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4/28/2016

Red Tide Status: April 22nd, 2016

A bloom of the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists along Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte counties in Southwest Florida.

Over the past week, K. brevis was observed at background to low concentrations in 4 samples collected from Pinellas County; background to very low concentrations in 16 samples collected from Manatee County; background to low concentrations in 21 samples collected from Sarasota County; background to low concentrations in 4 samples collected from Charlotte County; and background to very low concentrations in 5 samples collected from Lee County.

Additional samples collected throughout Florida this week did not contain K. brevis.

Respiratory irritation was reported last week at multiple Pinellas County coastal beaches, with the most recent report at Redington Beach on 4/13. The most recent fish kill was reported several miles offshore of Madeira Beach on 4/14.

Forecasts for Southwest Florida by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show southern movement of surface waters and southern onshore movement of bottom waters between Pinellas and Lee counties over the next 3 days.

Map of the Statewide K. brevis concentrations

Click here to view original article »

4/28/2016

DEP authorizes construction of Lake Hicpochee Hydrologic Enhancement Project


The Lake Hicpochee project is intended to restore historic water flows and improve water quality in the Caloosahatchee River

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has authorized the South Florida Water Management District to begin construction of the Lake Hicpochee Hydrologic Enhancement Project, which will help restore the lake’s historic water flows as well as improve the quality of water entering the Caloosahatchee River. This project is part of the Florida’s Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Plan, which promotes a watershed approach to protecting Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers and estuaries.

Located southwest of Lake Okeechobee, the project site will cover approximately 720 acres and is adjacent to the north levee of the C-43 Canal of the Caloosahatchee River. Work by local interests began in the 1800s to connect the Caloosahatchee River (C-43 Canal) to Lake Okeechobee, bisecting Lake Hicpochee into north and south portions and altering the lake’s ecology and hydrology. This project will help restore the historic lake bed and wetlands.

Project construction will include a 670-acre flow equalization basin (FEB) that can store 1,280 acre-feet of water and a 6,500-foot spreader canal along the north boundary of Lake Hicpochee in eastern Glades County. The FEB will capture and store C-19 stormwater flows before passing it through wetland marshes, resulting in improved water quality prior to its release to the Caloosahatchee River. Construction is scheduled to occur from September 2016 to November 2017.

The 2016-17 Florida First budget approved by the Legislature and Governor Rick Scott provides $16.9 million from the Amendment 1 Land Acquisition Trust Fund for an additional 2,454 acres that will provide additional water storage for the project. The Department of Environmental Protection has previously funded more than $1.2 million for land acquisition and over $500,000 for engineering design of this project.

Source: DEP news release »

4/28/2016

SWFWMD reports gains in seagrass coverage in Charlotte Harbor

Scientists with the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Program released the results of the 2014 seagrass mapping study showing a 5.2 percent increase in seagrass coverage in Charlotte Harbor.

The District maps seagrass in five estuaries spanning the five coastal counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte. Charlotte Harbor is Florida’s second largest open water estuary, and provides some of the most productive estuarine ecosystems in southwest Florida. This is the third consecutive survey to show increases for the system from 2008 values. The study also shows gains in Lemon Bay and Sarasota Bay.

The results show Charlotte Harbor gained 985 acres of seagrass between 2012 and 2014. The area now collectively supports 19,896 acres of seagrass beds, the largest amount of seagrass measured since 1996. Seagrass acreage in Charlotte Harbor has remained around 18,000 acres since 2000, making 2014 estimates another significant gain towards the protection and recovery of seagrass in the system. Lemon Bay, a smaller system, gained 166 acres, a 5.4 percent increase.

Documenting the extent of seagrass and how it changes overtime is a valuable tool for scientists throughout the state of Florida. Seagrasses are an important barometer of a bay’s health because they require relatively clean water to flourish, thus they are sensitive to changes in water clarity and quality. The District’s maps are used as a tool for measuring and tracking biological integrity of estuaries as it relates to water quality conditions. Seagrass generally grows in waters less than six feet deep, but in the clear waters around Boca Grande Pass it can be found in water 8 to 10 feet deep.

The District began its formal seagrass mapping program in 1988. As part of the program, SWIM scientists assess seagrass in five Gulf coast estuaries. Every two years maps are produced from aerial photographs and then verified for accuracy by conducting field surveys. The results are used to track trends in seagrass and to evaluate ongoing water quality improvement efforts.

Source: SWFWMD News Release »

4/26/2016

Florida Clean Water Network files notice of intent to sue Cape Coral

An environmental group filed a notice of intent to sue the City of Cape Coral over federal Clean Water Act violations they say are polluting Matlacha Pass.

The Florida Clean Water Network says the city is violating permit requirements set by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and they want a development moratorium until the issue is remedied.

“When you have an impairment (measured pollution) you cannot allow development to continue,” said Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network.

Excess storm water is causing high levels of nitrogen in Matlacha Pass. That nutrient feeds various types of plant growth, including toxic algae that can lead to fish and marine mammal kills.

Matlacha Pass is west of Cape Coral. The pass is part of the Pine Island Sound Matlacha Pass Watershed. The new bridge connecting the mainland to Matlacha goes over the pass.

Cape Coral Mayor Marni Sawicki said she had not heard of the possible suit from city staff nor seen the notice of intent herself.

"Until I see what they're filing and why, I'm not going to comment," Sawicki said.

Connie Barron, public affairs manager for the city, said the city attorney's office had recently received the notice.

"Just got the notice, they are in the process of reviewing the information contained within the letter and the notice of intent," Barron said.

A person or organization is required by law to file a notice of intent before it can sue.

Click here to view original article »

4/26/2016

The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act

The 2016 Florida Legislature adopted SB 552, a long-awaited, comprehensive water bill that tackled issues from Everglades restoration to water supply and created the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act (the Springs Protection Act or the Act), which is now Part VIII of Chapter 373, Florida Statutes. See Ch. 2016-1, § 22 et seq., Laws of Fla.

The Springs Protection Act is aimed at protecting Florida springs fed by the Floridan Aquifer, one of two aquifer systems which underlie the majority of the state (the other is the Biscayne Aquifer, located in an area stretching from Boca Raton to the Florida Keys) and one of the most productive aquifers in the world. As the legislature recognized, the “[w]ater quality of springs is an indicator of local conditions of the Floridan Aquifer,” and these springs are threatened by polluted runoff, discharges resulting from inadequate wastewater and stormwater management practices, and reduced water levels of the Floridan Aquifer from withdrawals. The Act focuses on the water quantity and quality of Florida’s springs.

The Springs Protection Act builds on existing law, including the Florida Water Resources Act and the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act, and requires the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to adopt:

  • recovery and prevention strategies to ensure that water levels at Florida’s springs do not fall below established Minimum Levels; and
  • basin management action plans (BMAPs) to ensure that pollutant levels in Florida’s springs are below established Total Maximum Daily Loads.

Continued on jdsupra.com »

4/26/2016

Sixth Circuit Will Not Rehear Venue Question in Clean Water Act Rule Dispute

On April 21, 2016 the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied several petitions for rehearing en banc a Sixth Circuit panel decision that looked at which courts (federal district court or federal courts of appeal) have original jurisdiction to hear challenges to the EPA’s Clean Water Rule. This recent ruling leaves in place the Sixth Circuit panel ruling holding that jurisdiction lies at the appeals court level.

EPA’s Clean Water Rule has already sparked a long and complicated history of litigation. As a refresher, here are some of the highlights:

  • June 29, 2015: EPA publishes final “Clean Water Rule” setting out a new definition of “Waters of the United States.” 80 Fed. Reg. 37054 (Jun. 29, 2015). Soon after, multiple petitions are filed challenging the rule in federal district courts and in federal circuit courts.

  • July 28, 2015: The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidates the pending circuit court actions in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • August 27, 2015: The federal District Court for the District of North Dakota concludes that jurisdiction is proper in the district courts and enjoins enforcement of the Clean Water Rule in the 13 States that are parties to the lawsuit in front of the court.

  • October 9, 2015: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issues a nationwide stay of the Clean Water Rule. In Re: Environmental Protection Agency and Dep’t of Defense Final Rule “Clean Water Rule”, Nos. 15-3799/3822/3853/3877, 803 F.3d 804 (6th Cir. 2015).

  • February 22, 2016: A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that the circuit courts have jurisdiction to hear the challenges to the Clean Water Rule.

  • March 3rd, 2016: The Federal defendants file a Motion to Dismiss the North Dakota District Court case in light of the Sixth Circuit’s decision from February 22nd.

  • March -April 2016: Several Parties file petitions to the Sixth Circuit for rehearing en banc the panel decision on jurisdiction from February 22nd.

  • April 21, 2016: The Sixth Circuit denies the en banc petitions, leaving the February 22nd decision in place.


We will have to wait and see if the States and industry groups challenging jurisdiction in the Sixth Circuit will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, there are still parallel proceedings questioning jurisdiction at the North Dakota district court and the Eleventh Circuit (on appeal from the District Court for the Southern District of Georgia). The Sixth Circuit’s denial of rehearing makes it more likely that the Clean Water Rule will ultimately be reviewed in the circuit courts, specifically, the Sixth Circuit. However, the order has no immediate substantive effect on the regulated community because it leaves in place the nationwide stay of the Clean Water Rule.

Click here to view original article »

4/25/2016

Lee County funds $1 million wastewater storage, recovery well study

FORT MYERS – The county will be spending almost $1 million to study if it can build an underground wastewater storage and recovery well in Fort Myers Beach.

Storing treated wastewater during the rainy season, and pulling it back up for use as irrigation water over the winter dry season, would help the county cut its discharges to the Caloosahatchee River, said County Manager Roger Desjarlais. Not only would it help customers in need of reclaimed water, like parks or golf courses, but could help the county cut down on the Caloosahatchee's already high nitrogen levels.

During the rainy season, the county usually disposes about 850 million gallons of treated water collected from sinks, showers, dishwashers and toilets, either through the deep injection well already in place at the Beach or pipes that dump into the Caloosahatchee. Storing and then reclaiming the wastewater during the dry season may cut the amount of nitrogen the county dumps into the river by as much as 2,840 pounds a year, county official say. But it would come at a steep price, said County Commission Chairman Frank Mann - about $6.9 million, according to county estimates.

The county already uses this kind of technology to store and withdraw drinking water deep under ground, but it has now hired a contractor, CH2M Hill Engineers Inc., to decide if the aquifers under the Beach are suitable to do the same thing with treated wastewater from the Fort Myers Beach and Fiesta Village treatment plants. Lee has not used this well technology for wastewater before, but other counties in Florida already do, said Patty DiPiero from Lee County Utilities.

Lee stores about 300 million gallons of drinking water in these kind of deep storage and withdrawal wells, DiPiero said. The fresh water pumped into the aquifer pushes the salty water out, and the salty water forms a kind of bubble around the fresh that, along with the layer of confining rock usually found in such aquifers, keeps most of the fresh water in place, DiPiero said. For the drinking water wells, the county usually recovers about 80 percent of what it stores.

In addition to reducing the county's nitrogen discharge into the river, the county also estimates it could earn about $96,250 a year selling the reclaimed wastewater to the golf courses and residential communities that rely on it to keep their landscaping alive during dry winters, DiPiero said. It would also conserve about 250 million gallons a year of groundwater that does not have to be used for irrigation, she said.

This kind of technology used to be at the heart of the water storage plans for the Everglades restoration project, but was rejected after project officials decided it wouldn't work there. Excess water could be stored in these wells, but not withdrawn. But county officials say that it has worked fine for potable water storage and recovery in Lee County since first launched in 2000.

Source: News-press.com »

4/20/2016

Six years after Deepwater Horizon oil spill, USF Researchers see path forward

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Four important "lessons learned" will help future responders and researchers.

TAMPA – On April 20, 2010, millions of gallons of crude oil began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico following an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. The explosion killed 11 workers and oil spewed from the damaged, one mile deep well head for 87 days. Response efforts added almost two million gallons of dispersants to the Gulf. Through ongoing studies, scientific researchers from the University of South Florida continue to learn more about how both oil and dispersants have impacted marine life. Six years later, many lessons have been learned about response and recovery, especially about the impacts on marine life. However, scientists continue to seek more answers.

Researchers from USF’s College of Marine Science, the lead institution for the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis (C-IMAGE), an international research consortium created to study the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, have outlined their research and provided four important lessons learned since 2010.

Lesson 1: The need for baseline data throughout the oceans to determine a disaster’s effects
Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), established after the 1989 Alaska Exxon Valdez spill, the responsible party is required to pay for damage. OPA90’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment regulation requires quantifying damage and ecosystem restoration to pre-spill or “baseline” condition. With the Gulf vastly understudied before 2010, having a complete picture of the Gulf’s “before” condition was impossible. Strong baseline could have provided an invaluable assessment and also could have even influenced how responders did risk assessments.

Lesson 2: Oil sinks to the bottom
Marine “snow” is a term used to describe the particulate matter (dead and dying plankton) falling to the seafloor and is a pathway through which oil can be deposited on the seafloor. Crude oil is made of thousands of different arrangements of carbon that become more toxic after burning. These toxic compounds can be trapped in marine snow and cover the seabed, harming marine life.

Lesson 3: Dispersants may not as useful as once believed, particularly in the deep-sea
Over two million gallons of dispersants were released during relief efforts at the surface and at the well-head. Dispersants break larger droplets into smaller ones for increased bacterial degradation. Studies have shown that dispersants did not stimulate bacterial growth and may have inhibited bacterial growth (full study here).

“Up to 10 percent of the sea floor in the area is covered with oil,” said Dr. David Hollander of USF’s College of Marine Science and chief scientist of C-IMAGE. “We want to relate what we see on the cores to the condition of the fish. We will also distribute the cores to various scientific groups for research.”

Lesson 4: Prolonged oil toxicity in fish continues
Fish communities exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can severely impact fish health, behavior, and reproduction. Since 2010, USF researchers have studied the extent of exposure over time and evaluated fish muscle and liver tissue for PAH. Tissue samples from both shallow and deep water fish communities show that PAH concentrations in deep water fish increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2011, while the increase in PAH content in shallow water fish increased 20-fold.

Since 2011, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has provided $353 million in research dollars funding consortia – like C-IMAGE – and grants to study spill impacts on coastal, surface, and deep-sea environments, impacts on human health, and properties of oil droplets and dispersants in the ocean. In 2015, USF was awarded $20.2 million to continue C-IMAGE research.

To coincide with the sixth anniversary of the spill, a screening of the film “Dispatches From the Gulf,” the story of the recovery efforts, will be broadcast via live stream on April 20, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., at:

www.youtube.com/c/ScreenscopeJ2PE/live

The film will also be aired on local television station WEDU+ in the Tampa Bay area, at 8 p.m. on April 20.

The documentary highlights research in the Gulf following the oil spill, in particular, researchers from the C-IMAGE consortium, and is narrated by Matt Damon.

Learn more about the film and view a trailer »

4/19/2016

Vegetables irrigated with treated wastewater expose consumers to drugs


A new study shows that eating vegetables and fruits grown in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater exposes consumers to minute quantities of carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater effluents.

A new study by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical Center shows that eating vegetables and fruits grown in soils irrigated with reclaimed wastewater exposes consumers to minute quantities of carbamazepine, an anti-epileptic drug commonly detected in wastewater effluents.

Fresh water scarcity worldwide has led to increased use of reclaimed wastewater, as an alternative source for crop irrigation. But the ubiquity of pharmaceuticals in treated effluents has raised concerns over the potential exposure for consumers to drug contaminants via treated wastewater.

"Israel is a pioneer and world leader in reuse of reclaimed wastewater in the agriculture sector, providing an excellent platform to conduct such a unique study," said research co-author Prof. Benny Chefetz from the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University and the Director of the Hebrew University Center of Excellence in Agriculture and Environmental Health. The study is the first to directly address exposure to such pharmaceutical contaminants in healthy humans. It was recently published in Environmental Science and Technology.

"In a randomized controlled trial we have demonstrated that healthy individuals consuming reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce excreted carbamazepine and its metabolites in their urine, while subjects consuming fresh water-irrigated produce excreted undetectable or significantly lower levels of carbamazepine," said Prof. Ora Paltiel, Director of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, who led the research.

The study followed 34 men and women divided into two groups. The first group was given reclaimed wastewater-irrigated produce for the first week, and freshwater-irrigated vegetables in the following week. The second group consumed the produce in reverse order.

Continued in Science Daily »

4/18/2016

Future of Cape Coral’s Chiquita Lock on hold


CAPE CORAL – Little progress has been made since Cape Coral city leaders voted to remove the Chiquita Lock last year.

In March, the proposal to remove the lock was supposed to be submitted, but city officials are now saying it likely won’t be turned in until December.

Public Works engineer Oliver Clark says the delay is in part due to the city working with a very tight window to collect water quality data before the wet season in 2015 ended.

“We moved on that quickly, but it didn’t turn out to work because we had some equipment failures that occurred and didn’t have backup equipment,” Clark said. “We’ve got to have the science or we’re just wasting our time.”

But local boaters are ready to see the change.

Just this past week, Mike Necci, who lives near the lock, says he had to wait an hour to go through.

“I think that would be great for the businesses, for just all the community,” Necci said, saying he’s in favor of the lock’s removal.

The city hired an engineering firm to help with the permit application. It will then head to the state and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Story with video at WinkNews.com »

4/15/2016

Public meeting focuses on future of North Port’s Little Salt Spring

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At 7 p.m. on April 19th, the Friends of Little Salt Spring will host a public meeting at the Jockey Club Clubhouse in North Port. The meeting will be a discussion with Florida Senator Nancy Detert, who will be sharing her vision for Little Salt Spring, followed by a question and answer session. Sen. Detert will be addressing Little Salt Spring's history, its present situation, and the future outlook for the site.

Little Salt Spring is a 74-meter diameter, brackish water-filled pond in the City of North Port, in Sarasota County. Little Salt Spring lies within a 112-acre parcel of land that, in 1982, was donated to the University of Miami as an archaeological preserve to be held in perpetuity for scientific and educational purposes.

Friends of Little Salt Spring membership meetings are held three times a year at the Jockey Club Clubhouse. The Jockey Club is a southerly neighbor to Little Salt Spring and the spring discharge flows along the border on its way to the Myakkahatchee Creek.

The Jockey Club Clubhouse is at 3050 Pan American Blvd., at the corner of Pan American Blvd. and Appomattox Drive.

Friends of Little Salt Spring website »

4/14/2016

Higher bills, ‘contamination’ concerns in Cape Coral water dispute

City leaders believe the drinking water for 120,000 customers could become contaminated if a wastewater project is approved, but making changes to the project could cost 12,000 other customers.

The Florida Governmental Utility Authority provides water for approximately 12,000 customers in North Fort Myers and is being required by the state to drill a new well to dispose of excess treated wastewater. It is planning to place the well underneath a Cape Coral well that serves 120,000 people.

Cape Coral leaders have said that pressure from the new well would raise the salt levels of Cape Coral’s water supply. City officials have said no one will be at risk of drinking contaminated water, but its customers would have higher bills as the city paid for additional treatments to the water.

“It could increase our utility rates if we were to have to go in and spend tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to combat whatever contaminants that might be in the water that’s not there now,” said Jeff Pearson of the City of Cape Coral.

But FGUA said its project would not contaminate Cape Coral’s water supply.

“First off, the word “contamination” is not an appropriate word,” a spokesperson said. “We do not believe that this project will increase the pressure of the aquifer to the point where it’s driving salty water up into city’s wells.”

What Cape Coral is proposing about salty water in the well could happen, the spokesperson said. But to avoid that issue altogether, FGUA could drill its well deeper. That would cost customers more, FGUA said. A spokesperson for the water provider company said they could know whether the project is approved by the end of the week.

Cape Coral has expressed its concerns to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. If the project is approved, the city council will decide whether they want to take further action.

Click here to view original article »

4/12/2016

$600M reservoir could hurt rather than help, scientists say


Top water quality scientists says the reservoir will turn into a massive algal bloom

It was supposed to help our river and estuaries but could end up hurting them with toxic algae.

And now some scientists say the $600 million C-43 project to store water for dry season could be a waste of money because it won’t clean water and the dirty water it stores could grow far worse as it festers under the Florida sun in shallow pools.

Also, some scientists worry that releasing that water into the river could violate the Clean Water Act standards, which basically say it's illegal to move pollution from one property or water body to another. And U.S. Rep Curt Clawson, R-Bonita Springs, who recently waded in with a new water bill, says spending money on water storage isn't necessarily bad, but doesn't address the key problem: dirty water.

The Caloosahatchee reservoir will take another decade to complete, according to the South Florida Water Management District. But one of the world's top water quality scientists says the reservoir will turn into a massive algal bloom that could become more of a hindrance than a help.

"I can predict 100 percent that that’s going to happen," said William Mitsch, a Florida Gulf Coast University professor and world-renowned marine scientist. "You’re talking about the same water Lake Okeechobee has released, and you’re going to put it in a shallow basin. With shallow lakes, with all the nutrients we have in the water, it’s not a good idea."

Continued in the News-Press »

4/7/2016

Sinkhole insurance may expand to cover more than catastrophic loss

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott has until Wednesday to sign a sinkhole insurance bill before it automatically becomes law.

The bill, SB 1274, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, would allow insurance companies to offer more comprehensive sinkhole damage coverage to homeowners than current state law permits.

“It would allow them to set up a line of business to offer sinkhole insurance as a specialized line,” Latvala said. It would not be offered in conjunction with a homeowner’s regular insurance like it used to be, he added, “so people who are in sinkhole prone areas could buy extra protection.”

Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties are especially prone to sinkholes and sinkhole damage, with more than two-thirds of all sinkholes occurring in the region known as “sinkhole alley.”

Latvala said he’s heard nothing to make him think Gov. Scott had a problem with the bill. “I’ve got to believe that it’s fine or I would have heard something,” he said.

The Governor’s Office said the bill was under review.

State lawmakers in 2011 approved a measure to limit coverage of sinkhole damage to homes and businesses with “catastrophic ground cover collapse” as a way to cut down on the rising cost and number of claims and costs during the previous five years.

A home had to fall into a sinkhole to qualify for insurance coverage, Latvala has said. And it didn’t cover repairs to sinking floors and cracks in walls.

Continued in the Suncast News »

4/7/2016

How Many Straws?

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Water officials say that, added up, the impact of private irrigation wells may be significant in Florida. Lack of data keeps them from knowing for sure, and may be skewing the state’s rosy water-conservation numbers.

In the Turnberry Lake development near Jonesville, private irrigation wells are a familiar sight in the backyards of many homes. When prospective residents come to view the neighborhood, they are given the option to add an irrigation well to their home site, alongside options like low-flow shower heads and LED light fixtures.

Turnberry Lake, known for its sandy soil and grassy landscapes, consumed the most water out of 28 neighborhoods surveyed in the 2014 Envision Alachua report. While it’s landscaped with drought-tolerant Zoysia grass and many native plants and trees, a single-family Turnberry home averaged 538 gallons per day; that’s 73 percent higher than the county average of 308 gallons per day.

With high water consumption comes higher water bills from the local utility — a factor that prompts some homeowners to seek alternatives for landscape irrigation. Private irrigation wells are one option. But water officials are beginning to worry about the impact private wells may have on water resources. Every well drilled into the Floridan Aquifer is like poking another straw into a drink; scientists say the cumulative sips contribute to the decline of the region’s springs and rivers.

“If you have a really high water bill, but you still really want that green lawn, one alternative you have is to put in an irrigation well,” said Stacie Greco, Alachua County water conservation coordinator.

Floridians use about 6.4 billion gallons of freshwater every day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, a number that has dropped in recent years amid increasing efficiency, awareness and prices. In the city of Gainesville, water use has dropped 22 percent since 2007 despite population growth.

Continued on WUFT.org »

4/7/2016

USDA Seeks Partner Proposals to Protect and Restore Critical Wetlands

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of $15 million to help eligible conservation partners leverage local investments to provide technical assistance and financial resources for wetlands protection and improvements on private and Tribal agricultural land nationwide.

The Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership (WREP) is one way state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and Tribal governments collaborate with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to increase the number of voluntary conservation projects for targeted, high priority wetland protection, restoration and enhancement. Local and regional WREP partners match federal funding and technical assistance to increase the assistance they can provide to eligible private landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements. WREP is a special enrollment option under USDA’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. The voluntary nature of NRCS easement programs allows effective integration of wetland restoration on working landscapes, providing benefits to farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program, as well as benefits to their communities.

USDA is now accepting proposals for funding. Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by May 16, 2016. More information is available on the NRCS Agricultural Conservation Easement Program webpage.

Full text of USDA news release »

4/7/2016

New pipelines shore up region’s water supply coverage

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Twenty-five years ago, when they acquired General Development Utilities' water treatment plant on the Peace River, the counties of Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte stepped up their long-range effort to connect their water systems.

Hundreds of miles of pipelines throughout the region are now linked, with more to come.

On Wednesday, the board of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority — which is comprised of a county commissioner from each member county — received updates on more than $82 million in projects that will extend pipelines throughout the area by another almost 30 miles.

By forming its partnership and making such connections, the authority has ensured a shared and diverse portfolio of water sources for the region to tap into, a combination of reservoirs, wellfields and aquifer storage systems. Their pact has enabled them to avoid the political feuds over water rights that have occurred elsewhere in the nation.

Most importantly, their network of linked pipelines and the authority's underground storage of 6 billion gallons that can be available during dry seasons provides backup supplies during times of drought. And those interconnections could also be essential in emergencies, such as when authority customer North Port provided water to Charlotte during the aftermath of Hurricane Charley.

Continued in the Herald-Tribune »

4/5/2016

Catch nonnative freshwater fish, get the chance to win prizes

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Want the opportunity to win prizes while helping to document and remove nonnative freshwater fish from Florida’s waters? Consider participating in the second statewide Nonnative Fish Catch, Click and Report Contest, coordinated by the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and partners. The 2016 contest kicks off at 6 a.m. on April 1 and runs until midnight on April 30.

Participating is easy — anglers simply take a photo, enter detailed catch location or GPS coordinates, and report nonnative freshwater fish catches to IveGot1.org during the contest sample period. Catches can also be reported by downloading the IveGot1 app, by calling 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), or by posting photos and catch data to your Instagram acount.

“Florida is home to at least 34 species of reproducing exotic fish and new species continue to be found, which can impact native fish communities,” said FWC biologist Kelly Gestring. “By removing and reporting nonnative fish, anglers help manage populations of exotic species and help conserve our state’s precious natural resources.”

The contest is part of a continuing effort to raise awareness of nonnative fish species and encourage anglers to target nonnative fish for consumption by the FWC and partners, including the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Florida Invasive Species Partnership, University of Georgia and Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area. Partners plan to hold the event annually with the help of anglers acting as citizen scientists.

The Nonnative Fish Catch, Click and Report Contest is open to all licensed or legally exempt anglers in Florida. There is no entry fee and prizes will be awarded. Entries can be submitted throughout the contest period and final submissions must be made by midnight on Saturday, April 30. For more information on the contest rules, regulations and prizes, go to FloridaInvasives.org/CatchClickReport. To register and start submitting reports visit IveGot1.org or download the free reporting app for your smartphone by searching for IveGot1 in the app store. You can also report your catch by posting your photos and catch data to your Instagram account — be sure to tag #ivegot1. You may also enter by calling the Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681) and informing the operator that you are participating in the contest.

More information on nonnative freshwater fish and other exotic species can be found at MyFWC.com/nonnatives.

4/5/2016

April 12th Mote Science Cafe in Boca Grande focuses on beneficial bacteria

Have you ever wondered if bacteria can actually help you? Well, some can! Certain bacteria can offer health benefits to humans, along with the fish we raise for seafood and environmental restoration.

Meet Mote Marine Laboratory Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr. Andrea Tarnecki and Dr. Jeffrey Humbarger of the Boca Grande Health Clinic as they share their expert knowledge during Mote’s free Science Café, “Itsy-bitsy Allies: Bacterial “Helpers” for Humans and Fish,” from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, at the Johann Fust Community Library in Boca, Grande Florida.

Lite bites will be drinks provided.

Mote Science Cafés are casual, community-based discussions between scientists, community experts and the general public. Guests can ask questions and help the discussion develop in fascinating ways. Topics are designed to help guests discover relationships between everyday things and our marine world.

Although this is a free event, RSVP is required due to space limitations. Register here: mote.org/sciencecafe.

During the Café, Tarnecki will share her research on how probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, can increase aquaculture production of food fish and also fish used in stock enhancement such as snook.

“The goal of my research is not only to improve fish production to feed the growing population, but also to teach people that, despite their negative reputation, bacteria can be good and we can use their beneficial properties to our advantage,” said Tarnecki.

Fellow Café speaker Humbarger joined the staff at the Boca Grande Health Clinic. Humbarger joined the staff at the Clinic in 2011. He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Humbarger is originally from Archbold, Ohio. He received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Adrian College in Michigan and his MD at the University of Cincinnati. His internal medicine residency training was completed at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, CA. Humbarger worked at the Community Health Clinic in San Ysidro, California, then in private practice with the Alvarado Medical Group in San Diego. Prior to coming to Boca Grande, Humbarger was at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville from 1996 through summer 2011. He served as a consultant in the Division of Executive and International Medicine within the Department of Internal Medicine. Humbarger serves as the Boca Grande Clinic's Medical Director.

This Mote Science Cafe is sponsored by Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Click here to RSVP »

4/4/2016

FGCU show ‘Curious Kids’ culls kudos

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A local TV show hosted by area youth, including some from Cape Coral, was recently recognized.

In December, WGCU's "Curious Kids" won an Emmy from the Suncoast Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in children/youth/teens for one of its segments. Titled "What is a Watershed?," the segment focused on interconnections between inland and coastal communities.

"They were very excited," Rosie Emery, the show's writer and producer, said of the cast.

"A Suncoast Emmy is still an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, so it's a big deal," she added. "It's recognition from your peers - everybody at WGCU was very excited."

Created in partnership with the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, the winning segment premiered in December 2014. It explained watersheds in a manner understandable for children.

"It's very difficult to understand sometimes the concept of a watershed," Emery said.

Six children were featured in the segment, including three girls from the Cape - Sierra Simon and sisters Nichole and Natalie Kelly. Two others were from Naples and the last from Fort Myers.

"They're regulars," she said of the Cape trio. "They're part of the main cast."

Started in 2010, "Curious Kids" is a 30-minute show, with multiple segments in each episode.

"It's hosted by local kids, and it's for kids and families," Emery said.

Continued in the Cape Coral Daily Breeze »

3/31/2016

USF Marine Science researchers discover ways to improve red tide predictions

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Marine scientists also find reasons why some years for red tide are worse than others.

TAMPA, Fla. (March 31, 2016) – After years of study, University of South Florida College of Marine Science researchers and colleagues have identified reasons why some years are worse than others for the harmful alga bloom (HAB) Karenia brevis, called “red tide,” when it occurs off the west coast of Florida.

In a recently completed study comparing data collected on the 2012 red tide season, which was particularly robust, compared to the 2013 season, which was not, the scientists found that the coastal ocean circulation on the West Florida Continental Shelf - highly dependent on the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current - was a determining factor in the greatly differing red tide occurrences. Their paper describing this research was recently published in the journal Continental Shelf Research.

K. brevis creates a toxin that is threatening to organism health. In years of the worst outbreaks, red tide is responsible for millions of dollars in losses in the shellfish, finfish, recreation and tourism industries. Red tide toxins that end up in the food web can be transferred to other forms of life, from tiny zooplankton to birds, fish, aquatic mammals and humans. Toxins may also be inhaled, causing respiratory distress. While red tide occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico, knowing when and where a red tide threat may emerge and how it may evolve along the coast is important. A number of predictive tools are in development to investigate this natural phenomenon, which has both biological and physical dimensions.

Continued on the USF News Channel »

3/31/2016

Help plan the 2017 Charlotte Harbor Watershed Summit!

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) hosts the Charlotte Harbor Watershed Summit every three years to learn about current research and restoration efforts, critical environmental issues affecting the Charlotte Harbor watershed and to review progress since the preceding summit. Summits are important in the CHNEP process of bringing public and private stakeholders together.

The Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center has been reserved for Tuesday-Thursday, March 28-30, 2017.

The CHNEP invites those who'd like to help develop the 2017 Summit to join an ad hoc committee. If you are willing to serve, please provide your name, email address and availability by completing this "Doodle" poll before May 13th. The committee will hold its initial meeting between May 23, and June 17. A meeting location (probably in Sarasota, Charlotte or Lee counties) will be selected once the committee size is known.

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