jacaranda Boulevard to access the Carlton Reserve.”

The construction of the bridge is a joint venture between both the City of North Port and Sarasota County. Both government agencies came together and offered $285,000 toward the project, which paid for the design, construction, and contingency.

“We are looking for any organization or business interested in getting involved,” Bryce said. “I would encourage them to simply pick up the phone and call me and we can discuss some of the types of activities or in-kind sponsors that we are looking for. We are looking for sponsors for food, activities, information tables, and more. The door is wide open.”

For more information on how to get involved, contact Bryce, the City’s Community Outreach Manager, at (941) 429-7165 or at ebryce@cityofnorthport.com.