Water-Related News

Beach erosion project in design phase

The city of Sanibel anticipates having the design plans in the next week or so for a project aimed at addressing beach erosion on the northern end of the island, adjacent to Sanibel-Captiva Road.

Earlier this year, the city hired the coastal engineering firm Humiston & Moore Engineers, out of Naples, to examine the area near Pine Avenue and Castaways Beach and Bay Cottages and to develop possible options, like beach renourishment or additional shoreline stabilization, to solve the issue.

On April 18, Natural Resources Director James Evans reported that the survey data had been completed. The firm is now using the information to design the dimensions and placement of the new riprap revetment - rock structure - and to determine the extent of the new sand placement.

Florida disasters command huge share of state spending

Disasters which rocked Florida last year are now complicating efforts to finalize a new state spending plan, with Hurricane Michael recovery and work to ease toxic water outbreaks commanding a huge share of the $90-billion budget.

TALLAHASSEE — Disasters that rocked Florida last year are now complicating efforts to finalize a new state spending plan, with Hurricane Michael recovery and work to ease toxic water outbreaks commanding a huge share of the $90 billion budget.

As a result, money for schools is tight. Some hospitals are facing cuts.

And even the tax-break package the Republican majority traditionally touts has been downsized to make money available for environmental work across the state and rebuild the devastated eastern Panhandle.

But with some $2.5 billion certain to be committed to last year’s twin disasters, some still wonder, is it enough?

“I think truth be told, when you look at some of our infrastructure, wastewater and storm-water problems — as long as we have discharges of raw sewage in the tens of thousands of gallons — we have not fully addressed the problem,” said Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast.

“It’s going to be a multi-year, very expensive project,” he added.

Indeed, data analyzed by GateHouse Media-Florida shows state waterways have been fouled by some 980 million gallons of wastewater over the past decade, with sewage spills occurring at the rate of six per day.

Court orders EPA to reevaluate Obama-era power plant wastewater rule

A federal appeals court is sending the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back to the drawing board over its wastewater regulations in a ruling that compares them to a Commodore 64 home computer.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled on Friday that the EPA’s 2015 power plant wastewater pollution rule was not stringent enough, siding with environmentalists.

Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan ruled in favor of various environmental groups that portions of the wastewater rule regulating legacy wastewater and liquid from impoundments were “unlawful.”

“The Clean Water Act ... empowers the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate and enforce rules known as 'effluent limitation guidelines' or 'ELGs.' ... For quite some time, ELGs for steam-electric power plants have been, in EPA’s words, 'out of date.' ... That is a charitable understatement,” Duncan wrote in his ruling.

“The last time these guidelines were updated was during the second year of President Reagan’s first term, the same year that saw the release of the first CD player, the Sony Watchman pocket television, and the Commodore 64 home computer. In other words, 1982."

As oceans rapidly warm, an urgent need to improve hurricane forecasts

Better hurricane forecasts require near-real-time, deep-ocean monitoring

In the past two hurricane seasons, record-breaking floods have engulfed our coastal zones in the Carolinas and Texas as storms have drawn more water and grown larger from rapidly warming oceans.

As the climate system continues to warm, we will need better prediction systems so we can prepare vulnerable coastal areas for bigger, wetter and faster-strengthening hurricanes. Hurricane season is just six weeks away.

Recent studies confirm that warming of the world’s oceans is taking place faster than previously estimated — as much as 40 percent faster than the United Nations estimated in 2015.

Research confirms that roughly 93 percent of the warming from man-made greenhouse gases is going into the world’s oceans. About two-thirds is absorbed in the ocean’s top 700 meters, noted Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth. This is the layer from which hurricanes draw much of their energy.

Applying for a Neighborhood Initiative Grant? Attend a seminar by April 30th.

Only two application seminars remain for this cycle. Attendance at one of these seminars is the first step in applying for a Neighborhood Initiative Grant. The two-hour seminars cover the history and objectives of the grant program, timeline and processes, and application instructions. Pre-registration is required by emailing neighbor@scgov.net with your desired seminar date/location, your name, your neighborhood, and the number of people in your party.

Certificates of completion are valid for three years.

Remaining seminars:
 •  Tuesday, April 30 at 10:30am - Fruitville Library, 100 Coburn Rd, Sarasota
 •  Tuesday, April 30 at 5:30pm - County Administration Center, 1660 Ringling Blvd, Sarasota

Application seminars are now approved for 2.0 CEU for Community Association Managers.

News about a prior recipient of a Neighborhood Initiative Grant:

An update from the Serenoa Community Association, which recently held a volunteer day as part of their landscaping grant. Sounds like a good time was had by all!

Saturday morning we had our community work day in preparation for our landscape project to begin on April 22. When we were beginning the process, [we] were very concerned that there would be no one to help us out. Our community has many snow birds and our population is, to be tactful, not youthful.

But, Saturday morning at 9am, 38 people showed up with clippers, rakes, ladders, pole saws and even chain saws and pick up trucks to trim our oaks, clean up the area to be planted, and remove Spanish moss. We were done by noon.

We are so very happy to have had so many volunteers, many of whom do not even work in their own yards! I am sure the average age for our industrious group was over 70 years old, with several being over 80. We met many new residents; it was a cheerful occasion (much like a barn raising), and no one was injured! This has really turned into something we weren't expecting for our community.

Routine bridge inspection slated for Sanibel Causeway

FORT MYERS — Lee County Department of Transportation consultant T.Y. Lin International will perform planned bridge inspections on the three Sanibel Causeway bridges as part of a routine monitoring program established in 2013. Work is anticipated to begin Monday, May 6, and be complete by summer, weather permitting.

No lane closures are anticipated. Workers will be on the bridges’ shoulders 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

Motorists will navigate slight lane shifts with minor traffic disruptions during the daily set up and breakdown of equipment. Lee DOT will place variable message signs to alert drivers.

The purpose of the inspection is to check the status of the repairs made to selected cracks, as well as to evaluate the performance of the different materials that were used in those repairs. Additionally, workers will monitor cracks identified in prior inspection reports.

For more information about Lee County Department of Transportation, visit http://www.leegov.com/dot.

Call 239-533-9400 or email LeeTrafficTOC@leegov.com.

North Port to celebrate Warm Mineral Springs’ birthday with free admission

The City is celebrating its 60th Anniversary by waiving daily admission at Warm Mineral Springs Park for all Sarasota County residents on Tuesday, June 18, 2019! The park will be open for visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The only warm spring in Florida, it maintains 85-87 degrees year-round and contains more than 50 different minerals – one of the highest mineral content of any natural spring in the United States. The park averages approximately 110,000 visitors per year from all over the world, who travel to swim in its mineral-rich waters.

Beneath the Spring’s depths is one of the most important underwater archeological sites in America. It is believed that the Spring dates to the Ice Age. During exploratory dives in the 1950s, the remains of a prehistoric man and evidence of several creatures were discovered, including saber tooth tigers, giant sloths, tortoises, and even camels. The Springs are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Warm Mineral Springs Park is owned by the City of North Port and operated by National & State Park Concessions. Proof of Sarasota County residence will be required for admission into the Springs on June 18. Acceptable proof of residence includes a driver’s license or an FPL bill, water bill, tax bill, or deed. Spa services are not included in the free admission and must be booked in advance and paid for separately.

For more information about Warm Mineral Springs Park, including general rules and prohibited items, visit www.cityofnorthport.com/warmmineralspringspark or call 941-426-1692.

Cape Coral Yacht Club beach tests high for bacteria

Kim Londono and her family flew to Southwest Florida from New York to enjoy the sand, water and beautiful weather at the Cape Cora Yacht Club.

All was going well until Wednesday night. Londono’s son started to break out.

“We didn’t notice it until this morning,” Londono said. “But we were out last night and we just stayed until almost after the sunset and so came home and then this morning, noticed he had redness around his shoulders and just itching, itching. He’s still itching a little bit.”

London learned Thursday morning the Florida Department of Health in Lee County posted “no swimming” signs. An advisory was made to the public to not enter the water at the Cape Coral Yacht Club due to high levels of bacteria identified in routine testing.

Specifically, the beach park is located at 5819 Driftwood Pkwy in Cape Coral.

The release said tests completed April 18, indicate that the water quality at the Cape Coral Yacht Club does not meet the safety criteria for Enterococcus bacteria recommended by the Florida Dept. of Health.

Lee County city leaders react to proposed changes to mining rules

Fourteen elected officials from Lee County cities urged commissioners Wednesday [Apr. 17] to preserve the county’s current land use policies on lime rock mining.

Lee County Commissioners voted Wednesday to send proposed changes to lime rock mining rules to the state for review by the Department of Economic Opportunity. The amendments to the county plan would return to the Lee County commission for an adoption hearing at a later date.

The changes the commission considered Wednesday include: eliminating a required lime rock supply and demand analysis, elimination of a map that identifies where future mines can be opened in southeast Lee County.

Mayors and councilors from Estero, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel spoke before the commission during hours of public testimony to express their concerns about removing those elements from the county’s land use plan.

Lee County eyes stronger Mullock Creek flood control

East Mullock Water Control District, home to 17 miles of canals, creeks and ditches, many of which failed during the rainy summer of 2017 and the hurricane that followed, could be headed on a fast track to clean-up.

Mullock Creek drains stormwater, much of it from San Carlos Park, into Estero Bay. In 2017, water that fell during an especially rainy August and during Hurricane Irma in September when drainage pathways were overwhelmed, causing dramatic flooding.

"We have conveyances that probably are not doing the work they were intended for," said Assistant Lee County Manager Glen Salyer during a county commission workshop session Tuesday.

A reorganization of the district, the second in as many years, is touted as a way to more effectively drain water that has fewer routes to escape to Estero Bay after years of development of more than 2,200 acres of land nearby.

USF study: Ocean circulation likely to blame for severity of 2018 red tide

robotic glider

2018 was the worst year for red tide in more than a decade. A new study reveals what made it so severe.

The harmful algae that causes red tide is currently at near undetectable levels in Florida waters compared with the much higher concentrations at this time last year. The red tide algae, Karenia brevis, causes respiratory issues, is responsible for massive fish kills and is often blamed for damaging tourism.

While traces of the bloom are always present offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans finds ocean circulation made 2018 the worst year for red tide in more than a decade.

By affecting the nutrient levels offshore, marine scientists at the University of South Florida (USF) showed that the ocean circulation played a controlling role. If nutrient levels offshore are high in spring due to the upwelling of deeper ocean waters, then there tends not to be major red tide blooms along the shoreline in fall. Such upwelling did not occur in winter and spring of 2018, allowing a new bloom to form offshore in spring and summer 2018. An upwelling circulation then set in toward the end of July, ensuring that the newly formed bloom would be carried to the coastline along the bottom where it reinforced what had already been in place from 2017.

Tropical Storm Gordon temporarily disrupted the upwelling circulation, allowing some of the new bloom to be carried to the Florida Panhandle. After the passage of Gordon, the upwelling circulation then allowed the bloom to be transported offshore at the surface to eventually be carried to the Florida's east coast by the Gulf Stream. Thus, the rare occurrence of Karenia brevis at three different locations (Florida's west, Panhandle and east coasts) may be attributed to the ocean circulation.

"This further demonstrates that the ocean circulation is the major determinant of Florida's Karenia brevis harmful algae blooms, dispelling the myth that land-based fertilizers are to blame," said Robert Weisberg, PhD, Distinguished University Professor of Physical Oceanography. "While pollutants can exasperate an existing red tide, they are not the root cause."
 
In addition to ocean circulation models, the team at USF and collaborators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) deployed an autonomous underwater glider for a near month-long mission. Its sensors detected relatively high chlorophyll and low oxygen levels near the sea floor, along with upwelling circulation. On-site sampling also helped pinpoint the initiation zone for all three regions to be the middle shelf some 30 to 50 miles off the coast from north of Tampa Bay to Sarasota Bay.
 
Weisberg and his colleagues have accounted for the occurrence or lack of occurrence of major red tide blooms in 20 of the past 25 years based on the ocean circulation conditions. While recent sampling shows very low concentrations of Karenia brevis offshore, which is not a cause for immediate concern, it is too early to speculate on what future conditions may be. Weisberg expects to have a better idea of the possible severity of 2019's red tide season in mid-June.

Volunteers being sought for water quality testing

Volunteers are being sought for the "What's in the Water" project on Fort Myers Beach.

In an effort to study "non-point source pollution" coming from Fort Myers Beach and going into the Gulf and Estero Bay, volunteers will collect water samples during in May during the dry season.

Penny Jarrett, education coordinator at the Mound House, said the project came about after she read about an opportunity to apply for the Planet Stewardship Education Program, which is offered through NOAA.

"I have tremendous respect and admiration for NOAA and thought it would be really wonderful to have some expertise from NOAA and guidance and just be part of the things that they are doing," she said.

Jarrett had just 48 hours to apply and she did so because she saw the impacts of red tide last summer. She said she wanted to do something to make a difference, while contributing to the understanding of water quality.

"It was so hard to see so many animals die and the dead fish on the beach," she said. "That was the motivation, the respect for NOAA and having endured the red tide and thinking if there was anything we could do as an island community, a barrier island."

Jarrett believes she was accepted into NOAA's program because of the non-point source pollution project looking into the possibility of nutrients linking to red tide alga blooms, which relates to NOAA science in a big way.

Since Jarrett is not a water quality scientist, but rather an environmental science educator, she met with the Vester Marine & Environmental Science Research Field Station Director Dr. Michael Parsons to talk about the project.

"I was going to test some particular sites with some students, on a smaller scale, but we talked and he suggested doing an island wide baseline data - one in the dry season and one in the wet season," she explained, whi

Bayfront Park seawall project delayed, still planned

Two-year state experiment with special seawall and oysters focuses on coastal wildlife habitat.

An environmental project at Bayfront Park is still planned, but its installation has been set back because of 2018’s widespread red tide bloom along Florida's gulf coast and the state-permitting process, according to Longboat Key Public Works Director Isaac Brownman.

The project to install two seawall alternatives is designed to examine ways to ensure sea life is safe when shorelines are hardened, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The overall project’s $180,000 cost is funded entirely by the state, and no town money is involved.

The pilot program involves installing a “reef wall’’ along 100 feet of the face of the park’s existing seawall, 100 feet of oyster bags along a second stretch of seawall and leaving the remainder of seawall and mangrove shoreline unchanged.

The “reef wall” is a concrete relief of mangrove roots meant to emulate the nooks and crannies of a natural stretch of mangrove, in which animals and other organisms can shelter and grow. The brainchild of a University of Kansas professor, the walls are modeled from actual mangroves, then formed from a concrete blend that's mixed with crushed shells.

In Englewood, the walls have been in place along Lemon Bay since 2017. Operators of the resort at which the walls were installed say they've seen an upswing in life along their shoreline.

Lee County commission approves boardwalk replacement

Lee Commissioners approve funds to replace Matanzas Pass Preserve boardwalks

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners today approved spending Tourist Development Tax revenues to replace elevated boardwalks, the paddle craft landing and the pavilion at Matanzas Pass Preserve on Estero Island.

The Matanzas Pass Preserve has about 1.25 miles of trails that wind through the canopies of mangroves and maritime hammocks in an undeveloped, protected area of the island. This bayside preserve situated within the boundaries of the Town of Fort Myers Beach offers visitors opportunities to observe wildlife and native plants. The boardwalk is in need of replacement to allow continued public access and to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The $1.1 million funding request for the project was approved out of the typical cycle for Tourist Development Tax projects so that the work could begin in September and be completed in about six months.

The Tourist Development Council in March recommended funding the request. Matanzas Pass Preserve is nearly 60-acres of unspoiled sanctuary located one mile south of Matanzas Pass Bridge just off Estero Boulevard on Estero Island. The entrance is at 199 Bay Road. For more information, visit www.leeparks.org.

Blue-green algae creeps back into the Caloosahatchee River

An unwelcoming sight is creeping back into the Caloosahatchee River.

“We read stories about last year before we got here,” said Becky Nichols, Fort Denaud neighbor, “and we were just really afraid about that and not to find this.”

Nichols woke up Tuesday morning to find algae in the Caloosahatchee River. She could not help but think the worst.

“It’s very concerning,” Nichols said.

She is worried it is the same toxic blue-green algae that plagued the river last year. WINK News took a sample of it to Professor Serg Thomas at the Florida Gulf Coast University Water School.

“This is the type of algae bloom we’re currently seeing on the Caloosahatchee River,” Thomas said.

Traces of blue-green algae have returned. Last month, the Army Corps of Engineers reduced water releases from Lake Okeechobee in hopes that algae levels would decrease.

Scientists said it is also possible the algae could dissipate with more rain. But, Thomas said it is hard to tell if the lake is to blame for the algae at Fort Denaud.

Sarasota County hosting Water Quality Summit

Summit will be June 5th at Riverview High School

Sarasota County will host a free and open to the public Water Quality Summit from 1-6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5. The summit, which will be in the Riverview High School auditorium, 1 Ram Way, Sarasota, is an effort to bring the community together with organizations working to protect area watersheds and to learn about science and actions occurring locally.

The summit's goal is to enhance the community's understanding of local and state efforts to address water quality issues. The summit will focus on the science of water quality and current local and state government programs and policies. It will also address ways the community can make a difference with suggestions for individuals, business and neighborhoods.

"Water quality is a priority issue both locally and across the state," said Lee-Hayes Byron, director of Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability. "We look forward to this opportunity for discussion with our residents and business who care so deeply about our local waters."

Seating is limited and registration is required. For additional details about the summit and to register, visit scgov.net/waterqualitysummit or call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

DEP blasts Fort Myers for using ‘alternative’ methods to assure toxic sludge cleanup

The Department of Environmental Protection has called Fort Myers officials out for attempting to stray from the state’s rules that ensure all toxic sludge has been removed from the South Street landfill.

The city’s progress report “appears to imply an intent going forward to deviate from the regulatory requirements … ,” DEP chief Jon Iglehart warned in a letter sent to City Manager Saeed Kazemi, whose contractors have so far hauled away 27,400 tonsof arsenic-tainted sludge.

The trigger for the DEP’s rebuke was the city’s use of what it called ‘conformity texture testing’ to assure all the sludge has been removed.

"The city described (it) as a field screening procedure to distinguish lime sludge from native soil by feel," DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said.

The approach is similar to saying, ‘There’s no more sludge here, I can tell by looking at it,' and can't be substituted for taking confirmatory samples, according to Iglehart.

Water quality monitor volunteers needed

The health of Lemon Bay is important to us all and each month volunteers monitor the water quality at sites from Alligator Creek in Venice to Bull Bay in Placida to see that it stays that way.

On the 1st Monday of each month, trained volunteers travel to one of 16 “fixed” sites (sites already pre-determined) to test the water for various parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, etc. This information is collected and stored in a database with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and is made available to many organizations and agencies to help maintain good water quality in Lemon Bay.

All volunteers are trained and all equipment is provided. Most sites are land-based and no boat is necessary. All that is need is an interest in our waters and a commitment of 1-2 hours per month.

A training session for those interested in assisting in the Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network will be conducted at Cedar Point Environmental Park on Thursday, May 2 at 10.00 am. The park is located at 2300 Placida Road, Englewood, Florida. Call (941) 475-0769 for further information.

Giant storms, aging infrastructure pushing Florida’s sewer systems to breaking point

More than 900,000 gallons of raw sewage flowed into Sarasota Bay after a violent December storm forced open a city pipe.

Summer rain in Daytona Beach and equipment failure in Jacksonville each prompted more than a quarter-million gallons of human waste to spill from sewers last year.

In Boca Raton, a pressurized pipe gushed out nearly 50,000 gallons of untreated wastewater, while another 55,000 gallons spewed from a DeFuniak Springs manhole into nearby Bruce Creek.

These sewage spills are emblematic of failing wastewater systems across Florida, which is grappling with aging infrastructure and no clear solutions for funding a fix.

During the past decade, deteriorating sewers have released 1.6 billion gallons of wastewater, much of it polluting the state’s estuaries and oceans, according to a GateHouse Media analysis of state environmental data.

More than 370 million gallons of that was completely untreated.

Experts say the sewage has fed the blue-green algae blooms wreaking havoc on Florida estuaries and exacerbated red tide in the Gulf of Mexico. Amid historic growth in Florida, environmentalists fear it will only get worse.

“We are at a point where sewers need to be replaced, and have been for some time now,” said Glenn Compton, chairman of Manasota-88, an environmental advocacy organization in Southwest Florida. “Until the local governments make it a priority, we are going to continue seeing these spills. Something needs to be done.”

Chiquita Lock dispute hearing gets under way

The fight over the removal of the Chiquita Lock moved to court Thursday with those opposed to the state granting the city of Cape Coral a needed permit coming out with the gloves off.

In the first of two days of expected testimony at the hearing, Administrative Law Judge Francine M. Ffolkes considered arguments made by representatives of the city and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as well as from the petitioners who maintain the water control structure is needed to protect water quality.

The city, which has requested state permission to remove the lock, and FDEP, which has issued notice of its intent to issue the permit, testified that removal of the aging structure would not contribute to pollution.

Officials testified the lock was, in fact, doing little to prevent the free co-mingling of water it was originally intended to prevent.

Megan Mills for the Florida DEP, said that because the lock's failure was causing an exchange of water, the removal of the lock would not cause water degradation.

Michael Hannon, attorney for the petitioners, which include the Matlacha Civic Association and a handful of residents from Matlacha, St. James City and the Cape, though, aggressively pursued examinations that were much longer than those of the city's and the DEP's counsel, arguing that the lock itself wasn't a cause of pollution.

He also claimed that there was no lock failure, and that the permits were approved by suppositions and not fact.

City and FDEP testimony and witness examination bogged down frequently with objects and questions.

Sarasota County greenlights joint Manasota Key beach renourishment project with Charlotte County

SARASOTA COUNTY — Residents on Manasota Key who fear their homes could be washed away by the Gulf of Mexico will finally get the protection they desperately need for their properties.

The Sarasota County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved a joint beach renourishment project with Charlotte County that would restore roughly 50 feet of sand to the shoreline on a four-mile stretch from Blind Pass Park in Sarasota County to Don Pedro-Knight Islands Beach in Charlotte County. The total cost of the joint project is estimated at $35.3 million. The Sarasota County side — extending from Blind Pass Park to the Charlotte County line and including 50 beachfront homes — has a projected price tag of roughly $8.1 million with the state expected to cover a portion of the cost. About 309,000 cubic yards of sand would be added to the beach in Sarasota County, county documents show.

The Charlotte County side of the project — which has already received approval from the jurisdiction’s commission — is expected to cost just more than $27 million, which includes potential contributions from the state and federal government, documents show. Roughly 879,000 cubic yards of sand would be used for the entire joint project. The sand would be taken from nearby offshore areas, with work expected to begin in November, Sarasota County officials said Tuesday.

Sample from Cape Coral canal tests positive for blue-green algae

Blue-green algae is back in our local waterways. We took a sample of it to FGCU, and it tested positive. However, experts say it’s not time to panic.

The sample was taken from a canal in Cape Coral Monday. While it looks similar to the algae we saw last year, an expert at FGCU tested it and said it is not cause for immediate concern. But for neighbors who said they were unable to walk out of their homes for months, not worrying is easier said than done.

“Well the smell last year was like a dumpster,” Kimberley Artesa said. “It was a sewer, human waste.”

Artesa is disgusted thinking about the blue-green algae that filled the canal behind her house in 2018.

“It was horrible, and it was pungent,” Artesa said. “And it just lasted for so long.”

Council approves Future Land Use Map changes

In February, dozens of residents throughout Cape Coral came to City Council to express outrage over the proposed Future Land Use Map city staff had created.

Two months later, there was little dissent.

Cape Coral City Council on Monday unanimously approved the ordinance to amend the land use of multiple parcels totaling 1,817 acres.

The council made a couple of changes regarding property on Old Burnt Store Road that will become single-family and some property on Trafalgar Parkway near Santa Barbara Boulevard, which will become multi-family.

The map will be retransmitted to the state and regional agencies for review.

The ordinance becomes effective 60 days after council adoption if there is no challenge.

In other business, the developers of the proposed $130 million Village Square, Downtown Village Square, LLC, requested an extension to July 22, so the city can bring forth an amendment to approve the PDP and also issue the building permits for Phase 1.

Army Corps provides update on Lake Okeechobee projects

It took more than a century of mismanagement and bad decisions to put South Florida in a water quality crisis last summer.

However, with a changing of the guard at the South Florida Water Management District, long-awaited improvements in Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades and ideas to combat algae, the hope is that long-term solutions are finally in the works.

That is what experts said on March 26 at a water quality meeting held in Cape Coral that featured updates provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Among the speakers was Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds with the Army Corps; new South Florida Water Management District Chairman Chauncey Goss; Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel; Daniel Andrews, with Captains for Clean Water; and Jeff Pearson, Cape Coral's director of Public Works.

Reynolds provided a history, saying the problems started when humans decided to change the state's natural water flow to encourage agriculture and development nearly a century ago. This diverted water from the Everglades and sent it east and west.

Florida DOH emails show agency struggled to manage algae crisis

With toxic algae fouling Southwest Florida’s inland waterways and coastline last year, state health officials faced a flood of worried questions as people turned to them for crisis leadership.

Some were specific: Were Caloosahatchee blue crabs safe to eat? Was it dangerous to breathe near the algae-choked canals? How about swimming in the Gulf?

Others were systemic: Who posts warning signs? Was any agency monitoring illness reports? Would water and air be tested for toxins?

As red tide devastated wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico from Sarasota to the Ten Thousand Islands, a simultaneous outbreak of blue-green algae contaminated the Caloosahatchee watershed. Images of bloated dolphin carcasses and people jet-boating through algae blooms filled news reports. Social media seethed with rumors and petitions. Former Gov. Rick Scott declared two states of emergency - one for each bloom.

Punta Gorda takes steps to prepare for future sea level rise

With the many miles coastline in Southwest Florida cities are preparing for future sea level rise. Punta Gorda leaders actually started preparing for changes a decade ago, but now they are changing their plan to keep the city dry. Gary Skillicorn’s Punta Gorda isles home is a few steps away from a canal. The water rises during big storms but his house could be at risk if it were to rise just a few feet. It’s a long-term concern skillicorn said, “It is nothing tomorrow or next week or next month, but over the long-term.” NOAA says the sea level is rising 3 mm per year in Punta Gorda, which won’t be a problem right away, but it could be catastrophic in a few decades.

Mitchell Austin, chief planner for the City of Punta Gorda has concerns if action is not taken now, “If we plan to fail today, we may put infrastructure on the ground that is not viable by the end of its life-cycle and that would be a waste of taxpayer money.”

The city’s solution: planning to prevent.

It purchased vulnerable land along the harbor so if it floods, public property won’t get ruined.

And now, they’re thinking even further ahead, hoping to avoid flooding downtown, in the historic district, and along canal front properties if sea level were to rise three feet.

Red tide life cycle hits four stages

From agriculture to storms, there are questions surrounding what factors actually influence red tide and its intensity.

While much research still needs to be done on the life cycle of red tide blooms, representatives from Mote Marine Laboratory and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission share the science behind them. We explain the life cycle of a bloom, through its four known stages: initiation, growth, maintenance and termination. Also, we present some of the factors that can contribute to red tide blooms.

Mote and FGCU partner on red tide research

Sarasota marine laboratory and Florida Gulf Coast University collaborate to address harmful algal blooms.

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and Florida Gulf Coast University signed an agreement Thursday to start a partnership that addresses impacts of harmful algal blooms to Florida’s environment, economy and quality of life.

The memorandum of understanding, signed by Mote President and CEO Michael P. Crosby and FGCU President Michael V. Martin, sets the framework for future collaboration on an issue that pummeled the region last year with a widespread red tide bloom that lasted 18 months.

Karenia brevis is a single-celled plant-like organism that is carried to shore through environmental conditions such as wind and ocean currents. Scientists debate whether nutrient pollution, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, allows it to reproduce close to shore.

The toxic algae prefer warm and calm salt water. When the red tide cells die, they emit a brevetoxin that kills sea life, including 589 sea turtles during the last episode — the most in any single red tide event — along with 213 manatees and 153 bottlenose dolphins since July 2018.

Lee County launches mining amendment landing page

FORT MYERS – Lee County has created a landing page devoted to providing clear, accurate information about the limerock mining issue and proposed changes to the Lee County Comprehensive Plan.

The landing page provides an overview, an FAQ and a link to join a county mailing list for future updates. There is also a link people can click on to ask staff questions. The landing page URL is https://www.leegov.com/dcd/planning/miningamendments.

The proposed changes to the Lee County Comprehensive Plan do not decrease protection to the public, to water quality, to water supply or to wildlife. The proposed changes do not allow for expansion of the area in which mining can occur. The changes maintain the requirement for public input.

The issue – called Limerock Mining case (CPA2018-10014) – is scheduled to come before the Lee Board of County Commissioners at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in Commission Chambers at the Old Courthouse, 2120 Main St., Fort Myers, 33901.

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Lee County will not discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities in its services, programs or activities. To request an auxiliary aid or service for effective communication or a reasonable modification to participate in this meeting, contact David Wagley, 239-533-8502, Florida Relay Service 711, or DWagley@leegov.com. Accommodation will be provided at no cost to the requestor. Requests should be made at least five business days in advance.

Senate outlines $1.7 billion environmental spending plan

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government unveiled the Senate’s $1.7 billion environmental protection budget this morning and accepted it without comment.

“This is the day we’ve all been waiting for. It’s like Christmas," Committee Chair Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, said. “Everybody’s been up all night waiting for this.”

The environmental budget is part of a $5.9 billion package that includes spending plans for other state departments, including Business and Professional Regulation, Agriculture and Consumer Services, Citrus, Fish and Wildlife Conservation, the Lottery, Insurance Regulation, Financial Services, the Public Service Commission and Management Services.

Eutrophication of lakes will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions

What's wrong with being green? Toxins released by algal blooms can ruin drinking water. When dense algae blooms die, the bacteria that decompose the algae also deplete oxygen in the water. Without oxygen, fish and other animals suffocate. Globally, such green waters are also an important contributor to atmospheric methane -- a greenhouse gas that is up to 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

"We estimate that the greening of the world's lakes will increase the emission of methane into the atmosphere by 30 to 90 percent during the next 100 years," said Jake Beaulieu of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and lead author of a paper on lake greening and greenhouse gas emissions published March 26, 2019 in the journal Nature Communications.

According to the authors, three distinct mechanisms are expected to induce increases in lake greening or eutrophication during the next 100 years. First, human populations are expected to increase by 50 percent by 2100. More people means more sewage and more fertilizers that runoff land. At current rates of population growth and climate change, eutrophication in lakes will increase by 25 to 200 percent by 2050 and double or quadruple by 2100.

Natural cure to water quality crisis comes with uphill battle

Driving through one of Florida’s man-made wetlands doesn’t feel like a man-made experience at all.

It feels like a day in the Everglades, with similar plant and wildlife and tourists and recreation seekers from all over the world.

The wetlands are known as stormwater treatment areas, or STAs, clean phosphorous out of water coming out of agricultural areas.

The South Florida Water Management district maintains 57,000 acres of STA’s south of Lake Okeechobee and north of Everglades National Park. They cost Florida taxpayers around 2 billion dollars over the last 25 years.

But the district and leading environmental scientists say it was money well spent.

Notice of hearing Buckley’s pass dredging assessment area

Notice is hereby given that the City Council of the City of Punta Gorda will conduct a public hearing to consider creation of the Buckley’s Pass Dredging Assessment Area, as shown above, and imposition of special assessments to fund the Buckley’s Pass Dredging Project to improve water access to Alligator Creek and Charlotte Harbor. The hearing will be held at 1:00 P.M., or as soon thereafter as the matter can be heard, on April 3, 2019, in the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, 75 Taylor Street, Punta Gorda, Florida, for the purpose of receiving public comment on the proposed Buckley’s Pass Dredging Assessment Area, the imposition of assessments, and collection of the assessments on the ad valorem tax bill. All affected real property owners have a right to appear at the hearing and to file written objections with the City Clerk any time prior to the public hearing. If a person decides to appeal any decision made by the City Council with respect to any matter considered at the hearing, such person will need a record of the proceedings and may need to ensure that a verbatim record is made, including the testimony and evidence upon which the appeal is to be made. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons needing a special accommodation or an interpreter to participate in this proceeding should contact the Human Resources Manager/Non-Discrimination Coordinator whose address is 326 W. Marion Avenue, Punta Gorda, Florida 33950, whose telephone number is (941) 575-3308, and whose email address is humres@CityofPuntaGordaFL.com at least two days prior to the date of the hearing.

The assessment for each parcel of real property will be based upon the total number of water access units (docks, ramps, slips, lifts, etc.) assigned in accordance with Sections 6-6(c) and 6-6(j) of the City Code on the date the assessment is imposed. A more specific description of the Dredging Project and the method of computing the

Sarasota County considers joint beach rebuild for Manasota Key

Property owners whose homes are exposed to Gulf of Mexico waters because of critical erosion on Manasota Key could soon see some relief if the Sarasota County Commission approves a joint beach renourishment project with Charlotte County.

The Sarasota County Commission on April 9 is expected to consider the joint project, which would restore roughly 50 feet of sand to the shoreline on a four-mile stretch from Blind Pass Park in Sarasota County to Don Pedro-Knight Islands Beach in Charlotte County. The total cost of the joint project is estimated at $35.3 million. The Sarasota County side has a projected cost of $7.7 million with the state covering $2.7 million, if the Legislature allocates the funding this session, according to Sarasota County documents. The Charlotte County side of the project is expected to cost just over $27 million, which includes a potential $9.4 million contribution from the state and an additional $1 million from the federal government, documents show.

Roughly 879,000 cubic yards of sand would be used for the joint project, according to county documents. The sand would be taken from nearby offshore borrow areas. If both commissions sign on, the project could start sometime next year, documents show.

Officials from both counties have said that joining forces to make the renourishment a regional project increases the chances of securing state funding. The regional project currently ranks third on the state’s list of requests, making it likely the funding from Florida will come through, officials said last month at a joint meeting between the two commissions.

The erosion in some areas has become so severe that some structures are in danger, Rachel Herman, Sarasota County’s division manager of environmental protection, said.

“There are a couple of structures that have become undermined, their foundations have become exposed,” Herman said. “Fortunately we&rsq

Derby Day…A first for the Englewood Area

“Derby Day” to Benefit Englewood Beach Waterfest

A taste of the Kentucky Derby is coming to Englewood. Which means for the ladies, it’s time to start thinking about a Derby hat! The event is a fundraiser for Englewood Beach Waterfest to support their mission that is committed to boosting the local economy while generating and then donating all proceeds to deserving organizations that foster the conservation and protection of our coastal waterways and marine life and encourage the responsible and recreational use of our beaches and water resources. The event will also benefit Branded Heart Stables non-profit organization. Owner Kathy Genth is known for her therapy horse named Hope, who only stands 28 inches tall. Hope is a local celebrity who visits hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Branded Hearts offers children an opportunity to befriend or ride a horse, perhaps for the first time. Genth also has a history of power boat racing…proving horsepower has always been her passion.

Derby Day will be like no other derby viewing party in Southwest Florida. The festivities will include a “Taste of Derby” provided by 12 local restaurants, an open bar with featured bourbon libations, chance race wagering, “Horseplay” games, a parade of horses from Branded Heart Stables, a “Hattitude” competition for the ladies and of course, the live viewing of the official 145th Run for the Roses.

The Derby Day event is going to be held on the grounds of Branded Hearts Stables on Morningside Drive on Saturday, May 4, 2019 from 4:00 PM until 9:00 PM.. Tickets are $125 per person and can be purchased online at EnglewoodBeachWaterfest.Com. The Englewood-centric theme, “It’s All About Horsepower” celebrates our equestrian and boat racing enthusiasts, and the winning spirit of those who energize our community. 

New for Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis names chief science officer

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday appointed a prominent biologist as the state’s first chief science officer, a new position the governor created as part of his focus on the environment.

Thomas Frazer, director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and former acting director of the UF Water Institute, will take the job in the state Department of Environmental Protection. His initial focus will be water, particularly the algae blooms that have plagued parts of the state’s Gulf and Atlantic coasts, affected fishing, swimming, tourism and wildlife.

“Obviously as many of you know, we have had persistent water problems, and I’ve been very clear that the time for us to address this is now,” the governor said at a news conference at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach. “We have taken action. We’re going to take more today.”

Frazer said he understood that addressing the water problems would be his priority.

‘Red Tide Summit’ on Indian Rocks Beach addresses public concerns

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Harmful algal blooms (HABs), commonly known as red tides, are natural phenomena that have occurred in the Gulf of Mexico throughout human history. Last year’s red tide, which started in 2017, was a particularly epic incident that killed fish and other precious marine life, along with much tourism-driven business along the west Florida coast.

In response, Pinellas County and the City of Indian Rocks Beach held a Red Tide Summit March 28th at the Sheraton Sand Key resort in Clearwater. The USF College of Marine Science (CMS) panelists included Dr. Robert Weisberg, Distinguished Professor, and long ago CMS grad Kelli Hammer Levy, who managed a highly praised response effort to last year’s epic spill in her position as Division Director for Pinellas County Environmental Management.

Weisberg explained that ocean circulation determines the location of a red tide. Levy recalled that when signs of the bloom came to bear, she called Weisberg, who warned that based on his models this was likely to be a “significant event.” Indeed it was. After reviewing the county’s impressive response to the spill, Levy asked the audience to commit to reducing nutrient pollution.