Water-Related News

San Carlos Park residents in Lee County should prepare for flood mitigation project

Lee County Natural Resources and the Department of Transportation remind San Carlos Park residents of flood mitigation project

FORT MYERS – Lee County Natural Resources and the Lee County Department of

Transportation are reminding San Carlos Park residents of the ongoing flood mitigation project. The work will directly benefit more than 2,000 residences in the area and will ultimately improve storm water drainage through the East Mulloch watershed to benefit the entire community.

Crews have begun working in the canals and in the road right-of-way in the area. Work near each individual property is expected to take less than a week once it commences. The full scope of the project is ongoing and will take about two years to complete.

San Carlos Park was particularly hard hit by flooding in 2017 when heavy rains in August were followed by Hurricane Irma in September. The need for flood mitigation measures led the Board of County Commissioners to pursue a community development grant in 2019 that would assist with the cost of these efforts.

In June 2020, the Board accepted a $7.1 million Community Development Block Grant from the State of Florida for repairs to the drainage infrastructure and sidewalks. The Board awarded contracts for the work in August 2021.

Residents are reminded that obstructions in the easements, both along and in canals and along roadside swales, will need to be removed prior to the work. Crews will place stakes indicating the work areas about one to two weeks prior to work beginning in a certain area, but property owners are encouraged to clear any obstructions they wish to keep as soon as possible.

Items that need to be removed include, but are not limited, to:

  • Fences
  • Hedges
  • Sheds
  • Ornamental plants
  • Fruit trees
  • Pet burial sites
  • Self-installed irrigation pumps
  • Bridges
  • Docks

Once the work is complete, the easements will need to remain free of obstruction so that the drainage system may be maintained to help protect property from flooding.

The county mailed a letter to affected property owners about the project work and what needs to be removed. In advance of work in a specific area, crews will use door hangers to alert residents.

For updates, additional information and a searchable map of the work area, visit www.leegov.com/flooding/sancarlos. Residents may also call 533-9400 or email flooding@leegov.com with any questions.

Florida resiliency plan scrutinized for failure to address prevention, aid smaller communities

'We're spending a whole lot of money here on projects in a reactive way.'

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection presented its first Resilient Florida plan Tuesday evening — but not without some criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The plan, presented to the Environment, Agriculture and Flooding Subcommittee, provided a preliminary outline for the Resilient Florida Grant Program — the state’s new annual $100 million commitment to tackle issues around sea level rise and mitigation efforts. The program was established under SB 1954, a 2021 legislative priority of House Speaker Chris Sprowls that was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis last summer.

Adam Blalock, the DEP Deputy Secretary for Ecosystems Restoration, presented the proposal to the committee. He outlined how the department selected the projects it put forth in the grant list, starting with local governments submitting project grant requests via the DEP’s Resilient Florida online portal, which opened July 1. Submissions closed Sept. 1.

The department received 384 project requests through the portal, totaling nearly $2.25 billion, Blalock said. After evaluating the projects for eligibility — the proposals could not be used for recreational structures like piers or for aesthetics — 275 projects were left, totaling $1.77 billion.

Environmental groups wary of Florida Senate’s ‘Heartland’ plan

Critics contend the money could be broadly used under the bill, going beyond the intent of a 2014 voter-approved constitutional amendment.

TALLAHASSEE – Florida lawmakers could further carve up the use of voter-approved conservation money, after a Leon County circuit judge this month rejected a challenge by environmental groups to how money has been spent.

The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday approved a measure (Senate Bill 1400) that would provide $20 million a year to help protect the headwaters of several waterways in Central Florida.

The bill would help carry out a 2017 law known as the Heartland Headwaters Protection and Sustainability Act, which was designed to protect the headwaters of the Alafia, Hillsborough, Kissimmee, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee rivers in the Green Swamp and Polk County. The bill points, at least in part, to concerns about future water supplies in the region.

Lee Board of County Commissioners votes to accept grant to construct artificial reef

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday to accept a $120,000 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the construction of an artificial reef.

The Federal Aid in Sportfish Restoration grant allocates the funds for at least 1,000 tons of clean, repurposed concrete to be placed within the Chris Koepfer’s ARC reef site. The reef site is located about 15 miles off the coast of Lee County and will create habitat for marine life and be an additional destination for anglers and scuba divers.

The project is expected to be completed by September.

Lee County has had an active artificial reef program since the early 1990s. Grants from federal, state, and private sources help create a range of recreational opportunities from inshore to the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico. Chris Koepfer’s ARC Reef Site is named in memory of the pioneer of Lee County’s artificial reef program. For a video on Lee County artificial reefs, visit Lee County's YouTube Channel.

Venice names new Public Works Director

The City of Venice has selected Charlie Mopps as its new Director of Public Works and Asset Management.

Charlie comes to Venice from the Town of Longboat Key, where he served as Projects Manager for 2 ½ years. Retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Military Police from the U.S. Army, Charlie has also held the posts of Coastal Projects Manager for Charlotte County, Senior Projects Manager for Atkins Engineering, and a Police Officer for the City of North Port.

Originally from New England, Charlie and his family have lived in the area for the past 20 years.

“I love the history and small-town feel of Venice,” Charlie said. “My son Gabe graduated from Venice High School, my daughter Elizabeth is a sophomore on the volleyball, weightlifting and track teams (Go Indians!) and my wife Kara has been an English teacher at Venice High for most of her working life. We love this community.”

“I have been a civil servant for most of my life and enjoy serving the public,” he continued. “During my time in the private sector, I did not experience the occupational fulfillment that I had come to know in the public sector, so I quickly returned to it.”

In his role as Venice Public Works Director, Charlie said his hope is to “bring all my senior leadership skills and years of experience serving great communities to this great opportunity.”

Charlie starts with the City on Jan. 18. He replaces former Public Works Director James Clinch, who was promoted to Assistant City Manager in October 2021.

“We are so excited to bring on board Charlie Mopps as our new Director of Public Works. This position has an extremely challenging set of duties, between Parks, Maintenance, Solid Waste, Fleet and Historical Resources,” James said. “Not only does Charlie bring a wealth of public and private sector knowledge, he is already invested in the Venice community on many levels.”

This legislative session, lawmakers to take up water quality, land conservation and seagrass

Florida lawmakers convene Tuesday in Tallahassee for the start of the legislative session.

WMFE environmental reporter Amy Green talked with Pam West of 1000 Friends of Florida about environmental priorities, like whether there is a measure to address an unprecedented manatee die-off.

WEST: No. In fact, there is a bill that proposes to do the exact opposite, and you would never know it by its title. It’s the Seagrass Mitigation Bank bill.

It’s the one bill that we’re looking at this legislative session that could do more to harm the beloved manatee than any other bill out there. Because what it proposes is to take existing, viable healthy seagrass beds and destroy them and try to mitigate for that loss sometime later down the road.

GREEN: The measure authorizes seagrass mitigation banks to offset losses. Pam West, what should lawmakers be doing?

WEST: One of the easiest things that could have happened this legislative session — they tried to make it happen last legislative session — was the implementation of the recommendations from Gov. DeSantis’ own Blue Green Algae Taskforce.

They worked around the state with all these workshops. Hundreds of hours by experts and citizen input. Had some robust recommendations, and yet not one of these recommendations have so far been implemented and codified into law. And we are now unfortunately seeing the consequences of not taking action on Florida’s impaired waters.

Bonita Springs receives $16M stormwater grant from state

The State of Florida has awarded a $16,833,197 Community Development Block Mitigation grant that will be used toward the continuation of the Terry Street Stormwater and Multi-Use Pathway Improvement Project.

The project which began last year incorporates stormwater upgrades, bike path expansions, multi-use paths and landscaping improvement on Terry Street from U.S Tamiami Trail to Bonita Grande Drive.

The City completed construction of the first 1.2 miles along West Terry Street in early 2021, and has allocated funds to construct another one-quarter mile portion of the project.

SWFWMD plans prescribed fires in DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties

Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s wildfire emergency in 2017.

That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns January through March in the following locations

  • DeSoto County - Deep Creek Preserve
    Located at 10797 Peace River Street in Arcadia, east of State Road 769. Approximately 350 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.
     
  • Manatee County - Gilley Creek
    Located between State Road 62 and 64, east of County Road 675. Approximately 500 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.
     
  • Sarasota County - Myakka River - Deer Prairie Creek Preserve and Myakka River - Schewe Tract
    Located west of North Port, east of the Myakka River, and north and south of Interstate 75. Approximately 450 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants.
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat.
  • Maintaining access for public recreation.

The District conducts prescribed fires on approximately 30,000 acres each year.

Click here to see aerial footage from a prescribed fire in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve where District land management staff burned 320 acres.

FGCU using its campus to study floodwaters and how to protect against them

Southwest Florida sees its fair share of flooding, whether it is during a hurricane or just a regular summer storm, but those rising waters also tell a story.

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) uses its own campus as a science experiment to benefit our area and learn more about what those floodwaters can teach us.

FGCU students and professors measure the water that flows into ponds to protect the Southwest Florida community better.

Dr. Don Duke, an environmental studies professor at The Water School at FGCU, said, “the work that we’re doing is, on the surface of it, really simple. We’re just watching to see how the ponds rise and fall over time.”

FGCU environmental science graduate student, Madison Mullen, said, “you can comment if it looks like it’s about to rain or if it’s super sunny or anything like that.”

They also collect data from sensors. What they find tells them how these ponds respond after big storms, and where that water goes.

“Primarily, what we’re doing is proving that these ponds don’t do flood control,” said Duke.

Central Florida ‘Resiliency Summit’ planned for Jan. 31st.

The CFRPC serves DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and Polk Counties

The public is invited to a virtual summit being planned by the Central Florida Regional Planning Council and Heartland 2060 partners to discuss resiliency in the Heartland Region.

The webinar will be held on Mon, Jan 31st, 2022, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. EST

Weather and other natural events and manmade events have increased stressors to the region's economy, security, health, environment, and built infrastructure. Building on the regional approach of the Heartland 2060 vision, there are opportunities to support ongoing local efforts to prepare for and recover from these unexpected events such as extreme weather. Working together, the community can create a more resilient Region.

This summit will discuss a collaborative approach that will position the Region, jurisdictions, and agencies to better plan for resilience, meet new and changing state and federal regulations and guidelines, and enable greater access to resources for projects.

A Virtual Event

RSVP to Save Your Spot Now

Landscape irrigation now limited to once per week in Fort Myers

FORT MYERS – The City of Fort Myers experienced an unprecedented population growth during this past year, which drastically increased water demands citywide. As a precautionary water conservation measure, the City is limiting irrigation to once per week for both residents and businesses that reside within the City of Fort Myers geographic boundaries and purchase water from the City of Fort Myers Utilities Department.

The one-day-per week watering restriction is applicable to irrigation systems utilizing potable water and limitations are as follows:

  • Property addresses ending in an odd number (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) may water on Wednesdays;
  • Property addresses ending in an even number (0, 2, 4, 6, 8) may water on Sundays;
  • All landscape irrigation is prohibited between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM to reduce evaporation;
  • Irrigation is also restricted for recreational, golf courses, agriculture, and nursery use.

As a courtesy, the City provided leniency until January 7, 2022. Thereafter, those in violation will receive a fine. City officials will continue to monitor water conditions and notify citizens as soon as restrictions are lifted.

For more about the irrigation restrictions, please contact the City of Fort Myers Utility Billing Customer Service at 239-321-8100.

Volunteers needed for Benedict Key habitat restoration project

Coastal Watch is seeking volunteers interested in assisting with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation's Benedict Key restoration project in Pine Island Sound.

In 2004, Hurricane Charley devastated the key, and the south side remains bare.

Volunteers will be transported via the R/V Norma Campbell and will be planting mangrove seedlings and laying fossil shells to promote oyster reef growth.

January restoration trips run 9am-1pm:

  • Tuesday, January 11
  • Friday, January 14
  • Wednesday, January 26
  • Friday, January 28

To sign up, email SCCF Community Conservation Coordinator Kealy McNeal at kmcneal@sccf.org.

Cape Coral plans to install 10 “bubble curtains” to fight blue-green algae in canals

A water crisis took over Cape Coral canals in 2018, spawning blue-green algae.

Since then, Cape Coral has tested bubble curtains.

Now, it is ready to deploy the curtains in 10 different canals.

“We’ve been permitting with the Army Corps of Engineers for some time now. You know, it is taking a little bit longer than the city would like the process to take,” said Michael Ilczyzyn, public works director for the City of Cape Coral.

Ilczyzyn said each bubble curtain will cost $75,000.

City council has to come up with $750,000 ix taxpayer dollars to hopefully keep the canals clean.

“Anybody that’s part of the stormwater program basically pays an annual assessment to the city and those funds are being utilized for this preventative technology,” Ilczyzyn said.

Study being conducted of nutrients in stormwater runoff

Cleaning our water through stormwater treatment areas and wetlands plays a crucial role in Everglades protection and restoration. Even the tiniest organism can play a huge role in cutting down on nutrients, like phosphorous, in our stormwater runoff.

Before water reaches the Everglades, it has to be cleaned. Barry Rosen is a professor at the Water School at Florida Gulf Coast University. “We don’t want to move water around that isn’t meeting water quality standards,” said Rosen.

One way to filter that water is through stormwater treatment areas or STAs in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee. Think of these STAs as mini man-made wetlands. “Those stormwater treatment areas are supposed to bring phosphorus concentrations down before that water is released into the Everglades,” Rosen said.

But what happens if those areas don’t clean as well as they could? “How do we get these stormwater treatment areas to be more efficient, pulling more phosphorus out before it ever is released?” Rosen said.

Charlotte County schedules public meetings on water quality monitoring

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – Charlotte County has scheduled three public input meetings concerning the county’s draft water quality monitoring strategy to be implemented in Spring 2022. Each meeting will provide an overview of the monitoring priorities throughout the county, with additional details on specific regions of focus:

  • 6-8 p.m., Jan. 19, 2022 at the Charlotte Harbor Event Center.
  • 5:30-7:30 p.m., Jan. 20, 2022 at Ann and Chuck Dever Regional Park Recreation Center
  • 6-8 p.m., Jan. 26, 2022, at the Charlotte Harbor Event Center

No pre-registration is required, but seating is limited. For information regarding the draft water quality monitoring strategy, visit www.charlottecountyfl.gov/waterqualitygis.

For information about the meetings, contact Brandon.Moody@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.

Sarasota County awarded EPA loan for water quality improvements

SARASOTA COUNTY – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded Sarasota County a Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan, which will be used to help finance upgrades to the Bee Ridge Water Reclamation Facility (BRWRF).

The approximately $105 million WIFIA loan will fund about half of the enhancements to the BRWRF including conversion to Advanced Wastewater Treatment (AWT) process and expansion of daily treatment capacities.

The upgrade ensures that the nutrients in the reclaimed water will meet AWT requirements by December 2025. The facility is also being expanded to increase treatment capacity from 12 million gallons per day to 18 million gallons per day.

County commissioners approved the upgrades in June 2019. Additional improvements to the BRWRF include the addition of two-aquifer recharge wells for effluent disposal during wet weather.

Due to the county's financial stability the interest rate on the loan is a low 1.84 percent and will save nearly $10 million from the original projection. In addition, Sarasota County was one of only 55 communities nationwide selected to receive these funds.

“This loan will help to improve and protect our water quality, and save our citizens money,” said Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners’ Chairman Alan Maio. “This continues to be a priority for our board, and the EPA’s support is a testament to our ongoing commitment to fiscal and environmental responsibility."

Public Utilities Department Director Mike Mylett, whose team will also start the process of converting the Venice Gardens Water Reclamation Facility to AWT soon, said the loan is a welcome support of projects that are vital to the community and environment.

“This is a huge win for water quality in our community,” he added.

For information about utilities, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at (941) 861-5000 or by visit scgov.net.

SFWMD seeking public input on draft sea level rise and flood resiliency plan

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), as part of its ongoing efforts to address the impacts of rising sea levels, extreme weather events and changing rainfall and flood patterns, is encouraging stakeholders and the public to provide comments on the draft District Sea Level Rise and Flood Resiliency Plan.

The comments will be evaluated as part of the development of the 2022 Sea Level Rise and Flood Resiliency Plan. The deadline to submit comments is Friday, January 14, 2022. All comments must be emailed to resiliency@sfwmd.gov.

SFWMD continues to be a leader in resiliency efforts and routinely works with stakeholders, local governments and experts to develop strategies and project plans to ensure the District's infrastructure can respond to the changing conditions like increased sea level rise and rainfall.

In 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1954, which established the Resilient Florida Program within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). SFWMD's Sea Level Rise and Flood Resiliency Plan will be updated and submitted to FDEP each year. This is the first-ever SFWMD initiative to create a comprehensive list of priority resiliency projects to help address the impacts of flooding and sea level rise throughout South Florida.

Living shoreline structure completed on Woodring Road for mangrove restoration

Mangrove wetland habitats lining Southwest Florida’s coastlines are highly effective in diminishing wave action and damage from high winds. They also trap pollutants and provide crucial habitat for a host of sea life, including the endangered smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata). When biologists notice areas of mangrove-covered shorelines disappearing from erosion, it is a cause for serious concern. Nearly 18 months ago, a Dutch marine biologist contacted SCCF about designing, funding, and installing a pilot project on Sanibel to protect mangroves threatened by erosion. This project, completely funded by the Dutch government, will provide an alternative to concrete and riprap, which often lead to additional mangrove loss.

The Netherlands-based company, BESE Products, uses a biodegradable habitat restoration structure made from the production waste of potato chips and french fries. The waste is collected in the Netherlands and sent to Germany, where it is manufactured into a 3D lattice that helps deposit sediment and can protect mangrove seedlings along high-energy shorelines, such as those along Woodring Road. The goal of this project is to protect the mangroves along Woodring Road, a stretch of Sanibel’s shoreline that has been gradually disappearing over the past few decades.

SCCF Coastal Watch volunteers spent several hours helping prepare these elements for installation. Hundreds of biodegradable sheets needed to be snapped together to form the completed structures. Volunteers also attached thousands of oysters shells to the structures to promote oyster attachment and growth. Volunteers handily completed this tedious task.

On installation day, Dec. 20, the BESE structures were placed with rebar just off the shoreline along Woodring Road. With the assistance of 15 volunteers planting mangroves, hammering rebar, and transporting the material to the project site, the installation was completed in two hours. The newly installed temporary structures will allow a surface for oysters to start forming a reef and protect the mangroves from high wave action. The BESE structures are expected to last up to five years and leave behind an established oyster and mangrove habitat. If successful, this will be a positive alternative for future restoration projects.

Florida scientists are finding new income sources for shellfish aquafarmers in case of shutdowns

While a $100,000 grant is funding researchers to help Florida's shellfish aquaculture industry after the pandemic, it could also potentially give a financial boost through periods of toxic red tide blooms.

A new research project is expected to help Florida's shellfish aquaculture industry, which has taken a hit due to COVID-19 and algae blooms. The data collected will be the first of its kind in this state.

There are 720 shellfish leases spread across 16 coastal Florida counties, which were all affected when the eateries they sold to were closed during the pandemic lockdown. They were also hit by red tide recently.

Angela Collins, a Florida Sea Grant agent based in Manatee County, said when algae blooms are present, the clams and oysters are not impacted, although, production gets shut down. The bivalves actually help to filter the water during these events, but businesses take a hit when the shellfish are not harvested.

"They do keep growing, and they can actually grow outside of marketable size. Then when the lease opens back up and the farmer is able to harvest the product, it's grown larger than the market size really is economically feasible for them," said Collins.

Now, thanks to a $100,000 grant from The Nature Conservancy, the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is partnering with Florida Sea Grant to find new revenue streams. One of them is called a nutrient credit trading program.

"That would be a way for the shellfish growers to get paid then for these ecosystem benefits that their shellfish provide, particularly in their ability to remove nitrogen,” said Ashley Smyth, with UF.

Scientists will find out how much nitrogen is being removed by Florida's shellfish aquaculture industry, according to Smyth. The only numbers available are out of Virginia, North Carolina and New England. Then they can calculate how much farmers should be paid for that service.

They'll also conduct a survey of growers around the state, and sample water at four farms along the Gulf Coast.

The project is expected to start in January and last two years.

In the meantime, Angela Collins said people need to buy and eat more local seafood.

"This is a big deal in the state of Florida because we do have so much coastal development and a lot of our seafood producers really do depend on viable working waterfront spaces to bring their products in and out. So, supporting the existence of these working waterfronts is really important," she said.