Current News Items (within the last 30 days)
White House wants to spend $300M on a water revolution
The amount is small, but the government is finally showing that it's interested in real solutions to our massive water problems—in Flint and everywhere else.
Imagine a world in which desalinated water, instead of being five or 10 times the cost of water from a river or lake, was just as cheap as any other supply. Suddenly desalination would be the solution for lots of water problems, from cities to farms to oil fields.
Imagine a world in which data about how much water people are using isn’t five years out of date before it’s available, but arrives in real time—just like data about energy use.
Imagine a world, in fact, in which companies, universities, and governments invested in new water technology in ways that matched investments in computing, or biotechnology, or cancer research—and and gave us new, more effective ways to tackle problems from the California drought to the lead-poisoned water in Flint, Michigan.
In its last 11 months in office, the Obama Administration wants to lay the groundwork for that kind of water innovation, hoping to jumpstart new investments, new technologies, and most of all a new attitude.
On Tuesday, President Obama’s White House will do something that, apparently, no previous president has ever done: It will submit a budget with a section devoted to spending money specifically on water innovation. The water innovation section will be two pages, two pages in what will likely be a four-volume document topping 2,000 pages.
Continued on FastCoexist.com »
Florida Lake Management Society announces spring workshop
The Central Chapter of the Florida Lake Management Society (FLMS) will be hosting a spring workshop on Thursday, March 3, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Berlinsky Community House, 300 Monument Avenue, Kissimmee.
The topic of the workshop will be National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and issues. Download agenda »
Lunch is included.
Free for current FLMS members! $20 for non-members and includes a three-month FLMS membership.
Must R.S.V.P. by February 29, 2016 to Maryann Krisovitch or (352) 434-5025.
Payment can be made on site via cash, check (made out to FLMS), or charge.
Would your company like to sponsor this event? If so, contact contact Maryann!
Visit us on the web at FLMS.net!
Punta Gorda Isles canal cut-through route chosen
PUNTA GORDA – City Council members are moving forward on a long-awaited project to increase Punta Gorda Isles boaters’ access to Charlotte Harbor. A cut-through, via Alligator Creek, would shorten the time it takes for boaters from the southern area, known as the "Bird Section" of PGI, to reach the harbor.
The $1.5 million project would dredge a 50-foot-wide waterway at the south end of Punta Gorda Isles to link the community’s canal system to Alligator Creek. It has been the subject of multiple public hearings and several years of debate leading to a standing-room-only crowd showing up at council chambers Wednesday morning to discuss the issue. Supporters say it would decrease the time it takes for boaters from the "Bird Section" of PGI to access the harbor, and it would raise property values. Opponents say it would create more traffic, and force non-boaters to shoulder the cost of something they don’t even use.
"I’m very concerned about safety. We’ll be creating two very sharp corners, which will be very difficult to navigate," said Don Kidwell, a PGI resident and retired professional engineer during public comment. "Visibility isn’t great ... It’s usually when people cut corners you have people coming bow to bow."
But supporters said these concerns were overstated. "I travel the canals day and night. There are areas that are tight, but I think we’re a little bit over-concerned with safety," said Mike Fauci, a PGI resident. "This is a waterfront community. Let’s do something that’s going to help all of the boaters down here."
Staff recommended council take action after the firm’s presentation, so it could negotiate contractual services — with the permitting process taking at least 18 months.
Continued on WFTV''s website »
Bill Nelson blasts proposal to allow offshore drilling near Florida coast
WASHINGTON – Sen. Bill Nelson took to the Senate floor Wednesday (Feb. 3rd) to launch a fierce assault against a legislative initiative to expand offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico by providing states huge financial incentives to increase energy exploration.
Displaying a large map of the gulf, Nelson accused Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, of offering a “secret amendment” to a broad energy bill that would boost revenue-sharing for states that allow offshore oil and natural gas production.
The amendment would provide $1.5 billion over 15 years to Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama for increased energy production. It would also create new revenue-sharing streams for Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alaska.
“Off of Louisiana there are not many beaches,” Nelson said. “Off of Mississippi there are not many beaches. Off of Alabama — not many beaches. But what do you think Florida is known for? Its pristine beaches all the way from the Perdido River, which is the Florida-Alabama line, all the way down the coast, all the way to Naples and then not only to the Keys, but up the East Coast of Florida.”
Continued in the Star-Telegram »
Cape Coral City Council approves deep injection well
With six members in attendance on Monday, the Cape Coral City Council unanimously approved installation of a new deep injection well at the Southwest Water Reclamation and Water Treatment plant.
"It's a backup for our disposal of non-hazardous waste from our wastewater and RO plants," said Utilities Director Jeff Pearson. "The well will be drilled into the Boulder Zone 3,200 feet below the surface."
The depth is much deeper than the city's wells to obtain drinking water for its residents. Previously on rare occasion the city had discharged this wastewater into the Marauder Canal until the Florida Department of Environmental Protection halted the process claiming the discharges exceeded state maximum levels.
The resolution passed by council with Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Williams presiding, minus Mayor Marni Sawicki and Councilmem-ber Jim Burch away in Tallahassee, awarded the drilling contract to Youngquist Brothers Inc. of Fort Myers in the amount of just over $4.3 million.
Youngquist Brothers has drilled several wells for the city in the past.
"The price is about 10 percent below what the engineer estimated the cost to be," said Pearson. "It will be finished in 210 days and final completion in 300 days."
Council approved a resolution vacating public utility and drainage easements underlying previously vacated easements on Southwest 28th Place in order to allow property owners Patrick and Kimberly Shuler more flexibility in developing a single-family home on a slightly larger parcel at 2814 S.W. 25th St. The request was not deemed harmful to the parcel or surrounding area and utility providers expressed no objection.
Council also approved an ordinance completing amendments made to the city's Comprehensive Plan. Cities are required by state statute to update the plan every seven years as conditions change. Most changes were general housekeeping in nature to the Future Land Use element, Intergovern-mental Coordination element, Transportation element, Infrastruc-ture Element and Conservation & Coastal Management element.
A major change was made to the Florida Land Use element regarding Planned Development Project regulations currently being reformed by city staff. Another adds street light installation taking school bus stops into consideration.
The city last amended its Comprehensive Plan in 2007 and has been in the process of updating it over the past year.
Council meets in a special session next Monday at 1:30 p.m. in Council Chambers to be followed by its regular weekly meeting at 4:30 p.m. at the same location.
Click here to view original article »
Army Corps to double planned water discharge from Lake Okeechobee
The South Florida flooding risk from Lake Okeechobee rising faster than expected has convinced federal officials to potentially dump twice as much lake water out to sea as once planned.
Just a day after announcing the start of renewed lake draining due to heavy rains, the Army Corps of Engineers on Friday called for ratcheting up the discharges east into the St. Lucie River and west into the Caloosahatchee River.
The lake level rose a quarter of a foot in 24 hours, hitting 15.79 feet above sea level. The Army Corps tries to keep the lake between 12.5 and 15.5 feet to ease the strain on the lake's erosion-prone dike.
While dumping lake water to the east and west coasts is good for protecting the dike that guards against flooding, that influx of lake water can harm coastal fishing grounds and lead to algae blooms that make water unsafe for swimming.
The Army Corps' new plan calls for draining up to 1.8 billion gallons of lake water per day into the St. Lucie River and 4.2 billion gallons per day into the Caloosahatchee River.
"With heavy rains contributing to increased flows and challenges throughout the system, we must use all available tools to protect the health and safety of people living and working in south Florida," said Jim Jeffords, the Army Corps chief of operations for Florida.
Continued in the Sun-Sentinel »
Standing water leftover from storms raises mosquito concerns
All of the standing water left over from days of storms in Southwest Florida could lead to another big, pesky problem.
Officials with the Charlotte County Mosquito Control are prepared to fight the buzzing insects if they begin to breed from the large amount of puddles sitting around.
“We’ve had a lot of rain that’s for sure! We have a lot collected in our swell drainage, our ditches,” said Randy Ahrens.
Mosquito control says there are two types of mosquitoes people need to look out for.
Larger mosquitoes could start flying around flooded pastures and farms, “they’re just annoying, more of a nuisance than anything, especially for livestock,” warned biological specialist Beth Kovach.
In residential communities, officials say smaller mosquitoes could be breeding in any still, standing water.
“It’s very important that homeowners take out the time to dump out containers, tires, tire swings, tarps, rain gutters,” Kovach advised.
Mosquito control isn’t currently fumigating any areas, but once they get a call, they fire up their trucks and you could be mosquito free in just a couple of days.
“We go out and do landing rate counts, we set traps, and depending on that data, determines when and where we can spray,” said Kovach.
Officials say this month, Charlotte County has gotten over 9 inches of rain, which is about 8 inches more than average. The cooler temperatures are helping keep the number of mosquitoes down for now.
Click here to view original article »
Fort Myers Beach residents to pay stormwater utility fee
Fort Myers Beach residents packed town hall Monday afternoon as council members discussed implementing a controversial stormwater utility fee. Many of the attendees were residents of the Beach Bay community on the south end of Estero Island, who are already paying for their own stormwater treatment system.
"They're required to handle all their stormwater on site," said Michael Ciccarone, an attorney representing Beach Bay residents. He said they were concerned that they would be asked to pay for a utility fee that they wouldn't benefit from.
"It would be like me charging you a water bill, and I don't provide any water," Ciccarone said. "You wouldn't think that's fair."
Council members say that a fee is necessary to pay off a $2 million debt for an ongoing project to deal with the stormwater on the side streets of Fort Myers Beach. Earlier in the month, the fee was proposed at $26.50 per month for all residents.
But at Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Anita Cereceda proposed an amended fee of $19.98. She also suggested exempting Beach Bay residents from the utility fee, since that community is already required to treat their runoff before it drains into other bodies of water.
Council is expected to make a final decision on the stormwater utility fee at their next meeting on February 16.
Click here to view original article »
Farm water hits SWFL, leaves coast brown, murky
It was just a matter of time before polluted farm water from Lake Okeechobee made its way to Southwest Florida.
"Boy, yeah, we saw it," said Rick Bartleson, a water quality scientist at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, when asked if the polluted water had worked its way here. "The water at the (Sanibel) causeway is pretty brown (because) the flows are up to rainy season levels."
The South Florida Water Management District spent four days, starting Wednesday night, pulling water off farm fields south of the lake, although the district didn't send out a public notice about the "emergency" measures until nearly 24 hours after they had started.
Critics say these water management practices are largely responsible for toxic algal blooms that often plague both the west and east coasts of Florida.
Polluted and unnatural water from Lake Okeechobee and lands within the Caloosahatchee River watershed kills sea grasses and oyster beds.
Excess nutrients from the landscape contribute to the duration and frequency of harmful algal blooms, like red tide. Red tide, caused here by Karenia brevis, is a neurotoxin that causes fish and marine mammal kills and can lead to respiratory issues in humans
Record rains have not made the situation better as the lake level is rising at the same time the state was back-pumping farm water into Okeechobee.
Continued on News-Press.com »
Save the Date: 2016 NALMS monitoring conference
Join the NWQMC on May 2-6, 2016 in Tampa, Florida for the National Water Quality Monitoring Council’s (NWQMC) 10th National Monitoring Conference – Working Together for Clean Water. This conference provides many opportunities for water stakeholders – federal, state, tribal and local water professionals, non-profits, academia, and volunteer citizen scientists – to network, develop new skills and partnerships, and exchange information.
The city’s rich history and modern landscape offer visitors a wide variety of attractions. Tampa Bay is Florida’s largest open water estuary and home to an impressive variety of wildlife, including manatees, wading birds, and prized sport fish.
Attendees will network, develop partnerships and new skills, and exchange information and technology related to all water resources, including rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters and estuaries, groundwater, and processed water. Conference themes attract professional papers and posters addressing a variety of topics ranging from monitoring and assessment to protection and restoration, as well as cutting-edge technologies and methods.
The NWQMC is requesting abstracts for oral presentations, posters, workshops,
panels, short courses, and Round Table discussions that cover
topics related to rivers and streams, lakes, wetlands, coastal waters and
estuaries, groundwater, and drinking water. Abstracts are due
September 18, 2015.
Abstracts are welcome on any of the following conference themes:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces over $20 Million in Grants to Conserve Coastal Wetlands
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced over $20 million will be provided to 28 projects in 12 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.
State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute over $20 million in additional funds to these projects, which acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Wetlands Grants provide critical funding in the effort to protect some of our most fragile and at-risk wildlife habitats, said Service Director Dan Ashe. “With rising ocean levels eating away at coastal wetlands from one side and development claiming more and more acres on the other, our coastal wetlands are being squeezed into an ever thinner sliver of land. Never before has it been so important to protect these places.”
The program, funded in part through taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters, creates significant benefits for other recreationists and the American public. The billions of dollars generated through recreational angling, boating, waterfowl hunting and bird watching benefit communities in the vicinity of wetlands restoration projects.
States and territories receiving funds are California, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. Click here for the complete list of projects funded by the 2016 grant program.
Click here to view original article »
Register now for coastal climate adaptation workshop Feb. 23-25
The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) invites you to the Climate Adaptation for Coastal Communities Workshop on Feb. 23-25, 2016, at Lemon Bay Park (570 Bay Park Blvd, Englewood, 941/861-5000). We are delighted that NOAA Office for Coastal Management is offering this workshop to CHNEP, a partnership working to protect the natural environment from Venice to Bonita Springs to Winter Haven.|
This three-day instructor-led workshop will give you a thorough grounding in the topic of adaptation – and time in class to apply what you’ve learned to your own adaptation projects. The workshop covers these essentials: understanding climate science and impacts; determining community vulnerabilities; communicating effectively; identifying adaptation strategies; and finding mechanisms to implement those strategies. Opportunities for local collaboration and next steps for adaptation planning and implementation are emphasized through discussion, participant activities, and incorporation of local speakers and examples.
After completing this workshop, participants will be able to:
- Recognize the changes and variability in climate and climate’s influence on coastal communities
- Identify opportunities to leverage a range of governance mechanisms to integrate adaptation strategies into their existing efforts
- Examine methods for conducting hazard, vulnerability, and risk assessment as it relates to climate change
- Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of adaptation strategies
- Apply climate communication research concepts and findings to enable effective communication with target audiences
There is a registration fee of $75 with refreshments and lunch provided.
Please register by noon on Monday, Feb. 8. Registration is via EventBrite at the link below:
Register now »
Emergency Lake pumping started Wednesday, polluted water coming to Fort Myers
A state environmental agency gave a presentation in Fort Myers on Thursday on cleaning up the Caloosahatchee River while another state agency pumped polluted farm water into Lake Okeechobee, which drains into the river.
If water management in Florida seems confusing, that's because it is. The Army Corps of Engineers manages the Lake Okeechobee release protocol, but the South Florida Water Management District operates the pumps.
The district announced Thursday around 2 p.m. that it had declared an emergency the day before at 6 p.m., while the Army Corps was, ironically, taking public input in Clewiston on how to best protect areas around the lake from flooding.
How are these toxic releases possible?
"I'd call the water management district since they operate the pumps," said John Campbell, an Army Corps spokesman.
Shortly after that phone call between The News-Press and Campbell, the Army Corps sent out a press release saying it was going to lower the amount of lake water flowing to Fort Myers. Levels had been at 5,000 cubic feet per second, which is well beyond the ideal maximum level of 2,800 cubic feet per second. So the water releases were "lowered" to the maximum level.
Those types of discharges kill sea grass and oyster beds and can disrupt the marine food chain. But the water pumped back into Lake Okeechobee on Thursday from farms has far higher nutrient levels than the lake itself, which has been in violation of federal standards for decades even without the pollution loads from farms surrounding the lake.
Continued in the News-Press »
Save the date for 2016 Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival
The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program invites you to help celebrate the splendor of the natural environment of Southwest Florida by sponsoring, exhibiting, volunteering and promoting the 17th annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival.
The festival is firmly established as an annual community event that will continue to grow and enrich the lives of our citizens. We have scheduled the next annual festival for Saturday, November 19, 2016. It will again be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Charlotte County Sports Complex located at 2300 El Jobean Rd/SR 776 in Port Charlotte. (There is no rain date.)
We look forward to seeing you Nov. 19 but there's no need to register to attend as a visitor unless you wish to receive updates. Register for updates on EventBrite.com.
The Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival is a regional family-friendly celebration where people can learn about topics affecting the natural environment of southwest Florida. This is accomplished through a wide variety of activities for both adults and children, which include guided walks in Tippecanoe Environmental Park, hands-on activities, exhibits and vendors, music, a Children's Discovery Zone and more. A committee of volunteers, who represent a diverse group of organizations, is dedicated to making this Festival exciting and informative. Admission and parking are both free. To learn more, watch the short videos of past festivals that the CHNEP has posted on YouTube:
We hope that you will participate as a sponsor, exhibitor, volunteer or promoter of the 17th annual Charlotte Harbor Nature Festival, making it bigger and better than ever. Thank you for considering these requests.
For information about sponsorships or exhibit spaces, please visit the link below.
Download flyer with more information »
Florida mayors to Rubio: We’re going under, take climate change seriously
A group of mayors from communities in south Florida has released an open letter to one of their senators, Marco Rubio, in which they call for a meeting to discuss the challenges posed by climate change. The mayors, from communities like Key Biscayne, Miami, and West Palm Beach, say that the challenge of climate change requires a strong presidential commitment to action, one they argue Rubio is lacking.
"As mayors representing municipalities across Florida, we call on you to acknowledge the reality and urgency of climate change and to address the upcoming crisis it presents our communities," the letter reads. "Our cities and towns are already coping with the impacts of climate change today." Flooding at high tides, severe storm surges, and the intrusion of saltwater into municipal water supplies are all problems these cities face.
Those issues come thanks to 20cm of sea-level rise over the previous century. Studies project that the area could see up to another 30cm rise by 2050, which the mayors say "could wipe out as much as $4 billion in taxable real estate in the four-county region of Southeast Florida." If those projections are low, things get bad quickly; a 90cm rise takes out $31 billion and leaves cities and the Everglades decisively under water.
Rubio is considered one of the leading establishment candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, although that position leaves him well behind both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. But his past political history in the Florida legislature included the promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.
Continued online in Ars Technica »
CHNEP's Mosaic Phosphate Reclamation Tour: Register now
The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) Citizens Advisory Committee asked for a tour of phosphate reclamation efforts in the CHNEP watershed to better understand the techniques and outcomes. Thanks to Mosaic, a tour will be held Wednesday, March 30, 2016, leaving from the Turner Agri-Civic Center (2250 NE Roan St, Arcadia) by 8:30 a.m. and returning by 2:30 p.m. Participants will learn about Mosaic's phosphate mine reclamation and visit a variety of reclamation sites that may include uplands, wetlands and streams. This full-day tour will include transportation, lunch and snacks.
While this tour is offered free of charge, registration is required. Please complete the registration form at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/chnep-mosaic-reclamation-tour-2016-tickets-20059206627?aff=es2. (If this link does not work for you, go to www.EventBrite.com, search for CHNEP but change the location to Florida.)The bus tour is limited to the first 40 who register. If 40 have registered, please do still register to be placed on the wait list. An email will be sent approximately a week before the tour with additional details. On the day of the tour, please be sure to arrive early so the bus is loaded and ready to leave at 8:30 a.m.
Per Mosaic's visitor policy, attendees should be capable of walking and boarding vehicles throughout the day. Everyone must wear long pants and sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Guests should be in physical condition capable of walking unaided on uneven soft ground; going up and down high steps; and boarding/unboarding vehicles unaided throughout the day. Attendees may also travel in 15-passenger vans.
New water law will affect everyone who uses water in Florida
On January 14, 2016, the officers of the Legislature presented CS/CS/SB 552 to Governor Scott for signature. More famously known as the "Water Bill," this 134-page page marvel of compromise proves that it is still possible to pass controversial legislation in Florida today, even if it takes two years to do so. And, indeed, there is something in the law of interest to every homeowner, land developer, institutional user, farmer, utility, governmental unit and environmentalist, including plans for the allocation of limited water resources, development of new water projects, protection of Florida springs and regulation of discharges to impaired waters.
To understand the Water Bill, one needs to know the origin of much of it. Simply put, significant portions of Florida do not have enough water reserves from traditional groundwater sources to sustain continued growth. This dilemma has sparked the need to promote or even require development of alternative water supplies and to adopt additional limitations on withdrawals from traditional groundwater sources. Alternative water supplies include innovative solutions that do not involve withdrawal of water from traditional groundwater sources. Such solutions include implementation of graywater, stormwater and brackish water projects to augment existing sources.
In addition to the threat of diminishing water supplies, continued concern for Florida's premier springs brought about the creation of a new regulatory category to afford them special protection, together with associated development limitations and remediation plans. Additional protections have also been afforded to help remediate impaired water bodies throughout the state, but particularly the ecosystems in south Florida.
Finally, the Bill addresses the multiple existing programs for protection of the South Florida natural environment, some quite outdated, to clarify who's on first and what's on second by creating lead agency responsibility for various regulatory programs and identifying Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) as the definitive tool for problem solving and regulation to protect/restore impaired waters.
Set forth below is a compilation of the key provisions of the Bill:
Continued on JDSupra.com »
NCCOS research transitions GrouperChek to commercialization
Is this really grouper that I am eating? In order to answer this question, the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) sponsored scientists at the University of South Florida (USF) developed and patented a quick identification device for commercially important grouper species. A technological offshoot from a portable red tide detection sensor, the apparatus checks for mislabeled “grouper” fish sold at restaurants and seafood markets.
NCCOS sponsored scientist Dr. John Paul (center) received a University of South Florida (USF) Excellence in Innovation Award for exceptional achievement in innovation and research at the 7th annual meeting and luncheon of the USF Chapter of the National Academy of Inventors, held August 31, 2015 at the Galleria in the USF Research Park on the university's Tampa campus.
The device, called “GrouperChek,” attaches to a laptop and is likened to a “tricorder,” the fictional Star Trek life forms detector. GrouperChek uses molecular genetic technology called Nucleic Acid Sequence-Based Amplification (NASBA) that measures and fluorescently highlights specific RNA nucleic acids that signal the presence and abundance of the targeted organism gene, which is species specific. The work is based on NCCOS ECOHAB red tide identification research initiated in 2001.
The project lead scientist, John H. Paul, is a Distinguished University Professor of biological oceanography at USF. In 2014 he launched a new company, PureMolecular LLC, to produce his patented portable tricorder device. His business group uses their experience in measuring messenger RNA as a surrogate for microbial gene expression in the design of hand-held and autonomous sensors for the detection of noxious microorganisms in coastal environments.
Dr. Paul’s collaborative work has led to a new publication, a successful proposal to the USF Seed Capital Accelerator Program that received funding from the Florida High Tech Corridor Council in 2014, and a successful proposal to NCCOS PCMHAB Program (2015) to use his patent to detect the onset of red tides.
For more information, contact Quay Dortch.
Source: NOAA/NCCOS news release »
Where is the oil in the Gulf?
A Florida State University researcher and his team have developed a comprehensive analysis of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and determined how much of it occurs naturally and how much came from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.
And more importantly, their data creates a map, showing where the active natural oil seeps are located.
The research was recently released online by the Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans and is also the basis for a paper with researchers at Columbia University published today in Nature Geoscience.
In total, 4.3 million barrels were released into the Gulf from the oil spill versus an annual release of 160,000 to 600,000 barrels per year from naturally occurring seeps, according to the new results.
“This information gives us context for the Deepwater Horizon spill,” said FSU Professor of Oceanography Ian MacDonald. “Although natural seeps are significant over time, the spill was vastly more concentrated in time and space, which is why its impact was so severe.”
Among the findings was that dispersants were able to eliminate about 21 percent the oil that floated on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the spill, but at the cost of spreading the remaining oil over a 49 percent larger area.
FSU news release continues »
Water Association says new treatment facilities are in the works
The Gasparilla Island Water Association announced its intention to replace and expand its current water treatment facilities at its annual membership meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
GIWA President Les Diaz said the existing water treatment facility is nearing the end of its useful life. Therefore, the board is reviewing options, including replacement of the existing treatment facility with a plant constructed to last 50 years.
“We have to increase the capacity of our water treatment facility, so we have installed two new deep wells. The wastewater plant also needs to be completely redone – we’re hoping that will get done within the next eight years,” Diaz said.
Initial cost estimates are around 13 million dollars.
“This capital improvement is timed to coincide with the retirement of our oldest loans that mature in 2019, which will free up cash to repay new debt but will still require some creative financing,” as explained in the annual report.
Treasurer Mike Holmes presented a fiscal report for the year 2015.
Continued in the Boca Beacon »
Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides more than $375M in loans to Florida communities
Loans are designed to improve wastewater treatment facilities
TALLAHASSEE — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has recently awarded more than $375 million in low-interest loans and loan increases to eight Florida communities for new or existing wastewater treatment facilities through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF).
“Investments in water infrastructure projects offer numerous benefits to Florida’s communities, including protecting water quality, supporting our state’s growing population and ensuring the protection of public health and the environment,” said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson. “DEP is proud to partner with communities to make vital investments.”
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund program provides low-interest loans for planning, designing and constructing water pollution control facilities. Recent award recipients include the following communities:
View the list of loan recipients »
Calling All Juvenile Tarpon Anglers!
From the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust:
We need your help to identify juvenile tarpon habitats in your area. BTT has begun mapping juvenile tarpon habitat to 1) determine the habitat characteristics that are best for juvenile tarpon and 2) protect healthy habitats and identify other areas for habitat restoration. BTT has already been involved with three juvenile habitat restoration projects and we will use this data to expand the restoration and protection effort.
If you are aware of any locations that hold juvenile tarpon that are 12 inches long or less, please contact JoEllen Wilson. You will be asked for an exact location to better assess the habitat characteristics for that spot. Don't worry, all information is strictly confidential and WILL NOT be disseminated to the public in any way.
Loss and degradation of juvenile habitat is the single biggest threat to tarpon populations worldwide, and they have been classified as "Vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, meaning there has been at least a 30 percent decrease in the population in the recent past. Protecting and restoring critical juvenile habitat is the best way to preserve tarpon populations for the future.
We appreciate your assistance in protecting the future of the tarpon fishery.
Obama vetoes GOP attempt to block water rule
President Obama on Tuesday rejected an attempt by congressional Republicans to overturn his landmark regulation asserting federal power over small bodies of water.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule, dubbed the Clean Water Rule or “waters of the United States,” would ensure that water used for drinking, recreation, economic development and other purposes is kept safe, Obama said in a message to Congress late Tuesday.
“We must protect the waters that are vital for the health of our communities and the success of our businesses, agriculture, and energy development,” Obama wrote in his veto message.
“Because this resolution seeks to block the progress represented by this rule and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water, I cannot support it.”
The House passed the resolution last week under the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers a streamlined process to disapprove of regulation, blocking it and any similar rules. The Senate passed it in November.
The EPA wrote the rule with the Army Corps of Engineers, saying it essential to clarify that small waterways like ponds, streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act.
Obama said in his veto message that the rule responded to requests from Congress and industry, and is in line with Supreme Court rulings.
But the GOP made it a priority to block the rule. Republicans and business advocates say it extends federal reach over puddles, wet areas and other water and land that was never meant to have federal control.
Farmers, developers and other land users say that the rule would require federal permits for simple, everyday tasks like digging ditches and spraying pesticides.
The EPA is currently prohibited from enforcing the rule. A federal court blocked it last year to allow the court system to review whether it is legal.
It’s the second time Obama has vetoed a congressional attempt to overturn a major environmental rule in just over a month.
In December, he rejected the GOP’s resolution to stop his landmark climate rules for power plants.
Click here to view original article »
2016 Water Oral History Project to debut new videos Jan. 28th
SARASOTA COUNTY — The public is invited to join representatives from Sarasota County and New College in taking a step back in time
with a screening of videos showcasing oral histories as told by local residents.
These oral histories were created in a collaborative
project involving New College of Florida students, who
also served as interns at Sarasota County Government.
There will be a reception on Jan. 28 at 6 p.m., followed by a screening at 6:30 p.m. at the
Mildred Sainer Pavilion, located at New College of Florida,
5313 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota. Refreshments will be served
Meet the 2016 Water Oral History Participants:
Dr. Ed James: Dr. James has been a steadfast advocate for improvements in the Newtown
community and has inspired others through his work. He has been the producer and host of the
“Black Almanac” television program for 38 years and was a writer and associate producer of the
television program “Positively Black.” Dr. James also worked as a columnist and governmental
reporter for the Sarasota Journal and the New York Post. Dr. James was interviewed by Haley Jordan.
Laurel Kaiser: Kaiser was born in Sarasota where she has lived all of her life. In her 20s, she
fell in love with the sport of windsurfing. Since the late 1980s, Kaiser has taught windsurfing
and kiteboarding to Sarasota residents and visitors alike. She is an advocate for environmental
awareness and water access, and is passionate about encouraging others to enjoy the water.Ms. Kaiser was interviewed by Jordan Kearschner.
Shelia Cassundra Hammond Atkins: Atkins was born in Manatee County in 1952 but has lived in
Sarasota County for most of her life. Her parents were employed by Ralph and Ellen Caples. She
grew up in the Newtown community, where she attended high school during integration. She currently
works as a paraprofessional aide at Alta Vista Elementary. Atkins and her husband, former Sarasota
mayor Fredd “Glossie” Atkins, still live in the Newtown area. Mrs. Atkins was interviewed by Kaylie Stokes.
Wade Harvin, Jr.: Harvin was born in Crescent City, Fla., and moved to Sarasota in 1940 when he
was 5 years old. He was one of the first black bankers in Sarasota and brought Salvation Army bellringing
to the Newtown community. He has lived in both the Newtown and Overtown communities,
and he attends Bethlehem Baptist Church, which is the oldest African-American church in Sarasota. Mr. Harvin was interviewed by Flannery French.
Sarasota County prohibits discrimination in all services, programs or activities. View the complete policy at www.scgov.net/ADA/Pages/.
View oral histories from past years »
Register now for Feb. 23rd Mangrove Symposium
The University of Florida/IFAS Extension Charlotte County and Florida Sea Grant are pleased to announce their upcoming program, a 2016 Mangrove Symposium, which will be held on February 23rd, 2016 at the Charlotte County Eastport Environmental Campus, 25550 Harborview Road, Port Charlotte, FL 33980 from 8:30am – 3:30pm.
Symposium speakers will discuss the role and value of mangroves; rules and laws that govern mangrove trimming; and mangrove pruning techniques. The cost to attend is $20 with lunch included. Registration is online at the link below. Space is limited so pre-registration is required. For more information, please contact Betty Staugler at (941) 764-4346 or by email.
Continued Education Units: 4.25 ISA and 4 FNGLA CEUs are being offered for professional mangrove trimmers who attend the symposium.
Online registration »
Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve awarded $250K for restoration project
Legislative appropriation grants provide much needed funding for Florida's waterways.
LEE COUNTY — The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently awarded a $250,000 grant to Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve for a hydrological restoration project. This project will divert nutrient-laden water from two Caloosahatchee creeks into new winding channels, enhancing water quality by filtering out nutrients and particles that would otherwise flow directly into the Caloosahatchee River.
“DEP is pleased to partner with Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve in Lee County to assist in protecting and restoring the Caloosahatchee River,” said Trina Vielhauer, director of the Division of Water Restoration Assistance. "Projects like this are important to reduce harmful nutrients and continue restoration progress.”
For this hydrological restoration project, portions of three berms will be removed and one channel will be excavated, allowing water flowing from residential and agricultural areas to stay on the land longer. The channels will rehydrate the land and allow nutrients to settle out before flowing into the Caloosahatchee River. Rehydrating the area on Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve will also improve habitat for wildlife such as the wood stork and smalltooth sawfish, both federally protected species.
Construction of the channels and berm removal began in October 2015 with project completion scheduled for January 2016.
"Funding assistance from the DEP for projects like this is truly appreciated in communities like ours," said Cathy Olson, conservation lands manager for Lee County Parks and Recreation. "These projects not only focus on better water quality and improved habitat for wildlife, but they ultimately improve the entire Southwest Florida community."
This project is funded by Fiscal Year 2015-16 legislative appropriations committed by the DEP to Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve.
Source: Florida DEP news release »
Florida DEP to hold public meetings on water quality assessments
Basin assessments identify waters not attaining water quality standards
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Beginning Jan. 20, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will kick off a series of five meetings around Florida to take public input on the draft assessment lists for the Group 3 basins. The meetings will be held in Sarasota, Palm Bay, Boynton Beach, Fort Myers and Panama City.
“Because our programs can’t succeed without stakeholder cooperation and action, we are committed to taking advantage of local perspectives and priorities to better inform our watershed work plans,” said Tom Frick, director of DEP’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration.
To restore and protect Florida’s surface waters, the department collects water-quality data through its own monitoring programs and with the help of other agencies. The department uses this data to assess approximately 20 percent of Florida’s watersheds each year to identify waterbodies that do not meet water-quality standards (“impaired waters”), which are then placed on a “Verified List” to guide restoration priorities. Other potentially impaired waters, where more data is needed, are listed for further investigation. The upcoming meetings will provide an opportunity for the department to present these assessment lists and findings for the Group 3 basins.
At the public meetings, department staff will explain the results of draft basin-specific assessments for waters in the Choctawhatchee - St. Andrews, Sarasota Bay – Peace – Myakka, Upper St. Johns, Lake Worth Lagoon – Palm Beach Coast, and Caloosahatchee basins.
For each impaired waterbody or group of related waters, the department develops and adopts a scientifically derived restoration target, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load. Based on the target, a restoration plan is implemented to return the waterbody to health.
A complete list of workshop dates and locations can be found at the link below.
Public meeting schedule »
State says yes to Bonita water quality project
State water managers voted Thursday to push forward with a $3 million water quality project in Bonita Springs that will improve flows and wildlife habitat near the headwaters of the Imperial River.
The South Florida Water Management District governing board voted unanimously in favor of a project in what's called Southern CREW, or Southern Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.
"The project consists of degrading berms, roads and other features to restore the natural hydrology," said John Mitnik, an engineer and construction manger with the district. "We're not anticipating any signification changes to the peak discharges to the Imperial River as we look to improve the habitat on the property."
More than 1,000 acres of a now-defunct residential development north of Bonita Beach Road and east of Interstate 75 will be replumbed to mimic historic conditions. The land sits between the 60,000-acre Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem and the Imperial River, which runs through the city and flows into Estero Bay.
"They're filling ditches that were draining the area too quickly, and doing some exotic removal," said Ben Nelson, Bonita Springs mayor. "So all-in-all it's going to allow us to move forward with CREW."
Continued on News-Press.com »
Group Signs Off On New Babcock Ranch Preserve Management Plan
An advisory committee approved a draft for the Babcock Ranch Preserve’s 10-year land management plan on Wednesday. But, both members of the committee and the public said the process happened very quickly.
The Babcock Ranch Preserve Management Plan Advisory Group is tasked with revising the practices of a 73,000-acre piece of land that features both a working ranch and natural preserve.
Several members talked about trying to strike a balance between generating income from the ranch and public access.
Jennifer Hecker with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said there were also a lot of missed opportunities in the new plan.
“We saw them remove essentially or allow the removal of eight pages of management objectives relating to protecting the wildlife on the property. That, we were very disappointed with,” she said. “There was very little to address the water quality problems that are stemming from that property that could be addressed with better management practices.”
A representative with the Florida Forest Service said those objectives will be covered in the operations plan.
This was the second of two public meetings on the topic.
Hecker said the public had fewer than three days to review changes the group made to the more than 80-page document after the first meeting.
The new management plan will head to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection next. There will be another public meeting in April, when the document will be reviewed by a state committee for approval.
Click here to view original article »
Districts extend deadline to submit applications for $4 million in cost-share funding
The deadline to apply for cost-share funding for water conservation projects that benefit springs has been extended to Feb. 17, 2016, to allow additional time for completing the application process.
Local governments and public entities are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to receive part of the $4 million in state funding for projects in the Central Florida Water Initiative region and the North Florida Regional Water Supply Partnership region.
Projects to be considered focus on creating sustainable water resources, enhanced conservation efforts and improved efficiency of use. Details of the cost-share program are available at floridaswater.com/funding.
The St. Johns River Water Management District is administering the program, in partnership with the Suwannee River Water Management District, Southwest Florida Water Management District, South Florida Water Management District and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
FGCU panelist: 'Water is the new oil'
Water may soon be as valuable to Florida as beaches and sunshine.
That's not to say we have excess water, or any to sell to other states. Acquiring, treating, distributing and managing water is an increasing challenge as the state hits 20 million residents and appears to be in another development boom.
"Water is the new oil," said G. George Yilmaz, a panelist with Collier County Utilities. "We need to change our approach to water (and think of it) as a commodity."
Yilmaz was one of several panelists who talked about growth and how it impacts water — from water on the landscape and rivers and bays to water used for irrigation and drinking and washing — at a conference at Florida Gulf Coast University on Friday.
The group spoke to nearly 200 biologists, business owners, professors, students and others.
Concerns ranged from El Nino (which is causing the recent rains), to how to plan for water needs and management in the face of sea level rise, climate change, population increases and, oftentimes, poor water quality.
Continued on News-Press.com »
Environmental groups want Scott to veto water bill
Sweeping bills to address concerns over Florida’s imperiled water supplies were rushed through the Legislature this week and should be rejected by Gov. Rick Scott, environmental groups said in a press briefing Friday.
The twin bills, which have been in the works for nearly two years , were overwhelmingly approved by lawmakers with the support of the agriculture industry as well as the Department of Environmental Protection. Scott has said he plans to sign the bills next Thursday.
But critics, including more than 100 groups and businesses, say the measure fails to accomplish much-needed reforms that would help regulate water use and pollution and also strips control from local water management districts. The legislation also weakens water pollution controls in the Northern Everglades and fails to protect sensitive lands around springs. Instead, critics say the bills largely set up a shell game of commissions and reports.
Continued on the Miami Herald »
Yellow Fever Creek Preserve gets a new plan
Updated 10-year management plan available for Lee County’s Yellow Fever Creek Preserve
NORTH FORT MYERS — The management plan for Yellow Fever Creek Preserve, located off Del Prado Boulevard in Cape Coral, has been updated to show the work that has been done on the site over the past ten years. This updated plan will be discussed from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center, 2000 North Recreation Park Way.
The land management plan is produced by Lee County Conservation 20/20 staff. The plan describes the preserve and the restoration work completed and planned for the preserve. After public review the plan will be presented to the Lee County Board of County Commissioners for approval.
The management plan is available for review until Feb. 3 at the North Fort Myers Public Library, 2001 N. Tamiami Trail and the Northwest Regional Library, 519 Chiquita Blvd. North.
Written comments are encouraged and can be given at the meeting, by emailing email@example.com or through the mail. For more information, visit www.conservation2020.org.
Download the new plan »
SFWMD Awards Contract for Corkscrew Ecosystem Restoration Project
Work will restore the hydrology and ecology in a vast environmentally sensitive area
FORT MYERS — The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) today awarded a $2.9 million construction contract for work that will restore the hydrology and ecology on more than 1,000 acres within the Southern Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) Project.
The SFWMD and its partners — representing businesses, environmental groups, landowners and governmental agencies — manage the watershed for its numerous benefits to water storage and wildlife preservation. The 60,000-acre watershed spanning Lee and Collier counties includes a 5,000-acre marsh at its headwaters and the famous Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
“This project is the essence of restoration,” said SFWMD Governing Board member Rick Barber. “Taking out roads and plugging ditches will continue a transformation back to a more natural environment while also maintaining flood control by providing water storage for nearby residents.”
The contract covers a variety of restoration work, including:
• Degrading approximately 10 miles of roads
• Removing spoil piles
• Plugging or filling ditches and canal drainage systems no longer needed
• Degrading existing berms within the project area
Water once flowed freely across the pristine landscape of what is now Bonita Springs in Lee County. Historic water sheetflow in the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed was later blocked by dirt roads, agricultural ditches and several home sites. This altered the ecosystem and contributed to flooding in residential and other areas.
Floods in 1995 led the SFWMD to develop the Southern CREW Restoration Project to restore the ecosystem while protecting area residents and properties.
With work spanning more than a decade, the SFWMD acquired approximately 4,000 acres for this project, cleared exotic vegetation from more than 2,500 acres, removed roads and plugged agricultural ditches on more than 600 acres. To date, the SFWMD and State have invested more than $32 million to conserve the lands, with the U.S. Department of the Interior contributing another $7 million to the restoration effort.
When completed, the restoration project will provide significant benefits to the Southwest Florida ecosystem, including:
• Restoring wetlands and the historic sheetflow of water
• Improving regional flood protection and drainage
• Increasing water storage and aquifer recharge capability
Source: South Florida Water Management District news release »
Donations needed for upcoming Roadways and Waterways Community Celebration in February
The City of North Port is seeking individuals, organizations, and businesses interested in getting involved in a Roadways and Waterways Community Celebration to recognize a Road Bond Project and a Blueways Project. Donations are needed for prizes, food and drinks. The City is also looking for entertainment and those organizations and businesses interested in hosting information tables.
The City will be hosting the celebration from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, February 27, 2016 at McKibben Park, 5500 Trekell Street. The celebration will include a ribbon cutting and groundbreaking to recognize two major projects that will enhance the quality of life for North Port residents. Entertainment, food, beverages, information tables, prizes and giveaways are planned for the celebration.
The City’s Road Bond Project Phases 4, 5, and 6 will officially kick off construction with a groundbreaking ceremony at 10 a.m. during the event. Immediately following the groundbreaking, the City will conduct a ribbon cutting to celebrate the end of construction of Phase I of its Blueways Project, which will open up a portion of the City’s canals to canoeing and kayaking.
“Both of these projects make a huge difference in the quality of life for our residents, and we are hoping that the community will help us to host the celebration,” said Community Outreach Manager Erin Bryce. “We are looking for individuals, businesses, and organizations interested in helping to contribute food, drinks, prizes, and giveaways. We also are seeking any nonprofit or businesses interested in hosting information tables.”
Those who are interested should contact Community Outreach Manager Erin Bryce at (941) 429-7165 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City’s Road Bond Project is one of the biggest road resurfacing projects in the City’s history. Phases 4, 5 and 6 consist of roadways in neighborhoods along the Sumter Boulevard corridor, Cranberry Boulevard corridor and South Haberland Boulevard. Many of the roadways defined in Phases 4, 5, and 6 will either be resurfaced as part of the Road Bond or receive necessary routine maintenance. Drainage work is also part of the project. Work is anticipated to be finished by late 2016.
This is the third of several neighborhood Road Bond celebrations. The Road Bond Project, which began in 2014, includes the rehabilitation of 266 miles of substandard neighborhood roads throughout the 104.1-square-mile city. The project, which spans the City, was split into eight construction phases. Phase 1 and 2 encompassed the North Port Estates and finished in 2014. Phase 3, which encompassed more than 7,000 homes along Biscayne Drive, finished earlier this year.
The City of North Port also will be celebrating the completion of Phase I of the Blueways project. The project is currently under construction. When completed, residents will be able to navigate between four parks by canoe, kayak, or any other non-motorized boat. The parks include Butler Park, Dallas White Park, McKibben Park, and Blue Ridge Park. The project includes portages around water control structures that will allow users to traverse 6 miles of waterways. Each portage has a platform for users to dock, walk their vessels around the structure and re-launch. This is the first phase of several that are planned to open up the City’s waterways for more recreational use.
“We hope the community will join us in celebrating these two major projects. This is a great opportunity for individuals, organizations and businesses to make a difference and get involved in these two projects,” Bryce said.
For questions about the Road Bond Project, contact the Department of Public Works at (941) 240-8050. For questions about the Blueways Project, contact Parks and Recreation at (941) 429-7275. For information about the celebration or to donate to the celebration, contact Community Outreach at (941) 429-7165.
Click here to view original article »
Stormwater fee surging toward vote
A monthly stormwater utility fee nows seems eminent, as Fort Myers Beach Town Council members appear to be down to deciding not if, but how much.
A public hearing is set for Feb. 1, with a vote to follow. The proposed average monthly fee has been at $26.50, based upon a determined impervious (non-absorbent) surface average of 4,414 square feet per home.
However, council members at their Jan. 4 meeting discussed reducing it to $19.50 per month, knowing it will cause delays in settling the debt but might be more digestible for residents.
Either way, the fee is needed they say to eliminate what is now $2 million in debt to the town's general fund for the portion of an ongoing and non-budgeted stormwater project for the town's side streets. Jim Steele, a member of the town's audit committee who is providing consultation as the former controller in Indianapolis, said directly: "It's critical you do something right now. You have no funding mechanism for this."
Otherwise, the project would need to come to a screeching halt, something council member Rexann Hosafros doesn't want to see.
Continued on FortMyersBeachTalk.com »