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The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council is moving

New address: 1400 Colonial Boulevard, Suite 1 Fort Myers, FL 33907
Phone: (239) 938-1813
Fax: (239) 938-1817

The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council’s mission is “to work together across neighboring communities to consistently protect and improve the unique and relatively unspoiled character of the physical, economic and social worlds we share for the benefit of our future generations.” The SWFRPC was created in 1973 by an interlocal agreement between Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota Counties in 1973. The SWFRPC acts as a regional information clearinghouse, conducts research to develop and maintain area wide goals, objectives, and policies, and assists in implementing a number of local, state, and federal programs. Since its inception, the SWFRPC has worked with local governments to protect natural resources and promote the creation of jobs within its six county region.


Gov. Scott wants more staffing cuts in health, environment

For the fifth year in a row, Gov. Rick Scott is asking for big job cuts to state agencies responsible for health care and the environment.

In his budget priorities released Monday, Scott asks the Legislature to eliminate a net of 718 jobs in the Department of Health and 152 in the Department of Environmental Protection.

All told, if the Legislature honors Scott’s request, the Department of Health will have shrunk by a fifth — more than 3,400 jobs eliminated — since Scott’s first budget in 2011-2012. More than 1,500 of those are in the last two years.

By and large, the cuts are expected to be for positions funded by the Legislature that have not been filled by Scott's agencies. About 200 jobs are expected to be connected to the transitioning of a health care plan for kids to be run by private insurers. Many of those could be filled by state workers who could be reassigned into other open jobs.

That means few workers are expected to lose their jobs. But it also means jobs for which the Legislature has set aside money are not being filled.

Scott is asking to eliminate more than 500 jobs in county health departments, which are charged with serving low-income people across the state. Last year, the governor asked for 758 health department jobs to be cut. Lawmakers got rid of an additional 55.

Continued in The Tampa Bay Times »


New Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment Released

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment (GCVA). It is a comprehensive report that evaluates the effects of climate change, sea level rise, and urbanization on four Gulf of Mexico coastal ecosystems and 11 species that depend on them.

The ecosystems assessed are mangrove, oyster reef, tidal emergent marsh and barrier islands. The species are roseate spoonbill, blue crab, clapper rail, mottled duck, spotted seatrout, eastern oyster, American oystercatcher, red drum, black skimmer, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle and Wilson’s plover. The GCVA used an expert opinion approach to qualitatively assess vulnerability on each ecosystem and species. The experts identified management strategies for vulnerable species and ecosystems.

The GCVA was initiated by four Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and received support/guidance from many partners. These included the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Northern Gulf Institute, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, and the United States Geological Survey.

To learn more about the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment and get a copy, go to the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative website.


Fish killed by red tide litter Sanibel's shores

Sanibel's shores are a haven for those escaping dreary winters, but Thursday they were a mass grave for tens of thousands of rotting fish.

Red tide, caused by Karenia brevis, crept its way to Lee County after festering off Sarasota County for several weeks. Besides killing fish, red tide can cause respiratory irritation in humans and other mammals.

"Some (fish) have been missing their eyes for a while, but you can smell the red tide and cell counts are elevated," said Rick Bartleson, a water quality scientist at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. "The fish probably didn't wash from a distance away. It was most likely pretty close to Sanibel or right at Sanibel."

Recent counts along Sanibel and in Pine Island Sound measured 500,000 to 760,000 cells per liter. It takes about 10,000 cells per liter to start killing fish and be visible from outer space.

Tourists from Toronto, Vermont and Germany alike stepped over piles of dead fish to enjoy the waters of Sanibel.

Continued on »


DEP welcomes new director of water policy

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently welcomed Ryan Matthews as the new Director of the Office of Water Policy. Matthews will be responsible for overseeing the coordination and implementation of Florida’s statewide water policy issues with water management districts and other agencies.

“Ryan will be a tremendous asset to the department and Office of Water Policy,” said DEP Secretary Jon Steverson. “His education and experience will enable him to coordinate and address Florida’s most pressing water issues with water management districts, local governments and stakeholders.”

Matthews earned his Juris Doctor from Florida Coastal School of Law and an L.L.M. in Environmental/Natural Resources Law from University of Denver-Sturm College of Law. He brings experience from both the private and public sectors, where he focused on issues relating to the environment, water standards and growth management at local, state and federal levels. Most recently, he served as first assistant general counsel and associate director of Legislative Affairs for the Florida League of Cities.


Babcock Ranch Preserve Public Meeting


Date and Time: November 24, 2015 at 11:00 am;
Public Comments will be received at 11:30 a.m.
Place: Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center 75 Taylor Street, Punta Gorda, Florida 33950

AGENDA 1. Call to Order, Introduction and Remarks 2. MPAG Orientation and Organizational Discussion 3. PowerPoint Presentation Summary of the Draft Ten-Year Land Management Plan for Babcock Ranch Preserve 4. Question / Answer on Plan Content 5. Public Commentary 6. Discussion of both MPAG Member's Draft Plan Items of Interest, and Public Commentary 7. Process Summation and Adjournment



New high school in Bonita Springs may be built on conservation land

The landowners near a proposed new high school in Bonita Springs may be winning their fight as Lee County may get involved in building the school on conservation land.

You think of Lee County's Conservation 20/20 program, and you think of land being bought up to be restored and preserved. But one county commissioner said he has been approached about using the land for a new high school.

"As far as buying property for the school board, I have never heard of it," said George Wheaton, the longest standing member of the Conservation 20/20 Land Committee.

The Fort Myers native wants to preserve Pine Lake Preserve. Not build on it.

"The taxpayers bought this land for conservation. We didn't buy it to keep it around for use later," said Wheaton.

Commissioner Larry Kiker has been approached by members of the Lee County School Board and the city of Bonita Springs. They wanted to see whether or not the Pine Lake Preserve conservation land would be made available to build on.

Continued on Nbc-2 »


Free Kids Fishing Clinic - Dec. 12 in Punta Gorda

Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, in partnership with Maritime Committee of T.E.A.M. Punta Gorda, is conducting FREE Kids Fishing Clinic at Cedar Point Environmental Park on Saturday, December 12 from 9 am to 1 pm. Drinks provided.

Children ages 8 – 12 as are welcome and must be accompanied by an adult. Registration is limited and mandatory; call 941-475-0769 to reserve a spot.

This hands-on program teaches conservation based fishing techniques including knot tying, rod & reel use, fish identification and proper fish handling for responsible and ethical salt water fishing, all taught by knowledgeable anglers using Florida Fish & Wildlife protocol.

Thank You to our sponsors: T.E.A.M. Punta Gorda.

Volunteers are welcome and donations are appreciated.

Contact Bobbi Rodgers at 941-475-0769 or


National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Announces Projects

More than $80 Million goes toward a third round of Gulf restoration programs

On Tuesday, November 10th the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced the award of more than $80 million from its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF). The funding will go toward 22 projects in the states of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Texas. This is the third round of grants from the Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund (GEBF). Projects in Florida that received funding include:

  • Enhanced Assessment for Recovery of Gulf of Mexico Fisheries - Phase III $5,814,200
  • Pensacola East Bay Oyster Habitat Restoration- Phase I $1,957,600
  • Increased Capacity for Marine Mammal Response & Analysis $4,400,000
  • Eliminating Light Pollution on Sea Turtle Nesting Beaches - Phase II $2,115,100
  • Water Quality Improvements to Enhance Fisheries Habitat in the Lower
  • Choctawhatchee River Basin - Phase I $931,600
  • Florida Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund Restoration Strategy $4,514,048

Click here for more information about the projects receiving funding


Red Tide Report 11-13-15

News Image

As evident from recent satellite images, fish kill reports, and analysis of water samples, blooms of the Florida red tide organism are currently present along Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, and Bay counties in Northwest Florida and Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee counties in Southwest Florida.

In Northwest Florida over the past week, Karenia brevis was detected in low concentrations in one sample collected alongshore of Escambia County; in very low concentrations in 3 samples collected inshore of Okaloosa County; and in very low to high concentrations in 9 samples collected in and alongshore of Bay County. In Southwest Florida, Karenia brevis was detected in very low to high concentrations in 6 samples collected in and alongshore of Pinellas County; background to medium concentrations in 8 samples collected in and alongshore of Manatee County; very low to high concentrations in 25 samples collected in and alongshore of Sarasota County; background to low concentrations in 5 samples collected in and alongshore of Charlotte County; and background to very low concentrations in 7 samples collected in, along, and offshore of Lee County. One sample collected alongshore of Collier County also contained background concentrations of K. brevis. In addition, one sample collected alongshore of Miami-Dade County on the East Coast contained background concentrations of K. brevis. Samples were not collected this week in Santa Rosa, Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, or Monroe counties along the Gulf Coast. FWC continues to receive reports of fish kills in bloom areas in both Northwest and Southwest Florida. Respiratory irritation is possible throughout the areas where red tide is present.

Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show a slight easterly movement of bloom patches in Northwest Florida and a slight southerly movement of bloom patches in Southwest Florida over the next three days.

This information, including maps and reports with additional details, is also available on the FWRI Red Tide website. The website also provides links to additional information related to the topic of Florida red tide including satellite imagery, experimental red tide forecasts, shellfish harvesting areas, the FWC Fish Kill Hotline, the Florida Poison Information Center (to report human health effects related to exposure to red tide), and other wildlife related hotlines.

To learn more about various organisms that have been known to cause algal blooms in Florida waters, see the FWRI Red Tide Flickr page. Archived status maps can also be found on Flickr.


New Swiftmud Water Plan Reflects Advances In Conservation

Swiftmud’s regional plan is now part of a another regional plan called the Central Florida Water Initiative whose purpose is to come up with a long-term, sustainable plan to supply water in what is essentially the greater metro area surrounding Orlando, which includes Polk County.

It traces its origins to an earlier cooperative that was ordered to be established under orders from then-Gov. Jeb Bush to head off what appeared to be a protracted and wasteful legal fight over water allocation reminiscent of what happened in the Tampa Bay area decades earlier.

The reason water allocation decisions nearly ended up in court was because scientists had concluded that the Orlando area had reached the point where its projected water demands threatened to outstrip the ability of the Floridan aquifer to supply it.

This had happened decades ago in parts of the Tampa Bay area. That forced the development of wellfields in then-rural inland areas north of Tampa and St. Petersburg. Those wellfields eventually pumped so much water from underground that the effects showed up above ground. Lakes went dry. Cypress domes went brown. In areas closer to the coast, the increased pumping allowed salt water to advance into what were once sections of the aquifer filled with fresh water.

Here in Polk, Kissengen Spring, a second-magnitude spring that fed the Peace River south of Bartow for millenia, quit flowing in 1950 as a result of heavy groundwater pumping by the phosphate industry. It never recovered and it’s unlikely it ever will.

In the meantime occasional droughts, such as the ones in 1981 and 2000, highlighted the limits of water supplies in this part of Florida, which are totally dependent on rainfall.

What this all means is that water plans these days must include two important elements: conservation and development of alternative water supplies, which means using something besides wells to take care of part of future demand.

Continued in The Ledger »


Shocking new way to get the salt out

As the availability of clean, potable water becomes an increasingly urgent issue in many parts of the world, researchers are searching for new ways to treat salty, brackish or contaminated water to make it usable. Now a team at MIT has come up with an innovative approach that, unlike most traditional desalination systems, does not separate ions or water molecules with filters, which can become clogged, or boiling, which consumes great amounts of energy.

Instead, the system uses an electrically driven shockwave within a stream of flowing water, which pushes salty water to one side of the flow and fresh water to the other, allowing easy separation of the two streams. The new approach is described in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters, in a paper by professor of chemical engineering and mathematics Martin Bazant, graduate student Sven Schlumpberger, undergraduate Nancy Lu, and former postdoc Matthew Suss.

This approach is “a fundamentally new and different separation system,” Bazant says. And unlike most other approaches to desalination or water purification, he adds, this one performs a “membraneless separation” of ions and particles.

Continued on MIT News »


Snook shindig fishing tournament postponed until spring 2016

Based on the advice of Mote Marine Laboratory scientists and their consultations with knowledgeable fishing guides in Sarasota, the 2015 William R. Mote Memorial Snook Shindig Honoring Captain Scotty Moore, a research-based catch, sample and release tournament, is postponed until spring 2016.

“The reason we are postponing the tournament is a precautionary response to increased pressures on the snook population caused by Karenia brevis, or the algae that causes Florida red tide,” said Dr. Kenneth Leber, Associate Vice President for Mote’s Directorate for Fisheries and Aquaculture. “We strongly believe in taking this responsible approach, because the presence of red tide already puts stress on the snook population. Even though our tournament is catch and release, we don’t want to risk adding any further stress on this very important fishery.” While recent effects of Florida red tide have been mostly an annoyance to southwest Florida beachgoers, causing some to experience symptoms such as itchy eyes and coughing, the snook population has experienced natural impacts over the years, including red tide blooms and adverse weather. Mote has a history of scheduling the Snook Shindig Tournament to focus on the best interest of the snook population. In 2010, Mote cancelled the tournament because of the 2010 winter cold spell that resulted in the deaths of millions of snook and the temporary closure of the fishery.

The 2015 Snook Shindig Fishing Tournament was made possible largely thanks to new funding from Sarasota philanthropists Carol and Barney Barnett to implement Mote’s Fisheries Conservation & Enhancement Initiative to help protect and restore fisheries in Sarasota Bay. With the postponement, the Barnetts’ generous support will be applied to the rescheduled tournament, now slated for spring 2016.

Continued on »


New underwater robot “Genie” deployed to monitor harmful algae and more

Mote Marine Laboratory’s newest robotic glider — nicknamed “Genie” by Manatee County 5th-graders who won Mote’s naming contest — started its first underwater mission today, Nov. 9, offshore of northern Sarasota County. Genie will gather data useful for many kinds of ocean observing and research, including studies of the ongoing Florida red tide.

The glider’s name honors Dr. Eugenie Clark, the world-renowned “Shark Lady” who founded Mote in 1955 and died in 2015. The name was chosen by 5th-grade science students at Annie Lucy Williams Elementary School in Parrish during Mote’s naming contest among nine classes from five Sarasota-Manatee schools. The winning students will receive tickets to Mote Aquarium and participate in a video chat with the scientist operating Genie.

Genie is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that resembles a yellow torpedo 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) long and is one of two AUVs operated by Mote. She carries instruments that can monitor the abundance of microscopic plant-like organisms called phytoplankton, including the toxic algae K. brevis, which causes Florida red tides that can be harmful to marine life and people. Genie’s instruments also monitor water temperature; depth; salinity; CDOM, colored dissolved organic matter, which can indicate runoff from land that might govern phytoplankton growth, and turbidity, which can indicate sediments being re-suspended in the water and that could be influencing algal blooms. In addition, Genie carries an acoustic receiver designed to detect fish tagged by researchers. This will help Mote scientists and others study fish migration patterns.

Genie was launched by boat today, Nov. 9, about 20 miles off northern Sarasota County, and will spend 15 days at sea. She will increase and decrease her buoyancy to move up, down and forward through the water, traveling southwest as far as 100 miles offshore. Then she will head east so Mote scientists can retrieve her offshore of Englewood. Genie’s instruments can collect data every second. Every four hours, the satellite transmitter in her tail will send some data to Mote scientists with more data stored on the AUV’s memory card for analysis after the mission.

Continued on »


102 SBEP Bay Guardian Volunteers Enhance Bioswale at Celery Fields

News Image

A group of 102 SBEP Bay Guardian volunteers enhanced a bioswale with 900 native plants at the new bird center at Celery Fields on Saturday morning. Project partners included SBEP, Around the Bend Nature Tours, Sarasota Audubon, Florida Native Plant Society, Brookside Middle School, and the Salvation Army. A bioswale is a shallow vegetated landscape area with gently sloped sides designed to hold rainwater.

SBEP supported the project with a Bay Partners Grant. Awarded in 2015, the grant supports the efforts by Sarasota Audubon and the Florida House Institute to educate residents about stormwater pollution, native plants, water conservation, and the Phillippi Creek watershed. Interpretative signs will be installed to support public education. SBEP Bay Partner Grants support local projects focused on Bay Education, Bay Restoration and Bay-Friendly Landscaping.

The Bay Guardians will visit Robinson Preserve Saturday, December 12 to complete a morning Oyster bagging project. This is a joint effort with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP). Project partners include SBEP, TBEP, Around the Bend Nature Tours, and the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department.

Coming in the first quarter of 2016 will be three Air Potato Roundup events to get rid of more of the invasive species at North Water Tower Park on January 16, Red Bug Slough on February 27, and Philippi Estate Park on March 12. Native plants are resilient to local environmental conditions and attract wildlife. Invasive species like the air potato compete with native plants, which can disrupt the balance of the bay’s ecosystem.

The award-winning Bay Guardians Program is managed by SBEP in partnership with Around the Bend Nature Tours. The group has donated many thousands of hours supporting restoration projects along the bay and in area parks and preserves. The Bay Guardians complete at least six projects in Sarasota and Manatee County each year. Each outing includes environmental education and a picnic lunch following the morning project.

Please contact Darcy Young at if you are interested in becoming a Bay Guardian.


Red Tide Report 11-6-15

Patchy blooms of the Florida red tide organism are present along Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, and Gulf counties in Northwest Florida and along Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, and Lee counties in Southwest Florida.

In Northwest Florida over the past week, Karenia brevis was detected in background concentrations in one sample collected alongshore of Escambia County; in low to medium concentrations in 9 samples collected in, along, and offshore of Okaloosa County; and in low to high concentrations in 14 samples collected in and alongshore of Bay and Gulf counties. In Southwest Florida, Karenia brevis was detected in very low to low concentrations in 2 samples collected in and alongshore of Pinellas County; very low to medium concentrations in 3 samples collected in and alongshore of Manatee County; background to medium concentrations in 30 samples collected in, along, and offshore of Sarasota County; and background to low concentrations in 3 samples collected in and alongshore of Lee County. No samples were analyzed in the past week from Jefferson, Taylor, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, or Hillsborough counties along the Gulf Coast. FWC continues to receive reports of fish kills in bloom areas in both Northwest and Southwest Florida, although reports have slowed in volume. Respiratory irritation is possible throughout the areas where red tide is present.

Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show alongshore westerly movement of bloom patches in Northwest Florida and little net movement of bloom patches in Southwest Florida over the next three days.

This information, including maps and reports with additional details, is also available on the FWRI Red Tide website. The website also provides links to additional information related to the topic of Florida red tide including satellite imagery, experimental red tide forecasts, shellfish harvesting areas, the FWC Fish Kill Hotline, the Florida Poison Information Center (to report human health effects related to exposure to red tide), and other wildlife related hotlines.

To learn more about various organisms that have been known to cause algal blooms in Florida waters, see the FWRI Red Tide Flickr page. Archived status maps can also be found on Flickr.


Southwest Florida Mayors join forces to Hire Water Lobbyist


Microplastics: A macro threat

Eight trillion microbeads enter into marine habitats every day in the United States alone. That’s enough to cover over 300 tennis courts every day, according to a research paper published in September in the Environmental Science and Technology journal.

Maia McGuire of University of Florida Institute Food and Agricultural Sciences has made it her passion to spread awareness about microplastics. McGuire was awarded a Marine Debris grant from NOAA to continue her research.

“I have this great new project called Florida Microplastic Awareness Project. This was funded by a grant from NOAA’s Marine Debris Project,” says McGuire.

Volunteers help McGuire collect water samples along the coast and look for the presence of plastic. “Microplastics are microscopic pieces of plastic debris, generally defined as being less than 5 millimeters in size,” says McGuire.

The type of microplastics that are found in everyday products such as face wash, toothpaste, deodorant and even cosmetics are called microbeads. They are made of polyethylene or polypropylene and they are contaminating the world’s oceans.

Continued on »


Global warming's fingerprints are all over recent extreme weather, research shows

Extreme weather events, from droughts to floods and heat waves, are some of the most tangible present day impacts of global warming, and they will take center stage in speeches at the upcoming Paris Climate Summit. Now a new report gives leaders pushing to reduce emissions of global warming pollution, including President Obama, additional ammunition.

The report, published Thursday as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, amounts to the largest-ever assessment of global warming’s role in intensifying the severity and altering the likelihood of extreme weather events during 2014.

It amounts to the equivalent of a climate change CSI report, and its conclusions are damning in pointing to global warming as being an accomplice to numerous damaging extreme events worldwide.

In total, the report contains analyses from 32 different research groups examining 28 extreme weather and climate events on all continents. The dozens of researchers from 21 countries found that climate change’s fingerprints are all over the scene of the crime in more than half of these events, including California wildfires, Middle Eastern drought and heat waves in Australia.

Specifically, tropical cyclones in the central Pacific, deadly heat waves in Australia, Asia and South America, and a deadly snowstorm in the Himalayas, were each in part the result of human activities, the studies show.

Continued on »


House subcommittee chair cautions against sea level rise “speculation”

TALLAHASSEE — A House subcommittee chairman, who this week during a meeting twice cautioned a state environmental protection official about expressing "speculation" on sea level rise, tells POLITICO Florida that "the world goes through cycles" of climate change.

Rep. Ben Albritton, a Republican from Wauchula and chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee, said in an interview that the world may be headed for a cold spell, as he read in a 2011 book written by someone who does not believe that humans contribute to climate change.

"I don't understand sea level rise, global warming — this whole discussion," Albritton said. "I've seen really good data that shows global warming. I read a book recently that had really good data in it that shows we are actually entering into a cooling period that happens about every 200 years."

On Tuesday, Albritton cautioned Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary Drew Bartlett on answering questions from subcommittee members about sea level rise.

"Feel free to answer that if you'd like to," Albritton said. "We want to be very careful of course in providing speculation or personal opinion on something that may be out 5, 10, 15 or 30 years from now, and not building concrete ideas or concrete decisions around this table on something that might be speculation."

In 2014, Gov. Rick Scott touched off controversy during his re-election campaign by dismissing questions about climate change by saying, "I'm not a scientist." He later met in the governor's office with scientists who explained that climate change and sea level rise are occurring because of industrial greenhouse gas emissions.

Continued on »


Senate measure to stop water rule advances

The Senate voted Tuesday to advance a measure to block the Obama administration’s new regulation asserting federal authority over small waterways.

The vote came just over an hour after Senate Democrats blocked a procedural vote on a related bill from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to go back to the drawing board and re-write its Waters of the United States rule.

The successful vote, passed 55-43, moved forward a resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a rarely used tactic that allows for a simple majority to disapprove of any regulation without a 60-vote threshold. The vote was almost along party lines, with Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) voting with all Republicans present except Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to proceed.

Republicans had put great efforts into Barrasso’s bill, which would have given the EPA specific instructions to rewrite the rule with certain exemptions and consultations to protect stakeholders.

But with that bill’s failure, Ernst said the CRA is necessary to stop the rule.

Republicans have long complained that the rule, made final in May, goes too far in expanding federal authority over small waterways, and in fact puts the government in charge of large swaths of state and private land.

“My legislation is the necessary next step in pushing back against this blatant power grab by the EPA,” Ernst said on the Senate floor. “We will send this to the president, where he will be forced to decide between the livelihood of our rural communities nationwide and his unchecked federal agency.”

Under the CRA, Ernst’s resolution still requires House approval and President Obama’s signature to block the rule, something that is all but impossible.

The White House said it strongly opposes Ernst’s resolution and defended the rule.

“The agencies' rulemaking, grounded in science and the law, is essential to ensure clean water for future generations, and is responsive to calls for rulemaking from the Congress, industry, and community stakeholders as well as decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court,” it wrote Tuesday.

“If enacted, S.J.Res. 22 would nullify years of work and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water.”

In some ways, the CRA resolution goes further than Barrasso’s bill. It would prevent the EPA from ever writing “a new rule that is substantially the same” as the one that is blocked.

Click here to view original article »


USF Biologist Discovers Secret to Highly Efficient Swimming in Certain Animals, Such as Jellyfish

Previous studies have shown that jellyfish and eels can move using very low amounts of energy that would make a Toyota Prius jealous. In fact, these ocean denizens can go from point A to point B using less energy than any other swimmer, runner or flier ever measured. However the secret behind such amazing energetic efficiency has remained a mystery, until now. A team of scientists led by Dr. Brad Gemmell, an assistant professor in the University of South Florida’s Department of Integrative Biology, has revealed that these marine animals do something completely unexpected when they swim.

According to the research team, comprised of scientists from five institutions, understanding how animals move is essential to understanding their evolutionary history, their fitness and their ecological impact. Understanding how animals move so efficiently through water is also important to engineers who study bio-inspired design and take ideas from nature to make more efficient underwater vehicles. Experiments carried out to better understand the locomotion used by free-swimming jellyfish and lampreys, eel-like animals that move with undulating, wave-like body motions, has revealed that these animals move forward not by pushing against the water, but by sucking the water toward them.

“Until now, it has been widely assumed in the literature and the text books that animals swim primarily by pushing against the fluid to generate high pressure and move the animal forward,” said Gemmell. “However, it turns out that at least with some of the most energetically efficient swimmers, low pressure dominates and allows these animals to pull themselves forward with suction.Given our findings, we may have to rethink our ideas about some of the evolutionary adaptations acquired by swimming animals and how we approach vehicle design in the future.”

Their recent experiments, recounted in a paper just published in Nature Communication, aimed at better understanding lamprey and jellyfish locomotion by observing lampreys swimming through a tank of water containing tiny glass beads that were illuminated with a laser. The animals’ swimming motion perturbed the beads in such a way as to enable visualization of the flow and timing of glass bead movement in concert with the lampreys’ movements. Using high speed digital cameras that recorded movement in fractions of a second, the scientists were able to directly measure the ‘hydrodynamic efficiency’ of their swimming process.

Click here to continue reading »


Lee County wants $28M from state for wastewater plant upgrades

One of Lee County’s highest growth areas needs more capacity for wastewater treatment and the Lee County Board of Commissioners is hoping for some help from the state to provide it.

The board voted 5-0 Tuesday morning to approve the county’s application for the state revolving fund to add 2 million gallons per day of treatment capacity to the Three Oaks Wastewater Treatment Plant. Located near Gulf Coast Town Center and Florida Gulf Coast University, the plant has a capacity of 4 million gallons per day.

Lee County Public Utilities Director Pam Keyes said the plant was slated to treat six-million gallons per day, but the water quality did not meet expectations.

“So with the additional treatment components, we'll be able to increase the capacity,” Keyes said. “This is a high-growth area so it’s important for us to be able cover future growth and future demand.”

Instead of getting the $28 million from a bank or bonding out the project, the county will take advantage of the state revolving fund’s low interest rates.

“This is 1 percent, where if we went to a bank or bonded it out, it’d be 3, 4 percent. So this is a very good deal for us,” Keyes said.

The project will not result in a rate increase for Lee County customers. The loan will be paid back over the course of 20 years at about $1.6 million per year. The county has already spent about $1.6 million in design costs.

Click here to view original article »


Renovations set for Lee County’s Pine Island Commercial Marina boat launching facility

Long-awaited renovations of the Lee County-owned Pine Island Commercial Marina are set to begin Monday, Nov. 2. This is the last weekend recreational anglers and boaters will be able to use the boat ramp as the construction happens. The ramp will be closed for about six months while work is underway.

When the site reopens, boaters and anglers will have a new, wider boat ramp; improved docks with more space; and better access due to a newly dredged channel. Also included in the renovations are an improved barge landing and new seawall.

Although the marina is a popular weekend launching spot for recreational boaters year-round, completing the dredging and renovations now prevents further deterioration to the existing docks, improves safety and ensures the barge will be able to continue serving the outer islands for trash pickup.

“We realize with seasonal residents returning and tourist season approaching, the popular ramp will be in demand, but for safety reasons the project needs to happen,” said Dana Kasler, Lee County Parks & Recreation director. “We hope the long-term improvements will outweigh the short-term inconveniences.”

Please check and click on “boat ramps” for project updates, including the ramp reopening date. The ramp is at 6001 Maria Drive, St. James City, about a mile south of Pine Island’s fourway stop.

Once the boat ramp reopens, recreational boaters and anglers can resume using the ramp during regular recreational hours, which are on Saturdays, Sundays and Lee County-recognized holidays. The gate will be open 6:30 a.m.- 8:30 p.m. The marina will be limited to commercial use Monday through Friday.

Most of the cost of the renovation – $520,546 – is being paid by the West Coast Inland Navigation District. Additionally, state vessel registration fees account for $197,012 and another $158,681 will be paid from Lee County’s general fund.

Formerly known as the Lee County Fishermen's Cooperative, the 15-acre facility was purchased by Lee County in February 2006 to serve the bridgeless barrier islands of Lee County including Upper Captiva, Useppa Island, Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa.

Existing business operations that provide services to the outer barrier islands will continue to operate during the renovations.

For additional information about Lee County Parks & Recreation and the Pine Island Commercial Marina, or for alternative boat ramps for the Pine Island area, log on to


Position available for Volunteer Oyster Habitat Monitoring Coordinator

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Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) is seeking a Volunteer Oyster Habitat Monitoring Coordinator. This is a part-time, temporary position to be hired by the City of Punta Gorda, the CHNEP's fiscal host. Applications are being accepted through Nov. 13.

The Volunteer Oyster Habitat Monitoring (VOHM) Coordinator is an interdisciplinary specialist who will work as part of a team to implement the Volunteer Oyster Habitat Monitoring project. The position is primarily responsible for supporting the development of a successful Volunteer Oyster Habitat Monitoring program, recruiting and training volunteer citizen scientist to conduct oyster habitat monitoring, and producing the Volunteer Oyster Habitat Monitoring Coordinator Manual, VOHM Manual and VOHM standard operating procedures. This is a limited, grant funded position.

In October 2014, the CHNEP, in partnership with the FDEP Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves and the Nature Conservancy, applied to FDEP for Coastal Partnership Initiative grant to support development of a pilot Volunteer Oyster Habitat Monitoring Program. In addition to recruiting and training citizen scientists to monitoring oyster habitat restoration projects, the VOHM program will include developing manuals for volunteer coordinators and volunteer citizen scientists, and establishing standard operating procedures for monitoring oyster habitat restoration projects.

The time period for the VOHM project is up to 12 months. It is anticipated that the VOHM Volunteer Coordinator will be provided work space at the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserve office.

To learn more and to apply, go to


Climate Adaptation Training for Communities

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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 gives 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

Sponsors: This workshop is made possible because of the generosity of NOAA Office for Coastal Management, CHNEP, Sarasota County, Janet and Bruce Bunch, GE Foundation and the Friends of Charlotte Harbor Estuary, Inc. Any donation above the registration fee is appreciated. Any who donate $100 or more above the registration fee will be acknowledged as a sponsor.

Registration: This workshop is designed for program administrators, land use planners, public works staff members, floodplain managers, hazard mitigation planners, emergency managers, community groups, members of civic organizations, and coastal resource managers. Eighteen hours of certification maintenance credits for this course have been approved by the American Institute of Certified Planners.

There is a registration fee of $75 with refreshments and lunch provided. Please register by noon on Monday, Feb. 8 by completing the registration form on (If this link doesn't work for you, go to, change the location to Florida then search for CHNEP.) The registration fee includes refreshment breaks and lunches. Reservations are accepted as they are received. If the training is at capacity, please register to be placed on the wait list. We must have 25 people registered by Feb. 8 to offer the training. As many as 36 can attend. Please let Maran know if you register then are not able to attend. Refunds can only be issued if a cancellation is received prior to Feb. 8 or 90 days from registering, whichever is first. A reminder and additional information will be sent to you from Maran about a week before the training. (We don't recommend you leave for lunch and a refrigerator won't be available if you bring your own.)

Thanks to generous sponsors, a limited number of scholarships are available. If you wish to attend but are unable to pay the registration fee, please send a request to have the registration fee waived to The CHNEP will consider requests received from those who are helping to implement the CHNEP management plan.

Direction hint: Lemon Bay Park is approximately 20 miles from three exits on I-75.

They invite everyone with an interest in driving actions that protect the natural environment of southwest Florida to join us. Please invite others you think may have an interest in participating.

Thank you for helping to protect the natural environment of southwest Florida.


USF researchers develop off grid NEWgenerator to treat waste around globe

2.6 billion people in the world could benefit from a new wastewater treatment technology developed by a University of South Florida research team.

USF Associate Professor of Engineering Daniel Yeh has been researching the technology at the core of the wastewater treatment machine, the NEWgenerator, since 2002; Yeh started developing the current application with a team of students in 2011, when his venture received $100,000 in funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Yeh’s project, which has also received funding from the Indian government and won $50,000 from the Cade Museum Prize in 2014, aims to develop a new technology for sanitation and waste treatment in developing countries.

An environmental engineer who received a PhD from Georgia Tech, Yeh explains, “We work on the interface between humans and nature – making sure society has its needs met, but without destroying nature in the process. We want to find solutions that are sustainable, and that protect both human and ecological health.”

Yeh was drawn to working on the technology to turn dirty wastewater into clean water during post-doctoral research at Stanford University, but he notes, “This idea of recycled water is not new. Humans have been doing this for hundreds of years, at least. The trick is determining how to do it safely.”

Using animal or human waste as fertilizer is dangerous because of pathogens that can result in sickness, Yeh says, so reusing wastewater requires a conversion process that eliminates dangerous pathogens. Wastewater treatment plants can recycle reclaimed water on a large scale, but there are few systems that can treat water on a small scale. The NEWgenerator can.

Continued on 83 degrees »


SBEP provides update on tidal creek study

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If estuaries are where salt water and fresh water mix, tidal creeks draining to those estuaries are the place where this mixing first occurs. And since daily tides dictate exactly where this mixing occurs, “tidal creeks” are actually not separate, static entities, but rather dynamic swaths of water at the lower reaches of coastal tributaries below the freshwater upstream.

Despite a tendency toward lower dissolved oxygen and higher chlorophyll levels, tidal creeks are still extremely productive systems. These unique conditions are exploited by many important fish species as refuge from predators and nursery habitats. This phenomenon, among other considerations, has driven local scientists to argue that neither the water quality standards established for Florida’s freshwater bodies, nor those established for estuaries and coastal waters, are appropriate for tidal creeks.

So, what water quality parameters are appropriate for tidal creeks? The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP), along with the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Charlotte Harbor Estuary Program, six county partners and regional scientists, embarked on a study of water quality, fish population dynamics and habitat in southwest Florida tidal creeks to answer that question. The results of the study will help determine protective water quality standards and a science-based framework for management of these important ecosystems.

The results of the study have just been completed, and recommendations sent to state and federal regulators for comment. A final report will be released in March, 2016. To learn more, or to view a copy of the draft report, please contact SBEP.

Jay Leverone, PhD, the staff scientist for SBEP, will make a presentation about the Tidal Creek Study at the upcoming Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation meeting in Portland. The study engages SBEP, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, and six Florida counties.

Source: Sarasota Bay Estuary Program

View/download reports on tidal creeks throughout west central Florida

Get detailed water quality information about Sarasota’s tidal creeks


Red tide confirmed in Florida: What you need to know

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Red tide is a naturally occurring, higher-than-normal concentration of microscopic algae. In Florida, the species that causes most red tides is Karenia brevis. This organism produces toxins that can affect the central nervous system of aquatic organisms such as fish and marine mammals. Red tide toxins also pose a human health risk. The toxins can aerosolize and be carried to beaches with onshore winds, leading to respiratory irritation in people. Toxins can accumulate in shellfish and result in illnesses if contaminated shellfish are consumed. Shellfish harvesting areas are closed when blooms are present.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) researchers are currently monitoring two blooms along Florida’s Gulf coast, one located in northwest Florida and the other in southwest Florida.

“We confirmed the presence of both blooms in September, and they have persisted since that time,” said Alina Corcoran, FWC research scientist. “The bloom in the Panhandle is currently affecting Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay and Gulf counties. In southwest Florida, patchy blooms have been confirmed along Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties. Extensive fish kills and respiratory irritation have been associated with the bloom in the Panhandle but in southwest Florida the effects have been less.”

Red Tide Public Health Tips

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