Current News Items (within the last 30 days)
Register now for "Ag Module 2014: Innovation in the Water Space"
On April 24 and 25, Florida Earth, in partnership with Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), University of Florida IFAS, Florida Farm Bureau and Crystal Springs Preserve, will host the SWFWMD Edition of the Ag Module Series.
What: The Ag Module: SWFWMD Edition
When: April 24 & 25, 2014, 8:30 AM to 4 PM each day
Where: Crystal Springs Preserve, Crystal Springs, Florida
Cost: $95 for the first day, $195 for both days
The first day of the two-day forum will be held at beautiful Crystal Springs Preserve just south of Zephyrhills, northeast of Tampa, and will feature speakers addressing agriculture's interaction with water and programs designed to enhance stewardship in this space. The second day will be in the field visiting sites talked about on the first day including a tour of the UF IFAS Gulf Coast Research & Education Center and SMR Farms. For agenda and registration, visit the link below.
• Craig Stanley (UF/IFAS)
• Ernie Cox: Family Lands
• Mac Carraway: SMR Farms
• Eric DeHaven: SWFWMD
• Michelle Hopkins: SWFWMD
• Robert Thomas: Two Rivers Ranch
Draft agenda and online registration
Do you know what to do if you hook a pelican?
Photo by C. Frank Starmer
Catch fish, not pelicans! With just a little extra attention to your surroundings, you and your pelican friends can both have a great day out on the water.
The brown pelican is now a common sight on the coasts. Pelicans eat smaller fish that are not preferred by recreational fishermen and that are not commercially important. Pelicans are protected by federal and state laws.
A brown pelican’s keen eyesight allows it to spot fish from high in the air. Plunge-diving for fish is their specialty. After surfacing and draining water from its pouch, the pelican swallows its well-deserved catch. Even though pelicans are large birds with broad wingspans, their feathers and hollow bones are very light, exquisitely designed for agile and expert flight.
Entanglement in fishing gear may be their number one enemy, leading to slow death from dehydration and starvation. Bony fish scraps are also a killer, tearing the pouch or lodging in the throat. Feeding pelicans draws them to fishing areas and puts them in danger. Shorebirds, storks, herons, terns and gulls are also casualties. We can all help keep pelicans alive and healthy.
Audubon Florida has produced a handy brochure that gives step-by-step instructions for safely removing a fishing hook from a pelican or other shore bird. Print it out and keep one in your tackle box… Just in case!
"What to do if you hook a pelican" brochure
Public meeting April 22nd to discuss Sunshine Lake/Sunrise Waterway
CHARLOTTE COUNTY – A public meeting will be held to discuss stormwater and groundwater testing locations around Sunshine Lake and Sunrise Waterway at 5 p.m. April 22 at the Cultural Center of Charlotte County, 2280 Aaron Street, Port Charlotte. The event will include staff from Atkins (consultant for long term management plan), Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), and Charlotte County Public Works.
Atkins will give an overview of the nutrient source evaluation study and the overall management plan process. A discussion will be held on the selection of locations for the stormwater and groundwater sampling devices. Charlotte County staff will provide an update on the algae removal project. SWFWMD staff will be on hand to answer any questions from citizens.
For more information contact Joanne Vernon, County Engineer at 941.575.3661.
Information about Sunshine Lake / Sunrise Waterway
Lee County officials discuss water-quality issues in Tallahassee
FORT MYERS — Lee County Commission Chairman Larry Kiker, Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass and County Manager Roger Desjarlais advocated for the Board’s legislative priorities in Tallahassee on Thursday. While their discussions covered a broad range of issues important to the County, a particular emphasis was placed on water quality funding.
The group met with Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam, DEP Deputy Secretary Drew Bartlett, Senate President Pro Tem Garrett Richter, Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto, House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee Chair Matt Caldwell and the other members of Lee County’s legislative delegation, including Representatives Dane Eagle, Heather Fitzenhagen and Ray Rodrigues.
The meetings stressed the importance of funding of projects related to the Caloosahatchee River and Lake Okeechobee, including a $15 million infrastructure project for the C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir. Other issues of note discussed included funding for Lee County projects related to storm water runoff, flood control and nutrient-load reductions.
Water quality is exceptionally important to Lee County’s economy. More than 85 percent of visitors to Lee go to beaches, survey results show. Three-quarters indicate that “clean, unspoiled environment” influenced their decision to visit. Lee County sees 4.8 million visitors annually; their estimated spending is $2.8 billion in the local economy.
Lee County Commissioners receive legislative updates weekly from Assistant to the County Manager Glen Salyer, who also joined officials in Tallahassee. The 2014 state legislative session is scheduled to end May 2nd.
For Lee County updates, visit www.lee-county.com. Click on “government” and “Board of County Commissioners.” Then scroll down to “2014 Legislative Priorities.”
Manatee County Commission approves repair work on Lake Manatee dam
Work to begin soon, critical repair should be complete by June 1
Addressing the Commission today during a special meeting to discuss the dam, Manatee County Water Division Manager Mark Simpson said the most critical dam work will be done in Phase IA and Phase IB. Phase IA will address the most critical areas of the dam before the rainy season.
Phase IB will extend the new cement wall north and south along the dam, creating a cement wall of about 3,700 feet across the dam to further enhance its structural integrity. Phase IB, Simpson said, could be complete as soon as Oct. 31, 2014. Utilities staff said Phase IB is a lower priority and can be done during the rainy season, after Phase IA repairs are complete. The Phase IA and IB work will cost an estimated $14.8 millions and is expected to extend the life of the dam another 50 years or more.
Manatee issued a notice to proceed on Tuesday, meaning crews are already mobilizing to begin Phase IA repairs. County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said Manatee Utilities System has sufficient reserves to pay for receipts now without damaging its credit while the County identifies an alternate source of financing.
Continued on MyManatee.org...
Sarasota County & North Port issue RFP seeking operator for Warm Mineral springs
SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County and the city of North Port have begun an international campaign seeking prospective long-term vendors to operate and/or develop Warm Mineral Springs, 12200 San Servando Ave., North Port.
Advertisements seeking proposals for consideration have been placed in both print and online newspapers and trade publications. Prospective bidder requests for further information must be submitted online no later than May 12, 2014, to https://eprocure.scgov.net. Completed bid packages must be submitted online no later than May 23, 2014, to https://eprocure.scgov.net.
The request for solicitation has also been advertised in Sarasota County Procurements new BidSync online system. BidSync allows Sarasota County Procurement to advertise solicitations to a national database of more than 750,000 qualified suppliers and service providers nationwide.
For more information contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 941-861-5000 or email Carmen Gomez.
Learn more about Warm Mineral Springs
Sharks sense prey in surprising ways during pioneering study
By Hayley Rutger, Mote Marine Laboratory
SARASOTA – A team of scientists have unmasked the intricacies of how sharks hunt prey—from the first whiff to the final chomp—in a new study about shark senses that was supported by the National Science Foundation and published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.
The study, led by scientists from the University of South Florida, Mote Marine Laboratory and Boston University, is the first to show how vision, touch, smell and other senses combine to guide a detailed series of animal behaviors from start to finish. Results show that sharks with different lifestyles may favor different senses, and they can sometimes switch when their preferred senses are blocked. That’s hopeful news for sharks trying to find food in changing and sometimes degraded environments.
Nose plugs were used to block the sense of smell on a blacktip shark in the study.
“This is undoubtedly the most comprehensive multi-sensory study on any shark, skate or ray,” said Philip Motta, a USF biology professor and internationally-recognized shark expert who co-authored this study.
Continued on news.usf.edu...
Senate committee approves estuary reauthorization bill
Legislation Would Reauthorize Program First Established by Sen. John Chafee
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee today approved the Clean Estuaries Act of 2014, introduced by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), to reauthorize the National Estuary Program (NEP). The legislation, crafted with Committee Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), was approved with bipartisan support. The program was first established in 1987 by the late Republican Senator John Chafee to protect and restore estuarine habitats threatened by pollution and overdevelopment. Authorization for this important program expired in 2010.
“Estuaries are important for fisheries and wildlife, for tourism and recreation, and they are disappearing,” Whitehouse said. “Estuaries also provide buffers against dangerous winds and storm surges, protecting homes and critical infrastructure in our coastal communities. Protecting and strengthening our estuaries is our defense against these threats, and our way of protecting the economic and social value they provide.”
Although the program expired in 2010, it has continued to receive funding through the congressional appropriations process. Reauthorizing the law, however, provides an opportunity to make needed improvements to the program. Whitehouse’s legislation would maintain the funding authorization for the NEP at $35 million per year while also limiting the amount of the funding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which administers the program – can use for overhead. This change will help ensure that more funds are directed straight to the field programs.
Source: News release from Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Environmentalists fight proposed bill that reduces local control of water resources
By Jessie Van Berkel
TALLAHASSEE — Environmentalists across Florida are on edge as a bill that would reduce local control over environmental protection moves through the state Legislature.
The House bill would limit counties’ ability to enforce regulations on springs, stormwater and wetlands adopted after July 2003, and allow local government officials to change their long-range growth plans with a simple majority vote. Currently, if Sarasota County and other communities change their plans, by increasing density in a certain area, for example, a supermajority — four of the five commissioners — must support the move.
The bill would also allow for decades-long water use permits to be granted to major developments on rural land.
“This bill not only wreaks havoc with the environment, it hits at our ability to have local control,” said Gerry Swormstedt, a conservation chairwoman for the Manatee-Sarasota Group of the Sierra Club.
Continued in the News-Journal Online...
Charlotte Harbor Coastal Awareness Day event promotes community resilience
The Nature Conservancy in Florida is hosting Charlotte Harbor Coastal Awareness Day on Saturday, April 26 from 10 am – 3 pm at Laishley Park Municipal Marina. This family-friendly event highlights Punta Gorda’s efforts to become a more resilient coastal community. Learn about the Conservancy’s work in Punta Gorda to restore oyster reefs, volunteer to make oyster mats, and meet leaders in the city who are planning ahead for sea level rise.
Coastal Awareness Day highlights the Conservancy’s efforts to develop natural solutions to help coastal communities weather the impacts of storms and prepare for sea level rise in Florida. The Nature Conservancy is collaborating with the Florida DEP-Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, and the City of Punta Gorda to create oyster reef habitat adjacent to Trabue Harborwalk – and you can help!
Join us on April 26 at Laishley Park Municipal Marina to get your hands dirty and experience first-hand the power of communities working together to return critical oyster reef habitat to Charlotte Harbor. Volunteers will help prepare oyster mats for deployment in Charlotte Harbor and learn how Punta Gorda is leading the way in buffering its coast against storms and sea-level rise.
Charlotte Harbor Coastal Awareness Day is hosted by The Nature Conservancy and the City of Punta Gorda, with support from Florida Weekly and WCGU – Southwest Florida Public Broadcasting. For details, visit www.nature.org/coastalawarenessday.
WHAT: Charlotte Harbor Coastal Awareness Day
Schedule of Activities:
WHEN: Saturday, April 26, 2014, 10 am – 3 pm
WHERE: Laishley Park Municipal Marina, 120 Laishley Ct., Punta Gorda, FL 33950
A Family Friendly Event — No RSVP Necessary
- Oyster Mat Making: 10 am–3 pm
- Kid’s Craft Station: 10 am–3 pm
- Nature Can Help! Panel Discussion hosted by John Davis of WGCU: 11 am–noon
- Christine Shepard – Director of Science, Gulf of Mexico Program, The Nature Conservancy
- Laura Geselbracht – Senior Marine Scientist, Florida Chapter, The Nature Conservancy
- Joan LeBeau – Chief Planner, City of Punta Gorda
- Lisa Beever – Director, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program
- Coastal Resilience 2.0 (There’s an app for that): 1:30 pm–2 pm
New! Learn about oyster and beach monitoring programs in Sarasota County
Just added to the Sarasota County Water Atlas are two new features designed to keep the public informed about environmental monitoring efforts by the County to ensure good water quality.
The new Oyster Mapping & Monitoring section of the Atlas has general information about the eastern oyster,Crassotrea virginica—its life cycle, how it affects and is affected by water quality, global threats and restoration efforts—and describes the habitats and locations where oysters may be found in Sarasota County's bays and creeks. The results of two different monitoring efforts are provided: one of these mapped the types and location of oyster habitat, and the other monitored the health of oysters in different locations in the County. The interactive map provided graphically displays these results. The section also has links to research papers and websites with information about oysters and how environmental managers around the world are working to restore their habitat.
Also new is the Beach Action Plan page. It describes the efforts of Sarasota County and its partners (the Sarasota and Manatee County Health Departments, the Town of Longboat Key, the Cities of Sarasota and Venice, and the Englewood Water District) to establish an "Action Plan" to minimize adverse human health impacts from bacteria exposure and avert "No-Swim Advisories" at County beaches. The project produced individual "sanitary surveys" for 16 area beaches that map potential sources of water contamination; project partners monitor these regularly to ensure swimmer safety. You can view the survey maps, read the full "Beach Bacteria Incident Action Plan", see photos of the beaches, and find out about beach amenities on this useful page. Also provided are links to research papers and websites about beach water quality and monitoring.
Learning & Education Tools on the Sarasota County Water Atlas
Federal judge rules Okeechobee pumping illegal
TALLAHASSEE – A federal judge says pumping water from farmlands into public water supplies such as Florida's Lake Okeechobee violates the Clean Water Act.
Environmental groups say Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas in New York's Southern District was "long overdue."
The nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice first filed its case in 2002 over polluted water from sugar cane and vegetable fields pumped into Lake Okeechobee. Earthjustice argued that the South Florida Water Management District violated federal law by allowing agricultural companies to send polluted water into southern Florida's water supply without decontaminating it first.
The Florida case was bundled with similar claims from several other states and heard in New York federal court.
Environmental groups say stopping pollution at its source is key to fixing South Florida's water problems.
Source: Associated Press
Opinions sought on new Watershed Stewards Academy program
A team of faculty from the University of Florida (UF) is working on the development of a new educational program. They are reaching out to environmental organizations to get input about the level of interest and curriculum content.
The proposed program is called the Watershed Stewards Academy and it will be offered through UF/IFAS Extension. The program will be modeled after many of the other “Master” programs the University of Florida offers (like Master Gardener, Master Naturalist, etc.) with 7 to 12 sessions over a period of time. It will focus on enhancing Floridians’ connection to water; relationships with the watershed in which they live, work and play; and the dynamic interaction of water quality, quantity and their associated policies and regulations. It could include potential action projects and lead to volunteer service in local communities.
The Watershed Stewards Academy team has developed a state-wide needs assessment to aid in the development of this program and they want to hear from you! Your responses to this survey will help them design the program to best meet the needs of potential participants like you. Based on this brief description, they would very much appreciate your time in completing this survey. Approximate survey time: 10 minutes.
Take the survey
House, Senate differ sharply over agricultural water spending in their budget proposals
The proposed House and Senate fiscal year 2014-15 budgets are close on several key programs within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services budget but are far apart on the department's water programs.
The House budget would provide $47.7 million for agricultural water policy programs including $34.3 million from general revenue. The Senate budget includes $20.5 million for those programs including $7.1 million from general revenue.
The House water programs proposal provides $24.5 million for agricultural nonpoint source best management practices including $5 million for springs, $3 million for the Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and $1.5 million for the Bessey Creek hybrid wetland treatment system.
The Senate proposal provides $16.5 million for those programs with the only specified spending being $3 million for the Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.
In addition, the House provides $9 million for hybrid wetlands treatment projects in the Everglades region and $10 million for Okeechobee restoration and agricultural projects.
Continued in The Florida Current...
Modeling study adds evidence that oil compounds traveled to West Florida Shelf
Scientists from the University of South Florida used circulation models to conduct a tracer simulation and compared output patterns with ecological analyses to determine the possibility that hydrocarbons from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill could have moved onto the West Florida Shelf (WFS).
They found “plausible and consistent” evidence that currents caused by “an anomalously strong and persistent upwelling circulation” drove oil compounds through subsurface waters to the WFS. The researchers published their findings in the February 2014 edition of Deep-Sea Research II Topical Studies in Oceanography: Did Deepwater Horizon hydrocarbons transit to the West Florida Continental Shelf?
The coastal ocean region known as the WFS includes waters east of the DeSoto Canyon and south to the Florida Straits. Oil from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead landed on northwestern Florida panhandle beaches in June of 2010. For three weeks, satellite and aerial images with accompanying model simulations showed oil moving on surface waters further east, close to Cape San Blas, then it receded and was no longer visible in that area. However, public and scientist findings were emerging that indicated compounds from this oil – though no longer visible – continued to impact the WFS marine environment.
Continued on the Gulf Research Initiative''s website...
Reprise of Oral History program April 7th in Laurel
Reservations are suggested, as seating is limited.
Please contact Sarasota County Historical Resources to RSVP: (941) 861-6090.
If you missed their debut in January, you will have a second chance to enjoy the four new oral history videos created by New College anthropology students.
They will be shown on Monday, April 7th at 7 p.m. in Sarasota County at the Sandra Sims Terry Community Center, 509 Collins Road, Laurel, Florida 34272.
The four interviewees and the four New College students who will introduce them are as follows:
Interviewees: Sandra Sims Terry and Betty Nugent from South Sarasota County and Waldo Profitt and Bob Richardson of North Sarasota County.
Students who conducted the interviews, working under the direction of Erin Dean, Asst. Professor of Anthropology, New College are:
Anne McCabe, Julianne Ohanian, Jessica Wopinski and Chelsea Driver.
John Ryan, representing Sarasota County Environmental Utilities, will act as master of ceremonies.
Lorrie Muldowney of Sarasota County Historical Resources was also part of the collaborative process.
The interviewees' personal narratives are intertwined with southwest Florida's story—water conservation, environmental stewardship, urban development and growth management—and highlight the beauty and importance of rivers, beaches and shorelines to Southwest Florida... These are just some of what the students elicited from the four they interviewed.
Refreshments will be served by SHORE (Southwest Historical Organization of Resources & Education).
This event is free and open to the Public.
View recent oral histories, including slideshows and transcripts