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

Water-Related News

EPA proposes revising certain water quality standards for Florida’s waters

ATLANTA – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule to establish new and revised federal water quality standards (WQS) for the state of Florida based on the latest scientific knowledge about protecting human health.

“EPA continues to take strong action to ensure that our nation’s waters are safe for all,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “This proposed rule, if finalized, would update water quality standards for Florida’s water bodies to reflect the current science and continue to protect the health of Floridians.”

Under the Clean Water Act, state governments, or EPA, when necessary, set limits (called “human health criteria”) for pollutants in water bodies that pose risks to human health through the consumption of drinking water or locally caught fish and shellfish. EPA is proposing new or revised criteria for a total of 73 priority toxic pollutants.

On December 1, 2022, EPA issued an Administrator’s Determination that Florida’s current standards – last updated in 1992 – do not reflect the latest science or the current habits of Floridians. Since 1992, national and regional data have become available that indicate greater levels of fish consumption, particularly among residents of coastal states like Florida. In addition, Florida does not have human health criteria for 37 pollutants that are likely to be in its waters. New data have become available since 1992 on the specific toxic pollutants that are likely to be present in Florida’s waters, and how those pollutants may impact Florida’s designated uses. EPA’s proposed rule accounts for more recent evidence on fish consumption rates and, as a result, proposes criteria that are more protective of Floridians that consume fish caught in the state.

In addition, EPA’s rule proposes criteria to protect subsistence fishers in and around Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve where Tribes hold reserved rights to fish for subsistence.

The Agency will accept comments on this proposal for 60 days upon publication in the Federal Register. EPA will also hold two online public hearings on this proposal. Learn more about the proposed rule and public hearings.

Florida discontinues manatee winter feeding program after seagrass conditions improve

Wildlife officials say a two-year experimental feeding program for starving Florida manatees will not immediately resume this winter as conditions have improved for the threatened marine mammals and the seagrass on which they depend.

A two-year experimental feeding program for starving Florida manatees will not immediately resume this winter as conditions have improved for the threatened marine mammals and the seagrass on which they depend, wildlife officials said.

Thousands of pounds of lettuce were fed to manatees that typically gather in winter months near the warm-water discharge of a power plant on Florida's east coast. State and federal wildlife officials launched the program after pollution killed off vast seagrass beds, leading to a record of over 1,100 manatee deaths in 2021.

This season, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the seagrass has started to recover in key winter foraging areas on the east coast, and that there appear to be fewer manatees in poor physical condition going into the stressful colder months.

“After careful consideration, the agencies are not providing manatees with a supplemental food source at the beginning of the winter season,” the FWC said Friday in a notice on its website. “However, staff developed a contingency plan which they will implement if needed.”

Last year, more than 400,000 pounds (181,000 kilograms) of lettuce, most of it donated, was fed to manatees near the power plant in Cocoa, Florida.

2024 CHNEP Nature Calendars are now available

2024 Nature Calendars Are Here!

The Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership is thrilled to be able to produce an annual nature calendar that showcases the environment and wildlife from our program area as well as an educational insert.

The annual CHNEP Nature Calendars have been printed and are in the process of being distributed to individual subscribers and can also be picked up at the libraries listed below. Click on the map to find the location nearest to you:

  • Manatee County Library
  • Charlotte County Library
  • Polk County Library
  • Hendry County Library
  • Heartland Library
  • DeSoto Library
  • Glades Library
  • Hardee County Library
  • Sarasota County Library

Timetable to replace lead water pipes could be accelerated

The Environmental Protection Agency said Florida has the most lead water lines in the nation.

TAMPA — Lead exposure in children is still a problem.

Experts said it can come from paint in older homes or aging water pipes.

Pediatrician Dr. Rachel Dawkins is with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

She said there is added danger for children, whose brains and nervous systems are growing and developing, so any exposure to lead can be concerning.

“We think about lead exposure in kids causing neurodevelopment disabilities, so it might cause some problems with learning. Some problems with behavior. It can cause lower IQs,” said Dawkins.

Many cities have older water pipes made from lead.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a new rule that would require them to be replaced within ten years.

That’s speeding progress toward a goal from the Biden Administration to remove all lead pipes.

Gulf Stream weakening now 99% certain, and ramifications will be global

A new analysis has concluded that the Gulf Stream is definitely slowing, but whether it's due to climate change is hard to tell.

The Gulf Stream is almost certainly weakening, a new study has confirmed.

The flow of warm water through the Florida Straits has slowed by 4% over the past four decades, with grave implications for the world's climate.

The ocean current starts near Florida and threads a belt of warm water along the U.S. East Coast and Canada before crossing the Atlantic to Europe. The heat it transports is essential for maintaining temperate conditions and regulating sea levels.

But this stream is slowing down, researchers wrote in a study published Sept. 25 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"This is the strongest, most definitive evidence we have of the weakening of this climatically-relevant ocean current," lead-author Christopher Piecuch, a physical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, said in a statement.

The Gulf Stream is just a small component of the thermohaline circulation — a global conveyor belt of ocean currents that moves oxygen, nutrients, carbon and heat around the planet, while also helping to control sea levels and hurricane activity.

EcoSummit focuses on coping with Sarasota’s growth

For tickets to the EcoSummit, Green Living Expo and Ever-GREEN Days, visit this link

The December event aims to open conversations about balancing nature and development.

As state and local governments continue to expand to accommodate growing populations, a local non-profit believes they also bear a responsibility to invest in natural resources.

“If we continue to grow our built environment, we need to grow the natural environment, treating it as if it’s an essential utility,” said David Shafer. “You add roads; add more beaches, more parks. If you add more sidewalks and hard surfaces, you need to add more stormwater treatment, and not just the kind stored in a concrete vault, a living system that can do those actions so much better.”

Shafer and his wife, Jennifer Shafer, are co-executive directors of the Science and Environment Council, a non-profit that aims to bring together stakeholders and key members of the community to develop plans to address environmental concerns. They have been married for 23 years, lived in Sarasota for 14 years after moving from Hawaii, where they both received their Ph.Ds at the University of Hawaii.

The Science and Environment Council will host the EcoSummit on Dec. 5-6 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, an event designed to open conversation surrounding solutions for the balance of nature and human growth.

The Sarasota-Manatee area is the second fastest growing area in the country, according to US Real Estate News. According to the Shafers, growth is stressing “ecosystem services,” such as clean air, clean water, fish and wildlife, recreational water.

“The main theme of this summit is needing to (discuss) the impacts of population growth, development and climate increase,’’ Jennifer Shafer said. “We need to increase the capacity of the environment to accommodate or mitigate those impacts, in order to maintain the quality of life that we have now.”

A key goal of the summit is also to re-establish Sarasota as a leader in environmental solutions, and reconnect the community after the COVID-19 pandemic.

USF survey finds that many homeowners don't realize they're unprotected from flooding risks

The USF St. Petersburg study showed that 73% of the 1,667 residents polled mistakenly believe that they have flood insurance, while less than 5% actually have coverage.

A new survey by researchers from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg Customer Experience Lab found that most U.S. homeowners remain unprotected from floods.

In addition, it found that there are varying risk perceptions among different age groups.

The annual report, made in collaboration with Neptune Flood Insurance, showed that 73% of the 1,667 residents polled mistakenly believed that they had flood insurance.

The St. Petersburg-based Neptune is the country's largest private flood insurance provider.

Despite flooding being among the most common natural disasters in the United States — causing an average of $5 billion in damage each year — less than 5% of the homeowners polled actually have flood insurance.

52.6% of respondents said that flood risk was a minor factor in their home purchase decision, while 23.6% said it was a major factor.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nearly one in five homes in the United States will experience a flood during a 30-year mortgage.

The study suggests that many homeowners perceive purchasing flood insurance to be confusing, which could relate to the fact that, until recently, theNational Flood Insurance Program was the only provider and educational source for homeowners for over five decades.

Sea turtle nests break records on US beaches, but global warming threatens their survival

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Just as they have for millions of years, sea turtles by the thousands made their labored crawl from the ocean to U.S. beaches to lay their eggs over the past several months. This year, record nesting was found in Florida and elsewhere despite growing concern about threats from climate change.

In Florida, preliminary state statistics show more than 133,840 loggerhead turtle nests, breaking a record set in 2016. Same for green turtles, where the estimate of at least 76,500 nests is well above the previous mark set in 2017.

High sea turtle nest numbers also have been reported in South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia, although not all set records like Florida, where Justin Perrault, vice president of research at Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, said the number of nests is remarkable this year.

“We had more nests than we had ever seen before on our local beaches,” said Perrault, whose organization monitors Palm Beach County and broke a local record by 4,000 nests. “That’s quite a bit of nesting.”

There are seven species of sea turtles: loggerhead, green, leatherback, hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, olive ridley and flatback. All are considered either endangered or threatened. They come ashore on summer nights, digging pits in the sand and depositing dozens of eggs before covering them up and returning to the sea. Florida beaches are one of the most important hatcheries for loggerheads in the world.

Only about one in 1,000 sea turtle hatchlings live to adulthood. They face myriad natural threats, including predators on land and in the ocean, disruptions to nests and failure to make it to the water after hatching. This year along one stretch of Florida’s Gulf Coast where 75 nests had been counted, most were wiped out by the surge from Hurricane Idalia in August.

“Unfortunately, the nests pre-Idalia were almost all lost due to the high tides and flooding on our barrier islands,” said Carly Oakley, senior turtle conservation biologist at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

What does an El Niño winter mean for Florida red tide?

Florida’s west coast has dodged a red tide outbreak so far this fall. But researchers say warm waters and extra rainfall this winter could fuel a bloom if the algae does appear.

Florida’s Gulf Coast is approaching the end of an above-average hurricane season and record marine heat, but it’s been a lackluster fall for what’s become a common beachgoers’ experience: red tide.

Last year, Tampa Bay-area red tide outbreaks started in November and lasted through the winter. The toxic algae kept many people off local beaches and resulted in a series of fish kills.

But this fall’s absence of Karenia brevis, the algae that causes red tide, has puzzled researchers.

An El Niño weather pattern, like the ongoing one, usually brings more rainfall to the Southeast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a 70% chance of above-average rainfall there this winter.

In Florida, that can mean more rainwater mixes with nutrients and becomes polluted before it dumps into waterways such as Tampa Bay, the Caloosahatchee River and Sarasota Bay, among others along the Gulf of Mexico.

Many Floridians with private wells don’t know how to take care of them

Approximately 12% of Florida’s population rely on a private well for drinking water, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

That’s about 2.5 million people. Bithlo resident Tara Turner, 50, is one of them.

After years of relying on wells for drinking water, Turner feels quite comfortable maintaining her own well today, which sets her apart from the estimated one-third of Florida well users who don’t know how to care for their wells properly, according to UF/IFAS research.

Dr. Yilin Zhuang, an environmental engineer at UF/IFAS focused on studying water resources, is working with her colleagues to expand Floridians' understanding of well safety, maintenance and testing. She leads public webinars, shares research findings, and is currently compiling resources for a website to help private well owners, which she expects to launch sometime next year.

Zhuang says ultimately, the burden falls on private well users — not a public utility — to ensure their water system is working safely and properly.

“When it comes to private well users, there are just not that many regulations,” Zhuang said. “So it all relies on private well users to manage their wells, and make sure their drinking water is safe to drink.”

Registration for 2024 Scallopalooza is now open

Sarasota Bay Watch logo

Sarasota Bay Watch is thrilled to announce our 14th annual fundraiser, Scallopalooza, We're Makin Waves, to support our mission of healthy water and vibrant ecosystems.

Sarasota Bay Watch is utilizing a multidimensional approach of clam restoration, marine debris retrieval and youth leadership to battle the environmental and human impacts on our water and positively impact our marine environment. Catch the wave and be a part of meaningful action!

Sarasota Bay Watch welcomes donations and sponsorships for this event that combines friendship, fun, and our future.

  • When: Saturday, February 24, 2024, 5:45-9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Hyatt Regency Sarasota, 1000 Blvd. of the Arts, Sarasota, FL
  • Early Bird ticket pricing available through Dec. 31st, 2023
Source: Sarasota Bay Watch

Bobby Jones Golf Club and Nature Park grand reopening slated for Dec. 15

City of Sarasota logo

Join us as we celebrate the grand reopening of Bobby Jones Golf Club & Nature Park!

  • Date: Friday, Dec. 15
  • Time: 9 a.m. to noon
  • Location: Bobby Jones Golf Club & Nature Park – 1000 Circus Blvd.

Details: Festivities will include:

  • 9 - 10 a.m.: Speakers and “Tee Off” ceremony
  • 10 a.m. - noon: Explore the restored Donald Ross golf course and new nature trails

The restored 18-hole Donald Ross-designed course will open for play the next day, Saturday, Dec. 16.

We look forward to unveiling our restored historic municipal golf course and showcasing the 300+ acres of urban green space that is permanently protected with a conservation easement managed by the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

Stay tuned for more details!

Sarasota Bay is important to offshore fisheries

SBEP logo

As you likely know, we track the health of Sarasota Bay by more than water quality alone. Our Report Card on Ecosystem Health includes two water quality parameters (the amount of nitrogen in the water and the amount of phytoplankton in the water) but also trends in seagrass coverage, and a citizen-scientist effort to collect information on the amount of macroalgae on the bay bottom. The water quality data are collected by Manatee County staff and Mote Marine Lab staff and are paid for – as has been the case for about 30 years – by Manatee and Sarasota counties. The seagrass maps are conducted by the Southwest Water Management District (SWFWMD) staff and its hired consultants.

Staff from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) sample over 200 sites in Sarasota Bay for fish populations, using various gear types. Since the gear types vary between different bay segments, we can’t really compare one part of the bay to the other, but we can track the number of fish in each bay segment over time, and we can compare our findings to those from Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor, also sampled by FFWCC.

You might have heard that “over 70% of commercially and recreationally important species of fish in the Gulf of Mexico spend at least some portion of their life cycles in estuaries.” That is true, and the photo shown on the left is proof of that. This photo is of three FFWCC staff, holding three juvenile Gag Grouper (Myctoperca microlepis) that were sampled (and then released) in upper Sarasota Bay. Without healthy estuaries, Gag Grouper and other species would not be able to complete their life cycles.

Go slow, look out below when on the water this Manatee Awareness Month

FWC logo

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is sharing the reminder that November is Manatee Awareness Month, a critical time for boaters to be on the lookout for manatees as they travel to warmer water sites around the state.

Manatees need to access water that is warmer than 68 degrees Fahrenheit to survive the winter. As temperatures start to dip in the fall, manatees travel to Florida springs, power plant discharge areas and other warm-water sites to overwinter until temperatures rise again in the spring.

Manatees, though large, can be challenging to see in the water. Boaters and watercraft operators can better spot manatees by wearing polarized glasses, going slow and abiding by all manatee protection zones. During colder months, seasonal manatee zones require boaters and personal watercraft users to reduce speed in or avoid certain areas to prevent collisions that can injure or kill manatees. Manatee protection zones are marked by waterway signs; maps of these zones are available online at

Boat strikes are a major threat to Florida manatees and FWC law enforcement officers patrol state waters, educating boaters about seasonal manatee speed zones and taking appropriate enforcement actions when necessary. Boaters and personal watercraft users are reminded to comply with the regulatory signs on waterways.

When viewing manatees as they congregate at warm-water sites, it is important to give them space. Disturbing manatees at these sites can cause them to swim out of protected areas and into potentially life-threatening cold water. Manatees are a protected species and it is illegal to harass, feed, disturb or harm them.

If you see an injured, distressed, sick or dead manatee, report it to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922) so that trained responders can assist. Do not try to physically handle an injured or sick manatee yourself, which can cause more harm to the animal and potentially put you at risk of serious injury.

Canal maintenance update leaves Longboat Key commissioners confused

Longboat Key is in need of a canal management program, but the system to pay for it is complicated.

The latest presentation of Longboat Key’s canal maintenance program was an attempt to explain an elaborate cost apportionment method, but it left commissioners with more questions than answers.

Public Works Program Manager and Assistant Director Charlie Mopps led the presentation on Nov. 6 alongside Taylor Engineering, Inc. and Anser Advisory, LLC.

The intent of the program is to support future maintenance of Longboat's 81 canals to improve navigability within the canals.

The discussion was meant to explain how funds will be collected, dividing the island into seven groups and three classifications of canals.

But after about two hours of presentation, no consensus was reached and commissioners voted to push the matter to a meeting on Dec. 11. Further delays could put it behind schedule to be included on the 2024 tax roll.

Sarasota Bay Water Quality Improving

Little Sarasota Bay, Roberts Bay, Blackburn Bay and a portion of Sarasota Bay were proposed for removal from a list of impaired waterways. But there’s still a lot to be done.

Sarasota Bay’s water quality has begun improving, though threats remain from warming sea temperatures, stormwater runoff and the legacy of more than 200 million gallons of polluted waste released from the Piney Point phosphate plant in 2021, officials say.

One of the first signs of good news for the water system that extends from Tampa Bay to Venice was recent word from state regulators that four southern sections—Little Sarasota Bay, Roberts Bay, Blackburn Bay and a portion of Sarasota Bay—were proposed for removal from a list of impaired waterways.

Environmental experts and county leaders, though, aren’t taking these initial encouraging developments as a sign that their work is done.

In Sarasota County, progress continues on the $210 million Bee Ridge Water Treatment Plant, designed to drastically reduce the release of compounds harmful to Sarasota Bay’s health. The facility is expected to open by the end of 2025.

In Manatee County, officials say they are constantly working to upgrade and rehab decades-old infrastructure that can be vulnerable to breaks and spills. About $40 million is budgeted for the next five years.

Sarasota celebrates completion of water plant rehabilitation project

Water plant is the largest of its type in the United States; designed to maximize drinking water yield from wells

Sarasota County marked the completion Monday of Phase 2 of the $52 Million rehabilitation of the Carlton Water Treatment Facility, at the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve off of Border Road near Venice.

The facility, which uses a process called electrodialysis reversal to transform groundwater pulled from wells at the T. Mabry Carlton Reserve into drinking water, opened in the mid-1990s.

The rehabilitation process began in the mid-2010s, as the 10 electrodialysis reversal units were nearing the end of their useful life.

The two-phased approach allowed the continued operation of the plant throughout the process.

Phase 1 was completed in June 2021.

Phase 2 began the following September and was completed in October.

The treatment process removes minerals and salt from brackish water drawn from wells that tap the intermediate Floridan Aquifer and treats it to be indistinguishable in taste to the surface water supplied by the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority.

SWFWMD declares Modified Phase I Water Shortage, limits some counties to once a week irrigation


Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties will be limited to once-per-week lawn watering beginning Dec. 1

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) Governing Board voted today to declare a Modified Phase I Water Shortage due to ongoing dry conditions throughout the region and increasing water supply concerns.

The restrictions apply to all of Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter counties; portions of Charlotte, Highlands and Lake counties; the City of Dunnellon and The Villages in Marion County; and the portion of Gasparilla Island in Lee County from Nov. 21, 2023 through July 1, 2024.

The District received lower than normal rainfall during its summer rainy season and currently has a 9.2-inch districtwide rainfall deficit compared to the average 12-month total. In addition, water levels in the District’s water resources, such as aquifers, rivers and lakes, are beginning to decline.

The Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order does not change allowable watering schedules for most counties, however it does prohibit “wasteful and unnecessary” water use and twice-per-week lawn watering schedules remain in effect except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments. Residents are asked to check their irrigation systems to ensure they are working properly. This means testing and repairing broken pipes and leaks, and fixing damaged or tilted sprinkler heads. Residents should also check their irrigation timer to ensure the settings are correct and the rain sensor is working properly.

However, as of Dec. 1, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties will be limited to once-per-week lawn watering. These additional restrictions are needed because Tampa Bay Water, which supplies water to most of the three-county area, was unable to completely refill the 15-billion-gallon C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir this summer due to the lower-than-normal rainfall.

Once-per-week lawn watering days and times are as follows unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours in effect (Citrus, Hernando and Sarasota counties, and the cities of Dunedin and Venice, have local ordinances that remain on one-day-per-week schedules):

If your address (house number) ends in...

  • ...0 or 1, water only on Monday
  • ...2 or 3, water only on Tuesday
  • ...4 or 5, water only on Wednesday
  • ...6 or 7, water only on Thursday
  • ...8 or 9*, water only on Friday
    * and locations without a discernible address
  • Unless your city or county already has stricter hours in effect, properties under two acres in size may only water before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.
  • Unless your city or county already has stricter hours in effect, properties two acres or larger may only water before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
  • Low-volume watering of plants and shrubs (micro-irrigation, soaker hoses, hand watering) is allowed any day and any time.

The order also requires local utilities to review and implement procedures for enforcing year-round water conservation measures and water shortage restrictions, including reporting enforcement activity to the District. The District also continues to work closely with Tampa Bay Water to ensure a sustainable water supply for the Tampa Bay region.

For additional information about the Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order, visit the District’s website For water conserving tips, visit

Sarasota Bay Estuary Program: Area water quality has improved, thanks to multiple projects

SBEP logo

As we’ve been discussing lately, we are starting to accumulate more and more evidence of an ongoing recovery of the bay’s health. We are now on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (FDEP’s) draft “De-list” for nutrient impairments for Bowlees Creek, the lower portion of Sarasota Bay proper (between Ringling Causeway and Siesta Drive), Roberts, Little Sarasota and Blackburn Bays. The other portions of the open waters of Sarasota Bay were not out of compliance with their established water quality standards for nutrient and algae concentrations in the water and weren’t considered impaired for nutrients. But these five waterbodies on the draft de-list list were previously determined to be out of compliance with their established standards, based on analysis of data from earlier years. These standards were set by SBEP, and then reviewed and approved as official water quality standards by both FDEP and the US EPA. The chlorophyll-a standards established by SBEP are pretty good – they indicated problems for most locations during years when other indicators were suggesting problems. However, the regulatory standards for “Total Nitrogen” are too high – they were not similarly exceeded when chlorophyll-a was a problem and the data for Total Phosphorus are problematic, and indicate a lab issue somewhere, it seems. We will be addressing these issues over the next year, as we work to finalize our Water Quality Protection Plan for Sarasota Bay.

Keeping Florida coastlines and oceans a key part of the economy is threatened by climate change

The Florida Ocean Alliance submitted a plan to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the legislature to help strengthen resilience and protection of the state's coastlines.

Florida's coastal counties generate about two-thirds of the state's economy. But keeping the parts of that economy that are dependent on the ocean and bays stable is becoming a challenge.

It's called the "Blue Economy." But rising seas and warming oceans are threatening parts of that economic web. That was the takeaway from a conference held last week at Tampa's port by the Florida Ocean Alliance.

The Alliance serves as a clearinghouse for information on ocean and coastal issues facing the state. The group's president, Glenn Wiltshire - deputy director of Port Everglades - said last year, they submitted a list of priorities to the governor and Legislature to strengthen coastal resilience.

"Our recommendations focused on coastal resilience and improving water and habitat quality, coastal community hazard preparedness, natural resource protection - the foundation of Florida's blue economy - and implementation of a strategic plan for Florida's oceans and coasts.," he said.

Wiltshire says the group will continue working with lawmakers to fund projects that strengthen resilience along the state's coastlines.

Instead of new homes, Sarasota golf course land could become key to bay water quality

Developer is working on a plan with Florida DEP to clean arsenic contamination to build homes but is willing to sell parcels to Sarasota County as site for stormwater improvement

The former 49-acre Gulf Gate Executive Golf Course could be one of several keys to foster the continued improvement of water quality in Sarasota Bay, or a 106-home subdivision retrofitted inside one of Sarasota County’s first master-planned communities.

Environmentalists, water quality proponents and area residents — including members of the Gulf Gate Community Association — can envision the course, laid out on three sections already interspaced between existing homes, as the site of a county project that could both provide additional stormwater cleansing and help alleviate potential flooding.

"To get 49 acres in that particular area of the county …. it would be an unbelievable acquisition,” Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Neunder said at the Oct. 24 meeting where the idea of county purchase of the course was discussed.

The golf course is the largest available parcel west of Beneva Road and is less than one mile from Sarasota Bay and less than two miles from the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Gate is part of Neunder’s district and he has worked with members of the Gulf Gate Community Association.

David Tomasko – the new executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program – said the property offers an opportunity for a large-scale regional stormwater retrofit similar to one established to help clean up Hudson Bayou, and the anticipated impact on stormwater quality that the redevelopment of the Bobby Jones Golf Course in Sarasota should have.

Mote records highest number of green sea turtle nests in Venice

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As sea turtle nesting season has officially concluded on Florida’s Southwest coast as of Oct. 31, Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program (STCRP), which patrols 35-miles from Longboat Key to Venice of beaches each day of nesting season (May 1-Oct. 31) reports their findings for another record-breaking nesting season.

Throughout the season, STCRP recorded a total of 4,284 (compared to the current record of 5,112 in 2019) nests across all sea turtle species—4,091 loggerhead nests and 193 green nests. The program also documented the highest numbers of sea turtle nests specifically, the highest number of green turtle nests ever on Venice.

Even though Hurricane Idalia impacted beaches towards the end of the season, its impact on nesting was low with 75% of nests completing their incubation prior to the storm’s arrival. The majority of the remaining nests were washed out by the storm, however, sea turtles have a natural instinct to nest several times in one season offsetting natural events.

The success of recent nesting seasons could be a result of the long-standing program and local engagement, giving the next generation of sea turtles a better chance.

“Science-based sea turtle conservation is critical for maintaining endangered and threatened species populations,” said Dr. Michael P. Crosby, Mote President & CEO. “Mote translates and transfers the interwoven science of our Sea Turtle Conservation and Research program, Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital and Strandings Investigations Research program to protect and rehabilitate these animals and their habitats. An example of a highly visible outcome of our work is the recently established voluntary Sea Turtle Protection Zone for boaters in our local waters.”

Senior Biologist and Conservation Manager Melissa Macksey is thrilled to see these numbers continue to rise and is excited to see a growth in these sea turtle species populations. In particular, green sea turtle nesting numbers which have dramatically increased in the last decade. This species recovery in the Gulf of Mexico shows conservation efforts are working and should be maintained.