Water-Related News

Total maximum daily loads for Sanibel Slough discussed

A public workshop was held at the Sanibel Public Library to discuss the proposed total maximum daily loads for the Sanibel Slough, the central river system that flows through the island by J.N. "Ding" Darling National Refuge.

The Sanibel Slough has three weir structures that control the outflow into San Carlos Bay. There is a weir control structure in Sanibel Slough West at Sanibel Captiva Road that discharges into Tarpon Bay, and then eventually into San Carlos Bay. The Sanibel Slough East has a weir control system at Beach Road that drains into canals and then eventually San Carlos Bay. According to DEP, there were less than 45 days of recorded discharges in seven years.

The TMDL stemmed from the Clean Water Act to set water quality standards.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection a TMDL is "a scientific determination of the maximum amount of a given pollutant that surface water can absorb and still meet the water quality standards that protect human health and aquatic life." When water bodies do not meet the quality standards, a specific TMDL is developed.

Ansel Bubel, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said they are always checking to make sure they are on the right path to return bodies of water to a healthy state again. Computer models are used for TMDLs by calculating the pattern of where the water is going and being released.

Cape Coral water levels not improving

The city of Cape Coral's water situation is not improving. Code Enforcement has handed out more than 1,500 warning violations to people watering outside the restriction schedule.

The freshwater canal levels continue to drop, and there is no rain in sight.

The city is looking into all possible options, but residents are hoping those solutions come sooner rather than later.

"All I can say is hope for the rain," said Barbara Jones.

Jones has lived in Cape Coral for six years. She said the canal is taking a hit because of the dry weather and people are not following the watering restrictions.

"This is the second time that I have seen it that low and it is an extreme low now," said Jones. "The fact that there is all that junk in there it just goes to show you that we really need the water and they need to clean it out."

Jones is concerned about the canal across the street. The low levels reveal garbage and even shopping carts.

CHNEP seeks new Program Scientist

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program's current Program Scientist Judy Ott is retiring next month. Her nearly nine years of service to CHNEP have strengthened its science-based work to protect and restore southwest Florida’s water resources, for which we are very grateful.

While it will be impossible to fill Judy’s shoes, the CHNEP is hoping that its partners and supporters will help it to find a great candidate who can continue to the good work Judy has done during her tenure. To that end, the CHNEP has placed information on its new website, and it will also officially be posted soon on the City of Punta Gorda's website. The position of Program Scientist at CHNEP is an amazing professional opportunity and the organization is hoping to find the right person quickly so not to have too much of a gap. Your help sharing this opportunity with interested parties is much appreciated.

This excellent professional opportunity includes meaningful rewarding work, great benefits, and a competitive salary. Applications should be submitted through the City of Punta Gorda's website.

Attention early birds: Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve needs you for water quality monitoring

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Do you enjoy watching the sunrise? Have you ever wanted to contribute to a project with far-reaching impacts? Are you interested in learning about water quality sampling? If so, we would love to hear from you! We are seeking new volunteers to sample water quality once a month (every first Monday of the month at sunrise) in Estero Bay as part of the Charlotte Harbor Estuaries Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Network (CHEVWQMN).

As it says in the name, volunteers are the key to this program. Seven locations within Estero Bay have been monitored by volunteers each month since 1998. The data received are used by EBAP, other natural resource managers, and officials. The data set a baseline for estuary conditions. As a volunteer, you would learn to calibrate instruments, collect samples, and record data. Necessary equipment and training will be provided. This program is a great learning opportunity as well as a chance to see the beauty of Estero Bay at sunrise, complete with possibilities for wildlife sightings. If you are interested, please contact our office.

Photo courtesy of Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve

Contact Information

Rebecca Flynn

Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve

239-530-1002
Rebecca.Flynn@dep.state.fl.us

Florida lawmakers push water agenda

WASHINGTON – Fully upgrading the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee could be done three years ahead of schedule if Congress appropriated the full amount this year to complete the project, a senior U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official told a gathering of congressional lawmakers from Florida Wednesday (Feb. 15th).

“If we were able to maximize funding, we think we could move the timetable up to 2022 (from 2025),” Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, the agency’s deputy district commander for South Florida, told the group. “There are some constraints with being able to work on components of the dike at the same time, so we don’t think it’s feasible to speed it up any faster than (that).”

But convincing Congress to pony up the $800 million for the dike — not to mention funds for dozens of other Everglades-related projects — won’t be easy considering the limited resources and competing interests on Capitol Hill, said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Weston.

“We should all maintain a constant worry that the patience of our colleagues who have very major water projects of their own (around the nation) in the queue and the number of years that this project was expected to take — and is taking — has a tendency to wear thin not only on the staff that makes recommendations on funding these projects but on our colleagues.”

The bipartisan Florida congressional delegation met to discuss the state’s significant water woes, which range from last summer’s toxic algae blooms along the Atlantic coast that were visible from space, nutrient-addled shorelines in Southwest Florida that have wreaked economic devastation, and red tides that led to massive fish kills near Sarasota.

Much of Wednesday’s meeting focused on speeding up and funding the massive, multibillion-dollar project to rehabilitate the Everglades.

Rainfall deficit prompts Water District advisory

WEST PALM BEACH — A huge reason the brush fire danger has climbed so high is a significant lack of rain in recent months.

In fact, water managers are already talking conservation.

"I don't think that it's a bad idea to just conserve all the time," said Vicki Wagner, who lives near West Palm Beach.

Wagner said she has set her sprinklers to run just two nights a week, all year long.

"I think twice a week is enough," said Wagner.

Music to the ears of South Florida’s water managers, who just issued an advisory encouraging residents to start being more water-wise.

"We've been extremely dry, and this started with the record low rainfall in November,” said Randy Smith, spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District.

“And (the dry spell) has been continuous, which is pretty unusual," said Smith.

Cleaning up canals could help Fort Myers Beach water quality

The town could help clean up water by starting with its own back yards.

Did you know the town has a fertilizer ordinance that should regulate the fertilizers used on properties within town limits? Members of the Marine Resources Task Force doubt it's widely-known - or widely followed.

Tackling a stricter fertilizer ordinance will be one of the suggestions the committee plans to make to the Town of Fort Myers Beach to help improve water quality in the island canals.

According to the ordinance, fertilizer containing nitrogen and phosphorus cannot be applied between June 1 and Sept. 30 or applied on impervious surface, for example. Any "violation" of the ordinance would be dealt with by special magistrate as a code violation.

However, MRTF members found multiple sections of the fertilizer ordinance to be below the standard of other surrounding island communities, such as a "voluntary" application distance of six feet from a water body and a mandatory three-foot buffer between application and a water body.

Cost-saving dredging techniques sought by Lee County

Over the years, the dredging has cost taxpayers millions, but the county is working on alternatives to save you money.

Fishers at Blind Pass on Sanibel are like clockwork, but one said that lately, there's been something off. "Boaters can't get out, a guy tried getting out this morning and had to turn around, he couldn't get out. The water's just not deep enough," said George Head of Cape Coral.

Others say at the moment, you have to keep a watchful eye if you're boating through the area."When you go through these passes by boat, you gotta be aware of what's on the charter isn't necessarily what's actually there," said tourist Ron Rogers.

Lee County is contracting dredge work at Blind Pass with the goal of improving beach and water quality, which is now labeled "good" by city leaders. That cost to dredge is more than $2 million in tourist tax dollars.

A big reason they keep spending the money to do it is to tackle beach erosion on the northern part of Sanibel. "It's rough to spend money, no matter what it's for," Head said.

With the dredging, leaders with Sanibel and the county say they're exploring more cost-effective alternatives to manage flow of sand. One example of a possible solution would be having a jetty to redirect the movement of sand.

Dredging at Blind Pass is expected to be completed later in the Spring of 2017. This is the fourth time in 16 years Blind Pass will be dredged. Sanibel and the county will seek public feedback on alternative methods as late as April.

Florida lawmakers in DC learn there are no easy fixes for red tide plague

Red tide has become a vexing issue for many residents of Sarasota and Manatee counties over the past year, but lawmakers from Florida’s 29-member congressional delegation learned Wednesday that the natural phenomenon is hard to stop.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, the co-chairman of the state’s delegation, which met as a group for the first time this year Wednesday, opened up the line of questioning by asking what was the best course of action that the federal government could take to fight red tide and its potential impact both on the coastline and state’s tourism industry.

One big problem with red tide is the damage it inflicts on tourism and seafood industries. NOAA estimates that $82 million a year in economic loss in the United States can be attributed to toxic algal blooms, which includes red tide.

A few methods of reducing red tide were brought up during the meeting, including disrupting stagnant fresh waterways, which algal blooms thrive in, said Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Long slog likely if Trump EPA attempts WOTUS do-over

President Trump's pick to lead U.S. EPA, Scott Pruitt, is an avowed foe of the agency's Clean Water Rule.

As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sued the Obama administration over what he deemed an unlawful expansion of federal regulatory power over isolated streams and wetlands. And if he's confirmed as EPA chief, he has said he will replace the rule.

But legal experts say killing that rule is one thing, replacing it another.

The regulation — which is also known by an acronym, WOTUS, for "Waters of the United States" — was written by the Obama EPA and Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to help regulators and landowners end a murky, decadeslong legal battle over the reach of the Clean Water Act.

At issue: unclear case law and a vaguely written statute.

Bernadette Rappold, former director of the EPA Office of Civil Enforcement's Special Litigation and Projects Division, said all the legal baggage complicates the effort to write a clear, scientifically defensible rule for protecting areas that are valuable as filters for water pollution, buffers for floodwaters and habitat for wildlife.

Florida has seen bad effects from Trump-like climate gag orders

Kristina Trotta was working for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in Miami in 2014 when she and her colleagues were called into a staff meeting. “We were told by the regional director that we were no longer supposed to say ‘global warming,’ ‘climate change’ or ‘sea level rise,’” says Trotta, who works on coral reef conservation. “We were finally told we are the governor’s agency and this is what the governor wants, and so this is what we’re going to do.”

Florida’s hush order, along with a similar effort in North Carolina, offers a preview of what will happen if Pres. Donald Trump continues preliminary moves to muzzle climate communication from key federal agencies. The Florida gag effort was part of a broader move by Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who questions the scientific consensus on climate change. Experts and local officials say it hampered community efforts to plan for worsening flooding and extreme weather.

Now on the national level all references to climate change have been removed from the White House Web site (except those promising to eliminate Obama climate policies). Trump aides also reportedly ordered the deletion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s main page on the topic, although those plans were put on hold after word leaked out. Federal agencies have more responsibilities than state authorities, including gathering and analyzing authoritative data about effects on wide areas of the country. If they pull back, the negative effects could be much bigger.

Register now for 2017 Charlotte Harbor Watershed Summit

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The public is invited to join the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) on March 28-30 at its seventh Charlotte Harbor Watershed Summit. The theme of the Summit will be "Showcasing Our Accomplishments". The event will take place at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center, located at 75 Taylor Street in Punta Gorda.

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) is a partnership to protect and restore water resources of Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs to Winter Haven. Thanks to the Planning Committee, the 2017 Summit will be an opportunity to share the latest research findings and to network. Sessions include:

  • Tuesday morning: Water Quality and Quantity - New Tools (9 a.m. to noon)
  • Tuesday afternoon: Water Quality and Quantity - Monitoring and Assessment (1 to 4 p.m.)
  • Wednesday morning: Habitat and Living Resources - Plants (9 a.m. to noon)
  • Wednesday afternoon: Habitat and Living Resources - Stewardship (1 to 4 p.m.)
  • Thursday morning: Habitat and Living Resources - Fish (9 a.m. to noon)
  • Thursday afternoon: Habitat and living resources - Reptiles, Invertebrates and Shellfish (1 to 4 p.m.)

Approximately 20 projects will be featured each day in either a 20-minute presentation, a lightning presentation of 5 or 10 minutes or in a poster. You are welcome to participate in this free program in any way you have the time and interest.

No matter how you wish to participate, please register by Monday, March 20.

Please register at the link below. (If the direct link doesn't work, go to www.eventbrite.com, search for CHNEP but change the location to Florida.) The agenda and additional details will be emailed to all who register once they are confirmed.

More information »

Ft. Myers Beach Council favors floodplain regulation changes

Fort Myers Beach's residential streets are dotted with the quaint beach cottages that give the island its own unique style.

Many of those homes are older - which, unfortunately, can be a problem.

Homes built before 1984 do not meet current flood elevation standards for state and federal requirements on new buildings. If a homeowner wants to renovate a pre-1984 beach cottage, there is a lot of red tape.

The Town of Fort Myers Beach currently uses a five-year, 50 percent rule that restricts the amount an owner can spend renovating their home in a five-year period without bringing a home into compliance with current flood standards.

But that could change, as the council's eye turns to the policy.

Now, if a structure is valued at $200,000 by the Lee County Property Appraiser, a homeowner can spend up to 50 percent - $100,000 - in renovations in a five-year period. These are renovations that are defined as substantial improvements, such as a new roof or an addition. It does not include improvements of a building that are required to maintain compliance with health, sanitary, or safety code violations or to projects that serve to harden the home against future weather events. The costs of these projects are cumulative over the five years. If a homeowner sought to do a project that would exceed 50 percent of the home's value, the owner would have to also bring the entire structure into floodplain regulation compliance - which typically means raising the elevation.

Charlotte County to start dredging Manasota Key beaches

MANASOTA KEY, Fla. Relief is on the way for Charlotte County’s shrinking shoreline.

The county will soon begin the Stump Pass Dredging Project, a initiative to replenish the sand eroded by tropical storms Hermine and Colin.

Dredging crews will widen the pass and pipe sand along the shoreline of Stump Pass Beach State Park.

Chadwick Park, which is across from Englewood Beach, has been shut down to be used as a staging area.

The project will cost nearly $5 million and dredging will go on from March 1 to May 1.

Water solutions still a priority, puzzle for local lawmakers

The News-Press editorial board met with six members of the Southwest Florida legislative delegation on Thursday, discussing a wide-range of issues but with a particular focus on water quality and their roles in protecting the Caloosahatchee from harmful discharges coming from Lake Okeechobee and how those discharges not only impact the environment but also the economy.

This is a legislative group carrying more clout on the floors of their respective chambers than in past years. Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, is chair of the rules committee, which means she decides which bills the Senate discusses and moves forward. Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, is in one of the top positions in the House as the majority leader; Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, is the House Majority Whip; Rep. Matt Caldwell is chair of the government accountability committee; and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, is chair of the ethics and elections committee.

This water issue – restoration of the Everglades, redirecting Lake O discharges into storage reservoirs and treatment areas and finding additional money to keep these programs moving – remains political dynamite between governmental officials, environmentalists and Southwest Florida residents, and the legislative group knows it, based on what was shared with the editorial board.

What we do know is that this is no longer just an environmental issue. It is also an economic one. People do not want to visit Florida if the water is dirty, smells or is unsafe. And as Passidomo pointed out, jobs are on the line as the state looks to buy more agricultural land south of the lake for storage. “Every time the state purchases land, it takes it out of production," Passidomo said. "You won’t be able to grow on that land. If this continues, we will be paying $20 for a tomato from Venezuela. There are more than just environmental impacts.

Legislature needs educating about flood risk

A state senator proposing legislation to mitigate flood risk said Friday that lawmakers in Tallahassee don’t fully appreciate the extent of that risk.

Brandes discussed flood insurance during the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Insurance Summit in Miami.

He has introduced SB 584, to create a statewide flood mitigation and assistance program, providing up to $50 million per year in matching grant money.

The money would help reduce the risk and severity of coastal flooding by using Amendment 1 resources for land acquisition and preservation, and extending the expiration of deregulated rates in flood insurance to 2025 from 2017, giving the flood insurance market more time to grow.

National Flood Insurance Program costs less in communities that have mitigated their flood risk, Brandes said during a short interview.

Polk County Commission won't fund Soil and Water Conservation District

Polk County's Soil and Water Conservation District, an agency that was nearly dissolved in 2015 because of a lack of activity, took a hit Friday from Polk County commissioners.

County Commissioner George Lindsey said he has no plans to fund the district, which is comprised of five newly elected supervisors.

"No one in Polk County has been harmed by the absence of this agency," Lindsey said at Friday's agenda review meeting. "I have no intention of funding this agency in any fashion."

Brett Upthagrove, the new chairman, said it was a disheartening message from the county.

Upthagrove said the agency wasn't aware commissioners planned to discuss the agency.

Other county commissioners said the environmental concerns stated in the Soil and Water Conservation District's purpose are addressed by other agencies such as the South West Florida Management District.

Brian Dockery, one of the newly elected supervisors and treasurer of the district, said he doesn't intend to ask the county for money right now.

What would happen to Florida if the EPA really did go away?

For years the Environmental Protection Agency has been depicted as a jackbooted thug, a humorless generator of red tape, even the nefarious villain in such films as The Simpsons Movie and the original Ghostbusters.

Now the agency started by a Republican president, Richard Nixon, faces an uncertain future. The new president who once pledged to eliminate it now promises to refocus it. The man he nominated to be its new leader, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, made his reputation suing it. Meanwhile, a Florida congressman has filed a bill to obliterate it.

Under the bill filed by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, the EPA would cease to exist at the end of 2018.

"They have exceeded their original mission substantially under both Republican and Democratic presidents and violated the sovereignty of the states," Gaetz said in explaining his bill. "I think we need to start fresh."

His bill would leave it to "states and local governments to protect their environmental assets in the absence of federal overreach."

State may pump stormwater below ground to keep it out of Lake Okeechobee

The Everglades Foundation and other environmental groups are pushing the state to purchase agriculture lands south of Lake Okeechobee for Everglades restoration projects.

How do you get rid of excess rain water without using the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries as dumping grounds?

Try deep well injection, or aquifer storage and recovery, two technologies the South Florida Water Management District is considering as it moves forward with Everglades restoration projects.

"The whole idea is that they could assist in the control of the lake level and help with damaging estuary discharges," said Bob Verrastro, the district's top hydrologist. "And the one thing about deep injection wells is they are a one-way street. It’s water that will ultimately be lost underground. It’s as if the water were discharged to tide, but we can use these wells to discharge to tide before they (large volumes of water) get to Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries."

A group called the Water Resources Advisory Commission takes input during the planning process and is an advisory board for the district's governing board members. It met Thursday in West Palm Beach to discuss options but didn't vote on a specific plan.

More than 500 million gallons was released from Lake Okeechobee and into the Caloosahatchee River during 2016, an odd year that started with heavy El Nino rains in January and ended with six of the last seven months seeing below average rainfall.

Obliterating EPA would create chaos, experts say

After soliciting endorsement from his colleagues earlier this week to eradicate the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz has garnered support from a trio of congressmen in what he assures would translate to a smooth transition in oversight and regulations from the federal government to individual states.

But legal experts disagree with the Fort Walton Beach Republican, arguing that eliminating the agency would incite statutory chaos and devastating impacts to human health and the environment.

"When it was originally created, states and local communities didn’t have the technology or expertise to protect the environment," said Gaetz, who has targeted 2018 for when he hopes to see the agency disappear. "We’ve come a long way in the last 50 years. Time and again, I’ve seen constituents unknowingly subject themselves to the oppressive jurisdiction of the EPA by doing simple things."

Gaetz said Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) have agreed to co-sponsor a bill to the House Committee on Natural Resources to eliminate the agency. At that point, the committee's chairman, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), would decide if it would be put to a vote. Many environmental protection laws create legal standing for states to enforce federally administrated regulations. Gaetz contended that without the EPA, authority for those laws would simply shift to states. But multiple professors at the University of Florida Levin College of Law contradicted him.

"A lot of states just don’t have resources available to them," said Mary Jane Angelo, professor and director of the Environmental and Land Use Law Program at the university. "Wealthier states would have better protection for their citizens’ health than poorer states."

North Fort Myers creek water tested after raw sewage spill

If there is such a thing as a best-case scenario raw sewage spill, what happened this week in North Fort Myers' Powell Creek might come close.

The bad news? Some 80,000 gallons of treatment plant-bound goo flowed into the Caloosahatchee tributary Tuesday after a lift station control panel failed and a pump quit, said Florida Governmental Utility Authority spokeswoman Lori Salgado.

The good news?

The spill, which happened between two weirs in a utility easement with no surrounding houses, was discovered quickly, stopped promptly, pumped into trucks and hauled off, Salgado said.

SWFWMD reports gains in seagrass coverage in Sarasota Bay

Scientists with the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s (SWFWMD) Surface Water Improvement and Management, or SWIM program, released the results of the 2016 seagrass mapping study showing Sarasota Bay now supports 13,469 acres of seagrass beds; an increase of 180 acres in seagrass coverage.

Sarasota Bay waters includes five bay segments made up of Manatee and Sarasota County waters. Three of the five bay segments gained seagrass from 2014 to 2016 with an overall 1.4% increase since 2014.

Sarasota Bay contains more seagrass as of 2016 than it has at any other time in the history of the District mapping program; the largest amount of seagrass measured since the 1950s.

The District maps seagrass in five estuaries spanning the five coastal counties of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte.

Documenting the extent of seagrass and how it changes overtime is a valuable tool for scientists throughout Florida. Seagrasses are an important barometer of a bay’s health because they require relatively clean water to flourish, thus they are sensitive to changes in water clarity and quality.

The District’s maps are used as a tool for measuring and tracking biological integrity of estuaries as it relates to water quality conditions. Seagrass generally grows in waters less than 6 feet deep, but in the clear waters around Egmont and Anclote Keys it can be found in water ten feet deep or more.

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

In Florida, debate over pollution limits rages

In Florida, members of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation argued with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in January about its handling of controversial new water pollution limits.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that In May, the DEP introduced an update to human health criteria “for 43 chemical compounds that are allowed in Florida’s rivers, lakes and estuaries and [created] new limits for 39 others.”

The agency’s plan received a lot of criticism from environmental groups, not only because of the relaxed standards for some of the chemicals but also because of the way the agency presented the proposal.

The Tallahassee Democrat reported that on May 15 Florida wanted to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals that it would allow in its surface waters.

DEP Secretary Jon Steverson said the coverage "inaccurately and unfairly" depicted the agency's proposal.

"The state has some of the most comprehensive water quality standards in the country, including the most advanced numeric nutrient criteria in the entire nation," Steverson told the Tallahassee Democrat. "We will continue to coordinate with EPA to adopt standards that will ensure our residents and natural resources enjoy clean and safe water."

Originally, the DEP stated that it would take the proposal to the state Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) for approval in the fall but changed the meeting to July. The ERC had then voted on the plan while two of its seats set aside for environmental and local government representation were vacant. The ERC in July approved the limits in a 3 to 2 vote.

State may require licensing for kayaks, canoes, paddle boards

Update: FWC refutes assertion that licensing is intended

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released a statement clarifying its position on the licensing of non-motorized watercraft, as follows:

Today, a group of citizens and stakeholders charged to make recommendations to FWC’s Boating Advisory Council considered a proposal for expanding vessel registration to non-motorized boats in Florida. The FWC appreciates the work of this advisory group, but we are not supportive of increasing fees on Floridians or visitors who participate in non-motorized boating. The FWC greatly values our boating community and will continue to work hard to keep Florida’s standing as the boating capital of the world without increasing costs and fees.

—Nick Wiley, FWC Executive Director


Original News Article:

To fans of kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding, gliding along Florida waters is an expression of freedom; to advocates of boating-regulation reform, it's time to mandate licensing for small craft without motors.

A citizens panel assembled by state-boating authorities will meet in Orlando on Wednesday to explore what could become a path to adopting registration and fees for small boats powered by humans, wind and currents.

"That sounds like a root canal for a paddler," said retired Coast Guard officer William Griswold, a member of the Non-Motorized Boats Working Group, a panel reporting ultimately to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "But we need to start to get a grip on how many of these boats are out there."

Proposals for licensing Florida's canoes, kayaks and other motorless craft have surfaced in past years.

Each has been met by vehement opposition from paddlers and sailors of small boats, who say their pastime is healthy, affordable, inflicts little harm to the environment and is akin to riding a bicycle.

Public expresses mostly opposition to Mosaic mine expansion

As a public hearing about Mosaic Fertilizer's plan to expand its phosphate mining operations in the Duette-Myakka area continued Monday, dozens of residents and environmentalists urged the Manatee County Commission to deny the project.

Mosaic - owner of the Four Corners Mine spanning Manatee, Hillsborough, Hardee and Polk counties, and the Wingate Creek Mine in Manatee - wants to rezone nearly 3,596 acres flanking Duette Road and known as its Wingate East property from agriculture to extraction, which will allow the mining of phosphate ore. Phosphate is an ingredient in fertilizer products.

On Thursday, the first day of the hearing, Mosaic executives and consultants testified that the proposed dredge and dragline mining at Wingate East will have "no significant impact" on the environment, that protected wildlife will be moved before mining and that natural habitat will be restored after mining.

Yet during the public comment portion of the hearing, which ended Monday, most speakers adamantly disagreed with Mosaic's claims.

President Trump transition leader's goal is two-thirds cut in EPA employees

The red lights are flashing at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The words of Myron Ebell, the former head of President Donald Trump's EPA transition team, warn employees of a perilous future. Ebell wants the agency to go on a severe diet.

It's one that would leave many federal employees with hunger pains, and jobless too.

Ebell has suggested cutting the EPA workforce by 5,000, about a two-thirds reduction, over the next four years. The agency's budget of $8.1 billion would be sliced in half under his prescription, which he emphasized is his own and not necessarily Trump's.

MOTE debuts podcat: "Two Sea Fans"

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Hear true stories of marine research from scientists who dive hundreds of feet, tag big sharks, collect fish poop, and have many other adventures in the name of research and conservation, in the new podcast “Two Sea Fans.”

In each episode, Mote Marine Laboratory scientists and their partners have fun and educational conversations with hosts Joe Nickelson and Hayley Rutger, two sea fans who love communicating marine science to help listeners become more ocean-literate.

New episodes debut every two weeks, streaming at www.mote.org/podcasts and available for free download through iTunes.

Changes in rainfall, temperature expected to transform coastal wetlands this century

Sea-level rise isn’t the only aspect of climate change expected to affect coastal wetlands: changes in rainfall and temperature are predicted to transform wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico and around the world within the century. These changes will take place regardless of sea-level rise, a new study from the US Geological Survey and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley concludes.

Such changes are expected to affect the plant communities found in coastal wetlands. For example, some salt marshes are predicted to become mangrove forests, while others could become salty mud flats. These shifts in vegetation could affect the ecological and economic services wetlands provide to the communities that rely on them.

“Coastal wetlands are an invaluable resource,” said Christopher Gabler, a former USGS scientist, currently an assistant professor at the Texas university, and lead author of the study, published January 23 in Nature Climate Change. “They protect surrounding communities from storms and coastal erosion, support fisheries and wildlife, purify water pollution, and help prevent dead zones from forming in the Gulf.”

Uncollected dog waste threatens SWFL waterways

More than 13 tons of dog waste isn’t disposed of properly every day in Lee County, the county’s Domestic Animal Services office said. That poses a threat to the area’s water, according to officials. The high nitrogen and phosphorous content in the waste feeds algae, which plagued Florida waterways during the rainy season.

The county Department of Health issued a warning in June after the Florida Department of Environmental Protection found potentially harmful blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee River near Alva, and water quality concerns prompted Gov. Scott to declare a state of emergency a few weeks later.

“People come to the beaches, people come to see the water and swim in it and not be like, ‘Oh that’s gross, it’s dark brown, dark green water,” dog owner Sean Miloff said while with his pooch Wednesday at Rotary Park in Cape Coral. “We want nice, blue water.”

Miloff picks up after his dog and wishes others did the same. “I think it’s gross but I think it’s something that could easily be taken care of if people were accountable,” he said.

Many Southwest Florida parks provide disposal supplies for free. And picking up the poop isn’t just a matter of common courtesy or preserving the environment. It can also help protect the health of your dog and others. Hookworms, tapeworms and ringworms can be transmitted to canines via feces, officials said.

Court reinstates EPA rule to allow pumping dirty water unchecked

South Florida water managers can keep moving dirty water from farms and suburbs into the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee without obtaining federal pollution permits, a divided U.S. appeals court ruled this week in New York.

The ruling stems from a decades-long battle by the Miccosukee Tribe and environmentalists to stop water managers from moving water from one body of water to another — for supplies, flood control or other purposes — without first obtaining a federal pollution permit. Dirty water has been at the heart of Everglades restoration, where marshes can quickly get choked by water rich in nutrients. Similar cases eventually surfaced around the country, with sporting groups and environmentalists similarly fighting to keep dirty water from natural areas.

Wednesday’s decision, the result of consolidating a number of cases before New York’s 2nd Circuit court, means the South Florida Water Management District can continue moving water unchecked, which environmentalists directly blame for fouling the Everglades.

Sea level rise symposium provides insight to island residents

Many residents of Captiva and Sanibel gathered at South Seas Island Resort Friday, Jan. 13, to hear about the effects of sea level rise from geologists, biologists, engineers and other experts.

"Now In My Back Yard" was orchestrated by the Captiva Community Panel and Max Forgey, who is president of Zoning Technologies which is based in Cape Coral. The event was sponsored by Sanibel & Captiva Islands Association of Realtors and the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Dr. Harold Wanless, chair of the geological department at the University of Miami, said that the sea level is rising is due to the ocean warming. According to Wanless, 93.4 percent of global warming heat is transferred to the ocean and because of this, the water is expanding.

Water rules could be tightened even more in Cape Coral

CAPE CORAL – Ernie Kazer has noticed a difference in his backyard, and it's not the color of the grass.

"The depth of the water at times is concerning," he said.

The city says overuse of residential irrigation is depleting the city's freshwater canals.

"I'm sure it could become an issue my daughter lives on Lake Kennedy, and they have seen the difference in their lake," said resident Russell Malone.

Residents get two days a week to water their yards, but the city is willing to tighten this schedule down to one day if water levels continue to drop and no rain falls.

Since the beginning of this year, 967 warning violations and 18 fines have been handed out.

Lee County signals interest in Edison Farms

Lee County's renewed interest in purchasing 4,000 acres for conservation has gained the support of south Lee County officials.

On Tuesday, Lee County announced that county commissioners unanimously voted to obtain three appraisals of the southeast Lee County property, known as Edison Farms, for consideration as a Conservation 20/20 site.

Conservation 20/20 is Lee County's taxpayer-funded program for acquiring and maintaining preserve land.

Land Solutions CEO Randy Thibaut — who represents Edison Farms exclusively for the owner, Investors Warranty of America — put out a call for offers on the south Lee property earlier this month.

“Acquiring it for preservation has been a topic of conversation ever since I was appointed a commissioner in 2014,” Commissioner Brian Hamman told the Fort Myers News-Press. “I think this might be one of the best opportunities we have to purchase it.”

The property north of Bonita Springs and east of Estero is largely undeveloped and prime real estate for preservation, Estero Mayor Nick Batos said.

“This is an almost untouched piece of land," Batos said. “It is enormously important."

Environmental groups want EPA to nix Florida’s new water standards

With a series of legal challenges still hanging fire, environmental groups are asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reject Florida’s controversial water quality standards.

Environmental groups are asking the EPA to reject Florida's latest water quality standards.

Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeepers, accuses state regulators of using a statistical sleight of hand to justify higher levels of toxins.

“We’re really concerned about things like the bioaccumulation factor and how these chemicals actually accumulate in fish and then get transferred to the human population; toxicity limits and other ways that they accounted for risk.”

The standards are being challenged administratively and in a Pensacola federal court. State regulators say the standards, which are more stringent for some pollutants and more lax for others, are safe and based on the latest science.