Water-Related News

Polk County interests want potential impacts of Peace River utility project studied

Government water managers on Tuesday postponed a vote on a four-county utility’s permit to pump and store more water from the Peace River until several challenges to the proposal can be reviewed.

Seven challenges, primarily from Polk County, were filed early last week against the Peace River-Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority’s proposed permit that would increase the amount of water it pumps from the Peace River to 258 million gallons per day. It would also allow for the authority to supply up to 80 million gallons of water to its Southwest Florida customers every day in coming years.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District had been set to consider the permit Tuesday.

Currently, the authority’s permit from the water management district allows the authority to store 120 million gallons of water per day during the summer rainy season, when river flows are typically highest.

A new permit would allow the authority to pursue bigger plans: to build a third reservoir. This would allow the authority to store more than 18 billion gallons of water in the dry spring season from November to May to use for drinking water, while taking less water from the river to maintain fresh water flows downstream to Charlotte Harbor, the state’s second-largest estuary.

Along with the reservoir, the authority plans a bigger water treatment plant. The expansion could cost about $200 million.

The authority is run jointly by Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties. It supplies millions of gallons of drinking water per day, primarily to customers in Charlotte and Sarasota counties and the city of North Port.

Majorities see government efforts to protect the environment as insufficient

Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to protect key aspects of the environment including water (69%) and air quality (64%). And two-thirds of Americans (67%) say the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. These findings come after a year of change in climate and energy regulatory policies under the Trump administration.

Majorities of U.S. adults say federal government is not doing enough to protect environment in these waysAt the same time, Americans are closely divided (52% to 48%) over whether or not it is possible to cut back on regulations while still effectively protecting air and water quality. There are wide political divides on this issue, with roughly three-quarters of Republicans (74%, including independents who lean Republican) convinced this is possible but 64% of Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) convinced it is not possible.

The national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted March 27-April 9 among 2,541 adults, finds pockets of partisan agreement over expanding solar and wind power, though wide political divides remain over increasing fossil fuels through such methods as coal mining, hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, a pattern consistent with a 2016 Pew Research Center survey.

Archaeologist hopes to prompt discussion on solutions to problem of rising sea levels

SARASOTA — Uzi Baram decided it was time to start speaking out on the impact of rising sea levels after Hurricane Irma hit Florida last September.

“After Hurricane Irma, I have teenagers, they’re out of school for a week and a half, New College closed for a week and a half, damage was pretty severe, considering it was really far away from us,” said Baram, a professor of anthropology and director of the New College Public Archaeology Lab.

People have been dealing with and adapting to changing sea levels for millennia, Baram said Wednesday evening, shortly after his talk “Archaeology and Rising Sea Levels: Global Perspectives and Local Concerns,” to a crowd of almost 50 people at the May meeting of the Time Sifters Archaeology Society in the Geldbart Auditorium at Selby Library.

“This is the first draft of what I can say for this sort of public audience about these issues,” said Baram, who acknowledged that the presentation was essentially a literature review of available research.

Baram, a lifetime member of Time Sifters, plans to give a more refined version of his talk during the third annual Tidally United Summit, set for Aug. 9-11 at venues including the Mildred Sainer Pavilion at New College on Aug. 9, Payne Park Auditorium Aug. 10 and Historic Spanish Point Aug. 11.

Project to restore natural water flow on 1,000 acres in Lee County finished

More than 10 miles of roads have been removed, soil piles and berms have been flattened and ditches and canals have been plugged.

The South Florida Water Management District has finished a two-year, $3 million project to help restore the natural flow of water to more than 1,000 acres in southern Lee County near the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

The project wraps up a major portion of restoration work in the southern part of the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed. CREW spans 60,000 acres in Lee and Collier counties.

Housing developments, dirt roads and farm ditches had drained much of the wetlands and blocked the flow of water. After the altered landscape left the Bonita Springs area prone to extensive flooding in 1995, the Water Management District began to buy and restore CREW lands.

Since then, the Water Management District has purchased 4,000 acres and cleared exotic vegetation from just more than half of that. The state and federal governments have spent a total of $39 million on restoration in CREW wetlands.

Researchers test water samples for red tide in SWFL

Researchers at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are testing water samples to determine how the concentration of red tide is effecting the state’s coastal waters.

They receive close to 150 samples every week.

Kate Hubbard, an FWC research scientist, said the samples are used to detect the impact of the algae bloom.

“We started to see the bloom in November and now it’s May, so that is a fairly long lasting bloom,” Hubbard said.

Not only is the annual bloom lasting longer this year, but many say the effects have been particularly worse.

“You’re taking these breaths and it’s like these little knives going down from the red tide,” said visitor Paul Schirmer.

Hubbard says the bloom begins about 40 miles off the coast of Florida, making beaches around Sanibel, Fort Myers and Bonita prime locations for red tide to spring up.

The FWC’s most recent map shows lesser concentrations in SWFL.

WINK News collected several samples from local beaches and put them to the test.

After examining them under a microscope, and hand counting the bacteria, Hubbard and her team found little to no traces of red tide.

EPA releases 5-year review of Recreational Water Quality Criteria

The EPA has released its Five-year Review of the 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC), as required by the BEACH Act amendments to the Clean Water Act (CWA). The review report describes the state of the science since the release of the 2012 RWQC, related to the protection of human health in water bodies designated for primary contact recreation (e.g., swimming) in these areas:

  • Health studies;
  • Indicators and performance of qPCR methods;
  • Microbial source tracking;
  • RWQC implementation tools; and
  • Criteria adoption by states, territories and authorized tribes.
  • Based on the EPA’s review of the existing criteria and developments in the available science, and consistent with CWA Section 304(a)(9)(B), the EPA has decided not to revise the 2012 Recreational Water Criteria during this review cycle. The Agency believes, however, that further research and analysis as identified in this report will contribute to EPA's future review of the 2012 RWQC. The EPA will work with the environmental public health community as it moves forward with its research efforts. The use of qPCR and ongoing research in methods and indicators continue to strengthen and augment the tools available to support the current criteria.

    Billy Creek test results point to birds and dogs as sources of bacteria

    FORT MYERS – The City has been investigating bacteria levels in Billy Creek, most recently testing for the origins of the Enterococci (fecal) bacteria using DNA sampling. Samples were taken on April 17, 2018 and sent to Source Molecular in Miami for evaluation.

    The results indicate no human or ruminant DNA in any of the water samples collected at the four sample locations. Low concentrations of bird DNA were found in the sample collected at the downstream of the Ford Street Preserve. These were the only locations that found any of the DNA markers. The testing results indicate that the bulk of the bacteria found in samples may be from a vegetative source.

    The highest readings are from the Ford Street Preserve, which did have a non-quantified detection of dog DNA. Studies have shown that dog waste contains approximately four times the bacteria that human waste contains; this may be part of the reason that bacteria levels at this location are higher than other discharges.

    The City will continue studying monitoring reports to see if bacteria levels continue to reduce over time.

    $4 million purchase will help protect Myakka River State Park

    EAST MANATEE – A large land transaction in East Manatee often means more rooftops are coming.

    Not in this case.

    The U.S. government recently paid nearly $4 million for a conservation easement for 1,481.6 acres at Blackbeard's Ranch, located off Coker Gully Road. The easement allows the federal government to restore the property to protect area waterways and provide a buffer to Myakka River State Park. Waters from the wetlands at Blackbeard's Ranch feed into Deer Prairie Slough, which in turn feed into the Myakka River and Charlotte Harbor. In addition to restoring the habitat at Blackbeard's Ranch, the easement ensures the area never becomes more residential development.

    The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation contributed $4.28 million in its agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service to fund acquisition and future restoration, said Rob Blumenthal of the NFWF.

    "The wetland reserve easement on Blackbeard’s Ranch provided the opportunity to conserve significant acreage of wetlands that were a high priority for several partners, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission," Blumenthal said.

    The easement does not cover all of Blackbeard's Ranch.

    Bonita Springs wetlands restored to prevent flooding

    The South Florida Water Management District just finished a $37 million plan to restore wetlands in Bonita Springs.

    “I don't even know if I have words to describe it, man,” said Rick Shaw.

    Shaw’s Bonita Springs neighborhood was underwater for weeks after Hurricane Irma.

    “I've never seen anything like that before in my life,” said Shaw.

    Bonita has been known for flooding along the Imperial River. That’s one of the reasons The South Florida Water Managment District bought more than 4000 acres of land for restoration. Decades ago developers carved out roads and canals off Bonita Beach Road. So they could build homes.

    “The idea behind the road and canals is that when it rains the water would be diverted into the Kehl Canal which then flows immediately into the Imperial River,” said Phil Flood with the South Florida Water Management District.

    But that added to the flooding problem.

    That’s why the district just finished restoring the land, filling in those canals and grading the roads back to their natural state.

    Why Cape Coral is turning down the water pressure

    CAPE CORAL – The City of Cape Coral is turning down the water pressure for irrigation systems through the rest of dry season.

    The purpose is to save water that comes from the city's water plans and canals by keeping people from overusing water for their sprinkler systems.

    More than 900 purple fire hydrants around the city use that reclaimed water, which is why firefighters said this could be a challenge.

    They said they might have to start shifting the pressure of other purple hydrants to the one closest to a big fire, in emergency situations.

    "The effect that citizens would see if we did need to use a purple hydrant is that somebody else in the city would see a greater decrease in pressure until we were able to get the fire under control. And then they would level out the pressure," said Andrea Schuch, Cape Coral Fire Department public information officer.

    People can expect their irrigation water pressure to remain low for the next four to six weeks.

    A year-round water restriction is being enforced in the Cape. You can only run your sprinklers twice a week for four hours each time from the hours of midnight-8 a.m.

    If conditions get worse, the city would cut it to one day a week.

    SFWMD Completes Restoration of Southern CREW

    Project restores natural hydrology and ecology of more than 1,000 acres of critical habitat in southern Lee County

    FORT MYERS – The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) today officially completed the restoration of 1,000 acres of the Southern Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) in Lee County before handing the project over to its Land Stewardship Division for long term management.

    "By taking out roads and plugging ditches, this agency continues much needed restoration while also maintaining flood control by providing water storage to protect nearby residential properties," said Big Cypress Basin Board Chairman and SFWMD Governing Board member Rick Barber, an avid hiker of the CREW region and longtime secretary of the CREW Trust Executive Committee. "As the results of our efforts begin to pay dividends, I have no doubt that Southern Corkscrew will be fully restored to its natural beauty."

    SFWMD and its partners – representing businesses, environmental groups, landowners and governmental agencies – manage the watershed for its numerous benefits to water storage and wildlife preservation. The 60,000-acre watershed, spanning Lee and Collier counties, includes a 5,000-acre marsh at its headwaters, as well as the famous Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

    Work began on this SFWMD restoration undertaking back in 2016. The project included degrading approximately 10 miles of roads built decades ago, as well as berms, while also removing spoil piles, plugging ditches and canal drainage systems.

    All of this work allowed the area to return to its natural hydrological conditions of periodic inundation. The restoration project benefits the entire Southwest Florida ecosystem and its residents by restoring wetlands and historic sheetflow of water, improving regional flood protection, drainage and increasing water storage and aquifer recharge capability.

    City of Fort Myers releases cleanup plans for Dunbar sludge site

    The City of Fort Myers released plans Wednesday to remove and dispose of lime sludge at a Dunbar site.

    The city used a nearly 4-acre field to dump sludge for about a decade in the 1960s. 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.

    Crews will begin removing the sludge from the site and surrounding private properties in November — the process is expected to be complete by February.

    The new plan requires soil samples to be tested for arsenic. The sludge will be taken away on trucks to a disposal site — it could possibly be reused in the production of concrete, ceramics and hydrated lime pellets.

    Results from samples taken on the groundwater last week should be released in two to three weeks. More groundwater testing is expected to take place in July and October.

    Mayor Randy Henderson and City Manager Saeed Kazemi did not want to go on camera to discuss the sludge site.

    Lee County bed tax may be used to fund shoreline restoration

    Manatee Park’s picturesque kayak dock and launch weathered Hurricane Irma nicely.

    However, another perfect storm of events frustrated paddlers this winter at the east Lee County Park that’s renowned as a magnet for manatee-watchers.

    Silt and sediment — some possibly from Irma — clogged the blissfully shady canal that links the kayak launch to the nearby Orange River. At low tide the canal was barely accessible, said Alise Flanjack, deputy director for Lee County Parks & Recreation.

    “Currently at full moons, the right wind direction and low tides can make the launch area inaccessible,” Flanjack said.

    Fortunately, a more primitive launch area directly on the river is available. But with up to 150 paddle craft launching there daily during peak winter tourist season, park leaders pondered long-term solutions.

    They think they’ve found one through the county’s beach and shoreline assistance program.

    It's a Lee County ordinance: More than one-quarter of every bed tax dollar must go to beach preservation and maintenance — and selected coastal capital improvement projects — if the money is there.

    This year the money is plentiful, thanks to a tourism season that could break records and estimates of decent lodgings occupancy even in the slower months.

    Proposed Lehigh Conservation 20/20 purchase could reduce threat of a repeat of Irma flooding

    Once home base for the founder of Lehigh Acres, later a rock mine and failed real estate venture, a square-mile parcel may be an answer to flooding problems like those brought to east Lee County by Hurricane Irma last September.

    Lee County commissioners have given staffers authority to start work to acquire all or part of a 457- to 625-acre piece of Lehigh known as Section 10, Greenbriar, Harmony Ranch and Laguna Estates.

    If configured in a way proposed by the Lehigh Acres Municipal Services District, Section 10 could take 3,000- to 4,000-acre feet, equivalent to 1.3 billion gallons of water, away from Bedman Creek and the Orange River, which suffered devastating flooding in the hurricane.

    "During Hurricane Irma, where there were some problems on, say, Orange River and Bedman Creek, Section 10 is so strategically located in our district that we can move water from the Orange River or Bedman Creek to Section 10, to lessen the impact," said the service district Executive Director David Lindsay.

    A big reason it could work is an odd coincidence. Lindsay points to a random combination of factors such as the location of the limerock beds and the way the platting of Lehigh sited the canals that drained the swamp land for development.

    As styled by the service district, the land configuration for Section 10 would use settling ponds and filter marshes to improve water quality. Beyond recharging the water supply, the site could ultimately be used to take and store discharges from the $600 million C-43 Reservoir being built in Henry County for use during the dry season.

    Southwest Florida sees bone dry conditions with little relief in sight

    Just being outside you can feel how dry it is, and you can see it too. This is what fire officials say could be dangerous.

    Thomas Piscione and his wife walk around an East Naples lake almost everyday.

    “We’ve never seen this lake this low before,” Piscione said, “There’s such bad drought conditions now that the water level is well below where it should be.”

    The lake is so low you can actually see the spawning holes fish create, which are usually under water.

    It just shows how little rain we’ve gotten. Fire crews even say it’s currently the driest county in the state right now.

    Andrew Marfongella, deputy fire marshall for North Collier Fire said, “When we’re in a drought, the ground is not as moist and not as wet as it normally is.”

    Which makes it easier for fires to start and spread.

    Last month, Naples got just over an inch of rain, slightly more than it saw last year and below the normal amount of two inches.

    Fort Myers locals lobby for Everglades funding in DC

    Lee County activists migrated north to Washington D.C.to convince lawmakers to support funding for Everglades restoration.

    There is a 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) poised for review this year, and those who support Everglades restoration are hoping to get federal money to help build the new Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee.

    Representatives from a variety of conservation organizations, tourism industries and fishing and boating company owners joined forces to lobby leaders April 24 and 25 in the nation's capital.

    Among them were Rae Ann Wessel, policy director for Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, and Captain Daniel Andrews of Captains for Clean Water.

    It was Andrews' first time ever in D.C., and after two days of Everglades-centric focus, he said he did get to see some of the nation's historical buildings.

    The Everglades Foundation helped to host the America's Everglades Summit in D.C.on April 24 and 26, bringing in panelists across industries and guest speakers from both Congress and activist tables to speak about the importance of the Everglades National Park to the nation. Andrews, Wessel and others spent one day in meetings with members of Congress to explain the need for the funding.

    Wessel said about 200 people from south Florida joined the effort.

    Senator Bill Nelson files bill to provide loans to coastal communities impacted by climate change

    Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson wants to help shore up Florida’s coastal areas expected to suffer the most from climate change.

    The legislation would make federal funds available for communities who need to brace themselves for climate change-related events. In an emailed statement, Nelson calls Florida “ground zero for sea-level rise.”

    Coastal communities could upgrade their infrastructure to prepare for tidal flooding, beach erosion or saltwater intrusion. The loans would come from a state-run revolving loan program funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

    NOAA predicts a possible sea level rise of more than three feet by the year 2050 at two Northeast Florida locations: Mayport and Fernandina Beach.

    The city of Miami Beach is already trying to lessen the impact of climate change; spending 500 million dollars to install water pumps, build higher roads and sea walls.

    Red Tide affecting SW Florida businesses that rely on good water conditions

    Red Tide is killing fish and taking over Gulf waters from Charlotte to Collier counties.

    “It is pretty intense looking at every single kind of fish just dead on the beach,” said resident Kye Kowalski.

    In Bonita Springs, businesses like Bay Water Boat Club and Rental are taking hits due to lost profits from the algae bloom.

    “This morning, we had seven rentals and they cancelled, every one one of them. We went down to one,” said Adam Botana.

    But still, some people are setting sail despite the stench and dead fish in the water.

    “Born and raised here so I never really had much affect of it unless it’s really bad,” said resident Andrew Valinksy.

    According to the latest update from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Red Tide levels range from low to high along the SWFL coast, with the highest levels in Bonita Springs.

    State/city partnership addresses water woes

    Issues with drought conditions in Cape Coral are being reformed, thanks to the recently approved Reservoir Pipeline Project.

    State Rep. Dane Eagle spear-headed this proposition, filing an appropriations bill for $1,115,000 in state funds, a figure that will be matched by the city.

    "The city came to me with this important issue and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and I worked for two years to get the appropriations bill passed. Water quality and quantity is an important issue for us. The bill was vetoed the first time by Gov. Rick Scott, but we took the time to educate him on why we need this money. The drought last year was a real eye-opener and we hope to be able to have the resources at hand if we were ever again in that situation," Eagle said.

    Last month, Scott signed the state budget which included the city's Reservoir Pipeline Project.

    "We want to thank Gov. Scott for supporting these two important projects, which will provide benefits that extend beyond the City of Cape Coral," said City Manager John Szerlag. "More importantly, we want to thank our local legislators, Rep. Dane Eagle and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who worked on our behalf to ensure these projects were included in the final appropriations bill approved by the Legislature."

    The state funding will be used to engineer, design, and permit a 3.5-mile pipeline from Southwest Aggregates Mining reservoir in south Charlotte County to Gator Slough in northeast Cape Coral.

    In red tide blooms, peril for stone crabs

    Mote research finds the algal blooms can make juveniles and young adults more vulnerable to predators, or even kill them

    SARASOTA — Red tide toxins can threaten and possibly kill stone crabs, according to preliminary research conducted by scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory in conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

    The tests were conducted on adult stone crabs with claws too small to harvest.

    The study was inspired by stone crab fishermen at a state advisory panel meeting who wanted to know why their traps were relatively empty during six months of red tide.

    Phil Gravinese, a postdoctoral research fellow at Mote Marine, noted that the fishermen also reported catching crabs that looked lethargic. Gravinese was first author on the research, which was published in the scientific journal “Marine Environmental Research.”

    At the least, stone crabs affected by the toxic red tide algae become more vulnerable to predators, while prolonged exposure to higher levels of the kill them outright.

    Gravinese noted that other research suggests that sublegal and juvenile stone crabs can’t travel far enough to escape a red tide bloom that may be several miles long, 40 feet deep and last several months.

    Adult crabs are more mobile and one mark-and-recapture study conducted by other scientists found that adult crabs may be able to travel quickly enough to escape the effects of a bloom.

    Gravinese characterized this study as a first step of a more lengthy research process. “The primary goal was to basically see if there is something there worth investigating,” he said.

    Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1st

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    Some of the first sea turtle nests of 2018 are already being discovered by Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Patrol. That’s right. The turtles are coming.

    But it isn’t unusual for sea turtle nesting season to begin early, which officially runs May 1 to Oct. 31.

    “The season doesn’t officially begin until May 1, but the turtles don’t read the calendar, so they sort of show up around then,” said Melissa Bernhard, senior biologist at Mote’s sea turtle conservation and research program.

    The first two nests found on Longboat Key— one in Sarasota County and one in Manatee County portion — were laid by loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species. Loggerheads are the most common species in southwest Florida, followed by green sea turtles, which are also threatened.

    Florida one of the most important nesting grounds for loggerhead turtles, Bernhard said.

    Irma report: Devastation – and a huge warning sign

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    The forecasters got Hurricane Irma mostly right. At least compared to the predictions of past storms. That’s one of the conclusions from a National Hurricane Center report on the big storm that hit Florida last September.

    John Cangialosi is the lead author of the center’s report on Irma.

    “We’re not trying to brag here in any sense, but the Irma forecasts we had were really successful. That was very, very low errors that we made for track prediction,” Cangialosi said.

    In the future, they won’t always be so successful, he said — that’s why hurricane forecasters and emergency managers keep telling the public not to focus on the exact forecast track or even the wider cone.

    “Try to look at what might happen in your area and don’t be overly deterministic if I’m in the cone or out of the cone,” he said. “Every storm will be different, so let’s take these one at a time and please don’t compare systems over time like say, ‘Oh I survived Irma, I’ll be OK with the next one.’ They really are very different.”

    Pulitzer winner paints optimistic picture of Gulf of Mexico

    Author of “The Gulf: Making of an American Sea” delivers keynote at Sarasota environmental summit

    SARASOTA — Dr. Jack Davis painted a lush portrait of the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday evening with his keynote speech at the opening reception for the 2018 Environmental Summit.

    He started by describing a majestic vision of 19th-century era painter Winslow Homer’s experiences fishing among the marshlands of the Homosassa River, then discussed the Gulf’s formation and its impact on human existence.

    Davis, who won a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for his book “The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea,” had been doing researching for the book prior to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He said he wanted to show the rest of America that the Gulf of Mexico is more than an oil spill and sunny beaches.

    Davis, a history professor at the University of Florida, said he wanted to reveal “the Gulf that I knew and that I wanted Americans to know.”

    Lee County Dept. of Health lifts Yacht Club Beach bacteria advisory

    The Florida Department of Health in Lee County (DOH-Lee) has removed its advisory about high bacteria levels at the Cape Coral Yacht Club Beach. Tests completed Tuesday for Enterococcus bacteria in water samples taken Monday, April 23, showed levels under the maximum contaminant level.

    An advisory had been declared for the Yacht Club Beach, which is located at 5819 Driftwood Parkway, Cape Coral, on Thursday, April 19, when high levels of Enterococcus bacteria had been found in the Caloosa-hatchee River.

    Enterococcus bacteria normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals. The presence of an elevated concentration of these bacteria is an indicator of pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, pets, wildlife or sewage.

    Elevated levels of Enterococcus bacteria have been associated with an increased risk of swimming-associated gastroenteritis illness (diarrhea and abdominal pain).

    For additional information about the advisory or the Enterococcus bacteria, please call (239) 274-2200.

    For more information about the Florida Department of Health in Lee County, please visit Lee.FloridaHealth.gov.

    For current beach conditions in Lee County, please visit the Florida Healthy Beaches website.

    Mote Marine Lab studying Florida mullet fishery

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    In southwest Florida, cured mullet roe called bottarga fetches higher prices than the fish producing it, and sometimes unused fish are left after bottarga is sold. Now, Mote Marine Laboratory scientists are investigating how to turn excess mullet into food for fish farms, to benefit mullet fishermen along with the fish farming, or aquaculture, industry.

    Mote is launching the second phase of this study now, with help from a generous supporter, Ed Chiles, CEO and owner of the Chiles Restaurant Group, which includes Sandbar, Beach House and Mar Vista Restaurants, whose menus and features showcase mullet, bottarga and other local underutilized species.

    The Chiles Restaurant Group worked with fishermen based in Cortez, Florida, to procure and donate 600 pounds of frozen mullet to Mote scientists on April 17.

    During the project’s first phase in 2015-2017, Mote scientists and the research arm of Zeigler Brothers, a commercial aquatic feeds company, formulated and tested their first mullet-based feed with freshwater sturgeon raised at Mote Aquaculture Research Park in Sarasota County.

    Photo: Robert Baugh, Chiles Group COO, helps deliver mullet to Mote Aquaculture Research Park. Credit: Conor Goulding/Mote Marine Laboratory

    Mosaic seeks revisions to approved phosphate mining plans

    The Manatee County Commission will vote on May 24 to determine whether the requests are approved.

    MANATEE COUNTY — Mosaic Fertilizer wants to amend plans for two phosphate mines in the Myakka-Duette area. The changes involve extending deadlines for the 3,028-acre Wingate Creek Mine and the continued use of clay settling areas at the 2,508-acre Southeast Tract.

    In a series of 5-0 votes Monday, Manatee County’s Planning Commission recommended the revisions to both master mining plans.

    The company, which converts phosphate into an ingredient for fertilizer, will seek the County Commission’s approval on May 24.

    The changes partly involve transferring requirements in previous “developments of regional impact” approvals into Mosaic’s master mine plans for the properties. In 2015, the state dismantled the DRI process of getting regional approvals of major developments that could have impacts across county lines.