Water-Related News

Early-bird registration closing soon for Sustainable Communities Workshop

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​SARASOTA COUNTY – Register now to get the best value on a full day of information and inspiration at the 11th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop, Dec. 1 at the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida Event and Conference Center, 4750 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota.

Nov. 1 is the last day to register at the workshop's $35 "early-bird" rate, with prices rising to $45 afterward.

The Sustainable Communities Workshop brings together individuals, businesses, institutions and government agencies to learn and share community solutions on the environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability. The 11th annual workshop features a "Paths to a Sustainable Future" theme, with expert speakers sharing the latest strategies and action tables highlighting local opportunities.

Topics include:

  • valuing nature;
  • strategies for smarter growth;
  • building community resilience; and
  • edible innovations.

"The workshop's focus on encouraging individual and community action to enhance resilience will have a lasting positive impact on the health of the Sarasota Bay watershed," said Darcy Young, public outreach manager for Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

The keynote speakers will be Craig Pittman, an award-winning Tampa Bay Times environmental journalist and author of "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country," and Ridhi D'Cruz of City Repair Project, a Portland, Oregon, non-profit dedicated to grassroots community building and neighborhood improvement projects.

Register now to save. Registration includes continental breakfast, lunch, and snacks made with local and organic ingredients. Students receive a discounted rate of $20. Sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities also are available for a limited time.

Visit this link or call 941-861-5000 to register or for information.

Mote Awarded $500,000 NOAA Grant to Electronically Monitor Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico

Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory recently received a grant for more than $500,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to continue advancing electronic monitoring of fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.

In many fisheries, NOAA requires vessels to self-report data on what fish they catch and report using logbooks. Many vessels carry an observer onboard to record that data. Although this system has provided vital info in the past, logbooks don’t always provide the level of detail and consistent data that is ideal for fisheries management and it would not be financially affordable to have trained observers on all commercial fishing vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. Incorporating electronic monitoring, such as using video cameras that film the fish caught, will enhance the ability for more fisheries to document such data.

“It is important for fisheries sustainability to accurately document the fish that are caught as well as the accidental catch, called ‘bycatch,' that is discarded” said Carole Neidig, Mote staff scientist. “Electronic monitoring will help to document and provide a permanent record of the type and number of species caught, location of capture, the observed condition, and even sex (for adult sharks) of species discarded, which are key factors in managing fisheries sustainably.”

The Ocean Conservancy led the first study of electronic monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico in 2011 with Mote and other project partners to determine if using electronic monitoring tools could be effective for fisheries monitoring and management. That pilot study showed that electronic monitoring could be successfully applied aboard bottom longline and bandit (vertical line) vessels fishing for snapper and grouper, and study partners decided to shift leadership of the project to Mote, an ideal organization to interface with the fishers and NOAA alike. Additional initiatives with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation (SFPF), the Environmental Defense Fund, and NOAA/NMFS have supported implementation of this new technology in the Gulf of Mexico.

The newest phase, thanks to this NOAA-funded grant, will launch in January 2017 when electronic monitoring equipment is installed on commercial longline vessels based in southwest and the panhandle of Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Scientists will provide each vessel with training and equipment, including closed-circuit video cameras that will operate during fishing, gear sensors to detect fishing activity, a GPS to help detect where fish are caught and a monitor and computer control center with a portable hard drive that will later be returned to Mote for viewing and data analysis.

Red Tide Report 10.6.16

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A bloom of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists in Southwest Florida from Pinellas to Collier counties.

Karenia brevis was observed in background to high concentrations in six samples collected from Pinellas County; background to high concentrations in eleven samples collected from Manatee County; background to high concentrations in thirty-two samples collected from Sarasota County; background to low concentrations in five samples collected from Charlotte County; background to medium concentrations in eight samples collected from Lee County; and background to high concentrations in ten samples collected from Collier County.

Additional samples collected throughout Florida over the past week did not contain K. brevis.

Fish kills affecting multiple species have been reported along Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties; respiratory irritation has been reported in these same areas. Forecasts for Southwest Florida by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show net offshore movement of surface waters, and southern, onshore movement of subsurface waters between southern Pinellas and Collier counties over the next 3 days.

DEP announces Water-Quality Restoration Grant opportunities

Grants available to assist Florida communities with water-quality improvement; Application deadline Nov. 1st

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is currently soliciting applications for the next cycle of funding through its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Water-Quality Restoration Grant Program. Through this program, DEP awards funding to local communities and water management districts to implement and construct projects designed to reduce pollutant loads to impaired waters from stormwater discharges. The application deadline is Nov. 1, 2016, at 5 p.m. EST for the current round of funding.

"The department is pleased to partner with local communities by providing grant funding to benefit water quality," said Trina Vielhauer, director of the Division of Water Restoration Assistance. "We encourage local governments to apply for funding assistance for eligible projects to improve water quality in their area."

Funded through annual appropriations from the Florida Legislature, TMDL grants focus on projects designed to restore impaired springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries which need help meeting Florida's stringent water-quality standards.

Specifically, the TMDL grant program provides funding assistance for communities to implement projects to better manage or treat stormwater. Stormwater runoff is generated when rain flows over land or impervious surfaces and does not seep into the ground. As the runoff flows over paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops, it accumulates debris, nutrients, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is left untreated and runs into nearby surface waters.

Examples of projects that were recently awarded TMDL grants from the July 2016 cycle include:

Leesburg: Awarded $250,000 to construct dry retention swales with underdrains along a 1,200-foot former railroad right-of-way, which will provide stormwater treatment for the Heritage Estates neighborhood. Currently, untreated stormwater flows into Lake Harris, part of the Upper Oklawaha River Basin.

Maitland: Awarded $400,000 to replace discharge pipes to direct stormwater flow into sediment-removing baffle boxes before heading into the 8-acre Lake Gem. Additionally, the accumulated sediment in Lake Gem, which contains phosphorous, will be removed by mechanical dredging. This project is part of the Lake Jesup Basin Management Action Plan and fulfills a portion of Maitland’s required phosphorous reduction allocation.

Winter Haven: Awarded $750,000 for water-quality improvements to Lake Conine by restoring a 33-acre parcel owned by the city, and reducing pollutants in the Upper Peace Creek Watershed area. Future phases of the project will include constructing recreational features such as walking trails, picnic pavilions, boardwalks, fishing piers and playgrounds.

The department ranks projects for funding based on the impaired status of the associated water body, the water-quality improvement benefit (the estimated pollutant load reductions the project is designed to achieve), the cost-effectiveness of the project, and the percentage of local matching funds. Another consideration is whether the applicant has a dedicated revenue source to continue effective stormwater management in the future.

Since 2002, the department has awarded more than $114 million in TMDL grants, including $5.4 million awarded in fiscal year 2015-16 and $1.4 million in fiscal year 2016-17, to date.

Visit the TMDL Water-Quality Restoration Grant Program webpage for more information on the application process and qualification requirements.

Two recent cleanups a boon to local watersheds

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Raising consciousness about clean, healthy, living water is fundamental to making our community a better place.

On September, 24th, Rising Tide International conducted a cleanup of Phillippi Creek, with dozens of volunteers paddling kayaks around the mangrove tunnels and near the mouth of Phillippi Creek to remove accumulated plastic and other debris from the creek's large mangrove forest.

On October 8th, the Friends of Red Bug Slough gathered for another cleanup of the Preserve on Saturday October 8, 2016. After their work during two previous cleanups, the property is pretty clean along the main trails, but the Friends still found plenty of trash in the lake and off the beaten paths.

Coming up at Red Bug Slough is an Air Potato Roundup, hosted by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and Around the Bend Nature Tours on November 5 at 9 a.m. Contact Darcy to sign up at (941) 955-8085 or email darcy@sarasotabay.org

Community involvement is essential to ensuring the continued health of Sarasota County's watersheds. If you would like to plan a cleanup or other watershed event in your neighborhood, please call the Sarasota County Contact Center and ask for the NEST coordinator: (941) 861-5000 or contactcenter@scgov.net

Photos and more information about these two events are below:

Storm reels in Longboat Key fish kills

Longboat Key beaches were scoured of red tide by storm winds and waves.

Island canals were not.

Longboat Key officials went to work Monday on a fish kill cleanup in select canals north of Putter Lane where the heaviest concentration of dead fish washed up. The cleanup will move north until as much of the dead fish are removed as possible, according to a town report.

A handful of Longboat Key canals are still burdened with redolent red tide remains, said Juan Florensa, Public Works Department director. Red tide occurs in the fall when algal blooms grow out of control while producing harmful respiratory effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals and birds.

“There’s a certain amount of dead, stinking fish in the canals,” Florensa said. “The beaches were cleaned up. No one is complaining about the beaches. But we’ve gotten complaints about the canals and are monitoring the canals on a daily basis.”

The canal cleanup was planned even before Bay Isles Harbor Association President Tim Clarke wrote Longboat Key Town Hall over the weekend to complain on behalf of 67 property owners.

Longboat Key dredging delayed again by hurricane

It takes 14 hours to pull a dredge from Longboat Key to Tampa Bay.

The crew from Norfolk Dredging Co. of Chesapeake, Va., would know. It’s had to do it twice in five weeks.

Hurricane Hermine first drove the dredge out of New Pass off Longboat Key to Tampa in early September.

Knowing Hurricane Matthew’s outer bands would reach Longboat last week prompted project manager Steve Bassett, of NDC, to move his 150-foot-long cutterhead pipeline hydraulic dredge to Tampa once again to safe harbor.

When his crew members returned at 5 a.m. Monday, they told Bassett storm damage on the beach was minimal, he said. Sand pumping resumed at 10 a.m.

“We have no significant erosion,” Bassett said. “Last time (with Hermine), we hade some significant erosion.”

Mote Marine Lab among organizations monitoring red tide

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Mote Marine Laboratory scientists and others are monitoring some elevated levels of the naturally occurring Florida red tide algae, Karenia brevis, along southwest Florida. Mote encourages the public to follow online updates.

K. brevis, the single-celled, harmful algae that causes Florida red tide, occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico at concentrations considered as “background”. During bloom conditions, concentrations can increase to “very low”, “low”, “medium”, and “high” levels. Recently, some samples in Southwest Florida have revealed “medium” to “not present/background” counts of K. brevis.

When Florida red tide algae cells are present in concentrations elevated above normal “background” levels, people can experience varying degrees of eye, nose, and throat irritation while at the shore or on the water. When a person leaves an area with a red tide, symptoms usually go away. People with asthma, COPD or other chronic respiratory conditions are cautioned to avoid areas with active red tides. Red tide concentrations elevated to levels “low” or above can cause respiratory irritation and may also kill fish. Many factors, including algae distribution, currents and winds, can determine whether effects are noticeable.

Recent monitoring results

Water samples collected by the Florida Department of Health Monday, Oct.10, along Sarasota County and analyzed by Mote showed not present/background to medium K. brevis cell counts in all 16 locations.

Three locations had medium concentrations of K. brevis, including Ringling Causeway, Lido Casino and South Lido Park. North Lido Beach showed low concentrations. Longboat Key Beach showed very low concentrations and the rest of the locations showed zero to background concentrations.

As of Tuesday evening (Oct. 11th), Mote’s Beach Conditions Reporting System has reported slight respiratory irritation on some beaches including Manasota Beach, Lido Key and Nokomis and some dead fish on Siesta Key.

The FWC posts red tide status reports on Wednesdays and Fridays; to view this report and to track red tide blooms, visit MyFWC.com/RedTideStatus.

Judge refuses to block changes to Florida's water quality standards

An administrative law judge has refused to block the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from moving forward with new water-quality standards as legal battles continue over the controversial plan.

Judge Bram D.E Canter issued an order Monday rejecting a request by the Seminole Tribe of Florida for a stay that would have at least temporarily halted the formal process of adopting the standards. The tribe sought the stay as it pursues an appeal of an earlier ruling that tossed out a series of challenges to the standards.

In Monday's order, Canter sided with attorneys for the Department of Environmental Preservation and the state Environmental Regulation Commission who argued that the tribe was unlikely to be successful in the appeal.

"In order to prevail on a motion for stay, a party must demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits and that it will suffer irreparable harm if the stay is not granted," Canter wrote. "This required demonstration was not made in the (tribe's) motion."

Army Corps defines wetland, sides with Harbor Sound developer

A line has been drawn on the shoreline of Perico Island.

It’s a jurisdictional line for developer Pat Neal that separates federal wetlands from uplands.

And while Neal has not yet won the prize — the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit to build in the wetlands and destroy about 1 acre of mangroves on the 3.46 acre building site — he’s won this battle.

The determination puts the federal wetlands line “precisely where we said it was a year ago,” Neal said, contrary to objections from former Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash and some environmental groups.

Neal, a developer and head of Neal Communities, submitted a map to the Corps designating wetlands and uplands and, in September 2015, began site work for a four-home compound adjacent to Harbour Isle.

Called to the site after residents and others complained of a wetlands intrusion, the Corps enforcement division, along with other federal agencies, visited a year ago.

In a Sept. 22 email, Corps public information officer Nakeir Nobles wrote that the determination informs Neal of the federal wetlands to “assess possible impacts.”

“At the applicant’s request, we finalized an approved jurisdictional determination … we asserted enforcement discretion, resulting in no action taken,” she added.

White House to recognize Mote scientist as champion of champion of change for sustainable seafood

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Friday, Oct. 7, the White House will recognize 12 people from across the country as “White House Champions of Change for Sustainable Seafood.”

One of those Champions is Dr. Kevan Main, Senior Scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota County, Florida, where she serves as Director of the 200-acre Mote Aquaculture Research Park. Main is Past President and a current member of the World Aquaculture Society, and she has led Mote’s aquaculture research efforts since 2001, guiding the development of Mote’s inland, re-circulating aquaculture systems that raise marine fish while recycling 100 percent of the salt water and using fish wastes to fertilize salt-loving plants.

“No Swim” advisory lifted at Turtle and Nokomis

​SARASOTA COUNTY – A "No Swim" Advisory that has been in place at Turtle and Nokomis Beaches since Thursday, Sept. 29 has been lifted today. All advisories from last week have been lifted. Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County officials received testing results today that were at a satisfactory level for enterococcus bacteria meeting both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state recreational water standards. Residents and visitors may return to swimming and other water sports at these beach sites.

The "No Swim" advisory signage will be removed; however, Red Tide advisory signage for the Karenia brevis algae bloom currently off the coastline will remain in place until conditions improve. The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County monitors water quality weekly at 16 sites along Sarasota's 34 miles of beaches. The intent of this program is to provide county residents and visitors with accurate, up-to-date information on the water quality at our beaches. At this time, there are no advisories in place on any Sarasota beaches.

When making beach day plans, be sure to check the latest reports on beach conditions. Click here for beach water testing results.

Red tide continues to kill sea life, annoy beachgoers

The stench is evident as soon the door opens to the outside.

Christina and Jimmie Robbs, who traveled from Greeley, Colorado, arrived Sept. 24 to find area beaches cluttered with dead fish. They were lingering near the Coquina Beach concession area when asked for a comment about the red tide.

“It’s Mother Nature. There’s nothing we can do about it,” Jimmie Robbs said. The couple packed up and left the island later in search of a better beach.

A rank odor of dead fish and sea life continued to permeate on much of Anna Maria Island Sept. 29 as a heavy concentration of red tide persisted.

Parking lots at public beaches were virtually empty. Lifeguards were displaying warnings and the Manatee County public works tractor continued raking and removing fish carcasses from the shore.

The bloom of the microscopic organism Karenia brevis, though common in the Gulf of Mexico and ocean waters, was experiencing a particularly heavy outbreak. The algae bloom, which discolors the water and sometimes appears red — hence the name — is associated with the production of neurotoxins and depletes dissolved oxygen. It can prove deadly for fish and other marine life and dangerous for those on land.

Sarasota discharges 124,000 gallons of treated, reclaimed water into bayou

SARASOTA — During heavy rains on Monday, a 36-inch discharge pipe in the city of Sarasota malfunctioned, releasing 124,000 gallons of reclaimed water into Whitaker Bayou.

The water was fully treated, disinfected and dechlorinated, and poses no health risk, the city said.

It exited from a broken fitting into a catch basin on 18th Street and drained as runoff into the bayou.

The city says it is permitted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to discharge this water into Whitaker Bayou and has done so for years.

The affected area was later cleaned and repaired.

Big Pass dredging may benefit Perico Preserve

MANATEE COUNTY — If the city of Sarasota proceeds with a controversial dredging project in Big Pass, Manatee County will benefit by allowing the city to use Perico Preserve as a seagrass mitigation site.

The city wants to coordinate a project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to use about 1.2 million cubic yards of sand from Big Pass to rebuild 1.5 miles of beach on Lido Key.

Big Pass separates Lido Key to the north and Siesta Key to the south.

Responding to concerns from the Siesta Key Association that the project could harm that island’s beaches, the Sarasota County Commission recently asked the corps, which initially reached a “finding of no significant impact” in assessing the project, to conduct a more thorough environmental study.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection intends to review a second round of documentation about the project by Oct. 1.

The dredging would reportedly affect about 1.68 acres of seagrass.

To mitigate that damage, the city offered to create from 2.9 to 3.2 acres of seagrass at Manatee County’s preserve on Perico Island.