Water-Related News

Prevent red tide? Start with more wetlands, experts say

Three Democratic federal lawmakers will work toward increasing water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico and creating more wetlands to clean water flowing into the Gulf and other waterways.

U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson crafted a preliminary action plan Wednesday after meeting with local scientists and business leaders about the ongoing impacts of red tide.

“Even though the tourism numbers have been up … boy, this could really set us back unless we work together to address the red tide,” Castor said during a roundtable discussion in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Three scientists with varying areas of expertise all agreed: Red tide is a naturally occurring environmental phenomenon, but large blooms are likely fueled by warmer Gulf temperatures as the result of climate change and, possibly, by nutrient runoff from agriculture.

Sarasota County BMPs to be employed proactively

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Sarasota County’s Stormwater Division crews are now taking a comprehensive, systematic approach consistent with industry standards in performing preventative maintenance. This approach is a departure from past practices of a reactive, complaint-driven process after a problem has occurred. This approach is identified as a Best Management Practice (BMP) for stormwater system maintenance. This approach enhances customer satisfaction, lowers long-term expenses and improves the drainage system’s overall performance.

The basic premise of the BMP is: Start preventative flood system maintenance at the downstream end of a system; clean and make functional the smallest constrictions in the conveyance system to improve and maintain consistent flows, typically driveway pipes; combine work efforts with any requests for service where the service is warranted, thus reducing crew travel time and mobilization costs; do any additional aesthetic improvements after the primary objectives are completed.

Canal Watch Group launched in North Port

The City in cooperation with citizens of North Port have recognized the need to form a Canal Watch Group. The Canal Watch Group is open to anyone that wishes to conduct observations on any stretch of canal. Members will become ambassadors for our canals and environmental stewards for conserving North Port’s natural resources.

The canal system in North Port serves as the city’s drinking water source and must be protected from pollution. One major goal of the Canal Watch Group is to educate the public on how to minimize pollutants in our water resources through communication within our communities and neighborhoods. Another goal is to observe the canals for any illicit discharge or general unhealthiness. Examples of concern include excessive fertilizing or fertilizing during prohibited wet months. Concerns also include oil sheen, illegal dumping, improper disposal of plant and animal waste, algae blooms, excessive turbidity, dead fish and other affected wildlife. To help protect our water quality, North Port City Commission unanimously approved a resolution on October 9, 2018, to encourage the voluntary non-use of fertilizer year-around.

Lee Board of County Commissioners amends grant agreement for water project

Fort Myers – The Lee Board of County Commissioners today approved a grant amendment agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to increase total grant funding to $2 million for the Nalle Grade Stormwater Project.

The project is designed to intercept stormwater runoff from the Bayshore Creek watershed just downstream of Nalle Grade Road. Water will be pumped from an existing channelized section of the waterway and placed into a settling area for pre-treatment. Then, it will be delivered into a restored wetland area for further pollutant removal before returning to Bayshore Creek. The system is designed to bypass flood flows when major storm events occur so as not to contribute to area flooding.

The Caloosahatchee estuary has a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) designation for Total Nitrogen and an adopted State of Florida Basin Management Action Plan to lower this pollutant. Commissioners spend millions of dollars annually on projects to reduce pollutants in the estuary.

Construction is expected to begin in January 2019. The total cost of the project is estimated at $3.2 million, which includes the grant funding.

New SCCF Stranding Map documents mass mortality of sea turtles

A bloom of Karenia brevis starting in October 2017 has resulted in the largest number of sea turtle deaths ever attributed to a single red tide event, according to experts.

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation reported that the algal blooms start in the Gulf of Mexico, but they are fed and perpetuated by high levels of nutrients washing in from farther inland.

In June, an unprecedented number of sea turtle strandings - sick, injured or dead - began washing up on Sanibel and Captiva beaches. When a stranding is reported, SCCF's staff and interns mobilize to collect data and document the death as part of the National Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network. If the turtle is still alive, it is taken to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife for rehabilitation.

With red tide absent, people return to Fort Myers Beach

When Priscilla Izquierdo’s mom told her the beach was clear to swim, Izquierdo had her doubts.

But when the Cape Coral mother and her children, Brandon, 11; D.J., 5; and Siri, 3 arrived at Fort Myers Beach on Saturday, the water was so clear they jumped right in.

“It’s awesome we were finally able to get in the water,” Izquierdo said. “No more pool. We could come back to the beach. The red tide, I didn’t believe it’s gone. We’re trusting it is.”

So are hundreds of other Southwest Florida beachgoers.

Governing Board Approves Waterway Maintenance Agreement with Lee Co.

West Palm Beach – The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board today approved a cooperative agreement with Lee County to take over maintenance of key natural waterways throughout the county.

"Lee County asked for help to shore up its flood protection system, and this Board answered the call," said Governing Board Member Jamie Weisinger. "This District has the know-how, manpower and expertise to keep waterways clear and floodwater moving. Partnerships like this stress our commitment to working with counties, local drainage districts and homeowners associations to ensure all residents are protected for the next major rain event." take over maintenance of key natural waterways throughout the county.

Under the agreement, SFWMD will assume responsibility for clearing trees and other debris from 13 natural creeks and tributaries throughout Lee County. The District will coordinate with Lee County each year to determine which water courses on the list will be prioritized and addressed. Keeping waterways clear of debris is a key component to providing flood protection as downed trees can clog canals and restrict the flow of floodwaters after a hurricane. take over maintenance of key natural waterways throughout the county.

In a step forward for Everglades restoration, U.S. Senate approves reservoir plan

A project intended to help address blue-green algae outbreaks took a major step forward Wednesday as the U.S. Senate passed a bill that includes a proposal for an Everglades water storage reservoir.

Senators approved the bill, which includes many other water-related projects nationwide, by a margin of 99-1.

The reservoir would be built south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce the need for water discharges east and west. The lake water contains high levels of nutrients like phosophorus and nitrogren, which fuels algae blooms in inland waterways and coastal areas, including the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

North Port commissioners urge residents to curb year-round fertilizer use

North Port city commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to encourage residents to curb use of fertilizer year-round — joining Venice, which adopted a similar voluntary ban earlier this year.

City Commissioner Jill Luke worked on the resolution, along with city stormwater management staff.

And similar to a resolution that was passed in Venice, the city of North Port is only urging residents to take steps to curb fertilizer use, in hopes of reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in stormwater runoff, and, in turn, avoiding feeding the red tide algae in the Gulf of Mexico.

North Port stormwater manager Elizabeth Wong said the city is planning educational outreach for a variety of users.

Higher tides associated with Michael spark erosion concerns in Southwest Florida

Beach managers and government agencies are watching for erosion along Southwest Florida beaches in the wake of powerful Hurricane Michael.

High tides were pushed beyond their normal limits Tuesday and Wednesday and onto some local barrier islands.

"Coastal areas in Lee County began experiencing higher than normal tides on Tuesday as Hurricane Michael passed west of Southwest Florida," Lee County spokesman Tim Engstrom said in an email to The News-Press. As the storm made landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, winds in our area were expected to shift onshore, he said.

The hurricanes and climate-change questions keep coming. Yes, they’re linked.

Scientists are increasingly confident of the links between global warming and hurricanes.

In a warming world, they say, hurricanes will be stronger, for a simple reason: Warmer water provides more energy that feeds them.

Hurricanes and other extreme storms will also be wetter, for a simple reason: Warmer air holds more moisture.

And, storm surges from hurricanes will be worse, for a simple reason that has nothing to do with the storms themselves: Sea levels are rising.

Blue-green algae focus of Cape Coral water meeting

At a special Cape Coral water meeting, local residents were united when they voiced their frustration about the blue-green algae problem and how the government has handled the environmental disaster.

Council members will meet with the city attorney Wednesday where they will discuss the strategy moving forward. There will be a court ruling on the issue by the conclusion of the month.

Punta Gorda's Harbor Heights pier to be demolished, reconstructed beginning Oct. 15

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – The preparation for the demolition and reconstruction of the pier located at 27420 Voyageur Drive, Punta Gorda, will begin Oct. 15, 2018. The estimated time of completion is February 2019. The replacement is due to long-term deterioration and structural failure. The park will remain open during construction. Please use caution in the construction area.

For information, contact Brenda Sisk at 941-833-3824 or Brenda.Sisk@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.

Red tide and fertilizer impact the topic of Venice City Council discussions

VENICE — Red tide and ways city officials can reduce the impact of fertilizer runoff in the Gulf of Mexico will dominate discussion in several items on tap Tuesday with the Venice City Council.

Venice Mayor John Holic has three separate discussion topics posted on the agenda — a resolution of the Southwest Regional Planning Council regarding biosolids, a direction to staff to get a professional opinion on not removing dead marine life from the beach, and a discussion of Sarasota County’s beach cleanup policy.

Meanwhile Vice Mayor Bob Daniels placed the Florida Friendly Yards program on the agenda for discussion.

Mote leader shares red tide science at Capitol Hill briefing

Mote Marine Laboratory’s leader shared red tide science to inform national policymakers yesterday, Sept. 27, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby served as a panelist during a red tide briefing at the Capitol to provide an overview of Florida red tide, discuss Mote’s current rapid response efforts to the ongoing bloom, and present a vision for the future with the exploration of new mitigation strategies and creation of an independent, Florida-based Marine and Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Center.

Ocean Conservancy and Citizens’ Climate Lobby hosted the briefing, with honorary hosts U.S. senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

Lee County gets help from SFWMD keeping up flood-prone canals

Lee County is turning over management of more than a dozen canals, from urban settings to rural outposts, to the region's water control district for help in keeping the waterways free of debris that contributes to flooding.

County commissioners Tuesday approved an agreement with the South Florida Water Management District to take over maintaining 13 canals. The water district will assume responsibility for the waterways as part of its overall flood control operations and perform routine maintenance.

In a statement, County Manager Roger Desjarlais called the agreement "a plan of action to increase flood protection to the citizens of Lee County."

Work in the first year will include maintenance in three areas in which significant flooding was found after Hurricane Irma.

First on the list will be the Orange River in east Lee County, Mullock Creek in south Fort Myers and Oak Creek in Bonita Springs.

Assessment process proposed for Captiva beach renourishment

The tentative apportionment for the 2020-2021 beach renourishment project was presented to the Captiva Erosion Prevention District's board of commissioners at its recent meeting.

On Sept. 27, economists Drs. William Stronge and Gary Jackson reviewed their breakdown of the annual benefits of the project for private property owners, in terms of storm protection and recreation, and the resulting proposed method for determining the assessments for all of the involved parcels.

The information presented was based on data yielded from a Recreational Use of Captiva's Beaches and Economic Impact study and a Captiva Rental Property study that were recently conducted, plus an Engineering Design and Storm Damage Benefits report by APTIM Coastal Planning & Engineering.

Fort Myers to join Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral to petition for more water releases

The Fort Myers City Council has voted to join three Southwest Florida cities in their petition to the South Florida Water Management District to increase Lake Okeechobee freshwater releases to alleviate the presence of an algal bloom on the region's waterways.

Council members heard from Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane, who is spearheading the campaign, during their meeting Monday. He said Sanibel, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Beach were preparing a formal petition to the water district. A court hearing is scheduled for Oct. 29, Ruane said.

Ruane gave an impassioned presentation about how he went in front of the water management district board Sept. 13 to ask them to increase their releases from 300 cubic feet per second to just over 700 cubic feet per second.

Blue-green algal blooms found in Estero Bay

Experts confirmed Monday [Oct. 1] that the green slime discovered in Estero Bay over the weekend is the blue-green algae that has been plaguing canals in Lee County for months.

Neighbors are not happy about it.

Richard Aubin bought his home on Bonita Beach in 1980.

“But this is the lousiest summer I’ve ever spent here in Bonita and I love this place,” he said.

Now, algal blooms are present in the bay.

“What’s different about this one is it like salt water where is the one in Cape Coral does not,” said FGCU Marine Scientist, Michael Parsons.

Unlike Cape Coral, the algae in Estero Bay grows on the bay floor.

“And it was growing so well it had trapped air bubbles and it just floated up to the surface as a mat so that’s what people started noticing,” Parsons said.

He says it is a natural phenomenon, but could be worse due to the rainfall last year during and before Hurricane Irma.

Cape Coral passes motion to request air quality testing for toxins

The City of Cape Coral passed a motion Monday to send a letter to the Department of Health and the DEP requesting air quality tests.

The City hopes to answer a question that many have been asking: how safe is the air you breathe?

Blue-green algae has overwhelmed Cape Coral neighbors for months, and now people are worried about health impact of the water crisis.

While Sally Mullins says her Cape Coral canal is looking normal again, she was living with blue-green algae for months, and she says the smell was unbearable.

“Sore throat, we had vomiting, diarrhea, everything,” Mullins said.

And while cleanup efforts helped to clear up their water, she still has one question.

“I would love to know what we were breathing and what it was doing to our bodies.”

Cape Council Member Jessica Cosden agrees.

“Clearly there’s something in the air,” Cosden said.

Which is why she asked city staff what Cape Coral can do.

What's turning Southwest Florida's shores brown? It's not red tide

The sand was white, but the murky, brownish water at some beaches in Collier and southern Lee counties continued to keep some would-be swimmers at bay Monday.

Discolored water has been reported at multiple locations, including Barefoot Beach, Seagate Beach and the Naples Pier, according to Naples' Natural Resources Manager Stephanie Molloy. Beachgoers on social media also reported a similar discoloration at Bonita Beach on Sunday.

But while red tide spells have ravaged Southwest Florida beaches and sea life for months, the discoloration is being caused by a bloom of a nontoxic diatom, called Cylindrotheca, Molloy said.

"There's lots of different species," she said. "When the conditions are right, they bloom."

But unlike red tide, which can cause respiratory issues and coughing for beachgoers, the diatom does not produce a toxin, Molloy said.

Volunteer with Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center

Enjoy learning about and teaching others about nature? Looking for a fun and educational way to meet like minded people? Consider becoming a volunteer with Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center at Cedar Point Park, 2300 Placida Road in Englewood.

Office volunteers work shifts from either 8:30 am to noon or noon to 3:00 pm Monday through Friday. Volunteers can work one shift per week or just a shift a month. Duties include answering the phone, taking messages, scheduling programs, greeting the public and answering questions.

From October through April, volunteers are need as Trail Guides to lead guided nature walks through several local Charlotte County properties. These are usually from 9:00 am to 11:00 am on various days of the week. If interested, a training session will be scheduled. You will learn some plants, animals and interpretive techniques that may help you lead these “walks in the woods”.

Media statement: FWC Commission expands fishery management measures in response to red tide

At its September meeting in Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) directed staff to expand a recent catch-and-release only measure for snook and redfish to include Tampa Bay (including all of Manatee and Hillsborough counties) as well as all of Pinellas and Pasco counties starting Friday, Sept. 28.

The FWC also directed staff to extend these measures through May 10, 2019, in these and other areas previously made catch-and-release for redfish and snook.

Scientists, resource managers share major updates on tackling Florida red tide

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Florida Department of Health (DOH) and Mote Marine Laboratory (Mote) gathered on Monday, Sept. 24, for the State of Florida’s press announcement of a new partnership initiative to address red tide. A related roundtable discussion with scientists and local stakeholder groups shared important updates on Florida’s state-local-private partnership efforts to manage red tide impacts.

Mote — an independent, nonprofit marine science institution based in Sarasota — served as host site for the news conference, highlighting its innovative work in red tide research and response.

During the news conference, FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton announced that Governor Scott was directing a $2.2 million investment to test innovative, red tide mitigation technologies, including specialized clay field experiments and expansion of Mote’s novel mitigation technologies, such as its ozone treatment system. Mote originally patented its ozone system to remove red tide and its toxins from water entering Mote Aquarium, later tested the system with seawater in a 25,000-gallon “mesocosm” pool at Mote’s Sarasota campus to prepare for field tests, and most recently conducted a pilot-scale field test in a dead-end canal in Boca Grande. While data from the pilot test are still being analyzed, it’s clear that the technology merits future testing to determine its effectiveness at commercial scale.

Archaeology lecture series: a prehistoric cemetery in the Gulf of Mexico

Join the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society (CGCAS) in partnership with the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE) for his annual lecture series on the third Thursday of every month, spanning diverse archaeological topics. This evening's speaker will be Dr. Ryan Duggins, the Underwater Archaeology Supervisor within the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research.

An unexpected discovery by a fossil hunter diving a quarter-mile off Manasota Key near Venice, Florida, has led to a groundbreaking archaeological project that could change everything scientists thought they knew about offshore archaeology. Investigations by the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research at the Manasota Key Offshore site (8SO7030) revealed evidence of a prehistoric Native American burial site in what appears to have been a freshwater peat-bottomed pond thousands of years ago. Ongoing archaeological investigation revealed multiple discrete areas containing peat, worked wooden stakes that were used in burial practice, and the remains of multiple individuals. Radiocarbon dating of two stakes dated them to more than 7,200 years old. When this site was in use, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were about 30 feet below their current level. This talk presents results from remote sensing investigations and underwater archaeological documentation while addressing long term management plans for this delicate and unique site.

Measures that would help address Florida's harmful algal blooms remain stalled In Congress

Florida is waiting on Congress to authorize two efforts that could help address algal blooms plaguing the state's coastal and inland waterways.

Congressional authorization expires Sunday for legislation that helps communities cope with harmful algae blooms. The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act enables the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and an inter-agency task force to do things like monitor algae blooms, research their causes and give grants to communities trying to cope. A lapse in authorization wouldn't eliminate the program, but it would make it less likely that Congress would continue to fund it.

Simultaneously, Florida leaders and environmental groups are calling on the Senate to vote on a bill that includes plans for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. That reservoir would reduce the need for lake water discharges that contribute to blue-green algae outbreaks.

Deal proposed in Peace River water feud

A potential lengthy and costly legal battle over water withdrawals from the Peace River may be averted if all of the parties accept a proposed compromise.

The board of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority held a closed session with attorney Douglas Manson on Wednesday to discuss the possible settlement.

Patrick Lehman, the authority’s executive director, said he hopes that an agreement can be reached that satisfies all parties – including Polk County, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative and the municipalities of Lakeland, Fort Meade, Wauchula, Bartow and Winter Haven, which sued to block the regional water utility from taking more Peace River water.

“They need options, let’s face it,” Lehman said of Polk’s interest in finding additional water supplies.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, which regulates water resources across a broad area, suggested a way to quench all of the parties’ future thirst that Lehman says takes in the “broader picture.”

Yet it involves making Hillsborough County part of that regional solution.

The Peace River authority supplies drinking water to Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties and the city of North Port.

The authority draws water from the Peace River during the rainy season and stores it underground and in two reservoirs to distribute during the dry months.

Currently, the authority’s permits from the water district, commonly known as Swiftmud, allow it to withdraw a maximum 120 million gallons per day from the river. It has contracts to provide up to 34.8 million gallons daily.

Is spraying weeds in Central Florida lakes, contributing to Southwest Florida’s water crisis?

FORT MYERS - Scott Wilson is not a scientist. He’s a pastor and a fisherman with a passion for the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes where he spends most of his time off.

“I’ve grown up on this chain of lakes since I was 4 years old, and I love this part of Florida more than anywhere else,” he said, getting choked up as he tried to get the words out.

Wilson claims since 2012, he’s seen an excessive amount of chemical spraying done near his fish camp.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission does maintenance control throughout Florida to keep populations of invasive plants, or weeds, low.

“Invasive plants degrade and diminish Florida’s conservation lands and waterways. Decaying plants in lakes release nutrients that help algae to grow,” said Carli Segelson, a spokesperson for FWC.

State directs $2.2 million to Mote for red tide research

The state has granted nearly $2.2 million to Mote Marine Laboratory to expand testing and researching of red tide.

An announcement Monday at Mote Marine Laboratory brought experts from Mote, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Health together to discuss the investment. expand testing and researching of red tide.

FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said the money will allow for innovative research technologies to be tested in the field. expand testing and researching of red tide.

“We’re building on that incredible productivity of research to now be able to launch an additional initiative that is going to focus on applied science and technology that is going to help us in fact attack red tide and decrease the impact that their harmful algal blooms have on our ecosystem, our quality of life and our economy,” Mote President and CEO Michael Crosby said. expand testing and researching of red tide.

The state will direct $2,178,000 to Mote to test technologies, such as Mote’s ozone treatment system and clay field testing, to mitigate the effects of red tide, a release from the governor’s office said. expand testing and researching of red tide.

How your lawn's fertilizers can contribute to the red tide; counties combat their use

ORLANDO - Water. It is everywhere in Florida, from our beaches to our lakes and canals. The red tide has not only affected our beaches, the ecosystem and tourism, but harmful algae blooms have also affected other bodies of water, such as inland lakes and canals closer to our homes.

For months, we have seen how some canals have turned red and how some even filled with green slime-like algae. Although algae blooms can occur naturally, nutrient runoff is one of Florida’s biggest problems contributing to the harmful blooms.

FGCU researchers install air quality pump to test blue-green algae toxins

CAPE CORAL - Florida Gulf Coast University researchers are tired of waiting on other groups to test how blue-green algae affects our air quality.

They took matters into their own hands and created an air quality pump.

The air pump has different layers of filters, similar to your respiratory system.

“We are looking at microsysten. So that’s a toxin produced by mycrosystis which is the blue-green algae that’s been a big concern this summer here in the Cape,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, Professor of Marine Science Florida Gulf Coast University.

Parsons is also the director of the Coastal Watershed Institute, and he says the residents along the canals are asking if breathing the air near blue-green algae is healthy.

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category 4 storm to a Category 2 and then a Category 1, Wayne Mills figured he could stick it out.

He regrets it. The Neuse River, normally 150 feet away, lapped near his door in New Bern, North Carolina, on Sunday even as the storm had "weakened" further.

People like Mills can be lulled into thinking a hurricane is less dangerous when the rating of a storm is reduced. But those ratings are based on wind strength, not rainfall or storm surge—and water is responsible for 90 percent of storm deaths .

Several meteorologists and disaster experts said something needs to change with the 47-year-old Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to reflect the real risks in hurricanes. They point to Florence, last year's Hurricane Harvey, 2012's Sandy and 2008's Ike as storms where the official Saffir-Simpson category didn't quite convey the danger because of its emphasis on wind.

"The concept of saying 'downgraded' or 'weakened should be forever banished," said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd. "With Florence, I felt it was more dangerous after it was lowered to Category 2."

It was a lowered category that helped convince Famous Roberts, a corrections officer from Trenton, to stay behind. "Like a lot of people (we) didn't think it was actually going to be as bad," he said. "With the category drop ... that's another factor why we did stay."