Water-Related News

Charlotte County solid waste facility now accepting hazardous waste and sharps

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Household Hazardous Waste and Hypodermic Needles (Sharps) Drop-Off Location

CHARLOTTE COUNTY –The Mid County Mini-Transfer and Recycling Facility, 19765 Kenilworth Boulevard, will be accepting household hazardous waste and hypodermic needles (sharps) beginning Tuesday, Dec. 6. This service will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

Examples of items accepted:

  • Pool chemicals
  • Batteries – lead acid and rechargeable
  • Cleaners and polishers
  • Cooking oil
  • Gasoline, kerosene, and diesel fuel
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Mercury
  • Paint, strippers, stains, and varnishers
  • Fluorescent bulbs
  • Used motor oil
  • Syringes and hypodermic needles in approved containers

This service is for Charlotte County residents only. Proof of residency is required. Businesses are not allowed to participate. If you are physically unable to exchange your sharps container for medical reasons, please call Charlotte County to request a pick-up and exchange 941.764.4360. Sharps are the only biomedical waste accepted at the transfer facility, as "red bag" waste will not be accepted. Please contact your medical facility for disposal instructions for these types of bio-hazardous waste.

FEMA redraws SWFL flood zone maps

CAPE CORAL – You could be living in a flood zone right now and not even know it. That’s because FEMA has just drawn and released new flood zone maps.

You may think you’re out of reach of the flood waters, but the federal government may disagree.

FEMA redrew its maps on November 17, and many people are finding out they don’t have to live along the water in order to live in a flood zone.

Caryn Atkin of Cape Coral said prior to last month, she did not live in a flood zone.

However, the new maps now show Atkin, and many of her neighbors are at risk of flooding.

“Our mortgage company sent us a letter saying they needed a copy of our flood insurance. Even though we weren’t flooded…they wanted a copy of the flood insurance,” Atkin said.

The letters warning homeowners that flood insurance is now necessary are catching many by surprise.

Florida wildlife officials approve protections for endangered manatees

They include feeding lettuce for the second straight year, as poor water quality and algae blooms have depleted seagrass beds that provide a key food source for manatees in the Indian River Lagoon.

State wildlife officials Wednesday approved a seasonal no-entry zone in an area of Brevard County waters where manatees gather, while preparing for a second winter of feeding the sea cows to try to prevent deaths.

The approval came after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed this month that it will again work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to feed lettuce to manatees. The agencies also took the unusual step last winter, as manatees starved because of a lack of seagrass, a key food source.

“We are poised and ready to manage our manatee situation in the Indian River Lagoon, much as we have, but with improvements based on what we have learned,” Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Executive Director Eric Sutton said Wednesday during a meeting at the Bluegreen’s Bayside Resort and Spa in Panama City Beach.

Poor water quality and algae blooms have depleted seagrass beds that provide a key food source for manatees in the Indian River Lagoon.

“Water quality improvements and habitat restorations are ongoing,” Sutton said. “So, we are hoping that this will be a bridge to help us.”

Charlotte County boat ramp and fishing piers to undergo maintenance

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CHARLOTTE COUNTY – Scheduled maintenance and repairs will begin on Dec. 1 at El Jobean Fishing Pier, El Jobean Boat Ramp, and Butterford Waterway.

The affected locations will remain open during work.

Patrons are asked to use caution around the area.

All maintenance and repairs are anticipated to be completed within 60 days.

For more information contact Lacey.Solomon@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.

FWC now accepting applications for newly created Vessel Turn-In Program

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is now accepting applications for a recently approved and newly created Vessel Turn-In Program, a key component of Florida’s derelict vessel prevention program.

VTIP is a voluntary program designed to help owners dispose of their unwanted at-risk vessels before they become derelict. Upon approval of an application, VTIP will take a surrendered vessel and dispose of it at no cost to the boat owner. Removing the vessel before it deteriorates into a derelict condition will prevent legal ramifications for the vessel owner and will protect Florida’s valuable seagrass resources, marine life, and human life, safety, and property.

A derelict vessel upon waters of the state is a criminal offense and can carry serious penalties and fines or possible jail time.

“Acting now is the best way to prevent legal action from occurring if the vessel becomes derelict,” said Phil Horning, VTIP Administrator.

To qualify for VTIP, a vessel must be floating upon waters of the state of Florida and cannot be determined derelict by law enforcement. The owner must have at least one written at-risk warning or citation and possess a clear title to the vessel.

To apply for or view program guidelines, visit MyFWC.com/VTIP or call the FWC Boating and Waterways Division at 850-488-5600 for more information.

Expedition retraces a legendary explorer’s travels through the once-pristine Everglades

Changes in water quality will be an important facet of the expedition

In 1897, the explorer and amateur scientist Hugh de Laussat Willoughby climbed into a canoe and embarked on a coast-to-coast expedition of the Florida Everglades, a wilderness then nearly as vast as the peninsula itself and as unknown, he wrote, as the “heart of Africa.”

Willoughby and his guide were the first non-Native Americans to traverse the Everglades from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, and Willoughby’s meticulous notes, charts and water samples would form the basis of scientists’ historical understanding of the legendary “river of grass.”

Now a new expedition has retraced his trek, with the goal of measuring the impact of modern humanity on a watershed that today is among the most altered on Earth and responsible for the drinking water of some 12 million Floridians.

The expedition also commemorates the 75th anniversary of Everglades National Park, which was dedicated on Dec. 6, 1947.

“We think we will see the full spectrum, from one of the most remote parts of the continental United States to one of the most urbanized parts of the United States – all in one watershed, all in one trip,” said Harvey Oyer, co-leader of the four-member expedition and the author of a series of children’s books about the historical Florida frontier. “That, I think more than anything else, will illustrate humanity’s impact from the time of Willoughby to today.”

Willoughby’s thorough work provides a tantalizing opportunity to compare conditions in the Everglades then and now. Traveling the region’s rivers and canals over six days and some 130 miles, Oyer and the team drew water samples from the same spots as Willoughby, according to coordinates he documented, sometimes from some of the most remote and hard-to-reach parts of the subtropical region.

The water samples are being analyzed at the University of Florida for the same constituents that Willoughby examined, such as magnesium and sulfates, along with nutrients now known to affect the Everglades like phosphorus and nitrogen.

The samples are also being tested for modern pollutants like microplastics, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), pesticides and pharmaceuticals. It will be a few months before the analysis is complete. The team wrapped u

How floating wetlands are helping to clean up urban waters

As cities around the world look to rid their waterways of remaining pollution, researchers are installing artificial islands brimming with grasses and sedges. The islands’ surfaces attract wildlife, while the underwater plant roots absorb contaminants and support aquatic life.

Floating wetlands were first tested in retention ponds, the kind often located near developments to hold stormwater, to see if they filtered pollution. “The front end of it was, ‘Will they work? How well do they work? And what plants should we recommend?’” says Sarah White, an environmental toxicologist and horticulturalist at Clemson University who has worked on floating wetlands since 2006. Partnering with researchers at Virginia Tech, White found that the wetland plants she tested not only did well in ponds with lots of nutrient pollution, but the adaptable, resilient plants actually thrived. She did not always choose native plants, opting instead for those that would make the islands more attractive, so that more urban planners would use them.

Lee County health officials issue Red Tide Alert for Lighthouse Beach Park

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LEE COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of additional red tide blooms. The red tide organism, Karenia brevis, has been observed at very low to high concentrations in Lee County. An alert level of Red Tide was found at Lighthouse Beach Park (Sanibel). This is in response to water samples taken on November 17,2022.

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.

Federal funding for water storage north of Lake O delayed

Plans for water storage north of Lake Okeechobee have hit another snag.

At the Nov. 18 meeting of the South Florida Water Management District, SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett said the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Plan (LORWP) will not be included in funding from the 2022 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which funds the federal portion of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) as well as other water projects across the country. Congress can pass a WRDA every two years, but in the past Congress has gone as long as seven years between WDRAs.

CERP is a federal-state partnership, to be funded 50-50.

LOWRP includes aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) wells as well as two wetlands restoration projects on the Kissimmee River. ASR wells pump clean freshwater about 1,000 feet below the surface into the Floridan aquifer. This is not the same aquifer used for water supply. Most wells dug for water supply are surficial wells dug about 100 feet deep.

For ASR wells, water is treated to drinking water standards – as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency – before it is pumped into the aquifer, where the freshwater creates a bubble in the slightly brackish water of the Floridan aquifer. That same freshwater can be pumped out of the ASR bubble when needed for water supply.

FWC Harmful Algal Bloom Grant Program funds three projects

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s Harmful Algal Bloom Grant Program has awarded funding to three projects to address research related to Karenia brevis. The HAB Grant Program supports projects that address recommendations of the HAB Task Force.

Title: Composite Red Tide Vulnerability Index (CRTVI): Assessing and communicating vulnerability of coastal communities to Red Tide in Florida

Principal Investigator: Christa D. Court, University of Florida

Co-Principal Investigators: Lisa Krimsky, Angie Lindsey, Andrew Ropicki and Ricky Telg, University of Florida; David Yoskowitz, Harte Research Institute

Summary: This project leverages recent research results quantifying the socioeconomic, health and environmental impacts of red tide events to develop a Composite Red Tide Vulnerability Index that can quantify the vulnerability of coastal communities in Florida to the impacts of red tide events. The CRTVI can increase general awareness and be used as an objective criterion to help decision-makers both identify areas that are more vulnerable to impacts stemming from red tide events and design systems to better prepare for, respond to and mitigate red tide event impacts.

Award: $295,304, January 2023-June 2024

View Abstract »

Title: Developing a Physical-Biological Model of Karenia brevis Red Tide for the West Florida Shelf

Principal Investigator: Yonggang Liu, University of South Florida

Summary: This project partners the University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Lab with FWRI HAB Researchers to develop a physical-biological model of Karenia brevis red tide for the West Florida Shelf, with a long-term goal of being able to simulate and forecast red tide.

Award: $299,349, January 2023-June 2024

View Abstract »

Title: A land-based shellfish depuration mitigation strategy to increase business opportunities and reduce economic losses associated with extended lease closures following red tide exposure

Principal Investigator: Dana Wetzel, Mote Marine Laboratory

Co-Principal Investigators: Tracy Sherwood, Mote Marine Laboratory

Summary: This project aims to develop feasible land-based depuration protocols that allow shellfish farmers in red tide-impacted regions to have the chance to regain their crops and thereby sustain shellfish production.

Award: $246,326, January 2023-June 2024

View Abstract »

Here, there, everywhere: Red tide plagues SWFL after Hurricane Ian

Florida Department of Health officials in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties are issuing health alerts daily warning of the real and present danger to human and animals.

Red tide is everywhere.

From Tampa Bay south to Ten Thousand Islands, local groups and state agencies that test for and track red tide are warning that the harmful algae that kills fish, sickens dogs, and whose acrid air chase people off the beach is here.

And there. And there. And there.

Red tide was detected at every beach in Sarasota County soon after Hurricane Ian made landfall near Fort Myers in late September. Earlier this month, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, in nearly 100 samples throughout Southwest Florida. v Florida Department of Health officials in Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties, taken as a group, are issuing health alerts daily warning of the real and present danger to human and animals.

The red tide is so prevalent, so pungent, and so potentially poisonous that the authors of the health advisories ignored the long-established practice of softening the language to avoid scaring away tourists.

“Stay away from the water,” a Charlotte County health advisory warned. “Do not swim in waters with dead fish. Wash your skin and clothing with soap and fresh water if you have had recent contact with red tide. Those with chronic respiratory problems should be especially cautious and stay away … as red tide can affect your breathing. 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. Do not harvest or eat molluscan shellfish or distressed or dead fish from this location. Residents may want to wear masks.”

Petition urges USFWS protect Florida manatees as endangered

Calling declines in Florida's manatee population “dramatic” a coalition of groups have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase protections for the aquatic mammal.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic, Miami Waterkeeper, Save the Manatee Club and Frank S. González García filed the petition Monday. The petition urges the federal wildlife agency to reclassify the species from threatened to endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

"Since the service prematurely reduced protections in 2017, the species has declined dramatically," a release from the groups about the petition said.

According to information provided by the groups, pollution-fueled algae blooms sparked an ongoing mortality event that killed more than 1,110 Florida manatees in 2021 alone -- 19 percent of the Atlantic population and 13 percent of all manatees in Florida.

The deaths continued this year, the groups said, with 726 manatees dying through October. Manatee experts predict that the high levels of malnourished and starving manatees will continue throughout the winter.

“West Indian manatees from Florida to the Caribbean are facing drastic threats from habitat loss, boat strikes, pollution, climate change and toxic algae blooms," said Ben Rankin, a student attorney at the Harvard Animal Law & Policy Clinic. “The restoration of full Endangered Species Act protections is an essential first step in conserving this species everywhere it is found.”

Lake Okeechobee water levels seem to have peaked following Ian and Nicole

The water level now stands at 16.25 feet. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' goal has always been to keep releases from the lake "at a minimum."

The Army Corps of Engineers gave a briefing Wednesday in Stuart to the environmental group “The Rivers Coalition.” The goal is to stop discharges into the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee, discharges which often in the past have lead to algae outbreaks polluting the St. Lucie River, and the Indian River Lagoon.

The Army Corps manages Lake Okeechobee and the subject of the briefing was the high water level which has risen above 16 feet following hurricanes Ian and Nicole

USACE Lt. Col. Todd Polk told the Coalition members that the Corps' goal has always been "to keep releases at a minimum, so that we don’t affect the ecological balance on the Lake, as well as that of the estuaries. We’re taking that into account now, unlike we did before.”

The lake level has risen 3 feet since early September, before Ian and before Nicole. But, barring another storm, Polk says it appears that the rising water level has now peaked. “Bottom line we’re starting to see that peak on the lake. And that’s important. That’s one of the biggest things we’ve been waiting to see. Avoiding the fears and concerns of us going over 16.5 or even higher. That was probably our biggest, number one concern as Nicole came in.”

Red tide is drifting north and is now at the mouth of Tampa Bay

High concentrations of the organism that causes red tide has been found in Southwest Florida since Hurricane Ian made landfall. Now, it's slowly moving north.

Red tide is drifting north along the Gulf coast from Southwest Florida and is now being found at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

Red tide, which has been found off the coast of Manatee and Sarasota counties, is inching north. Water samples taken this week by state environmental officials show very low concentrations of the organism that causes red tide was detected along the Sunshine Skyway and the northern tip of Anna Maria Island, where Tampa Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico.

Medium to high concentrations were found along every beach in southern Manatee and Sarasota counties. State officials had issued a health advisory warning last week for all beaches in Sarasota, warning people about respiratory irritation and dead fish.

This week, that warning was extended to beaches in Manatee County, including Bayfront Park, Coquina Beach South, Longboat Pass/Coquina Boat Ramp and the Rod and Reel Pier on Anna Maria Island.

High concentrations have been found south of Sarasota since Hurricane Ian struck in September.

People with respiratory problems should stay away from the water. Residents living along the beach should close their windows and run air conditioning.

Lee County Health Department issues additional red tide Health Alerts

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LEE COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued a Health Alert for the presence an additional red tide bloom. The red tide organism, Karenia brevis, has been observed at very low to high concentrations in Lee County. An alert level of Red Tide was found at Alison Hagerup Beach (Captiva). This is in response to water samples taken on November 17,2022.


LEE COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of 3 additional red tide blooms.

Alert levels of Red Tide were found at Lynn Hall Park (Fort Myers Beach), and New Pass (Lovers Key). A cautionary level of Red Tide was found at Bonita Beach Park.

This is in response to water samples taken on November 16, 2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Lee County Coastal Waters at this time.


Original Health Alert:

LEE COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of red tide blooms near Boca Grande Pass, Captiva Pass, Red Fish Pass, Buck Key near Blind Pass, and Little Bokeelia Island.

This is in response to water samples taken on November 14,2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Pine Island sound and South Charlotte Harbor.

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.

UPDATE: FWC extends derelict vessel waiver to Dec. 31st

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UPDATED INFORMATION: Following Hurricane Ian’s landfall, vessel owners were given a 45-day grace period to bring derelict vessels into compliance or remove them from state waters. The grace period ended on Nov. 15. The number of impacted vessels is significant and many residents are still assessing damages. Taking these factors into consideration, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has decided to extend the waiver acceptance deadline through the end of December.

Visit the link below for more details.


Original notice below:

Vessel owners have until 45 days after Ian crossed the state to get their vessels out of derelict condition. The end of the grace period is Nov. 15.

Owners are encouraged to hire a salvage company to recover their vessel to provide the safest method possible for the vessel and the environment. If they are unable to salvage their vessels, lack the resources to have their boat repaired or if their vessel is determined to be beyond repair, they may release ownership of their vessel.

Waivers are available for removal and destruction and owners will not be charged for any removal costs. This process can be initiated by contacting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) through the Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline at 850-488-5600 and requesting to turn over a derelict vessel. An FWC representative will then contact the owner to explain the waiver process and facilitate the potential turnover of ownership.

To date, the FWC has received approximately 50 waivers from affected boat owners in the Lee County area.

If a derelict vessel is not brought into compliance or removed from the water by Nov. 15, it will be treated as any other derelict vessel. At this time, the FWC will not be charging displaced vessel owners with a criminal violation of Florida law but the decision to hold vessel owners responsible for removal, destruction and disposal costs could be made at a future date.

FWC officers continue to work tirelessly with partner agencies to assess vessels displaced by Hurricane Ian. Over 3,000 vessels have been assessed and research teams are contacting owners and insurance companies to provide information, guidance and reunite vessel owners with their property.

We have water and land-based teams assessing vessels. If your vessel is missing or you have located a vessel on state waters displaced by the hurricane, please report it to our Hurricane Ian Vessel Hotline: 850-488-5600. For all other vessels, the Division of Emergency Management has established a hotline for vessel and property owners at 850-961-2002. for vessels on land.

Public safety remains the number one priority at the FWC. The FWC would like to remind the public that officers a

Fort Myers applies for FEMA funding to mitigate canal erosion

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The City of Fort Myers has applied to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program for funds to pay for canal armoring and soil stabilization to mitigate erosion along multiple canals.

The city proposes to use varying combinations of Concrete Cloth, HydroTurf, and Flexamat systems to harden vulnerable sections of drainage canals to protect against canal slope failure due to erosion and scour. It is intended to prevent the exposure of utilities and erosion to roadways and private properties. Adjacent utilities and infrastructure, as well as private property, shall be protected from damage and disruption. The project will not significantly change the cross-section of any of the canals. There are some areas where the canal bank has washed out that will be repaired back to the original bank as part of the project.

The following canals are being proposed for mitigation work:

  • Canal Street
  • Ford Street
  • Matthew Drive to Bowling Green Boulevard
  • Rogers Weir to McGregor Boulevard
  • Gallee Way to Central Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • Ballard Road to New York Avenue
  • New York Avenue to Lift Station-20
  • Ford Street to Henderson Avenue

For more information, please visit the link below.

Army Corps to begin Lake Okeechobee releases to Caloosahatchee on Nov. 19th

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November 18th, 2022

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Jacksonville District will resume releases from Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee Estuary from the W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam (S-79) at a fourteen-day average pulse release of 1,200 cubic feet per second beginning Saturday, Nov. 19. No lake releases are planned for the St. Lucie Estuary.

The target is right in the middle of the REstoration COordination & VERification (RECOVER) optimal flow envelope for the Caloosahatchee. Water from the lake will only be released in amounts needed to supplement local basin runoff to meet the target of 1,200 cfs, and the target is consistent with the recommendation from the South Florida Water Management District for this week.

"Lake Okeechobee has risen three feet in the past seven weeks due to Hurricanes Ian and Nicole,” said Col. James Booth, Jacksonville District commander. “We had paused our releases for Hurricane Nicole and have not made releases since the storm. Based on conditions in the lake, we must begin releases to help manage lake levels. We have worked together with our partners and stakeholders to understand how lake releases could affect conditions in the Caloosahatchee River Estuary at this time. We are making our decision looking ahead toward next wet season and are developing a seasonal strategy where we aim to manage lake levels by making beneficial releases to the extent possible. To curtail the high-volume releases that our plan calls for right now, we are going to utilize our make-up release tool which allows us to make releases at lower levels and bank the volume not released."

Make-up releases are a water management tool within the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule 2008 (LORS08) which allow water managers to bank releases not made in order to release them later when the schedule calls for lower releases. LORS08 Part D guidance currently recommends up to 4,000 cfs at S-77 and up to 1,800 cfs at S-80. The volumetric difference between actual releases and the guidance will be put into a water bank. As conditions in the estuaries recover and our schedule goes into dry season mode, releases will be continued using the available volume of banked water. Our intent is to release this volume at beneficial levels in the dry season. We are committed to transparency throughout the implementation of make-up releases.

With the lake over 16 feet, USACE has been executing inspections of the south side of the lake from Moore Haven to Belle Glade every two weeks, Once the lake reaches 16.5 feet, the frequency of inspections on the south side of the lake increase to weekly and the remainder of the dike begins receiving inspections every two weeks.

HHD was inspected thoroughly before and after Hurricanes Ian and Nicole, and no problems were identified.

Lake Okeechobee is 16.30 feet today. That is 0.16 feet higher than last week, 0.94 feet higher than 30 days ago, and 0.3 feet higher than it was on this day last year.

SCCF: Water quality deteriorating after Ian and Nicole

From the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation:

Conditions around Sanibel Island deteriorated quickly after the passing of Tropical Storm Nicole, with red tide blooming in high concentrations that have caused large swaths of fish kills on Sanibel beaches and substantial respiratory irritation to people breathing in the toxins. Red tide first began blooming after Hurricane Ian due to upwelling of nutrients from offshore and the substantial amounts of nutrient rich runoff from flooding and rainfall. Tropical Storm Nicole hit Florida just 43 days later and brought with it strong onshore winds that pushed the blooming red tide onshore.

In addition to red tide, which is caused by microscopic phytoplankton called Karenia brevis, TS Nicole also pushed copious amounts of red seaweed on shore. Red seaweed is not considered toxic, but it can be a nuisance when pushed onshore, where it degrades and reintroduces nutrients back into the water, which can exacerbate the red tide bloom. When dead fish decompose in seawater, they also release nutrients back into the water, and rapid bacterial decomposition can create low oxygen zones that perpetuate the red tide bloom and cause additional stressors for marine life.

These natural, although devasting, phenomena were caused by two sequential storms that caused upwelling followed by onshore winds, and they were worsened by nutrient rich runoff. Although nutrients from Lake Okeechobee water releases have been found to contribute to feeding red tide, lake releases during this period have been minimal, with most water coming from our watershed. No releases have been made from the lake since TS Nicole hit, and flows to S-79 have been in the 14-day average optimal flow envelope (750 – 2,100 cubic feet per second) for 21 days since our recovery of high flows during Hurricane Ian.

Lake Okeechobee levels are at their highest point this year (16.22 feet), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is now considering making releases from the lake to protect its ecology and so that levels are low enough when the wet season begins next summer.

SCCF has requested that the Army Corps keep releases to the Caloosahatchee Estuary within the lower end of the optimal flow envelope and consider other outlets from the lake for releases while the red tide bloom is raging off the coast adjacent to the mouth of the Caloosahatchee. This should help to minimize the nutrient loading

Polk County Health Dept. issues Health Alert for Lake Whistler-NE

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AUBURNDALE – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Whistler - NE. This is in response to a water sample taken on 11/03/2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Whistler - NE

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. Water, where there are algae blooms, is 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.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

Is it harmful?

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

For more information about blue-green algae and other harmful algal blooms (HABs), please visit the link below.

Red tide getting worse in Southwest Florida

Red tide lines Southwest Florida’s coast from south Lee County into Sarasota.

And the bloom appears to be growing.

Health officials in Charlotte County issued an alert for the presence of a red tide bloom near Whidden Key, east of Lemon Bay and Buccaneer Bend. The water sample was taken a week ago.

When Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani sees this, it reminds him of the last time a hurricane came through Southwest Florida. After Irma, a red tide bloom went up and down the coast for about two years.

“It looks a little bit like a repeat of what happened. After Irma, we had tremendous, tremendous amount of rainfall associated with a hurricane that put a lot of nutrients in the water, other pollutants, gas and oil and things,” Cassani said.

There aren’t any fishkills near the coastline yet, but photos show the Gulf is a color wheel of red, brown, green and blue.

“It looks pretty broadly distributed right now near shore,” Cassani said.

Cassani said it looks to be at the beginning of the bloom.

Then, Cassani said, comes the casualties in the fish and other sea life.

Red tide conditions return to Southwest Florida

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Current Conditions – Nov. 9th, 2022

The red tide organism, Karenia brevis, was detected in Southwest Florida. Over the past week, K. brevis was observed in 50 samples. Bloom concentrations (>100,000 cells/liter) were present in 15 samples: seven in Sarasota County and eight in and offshore of Charlotte County. Additional details are provided below.
  • In Southwest Florida over the past week, K. brevis was observed at background to low concentrations offshore of Hillsborough County, background concentrations in Manatee County, background to high concentrations in and offshore of Sarasota County, very low to high concentrations in and offshore of Charlotte County, very low and low concentrations in Lee County, and low concentrations offshore of Collier County.
  • Reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received over the past week in Southwest Florida in Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee counties. For more details, please visit: https://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/health/fish-kills-hotline/.
  • Respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide was reported over the past week in Southwest Florida in Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee counties. Additional details are provided in the Southwest Coast report. For recent and current information at individual beaches, please visit https://visitbeaches.org/ and for forecasts that use FWC and partner data, please visit https://habforecast.gcoos.org/.
Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides for Pinellas County to northern Monroe County predict net western movement of surface waters and net southeastern transport of subsurface waters in most areas over the next 3.5 days.

Due to the upcoming holiday, the next complete status report will be issued on Thursday, November 10th. Please check our daily sampling map, which can be accessed via the online status report on our Red Tide Current Status page. For more information on algal blooms and water quality, please visit Protecting Florida Together.

This information, including maps and reports with additional details, is also available on the FWRI Red Tide website. The website also provides links to additional information related to the topic of Florida red tide including satellite imagery, experimental red tide forecasts, shellfish harvesting areas, the FWC Fish Kill Hotline, the Florida Poison Information Center (to report human health effects related to exposure to red tide), and other wildlife related hotlines.

To learn more about various organisms that have been known to cause algal blooms in Florida waters, see the FWRI Red Tide Flickr page. Archived status maps can also be found on Flickr.

The FWRI HAB group in conjunction with Mote Marine Laboratory now have a Facebook page. Please like our page and learn interesting facts concerning red tide and other harmful algal blooms in Florida.

Coastal safety after Hurricane Ian: Q&A with Florida Sea Grant experts

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES

Hurricane Ian’s impact on Florida’s coast lingers, even weeks after the storm’s passing, leaving questions about derelict vessels, water quality and more. Florida Sea Grant UF/IFAS Extension agents and other experts answer commonly asked questions about coastal safety after the hurricane.

Panelists include the following Extension faculty and specialists:

  • Scott Jackson, Bay County agent
  • David Outerbridge, Lee County Extension director
  • Andrew Ropicki, marine resource economics specialist
  • Kate Rose, Charlotte County agent
  • Michael Sipos, Collier County agent

The panelists answered these questions:

  • Is it safe to go in the water in Lee, Collier and Charlotte counties?
  • Where can I report a displaced vessel at sea?
  • What can boaters do to help?
  • With the commercial fishing industry hurt, what needs to be done to keep it thriving?
  • Ian flooded our waterways with debris, silt and nutrients. How concerned should we be with red tide?
  • With the underwater topography changed after Ian, what will it take to make it safe for marine activities?
  • Where can small business owners go to find disaster relief assistance?
  • Any other information to share?

Visit the link below to see their answers.

Researchers watching for potential algae surges as part of Hurricane Ian aftermath

Levels of blue-green algae surged after Hurricane Irma, causing massive mats and major fish kills months after the storm.

Could this happen again next spring? That, according to Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) ecology and environmental studies professor Barry Rosen, depends on several factors. Blue-green algae competes with aquatic plants for nutrients. If those plant populations were devastated by Ian, that would give the algae more room to grow.

“It’s possible that there’s been a die-off of those plants,” Rosen said, “and this spring when the blue-green algae start populating the river and they can come from the lake, both. What if the competition is gone?”

The algae also needs light to thrive. Right now, the water is still clouded with pollutants and runoff. and light levels are not ideal for a major algal bloom. The cloudiness of the water will change in the next few months, but will it be enough to cause major blooms?

“It’s usually March that you could start to see them,” Rosen says. “So, will it be a bad year? Hard to say.”

“I don’t know if we should expect it,” FGCU Water School professor Mike Parsons said, “but there’s enough evidence that we should definitely look into it and study it.”

Lee Commissioners approve Conservation 20/20 purchases in Bokeelia, North Ft. Myers

Lee logo

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to pursue the purchase of two parcels through the Conservation 20/20 program; both properties are adjacent to already preserved land.

The parcels are:

  • 1.99 acres located at 5031 Pine Island Road N.W., Bokeelia. This land is near the county-owned Buttonwood Preserve in Bokeelia.
  • 0.23 acres located within an existing Conservation 20/20 preserve boundary known as the Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve.

The Conservation Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (CLASAC) unanimously recommended approval of both parcels.

The Lee County Conservation 20/20 program acquires land from willing sellers for resource-based recreational opportunities such as hiking, birdwatching, nature study, photography and paddle craft launches.

The program for environmentally sensitive land acquisition and management has preserved more than 30,000 acres since its inception.

In addition to recreation, conservation lands help the county to protect drinking water, enhance water quality, protect areas from flooding and provide wildlife habitat.

For more information, visit www.Conservation2020.org.

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