Water-Related News

Sunrise Waterway Bridge Clearance reduced effective Oct. 31st

A temporary change in the Sunrise Waterway Bridge clearance will be implemented Monday, Oct. 31 that will restrict boat traffic through the end of January 2017 as part of continuing construction on the Edgewater Drive Phase 2 Improvements project.

The current vertical clearance at the center span will be reduced by approximately 3 feet, to 7.5 feet at mean high water. Boaters should obey low clearance signs during bridge construction. Work is scheduled for completion by Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.

Check www.GoEP2.com for bridge construction updates. Edgewater Drive remains closed to through traffic between Midway Boulevard and Harbor Boulevard as part of the Edgewater Drive Phase 2 Improvements.

For information, go to www.CharlotteCountyFL.gov and click Project Status Updates under Popular Links, visit www.GoEP2.com, email Info@GoEP2.com or call 941-62-GO-EP2 (941-624-6372).

Early-bird registration closing soon for Sustainable Communities Workshop

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​SARASOTA COUNTY – Register now to get the best value on a full day of information and inspiration at the 11th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop, Dec. 1 at the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida Event and Conference Center, 4750 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota.

Nov. 1 is the last day to register at the workshop's $35 "early-bird" rate, with prices rising to $45 afterward.

The Sustainable Communities Workshop brings together individuals, businesses, institutions and government agencies to learn and share community solutions on the environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability. The 11th annual workshop features a "Paths to a Sustainable Future" theme, with expert speakers sharing the latest strategies and action tables highlighting local opportunities.

Topics include:

  • valuing nature;
  • strategies for smarter growth;
  • building community resilience; and
  • edible innovations.

"The workshop's focus on encouraging individual and community action to enhance resilience will have a lasting positive impact on the health of the Sarasota Bay watershed," said Darcy Young, public outreach manager for Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

The keynote speakers will be Craig Pittman, an award-winning Tampa Bay Times environmental journalist and author of "Oh, Florida! How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country," and Ridhi D'Cruz of City Repair Project, a Portland, Oregon, non-profit dedicated to grassroots community building and neighborhood improvement projects.

Register now to save. Registration includes continental breakfast, lunch, and snacks made with local and organic ingredients. Students receive a discounted rate of $20. Sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities also are available for a limited time.

Visit this link or call 941-861-5000 to register or for information.

After weather delays Charlotte County Water Expansion Pilot Project commences

Completion date now Nov. 27th

The Water Expansion Pilot Project, that will give residents (in the project area off N. Salford) the opportunity to connect to City water services, was previously slated for completion towards the end of this month (October 2016). Due to multiple cases of inclement weather including abnormal high amounts of rain, flooding, a tropical storm and hurricane, the project has been slightly delayed and has a new completion date of November 27th, under normal weather conditions.

Over the next month crews will diligently work to complete remaining tasks which include bacteriological samples, certification from Department of Health, as-built drawings, and final tie-ins.

The City of North Port Utilities appreciates your patience and understanding as we wrap up this exciting project. If you have any questions, please contact North Port Utilities at (941) 240-8000.

Mote Awarded $500,000 NOAA Grant to Electronically Monitor Fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico

Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory recently received a grant for more than $500,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to continue advancing electronic monitoring of fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.

In many fisheries, NOAA requires vessels to self-report data on what fish they catch and report using logbooks. Many vessels carry an observer onboard to record that data. Although this system has provided vital info in the past, logbooks don’t always provide the level of detail and consistent data that is ideal for fisheries management and it would not be financially affordable to have trained observers on all commercial fishing vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. Incorporating electronic monitoring, such as using video cameras that film the fish caught, will enhance the ability for more fisheries to document such data.

“It is important for fisheries sustainability to accurately document the fish that are caught as well as the accidental catch, called ‘bycatch,' that is discarded” said Carole Neidig, Mote staff scientist. “Electronic monitoring will help to document and provide a permanent record of the type and number of species caught, location of capture, the observed condition, and even sex (for adult sharks) of species discarded, which are key factors in managing fisheries sustainably.”

The Ocean Conservancy led the first study of electronic monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico in 2011 with Mote and other project partners to determine if using electronic monitoring tools could be effective for fisheries monitoring and management. That pilot study showed that electronic monitoring could be successfully applied aboard bottom longline and bandit (vertical line) vessels fishing for snapper and grouper, and study partners decided to shift leadership of the project to Mote, an ideal organization to interface with the fishers and NOAA alike. Additional initiatives with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Foundation (SFPF), the Environmental Defense Fund, and NOAA/NMFS have supported implementation of this new technology in the Gulf of Mexico.

The newest phase, thanks to this NOAA-funded grant, will launch in January 2017 when electronic monitoring equipment is installed on commercial longline vessels based in southwest and the panhandle of Florida, Louisiana and Texas. Scientists will provide each vessel with training and equipment, including closed-circuit video cameras that will operate during fishing, gear sensors to detect fishing activity, a GPS to help detect where fish are caught and a monitor and computer control center with a portable hard drive that will later be returned to Mote for viewing and data analysis.

Red Tide Report 10.6.16

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A bloom of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists in Southwest Florida from Pinellas to Collier counties.

Karenia brevis was observed in background to high concentrations in six samples collected from Pinellas County; background to high concentrations in eleven samples collected from Manatee County; background to high concentrations in thirty-two samples collected from Sarasota County; background to low concentrations in five samples collected from Charlotte County; background to medium concentrations in eight samples collected from Lee County; and background to high concentrations in ten samples collected from Collier County.

Additional samples collected throughout Florida over the past week did not contain K. brevis.

Fish kills affecting multiple species have been reported along Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, and Collier counties; respiratory irritation has been reported in these same areas. Forecasts for Southwest Florida by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides show net offshore movement of surface waters, and southern, onshore movement of subsurface waters between southern Pinellas and Collier counties over the next 3 days.

$600M project underway to improve water quality in the Caloosahatchee

HENDRY COUNTY – A half-billion-dollar project is underway in Southwest Florida to improve water quality and cut down on the murky water flowing into the Caloosahatchee River.

The C-43 Reservoir is just off State Road 80 in Hendry County.

Jim Bernardini is taking a break from a hard day of cycling to take in a scenic view of the Caloosahatchee River at the Franklin Locks. But it’s plagued with brown freshwater from runoff and Lake Okeechobee water release.

"I see it all the time and how it affects my back yard because I'm on the river," Bernardini said. "And it's gotten horrendous."

But a fix is on the way via large mounds of dirt piled 12 miles away and 50 feet high.It’s 20 square miles of an old citrus grove meant to hold water pumped out of the Caloosahatchee River before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

"We will have a dam approximately 35 feet in height that will go around the perimeter of the reservoir,” Phill Flood with the South Florida Water Management District said.

The agency is overseeing construction of the first phase of the $600 million project. By the time it is finished and the water fills the flat land, it will end up being at least 15 to 25 feet deep.

DEP announces Water-Quality Restoration Grant opportunities

Grants available to assist Florida communities with water-quality improvement; Application deadline Nov. 1st

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is currently soliciting applications for the next cycle of funding through its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Water-Quality Restoration Grant Program. Through this program, DEP awards funding to local communities and water management districts to implement and construct projects designed to reduce pollutant loads to impaired waters from stormwater discharges. The application deadline is Nov. 1, 2016, at 5 p.m. EST for the current round of funding.

"The department is pleased to partner with local communities by providing grant funding to benefit water quality," said Trina Vielhauer, director of the Division of Water Restoration Assistance. "We encourage local governments to apply for funding assistance for eligible projects to improve water quality in their area."

Funded through annual appropriations from the Florida Legislature, TMDL grants focus on projects designed to restore impaired springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries which need help meeting Florida's stringent water-quality standards.

Specifically, the TMDL grant program provides funding assistance for communities to implement projects to better manage or treat stormwater. Stormwater runoff is generated when rain flows over land or impervious surfaces and does not seep into the ground. As the runoff flows over paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops, it accumulates debris, nutrients, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is left untreated and runs into nearby surface waters.

Examples of projects that were recently awarded TMDL grants from the July 2016 cycle include:

Leesburg: Awarded $250,000 to construct dry retention swales with underdrains along a 1,200-foot former railroad right-of-way, which will provide stormwater treatment for the Heritage Estates neighborhood. Currently, untreated stormwater flows into Lake Harris, part of the Upper Oklawaha River Basin.

Maitland: Awarded $400,000 to replace discharge pipes to direct stormwater flow into sediment-removing baffle boxes before heading into the 8-acre Lake Gem. Additionally, the accumulated sediment in Lake Gem, which contains phosphorous, will be removed by mechanical dredging. This project is part of the Lake Jesup Basin Management Action Plan and fulfills a portion of Maitland’s required phosphorous reduction allocation.

Winter Haven: Awarded $750,000 for water-quality improvements to Lake Conine by restoring a 33-acre parcel owned by the city, and reducing pollutants in the Upper Peace Creek Watershed area. Future phases of the project will include constructing recreational features such as walking trails, picnic pavilions, boardwalks, fishing piers and playgrounds.

The department ranks projects for funding based on the impaired status of the associated water body, the water-quality improvement benefit (the estimated pollutant load reductions the project is designed to achieve), the cost-effectiveness of the project, and the percentage of local matching funds. Another consideration is whether the applicant has a dedicated revenue source to continue effective stormwater management in the future.

Since 2002, the department has awarded more than $114 million in TMDL grants, including $5.4 million awarded in fiscal year 2015-16 and $1.4 million in fiscal year 2016-17, to date.

Visit the TMDL Water-Quality Restoration Grant Program webpage for more information on the application process and qualification requirements.

Mote Marine Lab among organizations monitoring red tide

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Mote Marine Laboratory scientists and others are monitoring some elevated levels of the naturally occurring Florida red tide algae, Karenia brevis, along southwest Florida. Mote encourages the public to follow online updates.

K. brevis, the single-celled, harmful algae that causes Florida red tide, occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico at concentrations considered as “background”. During bloom conditions, concentrations can increase to “very low”, “low”, “medium”, and “high” levels. Recently, some samples in Southwest Florida have revealed “medium” to “not present/background” counts of K. brevis.

When Florida red tide algae cells are present in concentrations elevated above normal “background” levels, people can experience varying degrees of eye, nose, and throat irritation while at the shore or on the water. When a person leaves an area with a red tide, symptoms usually go away. People with asthma, COPD or other chronic respiratory conditions are cautioned to avoid areas with active red tides. Red tide concentrations elevated to levels “low” or above can cause respiratory irritation and may also kill fish. Many factors, including algae distribution, currents and winds, can determine whether effects are noticeable.

Recent monitoring results

Water samples collected by the Florida Department of Health Monday, Oct.10, along Sarasota County and analyzed by Mote showed not present/background to medium K. brevis cell counts in all 16 locations.

Three locations had medium concentrations of K. brevis, including Ringling Causeway, Lido Casino and South Lido Park. North Lido Beach showed low concentrations. Longboat Key Beach showed very low concentrations and the rest of the locations showed zero to background concentrations.

As of Tuesday evening (Oct. 11th), Mote’s Beach Conditions Reporting System has reported slight respiratory irritation on some beaches including Manasota Beach, Lido Key and Nokomis and some dead fish on Siesta Key.

The FWC posts red tide status reports on Wednesdays and Fridays; to view this report and to track red tide blooms, visit MyFWC.com/RedTideStatus.

Free guided walks offered at Lee County beaches and preserves

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FORT MYERS – Lee County Parks & Recreation invites visitors and residents to explore the shoreline and preserves of Lee County’s barrier islands with a series of upcoming free guided walks. The walks are led by trained Volunteer Interpretive Naturalists on various weekdays from October through April.

The walks are offered in three preserves and parks, including:

  • Matanzas Pass Preserve, 199 Bay Road, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931, limited free parking:
    • Life in the Mangroves: 9:30 to 11 a.m. of the first, third and fifth Thursday each month from Nov. 17 to March 30, except for holidays. This educational walk through Matanzas Pass Preserve will provide you with opportunities to discover the diverse plant and animal communities in this maritime oak hammock, transitional wetland and mangrove forest ecosystem.
    • Exploring Ethnobotany: 9:30 to 11 a.m. Wednesdays, Oct. 19 – April 12, except for holidays. Learn the historical importance of Florida native plants as food, shelter, medicine and clothing to humans, past and present. Discover how these indigenous plants have been used by the Calusa and early settlers.
  • Bowditch Point Park, 50 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931, parking $2 an hour:
    • Barrier Island Ramble: 9:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, Nov. 22 – March 31, except for holidays. Discover the constantly changing features of the barrier island ecosystem. Learn how the plants and animals are adapted to life on this fragile spit of sand. Wear comfortable clothing, shoes that can get wet, bring water, bug spray, binoculars and camera.
  • Bunche Beach Preserve, 18201 John Morris Road, Fort Myers, FL 33908, parking $2 per hour:
    • Life along the Shore: 9:30 to 11 a.m. Mondays, Nov. 14 through April 24, except for holidays. Explore the shoreline of the San Carlos Bay ecosystem and learn more about the shorebirds, shells, animals and plants native to this diverse preserve. Wear comfortable clothing, shoes that can get wet, bring water, bug spray, binoculars and camera.

For more information on guided walks call Lee County Parks & Recreation’s Laura Carr at (239) 432-2154; for general information about Lee County Parks & Recreation call (239) 533-7275 or visit www.LeeParks.org.

Public invited to review plan for Lee County’s Coastal Preserves

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FORT MYERS » The land management plan for Coastal Preserves, a group of Lee County preserves from Interstate 75 to Cayo Costa, has been written to guide the management of these areas. This plan will be discussed at 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at Lakes Regional Library.

The plan describes the preserves and limited work to be assessed in some areas. No changes to management or public use are planned. After public review, the plan will be placed on an agenda of the Lee Board of County Commissioners for approval.

Written comments are encouraged and can be given at the meeting, which is located at 15290 Bass Road, Fort Myers; or comments can be mailed to caintb@leegov.com or to Lee County Parks & Recreation attn: Terry Cain, 50 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931.

The plan can be reviewed through Dec. 5 at Lakes Regional Library and Fort Myers Regional Library, 2450 First St., Fort Myers. Ask for it at the resource desk. To download the plan for review, use the link below.

Judge refuses to block changes to Florida's water quality standards

An administrative law judge has refused to block the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from moving forward with new water-quality standards as legal battles continue over the controversial plan.

Judge Bram D.E Canter issued an order Monday rejecting a request by the Seminole Tribe of Florida for a stay that would have at least temporarily halted the formal process of adopting the standards. The tribe sought the stay as it pursues an appeal of an earlier ruling that tossed out a series of challenges to the standards.

In Monday's order, Canter sided with attorneys for the Department of Environmental Preservation and the state Environmental Regulation Commission who argued that the tribe was unlikely to be successful in the appeal.

"In order to prevail on a motion for stay, a party must demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits and that it will suffer irreparable harm if the stay is not granted," Canter wrote. "This required demonstration was not made in the (tribe's) motion."

Inventor’s UV treatment eliminates E. coli, fecal matter from Banana Lake sample

LAKELAND — The results are impressive.

That’s what Megan Skeen, lab director at Phoslab Environmental in Lakeland, said about Robert “Bud” Duthie’s Micro HellCat. The Micro HellCat is a small unit that uses UVA and UVB light waves to kill bacteria and other contaminants.

Though they are ultraviolet waves, they’re not the traditional ultraviolet or UVC waves.

“Whatever he did, did a good cleanup on the microbiology and fecal,” Skeen said. “Looking at the decrease, especially in E. coli, that’s pretty impressive.”

Samples from Banana Lake, an impaired water body in South Lakeland, were taken by Duthie and submitted to the lab.

The results showed that Duthie’s Micro HellCat had eliminated E. coli and fecal matter from the sample and reduced nitrogen from 2.9 milligrams per liter to 1.8 milligrams. Reducing nitrogen levels will slow the growth of contaminants like toxic algae, but it’s the bacteria, Duthie said, that is making people sick.

Oct. 26th “Save Our Water” event is a sell-out

The News-Press Media Group is presenting “Save Our Water” on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa.

This special event from 12-6 p.m. will feature:

18 experts from Southwest Florida and from around the state who will educate the public on the key aspects of the water crisis we are facing in this region

Topics will include: Everglades restoration, pollutants plaguing our water, clean-up plans and more

  • A moderated panel representing tourism, real estate and agriculture
  • Audience engagement (Q&A session)
  • The unveiling of a unique water experiences tour
  • Storytelling by The News-Press reporter Amy Williams and others
  • Video documentary
  • Musical and dance performance
  • Raffle drawing for a kayak
  • Event program

All ticket holders at the event will receive a commemorative ‘Save Our Water’ TERVIS® Tumbler presented by The News-Press Media Group.

Caloosahatchee/St. Lucie water releases not as bad as expected

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday cut flows to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

Flows to both rivers were maximized at the end of last week in preparation for several inches of rainfall throughout the South Florida Water Management District, which includes 16 counties and starts in Orlando and ends in the Florida Keys.

“Lake Okeechobee has fallen over the past 48 hours,” said Candida Bronson, from the Corps office in Jacksonville. “With drier weather in the forecast over the coming days in the area, we believe the immediate threat of a large rise in the lake stage has passed. However, we will continue to monitor and adjust as necessary.”

Volunteer trail guides needed at Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center

Enjoy learning about and teaching others about nature? Looking for a fun and educational way to meet like minded people? Consider becoming a trail guide volunteer with Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center at Cedar Point Park, 2300 Placida Road in Englewood.

From October through April, volunteers are need as Trail Guides to lead guided nature walks through several local Charlotte County properties. These are on both week-days and week-ends from approximately 9:00 am to 11:00 am. To start off the new volunteers, there will be a Trail Guide Training session on Wednesday November 16 at 10 AM at Cedar Point Park. Come and learn some plants, animals and interpretive techniques that may help you lead these “walks in the woods”.

If interested, email Bobbi Rodgers or call her at 941-475-0769.