Water-Related News

State moving forward with Caloosahatchee River pollution plan

A state agency charged with protecting Florida's waters is moving closer to finalizing a plan to reduce the amount of pollution flowing into the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection met with local water quality experts and advocates Wednesday to discuss how to best implement the science and data that has already been gathered to target pollutants like nitrogen and phosphorus in Florida waterways.

More than 11 million pounds of nitrogen flow down the river each year, clouding waters and sometimes feeding algal blooms that can cause fish and marine mammal kills and beach closures.

Called Total Maximum Daily Loads, or TMDLs, these plans are developed by the state to help clean up polluted waters and are based on a variety of data and models used to predict how systems will changes when pollution loads are reduced.

Land swap plan moves sewage plant site away from Corkscrew Road development in Lee County

A Lee County advisory panel is backing a land swap that would keep a sewage treatment plant from being built on county property surrounded on three sides by part of the burgeoning 1,300-unit development known as The Place at Corkscrew.

The plan takes a Lee County Utilities parcel once considered for a future wastewater treatment plant site and makes it 20/20 conservation land. In exchange, a site now under 20/20 protection would be transferred to the utility for whatever use it can convince county commissioners to allow.

The Conservation 20/20 acquisition advisory committee endorsed the proposal Thursday night and advanced it for action by county commissioners.

Supporters of the swap say it would put property already surrounded by land that must be preserved by The Place developer under 20/20 protection. It would take a smaller, less environmentally significant site at Wild Turkey Strand Preserve out of 20/20 so it could be used by Lee County Utilities for other purposes.

Placida Boat Ramp Opens Oct. 14

The Placida Boat Ramp will reopen Saturday, Oct. 14. The single ramp will be intermittently closed during weekdays until the maintenance and repair work is completed, however the double ramp will remain open.

Find information on all our boat ramps online: visit www.CharlotteCountyFL.gov and click Parks/Recreation/Aquatics in the Popular Links to find our Fishing, Piers, Boat Ramps link.

For more information contact Brenda Sisk, project coordinator, 941-833-3824 or Brenda.Sisk@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.

What will Florida (and its water supply) look like in 2070?

The Florida of 2070 is at a crossroads today.

That’s the conclusion of two reports released late last year by 1000 Friends of Florida, the University of Florida’s GeoPlan Center and the state’s Department of Agriculture. With the state’s population expected to swell to 33.7 million by 2070, almost 15 million more than identified in the 2010 Census, researchers teamed up to look at growth trends and sprawl.

One report, Florida 2070, says if development continues on its current path, more than a third of the state will be paved over by 2070. That means millions of acres of agricultural and natural lands will be lost, to say nothing of the jobs, natural resources and quality-of-life indicators tied to them.

Another report, Water 2070, says almost 15 million new Floridians will overburden an already fragile water supply, with water use projected to more than double by 2070.

SFWMD hosts meeting on reservoir plan

A 14,600-acre reservoir proposed in Glades County just west of the Kissimmee River is the most cost-efficient way to increase water storage north of Lake Okeechobee, according to the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project (LOWP) team. The reservoir would provide 198,000 acre feet of water storage north of Lake Okeechobee.

That recommendation, released last week, has drawn criticism from Glades County officials.

They voiced concerns about the danger to the residents of Buckhead Ridge if the dam around such a reservoir should break, and about the loss of ad valorem taxes if the state takes even more Glades County land off the tax rolls.

In a letter to the LOWP Project Delivery Team, Glades County Commissioner Tim Stanley wrote, “If this levee were to fail, it would put enough water in S-127’s basin to cover the whole basin in 10 feet of water. We all know that the water will run south and most likely will be deeper than 10 feet along the southern edge. The second largest community in Glades County, Buckhead Ridge, is in this basin.

Erosion could affect tourism on Fort Myers Beach

FORT MYERS BEACH – Busy season in Southwest Florida starts in a little more than a month, and that means winter residents will be flocking to the region’s beaches.

After Hurricane Irma and a king tide over the weekend some are questioning if the beaches are ready for the influx of visitors.

Business owners and vacationers agree, it's time to get the shores ready for a pleasant stay.

Luke Manning owns “Luke’s Beach Club Chair Service,” which has affected by Irma's waters and eroding sand.

“This is one of the highest erosion's I've seen,” Manning said. “We've lost probably 90 percent of our beach."

Manning has been in the region for nearly 10 years, while others, like David Heath, have just returned from up north for another winter.

“I expected to see a lot of beach erosion. I expected to see more damage. I think Fort Myers Beach dodged a bullet and they're better for it,” Heath said. “There's still plenty messed up...it’s far less than what I expected to see."

More folks like Heath will soon be making their way to Southwest Florida.

“This is how Fort Myers Beach gets its income, from all the visitors that come to visit our beautiful state and see our beautiful beaches So if the beach is eroded it's going to discourage people from coming, so we need to keep it as pretty as possible,” Debbie Webster of Cape Coral said.

Environmentalists on Fort Myers Beach said the town is currently conducting surveys to see how much sand was moved. Then they will begin examining possible replacement work.

The island of Captiva will begin its own erosion survey at the end of the week.

Solutions in the works to prevent future flooding in Bonita Springs

BONITA SPRINGS – Some Bonita Springs residents are desperate for solutions as flooding continues to ravage their neighborhoods.

Heavy rain associated with a tropical wave impacted the area just days before Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida.

More than three weeks after the storm, the city is still inches deep in floodwater.

The city, which is located in a low-lying area surrounding the Imperial River, receives additional water from places at higher elevations like Lehigh Acres, South Florida Water Management District spokesperson Philip Flood said.

“They need to plan ahead on how to divert the water somehow, around Bonita Springs or it could be worse,” Bonita Springs resident Randy Page said.

Flood’s team recently installed a pump off Bonita Beach Road to send the water south to the Cocohatchee Canal and eventually into Wiggins Pass.

The Water Management District is working on more projects with the city to solve the problem and to prevent future flooding.

Lake O hits highest level since 2005, raising concerns its dike could fail

Rainfall from Hurricane Irma has pushed the water level in Lake Okeechobee to its highest point since 2005. Now, with more wet weather in the forecast, nearby residents fear a collapse of the 80-year-old dike around the lake.

As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dumping large volumes of lake water out into coastal estuaries — exactly as it did last year, when those releases caused a massive toxic algae bloom that closed Atlantic coast beaches over the Fourth of July weekend.

Meanwhile, Corps officials have stepped up inspections of the dike to three to four times a week to make sure its continuing leaks don't grow to the point of endangering people living near it.

"We recognize that as the water level continues to rise, there is an increased risk of failure," Corps spokesman John Campbell said.

The dike around the lake is classified as one of the most vulnerable in the nation. The earthen embankment on the south end of the lake is older, and thus more in danger of being breached, he said.

That puts the communities south of the lake — Pahokee, Belle Glade, South Bay and Clewiston among them — at the greater risk for both property damage and loss of life.

Is development draining Florida’s aquifer system beyond repair?

"Water flow is the lifeblood of the springs, so when you reduce their flow, they start getting sick." —Robert Knight, Florida Springs Institute

The economic benefits of development and the preservation of natural resources are continually being weighed against each other. In a state like Florida, this conversation is often a protracted — even heated — one because so much of the state’s tourism industry is reliant on keeping its beaches, parks and springs as pristine as possible. The boon delivered by tourism also justifies questions about how new construction and expanding agricultural operations could put a dent in one of the state’s biggest revenue streams.

More than 112 million tourists visited Florida last year, a 5.9% increase from 2015, Florida Today reported. Those visitors spent $109 billion and generated 1.4 million jobs.

And some visitors are staying.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced last month that the state had seen the number of private businesses increase by 16.5% since December 2010. While many of the net 75,449 businesses added since then are homegrown, the figure also includes those coming from out of state to set up shop. The growth in the number of businesses in the state is one contributor to its strong population growth currently.

That’s good news and bad news for the state. The good news is that all those new people will need places to live, shop, work, learn, relax and seek medical care, which means a boost for the state's construction industry and its workers. Local and state agencies also get to collect more property, sales and other taxes as a result.

The bad news is that the strain on the state’s aquifer system — the subterranean limestone reservoirs that provide most of the water that Floridians use to drink, bathe and water their lawns — is starting to become evident.

Damaging freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee to continue

What's been described as a dark wall of freshwater is moving miles into the Gulf of Mexico, and that plume could grow larger through the weekend as a tropical disturbance moves into the area.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for Lee County this weekend, which will only add to the damage the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary have experienced this year.

The combination of heavy rainfall, stormwater runoff and Lake Okeechobee releases have driven freshwater miles into the Gulf of Mexico and has made the Caloosahatchee estuary virtually disappear.

Use caution when launching in Lee County waterways post-Irma

Lee County Parks & Recreation reminds boaters that floating debris may be present at times at boat ramps and paddle craft launch sites across Lee County following Hurricane Irma. Parks staff members are checking launch sites daily to ensure debris is not inhibiting activity at its seven boat ramps and at county-managed launch sites along the Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail.

For more information about Lee County Parks & Recreation locations, amenities and events, visit www.leeparks.org, call 239-533-7275 or email leeparks@leegov.com. Download the Come Discover Map online or pick up one at any Lee County site.

Year-round water restrictions now in effect

All 16 counties throughout the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s boundaries are now on year-round water conservation measures, with lawn watering limited to twice-per-week unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours. Local governments maintaining once-per-week watering by local ordinance include Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties.

Under the District’s year-round measures, even addresses may water on Thursday and/or Sunday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. and odd addresses may water on Wednesday and/or Saturday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Additional details regarding the watering of new lawns and plants, reclaimed water and other water uses can be found at WaterMatters.org/Restrictions. To learn more about how you can conserve water, please visit WaterMatters.org/Conservation.

More rain could mean more flooding of Imperial River

BONITA SPRINGS – A kayaker with a lifetime of experience on the Imperial River, Aaron Thomas, is shocked by the river's condition.

“It was quite shocking- I've never seen the river in this condition ever,” said Thomas.

When he went out on the river on Wednesday, propane tanks, styrofoam, and insulation decimated the usually serene scenery.

The debris is all coming from trailers that were torn apart by Hurrican Irma. It's getting caught on downed trees and debris already in the river.

“What ends up happening is, it dams up and then seeps around the sides. We counted at least eight of these choke points just in that upper part of the river,” said Thomas.

Although the river level has been receding, future rain could fill it right back up.

“We just don't need any more rain right now, please,” pleaded nearby resident Mike Bode.

Eighteen days after the hurricane, and there’s still floodwater on Rue De Paix Street.

Neighbors there, like Bode, are keeping a close eye on this weekends forecast.

SFWMD approves $758M water budget with no discussion

Water managers on Tuesday approved a $758 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year .

South Florida Water Management District tax rates for the coming fiscal year, which starts Sunday, will be $31 per $100,000 of assessed property value in Lee County and $25 per $100,000 of assessed property value in Collier County.

Board members met over the phone and in West Palm Beach and voted unanimously to approve the budget.

No comments were made by board members, and there was no one from the public who wished to speak.

Board member James Moran said last week that the brevity of budget meetings do not reflect the work involved.

"This budget is worked on almost all year long and gets fine-tuned," Moran said at last week's budget meeting. "This is just the formalization of that work."

The budget was built to take advantage of rising property values, which allows water managers to keep the rate lower, the district said.

Cape Coral gives nod to loan program option

CAPE CORAL – Canalfront property owners who suffered seawall damage due to Hurricane Irma may get another funding option to help pay for repairs.

Numerous Cape Coral residents attending Monday's Cape Coral City Council meeting spoke during public comment about the problems they were having with collapsed seawalls and the high cost of repair. They want to know what, if anything, the city could do to assist.

The solution could come from a measure approved by the Council to establish a loan program option for people who need seawall help, or some have other qualifying need.

The seawall situation is a serious one since, if one wall goes, there is a risk of others collapsing if nothing is done. Repair costs are expensive, with many attending Monday's meeting saying they are unable to afford to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket for rebuilds that insurance will most likely not cover.

Ronda Schwerdtfeger, a resident who lost both her seawall and roof during Hurricane Irma, said insurance will pay for the roof after the 2 percent deductible, but not the seawall.

Lake O water historically high; so is bacteria level

Water levels are up after Hurricane Irma.

And so are populations of bacteria in the water, environmental activists say.

Lake Okeechobee is at 16.21 feet, its second-highest level in 10 years, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

That’s prompted the Corps to send lake water into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers that flow to the west and east coasts, respectively, in their continuing effort to protect the aging Hoover Dike that surrounds the lake.

Some two and a half billion gallons of lake water are flowing into the Caloosahatchee daily — water that has been blamed for brown murkiness and toxic blue-green algae in the past.

This time, the water is carrying an unusually high volume of bacteria kicked up by Irma, said John Cassani, the leader of Calusa Waterkeeper, a nonprofit clean water advocacy group.

How officials plan to curb flooding in Bonita Springs

The memory of recent flooding in Bonita Springs continues to flow through the minds of families as they pick up the pieces left by Hurricane Irma, and still deal with floodwater.

“After two, three days it was up to the knee, but after the storm hit it was up to the hip,” said Bonita Springs resident Jesus Cases.

The water was still high enough on Tuesday to cover roads in some Bonita neighborhoods.

Phil Flood with the South Florida Water Managment District said while August’s rainfall played a factor in the flooding, “the ground was saturated so we didn’t get that storage in the ground we normally would see."

The Imperial River's watershed is 300 square miles. It stretches all the way to Immokalee. That means all of the water in that area uses the river to flow into the gulf.