Water-Related News

Lee County officials working to reduce plants clogging Cape Coral canals

CAPE CORAL – Video taken on Thursday at a freshwater canal in Cape Coral shows lilies completely taking over. Residents say it’s gotten so bad that some can’t even use their boats anymore.

The plants are called Spatterdock. The City of Cape Coral is working with Lee County Hyacinth Control District to remove the flowers and clear up waterways.

“It’s our task to keep it free for navigation, fishing, and water control,” said Jason Cull, from Lee County Hyacinth Control District.

Contrary to their name, the Lee County Hyacinth Control District does more than just tackle invasive plants.

On Thursday, they were dispatched by the city of Cape Coral to clear out freshwater canals choked with pond lilies using a harvester and herbicide.

“It’s almost like mowing your grass. You have to mow your grass every couple weeks, you have to mow this down every few weeks, that’s how it grows.” Cull said.

Because of the high nutrient levels in the canals, this year instead of Blue-Green Algae, native spatterdock has taken over, and even though it’s considered a healthy plant, there is too much of a good thing.

Fighting red tide with nature: Could clams be the key to fighting red tide?

Red tide is a part of living on the Gulf coast.

While it’s clearing up in Southwest Florida, research is underway to lessen its impact in the future.

After looking at the history and the issue, Florida TaxWatch found the state should consider reintroducing southern hard clams to Southwest Florida estuaries.

“This is just one important tool in the toolkit that should be used. And it could also further, you know, enhance areas like the Tampa Bay region, and help coastal restoration activities,” Dominic M. Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

FGCU Water School’s James Douglass said clams and oysters can help cut down the algae levels in the water.

“If they’re healthy, should be able to do that filtering and we need to take care of our oysters and clams, our natural oysters and clams to make sure they can do their job,” Douglass said.

Cape Haze fishery conservation program wins NOAA grant

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded a $114,058 grant to study the recreational fish nursery habitat within the Cape Haze peninsula in Charlotte County. The program is a partnership between the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership and Charlotte County.

The funding is part of $2.3 million awarded by the NOAA RESTORE Science Program. The Charlotte County program, which began this month and will end in August 2022, is one of 20 to receive NOAA grants to research marine mammals, shorebirds, barrier islands, and fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico region. The money comes from the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, which was established by the RESTORE Act and receives funding from parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Cape Haze program will look at coastal ponds vulnerable to imminent human development. Recommendations on how to preserve and restore recreational fish nursery habitat will be made by 2028 through revisions of the county’s comprehensive planning policy, and guidance for state programs that address hydrologic connectivity.

The project team will convene state, local, and regional stakeholders to identify challenges to sport fish nursery habitat persistence, outline realistic management strategies, and plan research that informs management choices. Four meetings coordinated alongside the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Partnership will identify emergent threats and the research needed to understand potential impacts.

SFWMD stays with alum, sand treatment for Caloosahatchee reservoir, or C-43

State water managers are moving forward with a project they say will meet requirements Gov. Ron DeSantis made during an executive order shortly after he took office in January 2019.

“We’re taking one bite out of the elephant with this project,” said Kim Fikoski, with the South Florida Water management District, when talking about the Caloosahatchee River reservoir, often called C-43.

The district held its final public meeting on the water treatment component Monday, and explained why the state chose a combination of alum and sand treatment over a full-blown stormwater treatment area, or STA. Those cleanup areas have been used in other parts of the state.

How a Partnership with Ducks Unlimited is Helping to Restore 11,000-acres of Floodplain in the Kissi

Did you know that Gardner-Cobb Marsh is the largest District property near the Kissimmee Upper Chain of Lakes? The Gardner-Cobb Marsh consists of 11,000-acres of land nestled in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes watershed between Cypress Lake, Lake Hatchineha and Lake Kissimmee. Gentle slopes in elevation of mere inches results in a rolling landscape that produces a contrast in natural communities. Swamps, pine flatwoods and wet prairie are the dominant habitats found here, and in the fall and spring they burst with an array of wildflowers.

The goals of the Gardner-Cobb Marsh Restoration Project are to:

  • Enhance existing wetlands by reducing drainage and extending the hydroperiod (number of days per year that an area of land is wet).
  • Restore about 6,371 acres of over-drained marsh and natural wet prairie floodplain.
  • Provide habitat for native wildlife.
  • Improve water quality in the Okeechobee watershed.

Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier reopens

FORT MYERS – The Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier at Lynn Hall Memorial Park, 950 Estero Blvd., re-opened to the public at dawn Friday, Sept. 10.

The pier has been closed since mid-August for maintenance to resurface the concrete deck, which is done every 10 to 15 years. The work is funded through the Tourist Development Tax, which is assessed on short-term lodging.

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

Lee Commissioners vote to acquire 22 acres in Cape Coral for Conservation 20/20

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to acquire about 22 acres in Cape Coral near county-owned Judd Community Park for Conservation 20/20.

The property is located south of Pine Island Road and a quarter-mile west of U.S. 41. Yellow Fever and Hancock creeks converge on the west boundary of the property, which includes both upland and wetland plant communities.

The purchase price is $1,485,000, plus costs to close. The Conservation 20/20 Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (CLASAC) voted in July to forward this purchase agreement for Board consideration.

The acquisition is contingent upon the release of all obligations pertaining to the Declaration of Covenants for Judd Creek Preserve, Assignment of Developer Rights for Judd Creek Preserve, South Florida Water Management District’s Environmental Resource Permit, and a Deed of Conservation Easement. All of these would be at the seller’s expense.

There are currently about 31,340 acres within Conservation 20/20, Lee County’s land acquisition and management program. Conservation lands help the county protect drinking water, enhance water quality, provide nature-based recreational opportunities, protect areas from flooding and provide wildlife habitat. For more information, visit www.Conservation2020.org.

There are ways to help protect manatees in SWFL

International Manatee Day is a time to focus on important members of our ecosystem in Southwest Florida and how to protect them. Manatee deaths have already passed a record in 2021, and the year isn’t over yet.

There are steps that can be taken in the water and on land to help protect manatees.

By easing up on fertilizers and other yard chemicals, people can help reduce pollutants entering our waterways and killing the food manatees need to survive.

Manatee deaths in Florida are at an all-time high with at least 929 deaths so far this year.

Warm Mineral Springs Park has reopened

Warm Mineral Springs Park (12200 San Servando Ave.), including main admission and the gift shop building, reopened to the public on Friday, September 3.

The City of North Port contracts with National and State Park Concessions, Inc., to operate the natural spring and its facilities, and the park had to be temporarily closed due to Covid impacts on their staffing.

The expiration date for all valid passes will be extended for the ten days the facility was closed.

For more information, please call (941) 426-1692 or visit www.CityOfNorthPort.com/WarmMineralSpringsPark.

Court vacates NWPR, is still weighing WOTUS restoration

A federal judge on Monday tossed out a Trump-era rule that rolled back water pollution protections, but is still weighing whether to restore Obama-era protections or simply undo the Trump rollback to return to pre-Obama regulations. In a court order, Judge Rosemary Márquez, an Obama appointee, vacated the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), which governed which bodies of water get protection from pollution. Márquez remanded the rule for reconsideration to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Trump administration in 2019 repealed an Obama-era rule known as the Waters of the United States Rule, which expanded federal protections for smaller waterways.

And last year, the former administration put forward an additional rule, the NWPR, that reversed some protections, including for wetlands, that had been in place for decades.

The 2020 rule is the one that Márquez tossed and gave parties to a lawsuit challenging it 30 days to file proposals about what to do about the repeal rule.

The decision comes as the Biden administration seeks to revise the rule and asked the court to send the Trump rule back to it for reconsideration.

Sugar growers sue to stop Army Corps from using Everglades reservoir

Sugar growers on Thursday [Aug. 26] sued to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from using a massive Everglades reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee intended to help revive wilting marshes and Florida Bay.

In the lawsuit filed in federal court, U.S. Sugar argued the reservoir will violate a rule included in the federal law authorizing Everglades restoration in 2000. Known as the "savings clause," the rule required the Army Corps to maintain water supplies to farms and utilities as it worked to revive marshes and undo decades of damage from flood control.

The lawsuit also argues that a stormwater treatment marsh attached to the reservoir — and expected to be completed first — will need lake water to operate during the dry season. The lawsuit argues that would have “a significant, unstudied effect on water supply and those entities that depend on it.”

Growers asked the court to send the project back to the Corps for a new environmental analysis.

Thick, green algae mats Rubicon Canal in Cape Coral

Thick, green algae was present at the surface of the Rubicon Canal and smaller canals nearby in Cape Coral Thursday.

An expert says the algae is usually at the bottom of the canal but has floated to the top. It’s not harmful like blue-green algae, but it is unsightly.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this here,” Ray Graulich said. “I was out here spraying it with the water hose trying to move all the algae away from the dock and to push it out, but somehow, it keeps coming right back in.”

“I’d like to see it gone,” Bill Hardin said.

Hardin told us, when he first saw the first patches earlier this week, we worried the algae could be harmful.

“Thats why we sent a picture to y’all,” Hardin said.

We took that picture and images we captured Thursday to professor Barry Rosen at FGCU’s The Water School. He put a sample of the algae under his microscope. He confirmed it’s green algae, but not toxic blue-green algae.

A reservoir the size of Naples is coming to Hendry County to help Florida’s water woes

What used to be a citrus grove will one day be a massive reservoir.

The goal is to keep water cleaner and with less blue-green algae.

Between too much water in the wet season and not enough in the dry season, Southwest Florida is no stranger to water woes.

The C-43 Reservoir project is happening in Hendry County. Part of the solution will come from the more than 10,000-acre C-43 reservoir. The reservoir will be about the size of the City of Naples. It’s expected to be completed in 2023 but will start taking wet season flows in 2024.

The price tag for the project is $1 billion, which will come from both state and federal funds.

“The C-43 reservoir is supposed to catch the wet season flows from Lake Okeechobee and the basin and C-43, store them and then discharge them back to the river in the dry season,” said Shawn Waldeck, site manager at the C-43 reservoir project.

Blue-Green Algae Task Force talks stormwater at virtual meeting

Stormwater headlined Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task force meeting Monday, with more than 250 tuning in to hear the online discussion.

Gov. Ron DeSantis mandated the five-member group in 2019, shortly after he took office, as part of a sweeping executive order designed to improve Florida’s water quality. His order included $2.5 billion for Everglades restoration and water protections — the highest level of such funding in the state’s history — and created the algae task force as well as the new position that oversees the group’s workings, the state’s chief science officer, currently University of South Florida Professor Mark Rains.

Rains kicked off Monday’s meeting by recapping its key accomplishments so far, before moving to the topic at hand.

“This task force under my predecessor, Dr. Tom Frazer, produced a consensus document that had a number of recommendations about what were the causes of water quality degradation,” he said. “Many of those recommendations went directly into SB 712, the Clean Waterways Act, and I think there’s a role for the Blue-Green Algae task force to play – kind of re-inserting themselves in that conversation along the way – as policies and practices change, and making sure that what was said in the consensus document is tracking all the way through to the actual changes of policy and practice.”

Water quality concerns stir up citrus BMP and phosphorus questions

As blue-green algae makes headlines again this summer, fertilizer from farms and urban sources are again under scrutiny. Last year, the state legislature passed the Clean Waterways Act to address continuing challenges with water quality.

The 111-page bill addresses agriculture, using biosolids as fertilizer, regulation of septic tanks, wastewater treatment systems, enhanced penalties, and other rules. It is part of the governor’s multibillion-dollar plan to improve the state’s water quality.

The BMP (Best Management Practices) Program for agriculture also saw some enhancements. The law requires that BMP manuals be updated more regularly to include current science. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) will now be required to collect and keep growers’ nutrient program records, with a particular focus on nitrogen and phosphorus. In the past, records of growers who are enrolled in the BMP Program were reviewed but not collected. Under the new law, growers have to fill out a Nutrient Application Report Form. These forms can be turned over to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The law also instructs FDACS to have on-site verification visits to farms at least every two years to confirm BMPs are being followed.

Sarasota County Red Tide Update, Aug. 24

Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) staff continue to monitor and assess public beaches and access points for seaweed accumulation and red tide impacts. See below for today’s conditions report:

TUESDAY, AUG. 24

Today, PRNR staff evaluated public beaches and access points, reporting mostly minor marine debris and respiratory irritation throughout the county. Red Tide beach cleanup operations are planned for Venice, Manasota and Siesta Beaches today.

County staff continue to monitor and evaluate public beaches and access points each morning to determine if conditions meet the beach cleaning policy threshold. Regular beach combing take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Siesta Beach, and Thursday on Lido Beach.

Community members are encouraged to register for the Red Tide Newsletter by clicking the red button on the top right of scgov.net/redtide, check daily beach conditions at visitbeaches.org, or click here to view the daily Red Tide status report

Corps considers raising Lake O levels, sending water south, east to protect Caloosahatchee

Modelers working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are tying to find ways to reduce harmful discharges to the Caloosahatchee River when new Lake Okeechobee management regulations are finalized later this year.

"For Southwest Florida, one of the main drivers of our optimizations is to reduce the stressful releases to the Caloosahatchee and we’re going to do that in a couple of ways," said Army Corps Col. Andrew Kelly during a press conference Friday. "One way is to get additional water flow south that could potentially reduce stress to the Caloosahatchee. And we’re looking at raising the top line in the lake levels, so that could reduce releases. We're also looking at additional releases to the St. Lucie to reduce stresses as well."

The Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers were connected to the lake long ago to help drain the lake.

The lake operations Kelly referred to will be part of what's called the Lake Okeechobee Systems Operating Manual, or LOSOM, a 10-year guide that will dictate lake levels.

Kelly took a public flogging in Fort Myers earlier this month when he announced the preliminary choice of alternatives.

Massive red tide bloom lingering in Sarasota County could be ‘every bit as bad as 2018’

Red tide remains a threat as Tropical Storm Fred failed to generate enough wind to push the bloom away from area shores, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Director Dave Tomasko said Thursday to members of the Manatee Tiger Bay Club.

Red tide has plagued Sarasota, Manatee and Tampa Bay for months, and although samples from northern Anna Maria Island have shown improvement, Tomasko said a massive bloom in south Sarasota County could mean local woes may not be over yet.

Tomasko said that there is a red tide bloom about 50 square miles in size off the coast of Manasota Beach near Casey Key and the Venice area. The bloom stretches out 15 miles from shore, and he fears conditions could worsen if winds blow inland, reminiscent of 2018 when red tide devastated marine life and the local economy.

“If that moves up here, it is going to be every bit as bad as 2018,” Tomasko said. “Maybe even a little bit more localized.”