Water-Related News

Group fights to warn public of polluted Billy's Creek's health dangers

Billy's Creek is alarmingly polluted, but nowhere along its 5-mile stretch are people cautioned that even touching its waters could make them sick.

Running past more than 1,000 homes and two public parks in some of Fort Myers' and Lee County's poorest neighborhoods as it makes its way to the Caloosahatchee, the creek's levels of enterococci bacteria consistently exceed government safety levels — and have since 2001.

Those bacteria indicate feces from humans or animals, and agencies have threshold danger levels. Looking at some 17 years of testing data, one site on the creek grossly exceeds that danger threshold 93 percent of the time

Yet the creek has never been been officially declared polluted, nor has any agency or government taken formal responsibility for sounding the alarm about its health risks.

Climate change consequences are catastrophic, speakers at Sarasota event warn

SARASOTA — Climate change is the single greatest crisis humanity has ever faced, an alarming assertion made Tuesday by Los Angeles-based investigative journalist Dick Russell to a crowd of more than 100 at the Suncoast Climate Change Symposium.

Russell, who wrote “Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” which introduces readers to energy moguls who are said to have contributed to the climate change crisis, cautioned the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium crowd that if the world fails to try to combat climate change, sea level rise will erase some coastal cities like Miami from the map. Hurricanes, fueled by increasingly warmer waters because of global warming, will become more intense and harsher, and longer nor’easters will slam the the northeast, leaving death and destruction in their paths.

Some swaths of the world, including parts of the U.S., will eventually become uninhabitable because of blistering temperatures, Russell said, adding 2017 was the third hottest year ever recorded.

“I hope that what I talked about today was alarming, but not ultimately so devastating that you won’t do anything, because believe me, this is the most serious situation that humanity has faced,” Russell warned.

Russell applauded the city of Sarasota for acknowledging climate change and taking action to offset and prevent its devastating effects. Trump Administration policies, however, have been counter-intuitive, Russell said. The White House is seeking to cut more than $2.5 billion from the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency — an overall reduction of more than 23 percent.

HUD sending additional $791 million to Florida for hurricane recovery

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will send $791 million to Florida through its Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program to help homes and buildings damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Matthew.

U.S. HUD Sec. Ben Carson made the announcement on Tuesday morning. HUD sent $616 million to Florida back in November to help hurricane recovery efforts.

“It’s clear that a number of states and local communities are still struggling to recover from a variety of natural disasters that occurred in the past three years,” Carson said. “These grants will help rebuild communities impacted by past disasters and will also protect them from major disasters in the future.”

Most of the money, almost $633.5 million, will go to support “mitigation activities” which HUD describes as "actions taken to protect people and property from the predictable damage from future events and can include elevating homes, property buyouts, and hardening structures from wind and water." Almost $550 million of that is in response to disasters from 2017 with the remainder, almost $84 million, in response to disasters from 2016. More than $158 million has been set aside to restore homes, businesses and infrastructure that were damaged by the storms.

HUD will issue more guidelines on how the CDBG-DR Program funds will be spent in the coming weeks. The state will now craft a disaster recovery plan which will include recommendations with local and citizen input on how the funds will be spent.

Cape Coral is cracking down on water restriction violators

CAPE CORAL – The city of Cape Coral is cracking down on residents not following the watering restrictions.

Long before the sun is up, Dave Foley is up looking for violators.

“People have to understand they cannot water anytime they want to," Foley an officer for Cape Coral Code Compliance said.

A mandatory two-day watering schedule is in place. Watering days and hours depend on the last number of an address.

“He’s supposed to water on Thursdays and Sundays," Foley said.

People caught watering on a wrong day get a violation.

“First one’s free, then it goes $100, then it goes $200, $400 and then we shut your water off," Foley said.

Foley says he's passing out about 15 citations a day.

Local freshwater fishing competition to round up non-native species

FORT MYERS – The Southwest Florida Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) will host its annual Non-Native Fish Round-up for two weekends beginning Friday, April 27, and concluding May 5 at Lee County’s Lakes Regional Park.

Southwest Florida waterways are home to several non-native freshwater fish species. Many of these non-native species have a detrimental impact on the health and populations of the region’s native fish communities. The roundup is intended to raise awareness about the harmful effects of releasing non-native fish species into local waters and to collect data about non-native fish distribution to assist wildlife-management professionals with efforts to control these species.

The competition is split into two separate events in Fort Myers and Naples. The roundups are team events, with one to four anglers per team in both youth and adult categories.

April 27-28
Location: Sugden Park, 4284 Avalon Drive, Naples
Details: Competition begins at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 27; check-in between 3-4 p.m. Saturday, April 28, with scales opening for weigh-in at 4 p.m. For children 12 and under, a non-native fishing blitz will be held 4-6 p.m. Saturday at Avalon Lake in Sugden Park.

May 4-5
Location: Lakes Regional Park, 7330 Gladiolus Drive, Fort Myers
Details: Competition begins at 3 p.m. Friday, May 4; check-in between 3-4 p.m. Saturday, May 5, with scales opening for weigh-in at 4 p.m. For children 12 and under, a non-native fishing blitz will be held on 4-6 p.m. Saturday, May 5, within the lake at Lakes Park.

Participants must register in advance in advance at www.floridainvasives.org/southwest to compete in one or both weekends. Registration is free.

Fishing during the competition is permitted in all legal freshwater fishing areas in Southwest Florida, including Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Participants must follow all state and federal fishing regulations. For more information on state regulations, visit www.myfwc.com.

Prizes will be awarded each weekend for largest non-native fish and most weight of total non-native fish caught. Additionally, a grand slam prize will be awarded to one adult angler and one youth angler who reel in the most diverse group of non-native species from either weekend. The event is co-sponsored by the Southwest Florida CISMA, UF/IFAS Extension, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Lee County Parks & Recreation, Collier County Parks & Recreation, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the Naples Zoo.

City of North Port joins in the Wyland Foundation's Mayor's Water Conservation Challenge

As North Port celebrates Water Conservation Month this April, it will be joining cities all over the country asking residents to step up and commit to decreasing water use and reducing pollution by taking part in the annual Wyland National Mayor's Challenge for Water Conservation.

The North Port City Commission approved participation in the Mayor's Water Conservation Challenge, which runs April 1-30, at last Thursday’s meeting. The Mayor’s Water Conservation Challenge is a non-profit campaign presented by the Wyland Foundation and Toyota in association with EPA WaterSense, the Toro Company, National League of Cities, Conserva Irrigation and Earth Friendly Products, that challenges residents to reduce their water use and decrease pollution for a period of one year. Last year, 4,880 cities throughout the U.S. pledged to reduce fresh water consumption by 2.2 billion gallons and this year, Mayor Carusone wants to add North Port to join the effort and accept the challenge.

It takes less than five minutes to take the simple pledge at www.mywaterpledge.com and help make North Port a winning City. If North Port has the highest percentage of residents participate and take the pledge, all participants will be entered to win prizes like up to $5,000 for home utility payments, home improvement store gift cards, water saving irrigation equipment and many others, even a car to be awarded to a local non-profit charity.

Making a conscious effort to adopt simple water wise behaviors can have a big impact in saving not only water, but energy, money and valuable resources which affect our community's health, economy, and quality of life. Residents are asked to visit mywaterpledge.com and make their online pledge then spread the word to raise awareness and encourage others to step up and take the challenge.

Residents can contact Anna Duffey, Utilities Community Outreach Coordinator at 941-240-8003 or aduffey@cityofnorthport.com with any questions.

Green algae bloom affecting city's water supply

No danger to humans or pets

PUNTA GORDA – The City of Punta Gorda Utilities Department reports that the Shell Creek Reservoir, the source of drinking water for City residents, is experiencing a bloom of green algae due to the dry weather conditions. The algae, present in the water sampled from Shell Creek Reservoir, and is nontoxic to humans or animals.

“Staff is working to treat water at the plant as well as killing the existing algae in the reservoir itself,” said Utilities Department Director Tom Jackson. “This condition is expected to improve within the next couple of days and perhaps sooner if the area experiences significant rainfall.”

The City’s water treatment system removes the algae leaving the City’s water safe to drink, however, it may still have an unusual taste or odor. Department officials stress that the algae is not a health threat.

Please direct questions to the City's utilities department at (941) 575-5088.

FSU Research: Urban growth leads to shorter, more intense wet seasons in Florida peninsula

New research from Florida State University scientists has found that urban areas throughout the Florida peninsula are experiencing shorter, increasingly intense wet seasons relative to underdeveloped or rural areas.

The study, published in the journal npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, provides new insight into the question of land development's effect on seasonal climate processes.

Using a system that indexed urban land cover on a scale of one to four -- one being least urban and four being most urban -- the researchers mapped the relationship between land development and length of wet season.

"What we found is a trend of decreasing wet-season length in Florida's urban areas compared to its rural areas," said Vasu Misra, associate professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science and lead investigator of the study.

According to Misra's research, changing land cover over the past 40 to 60 years has resulted in a decrease in wet-season length by 3.5 hours per year in Florida's most urban areas compared to its most rural areas.

However, the linear trends of seasonal rainfall accumulation over that same period were found to have remained relatively stable across Florida's diverse land cover regions.

Gov. Scott vetoes 'toilet-to-tap' bill

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Gov. Rick Scott sided with environmentalists Friday by vetoing a so-called "toilet to tap" bill that would have allowed treated wastewater to be pumped back into the state's groundwater.

With that pen stroke, Scott avoided the epithet "Governor Poopy Water," something environmentalists had vowed to call him if he let the bill become law.

"Protecting Florida's environment has been a top priority during my time as governor," Scott said in the veto letter. "Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way."

Scott hasn't always been popular with environmental groups, and the decision will head off criticism as he prepares a run for U.S. Senate.

A group calling itself Citizens Against Contaminated Aquifer Water, or CACA Water for short, canceled a news conference scheduled for Monday in a last-minute effort to persuade Scott to veto the bill.

"I am surprised by this, for sure, and pleasantly surprised by this, of course," said event organizer Brian Lee, who chairs the Leon County Soil and Water Conservation District. "I hope that means he was listening to the people."

Several environmental groups urged people to call and email the governor's office in opposition to the bill. The Clean Water Network of Florida has used the slogan "Toilet to tap — let's flush it." That group and others used social media to promote the "Governor Poopy Water" nickname if Scott signed the legislation.

Proponents of the bill said that treated water injected into aquifers would have met federal drinking water standards and would have helped sustain water resources and supplies.

But opponents said federal water standards don't test for things such as pharmaceuticals, which could be spread through human waste.

Scott is expected to announce Monday that he'll challenge three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in this year's election.

2018 hurricane season expected to be an active one

While images of destruction caused by last year's battery of hurricanes are still fresh in the minds of many Americans, including those living on Puerto Rico where after six months power is not fully restored, forecasters are cautioning the public to brace themselves for another busy hurricane season.

Researchers at Colorado State University predict this will be a slightly above-average season, with 14 tropical storms in 2018. Seven are expected to become hurricanes, which have a wind speed of at least 74 mph. Three of those seven are expected to be major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, with winds reaching a minimum of 111 mph.

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs from June 1 through the end of November.

"Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted," researchers say.

By comparison, 2017 had a total of 17 named storms — with 10 becoming hurricanes and six of them major hurricanes — including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. But that number exceeded forecasters' expectations, including the team from CSU. The university had only anticipated 11 tropical storms with four becoming hurricanes.

Cape Coral considers leaving regional planning council

Cape Coral could be the first city to leave the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council.

City Council members discussed Monday whether they want to continue the city's participation in the organization, ultimately deciding they need more information before making a decision.

The regional planning council was established in 1973 to coordinate development among six counties from Sarasota to Collier.

Council unanimously approved paying $24,976 to the regional council Monday for the last two quarters of fiscal year 2017, pending a review of the bill by the city manager's office. Maureen Buice, a public information specialist for the city, said Thursday that the review was ongoing and that the dues had not been paid.

The city is behind on its dues, which are based on the city's population and are supposed to be paid each quarter. Margaret Wuerstle, executive director of the regional planning council, said the city owes an additional $38,356 for the first three quarters of this fiscal year.

Wuerstle said Cape Coral can stop paying its dues and stop attending meetings and that she would have to consult the organization's legal counsel to determine if the city would have to give a year's notice the way counties do.

Lee is the only county that established permanent seats for some of its cities over the years, including for Fort Myers and Cape Coral, Wuerstle said. The one free seat for Lee most recently went to Estero, because all other cities in the county were paying on their own, she said.

Sanibel hosts annual Hurricane Seminar for community

The city of Sanibel hosted its 2018 Hurricane Seminar on April 5 for residents and businesses.

Held at BIG ARTS Sanibel Island, approximately 100 people turned out to hear from city officials about actions taken before, during and after Hurricane Irma, along with plans for the upcoming storm season. Following presentations by each department head, a question-and-answer session was held.

Hurricane season is recognized as June 1 through Nov. 30. This year, national forecasters are anticipating a storm season with "slightly above-average activity," according to a recent report.

Drs. Philip Klotzbach and Michael M. Bell, with Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project, are predicting 14 named storms for the Atlantic basin, with seven of those reaching hurricane-level strength. Three are anticipated to become "major" hurricanes - a Category 3 storm or higher.

"There's a vast hurricane history in Florida," Dave Roberts, the city's weather consultant, said.

On average, the island gets one direct hit - landfall within 60 miles - every nine years.

Typically, the most active hurricane months are listed in order of September, August, October and November. With the peak of season recognized as Sept. 10, he noted that they can happen any time.

Opinion: It’s time to reconsider cisterns

By Tom Palmer, published April 7th, 2018 in the Lakeland Ledger

The looming water supply problems in this part of Florida have revived some talk of an old idea: cisterns.

Cisterns have been used in various parts of the world for centuries.

In case you’re unfamiliar with cisterns, they are simply water-tight containers of various sizes that are used to collect and store rainwater for future use.

The concept was part of a discussion at the recent Polk County Water School that I attended to give local government officials and some other invited folks a chance to hear the latest about local water issues and solutions.

In the current terminology, cisterns could be viewed as another alternative water supply.

You may hear this term regularly if you’re following local water supply issues because the best research has determined that tapping the Floridan aquifer to supply all of our water needs is coming to an end.

That’s because continuing to pump increased quantities of water from the aquifer at the rate we have done in the past is unsustainable.

That’s where alternative water supplies come in.

This word about the approaching end of business-as-usual in the water supply world is coming out at the same time as a series of in-depth studies conducted in conjunction with a regional effort called the Central Florida Water Initiative. This initiative grew out of an earlier effort to forge a regional plan for supplying water and heading off the kind of water wars that raged in the Tampa Bay area in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you want to know the effect of unsustainable water pumping, the Tampa Bay area offers plenty of lessons.

I recently received a 2010 report to the Florida Legislature from the Southwest Florida Water Management District that contained a map depicting a 50-year boundary for salt-water intrusion in the Floridan aquifer that extends to the outskirts of Brandon. It leaves you to wonder how close to Polk County the 100-year boundary will be.

Florida Aquarium tries to jump-start coral growth in Apollo Beach test

APOLLO BEACH – Under the water, on tiny tiles at the Florida Aquarium's Conservation Center in Apollo Beach, babies are growing.

"Baby corals from this past year's coral spawn in the Keys," explained coral biologist Rachel Seraphin. "These individuals are all staghorn coral, which is our main reef building coral for the Florida reef track."

The Florida Aquarium is having big success in coral reproduction. The team collected spawn during a dive in the Florida Keys back in August.

"We bring those bundles back to the lab where we break them apart, separate the sperm and the egg, fertilize the eggs, make sure the fertilization process has happened," continued Seraphin. "The importance of the sexual reproduction of corals is being able to diversify our genetic pool of corals so that they can battle disease, weather events, temperature swings -- high or low, or any other factors."

More than 100 of these baby corals have survived and flourished under this care. It's hope for the effort to strengthen coral reefs.

"Especially, the Florida reef track. About 98 percent has declined since the 80's," said Seraphin.

Some of that is caused by man, including land-based pollution like runoff. There's also the decline of sharks.

Public meeting scheduled for Blind Pass Inlet Management Study

FORT MYERS – The Lee County Division of Natural Resources will hold a public meeting at 1:30 p.m. on Friday April 27 in the Sea Pearl Room at the South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island, located at 5400 South Seas Plantation Road, to update the public on the Blind Pass Inlet Management Study.

The County and the consulting team from APTIM (formerly known as CB&I) will present modeling results and accept comments and questions from the public about inlet management scenarios and next steps. A draft report is anticipated by the end of May with a final report to be presented to local elected officials and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection early this summer for direction on adoption and implementation.

For more information about the Blind Pass Inlet Management Study, please visit the link below.

For questions regarding the Blind Pass Inlet Management study, please contact Lee County Division of Natural Resources at SBoutelle@leegov.com or (239) 533-8109 or the City of Sanibel's Natural Resources Department at james.evans@mysanibel.com or (239) 472-3700.

Lee County Emergency Management announces additional Hurricane Preparedness Seminars

FORT MYERS – Lee County Emergency Management has scheduled additional Hurricane Preparedness Seminars that are open to the public.

The free seminars will include information on how to prepare families and homes for hurricane season, how to use new hurricane-related technology and how Emergency Management responds to hurricanes and other disasters.

The seminars now scheduled are:

  • 6 p.m. Thursday, April 26 – City of Bonita Springs Recreation Center, 26740 Pine Avenue, Bonita Springs, 34135 For Information or to register, call: 239-992-2556.
  • 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 9 – Large Meeting Room A at Lakes Regional Library, 15290 Bass Road, Fort Myers, 33919
  • 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 9 – Veterans Park Recreation Center, in the gymnasium, 55 Homestead Road South, Lehigh Acres, 33936.
  • 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 5 – Fort Myers Regional Library, in Meeting Room AB, 1651 Lee St., Fort Myers, 33901
  • 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 26 – Large Meeting Room at Cape Coral Lee County Public Library, 921 S.W. 39th Terrace, Cape Coral 33914

Seminars are open to the public. Additional seminar dates and locations will be posted at the Lee County Environmental Operations Center website; check the website to see if registration is necessary for individual events. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Lee County will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in its services, programs, or activities. To request an auxiliary aid or service for effective communication or a reasonable modification to participate, contact Debbie Quimby, 239-533-0622, Florida Relay Service 711, or dquimby@leegov.com. Accommodation will be provided at no cost to the requestor. Requests should be made at least five business days in advance.

Polluters are dumping into Florida waterways

Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Florida’s waterways 270 times over 21 months, the tenth worst total in the nation, according to a new report by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center. However, the facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution. Environment Florida Research and Policy Center is releasing its Troubled Waters report as the federal government tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

“All Florida waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida. “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment, and they aren’t being held accountable.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Florida Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, both in Florida and across the country.

New law Gov. Scott signed makes public access to beaches harder to establish

A bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed into law last month has sent shock waves through Florida’s waterfront communities and prompted questions from confused beach residents and businesses. Experts say the law’s effect on beach access is not quite as dire as some people fear.

The bill, HB 163, blocks local governments from adopting ordinances to allow continuedpublic entry to privately owned beaches even when property owners may want to block off their land. Instead, any city or county that wants to do that has to get a judge’s approval first — by suing the private landowners.

The new law "is very bad for local governments," said Alison Fluornoy, a University of Florida law professor. "Suing coastal landowners as the only avenue to establish access is not an attractive option." She also pointed out that requiring a lawsuit means the Legislature put an added burden on the courts without offering any additional funding.

The new law, which goes into effect July 1, has left some people afraid it will immediately cut off public access to beaches all over the state. That’s not the case.

"We’ve been getting lots of calls from people confused about the issue, because it is so confusing," said Robin A. Sollie, executive director of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.

Environmental groups such as the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Surfrider Foundation, as well as the Florida Association of Counties, strongly opposed the new law. But county association spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller said that, for now at least, only one Panhandle county is seeing an immediate impact.

While many of Florida’s prettiest beaches are part of the state park system, and thus guaranteed to be open to the public, the state estimates about 60 percent of Florida’s beach property is privately owned. Private ownership extends down to where the sand gets wet, also known as the mean high water line, which is public.

In many areas where beaches are privately owned, tourists and even local residents frequently wander over and set up their chairs, collect sea shells and build sand castles.

Erosion on Sanibel beaches posing dangers to visitors

Several feet of sand is eroding away on Sanibel Island beaches, putting homes, businesses and people’s health at risk.

“We used to have vegetation that went out an additional 75 feet, and then beyond that 75 feet was another 75 feet of beach before you hit the water,” said Jerrold Stern, owner of the Blue Dolphin.

Blocking off one of the only paths to the beach from the Blue Dolphin cottages was a tough decision for Stern.

“I now have it blocked off, because I’m afraid they will fall and get hurt. The average guest is not a youngster and it’s dangerous,” Stern said.

The drop-off is around three feet.

It’s a danger that has prohibited his three grandchildren, who are visiting from California, from enjoying their favorite beach.

“We haven’t been able to spend as much time at the beach this year. We are worried about them falling off and there’s just really not a place for them to play as well,” said visitor John Cronin.

And while the beach erosion is nothing new to Sanibel, Stern says he’s never seen it this bad.

“At one point (it was) a six foot drop. It goes up and down with the tide,” Stern said.

Stern says he’s notified the city, and they have been responsive to his concerns.

“They are doing permitting, etc. But there is still a permitting process and decision to be made,” Stern said.

It’s a decision Stern is afraid will take too much time.

“A couple more winter storms…I could be in trouble,” he said.

The city of Sanibel announced earlier this week it was working with a coastal engineering firm to design and permit a project to dump more sand on beaches.

Florida waters continue to be hit with red tide. Millions added to combat blooms

Red tide blooms have hit Southwest Florida hard in recent weeks.

The toxic algae causes fish kills, respiratory issues and contributes to several dozen manatee deaths each year.

That’s why U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, says he sponsored legislation that will add $8 million to combat the blooms.

Buchanan’s measure was passed by Congress as part of a government funding bill.

Sick sea turtles showing up on Sanibel

The number of animals stricken with red tide poisoning in Lee County waters is on the rise as one local animal hospital has taken in five sea turtles and hundreds of coastal birds.

"We’ve been seeing a lot of red tide poisoning in sea turtles," said Heather Barron, director of the animal hospital at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, or CROW, on Sanibel. "Usually we see sea turtles this time of year, and we’ve seen five recently. And we’ve probably had 200 to 300 birds since the start of the red tide season in October."

This bloom has lingered along the Southwest Florida coast since last fall and has primarily been found in Lee County waters, although the bloom has been documented from the Tampa Bay area to Florida Bay at various times.

A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report released Wednesday shows red tide in Charlotte Harbor, along the Lee County coast, in Naples and along Marco Island.

April CHNEP Volunteer event to focus on horseshoe crabs

April’s Volunteer Event: "All About Horseshoe Crabs"

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Florida Horseshoe Crab Watch program to collect information on breeding and monitor populations in our state. Join us to learn about this amazing creature and help with the statewide tracking of them at the April CHNEP Volunteer event:

Saturday, April 28th from 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Cedar Point Environmental Center
2300 Placida Rd, Englewood, FL 34224

As part of the Horseshoe Crab Watch, we will be learning about horseshoe crabs, their importance to the marine environment, and even to human health. We will then conduct a site survey to document breeding pairs and juveniles present. Volunteers who are trained and interested can continue to participate in surveying during the Spring (March-April) and Fall (September-October) months.

If you plan to join us, please RSVP. If you are not currently signed up as a CHNEP Volunteer and wish to participate in this event or future events, then please go to www.chnep.org/get-involved to do so ahead of time. For more information, please contact CHNEP Research & Outreach Specialist Sierra Strickland

“Data is king”: Analysis confirms projections of sea level rise models

No more computer models or projections. Finally – concrete data.

A scientific paper published in February may pave the way for a new conversation about rising sea levels using data instead of projections.

Gary Mitchum, co-author of the paper and Associate Dean at the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida, says the research is more than just another explanation of the effects of global climate change.

“In science, data is king,” Mitchum said. “I’ve been telling people I think it’s a game-changer in that the discussion can now switch from is this just an error in the models, the computer models, or is it really in the data?’’

The paper immediately received international attention and went viral within the scientific community.

The team of researchers began compiling data in 1993. They released the statistics from satellite altimetry, the measurement of height or altitude from a satellite.

“We’re hoping that what this is going to do is allow people to stop worrying about the fact that it’s only the models seeing it, that we actually see it in the data now too and we can have a conversation about what we need to be doing,” Mitchum said.

Using data from 25 years of observation, researchers concluded that previous projections by computer models were accurate with 99 percent confidence. The global average sea level rose about 3 millimeters per year.

Now, the scientific community has recorded data that confirms these research methods.

Budget bill includes money for red tide

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s office touted the inclusion of $8 million in the latest federal budget bill to combat red tide outbreaks like the one that has lingered off the coast of Southwest Florida.

“Red tide poses a serious threat to our environment, marine life and economy,” Buchanan said, adding that legislation he promoted will allow for greater research with the goal of reducing the problem. “We need to understand more about the toxins in red tide so we can stop the damaging effects.”

Harmful algae blooms cause $82 million in economic losses to the seafood, restaurant and tourism industries each year in the United States, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Buchanan’s measure on harmful algal bloom funding was included in an appropriations bill that funds the federal government through September 2018, his office said in a news release. The funding bill, which averted another government shutdown, was signed by President Donald Trump Friday afternoon after he had earlier threatened to veto it.

Michael P. Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, said in the release that the funding will “significantly bolster the scientific community’s research to detect, respond to and develop innovative technologies to lessen the impacts from some of the country’s most challenging harmful algal blooms — red tide — on our environment, marine life and human health.”

Lawsuit filed against Fort Myers over toxic sludge site

A lawsuit wants the City of Fort Myers to pay more than $500 million for dumping toxic sludge in the Dunbar community.

The city used a field bounded by Henderson Avenue on the west, Midway Avenue on the east, Jeffcott Street on the south and South Street on the north, to dump sludge for decades in the 1960s.

The area bounded in red shows the site in Dunbar where sludge from a water treatment plant was disposed of. Arsenic was discovered at the site in 2007, and in the groundwater there in 2012, but those results didn’t become public until early 2017.

The suit filed by Attorney Ralf Brookes lists Deretha Miller, Luetricia Freeman Becker, Ralph Henry, and Noemy Rodriguez as plaintiffs, individually, and on behalf of residents of Dunbar against the city.

“You can’t just open-dump this stuff into pits in the ground, especially when you’re in a residential neighborhood,” Brookes said. “They should have never brought the arsenic here and put it in an open dump without a fence, without a liner, without a licensed landfill.”

The plaintiffs are asking for civil penalties of $37,500 per day for each day of the violation, since 1979 when a law prohibiting open dumping was enacted. Brookes said they want to use the money for remediation and medical monitoring.

The lawsuit will represent more than 200 residents of the Dunbar community living near the toxic site.

Charlotte County implements burn ban amid drought, fire danger

PUNTA GORDA — Charlotte County commissioners passed an emergency ordinance on Tuesday banning outdoor burning (including yard waste and recreational fires) and the private use and discharge of fireworks and sparklers. This prohibition does not affect attended barbecue/cooking equipment or burn permits issued by the Florida Forest Service.

Charlotte County is experiencing a severe drought and the county’s Fire Danger Index rating has reached four out of five on multiple days in recent weeks. The ban will remain in effect until the threat of wildfires no longer exists and the board terminates the state of local emergency.

Salmon farming in Florida? It's a possibility.

What was once a sprawling tomato field near Homestead is being turned over in stages for a new crop: Atlantic salmon.

Yes, you read that right. Salmon, fresh from Florida, the land of palm trees and gators.

Turns out the cold-water, protein-rich fish are well-suited for an innovative approach to salmon farming in the tropics, and southern Florida offers the ideal geological structure for this endeavor in aquaculture: the world’s largest land-raised salmon farm.

“Up to now, what has been holding up salmon from growing and feeding the world is that it has been stuck at the ends of the Earth and has be to be flown around. We’re changing that,” said José Prado, chief financial officer of Atlantic Sapphire, the Norwegian company that is constructing a $130-million, 380,000-square-foot facility to hatch, grow and process salmon — all on land. “We call it world-class local.”