From Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Director Dave Tomasko:
The SBEP and its stakeholders are working hard to improve the health of Sarasota Bay, by acting on pollutant loads from wastewater and stormwater, by working to better inform the public about things they can do on their own to help with bay recovery, by deploying more oysters and artificial reefs into the bay, and by increasing public access to the bay, so that the general public has more opportunities to experience (and thus care about) this beautiful bay.
We’ve hopefully helped make the point that for all the work that we do locally, we are still going to be impacted by activities outside of our direct control. Piney Pont comes to mind, but also - red tide. While humans don’t cause red tide, we can cause it to be worse due to nutrient enrichment. By far, the biggest nutrient load to the coastal waters of Southwest Florida is the Caloosahatchee River (CR). The CR has a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), developed by the Flroida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), that calls for an approximate 20% load reduction, similar to our preliminary load reduction target for Sarasota Bay. Reaching that 20% nitrogen load reduction target for our 150 square mile watershed will require the expenditure of multiple hundreds of millions of dollars spent on wastewater upgrades and stormwater retrofits. Now consider the fact that the CR watershed extends not only to Lake Okeechobee, but also includes the waterways that drain into Lake O, which extend all the way up to north of Orlando. How close are we to bringing about that proposed 20% nitrogen load reduction for the CR watershed? Not very close – at all. Which means, land uses and pollutant loads from outside of our watershed will continue to make future red tides bigger, more toxic, and longer lasting, and that will likely be the case for years to come, if not decades, unfortunately.