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Long-term prognosis for Florida manatees improves

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2012 analysis shows reduced estimates of long-term risk, but mortality events since then raise questions.

The risk of extinction for the endangered Florida manatee appears to be lower, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey led study.

Based on the data available in 2012, the long-term probability of the species surviving has increased compared to a 2007 analysis, as a result of higher aerial survey estimates of population size, improved methods of tracking survival rates, and better estimates of the availability of warm-water refuges. USGS scientists, working with colleagues from several other agencies and universities, used the manatee Core Biological Model to analyze the long-term viability of the manatee population in Florida, and to evaluate the threats it faces. A similar analysis completed in 2007 was used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of its 5-year Review of the status of manatees. “Our analysis using data from 2007 estimated that there was nearly a nine percent chance of Florida manatee numbers falling below 250 adults over the next 100 years on either the Atlantic or Gulf Coast,” said Michael Runge, a USGS research ecologist and lead author of the study. “The current analysis, using data available in 2012, has the estimate dropping to a fraction of one percent, but we need to be cautious in our conclusion, because the analysis did not include several mortality events that have occurred since then.

The mortality events Runge was referencing were cold winters, loss of seagrass in prime habitat, and a red tide event, all of which affected the population.

“Although the estimated status in 2012 was better than in 2007, questions still remain about the population effects of the more recent cold-related mortality events in the winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11,” Runge said. “The 2012 analysis also does not account for the extensive loss of seagrass habitat in Indian River Lagoon in 2011 and 2012 nor the severe red tide event in the Southwest region of Florida in 2013.”

The potential effects of these events will be analyzed in the next update of the Core Biological Model, which is underway in collaboration with Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory, and is expected to be complete within the next year.

The major threats to long-term survival of Florida manatees remain boat-related deaths and loss of warm-water winter habitat. In the Southwest region, an increasing frequency of red-tide deaths also warrants concern.

USGS news release continues »


Public invited to workshops on regional water supply plan

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold three public workshops about the draft 2015 Regional Water Supply Plan (RWSP) and one public workshop for agricultural stakeholders. The plan presents the projected water demands across the District and all water use sectors for a 20-year planning period as well as identifies water supply sources and potential water supply project options. Most workshops will be accessible via interactive webcasts accessed remotely via conference call and online through Cisco WebEx meetings.

Public Information Workshop – Hernando County
May 28 from 4:30–7:30 p.m.
District Headquarters, 2379 Broad St. in Brooksville.
To join the workshop online at 5:30 p.m. go to: SWFWMD.webex.com and enter meeting number: 735 758 973. For audio, dial toll free 1-888-670-3525, and enter the participant code 9502752119#.

Agriculture Public Workshop – Hillsborough County
June 18, from 5:00–7:00 p.m.
Tampa Service Office, 7601 US Hwy. 301 in Tampa.
To join the workshop online at 5:00 p.m. go to: SWFWMD.webex.com and enter meeting number: 736 652 717. For audio, dial toll free 1-888-670-3525, and enter the participant code 9502752119#.

Public Information Workshop – Hillsborough County
June 30, from 4:30–7:30 p.m.
Tampa Service Office, 7601 US Hwy. 301 in Tampa.
To join the workshop online at 5:30 p.m. go to: SWFWMD.webex.com and enter meeting number: 734 632 656. For audio, dial toll free 1-888-670-3525, and enter the participant code 9502752119#.

Public Information Workshop – Citrus County
July 23, from 4:30–7:30 p.m.
Cornerstone Baptist Church, 1100 W. Highland Blvd in Inverness.

The Public Information Workshops will start with an open house from 4:30–5:30 p.m., a presentation and discussion starting at 5:30 p.m., and the open house will continue until 7:30 p.m. The June 18 workshop will be geared for the agricultural community and provide a presentation about agricultural demand projections starting at 5 p.m., followed by a public comment period.

The draft RWSP is available for public review and comment at WaterMatters.org/RWSP through July 31, 2015. Please note that the same information will be presented at each of the Public Information Workshops.

For more details about the public workshops, please call George Schlutermann, P.G. at the District Headquarters at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4212.

Regional Water Supply Plan webpage »


CFWI planning documents available for review/comment; public meetings scheduled

The Central Florida Water Initiative's (CFWI) Steering Committee has released two draft documents for public review and comment that will set a path forward for meeting water supply needs in central Florida for the next 20 years. At upcoming meetings, the public will have an opportunity to learn about and comment on the draft 2035 Water Resources Protection and Water Supply Strategies Plan (Solutions Plan) and minor changes to the draft 2015 Regional Water Supply Plan.

When finalized, the Solutions Plan will provide detailed information about water conservation; specific water supply project options and partnerships with water users; a financial assessment of the project options; management and implementation strategies.

The draft plans are available at cfwiwater.com. Comments can be provided online or by mail and email. Details are available on the website. The comment period will close on July 31, 2015.

CFWI is a collaborative effort among the St. Johns, South Florida and Southwest Florida water management districts, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, regional public water supply utilities and other stakeholders to develop a unified process to address central Florida’s current and long-term water supply needs. The CFWI planning area includes Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and southern Lake counties.

A series of stakeholder meetings are scheduled to discuss the plans and receive input.

Focus: Environmental stakeholders
Date: Monday, May 18, 2015
Time: 1:30-4 p.m.
Location: ChampionsGate Golf Resort, 8575 White Shark Boulevard, Davenport

Focus: Agricultural stakeholders
Date: Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Time: 2-4:30 p.m.
Location: ChampionsGate Golf Resort, 8575 White Shark Boulevard, Davenport

Focus: Business/government stakeholders
Date: Thursday, May 21, 2015
Time: 9-11:30 a.m.
Location: ChampionsGate Golf Resort, 8575 White Shark Boulevard, Davenport

Additional public meetings will be held in June. The meetings will include presentations and CFWI experts will be available to answer questions and receive public input.

Date: Monday, June 1, 2015
Time: 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Location: Chain of Lakes Complex, 210 Cypress Gardens Blvd. SW, Winter Haven

Date: Thursday, June 4, 2015
Time: 4:30-6:30 p.m.
Location: City Hall, 300 W. Plant Street, Winter Garden

For more information, please visit cfwiwater.com.

Source: SWFWMD News Release »


Updated Floodplain Maps available at Open Houses throughout Polk County

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Bartow – Polk County’s Board of County Commissioners will host a series of Open House meetings in May to give residents and business owners an opportunity to view and comment on soon-to-be released updated flood hazard maps. The maps can be viewed online at www.polk-county.net/boccsite/your-government/floodplain-managementor in person at the Polk County Floodplain Management office, 330 W. Church Street in Bartow.

The new maps show areas throughout the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) portion of Polk County that are at risk for flooding and will be used to help determine flood insurance and building requirements. The South Florida Water Management District portion of Polk County, located along the east side of the county, received updated maps in 2012.

The maps were developed by SWFWMD, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Polk County. According to Randall Vogel, Polk County’s floodplain manager, the process included an extensive, multi-year review of the changes brought about by environmental, land use and other forces, use of state-of-the-art aerial mapping and risk modeling techniques for several new detailed study areas, and a comprehensive pre-release review. These Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) are now in digital format for easier access on the internet and will ultimately be used to determine flood insurance rates and requirements.

No formal presentations are scheduled; residents may come to view the floodplain maps anytime between 4:00–7:00 p.m. to the following locations:

Tuesday, May 12
Polk Street Community Center
1255 Polk Street, Bartow 33830

Wednesday, May 13
City of Lakeland, Magnolia Building
698 E. Orange Street, Lakeland 33801

Thursday, May 14
Winter Haven Chain O' Lakes Complex, Pool Room, South Entrance
210 Cypress Gardens Blvd, Winter Haven 33880

FEMA, SWFWMD and county staff will be available at each public meeting to answer questions about flood risk and insurance requirements.

In addition to the public meetings, there will be a 90-day public comment period where property owners can submit appeals and comments if they can show that the maps are technically or scientifically in error. Once all appeals and comments are received and addressed, the maps are expected to become effective in summer 2016. At that time, flood insurance requirements related to the new map information will take effect.

For general questions about the local map update efforts call Polk County Floodplain Management at (863) 534-6767 or (863) 534-6765. For information about flood insurance, contact your local insurance agent or visit www.FloodSmart.gov.

FloodSmart.gov website »


“Managing Florida’s aquifers” will be topic of fall professional conference

For the second year, the American Ground Water Trust is presenting a conference on groundwater management in Florida.This year's event will be on September 21-22 in Orlando.

Selection of presenters and presentations is in progress, but topics covered will include:

• Updates on Florida's Aquifer Storage Recovery projects
• Aquifer Recharge as a feasible antidote to climate change effects
• New USGS Assessment of Floridan Aquifer
• Minimum Flows and Levels: Rule-making and Legislation
• Groundwater management priorities of the State's five Water Management Districts
• How serious is the threat to Florida's groundwater from Oil & Gas well stimulation?
• Does aquifer recharge have a future in managing Everglades environmental flows and water quality issues?

Water managers, engineers, geologists, hydrogeologists, planners, utility operators, water re-use and aquifer recharge consultants, water treatment specialists, water well contractors, groundwater end-users, city & county government, regulatory authorities, environmental NGOs, water attorneys and interested citizens.

More information and online registration »


USGS issues revised framework for hydrogeology of Floridan Aquifer

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USGS scientists have updated the hydrogeologic framework for the Floridan aquifer system that underlies Florida and parts of Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina.

The Floridan aquifer system is the principal source of freshwater for agricultural irrigation, industrial, mining, commercial, and public supply in Florida and southeast Georgia. The extensive underground reservoir currently supplies drinking water to about 10 million people residing across the area as well as 50% of the water that is used for agricultural irrigation in the region.

By describing the hydrologic and geologic setting of an aquifer, a hydrogeologic framework enables appropriate authorities and resource managers to monitor an aquifer more accurately, improving their ability to protect these critical resources and determine the near- and long-term availability of groundwater.

As the first update of the framework for the aquifer in over 30 years, the revision incorporates new borehole data into a detailed conceptual model that describes the major and minor units and zones of the system. Its increased accuracy is made possible by data collected in the intervening years by the USGS; the Geological Surveys of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina; the South Florida, Southwest Florida, St Johns River, Suwannee River, and Northwest Florida Water Management Districts; and numerous other state and local agencies.

The USGS is releasing two reports as part of its current assessment of groundwater availability of the Floridan aquifer system.

The first report documents the revised framework.

The second report provides datasets that describe the surfaces and thicknesses of selected hydrogeologic units of the Floridan aquifer system. The data depict the top and base of the aquifer system, its major and minor hydrogeologic units and zones, geophysical marker horizons, and the altitude of the 10,000-milligram-per-liter total dissolved solids boundary that defines the approximate fresh and saline parts of the aquifer system.

Source: US Geological Survey news release »


Burnt Store Isles Inlet lock undergoing maintenance

The City of Punta Gorda contractor, Kelly Brothers Inc., is performing renovations to the Burnt Store Isles Inlet (Lock). The project commenced the week of April 20, 2015 and will continue through June 20, 2015. The lock will be closed a second time to boat traffic for 24 hours on Thursday, April 30, 2015.

Divers will be working underwater during the project so boaters shall use caution in the area and watch for signals from crew members above the waterline. Boaters should expect delays when passing through the lock.

If you have questions, please contact Gary Disher, Canal Maintenance Supervisor at 941-575-5050 between the hours of 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., Monday thru Friday.


SWFWMD water permit data show that Gasparilla Islanders are conservation-minded

The Gasparilla Island Water Association announced this week that the island’s water consumption has actually decreased, even with a slight increase in population.

A withdrawal permit, issued by Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) in 2011, included a requirement that islanders reduce daily average water use per person from an average of 176 gallons to 164 gallons per person by December 31, 2014, and to reduce to 150 gallons per person by December 31, 2019.

“We are pleased to announce we not only met, but exceeded our 2014 mandate, with a reduction to 158 gallons per person per day,” said Bonnie Pringle, executive director of the GIWA.

"Water usage was up last year, and we feared an increase in per capita usage; however, a higher than expected increase in population reduced per person usage two gallons per day from 2013,” said Pringle. “While an increase of only 57 people may seem miniscule, every person counts in these calculations.”

Continued in the Boca Beacon »


DOI, EPA, NOAA announce initiative to prepare natural resources for climate change

The focus of the Resilient Land and Waters Initiative will include Southwest Florida

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today recognized four collaborative landscape partnerships across the country where Federal agencies will focus efforts with partners to conserve and restore important lands and waters and make them more resilient to a changing climate. Building on existing collaborations, these Resilient Lands and Waters partnerships – located in southwest Florida, Hawaii, Washington and the Great Lakes region – will help build resilience in regions vulnerable to climate change and related challenges. They will also showcase the benefits of landscape-scale management approaches and help enhance the carbon storage capacity of these natural areas.

The selected lands and waters face a wide range of climate impacts and other ecological stressors related to climate change, including sea level rise, drought, wildfire, and invasive species. At each location, Federal agencies will work closely with state, tribal, and local partners to prepare for and prevent these and other threats, and ensure that long-term conservation efforts take climate change into account. Additionally, the initiative will focus on conserving coastal wetlands and marine conservation areas, protecting drinking water for urban areas, and providing habitat for wildlife. These collaborative efforts will include the use of existing tools to benefit the entire landscape as well as the development of new tools. For example, in the Great Lakes, partners are developing a coastal wetland prioritization tool that will help determine where restoration efforts are most needed. And in the He’eia watershed on the island of O’ahu, organizations are using NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer to see maps of the potential impacts of sea level rise on the region.

Southwest Florida: The southwest region of Florida includes a number of diverse habitats such as Everglades’ wetlands, coastal mangroves, sea grasses, oyster reefs, and estuary. Home to endangered species like the Florida panther, the region faces threats on multiple fronts – from increasing urbanization and land use changes to invasive species, rising seas, and shifting weather and temperature patterns. Recognizing Southwest Florida as a resilient landscape will tap into the work of the Cooperative Conservation Blueprint for Florida and Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative, which are leading efforts to address these threats, in partnership with Federal and state agencies, private landowners, the Southwest Florida regional planning council and NGOs. The focus of the project is on the creation and use of voluntary and non-regulatory conservation incentives that can be applied to a comprehensive vision of conservation and restoration priorities across Florida.

Read more about the Initiative »


Sarasota Bay Estuary Program announces two Blue Dolphin Award winners

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SARASOTA – The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) has announced the newest winners of Blue Dolphin Awards. The unique award acknowledges local champions of Sarasota Bay. Sherri Swanson and Scott and Virginia Lloyd-Jones will be joining eight other individuals and groups that have been honored with Blue Dolphin Awards since 2012.

Sherri Swanson works as a senior environmental scientist for HDR Engineering, Inc. She’s being recognized for her volunteer support of the Sarasota Bay Water Festival, the region’s largest public event focused on the welfare and recreational amenities of Sarasota Bay. The third water festival was held in November at Ken Thompson Park in Sarasota. Sherri is also a member of the SBEP Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).

Scott and Virginia Lloyd-Jones are retirees from Sun City Center being recognized for their ongoing volunteer support of the award-winning SBEP Bay Guardians Program. The couple has participated in numerous volunteer outings throughout Manatee and Sarasota County. The Bay Guardians are the largest volunteer organization in the region focused on area projects that benefit Sarasota Bay.

The SBEP Blue Dolphin Awards were launched in 2012. Prior winners include: Martha B. King Middle School in Bradenton, Jack Merriam, the former environmental manager for Sarasota County, AMI Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, Raindrop Cisterns, a company focused on rainwater harvesting, Charles Edwards, a retired biomedical researcher and long-term volunteer with the SBEP Citizens Advisory Committee, Denise and Don Elliott with Sunbow Bay Condo Association on Anna Maria Island, Lee Fox formerly with Save Our Seabirds, Inc., and Sean Russell representing the nonprofit Stow It Don’t Throw It Project.

Contact Information
Sara Kane, Public Outreach Manager Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, sara@sarasotabay.org
phone: 941-955-8085 .

Register for this Saturday's volunteer event at Robinson Preserve

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This event is being sponsored by the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources, and Around the Bend Nature Tours.

Volunteers will be filling bags with material to create new habitat for oysters and fish. Oyster beds represent a unique and valuable component of the Sarasota Bay ecosystem. They provide structural habitat for many species of fish and invertebrates. Oysters are also valued for their ability to improve water quality through their prolific filtering capacity. This is also a great opportunity to check out the new Preserve.

In order to participate you MUST wear appropriate footwear—closed toed shoes are required. We also recommend long-sleeved shirts and pants.

This event is suitable for ages 6 and up.

Please wear hat, sunscreen, and close-toed shoes, which are required (old tennis shoes work great), clothes that can get dirty, and work gloves. Please bring a reusable water bottle to help reduce our plastic pollution. We strongly suggest carpooling.

Since this is a larger event and we are partnering with Tampa Bay Estuary Program we will not be giving out Bay Guardian t-shirts, please wear yours if you have one.

WHAT: Oyster Bagging Volunteer Event
WHERE: 1704 99th Street Northwest, Bradenton, FL 34209
WHEN: Saturday, May 2nd, 2015, 9:00am-12:00pm

Catered lunch will be provided for all volunteers after the event is done!

Questions? Contact Camille Boffa at: info@sarasotabay.org, 941-955-8085.

RSVP Required — Click here to register »


“A Rising Tide Affects Us All”: 2015 Southwest Florida Sea Level Rise Summit

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Register for "A Rising Tide Affects Us All", the 2015 Southwest Florida Sea Level Rise Summit, on Thursday, May 7, 2015, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Florida Gulf Coast University Student Union Ballroom at the Cohen Center, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Lee County, Florida, and the Florida Coastal and Ocean Coalition. A prominent panel of speakers will cover topics including sea level rise charting, legal and planning challenges to adapting to sea level rise, and proactive solutions to address rising tides.

Admission is free, but space is limited. Reserve your seats at http://flcoastalandocean.org/events/southwest-florida-sea-level-rise-summit/.


2015 AWRA scholarship and educational grant applications now being accepted

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AWRA Florida has a mission to support education through the Rosanne Clementi Education Program and awards scholarships and grants to pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers, environmental education centers, high school seniors, and undergraduate and graduate college or university students.

The J.B. Butler Science Grant is awarded to pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade teachers and/or environmental education centers to aid in water resources education. Each year, approximately five $500 grants are awarded.

The William V. Storch Award is given to graduate and/or undergraduate college or university students to support educational activities. There are two $1,500 awards available each year.

The Sanford N. Young Scholarship is designed to provide funding for at least one $2,000 scholarship each year. It is available to both graduate and undergraduate college or university students.

The High School Scholarship is given to Florida high school seniors who have an intent to pursue academic studies at a Florida college or university. At least one $1,000 scholarship is available each year.

Click here for more information and to download application forms and instructions. All applications must be complete and submitted electronically as one pdf document to awra@awraflorida.org.

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