Water-Related News

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."

Water service to be interrupted on Sept. 27 in Port Charlotte Service Area

CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. (September 19, 2018) – A water service interruption is scheduled for Thursday, September 27, 2018 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. for the area of Belinda Avenue and Hernando Avenue. Charlotte County Utilities will be performing water line diversions in connection with the Public Works paving project. Customers within this area should plan on being without water service during this time.

Every attempt will be made to speak with customers. In their absence, a door hanger will be left indicating the dates of the service interruptions.

Visit the link below for a list of addresses that will be affected by the interruption.

SFWMD proposes to revise Minimum Flows and Levels for Caloosahatchee River

On September 13, 2018, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board passed a motion to adopt amendments to Subsection 40E-8.221 of the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.) to revise the minimum flow and level criteria for the Caloosahatchee River. The final rule is provided below.

The final technical document supporting re-evaluation of the MFL criteria and errata sheet, the final peer review report and presentations from previous meetings and workshops are available below. Other relevant documents are also available through the District Web Board in the SFWMD MFL and Water Reservation Categories/MFL Re-evaluation for the Caloosahatchee River Estuary forum.

For additional information, please contact Toni Edwards, SFWMD Senior Scientist, at tedwards@sfwmd.gov.

Scientists want to try possible solution to help combat algae on larger scale

FORT MYERS - One other solution could be this: a giant sponge mat: It’s part of the Aquaflex Project.

WINK News first told you about crews testing out the project along the Caloosahatchee about a week-and-a-half ago. Scientists say it worked, and now want to try it out on a bigger scale.

“This demo did illustrate that it does effectively absorb those toxins,” Jennifer Hecker, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.

New test results show Aquaflex worked. It sucked up the toxins from the blue-green algae. Anywhere from 45,000 to 259,000 parts per billion.

A marine scientist from Florida Gulf Coast University working on the project says that’s a high concentration.

“And we can calculate how much was actually removed because right now all we know is that it absorbs the toxins,” Dr. Mike Parsons said in a phone interview. “So we know we can do it but we don’t know well how much can it absorb.”

Lee Board of County Commissioners hires firm to design water project

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to allocate funding for the design of a project that will reduce the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous from the Powell Creek watershed in North Fort Myers. Powell Creek is a tributary of the Caloosahatchee River.

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.

Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., a national engineering firm with offices in Lee County, will design at least two options for a project at the downstream end of the Powell Creek bypass canal to improve water quality before it is discharged into the Caloosahatchee River. The design option selected will be submitted through the county’s five-year Capital Improvement Program budget process for review and consideration. Total cost of the project will be determined after the design is completed; Tuesday’s action authorizes spending up to $198,000 for the design phase.

For more information on Lee County Natural Resources’ efforts to protect and improve water quality, log on to http://www.leegov.com/naturalresources/WaterQuality.

Tiny bubbles part of new strategy to strangle Lee County's blue-green algae problem

FORT MYERS - A company that manages private lakes throughout Florida is the next contractor that will try to show how it can get rid of blue-green algae that has made thousands of Lee County residents miserable.

SOLitude Lake Management, which has offices throughout the country including one in Fort Myers, tends to the ecological balance in bodies of water in Florida.

Lee County has agreed to allow the company to perform demonstration projects at locations badly affected by the blue-green algae in North Fort Myers. If it works, the experiment could broaden to Cape Coral.

The county first decided to use funds from the latest Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant to hire a Stuart-based company to perform a demonstration project. But that company had financial problems, including multiple lawsuits over failure to pay for some of its equipment.

The plug was pulled and DEP told the county it could retargeted some of the $750,000 grant to algae removal and cleaning up marine life killed by red tide along the shore.

AECom, which was sucking algae out of canals in Cape Coral and carting it off for processing, would continue its work in Cape Coral, Assistant County Manager David Harner said.

Cape Coral waives bid procedures for algae cleanup efforts, approves Fort Myers pipeline

FORT MYERS - Cape Coral has waived normal bid procedures for goods and services related to algae cleanup.

City Council unanimously approved the resolution Monday to waive procurement procedures for "several algae mitigation strategies" the city has identified, including a partnership with Ecological Laboratories Inc., according to a city memo. District 2 council member John Carioscia was absent for the vote.

"The implementation of these strategies may require the procurement of goods and/or services, which under normal circumstances would require the formal competitive solicitation (bid) process which could take 90 days or longer," the memo reads. "Staff is requesting a Waiver of Procurement Procedures to meet the optimal timeframe to implement the strategies selected. To accomplish the task, it is in the City's best interest for the bid process to be waived."

Billy's Creek dredging approved, impact on pollution unclear

FORT MYERS - Five years after first looking for it, the city of Fort Myers has a $775,000 grant in place to dredge Billy's Creek.

Combined with city funding, it means $1 million so that Fort Myers can get started on the removal of decades of sentiment that has settled in the canal, making it more difficult for the creek to handle stormwater during times of flooding emergencies.

Fort Myers has been looking for the funding for several years, but buoyed by growing attention to water issues, and especially to an abundance of nutrients in the water that feed harmful algae blooms, the funding was included in the state budget.

State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and state Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, both Fort Myers Republicans, pressed for inclusion of the grant funding in the state budget passed by the Legislature earlier this year.

Army Corps to slow Okeechobee releases even as Lake O rises

Lake Okeechobee levels are rising, but the federal agency in charge of releases reduced discharges Friday to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will lower Okeechobee releases from upward of 6,000 cubic feet per second as measured at the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam to 3,000 cubic feet per second.

That means less Okeechobee water will be flowing toward the estuary and the Gulf of Mexico, both of which are experiencing toxic algal blooms.

Pine Island organization discusses water quality

FORT MYERS - The Greater Pine Island Civic Association invited Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani to its meeting last week to discuss the water quality issues Southwest Florida has recently been facing. Beaches in Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties have seen record levels of dead sea life for the last several months due to red tide and blue-green algae blooms.

Cassani is a career scientist and director/officer committee chair of the Calusa Waterkeeper. The group was previously known as CRCA-Riverwatch.

"The Calusa River Watch was started in 1997 and after getting our full licensing in 2016 became the Calusa Waterkeeper, Inc.," Cassani said. "A lot of what I do is policy development and the Waterkeepers in Florida are trying to get the 'Harmful Algae Bloom' (HAB) task force reinstated."

The state Legislature created the HAB task force "for the purpose of determining research, monitoring, control, and mitigation strategies for red tide and other harmful algal blooms in Florida waters."

In 2018, Southwest Florida has been faced with the worst cyanobacteria and red tide exposures in many years.

Venice Council resolution urges residents to curb fertilizer use

VENICE — City leaders formally encouraged residents to not use fertilizer year-round but never discussed the prospect of banning the use of fertilizer or glyphosate herbicides.

A key element of the resolution approved by the City Council would be developing an educational component for city residents.

The amount of nutrients and herbicides pouring into the Gulf have become a hot topic in recent months as the red tide bloom has persisted. The resolution passed, 6-1, with City Council member Jeanette Gates in dissent because the resolution didn’t go far enough.

Gates said she would have preferred if the resolution included herbicides, addressed stormwater runoff, and included exempt entities such as golf courses, schools and government-owned lands.

Charlotte Harbor Estuary Program to propose cyanobacteria rapid response program

To the Editor:

The problems with excess nutrients discharged into water and the resulting toxic algae blooms continue to plague Southwest Florida.

In an effort to evaluate potential remediation solutions, the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP), AquaFlex® Holdings LLC, Sea & Shoreline and the Calusa Waterkeeper initiated deployment of various configurations of AquaFlex Open-Cell in the Caloosahatchee River on August 16th and 17th.

This goal of this demonstration was to determine the potential efficacy of simultaneous removal/detection of the algae and accompanying toxins. This technology, first used in 2010 by BP during the DeepWater Horizon oil spill disaster, has been shown to be effective in removing excess phosphorus and oil-related contaminants in other regions.

Samples taken from the AquaFlex Open-Cell foam after the demonstration were analyzed for removal/detection and absorption of algae/cyanotoxins by the Florida- and EPA-approved GreenWater Laboratories of Palatka, FL. The initial results of this deployment indicated that all configurations of the Open-Cell configurations showed evidence of absorption of algae/toxins into the foam capillary network in concentrations ranging from 45,000 ppb – 259,000 ppb.

Given the results of this demonstration, further investigation is warranted. The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, in collaboration with the Florida Gulf Coast University and Sea and Shoreline, are seeking $65,000 in funding for a pilot study of the AquaFlex product over a larger area (~1 acre), including pre- and post-deployment water quality sampling to assess performanc

e. The objective of the pilot program is to evaluate scalability and efficacy of implementing this technology to remediate excess nutrient and toxic algae blooms in Florida.

Overall, while these results are encouraging as a potential remediation technique, the long-term focus should be on controlling nutrient pollutants at their source to keep them out of waterways to reduce future toxic algae blooms. Accordingly, the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, with its partners and members, is continuing to implement on-going large-scale water quality and hydrological restoration initiatives and projects throughout the 4,700 sq. mile Program area from Venice to Bonita Springs to Winter Haven. Project team would consist of Jennifer Hecker with the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, Carter Henne with Sea and Shoreline Aquatic Restoration, Dr. Mike Parsons with Florida Gulf Coast University, and Scott Smith with AquaFlex Holdings LLC (hereinafter “AFH”).

The project team is proposing a rapid response pilot program to remove cyanobacterial and nutrients from the Caloosahatchee River for $65,000 which would include the following:

  • Deployment of open-cell foam rolls for surface removal of the cyanobacteria in approximately one acre of cyanobacteria infected water in the tidal Caloosahatchee River. [Note the foam removes up to 32 times its weight in contaminants and this will include measuring the cyanobacteria removed along with evaluation of disposal in waste to energy facilities where there is no risk of further contamination or human exposure as in a landfill.] Material costs for the open-cell foam for 250,000 square feet of surface area to be deployed as set forth above is $25,000. Travel, labor for deployment, and disposal is estimated at $15,000.
  • Open-Cell foam eelgrass and environmental indicators to be deployed in the water column and submitted to approved Florida laboratories for analysis of cyanobacteria, phosphorus, toxins, and other substances as deemed necessary. Lab testing is estimated at $15,000.
  • Technical oversight, reporting and financial administration is estimated at $10,000.

Background – Prior Validation and Field Work

The outbreak of cyanobacteria and red tide in the waters of Southern Florida is gaining national

attention. New approaches and technologies for rapid response remediation are needed. Given that cyanobacteria feeds on excess nitrogen and phosphorus, it appears that the Open-Cell foam technology may be a suitable rapid response technology worthy of a pilot program to address the cyanobacteria outbreak in the Caloosahatchee River – as it has proven to be very good at absorbing/sequestering particle reactive phosphorus and metals along with hydrocarbons and other contaminants including the cyanobacteria itself and toxins produced by cyanobacteria.

In 2013, AquaFlex Holdings LLC (hereinafter “AFH”) collaborated with the Bermuda Zoological Society which demonstrated how the patent pending Open-Cell foam technology removes metals and hydrocarbons from water. Exhibit A is a summary report and graphs from Dr. Jamie Bacon that show significant reduction of certain metals and hydrocarbons with Open-Cell foam technology. In 2014, AFH filed the initial patent application which is based on actual field work over a multitude of water contamination events including cyanobacteria outbreaks in Toledo, OH and Nantucket, MA.

Exhibit B is the patent filing which is based upon actual field work over 5 years and over 50 water contamination events detailing the efficacy of the Open-Cell foam technology for simultaneous removal/detection of contaminants in water. AFH also worked extensively in a joint demonstration project with UMASS gathering field data from 2014-2015 with a focus on pre-emptive monitoring water with Open-Cell foam technology for simultaneous detection/removal of contaminants from water. The main focus in collaboration with UMASS was to address removal of phosphorus as the primary nutrient that fosters growth and outbreaks of cyanobacteria. The principle here is that by targeting simultaneous removing/monitoring of a key nutrient for cyanobacteria that it is possible to mitigate the growth of cyanobacteria on a large scale – and this research showed some promising results.

AFH has extensive data from the Nantucket project (2 years) and enclosed as exhibit C one testing report as an example where the Open-Cell foam matrix is analyzed as a solid/bulk and showed ranges of 45,000 ppb – 410,000 ppb of phosphorus as removed from the water. AFH has more data including controls that can be provided upon request. This data supports open-cell foam technology sequesters particle reactive phosphorus and metals. AFH is also developing specific formulations aimed to remove nitrates too. AFH asserts that the open-cell foam technology can be scaled up quickly and deployed in a variety of configurations including in roll form from boats and in submerged foam for the water column like natural eelgrass. The cost of the open-cell foam technology is $.10 / square foot of surface area. Exhibit C is a short PowerPoint showing field deployment in Nantucket, MA.

The project team is requesting funding support to conduct a pilot project to deploy this technology and monitor the water quality response in the Caloosahatchee River.

Experts point to red tide, blue-green algae for some problems in SWFL's bee population

It's not only the critters that live in the Gulf's waters and the area's freshwater canals and rivers that are feeling the effects of Southwest Florida's algae problems.

Local honey bee experts say they started seeing problems a little more than a month ago in hives around areas affected by red tide and blue-green algae.

"It's weakened them, more than anything," said Keith Councell, vice president of the Lee County Farm Bureau and owner of Councell Farms, with 5,000 hives in Lee County, a significant keeper of honeybees.

The weakening comes almost a year after Hurricane Irma took its toll. The flooding destroyed hundreds of hives.

Storms and now the red tide are just the latest problems. Honeybees have been under assault since the late 1990s with a sudden disappearance of bees noticed and reports of unusually high rates of decline in hives.

The red tide and algae have led to a pursuit of funds to study the algae-bee connection.

Councell pointed to area in Bokeelia where he has a number of hives placed on the ground and on a flatbed trailer.

Some of the Bokeelia hives showed signs of no activity, a good indicator that there is a problem, he said.

‘Dead zone’ identified off Sanibel

A "dead zone," an underwater patch with no plant, or animal life, has been found off the coast of Sanibel by Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation scientists.

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation Research Scientist Dr. Rick Bartleson said about two weeks ago they started noticing the "dead zone" off the Sanibel coast. He said there is no oxygen in the water about 3 to 5 meters down to the surface, in some places all the way down to the bottom in about 8 meters of water.

"It's a pretty large area. There is no life on the bottom, plant, or animal life," Bartleson said Thursday afternoon. "We do not know the boundaries exactly, or know if the oxygen levels have gone up since last week's storm."

He said it is hard to determine where the dead zone is located, exactly.

"We don't know if the oxygen levels are still low or not," Bartleson said.

The dead zone is associated with freshwater runoff, which includes a lot of nutrients in the water. With algae blooms killing marine life, it will accelerate the oxygen demand.

New treatment being developed for manatees poisoned by red tide

SARASOTA - Florida International University and Mote Marine Laboratory are developing new and more efficient ways to treat manatees exposed to toxic red tide.

Through a $428,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ECOHAB program, FIU and Mote are launching a three-year project to improve veterinary care for rescued manatees by studying how the cells in their immune system respond to certain antioxidants. The goal is to identify those antioxidants that may work better than the current treatment, which uses anti-inflammatory substances.

FIU chemist Kathleen Rein and Mote marine immunology expert Cathy Walsh are leading the research team.

“The current approach is simply to give palliative care and wait for them to clear the toxin and get better,” Rein said. “This new treatment could accelerate the healing process. If this treatment is successful, it could be used with many other animals including dolphins, turtles and birds.”

State and local partners working together to relieve flooding issues

SFWMD, City of Bonita Springs, Lee County and Collier County Officials Working Together to Coordinate Regional and Local Watershed Issues

Future joint workshop will explore sending flow from the Corkscrew Swamp to the Cocohatchee River

BONITA SPRINGS – Officials from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), the City of Bonita Springs, Lee County and Collier County met earlier this month and agreed to have a future public workshop to further discuss a proposal that could help shorten the duration of flooding in Bonita Springs and southern Lee County.

The proposal, which is still in the preliminary stages of being explored and modeled, would involve a drainage swale that is already planned to be constructed along the Bonita Beach Road and Logan Boulevard intersection improvement project in Bonita Springs.

The proposed swale and associated water control structures would potentially allow a limited amount of flood waters from the Bonita Beach Road area to flow south into the Big Cypress Basin in Collier County. The features would only be utilized when there is excess water in the Bonita Springs area and conditions in the Big Cypress Basin in Collier County would not be negatively impacted by accepting additional water.

The meeting earlier this month included Big Cypress Basin (BCB) Board Chairman and SFWMD Governing Board member Rick Barber, Bonita Springs Mayor Peter Simmons, Collier County District 2 Commissioner Andy Solis and Lee County District 3 Commissioner Larry Kiker.

Venice vice mayor to seek citywide ban of fertilizer

VENICE — Vice Mayor Bob Daniels is asking the City Council to consider a ban on the use of fertilizer within the city limits, similar to one put in place by Sewall’s Point, in Martin County, on the east coast of Florida.

“I’m proposing a year-round ban, until we’re able to monitor what we’re putting into the three miles of the Gulf offshore — that being the outfalls and the septic systems,” Daniels said Tuesday morning at the Venice Municipal Fishing Pier.

Daniels wants the ban to include glyphosate herbicides, commonly known as Roundup.

His proposed ban would be placed on the council’s Sept. 11 agenda for discussion and could be in place “until we can guarantee we’re not putting out any nutrients.”

Sarasota County already regulates the use of fertilizer during the rainy season. Daniels’ idea would go further. He sees it as cutting off nourishment for Karenia brevis, the organism that causes red tide.

Read more: Complete coverage of red tide in Southwest Florida “My hypothesis, for the city, is we can control the food supply for three miles from the city,” Daniels said. “We’re going to cut it off.

“I don’t like seeing people walking around with respirators and gas masks and big dolphins being killed and birds and stuff like that,” he added.

Eaglewood Beach Waterfest

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ENGLEWOOD - Englewood Beach WaterFest, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for our 2018 Grant Giving Program. These Grants will be given to charitable organizations that foster the protection of our water and marine life, and encourage the recreational use of our water resources. The Application process will be open from September 1, 2018 through October 31, 2018. Grants will be distributed December 31, 2018. All deserving organizations are encouraged to apply for up to a $10,000 Grant. Interested organizations can apply on line at

https://englewoodbeachwaterfest.com or

https://englewoodbeachwaterfest.com/grant-application/

Englewood Beach Waterfest is a multi-day, all-ages entertainment event featuring World Championship Offshore Power Boat races, Stand Up Paddle Board Races, on-water fun events, marine education and conservation exhibits, entertainment, food and fun, the proceeds from which are contributed to local charities who support conservation of our water resources. The Family Conservation Center presented by the Ron & Matt Smith State Farm Agency, will be a cornerstone and a must see at WaterFest for 2018 and will be a venue of interactive and educational displays and exhibits focused on water and marine life conservation. The Family Conservation Center will be housed under a 5,000 square foot tented area within the WaterFest Village on Englewood Beach where expert personnel will represent the region’s leading Environment and Conservation organizations including Mote Marine Laboratory.

Steve Schroeder, President of Englewood Beach WaterFest, Inc. states, “We are extremely pleased that we have positioned WaterFest as a premier event in Southwest Florida to draw people from all over the United States. The proceeds from this festival can then be used locally to aid in the protection and responsible use of our waterways. We are excited about this commitment to local charities who can best use the monies to protect our regions unique water resources, encourage their recreational and responsible use of our waterways and foster the overall preservation of those resources today, tomorrow and forever." We encourage all eligible charities to apply.

We learn about an experimental approach to remove blue-green algae from the water

FORT MYERS - We’re learning more about a method that's being tested to remove blue-green algae from the Caloosahatchee River and area canals. Much of it arrived via releases from the algae-covered Lake Okeechobee -- a move the US Army Corps of Engineers made to keep the water level in the lake at a safe level for the aging Herbert Hoover Dike that surrounds it.

This blue-green algae is the stuff that has canals looking like technicolor guacamole -- and it’s the cyanobacteria that can cause rashes on contact and serious illness if ingested by humans, not to mention the potential fatal effects on marine life, wild animals, pets and livestock.

Caloosahatchee cyanobacteria demo results announced

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA - The problems with excess nutrients discharged into water and resulting toxic algae blooms continue to plague Southwest Florida.

In an effort to evaluate potential remediation solutions, the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, AquaFlex Holdings, Sea and Shoreline, and the Calusa Waterkeeper initiated deployment of various configurations of AquaFlex Open-Cell in the Caloosahatchee on Aug. 16 and 17.

The goal of the demonstration was to determine the potential efficacy for simultaneous removal/detection of the algae and accompanying toxins. The technology, first used in 2010 by BP during the DeepWater Horizon oil spill disaster, has been shown to be effective in removing excess phosphorus and oil-related contaminants in other regions.

Now you can take your boater safety exam online

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FWC now allows online providers to offer boating safety exam

Access to Florida’s Boater Education Temporary Certificate Program has been expanded, thanks to work done by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to make allowances for online course providers to offer the required courses over the internet.

In August of 2017, the FWC amended Florida Administrative Code 68D-36.108 to allow the temporary certificate exam to be offered in an online version. This change makes it easier and more convenient for both vessel operators and vessel liveries to comply with Florida’s boater education laws, which require liveries to verify that customers born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, have met Florida’s boating safety education requirements before allowing them to rent their vessels.

Online temporary certificate exam providers will create a system that allows 24-hour, seven-day a week accessibility to the exam using tablets, laptops, or other electronic devices. This added convenience will make it easier for both visitors and residents by allowing them to take the test before a vacation to Florida.

Currently, one online boating safety education provider, Boat Ed, has completed the process to offer the exam online. Boat Ed has been a leader and innovator in boating safety education since 1995. Study or learning materials are available on the Boat Ed site to prepare students for the exam, improve their boating knowledge and increase their chances of successfully completing the exam on the first try. The exam costs $3 and study materials are available for an additional charge. A link to the exam can be found at Boat‑Ed.com/FloridaRental/.

Prior to this change, paper exams were the only option and were required to be completed and passed by rental vessel operators. The ability for liveries to continue to offer paper exams has not changed with the addition of this online option. Liveries can still purchase and administer the paper exams, as long as their contract and insurance are valid.

The temporary certificate exam is a knowledge check, not a full education course. It cannot be converted into a boater safety identification card that is valid for life. Temporary certificates are not valid in any other state and do not meet boater safety education requirements in other states.

The online exam will be 25 questions, randomly selected from a large pool of questions. The cost for the exam will remain $3. Upon successful completion of the exam, students will be provided an electronic proof of their successful completion and their passing score. A livery will be able to inspect this proof to ensure that a prospective vessel renter has met Florida’s boating safety education requirements.

The new change offers various benefits to liveries:

  • Liveries are not required to contract with any other company to use the online exam.
  • A link that will send customers directly to the online exam can be provided by liveries.
  • Liveries are not required to continue purchasing paper exams from the FWC.
  • The burden of mailing paper tests back to the FWC is removed with the online option.
  • Liveries will be able to provide speedier service to customers who take the exam in advance of renting.

The FWC encourages liveries to transition to the new online exam system to increase accessibility and streamline the testing process for renters interested in enjoying Florida’s beautiful waterways by boat.

Ten Mile Canal one-year update: Much work done; much more to do, residents say

What do you get when you funnel record-breaking stormwater into a system designed for a once-upon-a-time rural area? A wet mess, as survivors of 2017’s Ten Mile Canal area flooding will tell you.

Starting last Aug. 25, record rains fell for five days, with some areas logging almost 30 inches. The resulting misery dominated news for the next two weeks, until Hurricane Irma stormed in to steal the show, compounding the woes of the already hard-hit area. Yet unprecedented as the initial disaster was, it’s a wonder it didn’t happen sooner, say residents who’ve spent the last year studying the event and trying to prevent its repeat, growing increasingly frustrated with Lee County in the process.

Concerned history would repeat itself, Bob Clements joined the Ten Mile Canal Community Group, one of several citizen initiatives that have coalesced since the flooding. He has lived for 21 years in The Forest, one of the hardest-hit developments.

Members are carefully watching the work Lee County has done over the last year, including cleaning and regrading area canals, culverts and swales, improving access and installing level monitoring systems.

They’re also calling it out for not doing enough — focusing on addressing the flooding's effects; not its causes, says Ted Ehrlich, one of the community group's leaders.