Water-Related News

Macroalgae cover Matlacha waterways, killing fish

“We basically know what’s happening,” research scientist Rick Bartleson said, “but it’s gonna be hard to stop this algae now that it’s started.”

Bartelson tests the water near Matlacha Park every few days. He said there is oxygen in the water, but not enough for the animals that rely on it.

The oxygen levels get worse at night which leads to more dead fish in the morning.

“In the case of fish they can swim toward higher oxygen levels sometimes, most of the time,” he said. “But sometimes they don’t make it to where the oxygen levels are higher.”

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani says we’re seeing more algae, and not just one kind. They’re all fueled by a surge of compounds in our water like nitrogen.

Ponce Inlet to be dredged June 16-30

Beginning the week of June 16 through June 30 (weather and equipment operation permitting), the Ponce Inlet is scheduled to be dredged.

The contractor will off load dredge material at the vacant lot at the southerly end of Colony Point; then the material will be transported to another location by dump trucks.

For additional information on this project, please contact Canal Maintenance Supervisor, Cathy Miller, Punta Gorda Public Works Department at (941) 575-5050 between the business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Mon. thru Fri.

Proposed Florida constitutional amendment aims to give waterways legal rights

Floridians and organizations within the state could take legal action on behalf of waterways under the amendment.

Florida environmentalists have begun collecting signatures to introduce an amendment to the state's constitution that would recognize a person's legal right to clean water.

The amendment aims to do this by recognizing a waterway's legal right to "exist, flow, be free from pollution, and maintain a healthy ecosystem." Meaning, Floridians and organizations within the state could take legal action on behalf of waterways, according to the proposed amendment.

If the waterway's rights were violated, then the amendment requires the penalty to be paying whatever the cost is to restore the water to its "pre-damaged state."

The petition would need to reach nearly 900,000 signatures by February 1, 2022, in order to be placed on Florida's ballots.

Cape Coral to spend up to $1M to prevent blue-green algae in canals

CAPE CORAL – The Cape Coral City Council passed a resolution Wednesday allowing the city to spend up to $1 million on measures to prevent blue-green algae.

A big part of the city’s plan is to use bubble curtains to keep the blue-green algae away. This money would allow them to get the equipment necessary for around 10 bubble curtains, which come with a cost of around $750,000 total. Any money left over would go toward other blue-green algae solutions.

“They are attempting to do something and that’s better than not doing anything,” said Cape Coral resident Nora Douglas.

City officials said they would put these bubble curtains in priority canals, such as the Lido and Chantrey Canals.

Fertilizer ingredients contribute to SWFL’s algae crisis

Do you know exactly what you put on your lawn? When fertilizer containing phosphorus and nitrogen ends up in our water, it can feed the toxic algae we’re struggling to reduce.

When we think of algae blooms, a lot of people are quick to blame it all on Lake Okeechobee releases, but part of the blame lies in our own backyard. The chemicals from fertilizers get pushed into waterways and are partly to blame for algae blooms that dissolve oxygen and kill fish. Therefore, do not apply fertilizer within 10 feet of a body of water.

First, look at the ingredients in the fertilizer, then take a look at your WINK News Weather app; you don’t want to apply fertilizer before it rains, because then the runoff from your lawn can get picked up and washed away into the Caloosahatchee.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida says to make sure your fertilizer product contains no less than 50% slow-release nitrogen, as well as 0% phosphorus. A slow-release product will help to ensure that the next time it rains, the nutrients aren’t washed away quickly.

“Just like when we apply fertilizer onto our yard, it’s helping things grow,” said Amber Crooks, environmental policy manager for the Conservancy of SWFL. “One thing we don’t need in our waterways is [an] excess of nutrients that will help algae grow into sometimes those massive and toxic blooms.”

Here in Florida, a lot of our plants have adapted to the extreme conditions, so most of them do pretty well without fertilizer at all.

Algae blooms found in Matlacha Pass

Slimy and milky water is appearing in Matlacha Pass.

“The smell is awful,” said Jeff Boone.

Friends Boone and Sue McAfee were out on Matlacha on Wednesday looking for fishing spots but instead, the two ended up finding foul-smelling water.

It’s not just noticeable from the fishing pier. A bird’s eye view of the water shows it is milky with mat algae on the bottom of the Matlacha Pass.

The algae in this case is likely feeding on nutrients from septic tanks and the Peace River, not Lake Okeechobee releases.

Biden administration initiates legal action to repeal WOTUS

Clean-water safeguards ended by Trump would be restored

The Biden administration began legal action Wednesday to repeal a Trump-era rule that ended federal protections for hundreds of thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, leaving them more vulnerable to pollution from development, industry and farms.

The rule — sometimes referred to as “waters of the United States” or WOTUS — narrowed the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the Clean Water Act. It was one of hundreds of rollbacks of environmental and public health regulations under former President Donald Trump, who said the rules imposed unnecessary burdens on business.

The Trump-era rule, finalized last year, was long sought by builders, oil and gas developers, farmers and others who complained about federal overreach that they said stretched into gullies, creeks and ravines on farmland and other private property.

Environmental groups and public-health advocates said the rollback approved under Trump would allow businesses to dump pollutants into unprotected waterways and fill in some wetlands, threatening public water supplies downstream and harming wildlife and habitat.

The water rule has been a point of contention for decades. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan has pledged to issue a new rule that protects water quality while not overly burdening small farmers.,

Cape Coral residents asked to voluntarily reduce water use for irrigation

An advisory stage notice of emergency for the use of irrigation water has been issued. While the two-day watering schedule remains in effect, residents are asked to reduce the watering of lawns and to voluntarily adjust timers to conserve water. The advisory is being issued due to high irrigation usage and water levels in the city’s freshwater canals that continue to decline.

An adequate supply of irrigation water is needed for the more than 800 fire hydrants that are connected to the city’s reuse system for fire suppression.

Lacking rain and conservation, a declaration for mandatory one-day watering may become necessary.

The City has taken several proactive steps, enforcement activity was stepped up at the beginning of the dry season and more than 4,000 illegal watering violations have been issued. High usage and illegal watering contribute to decreased irrigation pressures. The City continues to pump an average of 13.5 million gallons of water each day from a reservoir in Charlotte County into the city’s freshwater canal system for irrigation usage, and a new canal pump station has been operating since last week. The new pump station was part of the North 2 utilities extension project that will help to supplement the irrigation system.

The City’s irrigation is supplied by treated wastewater from the City’s two wastewater facilities and supplemented by freshwater canal water pumped from the City’s freshwater canal pumping stations. Cape Coral’s freshwater canal system is comprised of 300 miles of freshwater canals that provide storage through an extensive system of weirs and pumping stations. The 25 weirs strategically located in the canal network and canal pump stations provide the ability to store water during the rainy season for dry season use. The freshwater canal system also provides management of excess stormwater flows, which protect the sensitive estuary environment and provide flood control.

The City’s two-day watering schedule is available on the City’s website (www.capecoral.net).

City of Punta Gorda receives $1M state budget appropriation

The City of Punta Gorda, with the assistance of the lobbying firm, Capitol Access has secured a one million dollar appropriation for the Boca Grande Boulevard area water quality improvement project. The City offers a sincere thank you to Governor Ron DeSantis, State Representative Michael Grant, State Senator Ben Albritton and State Senator Joe Gruters for their support and work on this important initiative. The project also has substantial local support through the one percent sales tax program.

The project will increase community resiliency and provide necessary flood control and water quality treatment of stormwater runoff from the city's Boca Grande neighborhood. The area experiences significant flooding and the current drainage conveyance does not provide a formal measure of water quality treatment. The drainage from this area ultimately outfalls to Charlotte Harbor. The harbor and surrounding coastal areas will benefit from the project's treatment of impairments. Design and property acquisition are almost complete and construction is anticipated to start in fiscal year 2022.

Blue-green algae bloom detected in Orange River, two Lee County boat ramps

LEE COUNTY – Health officials have issued a health alert after detecting blue-green algae blooms at Alva and Davis boat ramps and Orange River at Manatee Park.

The Florida Department of Health in Lee County issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins at all three locations Tuesday.

All residents and visitors are being asked not to drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski, or boat in waters where visible blooms exist. Local health officials said anyone who has come in contact with algae or discolored smelly water, should wash their skin and clothing with soap and water.

Pets should be kept away from the water, according to the Department of Health. Residents and visitors should not cook or clean with water contaminated by algal blooms and should not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

Cape Coral considering consequences if homeowners don’t follow watering schedule

Southwest Florida’s largest city is considering consequences for homeowners if too much is used up, as the city faces a need to conserve resources.

The City of Cape Coral warned residents Tuesday its irrigation water supply is low to the point the city needs to reserve enough to feed more than 8,000 fire hydrants in the city.

Neighbors who live on the city’s freshwater canals watch the water recede every day. Some boats normally docked are left stuck in the sand.

Tom Presau can’t help but laugh at all this.

“My boat’s in the mud. My father-in-law — I just got the boat — he wants the name it ‘U.S.S Mud,’ and he keeps calling me ‘Captain Mud,’” Presau said.

Brian Sheehan knows the feeling.

He doesn’t bother putting his boat in the water.

“I worry that, if I go away for a day or two, gonna come back to that same result,” Sheehan said. “They have the same problem again.”

Neighbors along Cape Coral’s freshwater canals say the dry season hit them hard. Water levels continue to fall, and the city is getting involved.

Poll: Floridians want federal infrastructure plan to deal with climate change

A new poll shows a majority of Floridians think infrastructure improvements in the $2 trillion dollar infrastructure plan Democrats are calling the "American Jobs Plan" should include measures to deal with the effects of climate change or natural infrastructure investments to build resiliency and lower the costs of climate-driven extreme weather events.

EDF Action, the advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund, commissioned Morning Consult to conduct the survey.

Three-quarters of respondents support funding natural infrastructure as part of the American Jobs Plan, with 66% of independents and 53% of Republicans in favor, as well as 75% of coastal respondents and 76% of inland respondents.

Venice to prioritize projects for stormwater quality improvement

VENICE – The city of Venice will concentrate on several island stormwater drainage projects as the next big step in an effort to improve water quality.

City Engineer Kathleen Weeden and engineers Jenna Phillips and Gary Serviss with Taylor Engineering briefed the Venice City Council Tuesday on the direction the city will take, with respect to the city’s 28 stormwater drainage outfalls on the island of Venice – including 10 that funnel stormwater into the Gulf of Mexico.

About half of those 10 outfalls have different levels of treatment to improve water quality.

The city of Venice has been working to improve runoff since the 1990s but started an aggressive effort to clean up city stormwater runoff in the aftermath of the economically devastating 2018 red tide bloom.

The testing looked at total suspended solids as well as levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and fecal coliform.

Serviss said current results in that study “pretty much confirmed that nutrients should be a focus of future stormwater projects.”

The city will expand its monitoring efforts to include the Hatchett Creek Basin to determine water quality before it enters city limits.

Design on a current project, which would deal with Outfalls No. 1 and No. 2 should be complete at the end of this month.

In addition there are six other priority projects that will be paid for out of about $4.3 million that the city has earmarked in its five-year capital improvement program.

Blue-green algae alert issued for Caloosahatchee River – Franklin Locks

As a result of a water sample taken June 1, the Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Caloosahatchee River – Franklin Locks.

The public should exercise caution in and around the water there, officials said.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

Punta Gorda council secures funding for flood prevention plan

PUNTA GORDA – Relief is coming for residents in Punta Gorda.

The Boca Grande Boulevard neighborhood experiences severe flooding every rain season, but the city has a plan to put a stop to the problem.

The City Council has been asking the state legislature for money for several years. Mayor Lynne Matthews said their requests started out small. However, this year they went big by asking for one million dollars.

She said the council was happily surprised to see their money appropriated in Governor Ron DeSantis’s approved budget Wednesday.

“Every time it rains, they get inundated with flooding water all over their neighborhood. There’s a lot of young families with children that live over there so we’re concerned about safety,” Mayor Matthews said.

FEMA designates this area as a flood zone AE, meaning there’s a one percent chance of flooding annually, and a 26% chance over a 30 year mortgage.

The goal is to install a retention pond. The city has already purchased some of the vacant lots, and is hoping to buy one more.

Updates in the works for Bonita Springs water conservation and irrigation rules

Sprinkler watering a lawnCouncil has approved moving forward with updating the city’s current Water Conservation and Irrigation Restriction Regulations (Article III Water Conservation – Sec. 42-47) to provide for compliance and consistency with the requirements set by Florida Statutes and the South Florida Water Management District.

The South Florida Water Management District has reached out to all municipalities within the district with direction to, and guidance for, updating and amending their respective regulations pertaining to Water Conservation and Irrigation Restrictions in order to maintain consistency with State Statutes Chapter 40E-24 & 40E-21. The principal goals are to: Assure the continued viability, quantity and quality of the area’s water resources long into the future; Provide consistency among the regulatory language(s) used across the district; assure full compliance with the requirements of State Statute(s); Assure protection of our water resources during periods of extensive drought; and provide District resources and support for regulatory guidance and enforcement.

Staff will begin drafting new language to reflect the updated changes and present the drafts at an upcoming council meeting.

North Port approves master plan for Warm Mineral Springs construction

Warm Mineral Springs Park Master Plan Funding for Initial Construction Moves Forward

During today’s Special City Commission meeting, the City Commission provided direction to proceed with funding the initial construction phase of Warm Mineral Springs Park (12200 San Servando Ave.) This includes the historic restoration of the buildings and improvements to utility infrastructure and the parking lot.

Based on this direction, staff will bring forward a budget amendment that will be included on the two regular City Commission meetings scheduled in July. The project is expected to go out to bid shortly thereafter.

About the Warm Mineral Springs Park Master Plan

The Master Plan was adopted by the City Commission in April of 2019 and includes a comprehensive analysis of the entire 81.6-acre park. It provides recommendations for future services and amenities to be implemented in phases, pending available funding sources and Commission approval. The plan includes future walking trails, lookout towers and canopy walk, an education center, plaza/market area, picnic pavilions, updated utilities, and improved parking.

For more information about the Warm Mineral Springs Park Master Plan, visit www.CityOfNorthPort.com/WMSPMasterPlan.

As toxic algae looms, Sarasota County calls to reduce use of fertilizer

SARASOTA COUNTY — As red tide continues to linger off local shorelines, Sarasota County is urging residents to reduce the use of fertilizers that can help fuel the algal blooms.

Nutrient pollution is widespread and can create challenging environmental issues for waterways throughout the county. The amount of rainfall expected during the rainy season increases the likelihood of a surge of nutrients in waterways. Excessive nutrients contribute to algae blooms, diminish water quality and threaten aquatic life.

With summer rains on the way, residents are asked to reduce nutrient pollution by using environmentally friendly or alternative landscaping and lawn fertilizer from June through Sept. 30.

John Morgan is Sarasota County’s Air and Water Quality supervisor. He said that environmentally friendly fertilizers contain zero nitrogen and zero phosphorus. Excess amounts of these naturally occurring nutrients can create a harmful imbalance when washed away into storm drains and carried to local water bodies.

Restoring urban streams benefits habitat, water quality

Urban stream: Not always an oxymoron

The concept of an “urban stream” might seem like an oxymoron, but restoration efforts across the state are proving that naturalized streams provide significant benefits even in densely populated settings.

For example, at Joe’s Creek in St. Petersburg and Phillipe Creek in Sarasota steep ditches are being restored to recreate meandering streams that improve both habitat and water quality, says John Kiefer, a water resources engineer at Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions.

“The trick is finding sufficient rights-of-way to allow the stream to spread out,” he said. “In many cases, even in urban cores, there is enough room.”

And those narrow ditches with steep sides aren’t just bad for fish and water quality, they’re expensive to maintain, Kiefer said. Rather than allowing rainwater to slowly flow through a more natural system, they cause flashes of freshwater that erode shorelines, move pollution quickly, destroy critical low-salinity habitat and require high levels of maintenance.

Restoring those deep channels to naturalized streams – typically within existing rights of way – allows the systems to process nutrients before they reach larger bodies of water like rivers, lakes and bays. Sediment has time to settle rather than increasing as soil washes away from eroding stream banks. Fish, including juvenile snook that need low-salinity habitat to thrive, respond quickly to the restored streams.

Governor vetoes funding for local water-related projects

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed the state's $101.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2021-2022.

According to a release from the governor's office, the budget includes $169 million in tax relief.

He also vetoed more than $1.5 billion in total spending, along with $1.35 billion of federal funds received under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Several items that were earmarked for funding across the greater Tampa Bay region, however, did not make it past the governor's desk.

They include:

  • Sarasota County Dona Bay Watershed Restoration Project Phase 3 Aquifer Recharge - $500,000
  • Venice - New Water Booster Station and System Improvements Including Emergency Interconnect - $750,000
  • Longboat Key Assessment of Sea Level Rise and Recurring Storm Flooding - $61,913
  • City of Venice Emergency Operations Equipment and Critical Response Unit -  $286,676

State tightens rules for sewage sludge used as fertilizer but leaves a loophole in place

As damaging algae blooms continue to afflict Florida, the state is taking steps to crack down on and track pollution from biosolids, the waste from sewage plants loaded with nutrients that can fuel blooms.

But the new rules, conservationists warn, continue to ignore a loophole for about 40% of the state’s waste.

At a final hearing last week, state environmental regulators said the new rules address two classes of sludge largely used in agriculture. Class AA, a third class, gets more highly treated to remove pathogens and heavy metals and is classified as a fertilizer not covered by the rules.

But environmentalists warn Class AA still contains phosphorus and nitrogen that feed blooms. Not including the class, they say, creates a gap in tackling worsening blooms that have increasingly fouled Florida waters and fueled saltwater blooms moving inshore.

Gov. DeSantis nixes Southwest Florida projects, but will environmental trust bring some back?

From Dona Bay to Bonita Springs, budget slashes impacted the region.

Several Southwest Florida projects fell to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto pen. But there’s still hope state grants can fill in those losses, lawmakers believe.

Sarasota County saw quite a few water-related projects slashed. The most notable included $750,000 for a water booster station in Venice and $500,000 for the Dona Bay Watershed Restoration Project’s third phase.

But Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, said the vetoes were “somewhat expected.” He references a new structuring of trust funds this year that should make available significant environmental funding.

“With the creation of the new Trust Fund, these projects will be able to apply immediately for a DEP grant and I will work with them to help them through the process,” he said. “The funding is there and these are worthwhile projects, so I expect them to get the funding that they require.”

Other projects vetoed include $61,913 for a Longboat Key assessment of sea level rise and recurring storm flooding.

The City of Venice was also expecting $286,676 slashed by DeSantis.

Further south in Lee County, the Governor also killed $300,000 worth of funding for a home election and buyout program. Rep. Adam Botana called that outcome “disappointing for my hometown.” But ultimately, the Bonita Springs Republican said Florida is a fiscally responsible state, and restraint was part of why Florida dealt with $1 billion shortfalls this year and not $6 billion shortfalls.

Groups push for reduction of harmful discharges from Lake O

Environmental groups and political leaders are urging the Army Corps of Engineers to maximize flows south from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

The clock is ticking as different groups push for the Army Corps to get Lake O’s management right. They see it as a chance to send more water south to the Everglades and cut those harmful discharges east and west.

Those discharges contribute to harmful algal blooms and can throw our estuaries off balance, but change is on the horizon.

“That’s equitable for both the heartland communities here in the central portion of the state, here along Lake Okeechobee, as well as the coastal communities who have really taken the brunt of the impacts from the discharges from Lake Okeechobee,” said James Evans, environmental policy director at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.

“You have a representation from across the board saying

Charlotte County fertilizer ban begins June 1st

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – Charlotte County reminds the public fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorous may not be used on residential or commercial turf or landscape plants between June 1 and Sept. 30.

During the summer rainy season, unnecessary fertilizing and improper fertilizer application can result in runoff that sends nutrients into waterways where they feed harmful aquatic algae.

For information about healthy fertilizer practices, visit https://tinyurl.com/fertilizertips

Lee Commissioners approve design contract for Able Canal shared-use pathway

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to approve a design contract for the 6-mile long Able Canal shared-use pathway in Lehigh Acres.

Florida-based Kisinger Campo & Associates Corp. will design an approximately six-mile-long shared-use pathway with a bicycle/pedestrian bridge, high-emphasis crosswalks, shade structures, landscaping and other amenities. It will create additional access and connections for pedestrians and bicyclists to community points of interest and destinations in the Able Canal corridor and within Lehigh Acres from Harns Marsh to Joel Boulevard.

Kisinger Campo & Associates Corp. was selected following competitive negotiation among seven proposals for the $900,000 design contract. This planned and budgeted project will be fully funded through Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Local Agency Program (LAP) and Regional Parks Impact Fees.

The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted April 20 to accept an interlocal agreement with the Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District (LA-MSID) that authorizes Lee County to develop, operate and maintain the linear park along the northern side of Able Canal in Lehigh Acres.

The pathway has the potential to foster healthy recreational activities, as well as provide convenient and safe non-motorized access between numerous residential, commercial, recreational and civic destinations. This could reduce motor vehicle traffic in Lehigh Acres.

The property is owned by LA-MSID and the district will be closely involved in the design, permitting, construction and subsequent operation and maintenance of the park. The district will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of infrastructure not associated with the linear park project.

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.

Lee Commissioners approve design contract for water quality project at Lakes Regional Park

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to award a contract to Johnson Engineering for the design of water quality improvements at Lakes Regional Park.

The project is intended to improve the quality of the water flowing from Lakes Park into Hendry Creek through the construction of an alum treatment facility. Based on water conditions, the treatment facility will add alum to the West Lake, which will bind with and settle out excess nutrients and algae.

Excess water from Lakes Park, 7330 Gladiolus Drive, discharges into the Hendry Creek West Branch and eventually flows into Estero Bay. The watershed of the West Branch includes the urbanized areas west of Summerlin Road and north of Lakes Park. Hendry Creek West Branch is a tributary to the Hendry Creek, which has a Total Maximum Daily Load for total nitrogen and is subject to a State of Florida Basin Management Action Plan.

The design contract is for $598,575 and project has received a $475,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The design phase is expected to take about a year.

For more information on Lee County’s efforts to protect and improve water quality, visit https://www.leegov.com/water.

Hurricane season begins June 1st. Be flood-ready.

June is Flood Control Awareness Month, and your local Water Management District encourages you to learn more about flood control.

Did you know? Flood control is a shared responsibility between Water Management Districts, local governments, drainage districts, homeowner associations and you.

Five things you can do to prepare for the wet season:

  1. Make sure drainage grates, ditches and swales in your neighborhood are clear of debris.
  2. Trim your trees and remove dead vegetation in your yard. DO NOT trim trees if a major storm is in the forecast.
  3. Check your community retention pond or lake for obstructed pipes and contact the appropriate authority for removal (could be your HOA, city, county, or local drainage district). ?
  4. Find out who is responsible for drainage in your community at www.sfwmd.gov/stormupdate.
  5. Make a personal plan for hurricane preparedness. Learn more at www.floridadisaster.org.

For more information, make sure to check out these resources:

Mat algae covers bottom of Matlacha Pass

LEE COUNTY – Another threat is lurking under the surface of the water, and it’s called mat algae. It can destroy the ecosystem by sucking all the oxygen out of the water.

Right now thick, green, mat algae is covering the bottom of Matlacha Pass.

“The root cause is nutrients,” said Richard Bartleson, Research Scientist at SCCF Marine Lab. “We have an overloading of nutrients to our system. Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.”

Bartleson has been researching this algae and its effect on the local environment. It looks like a fuzzy green carpet, but Bartleson explained the algae’s biomass has become much too large.

Cape Coral leaders brainstorm blue-green algae mitigation tactics

Cape Coral leaders are taking action before algae conditions make their way down the Caloosahatchee River.

The City of Cape Coral is preparing for the impact of blue-green algae in neighborhood canals.

It’s a crisis newcomers don’t want to see or live with and people who were there in 2018 don’t want back.

There is just enough blue-green algae visible in Clipper Bay in Cape Coral to remind neighbors about what they lived through in 2018.

“We had algae that small cats can walk on,” said Jim Collier, the waterway advisory chair in Cape Coral.

The algae is enough to get the city to sign off on installing a bubble curtain in some Cape Coral canals.

Sarasota County issues state of emergency due to water shortage

The emergency order includes a temporary ban on lawn irrigation using potable water.

SARASOTA COUNTY — Sarasota County officials have issued a state of emergency for at least a week after the county experienced record demand for potable water.

Officials are also encouraging people living in the county to "be resourceful and refrain from unnecessary use of potable water for the next seven days."

The county says it is especially concerned about water usage during Memorial Day weekend and the ongoing dry weather conditions.

The emergency order includes a ban on lawn irrigation "until further notice."

The county says the emergency declaration was made Wednesday due to "recent water system changes and below-normal pressure levels." Officials say on Tuesday the county saw a demand of more than 31 million gallons of potable water, a new record.

Officials say the county is getting its normal allocation of water from Manatee County and the system is maintaining the minimum water pressure. Manatee County has also experienced its own water supply issues within its water system. However, the county says people and businesses in the area north of Bee Ridge Road may experience water supply issues, especially for those in a multi-story building.

The emergency order does not include the City of Venice.

FGCU study: Imperial River has fecal bacteria indicators

Bonita Springs is facing a problem found in other area waterways as indicators of fecal contamination have been found in two popular waterways used by kayakers, paddleboarders and swimmers, and City Council is grappling to find a solution.

A Florida Gulf Coast University study presented to City Council in May showed that traces of enterococcus, a bacteria that lives in the intestines of humans and animals, and E. coli were found in the Imperial River and Spring Creek. The presence of these bacteria tells scientists that dangerous diseases such as cholera or typhoid fever could be hidden in the water.

The study is considered a first step toward identifying the source of fecal indicator bacteria in the waterways, said FGCU professor Donald Duke. University students and faculty took water samples from boat trips three times in a year and took four tests from shore sites near the U. S. 41 bridges.

“We have some understanding now to know that there’s a problem there,” Duke said. “How to solve it will take some further investigations.”

North Port brings home first placein the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation

For the second year in a row, the residents of North Port proved that they are the most water conscious city in the nation with populations of 30,000 – 99,999.

The City of North Port, the third fastest growing municipality within the state of Florida, is once again the first place winner in the nation in terms of public sentiment for water conservation! In its size category of 30k-99.9k, North Port has won the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation with the most pledges to save water where and when possible.

North Port Mayor, Jill Luke, upon hearing the news said, “I’m so proud of our city, and our citizens who understand the importance of water. Protecting and conserving the environment, especially water, is at the heart of our city, knowing that the quality of our lives is attached to the environment. All of life is dependent upon water, and the stewardship of our citizens makes sure that resource is readily available into the future.” Mayor Luke went on to say, “Thank you to everyone in North Port who pledged. This year’s campaign was dedicated to the honor and remembrance of our past Utilities Director, Rick Newkirk… he would be so proud of us.”

Residents across the United States took part in the 2021 Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, April 1-30, by pledging to save over 3 billion gallons of water over the next year. The annual campaign to promote water quality and water resource resiliency ended with mayors from 42 states vying to see whose city could be the nation’s most “water wise.”

Bass and Snook Inlets in Punta Gorda to be dredged June 3-18

Beginning June 3 through June 18 (weather and equipment operation permitting), the Bass and Snook Inlets are scheduled to be dredged.

The contractor will off load dredge material at the easterly end of Elizabeth Park and then the material will be transported to another location by dump trucks.

Boaters are asked to please use caution in this area during construction.

For additional information on this project, please contact Canal Maintenance Supervisor, Cathy Miller, Punta Gorda Public Works Department at (941) 575-5050 between the business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Mon. thru Fri.

Sarasota County emergency order on lawn irrigation does not affect Venice residents

From City of Venice Utilities Director Javier Vargas:

Sarasota County Government has issued an emergency administrative order prohibiting residential use of potable water for lawn irrigation in the County. The declaration took effect Wednesday, May 26 and will remain in force for seven days.

This declaration of a state of emergency DOES NOT affect the City of Venice. The City owns and operates a reverse-osmosis water treatment facility that meets current and future needs.

We want to assure our customers that all components that make up the potable water supply and distribution system, including production wells, storage, pump stations, distribution piping and treatment facility, are operating properly.

Please call the City if you have any questions regarding any utility topic at 941-480-3333.

Rules prohibit fertilizer use in summer in parts of Southwest Florida

LEE COUNTY — As Southwest Florida struggles to fight algae blooms and red tide this summer, one of the big problems is improper fertilization of lawns, which is helping algae grow and bloom in our canals.

Scientists say the fertilizer used to help your grass grow can seep into our groundwater and canals when it rains.

Each county and most cities have its own fertilizer rules. Here’s a look at some local ordinances.

LEE COUNTY

  • Fertilizers containing Nitrogen (N) and/or Phosphorus (P) may not be applied on turf and/or landscape plants from June 1 through September 30.
  • No fertilizers should be deposited, intentionally or accidentally, on an impervious surface such as a driveway, sidewalk or street.
  • No fertilizers shall be applied on turf and/or landscape plants within ten (10) feet of a water body, seawall or wetland.
  • When using a rotary spreader, use of a deflector shield is required to deflect fertilizers away from water bodies, seawalls and wetlands.

More info for Lee County

SANIBEL

Adopted in 2008, the ordinance says Fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus CANNOT:

  • Be applied during the rainy season (July 1 through September 30)
  • Be applied within 25 feet of a body of water
  • Be applied to impervious (hard) surfaces, such as roads, driveways and sidewalks
  • Be dumped into a storm drain

More info for Sanibel

CAPE CORAL (adopted in 2010)

  • No fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus may be used within 10 feet of the top of a seawall or any water body, except by hand dispersion.
  • No fertilizer containing nitrogen or phosphorus may be applied to turf or landscape plants between June 1 and September 30, or if a Flood Watch or Warning, Tropical Storm Watch or Warning, or Hurricane Watch or Warning is in effect.

More info for Cape Coral

CHARLOTTE COUNTY (approved in 2008)

  • You cannot apply fertilizer that has any nitrogen or phosphorous in it between June 1st and September 30th.

More Charlotte County info

PUNTA GORDA (approved in 2012)

  • No fertilizer containing nitrogen and/or phosphorus shall be applied during the rainy season, (June 1st through September 30th).
  • Fertilizer may not be applied to a single area more the six times a year
  • No fertilizer shall be applied within ten (10) feet, or three feet if a deflector shield is used, of any pond, stream, water course, lake, retention area, drain and drainage ditches, canal, any wetland, or top of seawalls

More info for Punta Gorda

Venice Council will discuss weighing in on Ocean Era aquaculture permit

VENICE – The Venice City Council will decide Tuesday whether to support a letter authorized by its Environmental Advisory Board urging that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rescind its permit for a waste discharge system linked to the proposed Ocean Era Aquaculture project off of south Sarasota County.

The EPA issued the permit last September, authorizing the project to discharge more than 80,000 pounds of fish waste per year into the Gulf of Mexico.

In March, a federal appeals board put a hold on the company’s permits. That hold is scheduled to expire June 1.

Ocean Era wants to raise about 20,000 pounds of 20,000 longfin yellowtail, also known as Alamco jack, in the net pen. Because the fish would be treated with antibiotics, a discharge permit is required.

Ocean Era’s Velella Epsilon aquaculture demonstration project is to be in the Gulf of Mexico at 27° 7’ 20.51”N and 83° 12’ 1.37”W. The proposed site is west of the city of Venice, north of Englewood.

Cape Coral pumping water from reservoir to rehydrate canals

CAPE CORAL – The City of Cape Coral is pumping roughly 15-million-gallons of water a day from a Charlotte County reservoir to rehydrate the City’s freshwater canals.

“We only do it when we have to and this year has been very dry,” said Cape Coral utilities director, Jeff Pearson.

“The water provides irrigation water, it provides fire protection for the city’s reclaimed water hydrants, and it also protects citizens’ seawalls,” he added.

Two pipelines are pumping the water out.

The water then goes into a ditch along US 41, where it meets up with the Gator Slough which feeds hundreds of miles of Cape’s canals.

“We’re recycling water that would otherwise not be used or would be disposed of into saltwater,” Pearson said.

Person said with the demand for water, people may only notice an increase of about an inch or two.

CDC looking for study participants on blue-green algae health effects

The CDC wants to see the effects of living near blue-green algae blooms and they are recruiting test subjects.

If you live or work the blooms you can participate. The CDC is looked for about 150 people to take part in the study.

Donna Oakley remembers what it was like in 2018 when the blue-green gunk blanketed portions of the Caloosahatchee River.

“This area of the lock looked like shag carpet,” Oakley said. “We were out here less than five minutes, and we couldn’t breathe for the rest of the week. I mean, just cold symptoms, upper respiratory.”

Those issues are prompting the CDC to start a new study called CAST, or Cyanotoxins in Air Study.

“And right now there is a significant bloom in Lake Okeechobee and some of the other areas,” said Dr. Lorrie Backer, a senior environmental epidemiologist with the CDC.

Backer said the ideal candidate spends at least two hours a day outside on most days and lives or works near the water.

FGCU creating artificial reef off Wiggins Pass near Bonita field station

Florida Gulf Coast University is expanding again, this time into the Gulf of Mexico.

Professor and researcher Mike Parsons, who is part of FGCU's Water School, is spearheading the push to build a new artificial reef several miles off the coast of North Naples.

"For a couple of years we’ve been interested in putting an artificial reef out close to us at (the) Vester (Marine and Environmental Science Research Field Station in Bonita Springs)," Parsons said. "And we've surveyed an area about eight miles west of Wiggins Pass pass in about 30 feet of water with a nice sand bottom."

Called the FGCU Artificial Reef, the project will consist of a collage of large concrete structures that were donated by Cape Coral concrete company Old Castle.

Lee Commissioners approve agreement with FGCU for water quality and treatment research

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve an agreement with Florida Gulf Coast University for a water quality research project at the Boma site in Glades County to test methods for removal of nitrogen from the Caloosahatchee River surface waters in order to improve water quality.

The project will be funded by a $180,000 innovative technology grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which the Board approved on April 6.

The research, in partnership with FGCU and the South Florida Water Management District, will take place at the C-43 Water Quality Treatment and Testing Project Boma site in Glades County.

In 2007, the Lee Board of Commissioners voted to contribute $10 million toward the purchase of 1,700 acres of agricultural land - then owned and operated by the Boma family - in Glades County for the purpose of constructing a water quality project to benefit the Caloosahatchee watershed.

The South Florida Water Management District built 12 tanks, called mesocosms, containing wetland vegetation that were used to conduct a water quality assessment of nutrient removal from Caloosahatchee River water that was allowed to flow through the wetland cells.

This project will utilize some of these mesocosms to test innovative technology that could reduce nutrients in water bodies, and prevent or mitigate harmful algal blooms. Work is expected to begin in June.

The Caloosahatchee estuary has a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) state 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.

For more information on Lee County’s efforts to protect and improve water quality, visit https://www.leegov.com/water.

Free admission for Sarasota County residents on ‘Discover Warm Mineral Springs Park Day’

Take a step into the past and experience vintage Florida at the only natural warm spring in the state! The City of North Port is offering free admission to Warm Mineral Springs Park for all Sarasota County residents on August 14, 2021 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on a first come, first served basis. The Springs and the building complex are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

Proof of Sarasota County residency will be required for free admission into the Springs on August 14. Acceptable proof of residency 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.

About Warm Mineral Springs Park

Home to the only natural warm spring in Florida, the spring at Warm Mineral Springs Park maintains 85-87 degrees year-round and is purported to have one of the highest mineral contents of any natural spring in the United States. The park averages more than 100,000 visitors per year from all over the world, who travel to swim in its mineral-rich waters that have rumored healing qualities.

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

Lee County commissioners share Lake O management concerns in letter to Corps

Lee County Board of County Commissioners is concerned for the blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee that is also growing in the Caloosahatchee River, so commissioners sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to express dissatisfaction with present lake management.

Commissioners discussed growing water quality and Lake Okeechobee management concerns during its regular meeting Tuesday.

“Urgency to me is primary because we don’t want to find ourselves in this position,” Commissioner Ray Sandelli said.

Current issues bring up reminders of past algae invasions that have forced people to leave their homes such as in Cape Coral.

“We’ve reached a point where the Army Corps of Engineers and the water management district both look at Lee County as just simply a revenue source and a place to put their dirty water,” Commissioner Brian Hamman said.

What happened during the water crisis in 2018 is not an option for Lee County commissioners if they can help it.

Water quality activists push state for toxin-measuring standards

Starting Wednesday [May 19th], Florida will go over its water quality standards. The state currently has no criteria when it comes to measuring the cyanotoxins in our waterways, toxins linked to blue-green algae

Clean water activists will be requesting that the state create standards to measure those toxins, but this isn’t anything new. The state reviews its water quality standards every three years, and this week it will be doing just that. The Environmental Protection Agency already issued a draft of this proposal back in 2016 that water experts like the Calusa Waterkeeper think are protective enough—the state did nothing with it.

“You need to emphasize it’s not just about cleaning up pollution,” said Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani. “It’s also providing some public health protection through these new standards.”

So how will this benefit you? If we have a baseline for the toxins, this will then allow the state to decide when to alter the releases from Lake O. It will also allow our local health departments to issues alerts more easily. Those alerts are what we have seen recently, making sure you stay out of the water.

Jason Totoiu, a water expert from the Center for Biological Diversity, says he is frustrated with how the state is handling our water crisis.

“The state needs to do a lot better job in addressing the pollution before it even gets into our waters,” Totoiu said. “The reason why those were really protective standards… in part, they recognized that the hazards of cyanotoxins aren’t just limited to ingestion. So say if you are swimming: You can be exposed to cyanotoxins through the air, the skin, through ingestion and those most-protective criteria in 2016 accounted for that.”