Water-Related News

FGCU Water School: Floating chunks in Caloosahatchee are ‘normal’

FORT MYERS – In the Caloosahatchee River along the George Town neighborhood in Fort Myers, there’s something in the water.

A viewer first told NBC2 about it, sending in photos that showed a dark matter not far from the river’s edge. The viewer wondered if it might be sewage.

The NBC2 Investigators went to check it out, and we found greenish-brown chunks floating in the river and nearby canal.

After snapping a couple photos, we used a bottle to scoop up a sample of the chunks from the water. The next day, we took that sample to Barry Rosen of the FGCU Water School so he could take a closer look under a microscope.

It didn’t take him long to reach a conclusion.

“This is all normal, healthy,” Rosen said while looking at an extreme close-up of the sample.

Rosen said it was made up of sand and what he called ‘normal, healthy algae’ from the bottom of the river. Certainly not sewage.

Proposed fish farm remains unfazed by federal court’s NOAA opinion

As a proposed finfish farm awaits word on its demonstration pen in the Gulf of Mexico, a federal appeals court upheld a decision revoking authority from a federal agency to permit and regulate offshore fisheries.

The opinion Monday comes after a 2018 federal district ruling. The Gulf Fishermen's Association claimed aquaculture regulations fall outside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service authority.

Environmental groups who brought the litigation call the opinion a victory in their efforts to stop offshore fish farming from gaining ground in the U.S. However, Neil Sims, founder and CEO of aquaculture company Ocean Era, said the court's decision won't hinder his progress and means one less permit for an offshore finfish farm.

Sims said the decision could leave a gap in the regulation of the industry. His company's efforts to build Velella Epsilon, a demonstration pen about 45 miles southwest of Sarasota in the Gulf, remain undeterred.

Sanibel official, area journalist to join SCCF team

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation announced that two leaders in Southwest Florida water quality issues will deepen and expand the non-profit's work to restore and protect the region's waterways.

Starting on Sept. 8, Sanibel Natural Resources Director and Chad Gillis, environmental reporter with the Naples Daily News and News-Press, will lead policy and advocacy work at the Sanibel-based non-profit.

"James and Chad each bring 20 years of expertise in Southwest Florida's environment to SCCF," Chief Executive Officer Ryan Orgera said. "Individually these professionals would be extraordinary additions to our team, but when combined, SCCF benefits from a supercharged policy team."

Water service to be interrupted Aug. 12th in Burnt Store Service Area

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – A water service interruption is scheduled for Wednesday, August 12, from approximately 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. This is required work for the Burnt Store Road widening project. Customers within this area should plan on being without water service during this time.

All addresses within Heritage Landing will be without water service.

For future emergency notices, visit www.CharlotteCountyFL.gov and click Utility Emergency Notices under Popular Links.

For information, contact Stephen Kipfinger at 941-764-4300 or Stephen.Kipfinger@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.

Bimini Basin Mooring Field open house set for August 11th

The public is invited to attend a Bimini Basin Mooring Field informational open house on Tuesday, August 11 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the City of Cape Coral Public Works Building (815 Nicholas Parkway East).

The project team will provide an update on phase 2 of the mooring field project, which includes two mooring field design options that will be provided to City Council for final selection. There will be no formal presentation and attendees are invited to arrive at any time during the Open House hours. Attendees are asked to wear masks and adhere to all social distancing guidelines.

All information is available on the project web site, www.capecoralmooringfield.com for those who prefer not to attend or are unable to do so. Information also is available on the Bimini Basin Mooring Field Facebook page.

Lee Commissioners approve conservation land purchase

Lee Commissioners vote to approve purchase of Conservation 20/20 parcels totaling 216 acres

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners today voted to approve the purchase of two parcels totaling 216 acres for the Conservation 20/20 Land Acquisition Program.

The parcels, one in eastern Lee County and one Pine Island, are contiguous to existing preserves. The parcels are:

  • About 201 acres contiguous to Imperial Marsh Preserve-Galloway Tract. The land is about a mile south of State Road 82 and about 3 miles west of the eastern county line.

    The parcel consists of diverse mix of upland and wetland native plant communities, including flatwoods dominated by South Florida slash pine, live oak hammock, mesic hardwood hammock dominated by laurel oaks, cypress forest and some fresh water marshes.

    The site has wading birds in the fresh water marshes including mature and immature wood storks, sandhill cranes, glossy ibis, white ibis, snowy egrets, little blue heron, tricolored heron and great blue heron.

    The purchase price is $1.3 million.
  • About 15 acres of land on Pine Island contiguous to the Pine Island Flatwoods Preserve, as well as Calusa Land Trust’s conservation land.

    The parcel consists of native pine flatwoods and mangrove forest.

    The purchase price is $52,500.

The Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (CLASAC) in July approved forwarding both of these purchases by unanimous vote.

Conservation 20/20, which has preserved 30,225 acres

North Port again participating in water conservation challenge

The City of North Port joins nationwide challenge to be most “water wise”

Debbie McDowell, Mayor of the City of North Port, is joining mayors across the country in asking residents to make a long-term commitment to manage water resources more wisely by taking part in the annual Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation — and in return residents can win $3,000 toward their Home Utility Payments, water saving fixtures, and hundreds of other prizes. Plus, one lucky charity from a winning city will receive a 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid to serve the community.

The annual challenge, August 1 - 31, is a non-profit national community service campaign that encourages leaders to inspire their residents to make a series of simple pledges at mywaterpledge.com to use water more efficiently, reduce pollution, and save energy.

Last year, the City of North Port placed 3rd in the nation of cities of similar size. Residents from over 3,800 cities in all 50 U.S. states pledged to reduce their annual consumption of freshwater by 3 billion gallons, reduce waste sent to landfills by 79.9 million pounds, and prevent more than 177,000 pounds of hazardous waste from entering our watersheds. The Challenge goes beyond recent drought issues and looks at the ways our water use will affect the future of our communities — from how we grow food to reducing polluted runoff.

The Mayor stated, "Water is so vital to our community. From our economy, to our lifestyle and recreational opportunities, to our health, we depend on water in North Port. By conserving water, as well as protecting our waterways from pollutants such as fertilizer, we are preserving the health of our City. Let’s take the pledge, North Port! Let’s be the #1 Water Smarter City!”

To participate, please visit www.mywaterpledge.com, and then make a series of online pledges to conserve water on behalf of the City of North Port. Residents who take the pledge have a chance to win $3,000 toward their home utility bills, and hundreds more eco-friendly prizes. In addition, residents can nominate a deserving charity from their city to receive a 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE. Students and teachers are encouraged to take part, as well.

Blue-Green Algae Task Force: Alert public when algal toxins detected

How much toxicity does it take to make a blue-green algae bloom hazardous?

The World Health Organization says 10 parts per billion of the toxin microcystin is hazardous to touch. The federal Environmental Protection Agency sets the threshold at 8 parts per billion.

But the Florida Blue-Green Algae Task Force agreed Wednesday [July 30] people need to be warned when any toxins are in the water.

"A simple detection of toxins is enough to prompt a health alert," Florida Chief Science Officer Tom Frazer, who leads the panel, said during the Zoom meeting.

The task force was discussing whether Florida needs to establish a state threshold for hazardous levels of microcystin such as those used by the WHO and EPA and looking at signs developed by the Florida Department of Health and state Department of Environmental Protection to warn people of toxic algae blooms in water bodies.

"There's no safe exposure to toxins," said task force member James Sullivan, executive director of Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce. "If there's a reliable detection (of toxins in the water), the number doesn't mean anything. To be the most cautious for the public, if you detect toxins, you put out an advisory."

$5M in state grants to help monitor, prevent Lake O algae blooms

Two state grants totaling $5.2 million will help better monitor algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee and help keep algae-feeding phosphorus and nitrogen out of the lake.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the grants this week based on recommendations from the state's Blue-Green Algae Task Force.

The South Florida Water Management District will use $3 million to pay for a project to remove more than 15,000 pounds of phosphorus over three years from a canal entering the 730-square-mile lake. That's about the weight of the largest African bull elephant.

Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce will use a $2.2 million grant for its Harmful Algal Bloom Assessment of Lake Okeechobee (HALO), a combination of state-of-the-art technologies and on-site work to better monitor blooms and understand the conditions that cause them.

How was Charlotte Harbor formed?

By Betty Staugler, UF/IFAS Extension Charlotte County agent for the Florida Sea Grant Program

Have you ever wondered why there is less natural relief and hard bottom habitats in the Gulf off Charlotte Harbor compared to areas north and south? Well, somebody did, and they asked me. Not knowing the answer, I offered to do some research and write about my findings.

The first question I looked at: Is the habitat off Charlotte Harbor really different? That answer is, not surprisingly, yes. The FWC’s Fish & Wildlife Research Institute has been doing extensive side-scan mapping of the Gulf seafloor, and considerable data has been collected across the entire west Florida shelf (including off Charlotte Harbor) in water depths between 30 and 600 feet. The side-scan mapping provides a habitat component in support of reef fish surveys.

Because it’s not practical to side scan every inch of the west Florida shelf, the habitats mapped are randomly selected and then mapped along transect lines. Based on the mapping that has been done to date, the area off Charlotte Harbor likely wins for “most shelly sand.” In fact only about 3 percent of the substrate off Charlotte Harbor is anything other than shelly sand.

So back to the big question — why? The answer is not so simple. The type of geologic surveys that would be needed to answer this question have not been done for the area off Charlotte Harbor. What we know about the geology of the west Florida shelf for Southwest Florida is based on surveys off Tampa Bay and further south off Estero Bay.

But a very interesting paper sent to me by a geologist from the University of South Florida looked at the formation of Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. This paper might be relevant, and since it’s pretty interesting, let me tell you about it.

Charlotte Harbor and Tampa Bay are big open-water estuaries. Big open-water estuarie

Lake Mirror circulation study to use solar technology

LAKELAND – The City of Lakeland Lakes & Stormwater Division will be undertaking a Surface Water Artificial Circulation Impact Study of Lake Mirror that includes the installation of a SolarBee® solar-powered artificial circulation system. The Impact Study will include a robust surface water sampling program throughout a four-month trial period to evaluate the efficacy of the SolarBee® and assess the potential water quality benefits in Lake Mirror.

The SolarBee artificial circulation system is designed to promote enhanced water column mixing and circulation. The system is used to increase dissolved oxygen content and reduce the abundance of algae and nutrients and it will operate 24-hours per day on solar power. Artificial circulation is a widely used surface water quality restoration technique ideal for smaller sized freshwater lakes and ponds. Use of the SolarBee® and has been identified as a possible method for improving the water quality in Lake Mirror, and potentially other City lakes.

The video below gives a quick overview of how the SolarBee lake circulation system works.

SJRWMD offers continuing education credits to community association managers

PALATKA – Community association managers (CAM) are invited to earn free continuing education credits through the St. Johns River Water Management District’s certified training courses on water quality and water conservation best practices for communities. These credits meet the requirements for CAM licensure.

The new, state-certified continuing education program offers community association managers training on a variety of water resource protection topics, including stormwater management, water-conserving landscapes, smart irrigation, conservation easements and more.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trainings are currently held via webinar. To schedule a session for your association’s management office or homeowners’ association, contact Dr. Jennifer Mitchell, district public communications coordinator, at jmitchell@sjrwmd.com or 904-730-6283.

The district was certified as a continuing education provider by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation in December 2019. The district’s goals for the program are improved permit compliance, enhanced water conservation, better understanding of district stormwater rules, and community relationship building.

Benefits of continuing education include professional development, money savings for the community, staying current on new permitting requirements and technologies, sharpening skills for better job or promotion opportunities, increasing understanding of Florida’s unique environment, personal improvement and the enjoyment of learning. Also, continuing education is a requirement of maintaining licensure.

Visit www.sjrwmd.com/education/cam-training/ for information about the district’s CAM resources.

Study: Florida HABs produce multiple toxins detrimental to human health

According to an independent research institute, cyanobacterial blooms released downstream from Lake Okeechobee coincided with red tides placing Florida's west coast in a toxic vise

JACKSON, WYOMING - In 2018, cyanobacteria from nutrient-rich waters in Lake Okeechobee were released down the Caloosahatchee river at the same time that red tides were gathering along the Florida west coast, potentially exposing coastal residents to a mixture of toxins. In 2018, releases of cyanobacterial-laden freshwater from Lake Okeechobee transported a large bloom of Microcystis cyanobacteria down the Caloosahatchee. Analysis of water samples showed high concentrations of microcystin-LR, sufficient to result in adverse human and animal health effects if ingested, based on the known toxicity of this cyanotoxin.

The microcystin liver toxin was being produced by Microcystis, while at the same time, potent neurotoxins called brevetoxin were released from the marine dinoflagellate Karenia brevis in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, BMAA, a neurotoxin suspected of being linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and Alzheimer's disease, was detected in samples of cyanobacteria, dinoflagellates, and diatoms along the Caloosahatchee and west coast. Furthermore, cyanobacterial mats collected on the west coast in 2019 also showed high concentrations of BMAA to be present. Together, these new findings highlight the potential for multiple, potentially toxic blooms to co-exist with unknown implications for human and animal health.

FGCU researching human effects on mangroves

Are roads and bridges leading to irregular forms of the shoreline plants?

Florida Gulf Coast University Professor Win Everham partnered with senior biology majors Paola Reyes and Jose Rivera on a research study deducing the effects of human development on mangroves in Florida.

The research team measured the growth of mangroves under different conditions: natural growth, natural storm restrictions, and restrictions from human development. Mangroves are trees or shrubs that live along shores, rivers and estuaries in the tropics and subtropics; they commonly grow on the banks of south Florida’s estuaries and are also extremely important to ecosystems.

Mangroves play an important part as a first line of defense against storms, hurricanes, waves and floods. They also prevent erosion and provide stability and shelter to ecosystems and aquatic life. Lastly, they also act as a natural filtration system, restraining sediments and other land runoffs that could damage water quality.

For these reasons, Reyes, Rivera and Everham chose to study the impacts of human development on the growth of mangroves. They theorize that man-made structures such as roads and bridges can interfere with the waterflow that nurtures mangrove growth and are leading to irregular forms of the shoreline plants.

Bonita Springs receives $11M from state for stormwater projects

On July 13, 2020, the City received the executed grant agreement for a grant that City Council has recently approved from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Disaster Recovery Infrastructure Repair Program to fund a stormwater improvement project in the Imperial Bonita Estates/Quinn/Downs/Dean Street (West of Imperial Parkway) area. The grant amount is $11,021,919 and does not require a City match.

The grant will be allocated to the city’s capital project fund for stormwater drainage improvement projects in the Quinn/Downs/Dean Street (West of Imperial Parkway) area infrastructure repair project.

Bonita Springs moves forward on buyout program for flood-prone homes

The Bonita Springs City Council has approved a resolution establishing a budget for the Home Buyout Program. An agreement between the City and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO) was fully executed on April 7, 2020 (BSC 20-004-049) for the Quinn/Downs/Dean Neighborhood Voluntary Buyout Program. The City has recently received an executed grant agreement from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s CDBG-DR Voluntary Home Buyout Program to fund the purchase of qualifying properties in the Quinn/Downs/Dean Street (West of Imperial Parkway) area. This additional funding requires a budget for a new capital improvement project for the Quinn/Downs/Dean Street (West of Imperial Parkway) area project.

The Quinn/Downs/Dean Neighborhood Voluntary Buyout Program was created in 2019 to provide direct assistance to Bonita residents who own housing in flood-prone areas of the city. The program provides them the ability to sell their homes to the city in exchange for monetary compensation, giving them financial mobility to relocate to higher ground. In turn, this will grant the city access to affected land allowing them to implement projects that address the flood-related issues in the area. Houses acquired by the city through the program will be demolished giving ample time to implement a long-term solution to the flood plain issue.

The $5,000,00 grant will be allocated to the city’s Capital Project Fund.

Bonita Springs bioreactor receives key funding

Bonita Springs City Council has approved moving forward with an agreement that would provide grant funding for phase 2 of the city's bioreactor project. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) announced funding availability on October 25, 2019, for Approaches to Reduce Nutrient Loadings for Harmful Algal Blooms Management and on November 6, 2019, the FDEP announced an Innovative Technology Grant Solicitation for Harmful Algal Blooms.

Staff received a notice of funding award on January 17, 2020, and received the agreement on July 2, 2020. The DEP grant allocates $400,000 with no required match from the City.

This is a new grant for the City, which does not have a current year budget.

In 2012, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection requested that Bonita Springs work to reduce the total maximum daily load of nitrogen in its waterways to 0.74 mg/L under what is referred to as the “Everglades West Coast Basin Management Action Plan”. This tasked the city of Bonita Springs to reduce the amount of nitrogen along the Imperial River to more closely reflect those of pre-development and agriculture levels. The FDEP has projected a target reduction amount of 60,000 lbs. by the year 2027, of which Bonita Springs is required to remove 9,303 lbs. The city has already successfully removed around 3,301 lbs. of nitrogen from the waterways through various removal methods and has been developing a sustainable long-term solution for the remaining 6,000 lbs. of nitrogen.

The goal for phase one of this project was to capture nitrogen removal ratings data as a baseline for FDEP to review and approve a removal efficiency rating for the bioreactor systems to facilitate the achievement of clean water statewide.

The Felts Avenue Bio-Reactor Project utilizes a bio-retention process for nitrogen removal from stormwater runoff. The bio-reactor concept is a low-impact development technique that requires very little “above ground” disturbance. It involves constructing sub-surface retention beds of woodchips, or burying pipes filled with woodchips, to create an anaerobic (oxygen-starved) nitrogen removing environment.

In addition, its underground footprint allows for above-ground use of the landscape that is not necessarily stormwater treatment-related. The Felts Avenue project capitalizes on this key feature by incorporating an at-grade 101-stall parking facility above the bioreactor's water treatment cells. If the project had utilized a traditional dry retention pond to treat the incoming stormwater, the area that would have been available for parking would have only yielded 28 spaces, as opposed to the 101.

Army Corps warns of potentially harmful Lake Okeechobee algae bloom

Blue-green algae doesn’t get as much attention when it’s not oozing into the northern estuaries, but it’s still out there, and potentially dangerous.

The Army Corps is warning of potentially harmful blue-green algae on Lake Okeechobee as NOAA satellites find about 42 percent of the lake ripe with a bloom.

A Tuesday [July 14th] image taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-3b satellite of Lake O found about 300 square miles infected with the single-celled cyanobacteria but only a sliver in the very center of the 730-square-mile lake suffering from the highest levels of concentration.

The Corps’ alert, issued Wednesday, says it’s possible boaters, fishermen or others near the lake may encounter blue-green algae, which can make people and animals sick if it becomes toxic. Wednesday’s alert says the algae can be blue, bright green, brown or red and may have a strong odor like rotting plants.

“People who are very sensitive to smells may have respiratory irritation,” the alert notes. “If you come into contact with blue-green algae, get out of the area and wash off with soap and water. See your doctor if you think blue-green algae has made you sick.”

Learn how to collect rainwater with Sarasota County’s virtual workshops

Sarasota County’s Rain Barrel program is hosting three virtual workshops on the benefits of owning rain barrels and conserving water.

Did you know that rainwater is one of several ways harmful chemical runoff enters Sarasota’s Bay and the Gulf Coast each year? Besides reducing lawn watering and fertilizer use, homeowners can also install rain barrels to reduce runoff, which collect and filter up to 55 gallons of rainwater. This summer, Sarasota County’s Rain Barrel program is offering free virtual workshops on how to install rain barrels on your property. Three separate workshops will take place on the county’s website on Saturday, July 18, August 15 and September 19. Participants can also purchase their own rain barrel kits, and pick them up at one of several convenient locations offered by the county.

Register using Eventbrite.com »

UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences horticulture specialist Wilma Holley will be hosting the workshops, and shares what participants can expect.

“The workshops will give a synopsis of rain barrel benefits, how to install your kit, Florida-friendly landscaping principles and the different ways that collected rainwater can be used,” says Holley. Each barrel contains a filter at the top, making water clean enough to water certain plants in your yard, wash your car or even fill the dog’s water bowl. Pumps and spigots can also be attached to barrels, allowing water to flow through a hose. The workshop will also discuss UF/IFAS’ extension purposes, and ways the program supports the community.

Charlotte County may team up to fight climate change locally

Charlotte County has been asked to join a group of counties and cities in a unified effort to address the effects of global warming.

That request was made 13 months ago. Today, Charlotte County commissioners will be asked to vote on the agreement — a regional climate resiliency accord.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on a three-county multi-municipality compact during their regular meeting at 9 a.m. today at 18500 Murdock Circle. Commission Chair Bill Truex of Englewood has already asked to represent the county on that compact, if it forms.

They may be the first governmental body to vote on the 2½-page memorandum of understanding, Assistant County Administrator Claire Jubb told the Beaches and Shores Advisory Committee last week.

Jubb and other county staff have been meeting with staff and officials from Lee and Collier counties and their cities on this project. Faculty from Florida Gulf Coast University’s Water School have been organizing the debate.

If formed, it would be the fourth such compact in the state, with three others representing governments from north central Florida to the Keys.

EPA limits states’ power to review projects that affect water quality

SAN FRANCISCO — For almost 50 years, states and tribal governments have played an outsized role in deciding whether projects that can harm water quality should receive federal permits — a role that is about to change under a new rule finalized by the Trump administration Monday.

The “Clean Water Act 401 Certification Rule” narrows what issues state and tribal governments may consider when determining if a project, such as one that involves discharging pollution into a river or stream, will comply with state water quality standards. State or tribal approval is a prerequisite for obtaining a federal permit under the Clean Water Act.

The new rule curtailing states’ review power is intended to advance President Donald Trump’s goal of promoting “efficient permitting” and reducing “regulatory uncertainties” as outlined in his April 2019 executive order on “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth.” This rule is one of the first major overhauls of the water quality certification process established by the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Environmental groups say latest water bill bad for Florida

Environmental groups across the state are challenging the bill recently signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis that is supposed to help clean up Florida's ailing waterways.

Proponents of Senate Bill 712, also called the Clean Waterways Act, say it will help the state better deal with blue-green algae blooms that have popped up across the Sunshine State in recent years.

Critics, however, say the bill fails to advance Florida's water quality standards and regulations and is actually worse than having no new water laws at all.

"It started out with good intentions, taking the Blue-Green Algae Task Force recommendations and trying to convert them into law," said Chuck O'Neal, with Speak Up Wekiva, one of several groups that have filed a legal challenge to the bill. "But as always happens it goes to Tallahassee and gets picked apart until what comes out is worse than the status quo."

Kayak launch closed at Bayshore Live Oak Park until Aug. 9th

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – The canoe/kayak launch and associated sidewalk and parking lot at Bayshore Live Oak Park will be closed for construction July 27-Aug. 9.

Patrons are encouraged to use other areas of the park until construction is complete.

Bayshore Live Oak Park is located at 23157 Bayshore Road in Port Charlotte.

For information, contact Lacey Solomon at 941-613-3238 or Lacey.Solomon@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.