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State leaders meet in Fort Myers to discuss ‘Lake O’ releases

FORT MYERS, Fla. — More than 90 elected officials from 16 counties across the state met Wednesday in Fort Myers to discuss the controversial freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee. The leaders discussed ways to work together toward a solution for the murky, dark brown water that stretched along parts of the Caloosahatchee River and Gulf of Mexico this past winter. During the meeting at the Lee County Visitors and Convention Bureau, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it has a long-term plan to keep water out of the river. “We do have active projects,” said Michael Collis with the Army Corps. “We have obviously the comprehensive Everglades restoration plan, once completed [it] will allow more opportunities to move the water out of the lake and south.” The Corps emphasizes protecting people around the lake from a breach of the dike comes first, well before protecting tourism. “The Corps places health and safety and life at the top of the list,” Collis added. Leaders on the West Coast of Florida continue to press the option of buying farm land around the lake to send the brown water south. “Can we do it please?” questioned Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson. “Long before 2035! That would be nice.” Those who live around the lake say buying up all the farm land won’t solve the problems.

Continued on WINK News »


Fort Myers Beach town council on board with stormwater facility plan

When faced with a decision of whether to take action on a stormwater facilities plan, the Fort Myers Beach Town Council had little trouble backing the plan during a Monday afternoon workshop at town hall, though there was one member who thought the town still needed to proceed with caution.

Officials from Tetra Tech, the consultant on the project, said the town inherited the system upon incorporation, and that it doesn't provide adequate drainage or flood control, and in some areas it's non-existent.

And while the town has done some work over the years in North Estero and the Basin Based Neighborhood, the entire system is still way behind where it needs to be.

Only 26 percent of the town streets maintained stormwater, and 83 percent of the outfalls are either undersized or non-existent.

With this, and the fact the county is going to insist Fort Myers Beach do the minimum to address the issue at some point, council was asked to decide between two options; do something or nothing.

No action, while it would result in a short-term savings, would be a long-term potential disaster. The costs would be higher due to inflation and the fact the county would ask for funding for the upgrades and handle the flow from the side streets.

And there would still be the flooding.

Continued on »


Sarasota County hosting open houses for FEMA flood map changes

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County is hosting six open houses starting Monday, June 20, to address changes to FEMA floodplain maps, which take effect Nov. 4.

The open houses, which will be held in multiple locations and feature staff members from both the county and the municipalities, are an opportunity to ask questions about potential changes to the flood zone.

The digitized flood maps are now available and can indicate whether properties' flood risk has changed. If there's a risk zone changed, flood insurance may be required by homeowner's lender when the new flood maps become effective on Nov. 4.

Open houses will be held from 4-7 p.m., at each of the following locations:
  • June 20, Venice Community Center, 326 Nokomis Ave., Venice.
  • June 21, Englewood Sports Complex, 1300 S. River Road, Englewood.
  • June 23, Morgan Family Community Center, 6207 W. Price Blvd., North Port.
  • June 27, Southgate Community Center, 3145 Southgate Circle, Sarasota.
  • June 28, Nokomis Community Park, 234 Nippino Trail E., Nokomis.
  • June 29, Sarasota Municipal Auditorium, 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
To view individual property parcels, visit

For more information, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000.

Sarasota County Preliminary FEMA Flood Zone Locator Map »


Solving disinfection byproducts led to unintended consequences

Controlling chlorine-based carcinogens in drinking water may have helped set the stage for lead issues now surfacing nationwide, water experts say.

The recent lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, and in Washington, D.C. in the early 2000s was, in part, the unintended consequence of federal rules that kicked in during the late 1990s and strengthened in the mid 2000s to lessen the byproducts of chlorine and other disinfectants linked with increased lifetime cancer risk.

Some methods used to control the byproducts of disinfection can result in more corrosive water. To save money, many systems just added ammonia to the mix, to create chloramines — a group of chemicals with its own host of potentially irritating problems.

“It was these warring regulations,” said Sheldon Masters, senior environmental engineer at Corona Environmental Consulting in Philadelphia. “By meeting the disinfection byproduct rule, you created a problem meeting the lead and copper rule.”

The lead issues emerging nationwide underscore the complex trade offs water operators often make between short-term and long-term health risks. Sometimes, solving a long-term risk can create a more acute risk, environmental engineers say, and as communities tap lower quality water supplies to meet demand, getting the chemistry right at the treatment plant is crucial in avoiding unhealthy pitfalls.

"I think the big issue is how the water's treated," Thomas Waite, an environmental engineer at Florida Institute of Technology, said of how to prevent lead contamination from corrosion. "It really falls on the treatment plants themselves to try to keep a handle on it. By that, I mean regulating the pH of the water. Treatment plants have really got to be serious about the corrosion concept, meaning pH going outside of the plant."

Continued in Florida Today »


Winter Haven Commission approves money to treat Lake Conine, approves development on Lake Eloise

WINTER HAVEN — City commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved paying its part of a redesign project with Polk County to treat Lake Conine.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, has the 236-acre lake designated as a surface water improvement and management priority. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has it designated as impaired.

In partnership with the county, the city will work to redesign a project originally designed in 2011 to treat the lake.

The redesign will cost $89,701; with $44,850 coming from the city.

Construction would start early next year and is estimated to cost $2 million. The city and county plan to pay half of that and have requested the other half from Swiftmud.

Continued in The Ledger »

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