Water-Related News

Water Atlas program, faculty, Atlas sponsors receive FLMS Awards

News Image

The USF Water Institute was one of five recipients of FLMS Awards of Excellence at the 2017 Florida Lake Management Society symposium in Captiva Island. Former USF Water Institute faculty member Jim Griffin was honored by the Society with its highest award, the Marjorie Carr Award, for lifetime achievement.

The USF Water Institute received the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award, given to individuals or organizations who report on aquatic resource issues, for its use of informatics to publicly disseminate data and supporting, explanatory information related to water resource management.

Dr. Jim Griffin, principal investigator for the Water Atlas program from 2005 until he retired in 2014, received the Marjorie Carr Award, the Florida Lake Management Society’s highest award. It is given for lifetime work on behalf of Florida’s aquatic resources. The award is named in honor of Marjorie Carr who, among other things, organized citizens and brought to an end the proposed Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Other 2017 FLMS award recipients:

Judy Ott received the Edward Deevey, Jr. Award, given to an individual for contributing to our scientific understanding of Florida’s water bodies. Edward Devey was an internationally recognized limnologist and was affiliated with the State Museum of Florida at the time of his death. Judy retired in March after nine years as program scientist for the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program.

The Seminole County SERV Program received the Dr. Daniel E. Canfield Jr. Volunteerism Award, given to a volunteer organization or outstanding volunteer for significant contributions to the research, restoration, and/or preservation of our water resources. The award is named after Dr. Daniel Canfield, founder of Florida LAKEWATCH, the pioneering citizen-volunteer water quality monitoring program involving over 1,200 lakes statewide, and now being emulated across the United States. The Seminole Education, Restoration and Volunteer (SERV) Program works to actively restore and educate people on how to protect the waterways and natural areas of Seminole County.

Nia Wellendorf, Environmental Administrator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, received the FLMS Young Professional Award, presented to a young lake management professional who exhibits exemplary professional accomplishments and a commitment to water resource protection and management of our lakes and watersheds.

Lee County will offer $42M for Edison Farms land

Lee County commissioners voted Tuesday to put $42.4 million on the table and begin talks to purchase Edison Farms, a 3,900-acre parcel considered key to conservation efforts in the southeastern section of the county.

County choices on Edison Farms: Buy for $49M, offer $42M, or pass The county's first offer will be almost $7 million less than the landowner's offer to sell the property for $49 million.

The session was the culmination of years of discussion about whether and when the county would move to buy the site, just east of I-75 and south of Corkscrew Road.

"This truly is a legacy opportunity, it has been a long day coming to get to this point," said Jennifer Hecker, executive director of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. "Where we usually spend tens of millions of dollars to repair past mistakes, we have the opportunity to save taxpayers money by averting them."

Council votes to begin Dunbar's sludge dump cleaning process

The Fort Myers City Council heard from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Monday night about the former toxic dump site in city limits.

The land in question sits between Henderson and Midway Avenue in Dunbar.

At first, Councilwoman Terolyn Watson's called for the council to vote to re-test the contaminated land as the last time it was tested was 2007.

That's when the DEP says they discovered arsenic on the site.

She later changed her mind and asked members to vote to have the site cleaned up and more agencies involved in future tests in the area. They approved that motion 5 to 2.

Tom Palmer: Problem of water use is not a new issue

To hear some political leaders discuss the increasing challenges of addressing water supply issues lately, you might think this is a relatively recent issue.

It isn’t.

Parker notes that Florida has had worse floods and droughts than some of the events that triggered the formation of Florida’s water management districts.

He added, however, that in the days when Florida’s population was smaller, people could manage to get water somehow and generally had enough sense not to build in flood-prone areas.

Parker made some other points that are relevant to water planning today.

Ground water and surface water are only different sides of the same hydrologic coin and must be managed as a single resource.

Sewers, wastewater still being discussed at Captiva Community Panel

A month ago, the Captiva Community Panel resubmitted the revised Captiva Plan to the county to be reviewed for approval.

"It's been put on hold because of some personnel being out," said Ken Gooderham, panel member.

However, Gooderham and David Mintz, vice president of the Captiva Community Panel, have a meeting scheduled for June 22 with the county to further discuss readjusting the plan.

"We're hoping that it will be positive," Gooderham said. "David (Mintz) did all the work that was discussed during the last meeting to try and restore the language that they have modified or removed."

After Mintz submitted the revised proposal, he got in touch with David Loveland, acting director of the Lee County Department of Community Development.

Some of the major changes the county made to the Captiva Plan include changes to the original plan's density, sewer and rezoning laws.

As far as the wastewater project goes, the county is in the process of discussing the scope and the cost of the project with TKW Consulting Engineers which is based in Fort Myers.

The Lee County Department of Transportation is still in the process of completing the Captiva Drive survey. The survey is being done so the panel will have a better picture of what's public and private land. Ultimately, the panel is working towards making the S-curve on Captiva Drive safer for pedestrians.

Constant flooding in Charlotte County neighborhood prompts concern among residents

Some homeowners like Sandra Kipp are concerned about the flooding that occurs on their street when it rains.

“As soon as the water gets saturated on the ground, it just comes right in the lowest part of my house,” Kipp said.

Kipp’s home didn’t start flooding until after Charlotte County upgraded the drainage system in 2015, she said.

“Yesterday it just got to the kitchen, but in the past it’s flooded the whole house,” she said. “I’ve had tadpoles floating around my bed. I had to leave.”

Parts of Charlotte County received nearly four inches of rain Thursday in less than an hour, WINK News meteorologists said.

However, the storm was a rare weather event that the drainage system was unable to handle and low elevation is to blame for the frequent flooding, county officials said.

But Kipp and her neighbors wants the county to resolve the issue once and for all.

“I thought when we approached the county, they would fix it,” she said. “And obviously, it’s not fixed because it (water) came pouring in again yesterday.”

The Charlotte County Public Works Department plan to investigate to ensure the drains are working properly.

Governor and cabinet approve 6,000-acre Florida Forever Acquisition

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott and the Cabinet members approved the acquisition of a conservation easement of more than 6,000 acres within the Old Town Creek Watershed Florida Forever project. This project will preserve a large landscape and watershed area that is home to several natural communities and plant and animal species that depend on them. This project includes the headwaters of Bee Branch and Old Town Creek that feed into Charlie Creek, which ultimately feeds into the Peace River.

“DEP is excited to complete important acquisitions like this one,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “This project will help protect water and natural resources for future generations.”

The project was ranked number 27 in the Florida Forever Less-Than-Fee projects category. The property is adjacent to the Saddle Blanket Lakes Scrub Preserve, public conservation land owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy, and is in close proximity to the Avon Park Air Force Range Sentinel Landscape and the Everglades Headwater National Wildlife Refuge. Additionally, the property is located within the 2013 Florida Ecological Greenways Network.

“The Nature Conservancy is proud to support the acquisition of the Old Town Creek Conservation Easement,” said Temperince Morgan, executive director, The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “This project supports a variety of threatened and endangered plants and animals, and ultimately helps protect the water quality in the Peace River.”

“We are excited to see the Department bring these types of good ecosystem protection projects to the Cabinet for approval,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida. “This acquisition will help protect the headwaters of important Peace River tributaries, conserve flatwoods and floodplain and protect water resources.”

A conservation easement is a restriction placed on a piece of property to protect lands for future generations, while allowing owners to continue to live on and use their land. Through this conservation easement, the state of Florida will protect the land and water resources found within the Old Town Creek Watershed project, while also maintaining the historic homestead on the site.

City of Fort Myers dumped toxic sludge in Dunbar

Imagine you bought a home in a residential Fort Myers neighborhood overlooking a block of green space – City View Park has a nice ring to it, right?

Then imagine, instead of furnishing the landscape with royal palms, the city buries waste from its water treatment plant there. Pits of sludge containing toxic arsenic. And it stays there for years.

In 1962 the city advertised in The News-Press its intent to buy vacant lots for "municipal purposes" in the area bounded by Henderson and Midway Avenues and Jeffcott and South Streets; a historically African-American neighborhood of Dunbar.

The municipal purpose: to dump an estimated 25,000 cubic yards of sludge in pits dug deeper than the water table.

Local governments, more or less, tackling effects of climate change

In the future, Holmes Beach City Hall may be reachable only by boat.

Predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show seaside cities gradually taking on water like a weather-worn ship. Granted, these aren’t immediate changes — the median prediction of sea level rise will reach up to 6 feet of water by the year 2100.

While doubts about climate change’s effects persist throughout the United States, rising seas, acidic oceans and stronger storms are already being felt on the Gulf Coast.

On the front lines, Gulf Coast leaders know it’s there. But what’s being done to address it?

Stump Pass channel realignment

Englewood, Fla. (June 12, 2017) - The navigational aids in Stump Pass have been relocated to the new channel alignment. The pass will be monitored for any changes and navigational aids will be relocated as necessary. Boaters are asked to use due care when traversing Stump Pass.

Dredging of Big Carlos Pass

The Town has been advised that beginning on May 15, 2017, Lee County Division of Natural Resources is coordinating with the West Coast Inland Navigation District to perform dredging of Big Carlos Pass due to sand shortage in the Critical Wildlife Area. This project and the equipment being used to perform the work are permitted to be on site by the State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The safety of nesting shorebirds and sea turtles will be monitored on a daily basis by local and state environmental agencies for the duration of this project. If anyone in the public has questions about the project, please contact Lee County Division of Natural Resources at 239-533-8109 or West Coast Inland Navigation District at 941-485-9402.

Lionfish derby to be held July 7-9 off Sarasota

News Image

Join Mote Marine Laboratory for the fourth annual Sarasota Lionfish Derby, which invites scuba divers to compete for more than $3,500 in cash prizes by netting or spearing lionfish in an effort to control the spread of this invasive species.

The derby will take place from July 7-9 with its home base at Mote, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway in Sarasota, Florida. This derby is the first of four in the 2017 Summer Lionfish Derby Series coordinated by Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). On July 9, approximately six culinary partners will compete to prepare the best lionfish dishes during the derby’s public event at Mote. Details below.

Register for the Sarasota Derby or others in the summer series: www.reef.org/lionfish/derbies.

Mote Marine Laboratory, a world-class marine science institution, will host the Lionfish Derby in cooperation with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), which helps study and address the lionfish invasion and sanctions official Lionfish Derbies.

Cape Coral canal levels finally see some relief

CAPE CORAL, Fla. - After the recent rain, canal levels in Cape Coral are back over one billion gallons, but city records show that's still less than half the amount of water the city had a year ago. "There's a lot more action down in the water," said Fort Myers resident Dalton Outlaw. The calm after the recent storms is unveiling a dramatic change in the canal levels. "They look a lot better," Outlaw said. "They are way higher than what they were, like up to five feet higher, I'd say." Outlaw says this past winter, water barely covered the bottom of many canals. "You didn't even see these little bait fish everywhere, it was deserted," Outlaw said. According to city records, the canals which supply irrigation water dropped dramatically from almost 1.5 billion gallons in January to just about 670 million gallons in April.

Burnt Store Isles perimeter channel dredging project

Beginning Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 through September 4th, 2017 (work will occur seven days a week as weather and equipment operation permit) weather and equipment operation permitting), the City of Punta Gorda contractor, Brance Diversified will begin the maintenance dredging of the perimeter channel in the Burnt Store Isles subdivision. The work will begin at the southern end of the subdivision adjacent to Palermo Drive and will progress north along the perimeter channel to the completion point at Terin Court. Boaters should expect navigational delays and need to exercise caution in the vicinity of the work and may contact the company workers through channel 78 on the VHF radio. The dredge will be located in the perimeter channel and will have up to 3,000 feet of 12 inch discharge pipe leading to the spoil locations. The spoil will be discharged directly into the canal system as required by the State/Federal permits.

Water efficiency in rural areas getting worse, despite improvements in urban centers

A nationwide analysis of water use over the past 30 years finds that there is a disconnect between rural and urban areas, with most urban areas becoming more water efficient and most rural areas becoming less and less efficient over time.

“Understanding water use is becoming increasingly important, given that climate change is likely to have a profound impact on the availability of water supplies,” said Sankar Arumugam, a professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and lead author of a new study on the work. “This research helps us identify those areas that need the most help, and highlights the types of action that may be best suited to helping those areas.”

The new paper in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, stems from a National Science Foundation-funded, interuniversity research project which focuses on understanding how water sustainability in the United States has changed over the past 30 years because of climate change and population growth.

For this paper, researchers evaluated water use data at the state and county level for the 48 contiguous states. Specifically, the researchers looked at water-use efficiency, measured as per capita consumption, in 5-year increments, from 1985 to 2010.

USGS study Finds 28 types of cyanobacteria in Florida algal bloom

A new U.S. Geological Survey study that looked at the extensive harmful algal bloom that plagued Florida last year found far more types of cyanobacteria present than previously known.

Twenty-eight species of cyanobacteria were identified in the extensive bloom, which occurred in the summer of 2016 in southern Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie Canal and River, and the Caloosahatchee River. As the guacamole like sludge created by the bloom began to stick together, it formed a thick, floating mat that coated river and coastal waters and shorelines – affecting tourism, killing fish, and in some cases, making people sick.

The culprit causing the bloom was a well-known species of cyanobacteria called Microcystis aeruginosa. However, water samples collected by state and federal agencies before and during the disruptive bloom on Lake Okeechobee and the Okeechobee waterway were analyzed by the USGS and found to contain 27 other species of cyanobacteria.

Scott vetoes spending for citrus canker claims, water projects

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday vetoed $37.4 million to pay for citrus canker judgments along with $15.4 million for local water projects.

Canker is a bacterial disease that blemishes a tree's fruit and can cause it to drop prematurely. To protect Florida's $9 billion dollar citrus industry, more than 16 million trees, including 865,000 residential trees, were destroyed statewide, beginning in 2000.

In his veto letter, Scott said only that he was striking the spending for citrus judgments for Broward and Lee counties because of "ongoing litigation."

Overall, Scott vetoed $410 million from the $82 billion budget. A special session is scheduled for next week to provide funding from the vetoes for education, economic development and the Visit Florida tourism marketing agency.

Lee County wants more water from lake

One year ago, water was pouring into Lake Okeechobee from the north and flowing out of the lake to the east and west. The releases were blamed for environmental damage, and contributed to a summer of troubling algae blooms on the Treasure Coast. This year, some counties in the region are in severe drought, and some are asking for Lake Okeechobee freshwater.

The County Coalition for the Responsible Management of Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Estuaries and the Lake Worth Lagoon held their quarterly meeting Friday, June 2, at the Okeechobee County Court House to discuss this and other issues.

The dry season was 57 percent or 6.35 inches below normal in the 16 counties that comprise the South Florida Water Management District, officials said.

Lee County Commissioner Frank Mann said they have requested more freshwater releases from the lake. He noted algae blooms have popped up along the Caloosahatchee River.

New research vessel to impact marine research across Florida

With the crack of two bottles of champagne and the blessing from a local priest, Florida’s newest research vessel, the R/V W.T. Hogarth, was christened and launched for the first-time Tuesday May 23, 2017.

The 78-foot vessel, named after William T. Hogarth, Ph.D, the Florida Institute of Oceanography’s former director and the former dean of the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science, will be used to support research efforts by USF, as well as more than two dozen institutions and agencies across Florida.

Legislators worked hard to keep the contract local, and challenged Duckworth Steel Boats of Tarpon Springs with designing and building the ship.

“It was a little different than anything else we’ve worked on, but it means a lot to me because I like to see that the oceans are being taking care of,” said Junior Duckworth, owner of Duckworth Steel Boats.

This fall, the W.T. Hogarth will replace the nearly 50-year old R/V Bellows, by joining the FIO’s academic fleet with an inaugural voyage, undertaking a circumnavigation of Florida’s coast.

Mote's tarpon tagging kicks off for 2017 in Charlotte Harbor

A Mote Marine Laboratory scientist worked with Charlotte Harbor anglers to tag their first tarpon of 2017 during May 16 in Charlotte Harbor — an early step toward understanding what these popular sport fish do as they mature.

Dr. James Locascio, a staff scientist at Mote, is studying older juvenile/sub-adult tarpon, about 3-5 years old, in Charlotte Harbor by fitting them with acoustic tags. These tags are designed to last for 10 years, and every 95 seconds they transmit a signal that is detected when the tarpon swims by underwater receivers placed by researchers.

Tarpon of this age are believed to be local to Charlotte Harbor, but it’s not clear where, when and how they join the adult population and what percentage of these migrate or remain as residents in the harbor. Understanding their life history can support wildlife management practices designed to keep tarpon populations thriving and preserve a Florida tradition of exciting catch-and-release fishing.

Modified Phase III water shortage restrictions

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017 The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board voted to increase water restrictions throughout the region. The Modified Phase III water shortage affects counties throughout the District’s boundaries including Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter.

Effective Date and Areas

  • The District’s Modified Phase III water shortage restrictions are in effect June 5, 2017 through August 1, 2017, except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments.
  • These measures currently apply to all of Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota counties; the portions of Charlotte, Highlands, Lake, Levy, Marion, Polk, and Sumter, within the District’s jurisdiction; and Gasparilla Island (including the portion in Lee County) except as noted below.
  • Some local governments, such as St. Petersburg, have local ordinances with special watering times.
  • Some local governments, such as Sarasota County and Dunedin, have local ordinances with special one-day-per-week schedules.
  • Ocala and most of unincorporated Marion County follows the St. Johns River Water Management District’s water restrictions; however, the City of Dunnellon and The Villages remain under the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s water restrictions.
  • Unincorporated Levy County follows the Suwannee River Water Management District.
  • These restrictions apply to the use of wells and surface sources such as ponds, rivers and canals, in addition to utility-supplied water.

Pace of sea-level rise has tripled since 1990, new study shows

Virtually all 2.5 million Miami-Dade residents live on land that's less than ten feet above sea level. In terms of real-estate assets vulnerable to flooding, Miami is the second most exposed city on Earth, behind only Guangzhou, China. And Miami is basically the poster child for the effects of climate change, because the city has already begun flooding on sunny days.

But now a new study shows the seas are actually rising three times faster as they were in the 1990s.

Using a new satellite technique, the study in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that before 1990, the ocean was rising at a rate of roughly 1.1 millimeter per year. From 1990 to 2012, however, that rate spiked to 3.1 millimeters per year. Though that rate might still seem small, even a rise of a few millimeters worldwide can lead to increased flooding events or more deadly storm surges at an alarming pace.

Importantly, the study's authors claim the new data — first reported by the Washington Post — shows that scientists had previously underestimated how fast the oceans were rising before 1990, before widespread satellite data was available.

Noah Valenstein is new Florida DEP chief

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet Tuesday hired Noah Valenstein as the state's new Department of Environmental Protection secretary.

The 39-year-old Valenstein has spent the past 19 months as the executive director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, an iconic agricultural region of north Florida home to some of the country’s largest freshwater springs.

Environmentalists praised his appointment telling the Cabinet that Valenstein has demonstrated an ability to bring people together and develop a consensus in how to manage natural resources.

District Tightens Water Restrictions throughout 16-County Region

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s (District) Governing Board voted today to increase water restrictions throughout the region. The modified Phase III water shortage order affects counties throughout the District’s boundaries including Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter.

District hydrologists report a rainfall deficit of 11-inches since the start of the dry season last October. In fact, this is the driest dry season in the past 103 years.

Under the new water shortage order, lawn watering is reduced to once-per-week and allowable watering hours also are reduced. Micro-irrigation and hand watering of non-lawn areas are still allowed any day, if needed. Additionally, there are now limits on car washing and homeowners’ associations may not enforce any deed restrictions which could cause an increase in water use. The restrictions will remain in effect through August 1, 2017. Additional details regarding the watering of new lawns and plants, reclaimed water and other water uses can be found at WaterMatters.org/restrictions.

The District considerers both natural water resource conditions and the viability of public supply when deciding to declare a water shortage order. For the past 20 years, the District has worked diligently with its partners to develop alternative water supplies. Even though the region is experiencing drought conditions, there is adequate public water supply available.

Florida’s dry season runs October through May. The District encourages water conservation year-round, and offers many tips to reduce water use and additional information at WaterMatters.org/conservation.