Water-Related News

State budget includes $3M for Cape Coral reclaimed water River Crossing project

Governor Ron DeSantis has signed the state budget and included appropriations for a Cape Coral project. The budget will provide state funding for the City’s Caloosahatchee River Crossing Project ($3 million).

“We want to thank Governor DeSantis for supporting this important project, which will provide benefits to Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and the environment,” said City Manager John Szerlag. “We want to thank our local legislators, Rep. Dane Eagle and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who worked on our behalf to ensure this project was included in the final appropriations bill approved by the Legislature.”

Funding will be used to construct a reclaimed water pipeline from Fort Myers to Cape Coral. This project is a win-win for both cities. Cape Coral will receive reclaimed water for irrigation use during the dry season, and Fort Myers will reduce discharges to the Caloosahatchee River. Construction of the pipeline is expected to cost about $15 million and will be completed in 2023.

“We have been working on securing alternative sources to meet our city’s irrigation demand,” said Szerlag. “Our partnership with Fort Myers will provide additional water and help reduce the impact on our freshwater canals during the dry season.”

The City has solicited proposals from engineering firms for the design, regulatory permitting and construction of the pipeline and is presently in contract negotiations. The design and permitting is estimated to take approximately 12-18 months to complete. A grant from the State was awarded for $800,000 to assist with the cost of designing and permitting of the reclaimed water transmission main.

Venice ban on shark fishing will be coming

New state rules restricting shore-based shark fishing go into effect July 1. Not long after that the Venice City Council will consider an ordinance banning it from city beaches and the Venice Municipal Pier.

The Venice City Council had discussed shark fishing several times previously without authorizing City Attorney Kelly Fernandez to draft an ordinance of any kind.

She had, however, advised that the city has the authority under state law to impose stiffer regulations than the state has — including a ban — in the interest of public health and safety.

The Council had shied away from doing that in the face of opposition from local anglers but revisited the topic yet again as part of an effort to have new city rules in place when the pier reopens after reconstruction, in August.

Those rules make a ban the appropriate action, according to Mayor John Holic.

They include a requirement that if a prohibited shark species is caught, it remain in the water and be immediately released. That means someone catching a shark at the far end of the pier, which is considered an extension of the shore, would have to walk all the way off it and down onto the beach to cut the fish loose.

“I don’t see any way to fish [for sharks] off the pier,” he said.

Council Member Chuck Newsom suggested including a buffer area around the pier. Council Member Bob Daniels extended it to no shark fishing from the beach or the pier.

“We’re waiting for an accident to happen,” Daniels said.

Fernandez said the ban needs to be imposed by ordinance so it will be enforceable with penalties. With only one meeting left before the Council’s summer break, the earliest an ordinance could go to second reading would be Aug. 27.

You can view the video of the meeting at Veni

Second meeting of Blue-Green Algae Task Force scheduled

The second public meeting of the Governors Blue green Algae task force will focus on expediting progress toward reducing the adverse impacts of blue green algae blooms.

The meeting is open to the public and will be held from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. at the Lee County School Board, 2855 Colonial Blvd, in Fort Myers.

Agenda:

  1. Welcome and Introductions
  2. Goals of the Meeting
  3. Review of Lake Okeechobee Restoration
  4. Lake Okeechobee BMAP Elements Discussion and Recommendations
    4.1. Allocations/Sources
    4.2. Project Selection
    4.3. Agricultural Best Management Practices
    4.4. Monitoring
  5. Introduction to the Innovative Technology Solicitation Process
  6. Innovative Technology Screening Criteria
  7. Public Comment Period
  8. Review Agenda for Next Meeting
  9. Closing Remarks

There will be a break for lunch around 12:00PM - 1:00PM

NASA helps warn of harmful algal blooms in lakes, reservoirs

Harmful algal blooms can cause big problems in coastal areas and lakes across the United States. When toxin-containing aquatic organisms multiply and form a bloom, it can sicken people and pets, contaminate drinking water, and force closures at boating and swimming sites.

With limited resources to monitor these often-unpredictable blooms, water managers are turning to new technologies from NASA and its partners to detect and keep track of potential hazards. This is particularly critical in lakes and reservoirs that people use for both recreation and water supply.

A new app for Android mobile devices, from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and now available on Google play, will alert officials and members of the public when a harmful algal bloom could be forming, depending on specific changes in the color of the water observed by satellites. The app is a product of the multi-agency Cyanobacteria Assessment Network, or CyAN.

“The interest is to use remote sensing as an eye-in-the-sky, early warning system to get a picture of harmful cyanobacteria in U.S. inland lakes,” said Jeremy Werdell, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center lead for CyAN, which also includes the EPA, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Beach re-nourishment scheduled for this fall in Englewood

What to expect…here are common questions & answers:

Q: What are the dates of the project?

A: It is expected that some equipment will be staged on/around the beach immediately following the end of Turtle Season (Oct. 31st). Actually work on the beach will not commence until the conclusion of the WaterFest Boat Races which are scheduled for Nov. 22nd – 24th. The completion date is March 31, 2020.

Q: Will the Beach be closed?

A: No. Beach access will permitted in areas not occupied by the construction crews. Those constructions zones will be designated with orange fencing. Once a construction zone is completed, there will be a large pipe left in place that will cause some inconvenience. Provisions will be made to navigate around/over the pipe, but the pipe will be on the beach until the entire project is completed. 

Save the date: Save Our Water summit is Aug. 21 in Bonita Springs

Southwest Florida was the epicenter for water quality issues in Florida in 2018 when the region experienced an environmental catastrophe.

Red Tide floated in the Gulf of Mexico, while toxic blue-green algae choked canals and the Caloosahatchee River. This "perfect storm" caused harm to humans, wildlife, tourism, small businesses and the real estate industry.

Ensuring we have clean water is an ongoing challenge. The News-Press, Naples Daily News and USA TODAY—Florida Network have dedicated a team of journalists to cover the environment with a significant investment in the issues and the people tied to saving our water.

On Aug. 21 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, we will convene the community once again for a Save Our Water summit, featuring experts from science, business and government, as well as our award-winning journalism.

Cape explores seawall assessment

Renee Schihl has lived in the same Cape Coral home for 27 years and says for all that time, she has had issues with her storm drain and seawall.

For the past several weeks, Schihl has addressed her complaints during Cape Coral City Council meetings, asking for the city to repair the damage.

While the city has not done so, her insistence has, perhaps, created an opening for the city to explore a seawall assessment for those who may not have the tens of thousands necessary to fix walls that collapse.

Cape Coral has more than 400 miles of canals. Seawalls are required and currently, maintenance and repairs are the responsibility of the property owners.

As many learned in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017, insurance typically doesn not cover seawall damage, which can run as high as $50,000 -- or more -- for complete replacement.

Gov. DeSantis signs bill giving Sarasota’s Mote $18 million to fight red tide

The laboratory will develop technologies that can fight the toxic algae.

SARASOTA — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Thursday that will put Mote Marine Laboratory at the forefront of efforts to combat red tide in Florida.

The bill, which was championed by Senate President Bill Galvano, allocates $18 million over six years for Mote to develop technologies that can fight red tide blooms.

Lawmakers crafted the measure in response to last year’s devastating bloom that killed sea life in Southwest Florida, fouled the air and water and hurt the region’s tourism industry.

“If we don’t do all that we can to maintain our natural resources, you will see our economy suffer,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis and legislative leaders are touting the measure as a major step toward reducing the harmful effects of red tide, even as some environmental advocates argue lawmakers have not done enough to tackle nutrient pollution that can feed the toxic algae blooms.

Red tide blooms start offshore and are naturally occurring. But when the blooms move near shore they can feed on nutrients that leach into the water from sources such as fertilizer runoff, leaky septic tanks and sewage spills.

Senate Bill 1552 — dubbed the Florida Red Tide Mitigation and Technology Development Initiative — does not address the problem of excessive nutrients in coastal waterways. Instead of trying to cut off the algae’s food source, the legislation - which was sponsored by State Sen. Joe Gruters and state Rep. Michael Grant - seeks to fight the blooms through technology.

Water quality campaign kicks off June 24th

A Calusa Waterkeeper Public Health Campaign kicks off Monday with a documentary, dinner and panel discussion at Broadway Dinner Theatre to discuss why harmful algal blooms have become a public health concern.

Calusa Waterkeeper Executive Director KC Schulberg said they knew the HABs (Harmful Algal Blooms) Public Health Campaign was part of their plan as soon as their Big Calusa event concluded. He said in spite of themselves, they became experts on blue green algae, and red tide.

"We really made that a hot topic. We were crying about this for years before it blew up in our faces last year," Schulberg said.

Last year, the Calusa Waterkeepers held two town halls regarding the economic damage done because of the blue green algae and red tide and legislation and regulation policy.

The campaign kicks off with "Public Health Alert - Florida Water" from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Monday, June 24, at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, 1380 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers. The focus is on public health consequences of algae blooms.

June 23-29 is Mosquito Awareness Week

mosquito image

Next week is Mosquito Control Awareness Week! Now that it’s mosquito season, it is the perfect time to look in and around your home for ways to control mosquitoes that can carry viruses like Zika and West Nile.

Here are some simple steps that citizens can take to help control mosquito populations:

  • Empty water from any item that can hold water.
    Examples: flower pots, garbage cans, recycling containers, wheelbarrows, aluminum cans, boat tarps, old tires and buckets.
  • Flush birdbaths and wading pools weekly.
  • Flush ornamental bromeliads or treat with BTI, a biological larvicide available at home stores.
  • Clean roof gutters, which can become clogged and hold water.
  • Change the water in outdoor pet dishes regularly.
  • Keep pools and spas chlorinated and filtered.
  • Stock ornamental ponds with mosquito-eating fish.
  • Cover rain barrels with screening.
  • Check for standing water under houses, near plumbing drains, under air conditioning unit drip areas, around septic tanks and heat pumps.
  • Take steps to eliminate standing water, improve drainage and prevent future puddling.

“It’s important for residents to remember the three Ds of mosquito prevention,” said Brian Lawton, program manager for Pinellas County Vegetation Management and Mosquito Control. “Dress wisely, defend with a good mosquito repellent, and drain standing water.”

‘No Swim’ advisory issued for Sarasota County Beach

As a precaution, Sarasota County health officials have issued a "No Swim" advisory for the Venice Fishing Pier

The amount of enterococcus bacteria found during water quality testing on Monday, June 17 were outside acceptable limits. The beach remains open, however, wading, swimming and water recreation is not recommended as long as there is an advisory in place.

Some bacteria are naturally present in the environment. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found a link between health and water quality. Signage advising the public not to swim or engage in water recreation will stay in place until follow-up water testing results meet the EPA's recreational water quality standard. The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County expects to have the next round of test results available on Friday, June 21, 2019.

Enterococcus bacteria can come from a variety of natural and human-made sources. These include pet waste, livestock, birds, wildlife (land-dwelling and marine), stormwater runoff, and human sewage from failed septic systems and sewage spills.

No sewage spills have been reported within one mile of the posted beach in the past two weeks.

The rapid response team from Sarasota County and the City of Venice has determined the cause of the elevated bacteria levels is likely due to natural sources. The team observed a wrack line of decaying algae along the shoreline. Wrack lines, which provide food for shorebirds and wildlife, act as natural bacteria reservoirs. Additionally, recent rainfall in the area washing accumulated pollutants, including bacteria from birds, pet feces, and wildlife into local waters may also be a contributing factor.

DOH-Sarasota Environmental Administrator Tom Higginbotham emphasizes that the Florida Healthy Beaches program protects beach goers when conditions are unsuitable for swimming. We do this by testing beach water and providing up-to

Lawsuit launched to stop toxic algae bloom releases from Lake Okeechobee

Conservation groups sued three federal agencies today for failing to address harm to Florida’s endangered species from Lake Okeechobee releases containing toxic algae.
Today’s lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of Florida, challenges the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ refusal to address the harms to human health and wildlife like sea turtles and Florida manatees from the lake’s toxic, nutrient-rich discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and their estuaries.

“Our rainy season just began, and we’re already seeing toxic algae in the lake that will soon be released into our canals and coasts,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Summertime in Florida shouldn’t mean putrid, toxic waterways, dead marine life and stagnant coastal economies. Floridians can’t wait four more years just for more of the Corps’ broken promises.”

After receiving the conservation groups’ notice of intent to sue in December 2018, the Corps requested informal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. But the agencies have still not engaged in the formal, legally binding consultation required by the Endangered Species Act — the only process sure to lead to improved protections for wildlife.

When the agencies last consulted, they did not evaluate impacts from harmful algae blooms on protected species. In requesting informal consultation, the Corps provided only outdated information — pre-dating 2007 — and otherwise claimed that it “does not have any information” suggesting that lake’s discharges may affect listed species in a manner not previously considered.

Lower Lake Okeechobee discharges could be bad for Caloosahatchee if rains don't arrive soon

The Caloosahatchee River estuary may soon suffer harm if daily rains don't come soon.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managers cut flows from Lake Okeechobee last week to 450 cubic feet per second as measured at the W.P. Franklin Lock, the water control structure that separates the freshwater portion of the river from the estuary.

That's just above the harm threshold of 400 cubic feet per second.

"We probably need more freshwater flow due to the lack of rainfall here in early June," said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani. "What the research has shown is we need about 800 cubic feet per second to maintain that salinity envelope at 10 or below in the upper estuary."

Cassani and others have long pushed for higher flow rates for the river in order to better balance salinity levels.

The Army Corps is in charge of Lake Okeechobee levels, which in recent years has been kept between 12.5 and 15.5 feet above sea level.  

Green space or detention ponds: Fort Myers asks which would you like near your home?

Fort Myers could have a new green space for residents to enjoy or a new storm water detention feature – options that 550 people will be asked to choose from in a survey to help the city decide the next incarnation of its former South Street landfill.

Spanning close to four acres in a residential neighborhood, the site that contained toxic lime sludge was recently cleared and excavated after 56 years, sparked by reports in The News-Press.

The city worked with landscape architect Sharon Fowler and a hand-picked steering committee to come up with the two options. Residents who live in the vicinity can expect a survey to arrive by mail possibly as early as Tuesday. The package will contain drawings of the choices and questions asking what kinds of amenities they would like to see, public works director Richard Moulton said.

Big mission awaits Florida's new Blue Green Algae Task Force

Reducing harmful nutrients in state waters, through moves such as more monitoring and staffing, is an expected short-term goal of a new task force set up by Gov. Ron DeSantis to look at toxic algae fouling Florida waterways.

But with a brief timeline for the five-member Blue Green Algae Task Force to reach its initial findings, don’t expect proposals for massive state rule changes related to farming practices or moving away from septic systems.

Task force member Michael Parsons, a professor of marine science at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of the Coastal Watershed Institute and Vester Field Station, said rather than replace regulations, as some environmental groups contend is needed, a more realistic approach would focus on “fine-tuning” existing rules.

“In any field, if you make the rules too strong, too stringent, too unfair, they won’t be followed,” Parsons said. “I think there is a compromise between allowing people the flexibility to work within certain frameworks as well as getting the needed results or the intended results within that framework. You can’t force people to do things, but on the other hand, we do have goals we need to meet, so there has to be a compromise between the two.”

This year's Gulf of Mexico dead zone could be one of the biggest ever, NOAA says

A summertime Gulf of Mexico dead zone fueled by pollution flowing out of the Mississippi River watershed could be among the largest on record this year.

In a seasonal forecast issued this week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said heavy spring rain over the watershed, which drains 37 states - or about 41 percent of the U.S. - was expected to flush large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into the northern Gulf. That could create a dead zone covering more than 7,800 square miles.

It's too early to tell what influence the zone might have on seasonal red tides that form off the Florida shelf. Following a 2017 record-setting dead zone, a toxic red tide started in October that lasted for more than a year, littering southwest Florida beaches with dead marine life and eventually sweeping up the Atlantic coast.

"This is an atypical year given the really high discharges, so it would be something to keep an eye on," said NOAA oceanographer David Schuerer. 

Estuary program gets new name, new funding

The Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership has a new name, but its mission remains the same.

The program, formerly the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, is continuing its work to protect Charlotte Harbor’s shorelines, as well as six other Southwest Florida estuaries from Dona and Roberts Bays in Sarasota County south to Estero Bay in Lee County and their watershed drainage areas.

The program is striving to find more funding for a new living shoreline on the north side of the seawall at Four Points by Sheraton Punta Gorda Harborside hotel.

“Our mission is to serve as a collective, working collaboratively in a consensus-based fashion to further common initiatives and projects for the protection of these resources,” said Jennifer Hecker, CHNEP executive director. “We at the same time of the name change, expanded our boundary to cover the freshwater Caloosahatchee basin in addition to the tidal which we had already covered. This, as well as the name change, has brought in new partners or reengaged former partners, strengthening the partnership and its efforts.”

In April, the Punta Gorda Council approved an action allowing the city to apply for a new National Coastal Resilience Grant that could bring in around $250,000—depending on the size of the project — to help fund a living shoreline.

Southwest Florida experts spotlight water quality, red tide research

Water quality science and solutions took center stage at the Sarasota County Water Quality Summit, which convened local, regional and state leaders in research and management fields on June 5 at Riverview High School in Sarasota County.

Dr. Cindy Heil, Director of the Red Tide Institute at Mote Marine Laboratory, shared decades of research on Florida red tides (blooms of Karenia brevis algae) and the nutrients that can support them, during a panel discussion on water quality science. The panel was moderated by David Shafer, Co-Executive Director of the Science and Environment Council of Southwest Florida, and featured additional speakers Steve Suau, Principal of Progressive Water Resources, Mike Mylett, Interim Director of Sarasota County Public Utilities, and Mary Lusk, Assistant Professor at University of Florida.

“We’ve identified over 13 different sources of nutrients that Florida red tide is capable of using, from when it forms offshore through when it moves to the coast, and we have quantified these sources,” Heil said. “The sources vary with the stage, age and location of a red tide bloom, so at any given time, looking at them is a complex endeavor. Regardless, reducing human-contributed, nearshore nutrients should be implemented for the health of our environment and economy. This might reduce red tide severity locally, but it is not expected to stop red tide entirely.”

Heil explained the possible reasons that Florida red tides naturally tend to form offshore of southwest Florida, more frequently than in other areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Reasons may include suitable habitat — the wide and shallow West Florida Continental Shelf — relatively little competition from other life forms offshore, and the presence of offshore nutrient sources including other life forms that “fix” nitrogen from the air into a form K. brevis can use. When ocean circulation patterns move Florid

Group working on feasibility study on water quality for Caloosahatchee reservoir

A long-awaited Everglades restoration project should be operational four years from now, but experts say it's not going to solve the water quality problems plaguing the Caloosahatchee River and its estuary.

A group of scientists, government agencies, water quality experts and advocates met Wednesday in Fort Myers to talk about the Caloosahatchee reservoir, often called C-43.

The largest Everglades project for Lee County, the $600 million, 55 billion-gallon, water-storage project was designed to capture water from the river during the wet season, store and treat that water and then release it during the dry season.

“We have too much and too little and this is really focused on the too little side," said Jennifer Hecker, director of the Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership, formerly known as the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. "It’s an important piece to fixing our river and water quality.”

During hurricane season, a storm surges could cause most devastation

With hurricane season in full swing, new reports are supporting evidence that wind isn't the biggest threat during a hurricane, but water is.

A new report from data analysis company CoreLogic, analyzed 19 states along 3,700 miles of coastline between Texas and Maine to show that 7.3 million homes are at risk of being destroyed during a hurricane storm surge.

With 2.9 million residences at risk of coastal flooding during a storm surge, Florida topped the list of number of homes at risk. Tampa's 12,103 homes at risk earned the city its No. 5 ranking out of 15 coastal, metropolitan areas surveyed

“Damage from storm surge and inland flooding has proven to be far more destructive than wind in recent years, so we cannot rely on the hurricane category alone to give us a sense of the potential loss," said senior hazard scientist at CoreLogic, Tom Jeffery, in a press release. "A Category 5 hurricane in an area with few structures may be far less devastating than a Category 1 hurricane in a densely populated area.” 

Go green: Don’t fertilize this summer

It is time for Southwest Floridians who have been demanding action to improve water quality in our canals, river and gulf to step up and take part.

Literally.

Fertilizer restrictions throughout much of Lee County begin June 1, prohibiting, through the rainy season, the use of chemical additives to green up lawns and landscaping.

The "blackout" ordinances in Lee County, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Beach are not new nor is the one on Sanibel, where the prohibition goes into effect on July 1.

All ban the use of fertilizers through September to keep additional nitrogen and, especially, phosphorous, out of area waterbodies where the chemicals can "feed" algae, naturally occurring or not, and so foster noxious algal blooms.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida states the purpose behind the annual ban well:

... "Fertilizers placed on your lawn to make the grass grow can have the same effect on algae species in our waterways help them grow. Excess nutrients in the water can result in blooms of algae that use up the available oxygen in the water, killing fish and other aquatic organisms.

Coastal estuaries are no longer what nature designed

The St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries have been extensively changed from the systems designed by nature.

During an online public webinar on May 28, Patti Gorman of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, explained how development and flood control efforts have drastically changed the natural estuaries.

Historically, the St. Lucie River was a freshwater river with no connection to the Atlantic Ocean and no connection to Lake Okeechobee, she explained. The inlet was initially opened by businessmen in 1898 for boat traffic.

“The St. Lucie, for most of its history, was mostly a freshwater system,” she said. “As things got developed and the inlet was dug and hardened, it because a saltier situation.

“That was before the major watershed development was done,” she said. As development continued, the salinity levels changed again.

In addition, the C-44 Canal was dug to connect Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie River, as part of the Lake Okeechobee Waterway, both for navigation and for drainage.

Beach erosion continues to plague Caspersen Beach

Caspersen Beach continues disappear as erosion problem gets worse.

“It’s hard to get down to the beach,” said tourist Andy Nelson.

Nelson and his family heard about the beach from a family friend. He said they were told, “the beach is amazing and so beautiful.”

Nelson said that’s not what he got Wednesday morning. They left the beach early.

“The beach just drops off. It’s tough to find a place to sit,” Nelson said. “I mean you got palm trees laying all over the place cause they’re falling off the edge."

With biosolids bills failing in Florida Legislature, DEP to develop own rules

With bills to regulate biosolids failing this year in the Florida Legislature, the state Department of Environmental Protection plans to come up with a set of rules to keep the sewage sludge dumped on farmland from polluting the state's water.

Several people concerned with pollution caused by biosolids told TCPalm they hope DEP will develop regulations with teeth.

"I'm guardedly optimistic," said Bob Solari, chairman of the Indian River County Commission, which has twice enacted moratoriums on biosolids use in the wake of pollution at Blue Cypress Lake tied to sludge spread on nearby pastures.

Commissioners said they would have banned Class B biosolids outright but lacked the authority. Instead they looked to the state Legislature for help.

"It will take some work to make sure DEP gets things right," Solari said. "We'll be following them very closely."

Of the 340,000 dry tons of sewage sludge Florida produces each year, about:

  • 100,000 tons goes to landfills
  • 100,000 tons is partially treated and spread on land as Class B biosolids
  • 140,000 tons is combined with composted landscape material and chemically treated to produce 200,000 dry tons of Class AA biosolids, which is classified as "fertilizer" and can be used without regulation

Both Class B and Class AA contain about 5.5% nitrogen and 2.2% phosphorus. Combined, the two produce about 4 million pounds of nitrogen and about 1.5 million pounds of phosphorus, nutrients that feed toxic algae blooms.

The ill-fated bills — a Senate version by state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Melbourne Republican, and a House version by state Rep. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican — called for statewide regulations on the use of Class B biosolids along the lines of

“Swale reclamation" project underway in Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach is undergoing a Swale Reclamation Project of its side streets.

A key factor to good storm water management is a properly functioning swale. A swale is a long narrow trench that varies in depth from 6 inches to a few feet and is usually wider than it is deep.

"The drainage system for the town is basically a two-part system. There's an inground system and a swale system," said the Town Manager Roger Hernstadt. "We're going to the streets that don't have inground pipe systems to rehabilitate the swales so that they can function as a transmission system."

"The swale is less expensive than an underground pipe system, so we try to use that to the greatest extent possible while gravity and other geographical features allow us to use that method versus when we have to use the inground pipe systems," said Hernstadt.

Swales are designed to provide water quality treatment that reduces pollution and controls flooding. Swales collect rainwater, filter out pollutants, control flooding, prevent erosion, and provide a natural area for storm runoff.

In Sarasota-Manatee, the storm surge threat grows

More than 368,000 residences in Southwest Florida are in danger of hurricane storm surge, with a potential rebuilding cost topping $77 billion.

For the fourth straight year, the Sarasota-Manatee area ranked eighth among major U.S. metro areas for storm surge risk, according to a study released Thursday by real estate database CoreLogic.

With the 2019 hurricane season starting Saturday, Florida remains the state with the most homes at risk of a storm surge and with the highest reconstruction cost in the U.S.

Some 7.3 million homes along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts sit in danger from hurricane-driven waves.

“Damage from storm surge and inland flooding has proven to be far more destructive than wind in recent years, so we cannot rely on the hurricane category alone to give us a sense of the potential loss,” said Tom Jeffery, senior hazard scientist at CoreLogic. “A Category 5 hurricane in an area with few structures may be far less devastating than a Category 1 hurricane in a densely populated area.”

Hurricane Irma ripped through Southwest Florida as it traversed the state in September 2017, the first hurricane to strike the area since Charley in 2004. Hurricane Michael stuck the Panhandle last October.

Controversial Roundup chemical, glyphosate, to be banned as herbicide on Fort Myers Beach

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, will soon be forbidden in Fort Myers Beach, making the town the first Lee County municipality to ban the controversial weed-killer.

Elsewhere in the state, Key West and Satellite Beach passed laws prohibiting it and several cities in California have as well.

A California jury determined in March that the widely used weed killer was a substantial factor in a California man's cancer, in a lawsuit called a bellwether for hundreds of others waiting to be tried, but many government regulators deny a link between cancer and glyphosate.

Its manufacturer rejects such a connection, saying hundreds of studies have established that the chemical is safe. Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year, said in a statement it "(believes) firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer."

Fertilizer ban impedes harmful nutrient runoff, takes effect in Cape Coral

Preventing another water crisis could start in your front yard. On Saturday, restrictions begin on what you can put on your lawn.

Fertilizer bans are taking effect all across Southwest Florida. The City of Cape Coral will ban their use of fertilizers until Sept. 30.

The purpose is to keep the harmful nutrients found in fertilizer from washing into storm drains during the rainy months. Many areas in Southwest Florida have similar bans, including Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach.

“It is not a cure-all,” said Kelly McNab, an environmental planning specialist at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “This isn’t going to solve our water quality crisis we’re facing in southwest Florida. What it is is it’s a very important piece of the puzzle.”

Soon Naples will have its ban. Under the new ordinance, the city would prohibit the use of fertilizer from June 1 to Sept 30.

Cape Coral fertilizer restrictions begin June 1st

The City of Cape Coral’s fertilizer ordinance regulates the application of fertilizer. Beginning June 1, the use of fertilizers is restricted in the city.

This regulation was enacted to keep harmful nutrients found in fertilizer from washing off from lawns into storm drains during the rainy months. These nutrients impact the city’s canals and surrounding waters, leading to poor water quality and algal blooms. The fertilizer restrictions apply to citizens and commercial lawn services.

Here are the key points of the fertilizer ordinance:

  • No fertilizer use is permitted between June 1 and September 30.
  • No fertilizer use is allowed of any kind if a storm watch or warning is in effect.
  • No fertilizers can be used within 10 feet of any body of water – measured from the top of a seawall.
  • The percentage of slow-release nitrogen content in any fertilizer used during the remainder of the year (January-May and October-December) must be at least 50 percent.
  • No grass clippings or vegetative debris may be swept or blown into stormwater drains, conveyances, bodies of waters, sidewalks or roadways.

The City’s fertilizer ordinance was adopted in 2010. For more information visit the city's website.

Warm Mineral Springs Park nomination moves forward

As part of the Warm Mineral Springs Park Master Plan process, City staff worked with Kimley-Horn & Associates and Lorrie Muldowney, President of Creative Preservation, LLC., to submit a nomination in November 2018 to add the park’s three existing buildings to the National Register of Historic Places on behalf of the City of North Port. The Springs itself was added to the National Register in 1977.

The Division of Historical Resources - Florida National Register Review Board held a hearing for this nomination on, May 23. They voted unanimously to forward the nomination of the Warm Mineral Springs Park Buildings to the National Park Service for consideration for addition to the National Register under criterion A and C for entertainment/recreation and architecture, with a period of significance from 1959-1960 at the local level. As the next step in this process, the National Park Service will now review the nomination and the City expects to have the final response later this summer.