Water-Related News

Charlotte County helping replenish water levels of Cape Coral canals

Although current levels are collectively 16 inches above levels this time last year, the city is requesting assistance from Charlotte County.

Requests have been made to pump water into Cape canals from Charlotte County’s reservoir. A system that’s helped the city for the last several years.

City officials expect next year’s levels to be more consistent with the help of the Caloosahatchee Connect pipeline.

The city will have access to hundreds of gallons of water from Fort Myers by October.

With more people moving to the Cape, the city is working to prepare for future dry seasons.

Permanent agreements with Charlotte County are almost complete that will help restore canal levels before they get too low. Combined with the new pipeline, officials expect fewer issues in freshwater canals.

Register now for citywide Earth Day cleanup in Cape Coral

The City of Cape Coral is hosting a citywide Earth Day clean up event Saturday, April 22, and your help is needed!

Are you ready to help restore the natural beauty of Cape Coral? Our City has come a long way in recovering from Hurricane Ian, but there’s no better way to contribute to a cleaner and healthier community than by volunteering to tackle the remnants of trash and debris still left behind in the wake of the storm.

To participate:

  • Register online and select the fire station closest to your neighborhood.
  • Download the Cape Coral 311 app for Apple or Android.
  • Gather your family, friends, and neighbors on Earth Day, and work at your own pace to clean up the areas near you that need it most.
  • Take photos of you, your group, and your collected trash and share them on social media using #CapeCoralCleanup23.

Once you've finished cleaning up, gather your bagged trash in one location, and log it in the Cape Coral 311 app for the City to collect and dispose of.

Together we can make a difference by improving our community's environmental quality and overall aesthetic. Be part of the largest community clean up effort our City has seen!

Red tide numbers waning in Lee, Collier waters, still prevalent elsewhere in Gulf

The latest red tide to blanket Southwest Florida seems to be losing strength in Lee and Collier counties as the higher brevatoxin counts have been reported in the Tampa Bay area in recent days.

Background to medium levels of red tide (Karenia brevis) were reported across both counties to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the state agency charged with monitoring the deadly blooms.

Red tide occurs naturally in the eastern Gulf of Mexico but is fed by nutrients coming from farming operations and urbanized areas, science shows; and today blooms are stronger, longer in duration and more frequent than they were in the 1950s.

"They usually say October, November and December is the season, but now we’re pushing April and I’m wondering how much longer this could persist," Calusa Waterkeeper Emeritus John Cassani said.

Cold fronts and strong winds can break up red tide blooms, but this past winter has been quite mild, with only a handful of strong cold fronts making it to the region this year.

Volunteers needed for seagrass monitoring program

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – UF/IFAS Extension Florida Sea Grant Charlotte County is seeking volunteers to participate in the 4th Annual Eyes on Seagrass Citizen Science Monitoring Program to document the health of seagrass in upper Charlotte Harbor and Lemon Bay. The information collected is used to inform environmental health assessments that can be used by natural resource managers.

Volunteers are asked to form teams of at least three and are responsible for transportation to their assigned sites via boat, kayak, canoe, paddleboard or wading. Individuals may also attend training but are not guaranteed to be placed on a team for sampling. New volunteers are asked to attend in-person training prior to the first outing. Online instructional videos will be made available to repeat volunteers or those who can’t attend training.

Register online at https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotte/sea-grant/eyes-on-seagrass/

Spring Sampling

  • Training: April 8, 2023, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Equipment Pick-up: April 10-14, 2023, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Training: June 24, 2023, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Equipment Pick-up: June 26-30, 2023, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Sampling: July 10-24, 2023

All trainings and equipment pick up will occur at Centennial Park Recreation Center, 1120 Centennial Blvd., Port Charlotte.

For information, contact Kate Rose at Kate.Rose0210@ufl.edu or 941-764-4346 or Jodie York at Jodie.York@ufl.edu or 941-764-4349.

FWC, DEP visit SW Florida to survey red tide conditions, ensure local needs are being met

On March 14, 2023, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Acting Executive Director Dr. Thomas Eason and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Shawn Hamilton participated in a flyover to observe current red tide conditions firsthand and meet with local stakeholders.

The state is taking an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to respond to the red tide impacting Florida’s west coast. The FWC, DEP and Florida Department of Health are working together to ensure a coordinated state response and are committed to coordinating with local governments to provide resources to assist in cleanup efforts and will continue to monitor the red tide bloom to ensure that all local needs are being met.

The FWC is closely monitoring a red tide bloom across Southwest Florida, including Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Red tide (Karenia brevis) is a naturally occurring microscopic algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs nearly every year. 

New Sanibel-Captiva group shares dramatic lessons from Hurricane Ian

A consortium of businesses and nonprofit wants to spark conversations on how to rebuild the barrier islands so structures and people can become more resilient for future storms.

It’s been over five months since Hurricane Ian, and recovery on Sanibel island is slow. While some businesses are open, most are shuttered and shelled out, as are most homes.

On a recent evening, residents of Sanibel and Captiva packed The Big Arts Sanibel theater, coming to hear from a new local consortium of businesses and nonprofits called the SanCap Citizens for a Resilient Future. Members of the consortium include citizen volunteers, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Sanibel-Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, Committee of the Islands (COTI), "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society - Friends of the Refuge, City of Sanibel, Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Working Group, and Lee County Climate Reality Project.

The group is hoping to add more nonprofits and businesses, along with concerned citizens, to engage on how best to rebuild after the storm and to be better prepared for future storms.

SFWMD issues temporary burn ban on District lands in Collier and Hendry Counties

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The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) has issued a temporary burn ban on District lands in Collier and Hendry Counties due to dry conditions and the imminent danger of wildfires in the region.

Read Emergency Order 2023-016.

The temporary burn ban includes the building or maintaining of fires for recreational purposes in fireplaces and fire rings on District lands.

Follow warning signs, area closures and any directions from your County Emergency Operations Center.

For the latest information about recreational opportunities and closures on District lands visit SFWMD.gov/Recreation.

New lake schedule delayed due to red tide concerns

The new plan for releasing water from Lake Okeechobee will be delayed until the end of the year according to information shared March 15 at the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) Project Delivery Team (PDT) meeting.

Col. James Booth, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District (USACE), said the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was initially scheduled for March but has been pushed back due to concerns by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

Booth said they expect to have a decision on LOSOM by December 2023. The additional time will be used for more study and additional engagement by state and federal agencies.

Until then, USACE will continue to manage Lake Okeechobee under the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS-08), which was implemented in 2008.

Under LORS-08, water managers try to keep Lake O within the environmental envelope of 12.5 feet at the start of the wet season to 15.5 feet at the start of the dry season. LOSOM allows both higher and lower water levels than LORS-08.

University of Central Florida uses 6-foot ‘test tubes’ to study red tide

This study is the first successful test of any red tide mitigation technology in open water using large water column containers called limnocorrals.

A potential treatment for Florida’s devastating red tides took another step toward widespread deployment after successful testing in Sarasota Bay.

Additional detailed data analysis is required to confirm results, but UCF Assistant Professor of Biology Kristy Lewis is encouraged by the large-scale test of a red tide mitigation technology called clay flocculation that was performed in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory.

This study is the first successful test of any red tide mitigation technology in open water using large water column containers called limnocorrals. These tubes — about six feet in diameter — extend from the waters’ surface to the ocean floor, allowing scientists to test real ocean conditions within a controlled setting. Think of it like a giant test tube.

Experts and technicians from Mote Marine Laboratory and funding from Florida Sea Grant provided the necessary resources to set eight limnocorrals into Sarasota Bay. Four columns were treated with a fine spray of the clay solution, while the other four served as a control.

Clay flocculation works by the clay attaching to the Karenia brevis algae, which is responsible for Florida red tide, and sinking them to the ocean floor. Lewis has spent the last three years carefully testing the impact of introducing this non-native mineral into the ocean ecosystem. She’s not only looking for changes in the water’s nutrients and quality, but also evaluating how the clay impacts the health of invertebrates like blue crabs, sea urchins and clams.

“We want to make sure the cure is not worse than the disease,” she says.

Initial plans for the large-scale test were simply to measure the impact of the clay on the ecosystem, but the unexpected appearance of an actual red tide event heightened the realism of the experiment. Initial results suggest the clay performed as expected, but there’s still a question of whether the algae’s toxins remain dormant or active on the ocean floor. Water samples collected during the experiment should provide an answer.

Cape Coral’s ‘bubble curtain’ under maintenance to combat blue-green algae

Starting tomorrow [March 15] until Friday [March 17], divers will be doing maintenance on the city’s “bubble curtain.” The curtain is below the water, where the Everest Canal connects with the Caloosahatchee by the Midpoint Bridge.

Boaters and others using the boat ramp at Horton Park will have to be patient.

The entry to the Everest Canal will close for up to 20 minutes at a time for the bubble curtain work.

After algae mats were seen in southwest Cape Coral earlier this month, some tell us they hope the city can get ahead of the problem.

EPA to limit toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed the first federal limits on harmful “forever chemicals” in drinking water, a long-awaited protection the agency said will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses, including cancer.

The plan would limit toxic PFAS chemicals to the lowest level that tests can detect. PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, are a group of compounds that are widespread, dangerous and expensive to remove from water. They don’t degrade in the environment and are linked to a broad range of health issues, including low birthweight and kidney cancer.

“The science is clear that long-term exposure to PFAS is linked to significant health risks,” Radhika Fox, assistant EPA administrator for water, said in an interview.

Fox called the federal proposal a “transformational change” for improving the safety of drinking water in the United States. The agency estimates the rule could reduce PFAS exposure for nearly 100 million Americans, decreasing rates of cancer, heart attacks and birth complications.

Health officials issue red tide alert for Lee County

Florida DOH logo

March 9, 2023

LEE COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Lee County (DOH-Lee) has issued health alerts for the presence of a red tide bloom. An alert level of red tide was found near Turner Beach (Captiva), Blind Pass Beach (Sanibel), Buck Key near Blind Pass, Bonita Beach Causeway (Dog Beach), Bonita Beach Park, Little Hickory Island Park, and Boca Grande Beach. This is in response to water samples taken on February 24, February 27, March 1, and March 6.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Look for informational signage posted at most beaches.
  • Stay away from the water, and do not swim in waters with dead fish.
  • Those with chronic respiratory problems should be especially cautious and stay away from this location as red tide can affect your breathing.
  • Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish or distressed or dead fish from this location. If caught live and healthy, finfish are safe to eat as long as they are filleted and the guts are discarded. Rinse fillets with tap or bottled water.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and fresh water if you have had recent contact with red tide.
  • Keep pets and livestock away and out of the water, sea foam and dead sea life. If your pet swims in waters with red tide, wash it as soon as possible.
  • Residents living in beach areas are advised to close windows and run the air conditioner, making sure that the A/C filter is maintained according to manufacturer's specifications.
  • If outdoors near an affected location, residents may choose to wear masks, especially if onshore winds are blowing.

A caution level of red tide was found near Bowman’s Beach, Tarpon Bay Road Beach, Lighthouse Beach (Sanibel), and Dixie Beach (Sanibel). A cautionary notice indicates low levels (>10,000-100,000 Karenia brevis cells per liter) of red tide detected in sampling. This is in response to water samples taken on February 27 and March 6.

The department encourages everyone to review

Seaweed blob visible from space takes aim at Florida Gulf coast

TAMPA — Marine scientists are tracking a 5,000-mile-wide seaweed bloom that is so large, it can be seen from space – and it’s heading towards Florida’s Gulf coast.

These sargassum blooms are nothing new, but scientists say this one could be the largest in history.

The thick mat of algae drifts between the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Gulf of Mexico, providing habitat for marine life and absorbing carbon dioxide, but it can also wreak havoc when when it gets closer to shore. It blocks light from reaching coral and negatively impacts air and water quality as it decomposes.

Florida’s Gulf coast is already grappling with an algae bloom amid the busy spring break tourism season. Red tide has caused dead fish to wash ashore in droves, while the risk of respiratory irritation for humans has cancelled events and driven beachgoers away.

With a blanket of sargassum approaching, spanning twice the width of the continental U.S., scientists warn that Florida beaches could soon be inundated with seaweed.

How Lake Okeechobee contributes to red tide

While red tide invades our shoreline, there’s a lot of debate over how Lake Okeechobee contributes to the outbreak.

A lot of fingers are pointing to Lake Okeechobee for the most recent outbreak. It began in the month after Hurricane Ian. Researchers are evaluating whether we are headed for an environmental storm.

“The research that our lab has done in collaboration with UF has shown that the nitrogen from Lake Okeechobee is combining with other natural factors that cause red tide bloom to increase the initiation and intensity of the red tide blooms,” said Leah Reidenbach, an Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation research and policy associate.

Reidenbach points out that what we are experiencing now, five months after Ian, is similar to what happened after Irma in 2018.

Before Irma and Ian, Lake Okeechobee levels were low, then rose quickly after the storms.

“And the strategy after Irma was to release the water from the lake as soon as possible, as much as they could. So we were completely inundated with flows after Hurricane Irma. And that’s what was thought to contribute to the red tide blooms of 2018 that made them so intense and so long,” Reidenbach said.

After Ian, there was a different strategy: release for only six weeks compared to those four long months after Irma. “And the total volume of water that’s been released from the lake this year is 2.75 times less than it was after Irma,” said Reidenbach.

Cape Coral utility expansion worries residents

Cape Coral residents recently packed into the first floor of city hall, nervously chattering with terms like refinancing and reverse mortgages escaping their lips as they waited for the informational meeting on the Utilities Extension Project (UEP) to start.

City officials answered pressing questions on the project, cost to homeowners, payment, and other things northeast residents should expect, with the focus on affording a $30,000-plus bill.

The UEP provides water, sewer, and irrigation services in phases to replace septic and shallow groundwater wells and connect households to the city's potable water treatment and distribution facilities.

The funding will mostly be put up by property owners through special assessments, which the city can collect to fund capital improvements and municipal services.

Reef installation to fight algae and red tide

On Wednesday afternoon, a new tool was put in the Gulf of Mexico to monitor the water and support Red Tide research, human health, and the ecosystem.

Ten miles offshore and 30 feet underwater, giant cement blocks will help scientists better understand what’s happening in the water.

“So the importance of Kimberley’s reef is it’s an underwater platform. It’s in a fixed location. We can put instrumentation out there. We can study animals. We can study algae and plant life all at the same spot. And we can study it over time,” professor in The Water School at FGCU, Mike Parsons, said.

Eighteen culverts weighing more than 19,000 pounds each provide fascinating research opportunities and habitats for marine life.

“And the fish are gonna be like, hey, look, here’s a new home. This is the new IT neighborhood,” Parsons said.

And the team can better understand how those fish, crabs, and other creatures respond to change.

“We can monitor for red tide and the impacts of red tide,” Parsons said. “How do fish populations react to red tie? Do they move away? Do they, unfortunately, die? When do they come back?”

And those are big questions while Southwest Florida deals with a Red Tide outbreak and dead fish scattered in the waters off Bonita Beach. Sensors and instruments on the buoys monitor oceanographic conditions on the Gulf and reef.

Florida’s love-hate relationship with phosphorus

The state has mined and abused the Devil’s Element for decades, and now it is increasingly fouling precious coastal waters

In the summer of 2018, in Stuart, a small beach community on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, some hundred panicked homeowners showed up at City Hall in the middle of the business day to demand something be done about the green goo plaguing their coastal waters. It was a sweltering July day, the kind towns like Stuart are built for, but signs on the boardwalk outside City Hall warned visitors:

As people at the meeting introduced themselves and stated their affiliations, it became clear this was not a typical gathering of environmentalists. They weren’t strategizing about how to protect some beleaguered species and the far?away lands or waters upon which it depends. These people, who represented businesses as well as homeowners’ associations and fishing and yachting clubs, spoke as though they were the threatened species.

“I need help,” said Will Embrey, a scraggly commercial fisherman whose business had collapsed right along with the region’s schools of mackerel not long after the green slime arrived. “There are a lot of people like me that need help.” The 45-?year-?old was suffering chronic stomach pain that was initially diagnosed as diverticulitis, and then ulcerative colitis, and then Crohn’s disease. Eventually doctors had given up trying to figure out what made Embrey so sick.

Embrey didn’t need to spend tens of thousands more dollars on more specialists, CT scans and lab tests to figure out the source of his illness. He knew it was the poisoned water, and he wasn’t alone.

International treaty to protect world’s oceans will help SWFL

A new international treaty paves the way toward establishing large marine protected areas and setting global standards for environmental impacts on our oceans.

The treaty would also regulate countries and companies that commercialize marine resources for pharmaceuticals or cosmetics and make research conducted in international waters more inclusive. Southwest Florida’s waterways, for instance, are plagued by chemical and plastic pollution, overfishing and deep-sea mining. When it comes to international waters, there’s practically no oversight.

“Internationally, we do not have a single treaty that protects the high seas,” said Jennifer Jones, director of the Center for Environment and Society at Florida Gulf Coast University. “And when we talk about high seas, we mean those that are beyond the coastlines and territorial boundaries of countries.”

Jones likens these places to the Wild West, the last true aquatic wilderness.

? “You think about the high seas… it’s two-thirds of our ocean—only one tiny percent of that is protected,” Jones said. “And the high seas, they provide food, they provide oxygen, they provide climate regulation.”

The new treaty aims to protect 30% of our ocean resources by 2030. Think of the high seas as the world’s common space; we all share it. The better the health of the water and sea life, the better the health of the environment within our coastlines.

Florida impacts kick federal beach renourishment policy back to panel

'A beach that’s covered by homes and hotels, and retreat is simply not possible.'

A document setting out federal fishery managers’ opposition to beach renourishment and, should it occur, best management practices is headed back to an advisory panel after concerns about how it would affect Florida.

The policy document begins, “In general, frequent and widespread beach renourishment projects (dredge-and-fill) occurring in the United States southeast together may cause measurable impacts to (essential fish habitat) under the jurisdiction of the (South Atlantic Fishery Management Council).

“Coastal communities are strongly encouraged to evaluate the full range of alternatives, including retreat, to these types of projects when addressing erosion and sea level rise.”

The Council governs federal saltwater fisheries from the North Carolina Outer Banks to the Florida Keys. Members of the SAFMC Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Advisory Panel (AP) worked on the document last year. They will get another shot at it after the decisions this week.

The latest language notably differs from the stronger words in a previous draft.

Was Florida red tide made worse by Hurricane Ian? Here’s what we know

Red tide researchers agree: The toxic algae would still be flaring up — with or without the powerful Category 4 storm.

Hurricane Ian slammed the state less than three weeks before red tide appeared, leading many to link the storm with the toxic algae’s return. But what role, if any, did Ian play in the arrival of this latest red tide? We asked experts at three Florida universities, plus two leading state and federal scientists, and their answers boiled down to these main points:

Red tide would still be flaring up, with or without the hurricane; it’s still possible the storm brought red tide closer to shore; the present red tide today is likely no longer feeding on pollution dumped by Ian months ago, and Ian proved scientists still have much to learn about the relationship between storms and toxic algal blooms.

FWC invites public to Lake Apopka hydrilla management meeting


The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) invites the public to attend a public meeting on hydrilla management on Lake Apopka.

The meeting will be held on Wednesday March 8 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tanner Hall, 29 W Garden Ave in Winter Garden.

The goal of this meeting is to solicit public input on the management of hydrilla in the lake. Public input from the wide variety of user groups is important to create a balanced approach to managing aquatic plants in Lake Apopka.

Following the staff presentations, public interaction is encouraged, especially regarding the management level, types of aquatic vegetation and key areas of interest and concern. The FWC will consider all input when developing the Spring 2023 hydrilla management plan for Lake Apopka.

For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual workplans, boat ramp information, and more, visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at MyFWC.com/Lake.

For more details about the meeting, contact Robin Simoneaux at Robin.Simoneaux@MyFWC.com or Alex Dew at Alex.Dew@MyFWC.com.

Hurricane debris contractors working at San Carlos Bay

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FORT MYERS – Bunche Beach Preserve The entrance to San Carlos BayBunche Beach Preserve, 18201 John Morris Road, will be closed every Tuesday and Wednesday beginning March 7, to allow the sta licensed contractor to safely remove hurricane debris along the preserve’s coastline.

The storm surge washed hurricane debris from Estero Island across the San Carlos Bay where it settled into the mangrove swamps and salt flats on the southeastern e dge of the preserve. The beach, parking areas, restrooms, boardwalks and kayak launch have remained closed due to storm damage. County staff have worked with various state agencies in the cleanup and recovery efforts throughout the coastal beach parks and preserves.

Debris contractors have been dismantling large dock sections and debris, which are now ready to be hauled off the beach and transported offbeach area closed and clear of all pe site. To ensure safety, the contractors need to keep the road and destrian and vehicular traffic while the debris is moved off the beach.

For more information and updates on additional waterfront park sites/access points, visit the Park Progress Map tool at https://www.leeparks.org.

Expect ‘a summer of slime’ on Lake Okeechobee, Caloosahatchee River

The surface of Lake Okeechobee is expected to turn the wrong color this summer as all the elements for a huge outbreak of blue-green algae are in place.

Warm water, ample sunlight, and calm weather is what blue-green algae needs to flourish, and those conditions are present in South Florida every summer. But the key ingredient for any harmful algae bloom in the lake — nutrients -- are usually stuck down in the muck.

But what is “usual” has changed in South Florida since Hurricane Ian. Stronger tropical cyclones caused by warming ocean waters due to rising temperatures worldwide are tilting environmental conditions in favor of worsening natural disasters, and that includes harmful algae blooms such as blue-green algae and red tide.

Last fall’s Category 4 storm whipped up waves on Lake Okeechobee and churned up the bottom, where accumulated layers of phosphorus and nitrogen that washed off nearby industrial-scale farms and settled long ago were stirred up into the water column.

“What you have is a perfect storm of possibility for blue-green algae blooms that are going to feed off those nutrients,” said Gil Smart, the director of VoteWater, a nonprofit working to stop algae-laden discharges from Lake Okeechobee. “We've seen both federal and state water managers sound the alarm about the potential for this.”

Researchers looking into toxins that Blue-Green Algae release into the air

LEE COUNTY – In a fourth-floor Marine and Environmental Sciences lab at Florida Gulf Coast University, algae are the star of the show.

"We get sent samples from across the U.S.," said FGCU Water School student Trinity Allan.

More specifically, researchers like Trinity Allan are looking into Blue-Green algae to learn more about the toxins they produce and how much of it we breathe in during a bloom.

As of now, detailed guidelines for exposure to these toxins only really exist for drinking water or recreation—it’s a vast difference from the amount of guidance we see when compared to red tide.

"We have a good base data [set] about red tide, but we don't have that for the blue-green algae and so we're trying to provide that baseline data so we know where to jump off from," said Allan.

Collecting that "baseline data" is such a passion project for Allan that she has dedicated her Master's thesis to the topic.