Water-Related News

USF, Florida welcome new research vessel R/V W. T. Hogarth

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When Bill Hogarth was told the Florida Institute of Oceanography's new research vessel was going to be named after him, he had a pretty reasonable – and funny – reaction.

“I said, ‘Somebody knows something I don’t know!’ I think, it’s (the naming) usually after you’re dead, I said, ‘I’m retired but I didn’t know I was dying at the same time!’”

The former institute director and one-time dean of the USF College of Marine – who is not dying – was among the first passengers on the R/V W. T. Hogarth as the state-of-the-art, 78-foot-long ship recently moved into its home port at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg on a recent wet and windy afternoon.

"It’s very hard to put into words, but knowing how much the students use this vessel, how much research is done with this vessel, makes you awfully proud to see your name on it and to know what it will be used for," said Hogarth.

The new craft replaces the almost fifty-year-old Bellows, which is beginning to show its age – in addition to the ship’s sanitation system no longer working, there are concerns about its seaworthiness.

Dikes, berms not answer to flooding in Bonita Springs

As Bonita Springs leaders look for answers to the city's flooding problems exposed by Hurricane Irma and a lesser storm before it, they are sifting through what's feasible and unfeasible.

Options for two major flooded areas are slim in the Quinn Street area and Imperial Bonita Estates, said Mark Erwin with Atkins Engineering.

“The only way to really stop flooding there is with dikes or berms (along the Imperial River), which are too cost prohibitive,” Erwin said.

Florida Chamber calls for science-based solutions to water issues

OKEECHOBEE — “Sound water science – not political science – is the way to secure the state’s water future,” said Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber.

“If you think about Florida’s future, more people are going to need more water,” he said.

“That means we need to focus on securing Florida’s water future.”

He said they don’t want Florida to end up with water shortages like California.

“Florida is adding 1,000 people a day,” he said. “We’re going to add six million more residents in Florida by 2030.

“By 2030 with population growth, we’re going to need 20 percent more water than we currently have available to us,” he said.

Last year the Florida chamber launched a series of educational videos about water issues. The first four videos focused on springs, Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys and the Indian River Lagoon.

“We reached out to a very diverse group of scientists, to people who care about protecting the environment,” he said.

On Nov. 8, at a press conference in Tallahassee that was broadcast live online, the Florida Chamber of Commerce unveiled its fifth in a series of water education videos which further demonstrates why following science-based research is important to securing Florida’s water future. The latest educational research video provides proof that septic tank problems are detrimentally impacting Florida’s water systems. The educational video highlights research produced by Florida Atlantic University–Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor Dr. Brian Lapointe, and sheds light on the algae blooms on the St. Lucie Estuary that followed unusually heavy rainfall in the winter and spring of 2016.

Lee County Extension Services announces coastal planning workshop

FORT MYERS — UF/IFAS Lee County Extension Services is holding a coastal planning workshop from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, at the Fort Myers Beach Public Library, 2755 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, 33937.

Building and landscaping along coastal waters take special considerations. These areas are particularly ecologically sensitive and there are an array of regulations and environmental concerns to be aware of. The workshop is ideal for land managers, ecologists, arborists, builders, landscapers and homeowner association (HOA) representatives.

Topics of discussion will include recommended coastal plants, regulations on seagrape and mangrove trimming and the permitting processes. The workshop includes a catered lunch and will conclude with a walking tour of Lee County Parks & Recreation’s Bowditch Point Park starting at 2 p.m.

Cost: $16 via Eventbrite or $20 at the door.

For information, contact Stephen Brown at 239-533-7513 or email brownsh@leegov.com.

For more information about Lee County Parks & Recreation locations, amenities, and special events, visit www.leeparks.org, call 239-533-7275 or email leeparks@leegov.com.

Check your irrigation timer when you 'fall back' to Standard Time

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is reminding residents to check the timers on their irrigation system controllers this weekend, which is the end of Daylight Saving Time.

Saturday night is when we will turn our clocks back one hour. The time change is also a good time to make sure irrigation system timers are set correctly to ensure that the systems operate consistently with year-round water conservation measures.

All 16 counties throughout the District’s boundaries are now on year-round water conservation measures, with lawn watering limited to twice-per-week unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours. Local governments maintaining once-per-week watering by local ordinance include Hernando, Pasco and Sarasota counties.

Know and follow your local watering restrictions, but don’t water just because it’s your day. Irrigate your lawn when it shows signs of stress from lack of water. Pay attention to signs of stressed grass:

  • Grass blades are folded in half lengthwise on at least one-third of your yard.
  • Grass blades appear blue-gray.
  • Grass blades do not spring back, leaving footprints on the lawn for several minutes after walking on it

  • For additional information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Conservation.

    Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine visits Europe to study water issues

    Seminole County Commissioner Lee Constantine stood on a beach in the Netherlands facing the North Sea last week and watched as people walked along the sand.

    It was only three years ago that the beach near Amsterdam was under sea water because of unrelenting beach erosion. But thanks to a massive restoration effort, the beach is now an area where families relax, swim and fly kites.

    Beach restoration was one of the topics covered at a seven-day water-management conference hosted by the European Union that Constantine attended last week in three European countries.

    “We’re pouring sand onto our beaches and then losing them again,” he said. “But they’re doing things differently that will literally restore and maintain those beaches.”

    He thought about Florida’s coastlines, where recent hurricanes have eroded much of Volusia and Brevard counties’ beaches. Hurricane Matthew in 2016, for example, washed out nearly 2 million cubic feet of sand in those two counties and took out a chunk of State Road A1A in Ormond-By-The-Sea.

    Constantine was the only Florida representative among a dozen water policy experts from around the U.S. invited on the trip, funded by the EU. The group visited Brussels and Antwerp in Belgium, Rotterdam and Amsterdam in the Netherlands and Helsinki, Finland, to exchange ideas and study EU policies regarding flooding, wastewater management, potable water and renewable energy.

    Irma dumped 19 billion gallons of water into Peace River basin

    SARASOTA COUNTY — The amount of rainfall that drenched Southwest Florida during Hurricane Irma highlights one of the reasons the regional water authority wants to expand its water storage capacity.

    The Peace River-Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority is owned by Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties and has a reservoir and wells to collect water from the Peace River in southern DeSoto County.

    But officials were shocked to see the total amount of water that flowed during the hurricane and could have been collected if the authority had more storage capacity, said Sarasota County Commissioner Alan Maio, who also leads the water authority’s board.

    “I will give you one sound bite which will startle you: During Irma, on Sept. 13, 19 billion gallons flowed past our reservoir and our wells and our intake pipes,” he told the rest of the County Commission.

    “That one day is slightly more than the two-year supply for the water authority,” he continued. “In one day, 19 billion gallons. I went back and had them give me the number again in writing.”

    The river’s occasional extraordinarily high water flow is part of the justification for the authority’s plans to continue to expand its reservoir and aquifer storage, which capture water during high flows — typically the summer rainy season — for use during drier times and can currently hold 12.5 billion gallons. The authority is developing plans to expand even further, potentially doubling storage, which could have taken advantage of Irma’s abundant rainfall, Maio said.

    “Storage, storage and more storage,” authority Executive Director Patrick Lehman said of the group’s goals earlier this year.

    Sea turtle nesting finishes strong on Longboat Key through Venice

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    Sea turtles laid a near-record number of nests from Longboat Key through Venice in 2017, report Mote Marine Laboratory scientists who monitor this 35-mile stretch of beaches each day of nesting season, May 1-Oct. 31.

    Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program and its Sea Turtle Patrol volunteers documented 4,503 nests from all sea turtle species across Mote’s patrol area in Sarasota County. Of those, 4,424 were laid by threatened loggerhead sea turtles and 79 by threatened green sea turtles. Two nests in the loggerhead group were sampled for genetic testing to determine if they are hybrids from a loggerhead and green mating.

    Though the total nest count did not surpass the record 4,588 nests in 2016, this year brought the highest-ever number of green sea turtle nests in Mote’s 36-year history of local sea turtle conservation. The combined loggerhead/green totals on Longboat, Lido and Siesta keys broke their individual records, while totals on Casey Key and Venice did not.

    “We’ve had several years of high nest counts, and though we can’t predict the future definitively, we don’t see any reason to expect a decrease,” said Melissa Bernhard, staff biologist with Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation & Research Program. “We’re looking forward to 2018. These sea turtles nest every two to three years, so we’ll expect to see many of the turtles from the record year in 2016 returning.”

    Bernhard added: “The cool part about these high numbers is that we’re seeing a lot of new turtles.”

    During this year’s night-time tagging effort on Casey Key, Mote scientists encountered sea turtles 591 times — identifying 380 distinct individuals. Of those individuals, 293 were “neophytes” documented and tagged for the first time. It’s not clear whether these turtles are young females that recently matured or whether they’ve previously gone “under the radar,” nesting on nearby beaches without tagging programs.

    In any case, this year’s results continue an encouraging trend.

    Florida bill could require sea-level-rise studies for publicly funded buildings

    As sea levels continue to rise, Florida has taken a licking for its bad habit of climate-ignorant development.

    But despite warnings from the state's most brilliant and respected scientists, Gov. Rick Scott has more or less disregarded the issue, infamously banning the Department of Environmental Protection from using the term "climate change" in 2015. And though national publications such as Scientific American have taken developers to task for their reluctance to stop building along the coast, state law does little to discourage the practice.

    State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez wants to change that. Last week, he filed a bill that would require contractors to conduct what's called a sea-level impact projection study on state-funded buildings near the coastline. Before the first shovel hits the ground, builders would have to publish the results — even if they show the building could be underwater in a few years.

    Irma is long gone, but South Florida’s watery wilderness is still feeling the pain

    When Hurricane Irma charged across the state last month, coastal communities hammered by powerful storm surges drew most headlines. But inland Lake Okeechobee, the state’s massive 730-square-mile liquid heart, also took a hit.

    Lake levels already high from the wettest rainy season in 86 years shot up 3 and a half feet, raising concerns about the shallow lake’s aging dike. Marshy edges that provide nesting habitat for endangered snail kites and fishing holes for anglers disappeared under brown water. With tropical storm force winds swirling across the lake like a giant Cuisinart for more than 24 hours, dirty water mixed with polluted sediment on the lake bottom.

    About 5,300 acres of vegetation, made up mostly of cattails, also got uprooted and tossed into the mix, eliminating a protective boundary that helps keep turbid water from the lake’s interior away from its cleaner fringes.

    Free guided walks return to Lee County beaches and preserves in November

    Lee County Parks & Recreation invites visitors and residents to explore the barrier islands, shorelines and conservation lands of Lee County through a series of free guided walks.

    Volunteer Interpretive Naturalists will lead the explorations on weekdays from November through April at Bowditch Point Park and Bunche Beach/San Carlos Preserve. Participants should wear comfortable clothing and closed-toe shoes that can get wet and bring bug spray, binoculars, a camera and water bottle.

      Bowditch Point Park - 50 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931 (parking $2 per hour)
    • Barrier Island Ramble: 9:30 to 11 a.m. Every other Tuesday, November 7 – March 29 (except for holidays); and every Friday from January through March.
    • Discover the constantly changing features of the barrier island ecosystem. Learn how the plants and animals have adapted to life on this fragile spit of sand.
    Bunche Beach/San Carlos Preserve - 18201 John Morris Road, Fort Myers, FL 33908 (parking $2 per hour)
    • Life along the Shore: 9:30 to 11 a.m. each Monday, November 6 - April 30.
    • Explore the shoreline of the San Carlos Bay ecosystem and learn more about the shorebirds, shells, animals and plants native to this diverse preserve.
    For more information about Lee County Parks & Recreation locations, amenities, and other special events, visit www.leeparks.org, call 239-533-7275 or email leeparks@leegov.com.