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

Water-Related News

Protect sea turtles: Keep light out of sight

Keep light out of sight during sea turtle nesting season

SARASOTA COUNTY - Sarasota County beaches play host to the largest population of nesting sea turtles on the Florida's Gulf Coast from May 1 through Oct. 31, and residents are urged to keep light out of sight and remove unused beach furniture and coastal structures during that time.

Averaging over 200 sea turtle nests per mile along Sarasota County's coastline, only one out of every 1,000 hatchlings survive to adulthood. Most die from predators, and the exhaustion and starvation caused by disorienting bright, artificial lights.

Here are some ways to help sea turtles beat the odds:

  • Each night, remove all furniture and recreational items from the beach and store them in an area landward of the beach and dunes.
  • Properly dispose of trash. Sea turtles ingest plastic bags, and garbage attracts predators that eat turtle eggs.
  • Knock down sand sculptures and fill in holes before you leave the beach so turtles have direct access into and out of the water. A turtle that falls into a hole cannot get out.
  • Reduce use of flashlights on the beach at night.
  • Recreate in locations away from marked nesting areas.
  • Property owners must either extinguish all white lights visible from the beach or replace them with amber or red light-emitting diodes (LED) or low-pressure sodium vapor (LPS) bulbs and pair them with shielded fixtures.

For questions or assistance with adjusting the lighting on your property, contact Sarasota County’s Sea Turtle Protection Program at 941-861-5000 or visit scgov.net (keywords sea turtle lighting guide).

To report an injured or dead sea turtle, contact the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

Additional information is available by calling the Sarasota County Contact Center at (941) 861-5000 or visiting scgov.net.

Longboat Key plans wet well upgrades, generator replacement

The projects will help the town to satisfy state consent order connected to sewer spill.

Longboat Key town commissioners voted unanimously Monday to move forward with a pair of projects to satisfy a state consent order connected to the town's June 2020 sewage line break.

The town is proposing to bypass, clean, repair and line a wet well at Master Lift Station D on Gulf Bay Road, which would cost about $182,000. The plan also includes spending another $100,000 to replace a 2006 backup generator at the lift station.

For now, commissioners decided to forego enhancing the seawall at Bayfront Park. There was also consideration of conducting a living shoreline study with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

Regional water authority talks cyber security

Regional water supply officials say the Peace River system is safer than the small Florida community that was hacked and nearly poisoned in February.

One major difference between the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority and the Oldsmar community near Tampa is the Peace River system is not connected to the internet, Deputy Director Mike Coates told the water authority commissioners Wednesday in Charlotte County.

Unlike the Oldsmar system of 15,000 people, the regional water authority serves about 1 million people in three counties — Charlotte, DeSoto and Sarasota with Manatee participating for future interests. The regional authority has about 80 miles of pipeline.

Regional water authority plans ahead for huge capital costs

Proposed budget increases for the regional water supplier would only add about 12 cents to a typical user in 2022, even with a big jump in capital spending expected to start in the near future.

The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Authority Commission met Wednesday [Mar. 31st] in Charlotte County with a commissioner from each of DeSoto, Charlotte, Sarasota and Manatee counties. Water authority staff presented the five and 20-year capital improvement projects as part of the fiscal year 2022 budget. The budget must be voted on Aug. 4. Commissioners will hear the full budget presentation on June 2.

Consultants for the authority are finishing a feasibility study to build a third reservoir that is much larger than the first two, although how large has not been determined, Deputy Director Mike Coates told The Daily Sun. The biggest reservoir online now holds about 6 billion gallons and was completed in 2009. The first 500 million gallon reservoir was built by General Development Corporation, which went bankrupt in the 1980s. Charlotte County bought out its utilities operations and the regional water authority bought out the regional facilities in 1991.

The massive debt for buying out General Development, which many consider to be a bad deal on the public side, will finally be paid off in 2022, Director Pat Lehman told the commission. That will reduce the annual budget by almost $2 million a year.

Sarasota Bay Estuary Program helps us to ‘Sort Through the Green Stuff’

What is it? Algae, cyanobacteria, or seagrass?

This past week, the four Florida National Estuary Programs, along with local and regional partners, convened a 3-day workshop around the topic of macroalgae. Macroalgae refers to larger species of algae, whose individuals you can see without a microscope. Seaweed is another name commonly used.

If you’ve been out in Sarasota Bay or the Gulf, chances are, you’ve probably stumbled across this “green or brown stuff” floating in the water or tumbling along the seafloor. However, it is important to note that not all the green/brown stuff you may see is algae. It could be cyanobacteria or marine plants. So what exactly is the difference between the three?

North Port releases “ Scoop Scoop Baby” music video

In honor of International Pooper Scooper Week, the City of North Port Parks & Recreation Department launched a new parody music video in partnership with The Rock Box Music School & Stage. The goal? To remind residents that they can help protect our waterways and keep our parks clean by properly disposing their pet waste. The video can be enjoyed at https://youtu.be/R9_7ZcmZAiM or seen on the North Port Parks & Recreation Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/NorthPortParksAndRec.

“We wanted to remind our community in an entertaining way that we have a responsibility as pet owners to be good neighbors and pick up after our animals,” said Laura Ansel, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator. “We hope that this catchy song will have everyone scooping along with us.”

Pet waste that isn’t properly disposed of is not only smelly and unsightly, but it contains harmful fecal bacteria which can pose a health risk for pets and people, especially children. When it rains, fecal bacteria can be washed into our waterways, which supplies our drinking water. Pet waste left anywhere is a potential public health risk.

The good news, people can help scoop the poop and prevent poo-llution by bringing a scooper bag with them on walks, scooping up pet waste, and tossing it into the trash. Less dog waste means a happier and healthier community for all.

For more information, visit www.CityOfNorthPort.com/Scoop or call 941-429-PARK(7275).

Red tide develops in Sarasota County

SARASOTA — Red tide is an unusually persistent harmful algal bloom in our water caused by Karenia brevis, a type of algae that produces potent neurotoxins.

It can be deadly to sea life. The toxins can also be suspended in the air near beaches and cause human respiratory illness.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reported Wednesday that low levels of red tide have now been measured as far north as Sarasota County (Turtle Beach).

FWC has measured high levels at times around Ft. Myers to Naples since December 2020, which has included fish kills and odor along some of the beaches. High levels of red tide were reported today by FWC, just west of North Captiva Island in Lee County.

10 tips to save water for “Water Conservation Month”

While the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) encourages water conservation year-round, there is extra emphasis each April for Water Conservation Month. April is historically one of the driest months of the year and typically marks the peak demand season for public water suppliers.

With these 10 simple tips, you can lower your monthly water bill and do your part to save hundreds of gallons of water:

INDOOR

  • Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full.
  • Use the shortest clothes washing cycle for lightly soiled loads; normal and permanent-press wash cycles use more water.
  • Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or microwave, not under running water.
  • Scrape, don’t rinse, your dishes before loading in the dishwasher.
  • Install high-efficiency showerheads, faucets and toilets.

OUTDOOR

  • Check your home’s irrigation system for leaks.
  • Turn off your irrigation system and only water as needed.
  • Don’t leave sprinklers unattended. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn sprinklers off.
  • Use a hose with a shut-off nozzle when washing the car.
  • Consider installing a rain barrel with a drip irrigation system for watering your landscaping. Rainwater is free and better for your plants because it doesn’t contain hard minerals.

Leaks are the biggest water waster, both inside and outside of your home. You can use your water meter to check for leaks. Turn off all faucets and water-using appliances and make sure no one uses water during the testing period. Wait for the hot water heater and ice cube makers to refill and for regeneration of water softeners. Go to your water meter and record the current reading. Wait 30 minutes. (Remember, no water should be used during this period.) Read the meter again. If the reading has changed, you have a leak.

For more information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Conservation.

Longboat Key considers funding model for canal dredging

It would cost the town about $11.4 million to start the program.

The town of Longboat Key is looking into the development of a canal-dredging program and the details on how to and who should pay for it.

During a presentation at the March 22 Town Commission workshop meeting, Longboat Key projects manager Charlie Mopps estimated the program startup would cost about $11.4 million.

“The goal is an ongoing funded program, not just the project,” Mopps said. “It’s a program.”

Mopps based the startup projection on Charlotte County, where he managed the county’s waterway system for 15 years. He also used the town’s beach renourishment projects as a guide.

Gulf Coast fish farm permit will get second look under Biden Administration

The facility, which would be operated by Hawaii-based company Ocean Era, would host 20,000 almaco jack in a pen suspended 45 miles offshore in the Gulf. The EPA granted the company a discharge permit last October.

Under direction from the Biden administration, the Environmental Protection Agency is revisiting a permit granted to a proposed industrial fish farm off the coast of Sarasota.

WUSF's Cathy Carter spoke about the future of deep-sea aquaculture with environmental attorney Marianne Cufone. She's also executive director of Recirculating Farms Coalition, one of more than 50 groups that signed on to a letter urging the new administration to take a second look at the EPA permit and to undo an order from the Trump administration that could accelerate the construction of off shore finfish farming nationwide.

Marianne, this planned facility known as Velella Epsilon would be the first finfish farming project in federal waters. You're group is part of the Don’t Cage Our Oceans Coalition. Can you remind us— what are environmentalists' concerns with offshore aquaculture?

Things like escapes where fish get out of the pens. There's the potential for them to intermix with or overtake wild fish populations, competing for mates and habitat and food. Other issues are pollution from the cages because any food, waste or chemicals that are used in the cages can flow directly into the natural environment. And of course, they also take up real space in the environment, causing conflicts with existing industries like fishing and boating and diving so there are a whole host of concerns that come along with creating a new aquaculture industry offshore in the United States.

LBK Gulfside Road beach access temporarily closed

The beach access point at 6399 Gulfside Road will remain closed until mid-April.

The town of Longboat Key has temporarily closed its public beach access point at 6399 Gulfside Road.

Friday’s closure is expected to last until mid-April because of work on its beach renourishment project.

“It’s basically only open for residential foot traffic and the contractor is in the process of mobilizing their equipment,” said Longboat Key town projects manager Charlie Mopps.

The next closest public beach access points to 6399 Gulfside Road are about 1 mile north at 6847 Gulf of Mexico Drive and another at 100 Broadway Street.

“We’re doing our best to kind of mitigate impacts, but at the same time we have to allow, because of the benefits that ultimately this project is going to provide to the citizens, the work to actually go on,” Mopps said.

Mopps said he anticipates the town will close other beach access points in the coming months.

2021 Beach Project Schedule »

City of Sarasota offering lifeguarding course

The City of Sarasota Parks and Recreation District is offering another fantastic American Red Cross Lifeguarding blended learning course!

The course is taught by the city's Head Lifeguard and Recreation Leader. Together they will teach you to help others stay safe in, on, and around the water, and help you learn the latest safety and rescue techniques, and how to deliver critical care, like CPR, first aid, and AED administration, when it is needed most.

Every class will cover important skills that will not only help you stay safe while helping others enjoy the water safely but can help you begin, or advance, your career in aquatics.

DATE & TIME

  • Thursday, April 8, 2021, 3:30 pm - 7:00 pm
  • Friday, April 9, 2021, 3:30 pm - 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, April 10, 2021, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Participants must attend all classes to receive a certificate.

FEE: $225 per participant

PREREQUISITES

  • Must be at least 15-years-old by the last day of class.
  • Pass swimming skills test at the beginning of the course.

HOW TO REGISTER

UF scientists to probe downstream ecological impacts of stormwater ponds

GAINESVILLE — Florida teems with rain. Depending on where you live, you might get 40 to 60 inches annually. That rain must go somewhere. Enter Florida’s 76,000 stormwater ponds. When it rains, the water runs off the land, bringing chemicals, grass clippings, lawn debris and more from the landscape into these ponds.

Yet little to no research analyzes downstream ecological impacts from those ponds. Stormwater ponds were originally designed to reduce downstream flooding and are expected to provide water quality benefits by preventing things like sediments or nutrients from entering natural water bodies.

Although ponds do help water quality, research has shown that ponds aren’t as good at removing nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen as they were originally designed. Nutrients not removed by the ponds might go from the stormwater pond – which collects the rain and debris – to nearby bodies of water.

A University of Florida scientist will embark on a study this summer, using Manatee County as his lab. But his results will apply to much of Florida, including Tampa Bay and Biscayne Bay.

Submit photos now for 2022 CHNEP Nature Calendar Photography Contest

The Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership welcomes your photography submissions of nature in the CHNEP area. Our annual photo contest site is now underway. Please join in the fun and help CHNEP spread the word!

The CHNEP annual nature calendar showcases the beauty and diversity of its program area and is distributed to thousands all over Southwest Florida.

Submissions will be accepted until July 1st and winners will be notified mid-September. To learn more about submission guidelines or to enter the contest, please click on the link below:

FWC completes Peace River restoration project with USFWS

Its completion comes after nine months of working to restore two severely eroding riverbanks in southwest Florida.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has completed a nine-month project to restore two severely eroding riverbanks along the Peace River in southwest Florida.

Biologists from the FWC joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to complete the project.

The project started when the FWC completed an assessment of the Peace River, which included an evaluation of more than 300 miles of stream.

Through that assessment, the FWC identified locations for several critical projects that showed streambank erosion, including a 450-foot bank just south of Zolfo Springs and a 1,000-foot stretch of riverbank south of Arcadia.

Such erosion and associated channel sedimentation are the leading causes of habitat degradation and biodiversity decline in Florida rivers and streams, making them a priority for the FWC. Erosion and sedimentation are accelerated by changes to flow rates and patterns, often caused by development within the river’s watershed, and loss of shoreline vegetation.