Water-Related News

Living shorelines: Natural defense to storms

TALLAHASSEE – Back in September, as Hurricane Sally battered Florida's panhandle with a deluge of rain and high winds, some locals said their living shorelines were their best defense against the area's storm surge.

Instead of a hardened seawall aimed at protecting shores from erosion, living shorelines use vegetation and other natural elements like oyster shells to stabilize estuarine coasts, bays, and tributaries.

Josh Poole built a living shoreline around his property in Gulf Breeze to stop erosion from his beach.

Despite seeing Hurricane Sally's waves break as high as 17 feet over his boathouse, he said his shoreline stayed strong.

"I literally thought that the beach would be gone," Poole maintained. "I thought that the rocks would be gone, I thought the oyster shells would all be just washed away. And I was absolutely amazed to find that a few of the late boulders on top had been moved around maybe a few feet, I mean, literally 18 inches."

Hurricane Sally was expected to strike Alabama and Mississippi. Instead, it made a slow crawl over land in Florida's Panhandle with 105-mile-per-hour winds, ripping roofs, snapping trees, and leaving thousands without power.

Poole hopes other homeowners will consider living shorelines as a means of erosion protection.

Coral reef restoration and other resilience projects win national funding

Florida has netted nearly $13 million in public-private grants from the National Coastal Resilience Fund for projects to restore or expand natural systems needed to protect coastlines from climate-induced sea-level rise and severe weather.

Florida’s projects include nearly $5 million granted to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to rescue dying Florida coral reefs in the Florida Keys, as announced this week by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The funds will be matched by other sources, for a total of $10.3 million to plant elkhorn and staghorn corals at Eastern Dry Rocks, one of seven focus sites of NOAA’s “Mission: Iconic Reefs.” Various corals on the Great Florida Reef are dying off at alarming speed due to disease and pollution, according to marine scientists.

Lee Commissioners approve agreement with Bonita Springs for water management

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday approved an interlocal agreement for Lee County Natural Resources to provide surface water management services for the City of Bonita Springs.

Partnerships with municipalities and agencies are essential to the Lee Board of County Commissioners commitment to coordinated water quality projects throughout the county.

Typical services provided by Lee County to Bonita Springs include:

  • Response to flooding complaints
  • Assistance with water quality issues
  • Regional development review
  • Assistance with the City’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) State permit
  • Regional water studies

The five-year agreement with the City of Bonita Springs does not include the cost of any capital projects or maintenance of their existing storm water system. The city will pay the county $100,332 annually.

For more information on Lee County Natural Resources’ efforts to protect and improve water quality, visit www.leegov.com/naturalresources/WaterQuality.

For more information on Lee County’s flood mitigation efforts, visit www.leegov.com/flooding.

Cape Coral grapples with fertilizer rules to prevent water pollution

Cape Coral city council members walked gingerly around the tradeoff between lush green lawns and restrictions on nutrient-rich lawn care products as they grappled with potential changes to the city's fertilizer ordinance.

Ugly algae blooms in city canals has raised political and public consciousness of fertilizer pollution.

Council members held a workshop session last week on whether stricter regulation, including extending the current June to September ban on use of phosphorus and nitrogen as fertilizer, is needed.

Proposals would include banning the use of phosphorus and increasing a no-chemical zone near canals from 10 feet to 15 feet.

SWFWMD to hold virtual public workshop to update land use and management rules and processes

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold a virtual public workshop at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1, to discuss updates to the District’s land use and management rules and processes.

The purpose of this workshop is to update outdated rules and processes governing the use of District lands to create efficiencies. One of the major changes includes an annual limit on the number of nights campers can reserve per year, which will provide more fair opportunities for all users. Updating these rules and processes will also create greater consistency with other water management districts.

Members of the public may join the workshop via Microsoft Teams through this link: https://bit.ly/3eAg6ML. The Google Chrome browser is recommended for best compatibility with Microsoft Teams. For telephone-only participation, dial 1-888-585-9008 and when prompted enter the conference code ID: 346-054-201.

The updated land use rules are posted on the District’s website and the District will be accepting public comment from Nov. 24 to Dec. 7 at WaterMatters.org/LandUseRules.

LA-MSID picks up stormwater project award

The Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District was recently honored with the Florida Stormwater Association’s (FSA) Program of the Year award.

FSA presents the Excellence Award each year to public sector member organizations who have demonstrated a high level of distinction in stormwater programs and/or projects.

Award nominations categories include:

  • Program Excellence – Sustained demonstration of excellence in a stormwater department or division.
  • Project Excellence – Successful implementation or outstanding innovations by a public entity in areas including stormwater management projects, permit compliance, intergovernmental coordination, water quality improvement and public education.

“We were honored to receive the Florida Storm Water Association’s Program of the Year. Given the COVID-19 shut-downs, at the time, we were presented with the award via a Zoom ceremony,” LA-MSID District Manager David Lindsay said.

LA-MSID continues to grow its stormwater project portfolio with the continuation of its West Marsh project – now in phase III. Once finished, the preserve will add another 200 acres to Harns Marsh.

“We are currently in phase III of the West Marsh, a $3-million project, which includes the building of concrete structures and weirs, which should be finished before Christmas. Once complete, they will begin planting native trees, plants and foliage, which includes 10,000 trees and 130,000 water plants,” Lindsay said. “This week we are also getting ready to set the walk bridge across the Orange River. This will provide an unobstructed walk through the North, South and West Marsh.”

LAMSID is also working with Lee County to design the GS-10 project in Lehigh Acres.

Computer models seek the best plan for Lake O management

JACKSONVILLE — What’s the best plan for outflows from Lake Okeechobee, to the east, west and south? How low should the lake go before the start of the dry season? How high should it rise in the wet season?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District are working on a new plan to manage the lake, which will go into effect when repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike are complete in 2022.

At the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) Project Delivery Team online meeting on Nov. 20, corps officials reviewed the project objectives and the results of 120,000 computer model runs.

“We have completed development of conceptual plans,” explained Lisa Aley of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We have the model results of 120,000 runs. We are sifting through the plans for each project objective.

“We want to make sure we aren’t too conservative up front and leave any benefits on the table,” she added.

Over $500M in utility improvements are coming to Sarasota County

SARASOTA COUNTY – In the next five years, Sarasota County is slated to spend more than $500 million to update its aging water and utility infrastructure system.

The county is also growing, as is the cost of maintaining its water, wastewater and reclaimed water system that’s spread out over 25 miles from University Parkway down to North Port.

At the same time, Sarasota County commissioners will be faced with several major policy hurdles in the not so distant future, including converting unregulated private underground pipes and maintenance structure, such as those found in mobile home parks, to the county’s wastewater collection system.

Sarasota also buys a large percentage of its water from Manatee County and that purchase agreement ends five years from now. Efforts to extend the agreement have proven unsuccessful.

Blue-Green Algae Task Force questions Army Corps plan for predicting HABs

The Army Corps of Engineers asked the Florida Blue-Green Algae Task Force on Thursday for a "thumbs up" on a plan to operate Lake Okeechobee in a way to reduce the threat of harmful blue-green algae blooms.

They didn't get it.

The Corps is developing a new set of guidelines known as the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual, or LOSOM, to determine, among other things, if, when and how much lake water will be discharged east to the St. Lucie River and west to the Caloosahatchee River.

The Corps plans to have a recommendation for new guidelines in July and, after further review, have them become effective in 2022, replacing the Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, aka LORS.

The No. 1 objective of LOSOM is to "manage the risk to public health and safety," Col. Andrew Kelly, Corps commander for Florida, told the task force Thursday in a Zoom meeting.

Lake Okeechobee water releases will continue to come to Southwest Florida

The water releases from Lake Okeechobee will continue heading west down the Caloosahatchee River to Southwest Florida. That’s according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Thursday (Nov. 19th).

That puts our beaches and canals at risk for murky water or algae.

The Corps says it committed to stopping releases as soon as possible when they started last month, but, because of November’s rain, it’s a long road ahead to end them.

Tea-colored water continues to lap against the shore of the Sanibel Causeway. Another sign of both the Lake Okeechobee releases and local runoff we’ve had for weeks.

Colonel Andrew Kelly is the District Commander with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District. He said, “When we initiated releases, we were absolutely committed to stopping the releases as soon as possible.”

But now the lake is at 16.34 (Feet-NGVD29), meaning the Corps has no choice but to release water to the estuaries.

Bonita Springs awards contract for Logan Boulevard Regional Floodway drainage project

The City Council of Bonita Springs has approved city staff’s recommendation to award Singhofen & Associates Inc RFQ 20-04 and proceed with the development of a hydrologic study and construction plans for the Logan Boulevard Regional Floodway Drainage Project. A Request for Qualifications posted on March 11, 2020, for the design of the study and construction plans. The City received seven 7 proposals on June 2, 2020.

The Selection Committee met on July 13, 2020 and evaluated the submitted proposals and on July 29, 2020, and recommended Singhofen & Associates as the top-ranked firm.

The City proposes to improve the drainage in the subdivisions of Worthington, Palmira Golf Club and Village Walk in Bonita Springs and the Imperial Watershed at large. The project limits are located on the eastern boundary of Radio Tower Boulevard, continuing under Bonita Beach Road and along the eastern boundary of Logan Boulevard within the existing conveyance. The professional services scope will consist of, but not limited to, surveying, engineering, drainage study, design, plans preparation, permitting and bidding for the proposed project. No construction activities are included in this request. The proposed plans will implement measures to improve the drainage in the subdivisions of Worthington, Palmira Golf Club and Village Walk of Bonita Springs and the Imperial Watershed at large. Analysis and construction plans shall consist of improving the existing stormwater system by installing pipes, control structures and open ditches.

Punta Gorda Harborwalk fishing pier closed indefinitely

Beginning Thursday, November 19, 2020, until further notice, the fishing pier on the Harborwalk near Adrienne Street will be closed for repairs.

For additional information on this project please contact City of Punta Gorda Public Works Department at (941) 575-5050 between the business hours of 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday thru Friday.

Sanibel, Captiva experiencing erosion after Eta

According to the Captiva Erosion Prevention District, tide pools are occurring on the northern end of Captiva. Escarpments ranging from two to six feet were formed throughout about 75% of the island. Numerous dune barriers were also broken as a result of the storm.

Sanibel City leaders said their beaches fared better than Captiva’s in the erosion department following Eta, although isolated erosion was spotted on some public beaches.

The city built three coastal resiliency projects along Sanibel’s coastlines over the past five years — city leaders said the structures did their job when the storm rolled in.

Boca Grande Fishing pier closed

CHARLOTTE COUNTY – The Boca Grande Fishing Pier at 5810 Gasparilla Road on Gasparilla Island is closed until further notice for repairs due to damage from Tropical Storm Eta.

For information, contact Michelle Long at 941-639-5828 or Michelle.Long@CharlotteCountyFL.gov.

Lee County approves purchase of three parcels for Conservation 20/20

Lee Commissioners approve the purchase of three parcels for Conservation 20/20

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners have voted to approve the purchase of three properties totaling more than 365 acres for the Conservation 20/20 program.

Two of the properties are near Alva and the third is near the Yucca Pens Preserve near Cape Coral. The properties are:

  • About 179 acres located on the north side of North River Road, about a quarter-mile west and north of Fichters Creek Lane, in Alva. The property is adjacent to the south boundary of the other Alva-area parcel approved Tuesday. The land includes natural wetlands, pasture and cypress. The purchase price is $1,225,000, plus costs to close estimated at $20,000.
  • About 98 acres for the Conservation 20/20 Land Acquisition Program, about three-quarters of a mile north of the intersection of North River Road and Fichters Creek Lane, in Alva. The parcel’s northern and eastern boundaries are adjacent to the Bob Janes Preserve, an existing Conservation 20/20 site. The property is improved pasture with the potential for rehydration of its sandstone and water table aquifers. The purchase price is $634,000, plus costs to close estimated at $20,000.
  • 93 acres adjacent to county-owned Yucca Pens Preserve and the state-owned Yucca Pens Unit of Fred C. Babcock-Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area in northwest Lee County, near Cape Coral. This parcel is located about one mile east of Burnt Store Road. The purchase price is $260,400, plus closing costs estimated at $17,500.

Each parcel was unanimously recommended for purchase by the Land Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee.

There are 30,424 acres within the Conservation 20/20 Land Acquisition Program prior to the completion of these purchases. Conservation lands help the county protect drinking water, enhance water quality, provide nature-based recreational opportunities, protect areas from flooding and provide wildlife habitat.

For more information, visit www.Conservation2020.org

Humphris Park/South Jetty is closed

Humphris Park and the South Jetty walkway remain closed at this time, due to storm damage. Tarpon Center Dr. to the South Jetty is closed except for local traffic.

The Humphris Park parking lot area and the South Jetty walkway have both sustained significant erosion damage from Tropical Storm Eta. The park is not safe for public use or access, and the City asks that citizens avoid the area for their safety.

The City Public Works department will be assessing the damage and working on a restoration plan over the next week.

Mote announces 2nd round of red tide projects

Mote Marine Laboratory has announced that 16 partner-led projects have been selected for the Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative; they will investigate potential solutions to mitigate the impacts of Florida red tide

SARASOTA — Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is pleased to announce 16 projects have been selected for Year 2 of the Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative. The Initiative is led by Mote in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative was established and supported by state appropriations starting in June 2019. It focuses on uniting the best and brightest scientists from around the world in game-changing efforts to reduce impacts of Florida red tides, blooms of the toxin-producing algae species Karenia brevis.

The first round of projects was announced in early 2020, and included innovative projects such as deriving compounds from brewer’s spent grain, a byproduct from the beer brewing process, and testing its ability to control Florida red tide and its toxins. There are now more than 20 current research projects as part of the Initiative that includes 12 different partnering institutions and organizations. Read about all projects here. Additionally, Mote’s research facility infrastructure continues to expand in order to accommodate Initiative projects and provide safe spaces to test mitigation technologies and methods in a controlled setting.

“The projects selected for this round are made up of extremely diverse and innovative technologies, something that is really exciting for us at Mote and impactful for the Initiative,” said Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “We know that there will be no one single silver bullet for mitigating red tide and its effects, so we are supporting developing technologies and methodologies that range from physical to chemical controls, early prevention to bloom treatment, projects led by universities, independent nonprofits like Mote, and for-profit businesses. We know that when we bring in the best and brightest from a variety of sectors we’re more likely to find solutions, and that’s what makes the Initiative such an exciting endeavor.”

Kevin Claridge, Associate Vice President for Sponsored Research and Coastal Policy Programs at Mote, said: “We’ve had tremendous success with our first round of partner projects, even despite the challenges that COVID-19 has presented. I think that success led to more wanting to be a part of this exciting Initiative. In total, the Initiative has received approximately 60 proposals from state, national, and international scientists – and we’re very pleased with the sixteen we’ve chosen for Year 2.”

A panel of scientists from eight different agencies and institutions reviewed the partner led grant proposals submitted, and the strongest proposals were presented to the Red Tide Initiative Technical Advisory Council on October 2, 2020. The sixteen Mote and partner-led projects will be awarded over $2.1 million in total grant support.

Learn more about the Red Tide Initiative and the full list of Mote and partner-led projects at redtidemtdi.org

Ponce Inlet to be dredged in mid-November

Beginning the week of November 16, 2020 through November 30, 2020 (weather and equipment operation permitting), the Ponce De Leon Inlet is scheduled to be dredged.

The contractor will off load dredge material at the vacant lot at the southerly end of Colony Point; then the material will be transported to another location by dump trucks.

For additional information on this project, please contact Canal Maintenance Supervisor, Cathy Miller, Punta Gorda Public Works Department at (941) 575-5050 between the business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday thru Friday. 

SCCF receives EPA grant to research HABs related to Lake O releases

The project is expected to start in the spring of 2021 and will run for two years.

Thanks to a recent award through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) Marine Lab is expanding its research into harmful algal blooms (HABs) and their connection to Lake Okeechobee releases.

In 2018, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a grant to the SCCF Marine Lab and scientists from North Carolina State University and the University of Florida to study HABs and connections to discharges from Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee watershed.

“After 18 months of sampling the Caloosahatchee from Beautiful Island to the Gulf of Mexico, there were at least four harmful algal blooms,” said Eric Milbrandt, Marine Lab Director. “In freshwater, there was Anabaena and other cyanobacteria, in the middle estuary there was a dinoflagellate bloom and there were red tide blooms, also caused by a dinoflagellate.”

To extend these initial efforts, a proposal was written and submitted to the EPA in a competition open to all university and nonprofit researchers. In fiscal year 2020, South Florida Geographic Initiatives selected the SCCF Marine Lab’s application for a Harmful Algal Bloom Observing Network for the Caloosahatchee with federal funding of $320,668 with a match of $209,311 for a total of $529,979 in expense funding.

“The project leverages the River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network (RECON) and expands RECON’s capability by adding cyanobacterial sensors and an additional real-time location near S-77, a water control structure on Lake Okeechobee that allows flow into the river,” Milbrandt said “This observation network will also depend on monthly sampling to evaluate relationships between HABs and water from Lake Okeechobee

SFWMD to seek $64M to complete its part of project to cut Lake O discharges

The South Florida Water Management District should soon have all the money needed to complete its part of the reservoir project to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

The district board is expected Thursday [Nov. 12] to ask the state Department of Environmental Protection for $64 million the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis agreed earlier this year should go to the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project.

That money "gives us the entire $174 million we need to complete the 6,500-acre stormwater treatment area on schedule in 2023," SFWMD spokesperson Randy Smith said of the Stormwater Treatment Area (STA) currently under construction.

Fort Myers to spend $300M on sewage treatment, storm defense

When storms or hurricanes hit, the first thing to go out is the power. A Southwest Florida city is making sure people don’t lose the ability to flush a toilet or run water at home in case of a storm.

The City of Fort Myers is expected to spend more than $300 million dollars on sewage treatment ahead of possible effects form major storms.

If the City of Fort Myers Central Waste Water Treatment Plant is left unattended to, count on it to really hurting people and the environment. It’s critical to the lives of everyone in the city, especially when a major storm approaches.

“We only think about it when it doesn’t go right,” City Engineer Nicole Monohan said.

The potential for that is when a tropical storm or hurricane strikes. First, it’s because an extraordinary amount of rainwater flows into the plant. That’s why the city invested $45 million already to replace aging equipment, including more powerful generators. The rest of the funds will be spent over the next five years to continue the upgrades.

The second reason for the upgrade: As we know, storms knock out the electricity. If the power at the plant goes out, then, all of sewage will sit in place.

Experts brainstorm ways to meet growth demands while protecting water supplies

The Nature Conservancy's Florida Chapter estimates roughly 1,000 people were moving to Florida every day before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter's Executive Director Temperince Morgan says that rapid growth is stretching the state's water resources.

"Our current demands are exceeding our current supplies from traditional sources. We're seeing drawdowns and impacts to springs, lakes, and wetlands and other water bodies around the state," Morgan says.

Morgan says demand for freshwater will keep going up, especially in places like Central Florida, where more people are choosing to live.

"In recent years, public water supply demand has, for the first time in Florida history, begun to exceed agricultural demand. And the vast majority of that public water supply demand is for irrigation. So, to irrigate our lawns," Morgan says.

Her group is partnering with the University of Florida and a developer to study a new irrigation-free community—meaning a neighborhood that replaces grassy lawns with plants that are meant to live in Florida's specific climate without the need for frequent watering.

Lee County, Bonita Springs sign new interlocal agreement for surface water services

A new interlocal agreement between Lee County and the City of Bonita Springs has been approved for the continuation of surface water programs in the city. Under the new interlocal agreement which extends through fiscal year 2024/2025, Lee county will provide the following services to the city:

  • Respond to citizens requests for action (RFA) regarding flooding complaints and water quality problems. Includes initial assessment only. Provide stormwater-related reviews, analyses, and reports as needed. Response to major floods will be based on staff availability and extent of flooding elsewhere in Lee County.
  • Review plans for development that affect regional surface water.
  • Provide project management services for South Florida Water Management District and Florida Department of Environmental Protection funded projects in Imperial River, Leitner Creek, Oak Creek, Rosemary Creek, and Springs Creek watersheds.
  • Manage mandated NPDES MS4 permit in compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act except for preparation of the City's application, annual report, and permit fee.
  • Participate and review regional storm-water studies.
  • Monitor and report hydrologic data including rain, river stage, and groundwater levels in the Bonita Springs area.
  • Provide surface water system inventory and priority list of recommended improvements for the City's use for its capital improvement plan.
  • Update flood zone maps in coordination with FEMA. Distribute information and assist development with compliance.
  • Review requests for vacation of easements and rights of way to ensure important drainage access.

Under this agreement, the City will pay the County the principal annual sum not to exceed $100,332.00 in two equal installments annually for the services each fiscal year through 2024/2025

Lee Commissioners approve contract with firm for water quality project

FORT MYERS – The Lee Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to approve a contract with a local engineering firm to monitor construction of a project adjacent to Yellow Fever Creek Preserve, which is a Conservation 20/20 site, to improve water quality and the ecosystem.

The project is located within the City of Cape Coral near Averill Boulevard and Del Prado Boulevard North. It is designed to improve water quality by diverting excess flow from Gator Slough Canal into a reservoir. There, it will be treated before being released into Yellow Fever Creek, a tributary to the Caloosahatchee River. This joint project with the City of Cape Coral will help reduce the flow of freshwater toward Matlacha Pass and restore historic base flows to the Yellow Fever Creek watershed. The transfer of water will also enhance the rehydration of wetlands south of Del Prado Boulevard, restoring the habitat.

The Caloosahatchee estuary has a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) state designation for Total Nitrogen and an adopted State of Florida Basin Management Action Plan to lower this pollutant. Commissioners spend millions of dollars annually on projects to reduce pollutants in the estuary.

The project will provide Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) credit for Total Nitrogen and is partially funded by two grants from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) totaling $992,000. The $155,000 contract approved Tuesday is with Fort Myers-based Barraco and Associates and is for construction engineering inspection services on the Yellow Fever Creek/Gator Slough Project.

Construction is expected to begin in January 2021 and take an estimated six months to complete. Construction is budgeted at $1.5 million.

For more information on Lee County Natural Resources’ efforts to protect and improve water quality, visit http://www.leegov.com/naturalresources/WaterQuality.

Cape Coral to create Water Advisory Board to combat blue-green algae

CAPE CORAL – The city of Cape Coral is planning to put a group together to fight the growth, and spread, of blue-green algae.

“It was either last year or two years ago, it was really bad,” Cape Coral resident Brian Glover said.

He says that this year, the canals are much cleaner.

“This year I haven’t seen anything yet,” Glover said

Other Cape Coral residents said the same, that after experiencing blooms in canals near their homes a few weeks ago things have turned around for the better.

“Water quality has been improved in Cape Coral,” Cape Coral Mayor Joe Coviello said. “Especially in the freshwater canals where we had that small algae bloom about a month ago.”

Coviello said the city is working to keep it that way. An ordinance was introduced at Monday night’s city council meeting to create a Water Advisory Board.

Environmentally significant lands referendum passes in Manatee County

On November 3rd, Manatee County voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum Tuesday to acquire as much as $50 million worth of land for the purpose of environmental protection.

The referendum, approved by 71.27% of county voters, is dedicated to "finance the acquisition, improvement, and management of land to protect drinking water sources and water quality, preserve fish and wildlife habitat, prevent stormwater runoff pollution, and provide parks." The money will be raised by instituting a 0.15 mill ad valorem tax over 20 years.

Christine Johnson, the president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast who spearheaded the referendum, said Manatee County has long been at a disadvantage compared to other counties on Florida’s Gulf Coast, many of which have dedicated funding sources for land conservation. She pointed out that only 13% of Manatee County’s land is conserved, compared to a 30% average statewide.